Ahimsā. The Sanskrit word for "nonviolence" from the Yoga Sutras. A word that I used to have a strong aversion to, because I didn't like the idea of a very old book telling me what to do or how to live my life (ha). But this word has grown on me over the years. Maybe because I more acutely feel the energy of violence that we have the potential to be surrounded by... Here in America, gun violence happens every day. Small acts of violence happen every hour - cutting someone off on the highway or on the subway, words said that condescend, belittle, and wound. We hurt ourselves - say terrible things about our own reflections, hold and repeat critical beliefs about ourselves and who we are, in endless, destructive loops. We push ourselves to work harder and rest less. We forget to take care of ourselves in our rush to take care of others. We forget that we too are worthy of so much....including peace. Living nonviolence in the world means carrying ahimsā in your heart, first and foremost towards yourself. I wish each of us that gift today, and always. 💙🙏
"A mirror can contain the reflection of the whole universe, a whole skyful of stars in a piece of silvered glass no thicker than a breath."
What an amazing, inspiring month....
Today my heart is so full to see this very special group of brand new yoga teachers graduate!
It has been such a privilege to support them on their journeys, and I can't wait to see what they each do next ❤️
Yesterday it was such a joy to demo for Aditi Shah and Rachel Cohen's beautiful yoga class at the Solstice in Times Square. Times Square is typically NOT my favorite place. It's so full of frenzied energy & commerce & movement - walking through, you get swept into the current of people moving like a river...towards what? Some company's flagship store?
Even yesterday, I felt very aware of the branded clothing I was wearing and the people staring and taking pictures while I was demonstrating, like I was in some kind of weird yoga zoo. One man even asked me to smile for his picture. At another point in class, I realized that my drishti (focused gaze in a yoga pose) was a giant floating H&M sign. It was ridiculous and bizarre....and still. Something very special was also happening there, that I couldn't quite put my finger on at first. I happily smiled for the man's picture (yes, in the middle of class). Because even though we were the yoga zoo, we were also sprinkling seeds in the concrete all around. That maybe yoga doesn't have to be so scary and intimidating. Maybe yoga really is for everyone - just like Jessamyn Stanley so eloquently talked about before our class began. Maybe someone who watched yesterday will feel inspired later to try yoga for themselves. Maybe someone was on a yoga mat for the first time yesterday, and now they will feel inspired to do yoga again. And again. Until their life is transformed by yoga a little bit like mine was, and still is, every day.
No, I certainly didn't quiet my mind in Times Square yesterday. But for me, I realized, that wasn't even the point. As I moved with my breath, I felt firmly situated in that epicenter of wild energy. Sometimes energy is important too - it powers our lives, inspires us from the outside in and from the inside out, and keeps up moving forward. It's what makes the river flow. Not just towards a department store, but towards inspiration and inquiry too. Towards building our community. Maybe even towards moving closer to our truth. Yesterday I was privileged to be a part of that powerful current that connected people to each other & also to themselves. Maybe, hopefully, in a way that stayed long after the end of class✨🌎
I have recently had the opportunity to work with a wonderful group of brand new yoga teachers, who are still in the midst of their very first 200 hour teacher training. It reminds me of 2014, when *I* was in the midst of my own very first training. I remember all of the questions that I had and the uncertainty that I felt. After teaching more than 1100 classes over the past 2.5 years here in New York City, I have learned a few things (although certainly not everything!) about teaching yoga. Today I want to share some specific pieces of advice for yoga teachers who are just starting out. This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the things a new teacher needs to know - these are just the top 10 things that I think are important and might be helpful :) Feel free to leave your questions and comments below!
1. Be yourself
As a new teacher, it can be really hard to find your voice. Understanding exactly who you are as a yoga teacher can feel like a puzzle that is surprisingly difficult to solve. While you’re trying to figure it out, you can easily get caught in unproductive loops along the way - mimicking other teachers, or repeating the same phrases, cues, and ideas that you’ve heard before, without knowing how to make them your own. And so on. The truth is that “finding your voice” doesn’t have to feel scary or elusive - the good news is that your voice is already inside you, and it has been there all along. All you need to do is look deep enough inside so that you can draw it out.
