Yoga Rap

From the same artist who brought us “Whole Foods Parking Lot,” we now have the very funny “Yoga Girl”.


No Ass-Kicking, Please.


This past summer, I found myself in a social situation with another yoga teacher. Someone at our table was asking her about her classes, and she was testifying to their toughness: “Come to my classes and I’ll kick your ass,” she said.

She seems like a nice person, and so I chalked her response up to youth, enthusiasm, and misguided marketing. (I even wondered if I should write this, because if she sees it, I don’t want her to feel chastised. We simply have different viewpoints.) Continue Reading »

The Emotions of Backbends

This is a question that students have asked me:

Sometimes, after a deep practice with lots of backbends, I feel irritable and snappish. Are the backbends making me angry?

Backbends open the heart center (the anahata chakra) and this has different effects on different people. Some people cry or feel blue, some become energized to the point they have trouble falling asleep (no backbends right before bedtime!), and others may find themselves feeling irritable, or like they’ve just contracted sudden-onset PMS. Still others may feel wrung-out and wobbly.

The reasons for the variety of responses are probably as numerous as the responses themselves:

Some people have lots of stored emotion in their heart center that is released and accessed through postures that open the heart center. Others may have experienced physical trauma in this area. Tightness through the chest and the back of the body can be a protective response.

Backbends are physically and emotionally complex. They require trust and faith, because you’re bending backwards into the unknown. They require lots of muscle work and breath control. The configuration of backbends stimulates the endocrine system at the back of the body, the kidneys, and more specifically, the glands on top of the kidneys called the adrenals. The adrenals are instrumental in activating our “fight or flight response”. They release hormones that have an impact on our heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar, among other things.

Here is a longer essay I wrote about opening the heart center.

So my answer is this: Yes. I think backbends could (in the short term) make you feel angry, or more specifically, make you release pent-up anger.

My advice:

  • Don’t give up the backbends. If you’re having a strong reaction to them, chances are you need them, and need to work through your reaction to them.
  • Make sure you warm up thoroughly before you begin backbending.
  • Avoid caffeine and sugar before your practice.
  • Don’t eat for at least two hours before your practice.
  • Don’t backbend when taking antihistamines, diet pills, energy-boosting supplements, or after using inhalers, or other medications that can raise your blood pressure and speed up your pulse.
  • You might consider avoiding deep backbends when you’re already feeling irritable, or feeling the symptoms of PMS.
  • Pay special attention to your cool-down poses (I like several twisting postures after backbends, because they tend to calm the nervous system, and also supported forward bends) and consider including a restorative pose in your practice.
  • Extend Savasana (Final Relaxation, or Corpse Pose) and give yourself space to feel whatever comes up for you.
  • After practice, avoid caffeine, sugar, and hot, spicy foods until you feel “level” again.

I hope this helps!

I couldn’t write this post without mentioning that my dear friend Shelby once tried to talk her way out of a speeding ticket by patiently explaining to the officer that she had just come from a yoga class that had focused on backbends… it didn’t work. Even here in Northern California.


With everything that life has sailed my way the past few months (most notably new work in addition to teaching), it’s been hard to keep this blog current.

Still, the essays in the archives on YLS continue to have relevance. Rest assured I haven’t abandoned the site.

Earlier this week, while enjoying the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon, I learned that one of my favorite “end of class” poets, Kay Ryan, has been named the next Poet Laureate of the United States. I call her an “end of class” poet because — as my students know — I like to read a poem at the beginning of savasana. Her short, tight poems, which one critic likened to mousetraps, are clever, thoughtful, and inspiring.

This is what she had to say to The San Francisco Chronicle (read the story here) in the wake of her appointment:

“Poetry should leave you feeling freer and not more burdened. I like to think of all good poetry as providing more oxygen in the atmosphere. Poems just make it easier to breathe.”

How perfect is that for yoga?

Here is an essay I wrote last year about opening the heart center. It was inspired by Ryan’s poem “Chinese Foot Chart”.



visvacomic1.jpgI know I’ve said in previous posts that I’m an advocate of trying new things.

At the beginning of the year, I suggested to my students that they choose a pose and work toward it throughout the year, breaking down the components and building their skills along the way. It’s important to have a sense of humor and lightheartedness in doing this. The yoga mat is no place for grim determination (we have our desks and highways for that!). I think that in the practice of yoga, it’s important to have curiosity and a sense of exploration that reaches beyond the things we do over and over again in yoga classes. One of my favorite yoga concepts is “lela”… the happy, creative life force. So in that spirit, I bring you my adventures with Visvamitrasana.

Namasté & Blessed Be.


pinetip1.jpgI grew up listening to the music of Kate Wolf, a North Coast singer/songwriter, who described the “golden rolling hills of California”.

It’s true: For most of the year, the hills of Northern California are shades of gold and tan, the colors of field mice, cougars, and deer. But for a brief period in the spring, after the winter rains, and before the sun begins to bake our hillsides, the landscape around my home glows with shades of green. (An artist friend once said he couldn’t paint Sonoma County without a healthy tube of chromium oxide green.) But before the hills green, there is a brief period when it seems we’re awash in yellow. Continue Reading »


I have to say, I’m not a fan of New Years’ resolutions because I feel they are usually based in self-deprecation.

It’s as though we’ve developed a national tradition of beginning each year by picking ourselves apart, finding a fault, and setting a goal that will focus our attention on that fault, all year long.

I ask you: What kind of a way is that to begin a new year?

Continue Reading »


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