Yoga On The Go

Yoga On The Go…

Easy tips to help you stay committed, consistent, and at home in your yoga practice when you’re abroad


The yoga sutras teach us that the level of achievement we will receive from our practice depends on the intensity with which we bring ourselves forth. Sutra 1:22 says The time necessary for success depends on whether the practice is mild, medium or intense. The Sutras also tell us that we must practice earnestly and consistently (Sutra 1.12). (The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Sri Swami Satchidananda).

In other words, these practices only work when we do! Yoga requires us to sometimes put the practice first, to catch ourselves when we’re making excuses not to get on our mats, and to cultivate consistency and follow through amidst our busy lives. In the throws of weekly schedules, this task is already a challenge for some.

So, when things are really shaken up (like when there is family in town, and you just can’t get to class— or when you’re literally across the globe), how do you remain steadfast in your yoga ritual?

As a traveling yogi I have found a few helpful solutions to this conundrum… Throughout my career I have spent weeks at a time in hotel rooms in foreign countries, have woken up early for 5am flights, and have been sleep deprived and jet lagged before teaching 4 hours of workshops. The title may sound luxurious, but sometimes it takes all the gusto I’ve got just to keep going on with a smile. And the amazing thing is this: I could never do this without my practice. The act of coming to my mat, and into my heart by way of the breath…. there is no cup of coffee (even in Italy) that can do the same thing.

Here are my best tips to keep you consistent when you’re on the go. You can use these practices in your everyday life at home, when daily life is shaken up, or when you’re traveling short or long term.

  • Invest in a light weight yoga mat – Make sure you pack a mat in your bag! There are many travel mats that are under 1lb, and super easy to pack in a carry on. Make this item as necessary as your tooth brush. When you arrive in your hotel room, lay it out in a welcoming place as you are putting away your clothing and toiletries. When you wake up the next morning, step on your mat and commit to staying put for at least 15 minutes.

 

  • Keep your practice simple – Not sure what to do when you’re practicing on your own? Find familiar patterns of movement, and make those your ritual. Sun Salutations, Gentle Core Work, Supine Twists… Just begin moving, and see where your body takes you. If you are not confident creating your own flow, there are literally thousands of online and digital classes to follow along with! (I have a few here)!

 

  • It’s all about the breath – Whether you’re sitting still or scurrying through train depots, your breath is always, always, always available as an object for your awareness to settle upon. A simple breath technique to use on the go is the Box Breath. To perform this breath, inhale on a slow count of four, hold for a count of four, exhale for a count of four, and hold out for a count of four. Repeat up to 12 times. To help your mind remain centered on your breath, you can internally say to yourself, “Breathing In, Breathing Out,” with your in and out breaths respectively.

 

  • Ideal times to practice – Before you let your mind jump into planning mode, remind yourself to settle down and tune in! Practice first thing, only after using the bathroom and drinking some water. It can be challenging to get back to your mat once you allow yourself to carry on with the day. To avoid bypassing practice, make it your first and last activity of the day. The mind and body usually experience a bit of stress while traveling, making deep sleep more challenging and less satisfying. Restorative yoga before bed will combat the wear and tear of travel, and will help you to rest well.

 

  • Keep a journal handy – Svadhyaya (self study) is an integral part of the yoga practice. Journaling while you travel is a fabulous way to document novel experiences, and to keep track of your inner experience. When we travel we are faced with so much new information, thoughts, and ways of being all at once. Keeping a journal will help you to sort through and make sense of these impressions.

 

  • If nothing else, Meditate – If you have time for none of the above, take (at very minimum) five minutes in the morning and in the evening to practice sitting meditation. Set your timer, and commit to sitting with ease for just five minutes. Tune in, listen deeply, release the tension of the body, and feel your aliveness. Your body, your breath, and your awareness are beautiful miracles that deserve your attention (no matter how busy you are). If you need assistance in meditation, there are a number of apps and podcasts that are available free of charge.

 

….et Voila! You are all set to roam the globe without leaving your yoga practice at home. Your body, mind, heart, and yoga teachers will all be glad you remained consistent 🙂

And Remember: The outer and inner journeys are yours to explore, learn and grow from. Wherever your path takes you, enjoy the ride.

 

Namaste,

XO,

Stacy

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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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

 

From Yoga To Harvard

When my children were young, I use to go on and on about the benefits of yoga and how it would help them. Funny thing, whenever I proselytized about yoga they hated it, but when I was being yogic, they loved it. Beyond the physical practice of yoga, I shared the deeper teachings that would help them throughout their life. There’s a very yogic poem by Max Erhmann who studied law and philosophy at Harvard University that encapsulates words to live by during the good times, challenging times and everything in between.  As my son who will be attending Harvard in the Fall of 2015 and my daughter who graduates from UCLA the same year embark on the next chapter of their lives, I hope that practicing yoga off the mat as well as on will serve them on their journey as well as it has served me.

 

Words To Live By

 

From Yoga

From Yoga

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;

To Harvard

To Harvard

for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.