bad + yoga = good!

Why am I so bad at accepting good things that happen?

Every Friday (when we remember), my husband and I spend a few minutes talking about the good things from the week. Sometimes I think, “well, I don’t have anything good to list this week.” But I do. Even the tiniest thing, like “I managed to unclog the vacuum hose” is worth mentioning. In fact, often it's ONLY the small things that make it to the good list. Why do we do this? It's an incredibly refreshing and mood-altering practice.

But it's hard. Somehow, I've learned to pair good with bad. "I had a great job interview yesterday" is normally "That interview went fine, but Sheila is probably trashing me now." (Damn Sheila.) Why? I might focus on the negative so that I can inoculate myself against future pain. But this is rarely the result; it just brings more negatives and I feel like crap. Decoupling good from bad, and if necessary identifying absurdly insignificant positive events (“I enjoyed a glass of water today.”) starts to rebuild my outlook. Once I start listing and accepting the good, it gets easier. Over time, I feel less burdened. Lighter.

Yoga is my filter. It has taught me to celebrate the tiny efforts, the tiny steps forward that accumulate to make a change. On the mat, freed from daily patterns of behavior, I've learned to look for the success that's unique to me: stepping my foot an inch closer to my hand, holding my balance for a breath longer, making the time for myself to get on the mat in the first place. Otherwise, I'm just going through the motions and not learning a thing.

"Good" is in the details. I just need to dissolve my protective cynicism and look for it. Try it. Today. Right now. Take one minute to strip away the bad and accept the good.

See you on the mat!

Stefane

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Let's talk about breakthroughs!

Let's talk about breakthroughs. Can you think of the last time you had one? Was it at work? Home? Was it managing to get your dog to not bark at the UPS delivery person? Was it staying off you phone for the morning? Mastering a new dance move? Singing Bohemian Rhapsody uninterrupted? Typing blind? Catching a peanut?

How did it happen? It seems like breakthroughs just appear...but they don't. Breakthroughs are the result of patient, consistent, tiny increments in learning. In other words: practice.

This is me in a one-legged crow. For years, not only could I not do it, but I didn't even understand how to do it. I couldn't get my head around it, even when someone showed me step by step what to do. Then one day, I calmly stepped onto my mat, warmed up a bit, and pulled it off. Now I can do it. I figured out how to ride that bike, so to speak.

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The surprising and somewhat magical thing is that I have not really been practicing this pose. I've been doing lots of yoga, though, and that was preparation, both mental and physical, for this more advanced posture.

The work leading to breakthroughs can be unrelated and even unconscious. We can be experimenting with adjacent drills and then, there it is! Understandably, the subtlety of context surrounding a breakthrough is also why some things are hard to teach, and you just need to trust yourself, the process, and the passage of time.

Next time you're struggling to move to the next level in a life, work, physical or mental matter, consider not just the path in front of you, but the adjacent paths that might lead you to success.

See you on the mat!

Stefane

PS - folks departing PS for the hot season: FaceTime yoga works! I've done it with many clients, and it does the trick for maintaining your practice while you're away, plus I get to see your sweet face! Hit me up!

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Yoga Posture Clinic

Join me Saturday, December 1 for an informative, 2-hour session to look in detail at the mechanics of yoga. Take advantage of this opportunity to watch someone else for a change! Learn about anatomy, take notes, and share your own observations and challenges with a group of like-minded students. Think of it as a life drawing class, but for yoga. We'll start with a group warm up, and then have a series of progressive demonstrations and adjustments that will bring a new understanding to parts of your practice, like arm balances, inversions, backbends, forward bends, or twists. All levels are encouraged to attend.
 
This is a special event with only 10 spots, so book early! $30 per person.

Go here to book now. (And go here to see all the hard work everyone's been doing lately!)

