Padmasana (Lotus Pose)

The great B.K.S. Iyengar considered Lotus Pose (padmasana) the easiest asana in Light on Yoga. So why is it so difficult for Westerners to sit in padmasana? Because we don’t squat when we go to the bathroom. (That’s sort of a joke, but not really. The main action of Lotus Pose is the folding of the legs, and we just don’t do that very much in our society.)

Why are Buddha and Shiva depicted sitting in Lotus Pose? Maybe because it’s a balanced pose which illuminates the central channel, sending one into a deep meditation. What is a “balanced” pose? Is it one that balances apana (downward wind) with prana (upward wind) and creates inner and outer spirals? (The groin is released in the inner spiral and the hips externally rotate in the outward spiral.) Lotus is a pose that creates equanimity. It sends you to the center of the center. How should one approach Lotus? Every day, try to practice these things: First, lie down on your back and hug your knees into your chest. Then strap your legs in Cobblers Pose (baddha konasana). Hang out in Child’s Pose. After that, practice the release of your groin while doing standing poses and end with the great groin releaser: Hero Pose (virasana). Then explore external rotation with ankle to knee (lying on back first, then seated), Tree Pose, Simple Cross Legged Pose with a forward bend, and Pigeon with a forward fold. Can you feel the draw into your central channel even if you can’t do a perfect Lotus? Yes, but you may need to let your ego take a back seat and use props to find that kind of balance and ease in the meditative seat.

Sit on folded blankets with your back at the wall. Sit in a simple crossed legged position so that the groin releases and you are not straining your lower back and then support your knees with blankets or blocks until the pose becomes easy. The main energetic action is to feel the connection from your feet to the pelvis, to the roof of your mouth, and to the crown of your head. These connections are important to your meditative seat. If you don’t know how to begin to find this integration and conversation, come to @theyogashanti and we’ll help to illuminate it for you!

Vasisthasana (Side Plank)

Today’s #FocusFriday pose is side plank, pose! After the last earthquake in Nepal, it was noted that Mt. Everest had moved. How crazy is that? And what an example of impermanence. Mountain pose is the same—strong, steady, and yet moveable. If we reach our arms out so that they’re parallel to the floor, flex one hand, and turn the head towards the other, we begin to understand the basic architecture of side-plank pose: the arms make a perpendicular line to the center line of the torso.

We can’t just topple sideways from mountain, because our wrist would be destroyed, so instead we come to side plank from plank pose or downward-facing dog. The most common mistake in getting into side plank is to place the supporting hand right under the shoulders; the supporting hand should be placed so that the bottom arm can stay at a right angle with the center line of the torso. At the same time, strong legs reach through the inside of the feet, and hips lift a little higher than a straight line between the feet and the crown of the head. The top arm extends straight up from the bottom arm, as the pelvis and the chest turn slightly upward toward the sky. Even in this orientation, the mountain looks up toward the sky. If balance is too challenging, place the bottom leg knee on the ground.

Remember, this is an arm-balance pose, but the more you find the center, the more it feels like who you think you are doesn’t exist, and you get closer to your authentic self and the unknown mystery and beauty that waits for us in the center of the center of the center.


Know You're Enough

The mantra I want to offer today isn’t a traditional Sanskrit mantra, but it’s one I’ve been living with for the past two years: Know You’re Enough.

I first heard the phrase in a Jason Isbell song, “Cover Me Up.” Like all mantras, these three simple words created a powerful feeling of visceral relief in me every time I listened to them, or spoke them. Know You’re Enough. I made these three words the title of the introduction of my new book, Yoga for Life. It was the mantra I needed to keep coming back to while writing, when feelings of fear, or imperfection or inadequacy would sneak up on me.

We all spend a lot of time and energy covering up our vulnerabilities and our strengths, afraid that we won’t be accepted if we expose them. In covering up real parts of ourselves, we hide our truth from world. We think we’re the only ones who feel these things; our armor gets thicker and thicker, ensuring that no one will ever see the real us.

It’s a crying shame. Only you can share what the real you has to offer. But if you keep covering it up, or running away from it, then it’s a waste of time and a loss, not only for you, but for the rest of the world that needs your contribution. This is what really makes the world go ‘round.

Let us support each other in this scary, crucial unveiling. Let us put aside judgment and competition and embrace honesty and authenticity. Know You’re Enough.


Starting next week, Mantra Mondays will be replaced with a series called Music Mondays. I’ll share a song, or a playlist that I chose to accompany each chapter of my book.

Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)

This is not my favorite pose. My proportions are such that I need arms that are 6 inches longer in order to get my torso parallel to the floor and feel any sense of freedom. Whereas Rodney looks like he’s floating. So I will always use a block, or, like in this case, Rodney’s ankle. If you have long legs, a narrow chest, and medium-length arms, you need a block underneath your bottom hand. If you have shorter legs and a buff chest (Rodney), then you won’t need a block. When the alignment of half-moon clicks in, it literally feels like you’re flying. Once you get the arm, chest, leg ratio worked out, focus on details. The lifted leg is parallel to the floor. I would say that the brain of ardha chandrasana is the intense reach of the lifted leg. The standing-leg butt and knee strongly externally rotate. The arms are an extension of each other as they spread the upper back and upper chest, while the neck, head, and chest work together to form a backbend and a mild twist. The gaze is at the top hand. Use trikonasana, triangle, to come in and out of the pose. Be especially careful not to load the inner knee coming out of the pose. Focus on the external rotation of the knee while descending back to triangle. This is a great pose when you are feeling collapsed, defeated, and out of kilter. When properly aligned, it gives you balance and suspension. When you use your legs this strongly, it makes you feel confident. Ardha chandrasana requires focus of the mind. So if you want to feel balanced, suspended, confident, and focused, this is your pose (even if you need a block).

Ardha Matsyandrasana II (Half-Seated Spinal Twist II)

Ardha Matsyandrasana II is one of the most balanced twists in yoga, because it respects and echoes the natural curves of the spine. As a result, it’s one of the few twists that can be held for up to five minutes. Because it’s a truly neutral pose, it’s OK to practice ardha matsyandrasana II after backbends.

There’s a big internal rotation of the straight leg in the pose, so you can revolve deeply into the twist. You’re sitting evenly on your two sitting bones, which gives the twist a solid foundation, as well as heaven-to-earth energy, or apana vayu.

Excellent preparations for ardha matsyandrasana II are lotus preps [see Focus Friday June 5], open twists, and poses that have internal-rotation of both arms (reverse prayer, interlacing fingers behind the back, shoulder stand arms, and other binding poses). Binding is easier if your torso is narrow and your arms long. If you can’t bind, just grab your shirt, your thigh, your shin, or use a strap. Ardha matsyandrasana II is a beautiful pose. I’m including photographs of my own version, as well as Mr. Iyengar’s, so that you can see both a master and an novice.

If there are any specific poses that you would like to see on Focus Friday, don’t be shy. Let me know.

Dad's Stamp of Approval

My 88-year-old father stalked me to send him an advanced copy of my book, Yoga for Life, which comes out in June. Dad may forget some things, but this one thing, he did not. Every few days, I would get a text (yes, my dad texts), saying, “I am old and I want to read your book. I don’t want to wait until it comes out. Please send it to me today.” I was nervous about him reading it, because even though I am an adult, his approval is still very important to me. So I sent it, and he read it.

My dad is one of those people who doesn’t mince words or speak niceties just for the sake of it. That was part of my hesitation in letting him read it: I knew he would tell me what he thought, and I wasn’t sure I could handle hearing it. My other hesitation was that my book would make him sad, as his heart is still bleeding for my mom, who is featured large.

Well, today I sit here like a child, welled-up with tears. My father approves of my book. He said in a message that he loves it. He said I brought mom back to life in my pages. Then he wrote me this note:


Your book is very good. I wish your mother could read it. You were a wild child but have grown into one of the sweetest most caring adults I know. You have made me very proud. I love you, babe.


I would like to sell a million copies of my book because yoga is for life and I believe that the more people realize that, the better the world will be. But if I never sell a single copy, my father is proud of me, which makes me happy that I wrote the book.

The Elation and Worry of Motherhood

Mothering and being mothered are complicated experiences. They can take you beyond any love you’ve ever known, and they can bring you to your knees with worry and misery. When people ask Rodney and me who our main teachers have been, we respond, “Our kids.”

Our reactions to our children tell us everything. When you see your sweet angel’s name come up on the phone and you answer it excitedly, and all you hear is silence—oh, no.

“Honey, are you there?” you ask.

You hear sobs, and your heart sinks lower than you could ever have imagined. Her pain must be your fault, and you need to fix it.

Or when the phone rings, and he, elated, is speaking so fast you have to say, “Slow down, Darling, and tell me what you just said.” When our children are so excited about good news that you can’t understand what they’re saying, your heart soars as if it were your own accomplishment.


Then there’s the sly smile you try to hide when your child proudly tells you something he or she has just learned that you’ve spent the last 18 years trying teach them. Someone else has explained it to them, this lifelong lesson, and they act it as if it were brand new information.

And then there’s the learning how to keep your mouth shut. Or that certain mood of your beloved child’s when there’s no point in saying anything because it will be met with sarcasm or an argument, just for the sake of it.

Yes, being a mother (or father) is all encompassing. You have empathy and compassion for your own mother because you know that you took her through the same fires.

Mother’s Day is a time to reflect on the mothering process—both the joys and sorrows. It’s a day to buy or receive flowers and chocolates, or take or be taken out for brunch. But here’s the truth: what the mothers I know want most, is time alone. The best Mother’s Day gift might be to insist that your mom go to her yoga class, or go for a walk by herself.

Mother’s Day is a day of celebration for the sacrifice and dedication mothers bring to the world. It’s also a difficult day for those of us whose mothers, or children, have passed. So let us use what yoga has taught us to sit with it all, to laugh and cry and eat chocolate, to appreciate the flowers and hug our loved ones.

Happy Mother’s Day.

All love,