Seeing Things From a Different Point of View


There is a fable about six blind men who are introduced to an elephant. Each man touches a different part of the elephant and based on that, thinks he knows what it looks like. The man who touches the ear is certain that the animal is like a hand fan. The one who touches the tail proclaims that it looks like a rope. And so it goes with each of the six men having a totally different experience and descriptions of the same thing.

Like the blind men, most yoga teachers, myself included, err on the side of teaching only from their own body and perspective.  If we continue teaching over a long period of time, our own physical experience will change. We might shift to another part of the elephant and start teaching from an entirely different point of view.

For 2 ½ decades I have been intensively studying alignment-based methods of Hatha Yoga so that I might understand the bodies of my students and better assist them with their own practice. What keeps me passionate in this work is constantly finding that there is still so much more to learn.

Recently I have had some challenges with one of my shoulders. Injury has always been a great teacher for me, helping me broaden my awareness. With my understanding of anatomy and alignment, and guidance from  the specialists I have seen, I have been able to work constructively with this recent pain and have had some great new insights for helping others. Dealing with pain forces us to pursue new directions and it is in the midst of working with it that we find our most profound growth.

With every passing year, I am even more grateful for my practice. Like the blind men in the story, I used to see yoga from only my vantage point. In having its way with me, Yoga has opened my eyes moment by moment to a broader understanding physically, emotionally and spiritually. I hope to see you on the mat soon so we can continue our ever evolving journeys together.


Reflections on Motherhood for Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is a bittersweet celebration of motherhood for me. It is a celebration of the life I brought into this world, and a reminder of the life that was taken from it. When we fall under the spell of motherhood, we are so elated by the idea of this life we are going to bring into the world – this external representation of ourselves. We do not think about how fragile life truly is, how quickly it can be taken from us. Instead, we dream about it – ‘Will he have my smile? My husband’s laugh? Will she be smart and clever, kind and caring?’

We build space for this creation in our own lives. We transform a room in a house, complete with bassinet, rocking/feeding chair, baby monitor, and nightlight, and softly colored walls and linens. We create time that right now is filled with naps and morning sickness but will soon be filled with diapers and middle of the night feedings, and a little later, tying shoes and kissing skinned knees. We create space in our hearts for this little person that is going to fill every square inch and then he will grow and change and force us to keep making the space bigger for him or her.

Children teach us how to love unconditionally, an almost foreign concept in our society. This very unique way of loving another person is easier between parent and child because they are an extension of us. We learn to care for someone else and put his or her needs ahead of our own. They teach us patience. They keep us aware, awake and responsible. They challenge us and push us to our limits and teach us that we need to learn to set boundaries. Finally, they teach us how to love fiercely and let go, the hard lesson of non-attachment, though most of us parents remain completely attached for a lifetime to these mini-me people. No matter how old they are, they are our babies.

Logically and chronologically, we start out as their caregivers, teachers and advisors, but in time, the tables turn and it is we who rely on them for guidance and care. Having children results in a thorough transformation of the mind and heart and in most cases, the sacrifices made cannot fully be appreciated until one has a child of their own.

My children taught me how to love with every bit of my heart and then how to surrender control. My son, by leaving the planet at age 20, challenged my faith and my spirit. His untimely and tragic departure forced me to work hard to understand life and death at a higher level. I had to learn how to see him and his sister as separate souls on their own journeys, rather than my creations or my possessions. My daughter continues to teach me to be courageous and have faith in life. To trust the process. She does not live under a cloud of fear, but seizes the opportunity to live her life to the fullest. She suffered deeply at the age of 18 when she lost her 20 year old brother and now, 10 years later, she lives her life in a way that honors him. 

I am so grateful for both of my children – grateful for the lessons of how precious life is and that even in our darkest moments, we CAN choose to survive.  

Mothers, hold your babies tight and be grateful for THIS moment. Soak it in, drink it up, pull it in to every cell of your body, memorize it as an imprint on your heart. Children, love your parents and forgive them as soon as possible. Learn from their mistakes and hold their misgivings with compassion. If you can find forgiveness and compassion in your heart for them, you will live and die without regret.

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.



