Category: Arm Strengthening Practices

Episode 26 – “Fishy Yoga Transitions”

All bodies are different.  If this is news to you, I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in.

Really though, they are.  And not even just the skinny/thick/tall/short kind of different.  Our bones are all different lengths and proportions to each other.  The range of motion to our skeletal structures varies so greatly that it’s pretty much impossible to say that a transition or the alignment of a pose is going to work great for two people (or all twenty or however many are in one yoga class).

Have you ever wondered “What’s wrong with me?” when offered a transition cue that you just can’t seem to master no matter how much you try?  We’ve all probably had those moments.  A lot of times its just because we’re still teaching our bodies proper movement and alignment and building up the strength and one day it will come.  Something will click, and it will click when it is good and ready for clicking.

But sometimes it’s not ever going to “just click” because your body might not be set up to click that way.

I honestly don’t know anyone who can step a foot through to a lunge from down dog without moving their palms from the floor.  Up onto fingertips instead of palms, sure, but keeping the palms flat is almost sure to leave you with a foot only halfway forward.  This leads to unnecessarily short warriors and lunges and, if you’re not careful, a lot of frustration.

It takes a lot of core strength to step that foot forward – deep deep transverse muscle engagement, down into the psoas actually.  If you’re new in your practice, or not super flexible in lunges, then you’re going to benefit a lot from just grabbing your ankle and scooching your foot up to where you really want it.  And good grief, just take your back knee down if you need to!  Do whatever works.  It’s called a practice – it’s always a practice, never a perfect and it never needs to be that.

Also, creasing your forehead up in knots and thinking expletives in aggravation at yourself does nothing to help this step through.  Just sayin’.   Grab your damn ankle and smile about it.

But even if you have  the most ripped functional core muscles this side of the Ganges, and a long flexible lungs, the length of your bones might be preventing you from executing this step through.  If you (like me) have the same length (or longer) to your lower leg than you do for your arm, it’s just not gonna happen unless you create more space.  Make your arm longer – come up onto fingertips.  Maybe you have such a long shin bone you need to move your hand all the way off the ground.  That’s cool man – do it. Own it.

(By the way, it’s the same arm as leg that you’ll probably be adjusting for the step-through.  Just to be clear.)

One day, you might find yourself taking a class with an instructor who says that you should try to challenge yourself and keep the whole palm on the floor.  So hey, try it.  Maybe you’ve built up more core strength and mobility and you could be closer to accomplishing that.  Maybe you don’t have to come as high on your fingertips as you thought… maybe the whole thing becomes an uncomfortable collision that gets your foot nowhere.  That’s cool.  Maybe that teacher has really long arms and short shins, and they aren’t aware of the difficulties that others have.

Real talk — I was amazed when I started teaching that child’s pose was a challenge for many people.  I had no idea.  Our experiences dictate our perception, and we all gotta learn sometime.  It’s not to say a teacher’s not a good teacher if they haven’t adjusted their cueing for these sorts of things.  They’ve probably got a lot of other good stuff to offer you.  Unless of course, they don’t.  In which case you find another teacher next time I hope.  I know I’m not the right teacher for a lot of people, and I’ve definitely taken a lot of classes with a teacher who wasn’t right for me.  These things happen.  Trial and error is a part of what helps us find our tribe.

Anyways, I digress.

Try removing the giraffe from the refrigerator next time you try sticking an elephant in there.  And if that makes no sense to you, you should watch this video.

Cheers, yo!

-*- Namaste -*-



Episode 24 – “Really Uncomfortable Things”

Hard things are kind of funny aren’t they?  When you can’t do them, they’re really hard.  And then, after working and practicing and trying and failing and falling… one day you can do the hard thing.

Not to say it gets easier, necessarily.  It just gets more familiar.  I think a lot of hard things stay hard, we just get used to what we need to do to get through them.  Like heartbreak and loss, like doing your own taxes or getting a group of people to decide where to meet for dinner.

