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A Beginner’s Guide To Yoga Props: 4 Essential Yoga Props

By Yoga Asana, Yoga Teacher Trainings

When I first started yoga, I viewed props as “crutches” to help me as a beginner and then leave behind as I developed my yoga skills. This idea was wrong in at least two ways. First, props aren’t crutches, but rather tools to help you deepen the pose and achieve proper alignment. Second, props can be used by any yogi, no matter the level of experience. This blog will outline four basic yoga props and how to easily incorporate them into your practice.

Beginner Props To Get

The good news is, these props can often be exchanged for common household items, allowing you to try them out in poses before spending money on the real deal.

1. Blocks

Yoga Blocks

women using wooden block as help with her yoga practice poseYoga blocks can be used for balance and support in many poses. You can use books instead of blocks if you don’t have blocks at home. Make sure to play around with different heights to find the best one for you, it may vary depending on the pose.

When To Use Blocks

Any pose that makes you wish the floor would come to meet you halfway is a good pose to use a block. For example, in Triangle pose, place a block on the outside of your front leg and rest your bottom hand on the block. Try starting with the block at its tallest, then in time work on getting it to the middle, or lowest height before being able to reach the floor with your bottom hand. You can also use blocks to help with balance, such as placing a block under one or both hands for support in Warrior III if you are unable to balance with your arms outstretched in front of you.

Finally, you can use blocks as support under the back or legs. For example, under the sacrum in Bridge Pose, or under each leg in Cobbler’s Pose. Adding extra support allows the muscles to relax into the pose more easily. A few more of the many options for using blocks include: place under both hands in Camel Pose or Wide-Angle Forward Fold, use the lowest height under both hands in Upward Facing Dog to take strain off the wrists, use as a foot stand for balance in Eagle Pose, or place under your seat in Pigeon Pose. In my opinion, the block is the most versatile prop and is a great one to try for your first prop.

2. Pillows and Bolsters

Pillows And Bolsters

women laying on ground with pillow doing yoga posesFrom small pillows to large bolsters, the extra cushioning is great for restorative poses, which are typically held for several minutes. As with blocks, you may need to try different sizes to find the best support in each pose.

When To Use Pillows and Bolsters

Pillows can provide extra cushion or space that can make many poses more accessible or more comfortable. In some poses, you may find you need more support from a bolster if your pillows are too flat or small. Place pillows or bolsters under each leg in Reclined Goddess Pose or Cobbler’s Pose. Place under your seat in Hero Pose or Pigeon Pose. Rest your legs on pillows in Reclined Supine Twist. Finally, using a pillow for its main purpose, as a pillow under your head in Legs up the Wall or Savasana.

3. Straps

Straps

women using band to help with her stretchingStraps come in a wide variety of lengths and styles for purchase. At-home solutions include ties, scarves, or belts. Straps will help you deepen stretches without compromising the position of your back and can be used in many poses.

When To Use Straps

I love using straps for my tight hamstrings. In Seated Forward Fold, wrap a strap around the balls of your feet and hold one side of the strap in each hand; gently pull yourself toward your feet with the straps, keeping a straight back rather than hunching over to force the pose.

In Cow Face Pose, if you are unable to bind your arms behind your back, hold one end of the strap in each hand and slowly wrap the strap around your wrist to bring the hands closer together with time. Use a strap to modify King Pigeon or Dancer Pose by looping it around the front of your foot, just below the toes and holding the other end with your hands to slowly bring your bent leg closer.

4. Blankets

Yoga Props Essentials Beginners Guide Blanket

Blanket

Folded blankets is are easy yoga props to have on hand and can be used in more ways than you might think.

When To Use A Blanket

Use a folded blanket as support under the knees in any pose with the knee on the mat such as Low Lunge, Cat/Cow, or Gate Pose. A folded blanket under the wrists, with the wrists being higher than the fingertips, can reduce wrist pain. Use a folded blanket under the wrists in Upward Facing Dog, Downward Dog, Cat/Cow, or any pose where you put weight into the hands with your wrists at a 90-degree angle. A folded towel under your seat in Hero Pose or Child’s Pose will work if a pillow is unavailable or too large. Finally, use a blanket to be warm and cozy during Savasana.

Find Other Yoga Props To Expand Your Practice

These are only four types of the many yoga props available. A quick search of the web will reveal that there are lots of other options you can use as needed. For example, sand bags, eye pillows, wheels, wedges, gripping gloves or socks, the list goes on. Whatever yoga props you use, use them with confidence, and know that they are great tools to further your yoga practice rather than a sign of weakness.

Yin Yoga 101: 6 Benefits Of Yin Yoga

By Miscellaneous

When I started practicing yin yoga and immediately fell in love with it. After years of practicing and teaching strong vinyasa sequences that pushed my body to new limits, yin yoga offered a new challenge – sitting with myself and learning to find peace in discomfort. I learned through yin yoga a new found appreciation for stillness and a slower paced practice. Not long after starting my yin yoga practice did I decide to do my Yin Yoga Teacher Training, as I knew this was a practice I wanted to share with my students. I recently completed my Level II Yin Yoga Training and I feel it now the perfect time to share some yin yoga insights.

Yin Yoga: A General Overview

History & Style

Yin Yoga was founded by Paulie Zink, who came from a background of martial arts and Taoist yoga. In the 70s, Zink introduced his students of martial arts into Yin Yoga, as he believed the flexibility drawn from it complimented martial arts practice. It was then further popularized by Paul Grilley, who added in his knowledge of anatomy into the practice, and later by Sarah Powers, who helped to bring today’s version of yin yoga mainstream.

