Breakthrough. a writing by Amber Shumake

Yoga is not one more box to check. You don’t make a note of it in your phone or day planner and then cross it off.

We have enough boxes to check and items to cross off. Yoga is not one more thing for you to do.

Yoga is a way of being. Yoga is a lens through which you see yourself and the world, a vessel to help you navigate the earth. 

Quality not quantity.

Compassion not competition. 

Intrinsic not extrinsic.

Our yoga practices teach us to be ourselves fearlessly. Being doesn’t necessarily mean doing.

Through yoga we learn to break through our habitual patterns and behaviors.

Perhaps, a breakthrough is kicking up into a handstand for the first time unassisted.

Maybe, it’s hovering in an arm balance that’s eluded you for 2.5 years.

Both deserve a fist pump and a high five. Rock on! Look at you!

But, yoga should travel with you—from the mat to work, from work to home, and everywhere in between.

Because the best breakthroughs happen long after you’ve rolled your mat up and walked away from the studio.

A breakthrough is a deep breath before speaking.

A breakthrough is a soft jaw you’ve spent a lifetime clenching.

Through yoga, we find what Panache Desai calls our unique soul signatures, our true strengths and mighty gifts the world anxiously awaits.

What are you waiting for?

Break through.

Beyond your perceived limitations, past your ingrained conditioning.

You are not your past. You are not your body.

You are a soul, and your soul is rooting for you. 

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New Teachers at HDY!

Nishtha began her yoga journey in 1975, detouring on a long and circuitous route through a variety of movement and energy practices – including Tai Chi, Qigong, Hanna Somatics, Feldenkrais, and Aston Patterning – before returning to her yoga roots in 2007. She completed her 200 hour teacher certification with Nob Hill Yoga in 2010 and the 500 hour advanced teacher training at High Desert Yoga in 2013. Nishtha has been a licensed massage therapist for nearly two decades, and brings a deep knowledge of human anatomy and curiosity about body awareness and internal organization to her instruction. In addition to yoga classes for “regular folks,” she has taught classes for people with multiple sclerosis since 2011. Nishtha is passionate about learning and considers her students her greatest teachers. She is registered with Yoga Alliance as RYT-500, eRYT-200.

Visit Nishtha’s website: photo 200p

Easter teaches Yoga according to Ayurvedic principles specific to an individual’s constitution and what is needed for balance. In a class environment, all doshas and elements are addressed to allow your Yoga experience to be nourishing and balanced. In Yoga, Easter holds qualifications for and teaches in the disciplines of AyurYoga, Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, Yin Yoga, Mom and Baby Yoga and Pre/Post-natal Yoga. She has been the Yoga Coordinator at The Ayurvedic Institute teaching the AyurYoga curriculum for the 1st & 2nd year students, and for Panchakarma clients during their cleansing therapies. Easter also practices as an Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultant, Marma Therapist and Jyotishi.


Ashley Serrao has been practicing yoga since college and teaching yoga since 2007. She is a certified with the Yoga Alliance as a 200hr Hatha Yoga Teacher, a 500hr Viniyoga™ yoga instructor and is currently undergoing training for a MA in Yoga Therapy with the American Viniyoga Institute. Ashley has extensive experience working with Seniors or those with special conditions of the body or mind. She facilitates a safe and supportive environment where students are encouraged to adapt the yoga practice for themselves to create freedom in the body, fluidity in the breath and ultimately liberation of the mind. Ashley is a dedicated practioner herself and continues to evolve and transform from this ancient tradition. She brings a sweetness of nature and a wisdom of the yogic tradition that encourages her students to delve deep into their practice and promote self transformation.