This is something that I’ve actually struggled with at different points during my years of teaching - if you know me, you probably know that I smile a lot, am super friendly and a little bit silly. But when I teach, I tend to be overly serious. It’s part of my perfectionist nature, and I hold myself back from being fully myself. During classes when I’m able to let loose a little bit more and be more “myself,” I can feel the difference - in a very good way. So I challenge you to embrace yourself with all your personality quirks and explore them! See how you can bring these things into your teaching.
I would also challenge you to think about why you’re teaching yoga. What do you want to share with your students? What experience do you want them to have in your class? Because at the end of the day, teaching yoga is not only about you - it’s about sharing yoga with other people and allowing them to have their own experience, within the context of your class. So my best advice is to be yourself as best you can, and to give your students the freedom to be themselves as well.
2. Be a professional
BE ON TIME. Arrive at the yoga studio 15-20 minutes before your class begins - any later than that is considered late. Seriously, don’t be late. Being on time is such a simple way to show respect for the studio where’re you’re teaching, and it’s an important courtesy to the people working the front desk (who will be freaking out when you are late). It's also beneficial to your students - it’s great to be available for them for a least a couple of minutes before you start teaching.
Basically, treat teaching yoga like any other professional job that you would have. Know your schedule. If you run into a scheduling conflict (hey, it happens), find a teacher to cover your class ahead of time, not at the last minute.
Begin and end class on time. Treat the studio space well. Be nice to the front desk - their job is harder than you realize. In general, be as easy to work with as possible - it’s the easiest way to set yourself up for continued success. Really. If you do all of these things regularly, know that you will probably stand out to both the studio and the students.
3. Teach what you know
This point is very connected to #1 above! Part of being yourself as a teacher means resisting the urge to teach what you think you “should” be teaching, and instead focus on teaching what feels true to you, what feels relevant to your own practice, and what you most want to share with your students.
Please know that you will second guess yourself all the time. You will wonder if your class is too easy, too hard, too slow, too fast, and so on. There’s no one answer to any of these questions - there’s a big range of people who practice yoga, who all have different likes and dislikes. Some people will love your class, and other won’t. It’s just the way it goes. But if you teach what you know - if your teaching is rooted in your own experience, I promise you that you will not end up off course. Every studio and every student might not be the right fit, but please remember: You have to be yourself!!
An example: I never teach Skandasana. For some reason, that pose just does not make sense in my body - both of my feet end up doing weird things and I can figure out where my weight is supposed to be and no matter how many times I try (and I do try, all the time!!), that pose just does not work for me. So I don’t teach it. You will NEVER find that pose in my class. How can I talk people into a pose that I don’t really, fully understand?
Is it a big deal that there’s no Skandasana in my class? Nope! You could obsess all day about the things you DON’T know how to do, but instead, please realize - and focus on and celebrate! - all of the many wonderful things that you DO know a lot about and are able to enthusiastically share with your students.
4. Keep it simple and keep it safe
Especially at first. This means teaching cues and overall sequencing. I promise you, your class does have to be Cirque de Soleil. Unless that’s your thing and in which case, rock on :) Yes, it is lots of fun to get creative with your sequencing, and some students will love you for it. But don’t prioritize coming up with zany traditions - it isn’t the most important thing and you don’t want to get ahead of yourself. You have to be where you are, right now. You will change and you will grow, but start where you are comfortable. Where you are able to pay attention to your students because you’re not working so hard to try to remember what comes next, or how to get lots of complicated words out of your mouth.
5. It will take you a long time to plan a good class
Again, especially at first, although I promise you that it does get easier. This is hands down the question that I get most often from brand new teachers - they often can’t believe just how much work goes into planning a single class (a hint: hours). You can plan a class in less time, but it will not be as god.
As a brand new teacher, you’re still developing so many different skills related to teaching. There’s the skill of putting together thoughtful sequences - sequences that are well balanced, make sense energetically and anatomically, are appropriate for the time of day and the time of year etc. Your class needs to be timed right - are you teaching for 60 minutes? 65? 90? Your class needs to be appropriate for the level of the room (a hint: I suggest having some ideas of what you’ll switch around based on who’s in the room and whether the class goes “fast” or “slow”. Be ready to change things up as needed! This is also why it’s important to keep things a little simpler at first.).
