December 14, 2018 § Leave a comment

“…I identify as Tired”
~ Hannah Gadsby, Nanette

Venus’s recent retrograde through Scorpio was one helluva ride. Occurring a few days after my birthday, an occasion that I marked with a group of people who – at the time – I regarded as important and meaningful to my life, only to be shown, within the week, that about half of the guests really didn’t need to be there. Didn’t deserve to be there.

“Deserved” – yes, deserved. You see, this summer ended with a massive reset of my marriage, the effects of which recast my sense of self, my values, my understanding of boundaries. It destroyed everything I thought was real and in doing so, brought me to a deeper, profound sense of self. One that is rooted in a clear awareness of my value, my worth and what I bring to relationships. And this insight has reshaped how I evaluate the web of relationships I find myself in today. A web that I mistook for ‘real’ friendships has, upon closer inspection shown itself to mostly be a network of strong acquaintance-ships, bound by shared circumstances, rather than any real heart connection or shared values. Because I am a sociable person raised to have permeable boundaries and a strong desire to be liked, it is easy to mistake ease of socializing and shared interests as a launchpad for a true friendship that stands the test of time. This has been the same unconscious mistake I’ve made through life, and now I finally know how to end this dynamic: by knowing my worth and value, by being intentional with my care and attention, by establishing and drawing clear boundaries guided by my sense of self-worth and value system.

So, in a massive release of dysfunctional patterns that I no longer stand for, this ‘listicle’ is an overdue conclusion to Venus’ Scorpio retrograde, a potent window that surfaced all the relationship clutter that had expired and desperately needed clearing. All of these people described below are officially cancelled from my life:

  • Tired of being in so-called friendships with those who don’t make the effort to keep the relationship alive. People who are comfortable in their modes of communication (ie, Facebook – this century’s cigarettes) and don’t go the extra step to meet others where they are (ie, anywhere but Facebook).
  • Tired of people (usually women) who, blinded by their own disempowerment and oppression, judge, criticize and alienate those (usually other women) who assert their power and reach for what they want.
  • Tired of people who lack integrity of words and action. Those who complain and criticize about a person/situation/group but does not take any action to change what is being complained about, and continues to follow the status quo.
  • Tired of people who don’t listen to what you say but instead listen in order to interrupt, judge, correct, impose their ideas onto you.
  • Tired of being around people who live in their comfort bubbles, who are terribly oblivious to others who experience dysfunctionality where they find comfort, and don’t make the effort to understand or to examine their role in perpetuating the dysfunctionality.
  • Tired of people who don’t make the effort for anything beyond their own gratification and agendas: new pose, attention, fame, status, money. Especially the money.
  • Tired of being around people who don’t “get it”. Who don’t get that Ashtanga is ultimately a heart practice, a practice to bring you back to yourself and in deeper connection with everyone and everything around you.
  • Tired of feeling like I have to constantly defend the connection I have with Sharath, of the relationship I have with him and Mysore, a connection that defies words.


October 3, 2018 § 2 Comments

An email discussion with some friends yesterday proved unexpectedly triggering. I put the brakes on and withdrew from the discussion before articulating the how, what and why of my response. I realized that the intensity of the exchanges left me feeling overwhelmed and therefore unable to fully express the depths of what I felt. It’s times like these that I’m glad I haven’t shut down this blog. Yet.

At the heart of the email thread was Guy Donahaye’s latest post, in particular this paragraph where he succinctly sums up Sharath’s conundrum.

“He is thus in an impossible position: if he acknowledges abuse then he admits to dishonesty and manipulation of the ashtanga narrative for the purpose of consolidating power. If he says nothing or denies it he is equally seen as dishonest and responsible for causing more harm. He is damned either way. The first way will undermine his authority and power but save his humanity, the second way is to lose his soul and perpetuate a cult of deceit.”

