Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Yoga and Advanced Aging: Teaching in Assisted Living, Skilled Nursing, and Memory Care Spaces

"Music," Dorrit Black, 1928

This post first appeared in the Accessible Yoga Blog Feb 2019.

By Carey Sims

Part One: Shifting Expectations and Embracing Possibilities

When we use a phrase like “Yoga for Seniors,” what do we mean? Who are we referring to? Most often we think of students in their sixties or seventies who are ambulatory, independent, and adjusting their practice to accommodate their changing bodies and brains. But what about students in later stages of the aging process? Or students with dementia? What techniques and practices would be beneficial for them?

I often say that if you can effectively teach yoga in an assisted living or skilled nursing facility, then you can teach to anybody anywhere. Teaching in a senior care facility is a lot like teaching in a gym; the energy of the space is often antithetical to what you are bringing in and looking to share (which is all the more reason to be there). These can be challenging environments to navigate and are not always ideal places for yoga classes.

For instance, in my experience, having a dedicated yoga space is usually not feasible. The majority of my classes take place within a larger communal room and the energy outside of our yoga bubble is often frenzied and chaotic. We may hear the TV blasting from a resident’s room down the hall, or nurses and staff holding conversations within earshot, other times a confused resident roams about anxiously, or a family member arrives to take a loved one out of class for a visit or doctor’s appointment. All of these distractions and disruptions can be quite frustrating. Students feed off of my energy and I have learned to let those little annoyances go. When I embrace creativity and adaptability, my students are able to stay engaged, focused, and calm.

Conversely, the collective mood in the building is at times depressed and languid. This is only natural. Many residents are heavily medicated and are negotiating a great deal of pain, illness, and loss. On the days the energy is off or a bit low, getting students to participate in class can be a struggle. This is where I need to look for small hints of connection. There are many times I feel like I am practicing by myself, but careful observation reveals focused effort and participation. Students that look like they are napping are actually breathing on cue and others perform small movements in the feet and fingers when I am demonstrating larger movements in the limbs. Unity is revealed in simplicity.

The real joy is noticing a shift in the communal energy at the end of class. The grounding is usually palpable. From the outside it may not have looked like a lot was going on, but we touched something deep within our shared humanity through our smiles, our breath, and our community. Isn’t that what we are after in our yoga practice—the experience of connection?

Carey Sims
E-RYT500, NASM-CPT lives in Charlotte, NC. His mission is to to help students explore their bodies and breath in an accepting and non-judgmental way. He teaches at NoDa Yoga and offers Chair/Adaptive Yoga classes at various senior living centers in the Charlotte area. He is an Accessible Yoga Ambassador, a Love Your Brain Ambassador, and leads continuing education workshops on Chair Yoga and Adaptive Yoga.

This article is part of a series exploring the practical application of yoga in Assisted Living, Skilled Nursing, and Memory Care spaces. Carey will share some of the challenges he has encountered teaching in these environments and offer practical techniques that he has found useful in sharing yoga with this population.

This post was edited by Patrice Priya Wagner, Editor of Accessible Yoga blog and member of the Board of Directors.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Through A Yogic Lens: Is It Really Cultural Appropriation? Or Something Deeper?

Indian woman's head wrapped in scarf, with bindi 
between eyebrows, maang tikka jewelry on forehead

by Anjali Sunita

We’ve all seen it: the deity tattoos, the turbans, self-appointed spiritual names, goddess circles, Yoga business courses, pornographic Yoga pose selfies, events described as “tribal” galore. If you like Yoga or are of Indian ancestry, you will have been berated with these aesthetics through the algorithms on Instagram or Facebook.

In the past decade, discussions about cultural appropriation have moved from academic and legal spheres to mainstream political controversy. On the far right of the cultural appropriation debate, you have defenders of artistic evolution and free market self-expression, fearing censorship by the “culture police;” and on the far left there are those seeking acknowledgment of roots and cultural values, resisting “cultural cleansing” by assimilation. Is it really so black and white?

Savitha Enner, a Maryland-based Yoga teacher who was born and raised in India until the age of 27, presents a bigger picture:

“Every country has an aspiration…and virtues, and values, and actions…the way you act usually; there is the culture. In India, one of the main values for your life is making your life sacred. That means, if I am a farmer, I am going to treat my farmland as my god, so I have rituals, pujas, prayers, festivals, a few times a year to worship the farmland, because that’s where I get the fruit of my labor. If I am a student, I have prayers, pujas, and festivals a few times a year to celebrate books, knowledge, writing instruments like pens and even computers.


