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Lisa Bermudez - Ayurveda teacher sitting in a chair

A Complete Guide to the Doshas

By Yoga Lifestyle

If you’re a bit familiar with Ayurveda, you may already be familiar with the doshas. The doshas are made up of the five elements: earth, air, fire, water, and ether. They are the forces that make up all of nature and govern all emotional, mental, and physical processes in our lives. There are three maha (great) doshas, known as: kapha, pitta, and vata. The doshas also govern the seasons and the times of the day and night.

  • Kapha dosha is made up of earth and water and can sometimes be recognized as the part of us that’s caring and nurturing.
  • Pitta dosha is made up of fire and water and can sometimes be recognized as the part of us that’s passionate and driven.
  • Vata dosha is made up of air and ether and represents the creative, imaginative and social sides of us.

It’s important to remember that we actually are made up of all three doshas, but the qualities of one or more may dominate the way we digest our food or even the way we learn. Let’s explore them more in depth below!

Kapha Dosha (Earth & Water)

Kapha dosha is made up of the elements earth and water and the qualities are heavy, cold, moist, static, smooth, and soft. When we think about what happens when earth and water combine, we may think about mud or even heaviness. However, earth and water actually provide us with feelings of being nurtured and being taken care of.

Kapha dosha is responsible for stability and structure within the body and also shows up as our ability to be supportive and caring to ourselves and others.

The main sites of kapha dosha are the stomach and the lungs.

The Kapha Dosha Archetype:

  1. They usually have strong bones, are very muscular, have lots of physical and mental strength, sometimes slow digestion, a slower walk, a booming voice, and a strong constitution.
  2. They love routine and rarely get bored of it.  Since kapha’s really dislike changing their routine, they make some of the most loyal friends and partners!
  3. They don’t get sick too often, but when they do they’re probably more upset about being out of their daily routine. (They can eat the same thing every day for lunch and go on the same vacation ever year.)
  4. They are naturally loving and nurturing, but they also naturally hate change. The last thing they want to do is leave a steady relationship to explore something else.
  5. They work well with others and make great partners for projects or any kind of group activity.
  6. Their home is usually filled with lots of blankets, pillows, and anything that creates a cozy environment that welcomes naps and relaxation.

Season: Springtime

Kapha dosha’s season is springtime. During the spring, mother earth is moving through a phase where she’s melting the snow and ice while also creating an environment for new life and rebirth. Our bodies mirror what happens in nature, so we are naturally warming up and preparing for the new season and for change.

One of the main principles of Ayurveda is that like increases like and opposites balance.

If during the winter, we were drinking tons of cold smoothies and eating raw foods, we are increasing the cold quality that was already present in nature around us. By doing that, our incredibly intelligent bodies began to find ways to keep us warm and lubricated — so when spring comes, this additional lubrication may manifest as excess mucus or springtime allergies.

However, if a person ate warm soups and well-cooked foods during the winter, it would counter the cold qualities present in nature and the body wouldn’t need to find ways to come back to balance.

Time of Day: 6am-10am

The kapha times of day are 6am-10am and 6pm-10pm. If you’ve ever woken up at 8am and felt like you just wanted to go back to sleep or felt like it was impossible to get out of bed, it may be because you were waking up right in the middle of the kapha time of day. Remember, some of the qualities of kapha are heavy, slow, and dull. If you try to move and motivate when these qualities are dominant in nature, it’s naturally going to be more difficult.

I often have clients who come to me asking how they can break out of the morning fog they sometimes feel and how to get out of bed with more energy. The suggestion I always give is:

Try to wake up before kapha time begins. It might sound like waking up earlier would just mean that they’d be more tired, but waking up before those kapha qualities can be transformative. Waking up around 6am may also feel like a chore at first, but as soon as they get out of bed they say they actually have a lot of energy and motivation to start the day.

Another interesting thing about the kapha time of day is how it can work with us or against us when we are trying to go to sleep. If we can wind our day down between 6-10pm, which is kapha time, it’s much easier to get to sleep. Kapha’s slow and stable qualities work in our favor when we want to go to bed.

If you’ve ever been up past 10pm, you’ve probably experienced that “second wind” feeling where you get a burst of energy and are tempted to get some work done or even go out or begin a new project. If I ever find myself up at this time, I catch myself cleaning my home or doing the dishes or folding laundry and try to wind down. This may sound productive, but because I’m past that kapha time of night, it becomes much harder to get to sleep and stay asleep!

When in balance:

  • Maintaining nurturing relationships
  • Lots of self love
  • Love towards the people around us
  • Stability at work
  • Stability with a profession

When out of balance:

  • Swelling
  • Excess mucus
  • Weight gain
  • Depression
  • A sense of stagnation
  • Inability to fully digest food
  • Inability to process emotions

Ayurveda: The Doshas, The Lifestyle, The Remedies

Ayurveda teaches us that when we live in sync with nature, we are able to find and maintain balance within ourselves. Nature is always changing and all of the plants and animals here on planet earth make shifts and adjustments to be in harmony with her. We need to do the same. It’s important to remember this as we move through through this beautiful life and experience shifts around us.

Vata Dosha (Air & Ether)

Vata dosha is made up of air and ether and can sometimes be recognized as the part of us that’s creative, imaginative, and social. Some of the qualities of vata are cold, light, dry, mobile, subtle. Air is literally all around us and is always moving. Even when we’re in total sillness, we can almost feel the air around our skin, eyes, nose, and ears. Ether is sometimes understood as space or stillness. It’s what can contain or hold. When air and ether come together to create vata dosha, there is potential for creation and also a container to just be.

The main sites of vata dosha are the large intestine, the pelvic area, the knees, skin, ears and hips.

The Vata Dosha Archetype:

  1. They usually have a long, straight frame, light bones and muscles, cool skin, cold hands and feet, and a slower walk.
  2. They tend to eat and talk fast and want to multitask all the time.
  3. It can be difficult for them to gain weight and it’s usually easy for them to lose weight.
  4. They may have a very dominant feature like large eyes, big teeth, or a more pronounced nose.
  5. They are social, creative, and also love to learn and travel.
  6. They need reminders and to-do-lists; Your vata friend is the one who you may not hear from for some time, and you’ll probably get a call from them at a very random time on a Tuesday because they want to tell you they were thinking of you and that they miss you.

Season: Fall & Winter

Late fall and winter are considered vata season because it’s when we see many of vata’s qualities as mentioned above. When the weather begins to get cooler, we see nature naturally begin to dry up and get lighter. It becomes much windier and there is a crispness to the air that can only be felt during vata season.

During this time when our environment is naturally drying out, we need to maintain balance by favoring well-cooked, moist, and warm foods. It’s common to find that our appetite might increase as well and it’s okay to lean into that change. If you think about the lunch you have on a hot summer day vs the lunch you have on a cold winter day, the two are probably very different. Ayurveda teaches us that they should be different because the world around us is different during these times.

Vata season is a time to embrace routine. It’s important to try to wake up and go to sleep around the same time, eat meals around the same time, and do our best to have a predictable schedule. The mobile quality that comes with this season can cause imbalances within us if we aren’t finding ways to ground ourselves.

