A Beautiful Yoga Book

Hi friends!

What yoga books are you reading lately?

Sponsored yogini Kels recently checked out Letters from the Yoga Masters, which features the collected letters of Dr. Hari Dickman to the hundreds of yogis he corresponded with—including Swami Sivananda, Ramana Maharshi, and Paramhansa Yogananda. 

Today on Alive in the Fire she shares her thoughts on the book...

This jewel of a book is a fitting tribute to a great soul, offered lovingly by his dedicated student. 

Its a book you don't want to lose. Its passion, its love, its life and most of its words are written by some of the greatest yoga masters of the past. 

Hari, Hari Rickman, (whom you'll later be introduced to, well, sooner than later actually) devoted his life to the study of yoga. He once said, "I'm obsessed with yoga and Ill never get enough." Even as Hari was living in a displaced persons camp during the Second World War, he was studying and practicing yoga. 

One of my favorite scripts is on page 129 where he describes when he learned about Yoni or Shanmukhi Mudra. I really needed a good insight on concentration. The hand written letters that are exampled are engrossing and very intriguing. You have to see them for yourself! 

How fortunate that the yogic knowledge Dr. Dickman gained from many revered teachers has been preserved so carefully and faithfully that it can enrich the lives of many spiritual seekers who otherwise would never have known of him. Right?! 

Last snippet; page. 87 discusses Sitali and Sitkari which I think its great to learn, especially during the warm season because it quickly cools down the body. The breathe is so amazing. Literally. 

Namaste. Kels.

Badass Yoga Teachers: 5 Yoga Books You May Not Have Read in Your Yoga Teacher Training

Welcome to a new series on Alive in the Fire dedicated to Badass Yoga Teachers!

Today I'm sharing five of my favorite books that have influenced my path as a yoga teacher

These books offer wonderful tools for:
  • building your yoga career
  • understanding the ethical principles of yoga
  • exploring who you are and what motivates you to teach
  • overcoming fear
  • forming new habits

Whether you're an experienced yoga teacher, new to teaching, or thinking about becoming a teacher, these are wonderful books to explore. May they encourage you on your path as you evolve and grow :)

The Art and Business of Teaching Yoga by Amy Ippoliti and Taro Smith

'Wow.' That's what I kept saying to myself as I read this book. And also, 'This book should be required reading in any yoga teacher training!'

Amy Ippoliti and Taro Smith offer an incredible wealth of knowledge about yoga, teaching, and business in this book. They are successful teachers and created 90 Monkeys, an online school that is focused on helping yoga professionals develop their careers.

Early in the book, the authors describe the 'vicious cycle of yoga teaching:'
  • Run all over town teaching eighteen or more classes a week to make ends meet.
  • Oops, no time for your own practice! No time to plan classes!
  • Teach subpar class because of lack of practice, inspiration, or groundedness.
  • Get home, have no time for reflection, fun, recreation, or family.
  • Get up the next day with even less inspiration, and teach to a dwindling number of students.
  • Make insufficient money to pay bills, afford necessary continuing education, or have much-needed free time.
  • Repeat.
When I read these statements, I couldn't help but laugh (and cry inside, a little) realizing how true these felt, as I've experienced some of them and witnessed friends and fellow teachers struggling with the same cycle.

I love that this book addresses many relevant topics and gives real-world advice for how to overcome the obstacles that many yoga teachers face.

Here are some of the subjects covered in the book:
  • understanding your strengths (and potential weaknesses) as a teacher
  • developing a mission statement to help focus and hone your teaching
  • building and marketing your personal yoga business
  • managing your business finances
  • how to avoid burnout
  • how to use social media to promote your teaching
  • self-care
  • lighting up the world
Highly recommend this book! If you're a stressed out yoga teacher, read this. If you want to understand some of the practical realities of what it means to teach full-time or whether you should quit your day job to start teaching, read this. If you're curious about how to create a fulfilling career as a yoga teacher, read this. XO

May Cause Miracles by Gabrielle Bernstein

This book changed my life when I first read it in 2014; it inspired me to dedicate the following year to being a fearless 2015, and also gave me the energy and willingness to leave my 9-to-5 job to teach yoga and freelance.

Here I am halfway through 2016 experiencing some big shifts again, and I'm re-reading this book as a way to reconnect with many of its relevant themes: releasing fear, increasing mindfulness, cultivating self-acceptance and radical self-love. I have a feeling I'll keep coming back to this book over and over again, because doing this work truly does cultivate subtle shifts which lead to miraculous change.

