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Holly Beck

​Savasana: The Crown Jewel of Yoga Asana

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Though we follow different traditions of yoga asana, most all lead us to the final destination of relaxation, savasana. The practice of asana prepares our students’ minds and bodies for deeper awareness, by which savasana is the gateway. Savasana is subtle, a practice that builds the foundation for meditation and pratyahara. As yoga teachers, we can prepare our students for a deep savasana practice once we comprehend why we do it, and how.

Savasana integrates asana and ujjayi breathing on a deep level. It also serves as a transition from the formal practice of yoga into the outside world. Many students fall asleep during savasana, which is normal, but not the intent of the practice. The body becomes fatigued from the work of a balanced asana practice, while the mind becomes focused and calm through concentrated breathing. In savasana, the needs of the body and mind are transcended, and true relaxation and release can take place.

In savasana, some yogis may experience a dreamlike state, not quite like sleep, but unconscious nonetheless. Others may simply lose themselves, remembering nothing but the lingering stillness after the practice is complete. And some may have experiences beyond the mind and body that defy explanation. Because of the subtle nature of savasana, it is best to let whatever comes come, and to speak little of the inward nature of the practice. To articulate into words what cannot be perceived by the intellect bypasses the mysterious nature of our connection to the unknown. Just like yoga asana, some sessions are difficult, and some come with gentle ease, but in the end, savasana is a practice– a process to apply again and again.

From the outset, savasana appears to be simple and defined. Lie down, close your eyes, do nothing. However, for yoga teachers to hold space for our students to enter this deep state of relaxation, we require technical know-how, practice, and attentiveness. If your students are restless in savasana– fidgeting, coughing, or are lying with their eyes open, implementing the following techniques will help you to prepare them for deeper restoration. First, a balanced asana practice, with both rigor and cool down, is essential. The body must be worked in order to access the mind, and that work must be released in order to fully relax. Offering a cooling sequence about 10 minutes long is effective, especially if the final poses are done on the back, such as jathara parivattanasana, Revolved Belly Pose. Next, allow for 5 minutes of deep ujjayi breathing, either lying down or sitting up. Smoothly transitioning your students from the dynamic practice of asana into meditative breathing will prepare them to relax and will support the integrative process of savasana.
Creating a calming environment during the cool down portion of your class will subconsciously prepare your students for savasana. Dim the lights if possible, or turn them off completely. Slowly lower the volume of your regular music until it is mute prior to beginning your breath exercises. Similarly, begin to soften your instructional voice and slow your cadence as you bring your students into their final postures. I find that using the same words to guide my students to the floor, class after class, signals a state of relaxation, with each instruction slower and quieter than the last. Encourage your students to lie down quietly with minimal movement. Instruct them, practice after practice, to relax, to be still, and to let go. Finally, play a rhythmic selection of music especially reserved for savasana, ideally, without words that the mind can grab ahold of.

While your students are journeying inward, it is important for you, as the teacher, to reinforce the subtle work of their practice. Savasana is not a time for a teacher to check their phone, to leave the room and socialize in the reception area of the studio, or any number of things that might pull attention away from the students. Savasana is a time for you to go inward, as well. During savasana, you can sit in silent introspection, chant mantra in your mind, or lie down quietly. Be present in the subtly of the practice, for this space is our forum of learning, as much as it is for our teaching.
Allow your students to remain in savasana for at least 5 minutes, and then slowly, softly, and quietly draw them out of their inner space by bringing awareness back to the breath. Take several breaths yourself and give ample silence between your cueing in allowance for the deep state your students are coming out of. Encourage gentle movements before the greater motion of turning to a side. Patiently guide them to a seated position, and end your class as appropriate. In this way, the effects of the entire practice of asana, ujjayi, and savasana will stay with your students long after they leave the studio space. In the end, savasana is the crowning jewel of an asana practice, one that can touch the heart and souls of all who practice it.

Holly Beck is an experienced, advanced yoga instructor with nearly twenty years of teaching and mentoring experience. Classically trained in the tradition of the Sri Vidya lineage, Holly’s class promises an authentic yoga experience for practitioners of all levels with steady pacing, a continuous meditation on breath, and masterful sequencing. While she enjoys all levels of yoga, Holly’s true gift is working with pregnant women. Holly’s specialized prenatal yoga practice, The Yoga Of Birth, has prepared hundreds of women for empowered birthing experiences. Holly holds degrees in English and the Science of Health and Wellness from the University of California, Berkeley. Her work has been featured in the journal of Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, and she is recognized by the Doula Association of Southern California as a leader in prenatal education. Holly is currently developing a sustainable, rural retreat center for conscientious living in Costa Rica. For more information, please visit www.seedsofloveproject.org. Holly also regularly writes content for YogaRenew Teacher Training.

