What I Learned About Skandasana, I Don’t Have To Do It!

In January, before COVID-19 upended all our lives, I made a commitment to participate in advanced yoga teacher training with ISHTA. I was excited and nervous about this undertaking. I was excited and nervous about aligning myself and my learning with another school. I was excited and nervous about continuing my practice, doing homework, continuing to teach and doing what most of know is one of the foundations of this practice, learning more about myself.

As part of the curriculum, trainees are expected to complete a Svadyaya Project of their own design and present it to the class at the end of the training. Svadyaya is one of the Niyamas of Yoga as documented in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and is generally translated as “self study”. During our early mentor meetings we put forth ideas for our projects and with my mentor’s help I settled on something seemingly simple and would take me out of my comfort zone nonetheless. My project is to approach my home yoga practice without a plan or agenda, to trust myself to do what’s right for me and embrace spontaneity. It’s actually kind of terrifying. I’m supposed to do the same with my knitting but that’s another story.

One would think that this “Sheltering in a Place” environment would be a playground for this but I am a master at procrastination. Having the opportunity to study with so many inspiring teachers during lockdown hasn’t helped. My home practice has become one where I’m lead daily through some lovely, inspiring and challenging practices.  Enter my ability to play.

These classes, live streamed via Zoom and other online platforms have become opportunities to try something new. When in a class, and going through a sequence, since I’m home, I can stop, contemplate, and take the time to explore my “what if” moment.

I know, it’s not the same thing. It is however serving as a launch pad for the kind of trust in myself that will help me to become a better teacher. This has been serving me particularly during moments when a class is instructed to do something that feels truly bad in my body; a movement or pose that serves me NOT ONE IOTA. For me recently, that was Skandasana.

Skandasana, that ridiculous (for me) exercise where you’re in Prasarita Padottanasana and you shift your weight from side to side, bending one leg then the other, getting increasingly deeper in the bent leg and maybe even flexing the foot of the straight leg. Ugh. The whole thing just feels so very wrong in my body.  Then, in one class we were asked to hold the position on one side. This suggestion served a purpose in the whole gestalt of this peak pose focused class and for me at that moment I was in hell. Why was I tolerating hell? There are times when you’re challenged physically and the purpose and impermanence of the gesture make the challenge worthwhile. This was not one of those moments.  

Enter the block.

I know, it’s so simple and at that moment it was revelatory. I could suddenly feel the purpose of the pose instead of cursing it. Sitting on the block at medium height (a height that worked for me), rather than shift my weight from side to side I stuck one leg out from Malasana then the other. I could suddenly find the space, strength and length to make Skandasana work for me.

I may see more self trust in my future.


Recently, for the first time at a guided meditation I was asked to identify a Vikalpa.  I didn’t know what a Vikalpa was and was so glad to find out. At Yoga Nidra sessions participants are asked to identify a Sankalpa, something they want to manifest in their lives stated in the present tense.

You know what, for me anyway, identifying a Sankalpa is hard; I want, I embody, I am, I wish.  The challenge is not taking something that isn’t and stating it as though it is, the challenge is coming up with that thing in the first place. Weirdly it can be like choosing a nail polish color.  You agonize over the decision when really you’re going to wear it for a week and then choose another one. It’s just not that big a deal. That’s no way to manifest life changes.

Enter the Vikalpa.  One definition of Vikalpa associates it with division, disbursement, doubt or confusion.  Holding on to these things is not a productive way to go through life and yet most of us do, dwelling and holding on to what isn’t working out of fear or because it’s comfortable.  Confession, I know I am guilty of this. Conflict, self doubt, too many options all contribute to this sense of floating through life.

So, the next time you’re asked to identify a Sankalpa, identify instead your Vikalpa, the voice in your head that says, “I’m not,” “I’m not going to,” “I wish,” I can’t.”  See what resonates strongly and allow the opposite to become your Sankalpa.

Taking this path has allowed me to explore some insecurities and move forward slowly in realizing some goals.

It isn’t a magic notion but one that may make your Sankalpa last longer than your nail polish color.

Happy New Year!!

I’m never sure what to make of the new year.  New Year’s Eve, December 31 is a memorable date being the day before January 1.  As the day progresses towards it’s culmination at 12:00 AM people plan and endure innumerable hardships in an effort to make the moment memorable.  In the end, it’s just another moment in a string of moments. January 1 brings gatherings of friends and families as the new year gets underway. I prefer this sharing of the passing of time in a carefree and caring manner and still, it’s just another date.  I say all this while still holding on to the fact that I had my first date with my partner 20 years ago on NYE. That really was memorable and as a result I will not forget our anniversary.

Why do we let the calendar govern our behavior so?  You can set goals, make resolutions, soul search on any day but the auspiciousness of 1/1 overshadows them all.  I think it’s important to remember that just because a goal wasn’t set on New Year’s Day it doesn’t become any less or more important.  I believe in having permission to reset your clock at any time. If your goals get derailed, take stock, sit, think, prioritize and begin where you left off.

And then there’s life, that stuff that fuels and drains us.  Working to put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads.  I always say that if I did every day the things one says you should do every day (play the guitar, practice vocal scales, stand on my head, eat three square, practice asana, meditate and practice pranayama, eat my veggies, etc.) I wouldn’t have time for anything else.  

I write this now as though I’m some kind of expert.  I’m not. In fact I’ve abandoned more goals than I’ve accomplished.  This does not make me unique. It probably makes me average

I guess the moral of the story is “don’t beat yourself up.”  Your Sankalpa isn’t going anywhere and chances are you’re pretty terrific just the way you are. The work, the adjustments made over time will serve to make you more so. Sure, I have goals and those goals aren’t made, kept, met or shifted according to the calendar.  They are reviewed and analyzed regularly. There is freedom in this.

Embrace that.  

Yummy, Crispy, Gluten Free, Easy AF Crackers

Yummy Seed Crisps

For the graduation ceremony of the 200 Hr. YTT that I was privileged to mentor this past winter I made some crackers that were a hit.  I promised the attendees that I would give them the recipe so here it is.

It is so simple and nutritious and happens to be gluten free if that’s your jam.  It’s not mine but, whatever.

Feel free to riff on this basic formula with different seasonings and seeds.  I haven’t tried chia seeds yet but think they would be successful as is the flax meal.

1/2 cup flax meal

1/2 cup sesame seeds

1/2 cup flax seeds

2 tbs. raw sunflower seeds 

2 tbs. raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

1 cup water

1.5 tbs Bragg liquid aminos or tamari sauce

1 tsp. garlic powder

Additional spices might include garam masala, bebere, cumin, cayenne. Feel free to experiment.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and stir.  Let it all sit in the bowl for 30 minutes.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Spoon the mix onto the parchment ant use an offset spatula to spread it evenly.  If you don’t have an offset spatula a knife or regular spatula might due.

Use a pizza cutter to score the batter in squares or whatever shape you like.  If you forget to score it, as I have on occasion, it’s no big deal. You can just break them up when they’re done.

Bake them for 45-60 minutes or until they seem sufficiently crispy.  They should be uniformly brown.  Under baking them will render a kind of chewy texture that is not so appealing.  You can tap around them to see if there are any soft spots.

When they’re done remove them from the oven and allow to cool before breaking and consuming.  While they cool they crackle like Rice Crispies.

Follow this link to the hummus recipe I served.  I add 2 tsp. of ground cumin to the mix.  It is so good when served warm, sprinkled with smoked paprika and drizzled with olive oil.