Yogic Chakra Guide

Our chakra system is composed of subtle energy centers that hold the key to our spiritual evolution and development, which affect our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. Through powerful pranayama and meditation practices, dynamic interactive lecture and discussion, as well as creative chakra sequencing in asana, we will begin to understand how these 7 main energy centers store all of our life experiences and future potential.

Yoga and the Pelvis: Beyond Mula Bandha

Let’s just admit it: on a cultural level, we are wildly dysfunctional about all things pelvis. We have near-epidemic urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, fertility and birthing challenges, progressively lower sperm counts, and a variety of pelvic pain syndromes. And we have yet to overcome our cultural judgment and outright hatred fueled by sexuality. In Yoga Land, these are all pelvic issues, from the structural to spiritual.

So, what magic does Yoga offer us to help heal these pelvic wounds?

Traditionally, Yoga is vested in our spiritual evolution and offers us tools, including asana, pranayama, and meditation, to help us along a path of becoming integrated human beings. Yoga is energetically interested in asana in order to stimulate and move prana through our subtle body’s system chakras and nadis to clear blockages standing in our way of waking up. In yogic lore, the pelvic floor is often described as a gateway to unlocking our potential for this spiritual awakening.

In subtle anatomy, the pelvis is considered the home of the apana vayu, the form of prana that most influences our “down and out” functions, including elimination and reproduction. The pelvis also houses the foundation for spiritual development in the root chakra where we find potential blockages around issues of family, belonging, worthiness, self-acceptance, and groundedness. We find an energetic connection to our limbic brain, and our primal reactions to fear. We also find mula bandha, or “root lock” which, when practiced with other bandhas, serves to help seal prana in our central shushumna nadi. As we move from the root chakra up to the sacral chakra, we find our potential blockages around issues of sexuality, creativity, fluidity, our ability to adapt to change, and our ability to connect to other human beings.

From a biomechanics perspective, a lifetime of sitting and wearing shoes (among other cultural habits), profoundly impacts the position of the pelvis, the tension in the muscles and fascia supporting the pelvis, and ultimately the function of the pelvic organs. The way we habitually sit, sleep, stand and move becomes the shape of our bodies. Since the body is brilliant in its ability to adapt to how we use it all the time, yogis must be careful not to develop an asana practice that reinforces sub-optimal movement habits, and potentially perpetuates dysfunction.

At its best, asana practice can be a mirror to help us understand our bodies’ habits of movement, and when practiced mindfully, it can be a powerful tool for structural transformation. Asana can absolutely help us along our journey toward optimal pelvic health by optimizing our structural as well as energetic habits. Since pelvic floor dysfunction is always a whole-body and whole-person issue, we must go waybeyond mula bandha to address it. The good news is, Yoga offers us tools, which can help re-pattern our habits on every level, leading to improved function of all things pelvis.

Upcoming workshop: Yoga and the Pelvis: Beyond Mula Bandha with Libby Hinsley, PT, E-RYT 500 (April 19)

 

 

“I am old- I turn 55 in April. I started practicing Yoga when I was 14. The nuns asked my parents to have me see a doctor about putting me on meds for my hyperactivity. I was in a very small private Catholic school in Coconut Grove, Florida. The doc and my parents were against medication so the school brought in a Yoga teacher- Eve Diskin, then the President of the American Society of Yoga. I spent my afternoons teaching and taking Yoga on a little white towel in my school uniform (no yoga clothes or mats back then) overlooking Biscayne Bay. I never realized how fortunate I was until many years later. So, while I did teach back then (had no idea what I was doing), I did not take a teacher training class until I came to Asheville Yoga Center in 2005.” – Rosie Mulford


Hot Yoga 101

Some Like it Hot, Some Not.

Hot yoga classes are one of the most popular styles of yoga in the U.S. today. Without debate, those that like hot yoga, really like hot yoga. Hot yoga isn’t everyone’s favorite, however. Whether it’s your thing or not, studies are showing while there are some amazing benefits to perspiring in your poses, it is important to understand how heat affects the body while exercising.

How hot is Hot?

