5 Tips for Your Yoga Practice: Connecting On & Off The Mat

By Shayla DiTolla

Committing to a regular yoga practice can be challenging, especially with the demands of our busy lives. While we all know how beneficial yoga is and how good we feel when we have a regular practice, sometimes the chaos of our days get us carried away. However, by following these five tips, you can begin to create a sustainable yoga routine and connect with yoga both on and off the mat.

  1. Set a realistic goal: Start by committing to a realistic goal that fits into your schedule. This could be as simple as committing to a 10-15 minute practice each day or attending a weekly yoga class. Once you’ve established a routine, gradually increase the duration and intensity of your practice.
  2. Create a dedicated space: Designate a space in your home or workplace for your yoga practice. This space should be free from distractions and clutter, and ideally, have natural light and fresh air. Having a dedicated space can help you stay focused and committed to your practice.
  3. Connect with a community: Join a local yoga community like Asheville Yoga Center or find an online community that aligns with your values and goals. Connecting with like-minded individuals can help provide motivation, accountability, and support for your yoga practice. Having a supportive environment also helps you overcome any self limiting beliefs that may be holding you back in your yoga practice.
  4. Incorporate yoga into your daily life: Yoga is not just a physical practice, it’s a way of life. Find ways to incorporate yoga into your daily routine, such as practicing mindfulness during your commute, taking a few deep breaths before a meeting, or practicing gratitude before bed. I love to use a thought journal before bed to record my gratitude, it’s always great to look back and see past entries for days when I am feeling down!
  5. Embrace the philosophy of yoga: Yoga is more than just a physical practice, it’s a philosophy that encourages us to live with compassion, kindness, and self-awareness. Embrace the principles of yoga both on and off the mat, by practicing non-judgment, mindfulness, and self-reflection.

By following these five tips, you can commit to a regular yoga practice and connect with yoga both on and off the mat. Remember that yoga is a journey, not a destination, and that the benefits of yoga come from consistent practice and dedication. A strong yoga practice helps you stay calm and grounded during the stress of everday life.

Spring Renewal: Yoga Practices to Care for Your Self & Environment

By Alex Rice

The full bloom of spring has arrived – the buds and birds greet us each morning and offer us their vibrancy and song. This time of birth in the macrocosm around us reflects the opportunity for rebirth and renewal within:

  1. We can practice ahimsa or non-violence with others, mother Earth, and also ourselves. When we notice thoughts of judgment or criticism, there’s an opportunity to return to the breath, witness those thoughts and emotions, and allow them to flower. This momentary gap enables us to choose how we respond – ahimsa lives in our breath, that dynamic and divine pulsation of inhalation and exhalation that we share with all living beings
  2. Practicing satya or truthfulness means being honest with others but also with ourselves. Are there aspects of your life, health, emotions or life dreams that you have been ignoring? It’s so easy in the busyness of modern day life and technology to be swept away with stimulation and distraction, swaying us from who we really are, what we really want, what serves our highest self and those around us. This is a time to come back to our truth and express it compassionately to others.
  3. Asteya (non-stealing) and aparigraha (non-possessiveness) align perfectly with this season of letting go – detoxifying and cleansing materially, physically, and emotionally, instead of accumulating more.
  4. Brahmacharya may be similarly interpreted as an opportunity for cleansing and purity, in whatever form that may look like for you – a seasonal Ayurvedic cleanse, a more consistent yoga practice on and off the mat, devoting a day to yourself free of technology and spending more time in nature, eating high pranic/sattvic foods, and breathing deeply. 

Consider starting with even just one of these yamas that you feel especially called to. Wishing you a beautiful month, and we hope to see you soon! 

You Already Know How: Yoga and Breathing

By Susan Kraft

Hello Asheville Yoga Community!

Did you know that Ada Limón, the extraordinary 24th Poet Laureate of the United States, loves yoga? And yet, in a recent On Being podcast, she laughed while sharing the following:

When I lived in New York City, my two best friends, I would always try to get them to go to yoga with me. And they would say, “I don’t want to go to yoga.” And I was like, “Why?” And they said, “I just don’t want anyone telling me when to breathe.”

I know, right?! Breathe in—do this. Breathe out—do that. Enough already!

Anyway: The breath. It’s personal and it’s political. It’s essential and luxurious. It’s energizing and calming. It’s the sound of our singing, the music of laughter and the very source of life. One thing that maybe it shouldn’t be, is a source of worry.

A couple of years ago, a student of mine at Brooklyn College confided, “I’d like to learn to meditate, but I just don’t think my breathing is very good.”