Yin yoga is rooted in Taoist philosophy from the Yin-Yang symbol which represents the feminine side. Yin poses are more calm and longer held postures that reach deeper muscle tissues. Yang poses on the other hand, are considered to be warmer, more energetic postures, and held for shorter periods of time.

Yin yoga is a slower paced yoga practice with typically only seated or supine poses focusing on deep stretches.The practice is more meditative in nature, with poses being held usually 1-2 minutes, but sometimes over 5 minutes in a single posture. Yin yoga is different from Vinyasa yoga in that you don’t flow from pose to pose. Most of the poses are done seated or lying on your back or stomach. It is also unlike restorative yoga because the body should be feeling the tension and compression of the pose, rather than a deep relaxation. We use the breath in yin yoga to help sustain the poses when they become uncomfortable. It’s the uncomfortable moments and sensations that help the body release built up tension and also create lasting change.

4 Major Benefits of Yin Yoga

1. Releases Deeply Held Tension in the Body

Yin yoga offers a special benefit to tense bodies, due to its direct lengthening and releasing effect. Yin yoga allows us to access the deeper tissues in the body such as the connective tissue and fascia. Many of the postures focus on areas that include a joint (ex. hips, sacrum, spine, and shoulders). Due to natural aging as well as day-to-day activities such as a sitting for a prolonged period of time time, poor posture, and repeated strain – we can lose our flexibility. Yin yoga is done without any warm up, so you are stretching your body in its natural state, which creates lasting benefits.

2. Complements Other Workouts

The ancient Chinese concept of yin and yang relates to the idea that within two opposing forces, there is balance. Certain styles of exercise can be classified as either yin or yang according to their qualities. Yang style workouts like running, sports, or vinyasa style/heat building yoga, are considered yang because they are active, sweat-inducing, dynamic, and repetitive. The principles of yang relates to masculinity, heat, and movement. Yin is the feminine force and is related to stillness, rest, balance, cooling, and release. Exercises that are based on stretching and relaxation are said to be yin in nature. If yang-style workouts are overused without balance, there is the potential for the body to become overworked, injured, or fatigued. Bringing yin yoga to your exercise routine will balance this with improved flexibility and relaxation.

3. It Balances Your Chi

According to traditional Chinese medicine, our bodies are powered by a vital force called ‘chi’. Chi runs through specific energetic channels in the body, called meridians. While any yoga style could have an effect on the meridian pathways to some degree, yin yoga has a more profound effect on the meridians. All of the meridians flow through the back and legs at some point, and many yin postures will effect several meridians at once. Yin classes may be structured in a way that allow students to work on all of the meridians, or there might be a focus on just a couple.

4. It Builds Fortitude and Perseverance

When life is feeling a bit more difficult than normal, or certain situations are making it hard for me to focus on other areas of my life, I turn to my yin yoga practice to help rebalance my energy. Yin teaches us that staying still and dealing with whatever thoughts or feelings come up will actually help you grow. Learning to take each moment as it comes – one breath at a time, one thought at a time – will help you become more proficient in managing the discomforts that come up in life. As we hold each pose, it gets harder to ignore the ‘monkey’ mind and we sometimes have the desire to want to leave the pose. Yin teaches us to find a place of comfort in a not-so-comfortable place and observe our thoughts and reactions from a place of calmness.

5. Releases Emotional Blockages

It is believed in yoga philosophy that we tend to hold old emotional issues in our bodies – including our muscles and tissues. By focusing on long holds and releases in yin yoga, we find that blockages to emotional issues that we have, slowly begin to break down. By slowing down, it brings us into the present moment and quiets the mind – allowing a space for great personal positive transformation. Next time you are feeling stuck on something, get on your mat and indulge in some long deep yin stretches for release.

6. Lowers Stress & Anxiety

Yang style yoga classes such as Vinyasa Flow and Power Yoga can give us energy and boost our moods. However, Yin style yoga classes offer us a different benefit for when we need more calm and grounding in our lives. Yin yoga can lower our stress and anxiety levels because of its slower and more meditative pace. These classes are usually quieter which leave room for inner contemplation and meditation.

Yin Yoga In Practice

Yin yoga is safe for people of all ages and physical abilities. It’s a great addition to your current yoga practice or workout, and is easily adaptable to those with injuries or limitations. With a towel and just two yoga blocks, you can even practice your favorite yin poses at home.

Make sure to let your teacher know if you are pregnant, have a new or old injury, or are feeling any sharp, shooting pains while in the pose. There are always modifications available to make each pose better suited for your body and specific needs.

A Yoga Sequence For Inspiring Gratitude

By Yoga Classes, Yoga Teacher Trainings

Thanksgiving is a time of appreciating things in our lives and for cultivating more gratitude. To help you get into the spirit of gratitude and giving this season, we’ve created a gratitude mini yoga flow that you can do at home.

It can be easy to forget all the blessings we have in our lives when we face challenges or obstacles. Gratitude is a simple and easy practice that anyone can start today to begin leading a more positive life. The simplest way to cultivate more gratitude is to take a few minutes each day or sit in meditation while you think of things you are grateful for each day. Cultivating the daily practice of gratitude in our lives can improve our relationships, make us more compassionate, and ultimately more happy. It creates a space for our lives where we can allow positive and transformative growth to occur. Gratitude can also improve our health by boosting our immunity, improve our sleep, and lower blood pressure.

