Month: September 2016

Guide to Understanding the 8 limbs of Yoga

Guide to the 8 Limbs of Yoga: Yamas: how to implement them in your life

Guide to Understanding the 8 limbs of YogaIn modern Western Yoga, we tend to focus on the physical side of yoga, mostly practicing the yoga poses, or asanas.  But the asanas are actually fairly new to the practice of yoga AND they’re only one of the eight (ashta) limbs (anga).  In other words, there’s a lot more to think about when we talk about yoga, like the yamas.

The first limb of the 8 limbs of yoga is the yamas.  Yamas deal with how we yogis behave in the world; how we treat those around us.  There are 5 yamas to guide behavior.

  1. Ahimsa is translated as non-violence.  This goes beyond physical violence like being vegetarian or not hurting others’ bodies.  This principle extends to emotional pain.  It asks yogis not to harm others if it can be avoided.  Be careful with your words and others’ feelings.  On a positive note: treat others with compassion.
  2. Satya refers to truthfulness.  This means not lying of course, but also not intentionally omitting information.  Tell the whole truth.  Also be truthful in your actions; let your actions reflect your true intentions and feelings.
  3. Asteya means non-stealing.  This means not taking physical things, but also extends to the intangible, and possibly more valuable things, like time and energy.  Be sure others want to give before you take.  This yama also tells us to appreciate what we have inside of ourselves—be content with what we are, rather than trying to take from someone else.
  4. Brahmacharya is often translated as abstinence.  Not everyone can become a renunciate and give up all of their worldly goods.  This yama tells us to exercise restraint, rather than indulging too much.  Use what you need but not more- in terms of physical goods, energy, time, etc: don’t take too much.  On the other hand, don’t sell yourself short, giving yourself too little.
  5. Aparigraha is said to mean “non-grasping.”  This can mean not wanting.  This refers to new things and things you already have– this yama motivates de-cluttering.  Aparigraha is also physical and emotional.  Don’t reach for a connection, vibe, or love that isn’t there.  This yama asks us not to be greedy and reminds us of impermanence.

IDEA: The yamas are all great ideals to strive for.  You could try to focus on each one for a week at a time to try to incorporate it into your life.  Try to see how it could relate to you and affect your modern life.

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Yoga All Over the World Yoga Gear Women's Apparel, tote, tee, bag, water bottle and more

Yoga All Over the World Goodies

I’ve been working on some pen-and-ink drawings.  Then I added my design to lots of cool items.  If you click the image below, you can see my Yoga all over the world Collection.  [Disclosure: this is an affiliate link; if you click through and purchase something from this link, I will receive a commission for my designs.]


Sunset Yoga in San Juan del Sur

Sunset Yoga Special

Donation based classes.  Meet at Casa Oro reception (in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua) at 5 and we’ll walk down to the beach together 🙂  See you there!


Amazing must-have book for yoga teachers and learning yogis: recommedation and shop

2100 Asanas Recommendation: Awesome Yoga Inspiration Book for Yoga Instructors and Students

I have to give credit to my sister for finding this yoga book, 2100 Asanas The Complete Yoga Poses.  When I was visiting America, she brought it over to my mom’s house to show me.  We were both really excited as we flipped through together and started trying some of the new and different shapes on the living room floor.

[Just so you know, this post contains an affiliate link, meaning I will get a commission if you click though and purchase something on Amazon. I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t love it!]

Click here to check out 2100 Asanas on Amazon

2100 Asanas has really rocked my yoga world.  I find this book to be great inspiration for my self practice.  It literally does have 2100 yoga asanas, which means there are hundreds that I hadn’t seen before.  When I flip through the pages, I can’t help but think “ooh that would feel good!” about some poses or “wow, that’s something to work towards.”  It really motivates me.  I like to keep it by my mat when I practice.