Gabrielle Bernstein's work speaks to my heart, and her writing is encouraging, thoughtful, real, and uplifting. She has a way of helping me look at things I don't really want to look at, of facing my fears, and I think that has been most powerful alongside my yoga teaching.

I encourage yoga teachers to try this book because I believe self-healing is needed every step of the way: when we make the courageous decision to become a yoga teacher, as we are immersed in the rigors of a 200 hour training (or 300, 500, 800 hour!), as we step into the studio to teach our first, or hundredth class, as we grow and evolve over time, contributing to our yoga communities.

Everything that goes along with teaching yoga will bring up emotion, ego, insecurities, and doubts-- whether you're being vulnerable with students, being vulnerable and real with yourself, receiving feedback from fellow teachers or studio owners, questioning why you teach, fine-tuning your classes, or seeing your numbers dwindle or skyrocket.

This book offers simple tools to help you understand yourself along the way, to let go of fear, to cultivate abundance, and to believe, even just a little bit, in how much of a miracle you are.

As Gabrielle says, "Welcome to your new life!"

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

The Four Agreements is a beautiful, artful book that explores self-limiting beliefs. Ruiz draws on ancient Toltec wisdom, outlining a powerful code of conduct that has the potential to free us from suffering and experience a life of happiness and love.

I believe these four principles offer me powerful wisdom in my daily life as well as my yoga teaching.
  • Be impeccable with your word.
  • Don't take anything personally.
  • Don't make assumptions.
  • Always do your best.
A beautiful book, not to be missed!

Zen Habits by Leo Babauta

Leo's blog Zen Habits is my absolute favorite blog, so of course when I heard that he was publishing a book based on the topics he often writes about, I was stoked! This book offers an incredible method for transforming any area of your life, and for dealing with any life changes, loss, illness, frustrations with others, and unhappiness with ourselves.

In the book, Leo outlines simple, beautiful ways to:
  • become more mindful
  • embrace change
  • create space and deal with things as they come up
  • release attachment
  • focus on intentions
  • foster appreciation and gratitude
All very yogic topics!

I'd suggest this book to anyone, yoga teacher or not, and especially if you're a teacher and looking to:
  • create a consistent home practice even while you teach a full load of classes
  • establish healthy boundaries as you build relationships with your students and studio managers
  • feel more peaceful in your own life
  • embrace discomfort
Zen Habits is one of my all-time favorite books.

The Yamas and Niyamas by Deborah Adele

I read this book during my 200-hour vinyasa yoga teacher training and found it to be a wonderful, thorough guide to the yamas and niyamas, yoga's ten ethical guidelines.

I especially love Deborah's writing prompts at the end of each chapter, which encourage the reader to do self-study and learn to apply these ideas to real life.

I love this book and have often read from it to my students at the end of class. I believe it is important for all yoga teachers to explore and develop their own personal understandings of the yamas and niyamas:
  • ahimsa (nonviolence)
  • satya (truthfulness)
  • asteya (nonstealing)
  • brahmacharya (nonexcess)
  • aparigraha (nonposessiveness)
  • saucha (purity)
  • santosha (contentment)
  • tapas (self-discipline)
  • svadhyaya (self-study)
  • ishvara pranidhana (surrender)
Here's one of my favorite passages from the introduction of the book:

"We all want to live well. Let's face it, at the end of the day, it's not how much you have or how much you have accomplished that counts. What matters is how well you have participated in your own life, both the ordinary routines and the extraordinary surprises. It's how you feel inside when you lay your head on the pillow."

This book is a wonderful tool for cultivating inner peace and developing a strong sense of integrity, both as a yoga teacher and a human being.

Well, yoga teachers and soon-to-be teachers, I hope these books offer you some incredible insight into your own lives, both on and off the yoga mat! XO

PS, I'd love to hear: what are some of your favorite yoga books?

Finding Time in Silence (A Book Excerpt to Get You Grounded)

Do you spend time in silence?

I love being in a calm, quiet environment, whether I'm practicing yoga or just relaxing. I tend to be very noise sensitive so taking time away from sounds helps me feel calm, both physically and mentally.

Recently I read On the Verge: Wake Up, Show Up,and Shine, a great book for inspiration about how to settle the mind, shift out of 'overthinking' mode, and live purposefully. Here's a lovely little excerpt from author Cara Bradley on how to make use of time in silence.

