Yoga for Men

men doing yoga

“Yeah, I know I should do yoga…”

It’s a classic refrain I hear from men of all ages and stages of life. They usually mumble it, looking at the floor once they find out I’m a yoga teacher. Whatever kind of fitness they’re into or not into, they all seem to know on some level they “should” be doing yoga and that they “need” yoga. But why is it so hard for men to actually do yoga?


Simple: most yoga classes are tailored to women–even the ones taught by men! How does this happen?

Let’s take the body type of typical instructors: they tend to be shorter with innate flexibility and often have backgrounds in dance or gymnastics. They tend to have wider hips with larger sockets, set more on the sides of the pelvis (perfect for doing the splits!). Long arms, short legs are a bonus in pretzel poses. Many classify as hypermobile, so getting their foreheads to the floor on downdog isn’t out of the question! In fact, if you take a look at some of the classical yoga instruction manuals, you will see what looks more like circus contortionists than everyday people.

If you’re a regular guy, you probably look at this photo and think, “ouch,” –and for good reason. Regular people–men and women– should likely not be doing the splits, getting their heads to the floor, or doing extreme versions of the poses which have somehow become normalized. Thanks, Yoga Journal, Adriene, and Instagram!


Celebrity yogis / yoga influencers often have 90 degrees of extension in their spines and are hypermobile. They are actually MORE prone to injury as they age than the lesser mobile. If you look at this pose and think it might blow out your back, hip, knee, shoulder, or all three, you’re right!

So, whether you’re a construction worker, doctor, IT dude, or a retiree, chances are if you make it to class, you don’t really feel like it’s for you. You can’t touch your toes, have some back pain, maybe a messed up shoulder. Then we get into the cooing teacher taking about “inner light,” some new-agey music, 360 degrees of mirrors, and the requisite  LuluLemon yoga pants…OMG, go home and turn on ESPN, quick!

A Class Doesn’t Have to be  “Yoga for Men” to Steer Clear of Dude Hell

First, you need a teacher who understands how guys’ bodies work in yoga and can coach you up on how to deal w/ your larger proportions and smaller ranges of motion–all without making you feel like some kind of yoga loser.  Chances are that won’t be a hyper-mobile, 5’6″ female instructor like “Yoga with Adriene.”  But how do you find a class?

Avoid Cookie-Cutter

Here’s a quick pro tip: the easiest thing an instructor can do is teach people with the same body type. Classes then self-select around that body type. If you look into a class and see a sea of bodies that match the instructor’s, all doing cookie-cutter poses, it’s probably not the class for you. What you want to see is a variety: different ages, different body types, and everyone doing the poses differently. While it doesn’t make for great #instayoga photos, it does lead to smarter yoga for better living.

No Mirrors Needed

It’s amazing how much less intimidating a yoga practice can be without mirrors everywhere. The fashion standards go down, but the inner focus goes way up! I guarantee once you stop taking yourself seriously, thinking of yoga as performative and looking around at other people, you’ll show up just because not only do you feel great after class, you feel so relaxed during class–even in the challenging poses!

Just Say No to Flow

Vinyasa flow is another thing you should leave for the gymnast and dancer crowd.  Instead, consider a slow meditative style where the poses are more like martial art “forms” that are held for a while, so there’s actually time to adapt for your body and fitness level. For instance, your stance will likely be narrower than some in the class, but may (or may not, depending upon your hip sockets) expand gradually over time. And, by the way, there will be women in the class who also don’t have a gymnast build (like me!) and have to approach yoga differently.  Yoga was not originally designed for 6-footers, but I’m proof it can be done!  You won’t have to worry about a bunch of choreography with rapid transitions– just slow mindful movement which decreases stress, while boosting immunity, focus, and mood

Yoga for Men = Self Care for Men

Self-care for women is everywhere! Why are women just so much better at it and into it? I’ve heard a lot of explanations, but the one that resonates with me is this: women have to take on caregiver roles more often than men. Therefore, they experience firsthand what happens when Grandma can’t get up and down out of a chair or do her own shopping anymore. This incentivizes women to start self-care earlier and stick to it! I have a group of female students who started with me as new retirees and are still with me, 20 years on. It’s astounding how healthy, active, (and still alive) the women are compared to their husbands. I would say in the last 10 years, we’re finally getting more men into the class.

We Love Men!

I’ll admit it, we love our guys! They bring a different energy, humor, and perspective to the class. We miss them when they’re not around. The cool thing w/ guys is you can really see their progress in more obvious ways. Then the women go home and harp on their husbands that yoga for men is legit and that they should come along to a class. Every now and then, a spouse obliges. I always ask first, “Are you here of your own free will?” Answers vary, but many stay on. I know I’ve got them when they show up, even when their spouses can’t.

Currently, our Wednesday 5:30 PM class has several couples and tends to hover around 50% men.  Men who golf should try the North Oaks Golf Club Monday 9:15 AM class! 

Yoga for Your Brain: Tone your nervous system with YogaHotDish

Yoga for your brain mascot

Your Brain on Yoga

The case for yoga as a physical exercise is well made, but lately, neuroscientists are growing increasingly interested in the effects of yoga on brain health, or, yoga for your brain. See the NIH’s (National Institute of Health) systematic review of the current literature here. This is a summary from the NIH website: 

“Collectively, the studies demonstrate a positive effect of yoga practice on the structure and/or function of the hippocampus, amygdala, prefrontal cortex, cingulate cortex and brain networks including the default mode network (DMN). The studies offer promising early evidence that behavioral interventions like yoga may hold promise to mitigate age-related and neurodegenerative declines as many of the regions identified are known to demonstrate significant age-related atrophy.”


It should be noted, however, that the type of yoga being researched is a more mindfulness-based approach than what may be available at your local gym. 