Time of Day: 2pm-6pm & 2am-6am

The vata times of day are 2pm-6pm and 2am-6am. The daytime hours of vata from 2pm-6pm are when we may feel that afternoon crash or the need for a coffee or something sweet. This is a great opportunity to practice something nourishing like pranayama, meditation, or more mellow yoga classes. It’s a nice time to take a walk in nature and to also have a cup of tea. The late night and early morning hours of vata are a time to use the air and ether elements for receiving. It’s said that if we can wake up around 5-6am, it’s a very powerful time to meditate or to take part in whatever ritual or practice we have. It’s naturally a time with little distraction because most people are still asleep and all things in nature are just beginning to wake up.

The more we understand vata dosha and the qualities of vata, the more we can connect to nature around us and to the qualities within us. We can become more aware of how certain times of day, certain seasons, foods, situations, people, and places either help us come to balance, or cause us to fall out of balance. This awareness can hopefully help us become more understanding, supportive, and helpful to the people in our lives and to ourselves as we navigate this time on planet earth. When we begin to recognize how the doshas manifest for us, we can move through our day in a much more loving and understanding way. We can cultivate more compassion and become teachers who teach by example. The ability to teach people to find balance begins with us finding out how we can stay in balance.

When in balance:

  • The ability to think on your toes
  • Formulating new and helpful ideas
  • Thinking outside the box
  • Creative expression.
  • Able to share ideas, plans and creations

When out of balance:

  • Feelings of emptiness or lack

Pitta Dosha (Fire & Water)

Pitta dosha is made of the elements fire and water and some of the qualities are oily, hot, sharp, light, and spreading. When fire and water come together, it can create steam. When we think of steam, we probably imagine there being some sort of flame or heat to cause transformation. We need pitta to digest and transform our food and to also digest and transform our thoughts and emotions. We can see pitta within us whenever we are passionate about something and whenever we’re motivated. Those times when we feel unstoppable and incredibly driven are how we can recognize pitta within us.

One of the main sites of pitta dosha is the small intestine, which is where our food gets “cooked” and transformed into nutrients that move through our body.

The Pitta Dosha Archetype:

  1. They usually have a medium-sized frame, warm skin, light and intense eyes, an intense gaze, very strong digestion, and the ability to walk with intention and talk in an assertive way.
  2. They may gain and lose weight quite easily and also tend to be very athletic and active.
  3. They probably have their closet organized by color, season, or clothing type.
  4. Their bookshelves are most likely arranged by author or the books are set up in some kind of color-coded system.
  5. They probably know where everything in their home is located and it’s rare that something gets lost.
  6. They can take you on a wild adventure, jumpstart a new business, plan a huge event, and be the life of the party. However, remember that fire can be something that warms us as well as something that burns us.

Season: Summer

Pitta dosha’s season is summer and during the summertime we can see the qualities of pitta in mother nature. It can get incredibly hot and there’s also a sharp and spreading mood to the summer that can make us feel quite intense if we don’t encourage balance.

If it’s the afternoon on a hot summer day, when the sun is strongest and you’re already sweaty and warm, you will feel even more hot if you eat spicy salsa and take a high-intensity boot camp class outside. All of that heated activity would increase your pitta and bring you out of balance. You may act from a fiery place and respond with a fierce outburst in this case. We can avoid these fiery outbursts by keeping our pitta in balance. Perhaps instead of the salsa and bootcamp class, I could have drank coconut water and gone for a walk. Your mindset would have been much more cool and calm and you can react to situations in a more mindful way.

Time of Day: 10am-2pm & 10pm-2am

The pitta times of day are 10am-2pm and 10pm-2am. These times of day have qualities of pitta, so they’re the times of motivation and transformation. That 10am-2pm time of the day is the perfect time to tackle projects, make moves towards goals, schedule phone calls, and do anything that requires motivation and drive. It’s the best time to open up your planner or to-do-list and check things off. It’s also an ideal time to have the biggest meal of the day because our digestion is strongest.

The start of the evening, 10pm-2am time, might be when we experience a feeling of a “second wind,” which is basically just pitta time coming back around. Ideally, we want to be in bed, or at least trying to wind down, before evening pitta time kicks in. It’s a great time to be in bed because our bodies can experience more of a cleansing state when we’re relaxed and when we’re not digesting food. This is often a rough one for a lot of us with social lives that kick off later, but it can be such a transformational experience to honor this natural cycle in nature.

The beauty in understanding pitta dosha is that we can begin to notice where pitta shows up in our bodies, minds, hearts, lifestyle, and also in nature. When we are in sync with nature, we begin to feel more balanced as we move through our days and nights.

Understanding the doshas is meant to be empowering and a way for us to understand why we act a certain way or feed a certain way during specific times in our lives.

You may begin to notice that you aren’t really an angry or judgmental person, but rather that you were making certain lifestyle choices that increased your pitta and caused an imbalance. You may even start to see how certain people in your life are acting incredibly controlling because they haven’t taken a break in months and haven’t given themselves time to cool down and reset. Hopefully this knowledge helps us become more understanding, kind, and supportive towards ourselves and towards the people in our lives.

When in balance:

  • Ambition
  • Leadership
  • Passion
  • Motivation
  • Organization

When out of balance:

  • Digestion issues
  • Anger
  • Judgmental tendencies
  • Irritability
  • Overbearing
  • Quick to make decisions without fully thinking things through
Patrick from YogaRenew teaching a student in a yoga class

The Best 5 Tips for Crafting the Perfect Yoga Playlist

By Yoga Classes, Yoga Teachers

I once asked a good yoga teacher friend of mine why they didn’t play music in their classes. Her answer to me was “I never liked making new playlists and a student of mine called me out on it.” From that moment on she stopped playing music in her class because it was obvious that it didn’t enhance her classes in any way.

My general rule on this is: if you are going to play music in your classes you need to take the time and effort to craft and curate the right music for the mood you are trying to elicit. If you treat your music like an afterthought it will sound like an afterthought and your students will pick up on that. When that happens, the music doesn’t add value to your class it just detracts from it.

Below are 5 great tips to help you craft your next killer yoga playlist!

Tip 1: Take the time to work on your playlist

Making a yoga playlist takes time! It might sound silly but sometimes I’ve spent as much time curating my yoga playlist as I did working out my class sequence. The fact of the matter is, just by playing music doesn’t automatically make your class better. In fact, a bad playlist can ruin the mood or vibe of a yoga class. Being a yoga teacher is a job and we should take time each week prepping not only our class sequences but our class playlist.

Tip 2: Do not set your playlist on shuffle

I’ve been in yoga classes before and the vibe seems perfect and all of a sudden a random song “shuffles” in that is completely inappropriate for the mood or the type of movement that the class is working on. When this happens you know the teacher put a bunch of random songs in a playlist and hit shuffle. To me that suggests a lack of effort

Tip 3: Your playlist should follow the flow of your class

Most yoga classes follow a pattern with a clear beginning, middle, and end building towards a peak in a given session. Your yoga playlist should follow this same pattern so it syncs up with your class. The beginning or warm up section of class should feel spacious and ambient which allows students to arrive on their mat with their body and breath. The middle section of class is where you will spend the most time and this section should have upbeat and rhythmic music. The last section is the end or cool down. At this point, your music should taper down again, moving students towards final relaxation. The music should reflect this mood and should be meditative and relaxing.

