Oh Holy Mess — finding Yoga Union in the sea of Portland studios



Sixty days ago, I flicked on the light of an unfamiliar room, leaned my mattress on its side against the one blue wall, turned to survey the clusters of unopened boxes, and for one long second, stopped breathing.

Moving to Portland had always been The Plan, but I stood that afternoon and felt the weight of the difference between The Plan and The Thing. I’d thought of my move here as a season of weather no one could predict. But then, when I was right there in it, my fingertips numbed, and outside my window was just simple, explicable rain.

Leaving one small home for another, I saw my life reduced to this set of mobile possessions. Sixty days later, with a pieced-together living of jobs that don’t mean much to me and not a lot of space in my head for new friendships, it still sometimes feels like all I really have is stuff.

But just like the difference between The Plan and The Thing — between my noisy thoughts and judgments the (oftentimes sweet) actualities of my life — there is a very real difference between standing and standing in tadasana. Sometimes, when I wake up and rise in my now-unpacked room, I am able to tune into that difference, to stand as a mountain instead of an unsure, twenty-two-year-old girl (woman?).

The power of this kind of thinking, of returning, when one feels upended, to the sensations of the body and breath, is especially great in times of transition. But, for the most part, the first weeks of my move were overtaken by the usual barrage of external concerns: sorting, cleaning, rent paying, address changing, justifying my experience as a human in this world on little pieces of paper and sending those papers to dozens of potential employers — like blowing the loose tufts of a dead dandelion, just hoping something sometime will take root. In the meantime, my connection of body-mind-spirit went largely untended.

I first heard of Yoga Union as many people do: through a thoughtful friend. This friend is named Anna Connelly (you might’ve taken a class with her), and I reached out to her asking, with something like desperation, where a lost sort-of-yogi like myself might fit into the endless, sticky web of Portland studios. She answered, with an immediacy and grace that cut right through the banality of Facebook Messenger: “The term ‘yoga’ itself has completely changed for me since I started going to Yoga Union.” She prefaced this by saying she was biased — that Yoga Union is “certainly not the only place” to practice in Portland — but still, that kind of testimony stands on its own. I could tell she felt supported, that this place and these people were making her life fuller.

The first yoga class I attended in Portland was a sweaty and centering vinyasa, guided by Kate Saul, a teacher I’ve grown to love. In a shift that started small and internal and grew to influence every last corner of my world, that one class — that moment of quietude and balance and focus on what’s really happening, not all that stuff in my head — that class changed everything for me.

I go to it now whenever funds allow. I try not to think of it as “me time,” some extra treat I add on top of the slog of everyday life. I try to think of it as “we time,” as twee a turn of phrase as that is. In this liminal state between old homes and new ones, it’s easy for me to lose sight of who I really want to be in this too-big world. Yoga makes that quite simple for me. It says, Be a person who notices. Notice yourself. Notice others. Notice things as basic as all of us here breathing. Notice your whole spectrum of tender and judgmental and apathetic feelings. Invite them all in for tea. Give thanks. Relentlessly.

I came out of that first class with my guard down enough to smile at the people I passed on the way to the shoe cubbies. I even laughed a little with a stranger when we bumped into each other (adjacent shoe cubbies). Maybe someday it will be more than that. Maybe someday, after five or ten classes, I’ll walk out and say hello to someone, and even know their name. Maybe I’ll think, in the middle of a breath, how nice a little rain feels on my skin on the way to my car.

Portland has yet to feel like my home — but I’m getting there, day by day. Yoga reminds me that everything in this life is a practice. It’s powerful to see what a welcoming home I’ve found in Yoga Union, in its fellowship of loving friends all on a journey together — and it helps, most of all, to know what a nurturing home my body is in itself, offering me its support through every new age and ritual.


The Importance of Hard Work on Your Journey to Find Your Purpose

Preparing for the glory, or heartbreak, of your own Olympic moments.

