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Journal Post

As the yoga boom continues to grow and new studios pop up everywhere, the question arises of how to offer classes in order to appeal to both new and experienced students. Yoga studios usually choose one of two options for class registration. One option is class cards, where the student pays for a specific number of classes over a certain time period. This is often seen as most convenient for the student, as they can go to any class on the schedule without committing to any specific class.
Not long ago, I was troubled to read in the Washington Post that local hospitals are having to expand to accommodate increasing numbers of aging, ailing Baby Boomers - a generation of which I and many of Willow Street's students are a part. We're living longer than our parents did, and of course we want to grow older gracefully. Yet even as health care is one of our highest concerns - as it is for people young and old - right now, we're most worried about our pocketbooks and retirement plans!
We can all relate to eating from a paper bag in the car during rush-hour traffic or gobbling down a snack bar while running to catch the train. Nowadays, it is easy to neglect the sacredness of our food. But the quality of foods that you eat, and the attention that you give to the act of eating, deeply affect your health and consciousness.
Learn how to use your personal challenges to find your authentic voice, fortify your teachings, and inspire your students.
By Sara Avant Stover
Amy Ippoliti, a senior certified Anusara Yoga teacher based in Boulder, Colorado, felt vulnerable and fragile as she attempted to pull herself together to teach in New York City following September 11, 2001.
"Despite my own grief, I tried to acknowledge the pain everyone felt and uplift them in the face of such madness," she says.
Find out why gender-specific classes can provide an inspiring teaching experience while attracting an appreciate audence.
As teachers, we can be artists who sculpt experiences for our students through words we use to teach a pose, the music we play during class, or even the ways we decorate our studios. We can also create a more meaningful experience by opting to teach to targe audiences.
This is not a new concept. A glance at any studio's schedule offers us plenty of options: Basics, Level 2/3, Hot Yoga, Prenatal Yoga, Mysore, Meditation. Rarely, however, do we see options such as Women's Yoga or Men's Yoga listed.
Teaching to nonnative English speakers is challenging, but these tips will help you make sure your teaching transcends all language and cultural barriers.
Once, while teaching in Paris with a translator, Nischala Joy Devi, international teacher and author of The Secret Power of Yoga and The Healing Path of Yoga, was asked by an English-speaking student if she would return to teach there again. "There are certainly worse places I could come back to
than Paris," Devi replied, smiling. The translator delivered her response to the group and, upon seeing the ensuing sea of horrified faces, Devi stammered to the translator, "What did you say to them?"
Lull your students into deeper relaxation by integrating singing bowls to your teaching.
I sank into Savasana, wholeheartedly melting into stillness. Eyes closed, the once-distinct boundaries of my skin
dissolved while thoughts evaporated into a sleepy haze. Post-asana energy hummed and whirled through my limbs. My teacher sat in the front of the room, quiet, erect, cross-legged. With a singing bowl in hand, he circled the wooden wand around the bowl's rim, radiating a lullaby to the blissful yoginis in the room.
Those moments always felt like magic to me. Somehow the all-pervading sound of the bowl, like the mysterious
embrace of a whale's song, never failed to seduce me into deeper surrender.
How to work with, not against, your fellow yoga instructors
Many of us turned to yoga for its promise of happiness. The four walls of a studio and its community of like-minded Sun Saluters offered solace from the rat race outside. When we stepped onto our yoga mats, we stepped intoa world where joy and harmony reigned.
Later, we became yoga teachers. Sometimes this entailed leaving behind careers that brought big paychecks (for some) an even bigger burnout (for most). Ready to serve students by offering them the scrumptious fruits of yoga, we were bright-eyed, enthusiastic, and, in hindsight, naive.
Take your seat in style and discover how what you wear affects how you feel and how
others feel about you.By Sara Avant Stover
Whether you buy your yoga wardrobe from WalMart or Lululemon, you can find just the right fashions to suit your size, budget, and mood. As a student, you might search for styles that show off your body or personality, but, as a teacher, there's more to consider. When you step into the seat of the teacher you become a role model. Then what you wear has a greater impact not only on how you feel but also on how others feel, too. The task is to dress in a way that uplifts your words, actions, and spirit in service to your students and your subject matter.
When and how can you get your students to commit to one practice- and should you even try?
Walk down the street and witness the shapes and sizes of pedestrians, the colors and makes of passing cars, and the dazzling array of merchandise in shop windows. Abundance bombards us from every angle.
This smorgasbord of options also seeps into yoga. Ashtanga, Anusara, Bikram, Iyengar, Sivananda - the list goes on.
