Tips for Teaching a Low-Risk Class

Written by AYC Instructor, Rosie Mulford

As a yoga teacher, you will likely encounter a student who gets injured. If an injury arises during your class, it doesn’t necessarily mean you were the cause. Regardless, it is important to know how to be aware of potential injuries so that you don’t unknowingly contribute to one.

David Keil, an expert in the anatomy of yoga, says, “Our first responsibility as a yoga community is to acknowledge openly and honestly that yoga asana is a physical activity. It is not risk-free. From there we can look at the places where teachers can reduce the risk to yoga participants, as well as the ways that yoga students can take responsibility for their own experience in yoga practice and yoga classes.”

In accordance with the yogic philosophy, we must become a witness to the entire concept of yoga asana classes. In these classes, it is important to practice the yogic idea that truth is the only thing that exists. If a student is practicing in a way that is not truthful to his or her body, he or she will eventually suffer the consequences of living in that untruth and become injured.  That is where linking the breath to your innate and true self becomes imperative.  If the teacher guides the student in taking a breath before the action of moving into the pose, the student will then be given a brief moment in which to tap into his or her inner voice (truth) and know whether or not it is appropriate to go deeper, stay in the same position, or back out with each exhale. In this way, it is critical to always listen to the body.

There is a public opinion that yoga is a “cure-all,” and there is an underlying assumption that one may get injured in a Cross-Fit class or a gymnastics class but not in yoga. The first thing we need to do is change that misconception. Modern-day yoga is just like any other group class, in the physical sense, with the same risks.

Jeffrey Frick, CEO of the Fitness and Wellness Insurance Program at the Murria & Frick Insurance Agency located in Solana Beach, California says, “Compared with other forms of exercise, yoga generates fewer and less costly insurance claims. However, yoga continues to be one of the fastest-growing forms of exercise we insure.” Frick’s company specializes in coverage for fitness facilities including health clubs, yoga studios, and climbing gyms. The yoga liability program averages about 10 claims per year with the average paid claim amount being $6,000.

In contrast, the company averages about 200 claims per year from their other fitness programs, with the average paid claim amount being $20,000. The program’s largest yoga insurance claim, for more than $200,000 in 1994, involved a teacher overstepping ethical boundaries and injuring a student. More commonly, Frick notes, “Yoga claimants say the instructor pushed them too hard into positions that caused injury to them.” Frick echoes Leslie Kaminoff and Judith Hanson Lasater by saying that to prevent problems, teachers need to be sensitive to their students’ ability to do certain poses. In the fitness industry in general, Frick says, “Half of claims are customer induced; that is, they come not from our negligence, but from an over-zealous client. The lesson is that instructors should have protected these people from themselves.”

How do we move forward and combat the risk of injury for students? First, we need to evaluate what a student is looking to gain from yoga and whether or not they have any prior injuries.

Secondly, as a yoga community, we need to openly acknowledge that yoga asana is a physical activity.  It is not risk-free. At this point, both the teacher and the student can figure out ways to reduce risk.

Leslie Kaminoff, an internationally recognized specialist in yoga and breath anatomy, says, “Some people have such faith in yoga that it overcomes their critical thinking. They think yoga practice, or a yoga teacher, can’t hurt them, which isn’t true.”

Roger Cole, Ph. D., scientist and Iyengar Yoga teacher relays ways to minimize the risk of injury in a classroom: “Teachers and students need to understand where the body is most likely to get injured in yoga and know how to protect these areas.”

Cole names the lower back, knees, and neck as areas of the body most prone to injury, followed by the sacroiliac (SI) joint and the origin of the hamstring muscle (where it joins the sitting bone). He notes that back and SI injuries are often linked to forward bends because they can place strain on the disks and ligaments at the base of the spine.