Finding Time in Silence

I’ve grown to appreciate that silence truly is golden. It settles and steadies me in a matter of minutes. I didn’t always feel this way. I used to surround myself with noise. I’d fall asleep with the television blaring, have music playing in my car and home, and talk, talk, talk until my throat was sore. Now I seek silence every day.

There are two types of noise and two types of silence — outer and inner. It’s important to understand the difference.
Outer Noise
Outer noise is the stuff you hear in your environment: talking, music, machines humming. Are you aware that there’s noise almost everywhere you go these days? Music plays in stores, restaurants, and hotel lobbies. Beeps, gongs, and whistles sound all around us. News is broadcast 24/7. Our species is overstimulated with outer noise. We are conditioned to require constant music and entertainment. It’s become the norm.
Inner Noise
Inner noise is the phenomenon of being in a quiet room yet feeling as though a whole crowd of people are talking to you all at once. It’s the voices in your head continually reminding you to do this or to figure out that. Inner noise is your busy mind in action, continuously bouncing around from one thought to the next and filling your mind with constant chatter.
Outer Silence
You can stop the incessant outer noise by finding pockets of outer silence. Turn off the noisemakers such as your laptop or television. Your mind and nervous system will naturally settle down. Your car is a great place to find outer silence — this means turning off the news, music, and your phone. Drive in silence, and you turn your car into a four-wheeled Zen center. Take a few minutes of peace and quiet. Take control of outer-noise pollution in your car, office, and home, and you’ll notice a shift in your energy right away.

Inner Silence

Inner silence cannot be found by shutting down your computer or by being alone in your bedroom. Inner silence emerges from the space beyond your busy mind. You can’t force it to emerge or make it stay. Inner silence arises from your natural state — when your mind is calm. It’s a sense of being quiet from the inside out, when your mind is steady and your body is relaxed. You can learn to access inner silence through practice.

Inner silence leaves an indelible mark. It feels like coming home. It feels so good to be steady and stable. It feels so good to be energized and in harmony. It feels like home to be in sync. Once you get to know inner silence, you’ll want nothing else but to live in that space all the time. 

Cara Bradley is the author of On the Verge.  She has taught yoga, meditation, and fitness internationally for more than thirty years and is the founder of Verge Yoga.   Visit her online at www.carabradley.net.  Excerpted from the book On the Verge: Wake Up, Show Up, and ShineCopyright © 2016 by Cara Bradley. Printed with permission from New World Library

If you're looking for ways to make positive change in your life, I'd highly recommend checking out On the Verge! The book is approachable, encouraging and filled with lots of creative ways to get out of your own head and start living your life in a way that is fulfilling and engaged.

Photos of me in this post by Jobi Otso. 

A Book for Finding Peace and Letting Go of Disappointment

Do you find it challenging to manage your expectations? How do you react when things don't turn out the way you hoped they would?

In her book Expectation Hangover, author and life coach Christine Hassler explores these questions and other ideas related to accepting disappointment, going through life transitions, and finding emotional healing. The book is filled with useful exercises, guided meditations and personal stories.

Today on the blog sponsored yogi Yani shares her review of the book :) Enjoy!

A Review of Expectation Hangover by Yani

I'm a person that fills her time with the many things she obsesses about and is passionate about. I'm also a person that is really bad at slowing down to read, drink warm lemon water, and kind of just slowing the fuck down (though sometimes I do love to relax, be a homebody, and kick it). Another note about me, I have a hard time finishing an entire book through- unless I have absolutely nothing to do, and can get lost in a new world. I read it part by part, slowly. I tend to read when it's calling me; I don't like to force a good read. 

Expectation Hangover: Free Yourself from Your Past, Change your Present & Get What You Really Want had been sitting on my glass table, along with a few other books, waiting to find their way in my to mind. I picked it up one day and carried it around with me so that when the moment called, I would be ready. I drove up to the DMV, without an appointment, grabbed the book in my AmeriCorps bag, and got lost in a new world while I waited in line and sat awaiting my number. 

As always, I read what was destined to find its way in to my mind. I felt moments of epiphanies; I felt my worlds coming full circle. One of the greatest lessons I took away from my short escape was: holding onto expectations is setting the heart and mind up for failure. Goals and ambitions are in place to guide you, but to expect is to put all your eggs in one basket. Create, have faith, and see what finds its way to you as a reality in your world. We have full control of ourselves, but limited control of life.  

In my reading I found a humbling mindset, a mindful way of being. It allowed me to make peace, let go, and ground myself. 