Using curiosity and compassion to build their character, so your teen can go for their dreams

I love the Olympics. I grew up dreaming about playing Olympic hockey. I love the stories, dreams, and drama of the athletes. I imagine myself in each performance and wonder, “how would you respond?” In the moments of Olympic glory and heart break, “what would you do?”

I love to think about all the training and hard work that’s put into the pursuit of excellence – “could you do that?” “What would it be like?”

My sense is that you have similar dreams and hopes, and so do your teens, but for them at this point there is likely an unrealistic understanding of what it takes to make dreams happen.

  • Teen: I want to be a professional skateboarder.
  • Me: Okay, how do you do that?
  • Teen: “Work hard”, “Give it my all”, “go for it”, “Just do it”, etc.

Basically, the normal response is a string of cliches. This may be inexperience, or hope, or youth, or laziness, or something else, and to figure it out, lets use an old story:

  • A traveler is walking down a path towards a town. As he nears the edge of the town there is a street light casting a round glow on the ground. As he gets closer, he notices someone crawling around on the ground in the light.
  • As he approaches, he asks, “What are you doing down there?”
  • “Oh, I am looking for my keys,” responds the person on the ground.
  • The traveler, being a kind soul, puts down his pack and begins searching silently along with the young person, who offers a nod of appreciation.
  • After what seems like a long time, and several laps around the glow on the ground, the traveler asks, “are you sure you lost your keys here?”
  • And the person responds without hesitation, “oh, no. I didn’t lose them here, I lost them over there,”  pointing out into the darkness beyond the edge of the town.
  • The traveler, curious, asks, “then why are you searching here?”
  • The response is again quick and matter of fact, “Because this is where the light is.”

It’s easy to blame your teens for searching in the light and it’s easy to want them to be searching in a better place, but they are young and our culture isn’t good at helping them, so they get stuck in the light and the cliches.

​Curiosity & Compassion

You say, go!  Be motivated, care more, work harder, and get out of the light. Then, it’s easy to get frustrated when they don’t do it, but this is a place for curiosity and compassion.

The Olympics provides a push, a huge amount of support, and coaching, for young people with extraordinary athletic talent, but what about all the others? They have dreams also, but need guidance and support to grow that fuller life.

Figuring out how to get beyond the words that sound good and into the actions that make things happen is tricky.

The arena is the place where dreams happen, but it’s also the place where dreams are crushed. It’s risky out there in the darkness. There are lots of reasons to avoid it, but deep down you know you want it. It’s confusing. And they’re young

By bringing that curiosity and compassion to their exploration and their journey you can help them build the team, the sense of self, and the character necessary to become the person they dream about becoming some day.

A person ready to go for the glory and risk the heartbreak of their own Olympic moments.

Remember that we’re on a quest to understand how to discover the Real You. You can share comments and questions on the Play Huge blog

Speaker, Coach, Author, Mentor

Join “A Journey of Discovery to the Real You – How do you find your purpose?”

Go to:



Find Your Purpose

Remember that we’re on a quest to understand how to discover the Real You. You can share comments and questions on the Play Huge blog.

Our guy in the orange shirt on the rock looking exuberant, lets say, has found the Real You, or at least has prepared for the journey of discovery.

In the old times, when it was time for you to come of age, there was a whole ritual and rites of passage event that took place. You would have to head into the wild on your own and, hopefully, return having survived, found your spirit guide, and ready for the next stage of your life – a new name, greater conviction and clarity of purpose, and new role in the tribe.


How exciting and helpful does that sound?

However, you weren’t offered out to the world until you were ready. Your life up to that point was designed to prepare you for this journey. You had an elder/mentor guiding you as you headed towards adulthood. You had to have certain skills, certain abilities, and certain confidence in place, before you were ready.

Back in the day, hunting, cooking, wound care, knowledge of plants and animals, awareness of seasons and weather, and so much more, was necessary.

