Jan 13, 2024

Where to start AT HOME (Ashtanga Yoga Led Classes on YouTube 2024)

 So if you want to practice and home or don’t have a local teacher etc etc here are some free YouTube videos you can follow along with…

Absolutely a Beginner / Ashtanga Newbie

I send these out to yoga-curious friends. Just try to do these 10 minutes each day and boom you now have a daily yoga practice. The class is taught by my teacher, Sharath Jois. 


Seasoned Ashtanga Yoga Practitioner 

This is for you if you have a Mysore practice. It is a recording of a full led primary series class with Sharath.


Those are my top picks. Really though, the best classes will be the ones that speak to you. Not everything or everyone is for everybody. Just find something that speaks to you. That’s the perfect class.

Jan 10, 2024

2024 Ashtanga Moon Days

Jan 11 & 25 

feb 9 & 24 

mar 10 & 25 

apr 8 & 23 

may 8 & 23 

jun 6 & 22 

jul 5 & 21 

aug 4 & 19 

sep 2 & 18 

oct 2 & 17 

nov 1 & 15 

dec 1 & 15 & 30

Jan 9, 2024

Ashtanga Yoga LIVE from Mysore, India via Zoom

For those who make or have made the pilgrimage and for those who wish to or plan to — these classes are for you.

It doesn’t get any closer than boarding a plane and heading to India. 

Usha teaches ongoing classes at the main Shala and has perhaps spent more time studying at the source than most. These classes are seriously not to be missed. You will be led through primary series in the traditional manner with a small conference to follow. Born and raised in India, Usha brings together a deep knowledge of Indian culture and spirituality with the technical asana teachings. 

Classes will be held via Zoom

Sign up here:



20 January

17 February

16 & 30 March

Who should register:

-Current ashtanga practitioners

-Vinyasa students

-Athletic beginners

Classes are on zoom. Gathering is encouraged. 

Mar 17, 2020

Ashtanga Yoga Closing Mantra - A call for peace

स्वस्ति प्रजाभ्यः परिपालयन्तां न्यायेन मार्गेण महीं महीशाः
गोब्राह्मणेभ्यः शुभमस्तु नित्यं लोकाः समस्ताः सुखिनो भवन्तु
शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः
svasti prajābhyaḥ paripālayantāṃ nyāyena mārgeṇa mahīṃ mahīśāḥ |
go-brāhmanebhyaḥ śubham astu nityaṃ lokāḥ samastāḥ sukhino bhavantu ||

Oṃ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ |

May the rulers of the earth be virtuous and protect their people and future generations.
May the spiritual leaders have good fortune in their efforts of connecting people with all divinity in this life.
May all beings be happy, healthy, and free

Shanti one - I send calm to obstacles (Adhi-Bhautika) that may come from the physical realm, external uncontrollable forces - wild animals, people, nature...
Shanti two - Calm to the spiritual (Adhi-Daivika) realm...
Shanti three - Calm to my inner (Adhyaatmika) realm - my body and mind...

Not a direct translation, but where my mind is right now.  

Mar 14, 2020

Yoga / work / life balance

After a couple weeks of volatility and then this historic week in the market - there simply wasn’t time for any extras. Yesterday I took a shower, tied back my hair, put on that lip and went straight to work. Reaching out to clients, reviewing research, making updates - today my throat is raw from so much talking. 

I always set my day with my morning yoga practice but yesterday I had to press it down into a single moment of prayer and hummed my little chants on the way to the office. After I finished up (there is always more to do) I headed home where all my instincts said to curl up with Olive under a blanket and turn out the lights or watch show after show until I went numb. Instead, I pulled out that youtube playlist I made (you can access it here) with led classes. There is one of my teacher Sharath Jois leading a class in Russia. I rolled out my mat and hit “play”. I am instantly transported to Mysore, India. 

 Maybe it looks mentally and physically easy. It isn’t. When I started twenty years ago, I could not touch my toes or hold even the top of a push up position. I can remember my arms trembling and then collapsing beneath me. I have a touch of asthma that made any kind of physical exertion a challenge. Add in a sprinkle of scoliosis and years of PE teachers yelling that I was weak and how I “throw like a girl”. Each pose has taken years to become accessible. Going from 5 minutes a day to anything beyond that is a testament to how well this works for me. 

 And mentally? Well- at first my mind is replaying every story of the day and always through the voice of the very judgmental and evil imaginary overlord in my head. Then comes the pulls of the all the senses - listen to that, what is that in the corner?, this itches, my hair is in my face, etc. And my mind having to swat away each thought and focus on my breath, pose, gaze, my teacher’s voice steadily counting one, two, three. 

