Friday, August 1, 2014

15 Things You're Doing RIGHT in Yoga

Image via Flickr user Stephanie Young Merzel

Yoga teachers devote a lot of class time to sharing how NOT to do a particular pose for good reasons: Sloppy alignment, over effort, and big ambitions can create unwelcome tension and even injuries over time.

That said, if I read one more article about how almost everyone does  _______ Pose incorrectly, I might scream. Can it be helpful to pick apart all the ways we do yoga wrong? Sure. Let's take a break from that and focus on all the things yoga students actually do RIGHT for a change, OK?

This post is for every student who's ever been discouraged when, no matter how closely you listen to your teachers' instructions, you just can't figure out why she runs over to you and pokes your ribs EVERY effing time you attempt Downward-Facing Dog. I've been there. Please know that one day it will all click and you will totally understand what your teacher means when she tells you to "knit your ribs" in.

Until then, though, take heart in all the many things you're doing absolutely perfectly!

For example:

You unroll your mat over and over again. Sometimes it's easy. Sometimes it feels like you've run a marathon by the time you've worked hard all day, rushed through traffic, dropped the baby off with the sitter, and finally FINALLY found somewhere to park so you could get a glorious hour on your mat.

You show up with a smile on your face even though someone just flipped you off in the parking lot.

You do your best to listen to both your teacher's convoluted instructions and your body's own wisdom and intuition--which is a lot harder than it sounds.

When you fall out of a pose, you laugh at yourself and try again.

When your neighbor on the mat next to you falls out of a pose, you chuckle to yourself and try not to embarrass her in front of the whole class.

When you're tired, you rest.

When you're energized, you challenge yourself.

When you're injured, you modify.

You focus on your breath moving in and out.

You soften where you're naturally hard. You firm where you're naturally soft. You bring your body and mind closer to balance every time you practice in more ways than you can probably even identify.

You make changes little by little, bit by bit. You know that the the smallest changes are worth so much more than the biggest, grandest ideas that you don't follow through on.

You make yourself, your health, your well-being a priority.

You recognize that your teacher has bad days--you smile at her and you come back the next week anyway.

You let the lessons you learn on your yoga mat spill over into all the other areas of your life: you stand up straighter, breathe deeper, leave a smaller footprint, and treat others with more kindness and compassion.

You are open to the unlimited possibilities this practice has to offer you--both physical, mental, and emotional.

You rock! Never forget that!

Prenatal Yoga in Charleston, SC

Know anyone in the Charleston, SC area who is expecting a baby? Send them my way! New Prenatal Yoga Class series starts next week at Barefoot Yoga Studio in North Charleston's Park Circle.

Friday, July 25, 2014

5 Tips for Yoga on the Beach

The sun. The sand. That healthy sea breeze. The cackle of the sea gulls. The laughter of children.

The beach is one of the most awe inspiring place in the world. Sometimes just a quick walk by the ocean can really put things in perspective: Nature is a large and wonderful place, but we, with our petty problems and worries, are but a small drop in that ocean.

So of course, practicing yoga on the beach would be an awe-inspiring experience.  "When people are outside they feel more free, less stressed," says Melora Morgan, a yoga teacher in the Charleston, SC area who teaches beach yoga classes at Folly Beach. People are more likely to be playful in their practice."Just walking out onto the beach brings an immediate release." Unfortunately, some of the things that make a beach yoga session really amazing, are also the things that make it a challenge. You can't always predict when a beautiful day in SC will turn into an ugly thunderstorm, the wild will blow sand into your eyes, or all of a sudden a hundred tourists will set up camp right in front of the ocean blocking your view and your Zen.

 I asked Melora for a few tips on how to make sure your Namaste on the beach leads to bliss.

1. Avoid slipping on the sand. Leave your fancy $100 yoga mat at home--and don't forget a large towel to put under your old, crusty mat to keep you from sliding around on the sand.

2. Protect your feet. Under no circumstances should you bring a BLACK mat to the beach. The color absorbs heat, and can burn your tootsies.

3. Protect your skin. Of course, wear sunscreen! But beware: When sweat and sunscreen drip into your eyes, it's not a pleasant experience. A headband might help. Or use a waterproof sunscreen that won't run.

