For Yoga Teachers Only

Lately, I have been reading quite a bit of commentary online reminding us all that the practice of yoga is about more than just doing the poses. At the same time, there has been an increase in posts of beautiful poses on FB and Instagram. Yogis these days are very adept and proud of it. We seem to love showing off our accomplishments, and clearly people love to see them. With these two seemingly contradictory messages, one can only imagine how confusing this could be for students who want to learn more about yoga. Do I have to be thin, fit, acrobatic? Will I get hurt if I go to a class? Can everybody do handstands? What is the purpose of yoga anyway?

I feel that it is ultimately up to us, the teachers, the ones who offer this great practice to others, to do our part to help steer the perception of yoga on to a more balanced course. Most of us come to teaching from a place of overflowing gratitude. Yoga has changed our lives in some way, and from that place of gratitude we desire to give back, to pass that possibility on to others so they can find their own transformation. Amidst all the gorgeous pose photos and festivals and colorful clothing that draw students in in the first place, there is something that yoga offers that is unique and the most beneficial in the long run. What is that something? It is probably a bit different for each individual. For me, it has been developing the ability to listen to, trust in and follow my own inner wisdom. My personal GPS. My higher Self. Beyond all the poses and the physical benefits of the practice lies this true gem.

We teachers have the power to convey this deeper wisdom to our students by incorporating simple spiritual themes when we teach our classes. There are many different types of yoga offered these days in all types of venues. Some classes are only 1 hour long and do not include time for chanting or discussion of any kind. Some classes barely have time for any quiet sitting such as meditation, deep breathing or savasana. Still, there is a way to offer some spiritual wisdom and inspiration to hungry students.

Find inspiration and bring it to your classes. You may know a poem that inspires you, or a book that you are finding helpful. Perhaps there is a story you saw posted on Facebook that touches your heart. I feel that the juiciest themes come from one’s own personal experiences. That said, we need to be cautious about turning our classes into therapy sessions. Students do not appreciate or learn from having to listen to us vent or share our problems all the time.

Are you interested in developing your teaching to the point where you can inspire your students spiritually as well as physically? If so, take some time to ponder whatever is happening in your life and then see if you can find the lessons that Life is asking you to learn from that experience. Study the teachings of great ones such as the Dalai Lama, Gandhi, Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chodron, Byron Katie, Maya Angelou, Jack Kornfield and Eckhart Tolle. Their wisdom is offered in a way that is succinct, timeless and powerful.

Some examples of teachings that are applicable to yoga are:

  • Take personal responsibility for one’s life in all ways.

  • If you argue with reality, you lose.

  • Rise up from victimhood and be the change you want to see.

  • Learn how to be the observer so you can come from a place of responding rather than reacting.

  • Become aware of your tendency toward Fight or Flight syndrome that is often stress related.

These topics are just the tip of the iceberg as far as what is available to us online and in books. If you can learn how to deliver a message without sounding like a preacher, people will appreciate it. They took the time to come to class, let’s give them a complete experience: body, mind and soul.

Sugar, We’re Breaking Up (It’s You, Not Me)

In my 40s, I started to notice that my relationship with sugar and flour was changing. Though I was always a very conscious eater, I was still fairly addicted to it, as so many Americans are. A single mom living with teenagers, I was still ordering dessert when I went out to dinner and keeping a large bowl of Reese’s pieces on the table in the living room, but I could tell it was starting to do a number on me. I cut back on the pancakes and pasta, had sandwiches for lunch as long as the grains were sprouted. But at 50, I really noticed a change in how I felt. Anytime I ate flour or sugar, I would feel bloated and often tired. There was no way I was going to be able to show up for my students weekend after weekend with a bloated belly or flagging energy. It was time to make some permanent changes. Sugar and flour had to go.

I don’t have a magic trick for how to cut sugar and flour out of your diet. Eventually, it comes down to your commitment to your health and the promise to your body to be the best guardian of it you can be. My belief is that eliminating refined sugar and flour from your diet is one of the best things you can do for yourself. It is a scientific fact that sugar and flour causes inflammation which can open your body up to diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, or cancer, and at the very least, accelerates the aging process. Did you know that cancer cells LOVE sugar? Who needs or wants that? YUCK! Right?

While I can’t offer you some sure-fire way to beat cravings, the best advice I can give for kicking sugar out of one’s life is to learn how to eat to a point of fullness that satisfies on all levels. My experience is that we crave sugar when we are not getting enough protein. When we are well fed and nourished with vitamins, minerals and nutrients that our bodies need, the cravings naturally subside and we don’t have to fight them off. Many people do not realize that their diet is out of balance. Everything changes once they discover how great that equanimity feels. Even going off refined sugar for just one week will change your tastebuds and I think you will find that not only has sugar become ‘too sweet’, you’ll realize how bad you feel after eating it and won’t want it back in your diet.