The temperature of a hot yoga class isn’t a fixed number, it varies from studio to studio. Some studios call 85 degrees hot, while at the hottest end, Bikram classes are at 105+ degrees. Asheville Yoga Center defines our hot yoga classes as 90+ degrees. We also offer “warm yoga”, which has a thermostat reading of 80-89 degrees, because sometimes that feels more comfortable.

Hot yoga got its start from Bikram Choudary, founder of Bikram yoga. This style of yoga involves holding postures for one minute in room with 105+degrees plus 50% humidity. It took root and grew in the U.S. (Hollywood, CA), in the 1970s and is still a widely popular style today, with Bikram himself still leading classes. Ashtanga yoga was probably the next style to adapt to a hot environment, as old school ashtangis wanted to replicate the birthplace of Ashtanga yoga: southern India, where it is 90 degrees by 8 AM! This style caught on in America in the 80s. Power yoga birthed from Ashtanga, so some power yogis decided to take the heat with them, thus the growth of Hot Vinyasa (flow) yoga. And this trend grew and grew to its mega popularity today.

Benefits

Hot yoga has a variety of benefits including: deeper detoxing, increased flexibility, improved cardio, and may even help with depression. Yoga postures themselves are detoxifying for the muscles, glands and organs and sweating increases that greatly. The heat increases joint lubrication as well as safer and deeper flexibility of muscles. Your heart can achieve great cardiovascular benefits in a yoga class (hot or not), whether holding and contracting muscles in postures, or moving through a Vinyasa flow class. The heat can help stimulate your metabolism so you are burning calories outside the room as well. Sweating has been proven to boost endorphins and boost immunity. The Massachusetts General Hospital Depression Clinical Research Program says that, “regular practice of hot yoga may regulate certain physiological functions that could contribute to the reversal of a depressed state.” In addition, those that suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder could get some respite from yoga as it increases blood flow to the brain, increases energy. Anecdotally, some seasonal sufferers have reported a sense of warm weather well-being while in a hot yoga class; perhaps tricking the body into thinking it is somewhere warm and sunny?

Precautions

A study by the American Council on Exercise in July 2013 found that core temperatures for both the typical and hot classes fell well below the critical zone of 104 degrees. Although study participants perceived that the hot class was more difficult, researchers concluded that the hot yoga class was not dangerous for the average exerciser.

While hot yoga offers great physical and mental benefits, some things to be mindful of are dehydration, dizziness, headache, mild nausea. If any of these symptoms occur, it is recommended to remove yourself from class and go cool down in the lobby. For dehydration-prevention: drink, drink, drink! This includes before, during and after class. Drinking coffee is not recommended as it is naturally dehydrating. To help with dizziness, try moving slower up and down, it is not imperative to keep up with the class if your head is spinning! Headaches can be caused from dehydration, detoxification or a myriad of other things. Often, exercise helps, but not always. Sometimes, exiting class is best. For nausea, try lying down, the floor is often cooler. Drink water. And perhaps exit the class as well.

While these symptoms can occur in any style yoga class, all are common results of detoxification and are intensified in a hot environment. They are usually not harmful, just uncomfortable, so ultimately it is up the student to decide what is best for them: Hot, intense, detoxifying practice? Medium, warm, detoxifying practice? Cool, gentler, detoxifying practice? Luckily, Asheville Yoga Center offers all of the above.

 

Teach Yoga While Attending College

Yoga is a path to find your true self and to honor that journey in your life. As you know, yoga teacher trainings can help you strengthen and deepen your yoga practice, delve into your bliss and discover your true nature. Perhaps your daily practice and yoga teacher trainings have guided you to return to a more conventional educational journey.

Teaching yoga while you attend college can serve you well in many different ways. It can help you reduce stress and maintain your focus, while earning money to support your goals.

Whether you’re undertaking a stringent medical school itinerary or paving your way into the arts through a four-year degree, your yoga teacher trainings and a yoga lifestyle will help you to:

  • Maintain focus during lectures
  • Improve your memory
  • Relieve stress
  • Help you sleep soundly
  • Remember your purpose in life
  • Pay the bills

Continue Yoga Teacher Trainings

If you’re a registered yoga teacher (RYT) attending college, you can pursue additional yoga training to both boost your credentials and enhance your class offerings without cutting into your academic schedule. Yoga schools such as the Asheville Yoga Center offer classes on weekends, in the evenings and for brief periods of time.

