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Yesterday I attended Carolyn Butcher’s prana flow class at Yoga Fusion in Chevy Chase to ring in 2011.  Carolyn started off the class talking about the idea of replacing new years resolutions with intentions. Hmmm… I had starting writing this post a week or so ago but it still needed some polishing.  Remebering that 1.1.11 is a year of synchronicitys and alignment, I decided to go ahead and post. I am back from an unexpected hiatus from blogging.  I look forward to 2011 and where this new year will take me and I look forward to growing community here at DC Dharma in the coming year.

Goal vs. Intention

The impending new year often brings long lists of resolutions.  I resolve to lose 10 lbs., exercise more, and eat my vegetables.   Round about February…we’ve long since forgotten all of those resolutions in the hustle and bustle of our daily routines and we continue  the negative self-chatter that goes along with unmet goals.

In this new year, I suggest you consider a more yogic twist (that pun was not intended) on the idea of resolutions is to set intentions.  What is the difference you ask?  A resolution is more like a goal—something focused on the future.  Goals are very important and we rarely make progress in our lives without goals. But, resolutions, at least for me often feel heavy and burdensome, like another “have to” to add to my list.

Intentions, on the other hand, allow you to be softer with yourself. No “shoulds” allowed intentions are focused on what you need right now, or how you are showing up in the present moment.

Sankalpa in Sanskrit means will, purpose or determination. While a goal looks to the end result, an intention or sankalpa focuses on the path or the journey.

A sankalpa or intention also praises the effort you make to achieve your intention—you get credit for getting back on the path to your intention, regardless of how many times you may veer off course. This is the critical distinction for me.

When you set an intention or sankalpa at the beginning of your practice, it serves to center and ground you, to provide a focus for why you showed up on your mat and to establish presence in the moment.  The same can be said taking intentions off the mat, into your daily life.

Tips for Intention Setting

So when your yoga teacher invites you to set an intention for your daily practice, Don’t freak out….do you hear thoughts like? Should I wish for world peace? Or a cure for cancer? Is it wrong if I wish for an effortless handstand?

An intention is  simply a wish for you or for someone else. Here are  few suggestions:

Just be here now

Try my best

Listen to my body—do what it needs

Live in balance—take the middle path

As for setting New Year’s Intentions, its ok if you haven’t  done it yet.

Take some time to be quiet with yourself and listen to what comes up. What do you want more of in 2011, what do you want less of?

Some of my intentions include cultivating more community, balance and spaciousness and remembering to spend my time in activities I love like traveling and being in nature.

What are some of your intentions for 2011?  I look forward to hearing from you.

Photo by rogersmj on Flickr via CC license


The  Indian festival of Navratri is now underway in western India. The first three days of the festival are dedicated to the goddess Durga. In honor of Navratri, here are a few facts about the hindu goddess Durga.

Durga was created as a warrior goddess to fight the demon Mahishasura who could not be defeated by any god or man.

Durga is depicted as having ten arms and riding a lion or a tiger carrying multiple weapons and a lotus flower. Each of her weapons were contributed by other gods. Durga riding a tiger indicates that She possesses unlimited power and uses it to protect virtue and destroy evil.

Durga manifests fearlessness and patience, and never loses her sense of humor, even during spiritual battles of epic proportion. Legend has it that Durga’s mighty roar of laughter caused the worlds to quake and the oceans to churn.

It is said that worship of the goddess Durga removes the effect of all types of black magic, unfavourable effect of negative planets, bad luck, health problems, problems due to enemies etc.

I really love the stories of the hindu goddesses they are all depicted as so fierce. Durga Maa!

Photo by Indranil on Flickr via CC license

Oct 01

October Yoga Gems

Posted by Melanie in Events, Uncategorized

October is a busy month for yoga workshops in the DC area. Below are just a sampling of the juiciest workshops and happenings in the region. Of special note this month, Kirtan with Jai Uttal at River Road Universalist Church in Bethesda, MD.  Hope you enjoy a few of these yoga gems this month.  See you on the mat!

