Stories From the Tunnel or the Rise of the Yoga Professional

A coffee cup in my waking hand, I invite newscasters into the kitchen. Some stories bear repeating if you’re a person, with a mind, on the planet. Stories of the life are a teacher’s palette. Modern life is a tunnel that provides quick passage. These are news stories from the tunnel. Inherent in the problems are glimpses of light. Those are reflections from your own story.

One is on sleep. One is on noise. One is on work.


is a precious and finite commodity. Without it you are functionally disabled. Since your sleep debt is a nation’s decreased productivity, it is a national crisis. Someone has written an interactive book for parents to read to their children to help them both relax. It is a form of yoga nidra. It is not too early to teach a human to unwind.

Makes sense when you put a cell phone and video pad in hands as soon as eyes can see and hands can hold.


comforts the lonesome. Henceforth, a restaurateur in Manhattan has construed that the perfect dining experience is also a financial win when the restaurant is stripped to bare floors, walls and ceilings. He turns up the music. You must scream to be heard. Now it’s a big party. Lonely souls wander in. Everyone is a party guest. The playing field is level.

I went to such a restaurant in Manhattan this week. The noise was an assault. STUPID is the only way to describe it. The waitress screamed the menu. I held my hands to my ears to stave off anxiety. There was no digesting that food. It was a pricey battlefield.

Though I was in bed at an unusually late hour I had to read that night to unwind. It was not a book to hypnotize me to sleep but it did the trick nevertheless. But the problem isn’t falling asleep when you’re tired; it’s staying asleep when your mind is just dimmed like the lights. Then noise is no memory but patterned in a brain that cannot decipher day from night.

Dress Code

at a Silicon Valley tech company is non-existent. Millennials ride scooters around artsy work modules surrounded by community play areas with ping pong tables and random games. They wear play clothes. It looks like kindergarten for grown-ups. Adultgarten. It looks like fun and it has to be because the CEO says work never ends even when they go home. This is wholly accepted.

Do they prowl the hip stripped dining scene to feel connected when they leave that office? Is it weird to be free? Is there always one eye wandering to the cell for messages? I wonder how they sleep at night. Maybe they nap like wild creatures when the need hits. Maybe they can sleep with the full light of day on their faces, ear buds piping music to the brain, fully clothed in jammy clothes.

Yoga is medicine for man mad illness. We require more waking hours to undo ourselves. We need more hours to take the cure for sleep, social pressures or work. Yoga class is purposeful rest, music/dance ritual and work as play. Maybe that explains the rise of the yoga teaching profession. Is it a panacea for the disenfranchised? Perhaps I have buried the lead: Explaining the Rise of the Yoga Professional.

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Robocaller in Your Head

Robots hacked your home phone. You know, that old clunker nailed to wall that you keep for the last touch of we’re a family here. You keep it for your mother and you keep it for midnight emergencies next to your head in the bed. It’s got a virus called robocall.

woman on phone

It’s the automated voice in your head that beats you down by repeating the same things over and over even though you’re not buying, even though you will never close that deal. It doesn’t respect your busy day or your need for dreamless sleep. It’s the ring of a new world, the world which agrees that it’s fine to call anyone at any hour for any reason. It’s the ring of limitless which you thought was freedom but is someone else’s freedom to imprison you. That someone else is you.

You could press #1 to take yourself off the list but you don’t because you’re afraid you might miss something. You’re a hoarder.

“We rarely hear the inward music

But we’re all dancing to it nevertheless.” ~ Rumi

You don’t notice that the words to the song or jingles contain some lyrics of your stuck life. You don’t recognize that repetitive ruminations abide because you don’t confront them.

You have to pick up to take yourself off the list. You have to agree to not be called again. You have to know what is valuable and what should be thrown away.

Be still. Have a seat or lie down with yourself. Robocaller is waiting and ready. It knows when you are home. Pick up and listen. Why were you marked for this call? Robocaller has your number. Do you? Think about the incoming message. If you don’t need to hear it again press a key and get off the list.

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Music and the Bomb Shelter of Your Heart

Thanks to my failed relationship to all things virtual connection, I had lost much of my cherished music in a wrong attempt to switch I-tunes to my new computer. In the resulting fit of pique in I had foregone music in class for the better part of a year and turned to my left brain teaching mode but I need music tonight so I plug this vintage I-pod in knowing that what will or will not play is a mystery.

