‘new to yoga’ class begins soon.

‘New to Yoga’ Class Beginning Tuesday, February 4th
Beginning February 4, 2014 I will be offering a New to Yoga class on Tuesday evenings from 5:30pm – 6:15pm.  Classes will be held at our beautiful studio at 95th and Metcalf, Overland Park, Kansas, at Mark Blanchard’s Progressive Power Yoga KC, owned by Gretchen Robinson.
This class will be accommodating to ALL AGES.  Please help me spread the word to:
  • those who have been thinking about yoga but feel trepidatious
  • seniors that feel like a regular class is ‘too much’
  • people with specific physical issues that require tender love and care.  *Chair yoga is an option for those who find difficulty in ‘up and down’ from standing to the sitting on the floor.

This will be an ongoing weekly class. Cost for this class is ONLY $10!! It’s a perfect place to begin your yoga practice, especially if you are young. Or old. Or in- between.  Think you are too old to begin? This article will make you think again.

See you there!

smelly mat?

smelly mat?

After a sweaty Ashtanga session, my friend Natalie rolled up her mat into an airtight burrito and left it in her car’s trunk until the next morning.   We all do it.  Convenient?  Yes.  Clean?  Maybe not.   When she unrolled it in the studio the following day, a faint stench curled through the air.  Her nose crinkled.  “Um,” she said, apologetically.  “Lisa, what do you use to clean your mat?”

Saucha (cleanliness) is an important part of the yoga philosophy (and no one wants to practice next to your smelly mat).  Here are my two recommendations:

1) ZUM Yoga Spray:  It’s natural and clean.  It smells incredible.  ZUM products are made and sold in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Shop local!)  You can find them online here at Indigo Wild’s website.

2) Thieves Household Cleaner:  You will need to cut the product with water at a 1:1 ratio and store your cleaner in a separate spray bottle.  It may look expensive, but one bottle of Thieves lasted me four + years, and I use it to clean most of my house as well as my mat!  Find it here at Young Living’s website.

If you have a favorite Yoga Mat Cleaner, I’d love to hear from you.  Please send recommendations may way.


Check out this insanely amazing holiday gift I received! Thanks Indigo Wild for making my holiday so special and for the compliments (you are “hard core” too!).


free class at Lululemon store in KC, MO.

where will you be this Sunday?…  January 26, 2014

photo cred SFA

photo cred SFA

I’ll be teaching a FREE yoga class at 11:00 am Sunday, January 26.

Brunchasana: Lululemon Plaza Store in Kansas City, Missouri

Lululemon Plaza Store Calender for more information.

 It’s a rockin’ vinyasa (all levels) class.  Bring:  1. your own mat;  2. a friend;  3. a smile.

See you there! (Call or email me if you need more details.)


light and Om for this year.

light and Om this year.

Chanting, which is merely a vocalization of prayer, has long been a significant part of the yoga tradition.  Likewise, singing and chanting are hallmarks of worship rituals in many world religions. Because our modern-day American society is (more than slightly) disconnected from the ancient Indian culture that birthed the practice of yoga, my students are often initially uncomfortable with chanting in yoga class.  However, the reverberation of sacred sounds does not need to be daunting.  It can be a profoundly moving experience if approached with an open mind and willing breath.

Modern day science substantiates that sound can be a healing modality.  Neurobiologists are currently experimenting with sound as therapy for healing cancer (google search Dr. Fabian Maman, this is really incredible) and cardiac specialists will agree that the heart is the largest electromagnetic transmitter in the human body.  Science also substantiates that all matter contains movement: electrons are constantly in motion even within particles that appear still and solid.  Living beings, then, each resonate at their own movement and sound frequency.  To paraphrase Dr. Jay Kumar of Loyola Marymount University, when the biological body is in harmony with the resonance of the emotional body, then the whole body is in health. “If we begin to heal as individuals, the planet begins to heal as whole,” Kumar explains, “Union within self manifests as union out into the world.”  Harmony = Health.  Harmony = The aspiration of yoga.  Chanting is one way that we can attune our vibrational frequency to the frequency of health.

To examine our relationship with chanting, we approach first the sound of Om, which is used at the beginning of class to set the tone for the yoga asana practice.

Chanting Om is chanting the sound of creation.  All living beings resonate at a specific vibration, but the vibrational frequency of the sound Om is the underlying frequency of  ALL creation.  You may think of it as the hum of the universe before matter was created from First Light.

