Yoga for First Responders: Yoga Teacher Training

Yoga for First Responders: Yoga Teacher Training

I am STOKED about the Yoga for First Responders teacher training I’ll be completing later this month! It’s going to be a life-changing experience… here’s more info about what the training entails, and how you can support me on this next adventure.

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Tips for Improving Your Posture


Hi, yogis! I hope your pre-Thanksgiving week is going well and that you're staying as stress-free as possible as the holiday season heats up. :)

So, I have a question for you...

I'm curious: how do you feel about your posture?

If you practice yoga regularly, chances are you're pretty aware of your spinal alignment and stance during standing poses, and things like whether you're lifting your chest, rounding your back, or lacking muscular engagement in a pose.

But how is your posture while you're off your yoga mat? Do you notice your posture when you're working, watching TV, driving in the car, or otherwise moving about your day? Do you spend a lot of time on your feet, or seated at a desk? 

And do you have friends, family, or colleagues who suffer from discomfort or pain which might be related to poor posture?

This post is for you! I believe this post is for every one, actually... we all have moments where we forget to notice our posture, and it can lead to feeling stiff or uncomfortable, straining our bodies unnecessarily, or aggravating old injuries. Here are some simple ways to improve your posture, starting today.



5 Simple Ways to Improve Your Posture

1. Notice your body. Check in with the following areas: your head, neck and shoulders; your arms and legs; your torso; your hips; your upper, middle and lower back; your feet. Where do you notice pain or discomfort? Where do you feel most stable, or unstable? Which areas feel tight or like they've been neglected? Start paying close attention to these areas, and noticing your body alignment.


2. Increase your daily movement routine. Posture is linked to your overall health, and so is the amount of movement you're getting each day. Aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, whether it's walking, running, biking, yoga, swimming, or whatever other activities you enjoy.  By improving your mobility and flexibility, your body will become more comfortable in standing and sitting positions, and you'll have a stronger sense of body awareness.




3. Try LumoLift. I've been using this amazing posture coach tool and I love how effective and simple it is. I simply clip the little magnetic device to my shirt or collar and wear it around throughout my day; if I start to slouch for 15 seconds or longer, the LumoLift vibrates for a moment, reminding me to sit up straight. I find this is especially helpful during my workday, so I remember to have great posture while I'm in front of the computer. What's awesome is that I can also track my daily steps using the LumoLift app on my phone! I'll definitely be suggesting the LumoLift to my yoga students and highly recommend checking it out. It would make a wonderful stocking stuffer this year, too (and it comes in a ton of different colors)!


4. Talk to your yoga teacher, fitness coach, chiropractor, doctor, or other health professional about your posture. Ask for information and insight from those you trust.


5. Track your progress. Keep a checklist or small calendar with you, and mark down some notes each day about how your posture is improving. Set specific goals for yourself, and ask others to help you stay accountable. You could also consider having a friend take a daily or weekly photo of you, so you can see how your posture is looking.


Do you have any tips for improving your posture? I'd love to hear!

Photos by Ken Johnson of CKCImage.com (1, 5), Brynna Bryant of Respiro Photography (2, 3, 6), and Lucid Reflections (4).

5 Things You can Do Right Now to Ease Anxiety


Anyone else out there struggle with anxiety sometimes?

Today on Alive in the Fire I want to talk about some ways that you can ease anxiety during a stressful moment.



1. Notice where you are. Can you draw your experience into your physical body? Notice where you are, what you see, where your body is touching the ground. Feel your feet, your hands, your belly. Sit down and put your back against a wall, or maybe lie down. Notice, what is your body asking for? Get grounded into your physical being.

2. Take deep breaths. Oftentimes when I've experienced strong anxiety, I start to breathe shallowly and quickly, from my chest, rather than taking in deep belly breaths. This can lead to an intensified feeling of panic. If I sit down and breathe consciously for a few minutes, this helps a lot. One tool I love to use is the SAM app I downloaded on my phone; it's an app designed specifically to help with anxiety and there's one option for 'Calm breathing' where you can use a timer to count your inhales and exhales. It might sound silly or oversimplified, but when you're in a high-anxiety state it's actually a very effective and calming technique to focus on breathing. Take away distractions. Breathe. This will help relax your body and calm your mind.


3. Take a shower or wash your face. Give yourself a little massage, either on your feet or your temples. Take a moment to rinse away this moment. Picture yourself brushing off whatever is weighing on you. Again, stay present to your physical body.


4. Express some of the emotions you're feeling. Verbalize and speak out loud about what's going on for you. Maybe you talk to yourself in the shower, or write in your journal. Or...

5. Reach out. Call or text a friend. Ask if you can come over and get a hug. Let yourself lean on those you love, and acknowledge that it's OK to feel weak right now. Talk. Talk more than you want to. Talk, even though it's uncomfortable. Let the conversation be messy and let yourself be OK with that. 

And, at the end of the day, give yourself permission to be in a place of struggle. Remind yourself that you are OK. Things will get better from here.


Namaste, loves! Sending each of you a hug. 

Illustrations found on Pinterest (via HealthyPlace.com and Dena Douglas Hobbs)  and from Google Play (SAM App illustration).

PS Other great posts about dealing with anxiety:

Summer Sun Salutation (Yogi Surprise July Review)


Are you enjoying your summer, yogis?

I can't believe July is already halfway over! Hope you're enjoying slow, sunny days whenever you can. The summer season is one of my favorites, and I've been especially grateful for cooler weather on the coast lately.

