New years resolutions

New years resolutions are a common end of year event. People typically desire to lose weight, feel better, spend more time with loved ones and eat more nutritionally dense food. In thinking about my own new years resolutions I always resort to the basics, to do better than I did the year before.

This TED talk spoke to me. I’d seen the video they use as a demonstration before but his breakdown of how a leader leads spoke to me. Tell you’re friends! We’re dancing to the beat of our own accordion at Robert Gardner Wellness.

My path has been a long winding 35 years and continues to bear ample fruit that’s pleasing. I’m on the right path, more steps are to be taken and at its core, what I want is to be more me and offer you a service you can’t get elsewhere. My work and my life are the same. I jokingly told another Thai massage teacher that if you cut off my arms I’d massage people with my feet. There’s something about bodywork that grounds me, heals me, helps me and makes me thrive.

Abundance and sharing is the name of the game. I want clients who grok what I do and don’t accept less than what we’re doing together. In my speech I talk about our studio, our work, our adventure. That’s because it’s not just me! I don’t need every yoga student or Thai massage client in town, I just need the .01% of the population of Austin and Round Rock, Tx that understand what we do and desire to be well. Let’s get to work! Warms up accordion.


I’ve been waiting to make this post for some time. For two years now I’ve been updating my blog, working on putting my message about Thai massage and yoga out in public view. I’ve poured my soul into every ounce of technology I could muster and after two years here are the stats:

172 blog posts means I’ve written a new blog post on average every 4 days for the past two years.
189 facebook followers
91 twitter followers and 969 tweets
72 youtube videos with 20,753 views and 49 subscribers
10 yelp reviews, all of which are 5 stars

I’ve taught 200 yoga classes in the past two years at our home studio.

My Thai massage classes have numbered 7 since I started teaching and I’ve worked with 23 official students. I’ll be teaching 8 full days in January of 2013. My business has more than doubled in the past two years.

On average if I’ve worked with 2 clients a day 5 days a week for 10 years it means I’ve done 5,000 bodywork sessions. That’s impressive, even to me. It’s been fun working with you, let’s wait and see how much growth happens in 2013.


As my practice grows and I gain skill I notice how I’ve whittled away at the unnecessary. Much like a stone in a river my edges are worn and I learn to work with gravity, not against it. Using muscles to fight a client, isn’t as easy as pulling a client along and allowing them to let go in their own time. In yoga class and in Thai massage the goal is often tricking the client or student into letting go.

Partner yoga or what’s sometimes called acro yoga changes the relationship with gravity on the receiver allowing someone to allow their spine to fall open. As I continue to learn small amounts I’ve begun using it with clients to great benefit. The change in gravity is a great boon you can’t achieve otherwise. Letting go is easy once you change the client’s position in gravity. In its own way it’s a brilliant use of physics to accomplish a goal easily.

Much like inversions in yoga are beneficial you get the same benefit from acro yoga. The difference is that you’re tractioning the spine and allowing the receiver to release into the inversion much like someone lets go in a Thai massage session. If you’re used to yoga the sensation isn’t so unfamiliar but for the uninitiated it feels like freedom. With a good secure base flying you you feel like you can finally let go. Gravity helps you, nature supports your release instead of feeling like you’re pulled down into a slump.

Merry Christmas. Let’s hope more people learn that gravity is their friend in the new year.

14 years

I began to consider how long I’ve been working on chronic pain issues recently. My journey began in 1999 after being hit by a drunk driver. Since then I’ve done everything within my power to help my body heal. It’s nearly impossible to explain what I’ve integrated, worked on and processed over the years.

My spine itself has gone through so many changes alone that it’s like tracking a history. The physical component is intriguing. I was told after my accident that I was fine only to discover that I was in fact, far from fine. My health deteriorated and my spine slowly closed down, becoming immobile and stiff. Years of yoga and bodywork have removed those barriers and I laugh when I tell others that the spine is a series of joints, meaning that it moves. When it stops moving, oh you’re in for lots of pain.

Maintaining range of motion, muscular strength and allowing blood flow and vascularity keep one young. Scar tissue that I’ve helped stretch and at times gently tear apart has been removed. Feeling a small area that’s immobile start to move again is a sensation that’s almost impossible to explain to someone who’s never felt it. I’ve felt a deadness turn into softening then the feeling of cold air blowing into areas of my upper back and spine for years. Life returns. Stagnant water has become a creek with ebb and flow.