See you on the mat!
Stefane

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Be Your Own Portable Wellness Machine

Hi everyone

I just got back from two weeks of travel. I had a cold the WHOLE time (bleh), but I was clear-headed enough to make two observations:

1. A break from anything is helpful. Sometimes distance give us an objective assurance that we're on the right track. Magically, some time spent not doing whatever we're fixated on makes us better at it. The students that I've seen since I'm back did not lose a thing in their practice. Everyone is fine. Go figure.

2. A yoga practice does not have to be a big freakin' production. Let's remember that we only need a 2 by 6 foot piece of floor. We can be naked. We can be in a tux. We don't need a mat. Most mornings while traveling, amid the clutter in very small hotel rooms, I did a yoga practice. And it lasted about four minutes. That's all I needed to slip into my body, and to remind myself that I am my own portable wellness machine.

Given the reality that you don't see me every day, I challenge you, for the next week, to do four minutes of yoga each morning when you get out of bed. Be your own wellness machine. Just stand up, do a lunge, and switch sides. Move your arms around. Bend forward. Breathe slowly. (You know what to do.)

But of course, don't forget about me and your yoga mates! See you on the mat!

Stefane

Here's a group showing me how my airplane would work. I was like, "I know, I know." But they insisted.

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We're Halfway Through the Year; Give Yourself a Tiny Push!

It's June in Palm Springs, and the heat is melting my motivation. My solution: do one, tiny thing. It creates a sense of accomplishment that will invariable lead to doing more. One tiny stretch. One tiny bend. To get a ball rolling, it just needs a tiny push, and focusing on the tiny things is what Clinic Yoga is all about.

Here's a new way I can help: The 5-Session Yoga Takeaway. If you're new to yoga and eager to get started with your own practice, commit to this next step in your fitness journey. These 75-minute sessions are designed to take you from square one to a personal yoga practice in a fun and sustainable way. We'll start with the basics of breathing, movement and balance, and move into building strength and flexibility. You'll gain an understanding of the physical and mental benefits of a simple series of yoga poses and 'graduate' with a yoga sequence that's tailored to you; it will be something you can work on every day with confidence and a sense of progress.

Want something even tiny-er? Well, okay: use coupon LOCALYOGA15 when you book your first session for a 15% discount.

If you've been eyeing Clinic Yoga for a while, and maybe even came for a session already, now's the time to commit. Don't forget, you get to have a tiny nap at the end of each session too. Yoga's got you covered.
 

You are a tree in gale-force winds!

The past few sessions at Clinic Yoga have left students SPENT. Each time, I blend some familiar postures (yeah! I know this one!) with some new ones (you want me to do what?!?) Usually, people have a light-hearted glow. Lately, they're ashen. Something's in the air...they think it might be a temperature or diet change, it might be their phone's newsfeed, or it might be spring fever.

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I Heart Yoga

Today I ran a mile.

But one afternoon a month ago, I went from effortless handstands to barely walking. I had agreed to open-heart surgery to repair a possibly-since-birth damaged valve diagnosed 8 years earlier. My doctor figured since I was healthy and still only mildly affected by the blood regurgitation, as they call it, it was a good time to get it fixed. After six hours on the operating table attended to by a team of skilled doctors, nurses, and a robot, I woke up in ICU covered in tape and tubes, my brain fuzzy with anesthetic, my arms and legs restrained to keep me from reflexively pulling out my attachments, my husband smiling nervously as they removed the breathing tube from my throat and I  strained to understand my circumstances. I thought they had yet to start. It had already been eight hours. I couldn’t talk, but my expression, apparently, read: WTF?

Day 1. Yes, tubes! This is when I thought walking would be a cinch. See how I look like a demented cheerleader? 5 minutes earlier I was at the end of my rope with pain.

Day 1. Yes, tubes! This is when I thought walking would be a cinch. See how I look like a demented cheerleader? 5 minutes earlier I was at the end of my rope with pain.

