"Scrotumasana" – Sanskrit for "I Can See Your Private Parts"

RECLINING BOUND ANGLE POSE

(Supta Baddha Konasana):

Supta Baddha Konasana, or reclining bound angle pose for those of you not fluent in Sanskrit, is one of my absolute favourite restorative poses.  It's great for releasing anxiety, fatigue and hip tension.

Apparently it's also great for releasing testicles.

It was my 3rd time ever teaching  yoga.  I sat down on my mat and asked everyone to bring the soles of their feet together.

Front row centre.

Super short shorts.

TESTICLES.

I'm not uncomfortable with nudity.  I did, after all, work as an entertainer for Club Med in Mexico with a group of Europeans right out of University.  But I will admit that I was uncomfortable seeing a man's testicles fall out of his shorts.
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“Live in the moment”, I told myself, “It's just a body.”

And BAWDY it was.  Each pose brought a slightly different aspect of the parts.  I saw the women around him looking at each other uncomfortably.  Do I speak to it?  Do I talk to him later about more appropriate attire?  Is it really my place to tell the man what he should wear to yoga class?  Why am I so freaked out by this man's testicles???

It was the longest class of my life.  Finally we were at Corpse pose.  Savasana.  A final resting pose for all of us.

Unsure of how to handle the situation and not wanting to embarrass the man, I waited until everyone left and them gently suggested he might be more comfortable in something a little longer.  He nodded politely and I never saw his private parts again.

TONI'S WISDOM NUGGET:

If you can feel cool air on your genitals while in class, consider wearing something tighter, longer or different.

Unless you’re going to naked yoga, in which case you can bring out the boys, the girls and anyone else who wants to play.

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The Story of Licorice Bear & the Man who Killed a Raccoon

com·pas·sion

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  [kuhm-pash-uhn] 

1. a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is 
stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.
We talk a lot in yoga about opening the heart.  

In class, this might sound something like, “roll your shoulders back and feel your chest expand as you send you heart forward“.  Sometimes the instructor might say “burst your heart forward“, “feel your heart blossom” or, if you're really lucky, “let your heart shine“.

While the verbage can sometimes be a little much for some to handle, the message is a beautiful one.  Essentially, we're striving to cultivate compassion; to be our very own yoga Care Bear. 

For those of you who've never heard of a Care Bear (really?), they were very popular stuffed toys from the 1980s.  Each bear was a different colour and had a symbol on its belly that represented its duty and personality.

Sometimes I think things happen to me so I can have material to write about.  Last week was one of those times.

I had one of those pre-bedtime emergency mommy moments when you go to make your 2 year old's bottle only to realize that your bonus son (so much nicer than “stepson”) has used all the rest of the milk to make his world famous chocolate shake.  The recipe for those of you who might be interested is “1 part milk.  10 parts chocolate.”  I threw on my flip flops and power walked down to the gas station, realizing we had also run out of licorice. 

On my way back up the street, my mouth stuffed with Twizzlers, I stopped  in my tracks as I watched a cyclist pull a dead raccoon by all four limbs, blood dragging behind it, up onto the sidewalk.  The man started to become visibly upset coming to his knees and petting the raccoon on its face and side. 

My first thought was “that man has racoon blood on his hands”.  Maybe it was a cat.

“Sir?  Is that a cat?,” I yelled out.

“It's a raccoon,” he replied wiping away his tears.  ”I killed it!  I killed a raccoon!”

I couldn't believe how upset the man was and wondered whether or not now would be a good time to let him know about rabies.
Nevertheless, I wanted to comfort him in any way I could.

“Sir, is there anything I can do?,” I asked, “can I call someone for you?”

“I just need to be alone with the animal,” he replied.  

I thought about the dozens of times in my life I'd passed dead raccoons on the side of the road, thinking of them as “roadkill”.  I'd never stopped to comfort any of them.  I'd never cried over them.  I'd definitely never pet any of them.  I was so touched by this man's love for the animal and his genuine distress over what had just happened.

Unable to walk away and determined to do something to help make this better, I stepped a little closer.  ”My name is Toni.  I'd really like to do something to help.”

There was a strange silent pause.

