Yogamama: On Dying and Chai

Photo: Alamy
Yogamama: On Dying and Chai
Practicing to find the bearable lightness of surrender

By Karri Jinkins
When one of my spiritual mentors, Swami Bramadeo, suggested I try the art of dying, daily, in order to learn about my Self and ease my anxiety, I was apprehensive to say the least. Dying was in direct opposition to my life goals, which were to live, laugh, and find peace.

To me death was synonymous with giving up — something I had spent my youth running away from. I was a survivor, not a quitter. I had known many quitters in my life — at one point I put my own mother in that category, since she tried to commit suicide three times. The third time came when I was a baby; she locked the doors, took a bottle of sleeping pills, and got into bed, ready for the long sleep. Luckily, my father got to her before it was too late. She survived, and today, more than 40 years later, is healthy and happy. So I was not about to become a quitter.

Swamiji suggested I begin right then. He asked me to lie down in Savasana and close my eyes to see what I could learn about dying. I smiled, took a deep breath, and said, “Okay.” With his instruction I breathed through some of my distractions, like the warm cup of chai that was waiting for me, the hike I wanted to take through the jungle where Swamiji lived, and the long meandering discussion I wished to have with him before it was time for me to leave. I tried to focus on my breath, and a heavy feeling began to come over me, as if I suddenly weighed 500 pounds and the pressure of that weight was pulling me toward the center of the earth.

Shortly after that, I drifted off somewhere — I was still vaguely aware of my surroundings, but my body had become light, as if I were floating on a cloud. When I finally sat back up, I felt relaxed and attentive and energized, and I said, “Can I have my chai now?” Swamiji smiled. I have come to understand that quitting and surrendering can be similar in outcome, but are very different in intentions. When one quits, there is no hope left; there is a feeling of defeat, and death becomes heavy upon one, suffocatingly so. When one practices surrender, it is a hopeful task, and the heaviness it brings gives rise to energy, breath, and life. I continue to practice dying every day — and, of course, to drink chai.

Yogamama: How a Cow Rescued Me

Yogamama columnist Karri Jinkins and Bosco, a Scottish Highlander, at Mecox Farms in Bridgehampton, New York.
Photo: courtesy of Karri Jinkins
Yogamama: How a Cow Rescued Me
By Karri Jinkins
In 2007, after having an unplanned (and unexplained) ectopic pregnancy, I was having a difficult time recovering from the emotional and physical trauma of emergency surgery. And it seemed my health and happiness were on a downward spiral. I sought the help of numerous unfortunately clueless doctors and specialists over the course of a year, until I finally had a consultation with Dr. Robert Svoboda (an Ayurveda doctor I had admired for years after reading a few of his books, among them Aghora and Kundalini).

Dr. Svoboda took my pulse, looked at me, my tongue, and hands, and got my exact date, time, and location of birth. He put my Ayurvedic chart together and came up with a very specific prescription within minutes: I should find a red cow that I could visit every week, preferably on a Saturday, and feed it. “The cow has always fed you, now you need to feed the cow,” he said. I was also told to go to the ocean once a week, again, preferably on a Saturday, and stare at the horizon where the sky meets the ocean for at least 30 minutes. I smiled at him, thinking, Fat chance of that happening!

For the next week I thought about the prescription and talked to my friends about it obsessively; it was, no doubt, a source of great amusement for them. After secretly searching online for a while, I found an article about Mecox Farms and the beautiful Jersey cows that farmer Art Ludlow milked. The farm was conveniently located in Bridgehampton, New York, only a mile from one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. I found Art’s phone number, called him, and told him my story. To my amazement, he didn’t laugh, or question me. “Sure, come anytime,” he said, “I normally milk about 6 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.”

