Real Yoga

silhouette of man sitting on grass field at daytime

Photo by Spencer Selover on

For most people, yoga is a type of physical exercise that takes place in a studio or gym. It’s advertised as being good for the body and helps you become more flexible and fit.

I hope readers of this blog now realize that there is so much more to yoga. Modern yoga has dropped much of the older yogic practices, such as working with the breath (Pranayama), locks (Bandhas) and cleansing practices (Kriyas) which were key to yoga as a path to awakening.

Rather than lamenting how things are not like the old days … I will share some timely wisdom from Judith Lasater:

“To practice yoga in its deepest sense is to commit to developing awareness by observing our lives: our thoughts, our words, and our actions. There are many yoga techniques that can support us along the way, such as yoga poses, breathing practices, and meditation. But these are not ends in themselves, but means to the Self.

The real beginning of spiritual practice is evident when we accept responsibility for ourselves, that is, that we acknowledge that ultimately there are no answers outside of ourselves, and no gurus, no teachers, and no philosophies that can solve the problems of our lives. They can only suggest guide, and inspire.

It is our dedication to living with open hearts and our commitment to the day to day details of our lives that will transform us. When we are open to the present moment we shine forth. At these times we are not on a spiritual path: we are the spiritual path.”

~ Judith Lasater, from “Living Your Yoga” Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life

I feel honored to be a guide on this journey to awaken our true Self.


Moving into Stillness

“Stillness is not the absence or negation of energy, life, or movement. Stillness is dynamic. It is unconflicted movement, life in harmony with itself, skill in action. It can be experienced whenever there is total, uninhibited, unconflicted participation in the moment you are in—when you are wholeheartedly present with whatever you are doing.”

~ Erich Schiffman – Yoga the Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness

I love the dynamism in this description of what stillness is. It becomes clear when yoga is a contemplative and spiritual practice, rather than a series of postures in an exercise class.

Stillness is not the same as exhaustion at the end of class when you lie in Savasana (corpse pose), perhaps filled with relief that it is over! Stillness is something that can be found throughout the practice and within each posture and transition along the way.

The best guide to see if you are moving towards stillness, is to notice if you are breathing steadily and fully throughout the practice.

Bringing awareness to our breath and the teacher’s breath reveals a lot. If the teacher can’t catch their breath to speak and guide you in a mindful way, then they aren’t moving into stillness either.

What was I thinking?

what was i thinking

Coming back from vacation, I realize that my time at home is more nourishing than my time away. When I am home, finding my middle ground is part of my daily life. My life is structured around yoga and teaching and there are many opportunities to become fully present in the moment.

I love to travel, but it draws me to the external world of planning, exploring, and tending to things and others. Its hard to be present when you are on the go. There is also less time or space to be alone and practice yoga and meditation.

Looking back at the photographs, there are several photos of me, sitting and looking out.

I wonder “What was I thinking?”

Moments of quiet solitude in the middle of activity are so precious. It is simply an opportunity to pause and appreciate the moment. To breathe in the air and tune into the senses. To be a witness to this place and time, without anything more.

I wasn’t thinking  at all.

This was my true yoga practice.

“Yoga is the settling of the mind into silence. When the mind has settled, we are established in our essential nature, which is unbounded Consciousness. Our essential nature is usually overshadowed by the activity of the mind.”

~ Patanjali



* Meditation and Pranayama Class at Awaken on Sat Feb 1st at 10.30am

Thank you for asking! We’ve re-scheduled the Meditation and Yogic Breathing class at Awaken Massage and Yoga in Media. Please join me as I share my recent Kripalu experience and knowledge about bringing Pranayama and Meditation into your yoga practice. A regular balanced pranayama and meditation practice increases the flow of energy in the body, is a great way to get centered, and will make you feel more alive and well!


In this focused and calming class you will:

  • Learn yogic breathing techniques to calm the mind and energize the body.
  • Develop awareness of the subtle energy system of the body through mindful breathing.
  • Use the breath to prepare for your meditation practice.
  • Gain understanding of the different kinds of meditation – and what might work best for you.

This class is suitable for everyone, unless you have a heavy cold!

Please sign up on the Awaken Website or contact Val directly. Thank you!

* Life is Not to Be Lived on the Edge

In yoga we talk about taking our poses to the edge. To that place where we hold a good stretch before its becomes painful, where we soften and breathe to let go just a little more…..  Its a place of growth in our yoga practice. However, when it comes to life it may not work at all!

If we live at the edge of life’s highs and lows, then life becomes one crazy roller coaster … and probably quite short!bicycle on cliff

It’s a place to visit and appreciate being alive, but it can’t sustain us or nourish us.

I love this Middle Ground wisdom from Judith H Lasater (Judith is a renowned yoga teacher, psychologist and physical therapist in California):

“Life is not to be lived on the edges.

Because we are only able to see one vista from the edge.

Life is to be lived only from that paradoxical edge which is found in the center.

That center line exactly between yin and yang, black and white giving and receiving.

If you root there, you will find that every moment is richly bittersweet.

Every moment throbs with great joy and great sadness.

Wisdom is the refusal to run away from either.

Wisdom is the bittersweet heartbeat of the Universe.

Wisdom is embracing, allowing, being this bittersweetness.

Miss nothing. Refuse nothing. Embrace everything.

You are infinite and hold all the answers.

You are finite and know nothing.

Both are true.

But bittersweetness is the highest truth of all.

Be it.”

… and breathe …