JR Martinez – An Example of Tapas and Santosha

Tonight as I was watching “Dancing with the Stars” I was touched to hear JR Martinez tell about the tragedy that mutilated his body, and the courage he found to be positive despite the losses. He fought against the odds to make the best of a horrific situation, even going on to become a successful actor on “All My Children” TV show, and an inspiring example.

While serving in Iraq he was injured in an explosion. The next thing he remembers is waking in the hospital and eventually seeing his face was totally disfigured. Like any of us might, he felt his life was over and he would be better off dead. He felt no one could understand what he was going through.

One day his mother said something that changed his life. “Whoever is going to be in your life now will be there because of who you are as a person, and not what you look like.”  Those words deeply impacted him to make a conscious choice to fight back (Tapas, or standing in the heat/struggle in yoga terms) and to try to be positive (practising contentment even in challenges/Santosha).

JR said, “…I just chose in that moment to fight and just to try to be upbeat – try to be positive every single moment from that day on.”

What an amazing example! Not only has he made his life so much better than it would have been given the circumstances, but he also achieved acting fame and has immeasurably touched the lives of millions who watch him and will try to be a bit better, a bit stronger, based on the path he is setting. This is yoga off the mat.

JR is truly beautiful.



Today pick a situation where you usually feel frustrated or upset in some way. It might be something big or small. For some, it might even be on the mat in your yoga practise. Whatever the situation, make a conscious choice to be positive – to practise Santosha (Contentment). 

We are all imperfect, so if it is particularly challenging try setting a time limit of one hour. If you find yourself slipping, think of JR or some other person who inspires you. Afterwards, write about your experience in a journal. How did you feel in the situation practising Santosha versus how you feel when you are not?

We can’t control what happens on the outside. But we can control what we think about it. We can choose to practise Santosha.

“Contentment (AKA Santosha) is a pearl of great price, and whoever procures it at the expense of ten thousand desires makes a wise and a happy purchase.”
John Balguy

Santosha – the Yoga Principle of Contentment

This week in my yoga classes I am focusing on the principle of Santosha or contentment. Santosha is one of the basic guidelines of yoga given to us in Patanjali’s Sutras.

 Yoga Sutra 2:42 – Santosha anuttamah sukha labhah.
“From an attitude of contentment,
unexcelled happiness and joy are obtained.”

Our goal is to find an inner contentment no matter what the outer circumstances. Outer things come and go. If we rely on them 100% we are in for a higher level of heartbreak. If instead, we learn and cultivate a quiet attitude of contentment we find peace even during struggle.

This does not mean deny or ignore feelings. Quite the contrary. Feelings deserve to be honored and addressed. If ignored they will come up in other ways. Allow any feelings to be accepted. If needed, work to change things. But focus on finding happiness in the journey. Even in the most tragic situations we can find some small piece (peace) of Santosha. Maybe that only comes from feeling the love of others, or having faith that there is a wise God (or higher power) who sees the bigger picture and is there to help us, or knowing this thing will pass. No matter the situation, we must search to find the aspects that give us contentment.

With a mindful choice and lots of practise, we can make Santosha a habit.



During one of your yoga practises this week make Santosha your focus. Notice how you feel as you go through the poses. Pay particular attention to the challenging ones.

Consciously decide to find some level of Santosha in every pose – even the ones you don’t like. Breathe through the feelings that arise. Send yourself love. If you need a chlid’s pose or modification by all means do that. But whatever you choose, can you bring in contentment? You might want to write down your experience in a journal.


The good news is, the more we notice and practise these things, the more we can choose how we feel and act. If we learn to find Santosha in the challenging yoga poses, we can learn to find santosha in the challenging life situations.

If you would like to share your experience with the above exercise, with Santosha, or anything else related please add your comments below.

Still Grateful I Did Not Catch on Fire, but Unfortunately Not Quite as Passionately

Last entry I was telling about leaving food cooking in the stove unattended for 2 hours and 45 minutes while I went to a yoga class. I was panic stricken when I realized what I had done and thought for sure things were up in flames. Here is the rest of what happened:


Finally arriving home I race up the stairs looking for the familiar flames, fire engines, smoke and smoke smell, still praying with all of my faith. And SURE ENOUGH…

AAAAaahhhhhh!! My prayers were answered (and I really do believe that was what did it). Inside the oven the broccolis and carrots were black fossils. The pastas were cobalt pebbles. But NO FIRE.