If you’ll be playing music, you also need to get your playlist right - your music has to be timed properly with the overall class time, have the right atmosphere for the day and time of the class, and needs to sync up correctly with your sequence.
Make no mistake, these things can take A LOT of time, particularly when you’re just learning how to put it all together. There is really no short cut to experience - the more you do these things over and over again, well, the more adept at them you will get.
All of this is not to say that you have to be a perfectionist, but you do need to thoroughly prepare. Yes, of course, there are plenty of yoga teachers who don’t do much planning, but I guarantee you those teachers have been teaching a long damn time and have put together so many sequences that they can put a great sequence together on the spot, very successfully.
I will tell you that I ALWAYS walk into class with a plan. Sometimes that plan might need to change, but I never “wing it” - I already have a clear plan (and back up plan(s)) in mind. Having that plan and having prepared will make you feel much more confident about the fact that you know you’re giving your students a great class.
6. Teach the people in front of you
Another tempting trap to fall into is teaching yoga poses instead of people. I’ll find myself doing it too from time to time - mindlessly saying to lift your hips in Downward Dog and so on without actually looking at the people in the room. LOOK at your students, and teach them. Not the people at your last class - teach the people in front of you right now.
7. Don’t obsess about being liked
I mentioned this before, but I made a whole special bullet point for it too, because this can be really hard for new (and experienced teachers to understand). As awesome as you are, please understand that some people just will not like you or your class. It’s nothing personal - we just physically cannot be everybody’s favorite teacher.
People will walk out of your class. People might criticize certain aspects of your class. Getting feedback is great, but know what to take in, and know what to let go of. You might not know at first, but you will learn. You will also have days or weeks or months full of times when you doubt yourself - who you are, your teachings, and so on. Try not to get caught up too much in this doubt. If you’re working to be yourself and you’re teaching what you know, from your heart, please know that you are offering something of great value to the world. Your students will find you. I promise.
8. Don’t stop practicing!
It’s hard to make time for yourself while you’re running around town teaching yoga, but please know how important this is. Practicing regularly with other teachers will keep you out of teaching ruts. There will come a time when you feel like you’re just teaching the same things over and over, and I promise you that going to 2-3 classes with other teachers will reinvigorate you and reignite your curiosity and creativity. Having a home practice is essential, but getting out of the house is very important too.
9. Teaching yoga = hustle It’s not only a hustle, but also know that you’re definitely going to have to hustle at least a little bit when you’re starting out. If you think you can sit back and wait for awesome studios and students to find you, please know that it’s not going to happen - definitely not here in New York City, and probably not anywhere else either! My biggest advice to you is this: If you want to teach, teach. Find ways to make it happen. You might not get hired at the exact studio that you want right away, and you might not be making $150 per private client right away. But you have to start somewhere, and teaching consistently will help you build momentum. It will give you those very valuable hours of teaching experience. Post ads on craigslist (or your town’s equivalent) offering private yoga for $50-75 an hour. Offer to teach friends/coworkers/family for free or for discounts. No one is going to make it happen for you if you don’t seek it out. It’s a lot of work, but the reward is teaching yoga :)
10. But take care of yourself too! (especially your voice) This is the flip side to #10 - as much as you need to hustle, you also need to balance hustling with taking good care of yourself. Every single teacher I know has gone through a period of teaching too much and getting sick too often. You’ll need to figure out how many classes you can comfortable teach per day (for me, it’s an absolute max of 6, and ideally 4). Take a day off every week as soon as you can. I didn’t do that for my whole first year of teaching - sometimes you have to say “yes” to everything, but sometimes you really need to also say “yes” to yourself. Also, no one tells you how important your voice is. Take care of it. Don’t scream at loud restaurants and bar. Every hour that you teach yoga is one full hour of you talking. Most of us aren’t used to talking 4-6 hours per day, non stop. And when you do lose your voice because you didn’t listen to me (ha), get a bottle of Singer’s Throat Spray (it’s the only thing I’ve ever tried that actually helps bring your voice back ASAP!) :))
BONUS #11: It’s ok to make mistakes!
