Start Yoga, Change Your Life

The facts are out there. You can google them, look them up, find them anywhere. The benefits of a yoga practice are powerful and life-changing. Not only does it provide your body with all the benefits of physical exercise, but it can also help calm your mind, body and spirit. It can help soothe depression and calm anxiety.

And most importantly, it can help you to enter into a relationship and conversation with your body after years of ignoring it. Or worse, after years of someone else having power over our bodies. It’s time to reclaim our bodies. Reclaim our lives. Reclaim our own power over our own futures and reclaim our health – both physical and mental.

In case you’re not sure where to start, in case you feel overwhelmed by all the launching pads for yoga out there, I’ve created this easy-to-follow guide for starting a yoga practice.

Want to start a yoga practice but have no idea where to begin? Have you taken a yoga class before and felt lost and confused – like you had no idea what was going on? If you answer “yes” to either of these questions, The Beginner’s Guide to Yoga Basics is the book for you!

Through humor, stories from my own practice, good ole fashioned practical tips, and over 2.5 hours worth of online video guides and content, I guide readers through the fundamentals of a basic yoga practice. In this book geared towards beginner yoga practitioners, learn how to, step by step, set up and practice a set of basic yoga poses.

I have been practicing and teaching yoga for 11 years and have over 500 hours of yoga teaching certifications. Through simple, direct and kind descriptions, I can help guide you to setting up your own, best yoga practice. Start your yoga journey now with this easy-to-follow guide!

Help me help you to reclaim your life.


Just keep paddling

It’s so much easier to practice yoga and mindfulness on the road. When every sight is new and every day is a new adventure and new challenge. When each person you meet is someone you’ve never met before and quite possibly will never meet again. When every place you visit is someplace you’ve never been before and quite possibly will never be again. Through the real, physical, visible impermanence of everything travel, you really start to plug in and appreciate that what is here today really will be gone tomorrow and that you can always return to a place, but you can never return to the person you were when last you were there and the people you met there and the experiences you had at those moments. You really seize the day and take life piece by piece, as tiny precious morsels of taste and flavor you should savor and appreciate before they dissolve.

For me, it is so much easier to stay mindful, grateful and present when I’m moving and grooving and traveling and adventuring than it is to practice them at home, when life is more routine and the mundane to do lists are always there and you keep telling your partner to put their clothes in the hamper and they keep throwing them on the floor. And you confront your own semi-neurotic need to have things be tidy.

For me, that’s when the practice of mindfulness gets sticky.

How do we face our dirty dishes, mowing the lawn, the daily responsibilities of work and conflict with our loved ones, without running away? How do we face our lives at home without scampering off in a cloud of dust with a big ole beep beep like Roadrunner? For me, that’s really where the practice of meditation begins. In fact, I could give meditation practice for daily life a different title. Let’s call it:

Meditation: How NOT to run away.

Not only do I practice how not to run away, but how do we find contentment during the simpler and less grandiose times of our lives? I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful and wonderful (if completely unusual) to have “simpler” times of life. But how do we truly learn to savor and enjoy the everyday?

There’s a book that I just love called Saltwater Buddha, and in this book, the author talks about his life surfing and his search for zen. At one point, he talks about the reality of surfing. Oftentimes, you see pictures of surfing and think it’s all catching big waves and doing cool tricks and all that. But catching big waves is such a teeny tiny part of surfing. There’s a lot more to it, like the falling, and the water up your nose, and paddling. Mostly paddling. To have the chance to catch a wave, you have to spend a lot of time paddling in the ocean. Paddling out to the surf. Paddling to stay in one place. Paddling faster to get up to speed to catch the wave. Just paddling. And that’s what most of life is. You have the grand adventures, the horrifying fears, the spectacular moments, but most of the time life just is. It’s just paddling.

So can we learn to paddle through our daily existence like the sun is shining and it’s a beautiful day on the ocean? Or will we struggle and fight and miss our opportunity to catch that perfect wave?

Growing Things

Let’s talk about gardening for a minute. There’s something so good about digging in the dirt and watching what grows out of it. Did you know that digging in the dirt is good for your soul? It’s scientifically proven. I’m not sure where I read that, but I’m pretty sure it’s a thing. And if not, I’m going to say that it’s a thing now because digging in the dirt certainly helps me feel less depressed. Instead of soul food it’s soul gardening.

