Tag Archives: Judith Hanson Lasater

30 Days of “A Year of Living Your Yoga” — Day 30: Happiness Now & Driving with Thing 1


This is it! Today is the last day of my 30-day blog series based on Judith Hanson Lasater’s “A Year of Living Your Yoga.”

I will try to keep these posts to about 500 words.

Here is the quote:

June 17 — Only you can give yourself permission to be happy. We grow up when we realize that no one is going to tap us on the shoulder and say, “Now you have done enough so you can be happy.” Take a deep breath and make the decision that you will connect with your own happiness for the next five minutes. At the end of this time, make the commitment for the next five minutes and then the next. Know that your ability to be happy lies within you, only you, and is not dependent on your circumstances.


Sheesh. Let’s try for fifteen seconds. I don’t mean to sound crass, but let’s be honest.

how much do I love Roz Chast? Um ... a lot. (c) Roz Chast, The New Yorker

how much do I love Roz Chast? Um … a lot. (c) Roz Chast, The New Yorker, Conde Nast Publications.

The other day I let my oldest, who is now 16 and change, drive my massive SUV up the driveway. The only thing he’s ever driven has been his little red car when he was a toddler and then a go-kart every summer in Connecticut. So I pulled the car in front of the house and I said, “You take the wheel and pull it in the driveway.”

He doesn’t have his learner’s permit yet, but he was going to drive all of 30 feet and we live on a private street and it’s August and no one is in town and the squirrels are hiding and there was nothing alive within 400 feet of the car. I thought, “What’s the damage he can do?” (Hit the basketball hoop pole, run over his brother, use the wrong pedal, steer the wrong way, go too fast… they were all possibilities and he’s still teenage knees and elbows, but I surmised that the screw-up potential of this situation was pretty low.)

So before he inserted the key, we had a quick chat about the pedals and the steering wheel and the fact that my Toyota Sequoia is a 2.5-ton killing machine. He strapped in and turned the key. The engine roared. I showed him the tachometer and how its needle responded to the rev of the engine. He revved the engine and thought that was pretty cool because the vehicle raised a little in response. We went over the brake pedal and the turn of the steering wheel. I showed him the gears and that “P” does not mean “passing” and that “D” means “drive” not “down.”  He was ready.

“The gears won’t change until you put your foot on the brake, so remember that.” I said.

“Ok, Mom.”

“Put it in drive,” I said.

He did. Three gears shifted effortlessly.

“Let your foot gently lift from the brake pedal.” He lifted his LEFT FOOT OFF THE BRAKE.

“STOP! STOP! STOP!” I said. “Press the brake. Put it back in Park.”

“WHAT? Why?” he asked, almost in a squeak.

“It’s my fault. You only use one foot to drive, use your right foot, or you will forever drive like Grandma Mimi,” and he laughed. My mother drove so badly that it’s verbally indescribable. You need to ride in the car with me for my rendition.

“Right foot only? Got it.” He tucked his left foot below his right knee in the footwell. “Shift to Drive?”

“Yes. Go ahead. Shift to Drive and release the brake very slowly. The car will roll, you don’t have to TOUCH THE GASSSSSSS… Take your foot off the gas!!!”


“Honey, it’s a V8. I know this likely means nothing, but it’s a very powerful engine. When you first start this engine, it’s all about revving itself, so it’s high tuned at the start. When you shift into Drive, the engine goes down a bit, but it’s still ready to rock… Put it back into Park.”

He was ready to kill me. Matricide was not out of the question. He huffed and put the gearshift back into Park.

I sat and went through any possible scenarios… I repeated just about everything we’d already gone over and I felt at this point we were close.

“Shift it back into Drive.”

Clunk clunk clunk…

“What’s L2?” he asked.

“Never mind that. It’s for hills and snow.”

“Oh, so it’s for Pennsylvania,” he said, smiling at me as his dimples deepened. His eyes twinkled.

“Yes. Pennsylvania. Sorry. I’m tense. I’ll be fine. You’re great. Let’s try this again. Gentle pressure off the brake as you move your right foot to the gas pedal. Then when you feel the car is slowing down, gently press on the gas… you’ll get a sense of it.”

And off we went. A full fifty feet from the front of our house up our driveway. He did alright, until it came to the brakes.