When I first came to yoga I could barely lower myself to the ground from plank with any sense of control… or dignity.  Passing through chaturanga?  Forget about it!  But, since I was totally hooked on the whole yoga thing, I kept coming back to classes and before I knew it my push ups were cleaner, and eventually chaturanga became a familiar part of the practice.

And then, a few more years into my practice, my teacher began bringing us through more advanced transitions – like this one.

Going from chaturanga to up-dog and then back through chaturanga to plank and then to down dog… yea I know, I get a little dizzy and green just typing all that out.

I fell the first time I tried it.  It hurt like crap the next couple times.  But I “stuck it in my back pocket” if you will and kept trying it out on days when I felt a bit strong.

One day though, it finally worked.  My muscles and my brain still scream at me “WHY DO YOU HATE US?” every time I do it… but I know it’s helping me get stronger and that the challenge helps me grow in this practice.

So let’s play with it together, eh?  And then this week you can just go and leave me a bunch of comments asking why I hate you (I don’t) to make you do this (I didn’t – remember how this is your practice and you can modify any time you like?) and why doesn’t it work perfectly for you (it doesn’t have to).  Then share this with all of your friends to torture *ahem* challenge and intrigue them.  And after, to celebrate, you can do your taxes together.  Or… maybe that would be the time to determine what you should do for dinner together.  Anyways, watch this, do this, enjoy!

Cheers, yo!

-*- Namaste -*-



Episode 20 – “Crow is Awesome”

So I was on another TEDtalk watching kick, and there was a talk by Jill Shargaa that really stood out to me and got me thinking.  It was about the word “awesome” and how we generally misuse it.

And by “we” I totally mean “me, too.”  Then again, if you’ve ever read this blog or seen a video before, you already know that.  So I’m trying to do better, trying to use “awesome” when it’s actually appropriate.  According to, awesome is supposed to describe something that inspires admiration and/or fear… that is, something that inspires a state of awe.

I’m totally with Jill, for the most part.  I mean, yeah, in all likelihood whatever you had for lunch was definitely not truly “awesome”.  Jill goes into a list of things that do qualify as awesome, according to her, and as she worked her way through her list I started to disagree with her.

For instance, sharks were on her list for being fierce creatures at the top of the food chain.  However, I know that sharks have their flaws as creatures too (their mouths are in really ineffective places to actually eat or maim people) and I also don’t live in or near the ocean, so they’re not really on my radar of “things to fear”.

Realizing this got me thinking about perspective.  After all, we all have different experiences and opinions on things.  What one person finds admirable or scary isn’t going to inspire the same response in someone else.

And even if we’re going back to using the word “incorrectly” I still don’t want everyone else to think the same things that I do are totally awesome.  I like seeing my favorite bands in small, intimate venues for $10 at the door, rather than dishing out hundreds to scalpers for sold out arenas.  I want the food I like not to sell out at the grocery store. I want to be able to stretch my legs at the park nearest my house rather than everyone in the city deciding its the best one and crowding around.  Differences in opinion and tastes make life not only interesting but, honestly, bearable.

You know what most of us can probably agree on, though?

Yoga is awesome.

That’s right — even if we’re not using slang, yoga qualifies as awesome.  There’s a lot of admiration for the things that we achieve in our practice (and seeing what others can achieve, yay for inspiration) .  And there’s probably at least a little bit of fear, amiright? (If there’s no fear in your practice, we should talk!)

Why is yoga so awesome?  Well, partially because it brings change.  Change is scary.  But change is also pretty cool, because we are challenged and find growth in change.

Crow definitely qualifies as an awesome pose in yoga.  There’s the whole face planting potential, but also the potential that you can suspend the body so very elegantly (or precariously) in that distinctive arm balance.  We’ll work on crow a bit in this practice, including a modification I really enjoy.

I also made up a pretty sweet soundtrack for this practice.  Click right here to open up a playlist of Joy Division that will play in the background while you do all of this awesome yoga (you should also be able to click the link directly in the video).

