Summer Yoga

In the language of Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science, summer is the Pitta season. Pitta is composed of the fire and water elements and relates to the season as well as our own constitutions. In the heat of summer, we want to employ practices that help calm, cool and balance the activity and heat of the season.

Knowing how to use yoga postures (asana), pranayama (breathing) and meditation (dharana) to balance the season’s heat and Pitta’s intense personality can help to cool the system – physically, emotionally and mentally. When you’re feeling agitated, restorative forward bends help relax the nervous system and cool the heat. cooling and calming pranayama such as nadi shodhana or sittali breath can help keep the system balanced and meditation helps settle and clear the mind.

Check out this month’s home practices — cooling restorative practice for those hot summer days, and a post-ride practice for after your favorite summer cycle.

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Practice is transitioning…

Dear Students, Teachers and Friends of Practice,

Two years ago, on April 1, 2013, I opened the doors to the Practice studio to offer a tranquil, quiet space as a refuge for all who work and live in downtown Portland to be able to step out of the busy-ness of life and develop personal yoga, meditation and mindfulness practices. The teachers who have brought classes and workshops to Practice and all of the students who have come into the studio have each been part of creating a beautiful sanctuary and taking the fruits of their practice into their daily lives.

I have enjoyed every part of being involved in offering Practice to the community. At the end of March, I am transitioning Practice from studio to on-line resource to support students in their home-practices. Practice will continue to serve all students in developing practices that are tailored to their individual needs and that support good health and well being throughout their lives!

If you have a mat or other items at the studio, please make plans to come grab them by March 29. Let me know if you need to get into the studio at a time other than your class time. Just email me at Please contact the Practice teachers for updates on their on-going classes and offerings around town!

Thank you so much for coming to Practice and bringing your interests and energy to the space. Enjoy the final two weeks of classes and workshops and I wish you all the best in your yoga and meditation journey!

Deb Cook

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The very real benefits of practice

Kripalu’s Institute for Extraordinary Living (IEL) has produced some pretty amazing research in its nine years — looking at the benefits of yoga, meditation and mindfulness on school communities, with first responders, veterans struggling with PTSD, college students, musicians, and more. The benefits of this research to all of us are a much deeper understanding of the very real and positive effects that a regular practice can have on our lives, our families and our communities.

Read some of the Kripalu’s IEL research here:

Thanks to all who have pursued this research and to all who have participated. The research makes such a difference to those of us who are out teaching students and communities what the promise and impact of yoga can be, with regular practice, on our physical, mental and emotional well-being.

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A moment of silence….

“Silence is not silent. Silence speaks. It speaks most eloquently. Silence is not still. Silence leads. It leads most perfectly.”

~ Sri Chinmoy

deep peace

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Working together with the world takes practice

The changing light, the later mornings, the texture of the air and the symphony of crickets’ chirps outside remind me that summer is waning and autumn is nearing. I have mixed emotions at this time of year. I am wistful that summer is ending but excited about the turn of the season, the crisp air, the harvest and the fresh energy of autumn. Today, I am reminded yet again, to enjoy and live this moment, to revisit my practice to stay grounded and centered, to breathe, to be present and to attend to today’s offerings – be they gift or challenge — or in the words of David Whyte, to work together with this world and bring “the visible and invisible together in common cause to produce the miraculous.”

I am reminded to start my day with my own time, to sit still with one, two or maybe five breaths, to settle into my body with gentle movement and attend to body, mind and spirit before I begin each day. As we move toward autumn and enjoy these final weeks of summer, what is is that you come back to in your practice? How do you work with your practice to ground and nurture self and spirit to “produce the miraculous?”

We have new and returning classes, workshops and teachers in the studio this fall to support your practice! Check out our calendar and make your plans now for regrounding and renewing your practice in the weeks ahead!

Working Together
by David Whyte

We shape our self
to fit this world
and by the world
are shaped again

the visible
and the invisible
working together
in common cause,
to produce the miraculous.

I am thinking of the way
the intangible air
traveled at speed
round a shaped wing
easily holds our weight.

So may we, in this life
trust to those elements
we have yet to see
or imagine and look for the true
shape of our own self
by forming it well
to the great
intangibles about us.

—from The House of Belonging,
©1996, Many Rivers Press

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Summer Days

Practice takes many forms. For some, it is yoga movement, mindfully moving the body and attending to the breath to bring body and mind to stillness. For others, it is sitting quietly to attend to breath and gently coax the mind’s activity to calm. For others, it’s a long bike ride, hike or kayak, feeling the body in rhythmic movement while attending to the road, the waves, the trail and the weather. For others still, it’s sitting to write or pausing one’s motion to listen to a child tell their story. In the summer, feeling the sun on our skin, listening to the waves at the beach or the birds in the trees can all become practice. Whatever and whenever we practice, the effort brings us to the present moment, to that place where we are attentive and aware of life as it happens. Dropping the ruminations of what has come before and the desires of what may come next, sitting in the present moment allows us, at last, to truly experience the deliciousness of life with our whole being. Renowned poet Mary Oliver expresses it perfectly in this excerpt from her poem “The Summer Day”:

“I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention,

how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?”

Excerpted from Mary Oliver New and Selected Poems, 1992

Beacon Press, Boston, MA

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The Fruits of Practice

We walk away from a yoga or meditation practice feeling refreshed, energized and calmer in body, mind and spirit.  Any one practice might reveal insights, give peace to a troubled heart or bring us back to our center to help us move forward in our day. 

But sometimes the true benefits of a yoga or meditation practice don’t show up right away. They show up later when life presents challenge. As one of my students recently shared “it is only in yoga that I feel truly pain free” as she completed a yoga nidra class in the midst of recovering from an accident. Another student, going through cancer treatment, shared with me that she surprised her doctor when she showed how truly flexible and strong her body was. And another, a doc himself, shared with me recently that his meditation practice gave him greater awareness of how important it was and when he needed to take a break to bring himself back to center so that he could serve his patients in the ER better.