If I have a job where I service the country…one of the sayings that will be put up on a building would be ‘your work is god’…even your car…because that is the mode of transportation. So pretty much anything that is useful to you is sacred. By that definition, we can extend it to Yoga…how do you treat things that are sacred to you? You are going to treat it with gratitude…humility…love…. Nobody has to tell me Yoga is sacred, or not; it just is. The more useful it is to you, the more sacred it is to you. So you do not have to ask anybody about whether I should say ‘Namaste’ or not, whether I should put up a deity or not. If you think Yoga practice is sacred to you…act accordingly, act in a way that feels that Yoga is sacred to you and it will be fine.”

Between all the pithy memes of digital activism, Indian practitioners are painted with the same brush, a monolith of cultures and perspectives. Some question whether digital activism truly honors diverse values of the diaspora and ancestors. Savitha’s perspective shows there is a wider range of response than what we see in trending click bait. The danger in it is that those who looking for a single Indian person to approve and validate their behaviors as well as those who romanticize Indian people and cultures may take her statement as justification for any action they wish to justify, rather than genuinely inquiring into one’s relationship to the sanctity of life.

Frequently online, at best, we sit at the surface. Well-wishers seeking not to offend will ask for a list, a never-ending education of do’s and dont’s. Do I or don’t I say ‘Namaste’? How do I wear and hold prayer beads? Should I wear bindis? Should I or shouldn’t I speak Sanskrit names in classes? Frequently the onus of education lands on an isolated South Asian practitioner who will be either pedestaled or gaslighted for her/his/their opinions. If the opinions are unwanted, a troll will pitch in the obligatory, “If you are so unhappy here, you should just go back home” or “Nobody owns Yoga!”.

Identities Not Trends

It is not a coincidence that a conversation that frequently begins with cultural values, meanings, and practices quickly devolves into debates over citizenship and ownership.

In an article entitled From Patañjali to the “Gospel of Sweat”: Yoga’s Remarkable Transformation from a Sacred Movement into a Thriving Global Market, recently published by Administrative Science Quarterly, Kamal Munir, Shahzad Ansuri, and Deborah Brown report, “Yoga went from a movement underpinned by a religious and meditative philosophy that took years to learn to one that advocated weekend courses to become a Yoga instructor. Yoga postures were copyrighted and franchised. The representation of Yoga in popular discourse, and the values associated with it, also underwent transformation. Its image went from pictures of Yoga gurus meditating in loincloths to athletic women in acrobatic poses that represented a blend of ballet, gymnastics, and Yoga. Many of these women emerged as the new gurus serving as role models for urban middle-class women the world over.”

Once inspired by Hindu philosophy, led by ascetics who provided an antidote to the individualism, greed, and consumerism fostered by capitalism, the meaning and values of Yoga were changed to meet the market. They outline how the Yoga movement was first “de-essentialized,” untangled from its socio-historical context, then syncretized with markets; and lastly, borrowed codes from related movements, in this case, the New Age and fitness movements. Part and parcel of capitalism, they note that "movements seeking to infuse markets with moral values often end up utilizing the market mechanism and support from mainstream actors to scale up, even if it comes at the cost of diluting their founding ethos."

At the center of many debates around cultural appropriation is the publication Yoga Journal, as it provides a perfect example of the capitalization and whitewashing imagery associated with Yoga media, excluding or marginalizing the image of BIPOC. The very first episode of the viral podcast Yoga is Dead, Tejal Patel and Jesal Parikh call out Yoga Journal’s response to the American Hindu Association, when they complained that Yoga Journal doesn’t reference Hinduism ( Yoga Journal responded to the American Hindu Association saying that Hinduism “carries too much baggage.” Jesal and Tejal provide a second example of the whitewashing imagery, when Yoga Journal agreed to put Jessamyn Stanley, a full-bodied queer black femme on the cover, but then seemingly threatened by this emerging market for larger bodied BIPOC, split the cover with a skinny white woman. What rots beneath the surface of the cultural appropriation debate are untold histories. Beneath these heated protests of magazine covers of skinny white women are generations of grief and trauma resulting from both the racism in America as well as the colonization on ancestral lands.

In my life, I have witnessed marginalized groups teased, bullied, discriminated against, and physically harmed for expressions of cultural heritage, while those in the dominant group profit from those same aesthetics. My mother came to the United States on a Fulbright scholarship in 1969, four years after The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 was passed, which abolished laws prohibiting Asian immigration to the United States. My family stories consist of how during the years of Vietnam some anti-war American white male student protestors, protesting the university my mother attended for holding classes, dehumanized her as she tried to go to class: touching my mother’s braids; pulling on her saris; and in a terrible accent saying “What would Gaaaandy do?” meaning “Mahatma Gandhi,” as they accosted her with “Americans are dying Bitch.”