What a LOVELY and most auspicious way to start the weekend, NOT catching an apartment on fire.  It felt like not catching me and all of my life on fire. Maybe some of you too today have NOT caught your homes or selves on fire. HURRAY FOR ALL OF US!!! If we could be that grateful every day for all of the mini miracles we rarely notice, just think how fantastically happy we would be all of the time. I wish I could stay in that state of utter elation about not being on fire right now. It is a great thing, but easily taken for granted.

Today may we notice the little gifts in our lives (like NOT being on fire right now, etc.) and may our gratitude shine like bright, non-flammable flashlights.


Yoga Sutras 2:33 Vitarka Badhane Pratipaksha Bhavanam.
“When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite [positive] ones should be thought of.” 


Today if a negative thought or mood comes up, replace it by coming up with the most unusual, craziest, opposite, POSITIVE gratitude thought. Maybe think how wonderful it is that you did not catch on fire today. If you had, you would be feeling a lot differently than you do now. Feel the joy of sending gratitude for something important, but often overlooked. If you have something, kooky but sincere, that you are grateful for list it below.

Everything is Yoga

Everything is everything.

Everything is yoga.

Today I took my imperfect yoga practice off the mat and into my street wardrobe. I went the entire day (unknowingly) wearing sunglasses with a price tag sticker still on the side band AND a little SUV rating sticker on one of the glasses. That’s pretty bad! Or good I guess, depending on how you look at it, lol. Well, what can you do but laugh, right?

Sometimes you will find this same type of imperfection happening in your yoga poses. Whether it is an inability to defy gravity as you float from Adho Mukha Vrksasana (handstand)  into Chataranga (the bent armed plank pose), or a tight calf muscle in your Adho Mukha Svanasana (down dog). Whatever the “imperfection” notice it with loving kindness and keep going. Eventually, all of these things will pass. You will be left with what is most important – the love and kindness you have grown on the inside.



Sit in a comfortable position for meditation. Take a moment to think of something you did recently that was embarrassing or imperfect. Close your eyes and visualize, imagine, or pretend an image of yourself doing that less than perfect thing just in front of you as if there was a TV screen or hologram a few feet away from you. With each inhale imagine breathing in the pain or embarrassment or hurt from that other you. With each exhale imagine sending back love to that image of yourself. Keep with it. You might start adding a mantra like, “I love you. I love you.” Eventually, imagine any hurt being breathed away and just breathing love and acceptance to yourself. If there is still some hurt or embarrassment left that is OK too, but just keep sending the love.

When you are ready to end your meditation gently blink open your eyes keeping the loving feeling inside. As you go through the rest of your day periodically send that love and acceptance back to yourself with a breath or two.


Wisdom tells me I am nothing.
Love tells me I am everything.
Between the two my life flows.

Nisargadatta Maharaj


General Benefits of the Yoga Asanas – Back Bends

Back bends are energizing and open the heart/emotions. They stimulate the chakras – heart chakra in particular. They help the lungs and breathing because of the expanded chest space. They stretch and strengthen the spine and abdomen muscles. Some also stretch the pelvic region, increasing blood flow and health to the gonads and entire pelvic region. Some stretch the neck, which helps the thyroid. Blood flow is increased to the thyroid, parathyroid, and adrenals. Blood circulation in the spine is increased. The spine becomes more elastic. Back pain and spinal injuries such as lumbago, sciatica, and slipped or prolapsed discs can be relieved and healed.* A healthy spine helps create a healthy nervous system. Healthy nerves lead to a sound mind and body.

Examples of backbends include:

  • Bujangasana/Cobra
  • Shalabasana/Locust
  • Setu Bandha/Bridge
  • Urdhva Dhanurasana/Chakrasana/Wheel
  • Ustrasana/Camel


Described below is a gentle, restorative back bend exercise to do after a stressful day at work, if you are feeling worn down, if your heart is achy and in need of nurturing, and/or if you have just been going, going, going all day and need a pick me up.

Find a bolster or fold up some blankets to make a prop that is about 5 – 8″ high, about 10″ wide and about 30″ long. Postion your legs in any comfortable way, either straight out and maybe with a pillow under the knees, or with feet together, knees bent, and a pillow under each thigh. Move the prop about a hands width away from your tail bone. Lay back resting your middle and upper back and head on the prop. If you want a more intensive back bend turn the prop sideways and lie back so your rear, shoulder, and head rest on the floor while your middle back is arched and supported on the prop.