Yoga has taught me how to let go

Yoga has taught me to let go - Desiree Rumbaugh

Stepping onto a yoga mat for the first time, you quickly learn that if you are going to master this artistic activity, you are going to have to let go – of preconceived notions, the physical limits you set on yourself, the mental limits that keep you from reaching further, and the emotions that you hide or hide behind. Quickly, you learn that you will have to remind yourself to let go every single time you return to your mat.

You might come into yoga shy about your body or intimidated by some of the bodies around you. You might find that you are comparing yourself to other students in the room and feeling less than. Sooner or later, you learn that it feels better to let go of comparing yourself to anyone else in the room.

Every single body has a different story to tell and no one is judging you for yours, except maybe you.

The rest of the class is focused on what’s happening on their own mats, making sure they don’t fall over and crash into their neighbors. They don’t see that your shirt has ridden up and your belly fat is exposed. Negative body image syndrome is rampant in our culture and it is debilitating. If you’re so wrapped up in holding tightly to your negative body image, you will struggle to take chances, weaken yourself, and miss the full experience of doing yoga.

You have to let go of your mental limitations when you’re on your mat. Do you want that bind? That crow pose? Release yourself from the fear-based mindset that asks in doubt, ‘can I?’ and allow yourself the space and confidence of ‘I can’ to flow in. Seemingly impossible tasks can be handled one step at a time. The real reason you cannot bind may just be that you have tightness in your shoulders and upper back which first need to be opened. The truth of why the arm balances are so impossible might be that your core needs strengthening in all of your poses, arm balances just make that point clearer. The bigger the hurdle, the more there is to learn. Each apparent roadblock is actually a gateway towards learning something we need, but we first have to let go of the thought processes that prevent us from recognizing these simpler first steps.

Letting go emotionally is one of the most therapeutic pieces of yoga. As many of you know, yoga played a pivotal role in recapturing my joy following the sudden violent death of my son. When you are feeling grief, sadness, or depression, your mat is one of the safest places to go to release these negative emotions. The intense focus required to balance on one leg  in a standing pose or on your hands in an arm balance frees your mind from the ‘chitta vritti’, the unrelenting chatter, for even a moment. You can let go of the negative emotion that seems to shroud your heart and mind, and just be okay for one breath; on your mat, where it is safe, warm, quiet, and where your spirit is nurtured. In the midst of intense emotional pain, you will find your body expressing itself and letting go of what your heart is trying to hold on to so tightly. You would not be the first person to release the tears of emotional grief while lying in savasana; no one around you knows and your instructor will most assuredly understand.

The human body holds onto so much throughout its lifespan. Your muscles have a memory. Cells will hold on to toxins. The mind stores everything. The heart feels pain – and has the capacity for tremendous love. In my many years in yoga, and through my closest relationships, I have learned that it’s possible to let go of that which holds me back from being open to love and joy— the feeling states that humans seek most. I hope you can find a way to let go of whatever is holding you back and open yourself to more love and joy.

You deserve it.

Is it Possible to Love Unconditionally?

Colorado Estes park group

Is unconditional love between people really possible, or do we all place conditions on our love?

All close relationships begin with loving, open-hearted feelings flowing freely between people. Time passes, events happen, people disappoint each other and the love lessens. In some cases, it just grows a little dimmer, but sometimes it can turn to strong feelings of dislike or disdain.

We have all experienced this hardening of our hearts, shutting down in an effort to protect ourselves. Even though it doesn’t necessarily feel good, we find ourselves slipping into this place where we set limits on how much love we will show to another. Sometimes we want to define this closing of our hearts as setting healthy boundaries.

Of course we all need to set appropriate boundaries with a variety of people in our lives. Setting boundaries doesn’t have to mean harboring anger, resentment or bitterness towards another being, even if they hurt us directly. Great beings in history have already set this example for us.

We can release hard feelings and enjoy a more neutral relationship even with the most difficult people in our lives. This is the first step on the path to healing. We can hold our hearts open unconditionally in a loving way even with those whom which we choose not to spend time.

What happens to your heart when we shut down a part of it that used to be open to another? Do we suffer from hardening of the heart in a similar way to the pain and dis-ease we experience from hardening of the arteries?