So now that I’ve thoroughly scared you and told you all the stuff you have to do.... Know now that you will also make mistakes - and it is ok! Making mistakes is not the end of the world. You might accidentally skip a pose on one side, or twist to the left first, or mess up your breath count or forget what you were going to teach next and so on - AND IT REALLY IS OK. All that you can do is your best. We’re humans, us yoga teachers, and humans aren’t perfect. I have never once taught a “perfect” class, and I definitely never will. Because perfection doesn’t exist, and because perfection is not the point! You can teach a great, meaningful class even if you mess up “right” and “left” a few times. People aren’t there to judge you - they’re there to do yoga, and they want to have a good time.
They want you to succeed, and *I* want you to succeed. Good luck out there :)
Photo by Quyn Duong
I had the opportunity to assist a restorative yoga teacher training this past January. Restorative yoga is different from what most people tend to think of as yoga, because it's not about stretching, sweating, moving, or "working" the body in any way. Instead, you use lots of props (like blocks and blankets) to set up your body so that all of your joints are completely supported. You stay in each pose for at least 5-10 minutes, so in an hour class, you might only do 4 or 5 poses. You might be thinking, well what's the point of all that? And simply - the point is to rest. To give yourself, body and mind, enough time and space so you can really, truly rest.
But taking time for rest can get easily overlooked. In the yoga world, lying on the ground with a bunch of blankets for an hour can be a tougher sell than a workshop on doing handstands and other Instagram-worthy poses. And in our own lives, reaching for coffee or sugar is often easier than taking a nap. We are not really a culture that places a lot of value on relaxation and rest. Instead, we're a culture of productivity - we might feel accomplished because of how little sleep we're able to function on, proud of just how much work we're able to pack into every day. We spend so much time doing that slowing down, even a little bit, can feel impossible. We might not be sure how to do less, in order to care for ourselves more. But prioritizing this, and finding the time and ways to rest and relax is so important for our physical and mental health. Being in a state of deep rest and relaxation - which is different from sleep! - can not only help to balance our nervous system and calm stress, but can also improve focus, regulate our moods and energy levels, and do so many other wonderful things for our bodies and minds. If we can slowly shift our awareness day by day to include more small chances for rest and rejuvenation, then we might also slowly be able to have more well-rounded lives. We can develop a a greater balance between productivity and self-care that nourishes and supports us completely, in body and in mind.
It is with these ideas in mind that I put together this list of 5 simple daily practices that you can add to your winter self-care regimen. Nothing on this list takes longer than 15 minutes, and ideally these are all things that that can be slowly incorporated into your daily routine. There’s never a “wrong” time of the year to start doing any of these things, but I think they are particularly useful during the winter, when our energy is lower, and our bodies and minds are a bit more sluggish because of the cold. Take care of yourselves, and enjoy! Let me know how it goes - leave your comments below :)
1. Daily Oil Massage
Giving yourself a daily oil massage is an important part of self care according to Ayurveda. And if it sounds a little silly or pointless to you, consider that the skin is the largest organ of the body. It's also our body's first line of defense against the world. Massaging your skin can loosen stiff muscles, improve circulation, and relax you, which leads to better, more restful sleep. I prefer to use either sesame or sweet almond oil, but you can use any oil that you prefer from jojoba or coconut to a simple olive oil. Just patch test your skin ahead of time to make sure you're not allergic! Before you shower, run your bottle of oil under warm water until the oil begins to warm up. Starting with your scalp, liberally apply the oil, massaging your skin as you work your way down your body. Use mostly circular motions, but when you reach your arms and legs, massage back and forth in long strokes that follow the line of the bone. You can pay particular attention to the muscles of the face and give your forehead, temples, eye area and cheeks a thorough massage. You can also spend a couple of extra minutes on your feet, pampering an important part of the body that we demand a lot from every day. It might sound daunting at first, but an oil massage like this doesn't have to take more than 10 minutes - although it can certainly take longer if you have the time! After the oil is applied, wait 5-15 minutes to let it soak in before showering it off. Aiming to do this just once a week is a great place to start!
