Sea Change in Spring

The first days of spring are upon us–though you wouldn’t know it living here in fickle weather Washington, DC. Be that as it may, spring conjures up the promise of renewal, growth and optimism. For me, the winter-to-spring transition is almost always accompanied by a perceptible upswing in mood, outlook and, most important of all, energy. 2013 is no different. In fact, I’d venture to say that this spring brings with it more than just a modest internal shift but instead a genuine sea-change in my life and future.

Big statement.

The term sea-change refers to a gradual transformation through which the form is retained but the substance is replaced. For all my Shakespeare nerds out there, the expression is taken from a song in The Tempest: “Nothing of him that doth fade, but doth suffer a sea-change, into something rich and strange.” From the outside I look very similar to how I did 8 months ago, save for the rhomboids I never knew I had and a greater dedication to getting pedicures. However, in the same period of time I have undergone a mighty profound metamorphosis.

In August 2012, I set out on an 8-month path to becoming a certified yoga teacher. This past Sunday, I was handed the most important piece of paper in my life: my RYT-200 hour level Power Vinyasa Yoga teaching certificate. Now there’s a mouthful. I can literally hear my parents wincing all the way from Massachusetts as they read that my yoga certification has surpassed my GWU degree in International Development Studies, Phi Beta Kappa, and a Fulbright in terms of lifetime significance. Mom, Dad: I love you and I’m sorry. Thank goodness they’re genetically programmed to love me unconditionally.

Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand, Split Leg Variation with wall)

I have gotten to do many amazing things in my life. From living in France and Senegal to tackling the icy slopes of Cotopaxi in Ecuador and 14,000+ foot peaks in Colorado, I have ventured far and high in my first 26 years. These experiences were life-changing and pretty darn cool to boot, but they’ve got nothing on this journey I’m on.

All of the support I’ve received throughout the course of this training from my yogi peers, teachers and mentors, as well as my friends and family has been so crucial. I cannot begin to express my gratitude. This path has been one of the most challenging in all my life but it is also this path that has equipped me with the tools needed to ride the waves of life with grace–both the glorious crests and the hidden undertows.

The first steps of this journey (and man oh man is this just the start!) have left me strong, resilient, and more mindful than I was before. I still have my work cut out in terms of navigating the baggage the practice of self-awareness inevitably unearths, but I know that process will only make me a better teacher and healer for my students–and lighter!

What comes next is the unknown. Beautiful opportunity and frightening instability all rolled up in one. Gaze fixed forward, I’m surrendering with enthusiasm, embracing the invisible path ahead.

On the note of surrender, I’ll leave you with an excerpt from one of my all-time favorite Rumi poems. Though intended for the summer-to-fall transition, his final words in “A Necessary Autumn Inside Each” are ones I intend to carry with me into the nascent days of spring as I embark on my untold destiny:

Very little grows on jagged

rock. Be ground. Be crumbled, so wildflowers will come up
where you are. You’ve been

stony for too many years. Try something different. Surrender.


Yoga Playtime at Venice Beach

To any of you who read my blog on the regular, more posts are on the way. I finish my Yoga Teacher Training this weekend (hooray!) and have just concluded a two-month whirlwind of work travel that took me from Tanzania to Texas to Southern California. Needless to say, I’ve been a little behind on a lot of things. But hey, this crazy beautiful life gets busy from time to time. All the more reason to breath, move, and play!

Nothing beats playing with some yoga asanas at the beach with your family. Okay, so maybe had it been a sunny day it would’ve been a little better.

Steady As She Goes

Life has recently lobbed a few lemons my way—a handful of issues in my new apt, boy trouble just when things were going so well, and a lovely bout of pink eye. Despite the dents in my otherwise very fortunate life, I’ve managed to respond with a good deal of resiliency–okay there was one sniffle-fest, but I fully attribute to exhaustion. You may think I’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid when I say this but I genuinely attribute my rapid bounce-back rate to my yoga practice.

No, I’m not in the camp that believes yoga is a panacea and that no matter how difficult life gets one can peacefully levitate in lotus position above it all. Let’s be real. Honestly? I feel rather shitty right now. Moving is stressful, heartache seriously hurts, and eye infections–well, goes without saying, they aren’t much fun. Yoga has taught me to acknowledge and embrace the highs as well as the lows in life. By cultivating self-awareness I’ve learned to welcome all feelings (shitty included), treat myself with kindness and compassion (especially when times get tough), and then Let It Go.