As some of you know, in addition to my yoga teaching, running the PRACTICE studio and hosting my annual meditation retreat at the Borestone Mountain Sanctuary in Maine, I also consult in communications and development services for non-profits. I recently started working with an organization called Chewonki, an environmental education center on the coast of Maine. I have a very full schedule these days. And in that fullness, I am more aware than ever that it is my practice over the years that is now bearing fruit in very specific and helpful ways. I recognize at work that I know well how to exert effort and then to pause and rest before the next “posture” or focused task. That practice allows me to move through a busy day being ready and present for each next task.  I am a better listener and can remain present through challenging moments better than I ever could before. I am more compassionate with both co-workers and situations. I am in my body and know that movement and breath help me think and respond better.  I am more resilient. Every day, I am aware that it is my practice of yoga and meditation that has given me these gifts. And the gifts have only been revealed because of the challenge of balancing the demands.

Every practice leaves me feeling refreshed and knowing that I am whole. But it is only now, in the midst of this challenging new schedule, that I am reminded on a daily basis of the depth of the benefits to my life and work. And I am grateful!

I would love to hear from you where you are discovering the benefits of yoga and meditation in your life. Please feel free to share!

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April is our Birthday Month!

PRACTICE opened its doors in April last year to provide a soothing, restful oasis in the middle of the city for all who are looking for easy access to a regular practice that nurtures good health and well being for body, mind and spirit. We’ve had a great year and have loved our time with each and every one of you! Maintaining a spirit of inquiry, we experimented with schedules and classes to meet YOUR needs and create offerings to support YOUR vitality and good health! We are SO GRATEFUL for all who have made PRACTICE a part of their regular routine and wish all of you peace and ease on your path.

Over the year, with joy, music, art, expertise and a loving spirit, teachers from a mix of deep yoga traditions have brought a diverse offering of classes and workshops to PRACTICE. Classes were offered for those who have never stepped into a yoga studio before, for others who live busy lives and seek better life balance, for athletes looking to stay flexible as well as strong, for others experiencing loss who need space in their lives to grieve, for mothers and daughters to enjoy special time together and for those who seek a deeper connection to that soft voice inside, to the beauty of the season’s changes and to a celebration of the creative spirit that lives in all of us.

Today, PRACTICE offers regular yoga, meditation and mindfulness classes for all levels. Yoga is available for beginners and experienced practitioners alike — with a well-balanced mix of gentle, active and restorative classes in the early am, midday, late afternoon and evening. Meditation classes are available for those just beginning a practice and for those who have found that a regular practice simply makes life richer. Midday, evening and weekend meditation classes and workshops are available every week. Private instruction in both yoga and meditation is available as well.

We are celebrating our first birthday all month with some great new classes as well as the tried and true! See the full schedule here. And every time you come to a class at PRACTICE in the month of April, you can enter to win! Enter to win discounts on future classes, bodywork sessions, and yoga products and join with us in celebration of the fruits of regular practice!

“Your life is your practice. Your spiritual practice does not occur someplace other than in your life right now, and your life is nowhere other than where you are. You are looking for answers, insight, and wisdom that you already possess. Live the life in front of you, be the life you are, and see what you find out for yourself.” ― Karen Maezen Miller

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Spring Emerges

Witnessing the emergence of spring and the gradual letting go of winter is exciting and subtle all at once. Take time to tune into the sights and sounds of the season, the emerging light, the melting of ice and snow, the sun’s warmth on your body, the animal activity and invite the pleasure of being in the moment to witness the small stirrings of the new season. March invites us to take time to attend to our own stirrings of energy within.  In yoga and meditation practice, we take the time to attend to our own inner stirrings, listening to our own creative stirrings and the yearnings to be outdoors and active and alive in the world!


Spring by Mary Oliver:

Somewhere / a black bear / has just risen from sleep /and is staring

down the mountain. / All night /in the brisk and shallow restlessness /of early spring

I think of her, / her four black fists / flicking the gravel / her tongue

like a red fire / touching the grass, / the cold water. / There is only one question:

how to love this world. / I think of her / rising/ like a black and leafy ledge

to sharpen her claws against / the silence/ of the trees./ Whatever else

my life is/ with its poems/ and its music/ and its cities,

it is also this dazzling darkness/ coming  /down the mountain,/ breathing and tasting;

all day I think of her / her white teeth,/ her wordlessness,/ her perfect love.


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Be Love!

“The major characteristic of love is the absence of conflict. When conflict is born and increases daily, true love gradually diminishes. Where conflict finds fault, love sees virtue. When love increases daily, its flower blossoms fully, spreading its sweet fragrance everywhere.” Swami Kripalu

As we turn the calendar to February, we welcome more light into our days and begin to release the deep cold of January. In fact, February 2 marks the mid-way point between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. What does this have to do with LOVE and YOGA? As we release holding and tension, just as we release conflict, we can more easily access a calm mind and open heart. A mind and heart that is open to what life is serving up right NOW, in the present moment. We are more able to breathe into that moment to explore and discover what its gifts and lessons are to our life. Whether with another or flying solo, through the practice of yoga and meditation, we can experience peace of mind and openness of heart to the world around us.  As Swami Kripalu taught, “Through the practice of yoga, the mind easily becomes concentrated and one-pointed through the practice of yoga. When control of the mind is obtained, peace is established. To practice even a little is of the utmost importance. The profound meaning of yoga is understood only by those who maintain a regular and systematic practice. The day you start to practice, your true progress will begin.”

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