I may practice yoga frequently, but unfortunately yoga doesn’t help us bypass our humanity, but digs us deeper into it. It’s a blessing. It radically changes lives. But even regular practitioners still battle with the basics of living. Some days are just more sad than others. Some days I plug into that deep, sorrowful beating heart of the universe. But gardening helps me plug back out of it and into the beautiful, rhythmic dance of the beating heart of the universe. It takes me back to the fundamental elements of life and the 5 senses.

The other day, I was walking with my dog through the community gardens near where I live, and I saw something that brought my heart so much joy. It was a garden of the 5 senses – a real, physical garden designed for all your senses. One section invited you to taste the plants that grew there. One section was filled with quirky looking and beautiful blossoms that invited you to take a closer look. Another section was filled with lavender blossoms, sage plants, rosemary and oregano, fragrant herbs that invite you to smell.

As I walked through the garden, touching and tasting and smelling, I felt my whole being wake up and come alive. After all, how often do we really get to use all our senses in an enlivening, joyous celebration of existence?

If you’re anything like me, walking through the streets of the city and suburbs, most of the time I’m trying to close my nose off to IGNORE the smells around me. I’ve thought of putting on a nose plug so I don’t have to smell the exhaust fumes from cars and buses, or the dust billowing from construction sites nearby, or the body odor of that person sitting near me on the bus, or that intense, fake-smelling perfume that chokes my nostrils.

Sometimes I envy horses that wear blinders, which limit their line of sight, because I don’t want to see some of the things that pass me by on the streets as I walk.

But when I walk through the garden, when I dig in the dirt, when I smell the freshness of the tender shoots I watch grow up over their little plant-lives, everything inside me rises to the call. Suddenly all my senses are rushing to the forefront, vying to take first place, to get the most of my attention. They’re all there, even sounds, as the birds chirp and the squirrels chitter in the trees nearby.

Gardening reconnects me to the heart of everything that is good, in a world that focuses so much on the bad. I dig a little deeper and feel the meditative resonance of the earth connection wash through me. For it is meditation – it brings me to a state of peace, a state of calm, a state of utter and completely present aliveness.


The Daily Grind

  1. That awkward moment when you’re the only person at the Apple Store- that pantheon of the new and high tech – who is reading a book.
  2. I wish computers were more tactile and engaging of the senses.
  3. Seriously, where’s the smell, taste, texture, movement? I’m tired of just sitting and staring at a screen that causes migraines.
  4. I think that’s the problem with computers. For me, at least. They make me feel less alive. Because the only thing engaged is my brain and my fingers. But what about the rest of my body?
  5. Perhaps that’s why Yoga is such an excellent antidote to modern life? Because the rest of the body needs to be heard. It’s tired of sitting in silent retreat.

The Daily Grind

  1. On a 3-day, mostly vegan retreat, all I could meditate on was hamburgers. And pepperoni rolls. Oh god, my mouth is drooling!
  2. Someone started shooting guns on the adjacent property at the retreat and I just wanted to shout to my vegetarian compatriots that they were probably just shooting fluffy little bunny rabbits.
  3. Not that I want fluffy bunny rabbits to die. I like fluffy bunnies. But I also just really love a good joke.
  4. The best way to break the silence of a meditation retreat is to squeal when falling flat on your face in front of everyone. Well, at least I couldn’t feel that pain in my butt anymore.
  5. Pretty sure I’m one of the few people in the world who could leave a meditation retreat with battle scars. Let’s just say I fought a crack in the pavement and lost.
  6. Meditation is not for the faint of heart. But I guess neither is walking, and even babies manage that.

Absence of Words, Silence of Noise

Today I’ll share with you a blog post in dialogue with myself. The first half was written after my first few hours in the midst of nearly 42 hours of silence during a silent meditation retreat in the presence of what used to be total strangers. The second half is my reaction and response now that I’ve survived the silent retreat and the insights taken from it.

The first half:

January 16, 2016 – Today I am thankful for the power and presence of words. I don’t know if it’s because of the last few hours of solitude and silence among the presence of 20 strangers, but I’m grateful for noise and I definitely miss it. This sense of isolation among a crowd of people takes me to a dark place – the dark place of my office for the better part of two years, the dark place of my old abusive relationships, the dark places of the unwanted and silenced little girl I used to be. It takes me to the place of unwantedness. To the place where I was told that no one would believe me or care to listen. To the times over the last few years when I’ve been told to just keep my mouth shut because I can’t possibly make a difference. Or because I’m just supposed to do what I’m told. To the desperately lonely times filled with no one to talk to. To the moments of feeling trapped – trapped by my head, trapped by my body, and sometimes literally trapped. I need to get out of it, I’m going for a walk.


