PEACE w/the body

“Do not fight your body.  Do not carry the world on your shoulders like Atlas.  Do not look at your body like a stranger, but adopt a friendly approach; play with it as children do.  To be sensitive is to be alive.”

–Vanda Scaravelli

Click this image for a free, 30 minute yoga session with doug

There are very few things in this life  that we can be certain of, and that also relates to every other being we encounter.  We may not be sure why we are here, what the meaning of it all is supposed to be,  or what happens after we leave this earthly plane of existence.  But without a doubt, each and every one of us has a body.

Now we may love our body, or we may not like it at all.  Our body might be capable of doing tremendous things, or it might currently be quite limited.  It might be getting stronger, it might be “falling apart”.  But there is no denying it: we are having an embodied experience.

So it makes sense to establish as good a relationship as possible to our body.  It’s the only one we have.  And while we may not always be able to cure what ails us by eliminating those conditions, there is no doubt that we can heal ourselves by minimizing the suffering that we attach to it.

Whatever your situation, begin to listen to and understand your body.  It’s the only one you have, and you two will be together for as long as whatever “this” part of our journey  lasts.






Love the One You’ll Be With

We all long for an intimate connection, a relationship where our partner really “gets” us, listens to our needs, our wants, and demonstrates how much they care for us. Let’s face it: unless there’s a little courtship, a little seduction, we are more likely to hold back ourselves, we are far less likely to open ourselves up and dive deeply into the relationship.

We know this is true, and yet we often fail to apply this learning to the most important, long lasting relationship we each will ever have…the one WITH OUR OWN BODIES!

Yes, this is the one relationship we are guaranteed to have throughout our entire lives. And yet, when WAS the last time you listened to your body. I mean really listened to it. Are you aware of what your body needs right now? Maybe some water, some food. More likely a change in posture (lift your chest up, drop your shoulder blades down your back, take a deep breathe and stop slouching!) .

Our bodies usually have no say in how the relationship progresses and try to keep up with us despite our forceful natures.  Then, when they do breakdown, either slowly, through weight gain and flexibility lost, or quickly through trauma, we often blame them. NO WONDER OUR BODIES DON’T TRUST US ANYMORE!

Maybe this Valentine’s Day season we can contemplate the notion of romancing our own bodies. Take time everyday–several times a day–to break the chain reaction of activities driven by our thinking mind and STOP. Look, and listen to your body, allowing sensations to bubble up on their own so that you can release and adjust. Simply breathe deeply into and out of the places in your body that are calling for attention. Then take your future cues from there.

Once your body begins to feel appreciated, once it begins to trust you that you won’t keep unknowingly abusing it, you may be amazed by how lovingly it responds. As Swami Saraswati taught:

“Do not fight your body. Do not carry the world on your shoulders like Atlas. Do not ignore your body or look at it like a stranger, but adopt a friendly approach toward it. Watch it, listen to it, observe its needs, its requests, and even have some fun with it as children do. To be sensitive is to be alive.”

Try today to give your own body the love it deserves, and then enjoy the openness and vitality that it just might give back.

peace and valentines,



Begin The Yin

Just a quick reminder that this Thursday, February 16th, I will begin teaching a Yin Yoga class at Goorus Yoga.  It will be a great class for any level of practitioner, even someone who has never done yoga before!

Yin is a passive, non-sweating form of yoga that focuses not on your muscles, but on the connective tissue that surrounds the muscles, bones, organs, blood vessels, etc.  Learning how to gently coax this “inner skin” to open up allows you to release stored up tension and tightness, resulting in greater ease and larger range of motion for all of your movable body parts.  The “anti-gravity” practice also soothes the nervous system and decreases your overall experience of stress.

Have a great week!


Yin Yoga

Goorus Yoga Studio

15327 W Sunset Blvd, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272


New Live Studio Class

I am so excited to announce that I will be starting a new, live, public yoga class this month:



Yin Yoga

Goorus Yoga Studio

15327 W Sunset Blvd, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272



Goorus Yoga is the revitalized Palisades studio that was formerly Yoga Works, and Jiva.  The wonderful and loving owners are doing great things with the space, and I am very grateful to now be a part of that energy.

