Dolphin Love

Dolphin Pose. Fish River, Alabama, August 2015. Photo: LBuffett & MBuffett
Dolphin Pose. Fish River, Alabama, August 2015. Photo: LBuffett & MBuffett

This weekend while paddle boarding with my mother and her sweetheart on Fish River in Lower Alabama, dolphins appeared and swam beside us.  It was an extraordinary blessing and reminder that all sentient beings are essentially bonded to and by

Nature, Spirit, and Love.

In their honor I did a variation of dolphin pose on my board.

“Dolphins have a wise, innocent, purity of being which reaches out to our inner nature. Follow their lead and open yourself to the energy of love, harmony, and balance. Express your inner truth, be true to yourself. Follow your inner joy. Dolphin is asking you to go back to your roots, to the depths of your being and rediscover the love that you truly are.
Dolphins spend most of their day playing. Their life is lived in joyful harmony with each other and their world. Apparently they have learned the lesson that love is the most important factor in life.
Dolphin wisdom includes – knowledge of the sea, change, patron of sailors, harmony, balance, communication skills, freedom, trust, understanding the power of rhythm in your life, water element magic, unselfishness.
Dolphin reminds us to get out, play, breathe and most importantly to love.”
-from, Dolphin Power Animal, by Ina Woolcoat

silence is hOMe

Beach Sitting. Fairhope AL, January 2013. Photo: MBuffett

The practice of mindfulness is very simple. 

You stop, you breathe, and you still your mind. 

You come home to yourself so that you can enjoy the here and now in every moment. 

All the wonders of life are already here. They’re calling you. If you can listen to them you will be able to stop running. What you need, what we all need, is silence. Stop the noise in your mind in order for the wondrous sounds of life to be heard.  Then you can begin to live your life authentically and deeply.

-from Silence by Thich Nhat Hanh

YogiPod Blog: PEACE DOGS!

My grandmother would call Bear and Reggie (my beloved rescue dogs, and two of the main characters in my own play of life) joyfully rambunctious. At leash time, which happens twice a day, they literally lose their ever-loving minds with excitement. This morning was no different. They were swirling around me in circles, drooling uncontrollably, appearing more like ‘hyper-kinetic swaths and swooshes of Black and Gold’ than the ‘good boys’ I constantly brag on. If I try to move around with the intention of catching one to place his leash on—it just creates more chaotic energy and I too am chasing my tail in tiny tight circles in the living room. This dance can be fun (occasionally) but only to a certain degree. Most of the time it is not a pretty sight to behold. Back to the daily dog walk…I have learned that if I become super earthy in my feet, stand with Mountain Pose awareness in my legs, initiate a few mindful Ujjayi breaths, and connect with my own center still point, the dogs come and sit at my feet and allow me to leash them. I now realize that this desired sequence of events is not random (as if it’s all just a game of luck-not), and that I can, through a set of sequential actions recreate the scenario day after day. This is yoga off the mat! I am grateful for daily my yoga practice on the mat that helps me to remember my center, connect with it, be still within it, allow and observe the natural course of things to unfold, and then to respond skillfully. When movement and action originate from that place of stillness and clarity, then I am operating from a level of oneness with Nature. The dogs feel it, I feel it, and we are literally connected by it. Now I can’t wait to get on my mat to practice it! PEACE DOGS!

Best Friend Yoga

Last week I spent 5 days studying Anusara Yoga with John Friend in Cambridge, MA—a 3-day teacher’s intensive and two days of observing and practicing asana classes. I arrived in Boston admittedly depleted from several months of non-stop teaching, definitely needing to ‘receive’ teachings for my own benefit and restoration as well as to further advance in my understanding of the Anusara method to continue to be a good teacher to my students. The 36 hours of training were all that I was expecting and more. Being surrounded by 150-160 yoga students every day, practicing and learning the high arts of asana, pranayama, meditation, and philosophy- mat to mat under the guidance and watchful eye of a masterful teacher is the kind of stuff I live for. John Friend is truly wonderful. In the sea of students in front of him, from 30 feet away, he gave me a verbal adjustment cue of ¼” hand placement movement which opened up an easeful channel of breath and energy in my whole body and pose. This was just one of the many of his simply amazing gestures of guidance over the week. His presentation of the teachings of the Shiva Shakti Tantra was simultaneously playful and serious. The language of which is foreign to me, but the concepts universally and intuitively insightful. I feel lit up, ultimately balanced, and so excited about living life to the fullest!