There are many claims in the wellness industry that are so vague, so oversimplified with shallow logic, that it’s no wonder they are dismissed by western medicine as magical thinking. Detoxing! Fasting! Coconut oil! Turmeric! Kale! Colonics! Sound baths! Infrared saunas! All promise a quick fix to what ails us. Mainstream ideas of wellness are kooky. This is a shame, because real wellness, I finally understand, was central to my surgery, care, and rehabilitation. This past month since surgery has been the best of my life. I’ve got stockholm syndrome with my injury as captor; I want the astonishing improvement from self-care to continue forever. I cried with relief in the hospital, and I still cry when I think of this beautifully-orchestrated process.

Now I have concrete evidence of what’s important, and it’s not kale:

Moderation. Movement. Socializing. Trust. Self-awareness. Nourishment. Rest. Consistency.

In a word: yoga. No, not the ability to do a handstand, but the time, trials, patience and learning of a holistic yoga practice have equipped me with mental and physical resilience that I did not have at diagnosis 8 years ago. I respect my changing limits and seek help when I need it. I still know so little, but I feel so much more. Before and after the surgery, I’ve had to put aside my untested notions of wellness and trust my body and the experts around me. The nurses and doctors in the ICU were my yoga masters: their years of experience got me standing 3 hours after my surgery, and walking 12 hours later. They guided every movement, body function and reaction. Twice I walked too eagerly and began to shivered uncontrollably. It passed. I had time-lapse hallucinations and polka-dot blindspots. I peed gallons. I was soaked with sweat at night. I coughed for 2 days straight. On day four in the ICU I pooped an eggplant (american, not japanese, so, yeah). I thought these were setbacks. No, these were signs of my body regaining control as the anesthetic and trauma subsided. The ICU team rounds nodded with approval at each report. 

Day 2. Humbling. Trying hard to smile without falling over.

Day 2. Humbling. Trying hard to smile without falling over.

I was home in five days. Although I’m already back to teaching yoga (I say this not with pride but with astonishment) my own asana practice hurts too much to return to, except for savasana, the restorative properties of which have been a first-hand revelation to me. I walk and jog. I do laundry. I cook. I make the bed. The residual pain forces a new kind of mindfulness that in turn causes me to re-learn many practical movements. I fear sneezing and coughing because it feels like my ribs will tear apart, but I marvel at the other limitations that have broadened my self-awareness. We’ve been taught that there is nobility in pushing ourselves. No; there is nobility in holistic self-awareness, and if pushing ourselves is necessary, THEN we push ourselves. My new take on the value of yoga: tiny, incremental improvements in strength, flexibility and balance bring a joyful, sustainable wellness. Yoga is a tool to prepare us for the realities of life. Challenges cannot be avoided, and are the ultimate strengtheners. I don’t believe that a yogi living decades as a hermit would be able to manage modern life. He would be a mess. 

Today’s sustained mile of running is more of a reflection of a decade of yoga than a handstand is. It has subtle, very personal significance: I haven’t practiced yoga to be good at yoga; I’ve practiced it to be good at living.

Day 30. Post run smugness. Scars are below the frame.

Day 30. Post run smugness. Scars are below the frame.

Par-Ental Yoga

Every 5 years or so, I try to introduce my family to the benefits of Yoga and I fail. Until, I think, now…because I finally stopped trying so hard.