I love that this is an interactive reading, encouraging you to journal and reflect. I look forward to moving onward with this journey, and what this book shall reveal to me. 

One of my favorite quotes from the book:

"We all love control because the unknown is downright scary. In fact, I think control has become the master addiction. But the truth is we really don't have complete control over our lives, and nothing illuminates that truth more brightly than an Expectation Hangover."

Thanks, Yani, for your awesome review and a big thanks to the team at New World Library for offering the opportunity to check out this book. Namaste.

PS Learn more about the author Christine Hassler and check out her interview with Huffington Post about how to overcome falling short of your expectations. Or take her quiz to find out if you have an expectation hangover.

Yoga Books for Your Asana Practice

Calling all yoga junkies! :)

Do you ever read about anatomy and the function of yoga poses to help deepen your practice? 

Sometimes reading about the postures can help you understand them in a completely new way. Here are two books I'd recommend. 

I've been reading these books lately for new ideas about how to sequence my yoga classes leading up to a peak pose. They are filled with so much great information!

I'd recommend both of these books to any yogi, especially if you:

  • teach yoga
  • want to practice advanced poses safely
  • are completing a yoga teacher training and studying anatomy
I love that The Complete Guide to Yoga Inversions offers foundational pose alignment (ie downdog, side plank, and forward fold) before getting into the details of more challenging poses. I also love that each pose has a few tips and tricks that help make the posture more accessible-- shifting the gaze or moving the weight in the hands or feet, or an idea for what to do if you get stuck. Truly an amazing book!

The Student's Manual of Yoga Anatomy --this book would be a great starting place for someone in their first teacher training, or if you're a yogi who practices mostly at home and you can't usually get to a studio. I love that the beginning of the book includes information on spinal movement and types of muscle activity. Then the book details each pose with information on how to get into the pose safely, how to modify and use props, and what to be careful of. This is a very thorough, easy-to-digest manual for many poses, and a book I'd highly recommend to practitioners of all levels.

What yoga books are you reading lately?

A big thanks to the team at The Quarto Publishing Group for offering me the opportunity to check out these books. I'll definitely be recommending them to students and teachers, and using the knowledge from each book to inform my own practice! Namaste.

PS Four of my other favorite yoga books and a book featuring yoga and poetry

A Yoga Book About Love

Today I'm honored to share sponsored yogini Kelsie's review of the book Mala of Love: 108 Luminous Poems. This collection features two of my favorite things in the world: yoga and poetry. Enjoy...

Un-­put­-down-­able. Adjective informal

1. (of a book) so engrossing that one cannot stop reading it.

This book channels the inner nature of the self, and is a stunning body of work. Many of the poems are excerpts from the work of practitioners all over the world and their words embody my inner most emotions, most strongly, love. Its much easier to express my profound love to others with the help of Mala Of Love.

So true, so inspiring, so deep.

Here are a few excerpts from the book, to give you a sense of how it reads.

An excerpt from page 42:

The minute I heard my first love story

I stared looking for you, not knowing

How blind that was.

Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.

They’re in each other all along.


Translated by Coleman Barks

An excerpt from the book's introduction:

The diverse voices form a mala, or a garland of 108 prayer beads. Although identified with Eastern traditions, the mala has been increasingly accepted as a sacred tool in other parts of the world. All the beads of a mala are equal, complete in themselves, and yet related to one another. Each turning of the beads steadies and deepens a connection to the Supreme. On a practical level, this collection — like the mala — is an interactive tool allowing the reader to commune with love. We can read the poems aloud in the same way we might recite a mantra or a prayer with a mala. Consistent use helps foster a shift in our neural pathways, so that eventually we become that which we meditate on. We become love.

Thanks, Kels, for sharing your thoughts on this beautiful book!

PS Another awesome book of yoga and poetry.

Amazing Yoga and Wellness Books and DVDs

Hi, yogis!

All sorts of lovely books and yoga DVDs have been making their way to me lately and I'm excited to share them with you. If you need a recommendation for what to read or watch the next time you have a rainy, cold day, I got you :)

What I'm Reading

The New Chinese Medicine Handbook by Misha Ruth Cohen

Before checking out this book, I felt intimidated by Chinese medicine and all its detailed information, regimens and routines. I love that the author offers an approachable guide; as she says, the book is an invitation to a shared healing journey. "If you have picked up this book," Cohen says, "you are searching for answers to the age-old questions: How do I live life fully, how can I heal myself of sickness, and who can guide me in this complex process?" 