Today, we act as if academic success, things that “look good” for colleges, and technology are the important things for you to learn.

But I believe you can better prepare your kids. On your journey of discovery, you don’t have to forage food, fight for survival in nature, or handle being alone, but you need more than just academic training.

What training do we need to survive (or even thrive) in the world today?

Based on my work with teenagers, when you head off into the world on your own, the kinds of things that you are going to run into include:

  • disappointment
  • hard and confusing decisions
  • uncertainty
  • failure
  • loneliness and making connections
  • temptation and ease (of drugs, alcohol, shopping, video games, technology, and more)
  • self doubt
  • trouble
  • questions about meaning
  • and in this consumer culture a barrage of messages that say “you’re not enough”

Beyond the simple and helpful things like doing laundry, shopping for food, preparing food, taking care of your stuff, and cleaning up, there is another level of what it takes to find a life worth living.

So far, I’ve identified the following among the skills that our orange shirted exuberant guy has learned for his upcoming journey.

  • Showing up
  • Taking responsibility
  • Being courageous and creative
  • Persevering through frustration and difficulty
  • Trusting your intuition
  • Connecting to people
  • Creating positive and hopeful habits

A conversation has begun around these as I’ve begun to ask people what they think. You can join in on the Play Huge blog.

What do you need to be find your way to the exuberance, excitement, and curiosity of the aliveness and exuberance that lives inside you?

Happy Independence Day


Happy 4th of July weekend fellow Yogis! Do you have plans to BBQ, enjoy the sunshine or watch the fireworks? In case you’re still wondering what to do with all this nice weather, here are some holiday happenings in the Portland area:

• Waterfront Blues Festival: Take a blanket, pack a picnic and groove to some live tunes at this year’s Waterfront Blues Festival! Shows will be happening on the grass all weekend, so check out http://www.waterfrontbluesfest.com/
for details on who’s playing and when. Channel your yoga spirit and show the City of Roses your moves! This is also a great spot to watch fireworks- starting at 10:00 pm, this display at Tom McCall 
Waterfront Park is the largest fireworks show in Oregon

• Independence Day at Fort Vancouver: An all-day extravaganza, this festival has something for everyone. Bring the whole family and enjoy food, drinks, games and entertainment. Finish the night off watching an amazing fireworks show synchronized to music. Check out http://www.fortvan.org/pages/fourth-home
 for the full scoop

• Oaks Park Fireworks Spectacular: Music, fireworks and everyone’s favorite- carnival rides! Let the kids play while you enjoy the sunshine and friends. Check http://oakspark.com/upcoming3.html for prices and details

If the crowds are to much for you, why not have your favorite people over and grill in your yard? Here’s a great link with 4th of July themed snacks and drinks http://allrecipes.com/Info/holidays-events-and-occasions/july-4th/main.asp

Can’t see any fireworks from your yard? Try theses spots to chill out and watch the shows:

  • Hawthorne Bridge
  • Mount Tabor
  • Rose Test Gardens
  • Pittock Mansion
  • Top of PSU parking garage on 6th and Harrison
  • Portland City Grill
  • Sellwood Park (you can see both Oaks Park and downtown from here!)
  • West Hills: Terwilliger near OHSU has many spots.

Be safe, be happy, have fun!

Picture from: http://www.pdxpipeline.com/2011/06/30/where-to-watch-fireworks-on-july-fourth/

Applying the Universal Principles of Alignment in Anusara Yoga

1. Initiate your asana with Opening to Grace, an intentional approach of softness. In the first moment of your pose, align your heart’s intention with your spirit and your physical being. Soften your whole being with humility. You can begin with any asana.
2. Affect the Heart Chakra (The Heart Chakra is the centre from which feelings of love emanate. It is also associated with other virtuous emotions, such as joy, happiness, honesty, respect, compassion, understanding, and generosity, and with loving oneselfin a sincere, non-egotistic way) energy center as you maintain your pose. Muscular Energy, the second Universal Principle of Anusara Yoga, establishes stability andcoordinates physical strength. Muscular Energy draws into the Focal Point, an area of localized power in the body.

