Category: Blog

YOGA with kids- fun practicing with 5 year olds

Yoga with kindergartners

Yoga with kindergarteners: funny and cute momentsIn the second semester, I decided to introduce yoga to my kindergarten students.  Once a week, I’d put on some calming guitar music from Youtube and my little darlings would say to each other, “today we will do yoo-guh!”  In this post, I want to share some of the funniest, sweetest moments of my practice with 5-year olds.

The first time they heard the guitar music, Jennica came up to me and said, “I want to sleep now.”  And I thought to myself perrrfect.  I also dimmed the lights.  I wanted to create a beautiful calm space, which is not exactly an energy kindergartners tend to embody.  In our Montessori class, some days we get there, but given the choice, they’d typically rather run, leap, spin, shout, and chase their friends.  (Read on below the video)

Striped Kids Yoga Leggings (for Matching Mommy and Me)
Click to see our kids’ yoga pants

We started out with basic pranayama breathing, simply watching the breath.  I had them sit up nice and tall.  I showed them how; I pulled my hand up from my head like there was a string attached and straightened my spine up into a tall seat simultaneously.  MawRein said, “do me!”  They thought it was magic, not muscle.

Then I asked them to close their eyes.  Lincoln peeked at me with one eye the whole time.  I told them to slowly, quietly breath in and out.  I said innn and ooout a couple of times watching to be sure they did, then also closed my eyes to breath.  Modeling is sometimes the best way to get them to keep doing what they’re supposed to.  Just as I was starting to relax into it, Patrick’s eyes snapped open and he shouted “FINISHED!”  I learned to say 10 breaths or more and emphasize quietly.

Next we talked about a cow’s big round belly and how a scared cat arches its back.  We did some cat/cow and made the animal sounds with the motions.

Yoga with kindergarteners: funny and cute moments

Later, outside of yoga time, I saw Vebeak on hands and knees saying to a friend, “and drop the belly down” just the way I say it. He’s an adorable yoga instructor.

When we did cobra, as they say “snake,” we looked around and talked about what snakes see.  Lincoln wiggled his body so he could move forward, slithering side to side clumsily.  It’s a comical challenge for them to stay in one space.

They liked to flap their leg-wings as butterflies and talk about “drinking the flowers.”  When we folded over our legs in butterfly, James said “so hurt.”  They didn’t know sore yet.  I told him to move his feet out a little and he went “ahh-hhh, so good!”

Matching Mommy and Me Hills Yoga Leggings
Click to see Mommy and Me yoga pants on Etsy

Their favorite pose by far was tree.  When ever we stood up, they would guess tree was coming next.  “Now, do the tree-pose?” (they said it as one word, not two)  They loved to wobble in the wind and sometimes hopped a little.

When we attempted triangle, one of the shorter boys struggled.  He looked at his friend and said, “because he is long he can do so nicely.”  He meant tall.

They also liked the idea of savasana: “now dead pose?” though they struggled to stay still, even for exactly 60 seconds.  They did like to be zombies coming back from the dead though as they made their way to the circle.  And they also loved to end with saying “na-ma-ste” and bowing to each other.  Their little hands pressed in anjali mudra were super cute.  I’m definitely going to miss yoga with kindergartners!

[Just so you know, this post contains affiliate links below, 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 with kids- fun practicing with 5 year olds

15% off International Yoga Day SALE now until Saturday

International Yoga Day SALE

Yogi to yogi, I wish you a very HAPPY INTERNATIONAL YOGA DAY!!!!

I hope you get to join yogis everywhere in celebrating YOGA!  Do you have any special plans for the day?

In honor of this special occasion, we’re having a sale!

Take 15% off of your entire order on in our yoga shop from now until Saturday with promo code: yogaday2017

 

15% off International Yoga Day SALE now until Saturday

Mandalay yoga class: FREE with a local instructor

Free, Local Yoga in Mandalay

A few people have been asking me about yoga in Mandalay.  I have just left (June 2017) so I’m no longer offering classes.  Aside from yoga in gyms, I do know of one other option.

When I left (though I can’t promise it’s still going on), there was a local Myanmar-Indian yogi giving free, local yoga classes daily at 4:30.  It included some traditional movement-based asana, pranayama, and mantra, and ending in beautiful laughter.

