The ABC’s of Teaching Yoga

The ABC’s of Teaching Yoga

An Effective Teaching Practice is as Easy as A-B-C


What is it that makes a yoga teacher skilled, effective, and relatable? In reality, there are as many answers as there are yoga teachers… but there are some key principles that should always be considered. These principles are the foundation of a teaching practice. Let’s call them The ABC’s of Teaching Yoga.
Surprisingly, the ABC’s are not always taught in teacher trainings, and many teachers find themselves stumbling through their classes when just starting out. But– the good news is that you don’t have to! I’ve outlined everything you need to know here.
As a yoga teacher, your teachings are an extension of your own embodied practice. So, I encourage you to first put the ABC’s into action on your own mat. From there it will be easy and natural to share them with your students.
Here’s a quick note on what we will cover:
A: Alignment and Awareness
B: Breath and Balance
C: Coordination and Connection
OK! Let’s dive into this Yoga Alphabet 🙂 Beginning, of course, with A!

A is for Alignment and Awareness:

Align The 3 Platforms of the Body:

Yoga Alignment is both intuitive and subtle, as well as intelligent and physical. Let’s take a look at the physical alignment principles, as most teachers will be guiding students through physical Asana.

The three platforms must be in proper alignment in order to have a safe and injury free practice over time. Many people get away with doing postures out of proper alignment for a long time- but then they pay for it with bad knees, achy backs and stiff necks! Alignment is as much about prevention of injury as it is about having an effective practice here and now.

As you guide your students through Asana, cue your students to Align–>Stabilize–>Elongate through the three platforms of the body. Tip: Start with the foundation! Always cue your students through postures from the bottom, up. (Meaning in inverted postures, you’ll begin with the neck and shoulders!)

Tadasana is a great posture for your students to examine their alignment at the beginning of class. It also serves as a good check-point throughout practice to see how things may have shifted.

Align the feet and ankles. Properly aligned feet and ankles will protect the knees from torquing, over-extending, or folding in an undesirable way.

Align the hips. This will guard the low back, and subsequently the rest of the lumbar and thoracic spine.

Align the shoulders. Shoulders in good alignment will protect the neck and cervical spine from injury.

It’s Not Yoga Without Awareness:

Awareness is truly what makes yoga Yoga. Without the element of focused awareness, yoga can easily become a glorified calisthenics practice. Here are some methods of inviting your students’ minds to tune-in to their bodies and tune-out what is not serving their practice. Tip: Do these exercises in the very beginning of class. Make it a priority to move awareness from the external to the internal.

  • Simple Guided Mindfulness: Sometimes busy minds are in need of shepherding. Create a channel for your students’ minds to flow with ease. This can be done through mindfulness of body (moving from head to toe), mindfulness of breath, or even a more creative visualization.
  • Deep Breathing: Never underestimate the power of a few deep breaths to calm the mind and reel in focus. The Nadi-Shodhana Breath is very balancing and calming, as is a simple 4-count in and out breath.
  • Just Sit: This can be challenging for some… But, the fruits of the practice are plentiful once the practice becomes established. Take the first five minutes of class just to sit comfortably in stillness with your students. It will benefit your students, and you!

One of my favorite ways to establish focus in my classes is with the recitation of MantraA Mantra is simply a repeated word, phrase, statement, or sound that can be voiced aloud or internally. The process of repetition provides focus, plasticity, adaptability and concentration to the mind; just as asana does for the body. I usually do this with my classes in a call-and-response method, in which I say a line of a chosen mantra (or chant) and the class repeats it back aloud. In my personal practice, I have found the use of a Meditation Mala to be very helpful in my awareness/meditation practice. You can find Meditation Malas in my shop HERE.

B is for Breath and Balance:

 

Breath Is The Best Barometer:

This is the constant thread of the practice. The breath is always, always, always available as an object of awareness. In every posture, from simple sitting meditation to the most complex twist or balance, the breath is there and willing to guide you deeper into awareness. Try it now! Close your eyes and try to follow your breath for three in-and-out cycles. You may be surprised how tempting it is to get off track- just do your best to keep coming back- it will always be there for you.

Teaching your students to be aware of their breath is essential. It is their best gauge in knowing if they are “pushing it” beyond a safe limit, or if they are slacking off when they should be “up-ing the ammo”. Tip: Offer reminders throughout practice for your students to check-in with their breath. Sometimes a suggestion to be aware is all a student needs. If students need more encouragement, up your own use of breath- exaggerate the sound of the Ujjayi Breath as you flow through Asana with the class.

Always do your best to cue every gross movement with breath. (Example: “Inhale, lift your arms overhead. Exhale, draw your low ribs in and extend your tailbone towards your heels.”)

Balance Is Key:

Yoga Sutra 2:46 states, Sthira Sukha Asanam. This can be translated into Each posture should be done with a balance of both effort and ease. This idea can be applied to each posture, as well as the trajectory for a full class.