Tip 4: Play music without words

Music, especially pop music often correlates with strong emotions or memories for people. Just because you love a popular song on the radio it could bring a student to a memory of loss or breakup. I also find that music with words can be distracting and take away from the student focusing on their practice.

For this reason, I typically prefer using music that doesn’t have words. Basically, I want the music to help elicit the mood I am trying to create within each section of class.

Tip 5: Listen to your songs all the way through

I’ve made this mistake before! I have found songs that I absolutely love for 3 minutes and 30 seconds and put them on my playlist without listening to them all the way through. Then in the middle of class when that song hits the 3 minute and 40 second mark the songs changes direction completely and weird instrumentation or jarring vocals is introduced. The point is that many songs take twists and turns and you should really listen to your song selections all the way through to ensure they are appropriate for your specific class.

A girl doing a shoulder stand

Weekly Class Theme: Om (Aum)

By Yoga Asana, Yoga Classes

Have you ever noticed that a collective Om at the end of class seems to resonate more compared to one taken at the beginning of class? If you haven’t, it may be something you notice now!

The Om chanted at the end of class (assuming you also chanted at the beginning of class) tends to sound better for a multitude of reasons. This includes: being in sync with yourself and the others in the room, overall increased energy, the opening of everyone’s airways, which results from consistent and focused breath and lastly, the relaxing of the neck, throat, and all structures within and around these bodily points.

Access your throat chakra

The chakra associated with the body part utilized in chanting, “Om” is known as the throat chakra, or vissudha chakra. When we think of the location of this chakra, we must consider its range from the roof of the mouth to the diaphragm. This area includes many important structures, which directly affect the respiratory system, the digestive system, and the neurological system. Vissudha chakra is where integration of thought and feeling takes place and is the locus for vocalization and self-expression. Constriction in this region of the body can cause emotional upheaval which can result in worry, anxiety, and fear.

Releasing the throat and allowing energy, fluid, vibration, and sound to pass allows us to live in a place where our heart and our head can integrate so we can live in a harmonized state of compassion and wisdom.

Softening constriction in and around the throat can be done through asana (the focus of this class), breathing, and sound. Mantra yoga, which predates Hatha yoga, emphasizes the use of mantras and syllabic vocalizations to transmit vibrations and air through the nadis and vocal cords, which create sound. This is why your usage of Sanskrit matters and why the way in which you pronounce things is just as important as what you are saying.

The meaning of Om

Om (or Aum) is a simple and common, yet very powerful mantra to use during your yoga practice to incorporate sound. Om is said to be the primordial sound of all sounds that is vibrating within absolutely everything. There are three syllables which represent a cycle from birth to death, but there are four elements in total that make up this powerful mantra.

“Aa” — signifies beginnings or creation
“Uu” — (pronounced “ooooh”) signifies maintenance
“Mm” — signifies the end or destruction

Silence is the fourth and final element that always follows the chant. Om allows our vibrations to merge with that of the universal energy, which is always present.

Moving to our peak pose

Let’s turn our attention now to shoulder stand or sarvangasana, which is known as the “Mother of All Poses.” This pose is essential for the health and vitality of the throat chakra and supports drainage of blood and lymph* out of the legs, gut, and chest. An asana class focused on building towards sarvangasana in combination with using sound and/or mantra is like an elixir for any conditions or misalignments that are present energetically and/or physically in the throat chakra.

Sarvangasana is translated to shoulder stand, not neck stand. I emphasize this because it is of extreme importance that while in this pose one balances on the top of their shoulder blades (those winglike bones in the upper back). The natural curve of the cervical spine should remain. Undue and excessive stress on the neck can compress the muscles and tissues in a way that causes further constriction as opposed to energetic and physical flow. The warmup poses leading to sarvargasana will be focused on freeing any muscular tension in the shoulders and upper trunk in addition to creating integrity in the legs.

*Lymph — a fluid that flows through the lymphatic system; the lymphatic system is a major player in our immune system and helps to remove and fight off bacteria and other foreign materials from the tissues of the body.

Supported Fish (Matsyasana)

A girl in supported fish pose

How to:

  1. You’ll need two blocks for this pose. Set up the first block on the low or medium height underneath your shoulderblades. You can choose whether you want the black to go parallel to your spine or horizontal to your spine, but the goal is to use the block as an assist to firm the shoulderblades into the back body. It should feel like your shoulderblades are pressing into your body and up towards the sky when you lie down.
  2. Set up the second block on the medium or high height (depending on the height of the first block) beneath your head. The edge of the block should sort of “catch” the occipital ridge (that bony shelf-like feature) on the back of your skull. Position your head so there is length to the back of your neck and a slight tuck to your chin.
  3. If you feel excessive tension that you cannot soften, decrease the heights of your blocks. If that is still too much, roll up a blanket and place it underneath your upper back and head.
  4. Allow your arms to rest out to the sides so the chest and front ribs can spread.
  5. Your legs can either bend with the soles of the feet flat on the floor, they can extend straight out, or you can try supta baddha konasana.
  6. Soften the muscles and tissues in the jaw and throat as you breathe deeply.

Wide Leg Forward Fold with Hands Clasped (Prasarita Padottanasana)

Forward fold with hands clasped overhead

How to:

  1. Face a long edge of your mat and widen your legs about 3 feet from one another.
  2. Ensure your feet are parallel to one another by looking at your second toes to see if they are parallel to one another (the 2nd toe represents the center of the ankle).
  3. Bring your hands behind your lower back and interlace the fingers (using a strap is an option if you cannot interlace your hands).
  4. With your hands bound, externally rotate your arms at the shoulders by turning the inner elbows and biceps out towards the sides of the room.
  5. Firm the shoulder blades into your back body as you lift the sides of your chest and draw your hands away from your bum any amount. Notice if tension in the upper trapezius (muscles around the base of your neck) forms and if so, try to soften and re-firm the shoulder blades into the back-body.
  6. Now, lift and fan your toes, lift the kneecaps, and spin the inner thighs back as you fold in between your legs and take your hands over the head. Keep integrity through the legs, particularly through the inner lines of your legs as you fold. If you have trouble internally rotating the legs during this posture, you can turn your toes slightly inward.
  7. Continue to work the arms over the head as you firm the shoulder blades into the back body and maintain a diaphragmatic breath.

Warrior 3 (Virabhadrasana III)

A girl in warrior three pose

How to:

  1. Start in mountain pose with the back of your skull slightly lifted (and chin slightly tucked) resulting in a neutral head position.
  2. Relax your shoulders blades down your back while lifting the sides of your chest.
  3. Flex and spread your toes to assist in lifting the inner arch of your feet and create integrity in your legs.
  4. Keep the right foot grounded as you start to hinge forward with your torso while simultaneously lifting the left leg.
  5. As your torso gets parallel to the floor (and gravity starts to become more of a factor), retract your shoulder blades (aka pull them in towards each other) just enough to keep a lift in your chest like a baby cobra.
  6. Keep the integrity through your standing leg, while reaching back through the inner line of your left leg.
  7. Your arms can remain by your side, or you can take them overhead (and palms together for the traditional variation). Either one, the shoulderblades should firm into the backbody.
  8. Keep lifting through the sides of your chest as you breathe with a diaphragmatic breath.

