7 Reasons To Do Yoga Teacher Training

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Why do most people enroll in yoga teacher training? People who want to become yoga instructors, right? Well, that’s only one aspect of what teacher training has to offer. There are many benefits and outcomes of becoming certified such as discovering yourself on a deeper level, gaining confidence in your practice, learning how to prevent injuries, building friendships, learning how to meditate, learning about yoga theory, and advancing your own personal practice. Apart from having the tools to teach others, through yoga teacher training, you can also learn a lot about yourself and further advance in yoga. Let’s dive into these reasons of why you should complete yoga teacher training and how it can improve your personal practice.

1. Discover Yourself on a Deeper Level

Completing yoga teacher training truly transforms the way that you view yourself while enhancing your self-esteem, skills, and self-knowledge. Due to the challenges that you might face during teacher training, you will doubt yourself at times. Being surrounded by a supportive community and guidance, however, will encourage you to rise above any kind of self-doubt and become stronger from within. Believe it or not, yoga teacher training will transform you by providing inner strength, balance, self-compassion, and inner peace. Overall, through perseverance, self-discipline, and intention, you will get to know yourself on a much deeper level.

2. Gain Confidence in Your Practice

I think it’s needless to say that knowledge is positively associated with confidence, right? Think about it… the more you know about a topic or a field, the more confident you feel about it. Completing yoga teacher training offers a significant amount of knowledge about the origin, philosophy, theory, history and of course, practice of yoga that will you give you more confidence in your own practice. Perhaps you are practicing inversions or following a structured routine on a daily basis; yoga teacher training will enrich those aspects of your practice by adding knowledge about modifications, adjustments, ideas about new sequences, and information about each yoga pose. Through yoga teacher training, your confidence will grow while your practice advances and perhaps this will inspire you to teach and guide others in the future.

3. Learn How to Prevent Injuries

Injuries in yoga are more common than you think; beginners as well as intermediate and advanced yogis get injured while practicing and some of these injuries can be immediate or gradual and go unnoticed. By completing yoga teacher training, you can learn exactly how to prevent yoga injuries and decrease the chance of this happening in your own practice. Learning about injury is also very important if you are considering to teach classes because practicing an asana incorrectly can be dangerous. This becomes even more important regarding inversions because your weight needs to be distributed in a certain way otherwise injuries can occur. Therefore, apart from protecting others, this is also a safety measure for yourself in your practice.

4. Build Friendships with Likeminded Individuals

Most yoga teacher trainings allow you to meet other likeminded individuals who are interested in yoga, meditation, teaching, etc. who can inspire you, guide you, and support you through the training. Developing a social circle through training is wonderful because you won’t be experiencing the journey alone and you will hopefully maintain some long-lasting friendships. If you are completing yoga teacher training online, don’t worry, you can also build these friendships. With YogaRenew 200HR Teacher Training, you will have access to a Facebook group where you can post about your journey, ask questions. share thoughts and ideas, and listen to others. Regardless of whether you are attending in person or online, take advantage of the people completing this training with you.

5. Learn How To Meditate

Meditation is sometimes separated from yoga as a different practice, however, I believe that a yoga practice isn’t reaching its full potential without including meditation. Considering that yoga is a practice for the mind and body, incorporating meditation allows you to focus solely on your movements and your breath which will amplify the calmness that you experience. Through yoga teacher training, you will learn various meditation techniques and breathing techniques that you can practice independently or with yoga. The physical, psychological, and mental benefits of meditation are multitudinous and there is a lot to learn.

6. Delve Into Yoga Theory

Many people jump right into their yoga practice and implement everything they know about the physical yoga poses and sequences without thinking much about the theory. Learning about the basic principles, origin, and meaning of yoga is a critical aspect of building your practice. Although asanas are the main focus of yoga in the West, there is so much more to this ancient practice. The history and philosophy of yoga are incredibly rich and this knowledge will add depth and intention to your practice. The great Pattabhi Jois once said, “Yoga is 1% theory and 99% practice”. Although rolling out your mat and practicing yoga is the main objective compared to theory, having context about where yoga comes from, what it truly means, and what the philosophy entails will definitely add another layer to your practice.

7. Advance Your Personal Practice

Throughout this post, I have been emphasizing the importance of yoga teacher training in your own personal practice. We all know that aspiring teachers complete training because they are planning to be responsible for an entire class but what about the rest of us who might not aspire to teach? Consuming the valuable body of knowledge that yoga teacher training offers not only prepares you to lead a class but it gives you confidence, skills, connections, and a deeper insight into your own practice. Having a yoga practice that is purely physical and is not supported by a deeper understanding of its origin, philosophy, history, and techniques is doing a disservice to you. If you are unsure about enrolling, I suggest going for it and seeing where this beautiful journey will take you.

