What Helps You Stay Mindful?


What helps you stay mindful throughout your day?

I was recently asked to answer this question. What practices do I use to fight stress and boost productivity? My favorites are yoga, breathwork and writing.


Meditation, yoga, writing and breathing practices help me stay mindful.

On stressful days, I try to give myself permission to sit with what is, whether I'm tired or emotional or overwhelmed. I like to sit down or sometimes take 'legs up the wall' pose and just spend a few minutes noticing my body. 

Where do I feel tense? How am I breathing? What is the energy in my body like in this moment?

Rolling out my yoga mat and moving for 15-20 minutes allows me to release stagnant energy. Some days, I'll stay with one pose for an extended period of time. One minute in headstand, or two minutes in Pigeon on each side -- that can make a huge difference in how my day is going!



I also love to write in my journal. I think it's important to write from a place of authenticity. If I'm having a rough day, I might not write a gratitude list. I might write about why I'm upset, why I feel stuck, or what I'm fearful of. On happy days, a gratitude list or a blog post or a long post on Instagram might be more fitting. The important thing is to start with how I'm truly doing, instead of trying to pretend I'm in a different space.

Breathing is so important too. Lately I've been all about Nadi Shodhana, alternate nostril breathing. I feel so relaxed after just a few minutes of this Pranayama technique. I'm grateful that there are so many methods for staying mindful and for releasing stress, since different days I need different tools.



This post was inspired by a Q&A article I participated in. You can read the full article featuring other amazing yoga teachers and their ideas here.

Photos in this post by Ken Johnson of CKCImage.com.

Pranayama: Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing)


Happy Monday, yogis! I hope you had a restful and fun weekend.

I'm curious: do you practice pranayama (breathing techniques) at your yoga studio, or at home?

It's interesting to me how the culture of every yoga studio varies, and it seems like these days you can find both traditional classes which feature ancient, yogic breathing practices, and you can also find studios where you'll only hear about Ujjayi breath while in class.

Recently I've been incorporating nadi shodhana, or alternate nostril breathing, into my daily routine. I find that it relaxes my entire body, calms my mind, and helps me feel balanced.

Would you like to try it?

Find a comfortable seated position, and close your eyes. (Note, if this is your first time trying a pranayama technique, please see my note below.*)


Take a few moments to ground yourself. Allow your thoughts to settle.

Notice your body, any sensation, any area that draws your attention.

Then, notice your breath.

Where in your body do you feel your breath?

Let your awareness settle on the breath alone. You can begin counting your inhales and exhales. Inhale to a count of four; exhale to a count of four.

After a few rounds like this, we'll begin nadi shodhana, alternate nostril breathing.

Bring your right hand just in front of your face.

Bend your index and middle fingers, creating a sort of "y" shape with your hand. During this breath technique, you'll use your thumb to cover your right nostril, and your ring finger to cover your left nostril.

Close your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale through the left nostril slowly and steadily, filling up your lungs.

Close your left nostril with your ring finger so both nostrils are closed; retain your breath at the top for a brief moment. Then, open your right nostril and release the breath through the right side, exhaling fully.

Inhale slowly through the right side, filling up again. At the top of the breath, hold both nostrils closed and pause for a moment.

Then open your left nostril and breathe slowly out through the left side. Pause briefly at the bottom.

Repeat for two to five minutes (or longer). Work up to longer periods of practicing this breath.


Here's a simplified explanation, in case that above description got a little confusing or wordy for you ;)

  • Exhale fully.
  • Cover your right nostril as you inhale on the left.
  • Pause at the top of the breath and close both nostrils.
  • Cover your left nostril as you exhale on the right.
  • (Keep your fingers as is as you) inhale on the right.
  • Pause at the top of the breath and close both nostrils.
  • Open your left nostril and exhale on the left.

Or, even more simply:
  • Inhale left, exhale right.
  • Inhale right, exhale left.
Once you get the hang of this breath technique, it's very relaxing.


Nadi Shodhana is a powerful yogic practice. This breath will allow you to: support your lung and respiratory system, balance the left and right hemispheres of your brain, clear your body's energetic channels, rejuvenate your nervous system and release stress.


*An important note: one of my favorite yoga teachers once explained to me that pranayama is a serious part of the yoga practice. It's important to establish a foundational yoga practice before you begin working on pranayama. Please practice with a teacher who is knowledgeable and can show you exactly how the breath technique works and who you can ask questions. 

Nadi Shodhana is a basic pranayama practice, so it would probably be OK for you to try it simply based on reading this post, but if you're getting into any other more complex breath practices, or any pranayama that involves holding (retaining) the breath, please do so with an experienced teacher in the room with you. As with anything in yoga, if any of these breath practices cause you any sort of anxiety, please skip them and go back to your normal breath in and out through the nose.

Namaste.

 All images in this post by Ken Johnson of CKCImage.com. Leggings by Ginger Orange Activewear.

Badass Yoga Teachers: Online Resources You Don't Want to Miss


Happy Monday, yogis!

So far in the Badass Yoga Teachers series, we've talked about some great topics:
The more I write this series, the more I've realized: there are endless topics for yoga teachers to explore!