I’ve got a play list running that had been shot full of holes in the firestorm. Tonight I’m checking this out to see if something destroyed has been impossibly recently resuscitated by my I.T. guy. I’ve desperately missed conducting movement to music which was lost in tandem by my crapped out hip and my crapped out I-pod. The students trickle in. I decide to let untested music ride as class begins.

As we settle down it’s apparent that the song playing is a bit intense. The list is called Alternative. It was arranged to tear your salty heart from a bomb shelter and restore it honey dripping to an emerald cave.

“Hello friends. I’m running a questionable play list which is an interesting choice right here as I don’t remember what’s on it and I don’t know most of you. Music is personal. Something here might urge you to run screaming from the room. I want you to do this (hand raised) if a song makes you nuts and I will cut it off. If you agree, we’ll continue this experiment together. I hope it serves you well.”

A room of faces unanimously smiles. So that’s that. Thanks guys.

I match the class to the intensity of the lyrics. This is my wheel house. It’s what got me on the map so to speak. I’m here too many years teaching and too many years on this earth to be accused of baseless vanity. The rust falls off the wheels. The list seems intact and it appears to be lifting the level of concentration, fueling hearts. An hour later the track is still uninterrupted. It seems the hour plus play list has indeed reappeared intact. The music seems to agree to follow the now downward flow of the yoga class though I can’t be sure.

Notice where the attention is drawn, I ask them as they enter savasana. What does at tension depict in the muscles and mind? I ask them to describe sensation and thoughts with silent words until there are no more. I tell them that these are the places and ruminations crying out to be noticed.

By the noticing they calm and shift.

Ed Sheeran has begun to sing, “Give Me Love. The class is well into the work of savasana when the volume rises and the song takes a dangerous turn. Lyrics screech a repetitive desperate demand.


The calm is assaulted. This invasion has torpedoes aimed for the heart. It will test the student’s nerves. I rush across the long room to turn it down even as it’s coming apart, winding out from the tantrum to murmer; m-my my, m- my my, m-my, my oh give me love,lover.

Damn! “Give Me Love” just delivered the gist of my directions though I didn’t consciously plan it or the in- your- face full frontal. Not a likely vehicle for savasana, it was nevertheless powerful. I closed with a lesson offered there.

You cannot avoid pain by ignoring it. It will continue to knock on your door or climb in your window when you ignore the door or finally blow the roof off if you lock the window. Discomfort is comforted by the act of seeing it and that is an act of self love. Give all the words you have to all the ways you feel with abandon to let your SELF know you are listening.

Here’s a lesson to help you listen in savasana.


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The Donald’s Dismantling of the Party Could be the Country’s Political Trump Card

Election years used to be somewhat exciting and at least entertaining. I’m glued to the news as I am with disasters of all kinds. Election years are not unlike disasters.

But even the disasters have become predictable with the similar bunch of political hacks spewing the same empty phrases excluding Bernie Sanders since he’s claimed that nothing less than a revolution is called for at this moment.

Donald Trump gets my attention. He’s the car wreck you have to glance at even as your mind is screaming, “No, No, No, NO!” TrumpAnd like the rest of the country, I am paying attention because I’m amused. For whatever reason he’s got other folks attention, at least they’re tuning in and maybe participating in the political process for better or worse. Trump is making his fellow partiers dance with his loaded pistol at their feet. He’s keeping them off balance. He’s managing the conversation.

Senator and presidential wanna- be Lindsey Graham’s leveling tactic was to further lower the new indignity of the highest office with his speedily public commercial of himself as a purple faced reactive adolescent GETTING EVEN by smashing his phone after the Donald gave out the number. I wonder if this was the unleashing of the bulls that allowed Republican hopeful Mike Huckabee to think it prudent to release his Hakuna Matata end-times spot. As he pulls the others into the insane asylum with him, Trump has even forced Fox news commentary toward occasional reason.

Donald Trump is a unique solution for transparency in politicians where all parties are commonly shrouded in illusion, hypnotizing with repetitive empty phrases.

Thanks Donald, you’ve got people watching the political process even if it’s for the wrong reasons. It’s a start. You’ve got the talking heads off automatic and showing a bit more of themselves than they might have bargained for. You are exposing more than a weak party. You are exposing a broken people.Please don’t go yet. We’ll let you know when you’re fired.

