Saturday, March 24, 2007

note to students 20 February


I will be out of the country for one month, leaving Wednesday, February 21 and returning Wednesday, March 21.

I am responding to my intuition's call to fly into a new life experience…a journey of love, breath, and meditation…an exploration of myself, the world, and my practice…expanding into new lands, new air, and new waters.

I will be traveling mostly through Southeast Asia , but shall openly go where the flow, the oceans, and the sands sweep me.

All of my classes will still be held as usual, with subs that I have carefully selected to take care of you in my absence. You'll find sub names on my Schedule. (Please note that Cameron Shayne will still be teaching his classes.)

Please continue on with your practice…whether you attend class with my subs, try out a new class, or play on your mat at home. A jolt in your routine can bring freshness, spaciousness, and clarity.

If you find yourself really wishing you could take one of my classes, you can download one for free at, by signing up on the Mailing List. If you have a moment, please read what YogiChocolate is all about!

Please feel free to email me with questions, thoughts, feedback on my subs, or simple hellos. I would love to hear from you.

Be well, be yoga, be you- Leah.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Back in Santa Monica: 22 March

Okay, so maybe I’m not immune to jet lag. The weird thing is, I’m going to bed at 4a and waking up at 1p, which translates to 6p-3a in Thailand, and 8p-5a in Japan, nowhere close to my actual sleep hours. Guess there’s no rationalizing jet lag!

I love that I departed Tokyo at 4p and arrived in LA at 10a, earlier that same day. I went back in time!

Although…time is just an illusion.

It’s lovely to be home. I was a bit worried about forgetting how to drive, having been away for a month, in lands where they drove on the opposite side of the road and in the opposite side of the car, and especially because my car is manual drive, but it’s like riding a bike. Or, I guess, like driving a car. I was driving west this afternoon, and the ocean peeked out at me as I came upon a hill. This never fails to warm my heart, comfort my belly, and make me smile. I am most at home near, on, in the ocean. Mmm.

I told yall that I was a mermaid in a past life.

In the past, when I’ve returned from a trip, I’ve experienced sadness and reluctance about leaving the new land/is-land I was visiting. I’ve experienced confusion and dismay upon my return home- finding that everything is still the same, nothing has changed, almost as if I’d never left.

Last November, I traveled to Turks & Caicos and for the first time, I wasn’t sad to leave. It wasn’t because I didn’t completely enjoy my 2 weeks in my Caribbean fantasy world; it was because I find peace and happiness and validity and presence and beauty in every moment. We’re simply floating from and experiencing and existing in one moment to the next…whether at home, on vacation, at work, alone, among loved ones, happy, or sad.

It’s all just in through the nose, out through the nose.

With my return from Asia, for the first time, it doesn’t feel as though I never left. Things are comfortably the same, but freeingly different.

The rest of my time in Tokyo continued to be freezing, but also beautiful, funny, fun, inspiring, perfect. My new Budokon sisters and brothers are all so amazing, and to have met and shared time with them is more than I could have asked for during my short time in Japan. A big congrats and welcome to our 8 new Senseis!

It was fun being with Cameron day in and day out for a few days. He is so in love with Japan- the people, the language, the culture, the country. And why not- there’s so much kindness, thoughtfulness, respect, propriety, beauty, perfection, tradition. Everything is done mindfully. We walked across a sewer gutter cover, and he said if he could, he would take that home and hang it on his wall as décor. It was that beautiful.

I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that the women are quite beautiful and that people ask for his autograph left and right, too. ;)

We stayed in Daikanyama, an uber hip and trendy (read: expensive) area, in a traditional style room with tatami mats for beds and communal old school Asian bathhouse-style showers. I people-watched and wrote in cafés (even one called Mermaid Café), clouded in cigarette smoke drinking tea that cost 700 yen (= $7) per cup. I visited the areas of Ebisu, Shibuya, and Meguro. I almost got lost on the Subway because I was directed to take the Green line, when there were 3 different shades of Green lines. Good thing for my internal compass. I think a little Japanese boy developed a crush on me; he would alternately stare at me and run behind me to slap my butt. I was pleased to learn that the proper way to eat Soba noodles is to Sllllurrrrpppp!! them loudly. For my last meal in Tokyo, I inadvertently ended up in a Thai restaurant, which I found beautifully fitting.