It’s not fast flow with music and mirrors. Those classes were really designed as cardio workouts. They resulted when Eastern Yoga collided with the Calfornia fitness scene in the 80’s and 90’s. That said, cardio is FANTASTIC for your brain, and you should definitely not skimp on cardio, but you don’t want to speed up and complicate yoga to the point where it’s no longer a mindfulness practice. That said, you don’t have to choose between yoga for your booty and yoga for your brain. You may have to find an alternative cardio though– or just practice more than one style!

Did you know an advanced yoga practitioner may only be breathing  around SIX breaths/minute?  There is an intense level of focus on that breath: how it sounds, how and where it moves through the body; hence, the breath is your playlist and music only detracts.  Slow deep breathing keeps the body in a parasympathetic state (“rest and digest”) and steers clear of a sympathetic state “fight or flight”) –even in the difficult poses. It’s in the sympathetic state that healing can happen. 

What we’re talking about is more “meditation in motion” –think Tai Chi, but with yoga poses. Sometimes known as “relaxed exertion” it puts the breaks on chronic stress that can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression/anxiety, and yes, brain degeneration. Your brain on yoga is a kind of “deglazing” of stress build-up in your body and brain  (cortisol, adrenaline, etc) to relieve longheld tension and negativity for better mood, cognition, and immune response.


While choreographed vinyasa flow sequences engage the left brain, meditation-in-motion activates the increasingly marginalized right brain (thanks technology) and gives the left brain a rest. That way, when you do need to plan, judge, sequence, and analyze, the “computer part” of your mind is fresh. Productivity and creativity often spike after mindfulness-based practices. That’s why yoga classes are full of authors, artists, and creators of all stripes. 

Allowing the right brain to come to the forefront enables you to hit the “pause” button and be free from the tyranny of linear time, to-do lists, other people’s problems, and typical left-brain chatter. When activated, you feel little urgency and life’s problems mysteriously vanish into the background. 


You shouldn’t have to wait until after class to feel great; you should feel great in class, from the first time you attend. It’s shocking to me how stressful our culture makes working out: clipboards, BMI calculations, objectives, and outfits –uff dah!  

We practice relaxed exertion to reduce built-up stress–and to avoid creating more! While your muscles will be challenged at first, yoga for your brain gives you time in between poses to center, breath, and just experience being in your body. This “integration” period is where you make all those neuroplasticity gains. 

Why not consider downshifting your exercise a bit to an “innercise” model and you’ll be set for better overall wellness and less chance of injury? You’ll also capture the benefits of your brain on yoga–something you can’t do struggling to keep up in a room full of music and mirrors. 

Health is wealth


From the Lunch Room to the Board Room: Do Mean Girls Ever Grow Up?

Mean Girls: from the lunch room…to the board room?

I have to admit to a guilty pleasure: I watch The Bachelor–no, not every week. But sometimes, with my mom and daughter via group text. Partly, it’s a civilization train-wreck from which I can’t look away. My inner feminist is aghast: how can such a program exist in the 21st Century? Haven’t we evolved yet into women of substance, immune to petty rivalries and drama for drama’s sake?

You’re not going to like the answer: it’s a hard NO! I am realizing that, as a species, we still put a premium on female beauty, have a built-in disdain for rivals, and act like reptiles when competition is involved, be it for a man, money, or status.

My husband is appalled by the Mean Girl M.O. and leaves the room. He makes sure his daughter knows he doesn’t approve of her watching the show. Nana and I are a lost cause. That said, if anything he’s the one who needs to watch. Why? Because much of the success of Mean Girls is predicated on the fact that men are so oblivious to their antics. This always plays out in The Bachelor: someone has to go woman-splain the situation to the poor reub. But, let’s back up a bit…

What is a “Mean Girl?” There is a scientific explanation: women who are emotionally immature and view other, especially younger, women as competition. They often will refuse to help other women advance within a company by, for example, preferring to mentor a male over a female employee. Some such queen bees may even “gaslight” or actively take steps to hinder another woman’s advancement as they are seen as direct competitors.[1] Such tactics are sometimes referred to as heterophily (in the sense of positive preference and favoritism for opposite-sex colleagues) or the queen bee syndrome.[2]

Keep in mind, the movie Mean Girls, starring Lindsay Lohan, was based on a work of NON-fiction called Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman. It took the uber-talented Tina Fey to put it into a story. Here’s an excerpt to give you the gist:

“Popular girls like this are acting like any other group of privileged people. They don’t recognize their privilege because they are blind to it. It’s all they know, and they haven’t had to go through the experience of understanding what it feels like to be on the outside. They know little to nothing about people outside of their group and are reluctant to admit what they do to put other girls down.”

Now, fast forward beyond middle school and high school, to dating-for-mating, career development, child-rearing, committee-chairing, etc. How do we end up with the same passive-aggressive shenanigans we had as teens playing out as adults?

I think the answer is in the above quote, “They haven’t had to go through the experience of understanding what it feels like to be on the outside.” Why not? Because as a personality archetype, I have observed that true Mean Girls (and Mean Women) don’t put themselves out there, take risks, venture outside of their comfort zones. Think about it: why move to a new city if you have everyone trained to give you what you want where you are? Why shift professions or try something new when you have it all wired? Not only that, but you may have to try something new alone, without your posse of protection.

Nope, let’s just say that Mean Girls aren’t exactly lifelong learners. In fact, in my observations, they are polar opposites. Lifelong learners have the power of self-observation, or Svādhyāya in Sanskrit. They know where their blind spots are and are seeking to correct them. They see themselves as part of a bigger picture, and not always at the center of it!

Over 20 years of teaching yoga, it never ceases to amaze me how kind and sincere my female students are. They are welcoming to newbies and immensely patient towards me. It was only after re-reading a few chapters of Queen Bees and Wannabes that I started to see a spectrum. On one end, you have “lifelong learners” who take chances, are curious, value self-awareness and exploration. On the other end, you have the Queen Bees and Wannabes, who figure they already know-it-all so why bother? They don’t build much, but rather seek and destroy anything or anyone they see as a threat to their status. They travel in packs and their friendships are based on tactical empathy. This means they feign interest only to figure out where your “pressure points” are so they can use them against you later.