Did they view all South Asian, South East Asians as the enemy? Was my mother’s road to becoming an American inconsequential to their fights for “Americans?” A rhetorical question meant for deeper inquiry: Why did they do this? Unlike them, she pushed her way to class in 1969 with her student visa at stake, until one day a physics professor sexually assaulted her while attending a session for extra help. Unable to go back, she failed physics, and had to shift to a less prestigious university so as not to be deported.

In her later years, she has written (in her book Where Monsoons Cry) about how during her scientific career, she cried the day she put her saris in a suitcase under the bed, as they had become a spectacle at her office. Every day men would ask her how long it took her to get ready for work. Yet on any given day in a Yoga studio across America or online, a white kirtan artist is chanting poorly pronounced Hindu deity names over blaring sound systems, in a sari, with moortis on the floor near her feet. For those first generation Americans like myself, who stumble into a Yoga center to reconnect to cultural heritage, Yoga spaces can feel like looking at our lost relics. (This is usually when someone makes the argument that pointing this out is divisive, that “We are all One” before explaining some Universalist principles and transcendental philosophy.)

In a 2015 article in The Washington Post, writer Cathy Young wrote, “To the new culture cops, everything is appropriation: Their protests ignore history, chill artistic expression and hurt diversity.” Young defends cultural appropriation at large, balking at protest against it as “an obvious potential to chill creativity and artistic expression… equally bad for diversity, raising the troubling specter of cultural cleansing.” Her defense begs the question, what about the cultural cleansing marginalized people endure every day within every American institution? Are we really all “One”? Many Desis have experienced that the multicultural “melting pot” idea is a grand illusion of “diversity” and oneness. In reality, this image of a diverse country has never been about equally blending the world’s flavor into one big soup; it has been about fitting in, assimilating, into a heavily salted soup in which diverse flavors are overpowered, cooked down, or dissolved within one or two generations.

Our truths are diverse. Some people with marginalized identities choose to accept cultural appropriation because fetishization, while irritating, is preferable to bullying. David Min writes in his Duke University Chronicle column in 2019 milk before cereal, “I’m willing to let authenticity take a backseat — as bad as that sounds — when my entire existence has been predicated on finding a survival strategy to exist in this world…While I’m aware that the West’s underlying assumptions about Asians have hardly changed, this newest fad certainly makes it easier to live.” Certainly, I often think: who am I to complain about seeming trivialities when my biracial body is light skinned and I have it so much easier than my mother. However, while some might argue like Min that oftentimes our criticisms of cultural appropriation begin from both a privileged position and internal insecurity of our own identity, I will continue to argue is that our conversations about cultural appropriation are often brushing against greater social and systemic inequities.

Omissions Matter

Many of us with South Asian ancestors, born and raised outside of India, who choose to respond to the issues of appropriation, are seeing in our mind’s eyes childhood memories of micro-aggressions. In "Microaggressions in Daily Life: Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation," Gerald Wing Sue defines microaggressions as “the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.”

I have memories of my mother coming to elementary school for our social studies class, showing 2nd graders India on a map, and dressing our white teacher in a sari while placing a bindi on her forehead. This generosity was met with mixed reactions: fascination, indifference, and teasing by my classmate as she pulled on her eyes to make them squint (nonsensical given how large our eyes are). “Because of the word “micro,” many people (read: non-white people) consider instances of microaggressions to be brief and relatively harmless; but there is nothing micro about microaggressions. Many psychologists refer to the impact of microaggressions as ‘death by a thousand papercuts’ for those that experience them on a regular basis.” (Nicole Cardoza, Anti-racism Daily).

We witness macro-aggressions, too, like the over 700 hate crimes that took place against Sikhs post-September 11th attacks. While this community was targeted for brown skin, turbans, and long beards, post the September 11th attacks the Kundalini Yoga industry continued to grow as mostly white Americans with beards, in turbans, profited. As of May 2021, a Dolce and Gabbana-printed cotton-blend turban sells on for 635 British Pounds. It is the appropriation rooted in the inequities of crony capitalism that frequently sparks protest.

In a 2020 article in GQ, entitled Cultural appropriation: everything is culture and it’s all appropriated, George Chesterton, another defender of appropriation, seeks to minimize the inequities that are the harmful residue of colonialism when he writes, “Some believe culture is exploited like land or natural resources were exploited by colonialists, but desecrating a landscape is not the same as desecrating an idea. The landscape can be ruined, but the idea remains.” This point of view omits historical facts about the real and damaging impacts of colonialism, the loss of authentic knowledge, cultural riches, and life that have resulted from systemic violence.