Author’s note: Yoga is the study of human behavior. Politics is the action of human behavior. Yoga is exploration of one who becomes the many. Politics is the exploration of the many who become the one.

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Hitler Made Fine Roads

 A Yoga Teacher’s Notes from Berlin

I’ve never been to Germany. It was high on my list of places I never needed to see until Jack moved there. My oldest son, Jack, is a research scientist at the Hasso Plattner Institute in Berlin. He’ll have an ACL replacement and I’m off to Berlin as chief medical officer. My understanding of Germany is based on World War II films. German is the sound of the Third Reich barking orders to kill Jews. Rob tells me if anyone says to get on the train, run.

I’m in the airport lounge on the first leg of the trip. I play the game what would I do with her or him if I only had time for one yoga pose. I observe the crowd for postural issues. I imagine their lives and habits. I am absorbed by a large woman with an enormous roll of fat between her skull and shoulders. She is drinking a keg sized Starbucks Frappacino. She has manicured navy blue nails adorned with gold flecks. She crosses her ankles but barely. Her silent husband is covered in ominous moles and black freckles. He slumps in a way that matches the weariness on his face.

I don’t sit well. I have a funky hip and a tendency to claustrophobia. I’m afraid I’ll have to throw a blanket over my head like a caged parakeet to keep madness at bay for the eight trapped hours of the longest of three flights out. The plane is fully booked four across and me on the inside. I have poorly chosen not to see a chiropractor for the pain in my shoulder blade and neck as I’m sure this unfamiliar annoyance will abate. It has not.

God shines on us all. The cabin doors close and the seat beside me is still empty. Neither of my fellow row-mates is interested in utilizing the extra leg room and so I am at once unencumbered at my feet and free to curl my legs under me this way and that. I stick a small Fiji water bottle between my shoulder blades and put pressure where needed. Eureka. In the first hour I am unstuck and pain free.

I watch the movie” Still Alice” starring Julianne Moore even though I didn’t want to see it in the theater as it sounded depressing as Hell. But I’m locked in a chunk of steel hurtling through space and I don’t know the outcome so I break my rule of not seeking sorrow. I definitely have the symptoms of memory loss that Alice had. Now I can ruminate to pass the time.

The last leg of the trip is out of Amsterdam. It is 6:00 A.M… I am handed a recycled paper box with natural dyes that describes the organic spelt bread and egg salad from happy chickens raised on organic food on a family farm. Have I landed in an enlightened universe? Who here is worried about digestion or the mental state of chickens?

Berlin is an extraordinary culture of then and now Wow. It’s easy to move about though the place is immense. It’s a feast of world cuisine where I expected piles of grey shnoodle and gravy. It is elegance and art and grit. It is both sophisticated and safe and a nod to the forward thrust of civilization though I’m told it’s endangered by a steadily growing influx of commercialism. Still, I have yet to see a soul walking with a cell phone which is my version of the demise of civilization. In fact I don’t even see a phone exposed anywhere. Au courante is the fashion of smoking. Everyone is smoking. Everyone is coughing.

Manja and Frederic invited Jack into their AirBnB and asked him to stay on as a roommate. Frederic has dreadlocks to his waist. Manja would look like Nicole Kidman if Nicole Kidman didn’t give a shit. They are a couple in their mid 30’s, partners in a film production company that makes public service films which rail at the pitfalls of capitalism. They say that travel to the U.S. would not be possible as they are probably being watched. I have been here for 7 days now and I have seen no evidence that either housemate has a phone though they must. They have no televisions. I saw no radio. There is a stack of reference books by the kitchen table that they refer to when I ask questions they can’t answer. They rarely leave the apartment. Informative and enchanting hosts, their conversation has me glued to the kitchen table into the wee hours most nights.


The apartment is on the East side, built in 1896. It’s a railroad flat. The ceilings are probably 20 feet high. The windows are massive and both the doors to the balconies and the bedroom windows are doubled like our hurricane doors in the South. The door handles come up to my collarbones. Manja and Frederick are over 6 feet as well. I feel strangely diminished by the hugeness of this place and people.

