yogabuzz

Only a few spots left on our Bali Yoga Retreat!

AND only a few hours left to book at the Early Bird Discount price!

10 Day Adventure Style Yoga Retreat

Early Bird Discount Deadline: December 31st

February 28th-March 8th, 2016

Bali Header Image 2016

Life is supposed to be our greatest adventure, so why not start (or continue) that adventure with us in Bali this March! Our 10-day yoga retreat is like no one else's, complete with volunteer work, daily yoga in amazing scenic locations, temple and city visits with local guides, a hike up a mountain, and so much more!

What's the catch? There isn't one! BUT we do want you to get the best possible deal on this super cool experience, and for that you need to register by December 31st! Our Early Bird Pricing expires on January 1st, so now's the time to act!

 

What sets our Yoga Retreats apart from all the others?

Some really cool stuff....

 

TRAVEL

In addition to yoga every single day with super awesome amazing exciting teacher Alexis Novak, you'll get to see Bali like you wouldn't ever see it before. Unlike many other yoga retreats, we don't just post up in one scenic spot. Instead, we'll spend time in several locations around Bali so you can get the most out of that pricy airfare!  

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SEVA

Giving back to the communities that have given us amazing memories is a huge part of the Yoga Travel Tree mission. While in Bali, we'll volunteer with a local organization that lends a hand to low income and developmentally disabled children. You're sure to feel good about the impact you'll have!

Bali Volunteering Yoga Travel Tree

ADVENTURE

Hiking a mountain on a yoga retreat? Say WHAT?!

Yep, with us you'll hike Mt. Batur located in Northwest Bali. Fear not! We'll have a guide for you to depend on, and the hike is suitable for most yogis.

Bali Lake View

CULTURE

Rather than just visit a place, snap some Instagram pics, and then take off, we want our yogis to REALLY experience the culture of a location. While in Bali, we'll explore cities with local guides, check out some temples and their incredible architecture, attend a local cooking class and way more. You'll be able to take home amazing memories, new perspectives and once in a lifetime experiences along with your new profile pic.

Bali Cooking Lesson - Yoga Travel Tree

Want to know more about Bali?

Take a peek at our Yogi's Guide to Bali for everything you need to know before you travel, including cultural do's and don'ts, must see yoga destinations and how to travel safely!  

And remember, we build awesome adventures with YOU in mind.

Yoga Travel Tree was inspired by the simple idea of creating rich, meaningful yoga adventures around the world. We know from experience that both travel and yoga can be transformative experiences for the mind, body, and soul.

When you travel with us, you can rest assured that you're getting everything possible out of your trip. See you in Bali!

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Do You Have To Be Flexible To Do Yoga?

How many times have you suggested to family members or friends that they ought to try a yoga class sometime?  You immediately dive into a conversation about all of it’s benefits, the strength you can gain both mentally and physically, the mindfulness you cultivate, and how it can literally benefit you in all aspects of life.  Then you hear it, the single most popular phrase almost everyone blurts out who has never given yoga an honest try:  “I’m not flexible enough.”  I’m not flexible enough.  That’s like saying you don’t want to lift weights because you aren’t strong enough.  You don’t want to take a cooking class because you aren’t good at cooking.  You don’t want to ride a bike because you can’t balance well enough.  I could go on and on.  Hopefully, the pattern above helps you to hone in on the unifying aspect that ties all of these analogies together:  Growth. So, let’s talk:  Do you have to be flexible to do yoga?

The short answer:

[bctt tweet="No, you don’t have to be flexible to do yoga. But be willing to embrace “growth”. "]

The long answer:

Walking into a gym for the first time can yield terror for many Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 3.33.48 PMpeople.  The many different machines, stations, weights, and equipment can prove to be daunting to those who’ve never worked with a personal trainer, or haven’t done the proper research on technique.  Similarly, a kitchen could be you or someone you know’s worst nightmare…All of the tools and equipment, devices, recipes, and ingredients might overwhelm someone who is used to microwaving their dinner most nights of the week.