Kleopatra’s career in Middle Eastern Belly Dance began in New York City, subsequently taking her all over the world as a performer and teacher. She ultimately moved to Los Angeles to work in the entertainment industry while pursuing a MA in Mythological Studies & Archetypal Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute. The burgeoning fusion of Rock and World Music gave Kleopatra the opportunity to work with artists such as Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin), Aerosmith, Peter Gabriel, The Isley Brothers and U2, among others. As a student in the Teacher Training Course at High Desert Yoga, Kleo welcomes a deepening Yoga practice. Her introduction to Yoga occurred after reading Paramahansa Yogananda’s, The Autobiography of a Yogi, After studying for several years, she was initiated as a Kriyaban Yogin. The heart of Kleopatra’s artistic and academic pursuits focuses on the ancient esoteric traditions of Egypt, Greece, India and Meso-America. Currently earning a Ph.D. in Mayan Cosmology and Pre-Columbian Art, Kleo combines her devotion to Sacred Dance, Mythology, Poetry and the Maya under the rubric of the “Feminine Divine,” which she encounters in each discipline, and enthusiastically shares with her students in The Cosmic Belly Dance.

Kleo Revised (594x471)

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Another Spring

The seasons revolve and the years change
With no assistance or supervision.
The moon, without taking thought,
Moves in its cycle, full, crescent, and full.

The white moon enters the heart of the river;
The air is drugged with azalea blossoms;
Deep in the night a pine cone falls;
Our campfire dies out in the empty mountains.

The sharp stars flicker in the tremulous branches;
The lake is black, bottomless in the crystalline night;
High in the sky the Northern Crown
Is cut in half by the dim summit of a snow peak.

O heart, heart, so singularly
Intransigent and corruptible,
Here we lie entranced by the starlit water,
And moments that should each last forever

Slide unconsciously by us like water.

~ Kenneth Rexroth ~

(One Hundred Poems from the Chinese)

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“One kind word can warm three winter months.” Japanese proverb

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Kim’s Simply Delectable Pumpkin Pie

Kim Schwartz, resident swami and director of the High Desert Yoga Teacher Training Program, also happens to bake a delicious pumpkin pie.  Kim uses fresh organic ingredients and substitutes maple syrup and maple sugar for white sugar, ghee for butter and yogurt for evaporated milk.  For a truly scrumptious and nutritious pie, use a vine ripened organic local pie pumpkin.

Enjoy your pie while gazing at the bright blue New Mexico autumn sky.   Happy Equinox and Bon Appetit!


2 & 2/3 cups ww pastry flour

1 teaspoon sea salt

2/3 cup ghee

1/2 cup cold water

2 cups baked and mashed pie pumpkin  (bake whole pumpkin at 350 F for approx. 60 min.)

1 cup diluted whole milk yogurt with the cream on top (how much it is diluted is up to you)

1 Tbls. maple syrup (B grade)

2 eggs, beaten

2/3 cup maple sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt



1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

2. Prepare pie crust by mixing together the flour and salt. Cut ghee into flour, add one tablespoon water to mixture at a time. Mix dough and repeat until dough is moist enough to hold together.

3. With lightly floured hands shape dough into a ball. On a lightly floured board roll dough out to 1/8 inch thickness. With a sharp knife, cut dough 1 & 1/2 inch larger than the upside down 8 to 9 inch pie pan. Gently roll the dough around the rolling pin and transfer it right side up on to the pie pan. Unroll, ease dough into the bottom of the pie pan.


4. In a large bowl with mixer speed on medium, beat pumpkin with yogurt, eggs, maple syrup, maple sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. Mix well.

5. Pour into crust.

6. Bake 40 minutes or until when a knife is inserted 1″ from the edge it comes out clean.

Share and enjoy the fruits of your labor!


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Yoga and Poetry: An Interview with Supriti

♥contributed by HDY teacher Jude Rowe

Supriti, one of High Desert Yoga’s senior yoga teachers and one of the longest practicing yoga teachers in Albuquerque, is known and loved for the way she weaves poetry into yoga.  Supriti is quite humble about her gifts, but she holds a wealth of knowledge about yoga and poetry.  A few weeks ago, I encouraged Supriti to sit down and talk about her love of poetry and yoga.   Here’s some of what she had to say:

J: Why Poetry?