Teaching Yoga Through Difficult Situations

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Generally, yoga classes are predictable and constant. As a teacher, I find yoga students are mostly amiable and open to instruction, whether they are new to the practice, or I am the new instructor to an established class. Occasionally, however, situations arise in class that are challenging to us as teachers, and we must gracefully navigate the interference to insure a quality practice for the whole. Here, I offer you some common disruptions to a yoga practice, and techniques for keeping your sequence, students, and focus undisturbed.

1. Students Who Come Late or Leave Early

Sh!t happens: traffic, family issues, deadlines at work, a missed morning alarm clock… While the reasons may vary, tardiness is an occurrence that you can prepare for. Studio protocol varies. Some studios lock the door 15 minutes after class has begun. Some, like group exercise classes at a health club, have an open door policy. Once a late student has entered the asana room, it is the responsibility of the teacher to include them into the practice as smoothly as possible.

Lets run a few scenarios: You are guiding your opening mediation. All eyes are closed, and the room is quiet and still. A late student arrives with a rolled mat, a large bag, and a frazzled demeanor. Oftentimes, the late student is unaware of their disruptive effect on the class, and will noisily drop their bag, loudly walk to an open spot, and thwack down their mat. Before this can happen, silently go to them and indicate for the bag to be set down by the door, which eliminates the unnecessary sounds. Guide them to an open spot in the room, and gently take their rolled up mat into your hands, and set it down on the floor. Ask the student to quietly sit down, and wait to unroll the mat until movement begins. To anticipate late comers of this sort alleviates unnecessary disruption, and sets a standard for entering the asana space with awareness.

Another instance: It is twenty minutes into class and the studio door is locked. You are demonstrating Sun Salutes, and all of your students watching your instruction. A latecomer arrives, tries the door to no avail, and begins knocking loudly. Despite the interruption, you are beholden to class in progress. You are building their heart rate and establishing your pacing and flow. To stop your instruction, open the door, and guide the student into the asana room at this point is to prioritize the latecomer over the practice already in session. In this situation, it is best to leave the door locked, and continue teaching. If your studio has a policy of locking the door, avoid logistical issues with a notice stating the door is locked so many minutes after class has begun. Honoring the class schedule and the sanctity of the practice space by consistently locking the door at the specified time will teach your students timeliness and responsibility. In an alternate situation, with an unlocked door, the late student can enter and jump into the practice with little guidance. In this case, carry on with instruction, bringing as little attention to latecomer as possible.

After class, you can connect with your students and give them instruction on how they can gracefully enter the class late. Advise them to turn their phone off, put their keys away, take off their shoes, and open their mat all prior to entering the asana room. Encourage them to walk softly and find the nearest open space to practice. With guidance, even chronically late students can enter the asana space with little disruption, and receive the benefits of the practice.

On the flip side, students can abruptly pack up their belongings and leave the class before it’s done. Though the reasons vary, generally a student will let you know if they have to leave early. Usually this student will sit by the door, in anticipation of their departure. Encourage your student to sit and take five slow meditative breathes before they leave to properly conclude their practice. The best time to leave the practice early is just after asana, but prior to pranayama and mediation. Avoid situations where students leave during shavasana. Any disturbance in at this point in the practice is unsettling. If you have had this experience before, it is acceptable to let your entire class know that if they need to leave, do so before the lights are dimmed. This sets a standard for early departures in the future.

2. Attention Seeking Behaviors

Some students need more of your attention in class than others. New students may require additional instruction, injuries may need extra modifications, and misalignments need to be corrected. These conditions are normal to any class, and highlight your versatility as an instructor. However, there are students who regularly draw attention to themselves. Identifying attention seeking behaviors, or high needs students, will help you to conserve your energy and maintain the focus of your class. Though attention seeking behaviors vary, certain attributes can be addressed in order to maintain harmony and flow in your practice.

Some attention seeking behaviors present themselves easily. There is the student who talks during class, either to you, or to other students. To respond to this student encourages on-going dialogue. To allow for conversation among your students during class is a distraction to others. In response, you can offer the direction of “just breathe,” to the class as a whole, or discreetly remind the talkative student(s) to focus on their ujjayi. There is the student who exaggerates and dramatizes their poses and transitions, adding extra movement or flair that draws the attention of other students. As a teacher, pay no mind to their personal space. What draws your focus will also draw your students’ focus. In time, you can build your relationship with this student, and refine their transitions and postures as their trust in you deepens. There is the student who displays their discomfort as a call for attention. This may take the form of groans, moans, sighs, and vocal releases in postures they have aversion to. Again, direct the class as a whole to breathe in and out through their nose. In the case of excessive sounds, remind everyone that asana gets easier with practice and to “stay with it” for however many breaths remain in that pose. Finally, for the student who is restless or excessively coughing during shavasana, you can show them how to use blankets or bolsters to prop themselves up, elevating their chest for additional comfort. Sometimes, a small, individualized technique is enough for a student to feel special, which alleviates their need to seek out further attention.

