Simplify, simplify: Making room

I was around 10-12 the first time I was observed clearing out a house full of someone else’s belongings.  My grandmother died and my cousins and I were taken along for the week long venture of dividing and distributing her things.  We didn’t truly clear out that house because my aunt and uncle continued to live in it for many years but we had to clean out a lot of things that had been in the house for decades.  Mostly I watched.  And wondered why some of my relatives were taking so much stuff back to houses that already had a lot of stuff in them already.  My mom wound up with the amber cake plate that was used for birthday cakes.  It traveled from my grandmother’s house, to my mom, to my sister, to me, back to my sister, and now to my niece over the years.  This was one item that was meant to be kept.

Throughout my childhood I watched my mother sort boxes.  It was something she did in the evenings and when she could not sleep.  There were boxes and boxes of letters and papers in our house.  It was only when she knew for certain that she was dying that she began to throw things out that she did not want any of us to read.  The house was filled with magazines, dishes, more linens than three families could use, and dead appliances.  My dad never let a toaster, frying pan, electric anything leave the house because he knew he could fix it.  I threw out a lot of dead appliances when we cleaned out the family home.  I also carried a lot of things with me to new homes – dishes, teapots, some of the linens that had been left, photos, papers and furniture.

Over the years I have either had to clean out houses or have helped other relatives clean out houses.  It is always a big task that takes a great deal of time and is emotionally draining.


I’ve moved a fair amount in my adult life though I have been in my current home for nine years.  In previous moves I discarded quite a bit. I put 13 boxes of dissertation research on the side of the street hours before I learned I had been awarded a national prize for my dissertation.  I have sold or given away furniture that was heavy and too hard to move anywhere else. I’ve given away books and clothes many times.  My first big decluttering adventure was after I came back from sabbatical and before I moved to Florida.  I put everything in storage for the year I was on sabbatical.  I couldn’t believe that I paid to store some of the things that came out and back into my apartment.  I also had to face what I was going to do with the things I acquired while on sabbatical.  I have a clear picture in my mind of standing on Joseph and Mitzi’s back porch and having Diane Ferlatte ask me why I needed to move Fluffy anywhere. (Fluffy is the dog.  His real name is Chuck and he is a puppet.) I did eventually move Fluffy, but I left or threw out quite a bit of the other things I had acquired that year.

Fast forward to about two years ago.  I began realizing that my house was filling up with things that I no longer needed.  Some of these things were items that had been moved over the years – the books, the dishes, the clothes, etc.   I really didn’t need many of them.  Maybe part of the realization came as I began to change physically.  I didn’t need to hang onto clothes I thought I would never wear again.  Part of it was looking at books and other things and realizing that they were from a different time in my life.  I had moved to new interests and ideas.  So I began clearing things out.   I do have photos from the first big purge somewhere but I can’t find them on my computer so maybe I have actually purged those files as well.

I went through files of papers that I knew I would never look at or use again.  I wanted simplicity.  I have continued cleaning out for the past few years.  Sometimes I have taken a chunk of time – spring break or my Christmas break – and concentrated on rooms or closets.  More often I have taken a few files or a drawer at a time and have made decisions. Most recently I joined the Be Less with More 21 day decluttering challenge to finish up my task.  It turned out that a friend was also doing the challenge so we have been great encouragement to one another.

One of the things that made me feel pretty good with this challenge was what I had already done.  I also honed and refined some areas, revisiting files and books in particular but also items that were tucked away in cupboards.   I took a carload to TES and have given items to people as well as sold a few items.  My house is much more open and feels lighter.  There is room for something new to come in.

In the next day or two my house will go on the market.  I don’t know how long it will take.  I’m ready for a smaller space and my task of moving will be easier because I no longer have so much stuff to pack and move.  I’ve become a bit ruthless in my decluttering but I have only missed one item that I got rid of and, truthfully, it was not something I used so I don’t really miss it after all.

I know this is not the way everyone wants to live.  I have found openness and more freedom since I began to downsize, however.  I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next.

clear counters living room

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Bending and not breaking: Challenges in yoga teacher training

I didn’t mean to go so long without posting.  Much has happened since I posted over two months ago and I have thought about posting on various things that have happened but just have not done so.  Sometimes we all just need a break from writing for the virtual world and I guess I did. I’ll catch up with a post on my current yoga teacher training.