At a certain point you need to make some important decisions. Just as you determined whether of not you would be a vegetarian, how you would earn a living, or in what neighborhood you'd live, must you also settle on one style of yoga?
It may seem complicated to manage the needs of parents and their children in a yoga setting, but parent and child classes offer your students moments of calm and connection amid the chaos of parenting.
By Sara Avant Stover
Being a parent doesn't have to mean zero personal time and a slimmed-down social life. Today yoga classes are not just for the super-fit, super-flexible, and super-serious. Anyone and everyone can find a class that suits his or her needs-including parents and children.
Encourage your students to develop a home practice-and
stick with it.By Sara Avant Stover
I moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand, from New York City when I
was 21. I had been practicing yoga for three years, attending
group classes four times a week. When I moved, though,
things changed. Chiang Mai's yoga scene didn't compare to
the abundant supply of classes I had grown so used to in
New York. If I wanted to keep practicing, I had to do it alone.
Forced by circumstance to foster a home practice, my
relationship with yoga quickly deepened and became more
intimate, more connected. Equipped with a solid foundation
Until the age of 45, Bill McKeever had always been in the best of health. A student of Buddhism since the age of 21, a Yale graduate, the former director of Karmê Chöling, the former vice president of Naropa University, a Shambhala meditation teacher, and the father of four sons, Bill was not the type of person you would expect to be diagnosed with the degenerative neurological disorder known as Parkinson Disease (PD).Yet when his right hand began to inexplicably tremble nine years ago, Bill knew that something was amiss.
Explore the pros and cons of hands-on guidance and learn to use skillful assists to empower
your students.
By Sara Avant Stover
"Come on! Extend, Karl! Don't be so stingy!" exclaimed Sharon Gannon, cofounder of Jivamukti Yoga, to student Karl Straub, as she assisted him in Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose). Straub, a Jivamukti Yoga teacher himself, as well as a Thai Yoga Bodywork practitioner, recalls the potency of Gannon's assist-one that he revisits every time he practices that
Your stomach is growling as you try to hold off from eating until yoga class is over - two hours from now. If you don't eat anything before class, you might keel over mid-Sun Salutation. If you do eat something, you'll wish you hadn't the moment you spring into Handstand. What's a hungry yogi to do?
Greetings from Denver, where life is hot, busy, and good. The city is teeming with visitors from all over the world; and if there is anywhere that needs yoga right now, this is certainly it!
I just finished my third raw chocolate and superfoods truffle here at the Huffington Post Oasis at Denver's National Convention.
As a yogi, the question is no longer, "What advanced pose can I do?", but "Can I walk my talk?"
In other words, can you live your yoga?
This is the challenge and the opportunity. Especially here at the DNC, where wheeling and dealing is the name of the game and the decisions of a few affect many.
Opening the Conversation
At a dinner party two months ago a friend brought a controversial (and important) topic to a table of yogis.
"How is everyone planning on getting involved in the elections this year?" he probed.
Last night I attempted to stay up past my bedtime to attend an Etown event here in Denver, featuring some of my faves like James Taylor and Ani DiFranco.
Unfortunately, after a full day at the DNC I couldn't manage to keep my eyes open past the first third of the concert. On the ride back to Boulder, my boyfriend Peter (bless his heart for agreeing to chauffeur me home early), attempted to boost my spirits by reminding me of yoga's promise.
I could transform my nearly blinding fatigue by shifting my focus, he urged.
"Can you tap into the bigger picture?"
The last day of school used to mark my favorite day of the year (second to my birthday, of course). On a humid mid-June afternoon, with the shrill ring of the final dismissal bell, my daily regime of studies would dissolve like a Popsicle on hot pavement. The expanse of summer vacation stretched out in front of me, beckoning with promises of suntans, starry nights, bare feet, lazy mornings, and, if I was lucky, summer loves.
As an adult, estranged from the rhythms of a school calendar, responsibilities last year-round. Now my own five senses, rather than a school bell, cue me to break out the flip-flops.
The summer after I graduated from college I headed off to fulfill a dream -- I traveled solo through Europe for two months. Sauntering on Parisian streets; sipping vino in Italy; snuggling under down comforters in Switzerland and Austria; and noshing on pastries in Belgium, and Prague -- I was finally free of all the obligations that my schooling had entailed and was embarking on the path of my adult life.
At least that's how things seemed on the outside.