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

Muladhara Chakra 101: The Root Chakra & Yoga

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This pose is beneficial for your Root chakra. You may have heard an instructor say this in a yoga class, but what does that mean? The word chakra translates to “wheel” or “vortex”. The ancient Indian texts describe chakras as energetic wheels or vortexes that spin in the body and create our vital life-force energy, otherwise known as Prana or Qi (Chi). While these ancient texts state that there are upwards of 80+ thousand chakras, in most yoga classes there are 7 main chakras that are focused on.

Location

The first of these 7 primary chakras is called Muladhara, or the root chakra. The term ‘mula’ translates to root, and the term ‘adhara’ translates to foundation or base. Therefore, Muladhara is a perfect term for the first chakra. Yoga and Ayurveda, yoga’s ancient sister science, teach us that the root chakra is located at the base of the spine or coccyx. The anatomical location of this energy center includes the first three vertebrae and the pelvic floor or perineum. It’s additionally associated with the organs and structures responsible for elimination, the skeletal structure, and blood.

Description

The Muladhara chakra is said to be associated with our survival needs and encompasses the energy of the “Fight or Flight” response. It’s not just physically located at the root of the spine, but is said to be the root of our being. That which connects us not just to our physical body, but also to our surrounding environment. It includes our instincts and is the primal part of our being. The root chakra includes the part of us that is connected to family, and our need for food, shelter, and necessities for survival. This includes our abundance and if we can have our needs met.

There are also specific attributes descriptive of the 7 main chakras. For instance, the color associated with the root chakra is red, the element is Earth, the sound is LAM, the deity in Hinduism is Ganesha, and the list goes on. The Muladhara chakra is often depicted as a lotus flower with four petals, which has a symbolic meaning of the aspects of the psyche. It can also be depicted as an upside-down triangle, within other shapes, all of which symbolic and representative of the aspects of the root chakra.

Root Chakra And Yoga

Now that we’ve briefly gone over what the root chakra is and where its’ located, how does it apply to a yoga practice and why is it something to focus on? Yoga is all about the balance of body, mind, and energy. When something in our body is out of balance, usually we can tell that something is up. Similarly, our chakras can become out of balance. When the root chakra is out of equilibrium it can cause feelings of instability, fear, insecurity, sadness or a feeling of being stuck. When it’s in balance, it means that you can process through the ups and downs of life with more ease and grace, and release feelings of guilt or grief so that you can continue to move forward in life or access the upper chakras. On a physical level, an unbalanced root chakra is connected to low back pain, lower-body ailments, elimination problems, and water retention. Certain yoga poses can help bring the root chakra back into balance.

5 Yoga Poses for Muladhara Balance

  1. Sukhasana, Easy Pose: a seated cross-legged position, this pose allows the parts of the body associated with the root chakra to physically touch the ground. This pose is meant to invoke stability and a sense of trust from within
  2. Balasana, Childs’ Pose: a supportive and grounded posture often seen at the beginning of a yoga class, or as a resting point.
  3. Uttanasana, Standing Forward Fold: this pose can promote a sense of calm, with the feet firmly planted on the ground and the head below the heart, it can bring a sense of relief for this with low back pain.
  4. Salabhasana, Locust Pose: a belly-down pose that keeps you close to the Earth and strengthens the back muscles.
  5. Prasarita Padottanasana a, Wide-Legged Forward Fold: this pose stretches the groin and is said to help boost confidence and reduce feelings of depression.

It can be fascinating and interesting to look at how the physical and energetic aspects of our being relate and interact. What do you think of the Muladhara chakra?




With 6+ years of yoga experience, Christine Fronterotta is passionate about sharing the gifts of mindfulness and wellness. Her ample teaching experiences include her years in yoga studio management, teaching abroad in Costa Rica, yoga for schools, company yoga, and much more. She is a certified Reiki Master, Sound Healer, and fuses these techniques in her teaching and healing sessions. Additionally she is a Yoga Educator with well over 1,000 hours of yoga instruction, and has certified many students to become instructors. Currently she teaches yoga for companies, privately, in studios, and for special events. Christine is passionate about offering a healing and light to others.

4 Ways To Practice Self-Care As A Yoga Teacher

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As a yoga teacher, you can be many different roles to those that come to your yoga classes. Some come to class for a full body workout, which is our job to deliver for both body and mind. Some will share personal struggles, like the passing of a parent or recent job loss. Some will be healing from an injury or surgery, and will share because they will need pose modification instructions. Some have been practicing yoga for 50 years and ask ways to make the practice more geared to gentle yoga. Some tell you of their current divorce or financial worries, and they still find the money to take your yoga class. Most times you find all of this information out 10 minutes before the yoga class begins.

Our jobs as yoga teachers is to listen, offer compassion, and use the asana to facilitate openness, even if momentarily. In the high powered, maximum intensity life can sometimes feel like, yoga provides relief.

With all that we do for students, it is vital that we remember self-care. Let’s review four self-care experiences you can do as often as possible.