Teach in a way that creates balance for your students by cuing postures sequentially. Reinforce the foundation of each pose before encouraging more challenge in complex postures. Even in a “challenge class” or “power yoga” class, you can offer a full warm up and cool down, so students feel both energized and relaxed at the end.

While many students are eager to fit themselves into the “perfect yoga body”, remind them that they are right where they are supposed to be. Encourage stability before flexibility, and tailor postures to fit the needs and balance the imbalances of the practitioners in your class.

Another Note on Balance: It is absolutely essential that, as a teacher, you are balanced in your own practice. Many teachers jump head-first into a heavy teaching schedule, leaving no time for their own practice. This leads quickly to burn out… and your students feel that! Make sure you are taking care of yourself, and doing your own practice diligently.

C is for Coordination and Connection:

The Art of Coordination:

Sometimes yoga can feel like a full-on body teaser, akin to rubbing your belly while patting your head! You know… you’re trying to balance on one foot, draw in Mula Bandha, focus your eyes, and breathe– all at the same time! Many students can feel overwhelmed by the complexity of it all. Remember that their coordination is being guided by yours.

As a teacher, learn to listen to your students’ subtle body language. Notice if they are hearing each cue you offer, and implementing them, before you move on to the next. Tip: Give Universal/General instructions prior to specifics. Gross motor movements should come before the fine-tuned energetics of each pose.

Always give your students enough time to integrate what you’ve said before moving on. It may take time before you, as a teacher, feel confident in your art of coordination- especially if you are teaching all-level classes. Overtime you will learn to read the room and coordinate your classes to fit the needs of those in front of you.

Connection, Inner and Outer:

As a yoga guide, you are helping your students find their own inner-connection. But it is not just your words and suggestions that they will listen to. Your own inner-connection becomes evident as you share with a group, as you speak aloud, and as you demonstrate postures.

Strive to deepen your own connection to your light within. Your personal practice becomes your teaching practice. In diving in deep to your own inner-space, you are subconsciously giving permission to your students to do the same. Tip: Share Your Energy and Authenticity.  Students want to learn from you.  Connect to your true voice.

Making an “outer” connection with your students can also help to transform their practice. Let your students feel fully seen and supported by making eye contact and personalizing cues when appropriate. Always make sure you are visible to your class, as many students are visual learners. Mirror your students if possible, so you remain face-to-face with the group.

 

 

 

Beyond The ABC’s….

A little bonus for those of you who are ready to take your teaching practice all the way to Z… Because the true art of teaching is more than mastering a few skills. It takes an honest commitment to the practice, willingness to evolve, and the ability to listen to the needs of your students. To effectively transmit the embodied teachings of yoga, practice being a teacher, not just an instructor.

Instructor VS. Teacher

Instructor: Passes on knowledge usually in a scripted manner, similar to reading from a curriculum, and may not have true understanding of what or why. They likely think, “this is how I was taught to do it,” without questioning.

Teacher: Understands the how and why behind the material, and presents material to meet students where they’re at. They modify their teaching to address different learning styles, and to engage every student. Material is never passed on without knowing why – for safety, for tradition, for challenge and self-growth, etc. 

Bonus Material!

In Application:

Included here is an example Asana Sequence to show how the ABC’s can be directly implemented into the flow of a class:

Begin in Tadasana: grounds students in alignment and awareness from the foundation

Open with Breath + Chanting: bring the body and mind away from the external and into the internal

Ardha Surya Namaskar: build up in repetition, with emphasis onalignment and breathv 

Flow through Dynamic Asanas: warm up thes and educate areas of the body that will be opening more deeply as class progresses

Surya Namaskar with Variations: add a twist/get creative, building up from simple to complex

Virabhadrasana-2 (Warrior 2): flow with externally rotated standing poses to open the hips and build strength in balance

Prasarita Padotanasana (Wide-Legged Forward Fold): bridge between right and left, elongate the muscles that have been strengthening and engaging

Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon): Cue with other options (use of props or different posture for less advanced students) with an emphasis on coordination

Garudasana (Eagle’s Pose): Move from simple to complex, with optional use of props

Svarga Dvijasana (Bird of Paradise): Continue to challenge coordination and balance

Bakasana (Crow Pose): Give options to keep the class connected and not lose the flow of the practice. Note: Know if you are turning it into a “workshop” or regular class on the schedule. There’s a difference…

Backbends: simple to complex. Be inclusive!

Seated and supine poses: restore the body and calm the nervous system before savasana

Full Savasana: Encourage your students to completely let go, and give into the deep rest they have been working towards all practice

Closing: One of the best times to deepen connection to the practice and to something bigger than the self.

 

 

Definitions from Oxford English Dictionary:

Alignment: Arrangement in a straight line, or in correct or appropriate relative positions.

Awareness: Knowledge or perception.

Breath: An inhalation or exhalation of air from the lungs.

Balance: An even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady. Stability of one’s mind or feelings.

Coordination: The ability to use different parts of the body together smoothly and efficiently.

Connection: A relationship in which a person, thing, or idea is linked or associated with something else.