4. Don't forget your suit. Wear your swimsuit underneath your yoga clothes. "Nothing feels better after a hot, sweaty yoga class than to jump in the water," Melora says.

5. Go with the flow. Allow the sounds of nature the birds, the ocean, and yes, even the tourists, to be your soundtrack. Don't be flustered by the distractions. Let them bring you into the present moment and more into your experience.

Learn more about Melora and her beach yoga offerings through Serenity Tree Yoga by visiting her website and Facebook page.

Friday, July 18, 2014

6 SUP Yoga Tips for Beginners

Image via Flickr User Neal bepko
Stand up Paddleboard yoga is one of my all time favorite summer activities. If you want to know why it's awesome, read this blog post I wrote last year for Yoga Journal. When I was starting I had a hard time finding many solid tips for taking my yoga practice to the water--below I share a few pointers to help you get started.

1. Find the center of your board. Most boards have a handle in the very middle of the board to make it easier to lift and carry to and from the water, but the handle is also a great marker that tells you where to stand so you'll be more stable as you paddle. That means it's also where you'll want to center yourself for most yoga poses. For standing poses, like Warrior I and II, plant your feet firmly, and keep your legs actively engaged and isometrically pull them toward your midline (which should also be toward the center of the board). If you feel wobbly, start with a more narrow stance than you might if you were practicing on solid ground--you can always go wider as you get more comfortable.

2. Stay low. When I first tried yoga on an SUP board, I was so pleased with myself when I was able to lift up into Crow Pose with relative ease. It didn't take me long to figure out that poses practiced closer to the board (like Crow and Bow Pose) are much easier for balance than those standing poses that are considered "basic" in a yoga studio. To make Warriors more accessible, practice from a kneeling position, with the back knee down first. Then, slowly, carefully, mindfully (see tip #3) plant the back foot and straighten the back knee to stand up.

3. Take your time. You might be able to move quickly from pose to pose in a vinyasa class, but if you do that on an SUP board, you might find yourself swimming with the fish! Go slow. Find your sea legs. Move with mindfulness and care, especially as you transition from one pose to the next. You'll be more comfortable on the board in no time!

4. Be a beginner again. A lot of people take to the waters when they want to find a little extra challenge than they might find in a yoga studio. Fine. But here's an important thing to consider. While you might rock your poses on land, it's a totally different experience when you take it on an SUP board. Your balance may be feel off--WAY off! You might even begin to get frustrated that you aren't able to float right up into an advanced pose like you've seen others do in your Instagram feed. Resist the tendency to compare (or compete) and really enjoy the adventure of being a beginner again. Go back to your basics--feet grounded, muscles engaged, gaze focused--and be OK with feeling fully present and alive in poses that you sometimes check out in during your studio practice. That's a more advanced practice than Scorpion Pose, really.

5. Connect. Yoga is all about connection. So take this opportunity to take connection to a whole new level. It's yoga, so you obviously want to connect with your body, your breath, your intention, the present moment. But don't stop there. Connect with nature--whether you're in a place with dolphins swimming by (my favorite!) or just a calm, serene landscape. Connect with other SUPers, kayakers, fishers... wave at people partying on their pontoon boat even though they're totally disrupting your zen and the motor boat making waves that threaten to send you overboard. Because it's the ability to connect that makes this practice different from other fitness activities.

6. Be safe! This is a "duh," tip, but oh so important! Bring along a life vest. And Find an SUP Yoga teacher in your area.  (If you're in the Charleston, SC area, look me up!) Rent a board that's long and wide--I like the Boga Yoga board.

Bonus Tip: Most importantly, have fun! You might fall off your board. It happens. It might even be funny to someone watching from a distance. So, what? When you fall, laugh at yourself, climb back up, and try again. Enjoy the process.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Broke A** Yoga Teacher?: 4 Ways to Pad Your Paycheck

Image via Flickr user The Yoga People

Did your invitation to headline Wanderlust get lost in the mail? Yeah, mine too.

Bill Murray isn't begging you to come to his vacation home for a $500 private yoga session? Don't take it personally. I'm sure his agent is just having a hard time finding your contact information.