On my flight back, I sat next to a couple who have been married for 43 years. Happily married. Blessed with 3 children and 6 grandchildren. I spent hours talking with them about life, love, family, and travel. It was beautifully inspirational.

As I waited in the Customs Line at LAX, I locked eyes with an adorable little Japanese girl. She smiled and gently bowed to me. I bowed back. It was heartwarming.

And as I write to you now, my sweet, sweet dog is softly snoring and sleep-stirring next to me.

Every moment is beautiful, my loves. I look forward to in-person wais, namastes, hugs, and kisses. I’ve posted pictures online. If you don’t receive an email linking you to them, please email me and I’ll send it to you.

Sawadeeka, Sionara, Aloha, goodbye for now. Be well, and I’ll see you on the mat.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Day 23: 17 March


I now write to you from Tokyo. I don’t think I could have picked a more opposite place to be from Thailand, at least within Asia. It SNOWED tonight. Wait- did you catch that? IT SNOWED. I went from tropical hotness to freezing ass (yes, this yogi uses fresh language) coldness. I go out in Uggs, leg warmers, jeans, 3 layers of shirts, a full length wool coat, mittens, and a cashmere scarf that is about 20 feet long (yes, 20 feet long!!…I know some of you have seen it!) and I’m STILL cold. My lips are cold-chapped and my toes are freezing. It’s so cold that it’s almost funny.


Did I already mention that it snowed?

Another hugely different thing is how clean it is here. It’s unreal. I saw a wall with graffiti on it, and somehow even that looked clean. There is absolutely no litter anywhere, no fallen branches or leaves, no rubbish at all whatsoever. It almost looks like a fantasy city.

And a final difference is how damn expensive everything is. Average water bottle: 10 baht (= 27 cents) to 100 yen (= 95 cents). Average tax ride: 50 baht (= $1.40) to 900 yen (= $8). But the craziest thing is we saw a $35 watermelon yesterday. Wait- did you catch that? $35 for a watermelon!!!!!!!!! A new friend I’ve made here says she almost never has watermelon.

A similarity is (I’m not sure when this turned into a compare/contrast essay) the food: Stupid good. Happy food dance good. “Make you wanna slap yo’ mama good.” Japanese cuisine is my friend – it’s so delicious, simple yet decadent, clean, healthy – oops! I meant to write that Japanese cuisine is my favorite, but I left my mistake there because it made me laugh and because it’s also true that it is my friend, why not? HA! Anyway, I LOVE Japanese food, particularly sushi. I have had a lot of good sushi in my lifetime, and I can confidently say that the best sushi is undoubtedly here in Japan. Check it out: tuna tartare drizzled with sauce, mixed with the most perfectly mushy avocado, and topped with a raw egg.

Like I said- stupid good.

I’m here with Kancho Cameron Shayne for a Budokon Teacher Training. We had our first day today, and the Japanese Senseis are looking really great. It’s a trip to hear them teach our art form in Japanese. It’s beautiful to be here and be a part of it, because Kancho and consequently Budokon are so influenced by the Japanese arts, culture, and people. They really are a beautiful people- sweet, genuine, respectful, attentive, and peaceful. All those that I have met today are perfect examples of a Budokon Sensei- talented, strong, focused, driven, non-competitive, humble, watchful, patient, unafraid, playful, aware.

Could I use any more adjectives?

I miss Thailand, though. And 2 of my favorite men in the world whose hips I was attached to for 5 days. Who have matching visors from Ice Bar in Thong Lor and matching names (Paco) from Spanish class in school.