I have taken numerous courses that sadly attempt to conceptualize Yoga history, for example, and completely skip the colonial periods altogether. We do not hear about how in 1773, the British banned wandering yogis (who they couldn’t land tax), associating them with “black magic” and thievery; or of the development of the “Thugee Department” of Intelligence, where British Intelligence captured such “thugs” to avoid mutiny against British rule. We do not hear about how India, once responsible for 27 percent of the world’s economy in the 1700s, was not only depleted to only three percent after the British completed their rule and looting, but how the country was made vulnerable to famine, which in combination with unceasing inhumane taxation killed an estimated 30–35 million people (asserted by Shashi Tharoor, Inglorious Empire), threatening lineages.

How often do we consider the impact on lineages and the culture morale of the people? Instead, we hear narratives about Krishnamacarya, as the godfather of Yoga presenting yoga circus-like feats for royalty, influenced by European gymnasts. Do we ever hear how in combination with institutionalizing British healthcare system and hospitals Ayurvedic marma masters had their fingers cut off and were imprisoned for practicing their medicine? Or do we simply accept Ayurveda as “alternative” medicine? We are told that innocent gurus came to the West to spread the message of universal peace. How often are we taught that prior to Swami Vivekananda’s riveting speech that introduced Yoga to the United States at the Parliament of World Religions in 1893 that he was chased by white supremacists? Colonization has done far more than ruin landscapes. It greatly shifted the tone of how Yoga would be spread and later transformed.

This and so much more is omitted in our learning of Yoga and Yoga history in the West. I could not do justice to the vast and complex colonial history of Yoga in South Asia in this article, but simply want to point out intentional omission of certain truths. The spirit in which Yoga history is told is comparable to the spirit of the American Thanksgiving story, which claims that colonial history of this land was based upon ideals of harmony and mutual respect, when if in fact it was based upon genocide and cultural erasure.

Many Desis, those of the South Asian diaspora, don’t know (or perhaps we turn away from) the many painful aspects of our histories. We have never read about our histories in American history books. Perhaps Yoga history is so vast, varied, and ancient that it may be easier to focus on the distant past and the cultural richness that is also our history. Perhaps we are too proud. Perhaps we prefer the myth that we are a “model minority” and would prefer not to lose this privilege by upsetting the status quo. Perhaps our parents were working to survive and may not have known themselves or chosen not to teach us for our own emotional protection. Instead, we wind up in debates like Gwyneth Paltrow stating that she is responsible for Yoga’s spread — debates devoid of all context — when in fact, there are bigger elephants in the room.

I once had hoped that showing compassion, learning and teaching Yoga would counteract some of that anxiety and fragility that circulates in these conversations, but I’ve come to realize: unless you understand the functions of imperialism and colonialism either through study or through being marginalized yourself, chances are you will, intentionally or unintentionally, approach cultural, healing, natural, medicinal, and spiritual arts and sciences with a degree of entitlement and inherent racism.

To put it simply, with regards to cultural appropriation, I cannot write one more tweet or puff piece. It’s my view that learning history is essential alongside mainstream wellness education if we are ever to have genuine, meaningful, reciprocal cultural exchanges and have the courage to re-envision an equitable and honoring context for practice.

Anjali Sunita
In addition to sharing Yoga sessions and Pranayama through Baltimore Yoga Village, as well as Ayurvedic consultation as part of Village Life Wellness, Anjali Sunita creates courses for dialogue inclusive of Yoga history and philosophy. Anjali writes the blog and can be contacted through IG and FB @villagelifewellness; She is a graduate of the Sivananda Yoga Dhanwantari Ashram Yoga teacher trainings, the Ayurvedic Institute, and Oberlin College where she studied Theater and History with a focus on Gender and Colonialism.

Anjali Sunita will be presenting at Accessible Yoga's Conference Online October 14-17, 2021

This post was previously shared in

This post was edited by Patrice Priya Wagner, Editor of Accessible Yoga Blog and member of the Board of Directors.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Radiant Rest: Yoga Nidra for Deep Relaxation and Awakened Clarity

Tracee Stanley in pink silk gown, eyes closed, one arm around waist, other hand
by collarbone, laying on white carpet on floor with head, shoulders supported by white pillows
Photo by Chloe Crispi

From Radiant Rest: Yoga Nidra for Deep Relaxation and Awakened Clarity by Tracee Stanley © 2021. Reprinted in arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO. [[pg. 73-85]]

by Tracee Stanley

4. The Householder’s Flow

Householder’s Prayer

The altar is in my heart.
The sun and the moon are my gurus.
I trust the earth to support me.
Each time I close my eyes, I enter the void.
My heart is the portal to my sacred cave.
I whisper the names of the Divine as I prepare my meals.
I notice the flow of my beloveds’ breath as they fall asleep,
and I synchronize my breath to the flow of love.
I place a blessing in the pause between the breaths.
I hold the power to create a new reality with every thought.
I honor silence as a blessing.
I explore who I am and who I am not in the mirror of relationship.
I question my beliefs with curiosity and courage.
I honor my ancestors.
I lay down all self-doubt with compassion and forgiveness.
I remember the light of my soul as I enter the dream state.
I recall the beauty of truth as I transition from sleep to waking.
I know the vibration of truth.
I remember that nothing is mundane.
I honor the power of the transition as a portal to transformation
Everything is an offering. My life is a sacred ritual.
—Tracee Stanley