The riskiest postures are any seated, straight-leg forward bends that also include a twist. Cole says, “In order to make these poses safer, tilt from the pelvis as far as you can before the back gets involved, elongate the spine, don’t flex it too far, and never force yourself into the pose.” He further cautions, “Tilting the pelvis has its own risk. It puts more stretch on the hamstrings, so if you push too hard, you can strain them, especially at the point where they connect to the sitting bones.”

To prevent knee injury, Cole emphasizes the importance of not forcing the knees, especially in Padmasana, Lotus Pose, and instead advises turning the thighbone outward from the hip joint. “Pulling up on the foot or ankle or pushing down on the knee in Lotus puts a tremendous crushing force on the cartilage of the inner knee,” he says.

The most common posture to cause injuries, especially in people over 40, is Salamba Sarvangasana or Shouldterstand, according to Larry Payne, Ph.D., a Los Angeles yoga teacher, therapist and coauthor of Yoga Rx. For beginners, he suggests practicing Half Shoulderstand, a variation of the full pose where the hands are placed on the lower back to support the weight of the hips, thereby removing most of the weight from the neck. Full Shoulderstand can be dangerous because of the excess weight many Americans carry, notes Payne, who avoids the posture for anyone who is more than 30 pounds overweight. He offers students a continuum of options, including Viparita Karani, Legs-up-the-Wall Pose, Ananda Balasana , Happy Baby Pose, and Half Shoulderstand. He finishes by saying, “The attitude of a teacher is very important in avoiding injury. Teachers who make the class feel intimidated or wimpy if they need a modification or want to come out of a pose are asking for trouble.”

The best thing you can do as a yoga teacher to reduce any risk of injury is to constantly be aware of your student’s needs and capabilities. Offer modifications of more advanced poses that might result in a student injury. Above all, be thoughtful, caring and educate your students on how to keep themselves safe and injury-free during class and in their own practice.

Tips to Maintain Your Practice Wherever You Are

It’s that time of year again for a busy summer season filled with all kinds of travel plans. Whether you’re traveling for work or for fun, don’t let your yoga practice fall by the wayside! Here are a few ways to make sure you’re keeping up with your practice even when you’re not at home or able to attend your favorite class at AYC.

Hold Realistic Expectations

When you’re traveling, it may not be feasible to fit in your usual hour-long daily practice or your three regular weekly classes. Decide on a goal for your practice that’s both reasonable and attainable. After all, a little yoga is better than no yoga, right?

Fifteen to 30 minutes of yoga a day or a few times a week is a realistic goal even while traveling. Schedule out some time in the morning or the evening to commit to so your practice doesn’t start slipping away. This blocked-out time for self-care will help create a consistent routine for you no matter where you go or how busy you might be. Let your practice keep you focused, centered and aware as you move from place to place.

Create a Go-to Yoga Practice for Yourself

Your yoga practice can be as simple as you feel necessary. Don’t get caught up in thinking that you have to have an elaborate routine every day, because that won’t be attainable. Write down a few simple sequences that you can always go to. You’ll have an easier time being committed to your practice if you already have a plan in mind for your asana sequence. Take some notes on your phone for an easy reference from anywhere you go.

Learn to Improvise

You can take your practice with you in a hotel room or outside on the beach. Wherever you are, you can still maintain your practice. Even if you’re feeling tired from traveling, incorporate a few gentle Yin poses to help you release tension to give your body the relaxation that it needs. At the end of the day, the most important thing is that you show up and practice.

Make a Travel Yoga Kit

Be prepared on the road with your own travel kit for your practice! You can find travel mats, blocks, blankets and straps in the Boutique to keep in your car.

It’s okay if you don’t have all your essentials or if you forget them at home. Remember, you can practice anywhere! You don’t have to have a mat to practice, and a bathrobe tie or scarf will work just as well as a strap. Be willing to improvise with what resources you have available and don’t get discouraged that you don’t have your normal props.