One of the the hardest things for me in creating yoga lesson plans is thinking of new poses to keep each class fresh for my experienced yogis but still have do-able poses for my new yogis.  This book has a good variety of levels and variations for each pose, which helps me create simultaneously challenging and accessible classes. For self practice or teaching, I recommend this book for inspiration.

Guide to Nadi Shodhana: How to and Benefits

Nadi Shodhana: Alternate Nostril Breathing: how to, benefits, mudras, and meaning

Use your ring finger to close the left nostril for Nadi Shodhana
Use your ring finger to close the left nostril for Nadi Shodhana

Nadi Shodhana is a kind or Pranayama (breathwork) that involves breathing through alternate nostrils.  Nadi means river, stream or channel.  In this case, it refers to the energy channels, called nadis.  Shodhana means refinement or purification.  Nadi Shodhana is a purifying breath that helps align the energy channels of the body.

Nadi Shodhana is one of my favorite kinds of pranayama.  I like to start my day and my classes with it.

Common mudra for Nadi Shodhana
Common mudra for Nadi Shodhana

Right hand positioning

To help close one nostril at a time, use your right hand.  Fold down your pointer and middle finger.  Then turn your hand so your palm and turned down fingers are facing your chest.  You will use your thumb to close your right nostril and your ring finger to close the left.  When you do this pranayama, you want to put your finger on the part of your nose where the bone meets the cartilage.  This way, you can ensure the nostril is sealed off.

Fingers crossed for additional stability for Nadi Shodhana
Fingers crossed for additional stability for Nadi Shodhana

Alternate mudras (hand gestures) for the right hand:

1.  With your pointer and middle finger pointing down, you can wrap your ring finger around behind your pinkie. This makes the fingers more stable. If you use this mudra, you will use your pinkie to close the left nostril.

You can use your middle and pointer fingers on the third eye in Nadi Shodhana
You can use your middle and pointer fingers on the third eye in Nadi Shodhana



2.  Instead of folding down your pointer and middle finger, it’s also possible to use them to gently press your third eye. This can be calming, and can help bring awareness to the pranayama.


Preparing the body

Find a comfortable seat and sit up nice and tall.  You can rest your left hand on your knee, open or in any mudra (gesture) that you like.  Sometimes the fingers naturally come towards each other to form a mudra.  If this is true for you, follow your body to the mudra.

Use your thumb to close the right nostril for Nadi Shodhana
Use your thumb to close the right nostril for Nadi Shodhana

Before you begin, empty out all of your breath so you can start fresh for Nadi Shodhana.


For Nadi Shodhana

Close your right nostril with your thumb and breathe in through the left.  Move your hand to close your left nostril (and open the right) to exhale.  Inhale through the right, then move your hand to close the right nostril with your thumb and open the left nostril to exhale.

So: inhale, change, exhale, inhale, change, exhale

Practice this pranayama for 10 rounds (one round means inhaling and exhaling on each side)

Option to use the pointer and middle finger on the third eye to add to the calming effects of Nadi Shodhana
Option to use the pointer and middle finger on the third eye to add to the calming effects of Nadi Shodhana



Benefits of Nadi Shodhana

Nadi Shodhana helps bring oxygen into the blood stream, which is good for the respiratory and nervous system.  This type of pranayama also calms and focuses the mind, relieving stress and reducing anxiety.



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Yoga Teacher training: the invaluable lessons yogis learn

Yoga Teacher Training: Module 3: Refining The Art Of Teaching

In our last module of yoga teacher training, there was a bigger emphasis on teaching practice (thankfully).  We had lots of sessions where the instructor put the names of some poses on the board and then we had to guide a friend through the poses, sometimes two or three times per sequence.  That sounds repetitive, but it was actually really helpful to get used to the transitions and directions for each pose.  It was also really valuable to be guided and hear how other people phrased things.

asana in the lotus studio (photo by Amanda Gordon)

We also worked on modeling and mirroring.  We practiced asking our students to take a seat to -watch a demo.  Mirroring is quite difficult.  I kept half-turning to try to look at which hand/foot the students were on to check my lefts and rights.