The next Saturday, I was in a car at the crack of dawn driving to meet Art and his beautiful red cow, Bosco. It turned out Bosco was a Scottish Highlander and was mainly a family pet, considering she didn’t give much milk. I fed her grass from my hands and petted her as I reflected on how my family on both sides, for generations, had been involved in farming. My own father was even a veterinarian, seeing mostly cows in his rural practice in Wisconsin. The Saturday visit became a regular ritual for me and I began to feed all of Art’s 12 red cows, although Bosco had a special place in my heart. Things slowly started to feel better in my life, I was mostly happier, and then in July of 2010, I gave birth to my beautiful son, Khash. That summer, Bosco also gave birth to her first— and on my birthday, no less. So much for fat chances!

Karri Jinkins is a writer and teaches Ashtanga yoga. She is also the cofounder of Yogamat Clothing. Contact her at: [email protected].

Yogamama: Easing a Stiff Neck

Yogamama: Easing a Stiff Neck
Loosen up your head with this great pose.

By Karri Jinkins
Waking up with a stiff neck, unable to turn my head from side to side, is by far my least favorite kind of morning. This happened to me in June when I was planning a visit to a friend in the Catskills. After a terrible night’s sleep on an even more terrible pillow, my neck was so stiff I worried that I wouldn’t be able to drive since I wouldn’t be able to check my blind spot.

As with many body aches, such stiffness can be traced to stress, but it also can stem from sleeping the wrong way, hunching over a computer at work, or just talking on the phone at length with the receiver wedged between your ear and shoulder. Here is a very simple posture that can help relax muscles and create a bit of space between the vertebrae of the neck.

Prasarita Padottanasana C (wide-legged intense foot stretch):

Start with your feet about 3 to 4 feet apart and your hands gently resting on your hips. As you inhale, slowly stretch your arms and hands out to your sides and lift the arms so that they are in line with your shoulders. Exhale, drop your arms behind you, and interlock your fingers. Inhale gently, squeeze your shoulder blades together, and lift your chin and chest up a bit as you draw your hands together firmly.

Exhale and fold forward, bringing your head toward the floor. If you can place your head on the floor, great; if not, just stay at your point of resistance and begin to move your arms away from your body, giving your upper chest and shoulders a nice and gentle stretch. (You can also place a block on the floor and rest your head on the block.) Stay here for about 10 breaths and feel each breath. On each inhale you should feel your cervical vertebrae moving apart a bit, and hopefully spacing out a little. After the 10 breaths, inhale and slowly raise your torso back up. Exhale, bringing your hands back to your hips. If you have very tight hamstrings that will make this pose too uncomfortable, feel free to do the same thing with your feet hip-distance apart, or in a seated position in a chair.

Karri Jinkins’ archetypes are Spiritual + Caregiver + Athlete. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin, she is a writer, teacher of Ashtanga yoga and meditation with 15-plus years experience, and cofounder of Yogamat Clothing, an eco-friendly, made-in-the-USA, sweatshop-free line of activewear. Karri enjoys many things other than yoga, not all of which are necessarily good for you. Contact her at [email protected] or find her on Twitter @karrijinkins.

Yogamama: Allergy Relief

Yogamama: Allergy Relief
Simple, pill-free ways to calm your irritated sinuses and watering eyes

By Karri Jinkins
Since the start of allergy season this year I’ve woken up many mornings feeling overwhelmed by a swirling head, stuffy nose, and fits of sneezing. Back in the day, I would solve the problem by doing a juice cleanse, or flying off to Thailand or India for a deep-cleansing retreat like pancha karma. Ah, the carefree life! Not surprisingly, however, in the three years since my son was born I’ve had less freedom to travel — and no longer find the idea of purifying juice cleanses particularly inspiring; I’ll still have to cook for my little boy and there really is no escaping that. Not to mention that I’ve actually come to enjoy the kitchen and often find great solace there away from the stresses of the daily grind, in a place where I can meditate as well as create nutritious meals for my family.

So I’ve been experimenting with a few different tools that I can easily use at home to help relieve some of my allergy symptoms. I’ve been doing a couple with my son, too, and they seem to help with his own little sniffles.