“Licorice?,” I continued, extending my opened and half eaten bag forward like a real life Care Bear.

“A piece of licorice would be nice,” he said, as he laughed and wiped away a tear.

I walked the rest of the way home feeling connected to the stranger on the road and touched by his actions.  

We'd both let our hearts shine.  

That's what yoga is really about. 


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HONOUR ME!!!!!

Having worked with both, I can honestly say that yoga instructors are a lot like actors. Some are humble about their talents, easy to work with and grounded, while others are high maintenance, self-absorbed, and delusional.

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We went through a fair number of instructors in the first four months of our studio being open. Most of them put in a month or two with us and then left because they lived too far from the studio, were headed abroad to study with a master teacher, or couldn’t work for us unless they were guaranteed back-to-back classes for financial reasons.

A few left for more profound reasons, specifically, that they were not being honoured. “Honour” is to the high-maintenance yogi what “exploring the craft” is to the high-maintenance actor. Honour in this context is not merely respect. Rather, it’s otherworldly admiration and awe that the instructor feels s/he deserves as a result of all the books s/he has read about the Yoga Sutras and all the workshops s/he has paid thousands of dollars to take with descendants of the yoga gods.

Newsflash #1:

Reading lots of yoga books and doing a 200 hour teacher training program does not make you a yoga guru.

Newsflash #2:

Talking about other people’s “energy” is still gossip.

One instructor informed me that she was known as “edgy” around the city. I wasn’t entirely sure what this meant, but she was keen and I liked her so we gave it a whirl. When I realized online casinos that “edgy” meant she had a trucker mouth in class, I had to talk to her. She explained to me that her language was an extension of her authentic self and that to change her energetic vibe would be inauthentic. I then had to be super authentic and let her go, which resulted in a palm-to-palm namaste and subsequent Facebook de-friending from her.

Let’s not forget about the instructor who approached us wanting to help for “karmic reasons”. At that time, I erred more on the side of yoga than business, and I was genuinely touched. He said he’d be willing to put his name behind the studio to endorse us as good people so that some of his instructor friends would graciously allow us to pay them to teach at our studio. He also said he’d be happy to teach five classes per week for pay, but would spend one day per week at the studio fielding calls and brainstorming ideas for free.

The businesswoman in me didn’t understand why he would be willing to help us do anything for free, but the yogi in me was proud to be a part of something where community came forward in times of need.

It was only a matter of time before this instructor was asking for shares in exchange for his “energy.”  He felt his wisdom was worth at least 15% of the company and that it would behoove us to keep him around to grow the business.

I immediately stated that we would continue to pay him for classes, but couldn’t promise anything extra for additional help based on the fact that we were operating in the red and shares needed to be retained for anyone bringing in actual money. Besides, considering we weren't paying ourselves for anything, shares were all we had. The instructor told me not to worry because we would “figure something out,” and then headed off to the Himalayas to study.

I knew well enough that you had to be clear in business, because “figure something out” is synonymous with “this is going to end poorly.” 

I wrote a letter to the instructor saying that we could not give away shares in exchange for his “energy”. The instructor was not happy. What resulted when he returned back to the city was more bizarre than anger. It was his need for me to listen and witness him as he explained to me how betrayed he felt. “You don’t see all that I am! You don’t honour me or my energy,” he yelled, as if honour was going to pay the rent or the phone bill. “Thank you for your energy,” I responded, thinking that gratitude would calm him.

“I don’t give a f@ck about your thank you. I need to get paid.”

So much for “karmic reasons”.

That was one of the pivotal moments in my understanding of the fact that, yoga or not, this was still business.

I realized that it doesn’t matter how long an instructor can hold a handstand if they’re a pain in the ass to work with.

Honour that.

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Spiritual E-mail Closures: Evolved or Obnoxious?

When I worked as a corporate event planner, the closures of e-mails were always very straightforward and professional.  Regards, Sincerely or a good old fashioned Thank You, followed by a comma and a name.  No casualness.  No smiley faces.  God help you – no exclamation points.

