A Message …

A message from my grandpa today …

My grandma gave me this book of Grandpa’s when we visited her in Wisconsin after Grandpa died on Ash Wednesday … before the lockdowns. I uncovered it when tidying this morning …

As we collectively experience more & more restrictions to our movements (which I fully support), Truths about my practices have started to bubble up. Areas where I’m “doing yoga” for appearances, & the aspects of my practice that are truly transformative … as well as areas of Yoga that I have neglected / only given lip service to.

This is humbling.

I am grateful to my teachers. Rather than rush forward with new programs, classes or “content” to match the global hysteria … I’ve observed them slow down. Stop, even. Get off the train.

Maybe we need to lay to rest “going viral.”

In this slowing down, the fear-based part of my psyche is more than a little terrified. For my grandma, who as of this weekend is not allowed to leave her assisted living facility apartment. For friends across the country now experiencing symptoms. For the unknown ahead …

So, Silence & Solitude. Practices to access the still, calm, clear part of me that is always present. (I wish the same access for you, Friend.)

Thanks, Grandpa. I love & miss you dearly.

Baxter’s Story Window

Today’s Legs Up the Wall pose comes to you from Baxter’s window, where he watches his stories …

How are you resting today, friends?

This pose has become a daily practice for me. Let me know if you try it & how it goes …

Deep Restoration – 10-20 minutes

Legs up the Wall pose

Viparita Karani

“One of the most calming and deeply restorative arenas, especially following a vigorous practice, stressful day, or when feeling energetically down.” -Mark Stephens, Yoga Sequencing

Simple, to-the-point inversion.

Practice any time of day (lovely before bedtime).

You can practice against a wall, or simply swing legs over edge of couch or chair. COMFORT is paramount.

Legs can be bent of straight, relaxed arms near sides of body, & head/neck comfortable (a thin cushion is ok, pillow might cause kink in neck).

This pose can be made more comfortable using props found in your home – a firm blanket or pillow under the sacrum for tight hamstrings, a belt around the calves to relieve tension in leg muscles (I used a yoga block to give my hips some ease) …

Deep Restore – Viparita Karani

This pose has become a daily practice for me. Let me know if you try it & how it goes …

Deep Restoration – 10-20 minutes

Legs up the Wall pose

Viparita Karani

“One of the most calming and deeply restorative asanas, especially following a vigorous practice, stressful day, or when feeling energetically down.” -Mark Stephens, Yoga Sequencing

Simple, to-the-point inversion.

Practice any time of day (lovely before bedtime).

You can practice against a wall, or simply swing legs over edge of couch or chair. COMFORT is paramount.

Legs can be bent of straight, relaxed arms near sides of body, & head/neck comfortable (a thin cushion is ok, pillow might cause kink in neck).

This pose can be made more comfortable using props found in your home – a firm blanket or pillow under the sacrum for tight hamstrings, a belt around the calves to relieve tension in leg muscles (I used a yoga block to give my hips some ease) …


The only constant in life is change.

3/22 UPDATE: In-person classes are postponed at The Yoga Garden until further notice. Please check out free offerings on Facebook & Instagram, as well as the growing number of options on The Yoga Garden webpage!

Being a Taurus (sun) & Virgo (moon), change is not my strong suit. I thrive on order & routine. On knowing the sun comes up here at this time & the moon phases come & go predictably. On the idea (however misguided) that I have a plan.

Friends, I have no plan. Some of you thrive in these times, & for that I am grateful. You bolster those of us who struggle with anxiety, uncertainty or otherwise don’t appreciate massive change.

& maybe this is the point – that we bolster each other during this uncertain time of a global pandemic. Maybe this is our Yoga right now – which means “union” & connectedness – to realize in no uncertain terms that we are interconnected & directly affect each other’s well-being.

Many of you receiving this email, we’ve practiced on our mats together for several years. What changes now?

I don’t have a plan … yet. The Taurus/Virgo in me is working on one tho ;).