To sequence a home gratitude yoga flow, focus on calming and grounding poses that help you get in touch with the energy of gratitude. Some poses you could consider are poses where your arms are stretched outwards – to symbolize the outreaching of giving to someone else. Poses you could include are Mountain with arms reaching upwards, Chair, Warrior 1, Balancing Table, or Warrior 3. Some grounding poses you could include in your mini sequence are Child, Plow, Standing Forward Fold, Happy Baby, and Supine Twist.

To Begin

Start your gratitude flow by coming into a simple seated Easy Pose. Begin to take in deep slow breaths in and out; focusing on elongating your exhalations and your inhalations. Next bring your hands to your heart center and bring your awareness to the movement of breath around your heart center or heart chakra area. Continue to breath deeply here. Bring to mind 5 – 10 things or people you are grateful for. Allow that energy of love and appreciation to fill your body, heart, and soul. Stay here for several moments and allow yourself to bask in this beautiful feeling of gratitude in your heart.

Gratitude Mini Sequence

1. Child Pose

women demonstrating pose with her forehead resting on floorAllow yourself to release and let go in Child pose. As you ground down and surrender towards the mat, imagine as though your hands are outreaching out to receive more things to be grateful for in your life.

To do this pose, begin on your hands and knees. Sink your hips back towards your heels as you reach your arms forward. Relax your belly onto your thighs and rest your head towards the mat. Take several long deep breaths here.

2. Seated Forward Fold

women showing how to pose touching your toesSeated Forward Fold helps us to relax our mind and bodies. As you do this pose, focus on surrendering into gratitude for the things in your life that you appreciate. Feel the grounding of the earth beneath your sitbones as you root them into the ground and feel appreciation for the earth supporting you.

To do Seated Forward Fold, begin in Staff pose. Root down evenly through your sitbones. Begin to slowly hinge forward at the your hips, working to keep your spine lengthened. Reach your hands towards your ankles, shins, feet, or toes. Allow your neck to be relaxed here and feel yourself melt into this stretch.

3. Warrior 1

women in green top showing how to do lunge poseAs you come into Warrior 1 pose, allow your arms to reach up towards the sky as if you are receiving more things to be grateful for in your life. You can also imagine as if your arms are outreaching to give to someone else

To do this pose, begin in Mountain pose. Step your feet apart several feet and pivot your back foot in about 45 degrees and bend your front knee to 90 degrees with your toes pointing forward. Keep your front knee stacked over your front ankle. Lengthen up through your ribs and point your tailbone down towards the mat as your lengthen your arms up towards the sky. Hold for several breaths and switch sides.

4. Warrior 3

women in green top explaining how to properly do poseWarrior 3 is a grounding and energizing pose. When in this pose, again imagine the outreaching of your arms forward are reaching to give to another person. Allow the feeling of giving to fill your heart. Feel the earth beneath your grounded foot supporting you.

To do this pose, begin in Mountain pose. Root down into one foot and leg as you reach the opposite leg behind you. Engage your core and reach your arms out in front of you. Imagine as if you are creating a straight line with your extended leg, torso, and arms. Relax your head as you gaze down or towards your fingers. Hold for several breaths and switch sides.

5. Tree Pose

women holding tree pose with strait armsGround down through your standing foot and reach your arms upwards. Imagine the opening of your arms as if they are tree branches opening up to the sky and earth around you, ready to receive all the good and blessings in your life.

To do this pose, ground down through one foot and engage your standing leg. Lift the opposite foot and allow it to rest on your ankle, shin, or upper thigh. Engage your core and keep your gaze soft and focused in front of you. Option to bring your hands to heart center in prayer here or come into a full Tree expression with your arms reaching up towards the sky.

6. Supine Twist

demonstration of yoga pose on women laying on the groundStretch and detoxify your body and mind with this deep twist. As you melt into Supine Twist pose, allow yourself to linger here for a few breaths longer than usual. Allow your mind to relax and your heart area to fully open as you express your gratitude for your life.

To do this pose, begin by lying down on your back and draw your knees into your chest. Allow your knees to softly fall over to your left side and extend your arms out to a ‘T’. Option to bring your head to gaze in the opposite direction of your knees. Hold for several breaths and switch sides.

 

Ending Your Gratitude Flow Practice

End your practice in Easy Pose with your hands over your heart. Ground down through your sitbones and elongate the spine up towards the sky. Relax the muscles in your body and face. As in you inhale, breath in ‘Thank You’ and as you exhale imagine breathing out the word ‘Joy’. Feel that joy radiating out into the world. Repeat for several minutes. Practice with YogaRenew for more way to find gratitude with yoga.

2 Simple Vegan Soup Recipes For Fall

By Yoga Lifestyle

Boost Your Immunity with 2 Simple Vegan Soups This Fall Season

yummy food to eat

Stay healthy this fall season with two simple vegan curry sweet potato soups. Both of these recipes are rich and flavorful – and loaded with immune boosting nutrients your body needs this cold season to fight off colds and infections. Studies have shown that a plant based diet can do wonders to your health including, reducing your risk of cancer, lowering heart disease, reducing high blood pressure, boosting your gut health, maintaining a healthy weight, and improving your immunity. Something as easy as adding just one plant-based meal to your weekly dinner rotation can improve your health. Eating vegan also doesn’t have to be complicated or take too much time to prepare. The easy soup recipes below take less than 30 minutes to make with minimal prep work. They can even be made ahead of time and enjoyed throughout the week. Enjoy these soups on a cold fall day after yoga class and a warm bath, for dinner time, or even lunch time. Enjoy dear yogis!