Today, I'd like to refer you to a wonderful list of websites that I've used for support in my professional and personal development.

Whether you're new or experienced, feeling eager or feeling stuck, these sites have some incredible wisdom to offer. Happy reading!

Websites Every Yoga Teacher Should Check Out





  • I love Allie's heartfelt writing. Her site is a wonderful resource for finding creative sequences to incorporate into your own home practice. I appreciate that she offers short yoga routines, and as a teacher sometimes a 10-minute or 30-minute video is the perfect pick-me-up for during your busy day!
  • She's also got a great post on how to create a blog, if you're a teacher hoping to share your story more.

What are your favorite websites for yoga teacher resources? I'd love to hear! XO

Creativity


What helps you cultivate creativity?

I believe summer is a wonderful time of year to go on adventures, try new things, and meet new friends.


Here are a few of my favorite creative outlets. I hope they help you discover new, fun, exciting ways to spend your summer!

  • Write. Even if you don't consider yourself a 'writer,' try putting a pen to paper. You never know where the ideas will lead you! Whether you're simply journaling about your experiences, making a list of things you want to accomplish, creating fictional characters and stories, or even doodling, let yourself try something new. Don't censor yourself or edit, just write! See where it leads you.
  • Cook. Look up recipes on Pinterest, buy a cookbook at your local used bookstore, or consider asking a friend or family member for a new recipe. I often find that when I give myself time to be creative in the kitchen, it yields wonderfully delicious results! It's also fun to try making a fancy breakfast or special dessert, and surprising someone you love. Cooking dinner with a glass of wine (or two) is always fun, too! :)
  • Spend time in nature. Being outdoors often feels like a 'reset' for your creativity. Try going for a hike, walking on the beach, watching the sunset, or even just taking a walk around your neighborhood. Being outside can offer the breath of fresh air you need to spark a new idea. I also love taking my yoga practice outside to mix things up!


  • Chant, sing, or play an instrument. Music is a wonderful way to be creative. Personally I love to sing to the radio in my car, pull out my djembe and chant in the living room, or look up new artists and songs on Spotify. Someday it would be fun to take up piano again (I took lessons as a little kid) or try playing the guitar. Do you play any instruments?
  • Clean and declutter your home. Does anyone else out there feel relieved and more open to creativity after catching up on dishes, laundry, and tidying the house? :) I can't tell you how many times I've prioritized cleaning and then given myself time to be creative, and what a difference that makes. If you're short on time, you can also choose to clean just one area of the house or just around your desk, and then go from there.


  • Take a single static yoga pose for 3-5 minutes. Headstand is my favorite, since it brings fresh oxygenated blood to the brain, and is a literal way to shift my perspective. Backbends are also great postures for opening your creative energy channels, or if your body is feeling fatigued, try a yin pose such as pigeon (sleeping swan) or supta baddha konasana.
  • Clear your schedule. This might be my favorite item on this list :) I find that when I create empty space in my schedule-- no plans, no to-do items, nowhere to be-- this is one of the best ways I can bring more creativity. By allowing space, I'm able to let my thoughts settle, and this often leads to new ideas. 

What are your go-to activities for cultivating creativity? I'd love to hear!

Namaste.

Photos by Jobi Otso.

Yoga Poses for Expressing Joy


Step 1: Go put on the song "Happy" by Pharrell Williams. Sing along and dance a little.

Step 2: Notice, does this resonate with you right now?

Step 3: Try this yoga sequence :)

These poses are great for days when you're feeling alive, excited and joyful.

Or maybe you're having a sh*t day and want to turn things around? Yeah, this yoga sequence can work well for that too ;)


Warm up your body with 3 rounds of sun salutations. Move as quickly or as slowly as you like, and begin concentrating on linking your movement with your breath. Steady, rhythmic movements to build some heat in the body.

Take tree pose. Shift your weight onto one foot and bring the other up to your inner thigh, or calf. Reach your arms overhead. Breathe. Notice stability in the body, and length in the spine.

Between sides, feel free to shake out your hands and feet, or do a little dancing!


Downward facing dog, five to eight breaths.

Triangle pose on each side, five to eight breaths. Widen through the chest. Think long lines of energy here, and the energy of the earth being brought upward through the arms. Beautiful!

Keep breathing.


Stand in Tadasana, mountain pose, for a few moments. Then come into extended hand-to-big toe pose (Utthita Hasta Padangustasana)

Take your time finding the balance here: first bring your knee into your chest. Set your gaze (dristi) on a fixed point in front of you, preferably at eye level or a little higher. If you can take your big toe in your two peace fingers (thumb and index), do so. Then slowly extend your leg straight and bring it out to a diagonal.

Always the option here to just keep your knee into your chest and work on balancing on one foot. You can also play with twisting toward the leg that's into your chest. Use your core strength and focused determination to support you as you balance.

Repeat on the other side for the same length of time. Again, shaking out your hands and feet or dancing between the two sides is encouraged! 


Take downward dog for 8-10 breaths, or rest in child's pose.