Breathing into a restriction, stretching into a yoga pose and integrating my own self has been the most healing journey in my life. Losing your alignment will queue you into how your spiritual life can be rerouted through the movement of a single vertebrae.

May we all keep breathing and moving while meditating. Happy holidays.


BKS Iyengar has been a beacon in my yoga practice and ongoing work with yoga, Thai massage and yoga therapy. Iyengar is the man who first lit a fire under me. He turns 94 today.

Every time I read about him they mention that he still practices daily and I don’t doubt it. Hatha yoga could not be what it is today without his knowledge and teaching. He’s been one of the most influential teachers of hatha yoga ever.

On days when I don’t feel as good, when I start to feel old, I think about Iyengar. I can see him in my mind’s eye calmly breathing with a smile and saying, “why not try another headstand?” Thank you for your care and teaching. Your longevity alone is an inspiration to continue healing work.


Over the years I’ve picked up many things from teachers. Often this has included technique in bodywork, a sense of holding space in a yoga class or a certain open heart and humanity that I’ve attempted to foster in myself, once I’ve noticed it in a teacher. Teachers will pass along things, even unknowingly, just as parents teach children by observation.

At the same time I’ve learned far more about who I wish to be as a teacher by negation. That is to say, I’ve noticed what I do not like and remind myself that as I teach I don’t wish to emulate the negative traits I’ve seen in others. Some of those things include:

1. Treating students or clients as if they are just another paycheck instead of a human needing assistance.
2. Expecting students to do exactly as I say as if it was handed down from on high.
3. Having students place me on a pedestal of some sort, energetically or otherwise.

I’ve worked towards not only high quality education where I value the students time and attention but I strive to be me, in my most true form as a human. My humanity and sense of humor comes through in class and that is as it should be. At all times I remind myself that we’re all in this together, all learning and worthy of time and assistance without ego.

Barefoot Running pt.2

Barefoot running makes more use of your calves, lower leg musculature and requires greater muscular strength to stabilize the foot, dealing with nuance of movement through the tarsals. This amazing use of muscle tissue goes relatively unnoticed by most people. Running, I’m finding as I work on it slowly, is a totally different beast barefoot.

I started recently and have enjoyed what I’m learning as I go. Having only practiced yoga for exercise for years it’s novel to feel sore in new areas and wake up my body, particularly my legs and feet. My first real run was walk, run, walk run for about 30 minutes. I admit with chagrin that my legs gave out before my heart. My legs are very weak.

Soleus and gastrocnemius are two main culprits but my feet also hurt the next day. Walking was slightly painful and I gave myself a week to stretch, have the pain go away before I attempted another short run today. Stretching and mobilizing my ankles helps with any soreness I have and I admit finding downward facing dog pose more enjoyable than usual due to its stretch through both the calves and the plantar fascia.

The spring that comes from proper biomechanics is taking all of the joint jarring issues I’ve had with the idea of running away. Running barefoot, even this small amount I’m doing makes me feel I’m using my body as it’s designed to be used for running. I notice that I don’t feel a jarring shock from hitting my heel first. The balls of my feet hit then soften the impact when my heel does lightly strike.

Overall I’m sold. I look forward to learning more about my legs and feet. If you decide to try barefoot running, go slow. Slow and steady wins the race. This is definitely a marathon.


Myofascial pain trigger points from infraspinatus are some of the worst I’ve ever seen in bodywork practice. Having had problems with the area myself, clients aren’t usually very happy when I find problems with theirs. It’s one of the most painful things I’ll work on anyone.

Infraspinatus helps control rotation of the head of the humerus or upper arm. It’s part of the rotator cuff that reaches around the shoulder joint. Releasing this area gives someone a much wider range of motion in the shoulder joint and if you have arm or shoulder pain I highly recommend trying this to see if it helps.


The holidays are upon us full force. While we’re eating turkey, being thankful and celebrating with family remember these can also be stressful times of the year. Bodywork and yoga are your friends, use them.

People sometimes tell me when they find out I’m a massage therapist or yoga instructor, “Oh! Of course, you’re so calm and relaxed, no wonder you went into that for a job.” I often giggle and respond, “Relaxed? It’s taken years of hard work and breathing with focus to Learn to be this calm.” I didn’t just arrive at decent health and more calm, I worked for it.