 

 

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Yoga for Athletes : From the Mat to the Court

Yoga for Athletes

Taking Your Practice from the Mat to the Court


 

Last Thursday I was gifted the opportunity to meet with about 50 high school basketball players through West Coast Elite San Diego . WCE is directed by one of the top basketball coaches in the country, Sterling Jones. Sterling trained my son Tommy from the time he was in middle school, and continues to work with him when he is home on break from Harvard. 

Tommy McCarthy of Harvard VS. University of Kansas

I’ve seen through my children, as well as through my own experience, the kind of camaraderie that forms through the challenges of training. Trust and intimacy evolve naturally as teammates (and coaches) witness one another breaking through mental and physical barriers. You gain a deep respect, and often adoration, for those you see grow, and for those who see you grow through the process.

 

Paired with camaraderie, however, is often a big dose of competition, extreme rigor and pressure to excel, leaving many athletes overly sore, burnt out, or full of anxiety (which all translate into an impaired game). This is why I’ve found it so important for athletes to supplement their intense training with practices that offer balance, and an opportunity to work – alone or as a team – in a less goal oriented, high pressure way.

Yoga, I’ve found, is the perfect supplement.

So, let’s go back to Thursday when I met with dozens of young, high energy, tight, sore, and rigorous athletes… I came out to help these boys develop greater muscular balance in the body and learn how to discipline their mind through focus and concentration. 

They were all attentive, respectful, and along for the ride. There was also an element of hilarity as they were moaning and groaning with every stretch… But, this just confirmed it even more! Athletes, who are so used to go-go-going strong all the time, need the practice of slowing down and listening.

The result of a balanced approach to training is agility, calmness during stressful situations, ability to move and react quickly, intuitive efficiency, and stronger teamwork!

 

The boys were extremely receptive to the lessons, and I can’t wait to see how they apply what they learned in their game.

 

If you are a yoga teacher working with athletes, or an athlete doing your own practice, take these thoughts into consideration:

1. Use Your Breath First : Athletes are often used to moving from their “outer” body first, without much consideration for the feeling or deep rooted cause of the action. In yoga, the movement comes as a result of the breath, so each posture is formed from the inside-out. With long, deep, full breaths you can move deeper into a stretch in a safe way. In most sports the breath speeds up, but in yoga the breath stays slow, even and rhythmic.

2. Find Your Edge : In yoga, “the edge” is the place where you’re working at the top of your body’s ability on any given day. If you worked any less, you’d be slacking off; any more, and you’d be risking injury. Only you know where your edge is, so take the time to listen carefully to what your body is saying from pose to pose. Practicing “the edge” helps athletes struggling to balance ambition in their lives, and can be a potent remedy to the perfectionist mentality.

3. Change The Mental State : Many athletes deal with judgment, competitiveness and criticism on a regular basis. This can facilitate and contribute to stress. The yoga practice helps to counter this type of training, as it is deeply personal and should be self enhancing. Yoga is a time to let go of being a goal-oriented competitor and just be present in the process of where you are today.

4. Use Everything, Overuse Nothing : Yoga teaches a balance between Strength and Surrender- both mentally and physically. In the body, for example, notice how you can contract an opposing muscle from the one being stretched, by pulling it closer to the bone. i.e.: contract and lift the kneecap and quadriceps toward the top of the thigh and inward toward the femur to open the hamstrings.

5. Don’t Envy Flexibility / Show Compassion : Flexibility comes to people in varying rates. Some athletes experience a steep learning curve in increasing flexibility. A focused practice of utilizing the breath while stretching muscles may be brand new. These athletes need to be reassured that it takes time and consistent effort to get results. Be careful not to compare flexibility. For many it takes years to achieve a supple, flexible body. It is not easy to be flexible if you train. Training makes you tight! You have to work hard to get tight, so don’t be embarrassed by it.

 

Whatever you play and however you train, I hope you are able to apply these yogic lessons to your practice. There is value in intense training, and value in slowing down. Ultimately, work for balance in your life so that you can play at your highest potential.

 

Happy practicing!

Stacy

 

Be Your Own Valentine

A Day of Self Love

Be Your Own Valentine


 

I am passionate about helping people create lifelong rituals which ensure their success, wellbeing and sustaining ability to thrive. Establishing healthy habits takes practice, persistence, and patience- whether it’s taking on a new diet, exercise regime, or adopting a new mindset.

The process of gaining lasting Self Love is no different. It takes time, practice, and many ups and downs to test if we’re really doing our homework.

Yes, love is work. Sometimes. But what better work could there be?

Honing the ability to love ourselves fully – no matter the external circumstance – is priceless. Self Love breeds contentment, joy, health, ability to be of service, and the ability to love others fully. It is only from offering ourselves love that we can offer it to others.

Remembering the importance (and vitality) of Self Love is especially important in times when society asks us to show our love with boxes of chocolates and flowers. Not that these things aren’t lovely… but they’re not L-O-V-E, Love. To truly experience Love, we must go past the image of love, and dive deep into the embodiment of love.

