Consent in the Classroom

In a recent article written for the New York Times, journalist Katherine Rosman found herself face-to-face with the issue of consent and hands-on assists during Asheville Yoga Festival this past summer. During a four-hour workshop titled “Inversions and Adjustments” with Jonny Kest, she found herself in a unique situation. A woman in the workshop was practicing a pose, widely known as Triangle Pose, when Kest moved one leg around the student’s leg, wrapped his arm around her from behind and placed his palm between her collar bone and breast.

This particular instance has gained a lot of attention in the yoga community and begs the question, “how do you handle hands-on assists in class?” In light of this situation, it is imperative for yoga teachers to always ask for consent before giving any kind of hands-on adjustments. Yoga is meant to be a safe and healing space for people to come together and practice. However, when you are teaching to a group of students with diverse backgrounds unknown to you. Some people who have endured trauma in their lives can be triggered by touch, so it is vital to be mindful in your classes.

Use Consent Cards in Class

One way that you can show respect and understanding to your students is implementing a type of consent card. This is an easy and private way for students to let you know whether or not they are comfortable with hands-on assists during class, and it provides you with awareness of your students’ needs at a glance.

Establish Boundaries at the Beginning of Class

When class starts, share with your students that you intend to use hands-on adjustments, so they are clear on what to expect. If you do not want to use cards, you can also ask students to raise a hand while in child’s pose if they would prefer to not have hands-on assists.

Make Sure Students Know They Can Say No at Any Point

Some students may feel comfortable being adjusted in only certain poses. Some of your students may be more open to assists at the beginning of class rather than later on. You want them to feel comfortable throughout the duration of class. Make sure your students know that they can opt out of hands-on assists at any point during class by giving you some sort of indication whether that is with a verbal cue or with a card.

Be Aware of Resistance from Your Students

In some situations, you will be able to feel physical or energetic resistance to your hands-on assists. If you feel this type of energy, take a moment to reflect on whether or not the adjustment is necessary and act accordingly. Remember, it is always okay not to give an assist if it seems unnecessary or at all uncomfortable.

Mindful Assists 300-Hour Training – March 27-29

If you would like to better understand how to mindfully approach assists in your classes, this is the workshop for you! Instructor Shala Worsley will lead a fun and informative weekend to explore the art of hands-on adjusting. She will provide an introduction to marma points and instruction for giving hands-on adjustments that are marma specific. Click here to register!

Tips to Maintain Your Practice as a Yoga Teacher

Despite the therapeutic nature of yoga, being an instructor is not without its challenges. With hours spent teaching multiple yoga classes at different yoga studios, events, and taking time to prepare for workshops, it can be really difficult to make time for a personal practice. It can be tough when you are feeling tired and burned out from external factors going on in life. However, maintaining your practice and continuing to learn are two of the best things you can do for yourself and your career.

Fuel Your Passion for Yoga

You cannot be an effective teacher and help your students if you don’t feel inspired or connected to your own practice. Your students show up for you and want to learn from you, so being able to relate to them is essential. If you’re feeling disengaged, take some time to think back to what it is that drew you to yoga and inspired you to become a teacher in the first place. Creating space for reflection will once again ignite your passion and rekindle your love for yoga.

Create a Home Practice

We all know life can get incredibly busy, but even if you can only make time for a daily 30-minute practice, that’s a great place to start. Here are a few tips to make things easier:

Prepare your space the night before: Set up your mat and props that you want to use so that you do not have to think about it in the morning. Everything you need is right there waiting for you.

Commit to a time to practice and make it consistent: This can be one of the most challenging things to schedule, but if you stick to a specific time each day, it will become an easy routine.

Remove distractions: Make this time about you. Leave electronic devices behind and relish in the peace and quiet of your own practice.

Keep a notebook close by: After your practice, jot down the sequence you did or any enlightening thoughts you had. Personal notes are great bits of information to share in your classes.

Put on Your Student Hat

Do you aspire to be a better teacher? The answer is easy: become a student. There are so many areas of yoga to explore and continuing your education will allow you to expand your horizons and give you an opportunity to practice with other experts in the field.

300-Hour Advanced Studies

Taking the next steps in your education shows that you’ve made a commitment to both personal growth and to your career. If you’re feeling stuck in your teaching, the 300-Hour Teacher Training Program will give you a broader scope of knowledge and exposure. You can learn how to teach yoga to children, elderly adults, or expand your expertise to include ashtanga, bhakti, restorative yoga, and so much more. The 300-Hour Program is designed to provide the opportunity to make choices in the areas of yoga that inspire you most while creating flexibility with your schedule. Learn more about AYC’s 300-Hour Program here.