DURING MY MORE THAN twenty years of teaching, the obstacle that people have consistently shared as standing in the way of their practice is time. When I first began practicing yoga over twenty-five years ago, I had plenty of time to practice. Back then, the workday ended the moment you left the office, most people didn’t have cell phones, and no one dared to call you at dinnertime because they knew it was family time.

For most of us today, that scenario seems like a dream. In fact, just trying to get people to put their phones down during a meal can seem like a chore. According to a recent survey, 71 percent of us are sleeping with our phones—in our hands, in our beds, or at least within reach on our nightstands.(1) We have created lives where our attention focuses on the external, gathering data and information, seeking validation through “likes,” and succumbing to intense FOMO (fear of missing out) that makes it hard to turn off the devices that link us to the outside world 24/7. This existence leaves very little room for exploration of our internal landscape, devotion to practice, spiritual study, the things that bring us joy or relaxation just for the sake of our own sanity and well-being.


Tech companies are banking on the fact that we would rather distract ourselves than be present to life. This was evident during “stay-at-home” orders at the beginning of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, when people ran to platforms like Instagram, Zoom, and Netflix to the point that they became overloaded and kept crashing. We are constantly making choices. But what influences the choices we make moment to moment? This reminds me of the simple but profound concept of desire and the idea that the seed of every thought, deed, and action is desire.

The Indian spiritual teacher, author, and scholar Eknath Easwaran translated this powerful verse from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad: “You are what your deep, driving desire is. As your desire is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny.”(2) When we consistently make choices that deny the importance of our inner lives in exchange for the things that are continually changing and not a real source of truth, we keep looking outward for validation and meaning. It’s called distraction, and by succumbing to it, we are giving our power away. All the energy that we possess is being dispersed and wasted in chasing things that can never bring us lasting happiness.

If we can begin to explore the source of our desires, we will realize that they have the power to radically shape our lives. Next time you notice that you are procrastinating or allowing yourself to be distracted with things that waste time, ask yourself, What am I avoiding? What am I denying myself by not being present? How do my actions contribute to my feelings of being overwhelmed by my life? How is this behavior shaping my life? Am I willing to change? In a life that may include any combination of partners, jobs, kids, homework, family, pets, bills, aging parents, or building a business, we have so much to take care of just to get by. But the distractions keep coming—impulse shopping, internet scrolling, social media, online dating, or overindulging in general. The question is, what is it we are being distracted from? The answer is easy: our power.

No matter how shiny those distractions are, they are not more brilliant than the eternal light that makes its home within you. Perhaps you have intuitively sensed that there is something more to who you are beyond what you see, that there is a part of you that is vibrant and thriving. Maybe you feel like you’ve lost that part of yourself under all of life’s overwhelming demands. But yogic wisdom tells us that the thriving, vibrant radiance is who we are, and it is eternal; it’s a light that never goes out. Remember the light inside the innermost tiny nesting doll? That light is your power source, your own unique ray of brilliance.

Nischala Joy Devi translated my favorite Patanjali’s sutra 1.36, viśokā va jyotiṣmatī, as saying, “Cultivate devotion to the supreme, ever-blissful light within.”(3) This sutra refers to a light within us that is beyond all sorrow, that is unaffected by our conditioning or life experiences. It is not tainted in any way. It is pure, blissful, and eternal. It was there before you had a name and will be there when you no longer have a body. I believe that part of our purpose in life is to taste this radiance. The remembrance of this radiance is one of the gifts of yoga nidra. In many yoga traditions, a light is said to reside inside the “cave,” or deepest recesses, of the heart. Remember that one of the sacred portals is the heart center.

Unfortunately, we give ourselves no chance of experiencing this inner light (think, the innermost nesting doll) when our focus is constantly directed outward. It might feel like modern life leaves us no choice but to be externally focused—unless we’re living in a cave somewhere. When we are living the life of a householder, which I define as those of us with duties and obligations to our families, jobs, parents, or pets, it can feel like there is little to no time for practice. You might fantasize about going to meditate in a cave and leaving all of your responsibilities behind. But what if instead your life as a householder held keys to your evolution? It can.