This past weekend marked the half way mark of my current 200 hour yoga teacher training. It always looks so long at the beginning but then the time passes so quickly.  The training has been intense and very good.  I have been challenged in many ways.  Last month we focused on inversions during the asana portion.  Inversions are quite emotional for me because I cannot do many of them due to limitations with my eyes.  A handstand isn’t worth blurry vision.  There are some variations that I can do but they are never complete headstands.  Though I struggle with not being able to do various poses, I also know that it doesn’t make a huge difference in the long run and that I am still an effective yoga teacher without doing handstands. spirit fingers

This month also presented a challenge: back bends.  Again, I am limited in back bends due to my eyes though I can do more with back bends than I can with inversions.  We did a lot of back bends this weekend.  A lot… The most interesting thing about back bends is that you don’t have to be upside down to back bend.  I think when many people think about the pose they automatically think about wheel but it is certainly not the only back bend.  One of the foundational poses for teaching back bend is actually a standing pose: Virabhadrasana I (Warrior 1). Bhujangasana or cobra is also a back bend which begins on your stomach.  In fact, there are many back bends that never require you to be upside down.

One of the things I truly appreciated about all the back bending we did this weekend was the very careful and thoughtful preparation through the practice.  Part of this is the nature of the alignment based practice I am studying but a large part of it is the teachers who are leading this training.  We work carefully and precisely through preparation for poses, look at our teachers in poses as well as one another to learn the cues and observe the differences in a range of bodies, and then practice.  By the time we finished on Saturday I felt like I could have gone a few steps farther into more advanced back bends.  My spine was ready.  On Sunday we were just as careful in warming up our bodies and preparing.  There were several preparatory and variations offered for wheel.  We used chairs as assistance to move into back bends.  This really helps move into the position and then gradually move deeper into a back bend.  Some people can actually get to a wheel but some of us can’t.  I was able to get to a point with one block under my head but then began feeling like it wasn’t a good position for me to stay in.

The training is not just about the physical asana practice, however.  We spend equal time discussing and practicing meditation.  We have practiced a number of chants and experimented with different kinds of meditation.  The study of anatomy is also a large part of this training.  I’ll catch up on some of the other things we have been learning and looking at so far as well as other things that have been happening.  I won’t let it be so long before the next post.

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Now let yoga begin… layers of training

At the beginning of March I began another 200 hour teacher training.  Logically I shoIMG_0577uld be in a 300 hour training to get to the 500 hour level, but this training called my name for many reasons. (No, 200+200 does not necessarily equal 400 in yoga teacher training.)  One is that it is being co-led by my teacher Kim Drye.    Becca Impello, the other teacher for the training who is also a physical therapist, played a pretty big role in my selection of the training as well. Another reason is that it is alignment and therapeutic based. My first 200 hour training was wonderful and I have sweet friends who are a joy in my life.  This training, however, takes me back to where I began and what I love about yoga.  Along with my restorative training,  this is home for me.

I keep trying to write about the five day immersion but I have not been able to put the training into blog words yet.  This training is something that I am already embodying  in my practice and teaching though.  It is not easily explained at this point.  The training is deeply rooted in anatomy and philosophy so there is much to learn and absorb.

IMG_0940There are multiple layers of training and work that I am integrating and absorbing right now. The weekend before this training began I wrapped a 90 day program with Terri Heiman, I re-engaged with my Reiki practice as well as strengthened my meditation practice through my work with Terri.  I found my work with her to be an excellent bridge between my two 200 hour yoga teacher trainings.  In February I spent two days with Jillian Pransky in New York learning more about Restorative Yoga.  I took much away from the training but one thing that I am continuing to think about is the role of language in teaching yoga and working with students.

I have also been engaged with a wonderful group of creative women in a Heroine’s Journey led by Saundra Goldman.  I first met Saundra virtually through the Tracking Wonder Quest group and then met her in person when I was in Austin earlier this year. The Heroine’s Journey has been a wonderful exploration of creativity lived, lost and rediscovered.  It meshes with the other work I have been doing along the way.

During the fIMG_0955ive day immersion, I stayed with Cathy Parrill in her Airbnb room.  Like Saundra, Cathy is a fellow Quester.  I enjoyed our conversations about books, writing and our projects.   Her cats made me miss my own cat and I think partially led to adopting the two who will come to me soon.  I am looking forward to more conversations and possible collaborations in the future.

I have a lot to think about and it is already almost time for another weekend of yoga teacher training.



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Graceful movement: Yoga in the Library

Today 30 souls gathered in the library at lunchtime to practice yoga.  It was a beautiful thing to see and experience.  I was honored to lead the practice.  Those who gathered were seasoned practitioners as well as some who had never stepped on a yoga mat before.

teaching yoga Gorgas

The session was part of UA Body Appreciation Week and the WellBama program.  Being part of this kind of effort is what I hoped for when I began my MA in Health Studies in 2011.  It’s just taken a while to make it happen.  Several people commented that they would like more sessions and that they enjoyed taking time in the middle of the day for a time to breathe and move.  I’m already working on plans for more sessions, probably later this spring.  Stay tuned.

