What I love about the New Year is that it’s filled with so much possibility. What I love about the end of the year is the beautiful opportunity to reflect on what went right over the past 365 days and what I can do better in the New Year. I like to get really clear about what I want and put it on paper to make it more real and more achievable.
As a yoga teacher the New Year is one of the busiest times for me. Classes are full and everyone is anxious to make good on their resolutions. Twelve months later in December, only the diehards remain.
So what happens to our New Year’s resolutions between January and December? How can we make them stick?
I’ve spent a lot of time studying how to build good habits and systems and goal setting to help students stick to practice. Here are some ideas for you to improve your practice this year:
As the holiday season kicks into full swing, I want to talk about a question that’s an annual challenge for a lot of people – how do I fit my practice into all this travel? Whether you’re on the go, staying with friends or family, or even feeling uprooted within your own home during the holidays, it’s hard not to worry about your practice getting thrown off. Luckily, I’ve got some tips for you!
First, make sure to bring a yoga mat, clothes, and any other essentials you need to make your practice happen. You don’t need to create any new reasons not to practice – getting a travel mat and having everything you need prepared in advance is an easy way to break down that particular barrier to your practice.
Second, find your space to practice! I know this can be challenging. Maybe you’re staying with family, or in a too-small hotel room, or sharing a room with someone – there can be all sorts of obstacles to finding a space for your...
Have you heard yogis talking about “maintenance mode” and wondered what the heck it means?
Well, ultimately, a maintenance practice is different for everyone, because what it looks like is determined by what it is you’re trying to maintain. With maintenance practice, you are essentially setting yourself up for better practices to come - later in the week, later in the month, and in the coming months.
There are many different situations where maintenance practice might be appropriate. I typically do a maintenance practice when I’m traveling or when I have a very heavy teaching schedule (for instance, when I am teaching intensive studies or workshop weekends). I’ll also often do maintenance practices during big life transitions like a move or starting a new job, as well as right before or after ladies holiday. In short, I switch to maintenance mode when the rest of my life is too chaotic or unsteady for me to reliably get onto my mat knowing I can push...
Traditionally in Ashtanga, many teachers will teach with absolutely no props. I think there’s some benefit to that but, personally, I like using props when I teach (and in my own practice). I think they foster independence and can be extremely helpful learning tools. Props can create space when we don’t have it naturally, and they can help us to repattern, and I would say that these are the two main times when we want to use props.
So, what does that mean? When I say creating space (or taking space away, maybe). It could mean helping you catch a bind, it could mean helping you shift forward to catch a bind, it could mean helping you make more space for your shoulders, or something along those lines. What it comes down to is this: if you cannot do the posture without the prop, use the prop – especially if you’re practicing at home and don’t have someone to help you!
The other time to use props is when you’re working on repatterning, and an example...
I get a lot of questions about what I think of "continuing education" in yoga - workshops, immersions, in-depth studies, teacher trainings, retreats; basically anything outside of the Mysore room or led class.
There is so much pressure to do that it can be difficult to know how to judge whether a learning opportunity will be beneficial to us. I'm going to broadly say "workshops" to talk about this, but I think the lessons of this post and livestream really are applicable to most continuing education opportunities.
On a community level, I think that workshops and other continuing education offerings can be a great way to strengthen bonds with your existing community, as well as a great way to expand it. Workshops give you a chance to connect with your teachers and fellow yogis in ways that there just isn't the space for in the day-to-day practice. If supporting your community is something that's important to you, workshops can also be an especially great way to do that with...
In my last Ashtanga 101 blog I wrote about when is the right time to start a new series. Read it here.
This of course raises the question, how do you go about adding postures?
Personally, I am a fan of adding one pose at a time to the end of the current series. For example, a student would continue to practice all of Primary first to lead into the addition of Second Series postures. After setu bandhasana, Second Series postures would be added one by one. When a student finishes the last posture of their current Second Series practice, it’s time for backbends and closing sequence - this always remains at the very end of the practice.
There are occasions when I teach new postures in pairs, but I generally try not to overwhelm students with multiple new postures at once. There are exceptions when it just makes sense - like dhanurasana and parsva dhanurasana. It’s beneficial to sit with a pose and really incorporate it into the body and practice before adding the next....
Ashtanga 101: When is it time to start a new series? And how do you do it?
A question that I hear a lot is, how do I know if it’s time to start a new series? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of when (or how) to move onto a new series. It would be best to ask a teacher who you’ve worked with personally and who knows your practice, but I can share some of the things I take into consideration when I introduce a student to a new series.
A relevant starting point when you’re wondering about this is Patanjali’s yoga sutra 2.46 – sthira-sukham asanam, most commonly translated to mean that posture (asana) [should be] stable (sthira) and comfortable (sukha).
Sthira is the ability to “hold steady” in an asana, not only in the body but in your mind and in your energy – all three of these things need to be in balance for an asana to be considered steady. Muscles would be evenly engaged, you wouldn’t be losing your...
In popular culture, yoga is typically portrayed as an exercise routine for limber, attractive women. In reality, though, dedicated students of yoga are impossible to pigeonhole, and yoga is something far beyond an exercise routine. Everybody — all ages, body types, races, genders — can tap into the subtle currents of existence that keep us coming back to our practices, day after day, month after month, and year after year.
The physical benefits of yoga are trite (and true) and well-documented in Yoga Journal and clickbait advertisements:
But what I see as the most interesting benefits of yoga are much more subtle, and much harder to market.
It's easy to bang our way through decades of life ignoring how we feel, how we think, how we operate. Despite the incredible contradiction of using our physical bodies to transcend our...
As much as I love summer, I have also love the energy of fall. Personally, I’ve never quite been able to get myself off the academic calendar, and September always feels to me like the right time to start something new.
This seems to ring true on the yoga scene, too. We all seem to return to a more normal routine come September — summer vacation is over, kids are back in school, travel dies down, temperatures start to cool and the pace of living gets back into its usual rhythm. All of this makes it the perfect time to double down on your yoga practice.
That’s why I think September is the perfect time to consider starting a Mysore style practice. I know how intimidating starting something new can be, and starting Mysore can be especially scary. I so vividly remember the first time I went to a Mysore class. I was in grad school and already familiar with Primary Series, though I hadn’t committed it to memory, and I dragged my sleepy butt to the Metro at five in...