It was vital for me to present this book in a way that incorporates practice for the householders—especially since most of us are not living in caves. The chapters in this part are meant to inspire you to reframe what your devoted practice looks like and to give you tools to carry on a practice no matter what life events present themselves.


I wrote the poem at the beginning of this chapter to remind myself that I have space and I have time, no matter how fast life is moving and how many things there are to do. I can always find moments during the day that connect me to my practice if I elevate my view of everyday life as not separate from my spiritual practice. If the poem resonates with you, you might consider printing it out and placing it on your altar (you’ll learn how to create one in chapter 5) as a reminder that you already have everything you need to practice. Because you do. Many times we look at spiritual teachers or “gurus” and think they are living “high up on the mountain,” untouched by the world. This is problematic because the world will change while they are up there in the clouds, and we may then be left with teachers who are out of touch or seemingly uncaring about the problems faced by those of us living a spiritual yet very worldly life. Having discernment about the teachers we choose and cultivating a relationship with our inner wisdom has never been more important.

If we can reframe how we see practice and use the myriad opportunities that daily life gives us to do that practice, we won’t need to long for a cave or an ashram. Life becomes our practice, and we can take refuge at the altars of our hearts. Our practice reminds us that life is sacred, and we can experience the quality of radiance in our daily lives.

I recently saw a man in a workshop in Vancouver scowling at me when I asked the group to join me in committing to a forty-day practice. I felt his frustration and said, “Are you wondering how the heck you’re going to fit this into your life?” He replied, “Yeah. I have five kids, and I’m a stay-at-home dad. There’s no way I’m going to be able to practice every day. It was a stretch for me just to be here for one day.” I felt a deep well of emotion rising within him. He desperately wanted to have time to dedicate to a consistent practice, and he was frustrated and sad that he couldn’t see a way to do that.

I suggested to him and the group that we reframe the idea of what yoga practice looks like—more specifically, who a dedicated yoga practitioner is. Usually when we think of dedicated yoga practitioners, we visualize people who have many hours a day to meditate, study, and practice. We see them as very disciplined. They always seem to be reading the scriptures, discovering new teachers, trying new modalities, and going to workshops or on spiritual pilgrimages. This kind of time is a luxury and a privilege and not the case for most of us. We consider ourselves lucky if we can eke out time for a class once or twice a week. Somehow, we have gotten the idea that spiritual fruits are only delivered to those who have a lot of time, resources, and discipline to dedicate to practice. We decide that if we can’t do a full hour of practice, it’s not worth even bothering. But who said that a “practice” needed to be an hour or 90 minutes to be valid? That comes from the commercialization of yoga as a wellness product to be sold and not as a lifelong practice that can lead to spiritual freedom.

It’s true that it can be a little daunting when you read in texts, such as the Yoga Sutras, that say the way to practice yoga is with consistency, for a long period of time, with no interruption.

With no interruption? For most of us, that is a nonstarter. We feel like we are set up to fail; it’s easy to give up or not even begin. Let’s drop the idea that a practice needs to be an hour just because that is what yoga studios have been selling us for years. What if we stopped compartmentalizing and saw the whole of our lives as a spiritual practice? What if we explored the many opportunities during the day that can connect us to a deeper part of ourselves? What if that became our practice?

Try seeing your practice as a twenty-four-hour cycle. Each breath, mantra, pose, mudra, or contemplation you are able to thread into your day makes up your Householder’s Flow. Your twenty-four-hour practice can flow through all the states of consciousness: waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. Let it become the fabric that supports you as you take care of family, commute to work, prepare for a meeting, do classes online, bathe your children, and prepare for a night’s sleep.

If you really want to have a dedicated practice, it’s as simple as making the choice, then figuring out how that choice can fit your life. Let go of any comparison to what you think “practice” should be like and tune in to how you want it to feel. Be honest about what is possible for you.

The Yoga Sutras tells us that we should practice with steadiness and ease. Most of the time, we think of this as steadiness in our physical posture and letting go of effort as a form of surrender. But what happens when we are not practicing asana? Is it possible to adapt steadiness and ease into our daily lives? Learning how to bring a sense of steadiness into the ever-changing ebb and flow that occurs during each day and finding small ways to keep the sacred thread of our practice running through everything we do is the key to the Householder’s Flow. You can connect to steadiness by remembering the part of you that is eternal. Remember what it is that you have unwavering faith in. If you feel like you don’t have faith right now, consider what you would like to have faith in. Contemplate what it means to be awake to this sacred thread in every moment. Let discipline transform into devotion and your life will be a sacred ritual.

