* What do you look for in Yoga?

yoga in India and USA

I subscribe to the Yoga Journal magazine, and I must be honest here and let you know that it looks more like a fashion magazine and Bally’s commercial than a journal about yoga.


Because I come away feeling pressured to be younger, skinnier and more beautiful. There can be some great articles in between a bunch of marketing telling me to:

tune in
lift up
be strong
be awesome
get toned
buy this
look cool
eat healthy
as you give to the world
you can do it
….  and relax!

It feels exhausting being around this vata energy and targeted marketing.

Don’t get me going about yoga clothes either … I’m looking for clothes that fit and feel comfortable and don’t fall over my head in downward facing dog! Pink neon pants … really?

In my 30’s and 40’s I really wanted to be fit and awesome and now I know that what we all yearn for is to feel centered and accepting of ourselves.

A part of me understands that it’s  connected with the stage of adult life that we find ourselves in. Yet the message of what yoga is really about is being lost.

Yoga isn’t about postures, fitness and looking good.

It is a spiritual path that brings our attention inwards in order to awaken to our true Self.  Its about bringing alignment and a strong foundation into our lives… and yes, our bodies too ;)

It feels wonderful and empowering to find this place without competition, looks, accessories and being seen … just to accept ourselves fully and find peace within. There is a lot of love here.

And to those of you who don’t get it yet, I know it may seem like being old and boring, but to me its pretty darn cool.


* Pondering – accepting what is

I woke up this morning pondering how it is so hard to accept what is. Our brains say – yes I get it. We may even bring it into mindful awareness every day through meditation or yoga.

We think we have it handled, and then … out of the blue we find ourselves getting impatient, frustrated or triggered.

For example, think of the last time you were driving and were cut off by someone else. Or you were running late and got stopped behind a school bus or a red light? What thoughts, sensations and feelings came up?

road rage

So how can we handle these turbulent emotions and accept what is….

In the moment we become aware of our reactions we have a choice: to allow the fight or flight  reaction to take over with its rush of adrenaline and cortisol; or to center ourselves with full deep breaths and consciously let go of the stories, judgments, and resistance to what is happening.

With mindfulness practice, our reactivity gets less and less.  Our acceptance of the highs and lows of life grows and we become more centered and less volatile.

Like a pendulum we find our way to the center.

From a scientific perspective, the more we meditate and calm our mind, the more neural pathways we create and reinforce our ability to come more quickly to a calm state.

It is a practice…. that may take a long time if not a life time.

The Dalai Lama says that while we cannot stop an emotion from arising, we have the power to let it go, and the highly trained mind can let it go the moment it arises.

writing  on water

The Buddha shared a metaphor for this state of mind. He called it “like writing on water”. Whenever an unwholesome thought or emotion arises in an enlightened mind, it is like writing on water. The moment it is written it disappears.

Through meditation and mindfulness practice we learn to master our reactions and center ourselves.

We re-balance ourselves and in doing so, learn to accept what is.

The next time you are in traffic be ready to breathe deeply and let the emotion flow through you…

And don’t get upset with yourself for getting upset! Let it go.  Just keep practicing coming into the present moment.



* Haiku – gratitude

I woke up today with a heart filled with gratitude. I am driving north to Kripalu to assist in a 300 hour yoga teacher training module for teachers wanting to learn about yoga for special population groups.  Let the magic flow 💛

This is my haiku to share with you while I am away. I will be taking a break from blogging, and have set up some re-posts some of my favorite inspirations. See you after May 10th.

Namaste and Jai Bhagwan!

kripalu spring


Find your Middle Ground

Greet each day with gratitude

Let the magic flow


If you are new to this site – Welcome!

To explore more about finding your middle ground please click here.