2. Consume hot beverages and foods
I am a huge fan of hot foods and drinks in all seasons, but they can be particularly balancing and grounding to your body and mind during winter. I tend to eat a lot of hot grains like grits and oatmeal for breakfast during the winter. I also make a lot of soups for lunch and dinner - carrot ginger, potato leek, and bean and vegetable are three of my favorites. Heated milk or tea are great drink options for a cold afternoon. To make a simple spiced milk, mix 1 cup of milk (or almond/soy/hemp etc.) in a saucepan with 1/4 tsp ginger powder, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp tumeric, and a pinch of black pepper. You can also add a pinch of cardamom if you have it, or nutmeg at nighttime to help with sleep. Boil the milk and spices on low for 5 minutes, then pour into a mug and enjoy!
3. Develop Morning & Evening Rituals
This was actually part of the homework during the restorative yoga training - I did it last year while I took the training, and I started it up again last month. It is amazing to see the difference that taking just 5 minutes to yourself at the beginning and end of each day can make! Really, your ritual doesn’t have to be long - it might be as simple as taking ten slow deep breaths with your eyes closed, or it might include any combination of journaling, meditation, stretching, yoga, breathing exercises, and more. But whatever you choose, let the ritual be completely screen-free - no phones, tv’s, or other electronics to distract you. Let this time be completely YOURS! All of your emails and texts will still be waiting for you when you're done :)
4. Take A Walk
Even though it’s cold out, getting outside can feel great. Not only is walking a wonderful, gentle exercise that gets the blood flowing and boosts endorphins, but interacting with the world, breathing fresh air, and being in nature can all give your mood a powerful boost. Nobody likes to feel "trapped" in the house, which tends to happen more often in the winter. This can lead to feeling lonely and isolated, and even more tired and sluggish as well. Aim to take a 15-20 minute walk every single day - taking shorter, more regular walks is even better than taking a longer walk occasionally.
5. Daily Relaxation Pose
This pose (pictured above!), also known as Savasana, is the last pose that you’ll practice in just about every yoga class that you take. Having a regular relaxation practice is great for all the reasons that I recommended restorative yoga above, and this pose is easy to do with only a couple of props. In its simplest form, this pose requires no props at all - you can simply lie down on the ground, in bed, or wherever else is comfortable. You just want to make sure that your head and heart are at the same level. If you have a couple of blankets or towels handy, you can grab 2-3. Place the first blanket under your head, then roll up your second blanket and put it under your knees. If you’re chilly, the 3rd blanket can be used to cover your entire body so that you can rest more comfortably. Once you’re in the pose, close your eyes and start to notice your breath, following along with every inhale and exhale. Even if your mind feels really busy, try to keep some awareness on your breath. Don't worry if you feel like you "can't" relax, or if you start to feel like you're not "doing it right." Believe it or not, relaxation is a skill that we have to build slowly, over time, just like any other. Any time that you are able to give yourself is so, so valuable. Feel free to set an alarm to help keep time. Start with 10 minutes, but feel free to stay up to 20!
"The light is in my heart between my ribs, so why should
Your choice of silver or gold wire, ring size between 5-9, and a selction of one of the following categories: light/dark, blue/green, or sunset tones. Browse full ring selection by clicking HERE! Ring value: $15
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2016 Yoga Tutorials & Blogs You Might Have Missed!
The Unofficial Holiday Gift Guide
AKA 5 of Eileen's favorite things under $20 that will (probably) change your life:
Individually wrapped candies that are the most delicious blend of spicy and sweet. (I may or may not have eaten an entire bag of these yesterday). So easy to bring when you're traveling, and these candies settle your stomach fast. Also great if you just love the taste of ginger, like me!
2. Lavender Essential Oil Roll-on
I love the easy application of this roll-on. doTerra's oils cost more than some other companies, but the quality is so good that you can actually eat it. Lavender helps to calm your nervous system and reduce stress, while also improving sleep. It's also great for the skin, particularly for rashes and bug bites. Every night, I put a little on my wrists, temples, and chest right before bed.