That yoga studio in Paris didn't return your calls when you pitched them with your great new workshop idea? Bummer. I've always wanted to go to Paris, too. Maybe you should work on your elevator pitch?

Or maybe it's time to get creative! There are so many cards stacked against the small town, independent yoga teacher. I won't belabor the point--the brilliant Michelle Marchidon nailed it a lot better than I could in this post.  Unless you're one of the, oh, 25, yoga teachers nationally who get invited to travel the world teaching festivals and workshops, appear on the cover of yoga magazines, or teach the rich and famous, making a living as a yoga teacher these days is no easy feat. It's a nice dream, but it's time we ll came to the realization that for most of us, teaching lots of yoga classes just isn't going to be enough to pay the bills.

I 'm still figuring it all out for myself, but I've been paying attention to how some of the most financially free yoga teachers make a living. And it may not be what you think. Here are a few ideas I've been toying with.

1 - Create and Sell a Product. 
Whether it's a book, DVD, or online video course or teacher training, many teachers are supplementing their incomes by creating a product once, and selling it over and over again. Even if you're not a well-known teacher with a huge following, with a little Internet savvy it shouldn't be that hard to make enough on the project to make it worth your time. And of course, once you're a social media superstar, companies will be happy to pay you for your influence.. (But yoga teachers with that much influence, really don't need my advice, do they? So, let's move on!)

2 - Cut Out the Middle Man. 
Once upon a time, it was my goal to teach at cute, local yoga studios--then I realized that if I was lucky enough to get a slot on the schedule, the studio owner would take as much as 80% of what the students pay to take a class. If you're doing tons of marketing yourself anyway, you might as well set yourself up so YOU can pocket most of the class fees. I've done this by teaching in a public park (free!), renting stand up paddleboards for SUP Yoga classes, partnering with a painting studio to have yoga and painting classes, renting out a local dance studio, and even renting out a room in a yoga studio during their off hours. I've seen other teachers have lots of success by teaching at public beaches and even in their own living rooms! It can be a lot of work doing all the marketing yourself (and it's a liability going it alone, too), but most yoga teachers have to market themselves to fill their classes anyway. You might as well maximize your earning potential, too. You may never make tons of cash this way (I haven't yet!), but at least there's the POTENTIAL to make some if a class idea takes off. Plus, it feels good to me knowing your success (or failure) is completely in your own hands.

3 - Join a Network Marketing Company You Love. 
I admit that the first time I saw Elena Brower had become a high level "beauty ecologist" for natural skincare company Pangea Organics, my ick alarm sounded pretty loudly. Is it taking advantage of students to sign them up to be a part of a "network" and then make commission from the work that they do? (For the uninitiated, that's how companies like Pangea Organics, Pampered Chef, Arbonne, Young Living, etc. work. Person X signs on to be a consultant and works hard to get Person Y to sign up, too. Once Person Y makes the investment to become a consultant, Person X makes a small percentage on any sales Person Y does as well as her own sales.) There's a lot of money to be made for a persuasive go-getter with a lot of contacts and influence in her community. After I thought a little more about this idea, I came to the conclusion that while the way network marketing companies PAY is a bit different, being a part of one of these companies is a lot like selling your students any other product--even yoga class becomes product when you're getting paid, am I right? Why not share a product you love and make some extra income when someone you know decides to purchase it based on your recommendation?

4 - Don't Just Teach Yoga--Teach Life!
I know lots of yoga teachers who teach yoga part time because they love it. The other part of the time they pay their bills through one-on-one life coaching, health and nutrition coaching, or even business coaching. Of course, all of these things probably require a little more training (something I'm unlikely to do), but I wanted to throw it out there because coaching seems like a good option for teachers who are really gifted at helping others take their yoga practice off the mat.

Now, I want to hear from you! Do you have any other bright ideas? I'd love for this to become a lively conversation about what works and what doesn't in this crazy, saturated market.

*Full disclosure: I've recently decided to dabble in Young Living Essential Oils because I thought they would add a little special something to my yoga classes. I just enrolled so making money this way is an untested theory at this point. but I love the possibility! If you want to learn more about the company and/or the oils, give me a holler. I'm happy to share what I know, and maybe even send a few samples your way!