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Yoga Anatomy Teacher: Joe Miller

By Yoga Teacher Trainings

Who is the man on the mat?

If you live in the NYC area, you may have first seen Joe leading classes at New York City’s OM Center, where he completed his yoga teacher training. Since then, you may have also seen Joe teaching at Now Yoga and Sacred Sounds Yoga in NYC. Aside from teaching yoga, Joe also attended Columbia University where he obtained his masters in applied physiology.

Nowadays, Joe is putting his expertise of anatomy and physiology to use in a completely virtual class for us in our Yoga Anatomy Course. Established on the basic principles of anatomy and how it pertains to yoga, this course will give yoga teachers and practitioners a deeper understanding of the human body and healthy movement.

Get your free ‘Anatomy of Sun Salutations’ guide

We love providing our students with as many resources as possible. That being said, we created this downloadable PDF guide on the anatomy of sun salutations. Signing up will not only grant you access to this guide, but you’ll receive tons of free content in the future, including yoga sequencing tips, class videos and other educational online yoga teacher training resources.

Related courses:

Man in half moon bow pose using one block for the arm reaching to the floor

Weekly Class Theme: Moksha

By Yoga Classes, Yoga Teacher Trainings, Yoga Teachers

Moksha, in English, represents liberation and freedom; the salvation of a soul from the cycle of life and death. Even though we’re practicing binds, we can still cultivate an energy of freedom in our breath and bodies.

“The cause of bandha and moksha (bondage and liberation) is our own minds. If we think we are bound, we are bound. If we think we are liberated, we are liberated. . . . It is only when we transcend the mind that we are free from all these troubles.” ― Sri S. Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali

When we think of what it means to apply liberation to our practice, often times we turn to poses that crack us open and spread our bodies open wide. Opening up your heart, body and mind is the ultimate freedom, and Ardha Chandra Chapasana embodies that freedom.

Let’s move into three warmup poses for Ardha Chandra Chapasana, or Half Moon (Sugarcane) Bow Pose.

Crescent Lunge (Ashta Chandrasana)

Man on a yoga mat in crescent lunge with two blocks

How to:

1. Starting in a tabletop position, plant your right foot forward in between your hands.
2. Align your right knee over the ankle. Students who are not as flexible or beginners may have their front knee slightly behind their ankle. This is okay as long as their front knee doesn’t go over the toes or ankles to protect the knee from injury.
3. Inhale and bring your hands to the top of your right thigh. Opt to bring your hands to heart center in a prayer position at your chest. Another option is to sweep your arms overhead and draw the shoulders away from the ears.
4. Keep your palms facing each other or together to touch.
5. Tuck your tailbone down towards the mat and allow your gaze to come either in front of you or if hands are overhead, towards the fingertips.
6. As you inhale, lengthen up through your crown and as you exhale, deepen the stretch.

Lizard with Quad Opener (Utthan Pristhasana)

Man in lizard with quad opener on yoga mat

How to:

1. Begin in Plank pose. Step your right foot outside of your right hand.
2. Align your front knee with your front ankle.
3. Place your left knee down on the floor.
4. Bring both of your hands on the inside of your right foot and begin to move your right foot closer to the edge of the right side of your mat.
5. Engage and activate your core and back leg muscles to keep you balanced.
6. Grab your left foot with your right hand and gaze over your right shoulder.
7. Stay here for several breaths. Release out of the pose gently and switch sides.

Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)

Man in half moon pose supported by one block

How to:

1. From a Standing Forward Fold, bring your fingertips about 8 – 12 inches away from your feet.
2. Gaze forward and begin to shift your weight into your right leg.
3. Begin to lift your left leg up back towards the sky behind you – bringing it parallel to the mat or higher depending on flexibility.
4. Keep a soft bend in your standing knee to avoid locking it.
5. Lift your left arm up towards the sky as you keep your shoulders stacked over each other.
6. Keep your top hip stacked over the bottom hip and open your torso up to the left side of your mat.
6. To advance the pose, bring your gaze up towards the top fingers. If this is too much, keep your gaze softly towards the ground about 2-3 feet away from your toes.
7. To come out of the pose, release your hand and foot back down towards the mat coming back into Standing Forward Fold.

Peak Pose: Half Moon (Sugarcane) Bow Pose (Ardha Chandra Chapasana)

Man in half moon bow pose using one block for the arm reaching to the floor

How to:

1. Starting in Half Moon, take your top hand, reach it to your back mat as if you were going to shake someone’s hand.
2. Bend the knee of your lifted leg, bringing your heel to your seat.
3. Grab hold of your foot with your top hand.
4. Inhale to firm your top shoulder down your back and open up your chest.

Anatomy of Sun Salutations

By Yoga Asana

Surya Namaskar means Sun Salutation

Surya = Sun
Namaskar = “to bow down to,” or “to honor”

Sun Salutations were traditionally meant as a way to honor the sun, the energizer of all life. These sequences were typically practiced during the early morning hours during prayer or worship.

In these modern times, sun salutations are still a viable way to honor the sun through the Yoga practice but it’s also used to create heat within the body. If you’ve ever taken a Hatha or Vinyasa Yoga class, you’ve probably completed some sun salutations!

Sun salutations serve to warm up + prepare the body, to unite the breath and body, and to move in a meditative state to ready oneself for practice.

Sun salutations are very common sequences for a yoga practice. Understanding the anatomy behind it can not only enhance your teaching if you’re a yoga teacher, but can also strengthen your own personal practice.

If you’ve ever been interested in anatomy from a yogic perspective, now may be the perfect time to explore that itch. We hope that you found this video helpful and for a deeper look inside yoga anatomy, take a peek at Joe’s course.

Related courses: Yoga Anatomy with Joe Miller

 

Looking for even more details on how you can bring this knowledge into your classes?

Check out the free guide we put together on the Anatomy of Sun Salutations. We’ve made it easy for you and broken down, step by step, the breath cues, Sanskrit names, and anatomical position of every major joint in the body for each pose in Surya Namaskar A!

