Hawaii Packing List

Everything for 2 1/2 Weeks in Hawaii

Everything for 2 1/2 Weeks in Hawaii

I just wrote a series of posts at Her Packing List all about packing and traveling for yoga.  Well, now this yogini is heading to Hawaii for 2 1/2 weeks!  Pictured above in in a slightly sloppy array, are all my clothes.  There will be a lot of lounging at the pool and beach, but we'll also be hiking and going out for dinner and Christmasy festivities.

On the left is my flying outfit:

  • Scarf (hard to tell in the photo but it's a tiki print!)
  • Reversible pencil skirt - warm and comfy
  • Tank top
  • 3/4 Sleeve Tunic Top - for warmth and travel
  • Leggings


  • Hiking pants (zip off convertible) - for hiking and sightseeing
  • Cropped yoga pants - for yoga (obviously), gym, and around town with a tunic top
  • Colorful Rayon Skirt - light and pretty for nice dinners out


  • 2 tank tops - for hiking and working out
  • Fancy tee - for dinners and sightseeing


  • Hoodie
  • Cardigan (not pictured, but you can imagine it as part of that black blob in the upper right)

Dresses: (the black blob in the upper right corner)

  • Icebreaker Dress - favorite travel dress
  • T-shirt Dress (beach cover up, or on the town over leggings)


  • 2 swim suits
  • rash guard for sun protection

Not pictured, but just as important are my other travel comfort essentials (yoga towel, sleep mask, earplugs, neck pillow, etc.), toiletries, and of course, a few small gifts for my mom and husband!

Until the new year ... Aloha!

Yoga for... Functional Movement Patterns and Yoga for Freedom

 As a yoga teacher I have both students and acquaintances say things like, "My XYZ hurts. What yoga poses should I do?"  Unfortunately, I don't often have a good answer.  First, I'm not a doctor.  I can't diagnose or treat injuries or conditions.  Secondly, for me to be able to answer this, I have to ask a bunch of questions.  Have you been diagnosed with anything regarding XYZ pain?  How about any other injuries or conditions?  How do you sit at work? What other activities do you do?  Even with answers, I need to look at your posture and how you move to get a bigger picture of what's going on. You might be able to see why private yoga sessions would be beneficial, because there is never enough time to go through all this in a group class.  Unfortunately, one pose is not going to solve your problems.  I can't prescribe a pose that will make you feel better.

What I can do is teach you how to figure it out for yourself!  This is hugely empowering.  With practice and attention, by learning poses and sequences of poses, you can see where your imbalances are and find the poses and patterns that will compensate for the wear and tear on your body.  On the most basic level, we learn how to be strong and supple around the spine and work out from there, finding how to move hips, shoulders, and all our joints so that we can move in a healthy way for whatever we want to do in life.  How awesome is it to take that with you?  

So part one is building a tool box to heal yourself, to become more aware of your posture, habits, how you move, and the fundamental shapes and patterns found in yoga practice.  Part two is to become so comfortable with these patterns and shapes that you can and move more freely and in a more inspired way.  By using your mat as a laboratory to experiment and discover how it feels to move and be you, you can start to customize each pose and pattern to make it more beneficial for your own body and your own state of being.  This will change moment to moment and soon you will start to break the rules you’ve learned and start to practice more creatively and intuitively.  You can also take this way of practicing out into the real world, paying better attention to what feels “right” and following your intuition more closely.  This leads to a wonderful experience of feeling in the flow and navigating life with more ease, and that is the real magic and joy of practicing yoga. 

So I'm happy to share yoga for knees or yoga for whatever, but as I do that, know that these are just ways of looking at the practice to help you look at your practice better.  I feel like a lot of yoga classes teach yoga the same way without looking at why.  If I can help you look at the why to practice then you can figure out for yourself what to practice.  Make sense?  Anyway, I hope what I have to offer helps!



I'm taking a brief diversion from the yoga dance talk to share my experience being diagnosed with Hashimoto's. Hashimoto's is an autoimmune disorder where the body attacks the thyroid, resulting in hypothyroidism, or low thyroid function. It's an extremely common condition, which makes it all the more frustrating that it often goes undiagnosed, untreated, or poorly treated. I've experienced firsthand how difficult it is getting diagnosed and treated, so I'm sharing my experience in hopes that it might help someone else.

Since the beginning of the year, I have been struggling with extreme fatigue. For months at a time, I was forced into taking a break, backing off my yoga teaching and dance commitments because I just didn't have the energy to do anything. For a while, I could get away with writing off my fatigue as simply the result of being super active. I work out a lot and lead a busy life! Of course I'm tired! I'm sure many people have experienced this feeling, but I should have paid attention to my body's subtle signals.

In January, I went on a cleanse diet for three weeks. During that time, I realized that I was using caffeine and sugar to get me through the day, and when I took those away, I felt pretty terrible. I went to see a nutritionist, who helped me revamp my diet. I added in a lot more protein and fat (yum), and started taking supplements to improve my energy levels. The changes I made did help a bit, but my nutritionist suspected hypothyroidism as the cause of my fatigue, so off to the doctor I went.

