The Pool

The Pool

“So I jumped back into where I learned to swim, tried to keep my head above it the best I can.” ~ The Sound of Sunshine, Michael Franti & Spearhead

I’ve started to swim.  

The neighborhood pool is just up the street. It’s right where it’s always been, but I’ve only recently begun to swim. Up until now, I’ve generally steered clear of the pool, mostly because I was never one who was much for the sun. Its kisses always covered me with too many freckles, and its hugs were often so hot they left me with headaches. So, typically, I’ve spent my summers from the inside out, drawing the shades and blasting the air and counting the days until fall.   

But something happened once I started to practice yoga. When the warm weather hit, I suddenly stopped counting the days! It seemed the more I practiced, the more I craved fresh air, and if it were hot outside, I no longer cared. I have no idea how this came to be. Maybe it had something to do with all the breathing we were doing at yoga. I thought perhaps the practice was airing me out, because for the first time in a long time I seemed to be breathing in new life. At home, I started to open the windows and sit on my porches again. I started walking in the neighborhood, and sometimes, if I felt like it, I’d even turn my face to the sun! 

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“Come on the risin’ wind. We’re goin’ up around the bend.” ~ Up Around the Bend, Creedence Clearwater Revival

I’ve started teaching yoga.

This has come as a complete surprise, because teaching yoga was never anything that I’d ever dreamed I’d be doing, not even when I’d signed up for the teacher training. In fact, when we took our seats in a circle on that first day, we were asked for a show of hands as to why we were there. Had we signed up to teach yoga? Had we signed up to deepen our practice? Everyone raised their hands accordingly; everyone, that is, except for me.

I didn’t have an answer as to why I was there. I was seated without any clear intention, knowing only that I needed something next, and I wondered if this might be it. I figured in 200 hours over the next five months I’d be able to figure that out.         

I’d felt much the same way when I started practicing yoga. It was several years earlier, and a sign had suddenly appeared for a new yoga studio in the shopping center near my home. I saw it every time I drove by on my errands to the bank, or the grocery, or the gas station. I circled it like this for months before finally stopping in. And then I signed up for a class without any clear intention. At most, I thought I might get some exercise. It would be an understatement to say that I was in for a big surprise! 

Right away I started practicing and couldn’t seem to stop. And I kept on like that, completely unaware that I had embarked on any sort of journey. In fact, if I’d been asked as to why the practice had gripped me so, I don’t know that I could have answered. I wouldn’t have been able to explain why it felt so good to move on the mat the way that we were moving. All I knew was that the movement moved me. Practicing was making me feel as if I were on my way somewhere, and I think that’s why I was always there.  

In truth, I’d been there many times before, because the new yoga studio was in what used to be the video store! Oh, what irony that the place that once put me on the couch was now the very one to lift me from it! For years my children and I had roamed that same floor, looking for movies to kick off our weekend. Our all-time favorite was The Sound of Music. On countless Friday nights we’d sprawl across the couch with family and friends and watch it all over again.  

Those Friday nights were a like a breather for us. Our busy week had ended, but the even busier weekend had yet to begin. In many ways, those Friday nights mirrored my life. I was taking a breather, too. Recently separated, I’d made enough decisions to settle with my children in a home of our own, but not many more than that. The rest would have to wait. Repotted for the time being, we were taking root, and those Friday nights were watering us.    

It would be many more years before I would find yoga. My children would grow up, and then I would, too! They flew the coop first, jetting off to college within a year of each other, and I was the last to go, jetting all the way down the street to my first full-time job since before they were born. And what a big turn that was for me! My Friday nights became a breather again, this time in between my work week and my weekend. With my new schedule filled to the brim, it never occurred to me to look for anything more.           