Most of us have seen the Sanskrit symbol for this sound, but know little about its meaning.  I have this image of Om tattooed on my right foot:


When I was teaching first grade, during story time I’d cross my knees in my ‘teacher chair,’ leaving my foot dangling precariously close to the face of my front row student.  Two or three times a week, my story was interrupted:  “What’s on your foot?  Are you 30?!  Ms. Ash, you’re OLD!”

Me: “No, it’s a different word. It’s not written in English.  It’s a special sound in a language called Sanksrit. It’s another word for God.”

My first grade friend: “Oh. So are you 30? I’m only 6. My mom is 31, she tells me not to tell anyone that, but I don’t think she’ll care that I tell you.  When I have a birthday I’m going to ask for a PlayStation and then I’ll be 7!….<and on and on and on>”

Eventually we’d get back to the story.  (Eventually.)

The Om symbol, written in Sanskrit, which is the language of the ancient Yogic Texts, does look like the number 30 written in Hindu-Arabic numerals, but each stroke of the Om symbol has a specific meaning.  There are three main strokes, or arcs, in the symbol.  Each stroke represents a state of consciousness (thought pattern) which is explained in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.  The first stroke represents waking consciousness, the second represents dream consciousness, and the third represents the deep-sleep consciousness.  The sound of Om combines the vibration from all three states of consciousness in order to realize the potential of the fourth state of consciousness, which is beyond words and concepts—it is true unity with all creation and with the God of your own understanding.  I don’t have this symbol tattooed on my foot because I’m 30 years young (30 isn’t old, Jen).  It is tattooed on my foot as a permanent and gentle reminder that every moment of waking consciousness (or every moment of sleeping consciousness, for that matter) can be spent tuning into the frequency of love.  The resonance of unity always manifests as love and healing.

Chanting Om is acknowledging that you are one tiny-yet-important drop in the ocean of humanity, and that you can overcome the illusion of separation (often manifested as desperation) from an infinite source of healing. Chanting Om is a Sacred gift of health and unity.


“When you come to chant Om, then, believe and know that you are chanting the most sacred syllable, one that corresponds to the most intimate and holy sound of the cosmos.  Believe and know that you are chanting at once the sound of your own inmost Divine Consciousness, the sound that the entire creation is always resonating to, and the sound that the Godhead makes as it creates reality… Rest in the great joy and peace that this recognition brings.” -a. harvey, The Hope

 When you need a moment of ease in your life, savor the sound of Om.   Chanting it (even once) will ‘tune’ your thoughts into a state of health and happiness.  Vocalizing a prayer for health, happiness and wholeness is a powerful practice to embrace.   We will continue to uncover the power of Sanksrit chanting and vocalized prayers over the next several weeks in these blog posts.  For now,

 Light and Om to you.


Harvey, A.  (2009.) The hope: A guide to sacred activism.  Carlsbad, CA: HayHouse Publishing  available from http://www.andrewharvey.net/

cultivating the hope of dharma


photo cred EMA

“Before enlightenment, I chopped wood and carried water.  After enlightenment, I chopped wood and carried water.” – zen proverb.

This was my mantra this week as I shoveled. And shoveled. And swept. And shoveled more snow. And swept more grime. The snow was nearly burying every hint of optimism in my life. Every time the driveway cleared, it snowed again. Every time I cleaned the studio’s wood floors, they were covered in grime and dirt and road salt within one hour.  So, again and again, I took a <very exasperated> breath, layered up, shoved my hands into gloves (which I abhor), and kept shoveling.  Again and again, I took the broom and dustpan to the expanse of hardwood floors.  Because that’s the deal with dharma: we do the work that needs to be done.

Last year, at this time, I was flying to Africa. (To escape the daunting Midwest Winter?… Maybe… But if you remember correctly, it was still snowing in April of last year… so… #fail.)  I was leaving my new home, new job, new boyfriend for one month to travel back to Zambia, where I’d left behind a home, a job, and dear friends carefully carved from the sub-Saharan dust six months prior. While I was (painfully, resentfully) shoveling snow this week, I remembered a conversation from two years ago:  I was walking through ankle-high mud on a broken road with my boss, a man who began his international travelling to developing countries in the 1960s. His travels were long. Uncomfortable. Arduous.  Dangerous. But he was there working for his church, serving his purpose. He said (through stuffy nose and allergy-swollen eyes), “Lisa, sometimes we do the work not because we want to, but because we need to.  Because it’s the right thing to do.”  