My doctor ran a complete blood test and confirmed I had hypothyroidism. At first, things were great. She did further tests on my thyroid and established that the hypothyroidism was due to Hashimoto's. She said she wasn't concerned about a specific TSH number and was most concerned about me feeling well. She prescribed levothyroxine and I started feeling better almost immediately. Yay.

Then, after a few months, I crashed. My symptoms came back worse than before. I had no endurance, I was tired all the time, and on top of that I started to suffer from brain fog-- losing words, forgetfulness, and difficulty concentrating. I remember one day I wanted to practice so badly, I tried to push through the fatigue and my muscles totally gave out. It was physically impossible to dance. I ended up collapsed on the floor in tears because I was so frustrated.

I went back to the doctor and she wouldn't change my dosage because my blood test showed my TSH was still within a normal range, in spite of the fact it was nearly double what it was when I was feeling well. I had to wait until my numbers got worse. I might be able to live with that, except that she offered no suggestions as to how I might be able to manage my symptoms in the meantime.

This is unacceptable. I'm not running marathons. I am a dancer and yogini, and while I practice as much as two hours per day on top of my teaching and rehearsal schedule, that's fairly low-impact in the scheme of things. I had gotten to the point where I was barely functional. It's really scary to feel not yourself! I truly felt like a different person, or maybe like a shell of myself.

I then went to see a holistic doctor and he prescribed T3 in addition to the T4 (levothyroxine) I was already taking. T4 is just one of the hormones the thyroid produces and needs to be converted to T3 for the body to use. Many thyroid patients (like me) have trouble converting T4 to T3 and need additional medication. He also gave me some recommendations about supplements based on the rest of my blood tests and my symptoms. He seems just as (maybe more!) frustrated that I am that people are not getting properly treated for thyroid conditions. Many doctors, even endocrinologists, are making recommendations based on research that is decades old, work on a scale for lab numbers that is way too broad to be of any use, and continue to treat patients based only on TSH, which is only a partial picture of how the thyroid is functioning. It seems that holistic doctors and naturopaths are more likely to get thyroid treatment right, but this is unfortunate because insurance does not cover non-traditional doctors. When I told my original GP I went for a second opinion and started asking questions, she refused to continue to treat me. That of course, scared me too, because now I didn't even have access to refill the prescription that was keeping me even barely functioning. I was very fortunate to have found this holistic doctor who could help me so quickly, and to be able to afford going that route. I can only imagine how frustrating it might be to go even longer, bouncing around doctor to doctor trying to get help for a chronic condition.

Anyway, I finally have all of my levels optimized, and have a routine that hopefully will keep me healthy for a long time. My doctor says my case is easy! It was still a struggle for many months, and so I want to share some resources that have been helpful to me.

Nutritionists are awesome! I learned a lot and she worked with me to make changes to my diet that didn't disrupt my lifestyle too much and that would support my stressed out systems. I saw a nutritionist who was finishing her training program so it was at a discount, plus I had the benefit of the knowledge of her advisors as well.

Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? made the mystery of the thyroid easy to understand. Such a tiny organ regulates so much! My primary symptom has been fatigue but thyroid problems can cause weight fluctuations, hair loss, depression, infertility, and a long list of other issues. This book explains how proper treatment can bring everything back into balance.

StoptheThyroidMadness.com is a great website with lots of articles about thyroid diagnosis, treatment, and research. It's a little fanatical, but I can't blame them, because it IS madness.

ThyroidChange.org is where I found my doctor. Their list includes doctors who will run full thyroid labs and will treat with T3 or natural thyroid in addition to T4. There are regular doctors and endocrinologists on there as well as holistic doctors.

If you're struggling with fatigue or are otherwise not feeling like yourself, do consider getting your thyroid checked! And if you have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism and still aren't feeling well, don't give up. It's worthwhile to do a lot of research on your own. Find a doctor who will listen to you and get to the bottom of what's going on. Awesome doctors are out there! It might take some time to feel better. Just do the best you can. Be patient with yourself and know that it's OK to slow down and rest. Tell people who care about you and they will help you, too. Be well!

Yoga for Knees, Part 2: Tips and Transitions

Did you check out my therapeutic yoga practice for knees?  That’s all well and good, you might say, but what happens when you’re up and about or trying to get through a vinyasa class?  I have a few pointers for you.

Solid foundation. I’ll go into this more in a future post, because, frankly, I’m kind of obsessed with feet, and that’s probably going to be even more so the case as I rehab my ankle.  Make sure your feet are solidly connected to the ground.  I recommend trying to lift and spread the toes in pretty much every standing pose.  You don’t have to be an obsessive maniac like I am about it, but this simple action lifts the arches of the feet and wakes up the muscles all the way up the legs, which will in turn give you greater control over what your knee joint is doing.

Tracking.  In many yoga poses, we want to keep the kneecap tracking in line with the ankle and hip, because this is a stable position.  If you browse through some photos of more complex asanas, you'll see this is not always the case.  However, as a general rule, we try to avoid allowing the knee to go past the toes in a lunge position because of risk of strain to the knee.  Knee over ankle is a cue you might hear, though it's important to note that this does not apply only apply to front to back, but also side-to-side.  In Warrior II for example, try to keep the knee over the second toe, rather than allowing it to roll in towards the big toe or out by the little one.