There is no shortage of these women; the success of The Bachelor is proof–not only that they can find contestants, but the millions of people who tune in and find something relatable about it. These Bees are in the workplace, your neighborhood, your church, your company boards– even your HOA! The only place I can tell you they’re not is in my yoga classes.

Disher and “Top Doc” Carrie Terrell on Going vs. Not Going to Yoga

When I went to yoga versus when I skipped yoga

Jan 13, 2022


Ok, I admit I’m a yoga convert and dedicant. It’s been 22 years since I went to my first community class in a random Minneapolis abandoned school gym thinking I would be told I was too fat to join. Yes, it changed my life, my brain, my outlook. I’m still fat, but healthily so, and
my tendency towards personality disorder essentially obliterated. But I still fall off my ownwagon. And there’s no need – now that my teachers have youtube videos or zoom options there are really no excuses. As my classes reopen to in-person I remember the great joy of sharing the practice with others but still — sometimes I don’t go.

When I do yoga, regularly, my life is concentrically brighter. I look and feel better in my clothes. I stand straighter. My neck is longer. My low back doesn’t hurt. I can easily squat and bend down to pick up the bobby pin under the radiator, the drifting ziplock baggie, the escaping dust bunny. I feel strong. I am strong – I can do the things strong people do. If I do sit in front of a screen I am mindful of my body. I sit in poses rather than slouching. I don’t nibble incessantly. I choose how I am spending my time rather than letting time slip away. The stress of my frontline healthcare worker job doesn’t erode my desire to work and serve. I sleep better. I can meditate and sit quietly and feel safe and secure. I remember I don’t have to do in order to be. I know that
nothing is permanent, finished, perfect, nor complete and that is ok. Not just ok, but I become joyfully content with the impermanence/imperfection.

When I skip yoga – it compounds like bad interest on a credit card. I beat myself up (not yogic), I eat to console (not yogic), I pretend to compensate with a walk (ok, not horrible), I get the laundry/cleaning/emails/projects done (maybe). I ache, I cannot bend in the ways I’ve become accustomed, it feels like a stretch when I turn to check the lane beside me, I sleep poorly with my
shoulders jammed up into my ears, I feel frumpy. I am restless, discontent, malcontent, and “just want things to be done/clean/perfect/up to par.” My work makes me depressed, burned out, and seek retirement. I’m disagreeable, irritated (ok, sometimes downright mean), judgmental. I forget to stay on my own mat. I don’t even try to meditate.

In our house, we are fond of saying, “I want to have gone to yoga,” when we are debating going or not – even if going means heading into the yoga room with the ipad. Yes, I have many other things to do. Yes, I work a lot of hours and that does limit when and how I can go. Yes, I cannot turn off my brain reminding me of all these things. Yet, I know, deep inside if I go I will be happy I went. In gratitude to my teachers who are there, waiting, expecting, knowing I’ll come.
Carrie Ann Terrell, MD, FACOG


Yoga-Travel-Transform. Repeat.

YogaHotDish is heading in a new direction…well, not really new, but let’s say clearer. For the last 5 years, YogaHotDish has been offering annual “retreats.” From the get-go, they weren’t your typical yoga-all-day, howl-at-the-moon, vegan meals-with-designer-water retreats. No offense to all the other retreats, but that’s just not the kind of thing HotDishers want. It’s not a yoga 24/7 situation. Our first was to Phoenix, AZ, staying on the Thunderbird Global School of Management campus (known for its Pub and International clientele). Since then, we have been to Palm Springs twice and Costa Rica with two villas overlooking the Pacific right before Covid put the kibosh on life as we know it.


It dawns on me that, in fact, quite a few lessons have been learned taking YogaHotDish on the road to a variety of destinations and properties--never the same one twice. I make all the arrangements, curate the participants, run the yoga while Mr. HotDish plays chef, bartender, and even bouncer in a pinch. I supposed you could say we’ve been essentially running B&Bs in all these places, just without owning the bricks-and-mortar. Wait a minute! Might it be kind of like running a yoga studio…without a studio?

We painstakingly choose a destination, find a property, get our boots on the ground, get all the shopping done, set up for yoga, liase w/ the locals, and have hopefully have cocktails ready when you arrive. We keep it all going for about a week: 2 meals (breakfast and dinner, drinks, snacks), a daily 2-hr yoga practice, and a well-vetted list of potential activities, guides, and outings. We know who’s arriving when, who might be up for a roommate and/or uber buddy, and who’s interested in what. I also know who’s rehabbing a sprained ankle and who might need some space due to a family or work situation back home.


I think Mr. HotDish and I have struck a good balance between providing just enough “infrastructure,” a scaffolding of sorts, but not so much as to kill the spontaneity. Be it group exercise or group travel, the danger is things coalesce around what’s easiest to shepherd a group through, not what’s ideal for the individuals in the group. You see this play out in package tours. I actually have a recurring nightmare where I’m on a tour of Tokyo walking past “Cool Japan” en route to yet another temple, guided by Minnie Mouse. As is evident in Japan (more so than other destinations) tour companies don’t necessarily know what visitors want to see and experience; or, they’re so enmeshed in relationships with the owners of various “attractions,” they don’t do much off the beaten path (read: free).

Ask someone just back from package travel, “how was your trip,” and they say things like “fine,” or “great,” but rarely elaborate. That’s because there isn’t much in the way of a story to tell: the package promises you X,Y,Z over days A,B,C. You see pretty much everything as expected, tick the boxes and come home. If anything spontaneous happens, it’s usually a setback: lost luggage, canceled flight, etc. Your traveling companions are people who like things set and sorted; they take comfort in itineraries and relax knowing they don’t have to make decisions. They may or may not bother to get to know others in the group; this makes sense though, as, beyond the destination, there may be little affinity between group members.