Don’t forget to leave me some comments — I still haven’t heard anything from people about whether or not this new “click on a soundtrack if you want it” scenario is working out.  Also, what do you wanna listen to next week?  What moves do you wanna work on next week?  Talk to me!

But right now, join me on the mat, it’s gonna be awesome 😉


Cheers, yo!

-*- Namaste -*-





Episode 19 – “Hands-On Self-Study”

Hey Yo!

So, last week I promised some chaturanga/hand positioning work, and here it is!  I have more… much more… but I figure it could be more fun to space it out into future weeks and build piece by piece.

Ever do the chaturanga vinyasa in mid-air?  We’ll start off with that (it’s not as crazy as it sounds!) and then do a whole bunch of vinyasas, repeating poses so that we can revisit them and keep getting used to the experience of each shape.  Returning to shapes, returning to a familiar experience so that we can get really in touch with how our body greets each pose.

Because that’s important knowledge!  Knowing our bodies, our selves, that’s important stuff.  For example, I know I have long limbs and a tendency to feel disconnected from them as a result of that.  So I have to focus on engaging my whole body in strong poses because I tend to leave pieces out.  (My feet are almost 6 feet from my brain, man, thats a long way to stay focused.)

Brian Little gave an awesome TEDtalk about how knowing the details of our personalities helps us to deal effectively with our lives.  You should watch it, it’s right here.  (In case you haven’t guessed, I’m pretty high up there on the OCEAN scale… )

But first, do some yoga with me.  It’ll be fun!

AND as a major bonus, you can do it to a soundtrack of music from “my boyfriend” Tommy Rodgers from Between the Buried and Me.

[Disclaimer: Tommy Rodgers is NOT my boyfriend. He’s got a rad lady and a sweet little boy and probably no idea that I exist but the teenage girl inside of me doodles initials and hearts and “4eva”s inside of my brain because his voice is gorgeous and the music he creates is golden, he doesn’t eat meat and he once gave an interview saying he doesn’t wanna grow up, so, yeah….]

Anyways, his solo project is Thomas Giles and his more recent albums are pretty rad so you should check them out. There’s a link in the video for the soundtrack so you can click it at the right time but if you wanna check it out on its own then it’s right here on my YouTube channel.

So, yeah!  Yoga!  Self-Study!  Spending some time getting handsy! I can’t wait.  You probably can’t wait either, so go hit play and move with me and jam with me and then tell me all about how you love this new soundtrack format (you know, rather than the old way where it was right in the video… do you still like it?)

Cheers, yo!

-*- Namaste -*-






Episode 16 – “The Mirror Before the Window”

Like many Americans, my heart is breaking for the events of the past few days.  The shootings of black men, of police officers, the hateful outcries, the heartbreak of the victims’ families… it’s all been so much to bear.

I had an interesting experience in dealing with all of these emotions on Thursday after filming this episode.

As I mention in the video, the inspiration for this week’s focus is coming from this week’s soundtrack artist Lycanthrope, specifically their track “Self Worth”.  The lyrics were really moving to me.  They’re basically a string of phrases that I believe in very strongly — happiness comes from inside, we’re responsible for our own lives and successes, and also that we need to be sure we’re right within ourselves in order to live well in the rest of the world.  It’s some pretty heavy music (which you should go check out on their Bandcamp RIGHT NOW!) but the message to that track in particular was really uplifting.

Anyways, Thursday I went into my afternoon class sick with a heavy heart over the events of the previous 48 hours.  I thought, since we were working on the primary Ashtanga series, and most of my students were pretty familiar with the shapes, I would read excerpts of Thich Naht Hahn’s “Inside the Now: Meditations on Time”.  I hadn’t told stories or read during classes in a while, and students have always commented they enjoy when I do, so I figured it would be a good time to bring it back and liven up the room.

This turned out to be a huge mistake.

Every poem and excerpt I chose seemed to be focused on violence and waiting and struggle.  It was torture for me to read, and I felt so much worse by the time class was over.  I can’t imagine how my class felt.  Probably not as bad as I was projecting, I’m sure, but it definitely wasn’t the cheeriest hour I’ve spent in their company.  Thankfully I was able to let it go, and received a few statements of thanks for the softer environment of class.