1. Go for a walk outside

Research has proven the scientific benefits of getting out in nature and enjoying a walk. Links to stress relief within minutes of being outdoors has been associated with reduced muscle strain, blood pressure, and brain flurry. Some days a yoga teacher can be inside a yoga studio for hours, and it’s that breath of fresh air needed after teaching that restores and rebalances. Current studies have pointed to people who walk leisurely as happier than runners, recreation tennis players, even those that practice yoga because it is about taking it one step at a time. Putting one foot in front of the other, even if for only 15 minutes, can create such joy that lifts away any depletion of energy. During the walk, our “chitta vritti”, Sanskrit for “mind chatter”, is calmed and able to process more evenly, every step of the way. Try it after teaching your next yoga class or private yoga session, and go outside for walk.

2. Practice yoga

The ultimate “practice what you teach” principle is a true self-care act. Yoga promotes better health. One hour to 90 minutes deliveries the physical and mental strength needed to perform at your highest level. Different than any other workout, yoga uses your body weight to tone and define your muscular system. In addition, yoga activates the parasympathetic system that releases tension and restores equilibrium. Full body toning, working with an injury, prescribed by your physician for aid in disease treatment, or as a way to heal and maintain your overall health, the investment in self-care will produce an invaluable return for your quality of life. Remember to keep practicing yoga when teaching yoga.

3. Meditate

Meditation benefits are abundant. Studies indicate that meditation can lower blood pressure and stress levels. Meditation allows you to tune in to, to listen internally. Noticing the fluctuations and natural course of your thinking, helps the mind find stillness. By observing, you’re able to let go of attachment to outcomes and results. Find 10 minutes a day to sit down and go inward. Begin by finding a comfortable seat. Propping your sit bones up on a blanket, cushion, etc. will make it easier to sit for an extended period of time. A mantra to begin with can be as simple as “let go”. On the inhale, silently repeat to yourself “let” and on the exhale, silently repeat to yourself “go”. Meditating is a great practice to do daily for self-care.

4. Get bodywork

All a personal preference that is healthy to explore and know, massages can be a tremendous help. Teaching yoga can take a toll on your physical body. Having regular bodywork keeps your muscles and tendons loose. Also a detoxification method by the stimulation of your soft tissues, massage frees toxins by way of blood and through your lymphatic systems. It can make all the difference for your state of mind, working with a massage therapist as often as you can is the paramount self-care for yoga teachers.

After you teach a yoga class and hear the student with the sore hamstring from a recent marathon say, “I feel so much better, that was an amazing class. Thank you. I don’t feel so tight anymore and can walk a little easier now,” you remember why you teach yoga. By caring for others, we teach an asana sequence that even if beneficial to one individual only, is the reason we teach yoga. Yet we must remember to take care of ourselves equally to remain the consistent, steady teachers we have studied very long to be. Happy self-caring!

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

3 Physical Benefits Of Yin Yoga

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Calm, cool, passive, and slow. These are some terms that describe what it can be like to take a yin yoga class, but what is yin yoga exactly? If you are a practitioner of heated, strengthening, or movement-based yoga classes, think night versus day when it comes to a yin practice. In a world where we are often told that we need to do more, yin yoga asks us to do a little less. Postures are typically held anywhere from 2-5 minutes or more, and the breath is softer than say Ujjayi Pranayama, Victorious Breath, that you may practice in a Flow class. However, just because this style of yoga is slower and more passive, doesn’t mean it is without challenge. Yin yoga is also different than restorative yoga. Let’s dive into how and why.

The description and benefits are in the name itself, Yin. To describe yin yoga, it can be helpful to describe yang styles of yoga first. The movement-based yoga mentioned above is a yang style of yoga. Meaning it is active, dynamic, and muscular work is a focus. Some examples of a yang style of practice are Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Bikram, Power, or Hatha yoga. Yin yoga has the same aims as any other practice of yoga, however, it’s slow, passive, mostly seated postures, are less about muscular utilization or contraction and instead target deeper connective tissues. This is also what makes it different from restorative yoga.

Restorative yoga is very supportive through the use of props, to restore the body and mind to balance through very passive postures without any active stretch. Yin yoga may use props; however, the intent is a deep level of ‘stretch’, or healthy physical stress to the connective tissues, where the challenge can be to find peace and ease in a pose that is slightly uncomfortable. Remember that too much discomfort in a pose can be damaging to the body and counterintuitive to the intention of the practice! Less is often more in yoga, listen to your body and modify where needed.

Yin yoga additionally works with the meridian lines, or energy flows and channels, of the body. The conduits of energy that create Qi (Chi), or Prana, life-force energy. According to the philosophies and teachers of yin yoga, a blocked meridian line can lead to emotional or mental imbalances, and even physical imbalances. Specific yin postures and how they are sequenced are said to bring forth health in this way.