Sat 10.2.2010 1:00 PM – 3:30 PM Cost: $40, Yoga Chai, DC, * Rasa Lilasana: Moving with the Emotions of Devotion

Sat. 10.2.2010 1:30 – 3:00 PM Cost: $30, Past Tense, DC * Meditation Myth Busters

Sat. 10.2.2010 4:00-6:00 PM Cost: $35, Circle Yoga, DC * Mantra Meditation

Sat. 10.2.2010 1:30 -4:00PM Cost: $40 Quiet Mind, DC * Rise and Shine with a Yogic Sheen (Daily Ritual Workshop)

Sun. 10.3.2010 2:00 PM-3:30 PM, Cost: $25/30, Studio Serenity, DC * Creating a Home Practice

Fri. 10.8.2010, 7:30- 9:00 PM, Cost: $25/30 Tranquil Space, Arlington, VA * Yoga Practice to Live Drummers

Sat. 10.9.2010, 3:30 – 7:00 PM, Cost: $45,Tranquil Space, DC * Anatomy of Pranayama

Sat. 10.9.2010 1:00PM – 3:00 PM, Cost: $38, Yoga Fusion, Chevy Chase, MD * Yoga as a Living Flow, Ignite Your Sva Shakti

Sat. 10.9.2010, 11:00AM – 2:30 PM, Cost: $40, Tranquil Space, DC * Foundations of Yoga Philosophy

Sun. 10.10.2010, 9:00AM – 12:00PM Cost: $50, Boundless Yoga, DC * Seeing Bodies, Yoga Anatomy

Sun. 10.10.2010 1:00PM – 4:00 PM, Cost: $45, Willow Street Yoga, Silver Spring, MD * Yoga Breath and Yoga Nidra, Meditation

Sat. 10.16.2010 2:00 – 4:00 PM, Cost: $30/35, Circle Yoga, DC * Pranayama for Relaxation and Meditation

Sat. 10.16.2010 1:30 – 3:30 PM, Cost:  Past Tense, DC * Meditative Yoga Hike in Rock Creek Park

Sat. 10.16.2010 1:00 – 3:00 PM, Cost: $10, Yoga Fusion, Chevy Chase, MD * Yoga Book Club “The Heart of Yoga” by TKV Desikachar

Sun. 10.17.2010 2:30 – 4:30 PM, Cost: $35, Pure Prana, Alexandria, VA * The Fourth Limb: Pranayama Practice

Sun. 10.17.2010 3:00 – 5:00 PM, Cost: $45, Flow Yoga Center, DC * There’s No Place Like OM: A Chanting Workshop to Find Your Singing Voice

Mon. 10.18.2010 6:30 – 10:00 PM, Cost: $25/35, River Road Unitarian Church, Bethesda, MD * An Evening of Kirtan with Jai Uttal and Daniel Paul

Sun. 10.24.2010 11:45AM-1:40 PM, Cost: Donation, Yoga District, 14th Street, DC * Yoga, Willpower & Diet

Sat. 10.30.2010 2:30 – 5:30 PM, Cost: $40, Pure Prana, Alexandria, VA * Sanskrit – The Language of Yoga

Sat. 10.30.2010 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM, Cost: $38, Yoga Fusion, Chevy Chase, MD * Yoga as a Living Flow: Explore Your Sva Dharma

Sun. 10.31.2010 2:30 – 5:00 PM, Cost: $35/40, Pure Prana, Alexandria, VA * Workshop of Death: A Halloween Yoga Workshop

Photo by FrankH via Flickr with CC License

Sep 28

Ease into Autumn

Posted by Melanie in Ayurveda, Uncategorized

Fall is here on the calendar having just passed the Autumn equinox this past week. The weather man is promising that we will soon be feeling the relief of cooler days soon as well. In the farmers market apples, pears, squash and pumpkins are replacing tomatoes and berries. Transitions are underway with students going back to school and particularly here in DC, politicians preparing for elections.

In Ayurveda the ancient indian science of wellness, Autumn is the Vata Season.  Vata is associated with the elements of air and space. Autumn is a yin season and is associated with physical, emotional, and spiritual transformation. It is a time for letting go and releasing the things that are not serving you. Vata is aggravated by feelings of fear and insecurity. This makes fall an excellent time to turn inward, create a space for stillness, seek balance. Fall is a good time to undertake a dietary cleanse to eliminate toxins in the body and mind.

As the weather becomes cooler and dryer characteristics of vata increase for all doshas. You might notice your skin getting drier, your mind may become more scattered. The seasonal change may bring on more instances of cold and flu.
The cooler drier fall days should be balanced by a warming, oily and nurturing diet and daily routine.