3. The Hamilton Mixtape
If you met me this year, I probably tried to convince you to listen to the Broadway cast recording of Hamilton. If you haven't heard it yet, you should absolutely still listen, but the new mixtape is also a great entry point to the full show. The mixtape features an impressive range of incredible artists - from Wiz Khalifa, Nas, Common, and The Roots to Usher, Sia, Alicia Keys, Jimmy Fallon (yup, Jimmy Fallon), Jill Scott, and many more. You can listen to both the cast recording and mixtape for free on Spotify. Two great mixtape songs to try first if you're still reluctant: "Dear Theodosia" with Regina Spektor and "It's Quiet Uptown," sung by Kelly Clarkson.
4. The Untethered Soul
This is my favorite book. A bold statement, for an outstanding book that will make you question everything about who you are, in the most meaningful of ways. I bought every member of my family this book last year for Christmas (you still need to read yours, Dad!:)) An outstanding gift for any fans of yoga and philosophy that you know.
5. Life Planner
So I cheated - this actually costs $28, but it is SO WORTH IT. To think of it just as a daily, weekly, or monthly planner is to miss out on all the best parts. This excellent resource doubles as your journal, vision board, good friend, and life coach. Not only has using this made me a lot more organized this year, but it has inspired me to reimagine the things that I want most out of life and create realistic road maps towards those goals. This would be a great gift for a recent graduate or anyone looking for a little more focus and inspiration in daily life.
P.S. Nobody paid me to endorse any of these things, but hey, if anyone wants to... :)
Happy Holidays!! :) xoxo
Email me at email@example.com to schedule a yoga private for yourself or someone else. Private yoga gift certificates are available upon request!
** The last day to place your jewelry order for Christmas: Tuesday, 12/20/16
“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow
sometimes in one dimension,
and not in another; unevenly.
We grow partially. We are relative.
We are mature in one realm,
childish in another. The past,
present, and future mingle
and pull us backward, forward,
or fix us in the present.
We are made up of layers,
It has taken me decades to unlearn this stuff. To realize that life has no timeline. That there is no pot of gold waiting for us if we "follow the rules" well enough. And there is no punishment if things don't turn out the way we imagined, if we "mess up." Because who makes these rules that we follow so closely?
The truth is that we spend most of our lives inside a cage of our own making. We each have lots of help building this cage - help from parents and teachers and priests and others who tell us what to do and who to be. And we either agree with these things and pursue them, or we reject these things and rebel. But we are so much more than these simplistic extremes - we are unique beings with a greater purpose. We are more vast than our human minds can even understand. How then can we call ourselves a failure because we never graduated college? Or didn't have kids? Or were/are unemployed, homeless, addicted, or chronically ill? Having "control" of our lives is an illusion, and the "right" thing is always subjective.
Slowly, we start to learn that life isn't as easy as one step in front of the other. Instead, it's two steps forward and four steps back. A giant leap forward and one tiny step back. This ebb and flow and journey of growth never ends. We will gather insight and make progress in certain aspects of our lives, while feeling stuck and stagnant in others. But instead of focusing on regrets or living in our hopes for the future, we can choose to accept and celebrate our complicated, imperfect selves just the way that they are, today. We can fully embrace and experience this mysterious journey that we are on.
Because ultimately, we are not our successes and we are not our failures. There will always be good times and bad times and all of the times in between. Changes will continue to swirl around us and inside of us. But who we are exists outside of all of this. And we can still be happy right now, anyway. And appreciate the layers, cells, and constellations that we are made of.
Over the years, I am proud that I have slowly built up a toolbox of resources that I can turn to when my anxiety is at its worst. Which is not to say that knowing exactly what to do is always obvious, easy, or a "quick fix" - it is hard sometimes, still. But it's also worth the struggle, and worth the daily effort. Over and over again, I learn how to live with my anxiety. I make my peace with it. Not as the one thing that defines me as a person, but as one aspect of my life that I accept, fully. And I continue to work to accept it, over and over again. I know that I deserve to live a life that is as happy as I can make it. I know that I deserve to live a life that feels meaningful and worthwhile. And more than anything, I wish that for you too, and for everybody that you know and love.