Mandalay yoga class: FREE with a local instructor
*dropped pin is not precise

The tricky thing is how to explain how to get there.  I’ll do my best!  If you’re going up 35 (with the cross streets getting smaller 78…77…), just after 73, you will see Uncle Chan’s beer station on the left.  Turn in to the very next alleyway.  Drive in a bit and on the left you will see a cement wall with an om symbol painted on it.  Turn into the gate and the yoga session will be in the open courtyard just ahead.  If you’re on a motorbike or bicycle, you can park inside the gate by the building on the left.

When I went, everyone was very welcoming.  They made sure we understood what to do.  The instructor stood on a block in the center and gave instructions in Myanmar, but he would come over to explain in English anything that we missed in the Myanmar cues to be sure we could also follow along and enjoy.  He was super nice.

*Warning: It’s not your typical Western spandex-clad high-power vinyasa class.  You’re in for a local-vibe experience for sure.  If you go, do so with an open mind.   Most of the people in attendance were local Myanmar women in baggy clothing.  They shared a very large natural woven mat that they rolled out over the cement patio.  It was good fun, but it helps if you know what you’re getting into.  🙂

-> While you’re here, check out the Shop! <-

Lotus for the Throat Chakra; read more about balancing, meaning, meditation and mantra

Throat chakra: meanings, meditation, balancing, mantras and mudra

Lotus for the Throat Chakra; read more about balancing, meaning, meditation and mantraThe Throat Chakra (or Vishuddha Chakra in Sanskrit) is located primarily in the neck, but also encompasses the shoulders, jaw, mouth, and thyroid.  It is the first of the more spiritual chakras, following the Heart Chakra.  The Heart Chakra is a mix between spiritual and physical chakras, with the definitively physical chakras below the heart chakra and the spiritual chakras above.

The throat chakra is associated with sky blue or turquoise-blue and the element of ether or space.  The throat chakra is responsible for sound and expression through sound.  This chakra is also correlated with all kinds of communication.  It can also be associated with finding your purpose and embracing your individuality. Location of the Throat Chakra; read more about balancing, meaning, meditation and mantra It is also related to creativity and turning ideas into reality.  The sacral chakra, which is responsible for creativity and emotion, is closely linked to this function of the throat chakra.  The throat chakra helps us express emotions and creative ideas.  It also helps us express truth, both in terms of finding our truest feelings and finding the strength to share them.  The throat chakra is sensitive to misinformation or unkind words.  Negativity and lies can quickly disrupt the balance of the chakra.

Imbalance of the Throat Chakra

A blocked throat chakra can lead to feelings of uncertainty, or an inability to find your truth.  It can also cause you to be unable to express that truth if you have found it.  A clear, open throat chakra allows you to comfortably and confidently share your feelings, thoughts and ideas.  A blocked throat chakra can manifest itself physically as a sore throat, head ache, tooth ache, neck pain or thyroid problems.  A blocked throat chakra can also manifest emotionally as shyness, fear, lack of creativity, inability to express yourself, or social anxiety.  On the other hand, excessive throat chakra openness can lead you to become overly dominant or manipulative.

Some of the techniques below can help restore balance to the throat chakra.

MudraMudra for the Throat Chakra; read more about balancing, meaning, meditation and mantra

As you prepare to meditate, chant or sing, try this throat chakra mudra.  Interlace your fingers so that the tips come inside the palms.  Connect the tips of the thumbs, reaching slightly up to round the shape of the hands.  Place your connected mudra in your lap, find a comfortable upright seat and then add mantra, meditation or another technique of your choice.

Mantra

To open the throat chakra, try to bij mantra or seed mantra sound, “ham.”  You can chant it aloud or internally.

If you prefer English, you can try the affirmation, “I speak.”  If you have something specific you want to say, thinking about the words or mood you wish to invoke can also help.

 

Other ways to engage your throat chakra

The 8 Limbs of Yoga Tree and Chakras Poster beautifully displays the 8 limbs of yoga, which tell yogis how dig deeper into all of the aspects of yoga.
See our chakra poster

Singing, crying, chanting, laughing, and talking can also help your throat chakra release blockages and open again.  Allow your throat freedom- release and take on these actions fully– laugh with your whole heart, sing with all of the air and volume you can muster, or weep sob and moan.  It’s only for you.

Also, pranayama like Ujjayi breath can help your throat chakra.