That’s all fine, but we prefer a paradigm we call “Planned Spontaneity.” Think of it as the difference between singing karaoke and being part of a jazz ensemble. First, you “musicians” are vetted. You all have yoga in common; and not just any random style, but YogaHotDish’s Smarter Yoga for Better Living. That one tagline defines values and aspirations that are pretty unique and not-so-easy to come by on the Internet Wild West.

We know we’re dealing with intelligent, often well-traveled, capable people, which is why we wouldn’t dream of “inflicting” our agenda onto the entire group. Rather, we “group source” a variety of outings in which people may or may not participate. Sitting down as a group over meals, making plans, decisions, etc. kicks off a whole bunch of small-group dynamics (i.e. forming and storming). Deciding and coordinating give way to a kind of cooperation and cohesion you can’t get without working together. Conversations continue, convening in the hot tub or loading the dishwasher. Friendships are formed and connections are made that often extend well beyond the trip. Strangers on one trip may end up as roommates on another. This is yoga-off-the-mat at its finest.

In short, you don’t just sign up for an experience, you become one of the authors of the experience! This isn’t so unlike YogaHotDish classes. I learned early on I couldn’t overplan–rookie mistake. Sometimes people show up who you weren’t planning on; or, a regular mentions she has a “tweaky shoulder” on a given day. So much for the upper-body intensive I had planned. It’s more like cooking w/ o a recipe w/ the ingredients you find in the fridge. That’s Mr. HotDish’s specialty when it comes to food; perhaps it’s mine when it comes to yoga.


From Day 1, Kripalu has been known as “The Yoga of Transformation.” I think that’s one of the things that drew me to it in the first place. From my time in Asia, I knew there was a “work-in” element to the practice that no other form of working out offered. I found that work-in quality of classical yoga to be just the antidote to a lifetime of Midwest perfectionism that was no longer serving me as an entrepreneur and new mom in Singapore.

While “hanging on for dear life” may be a winning strategy back home, entrenched in your comfort zone, the only thing that works abroad is flinging yourself into the current; you stop clinging and jump in with both feet, toddler and all! The only way you can start paddling is to “let go for dear life!” Not everyone does it by the way. The world is full of well-traveled unworldly people who’ve lived/traveled everywhere but grown little in their experiences–you can usually find them at The American Club bar, starting at noon, if not before!

It’s hard for me to imagine two more transformative things on earth than yoga and travel. With some Covid reflection time, I see how elegantly they intertwine and complement each other. I also see how, in addition to the current of life positioning me to become a yoga teacher, it was also shunting us toward sharing our passion for a unique kind of travel.

Mr. HotDish and I used to joke how “it’s like we’re running a B&B,” back during our odyssey of global living that took us twice to Singapore, twice to London, and eventually Cape Cod. We would host friends (often Tbirds), for at least a couple weekends each month. We’d turn over our beach house on the Cape after friends left Monday for the next batch coming in Thursday or Friday. In between, someone might get some “actual work” done.

It’s so Covid-clear to me now that all of that was preparation. There’s a skill set to hosting people and Joe, in particular, has been cultivating it for a long time–about as long as I’ve been a yoga teacher. He takes notes as he watches the Saturday AM cooking shows on PBS (sorry Sat Zoom had to go), keeps up with his French Inv. Banker recipe swaps and unleashes some of his fancy country-risk assessment tools on potential destinations.

With this newfound Covid clarity, I also realize I’ve, or I should say “we’ve” outgrown the name YogaHotDish. It’s kind of like noticing one of your kids’ pair of jeans is an inch too short–when did that happen you wonder?

YogaHotDish was cute and local, a great name for a not-so-serious part-time yoga teacher. It just doesn’t capture what we are now though. Sure, it’s still an eclectic mix of yoga, but it’s grown up a little more and gained confidence along with a greater global footprint. We’re in the travel-yoga-transformation business and have a much bigger reach beyond Minnesota, with trips in the works to Japan and Vietnam. We have grown our cast of characters to include local guides who know us, know our students, know our mindset.

So please stay tuned for some exciting announcements, a name change, maybe a new website, etc. Oh, it’s Ok, you can still call me “HotDish” –I won’t mind 🙂

Small Business Saturday: High time to decorporatize yoga!

McYoga | this is so crass. | jpmatth | Flickr

How’d we get here: $100 + yoga pants (guilty), gymnastical poses, pyramid-scheme teacher trainings, #instayoga?

Is there even such a thing anymore as practicing yoga alone in a quiet room? If there’s not a post w/ a dozen hashtags, did a yoga practice even occur?

We’re in a mess, and “Big Yoga” (CorePower, Lifetime, Equinox) has a lot of explaining to do. Yoga used to be more about living in the world and being a good person, a wellness and longevity philosophy for the ages. It was for seekers, in search of a higher “true self”: peeling back the layers, letting go of the bullshit–not creating more of it!

Somehow making sense of the messiness of human existence got sanitized, made over, and ultimately merchandized, often by investors who knew next to nothing about it. An entire 40 billion-dollar industry sprung up with magazines, clothing, props, mats, and more. While some of the “schools of lineage” back to India attempted to enforce teaching standards a few decades ago under the banner of the Yoga Alliance, they too got swept away by the commercial tsunami. The best way to grow the Yoga Alliance was to certify more programs, more instructors, more-more-more!

Yet, at its heart, yoga is a practice of minimizing, seeing the facades and props of life (from yoga blocks to BMWs) for what they are: things to hold ourselves up in a dog-eat-down-dog world. The lucky ones realize this sooner rather than later. They stop looking for meaning in acquisition.