Last year, after her unlucky string of injuries and trips to the hospital, I bought my 69-year-old mother a gift certificate for 10 free classes at her local yoga center. I thought it would be a good way to get her out doing something AND it would get her back some of the strength and balance she was lacking from before and after the injuries. SHe seemed delighted; she bought herself a mat, a special outfit, and went to a class that week. Then she went to another class the following week. Then she brought her husband with her to a third class. And then she never went back. Sigh. Twelve years earlier, I had brought them to a Bikram class with me, and she left the class 20 minutes before the end. Similarly, after dragging my brother to a hot class  he declared, to my expectant, smiling face,"that was the most disgusting experience of my life."  In retrospect:  WTF was I thinking?!? I've struggled to understand why my family doesn't listen to me. I'm an expert! I share everything I learn with them! I want to spoon-feed them help! After a recent family visit, I think I finally have the wisdom, patience, and evidence to start to understand what's going on.
My partner's parents just spent 3 weeks with us in Hong Kong. They're both around 60, and actually don't look much older than 50. They're in great shape. They live in Newfoundland, and have spent the past eight years building a stone (!) house using only locally-available stones that they painstakingly gather, haul with their pickup, and, when the weather permits, carefully position in an ever-higher mass of hand-mixed mortar and rock. It's beautiful, and it's a labor of love that requires constant attention, patience and careful timing due to the rather harsh climate. the 7 winter months of the year are spent working on construction inside. 
Unfortunately, as a result of years of physical feats, my father-in-law has inflexible ankles, an injured knee, an injured shoulder, thickened fingers and wrists, and an injured back. I offered to show him some stretches that might help relieve some of these problems, and we actually did two 45-minute sessions. He appreciated it, I think. I hope he learned something. Here's what I learned:


all pain is bad to him, whether it's from stretching or from exacerbating an injury
he doesn't have a mental picture of the bones, muscles, and organs interacting in his body
he has the capacity to improve DRASTICALLY after only 2 sessions
He, like many, has so firmly identified with his injuries that he hasn't noticed that some of them are no longer injuries (for example, 40 years ago (!) he apparently hyper-extended both feet backwards (!) in a wrestling match during police training (!), and has since then NEVER kneeled on the floor with feet underneath his butt (!)…I had him try this, and to his and my surprise, after day 2 he could sustain this posture for up to 10 seconds.)
he, like many, has been told by doctors that if you have an injury, you should never use that body part again
many doctors don't have a clue what they're doing
attention is important to him, like to all humans, and there's a difference between the attention he wants and the attention he needs
to get strength, balance, and flexibility in his body, he needs it in his brain
he's going to be FINE
he learns FAST

the biggest thing I learned during their visit (and it relates to diet, exercise, and overall life-balance) is that he actually deep down ALREADY KNOWS everything I can tell him that is worth him knowing. I can preach until I'm blue in the face, and it's not necessary, and in fact might be counter-productive. He knows. In fact, to my surprise at the end of the visit, he described physiotherapy he'd had years ago to fix his other shoulder that had been injured in the same place. The therapy had worked. This made me happy, albeit confused (and a little irritated). I suspect this is the case for most people who watch tv, read newspapers, and live on earth: they know. Sure, people might not know that broccoli has more calcium in it than cheese, that talk therapy can replace medication, and that breathing rapidly does not increase oxygen intake, but they do know that too much or not enough of something is bad for you, and that moderate amounts of exercise, good food, and being social helps you live longer. People choose to not do what's good for them. It's not just information that people need, it's the encouragement and the empowerment to understand that they're responsible for their own good health. Not their doctor. Not their wife or husband or kids. Not their son's partner. Yoga classes and one-on-one sessions are there to equip people with information about their bodies so that they can take control, not to fix their problems for them. My family is amazing and will be fine, and it's not because of me.

Simple is Not Half-Assed

I've thought about simplicity a lot in my design career; what is the simplest form for an on/off switch? What is the simplest way to prevent false triggering? What is the simplest arrangement of symbols and lines on a sign to make sure everyone escapes? (Those last two are not things I've ever worked on, but someone has, and let's hope they did a good job.) Sometimes, you can arrive at a simple solution to a problem very quickly, but we've been taught that when we find a simple solution to something, we're getting off easy and something must be wrong. Not true. Here's the reason: we often confuse simple with half-assed, or easy. Easy is time and effort-based, and simple is result-based. But sometimes the result of simple is easy, and that's a good thing. But if it takes a so much work to achieve it, why does anything really need to be simple? The value is in the payoff. Confused?