Yikes, talk about self-judgement! I wanted to hug her, but you know, Covid. Breathing.

Does this student’s concern resonate with you at all? If so, I’d like to offer some reassurance.

Since we breathe approximately 25,000 times per day, you’ve had a lot of practice and I’m guessing that you pretty much know what you are doing. If we really had to focus on doing it right, that would take a whole lot of micromanaging and be altogether exhausting. Mostly, like so many other things, it’s a question of getting out of our own way.

My wonderful anatomy teacher, Amy Matthews, offers a beautiful perspective on breathing in her book Yoga Anatomy. I invite you to read the following paragraph slowly, and then close your eyes for a minute or so and feel your breathing. Just that.

…in spite of how it feels when you inhale, you do not actually pull air into the body. On the contrary, air is pushed into the body by the atmospheric pressure…that always surrounds you…the energy expended in breathing produces a shape change that lowers the pressure in the chest cavity and permits the air to be pushed into the body by the weight of the planet’s atmosphere. In other words, you create the space, and the universe fills it.

You are shape change. You are the universe in a human body. You are perfect.

With love,


PS: If you are having difficulty with your breathing, Yoga can potentially help peel away layers of stress and patterns of holding. So can a hug. Why? Because hugs can calm the nervous system and when our nervous system is regulated, our bodies are more likely to function with ease.

PPS: I’m focusing on the breath all month long, so come check out my new class (Slow Flow and Meditation) Fridays at 6:00. I think it’s going to be just the right combination of elements to start your weekend right.

Let's Practice Together!

Warrior Breath: Embodying Archetypes

By Shala Worsley

How I learned about 'Warrior Breath'

A short time after I moved to Asheville, NC in 1996 I stumbled upon a little yoga practice room above an antique shop downtown. There was no sign outside advertising it as a studio or practice space. At the top of a narrow and creaking staircase there was simply a wooden bowl for donations. The room was dimly lit and I have a vague recollection of the floor being covered in shag carpeting. There were no yoga props. I don’t remember yoga mats; I think we were offered carpet remnant squares to sit on. When I entered the room, it was at full capacity with about 12-15 people already there waiting for the 2-hour practice to begin. The person leading the classes described his style as Hatha Yoga. I don’t remember that teacher’s name and haven’t crossed paths with him in over two decades. But his practices were potent and effective. If I met him today, I’d thank him for creating and holding a strong sacred space. And then I’d thank him for teaching me Warrior Breath.

What is Warrior Breath?

Warrior Breath is a method for embodying the archetype of Mars. When Mars is present in our lives, we feel full of vigor and courage. We’re ready to take action or stand up and fight for something important to us. Warrior Breath can be a supportive practice when we have the need to be forthright, bold, and assertive. In that little practice space above the antique shop we’d practice 108 rounds of Warrior Breath together, and then we’d sit quietly steeping in the collective power that filled the room.

How to use Warrior Breath

Warrior breath involves three simple parts:

 1. The use of Tse mudra from the Taoist Yoga tradition. The name translates as the Dispeller of All Darkness, as it is meant to cut through despair, depression, and anxiety. It’s done by curling the hands into fists in a particular way. 

2. Pulling the arms down from overhead on the exhalation in order to stimulate an energetic region on the side of the ribs which stimulates the Fire element. 

3. The empowering use of the sound “HA!” on each exhalation. The sound is meant to clear mental stagnation, fear, indecisiveness and replace it with confidence and courage to make a change or defend a boundary.

Want to Learn More? Check Out My Upcoming Workshop!

If you’re interested in more ways to fill yourself with the energy of Mars (The Sun, the Moon, Mercury, and Venus as well), then please join me for the upcoming workshop Astrological Archetypes & Yoga at AYC January 20-22, 2023. It will be a total pleasure to practice together.

Join us in January for Astrological Archetypes & Yoga with Shala Worsley

Kīrtan Chant

By Michael Johnson & Friends

अहिंसासत्यास्तेय ब्रह्मचर्यापरिग्रहाः यमाः ॥३०॥
ahiṃsāsatyāsteya brahmacaryāparigrahāḥ yamāḥ ॥30॥


“The restraints are: non-violence, truthfulness, to not steal, respecting boundaries and non-possessiveness.”