I am committed to healthy community, & believe Yoga tenets guide us during this time. As we’ve been studying in group classes — Ahimsa, non-harming, teaches us to do the least harm possible to ourselves, others & our environment. Satya, truthfulness, teaches us to see clearly the Truth before us, without fear & also without complacency. I “may’ be considered part of a low-risk group for this novel virus, yet if protecting my grandmother, your patients/clients, your compromised family members, & YOU requires temporary “social distancing,” then so be it.

For now, I’ve chosen to follow the lead of my own beloved teachers at The Himalayan Institute, who’ve chosen to temporarily close centers worldwide temporarily. You can check out their statements here here. I’ve also taken guidance from Penn State & Penn State Extension, where I also work, & their protocols which are being updated almost hourly.

CLASSES & WORKSHOPS THAT I TEACH ARE SUSPENDED AT THE YOGA GARDEN & ST. PETER’S LUTHERAN CHURCH AT LEAST THROUGH 3/21.

I will keep you updated on if this date is extended.

I am so grateful for each of you who have chosen to practice with me – whether one time or 100 times. Yoga will be here for us throughout … I’ll be offering some ideas from my teachers & from my own practices as the days progress =).

Here are some things I’m doing when I’m not on the mat & practicing “social distancing” —

– Taking walks with my husband (unfortunately, Baxter is on limited activity still, so no doggie walks yet) — we were gifted with sighting TWO gorgeous bluebirds on the Sheepskin Trail yesterday!!
– Sleeping extra, taking epsom salt baths at night, sipping warm water / teas — all of which are FANTASTIC for the immune & nervous systems.
– Connecting with my teachers’ teachings — including those of Rod StrykerLuvena RangelShari Friedrichsen, & more. & I’ll say here not super sweat-inducing practices, which have their place, but rather grounding/comforting practices (whether strong or gentle) with extra relaxation.
– Meditation & Journaling — this is a great time to log minutes with the Year Long Meditation project at Himalayan Institute! A project to change the world.
– Hugging on my doggies Baxter & Tortilla — enough said.
– Staying informed without going down the rabbit hole — this one has been difficult for me, bc my mind craves a good rabbit hole 😉 … yet that triggers anxiety … still working on this one.
– Looking at the # of books I have to read & online yoga study courses I have to complete — making a plan.
– Cleaning house & organizing my sh** — I’ll admit I’m still putting this one off …

What are you doing to keep your energy balanced & soothe your systems? Remember, it’s not just about you — your well-being is needed for you, yes, AND … your well-being is needed to support us all in healing & strengthening our communities.

Group asana will wait for you. Our Yoga practice is here & now, I think, in practicing Ahimsa – with ourselves, others, & the planet.

… & to dust we shall return.

And it sucks today.

I have a feeling this truth is going to suck for a while.

The “Explore 4-H” bicycling workshop for the kiddos at Marshall Elementary went GREAT Wednesday evening. Bobby & Elliot engaged 16 kids in checking their bike tires, adjusting their seats, fitting their helmets … & Elliot showed a what-not-to-do short film of his epic crash the previous Sunday.

The weather outside deteriorated, with crazy winds & sideways rain.

Dr. Scott, the school principal, led a crew of 14 bikes up & down the school hallways … I don’t know if Mr. Benny would have been that cool at my elementary school back in the day. It was awesome.

We packed up gear, called the night a success, & I drove home in the pouring rain. Tired but happy.

At 9:45pm, my phone buzzed, & I noticed it was my dad. Our phone calls are pretty spaced out, months between. Not for lack of care, just a truth of our relationship.

I knew why he was calling & my legs got wobbly.

“Hey kiddo …” He still calls me “kiddo,” even at age 45 :).

The exact words I don’t recall after that. Only that my grandpa was gone.