It’s no wonder so many “successful” people are drawn to yoga: they “have it all,” yet still feel a void. They’ve lost track of the simple pleasures in life and perhaps even of themselves along the way. So much focus on the veneer reduces awareness of what’s real. I can’t tell you the number of times “busy and important” people have walked right by–even through–one of my outdoor yoga classes without so much as lowering their voices. They probably can’t understand why anyone would want to sit quietly and see no value in it. Surely what we’re doing can’t be important than their conversation about the upcoming kitchen remodel.

Awareness begins with maybe just one breath in one class: for the first time, a subtler plane of existence is noticed, if just for a few seconds. Maybe there’s a glimpse of something bigger that’s new on one hand, eternal on the other. That glimpse somehow feels so peaceful and even awe-inspiring, all the other stuff–the props of life–seem to melt away into insignificance.

Chances are that little peek didn’t happen during “flying crow” or “scorpion” with new-age-y music blaring. Likely it was during a quiet interlude, in a less challenging pose, or savasana at the end. Those are the moments when seekers are born! Sramana is a Sanskrit word for “seeker,” but implies a level of energy that makes “striver” a better translation.

For a practice that requires no equipment, was based on a simple mentorship between teacher and student,, has a code of ethics (non-stealing, non-violence, non-lying to name a few) how’d we end up with 30-person classes in a roomful of mirrors, following someone who barely knows us and is in it to “get paid to work out?” (Big Yoga’s go-to justification for minuscule salaries).

Trust me w/ 20 yrs experience and a top teaching credential: if the teacher is up in front getting a workout, you’re in a group exercise class with a yoga theme, not an actual yoga class.

The good news: it seems Covid made even mainstream yoga a bit more introspective. People are re-evaluating what yoga is and even what the term should mean. Big Yoga like LifeTime and CorePower may not be able to continue controlling the conversation. New voices have emerged and they’re getting louder: #decolonizeyoga #accessibleyoga #authenticyoga #yamasniyamas –even in the most superficial and unlikeliest of places…social media.

My mission from the beginning of YogaHotDish, in 2001 (before hashtags), was #decorporatizeyoga. Even back then, I could tell that the gyms offering yoga had their definitions askew, reducing the practice to exercises. I had just returned from studying yoga in Singapore. My teacher was in her 60’s back then, wore the same white polo and blue sweat pants, was a Buddhist who studied in India. Nothing I saw happening in the US gyms had any resemblance to the transformational practice I had experienced abroad.

Though I figured I didn’t have near the life experience necessary in my 30’s and a new Mom, I decided to become a yoga teacher because I couldn’t find a class anywhere. I created a student-focused business w/o any “layer” of management (read: politics, profiteering, pettiness) between me and my students.

If you’d like to show up to a class and find out what “Small Yoga” has to offer you, please do. Some people even do both “Big” and “Small” yoga. After all, yoga is about finding balance, dancing between the poles of opposites, sitting in contradiction. Yes, you can do Yoga Sculpt one day and YogaHotDish the next. What an adventure that would be!

We likely won’t ever really #decorporatizeyoga because convenience is a necessity in our culture. Heck, I just joined LifeTime Fitness for the Winter because I need a place to do cardio, a bit of weight lifting/rehab to keep things in check –consider it my “workout office.” I like the fact that I can take a nice long shower there and no one is going to knock on the door shouting so-and-so is on the phone and do I want to take the call. No phones at the dinner table OR in the shower, how’s that for a rule to live by?

Frankly, the Lifetime staff are rather pleasant and gregarious, rare in these parts come Winter. Mind you, I live in a neighborhood where pedestrians have to be directed by the HOA to wave. The nice kid who checked me in for the first time noticed the “yoga” in my email address and said, “Oh, man you’re gonna love our yoga classes.” I deflected, “Is that a PopTart you’re eating–maple and brown sugar perhaps?” He laughed nervously, “Yeah, I guess it’s the Breakfast of Champions.” I laughed too, and said, “I haven’t seen one since I was ten.”

A YogaHotDish Travelogue by Guest Blogger Diana Grace

One of my earliest memories of what yoga was all about was the “Maggie” show on PBS in the 1970s.  Maggie Lettvin hosted a yoga program called Maggie and The Beautiful Machine.

As a very young girl, I would watch Mom do poses along with this TV program. Maggie seemed a very calm and kind person, which I appreciated as a quiet child.

Growing up as an unathletic kid, I was somewhat awkward, quite shy, and not physically flexible. Memories include stressful kickball games in elementary school and junior high soccer (I was the only kid during sitting leg stretches who was not able to reach to their feet. I hardly made it to my knees.) Why do people assume if you are tall and slender that you are automatically flexible and bendy? Wrong!

Gym class was never fun for a reserved, artistic kid like me. Swimming lessons took all the fun out of summer mornings. If memory serves, I took beginners’ swimming at least twice and was the tallest and oldest kid in the class. Fun times! However, my short-lived ballet classes were not too terrible – I got to take private lessons with just me and my best friend. Luckily our ballet instructor put up with two gangly, clumsy teens very sweetly. 

As an adult, walking (and very occasional aerobic exercises like Jane Fonda workouts) was my main physical activity. After a divorce, I did sign up for regular weight training sessions and found I enjoyed it (what?) and had great results. It did help my flexibility somewhat but most importantly was a huge help psychologically as well as physically.  I discovered that exercising the body could simultaneously exorcise some of my mental demons. I eventually looked forward to time at the gym as a welcome destressing session. 

Shaila’s class was my first and only yoga class. After my success with weight training, I went online to search for yoga classes nearby, and boy did I hit the jackpot with finding Yoga Hotdish. NO mirrors, music, or overdosing on “woo-woo” spiritualism (although I do like a bit of that). Also, no fast-paced “vinyasa flow,” which appeared to be all the rage but didn’t seem the best choice for the over-40 crowd, or anyone else for that matter. When it comes to yoga, one size (or type of yoga) does not fit all. Shaila’s class was just yoga, meditation, and self-acceptance – or at least the beginnings of it. Plus, plenty of pose modification for those who needed help due to poor flexibility, lousy posture, balance issues, injury, illness, or just having the wrong kind of arm socket/hip socket/foot shape, etc. That means it covers just about everybody!