I view the ancient cupboards in the kitchen with suspicion. I am reminded of a disturbing novel about a little Jewish boy dying in a cupboard that might be like the low one on the back kitchen wall under the window where they store perishables as the walls are so insulated. I ask Frederic if this building was likely swept by the Nazis looking for Jews and he says yes. He shows me the secret places that now house a refrigerator in one and a washing machine and dishwasher in the other and says that they would have been a poor hiding place as the Nazis would go outside and check the windows to know if a hidden room existed within. Though this place is homey in a rundown farmhouse way it also feels like a retreat for ghosts.

The city is tinged with anarchy and solid in architecture that ranges from mid 17th century to Bauhaus which often resembles stacked bunkers. There are huge blocks of apartments built under Stalin called Stalinhauses. Many of the buildings are marked with gorgeous or political graffiti and the powers that be allow this vandalism. Frederic tells me that many of these were occupied buildings and by that he means occupied by squatters. There was a time that occupation was akin to possession. The city is changing though and even his neighborhood which is one of the last alternative neighborhoods is quickly falling to gentrification. Frederic defines this as a place that had shops that had useful things being replaced by new stores that have nothing anyone needs.


There are few of the massive fascist structures left though there is evidence of Hitler’s demand for tank worthy streets. The ghosts of invasion, occupation and oppression are everywhere. The people are sensitive about that. Here they are taught of their part in the Holocaust from early youth. I am told they are told that no one is innocent.

In the ten days I’ve been here there were two religious holidays celebrated with three day weekends and drunken joyfulness in a city that is 70% atheist. My roommate’s response to my question about the meaning of the holidays was that Jesus was ascending or something. Didn’t he ascend on Easter, I asked and they said that he was always ascending or descending but it seems that whenever Jesus is on the move, people will be drinking.

This alternate universe is hazardous for me. I’ve gone from Dandelion tea or a cup of half caff at home to a double or triple espresso every morning. I have forgone sleep for days. Despite the double windows in my bedroom there are streams of anarchists noisily roaming the street all night. I am in danger of returning home insane which is working for me in this nihilistic place but won’t fly in Nashville. Today I think I took my thyroid support twice by accident. I did the same thing yesterday and I am thinking of Alice in the movie who had to write a note to herself to be sure her future confused self would know how many pills to take.

WitIMG_1578h practically free health insurance my son had knee surgery in a state of the art clinic that was as elegant as an upscale modern hotel. The doctor must have done his job well because two months later Jack has almost full range of motion and if he was in any pain, he didn’t seem to notice though he never bothered with the heavy pain meds. Granted, the staff was like the cast of Woody Allen’s “Stardust Memories” where Woody takes his signature pot shots at the Felliniesque New Jersey Italians. Despite a general gross negligence once the doctor left the premises, a couple of thoughtful nurses and support folks came to the rescue. And I was there. Had all gone perfectly I might not have felt so necessary.


IMG_1569Every floor of the five story building was dedicated to orthopedics. A brightly lit space beside the therapy rooms resembled a Benetton ad for crutches. Crutches in primary colors were displayed on the singular circular pedestal in the center of a beautifully appointed haute couture shop. On the eve of Jack’s surgery when the physical therapist failed to show up, the fellow who seemed in charge of the shop went beyond his hours and job description to fill in the blanks. There was immense concern over the color crutches Jack would like which I thought was a riot until it became clear that Jack would find the ordeal more palatable once I had returned the royal blue crutches I had thought fun for the Berlin black ones.



I note that I have not been abroad or to much of anywhere in the same time frame I’ve been teaching yoga. I question my choices with distance to spare now. I wonder at my decision to remain in Nashville when I had the opportunity to build on early success to become a traveling yoga professional. Then again for most of our 21 years I was contentedly raising kids, enjoying a successful career and surrounded by good friends. Beyond that the strangeness of Southern culture satisfied my taste for the unusual and interesting. Southern culture is quickly disappearing in Nashville now. Maybe it’s timing that makes this distant world so appealing.

There are more notes from Berlin but I’m not inclined to write a travel blog. And there are stories better left to memory. There are characters that made a lasting impression on me but they are profiles for another time. I had the good fortune to travel to a loved one and fall in love with a place I was horrified by for most of my life.



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Taylor Swift P.T.S.D.