We also guided each other through some restorative poses.  I like restorative classes, but I am not really quite comfortable with all of their features just yet so that was a challenge for me.

We did a fun experiment with ooblek about propping, yielding and collapsing.  Propping is giving too much effort—too much tension in a pose—overextending, over-working.  Collapsing is letting gravity take hold, not using the body to be firm—flimsy and weak.  Yielding is the ideal middle ground- staying soft enough to be comfortable, but strong enough to be firm with the pose.  We tried each of these techniques with our hand in the ooblek.  It gave way and resisted perfectly to illustrate the outcomes.

We had a couple of sessions on Samskaras, which are grooves in the brain that make you do things in the same way in the same situation.  This sort of habitual repetition is something we need to work on—making good grooves and releasing grooves that no longer serve us.  Our samskara teacher was wonderful.  She absentmindedly threw life quotes left and right.  Everything she was saying hit home for me.  We also did yoga nidra, sleep yoga—a deep, deep kind of relaxation—and some self-exploration.

Dancer in the Balinese rice paddiesThe main event in this module was the Teaching Lab.  Each of us had 12 minutes (one gothika—a Tibetian time measurement) to teach our peers.  It was a really beautiful thing to support each other and see everyone thrive within their own personality as they led the class.  Everyone was nervous, but everyone was wonderful.

I chose the root chakra as the theme for my class.  I taught everyone its mantra, Lam and we chanted it together.  We did some grounding poses.  We even meditated briefly on the root chakra and red light going from the sacrum through the legs and pulling us toward the Earth.  I chose this theme because of my meeting with the Healer/Osteopath back in module.  Everyone complimented my humble story and the way I wove the theme through all of the parts of the lesson.  I felt good about my lesson even though I struggle with it lots in the preparation phases.

We also took some time to write our own meditations one afternoon.  We took turns guiding each other through our personalized meditations.  This was also a great opportunity to see everyone’s individuality and what they chose for relaxation and calming.

We had one very valuable session on the business of yoga.  We talked a lot about social media and the internet as crucial elements to creating a successful yoga brand out of your work.  In our modern world, you must brand yourself.  Instagram and a website were given as the main uses of the internet.  She talked about partnering with other businesses for Instagram to share followers and information.  We also talked about how to differentiate classes.  What wacky place can you do yoga in?  How can you make a unique offering?  We talked about how everyone is different and in the end, people show up to your class for you.  They like whatever it is about you that you’re offering and you must consistently give it.

One of the teachers also gave an interesting talk on starting her own studio.  There were lots of things I might not have thought of logistically that were important.  She said it’s important to teach in someone else’s studio first to learn what does and doesn’t work.  She talked about how at first, it’s important to have a regular class even if no one is coming.  We talked about maximizing time and the number of students in classes too.  I learned a lot about what makes teaching yoga feasible and profitable.

the kula with their certificates (photo by Amanda Gordon)At the end, as we did in the beginning, we went around the circle and said a little something about ourselves.  At the start, I said I wanted to become a better yogi and a better me.  In the middle I said, I’m trying to learn about yoga as a lifestyle, but I still have lots to learn about the style and my life.  At the end, I thanked every one of the other yogis.  Interacting on a daily basis really taught me a lot.  There was so much insight and love in that space it was unreal.  Everyone gave it their all and grew and blossomed.  It was a wonderful experience.

Then we also had to talk about integration before we were all dumped back out into the world—what pieces can you take to your day to day life?  How do you stay mentally stimulated and elevated in a world of honking cars and fast food and non-yogis?  How do you stay true to who you are and who you’ve become?  And most importantly, how do you keep growing?  These are somethings I’m going to be learning and experimenting with.