 I can feel all the inflammation and stress bloating from the day. The smoothie I try not to expel. I can feel all the reasons to stop the yoga and do something else. And then it shifts. I suddenly realize that my thoughts have stopped. I am just here. Inhaling, exhaling, lift up, jump back. Inside of myself, outside of myself. Residual panic and anxiety from others is now removed. The impossible has happened - I feel centered and grounded.

 My background is not in finance. It is in yoga. I used to try to hide that fact. I was scared people would think I wasn’t good enough. This wasn’t only in my mind. People told me. With time and perspective I now understand a bit more how it all comes together. How it makes perfect sense and how an Ashtanga Yoga practice can help to prepare you mentally for anything. I remember my interview. I remember saying something about how obviously I don’t have a background in finance but that knowledge can be learned and I can learn. The real question was that when you are stuck in an elevator who do you want with you? I have a ton of stories from India, I know how to sit with uncomfortable situations, and I know how to keep showing up each day no matter what. They hired me.

My point is that we all need to develop skills to cope with life, keep healthy, help the world. Skills can be learned.

My thoughts and prayers go out to anyone suffering as a result of the current state of the planet. I’d like to recognize the local business YogaZo for their recent initiative- cancel to keep safe but also continue to pay staff and offer help to anyone in need. This is the kind of thinking we need more of right now.

 I am reminded of something Sharath once said to a student years ago. They said they had so much energy - what should they do for an afternoon practice? His response was that if you have extra energy (even after your morning yoga asana practice) you should volunteer and take care of others.

Mar 13, 2020

Finding Stillness in Frenzy

Finding stillness.  That’s my focus right now.  Walk slower.  Move slower.  Give space to recognize feelings.  Space to recognize that we are not our feelings.  Space to think.  Space to understand the difference between a snake and a rope.  Space to keep my mind in the present.  Not dwelling on past or worrying about future.  Remembering that my thoughts color what everything looks like.  When I remember I have agency, I can start to realize that the “good” or “bad” sensations are labels that I can change.  To realize that if they are changeable they aren’t real...

Everything is still happening and always will.  Read the Bhagavad Gita.  We learn that even abstaining from everything - our bodies are still working.  Everything is happening and always will.  So how to deal?  How to be a human in the world?  In society?  How to people?

This is the time to focus on practicing the 8 limbs of yoga.  This is the time when even a little knowledge can make a massive difference. Even before asana practice comes the yamas and niyamas.   This is a time to bring these into focus.

Non-hoarding, aparigraha...  Think about minimalism.  Think about FIRE.  Think about what really is important in life.

Remember to take care of each other.  What about the children who will be home for three weeks without free school lunches?  How can we help them?

Remember to take care of ourselves.  Remember to keep up our asana practice or maybe it is an opportunity to begin.  Maybe it helps us to process thoughts, emotions, energy.  Maybe it helps reduce stress and keeps us healthy and infuses us with the vitality to be able to help others and the world more.  That would be nice.

Oh and also from the yoga sutras:

maitri karuna muditopeksanam sukha duhkha punyapunya visayanam bhavanatas citta prasadanam
“By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.”

Mar 9, 2020

How to have a home practice - inspiration and tip checklist

Keeping and maintaining a home practice doesn't need to be complicated.  You only need to want to do it and continue to do it everyday.  Some days will be easier than others.  At times it will be very hard.  I have found that at the end of the day there is a dialogue between your body and mind.  If one goes dark, the other follows and vice versa.  A big part of being able to continue to show up is to observe this pattern and always be looking to encourage it toward the center.  Whatever that takes. Not too light and not too dark.  Not too hard and not too soft.  Not too much effort and not too little effort.  Not too tight and not too loose... etc.  Whatever that means to you on that day.

I love this practice of yoga.  It continues to feed my body and mind and I want that to continue for the rest of my life.  In order for that to happen, it needs to be sustainable.  After 20 years of practicing yoga I have found that the way to do that is to follow the only instruction that the Yoga Sutras give on asana -- that it should be "steady and sweet".

With "steady and sweet" in mind, here are some of my top tips on how to have a successful ongoing home practice.

It starts the day before
Set out your clothing - saves time in the morning.
Decide the location - time saver and also you don't want to get lost in thoughts trying to get ready.  You just want to be ready.
Try to eat for practice - a completely individual topic.  Maybe start with drinking more water and eating clean or eliminating processed foods.
Get your sleep.
Set your alarm.

