Saturday, October 26, 2013

This feels sacred and scary

Feeling exceptionally tired and tapped out of ideas yesterday morning while getting ready to teach my 9:30 am Advanced class, I had nothing at all prepared in the way of asanas, sequence or theme. I didn't feel panicked though as I saw the familiar and friendly faces of the students who came to class. After some thoughtful discussion regarding yoga in social media and some branch-off topics, we got started. I offered them my current home practice; which has evolved into a really reliable and smooth flow that can either be dialed down for slower moving mornings or ramped up for those days when I have extra time and extra energy to play around with, but always does a more than adequate job of preparing me for my day. I felt confident in my instructions even through some tricky transitions and complicated and lengthy combinations because I know this sequence so well in my body on all levels. I felt even meditative while teaching it, automatically dropping into the sensorial flow of it. And although I always am connected and invested in the sequences I teach and absolutely share my experiences of the poses, this felt very different....intimate even. Sitting in siddhasana while the students lay blissfully satisfied in savasana, I was trying to get a hold of what I was feeling. Whether they knew it or not I had made myself completely vulnerable and bare, especially since I knew I had to close this particular class with the small prayer that ends my daily practice and starts my day, in lieu of a meditation practice that I have regrettably been neglecting for some time now. I briefly considered just closing as I always do, with some breath, an 'Om' and a 'Namaste'' but that felt like I would be taking a step backward as a teacher. I remembered the first time I decided to close class by chanting 'Om'; my throat wobbly and shaky with nerves. I now felt remarkably similar preparing to reveal the more sacred part on my personal practice. You'd think I was reading some secretive and juicy diary entry, but really I was simply offering them this:
While seated with hands in Anjali mudra (prayer hands), bow deeply- "in acknowledgment and acceptance that I am here in service..." Sit up straight, press mudra to third eye center " my thoughts..." Press mudra to lips " my words..." Press mudra to heart center " my intentions and actions..." With head bowed slightly, release hands to rest on legs with palms facing up "...I humbly ask for and accept guidance and assistance on this path, in this form..." Lift head, Anjali mudra at heart center "...I am ready" as I blink my eyes open and usually have a goofy smile on my face at this point and offer an enthusiastic "Namaste'"

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Embracing Change & Removing Obstacles

It is the start of a wonderful new time of year and for some of us it is also the start of a new journey. Just this past weekend began both the 200 hour and 300 hour Yoga Teacher Trainings. I have the honor to co-teach the 200 hour YTT with Silver Kim and it is always exciting to see students go from generally attentive and interested during classes to passionately intrigued and actively seeking a deeper expression of their practice and understanding of yoga beyond class. Frankly, it wasn't so very long ago that I was one of them. And now after some years of teaching and continued progress in my practice and learning, I find my interest piqued even more. It is like hiking alongside a waterfall and after climbing so far and reaching the top of a fall you find that there is a fall above it that you hadn't seen and another fall above that one and so on and so forth. Luckily for me the 300 hour YTT has come at a time when I can attend and be as fully invested as possible. But not unlike any new venture or anytime we take a step toward or daringly into the unknown, doubt, fear and other obstacles arise.

You have all seen this handsome and auspicious guy in the studio and perhaps elsewhere. He is known as Ganesha, Ganesh, Ganapati, just to list the most frequently used names. Widely recognized as the "Remover of Obstacles", he is often prayed to or honored during times of new beginnings, especially those that may pose extra challenges, whether they be new ones or familiar challenges re-emerging despite futile attempts of suppression or avoidance.Throughout our lives and experiences we start to view ourselves in certain ways, recognizing our strengths, talents, tendencies, and naturally developing some self-limiting ideas in accordance with the labels that we place upon ourselves as we see these various aspects of personality and lifestyle. When CHANGE is introduced it can feel extremely threatening and scary. The paradox here is that even if you actively choose the change and even when it is a change that you know will better an aspect of your life that could really use some refining and betterment, it can still feel extremely threatening and scary. This is when our friend Ganesha can offer his assistance.