If you're like me and dislike going to the doctor and want a more holistic approach to health,

The New Chinese Medicine Handbook

 is a great resource. It gives you a sense of how to approach health with the mind, body, and spirit all integrated as a whole instead of offering quick-fix, Western-minded solutions. Chinese medicine offers a new way of thinking about how to take care of yourself, how to find balance, and how to treat both physical and emotional disharmony.

Restoring Flexibility: A Gentle Yoga-Based Practice to Increase Mobility at Any Age  by Andrea Gilats, PhD, RYT

I can't tell you how many times I've heard from friends, family, and strangers, "I'm too stiff and out of shape to practice yoga!" This is the perfect book for answering that statement with a resounding, "Yoga is for everyone!" I'd recommend this book for anyone who is a beginner and wants to increase mobility. If you or someone you know is intimidated by yoga, try this book. Andrea offers simple routines that anyone can do, and she includes great photos, step-by-step instructions and daily practices to try. The sections include:

  • aligning bones and centering your breath
  • restoring upper body flexibility
  • restoring spinal flexibility
  • restoring hip flexibility - flexors, and rotators and adductors
  • restoring agility - the yoga sun salutation 
  • restoring lower body flexibility
  • reclining joint releases and muscle relaxation

Restoring Flexibility  is comprehensive, detailed, and a really smart approach for beginners. Although the title hints at age, I think this book is applicable to yogis of any age, and it's a wonderful guide to starting where you are instead of taking a class that's too fast-paced or intimidating. Highly recommended.

Essential Oils for Beauty, Wellness, and the Home by Alicia Atkinson

I love this book! It's filled with helpful information about essential oils and recipes and methods for using them. Need to fight the flu? Need relief from allergies? Need to relieve stress or feel better after a bad day? This book has essential oil remedies to help.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Hangover Relief Protocol: Detoxifying Blend

1 TBsp sweet almond oil

2 drops lemon essential oil

2 drops thyme essential oil

2 drops cilantro essential oil

2 drops rosemary essential oil

In a 0.5 oz (15 mL) blue or amber glass bottle, mix 1 Tbsp almond oil with 2 drops each of lemon, thyme, rosemary and cilantro. Cap tightly and shake to mix. Use, or store for later in a cool, dry location.

Massage Blend

sweet almond oil

8 drops ylang ylang essential oil

4 drops clary sage essential oil

2 drops bergamot essential oil

2 drops sandalwood essential oil

What I'm Watching

Awake: The Life of Yogananda

"Will is that which changes thought into energy." - Yogananda

This is such an interesting film! A look at the reaction of the western world as a 'superstar guru' came to Los Angeles featuring commentary by Deepak Chopra, Russel Simmons, and even If you've read Autobiography of a Yogi, that's only the beginning to Yogananda's story :)

YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine with Parvati

Wow! Parvati is such a gifted and mesmerizing teacher... one of my favorite aspects to her teachings is the way she draws in energetic movement and lines of energy. She'll help you become more aware of the subtle intricacies of the practice. Each routine is incredibly revitalizing and healing. Great DVD.

What are you guys reading and watching these days? I'd love to hear! XO

Gratitude (Yogi Surprise November)

Photo by Tra Huynh of Two Twenty Photography.

My lovely yogis, how's November going for you? Are you staying grounded in gratitude?

I've been keeping the gratitude theme going around here at Alive in the Fire, and was excited to see that the team over at Yogi Surprise is doing the same :)

My box arrived this week and I did a little happy dance when I opened it up to find such amazing goodies. This box is my favorite box yet -- I loved absolutely every item in there. :) Thank you, Yogi Surprise team!

  • Yogi Surprise yoga sequence series card. Loved the poses focused on self-acceptance, generosity, and serenity.
  • Sibu Beauty sea buckthorn age defying eye cream. This stuff works great and helps make me feel pretty. Jess says, you're already pretty! haha ;)

Photo via Yuni.
  • Yuni Beauty instant shower sheets. These things are genius...they're not standard size wipes - they're big! So it's actually like having a little mini shower. Highly recommend for any other yoga teachers who sweat a lot and need to run from class to class. Also, they're very reasonably priced if you need to buy more after the Yogi Surprise ones run out :)

Feeling very grateful for the Yogi Surprise team for continually finding the best brands the health and wellness community has to offer!

If you haven't signed up yet, go get yourself set up for a mini vacation once a month. And if you need a gift idea for friends or family (or your favorite yoga teacher), this is the way to go!