My policy as a teacher is to treat all students equally, without focusing attention on one student more than another. Recognize the variance of one student receiving more assistance than others in terms of adjustments, instruction, or interaction. From there, assess if you are prompting the additional attention, or if the student is. For example, adjusting the same student several times during class, whereas others are not adjusted at all, creates imbalance among your students. The student receiving the adjustments may feel singled out, while the other students may feel ignored. Conversely, a high-needs student may feel entitled to personalized attention, and may even keep you after class with questions if you did not focus on them personally during class. If this happens regularly, take advantage of the opportunity to suggest private lessons. In this way, you can assert professional boundaries and your attention seeking student will benefit from the one-on-one instruction.

Ultimately, you, as the teacher, set the tone and focus for your class. If an occurrence distracts you, it will distract your class. If you are prepared for the unexpected, unperturbed, your students will be as well. If you giggle when a student passes gas, your class will giggle with you. If you carry on like nothing happened, no one will be the wiser. The truth is, yoga classes are not a stage for us as teachers, nor should they be focused on any one student. The essence of teaching is to share practice of yoga, regardless of the individual players. Each student is on his or her unique developmental path, and we, as teachers, are there to simply guide them through an unadulterated and consistent practice. As teachers, we maintain the sanctity of the asana space and our sequences so that the yoga can impress itself upon our students with as little interference as possible. Challenging situations will arise in your classes, and each will offer you the opportunity for introspection, growth, and refinement of your teaching skills.





Holly Beck is an experienced, advanced yoga instructor with nearly twenty years of teaching and mentoring experience. Classically trained in the tradition of the Sri Vidya lineage, Holly’s class promises an authentic yoga experience for practitioners of all levels with steady pacing, a continuous meditation on breath, and masterful sequencing. While she enjoys all levels of yoga, Holly’s true gift is working with pregnant women. Holly’s specialized prenatal yoga practice, The Yoga Of Birth, has prepared hundreds of women for empowered birthing experiences. Holly holds degrees in English and the Science of Health and Wellness from the University of California, Berkeley. Her work has been featured in the journal of Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, and she is recognized by the Doula Association of Southern California as a leader in prenatal education. Holly is currently developing a sustainable, rural retreat center for conscientious living in Costa Rica. For more information, please visit www.seedsofloveproject.org.

Pregnancy & Ayurveda Practices

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Pregnancy, when viewed through the scope of Ayurveda, is a natural state of being for a woman’s body. Inclusions of simple Ayurvedic practices can make pregnancy more comfortable, healthier, and more enjoyable for a mother-to-be. The application of Ayurvedic wisdom can balance, nourish, and support an expectant mother physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Pregnancy, when experienced from this balanced state, may be the healthiest, happiest, and most fulfilling season of a woman’s life.

Apana vayu is the subtle downward movement of energy within the body, and the key to maintaining a pregnancy to full term. Certain therapies, exercises, and herbs may disturb apana vayu. Therefore, the intent of this article is Ayurvedic insight, rather than a treatment protocol. Due to the complexities of pregnancy, it is wise to leave treatments in the hands of experienced Ayurvedic practitioners.

All three doshas are naturally empathized during pregnancy. Pregnancy is a process of change, expansion, and creation, which are qualities of Vata. In pregnancy, the metabolism increases, bringing warmth to the body, which are qualities of Pitta. Kapha is the most dominate dosha during pregnancy, signified by the increase of body weight and size. The succession of changes during pregnancy interplays with an expectant mother’s constitution, her baby’s constitution, and the environment around her.

A woman’s nutritional needs are increased during pregnancy in both quality and quantity. She needs more calories, more calcium, more protein, and more iron. Eating intuitively, according to her body’s current condition, is preferable to choosing food based on constitution alone. On a subtle level, the baby’s needs may be sensed by the mother and expressed in her food preferences. She should eat sattvic foods, those that are pure and fresh. The most sattvic foods are those that are organically grown and offer the best source of vitamins and minerals. She should avoid tamastic foods, foods that are processed or left over. Food cravings should be satisfied by appealing to the basic tastes prescribed by an Ayurvedic diet, avoiding refined sugars, very spicy foods, cold or frozen foods, or those high in additives.

Eating has a direct effect on the doshas. The common side effects of pregnancy are the result of eating foods that promote imbalance, or eating foods that are not nutritionally optimal. Morning sickness and mood swings are connected to low blood sugar. Backaches, hypertension, and severe pain during childbirth are linked to insufficient calcium. Varicose veins, hemorrhoids, constipation, and skin discolorations are evidence of a lack of nutrients. Pre-eclampsia, pregnancy induced high-blood pressure, is a severe pregnancy complication, and a form of acute malnourishment. Herbal tonics can improve general health by helping to balance the doshas. In Ayurveda, special herbal tonics have been used in childbirth for thousands years, and are considered to be relatively safe. Many references are available as to which tonics are appropriate for specific needs, as is professional consultation.