In other words: dharma.  We do the work, and we let go of the results. 

Dharma is a valuable and often confusing concept within the yoga philosophy.  It pertains to shoveling. And flying to Africa. And driving downtown to volunteer at an urban homeless shelter. And visiting friends in the hospital. And doing your yoga. While I was shoveling, I remembered this journal entry from a few years ago entitled: cultivating the hope of dharma.


photo cred EMA

Please Note: The following post is a journal entry from 2011.  It is one in a series of posts that chronicles a journey of personal transformation and yogic lessons I encountered while living and working in Zambia.  As an Early Childhood Educator, I worked with community school teachers in this sub-Saharan African country where lessons in hope are abundant and practicing faith is essential for spiritual survival.  

I wrote:

“I’m absorbed with anxious excitement. I fly out tomorrow. 24+ hours on four planes, approaching an opportunity to investigate my own dharma by travelling to Africa. The invitation to the Copperbelt Region of Zambia is to work side by side with primary school teachers as they navigate their dharma of providing education to children in their communities. I hope to witness the teachers deepen in commitment to their purpose, their power to do something meaningful, and their strength to live out their dharma. I think it will be ridiculously difficult. And heartbreaking. And hot.  And dirty. And lonely. And frustrating. Three schools, a dozen teachers, three hundred orphans, one of me.  But I also think it will be rewarding; I hope that by engaging in the act of empowering through literacy, educators and students can cultivate a harvest of hope for the future together.

Although it is a complex concept, dharma is generally used in yogic philosophy to denote a person’s specific function, calling, or sense of duty to this world. 

It is specific to a lifetime, a community, a person’s individual constitution of talents and skills.

Your dharma is a calling to show up in this world, to live your fullest, and to pursue your dreams.

I will never be a math genius. I will never be an IT person. I will never be a mechanic, or a musician, or a CEO. (I will probably never do my own taxes). I will never, ever, be a doctor. (Rumor has it that doctors use and/or see needles and/or blood.) These things aren’t for me. They aren’t my dharma: I’m a teacher, a healer, a leader. My role, my skills, my talents. But it doesn’t stop there, with just me. I also have a responsibility to my community.

As a yoga practitioner, intrinsic in the cultivation of my personal dharma is the call to facilitate and bolster the collective dharma of my community. The Bhagavad Gita challenges us:

“…do your worldly duty, but do it without any attachment to it or desire for its fruits. Keep your mind always on the Divine (The True Self). Make it as automatic as your breath or heartbeat… The True Self works for the welfare of the world, unattached, ever helping to point humanity toward dharma (right action, living a truth based life).” (3.19, 25)

Not easy to do. Especially when life gets tough. (And it will, even if you have really flexible hamstrings, let me tell you.) As each person navigates her unique life experience, experiences of loss and adversity lead to denial of worth and personal dharma. The internal monologue is this: “I’m worth less because there is nothing worthy to do in my life.”

This sentiment is overwhelmingly echoed in communities trapped in deep poverty.  The lack of options – the lack of resources, education, and time – to entertain dreams for the future is debilitating to the formation of a sense of dharma.

As a yogi, I hope to cultivate an entirely new ‘thought process,’ devoid of hopelessness and instead infused with hope. The narrative is this:

“Every action in this life is worthy; every life is priceless by design. Living my own Truth-based life inspires others to find their own heartbeat, their own purpose, their own worth.”

Personally, I experience a renewed sense of hope when I see individuals create a course of right action in their lives, which extends to communities rallying around living out a collective dharma.

When a community commits to live together in hope for a brighter tomorrow, creative solutions can and will be found to address the most distressing situations.  Dharma is rediscovered.

Feeling worthy becomes automatic as a heartbeat.

Like I said before (forgive me if I repeat myself, most of you stopped reading one-scroll ago, anyway), dharma is about putting on your gloves and picking up the shovel. It’s about getting up at 5:00 am to walk one kilometer to school, barefoot. It’s about sitting by a charcoal burner boiling water for your mother’s morning tea (that’s also called selfless love, but we will save that for another blog post). Most importantly, it’s about showing up in your life and doing the work that needs to be done. It’s about stretching your hamstrings, even when they are really really tight. And showing up for a Vinyasa class even when you are hung over. Today. And again tomorrow. And learning to find healing while doing it.


