How To Overcome The Five Most Common Barriers In Savasana

This week I wrote a post for Inner Fire about How To Overcome The Five Most Common Barriers In Savasana. In the last year, I’ve needed these techniques less in yoga class and more to fall asleep at night. During pregnancy I had insomnia due to physical tension and an insatiable urge to fidget. I was lucky enough to give birth to a good sleeper, but that didn’t mean I started getting restful nights: at first she was an incredibly loud sleeper, which distracted me from relaxing, and then she matured into an incredibly quiet sleeper, which had me periodically checking her breathing. The technique that has helped me the most with relaxing enough to fall asleep over the last year is this:

Technique #2: Kumbhaka

Kumbhaka, or breath retention, is thought to bring calm and focus to the mind. To begin: Inhale to four fifths of your lung capacity. Then, seal the throat (jalandara bandha), tighten your abdominals, and engage your pelvic floor (mula bandha). It should feel like you’re using your muscles to hug your lungs and abdomen from the top, bottom, and around all the sides. Retain your breath for a few seconds (but not to the point of feeling panicky), then release all contraction and sigh out your breath. Reset with a couple ujjayi breaths, then repeat twice more. Over time, you may work up to practicing kumbhaka at the end of every inhale for two or three minutes.

To read about other soporifically effective relaxation techniques that you can use for  either savasana or sleep read the full article over at Inner Fire>>

7 Mini Mantras You Can Share With Your Kids

As a new mother, I am getting in the habit of making sure my daughter gets empowering messages on a daily basis. Rather than only hearing she’s adorable (which, granted, she is), I want her to hear about the volume of her power, depth of her compassion, and the scope of her abilities. I recently wrote an article for Inner Fire on this topic: 7 Mini Mantras You Can Share With Your Kids. Although it’s presented as suggestions for others, I wrote it as a commitment to myself; these are the yogic messages I want my daughter to grow up on.

Some of these messages I emulate naturally: from the day she was born my daughter has struck me with her sense of determination and purposefulness. To convey other messages, though, I have to overcome my own quirks and reservations. One of the hardest messages for me to commit to when the baby topples over or gets scared is:

5. “It’s okay to have feelings”: Accepting loss and change is not easy. It is normal to feel grief, sadness, frustration, and anger. Resisting these feelings or pretending they’re not there only creates more suffering. Being okay with unpleasant feelings (santosa) and expressing them in healthy ways won’t make them go away immediately, but it will allow you to move through them with grace.

When she falls or gets startled, my automatic reaction is to swoop in to hug her, kiss her, cuddle her, distract her from what happened, and prevent her from crying. I like to think that my daughter is getting 24/7 on-call private yoga instruction from me, but this is the exact opposite of how I encourage my yoga students to face challenges. When I’m being more mindful with my daughter, I put a hand on her to let her know I’m there, and say, “How was that, little one?” Often, once she gets past the shock, she goes back to what she was doing as if nothing happened. Sometimes she cries, and then I hold her close if she reaches for me and reassure her, “It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to process what happened.” I think she picks up on it. I notice that from the safety and security of my arms, she immediately looks back to the location of the fall or to the stranger who surprised her and moves through the negative emotion so she can go back to exploring confidently.

Read the rest of the article over at Inner Fire>> 

Go Bhakti Basics: How To Incorporate Chanting Into Your Yoga Practice

I love kirtan, but when I was new to the practice it alienated me. I didn’t start practicing yoga to find a new religion, so chanting the names of deities I knew nothing about felt awkward. I recently wrote an article for Inner Fire about non-religious chants teachers can use to be inclusive of all yogis:

So much of the kirtan and mantra chants presented in some yoga classes call upon Hindu deities. These chants are inspiring and evocative for those they resonate with, but they may exclude yogis committed to different religions or to non-religion.

When I chant the mantras I discuss in this article, they remind me of the teachers I learned them from and of the other lessons they taught me. Om shanti shanti shanti and Om mani padme hum were the first and last chants I learned in my yoga teacher training with Shakti Mhi. She made yoga philosophy accessible to me and guided me into a practice beyond only movement, breath, and focus. Asato Maa Sad-Gamaya reminds me of my mentor, Les Leventhal, leading this chant in his deep baritone voice at the end of a delicious, sweaty vinyasa class. He taught me how to sense, explore, and embody the principles of yoga on and off the mat. Lam vam ram yam ham om reminds me of a healing practice I did with Diego Del Sol when my body was profoundly misaligned. He is the only teacher I know who watches students carefully during pranayama and provides detailed feedback about the quality of their breath. His teaching supported me in feeling like there was still a place for me in public yoga classes when I had to heavily modify my asana practice. Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu is chanted in one of my favorite songs on a kirtan album one of my students recommended to me when she got tired of me playing MC Yogi all the time. Chanting it reminds me that my students are some of my wisest teachers.

Read more about these chants in my article over at Inner Fire.

6 Age-Old Cleansing Techniques Every Yogi Should Know

The most horrifying moment of my yogihood so far was when I read the materials list for my first yoga teacher training, and found out I had to buy an enema kit. I didn’t know where to get one, so I went to a hole-in-the-wall local health food store run by an old hippie. When I arrived, he was chatting with one of his regular customers, so I mulled around waiting for her to leave and pretended to look at herbs. Eventually the store owner paused his conversation and asked, “Can I help you find anything?”

“Uh…,” I hesitated, and then continued quietly, “I’m doing a yoga teacher training, and I need an enema kit.”

“What?” he asked, not quite catching that last bit.

“I need an enema kit,” I said as confidently as possible. “Do you sell them?”

Both he and his customer burst out laughing, and then quickly bit their tongues in response to my mortified expression. He told me kindly that he didn’t carry them and had no idea where I could buy one. Some hippie!

Not all kriyas (yogic cleansing techniques) are as extreme as enemas. To read more about accessible takes on age-old cleansing techniques, read this article I wrote for Inner Fire: 6 Age-Old Cleansing Techniques Every Yogi Should Know.

Yelp Reviews

Rave Reviews

My class was Barbie was wonderful. Not only is she grounded in her spiritual pep talk, it seems she has cleared the negative judgment that some other yoga instructors haven’t […] Barbie is never negative, and that has my full respect […] I love how Barbie was spotting me and adjusting me so I can do a move correctly. If I’m a beginner, I don’t want to be practicing the wrong alignment from the get-go and have that become a habit. So, her guidance was very welcomed. She even guessed/intuited that I am wanting to do a splits in the air (in the future, not now!), and gave me advice about how to eventually attain that in a certain move. DAMN! SPOT-ON INTUITION!! —Amy W. via Yelp

I sustained a mild herniation in my low back. Ever since, yoga has been painful for me. I’ve many different classes over the years, and always finished them in more pain than I started them. Until now. Barbie’s class is amazing. My back feels so good afterward (so does the rest of me). After she became a yoga instructor, she injured her back and had to modify her yoga practice. Now, she offers this class for us folks with back pain, using the modifications she learned to do. […] She’s very knowledgeable and approachable. Come take her class! —Jessica M. via Yelp

I love Barbie’s morning boot camp classes…she’s excellent at challenging students while providing helpful adjustments/advice/pre-yoga inspiration—Megan K. via Yelp

I really like taking Vinyasa Flow classes with Barbie Lev when she subs here. —Dharam D. via Yelp

Go to Barbie if you love to learn new stuff! Barbie has a background in fitness beyond yoga. She will talk you through improving your poses, taking them to the next level, and explain what is going on in your body while you work on your asanas. She also teaches a lot of different breathing exercises. Stuff you don’t get introduced to otherwise. —Kimberly B. via Yelp