Locust Pose (Salabhasana)

A girl in locust pose

How to:

  1. Lie in a prone position (on your belly) with your forehead on the floor. This position of the head assists in lengthening the back of your neck and contributes to a slight chin tuck putting the head into a neutral position. Do your best to keep this position when you come into locust.
  2. Bring your arms alongside your torso with your palms facing the floor. Apply gentle pressure through your palms to externally rotate the shoulders and firm the shoulderblades into the back body.
  3. Bring your legs together (or hip width apart).
  4. Flex and spread your toes and extend through the inner lines of your legs towards the back of the room.
  5. On your inhale lift your head, chest, arms, hands, legs, and feet.
  6. On your exhale try and firm the tailbone towards the floor and lengthen the entire body from head to toe.
  7. Breathe deeply as you lift and spread the chest and extend through the inner lines of the legs.

Bridge (Setu Bandhasana)

A girl in bridge pose

How to:

  1. Lie on your back with your legs bent and heels beneath your knees. Your feet should be parallel to one another and pointing directly forward.
  2. With your arms alongside your torso, press your shoulder blades into the mat to expand the collarbones and chest.
  3. On your inhale press your heels down to lift your pelvis off the floor by firming the tailbone up towards the sky.
  4. On your exhale press your shoulders down into the mat and try to roll towards the top edge of your shoulder blades.
  5. One by one, walk the shoulder blades further underneath the body while digging them into the back body. If you can, interlace your fingers on the mat to further retract the scapulae (anatomical term for shoulder blades) to lift the chest.
  6. Ensure the cervical spine maintains its natural curve. The points on the mat should be the skull, the shoulder blades, the arms + hands, and feet.
  7. Breathe with a diaphragmatic breath.

Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana)

A girl doing a shoulder stand

How to:

  1. You’ll need 2-4 folded blankets for this. Set your folded blankets up halfway down your mat with the fringes facing the front of the room and the neat folded edge facing the back of the room (this side will be closest to your head).
  2. Fold the bottom of your mat over your blankets. This will create a nice foundation for your shoulders and upper arms.
  3. Place a bolster horizontally right along the folded edge of your mat.
  4. Lie down on your blanket/bolster set-up so that your pelvis is on the bolster, your back is on the folded mat + blankets, and your head is on the flat mat.
  5. Place your hands onto the bolster to help push your legs over your head for plow pose.
  6. Take your hands towards your upper back, firm your elbows in, and firm the shoulder blades into your back body.
  7. Take your legs one-by-one up to the sky; flex and spread your toes and reach through the inner lines of your feet and legs.
  8. Continue to dig the shoulder blades into the back body to expand the chest and ribcage as you breathe deeply with a diaphragmatic breath. If you feel like the chest has collapsed, walk the elbows towards one another and re-firm the shoulder blades into the back body (a strap around the upper arms can be of assistance here).
  9. If you feel like you cannot breathe, or if you have any pain/pressure in your head, neck, or eyes, slowly lower your pelvis to the bolster and remain in supported shoulder stand.
  10. To exit, slowly come back to plow pose and use your hands as breaks to lower your pelvis and then your legs.
  11. Slide your way off of the props and come into savasana.
Leading your first yoga workshop doesn't have to be scary!

8 Tips for Creating Your First Yoga Workshop!

By Business of Yoga, Yoga Teachers

Maybe you’ve been a teaching for quite some time now and you feel like you may have found some sweet spots in your teaching. You’re accustomed to seeing repeat students and you can see that there is a topic that both you and your students are wanting to dive a little bit deeper into. Sounds like you are ready to create and teach your first workshop!

I remember when I was asked to teach my first workshop, I was so scared. I wasn’t afraid to incorporate arm balances into my regular classes and I had a decent grasp of how to successfully teach some of them. I also knew there was interest amongst the students… so why I was so nervous?! These were some thoughts that were crowding my brain:

“Would anyone show up? “How can I make a workshop special? What if I get through all the information with too much time left over? What if I fail miserably?”

Despite all these questions I had going on in my head, I knew that if I wanted to further my teaching, I would have to push through these barriers and all the doubts.

I wanted to continue to grow as a teacher and I saw myself as someone who would one day lead workshops, retreats, teacher trainings, etc. and I knew for certain the only way I could feel confident in doing any of these things was to take the first step and just do it, whether I felt ready or not.

Taking the leap…

Fast-forward to the present moment (of this article being published), I have led multiple successful workshops in topics like arm balancing, inversions, prenatal and more. Every single workshop is different and as I have evolved as a teacher, the way I approach workshops has evolved as well. The first workshop I led was based on information I found online and from other instructors. As I’ve gotten more acquainted with my own teaching methods, I’ve gotten far more confident with putting my own spin on things or just creating something entirely new and on my own.

Now, since this is your first workshop (or maybe it’s not and you are just looking for guidance in this area), I am going to give you a quick, easy and digestible launch pad. These tips can help you to get the ball rolling and give you somewhere to start because sometimes it can feel overwhelming not knowing where to begin. Here we go…

Tip #1: Decide what you want to teach

This may seem obvious, but we’re starting at the beginning here! If you already know the topic of what you’ll be teaching, feel free to skip to Tip #2. If not, try to take an honest look at your teaching. Look back on each class and notice where you felt most in flow. Is it standing poses? Is it backbends? Is it yin, restorative, or meditation? Also be sure to take note of your students and try to pick up on where their interest lies. Notice the moments that ignite conversations or spark questions or where they seem to be progressing and where they seem intrigued. You can do this through conversation with your students and through your present moment awareness of the energy during class. Journal after your classes or make a note in your phone. Keep track of where you’re noticing there might be potential for a quality workshop. This may even result in multiple ideas!

Tip #2: Decide where you want to teach

If you teach at multiple studios, then this tip may be the most crucial. You might have a great idea for a workshop, but a great idea will only be successful if you have students who are interested in the topic being presented and the space that can energetically match that concept. This is one of the reasons I suggest holding off on doing any workshops until you have a decent grasp of the groups you are working with.

One studio may have a more fitness demographic while another studio may have a more quiet and meditative demographic. Based on the topic you’re teaching, especially if it’s your first workshop, think about where it could be most successful. That’s not to say that you can never teach a handstand workshop at a studio that’s considered more chill or meditative, but start off by giving yourself the best chance at success. Once you feel more confident creating and leading workshops, taking any topic and tailoring it to different demographics will become much easier.

In addition, once you have your topic and the location of where you will teach, try to come up with some goals for yourself. What do you think you’d like to achieve? It is reasonable for who you’ll be teaching?

Tip #3: Let all of your students know

Just because you have decided where you’d like to teach your workshop does not mean you can only invite those students to it. For workshops: The more the merrier! Let all your students know what you are teaching and when you are teaching it. You could have a student at one studio very interested in what you’re teaching somewhere else. Remember, this is a specialty event. You’re not asking your students to abandon their home studio nor are you dismantling your loyalty towards the studio owner you’re not doing the workshop at. Does this promote the studio you are teaching it at? Yes. But personally I see it as a disservice to you and your students to not let them know of the workshop you’re leading because a workshop is a great chance for anyone to deepen their practice. If you feel uncomfortable announcing your event in class, you can tell people in conversation or post it on social media but don’t keep it a secret!

