After a recent yoga class a student came up and asked, “Are you always this peaceful?”

I looked her in the eye and said, “Nooooo! I’m a terror.”

And we laughed! 

(I do believe she thought I was kidding). Terror might be a little harsh, but no, I am not always peaceful.

I told her I practice yoga because I need to. Not because I am naturally peaceful. Her ask was especially ironic that week, because I had been feeling anything but peaceful. I’d been quick to anger. I’d been quick to get my feelings hurt. Times like that, when people assume I’m “peaceful” I feel like a big old hypocrite. (I imagine most yoga teachers if they are being honest have felt imposter syndrome from time to time).

It’s not that I’m pretending to be peaceful when I teach. I am peaceful when I teach. I’m 100% present and focused on my classes. I don’t have to think about the stresses of my everyday life during the time I have students in front of me. Teaching is its own form of meditation. It’s sacred space. I love it.

So how about this? Generally, I’m more peaceful than I would be without yoga in my life. But I’m a passionate person with the full range of emotions. Life often enough throws me big seemingly impossible challenges. Some days are better than others. Most days I am skillful. Sometimes I fall flat on my face.

Toting the essential oils I use in my classes has my car often smelling like heaven. My daughter’s friends hopped into the back seat one time recently and went all dreamy.

“You’re mom is sooooo peaceful…,” the girls swooned, inhaling.

Riley was quick to correct them,

“She’s not peaceful all the time.”

And we laughed! 

I’m not.

I never said I was. I might wish I was. But I can’t pretend to be.

For all the yogis out there, who fear they are not allowed to feel anything other than “peace, love, la la la….,” I would like to call BS on that.

I can feel mad, sad, hurt, depressed, overwhelmed, hopeless, or like a failure some days. I’d never heap any of that onto my students, but I sometimes feel those things. Of course I do.

My guess is “ultra spiritual” people who claim to have risen above negative emotions are kidding themselves, or lying, or are fortunate enough to have lives set up where almost everything goes their way. One of my friends, a fellow special-needs mom says of self-proclaimed enlightened ones, “Try one day in my life, and see how you do.”

And we laughed! 

When I’m feeling imposter syndrome, I need to remind myself that having moments (or days) of not feeling peaceful doesn’t mean I’m not a good yoga teacher. Or a good mom. Or a good person.

It is in moments of despair, on our worst days, that we are called to look in the mirror with compassion toward the parts of us that are hurting, not kick ourselves for being in pain, or for not being further along the path than we think we should be.

There is a saying in the yoga world, “Gentle is the new advanced.” This usually means asana, but I think it also includes being gentle with ourselves when we are in emotional pain. It just means we’re human.

This breath in.

This breath out.



One time, many years ago, in another state, I was a yoga student at a crowded studio. There was a teacher there everyone loved. She was bubbly and sweet and had studied with one of the best known and respected teachers in India. She knew her anatomy, knew her stuff.

I do not think she was a trauma-informed yoga teacher though.

Teachers receiving training to volunteer for Connection Coalition (working with youth  in crises) and Connected Warriors (working with veterans), are versed in giving students choices and never taking their power away from them.

Back to that long ago class. I was at my limit in a pose. I wasn’t being a “quitter.” My intuition, my inner guidance told me enough. This teacher came by and tried to physically force me deeper (not brutally, but physically) into the pose. Trying to discourage her I shook my head and whispered, “I can’t.” She ignored me and moved my leg further than what I felt comfortable or safe with.

She smiled, victorious! Her bubbly personality shining out through her eyes, thinking she’d done something amazing, showing me I could go further than I ever imagined!

“Except maybe you can!” she said. Like a cheerleader.

My heart sank. I did not share in her victory. I felt completely disempowered.  I felt like it had become “her” pose, not mine. I wasn’t a teacher yet and didn’t know anything about trauma informed yoga, but I felt a real sense of despair and had to swallow a lump in my throat. I didn’t understand why I felt so angry?

Help isn’t help when we railroad over peoples’ choices. Help isn’t help when it isn’t invited in. Help isn’t help when it makes a person feel smaller rather than empowered.