Ganesha is a deity who has the body of a man and the head of an elephant, thus he represents (among too many things to mention here) the human yearning to connect with Nature. With his generous pot belly, he represents the bounty of Nature and the Universe; which is truly always supporting our evolution and encouraging us to THRIVE through our many and various experiences in this life. As we strive to connect with and integrate with Nature and our unique, individual, authentic natures, we are forced to face that which distracts us from it- obstacles, challenges, fears, doubts, and the many other factors that we try to deny, ignore, and avoid. With his four hands, Ganesha is equipped in the following ways to help us stay the course: to eliminate those worldly attachments that prove unnecessary and potentially distracting; repel obstacles that might hinder or discourage us; illuminate and navigate the path of truth; and remind us of and protect the sweetness of the inner self, dare I say the bigger SELF.

So with Ganesha in my corner (not to mention all over my house and person), I will do my best to accept and embrace the changes that will come as I continue on my journey to discover more of my potential, to see and convey clearer my truth, to recognize the nature of my bigger Self that is a reflection of that which is truly Divine and GOOD and the vast amount of obstacles that may be on that path. Figuratively, to simply keep climbing to the top of the waterfalls, to the SOURCE.

~OM Sri Ganeshaya Namah~

(mantra to honor Ganesha and cultivate success, prosperity, wisdom, strength, and illumination)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The big 3 0:

While in the throws of a perfect storm of life events, I was nearly certain that I was dying last week. For real...but on the inside; which is possibly worse because you can be aware of your lifelessness. I suppose I can say that some of me did in fact die former perspective and some of my (thought to be) priorities.

After spending the weekend with my in-laws in the Poconos and feeling a sense of urgency to be fully partaking in my life experiences in the wake of Sam's sudden death, the vision I had of myself and my contributions started to change. Interestingly enough, a few days before leaving for the mountain weekend getaway, our Kundalini teacher mentioned that I looked different and asked if I was going through a shift. She said this simply in passing in the parking lot. My answer was, 'nope, just feeling pretty relaxed these days'. But her comment stuck in the back of my brain and I can't wait to tell her how clairvoyant she is! It turns out there was nothing that was not shifting! It suddenly was feeling useless and unfulfilling to direct ALL of my energy into the business of yoga. It became clear to me that for some time now I had been missing the mark and sacrificing true mindfulness. I am never going to make millions of dollars teaching yoga. I earn enough to cover my bills and we live comfortably enough. I have been loading myself up with stress thinking that I will earn enough to dissolve all of my stress....what? Exactly! But while I ran myself ragged and picked up my pennies I was left with little to no energy, attention or desire to spend any meaningful time with my husband and on our home. It became an effort to be nice to my family members and friends. I actually neglected and forgot about some family functions! These things are not typical for me. I was feeling joyless and not much the richer for it. I also realized that I wasn't paying attention to the actual business that monetarily sustains me, the business of massage therapy and striving to grow it for my fellow therapists and for myself.

My energy needs to be directed toward my loved ones! Feeling the joy in my relationships and undividedly being present in exchanges. I feel thoughtful and generous again! I untethered myself from an unrealistic concept, thus the stresses that weighed on me toooooooo heavily. I had honest conversations with my boss, my mom, and my husband about my decisions to let go of some work responsibilities and the impending repercussions of that but also the added contributions that I could make to my family, whom once again top the priority list.

Symbolically, I had a terrible cold and sore throat last week, resulting in the loss of my voice. But after expressing my intentions clearly;  defining the support that I need and consuming several pots of cayenne pepper and honey infused tea; I feel healthy again. I feel clear, grounded, purposeful, effective, valuable, valued, centered, and is joy sensing neurons starting to fire!? Just in time  to celebrate my thirtieth birthday! There is no time to waste or obstacle not worth tackling when living 'unapologetically authentically'*!

*phrase inspired by Michael Lear

Friday, September 20, 2013

Yoga for the causes of PEACE and LOVE!