S: Because it speaks to me. It speaks to me in a precious way like prayer does. There’s something about it that’s very personal, that’s very immediate, that’s really very sacred- the particular poetry that I’m drawn to.

J. When did your interest in poetry start?

S: I think I loved corny poetry even in high school, like “The Highway Man,” because I love language and I love rhythm and I love cadence; that was all part of reading poetry out loud- the musicality of it; I love that. Then later on, I became more interested in the content.

J. Have you had a continuous relationship with poetry ever since high school?

S. Maybe intermittent- in college I was very excited about Garcia Lorca, the Spanish playwright and poet and the fact that he had salons where they read poetry out loud. (I was a Spanish major). He had these poetry readings and I thought, wow, reading poetry out loud, that was revolutionary to me. And then I just became more and more attracted to it in my twenties and thirties.

J. Did you ever write poetry?

S. Actually I did write poetry in high school, and I won a little award for a poem I wrote, but I never pursued it.

J. It’s more a passion for reading other people’s poetry?

S. Yes, its more a passion for sharing the immediacy of the poem with people now and having the forum to do it with yoga classes.

J. What’s the relationship for you between yoga and poetry?

S. I think its the quality of the language; it’s what I would describe as the mantric quality of poetry because the language is so intentional and its so potent; for that reason I feel like its a very high form of communication, because of its intentionality.

J. How do you integrate poetry into yoga?

S. For me, it’s really about being in the moment; and there’s something about when it works. There’s something about the choice of the poem for the tone of the moment- whether its a particular truth that’s resonating with me that I can communicate authentically to listeners or its the mood of the day. I can’t really explain it….. There’s a kismet there when it works.

J. Along that line… what’s resonating for you right now? Is there a poem that’s speaking to you today or this week?

S. The wonderful thing about being hooked into “Panhala” (see link below) is it does give you access to different poets. I’m very eclectic in my poetic appetite and I don’t have a favorite poet; I have favorite poems. And again, its that serendipity of the poem coming to me. The poem is a gift to me; its like I’m plugged in; they come to me and I can share them.

J. What is Panhala?

S. Panhala is a daily e-mail poetry group created by Joe Riley. He has a certain bias towards the metaphysical and I often resonate with his choices.

J. Do you think Panhala sometimes goes to “dark places?”

S. Dark places don’t scare me; those are the kind of places I think touch a common humanity. When we know other people are writing about them, I think it can be reassuring. Even Mary Oliver talks about death a lot, but it’s not something to avoid; it’s an inevitable part of life and so are the shadows.

J. It seems Joe Riley has been including many poems about aging lately, have you noticed?

S. Yes, (laughs) and I like that. I’m attracted to a lot of those poems. I’m attracted to Stanley Kunitz and I’m attracted to poems about getting old. Yeah, that’s ok with me- “Live in the layers not on the litter.”

J. Are you going to read me a poem? (smile)

S. I love and relate to this poem from Jane Hershfield called “Standing Deer.” The poem is about aging which is true for me in the moment.

Standing Deer

As the house of a person
in age sometimes grows cluttered
with what is
too loved or too heavy to part with,
the heart may grow cluttered.
And still the house will be emptied,
and still the heart.

As the thoughts of a person
in age sometimes grow sparer,
like a great cleanness come into a room,
the soul may grow sparer;
one sparrow song carves it completely.
And still the room is full,
and still the heart.

Empty and filled,
like the curling half-light of morning,
in which everything is still possible and so why not.

Filled and empty,
like the curling half-light of evening,
in which everything now is finished and so why not.

Beloved, what can be, what was,
will be taken from us.
I have disappointed.
I am sorry. I knew no better.

A root seeks water.
Tenderness only breaks open the earth.
This morning, out the window,
the deer stood like a blessing, then vanished.

~ Jane Hirshfield ~

(The Lives of the Heart)

J. What struck you about this poem?

S. …the content, the form, the way she played with the paragraphs, the structure….

J. The feeling of stripping away….?

S. Yes, and finding the still point amidst all our distractions, like the pause between the appearance and disappearance of the deer…..

