Yoga Retreats Rock!

I recently was fortunate enough to attend a week-long yoga retreat in Yelapa, Mexico with Baxter Bell and his Yoga For Healthy Aging students.  I went as a student, not as a teacher, and that was a real treat.   

Twenty nine of us yoga students attended class in the beautiful Sky Temple twice a day.  Some students were brand new to yoga.  Some were spouses of long-time yogis.  Some of us were teachers.  Some were in shape, some were out of shape, some were in between.  Some were nervous about the experience, some were eager.  The age range of the students was 30s - 70s.  The smiles on our faces here truly represent how we all felt at the end of the week.

The great thing about the type of yoga Baxter Bell teaches is that it is accessible.  Each morning and afternoon I looked forward to class.  I never dreaded marching up the steep stone steps to the yoga platform.  Each class was slightly different.  We always had a healthy dose of meditation, poetry and music at the beginning and end of class.  I practiced deep yoga in a fun, supportive, educational, magical environment.  And guess what, we didn't do any downward facing dogs or sun salutations all week!

The view from the yoga deck at Sky Temple

What did we do when we weren't practicing yoga each day?  We had long conversations with new friends, we hiked on the beach and in the hills, we sat on the beach, we read books, wrote, went into town and shopped, went on mini travel excursions, we talked with the locals, we bird watched, we took photos, we experienced a different culture and pace from our normal lives.  We listened to the waves crashing on the beach.  We sat and stared into space.  We ate and drank.  We chill-axed!  And, we never threw paper in the toilet or drank out of the tap.

If you find yourself dreaming about attending a yoga retreat someday I suggest you find a teacher, program or studio you love.  Find a type of yoga that works for you with an instructor you can imagine learning from for an extended period of time, then...go for it!  Even if you go alone, like I did, chances are, you won't regret it.  You will learn many things from the experience and may even really enjoy it. 

Open your heart to a new yoga experience and see what follows.

Find Your Happy Place

Yosemite, top of Nevada Falls

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.” 
― John MuirThe Mountains of California

A couple weeks ago I went to Yosemite.  It was the first time I'd been there since 1999.  A long over due trip.  It was inspiring, awesome, majestic, poetic, breath-taking, jaw-dropping.  The day I got back I booked a reservation for my next trip there.

Nevada Falls

I got my Yosemite fix, but I need to return, soon.  The mountains are my spiritual place.  For some, it's the ocean, for me, it's the mountains.  I moved to the Tahoe area to be in the mountains.  I have a beautiful view of the mountains from my home.  I'm lucky.  But there is something really wonderful about being IN the mountains and not just looking at them.  Experiencing them.  Being present IN nature.

Half Dome from The Tunnel View

While I was hiking a gentleman stopped me and said, every time I pass you, you have the biggest smile on your face.  It was true!  I was grinning like an idiot all along the trail.  I was in my happy place.

Vernal Falls

In our yoga practice we continually try to find a place of peace and presence.  Nature also helps us cultivate inner peace and helps us live in and appreciate the moment. 

And, yoga physically aids us when we are on the hiking trails.  Our practice gives us strength, focus, agility, flexibility, stamina, patience, balance ... and a killer attitude!

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.” ― John MuirOur National Parks

Here's to your happy place! May it be found in nature.

Consider a Cleanse

I'm 8 days into a 21 day cleanse.  This cleanse is a variation that comes from the book: Eating Clean: the 21 Day Plan to Detox, Fight Inflammation and Reset your Body by Valpone.  You can also check out the Netflix documentary called What's With Wheat? on a similar topic.

Through the years I've seen friends and family members try different cleanses and I always thought they seemed too difficult or too weird to try.  Or, I just wasn't interested (read: I was threatened). But then recently all the signs were telling me to try one.

What the heck?  I gave birth to my second son WITHOUT ANY MEDS so I can do just about anything, really.

The cleanse I'm doing for 21 days is basically this.