Regardless of our philosophical beliefs, the fact remains that we are born and we die. During the time in between, we get to choose whether or not we want to keep our hearts open fully to all beings, past and present, and enjoy the experience of living joyfully.

We gain nothing by choosing to shut down. Even if we believe that the other person doesn’t deserve our kindness or good will, there is a way to release fear and negativity. We think that it gives us a bit of control over the situation to hold back our lovingkindness, when in fact, we have just surrendered our own power to an idea. If we have closed our heart to even one other person, we are the ones who ultimately suffer.

We can set our intention to keep our hearts open regardless of the actions of others or the events of our life or our world. We can process fully our negative feelings and then choose love, forgiveness and happiness. We can make it a practice and get better and faster at doing it.

In my travels, I have been fortunate to hear all kinds of stories and what I have learned is that people are the same all over the world. There are definitely cultural differences, but in our hearts, we all feel similar things. Everywhere I go I see that people are waking up to this possibility that a shift of heart is necessary. Grace moves so much more freely through people who have learned how to open the doors of their hearts towards others.

Our spiritual work is learning to live ever more skillfully in a way that helps us to manage negative stress, fear or melodrama more gracefully. I am grateful to have become connected to all of you who read this newsletter. You have touched me, I have grown. I am proud to be associated with you and will continue to support your expansion, unconditionally.


Lessons from deep loss

October 18th. It marks the anniversary of the death of my son, Brandon, who was age 20 at the time, in 2003. I don’t need the calendar to remember because I never forget.

Yet the day marks time and reminds me that it happened. An unresolved murder case, forever an unsolved mystery.

Nine years later, I look back, as I do every year during this month and many days throughout each year. I can see how my feelings in relation to this deep loss have morphed and changed through the year. Though grief still pays her unannounced visits, they are usually less traumatic now.

At first, grief’s waves hit me like a tsunami. They left me sobbing, shaking and sad to the point of depression. Now they are more like rainshowers or waves that ebb and flow with the tide. Losing someone so close and so dear feels like losing a part of oneself. We are never the same—we are permanently shifted. We know firsthand that even though we are eternal spirits living in human bodies, these human bodies are very fragile.

I miss my son. I wonder what he would be like no, approaching age 30. I cherish my daughter and stay very close to her. In the back corner of mind there is a place where the fear of losing her lurks and peeks out from time to time. And yet I know that worry is wasting precious time possibly attracting future unwanted events.

Here are some of the lessons I have learned:

Lesson 1
If events are going to happen anyway, our worrying does nothing to prevent them from occurring.

Lesson 2
Death is natural, even when it is tragic. Everyone dies. Perhaps not in the order or in the way we would prefer, but then its not up to us. I see now how egotistical it was of me to be angry at Life for flowing as it did, but I am human.

Lesson 3
Empowerment is uplifting and inspiring, victimization is a downer.

From the day I received the news, I decided to focus on how I could see my family in a light other than victimhood. With the aid of wise counsel and patient friends, I came to choose to see my son as a separate soul, not really mine as in “my son”. Separate souls are allowed to come and go freely to and from this plane. It is not up to us to decide. I was able to synch my mind with the understanding that even those who are murdered, like my son, on a soul level, attract that to them as an exit plan for a reason mostly impossible for us humans to understand.

People told me from the beginning that time would eventually help me. It did and yet the event changed me for life in a positive way because I allowed it to.

I now see the preciousness of all my relationships in more vivid technicolor than I ever imagined possible.

I have a deeper appreciation for ordinary days. I am never bored, nor do I see any activity, even sitting in a traffic jam or waiting for a flight delay, as a waste of time. I honor my son by living my life fully and I know he takes great delight in seeing this.

“If your daily life seems of no account, don’t blame it; blame yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its treasures. For the creative artist there is no impoverishment and no worthless place.” ~ Rilke

Special days of remembrance like this anniversary, birthdays or holidays are especially difficult after a deep loss. It’s understandable and pretty much universal. I would have preferred never to celebrate another holiday again after losing Brandon.

However, consider this: what if every single person who ever suffered a deep loss refused to participate in holidays or celebrations? The gatherings would be smaller each year!