* The Wise Woman and the Precious Stone

This is a story from an unknown author that I came across in a lovely collection of poems, prayers and stories to end a yoga class called Soul To Soul by John Mundahl.

precious stone

Once a wise woman was traveling in the mountains and found a precious stone in a stream. The next day she met another traveller who was hungry and the wise woman opened her bag to share her food. The hungry traveller saw the precious stone and asked the woman to give it to him. She did so without hesitation.

The traveller left rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the stone was worth enough to give him security for a lifetime.

But a few days later, he came back to return the stone to the wise woman.

“I’ve been thinking” he said, “I know how valuable this stone is, but I give it back to you with hope that you will give me something more precious. Give me what have within you that enabled you to give me this stone.”

Sometimes its not the wealth we have, but what’s inside us that others need.

This is dedicated to all of you who bring wisdom and light to the world and those around you every day. Never forget that what you have inside is what others are drawn to.


* Layers of Being

I woke up to cold temperatures, however the sun was shining and the forecast was for the day to become surprisingly warm. I thought to myself “This is a day for layers”.


Layers are practical. We put them on and take them off depending on how our body feels. I like the whole idea of layers … and it made me think about the other types of layers that we have as human beings.

How easy is it to add them and how easy is it to shed them?

As we add layers they protect us, yet weigh us down over time… For example, when we pretend to know something because we are afraid to let others see that we don’t know. Ego protecting strategies easily become burdens that are hard to let go of.

As we shed layers we become more vulnerable, yet at the same time we get lighter and more free. For example, taking off our “I am strong” mask and letting someone see that we need help, allows us to be authentic and true to our own feelings and thoughts.

Appreciating this can bring a new awareness of ourselves and our inner being.

Can you imagine yourself as a layered being?  Like one of those Russian nesting dolls.

Russian dolls


I love the yoga philosophy approach to our individual layers. They are called the 5 Koshas, which means sheaths in sanskrit. They are:

Physical – The outer sheath is our physical body. How it looks and functions. Our Annamaya kosha. We are well acquainted with this layer. It faces us in the mirror every day.

Energy – The next layer is our life energy. Like the Chinese Chi, yoga energy is called Prana. This is our Pranamaya kosha. We can’t see it, but we know it is present in our breath and our sense of well being.

Mental – Beneath this is the layer of  our thinking and emotions. Our mental body is called Manomaya kosha. This is the controller and director of operations.

Wisdom – The fourth sheath is our inner wisdom and being a witness to our selves. Our Vijnamaya kosha. I like to think of it as our intuitive layer of unconscious wisdom and knowing.

Bliss – The innermost layer is bliss. This is a place of beauty, joy and peace which surrounds the divine center of our being called the Atman. The Anandamaya kosha connects us to a Universal Consciousness, Source or Divine Spirit.


peacock feather

Like the eye on a peacock’s feather, each layer creates a beautiful whole.

I believe we are spiritual beings encased in sheaths. To live life fully we must learn to bring awareness to each layer and how it shows up, not only in our yoga practice, but in our daily lives.

Finding our Middle Ground opens the door to exploring these inner realms. In shedding our layers we connect more and more with our spiritual Self and inner Being.

It is there for each and every one of us.



* What are you waiting for?


When you pause, is it something that is imposed or are you drawn to it?
Are you alert and waiting for something to happen?
Is there an expected outcome?
Are you pausing in order to take a break from thoughts that stimulate or frustrate?
Or do you pause as the gateway to stillness and as a way of connecting to your inner world?

When we are wrapped up with expectations of others or from ourselves, we lose touch with the sacredness of the simple pause.

There is nothing to wait for.


* Mantra for Today – from Brené Brown

Todays mantra is taken from from Brené Brown’s book “Gifts Of Imperfection”. This is the place to come to when you feel insecure, nervous and vulnerable, especially in new situations.


“Don’t shrink

Don’t puff up

Stand on your sacred ground”

This sacred ground is the place of embracing your authentic self in the moment.

No need to think you are not good enough or that you are better than others.

Simply stand in the knowing of who you are.

Most of us find it when we have experienced some struggle in the highs and lows of life.