Riding in a car with a friend I realized I got extremely anxious. I was worried they weren’t watching the road and it dawned on me that all these years later, I’m still more nervous when other people drive. In the car accident I was in, someone else was driving so there’s this fear, this anxiety about loss of control. Even I get stressed and have bad days. Yoga and bodywork is how I deal with it.

These traditions have been maintained and passed down because they work. Don’t forget them over the holidays.

Barefoot Running

Is barefoot running better for you? Over the years I’ve come to realize that the body is so complex I’ll never figure it all out. One of the things that confound me is feet.

Feet are extremely complex structures and as the base of the entire body, help set the posture for the rest of your frame. Flat feet, fallen arches, bone spurs and other issues can be horrible for people and as a massage therapist I can work muscle tissue but fix flat feet? I still don’t know what’s possible.

I started hearing from clients about barefoot running and upon doing research found it hysterical to see that people are debating whether you should run on the balls of your feet or hit with the heel first. It’s the 21st century and we’re having debates about the most rudimentary of physical activities.

As someone without major foot issues I still find the barefoot running arguments interesting. I decided it was time to find out for myself. I ordered a pair of Vibrams, or Vibram five fingers and am very happy with what I see so far. As a yoga teacher I spend time barefoot often but these allow me to do daily activities with that same feel, the same sense of what’s going on beneath me.

I’m already aware of my feet but these take it to a new level. All day? Yep, they fit like a glove and even walking in a supermarket I can feel the temperature underneath my feet change when I walk into the frozen food section. Small distinctions from arch to arch can be felt and my bias towards my left foot is obvious. Do they fix flat feet? I’ve no clue.

Do your research on barefoot running. Read articles and keep shoes handy but I’m sold. I’ve done no other exercise for years and these make me want to go out and run. I’ll be challenging myself soon to start a basic jogging regimen and I’m excited to see what it will be like using these minimalist shoes.

Ramana Maharshi

My feelings about healing work, depth of observation and practice lead me to various spiritual traditions at times. I make no bones about being a westerner who takes “truth” wherever I find it. I rely on Jesus’ teachings as much as eastern spirituality, particularly Indian spiritual men as I discover them. One in particular who’s influenced my life is Ramana Maharshi.

Life can throw you curve balls, the unseen can be scary and as I strive to make sense of the world around me I find his teachings plain, pure and simple. When I’m feeling claustrophobic, like there’s no escape, it’s usually more difficult to hold onto some spiritual core. As I age I see these moments are more important to my own personal spiritual growth. Accepting the darkness, the most sinister places in yourself and in life as part of your teaching takes perseverance, time and patience that tests me to my limits.

In those moments, I can see Ramana’s teachings like these:

“Existence or Consciousness is the only reality. Consciousness plus waking we call waking. Consciousness plus sleep we call sleep. Consciousness plus dream, we call dream. Consciousness is the screen on which all the pictures come and go. The screen is real, the pictures are mere shadows on it.”

“Your own Self-Realization is the greatest service you can render the world.”

“Happiness is your nature. It is not wrong to desire it. What is wrong is seeking it outside when it is inside.”


Seated Forward Bend

Seated forward bend or paschimottanasana is a safe pose to practice regularly. The primary precaution as in standing forward bend is being careful with the lumbar spine. The pose is a deep forward bend and one must be careful not to strain the lumbar musculature in addition to herniating discs from posterior pressure.

To safely practice the pose, you’re working on stretching the hamstrings: semimembranosus, semitendinosus and biceps femoris to be exact. You can bend your knees as much as you want but slowly engage the quadriceps and lift the kneecaps. This beginning of lengthening the legs and straightening them will give you the tension to need to begin opening those deep tight hamstring muscles.

The strap shown allows one to focus on opening the calves and achilles tendons. The additional grip with the hands also allows more pull, a pull that’ll slowly allow you to lengthen the hamstrings and begin lengthening the spine. Always remember in forward bends, the pressure is in the backs of the legs, no sharp pain is felt behind the knees and you allow the hamstrings to open slowly as you breathe. Only then do you allow the spine to fall open and begin tractioning the spine.