In Ayurveda, the process of digestion is of equal importance to eating. Ayurveda suggests eating only when the previous meal has been digested, avoiding foods where there are known difficulties with digestion, and not drinking too much liquid with meals, especially cold drinks. Generally, cooked, moist, soft and warm foods are easier to digest than raw, cold foods. Signs of poor digestion include gas, belching, stomachaches, and intestinal discomforts. Adding digestive herbs to food will aid the process of digestion. Some digestive herbs that are safe for pregnancy include mints, tarragon, cardamom, jasmine, cumin, cinnamon, and basil. Papaya contains digestive enzymes, but may increase Pitta if used frequently.

And while bodily nutrition is essential, the heart-and-soul nourishment of the mother and baby is just as vital. By increasing her sentiments of deep love, the mother creates a more sattvic womb for her baby to grow and develop in. She should surround her self with people who are supportive and uplifting. Further, she should avoid disturbing images and forms of violent entertainment. The mother’s home should be beautiful and peaceful, with fresh clean air and natural light.

In her Ayurvedic essays, Terra Richardson of Cambridge University explains that a baby is physically conscious of his or her gestational development through the mother’s sense organs. Ancient Ayurveda acknowledges the development of the fetus’s sense organs through ceremonial rites preformed during different stages of pregnancy. According to Richardson, a modern-day pregnant woman can feed her baby’s senses by increasing the quality of her sensory input. She should “see beautiful and loving things, listen to loving and melodious sounds, touch pleasing things, and be touched in loving ways, taste wholesome tastes, and smell fragrant odors.” In other words, by surrounding herself in a beautiful, supportive, and loving environment, a mother’s womb becomes an equally safe, nourishing, and peaceful space for her baby’s consciousness to develop in.

During the eighth month of pregnancy the mother’s ojas, vital fluids, move from her to her baby. This is a time to eat ojas producing foods like ghee, dates, milk, and apricots. Staying at home and resting will conserve the vitality of the mother and her baby. She should avoid energy wasting activities in favor of letting her focus go inward. The final weeks of pregnancy lend themselves effortlessly to reflection, meditation, and deep, soulful contemplation. It is important that she avoids anger, does not overwork herself, does not experience hunger, and abstains from drugs, devitalized foods, and excessive intercourse.

Though it is best to consult with qualified health care practitioners, simple day-to-day Ayurvedic applications can make the season of pregnancy more enjoyable. Many common side effects of pregnancy can be avoided with preventative care and holistic treatments. Well-balanced nutrition, appropriate exercise, and relaxation techniques can combine to create strong, confident mothers and healthy babies. Physical and emotional balance, fortified with love and support builds and sustains the vitality of both the mother and her baby. From this sattvic state, a woman can deepen the connection between her and her baby, her and her mate, and enhance her awareness of self.



Holly Beck is an experienced, advanced yoga instructor with nearly twenty years of teaching and mentoring experience. Classically trained in the tradition of the Sri Vidya lineage, Holly’s class promises an authentic yoga experience for practitioners of all levels with steady pacing, a continuous meditation on breath, and masterful sequencing. While she enjoys all levels of yoga, Holly’s true gift is working with pregnant women. Holly’s specialized prenatal yoga practice, The Yoga Of Birth, has prepared hundreds of women for empowered birthing experiences. Holly holds degrees in English and the Science of Health and Wellness from the University of California, Berkeley. Her work has been featured in the journal of Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, and she is recognized by the Doula Association of Southern California as a leader in prenatal education. Holly is currently developing a sustainable, rural retreat center for conscientious living in Costa Rica. For more information, please visit www.seedsofloveproject.org.

Basic Prenatal Yoga Modifications

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Pregnancy is the perfect time to begin or maintain a yoga practice. A pregnant woman can benefit immensely from yoga’s calming effects and preparative powers. Oftentimes, her health care provider will recommend yoga for her overall wellbeing, and she may visit a general hatha yoga class with an instructor may not be trained in prenatal yoga modifications. Though it is recommended that an expectant mother attend specialized prenatal yoga classes, general yoga asana classes can be made appropriate for pregnant students with a few basic, yet vital, modifications.

It is beneficial to distinguish two types of prenatal students: those who have been practicing yoga consistently for a length of time prior to conception, and have continued to practice during their pregnancy, and those who are new to yoga, or are returning to yoga prenatally after a long absence. It is prudent to take this variance into consideration when modifying their asana practice. I adjust the poses and alignment of established practitioners very little, outside of contraindication. A practiced yogi knows her body and her preferences on the mat. As a rule, a seasoned yogi can maintain her regular practice as long as she feels comfortable, is free of pain, and is following the advice of her health care provider. Giving her the space to practice what comes naturally will allow her intuition to develop on the mat. She may derive her own prenatal modifications as her pregnancy progresses by sensing her body from within, a necessary skill for navigating the internal processes of childbirth.

