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Five Yoga Hacks to Love Your Soul at Work

This Valentine’s Day, instead of focusing on romance, I will look at loving the pursuit of work life balance through yoga.  These 1,000 words and five yoga hacks make work life better.  I say pursuit of balance because balance like the practice of yoga never ends.  The chanteuse Tina Turner belted out What’s Love Got to Do with It?  Love has everything to do with work on this Valentine’s Day exploration.

My stomach rumbled with every court date. My digestion went to pot, as I struggled to manage my legal briefs (literally and pun intended).  I turned to yoga to soothe my stressed endocrine and digestive system.  While many co-workers took tums to manage heartburn from job stress, I could not make peace with those pastel chalk pellets.  Other coworkers spent time in pubs and drank vodka tonics after court.  My public interest lawyer salary didn’t allow for $18 martinis, and I had terrible tolerance for alcohol.  The legal profession has notorious substance abuse problems and the bar offers many courses on how to manage stress.  I have lectured bar societies on using yoga to stave off burn out.

This Yoga Teacher tells Tina Turner: love has everything to do with our brains.  Our brains make chemicals that shift our moods.  There are physical brain receptors that respond to stress just as our muscles respond to strain.  Consequently, Tylenol lessens heart ache when the heart is sad from a lost love.  Similar to Tylenol, yoga lessens stress from work so you can get stronger, sleep better,  and optimize digestion.  Yoga has always been my drug of choice. I offer you some of what I am taking.

Think of me as your yoga pusher….

It seemed like a good idea to jump into law school when the job market slumped in the 1990s.  In hindsight, my innovative writing skills didn’t necessarily make me keen on writing legal briefs.  I leaned into yoga during law school.   My VCR consistently played Yoga for Beginners by Patricia Walden produced by Gaiam.  On the lunch break during the New York State Bar, I walked home from the New York Convention center that is now a Whole Foods on Columbus Circle to meditate and do yoga before going back to write out the afternoon essays.

If yoga helped me in law school, I made my yoga habit as a fledgling attorney.  When Work stress threw me under the bus, I threw myself into yoga. I took a yoga class before work and then I darted out of court to catch another class at the end of the day.  I didn’t do EVERY YOGA POSE.  I took a child’s pose for 75% of the class.  At the end of class, I felt better even though I could barely move from my stress of litigating.

1.     Don’t go for yoga perfection.  If you cannot do the full pose, just modify the pose for your skill level.

Our humanity means we are all suffering in some way when we come to yoga.  Someone might be good at one pose, while you are good at another pose.  I had one student who LOOKED perfect in every pose but when I talked to him after class, I realized that his mental and emotional demons were taking a toll.  Yoga is from the inside out and not for you to look at what another person seems to do perfectly.  The best yogi may have been Martin Luther King, Jr. and he never did down dog.

2.     Don’t worry, no one is looking at you in yoga classes. 

Focusing on the breath leads to the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness, even when something is painful, helps stamp out the unsupportive backstories that we create.  I used breathing exercises in court to calm down during high stakes litigation.  Opposing counsel never knew it but I paused and breathed.  The silence that every Harvard Negotiation Course promotes often works but what do you do in silence staring across the table? I suggest you breathe.

3.     Breathing defines yoga.  Breathing calms the mind.  Learn to breathe correctly. Do you need help? 

My MALE business coach led me to one of his favorite books,  Barbara De Angelis’ 10 Secrets about Life Every Woman Should Know.  These laws work for all genders.  Dr. DeAngelis describes how the slant of your mind changes everything.  If your boss fires you, you might celebrate and thank your lucky stars because you really wanted to quit.  If your boss fires you, you might spiral downward because you have no prospects and no savings.  It’s the same job termination.  The event is neutral.   Your framing of the event decides your stress level.  Yoga helps shift the way you frame life’s vicissitudes.

4.     Yoga makes you flexible.  Mental flexibility is even more useful than touching your toes.  

Test out new yoga studios and teachers.  Your mind becomes robust with each new experience. Use your yoga to shift your mind.  When you change how you look at things, the things you look at change.  I left law to teach yoga full time.  One perplexed student asked if I felt sad about wasting time, money, and effort on lawyering only to pivot to teaching yoga.  One step in the right direction is worth 1,000 in the wrong direction.

5.     My best student is 91 years young.  You are never too old, too stiff, or too out of shape to do yoga. 

One style of yoga is certain to be right for you.  Reach out, I am here to help.


By |February 14th, 2023|Categories: Musings|

New Space, Same Excellent Teaching

Welcome to the New Space!

Although I have worked in some of the most acclaimed studios in Dallas: Uptown Yoga, City Yoga, Dallas Yoga Center to name a few, I must distinguish those spaces from working at Westside Wellness. At Westside Wellness Center, I am incubating my own yoga style without needing to fit into any particular box.

I know how Goldie Locks and the three yogis felt: this studio feels too slow and this studio feels too fast. Now I am on my own and the studio feels just right. Those of you have taken my classes comment on how exacting I am about anatomy and planing the classes for certain results.

What you may not know is that this process is all about you! When you come to class and present with a certain issue, I will create the sequence to address your needs. Collaboration of yoga like the collaboration of jazz means each class is unique. How can one step in the same river twice? Impossible.

My solution in this space where I have free range is to video each class so you can refresh your recollection if you need to do the class again or if you could not make it to class you have the option of attending on line.