  • During spring break, take a weeklong children’s or senior’s certification course
  • Immerse yourself in a 3-week intensive program during summer vacation
  • Earn advanced credentials on weekends
  • Sign up for flexible weekday and evening courses

Moreover, as a yoga teacher, you can create your own schedule. Whether you offer classes though your own business or work at an established yoga studio, you have the flexibility to teach when your school and study schedules allow, a benefit not always available with other part-time jobs.

Yoga Teacher Trainings to Enhance Curriculum

Yoga is a practice that aligns very well with a number of other career paths. Another benefit of teaching while you attend college is that you can apply much of what you’ve learned to your studies.

Fields of study that are enhanced by your yoga teacher trainings include:

  • Chiropractor
  • Doctor/PA
  • Nurse/Medical Practitioner
  • Psychologist/Counselor
  • Schoolteacher/Academic
  • Nutritionist/Chef
  • Business owner/Manager

Doctors and other medical care providers turn to alternative medicine on a regular basis, particularly when they run out of options in their traditional healing methods. By entering into the healthcare field with a deep understanding of how stress affects the body — and how much relief patients can achieve through yoga, you will become a well-rounded physician.

Working in the mental health field, you can enhance your coaching and guidance skills by relying on the discipline you achieved through your own yoga teacher trainings, as well as through the daily practice you enjoy. During and after your college coursework, you’ll possess a wealth of information to share with clients seeking relief in a stressful world.

Caveats to Consider

While going to school and teaching yoga can provide a meaningful and prosperous way to fulfill your dreams, there are challenges and consequences to consider. Remember Buddha’s Five Remembrances that refer to the nature of being human and the frailty that is our reality. Prepare yourself for setbacks, failures, loss and change.

Like many people who wear many hats and take on significant responsibilities, you may find:

  • You have trouble concentrating on your studies when you are immersed in yoga practices
  • You may be too tired to stick with your yoga routines
  • It may take you longer than expected to study
  • You may question your resolve
  • You could get burnt out

While these all are common challenges that can strike any yoga teacher, students pursuing other paths may encounter contradictions and complications more than others. The call of the secular world may create an inner struggle that becomes difficult to overcome. The challenges may wear you out.

Yoga is a practice that aligns very well with a number of other career paths.

Coping for Students

Fortunately, because of the skills you gained from a registered program like those offered at the Asheville Yoga Center, you know how to cope. When pressure mounts, stop and breathe. Remember why you chose the path you’re on and what you hope to achieve.

Before you burn out, try these tips:

  • Carve out time for mini-yoga sessions
  • Practice chair yoga while you’re in long lectures
  • Reduce the number of classes you teach
  • Ask another yoga teacher to take an occasional class when you have a big test
  • Wake up 30 minutes earlier each day to meditate
  • Reduce or avoid caffeine, nicotine and other stimulating substances
  • Go to bed earlier
  • Eat warm, healthy meals
  • Carve out time to be with supportive friends

Download AYC’s 200 RYT Training Guide 

 

Winter Wellness with Ayurveda

Yoga and Ayurveda are considered to be sister sciences. These ancient traditions developed over a period of thousands of years and provide models for self-care and optimal well being. Ayurveda uses three “doshas”—Vata, Pitta, and Kapha— to explain an individual’s unique constitutional makeup. Each is aligned with certain elements and a time of year.

Vata is associated with winter, air, and space.  The abundance of Vata during the winter season can lead to symptoms like anxiety, dry skin, constipation, joint discomfort, and more, especially in individuals with a Vata constitution.  Living according to Ayurvedic principles allows us to balance excess Vata brought on by the winter season in order to combat stress, digestive issues, brain fog, and other patterns of disease in the body.