Attend a Local Class

If you’re the kind of person that really needs a classroom environment for your practice, then do some research on yoga studios in the area that you’re traveling to. In this day and age, yoga classes can be found just about anywhere. Be open to learning something new from a new teacher and community. Stepping outside of your comfort zone will only help you grow!

Don’t neglect your practice while you travel and use these tips to make sure you stay committed. Your mind and body will thank you!

Find Your Home Away from Home at AYC

Asheville is the perfect destination for a relaxing summer vacation. Let Asheville Yoga Center be your sanctuary even though you might be miles from home. We offer 2-day and 7-day unlimited yoga vacation passes.

Complete your vacation with cozy and convenient accommodations just down the road from the AYC campus. We offer 2-day or more Asheville yoga retreats at the beautiful Namastay House! Enjoy the picturesque Asheville mountains and the highest quality yoga classes. Single and double rooms are available, including vacation passes to AYC. Book your stay today!

 

Women’s Importance Through Yoga’s History

Written by AYC Instructor, Sierra Hollister

We all know that a regular yoga practice offers multiple benefits for the body, mind and spirit. These benefits include increased flexibility, enhanced physical strength, clarity and calm for the mind, better circulation and so much more.

For women specifically, yoga can support wellness through every stage of life, from child to child-bearing years, prenatal and postnatal, and beyond.  Of all the yoga’s offered, Kundalini Yoga in particular has rich, deep and specific teachings for those that identify as women. The man who brought the teachings of Kundalini to the United States, Yogi Bhajan, was incredibly inspired by women, beginning with his mother and grandmother. More than half of the legacy of teachings that Yogi Bhajan shared were dedicated to spreading the ancient sacred teachings of yoga with women specifically. The motivation to reach women with these teachings was based on his deep belief that the world would never know harmony or peace until women had their rightful place of recognition and respect in the world.

According to the teachings of Kundalini, “Woman is the embodiment of God’s creative power, Shakti. Woman embodies the feminine aspect of God, through which the world was created. That primal power is called the Adi Shakti and has been worshipped for centuries in the form of various goddesses. Every woman has that divine goddess power in her own being, waiting to be recognized.”

While students of Kundalini are immersed in this rich understanding of the role and power of women, many more students in this country are told that as far as women and yoga go, the history is recent. This story has been created by western teachers and unfortunately, yet somewhat reliably, centers a white woman, Eugenie Peterson, as one of the first women to practice yoga. Eugenie Peterson went on to be known as Indra Devi, and while Indra Devi did contribute greatly to the story of yoga in this country, by no means was she the first woman to practice yoga.

Feminist artist, scholar and teacher, Vicki Noble, suggests that women invented the practice of yoga. Noble’s research proposes that there was a widespread female-centered yoga practice dating all the way back to the Paleolithic and Neolithic ages. This early yoga was ritual based and celebrated the blood mysteries of women, birth, healing and death. Graduate student Agi Wittich points to archeological findings that suggest women were a significant part of spiritual life all the way back to the earliest evidence of classical yoga – the Paśupati Seal, dated to 2500 BCE. As support for this thesis, Gates Janica, California Yoga Research and Education Center faculty, says, “women’s inclusion in rituals was considered auspicious, even necessary for the presence of the divine, and women were positively associated with fertility, growth, abundance, and prosperity.” Gates goes on to point out that there are numerous references in the Vedas to female scholars, teachers, mystics, priestesses, and philosophers and as many as twenty-seven female sages.”

Wittich continues to point out in her paper, “Yoga and Women: A Possible History,” that later texts, ones that many of us are much more familiar with, including several of the Upaniṣads and the Mahābhārata, mention wise spiritual women and go so far as to define some as “yoginis”.

Local tantric scholar Ramesh Bjonnes writes that “women have been gurus, healers, yoginis and goddesses since the beginning of time.”

All of which to say, isn’t it time that we stop centering Indra Devi in the story of women and yoga and reach back through time, as yoga itself does? Not only does it feel more powerful to acknowledge that women, especially dark-skinned women, have been practicing, shaping and creating yoga for as long as yoga has been around, but it is also true and gives yoga back its roots and truth.