When we first entered silence during the 4 day retreat last weekend, I completely panicked. I had signed up for the retreat on a whim. Well, perhaps not quite a whim but I definitely had no idea of what to expect. A Meditation retreat sounded benign enough, I thought. It could be an opportunity to clear some negative energy that’s accumulated, hit the refresh button for the new year, and restore myself to a state of calm after the life-crushing and hectic hustle bustle of the last two years. After all, as John Clease says in a really great video about the nature of creativity, creativity cannot occur in a closed place where humor is not allowed, where questions are stifled and unwelcome, and where stress and progress and getting menial tasks completed rule the day. No, creativity must occur in a state of openness and calm, in a state of acceptance and peace.

I had definitely lost my creativity over the past few years. Or well, not necessarily lost, but I buried it deep. I was just hoping the retreat would allow me to uncover the real me I’d shoveled a bunch of shit over and get back to my true nature of creativity, of calm focus, of positive possibilities.

But silence? No. Silence was not something I had bargained for. The first few hours I thought I was going to lose my mind. I was sick of keeping silence, of holding words and thoughts and desires and needs and even healthy boundaries close to my chest and not daring to express them for fear of a horrible backlash from the “powers that be.” It had been so long since silence had been a positive thing for me. I missed resting in silence, being at peace with silence, having the calmness of spirit to quietly listen to the raucous sounds of life around me. My triggers were definitely firing and my alarm bells were ringing.

A few hours later, I don’t know how I dragged myself through afternoon and evening practice. The silent hours were extended. Now, instead of just one afternoon of silence, we would have an entire additional day of silence. I thought I was going to cry. I did cry a little bit. How could I do this?!

It’s not like I hadn’t been silent before. During the days I traveled by myself, camped in the desert without a soul around, wandered from hostel to hostel and drove countless hours across the continent without uttering a single word, silence became my best friend. I welcomed it wholeheartedly as an opportunity to process, to integrate, to ponder life in all its infinite wonder. But over the past year, silence had warped. The more negative Nancies (and Johns, Jims, Sandeeps and a bunch of other pseudonyms for the people who pressured me to shush) had really gotten under my skin.

I don’t want to be quiet anymore! My soul screamed. I could feel the vibrations of all the words I hadn’t said quivering under the surface of my skin. Boiling, raging, flooding, beating at the dam, desperate to burst forth into a word vomit of epic proportions.

The search for peaceful quiet, could have been the name of my internal blog post for that silent weekend. The quiet scratched against my skin like sandpaper, clawed on my mind like scraggly fingernails on a ragged chalkboard. Grated on my heart like a cheese-grater, but without delicious parmesan to show for it. I went to bed with tears of frustration rolling down my face in the wooded mustiness of the log cabin dorm, where given my young age in comparison to the others around me, my tears could easily have been mistaken for a temper tantrum. I’m sorry, did I say mistaken? I was definitely throwing a temper tantrum. The only problem was, since it was silent, I was the only one who could hear my screams. But back to the story at hand. I went to bed with tears of frustration rolling down my face – dreading the next 24 hours filled with only the absence of words.

But somewhere in the night, the silence must have seasoned me. Settled in, wriggled its way into the jagged cracks of my heart and filled them with plaster. Repairing and even adding a fresh coat of paint and planting some flowers next to the newly made wall of my heart and mind. The day began with my silence as I filled the mug of tea with hot curling steams of water. I had found a new mug off the shelf.

“There are two ways to live your life,” the coffee mug said to me. “One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

I’m not sure when coffee mugs got to be so wise, but I suppose anything can seem that way if you put the words of Einstein on it. My temper tantrum of the night before felt forgotten. I knew which way I wanted to live my life, Mr.-slash-Mrs. Coffee Cup…so thank you very much.

From there, the day deepened with the warmth of the sun. Time stretched out into luxurious stretches of nothing. I had all sorts of brilliant plans before I started at the retreat. Plans to read and plans to write and plans to study and plans to emerge as someone completely different and yet ultimately more perfect than myself. But those plans disappeared into the chorus of bird calls, the peck peck pecking of the woodpeckers, hidden from sight, but otherwise completely noticeable. My plans disappeared somewhere along the game trails I followed into the woods. Disappeared into the tracks of the deer hidden from the wakefulness of the mid-day hours. Disappeared on the wings of the owl I accidentally startled into a mesmerizing flight of expansion and feathers. Information drained away, creating space for the information that’s always been written inside me. The information more real and deep and meaningful and beautiful than anything new I could type into my hard drive.