As the weather turns cooler, Ayurveda tells us that we should eat less iced and cold food and drinks and less dry foods like dried fruits, crackers and bread. Warm grounding foods like soups and stews and root vegetables are recommended. Steamed greens are preferred over salads. Cooked foods are preferred over raw foods in the fall.
Warming spices like cinnamon, cardamon, ginger, cumin, cloves and corriander should be used in your cooking.

Specific yoga asanas are recommended for the fall as well. Grounding poses Inverted poses, including down dog, twists, slow sun salutations will soothe a scattered mind. Ayurveda suggests holding poses longer than you are normally inclined to.

I am embracing the fall by catching up with needed health appointments, clearing clutter from my home and office trying to reestablish an outdoor running habit and making sure to include at least one weekly yin yoga practice.

Do you have a particular autumn ritual? Please share how you greet the shifting seasons.

Photo by Catchesthelight on Flickr via CC license


Today many in India are celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi or the Hindu god Ganesha’s Birthday.  I posted earlier about Ganesha, my favorite Hindu god–the God of mischief,  new beginnings, prosperity and wisdom.

In India, to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi, clay statues of Ganesh sit decorated with red paste and flowers in Indian homes for ten days until today when they will be taken to bathe in rivers, lakes or another body of water to symbolize Lord Ganesh sailing to Mt. Kailish, his birthplace.
In honor of the birthday boy Ganesh, I’m posting MC Yogi’s “Ganesh is Fresh”. May you enjoy good mischief, new beginnings, prosperity and wisdom. Jai Ganesha.

Photo:  Flickr by WadeM via CC license


I first started yoga nearly twenty years ago. I’ve posted about it here. Over the years yoga has become a true passion of mine. Like most things I’m passionate about…I try to get my friends and family to share it with me. I hear lots of reasons why folks are hesitant to practice yoga.

Yoga seems to have a mystique for the uninitiated. The following are common reasons I hear that people are hesitant to practice yoga. I hope I can bust a few of these myths and encourage a few of the yoga-shy to get on the mat.

I’m Too Big
Many people seem to think that you have to start out looking like Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Anniston or [insert size 0 starlet here] to practice yoga. I am living proof that the average sized gal [or guy] can do yoga. I’m not gonna lie, its easier to get into some of the poses when you are not..ahem…in your own way. Be that as it may, lots of average and bigger than average sized folks practice yoga. What’s more, if you practice regularly you may achieve the “yoga butt” (keep on reading to learn more.) If you feel intimidated in class because of your size, you just haven’t yet found the right studio or instructor–try another class or if need be another studio–read reviews on yelp, blogs (like this one) etc.

I’m Too Old..Young..Middle-Aged
Yoga is not just for the twenty-somethings–again I know this from experience. I am not twenty-something. I’m not even thirty-something. Lots of people of every age practice yoga. At my favorite studio, six year olds and sixty year olds practice together. On twitter recently, an article was making the rounds about a ninety year old woman who began a yoga practice. Really….anyone at any age can begin a yoga practice and experience the benefits. Get over yourself and get on the mat.

I’m Not Flexible
Not yet maybe….but umm…that is kind of the point isn’t it? If you keep up with yoga I promise, even the tightest hamstrings and hips will loosen. The most important thing to remember in yoga class, after remembering to breathe, is that none of the the other students are paying attention to what you are doing–really. They are all too busy focusing on their own poses and remembering to breathe. As for the instructor, they are there to assist and guide you not judge you…promise. And like I said earlier, if you feel judged, you haven’t found the right instructor or studio…move on till you find a place that feels right for you.

I’m a Straight Guy
Yes its true, many studio classes are mostly full of women. Mostly women in tank tops and form fitting leggings. Straight guys, do you see my point? Now, I am not advocating lechery but I am saying guys shouldn’t let a mostly female crowd keep them from enjoying the health and wellness benefits of yoga.

I’m Not a Hippie..Vegan..WooWoo.. etc.
It is true that in some yoga classes there will be chanting, some studios burn incense some yogis are vegan but none of these things are strictly required. Again there are so many different styles of yoga and every studio has its own unique vibe. Each yoga teacher develops their own teaching style–certain schools or styles of yoga take on generally the same characteristics. Many classes are chanting free zones…others are nothing but Kirtan (that’s sanskrit for chanting.) My advice, try a little chanting, you may just find you like it, and vegan isn’t a virus–you won’t catch it unless you decide you want to.