Next step one foot forward and come into Warrior II. On your inhale, reach up to Reverse Warrior pose. Stay grounded and strong in the legs, as your arm floats up toward the sky.

Breathe!

Feel your chest open, side body expands, and invite a smile.

Do both sides and feel free to rest in downdog between sides.

If you want a little extra movement, feel free to add some cat / cow stretching here too.


Next, stand at the front of your mat in Mountain pose. Transition to Dancer pose (Natarajasana). Shift the weight into the right foot, bend your left knee and reach for the inside of the left ankle. Bring your knees together, stand up tall, and take a moment to steady your balance.

Reach your right arm up toward the ceiling.

Find your dristi. Take a big breath in, and then begin to kick your left foot back behind you. Reach forward as you kick back, keeping the shoulders and hips squared toward the front of your mat. Deep breaths here.

Keep a strong standing leg, engage your abdominal muscles, and keep your chest lifted. Let this backbend be an expression of your joy!


Wind down your practice with some seated stretching, maybe a gentle bridge pose, suppta baddha konasana, and some twists. And then, the sweet surrender of Shavasana.


Here's a summary of the YOGA FOR JOY practice:
  • 3 sun salutations to warm up
  • Tree pose (option to shake it and dance to "Happy" between sides!)
  • Downdog
  • Triangle pose on each side
  • Mountain pose
  • Extended big-toe-pose (balance)
  • Downdog
  • Reverse Warrior on each side
  • Cat/cow release
  • Dancer pose (balance)
  • Seated stretching
  • Twists
  • Shavasana 

May your yoga practice be an act of kindness toward your body, and a key to finding healing and peace. Namaste.

Photos in this post by Jobi Otso (1, 2, 5), Felipe Silva of The Uprise Collective (3), Brynna Bryant of Respiro Photography (4, 6, 7). Graphic illustration created using Canva.

Yoga is a Practice


Here are a few things that I know, in this moment.

Yoga is a practice.

And my practice is in a constant state of flux, just like me.

Postures will come and go.

Inversions? Fancy transitions? They do not define me.

Today I practiced yoga for the first time in a week, and my body felt stiff and tight. My joints ached. I tried for binds in Goddess pose and Extended Side Angle, and felt as though I was in a different body than my own.

I felt uncomfortable. I kept going. And, in Shavasana, I felt relieved and a little proud of myself for sticking through the discomfort.



I've heard other teachers and students talk about 'taking a break' from their practice. It has been years since I've done that with mine, but in the last few months there have been moments when I'd rather do anything than yoga.

I know I've spent a lot of time comparing myself to other yogis, teachers and students, deciding who has a 'stronger' practice, who knows more, who is capable, who is worthy.

I'd love to let all of that go.

I journaled about it today, actually. How I'm tired of letting my practice define me, rather than support me.

I don't live to do yoga; I do yoga in order to live a more balanced, happy, peaceful life.

Let that be my mantra. Let the comparisons and judgments fall away.

I want to be remembered as a yogi who loved wholeheartedly.

I want to be remembered as someone who cared, who took care of herself with grace and kindness, and who refused to let fear get the best of her. If handstand is in that picture, OK. If not, OK.

How do you practice ahimsa in your yoga routine? How do you let go of a fear of failure, of not being good enough?

Namaste, loves.


Yoga Poses for When Your Heart is Full


Feeling blissed out?

Try this little yoga sequence. Notice how simply by creating certain shapes in your body, you're able to feel a deep sense of blissfulness and joy.

Here's a new post in the yoga for healing series that's perfect for days when you're feeling joyful, in love, lighthearted, and radiant.

Try these poses as a way to express your happiness, and radiate love to those around you.


If possible, do 3 rounds of sun salutations to warm up the body and link movement with breath.

Step into star pose. Feet can be about hip width or wider, and bring your arms overhead. Reach up and take up a lot of space. Bring your gaze up toward the sky or to your fingertips.

Breathe in a long, slow exhale, and a full, energizing exhale.

Do this three or four times, just noticing the feeling of your feet on the ground, the energy in your body, and the space you're in.


Spend some time on your mat experiencing Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I) pose. Step your feet wide apart. Let your front knee bend deeply as you press into your back foot, feeling the outer edge of your foot ground down.

Take your arms overhead with a deep breath in. Reach through the fingertips and feel the arms engage.

Picture sending out joyfulness and happiness-- letting it radiate down through your legs and feet, up and out the crown of the head, and through the arms and out the fingertips.

Take up a lot of space here. Breathe! Feel.

Do a few sets of this pose on each side, building some heat in the body.

If you've got time and you're feeling energized, feel free to do 3-5 minutes of core work after this (lying on your back- supta baddha situps, or maybe seated, in boat pose).


Next, alternate between goddess pose (malasana) and crow pose (bakasana)

In goddess, lift through the chest, and take your concentration to your heart center. Envision lifting that energy of loving kindness up into the heart, all the way up the spine and out the crown of the head.

Plant your hands firmly and rock your weight forward onto your palms, coming into crow pose. Let this playful arm balance be a chance to express gratitude and trust for where you are right now, in this moment.