The practice of a newcomer, or returning student, will need to be suited for her phase of pregnancy, whether is she is in the first trimester, and doesn’t look pregnant yet, or is in the full abundance of her final weeks of gestation. Generally, avoid overheating expectant students with rigorous Sun Salutes, vinyasas, or a warm room without proper ventilation. Deter students with a baby bump from lying on their bellies, or flat on their backs, by offering different poses with similar outcomes, such as an easy Camel Pose instead of Locust Pose. Introduce alternatives to inversions, like legs-up-the-wall-pose with a bolster pillow under the spine to elevate the heart. It is important to keep all twisting positions very simple, wherein the front of the body can remain open by turning away from the legs, and not towards them. Finally, an ideal position for shavasana is lying on the left side with a blanket between the legs and another under the head.

Throughout pregnancy, both well practiced and beginner yoga students should implement the fundamentals of prenatal alignment. Beginning with the feet, the pregnant stance should always be hip’s distance apart, or a little wider, as opposed to toes touching. Standing with the feet hip’s distance apart distributes weight more evenly through the feet, supporting healthy foot arches, and providing room for the widening pelvis. The curve in the lower back becomes emphasized in pregnancy, which can result in the most common prenatal discomfort, lumbar lordosis. This results in the waddle often seen in the gaits of pregnant woman, and is associated with lower back pain and fatigue. Encourage your pregnant student to turn her toes slightly inwards to mitigate this common symptom of pregnancy. In the beginning, she may feel pigeon-footed, but with practice, this stance will become the new norm, allowing her to lift up and out of her lower back. Turning the toes inward takes weight off the femoral heads, and alleviates stress in the sacroiliac joints and lower back. The wide legged, inward toed stance, paired with a slightly bent knee, lengthens the spine and supports a proper gait without the pregnancy waddle.

Maintaining the aforementioned bend in the knees will greatly enhance mobility and flexibility in your prenatal students. Forward folds, when practiced with proper foot alignment and deeply bent knees, can be safely practiced during pregnancy, creating much needed length in the back of the body. Modified Sun Salutes can be practiced if the feet are in proper alignment and the knees are softened, as can squats, which prepares the legs and pelvic floor for the rigors of childbirth. Keeping the knees bent insures proper blood flow between the lower and upper regions of the body, and lessens the likelihood of sciatic nerve pain or lightheadedness. Though the legs may be straight in some poses, such as trikonasana, Triangle Pose, your pregnant students should always be reminded to not lock their knees, instead keeping the joints softened, focusing more on widening and flattening the feet to stay grounded in the pose.

Allow prenatal students to release and relax after each segment of poses, whether she is standing, sitting, or reclining. Regular releases of the hips and shoulders, elbows and knees, wrists and ankles, should be implemented, along with full exhales through the mouth. Watch her face for tension, especially in her mouth, jaw, and brow, and encourage her to soften her expression. By exhaling through the mouth, subtle tension is released from within, and a soft face increases the relaxation of the uterine muscles and pelvic floor. Swaying motions, such as hip rotations, arm swings, leg rolls, and the like, should be utilized during an asana practice to encourage fluidity and release. All of these techniques are a natural go-to for release and relaxation both in the yoga studio and the birth room.

The presence of an expectant mother practicing yoga is a blessing to any yoga class. Through the comprehension and incorporation of basic prenatal modifications, you, as a yoga teacher, can feel comfortable welcoming a pregnant student into your class regardless of your level of certification or personal experience with pregnancy. You can support your students during their prenatal season by encouraging them through the practice of yoga as they transition into motherhood. With attentiveness to the breath, proper alignment, and enough release to balance the rigor, your prenatal students can have an authentic yogic experience in your trusted care.




Holly Beck is an experienced, advanced yoga instructor with nearly twenty years of teaching and mentoring experience. Classically trained in the tradition of the Sri Vidya lineage, Holly’s class promises an authentic yoga experience for practitioners of all levels with steady pacing, a continuous meditation on breath, and masterful sequencing. While she enjoys all levels of yoga, Holly’s true gift is working with pregnant women. Holly’s specialized prenatal yoga practice, The Yoga Of Birth, has prepared hundreds of women for empowered birthing experiences. Holly holds degrees in English and the Science of Health and Wellness from the University of California, Berkeley. Her work has been featured in the journal of Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, and she is recognized by the Doula Association of Southern California as a leader in prenatal education. Holly is currently developing a sustainable, rural retreat center for conscientious living in Costa Rica. For more information, please visit www.seedsofloveproject.org.

An Ayurveda Primer

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Ayurveda has made its way into popular Western culture, though by and large, it is still a mystery to most. For those of us who have not been raised a culture where Ayurvedic philosophy is at the core of our perceptions and practices, it can take a lifetime to comprehend. Typically, in Western societies, Ayurvedic practitioners take a two-year certification course. In Eastern traditions, though Ayurveda is part of the collective consciousness, most practitioners have been trained at doctorate levels, or have studied with masters through classic oral traditions of unbroken lineage. To really know and embody Ayurveda, we would have to travel to the East and spend incalculable amounts of time in deep study with the masters of ancient traditions, which is scarcely the reality for many of us.