We lurched forward when he pressed the first time.

“AGH! Why did it DO THAT?!” he moaned, mad at himself.

“Because you pressed really hard. You saw the bushes getting closer and you stood on the brake. If you weren’t wearing your seat belt, you’d probably bump into the steering wheel a bit…” I said.

“So this car, this giant thing is like the ultimate training tool for life… ” he said.

I wasn’t sure where this was going.

“It’s like a pound-for-pound reflection of everything I do. If I steer the wrong way, the car goes the wrong way. If I press too hard on the gas, the car goes too fast. If I slam on the brakes, the car knocks my face into the windshield…”

“Yeah, something like that. It’s the ultimate truth-teller: it does everything you tell it to do. It’s trying out a new babysitter. The house might be quiet and tidy, and the kids might be in bed when you get home, but you’ll hear all about how the babysitter was when everyone wakes up and talks about it at breakfast,” I said.

I didn’t go into the fact that some cars, most notably Toyotas and GMs (and the old Audi 5000s and the ironical and aptly named Pontiac Fieros of my teenage years) accelerate on their own or catch fire all by themselves, but he seemed to get the point, that if something goes wrong when you’re driving, it’s very likely your fault.

“It’s frustrating. You can’t lie to a car. There is no easy way… It’s not very easy to do. No wonder they don’t want us texting and playing with the radio. I could barely get it into Reverse without wanting to scream.” (He had lots of frustration trying to just shift one tick from Park to Reverse. I won’t even go into manual transmissions with him yet…)

“No. You can’t lie to a car. They are like small children: they will do whatever you tell them to do and so you have to be really smart about what you tell them to do,” I said.

What does this story have to do with the quote?

Not a damned thing. I just felt like telling that story. It’s hard to share my life in 500 words or less. There’s lots going on these days.

Relative to the quote: Yeah. It’s totally liberating when we realize that:

1) we are not responsible for anyone else’s emotions or reactions — EVER! EVER! EVER! (please, if you read just this post, please please get that into your head),

2) stuff doesn’t make you happy.

3) you make you happy.

4) five minutes of happy really builds on itself and when that happens, you get very protective of your happy; you don’t want to be around people who bring you down… that’s another great sign that you’re in alignment with your happiness (I prefer “contentment”).

Thank you. Thank you for following this series or reading this post or subscribing to my blog or taking a momentary interest in what I have to say. I don’t do giveaways because I’m not that clever, but I do appreciate your being here. I like to think that my giveaway to you is perhaps a loving scrap of insight into your better Self.

30 Days of “A Year of Living Your Yoga” — Day 29: Practice Makes Better


Welcome to Day 29 of my 30-day blog series based on Judith Hanson-Lasater’s “A Year of Living Your Yoga.”

I will try to keep these posts to about 500 words.

Here is the quote:

August 27 — A yoga class is a support group for people who can’t do yoga. Do you shrink from doing something because you judge yourself as not good enough? If so, remember that your yoga class is not full of experts; it is made up of practitioners of yoga. Go to class today, and practice from your heart.

This is possibly one of my favoritest quotes of hers. I say this all the time, “yoga practice.” We are practicing yoga we are not perfecting it or finalizing it.

Monday’s triangle pose will definitely feel different than Tuesday’s triangle pose. Does it matter that they feel different from one another? No, because YOU are different on Tuesday than you were on Monday.

This quote of course has virtually nothing to do with yoga. It’s all about life and not getting hung up in the minutiae.

I don’t care if you sing the same song the same way every day of your life. Each day you sing it, you will be a different person, a full 24-hours different (older) and that’s a fact. There is no perfection ever because we are constantly changing. So any hopes, dreams, aspirations you might’ve had about being fantastically perfect are … um … toast. The definition of perfection when you declared it has changed by even one second. Can’t catch it! Perfection and stasis are like the Gingerbread Man of life.

So count on it that your Warrior 2 will be different than the day before; it just will. And that’s a good thing.

As a yoga “teacher,” I’m really just someone who comes up with a plan for how you are invited to spend your 90 minutes with me and others in the room. You can come in and do your own thing and while it might be distracting and make me wonder why you bothered to show up if you’re just going to blow off my class plan, if you pay me, I’m good.