Namaste,
Christa Clark

 

Creamy Curried Sweet Potato Soup

Easy Vegan Soup Recipes 20 Minutes For Fall - Yoga

This delicious creamy soup will warm you up from the inside out, making your belly and body smile! Sweet potatoes are naturally loaded with lots of Vitamin A, which helps to fight off infections. The radishes in this soup are high in Vitamin C, which also powerfully detoxifies your body to promote a healthy immune system. We add in curry powder, a powerful antioxidant for cancer and also for fighting off bacterial infections. We combine all of these amazing powerful foods to create a magically delicious and healthy soup!

Creamy Curried Sweet Potatoe Soup | Makes 6 + Servings

Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Cook Time: 20 Minutes

Ingredients:

2 tbsp coconut oil (or veg broth for oil free)
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
7 radishes, sliced and diced
pinch of salt
1 tbsp curry powder
6 cups water
1 tbsp soy sauce (tamari or coconut aminos)
red pepper flakes and black pepper to taste

Peaceful Preparations:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or pot over medium heat. Next, add the sweet potato, radishes and a pinch of salt. Sauté for a few minutes. Add the curry powder and sauté until coated.
Add the water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes until the veggies are soft.
Blend until creamy with an immersion blender or cool and use a blender in batches.
Add soy sauce and simmer until heated throughout, about 4 minutes. Garnish with red pepper flakes and black pepper to taste. Serve hot with love!

 

Curry Sweet Potato & Chick Pea Soup

Easy Vegan Soup Recipes 20 Minutes For Fall - Yoga

This simple, no fuss, Curry Sweet Potato & Chick Pea Soup is a hearty, satisfying, and comforting recipe that will warm you up even on the coldest fall days. This vegan soup recipe is extremely high in fiber and vitamins including Vitamin A, K, C and E. The healthy ingredients included in it all help to boost the immunity, is high in nutrients, and full of powerful antioxidants. The chick peas are also a great source of plant based protein that contain cholesterol lowering agents. The natural protein helps to keep us fuller longer which aids in maintaining a healthy weight and also nourishes our muscles. Over all this soup is a powerful anti-inflammation winner for a healthy mind and body!

Curry Sweet Potato & Chick Pea Soup | Makes 6 + Servings

Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 20 Minutes

Ingredients:

1/2 onion – diced
3 medium carrots – diced
3 celery stalks – diced
1 red bell pepper – diced
1 large sweet potato – diced
4-5 cloves of garlic – minced
1″ knob of ginger – minced
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp Turmeric and Paprika
6 cups vegetable broth
3 1/2 cups chick peas
1 – 170g organic tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste

Peaceful Preparations:

Sauté the onions, carrots, celery and red bell pepper for 5 minutes in a medium to large pot with a splash of vegetable broth.
Add the minced garlic and ginger, cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the curry powder, turmeric, paprika, salt and pepper to taste. Mix together.
Add 6 cups of vegetable broth and the diced sweet potato. Cover, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, cooking for a total of 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, remove the lid, add the chick peas and tomato paste. Mix well, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the 1/4 cup minced herbs, mix in. Serve hot! I sprinkled ours with a touch of salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and a sprig of parsley.

 

**Note For Both Recipes: You can use what you have on hand.

 

 

Guest Post By YogaRenew YTT Graduate, Christa Clark

“My name is Christa Clark, I run a vegan blog artisticvegan.com and practice yoga daily. I’ve had a personal yoga practice for over 11 years. I love how yoga has helped me through thick and thin, my mat and breath are always there. I became a structural integrator along the way and worked alongside my husband to open Gravity Body Academy, an online school for structural integration. In that process I fell in love with online teaching and learning. When I found Yoga Renew it felt like the perfect opportunity to become a certified teacher. I loved that I could fit it into my schedule and do it from home. Thank you YogaRenew for turning a dream into reality! I now offer yoga classes on the Artistic Vegan YouTube Channel, at artisticvegan.vhx.tv, and have tons of free vegan recipes at artisticvegan.com.

 

5 Yoga Poses For Lower Back Pain

By Yoga Asana, Yoga Classes

Yoga enthusiasts swear by their poses to maintain feeling open, strong, and stable in their bodies. But utilizing yoga to feel good in your body and relieve pain doesn’t necessarily require a regular practice. Once you learn what areas of your body need be to refreshed and renewed, you just have to find the right postures. In this article we will dive into a few yoga poses for lower back pain. If you experience lower back pain you’re not alone – an estimated 80% of the population will experience back pain at some time in their lives. Back pain can affect people of all ages, from adolescents to the elderly. The below yoga poses can be done at home with limited props and don’t require any previous yoga experience.

Yoga Poses For Lower Back Pain

Its important to understand that back pain is not a universal experience and that those experiencing severe pain should seek insight from a professional physician, or physical therapist before attempting any poses that could potentially create further damage. As always, its important to focus on how a posture feels, and not on how it looks.

1. Child Pose

women demonstrating pose with her forehead resting on floor to help by doing Yoga Poses For Lower Back PainChild pose is a relaxing way to elongate your spine and relieve stress. Even though your mind might be resting, this pose offers an active stretch that helps elongate your entire back. To try it, start in a table top position (on all fours) and then begin to push your hips back so that your seat ends up on, or close to, your feet. Reach your hands forward to add length to the sides of your torso and let your forehead rest on the floor or a blanket. If your seat doesn’t reach your feet, you can fold another blanket over your heels for some extra support.

Stay in the pose for 5-10 breaths, allowing yourself to become heavier and softening towards the floor with each breath out. This is a great pose to practice before bed or even first thing in the morning to help center yourself for the day and stretch out your back after sleeping.

2. Cat and Cow Pose

women showing how cat pose should be done in classCat and Cow are poses that provide both a rounding and an arch of your back, and they flow nicely from one to the other. This set of poses is perfect for an achy or sore back and will loosen your spine while also warming up the trunk of your body for any additional movement or workout.

Starting in all-fours position, move into Cow by letting your belly drop down, your tailbone lift, pressing your shoulder blades back and lifting your chest and head forward. Stay for the inhale. When ready to exhale, slowly round your spine up by pressing into your hands and release your neck so your gaze drops to your navel. Pause for a few seconds and then move back and forth from Cat to Cow. This helps position your spine into a neutral position, relaxing the muscles and easing tension.

Repeat 7-10 times, flowing smoothly from Cat into Cow, and Cow back into Cat.

3. Standing Forward Bend

demonstration of folded tree pose working to help Yoga Poses For Lower Back PainWith Standing Forward Bend, its important to note that in some instances of back injury this can hurt the back further. You should have flexibility in the hamstrings while attempting this pose – if there isn’t a good stretch coming from the hamstrings, or if the hamstrings are tight – you could create further injury to the lower back. You should also do your best to keep the spine lengthened and more straightened than rounded.

A standing forward bend stretches the hamstrings and lower back muscles while providing a release for tight, tense shoulders as well.

Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees soft, not locked. On your exhale, fold at your hips – not the waist – and bend forward toward the floor. Don’t worry if your hands can’t reach all the way to the floor at first; just stop wherever your hamstrings feel a comfortable stretch. The neck should be relaxed with the top of the head facing the mat, and both neck and head in line with the spine to prevent injury. You can keep a soft bend in your knees to prevent any strain in the low back – bending forward with straightened legs together can compress the spine. If you have yoga blocks, place them under your hands for additional support. Stay for 3-5 cycles of breath and repeat as needed.

To exit the pose, bring your hands to your hips, bend the knees a bit and press yourself up to stand, but move slowly. Stand tall for 30 seconds and breathe fully into your belly and chest.

4. Supine Twist

demonstration of yoga pose on women laying on the groundSpinal twists can be the most dangerous for those with back injuries – however the easiest on the spine would be a supine twist. A gentle twist offers tension relief for the entire back, as well as the neck. Allowing gravity to help release the back also makes this pose ultra relaxing for the rest of your muscles and your mind.

Lay on your back and bring your arms to a T-shape or cactus shape on the floor. Allow your knees to come up and in towards your chest and then slowly lower both knees to the left until they come down to the floor. Keep your head neutral or feel free to look in the opposite direction of the bent knees. Your knees might have a little space between them – if so, grab a blanket or towel and pad up the space so that your legs feel supported. Try to keep your upper chest broad and allow gravity to keep your shoulders heavy to the floor. Inhale to find some length and use your exhale to allow the twist to deepen. 7-10 cycles of breath will bring a nice physical release as well as a mental one! To switch sides, pull your knees back to your chest, and repeat on the right side. (Hint: don’t try this after a big meal.)

5. Sphinx Pose

demonstration of full body yoga poseThis backbend is a great pose to strengthen the back and also stimulate the natural curves of the spine, which we sometimes lose from sitting for too long. When we sit a lot, the lower back tends to move into a more flattened shape, which can cause pain and discomfort over time. Sphinx pose promotes the natural curvature of the lower back which aids in overall spine health.

Lay on your stomach with feet hip-width apart, and bring your elbows to the floor and rest them under your shoulders. If there is too much pressure on your lower back, bring your elbows slightly forward. If you would like a deeper or more intense bend, place a block under each elbow. Hold this pose for several breaths, feeling yourself get longer with your inhales and allowing the hips and legs to heavy on your exhale. To exit the pose, lower yourself onto the floor, turn one cheek to the side and gently allow your hips to rock side to side.

These are just a few yoga poses for lower back pain to help your back feel healthy and spacious. Always take it slow and ease into postures in a safe way for your body. If something doesn’t feel right, listen to your intuition and exit the pose.

7 Ways To Find More Joy In Your Life

By Wellness, Yoga Lifestyle

Finding joy and having a more positive outlook on life is something we all strive towards in our lives. Unfortunately due to life stresses, an ever increasing to do list, and a fast moving society this is difficult to achieve for many. Joy and happiness are traits that are essentially a choice we can make each day. By making the personal choice to choose joy each day, we can take back our own power and ultimately choose the direction of our lives. If we want to have more joy in our lives, we have to be intentional to create this. True lasting joy will never come from outside circumstances or factors but from within.

Ways To Find Joy

Here are 7 small steps that you can do to cultivate joy in your daily life starting today.

1. Cultivate Gratitude

Having an attitude of gratitude is the number one thing you can do each day to live a more positive lifestyle. Each day, when you wake up or before you go to bed, make a list of things that you are grateful for and think of why you are grateful for those things. Think about those things as you go about your day. Gratitude allows us to put our life into perspective and create a richer life experience for ourselves.

2. Stop Comparing Yourself To Others

In a world where social media is a big part of our daily lives, it can be easy to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others. By doing so, we take away our personal power and find ourselves wishing we had something that another person has. What we need to keep in mind is that what other people portray to the world, doesn’t include any of the suffering or challenges that person may be facing. Challenges and suffering is universal and a normal part of our human experience – none of us can escape it. Let go of any notions you have of what you think you need to be. Strive to only be the kind of person that you would be proud of, regardless of anyone else’s opinion. By doing so, you will find complete and utter freedom in your life.

3. Surround Yourself With Positive People

The old saying goes that you become the 5 people you surround yourself with most each day. Be mindful of your friends and people you interact with daily. Positive people will uplift you and encourage you to be the best you can be. They will also support you and inspire you. Negative people on the other hand, may encourage you to stray away from your personal joy and create negative energy in your life. Take stock of any negative people like this in our life, and make the choice to surround yourself with positive people instead.

4. Do One Thing You Love Each Day

Everyday we may have a list of things that we need to do to accomplish our goals. Sometimes, when making that list, we can omit doing things that truly give us joy. Make a list of things you love to do – this could be something like practicing yoga, writing in a journal, going for a walk, or spending time with a pet. Each day, include one thing from your list of things that you love to do in your daily to do list.

5. Give Back To Others

Giving back from the heart is the greatest gift we can give to others and to ourselves. When we give, it uplifts us and heals our souls. In turn, it helps the other person receiving whatever we give. Find ways to give back to others, whether its through volunteering or just helping a friend in need. Even if you don’t have money to give, just giving your time to others is enough to make a difference in someone else’s life.

6. Meditate Daily

Meditation is a vital part of living a more joyful and positive life. It allows us to get in touch with our inner selves and remove any noise from our minds. It keeps our heads clear and enables us to gain clarity in our lives. It gives us focus to achieve our goals. Meditation also helps us to be more mindful over our thoughts. By meditating, we can be more aware of negative thoughts that we might have and make the choice to turn those negative thoughts into positive ones. Set aside time each day for yourself to sit in stillness anywhere from 5-15 minutes a day

7. Reframe Challenges & Obstacles

We will never be free of challenges or stress because this is a part of our experience as humans. Challenges and stress help us to grow so that we can become a higher version of ourselves. As the old saying goes: “a ship is safe in the harbor, but that’s not what ships were built for.” Our difficulties help us grow, teach us to strive for more, and help to eliminate the trap of complacency. Learn to reframe your challenges as an opportunity and instead of seeing how awful and hard it is – take time to reflect on how this situation is making you stronger and how you are growing from it.

6 Tips To Mastering Public Speaking In Your Yoga Classes

By Yoga Teachers

Public speaking can be one of the most terrifying aspects of teaching yoga, but don’t fret! We’re here to provide you with some help getting in front of people and rocking a class! Speaking in public is a skill that can be learned, just like any other skill.

Speaking Tips For Your Yoga Class

Even if you are have an introverted personality, public speaking is a learnable skill. Read on to discover our 6 tips to mastering public speaking in your classes.

1. Preparation

Proper preparation prevents a poor performance as the old saying goes! Practice and preparation will help you overcome anxieties leading up to your class by helping you to build confidence in yourself. This is a great way to familiarize yourself so that you have a routine you can stick with. Many yoga teachers find structure and preparation integral to a successful class!

2. Pace your breath – pranayama

Teaching a class can be a marathon! But as a yogi, we all have a special appreciation for the power of breathing. And just like the runners that run marathons, pacing your breath is an important component of public speaking – it’s a great opportunity to use the power of pranayama to your benefit in a real life scenario.

3. Start strong

Another common public speaking tip that can be employed in a yoga class is to start strong. The opening of a class isn’t just important because it helps to set the tone and mood of the class experience, but also because it can hep you as a teacher build momentum into the rest of the class. Starting out on the wrong foot can sometimes flatten out your confidence. Put alot of thought on your class introduction and it will benefit you greatly for the rest of the class flow.

4. Work With-In Your Comfort Zone

Its good to push yourself and try to step out of your comfort zone as much as possible, but perhaps the class room isn’t the best place to try out new things. Practice, learn, and then bring your experience to the class room. Afterall, that’s what you’re sharing – experience and wisdom as a yoga teacher. If your experience is limited, the lesson may be as well.

5. Repeat Yourself When Appropriate

Depending on how much speaking you do in your class, you may be surprised by how much of your words the class may actually miss. If you have some powerful statements sprinkled into your dialogue, it can be helpful to repeat some of them to emphasize their value.

6. Give The Class A Takeaway

You should always try to give the audience something new that they learned. Try your best to be the one that can bring something new to them, otherwise your value starts to diminish little by little. Whether it’s a unique little phrase or saying, a new asana, sequence, or even a little piece of relevant history they can take away – bringing an educational component to the class helps to build value in your presentation.

50 Yoga Quotes to Inspire Your Practice

By Yoga Asana, Yoga Lifestyle

The power of language can help to elevate us mentally, or emotionally and propel us between the gap of where we are and where we’re looking to go spiritually. There are many powerful quotes that can help build this bridge. Here, we’ve compiled a list of quotes for you to pull from – not just as a source of personal inspiration but also as a potential tool for you to utilize in the classroom as a yoga teacher.