My time in the entertainment industry was less formal and more EXCITED!!  Lots of exclamation points – usually one per project!!!!!!!!  “LIFE IS GREAT AND I HAVE EVERYTHING TOGETHER!!!” surrounded by links to personal websites with an assortment of xoxoxos since everyone loves everyone in show biz.  Regards was replaced with Best or Talk Soon.  Less formal.  More transparent and looking for work.

Owning a yoga studio brought me e-mails with closures I never dreamed of.  I’m not talking about your spiritual garden variety of Peace or Love and Light.  Those I can handle.  Love and Light actually makes me feel warm and fuzzy, since it reminds me of one of my favourite childhood toys, the gloworm.  What I’m talking about here are spiritual e-mail closures that leave me baffled, curious or just plain giggling.  And it seems to me that the more spiritually evolved a person claims to be, the more curious (insert ridiculous and often obnoxious) their closures become.

“Infinite Blessings be upon you and yours”

This whimsical little number was at the end of online casinos an e-mail demanding that I pay a studio invoice that was past due.  The e-mail warned me that if there was not payment within 30 days, there would be consequences.  The e-mail was then signed ‘Infinite Blessings Be Upon You and Yours’ with a name.  This, my friends, is spiritual passive-aggressiveness at its finest.  The classic pre-closure “consequence and threat” with a post-body “self-righteous high road”.  I did what I had to do to pay the invoice, since the whole thing was an infinite pain in my ass.

“Namaste”

Personally speaking, I don’t think you should sign something Namaste unless you are fluent in Sanskrit.  Otherwise, it seems pretentious and awkward.  Kinda like Shakespearian actors who insist in speaking in liquid ‘U’s, even after closing night of Henry V.  How about peace?  Same meaning.  Simple.  English.

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“Yours in Cosmic Consciousness”

 This one is awesome.  It’s Milky Way meets Freud.  It came at the end of an e-mail asking me to pay lots of money for a workshop that was guaranteed to change the way I approach my yoga practice.  I seriously considered it.  I mean, who doesn’t want to be a part of the cosmic consciousness?

 “Yours in Body, Mind and Spirit”

 This one throws me in a kilt and takes me right back to Catholic school.  Reading it makes me feel like I should do the sign of the cross and say Amen.  It was the closure of an e-mail from someone I’d never met asking about teaching opportunities.  It didn’t make me want to hire him.

 “Hoping You’ll Join Me on the Path to Enlightenment”

This one is fantastic.  It came after a simple e-mail.  Something about wanting to rent our studio for a photo shoot.  Unless the e-mail is signed by Buddha, I don’t think anyone should ever use this.  Never.  Ever.

And so now I find myself confused as to how I should sign my e-mails.  I tried infinite peaceful blessings a couple of times, but the inauthenticity of it made me feel dirty.  I tried just signing my name for a while with no closure, but it seemed far too closed and unavailable.  Needless to say, I’m determined to try out different things until I find the right fit.

 Jazz Hands and Glitter,

Toni Grates

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Even Snookie Does Yoga

Coming up with a name for our studio was fairly challenging.  Sanskrit words were out, as were all words synonymous with breathing.  Yoga poses were also out, as was anything involving the words “energy, om, lotus or chakra”.  ”Toni Grates' Yoga Emporium” seemed like a mouthful and “Real Deal Yoga” left me tongue tied, so we decided to keep it simple and name the studio after our geographical location.

And Village Yoga Canada was born.

It was only a matter of weeks before we received a letter from Diane, the owner and founder of Village Yoga on the Jersey Shore.

Dear Village Yoga Canada,

I recently received an e-mail from one of your members thinking that we were you, which we’re not, because we’re us.  We are Village Yoga , serving the residents of the Jersey Shore.  You need to change your name, because this is going to get very confusing for our members and that’s not cool.  We had the name first and I don’t want my members getting confused.

I’m hoping you’re going to be ethical about this.

Namaste,

Diane

Unsure as to how anyone could confuse “Village Yoga Canada” with “Village Yoga on the Jersey Shore”, I e-mailed her back.

Dear Diane,

Thanks for your e-mail.  I’m sorry that you received an e-mail from one of our members in error.  We assure you that we’re not out to take members from you, especially since you’re 9-10 hours away from us.  We’ve named our studio after our geographical location and I would assume that your members will know we’re not you since the word “Canada” is a part of our name.  We’re happy to talk with you on the phone about this.  It is not our intention to be unethical about anything.