I love to travel and I’ve been fortunate enough to have done a fair amount of travel in my day. I was born in Chicago but grew up in California. I studied in Hawaii. I interned in Korea. I’ve been on family vacations to various countries in Europe, various islands in the Caribbean, Mexico and even Morocco. I’ve visited loved ones throughout the States. Through all this travel, I’ve learned to read my vibration with a particular place. I know immediately upon stepping onto a new land whether or not I vibe with that place. While I’m always eager to be somewhere new, unknown, and different, I feel a very clear distinction between a place I feel connected to and a place I know I could always only be a visitor to. I have always felt connected to and at home on any given island, and I felt similarly connected to Southeast Asia overall.

I was becoming rather familiar with Thai words and areas. I even said my first full sentence in Thai at dinner: “Can I please have some green tea?” I asked. And when I was leaving home to go somewhere, I clarified with Jay, “Now do I want to catch a cab on the Sukhumvit side or the Thong Lor side, or do you think I’ll find one out here on the Soi?” His answer to that was, “Look at you, all Thai! But I thought we decided you were going to take the Train?”

Oh yeah, oops! So maybe I’m a little ADD…

My last few days in Thailand were spent trying to get as many checks as possible on my To Do During My Last Few Days In Thailand List. I did pretty good. Here’s a glimpse:
-eat street food
-take brother to a movie in theatre so he can pledge allegiance to the King
-Phra Athit Road
-yoga @ Prana Yoga
-yoga with Adrien @ Yoga Elements
-experience the worst traffic in the world (no, this wasn’t actually on my list, but it happened anyway, and yes Bangkok traffic is worse than LA and maybe even Seoul)
-get a massage (the proper kind)
-go to Brown Sugar, a jazz club
-retrieve Akie’s mug – quite possibly the most loved plain white mug in the entire world – from the Westin

Some notes:
-Bangkok street food is sooooooo good. Marinated and charbroiled style meat (think Korean BBQ) on sticks paired with divinely delicious sticky rice given to you very matter-of-factly in a plastic baggie. You can get a full meal for 35 baht (= ~$1), and I totally didn’t get a belly ache.

-Shopping in Bangkok is intimidating and a bit out of control. Shopping areas are overrun with both locals and tourists and there are so many beautiful things that I just wanted one of everything. I discovered and treated myself to some beautiful Buddha pieces and some Thai elephant décor. I’m a pretty non-committal shopper, mostly because I make an effort not to be attached to material things so I rarely see anything that “I’ve just got to have!” but I’m even more non-committal in bargaining situations. Bargaining is a rather confrontational thing. I’m worried about seeing the same thing at the next shop over for half the price because I don’t want to be the foreigner that was gullible and overcharged but at the same time, how much does saving a few cents really matter, is it more about saving those cents or is it about being the winner of the bargain?

-When you watch a movie in a theatre, before the movie begins, you stand and pay respects as they play a 1-minute montage of the King. I love it! Also, at 9a and 6p everyday, the national anthem plays out of public speakers, and everyone freezes mid-whatever-they-were-doing/wherever-they-were-going for the duration of the song. I love that, too!

-I visited Phra Athit Road at the urging of my sweet friend Emily, who told me it’s her favorite road in Bangkok so I just had to go visit it in her honor. It’s near the uber touristy, backpacker area called Khao San. Phra Athit is much less tourist-ridden (nothing against tourists, I’ve essentially been one for the past month), but spending time there, I realized just how authentic of a Thailand experience I’d been having just slipping into Jay’s life there…living in an apartment in just another neighborhood of Bangkok, going to the local supermarket, going to restaurants where half the time we got things we didn’t order (but they were always just as delicious if not moreso) because the restaurants generally just cater to locals and therefore the servers don’t speak much English. But Phra Athit is charming and its eateries, from the super fresh fruit carts to the hole in the wall restaurant Roti Mataba to the American-style café Coffee and More, are true to Thailand in their deliciousness.