I find it noteworthy that (a) a teacher with the depth of relationship to Pattabhi Jois that he has would step up and speak up about the sexual allegations against his teacher. As he notes in this latest post, very few have done so to date. And, (b) his recognition of the position that Sharath is in and the choices he is faced with. Indeed, there is no doubt that Sharath, as the lineage holder and boss of the institute named after his grandfather needs to make a statement about these allegations and acknowledge the pain that was caused. Acknowledgement of trauma is the first step towards real healing.

And yet. AND YET. There has been nothing but silence from Mysore on this. How can this be? Speaking up about the abuse is Patanjali’s way – there’s no doubt about it! What’s taking him so long? He needs to speak up already! Yesterday!

And this is what I’m triggered by: passing judgements about what someone should be doing without any regard for the humanity of the situation. The humanity in this case, is the recognition of the massive karmic lesson that he and the institute faces right now, upon which his current authority rests, and from which he (and all the teachers on the list) draws power. To step up and acknowledge that the forces that have shaped one’s life has a harmful shadow that is now being reckoned with and has the potential to threaten the very paradigm of your life as you know it, well, that is one helluva life lesson to work through. Difficult but necessary. Recognizing the scope of that difficulty is recognizing the humanity of the person who has to face it. That this person, beyond titles and power and wealth, is first and foremost, another human like the rest of us.

The inability to recognize the humanity in others – and therefore, to have empathy – runs the risk of turning the individual into a commodity, an object devoid of history. It turns relationships into transactions. Commodifying others breeds the “taker” mentality (on our part) and enables judgement-laden expectations of others’ behavior based on how “I” would do it if I were you.

Relevant example: the commodified teacher-student relationship, where teachers are there to ‘give’ you things like asanas. Attention. Certificates. Hugs. Advice. Platitudes. And where teachers serve as a canvas (object) on which we project our fantasies and expectations of behavior. Or, conversely, where students exist as a means of satisfying teachers’ egoic needs and power trips.

Once recognized, this pattern shows up everywhere. (Exacerbated, of course, by the good folks at Fakebook who are also laughing all the way to the bank. At our expense.)

I volunteer that this attitude is a capitalist hangover and it’s time to sober up. Isn’t that why we practice? To see more clearly how we are more similar than different. To learn how to relate more authentically, deeply and radically. To effect change by relating from a place of compassion instead of the transactional (harmful) paradigms that the world currently operates on.

A humanistic approach to relationship requires the ability to hold points of view that are, on the surface, contradictory. Yes, Sharath needs to make a statement supporting victims, but also yes, this is a really difficult thing for him to do. Because history. Because culture. Because shame. Because of a whole host of reasons that we will never know about, nor do we need to in order to recognize the humanity of the situation. Any one of us could be in the same situation, facing the same sort of impossible conundrum that threatens to dismantle our life as we know it. I’m not saying the silence is justified. I’m saying, the silence needs to end but how or when it does is not within our control and it’s none of our business to be demanding that it does.


January 31, 2018 § Leave a comment

Care. Humility. Integrity. Justice.

The secondary school I went to between the ages of 13 and 16 (a combination of Middle and Junior High here in the US) employed the school’s acronyms in a lesson on values and qualities that they wanted their students to embody. I thought it was a neat way to encapsulate ‘moral lessons’ for teenage girls though I did wonder for many years what “Integrity” meant. Life eventually showed me those lessons and now there’s no shortage of illustrations.

These words came up again this week as I’ve been watching and reflecting on the developments in our Ashtanga world over the past two months. How would these words apply to the current context? An attempt:

  • To Care for oneself, for others and for one’s environment, rooted in empathy and compassion. Mindfulness in one’s way of being. Taking care of things. Taking care not to act (or speak or write) in a way that causes unnecessary harm.
  • Humility in thoughts and actions, not only in the field of accomplishments but in relationships. Having humility above all in recognizing that you’re never going to know the full picture. You’ll never know what goes on in others’ minds, their intentions, their baggage and motivations. To have the humility to know that you don’t know and from there cultivate a receptivity that breeds compassion. Being able to see both (or many) sides.
  • Integrity of being. A sense of responsibility and moral courage. Of being able to do what is right in situations where it is tempting to kick the can of accountability down the road. Aligning actions with intentions, so that your words have weight and your actions have power.
  • Justice. Working for fairness, always, even within systems that are inherently unjust and exploitative and benefit off of it. To ensure that people are adequately rewarded for the effort expended in their work, their livelihoods.