Schedule it
Decide the day before what time you will start your practice.  Oh, and actually show up on your mat at that time.

Ramp up
Practice as close as you can to the time that you woke up.  Less time to get distracted.  It just makes things easier.
No screens - it will make life easier.
Bathe, brush teeth...basic hygiene.
If there's time between when you wake up and your practice time, try to fill it with something uplifting... read, meditate, burn incense, chant etc.

Set the scene
Essentially the fewer distractions, the easier it will be to get on and stay on your mat. Consider temperature, smells, sights, scents...

If you don't have one, start here - practice sheet and 5- minute yoga practice video
If you have one - keep it simple (breathing, vinyasa, dristhi, bandha, positive thoughts)
If you need help focusing - here is a list of free led classes on youtube

After practice
Take care of your temple - your body and mind
Sounds - Podcasts, youtube, chanting, music, nature, positive people, silence
Smells - fresh air, plants, essential oils, incense
Sights - Nature, read
Tastes - eat nourishing food
Be kind and patient with your self and others

Stay inspired
Join a class with a teacher when you can
Go on a yoga retreat or trip

This is just a quick list... I'll circle back. This post feels like a work in progress.

Mar 7, 2020

2020 Ashtanga Yoga Retreat Wishlist

You have a week (ish) off work.  You want to keep up your practice.  You want to study with an authorized or certified teacher.  You want to be surrounded by other Mysore people.  You want to focus on your practice.  You want to travel and explore and learn...

Where to go?

Some of these include your stay, some don't...

Here are my top picks:


Susanna Finocchi Galavasana

April 13-May 9
Susanna Finocchi (L2) & Lakshmish Bhat


May 9-15
Thiago Villa Verde (L2) & Xico Rodrigues (L2)

May 15-19 (postponed until 2021)
Sharath Jois


June 7-13
Harmony Lichty (Certified)
June 9-14
Sharath Jois


 July 29-August 2
Petri Raisanen (Certified)


August 28-September 6
Eileen Hall (Certified)


Spain, Serbia, Greece
September 2-19
Sharath Jois


October 15-23
Tarik Thami (Certified)


November 2-13
Philippa Asher (Certified)

Mar 2, 2020

On Retreat with David Robson & Jelena Vesnic

The thing is that once you have a steady Mysore practice, it goes with you when you travel.  Sometimes the particulars of making that happen are easy but in my experience they usually are not.  Most often I find myself sandwiched between two beds on a carpeted floor keeping my drishti so that I wouldn't have to see what was lurking under the bed with the AC blasting in my face.  Then there is the food disaster where yes, you are grateful you have food but are also mentally preparing yourself for how this highly processed meal is going to feel tomorrow in Marichasana D (foot in gut now twist).  Or Pasasana (squat and thighs smash guts now twist). Or Purna Matsyendrasana (more foot in gut and twisting action).  

These are things you don't want to have to think about.

Enter yoga vacation aka yoga retreat.  You get to have your practice and eat well too. Sometimes you want to mostly vacation, sometimes you want to mostly retreat, other times you want a healthy mix of both. My recent retreat with David Robson and Jelena Vesnic was just that.

Sayulita is a small surfer town north of Puerto Vallarta. You can take the bus or taxi or have a car arranged by your hotel.  You don't really need a map because vegan and vegetarian and organic and farm fresh local food and taco stands are waiting to be discovered around every corner. Design-forward local makers abound.  Eco-conscious mostly everything and recycling bins aplenty.  The beach...

We stayed at Hotelito de los Suenos where we also had our morning Mysore practice. Rooms were simple, clean, and with air conditioning.  Post-practice breakfast was offered daily with everything from chilaquiles (kind of like breakfast nachos) to avocado toast.  Lately, I have preferred to have my first meal around noon so after practice I would wander off through town just as it woke up.  I love this moment anywhere.  The air is different.  The birds in the trees.  The "just before".  I would wander through the sleepy streets to Organi-k for the "No Bad Days" smoothie (alt milk, cacao, banana, chia, hemp, peanut butter...) that I would have for lunch.  It is really something that bringing your own reusable cup is starting to be the standard everywhere.

We had three workshops - just the right amount.  I'm not so into geeking out on these things so much these days but sometimes we all need a little encouragement and reassurance that we are on the right path.  When you practice on your own most of the time, you need this.  (Well, I suppose you don't need it, but it is nice.) And when your teacher is in India and you aren't, reassurance takes longer to receive. You'd think that being authorized means that everyone is offering the same information.  This isn't always the case.  Life can get lonely.  But with David and Jelena, I felt right at home.