J. How do you integrate poetry into yoga classes?

S. I don’t always start a yoga class with a poem, (I often don’t), but students think I will (laugh), and they look forward to it. I guess in the moment it sets a tone. If I read a poem during Savasana, my hope is it will help people drop deeper into their Savasana, it will release them more deeply into their bodies, into the earth, into the moment, into their breath.

J. What has been your response from students?

S. I’m often asked for a copy of the poems I read in class. I think I’ve excited a lot of people about poetry over the last 10 years. I used to incorporate music- and its the same thing. All the musicians who I love are poets like Annie Lennox, Sting, James Taylor and John Lennon- they’re all poets. Their lyrics are very poetic.

J. Who is your favorite poet in the mystical tradition?

S. It changes depending on my mood…. I love the Sufi poets, Rumi and Hafiz; there’s something ecstatic about their poetry. I’m also drawn to the contrasting transpersonal kind of simplicity of the zen poems or haiku.  I love the sutra- like poems of Hanshan from “The Collected Poems of Cold Mountain.” Hanshan, which means cold mountain, was a legendary Taoist who was said to have lived in a cave on “Cold Mountain.”

J. Can you remember a favorite quote from one?

S. “Though face and form change with the years, I hold fast to the pearl of the mind.”   That’s what I tried to do- I would start to memorize little pieces of prayers or two or three lines of a poem and practice them until they became more readily available, so I would be able to access the words without having to read from a book like Rumi’s “The Guest House,” or e.e. cummings “I Thank You God for this Most Amazing Day.”

J. One of your students said she didn’t really like poetry before she came to your classes but you changed that.

S. Isn’t that amazing! I know some people’s ears and hearts and minds have been opened just from hearing it and receiving it when its appropriate or accessible- there’s a shift for people.

J. Have you ever thought of putting together an anthology of poetry?

S. No, but there are more and more available because people are really turning on to poetry now. Kim Rosen has written a wonderful book called Saved by a Poem and I’m struck by how I’m attracted to so many of the same poems that she loves and writes about.

J. Is it an anthology?

S. It’s more a consideration of poetry as medicine with references to poems.

J. Anything else you want to say about the essence of what poetry means to you?

S. I’ve had this conversation in my head and it was all so clear….. (laugh)

…this kind of echos what Kim Rosen talks about- for me poetry is medicine; it heals me. It transmutes my mood. It affords me the same kind of shift that an asana practice does. If I give myself over to a poem, if the poem is really taken in, it’s like medicine and it will shift my mood; its like a mini satori- a quick awakening.

J. That’s beautiful! I think I’ve heard you say that mystical poetry comes as close as you can to describing something that is hard to describe in words.

S. There’s this great line from a poem that says something like: “Poetry like music is tending towards silence.” It brings you right to the brink of a huge sea of silence. That’s where it drops you; its like the silence after the “OM.”

S.  I love this poem by David Whyte, he’s one of my favorites poets:

The Lightest Touch

Good poetry begins with                        
the lightest touch,
a breeze arriving from nowhere,
a whispered healing arrival,
a word in your ear,
a settling into things,
then like a hand in the dark
it arrests the whole body,
steeling you for revelation.

In the silence that follows
a great line
you can feel Lazarus
deep inside
even the laziest, most deathly afraid
part of you,
lift up his hands and walk toward the light.

— David Whyte
from Everything is Waiting for You
©2003 Many Rivers Press

Here’s the link to Panhala:                                       To subscribe to Panhala, send a blank email to:

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Teacher Spotlight: Interview with Judy Mortellaro about the newly forming “Spiritual Circle”

HDY: What inspired you to start the Spiritual Circle?

JUDY: I was thinking about how a lot of people have a spiritual practice, or maybe they don’t have a spiritual practice but they feel as though they’d like to have something deeper in their lives, but they’re not religious and they don’t want to go to a church. I felt like it would be a nice place for people to get together to meet and relate on a more spiritual level.

