National Yoga Month – September 2014

Hello Yogis!
Wow, I can’t believe it is September already! This year certainly is flying by. The good news is that it is “National Yoga Month” once again. Yay!

Normally, I celebrate our month by teaching special classes where I highlight a certain pose, break it down, show modifications, introduce or reintroduce the Sanskrit pronunciation, give out handouts… I’ve employed this technique for the past few Septembers and it has been well received by my clients at the various locations I teach at. So with that being said, I will continue on the trend.

Recently, one of my clients has asked if I would break down some of the breathing techniques (Pranayama) also. So with that request, I will additionally highlight a different breathing practice for each class.

So that is what I’m doing in my classes.

Now, for me personally, I plan to celebrate National Yoga Month by incorporating some new and different yoga practices for my personal practice.
• Just recently, I wrote about possibly learning a different style of yoga which I’ll incorporate into my teaching. Well, if you were wondering, I decided to pursue that training. It starts on 10 Sept 2014 so I will be immersed in my own learning and growth of another style. (I don’t think it will be difficult to learn as well as blend into my teaching since I practice at this studio several times a week). I’ve already started reading the books on the required reading list. I like the books so far.
• The first school that I am trained with is YogaFit. They are kicking off a program called “YogaLean.” It sounds interesting and as such, I’ve ordered the DVD and book. I have the DVD and soon I’ll have the book. Overall, it is my plan to incorporate this program sometime this fall with what I will learn. Eventually, I will likely seek the training, but nothing is coming my way anytime soon.
You may recall that last year, I did a program called the “Yoga Detox.” (This happened to be from the studio that I am getting ready to train under). While, I liked the Yoga Detox, I felt it was extremely strict (avoiding the Big 5) and is something difficult to maintain for more than 21 days. I did; however, incorporate some of the changes into my lifestyle and that has been good. I’m thinking YogaLean maybe a better strategy based on previews, but as in all things, time will tell.
• And lastly, I ordered a training DVD from YogaFit for what is called INDO (Standup Paddleboard) SUP Yoga. (I haven’t ordered the board yet, but think I can start on BOSUs which are plentiful where I teach). The INDO board is a great tool to teach and practice on, do SUP in the winter or when you are landlocked, or if you want to increase your core engagement. It is my plan to learn and perfect the technique so next summer, I can incorporate SUP yoga into my own practice, share with friends, and spend more time on the board vs the water.
I’m excited about SUP yoga. From April onward, I’ve seen tons of pictures from some of my yoga friends on Facebook who were doing SUP yoga in tropical locations. (I’m envious). It looked awesome and really fun. Here in Colorado, I’m landlocked so SUP isn’t plentiful and I haven’t tried it yet but I really want to.
The good news is that I’ve recently learned that you can take classes in a pool via our local dive shop. Those same teachers during the summer teach SUP yoga at two local lakes here in town which is cool. And the best news is that I can do my own SUP in these same lakes with a permit (day pass) and there are some other nearby lakes that have potential.
It is also interesting to note that one of my yoga friends who travels frequently and regularly teaches SUP uses an inflatable SUP board and loves it. I’m happy to learn this since I only have pools and lakes to practice on here, but I could take it with me when I travel to more tropical locations.

Can you tell I have some big yoga eyes? For me, September is kind of like January except I make yoga resolutions. The biggest thing will be the studio training, but the DVDs and books will be fun too.

Happy “National Yoga Month!”
I hope you are doing something new or exciting with your yoga practice and if so, I’d love to hear about it.

Namaste,
Kristen

Posted in Community Yoga Practices, Eating Healthy, Exercise, Fun, Habits, Learning, listening to your body, mind-body connection, Personal Home Practice, strategies, Weight Loss, wellness, Yoga, yoga teacher training | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Yoga Fork in the Road

I guess it was bound to happen eventually. I love yoga, doing it, sharing it, talking about it, and teaching it. Not to long ago, I went to my first ever Mind-Body Conference. I enjoyed every minute of it’s total emergence. I learned quite a bit a great stuff.

Fast forward several month’s, I’m frustrated because my school isn’t offering anything I need anywhere near me. I’m post 200 hours and if I want training that means flying and staying in a hotel. Ugh.

I really want a 100 of my post 200 seeking 500 hours to go towards a Warriors training. My school has a Warriors training that the VA will even provide Tuition Assistance for. Anyways, I had the opportunity to take the first class at the conference and then nothing! Nothing is coming near nor anytime soon. That first class was awesome and overwhelming with information. Love the teaser!

I do want to learn verses take classes so I can get hours that would add up to a 500. There are a lot of fluff classes out there. For instance, I paid $199 to basically sit in a circle to hear women talk about menopause. While that is useful information, it isn’t worth paying $199 for it. Essentially, I want QUALITY over quantity to be my 500 hours.

In the mean time, I regularly attend a studio from another school but as a participant. I love this place too. I’ve met friends, have a strong practice, and I like what they teach as well as their style.

I like both styles….