The block trick.  In tadasana, put a block between your thighs.  Bend your knees slightly and lift and spread your toes.  Now squeeze your thighs in and back like you're a human pez dispenser, trying to shoot the block out behind you.  Doing this will probably make you stick your butt out, so pull your low belly in and up to drop your tailbone and bring your pelvis back to neutral.  Keep all that squeezy action in your legs and come into a standing forward fold.  Cora Wen explains this in more detail.  For an extra challenge, keep squeezing the block between your legs as you go through sun salutation A and utkatasana a few times.  You'll have to do a weird penguin waddle to and from plank, but it's fun!

Warrior I.  This cue I hear a lot and it is a huge pet peeve: Square the hips forward.  No no no!  This might be OK for some bodies, but if your heel is down, your hips will naturally open slightly to the side, so then what?  Insisting upon bringing the open hip forward, the torque is transferred to the knee which is not designed to twist when it is straight like that.  Instead, keep pressing the back foot down, let the hips be open slightly, pull the low belly in and up to stabilize the low back, and spiral the shoulders forward for a nice little twist in the upper spine.  Want hips forward?  Take the back heel up so you can pivot freely.

Warrior I to Warrior II.  You'll see this transition quite often in vinyasa classes, and I use it myself sometimes, but it can be awkward and risky to knees and SI joints because you're pivoting from a slightly open hip (relative to the front of your mat) to a fully open hip (now facing the side of your mat), making it easy to twist the knee or SI joint.  A safer way might be pivoting on the ball of the foot, or setting up for warrior II from a wide leg stance.  That's not as fun, though, is it?  Ah, well.  Just be careful.

Straight-ish leg poses. I like to come into Triangle from the bottom up rather from the top down.  From side angle, place your hand on a block or the floor where you usually like it for Triangle.  Make sure you are in a nice tidy lateral bend, with top hip and top shoulder rolling open towards the sky.  Then, start to press your front leg straight, keeping the alignment in your spine.  You might not be able to get your leg all the way straight, but that’s OK.  You might notice by going slowly and not locking out your leg right away, you can improve the stretch on that hamstring and inner thigh.

Sequencing. It's totally OK, even beneficial, to challenge your knees by flexing them deeply in supta virasana or similar poses so long as it is not painful.  However, it's best to do these poses towards the end of your practice, especially if you are doing yin style long holds.  Follow up by doing some non-weight bearing action to gently mobilize the joint again.  If you try to go into some standing or balance pose, you are at risk of injury because the joint is temporarily weakened from the intense stretching.

Here’s an idea for a sequence to practice stabilizing the knees, followed by a few poses to stretch around the legs and hips:

Yoga for Knees Vinyasa Sequence

1/2 Salutes, Sun As
Block trick
Block trick with Sun As, Utkatasana
Sun Bs hips open in Warrior I
Sun Bs with balanced lunge (heel up, arms up)
Warrior II
Side Angle to Triangle (keep knee a bit bent in Triangle)
Garudasana/Eagle (keep standing knee bent)
Anjaneyasana/Crescent Lunge
Supta Hasta Padangustasana/Hand to Big Toe

Therapeutic Yoga for Knees

I'm in physical therapy right now for my broken ankle and I asked my PT what the most common injury she sees is.  Knees.  She's says its because knee issues happen from young to old and for many reasons.

Knees are between two other important parts, hips and feet, so if you're experiencing knee pain, it's possible there is an imbalance somewhere else along the chain.  One thing you might want to try is looking in a full length mirror.  Wow, aren't you beautiful!  And your legs are so strong!  Anyway, about those knees.  Do they bow out or are they knocked in?  If you engage your quads to lift your kneecaps, do they lift straight up or towards one side?  Do your knees and feet face straight ahead or in or out?  Now look at your feet.  Do you tend to roll to the inside or outside of the foot?

In a perfect world, we might all have exquisitely lifted arches with knees over ankles and everything facing forward.  However, injury, imbalance, or simple range of normal variation in skeletons does not make this so.  If your knees are knocked in, you might want to try strengthening the inside of the and legs and stretching the outside to bring balance, but don't necessarily force yourself into a prescribed alignment.  Having an understanding of what your default posture is like will help inform you of imbalances and bad habits, but will also give you some idea of how to customize poses to prevent undo strain on your joints.

I've made a short video with a therapeutic, exploratory practice for knees.  There's no weight bearing so there is minimal strain on the knees.  This is a viniyoga inspired practice that will gently strengthen and stretch hamstrings, quads, abductors, adductors and all around the hips and low back.

Give the whole sequence a try and feel free to repeat, omit, or otherwise adapt the practice to serve you better.  If you have an injury or imbalance, I recommend trying some of these poses asymmetrically, doing the right and left side alternately.

Stay tuned for part two for tips about stabilizing knees in more athletic styles of yoga!