If you are worried about how successful you’ll be on your own, I have a suggestion for you.

This July, I am co-hosting a weekend retreat called Living Long and Healthy, at Omega Retreat Center in Rhinebeck, NY with age-defying raw vegan chef and author, Mimi Kirk. During the weekend, you’ll learn how to choose high-quality foods that will stop unhealthy food addictions and then prepare delicious nutrient-dense plant-based raw foods and juices, in addition to daily yoga sessions with me. – See more at:

You will have a weekend removed from your usual surroundings (and usual temptations), with me and Mimi right there to answer your questions and support you. By the end of the weekend, sugar will already begin to taste too sweet.

In the meantime, I have a fun suggestion for chocolate lovers, to help wean you off of milk chocolate. DARK chocolate. As I decreased my sugar intake, I began to find that milk chocolate was too sweet. Today, 85% dark chocolate is a huge treat for me! It’s just the right amount of sweet, is loaded with deep rich chocolate flavor and doesn’t leave me with the jitters.

If you’re really fighting cravings, eat fresh ripe fruit and learn now to make delicious desserts like cookies that are sweetened with dates and bananas or a little maple syrup. Here is a fantastic replacement recipe for Toll House cookies from Mimi Kirk! You can easily make these in a dehydrator or you can bake them at the lowest temperature in your oven.

I think that getting your sweet tooth satisfaction in healthier ways is the key along with getting enough protein, either vegan, vegetarian or animal sources. If you go back to it, it is highly likely that it will be sickening sweet and you won’t feel good after eating it.


Yummy Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/2 cups fine cashew flour (made from cashew pieces)

1 1/3 cups oat flour (made from rolled oats)

1/3 cup maple syrup

1 Tb. coconut sugar

1 T vanilla

1/2 t. sea salt

1/2 of an 85% dark chocolate bar, cut into small chunks (I like Green and Black’s)

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts



  • Make cashew flour by blending 1 cup of cashews in a high speed blender. Do not over blend as it becomes cashew butter. It is better to take some out and put it back in the blender to reblend all the pieces.
  • Blend oats in high speed blender to make them into a flour.
  • Place flours in a bowl and mix in chocolate chunks and chopped nuts. Mix to combine.
  • Form into balls, roll and squeeze in your hand to shape cookies. Press a few extra chocolate chunks and nuts into the tops of the cookies.
  • Place balls on a non-stick dehydrator sheet until all mixture is used up and press down on cookie ball with the palm of your hand to shape it.
  • Dehydrate 12 hours or overnight at 118 degrees OR bake on a cookie sheet in the oven at the lowest temperature for 30 min. Taste to see if they are the texture you like.
  • Store in refrigerator

What I Traded For 50 (And Beyond)

All of my life I have been thin. I have been a dancer and a yogi and I love food. I am a foodie! I love healthy food but, for decades, I just did not put a whole lot of thought into what I ate. Even in my 40s, when I began to notice that foods like pancakes and pasta, or anything with sugar in it made me feel bad, I didn’t really change my eating habits. I made small changes, like eating bread from sprouted grains, but I kept right on enjoying all kinds of foods.

By the time I hit 50, those subtle ‘I don’t feel so good’ hints became much more obvious. I could tell I just wasn’t vibrating at the same energy level whenever I ate anything with refined sugar or flour. I would feel bloated and my digestion would suffer. I had the same problem with dairy. Even wine, which I loved, was taking a toll on my sleep, not to mention dehydrating me.  I realized that it was time to stop overlooking the hints, listen to my body and make changes. I saw this future for myself – of travel, adventure, teaching workshops around the world, helping others make the connection to yoga and energy that I have been so blessed with… my husband. I wanted to be around for all of this.

Listening to my body – I mean really listening – was the smartest thing I could have done. I am really happy to say, post menopause, that I managed to sail through it without prolonged episodes of mood swings, hot flashes or insomnia, like so many women have. Some of that may be genetics, but I am confident that changing my diet changed the course of how my body would react to the hormonal fluctuations of menopause. And I am so grateful.

Now, at 55, I could never go back to those old eating habits. No more sugar, flour, alcohol, dairy, or coffee. I have an occasional glass of wine with dinner and not have any ill effects, but I have no interest in any other alcohol. I don’t consider myself vegan, vegetarian or 100% raw, but my diet consists mainly of fresh vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, with animal protein like eggs and fish in very limited quantities. My sweet indulgence is 85% dark chocolate. I oil pull for 30 minutes most mornings with coconut oil, take a fish oil supplement, occasionally Vitamin D3, CoCorcumin and Spirulina or Chlorella every day, and often use priobiotics. My diet consists of a green smoothie combo I created that I’ll include, salad for lunch most days and sautéed veggies with a protein source and quinoa or sweet potatoes for dinner.  But, I also like cooked food. I travel so I need to eat in restaurants. I have to surrender a little control now and then, but I still enjoy it so it is worth it.