I’ve made this mistake countless times myself. Not as a yoga teacher, (I hope) but as a human. As an adult child of an alcoholic, with co-dependent “helper” tendencies, it has taken me a long time to learn that I should ask permission before charging in with all my awesome “help” and helpful ideas.

And as a soul on the path, I work on forgiving those who have, with the very best of intentions, inadvertently not “helped” me.



Almost four weeks ago I did something, don’t know what, or when or how, but I twisted my rib and it was very sore. I knew to take it easy for a bit. Incidentally, I had scheduled a surgery to remove a lipoma from my lower back and had waited a long time to do it so even with the sore rib, I went in for the surgery almost three weeks ago. Stitches came out a few days ago. It’s still tender. The rib is better. I am on the mend and slowly easing in after almost a month of little to no physical practice.

I’ve been able to teach the whole time because I need my words more than I need my body to demo, and that has been fine.

But it’s been challenging not to do the practice I love.

I’ve hit this bump before, with the neck injury from the car accident a couple of years ago. It changed so much for me, and I fear talking ad nauseam about these things and sounding like a little old lady complaining about all her ailments.

It’s always shocking to be reminded that my body is aging and I maybe can’t do everything I want to. I still feel, mentally, like I’m about 34, (I’ll be fifty in October). So I get a little indignant. What do you mean I can’t do X,Y and Z? I’m only 34!

It’s also hard when you are a yoga teacher because you know you are a better teacher when you are practicing regularly. When I can’t practice I feel like a schlump. A bit like a gray cloud is hanging over me.

I did meditate almost every day. I am doing “yoga” in other ways. I watched a lot of continuing ed videos and did learn a bunch, but my body craves the asana.

When I go without a physical yoga practice for a while, doubt creeps in. Have I given up? What if it all falls away? (Yoga is something that helps my busy mind not catastrophize, BTW). 

But every time, the second my body is ready, I find myself on my mat, exploring. Where am I now? How do I feel in this pose? How do I feel in this moment?

One time after the car accident I stood at the top of my mat, eyes closed and said silently, as if to my practice itself, “Come back to me.”

Instantly I felt in my heart, “Your practice never left you. You left it.”

I had. I was so sad about what it could no longer be, I was blocking what it might become.

Back on the mat, it’s always right there waiting, greeting me like a dear friend.

Eager. Ready.

No judgement.






One of my favorite films of all time is Beasts of the Southern Wild. A theme running through it is how our greatest challenges are sometimes there to make us strong. How they can be our friend if we stop running from them.

I volunteer for Connection Coalition (formerly Yoga Gangsters) an organization that provides free yoga to youth in crises. Volunteers receive training in trauma informed yoga, and each session usually lasts six weeks. I am currently co-teaching at a group home for teen girls.

Last week we were doing yoga outside by the pool. In the middle of our practice one of the girls noticed a frog had gotten into the pool. Her heart was so big, she HAD to stop her practice, fish it out of the pool and deliver it to a nearby natural pond. She was certain the chlorine would kill it.

A scene from the movie Beasts of the Southern Wild came to mind. Miss Bathsheba, a very rough, straight forward woman who served as teacher to the almost feral children says,

The most important thing I can teach you? You gotta learn to take care of people smaller and sweeter than you are.”

The young woman who fished that froggy out of the pool had been taught that lesson. Or maybe she was just born with that kind of heart.

Her life hasn’t been easy. Kids in this program have been removed from their families due to abuse or neglect. There are often physical and emotional scars.

But she is kind.

green frog on top of human left hand

Photo by Pixabay on

She is the teacher.

It happens every time with these kids. I swear to God.

One of the communities I have just started teaching in hosted a free class. It was an effort to have people come out and try yoga, to meet me as a new teacher, to see if my class might be a fit for them. Usually there are about twenty people in a class. The free class surprised us as people came out in droves. We had to move to a big ballroom. I had to teach from a stage so they could all see and hear me.

These were mostly retired folks with a wide sweeping range in ability levels. I kept the class simple.