Place arms out to the sides with palms face up. Close your eyes and take some deep breaths.

Start to pretend you are breathing the breath into your chest area, circulating it around in there, and breathing it out through the chest area. If any emotions come up, just notice and breath into them with loving kindness. After 5 – 20 minutes roll to the right off your props, gently press up to a seated position, softly blink open your eyes. Notice how you feel now, compared to when you started.


*By the way, here and throughout the site, when I mention healing benefits of yoga I am sharing the beliefs of this tradition, unless otherwise stated. I am not a doctor. Be sure to see a doctor where appropriate for any physical or psychological conditions. You can ask your doctor about yoga, breathing, meditation, etc. and get his or her approval on anything you are adding to your treatment. As a free human being, we all have the right to investigate and follow our own paths, and that includes sharing ancient traditions and ancient healing practises.

General Benefits of the Yoga Asanas – Forward Folds

Forward folds create feelings of calmness and coolness. They increase concentration, making them a great vehicle for pratyahara (the Yogic principle of withdrawal of the senses). The heartbeat is slowed and the blood flows from the trunk to the head. They soothe the brain cells. They remove depression and calm people who get overly excited. They help cool down after a heated sequence. Some of the poses help prepare practitioners to do Sirsasana/Corpse Pose.

Abdominal muscles, stomach muscles, liver, spleen, and kidneys are worked and toned. Liver and spleen are activated. Digestive juices increase, improving digestion. Forward folds relieve gastric problems and bloating in the abdomen. They cure stomach pain and reduce menstrual pain. They heal the spine and spinal nerves. Slipped discs are helped in some positions. Some of the poses help relieve enlarged prostate glands. Some of the poses help heal people suffering from chronic low fever. These things help make abdominal organs healthy leading to longevity, happiness, and peace of mind.

Examples of forward folds include:

  • Uttanasana/Standing Forward Fold
  • Paschimottansana/Seated Forward Fold
  • Prasarita Padottanasana/Wide Legged Standing Forward Fold
  • Upavistaha Konasana/Seated Wide Angle Forward Fold
  • Baddha Konasana/Cobbler or Bound Angle Pose


Standing or seated tall close your eyes and take a moment to do an inventory of how you are feeling right now – mentally, physically, emotionally. Then place yourself in one of the forward folds. Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Stay there for 3 to 10 minutes. Then slowly blink open your eyes and come back to your original stance. Now notice again how you feel. What differences do you observe? You might want to write your experience in a journal or even post them here.


General Benefits of the Yoga Asanas – Standing Postures

Standing postures are good for grounding. They help you find steadiness in poses and in life.

Standing poses improve posture and the way a person carries him or herself. They help increase feelings of lightness, agility, power, and harmony. They help prevent fatigue and create feelings of vigor. Even the mind is made more agile and sharp. The good posture affects the mood and energy in a positive way. The expanded chest encourages better breathing habits. The balancing standing poses help create a sense of poise and balance.

Standing poses also tone and often strengthen the leg, feet, and ankle muscles. Many of them help tone the spine and nerves. These poses can help prevent deformities and keep the spinal elasticity. In the poses where the arms are raised overhead it helps relieve stiffness in the arms, shoulders, neck, and upper back. They also reduce body weight.

Finally, standing poses make it easier to do advanced forward bending poses and help beginners progress to more challenging poses.

Examples of standing poses include:

  • Tadasana/Mountain Pose
  • ViraBhadrasana I/Warrior I
  • ViraBhadrasana II/Warrior II
  • ViraBhadrasana II Variation/Reverse Warrior
  • Vrksasana/Tree Pose


Standing up, bring your feet together or slightly apart to come into tadasana. Feel the weight on all four corners of your feet. Press into those corners to lift your feet arches and your entire body. Tighten and lift the kneecaps and thighs. Allow the pelvis to lengthen down toward the floor. Draw the abdomen and all four corners of the ribcage up. Roll the shoulder up, around, and then down the back. Lengthen the neck and crown of the head up toward the sky while keeping the chin level. Roll the arms and palms open, fingers spread wide, toward the front of the room. Close your eyes. Notice your breath. And then start to breath more deeply. Hold the posture and take several breaths.