I hope to see some of you soon and look forward to practicing together!






Do You Know Squat?

“Someday we will look upon chairs the same way we now do looking at cigarettes:  they seemed really cool and sophisticated and cultured at the time,  until we realized how much damage they do to our bodies”.
–Denise Kaufman, Yin Yoga Master

I can still remember the incident from 15 years ago when i collapsed to the floor in my kitchen with shooting pain down my back and leg.  The dreaded “sciatica”, or compression of the sciatic nerve due to inflammation in my lower back.

At the time I was working 60+ hours a week in a high pressured corporate job that required me to fly over 100,000 miles on airplanes in one 12 month period.  The tremendous immobility of office work and airplane travel, coupled with the tremendously compressive posture of sitting in “comfortable” chairs, had wreaked havoc on the tissue surrounding my spine, turning a lower back arch at birth into something resembling more of a rounded “C”.

Of course, that experience of mine was not unique.  In fact, 4 out of 5 people in the United States complain to their doctors about back pain during visits, and as a whole our country spends almost $100 Billion on diagnosis and treatment of back pain.  Interestingly, in countries with far less furniture and far more squatting, the statistics for back pain and treatment are almost non-existent.

For thousands (millions?) of years, the basic human position when not standing or lying was squatting.  People gave birth in the position, they worked, they ate, they defecated, and they communed, all while squatting.  The simple mechanics of the shape bring one’s thighs towards one chest, maximizing range of motion through the hips, while also bringing the tailbone near, but hovering off of the floor.

Whatever we do in life here on earth, we do it under the influence of gravity. Its steady, constant pressure down on us up-right humans results in our having to resist gravity almost continuously from awakening to going back to sleep.  Under that pressure, the body tissue is shoved downward.  When someone is squatting, and their tailbone is suspended in mid-air, that downward flow of tissue actually results in a stretched open lower back.  Think of the impact on a “Slinky” when it is held suspended in space for a time, as it slowly uncoils and lengthens.

But when we sit in chairs, that downward flow of tissue is met by the upward  force of the chair seat, creating a “crunch” in the lower lumbar and sacral areas of the spine.  On top of that, let’s be honest and admit that when we sit in chairs, we also usually slump our upper bodies onto the backrest, resulting in a postural angle for the lower spine that is almost the opposite of its originally evolved position!

So it seems many of us humans may have traded up to get a little hygiene and a lot more “civilized” and in the result created this one-two punch to our spines that costs us dearly, not only in dollars but in health, ease of movement, and overall well being.

The good news is that there is a growing movement today of people who are  standing up for their “Squatter’s Rights”, getting off the furniture as much as possible and avoiding those costly doctor’s visits and treatments.  An amazing resource for this is the website

I strongly encourage you to check out this resource, especially if you have to sit alot and are experiencing back issues.  There are videos to teach the basics of squatting for those of us who have forgotten, and a companion Facebook page where people are posting pictures of themselves squatting in all types of situations across the globe.

There is also a fun little theme song to bring a smile to your face and space to your lower back:  “The Squat Song”.  Click here to view it, and make sure that by the time it is finished you have gotten out of your chair!


Sensitivity Training

When I worked in the corporate world, we would from time to time have division-wide “sensitivity trainings”.  These could be related to sexuality, race, culture and religion, and other such topics.  The goal was essentially to make us all more AWARE of ANOTHER’s experience of circumstances that might be vastly different than our own.  And with that awareness, we then have the opportunity to change behaviors that might be increasing the other’s stress and discomfort.

For all of us living in our shared cultural world –and especially if you have an office job– a similar training may very well be the key to more peace and happiness.  Only in this case the “other” is our own body!

Let’s be honest.  Real life in the 21st Century comes connected to many demands, the juggling of responsibilities, and the need to do a lot of things to get through the day.  And in all of that doing we tend to forget our body as we force it.  Sometimes we are forcing it to be active, to carry three bags of groceries, or a child on our hip, or to run through the airport hauling our carry-on bags, zigging and zagging;  at other times, we are forcing the body to be still, but in an incredibly awkward posture, such as arms in front of us with fingers on a keyboard, or torso slumped over a desk as we read through files, or maybe our neck cranked to an odd angle to hold a phone to our ear while we also are using our hands to hold or move other objects.