During the dog days of summer we're familiar with the usual methods of cooling off: AC, dips in cool lakes, watermelon, and tall glasses of iced tea or lemonade often do the trick.
Yogis, however, use yet another way; and it's one that we doesn't require paying an electricity bill or going on vacation.
We can cool down through our very own breath. That's right, one particular form of yogic breathing, called sitali (pronounced sheet-ah-lee) in Sanskrit, cools down the body when it's feeling overheated, as well as the mind and heart, when fiery emotions like anger and jealousy arise.
Here's how to do it:
Here's a delicious and refreshing summer treat. While it's dairy and sugarfree, it's certainly high in the yum factor.
Peel and freeze very ripe bananas in a plastic freezer bag. (Very ripe banana skins have no green, they have black or brown marks all over, and the stem is brown or snaps back effortessly.) Freeze a minimum of 8 hours. Depending upon your freezer, it may take at least 12 hours.
Place in a food processor, Champion Juicer or Green Star Juicer, using the blank plate. 1 to 2 bananas is a normal serving. If you using a blender or processor, use a little fruit or berry juice.
Learn how seeking constructive criticism from more experienced teachers can improve your teaching skills.
By Sara Avant Stover
At one point several years ago, Elena Brower, Anusara Yoga teacher and owner of New York City's Vira Yoga, received letters of constructive, critical feedback from two of her teachers-both on the same day.
While this initially ignited her inner critic and bruised her selfesteem, she soon came to realize how fortunate she was to have received such wise and attentive care from her trusted mentors.
"It ultimately brought more clarity to my teaching and gave me more respect for my teachers and more trust in myself," Brower says.
We live in a universe of infinite possibility.
That's why last night, along with 80,000 other enthusiasts, I did the wave in a football stadium and swished an American flag through the air for the first time since the Memorial Day parade in the 3rd grade.
As an American, as a yogini, and as an ordinary person who believes in the immortal goodness of the human spirit, I went to Invesco Field last night to participate in history.
My journey there was indeed a pilgrimage- riddled with doubt, despair, dehydration, blisters, sunburn, resilience, and, of course, some raw truffles that I smuggled with me from the Oasis.
Yoga as Usual in the Oasis
I almost forgot to brush my teeth this morning. Dishes are piling up in my sink; and for the first time in a long while, I didn't make my bed today.
Clearly, despite my best attempts to stay grounded, the DNC frenzy is having its way with me.
While this week has been electrifying, intense, and deeply inspiring, I will be happy to return to real life tomorrow. Simple acts like eating breakfast at home and sitting on my own meditation cushion (rather than the seat of the BX bus) seem like long-lost friends at this point. A lot has happened in four days.
We in the West think of historical time as running along a track, an arrow moving in one direction only, and each of us having, as the TV soap opera reminds us, one life to live. But in India, historical time is cyclical, running round and round like a Ferris wheel, each of us passing through many hundreds, even thousands of lives. Each turn of the wheel is called a kalpa, a period of time estimated at 4,320,000 human years. This may seem like an eternity to us, but to Brahma, the creator god, it's only one "day" and "night" in his life. It's estimated that Brahma's life span is 36,000 kalpas, which works out to 100 divine years.
My original intention for this month was to write about one of the pioneers of modern yoga, Shri Yogendra. But just this morning I received a newsletter from a yoga school-here unnamed-where I found a short essay, "About Yoga," that begins with: "Yoga is an ancient science practiced for thousands of years." Friends, as Joan Rivers says, can we talk? Let's start with "thousands of years." The Sanskrit word sanatva means "ancientness," it's an idea that's found everywhere in Hinduism.
We're a little early with our newsletter this month because we have a time-urgent message about our next Advanced Studies program. You might wonder about this: why "study" Yoga, isn't it more about "doing?" Well, that's the active way Yoga is mostly presented in the West, but traditionally study is an important element of the Yoga discipline, going back a good 2500 years. Every school of Yoga has its "doing" element-and it's not always just doing asana-but that doing is always based on some kind of vision or theory about the nature of the world and human consciousness.
After a month's hiatus, we return to the story of Yoga in the US. In the July newsletter we looked at one of the unsung female Yoga pioneers of the 20th century, Sita Devi Yogendra, and I promised you then more about our female trail blazers. So this month we'll visit with a woman whose life spanned the entire 20th century, and whose followers lovingly called her the "First Lady of Yoga."