The practice of yoga, for women by women, is deep, profound and a celebration of the nature of women, our monthly cycles as well as our life cycles. By practicing this way, we open ourselves to the flow of energy rather than achievement of a posture. The journey, rituals and experience of the practice, rather than the physicality of the practice, are paramount.

More than anything, we understand that yoga is who we are, rather than what we do.

If you’d like to learn more about women’s role in yoga, here are a few resources for you.

Infinity, Divinity, Dignity – the teachings of Kundalini Yoga for Women

Body Divine Yoga

Yoga and Women: a possible history

Dispelling One Big Myth About Women in Yoga

Sierra Hollister offers a weekend immersion each year for women that wish to understand more about their unique yogic path, “The Moon Path” at Asheville Yoga Center. Dates this year are April 26-28. If you’d like to attend this weekend workshop, please click here to register.

Sierra will be offering a “Rejuvenation Meditation with Gong” workshop on March 22. This evening will be comprised of some gentle movement, breathwork and then meditation with the gong. If you’d like to attend, please register here.

Sierra also teaches Gentle Kundalini on Mondays at 10am and HOT Kundalini Flow on Thursdays at 7pm.

Answering Frequently Asked Questions With World-Renowned Yoga Teacher, Indu Arora

What exactly is Yoga Nidra? Nidra is derived from the Sanskrit word meaning sleep or slumber. It is a meditative and relaxing practice intended to bring the body into complete physical, mental and emotional rest. This deep dive into conscious relaxation promotes a restorative state for the mind and soul to decompress.

However, there are still many misconceptions regarding this particular practice of yoga due to its “sleepy” and meditative state. How can you determine if what you hear and read is true or false?

We asked Indu Arora, world-renowned yoga teacher and Yoga Nidra expert, to share her passion and extensive knowledge with us. Here are her responses to some frequently asked questions.

What’s the difference between Yoga Nidra and guided meditation?

I’ll start by saying that we are only capable of guiding someone towards concentration and focus. Meditation happens if there is an emotional, mental and physical readiness. That being said, there is a huge difference between meditation and Yoga Nidra for multiple reasons:

  • In meditation, you are trying to lift dormant energies up towards higher energy centers by gathering scattered pieces of the mind. However, in Yoga Nidra, there is a total dissolution of all possible energies and states of mind.
  • It is a common misconception to classify Yoga Nidra as a type of meditation. For meditation, it is really important for the spine to be upright and to lift up the body’s energy. In contrast, the common posture of Yoga Nidra is supine and relaxed.
  • Meditation begins with concentration, and Yoga Nidra begins with relaxation.
  • Meditation is practiced in order to master the mind. Yoga Nidra, on the other hand, is practiced to unveil the state of consciousness which controls the mind itself.

Is there a “best time” to practice nidra?

In the beginning stages, it’s great if you can practice whenever you feel the most inspired or when you can find time out of your day for it. However, if you would like to benefit from the cyclical rhythms of the body, it’s best to practice upon waking up or just before going to bed. These are both optimal times to tap into the unconscious through subconscious realms.

It is very important not to practice nidra when you are feeling tired. If you end up practicing tired, it’s likely that you’ll fall asleep, and that is not the goal. Nidra is not a practice that’s meant to release tiredness. If you are working on fatigue or insomnia, it is much better to practice relaxation or savasana.

Do you have to practice asana before nidra?

This really depends. If one can maintain alertness without experiencing roughness, tightness, restlessness, pain, discomfort, shakiness, sleepiness, dullness, absence of mind, etc., then there is absolutely no need for asana pre-practice.

I place a lot of importance on pre-practices, as well as post-practices, in the case of Yoga Nidra. It really demands steady preparation, because we are not naturally born ready for such deep practices. We must build a certain physical, mental, emotional and energetic appetite for them.