We think we know what we are doing, but usually our mental attention is engaged in some project, and we have little to no sensitivity left for what the body is experiencing.  In effect, we energetically become lost in thought, while the body stumbles or holds itself together in some painful fashion.  And many times those thoughts we are lost in actually increase the stress within our body as it tightens itself up against the threats and challenges we face in our mind.

We can develop some interesting but maladaptive behaviors to this nagging sense of internal stress, such as overeating, or becoming a workaholic, or otherwise distracting and numbing ourselves from the sensitivities of the body.  That way we can deny what sometimes is obvious to everyone but ourselves.  “What?  Me tense?  No I’m not, dammit!”

Our body is constantly interacting with its environment,  sensing and experiencing all sorts of energies,  whether we are aware of it or not.  And often what it experiences is pain, or discomfort or even fear over being insensitively pushed too far.  When our awareness is disconnected from the body, it isn’t able to fully process it’s actual life experience moment to moment.  But those energies  that don’t register on our mental radar haven’t disappeared, they have just been driven deeper into the body.

It may be out of (inner) sight / out of mind, but unfortunately it is never then out of body too.

In fact, after long, continuous periods of this insensitivity, the body will at some point scream “hey, what about me!!”  The form this takes might be some disease.  When living with chronic, unrelieved stress in the body we develop “hyperarousal syndrome”, where the body in continually “fight or flight” mode has a build-up of imbalanced hormones coursing through it, combined with unremitting muscular tension and elevated heart rates and blood pressure.  The energy required for this continually firing of the sympathetic nervous system is routed from our sleep, digestion, elimination, and immune systems.

So maybe you get sick, really sick.  Or you develop chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, or you simply can’t sleep at night.  Or, perhaps some mechanical part of your body just “gives out” or “seizes up”.  Which of course simply adds to your stress because now you have so much to do but are capable physically of only being able to do so much less.

The antidote to this snowball to hell is to consciously go through some sensitivity training of your own body and its actual, felt experience.  Increasing your awareness of your physical state is the positive adaptation to living with chronic stress.  Sometimes we literally have to lose our minds so we can come to our senses!

As Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD., writes:

“We know where the flight or fight reaction will lead if it is left to play itself out unconsciously…The challenge is now for us to realize that at any moment we are in a position to actually decide to do things differently…This doesn’t mean that you will never feel threatened or fearful or angry,or that you will never do anything silly or self-destructive.  But in general, awareness either reduces arousal at the time or it helps you to recover from it more quickly afterward.”


So try this:  set your phone alarm to go off every hour.  Use it as a re-minder to reconnect your body and your mind.  Notice how your shoulders feel, your jaw, your hips, your spine.  Adjust position or move if you need to.  And tune into your breath, and how the belly rises and falls with the breath.

Grounding yourself in body sensitivity serves as a circuit breaker to take you out of your chronic “fight or flight” state.  Practice becoming aware of another’s experience, especially when that other is your own body.  Set your whole self up for the possibility of “tending and mending”.






Plug In to your Lower Self

If you are like me at all you may be finding yourself more and more UPtight these days.  It actually feels shocking at times just how much more current seems to be running through the global high (live)wire on which our daily lives tread.

On many levels and in many ways the systems that we have used to organize our society and guide our life seem to be falling apart.  There is a greater sense of uncertainty in the air, along with greater vitriol on the airwaves, and very little felt progress.  No wonder that there is a growing sense of stress across the land and a rise in seemingly unexplainable and hard to treat “energy illnesses”, such as adrenal fatigue, insomnia, chronic fatigue, and the like.

Of course most of us have a vague understanding that, for our own safety, when it comes to dealing with high voltage situations it is critical to “ground” the electricity.   The primary purpose of this is in fact to reduce the risk of serious electric shock.  Additionally, with today’s advances in electronics and technology and the surge in how many such products are in use, there is a growing generation of “electrical noise” that can reduce the efficiency of equipment or damage it irreparably.   Proper grounding can remove this unwanted “noise”, while allowing the earth to absorb the over-current or short circuit harmlessly and having done so, eliminates the threat to anyone that may have otherwise been the ground path.