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Yoga comes from the root ‘yog’, which translated means to unite, merge or bring together. The ultimate goal of yoga (and several Eastern religions)—Samadhi—is all about emancipation from duality. Right versus wrong. Good versus evil. Happy versus sad. The list goes on. Yoga’s role is to bring these oppositions together, thereby ‘releasing’ you from your suffering. Truth be told though, I think it would be pretty boring if we didn’t get to experience the rise and fall of life’s mercurial waves.

The way I see it, yoga’s ultimate function is to restore balance to your life when events or emotions throw you off course. If your head and heart or mind and body fall out of sync, yoga can help repair those disconnections and make you feel whole again.

In life, we  often find that we’ve reached these incredible climaxes–a new love interest, amazing job opportunity, or an epic adventure. Unfortunately, there is almost always a flip side. When you’re floating on cloud nine, it’s all too easy to fall mercilessly.  So what then, when you’ve hit rock bottom? The only way up is to get your feet beneath you, root down, and rise until your sense of balance is restored. Contentment is found in that middle ground where reality meets fantasy, where the pragmatist and the dreamer meld. Think about when you’re at the beginning of your practice, standing grounded in tadasana (mountain pose), fingertips reaching up to the sky and you pull your hands down into prayer in front of your heart. You’re channeling those dual energies, root and rise, into one centered state of ease and serenity.

The challenge is to root without grasping, to rise without lifting off. But when you do find that balance, that sense of letting go, then you begin to see that the world around you is balanced too. That even on your  toughest days it is possible to see a cheery yellow iris in bloom (in January in DC no less!) and soften with a smile, or to thaw a frost-bitten heart by enjoying the simple pleasure of a yummy latte from your new local coffee spot.

Ah yes, everything will be okay.

MoYoga on Supported Headstand (Salamba Sirsasana)

Salamba Sirsasana, or supported headstand, like all yoga inversion postures is a great way to find both energy and calm. By flipping your world upside-down, you’re allowing for increased blood drainage from your lower extremities, as well as your lymph nodes. When you come out of the posture and into child’s pose, you’re flushing your entire body with fresh, oxygenated blood. This is an incredibly active pose and works everything from the forearms and shoulders to the abs and back muscles to your thighs and even feet.

The key to this asana is to approach it without ego and with a sense of adventure. Inversions are often scary for people, but the only way you’ll get injured is if you don’t listen to your body. In the beginning, take it slow and use a wall. Having both the support and peace-of-mind that something is there to catch you if you fall is a great way to get comfortable and kickstart this element of your practice.

Now, let’s break it down step by step…

STEP 1: Set up your yoga mat, kneeling somewhere in the bottom half. In order to find the proper spot to place your head, take your wrist joint and place it on the tip of your nose, fingertips reaching up to the sky. Wherever your middle finger lands–somewhere between your hairline and the crown of your head–is where you’ll want to set your head down. Keep in mind that from an anatomical standpoint the closer to the crown of your head you base this asana, the more neutral your spine will remain.

All Photos by Leo Matsuo

STEP 2: Place your head down on the mat in front of you, using the spot you found in step 1. Lace your fingers together and cup your head. Your forearms will frame your head and neck on the floor, elbows at shoulder width. Press your inner wrists firmly into the floor.


STEP 3: Send your booty up and back, coming into down dog legs. From the side you should look like an inverted “V.” Fire up your thighs, actively lifting your kneecaps to engage your quadriceps. Walk your feet in towards your elbows, keeping your heels elevated. The closer your feet come to your elbows, the more your hips come over your shoulders; this will bring you into better alignment from the get-go, making it easier to stay solid once your legs rise up and overhead. Draw your shoulder blades in and down, flattening them against your upper back to keep your front torso lengthened.


STEP 4: Root down through your forearms, exhale and lift your feet away from the ground. There are two ways to do this: (1) by lifting one straightened leg  to the sky, then powering your other leg up to meet with the first using core and glute strength, or (2) taking both feet up at the same time by bending your knees and hopping lightly off the floor (see above). I am demonstrating the second option because I find it to be a slightly easier place to start. If you chose the second option, engage your abs–drawing belly button into spine–and lift your legs straight up and overhead with control.

Either way you choose to go, avoid using momentum. If you aren’t quite ready to rise up using muscle strength (core power!), you can use a wall and add a little more kick into the process. Please heed my warning above and check your ego at the door before trying this asana.