In my immediate environment we’ve also had a major disruption in the form of a teacher leaving the Mysore program she built from the ground up. Her departure, for me, illuminates again two salient lessons: (1) how bloody hard it is to be a Mysore teacher of integrity, humility and dedication for your students and (2) how exploitative the studio business model is of yoga teachers and their labor.

What does it take to run a Mysore program? Sacrifice, a strong love for the practice and the method, stability of mind and heart to nurture students as you nurture and raise your own children. It is a vocation. It’s unglamorous work filled with the messiness of human relationships – projections, illusions, hopes and disappointment – and showing up daily despite all that. And imagine doing all of that while not being able to earn a living wage living in one of the most expensive regions on earth. A system predicated on grossly underpaid labor is bound to fail and this is one failure I am rejoicing in. Hopefully this is the start of something new, a new paradigm where students recognize their responsibility towards ensuring that the teachers who serve us need to be served and protected as well.




January 8, 2018 § Leave a comment

Whatever your opinions about Oprah and her work, you’ve got to admit that her speech at the 75th Golden Globes was a welcome balm for these times. Especially after reading about the impending displacement of 200,000 Salvadorans who’ve built their lives in this country for the past 17 years after escaping natural disasters back home. Heartfelt and heartlessness co-existing on a news feed. These are the times we live in.

It’s almost two months since I deactivated my Facebook account. Apart from enjoying a renewed mental spaciousness (and an increase in self-esteem), I’ve also been blissfully spared the firehose of umbrage and righteousness around Ashtanga’s MeToo moment. It is a collective purging and my heart is heavy with the weight of these stories. I stand with the women who’ve had to endure the indignity of inappropriate adjustments compounded by the disrespect of not being believed or heard. The silencing is how women internalize their powerlessness. This is also how we’re conditioned to gaslight ourselves and other women in the face of sexual assault. To preserve the status quo. The patriarchy. The guru’s impeccable legacy. The ultimate goal is to disconnect women from the truth of their experiences, and thereby disconnect them from the source of their own power, their agency. Well, I for one believe that this game’s over and that the unravelling has begun through the collective acknowledgement and healing of those among us who’ve been indelibly hurt. It’s time to speak our truth – find your voice and step up.

“What I do know for sure, is that speaking your truth is the most powerful gift we all have” ~ Oprah Winfrey.


January 24, 2017 § 1 Comment

Gosh, it’s been a while since I last wrote here. There’s been a lot going on in my world and many things have unfolded, changed, erupted, vanished, shifted at such a fast pace that my writing has not kept up with the reflexivity in my head.

The trip to Mysore offered a lesson in many things, but the one I want to talk about is the lesson of empowerment. Given the current socio-political climate, notions of power, empowerment and disempowerment in all its varied forms have been on my mind recently, from the personal to the social.

Let’s start with the personal. I went to Mysore with a practice routine that was a twice-a-week occurrence on account of a cyst-laden wrist and the advice of a PT who believed that it’s better to do the full expression of the pain-causing activity less frequently than to do a modified version more frequently. Shaped by current perspectives about the body, physical fitness, injuries and how to recover from them, this point of view is very much grounded in the physical, and thus, also views yoga as an inadequate fitness routine. I agree with him on that count. If you’re looking for ‘fitness’, there are far better programs out there to help you achieve your goals (calorie burn, weight loss, etc etc etc). This advice however, effectively distilled the role of the practice in my life and my relationship to it. It is, in Andrew Sullivan’s words, “a ritual that let’s the rest of my life breathe“.