Teachers are guides. We don’t have all the answers. We don’t have some sacred knowledge that you don’t possess. We all use the same tools you have at your disposal: intuition, brains, insight into a situation and a response. As far as experience goes, our only experience that is different than yours is that it’s ours; our training encourages that we go deeper into ourselves and look inwardly more than the average bear. Do I have that down? Only in the yoga class, it seems. But, if I have a lesson plan ready to go, but no one is seeming to get it, or for some reason it just doesn’t ever click with the class, I’ll scrap it halfway through and just wing it.

Do you want to know The Hardest Thing for me to “do right” during a yoga class?

Ringing the bell or chimes at the end of class. No joke.

this little bowl. who would ever suspect that it could render in me vast trepidation to the point where my class would end a minute late?

this little bowl. who would ever suspect that it could render in me vast trepidation and frustration to the point where my class would end late?


I love my yoga teachers. Before I became a teacher, one of them would sound her chimes so loud, I’d shudder during svasana.

So I went up to her after about two years and started meekly with “Maybe it’s me, and I have sensitive ears ….” and then asked her if she could use less energy to sound the chimes at the end of meditation. (I was once accused by someone of speaking obtusely … I wonder: is saying “use less energy” obtuse? I just try to get to the essence of things politely) “Sure!” she said, happy as a clam!

Since becoming a yoga teacher: my ability to confidently sound that chime at the end of class is at zero. It’s shattered. If you could see me, in the dark (during the evening class)… I get my little brass singing bowl and mallet and I carefully bring them to my mat as silently as possible. I take the mallet in my left hand and I prepare to ring the bowl. I miss every time.

I can tell you where to put your hands, and how to position your hips, and where your eyes “should” rest in the gaze in Warrior One, or I can verbally cue you to a camel pose but when it comes to that bowl… fuhgedaboudit.

I whiff the bowl or I barely stroke it so it sounds like a muted “tink.” So then I take a breath because my face is all squinched up like an exasperated Kermit the Frog and I’m all amped up. I want to let people out on time but I can’t get the stupid stick to strike the bowl just right … and then I hit it so hard I end up hissing to myself and apologizing. Then the two more times after that, I whiff again. I feel in my heart, that I’ve blown svasana for my practitioners and that all the good stuff we did in class is ruined. But then I remember: “practice” and it’s OK. There is no perfect.

Practice doesn’t really make perfect. Practice makes better.

During my upcoming vacation, I’m going to bring my bowl and my striker and I’m going practice until I get it to the point where I’m good with it. I came very close to it the other day: I struck it on the fattest point of the bowl, the sound was more rich and less panicky if I do say so myself. But I’m still bringing it along.

Thank you.

30 Days of “A Year of Living Your Yoga” — Day 28: 21 Days to You


Welcome to Day 28 of my 30-day blog series based on Judith Hanson Lasater’s “A Year of Living Your Yoga.”

I will try to keep these posts to about 500 words. Here is the quote:

January 26 — Without discipline there is no art. the art of yoga comes from the consistency of discipline. Today, resolve to practice for the next twenty-one days without missing a single day. Note it on your calendar.

I’ve heard and have written about the premise of forming habits: 21 consecutive days is the root of starting a habit. I agree with it heartily.

I will admit this here: I don’t think there is one thing I’ve ever done 21 days in a row at the same time in years. Last year on the retreat, it came close: we were together for 16 days but 15 mornings.

Even this series, I’ve written a few posts in one day, so that I can clear my calendar. That’s cheating. Do you read each post every day for 21 days straight? If so, thank you.

This is a great idea and one that I should expand beyond my fitness routine. Back in 2006, I would wake at 6:00 am, have a banana, get on my ergometer and “row” 5,000 meters. It usually took me about 23 minutes. My routine varied (for instance one day I would row intervals, another day I would row steady state), as will each day we do the “same” thing, but the underlying concept, the “theme” of what we do does not vary.

So I’m going to do this. I’m going to take this seriously and commit to doing one thing, the same kind of thing, every day without fail.

What’s fun about this is that doing one same thing every day will actually create more irregularity, and more freedom in our lives: I don’t think it’s good that a cup of coffee tastes the same every day. No jog with the dog is the same as it was the day before and therefore, no repeated yoga program, will feel the same each day. I’ll sleep differently and feel differently each day, so why shouldn’t my yoga practice?