[bctt tweet="Like in yoga, a mere willingness to embrace growth is all that is needed in order to “succeed”. "]

This applies to almost any new task in life you are unfamiliar with.  Walk into a yoga class, and sure, you might feel as if you’ve walked into a class with people who have just finished a month long tour with Cirque Du Soleil.  The first thing to do is not get discouraged or self conscious.  Most likely, the people you see warming up for class with forearm balances and crazy backbends have been practicing yoga for far longer than you could guess.  It’s important you realize first and foremost that with yoga, each person is on their own unique journey.  Where you are with your practice is different from the person to your left and the person to your right.  Simply showing up to a yoga class is enough to get your instructor fired up about sharing the world of yoga with you.  Like all physical activities, the more you show up and follow through with a class or workout, the more your body and mind benefit.  Practicing Yoga can be an excellent tool to use in order to increase your flexibility, however this is not the only reason we practice, nor should this be the only reason you go to a yoga class.

When you do take your first class, or are feeling the urge to get back into the yoga world (which you should!), walk in with the mindset of growth.  Like a kid walking onto a playground for the first time, they are bewildered by all of the magical and infinite possibilities that this space contains.  Would a curious child stray away from the monkey bars because they are too high?  The slide too steep?  Now transfer this playfulness to your inner self.  Embrace your inner curiosity, and approach your next class with the mindset of a child.  Embrace “play”.  Be willing to fall down, laugh at yourself, dust yourself off, learn, and grow.  With this, you’ll begin to understand what you can and can’t do, and in general grow more knowledgeable about your entire body along the way.

Finally, once you understand your own limitations, it’s important to really harness in and start taking your practice to the next level and trying new things.  Like many workouts and exercises, there is an edge for your body.  Once you are comfortable enough with your practice, in order to grow you need to begin playing with pushing yourself to your edge.  See how far your body will take you until you begin to find your edge.  This is where true growth occurs, and this is where you will begin to notice that indeed you can gain not only flexibility, but strength and endurance in life as well.

[bctt tweet="Through yoga, you can gain not only flexibility, but strength and endurance in life as well."]


Image Credit:Brian Ng

Stuff We Love: Yoga Clothes for Guys

 


 

Yoga is getting hotter by the minute.  With a 29% increase in participants from 2008 to 2012 and $27 Billion spent on yoga products annually, many yoga teachers around the world think this is only the beginning of the “yoga boom."  A practice that’s been steadily growing in the U.S., the myth that “yoga is for women” is quickly dying out.  More and more professional athletes, sports teams, and all around fitness junkies are giving yoga a try and falling madly in love with it’s benefits.  Due to this growing number of yogis (I’m talking about you guys), there are a few companies to keep an eye out for as they are truly changing the game in mens yoga attire.  Say goodbye to those old swim trunks, basketball shorts, and running T’s.  Say hello to a few next-level companies aiming to bring yoga clothes for guys into the limelight:

1.  Easton-West

Founded in L.A. by the rockstar yogi, hair stylist and entrepreneur Sean Phelps, this company was born as a result of Sean’s journey to finding the perfect pair of shorts.  These “dream” shorts would be the perfect cut, eliminate chaffing, and would be extremely comfortable.  He wanted a pair of shorts you could wear to yoga, during yoga, and after yoga.  Shorts you could live your every day life in.  When the search yielded zero results, Sean took matters into his own hand and launched Easton-West apparel (link website to title words).  Sean was kind enough to let us at YTT interview him and what his new clothing line is all about-take a look below

Yoga Travel Tree:  On your website you have a video talking about how you pick the fabrics out yourself.  Where do you find such beautiful and unique designs?

Sean Phelps:  Everything comes from the Downtown LA Fashion District…I use recycled fabric so we’re not contributing to more waste.  Companies throw out a lot of “scrap” material, so I go through and find fabric that fits the needs of what I’m looking for in a pair of shorts.  Then we make a few pairs, test them out, wash them, check for shrinking/wear and tear.  Once it passes, we typically run about 20 pairs of pants or shorts per fabric until it sells out.  Once it’s gone, it’s gone.  We pride ourselves on selling limited batches of clothing in order to keep the line fresh and different.

YTT:  Whats your process from start to finish when creating a pair of Easton West pants or shorts?