When I went into my evening class I was prepared to choose some more light-hearted excerpts and a brighter perspective for reading, but I was in for a pretty big surprise.

My community center classes are pretty consistent in numbers and attendees.  I work with mostly the same group of people every week and I’m rather familiar with their practices and their bodies.  Thursday night, however, I watched a large group of newcomers walk into the room, many of them clearly very unfamiliar with setting up a mat and unsure of what was to come.

So I set the book down.  I announced to the group the same pain in my heart, but then I thanked them all for being there so that we could share the time, energy, and practice of compassion and self-love.  And over the next hour, rather than digging a trench in the sadness in my own head-space, I invested in my teaching and connecting with others.  I focused on providing the best guidance and instruction I was capable of giving to that room, and together we created a space of positivity, connection, and self-care through self-awareness.  I got right with my duty as a teacher without getting into the fluff of reciting poetry.

After all, it’s not that we should look in the mirror and never out the window.  There’s a beautiful world out there.  Especially our own backyards – our closer community, where we can continue to build up connection and keep each other in balance.

So yes, we need to be responsible for our selves.  We need to be sure we’re right within ourselves, but that doesn’t make us separate from others.  Separatism is a fallacy.  We’re all connected.  We all share the same desire and capacity for joy and belonging.  So, in times such as these when we may feel that joy and belonging are lacking, that love is being forgotten in the midst of hate and blame, maybe we can focus more on remembering how much good there is.  How much happiness and connection and good work we can create when we work together.  Teachers and students, minorities and allies, citizens and governments.

Enjoy spending this time with your practice, perhaps getting into your body and out of your head for a while.  Then go lean out the window (or, you know, walk out the door) and share some joy and connection with someone else after you find it within yourself.  Because we all need a little more of that – there never seems to be enough.

Cheers, yo!

-*- Namaste -*-






Episode 12 – “Turn your body and Cough”

Dude. DUDE. I’m so excited!

Alt Life Yoga Online has just gotten a major overhaul!  I’m starting to get permission from musicians and their record labels to use their awesomeness to improve upon this awesomeness so that we can all do yoga and rock the heck out at the same time.  How sweet is that?!?

Starting this week, we’re kicking out the jams, yo!

In honor of the first artists and first label to respond to me, we’re starting off with Cough from Relapse Records and some tracks off their latest album “Still They Pray”.  Check out the whole thing here on their Bandcamp:

I actually play lots of artists like Cough at my Doom Metal Yoga class here in Portland, Oregon.  If you have a chance to swing on by on a Monday night, we have a sludgy good time and would love to have you join us.

There’s so much awesome sauce all over the place here I can hardly contain myself.  So we’re just focusing on the movement and the music this week.  Yea, I know, no “dharma”.  Or, ok, here’s my dharma:

Just move dude, it’s good for you.


Wanna get a hand in future goings on here?  Tell me what you wanna hear!  Leave comments!  Tell me if you know of (or are IN) an awesome band that I should feature in coming weeks.  I will also gladly wear your band’s t-shirt on the episode and all around town.  (I have the figure of a 12 year old boy stretched out almost 6 feet tall if you haven’t noticed, so yeah, a “small” would be great.)  It doesn’t have to be doom metal like Cough, I love punk rock and classic rock and acoustic and all kinds of sweet stuff.  Let’s connect, yo!  And let me know what you’re not a huge fan of, too.  I’m working on the technological aspects of this stuff but your thoughts and opinions and advice are always welcome.  I’m doing this for y’all, after all.

Oh of course, don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss out on all of the yoga jams to come.  You can join the email list, too, and get a weekly update with new episodes and an up-to-date schedule for the week’s classes.

Alright, less yada yada, more yoga (and metal!).  Let’s do this!






Here’s the full episode….

This week I’ve only put out two separate shorts, just the warmup…

And just the fancy messing around with side plank – enjoy!