Taking time out to breathe, rest, and relax is important for our well being.  Our lives often feel like, or actually are, one long meeting.  We have commitments, projects, deadlines and we sometimes forget that it really is important and ok to take time to stop and breathe. One of my objectives when I teach is to offer ways that everyone can practice.  I have limitations that I am aware of and I know there are movements I can’t or won’t do.  Headstands are not worth the risk to me since I have had cataract surgery. (One doesn’t cause the other but I feel intense pressure in my eyes when I invert into a headstand – not worth it to me.)  I have students in my other classes who have had surgeries or are recovering from a surgery so I offer them options to move in different ways.  My goal is for people to feel comfortable enough to take care of themselves in practice.  Yoga is not meant to be a competition.  It is a practice with many parts and aspects.  I am grateful to share the practice with those who come to my classes and with those I study with as well.

Thanks to Leo Lo for the photograph from today.

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Getting through the door: Transformation Challenge

When I began IronTribe, Sam told me the goal was to get through thIMG_0739e door.  Well, the first goal is to get out of bed so I can get to the door.  There have been days when that has been difficult. I looked at the workout, and would think, “I can’t do that” or “I don’t even know what that means”  and cancel going. Sam and I  made a deal that I would not look at the workout the night before because there is a scale for every move. (I have actually gotten to the point where I can look at the workout and know that there is a scale for the things that I am not quite able to do yet.)

This post is about the Transformation Challenge, a 40 day challenge that began Jan. 4 and ended on Feb. 12.  When I joined IronTribe I decided that I was not there to compete with anyone but myself.  I joined the challenge to well, challenge myself for the 40 days.  I have learned a lot about what I am able to do with encouragement and if I push myself. It has also made me realize some things about the rest of my life, my diet in particular.

I could be discouraged about the challenge if I only focused on weight loss.  I did not lose weight during the challenge.  I actually gained a few pounds but I know why.  I was traveling part of the challenge, I fought off a cold for at least a week, and I didn’t stick to the eating plan that I know works well for me.

For the past year eating in a way that makes sense for me has been my challenge.  I know what works –  a whole food plant based diet with some eggs and fish once in a while.  I’ve been pulled in many directions on diet – to try the ways that work for other people.  I also traveled a lot last year which always makes eating right somewhat difficult.  I say somewhat because it is not impossible to continue eating fairly well when I travel.  I always make the choice.  The most difficult times are when I don’t have time to prep for the week ahead.  If I don’t get my prep done on Saturday or Sunday then I have a more difficult time during the week. That time is my priority.

So, I did not lose a ton of weight during the challenge. I want to celebrate what I did achieve over the past 40 days.

  • I gained lean muscle mass.
  • I made it to IronTribe 27 days (they are not open on the weekends so that really isn’t too shabby with travel.)
  • I increased the amount of weight I can lift and back squat.
  • I RX’d a workout for the first time.
  • I made it on the leader board for the first time – thanks to my partner, Hannah.
  • I’m attempting burpees on the floor. It’s pretty ugly.
  • I am stronger.
  • I tried pull-ups on the bar.  That is a  process.
  • I have some awesome 6:15 am friends to hang out with.
  • I never thought I would get to the bar on the right (35 pound), but that is the bar I start with now. IMG_0733

On Friday we re-tested with the same weight and movements from Jan. 4.  On the first day of the challenge I did 4 rounds +6 reps and DNF’d the second part.   On the 12th I completed 6 rounds of the first part and finished the second part.  The workout included thrusters, front rack lunges, ring rows (scale), 50 calorie row, 50 sit-ups and burpees -not in that order. In some ways it felt more difficult on the 12th because I am now working with heavier weights.  So to go back to a 15 pound bar felt like I wasn’t lifting much.  But I was able to do the movements quicker and do more.  I still cannot lunge well but that will come.  My left knee continues to give me some problems.


Encouragement is a big part of what makes IronTribe different than a lot of places I have worked out.  I would not have tried to back squat 105 pounds if I hadn’t had Carrie and Katherine telling me I could do it.  The special workouts we had on Saturday’s throughout the challenge helped me tackle some other moves that I would not have tried otherwise.

What I have discovered is that I am stronger.  The work I do in the gym improves my yoga practice.  I feel better when I begin the day working out, which I already knew from the years I have worked with Sam.  One of the issues I have struggled with is not being able to get to other activities that I enjoy like swimming and biking.  I just don’t have time right now.  I have had to finally realize that it is ok for now.  I’ll figure out when I can swim and bike again as  I make some adjustments to my schedule in the coming months.  IMG_0740

This is an ongoing process.  The journey doesn’t end with the end of the Transformation Challenge.  Tomorrow morning I will be in the gym again, seeing what I can do, how I can challenge myself.  I will encourage others as they encourage me.