But, as it turns out, just because we aren’t looking, doesn’t mean that something’s not around the corner, just waiting for us to make that turn. And that’s how I discovered yoga. I literally turned the corner, and there it was, outside my car window! I’d been on my way to the neighborhood shopping center, and when I made the turn, I spotted the new sign above the old video store. It simply said, “Yoga.” That would be the first of many times I’d see that sign. Like a favorite movie, I’d watch it all over again, until that fateful day that I dropped in.   

Right away, I loved the practice! Yoga was like Twister, the game from my childhood. While trying not to fall, we’d put our hands and feet here and there and twist and turn in all sorts of directions. The practice was hard, but it was also fun! From the very beginning, I was eager to learn, so I paid close attention to all the directions, even though I struggled with some. Apparently, I had some inhibitions to overcome. But I persevered, because it felt good to move. And that perseverance, coupled with a lot of encouragement and some very patient instruction, helped me turn some corners that I hadn’t even known were there.   

And so I made a deal with myself to keep practicing, because I liked how it felt to flow like this, not just on the mat, but also around those corners. Each revolution was an evolution, and the practice propelled me. And that was a good thing, because, as it turned out, the practice made for a lot of turns! In fact, that’s how I found teaching. After several years of practicing, teaching was what was around one of those corners, and so I made the turn and signed up for the training.

And that’s where I met an expert on turning. Another trainee, he was a dancer who’d been turning from the young age of three. And whenever I’d turn upside down, he’d claim to see a dancer in me! He said that he could tell I felt good there, as if it was a natural place for me to be.

“I always felt good turning,” he said, “so I can understand.”

Turning, he said, made him feel protected and on top of things. And while he knew that I preferred my turns upside down, I knew that he preferred his by spinning around. Maybe that’s why, at the end of the training, the instructor insisted that he perform several pirouettes before getting his certificate. He had never danced for us before, but he quickly agreed. He had so many turns inside of him that it wasn’t going to be a problem conjuring them.

“Watch your heads!” he said.

We scooted back to make room for what we were about to see, and then we cheered as he easily set them free. We watched as he spun, releasing his turns, one by one. In multiple revolutions, he propelled himself across the floor before arriving in a gentle landing on the other side.           

And I wondered: Did he even know that his turns were a gift? Or that they were evidence of fearlessness?

I looked down at my own certificate and thought of the many turns that had landed me here. With those in mind, I guessed I’d been practicing long before I ever saw that neighborhood sign. In many ways, by that time, I’d long been putting my hands and feet here and there, twisting and turning in all sorts of directions, while trying not to fall. And now I had learned how to teach the practice, so that I could help others do the same.

The energy of his impromptu performance hung in the air like an invisible sign that read, “Turn here!” And I could feel it directing us around the next bend, where it promised that we might find that same energy again. And, so, while I couldn’t see it then, I followed that sign like I had the other, and now I’ve started teaching yoga!

And I’m surprised by how much I like it! Mostly, I’m surprised by how at home I feel when I teach. I turn on the music and start the class, and I feel as if I’m where I should be. And my goal is to make everyone else in the room feel that same way, too. And so, when I call the class to the top of their mats, I ask them to set an intention. And then I tell them that it’s okay if they don’t have one. If that’s the case, I say, then just flow with me and see what’s learned, because I’ll be teaching from all the corners I’ve turned.  





“Oh honey, it's a magical, magical life, life, life.” ~ Magic, Sia

I almost slept through my alarm this morning! The song on the radio that woke me up was hovering between two stations, and I almost didn’t hear it.  

That might not make much sense to someone who’s younger than I am and may never have owned a clock radio, but mine has been my alarm for more than three decades, and it’s still kicking! It’s just that today, as is so often the case, the dial is a little off kilter. And in my first waking thought, I decide that I’ll fix it later. Without looking, I reach over and turn it off. I’m up, and I’ve got enough time to make it to morning yoga!

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alleyway photo.jpg

“Hey, tomorrow, now don’t you go away, ’cause freedom just might come your way.” ~ Mother Freedom, Bread

I got stuck in an alley the other night.