Episode 7 – “Burning Candles, Lips and Buildings”

Happy Birthday to me! Also Happy Birthday to my roommate and bestie, Lex ^.^  We’re going to the park by the river this weekend because it is supposed to be 80* and sunny (in Portland! I know, right?) and I get to wear a bikini on my birthday which I’m pretty sure has never happened.

It’s little things like that — sunshine and a park and a bikini — that really make me happy.  I don’t need a huge fancy get-away, grand fancy parties or an epic adventure.  True joy is found in the smaller things, the “life” moments that pop up in between.

Since my roommate and I share a birthday, she has been talking for the past year about planning some giant destination vacation for us to celebrate together.  She had spent some time on Costa Rica and wanted to return with me for “a good two weeks or so”.

Now, I’m all about travel but I’m usually a bang-it-out-in-a-weekend kind of traveller.  I have a hard time leaving work behind for too long.  Admittedly, I’m a bit of a workaholic, but in my defense, my job is awesome.  So as the time drew nearer and it was clear we didn’t have the time or resources to plan 2 weeks so far away, we started to throw around a week in Mexico, then a weekend in Vegas or LA, and that became a weekend at her sister’s in Eugene which evolved into an overnight on the coast.  Now here we are heading to the park, and we’ve adjusted to be totally happy with this decision as well.  Sometimes it’s fun to just dream up an adventure – even if it turns out to be in your own backyard.  You know, making the most of the hand you’ve been dealt and all that jazz.

Even though the changes to our travel plans didn’t phase me, I had to practice a lot of letting-go with some other things over the past few days and those things ended up turning out pretty well. That blister from the breakfast spatula is healing up pretty well (I was making a vegan omelette and I’m pretty blond, stuck the spatula in my mouth… Never heard of a vegan omelette?  You need to follow me on Pinterest!).  It’s also my second birthday/mother’s day (they’re always right next to each other) without my mom.  She was supposed to come out this year but got tied up with work.  Even better than her visiting for a day or two, now my parents are bringing me back to Detroit to spend a long weekend in the middle of summer as a birthday present!  More days, more loved ones, and have you been to Michigan in the summer?  It’s awesome!  And my parents have a boat, I totally miss being out on the water.  I’m a pretty lucky girl.

I also have to be honest, it was really hard for me to film this episode.  I did so much subbing this week that I was pretty burned out and not really feeling into it.  I almost gave up halfway through and just posted a stock episode I had saved up for such an occasion.  If it hadn’t been my birthday this week and I wanted to geek out on that, I would have just stopped.  I’m glad I didn’t – I started to get on a roll eventually and ended up getting this whole thing filmed and edited in 2.5 hours. That’s pretty good for how new I am to this still, and I’m fairly pleased with myself!

Wanna do something awesome for my birthday? Click here to leave a comment on the YouTube channel, and subscribe while you’re there so that you get updates about future episodes.  I’m still working on shorter sections of episodes, there might even be an update on this page soon to break this one up — stay tuned!

Cheers, yo!
-*- Namaste -*-


Episode 1 – “Why is a crow like a unicycle?

Video Edit Screenshot

Slightly terrifying uncharted territory

Well, after weeks of deliberation and preparation, a solid hour of anxiety and doubt trying to talk me out of hitting “record”, a whole bunch of really bad out-takes (including a wicked crash-and-burn), and a lot less frustration during the editing process than I would have suspected… here it is!  Alt Life Yoga has officially launched a (hopefully) weekly video blog series.

Editing, getting this thing going, filming it, posting that it’s available — these were all super scary things, but I’m so glad I did them! I got this thing started, I began the practice of reaching out to people online and bringing yoga to them, and it’s only gonna get better from here, right? I hope? I’m sure it will.

Check it out, and check it out on YouTube! Subscribe to my channel and rave about how awesome or terrible you think this was and make requests for the next episode, and then share it and tell all your friends.  I’d love your suggestions as to how this could become a better program.  I’m working on it.  Baby steps.  Like on a unicycle.  Which makes more sense after you watch the video…

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