[Just so you know, this post contains affiliate links, meaning if you click through and purchase something I will receive a commission. I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t love it!]

Welcome Om Yoga Gear: Tees, tanks, crop tops, totes, mugs, meditation cushion, and so much more! Shop

Welcome Om Yoga Apparel and Accessories

I opened the Katia_Yoga store on Zazzle for yoga apparel and accessories.  If you click the image below, you can see my first collection, Welcome Om.  [Disclosure: this is an affiliate link; if you click through and purchase something from this link, I will receive a commission for my designs.]

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Yoga Teacher training: the invaluable lessons yogis learn

Yoga Teacher Training: Module 2: Discover The Skills & Magic Of Teaching

Yoga Teacher training: the invaluable lessons yogis learnThe second module of yoga teacher training was a real challenge, mentally and physically.  9 days in a row is tough!  We did some soul searching and some more practice teaching.  We made more lesson plans and executed some of our own pose successions.

I was the studio assistant on the first day back.  The studio assistant helps set up the studio and observes the lesson.  Luckily, everyone brings in most of their own props (strap, blocks, bolsters, etc.) but there’s more to setting up the space than that.  There’s an altar at the front so I had to clean it, add lots of new flower petals and light candles and incense as offerings to Shiva and Ganesha.  One of the other instructors blessed the room while I worked.  At the end of the day, some props got left behind and I had to pick those up too.  I observed the asana practice and in a way was glad for my free day when I saw how hard the standing-pose and vinyasa-based class was.  It was cool to see a different instructor in action and see how he adjusted people and how he coached them.  Mark has a very likable style and everyone was laughing, along with sweating and sighing.  It was also interesting to watch my peers.  It’s interesting to see how different people react to the cues—how long it takes and whether or not they really understand the instructor’s goal.  Before and after each break, I checked in to see if the studio needed anything.

Probably the most interesting topic of this module was Ayurveda.  It’s an ancient Indian way of healing and staying healthy that goes hand in hand with yoga.  In Ayurveda, you look at your physical and personality attributes or components to determine your dosha.  Vata is light and airy, kapha is heavy and grounded, while pitta is fiery and direct.  The first test I took said I’m “tridoshic” but I doubt that I’m that well rounded.  My best guess is that I’m mostly vata with a bit of pitta.  The only way to know for sure is to see an Ayurvedic doctor.  He can take your pulse and tell right away.  We learned lots about leading an Ayurvedic life- wake up early to meditate, practice yoga, scrape your tongue, massage yourself with oils and eat a small meal for breakfast, having a big meal at lunch time, eating a lighter earlier dinner, and winding down device-free with low lights for an early night. The different times of day also have their own personality- their own dosha.  Different activities are suited to different times.  We also talked a bit about different foods people should or shouldn’t eat and the agni, or digestive fire in the belly.  Mark talked a lot about habits and how to change the old and create wonderful new using the smallest possible change- Kai Zen.  Mark also asked us about what we stand for.  I chose compassion but it was interesting to see people’s different priorities reflected in their choices- freedom, nature, care for animals, free will, equality.

In this module, Kirtan with Mei Laiwe were put on the spot to teach our peers a lot.  We were typically given about 5 minutes to prepare (though when I really teach, I’m going to put in a bit more time and care!).  It’s cool to see people move their bodies just as I say.  It’s harder than it seems though to talk about how and when they need to move what—especially lefts and rights because we practice facing our students but not doing the poses with them.  It’s hard to see what the students are doing and help them adjust if you’re busy moving your own body.  In our yoga lessons, we also talked a tiny bit about sequencing and theme-ing to try to create our own yoga classes.  We planned a couple of lessons on our own and executed a couple of poses from them with 8 peers.