Did I also mention breathing? I learned I was a very shallow breather. Who knew? Bringing focus to my breath was an eye-opener and brought me welcome calmness and peace. Breathing better also seemed to help improve my skin and general circulation. Breath is one thing we take for granted. I like that Shaila reminds her students many times throughout class to “breathe.” Focusing on one’s breath can help with balance, meditation, and holding a pose. 

I also love that we try and do outdoor yoga as much as possible, which is not always easy in Minnesota! I used to be more “indoorsy,” but now I realize that I get so much peace and healing from being in nature. It greatly helps to get away from the busy world and reconnect with the earth.

Over the past ten years attending Shaila’s class, I have had my ups and downs. Some years I participated at least twice a week and saw great results with increased strength, better balance, toning, and flexibility. In recent years I struggled to get myself to yoga class, but I did manage to make a ten-minute stretching session before bed a somewhat regular occurrence. Some nights it is just child’s pose, cat/cow pose, balancing table pose, and sphinx pose with hopefully a little spinal twist at the end. 

The most surprising and somewhat unsettling event that happened to me during a yoga class at least a couple of times was what Shaila describes as “stuff coming up from the basement.”

What this means is that you experience deep emotions that seem to come out of nowhere. They can be happy, sad, confusing, but all they are trying to do is tell you something. Maybe it is just your body thanking you for paying attention to its needs. The mind-body connection is real. Those subtle (or not so subtle) body aches and pains are messengers. Sometimes emotions come because you are feeling (and finally paying attention to) the need for self-love and acceptance. Not for the person you want to be in the future when you fix this and that, but for the soul you are right at this moment.

I must admit that this past year was a particular challenge due to family obligations, career upheaval, political and social unrest, as well as a “little” virus that took over the world. It’s been one heck of a wake-up call for many and has been a good excuse to re-examine health and lifestyle choices.

I am so thankful to have found yoga and Shaila’s class for so many reasons, but I think my favorite is that I’ve learned to accept imperfection. Occasionally I have come to class with a migraine or bad back. At those times, I only do a sitting meditation and maybe a few easy poses with more emphasis on breathing, healing, and being kind and loving to myself

No matter what, I come to the mat with whatever version of me is available that day. It may not always look great or feel great, but that is of very little importance. I just show up and let my body and breath guide me to listen to the messages they try to provide.

Thank you for your service: YogaHotDish offers free yoga to teens!

While many of us are putting Covid in the rearview mirror, some are only beginning to pick up the pieces. Surely, if you lost a loved one, the cruel reminder of Covid will be forever with you. You have our heartfelt condolences. It was a terrible way to leave the world. Of course, if you are a doctor or essential worker, you may have lingering PTSD that doesn’t resolve in a nice tidy fashion on the day we declare we’re Covid-free. I know I have a new respect for the cashiers, delivery personnel, and not only docs but the support staff that keep providers going! 

I am now realizing however there is a large swath of the population who have been devastated by Covid who are getting short shrift in the hero department: teens.  They were asked to put the most intensely developmental phases of their lives on hold for over a year–for a disease that posed little to no danger to them.  It was a huge “ask” for a group in the most self-absorbed period of their lives (we hope anyway).  

If you’ve been paying attention to the news or happen to parent these creatures, you are perhaps seeing and experiencing various degrees of “fall out,” from mild to nuclear.  I for one, fear it’s the tip of a very large iceberg, just starting to reveal itself in the midst of our summer frolic and “revenge travel.”

Welcome to The New Pandemic: a potentially fatal cocktail of teenage anxiety, depression, and addiction. A recent June 2021 New York Times article highlights CDC data showing visits to the ER for suspected suicide attempts were up 51% for girls ages 12-17 in the 4 weeks ending March 20, 2020 over the same period in 2019 (boys remained stable). The rate began rising in the summer of 2020. This report “comes on the heels of other recent research that suggested higher rates of mental health problems among teenagers, including self-harm, suicide attempts, and suicidal ideation, which some experts worry could be related to stressors from the pandemic.”

Seriously? Some “experts worry it might be Covid-related?” OK, those experts must not be parents of affected children. Parents know it’s related and are worried about the actual harm to their kids! The above numbers are all the more concerning in light of the fact that “distance learning” continued for an additional year or longer beyond the aforementioned stats and is coming back to haunt these kids now–in summer school!

So, while adults are happy to shed the masks, get back to a more normal work environment, take a holiday, these kids are waking up to what can only be described as one bad Covid hangover: semesters of incompletes to the point there is no GPA to worry about, missed major milestones from proms to passing the driver’s license test. Then we have the kids who lost loved-ones due to Covid or feared for the safety of their essential worker parents.

Did you know driver’s ed went online, 3 hours/day during the pandemic in the midst of distance learning? Few could handle another 3 hours/day. There is a whole crop of kids who would normally be driving themselves to work and activities this summer but can’t. Maybe that’s why businesses that rely on teenage help can’t find any? Many parents aren’t letting their kids get their licenses until they get caught up in school and/or develop more maturity and responsibility. If anything, they see their kids as regressing over the pandemic.

In short, “the kids are NOT alright.” They found that the most reliable dopamine hits weren’t in cultivating true friendships, working hard, and achieving goals –but rather on the internet casino of gaming and social media. The problem there though is, in addition to dopamine, they got bursts of stress hormones like cortisol too.

YouTube gaming head Ryan Wyatt gleefully shared that users on his platform watched 100 billion hours of gaming content in 2020 — that’s double the number of hours watched in 2018. Minecraft was the winner by a landslide with more than 200 billion views. Grand theft auto had 70 billion views–wonder why carjackings by teenagers are up?(Source: NikoPartners LLC ).