Keeping the eyes closed, visualize, imagine, or pretend red roots growing out of your feet and out of your tail bone going down through the floor, through all of the layers, and deep into the earth. Keep imagining it going deeper and deeper until you see it enter the core of the earth, really rooting down and giving you strength. Notice how that steadiness feels. Ideallly, you might feel some tingling and unusual sensations.

Next, visualize, imagine, or pretend a healing white or blue light coming down from the sky, filling you with lightness. Take some breaths just soaking this in.

Finally, imagine the two energies still flowing into you and merging inside your body. You are very steady and grounded (sthira), but also light and relaxed (sukha). Savor and observe for a few more breaths and then when you are ready softly blink open the eyes and go about your practise or daily activity. Try to recall this sense of groundedness each time you are in a standing posture.



General Benefits of the Yoga Asanas – Sun and Moon Salutations

Salutations are great for warming up, creating tapas (heat and burning away things you want to release), and as a moving meditation to intensify your practise intention. 

Used at the beginning of a practise they help prepare and warm the body. Muscles and ligaments are softened by the heat. Joints are lubricated by the movement. By starting softly and gradually building in intensity you get the body ready for more intensive poses.

Salutations also help release things. The movement, heat, and exertion release toxins (not just physically, but also emotional, mental, and spiritual, – all energy layers). If you are feeling stressed out the exertion of the movements can help burn away and work through the challenging feelings and thoughts.

Finally, salutations help quiet the mind when done with intention. The repetitive motions become a mantra or mandala. They help draw in the senses (pratyahara) so you can more easily focus and block outside distractions.


There are numerous variations of sun and moon salutations. Here is a variation of Sun Salutation A you can try now focusing on one or more of the benefits listed above.

  1. Tadasana/Mountain Pose/Standing Steady – Stand as tall and steady as possible with your feet together or slightly apart. Arms can be down by your side.
  2. Urdhva Hastasana/Standing with Arms Overhead -Staying tall, inhale and reach your arms overheard.
  3. Uttanasa/Forward Fold – Exhale, fold all the way forward and rest hands on floor or legs.
  4. Ardha Uttanasana/Half Forward Fold – Inhale halfway up with a flat back and rolling up the hands so only the fingertips touch the floor or legs.
  5. Plank OR Chaturanga – Exhale back down. Bend your knees. Touch the floor and step back into EITHER a plank on your toes or knees OR a bent armed plank variation called Chaturanga.
  6. Hold for an inhale. Exhale lower to the floor.
  7. Bhujangasana/Cobra – Inhale, lengthen the spine and try to pull your chest through your arms. Press the tops of your feet and toes into the floor and gently come up partway into a small back-bend.
  8. Adho Mukha Svanasana/Down Dog – Exhale, press knees into floor and push your hips up toward the sky to come up into an upside down V-shape. If this is not comfortable for you, just come onto hands and knees.
  9. Hold for 5 breaths. Really notice and breath deeply.
  10. Ardha Uttanasana/Half Forward Fold – Inhale, roll up to the tippy toes and press the rear up toward the sky. Exhale, bend the knees, look in between the hands and step or jump forward into Ardha Uttanasana as done earlier.
  11. Uttanasana/Forward Fold – Exhale back down into a forward fold.
  12. Urdhva Hastasana/Standing with Arms Overhead – Inhale, look forward, spread the arms out to the sides, and come up to standing with a flat back.
  13. Tadasana/Mountain Pose/Standing Steady – Exhale, lower the arms back down to your original standing pose. Close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths and notice how you feel.




A Healing Oasis

Near the beginning of each yoga class I teach I offer students an option of setting an “intention” for their practise. By intention I mean a wish, a quality or feeling desired in practise and/or life, a goal, a sankulpa  – anything and everything good, healing, and even magical.

I am offering that same type of dedication here. I set the intention for this site to be a place of healing, learning, love, and community. Whether it is one or many who come here, may what they find be true, lovely, excellent, and praiseworthy. May we think about these things here. May this be a healing oasis. 

If you have a “wish” for yourself or a loved one you can leave it here. Imagine tossing a stone or seed in the water above and planting your wish. Then visualize that it is already here and you have only yet to see it unfold to your physical eyes.