SP:  It’s long!  First we find the fabric.  Then I cut a piece.  I wash it, dry it, make sure it doesn’t shrink or stretch out too much.  Then I make a sample pair, wear it, make sure it doesn’t fall apart.  There’s a big learning curve.  When we first started, we ran into all kinds of issues…The lengths would all end up being the same for all sizes, so shorts were getting wider, not longer as you went up in size…One of my favorite parts of the pants and shorts are the spandex liner…Super soft and stretchy and designed for maximum comfort.

YTT:  Do you plan on releasing any sort of T’s or Hoodies in the future?

SP:  Yeah.  For sure, it’d be stupid not to!

YTT:  What are your plans for the future of Easton West?

SP:  Right now we are starting to merge with local yoga studios, which means slightly increasing the number of clothing we put out in each run.  We’re also planning on doing a style of swim trunks, something super stretchy with zippers thats made to go literally anywhere.

Check out the website for more.

2.  Pure Balance

Pure Balance clothing, founded by Portland-based yogi Patrick Beach, was created to build clothing for the active lifestyle movement.  With an emphasis on minimalist sleek designs, this clothing was created in order to allow anyone to build a style unique to their needs.  The clothing is made with an exclusive “PureMotion” fabric, engineered in the USA for an ultimate movement experience.  The goal of Pure Balance?  To bring a sense of confidence and awareness to all who wear the clothing.

Check out the website for more.

3.  Lululemon Mens

I know, I know.  The company constantly ridiculed for overpriced pants, that whole “see-through” pants episode, and the fact that they are practically monopolizing the yoga clothing industry made it to this list…However, I do need to say that aside from these instances, Lululemon IS trying their best to put out cool, attractive, and well-made apparel for men.  They are even going as far as opening up their own stores solely for guys.  I’ve had the chance to try some of the clothing Lululemon offers for men, and I must say although they seem a bit “overpriced”, the design and comfort is well worth the ticket.

Tops:  The 5-Year Basic V is one of their more affordable offerings.  I wear this shirt constantly, both on and off the mat and I must say it’s probably the most comfortable shirt I own.  What makes this purchase worth it is the fact it’s made to last 5 years.  It’s light, comfy, absorbs sweat, and looks plain great.  These are made in a few different colors that change with the seasons, so pick up a few and be prepared to never buy another shirt for the next few years.

Bottoms:  The On The Mat Pant is one of the slickest pair of pants I’ve owned.  Perfect for practicing in, these also look great on the street, and again are made to last a while.  It’s a toss up whenever you're debating dropping a $100 on a pair of pants, but realize this:  These pants will last a long, long time.  They're perfect for traveling, as they’re very light and are made of a material that won’t distort no matter how many down dogs you drop into on the mat.

4.  H and M

If you’re looking for yoga clothing on a budget that still fit the bill for being stylish, unique, and edgy, look no further.  H and M has recently opened up it’s online shopping experience for North America, and has a wealth of options that will allow you to rock your asana off both on and off the mat.

Tops:  Take this basic tank for example.  You can’t go wrong dropping 20 bucks for three of these 100% cotton tanks that allow you to practice in comfort on the mat, on a stroll on the beach, or when relaxing with friends.  They come in a variety of colors, perfect for grabbing multiple pairs to incorporate in your wardrobe.

Bottoms:  One look at these pants and you’ll notice they’re already styled similar to the open thigh, tapered leg silhouette similar to what you might find with a more expensive brand.  The fast drying, breathable and functional fabric has an elastic drawstring waste band perfect for keeping you comfortable in those inversions and arm balances.  These pants feature a mesh key pocket, side pockets and back pocket so you’re good to rock these before or after class.

Guys, the future is bright for mens yoga gear.  Keep an eye out as more and more well known companies begin the journey in producing top of the line yoga apparel that will keep you stylish, comfortable and inspired to go beyond your perceived limitations.


 

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Feature Image Credit:  Nicholas A. Tonelli

Yoga In The News: Current Events in the Yoga World

In addition to bringing you some killer yoga excursions, travel opportunities, and ways to amp up your asana, we at Yoga Travel Tree like to keep you in the loop of whats going on in the Yoga world.  Here are some headlines you may have missed:

Silent Disco Yoga

Picture this.  You walk into a studio, crazy black light and neon surround you.  You’re given a pair of wireless headphones that are not only going to have your teacher on the other end, whispering the flow for your upcoming vinyasa flow class.  Theres also an in-house DJ about to drop some serious beat in your ears while you rock your asana off in one of the coolest contemporary yoga classes to date.  The company behind the magic is Sound Off, and they are bringing this new style of Yoga across the country.  From a pop up inflatable studio in Manhattan, they’ll be visiting cities like Chicago and Las Vegas in the near future.  Check their website out here.