The studio where I practice at is hosting a 200 hour teacher training in September which is just around the corner. I’ve asked about what they teach and what books they use. Interestingly enough, every book on their reading list is not even on my other teacher training list. Wow! Who would have thought.

So if I do take the studio’s training, I’ll have a dual 200 hours. I’m still working on my 500 too. Will I learn a lot of new stuff? No fluff? Is it worth it? I already started ordering their books on Amazon because I will read them.

Maybe I should just read these books and add to my knowledge. Maybe, I’ll love the training and the experience plus learn the new style.

The decision is not about how much it costs or if I can get more teaching gigs. It’s about the journey. And another thing that struck me, was my school that I have my 200 from never had a reading recommendation from anything written by the late Iyengar. The studio does.

Decisions! Anyone else experience this?

Namaste,
Kristen

Posted in Community, Community Yoga Practices, Exercise Foundations, Learning, mind-body connection, Recommended Readings, yoga limbs, yoga teacher training | Tagged | Leave a comment

My Home Yoga Space

There are several places I regularly frequent for my yoga practice. From time to time, I attend my friend’s class at the gym where I also teach. I also regularly visit a yoga studio near my home where I feel very comfortable. Once in a while I’ll go out of my way to experience studios across town or to a park for a sponsored yoga event. All of these yoga opportunities do not include my teacher trainings or when I’m in instructor mode.

What all of these places have in common are that they aren’t at my home. Home is convenient and pretty much available 24/7, basically whenever I am! So to remedy that, I decided to take one of my spare bedrooms and make it my yoga space and I love have a special dedicated yoga space.
Since I have a whole room to turn into a yoga space, I’ve turned to Googling and Pinterest for ideas and inspiration. Let me tell you there is a lot out there! (I also want to tell you up front that I had picked out my room before I started researching the internet).

Thought I’d share some interesting things I’ve come across:
1. MINIMIZED DISTRATIONS:
If you have a dedicated room or space for yoga, you can actually use all of the time you’ve set aside for practice verses moving furniture or being distracted by the kids or a messy house. Another benefit to using a dedicated space is that it helps foster awareness where it is easier to become present in the moment and to listen to your body and with this experience you evolve into your own best teacher. It was this concept that led me to designating a yoga place.

2. DIRECTION:
There is a practice out there known as Vaastu. The practice of Vaastu is essentially designing your home taking into account the four cardinal directions of North, East, South, and West so as to take advantage of certain polarities of the earth. So with regards to your yoga space or room, if you have a choice or at least options, pick the Northeast room or corner. Why? North and east are considered positive directions. To elaborate, according to Vaastu practice, northeast is the direction for spirituality and is also the best section of the home to benefit from healing rays of the morning sun.

Besides Vaastu, I’ve learned that we should orient our bodies to face east during a standing or seated yoga practice with north being our second choice. This includes asana, kriyas, pranayamas, and meditation. (I did see a variance concerning Sun Salutations. If practicing in the morning, face east. If practicing in the evening, face west). For Savasana, the order is reversed. Orient the resting head to the north with east being the second choice.
*** I just happened to designate a northeast room for yoga without even knowing this! Kind of cool! Since I recently started decorating the room, I’ll now look to orienting pictures and furniture so my practice experiences the best direction. I didn’t learn about these directional influences in my yoga teacher training, but I’m excited to know about them as I put together my special place. I believe that there are unexplainable influences that unconsciously affect our experiences so if I can make my practice more positive, I’m all over that!

3. DÉCOR:
All in all, I want my yoga room to be a stress free place and décor is something that influences the environment. To me décor consists of temperature, scents, furniture, room colors, window dressings, and decorations.

I think the best advice that I’ve read in this area was to “design the space to express you and not to impress others.” So with that, I’ve bought things that speak to me. For instance, recently, I was in Kirklands and I saw this beautiful “Tree of Life” picture. I roamed the store for a while and all the while, I couldn’t stop thinking about that picture so I bought it for my yoga room. I also have a beautiful salt lamp and a few tapestries. I’m still looking but I definitely like how my room is evolving.

4. TOOLS AND PROPS:
Again, another top piece of advice that I’ve come across was to think about what I wanted to do in the room and stock it accordingly. For me, that means that I have a dedicated yoga mat for this room for my asana practice. I also, keep a mat in my car so I always have a mat. I also have a book shelf in my closet where I have a nice collection of yoga books, DVDs, blocks, blankets, straps, balls, bolsters, sandbags, and small weights. In my room, I’ve explored various asana based practices, Thai massage, restorative, and a little yoga Nidra. I’ve even invited friends over for a little yoga. So far, I’ve had everything I’ve needed but I know I can make a wish list as applicable.

**********
All in all, I wanted to share what I’m doing and learning about having personal home yoga space. My curiosity led me to research and the Pinterest pictures are inspiring.

I love finally having my own special place for my practice and to reinforce the concept that health and wellness actually starts in the home! I’d like to hear about your special yoga space or if you are considering one.