In the weeks leading up to my departure for Mysore I sought to balance PT logic with the inner, embodied, as yet unarticulated knowing about the practice’s importance. (I think there is a part of my relationship with Ashtanga yoga that will never be able to be fully articulated, because the resonance goes so deep.)

Preparing for this trip meant giving myself permission to cut it short if things were not ‘working out’ in Mysore. There was also a fair amount of anxiety about what I had to do to mitigate cyst-related pain in a daily practice situation, how to avoid aggravating it, how should I modify my practice and should I modify at all? These questions eventually clarified an intention to preserve and protect my body going into Mysore. I resolved to put self-care and compassion above conforming to an external representation of what the practice was supposed to look like. I would show up each day and modify accordingly, tuning into the sensations around the left wrist and shoulders and letting those nerve messages guide the shape of my practice. This meant stepping, not jumping, even in led classes. Skipping Bhujapidasana, a 1-breath Kukkutasana, a clumsy-looking Supta Kurmasana exit and no or very short Utpluthis for pretty much the first month. What I discovered quickly, was that my fears of being called out for modifying the practice were completely unfounded. It’s not that Sharath didn’t see the changes I made – he really does know everything that goes on in that room – it’s that he saw me and my practice and he let me do it. By not calling me out (as some teachers would do), he was telling me that I know what’s best for my body and how to manage whatever pain or injury I’m experiencing. And in doing so, he empowered me. For someone whose personal narrative has mostly been about disempowerment, especially in relationships with authority figures, this is a massive shift in how I see myself, my ability to trust my body and my intuition about what actions are best suited for me at any particular time. A big deal. And this is why I have come to accept him as my teacher after years of skepticism and doubt.

The notion that we have the power to shape our lives is a tired New Age cliche and yet that doesn’t make it any less true. It is a lesson that keeps showing up in practice, because the the practice and experience of yoga is about challenging the limited mental projections we have about ourselves and the world around us: how we choose to see ourselves, who we are, what we are capable of accomplishing, our capacity for discomfort, etc. The ripples that come from stepping into and owning the power that each of us has is infinite, and also, potentially subversive. We have the power to choose to see the good, the kind, the fear in others, to empathize instead of projecting and blaming our insecurities. We have the power to behave in ways that draw healthy boundaries for ourselves, for standing up to narratives and behaviors that gaslight and disempower our faculties for critical thinking.

(It’s important here to highlight that I’m not denying the structural forces behind the social issues of our time, because this is the sort of argument that a good conservative would use to justify cutting programs for the most vulnerable in our society. No, I’m writing this specifically for the other affluent and privileged individuals who live in my world, who don’t have to worry about the color of their skin, where their next meal is coming from, or where they’re going to sleep tonight. These are the people who have the means to effect real change.)

Which brings me to the social: Coming out of the Women’s March last weekend I found another kind of power – the power to speak up and be heard and be counted for values that I believe are important. It was my political awakening, in an active, visible sense. As a Sociology major in college I’ve always been aware of power dynamics in society. This, along with years working as a paper-pusher in an autocratic government and then in PR, built and refined my personal bullshit detector, particularly as it relates to authority.  Being born and raised in an autocracy that basically runs on an apathetic, disempowered electorate in exchange for the creature comforts of modern living, I’ve long had a malaise around activism and skepticism of the real value of doing things like voting, marching, protesting…..all activities that represent a healthy, engaged citizenry in the democratic process. Last Saturday showed me how it has been in the State’s interest to keep me (and the other people of my home country) disempowered about our ability to effect real change. Because when people get together in civic spaces to speak up about the values that are important to them, it is a powerful experience. It is an embodied encounter, one increasingly rare in this Internet Age, and that experience empowers you even more because you see for yourself that you’re not alone in this cause that you’re championing. That together, we can make a difference, and this realization stays with you, energizes you and inspires you to keep the momentum going. This is real power and it’s up to us not to squander it.