The practice of yoga nidra attunes us to the transitions between the waking, dreaming, and deep sleep states. The transitions are where the power and the magic lie; each one is a little space of the void. There are many transitions throughout the day. If we can begin to be aware of these transitions, we can use them to stay more awake and present to our practice and to the little nidra moments every day.

As householders, we can turn every sunrise, every breath, every pause between the breath into a sacred portal into practice. The most potent portals are the moments when you are about to fall asleep and awaken. Just by using the simple 3- to 5-minute practices I’ve included in the practice chapters as a start and end to your day, you will create a twenty-four-hour flow of practice that can begin to give your waking life a new color—one of presence and grace. You may find your relationship to time and practice beginning to shift, and my hope is that you will then be able to incorporate the longer deep relaxation practices too.


I met a woman at a retreat in Austin who had completed a very rigorous yoga therapist training program and was getting back to her practice after five years away. She felt that when her child was born, she began to “lose the cushion between experiencing something and reacting to it.” Her years of practice had given her the ability to slow down and notice how she reacted to things and to be more present overall. She was able to delay reacting and to respond with better choices. But all the hours of practice and study hadn’t prepared her for motherhood and maintaining a consistent practice while caring for her child. Little by little, she “watched that cushion of sanity getting smaller and smaller until one day it was gone.” She felt she had lost her practice and her clarity.

This is a feeling we can probably all relate to, as at one time or another, something we were doing consistently that made us feel great and healthy somehow got derailed and then eventually disappeared from our lives. Months later, we find ourselves thinking that we have to get back to it and we don’t know how. Another habit or responsibility has taken its place. I would say that this woman hadn’t really “lost” her practice. It was waiting for her in abeyance, like a forgotten bank account waiting for her to claim the funds. Her practice needed a radical reframing.

What kind of practice can you do when the baby finally falls asleep, and you have so many other essential things to do like take a shower or prepare a meal for yourself ? The answer is whatever you can. The practice chapters include short mini practices that can be done in 3 to 5 minutes. They are all portals into deeper states of awareness and sacred living while taking care of day-to-day demands.

Ashley, a new mother of a one-year-old, told me, “Once you don’t have as much time, everything that is unimportant falls away. You become clear that everything is a choice. You become more discerning.” In this way, the perception of lack of time can be one of the gems of parenthood. It allows us to practice detachment, to examine the root of our desires, and to sharpen our discernment. We can use the feeling of “no time” to get clear on what we want our lives to be about. We get to create new paradigms around how, where, and when we practice; to rediscover what a personal devoted practice looks and feels like for us; and to explore what our practice means for those around us. Kate Northrup, the author of Do Less, a mother of two, and a successful entrepreneur, says yoga nidra helped her with mental clarity and physical energy: “I felt like I had gone into a state of deeper stillness and calm than I had experienced in a long time.”(4)

We get to reclaim that calm as a householder when we reinvent for ourselves what practice looks like. I have a dear friend, Bill, who has been practicing meditation in his car for over fifteen years. Every morning he goes into his garage, sits in his parked car, and does his meditation practice. His car is where he finds peace. It is comfortable, quiet, and free of distraction. He has turned his car into a meditation cave.

It’s important here to give yourself permission to find creative ways to see what works for you and what doesn’t. The more open you are to experimenting with little increments of time during the day, the more your practice will strengthen and blossom. Here are some tips to get you started. Choose one that resonates and start with that as a way to find your unique flow. Over time you can add others until you find what works best for your situation.