I was on my way to a yoga class downtown, looking for a parking spot in a new car that I’d only recently been driving. I was still learning its dimensions.

I had driven to the lot where I usually find a good parking spot, but all the spots were taken. And so, I drove further on, into an adjacent alley that serves as secret passage to an even more remote lot. I’d learned of this other lot from some of the other yogis, but tonight it seemed especially small and even more remote than usual. Perhaps this was because the sun had almost set. The clocks had only recently been changed, and it was already getting dark.  

I couldn’t seem to find a good place to fit, and so I idled in the alleyway between the two lots. I had just driven all the way downtown, but my instincts were telling me it was time to turn around. And so, just like that, without any more thought, I decided to follow them home. There would be no yoga for me tonight, after all. It was a pretty quick decision.

In the past, I haven’t always been so quick with my decisions. There have been times when the most I could do was sit idly by, because my anxiety had risen so high. Those were usually the times when the sun had set on something I’d least expect, and I’d find it hard to decide on what to do next. Unable to see even one possibility, I’d inevitably lose touch with my gut and find myself stuck.    

I’d been down this alley before; but, in my new car I just wasn’t as certain. It was a very tight fit, and I needed to figure the best way out. For a moment, I considered driving in reverse, back toward the first lot, but I’d seen earlier that its exit had been blocked. And so, I looked ahead, instead, all the way to the end of the alley, where I could see the other cars whizzing by in the freedom of the open road. And that’s when I knew what I had to do. Suddenly, it was obvious that the only way out was through. And so, I put my car in gear, gently pressed the gas and began to inch my way forward.

I’ve been told on more than one occasion that the only way out was through, but I never knew exactly what that meant. Such an idea had always seemed counterintuitive to me. Why would I want to go through anything that I would otherwise choose not to? But experience has since taught me that such thinking is resistant, which is the very thinking that can get me stuck. And so now I’ve learned that if I want to get to know my own dimensions, I will have to go through whatever it is that I’d rather go around. And I’ve also learned that if that should take me a while to do, then that’s okay, too, because sometimes getting to a good place can only be done at a snail’s pace.         

Halfway down the alleyway, a pole loomed into view. I continued driving until I reached it, but then I had to stop. I just didn’t think that I could make it safely past that pole without losing my side mirror! Again, I idled, thinking that perhaps I’d been too hasty in my decision to drive ahead. I looked back over my shoulder and reconsidered. Perhaps I could drive backward, after all, past the lot with the secret parking spots, all the way back to the very first lot. Although I had seen earlier that its exit was blocked, I figured that maybe I could give its entrance a shot. That way, I could exit the same way I had entered. Changing my mind as quickly as I’d just set it, I decided to go for it. I put my car in reverse, gently pressed the gas and this time began to inch my way backward.  

With barely room to spare on either side, I drove cautiously, while also checking my side mirrors. The walls of the alley hugged me so tight that I feared I might drift too far left or too far right. Finally, I got as far as halfway back, before I felt compelled to stop again. I just didn’t have the faith that I could continue driving backward without incident. I idled again in the alleyway between the two lots, trying to make up my mind. Finally, I decided to change course again, thinking that it had to be less risky to drive in the direction ahead instead of the one behind. So, I put the car in gear for yet another time, gently pressed the gas and began to inch my way forward once more.     

I would be sorry to miss tonight’s class, but I knew I was making the right decision. Yoga has played such a big part in teaching me how to better trust my instincts, mostly because it’s taught me how to better trust myself. But I must say that, much like tonight’s back and forth in the alleyway, learning how to trust myself has been an exercise in trial and error. Yet, this is true of yoga, too. Trial and error is such an integral part of the practice that even our missteps are forgiven. At yoga, we get to put forth our best efforts, and however that goes is okay. If we fall out of the poses, we’re simply encouraged to come back in. We always have an open invitation to return and try again.       