Some had never tried yoga before. I reminded them if they only kept breathing mindfully, they were doing just fine. They were practicing yoga.

I reminded them to listen to their own bodies and take a break whenever it was right for them. That no one is “good” at yoga, and no one is “bad” at yoga. It meets you right where you are and gives you just what you need.

In a large group it is impossible to keep your eyes on every student all the time, but one in particular struggled. I did what I could to make sure she was safe.

After class she came up to me. She had some physical challenges that made it hard for her. She asked, with tears in her eyes,

“Did I do okay?”

Of course, I reassured her. But I didn’t have the exact right words at the ready to express what was in my heart.

“Did I do okay?” Isn’t that the big question for all of us? When we look back at our lives, isn’t that what we’ll be wanting to know?

People living with disability or physical impairments, or even just beginners are working SO MUCH HARDER than others, and often at the same time beating themselves up for not being able to do this, that or the other thing, (yoga or not) like everyone else.

Having those very real human emotions, feeling defeat and doubt, working through tears, but showing up anyway. This inspires me. This is honorable and courageous.

I wish I had thought to tell her that.


Go with your own gut. Trust your own intuition. If I had to offer one piece of advice to anyone that would be it. Every time I have gone against my own inner guidance, it has resulted in pain. Growth always comes from pain so I won’t call those moments mistakes, but I am all for learning in an easier way these days, if I can help it.

As a parent, people offer advice. They mean well. But they do not know my child as well as I do. I listen. And then decide what rings true. That bit of advice is good. Let me implement it. That bit of advice is misguided. It doesn’t apply to me and my child. It might be true for the advice giver, but not for us.

What if I can’t feel my gut? What if life around me is so busy, so noisy, I don’t even know what I think or feel?

Time to get on the mat.

Moving and breathing and stretching and making space, the outer most layer of angst drops off. Soon, the mind focuses more keenly on the poses. Where is my arm? Where are my legs? How’s my form? Focus, focus. Focus on something other than the problem.

Moving and breathing.

Eventually the practice comes down to the floor. Forward folds invite silence.

Nothing to do but listen.

That inner voice, the Higher Self is always lovingly waiting in the quiet.

You DO know what to do.

You also know what not to do.




The other day I clicked on a FB post about a woman that has multiple personalities, a result of severe childhood trauma. Many of her personalities are artists, each having a very distinctive style. The main personality does not remember the trauma, but one of the personalities does, and she processes it in her artwork. Just the few pictures I saw of that particular personality’s art, haunted me.

So many children suffer in this world and I don’t know why.

Children are suffering in Iraq. In Syria. Human trafficking worldwide, even right here under our noses in the USA. Kids with disabilities, autism, epilepsy, life threatening allergies… poisoning of their water supply, gun violence, so many disabilities. Children are suffering. Children living with domestic abuse, sexual abuse. Unspeakable suffering.

After reading about the artist(s) mentioned above, I woke up in the night sick with the suffering of children. Physically sick. It was too much. What could I do?

Certainly nothing physically tangible at 3AM from my bathroom.

What do I know?

I know love is real.

Back in my bed, hands on my heart, I begin to lengthen my breath.

Breathing in, I breathe in the suffering of our world’s children.

I am a mother.

Breathing out, I breathe out mother’s love to all children suffering in this world.

Breathing in, I take it in. I don’t look away. I breathe in the suffering.

Breathing out I stretch out my mother arms across the universe, hoping wherever they are somehow those who need it feel the only thing I have to give in this moment. My love.

Breathing in, their suffering.

Breathing out, mama.

This breath in. 

This breath out. 

This breath in. 

This breath out. 

At 3AM, I believe,

I have to believe,

it’s not nothing.


Three days a week I teach yoga in the ballroom of a country club overlooking the Atlantic ocean. Once a year there is a fashion show in the ballroom so we take it outside. Today was that day.

Mats on the grass, uneven footing, a big range in ages, I taught a slow class, all on the ground, no up and down. I kept them on their backs, seated, hands & knees and bellies. There was plenty to do.