HDY: Is the group based on any particular religious or spiritual paradigm?

JUDY: No, there really is no paradigm. The first time we met we agreed on two ground rules: One- no proselytizing and two- confidentiality, anything personal shared in the group stays in the group. Also at the first group, we decided some of what we wanted to do and the members requested chanting and meditation. At the second meeting, I brought an old celtic chant to share because I thought the english would be easy to learn and it would be something we might all relate to on some level.

HDY: Since the group meets at a yoga studio, is the group based on yoga philosophy?

JUDY: No, although my practice is yoga, as far as I’m concerned spirit is spirit; however you come to your practice doesn’t really matter.

HDY: So for example, could someone who is Christian come to the group?

JUDY: Anybody can join!  Not only is everyone welcome, but it would be wonderful if people from all/any traditions would stop by to share and see what common ground we can find.   There’s a song called “All Are Welcome Here,” that’s the motto for the group. It doesn’t matter what your beliefs are- we’re all connected through spirit. “All the animals, the plants, the trees- we’re all welcome here,” but we just don’t always practice that.

HDY: What might someone expect if they come to the group?

JUDY: First, not to have expectations would be good. (smile) We did start out with some ideas that included chant and meditation and we started doing a check-in with each other. The first week there was a bit of a problem with giving advice, but we’re not there to advise or counsel each other, we’re not there to have a coffee klatch. We can support each other maybe in a quiet, silent kind of way by holding sacred space. If you came in and you were very upset about something and you expressed it, we could just sit with it. So, our third ground rule became not to give advice.

HDY: Can advice seem like criticism?

JUDY: Yes, very much like criticism. Besides, who are we to say what would be good for someone else. If we look inward, maybe we’ll find the answers there.

HDY: Is there a leader in the group?

JUDY: There’s not really a leader; I facilitate it for now because I’m getting it going…..

HDY: If there’s not a specific philosophy or leader- what will you focus on?

JUDY: We’ve talked about the different ways spirit can be expressed through activities; where spirit is working through us rather than ego. One day I brought in some scrap material and needles and thread and we started putting them together on a background without talking. Some of us were inspired to take them home and finish. We didn’t have a plan when we started but as we watched our creations emerge and later shared them we said, “yes, this is what spirit is about.” It came more from deep within….

Last week someone brought a couple of poems to share from Mary Oliver and we meditated and talked about what soul and spirit is for us. Someone suggested that maybe spirit expresses itself through dance and maybe we could dance next week….Possibly some people won’t want to dance and they could just sit- so we’ll try dancing next time, but there’s no pressure to participate.

HDY: How has the group been going so far?

JUDY: We’ve just been getting started in the last few weeks- some are finding it challenging not to give advice. Maybe we can learn together as a group the skill of deep listening and communication. It takes a skill to be able to ask a question without trying to lead someone to think what you want them to think.

HDY: It sounds like the group has the potential to evolve into what the members want it to be.

JUDY: Exactly; within the guidelines of not proselytizing, not giving advice and keeping confidentiality.

HDY: What personal experiences inspired you to start this group?

JUDY: Having been ordained twice now, once as a swami and once as an interfaith minister, I used to gather with others to study and practice. When I returned home, I missed being able to share on that level with that kind of real connection- to be able to just hang out with others and let spirit guide you rather than permitting the ego, labels or appearances to guide you. I want to be able to relate to people and speak about things like spirit without someone thinking I’m crazy….. which a lot of people do (laughter) and that’s ok.

HDY: What’s unique about this group?

JUDY: Its not religion based- its a place to “be”, share and relate to others through spirit no matter what you call it- without preaching.

♥ The Spiritual Circle meets every Sunday at High Desert Yoga from 10- 11a.m. All are welcome!

“….To the winds I cast my fate and the remnants of my fear……..

…..Tears of gratitude I wept                                       I was welcome here…..”

excerpt from “All Are Welcome Here” song lyrics by Miten

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