That’s not to say that yoga isn’t without its frustrations. On some days, there are so many! Yoga can be tough, because the practice demands a certain vulnerability. For as much as the poses fortify us, they also put us in spaces so tight that it can be impossible to escape even ourselves. And that exposes us in such a way that we’re left with no choice but to see ourselves as we are and to even let ourselves be seen. Thankfully, though, yoga is also a compassionate practice. The practice encourages loving kindness not just toward others, but also toward ourselves. And that welcoming acceptance has been a saving grace for me.  

Another saving grace has been the discovery of a new community. Somehow, all that work in learning how to trust myself has created a more solid foundation for trusting others. And that’s been a very good thing for me. At the time I started practicing yoga, I’d been so self-sufficient for so long that I wasn’t even aware that I had any desire to belong. In fact, I don’t even think that I ever realized how important that might be for me or even that I might be missing it at all. But the arms of the yoga community are surprisingly long, and once I started practicing, they reached out to me in such a way that I willingly reached back. And now I’m forever grateful for that.

Maybe that’s why I didn’t hesitate to ask for help when I suddenly came upon that pole again. I had already stopped the car, and I’d even stepped out briefly to gauge the space. But once I was behind the wheel again, I just didn’t see that there was enough room. So, I idled, as I tried to figure out how else to make it by. And that’s when I saw two young men walking across the end of the alley. Without another thought, I opened my window and flagged them down.

“Excuse me!” I called out to them. “Would you guys mind helping me past that pole?”

I watched them speak to one another, before one headed in the other direction, and the other headed in mine.  

“Of course!” he said.

I figured this young man might stand a few feet in front of my car, so that he could motion me past; but, I watched as he patiently walked all the way over to my passenger side and then positioned himself right next to the pole. And so, I cracked open the window on that side, so that we could speak to one another. But before he could say anything, I suddenly needed to explain everything! For some reason, I had to tell him all about how I’d wound up in that alley and how I’d gotten myself stuck.   

As if sent from heaven above, this angel patiently listened, as I explained the back and forth of the evening. And then, just as patiently, he guided me past that pole. I cautiously followed his instructions, gently tapping the gas and slowly inching by. In the process of squeezing through, I had to make every effort not to close my eyes. And then, without much further ado, I easily popped out onto the other side!

“Thank you so much!” I cried.

There is something undeniable about the moment we become unstuck. There’s a sense of freedom that lifts the spirits in a way that I wish could last forever. And that’s how I felt, now that I was through to the other side. And I wanted that feeling to last just a little bit longer, and so I idled again. Unbelievably, I needed another moment in the alleyway! I was so filled with relief and so overcome with gratitude that I couldn’t bring myself to leave just yet. I looked back at the young man. He was still standing next to the pole, and so I put my hands in prayer and held them up to thank him.  

“You’re an angel from heaven!” I blurted out. “Bless you!”

He simply smiled in reply and then just nodded his goodbye. And then I watched him in my rearview mirror, as he turned and walked into the alleyway. Amazingly, he was willingly headed in the same direction that I’d just been so desperate to leave! And that made me realize that for him the alley wasn’t such a treacherous place. In fact, it probably wasn’t even a secret passageway! From how easily I saw him walking through, I knew that for him the alley had to simply be a shortcut to wherever it was that he was going.  

Maybe one day it would be the same for me, but not tonight. For tonight it was something more that I would have to think about later. For right now, it was time to go home. And so, I put the car in gear, stepped on the gas and turned into the freedom of the open road.

And then, without hesitation, I drove my new car as if I were captaining a boat. In the dark, the road was as big as an ocean, and the city lights were as bright as the stars. On lifted spirits, I sailed buoyantly home, thinking that maybe I could even catch a yoga class closer to my house in the morning. I’d see how I felt when I woke up. It was certainly a possibility, now that I was no longer stuck.  



“You take it on faith, you take it to the heart, the waiting is the hardest part.” ~ Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers 

It was the middle of the week in the middle of summer, a hot and quiet Wednesday.