Meditations

Image a blue light in your throat.  Slowly allow that light to emanate out from your throat.  Allow the light to open your airways and your mind.  Allow it to heal you and soothe you.

Alternatively you can imagine releasing your negative feelings on your exhales during a meditation.  Allow yourself to fully feel your feelings, observe them and release them.  Allow yourself to move past feelings that don’t serve you.  Reunite with your truth and your confidence.

The Mandalay Hills Yoga Leggings are printed with an image of the Shan Mountains behind Mandalay, including the rice paddies and a pagoda. They have a high rise waist, 4-way stretch and an inside pocket.
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Asana

Asanas that stretch the neck are best for the throat chakra, like gently rolling the neck, camel, shoulder stand and fish pose.

Sky Blue

All things blue are helpful for this chakra.  For foods, try blueberries, blue corn or blue-ish sweet potatoes.

Gems include saphires, aquamarine, turquoise, lapis lazuli and blue topaz.

Also, try wearing blue to encourage throat chakra energy.

All About the Throat Chakra: Meditation, Mantra, Mudra, Meaning, and Balancing

The throat chakra is a crucial spiritual force.  Confident self-expression, creativity, and self-understanding are all critical functions of the throat chakra and great reasons to give your throat chakra some extra attention and love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Just so you know, this post contains affiliate links, meaning if you click through and purchase something I will receive a commission.]


The Complete Guide to Advancing your Yoga Self-practice: how to make a routine, add spirituality and pranayama, how to find new inspiration, stay motivated, and tracking your progress #selfpractice #yogapractice

The Complete Guide to Advancing your Yoga Self-practice

Starting a yoga self-practice. Blog post with tips and inspiration
Click this photo if you’re just beginning

If you already started your yoga self practice, great work!!  This post will provide you with some ideas on continuing to challenge yourself and working different parts of your body.  If you’re just starting click the photo to the right.  With your self-practice, it can be easy to get into a rut, only practicing your favorite poses and the ones that are already familiar, and maybe even ones that are easy to you.  It’s important to push yourself beyond that point if you want to progress and improve.  Below are some ideas for how to go beyond where you are now and suggestions for advancing your yoga self-practice.

[Just so you know, this post contains affiliate links]

Categories of poses

As a yoga instructor, there are 6 main areas to address in a class.

  • warm-ups
  • standing poses
  • arm balances/abs/hips
  • inversions/ thigh stretches
  • backbend/twist/forward bends
  • savasana

Some classes aim to tick all of the boxes and some focus on a specific area, theme or goal.  It’s probably too much to try to tick all of the boxes every day in your home practice (though warm-ups and savasana are always a must).  My suggestion is to assign each of these areas to one or two days of the week.  Then brainstorm some poses in each category– think about poses you like and poses that are difficult for you.  It’s good to have a variety of asanas for each group so you won’t get bored doing the same poses too frequently.  In a few months, you can re-assess your lists and maybe add new poses to your repertoire as your level progresses.  Here’s an example chart of weekly poses.

The Complete Guide to Advancing your Yoga Self-practice: how to make a routine, add spirituality and pranayama, how to find new inspiration, stay motivated, and tracking your progress #selfpractice #yogapractice

Another idea: post soThe Complete Guide to Advancing your Yoga Self-practice: how to make a routine, add spirituality and pranayama, how to find new inspiration, stay motivated, and tracking your progress #selfpractice #yogapracticeme pictures or doodles of poses you want to try on your wall.  Sometimes once you’re flowing it’s hard to remember that great new asana you wanted to try or you can only remember the one you’re most excited about.  Some visual clues can help you get to lots of great shapes.

I read this quote in the The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga, “People love to do the things that they love to do.”  In the book, the author is talking about making sure you balance your yin energy activities (more quiet, restful and rejuvenating) and yang energy activities (powerful, energized, strong).  To me this quote is also a reminder to try to go beyond what you know and what is easy for you- challenge yourself to do the other things.

Disclaimer!  Always be careful and listen to your body, especially your sensitive joints.  You never want to feel real PAIN in yoga- try to shoot for 70% edge.  Go for the Goldilocks technique, adding and removing strain until you reach your just-right stretch.