The sun was hot, but there was a gentle breeze. Blackbirds looked on from a nearby tree and a butterfly hovered around the octogenarian, pretty in pink.

This breath in. 
This breath out. 

Shivasana, final relaxation. On their foreheads I placed a dark cloth scented in lavender from France (a gift from a student). They pulled them over their faces, breathing it in, blocking the sun.

I release and I let go. 

Bringing them back I gently tapped the Tibetan singing bowl, (a gift from another student).

Glancing up from the bowl, my heart soared!

“Open your eyes and look up,” I said.

A flock of pelicans floated right over their heads in V formation.

Nine hours later,

I can still feel the sun on my face.





The thing I really love about a Vinyasa class is the combo of movement with breath. The energy flow that happens in that practice is the thing that always brought me back to my mat. Now, my practice has to be more static to protect my neck. Repetitive forward folds no longer work for me.

But I miss the flow.

In high school I loved to run, but didn’t do it very mindfully, and always wound up with shin splints. It was the same movement/breath aspect that I loved in running though. Running to me was a moving meditation (before I knew what meditation was). A couple of weeks before my accident, I’d actually bought expensive new running shoes. I was going to give it a go again, this time more carefully, perfecting my stride, my foot strike, yada yada. Since the accident, I’ve been warned against running, it being too jarring and compressing for my neck. So the car wreck not only took away my Vinyasa, but also any hope I had of rekindling a love of running.

One day, thinking about all this, the idea of swimming came to mind. A friend had suggested it before, but I’ve never been very good at it. I can swim well enough to get from A to B in the water. I won’t drown, but I never perfected the strokes, never could quite get the breath right. I had lessons when I was four and once I could doggie paddle well enough to save my life, that was that. As a child, I actually thought I could swim well, until I went to a week-long summer camp and they put me in the “sucky swimmers” group and I wasn’t allowed the privileges of the good swimmers, I had to stay in the shallow end. I was shocked, and embarrassed.

So now, at the ripe ole’ age of 49.5 I’m teaching myself to swim to supplement my yoga practice with a program called Total Immersion. I’d heard about it on a Tim Ferris podcast, where it was mentioned in passing.


I’m really lucky that my neighborhood has a beautiful pool, and I’m in Florida so I can use it year long. I’m learning to get “slippery” in the water. The first couple of drills have me on my back in the water, looking up at the clouds, breathing. I’m just getting started, but have already learned a lot. So far so good.

In the meantime, this exercise (taught to me by my wonderful new physical therapist  Meredith Weiss) allows for a feeling of flow. I’ve been using it as a warm-up in many of the yoga classes I teach. Maybe you’d like to try it too.



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So I should mention the phone call I had with Heather when I got home from my fateful PT appointment wherein I was told the yoga practice I loved so much would have to change for good. Heather is a fellow teacher, a prolific one at that (go there with me to a land where the word prolific translates from writing to teaching yoga). I dare you to try keeping up with all the places she teaches and all the yoga adventures she’s constantly going on. She is a dear friend, one I knew would really “get” what a loss this was. And besides, she’s the one that referred me to this physical therapist!

Starting the car after the appointment, I stopped my tears, and driving home tried to talk myself into being okay with the news that my yoga practice would never be the same. I did my best to jump past the pain to a place where I would take the spiritual leap and find the silver lining immediately. I would be stoic. And besides, there is that dang, “the accident could have been so much worse” ever at the ready telling me I should just be grateful.

As soon as I got home I called Heather. As soon as I heard her voice, I crumbled. I sobbed. I said victimy things I hope she never repeats. She listened with empathy. I felt really, really heard and understood. And then, out of consideration, she spoke in my native tongue (profanity) and for my benefit said,

“Okay, today you cry. Today have the biggest pity party. And when you are done, you will get the F#@K back on your mat, and get on with it.”

And I laughed.

A friend who can hold space for your pain, and also the vision of you moving through it and forward, is special. The kind of friend I want to have, and the kind of friend I want to be.

We’ll call it a Soul Garden Friend.


*click on the photo of Heather to see more of Andrea Blakesberg’s photography.