I was working from home, waiting for a delivery that would require my signature. I woke up, made some coffee and answered some emails from my kitchen table. Then I cooked up some eggs and took a shower. I was cozy at home, but part of me couldn’t help feeling a little stuck. Knowing that I had to wait at home was making me think of everything else I could be doing instead.

I’ve never really been that good at waiting. Waiting is something that I’ve had to learn how to do, and even when I’m able to do it well, that doesn’t always mean that I’ll be able to do it well again. Waiting is work for me. It’s one of those basic skills that I’d wished had been taught in school. If that had been the case, then, surely, I’d be better at it by now! Although I’m not so sure what kind of class that would have been. What would we have done? Would we have just sat at our desks, waiting? What would we have been waiting for?

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Uncle Joe

Uncle Joe.cropped.jpg

"My Lord, my Lord, my Lord, my Lord, take me to the place I need to go." ~ Michael Franti & Spearhead

My memories of my Uncle Joe are mostly centered around his joining us for holiday meals. These memories start when I was very young. I’d hear the doorbell ring and race with my sister to greet him before he could even step inside.  

“Uncle Joe! Uncle Joe!” we’d cry. “When are you getting married?! When are you getting married?!”

He never had an answer for us, but, then again, I don’t know that we ever really wanted one. As little girls, I think we just liked asking the question! It was our standard way of greeting him, and he was always patient with us. He’d lean down to say hello.

“Pick us up! Pick us up!” we’d cry.  

My sister and I would hang from his forearms, and he’d lift us up and down like little weights. He was strong, always working out and playing football. When we’d visit my grandmother, he’d always be in the basement, lifting weights. I could hear them clanking, but I was afraid of that basement, and so I’d always wait until he came upstairs to say hello.

At holiday meals, he’d pile his plate high. He loved black olives like my mom and now my son. He was left-handed, just like me. When I was little, I told him that meant that we were related. I’d share my egg with him every Passover. He did me the favor of always eating the yolk. He’d take naps in my brother’s room after our Thanksgiving meals, and when he woke up he’d watch the football game through the rest of the afternoon.  

I remember my Uncle Joe working for W. Bell & Company. On my birthday, he picked out a jewelry box for me from there. It was one of my most prized possessions. It was white with painted greenery, and it had two doors that opened in the front, behind which there were three drawers lined in velvet. All through my growing up years, I kept it on a shelf in my bedroom, placing inside of it anything and everything that was ever special to me.

When I grew up, so did my Uncle Joe! He moved out of his mother’s house and into his own apartment! I remember visiting him to say hello and check out his new digs. My memories of that visit are of him going through the clothes in his closet and asking me which ones were still in style.

Not long after that, my Uncle Joe finally answered our question from so long ago. He was getting married! We were excited to attend his wedding to Mary Ellen at their home near the Bay Bridge. I remember two things from that day. The first was how he looked standing next to Mary Ellen. He looked so proud. And the second was my discovery that my Uncle Joe would be sleeping in a pink bed! I must have passed by their bedroom and caught a glimpse of their spread!

Over the years, I continued to see my Uncle Joe on holidays, mostly at my folks’ and sometimes at the meals I’d host. Otherwise, I didn’t see too much of him, but that didn’t make me feel any less attached. I have a beautiful picture of him with my daughter from when she was a baby that I’ve kept on my desk all these years. He’s holding her tight in both arms, and she’s contentedly ensconced. Her head is against his cheek, and he’s looking down at her and sort of smiling to himself. 

I think that picture is special to me, because in it I can see my Uncle Joe’s big heart. He was always playing football and working out and very much a man’s man, and yet I think he was just as much a soft touch. And that’s what I see in this picture.

