May 1, 2015

15 Instructions I Have Eliminated From My Teaching

Yesterday I dashed off a FB post. Originally I’d intended to jot down a couple of instructions I no longer use in my teaching. As I composed the post, it generated into a list. That list inspired such a long thread and interesting conversation, I thought to share it here.

When I dashed off that list I didn’t take the time to create context, so I’d like to set at least a bit here. These are instructions that I personally no longer use in my own practice, or in my teaching. I don’t think you’re a bad teacher if you use these cues. I’m SUPER NOT INTO the whole shade-throwing, shame inducing tenor that I think the conversation about yoga alignment has taken in our current milieu. I know wonderful yoga teachers who use cues that I don’t use, and who don’t use cues that I love.

Nothing is carved in stone. It’s great to have a spectrum of tools in our toolboxes. There are no one-size-fits-all instructions. When working with real humans, with real differences, IT ALWAYS DEPENDS.

In this past year, I’ve observed myself feeling triggered and defensive by articles that seem to aggressively fault-find and nit pick yoga teachers. That’s not my goal here. Nothing about this post is a reflection on anyone’s value as a teacher, or as a human.

I could explain why I have discarded each of these instructions, but it would be a long-ass post, and I only have a few minutes this morning. I’m going to rely on generating interesting conversation in the comments rather than detailing each item in the body of this post. Feel free to comment with questions; I’ll try to answer them when I can.

What instructions have YOU originated, discarded, deepened or evolved in your practice or teaching?

15 Instructions I No Longer Use:

1. “Press into the 4 corners of your feet.”
2. “Lift your toes.”
3. “Draw strength from your feet up into the core of your pelvis.”
4. “Hug your leg muscles in toward the bones.”
5. “Rotate your sit bones in, back and apart.”
6. “Blossom your butt.” (Okay, I never used that one to begin with.)
7. “Scoop your tailbone.”
8. “Draw your front hip under/ Externally rotate your front hip.”
9. “Puff your kidneys.”
10. “Lift your sternum/ Lift your heart.”
11. “Melt your heart.”
12. “Draw your shoulder blades more firmly onto your back/ Squeeze your shoulder blades toward one another.”
13. “Plug your arm bone in,” in poses that don’t bear weight on the upper body.
14. “Move your shoulders back,” in poses that don’t bear weight on the upper body.
15. “Open to grace.”

Cues That Feel Great in My Body and That I Currently Love to Use in My Teaching:

1. “Try lowering your toes so you can relax your feet and better engage your abdominals.”
2. “Consciously set the 3 corners of your feet upon the earth.”
3. “Keep your front heel heavy and pay attention to what you feel in your hip.”
4. “Turn your kneecaps to face in the same direction as your toes, then tone your inner thighs.”
5. “Press more into the inner edge of your back foot and observe the response in your hip.”
6. “Tone your pelvic floor.”
7. “Tone your abdomen.”
8. “Lower your front ribs as a way of engaging your core for support and decompressing your back.”
9. “Let your sternum drape down.”
10. “Imagine your arms are rooted in your low back.”
11. “Let your shoulders simply drape.”
12. “Lift up the back of your head and feel the length of the back of your neck.”

Photo credit: Danielle Brown

Photo credit: Danielle Brown

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April 17, 2015

Post Thyroidectomy


Turns out that SOMETIMES when you blog about having surgery for thyroid cancer, and then take a TINY 3-month updating hiatus, people get the wrong idea.

Here’s what happened:

I had my thyroid removed a couple of months ago. It was a difficult surgery because said thyroid was severely damaged by an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s. Hashimoto fucked up my thyroid something fierce left a significant amount of scar tissue for the surgeon to navigate, but the surgery went well.

It went so well, in fact, that the surgeon told us that he hadn’t found any indication of cancer at all.

I am completely mind-fucked somewhat conflicted.

The post-op was worse than I’d anticipated, entailing too much coming out of one end, and not enough coming out of the other.

Even discounting my penchant for melodrama, it sucked.

A lot.

My scar is less conspicuous than I’d expected.

About an inch across, and the width of a scalpel, it sits just above the notch between my collar bones. It is the most petite thyroidectomy scar I’ve seen since I started noticing these things.

Some days I look in the mirror and it is colossal.

I think, I am marked by this experience, inside and out.

Other days the scar is a thing of minor consequence, something to rub sunscreen on before heading out the door in the morning.


Both insignificant and incommensurate.

Approximately 45% of people will be diagnosed with some form of cancer.

I am fortunate.

When it finally came back, the pathology report indicated a carcinoma so small as to be referred to by the surgeon as, “The carcinoma we wish we’d never known about”.

My hormones are up and down like a seesaw.

“These things take time,” the endocrinologists say.

Did I have an organ removed unnecessarily?

I don’t know.

I can’t know–not really.

But I try not to second guess the surgery too much, because down that road lies only misery and hair pulling and homicide. Given the information I had at the time, I would make the same choice again.

“Consider yourself cured,” said the surgeon.


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December 23, 2014

Good News & 2 Poems

Checking for Lymph Node Involvement

Lift your chin,” says the ultrasound technician,
Jennifer. “Are you comfortable?” she asks,
squirting a gob of lubricant on my throat.
“Not really,” I say, “Can I scoot back a little?
and crumple the sterile paper beneath my hips.
“Sorry,” she says, “The machine can’t reach that far.”
“Turn your head away from me.”

Beginning below the tip of my chin, she glides
the ultrasound wand along the underside of my jaw.
Systematically pausing to frame shots,
she photographs the inside of my neck.
She is thorough, gentle.
The Doppler machine clicks and clicks.
“It’s relaxing,” Jennifer says, “isn’t it?”
I look at the ceiling with my eyes closed. “I suppose
that’s a way of looking at it.”

“I mean as far as tests go,” Jennifer says,
“Turn your head toward me.

says the Doppler.


Everything Looks Good

Mopping lube off my throat,
I toss the sticky tissues in the trash
basket the ultrasound technician has dragged over.

“The doctor will be in to discuss your results in a moment.”

Dr. S. shakes our hands and leans back
against the cabinets. He gestures
to the photos in my file.

“Everything looks good,” he says.

“Good?” I say.
“Then what were those red masses we saw on-screen?”

“Blood supply,” he says.
“I’ll see you next year.”

My husband does a little jig
in the parking lot, while I bend forward to gag
into my hands. So, this is how
we wash up 
facedown on the shore.
it turns out, coming
in the form 
of nausea. 

Tomorrow morning I will get up,
slice potatoes thinly, and
fry them up with onions
in a cast iron skillet. Tomorrow,
I’ll poach eggs for breakfast.

Today, I curl onto a couch
at water’s edge and sleep.


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