Its the most powerful place to truly Be.

When I read this I think of standing in Mountain Pose or Tadasana in Yoga. Rooted to the ground, yet tall and strong. In this moment you become the mountain.


* The Quest

everest quest

“The inner meaning of life does not readily reveal itself; it must be searched for. Such a search is the Quest.

When a man begins to seek out his real nature, to find the truth of his real being, he begins to follow the Quest.

The Quest is a veritable re-education of the self, leading in turn to a noble transcendence of the self.

Some come to the truth in a roundabout way.

The Quest is direct.

The Quest is spiritual mountaineering.”

Paul Brunton taken from “Yoga Gems” edited by Georg Feuerstein

When I read this I like the idea of spiritual mountaineering. A direct route for the courageous!

And yet we can also come to the truth in a round about way.

It is there for each and every one of us … one step at a time.


* Reflections on Ego – “I” and “i”

I have been reading more about ego as part of my exploration of the self in yoga. For practitioners (and interested peeps) this is the fourth observance or Niyama called svadhayaya.

What I’ve discovered is that what I come across, builds on the foundations that I have written about before here and here.

And … you don’t need to be on a spiritual path of yoga to appreciate this wisdom.

This particular insight into ego really resonated with me.

woman looking sat self

“The ego is a reflection of our true Self on the mind. The two appear to be the same, but one is the original, the other a reflected duplicate. 

These two “I”‘s are often referred to as the little “i” and the capital “I”.

What is the difference? Just a small dot, a little blemish of ego.

The capital “I” is just one pure stroke, just as the highest truth is always simple and pure.

What limits us and makes us little? Just the dot.

Without the dot we are always great, always capital “I”.  All the practices of yoga are to remove the dot.”

Sri Swami Satchidananda

… its just our little dot …


* Inspiration – from the quietness

This is a beautiful observation about what can happen when we find the quietness with us. When we find our Middle ground.

In this space is more than calming the mind or exploring our spiritual path, it is vital for our overall wellbeing.

Take time to pause in your day and find the quietness within.

wholeness and freedom

“From the quietness, we can make healthier choices about our actions.

From choice comes freedom.

From freedom comes wholeness.

And wholeness is the state of yoga.”

 From Judith Lasater’s “Living Your Yoga”

* Beyond Ego


ego and self image

Time for an other exploration into ego 101 based on my personal experience and reading.
Ego has come about as a reflection of how others responded to us as babies and young children. All of us come to adulthood with a self image and how we view ourselves. Yep – we all have an ego.

As adults we continue to monitor how we are doing in relationship to other people.  We want others to see us in a certain way. We also believe that this image is how we should be and how others should be too.

In our culture it is reinforced over and over again. To acquire certain things, to look a particular  way, to be part of a certain group. etc etc.

We create stories about how we are doing in relationship to others. What do they think of me? Why won’t they listen to me? I’ll show them what’s right. Will they like what I’m doing? My way is the best way. How do I compare with them? I must win! Am I doing it right? I don’t want to look … nervous, stupid, big headed, ignorant, like my father …

When we see an other, or ourselves acting differently from our ideal image, we are quick to judge. We believe this is the truth.

Ego is the preserver of our image of ourselves.

Looking back on my life I can see how my ego has evolved based on those around me, the beliefs and the culture. Some people will hold on to this image of themselves until the day they die, but more and more of us are waking up to seeing beyond our ego and self image.

We begin to recognize that other people have the same issues, yearnings and fears as we do. We recognize that we all wear masks.

We find compassion for others and their imperfections. And then find compassion and kindness for our own failings.

We realize that we are also part of something much bigger that connects us all.

you inverseWe are part of a bigger consciousness that has been named the Universe, God, Spirit, Source or Presence.

Our ego keeps us feeling separate. Yet within each of us is an element that is spirit and transcends our human bodies and ego.

I believe that we can find our true Self beyond our ego but can never let it fully go if we are to live independently in the world.