Namaste,
Kristen

Posted in Community Yoga Practices, Designing Yoga Spaces, Fun, Habits, mind-body connection, Personal Home Practice, strategies, wellness, Yoga | Tagged | 1 Comment

After Every Storm There is a Rainbow

As we go through our lives, we experience the highs and lows that life in general hands us. Highs are joyful events such as births, marriages, and success. On the flip side, the lows are things like death, job loss, accidents, and illness. We all have our fair share of both. While I’m confident we’d all rather have the highs, the lows can lead us toward a positive change.

I know we’ve all been there in the middle of one of life’s horrible storms. I have a lot of examples but both my family and I have survived every singe one. The cool thing, while none of us could see the positive at the time, we eventually enjoyed the rainbow.

I will share the storm that has been cancer for my family.

Over the past few years my family has been struck with cancer. It has been a huge eye opener for me. In 2008, it was both my parents. In 2013, it was my daughter. And in between it has been friends.

The good news is my family is all in remission as well as some of my friends. I am very happy about that! What the whole experience has done for me as I look back was to analyze my life and my loved ones lives as well. What am I eating? Am I not protecting my skin? Do I surround myself with unnecessary toxins? Do I have healthy habits? Lots of questions! This cross translates into influences I have with others.

Here are some things I’ve been doing after our storms and what motivated me to seek the rainbows…
1. My Mom had these blister like spots in her one ear that wouldn’t go away and a few small spots under her eye just below the rim of her glasses. Turns out it was Basil Cell Skin Cancer. Crazy thing about her whole ordeal was that several doctors looked at her ear and had no clue as to what it was. An oncologist happen to walk by, overhear the doctors talking, and he asked if he could look. Well, he knew what it was. I’m thankful he happened by!

After my Mom had skin cancer removed from her ear and face, I no longer needed the lecture about sun screen. Skin cancer is not attractive and it could kill you. It is scary!

My transition wasn’t over night. I used to go all day long without sun screen and had the darkest tan around. I used to go all day long without protection or I’d sunbathe. (I’m influenced by the 80’s). Once, I moved to Colorado, I got burned pretty good and it hurt. It happened more than once too. I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t doing any thing different than before so why the burn now?

I eventually learned that it was due to the high altitude in Colorado. I’m regularly at 6000 plus feet so I’m closer to the sun, air is thinner, and there is less protection. This was why it was very easy to get sun burned in Colorado.

Now I am a big believer in sun protection. I wear sun screen and often a hat even in the winter when I’m hiking or skiing. No more tanning! Also, I get a facial every two months and have learned about great sun screen products for my face and the good news is they don’t break me out.

All in all, my Mom would work out in the sun doing yard work and gardening all day long. She too never burned, but she was struck with skin cancer! Now, Mom wears a hat, long sleeves, sun screen, and works in the yard in the morning when the sun is less intense. I too, wear a hat and wear sun screen. Yes, I get sun, but no more burns and hopefully no skin cancer. I also, get my skin check during my annual doctor’s appointments.

2. My Mom couldn’t catch a break and was also diagnosed with CML Leukemia around the same time. She was given a chemo drug called Gleevec and has to take it every day. It made her sick and extremely fatigued. Mom was frustrated, devastated, and sad. We all worried about her.

Eventually, Mom figured out the best time for her to take her medication where she can minimize her side affects and now has it managed pretty well. She still has Leukemia but is in remission. As a family, we have racked our brains to try and figure out what might have caused it. We are at a loss. The good thing that came out of this was that the diagnosis scared the crap out of my Mom and really motivated her to kick this cancer to the curb.

She was successful! She kicked cancer’s butt in six months! Apparently, that is unheard of for Luekemia. The doctors were shocked and awed at the same time. Now Mom is of great interest to her oncologists.

What did she do? Well, my Mom drastically changed the way she eats. Now, she only eats nutritiously dense foods. Essentially, she influenced her recovery through nutrition! I’ve read about food being medicine. Now, I believe it! She is also very good at listening to her body which is something my yoga constantly reinforces so I can relate.

Mom’s choices influenced all of use as we now don’t frequent restaurants that have horrible choices on their menus and we shop for better foods. Now, I’ve always thought I was a pretty good eater with regards to my choices, but at that time I still ate fast food from time to time and also ate crap on my busy days. It was at this time I consciously made the decision to reduce fast food from my diet. To this day, I still avoid fast food and I don’t miss it!

Another thing I explored was what I cleaned my house with. I used Windex, Pin-Sol, bleach, furniture polishes, and Lime-Away products. While these products work great, they are toxic and I’m breathing this. Mom, used these products too and her house has always been nice and clean. So she was breathing these toxins too. Could what we use to clean with possibly contributed towards her Luekemia? Maybe.

With this as a possibility, I made the decision to go with natural and less toxic products. At first, I bought green products from Whole Foods and I still use these from time to time. I eventually discovered Melaleuca and use some of their natural products. With the switch, my house is clean, smells nice, and hopefully less toxic.