My old trainer friend Johnny teaches a spin class on Sundays at Vanderbilt. He’s crazy for Taylor Swift and keeps her coming on every play list. Johnny assures the class that at sixty some years of age he has no Taylor poster on his wall but he’s a fan of course because Nashville’s girl’s got chops.


Though I taught a brief and admirable experiment of spinning/yoga when the first spin bikes arrived at the fitness place where Johnny and I worked twenty some years ago, I haven’t been on a bike of any kind since my hip went south and refused to haul my leg over the bar on my sweet old Lotus ten-speed. She was my Manhattan chariot in the days when I was invincible and I’ve missed that miserable seat.

So it occurred to me a bit late in the game that I might get the muscle tone back in my hurt hip leg by taking a pass at spinning and by God the hip hasn’t complained.

I’m spinning in place and getting nowhere which is not an unusual feeling for me these days and Taylor is singing “Out of the Woods”… hey are we out of woods yet out of the woods yet out of the woods yet, are we in the clear yet are in the clear yet are we in the clear yet and she’s breathlessly singing “Shake it Off” I’m just gonna shake shake shake shake shake shake and it’s gonna be alright and she’s singing “Red” burning red remembering him comes in flashbacks. I’m getting a hint of P.T.S.D., me going nowhere and Taylor pop chanting edge walking rants.

I’ve read that an animal freezes when frightened and doesn’t finish processing the trauma until it shakes. Until it shakes it off. I’m thinking of that, of being lost in the woods and once in the clear not even sure until someone assures me. I’m thinking of red and blasting ammunition and passion and heat.

I’m thinking of the veterans I will meet this week for our first yoga experience together. I know these lyrics will go through my head as lyrics go through my head asked for or not morning and night and in sleep even as I push them away. I will remember spinning as hard as I can which feels discouraging as I’m not as powerful as I remember. I will think of my friend who told me last night that he still has post Vietnam episodes. He’s on a list for a service dog.

Most of us have suffered trauma to some degree by the time we are teens. Not all traumas have long term effects. And some become part of our personality or persona. We may not recognize them or attempt to sort them out.

Today I spent 45 minutes on a spinning bike. I may have ridden nowhere but my mind rode into my work.


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Beginner Yoga Class: Introductory Notes

runner on Moonlight



Why practice yoga?

We come into a world of endless possibilities like instruments without instructions. Our mechanisms are so advanced that it takes years to know how to implement them and a lifetime to refine them. Yoga is the instruction.


In yoga we begin with the body to organize ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally. The first task is to get to know ourselves.


The body is the material we start with. It is touchable and concrete and we can identify with it. This is where we have the maximum opportunity for self examination.


The modern system of yoga is described in a text written about 18 centuries ago. It’s known as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. In the simplest explanation it is a guide to self inquiry that results in liberation from distractions and a sense of freedom from the tedium of a restless mind. It is entirely self serving. Older systems of yoga speak to service in a different light. When the student is steady in the foundation of yoga she may find a purpose and skill in service.


The student is given guidelines to behavior. When these guidelines are applied to the physical practice of postures, the student can experience how the concepts of disallowing harm, arrogance, greediness, jealousy and gluttony feel in the body. Then the student has the choice to adjust his/her attitude toward herself in the posture. The body becomes a vehicle for reflection.


Beyond the body, these restraints not only free the student from a guilty conscience but lead to equanimity. This allows for emotional space. Then the student may become contemplative which results in a desire for further knowledge. It also leads to joy as the student sees herself as bigger than her body.


Another way to look at this is in terms of relationship. The experience of yoga is the experience of relationship between the student and herself. On a physical level it is the experience of muscle to bone, bone to bone, breath to bone and mind to breath. This will indirectly affect the relationships of the student to others as the student becomes more insightful.



Posture is practiced with vigor tempered with compassion so that effort is balanced with ease. Steady effort in yoga is done with modesty rather than bravura. It is intended to create the sensation of good space in strong bodies.


Born a survival/gratification machine, we first learn to move toward pleasure and security. Then we are instructed. We are taught to use the manual of morality. We are trained to use our minds and regulate our emotions. Our eyes are turned inward only so much as to direct them outward according to a boss.


We continue toward self awareness via the teaching of yoga. Beginning with the body, we endeavor to stop the noise of our minds so that we may come to know ourselves without bias.



Originally posted to the journal page of

I thought bitchin needed some attention






















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