Something funny started to happen. In the places where the quiet seeped in and dripped down the walls of my heart like water through strands of moss on the edge of a cliffside, space started to grow. Small roots at first, barely visible amidst the noise of my mind, but then sprouting, rapidly, shooting outwards. Like vines enchanted by a wizard’s spell they wound and wrapped their way around the inside of me. Bursting out through my ears and eyes and into the air on the outside of my skin. The space grew faster, bigger, wider, taller, until I was completely enveloped by its soft warmth.

The space felt like down comforters and fluffy pillows, fresh from the hot dryer and smelling like my mom’s fabric softener mixed with soft, lavender rain.

The seeds had been planted and I was starting to grow again. Tiny sprout by tiny sprout, into the renewed trenches of my same old self – just with a fresh watering and a little bit of fertilizer to help me on my growth. The silence was suddenly transformed from an infinite expanse of oppression into the very pathway out of my misery and I heard the door click as something inside me was unlocked.

Click. Step outside, Lauren. You’re safe now.

The Daily Grind

  1. Hooray for keyboards and mouse pads that work. I’ve discovered it’s quite hard to use a computer without those two components. Especially if you do not have a touch screen.
  2. It feels so good to be able to type again. I’ve been writing in journals, but it’s just not the same. And hey, I can’t share those with the blogosphere!
  3. Besides, now that I have my laptop back, I can type when I’m on the toilet! What an efficient use of time.
  4. I’ll let you ponder on your own whether or not I’m actually kidding about that last one :).
  5. Guess that leaves you with quite a lot to think about, huh?

Ode to a Dishwasher

When you live life without a dishwasher you start to adapt in funny ways. Life takes on a whole new perspective.

For example, you start to see dishes for their size rather than their functionality. Oh no, that bowl is far too large to clean in the sink easily — looks like I’m going to squash my food onto this tiny plate instead. 

Wow, I may have just invented the latest diet fad – the small plate, no dishwasher trend. Though I guess it could easily be remedied by trashable take-out instead. Oh well, everything has a loophole I suppose.

But seriously, you start to get really creative. I started organizing my cooking of meals so I could use as few pans as possible. So now I’m not only lazy, I’m inefficient as well. Fry a tortilla? Well, fry an egg in the same pan afterwards. You don’t even have to turn the burner off! It might take a few extra minutes to cook, but hey! At least you don’t have to scrub more shit.

Making some bacon? Well, it turns out that green beans (or anything really) cook GREAT in that bacon grease! And along the way, you save the messy grease clean up for another time. It’s procrastination cooked in bacon grease! And it’s delicious.

Cups become more reusable than you would think, and if a dish didn’t have raw chicken in it, you’d be surprised how many times a rinse can replace a soapy scrub. Using a spatula? Forget about it! The fork you’ll eat with later will do just fine. And when in doubt, throw it out because we’re all just trying to go green and recycle right? Just doing my part to take care of the universe.

Having guests over can be a nightmare too. Not only do you have to make sure you’re giving them the fully-cleaned plates, but you start to see each dish they use as just another minute of cleaning. You grabbed a knife AND a fork AND a spoon AND a cup and two plates?! Get out of my house!

You also start to have weird daydreams about one day owning a dishwasher in your new place. And you get turned on by really weird things like your boyfriend doing the dishes. Not sure at what point having a dishwasher became my ultimate fantasy, but I guess weird things happen when you age and I’m definitely experiencing a case of nesting syndrome.

The Daily Grind

  1. 40 hours of sitting and 40 hours of sitting in an office are NOT created equal. Just ask my shoulders.
  2. I’ll give you a hint. Just sitting is WAY easier.
  3. I need a maintenance day filled with solitary unstructured free time. I’m sure the same could be said for over half the adult population.
  4. The cat has finally (mostly) accepted that we have a puppy.
  5. Though perhaps puppy was only accepted because cat is cold and needs a snuggle buddy to get him through winter.
  6. Oh well, I’ll take what I can get!

The Daily Grind

  1. Damn it feels good to write again.
  2. It’s been a long time since I’ve really written, especially on this blog.
  3. I would hang my head in shame, but it’s never really been fond of nooses.
  4. Perhaps I’ll hang my wrist instead…Off the side of this keyboard…And motivate my fingers with the promise of later holding chocolate.
  5. It’s not that I don’t like to write. I love to write in fact. But I have to feel in a calm enough state in order to do it. Vacation certainly helps activate that calm.
  6. Vacation is like downloading updates to my phone. It refreshes me, works out some of the old kinks and helps me to operate both faster and more effectively.
  7. Vacation rules. I’ll take some more of that, please.
  8. Thanks.