Archives for the month of: February, 2013

I have a clear memory of the day I decided to try yoga. I was living in New Hampshire and took a trip to the video store in the local mall to see what they had. It was 1996. They had exactly 3 VHS tapes to choose from. Without a clue, I chose the one with Ali McGraw on the cover because she was photographed in the White Sands desert, dressed in a white leotard, serenely posed under a gorgeous blue sky. I wanted to look serene laying on hot white sand, so I bought it and brought it home.

The tape was called “Ali McGraw: Yoga, Mind, and Body”. I put the tape in the machine. I assumed she was going to be the instructor, but after her initial video introduction, she introduced the actual instructor. His name was (is) Erich Schiffmann. I loved his voice immediately. It was gentle and calm. The first thing he did was introduce me to Ujjayi breathing, which is commonly used during practice. We started with cat/cow and puppy pose before beginning sun salutations.

I think I got through one or two sun salutations before losing my patience. I thought “fuck this”, and grabbed a cigarette. I proceeded to smoke my cigarette seated on the sofa while I watched the rest of the video. I remember thinking that there was no way I could slow myself down enough to do this. I was a butt-smoking, Mountain Dew-drinking, junk food-eating girl. I remember thinking that those people were nuts. I was strangely attracted, however, to the fact that they chose Dead Can Dance as background music, one of my favorite bands. And by the end of the video, those people seemed pretty blissful. I remember thinking, “Okay, I guess I’ll try it again some other time”. And I did. The second time, I made it all the way through.

I’ve bought many VHS cassettes and DVDs over the years and have studied many different styles of yoga, but this one is still my favorite. And it’s still my number 1 recommendation to anyone who wants to practice yoga. It might be a bit much for absolute beginners, but it’s doable. If I can do it, you can, too. The bad news is that it’s out of print, so if you can find a copy at a reasonable price, grab it! But don’t fret. Erich Schiffmann (who will always hold a very special place in my heart and is actually my Facebook friend!) has a few other DVDs you can try. He’s also written a beautiful book about yoga that I highly recommend. Check them out below by clicking on the photos.

Namaste.


I hear this all the time. “I’d like to try yoga, but I’m not flexible.” or “I don’t think I’d be good at it.” or “I can’t even touch my toes!”. Yeah, yeah, we know. You can’t practice yoga unless you can become a yogi in a week. You’re right. Never mind.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but EVERYONE can practice yoga. That’s right, everyone. I’ll fill you in on a little secret: Those yogis and yoginis you see on television or Youtube who can put their legs behind their ears? Every single one of them has a background in gymnastics or dance. If they don’t, then it took them 10 years of daily practice to get there. Most of us have to work at it. One of my yoga teachers told me that she could barely reach her knees when she first started! And now she’s one of the best teachers in the Boston area!

Look, if you want to try yoga, do it. It WILL increase your flexibility, as long as you’re patient with yourself. You’ll see many other changes as well. Over time, you’ll feel stronger, calmer, and more clear-headed (I hope!). But you need to practice. You’ll never get anywhere with anything if you don’t practice.

And another thing. People who are of ill-health are perfect candidates for yoga. If you smoke, are overweight, eat poorly, or suffer from illnesses, practice yoga! You don’t have to wait until you quit smoking or lose weight. In the Yoga Sutras, Pantajali says that you should not quit smoking if you take up yoga, but that practicing yoga might result in you quitting smoking because you feel so good. Not a bad deal, huh?

If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself. If you’re too embarrassed to take a class at first, buy or rent a DVD. I won’t tell anyone. That’s how I started, and I’d be happy to recommend some to you. You have nothing to lose. Try this practice and see how you feel. Good luck and namaste.

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Have you heard the old Carnegie Hall joke?

Rumor is that a pedestrian on Fifty-seventh Street, Manhattan, stopped¬†Jascha Heifetz¬†and inquired, “Could you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?” “Yes,” said Heifetz. “Practice!”

Until today, I had’t done this particular kundalini practice since 2000, on VHS. It is truly amazing, and you’ll FEEL amazing after doing it. Gurmukh is an inspirational teacher. She made this recording at the age of 58, full of life and energy! Today she is 70, and still looking and feeling great.