Thanks for your time,


Village Yoga Canada

I didn’t hear back from Diane for about 2 months.

Dear Village Yoga Canada,

I got another 4 e-mails from your members asking me questions about your schedule.  Clearly, I don’t have time for this and it’s getting in the way of the work I need to do at my studio.

I have no other option but to take legal action if you don’t immediately change your name.  I had Village Yoga first and it’s mine.

Namaste,

Diane from VILLAGE YOGA

At this point, for solely my own entertainment, I started imagining that Diane was Snookie from the hit reality show Jersey Shore and that all her members were foul mouthed Jersey Shore brats, who went to yoga to pick up.

Diane,

We’re not changing our name since we’ve legally been advised that it is available in Canada and since there is really no way that your members could possibly confuse “Village Yoga on the Jersey Shore” with “Village Yoga Canada”.

We’re sorry that our members have again contacted you.  Since our e-mail addresses are fairly similar, we will figure out a new address to go by.

This is yoga, right?  So there’s no need for lawsuits.

Thanks for understanding,

Village Yoga CANADA

It was another month of silence before Snookie resurfaced.

Village Yoga Canada,

 I have a log of 13 people who have contacted us thinking we are you.  I used to work in NYC and I know a LOT of good lawyers.  You will be hearing from one of them VERY soon, since you insist on being unethical.

 I have no choice but to sue you for damages.

Namaste,

Village Yoga on the Jersey Shore

I never did hear from Diane’s lawyer.  I’m assuming it’s because she looked at a map and realized that the Jersey Shore is nowhere near Toronto, Canada.  Or maybe she took the time to reflect on the wise and immortal words of Snookie herself:

“I’m gonna do me.  You do you.”

(Jersey Shore, MTV)

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I feel for you, Chakra Khan.

Published June 15, 2012 on RecoveringYogi.com

By Toni Grates 

For those of you who’ve never heard much about chakras (really?), they’re energy centers along the spine, beginning at the base and moving upward to the top of the skull.  Each energy centre correlates with specific emotional qualities and overstimulation (or under stimulation) of the chakras can have a negative impact.

Here’s my story of what owning a yoga studio will actually do to your chakras.

You get a divine message in your Crown Chakra that it would be a brilliant idea to open a yoga studio.  You’re driven by the thought of all the good you’ll do for the world and all the beautiful karma you’ll create.  Your Third Eye celebrates as it simultaneously takes a good hard look at the capital involved in launching the studio and keeping it above water.  You’re impeccable with your word and kind to everyone, keeping your Throat Chakra spinning in the healthiest of ways.

IYour Heart Chakra guides you as you let people with no money practice for free, and it makes sure the instructors are paid properly, sweeping your own financial needs to the side since, really, you’re happy to be paid in karma.  Your Solar Plexus shines brightly as you stand squarely in your personal power, grabbing organic shakes every morning in order to keep your digestion squeaky clean.  Creativity is pouring out of you as you brainstorm all the incredible things you and your Sacral Chakra will offer to your new members, spending all your extra time perfecting the newsletter and coming up with innovative ways to sell yoga.

At a certain point—since your Heart Chakra decided to pay everyone else first—your Root Chakra is wondering how you’re going to pay the rent, or your own personal mortgage for that matter.  Your relationship with your business partner is strained and you’re at each other’s Throat Chakras.  Your Heart Chakra is dimming as more and more people come in looking for free yoga, and your Crown Chakra wonders how the f*ck you’re going to pay the bills.  You put a patch on your Third Eye since you can’t bear to look at the reality of how much you owe compared to how much is coming in, and you finally admit to yourself Betway Casino tilbyr 2 velkomstbonuser som til sammen har en verdi pa $1000 pa dine forste 2 innskudd. that there was a little voice screaming at you not to do this in the first place.

Anxiety is crippling your solar plexus.