So who were the losers? Kids–education, family dynamics, exercise, time spent outdoors. You know these games are addictive by design, right? The pavlovian reinforcement model used in casinos is no match for the squishy teenage brain whose judgment has yet to be hard-wired in.

So what are kids who are hopelessly behind in school, can’t drive, out of shape, depressed, anxious, addicted to the internet (among other things) supposed to do? Well, many of them are contemplating dropping out of school. These are not just the “marginal kids” either. They’re the good kids–the jocks, the geeks–all sorts. Scholarship candidates with high GPA’s pre-pandemic are having to settle for community college or just taking a year off to decompress. Kids who were headed for community college aren’t sure they can ever get through high school at this rate. They can’t make up the work in the “self-directed online” summer school model–the same approach that landed them in this labyrinth of “learned helplessness” in the first place.

They’re even being required to wear masks on the bus for summer school. So in a district touting its STEM program, we have vaccinated drivers and mostly, if not all, vaccinated kids sitting on a bus with the windows open and masks. Alrighty then.

So too bad but, “I’m not raising teens now so it’s not my problem,” you say. Why should you care? Minnesota-based Immunologist (PhD, JD) Hugh McTavish presents an interesting take on the Covid numbers: for every ONE life saved from Covid, 360 children had their education, health, wellbeing, and futures upended. If you’re an at-risk/65+ adult or just an adult with at-risk or 65+ loved ones, you owe these kids some gratitude and understanding.

In his book, Covid Lockdown Insanity, Dr. McTavish raises the age-old question pondered everywhere from Ancient Greece to Freshman Philosophy: did our actions serve “the greater good.” In fact, what is the “greater good” anyway? Lives lost, lifespan gained? Does “quality of life” matter, or is it just longevity?

An interesting argument starts to take shape as Dr. McTavish calculates the lockdowns saved about 200,000 lives. He then points out the average life span “left” for each Covid death averted was roughly 4 years. In other words, those that perished had about 4 years of lifespan left (on average people!). He then makes a bold jump and tries to quantify “severe depression” in terms of “lost years.” If you’ve ever experienced severe depression or lived with someone who has, you probably think this isn’t a huge stretch. If you haven’t, I can’t blame you for being skeptical.

The result is a birdseye view of Covid in terms of “person-years” lost vs. saved. The math goes something like this: Assuming 200,000 deaths averted with an average remaining lifespan for 4 years = 800,000 “person-years saved”


68,000 “deaths of despair” which include increased suicides and deaths by drug overdose, alcohol abuse. Those 68,000

are younger w/ an average remaining lifespan of 38 years = 2.58 million “person-years lost.”

That works out to 3 times more “person-years of life lost” due to “deaths of despair” than person-years saved. I’m not saying the above is “the right way” to look at the numbers but it is one way.

It drives home how much our young people sacrificed for their elders, their teachers, those at risk due to pre-existing conditions. The public school kids would’ve been alright–they could’ve clipped along in person as exemplified and documented in the country reports from Europe showing classroom spread was low even when community spread was high.

Of course in the early days, this was an unknown, but by early 2021, as teachers were getting vaccinated (with a high degree of protection within weeks after the first dose), the reports from Europe were out. A Spring semester of normalcy may have brought back many of these kids from “the brink.” Neighboring Wisconsin public schools are case-in-point as well as the numerous Minnesota private schools that remained in-person throughout. Hats off to their mission-driven teachers and administrators. Those kids will be rewarded as they far outpace their peers in every imaginable metric going forward. Believe me, the distance learning kids are well aware they can’t compete and so many have given up; and, are not only mourning the loss of the past year and a half but of their futures as well.

What you do need to know if you don’t have kids or aren’t experiencing the fallout firsthand: there is trauma everywhere–don’t underestimate based on their “chill” demeanors. Many of these kids are in PTSD situations. When children are traumatized, it cuts deeper for longer. In the trauma field, it’s called “mortal wounding” with consequences that reverberate far into the future as the kids don’t have the resources to process the trauma in real-time. These kids need help, support, mentoring, and likely some tough love to pick up the pieces. They need to learn other methods of self-care and self-soothing beyond addictive social media, gaming, and substance abuse. They also need to know society cares about them and will help them going forward– a lot of them have lost faith in their schools, teachers, administrations and school boards. Engage them in conversation and you’ll be shocked by the cynicism of these young citizens!

I can’t complain about something without at least offering some small fix. That’s why I’ll gladly teach any teen who shows up for any YogaHotDish class for free. It’s a small thing, but it’s all I have for now. Please fill out a contact form to RSVP so I know I’ll have room. And yes, they’re welcome to bring a friend–I recommend it.

Wellness Strategy or Just Another Workout?

One of the things I love the most about teaching is the diversity of people and body types in my class. Sure, if you’re tall and lanky, have always found your toes elusive, I have answers! But what if you’ve trained in dance and are 85? Or, you ‘re a young person with joint inflammation? On a given day, the age range in a “typical” YogaHotDish class is 30-80 — and trust me, that’s anything BUT typical in the mass market (big yoga) universe.

So what’s the draw for all these people of different backgrounds, ages and issues? They’re not looking for just another workout. If they were, it would be tricky to teach them all at once; that’s why you have so many “levels” in group exercise and fitness yoga classes.

Nope, at YogaHotDish, people tend to start at any age, but then stick with the program. Now, these aren’t 24-7, #yogaeverydamnday #instayoga types. They have lives and other interests. So why is it they set aside at least 90 minutes a week for class, over decades?

Near as I can tell, they haven’t found anything else that covers so many bases and is so effective at keeping them not only fit… but well.

Fitness and wellness are not the same things. In fact, a lot of fitness regimens can be pretty hard on your body, especially your joints. A comprehensive yoga class on the other hand is a different animal altogether.