STEP 5: Finally with your legs perpendicular to the floor, tuck your tailbone in and down. Lift up and out of your shoulders and neck by rotating your upper thighs inward, engaging your adductors and abductors. Your feet should be directly over your hips, which should be aligned over the crown of your head. Try to keep your weight evenly balanced on both forearms by continually tucking your tailbone, engaging your abs, and firing up every single muscle in your legs. It helps me to demi/Barbie-point my feet, sending energy through the balls of my big toes.


If you’re just getting started, aim to stay inverted for 10 seconds (2-3 deep breaths). You can gradually tack time onto this until you can comfortably hold the pose for 5 min. To come out of it, slowly bring your legs down the same way they went up with an exhalation. Be sure not to lose the lift in your shoulder blades.

When both feet touch the floor, sit back onto your knees, bring your chest forward onto your thighs, and rest in child’s pose. You deserve it!

MoYoga on Wheel (Urdhva Dhanurasana)

Wheel is one of my absolute favorite yoga postures. It’s at the same time playful and powerful. It also transports me back to when I used to take gymnastics–ah, the good old days of effortless flexibility! Wheel is both a back bend and chest opener, great for relieving tension in the upper back, shoulders, and hip flexors. It also strengthens all of the body’s major muscles groups, firing up you quads, hamstrings, glutes, biceps, triceps, shoulders, and the list goes on!

To get into wheel, lay flat on your back, feet planted on your mat hip-width apart. You should be able to graze your heels with your fingertips. This is the same set up you would use if you were pushing up into bridge.

Photo Credit: Leo Matsuo

Reach your hands up and overhead, planting palms flat next to your ears, fingertips facing toward your shoulders. Pull your elbows in toward your center line, tuck your tailbone, and on an inhalation press up through your hands and feet. If you’re just starting out, you can come to an intermediary position by resting on the crown of your head before pressing all the way up into full wheel. When taking this variation, be sure to support your weight with your palms and arms rather than your head and neck.

Photo Credit: Leo Matsuo

In full wheel, your arms will be straight, head heavy, and legs fully engaged. Keep your knees drawing together, thighs spiraling inwards, no splaying of the knees. As your shoulders, chest, and hip flexors open up, work to press your chest through your arms. You can also begin to play with coming up on the balls of your feet and lifting one leg at a time for some added intensity.

Photo Credit: Leo Matsuo

Once you’ve taken 5 to 8 deep breaths, tuck your chin and gently come down, one vertebrae at a time. Once down, resist the temptation to draw your knees into your chest. Repeat this another 2 or 3 times, then lay on the mat in reclining butterfly.

Enjoy this asana, letting yourself be free, open and strong!

Finding Balance Anywhere

Flipped Dog in SFO’s Yoga Room

For those of you who have been known to wake up in cold sweats because your life feels dangerously akin to George Clooney’s in “Up in the Air,” this post is for you.

One of my favorite things about my current job is how much I get to travel. It is also the greatest challenge to my personal commitment to leading a healthy and active lifestyle. No matter how good my intentions are to maintain a workout routine and nutritious diet while on the road, I have a hard time sticking to it. Honestly, it’s hard to find time between meetings and emails to fit in your fitness. And when your job involves networking events and client dinners as mine does, it’s not always so easy to resist temptation when the friendly waiter offers you another yummy cocktail or the dessert menu.

So how do you avoid blowing all your hard work in a week or two on the road? Find balance.

First of all, do what you can, when you can. Over the course of the last two weeks on the West Coast I managed to go for two runs, attend one yoga class, do a 30-minute yoga podcast, fire-up my Jillian Michael’s “Butt & Thighs” DVD twice, and get my ass kicked in my first TRX circuit training workout (so much fun!). Not bad, but not my normal regime. Each of these activities took 30 minutes to an hour–i.e. long enough to maintain my fitness level but not so time-consuming that they threw off my tight meeting schedule.

Second of all, be compassionate with yourself. It’s easy to start feeling guilty for a few days without a workout or splurging on that delicious huevos rancheros with a side of bacon at breakfast, but cut yourself some slack. Always keep in mind that life is to be enjoyed–remember moderation–and stressing won’t do you any good. In fact, it activates Cortisol, a hormone found in your body which makes you store fat, in particular around that muffin top/love handle area–fun fun! So relax because we all fall off the horse at times. The important thing is that you don’t throw in the towel just because you let yourself indulge a little in that bomb brunch or red velvet cupcake. Rather than wallowing in self-judgment after an indulgence, get up and go for a long walk or skip the elevator and take the stairs. Balance.

Finally, be creative. While it is important to work physical activity into your busy days and be forgiving of occasional gluttony when you’re on the road, it’s also important to take advantage of opportunities to be good to your body. Case in point, San Francisco International Airport’s “Yoga Room.” Not every airport or city will have a tranquil space devoted exclusively to yogis just after getting through security, but when it’s there, you best use it! Since I always travel with my yoga mat as carry-on–and tend to be in Lululemon pants and slouchy tops on my travel days–I was prepared to capture this golden opportunity and get in 45 minutes of playful flow before heading to my gate. My 5+ hour flight back to DC was so much more manageable having had the opportunity to move and stretch beforehand.

Whatever you do, wherever your busy life takes you, be kind to yourself—both in body and mind. You’ll come home feeling much happier, relaxed and prepared to take flight again.

On New Beginnings

This weekend marked the official beginning of my journey to become a yoga teacher–though I started down this path nearly 8 years ago. The past two days of intensive asana practice and study of yoga history were more than just a starting point, they were a springboard. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this energized and excited about the work it will take to achieve my dream. Energized is almost too weak a word though. I am so FIRED UP and cannot wait to wake up tomorrow and work on my peacock pose, crane, handstand and so many other asanas that challenge the heck out of me but make me feel so alive. Not to get too deep on y’all here but this poem pretty perfectly summarizes my feelings at the moment and I’m sure many of you can relate:

For a New Beginning

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,

Where your thoughts never think to wander,

This beginning has been quietly forming,

Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,

Feeling the emptiness grow inside you,

Noticing how you willed yourself on,

Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety

And the grey promises that sameness whispered,

Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,

Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,

And out you stepped onto new ground,

Your eyes young again with energy and dream,

A path of plentitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not clear

You can trust the promise of this opening;

Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning

That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;

Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;

Soon you will be home in a new rhythm

For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

-by John O’Donohue

Manifesto: Namaste, Muthaf*ckas


There are those who laugh at this video and those who laugh with it. I’m of the with it variety and aim to make as many people as possible join me in that crowd. I mean, really, want to see where I can put my leg? You want to see where I can put my leg.

In all seriousness though, this video holds one of the keys to getting more people involved in yoga–the ability to laugh at yourself. The thing about yoga is that so many people take it (and themselves in doing it) SO seriously that it isolates a lot of us. That’s a crying shame because I truly believe that yoga can be beneficial for anyone and everyone. You don’t need to go hoarse Om-ing to reap the benefits of yoga. Just last night I had a long conversation about this with mama dukes as I strolled home along U Street from my studio. She wistfully recounted her first experience with yoga some 20 years ago. What she loved about it then and still appreciates about it now is that when you go to a class you’ll see everyone from 25-year-old hard bodies to 75-year-old grandmas. Heck, there’s even a 93 year old yoga teacher out there still doing her thing. Badass!

In carving out my own piece of this industry, I want MoYoga to help people achieve their personal fitness goals, whatever they may be, through mo’ than just yoga, ya dig? For some, yoga is about injury prevention through increased flexibility, muscle strength and improved balance. For others, it is about weight management, mindfulness (a.k.a. focus/concentration) and stress relief. Any combination of outcomes you hope to achieve through yoga is possible with the proper guidance and personal commitment. If you combine your practice with good nutrition, you’ll not only reach your goals but sustain your success. This is why a huge component of my future client work will be nutrition counseling, including weekly meal plans, shopping lists, healthy recipes and education about what fuel your body needs depending on your lifestyle.

Beyond physiology, my ultimate aspiration is to help people feel amazing about themselves by discovering or reclaiming their mojo. Whether you’re a professional athlete looking to optimize your performance or coming back from an injury, or somebody who just wants to be the healthiest, happiest and hottest version of yourself, it’s crucial to cultivate and nurture your self-esteem, self-confidence and, let’s be real, sex-appeal with as much dedication as your fitness and nutrition regimen. True health cannot be achieved through yoga moves alone. It’s all about addressing the entirety of a person’s needs from the inside out. So stay tuned, thanks for reading and get your moves, meals and mojo with me and MoYoga.

Rumi on Patience & Surrender

I’m hard at work generating nutrition and fitness content that I hope you will enjoy. In the meantime, I thought I’d share some of Rumi’s wise words that have been reverberating in my head of late:

Very little grows on jagged rock,

Be ground, be crumbled

So wildflowers will come up where you are.

You’ve been stoney for too many years

Try something different


I am surrendering to my passion for yoga and fear of failure because if I don’t make the leap I’ll never succeed. How will you choose to surrender?