7 Essential Oils for Stress Relief and Relaxation

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7 Essential Oils for Stress Relief and Relaxation

Stress is experienced by everyone; the very nature of our fast-paced lifestyles often triggers stress and anxiety which, understandably, can be challenging to cope with. That said, the use of essential oils is a very effective way to combat the overwhelming effects of stress in a natural way. Aromatherapy has been utilized since ancient times in order to encourage relaxation and tranquility in the midst of stress. There are various ways to use essential oils such as applying them directly to the skin, inhaling them from a bottle, diffusing them in water or adding them to your hygiene products. Essential oils have a variety of purposes such as boosting energy, relieving headaches, helping with focus, improving sleep quality, and decreasing stress. Feel free to diffuse the following oils while practicing yoga or meditating in order to increase the relaxing effects of your practice. The essential oils listed below provide a natural remedy for stress and can be used to promote calmness and peace.

1. Jatamansi Oil

This calming and anxiety-relieving oil essential oil will especially benefit those who suffer from overthinking and it also supports deep, high quality sleep. Jatamansi is extracted from the spikenard root and it has a rich history of medicinal use in Ayurvedic medicine. It provides antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects while also offering stress relieving properties. One way to use Jatamansi oil is by placing a few drops on the crown of your head at night to promote deep, restorative sleep. Otherwise, use it as a massage oil, add it to a bath or even a warm compress if a specific part of your body is tense.

2. Lavender Oil

This oil is the most commonly used essential oil for stress relief due to its relaxing effects on the mind and the body. Lavender oil is also a very effective way to deal with sleep-related problems as it serves as a sleep-aid while enhancing the quality of your sleep. Often used in aromatherapy, lavender oil has been shown to react the same way as anti-anxiety medications. This essential oil can be added to your bath or even added to an aromatherapy diffuser to promote a deep sense of relaxation and stress relief.

3. Chamomile Oil

Chamomile is an essential oil that relieves stress by reducing common symptoms of anxiety, promoting relaxation, reducing inflammation in the body, and regulating your mood. Chamomile extract is often used in tea to combat stress and improve sleep quality. It’s important to keep in mind that chamomile extract can be ingested but chamomile oil cannot. That said, chamomile essential oil can be used by adding it to an aromatherapy diffuser or to your favorite body lotion to help you feel at ease. Aside from its stress-relieving properties, chamomile also relieves pain, helps with anxiety and depression, aids digestion, and improves sleep quality.

4. Ylang-Ylang Oil

This fragrant essential oil derives from the flowers of Cananga Odorata Genuina which is a plant native to India but it can be found in other countries in Asia such as Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and also Australia. Ylang-ylang provides many benefits for the cardiovascular and immune system as well as lowers blood pressure and helps with depression. Additionally, this essential oil is known to relieve feelings of anxiety and stress due to its calming effects. Use this oil in your bath, diffuser or directly on your skin with a carrier oil such as jojoba oil. Bonus: this floral-scented oil can also be used as a natural perfume!

5. Valerian Oil

Valerian is an earthy essential oil that eases anxiety, stress and restlessness by promoting a sense of peace and tranquility. Its calming abilities might be attributed to its mild sedative effect on the body which also aids with sleep quality. The best way to utilize Valerian is by adding a few drops to an aromatherapy diffuser before bed and allowing its scent to guide you into a deep sleep.

6. Jasmine Oil

This sweet-scented oil has been used for hundreds of years in Asia to naturally treat depression, anxiety, and even sleep problems. Jasmine oil is an essential oil that is extracted from the white flowers of the jasmine plant and it is known for its sweet fragrance. Apart from its beautiful scent, jasmine oil is also used to effectively reduce anxiety and stress, exhaustion and depression. Jasmine oil will also boost your energy levels, improve your mood, and provide an overall sense of relaxation. Try adding this oil to an aromatherapy diffuser, a bath or applying directly to the skin.

7. Bergamot Oil

This cold-pressed essential oil has a sweet, floral scent and it has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for various purposes such as soothing irritated skin, ingested as a health tonic, and used as an antiseptic and analgesic. This essential oil is obtained from the peel of Citrus Bergamia, a fragrant citrus fruit. Bergamot oil can be added to a massage oil or body lotion, it can be added to an aromatherapy diffuser, and it can also applied directly to the skin. That being said, this oil is commonly used to effectivelyrelieve psychological stress and anxiety.

Common occurrences like arguments, traffic, financial struggles, deadlines, and responsibilities can all contribute to stress. Stress is experienced by everyone and when life gets overwhelming, it’s best to resort to a natural remedy for some relief. Aromatherapy is often used as a natural way to relieve feelings of stress without resorting to medication with inevitable side effects. Essential oils provide a sense of relaxation as well as better sleep quality which is needed after a long, stress-inducing day. Some essential oils are better than others at relieving stress such as Jatamansi, Lavender, Ylang-ylang, Jasmine, and others listed above. Be creative and embrace the various ways that these oils can be incorporated in your daily routine in order to keep you feeling calm, tranquil, and serene.

Stella Versteeg was exposed to yoga early in life from her father – traveling to India to practice yoga with her family. Living in ashrams and being surrounded by the beautiful and intricate Indian culture, from a young age, Stella was able appreciate and learn about the origin of yoga as well as meditation. Stella received her 200 HR yoga training from YogaRenew in 2018. She currently runs a blog, Ride Your Wave Yoga, which shares yoga tips, poses, nutrition, travel and mindfulness. Her goal is to spread honesty, love and awareness about a yogic lifestyle through her blog posts as well as create a supportive, inspired community. She aspires to share as much information as possible about the wonderful lifestyle that yoga has to offer and continuously evolve in her personal own practice.

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

3 Pranayama Breath Practices To Try Today

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Breath work is an invaluable tool for yoga teachers. Pranayama techniques use breathing to fully maximize each cavity in our bodies. Retention of the breath, focused exhalations, and the pauses in between allow the body to flood fresh prana (life force) throughout our system.

Pranayama practices can invigorate or relax the body. Practicing pranayama outside of yoga classes or meditation may take some getting used to at first, yet incorporating breath practices at work and home make a huge impact.

In between meetings, a few minutes after lunch, or when you get home from a busy day. Just a few minutes of deep breathing techniques can quiet the autonomic nervous system and calm your mind. Try these three pranayama techniques, and teach it to your students!

1. Nadi Shodana

Alternate Nose Breathing (Nadi Shodhana) is an ancient yoga practice that balances the nervous system. The left side associated with the parasympathetic (relaxation action), and the right side with the sympathetic (fight, flight or freeze response). By regulating the breath through the left nostril and right nostril, the body is well balanced and right and left brain synchronize.

Nadi in Sanskrit means “channel” and Shodhana means “purification”. By practicing Nadi Shodhana our channels are more open, unclogged and with less congestion. A range of benefits happen as a way to bring equilibrium, treat a headache, stress, or even bring a little more lightness to your day.

For beginners, sitting in a comfortable seated position like Sukhasana (Easy Pose) with your sit bones higher than your knees helps to make more space to sit comfortably. A general rule is to start on the left side, left-nostril breathing decreases your heart rate.

Use your right hand ring finger to close your left nostril, and your right thumb to block your right nostril. The index and middle finger can fold in your palm. Close your right nostril, inhale through your left nostril for five counts. Close the left nostril with ring finger, and exhale through your right nostril for five counts. Alternate between the two sides open and closing, and add retention. You can practice retaining the breath for five counts, and gradually increase.

Nadi Shodhana is a useful breathing technique to incorporate into your yoga classes. It can lift the mood and vibe of the class, and is great to do in preparation for meditation.

2. Bhramari

Bhramari translates to the sounds of the bees. Bhramari (Bee Breath), for beginners an audible practice, with the mouth closed uses vibration to create a soothing sound. The gentle buzzing sound can quiet the chitta (mind chatter) that tends too loop in our thoughts that leads to sufferring. A way to alleviate, or shift perspective happens with the Bee Breath practice.

Also calming to the autonomic nervous system, Bhramari is a therapeutic practice that especially helps those with throat issues, sinus congestion and maintaining peace of mind. For yoga teachers, having a strong awareness of the technique will make you more confidant to teach the pranayama practice to your yoga students.

To practice, sit comfortably on blankets, yoga blocks, a meditation cushion, or anything that suits you. A chair is too a good prop to use. To direct your senses inward, close the eyes and center with a few deep inhalations and exhalations. At you last exhalation, fully exhale all the air out and take a deep inhale. On the exhale, begin making a gentle buzzing sound as you exhale to four counts. The sound should be soothing, and originate from deep in the throat as possible. When you exhale all of your air, inhale slowly to four counts. Continue to repeat the breathing cycle. Exhale, buzzing until you release all your breath, and inhale slowly. Notice on the exhalations, the vibration originating low in your throat, reverberating at the roof of your mouth, and up to your brain.

With practice, your thoughts will become absorbed by the sound vibrating inside. Build up to practicing Bhramari for one to five minutes is ideal. As the practice progresses, using your fingers to block the ears and eyes deepens the benefits of Bhramari.

3. Ujjayi

Ujjayi in Sanskrit translates to victorious, and is compared with the sound of the ocean. As part of your asana practice or with retention for a seated breathing pratice, Ujjayi breathing assists with tuning your senses inward. The audible sound in the beginning, helps to focus on the breath. So much can be told from listening to your students breathing, and a reminder to keep the victorious breath during yoga class is something to encourage.

When Ujjayi is engaged, the pelvis is better supported because of its relationship with the diapham. On inhalation, the pelvic floor and diaphragm descend down toward the ground. On exhalation, the pelvic floor and diaphragm ascend up. This focused breathing leads to lower back and pelvis support.

Another pranayama practice that opens up the channels and releases blockages, Ujjayi breathing centralizes your focus during asana practice. The sound of the ocean breathing reduces your attention on other distracting sounds that may be in the room.

To practice first, sit in any comfortable position. Take a few grounding breaths. Begin by inhaling through your nose and exhale out of your mouth making the sound “ha” for 4 counts. After a few rounds, inhale through your nose, and on the exhale keep the mouth shut as you create that same audible exhale through your nostrils. Notice the action at the back of your throat. As your vocal cords narrow you can regulate the amount of breath moving in and out, similar to the mechanism of a hose nozzle. Practice Ujjayi for a minute or two, and become aware of its power.

Pranayama techniques are profound impacts on the overall health of your mind and body. Remember to take time to teach breathing exercises during your yoga class, often the asana is the only focus. For yoga to be of the most benefit, learning to use the power of the breath to shift stagnant energy better supports your healthiest version.

Desirée McKenzie is a yoga teacher and writer. She trained 500+ hours as a Vinyasa Yoga Teacher in 2007, and is a certified Thai Yoga Bodywork Specialist since 2014. Her blended training in the wellness realm create classes that soothe, nourish and strengthen the body. Desirée continues to deepen her yoga studies, focusing on anatomy. She is grateful to have learned the ancient healing practices that maintain equanimity and grace.

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

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

How to Do Headstand (Sirsasana): 6 Tips to Master the Pose

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How to Do Headstand (Sirsasana): 6 Tips to Master the Pose

In case you haven’t noticed, headstands have been plastered all over social media lately, along with many other beautiful and intricate inversions. Being upside-down provides many benefits apart from looking graceful; the positioning of your heart above your head relieves stress, strengthens the core, increases blood circulation, gives a boost of energy, and helps to decrease leg swelling. If you are a beginner and new to inversions, attempting a headstand is the way to get started because there is more surface to balance on. From my experience and advice that I have received, here are some tips to help you navigate headstand and master this asana in no time!

1. Practice against a wall

As a beginner, with any inversion, the wall is a great place to start. Going upside down for the first time can be intimidating and since the most common concern is falling, using a wall can eliminate most of that fear. By practicing against a wall, you can slowly learn where your center of balance is which eventually will come naturally. Although the wall is a great form of assistance, try not to rely on it and slowly move away from it as you progress in your practice. For instance, begin in a tabletop position on the mat and lower yourself onto your forearms keeping them shoulder-distance apart. Interlace your fingers and create a cushion to support the crown of your head. Next, with your hands touching the wall, place your head onto your hands and start walking your toes closer to your torso while allowing your weight to be supported by your arms. Once your hips are above your head, try lifting one foot at a time off the mat and hugging it into your chest. When you feel comfortable and stable enough, try hugging both feet into your chest and with control, extending them up towards the sky. Practicing this while facing the wall will make you feel safer since you know it will catch you if you lose your balance.

2. Don’t kick up

If you’ve noticed in my previous instructions on how to get into a headstand, there is no kicking involved. Many beginners kick up to get into this inversion but I recommended trying to achieve this asana with control and slower movement. As you might imagine, kicking up can also increase your chances of falling. Another thing to keep in mind is that if you rely too much on kicking up into this pose against the wall, once the wall is taken away, you will continue practicing with too much momentum and might end up hurting yourself. By slowly tucking your feet into your chest, your body is still relatively close to the mat so that falling wouldn’t be as harmful. Slowly pushing up into headstand also strengthens your core and engages your entire body which provides a full-body workout. The bottom line is, you try kicking up a few times, in the beginning, to see how it feels being upside down, but try not to make it a habit and learn how to lift your body with control and intention.

3. Push your shoulders away from your ears

The way that your shoulders and arms wrap around your head in this asana is intended to protect and head and neck while balancing upside down. The important thing to remember is to always push firmly into the mat with your forearms and hands so that your upper body doesn’t sink into your shoulders which can lead to injury. Many beginners tend to do this and bring their shoulders close to their ears but this does not provide a safe and solid foundation for headstand. Instead, remember to push your shoulders away from your ears and press into the mat with your forearms because your entire body is relying on this base. If you’re still not sure if your alignment is correct, ask a yoga instructor to correct you during a class or film yourself and use the footage to correct yourself.

4. Engage your core

Generally speaking, most yoga poses require and help to develop a strong core as well as prevent injury. It’s needless to say that in headstand, your core plays a very important role. If I were to practice a headstand right now, with my core engaged versus relaxed, there would be a significant difference in the duration and alignment of the pose. That said, headstands are a major core workout and you’ll have to rely on a strong core to maintain a straight and stable headstand. Practicing core strengthening workouts before even attempting this inversion will help you significantly. Try practicing Boat Pose, plank, and side plank regularly to tighten and strengthen your abdominal muscles.

5. Keep your arms shoulder-width apart

Coming back to establishing a strong foundation, your arms are a very important aspect of headstand. Before placing your arms onto the mat, make sure that they are shoulder-width apart. One way to ensure correct alignment is by extended your arms in front of you and grabbing opposite elbows with each hand. This is exactly the distance that your arms should be from each other when placed on the mat.

6. Exit the pose safely

Before even getting up into headstand, a key thing to remember is how to exit the asana safely and with control. Usually the best way to get out of a yoga pose is the same way you got into it; in this case, slowly bend your knees and bring them into your chest with your toes pointed and your core engaged. Allow one foot to touch the mat at a time until both feet are firmly planted on the mat. Next, gently walk your toes away from your torso and rest in Child’s Pose. Try to avoid kicking down from headstand and making any harsh movements which could lead to injury.

Headstands take time and lots of practice to master but hopefully, the tips above will prevent injury, help to avoid unwanted errors, and assist with your progress. Remember to prioritize safety and practice with intention.

Stella Versteeg was exposed to yoga early in life from her father – traveling to India to practice yoga with her family. Living in ashrams and being surrounded by the beautiful and intricate Indian culture, from a young age, Stella was able appreciate and learn about the origin of yoga as well as meditation. Stella received her 200 HR yoga training from YogaRenew in 2018. She currently runs a blog, Ride Your Wave Yoga, which shares yoga tips, poses, nutrition, travel and mindfulness. Her goal is to spread honesty, love and awareness about a yogic lifestyle through her blog posts as well as create a supportive, inspired community. She aspires to share as much information as possible about the wonderful lifestyle that yoga has to offer and continuously evolve in her personal own practice.

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.

On Effort And Ease In Your Yoga Practice

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In a yoga class I attended a few years ago, I recall the teacher inquiring after a challenging posture: “Were you burning a hole in the floor with your gaze?” I paused, feeling, for a moment, ashamed. Was I? I may have been. My gaze had felt focused, and there may have been blue blazes emanating from my eyeballs. I am vata-pitta (the air and fire elements) constitution, according to the ancient science of Ayurveda, and was feeling my pitta (fire) that day. So perhaps I was guilty as charged. It’s true that pitta dominant people can benefit from softening their gaze, and I believe it’s a good and honest question in terms of softening around the places we tend to harden (I often encourage my students to feel for the places in their bodies that would benefit from softening). I also believe that how teachers phrase cues and questions is important in terms of enabling students to find that place of balance we so often talk about.

One of the most well-known Yoga Sutras (or threads of wisdom) by Patanjali is about creating balance in the yoga poses (and in life) and translates to “Asana is a steady comfortable posture.” In each posture we can aim to feel steady or grounded, putting effort into it, and at the same time it’s important to feel a sense of ease, a sense of letting go so we don’t become too rigid. I talk about this concept often in my yoga classes since, in my mind, it is the heart of the practice and of life.

In the same class I mentioned above, the teacher interrogated after a balancing posture: “Do you feel you just nailed that pose?” The question was meant to point out the fact that nailing a pose might not be very “yogic.” I wanted to say, “Yes!” The truth is I was glad that I had since there are plenty of times that I don’t. In fact, I have spent most of my adult life trying to find solid ground, so when I occasionally “nail” a balancing pose it can feel grounding and also like an accomplishment. Consider this: Nailing the pose is also part of the dance. It is not always “better” to do less. It is not as we say in Ayurveda Counseling, a one-size fits all practice. Each person comes into the class with their own history, constitution, set of desires and needs, etc; sometimes those match up with teacher’s and sometimes they don’t, and this is an important point to remember when we teach yoga to a large group of students.

I come from a place of floundering, and I fall enough, on and off the mat, to learn and grow.

I have spent many years holding myself back due to fear and uncertainty, due to faulty early lessons that it is not proper or “lady like” to go for the things you want in life, that to be good at something is showing off and, essentially, that it is not safe or appropriate to be powerful and strong. For many years, due to these ingrained lessons, I have been out of touch with my fire, my power center and, subsequently, my ability to manifest the things I want and need in my life. My teacher, on the other hand, admitted to coming from a place of being a “Type A” personality, an “over-achiever” and someone who consistently “over-did.”

If you are someone who always “nails” poses and doesn’t allow yourself room to wobble then, yes, you would probably benefit from experiencing what it feels like wobble or fall, and you can risk being thrown off balance by trying something different like closing your eyes. In my own classes, I acknowledge students’ work whether they land the pose or fall out of it. In either case, whether students lean toward the “effort” or “ease” side of the road, questions can be phrased in a way that encourages students to create more balance for themselves. You can guide students to explore what a pose feels like, for example, “Notice a place in your body that feels tense and imagine breathing into that space” or “As you connect to your inner and outer strength in this posture can you feel the soothing Ujjayi breath?” These types of cues can be an effective way of diving into the body.

When teachers ask exploratory questions–such as “What does it feel like if you lengthen your stance?”–while recognizing that it may not be right for everyone, we are giving students space to feel the practice and make decisions based on their intuition. I remember practicing next to a woman once who was consistently losing her balance and she was visibly and extremely irritated by this, swearing under her breath. We don’t know what she came to her practice with that day; maybe she was taking care of someone who was ill or was ill herself, or going through a break-up; maybe she needed to swear under her breath in that moment; who is to say what is and isn’t “yogic?”

By giving permission to be inside the extremes (e.g., feeling your fire), we can, ironically, more easily move into that place of balance. Because it is by accepting where we are, not criticizing or beating ourselves up for doing something “wrong,” that we bring in the space needed for change. When we focus on what we perceive as the wrong thing, we tend to stay stuck in that very place we don’t want to be in.

I believe that it is essential for teachers to keep in mind that we are not here to control our students. As I’ve noted, each student is coming from a different place and that is a very personal thing. For me, excessive nit-picking during my formative years had the effect of stunting my creativity, my spontaneity and my “flow” (probably why I’m drawn to Vinyasa style of yoga), so when I am practicing yoga a ‘nit-picky’ type of banter is the last thing I need. When I make my way into a posture, an invitation to explore is what will enable me to blossom and more naturally find my center. Of course, as we cultivate inner strength and balance what someone else says or does will have less, if any, effect on us and that is also part of the practice.

Each teacher’s particular teaching style will inevitably stem from his or her own experiences, and that teacher will draw in the students who resonate with that style. That said, it’s important to remember and consider when teaching that your experiences are not necessarily your students’ experiences. A yoga teacher, I believe, is there to energetically hold the space for students, not to correct or control them. Consider this: when people receive input in an open, non-judgmental way they are more likely to listen and perhaps make changes they would benefit from. In The Wisdom of No Escape, Pema Chodron relays that “when you find yourself slumping that’s the motivation to sit up, not out of self-denigration but actually out of pride in everything that occurs to you, pride in the goodness or the fairness or the worstness of yourself–however you find yourself–some sort of sense of taking pride and using it to spur you on” (p. 11).

Nicole Alexander is a graduate of the 500 HR Yogaworks Teacher Training in NYC, and an Ayurveda Wellness Counselor. Nicole teaches a mindful/breath-based class, sharing her love for yoga in all its forms (physical, mental, spiritual), and the many ways this practice heals us.

5 Physical Benefits Of Yoga Practice

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The benefits of yoga can be categorized into a group of three components: physical, emotional and spiritual. Although all are important to maintain a healthy balance, this piece focuses on the physical and the benefits and of a regular asana practice. Some of the main physical benefits of yoga are increased strength, improved flexibility, better body posture, stronger spinal stability and a greater command of the breath.

1. Increased Strength

Asana, otherwise known as the physical practice of yoga, is only one of eight facets of yoga. Through asana practice, we achieve control of the body by positioning ourselves into different postures that strengthen and tone our muscles and organs. In every pose, we focus on engaging the bandhas, or energy centers in the body. Tapping into uddiyana bandha, for example, requires us to pull the belly in and up, toning and strengthening everything around the abdomen, including the abdominal muscles and organs nearby. By flowing through and repeating yoga poses, the body learns to hold these postures more comfortably and creates muscle memory for the next time we practice. The more we practice, the stronger the physical body becomes.

2. Improved Flexibility

In addition to becoming stronger, we become more flexible with a regular practice. Most yoga postures can be categorized into one of the following: standing, balancing, forward fold, backbend, and hip opening postures. Each one of these categories focuses on lengthening different areas of the body, and therefore increasing the flexibility of the muscles around those areas. Backbends, for instance, improve the flexibility of the front body (quads, abdomen, front of the neck). On the flipside, forward folds lengthen the back body (hamstrings, spinal erectors, calf muscles). Similar to how the body becomes stronger and better at performing a movement the more we repeat it, the same applies to the flexibility of a muscle group. The more we position our bodies into a certain position that stretches a particular muscle group, the more comfortable and deeper we can settle in that position.

3. Better Body Posture

In addition, having a strong and flexible body help contribute to healthy body posture. The spine is comprised of 33 vertebrae. This collection of bones is stabilized by muscles that help keep the upper body straight up. Sometimes after sitting for long periods of time or when our muscles grow tired, these spinal stabilizers don’t do a very good job at securing the spine and we either slouch or rely on the strength of the neck muscles to hold us up. Overtime, poor body posture can produce chronic pain or nerve impingements, like sciatica. Therefore, it’s critical for the spinal stabilizers to be strong and healthy to stay pain free.

4. Stronger Spine

Proper body posture throughout the practice of yoga is important to maintaining a strong spine. Through constant practice, the body learns how to shift its center of gravity to hold different poses. For each pose, the spine is lifting, flexing, extending or rotating. Each of these movements strengthen the different muscles that support the spine helping prevent compressed discs and maintaining the necessary space between each vertebrae. A strong spine is key to preventing many types of injuries, particularly spinal injuries. However, ankle, wrist, knee and hip injuries can also be prevented by maintaining a strong and flexible spine, naturally developed with a regular yoga practice.

5. Control of the Breath

Most importantly, one of the main physical benefits of practicing yoga is mastering a greater command of the breath. It has been said that if you can control the breath, you can control the mind. It’s one of the tools that connects the body to the mind. This connection allows us to access a parasympathetic state, which is the opposite of fight or flight. Practicing yoga helps us control our breath by putting us in a position where we must hold poses, some rather uncomfortable at times, and simply breathe. In Ashtanga yoga, for example, each posture is held for five slow breaths. Not only does each exhale allow us to better access a posture, but the awareness of the breath also brings us to the present moment, which can be difficult to achieve throughout the rest of our day-to-day. By mastering better command of the breath, we achieve a better control of our bodies and minds.

In short…

The physical practice of yoga is incredibly beneficial to the human body. The more we practice, the stronger and more flexible we become, contributing to healthy body posture, a stronger spine and better breathing mechanics. These physical benefits allow us to keep up with our daily activities pain free.

Michelle Kirel aspires to share with as many people as possible the necessary tools to maintain a healthy, strong and resilient lifestyle. Michelle has a lifelong passion for yoga. She was exposed to yoga at an early age by her mother who is a certified Iyengar yoga instructor. It was during college when she started practicing daily and falling in love with the feeling that comes after a yoga class. Following graduation, Michelle completed her 200 hr certification training in Vinyasa Yoga to dive deeper into the ancient tradition. She currently combines her understanding of yoga with Neurokinetic Therapy to help people treat chronic pain, injuries and postural imbalances. Her goal is to continue to learn as much as possible to be able to help people move better, feel better, and stay inspired.

The Power Of Gratitude

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Yoga teachers often speak about gratitude. So, what does this word really mean?

I’ll tell you what it means to me.

When I was younger and someone talked about being grateful for something that I perceived as not going right in my life or something as simple as the grass or sky, I was baffled; I couldn’t wrap my mind around it or align with this grateful feeling. I lamented about what I felt was lacking in my life, unaware that this was in fact the opposite of gratitude.

Lately, I’ve been feeling some frustration around the outward manifestation of my goals versus my effort and hard work. I feel ready for a next step or chapter that has yet to appear. When I focus on this feeling of lack that is what expands in my life; it’s a downward spiral … kind of like Debbie Downer. But if I get up close and personal with this frustration (really feel it) and then, when I’m ready, thank it for, or at least acknowledge, the motivation it is stirring within me to be proactive, I begin to shift my energy into a more open-minded state.

It is not an easy practice, this business of thanking the challenges and struggles. It’s one thing to say it, to recognize that challenges enable us to grow (especially after the fact, when you are looking back at them), but when you’re going through them it’s a different story. The first step is to sit or lie down and imagine breathing into this obstacle. When I do, I can feel my body resisting, my breath constricted, until I finally being to soften around the tight places and allow more space into my body/mind. With each breath I become a little lighter. I might say at the close of my meditation, “Thank you (universe or spirit) for bringing me deeper into my heart; thank you for supporting me as I (create more abundance in my life, for example).” It may sound corny but it’s worth a try.

A gratitude practice enables you to release resistance and therefore accept life as it is in this moment and that brings a sense of peace and wellbeing.

I have also learned, during my many years of practicing yoga, to notice the so-called small things and to recognize the beauty, magic, wisdom, etc. in them. Yoga teaches us how to slow down, to be more present; this has allowed me to notice and find joy in things like: a child playing, an exquisite creature (we tend to overlook birds, for example), a tree, a person smiling, the sky, the light of the moon. When you become more present in you life you naturally become more grateful; awe-struck by the majesty and wonder of the life all around you. You wonder how you lived in such a closed-off state beforehand, how you could have slept walk through so many years of your life. Presence and gratitude are one in the same.

Writing a Gratitude list can help to re-shift your focus from a feeling of lack to fulfillment. I use this exercise with my young students.

Here is my list today:

1. My mini-tiger friends. They double as an alarm clock: little paws in the face every morning. They have taught me about unconditional love.

2. Bare feet. As a yoga teacher, I get to be sans shoes and socks a lot. I love and crave the feeling of the ground or earth under my tootsies.

3. Time outdoors and in nature. It is truly healing for me.

4. My students. People who are receptive to what I have to share. I have had the pleasure of connecting with beautiful souls on this teaching path.

5. My fears. Since young, I have had a deep seated fear of speaking in front of others, of being seen and heard. Joseph Campbell wrote: “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”

6. Messups. I am fearful of making mistakes. When I mess up, I want to run for the hills and go into hiding forever. I am gaining perspective in this area.

What are some of the things you’re grateful for? Your list can be made up of words, phrases, musings, images; you can make it creative or simple. By the way, gratitude isn’t about putting a phoney smile on your face and pretending your happy when you’re not; it’s about exploring emotions and then doing your best to accept and make friends with them because that is the most powerful place from which to create and manifest your goals and dreams.

Nicole Alexander is a graduate of the 500 HR Yogaworks Teacher Training in NYC, and an Ayurveda Wellness Counselor. Nicole teaches a mindful/breath-based class, sharing her love for yoga in all its forms (physical, mental, spiritual), and the many ways this practice heals us.