Tip #4: Select your main focus areas

Let’s say you are teaching an arm balance workshop — What poses will you focus on? What specific points about those poses will you focus on? How will you repeatedly bring those points into practice to give your students multiple opportunities to grasp what you are teaching? The answer: Do not feel the need to teach a million things.

I actually approach workshops similar to how I approach my normal asana classes. In a normal asana class I choose 2-3 specific points to essentially drill into my students bodies and minds through practice. In a workshop, I typically do the same thing but now I have more time and space to do so. This allows me to be creative and take risks I normally wouldn’t take in class due to time, space, or level-of-students restraints; it creates room to explain how and why I’m asking students to do something; it also lends space for actual conversations to take place between myself and those who are in the class. Therefor, I can almost ensure that I can lead all of my students towards embodiment of the points of focus at hand.

Another thing to remember, if you’re teaching multiple “peak poses,” choose ones that have common alignment points. This way you can focus more on the alignment points themselves, as opposed to teaching each pose separately during your workshop.

Tip #5: Incorporate familiarity

It’s likely that people will be attending your workshop because you are teaching something that is new for students, or at the very least you are giving students the opportunity to learn something new so that they can refine what they already know. There’s an aspect of your workshop that will be “unknown” for your students which is great in my opinion, but why not combine those unknowns with something that is known.

Incorporating periods of a known practice or familiarity can allow your students to feel successful and grounded before embarking on the new thing(s) that you’ll be presenting. As we know, learning new things is great and necessary for growth! It can also be little bit scary and frustrating at times if we feel we can’t grasp the task at hand (think about putting together that piece of Ikea furniture), so incorporating things student already know can greatly help. Based on my own experience when people feel successful and grounded it’s like they have a solid launch pad supporting their willingness to listen and try new things. At the end of this article I give a formatting guide so you’ll be able to see where I sprinkle in these familiar periods.

Tip #6: You are allowed to interrupt the flow of class

This is a very important reminder! If you are used to teaching regular classes, planning moments where you will completely stop to break things down and talk more in-depth may feel unnatural. However, in a workshop situation, depending on what you are teaching, it’s important to plan time to put a break (or multiple breaks) in the flow of class to dive deeper. Your explanations can be more in-depth, you might have materials you’d like to hand out and go over, your demos can be more detailed, you might even want to incorporate partner/group work and/or need to change the formation of your students in the room (for example, if you’re using the wall). I usually put these moments before and after the moments of flow so that it doesn’t feel like a 2 hour lecture, but more of a “lecture and apply” experience.

Another tip for these types of moments: don’t just plan where they will be but also plan what the content will be and what you will say. These moments, while they are a little more free-form because questions may come up or you’ll think of another relevant point, should still be planned out. These “interrupted” moments are vital teaching moments to contribute to the overall goal of the workshop. Think about what you’ll say and how you’ll deliver it so you can be concise and to the point.

Tip #7: Get your students talking

I start off every single workshop with a little introduction of myself and the workshop, why I am teaching the workshop, and student introductions. I always go around the room and have people share their name and why they decided to sign up. For lack of a better term, I make people do an ice breaker. Personally, I love ice breakers because it gets people talking, contributing to the space, and allows for people to find commonalities, and genuinely connect with one another. It is very typical for people to sign up for the same event for similar reasons. Especially when you will be asking people to do new things and potentially face some fears, it’s nice to know that others are in the same boat. It creates a sense of “we’re in this together” mentality.

There are other great reasons for doing introductions. It gives you a better sense of what your students are looking for so you don’t have to guess! Your goals may not always align with your students goals and that’s okay. Being aware of my students’ goals gives me the ability to let go of my expectations and focus more on who the workshop is actually for: the students. This doesn’t mean that I forget about what I am trying to achieve, but it allows me to find where my goals and my students’ goals overlap. There’s also a high probability that someone will crack a joke or say something that will lighten the mood and it’s always a good thing to get people laughing.

Tip #8: Stay in alignment with yourself

It’s important to remember that you can create your workshops in any way that feels authentic for you. This opportunity has been presented to you for a reason either due to your teaching style, the way you instruct a certain topic, your background in a specific area, and/or your relationship to your students who will most likely attend. So don’t go changing yourself or doing something that doesn’t feel aligned, because it’s likely that will show. And if your workshop doesn’t go as planned, or you feel you fumbled a little bit, or ran out of time or didn’t take enough time…it is OKAY. You learn from your experiences, make adjustments, and apply what you’ve learned to the next one!

Revolved Janu Sirsasana is a great pose to deepen your yoga practice

Weekly Class Theme: Asana

By Yoga Classes, Yoga Teachers

“It is through the alignment of the body that I discovered the alignment of my mind, self, and intelligence.” — B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life

There are many reasons people decide to begin their yoga journey. Some seek out yoga because they have back pain and want to gain more strength and flexibility in their bodies. Others seek out yoga because they hear it is relaxing and can help them handle stress. Some students start their yoga practice once they become pregnant because it can help with the birthing process. The point is that yoga has a wide variety of benefits which is also why so many people come to yoga for different reasons.

Ultimately, whichever path you choose to arrive on your mat is leading to the same place: a union between body, mind, and spirit, that once achieved, provides equanimity and harmony to the practitioner. This equanimity and harmony of body, mind, and spirit is the state of yoga.

In addition to the many different reasons students come to yoga there is also a variety of practices that can help students achieve this union. Some use meditation, some breathing techniques, and others the physical postures, which are called Asanas. There are benefits to each but the practice of the postures has the added physical bonus that are often easier to track for new students. A consistent physical practice can lead to greater flexibility and strength in a relatively short amount of time. This is why the practice of asana is a great entry point for many new practitioners. The only tool you need to start an asana practice is your body and a commitment to practice. Over time, with consistent practice, those physical benefits are often supplemented by additional benefits such as better sleep, less stress, and an overall feeling of peacefulness of body and mind.

After all, as B.K.S. Iyengar has stated “It is through the alignment of the body that I discovered the alignment of my mind, self, and intelligence.”

Child’s Pose (Bālāsana)

Child's pose is a restful pose

How to:

  1. Start on your hands and knees, toes untucked.
  2. Bring your big toes to touch and your knees as wide as your mat.
  3. Sit back, bringing your sit-bones to your heels.
  4. Walk your arms all the way out, about shoulder width apart, planting your palms & keeping your elbows lifted.
  5. Let your forehead come to the mat.
  6. As you inhale, lengthen from your outer hips to pinky fingers, as you exhale, maintain the extension of your torso and arms as you anchor your hips to your heels.

Extended Side Angle (Utthita Parsvakonasana)

Practicing extended side angle is good for stretching

How to:

  1. Start in tadasana (mountain pose).
  2. Step or jump your feet 4 to 4 ½ feet apart, feet parallel to the edges of your mat.
  3. Extend your arms out to the sides at shoulder height, palms facing down.
  4. Turn your right foot out 90 degrees, and your left foot in slightly (about 10 degrees).
  5. Bend your right knee until it is over your right heel so your right thigh is parallel to the floor, keep the back left leg straight and firm around the kneecap.
  6. Extend your right side body along your right thigh and place the right palm outside the right ankle on the floor or a block. The right armpit should align with the outer right knee.
  7. Extend the left arm over the left ear, palm facing down.
  8. As you inhale, lengthen from the back foot through the side body, towards the top hand. As you exhale, turn your trunk upward.
  9. Repeat on the other side.