I found great comfort in sharing my story because it gave me a connection with so many others who have also learned deep life lessons in this way. Yes, it is a course that on one wants to take, a club that no one wants to join, but after you do, through no choice of your own, you have the opportunity to gain deeper insights that you ever knew were possible.
Our sorrow may have been self-chosen at some level of our being to bring about an enlargement of our self. Without struggle we would learn nothing about life.

On Joy and Sorrow (by Kahlil Gibran)
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.And how else can it be?The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater thar sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

IMG_1360 - 2010-12-25 at 02-32-33



Anger Happens….


Aligning with our True Nature means continuing to develop the habit of remembering the Big Picture and seeing ourselves and others as powerful Creators. Monitoring our emotional state is a bit like taking our temperature. How we feel in any given moment is the best gauge of how connected we are to Spirit. When we are fully connected, we naturally feel happy and at peace. When negative emotions arise, such as anger, fear or sadness, we can take it as a sign that it is time to practice and remember who we are.

Anger is one of the most potent and powerful human emotions. It is often called a mask for fear. It is also a mask for hurt and part of a defense mechanism that is built into our psyche and fed by our own thoughts. Fear and disappointment make us feel separate, which breeds more fear and ultimately loneliness.

Sometimes, we get so angry with others that we close our hearts to them, blocking the normal flow of lovingkindness between us, causing even further separation. At first, we are angry about the event, and then we become even angrier as we continue to think about it or rant about it. We become so engulfed in the negativity that we draw conclusions based on anger (or fear) instead of love.

This is where the yoga that we have been so diligently practicing can and should help us. As we have been refining our ability to witness our bodies in various poses, we have become more familiar with the idea that we are the master of our thoughts rather than the slave. When a pose is causing pain, we can shift our body position and make it feel better. In the same way, we can begin to transform any type of negative emotion with increasing skill and speed.

If our practice has taught us anything, it is to see within a short time, the truth of any situation. There is an event and then there is our perception of it. The event is actually quite objective and simple. Our perception is subjective in that after the initial flame of anger ignites inside us, if we continue to fan the flame, then we are actually choosing to make it burn even hotter. In the heat of the moment, it may not feel like we can do anything to change it, however, the reality is–we can. Of course we cannot change the event, but we can always change our interpretation of it.

Anger usually feels like heat. Think of a fire and how quickly it can grow from a smoldering ember into a blazing inferno that can destroy an entire house or a forest in a short time. Fire causes transformation. How do you feel when someone you love yells at you or gives you the cold shoulder because you let them down in some way? Does it make you feel angry, sad or hurt? Is this feeling of separation ever constructive? What can you do to use your anger constructively and use it as an opportunity to get closer to the person rather than pushing them away.

The next time you have an opportunity to practice with real anger, let it to burn inside of you and allow yourself to feel the incredible power of the flame. What will you do next? Many of us will explode, while some of us will keep the anger inside and implode. Holding anger inside is not recommended for any length of time. An angry outburst allows the heat to escape, yet at the same time can cause hurt and more anger to arise in the object we are aiming at. Though it feels like a release, it is rarely constructive and most often sadly, destructive. What I am suggesting is—– Don’t yell at people or raise your voice!

Perhaps there is a way to express the feeling of anger in a journal or to an outsider before aiming the intensity at the one who triggered it. The anger must be dealt with. It is not healthy to leave it smoldering inside our own heart and mind, and yet, when we turn it outward, we often end up contributing to the upset of another as well as our own.

At the core of our difficulty with handling our anger is a common belief that the behavior of others must be controlled. This unfortunately leaves us feeling vulnerable to their behavior. When they disappoint us or ignite the flame of our anger in some way, we lash out to let them know we feel hurt. The truth is that the only real reason we ever feel good or bad has nothing to do with the behavior of others and everything to do with how in or out of alignment we are with our own Higher Wisdom. That alignment is the reason for the emotions we feel. When we know that truth deep in our bones, we take notice of our state of alignment and we nurture and monitor it regularly. In this way we bring a little more peace to the world every day.
“Discomfort is an opportunity for self-reflection. The opportunity is missed when it becomes defensiveness.” Unknown author
This is my New Year’s offering. I intend to focus on it and bring my awareness to it and I invite you to join me,

Lovingly, Desiree