On the days I feel most overwhelmed, I find that a good old sweat helps clear some of the buildup of phlegm and congestion. Poses such as backbend, camel, shoulder stand, and headstand seem especially helpful, perhaps because they help open the chest and loosen congestion in the head.

I inhale through the left and exhale through the right nostril five times, then reverse it for another five times, inhaling from the right and exhaling from the left. This has been a big help in removing dust and allergens from my air passages, as well as facilitating mental clarity and focus.

I add a touch of sea salt to clean lukewarm water and it clears my sinuses (my three-year-old likes to pour the water in himself).

Massaging the nasal passages with this after using the neti pot helps lubricate them when I feel dried out. It smells great, and my son loves it, too.

I found a beautiful brush at Brook Farm and use it some mornings before I take a shower; dry brushing helps flush the lymphatic system and stimulate the nervous system. My acupuncturist, Adele Reising, is a big fan.

I’m also compiling a book full of my family’s favorite recipes and juices that I will happily hand over to a personal chef, should I ever find myself with one, but until then…

Yogamama: Release Your Tight Hamstrings with the Triangle Pose

Release Your Tight Hamstrings With the Triangle Pose
Here are six easy steps to a perfect Trikonasana. What follows: relief

By Karri Jinkins
In 2000, during one of my yearly visits to India to study yoga, I suffered a terrible back injury. After much pain, stress, and sleepless nights, I sought the advice of first an orthopedic doctor and second my 80-something-year-old yoga teacher. Needless to say, I got two very different recommendations for relieving the pain. The doctor suggested I stop doing yoga and rest. “Lie on your back,” he said. The yoga teacher suggested I go to practice every day and do forward and backward bending religiously. After a day, I decided to take my yoga teacher’s advice and pursue my practice. What I discovered was that I had incredibly tight hamstrings, and they seemed to be the root cause of my excruciating back pain.

Over the course of my stay, I was able to stretch out and release my hamstrings, and in turn relieve some of the tension on my lower back. I learned that the hamstrings—three large muscles in the back of the thigh—can limit motion in the pelvis if they are tight, and that often motion gets transferred to the spot where the lumbar and sacral spine meet. That increases the physical stress on an already fragile area.

One of the poses I find the most helpful in loosening up this sore spot is Trikonasana (Triangle). The key to success is to be gentle. Stop, don’t push, when you have reached your point of resistance (hold at the early part of that spot, not the end) and breathe for two to five minutes if possible. This will give the connective tissue a chance to release. I now love triangle pose so much that I often move into it during the day while cleaning, cooking dinner, or picking up the toys strewn across my son’s bedroom floor.

  1. Position your feet about 3½ feet apart and turn your right foot perpendicular to your left.
  2. Inhale, stretch your arms wide apart.
  3. Exhale, reach your right hand down toward your right toe. If you can take your big toe do so now, or take your ankle, shin, knee, or thigh instead. (Be mindful of your point of resistance here. You may only be able to place your hand on your knee to begin with, and that’s just fine).
  4. Inhale, reach your left arm up toward the ceiling or sky, and if you are able to, turn your head to look up toward your left thumb. Hold here and breathe freely in and out through your nose; smile.
  5. After two to five minutes here, inhale, lift up to stand.
  6. Exhale, turn your feet and reach your left hand down toward the left toe, reversing sides.

What ails you? If you have an ache or pain you think yoga could help, please contact Yogamama at, or post a question in the comment section below.

Karri Jinkins’s archetypes are Spiritual, Caregiver, and Athlete. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Jinkins has taught Ashtanga yoga and meditation for over 15 years, and you can take a class with her now at AYNY in New York City. She is also the co-owner of Yogamat Clothing, an eco-friendly, sweatshop-free line of activewear made in the USA. Find her on Twitter @karrijinkins.

Yogamama: Yoga on the Road

Yogamama: Yoga on the Road
Got highway fatigue? Here’s a quick routine to help.