– Yogasūtra 2.30


ahiṃsā ≈ non-violence, disrupting harmful practices
satya ≈ truthfulness, not lying
asteya ≈ to not steal, respecting others property
brahmacarya ≈ respecting boundaries, chastity  
aparigrahāḥ ≈ non-possessiveness, not hoarding

Michael's  Bhāṣya (commentary)

Here is the first limb of Yoga. It is a set of skillful means (upāya) that we can adopt to create a space where we can practice Yoga. These five great vows (Mahāvrata) appear to have originated with the Jainadharma tradition c.600 BCE, yet have been adopted by many other traditions. In Yoga Philosophy, these vows are not be used as a way of being better than others (Virtue Ethics) or a goal in and of themselves (Consequentialism) or even rules that we must devote ourselves to (Deontology), rather we can choose to adopt them and create the space to practice Yoga (Tapas, Svādhyāya, Īśvara Praṇidhāna).

Here is a famous commentary on this sūtra from the Vyāsa’s Bhāṣya (c. 450 CE)

“Of these Ahiṃsā is to abstain from injuring any being, at any time in any manner. Truth and other forms of restraints and observances are based on the spirit of non-injury. They, being the means of fulfillment of non-injury, have been recommended in the Śāstras for establishing Ahiṃsā. They are also the best means of making AhiMsā pure. That is why it has been stated in the Śāstras: “As the Brāhmaṇa advances in the cultivation of the many virtues prescribed for him, he abstains from acts of injury to others due either to misapprehension or ignorance and thus purifies within himself the virtue of non-injury. Satya (truthfulness) is correspondence of speech and mind to fact, i.e. saying and thinking of what has been seen, heard or inferred. Words uttered for the purpose of communicating one’s thoughts to others are true provided they do not appear deceitful, delusive and meaningless to the listeners. The words should, however, be uttered from inflicting harm on creatures but for their benefit; because if they hurt others, they do not produce any piety as truth would, but only sin. By using such apparently truthful words (which hurt others) one gets painful consequences (or infernal region). Therefore, truthful words beneficial to all creatures should be uttered after careful consideration.

Asteya means unlawfully taking things belonging to others. Asteya is abstention from such tendencies even in one’s mind. Brahmacharya=Suppressing the urge of the sexual organ and of the activities of other organs leading to it. Aparigraha means to desist from taking or coveting things, seeing that getting and keeping them involve trouble, that they are subject to decay, that association with them causes mischief and that they beget malice. These constitute Yama or restraint.”

Come experience Community Kīrtan live at our studio!

Join us for an evening of inspiring Kīrtan and community with Michael Johnson and friends!

Open your heart with Bhakti devotion to enjoy the presence of community and celebrate the divine energy within. With music and devotion, we will create a space for sangha (community) with one another.

Everyone is welcome, no previous experience required.

All Donations will benefit the Asheville Yoga Center Teacher Training Scholarship Fund

*Donations will be accepted in-person at Asheville Yoga Center. Please bring cash or card with you!

Community Kīrtan

Hybrid (in-person/virtual)

Friday November 25th from

3-4:30pm by donation 

Understanding Bhakti Vinyāsa Yoga

By Michael Johnson

What is Bhakti?

Bhakti means devotion, a deep yearning to experience love in its purest form. According to Dr. Shyam Ranganathan, Bhakti is identical to Yoga as a basic ethical theory that originated in South Asia. Although it is often confused with Theism, a decolonized view of Yoga or Bhakti does not require any beliefs. By contrast, Bhakti Yoga is simply devoting ourselves to the universal ideal of Īśvara (being in control of the activities of our mind rather than being controlled by them). It is practiced with Svādhyāya (owning our own choices) and Tapas (the willingness to make better choices rather than be governed by our past). This is how Yoga is defined in the Yogasūtra 2.1, the root text for Yoga Philosophy. 

What is Vinyāsa?

In Yoga, vinyāsa is a transformative way of moving from where we are now toward where we want to be, while focusing on the process rather than grasping to specific outcomes. The word vinyāsa can be broken down into vi ≈ special, transformative and nyāsa ≈ ritual, practice. The physical practice of vinyāsa today is often associated with “flow yoga,” a technique that aims to align the movement and breath in a smooth, fluid way. 

Although people tend to fixate on the external specifics of practices such as the postures or Sun Salutations, they have little to do with Yoga. Genuine Yoga only uses such practices as a means to control the mental activities to be free of afflictions. For those of us who are unable to sit comfortably enough to practice Yoga in stillness, such meditative movements can offer an upāya (skillful means) to eventually be able to sit still with the impulse control to practice the inner limbs of aṣṭāṅgayoga.