Below are three physical benefits of yin yoga and why focusing on your deep connective tissue is something to be interested in.

1. Connective Tissue

Connective tissue is a general term to describe the material in your body that supports and surrounds other tissues and is even the material in between cells. Connective tissue includes bones, ligaments, joints, and fascia of the body, and this is the focus in a yin class. Long, passive stretches and compressions in the yin postures stress the connective tissue which has the potential to lead to lengthened, healthy, hydrated, and strengthened tissue.

2. Joint Health

Decreased range of motion in joints such as the hip joint, can cause stiffness and lack of mobility. This can be caused by a myriad of factors, yet it could mean the connective tissue around and within the joints has either shortened or become ‘dry’ so to speak, due to lack of use. Since yin yoga targets connective tissue such as fascia, which is everywhere in the body, joint lubrication can occur since fascia stores and moves water and fluid.

3. Flexibility

You may have heard an instructor say that if you want to increase your flexibility, take yin yoga. Why? The theory behind this concept is that our bodies are more malleable than we give them credit for. The long static holds in yin can increase the elasticity of the connective tissue, such as the muscular fascia, and the healthy amount of stress on the joints in these poses can strengthen the ligaments. This goes in line with joint health, yet it can also mean an increased range of motion in terms of flexibility. Many yin postures focus on the lower half of the body and the spine, and advocates of yin have claimed to find increased flexibility especially in these areas. While the permanence of this increased flexibility is debatable, many practitioners advocate for this particular physical benefit.

As with most things in life, balance is key. You can overdo it in a yin class, just as you can overdo it running, lifting weights, or in a heated yoga class. The key is to learn how to listen to your body and be patient in your Asana, physical practice. Additional scientific research needs to be done on the physical benefits of a yin practice. However, proponents of yin conclude that these passive and compressive postures can indeed increase the health of connective tissue and lead to less pain in the body, increased flexibility, fascia suppleness, overall stress reduction, and the ability to embrace the beauty in slowing down. What do you think?


With 6+ years of yoga experience, Christine is passionate about sharing the gifts of mindfulness and wellness. Her ample teaching experiences include her years in yoga studio management, teaching abroad in Costa Rica, yoga for schools, company yoga, and much more. She is a certified Reiki Master, Sound Healer, and fuses these techniques in her teaching and healing sessions. Additionally she is a Yoga Educator with well over 1,000 hours of yoga instruction, and has certified many students to become instructors. Currently she teaches yoga for companies, privately, in studios, and for special events. Christine is passionate about offering a healing and light to others.

Yoga & Neurokinetic Therapy: The Missing Link

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Yoga teacher training certification courses are available everywhere and at anytime: semester long classes, retreats and online. You can be a certified teacher within a month or even take a crash course in less time than that. As a teacher, it is then your responsibility to continue to improve yourself, add to your toolbox, and expand your teaching horizons. Continued education courses and additional certifications are a great way to brush up on your anatomy, explore new styles, and maybe deviate a little from classic yoga and find a way to integrate what you learn.


Shortly after completing my 200-hour certification, I found a form of manual therapy that focuses on aligning posture, rehabbing injuries and chronic pain. It sparked an interest because a lot of my yoga students often told me about their injuries or chronic pain and their struggle to find more than temporary relief. I felt like I had found the approach that cracked the code to lasting solutions to such cases.


Neurokinetic Therapy® (NKT) is a therapeutic approach based on Motor Control Theory that uses sequenced muscle-tests and soft-tissue releases to restore pain-free movement and eliminate compensation patterns in the body. Simply put, NKT allows you to pinpoint which muscles aren’t working and then tries to figure out why.


NKT changed my life. Thanks to this approach, I began thinking about the anatomy of the human body in a completely new way, understanding not only where different muscles are located but how they might work together to create certain movement patterns. I also began to pick up on typical compensation patterns that occur after injuries, persistent poor posture or simply from a sedentary lifestyle. This was a game-changer to my teaching abilities and to my students.


I restructured all of my classes. I tried to address the most frequent complaints I heard from my yogis. “My back hurts,” “my neck feels tight,” “I have shooting pain down one of my legs,” “I do ab exercises every day and don’t see any results.”


My classes focused on stabilizing the intrinsic core, breathing mechanics and proper alignment. I applied NKT concepts to how I sequenced each class. For example, I like addressing low back pain. People that spend long hours sitting down end up shortening their hip flexors. After those extended periods of time, the hip flexors have a difficult time lengthening back into their healthy length. This creates a tug on the low back that can produce chronic low back pain. It’s crucial that we reverse all those hours sitting down and return the hip flexors to a proper range in order to maintain a healthy lordosis.


With these new sequences, my regular practitioners started noticing a difference. I also started offering treatment sessions outside of my group classes. Those sessions were the most rewarding for the people looking for pain relief and more specific injury rehabilitation.


