Over time, birds have found a place in my heart. First off, they are the ultimate symbol of freedom—the ability to just fly away for any reason is so freeing! Being present to birds grounds me in the here and now. Taking a long easy breath. Exhaling. And, I love things that make me exhale. Sounds like yoga, right?

I got this beautiful raven tattoo recently. I knew that if I had a tattoo at all, it would be a bird. Therefore, it had to be a raven. One of the best days of my life was sitting on a remote trail in the Olympic mountains watching a group of a dozen ravens playing. I mean, really playing! Taking turns flying in pairs, doing barrel rolls, flying upside down, the works. It was magic. And, for all the world, ravens (and crows) seem to have a sense of humor.

I also decided to get the tattoo as a tribute to my family members who have passed, including my mother and father. We lost a baby in the family not too long ago. So, this raven is my Watcher. The Sentinel. I like having its quiet presence right where I can see it.

I like to take this love of the outdoors, the calmness and equanimity it provides, into the way I teach. As we become more centered and at peace with our own bodies, we are more able to have these exhale moments.


Sandhill Cranes on Sauvie Island, Oregon

Photos by Paul Smailes