You can’t afford daily smoothies anymore, replacing them with any available caffeinated beverage, so your digestion has gone to hell in a hand basket.  You force your Throat Chakra to tell the landlord you can’t pay $9400 a month for rent anymore, and he explains that he can evict your Root Chakra at any time and come after you personally for the remaining five years of rent unless you find a sub-leaser.  At this point, your Sacral Chakra anxiety is spinning feverishly out of control and you’re considering which addiction to take part in to numb your pain.

After you get to the point of wanting to ring your business partner’s Throat Chakra because his head is up his Root Chakra, you finally reach enlightenment and realize you haven’t practiced in months and you’re miserable.  You’ve had Strep Throat Chakra four times in a year, probably because you’re not living “authentically,” so you force your Third Eye-lid open and trust your gut as it screams at you to get the f*ck out of the yoga business and go home to your family.

I’ve always advocated for heart over crown, but make sure your third eye is WIDE open when you embark on this kind of venture.  Otherwise, you’re gonna get it right up the root!

 About Toni Grates

Toni Grates opened a yoga studio because she thought it would solve all her problems.  After 13 months in yoga hell, she shut the doors and peacefully went back to the real world.  She’s a mom and bonus mom (so much nicer than “step-mom”) who loves all things creative.  Post-studio, she has gone back to her love of writing with more material than she ever thought possible.  You can follow her adventures at www.namastebitchesblog.com.

 

 

Sacred doesn't sell – you gotta have a gimmick!

We all know that yoga has been in the East for centuries, where students study their whole lives before daring to call themselves “teacher” at which time they humbly impart their wisdom onto others.  In the East, yoga is a way of life and something sacred.

In the West, that doesn’t matter because we know everything.

That’s right.  Here in the West, where we have mastered the art of exploitation and cashing in, it’s a sure bet that sacred won’t sell.  As the Gospel of Broadway’s Gypsy proclaims, “Kid, you gotta have a gimmick, if you wanna get ahead!”

I can hear some of you taking deep belly breaths already.  Rest assured, it’ll sell in a church basement, a community centre or someone’s backyard, but when we’re talking high overhead – we’re talking go big or go home yoga and it better be something you can’t get around the corner.

There’s “Laughing Yoga” for those looking to cultivate joy.  “Yoga for Athletes” since a regular class won't do.  “Groove Yoga” for the musically inclined.  “Hip Hop Yoga” to celebrate your inner urban dancer.  And, of course, there’s DOGA.

Doggie Yoga.

I’d first heard about DOGA in 2004 when I lived in Los Angeles.  At the time, I lived in an affordable mixed bag pocket right between David Schwimmer’s neighbourhood and a Sketchy Gang Neighbourhood.  4 times a week I’d walk to a well known and highly respected yoga studio that happened to offer DOGA on Tuesdays.  At first I thought it was a joke, but after seeing the human treatment dogs got in LA – doggie spa, anyone? – I realized this was very real and very lucrative.

I didn’t have a dog, because I’m allergic (and jameshallison casino by allergic, I mean, not a dog lover), but I excitedly wrote home about it nonetheless, sharing the concept with my friends for entertainment’s sake.

Cut to 2011.

My friend and colleague contacts me about a new show she’s producing for the pet channel.  It’s a show about things you can do with your dogs.  You know where this is going, right?

“I’m not going to lie,” I tell her, “I’m not a huge dog person.”

“Don’t worry,” she assures me, “It’ll be fun.”  “Most important,” she asks, “Does your studio offer DOGA?”

Does my studio offer DOGA on a national lifestyle television series that lots of people will see with advertising for our studio and therefore potential revenue?

Of course we offer DOGA.

And…ACTION.  8 dogs with their owners bonding through yoga.  We laughed a lot.  This was more about community and good old fashioned entertainment than anything, but ultimately it was also a potential new revenue stream.

I focused on the idea of community building since I felt dirty thinking about how this hybrid might be angering the Yoga Gods.  Ultimately, post tv show, I stopped advertising it since I didn’t feel I was being authentic offering it.  Let's face it,  dogs aren't really my passion and sweeping up dog fur and disinfecting floors is time consuming.  I really do think that being able to fully stand behind and endorse what you’re selling is key to the success of any business, since passion and enthusiasm will take you for miles before real revenue kicks in.  Before you do something, ask yourself  “Is what I’m about to do in response to my passion or my panic?” and you’ll never go wrong.  I panicked many times, which bit me in my asana on more than one occasion.