I had a female student who frequented my evening classes who suffered from a frozen shoulder. She had already tried acupuncture, massage therapy, physical therapy and could not find the relief she was looking for. After all the treatment she had received, she still only had about 30% range of motion.


In the first session, we were able to significantly increase this range to about 50%. She was in shock. She progressed more in a single session than she had with all the other modalities combined. NKT protocol revealed that the internal rotators of her shoulder, especially the pec minor, were not firing correctly, creating compensatory patterns. I assigned her corrective exercises to do twice daily and monitored her progress during yoga. It wasn’t very long before she had regained almost full range of motion and was performing chaturanga transitions instead of skipping them. She was thrilled after almost having lost hope of regaining her shoulder mobility. She put in the work, and the results showed.


Neurokinetic Therapy® is a type of treatment practiced by many professionals who use manual therapy: physical therapists, massage therapists, MD’s, DO’s, acupuncturists, personal trainers, occupational therapists, Pilates instructors and yoga teachers. Practitioners are spread out around the globe and can be found through the official website’s directory. NKT is a three-level course that can transform the practice of manual therapists and help them address issues more specifically and proficiently. As a yoga teacher who practices NKT, I highly recommend finding an NKT certified professional if you’re looking for an efficient, relatively speedy, and therefore cost-effective recovery plan.

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

The Subtle Energy of Yoga – Studio Etiquette

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


1. Leave Your Shoes At The Door.

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


2. Avoid Wearing Perfumes And Fragrances To Yoga Class.

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

3. Observe Silence In The Asana Room

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


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

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

6 Ways That Mindfulness Reduces Stress

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Shifting into a conscious state of mind, focusing on the present moment, and increasing overall awareness is often referred to as mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness consistently has multiple benefits such as improved general health, pain relief, academic success, increased self-awareness, better attention span, increased sense of gratitude, and stress relief. Reducing stress is a common motivation to practice mindfulness, often through meditation, because it is truly effective at doing so. Stress is experienced by all of us, to some degree, and the good news is that there is a simple and holistic way to relieve it… through a daily practice mindfulness. Mindfulness can be practiced through meditation or simply through a more aware and conscious view of our experiences and feelings. There are many ways that mindfulness helps to reduce stress by making us feel calmer, allowing us to regulate our emotions, by reducing activity in the amygdala, and by teaching acceptance, awareness, and gratitude.


1. Developing a Calm Demeanor

It is not a surprise that practicing mindfulness makes us feel calmer; the question is how exactly? Mindfulness meditation reduces the production of a stress hormone called cortisol, resulting in relaxation. Most of us are continuously thinking about errands, social interactions, future plans, and responsibilities which can be anxiety-inducing and overwhelming. Thepresence of this ongoing, inner chatter hinders our ability to focus, be aware, and truly enjoy the present. Practicing mindfulness is a wonderful way to press pause, set everything aside, and re-connect with yourself. Setting aside even 5-10 minutes daily to breathe and meditate is incredibly beneficial for your physical, emotional, and mental well being. Ultimately, you feel calmer, more composed, and more focused.


2. Better Emotion Regulation

The ability to regulate one’s emotions is important because it can lead to mood improvement (ideal for those who experience many ups and downs) and long-term well being. Emotions directly affect our moods which is why it is important to develop another sense of awareness of ourselves through mindfulness. By practicing mindfulness, you can condition yourself to pay more attention to the different feelings and sensations that you experience on a daily basis. Overall, by being more aware of emotions, we are able to experience more compassion, empathy, and understanding while not allowing negative emotions to affect us as much. One incredible benefit that mindfulness meditation offers is resilience which is a buffer when dealing with emotional highs and lows. Set time aside, especially during moments of stress, and simply become aware of what you are feeling. Without trying to suppress anything, observe the effects of your emotions on your body and your mind with patience.


3. Acceptance

The practice of mindfulness has a beautiful way of teaching acceptance and essentially, how to be at peace with your surroundings without trying to alter them. Passing judgment is a common human tendency that is difficult to shake off however, mindfulness allows us to develop a neutral stance towards the feelings and thoughts that we experience. The ability to observe your thoughts passing by, one by one, without trying to alter or criticize anything can be achieved through mindfulness meditation. Accepting feelings of stress and allowing them to pass instead of fighting those feelings makes stress more bearable. The imperfections and difficult moments of life make the good moments even better which is why accepting adversity is so important in terms of combatting stress.


4. Less Activity in the Amygdala

To put simply, the amygdala refers to a set neurons in the brain which is responsible for the processing and regulation of emotions, memory, and survival instincts. This part of the brain is also stimulated when we experience stress and fear. Practicing mindfulness consistently can actually allow us to be more self-aware and concentrated while making better decisions to the decreased activity in the amygdala. Other benefits also include better problem solving skills while facilitating learning and of course, relieving overall feelings of tension and stress. Simply mindfulness habits such as becoming aware of how food tastes and eating slowly, breathing deeply, listening carefully, and focusing on how your body feels while working out can provide these benefits.