Find the Style of Yoga for Your Body

If you’re ready to make a fitness change this year, you don’t have to dread spending hours in the gym or agonize over going to a strenuous workout class. Fitness should be something that you look forward to and something that serves your body. You should love your body and love feeling healthy!

For many, a New Year’s Resolution comes with losing a certain amount of weight. This can be somewhat frustrating, and more often than not we see people give up on their goals soon after starting. This year, what if you changed your mindset on your fitness resolution? Instead, create a goal of feeling good and loving your body: the most important home you have to take care of.

Yoga comes with a multitude of styles that range from relaxed and rejuvenating practices to rigorous practices and can be a great fit for anybody. What are you looking for in a yoga practice to meet your needs? Here, we’ll break down a few styles so you can see just how much yoga has to offer.

Restorative Yoga

You’ve just been through a busy and possibly hectic holiday season with shopping, parties with friends, and many family gatherings. You’re tired and your body is telling you it needs some time to relax and recover. Restorative yoga could be the perfect practice for you as you dive into the new year. This style is a gentle, calming, therapeutic practice that soothes the nervous system and releases physical and mental tension. Props such as blankets, blocks, bolsters, and straps support the body in gentle stretching sequences and nurturing, sustained postures that ease the entire system into relaxation and balance. If your body feels like it needs added rest, then a restorative yoga class could be the perfect place to start.

Hot Yoga

Energize your new year with hot yoga! If you want to get back in shape, strengthen your muscles, and increase flexibility, then hot yoga may be the right move for you. Temperatures in a hot yoga class are usually in the 90’s, which makes it easier for your muscles to stretch. This will also increase your heart rate as your body works to keep you cool, and a higher heart rate results in a better cardio workout. Sweating it out in a heated room gives your body the opportunity to cleanse itself and release built up toxins that will leave you feeling renewed and energized from head to toe.

Bhakti

If you are looking for something inspiring, this particular style will introduce to the spiritual side of yoga. Bhakti offers you a path to self-realization, exploring a unique experience of oneness with everything around you. Asheville Yoga Center offers Bhakti flow classes, which combine the chanting of universal mantras with the grace of vinyasa flow yoga. Class usually opens with a musical style of group chanting, sometimes accompanied by instruments, sometimes voices only. The remainder of class is vinyasa flow, which incorporates different postures into a specific sequence with ujjayi breathing, mindful alignment, and a meditative focus.

This new year, listen to your body and do something kind for it. You can find exactly what you need from your yoga practice and enjoy all the benefits that come with it without straining yourself at the gym. Make this your best start to a new year.

See our full list of classes here.

Supporting Local Greenways

Many people begin their yoga journey looking for a source of healing from mental health struggles and physical ailments. A yoga practice can help you heal from the inside out by building your mind-body connection as well as strengthening your muscles. It provides the space to listen, reflect and rejuvenate both mind and body from whatever you may be dealing with.

Similarly, spending time outdoors creates the perfect healing compliment to any yoga practice. Being in nature is wholly therapeutic by reducing feelings of anger, fear, and stress. It contributes to feeling better emotionally and contributes to physical wellbeing by reducing blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension. Spending time in a natural environment provides the opportunity to unplug and helps to center your mind. Additionally, being in nature gives the brain the downtime it needs to recharge. If you’re feeling stressed out and need a break, take time in your day to be outside whether that’s going on a hike, a walk or a bike ride.

We are proud to support an organization that also believes in the power of the outdoors through our January Charity of the Month Program. This month, we invite you to join us as we raise awareness for Connect Buncombe and its work to encourage and support the implementation and construction of greenways throughout Buncombe County. Greenways are undeveloped pieces of land around urban areas that are set aside for recreational use or environmental protection. They are essential components of city living, and we hope to see more of them throughout Buncombe County in the coming years.

On Thursday, January 30, you can be a part of our Day of Giving where 10% off drop-in and community class proceeds will be donated to Connect Buncombe. Donation boxes will also be able in the Studio and Boutique throughout January if you would prefer to give a monetary donation.

By supporting Connect Buncombe, you can make it possible for people locally to have access to safe, beautiful outdoor spaces to recharge, rejuvenate, and heal.

Enjoy spending time outside by checking out Connect Buncombe’s map of greenways!

Show Your Light

Take a minute to think about some of your most influential yoga teachers. How did they impact your life? What qualities did they possess that made you admire them?

Yoga teachers are some of the most nurturing, impactful people that you will meet in your life. Going through 200-Hour teacher training will equip you with the essential tools you need to share your love of yoga and start inspiring others in your own classes or out in your community. Just like your favorite yoga teachers, you too can be a light to others and help them grow.