By Karri Jinkins
It’s road trip season, and whether that means a couple of hours behind the wheel to get to a weekend house or a long cross-country trip, there is almost nothing worse for your back than sitting endlessly in a car. One of the most effective ways to feel better is to stretch. Here is a quick series (10 minutes max!) of yoga postures you can do in a parking lot or at a rest stop.

Modified Surya Namaskar (Basic head-to-toe stretch)
Stand with your feet together and inhale, reaching your arms to the sky until your hands touch over your head. Exhale, bending at the waist, and reach your hands to the ground. Inhale, and with your hands still toward the ground, lift your head. Exhale, relax your head back down. Inhale, stand up, and reach your hands to the sky again. Repeat at least three times.

Trikanasana (Triangle pose)
Move your feet about three to four feet apart and turn your right foot perpendicular to your left. Inhale, reach your arms apart, parallel to the ground. Exhale, reach your right hand down toward your right shin, ankle, or foot. Hold and breathe for five counts. Inhale, and stand back up. Exhale, and repeat the movements on the left.

Parsvokanasana (Extended side-angle pose)
Move your feet three to four feet apart, and turn your right foot perpendicular to your left. Inhale, and stretch your arms apart, as in the Trikanasana pose. Exhale, bend your right knee and place your right elbow on your knee as you stretch your left arm over your left ear (so that you are stretching the entire left side of your body, from your heel to your fingertips). Inhale, lift back up to stand. Exhale, and repeat on the left side.

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior pose)
Step three to four feet apart, and turn your right foot perpendicular to your left. Inhale, turn to the right, and bend your right knee as you reach both arms up above your head and square off your hips to face your right knee. Hold for five to 10 breaths. Exhale, turn, and repeat on the other side.

Utkatasana (Chair position)
Stand with your feet and knees together. Inhale and bend both knees as if you were going to sit in an invisible chair, and reach your arms to the sky. Bring your hands together and keep your knees and feet together. Take five to 10 breaths. Exhale, come back to standing upright with your hands at your side.

Karri Jinkins is a writer who teaches Ashtanga yoga. She is also the cofounder of Yogamat Clothing, Contact her at: [email protected].

Yogamama: On Yoga and Tension Headaches

Yogamama: On Yoga and Tension Headaches
How to om your way out of a killer headache

By Karri Jinkins
Thankfully, my last tension headache was a few years ago. When it hit, my son was only a few months old, and I wasn’t sleeping or practicing yoga regularly, which likely contributed to the headaches, though it is hard to be sure.

Historically, doctors suspected that muscle tightness in the jaw, neck, and scalp triggered tension headaches, but new theories suggest that they may be triggered by stress and changes in brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. In either case, yoga can be extremely beneficial, since it is recognized as an effective stress reducer, and can have a positive effect on brain chemistry. Here are three simple poses than can be helpful in easing your tension headache. Be sure to practice for at least ten minutes several times a week to prevent the headache from coming back.

1. Balasana (child’s pose). Begin on the floor with your knees apart and feet together. Stretch your arms forward, and rest your forehead on the floor as you gently push your hips back toward your heels. When you arrive at your point of resistance, stay there and breathe for ten to twenty slow, steady breaths in and out through the nose. If your forehead doesn’t reach the floor completely, stack pillows, blankets, or blocks on the floor until your forehead is supported.

2. Marjaryasana (cat pose): From child’s pose, slowly inhale and lift your head, and move forward with straight arms until your shoulders are above your wrists and your hips are above your knees. Exhale, round your spine, and tuck your chin in gently toward your chest as you draw your tailbone toward the ground. Carefully draw your navel up and in. Stay here and breathe for ten to twenty breaths in and out through the nose.