  1. Let go of the idea that your practice needs to be 15, 30, or 90 minutes long to be meaningful or valid.
  2. Instead of one long practice, try 2- to 3-minute mini practice portals that you can weave throughout your day. You can set the timer on your phone to remind you when to practice. Find time to lay down and practice the Body Awareness Exercise on page 64 or Pratyahara Practice on page 67 for 3 minutes. When you do have a few minutes of space to practice, notice how resistance to resting or practicing may show up. Be aware of what you feel called to do instead. Is it nurturing, supportive, or healing? Is your default mode moving you toward healing or toward distraction and staying stuck?
  3. Use your least favorite chore as a portal to practice. Chant, sing, or follow your breath while washing dishes, doing your taxes, doing laundry, or mopping the floor. Use your resistance as a way to turn the mundane into the sacred. You will find suggestions for mantras in the resources, but any song or affirmation that is offered with devotion will work.
  4. Leave a small space in your home—a chair, your yoga mat, a corner of a room, a closet, or even your car—set up and ready for your practice. Begin to see every seat as a potential meditation seat or yoga nidra nest. (You’ll learn how to set yourself up for the ultimate surrender in the next chapter.)
  5. Acknowledge your obstacles. Let go of being surprised and frustrated when they show up. Observe the barriers to practice that arise and the obstacles that you place in your own way. Be aware of which patterns keep showing up. How can you shift something to create a new outcome?
  6. Remember that all the practices you do, no matter how small they may seem, are preparing you for deep relaxation, yoga nidra, and truth.
  7. Decide what you are willing to commit to.
  8. Connect to the desire in your heart to deepen your practice and let that be what guides you. Even when you feel like you cannot “do” a single thing, connecting to that longing with a sense of gratitude that the fire is burning within you will support you. Connect to it with gratitude, as opposed to despair and disappointment that the desire has not yet been fulfilled; know that you are moving toward it. Connect with your faith that things can change. Remember the cycles of nature where nothing is permanent. There is a season for everything.
  9. Be creative. Look for the pauses, transitions, spaciousness, and silence. The day is full of natural transitions: sunrise, high noon, sunset, moonrise. Use these natural transitions to remind you to pause. When you pause, you create a natural void, so place a mantra, an affirmation, a bible verse, or a blessing for yourself in that space to empower yourself. These are the little nidra moments that will change your relationship to the practice.
  10. Use every relationship as a mirror to understand more about yourself. Notice your reactions and what beliefs you hold on to. Be willing to see another point of view as a way toward understanding. Examine conflicts and ask yourself, Could I have created a more healing outcome for all involved? What am I not willing to admit about myself? What systems or conditions are present that prevent me from thriving and what resources are available to me for assistance?
  11. Find at least one friend who is like-minded with whom you can connect to share insights and experiences. Even if it’s a text to say, “I had a tough day today,” or “I meditated in my closet today,” or “I removed some apps from my phone so I would have more time to practice—I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner.” Use technology as a way to support your practice instead of as a distraction.
  12. Reframe your deep relaxations and yoga nidra practices as surrenders. Remind yourself, It’s time to surrender instead of It’s time to practice. Let go of the energy of doing. Yoga nidra is a practice of non-doing, and grace descends when you let go. 
  13. Set up an altar at home. (Keep reading to learn more about how.) Let it be a reminder to pause at least once a day and remember your commitment to yourself.
  14. When you notice negative thoughts, replace them with kindness and compassion. Study and practice Yoga Sutra 2:33, translated by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait as “to arrest conflicting thoughts, cultivate thoughts opposed to them.”(5) This is said to be a way toward a peaceful mind. It also helps us become aware of our thoughts.
  15. As soon as you wake up, bring awareness to the flow of your breath for 1 minute. Even if you have a child who wakes you up, you have a moment to say to yourself, What is my breathing like? Let me bring awareness to my breathing, feeling my navel rise and fall, while I am also bringing attention to my child. Can I hold the feeling of inner peace while experiencing that a part of my attention is also being directed externally? Parents are the best multitaskers around. You can do this!
  16. Be aware of the phases of the moon, taking just one moment each night to see the moon in the night sky. Remembering the phase from the night before, see if you can imagine the current moon phase in your mind’s eye prior to looking up. Offer a prayer, a blessing, or gratitude for her cooling light. Notice how you feel at each moon phase; look for patterns and take notes. Learn the last verse of Ratri Suktum (p. 188).

  1. Recall a time when you directed all of your will to one thing. What was it? How did it feel? How did it change you? How can you tap into that force of will within you to commit to reframing your practice to a twenty-four-hour Householder’s Flow?
  2. What do you have faith in? How can this help to shape and support your practice?
  3. Is there someone in your household you can ask for support so you can take 3 minutes a few times during the day to do mini practices?
  4. How are you careless or forgetful? When do you “check out”? Can you bring more presence and purpose into your daily activities?

1. Groden, “How Many Americans Sleep with Their Smartphones,” Fortune.
2. Easwaran, Upanishads, second ed., p. 6.
3. Devi, Secret Power of Yoga, p. 279, Kindle.
4. Northrup, Do Less, p. 155.
5. Tigunait, The Practice of the Yoga Sutra, p. 174. 

is a noted and lineaged teacher of yoga nidra, meditation, and self-inquiry. Her practices are inspired by the tradition of Himalayan Masters and Sri Vidya Tantra, into which she was initiated in 2001. She is co-founder of the Empowered Wisdom Yoga Nidra School and created the Empowered Life Self-Inquiry Oracle Deck. Tracee travels internationally leading retreats, teacher training, and presenting at festivals and conferences including Oprah and Gayle’s Girls Get Away. She has online classes available at Commune, Yoga Journal, Unplug Meditation, Pranamaya, and Wanderlust TV. For more information, please visit

Tracee Stanley will be presenting at Accessible Yoga's Conference Online October 14-17, 2021

This post was edited by Patrice Priya Wagner, Editor of Accessible Yoga Blog and member of the Board of Directors.

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