Recently, my parents came to visit me me and my Mom showed me the awesomeness that is regular white vinegar. It is cheap, natural, and extremely effective! It outshines any glass cleaner I’ve ever used. No more streaks!!! (Ever spend to much time going over and over your mirrors trying to get rid of those streaks???) Now, I clean my mirrors, windows, stainless steel, and counters with a mixture of water and white vinegar. I’m converted and there is no going back to Windex for me.

3. So what about my Dad? My Dad was diagnosed with both prostate and bladder cancer at the same time. The good news was the cancers were two different cancers verses one that spread. At that time, my Dad quit smoking his evening cigar cold turkey. While, I’ve never smoked, this influenced my brothers who from time to time would smoke. Now they don’t. This is wonderful for them. We all know that smoking is absolutely one of the worst things a person can do.

4. In April 2013, my daughter Ashley was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was only 21! This certainly got all of our attention! I couldn’t believe this had happened to my young and beautiful daughter! She is way to young for this sort of diagnosis! Long story short, she went through the biopsies, surgeries, and radiation treatments. It was rough on her and she lost a lot of so called friends who couldn’t handle it. My Ashley felt like my Mom did back when she was starting her chemo treatment. Fatigued, scared, depressed, and angry.

As she went through her treatment, she learned that the cancer was environmentally caused. Both my Mom and I were checked out to see if we had breast cancer and whether it ran in our family. We don’t have a family history and as of now neither Mom nor I have breast cancer. So what was the environment?

We think it is possibly food. Ashley finally entered remission in November 2013! During the whole ordeal, Ashley made drastic diet changes too. Just like my Mom. Ashley is now a vegetarian, but will eat wild fish, cage free organic eggs, or hunted game. She won’t eat anything factory farmed or fast food because she thinks it was her food that contributed towards her cancer. It makes sense too. They do pump up our animals with antibiotics, hormones, and keep them in stressful tight quarters. Then we eat them. We also eat processed foods with who knows what chemical is in them. (Remember, the Subway bread scandal?) Why wouldn’t that eventually wreck havoc on our bodies?!

Now, she cooks the majority of her meals. Her choices are influencing younger people like her boyfriend, friends, and of course family members to include me.

Ashley is also an athlete who went to college on two scholarships: track and cross country. The biggest question she gets is “what about protein?” She stresses constantly that she gets her protein mainly via plants and this hasn’t hurt her as an athlete not once! In fact, she has “PR’d” more than once since the change and she is giving everyone a run for their money even with breast cancer!

I found this facinating! It caused me to explore factory farming and what I’ve been eating. I read books, talked to others, watched both my daughter and Mom kick cancer quickly, and watched documentories.

But change isn’t easy. In August 2013, I did my first yoga detox with a group of ladies and the program actually explored what we put in our bodies. This reinforced what Ashley was doing. Another eye opener! (I blogged about my detox – August 2013 – and put links to those documentaries on my site also).

Now, I won’t eat factory farming either. I won’t call myself a vegetarian though. I’m not there yet. However, I don’t eat a lot of meat; maybe once a week. What I do eat is organic, cage-free, wild, or free roaming. I describe myself as a flexaterian and yes, my coworkers love to tease me. They don’t get me not eating meat. But it’s ok.

All in all, I mainly shop in the store’s parameter, make most of my meals, take my lunch to work more days than not, have a small garden, and I get Door to Door Organics delivered biweekly to my home. My motto is that if you have it around, you’ll eat it. Why not make it healthy.

Another thing I did was take myself off of birth control pills. I’ve taken them since I was 21 after my daughter was born. I stayed on them for two reasons: birth control and clear skin. It worked great!

My doctor wanted me off birth control pills because of the estrogen being a factor contributing towards breast cancer and since Ashley had been diagnosed, I shouldn’t use stuff to put me in a higher risk. So I went off of them. But I still wanted birth control so I decided on Nexplanon which is the progesterone implant inserted in your arm. No estrogen.

I had Nexplanon inserted this past January. By March, my skin went crazy! Real crazy! Breakouts everywhere! I was extremely frustrated! I had worked so hard to have clear skin and have battled it since my teens. I was embarrassed about my skin and was getting depressed. And I couldn’t go back on the pill because of being in a higher risk.

In addition to the pill, I’d been on Benzoyl Peroxide, Differin, Clindamycin, and Retina A. I had regular facials and all this had worked in the past. But, not anymore! Nothing was working.

In my frustration, I’ve eventually explored natural remedies and have finally found my miracle! Why didn’t I know this before? Ugh! It’s apple cider vinegar, melaleuca, and oregano essential oils. Yep, that’s it.

I was willing to try anything. What did I have to lose?! So I did and within a few days, I saw impressive results and thought wow! I decided to stay with this more natural approach and I replaced the prescriptions with natural remedies. And to top it off, it is way cheaper. Have you seen the cost of some medicines and the high end skin care products?!