What’s the true origin of Yoga Nidra?

In all fairness, it’s difficult to say what the true origin is. As a start, I can point to the most ancient text called Rig Veda. It talks about the Glory of Night in Ratri Suktam. In this text, Yoga Nidra is revered as a goddess.

What do you feel is most important about a Yoga Nidra practice?

It is important to understand what it is that you are doing before you start doing it. One misconception can easily lead to another. Moreover, it is very difficult to unlearn what you have already learned.

It’s important to pay attention to the source you are studying from, whether it’s a person, text, video, audio or an app. The best way to go about a practice is to study in person from someone who has practiced Yoga Nidra. Don’t put all your focus on just learning technique. After all, knowledge is the most subtle type of food. If you are careful of what you eat, you must also be careful of what and from whom you study.

A Yoga Nidra practice is an incredible tool to become at one with your mind and your body. Take the time needed to digest what you learn and continue to study with the truest and sincerest desire to grow.

If you’re interested in learning more about Yoga Nidra with Indu Arora, you can register for her 5- Day Yoga Nidra Intensive workshop February 25 – March 1.

Learn about the history of Nidra, its origin, benefits and more during this informative and unique opportunity!

If you are unable to make it to Indu’s workshop, come by the Studio for a Yoga Nidra class offered on Thursdays at 7:15 pm.

Discover a New You

With the beginning of a new year comes new goals and resolutions. We all know this to be true. January takes the prize when it comes to crowded workout facilities. People flock to the gym to spend countless hours putting their bodies through intense workouts to try to get back in shape. How many people do you know that have this new goal each year and drop it after a few weeks? One of the reasons being that their bodies run out of steam, because well frankly, it’s just too much! So, what if I told you that your New Year’s resolution to become a stronger, healthier you doesn’t involve enduring dreaded sweat sessions at the gym.

A consistent yoga practice may be the workout you’ve been looking for, and it’s right at the edge of your grasp. As you flow between movements, your body gets the exercise it needs without having to push yourself to the brink every time you want to burn calories. Don’t cringe at the thought of exercise. Instead, look forward to it because you love the way it makes you feel. It’ll change your life.

Health Benefits

The positive impacts of yoga on your health are innumerable. If you want a behind-the-scenes look at the benefits of yoga and what it can do for your body, listen to what one of our students has to say!

Two of the most common contributors of unhappiness in our day-to-day lives are stress and chronic pain. Stressors are always present, whether it’s stress from work or kids or whatever else might be going on in your life. But for an hour or an hour and a half out of the day, you can escape them all. Yoga gives your body and mind time to calm down, re-connect and feel rejuvenated, alleviating any anxiety or stress. It gives you back a sense of power to charge on and conquer any challenges life throws your way.

If you live with back pain or another form of chronic pain, take a few yoga classes and you’ll start to see a drastic change in the way you feel. Studies show that practicing yoga and meditation reduces pain for individuals with arthritis, back and neck pain and other chronic conditions. How incredible would it be to say goodbye to pain that wears you down? That can be your reality.

Physical Benefits

Yoga as a whole increases your strength and flexibility. Using your body weight in a yoga class creates toned and lean muscle in your legs, arms and abdominals. Hang up the weights and let your body get stronger on its own.

For those of you shaking your head that yoga is a workout, have you ever tried a warm or hot yoga class? You don’t know the meaning of a sweat session until you have! They get your blood pumping and give you a full-body workout. If that’s not for you, there are a multitude of other styles of yoga to try that are less intense.

These are all amazing benefits, but the best part about yoga is that it’s about YOU. It’s about your journey, your pace and how you feel. It’s not a competition, and you don’t have to run yourself into the ground every time you want to exercise.

It’s a new year, and the timing couldn’t be more prime to start making those steps towards becoming a better, healthier and stronger you. But don’t take my word for it, commit to your own yoga practice and you’ll soon be asking yourself why in the world it took you so long to start.