-Yoga classes in Asia was pretty good, but aside from Lek (which I was delighted to learn means “little” as she is quite a little Thai woman) at Prana Yoga (, I was left uninspired. Yoga is quite new in Asia, so I think people are still working through the truth that it’s not about the pose. Classes rarely went beyond the externalities of the asanas and rarely talked about the breath (which is the key to the practice!). Those of you with a cherished yoga studio and/or teacher wherever you live- be very grateful you’ve been given this blessing.

-Massages in Thailand are as good as they say. Who knew a little Thai woman about half my size could be so strong?

-The jazz band was Thai, and dude- Thai people can rock it out. Who knew a little Thai woman could so soulfully belt her heart out? We befriended 2 French fellows, Frederic et Mattheu, that night. I used the petit peut de francais que je sais and I impressed both of them, Jay, and Mike. The jazz club closed at 1a but being Frederic et Mattheu’s last night in Bangkok, they were reluctant to end it there. So we suggested Ice Bar where yes, the bars are made of ice. We all squished into a cab, and about 7 minutes into the cab ride, Frederic says, “So where are we going?” HA! :D How cool that these guys just hopped in a cab with 3 people they just met, having no idea where they were headed in a foreign country. French peeps are cool, yo!

Sorry about the long blog, but let me leave you with a few last thoughts:

I’m convinced some of the mosquitoes in Thailand have invisibility powers because sometimes I could feel them, but when I looked, there was no bugger there!

Thailand has phenomenal bread: blueberry, carrot, milk chocolate, whole wheat crossiants, whole wheat English muffins used as buns for our homemade hamburgers, Asian buns with red bean paste, and huge slices of raisin bread sized perfectly for egg in a hoooooooole! (The best waffle is still at the Omelet Parlor on Main Street in Santa Monica.)

I had yellow watermelon for the first time in Thailand! It pretty much tastes like red watermelon, but it was fun to see and eat it in a different color, and no, it cost nowhere near $35.

Budokon family: get ready for Fighting Crocodile in Reverse and the Inch Worm.

Arigato gozai mas for reading. Sending you snowflakes from Tokyo!

PS I’ll be home next week; my first class back will be Thursday the 22nd @ 7p @ Bodies. My schedule shall resume as usual starting with that class.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Day 18: 12 March

Happy Birthday to one of my dearest friends, Jacks! Here’s wishing you a most fruitful, expansive, and happy 27th year!

Today my brother Mike, Jay, and I visited the Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho. It is my highlight of Bangkok. I remember Erich Schiffmann, one of my greatest teachers, talking about him during my Teacher Training. It was so fitting, too, because Erich embodies and exudes the spirit of this Buddha.

After piddling around the Grand Palace and visiting the Emerald Buddha, who was very appropriately in his hot weather outfit (yes! He has different outfits for the 3 different seasons here: cold, rainy, and hot), we made our way to Wat (which means Temple) Pho. There are many, many temples and other sacred places here in Bangkok, and each carries a specific message. At Wat Pho, the message is to have a secure and peaceful life, and I could really feel that energy once we stepped onto the temple grounds.

I was excited to see the Reclining Buddha, and as I caught glimpses of him from the outside, I started bubbling up inside, like a child on Christmas morning. When I got inside, my heart filled, my eyes spilled…I was in awe. I was completely and surprisingly overwhelmed. I was so moved by the spirit of the Buddha – peaceful, relaxed, protective; by the love of the people who created the statue and the temple that houses him – breathtakingly intricate, beautiful, and you can just feel that it was created with pure love; by Erich’s presence; by an energy of love, compassion, pureness, goodness that words cannot properly communicate. Crying and sparkling from joy, wonder, love, and gratitude, I looked over at Jay and whispered, “I love him!” It was one of the most magnificent things I have ever been in the presence of.