This state is cultivated from deep within, and only from within. To me, loving self is akin to looking within through eyes of love, a gentle heart, and a nurturing mind.

Below you’ll find some of my favorite Self Love Rituals. These are the practices that help me nurture myself, that give me care when ego says I’m not worth it, that nourish me so that I may nourish my family and students. They are by no means the only way to cultivate Self Love, but they are a few.

Feel free to take a full day going through all of these practices together; or just add in one per day, and feel how even a moment of offering yourself love makes such a world of difference.

1. Loving Kindness Meditation

My go-to, always, everyday. Love of any kind starts with Self Love. This meditation, practiced in three parts starts with self, then extends to an individual of choice, then to all beings. The order is not to create a hierarchy, but to validate the importance of giving within before giving abroad. I like to begin each morning with this meditation.

May my heart be filled with Loving Kindness.

May I be well.

May I be peaceful and at ease.

May I be happy.

(Repeat 2x, replacing “my/I” with “your/you” and then “our/us”)

2. Abhyanga + Hot Bubble Bath

Your body is your temple, and showing it a little love will go a long way. Taking a moment to clean your body and pamper yourself with pleasure is a beautiful act of Self Love. Immerse yourself in a hot bubble bath, with candles, your favorite calming music and essential oils. Then, for a few minutes, slather melted coconut oil over your entire body- don’t miss an inch! Tend to the spaces that normally don’t get looked at. Massage away tension. I promise you’ll feel good… and your skin will love it.

3. Take Time to Do Your Practice

Rid of what is not serving you, and make space for what you love. If you have four appointments scheduled in a day, but aren’t taking 10 minutes to care for your body and mind- rethink how you’re prioritizing your Self Love. Reschedule an appointment, and instead go take a yoga class, call a girlfriend to have lunch, close your eyes and listen to your breath… When we are over scheduled and overwhelmed, we simply can not offer our best selves. Quality over Quantity. Work can wait, but habitually not taking care of your body will eventually mean that you can’t work at all.

4. Nourish Your Body

Eat well. Feed your body beautiful foods. Feed yourself lovingly. Be aware of what you consume. Have a sensual experience with your food by eating slowly, and savoring all the flavors, textures and subtleties of your cuisine. Don’t eat on the go. Eat purposefully, graciously, and with ease. Your body will better assimilate the nutrients of your food, your digestion will improve, and you’re weight will very likely balance out on its own.

Try this little something extra for you sexy food loversBeaming Cafe’s Sexy Mayan Smoothie! I was more or less obsessed with this smoothie when it was first launched. It’s perfectly rich, a little spicy, gives a nice boost to your heart health, and invigorates the senses! Blend all ingredients in a blender or Vitamix- Savor and Enjoy!!

 

Sexy Mayan Smoothie:

1 cup almond milk – homemade sprouted or organic boxed

1 date

1 T Beaming superfood plant protein (with or without greens)

2 T cacao powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp cayenne

1 cup frozen banana

1/4 tsp sea salt (optional)

1/2-1 cup ice

(GF, V)

 

 

Ok. There you have it. A few of my all time favorite Self Love Rituals. Now it’s up to you to make space for Self Love in your heart by doing your practice.

Sending you all lots and lots of love.

Namaste,

Stacy

 

Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodha

Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodha

In a media world – How do we practice yoga authentically?


I have a friend who is just starting his yoga journey. He began practicing yoga to improve his health, but when he looks at yoga on social media he’s left with the impression that yoga is only about touching his toes, twisting into a pretzel, or hand-standing on a perilous cliff… Encouraging, right?

I think he’ll find some solace in this….

The research is valid that a consistent practice of yoga can relieve back pain and lower blood pressure; and the most recent study published in Frontiers in Immunology suggests that yoga and mediation can actually “suppress inflammation-promoting genes and genetic pathways, and can actually undo the physical and mental effects of stress, and reduce the risk of disease, at the genetic level.”

This is the yoga that yogis have practiced for centuries, and is detailed in the second verse of Patanjali’s yoga sutras: Yoga Chitta Vrtti Nirodha (Yoga ceases the fluctuations of the mind). The ancient practice of yoga is not about touching your toes, it’s about liberating your mind from the redundant, recycled, unnecessary thoughts that constantly pass through our heads.

The power of yoga is its ability to connect us to the deepest part of our inner self so that we may finding lasting health and peace. When we heal the mind, we heal the body.

The past decade has seen the packaging of an ancient practice in a way that makes it accessible and attractive to an emerging yoga community. The modern yogi’s challenge, then, is staying faithful to the antiquity and integrity of the teachings, not slipping into commercialism or diluting the practice.

 

So. How can you make sure you’re really practicing yoga, and not just glorified calisthenics?

 

For me, I practice authentically by practicing awareness of mind. If my mind is racing, competing, or judging the person on the mat next to me, I know I’m not doing my practice. If I am going over my to-do list for the day (or for the next three months), I know I’m not doing my practice. If I am still mulling over the guy that cut me off on the way to class, I am definitely not doing my practice.