For my face, I used the vinegar as a toner, and spot apply the oils to my troubled spots. It works way better than the medicines including over night.
My success has has caused me to take an interest in Pinterest. Now, I have a board dedicated to natural remedies no matter the problem. Additionally, I have been extremely impressed with essential oils, enough that I became a consultant for DoTERRA. Because, I have the oils readily around me and I’m learning, I’ve introduced them to my yoga classes, my home smells nice, I ingest them, my dog is less stressed during storms, and I use them on my skin. Finally, my skin is healing, clearing up, and it is all natural!!! Yay!

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I know I have a long way to go, but I’m on the wellness journey. As I look back, I realize it was all the storms that struck my family that grabbed my attention and motivated me to find better and healthier approaches. Sometimes you have to learn the hard way. I have. I don’t want cancer, bad skin, or any other bad disease knocking me or any other person down.

Now, I strive to eat healthy, use natural remedies to clean and for self care, get plenty of sleep, use sun screen, and deepen my yoga practice. This has been on my mind lately as I constantly get reminded there often is a better less toxic approach to many things I do.

Maybe my blog will inspire you to explore more natural approaches. I’d love to hear your success stories of natural remedies that actually work as well as how you learned about them. Maybe you had a stormy life event too.

Namaste,
Kristen

Posted in Cleaning, Eating Healthy, Exercise, Habits, listening to your body, mind-body connection, natural Remedies, strategies, wellness, Yoga | Tagged , | 4 Comments

So You Want a Restorative Class…But You Don’t Have Any Props???

The other day, I was at a certain fitness center and learned from the coordinator of their interest in adding restorative yoga classes to their schedule. (They were interested in starting up a yoga program in general). I was thinking that is absolutely wonderful as there just aren’t enough restorative options on any place’s schedule and I’m trained in this format. However; to my dismay, I learned that this particular gym doesn’t have to proper equipment to even do a restorative class any justice. Disappointing!!!

I demonstrative a short audition of what a restorative class might be like. It wasn’t easy to say the least. When I finished, I discussed the basics of what a restorative class would be like with the coordinator. I stressed the importance of props and I could see that the coordinator didn’t have a background in yoga but she was at least open-minded.

I’m not hating! The staff seemed genuinely interested in putting together a quality yoga program. I also see a lot of potential here to develop a wonderful yoga program! That’s a win-win.

What is a Restorative Yoga Class Like?
Maybe some of you are familiar with restorative classes and poses. Maybe you aren’t. At first, I was in the latter and I didn’t know what a restorative class was either. It was after my 200 hours of training that I happened upon a class. I loved it and eventually sought out training and regularly include restorative in my personal practice.

Basically, my teacher training taught me the importance and healthy benefits of including distressing and relaxing practices. Overall, we as a society are bombarded with stress and being constantly stressed leads to a whole host of unhealthy consequences. Constant stress will kill you!

NOW THAT I’VE GOT YOUR ATTENTION!!!

Restorative classes consist of several poses that are designed to distress and totally relax the body. However; to do this, the body needs to be fully supported which can be accomplished with the assistance of props. Additionally, clients will stay in the various poses for several minutes which are quite different from the flow and poses in a vinyasa style class.

As far as props are concerned, you can’t have enough! More is better. Props include mats, walls, blocks, straps, balls, blankets, towels, chairs, sandbags/beanbags, eye pillows, and pillows. All in all, the more your body is supported, the easier it is to get relaxed and the results will be a much deeper relaxation.

Thoughts on How to Teach Restorative with Minimal Props…
Here is the actual point of this blog. How can you teach restorative when you don’t have equipment? What is a teacher to do? In my opinion, this is a very valid question. Here is my take.

Breathing:
As you probably already know and have heard, yoga is first a breathing class then a pose class. (In general, I always start all of my yoga classes with breath awareness and some type of breathing exercise. Even restorative classes can benefit through breathing exercises). Well with that concept in mind, you can certainly include various calming breathing exercises in your restorative class.
All in all, breathing practices can be done to stimulate the “Vagus nerve” which in turn stimulates the “Parasympathetic Nervous System” to deactivate/calm a person’s “Fight or Flight” response. Anxiety is a symptom of an activated Fight or Flight prolonged response. Here are two suggestions to try out.
1. Taking time to fully inflate the lungs and to slowly exhale definitely calms a person down. Give it a try! Introduce the “3-Part Breath” and encourage your participants to take at least 6 counts to inhale and 6 counts to exhale. This exercise can be accomplished while seated, standing, or lying down. Maybe encourage your clients to place their hands on their belly so they can feel the inhale originating from the bottom of the lungs into the belly then through the chest and up towards the collarbones. As they exhale, they would feel the air move from the collarbone through the chest and from the belly as it hollows out.
2. The “4-7-8 or Relaxing Breath” is another great exercise to try out and can be done in various positions also. Here is how:
– All exhales occur through the mouth while making a “whoosh” sound.
– All inhales occur through the nose.
– To start, exhale through the mouth via the whoosh.
– Inhale (4cts)
– Hold (7cts)
– Exhale very slowly (8cts) through the mouth via the whoosh.
– This is one cycle. Have your clients do three more cycles.