When Vata is high, we may experience scattered thoughts and difficulty finding a daily rhythm.  We can balance Vata during the winter season by:

  1. Have a morning ritual (daily routine or Dinacharya). Use a neti pot, do a warm sesame oil self-massage (Abhangya), meditate, or do some other contemplative morning practice.
  2. Stay warm. Dress in layers and protect yourself from the elements.
  3. Eat with intention. Try to eat at the same times each day.  Make mealtimes a ritual of reverence, mindfulness, and gratitude.
  4. Cook with warming spices like cinnamon, turmeric, cloves, and black pepper.
  5. Stay hydrated by sipping warm water, drinking herbal teas, and eating nourishing soups and stews. Try this recipe: Potato Leek Soup with Fennel Seeds & Red Pepper
  6. Get lots of rest. Prioritize sleep and relaxing activities.  Aim to get to bed around the same time each night; before 10 p.m. is ideal.

By creating time and space in our lives for self-care practices like these, we can experience greater serenity and wholeness through the winter and throughout the year.

Want to learn more? Check out our yoga workshops or take Deepak Chopra’s online Dosha Quiz.

Focus & Communication —

Two Skills a Yoga Teacher Needs

In the universe of skills you need to develop during your yoga instructor training, two of the most vital are: learning how to focus and learning how to communicate effectively. Your training will teach you both skills, but first you must learn to listen. While you will learn to focus outside yourself, you also may find freedom as you focus within.


When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others.

—Peace Pilgrim


Maintain Drishti

Drishti is a valuable technique for keeping your focus on reality. During yoga instructor training, you will practice developing the concentration you will need when you assume the role of teacher. In the meanwhile, maintain drishti while performing your own daily yoga routine. Your attention follows your eyes, so you must learn how to overcome the distractions of the world. In a classroom, you may have students who giggle, dress inappropriately or come to class unwashed. When you begin teaching, whether for yourself or for another, you will accrue bills and responsibilities that may lead to worry and stress. At all times, the world presses in to distract you. Even while you are immersed in yoga instructor training, you will be tempted to judge your instructors, your fellow students and the center itself. Never is it more important to develop the yoga technique called drishti.

Practice Seeing Truth

To still your racing mind, strive to eliminate distractions and see the world as it is. While training to become a yoga teacher, learn to see the world through a soft gaze that guides your focus to the inner essence of a thing. Students often struggle to force their gazes away from a thing that pulls on their attention. Instead, maintain a non-judgmental, detached gaze. When your inner peace becomes disrupted and the distractions around you scream for attention, that’s when you must find stability and balance. If you cannot tame your thoughts, focus on people and things outside yourself; when the environment beckons your attention, focus on the peace within. In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali explains that too often you don’t see the world as it truly is. Instead, you become deluded with false premises and wrong perceptions. As part of yoga instructor training, you will discover how to end the confusion wrought by false illusions. Then you will see the world correctly.


Accepting means you allow yourself to feel whatever it is you are feeling at that moment. It is part of the isness of the Now. You can’t argue with what is. Well, you can, but if you do, you suffer.

—Eckhart Tolle


Share the Focus

The relationships you form during your yoga instructor training serve as the basis upon which you will build your own yoga following. The relationship that exists between the student and the teacher goes beyond the physical, but this inner connection requires focus to survive in the outer world. The link that exists between the compassionate teacher and the devoted student can endure with conscious attention. In your yoga instructor training, you are but a student. When experienced teachers, such as those you’ll encounter at the Asheville Yoga Center, show you kindness and inspiration, you will naturally develop deep respect for them. Your bond will grow as you endure the challenges of an immersion learning process. The experience will leave you with a longing to lead your own classes and develop a similar bond with your students. To achieve this level of focus, listen and hear how your teachers communicate that reality.

Listen and Become Ready

In yoga instructor training, you must be able to listen to the lessons and hear the truth. Communication is a two-way street, but during your training, you must sit squarely in the receiver’s seat. If your goal is to become like your teacher, learn how to give the compassion and wisdom that you so richly receive in your program. Your role is to listen and inherit the blessings communicated to you during training. Once you have perfected the ability to focus on the kindness of your teachers, once you can intuit how they communicate with love the principles embodied in your yoga instructor training, then the relationship of teacher and student is ready to turn around. And you will inherit the role of teacher.


A person experiences life as something separated from the rest — Our task must be to free ourselves from this self-imposed prison, and through compassion, to find the reality of Oneness.