And that’s also what I’ve seen over the years towards me. He wrote me touching cards after my children’s Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, telling me that I was a good mother and that he was proud of how I’d raised my children. He continued to join us for meals on the Jewish holidays and always kept up with what my children were up to. He was a huge supporter of my writing and asked me to send him what I’d written. Thanks to my Uncle Joe, I figured out that I’d written a book without even realizing it. He was very aware that I was a single mother and would always call to check on me, if ever my folks were away. And let’s just say that I also got the message that he would be available to go to bat for me, should I ever be in need of anything like that.   

In more recent years, my Uncle Joe had started to call me on a regular basis. He’d ask after my children and my sister and her family, too. And we’d talk at length about our daily workouts, his at the senior center, lifting weights and cycling on the reclining bike, and mine at the yoga studio. I’d started practicing downtown on the same block as where he had worked at W. Bell & Company! But he never liked that for me and oftentimes expressed concerns for my safety.

“Annie! I don’t like you going down there!” he’d say. And I’d assure him that I was safe, that the neighborhood had changed, and that I was being careful.

Other times, he’d express concern for me living alone.

“Annie! I worry about you in that big house!” he’d say. And I’d assure him that I was okay, that the house was not too big for me, and that I was comfortable there.

And sometimes he’d express concerns for what kind of uncle he had been.

“I may not have always been the best uncle,” he’d say to me, “but I want you to know that I love you.” And I’d assure him that I always knew that he loved me. And then I’d tell him that I loved him, too.

I don’t think he knew about the photo that I’d kept of him with his heart showing, the one where he’s holding my daughter as a baby. And I didn’t know that there were any others, either; but, apparently, there are lots of photos of my Uncle Joe with his heart showing. And when I visited him last week at his house, I got to see them all, hanging on a poster across the room from his bed. Pictured were all the people whom my Uncle Joe had been. There he was as a little boy, as a young man, as a big brother, as a serviceman in the army, as a devoted husband, and, in his highly cherished role, as the great Papa Joe.

Seeing these photos made me think of a Buddhist teaching about which I’d only learned days earlier. According to this teaching, inside of all of us is everyone! Throughout our many lifetimes, we’ve all been the many different people that others have been to us. And I thought about that as I looked at all those photos of my Uncle Joe, for inside of him there was everyone, too. In fact, from the looks of things, there were more people inside of him than I ever knew! And during my last visit to him, I got to see that for myself.

So many people were there! Friends and family and loved ones had been coming and going for days, showing him who he’d been to them in this lifetime. They were showing up to show him how much he was loved. And that made me so happy to see. I saw him surrounded in a way that I think all of us would want to be.

And when it came my turn to speak with him, I got to tell him what I hoped he already knew. I don’t know if he could hear me, but I got to tell him that his whole family was there, and that everyone loved him. And then I thanked him for all those calls, and told him that I loved him, too.

Repeating Numbers

Repeating Numbers

“A B C. It’s easy as 1 2 3, as simple as do re mi, A B C, 1 2 3 … “ ~ ABC, Jackson Five

I was at yoga the other night for an eight o’clock class, and, for the first time in years, the instructor was running late. But that was okay with us, as we ourselves had lost track of time. We were all happily seated in the practice room, visiting each other’s mats, chatting and catching up from the week.

The door finally opened. It was the instructor. 

“I’m so sorry I’m late,” she said. “It’s already 8:08!”

808 is a significant number for me. When I was a little girl, my parents encouraged my siblings and I to learn our home address by heart. That way, if we were ever to get lost, we would be able to tell someone where we lived. Our street number was 808, an easy enough number to remember. I remember practicing my address earnestly, reciting it over and over, like the words of a favorite song. As a result, the lyrics embedded themselves so deeply in my consciousness that, to this day, 808 is a number that’s as fresh in my mind as it was when I was a child.     

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Golden Blessings

Golden Blessings

“I say a little prayer for you. Forever, and ever, you’ll stay in my heart …” ~ I Say a Little Prayer For You, Aretha Frannklin

I have a buddha in a bubble! My children surprised me with a snow globe, and it’s home to a beautiful golden buddha. He sits inside in his peaceful womb, surrounded by sparkles as gold as he is.  