Squeeze your knees into the backs of your upper arms, and press the arms into your knees, feeling a strong connection there. Lift up on the pelvic floor, gaze forward, and fly.

See if you can stay for 6-8 breaths (or more, if crow is already in your practice). Notice how your mind and body might want to jump ahead to the next moment-- the next thought, the next pose-- can you stay with what is? Can you notice everything about this moment and be in this breath?

Can you let your heart be full, even in a challenging pose like crow pose? Maybe you don't lift up the feet just yet, but can you feel a sense of contentment with the work you are doing and the strength you are building?


Rest for a few moments in child's pose, then make your way to your back.

Come into bridge pose: press down through your feet, lift your hips, squeeze your inner thighs. Work your shoulders a little more under your body, and feel your chest come up toward your chin. Direct energy in your thighs away from the hips, toward the knees. Picture squeezing a block between your thighs, to keep that engagement.

Close your eyes.

Bring your attention to your upper back, between the shoulder blades. Notice the front body, the chest, the beating of your heart.

Backbends are a way to express openness, vulnerability, and to welcome in whatever emotions are present.

Stay for a few breaths, feeling whatever comes up for you in this pose.


Here's a summary of the YOGA FOR BLISS practice:
  • 3 sun salutations to warm up
  • Star pose 
  • Warrior I on each side (can be repeated 3 or 4 times to build heat in the body)
  • Optional - 3-5 minutes of ab work, either seated, or on your back
  • Goddess pose
  • Crow pose
  • Feel free to move between goddess and crow 3 or 4 times, seeing how long you can stay, and cultivating awareness of the present moment (strong Ujjayi breath!)
  • Child's pose (rest for a few breaths)
  • Bridge pose (or Wheel, if it's in your practice)
  • Shavasana 

May your yoga practice be an act of kindness toward your body, and a key to finding healing and peace. Namaste.

Photos in this post by Brynna Bryant of Respiro Photography (1), Tom Huynh (2, 5), and Felipe Silva of The Uprise Collective (3, 4). Graphic illustration created using Canva.

Yoga Poses for Dealing with Anger


This month on Alive in the Fire we're talking about how yoga can help us deal with emotions. Today's post offers a sequence of yoga postures to process and release anger.

On days when you are feeling angry, frustrated, or frantic, try these poses to help you expend energy and re-center.


If possible, do 3 rounds of sun salutations to warm up the body and link movement with breath.

Take cat pose. Place your knees under your hips and your wrists under your shoulders, coming onto all fours. If you have sensitive knees you can place a blanket under your knees.

Allow your belly to soften toward the mat. Lift your chin and your tailbone, creating an arc in your spine. Invite a sense of opening.

Picture all of the intense angry energy that you've been experiencing gathering at your navel. Let it build and intensify there. Then, using a fierce lion's breath, exhale loudly through your mouth, sticking out your tongue, ha! Let the energy move away from your navel, to the throat, and then out of the body.

Do a few breaths like this, feeling a release of negative energy. You can also incorporate some cat/cow movements or maurading bear movements, circling the hips.


Next, transition through down dog and into high plank pose. Activate the leg muscles, squeeze your glutes, and press your heels toward the back of the mat. Press down and away through the palms of your hands.

Lengthen through the crown of your head and feel the long line of energy all the way down to your tailbone. You can always modify by bringing the knees down.

Invite the mantra, I am strong. Feel some intensity here.

Again, picture the energy gathering at the navel center. Take a big breath in, and then audibly exhale through the mouth (ha), let the energy move through the throat and out of the body. 

Relax the muscles of the neck. Release tension from the face and the jaw.

Stay for one breath more than you would like to (maybe starting to break a sweat!) and then slowly release, pressing back to downdog.


Spend the next few breaths moving around freely-- pedaling the feet, shaking the head side to side, stretching out the calves and the backs of your legs.

Then, inhale as you lift one leg, exhale as you bend your knee and stack your hips. Move your ankle around and take a few breaths here, feeling your hips open. Do the same movement on the other side (inhale, lift; exhale, bend and stack the hips).

Do three or four rounds on each side. As you move, picture any negative, angry, frustrated or pent up energy releasing from the area around the pelvis and moving down the legs, out the feet and toes.


Come back into downward dog. Step one foot forward, rise for Warrior 2 pose. Inhaling, take Reverse Warrior. Hold for 5 breaths.

Then, begin a wave-like movement between Warrior 2 and Reverse Warrior, inhaling as you reach up, and exhaling as you come back into Warrior 2. Let your breath be loud and purposeful.

As you inhale, you're drawing in peaceful energy, and as you exhale you're feeling the strength and centeredness of your body without the tension of anger or frustration.

Let your movement be graceful. You're standing firmly on two feet, feeling the emotion process through you and be released, right here and now.


After your warrior sequence, feel free to take a short rest in child's pose.

Next, come into Malasana, goddess pose (squat). Let the hips sink down. Press your elbows into your shins and lift up through your chest and the crown of your head.

Do three lion's breaths in this pose. On your inhale, fill your lungs completely; as you exhale, open your mouth and stick out your tongue! Make a loud sound. Let a feeling of release and relief pass over your body.