Begin your practice at AYC! Try our free Intro to Yoga class every Monday evening in January from 5:45-6:45pm or purchase an Intro Special with 6 classes for just $6 each.

How Yoga Can Boost Your Health

Even for all of you work out enthusiasts, the winter months can be a serious drag when it comes to being motivated to exercise. The cold, dark mornings and evenings just make you want to sit at home curled up by the fire. Winter is nowhere near as encouraging to be outside. We get it. None the less, it doesn’t mean that you should stop caring and showing love to your body. Consistent exercise boosts the immune system and can help you stay healthy when sicknesses arise. So why not take the colder months to revive your body and work on your yoga practice? Here are some reasons why you should take up yoga this winter.

Prevent Stiff Joints

The cold temperatures of winter create stiff joints and enhance chronic joint pain. Vinyasa, a flowing form of yoga, provides a way to maintain joint mobility and increase circulation to loosen any stiffness you might be experiencing.

Protect the Lower Respiratory System

If you’ve ever tried to exercise outside when it’s cold you know that breathing in that air creates an uncomfortable burning sensation in the lungs. Yoga is a great way to work on your breathing without having to expose your body to the harsh temperatures of winter. Steady breathing through the nose warms air before it enters the lungs, eliminating any constrictions that result from cold air entering the body. Breathing through the nose can aid in decreasing any nasal congestion and clear out the sinuses.

Shed Toxins with HOT Yoga

Practicing yoga in a room set to a high temperature can help you sweat out any toxins while simultaneously boosting the immune system. A body flooded with toxins is much more likely to succumb to illness. However, sweating, combined with yoga movement, can help cleanse the body of viruses and congestion.

Elevate Your Mood

It’s no secret that the holidays are a stressful time for just about everyone. It’s a busy time that’s jam-packed with shopping and social events. Practicing yoga can help reduce stress and elevate your mood.

Stress is the body’s ultimate nemesis when it comes to staying healthy. Your body doesn’t have the same capabilities to fight germs when it’s undergoing physical and mental tension.  However, meditation can help, and that’s where yoga really becomes an asset to the body. Just as little as ten minutes of daily meditation can lower tension. So eliminate that unwanted stress!

If you want to feel reinvigorated, energized and healthy this winter come see us! If you’re new to yoga, get started by taking our FREE Intro to Yoga class every Monday in January. If you’re a little more seasoned, we offer 6 classes for just 36 dollars with our Intro Special. Choose from over 100 classes offered weekly at the convenience of your schedule. Stay healthy with more yoga this winter!

A Day to Remember the Importance of Peace

In 1981, the United Nations declared September 21 as the International Day of Peace to be observed around the world annually. This momentous day provides an opportunity for all of humanity to leave all differences at the door and come together as one body to focus on building a worldwide culture of peace.

Finding Peace on Your Yoga Mat

Yoga practice, at its core, embodies what it means to be at peace both with yourself and your surroundings. It is a way of living life on and off the mat. Yoga teaches you to be at peace with your inner soul while showing that same essence of love and peace to those around you. One of the foundational principles of all forms of yoga is ahimsa, part of the first yama in the Yoga Sutras, a Sanskrit word meaning “nonharming” or “nonviolence.”

Here are a few fun facts about this day of peace!

Moment of Silence

The Moment of Silence, or Minute of Silence, was established in 1984 as a way to commemorate International Day of Peace. At noon, in each time zone around the world, there is a Moment of Silence to initiate a “Peace Wave” globally. Every individual, community and nation is encouraged to participate in this peaceful act.

2018 Most Peaceful Country in the World

Iceland comes in first as the most peaceful country in the world according to the Institute for Economics and Peace. You might be surprised to know that this is actually the tenth year in a row that Iceland has garnered this title! This nation of 350,000 citizens has no standing army, navy or air force and is the smallest of any NATO member state. Icelanders enjoy record-low crime rates and consider tension between economic classes to be non-existent.