I spent the week in Boston without an internet connection (that at first caused me panic, then became a liberating situation) practicing hours of asana everyday. My body/mind loves and needed that. I do not take for granted that it was SUCH a luxury. It has been a slow re-entry back into the routine of householder and small business owner. There is a lot of ‘catch-up’ and work to tend to. And I am figuring out how to take the teachings out of the Masonic Hall in ‘The People’s Republic of Cambridge’ (home of Harvard and MIT among other brainiac institutes) and into my Yoga Birds world in Fairhope, Alabama.

I have come away from the week with heightened awareness of what is meaningful in my life—love and relationships topping the list– and how to cultivate more sensitivity in all of my friendships…at home, at work, and most importantly in myself. I reconnected with my BFF and look forward to practicing with more self-sensitivity, which will reflect in and support all of my actions off the mat. ‘Cuz that’s the way it’s always been with me and my friend, yoga.

Grateful Day

The past several weeks of work have been a whirlwind. The activities of covering the schedule of daily classes at the studio to presenting the whole weekend of Teacher Training to running the ‘behind the scenes’ nuts and bolts of a small business have left me admittedly a bit depleted. It is funny though, when I am in the actual moments of teaching, I feel exhilarated and excited like a deeper energy is welling up and directing the course. One of the cooler things too is that while it is happening, I am fully aware of my witness consciousness’ awareness of it. Awareness of awareness. I always heard about this phenomenon, and now I am actually experiencing it on a regular basis. I cannot help but think this insightfulness is a cause de the more frequent and consistent sitting meditation sessions.

But then there are the times lately, outside of the classroom when dealing with important responsibilities of daily life…taking care of family, dogs, house keeping, bill paying, eating healthfully, and taking care of myself. Oops. It seems that I find myself in a state of imbalance. Not enough sleep, too much coffee, an enormous pile of laundry… But I think this happens to so many of us in our go-getter, attainment-oriented, career driven culture. I am re-reading Eat Pray Love (which is hysterical, insightful, entertaining, and just plain fun) and laughed out loud at this line:

“Of course, we all inevitably work too hard, then we get burned out and have to spend the whole weekend in our pajamas, eating cereal straight out of the box and staring at the TV in a mild coma (which is the opposite of working yes, but not exactly the same thing as pleasure).”

So I found myself in this state yesterday, and got a little worried because I know that I have another 6 days of work ahead of me- lots of teaching and book keeping, and house guest coming and a yoga workshop to host, and the house, and the groceries, and blahdeblahdeblahdeblah…

And then I remembered why I am doing all of this. Hatha yoga is a system, that when practiced skillfully, heals, energizes, brings us to our best selves, is fun, and creates community. Our area needs more yoga classes and therefore needs more trained yoga teachers. When I remember that it is all in service to the people and health of our community, I am re-energized. Then I remember that in a few short days, I too will get to be a student again in a classroom with my teacher. And then a week later I travel to study with John Friend, the leader of this fantastic Anusara Yoga that I love so dearly. I will be a student with other teachers who are out there working to bring the light of yoga into their communities. Practicing alongside them, sharing stories and experiences of our paths. The predictability of the energetic benefits of being a student once again jazzes me up and makes me excited to be in the midst of doing my dharma. And then I realize what a great gift and blessing it is to be so tired from THIS work. I am so so so blessed and grateful for this moment—every facet of it. And psyched beyond belief to be going to work to teach yoga at Yoga Birds this morning. Somebody pinch me! OM.

New School Energy

I love the energy of the beginning of the academic school year. Even though I haven’t been in ‘school’ in ages, I still reminisce about the smell of a brand new Wonder Woman lunchbox and the awesomeness of freshly sharpened pencils. But mostly I like the excitement in the air. It is contagious and feels full of new possibility.

This is a time of movement and change and progression. My husband teases me about my fetish of moving furniture around. But really, why not adhere to the energetic currents and change up a room every so often? This past week we re-vamped the design of the boutique and created a sweet little sitting area. It feels welcoming and comfortable and I foresee great conversations happening there. The studio has always felt like an extension of my home. It really is an expression of part of me. If you want to know me on a deeper level, and you think I seem ‘un-accessible’ (I have been called that and worse J ), next time you are in the studio, take a deeper look around at the details. And this is me! It is in my genetic code to entertain. Everyday at the studio feels like having guests at the house to practice yoga. I love keeping such great company at the little studio. Thanks for coming over so often!