Transition to lying on your back. End your practice with happy baby and/or plow pose (halasana). Deep, slow breathing here. Close your eyes and take your gaze inward.

What do you notice now, in your body, versus when you started? 

Is there any lingering tension or angry energy that you can let go of?

Here's a summary of the YOGA FOR ANGER practice:
  • 3 sun salutations to warm up
  • Cat pose with lion's breath
  • High plank with audible exhale
  • Downdog (move freely, let go of any tension)
  • Leg lifts/ stacking the hips (hip opener)
  • Warrior 2 / Reverse Warrior waves on each side
  • Optional short rest in Child's pose
  • Goddess pose (malasana/ squat) with three lion's breaths
  • Happy baby
  • Plow pose
  • Shavasana 

May your yoga practice be an act of kindness toward your body, and a key to finding healing and peace. Namaste.

Photos in this post by Lucid Reflections (1, 4), Cait Loper (2), Brynna Bryant of Respiro Photography (3), and Tom Huynh (5, 6). Graphic illustration created using Canva.

Yoga Poses for Releasing Anxiety


First up in the yoga for healing series: yoga for anxiety!

This little series of poses is near and dear to my heart. I found yoga because of anxiety, and found that the practice was incredible for calming my nerves and letting go of stress.

On days when you are feeling anxious, nervous or worried, try these yoga postures to help you ground your energy and release fear.


If possible, do 3 rounds of sun salutations to warm up the body and link movement with breath.

Otherwise, simply begin in Tadasana, mountain pose. Stand with your feet firmly planted on the ground, soften your knees a little bit, and reach up through the crown of your head. You can even tuck your chin just slightly to feel your spine get even taller.

Notice what it feels like when you are in this tall, confident standing posture.

Feel free to bring your hands together in front of your heart and close your eyes. Take five deep breaths, picturing the breath lighting up your entire body with vibrant energy and a sense of peace.

Each time you exhale, picture sending your worries or frustrations down through the soles of your feet, letting them go, right here and now.


Next, take a mini backbend. Reach your arms over head and look up. As you reach through your fingertips, picture inviting peaceful energy into your body.

Fill up. Maybe even smile for a moment :) 

Take five breaths here in this standing pose, lifting through the heart center and the crown of your head.


Next is seated cat/cow. Sit comfortably on your mat or on a blanket.

As you inhale, pull your heart forward and arch your spine.


As you exhale, round your spine, curling in, chin to chest.

You can have your hands up or your palms resting on your knees as you do this motion.

Keep the movement linked to the breath -- inhaling forward, exhaling back.

Do five to ten rounds.

As you inhale, invite peace. As you exhale, release fear and tension. You can even vibrate the mantra, I am at peace.


Come back to center. Sit up tall. Take a clearing breath, inhaling through your nose and then exhaling audibly through your mouth: ahhhhhh.

Next, do a few side bends. Let one arm slide down, elbow to the ground. Reach up and across with your other arm. Let your neck relax as you breathe into your side body.

Stretch each side, pausing for five to seven breaths on the right and the left.

As you return to center, notice new space you've created in the mid-body, the area around the heart and in the middle of the upper back, where the shoulder blades are.

Picture the energy there feeling calm and centered.


End your practice with a few moments in lotus mudra. Draw your thumbs and pinky fingers together to touch, and fan your other fingers out wide. Place your thumbs near your sternum.

Close your eyes and breathe.

Notice the sense of calm in your body.

You are this sense of calm. Your very nature is here, in a loving, nurturing, relaxed place. If at any time you need to remember this feeling in your body, you can bring your hands back into lotus mudra and take a few deep breaths.

Here's a summary of the YOGA FOR ANXIETY practice:
  • 3 sun salutations to warm up
  • Mountain pose, tadasana
  • Mountain pose with a baby backbend, arms overhead
  • Seated cat/cow pose
  • Clearing breath (audible exhale!)
  • Seated side bends
  • Lotus mudra at the heart

May your yoga practice be an act of kindness toward your body, and a key to finding healing and peace. Namaste.

Photos in this post by Tom Huynh (1), Brynna Bryant of Respiro Photography (2, 3, 4, 6) and Felipe Silva of @the_lost_coast (5). Graphic illustration created using Canva.

Sequencing a Yoga Class: Advice from Real Yoga Teachers on How to Create Your 'Flow'


Calling all yoga teachers, and teachers in training!

How do you sequence your yoga classes? What tips, tricks and tools have helped you learn to put together a class that 'flows' beautifully?

Sequencing can be a challenge for yoga teachers, especially in the beginning...I know for me it took a few years to feel totally comfortable creating new yoga sequences. When you're fresh out of teacher training, you may have one memorized sequence you're ready to use, but how do you branch out from there? What helps keep you creative and coming up with new ideas? 



Putting together a cohesive, intelligent, engaging yoga class is not easy. In an effort to encourage and inspire all of my fellow yoga teachers out there, I'd love to share some awesome advice from three of my favorite teachers on how they sequence a class, memorize a flow, and create an environment for students that is supportive and fun. Enjoy!