Huffington Post’s Dickipedia:  Bikram Choudhury 

We recently did an article on this extravaganza, you can find it here!  Long story short, Bikram Choudhury, founder of Bikram Yoga has earned his spot in Huffington Post’s new “Dickipedia” series, a video encyclopedia of people around the world making waves in their industries.  The wrong waves, obviously.

Yoga In The Big Leagues:

Yoga has been rising in popularity among many sports teams, and now some stadiums across the country are starting to host enormous yoga classes to give yogis and yoginis a chance to practice where the pros play.  Instructors from YogaWorks in LA launched a class in Dodger Stadium that included entry to the field after a ball game and your very own Dodger Yoga mat.  Other cities have been following suit, with Ralph Wilson Stadium (The Buffalo Bills) hosting Namastadium, a similar event that serves to raise money for a new Children’s Hospital in Buffalo, New York.

Fat Yoga? 

A studio in Portland, Oregon is trying to combat the stereotypes of modern day yoga by creating a venue where people of all body types can practice and reap the benefits of yoga.  Yoga For Abundant Bodies, MegaYoga and Buddha Body Yoga are the names of a few studios in New York focused on breaking the yoga image that’s ever so apparent on our instagram feeds these days.  In Nashville you’ll find Curvy Yoga, Heavyweight Yoga in Austin, and Big Yoga in Buckingham, VA.  Instructors at these studios aim to customize the practice for their clientele, something that a lot of teachers don’t know how to do in most traditional yoga studios.

International Day Of Yoga

The world's first International Day Of Yoga took place this past Sunday, June 21st.  The inaugural event took place months after the U.N. General Assembly officially approved the holiday which had been approved by India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  Yogis from all over the world brought their practice outdoors to celebrate with one another at many of the worlds most recognizable venues.  These include Times Square in New York City, underneath the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and along Rajpath in New Delhi.

Transcending The Greek Debt Crisis Through Yoga

In Thessaloniki, Greece, hundreds of yoga enthusiasts have taken to this ancient practice in order to try and relieve the stress caused by the countries economic crisis.  It's common knowledge that yoga is quite possibly one of the greatest stress relievers of all time, but to see this implemented as a strategy to calm the people of Greece's second largest city is a first.

That’s it for now!  Be sure to follow the site for updates on what’s happening in the world of Yoga!

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Feature Image Credit:  Jagrap

 

Namastadium 2015

  What happens when you have hundreds of eager yogis, yearning for the opportunity to practice together in one ginormous sweaty array?  You put them in a stadium.  On Saturday, June 6th, yogis and yoginis from all over Western New York filled Ralph Wilson Stadium, home of the Buffalo Bills, and flowed in support of raising money for the new John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital of Buffalo.  Six teachers and 24 assistants led the class, all hailing from in or around Buffalo.  Last week I had the opportunity to speak with one of the brains behind the operation, Steven Procknal.  Based in Buffalo, Steve is a Baptiste-certified instructor who teaches everything from free outdoor classes in the heart of Buffalo’s Elmwood village, as well as Vinyasa Flow at Power Yoga Buffalo.

Yoga Travel Tree:  Congrats on Namastadium!  It sounded like an absolutely epic event with a huge turnout!  What was the timeline like for putting something like this together?

Steven Procknal:  The local Lululemon handled a lot of the events planning.  We paired up with Children’s Hospital, which is highly connected to the Bills.  This gave the event some pull, allowing the stadium fee of $25,000 to be waved.  It took about seven months to put together.

YTT:  How did you promote the event?

SP:  Promoting worked by the store [Lululemon], Facebook, and having 24 assistants and 6 teachers for the class.  That’s a lot of people you can reach.

YTT:  Would you ever do it again?

SP:  I would definitely do it again.  You need a team, dedication, and hard work as well as a little luck!  It went really well.