Maybe there is something to be learned from this; a way to protect ourselves from anxiety surges and the harmful “white noise” of too many thoughts in our head?

“Just as the participation of the mind is essential in organizing the physical aspects of life, the mind needs the body in order to stabilize in calm presence… and anchor for awareness.”
–Tenzen Wangyal Rinpoche

From one perspective we humans are essentially energy transformers.  And one of the amazing advantages to being human is the facileness of the energy of our thoughts.  In fact, they seem to defy the laws of physics and can astrally project, moving from past to future, or from your home to London to Colorado to Washington DC in nanoseconds.  This gives them such incredible power and … juice, not only to drive achievement but also to overwhelm our attention.  I mean, aren’t we all drawn hypnotically to bright shiny beautiful lighting displays?

But this is where the energy of our thoughts do actually conform to the laws of physics, in that so much power and current can overwhelm our human system’s ability to handle it.  We can be driven to distraction by too many, competing surges of mental energy, getting more and more wound up; or worse, we can simply “burn-out” and then shut down.

This is why reconnecting to bodily awareness is such a critical component of many wellness and spiritual disciplines.  Literally feeling those parts of you that are on the ground, or supported by something, can help to absorb access energy and assist the body’s ability to process it.  Yes, it is true:  our feet and asses are actually the surge protectors that we need to live in a world of greater (cross) currents!

One practice that I have found to be particularly effective is a form of walking concentration.  It can be done as a formal practice for 15-30 minutes, or informally for 15-30 seconds as you walk from your car to your next destination.

You begin by standing on both feet and taking three breaths.  On the first exhale you allow yourself to really feel the downward energy, literally feeling the lungs, chest, and shoulders drop.  On the second exhale you feel that drop again, and you “push” your energy further down into your belly.  On the third exhale you drop your energy down even further, into your feet.

On the fourth breath you simply feel your feet firmly grounded;  you may even slump a little and feel heavy.  Then you begin to walk, feeling one foot lift off the ground while the other roots into it, alternating with your steps.  And while you walk, feel your weight/energy transfer from one foot down, through the ground, and then up to support the other foot. This is best accomplished by allowing a little extra bend in the knee of the grounded foot.

When I first encountered this practice, it was curious to see how unorthodox this movement seemed to me.  I realized that i spend most of my time walking up and out of my feet instead of grounding into them.  It’s almost like I had been moving around “lost in thought”, hypnotized by the flow of thinking, with my “head in the clouds”, barely touching the earth as I moved!

This was especially true if I was running late, or juggling a lot of responsibilities (and who isn’t doing those things today?).  Which is what can make this practice highly effective in short, 30 second boosts.  Especially when you feel stressed and Uptight, moving from your car to a building or from one room to the next in this mindful, embodied, grounded way might give you the ability to process that thought energy in a more efficient, effective manner while also protecting yourself from the damage of “over-currents” that threaten our health and wellness.

I invite you to commit to this practice for one day.  Try to carve out 15 minutes for this mindful walking, shifting your weight under the ground instead of over the air.    And perhaps more importantly, whenever you have a short walk between where you are and where you want to go, do the same.

Then write in here and tell us if this technique helps you with energetic surge protection, or if I just have my wires crossed!








Doug’s live yoga class scheduling ALERT: June

Hello all.

A very brief post to let those of you who practice live with me at YogaWorks SouthBay that I will be out of town at my Chaplaincy Training starting Tuesday, 6/19/12 through Monday, 6/25/12.

For the Tuesday 6/19/Thursday evening 6/21 Yin classes we are very lucky to have David Kim leading the session in my absence.  He is one of Yoga Works most featured teachers who has recently discovered the joy and power of this form of yoga, and he is relatively fresh off of a two week training in Yin with my teacher’s Teacher, Paul Grilley.

For the Wednesday 6/20, Friday 6/22, and Monday 6/25 morning Hatha Blend classes we are fortunate to once again have Veronica Wolkov to lead the way;  she is a kindred soul who has been subbing most of my morning classes for the past year.

Please enjoy this fresh injection of yogic vibration, and I will be back in the saddle Tuesday evening, 6/26/12.