I’ll just do the poses and do what my body is telling me to do — for the entire practice. I would do this (unscripted) as a teacher, but I still feel a little green. I have to remember the opposite sides and limbs to repeat it for the other side; when I’m all alone, there’s no worry of messing up a side…. Perhaps I give myself too much pressure. Anyway, do this.

If you want to break a habit, don’t think of giving up something so much as getting something new instead. You’re not quitting smoking, you’re getting fresh air instead. You’re not stopping biting your nails, you’re getting a nice manicure at the end. I can say that for the yoga — an entire practice: meditation, pranayama, asanas, balancing, inversion, reclined stretches, svasana to meditation — each day will bring me closer to myself.

Let me know you commit to … let’s meet up in three weeks…

Thank you.

30 Days of “A Year of Living Your Yoga” — Day 27: Be Strong: Let Go


Welcome to Day 27 of my blog series based on Judith Hanson Lasater’s “A Year of Living Your Yoga.”

I try to keep these posts to about 500 words.

Here is the quote:

April 21 — Let go into your strength. We think that strength is about being able to push something away or hold something back. We have great reserves of strength, which can be used in different ways. Inhale, and let go into the strength you already have to do Adho Mukha Vrkasana (handstand) or to create an hour with no commitments.

I’ll take “create an hour with no commitments” for $400, Alex.

I’m not gonna fib here: handstand is not easy. For many reasons, but most of all, it does require a great deal of upper body strength, core awareness and emotional guts. The pose should be started at a wall for best results the first few times. You’re in downward facing dog, getting used to being inverted. Then you tip-toe your feet to be about a foot away from your hands or make it so your hips are almost vertically above your shoulders. Then you play with your balance a little by kicking up (gently) one leg, then the other leg. Doing this helps you understand which leg is your “push off” leg and which leg is your anchor. When you’re familiar with that and feeling safe (next month), then you really push off with the kick-off leg and you aim both feet for the wall.

THUD! THUD! Contact!

Forget about the pressure in the shoulders it will be there the whole time. Instead, do something with them:  “press” them to reach toward the hips (so now that’s “up”) and pull in the belly. Breathe. Sense the blood flooding your body in the opposite direction it’s used to going. If you’re still up, YAY! Come down and fold into child’s pose with your knees wide and your big toes touching, hips sinking toward the floor for a few breaths. Try it again if you’re game. Just remember to go back to child’s pose when you’re finished.

My issue with handstand is that I go too far over. I have the strength to stand on my hands, but I still lack the poise to control my thighs from going all the way over. I need the wall, but I’m getting better at it. I also think it’s a matter of context: when I’m all alone, I have an easier time, but when I’m in class as a student or a teacher, I feel stressed and I goof it.

So the strength in this pose has more to do with initial control and poise than it does staying in it. It’s like that moment when Scarlett O’Hara walked into the party after her scandalous kiss that Rhett saw her give to Ashley Wilkes… she possessed great strength to go in that room (I think she was also a total jerk for doing what she did) after that kiss, dressed like a harlot. Who possessed more strength? Melanie Wilkes. Class act, that Miss Melanie.

this moment. i loved scarlett's moxie, but melanie was really the winner.

this moment. i loved scarlett’s moxie, but melanie was really the winner.

What does any of this have to do with yoga? I guess a lot. If you’re in my head.

The point of it is that we often see Scarlett as this super-strong, super resilient woman; and she was. But she was also a total antisocial, histrionic bitch. She thrusts into situations, being strong, surely, but not at all poised and controlled.

Melanie, who was a calm and controlled person was not a fool, I’m sure she knew what was going on. She just possessed more couth and courage.

So going into handstand or … s I said when I started this post, ‘I’ll take ‘create an hour with no commitments’ for $400, Alex.”

That’s hard too though — to allow an hour with no agenda or no feeling for the need of an agenda or activity. I think that’s the thrust here: to have the strength of self enough to let go of the need to do something of “value.” It’s our egos which tell us we have to be doing something all the time; its our brains and minds who need the rest.

What would you do? Read? Nap?

Zzzzzzngnnnnnzzzz Gnnnzznzznnng.

Thank you.