Here's why I'm writing about this on the blog: There are always simple ways to achieve yoga postures, but half-assed ways are impossible. You can't hide in a posture; either you've achieved a variation of the posture or you haven't…part way there isn't the posture. And you need to get to some form of the posture in order to reap the mental and physical benefits. So how do simple and easy work into this?  Partly by rethinking how we understand those two concepts. Yoga postures can be broken into a few main categories like balance, twist, and bend. Many postures have overlapping categories, but they each still have a basis in only one. Here's an example of a posture that looks like a confusing, complex, intimidating mess.

    What the $%$& is he doing? Astavakrasana, of course. He could not do this in a half-assed way.

It's an advanced posture, but in this case it's advanced because the brain needs to wade through it, not so much the body; once in the posture, not much strength or flexibility is required. This is a BALANCE posture and I struggled with it, until one day my instructor said "why aren't you leaning forward more?" His tone was a mixture of empathy and incredulity that helped push the right button in my brain, so to speak. By looking at me sweat and contort, he pinpointed exactly what I needed to do in order to achieve the posture. Granted, once I was there, it was ROUGH and SHAKY and MOMENTARY, but I had touched a mental and physical sensation from long ago: learning to ride a bike.

    If you can ride a bike you can do yoga..not sure why she's sitting side-saddle; maybe if she sat like a non-Victorian and actually ON the seat she'd be a little calmer.

He pushed me then let go of the seat. After that, all I needed to do was refine the posture by playing with it, exploring, and of course, trying both sides. (Yeah, that's a whole other thing that doesn't link to prior knowledge of riding a bike, unless, I suppose, you also want to learn to ride backwards.)

Side note:  Ah, if only we spoke Sanskrit...because if we did, the incredibly descriptive names would help our brains and make things EASIER. Western names are no help; how does calling a posture 'peacock' tell us what to do? (no, peacock is not the above posture, bike or mat)

So, back to simple. This looks like a complex posture, with arms and legs supporting and twisting and extending in all directions. But it's not the appearance of the posture that we should be concerned with in order to achieve it; it's the simple idea that it's based in balance. There are many helpful ways into the posture, and those are basically ways to break down the problem into steps that happen to suit your particular body and brain, influenced by your own past experience. AND, like riding a bike, this will not be achieved immediately and easily. But if you ask yourself what's the easiest way to properly achieve something, you are using a reductive approach (simplifying the issue!) that always works, whether you're solving a work problem or working your way into a posture. Easier said than done, right? Yes. Sitting on a yoga mat, watching others in different stages of their practice do the same posture while listening to an instructor bark or sing out commands seems counter-productive to the process, but that just points at the need for open-mindedness and patience, and to the reality that none of us lives in a hermetically sealed bubble, on or off the mat. In fact, like it or not, we benefit from the chaos around us; we have access to a constant stream of ideas that we can steal, absorb, and shape into methods that suit us.

Define Comfort, Please

I'm not comfortable with "comfortable". That word is supposed to mean "causing no pain". I agree: painlessness is good! We strive for comfort; we want to sleep well and eat pleasant food, we don't want nasty surprises, and we generally want to control the roller-coaster of life as much as we can. The problem is, we very easily start to confuse "comfortable" with "familiar", and that's where things can start to get twisted. By repetitively subjecting ourself to the same, familiar circumstances over and over, we can ironically often find ourselves in a great deal of emotional and/or physical pain, the extraction from which is a challenging if not frightening prospect. Tickling is fun. Tickle too much, and you draw blood. (This is the most appropriate example I could muster without being political or offensive...feel free to quote me!)

But wait: exposing ourselves to the same thing for ten thousand hours…isn't that how someone becomes an expert, you may ask. No - experts are people who have willingly subjected themselves to a thorough, far-reaching, full spectrum of experiences on a particular topic so that when the need arises, they can draw from a vast reservoir of first-hand knowledge to solve a problem. An expert FINDS comfort in the UNfamiliar. 