I’m a Christian…Jew…Wiccan etc.
Yoga is not a religion…for me, I feel like my yoga practice is about the closest thing to a religion that I’ve really ever known. That said, anyone of any faith can practice yoga. One of the best thing about yoga is that it is accepting of all, come as you are.

Its too expensive
Its true that most studio classes in DC run close to $20 for a drop in class and a yoga outfit at Lululemon can approach $200. The good news is that yoga can be had even on a frugalista budget. Most DC studios offer donation based or deeply discounted classes a few times a week. Here in DC the summer weather offers yogis free outdoor yoga options. As for gear, all that you really need is something that you can move in comfortably. Most studios will even rent you a mat for about a buck.

What Else Ya Got?
So have I convinced you to give yoga a try?  What did I miss, any other yoga concerns that I haven’t covered? I’d hate to have anyone miss out on all of the wonderful benefits that yoga has to offer. C’mon get on a mat and give it a try.

Photo by kk+ via Flickr with a cc license


I’m enjoying a long weekend at my family’s lake house in northwest Connecticut. Its a heavenly rural retreat on a pond where I take walks on country roads past the apple and berry farms, kayak on the lake–in Connecticut they call it a pond– and I get to visit my favorite yoga studio and spa, Charym in Litchfield, CT.

If you ever find yourself in this part of the world I highly recommend a visit to Charym. The photo here is the barn structure that serves as the yoga studio. Inside the studio is stunning in its simple beauty. When I’m visiting, I am always sure to take one of Maureen’s yoga classes. She teaches a class that melds a number of yoga styles including vinyasa flow, kripalu and kundalini into a class called Bhakti flow. I mentioned in an earlier post that these classes are my absolute favorite and try as I might to replicate the Charym experience in DC, I’m really not able to do it. A fact that keeps me visiting Charym as often as I can get away.

This is the entrance to the yoga studio, it is a replica of a Bhutanese prayer temple. Georgeous.  At Charym no detail is too small. In the yoga studio, incense and essential oils waft in the air. Amazing playlists soothe and inspire and Maureen encourages her students to unwind the body by moving in non-linear ways and to bring a child-like sense of joy to movement. In addition to traditional asana we shake, jump and twirl. Savasana ends with the sounds of Maureen playing a large crystal singing bowl. You can’t help but leave class blissed out, a slightly different person than the one who walked in ninety minutes earlier.

Did I mention that I love. love. love this place? Oh yeah, there is a spa too. The spa is every bit as amazing as the yoga.  I can personally vouch for the facials and massages. You will feel truly cared for by all of the staff at Charym. Get up here.

Jun 27

July Yoga Gems

Posted by Melanie in Events, Uncategorized, Yoga Gems

July brings a number of exciting yoga events to the DC metro. Citizen Effect’s 30 Day Yoga Challenge begins on July 1 and continues throughout the month with great deals from top DC yoga studios for all participants. Sierra Bender visits DC this month with a master class at The Studio DC. Check out the following picks for juicy yoga events in the capital region.

Sat. 7.3.2010 6PM Cost: Free, Quiet Mind Yoga, DC * Summer Satsang

Mon. 7.5.2010 7:30-8:30 PM Cost: Free, Radiance Yoga, Alexandria, VA * Book Club “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston

Mon. 7.5.2010 Noon-2PM Cost: Donation, Flow Yoga Center, DC * Body, Mind, and Consciousness: An Independence Day Workshop Benefiting Anahata Grace

Fri. 7.9.2010 8PM, Cost: $25, Quiet Mind Yoga, DC * A Midsummer’s Night Scheme

Fri. 7.9.2010 7PM Cost: Free, Studio Serenity, DC * Yoga Book Club “Dharma Punx” by Noah Levine
Thurs. 7.15.2010 7-8PM Cost: Free, Tranquil Space Yoga, DC * Yoga Book Group “The Not So Big Life” by Sarah Susanka

Sat. 7.17.2010 9AM-5PM Cost: The Studio DC * Master Class with Sierra Bender

Sat. 7.17.2010 7-9 PM Cost: $30/$35, Sacred Space Yoga, Rockville, MD * Call of the Dark Goddess-asana, chant, trance work

Sat. 7.17.2010 3-5PM Cost: $35, Tranquil Space, DC * Pranayama and Relaxation for Stress and Daily Living