Gentle Flows:
My teacher training supported using gentle flowing movements at the beginning as well as when needed throughout the class. These gentle flows are meant to warm the muscles as well as create space in the body so it can relax.

Gentle Flowing Movements: This is a portion of the class that actually can be satisfied. Think Cat/Cow, Spinal Balance, Modified Half Series, Flowing Bridge, Flowing Modified Side Plank, Flowing Thread the Needle, Windshield Wiper Legs, All 4’s Hip Circles, neck circles…

Restorative Poses:
1. The king of all restorative poses is Savasana and it is typically the last pose in a yoga class to include restorative classes. The great news is that it doesn’t require any props!

So that’s all great and all, you have some breathing exercises, gentle flowing moves, and Savasana, but what about in between? The best course is to get creative and think about what you do have that could be used a possible prop. The one thing you definitely have is a wall! Use it.

2. Legs Up the Wall Pose is just that, Legs Up the Wall. Have clients put their mats up against the wall and maneuver their legs up the wall. If you are lucky, you might have some extra mats. If that is the case, have your clients roll one up and allow their hips to rest elevated upon the extra mat.

3. Side Laying Twist can also be done without props. Normally, a person would rest their heads and torso on a bolster while legs are bent to one side. If clients have towels, encourage them to place a folded towel between their knees. Or again, if you have extra mats, they can be rolled up so the clients could lie upon them.
4. Reverse Side Laying Twist is the same as #3 except the head is turned the opposite from the knees.
5. Child’s Pose doesn’t have to have a prop. It would be awesome to have a bolster; however, it isn’t a deal breaker if the studio doesn’t have them available. Try the version where the arms wrap around the legs.
6. Reclining Big Toe Pose, again, this pose doesn’t need a prop. You can have your clients hold and support their leg with their hands. Some prop ideas to make this more restorative include encouraging the clients to use their towels.
7. Supta Baddha Konasana or Reclining Bound Angle/Butterfly is one of my absolute favorite restorative poses when I have full use of props. The good news is that clients can do this one without props. Just have them lie back on their mats with the souls of their feet together. It won’t be as relaxing, but it is still nice.
8. Seated Forward Fold have clients fold the back of their mats maybe three times so their hips can be elevated as they pursue the pose. If you have blocks available use them! Blocks can help your participants linger longer in the pose. If you have one block, place it between the ankles. If your participants can have two blocks, have them place the blocks on the outsides of the legs near the ankles. Either way, clients can settle longer in the pose with the support.

There are more poses out there that you can do with minimal props. I personally would recommend the book “Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times” by Judith Lasater. This is a great resource and would help you get familiar with the various restorative poses.

Overall, you can get the ball rolling and start to have restorative like classes at your fitness center with minimal props. Of course, the more props you have the more restorative the above poses will be and then the pose options inventory would increase!

Get Those Props:
In a perfect world, you’d get everything you’d ask for. We don’t exist in such a world so I offer some strategies.
1. Approach your coordinator and encourage him or her to purchase props.
2. Encourage clients to drop in requests or suggestions for props. Drop hints in your classes so when they fill out the suggestion form, they use the correct terms.
3. Maybe invite your coordinator to your house or drag all your gear to the gym and teach a true restorative class. Expose them to the totally yumminess. Sometimes, people have to see and experience the benefit in order to see the value.
4. Props can be pricy and the studio may be conservative with their purchasing. Out of all the props, bolsters cost the most so that might be the last thing you can convince purchasing. However, other necessary props such as straps and blocks are pretty cheap. These are a little easier to convince purchasing and are what I suggest you start with. Later you can hint towards blankets or encourage clients to bring their own.

I don’t know about you readers, but to me I enjoy teaching and offering a variety of classes. Eventually, I tire of the same old same old. It is nice to change it up from time to time. Restorative is so different from my typical vinyasa classes but it can be challenging to teach properly without props.

Relax, De-stress, Enjoy, and Namaste,
Kristen

Posted in Beginner yoga, budget, Community Yoga Practices, Deep Stretching, Exercise, listening to your body, mind-body connection, Pain Relief, strategies, Stress Relief, Stretching, Weight Loss, wellness, Yoga, yoga lesson plan ideas | Tagged | Leave a comment

Fun with Chair

Outside in the gym, they are called squats, but inside the yoga studio, they are known as “Chair” pose or Utkatasana. Just like those squats you do in the gym, chair pose has a variety of variations or options.

So as you may have guessed, this blog is all about chair pose. I’ll discuss benefits, approaches, variations, and then introduce some fun flows you can try out.

In general, a squat or chair pose is a super star that should be frequently part of one’s practice. Why? The answer is actually quite simple. A squat/chair pose gives you more bang for your buck in that you’ll work your entire lower body. MULTI-TASKING! Think quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus, and your calf muscles all at the same time. So if all those muscles are working, you burn more calories than you would with an exercise that uses less muscles. Also, it’s summertime and chances are you’re sporting capris, shorts, skirts, dresses, or even bathing suits. A toned or stronger lower body is a benefit!!!