My Favorite Fall Books

Photo via Pinterest. Book photos via Amazon and author websites.

As the weather cools down, fall is a great time for curling up with a good book.

Lately I've been lucky enough to try out some new books about healthy living and yoga. These are my top 4 favorites right now:

I love Jennifer's down-to-earth voice. Every recipe and story she shares is grounded in a genuine love for food and for eating and an extensive background in plant-based cooking. The hummus recipe and coconut bliss ball recipe are incredible! 

by Amber Rose, Sadie Frost and Holly Davidson

This book is gorgeous! The amount of wisdom shared by Amber, Sadie, and Holly seems like it would be overwhelming, but the way they have organized this book makes it very accessible and appealing. I especially love the workout ideas and week-long plan for wellbeing. This book truly captures mind, body and spirit in one extensive guidebook written by real women.

by Yogrishi Vishvketu 

Wow! That's what I can't stop thinking whenever I pick up this text and look through it. The book is filled with hundreds of photographs of different yoga poses, sequencing for beginner, intermediate and advanced students, as well as chakra-based practices that you can do. In this book we see Vishvketu's legacy, his devotion, and his truly incredible contribution to the yoga community. Highly recommend checking it out, and purchasing a copy for your local studio.

by Sean Vigue

With the colder temperatures settling in, now is a great time to turn up the heat in your practice and invite fiery tapas energy to burn off anything that is old or stagnant. I love that this book offers a practical, easy-to-read guide to doing that. Athletes of any sport can gain a lot of flexibility, body awareness and breath stamina by practicing yoga, and I'm grateful that books like this one encourage that! This book would make a great gift for someone who is new to yoga, but it's also great for seasoned practitioners. This book covers a lot of ground: whether you're looking to improve balance, focus, control, breathing, posture, or flexibility; strengthen your back, joints, or core; or reduce or heal from injury. A great read.

Photo via Pinterest.

What books are you reading these days, yogis? XO

An Incredible Book About Meditation

Illustrations via Pinterest.
Do you meditate?

If you do, you need to read this book.

Photo via The Mind Illuminated website.
The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science by Culadasa (John Yates, Ph.D.)

If you don't meditate, you also need to read this book -- maybe even more so :)

In his book, Culadasa shows how powerful meditation can be. I love, too, that he approaches it not only as a science, but as an art. As he says:

"While this book is a kind of technical manual, it's also an artist's handbook. Meditation is the art of fully conscious living. What we make of our life-- the sum total of thoughts, emotions, words, and actions that fill the brief interval between birth and death-- is our one great creative masterpiece. 

The beauty and significance of a life well lived consists not in the works we leave behind, or in what history has to say about us. It comes from the quality of conscious experience that infuses our every waking moment, and from the impact we have on others."

On his website, Culadasa asks this provocative question: What if one thing you did each day could bring you to deep joy, peace, insight, and personal transformation?

And in the book, he goes about answering that question, and offering the reader a 10-step guide to meditation. It is a fascinating, dense, practical guide to taming the mind and reaching a deep sense of peace through frequent meditation practice.

So far, I've only read the beginning of the book: the introduction, the summary chapter that gives a basic idea of the 10 stages of meditative training, and then the chapter about stage 1 (establishing a practice).

In only 60 pages, I've already gained an immense amount of knowledge about meditation and how to build a successful meditation practice... I have yet to put this knowledge into practice in my daily life, but hey! At least I'm learning :)

To give you a brief breakdown of the chapters, here are the ten stages of meditation:
1. Establishing a practice
2. Interrupted attention and overcoming mind-wandering
3. Extended attention and overcoming forgetting
4. Continuous attention and overcoming gross distraction and strong dullness
5. Overcoming subtle dullness and increasing mindfulness
6. Subduing subtle distractions
7. Exclusive attention and unifying the mind
8. Mental pliancy and pacifying the senses
9. Mental and physical pliancy and calming the intensity of meditative joy
10. Tranquility and equanimity

Pretty intense, right?! :)

Highly highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in meditation. Whether you're new to the practice or have been meditating for years, this book offers a new way to think about it and creative, helpful ways to deepen your meditation experience. Find the book here.

A big thanks to the team behind this book for sharing a copy, and I hope to continue meditating and sharing this knowledge with others.


4 Amazing Yoga Books

Photo by Brynna Bryant of Respiro Photography.

Are you looking for inspiration for your yoga practice?

Lately I keep coming back to these four books. 