Registration for the event was $30, which included a goody bag and snack.  The teachers included Marina Mukandala, Catherine Cook-Cottone, Steve Procknal, Kathleen Engelhardt, Patrick Moltane, and Joann Wu. Buffalo isn’t the only city embracing the power of Yoga.  On May 17th, Dodger Stadium hosted a group class that included a ticket to a game and voucher for a free Dodger Yoga mat.  Not a bad deal!  Stay up to date on Yoga News with a new article each month featuring all that’s going on around the Yoga world!

 

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Image Credit:  Chris Yunker

Bikram Yoga: Dickipedia Feature

*** Video's audio may be mildly NSFW, or you might want to put some headphones in.


Bikram Choudhury has been making waves on waves in the yoga community.  Now he’s officially been given a feature spot in a Huffington Post’s “Dickipedia”.

The Backstory:

Known for being the founder of Bikram Yoga, this yoga instructor and multi-millionaire businessman is credited for being one of the originators of hot yoga.  His classes are held in rooms with extremely hot conditions and feature a sequence of 26 postures (the same sequences, same order, every class).  In 2002, he attempted to copyright these 26 postures (that have been around for thousands of years), earning him a place in The Huffington Posts Dickipedia.  Aside from comparing himself to Jesus and Buddha, he’s been making waves in the news after several of his former students have made allegations of sexual assault during his teacher trainings.

Recently:

In addition to these allegations, the video highlights Choudhury’s relentless ego, showcasing the fact that he owns numerous luxury cars, compares his man-parts to atom bombs, and makes women massage him, brush his hair, or else they flunk training.  What are your thoughts on Bikram Choudhury?  The father of modern day yoga, or a dude that simply needs to back down a few notches?

 

 

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Image Credit:  Sombilon Photography

Announcing Yoga Retreat Giveaway!

We're giving the gift of travel!

One lucky yogi will be going with us to Costa Rica for free, and it could be you! With the help of some marvelous sponsors, we're able to set up an Instagram based loop giveaway that will change someone's life.

That's right, this is for REAL! The winner of this giveaway will enjoy all yoga retreat activities, food, and amazing adventures around Costa Rica, all courtesy of a group of yogis and heart-centered companies.

Enter between June 16th and 18th for a chance to win a Yoga Travel Tree Yoga Adventure Retreat to Costa Rica valued at over $2,000!

This giveaway is open to any yogi with valid passport and who has the ability to travel to Costa Rica!

How it Works, and How to Enter

This is a loop giveaway! What does that mean?

  1. Begin with any sponsor
  2. FOLLOW them on Instagram
  3. FIND the giveaway image on their Instagram account
  4. LIKE this post
  5. TAP on the photo to see where to go next
  6. OPTIONAL: For additional 3 entries under your name, tag 3 REAL friends in the comment section. You can also tag 5 friends for additional 5 entries. (No celeb, giveaway hosts, or fake accounts allowed or your entry will be disqualified.) Once you've made your way back here, you have completed your entry!

Please remember YOU MUST FOLLOW EVERYONE IN THE LOOP TO QUALIFY. We will be triple checking that everyone is followed by the winner!

All entries must be submitted by June 18, 10 PM PST. We ask that PRIVATE accounts are made PUBLIC during the giveaway in order to be entered.

The winner will be announced on June 22, we thank you in advance for your patience while we verify all the entries. Fake or Giveaway-Only accounts will be disqualified. We truly appreciate your support! Good luck!

 Ristrictions

  • Friends and family of loop hosts/sponsors are not allowed to enter.
  • Accommodation is double occupancy.
  • Giveaway only applies to the September 27-October 4, 2015 Yoga Adventure to Costa Rica.
  • International winner must have a valid passport to travel.
  • Must be 18 to win.
  • Winner may be responsible for additional taxes/fees/non-included meals/other exclusions listed on the Yoga Travel Tree website.
  • Airfare to Costa Rica not included.
  • Per Instagram rules, we must mention this is in no way sponsored, administered, or associated with Instagram, Inc. By entering, entrants confirm they are 18+ years of age, release Instagram of responsibility, and agree to Instagram's term of use.

The Lovely Sponsors

We'd like to say a special thanks to the following sponsors, without them we would never be able to give the gift of travel during this giveaway!

@YogaTravelTree

@Rima_Danielle

@Kate_Towell

@Fractal.9

@Sarechaederra

@Sunkissedyogi

@SularaWear

@Angela_Jean_Yoga

@BarbaraCampinsYogaAndWellness

@VagabondGoods

@AlexisGirlNovak

@yvwiyoga

@MyMatMyMantra

@OneDowndog

@CostaRima

@Jennk10

@YogasanaMats

Trip Details

8 Days, 7 Nights Yoga Adventure Retreat to Costa Rica

With Rima Jomaa & Yoga Travel Tree

September 27-October 4, 2015

Do yoga every day, volunteer with the local community, snorkel with turtles, hike through waterfalls, do SUP yoga in the ocean, relax on serene beaches, and so much more on this Yoga Travel Tree Adventure around beautiful Costa Rica!

When you think of stunning landscapes, lush rainforests, unique wildlife, and pristine sand beaches, Costa Rica should spring to mind. This compact, 7-Day experience allows you to see the natural beauty of this country for yourself, while enjoying invigorating and relaxing yoga practices daily. We guide you from the city of San Jose to the beaches and jungles of Jaco, Montezuma and Santa Teresa, covering a wide variety of local experiences along the way. A guided hike to Montezuma’s waterfalls, learning to cook the local cuisine, and time to laze on private beaches provide the perfect accents for your discovery of Costa Rica’s splendors.

And no Yoga Travel Tree experience is complete without the opportunity to give back to these amazing communities. We’ll spend a day getting our hands dirty during a Seva, or selfless service, project in the town of Santa Teresa.

To learn more about the trip, see the itinerary, meet our lead instructor Rima, and more, click the banner below and visit the Costa Rica Retreat Page!

Costa Rica

 

8 Reasons Not To Go On A Yoga Retreat

 

Let's be honest.  What's the point of a yoga retreat?

 

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1.  You will most certainly not visit a new and exciting place.

 

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 2.  You won’t get an opportunity to try the flavorful cuisine of this new place.

 

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3.  You aren’t going to meet anyone new, or make any friends that might last a lifetime.

 

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4.  You are going to be practicing yoga every waking minute of the day, so don’t bother packing a camera, journal or hiking shoes because the only sight you'll see is your toes.

 

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5.  The lifestyles of these regions are completely uneventful.

 

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6.  The locals won’t embrace you, care for you, or make sure you’ll have a good time.

 

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7.  This is not going to be a life changing experience, so you might as well look elsewhere for that.

 

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8.  And it definitely won't open your mind towards becoming more adventurous...

...Who would want any of that??

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Like what you saw? All of this images in this article are from Yoga Travel Tree's 2015 Bali Yoga Adventure. Come along for the next ride, we'll save you a seat!

 

3 Important Life Lessons Learned in Yoga Class

Image Credit:  Gadgetgirl


 

I have a confession to make.  You ready?  Here it is:  I used to think yoga was girly.  There.  Out in the open.  Take it or leave it.  When I started my practice at the ripe old age of 21, I took my first yoga class as a result of my cousin’s encouragement and persistence.  The only thing on my mind at that time?  “I can’t believe I’m trying this, my friends are going to make fun of me…I guess I’ll tell them I got to take a class with a bunch of cute women.”  Fast forward 4 years, and here I am now writing this article.  Yoga has transformed my life in so many magical ways, I couldn’t possibly write everything in one article.  From the places I’ve traveled, the friends I’ve met (and still stay in touch with), and the things I’ve seen, I thank my yoga practice…I couldn’t be more thankful for being introduced to this life changing practice.

Like I mentioned earlier, the reasons I started yoga are clearly the result of being around a bunch of…we’ll call them bros…in college.  I was in the midst of my gym-rat phase, eager to find new and challenging ways to spruce up my fitness regiment-and maybe meet some women along the way.  But looking back, my mindset has completely shifted.  What I’ve learned from yoga is this:  The poses, the strength you build, and the flexibility you develop are hardly the most important benefits from a consistent yoga practice.  Unlike going to a gym to get through leg day or a few sets with the free weights, there is a certain type of philosophy that you begin to acknowledge when beginning your yogic journey.  Below, I’ll break down some of the most significant philosophical elements I’ve experienced in yoga, and hopefully these will encourage you to start seeking your own true benefits.