My Grandma Joan & Grandpa Francis

My Grandpa Fran died peacefully at the Cedar Community care facility, where he & Grandma had moved in the last year. (They’d lived in their own home til well into their 8th & 9th decades.) He’d returned from dinner, & when staff came to prepare him for bed, they found him slumped in his armchair.

My grandparents at my wedding … they won the anniversary dance & my bouquet … 58 years married at the time.

My Grandpa, as I knew & loved him, was a quiet yet fiery & funny man. He’d regale us with stories of his prankster & rowdy days as a kid & young adult in northern Illinois — hopping in & out of train cars & dodging police in orchards to name a few. He served in the Merchant Marine on the Great Lakes, & one of the last times I sat with him he went on & on about the ships, the fickleness of the Lakes, & how he navigated them both.

My Grandpa loved the outdoors & animals. I’ve seen pictures of their travels to the Grand Canyon & other national parks, & when he couldn’t travel much anymore, he had every national park DVD in his collection. He built a porch onto their last home that anyone would envy, just so they could enjoy watching the birds, squirrels & rabbits … especially the hummingbirds. He always walked to the hummingbird feeder several times a day & tipped it with his finger to make sure the bubbles didn’t hinder the hummers from feeding.

My Grandpa with his favorite buddy, Sassy

My Grandpa built their first house. Built it. He poured-the-concrete-blocks built it. Basement & 2 stories (& a porch) built it. While working full-time & with a new young family built it.

Joan & Francis Seaver

When I was growing up, we visited my grandparents once a year, every year, for our summer vacation. Twelve hours in a conversion van =). I remember lazy days of slip-n-slide over their immaculate yard (they never complained), building 5,000 piece puzzles on their porch, & catching fireflies at night. I remember HUGE meals & the pea green tupperware pickle container. I remember the elves I were sure lived behind the attic door in our upstairs room.

As I grew older, into college & beyond, my grandparents sold their home & moved to a smaller place, which I was sure I’d hate. It wasn’t MY grandparents’ home. And yet, over the following 25 years, I’d come to love that place too — because Grandma & Grandpa were there, & they were solid — my stable place between exciting adventures, but also amidst family turbulence.

The last few years were not kind to my Grandpa’s mind. Physically, he slowed down & yet was amazingly healthy despite his love of all things sweet — donuts, frozen Snickers bars, cookies, you name it, Grandpa got hold of it. His brain, however, began to betray him. He grew more unkind to my Grandma, which was painful for both of them. For better or worse, we Norwegians seem to maintain our stoicism. My Grandma still says in spite of turmoil, “onward & upward.”

My Grandpa was hard to live with the past few years, & I’d give anything to have spared him, my Grandma, my aunt & uncle who looked after them daily, the emotional & mental pain of memory loss.

My Grandpa was ready to die. I cannot imagine, & it’s heartbreaking for me — & that’s my selfishness speaking. Wanting to keep him on the back porch with me watching hummingbirds on a summer day forever.

I talked with Grandma yesterday, & she said Grandpa had gone to Ash Wednesday service the day he died. I actually felt a little chuckle inside, my Grandpa’s chuckle. My grandparents weren’t regular church-goers, & I have always appreciated their everyday faith … we didn’t talk about God … I don’t think we needed to. I don’t recall big crosses in their home or Bible verses decorating the walls (not that there’s anything wrong with that). There’s something to be said, to be felt, in just “being.” My grandparents never preached to me in all my 45 years. My Grandma still doesn’t. They always accepted me, no questions asked.

How I wish to know what my Grandpa & God talked about. I hope Grandpa was comforted. & I hope they laughed a lot. I KNOW they laughed a lot. No way could God survive 94 years of my Grandfather’s mischief without laughing … a LOT.

“… & to dust we shall return.”

My heart is broken. I cannot be consoled today. Maybe tomorrow. Nothing is bright, or funny, or love & light, or … anything. Everything hurts.

I know the last words my Grandpa & I shared were “I love you.”

Francis Seaver
Here’s to your 94-year adventure.