Sat. 7.24.2010 10AM-1PM Cost: $40, Past Tense Studio, DC * Yoga & Kayaking

Sun. 7.25.2010 1-3PM, Cost: $10, Lil Omm Yoga, DC * Book Club “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin

Sat. 7.31.2010 1:30-4:30 PM Cost: $35, Flow Yoga Center, DC * Taming the Tiger, Calming the Monkeys, Being the Tortoise A Pranayama and Pratyahara Immersion

Sat. 7.31.2010 1:30-3:30PM, Cost: $30, Radiance Yoga, Alexandria, VA * Tending the Mind, Calming the Spirit

Photo courtesy of photofiend via Flickr with a cc license


I’m just home from yoga class tonight. I had not been to class with Gopi, one of my favorite DC area teachers, in quite some time. What I like best about Gopi’s classes is that she infuses her vinyasa flow classes with bits of yoga philosophy. Tonight’s class theme was transitions, both on the mat and off.

Gopi encouraged us to pay attention to the transition from one pose to the next. She urged us to move with intention and grace. Then she asked the class how do your transitions on the mat mirror the way in which you face transitions off the mat? The moment she posed the question I broke out into a broad smile and thought to myself, ah yes, I see…transitions. Yoga is so often therapy–but a heckofa lot cheaper–isn’t it?

How do you make transitions in your yoga practice? Do you close your eyes? Do you hesitate? In class tonight, I made this observation, I hurry through my transitions rushing to get from one posture to the next. My transitions in yoga class are generally not made consciously, seems I’m avoiding the awkward middle phase. Why yes Gopi, you are right, my transitions off the mat have tended to be rushed and unconscious too.

Transitions are uncomfortable. If you are like me, when in a transition you may feel aimless, unfocused even slightly unhinged. I am currently in transition in several aspects of my life and have been for several months. Recently, I’ve noticed myself feeling impatient. I just want to get this whole transition thing over with already. That’s my old pattern of dealing with transitions. I hesitate to begin a transition until the heat is so hot that I have to jump out of the fire. Then, I’m ready to jump anywhere just to get my bum out of the flames. Rinse. Repeat.

For the series of off the mat transitions that I currently find myself in I am valiantly trying to slow down, sit with the discomfort, attempt to understand it, maybe even befriend it and learn a little something while I’m at it. Then move with intention and grace and hopefully avoid the nasty bum scorching this time. While I feel frustrated that I don’t know where all this evolution is leading me, something is decidedly different this time around. I have a sense of faith that the not knowing is ok. That, even though I’m not sure where this path is leading me, simply staying on the path is what is important and that this time when I arrive at my destination I’ll know a whole lot more about how I got there and my bum will be blister-free.

At the end of savasana Gopi challenged us to think of ways we can align our inner and outer worlds. She encouraged us to bring more of authentic selves to every part of our lives. That is really the ultimate transition isn’t it? I think its just that kind of universal transition that I’ve embarked upon. This time, I’m going to slow down and enjoy the ride.

So readers, does this resonate with you? What do you notice about how you deal with transitions in class and in life? Please, leave a comment. Would love to have a discussion with you.

Photo courtesy of brungrrl via Flickr with a cc license

Jun 06

21.5.800 Yoga & Writing Challenge

Posted by Melanie in Uncategorized

This blog was living in my head for months before I sat down one afternoon and just started. Started without a plan, without really knowing what I was doing, where it was going, how it would work. I knew I had to just get started and I’d figure it out as I went along. I am so honored by all of the readers who stop by, many of you repeatedly.  I especially appreciate those of you who leave a comment since one of my goals for DC Dharma is to nurture a community.

Like so many things, this blog is like my life and like my yoga practice, a practice and  a path. My most recent return to yoga was rather like starting this blog, something I’d been living in my head, something I just jumped back into, I’m figuring out as I go along and something that I’m not entirely sure where it will lead.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how to nurture and grow what I’ve started here. In order to to do this, I need to nurture and grow my yoga practice at the same time. All while keeping up with my sometimes demanding day job.  So, what appeared in my twitterstream last week? An invitation to join Bindu Wiles in her 21.5.800 Project,  a 3 week yoga and writing challenge. Thanks universe. Many of my favorite bloggers are participating and I know I’ll discover even more blogging goodness.

My wish for the challenge is to focus my often scattered ideas and energy into results on the mat and on this blog, grow this budding community online and IRL. I’m looking forward to getting started and seeing what blooms.


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