5. Increased Awareness

The concept of increasing your overall awareness has already been briefly mentioned but let’s dive deeper into this concept. Most of our actions tend to be automatic due to habit and routines such as eating, drinking, resting, walking, talking, etc. Basic human functions are often taken for granted and of course, this is normal. When we are exposed to something long enough to repeated stimuli, our response decreases just like how we notice the scent of a candle in a room but after a while, we do not notice it anymore. By increasing awareness through mindfulness, we are able to notice and uproot negative tendencies while choosing not to respond with stress or panic in difficult situations. With awareness comes appreciation of the wonderful things we experience daily along with a newfound sense of well-being. That being said, when mindfulness is implemented, awareness eliminates stress.

6. Increased Sense of Gratitude

It’s easy to overlook the beautiful scenery that we see every day and it’s easy to take things for granted. It’s also easy to forget the blessings that exist in our lives because we are used to them being there. Gratitude is an incredibly powerful feeling that can overpower stress. With a mindfulness practice, you become aware of absolutely everything, internally and externally. Then, you go on to accept everything that you are experiencing as part of your journey. After awareness and acceptance, comes gratitude for everything, physical and nonphysical, that surrounds you. It’s difficult to feel stressed and tense when the feeling of gratitude overwhelms you; although your adversity is valid and should not be suppressed, focusing on the good things and people in your life makes difficulties seem manageable and temporary.

Practicing mindfulness, either through meditation or other habits, on a daily basis can provide incredible benefits for your mind and body regarding stress relief. By accepting, becoming more aware, feeling grateful, and embracing a calm demeanor through mindfulness, stress can be reduced.



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


5 Daily Mindfulness Practices

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Mindfulness is a term that is often brought up but… what does it really mean? Mindfulness refers to a state of awareness of the present moment and it arises from paying close attention to current experiences without judgement. Practicing mindfulness can of course be done with meditation which is the ultimate way to slow down, become aware, regulate emotions and thoughts, and relieve stress. Mindfulness, however, does not necessarily require a meditation practice which is good news if you have a busy schedule and do not have time to set aside to meditate. Let’s explore some simple yet effective ways that you can practice mindfulness on a daily basis.

1. Being Mindful During Conversations

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and while they are speaking, finding your thoughts drifting elsewhere? How about glancing at your phone while talking to someone or even worse, scrolling through social media or texting during a conversation? Sometimes it’s not a matter of disrespect and maybe instead it’s due to the fact that our minds are racing, we’re distracted, and not aware of the present moment. If you find yourself distracted and distant in conversations, practice mindfulness by maintaining eye contact and turning off your phone or keep it far away from you. Additionally, when the other person is speaking, listen to their tone of voice and the context of the conversation carefully and reply accordingly. This might seem like an unnecessary step but often times, people aren’t truly listening and instead they are constructing what they are planning on saying next. Truly listening, with judgment, and adding value with your response instead of a random statement is a wonderful way to practice mindfulness.

2. Being Mindful During Exercise/Yoga

This same concept applies to exercising and doing yoga; is your mind elsewhere during this time? Practicing a mind-body connection during a work out actually makes the exercises more effective. For instance, while you are lifting weights, if you focus on how your muscles feel as well as your breathing instead of a random thought, you will be able to lift more weights. Bringing your awareness to your body during strenuous activities allows your body to perform at its best by engaging your muscles to their fullest ability. If you find this difficult, try working out without headphones and simply focusing on deep inhales and exhales while exercising and bringing your attention to how your body feels. Practicing mindfulness on the mat might seem intuitive but you might be thinking about an array of different things while doing yoga without even noticing it. Shifting your attention to your breath and the alignment of your body during yoga allows you to receive the full benefits while immersing yourself in the present moment and connecting with yourself on a spiritual level.

3. Being Mindful While Eating

How long does it take you on average to eat a meal; 30 minutes, 1 hour? Many of us are eager to sit down and eat when we’re hungry and often times, we don’t even chew our food appropriately let alone consciously enjoy every bite. By eating slowly and chewing thorouhgly, we are able to enjoy the flavors of our food far more than when we rush to empty our plate. One way to practice this is by eating 3-5 small meals throughout the day so that you have an appetite before eating, but you are not starving and you can control the speed at which you are consuming the meal. Apart from how fast we eat, mindful eating also has to do with what we eat. Cooking is a wonderful way to incorporate mindfulness into our lives because we are aware of each and every ingredient that is going into our body. Being vegetarian or vegan is also something to potentially consider in the context of mindful eating because of multiple health benefits and the effects on animal welfare and the environment.