So if you haven’t been to Yoga Birds in a while, get on the ‘back to school train’ and re-organize your schedule and body to prepare for a whole new world of possibilities in the coming season. Namaste Peace Love Joy and WonderWoman!

One Big Om

The mindfulness meditation sessions at Yoga Birds this week have used sound and hearing as the primary objects of attention. It’s a simple yet profound technique of sustaining awareness on the soundscape around you. It is no surprise that most of us lose a connection with sounds of the present moment to the volume of inner-mind noise. Just awakening my awareness to the ‘sounds of silence’ …the hum of the fridge, the chirping crickets, the car passing outside my window…all bring me back to a presence of this seat, this moment, this breath. My usual whirling (or more like howling) mind ceases. I feel infinitely spacious and light. A unique, contented, restful quality descends upon me that is akin only to sitting meditation. I want to practice this state of awareness as much as possible so that I might learn to LIVE with this spaciousness all (or I would even settle for most) of the time. It is just so wonderful. Come sit with me!

I am still reading and enjoying and being guided by the wisdom in Ruiz’ The Four Agreements. After meditation today I took pen to paper and jotted down the following…

Be Impeccable with your word. = Truth.

Don’t make assumptions. = Reality.

Don’t take things personally. = Compassion.

Always do your best. = Action.

Truth (Satya). Reality (Tattva). Compassion (Karuna.). Action (Karma.).


I think I have found my Mantra! Whoa. Life is BIG! OM!

Got Your Back!

This week in my Anusara-Inspired® Yoga classes we are working on progressive sequences to Eka Pada Urdhva Dhanurasana. This is a full backbend with straight arms and one leg extended. It is a BIG pose with beautiful lines, one of my all-time favorites.

Backbends are exhilarating. They bring lightness and vitality to the body/mind that ward off lethargy and depression tendencies. The physical emphasis is on opening the heart, lungs, and chest (not bending the back as deeply as possible, which is a common misconception about backbends). One of my other favorite backbends is the supported Bridge pose where the hips rest elevated on a yoga bolster. It is total Bliss and we do it all the time in my classes in Restorative Yoga or to cool down in a vigorous asana class.

Someone commented yesterday that she can straighten her arms in reverse table top, but can’t find straight arms in the full backbend. She is a highly intelligent woman with a very strong and consistent practice. She understands yoga, but her current ‘block’ in the backbends does not surprise me. Backbends come with a certain amount of healthy fear-for you can’t see where you are going. Part of her resistance is instinctual caution—a wise and good quality that smart people have! Backbends require cultivating a trust in knowing ‘what’s got your back’. This is where the elements of consistent practice and engaging fully with your foundation come in to play.

I joke about my journey into backbends—my work is in cultivating ‘healthy fear’ and more controlled skill. I was the kid who was just fine with the Nestea plunge, or diving backward into the water. I have had to work on being cautious and to not go so fast and deep into unknown or unseen territory (not just in backbends).

Everybody can enjoy the benefit of these wondrous poses because their primary purpose is to bring balanced vitality to the front and back sides of the body. And the real measure of success of practicing these poses is not by how deeply one can get into the backbend, but how much easier sitting and standing and walking with a firm and upright back becomes. And we can all use a healthy dose of that!

Seeing Each Other

Yesterday the Teacher Training group spent the last 40 minutes leading each other through Sun Salutations. It is the third time we have broken into small groups to practice teach. For some this is new territory, for others a familiar place, although a bit out of their comfort zone, as they apply new insights and teaching techniques to their current methods. I posted a photo album entitled “Seeing Each Other” on my facebook page of the transformational hour. Already there is a positive evolution of the state of affairs of yoga teachers in Lower Alabama. Please join me in an uplifting Hallelujah!

Back to the TT…as I observed everyone in the room practice teaching and as I listened to their words, I was touched most deeply by the obvious care everyone shares for their fellow student-friends. Our studies in the training continue to imprint the importance of ‘SEEING who is in front of you’ in a yoga class—I mean, like in the AVATAR kind of SEEING. And this is what I mean by a “student-oriented… “ yoga class in the Teacher Training Mission Statement:

Yoga Birds Teacher Training mission is to offer a course for serious students and aspiring professional teachers of yoga to deepen their knowledge in the areas of yoga history, philosophy, asana and pranayama technique, meditation, ethics, teaching methodology, and the business of yoga. Yoga Birds teaching style is a synthesis of the teachings of BKS Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois, TKV Desikachar, Judith Lasater, John Friend, Donna Farhi, and Leslie Kaminoff. Graduates of the program will gain new insights of Self through heightened studentship, find their unique voices as teachers, and have sufficient training and practice to impart a safe, student-oriented, appropriate, practical, skillful yet artfully sequenced, beneficial, and inspiring Western-style asana- yoga class. Ultimately in service to the improvement of health and well-being of the citizens of Lower Alabama.