When I teach a yoga class, I have a duty to make sure that students don't injure themselves. I watch their faces, I check in with them, I empower them to speak up (and no, I don't tickle them). But I also have a duty to make sure they're exposed to the unfamiliar. The breadth of yoga postures combined with a bit of creativity takes care of that, and I'll ease students into those unfamiliar postures step-by-step. But then, I present them with the abstract idea of finding comfort in a posture that to them at that point in time is incredibly uncomfortable. They're a mess, and I'm telling them that somewhere in that pool of sweat, fatigue, and disorientation is a sweet-spot of what they will come to see as effortlessness. This takes a few sessions to achieve, and some sequenced physical conditioning leading into the posture is necessary to build strength and flexibility. But this is really the warm-up for the brain. Exposure to the unfamiliar is CRUCIAL in yoga. By association, this means it's also crucial to living.

We moved from Hong Kong to Los Angeles recently, and despite having moved across the planet two years earlier from Boston, adapting to life in LA has been harder. For one, there isn't the insta-friend expat support network like in Hong Kong; despite living in DTLA, my life has been rather monastic as we've renovated our place, set up a new yoga studio and continued with consulting contracts. I realized recently that a good deal of the struggle has been because of trying replicate the great life in Hong Kong. For stupidly obvious reasons, this is wrong; Los Angeles is a different city, with different people and a different landscape. I've been looking for familiarity, when really I should have been looking for NEW things that make me happy and comfortable. The world changes around us constantly. Our bodies and minds are constantly changing. We HAVE NO CHOICE but to embrace unfamiliarity and search out the things that make us happy and comfortable within those new circumstances. The great thing is that the more we take this approach, the easier it gets.

Yoga Classy


This is NOT what I set out to write today. But here it is anyway:

Some things I’ve witnessed in yoga classes: mobile phones, sunglasses-on-the-head, coffee, smoothies, body odor, bad breath, stinky feet, burps, snoring, weeping, groaning, yelling, bags, shoes, jeans, jean shorts, someone’s 7-year-old, hair, toenails, jokers, players, bullies, prima-donnas, high-fives, gallons of sweat, butt cracks, side-boobs, side-testicles, and yes, side-vag. (This should be set to music.)

I have heard and smelled farts, but I have never farted in a class. I have never seen someone faint in class, but apart from tunnel vision once from digging a once-inch splinter from my fingertip with a pocket knife, the yoga matt is the only other place I’ve almost blacked out. During a series of postures all involving padmasana, my left knee popped wetly then immediately tightened, probably from trauma-swelling. I kept going. I was once asked by an instructor to demo halasana and then so promptly thanked and asked to release it that I’m certain something unbecoming was visible to all. I myself have dripped face sweat twice into the eyes of people with whom I’m partnered for handstands. I’ve perspired so much during one class that I was able to wring moisture from my t-shirt. That’s been topped by a classmate who lifted his towel-covered mat after savasana and dumped a bucket of sweat onto the floor. Oops, he said, I’ve been on antibiotics, and people around him nodded with knowing approval. By now I’ve been so exposed to foot bacteria that I’ve surely developed my own living, protective patina. I’ve seen two gigglers ejected from a class before it even started, never, as far as I know, to return. I've assisted the most overweight yet strong and flexible yogi I've ever met to go from a backbend to a handstand to a forward bend and gotten my arm fully lodged in the rolls of his gut along the way. I’ve been scolded by a misinformed, mean-spirited elf before class not to walk on the recently-sanitized mats and wasted the entire practice thinking of what I should have said to him.