Caffeine (even decaf coffee)
Added sugar
Citrus (except lemons)
Night Shade Vegetables (peppers, tomatoes, eggplant)
Pre-packaged foods

1 tblsp of organic apple cider vinegar diluted in 8 oz water with honey/day
Fresh, organic fruits and vegetables
Eggs (I added this)
All nuts (except peanuts)
Organic chicken, turkey, fish and beef once/week
Brown rice & Quinoa
Lots of water
Herbal tea
Mineral water
Organic maple syrup, honey

Then, after 21 days I can gradually add in the foods I miss and see how my body reacts. Based on that, I decide if I want to add them in again, and to what degree.

After 8 days I've noticed some changes.  At day 3 all the inflammation left my body, especially my face, fingers and even toes.  At day 3 I started sleeping better.  I have more energy after I eat a healthy meal and don't feel sluggish.  Sometimes I feel too amped, like I'm seeing crisper around the edges of things.  (No, I'm not also on acid.)  Sometimes I feel just odd, and wait for it to pass.  Some days my eyes have dark circles under them, but I'm thinking this will go away.

When I tell people I'm on a cleanse they laugh and say it sounds boring and some even get defensive and say they don't want to do one.  I never asked them to do it with me, but they still feel like I'm challenging them or something.  I'm not.  Really.  It's just something I wanted to try and now I'm trying it.

What does this have to do with yoga?  Well, many of the yoga passages I've been reading lately have forced me to rethink some of my daily and nightly habits.

This yoga thing isn't just about what happens on the mat.  In fact, it's really about what happens off the mat,  and we are forced to ask ourselves - can we carry our yoga with us as we go out into the world, or onto the couch with our nightly habit of red wine, dark chocolate and Netflix?  Our yogic teachings may be telling us to consider a cleanse every now and then and just see what happens. Notice, without judgment.  That's what I'm trying to do, and so far, so good.

Yin Is In!

When I first started taking yoga classes I focused on vinyasa flow classes.  I didn't know what I was doing, and that seemed like a good place to start.  It was.  But then, as my practice grew and I learned more about different types of yoga, I saw the benefit in branching out and trying new styles.

One style that always intrigued me was yin.  It seemed so different from "regular" fast paced, flowing yoga.  Yin was quiet, inward and deliciously difficult.  

Yin is a relatively new type of yoga.  The yin style of yoga has always existed, but it wasn't until 30 years ago that Paulie Zink, Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers gave it a name and began refining and defining yin.  Bernie Clark, another yin guru, created a website devoted to it:

How is yin different from restorative yoga?  Both of these are passive practices but yin digs down deep into our connective tissues and restorative does not. Yin is NOT appropriate for people working through an injury.  Once an injury is healed, then yin may help restore range of motion and mobility.  Restorative, on the other hand, is very appropriate for those healing from injuries.

Yin is done when the muscles are cold.  You get on your mat, usually settle in with a meditative pose for a few minutes, and then begin your first yin pose, and hold for anywhere from 3-8 minutes, or longer.

Doing yin with the muscles cold (that is, not warmed up) allows the work to go deep into the connective tissue - the fascia that connects bones, ligaments, tendons, joints and muscle.  Most forms of yoga are active practices that work our muscular half, the "yang" tissues.  Yin is a nice complement to yang styles of yoga.  Many of us have active yang lifestyles that could use balancing with some inward yin awareness and acceptance.

Both yin and yang are necessary.  As Bernie Clark says, "We can be yang-like for only so long before crashing.  We can be yin-like for only so long before stagnating.  We need balance in all things."

There are fewer than 30 poses in yin.  And most of these focus on the pelvic area.  Here is a list of the poses from

Go try a yin class sometime and see what it adds to your practice.  Be patient. You may not fall in love with the first yin class you take.  Try a couple classes, experiment with different teachers before you decide if it's for you.

I teach yin in Reno on Wednesdays at 10:30am at the West Street Market. Sign up here: