In all this world, there is nothing more important than appreciating the preciousness of our human embodiment and doing all we can to increase health and happiness for ourselves and others - Tarthang Tulku

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Takin' It To The Street

Y'all ready for this. So, I've somehow found myself living in a predominately Irish, Polish, Catholic blue collar neighborhood in North Philadelphia called Port Richmond. There are no yoga studios here for miles. There is, however an Arby's, Applebees, and Dunkin Donuts in walking distance. Yoga is not a household word around here.

And because there are no accidents in life, I do feel I was put here for a reason. While I was wandering around the West Coast on my soul journey, as yogis so often do, a friend and former yoga student Jeff (a.k.a. Yoga Pimp of a few posts ago) and I had been keeping in touch. I didn't know where I was going to land next, where God wanted me. My prayer is always, "Where do you want me God? How can I serve?" Within a day, Jeff sent me an e-mail that said "Philly needs you back!" Jeff was headed to Thailand and then to a Yoga Teacher Training at Kirpalu and offered me the blessing of staying in his house while he was away. God plucked me out of my wandering and placed me here, on Aramingo Avenue. That's the good thing about teaching yoga-- you can do it anywhere. For me, my ideal work setting is to teach on the street, for free. But that's just me.

A few days ago, my friend Becky, who I met at Yoga Teacher Training in Bali came for a visit. Becky and I met the first night of yoga camp and discovered we both lived in Philly. After our training, when we both got back to the states, Becky became a teacher at the studio I opened in the ghetto. She has since moved to Portland where she is a Biology Professor and tri-athlete, all around wonder woman, one of those people who has an encyclopedic science brain and the most creative spirit-- serious yogi material. I went to visit her in Portland, a city I love but had way too many vegan hipster poets for my taste. I like a gritty city with a lotta soul. I guess that's also how I like my yoga. It was a divine appointment to have Becky here snapping photos to chronicle my spur-of-the-moment street yoga class.

So, Becky was sleeping in late after getting into Philly at 1 am. Around 6 am, a construction crew started drilling the sidewalk, shaking the whole damn houseBecause I am obsessed with bringing yoga to the people, I got the crazy idea to wait for these dudes to take their first morning break, when I would then attack them with the yoga. I was under no illusions that this guerrilla yoga tactic would actually work, but I am passionate about this practice, slightly crazy, and always up for an adventure in yoga research.

I am also on a mission to demystify yoga and to do this well, I need some information about what people think yoga really is in order to accomplish this goal. And the only way I can think to do this is to bring it out of yoga studios and onto the streets. I think I'm becoming some kind of roving investigative yoga reporter.
I want to know what people think about yoga, people who yoga has not yet reached, people who would not read Yoga Journal if you held a gun to their head, men who say that yoga is "gay." I don't know why I feel called to repackage yoga for these people, but I do. I am probably not the best person for the job, actually. Jeff, Yoga Pimp, from my earlier post is much better suited for this job and I'm working on pimping him out to the Philly yoga world, so stay tuned for that dog n' pony show. I just might be too soft to reach Philly tough guys. But I'm sure I at least got them talking. My mission was to simply get yoga on their radars. I didn't get much out of them in the way of feedback. "That's some gay shit but I'll try it," said the guy I roped into trying tree pose. These guys have hard jobs, jobs that require them to wear hard hats, jobs that beat up their bodies and sometimes crush their spirits. Most of them drink soda and smoke and eat big greasy sandwiches and are not particularly happy about life. I introduced them to ujayii breath, breath of victory, which they seemed to sort of dig. I'm not sure if they took me seriously though. Maybe that wasn't even the point. All I know is the spirit moved me to do it, so I did.

Obviously, yoga was tough sell for these guys. But at the very least, I got them to lighten up on the job. That's the yoga too, I think. I'm sure they thought I was insane. Mission accomplished, I say. But you know they're not gonna forget it. Slowly but surely, I hope to debunk myths about yoga, one city block at a time. I could see myself takin' this yoga show on the road. Whose comin' with me?

I do feel there is a serious disconnect between the people who are teaching yoga and the people who could benefit from it most. There are corners of our own cities where yoga has not dared to travel. I encourage you, if you're a teacher, to take yoga out of the box, get out of your own yoga teacher comfort zone. Yoga is meant to be shared. That's kinda the whole point, isn't it? Unfortunately, in many parts of the world it has become an elitist endeavor alongside a path of spiritual materialism.

I just have no interest in the studio setting any more. At least not in Philadelphia. As yoga teachers, I think we have more work to do educating people about what yoga is and is not. We need more faces of yoga in the community who can relate to a wider audience.