3. Adho Mukha Svanasana (down dog). From Bitilasana, or cow pose, exhale and slowly lift your knees off the floor and your hips toward the ceiling. Try not to move your hands or feet. Keep your knees bent at first, and get your hips as high as you can. If your hamstrings are very tight, keep the knees bent. If not, begin to straighten your legs, pressing your heels toward the floor, and use your arms to press your hips up and back. Let your head and neck relax and breathe in and out through the nose for ten to twenty breaths. If you would like a bit of movement in this position, lift your head slightly and arch your back as you inhale, and as you exhale round your spine and tuck your chin in slightly. After twenty breaths, lower your knees back to the floor with a slow exhale and return to Balasana.

Repeat the series of three poses.

Yogamama: The Benefits of a Good Back-Bend

Photographed by Luciana Pampalone
Yogamama: The Benefits of a Good Back-Bend
Working on your upward-facing bow doesn’t just strengthen your core — it helps you digest your lunch.

By Karri Jinkins
On most days that I teach a lunchtime yoga class, a chorus of grumbling bellies (including my own) announce their displeasure. As it turns out, there’s a pose for that. To aid digestion and help relieve gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation, the hands-down best pose would be the urdvha danurasana, or upward-facing bow. And the benefits of back-bending don’t stop there: the pose also stimulates the nervous system, thymus gland, and hormone production.

When practicing back-bending we are literally turning our insides out. We stretch the entire front of the body, which includes the muscles of the abdominal region that support and protect the digestive tract, and engage the core muscles that help stabilize the pelvic region. Hopefully while in the urdvha danurasana we are also practicing deep therapeutic breathing, which helps create heat that can further stimulate the metabolism. Here are a few simple steps to get you started.

1. Be sure your muscles have been warmed up with other poses before attempting a back-bend.

2. Lie on your back and take a few deep and relaxing breaths, inhaling and exhaling through the nose. When you’re ready, position your feet about hip-distance apart and sink through your knees to the point that your heels are very close to your hips.

3. Next, raise your arms up and back and place the palms of your hands on the floor near or under your shoulders.

4. As you inhale, lift your hips off the floor (if you happen to be a beginner, feel free to stay right there and breathe, working on pressing your feet against the floor while using your core muscles to lift your hips and chest so that you roll up onto your shoulders).

5. If you’re more advanced and want to go deeper, use your arms to raise your shoulders until you can gently rest the top of your head on the floor. From here, again, as you inhale, begin to straighten your arms and lift your chest toward the ceiling until you are in a full arch. It is essential to breathe at this point and engage the core muscles, or as we call them in yoga, your “bandhas.”

6. Exit this pose slowly. First, lower the top of your head back to the floor, then tuck your chin toward your chest so you can slowly lower yourself onto your shoulders. Gradually the entire spine can return to rest on the floor.

7. After back-bending, a forward bend is a great counterbalance, but before you sit up and do that, draw your knees to your chest as you lie on your back. This will help release some of the back muscles that were contracted while executing the urdvha danurasana.

Karri Jinkins’ archetypes are Spiritual, Caregiver, and Athlete. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin, she is a writer, has taught Ashtanga yoga and meditation for over 15 years, and is the cofounder of Yogamat Clothing, an eco-friendly, sweatshop-free line of activewear made in the USA. Jinkins enjoys many things other than yoga, not all of which are necessarily good for you. Contact her at: [email protected] or find her on twitter @karrijinkins.

Yogamama: Oh! My Aching Back

Yogamama: Oh! My Aching Back
Four positions that will relieve lumbar pain and strengthen your core

By Karri Jinkins
Almost every week in my yoga classes I have at least one student who tells me they have lower back pain; last week there were five! Through my 15 years of teaching yoga and working with many different body types I have noticed that much of this back pain stems from three specific causes: weak core strength, tight hamstrings, and tight hip flexors.

In the West we are married to comfort, and we believe comfort means sitting on our behinds, even though it probably is the most unnatural resting pose for the human body (which is why some do their work standing up). There certainly plenty of research and funding that goes into creating that perfect chair so one can sit at a desk and work for hours on end (while typing this, I happen to be sitting cross-legged on the floor), but the goal will always be elusive, as long as we have spines.