4. Being Mindful While Breathing

Practicing mindful breathing is simple in theory but not that simple in practice. Breathing is an ongoing and automatic function of the body that we usually don’t put too much thought into. By bringing our awareness to every inhale and exhale, our breathing becomes more conscious rather than passive. The idea is to simply observe the breath without necessarily altering it. By shifting attention to the breath, especially during stressful or overwhelming moments, you will feel more relaxed, collected, and calm. Another way to practice mindfulness while breathing is by taking a deep inhale, holding your breath for a few seconds and then releasing any tension through a deep exhale. Repeat this as many times as needed in order to relieve stress. The beauty of mindful breathing is that it turns a reflexive behavior that we take for granted into a conscious act.

5. Being Mindful of Daily Experiences

Routines lead to habits which lead to a decreased response to stimuli in our daily lives. To put simply, when we do the same thing day after day, we sometimes forget to fully enjoy every aspect of it and actions become automatic. There are some simple changes that you can incorporate into your routine that will allow you to become aware of and appreciate everything you experience. When you make a cup of coffee or tea in the morning, feel the warmth of your mug on your hands and enjoy every warm, delicious sip that you take. While taking a shower or bath, observe the way that your body feels and how wonderful it is to feel warm and clean. Overall, learning to pay attention to the little things in our daily lives allows us to enjoy them so much more.

Increased awareness can be applied to each and every thing that we do that we normally take for granted such as driving, walking, eating, drinking, resting, breathing, talking, and exercising. Practicing mindfulness heightens our senses and enriches our experiences while teaching us that nothing should be overlooked or taken for granted.


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

5 Yoga Poses To Boost Your Productivity

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It’s no secret that yoga has so many benefits from building strength and flexibility to finding calm and stillness of the mind – but did you know it can also help to boost productivity? Although most associate yoga with relaxation, the practice is also nourishing for the central nervous system and can help boost energy and motivation.

The next time you are needing an increase in productivity, take a moment to pause and try one of these five poses instead of going for that second (or third) cup of coffee. You’ll be glad you did!

1. Easy pose (Sukhasana)



Sometimes with a lack of productivity all you need is to reduce distraction and get still by centering yourself. Easy pose is the perfect way to accomplish this.

To get into the pose you simply come to a seated cross legged position. You can allow your hands to rest wherever feels most comfortable for your shoulders. There is also the option to take a mudra, which is a hand gesture used to facilitate the flow of energy in the subtle body. Gyan mudra, known to promote concentration, is taken by bringing your thumb and index finger to touch.

Once you arrive in your easy pose take about 5 to 10 slow even breaths to help you center and realign. Afterwards you will notice a sense grounding, more ease, and, hopefully, increased concentration for productivity.

2. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)


One of the benefits of mild inversions, like Downward Facing Dog, is its energizing qualities. Whenever your heart is placed over your head the brain is supplied with more oxygen as blood flows which increases concentration and mental function.

To get into the pose, start in a table top position on your hands and knees. Tuck your toes and lift your hips creating a shape of an upside down “V”. Feet are about hip distance apart or wider and you will press firmly into all points of your hands especially between your middle finger and thumb. Lengthen your spine by lifting your tailbone towards the sky and gently press your belly towards your thighs taking the gaze between the feet.

Find about 5 breaths in this posture and experiencing the benefits of “resetting” the nervous system.

3. Tree pose (Vrksasana)

Challenging your balance is one sure way to boost productivity. Whenever your center of gravity is confronted you are forced to tune your drishti, or focal point, in order to be successful.

Find Tree pose by balancing on one leg, opening the hip of the opposite leg and either placing the foot at your ankle as a kickstand, at the shin, or above the knee.

Make this pose more difficult by reaching the arms towards the sky overhead or closing the eyes. By shifting your balance you are forced to check in and make adjustments through your body in order to stay lifted. Regular practice of this pose can improve concentration, balance, and coordination.

4. Camel pose (Ustrasana)


Heart opening or back-bending postures like Camel pose help to quiet all of the chatter in the mind. Some consider this pose to be quite challenging as you are vulnerably opening a part of your body that is often shielded and protected, your heart.

Beginning in a kneeling position on your knees, bring your hands to your low back with fingers pointed down as if you were going to slide them into your back pockets. Slowly shift the hips forward as you draw the elbows and shoulder blades towards one another creating an opening through your thoracic spine. Slowly work towards the fullest variation by bringing your hands to the back of the heels as you continue to shift your hips forwards.

Camel requires a great deal of concentration and focus on the breath which is sure to increase productivity as well as help with your posture if you are sitting at a desk all day.

5. Mountain pose (Tadasana)


As a pose that seems pretty simple and straight forward, Mountain pose offers great benefits of improving concentration and focus in order to be more productive.

Beginning in a standing position with your arms at your side, roll your shoulder blades down the spine and bring your hands to face forward. Notice the grounding through all points of your feet, perhaps lifting up the toes and rooting them back down. Activate your quadricep muscles in your thighs by slightly lifting the knee caps, and hug your belly button up and in towards your spine.