“… I didn’t tell you not to hiss.”

I read an article about ahimsa recently, & the author paraphrased a story:

Once there was a snake who was hated by all the villagers for his aggressive behavior. The snake didn’t know what to do, so he asked a visiting sage for advice. The sage told the snake to quit biting people.

(Seems pretty obvious advice to me.)

A few months later, the sage returned & found the snake battered & bruised. The sage asked what happened, & the snake said, “I followed your advice & the villagers attacked me!”

The sage said, “I told you not to bite … I did not tell you not to hiss.”

Nonviolence can seem passive, soft, wet noodle-ish — like sitting in lotus pose with eyes closed, allowing whatever to come at you. Or succumbing to the phrase “you won’t be given more than you can handle.” Or allowing someone’s bad behavior in the name of “it’s not my business.”

(NOTE: If you or someone you know is in a dangerous situation, please do not put yourself in harm’s way unnecessarily. Contact the authorities, a friend, find an advocate.)

Yet ahimsa, according to Yoga philosophy, is a powerful practice not to be taken on by the faint of heart. “The one thing a yogi cannot tolerate,” says Hari krishna-das, “is injustice.” This practice of ahimsa seems to require quite a lot of savvy, discipline & guts.

Think on the named & unnamed people of color in the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, or Gandhi’s freedom movements in India, or Nelson Mandela’s work to dismantle apartheid. Grounded in nonviolence, the images & stories speak profoundly of the strength & discipline of oppressed people & their allies seeking justice.

Tonight my husband came home angry & frustrated after attending a youth sports game. One of the youth he mentors is on the team, & didn’t get a chance to play … again. “The kid NEEDS this, Erica … he’s had every imaginable block stacked against him as a kid … he LOVES this sport … couldn’t the coach put him in for 20 seconds?!”

This is one (of the many) qualities I love about my husband. Jim can’t stand injustice. He gets ANGRY about it.

And yet … he didn’t scream, yell or fume quietly.

He simply asked to chat with the athletic director. To his credit, the athletic director gave Jim his undivided attention, taking him into his office. When Jim explained the situation, he & the athletic director proceeded to have a respectful conversation about the whole thing. While the kid may / may not get in the game more often, Jim spoke up for a kid who needed it.

In addition, on the way home, Jim sought counsel from a trusted friend after the game, seeking to understand where he might have misinterpreted the situation.

This, in my humble view, is the art of ahimsa, the practice of nonviolence. Not sitting back … not acting out in a rage. It’s a powerful stance, an often tenuous stance to maintain.

In the face of injustice … no matter how small … we must act, according to the principle of ahimsa, with the intention of eradicating the injustice without harming (or creating the least harmful path possible). This action requires disciplined practice & deep commitment.

“I told you not to bite … but I didn’t tell you not to hiss.”

To “Do Less” Harm

This morning as fluffy flakes of snow fall outside, I’m reading the Fall 2019 issue of The Leader, a National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) publication.

I had the privilege of participating in a 30-day Outdoor Leadership Course in 2003 with a diverse group of young adventurers like myself. We spent 10 days backpacking, 10 days climbing & 10 days mountaineering in the North Cascades of Washington.

The experience was mind-blowing to say the least, & set me on a path to working as a wilderness instructor & outdoor educator. I developed confidence as a woman in the outdoors & “hard skills” like setting a climbing route & planning an expedition. We also honed our “soft skills” — respect for each other, working as a team, & knowing when to chuck it all & play cards in the tent for 3 days (we got snowed in 😉 ).

Back to the NOLS magazine.

I’ve just finished reading an article about NOLS headquarters in Wyoming getting a visit from a U.S. Senator regarding climate change.

Now, this is a hot topic … I’m not here to debate climate change or sway your view. Let’s get that out there & move on.

The NOLS staff discussed the on-the-ground experience they’ve had in a changing environment. NOLS has been around for 55 years leading outdoor expeditions worldwide, & few organizations I know of have more experience & knowledge of humans & outdoor environments.