I’ve placed him on my vanity where I can see him every day. In the mornings, I pick him up, give him a good shake, and watch as the vanity lights illuminate the sparkles, while they spin around in a glittering dance to start the day. They swirl every which way and then gently descend, landing softly on his head and on his shoulders, in his hands and in his lap, around his seat and even on his feet.

The buddha is seated, just like I am at the end of my yoga practice.

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“Oh, we could be stars. We could be stars.” ~ Stars, Alessia Cara

The other morning, on the spur of the moment, I woke up and decided to go to yoga.

I hadn’t planned to make it out of bed so early, but I did, and apparently a lot of other people did, too. The class that morning was close to several workout spots, and, with the sun barely up, it was already rush hour on the block. I walked among the early birds, as we made our way to our various destinations, mine in the corner building on the floor at the very top. I climbed the staircase and checked in at the front desk.

“I’m Anne,” I said. “I’m here!”

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“Little darling, it’s been a long and lonely winter.” ~ James Taylor, Yo-Yo Ma

We’re in the middle of what’s turned out to be one of the moodiest winters in my memory.

We’ve braced ourselves against some of the coldest temperatures in history and basked in temperatures warmer than they ever should be.

It’s as if Mother Nature were battling herself, hesitant to fully emerge into her own season, even though it’s one that’s already here. But that’s okay, because, in our own way, I think we’ve been doing the same.  

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Any way the wind blows doesn’t really matter to me. ~ Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen

We were on our mats in a twisting flow at yoga. We’d already twisted in one direction, flowed some more in another and were about to twist in the other. I bent my knees, lowered my hips and placed my hands in prayer at my heart. I readied myself ahead of the instructions and started twisting to the right.

“Twist to the right!” the instructor said.

The class balked. Having already twisted earlier in that direction, everyone had known to go left, except for me. That previous turn wasn’t even in my memory!

“I’m sorry!” the instructor said. “I was watching Anne!”

I’ve been plagued with a questionable sense of direction from the time I can remember. In fact, one of my first memories is that of being lost, back when my sister and I would walk together to Hebrew school.

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“I pray you’ll be our eyes and watch us where we go and help us to be wise in times when we don’t know.” ~ The Prayer, Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli

It’s Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish New Year. It’s the Day of Atonement, the day when we fast and ask G-d for his forgiveness for any and all of our sins. All day we pray to be entered into the Book of Life, and when the sun sets, the gate on this opportunity closes until this same time next year, when we get to pray for forgiveness again.

This year, the High Holiday has fallen on a Saturday. I wake up and brew some coffee and then mix up a green shake. I tend to faint when I fast, and so it’s been a while since I have. And with my children all grown up, I no longer belong to a synagogue. And so these days I opt to spend the high holidays at hot yoga, where I’m always able to find something spiritual in the sweat. Today I shower and sign up for class and leave the house with my hair still wet.

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“Fill my heart with gladness, take away my sadness, ease my troubles, that’s what you do.” ~ Have I Told You Lately, Van Morrison

“The presence of truth can make us feel naked, but compassion takes all our shame away.”

This is one of the many phrases of which I took note while reading Light on Life by B.K.S. Iyengar, the father of modern yoga. I took notes because I’ve been assigned homework for the first time in 30 years! I even had to hand in a one-page reflection paper by a certain date, typed and printed! I’ve signed up for yoga teacher training, and reading this book was my first assignment.

I’ve been surprised at how excited I am about the organized structure of the training. There’s a plan for everything over the next five months, and I find this very appealing, probably because it’s been a while since I’ve actually had any sort of plan. Over the past few years, my only plan has been to practice as much yoga as I can and then to see what happens next. I call this my no-plan plan, and so far I think it’s been working. The practice has been like a treasure map, and following it has brought me out into the world in a way that I wasn’t.  

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“Well this good I’ve found, I spent all this time tryna find my way here.” ~ This Feeling, Alabama Shakes

It’s almost dark, and I’m looking at the world from upside down.