I highly recommend checking them out, whether you're a yoga teacher looking for creative ideas for class, or you're creating your own home practice. These books offer creative ideas, new flows, ways to make yoga accessible and relevant, and beautiful quotes to read or share during meditation. 

Each of these books is extraordinary.

by Elena Brower and Erica Jago

This book is a magical exploration of yoga told through stunning images and thoughtful essays. I love the little stick figure sequencing, theme ideas, interactive journaling prompts, and thoughtful sense of awareness that comes from engaging with this book. Watch the Indiegogo video here for an inspiring look behind the scenes of what went into the project.

by Linda Sparrowe

This series of heartfelt essays and photographs shows an inside look at where people practice yoga in their homes. The book features interviews with famous teachers and practitioners such as Seane Corn, Rodney Yee, David Life and Sharon Gannon, Shiva Rea, and Elena Brower as they reflect on practical tips, sequencing ideas, and inspiration found in the teachings of yoga.

What I love most about this book is that it is very down-to-earth and accessible -- you don't have to have years of experience to feel comfortable reading it and taking some of the wisdom and applying it to your own practice.

There's something very real, tangible, and lovely about this collection; reading it feels like being in someone's actual living room with your mats rolled out side by side, just chatting and breathing and trying out the poses.

by Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison

This book is a go-to on days when I'm feeling stuck, uninspired, worried, or overwhelmed. Each passage offers something immediate. I love that the book moves through explorations of all eight limbs of yoga, and it offers thoughts and ideas that make the practice a human experience.

There are pages in this book that I read over and over again, because they reveal the heart of this practice. I love the way Rolf Gates says it, "The real payoff of a yoga practice, I came to see, is not a perfect handstand or a deeper forward bend—it is the newly born self that each day steps off the yoga mat and back into life."

by Maya Fiennes

When I first started yoga, I practiced with Maya Fiennes, watching her DVD from my living room. I was such a mess. This incredible woman inspired me to start tuning in to my inner wisdom, and to begin understanding my own strength. Years later, I discovered this book, and now love her, and her approach for yoga, even more.

This book offers insight on the different chakras, guiding you through a Kundalini asana practice focused on each energy center, as well as meditation, food, daily practices, and spiritual rituals to balance the energy. It gives a comprehensive view of how we can apply yoga to mind, body and spirit. I like to think of this book as a guide book to creating happiness and peace. Maya's voice offers that-- a sense of grounding and peace. It's a great read for any yoga practitioner, or even someone who's never tried yoga before.

Photo by Brynna Bryant of Respiro Photography.

What are your favorite yoga books? Which ones do you keep coming back to?

PS A book for yogis who are new to the practice, and a book for yogis who love poetry.

My New Favorite Yoga and Poetry Book

If you want money in more than anything,
you'll be bought and sold.
If you have a greed for food,
you'll be a loaf of bread. 
This is a subtle truth:
whatever you love, you are.

This poem is excerpted from my new favorite book, Mala from the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems. It is a beautiful collection of poems by great sages, saints and mystics. Most are less than a page in length, so you can easily drop in and experience the words and the peaceful space they create.

Much in the same way that a yoga practice works, the breaths in between are what leave you feeling renewed and at peace.

Highly recommend this book! Great for before or after a yoga practice, or in the evening with a glass of wine. Namaste.

PS You can purchase the book from New World Library Publishing...they have some other amazing yoga titles too! I also recommend Pick Your Practice by Meagan McCrary, especially for yoga beginners!

Coloring Flower Mandalas (Book Review)

Do you ever feel like your creativity needs a boost?

I think all of us can relate to that 'stuck in a rut' feeling, whether it's in regard to our own art projects, work, relationships, or even our yoga practice.

It's so important to try new things, and to adopt a playful attitude!

Recently I was lucky to share the amazing book Coloring Flower Mandalas by Wendy Piersall with my lovely sponsored yogini Elizabeth. It's the perfect book for bringing out your inner goddess and inner child, all at once!

Here's what Elizabeth said about the book:

I absolutely love Coloring Flower Mandalas. It was the most colorful meditation I've ever experienced. 

Such beautiful hand-drawn designs! It was a great way for me to be present in the moment and find a few moments of calmness. I was able to bring out my inner artist and have some fun. I even turned on some good reggae and got in the zone. Thank you so much for creating an amazing adult coloring book!

A big thanks to Wendy Piersall for creating such a lovely book, and to the team at Ulysses Press for sharing this unique book with Alive in the Fire!

