Building a safe(r) container

A student stopped me one day after class and told me this, seven or eight years ago at YoYoYogi in Portland. I’ve never forgotten it.

Isn’t that what we all want for our yoga students? For them to feel safe? 

Last night I taught the B. Yoga Basel TT cohort all about Yoga & Trauma Sensitivity. We covered everything from the basics of trauma theory to Bessel Van Der Kolk and Resmaa Menakem to Gabor Maté to reptilian brains to creating a culture of consent and how to offer quality hands-on assists and trauma-informed savasana options to guru power dynamics to the most burning question of all: whether yoga teachers should even be touching students in the first place. 

Whew!! It was a rich, nuanced, complicated, inspiring conversation — and it made me fall in love with teaching yoga all over again.

From San Francisco/Oakland to Portland to Boston to Basel, I feel grateful to have been a fly on the wall for some of the most thoughtful and progressive trauma-informed developments of the last decade.

Here in 2024, we are serving students more wholeheartedly and creating a safe(r) container for them at the same time. If that’s not ahimsa, I don’t know what is. 

Heart-openers to put in your pocket

Winter has properly set in here in Basel.

Medieval chimneys puff smoke, morning temps hover around freezing, and the Christmas markets are back in full swing. It’s exactly the kind of cold that makes you want to hunch over, curl up, and hibernate.

So in class the other day, we spent a lot of time flowing through poses like this: heart-openers, shoulder openers, backbends. When you can remind your body to stay open and warm and loose, your spirit will usually follow — even when the air outside is bitter.

Raja Bhujangasana (King Cobra) is one extreme example. It really doesn’t matter if you ever touch your toes to your head or not. You can get similar antidotes to winter from poses like Cobra, Dhanurasana (Bow), Bridge, Camel, Reverse Tabletop, and variations of Reverse Namaskar (or just grabbing your elbows behind your back) in Tree or a wide-legged forward fold.

Put these heart-openers in your pocket for the days when you’d rather close off and contract. A few minutes of asana can be the perfect counter to the cold. ☃️

You Are Your Own Best Teacher

I’ve been re-reading Tricia Hersey’s recent book Rest Is Resistance: A Manifesto, and loving her emphasis on Womanist and Black liberation theologies.

This line jumped out at me today. ✨

It’s a version of something I often say in yoga class: Remember that you are your own best teacher, and you know your body better than anyone else. So take what I say with a grain of salt, and trust your own deep knowing as you move through your practice.

Did you grow up learning this sense of embodied trust in your own faith tradition? 🥴 Reclaiming it can be super hard for those of us who didn’t. (Ahem, Christianity.)

But that’s why I love the yogic (and Black Womanist, and ecofeminist) traditions. They cultivate that sense of inherent bodily goodness; of radical wholeness; of the fact that our bodies are wise and holy and strong, just as they are.

Grateful for theologians like Hersey who are spreading this powerful wisdom on a global scale. 🪷

Four seasons of footballer yogis

Look at those footballer-yogis! ⚽️

Last night we wrapped up my fourth season teaching yoga to the players of Basel Internationaler Fussball Club. And it has been such a delight.

Starting back in the pre-Covid days, these plucky players from age 5-14 have shown up in the rain and the mud, in echoing gym basements, sometimes wearing masks, sometimes falling on their faces, sometimes dragging their creaky parents onto the pitch to join us.

This is not your grandma’s yoga. It’s frequently silly, often chaotic, usually messy, and always a joy. ❤️

The littler players are especially creative and excited to contribute their own poses. Just last night, Lion’s Breath turned into Peek-a-boo Breath, and Happy Baby became Scary Baby. (Highly recommend.)

I am grateful to all of the outstanding BIFC parent coaches over the years, to Bartlomé Soccer Academy for providing consistently exceptional professional trainers, and to Ignacio Anglada for first planting the seed back in 2019.

I love knowing that these young players are beginning their athletic careers with these holistic well-being tools already in their pockets. Especially for boys — learning that yoga isn’t just a “girl thing,” but it’s a way for them to build strength, cultivate mental equanimity, protect against injury, and emulate their favorite pros who are already on the yoga train.

Allez, allez BIFC!! ⚫️⚪️🟡

The history of yoga. In three hours. No big deal.

Tonight I’m teaching The History of Yoga to the teacher training cohort over at B. Yoga Basel. This is one of my favorite things to do and I’m so glad to be jumping back into this rich and often-raucous material.

Of course, it’s a total joke to think you can teach the history of yoga in three hours, but I always remind students this is just their very first introduction — and that they’ll spend the rest of their lives learning and unlearning this stuff, especially as the nature of what we know evolves, and as the people with privilege and power shift.

Because it’s all, always changing.

The sociologist in me always starts out with the heady stuff about the social construction of reality and postmodernism and context and identity. (Don’t worry, it gets easier from there.)

But then I love to use Sanjay Patel’s work (like the gorgeous Ganesha pictured here, from his children’s book Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth) as a perfect example of what happens when yoga history and philosophy meet storytelling and art and identity and the 21st century. Follow him at @gheehappy for such great stuff.

Leave your politics out of YOGA!

Woke up to this Trump voter screaming at me over the interwebs the other day. 🤦‍♀️ Sorry, Karen. I will not.

First of all: Yoga IS political.

Any teacher who tells you otherwise doesn’t know what they’re doing.

Waaaay beyond a workout, yoga is an ethical system, a spiritual discipline, a way of being in the world grounded in compassion and non-violence and the reality of interdependence.

When you really practice this sh*t, when you realize it’s so much more than just stretching, when you let these radically-loving yogic ethics pervade your every breath, then of *course* it’s political.

And, honestly, that’s why there are so few yoga teachers who’d really vote for Donald Trump or support imperialist war or condone the recent violence against trans kids in Texas and gay folks in Florida.

Many (most?) of us vote blue. 🗳 Because those very ethics of compassion and non-violence and interdependence make it clear the Christofascist lens of the modern-day GOP is completely incompatible with a yogic way of being.

Second: girl, it’s a free yoga class. On YouTube. Where there are six million other free classes you could take instead.

So if my politics turn you off, close the window. Click away. 🤷‍♀️

Or even better, stay awhile, and see if you can learn a thing or two about the meaningful, life-changing Eastern philosophy that’s behind all this bendy stuff to begin with. ✌🏼

Debunking the Myths of Yoga

(studio BE)

September is National Yoga Month, so what better time to quash some of the most common misperceptions about yoga? Join us in debunking the myths of yoga together — starting with perhaps the most famous:⁠

  1. YOU HAVE TO BE FLEXIBLE TO PRACTICE YOGA.

Simply put, this one is a big NO. ❌⁠⁠ Yoga invites you to come exactly as you are: tight hamstrings, stiff shoulders, achy low back, creaky joints, busy mind, strained Achilles.⁠ If your muscles are tight, you’re in just the right place! Yoga was designed for you — and it will meet you where you are.⁠

Pop culture representations of yogis tend to overemphasize already-flexible models performing flashy, bendy poses. Don’t let those fool you. ⁠Yoga is just as suited for the couch potato middle-aged dad who can’t touch his toes as it is for the ex-ballerina whose foot slides easily behind her head.⁠

As you unroll your mat for the first (or 50th) time, trust that you’re in exactly the right place.

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