1. A photographer gets people to pose for him. A yoga instructor gets people to pose for themselves. -Terri Guillemets
2. Yoga is a light, which once lit, will never dim. The better your practice, the brighter the flame. -B.K.S. Iyengar
3. Meditation is a way for nourishing and blossoming the divinity within you. –Amit Ray
4. That’s why it’s called a practice. We have to practice a practice if it is to be of value. -Allan Lokos
5. Silence is not silent. Silence speaks. It speaks most eloquently. Silence is not still. Silence leads. It leads most perfectly. -Sri Chinmoy
6. Yoga does not always cure stress. It neutralizes it through increasing awareness and by changing self-perception. -Debasish Mridha
7. It isn’t arrogant or egotistical to feel good inside. You had nothing to do with it. It’s simply the honest response to clearly perceived reality. -Erich Schiffman
8. The nature of yoga is to shine the light of awareness into the darkest corners of the body. -Jason Crandell
9. Yoga begins right where I am – not where I was yesterday or where I long to be. -Linda Sparrow
10. Yoga is not a work-out, its a work-in – and this is the point of spiritual practice, to make us teachable; to open up our hearts and focus our awareness so that we can know what we already know and be who we already are. -Rolf Gates
11. What yoga philosophy and all the great Buddhist teachings tells us is that solidity is a creation of the ordinary mind and that there never was anything permanent to begin with that we could hold on to. Life would be much easier and substantially less painful if we lived with the knowledge of impermanence as the only constant. -Donna Farhi
12. The body benefits from movement, and the mind benefits from stillness. -Sakyong Mipham
13. The mind is everything. What you think, you become. -Buddha
14. There will always be people who can do it better than you, but thats a good thing! Start to see competition as inspiration – without envy. -Kathryn Budig
15. Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self. -The Bhagavad Gita
16. Go from a human being doing yoga to a human being yoga. -Baron Baptiste
17. Yoga is not about touching your toes, its about what you learn on the way down. -Jigar Gor
18. True yoga is not about the shape of your body, but the shape of your life. Yoga is not to be performed; yoga is to be lived. Yoga doesn’t care about what you have been; yoga cares about the person you are becoming. Yoga is designed for a vast and profound purpose, and for it to be truly called yoga, its essence must be embodied. -Aadil Palkhivala
19. Yoga begins with listening. When we listen, we are giving space to what is. -Richard Freeman
20. Remember, it doesn’t matter how deep into a posture you go – what does matter is who you are when you get there. -Max Strom
21. When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be. -Patanjali (Yoga Sutras)
22. Body is not stiff, mind is stiff. -Sri K. Jois
23. We have never arrived. We are in a constant state of becoming. -Bob Dylan
24. The yoga mat is a good place to turn when talk therapy and antidepressants aren’t enough. -Amy Weintraub
25. In truth, yoga doesn’t take time – it gives time. -Ganga White
26. You’re only as young as your spine is flexible. -Bob Harper
27. Have only love in your heart for others. The more you see the good in them, the more you will establish good in yourself. -T.K.V. Desikachar
28. Exercises are like prose, whereas yoga is the poetry of movements – Amit Ray
29. By our stumbling the world is perfected. -Sri Aurobindo
30. Yoga is about remembering that we are already one with the divinity and we’ve never left it. -Sri K. Jois
31. If you have time to breathe, you have time to meditate. You breathe when you walk. You breathe when you stand. You breathe when you lie down. -Ajahn Amaro
32. Yoga is the bringing together of that which was never separate. -Richard Miller
33. When the breath wanders the mind also is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed the mind too will be still, and the yogi achieves long life. Therefore, one should learn to control the breath. -Hatha Yoga Pradipik
34. If its weren’t for my mind, my meditate would be excellent -Ani Pema Chodron
35. Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; for it becomes your destiny. -Upanishads
36. Before you’ve practiced, the theory is useless. After you’ve practiced, the theory is obvious. -David Williams
37. Peace comes from with-in, do not seek it without. -Anonymous
38. Remember that sometimes, not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck. -Dalai Lama
39. The most important pieces of equipment you need for doing yoga are your body and your mind. -Rodney Yee
40. What I’m looking for is not out there; it is in me. -Helen Keller
41. You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state. What you can do are yoga exercises which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state. -Sharon Gannon
42. What we want out of yoga is ourselves, not something better than ourselves. -Douglas Brooks
43. The most important pieces of equipment you need for doing yoga are your body and your mind. -Rodney Yee
44. Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured. -B.K.S. Iyengar
45. What yoga philosophy and all the great Buddhist teachings tells us is that solidity is a creation of the ordinary mind and that there never was anything permanent to begin with that we could hold on to. Life would be much easier and substantially less painful if we lived with the knowledge of impermanence as the only constant. -Donna Farhi
46. You cannot always control what goes on outside. But you can always control what goes on inside –Wayne Dyer
47. When you inhale, you are taking the strength from God. When you exhale, it represents the service you are giving to the world -B.K.S. Iyengar
48. If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished? –Rumi
49. Yoga is the art work of awareness on the canvas of body, mind, and soul. –Amit Ray
50. Beyond meditation there is the experience of now. -Ryan Parenti

9 Great Health Benefits of Yoga

By Yoga Asana, Yoga Teacher Trainings

As yoga’s popularity rises, the health benefits of yoga have become widely understood and accepted throughout medical communities on a global scale. Doctors and scientists have found that yoga is a great cure all for everything from heart health to mind health and even sinus relief.

Health Benefits Of Yoga

The more you understand about how yoga can help your students in different ways, the better you can create value for yourself as a yoga instructor. Understanding the health benefits of yoga is an important part of providing a fulfilling and rewarding service to your students. Below we help to break down 9 different health benefits of yoga.

1. Heart

The American Heart Association actually has a fairly thorough recommendation surrounding yoga and its health benefits on the heart. On their site, here they say that “yoga can help lower blood pressure, increase lung capacity, improve respiratory function & heart rate, and boost circulation and muscle tone.” Yoga is a unique exercise because it combines deep breathing, physical exercise, and meditation. All of the these combined, help to reduce our stress levels ultimately helping our heart health to improve. The physical aspect of yoga helps also helps to strengthen our hearts.