—Albert Einstein


Download AYC’s 200 RYT Training Guide 

How Do You Become a Yoga Instructor When You’re Over 50?

The easiest answer is to practice every day, increase your knowledge of yoga, challenge yourself to go deeper into your practice and take the required courses to earn your certification. Your age doesn’t matter.

Benefits of Aging

As a matter of fact, you may even be better suited to the role of instructor than some of your younger counterparts. After all, you’ve most likely been practicing longer and have a regular practice routine. You know your abilities and your limitations, and you’ve embraced your maturity. You know that your mind is sharper; you are more flexible and you have stronger bones than seniors who have not yet experienced the benefits of a daily yoga practice. You are more centered and confident in your skills. You have the resources and the time. When others ask, “How do you become a yoga instructor?” — you can tell them exactly how and why you’ve made the choice.

Define Your Reasons

Your reason may vary from others over the age of 50 who embark on this journey, but your reasons must be solid and sure. You will have to become a student as you prepare to become the teacher. So no matter what your personal reasons — whether you just want to expand your own horizons or create a new business opportunity — your purpose should be well-defined and completely yours. As you finalize your decision to teach yoga, your own practice will become more focused. Your curiosity about all things yoga will expand. Your understanding of the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of yoga will deepen. You move from asking how do you become a yoga instructor to actually finding out.

Study and Grow

Begin to challenge yourself before your classes even start. Deepen your personal practice to prepare yourself for the physical and emotional rigors of an immersive training experience, such as you’ll experience in a program at the Asheville Yoga Center. Read everything you can get your hands on about the various yoga philosophies and how they might affect your own practice. Remain aware of your limitations and your need to learn more. No matter how old you are, you must become childlike in your desire to study and learn.

Embrace Your Motivations

Oftentimes, when seniors are asked how do you become a yoga instructor at your age, they aren’t always sure why they are exploring the path or how they can explain their motivations to others. It really doesn’t matter if others understand your intentions, only that you are committed. You are the critic to whom you must answer. Anyone can do yoga, but not everyone can properly teach yoga. When you come from a place of love and acceptance of your own age and wisdom and embrace the values that drive your commitment to become a yogi or yogini who shares that passion with others, your motivation is clear. Your commitment will not wane as the challenges appear.

How do You Become a Yoga Instructor After 50?

You do it with the zest and excitement of a child, balanced by the knowledge that you have reached midlife and you have made a decision to change. You tackle the challenge with eagerness, knowing that you’ve reared your children, taken care of a family, had a successful career or enjoyed personal success in other arenas. Becoming a yoga teacher later in life may actually be better for you because you won’t enter into the field with doubts or regrets of what other path you may have followed. You’ll know. You become a yoga teacher after the age of 50 with grace and style. You become the person you were meant to be and by following your bliss, the finances, the physical stamina and emotional strength will follow.

You Prefer the Challenges of Life

You should not underestimate the challenges of yoga instructor training. You prepare by stepping up your physical readiness, you maintain a healthy, balanced diet and you increase your mindful meditation. Then you can move forward into training mode, excited about the possibilities, not fearful of the limitations your age may place upon you. The most critical limitations are those you place upon yourself. Do not let others try to discourage your intention or water your motivation with doubt. This, in fact, may actually be the perfect time to become a yoga instructor.

When asked how do you become a yoga instructor at your age, respond with zeal: “Watch me!”

Download AYC’s 200 RYT Training Guide 

Valuable Tips for Becoming a Yoga Teacher

What brings people to the practice of yoga are often deeply personal issues. As a Yoga teacher, to be able to handle the variety of students, in all their shapes and sizes as well as expectations, ideas and goals, requires an excellent and comprehensive education. Yoga continues to grow exponentially and thusly, the demand for competent teachers is as high as ever. And it’s everywhere: From small rural towns to big urban cities; from small retreat centers in Central America to large cruise ships in the Bahamas. Students all over the world are seeking genuine guidance. And many are searching for something deeper than their daily practice and/or weekly classes. With the realization that Yoga Teacher Training is the next step, here are some simple tips to help you see it from all angles.