Every every every day, yoga

7 Restorative Poses to relax and rejuvenate8 Limbs of Yoga: Pranayama, breath control: about and how toTry to make yoga a crucial part of your daily routine.  Maybe schedule it in before you get ready for work or directly after your afternoon snack.  Starting a habit is the hardest part- it takes a full month of dedicated work before any habit will become natural, including the habit of daily yoga.

Of course, some days are super busy and it feels like there is no time or no energy for yoga.  These are probably the days that you need yoga the most!  Do whatever you can to at least make time for a few sun salutations or a few soothing restorative stretches.  On these days, it’s ok if don’t have room for your complete practice, but send yourself the love of a little practice.

Also illness can make moving your body feel extra hard.  When you’re sick, look to some soothing restorative poses, yin asanas or supine stretches.  At least try for some cat-cow or a supine twist.  Supta baddha konasana is always a good idea!

Spirituality

The spiritual side of yoga isn’t for everyone, but it can be a great tool for staying steady emotionally and mentally.  I recommend incorporating some meditation and/or pranayama into your practice.  At the beginning or the end are usually the best time.

New Inspiration

Extra-long modern mala necklace with 108 hand-knotted Burmese beads (in green, black, and white) perfect for yoga and japa meditation
See Katia Yoga malas on Etsy

Goal: add a new poses to your repertoire once a week!

Finding new asanas that meet your skill level and categorical needs can be a challenge.  I recommend this book, 2,100 Asanas: The Complete Yoga Poses.  It’s filled with literally thousands of photos of asanas.  This is a great place to find new ideas.  Flipping through the pages is basically guaranteed to make you want to start to move.  The book is already massive so it doesn’t give a great deal of detail on getting into the poses.  When a pose is appealing but unclear, I turn to the internet.  These days even google has an archive of yoga poses.  There are lots of great sites with detailed how to’s regarding getting into the pose and alignment but it’s hard to find them if you don’t know the pose you’re looking for.  Knowing the name of a pose you want to try is a big help.  2100 can help you begin with that spark of inspiration.

The tree of life is a classic spiritual image in many different cultures. This poster is a print of an acrylic painting on canvas.
Click the tree of life print to check out our shop

If you are interested in a specific style of yoga, try to find a book that is directly related.  There is a lot of yoga theory and philosophy behind most styles and a bit of background can help you find the right intention to infuse into your practice.

Instagram is full of amazing yogis showing off their stuff.  This can also be a good place to find new flows and inspiration.  Also, participating in instagram challenges (whether you post your poses or not) is a good way to get into some different poses and learn from hosts who write about the alignment too.  Photographing your asanas is a helpful tool for checking your alignment if you don’t have a mirror in your yoga space. Pinterest also has lots of great infographics for how-to’s and sequences to try.

Personal Yoga JournalThe Complete Guide to Advancing your Yoga Self-practice: how to make a routine, add spirituality and pranayama, how to find new inspiration, stay motivated, and tracking your progress #selfpractice #yogapractice

A yoga journal or even yoga sketchbook could also be a nice way to keep track of your poses and weekly ideas.  You could possibly also make a calendar or tick boxes to track how often you practice.

Things to think about in a yoga class to find your favorite class or style or learn to be a better instructorIn this journal, you can also take some notes after yoga classes you attend.  Try to take note of new poses you like, fun flows your body enjoys and great quotes, themes or intentions you may want to include in your home practice.

 

This may sound like a lot.  That’s ok.  Take whatever pieces may work for you and your practice.  Your practice is only for you so do whatever makes you feel good and makes you want to roll out your mat again and again.  Be proud of whatever you do!

 

 

Yoga Trade Article on Teaching Yoga in Nicaragua; view over San Juan del Sur

Yoga Trade Article: First Time Yoga Instructor in Nicaragua

I’m happy to say that Yoga Trade published my article on teaching in Nicaragua.  Check it out!

First Time Yoga Instructor in Nicaragua

 

Also check out more from Katia Yoga in our Shop or on our Blog.

The longyi yoga pants are inspired by the beautiful fabrics of Myanmar. Soft fabric with 4-way stretch made in the USA. High waist and inner pocket.