Joe Miller in a spinal twist lying down

7 Ways Learning Anatomy Can Enhance Your Yoga Practice

By Miscellaneous

Anatomy can seem intimidating as a yoga teacher, or even a yoga practitioner, but it doesn’t have to be. Let’s explore some of the common ways anatomy can enhance your yoga practice. While this article mainly focuses on yoga practice, other movement professionals, such as personal trainers, may find the info helpful.

1. A deeper understanding of the skeleton

Understanding how your skeleton works in yoga practice can help you keep your bones and connective tissues healthy. Most people know that the bones support the body and provide a framework for movement. However, many people may not be aware that bones are living tissues. They continually rebuild themselves throughout life in response to the stresses we put on them. This is why weight bearing exercise helps to strengthen bones.

The skeletal system doesn’t just include bones, though. Joints and the connective tissues that support them, including cartilage and ligaments, are also considered part of the skeletal system. Loading your joints through a full range of motion helps strengthen those tissues, which is why yoga practice can also help maintain healthy joints.

2. A deeper understanding of the muscles

Muscles provide the power to move the body. Yoga involves movements of all of the major joints of the body, meaning many muscles are activated during yoga practice. Researchers at the University of Miami studied how 14 muscle groups were activated during the Surya Namaskar A and B sequences. These muscles included upper body, mid body and lower body muscle groups, indicating how much of the body’s musculature is involved in these sequences.

Learning where the major muscles are located and how they work will help you understand which poses target particular muscles, and how to tailor a practice to strengthen or stretch those muscles. Plus, as a teacher, you’ll be better at sequencing and cuing your classes.

3. Why/How the spine supports all movement

The spine not only supports the trunk, shoulder girdle and head, it’s integral to almost every movement we make and it protects the spinal cord. Understanding the structure of the vertebrae and how it affects the way the spine moves will help you teach and practice poses from forward bends to backbends to twists with more confidence.

Joe Miller is our anatomy course instructor and he has an extensive background in anatomy along with a passion for yoga. Here is a series Joe developed to focus on the spine.

4. A newfound respect for your body

The human body is extraordinary! The more you learn about it, the more impressed you will be with how well it works and moves. And as a teacher, the more you can inspire your students to realize how unique and absolutely their mind-blowing bodies are, in all the shapes, sizes and frames that they come in, the more they will be empowered in their own practice.

5. Understanding how body parts work together

Nothing in the body works in isolation. The movement of one body part affects another, and then another, like links in a chain. As both a practitioner and teacher, understanding these chains of movement will help you see the “why” behind common alignment instructions and how to modify those cues for individuals.

6. The natural ways our bodies move

Yoga originated in the Eastern hemisphere and has been around for over 5,000 years. It is one of the oldest forms of physical movement, although it has transformed in many ways since its inception.

Yoga embodied many natural movements and incorporated them into a practice that also focuses on the spiritual aspect of our lives, transforming what ‘exercise’ means for people all over the world. One of the ways yoga differs from other forms of exercise is its emphasis on the importance of developing awareness, including body awareness. The clearer your image of the anatomy of your body and how it works and moves, the more accurate and subtle your awareness during your practice will be.

7. What yoga does to our bodies

Yoga incorporates both the body and mind, tied together through attention to the breath. Most of the time we breathe unconsciously, but we can also breathe with conscious awareness. The breath can serve as a way to indirectly affect unconscious aspects of the nervous system, and is a powerful tool to help us cope with stress with more flexibility and resilience.

In addition to a comprehensive overview of the skeletal and muscular systems, our yoga anatomy course covers the respiratory and nervous systems to help you better understand the links between the body, breath and mind. The course also features quizzes at the end of each lesson so you can test your knowledge.

Recommended Readings:

Yoga Anatomy – Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews
Anatomy of Movement – Blandine Calais-Germain
The Body in Motion: Its Evolution and Design – Theodore Dimon

Recommended Courses:

Kate Lombardo in Pigeon Pose

Weekly Class Theme: Flexibility

By Yoga Asana, Yoga Teachers

This week’s class theme is Flexibility!

Flexibility is often one of the goals that people have for attending a yoga class, and as a theme it can help students understand how to increase flexibility in asanas and in life. By moving and stretching our bodies, we can increase blood circulation, reduce the risk of injuries, and improve balance. When flexibility is present in the mind and spirit, it allows us to be calmer, more centered, and less reactive to daily issues. As we move through life with a flexible attitude, small everyday obstacles don’t bother us as much. We can be resourceful and find creative solutions to anything that comes our way.

It has been said that physical ailments can often arise from blocked emotion. By stretching and stimulating our connective tissue and fascia, we can release old energy that’s holding us back. Stretching also helps to energize the body as it improves circulation and relaxes the mind.

“Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.” – Bruce Lee

The peak pose is Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, or One Legged Pigeon Pose

Pigeon is a highly emotional pose as it allows us to stretch deep into our hips and open them up. Most of our daily stress resides in the hips. This pose is perfect for finding that flexibility to release a lot of stored emotion. Below are three poses that are appropriate for building up to One-Legged Pigeon.

Fire Log

Kate Lombardo in Fire Log pose

How to:

1. Find a seated position on your mat with legs spread apart.
2. Bring your right leg out in front of you, bending it to create just about a 90 degree angle.
3. Bring your left foot over your right knee, stacking your legs on top of one another.
4. Take a couple of breaths, finding more space in your hips as you ground down into your mat.
5. Bring your arms out beside you and press your fingertips into the floor.

Low Lunge

Lisa Bermudez in Low Lunge

How to:

1. Start in Downward Facing Dog.
2. Inhale and on the exhale, lift your right leg up and back.
3. Exhale and bring your right leg through your arms, placing your right foot in between your hands.
4. Drop your back (left) knee down onto the mat with the top of your foot facing down.
5. Make sure your right knee is over your right ankle.
6. Lift your torso and tuck your tailbone, drawing your navel to your spine.

Seated Leg Cradle

How to:

1. Find a seated position on your mat, cross-legged.
2. Lift your right leg, hooking your right arm under.
3. Continue to breathe and left your leg, using the support of your hands to deepen your stretch.
4. Repeat with the left leg lifted.