Gate Pose (Parighasana)

Gate pose can help lengthen

How to:

  1. Start in rock pose, vajrasana, kneeling on the floor with your knees and ankles together, tops of the feet and ankles flat, and toes pointed backward.
  2. Keeping your feet, ankles, and shins flat, sit up and extend your right leg out to the side. Make sure your right heel is aligned with your left knee. Turn the right foot and plant the sole of your right foot flat on the mat.
  3. Extend your arms out to the sides at shoulder height, palms facing down.
  4. Extend your right side body over your right leg and place your right hand on your right shin.
  5. Extend the left arm over the left ear, palm facing down.
  6. As you inhale, lengthen your side body and your top arm through your fingertips. As you exhale, turn your trunk upward
    Repeat on the other side.

Our Peak Pose: Revolved Head to Knee Pose (Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana)

Revolved Janu Sirsasana is a great pose to deepen your yoga practice

How to:

  1. Start seated on the floor in Dandasana, staff pose, with your legs extended out in front of you.
  2. Bend the left knee and move it to the left, taking the top of your left shin, ankle, and foot to the floor. The left heel should line up with the pubic bone.
  3. Extend your right side body along your right thigh turning your right arm, wrist, and thumb toward the floor. Grab the big toe side of your right foot with your thumb facing down and pinky facing upward.
  4. Extend the left arm over the left ear, grab the pinky toe side of the foot with the left arm, thumb facing down and pinky facing upward.
  5. As you inhale, lengthen your torso through the crown of your head. As you exhale, bend your elbows and turn your trunk.
  6. Repeat on the other side.
Girl in revolved chair pose

Weekly Class Theme: Pitta Dosha

By Yoga Classes

In this week’s class, we’re balancing our pitta dosha! Yoga is known as the sister science of Ayurveda, which teaches us that the doshas are the three main components of a person’s makeup, related to each of the elements. Pitta dosha is comprised of the elements fire and water. Many yoga postures are beneficial to balancing all of the dosha types, but this week we will focus on solely pitta.

When our pitta dosha is out of balance we may find ourselves getting overheated, irritated, even excessively sweating, and other bodily reactions. Whereas a balanced pitta dosha can offer contentment, good digestion, and passion. While foods and other daily practices contribute to a balanced dosha, a focused yoga practice can assist as well.

“Ayurveda teaches us to cherish our innate-nature – to love and honor who we are, not as what people think or tell us, who we should be.” – Prana Gogia

Our peak pose this week will be revolved chair pose and we’ve also listed out other warmup poses to prepare you for revolved chair, or Parivrtta Utkatasana.

Supine Twists (Supta Matsyendrasana)

Girl in supine twist

How to:

1. Begin by lying down on your back with your knees bent.
2. Bring your arms out wide and allow your shoulders to press into the mat.
3. Draw your knees into your chest and begin to let both knees slowly fall over to the left side. Let them fall comfortably towards the mat.
4. Allow your head to gaze in the opposite direction of your knees. If this is too much, keep your gaze looking up or look in the same direction as your knees.
5. With every exhale focus on deepening into the twist.
6. Hold for several breaths before switching sides.

Gate Pose (Parighasana)

Girl in gate pose

How to:

1. Begin by sitting on your knees with your back straight.
2. Straighten your right leg and extend it out to the right side of your body keeping your knee and ankle in line with your hip.
3. Keep your right foot parallel to your mat with your toes pointed forward.
4. Inhale and lift your left arm up over your left ear, extending your arm over your head.
5. Begin to deepen your reach by leaning your torso to the right on your exhale.
6. Gaze up over your extended left arm.
7. Repeat these steps on the other side.

Extended Side Angle (Utthita Parsvakonasana)

Girl in extended side angle pose

How to:

1. Begin in Warrior II pose.
2. Bring your front forearm onto your front thigh.
3. Extend your opposite arm up toward the sky with your fingers pointing towards the front of your mat.
4. Allow the bicep of your top arm to frame your ear. If this is too much, you can keep the arm lifted straight up towards the sky.
5. Keep your chest rotated upward and root down through the outer edge of your back foot.
6. Lift your head up towards the top arm. If this is too much, keep your gaze towards the ground.
7. To advance the pose, bring your top arm and extend your fingers toward the outside of your front foot. To help with flexibility, you can place a block by your front foot and place your hand on it.
8. To come out of the pose, press into your front thigh and activate your core to lift you back up to Warrior II.

And Finally…Revolved Chair Pose (Parivrtta Utkatasana)

Girl in revolved chair pose

How to:

1. Begin in Chair pose with your hands in prayer at the center of your chest
2. Activate your core and begin to twist towards your left, hooking your right elbow outside of your left thigh.
3. Keep your shoulders stacked as you broaden through your collarbones.
4. If possible, bring your gaze up towards your upper elbow or keep your gaze down towards your mat.
5. Press firmly into the balls of your feet and squeeze your thighs together.
6. To release, engage your core and quads as you twist back to your center.
7. Switch sides.

A book about ayurveda, a piece of ginger root and a neti pot on a table

Ayurveda and PMS

By Yoga Lifestyle

As a woman, I personally go through a range of ups and downs on a monthly basis and my body doesn’t stay on some consistent path as I move through my life. This is actually a beautiful experience and should be viewed as such. Unfortunately, when I started getting my period, I was taught to either ignore whatever imbalance I was going through or to push through any discomfort I felt.

This was during a time when I was actually very out of balance and instead of figuring out what was causing my imbalances, I would look for a quick fix to stop my stomach cramps and headaches so I could get through the day. PMS was always a problem for me. So many girls and women are confused by their bodies and cannot always connect to the ebb and flow that comes with having the hormones and cycles we have. If you research anything about periods, PMS, or hormones, you’ll get a ton of advice to mask or stop the symptoms.

How the doshas play a part in the menstrual cycle

After studying Ayurveda, I’ve learned that PMS is actually an imbalance in the doshas. These imbalances can be addressed and brought back to balance by understanding the doshas and by connecting with our body, mind, spirit, and heart. Ayurveda teaches us that when we are out of balance, we need to look at the whole body instead of just one or two symptoms. It asks us to look at the quality of our lifestyle, self-care, our thoughts, yoga practice, relationships, and any spiritual practices we have. It also encourages us to find balance through self exploration and self care. Too often, we run away from what’s happening instead of facing it. When we change the narrative from “something is wrong with me” to “something needs my attention and this is important,” it can be incredibly empowering.

Since vata is the moving force for doshas, made of ether and air, any acne and mood swings may be vata’s wind pushing the fires of pitta’s transformational energy, made of fire and water. Any weight gain, low energy, and liquid retention may be vata interacting with kapha’s more structural energy, made of earth and water. Any anxiety, bloating, and low energy may be signs of vata increasing during this part of the menstrual cycle.