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Days like this: Self care

I had a three day weekend due to MLK day.  It’s been restful and low key.  Last night I attended the Realizing the Dream concert for the first time since coming to UA.  Often I am out of town this weekend at a Midwinter Conference and have missed it.   The concert featured Jonathan Butler, South African R&B, Jazz and Gospel musician.  It was a lively and wonderful evening of music and celebration.

This morning I ventured out to IronTribe for an 8:30 class (instead of 6:15 – the alarm went off and I rescheduled).  I spent the rest of the day at home, taking time to do things that I enjoy most – restorative yoga, writing, cooking, reading and painting.  It was a lovely day and reminds me how important it is to take a break. Constant work is not healthy and it really isn’t productive.  I worked all the time for many years and paid for it with poor health and feeling like I was never getting enough done even though I was always working.  We need the space to step away from work and take time to care for ourselves.  Work will be there.  As one of my former colleagues liked to say, in our profession “there is no body on the table”  so nothing is really urgent.

I discovered a new recipe website called The Garden Grazer so I tried Black Bean Lentil Tacos.  They were quick and good.  I went back to one of my favorite sites, Cathy Fisher’s Straight Up Food.   I tried the Beefless Stew and made a Quinoa salad that I have made a few times in the past.  I also made oatmeal in the crock pot.  So I am set for the week for meals.

beefless stew tacos


This was the rest of my day:

Restorative yogarestorative


Some coloring and paintingcolor

and my continuous practice writing. day 22 All in all a very good day.

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Choosing a yoga teacher training

I’ve been thinking about writing a post about choosing yoga teacher training for a while. I’m not sure if I have any great advice but I’ll give it a shot.  I was reminded about this again today because I saw another one of those articles about churning out yoga teachers.  There are lots of programs that are graduating lots of 200 hour certified yoga teachers.  All programs are not the same and all graduates are not the same.  That can be said about many kinds of trainings and programs, however.  I think there are a few questions that I would advise anyone thinking about yoga teacher training to consider.

  1. Why are you doing this?  This is one of my coaches favorite questions for me when I talk about training, racing or many other things.  Why are you signing up for a yoga teacher training?  Do you want to teach? Do you want to improve your own practice? Do you want to learn about a different style of yoga?  I think it is important to know why you want to do a training because it really is a major commitment of time and money. It often requires several weekends over the course of a year and it is tiring.  The reason may change once you are in the training and that is perfectly fine.  In fact, expect your reasons to change.  I began with several women who said they would never teach.  I think most of them are teaching or want to do so.
  2. What kind of training are you looking for?  There are different kinds of trainings.  Trainings vary by length – intensive trainings are daily over a short time while other training programs are once a month for a weekend and may include an intensive at some point.  Also, think about the kind of yoga you want to study and teach.  There may not be a training in your area for that kind of yoga.  I completed a 200 hour training in Core Strength Vinyasa with Melissa Scott.  It was not the kind of yoga that I had practiced for years and I started out saying that I would never do it or teach it.  That changed over the course of the training but I probably should have taken some CSV classes before I began the training.
  3. Have you connected with the teacher?  I think it is important to meet the person you are going to work with for an extended period of time.  Though I did not have an opportunity to take a class from Melissa before I started training, I did go to an introductory session about the training and I traded some emails with her before I applied.  I also talked to my teacher about the training and about Melissa since they are friends.  When I met Melissa I knew I wanted to work with her.
  4. Do you have a yoga practice?  What is your practice like now? Are you ready to increase that practice and see it change, because it will.

These are just a few questions to think about.  You can find a lot of articles about how to evaluate yoga teacher training programs and what to consider if you search the web.  You will find online training, in person training, intensive training, and training that meets over a long period of time.  Trainings vary in the amount of reading and writing that is required – yes, we read a number of books and wrote papers.  Some trainings require written exams at the end.  Teaching is part of training as well. Trainings also often include observing other yoga teachers and taking classes at other studios or places you might not normally take classes.  Many training are registered through Yoga Alliance so you can register with them when you finish.

There are now five yoga teacher training choices around the Birmingham area: Melissa Scott’s 200 hour Core Strength Vinyasa training begins again in March. Kim Drye and Becca Impello are offering HereNow Yoga teacher training for the first time this March.  It is an alignment based training and this year is sold out. Birmingham Yoga offers Ashtanga and Kundalini Yoga teacher training. LifeTime Yoga offers a 200 hour and 300 hour training led by Lauren Lippeatt.  Finally, Kiva Yoga offers a hot yoga teacher training.  You can see we have a wide range to choose from in the Birmingham area.

The best thing about yoga teacher training is the close bonds that are created with your fellow trainees.  I have a wonderful group of friends who I most likely would not have met any other way.  That made training worth every minute.


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