And finally… Pigeon Pose

How to:

1. Begin in Downward Facing Dog or a tabletop position.
2. Bring the right foot in and place it down on the mat behind the left wrist.
3. Adjust your shin so that it is comfortable for you. The more parallel your shin is to the front edge of the mat, the deeper the stretch will be. You can gently adjust your shin with your hands to make it more comfortable.
3. Extend the left leg back on the mat with the top of the left foot resting on the mat.
4. Come up onto your fingertips and walk the torso slightly up with the chest lifting and broadening.
5. Draw the shoulder blades down the back and lengthen the tailbone down to the mat.
6. Stay here or to deepen the pose, begin to fold towards the mat keeping the spine lengthened. Come onto your forearms or rest your head on your palms. To further deepen the stretch, bring the forehead all the way down to the mat and extend the arms out in front of you with palms facing down.
7. Take several breaths here. As you inhale, lengthen up through the spine and crown of the head and as you exhale, gently deepen into the stretch more.
8. To come out of the pose, gently walk the hands and chest back up. Lift the right leg up and back slowly coming back into Downward Facing Dog or move intuitively!

Bess Matass - Astrology Teacher

Q&A with Bess Matassa, Our Astrology Teacher

By Yoga Lifestyle

A Quick Glimpse into the Cosmos

Since we’ve published a whole introductory course on astrology, we thought it would helpful to address some hot topics we’ve seen all over the internet. Bess Matassa, our Astrology Teacher, answers some of the most popular questions that arise about astrology. So, if you’ve ever been curious, this article’s for you!

What got you interested in astrology?

As a baby bud who was forever looking for enchanted enhancements to help elevate me beyond the everyday, I was catnipped by astrology’s “moreness” from a tender age. Through it, I discovered that I wasn’t just a pack of specklike cells destined for the dirt, but a big, beautiful, mythical beast who was in active exchange with the entirety of my environment. Woo hoo!

Learning its symbols was like learning a secret language that made all of life “larger than” and I wandered the world with new names for everything. Those rhinestone earrings at the mall reflecting light into rainbowed color became Gemini! The starting line for a potato sack race was shot through with Mars charge! Astrology was all around me, whispering to me of more wildness.

How long have you been studying astrology?

On a personal level, I’ve been at it since middle school—so over 30 years at this point. And professionally, I’ve been floating amongst the stars for nearly a decade. At every turn, it’s been there by my side. Through loves and losses and learning to live and love all over again. It’s been a headlamp through some of my most profound moments of breakdown meaninglessness, helping return me to meaning once again. And it’s been a cosmic champagne toast during celebratory times of unbridled aliveness.

Why do you love astrology?

via GIPHY

I love how infinitely rotatable and expandable all its symbols are. Like life itself, just when you think you’ve got one of its archetypes “locked down,” it will metamorph and show you another face, exactly when you’re ready to meet it. And you don’t have to reach for these understandings or engage in super esoteric activities to do so: once you’ve got the basic elements and signs and planetary contours sketched, you can really start to observe and play. Just the other day, I was refilling a soap dispenser and thinking about the Taurus sensation of fill ‘er up fullness—how relishing acts of receiving can be a radical one. The exuberance of enoughness. And then I’ll meet these energies in other humans, noticing how they actually wear and inhabit the signs and planets on the ground, and the cosmic crowd really goes wild!

Astrology reminds us of the Vegas buffet of beingness: that there are oh so many ways to be human. And we don’t have to use astrology to lock ourselves into limiting typologies.

Yes, there are certain charges to each energy. We can talk about points or parameters for an energy like Pisces or the planet Saturn. But each of us catches and interprets them in our own signature style. I’m fascinated by how astrology asks for more and more of our humanness, our forgiveness, and our infinite curiosity. By the end of our lives, no matter our charts, hopefully we’ve taken a stab at “collecting them all”: noticing our concentrations and proclivities towards certain sign energies or archetypes, but also exposing ourselves to all these wild ways of life.

What are your sun/moon/rising signs and how do you think that has guided your career as an astrologer?

I’m an Aries Sun, Leo Moon, Libra Rising. And all my other personal planets are in Aries—so it’s a real red hot BBQ situation. As a wee one, I think the first thing astrology gifted me was the sense that elementally, everyone has different realities. At its core, fire energy craves mythos and megawatt meaning, and knowing that about myself softened the edges of the mundane a shade. Like, I don’t just hate to do tasks like laundry or bill paying because I’m ill-equipped for and failing at life’s pragmatism; but because I need a different type of fuel before I deal with the daily. I need to feed and tend that fiery force before I enter 3-D reality. I can’t start with gravity, instead I have to let the grandiosity lead me back to the gravity.

Now, I can see that part of the work for me as a very fire-heavy kitten has been to find a way to live here on earth (I’ve got fire in earth houses in my birth chart, so I’m Belinda Carlisle-ing my way down into my heavenly place on earth). In my career, that’s meant fusing those realms. Infusing romance into the regular what-you-see-is-what-you-get world, and helping people lift and spin their lives above their heads using astrology. Giving them that sense of epicness. My Leo Moon has really been the hotblooded heartbeat heat in everything that I offer. If it’s not bedazzled and bespoke and served up on-the-sleeve, the teachings won’t be true for me. I have to come closer, in warmth. I have to uncover the power through the play. That’s just my way. If I don’t, no one gets served.

And oh that little Libra Rising. That’s been a real learning for me around impact and transmission. For me, the Rising sign is what gives us the texture of our adventure, and inviting in the Air element amidst all of my fire has definitely been a growing edge for me. Yes, I can have my sparkly Leo pawprint treats, but I’m also here to learn to ghostwrite a bit—to allow for space, to release my signature and let my astrological work come through me rather than just getting created “by” me. One of my beloved cosmic colleagues, tarot reader and astrologer Brandon Alter, always says that at the beginning of his sessions: “Let these cards be selected through me and not by me.” That’s been a deep evolution for me. Getting my fire sign jazz hands out of the way on occasion and just French-dooring it—accepting that my work wants to breathe and breeze through on its own, and that I’m not always at the center of the story.