Six hundred years ago in medieval Europe pepper was literally worth its weight in gold. That's because it (along with other spices) was a valued seasoning, but extremely hard to come by. Why? Pepper came from India and the Far East, but Europeans hadn't yet figured out how to get there by sea. So the spice trade was conducted overland, funneled through the Middle East where Moslems merchants controlled the traffic and, as middlemen, drove the price of pepper sky high. Only the wealthiest of the European wealthy could afford pepper, which was sometimes used as currency or collateral-even today in England, "peppercorn rent" is a legal term.
The last time we checked in we were in India in the last quarter of the 18th century, with the British East India Company (EIC) serving as much of the country's governing body. Unfortunately for India, like most businesses-except Piedmont Yoga of course-the EIC was in business to make money, and when that aim conflicted with good government-surprise!-making money won out. When a severe drought hit India and food shortages threatened, despite plenty of early warnings the EIC sat on its collective hands and did nothing...nothing that is except allow merchants to RAISE the price of foodstuffs, thereby exacerbating an already catastrophic situation. The result was predictable: uncounted millions of Indians died of starvation.
How you think, feel and act influences the kind of interactions you have in the world. While there might not always be an easy causal relationship between thought, action and experience, if you dig deep enough the connection is almost always evident. There is an ancient Zen parable that tells of a young monk-in-training who searches the world for a true master and a peaceful place, but finds only angry, unhappy people everywhere he goes. After roaming through many towns the young aspirant meets a Zen teacher in disguise who asks the traveler what he has experienced during his journey.
If you're looking for a sense of ease, grace and effortlessness in your practice, the key lies in finding a sense of spaciousness in your mind. There is a way to practice and to be with your body to create the kind of neurological and structural foundations for a complete sense of openness. There is a way to literally get more flexible without collapsing the core stabilizing patterns of the body. In this way you may learn to practice all types of yoga with an inner awareness that has relaxation as its basis.
The mind enjoys putting on a melodramatic show. From the thick plot of stress, anger, pain and loss, it proclaims that we are "just fine", "coping quite well" or "not really bothered at all". The body, by contrast, doesn't lie for very long if at all. Its simple proximity to nature cannot go on with show forever. If stresses like lies are present, the body will hold it in the belly for a period of time and then, after a critical turning point, it will give up, give in and collapse. Some of you may be all of familiar with this state of your body.
Have you ever walked into a string of extremely unfortunate events? Imagine that your partner leaves you for a younger, prettier, wealthier, funnier version of yourself the moment you feel deeply insecure about your body. Then the government slams you with $4,000 of extra taxes to paid right after you quit your job. And in your yoga practice you injure your hamstring right after your shoulder finally started to get back into shape. There are often weeks, months or even years that may have you wondering what the Divine plan for your life is really all about anyway.
Emotional vulnerability seems to snowball at all the most inappropriate moments. When you're feeling down the most insignificant comment can send you deeper into the darkness. On days when you feel torn open by life, your heart is raw, exposed, and injured. In this space everything hurts. Is it just chance and coincidence that dishes up misery for no reason or is there some hidden cosmic force that answers to a pecking order higher than your melancholic feelings?
Food is not who you are. It is a way you communicate with the world. You express things through food, through eating, like you do through any art form, but it nevertheless is not who you are at your deepest essence. Your eating habits are merely habits, not your life or your vitality, though they may seriously enhance your life, your energy levels and your overall health.
Have you every noticed how noisy we all are? In the last twenty years, we have invented and now need iPods, iPhones, CDs, portable DVD players, louder motorcycles, super jet engines, walkie-talkies, reality TV shows, music videos and Starbucks.
Silence is like a dirty word in the modern vocabulary. When you sit with another person there is an almost irresistible urge to speak. Sometimes you converse about important subjects and sometimes you just talk. This meaningless, friendly chit-chat about light-hearted matters is a kind of social sport. Imagine the awkwardness of a first date where you sit together without this lively banter--a boring disaster.
Yoga inspires us, moves us beyond our normal boundaries, and asks us to dedicate ourselves in new ways. Even if you are just beginning your yoga experience, you already know the unmistakable peace left in your body after an amazing session. If you are lucky enough to have a regular yoga practice already, then you have committed yourself on at least some level to the path of personal discovery.
In every yoga class, you renew your commitment to be present with ourselves. When you choose to create the time and space to practice yoga, you powerfully create the life that you want. Each breathe reaffirms your unwavering dedication to your own evolution.