What are the dhatus and how are they affected by pms?

The deeper we dive into Ayurveda, the more we can also connect with the dhatus. The dhatus are the tissues in the body: plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone, bone marrow/nerve, and reproductive. The actual menstrual flow is considered to be a byproduct of the first layer, rasa dhatu, the plasma. Plasma is kind of like a carrier for nourishment. When this layer is healthy, it moves freely, which means all nutrients and waste move through and exit the body easily. The second layer, rakta dhatu, the blood, is part of the menstrual flow as well because it releases excess pitta. Both of these dhatus are the quickest to experience changes in quality and in their consistency, so when we can tap into how we’re feeling before, after, and during our periods, we can start to address imbalances before they manifest into something bigger and more severe.

In Ayurveda, we look at any discomfort as an opportunity to ask why we’re not fully balanced and then we have the opportunity to address it and find out what works for us. Ayurveda isn’t a “one size fits all” when it comes to balancing our bodies. Let’s dive deeper into specific imbalances.

The imbalances in any dosha can cause certain side effects

If someone has vata imbalances, they may experience qualities that feel sharp and may have some spasms. This may be felt in the low back and low belly. They may also feel scared, nervous, or have heightened anxiety. The flow may appear thin, dry, light, or dark in color.

Pitta imbalances may manifest as bloating, excess heat, headaches, breast tenderness, acne, and burning. There may be increased irritability or anger and the flow may appear heavier, yellowish-red, or have a bad smell.

If someone has kapha imbalances, they might experience depression, emotional eating, bloating, yeast infections, and overall tiredness. The flow may be longer and heavier.

How do we find balance during PMS?

Overall, we need to focus on the whole body, lifestyle, self care, and the idea of tuning more deeply inward and not running from imbalances that surface. We need to try to stop looking for quick fixes. Ayurveda has taught me to take cravings or disruptions as an opportunity to question as opposed to a way to shame. Whenever I feel like I’m moving out of balance, I stop and try to figure out what’s going on. Am I tired? Am I angry? Am I feeling like I don’t want to get off the couch? Once I address what I’m feeling, I’ll match the qualities of that to the dosha or doshas it’s associated with and then try to balance in some of the following ways:

Vata:

  • Eating warm, cooked, mushy foods
  • Drink lots of water and stay hydrated
  • Bring moisture to tissues with ghee, flaxseed oil, hemp seed oil in food
  • Avoid caffeine
  • Be aware of, and enjoy every moment

Pitta:

  • Avoid spicy and oily foods (but not to the point to upset vata)
  • Cultivate more calmness and ease to lifestyle
  • Incorporate Nasya (nasal oil)
  • Incorporate yoga practices that open the heart and pranayama that cools

Kapha:

  • Stay warm either by moving or with warm clothing
  • Cook with spices like ginger, cinnamon, cardamom
  • Stay active and move (go for walks after meals)
  • Bhastrika and Kapalbhati pranayama daily

When your body is balanced, you can actually eliminate PMS symptoms

According to Ayurveda, women can move through their cycles and their different phases of life with grace, ease, and also a sense of empowerment. We aren’t supposed to feel bad at specific times of the month or during specific changes in life. When we understand nature, our bodies, and our rhythms, we can embrace what’s happening and celebrate everything our beautiful bodies are capable of and all that they do for us.

If you want to learn more about Ayurveda and women’s health, check out my mini course, or invest in the entire Ayurveda bundle to empower yourself, friends, family, and your students and clients.

*I want to acknowledge the intentional use of gendered language in this article. While the topic in this article may be experienced across the gender binary, this content specifically focuses on Ayurveda’s take on cis-women who experience PMS. This is not an intentional effacement of the men and nonbinary people who experience this. I am always learning and seeking ways to make these teachings as accessible as possible.

Girl in lotus pose on a yoga mat

Weekly Class Theme: Inner Strength

By Yoga Classes

When the word “strength” comes to mind, it’s easy to think about how strong our physical bodies are. We may think about how much weight we can squat or the maximum amount of weight we can put overhead. In a yoga asana sense, we might think of how long we can hold a pose until our muscles fatigue or how well we can do chaturanga dandasana or bakasana (or any arm balance). While physical, or outer strength is highly important it’s also important that we work on and grow our inner strength. Seeing as inner strength isn’t tangible, sometimes it’s quite easy to overlook this force within ourselves.

Our inner strength encompasses a wide variety of mental and emotional aspects, including how we view ourselves, our mindset, our self-esteem, resiliency, adaptability, vulnerability, etc. Our physical strength helps us get into a good physical state so that we can work on the deeper layers of our being. It is ultimately these deeper layers that can lead to everlasting contentment, joy, and satisfaction. It’s also our inner strength that can carry us through more physical challenges which increases our capacity for inner strength and so on and so forth. It’s a cycle that doesn’t have to end!

“You have power over your mind―not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” – Marcus Aurelius

Let’s explore some warmup poses for our peak pose, lotus.

Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana)

Girl in happy baby pose on a yoga mat

  1. From a supine (on your back) position, draw your knees in towards your arm pits.
  2. Start by holding your shins and folding your legs so that your lower leg is connected to your upper leg like you’re in child’s pose on your back.
  3. Progress by taking the soles of the feet up towards the ceiling.
  4. Thread your arms along the inner leg and bring your hands to cross the front of the ankle to grab the outer edges of your feet.
  5. Use your breath to continuously guide the knees towards the armpits while you press your sacrum towards the floor.

Pigeon (Kapotasana)

Girl in pigeon pose on a yoga mat

  1. From downward facing dog, extend the right leg up for a 3-leg downward facing dog.
  2. Open your hips so both hip points face the right side of the room and fold your leg in half so that your lower leg connects to your upper leg. KEEP THIS FOLDED LEG.
  3. Bring your folded leg forward so the knee comes towards your nose. Keep the folded leg. Yes, this might be challenging.
  4. Externally rotate your right hip so that your right knee tracks towards the right side of the mat and your right foot tracks towards the left side of your mat. Note: this is a movement of your hip, the knee remains in the same position due to the folded leg.
  5. Place the folded leg down and slide your hips back (only a little) so that your pelvis can settle to the ground behind your foot.
  6. Check that your navel is aiming forward as opposed to the left side wall. If you notice your off center, place a blanket beneath your right hip. Then fold forward.
  7. Exit carefully into downward facing dog and repeat on the left side.

Tree (Vrikshasana)

Girl in tree pose on a yoga mat

  1. Stand in tadasana.
  2. Lift your right leg up so that your thigh is parallel to the ground.
  3. Bring your hands to the front of your shin and walk your hands down towards your ankle to fold your leg.
  4. With the assistance of your right hand, externally rotate the right hip and guide your foot to connect with the inner left thigh.
  5. Do your best to maintain the folded leg shape as you extend the arms to the ceiling.
  6. To exit, bring your right knee forward, remove the foot from your leg, lower the foot and repeat on the other side.