What are the biggest astrology myths that stand out to you?

The freewill versus fate myth is one that I think gets a lot of people all sticky. Thankfully, we’re in a collective life moment where binaries of all kinds are crumbling and blurring because they just don’t serve the actual experience of life, which is mysterious and ombréd and wiggly rather than fixed gear.

And there aren’t just two gears in life:

I make moves and make life happen via my own willpower, versus I get moved against my will by forces beyond my control.

A lot of times, when students first come to astrology, they think that this medium has to make sense by adopting one of these two extremes: either trying to use astrology to bend life to their will by “figuring it out”; or throwing hands up to the heavens and getting loosey goosey spirited away. But astrology teaches us about this luminous, liminal thirdspace of reciprocity that lives when we say, “Okay, I can become right-sized. There are currents that want to lift me sometimes, and I can let them. And there is also a certain amount of wielding of these currents that can happen on my part.” It doesn’t have to be “do or be done to.” Instead, we can dance.

What are the biggest truths people may not know about astrology?

via GIPHY

That it’s not somewhere “out there,” it’s actually right here—close and present and available for uncovering at any moment. In full respect of astrology’s intricate lineage and ongoing professionalization. I also believe that some of the arcane history of astro (think of all those degrees and telephone lines when you first look at a birth chart!

And all the infinite complications of transits, progressions, house systems oh my!) can be softened. Not in the name of “dumbing down” or disrespecting, but in the name of intuitive recovery of this language in a way that’s easeful and accessible for everyone. If we take something like the four elements (fire, earth, air, water), which form the foundation for all of astrology’s symbols, we can see this at play.

If you want to understand any type of Air energy, for example (the sign of Gemini; the 11th house; the planet Mercury), just open a window. Watch clouds and paper bags popping down the street. Walk into a wind tunnel. Observe a butterfly nectaring its way through a garden. You already get it. Learning astrology is just a drawing to the surface and re-languaging of the already-intuited understandings that exist in our divine DNA.

What are some helpful resources for living a life guided by astrology?

I’d suggest not getting too hung up on all the particularities of transits or hyper date-driven ways of divining, unless those are really singing to your soul—especially for things like planetary retrogrades, which are happening all the time.

When I teach the full shebang of astrology (and tarot as well), I teach everything in little feeling families, all rolled up under one of the 12 zodiac signs. So, for example, if we have a nuanced, rotatable understanding of the sign of Sagittarius, we can naturally build that understanding to incorporate other Sag-streaked kiddies: the planet Jupiter, the 9th house etc. Start with the 12 signs, and see what their levels are in your own chart: which of these 12 ways of being are you very familiar with, and which feel more foreign?

A super simple, sweet way to collect them all is to follow the natural rhythm of the calendar year, as every 28 days or so a new Sun sign takes center stage, offering us what we call astrological “seasons.” Each month, you can step into the skin of a different sign, trying on this bodysuit way of being. Even if its energy feels like a costume at first, just slip on in and see how it fits. Talk to your beloveds who have that sign strongly in their charts. Expose yourself to its ways.

As you’re learning, I’d also suggest adopting a light touch towards causality, and playing with more of a partnership approach. In keeping with breaking that freewill versus fate binary, know that nothing in astrology is “causing” anything to happen. Instead, things happen, and we can use astrology to help us make sense of their meaning for us and our evolutionary trajectory. For example, Mercury retrograde doesn’t cause communication breakdowns or errant emails. Planetary movements don’t want to throw you into fear-based paralysis. Instead, they offer up climates of energy that we can notice and inhabit and respond to.

For me, any retrograde is just a slumber party with that planet—a chance to get to know its energy more intimately and internally, after hours. Accordingly, Mercury retrograde asks us to pause and consider exchanges of all kinds: how we breathe in and put out. Things like emails or contracts are just end symbols of what always starts inside.

Should people be dating based off of their birth charts?

via GIPHY

For me, relationships of all kinds are alchemical, evolutionary, and deliciously unpredictable. We collide with other humans who bring us alive to parts of ourselves, pure and simple. In that light, there are no “bad” combos of signs, just different combo platter flavors. And I think we also have to acknowledge that what each of us is here to learn and experience through partnerships is very different. Some of us crave chocolate box til-death-do-us stability in relationship. Other souls are here to get rocked and regenerated through relating, phoenix-ing their way through less permanent partnerships. Instead of trying to find some perfect, static “match,” we can use our charts to dive deeper into the specific texture of our desire nature, emotional needs, and co-creative energies. More consciousness about our own contents inherently leads to more conscious collaborations. As much as we sometimes want to orchestrate the answer through a partner, a job, whatever it is, it’s all an inside job. And astrology helps us excavate those innards.

We’ve heard of the popular astrology apps: Co-Star, The Pattern, and Sanctuary, are these apps you recommend? If not, what is the best astrology app in your opinion?

Each of those apps has something to recommend it for sure. And I’m always of the mind that more exposure to this language is a glorious thing. Get your hands on anything and everything and see what hums.

The Pattern feels wondrously mysterious and evolutionary to me. The teachings about astrology aren’t as explicit on it, but the astro is baked in there like a beet cake serving you soul veggies more secretly.

Sanctuary is a strong, pop-y primer. I adore its aesthetic and beauty basic breakdown of the symbols.

Co-Star gives a little bit of both worlds. As an astrologer, I personally use TimePassages to look at charts while on-the-go.

In a professional setting, which sign should people identify or look to most? Who would you hire as the leader of your organization? Which signs make the best yoga teachers?

While I don’t think that parts of our charts can be compartmentalized (our charts are really about understanding and bringing all of us “with” wherever we go), I do think we can start understanding the interface between our outer and inner world energies by beginning very simply, with our Sun and Moon signs. The Sun is a core part of our mission—it wants to be exhibited and expressed and seen; the Moon loves a tuck-up—it’s that little sensitive kiddo part of the chart we need to feed and bundle baby before we set off into the world. It gives us deep insight into our tidal, emotional rhythm: the rock and roll of our reveal and retreat. Both of these parts (and all parts of the chart) want to live.