The most authentic inspiration that I find for classes is to get on my mat and move. Some days I just allow myself to be led by my breath and intuition. Other days, I may have a specific intention/focus that I want to bring to class, so my movement is informed by this.

Iโ€™m visually minded, so once I have my game plan, I write/draw out the sequence for class. I like to use symbols, abbreviations, and little stick figure yogis. :) I keep a format that divides the various sections of class, so that it's easy to reference when teaching, if needed.

I love the way that this starts to build a catalog of classes. It is fun to look back at past classes; I will often revive, and sometimes refine, things that I've taught in the past.






Jany Slay:

In the beginning I would write almost every single transition or pose down in a linear list (took up half a page!) but now I focus on just one or two key poses or transitions that I really like and put in my basic flows around those pieces. I stop writing as much down too and just practice on my mat more WITH music. For me, music inspires my movements so getting on my mat with a great playlist is where I get inspired. From there, it's a random note-fest of transitions or poses that I must have in my class.

The biggest tip my teacher had for me in my classes she would take was "BREATHE!" I try to never skip a breathe cue. I try to emphasize fuller breaths in the middle and end of class when that can sometimes be forgotten. When I feel lost or nervous, I breathe. I also remember that some of my favorite classes was more because of the vibe and energy of the teacher and less to do with the sequences or poses.



Elizabeth Sosner:

Because I work with those with some mobility challenges, I pick a pinnacle pose and develop a sequence around the pose that doesn't require getting up and down off the floor in between poses. 

So I try to think in terms of a wave. We begin seated, move upward and end on the floor again. Since my background is in dance, I find that if I do the sequence myself beforehand I can commit it to memory better. I also use tummee.com to see the visuals of my sequence and can rearrange things if it doesn't look quite like I wanted. Of course, if the class requires something else when I get there, I have a few alternates in mind.




Aren't these tips super helpful? I can't wait to try some of them when I'm putting together my next class sequence.

I'm so grateful to each of you-- Tristina, Jany and Elizabeth-- for offering all these awesome ideas on how to sequence a yoga class.

To summarize, here are some ideas for how to create a class that flows effortlessly:
  • Spend time during your own practice noticing the transitions between poses.
  • Keep a journal of class sequences you've taught.
  • Let music inspire you.
  • Choose a peak pose and work up to it.
  • When you arrive to teach, remember to breathe and adapt to who's in the room.

For all you Vinyasa yogis, I also recommend checking out my post on how I memorized the Baron Baptiste sequence during my 200 hour training.

Do you have tips or tricks for sequencing? I'd love to hear in the comments below!

Namaste.

Photos of me in this post by Brynna Bryant of Respiro Photography, and courtesy of Tristina, Jany and Elizabeth.

Being Receptive


I made a discovery while teaching yoga today.

When I am able to be vulnerable, and sit with my students-- when I am willing to get up close, to be seen, and to share space with them -- I receive so much wisdom and healing.

During last few moments before Savasana, I knelt down on the floor, right in the middle of the room, and suddenly I could feel this profound sense of support and love and sacred energy in the room. What an incredible thing to witness-- yogis willing to be with themselves, stretching, taking care of their bodies, releasing.


It felt so simple and pure, in a way. Just being together in a room. I was sitting there watching yogis do a spinal twist and close their eyes and just be. Nothing to do. Nowhere to go. Just resting and receiving a much-deserved rest.

And I felt this urgent longing in me to be close to them -- not to be in the back of the room near the music or up in the front on my own mat. I just wanted to be near them. In it, with them.

So I sat down and placed my palms face up and asked that Reiki would move through me and into the room, and help facilitate healing. I asked that their burdens could be released. I asked that they might feel love and healing. I asked for this process of healing to be immediate and profound.

And I could feel the healing come to me, too. For as much as I give when I teach, I also receive. I realized today that the more receptive I can be to the moment, the more healing the moment brings.

One girl in class had been crying while we were doing hip openers. I brought a box of tissues and set it by her mat-- didn't need to say anything or call it out. I offered a simple gesture to show her that she was supported, and in that moment I remembered all the times on my own mat recently when I'd cried.

Her vulnerability offered me the opportunity to be vulnerable. To be more open today.

Student is teacher is student, I thought. We are each our own best teacher. 

Often I've had this perception that I need to 'hold' the room, or I've had the goal to create something incredible and breathtaking in a class... to bring in a theme or offer up a song that fits perfectly... but often it seems that the more I try to plan something, the less authentic it feels. 

I've realized how powerful it is simply to show up and to be receptive to what's going on in the moment. To teach from the space I'm in, whether that's a tired and grumpy space, or a joyful one. Even if I'm hesitant, fearful, depleted, overwhelmed... I can still teach.

And from this place of authenticity, my students feel permission to be authentic. To be vulnerable. This is what creates the powerful experience of yoga.

Being willing to sit with what is. Being willing to cry, or to lie there silently in a spinal twist and just feel everything that is sacred in the room, and how transformative this practice is.


Teaching yoga today was a gift.

May this practice continue to help me be receptive, and may it touch you to be more open, too.

Namaste.

January to February, and the Yamas and Niyamas

Photo by Jobi Otso.