The staff noted operational challenges, & the permanent changes made to adapt to a “new normal” of glacial recession, Alaska heatwaves, longer wildfire seasons, & extensive beetle-killed forests.

I’ve hiked in those now beetle-killed forests, & traversed those now-receding glaciers. In another life, working on a volunteer wildland fire crew, I experienced just a bit of those wildfires.

Snowking Mountain

During my 2003 expedition, we climbed Snowking Mountain in the North Cascades during our mountaineering section of the course. We practiced cutting steps in the snow & using ice axes & crampons effectively (i.e. not puncturing yourself or someone else). We roped up in teams of 3, & practiced hitting the deck & bracing ourselves with our ice axes to prevent a team member from falling off the mountain. Humbling & empowering work.

Snowking Mountain

Now, I’m a mediocre adventurer … there are countless badass adventurers, several I count as friends, who’ve climbed, tasted, hiked, biked in astounding landscapes. And for me, Snowking was a moment of badassery for me ;). The view from the summit took my breath away … & my eyes were overwhelmed by the view in all directions … I still feel speechless awe when I visualize that day with my NOLS team.

Just to know it’s there fills my heart.

So, as I read this article, I think about the amazing beauty & overwhelming wonder of the landscapes I’ve been privileged to experience around the U.S. & the world. And I think of ahimsa, non-harming, the theme we’ve been exploring in my Yoga asana classes this month.

Can we really “do no harm” to our natural world anymore?

In many areas, the harm is done. Most recently, we see blazes in the Amazon, California & currently Australia. And have you heard of the island of trash in the ocean — the Pacific Ocean “garbage patch”? Or the piles of oxygen tanks on Mt. Everest? The radioactive waste containers buried underground in Finland?

Great Pacific garbage patch

It’s enough to send any human being capable of self-reflection into despair.

So, I’ve realized the fact is: Humans do harm. Just by being on this planet, we cause harm to others & our environment.

I throw plastic away, & it ends up in someone else’s backyard in China. Even if I recycle, the jury is out how much actually gets recycled.

I drive a car. Really little way to get around that in the West. From production to use to disposal, that car causes harm.

What CAN we do?

Michelle Cassandra Johnson has written a powerful little book titled Skill in Action: Radicalizing Your Yoga Practice to Create a Just World. I listened to an interview with Michelle during which she described an interaction with one of her students during a yoga & justice training.

The female student stated (I’m paraphrasing) that she’s come to the conclusion that just by existing she WILL do harm. Kind of a downer, right? The idea that one’s very existence is harmful to others & the environment.

And yet she also resolved, “So I am committing to do LESS harm in any way I can.”

Her resolution was in the context of a discussion about race, racial inequity, & white privilege … & I think we can extrapolate her comments to encompass the natural environment as well.

In a world & time where some harm is inevitable, how can we DO LESS. How can we do less harm mindfully & proactively?

The answers are different for each of us.

I may never stand at the top of Snowking Mountain again … but I want to know it’s THERE, in all its snowcapped glory, for future generations to enjoy. I want to know the forests I’ve hiked still stand, the rivers I’ve paddled flow freely, & the creatures I’ve spied (or have spied me) are out there living their best lives.

How can I … can we, if you’re inspired … commit to daily acts of doing less harm?

This is Yoga.

(Images from Wikipedia)

Home 🐚

From the Sunday New York Times …

This image caught my eye in light of the recent full moon in Cancer ♋, represented by the crab. One theme we explored in practice last Friday is our bodies as home. This theme — at least for me, maybe for you — is an emotional one.

Through the course of my short time in this body, it’s rare that I’ve felt at home here. I’ve felt uncomfortable, despondent, angry, defeated, critical, and not enough in this body … rarely “at home.” In response, I’ve treated this body, mentally & physically, pretty poorly at times — pushing, denying nourishment, depleting, etc. — to the point of near crisis, & with long-term effects likely.