I am so grateful for those who helped shaped the space: David Seery did all the rehab work. He helped direct the color of the floor to suit the tiffany box blue of the walls. Kirsten Joy Birch pulled the color out of many swatches. Ken Crawford consulted on northern light exposure and helped prep. Stephon Christoph Payseur chagrined me for my indecision and helped the color check for video appeal. Denae Richards invited me to check out the space and made the introductions. Laura made the space available for the work to transpire. Frank helped prepared the space.

I thank my lovely students. Without you, I would be nothings. You keep coming to support me with their energy (K. Skipper, M. Wrighton, D. Rixter, J. Dean, J. Clayton, C. Robnett, Shari & Mike, Mike King, J. Dean, Kelli Segers, Bosco, Carp, L. Winski, K. McAllister, J. Payseur, S. McRowery and many more).

The many teachers have shaped me and taught me to teach authenticity over trends. I name a few here but so many more are embedded in my heart: Sarah Willis, Rama Nina Patella, Becky Klett, Amy Ippoliti, Ross Rayburn, Noah Maze, Dice lida Klein, Mary Dunn, Bruce Wood.

By |July 25th, 2019|Categories: Uncategorized|

Is it just me or do Yoga Teachers Talk Bull$H*T!?

You are ready to start yoga class.  You sit tall.  You quiet your face.  You soften the space between your eyes.  You listen.  You wait.  Your yoga teacher commences her dharma talk.  At first it is interesting, but then, she pontificates on irrelevant topics and meanders about rambling.  She refuses to shut her cake hole and just start class.  You fidget.  You scream inwardly as every joint hurts and your right leg tingles from lack of blood flow.  Thoughts of amputation cross your mind.  You open one eye and peep at the clock, those six minutes of a 60 minute class vanish like a yoga high during the commute home in rush hour traffic.

I cannot to be that teacher.  Toastmasters educated me:   stand up to be seen, speak out to be heard and sit down to be appreciated.  I shall speak profound and interesting and sage words but sometimes that inner critic yells, “Really?  Really? How can one strive over obstacles?  That is yoga babble, Nicole.  It makes no sense.”

Erudite is an adjective I’d love to earn.  Pithy is a word I’d get tramp-stamped on my sacroiliac.  Laconic ought to be my nickname.  Yet growing up with an English teacher mom, acquiring a BA in Literature, completing the Radcliffe publishing course, writing for the New Orleans Tribune and learning the subtle art of vituperation in law school makes me a vulgar sesquipedalian. (sesquipedalian defined)

One student’s eyes grew wide, when she overhead me upbraid a student who surreptitiously, cloaked her phone with a strap and pirated my class.  The next day, when the yoga pirate failed to show, my faithful student quipped:  You are definitely a great yoga teacher, but first you will always be a lawyer.  Mea culpa.

Words can be great vehicles of understanding and justify my logophilia.  (10 Words Every Book Lover Should) Or words can obfuscate.  I will bet my Light on Yoga that every Manduka toting yogi has at some point heard:  Press into all four corners of the foot.  I’ve always thought, yet dared not question a triangle shaped foot having the qualities of a square.   Only when Leslie Kaminoff analzyed The Art of the Foot did I see that the foot doesn’t really have four corners.  At best, one might say press big toe, pinky toe and inner/outer heel.

Even telling someone to breathe into her belly is an anatomically impossibility.  We have no lung tissue in the stomach.  However, the softening of the belly and expansive breathing into the entire lung conveys what most teachers mean by viloma-pranayama.

I die death by paper cuts when my teacher trainees pepper their scripts with crutch phrases and dilute their yoga potency.  I pray they will expeditiously grow out of these fillers as they learn to control their nervousness, manage class energy and succinctly deliver alignment cues.  Sadly, many seasoned teachers never cut the fat from their language.

Again, Toastmasters made me Ah Counter  and I tallied ahs, ums, likes and we’re gonnas.  During teacher training, as a gentle reminder to stop saying “ah”, I clink the meditation chimes as an alert them to every single offensive phrase that leaves their neophyte lips.   The newbie teachers flinch under a shower of chimes.  I do not care.  These teachers must be ready to teach in the park to 150 people while a siren blares and a yoga heckler throws chestnuts in their yogic path.  (Why anyone heckle a yoga class? But I digress.) I intend to groom yoga teachers with power and not puffery in their prose.  Do we really need more mediocrity?

Although yoga cultivates its own navel-gazing habits, other industries and every day conversations are replete with filler language too.  Years ago, in a Manhattan bar, I stood transfixed as a would-be-host for The View tried to sip her Martini and not say the word LIKE.  Barbara Walters hired a coach to spend 24 hours with the woman to cut the word like from her vocabulary.  She could not complete a sentence without her coach correcting her.  She soon sipped her drink and opted for silence.

In a yoga class well-placed silence is good.  Eventually, a yoga teacher must speak.  The students come to hear you teach. Mantrika shakti instructs the power of words.  Students often tell me why they are too weak, too old or too _____  (fill in the blank) to do a pose.  They advocate on behalf of their weak habits.  If they win, they get to keep their habits and stay stuck in their comfort zone of mediocrity.

I defend my student’s strengths, ability and diligence.  I champion their cause.  I insist they stretch and grow.  I am yoga defense lawyer for my student’s best selves so that they do not suffer at hands of their own inner critics as I often have.

Language can empower the mind, the mind can empower the body and the body can work miracles in the world.  If I don’t uphold this teaching of the Upanishads, I am guilty of yoga babble.  I abjure.

“Watch your thoughts; they become words.

Watch your words; they become actions.

Watch your actions; they become habits.

Watch your habits; they become character.

Watch your character; for it becomes your destiny.”     Upanishads