Let us all aspire to find and live in the spirit of the Reclining Buddha…I think I shall start by reclining in bed. Bon nuit!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Day 16: 10 March

Greetings! Long time, no blog. No worries- I haven’t (yet) been scooped up off the sidewalk by a motorcycle taxi driver to be taken into the Thai abyss. Yes, that’s kind of actually a fear I have when I’m walking on the streets and those guys get dangerously and questionably close to me. I have just trotted around a bit, to Koh Phangan (via Koh Samui) and then to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and I’m now back in Bangkok. I was on a computer hiatus for nearly a week and it was a great purge. If you are able to take a technological fast, I highly recommend it.

I’m in love with the Thai islands (Thaislands!). Beautiful beyond beautiful. Quiet, peaceful, and still…the antithesis to Bangkok. In Koh Phangan, an island you can only get to via boat, all I could hear while sitting, meditating, and practicing on the balcony or on the beach was ocean waves lapping flowing ebbing morphing being. The sun was fierce, perhaps the hottest sun I’d ever experienced. The villa was perfect, with huge windows (the curtains for which we never once shut) for walls, offering generous views of blue water, blue skies, green vegetation, and the shadowy glimpses of neighboring islands. Sitting on the balcony or lying in bed, there was ocean in front of me, ocean behind me, and ocean to the side of me. Add to that: an infinity pool overlooking the ocean and the beach nearly to ourselves. We had a pet gecko in the room that would periodically make this chirpy squeaky noise, which we presume was him asking us what we were doing in his room. There were lots of sweet dogs (including a Thai Nala look-alike!) and even cats roaming around and hanging out on the beaches. One dog tried to follow us home…so cute and sweet! He must have recognized us from another lifetime or something.

The food in Bangkok is better but!! it was quite wonderful having fresh fruit shakes delivered to the room, poolside, and oceanside, in a plethora of fresh fruit flavors: banana, mango, pineapple, watermelon, and coconut. Also, we drank from the – gasp – Minibar without reservation…ice teas and sodas (yes, this yogi drinks soda) were just 25 baht (less than 75 cents) each!

The Full Moon Party is a big (read: thousands of people big) beach party under – what else – the full moon. Similar to Coachella or a rave, but free!!, there are different DJs/areas of music and other forms of entertainment such as fire dancing (Kenta, you would totally rock it out there!) dotting the shore of the Haad Rin peninsula. The coolest part was when they fired up (literally lit fire to) a 25 foot high or so sign that read Amazing Thailand and had 2 big elephants on it. Grandiose and indulgent. I also enjoyed the assortment of languages we heard as we walked through the crowds- people from all over the world. We made our way home at about midnight, but the party was still going on the next day! As we made our way to Leela Beach (which we went to because my family’s nickname for me is Lela), we could hear the sounds of what could only be the after the-full-moon-party party. Peeps is crazy out here in Thailand!

I think the planes in and out of Koh Samui were the smallest I’d ever taken. (And the cutest- there were little Nemo-like fishies painted on the outside!) Inside, when Jay stood up, his head was just a couple inches away from the ceiling. All the seatbelt and lavatory signs were only about 1.5 inches big. The Koh Samui Airport was also definitely the smallest, simplest airport I’d ever been in…entirely outdoors and equipped with an arrivals terminal and a departures terminal.

While on the islands, I got in touch with my friend Viva, who is currently living in Kuala Lumpur (“K.L.”), Malaysia and decided to hop over for a visit. I went on my own, which was fun but at times unnerving because I had no idea where I was and had no way of contacting anybody. I was swindled by the taxi driver who picked me up at the airport, but I didn’t care because by the time I arrived at Viva’s hotel, I was just grateful that he didn’t kidnap me to make me into a Malaysian concubine. It probably wasn’t the smartest thing to follow a random man, who essentially bullied me into agreeing to go with him, into the parking lot (totally not in the official Taxi Line) and get into his car, especially when he didn’t run the meter and he inexplicably circled the parking lot twice before exiting. Immediately upon entering the car, I rolled the window down to make sure I could Budokon my way out of the car if things starting feeling suspicious.

