Author: Yael

Anti-Resolution Stance

My dear friends, as we head into the New Year, I want to wish you only the best of the best for 2016. By this I mean: first do no harm.  Especially to yourself. You can start off 2016 on a fabulous note by NOT making resolutions. Winter is possibly the crappiest time to launch big shifts (hence the fact that most resolutions go kaput within weeks). ‘Tis the season of yin (yay!),  and of the most mysterious of the four directions, the North, which the ancient Hebrews called Tsafon, or the place of concealment, where things are hidden — not so much scary as soulful, as in the dark night of. You can instead birth your new self much more effectively in the spring, when the cycle of regeneration is living and breathing all around us.  (Shameless promotion: we’ll be doing a passion-infused goal setting session at our Mexican Jungle Yin Yang Yoga Retreat.) For now, consider focusing on a longer term intention, what the ancient yogis called a sankalpah — which you might think of as a affirmation of how …

How to Let Go

It’s hard to leave that with which we’re familiar — places, lovers, careers — or just calendar years, as we will soon do, relearning how to write the right date on simple forms. In colder months, the call to let go and leave behind gets louder and louder. Sometimes, we have no choice but to heed that call — but not before checking out whether we’re simply caught up in boredom, wanting things to be different than they are, not appreciating all the stark beauty that is our eternal travel companion. To me, December carries anticipation of awkward holiday gatherings — the awkward describing how I feel in the midst of families celebrating each other, having not had a family for most of my life.  I feel that familiar pull to dwell on that which has gone less than magically in my life — the losses and my insufficient responses to them, the healing paths or pleasure trips or books I think I should have taken or written. This is when I’m thankful for modern psychology for making me remember I’m not alone. As Martin Seligman (the father …

Cleansing Your Way to Strength

In Ayurvedic practice, fall is an opportune season to gently cleanse.  Unlike a spring cleanse, which focuses on removing toxins built up over the winter, its autumn sister is all about strengthening digestion and metabolism to help us prepare for the colder, more sedentary season ahead. Strengthening happens when we gather our energy back into our own centers from its tendency to go wandering all over the place, which we can call FOMO or computer-generated ADHD or monkey mind. Turning inwards sounds easy, but it can’t usually happen until we do something both significant and temporary that helps us decrease, or at least qualitatively shift, our consumption.  By tuning down the velocity of ingestion, we find we can better taste particular flavors — the intuitive ingredients that helps us find our way into just desserts — our purpose and place within the world. In his book Silence, Thich Nhat Hanh (the Zen monk who was nominated to the Nobel Peace Prize by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.) argues that we should not just look at food we eat, but what he calls “sensory food” when looking to shift our habitual …

Turning inwards

  Today is Rosh Hashana, the beginning of the year according to the Jewish calendar, when a ram’s horn is blown to announce the possibility to begin again. Each new month — and the new year — launches with a new moon, the first lunar phase when the moon is invisible.  (Although I grew up believing that the Jewish calendar was lunar, I just learned that it’s actually lunisolar — somewhat in between the purely lunar Muslim calendar and solar Gregorian one. This ensures that Rosh Hashana always falls in the autumn, and other holidays in their season. Cool!) One of my favorite teachers, Gershon Winkler (rabbi, shaman and all-around troublemaker) offers a way of looking at the new year: “Shanah” literally translates not only as “year” in Hebrew but at its root connotes “transformation, ” and indeed as autumn approaches so does the challenge of personal and communal transformation. Outside, the colors of the leaves are beginning to change, as is the temperature, and the aroma in the air. The twelfth-century Kabbalist Rabbi Avraham ben Dovid taught: “With change in the seasons of Nature …

Happy Summer!

We are just past the solstice, the apex of light in the northern hemisphere. Some say that during the solstice, the veil between the living and the spirit world lifts, much like in the Biblical dream scene known as Jacob’s Ladder – in which angels ascend and descend a staircase connecting heaven and earth. The solstice is a magical moment in our calendar. Since Juan Carlos and I were married on the winter solstice, it’s our half-anniversary, a signpost where I like to pause and reflect on the quality of our relationship and how it’s igniting my own spiritual growth, difficult as it can be at times. The summer solstice is also the anniversary of my mother’s suicide, containing that bittersweet edge when I can see how my perceptions have continued to unfolded since her death. This solstice started out early on the back deck, coffee with cardamom in hand. JC and I spotted white butterflies fluttering around our zinnia bed. The first piece of writing I published was called White Butterflies, since they were surrounding my mother’s body at …

Yoga & Grief

When I teach, just like in other parts of my life, I tend to talk.  When there’s a natural catastrophe, a bomb or nuclear explosion goes off, or someone famous dies of old age or heroin or hanging, I’m likely to talk about it in class.  Death (especially) becomes me. So perhaps you’re not surprised to learn that I’m a big believer in the power of yoga during the process of grief. That said, I was recently asked to write an article about yoga and grief.  It’s just been published in the September 2014 issue of the DC edition of Natural Awakenings.  You can read it by clicking here. I’m grateful to all the people who’ve lost loved ones and are willing to talk with me about it — I’ve learned a tremendous amount from watching how people choose to live in the face of death. Though I’ve also had my own experiences, it’s humbling to remember that grief — like anything else — happens in many shades and how I handle things might be vastly different than …

Coffee Talk

Meg & Bill Scofield are two delightful (and faithful) members of a weekly therapeutic yoga class I facilitate in downtown DC, close to the George Washington University Hospital. In the wake of what they call “medical upheaval,” they’ve been blogging about their intentional lifestyle — which has meant what most of us would consider radical downsizing and simple living. In fact, next month they will pack it even further down into what fits in a large backpack each, and take off — starting in Mexico, and seeing where life draws them afterwards. They have an occasional interview series with other DC dwellers who’ve touched their lives. Juan Carlos and I sat down with them over strong Americanos, which might account for the good-natured rambling we did about everything from the Holocaust to how Juan Carlos and I met and got married to what we like about DC. Enjoy!