Namaste, Bitches! could morph into an expose of who is really doing yoga and what it looks like, for real. Most people's lives don't resemble anything in Yoga Journal. And if yoga is going to do its job, "yoga" as it exists in the Western media seriously needs some better PR. The yoga image that the media is churning out turns a lot of people off to the practice.

I want to know who is doing yoga, how they found it, and how it has changed their lives. But I don't want to hear about people for whom the yogic path was made rather accessible in the U.S.-- you know, people with Buddhist Jewish parents, religion majors, musicians, artists, mystics, poets and generally privileged people who are educated and have enjoyed the gifts and freedom of travel, whose minds have been primed to receive yoga, who don't have as many built-in resistances to the emotional, touchy-feely side of yoga, dare I say "spiritual".

Yogis, if you step out of yogaland for a minute, you will find that still so many people think yoga is something it is not. I need to find out what people think yoga is and how we can begin to reframe our messaging as yogis for the rest of the world, because right now, we're all just talking to each other. Just look at who is reading this blog-- mostly yogis or people who are already oriented to yoga in some way. I want the message to reach a wider audience, to bridge to gap between the yoga world and the rest of the world-- especially people who have a shitload of money but whose lives are falling apart. Or anyone, for that matter, who feels spiritually bankrupt and has lost a connection to self and is trying to figure out what this whole experiment called life is all about.

For me, yoga is about finding your purpose here on earth and having the courage to live your best life, the life you were put here to live. For as much as we know and for as much as we have, many of us have not been given the tools to do that kind of soul searching in the West.

Yoga gives you permission to live your best life, guilt-free. For many people, that sounds nice, but impossible. But if you've been practicing, you know that yoga allows you to step away from the stories you have been telling yourself about who you are and how you should be living your life. Newsflash: we're not here for ourselves. We're here to do God's work, to realize we are all one, and to love each other. That's what yoga teaches. But we can't do any of that without loving ourselves first.

Yoga is the first stop on that train of figuring out that you really are a force to be reckoned with and if you quit the job you hate tomorrow, you would be fine, you might even come to experience your own power even more. Yoga helps you embrace the fact that security is the biggest crock of shit known to man, the biggest illusion, one that keeps us enslaved to money, possessions, and jobs and relationships that make us sick and tired of being sick and tired. I've been there. I will never go back. There is another way to live of peace, love, and joy. And it's not new-age hippie shit. It's about reclaiming your sense of purpose and recognizing that there is only one you.


The yoga world is doing a crap job of reaching significant portions of our population: angry wound up white lawyers, gangstas, hipsters, bartenders, strippers, doctors and nurses, policeman, firemen, bus drivers, government workers, politicians. The list goes on. And it's mostly because we have not figured out how to deliver the message of yoga in a way that a wider audience can consume. I'm busy doing my homework and figuring out where we need to go from here.

As one of my favorite teachers, Edward Clark recently wrote to me, " Keep the Yoga Flag flying". Yoga could use a flag, it's true. Let's get on that.

Namaste, Bitches!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Guide to Dating a Yoga Goddess: Damsels, Dharma, & Distress

Ok, boys, gentleman, not so gentle men, knights in shining armor, pimps and playas. You’ve see us in the gym, in yoga studios or magazines or on TV. Maybe you’ve even taken our classes--we yoginis, the flexible dare-devils on a spiritual mission who seem to float around the world so freely. We’re a different breed. Most of us are born travelers, nomads even. Most of us don’t like societal rules and conventions. And most of us don’t adhere to them and have dedicated our lives to living outside boxes in some way or another. This is a beautiful thing that many men find intoxicating and exhilarating, until they realize that it also scares the shit out of them. This is true especially for the kind who wear ties.

For the multi-talented beautiful Yoga Goddess, finding a life partner who is traveling down the same road or wants to walk hand-in-hand with a Yoga Goddess on her journey is much more difficult for her than any forearm balance.Yoga Goddess, more specifically, a woman from a Western civilization who teaches yoga for a living, especially in a metropolis of some kind, is a complicated creature who has elected to remove her Western goggles and instead apply and be guided by Eastern philosophies and practices of self-actualization.

This makes her an intriguing and complicated creature to most men, but I assure you, she is not entirely inscrutable. You have only to understand that underneath her yogi persona, your Yoga Goddess was probably fed fairy tales for most of her life, where damsels in distress waited to be rescued by the Prince. Now she is grown up and she is a Yoga Goddess, a yogi who has discovered her dharma ( this is the Sanskrit word for one’s “virtuous path”)and a devotion to God which has eased her existential distress but probably not completely relieved her of the distress of the romantic variety.

A Yoga Goddess can appear to many like an untouchable, statuesque, ephemeral, mystical, zany, Aphrodite-esque theatrical mess on wheels. To many men, she is bewitching and beguiling, she can unsettle you with her eyes and bring you to tears when you least expect it. A Yoga Goddess can see souls. She knows how to make you feel things you may not want to feel, which leaves many men feeling too vulnerable in her presence to ever feel good enough. Know that the Yoga Goddess of your dreams is not out to emasculate you but that it is her wish and it is within her power simply to help you open your heart. Sometimes, a Yoga Goddess forgets her own power and forgets too that a man might not want the woman he is pursing to have that effect on him. Know that she knows this but can’t always help it. Her soul work goes deep. The tricky part is, as a highly sensitive healer and woman with deep compassion for human suffering, she no doubt has walls of her own that you will have to be willing to tear down for her to feel safe enough to let you in. Therein lies her beautiful complexity.

So, here are some essential things you should know before you set out to win the heart of a Yoga Goddess of your dreams:

1) Get over the fact that a Yoga Goddess is probably someone who is a little bit dangerous to take home to meet your mother. Exhibit A:



It occurred to me recently that this picture alone might actually have been why my last relationship didn’t work. If you want your Yoga Goddess for your very own, you must grow up and get over needing your mother’s approval. Yoginis are sparkling, creative, charming, intelligent, beautiful, sexy, highly intuitive and charismatic women who your mother might not love at first and will come to love eventually. But we’re also wild and free-spirited, with a lotta bit of hippie hell raiser on the inside, which has the potential to feel threatening to many mothers who just want their son to settle down with a nice girl who won't make too many waves. The good thing is that these qualities are usually countered with equal parts compassion, faith, and altruism. Yoginis also have chameleon qualities, so it is possible that your Yoga Goddess might be willing to dim her light for a meeting with the parents, but do not be surprised if your beloved Mumsy gives her the snake eye for reasons you cannot and will not ever understand. It's a witchy woman thing.

2) Yoga Goddesses don’t do small talk.

Yoga goddesses usually cut the shit and get to the stuff that matters. Questions like, “What do you feel? Where do you feel it? What do you believe? Have you surrendered?” are a Yogi Goddess's version of small talk. A woman who has chosen a spiritual path and dedicates her life’s work to helping people unify their mind, body, and spirit in profound and transformative ways is just not very good at shooting the shit with strangers and will tend to fire away questions that get right to the heart of the matter. If you need her to tone down the yoga talk, simply brief her before dinner with your boss. You can take her to work functions and she will do just fine for a while, but you might hear her take very deep loud audible breaths throughout the course of the night to manage her sensitivity to the noise and heavy lifting of bullshitting. Keep in mind, in her line of work, she meets people for the first time on the floor in sweatpants and spends her days reading about God and breathing. So, don't be surprised if she might need to go and do a headstand in the corner after a few vodka tonics to handle the change of scenery and relax her face from all the fake smiling.

3) Yoga Goddesses consistently crave and create adventure for themselves and others.

Yogis by nature are adventurous so if you’re not willing to be adventurous, in all kinds of ways, if you need to play it safe because you’re afraid of what people will think, then the Yoga Goddess is not for you and she probably won’t date you anyway. For the Yoga Goddess, it is not enough to simply like the idea of adventure. She will test your strength, she will keep you on your toes, she will love it if you surprise her just as much as she surprises you. If you’re a stable, steady kind of man, she will love you for your groundedness but ask you to abandon it on occasion in the name of faith, courage, and wisdom. That’s just how it goes. One of the most romantic things you can do for a Yoga Goddess is to plan a trip for the two of you and surprise her with it. She is used to taking the lead with plans and orchestrating events. To be cared for in this way is a Yogi Goddesses’s dream. And yes, the adventure extends to the bedroom, naturally. Don’t be scared. Yoga Goddesses are very gifted and patient teachers and healers.

4) A Yoga Goddesses will turn your world upside down.
If you fall for a Yoga Goddess, it is very likely that she will very gracefully turn your buttoned-up world upside down. Afterall, she has been called to teach people to see things from another perspective, to look at things differently, to encourage people to challenge their ideas about who they are and what their lives should look like. This is probably why many men will date Yoga Goddesses for a time but never marry them. The potential for change is too great for many men who are intrigued by the possibility of being with someone so free-spirited but who are ultimately uncomfortable with what life might look like with someone who is so comfortable with uncertainly, so in tune with and guided by spirit. Someone who possesses an ardent faith in things unseen can feel too intense for someone who is not prepared or interested in a spiritual journey. So, while your Yoga Goddess can be playful and fun-loving, she takes her life, her vocation and her spiritual path very seriously. A man who earns a Yoga Goddess’s love must respect and admire her work, understand its value to humanity.

5) Yoga Goddesses are mysterious.
Yoga Goddesses do not go out of their way to be mysterious, they just are, simply because they have surrendered to the mysteries of life, have given up searching for answers for why things are and very comfortable living the the gray areas of life. If you are a rigid thinker, the Yoga Goddess is not for you. She is a free-thinker, open-minded and open-hearted. She prizes authenticity over knowledge and accomplishment and leans into the mystery of life at every turn. In my experience, this terrifies and confuses many men. Yoga Goddesses are not good planners since they are usually out doing God’s work, will entertain detours if led by spirit to go left instead of right or to be late for an appointment because of a chance encounter with a mystical stranger who seems to have an important message for her. She will require your trust and patience and she will return the favor tenfold. If she keeps you waiting, chances are she will have a magical reason for it, a wonderful story that keeps your faith in things unseen alive. She'll tell you about it while giving you some kind of exotic massage. She cannot be rushed. And she will not let anyone else set her pace for her.


6) A Yoga Goddess is the hostess with the mostess.

She will cook you things to balance your doshas and if you don’t know what those are, she will help you identify them. She will play amazing music from all over the world that will transport you into other galaxies. She will know what to do with your body in many situations as well as what kind of oils to rub on it and where to make you feel like the God you are. She will create a house of harmony, health, balance. She will want to care for your mind, body, and spirit. She can’t help it. It’s her job.


7) A Yoga Goddess is still a material girl.



A Yoga Goddess is not immune to desires of the flesh. Though she has probably made the decision, at certain points in her life to disengage from the material world as part of her spiritual training, she does still enjoy earthly comforts like jewels and fancy dinners and unexpected trips to exotic locales. And she is still a girl looking for a boy to love her, honor her, and ravish her.
8) A Yoga Goddess cherishes her freedom and yours.
The yogic path is often called the quest for the jivan mukti, or the soul’s liberation. A woman who is on a yogic path understands that souls want what souls want and that a relationship is meant to be a place where those desires can be expressed without shame or guilt. This can make her seem like she has the potential to be so free-spirited that she just wants to be free-wheelin, free-loadin and free-lovin’ her way around the world. Not so. A yogic-minded woman simply understands for herself that we are all here to be each other’s teachers and students and that there is no better place for the expression of that dynamic than in a loving partnership.

9) A Yoga Goddess probably won’t ask you for help when she needs it most. This is her weakness.
A Yoga Goddess forgets that her man is not always as intuitive as she is and might not feel comfortable asking for help when she needs it most. As a Goddess, she might have a great deal of pride in her power and might find it hard to make herself vulnerable to a man since she is so used to doing things for herself, by herself, and for others. To win a Yoga Goddess’s heart, pay attention to what she needs to do her job and live her life. To win her heart, try to support her lifestyle in any way you can. She is a giver and has been trained to do and give the same to you. She is the ultimate nurturer and caretaker so while her standards for being taken care of well are high, simple gestures of kindness, appreciation, and thoughtfulness go a long way. Massages at beautiful spas don’t hurt either.

10) A Yoga Goddess will worship God first, then you, if you’re lucky.

A Yoga Goddess is comfortable being alone. The spiritual journey is a lonely path since the road less traveled is never crowded. She is used to solitude, comfortable with its pleasures and pains and has used time alone to contemplate and commune with God. A Yoga Goddess has taken the time to know and understand herself and her relationship to the divine and it will be nearly impossible to share a meaningful life with her if you are not inclined to do the same. Don’t waste her time and don’t lead her to think that you have more spiritual depth than you actually do. A Yoga Goddess prizes authenticity in spiritual searching. A Yoga Goddess has a connection to the divine that preceded you and God is the center of her universe, not you. Chances are, if you are even considering a relationship with a Yoga Goddess, you are most likely already on a spiritual path, even if you don’t know it yet. She does not attract many people into her world who aren’t.

I hope this has given you a lens into the heart and soul of the Yoga Goddess. Do not be discouraged by these truths. A relationship with a Yoga Goddess can be one of the most thrilling, heart and mind-bending adventures of your life if you are ready for the ride.

And another thing, truth be told, a lot of Yoga Goddesses were also at one time good (or bad) Catholic girls. So, you’ve got that imagery to work with too, gentleman.

The mac daddy of the Jesuits, Saint Ignatius said, "Go forth and set the world on fire." I don't think Ignatius got any hot yoga booty, though. He probably could have used a light from a smokin' Yoga Goddess. Just sayin. It's all about balance.

Namaste, Bitches!