Author’s Note: As mentioned, this  post contains a journal entry from 2011. Travel with me over the next few months as I re-visit these journal entries, many of which can be found also at elephantjournal.com  If you are interested in the work I was doing, please visit the website of HealthEd Connect. I invite you to accompany me on this journey and to follow the inspiring story of educators from two different countries and worldviews as we work together to grow hope and cultivate its harvest of transformation.

2014 svadhyaya reading list (as promised!)

Here it is:  2014 reading list

The niyama svadhyaya implores yoga practitioners to seek wisdom through self-study.  This has two implications:

  1. First, svadhyaya asks you to seek wisdom in written texts.  They should be texts that are personally meaningful to you; anything that is inspiring is appropriate.  The list could include: the Yoga Sutras, texts of world religions such as the Christian Bible or the Hindu Upanishads, ancient poetry of the mystics or contemporary prose of modern poets, self-help books written by respected cultural critics, yoga practice manuals, vegetarian cook-books, or even your own journal.  Any text that inspires introspection will increase your momentum on your spiritual path.
  2. Second, svadhyaya asks you to use your asana (physical) practice as a setting for self-study.  This means that every pose on your mat is an opportunity to find and meet your physical edge, without moving beyond it.  For example, the ability to focus your eyes on your thumbs in utkatasana (chair pose) is a study of your personal will to ‘stick with it even when the going gets tough.’ The avoidance of urdhva dhanurasana (backbending) may disclose deep seated fears which you thought you had previously conquered.  Basically, every time your feet find the mat, you are engaging in self-study.

I challenge you to engage in svadhyaya in 2014 and to dedicate yourself anew to embracing your own spiritual growth.

Many of my students have asked for book recommendations.  So, here’s my 2014 svadhyaya list for you (alphabetical by author), including one favorite quote from each book:

 1.  The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga by Deepak Chopra

“Yoga encourages you to be as familiar with your inner world of thoughts, feelings, memories, desires, and imagination as you are with the outer world of time, space, and causality.  When you can move through both the inner and the outer domains of life with freedom and finesse, you fulfill the highest purpose of yoga.” (p. 97)

 2.  Meditations from the Mat by Rolf Gates

“We show up, we burn brightly in the moment, live passionately, and when the moment is over, when our work is done, we step back and let go.”  (p. 416)

3. Heart Yoga: The Sacred Marriage of Yoga and Mysticism by Andrew Harvey and Karuna Erickson

“The foundation of yoga rests in non-violence (ahimsa) and truth (satya).  Honor yourself by being fully present with compassion and joy, and this will prepare you to enter the deep meditative and transformative states that the practices are designed to engender.  Compassion is the beginning, the means, and the end of heart Yoga…” (p. 18)

 4.  The Bhagavad Gita: A Walkthrough for Westerners by Jack Hawley

“When [the mind] can rest steady and undistracted in contemplation of the True Self Within, you will be enlightened and completely united in love with the Divine.  This is where yoga reaches its culmination: the merging of individual consciousness in Cosmic Consciousness.  This is nothing less than the goal of life!” (p. 23)

 5. A Life Worth Breathing by Max Strom

“Your spirituality, however you define it, can be infused into your body so that you radiate who you are from your soul—and what you stand for in this world… I am referring to your life purpose, the vision of your soul’s desire.  Once you do this, your mind will begin to see the world in a way that supports that vision.” (p. 28).  

Have another recommendation? I’d love to hear from you!  (My bookcases are pretty full, but I’ve got Christmas gift cards ready to be put to good use.)  Your thoughts are always welcome.


blessing for tomorrow

IMG_0691 Happy New Year.

a blessing for tomorrow

by John O’Donahue

“may you recognize in your life

the presence,

power, and light of your soul.

may you realize that you are never alone,

that your soul in its brightness and belonging connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe.

may you have respect for your individuality and difference.

may you realize that the shape of your soul is unique,

that you have a special destiny here,

that behind the façade of your life

there is something beautiful and eternal happening.

may you learn to see yourself

with the same delight, pride, and expectation

with which God sees you in every moment.


may you invest in your own spiritual journey and

pursue a life of health, happiness, and wholeness in 2014.

Happy New Year!