Outside of renouncing our Western lives for a medical school-length period of time with the masters of yore, how can we both learn Ayurvedic principles and inculcate them within our lives? Take an online quiz to determine our dosha (body constitution)? Self diagnose and treat perceived imbalances with herbs from our local health food store? Invest hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars on Ayurvedic treatments from a certified practitioner, only to find that such remedies are subtle, and require months, if not years of implementation to soothe our ailments?

Perhaps the most prudent course of action is to expand our perception to include a new vantage, a new point of view. Let’s compare the science of Ayurveda to the color spectrum. Just as there are three primary colors that combine to create all colors visible to our eyes, so to are there three primary aspects to Ayurveda. The three basic elements of Ayurveda are the prakruti, our original state of being, the vikruti, our current state of being, and the gunas, the elemental qualities of being. These states, though separate and integral, come into flux with one another in the creation of our body constitution and senses.

The prakruti is the essence of our being in balance, determined upon conception. The prakruti is the balance of the three doshas (vata, pitta, and kapha), along with the fixation of our unique psychology and physiology. The prakruti is our inherent tendencies towards certain attributes, such as our body type, emotional proclivity, and our intellect. These attributes generally remain consistent throughout our lifetimes, with each of the three doshas present in varying degrees. Our body constitutions are as unique as a fingerprint, and are defined by the ratio of the three doshas in relation to one another.

An interaction between the environment and ourselves occurs from moment we are conceived. This is the interaction with all manifestation, both within the womb and out, including, but not limited to: nutrition, seasonality, day-to-day weather, social interactions, contagions, and exposures. Health and wellness depends on maintaining the ideal ratio of the three doshas in relation these factors. If one or more of the doshas become vitiated, imbalanced, symptoms of disease can present themselves. This dis-ease may be subtle, displaying itself within the intellectual or emotional body, or gross, manifesting in sickness of the physical body. The variance away from the prakruti is known as the vikruti, meaning “after creation” in Sanskrit. The main work of the Ayurvedic practitioner is to establish the display of the vikruti, the variance of the doshas, in relation to the prakruti. In ideal health, the prakruti and the vikruti are equal.

The basis of Ayurvedic practice is to identify environmental disturbances within lifestyle practices, and derive a treatment that balances the current state of the doshas. Qualities of being, known as the gunas, range from gross to subtle. Just as there are three distinct doshas, there are three specific gunas: tamas, rajas, and sattva. Tamas is most gross, and is associated with kapha (earth and water). Its qualities are dull, inert, and heavy. Rajas, the intermediary guna, is associated with pitta (fire and water). Rajas is the quality of transformation, heat, and activation. Sattva, the subtlest quality, is associated with vata (air and ether). It is the quality of illumination, purity, and clarity. The display of the gunas indicates the vikruti. For example, a kapha constitution in a tamastic state may be overweight, sluggish, and have difficulty remembering. Before moving to a sattvic state, the kapha constitution must first apply rajastic practices, such as yoga asana, waking up earlier, or eating spicy foods. A kapha constitution, having moved through a rajastic state, may display sattvic qualities, such as stability of character, physical stamina, and maternal or paternal love. It is important to note that the gunas should not be associated with moral constructs like positive or negative, rather, they should be assessed as independent qualities that are expressed throughout creation.

The science of Ayurveda is vast and complex. It is difficult to assess our own prakruti or vikruti at a glance, or with a quiz from a magazine or website. Ayurvedic assessment is best left to the knowledgeable insight of an experienced practitioner. However, once the dosha has been established, lifestyle changes can be implemented to maintain optimal health and wellness. By gauging the guna of a food, for example, you can make positive changes to your diet. For comparison’s sake, a bag of Cheetos is tamastic, whereas fresh lettuce is more sattvic. Then, go deeper. What is the guna of conventional lettuce from the grocery store compared to that of the homegrown, organic lettuce from your garden? Through this perspective, you can begin to apply Ayurvedic principles to your life without the need of herbal supplements and on-going treatments from a practitioner. While it may take a lifetime to comprehend Ayurvedic philosophy, viewing your environment from an Ayurvedic vantage may bring your dosha into a more balanced state of being naturally.



Holly Beck is an experienced, advanced yoga instructor with nearly twenty years of teaching and mentoring experience. Classically trained in the tradition of the Sri Vidya lineage, Holly’s class promises an authentic yoga experience for practitioners of all levels with steady pacing, a continuous meditation on breath, and masterful sequencing. While she enjoys all levels of yoga, Holly’s true gift is working with pregnant women. Holly’s specialized prenatal yoga practice, The Yoga Of Birth, has prepared hundreds of women for empowered birthing experiences. Holly holds degrees in English and the Science of Health and Wellness from the University of California, Berkeley. Her work has been featured in the journal of Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, and she is recognized by the Doula Association of Southern California as a leader in prenatal education. Holly is currently developing a sustainable, rural retreat center for conscientious living in Costa Rica. For more information, please visit www.seedsofloveproject.org.