Ideas and inspiration for creating your own yoga and meditation space

Creating a Yoga and Meditation Space

Ideas and inspiration for creating your own yoga and meditation spaceOne key to establishing a great home yoga practice is having a good place for it.  You need to create a spot that feels comfortable, personal and enjoyable.  It’s your practice and your space so it should feel like you and be representative of your yoga interests and needs.  However, there are a few things that every yoga space needs, whether you have a whole yoga shala (room/studio) or only a corner.  To try to get to the essentials of your yoga space, think about all 5 senses so you can set the mood for your practice.  I have brainstormed some ideas and examples below to help inspire you with creating or perfecting your space.

Ideas and inspiration for creating your own yoga and meditation spaceSight

  • Decorate the walls!  Mantras, resources and diagrams you’re learning from or just things you think are pretty are all great visuals to add to your space.
  • Gods or goddesses that you believe in, wish to invoke, or are drawn to (there’s probably a reason you like that one!) are a great addition to your sacred space
  • Plants help make the space soothing and cozy.  They are great for de-stressing and purifying the air.
  • Find a way to store your props, resources and other things you might want that feels put together to you.  You don’t want clutter but you also don’t want to have to go fetch things.  Make it easy to get to everything you might need.
  • Nice light helps make the space warm and homey.

Sound

  • Music can energize and invigorate you or calm and soothe you.  Find your favorite songs for your practice or your different practices
  • Instruments can be a fun addition to your practice- like a bell, chimes or a singing bowl– something you can play along to mantras with or meditate with or to mark the beginning and end of your practice
  • Singing along to mantra can also be a fun part of a spiritual practice

[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!]


SmellIdeas and inspiration for creating your own yoga and meditation space

Smell can really help set the mood for your practice.  Aromatherapy can also energize or calm you.  Try candles, incense, and essential oils to help choose your mood.

Touch

  • Make sure you have ample space to move.  Some yoga poses stretch a bit past the mat.  Try to find enough space so you won’t be hitting a wall or furniture when you reach out
  • Be sure you have a good mat (or a few mats if you like to yoga with friends). Think about what features are important to you, like non-slip material or thick support.
  • Cozy props are the best!  Consider what props would best support your practice, such as
    • bolster
    • strap
    • eye pillowIdeas and inspiration for creating your own yoga and meditation space
    • pillows
    • yoga blanket
    • malas
Amazonite and Rudraksha Mala Necklace- 108 Hand-knotted beads
Also see our malas and yoga wear on Etsy 🙂
  • Comfy yoga clothes are a must.  You want to feel free to move in any way that calls to you.  Make sure you won’t have to be distracted by any discomfort.  (Check out our Yoga Shop for some great yoga pants, tops and accessories!)
This beautiful mantra, "Lokah Samastah Sukino Bhavantu" is on one side of the mug, and its English translation is on the other: "May All Beings Be Happy and Free." Perfect for a cozy cup of tea or coffee. ($15-20)
Also see our yoga accessories and prints!

 

Taste

Something to sip, like teas or infused water, are nice for before and after yoga.  It’s also important to have plenty of water to stay hydrated during your session.

Your yoga space should be a spot that you feel drawn toward, a place where you want to be- just like your yoga practice.  Add whatever additional touches you feel you may need to make it absolutely yours.

 

 


Ideas and inspiration for creating your own yoga and meditation space

Complete Guide to Pranayama, meaning breath control (one of the 8 limbs of yoga): 8 different types of pranayama: how to do each one and benefits #pranayama #breath

Guide to the 8 Limbs of Yoga: Pranayama: breathing

Complete Guide to Pranayama, meaning breath control (one of the 8 limbs of yoga): 8 different types of pranayama: how to do each one and benefits #pranayama #breathPranayama means breath control or breath expansion.  It is the 4th of the 8 Limbs of Yoga.  Prana means life force or vital energy.  Yama means control or code of conduct.  Actually, pranayama is a combination of prana and ayama.  Ayama means expansion so pranayama is a way to expand your vital energy and vibrate on a higher frequency.

[Just so you know, this post contains affiliate links]

Vital energy flows through your body’s 108 nadis or energy channels and through the 7 energy centers or chakras.  Through pranayama breathing techniques, you can direct life force into your body and choose how to use it.  Some pranayama techniques are meant to soothe the body, while others are aimed at energizing.  Pranayama can also help clear blockages in your energy channels.

Breath is composed for 4 parts:

  • pooraka (inhalation)
  • rechaka (exhalation)
  • antar kumbhaka (internal breath retention)
  • bahir kumbhaka (external breath retention)

Different pranayama practices involve different aspects of the breath.  All pranayama techniques require you to focus on the breath.  In this way, pranayama acts as a meditation, becoming the only necessary thought for that moment.  Below are a few pranayama techniques to try.