2. Sleep

There’s a few different ways that yoga can have a positive impact on sleep. Physical exertion from a healthy yoga practice can help your body seek out rest. When we practice yoga and meditation, it lowers cortisol levels from stress in the body. This in turn, helps our sleep improve. Yoga and meditation helps to quiet the mind’s chatter, also helping us to sleep better. Another way yoga can help you get to sleep better is through breath practice. Breath is an important part of yoga, and as many experts have noted; slow breathing patterns can help to relax the body and help you get to sleep faster.

3. Relieve Back Pain

The “Annals of Internal Medicine” published results from a 3 year study that found a weekly yoga class helped to increase mobility more than traditional treatment for chronic or recurring back pain. There are many other studies with similar results published online – its fair to say that yoga can certainly be an effective method of relief for people suffering from back pain. Yoga helps to strengthen key muscle groups in the back and also stretch them at the same time. It also helps us to maintain proper posture to protect and strengthen our spines.

4. Muscle Tone

As you are putting yourself into different yoga poses, you are using your muscles to support the weight of your body. This is essentially doing body weight training to help tone and tighten our muscles. Power yoga or cardio type yoga classes that focus on high energy yoga poses really help to strengthen and target key muscle groups for toning up.

5. Flexibility

As your body becomes more flexible through yoga practice, that flexibility is actually leads to a list of other health benefits. More flexible muscles can help to prevent injuries and leads to better back health. As our muscles stretch, also help to provide better blood flow and more effective delivery of different nutrients to our tissues.

6. Respiratory

Before famous middle distance runner, Roger Bannister ran a mile in under 4 minutes, it was thought humanly impossible to accomplish it. After Roger Bannister did it, several other people shortly after were able to accomplish this incredible feat. How did Roger pave the way? With his breathing. Breath is an important part of exercise, and even more important part of yoga practice. Yoga promotes a heavy focus on breathing as a way to control the body and body. By enhancing our respiratory system, we begin to improve the the overall health of our bodies, including the brain, heart, and digestive systems.

7. Mind

More than ever we are learning how mental health and physical health are inseparably linked to one another. There is a compelling article here on newsweek that discusses how yoga can help several different mental health disorders including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, PTSD, and psychiatric disorders. Ultimately, yoga provides a multi prong approach to quieting the mind through meditation and breathing.

8. Sinus Relief

There’s a great breakdown in the Huffington Post that addresses how yoga can cure sinus pain. In the article, the author breaks down the many different contributing factors to their sinus pain relief such as how inverted poses can help to clear sinus blockage, deep breathing contributes to an increased flow of oxygen. It also explains how our sweat can help to reduce different toxins within the body and how the endorphins from exercise can help to alleviate pressure in our sinuses.

9. Immune System

One of the best health benefits of yoga is an over all boost to your immune system. As we discussed earlier, yoga can help to strengthen your respiratory system. Our white blood cells are critical in helping to fight off colds and other infections. When we work to improve our respiratory function, our blood flow also improves. The improved blood flow becomes a delivery mechanism for this important internal defense. Also, yoga can reduce mental stress which is widely known to reduce the effectiveness of our immune systems.

How To Sequence A Yoga Class For The Theme Ananda

By Yoga Teacher Trainings, Yoga Teachers

What Does Ananda Mean?

Ananda is a Sanskrit word that means ‘joy’ or ‘pure bliss’. Joy and bliss are two emotions that are our natural states of being. As children, we are born into this state; light, free, and blissfully joyful.

This yoga class theme helps us all to remember that natural state of being – of pure joy. When we align with this powerful feelings, we find more joyful things in our lives to celebrate. As we ignite ourselves with pure bliss, we are also naturally inclined to want to share that joy with others – by spreading our light and joy into the world through our interactions and choices.

class practicing after teacher knows how to sequence a yoga classAs humans, we naturally experience a wide spectrum of emotions, including some that are the complete opposite of joy, like sadness. But in life, in order to truly appreciate pure joy; experiencing those contrasting emotions actually help us to appreciate the joy in our lives.

The joy that we create in our lives on a daily basis works as a guide to help bring us back to this way of being during times of darkness. And we choose to let it, that light of joy can overpower any sadness we may be feeling.

Through meditation and yoga practice, we can also choose to make joy a choice in our lives. As we experience different emotions, we can learn to become observers of our emotions and learn to be aware of them.

As our emotional awareness increases, we can find that we have the power within us to always choose our emotions, no matter the situation. All it takes is just a little bit of awareness of our choice and a shift in perception.

Class Theme Intro – Mantra Meditation

women finding out How To Sequence A Yoga Class Begin the class by introducing the theme with a quote, related reading passage, or simply speaking a few sentences on the topic. Ask students to sit in Easy Pose and close their eyes. Instruct them to take a big inhale in, and imagine they are breathing in the word ‘Joy’. As they inhale, also ask them to bring a gentle smile to their faces. As they take a long exhale out, ask them to imagine that they are breathing out the word ‘Bliss’. Repeat for 1-2 minutes.

You could also choose to end the class with this mantra meditation practice or choose a related reading, or quote, to help seal your student’s practice in joy. You could also ask students to bring to mind 5-10 things that they feel joyful for in their lives. This could be experiences, loved ones, goals, past accomplishments, etc.

How To Sequence A Yoga Class For This Theme

When sequencing a class for this theme think of poses that inspire joy, bliss, and lightness. Playful poses, and power poses are great to sequence for this weekly theme. Poses such as the Warrior poses, Bow, or Dolphin are good examples of poses that help students to reignite their inner joy and playfulness.

Heart opening poses such as Camel, Cobra, or Upward Facing Dog are also good to include in this sequence. Heart opening poses help us to activate our heart centers so that we can reconnect with our joy.