Understand Your Motivation

When you know what is motivating you to turn to yoga instruction as your livelihood, you can rely on that internal motivation to get you through the challenges ahead. Is it because you want to be able to master fancy poses? Or maybe you want to be able to help some family members with specific health issues? Or maybe you want to quit your day job? Here are some ways to help examine some questions that might arise for you.

Are You Looking for a Transformative Adventure?

Yoga Teacher Training will be a life-changing experience. You will learn more than you ever thought was possible. Lessons on Yoga, ethics, psychology, health, are all integrated within most Yoga training schools. It will be an emotional journey as well, but you will be riding these waves with like-minded seekers who will end up supporting you in ways that creates life-long friendships.

Firmly State Your Intentions

Becoming a yoga teacher requires extensive inner strength and forethought. This is not something to jump into on a whim. In addition to knowing why you are becoming a yoga teacher, you also need to be clear about your ultimate goals. Perhaps there are teachers that you can talk with to see if this is the right choice for you. Consider these things:

  • Do you want to increase your understanding of the practice?
  • Do you want to share your love of yoga with large audiences?
  • Do you want to develop a deep understanding of various yoga styles?
  • Do you want to become more spiritual?

Prepare Ahead of Time

Most teacher training programs require a daily practice. It’s vital that you have an integrated practice before becoming a yoga teacher. It’s what will eventually inspire you as a yoga teacher. More inspiration will come from the required reading. Definitely start reading before you begin your training. Delve into the deep history and philosophical ideas that you will be covering in school. Approach your own practice with gusto. Prepare to be the ultimate student and you will be ready to be the ultimate teacher.

Commit Completely

Becoming a yoga teacher is a path that demands a full commitment — financially, mentally, physically and spiritually. You will be asked to pay for the class upfront and attend all the sessions. Make sure that your commitment is complete before taking the leap. Becoming a yoga teacher will demand some sacrifice that you must be willing to undertake, or you won’t last. You will be learning from your instructors but your peers as well, so missing classes is strongly discouraged and often comes with steep penalties. Success requires 100% commitment from you. With this intention, you will thrive and your future will be clear.

Physically Prepare

You will be under enormous pressure to be present and participate fully in all the training. If you are like most yoga teachers, you will be your own worst critic. Prepare for the rigors ahead by making sure you are at your physical peak. Eat well and hone your physical abilities so they are peak. Rest, nurture, and relax often, as these is a vital pieces of maintaining balance.

Mentally Prepare

Just as your physical training should be at its peak prior to starting class, so your mind should be in tip-top condition as well. Free yourself from nagging doubts, negative thoughts, and distractions with meditation. It is strongly recommended to begin (if you don’t already) a daily meditation practice. Just five minutes a day can soothe our minds from all the stress and doubts we pile in there. You need to have confidence in your abilities and your tenacity. Nurture yourself with a daily meditation practice and know that you may change during the process — for the better.

Learn from the Best

You deserve the best trainers that you can find. There are many yoga trainers out there, so do your research to ensure you feel most aligned with your chosen school. See if you can find a program to meet all your needs: one that follows a philosophy you admire and provides the instruction you crave. A quality yoga training program should give all these details: prerequisites, all costs, what to expect each day, descriptions of all the instructors, what to expect after graduation, and so on. Spend time to research with care. A good place to start is Asheville Yoga Center.

Make Sure Business is Covered

You can’t share your gift if people don’t know about you and your classes. A quality training program will cover marketing, social media, insurance, and the basics of getting a job. The process of creating and growing a yoga business can be just as exciting and fulfilling as holding the perfect pose.

Have a Support System

Because Yoga school will demand your time and energy, it is super helpful that those around you are supportive of this time. For instance, it is incredibly challenging to try and be a full time parent and go to yoga school. You just won’t be able to give your studies and home practice the full attention it deserves, thus you may not grow into the best yoga teacher you can possibly be. And isn’t that the main reason for taking a teacher training?

So keep reminding yourself of the motivation that got you here in the first place. If becoming a yoga teacher is your dream, make it come true with a plan, then follow through with your intentions and find that harmony, peace of mind and personal fulfillment in all you do.