Nobel Peace Prize Winner

In 2017, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). The organization was recognized for its work to bring to light the consequences of nuclear weapons on humanity and for efforts to accomplish a treaty-based prohibition of these weapons. This year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner will be announced on Friday, October 5.

Take this day as an opportunity to reflect on what peace means to you and what kind of peaceful impact you can have on yourself and your community. Whether it’s a few more minutes on your yoga mat, or taking the time to make a difference in someone else’s life, International Day of Peace is a day for reflection and change.

yoga poses for beginners

What to Expect in a Beginner Yoga Class

 

You’re thinking about going to your very first yoga class. You’re wondering what the flow of class will be like and what kinds of poses you’ll learn from your yoga instructor.  It’s always a little scary to try something new, but taking a yoga class is a great way to add variety to your weekly workout routine! Beyond that, the mental and emotional benefits of yoga are a great addition to any wellness regimen. Your instructors have all completed extensive yoga teacher trainings to assist you with your newfound practice. Remember, yoga should be practiced at your own pace and shouldn’t be strenuous on your body. Let’s talk through some of the poses you may encounter during your first yoga class!

 

yoga pose

 

 

Mountain Pose

You’ll see this pose as part of the warm up in your yoga class. It’s an opportunity to check in with your body, breath and mind. It begins by standing tall with a long spine and keeping your feet close together. The benefit of the Mountain Pose is that it improves posture and balance while simultaneously strengthening lower body muscles.

 

 

 

Yoga pose

 

 

Forward Fold Pose

This next pose builds on the structure of the Mountain Pose. You’ll bend forward from the Mountain Pose, placing your hands where they’re comfortable. It is encouraged to slightly bend your knees or keep your arms folded so as not to hurt your hamstrings. This pose will release tension in the back of the legs and strengthen the lower body.

 

 

 

Table Top Pose

This pose serves as home base for a wide variety of movements. It’s an essential pose for any beginner, because it can take the place of other more challenging postures like Plank or Downward-Facing Dog. To enter Table Top, position yourself on hands and knees with a flat back. Ensure your wrists are directly below your shoulders and knees directly below your hips. From here, you can alternate between arching your back and rounding your back for a comprehensive spinal stretch, also known as Cat-Cow Pose. This pose improves core strength and stability, as well as spinal mobility.

Cat-Cow 

yoga pose              

 

 

 

Downward-Facing Dog

Even if you’ve never practiced yoga, you’ve probably seen or at least heard of this pose. This pose begins in Table Top with your hands slightly further forward then slowly lifting your hips. Your arms should be strong and your shoulders wide. The goal is to maintain a straight line from your wrists to your hips, so it’s encouraged to bend your knees at first to maintain this alignment. Alternatively, try Melting Heart Pose, with your knees on the mat for a more accessible posture. Downward-Facing Dog is excellent for balance, strength and flexibility.

yoga pose

 

 

Melting Heart 

 

 

 

 

yoga pose

 

Child’s Pose

If you want to relax, this is the pose for you. To enter child’s pose you start in Table Top then sit your hips back on your heels. Your arms can be extended in front of you or down by your sides. This pose gently stretches the hips, thighs and ankles while relieving the back and neck. A lot of introductory yoga classes will incorporate this pose instead of Downward-Facing Dog for added relaxation.

By the end of your first yoga class you may find that your muscles feel more relaxed and you stand just a little taller. You may leave the studio feeling energized, rejuvenated and ready to take on the rest of your day. But don’t take our word for it, come try it yourself! You may be surprised by what you discover.

Learn More About Our Intro to Yoga Class

Understanding Kundalini Yoga

With so many different types of yoga out there, it can be challenging to stay informed of each style. But in the spirit of a holistic yoga practice, we should strive to learn more about other approaches and, if appropriate, integrate them into our own practice or teaching.