But when, in the midst of the effort of each pose I am serene, focused, and full of breath, I know am doing my practice. When I choose to love my body, even when I’m tired, achy or injured, I am doing my practice. When I tune in and feel more than I judge and think, I am doing my practice.i

I come back to the teachings. I come back to the Sutras, like Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodha.

The real practice of yoga is deeply intimate. Only you, yourself, can truly tell if you’re immersed in the depths of stillness that come from complete surrender to experience. Only you know when your mind is still. And only you can attest to how that makes you feel… But I’d bet it makes you feel pretty darn good. I bet you breathe a little easier, that your heart rate normalizes, that you sleep better at night, that your injuries heal faster…

So, don’t worry about what the social media yogis are doing. They have their practice to do- and you have yours.

Yoga is so much more than handstands, and so much more than a weekend get-away. It’s a lifelong commitment to bettering yourself, a constant inner-looking (Svādhyāya), a daily remembering of the power of your thoughts, and lasting peace that comes from the stillness of the mind.

Yoga Chitta Vrtti Nirodha. Yoga is stilling of the fluctuations of the mind.

 

Do The Twist – Bharavadjasana – Simple to Complex

Do The Twist!

Bharavadjasana – Simple to Complex


 

Just as important as backbending and forward folding, twisting is an integral part of a balanced yoga practice. A well balanced practice will take the body in all directions available, so that you end feeling balanced and whole.

For some, however, twisting brings up many concerns. If shoulders, low back, or hips are tight, it’s likely a challenge to twist in a way that feels good. And if you’ve ever had a neck or back injury, twisting may down right scare you…

But! The good news is this: Twisting is accessible for almost everyone! 

You don’t need to go into the deepest expression of a pose to reap the rewards. With the use of simple modifications, props and good instruction, you’ll be doing the twist in no time.

Before we jump into posturing, let’s review some of the benefits and fundamentals of twisting:

Twisting the body is a little like ringing out a wet towel- the process of rotation helps to squeeze out toxic fluids and make space for new, fresh fluids to take their place. In this way, twists detoxify the body. Incorporating twists into your daily practice will increase your spinal flexibility and strength, give more dynamic strength to your core muscles, create more space for breath, and will actually help to “ring out” your internal organs (aka: healthier digestion, more regular bowel movements, and easier processing of nutrients).

Twisting postures range from simple to complex. Keep in mind that twisting is all about elongating (2/3 Lengthening, 1/3 Twisting)! As you twist, lengthen gently with your inhales, and then rotate gently with your exhales. Remember that you can’t move into a twist if there is “no room”.

*Please Also Note: Contraindications to twists include bulging or herniated disks, sciatica, severe scoliosis, any back or neck injury that is upset by twisting movements, pregnancy, menstruation. Always listen to your body. If there is any glimpse of pain in a posture, do not practice it in that moment. Consult an experienced yoga teacher, physical therapist or physician should you need further guidance.

One of my favorite twisting postures is Bharavadjasana. This seated twisting pose opens up the low back, hips and shoulders all in one, and acts as a great example of how to modify any twisting pose to suit your ability.

 

 Bharavadjasana, Simple to Complex:

 

 

 

Variation A: Seated on a Block / Front leg in Sukhasana variation / No bind of arms

When you need to focus on gently opening up the back and hips, and elongating the spine, this is the variation for you. Sitting on the block will give space to those with less range in their hips, and will help keep the pelvis in proper alignment. As you twist, take the opposing hand to the thigh of the front leg. The back hand will act as a reminder to lift (hint: do NOT dump your weight onto this hand- this will throw off the alignment of your shoulders and bring unwanted lateral flexion to the spine).

 

 

 

 

Variation B: Seated on Mat / Front leg in Sukhasana / Bind of back arm to front arm

This variation is for those whose hips and low back feel comfortable seated directly on the mat. (hint: both sit-bones will be evenly weighted, and the pelvis in proper alignment). As you twist, the opposing hand will meet the front thigh, while the back arm will gently internally rotate from the shoulder in order to wrap around the mid-back. The back hand will meet the front arm, just above the elbow crease. (hint: keep your shoulders opening gently away from the heart center, and breathe as evenly as possible into both sides of the lungs).

 

 

 

 

Variation C: Seated on Mat / Front leg in ArdhaPadmasana / Full bind of arms

The final variation of Bharavadjasana is for those with open hips and shoulders; whom need a little more intensity from their seated twist. The front leg is bound in ArdhaPadmasana, offering greater opening to the front hip (hint: as in the previous variation, make sure both sit-bones have even placement on your mat). As you twist, the opposing hand will reach to the front knee, while the back hand will reach for the bound foot. Some find this connection at the big toe, and others can reach around the full foot. (hint: use your inhalations to consciously lengthen, while keeping the pelvis weighted, and the exhalations to gently deepen the twist).