Position for Pranayama

Most of these breathing techniques are typically practiced in a comfortable, tall (upright) seated position, eg. on a chair, in easy pose (sukhasana- below), or in lotus position (padmasana).  Allow your preoccupations and worries to take a break so you can focus on your breath.  If you can’t do this from the start, don’t worry it will probably come later as you concentrate on inhaling and exhaling.

Chin mudra Complete Guide to Pranayama, meaning breath control (one of the 8 limbs of yoga): 8 different types of pranayama: how to do each one and benefits #pranayama #breath
Chin mudra
Jnana mudra Complete Guide to Pranayama, meaning breath control (one of the 8 limbs of yoga): 8 different types of pranayama: how to do each one and benefits #pranayama #breath
Jnana mudra

Mudras can also be used during pranayama to help direct the flow of energy.  Chin and jnana are classic mudras that are often used in conjunction with pranayama.

To begin,take a couple of deep breaths, emptying all of your breath out on each exhale, allowing your body to start with fresh new air and focus for your pranayama.

Natural breath

Natural breath can be the simplest pranayama, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.  Concentrating on your breath without controlling it is sometimes tough.  Allow yourself to simply observe your breath, feeling it come in and out of your nose.  Notice how it’s cool going into your body and warm going out.  Let go of everything else and just watch prana come and go.  Allow it to pump through your body and mind.

3-part breath

With this technique, you will start to harness and control your breath.  Empty all of the air out of your body, then inhale directly into your diaphragm, filling the lowest part of your belly first.  As more breath enters your body, send it into your lungs, expanding through the sides of your rib cage.  Finally, let the last bits of the inhale fill your chest and raise through your clavicles (collar bone) and scapula (shoulder blades).  Your body is absolutely full of breath and prana.

On your exhale, you will empty the breath with equal care and concentration.  Start by allowing the shoulders and the chest to drop back down toward the ribs as the breath underneath them empties.  Then let the lungs and the rib cage contract as the breath leaves them.  Finally, empty the breath from deep down in your diaphragm, the pit of your belly.  You should be totally empty now, full of potential for your next breath pouring in.

This breathing technique is great for developing awareness of your body and breath.  It also focuses the mind.

Samavrtti

Complete Guide to Pranayama, meaning breath control (one of the 8 limbs of yoga): 8 different types of pranayama: how to do each one and benefits #pranayama #breathSamavrtti is a practice of creating the same length inhale and exhale.  Start by trying to breath in for 4 counts and out for 4 counts.  Try to stabilize and equalize the length of your inhales and exhales.  Once you are confident with this technique, try retaining the breath  for a count at the top of the inhale before continuing.  The third stage is retaining the breath at the bottom of the exhale instead.  As you become more comfortable with this technique, you can try lengthening your count.  When practicing sahita or retention, make the retention 1/3 as long as the count of the inhale and exhale (eg. inhale for 6, hold for 2, exhale for 6)

Samavrtti focuses the mind and calms the body.

Ujjayi

Ujjayi is often practiced during yoga.  It is infamous for its soft oceanic sound, like waves rolling in and out.  Others describe it as a hiss.  Start with natural breath, breathing normally from your nose.  Then slowly shift your awareness  to your throat.  Imagine you are breathing from the back of your throat.  Pull the breath in and push it out, as if you are breathing from a small hole in your throat. Breath is directed to the back of the throat.  Try to contract the glottis (vocal cords).  There will be a slight sound almost like snoring.  It doesn’t need to be loud enough for others to hear, contrary to what many instructors may say.

Ujjayi tranquilizes and heats the body, soothing the nervous system and mind.

Nadi Shodhana

Guide to Nadi Shodhana: How to and BenefitsNadi shodhana is my favorite pranayama technique.  In Nadi Shodhana, you breathes through one nostril and then the other.  Using the right hand, you can block the right nostril with the thumb and the left nostril with the ring finger (middle and pointer are folded down).  Inhale on the right with the left nostril closed, then change the hand positioning to open the left nostril and close the right nostril to exhale.  Inhale left and change over to exhale on the right.  Inhale right, then change your hand positioning and exhale left.