The knowledge that you’ll learn in 200-Hour teacher training will stay with you for the rest of your life, and you’ll find that you start implementing practices and teachings from training in your everyday life and in your relationships. You’ll learn the spiritual aspects of yoga, breath work, ethical codes, meditation and more. These gems of wisdom will help you serve others in and out of the classroom and will grow your love and appreciation for yoga beyond your personal practice.

How You Can Be an Inspiring Yoga Teacher

Care About Your Students

Impactful teachers are the ones who check in with their students and form relationships with them. Take time to really get to know individuals who come to your classes and build relationships with the ones who are regulars. Going that extra mile will end up giving you and your students an even more fulfilling experience.

Live by What You Teach

Be a teacher devoted to your practice and someone who truly lives yogic values on and off the mat. Your students will be inspired by the love you share both in the classroom and beyond.

Be Present, Not Perfect

When you start teaching, you may feel pressure to make your classes flow perfectly like some of the classes you’ve taken from your favorite teachers. But yoga isn’t about fitting into a mold of perfection. Remember, you’re just starting out and things aren’t going to always go the way you want them to and that’s okay. Your students will admire you for trying and being humble as you embrace your career.

Serving others starts by implementing your own personal growth, and you will blossom beyond belief through training. You’ll learn so much and be ready to grow personally and inspire those around you with the goodness you find from yoga. This is your time to jump in!

AYC’s 200-Hour Teacher Training Program 

Asheville Yoga Centers offers 3-week immersions and 9-weekend course options for students to complete their Yoga Alliance RYT-200 yoga certification, but the curriculum is the same no matter which path you choose. Each day of yoga training will consist of about 50% asana and 50% lecture/discussion. You’ll cover multiple topics such as yoga poses, meditation, philosophy, pranayama, anatomy, sequencing, assists, and a variety of different styles of yoga. You’ll also get to learn from eight highly skilled and experienced instructors.

This month, receive free books when you register for your 200-Hour training! Prices are increasing in 2020!

Stay Ahead of the Winter Blues

It’s easy to fall into the winter blues when temperatures plummet and it’s dark and dreary outside. You might find that you start feeling lethargic and it might become harder and harder to get out of bed in the morning. These are all symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, a seasonal form of depression triggered by the lack of sunshine in the wintertime. The source of the problem comes from a disturbance in your body’s circadian rhythm that changes your body’s levels of serotonin and melatonin. If you find yourself feeling blue, here are some tips to help you feel better through the winter months!

Stick to a Schedule

Most people who suffer from SAD have a hard time sleeping at night and waking up in the morning. Keeping your body on a regular sleep schedule can help you get a better night’s sleep which deters symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.

Spend Time with Others

Having quality time with friends and loved ones can really lift your spirits when the weather is cold and grey outside. Plan fun activities to do, grab a cup of coffee, a meal, or coordinate going to a yoga class with your friends. Having some things to look forward to during the week will help tremendously!

Take Time to Exercise

Giving your body exercise and exposure to light during the winter months is one of the best ways you can combat SAD. No one likes to be cooped up inside for a long period of time, so if it’s not too cold, try to get outside as much as you can. Walking or running outside can be very beneficial to the body since you get exercise and exposure to sunshine and light. If you can’t get outside, then take your exercise inside! Spend 30 minutes on a bike, treadmill or make time for your favorite yoga class.

Yoga practice is a great way to combat SAD by tapping into the mind-body connection. It is an incredible tool to reset the nervous system and help release tension and stress by increasing your serotonin levels. If you have a case of the winter blues, try incorporating these poses into your practice.

Standing Backbend

Start by standing on your mat with your feet planted strongly on the floor. Firm your glutes and raise your hands up over your head with your palms together. Push your hips forward, look backward and lift your chest up towards the sky. This pose will help open your heart and lengthen your body.

Child’s Pose

Let your body relax and reset in Child’s Pose. From all fours, sink your hips back toward your heels and lower your body towards your thighs. Reach your arms out in front of you and rest there for as long as your body needs.

Cat-Cow Flow

In the winter, the spine and back can feel very stiff when exposed to cold temperatures. Cat-Cow flow can help release this tension in your muscles. In tabletop position, evenly distribute your weight through your hands and legs. For Cat pose, exhale your belly button towards your spine and lift upwards, scooping the tailbone and allowing the chin to rest on your chest. For Cow pose, inhale and lift your sitting bones and chest toward the ceiling and allow your belly to sink towards the floor. Lift your head to look straight ahead. Complete as many rounds of the two as you would like.

 

If you find yourself feeling down, give your body a re-charge with these daily practices and yoga asanas! If you are looking for some activity to help you get out of the house, try a style of yoga that your body is craving by viewing our full schedule of classes.

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.