 

 


There you have it, yogis.

Get on your mat + Happy Twisting!

With Love + Namaste,

Stacy McCarthy

 

 

 

How Fast Are You Aging?

Do you remember the first time you realized your body was “aging”?

Maybe it started in your thirties with a few more aches and pains in the morning. A tendency to get tired earlier in the day. The first signs of wrinkles around your eyes. A memory not quite as sharp as it used to be.

As the years have progressed, those little twinges have probably gotten more frequent. And if you’re like most people, you brushed it off as a “normal” part of the aging process… just something that happens when we get older.

The thing is, you don’t have to give in to the frailty, disease, and memory issues associated with aging. These symptoms are not “inevitable.” They are signals that your body needs something.

When it comes to aging, we’ve been fed a load of unsubstantiated assumptions our entire lives. But emerging research from top experts suggests that we can have all the advantages of youth, well into our later years.

That means a lean, strong, flexible body….supple, smooth skin….. a brain that is sharp… energy to last all day… and an immune system that provides powerful protection against illness.

We are a body-oriented culture. We judge ourselves by our appearance and our body’s ability to perform. When our bodies change—as they inevitably do—our self-worth goes with them, for better or for worse.

In Siddhartha, a novel about enlightenment and self-discovery the prince, Siddhartha, ventured out of his palace for the first time, he was shaken by his first glimpses of a person bent with age, a person wracked with illness and the body of a person who had died. Seeing the inevitable path of all our bodies to our final demise caused him to inquire into how he might transcend the suffering he had witnessed. This led him to realize that in order to transcend suffering, he had to transcend his attachment to and identification with the body. He had to look deeper, beyond the pleasures and suffering of the body, for lasting happiness.

This is what our yoga practice teaches us. Any person in a body who is practicing Yoga is living in a yoga body, regardless of age, build, gender or flexibility. And the deeper practices at the heart of Yoga—meditation—require a body simply as an anchor for awareness. 

I think most people when coming upon my age may scour, but I’m truly looking forward to the unfolding lessons, increasing self awareness and growing self love that comes with aging. I’m reminded that this is the start of a brand new year- and that there are still infinite opportunities for growth along my journey. Within every moment lies a miracle. And within every burden lies a blessing. 

Namaste~

Balancing the Chakras : A Simple Guide

Meditations, Mantras and Movement to Keep Your Chakras In Balance

What sets Yoga apart from other calisthenic routines?

The ancient yogis knew of something beyond the outer shell of movement- something deeper than muscles and bones- yet something just as important to shaping our physical health.

What they looked at and sought to keep healthy through their physical routine was the Chakra System.

So, what’s a… Chakra??

A Chakra (literally Wheel in Sanskrit) is an energy center or wheel of energetic movement in the body. It is part of the body’s subtle anatomy; and though subtle, has major effects on the gross, physical body and mind.

There are 7 major Chakras, which run along and align the spinal column, ranging from the base of the pelvic floor to the crown of the head.

Each of these 7 Chakras has a specific energetic and emotional quality, associated color, sound, and deeper meaning.

Often when we feel out of balance- angry, saddened, over-whelmed, exhausted- it is a sign that our deeper, more subtle self is in need of some serious restoration. Therefore, a great way to target the root of our imbalances is to look at the Chakras, and bring them back into balance first.

Below, you’ll find a simple guide to the Chakras, and how to bring them back into balance:

MULADHARA (ROOT CHAKRA):

Location: At the base of the spinal column, centered in the Pelvic Floor / Energetic Qualities: Stability, Security, Safety, Fear & Fearlessness / When you’re out of balance: You may feel unsafe and fear-laden

Bring back into balance with:

Meditation: Lying on your back, with your hands on your low belly, imagine red light charging through your spine down to the base, igniting new life and energy with each breath.

Mantra: “I fearlessly take on the challenges of life. Trusting my inner-guide, I face the unknown with love.”

Movement: Utkata Konasana (Goddess Pose). This posture requires strength, poise, and confidence. Open your heart wide and feel the power of your lower body. Breathe deeply all the way into the Pelvic Floor.

 

SVADISTHANA (SACRAL CHAKRA):

Location: Just above the pubic bone, below the naval / Energetic Qualities: Creativity, Sexual Energy, Personal Expression / When you’re out of balance: You may feel “stuck” or uninspired

Bring back into balance with:

Meditation: Practice simple seated meditation, follow your breath and soothe your mind into stillness. Creativity is the product of a clear mind. Sometimes just finding some peace and quiet is all you need.

Mantra: “I am available for creativity to flow through me with abundance and ease. I reflect the creation of all life, and recognize the gift of creation within me.”

Movement: Virabhadrasana (Warrior Pose). This posture requires strength and ease, and challenges the muscles of the pelvic floor and abdomen to maintain a long, supple spine. It sparks awareness and stillness. Root firmly, and maintain a soft gaze.