Luckily, all went fine and I arrived safely at the KL Hilton, where Viva is the resident singer, and a very talented singer at that. She was kind enough to let me stay with her at this over-the-top nice hotel. Grandiose and indulgent. Her room overlooked much of the city, which is a beautiful combination of modern-day life – highways, high-rises, and financial districts – and endless shades, layers, and depths of jungle. The Malaysian government makes great efforts to maintain their land’s nature within the city. I spent a lot of time meditating, writing, and musing on the rooftop, on the greatest chair that was ever created. It was a big circular wicker chair-loveseat, with a cushy cushion and cushy pillows and a crescent-shaped ottoman. There were palm trees directly overhead, providing shade and covering from the slight sprinkling that occurred for a few minutes in the late afternoon, something that apparently happens everyday, ensuring that KL stay as alive and green as possible.

I did some touring, the highlight of which was going to the Batu Caves, a sacred place for Hindus, the highlight within the highlight of which – and I hope it isn’t blasphemous that this was my favorite part – were the little monkeys running around eating coconuts. Foods I tasted included native Nona foods, a meat skewers medley (only made more perfect because I was outside, poolside, and on that splendiferous chair), and green tea Tiramisu (only made more perfect because I ended up eating it with my hands out of my carry-on bag because it spilled out of its fancy origami-style to go (or as they say here, “take away”) container).

And in line with the way of the Universe, which always works to bring things into balance, my ride back to the airport was safe, pampering, and without the threat of being hustled or made into a concubine. Friends of Viva’s graciously had me first-class chauffeured. Grandiose and indulgent. Many, many thanks to Viva & co. for their Malay welcome and hospitality!

So, I have about another week or so in Bangkok. My brother is flying in from Seoul (where he currently lives) tomorrow…yay! I’m sure we will cause absolutely no raucous out on the streets of Thailand.

Good day to you, my friends. This little monkey is off to run around and eat coconuts!

Friday, March 2, 2007

Day 8: 2 March

I’ve just found out that a sweet friend of mine, Patricia Lucio, suddenly passed away. Needless to say, I am heartbroken. I wish I could be there to attend the funeral services, but Pat was Thai, and I can’t help but think there’s something to the fact that I’m here in her homeland. Please send love, comfort, and peace to her and her family, especially her 5-year old son. Love and tears from Thailand.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Day 7: 1 March

Happy March! (But dude…wasn’t it just Christmas??)

I’ve just booked my first trip out of Bangkok: Koh Phangan! Koh means island. Phangan may be the most difficult word I’ve ever tried to pronounce. This is the home of the Full Moon Party (Sensei Em- this seems like exactly your kind of thing…I so wish you were here!) which happens to be happening while we are there. I’m really looking forward to making thousands of new friends! We’re staying in what seems to be a rather fancy schmancy resort villa ( I’ll be sure to blog in upon my return, and let you know how all goes.

(How amazing it must be to have made up a silly-sounding word – blog, google – that finds a place in our culture’s vernacular. I want to do that- it’s going on my To Do in Life List. Do you have one of those lists? You should!)

I hope to make additional treks out of the city, but truthfully, there is much to see and do (and eat) here (apparently elephants DO roam the streets of Bangkok! That’s going on my To Do in Bangkok List!). My ideal way to travel is to find stillness within one place. Not to hop from place to place to place to place, barely getting a feel for the vibration of the people and the culture within. It’s the quality of the experience. Just like in yoga…it’s not about how many poses you can do or how fast you might move through them…it’s about the quality of mind with which you approach the pose, the depth you search for within the pose. It’s about being masterful, as Cameron Shayne always says.

By the way, I’m feeling a LOT better; thank you for sending me your healing energies.

This post shall be short and sweet – like Thai peeps! Blowing you tropical kisses!