Our yoga teacher training blog has covered various types of yoga already, but today we’re going to focus on Kundalini yoga. It is among one of the oldest lineages and predates most other types of yoga, especially those being offered in modern studios.

What is kundalini?

Kundalini is the practice of discovering untapped energy held at the base of the spine that can be brought up through the body to awaken each of the chakras.  Kundalini yoga is an incredibly impactful tool for expanding awareness. “Kundalini awakening,” reached through a combination of movement, deep breathing, meditation and the chanting of mantras, results in an incredibly positive, energized and focused feeling.

Practicing Kundalini yoga helps create resilience, strength and vitality, and leaves you feeling renewed and even exhilarated.

What is kundalini yoga?

Kundalini yoga incorporates sound, breath and postures to awaken and channel this source of energy. Postures for Kundalini combine breathing techniques with poses focused on the naval, spine and other key energy points. Exercises may include breath of fire while doing a backbend, deep one-nostril or alternate-nostril breathing, shoulder stands, and seated meditations while chanting mantras.

Often the yoga instructor, as well as some of the students, in kundalini yoga classes will be wearing predominately white clothing. This is based on the teaching that white expands the aura or magnetic field. Kundalini classes also all begin with a process called “tuning in,” in which everyone chants, while seated, the phrase Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo, which translates to “I bow to the subtle divine wisdom, I bow to the teacher within.”

Kundalini is worth incorporating into your yoga practice as a way to connect to your inner potential, respond to the things during your day that drain energy, and find renewed energy and vitality. Through chanting mantras, focused breathing and opening postures, kundalini expands our inner vitality.

Hands-On Assists

Yoga class should be an enjoyable and uplifting experience. It should leave you feeling better and more energized than when you first stepped into the studio.

There are many aspects to yoga classes, and hands-on assists are one tool that instructors use to enhance their practice and your personal experience. If you’re someone who prefers not to have hands-on assists, remember to arrive early to class to speak to your yoga instructor about it.

What is the Reasoning Behind Hands-On Assists?

A hands-on yoga assist is the physical act of stretching, moving, pressing, or touching someone while they’re in a yoga posture and intentionally takes them deeper into a pose and corrects misalignments.

Hands-on assists are used in order to help students find better alignment, extension, and greater stability. They are tools to help students have better access to certain poses so that they are benefiting as much as possible from each movement. Not only do hands-on assists improve movement, but they reduce the risk of potential injury as well.

The wonderful part about hands-on assists is that they can transform a student’s journey as they enter, experience, and leave poses. They also eliminate unnecessary struggling so that students can enjoy a safer and more rewarding experience.

Not Everyone is Comfortable with Assists

Touch is an intimate act, and in some cases, can be a harmful trigger.

Yoga class should be a safe space for you to relax, rejuvenate and re-connect with yourself and your body. We are all unique in our own way. We come from different walks of life and different backgrounds. Something that you’re comfortable with might make someone else very uncomfortable, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, which is why it’s important to speak with your instructor prior to class if you do not want to receive hands-on-assists.

Some students have gone through incredibly traumatic experiences throughout the course of their lives, so having instructors give hands-on assistance brings back painful memories. The bottom line is hands-on assists should never be a painful experience. Remember, it’s important to notify your instructor of your concerns, so that they can be aware of your needs. Yoga class should be a positive experience for you as well as for your instructor.

What You Should Expect in Class

Instructors use hands-on assists for a variety of reasons, whether it’s for greater stability or to help you through certain poses. Most yoga instructors will ask for consent before class begins, but some will not. If an instructor does not ask if you’d like hands-on assists, then it’s up to you to voice your preference.

Every instructor is different, and they all have different methods they like to use. Some instructors might ask you to raise your hand at the beginning of class if you’d prefer to opt out of hands on-assists. Others instructors will use cards or give you a prop to place at the edge of your yoga mat to indicate your preference.

We want you to be comfortable. Please arrive early to class and speak with your instructor if you’d rather not have hands-on assists.