I didn’t make these changes overnight. It took time, and I was not always diligent – I swung back and forth for while before feeling better outweighed temptation. I also found that the Vegan Cleanse I did for 3 weeks in January 2012 helped reset my body and brain. It led to co-creating the Eat Green Challenge webinar with Cate Stillman, which you can find on the home page of my website. The webinar explains how to do this transformational cleanse and it is still available for $97.

How you get to 50 and beyond is up to you, but I promise you that healthy changes will meet with positive results.

Green Smoothie Recipe
(Best made in a high speed blender)

green drink



Dandelion greens
Lettuce or spinach
One apple
Fresh Ginger (powder is fine as well)
Fresh Turmeric (powder is fine as well)
Coconut milk

Additional Optional Ingredients:

Pinch of ground cloves

Ice or frozen fruit of choice

Any additional fresh fruit if more sweet is desired

Super foods of choice: spirulina, chia seeds, cocurcumin, maca, cacao, bee pollen

More good fat if desired: coconut flakes, coconut butter, almond butter, or avocado (choose one)

Banana is optional


  1. Use any variety of the ingredients listed above, add or subtract any that you like.
  2. Cut the rind from all the citrus, remove any seeds and put the fruit into the blender whole. Amounts are up to you and your desired level of sweetness. Ice makes it cold and even more delicious, but it is optional.
  3. Blend on high to desired consistency. If you like a smoother beverage, add more liquid. If you like it chunky, use less liquid and blend on a lower speed for less time.


  • Greens. I like my smoothie dark green, but you can use any combination of greens you like.
  • Start out slow. Please note that if you use all of these ingredients at once you may have digestive disturbance. The best advice is to keep it simple at first and see how you feel. Also, drink this mixture slowly.
  • Quantity. We each drink one quart of this every morning.
  • Need more protein? If you need more protein you can add hemp powder or make some eggs to eat while you sip your smoothie.
  • Preparing Ahead.You can make this at night and drink it the next morning if you have to get going early. You can also freeze it in a glass mason jar and then defrost it as needed.

There are many great green smoothie recipes out there. Once you get the hang of it I know you will find your favorite combo. You get to control the amounts of everything. The important thing to notice is how you feel and how it digests.



Yoga is a Commitment to Your Self

Yoga is a Commitment to Your Self - Desiree Rumbaugh

I do not practice yoga poses every day.

I’m sorry if that information is discouraging to your perception of me as a yogi, but my life is just as hectic and unpredictable as yours. There are days when spending time on my mat just does not fit into my schedule. The nature of my teaching schedule has me out on the road quite often, and there are times when it is simply not convenient or even possible. But, do not mistake this for lack of commitment.

A yoga practice is about more than simply doing poses, pushing myself, breathing and sweating on a sticky mat. The fullness of a yoga practice is about how we live every other hour of our day, especially on the days when getting on one’s mat isn’t possible. By this I mean being honest with ourselves, and kind and helpful to others in our lives.

Here are some of the other commitments I have made to myself to support a healthy lifestyle whether or not I am practicing yoga postures.

I am committed to eating healthy no matter what situation I am in, where I am traveling, or how hungry I am. It might be as simple as a bottle of water and an apple because nothing else is available. The processed, fried, sugary, salty foods that are readily available in airports and street corner convenience stores are not only bad for me, I feel bad when I eat them. The satisfaction created by consuming unhealthy calories is so short-lived, it’s not even worth the guilt I feel for subjecting my body to them. So, I pack my own food whenever possible. If I am unable to do that (like when flying), I look for the healthiest choices, such as salads, soups and fresh fruit or vegetables, which are becoming increasingly easier to find everywhere. I also take a green supplement, such as chlorophyll, and probiotics daily to support my immune system.

It can be just that simple… eat what you know will fuel your body and avoid or limit everything else.

The next commitment will seem contradictory: I do my best to let go of clinging to rigid rules. Life is so fluid; adhering obsessively to absolutes can create ever more stress and imbalance. I once believed that as a yoga instructor I was supposed to practice yoga poses every day, no exceptions. What I gained in exercise, I lost in the creation of excess stress in trying to make it happen. Who benefitted from that rigidity? Not me.

Life balance, including a calmer mind, is an important part of being a yogi.  Eating healthy ‘no matter what’ may sound rigid, but it is relatively easy to do. It supports my body’s energy needs and keeps my mind much more steady. By staying with these commitments, I create the conditions for more peace and less suffering when I need to go a day or two or three (or more) without doing exercise or a yoga practice. I still stretch when I can, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and find other small fun ways to be physically active even when I am traveling. By letting go of trying to live up to my old perception of how a yogi is ‘supposed to be’ and instead, living into what being a yogi now means to me, a beautiful balance has been established.

Balance and commitment go hand-in-hand. Next time, I will talk more about that balance.