In yoga, the typical chair pose can be approached multiple ways. Often, we approach chair from Mountain Pose because it is easy to lower oneself into chair. Sometimes, we are in a Forward Fold and we lift our torso up as we lower our hips to find chair. Every now and then, we might jump from Downward Facing Dog to the top of our mat then rising into chair kind of like we did from Forward Fold. Or we might even explore entering chair from one of our Warrior or Crescent Lunge poses. All in all, us yogis have some creative ways to get into chair.

Chair Breakdown:
Foot placement can vary and I encourage you to play with foot placement. 1. You can bring the feet close together allowing the big toes to touch and the heels the angle out a little. 2. You can place the feet hip distance apart. 3. You can certainly take the feet out wider. Often us teachers use the mat as a reference and cue to the edge or off your mat. So as you can see, there are options with regards to foot placement. It might also be cool to know that a wider stance brings the inner thighs more into play, whereas a closer stance brings the outer thighs more into play.

Hip placement or how low do you go can also be up to the yogi. The lower you go the harder you work those muscles! I’ve had my clients drop their arms to their sides and lower till their fingers touch their mats which always gets a response from the crowd…of course, blocks can bring the floor higher.

Arm placement is where you can get creative! The typical approach is to extend our arms out anywhere from 20 to 60 degrees out. However, if that is to much of a load on your back, you could bring the hands together at heart’s center or rest them on your thighs.

FUN CHAIR FLOWS:
1. This one is pretty simple. Come into chair pose however you’d like. Once in chair stay. If arms are extended, exhale as you twist reaching your right arm behind you. Inhale as you return to center. Exhale, twist left. Maybe do two to three rounds. Then settle back into chair, bring hands to heart’s center and find twisted chair. This Flowing Chair can be part of a standing sequence.

2. Here is a more dynamic flow. Find chair pose and settle. Then sweep arms back into airplane arms and lift heels. You’ll feel like you are getting ready to dive off your mat. Next explode upward with arms overhead for Extended Mountain. Then make cactus arms and open up your chest. Then sink back into chair where you can repeat this flow a few times in a vinyasa style.

3. This one is simple too. Find chair pose. Then bring arms overhead and bend elbows allowing hands to cup the elbows so you are making a little square with you arms. Exhale and tilt elbows to you right side. Inhale center. Exhale and tilt left. I typically do this once and again it works nicely as part of a standing series sequence.

4. This next one is pretty challenging and has three parts.
A. From mountain pose, sink into chair but arms will be slightly different. Instead of being at a 45 or so degree angle, arms will emerge straight out in front of you with palms down. (Think of Bikram’s Awkward pose). Hold for 5 – 10 breaths. Return to mountain but take your time (maybe slowly lift up by the count of 5).
B. From mountain, lift your heels up and keep them lifted the entire time. Arms will be the same. Sink into chair and hold again for 5 – 10 breaths. Come back into mountain. Return slowly.
C. For the third expression, heels are still lifted here and arms are the same. Sink into chair but have your knees knocked in together. Hold. Once again return slowly back to mountain.
Over all, I typically only cue this once and again as part of a standing sequence. My clients are good with doing it once.

5. Try a balanced approach to your chair with One legged/or wobbly chair. The approach is pretty simple. First, settle into Chair Pose. Once established, draw hands together at heart’s center. When you’re ready, lengthen and then your torso. Secure your twist by hooking your elbows outside of your thigh. Look down at your feet as you place your body weight on one foot (twisted side) and lift the non-weighted foot and then bending the knee. Of course, you’ll want to pursue this on your other side.

6. Or you could be more static and gentle with your chair pose. Here is a fun approach. Take a wide stance. Squat into chair. Next, bring arms overhead, bring palms together, and interlace fingers. Keep hands interlaced as you bend elbows, bring forearms together so arms are in front of the face. You are now in Elephant Pose which is a variation of chair pose but is a sneaky way to stay in chair for a few extra breaths.

So there you have it, all kinds of chair goodies. Put chair in your practice. Thread some chair flows into you sequence. Your lower body will thank you later.

**** I’d love to hear any fun chair ideas you might have!!! ****

Namaste,

Kristen

Posted in Creating Yoga Themes, Exercise, Heat Building Poses, Uncategorized, Weight Loss, wellness, Yoga, Yoga Flows, yoga lesson plan ideas | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Walking Meditation

Whether you regularly practice yoga or try it from time to time, chances are you may have heard of meditation. You may have even tried it. Or, maybe you haven’t.

My first exposure to mediation was within my yoga teacher training (it is part of the eight limbs of yoga). Before that, personally, I’d never attempted it. Why? Well, I wasn’t ever shown, told how to do it, or really encouraged. To add to that, I didn’t understand it, didn’t know how to do it, never really thought about it, and essentially had misconceptions about it.