I made a trip to visit friends and family in the Sacramento area last week and it was over 100 degrees-- too hot for me! When we returned to the green forests and cool breezes up here in Humboldt County, I felt quite relieved :)


I love that summer encourages us to celebrate. To be outdoors. To invigorate our hearts, be creative, and strengthen our determination!

I believe with all the heat and passion of summer, it's also important to find ease and balance even in this active time of year.


What are some of your favorite ways to wind down on warm summer nights?

I absolutely love my new Yogi Surprise July box, which was filled with summer essentials to help me relax and unwind.


These are my three favorite products from the box:

Shea Radiance whipped shea butter with apricot oil. Oh. My. Goodness. This stuff is incredible! I've been using it on my feet at bedtime and it feels so luxurious. It's also great for moisturizing my feet, especially the area around my heels which has been dry and a little cracked lately from walking around barefoot and going to the beach. I'll definitely be buying a new stash of this amazing butter after I run out.

Gypsy Soul Organics sun salutation salve. This little guy is my new favorite lip balm. It's now at home in the easiest-to-reach-pouch of my purse -- 'nuff said :)
Manduka Equa yoga hand towel. This super-soft microfiber towel absorbs sweat quickly, and is now an essential in my gym bag or whenever I take a sweaty hot yoga class. It's perfect for someone like me, because as you know, I sweat a lot! :) I'm grateful that Yogi Surprise has partnered with Manduka because I believe they're one of the best brands out there for yoga gear (you can read my review of their lightweight travel mat, or check out how much the Sponsored Yogis team loved their cushy, supportive eKo mats.)


Cheers to keeping cool, calm, and refreshed all weekend, and throughout the rest of summer, too! Namaste.

Badass Yoga Teachers: Holding Space for Your Students


For my next post in the Badass Yoga Teachers series here on Alive in the Fire, I wanted to share a little 'secret' that helped transform my experience of teaching...

About two years after my yoga teacher training, I had a full schedule of classes (8-12 per week) and was teaching Vinyasa yoga at five studios in the Sacramento area. I was hosting free community kirtans and offering a workshop every few months. My group of 'regulars' at each of my classes was starting to grow and I often heard positive feedback from them that they enjoyed taking my class.

And yet, I felt overwhelmed and burned out. I was tired of driving across town twice or three times a day. I wasn't sure if I could handle another conversation with a student about personal struggles. The thought of being at the front of the room to demo a pose made me want to take child's pose and just rest.

I had built up to this moment for so long... becoming a 'full-time' yoga teacher was my dream! And yet I felt exhausted, and a little voice in my head kept asking, When will it be my turn to have space held for me, instead of me being the one to hold everyone up? When can I find a teacher who will lead and inspire me? 

Around this time, I put a post on my blog about feeling stressed and immediately I heard back from a dear friend who is also a yoga teacher.

He offered me a piece of advice that has truly stuck with me:

What if, instead of holding space for your students, you focus on sharing space?

This was exactly the shift in perspective that I needed.

I began to notice the ways that my students were holding space for me as much as I was holding space for them. The more open with them I could be about my experience, the more support and love I received in return.

I also made a habit of receiving the energy of the room, especially toward the end of class.

There is something very sacred about people practicing yoga together, and I tend to notice it most when class is winding down; students are in restful yin poses, usually on the ground, or they are perfectly still in Shavasana. Supta Baddha Konasana and supine spinal twists are also poses where I notice the presence of deeply healing energy.

As a teacher, you can sit on the floor right in the middle of your students, and be with them in these moments. Feel how nourishing it is to share space, and how you receive the peacefulness of yoga even if you are leading a class rather than participating in it pose by pose.

By sharing space with your students, you gain the ability to hold space for yourself as a teacher. Next time you walk in the studio door to teach, perhaps you'll be able to notice what space is being held for you.

Namaste.


PS: More great articles on how to hold space as a yoga teacher:

The Badass Yoga Teachers series here on Alive in the Fire is meant to:
  • inspire you with new ideas
  • support you on days when you feel exhausted or worn down from teaching
  • ignite your passion
  • offer useful, tangible resources to help you create a successful yoga business
  • connect you with a network of amazing, talented, experienced yoga teachers
  • provide safe space for you to learn, share, and grow in your career
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this series! If you have ideas for posts, or want to share your journey as a teacher, please email me at aliveinthefire at gmail dot com.

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.

What Are Your Morning Rituals?


Yogis, I'm curious: how do you usually start your day? 

Do you have any morning rituals you use to get grounded, centered and energized before heading out the door?


Here's my usual routine:

Lemon water. First thing in the morning, I like to drink hot water mixed with the juice of one lemon and a little bit of honey. This helps kickstart my digestion and balance my pH. I also take a probiotic supplement.



I make coffee using an awesome French press, feed the dog, help everyone in the house get ready for the day, and eat a light breakfast (two fried eggs, fruit, a smoothie, or oatmeal).

Often I'll fit in a gentle yoga practice for 30-60 minutes, roll on my Dharma Yoga Wheel, and do some pranayama breathing. Some days, instead of yoga, I'll work out at the gym, go for a walk, jog, or bike ride.



On the weekends, I love to make fancier breakfasts, with eggs, pancakes, and fruit. If the weather is nice, it's always lovely to eat outside in the backyard.


Some days, if I have extra time before work, I'll write a few blog posts, respond to emails, schedule social media posts, or read some of my favorite blogs.

I also like to write gratitude lists in the morning, write down my goals, or journal freely about what's going on for me.


I believe morning is a sacred time and I love my morning rituals.

I'd love to hear-- what are yours?

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 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.