I love to describe YogaHotDish classes as “comprehensive” but I suppose it’s confusing–what does it even mean? To put it one way, a comprehensive yoga class ticks all the boxes, not just for fitness, but wellness. Think of it this way, what would you have to do to curate everything we do in class on your own?

Well, let’s start with the obvious. You would need the following instruction:

Strength training


Stretching : resistance, eccentric, etc.


So that’s not such a big deal right? You could sort of roll that together and wrap it up in an hour? But remember, we’re talking wellness which means not just body, but the mind and your overall sense of wellbeing… To that you would have to add:

Mindfulness / meditation / cognitive behavioral training

Constructive rest / guided relaxation

Brain training (working memory, left/right brain syncing)

Breath control/ diaphragmatic exercises

Posture training

Stress Management

Finally, through Covid, we have all learned how important it is to socialize and co-regulate with trusted friends. When “big yoga” venues give away all those free trial classes, they do so at your expense. That’s attention you won’t be receiving and a missed opportunity to elevate a cohesive, experienced group up the curve. It also doesn’t maintain the “safe space” vibe so calming to nervous system. To do yoga with the same crew every week, you’re getting into spendy semi-private instruction. Sounds serious, but we also like to have some laughs and even travel together, so add on:

Happy hour, coffee klatch, retreats, etc.

Uff-Dah! Maybe I should charge more…. 🙂

GOAT YOGA–Yoga with GOATS? Not quite.

The TB12 Method | Book by Tom Brady | Official Publisher ...

Those of us of a certain age are admittedly gloating over The GOAT’s win over The Kid in Super Bowl 55. Not just a win, but a decisive one at that!

Now, I don’t want to argue football; I have a husband for that. That same husband switched me on to a book called “The TB 12 Method” a few years ago. Around the same time, I stumbled upon a workshop in Santa Barbara (as I often do) extolling the virtues and techniques of combining resistance work with yoga. It was practice-changing, eye-opening, and joint saving!

Flexibilty and Strength Training vs. Pliability

Tom Brady (TB) takes an entire chapter of his book to extoll the virtues of pliability training over strength training + some stretching. Why? He is trying to basically de-program multiple generations of football players and fans out of their fixed mindsets and conventional thinking.

Knowing the crowd, I’m not sure 30 pages is enough! I still see so much conventional thinking in my son’s football experience over the years ( How many kids can possibly sprain their ankles in one game?). My husband learned first hand the dangers of trying to question conventional “wisdom.” In spite of getting a D-1 full ride and his brief stint for the Buffalo Bills and an amazing network around the country of his colleagues now coaching their own kids, his input wasn’t welcomed by most of our local high school parents, eager to apply the same methodology they learned in their high school programs. It’s risky for me to even write this I suppose, but, I’ll take my chances…they don’t seem like the yoga blog types. (Please do feel free to surprise me though).

If you come to class, you know a lot about pliability already. Long story short, or perhaps I should say, “short story long,” because the gist is, you want longer, pliable muscles that are better lubricated and do a better job of distributing load over a broader area of fibers. Short, defined, “cut” or “ripped” muscles look great, but they’re more prone to injury, full stop. Moreover, they don’t contain the qualities most necessary to succeed on the field in most positions, or, in life. They are the result of a lot of “hard” work, but not smart work. The muscles themselves aren’t as intelligent or as responsive as they could be, and that’s what TB and his trainer Alex started to realize. Keep in mind, the average length of an NFL career is 3.3 years, so let’s give the ol’ GOAT a listen!

What is pliability anyway? Can’t I just stretch out after strength training?

Pliability as a principle is very yogic as it puts an emphasis on finding the right balance for your body, your sport, your life, and your practice/workouts. It’s not about the “maximal” training athletes do in their teens and twenties as in, “Dude, I maxed out on 225 for bench.” Kids get away w/ a certain amount of this kind of stuff because their muscles still have some of the natural pliability retained from childhood. We’re all born pliable, but it diminishes over time. Don’t believe it? Teach kids’ yoga for ten minutes.

In TB’s case, he defines pliability as “the daily lengthening and softening of muscles” along with “targeted deep-force muscle work.” It’s a kind of pressure point massage and lengthening of the tissue, done by a trainer in TB’s case, while TB contracts that tissue in intervals–it’s not the massage you had on vacation, let’s put it that way!

TB and his trainer are essentially contracting and stretching the muscle at the same time which makes for a smarter, better firing muscle and less damage, recovery time, or pain. A regimen of lifting weights/strength training with a bit of stretching afterwards separates the two tasks, as though muscles are binary and either in a fully off/on position. But to function optimally, muscles have to be more on a “dimmer switch” and have a kind of intelligence as to when to engage and how much–makes sense doesn’t it? If not, you may need the 30 pages so get the book!

Good for Tom, but I’m not married to Giselle and I don’t have a trainer!

Well, I suppose that’s why you can buy The TB 12 Method and drop about $300 on the gear to try and mimic the effects our lucky-duck QB gets daily–from his trainer that is 😉

Or, you could take a classical yoga practice, heavy on lengthening muscle; and, couple it with pose-specific techniques to contract the tissue at the same time. In other words, you could try a yoga practice that involves some eccentric and resistance stretching within your own unique parameters. I mean, while the TB12 system is unique and certainly patented, the kind of stretching it promotes has been around a long time and is starting to show up in the yoga world. What’s unique in the yoga world is that it doesn’t make this big assumption or put a huge priority on flexibility–no over-heated rooms or over-zealous instructors. You don’t want to sacrifice the joints and soft tissue.

Even if you’re a dude who hasn’t touched his toes in a while, you’ll find “pliability yoga” a lot more conducive for your body type and safer than a conventional yoga class. You may not be meant to touch your toes and you may not need to. Let’s find your “optimal” for longevity so you can keep doing all the other non-yoga stuff you love!

If you look at TB, he’s pretty long and lean–a strike against him in his draft report which explains him being the 199th pick!