Nadi Shodhana is a great practice for reducing stress, removing toxins, and balancing energies.

To learn more and see pictures of the techniques, click the picture on the right.

Bhastrika

In Bhastrika, your diaphragm moves in and out like bellows stoking a fire. Take a deep breath in, drawing air into the diaphragm and expanding the belly.

The longyi yoga pants are inspired by the beautiful fabrics of Myanmar. Soft fabric with 4-way stretch made in the USA. High waist and inner pocket.
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Then breathe out forcefully through the nose, pushing the air out.  With the same force, pull the air in again.  Repeat this process ten times then take a break with normal breath.  Then take another 4 rounds of bhastrika breath.  This practice can be done with increasing speed as you become more familiar with it.  Also, once you are comfortable, try bhastrika through one nostril at a time.

Bhastrika removes toxins and strengthens the nervous system.  It increases the metabolism and clears out the airways.

Kapala Bhati

Kapala Bhati is similar to bhastrika, except the inhale is casual rather than forced.  Inhale naturally then exhale by contracting the abdominal muscles, pushing the air out.  The inhale will be a natural reaction to the forceful expulsion of breath.  Repeat 10 times then take a break with normal breathing before continuing on to another round.

Kapala Bhati energizes the mind and clears the airways.

Kali

Kaliasana: meaning, methodology, and breath-workKali breathing is great for bringing heat and energy into the body.  There are a few variations on this breath.  Click the photo to learn more about the goddess Kali and building energy like she does.

 

Much of this information can be found in the Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha book if you’re interested in further reading.

DIY bolster! Step by step instructions for how to make a yoga bolster, including photos and standard dimensions. Also, some restorative poses to try with this yoga pillow #bolster #yogabolster

DIY Bolster: how to make a yoga pillow for super yummy poses

DIY bolster! Step by step instructions for how to make a yoga bolster, including photos and standard dimensions. Also, some restorative poses to try with this yoga pillow #bolster #yogabolster

[Just so you know this post contains affiliate links]

Yoga bolsters are great props, especially for restorative and yin poses.  They’re also nice to sit on for meditation.  If you don’t have a shop to buy one in your area or if you want one on the cheap, you can make a bolster on your own.

 

Materials for your bolster

  • fabric
    • one large piece 28″ by 18″ plus seam allowance
    • two small pieces 6″ by 3″ plus seam allowance
  • stuffing
  • sewing supplies (thread, sewing machine or needle, scissors, etc)

 

How to sew your bolster

  1. The Shanti (Peace) Women's Yoga Tank Top is a colorful reminder of the sanskrit mantra meaning peace
    Also check out our yoga shop 🙂

    Cut your fabric to size, don’t forget to leave some extra room for seam allowance

  2. Pin then sew the long sides of the big piece of fabric together, with the right sides of the fabric together
  3. Pin one small pieces onto an open ends of the large piece (which is now a tube)– if the corners don’t match perfectly, it will be an ovular end, which will also work
  4. Sew the small end piece into place
  5. Repeat with the other end piece, but leave an opening for the stuffing rather than sewing all the way around
  6. Turn the pillow right-side out
  7. Stuff it FULL (you want a nice firm base to support your yoga poses)
  8. With a needle and thread, stitch up the opening you left for stuffing

For a pillow case

Amazonite and Rudraksha Mala Necklace- 108 Hand-knotted beads
Also see our malas and yoga wear on Etsy

Follow the same steps as the pillow itself, except you will need slightly larger fabric (e.g. 30″ x 19″ and 7″x 4″) so the case can fit around the pillow.  Also, rather than sewing closed the long side, install a closure like a zipper or buttons.  Later, when you add the second end, you can seal it all the way up rather than leaving a hole for stuffing.

How to use the bolster

7 Restorative Poses to relax and rejuvenateCheck out some poses to try with your bolster in this post on restorative yoga by clicking the image on the right.

 

 

 

 

 

DIY bolster! Step by step instructions for how to make a yoga bolster, including photos and standard dimensions. Also, some restorative poses to try with this yoga pillow #bolster #yogabolster

What to look for in a yoga class to find your favorite teacher, style OR become a better instructor

Yoga Teacher’s Eye: what a yoga instructor can learn at a yoga class

Things to think about in a yoga class to find your favorite class or style OR learn to be a better instructorThings to observe in a yoga class

Here are a few concepts you can keep an eye out for in class if you are learning about teaching yoga.  These aspects can also help you find your favorite teacher or style of yoga if you are trying different classes.