 

MANIPURA (SOLAR PLEXUS CHAKRA):

Location: At the Solar Plexus, between the naval and the breast bone / Energetic Qualities: Personal Power, Will, Decision Making / When you’re out of balance: You may feel uncertain, weary, uneasy about a decision

Bring back into balance with:

Meditation: Practice Kapalabhati Breath (Skull Shining Breath). Breathe in deeply through the nose into the belly, let out quick exhalations through the nose, as the navel “snaps” back toward the spine. Before trying this on your own, ask a teacher for proper instruction and safety guides!

Mantra: Simply state, “I am” with each inhalation. With each exhalation, bring your awareness to your physical presence, stating “here”.

Movement: Plank Pose. Yes, a simple posture to refine your core muscles and define the strength of your abdomen. Gently draw your navel toward the spine, reaching through your crown, broadening across your chest, and pressing out through your heels.

 

ANAHATA (HEART CHAKRA):

Location: At the heart center / Energetic Qualities: Loving-Kindess, Acceptance of Self and Others, Compassion / When you’re out of balance: You may feel unloved or unloving, disconnected, impatient

Bring back into balance with:

Meditation: Simple sitting, with hands on your heart. Breathe into your heart space, filling it up with air and letting it flow out. Practice until you feel your chest and shoulders softened and available to move freely.

Mantra: Loving-Kindness “May my heart be filled with loving kindness, may I be well, may I be peaceful and at ease, may I be happy”

Movement: Ustrasana (Camel Pose). This backbend opens the heart, strengthens the back muscles and invites you to breathe into the chest and ribs. Keep the neck and throat soft, and use the stability and strength of your legs to ground.

 

VISHUDDHA (THROAT CHAKRA):

Location: In the throat / Energetic Qualities: Verbal Expression, Speaking our Highest Truth, Communication / When you’re out of balance: You may feel unable to say what you need to, afraid to share your truth

Bring back into balance with:

Meditation: Recite “AUM” with clarity, taking equal time to pronounce each sound “A-U-M”. Don’t be afraid to make noise! The point is to hear yourself, and to get past the discomfort of opening up.

Mantra: “I speak my truth with confidence and clarity. I listen deeply to myself and to others, and communicate with ease.”

Movement: Matsyasana (Fish Pose). Try this assisted with two blocks, one underneath the scapula, and one supporting the head. Lengthen through your toes, and allow your throat space to open as you relax the face and breathe.

 

AJNA (THIRD EYE CHAKRA): 

Location: Just at the Pineal Gland (Third Eye), set between the brow bones / Energetic Qualities: Insight and Intuition / When you’re out of balance: You may feel lost or untrusting of yourself

Bring back into balance with:

Meditation: With eyes closed, bring your inner awareness to the place between your brow. Keep your inner gaze alive and bright, as practice maintaining focus on this area.

Mantra: “I am connected, at peace, and present.”

Movement: Balasana (Child’s Pose). Allow your head to rest fully, either on the floor, or on a bolster or block. Soften the muscles of the face, and allow the gently pressure of the position bring your awareness to your third eye.

 

SAHASWARA (CROWN CHAKRA):

Location: At the crown of the head, rising up like a “Thousand Petal Lotus Flower” / Energetic Qualities: Trust in your Highest Self, Connection to Self, to all things, and ultimately to the Essence of your True Nature / When you’re out of balance: You may feel lonely, unsupported or irrelevant

Bring back into balance with:

Meditation: Practice inhaling and exhaling bright white light in through your crown. Inhale, white light filters in the body all the way down the spine. Exhale, white light leaves through the crown, shooting back out and creating a field around you.

Mantra: “AUM. I am one with all that is.”

Movement: Sirsasana (Headstand). Please consult a yoga instructor before attempting this posture. Grow through the spine, reach the tail and the toes upward. Use your foundation wisely, planting the forearms/hands firmly into the earth. Breathe deeply into the body, and keep a soft gaze.

 

 

Happy Balancing, Yogis!

With Love + Namaste,

Stacy

 

 

What is A Mala?

Ask my students, friends, or husband… it’s rare you’ll see me without one of my Mala Meditation necklaces on. And while I do love how they look, I don’t actually put it on for fashion.
While it would seem that a piece of jewelry is merely part of the material world, a Mala is about something much deeper. When worn with intention, the

 