Yoga can offer relief, with an easy and effective regimen, consisting of a 15-minute series of four postures that strengthen core muscles. Repeat as many times as you like, daily, and within a week you should notice substantial relief.

Bitilasana/Marjaryasana (cow and cat)
Begin on your hands and knees with your shoulders above your wrists and hip above your knees. Inhale, raise your head, chin, and tailbone toward the ceiling. Exhale, round your spine, and tuck your chin in gently as you draw your tailbone toward the ground. Draw your navel up and in gently.

Adho Mukha Svanasana (down dog)
From neutral position in cow and cat, exhale, slowly lift your knees off the floor, and lift your hips toward the ceiling. If your hamstrings are very tight, keep knees bent. If not, straighten your legs a bit and bring your gaze toward your upper thighs. Gently use your arms to press your hips up and back.

Plank Pose
Start from neutral position in cow and cat. Walk your knees back about 12 inches. Keeping your arms straight, inhale, leaning your chest forward so you feel weight in your hands and arms, and your chest will be lifted. If you feel comfortable and strong here, exhale, lift your knees off the floor, and straighten your legs so you become straight and strong, and you will feel length from the crown of your head through your hips to your heels. You should engage your core muscles and legs here, so the weight of your body is evenly distributed as you press against the floor with your hands and feet.

Shalabasana (locust)
Lower yourself onto your stomach from plank pose and rest. Bring your hands to your sides with your palms facing up. Inhale, raise your head, chest, and feet off the floor. Keep your legs straight and try to keep knees together. Hold this pose and breathe 5 to 10 breaths and exhale, then relax back onto your stomach with legs and head down. If this is too challenging for you, lift just one leg at a time with the chest and head and alternate sides. After you build your strength, begin lifting both legs simultaneously.

Karri Jinkins’s archetypes are Spiritual + Caregiver + Athlete. She has taught Ashtanga yoga and meditation for over 15 years, and is the cofounder of Yogamat Clothing, an eco-friendly, made-in-the-USA and sweatshop-free line of activewear. She enjoys many things other than yoga, not all of which are necessarily good for you. Contact her at: [email protected] or find her on twitter @karrijinkins.

Yogamama: Yoga is Not a Cure All

Photo: Gallery Stock

Yogamama: Yoga Is Not a Cure All
Diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, Yogamama makes a few lifestyle concessions.

By Karri Jinkins
As a “yogi” and a longtime vegetarian, I have always prided myself on my health. I practice ashtanga daily, have a low resting heart rate, have avoided Type 1 diabetes, which both my father and sister developed at a young age, and don’t even drink coffee. So when I was diagnosed in 2007 with Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid, I was devastated. In spite of all my precautions, there I was at 37 with an awful condition that would make me fat, lethargic, and sick unless I took medication every day. Forever. I had arrived at the exact spot I had spent my life avoiding.

The fact was, I hadn’t felt perfectly healthy for a few years. It was nothing dramatic or specific, but more of a gradual feeling of exhaustion and achy joints that I chalked up to working too much, staying out too late, and getting up too early. Once I learned about my Hashimoto’s, I was determined to reverse the disease through my yoga practice and diet — a vow that, sadly, didn’t work. Through an acupuncturist friend, I met with a doctor in Stamford, Connecticut who practiced natural and alternative medicine. He discovered that I also had low iron and a couple other complications, prescribed a natural thyroid medication, put me on some supplements, and suggested a special gluten-free diet that included fish.

I began feeling like an absolute failure. How could I be a “yogi” and yoga teacher if I was not a perfectly healthy vegetarian? How could I take medicine made from desiccated pig thyroid? The diagnosis and treatment ran contrary to my ahimsa lifestyle, which is built on showing kindness to all living things. But eventually I came to terms with my new reality. A dear friend suggested that every morning I bless the medication and food I was about to ingest, because without them, I would not have my health. I embraced this approach, and after just a week on the regime I was feeling much better. Best of all, I was stronger and had fewer aches and pains, so my yoga and meditation practice began improving.