So, maybe we start by exploring the relationship between those two, and how they’re nourished in a professional setting. Maybe they’re in very different signs or elements, and we sometimes swing between them at work. Or hide one of them away and overly rely on the other. In a life moment when so many people are trying to figure out how to bring more of their truest selves forward in all moments, I think figuring out how to feed both of these archetypes while you’re out facing the world can be vitalizing.

In general, I feel like we have a very “solar” driven overculture, where making and doing and evidencing are sometimes overvalued. Accordingly, some astrological teachings might emphasize these mojo-and-go parts of the chart when advising about our professional endeavors—things like the Rising, the North Node, Mars, the 10th house. Yes, I think all of those can definitely be useful in divining direction and purpose. But I also wonder what it would feel like to have the Moon lead. Or Venus. My god! What if pure pleasure drove our professional purpose?

We need all signs as leaders.

That’s one of the most thrilling beauty bubbles of astrology: that it teaches us that these 12 ways of being symbolized by the 12 signs (and the infinite shades of them that each of us expresses) are all worthy and vital. So maybe it’s more about divining the flavor of leader you are: which of the sign archetypes want to be expressed through you. And then summoning the courage to show up and shine on in the fullness of that force. And also perhaps inquiring about existing organizational leaders and seeing where the gaps are: what sign energies are over or underrepresented in positions of power. Let’s bring the whole power pack to the party, please!

As for yoga teachers, I’d say much the same thing. We need fire-heavy yoga teachers to invigorate and tapas toast our bods and spirits. We need earth-heavy yoga teachers to secure our sit bones and settle our spirits into ritualized rhythm. We need air-heavy yoga teachers to open those throat chakras and above to spacious possibility and consciousness clearing. And we need our water babes to savasana us towards loosenings and lettings and longings of all kinds.

Give a brief description of ‘houses’ and why are they called ‘houses’?

via GIPHY

The houses really trip people up in astrology and I teach them in a different way than most people…

Start by thinking about what it feels like to enter a literal house and explore the rooms within it. Each room might have a particular function; store different goodies within it; ask for a certain approach or attitude on the part of our spirits. The houses in astrology are no different: they represent active environments where we live and learn.

I also teach them as kinds of “countries.” So, for example, the 4th house is “Cancer country” (regardless of what sign we might have placed on the cusp of this house in our chart, it’s naturally associated with the sign of Cancer); or the 8th house is “Scorpio country.” We all have planets in our birth charts that are living in particular houses and we can think of these planets as having an extended stay in that other country. Going on a little study abroad of sorts where they learn the local ways.

So, if you’ve got a Leo Sun sign placed in the 8th house, it’s like your Leonine self is enjoying a lifelong vacation in Scorpio country. It’s still a glowy gorgeous Leo here to play. But it’s got its sparkles on while strutting through volcanic turf: learning about different flavors of power, and how to handle the no-holds-barred intimate encounters of Scorpio land. The Sun sign is a good place to start your observations. Take you, and a few people you know, who all have the same Sun sign. And then see what house each of your Suns is in and how this country’s top-coat affects how each of you expresses the sign’s energies. In that sense, we might talk about Cancer country Leos, or Capricorn country Leos, or what have you. They’re each applying for dual citizenship.

One piece of advice for people who are wary of astrology:

You don’t have to “believe” in it to use it.

And you don’t have to understand exactly how or why it works for it to work for you. I know this can be hard to grasp because our brains might want to go to a place where it has to be either faith-based religious belief or fact-based, provable science. But in its highest octave of expression, astrology wants to break that binary, too.

Just start by studying its symbols and reflecting them back against life, exploring it like a poetic language that’s here to help enhance your understanding of self and others. And if it doesn’t do that for you, toss it and find another modality that does. There’s a long history of astrology being taught as something heavily-technical and impenetrable, which might have us thinking that we’re going to get really “good” at it and use it to crack some code. But in its deepest heartbeat, for me, it is always a language of remembrance and return. Look around you for signs of the elements, signs, and planets; play with re-languaging your world through these archetypes; and see if they feel true for you. And stay open to understandings that aren’t always explicit; those numinous, intuitive knowings that are born as much from what we can’t see as from what we can.

We don’t have to dismantle every detail of it like we’re pulling apart some machine; or get tangled up in all the hows and whys and exact degrees and lines in order open to astrology’s offerings. Because astrology is no different from life. There is no code to crack. No ultimate answer to find. There is only the ongoing wiggle in these beautiful bods; and the glory of uncovering mini moments of mega meaning along our wild way.

Astrologer's hands holding an astrology book open

Introduction to Astrology Course

Interested in trying out your hand with the stars? Bess created an entire course for fellow star-gazers and the astrology-curious. In this course, you’ll be taught the fundamentals of birth charts, exploring journaling and meditation for a deeper understanding of your signs and of course a tutorial on the elements and zodiac signs.

 

Deidra Demens in Firefly pose

Weekly Class Theme: Intuition

By Business of Yoga, Yoga Teachers

This week’s class theme is ✨Intuition✨

Each of us is born with an internal guidance system of consciousness and wisdom that resides within us. This powerful tool allows us to navigate through life and make the best decisions for ourselves. Intuition awareness is something we can each develop more with practice. Intuition can be a difficult idea to teach because it is something that we all have, and it is merely “felt” with a deep sense of knowing or “gut instinct.” The simplest way to get in touch with our intuition is to sit in stillness and allow our own inner guidance to give us answers to questions we might have. Or, we can simply allow stillness and quiet to create more clarity. Yoga is a great practice to help us get in touch with our intuition because it creates a space for us to be present and for our minds to be calmer.

“Intuition is seeing with the soul.” – Dean Koontz

Our peak pose is Firefly (Tittibhasana)

In this class, the goal is to tap into intuition: oftentimes the way that you know if something is wrong or right is that gut feeling. It’s that exact place that needs to build a fire in order to correctly do Firefly pose. One thing that’s important to reach Firefly, is the lifting of the abdominal muscles and the solar plexus area.