Image Source: Le Minh Phuong via Unsplash.com

The Flow of Devotion

Bhakti Vinyāsa is a set of principles that can help us accept where we all are now and move with integrity from one posture to the next in a flowing yoga sequence toward optimal well-being. 

A Bhakti Vinyāsa class integrates mantra (resolution), prāṇāyāma (conscious breathing), pratyāhāra (somatic awareness), dhāraṇā (concentration) and dhyāna (the flow state) while moving through sequences carefully designed for all bodies that prepare us to be still for daily samādhi (profound meditation) practice. 

There are nine kinds of Bhakti mentioned in Nārada’s Bhaktisūtra. Come join my Bhakti Vinyāsa 5-day Intensive if you would like to learn them with me, September 5-9th (in-person or virtual). 

Want to Learn More? Check Out My Upcoming Workshop!

Visit Asheville Yoga Center this fall for an opportunity to join students and teachers of yoga who are ready to transform their understanding of yoga with practices of Bhakti, the flow of devotion.

This yoga teacher training, offered both virtually and in-person, will inspire the fundamentals of vinyasa flow yoga with a devotional aspect that will awaken the heart to compassion, love, and peace. All levels are welcome.

Join us beginning September 5th for Bhakti Vinyasa Flow with Michael Johnson. 

Giving Back with Yoga 

By Rosie Mulford

“Giving” is a funny thing.  It is like an endless well that just keeps on flowing and filling no matter how much it is used.  The word “purna” in Sanskrit means full. But more than full.  My teacher describes “purna” as holding a glass under the tap and water fills it to the top and then overflows.  This is what giving feels like. When we give, we feel complete and full. Perhaps it is because giving is that last piece of the puzzle. It is human nature; our True and Essential Nature! So many religions and self-help groups include an act of “giving” in their formula:

  •  The 12th step of AA is all about giving back. Having a spiritual awakening myself as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to alcoholics and practice these principles in all our affairs.
  • The Bible says, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10). It is in our service that all will see God’s grace in action as we demonstrate our faith. Service is the embodiment of Christian love toward others.
  • ‘Tzedakah’ is the Hebrew word for philanthropy and charity. It is a form of social justice in which donors benefit from giving as much or more than the recipients. This is so much more than a financial transaction, it also builds trusting relationships and includes contributions of time, effort, and insight.

In yoga, we often use the Sanskrit word “Seva” which is often translated as “service.” This goes beyond just the desire to help others, “seva” is taken from two words, “saha,” which means “with that,” and “eva,” which means “too.” Combined, the word “seva” it creates, “together with” and it means actions that create a collective uplifting by contemplating the needs of others.  It is a manifestation of compassion for others combined with a genuine desire to uplift those around you, without expectation of a “reward” for your efforts.

The practice of seva is a path to self-realization, which is the essence of a yoga practice! When we engage in selfless action and have nothing to gain by performing acts of Seva through our actions, we transcend our individual self and move into a higher level of consciousness. Therefore, Seva is done with no expectation of reward nor any acknowledgment of the work that is done. We serve for the sake of serving — not for any other reason. As a matter of fact, my rule is that if you are “caught” committing an act of kindness, then it doesn’t count, so you must do another one in which no one sees you. 

Seva without expectation of recognition can be difficult in this human experience!  One of my own reasons for teaching yoga classes is so that I can learn. It is said that in teaching, you learn and in giving, you receive.  I joke with my students that whatever we are focusing on in class is whatever I am personally trying to learn as well because we are forever students in our own practice.

If you want to learn something, teach it.  If you want to receive happiness — act happy towards others, if you want to receive kindness, treat others kindly. In giving, you receive ten-fold and more.

My homework for you this Holiday Season is to commit random acts of kindness! Here are some examples of giving without expectations of recognition or receiving anything back:

  • buy coffee for the person behind you
  • bring in the neighbors trash can
  • stop and talk to an unhoused person, share food if they are hungry
  • write an anonymous note to someone and fill it with kind words about them
  • Donate to local charities, whether with cash or resources like food, clothing, toys, etc. 

We are also collecting donations in the studio for an Open Yoga Closet at AYC. This open yoga closet is to help bring yoga to the greater community. We will be collecting yoga donations at our studio each month to be shared during a monthly open yoga closet weekend. On this open yoga closet weekend, folks may come into the studio lobby and browse our selection of yoga donations for free. This is a wonderful opportunity to give back to others as well as help bring yoga to those in need. 

To learn more about what to donate, click here: LEARN MORE

Photo Source: Unsplash.com