You may recall I have some mandalas tattooed in my sleeve :) What I love is that these designs have existed for thousands of years as tools for meditation and healing... the powerful sacred geometry, the spiritual symbolism, the lovely colors... all of it works together to create a beautiful, meditative design :)

Cheers to all mandalas, whether they're in books or tattoos or your meditation space!

Namaste, friends.

2 Amazing Books for Self-Care (You Can Be Stress-Free and Pain-Free!)

Taking care of your body is so important. You don't have to be a regular at the yoga studio to know this. Whether we're on or off the mat, we must constantly work to remain in balance, releasing stress so we can think clearly and moving mindfully so that we avoid injury.

Today I want to share two incredible books that help me stay stress-free and pain-free. They're full of incredible information about anatomy and the body, so they're a great resource for me to use as a yoga teacher when I'm planning classes or helping a student who needs a modification. 

But I'd honestly recommend these books to anyone, regardless of your age, activity level, or body type... they contain a wealth of knowledge about releasing stress and muscular tension, and the poses and exercises are shared in a way that's easy to read. 

It doesn't matter if you've done yoga... if your body hurts or you feel stressed, go read these books! :)

The Roll Model by Jill Miller
This book is a guide to using various roller balls and props for releasing muscular tension. I am so grateful for my yoga tune-up therapy balls that came with the book. I use them several times a week, especially if I'm sore after a class. They're compact and easy to carry in a purse or backpack, and you can use them in so many different spots throughout the body!

A while back, I was suffering from intense pain in my low back and glutes, with sensation that felt like sciatica. Often the best relief throughout my day would be from using the therapy balls and the hip exercises from The Roll Model. Combined with exercises such as mula bandha to strengthen my pelvic floor muscles, this book seriously changed my outlook and helped me release so much pain and stress. I highly recommend it as a resource to anyone who is suffering from pain anywhere in the body, and especially to all yoga teachers, coaches, trainers, and massage therapists.
Photos via Yapana Yoga.

The author of this book, Leann Carey, has designed an incredible system of yoga for unique needs. By using props and careful alignment, she makes any pose accessible to any body. I love the way the book is organized and the comprehensive illustrations with specific sequences. She even has sections for enhancing the immune system, recovery for athletes, and relief from PMS.

In an interview about the book, Leann said that if she could recommend only 3 poses a day to a yoga student, they would be fish pose, legs up the wall pose, and revolved knee squeeze pose (pictured below). These three poses incorporate back bending, supported twisting, and relief to the lower back and feet. Each of them are incredibly powerful postures to incorporate into your daily practice!

Jill and Leeann each have over 20 years of experience studying and teaching yoga, and it's easy to tell when you read their books. I am so grateful to have these amazing titles on my shelf of yoga books, and I can't wait to share copies with my friends and fellow teachers this year at Christmas ;)


Finding Yourself After a Breakup

 Photos via Pinterest.
To say that breakups are hard is an understatement. Today on the blog I want to offer a glimpse into a great book for anyone going through a difficult break-up or divorce.

In The New Single, author Tamsen Fadal explores the process of falling back in love with yourself after the end of a serious relationship. Her story is powerful and is relevant to anyone, whether or not you're experiencing heartache. Even if you're just hoping to improve your awareness of yourself and your emotions, and you want to love yourself more, this is a great read.

Here are a few excerpts that I loved...

Learn to Love the Sound of "I"
Sounds easy enough, right? Focus on yourself. The truth is, for me, it was extremely difficult. Having to spend time with my own thoughts? Having to spend time facing the truth? I was a forty-something divorcee with no children, renting an apartment, saddled with my former husband's debt and a very public divorce. The hardest thing for me to do at that moment was to be honest with myself about who I was... I was frustrated that I was starting over again and that I was alone. So, I had to take life one minute, one hour, one day at a time to be able to get real with myself.

Self Talk
Over time, I realized that my self-talk was self-destructive. It was filled with excuses and denial, both ways to protect myself from the truth. I decided to take control of my negative self-talk by composing a list of the things I should be saying...

  • You are living your life
  • You can't fix people
  • Decide what you want
  • Go after it. 100 percent.
  • Stop seeking advice from everyone.
  • Remember that before you love yourself, you must like yourself. It is essential, just like it is when it comes to finding a relationship.

What I loved most about checking out this book is that it is a reminder to all of us that we must love ourselves unconditionally if we want to be happy when in relationships.

PS: Further reading:
You were made to be real, not perfect.
Remember to breathe.