I have participated in group teacher training cleansing rituals where I’ve willingly threaded a rubber catheter into my nostril and out through my mouth. I’ve chugged a gallon of warm salt water to trigger a vomit reflex, and succeeded. Once, after a day’s worth of classes ending with a particularly unfamiliar spine-twisting sequence, my eyes crossed involuntarily for about a minute. I’ve gone to bed and woken up with more aches than when I built a house. I’ve dropped 15 pounds in one week. I’ve sometimes lost strength and flexibility with an increase in yoga. I’ve stood up from a back bend and reflexively hugged the startled teacher holding my waist. I’ve undergone so much physical limit-pushing that my only remaining coping tool was a gutteral hum. (I figured at least my voice could escape my body at that point.)

Here’s the classy part: after EVERY practice, I leave feeling better mentally and physically than when I arrived.

Le Sigh

Years ago, before yoga was invented, I worked in a high-pressure design studio (design studios are not JUST about free espresso and kooky eyewear; the pressure to produce under unrealistic deadlines set by burned-out, warped-ego bosses is overwhelming and far surpasses what design school might have prepared you for). An intern would often sit at her computer and sigh loudly before starting a task she had been given. Affronted, I asked her once if there was a problem; she smiled and said no, sighing helped her relax. I read her sigh as exasperation, and plus, why relax at a time like this?! I wanted to dump my espresso on her head and break her kooky glasses. This was in Quebec, and I had just witnessed "Le Sigh". I was angry, and sighed right back AT her. Then my gaze softened. My shoulders dropped. Oh, realized, it works. She's right. Oops. 

Your breathing is connected to your sense of time. I once had the insight while driving in a panic through heavy traffic to get to a new client meeting to say 'fuck it. This is out of my control.' and I let out a deep sigh of resignation. Ten minutes later I arrived at the meeting on time. I'm not preaching magical thinking here; I would have arrived at the same time whether I was relaxed or not, but relaxing slowed my perception of the passage of time, and burned less energy worrying, and my attitude going into the meeting was that of post walk-in-a-breezy-meadow. 

Panic, stress, and deadlines exist on the yoga mat too. The difference is that on the mat they're all self-imposed phenomena; sure, there's an instructor SUGGESTING pushing yourself beyond your limits, but you're the one making a big deal out of it. As a kind of preparatory inoculation, I start all practice with a reminder of the importance of, specifically, the exhale. Le sigh. We tend to think of exhaling as a an obstacle in the way of us getting back to the inhale, especially when we're struggling. As a child I wondered if it was possible to inhale slowly enough for my body to absorb the air it needed and achieve continuous inhalation, eliminating the need to exhale, since I would no longer need to make extra room in my vacuum-bag lungs. I did not know that exhalation was, among many other physio- and psychological necessities a way to remove waste, and that the air I was breathing out was not the air I had just breathed in. (I still wonder if it's possible to create a siphon effect with drinking: swallow slowly and continuously enough that you also urinate continuously…I just haven't had the time to test this possibility. Surely a yogi somewhere has tried this. Physiologists: comments?)

So now I channel my former co-worker and use a good, long, nasal sigh to regain my composure. Running, doing yoga, sitting at my computer: there is no benefit to rapid, shallow inhales and exhales. Think of a long inhale and exhale as re-arranging the short ones together with their buddies. When we've had a chance to focus on our breathing, we can play around with it and start to use it to our advantage in a yoga practice. For example: I try to think of exhale not as something at the end, but as something at the beginning. It's challenging to exhale while lifting into a headstand; it seems counter-productive, but if you can accomplish it, you'll find that the posture in many ways takes care of itself, partly because by thinking 'fuck it' through your breath you can remove fear, engage unfamiliar parts of your body, and work on actually changing your brain.

You can even make it into a true sigh by rolling your eyes (in both directions! This is yoga! Balance!) You'll see that it breaks your gaze from the lint on the floor you've been trying to laser-beam and gives your eyeball muscles (yes) a nice stretch.  

If you're going to try this at work, please do it privately. An instructor welcomes Le Sigh; co-workers might not welcome an eye-roll hiss quite so warmly.