I am dripping in a backbend in a room that’s heated to almost 100 degrees. Upside down in my arc, I look out the back windows and see people gliding by, taking footsteps on the sky. A little girl stops to wave. She wants to say hi.

This is the peak of the practice. We’ve finished all of the standing poses, and we’ve warmed up our backs on the mats. We’ve rounded our spines in Camel and Locust and Bow, and we’ve already done our first Bridge. And now the count is on for Wheel.

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Hey now, hey now. Don’t dream it’s over. ~ Don’t Dream It’s Over, Crowded House

It’s cherry season.

I know this because beautiful bags of big white cherries have appeared, front and center, at all the markets, and for some reason this season I can’t seem to get enough of them.

I first noticed the cherries when I was visiting my son a few weeks ago. He had us over for brunch, and because I can’t ever show up anywhere empty-handed, I brought a cactus plant from the local market, along with a bag of cherries that I had noticed near the register. He set the cactus on the sill in the sun, and, when the eggs were done, we sat down to a feast with a bowl of cherries as our centerpiece.  

The next week I was visiting again, and more cherries appeared. This time they were waiting for me in my daughter’s refrigerator, a welcome sight when I arrived at midnight! I had a few before I went to bed and then again late the next night, when we sat down to a bowl of them in front of the television.

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“Got my doubts about it, oh but I try, oh make it work with tears in my eyes.” ~ Some Peace of Mind, Van Morrison

Cow Face is a funny name for a pose.

We cross our legs at the knees and press our sitting bones down on the mat. I’m not sure how this resembles a cow’s face, and I’ve never thought to ask.

Most of the English names for the yoga poses make sense to me. They have purpose: Chair pose. Side Angle. Handstand. They have power: Warrior One. Warrior Two. They have beauty: Half Moon. Crescent Lunge. 

But where is the grace in a name like Cow Face? 

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Come with me. Leave yesterday behind and take a giant step outside your mind.” ~ Take a Giant Step, The Monkees

It’s been a long day.

I arrive home from work and grab a quick bite and am about to go upstairs to my room in order to change into my yoga clothes for my evening practice.

But to leave the kitchen and get to the steps, I have to pass the most comfortable chair in the house. It’s big and soft and green, and it fits me perfectly. I often sit with my feet propped up on its matching hassock, or, more often, I sit sideways with my shoulders propped up on one side and my legs hanging over the other.

Needless to say, I don’t quite make it to the steps. I sit down in the chair instead and cover myself with a quilt, thinking I still have a few minutes to watch a little television.

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"There will be an answer. Let it be.”     ~ Let It Be, The Beatles

I’m on my way to yoga. It’s the middle of winter, but I’m dressed as if it were spring!

The temperatures outside are a little out of whack, and, aside from the politics of the day, it’s all anyone seems to be talking about. As a matter of fact, just as soon as the Obamas left town the weather seems to have gone upside down! With their departure came a major shift in the atmosphere, and ever since then the heavens above have been a reflection of the chaos down here.  

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This time last year doesn’t seem so long ago.

We were deep in the winter of mid-February, and I was wearing everything possible: my jacket and scarf, my ear wraps and gloves, my leg warmers and tall winter boots. I had arrived with my suitcase in tow at my daughter’s work show to help her manage some overflow. 

We worked all day and into the early evening, and then we made our way to meet her other half and my son for dinner.

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Well it ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, babe ~ Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright, Bob Dylan

I started practicing yoga for my body, but I think it’s also been helping my brain.

I wish I had the kind of brain that didn’t think so much, but that’s a thought that’s hard to fathom. I’m jealous of the people who don’t know how to dwell.

At yoga there is no time to dwell, and that’s a good thing. On the mat there just is no room in my head for anything other than what the instructor has said. We are always moving, even when we are still, and if I'm not paying close attention, then I’ll find myself moving in the wrong direction.

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