YOGA, as an action verb, this weekend for some great causes! Here are a few that I am part of but it is likely that there are plenty available to you even if you aren't in the Lehigh Valley this weekend.
Saturday: I will be teaming up with a wonderfully vibrant woman, Traci Swanson for a Zumba/Yoga Mash-up. A mutual student of ours Michelle Walker and her family, are in the process of adopting a third little girl from China and could use our help to raise more funds to get little Lyla to her loving home. This should be a wonderful event. You can learn more about Michelle and Lyla's story at

Saturday and Sunday: GLOBAL MALA FOR PEACE! Join the whole Kula Heart Family this weekend for FREE classes with some very special events such as musical accompaniment during Ravi Hari Kaur's Kundalini class and Yoga at Franklin Hill Vineyards with Silver Kim, there will be wine and brunch! I will be offering some sweet Intermediate yoga action on Sunday morning at 8:30 at the studio! Donations are optional but welcome to help support 

See the weekend schedule and more of Kula Heart's offerings at
Linked up: 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


On the Friday morning before last I got a text message from my mom at 6:30 am. She knows I am awake at this time but it is not our usual time to chat. Adding to the alarm she wrote, "I have some sad news. Call when you can". I gulped real hard, took a few deep breaths and before calling her prepared to hear that one of my grandparents had passed. Everyday I wait for this shoe to drop since I am a week away from being 30 years old and still have all of my grandparents! My dad's parents are 94! My Gam (dad's mom) verbalizes how tired she is and that she directly asks for the Lord to take her. My mom's parents are younger but not in great health these days. So I thusly prepared for news in this vein but when I called her, she told me that the 23 year old niece of my aunt (by marriage) was brain dead and only hours away from being pronounced officially dead. An aneurysm burst in her brain, at 23. I didn't know what to say I was so unprepared and anyway what is there to say in such circumstances. I had known this girl from family functions, although not well. She was quiet and hung tightly to her sister and cousins.

Needless to say this has drastically shifted my world view and perspective. I wouldn't say that I take existence for granted but definitely life and living life. My theme in teaching for about a week and a half has been based around this tragedy but as a wake up call to live and celebrate the fact that I can move my body and that I am breathing and that I can experience more moments on my timeline. Even the moments that are not awesome I can choose to find some amount of space, time, perhaps even joy. On that mat, these elements are clear. Off the mat, they are easier to ignore and overlook and be lazy about life. But the truth is that we can't! We cannot! We don't have time, or maybe we do...there is usually tomorrow, but not always.

HAPPY and feeling FREE! Spent the weekend with my husband and lovely in -laws on a private lake in the Poconos - LOVE.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Ready to move my a(s)sana

It was 6 days ago that I had minor knee surgery (right medial meniscectomy and medial cyst removal). The rest and recuperation time was certainly necessary but I'm so ready to not think about being in pain or what movements might hurt me or injure me anymore. My body and spirit are left unsatisfied by the lack of movement. I did get on my mat a few times for some headstanding (super controlled inverting has to be good for inflammation), core work (because one always should), and altered flow action. But today I hopped on my mat and practiced with near abandon, not to be confused with reckless abandon. I vinyasa'd, I lunged, I warrior'd and man it felt great! It felt great to my body but it was also energizing and encouraging to realize that I don't have to fear my healing knee! Injuries and tweaks happen all the time- I know this all too well lately- but this practice of yoga is one of ultimate healing and should be utilized as such. So long as we stay tuned into our experience and stay clear about our intentions of healing and well being, it's all gonna be good, great in fact!

As if I need extra motivation to get moving forward from here I've committed to 2 yoga challenges on Instagram. One of which is running for the month of September, the other just 10 days. Here are my posts:
 Instagram: @suetomato #moveyoasana (above)
Instagram: @suetomato #aimtruechallenge (below)

In a nut shell

Practicing yoga allows me to experience life more fully and love myself. Teaching yoga makes me feel vibrantly alive. Encouraging, inspiring, and empowering others through yoga fuels my passion and purpose for life.