Peak Pose: Lotus (Padmasana)

Girl in lotus pose on a yoga mat

There are many poses (practically all of them) that in some way assist in enlivening your inner strength. However, when I think of how to truly build up your fortress of self-love, awareness, resiliency, courage, etc., I think of lotus because this is the pose which is traditionally meant for one’s meditation practice. Really, the entire asana practice is geared to allow one to find an “easy seat” so that meditation can be achieved. That’s not to downplay the importance of our flowing, vinyasa class at all, but the magic really does lie in one’s ability to sit still and quietly.

Other options: Sukhasana or Siddhasana

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and soles of the feet flat on the floor.
  2. Bring your right knee in towards your chest and immediately walk your hands down the shin to fold your leg.
  3. Externally rotate the right hip and place your right foot into the left hip crease. Note: keep the folded leg.
  4. Bring your left knee in towards your chest, like a figure 4 stretch on your back. Fold your left leg as you did the right leg.
  5. Roll to your back and then to your right hand side and use the assistance of gravity to externally rotate your left hip to bring your left foot towards your right knee. Note: being on your back will allow the postural muscles to relax and then you can really focus on the positioning of the legs.
  6. Using your hands, gently guide your left foot around the right knee and towards the inner right groin. Do your best to create as little movement around the left knee as possible.
  7. Once your legs are locked into place, gently press yourself up to a tall seated position. If you need support beneath your pelvis, it would be best to ensure those things are nearby before you get into this pose.
  8. To exit, reverse the steps and focus on moving gently first from your hips and then towards your knees to straighten your legs and repeat on the other side.

5 Tips for Safe Alignment

By Yoga Asana

Refine your Alignment in your Yoga Practice

Joe and Alex walk us through helpful tips on how to align your body properly without straining your body. These tips will not only help you with your own yoga practice, but can also be fundamental guidelines when it comes time to lead your own class.

1. Start from the foundation

This is incredibly important as a teacher. When asking, “how can I help this student?” you must first look at their foundation.

For example, in Warrior I, many students will struggle getting that back heel to the ground. How can we modify the foundation so they feel secure? We can do this in one of two ways, or both:

  • Reduce the stance a bit
  • Take the stance wider (from side to side)

2. Stabilize your pelvis to help with balance

When you’re standing on two legs, you have support. However, when you’re standing on one leg, like in tree pose, the tendency is the side where there isn’t as much support (the side where the leg is lifted) will sink down.

The gluteus medius (muscles located in the sides of the hips) muscles stabilize the pelvis when you stand on one leg. Knowing the anatomy of those muscles can help you to stabilize students. Two ways to offer help with stabilizing the pelvis when in tree pose are:

  • Engage the right outer hip
  • Press the foot of the lifted leg into the opposite leg to create stability

3. Distribute the pose through as many joints as possible

For example, in triangle pose, one of the things we must be able to do is rotate the ribcage and head to be able to look up towards the top hand. We want to distribute the action of the pose through more parts of the body

Many students will turn their chest towards the floor and if they can’t rotate their thoracic spine, the only place they’ll be able to rotate is in their neck. They’re not finding the turn lower down in the body. When they learn to rotate from as many joints as possible, there is less strain on the neck when gazing up at the hand that’s lifted.

4. Let go of the idea, “the deeper the pose, the better”

Oftentimes, we have this idea that yoga is about building more flexibility but that doesn’t mean that the point of the pose is to get as deeply into the pose as possible.

The sacrum has effect on the spine because it’s part of it. When not engaging the sacrum, the back tends to be rounded, but if we distribute the action through as many parts of the body as possible, we can create more space eliminating that strain.

Pro tip: Blocks are always a great assist to help the stretch of the body!

5. Muscles need to be able to relax + contract to work effectively

A muscle that we keep contracted all the time isn’t a muscle that can do its job properly. For example, going from plank to downward facing dog. Downward facing dog distributes the weight of the pelvis, so the stomach is able to relax and the student can breathe more easily when the abdominal muscles aren’t engaged/contracted.

Related courses:

 

Practicing alignment safely can greatly enhance your yoga practice.

Man on a mat doing crow pose

Weekly Class Theme: Detox

By Yoga Classes

This week in class, we’re focusing on twists. With twists comes detoxification. As we work towards our peak pose of side crow, let’s explore how twists and detoxification actually work together.

“To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”– Buddha

The body naturally detoxifies itself through the process of deep breathing. When we breathe deeply, it fills our bodies with oxygen, helping our cells to move freely. Pranayama practice is a great way to naturally detoxify the body because it boosts oxygen intake, bringing circulation to our cells and organs. It also stimulates our lymphatic system, which aids in elimination of toxins. Yoga and pranayama, along with a healthy diet and good water intake, can reverse the effects of daily stressors by increasing our immunity, circulation, and oxygen levels.

Chair Pose (Utkatasana)

Man on a yoga mat doing chair pose

How to:

  1. From Mountain, bring your feet and thighs together.
  2. Bend the knees, sit back on the hips – trying to bring your thighs parallel to the mat. 
  3. The knees maybe slightly over your ankles but should not go over your toes to protect from knee injury. If your knees do go over the toes, gently sit back on your hips to adjust.
  4. Lift your arms to the sky so that your palms face each other. To advance the pose, bring your palms to touch overhead. Students can also keep their hands in prayer at heart center or bring arms directly in front of them so that they are parallel to the mat. 
  5. Draw your shoulders down away from the ears and keep the chest open.
  6. Bring most of your body weight on your heels so that you can comfortably lift your toes off the mat.
  7. Draw your abs into the spine and lengthen down the tailbone.
  8. Hold for several breaths before releasing and coming back into Mountain pose.

Revolved Extended Side Angle (Parivrtta Parsvakonasana)

Man on a yoga mat doing revolved extended side angle

How to:

  1. Start in high lunge.
  2. Bend forward, lifting your heart. 
  3. Take your hands up and over to the right side of your body, leaning into your right leg.
  4. Twist your body so that your left elbow rests gently on your right knee.
  5. Draw your shoulders down away from the ears and keep the chest open.
  6. Continue to breathe as you deepen your twist.
  7. Lift your chest.
  8. Hold for several breaths before releasing and coming back into high lunge.

Crow Pose (Kakasana)

Man on a mat doing crow pose

How to:

  1. From Mountain pose, come into a squat with your knees slightly wider than the torso. Allow your palms to come flat onto the mat with your fingers spread wide. Palms should be about shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bring your feet closer together.
  3. Begin to slightly rock the torso forward. Press the knees into the backs of your arms (slightly above the elbow on the triceps).
  4. Engage your core. Slowly lean forward as you lift your feet off of the ground.
  5. Round the back slightly.
  6. Keep the elbows and wrists in line to avoid elbows splaying out.
  7. Press the knees and shins tightly into your triceps.
  8. Keep your gaze forward towards the mat.
  9. Hold for several breaths.

Peak Pose: Side Crow (Parsva Bakasana)

Man in side crow on a yoga mat

How to:

  1. Start in a squatting position.
  2. Press your palms firmly into the mat.
  3. Bend your arms so they create a place for your hips and legs to balance on.
  4. Lean forward, keeping your head lifted.
  5. Rest your hips on one of your arm shelves and your knees on the opposite arm.
  6. Find a place of balance while you breathe.
  7. Lift your legs off of the floor, making them face one side of the room.
  8. Hold for a breath and when it comes time to release, make your arms straight again, lowering your feet to the floor.