It is also the part of ourselves that we all struggle with in our spiritual journey. In yoga, this “i”ness is called Asmita, and is one of the five kleshas or causes of our suffering in the world. It keeps us separate and apart from others and the higher consciousness.

Let your higher Self embrace the smaller ego self like the child it is.

When we do this we find we become less attached to things in this world.

And happiness opens up within us.


* Become Aware of Silence


“When you become aware of silence, immediately there is that state of inner still alertness. You are present. You have stepped out of thousands of years of collective human conditioning.”

Eckhart Tolle

What a great reminder that we can be more than beings of habit and conditioning. Becoming the witness to this inner still alertness, opens a door within each of us. The door that leads to freedom and peace.

That is how yoga and meditation enriches my life. I have just returned from a YTT 500 hour teacher training module about Yoga and Transformation at Kripalu.

I see clearly that it takes dedication and a willingness to put in effort, to get to this place of inner freedom and peace.

Being disciplined was never a strength of mine – I rebelled against being told what to do, even by myself! Until I realized that discipline comes from the word disciple meaning follower.

What do I choose to follow? Can I continue to do this? This becomes a much more loving approach…. and one that I continue to take.

Beating myself up for being weak or not being good enough will never make it happen.

Reading about it and expecting it to magically happen will never be enough either.

The answer lies in each of our own experience, and tuning into to this still alertness within us. This is the spark that is alive in us. In each moment.

When we find ourselves off the path, remember that the inner stillness and alertness is just a breath away.

Why not take this moment and let yourself come to this place right now….


* Soothing Words for Every Day

There are words that I say every day as I guide my yoga peeps into Savasana. Savasana or corpse pose, is the final pose before meditation, where we lie down and allow the body to relax, and nourish itself.

I haven’t shared this mantra here…. and it is time :)

savasana to let go

“Breathing in

light …

lightness …

and nourishment …

Breathing out

toxins …

negative energy …

and letting go of whatever needs to be let go of today.”

Whenever I say these words I pause and my heart opens.

May these words bring you to your Middle Ground and center you for the day ahead.



* Insights from my Kripalu YTT 500 Teacher Training – Mod 4

When I was at Kripalu last week I met amazing teachers from the world of physical therapy, structural therapy and nursing, as well as wonderful yogis who teach and inspire a diverse range of people.

You don’t have to be fit, flexible and under 40 to do yoga or enjoy all its benefits! But it is important to find a teacher with experience and skill to avoid injury or making your condition worse… That is why I attended this module.

I have acquired more knowledge and skills for safely teaching people of all sizes; those recovering from illness; moms-to-be; kids; seniors and people with disabilities; people impacted by trauma, depression or anxiety and a large population of shoulder and back pain sufferers. For the yogis out there I also learned about how to support people in rebalancing their doshas and bringing mind body and spirit into harmony.

Val's yoga class

This module was called Teaching Special Population Groups, but it seems to me that most people I come across fall into the one or more of the above categories.  The norm is in fact special. I like that :)

The main theme was to support whoever comes into a yoga class with compassion and skill.

The supporting theme that became evident early on is that sitting is bad for your health and well being. We are a chair culture and it isn’t doing our bodies any good.

Lee Albert said that sitting is the new smoking! Its bad for everyone’s health. If you want to find out more about his perspective as an Integrated Positional Therapist, then there are lots of tips on his website.

Our bodies were built for walking, squatting and lying down. Sitting on a chair or in the drivers seat for extended periods of time creates misalignments that lead to chronic back pain and shoulder issues, as well as other health problems.  Specific yoga poses can counteract this … and lead to better alignment and healthy backs and shoulders.

Yoga has its roots in spirituality and the journey to oneness, but it has evolved into an amazing tool box full of tools that can support every body in bringing peace of mind and physical well being.

I feel grounded in this knowing, yet am excited to share these new perspectives with my yoga peeps.