3. Expand energy with Inner Spiral. Energy expands from the feet up into the pelvis and waist area, thighs widen.

4. Apply Outer Spiral principle, which redirects energy inward, back down through the tail bone and out the legs and feet. Remember that the previous principles are still active.

5. Activate Organic Energy, the final Universal Principle of Anusara Yoga. Organic Energy is an outward energy that runs through the body’s outer core.

Prepare Yourself for the Holidays

As you find yourself wanting to relax during this hectic holiday season, then realize you forgot the gift wrap, don’t stress! It happens to the best of us. There are a lot of ways to stay calm during the holidays. Yoga can help free the mind of worrisome with a relaxing meditation.

Learning the art of ‘Relaxation’ during the holiday can greatly reduce stress levels. Sometimes we find that creating a peace with ones self can be difficult when your mind is worried about other things. There are several types of relaxing meditations you can start before moving into yoga postures.
They are quick and can be done in several minutes or longer depending on how comfortable you get. The longer you meditate the more stress you release.

‘It is better to learn the art and skill of directly relaxing than to merely distract the mind.’

It is best to maintain breath awareness as you do the practices. You will come to experience the way in which breath is a manifestation of energy, and how that energy flows throughout your being.

  • First, tense all of the muscles of the face, including forehead, cheeks, mouth, and upper neck. Then release with full awareness. You will notice the relaxation.
  • Gently roll the head from side to side, with awareness of the tightening muscles, and the feeling of release.
  • Tighten the shoulders, pulling them upwards and forwards. Then release.
  • Tense the entire right arm, from the shoulder down through the fingers. Do this without making a fist or lifting your arm off of the floor. Allow your attention to be deep inside the arm, not just on the surface. Then release slowly, with awareness.
  • Tense the left arm in the same way, and observe the release.
  • Gently tense the muscles of the chest and the abdomen, while continuing to breathe without holding the breath. Then release.
  • Tense and release the right hips and the buttocks.
  • Tense and release the right leg, down through the feet and toes in the same way that the right arm was tensed and released.
  • Tense and release the left hips and buttocks.
  • Tense and release the left leg.
  • While no longer tensing any muscles, allow your attention to drift back up through the legs, through the abdomen and chest, through the arms, and back to the face.

This method of relaxation can be repeated depending on how you feel after the first time. It’s best to practice breathing while doing any type of meditation, and when your worried about shopping or food these breathing technics will help you to stay calm and relaxed.

Todd Explains How To Release Stress

Todd uses LinkedIN to connect with other professionals and peers in the Yoga world. Recently he answered a question someone put up on LinkedIN Answers and we wanted to share it here with you today because his answer is something we all could take the time to remember once in a while.

The question:

  • “How do you relax or release stress. Many of us work 24/7 so how do you get to relieve your stress and get some time with the other people in your life ? I started a Martial Art when i was young and now i teach it and have done for 20 years approx (Absolute tae kwon do Association), 30 years in martial arts helped me. What do you do?”

Todd’s Answer:

Yoga, as you probably already know, is an awesome way to relieve stress because of it’s emphasis on the breath. When we’re stressed there’s tension in the chest and the breath is short. It’s so elementary, we often overlook it but just to pause and breath will be a huge relief. In yoga, we change the symptoms and through changing the symptoms, we effect the cause. In other words: you feel stressed so your chest tightens and you don’t fully breath. Then, because you don’t full breath, your chest tightens and you feel even more stressed. This is just one example of how if we’re not conscious, we can accidentally fall into a wheel of suffering. Because life IS good, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Next time you feel stressed, find a quiet place on the floor to sit. Elevate your seat on a folded blanket or a pillow. You want your spine to be straight and there should be a healthy curvature  to the low back. If sitting this way is uncomfortable, sit against a wall or even in a chair is better than nothing. Rest inside your state of being and know that it is not the true you; that your true nature is to be happy and joyful; that underneath the stress, there is freedom, waiting to be discovered. Feel the breath flow, breathing in and out through the nose. Notice the shortness of your breath cycles and begin to lengthen them. Try playing with at least a five count inhale and a five count exhale. If you can, extend these to seven or eight. Bring your breaths all the way up into the top of the chest and even hold them there for a moment before releasing. Try not to “fight” with the breath, by clinching the jaw or gripping the shoulders. Rather, let the tongue rest in the mouth, teeth slightly separated, lips lightly together. The shoulders rest back and down. You want the inhale to last just as long as the exhale. Pausing at the bottom of the breath is also helpful. Working the breath even just three to five minutes will make a dramatic difference in your stress level. After you’ve finished, let your breath go back on autopilot and notice how the chest has opened, the breath is naturally deeper, and the stress feels like a distant mountain you’ve just conquered. You are not governed by your emotions. You have the gift of consciousness and with it, you can remember that emotions are fleeting. They come and go like the weather. Remembering this fact will help you see the big picture and weather the storm when it comes. Be well!

Todd Vogt (Studio Owner)

One Of Those Days

Sometimes getting to yoga class can feel like you are fighting a battle in a war. It is not a constant feeling, but some days are just harder than others to get into a yoga state of body, mind and spirit.

There are those days when going to class can feel like the last thing in the world that could possibly be good or healthy. Today may be one of those days? You may have been traveling, crashing in hotels, trying to do yoga poses in the small space between the queen sized bed and the television. You know, the space that your luggage doesn’t spill out of it’s zippers and onto the floor. Your week may be filled with the duties of a mother or father, constant driving, cooking, cleaning, driving, changing, running, driving… you know who you are. If you are a student you may be finishing your FAFSA and registering for classes, trying to get the last bits of sunshine on your skin before the clouds roll in and you are sentenced to the library for 9 months.

The result of life’s constant responsibilities can make ones body and spirit look at yoga as “the straw that might break the camel’s back”.

It could be so much easier and pleasant to warm up a cup of tea and settle in with that book you have been trying to read. You may think your day could be less stressed if you didn’t have to think about how clean your yoga pants are or if you will get to class on time. These thoughts can poison your motivation and make leaving the house more work than is necessary.

When your thoughts drift to other things, when you can’t imagine yourself peeling your butt off the couch and into a pair of stretch pants, when the only thing that sounds good to you is NOT doing yoga, that is when you need it the most. If you find yourself smacked in the face with these thoughts, unable to get up and out, just think on these things and you may find an easier time for yourself.

When you first began your yoga practice, why did you start?

Keeping your goals in the minds eye will help you find motivation and inspiration.

Think of the health benefits.

Yoga has many health benefits and a consistent or frequent yoga practice will change your physical health for the better.

Mental Calm.

If you live a high stress lifestyle, yoga can be a great balance for your mental state. Breathing exercises help with the management of stress and anxiety, practicing them in yoga class is a great way to burn breathing into your memory for use in emergency situations.


Plain and simple, a regular yoga practice burns calories, plus the encouragement you get through your new mental state can help you address other problem areas, such as diet and intake levels.

Blood Pressure:

Scientific studies have shown that certain poses, Savasana (Corpse Pose) specifically, reduce the effects of hypertension.


We are always encouraging our students to become part of our community and to bring their friends into our community. Having a partner in yoga or someone who is expecting to see you in class can have a huge impact on whether or not you actually make it to class. Plus, yoga is always more fun with someone you love!

Honestly, the benefits of a regular yoga practice are numerous and thinking upon any of these reasons can be a fantastic motivation for any yogi who struggles with the idea of getting into the studio. We hope to see you in class!