Today I am my old self: Hale and hearty, I run after my three-year-old all day, work and play, and generally feel happy. I did read recently about a possible alternative therapy for autoimmune diseases that involves a 30-day Panchakarma, or mind-body healing experience, in Kerala, India. So I still have hope that one day I will be able to come off the medication and return to being a vegetarian. Perhaps I’ll even be a vegan next time around!

Yogamama: Guru Knows Best

Tempted to take a break from your yoga routine? There are actually certain days when ladies shouldn’t practice.

Photo: Getty Images

Yogamama: Guru Knows Best

Why you might just benefit from a ladies’ holiday

When I began practicing Ashtanga, some 15 years ago, one mantra that helped me through difficult poses was a classic feminist rallying cry: “Girls can do anything boys can do, only better.” While learning a difficult new pose (like ) that seemed to require strength I didn’t have, I would repeat this mantra to myself as I tried again and again. And finally, I’d be able to lift myself off the floor as well as the man to my left.

When I practiced in India for the first time, my guru, , didn’t seem to endorse my mantra a hundred percent. I was stunned, for instance, when he told me not to practice on “ladies’ holiday.” What was “ladies’ holiday”? A day devoted to shopping or relaxing at the spa? When I discovered that it referred to days of menstruation I was confused, and decided this must stem from traditional Brahmin attitudes toward women and menstruation. And yet in most things, Jois was quite modern. He had, for example, abandoned the tradition of teaching men only quite early on. What’s more, , his term for menstruation, was far from archaic; it meant “downward-moving energy and elimination.” Still, I decided to disregard what I saw as discriminatory advice, and continued to power through the practice during “ladies’ holiday.”

But after the first month in India passed, I missed my period. This was very convenient in some ways, albeit troubling in others. After returning to New York and missing three more cycles, I finally decided Jois might know best and began to adhere to his dictum. Within a few months, my period returned, and brought my depleted energy back with it. I did some research and found that many yoga teachers and doctors agreed with Jois, saying that yoga, or at least some inverted poses like the shoulder stand or headstand, should not be practiced while menstruating heavily. Some doctors even believed it might cause  and in the uterus. One thing my own experimentation showed beyond a doubt is that if I practiced yoga while menstruating, it zapped my energy, increased my flow, and made my period last longer than normal.

Now I feel privileged to have a monthly three-day break from my practice. And besides, just because women can do anything men can do, only better, that doesn’t mean we have to. Does it?

Yogamama: Finding my Self

Yogamama: Finding my Self

Sometimes physical clutter can impede our journey within.

It has been 13 years since I visited Swamiji, in India, for advice on how to find my true self and to give it a louder voice in my daily life. He recommended that I “practice dying every day” as a tool for getting to know my self better — mainly through spiritual endeavors such as meditation and daily yoga practice (both of which I have done regularly since then). Occasionally I also experience this “daily dying” by drinking too much or through sleep deprivation. Most recently it was by moving apartments.

This wasn’t just moving. It was downsizing from 2,000 square feet to less than 1,200. I was forced to give up a lot of my stuff: clothing, electronics, bath products, handbags, furniture, artwork, books. I had collected so much over the four years in the apartment that it was no wonder I have had so much difficultly finding my self lately.

It was difficult to let go in some cases. Some things had sentimental value, some things were quite valuable, and some had been given to us, such as a beautiful handcrafted 12-person dining table. Having this table meant that I could invite 10 people for a dinner party and we could all laugh and eat and drink together. But in giving it up I have realized that in all the time spent living in the apartment, we had never had five people over for dinner, let alone 10. And I actually don’t even like entertaining (or cooking), for that matter.

My new motto is: less stuff, more self. In fact, I’m still trying to talk my husband into putting everything we have in storage except our beds, so I won’t have any daily distractions.

Yeah, right.