Living in North America, we are part of a society that exports the flashy famousness of the newly discovered. We are collectively in a rush to unearth the next hidden secret and produce our very own million-dollar invention. This makes us brilliant innovators, forward thinking dreamers and daringly ambitious artists, and yet simultaneously, history-deprived, beauty-obsessed shopaholics haunting soulless strip malls sipping mass produced lattes. Is it no wonder then that we as nation seem to be in search of spirit? What else is left for America to invent than an authentic self in the midst of such rampant materialism?
Our life is short, yet a real sense of time eludes us. It is more common to get hooked on the world of sensory pleasure than to live a spiritual life. E-bay, appointments and shopping consume the grasping mind. Television seems calmer than silence. Pain and loss are more addictive than gratitude and joy.
Confrontation is a grey zone on the spiritual path. Should you fight your way out of a defeatist victim-mentality? Or should you take a few breathes to ventilate your hostility before taking your inner rage out on your fellow freeway drivers? When is it appropriate to stick up for yourself & when is it time to quietly wait out the storm?
This year's political season in the U.S. highlights some of the most monumental achievements and pitfalls of the past century and inspires a renewal of the dream of peace, hope and change. Yet in such an atmosphere we must also ask ourselves where the realization of such broad specturm dreams is to be found if these ideals are really to be more than just a dream after all is said and done. We know now that the ultimate resolution of the seemingly eternal problems of humanity is not to be found in a battle between nations fought with weapons of mass destruction, nor in a war of words among politicians, nor in the battle of the sexes. So where and to whom do we turn to answer the most difficult questions of our lives?
If you believe everything you read online, hear on the radio or see on TV, then you're probably convinced that we really are headed straight down the proverbial toilet bowl. But think again. Nothing you read, hear or see is absolutely true. News, although an attempt an objectivity, is nevertheless an account given by a person, just as history is a story told by the survivors. Many pioneering thinkers and coaches suggest taking a "news fast" for a week to ten days as part of a mental detoxification program.
The spark of interest in yoga often ignites an inner obsession that infiltrates every aspect of your life. At first yoga is life and you cannot get enough of it. Yoga reconnects you to long forgotten inner realms and you somehow fall in love with yoga. Yet if your yoga practice evolves into a daily, lifelong relationship it is almost inevitable that at some moment you will get bored with it. The insatiable hunger for as much yoga as possible will shift and change to a space where you will be absolutely full of it. This period of lackluster levels of initiative often comes ironically as a result of your full immersion in the yoga world.
A yoga posture demonstrated by a master level practitioner is often the epitome of grace and ease. Yet when the novice student attempts to mirror these same movements the degree of difficulty is immediately evident. The real test of a yoga practitioner comes when the path ahead is laid out clearly and the student choose whether to commits to each step of the journey regardless of difficulty.
You will see in others what you see in yourself. All of the insecurities you see in others are really the ones you have within reflected back at you. A Course in Miracles states that you cannot give to another what you have not known yourself. But is this true with love? Or does love play by other rules? When we ask others for unconditional love does that mean we are capable of it ourselves? In the total acceptance of our imperfections we find a grace beyond measure and a joy in the otherwise confusing panorama of humanity. Yet if we are only able to love another person to the extent that we are able to love ourselves our capacity to give might find a dead end in the caverns of our self-loathing and the doldrums of low self-esteem.
From Top Chef to Judge Judy's Courtroom Theater to the Tragedy of Tosca drama sells. At its best drama entertains, teaches and makes people laugh. At its worst it brings out division, hurtfulness and hatred. Yet human beings are somewhat enthralled with the ups and downs of their own emotions. You might even venture to say that we are addicted to them. It is all too easy to get dragged down into the habit pattern of the mind's sometimes sordid past when emotions flare and all too hard to choose the higher, more peaceful ground above. There is truth to the notion that our inner world is a kind of jungle in need of healing.
Every argument with your partner, every honk in a traffic jam and every annoying TV host gives you the chance to check in with yourself to see where you really stand on the inner plane of reality. It's easy to postulate the choice of peace over war, but in the midst of a heated stand-off we are often more interested in being right than in being peaceful. Whenever you care more about the validity of your argument over the connection with the person you're with, the hard truth of the matter is that you would rather be right than be at peace.
Can there be any doubt that we are in the midst of great change? From the historic campaigns waged by both American political parties to the rise of China as a superpower to the generational shifts in the workforce to catastrophic weather patterns to changes in the face of yoga, everywhere you look the tides are turning in some form or another. When Shiva as the great destroyer dances on the small ego we all have, it is change itself embodied the great equalizer of the Hindu deities. Resist change and you resist the law of life. Fight it and you will only hurt yourself.

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