Developing The Foundation Of Your Yoga Practice With Tadasana

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There are how-to instructions written on every yoga pose conceivable, whether in books, on the Internet, or in magazines. On social media, yogis of all body types and capabilities are making a name for themselves by offering yoga instruction in bite size segments with pictorial or video demonstration. Because information on nearly every pose in existence can be found online, I ask myself, what unique insight can I offer my readers that will positively benefit their practice? In submission, I humbly offer you the practice of Tadasana, the most basic, fundamental, and primary yoga pose. Tadasana is the one pose that I come back to everyday, every practice, and in every class I teach. While there are many poses that seem more dynamic, intense, and challenging, it is Tadasana that offers the most engagement and opportunity for introspection.

My daily practice begins with classical Surya Namaskar, which is repetitive cycle of twelve poses that both begins and ends in Tadasana. Because the engagement of Tadasana sets the foundational tone of the practice, its importance cannot be overstated. The form and focus of Tadasana is energetically mirrored within the varying poses of Surya Namaskar, from Downward Facing Dog to Plank Pose, and parallels positions like Hasta Tadasana, Extended Mountain Pose, and Bhujangasana, Cobra Pose. Beyond Surya Namaskar, Tadasana creates the base for all standing poses, particularly ones involving balance, like Vrikshasana, Tree Pose, and Svarga Dvijasana, Bird of Paradise Pose. Further, Tadasana’s stable form gives rise to backbends such as Ustrasana, Camel Pose, and Shalabhasana, Locust Pose. Seated, the energy of Tadasana informs Dandasana, Staff Pose, Paschimotonasana, Seated Forward Fold, Purvottanasana, East Pose, and inversions such as Sarvangasana, Shoulder Stand, and Shirshasana, Headstand.

Though there are multitudes of ways to set up Mountain Pose, such as standing with the feet hip’s distance apart with the palms facing forward, or with the hands together in Namaste’, my preferred way to align Mountain Pose is austere: feet together, big toes touching, arms at the side, palms facing inward. To begin, stand at the front of the mat and bring big toes together until they are firmly touching. To many, this first point of connection seems minor. However, pressing the big toes together is akin to connecting two live electrical wires—when they touch, energy flows. With the big toes pressing together, spread the remaining toes apart, and ground them back down to the floor. Making slight movements, balance the body’s weight evenly between the toes to the heels, and from the inside arches to the outside edges of the feet. Stand with balanced weight on both the right and left foot, weight distributed squarely across the front, back, inside, and outside of each.

Once the feet are in place, engage Tadasana by moving upwards in the body. Activate the calf muscles, straighten the knee joints, and contract the quadriceps firmly. Tighten the hamstring muscles, squeeze the inner thighs together, tuck the tailbone inwards, and engage the gluts. Lift the sternum upwards, roll the shoulders back and down, and straighten the elbows. With the palms facing the thighs, firmly reach the fingertips downwards as if they could touch the floor. Squeeze the armpits closed, and make the arms rigid, tight, and tense. Deeply engage the abdominal muscles, and activate the erector muscles of the spine. Draw the shoulder blades together and down towards the mid-back, and activate the muscles across the chest. Engage the whole body from the feet to the head.

Now, close your eyes. Keeping the whole body engaged, breathe. Take full ujjayi breaths and scan the body once more, beginning at the big toes, and all the way up again, engaging the whole body with awareness and breath. Keeping the body engaged, relax the neck, jaw, face, brow, and scalp. Sense the duality of the engaged, firm, tight, tense, activated body, paired with breath awareness and a purposeful softening of the face. The practice of Tadasana provides an introspective experience aligned with the true purpose of yoga. Physically, the yogi is activated and engaged in the manifest world. Internally, the yogi is calm, focused, and relaxed. In this way, Tadasana embodies the essence of a yogi.

Another term used for Tadasana is Samasthiti, a conjunction of two Sanskrit words: sama, meaning unmovable, stable, and sthiti, meaning standing still, steady. Therefore, Tadasana is a pose wherein the body is firm and unyielding, steadfast as a mountain. This is the energetic attitude of yogic lifestyle, one that is unwavering in practice, focus, and inner stillness. On a physical level, the entire pantheon of yoga asana is incepted from Tadasana. Aided with awareness and breath, Tadasana not only translates into all the shapes and forms made on the mat, but also into day-to-day living in terms of posture, gait, and body awareness. This lifestyle application goes further in terms of consistency, motivation, ambition, will power, and personal fulfillment. Both on the mat and off, Tadasana deepens self-awareness, highlights the capability of the body, fine tunes mental concentration, and promotes purposeful relaxation. In this way, the daily practice of Tadasana sets the foundation for spiritual awareness within a material world.




The Subtle Energy of Yoga – Studio Etiquette

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It is obvious for those who have spent time within a yoga studio that the practice space holds certain energy because of the way we conduct ourselves there. However, in yoga, the obvious gives way to layers of depth and subtly. What seems standard fare, such as removing our shoes prior to entering the practice space, reveals a spectrum of subtle, interconnected principles upon further reflection. Many studios uphold certain etiquettes to insure maximum benefit to everyone present. Though the purpose behind yoga studio etiquette may not be totally comprehended, the novice yogi is happy to comply with basic yoga studio formalities. In time, these formalities become the culture of the studio, and we rarely question the motives behind them. Whether you are a well-seasoned practitioner, or just beginning your yoga journey, exploring the behaviors inherent to yogic spaces will deepen your connection to your yoga practice and the philosophy it derives from.