I’m not against yoga hybrids, but there are many yoga purists who are.  I can’t blame them really.  It cheapens and degrades a tradition that’s been around for centuries.  It’s arrogant and proves that Eastern yoga hasn’t entirely made it to the West.

But it sells and it makes your studio cool.  Two things that are of the utmost importance to keeping your studio in business.

So, for those of you looking to take your yoga studio to the next level, I’ve come up with some new hybrids.  Please feel free to use these.  Consider them my gift to the yoga community:

BOGA

Bollywood Yoga!

 This fantastic flow will take you straight to Bombay and back with sizzling colours and hand gestures to match.

FOGA

Fencing meets yoga!

 This fun hybrid will knock your non-existent socks off.  Take your warrior series to the next level.  Sun salutations will be interspersed will sword work.  Must have your own sword to participate.

WOGA

Yoga underwater!

Embrace one of the four elements and create buoyancy in your practice.  Must bring your own oxygen tank.  We highly suggest investing in organic oxygen, which can be purchased at our studio for one million dollars.

ZOGA

Yoga at the zoo!

Let the sight, sounds and smells of the animals inspire your practice – a great way to expand your idea of community to include all of the animal kingdom.  Weather permitting.

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"Opening a Yoga Studio Will Not Solve All Your Problems" by Guru Grates

In the summer of 2009, while travelling Eastbound on the Queen Streetcar, my doctor called to tell me I was pregnant.  At the time I was a single writer/actor living alone in mid-town Toronto working crazy hours and auditioning daily.  My boyfriend and I were open to having a baby and, being 34, thought it might take a while before I got pregnant.  Little did I know it would take me only 3 weeks.

Within a year, I was a new mom and a new step-mom living in my now fiance's small 2 bedroom condo with my own personal belongings in storage in my parents’ basement.

It was all very Jolie-Pitt Clan, except with far less millions.  My Indo-Canadian husband, his 2 Indo-Filipino children, Italian-American me and my Indo-Italian-Canadian-American baby.

Very.  United.  Nations.

The lack of space, my raging hormones and the challenging dynamics of our new family made me feel like a crazy person.  I didn't trust that I was going to be able to go from party of 1 to party of 5 without completely overhauling my life – without being “normal”.

So, on Easter Sunday of 2010, with my 4 week old baby in my arms, I stood up and announced to my family that I would be giving up my writing and acting career to open a yoga studio.  This was the answer to all my problems!  I would create a peaceful oasis of zen and tranquility.  A safe haven.   I could bring the baby to work and make money, all while making the world a better place.  Perfect!!  I was normal!!  I was finally normal!!!!

Sure, I was hormonal and sleep deprived.  Sure, my c-section stitches were still healing.  Sure, I wasn’t even a certified yoga instructor.  Details!  Details!

I lactated my way through yoga teacher training and opened the studio in a trendy Toronto neighborhood almost exactly 5 months after I made my big announcement.  What followed was 13 of the most disastrous months of my life.  Screw zen and tranquility.  I was in yoga hell.

I think it's safe to say that opening a yoga studio will NOT solve all your problems.

Eventually, after my close friends and fiance helped peel back my white knuckled grip on this sinking ship, I knew it was time to let go.  I arranged for a nearby studio to take on our members, sold everything I could to pay the instructors and cried the entire way home.  I let myself feel like a failure for exactly 3 days and then started writing a book, committed to turning my problems around, finding the humour and being resilient.

Thank God for humour.

It took me 3 months to finish my book and I'm now in a very fortunate situation to have interest from several publishers on both sides of the border.  I've come full circle; working as an actor and a writer again.  It feels good to be back where I belong and I'm thankful for all the new material.

Opening a yoga studio may not have solved all my problems, but it sure did help solve my writer's block!

I was encouraged by an editor at HarperCollins to start this blog up again since I had such a great response the first time I wrote it.  I'll share my adventures of yoga, motherhood and step-motherhood, always committed to finding the humour.  Your comments are always welcome.

Namaste Bitches!

Toni Grates


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