For the skilled yoga teacher, this kind of observation of a person / yoga student means looking through eyes of compassion and ultimately reading the energy moment by moment from beginning to end of what is first and foremost SAFE, then appropriate, practical, skillfully/artfully sequenced and inspiring. And making that observation of EVERY class participant.

This is no small task! This kind of skillful observation of the the yoga student requires, an uninterrupted, full application of embodying your intention as a teacher, razor focused attention to details of the bodies and attitudinal qualities of your students, and a sustained connection to your mindful flow of skillful breath and language ( that would be intention, attention, and mindful breath which are by no coincidence, the hallmarks of a skillful asana yoga practice). Hence the importance of teachers to maintain a substantial yoga practice. That is the topic for a different post.

Back to the TT…what is becoming very clear to everyone in the training is that skillfully practicing asana and skillfully teaching asana are two completely different arenas. My method of teaching yoga teachers seeks to break the teacher’s habit of (or warding of the tendency to start) needing to do the asana practice alongside the students so as to know ‘what to say (or do) next”. If a teacher is doing the practice alongside the students he is not able to SEE his students. I think what I see happening in the group is that they are discovering how much easier the ‘right’ words come if they just address what they are SEEING instead of relying on a script of how they ‘think’ the situation should flow. What is amazing to watch is that once the trainees begin observing and SEEING while simultaneously teaching, they tap into a wellspring of infinite cueing details. And in the same manner that our asana practices ‘train’ us for skillfully living off the mat, I believe this first Yoga Teacher Training is helping us all SEE each other, our loved ones, and all our brothers and sisters outside of the yoga studio with a new skill… freshly awakened eyes of compassion.

I am just high on life as I think about what an amazing, dedicated, enthusiastic, open, and courageous group I have the honor of teaching! JAI! YES! RIGHT ON!

Elevating Experience

The Teacher Training students are just amazing! Yesterday we did a super-charged 3-hour practice progressively leading up to Eka Pada Galavasana. We were all completely drenched and it was wonderful! I am grateful, and impressed with the level of attention and dedication everybody brought to the table. I now realize that if it is my intention to raise the bar on the quality of yoga teaching in this area, then I am going to have to raise the bar on MY teaching! It is all a pulsation, right? I am so grateful for my teachers and consistent dedication to training on the Anusara path. I feel like the work I am doing as a dedicated student of Anusara IS making me a better, stronger, more clear instructor of yoga asana. And the Anusara method is just brilliant. The Universal Principles of Alignment that John Friend codified make even the most complex of poses more manageable and accessible. And although this Yoga Birds Teacher Training is definitely not an Anusara Teacher Training, the Asana Techniques part of the training is certainly heavily influenced by John Friend’s method.

This past week, was the first week of the new Fall schedule at Yoga Birds where I was able to name my classes Anusara-Inspired® Yoga (previously named Align & Flow). On the new schedule, I will be teaching the same class three times per week- Tuesday 9:15am, Wednesday 6:15pm, and Thursday 9:15am. Each of these sessions will be the same progressive sequence leading up to a pinnacle pose on the Level 2 Anusara Syllabus (poster is hanging in the studio). The pinnacle pose is meant to be a complex situation, and the progressive sequence leading up to it will break the challenge down into manageable, component parts and poses. By offering the same class 3 times, it is my hope that the folks who are interested in advancing in understanding and practice of STRONG, STABLE, and EXUBERANTLY JOYFUL asana will come and partake. (Next week we will foray into Eka Pada Urdhva Dhanurasana territory.) This teaching method is a great way to serve folks who want to advance in their asana practice. Of course its REALLY important that students have a confident understanding of the foundations of yoga asana and good relationships with their bodies before embarking on advanced asana. I am so grateful for the opportunities that I have to share my love of yoga with the Lower Alabama community and I am utterly nourished daily by the Namastes that I receive in return. Namaste Y’all!