I initially came into yoga as a teenager for 2 specific reasons: to workout and because I heard it was good for back pain. At this time I was already suffering with what I came to find out is chronic low back pain for some time. As a child I trained competitive gymnastics and remember specifically and constantly feeling pain in my back. I said nothing about it assuming it went along with the territory, only to find that the terrible sensation would linger in my body at varying intensities for many years. After leaving the sport, going through my preteen and teenage years without the rigorous training schedule wreaked havoc on my body image. It seemed like everything started changing in ways I was very uncomfortable with, especially my body. A vicious cycle then started to form in which I would workout to achieve some standard of fitness I felt necessary, but would inevitably ignite that pesky to, at times paralyzing, back pain. I tried yoga and ahhh the relief...until backbends and then returned the pain.

While completing my undergraduate degree at Lehigh University, I picked up a job helping out at my Chiropractor's office, after seeking his help and treatment. It was through this job that I discovered my love and apparent talent for understanding anatomy and the body's limitless capacity for healing. With only ever having recieved one very short massage I felt called to attend massage therapy school at Health Options Institute. Working as a massage therapist proved immediately to be a great fit for me and confirmed that healing can happen in so many ways if one is open enough to explore the best path. No single body is the same, nor can be treated as such. Each client/patient that I encountered and worked with has taught me invaluable lessons about anatomy and how I can continue to grow and adapt in my services as a therapist. Through this, I was again brought back to the practice of yoga, although with a whole new perspective and appreciation for what it could offer: therapy, healing, and I would come to find out acceptance and love.

It was at Kula Heart, with their heartfelt, open, sincere, healing-focused, and well trained teachers that as an adult I started doing big, full backbends with NO back pain, balancing inversions that I could have only dreamt of doing on the balance beam so long ago, surprisingly found comfort in splits AKA Hanumanasana, and above all truly fell in love with my body and my self. "What" I saw was not so very different, but "how" I saw was so very different. I saw myself as valuable, beautiful, strong, and intuitive. Suddenly my whole world started becoming visible through this lens and my world started to shift. I vivdly recall standing up from Uttanasana one day being literally head of heels in love with myself. I had never felt anything like it! This minor miracle was something I knew I needed to pass on to as many people as possible; offering others the oppurtunity to simply feel well and feel awesome!

In the same way that I was called to Massage Therapy school, I found and enrolled in yoga teacher tranng without having logically considered the painfully obvious obstacles to the overall goal, which were seemlingly innate to my personality. When I was young, I was held back for an extra year of preschool for being too quiet and having no friends. My University English advisor constantly urged and at times begged me to talk in class or attempted to trick me into sharing my thoughts in class, claiming that I had "things to say". It wasn't only his classes in which I filled the role of "quiet girl". Even in grade school and high school, despite having an active social life, participating in sports and doing well academically, I was very quiet and reserved, turning a hot, bright reddish pink whenever I spoke in class or even in a group of friends. Through yoga teacher training, I somehow transformed from the shyest of the shy to bursting at the seams to spread the good yoga word. These days, I never ever feel more like myself or more alive than when I am teaching. I feel free, I let my personality run wild and have so much fun. I am serious about the yoga, the alignment and what is happening below the surface, but many of my students have told me that they have fun in my classes; which I am delighted to hear.

I pride myself in making yoga and what most students think is impossible in their bodies, possible. Accessibility is key for me. If I can offer a student the tiniest of steps toward or even just get them to consider thinking about moving toward what they wish was in their reach, assuming that it is somehow not, I have done my job. If I fail to empower my students, I am not doing my job well enough. I strive to keep my students safe, while encouraging and inspiring them to find and expand their understanding of what is possible within themselves.

I am truly honored to be taking part in the 200 Hour Teacher Training to continue to share what I have learned through my experiences both on and off the mat and encourage others to explore their practices more deeply and share in their own way. Exponentially increasing the opportunities and possibilities for healing and happiness for so many.