Malasana

Man in Malasana

How to:

1. From Mountain pose, step your feet out about 2-3 feet apart.
2. Bend your knees and come into a squat. If your heels lift off the ground, you can place a folded blanket underneath them for support.
3. Bring your hands together in prayer and press your elbows into your knees.
4. Lean your torso forward slightly and work to keep your torso right in between your thighs.
5. Keep length in your spine and the chest open.
6. Point your tailbone down towards the mat and shift your weight into your heels.
7. Hold for several breaths. To release, bring your hands to the mat or hips. Engage your core and thighs. Rise up slowly.

Extended Side Angle

Man in extended wide angle

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.

Lizard with Shoulder Under Knee

Man in lizard

How to:

1. Begin in Plank pose. Step your right foot forward in between your hands.
2. Align your front knee with your front ankle.
3. Come up onto the ball of your left foot and push slightly forward. If you are new to the pose or working on hip flexibility, keep your left knee back down on the mat.
4. Bring both of your hands on the inside of your right foot and begin to move your right foot closer to the edge of the right side of your mat.
5. Engage and activate your core and back leg muscles to keep you balanced.
6. To deepen the pose, you can opt to come down on your forearms.
7. Stay here for several breaths. Release out of the pose gently and switch sides.

Firefly Pose, or Tittibhasana

Deidra Demens in Firefly pose

How to:

1. Begin in in a forward bend.
2. Bring your right hand through your right leg and around your right calf, placing your shoulder behind your knee.
3. Bring your left hand through your left leg and around your right calf, placing your left shoulder also behind your knee.
4. Lift your chest forward and let your legs rest upon the back of your upper arms.
5. Inhale, lifting your feet off of the mat entirely.
6. Point or flex your feet and extend them out long in front of you.

Promoted Courses:

 

Girl in Warrior 2 Pose

The Perfect Yoga Pose for your Zodiac Sign

By Yoga Asana

Your guide to the zodiac signs and yoga asana

Do you know your zodiac sign? Typically, your zodiac sign is described as your sun sign. Your zodiac sign is determined based on where the sun was on the day you were born. A lot of interest is placed here with all the hype on sun signs and horoscopes. However, all the planets, asteroids, moons, stars, etc. have a place in your birth chart.

Whether you know more about your placements or not, we can all relate to the twelve zodiac signs in some way. They all offer different insights and teachings that we can apply to our own life. In Astrology there are 12 Zodiac signs and 4 elements. The 12 signs are categorized by one of the 4 elements. That means each element rules 3 signs. If you enjoy both Yoga and Astrology, you can practice these poses to embrace the energy of fire, earth, air and water!

🔥Fire Signs: Standing Poses

The fire signs are Aries, Leo and Sagittarius. Fire signs represent movement and driven energy. Fire signs share the teachings of creativity and self-expression. However, fire signs don’t always have to be in movement to be strong and vibrant. Have you ever seen a campfire? It burns brightly in place. Practice these poses and explore them for 3-5 breaths. Feel the heat rise!

♈️ Aries – Warrior 1
Sanskrit: Virabhadrasana I

Girl in Warrior 1 Pose

In Yogic tradition Warrior 1 represents the hero arriving at a ceremony with two swords in hand. In Astrology, Aries also represents a hero. Aries represents the first, the beginning of consciousness, and this energy respects bravery. Aries teaches to be the hero/heroine of your own story. Yet, not all battles are yours to fight. Be committed to your growth and also have the strength to say no without guilt or fear.

♌️ Leo – Warrior 2
Sanskrit:
Virabhadrasana II

Girl in Warrior 2 Pose

Leo energy also taps into the warrior spirit, with loads of enthusiasm. Think about what is worth fighting for. The wisdom of Leo shares the significance of expressing your uniqueness and originality. Shine your light for the world to see. What brings you joy? Go after it. In Warrior 2 feel the heart space and solar plexus open as your arms expand, tapping into your self-confidence, generosity and love.

♐️ Sagittarius – Warrior 3
Sanskrit: Virabhadrasana III

Girl in Warrior 3 Pose

Sagittarius is known as the Archer symbolized as a bow and arrow. Sagittarius is depicted as a Centaur, half human-half horse who was also a warrior and a healer and teaches us to explore and create adventures for ourselves. Sometimes the arrow will have an exact target and other times you are trusting faith to bring you in the right direction. When practicing Warrior 3, feel like the bow and arrow of your destiny and dharma. Trusting what you can see and having faith in the direction you are being guided in.

⛰️Earth Signs: Grounding Poses

The earth signs are Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn. Earth signs represent grounded energy. They bring stability and reliability. Practice these poses and explore them for 3-5 breaths. Feel your feet connecting to the earth beneath you. Earth signs stay focused on their goals and desires and want to deliver their best work, but we all make mistakes. Offer yourself patience and grace when practicing these postures.

♉️ Taurus – Tree
Sanskrit: Vrksasana

Girl in Tree Pose

Feel the connection of your body from head to toe as you balance in this pose. One foot on the earth and one foot connected to your body. Feel the extension of your arms reach towards the sun. Notice the beauty of nature, and feel that same beauty within yourself. Taurus energy shares the wisdom of beauty, abundance, and self-worth. What are your values? Allow your values to change and evolve with you like the growth of a tree.

♍️ Virgo – Goddess with cactus arms
Sanskrit: Utkata Konasana

Lindsay Monal in Goddess Pose

Feel the strength and stability flowing through the body. Virgo energy is mostly described as organized and clean, but there is so much more to the wisdom of Virgo. Virgo energy teaches us the beauty within the mundane. The smallest of details are grand and life changing. Your daily tasks and rituals can be done with pure love. Virgo also shares the importance of service to others. We are perfect exactly as we are. How can we help transform suffering by being of service to others and the world?