Anyone else excited to be through January and into a new month? :)

I don't know about you guys, but so far this year is bringing many changes into my life, both personally and professionally. 


I feel a strong need to stay open and maintain a loving and compassionate attitude, even when things feel chaotic. Home life and work life balances are shifting and evolving. 

A yoga studio where I've been teaching announced that it will close at the end of the month. I cried on my mat and felt a sense of dread at having to share the news with my students. The experience has been a bittersweet lesson in aparigraha (non-attachment) and santosha (contentment with what is). Two important yogic principles that are not easy to practice!

Photo by Jobi Otso.

Despite the ups and downs, what I do know is that my yoga practice, with its back bending and heart opening, will continue to serve me and help me stay open and expressive even during this time of transition.

Much love to you, dear readers!

PS Another heartfelt post on contentment, and more about the ethical practices of yoga, called the yamas and niyamas.

Photo by Lucid Reflections.

The Yoga Pose You Hate

Photo by Felipe Silva of @the_lost_portraits.

What's your least favorite yoga pose?

Mine has varied over time: chair pose, headstand, handstand, pigeon, to name a few.

I believe it's normal to experience periods of time where you dislike certain poses, you resist them, and you want to run from the room when the teacher asks you to do them.

Photo by Felipe Silva of @the_lost_portraits.

I have an idea for you.

What if, the next time you encountered a pose that you absolutely don't want to do, instead of skipping the pose or ignoring your reaction to it, you spent a few minutes after class asking your teacher about the pose? 


Photo by Brynna Bryant of Respiro Photography.

You could choose to replace resistance with curiosity.

Find out more about this pose. What's happening in the body when you do this yoga pose? What are its benefits? What muscle groups are working, and what are their balancing actions? What happens to the breath in this pose?

Energetically, what is this pose causing to happen? Which chakra is this pose connected with? What emotions?

What about the pose makes you dislike it? Is it the way your physical body feels? The sounds that tend to be happening in the room when you are in the pose? The length of time you hold the pose? The thoughts that creep into your mind whenever you're in this pose? A memory that comes up? The way this pose makes you feel weak, incapable, inflexible, or 'bad?'

Photo by Jobi Otso

Ask questions. Do research. Talk to your teacher and to other yogis about this pose, its correct alignment, its modifications. Maybe even spend a few moments writing down your thoughts about this yoga pose, or meditating on it. See where this exploration leads you.

Perhaps there will always be a yoga pose you dislike.

Are you willing to explore the reasons surrounding why this is? Are you willing to practice detachment? Are you willing to surrender your ego?

Keep peeling back the layers. This is your yoga.

The 2015 Alive in the Fire Yogi Holiday Gift Guide, Part 2

Photo by Felipe Silva of @the_lost_portraits.

We all know asana, or yoga postures, are only one part of the yogic path... and for those who are immersed in their physical practice and want to kick it up a notch, tools and resources can be helpful.

Calling all handstand-ers, scorpion lovers, and super bendy yogis! Part 2 of the Alive in the Fire 2015 Yogi Holiday Gift Guide is for you :)

Alive in the Fire Holiday Gift Guide: Part 2
Gift Ideas for Hardcore Asana Yogis

Photos via Dharma Yoga Wheel.


The World's First Yoga/Fitness Wheel designed to help stretch and release tension and muscular tightness in the back, chest, shoulders, abdomen and hip flexors. ยฎ

This yoga prop will change your life! I've gained so much flexibility in my spine using my Dharma Yoga Wheel. Plus, being a part of their worldwide community brings so much love and inspiration. Follow @dharmayogawheel for ideas about how to use the wheel (you might just find a photo of yours truly if you look closely!!) and be sure to connect with the Dharma Yoga Wheel founders, Dov Vargas (@yogivaruna) and Raquel Vamos (@leela_om). They are some of the most incredible yogis with so much love and light to share.

Also check out my review of the wheel for more info.

Photo via @yogivaruna on Instagram.

Yoga Tune Up is an incredible resource for pain relief, body awareness and anatomy. They make all sorts of roller balls that you can use to massage areas of tightness in the body. I have a set and I use them allllll the time! I also highly recommend Jill Miller's book, The Roll Model: A Step-by-Step Guide to Erase Pain, Improve Mobility, and Live Better in Your Body. Life changing. Read my review of the book for more info.

 

 Photos via Liforme.
I've heard this one called the 'Rolls Royce of yoga mats.' :) It features a super grippy, non-slip surface, an AlignforMe system with markers that show you great alignment, and extra cushioning. Sounds divine! I have yet to try one and can't wait for the day when I get to :) Definitely a luxury yoga item.



Epsom Salts or a Massage Gift Certificate
Because, let's be honest, if you're doing a lot of yoga, you're really sore. ;)

Photo by Felipe Silva of @the_lost_portraits.

Did you miss part 1 of the holiday gift guide? Check out ideas for 'the yogi who has everything!'

And stay tuned for part 3... gift ideas for hungry yogis!

Today

Photos by Felipe Silva of @the_lost_portraits.

 If today's yoga practice was your very last, how would you want to practice?


How would you want to feel in the poses?