Six Degrees of Separation… From an Alternative Self


15 years ago







Relax; don’t worry.  I know that “before and after” photos are kind of cheesy, but then again, I am a cheesehead.  And I figure if Oprah can use them for a recent magazine cover, I can use them on my website.

Besides, I’m not going try to sell you anything.  But I am going to try to give something away.  Or at least pass it on.

Learn to pay attention to your body.  Develop skill at body sensitivity.  This one little shift could take you a very long way toward you maximizing your potential during the time you have left here.

We have already discussed how the body is a source of much intelligence;  this is something that “know in our bones”.  So the better we get at listening to our bodies, the more we begin to incorporate that intelligence into our overall functioning, without having to put any extra effort into it.  This has a great multiplying effect on the energy and direction of your life.

So body sensitivity is like a trim tab.  I didn’t know what a trim tab was either until my buddy Buddy (happy b-day Buddy!) explained it to me using a wonderful image that he had heard from Buckminster Fuller (one of the greatest thinkers and engineers of the 20th century):

“Think of the Queen Mary—the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there’s a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trim tab.  It’s a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all.  And soon the whole ship is heading somewhere new.”

So body sensitivity is like a trim tab.  In my case, it reoriented me away from being overweight, overstressed, undernourished, heading for a heart attack or diabetes, already suffering from sciatic nerve pain in the back.

Of course it didn’t happen all at once. It wasn’t even something i initially felt happening. But step by step, little by little –degree by degree– things shifted, and then there was a momentum all its own;  now I am learning to enjoy the ride.

So if you want, need, or sense that a change would do you good, but you seem stuck or intimidated, experiment with a few small things, and be open to seeing where it leads you.

First Degree
Start really noticing your body.  Set your phone alarm to ring every three hours, and when it does, take a few moments, close your eyes, think less and feel more.

Second Degree
Move your body, while you really pay attention to how it feels.  Yoga has been very powerful for me, but so too is walking in nature.  Many like running, biking, swimming, surfing, dancing, martial arts, etc.  Find some movement that moves you, and pay attention to how it all feels.

Third Degree
Breathe more deeply and slowly, while you move the body, thinking less and feeling more. As often as you can, move the body in rhythm with the breath.

This is the first half of the shift.  You put the effort into them, apply a little discipline.  But then the second half might take on a momentum all its own, generated by your increased body sensitivity, a skill that is a byproduct of paying more attention.

Fourth Degree
One day you realize that you are drinking more water, because you realize that you are thirsty and you sense that the coffee or soda or whatever might just be “a little too much”.  Or you feel how dull you feel after having a heavy lunch, and it makes it easy to get a salad the next day.  Or maybe you recognize that you are tired, and rather than pushing to get something done, you take a step back and get a good night’s sleep.

Fifth Degree
Going one step beyond just the pure physical, now your sensitivity leads you to want to turn off the talk radio in the car.  Or you realize that you don’t need to check the news headlines or your inbox yet again.  Maybe you hear yourself clearly for the first time while in the habit of gossiping, and you decide that you don’t want to be that person, and it’s easy to just stop.

Sixth Degree
Now there is a real momentum to the shifting process; a continuous loop of feeling, moving, breathing, nourishing, and nurturing.  And so one day you recognize that you feel ready to tackle that…whatever it is.  Maybe its a habit you want to let go of;  maybe it’s a project you want to manifest.  But inspiration lifts you up, and you realize that you can, in fact, do it.


 six degrees


A little conscious effort has suddenly taking you in a very different direction.  It’s a trim tab to set you on a new course.

Let’s do this together. And I’ll meet you six degrees from here.



What We Know in our Bones

We humans think we are pretty special.  

Our highly developed brains have led to very high levels of conceptualization, which in turn has led to our huge
impact on manifesting those concepts and literally re-shaping the world we live in.

This has led us to believe that our brains’ capacity for intelligence is unique, and it has made most of us forget one of the most basic elements of our embodied experience:  namely, that we benefit from several intelligently operating systems, often despite our brainpower.

For example, when was the last time you thought to breathe?  If we had to remember to do this and consciously manage this process we would all be dead by now.  How about the last time you figured out how to fight off a cold?  Or did your immune system identify invaders to your body, determine the right defense, and route the antidote to the place of attack?

