7 years a piper makes

The other night I was invited to a bagpipe concert – my father and sister are both pipers. Going to that concert was the last thing I wanted to do, I mean seriously one hour of just bagpipe music?! I had this fear of having to spend that much time listening to something I wasn’t a huge fan of, but I really wanted to spend time with my family so I went.

I realize that this feeling of apprehension is what some might feel when being asked to go to a yoga class or on a yoga retreat. Without the previous experience of it beforehand the unknown seems fearful, even scary or just down right boring! In the end it is never as bad as it seems and it is an experience and a chance to practice being in the present moment.

Rather than fight how slow the time was going my mom reminded me that it will be okay – everything is already okay. I found myself enjoying the show and the stories that were told throughout about the history of bagpiping. My fear of not knowing what would be happening in the hour of the concert could have kept me at home, but instead I joined in the event and watched the drummers and dancers, and enjoyed the stories.

What struck me at the concert was the intention shown by the pipers and drummers, they were fully in the moment. There were also Highland dancers, who had a few mishaps in their dancing. They practice often and are devoted to their work, but if one person looses focus then everyone falls apart. They are all connected as they dance and all need to be fully present for the intricate patterned dances to come to fruition. This is true in activities like bagpiping and especially in yoga – you must stay fully present and focused throughout your practice. Be it playing Amazing Grace on the pipes or coming into Downward Facing Dog. The presence and intention you bring to those moments are exactly what you get out of them.

At the end of the show the Drum Major opened up to the audience for questions. One of the questions struck me, ‘how long does it take to become a piper?’. The response was ‘7 years a piper makes, but truly it is a lifetime endeavor.’ Which reminded me of yoga, that it is a lifetime endeavor. It is a daily practice and integration into your life. As Patthabi Jois says ‘ practice and all is coming.’

I found at this bagpiping concert that I enjoyed watching others do what they love and I was reminded that embodying yoga or bagpipes is a life long venture. Most of all that you need to experience things before you can judge them. The fear of what might be coming can prevent you from enjoying life. Next time I am invited to a parade or concert I will go in with excitement rather than dread.

So as you read about upcoming events, notice what fears come up around going on a weeklong yoga retreat (Yoga + Wine 2011) or even a two-hour yoga workshop. What is holding you back? Why not go on the trip? You may learn something about yourself and find a little more peace and clam in your life.

Enjoy your summer as it winds down and hope to see you soon!




          Japa is the practice of mantra repetition. In addition to many spiritual benefits, japa elevates the mind and develops the power of concentration. There are many ways to practice japa on and off the mat. I find when I am running late and can’t alter the subway, train, or flight schedule, if I practice japa I am able to calm my mind and go with the flow.
           One thing that can be used for japa are mala beads. Mala beads are a string of beads used to count mantras in sets of 27, 56, or 108 repetitions. Mala beads were developed as a tool to keep the mind focused on the practice of meditation. I carry or wear my mala with me so if at any point I find myself in a place or moment of chaos and I want to stay relaxed and calm I have them handy. However, you don’t have to have mala beads to practice japa. You can repeat the mantra to yourself over and over without a mala.
           My favorite mantra to repeat is asato ma sadgamaya, tamaso ma jyotirgamaya, mrtyorma amrtam gamaya (take me from the untruth to the truth, take me from the darkness to the light, take me from death to immortality). Other mantras to try are Om Nama shivya (I bow to Shiva), Om Mani Padme Hum (hail to the jewel in the lotus).
           Japa helps to cultivate the yogic state of mind. Whether you end up in the center of chaos on the street or in your own mind it helps to bring you to deeper clarity. It is similar to Arjuna’s battle in the Baghavad Gita, no matter if the battle is real or the battle was in his own head, it is about learning these techniques to have in your tool box and having them there whenever you may need it.
           Next time you are doing the dishes or waiting on a long line at Whole Foods, try japa, and see what happens to your state of mind.





“In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you.”  

Deepak Chopra



It’s so hot out today I’m feeling the pitta side of me go into overdrive. To find balance I practiced some restorative poses. After about an hour of restorative I feel much better! If you feel your body and mind a little off from the heat try at least 20min of a restorative posture – Savasana or Childs Pose are good ones to start with!