For an extra boost, bring your hands to your hips in order to bring yourself into a power position and take a few grounding breaths to build confidence.

Standing proudly and with intention can surely ignite your focus in order to be more productive.


Vanessa was first introduced to yoga in July 2013. Beginning as an outlet during a stressful time in her life, yoga ultimately turned into a consistent practice for her on the quest for total wellness. She started self-teaching
in the comfort of her own home for 3 years before deciding to participate in group classes at a local studio. Falling in love with the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of yoga,
Vanessa decided to enroll in yoga teacher training in spring of 2017 in order
to share the art with those around her.


Currently residing in the DMV, she is a Yoga Alliance 200-hr registered yoga teacher and a certified Usui
Reiki Practictioner. She believes in order to live a life with intention we must take priority in caring for our mind, body, and spirit first.

Yoga Breath, Flexibility, and Balance.. On and Off the Mat

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When I started going to Yoga classes, I thought it was only about flexibility.
I also thought you could be
good at
Yoga. Group meditation and breathing exercises were the part of class where I peaked through closed eyelids, sizing people up to see who my “competition” would be.

I’ve always been involved in athletics. Although I wouldn’t necessarily call
myself an athlete – the competitive nature of sports has carried over into my fitness regime. I’ve always wanted to be the strongest, fastest, or comparing the number of reps I get in before taking a rest break to the gal next to me. Through my yoga practice,
I’ve learned three important things that allows me to maximize workouts so that when that competitive edge creeps up on me, I know I can crush my goals! Through finding my breath, improving my flexibility, and gaining more balance I can bring enjoyment, ease,
and productive to all activities – whether it’s running, lifting weights, or going for a 90 minute Bikram session.

Breath

I remember playing soccer in highschool, making a sprint all the way down the
field when a play changes only to feel like I was going to blackout. I always held my breath during those really intense pushes and took this practice into my workout sessions. You can listen to your personal trainer or group instructor when they say “inhale
on the way down, exhale on the way up” – but actually making it a natural part of your workout routine takes practice. The lengthening and contracting of your muscles move in time with your breath.

In
Yoga, the movements are the same: inhale, upward dog, exhale, downward dog. When you find yourself on the mat at the beginning of practice, the first thing
you do is to clear your mind, and draw yourself into your practice by regulating your breathing. By keeping a regular breath; it focuses your mind, creates
discipline in your practice, and helps you crush your fitness goals at the same time.

Breath = Discipline.


Flexibility

Gaining flexibility
allows for a deeper range of motion, so you get more out of your practice, and exercise. It also gives you access to your muscles that you may have lost over time. Flexibility strengthens and protects your muscles so you are less apt to injure
yourself in daily life – for example during a game of tag with your children
or grandchildren – or jumping over that bigger puddle in the parking lot if you need to. If you
think about flexibility in terms of range of motion, it opens up a lot more possibilities during your workouts. Increased flexibility will allow you to jump higher and step further for a deeper lunge. It’ll also keep you from getting stiff a few days later
after an intense workout.


Balance

When you think of balance on the mat, you may think of the “I can stand on one
foot with my eyes closed for 30 seconds” kind of balance. Balance in yoga helps us to bring balance into our lifestyles. As you
go through your asanas, it forces you to use several muscle groups; moving from a stretch in Downward Facing Dog to tightening the core – to hopping in between the hands – to flexing the triceps to hover just above the mat in Chaturanga. In Tree Pose, you also
encounter the need for flexibility
and
strength to find the balance you need when you tuck your foot, lift the chest, move your hands to heart center and dare to close your eyes.

But balance
can be much more deeper than that. Balance can also give you the confidence to go through your day-to-day life and not think about your physical limitations. During a particular sweaty and difficult Bikram Yoga session, I always remember my instructor reminding
the class, “you practice Yoga so your body doesn’t keep you from living your life.”

You need
balance to hop over that puddle in the parking lot. You need balance to pick up something up with your toes while cradling your sleeping child in your arms. You need balance to bound up the stairs to the front porch to wrap your loved ones in your arms.

You need balance to crush those squats while crushing your New Year’s resolution
to get in shape. You also get balance when other things align like finding your breath, staying with your breath and perhaps pushing through that 13th mile in a marathon.

One could say that practicing Yoga is an essential part of a fitness routine.
The mat is a space to find the discipline you need to stick to your goals in life and crush them. It also gives you the headspace to prepare you for the journey off the mat.


My name is Emily. I started practicing Yoga during undergrad and, after find the meaning of Yoga, made it a part of my lifestyle and fitness routine. I lead classes at work and attend classes around town whenever I can. I completed my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training with Yoga renew after the Yoga instructor at work moved on. I was given the opportunity to pursue one of my dreams and spread my passion for Yoga to others. I hope to continue using Yoga in the corporate world to bring balance and health to friends and colleagues.