Feb 27, 2020

All the musings

It has been a long road.  I recently published all of my blogs onto one platform.  Since 2007 I have had 29 blogs.  That’s close to 800 posts.

That sounds like a lot.

They are on a variety of topics but the main story line — my diary or travel journal — is what I’d like to have in once place.  I am slowly reading it through, editing, deleting irrelevant posts.  It is so interesting to observe all of the realizations and changes with the perspective of time.  Yet, I have already also learned from some of the lessons I have forgot. I am currently on a yoga retreat (rather than leading one) and haven’t decided yet what I’d like to publish about the trip.  Mat reflections?  Observational wormhole comedy travel essays? Gonzo journalism?  They are eating ayahuasca outside my window...  For now, I’m just going to finish my pumped up coffee and offer this: https://eliseespat.blogspot.com/
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Feb 23, 2020

Sharath Jois 2020 World Tour

If you're up for some travels or happen to live in the area, Sharath's going to be in town:

Thailand May 15-19 info
Australia June 9-14 info
Mysore July and August info
Spain Sep 2-6 info
Greece Sep 8-12 info
Serbia Sep 14-19 info

Check the shala website here for updates.

From the archives...

Toronto tour 2009:

Me, 2012 Encinitas Tour

Feb 21, 2020

2020 Ashtanga Moon Days

Rest days with doggo

A day of rest from yoga asana practice.  (Because being a good human through the 8 limbs of yoga is a daily thing.)  Here's why we don't practice on moon days.

Friday, January 10
Friday, January 24
Saturday, February 8
Sunday, February 23
Monday, March 9
Tuesday, March 24
Tuesday, April 7
Wednesday, April 22
Thursday, May 7
Friday, May 22
Friday, June 5
Saturday, June 20
Saturday, July 4
Monday, July 20
Monday, August 3
Tuesday, August 18
Tuesday, September 1
Thursday, September 17
Thursday, October 1
Friday, October 16
Saturday, October 31
Saturday, November 14
Monday, November 30
Monday, December 14
Tuesday, December 29

Feb 20, 2020

Where to find a cotton Mysore rug online by Elise Espat

Me, so blissed out on textiles in Mysore, India 2018.

First posted this in 2012.  Here's the updated version. Happy practicing!

You should ALWAYS support your Shala and buy a rug locally.  
If they don't carry something you want, just ask.  They will probably be happy to order one for you.  It might take a little longer and cost a little more than going online, but you are contributing to the community.  This is a big deal. If you carry rugs at your shala and would like to be listed, email eliseashtangayoga@ gmail.com. This is simply a small list of what is out there online.  Through trial and error, you will find what you like. Also, some of these are affiliate links. While opinions are always my own, deciding to purchase through an affiliate link helps support this blog.  Thanks!

Some Towels

Manduka Yogitoes Mat Towel https://amzn.to/2VbhEFg

Gaiam Yoga Mat Towel https://amzn.to/38NmCMl

Prana Maha Yoga Towel https://amzn.to/2SUW5WA

Jade Yoga Towel https://amzn.to/37MQQh4

Hugger Mugger Yoga Towel https://amzn.to/2v6ltRx

Some Rugs

Hugger Mugger Cotton Rug https://amzn.to/3bUspBE

Bliss Peak Cotton Rug https://amzn.to/2V4ptfY

Nysa Yoga Rug https://www.nysayoga.com/collections/frontpage/products/organic-mysore-yoga-rug

Jade Yoga Cotton Mysore Rug https://amzn.to/37Jrj8O

Yogasana Yoga Mat https://amzn.to/32nVBgl

Bheka Rug http://www.yogalifestyle.com/GECottonYogaMatRugSolid.htm

Pink Namaste https://www.etsy.com/shop/PinkNamaste

If you are just getting started, check out my beginner's guide:

Jun 8, 2019

New Blog: Yoga + Minimalist

Day 23 of 30 days of challenging myself to write again.  I started blogging back in 2007 the day before I left on my first trip to India.  I didn’t even know what a blog was but it was easier than emailing everyone so I gave it a try and ended up writing almost every day for years.  And then suddenly it drifted away.  I lost the excitement, the motivation, my confidence, my voice.  I didn’t feel like I had anything to say at all.  It was many things.  Exhaustion and stress and overwork and trauma and bullying and self consciousness and everything.  All the things that can happen when you are more and more isolated and deeper in you go...  read more

Please visit my new blog here: https://yogaminimalist.blogspot.com/

You can also follow my blog with Bloglovin

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