With regards to my situation, I don’t believe I was without the company of others. If you think about it, from an American perspective, meditation isn’t something that is typically brought up. It hasn’t been until fairly recently that mediation as well as yoga have been suggested for people to try. The good news is that both are now being encouraged and recognized as healthy practices.

As I’ve mentioned, the first time I explored mediation; I was in yoga teacher training and the instructor had us comfortably sit quietly in a dimly lit room. To prepare, we closed our eyes and repeated a mantra over and over. First, it was out loud and then gradually we silenced but were supposed to repeat the mantra in our minds.

Thinking back to that first time, I remember feeling that the silence seemed forever, I had monkey mind, and I kept getting distracted by little things. For instance, I heard the mechanical sounds in the room. I also tried to ignore my itching leg and I kept having weird thoughts that wouldn’t go away. When it was all done, we sat in a circle and shared our experiences. I didn’t have the “aha” moment others seemed to have had. All in all, I was frustrated because I felt I didn’t do it right or maybe I just truly at that time didn’t get it.

This was a few years ago. Since then, I’ve revisited “seated mediation” as part of my continuing teacher training and personal yoga practice at various studios I regularly attend. These experiences have all been guided by another person and all those times, I was thankful I was guided into the experience as I’m still working on perfecting it.

Maybe you can relate with a “been there, done that” or maybe you are experiencing this right now. Or maybe you have never ever tried to meditate and want to try it.

As far as meditation practice goes, I’m still in the exploration stage and as such decided to write about it.

Since meditation has numerous benefits, I really want to incorporate it in my life. It promotes relaxation and has numerous health benefits such as lower blood pressure, stress, and anxiety. It can also help with depression. The benefits also extend past health issues as meditation can be a strategy to clear the mind and to increase concentration which can be rewarding in other areas of life such as one’s career!

There are essentially two approaches to meditation: Passive and Active. Seated Meditation is an example of the passive approach whereas “Walking Meditation” is an example of the active approach. It is the walking approach where I felt the most comfortable, successful, enjoyed the benefits, and right now the technique I use the most.

So if you are still struggling with meditation, maybe try a “Walking Meditation.” I’ll explain the technique I learned and currently use. (The first time I experienced a walking meditation, a teacher trainer showed our class, I had my “aha,” and I really enjoyed it).

WALKING MEDITATION GUIDE:
1. Purchase a notebook or journal and have a pen.
– – Bring this with you to your walk so it will be readily available when you finish. You’ll want to capture the richness of your experience when you finish.
2. Choose a location.
– – Great places to consider might be a park or a trail; essentially any pleasant outdoor location that is a way from the hustle and bustle of day to day life.
– – You want a peaceful place so external distractions are minimized.
3. Make an appointment for the Walking Meditation.
– – Give yourself at least 20 dedicated minutes for your walking meditation.
– – Do not multitask!
a. This means no cell phones, i.e. no texting and walking (leave the phone in the car and put it on airplane mode so you won’t be distracted when you come back).
b. Don’t consider this exercise. You aren’t doing this for the calorie burn.
c. If you do this with friends, don’t have a conversation. Just walk amongst each other in silence.
d. Overall, this step just might be the hardest part of the whole experience since that is how we live our day to day lives.
4. If your mind wanders off and visits your “to do list,” refocus on the walk and allow yourself to enjoy the present moment.
– – Focus on your experience and the journey. Don’t think about the destination.
– – How?
a. Slow down your walking pace! To start, notice the steady rhythm of your steps…Left, Right, Left…, notice how the foot hits the ground and what it feels like. (This will help with a wandering mind and create a meditative state. Revisit your pace every time your mind wanders).
b. Bring awareness to how your body internally feels. Overall, how does it feel? Is it relaxed or stiff? What is your posture like?
c. Using your senses, notice the environment.
– – – Sight: If you see something, see it, but don’t let it distract you. For instance, observing a bunny race across a field, another person, a sign, stillness…
– – – Sound: Again don’t focus too hard. Instead, notice the surrounding sounds such as the wind blowing throw the trees, the birds, and any background noises.
– – – Smell: Notice the smells as they occur throughout your walk. They might be pleasant. For instance, do you smell the grass, a pine tree, flowers, the smell of rain… Maybe there is an unpleasant smell too. Does the aroma trigger a memory or thought?
– – – Tactile: Notice how the sun or breeze feels against your skin. Maybe trace your hand along the tree trunk or feel a leaf.
5. That’s it, just experience it!
6. Journal. Immediately after your meditation walk, capture your experience. Write down whatever comes to mind. Once you are satisfied with your journaling, if you like you can share it with others.

So as you can see, a walking meditation really isn’t hard. If you pursue it, you’ll find yourself in a deep state of relaxation and your mind will be peaceful. Do it as often as you’d like. It is a wonderful experience. I often pursue it when I hike through the mountains here in Colorado.

Enjoy your Walking Meditation,
Namaste,
Kristen

Posted in Exercise, Habits, mind-body connection, Off the Mat, strategies, Stress Relief, wellness, Yoga, yoga limbs | Tagged , , | 6 Comments