It’s only been in recent years that I’ve “tried on” the idea of feeling at home in my own body. For example, expressing gratitude for the shell I’ve been given to move in & through this life. I don’t feel grateful consistently yet … I see the wrinkles, the cellulite, I feel the achy joints, the ups & downs in energy … I know, I know … “everybody has these” you kindly offer … & I repeat genuinely the same encouragement to folks who despair about their bodies to me … I admit often I’m “faking it til I make it” in the gratitude department for my own body.

It’s only in recent years I’ve “tried on” the idea of actually caring for my body, the shell I inhabit. Yoga philosophy sees the body as a temple which houses each individual’s Spark of the Divine — which woke me up a bit. If my body is a temple for Something Bigger, how am I reflecting that in my choices?

So one statement I’m working with is “I’m at home in my body.” Simple enough. And a lifetime challenge for me.

As you find moments of rest (I hope) today, Sunday, maybe something in this little musing inspires you. How do you find home in your body? Is it easy, challenging, fun, exasperating? What does the body as a temple for your individual Spark conjure up in you?

Deep bows to you, friends — E

Ways to Practice Ahimsa 🇦🇺

It’s raining here in southwestern Pennsylvania as I tap out this post … I find myself pausing … Silently begging Mother Nature to send it all to Australia …

I was so grateful to practice with 8 fellow souls on the ♋ Full Moon on Friday at The Yoga Garden … Donations from the class are going to WIRES Wildlife Rescue in Australia, who’s staff & volunteers are working around the clock to locate / rescue / rehabilitate as many animals as possible amidst historic bushfires. If you’re in America, like me, I’m sure you’ve seen the horrific footage … If you’re in Australia … please stay safe & know us regular folk are doing what we can from afar to support you.

The harm, the violence, is being done … it’s happening … & no matter your thoughts on the reasons behind these historic events … humans’ effect on our environments is never neutral.

There are thousands of humans on the front lines doing the best they can to mitigate the harm being done (support Aussie firefighters & rescue personnel). Our duty as yoga practitioners is to support them as our resources allow.

Why? Because Yoga is not neutral. Yoga is an 8-limbed path of action. And action goes beyond our sticky mats. Yoga philosophy states that while we may not be able to control the results our actions, WE CAN ACT — & Yoga principles would state we are REQUIRED to act — to lessen the harm done toward ourselves, others, & the environment which sustains us.

Go to @rinathepoet on IG for more of her inspiring work!

Where to begin?

In classes I’m privileged to share this month, we are focusing on the yogic principle of ahimsa, or non-harming. Ahimsa is 1 of 5 yamas — outer ethical codes or restraints — in Yoga philosophy as codified by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras (Read a brief overview of the yamas from The Himalayan Institute here). Through asana, pranayama, relaxation & meditation, we practice not being mean to ourselves on our mats. Simple, yet not so easy (for me, anyway).

Beyond the mat, & circling back to the lovely souls who practiced on the full moon at The Yoga Garden, we can consciously #spendourprivilege to do less harm in the world. Whether causes close to home (maybe literally IN our own home) or across the ocean, let’s be honest — the yogis in this country, the United States, can make a HUGE impact by how we allocate our resources.

I’d LOVE for you to share in the comments below what organizations you are supporting … or would like to commit to support. Check out my Instagram post with Australian organizations to support.

Let me know how you’re taking ahimsa off your mat. We share not to highlight ourselves, but to inspire each other & galvanize our will to ACT in non-harming ways for the betterment of our societies & our environment. Let’s do this.

P.S. Our next Community Day at The Yoga Garden is Wednesday, January 15th … My fellow teacher & friend, Kristin Phillips, will be teaching an Intro to Power Yoga class, & has chosen a wonderful organization to support. Your generous donations go to the Crime Victims Center of Fayette County. Join us Wednesday!