♑️ Capricorn – Garland Pose
Sanskrit: Malasana

Girl in Malasana

The wisdom of Capricorn reminds us to look at our responsibility to the world outside ourselves. What can our form of “work” be to create a better world for us all? Being dependable and reliable is important. Feel your inner strength as you practice malasana. Imagine yourself as a strong mountain. Let your hands in prayer at heart center help express your devotion. Capricorn energy teaches us that our hard work, every day efforts, and dedication helps to manifest our visions and goals.

💨Air Signs: Twists & Binds

The air signs are Gemini, Libra and Aquarius. Air signs are perceptive and always ready to learn. They represent thinking, reflecting, and analyzing. They share the teachings of communication. Air signs express the importance of sharing thoughts and ideas, as well as practicing the art of listening. How can you welcome more curiosity into your life? Practice these poses and explore them for 3-5 breaths. Tune-in to what your body is expressing to you. Practice listening to your body and breath. Notice the sensations of engagement and stretch that you feel.

♊️ Gemini – Half Lord of the Fishes Pose
Sanskrit: Ardha Matsyendrāsana

Girl in Ardha Matsyendrāsana

Twists help to relieve heaviness and sluggishness in the body; helping to create the space for air and breath. Gemini teaches us about being the student. Gemini guides us to learn, ask questions and collect information to form an understanding of the world around us. The wisdom of Gemini energy also shares that we each have our own story to tell the world. In Yogic tradition, a fish was listening to Shiva tell stories to Parvati and so he blessed this fish as the Lord of the fishes.

♎️ Libra – Marichi’s Pose (Sage’s Pose)
Sanskrit: Marichasana I

Girl in Marichyasana I

For Libra, practice Marichasana. Libra energy teaches us about balance; giving and receiving, creation and refinement, leading and following etc. Libra is mostly known as the sign of partnerships and relationships. How does your Yoga practice help build the relationship with your body, breath, mind and heart? In Marichasana you will need to find the balance between stretching and engaging. Honor the balance between what you feel in the hamstrings as you fold and feel in the shoulders as you bind.

♒️ Aquarius – Revolved Abdomen Pose / Supine Spinal Twist
Sanskrit: Jathara Parivartanasana

Girl in Supine Spinal Twist

For Aquarius, practice supine spinal twist. Aquarius is often described as the black sheep, but there is more to Aquarius than what meets the eye. At its core, Aquarius energy is the revolutionary and the liberator. Aquarius wisdom asks, ‘how can you break free from conditioning and patterns that inhibit your growth?’ Although, Aquarius is an air sign it is resembled as the water bearer. In this reclined twist allow your body to be the pitcher and your arms be the flow of water and unconditional love pouring out of your open heart.

💧Water Signs: Backbends

The water signs are Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces. Water signs guide us to feel. They teach us how to view emotions through the lens of love, compassion and empathy. Reflecting and honoring our emotions helps us to connect with ourselves and others. Tune in to your heart and let yourself feel as you practice these poses and explore them for 3-5 breaths.

♋️ Cancer – Reclined Bound Angle
Sanskrit: Supta baddha konasana

Girl in Supta Baddha Konasana

For Cancer, practice supta baddha konasana. When we are under stress, our breath also shortens. During this stretch practice slow, deep breaths. Any unnecessary tension in the hips also causes unnecessary tension in the diaphragm, thus causing a shortness of breath. The wisdom of Cancer teaches us to nurture our mind, body and heart. This teaching reminds us of the responsibility we have to take care of ourselves. Relax into this posture to welcome deep rest and nourishment.

♏️ Scorpio – Supported Bridge 
Sanskrit: Setu Bandha

Girl in Supported Bridge Pose

For Scorpio, practice supported bridge. Supported bridge is helpful to relax the low back and improve circulation in the body. The wisdom of Scorpio teaches us to embrace transformation and to notice how we use our energy. To scorpio, energy is currency. How do you spend and invest your energy? At one time the constellation of scorpio was blended with the constellation of libra. It was seen as the bridge between balance and harmony.

♓️ Pisces – Supported Fish 
Sanskrit: Matsyasana

Girl in Fish Pose

For Pisces, practice fish pose. This is another posture to feel the heart supported. Fish pose is a backbend that helps to open and create space in the spine, ribs, heart and throat. Pisces teaches us to live from the heart and to realize how we are all interconnected beings. The wisdom of Pisces guides us to honor the depths of our dreams and imagination.

Interested in learning more about Astrology?

Check out our Introduction to Astrology course where you can discover the qualities of each sign to inspire you classes, workshops, and everyday life!

 

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Patrick in Half Moon pose

Welcome, Summer Solstice!

By Yoga Asana, Yoga Teacher Trainings, Yoga Teachers

This week’s class theme is ✨ Summer ✨

The Dog Days are approaching and we’re running full speed into the long, sunny vibes of summer! Beyoncé is letting us know that nothing can break us and we’re prepared for it all.

As we welcome the summer solstice, let’s move to Half Moon Pose. Here are three poses that can get you all warmed up for Half Moon pose, or Ardha Chandrasana. These are all firm, powerful poses, playful enough for the bright and sunny days of summer.

Warrior II (Virabhadrasana)

Girl in Warrior 2 pose

How to:

1. Begin in Mountain. Step your feet apart 3 and a half to 5 feet apart. This distance will vary from student to student depending on flexibility.
2. Point your front toes 90-degrees toward the front short edge of the mat and your back foot parallel to the back of the mat. Your front heel should bisect the arch of your back foot.
3. Draw energy up through the inner arches of your feet.
4. Lift your arms up and out so that they become parallel to the mat. Bring your palms down and shoulders directly under your hips. Imagine a line of energy pulling through both fingertips.
5. Bend your front knee so that it stacks over your front ankle or slightly behind it.
6. Lengthen your tailbone down while lifting your crown up to the sky.
7. Keep your torso straight up and aligned directly over your hips.
8. Gaze over your front fingers and hold for several breaths. Switch sides.

Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)

Girl in Triangle pose

How to:

1. Begin in Warrior II. 
2. Straighten your front leg and begin to reach the forward hand towards the front edge of your mat. Keep the core muscles engaged.
3. Allow the movement to come from your front hip. Keep the spine straight.
4. Begin to bring the upper body down and allow the front hand to rest on your thigh, shin, ankle, or toes depending on your flexibility.
5. Lift the back arm up towards the sky, stacking the shoulders. 
6. Try to keep the torso in line with the thigh to avoid collapsing of the chest. 
7. Hold for several breaths. To release, gently lift the torso up and come back into Warrior II. 
8. Repeat on the opposite side.

Gate Pose (Parighasana)

Girl in Gate pose

How to:

1. Begin in a kneeling position with your hips and sit bones raised up off the mat.
2. Extend your right leg out straight to the side, pressing into your right foot.
3. Keep your left hip and knee in line.
4. Lift your right arm up and over to the left, allowing the bicep of your right arm to frame your ear.
5. Tilt your torso gently over to the left and bring your left hand to rest onto your mat or a block.
6. Gaze up towards your right hand if this is comfortable for you. Option to keep your gaze forward.
7. Stay here for several breaths. To release, sweep your right arm back down, bring your torso back to center directly over your hips. Gently come back to a kneeling position and switch sides.

And finally…Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)

How to:

1. From a Standing Forward Fold, bring your fingertips about 8 – 12 inches away from your feet.
2. Gaze forward and begin to shift your weight into your right leg.
3. Begin to lift your left leg up back towards the sky behind you – bringing it parallel to the mat or higher depending on flexibility.
4. Keep a soft bend in your standing knee to avoid locking it.
5. Lift your left arm up towards the sky as you keep your shoulders stacked over each other.
6. Keep your top hip stacked over the bottom hip and open your torso up to the left side of your mat.
6. To advance the pose, bring your gaze up towards the top fingers. If this is too much, keep your gaze softly towards the ground about 2-3 feet away from your toes.
7. To come out of the pose, release your hand and foot back down towards the mat coming back into Standing Forward Fold.

Patrick teaching a class full of yoga students

POV: You’re Subbing for a Senior Yoga Teacher…and Scared $#!@less

By Yoga Asana, Yoga Teachers

5 easy tips to handle this common occurrence with poise

There are times throughout the year where subs are very common — particularly holidays and summertime! These are two instances where you can pretty much count on an opportunity to sub for another yoga teacher.  As a new teacher, it can be daunting, if not straight up scary, to sub for a senior teacher.

Senior teachers are typically known within the studio’s yoga community, they’ve been around for multiple years, and they often have a group of loyal students. They also tend to have desirable time slots, people who are committed to those time slots, and (in my experience) the students “tend” to have at least some experience with yoga.

Whether the thought of subbing for a long-time teacher freaks you out or amps you up, I do think it’s a topic that’s worth discussing. Read on for some tips on how to handle this situation with poise no matter what!

1. Plan ahead of time

via GIPHY

I think it is 100% worthwhile and necessary to plan for every class ahead of time, but particularly if you know you’re going into a situation where you may get easily thrown off or feel a little shaky…it’s a non-negotiable. From your sequence to your cues to your playlist, etc. — you should plan ahead or at least not be surprised by anything. You can use a past sequence that you know was great, you can stick to cues that you’ve used in the past that have led to good results and that feel authentic to you, and you can use a playlist you already know and love! Whether what you’ve planned is new for you or a tried and true, make your decisions ahead of time so you know what you’re doing.

2. Practice

via GIPHY

Similar to the tip above, practicing what you are going to teach is ALWAYS helpful and in the beginning of your teaching career I think, NECESSARY. However, when you’re going in to teach a potentially seasoned group of practitioners, or at least a group of practitioners who are accustomed to a certain type of class, it’s vital to not only plan and know your sequence but to fully embody your sequence ahead of time (this can help you execute with poise and authenticity).

When you are teaching from an entirely authentic place, it’s much harder to get thrown off course. This doesn’t mean you may not have to course-correct a little, but you’ll be able to do so from a calm state as opposed to a frantic state.

“People look like they’re not having fun…maybe I should just change the rest of the class.”

Practicing ahead of time can also help you work out some things that don’t flow as well as you had thought on paper.

3. Ground down into yourself

via GIPHY

You can do this in a variety of ways. This could include meditating, practicing, breathing, or listening to music. Do something that can help you to settle your own nervous system.

Remember, your energy is detectable by others and your energy sets the tone for the class.

You don’t have to be the most seasoned teacher to be grounded in who you are and what you’re teaching. Taking a moment or two before class to settle in will help YOU to settle into the present moment. When you are present, making choices at the front of the room become easier, tuning into the energy of the group is possible, and keeping your cool while leading with confidence is apparent!

4. Know your style of teaching

via GIPHY

Your style of teaching will change overtime and it will take a little bit to get into a groove with the way you sequence, the playlists you make, and your words before, during, and after your class. You don’t necessarily have to know the teacher you will be forever and ever before teaching a class that may be challenging for you, but knowing and trusting your own sequencing method can help you arrive to the class with confidence.

Knowing the lineage of yoga that your yoga education comes from can also help you root down into the traditions of what you’re teaching and being acquainted with human anatomy can help you share cues like a champion. All of this of course can and will take time! If you’re feeling a little nervous beforehand, try reviewing different types of resources to help you and remember that what you’re teaching is legit, which contributes to a solid foundation from which you’re teaching.

5. Stick with yourself

via GIPHY

When teaching an unfamiliar group of students, it can be easy to abandon yourself in terms of the way you deliver a class. It can be easy to change your plans because you are scared that people won’t like you or because you may think you know what they want…and what they want is not what you’re delivering. It is true that not everyone will like you and not everyone will enjoy what you have to offer, but if you show up to share in your style and from your heart in an intelligent and safe manner, I guarantee you that some people will be very pleasantly surprised and you will have gained some new students for yourself!

Want to start your own yoga business?

Check out this course we developed to walk you through all the tips and tricks necessary for starting your own yoga business: The Teacher Collective

Want to master a handstand?

Melanie created an easy-to-follow handstand course that will teach you all you need to know about doing a handstand: Journey to Handstand