  • style– along with the style of yoga, how does this instructor interpret it?  e.g. Is it classic vinyasa or a little slower?  Is it heavy on lunges? Do they hold the poses for a long time or flow freely between asanas?  Did they bring in a few poses from another style of yoga?
  • personality– how does the teacher add their own flair to the class? What attributes do they bring to the class that make it different from another class in the same style of yoga?
  • voice– what is the quality of the instructor’s voice?  e.g. Are they loud enough? Is their voice gentle and soothing?  Is it firm and encouraging? Does it inspire you to add energy to your poses?
  • cues– how does the instructor describe the poses and transitions?  Does it give you a new way of thinking about the pose?  Is there an alignment tip you hadn’t heard before?  Is it clear what you need to do?
  • sequencing– how do the poses flow together?  Is there a connection between poses you hadn’t thought of before? Was the class leading to one particular pose?  Were there groups of types of poses (like standing then arm balances then abs?)
  • theme– how does the instructor bring it all together?  Did the class focus on one aspect of alignment? A concept, like propping vs. collapsing vs. yielding?  Was the class devoted to the idea of peace, balance, femininity? Or one of the Hindu gods? A full moon?
  • reflection– the last thing to think about is how the class affected you.  Did you like the style? Would you prefer to do things another way if it were your class?  What did you learn?  What take-aways can you find- about yoga, any of these concepts or yourself?

Putting it all into action- my experience at a retreat

A couple of weekends ago, 2 gal-pal yoginis and I headed down to the beach for a yoga retreat and some rest and relaxation in the sun.  Since I haven’t been to a yoga class in a couple of months, I was excited to listen and learn and of course move.  I practice and teach regularly, but it’s so nice to also receive some instruction and improve my own poses and practice.

What to look for in a yoga class to find your favorite teacher, style OR become a better instructorI think since yoga teacher training, though, I will likely never see a class in the same way.  I am forever filing away phrases for cues and noting things down about transitions and a teachers’ style and personality.  In ytt, our instructor warned us about this, saying, “you will never be the same again, but that’s probably a good thing.”

At the retreat, one of the most interesting things for me was the structure of the classes.  The teachers spent probably 75% of class in standing postures.  Especially in the early morning, that was hard for me.  I’m not exactly lazy, but I’ve never been the most energetic person either.  Also, it doesn’t go with the style yoga I’ve learned and embraced.  I know many people enjoy this active yang style of yoga, but I learned during that weekend that my style is a little calmer.

I think yoga is a sort of spectrum.  There are yogis who are there for the workout and yogis who are there for the spiritual practice and yogis who want some combination of the two.  The names of the yoga practices can help identify that sort of balance that a teacher offers or a practioner desires but there’s such a range within each style, so in a way the only way to know about any given class or style is to try it.

Something else I noticed at the retreat was the use of voice.  The main instructor had a very strong voice with clear, deliberate cues.  She was firm and energetic, like her class.  She used great imagery to describe the way the poses could be gracefully transitioned and practiced.

What to look for in a yoga class to find your favorite teacher, style OR become a better instructorThe instructor gave supportive guidance in the arm balance workshop- talking with each yogi individually about their struggles with gravity, strength, balance and fear.  She showed some humility in inversions as she modeled a pose that wasn’t her strongest, still giving valuable tips and demos.  I also noticed how incredibly important it is to be personable off of the mat with each of the students.  I admired these qualities in instructors.

At the retreat, we had early morning meditations.  The instructor encouraged us not to speak before mediation in the morning, which I really liked.  It made the practice more serene and organic. I noticed in the meditation, she didn’t give direction for our thoughts.  Some styles of meditation try for a mind completely free of thoughts, in which case no instruction is needed.  I found out I prefer a meditation where the mind is focused on one train of thought, like the breath or a mantra.  It is easier for me, but it also lends itself to a practice that feels more meaningful to me.

It’s interesting how seeing a style that was quite different from mine reinforced my understanding of my preferences and my yoga style.  I had a great time and learned a lot, but much of it was about myself and my yoga.

“Yoga is not about touching your toes, it’s about what you learn on the way down.” -Judith Hansen Lasater