1. Leave Your Shoes At The Door.

Superficially speaking, shoes bring the energy of route, daily affairs with them. The practice of being barefooted, however, extends beyond the shoe rack by the door. Generally, our feet are the first area of the body that connects with the earth. We ground into our mat and hold our asana poses steady through our feet. Our feet are the foundation of our posture, our gait, and are the living metaphor for “walking our path,” and “taking the first step forward.” Have you ever noticed that almost all yoga practitioners avoid stepping on one another’s mats? The feet release subtle energy. In traditional Vedic settings, a student avoids exposing the bottoms of their feet to their teacher. In turn, humbly bowing to, and touching the feet of their master, brings blessings to the initiate or devotee. By removing our shoes, keeping the souls of our feet clean, and observing how we present our feet towards our teachers and fellow students, we bring awareness to the subtle energy channels of the body.


2. Avoid Wearing Perfumes And Fragrances To Yoga Class.

On the surface it seems apparent that though you may enjoy a particular scent, other students may not appreciate your personal aroma in their practice space. Yoga is primarily a practice of breath, and having clean, pure, fresh air is vital to the conduction of prana within the body. As a yogi enhances their inner purity, synthetic fragrances or food-related odors can be both distracting to the mind and aggravating to the nervous system. As a teacher, I keenly sense a variety of fragrances on my students, whether natural, such as body odor, or applied scents like essential oils, hair products, or deodorant. When a student has deliberately applied fragrance to their body, I will rarely adjust their poses in order to keep their fragrance from clinging to me, and spreading throughout the studio. Arriving freshly showered to class, and as scent-free as possible, enhances the sattvic nature (high quality) of the practice space.

3. Observe Silence In The Asana Room

Yoga studios draw a beautiful ensemble of souls into their space. Fellow practioners easily become friends, and sometimes grow into spiritual families. The development of the yogic community is oftentimes the glue that brings practitioners back to the same studio, same class, even the same mat placement, again and again. The community building aspect yoga is vital to the development of satsung, sacred gathering. With that said, the asana room is akin to a holy space. To many, the space and time set aside for a yoga class is the only “me time” they may have. To sit in quiet readiness prior to class sets the tone for inward development, and provides the space for subtle awareness to arrive. In opposition, general chitchat, however hushed it may be, is not only distracting to others, it maintains a currant of mundane energy from outside of the studio that, in some ways, overrides the delicacy of inward perception. By maintaining the energetic purpose of the asana space as an area of practice, introspection, and observation, the tone and ambiance of the studio becomes palpable to even the most novice yogi. Developing deeper relationships with your fellow practitioners is nearly effortless in such a space, because everyone is united in breath, focus, and energetic creation. With this in mind, welcome and converse with your friends and neighbors in the reception area of the studio, a place where both social and monetary exchanges are made. The ability to discern between the outer realms of the practice area, and the inner sanctum of the studio, is an active engagement of the subtle energy of yoga. Practicing purposeful silence in the asana space will beneficially enhance your yoga practice, and strengthen the bonds of your yogic community.


Basic yoga studio etiquette houses subtle revelations and deeper comprehension of yogic practices. We are each personally responsible for upholding rules of engagement within the studio, but unless we ask ourselves “why,” the deeper significance behind these acts is lost in the adaptation of yet another societal code of conduct. Instead, look deeper to see beyond the protocol of yoga studio etiquette. Yoga is a precise and refined science. Each act, when practiced with awareness and frequency, has an inner effect greater than what may be perceived from the outside. Simply removing our shoes, arriving to our practice clean of fragrance, and silently holding space in the asana room, sets the tone of a yoga studio, and offers the opportunity for personal development that extends beyond the individual to the whole. In this way, we, as yoga practitioners, are not adopting cultural codes of conduct, but are, in essence, conducting our subtle energy with purposeful awareness and intent.

Holly Beck is an experienced, advanced yoga instructor with nearly twenty years of teaching and mentoring experience. Classically trained in the tradition of the Sri Vidya lineage, Holly’s class promises an authentic yoga experience for practitioners of all levels with steady pacing, a continuous meditation on breath, and masterful sequencing. While she enjoys all levels of yoga, Holly’s true gift is working with pregnant women. Holly’s specialized prenatal yoga practice, The Yoga Of Birth, has prepared hundreds of women for empowered birthing experiences. Holly holds degrees in English and the Science of Health and Wellness from the University of California, Berkeley. Her work has been featured in the journal of Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, and she is recognized by the Doula Association of Southern California as a leader in prenatal education. Holly is currently developing a sustainable, rural retreat center for conscientious living in Costa Rica. For more information, please visit www.seedsofloveproject.org.