How would your breath be?


Your body is a precious well of energy, emotion, and love.

If today was your last day for moving in this body, how would you move? What would you give? What would you surrender?


When you step onto your mat to practice today, let it be about something beyond just this body, this breath, this one pose. Let it be a precious awakening.

An expression.

An offering of love.

The Real Yoga

The great yogis have always caught our attention with these exquisite and difficult positions they put their bodies. These positions spark our curiosity, "Could I do that?" "That's so cool!" What is really amazing is what is going on that we cannot see. We usually don't realize the breath control, the mental fortitude, and the strength being exerted in flexible positions. But, if we think Yoga=Cool Poses or Yoga=Hot Body then we are completely missing the purpose of the practice. ๐Ÿ˜ฑ Yoga grabs your attention with the physical postures and through practice turns your heart to God. You realize that every single person, including yourself is a spark of the Divine. The real yoga is when you begin to treat every being as if they are Divine even in tough situations. You see everything with love. This is true yoga. ๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ™๐Ÿผ #bereceptive
A photo posted by Alissa Kepas (@alissayoga) on

I just found this most amazing post on Instagram by Alissa Kepas (pictured above). I wanted to re-post it here because it is such a beautiful, heartfelt reminder of what yoga is truly about-- loving others, surrendering to the moment, and being receptive. Thank you, Alissa, for sharing this and for the reminder to re-think the definition of yoga as something more than just a physical practice.

The great yogis have always caught our attention with these exquisite and difficult positions they put their bodies in. These positions spark our curiosity, and we think, "Could I do that?" or "That's so cool!"

What is really amazing is what is going on that we cannot see.

We don't usually realize the breath control, the mental fortitude, and the strength being exerted in flexible positions.

But, if we think Yoga = Cool Poses or Yoga = Hot Body then we are completely missing the purpose of the practice.

Yoga grabs your attention with the physical postures and through practice turns your heart to God.

You realize that every single person, including yourself, is a spark of the Divine. The real yoga is when you begin to treat every being as if they are Divine even in tough situations. You see everything with love. This is true yoga.

Be receptive.

Photo via Instagram.
You can find Alissa on Instagram as @alissayoga.

Tips for Crow Pose (Bakasana)


Lately I've been working on my crow pose :) Do you enjoy bakasana? Here are some tips.


Photo by Justin Kral.

1. Stretch the wrists first. As with any vinyasa practice, it's important to warm up your wrists before you spend a bunch of time with your hands on the mat. I recommend placing the palms face down with the fingers pointing back toward you, also flipping the hands over so the backs of the hands are flat on the floor. In both of these positions you can do a gentle micro-movement forward and back, or right and left. Afterward, make fists and release, maybe shake the hands a few times too. Deep breaths while you're stretching the wrists -- take it slow! Do stretches that feel good to you.

On that note, also consider that when you are in crow pose, you're using your fingers to grip the floor (think tips of the fingers turning white), not putting all the weight in the wrists. You can read more about having active hands with arm balances here.

Photo by Cait Loper.

2. CORE FUN! Crow pose is all about core strength. A few things I've been doing lately to build up core strength:
8 minute abs (hilarious video from the 1980s - watching it, you totally forget that you're working out because it's so funny)
- Ashley Galvin's 'BodyStrong' videos on the Cody app (seriously incredible workouts)
- Sadie Nardini's 'Ultimate Yoga Shred' videos on the Cody app (love her)
- pushups and long plank holds

Photo by Jobi Otso.

3. Consider mula bandha lift and be sure to use your gaze effectively. When you come into crow pose, lift UP from the pelvis, and lift IN with the navel. You can think of it as lifting up through the booty, the belly AND the heels. (In these photos, you can see I still have quite a bit of work to do to lift the feet up farther toward my bum.)

Also, place your gaze a bit in front of you to keep the chest lifted. Put your gaze about one foot in front of you, and lock it there. Gaze set, then begin to tune into the strength in your body-- deep core line. Placing the gaze strategically helps with balance and with weight transfer. (Added bonus step is to smile right here, before you shift forward :)


4. Prop it up! One of the best ways to start working on crow is to place a block under the feet first. This helps raise the hips a bit extra (note that it also raises the rest of the body a little, so if you fall, you fall a little farther!). You'll see in the photo above I've started using my Dharma Yoga Wheel for support while practicing straightening my arms. Another option for propping is to allow your head to touch a wall as you shift forward (usually you have to readjust a few times to see how far away from the wall you'll need to be). Finally, pillows in front of you are always an option, too!



5. Work on tripod headstand and lifting and lowering the legs. From the tripod headstand, start to lower the knees onto the arms, moving SLOWLY and using the core. You want to get the knees in the armpits as much as possible. From here, you can take the legs back up. Do 5-10 reps of up and down each day and pretty soon you'll be ready to lift up into crow right after. If traditional headstand with the forearms is your preferred version of the pose, play with lifting and lowering the legs just using the core. I'm definitely still working on this one but it's amazing how quickly the core strength builds :)

Do you have any other tips that have helped you master crow pose?

PS Love this article on tips for overcoming fear in crow pose.