Power of A Mala lies in historic and energetic qualities. I can honestly attest that my Malas have become an anchor for my practice and a reminder of mindfulness during my crazy work days.
For me, there are a few key distinctions between a Mala and a regular necklace:
  • A Mala, unlike a gold chain, is not designed to be flashy or to seek out external attention. It is a reminder to go within, to seek solace in one’s self, and to deepen one’s internal awareness while out in the world.
  • A Mala, unlike diamond earrings, is not a sign of class or privilege, but a representation of committed reverence and self work.
  • A Mala, unlike jewelry made form synthetic metals, is made from pure Rudraksha Seeds, which have unique conductive properties. These seeds have been honored for centuries as prayer beads, and so also carry an important historic symbolism of the yoga practice.
  • A Mala is inherently designed to support a meditation practice. The 108 beads, when followed carefully with each breath, offer about 35 minutes of focused meditation. And the large bead at the center, called a Bindu Bead (or Guru Bead), can be rubbed gently as a reminder for mindfulness during a busy day.
I believe that each individual should find for herself what tools help to deepen her own practice. For some it may be a Mala, for another it may be a single candle, or an Om charm, or a book of choice. There are many ways to go within, and many tools to help us get there.
Knowing the power of personal choice, I’ve chosen to offer a very special, limited offer for the next A Day of Namaste seasonal wellness retreat. For the first time, I am asking guests to pick their own unique, handmade Meditation Mala!
​​​​​​​If you’re interested in learning more about Malas, Yoga, Meditation, Cleansing, and are dying to begin Living Your Purpose, you must join me for ADON. Send me an email with any questions, or click HERE to learn more.

How To Start : Living Your Purpose

What does it really take to find your purpose?

You can’t force your purpose… What you’re meant to do will flow through you with ease, grace and abundance. And it absolutely will, if only you allow it to.

It will take deep work, inner-looking, and patience with yourself. It will take pushing through your fears and self-imposed boundaries.

And it will take letting yourself go freely into the flowing process of self-discovery.

You can think of it like this:

Your body and mind are channels which conduct energy. When these channels are clear, embodied energy can flow through you with ease- i.e.: whatever you’re desiring to become or create will manifest naturally.

Creating a clear channel through which energy can flow is the first step to honoring your ability to shine, to do what you love, and to live for your unique purpose. 

But…. how??

By doing your practice. Every. Single. Day.

The bottom line: Do your self-work. Practice loving your body, respecting your mind, and taking time to rest. Practice pushing through discomfort- in asana, in meditation, during your work day. Practice loving fully, practice compassion, practice peace and ease of mind.

It may sound silly, but being there for yourself will allow you to truly listen to what your soul desires.

And from there, you will begin to live for your purpose.

Maybe what you’ll discover isn’t what you thought you wanted when you were younger. Maybe it’s not being a CEO, or an astronaut, or the president.

Maybe you’ll find that your unique purpose is being a supportive spouse, a loving and attentive mother, a team player at work, an inspired entrepreneur, or a better steward of the earth.

No matter your end goal, you can only start from where you are right Here and Now. So, breathe, be here, and trust that you’ll discover your purpose as it unfolds.

How one yogi began living for her purpose…

Betsy’s Story:

Betsy is a dear friend and an alumni of my seasonal day retreat series, A Day of Namaste. After attending the last ADON, Betsy was inspired to ditch her limiting self-view and begin living for the purpose of her higher self! Her story is truly inspiring. In her second trimester of pregnancy, she was let-go from a company which was going through bankruptcy. Some fear, and a bit of an identity crisis took over, but then… something magical happened. In going with the flow, in listening to her soul’s desire, she realized that the job she thought would always support her was actually holding her back. And so she created her own lifestyle blog for Mamas and Mama-To-Be’s, called Beautiful With Baby. Read her story below, and check out her beautiful site!!

Betsy and I recently led a Mamaste Meditation Hike at Beaming Cafe Del Mar. We shared our favorite superfood concoctions for Mamas, and talked about what inspires us to live fully aligned with our purpose. I even shared the McCarthy family creed, which begins with our Family’s Purpose.

Here it is: McCarthy Family Purpose

The purpose of our family is to love and support each family member in achieving the fulfillment that comes from doing their best to fulfill their life purpose. maintaining high levels of integrity, and working to improve themselves each day.

And our: McCarthy Family Creed

  1. Today I give thanks for all that I am and all that I have.
  2. Today I treat everyone I see with love and respect.
  3. Today I focus on staying the paphto fulfilling my life purpose.
  4. Today I do my best in everything I do.
  5. Today I do my best to improve my knowledge, skills, health and attitude.
  6. Today I create abundance for myself and all those around me.

 

Photo courtesy of Beautiful with Baby

“I am so fortunate to have been able to attend one of Stacy’s A Day of Namaste retreats. The minute you are welcomed through the doors at A Day of Namaste, you can automatically sense that by the end of the retreat your mindset and daily routine will be shifted for a greater good. Going into my last retreat I was in a state of uncertainty in my career. At 5 months pregnant I was seeking to grow a side business that would allow my creative side to shine and be compensated for. During the retreat I was given the guidance, tools, and shift in mindset that has now led me to be going full throttle with my lifestyle blog, Beautiful With Baby. I am now being sought out by major beauty and apparel brands for partnership. A year ago I never would’ve put myself out there to welcome this kind abundance with the fear of rejection. This change was directly influenced from attending ADON. The education you receive at A Day of Namaste is full circle. Everything from a healthy diet, movement, and mindset are crucial to living your best life and reaching your goals. I also learned how to karate chop a piece of plywood in half at the last retreat. So cool. Hiiii-ya!” – Betsy B.