We also had 4 3-hour sessions of Yoga Philosophy.  We learned about the original forms of yoga and how they evolved to include people from different walks of life.  The goal of yoga has always been awareness and removing karma.  The soul collects black karma and white karma and yoga is a good way to try to remove both.  When the soul has no more karma it may be enlightened.  We talked about death and reincarnation.  We talked about sleep as preparation for death—death is the same except that we’re reborn in a different body when we awaken.  Thinking about death and rebirth makes me feel more free to do what I feel compelled to do in this lifetime rather than worrying about other people’s expectations and preferences.  We also talked about the different stages of reincarnation.  One of the most interesting things was learning that originally yoga was only about meditation and different ways of meditating.  There were only about 16 different poses and all of them were seated for meditation until about 100 years ago and now there are over 900 poses including variations.  Yoga is meant to include 8 limbs, like outlooks on life, breath work, withdrawing the senses, etc, not just moving the body into shapes.

We also worked on some new chants and mantras.  One of the most moving experiences of the training so far was kirtan with Mei Lai.  She has such a beautiful voice and so much passion for the mantras.  Also the studio is beautiful with low lights in the evening and crickets chirping.  Before we started she asked if anyone wanted to make a flower mandala at the front of the room.  About 5 of us jumped on it.   One girl said, “I love making beautiful things!” and that’s just what we did- we made a big heart with the aum symbol in the middle.  We finished just in time to snuggle up on bolsters.  Mei Lai shines so brightly it was like pulling into a camp fire.  The room was clearly moved by the sounds of the harmonium and the group’s collective voice.

Being blessed at a Balinese Water CeremonyWe had a wonderful water ceremony too. We all walked over to the ashram and saronged-up for the occasion (sarongs and covered shoulders are temple-appropriate outfits in Bali).  We waited in a raised shelter and watched a mystical woman in yellow finery- beads and sparkles on a leopard print cushion chanting and blessing the water.  Later we went up 5 by 5 for our turn for the blessing.  We had water sprinkled and funneled over our heads.  We waved incense over us to cleanse and bring good.  We drank some of the water too- it was sweet and spiced.  It tasted like promise.  At the end we chanted and washed ourselves in the smoke of more incense, pushing the bad behind us and welcoming good.  We got flower head dresses and bracelets too.  It was a beautiful morning.

I had an appointment with Rachel, the osteopath who taught us in the first module.  We looked at my posture a bit but focused mostly on my root chakra, which is out of whack.  That’s why the love meditation hit me so hard.  I said something about not having a place of my own in the world now, and Rachel said, “yes you do,” pointing to my body.  She cracked my back in lots of different ways, did some sound therapy and put me into a deep savasana with chimes and incense of sorts.  I woke up feeling a bit lost and dreamy but in a way sort of more whole.  That night I dreamed of ceremonies and chants.  I slept deeply and only woke up about halfway in the morning.

We also did meditation and journaling on some interesting soul-searching topics.  We talked about karma; when a butterfly flaps its wings a little faster than the moment before, it creates karma.  What about our karma?  How can we reduce it?  How do we stop creating it?  Can you stop creating it in a modern society?  We talked about dharma too.  It’s cool to think about the possibility of the universe conspiring for our greater path in this world.

Emily said that this module is meant to tear us apart and the third module will put the pieces together.  At the moment, I am uncertain of course- whether or not I will really be prepared to sit in front of a class, hold the space and direct the students for a full hour.  Teaching kids is so different—there’s automatic respect and adoration.   I elicit from them and encourage them to talk and contribute.  I ask for their ideas and try to have the class centered around them.  My lessons are built around empowering them and encouraging them to do things on their own.  In this last respect, teaching yoga will be the same but the idea of me talking and commanding for a full hour is new.  Hopefully my adult yoga students will be curious and enthusiastic, rather than critical.

Next will be the third and final post about teacher training.

[Just so you know, this post contains affiliate links, meaning if you click through and purchase something I will receive a commission. I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t love it!]

Yoga Class Schedule in San Juan del Sur with Katia

Casa Oro Classes


*Available through September 2016