1.  It’s All About Play

I remember the first day I attempted the pose “Bird Of Paradise”.  Yes, it’s definitely one of those postures you frequently see in a yogi or yogini’s Instagram feed.  To me, it symbolized one of the most challenging, yet coolest looking poses in yoga.  At the time, Yoga was relatively new to me, and my own priorities at the time were to try and build enough strength and flexibility to conquer these “advanced” level asanas.  The more I could do, the better, right?  Well, needless to say, the first time I attempted this pose I tipped over like a tree, feeling embarrassed and hopeless the entire way down.  A teacher came to me at that moment and said the following “It’s all about play”.  Then it hit me.  What was I trying to prove?  I just started my yoga practice and I”m already trying poses that take months, maybe years to truly develop.  This phrase shifted my mindset completely.  Rather than viewing yoga and it’s postures like badges on a boy scout, I began to shift my mindset to that of a child who just stepped foot onto the newest playground on the block.  This playground, my mat, would become a place of freedom, play, humility, adventure, and experimentation…to try new things, fall, get back up, brush myself off, and most importantly-laugh.

2.  Push Yourself To Your Edge, But Don’t Go Over

Lifting weights was leading me on a path to disaster.  Day in and day out, I had my gym bag stuffed with my composition notebook and pen, quickly scribbling away my goals for each week.  I would write down how much weight to increase for my next gym session, how I could change my form to better execute exercises, you name it and I wrote it down.  Regardless of how I felt each day, I continued my routine of going to the gym, performing the “movements”, getting home, showering, and going off to class.  I was on autopilot, which is never a good thing in any aspect of life.  What yoga taught me is this:  You need to be in tune with your body.  You need to listen to it, hear what it’s telling you, and follow its advice.  So you’re in your first challenging pose, let’s say Warrior 2.  You’ve been holding it for about a minute when your instructor begins telling you a story about a challenge they might have overcome in their lives.  All you can think about is how much your thigh muscles are going to punish you after this pose is over!  Well, in yoga, you are encouraged to push yourself, but at the same time, you begin acknowledging when it’s time to back off.  It’s fine to go to your edge, but yoga teaches you to back off when necessary.

3.  The Journey Is The Reward

So often you see different fitness programs or merchandise that suggest you can get your body in top shape in only 80 days, or however long the program lasts.  You end up buying the program, put all your effort into this endeavor, until you finally finish and perhaps notice a few results.  Then it hits you…what next?  The best part of yoga in my eyes is that it’s truly a life long practice.  This is a lifestyle choice that will keep you grounded, happy, and fit;  a practice you can explore well beyond your 50s, 60s, 70s and upwards.  There is no endpoint, only the journey you are taken on.  Namaste.

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Essential Elements of a Yoga Flow

Image Credit:  Matt Madd


 

As a yoga teacher, there’s plenty of room for creativity within your sequencing. How you put different poses together and why you choose to put them that way will ultimately define your teaching style and attract a certain type of practitioner. There are some essential or traditional elements to a flow, especially when you’re starting out and learning how to sequence your class – elements that leave the student feeling well rounded mentally, physically, and emotionally. You can imagine that a class is like a story, with a similar flow to that of a movie. In most movies, we have the introduction, which leads to the rising action. This brings us to the climax, falling action, and finally the resolution.

How does this relate to yoga? In class, we take students on a journey – a mindful, soulful, physical, emotional journey. Students experience a roller coaster of emotions throughout a yoga class, and the structure is a nice way to effectively and safely take them on this journey, with all its highs and lows, a slow introduction, a physically and mentally challenging middle, and closure at the end to tie it all together.

I was trained in YogaWorks style sequencing and per our training, there is a certain style that the Vinyasa Yoga Flow classes tend to follow, which is one I find to be very fulfilling and well-rounded. The following guidelines will derive from that inspiration but with my own words. Classes I take are typically 90 minutes so it allows for all elements of the following – most classes in typical studios these days tend to be 60 – 75 minutes, so you have to adjust the times according to your needs. Please note these guidelines generally wouldn’t apply to certain styles of yoga like Yin/Restorative, Iyengar, or Ashtanga.

1.  Tuning Inward and Focusing (5 minutes)

Most people come to yoga and bring the rush of their day with them. It’s important to take a few moments to acknowledge the beginning of practice, the quieting of the mind and body, and the coming to the mat. Here you will teach: breath work (or pranayama), how to focus the mind inward, and skills to help students stay present in each moment, regardless of the external situations (or poses). You can invite students to set an intention (like staying present with each breath) or you can talk about the theme or peak pose for the class. Some poses that you can start with are Savasana, Balasana, Tadasana, or supported bridge pose.

2.  Warming Up the Body (20 minutes)

This is a place for a cardio-intense full-body start to get the breath and blood flowing and the muscles warm. It's well-known in most athletic or bodywork communities that a cardio warm up is essential to accessing different parts of the body and performing more efficiently throughout the practice. Think Salutations here (all kinds – Sun, half, As, Bs, Cs, Moon, with variations!). Core and abdominal work can be added here as well.

3.  Warming Up/Teaching The Parts You’ll be Focusing On (30 minutes)

Here, you sequence together a different kind of warm up. Some teachers teach the skill and introduce easier poses that open and strengthen areas that will be needed for the peak pose. For example, if you’re taking student towards handstands, you’ll want to teach core engagement and warm up the shoulders and chest. You’ll introduce certain actions/areas (called component parts) in these more accessible poses that will be used later on to build to advanced poses. Sequencing actions or movements needed in the body to access harder poses are also taught in these easier poses. This helps to create muscle memory while the practitioner is able to maintain a calm and steady mind and breath versus when they are in a challenging position. You will include many variations of poses here including hip/shoulders openers, downward facing dog variation, chaturanga dandasana, and more, leading to standing poses. You can take spins on Sun Salutations by adding elements related to your focus for the class. An example is adding Utkatasana Twists in Sun Saluation B if you're working on detoxing, or add humble warrior in Virabhadrasana I if you're working on opening the shoulders and hips. Then you can lead into more standing poses like Trikonasana, Virabhadrasana II, and Prasarita Padottanasana variations. Depending on the level of class you can throw in transitions to Bakasana and Sirsasana II (tripod headstand) from a number of poses.

4.  Peak Pose and/or Inversions (5 – 15 minutes)

Within your standing series of flows, you will lead students to the peak pose (maybe ardha chandrasana, natarajasana, or bird of paradise). If you are teaching inversions, you will break after to the wall and teach inversions that you have been building up to. Think also forearm stands, headstands, dolphin, forearm plank, and side plank.

5.  Backbends (5 – 10 minutes)

Time for Bridge pose, wheel pose, camel pose, locust pose… take your pick or choose a few! By this time, students should be warmed up in the shoulders, thoracic spine, and hip flexors in order to access these poses. Think Urdhva Dhanurasana, Ustrasana, or Salabhasana.

6.  Cool Down/ Resolution (10 – 15 minutes)

This is the time when you bring it to the ground for your seated poses - think cooling poses like Shoulder Stand, final meditation & breath work, and everyone’s favorite pose: Savasana. Think Pigeon variations, happy baby, halasana (plough pose), or Marichyasana C.

General Tips to Consider

  • Ask students about any injuries or pregnancies before class and be aware of your students’ safety foremost. Adjust your class when necessary to fit who showed up that day. Also, base your instructions on what you see in the room.
  • When guiding through standing poses, in general, it’s advisable to start with easiest poses to hardest poses. This would be externally rotated --> neutrally rotated --> twisting poses.
  • Within categories of poses, move from easier poses to harder.
  • Compensate between poses and bring the spine back to neutral in between. For example, a Tadasana between a backbend and a forward bend. Speaking of, the combination of the backbend with the forward bend is known as “counter poses”, taking the body in opposite directions to achieve balance.
  • Twists also complement backbends. They release the body after a backbend, and they also warm up the body for the backbend and vice versa.
  • Take students into child’s pose after most inversions, and encourage students to take child’s pose and downward dog in between and during series instead of constantly doing flows, especially when they stop breathing.

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