That awesome memorial day barbecue:  did you cogitate your way into digesting the meal, breaking down the food, absorbing the nutrients and re-routing the toxins?  Or is it possible that our digestive systems are smart enough to know how to do that all on their own?  And how about those beautiful children you or your sister had running around the yard.  Are they as easy to reproduce as the toughest essay you’ve ever had to write?

And what about your heart.  Did you have to coax it into beating this morning with some of that famous human logic?  And who taught it to actually build a moment of rest into every beat?  Certainly not those of us who think that it is never a good time to take a break!

We may spontaneously envision our bodies as well oiled machines that we take good –or not so good– care of, but that is just the big-headedness of our thoughts neglecting to give credit where credit is due.  If we really, really reflect upon this, it might actually lead to the question of who is exactly taking care of whom?

The next time your body “let’s you down” or “can’t keep up”, remind yourself of all the things that it is doing for you, all the intelligent ways that it is processing the flow of life, keeping you here and providing such an amazing platform for your thoughts to roam far and wide.  Maybe it can’t roam quite as far or as fast as those thoughts do, but then again, when was the last time a thought “knew” how to digest something that you had never, ever eaten before?

Our bodies are not our thinking minds, and thankfully our thinking minds are not our bodies!  There is so much intelligence coursing through us on so many different levels, and “we” (who/whatever that means!) benefit every moment of our lives from it, whether we ever think about it or not.

Luckily, we don’t really ever have to.  But we should at least thank our bodies from time to time for all they do for us.  Even if it’s only a “gut instinct” of gratitude.

And perhaps you can leave a note here, telling us what intelligence in your body you are thankful for!



Beginner’s Body

Take a moment.  Close your eyes for three breaths, then open them.  Now think of your body. Did you smile?  Did you tense up?  Did you start judging?

There are few things that unite us all in this life, but one of them is that we all have a body.  We may like it, we may be at war with it, we may be upset with it, we may be extremely proud of it, we may never, ever think of it until it lets us down in some way.  But we all have a body, and we probably all have a pretty strong opinion about our own.

Now science tells us that every seven years, every cell in our bodies is made of completely different material.  Does that mean that every seven years we have a new body?  Of course it does!

But it’s not like leasing a car, where at the end of the term you just turn it in and get another one.  The more i started paying attention to my body, the more it seems as if every day i am waking up in a new one:  a sore back here, my old basketball knee flaring up there;  backing out of the driveway i encounter some new, weird thing going on in my neck.

“For many of us there is no sense that he body might actually be more intelligent than ‘me’…Unwilling to fully live the life that is arriving in our bodies moment by moment, we find ourselves left with no real life at all.”
Reggie Ray

Since reading the article that this quote came from, it has been incredibly helpful for me to relate to each body that i wake up to as a rebirth, if you will — especially as I get older. Something altogether new and interesting and worthy of curiosity in its own right.  Maybe even something worth tending to and nurturing, like a newborn baby. In this way, when I do start to complain to myself about something going on in the body, I often can remember that such complaints are based upon a thought that my body is some solid, unchanging thing.  It is the complaint that is faulty, and the logic that is letting me down, not my new body that i need to get to know all over again.

Really tuning into the body, especially when it is creaky or weak or ill, can generate tremendous biofeedback and root you in the reality of your situation, as opposed to living a life of faulty expectations and inevitable disappointments. And once we truly understand and accept our bodies’ moment to moment changing reality, there is a vitality and freshness that comes with opening up the newness of our situation instead of struggling against “the way it is supposed to be” and attempting to live essentially in a disembodied state!

And maybe, just maybe, some new action will spring from that understanding.  Like taking a bath, or a nap, even when we think that would be inconvenient.

I hope you join me in practicing ways to “get real” with our bodies, to wake up every morning without taking them for granted, but being thankful that our consciousness has a home, and being curious about just what this “new” body can and can’t do.  Let’s play with our bodies the way infants do, even in their extremely limited ways.  Or simply feed it something healthy when it cries in hunger, as you would any newborn.  Let’s see what such a relationship to our bodies might teach us about living.  And let’s share what we learn with each other through these pages and comments.