If and when you find yourself struggling with stress or anxiety, you can use the following yoga sequence to help ground and center you, to bring you back to the present moment (which is the best antidote I've found for times when you feel overwhelmed or trapped inside your head). But instead of thinking of this sequence like a "cure," think of it like one more powerful resource that you can add to your mental wellness toolbox. Please take good care of yourself, and be well <3
15 Minute Yoga Sequence for Anxiety and Stress
From Mountain Pose, slowly raise your right arm up. Follow the fingertips with your gaze as the arm reaches forward and up, then circle the arm behind you and down by your side back to Mountain Pose. See if you can watch the fingertips of the right hand the entire time the arm is circling. Continue to feel your feet on the ground. Repeat a total of 5-10 times, then switch sides, and repeat on the left side.
Downward Dog Walk
Place your hands on the floor, and very slowly, one tiny step at a time, walk your feet back to Downward Dog. Then walk the feet forward again, so that you're back in your forward fold. Again, slowly walk the feet back to Downward Dog. Repeat a total of 3 times, moving slower each time, then stay in Downward Dog for 5-10 breaths.
Cow Pose to Child's Pose Flow
Head to Knee Pose
From Child's Pose, sit up with the legs in front of you. Bend the right knee in towards your chest, then open the knee and place your right foot onto your left inner thigh. Reach forward to grab your left foot (or shin) - look forward on an inhale, then fold over your left leg on your exhale. Stay for 5-8 breaths, then come up to sit, and move directly on to the next pose.
Ankle to Knee Pose
Legs Up The Wall (Bound Angle variation)
Lie down on one side, with your butt close to a wall. Swing the legs up, then bend the knees and place the soles of your feet flat against the wall. Open the knees so the soles of your feet touch, and stretch the arms out on either side in a wide "T" shape. Adjust the legs as needed so that they can rest comfortably in the pose, doing the least amount of work possible. Stay as long as you like - at least 5 minutes if possible.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Begin in any comfortable upright seated position (and know that sitting in a chair or against a wall is just as good as sitting on the floor). Then lift your right hand towards your face, curling your first two fingers down towards the palm of your hand so only your thumb and ring/pinky finger stay lifted. You'll use your thumb and ring finger to gently press your nostrils closed, one side at a time, changing with the breath. Begin by taking a few full, normal breaths. When you're ready to begin, inhale normally, then use your thumb to gently press the right nostril closed as you exhale for a count of 4 through your left nostril. Inhale through the left nostril again for a count of 4, then use your ring finger to close off the left nostril as you lift the thumb away just enough to open up the right side. Exhale through the right for 4.
To get help for yourself or someone you love, visit: National Alliance on Mental Illness
1. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Kneel on your mat with your toes untucked and big toes touching. Sit back on your heels, then open the knees slightly wider than the hips. Rest your forehead on a block, and rest your arms alongside you, palms face up. Feel the weight of the forehead pressing down into the block as the hips press towards the heels. Stay for 10 breaths, then roll up slowly to sit on your heels.
Tip: Use a second block under the forehead for more support. You can also bring your knees a bit closer together or wider apart.
2. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Place your blocks just inside the front two corners of your mat on the lowest height, so the long side of each block lines up with the outer edge of your mat. Put your hands on the blocks, then lift your hips up and back to Downward Facing Dog. Pedal the legs by bending one knee and then the other. Then fully lengthen the backs of the legs as you lift your hips up and back even more and press the chest towards your thighs. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
Tip: If your hands slip, bring the heels of the hands over the lower edge of each block for a slightly better grip.
3. Downward Dog Split / Knee to nose
On an inhale, raise the right leg up behind you - keep both legs straight and your hips squared. Then hug the right knee to your nose as you bring the shoulders over your wrists and round the upper spine. Hold 1 breath. Repeat twice - inhale to raise the leg, exhale to hug the knee to the chest, then hold 1 breath. After the 3rd round, step the foot in between the hands (see next pose).
Tip: Make sure you're using your abdominals and really rounding the spine as you come forward, instead of just bringing the shoulders forward into a Plank shape. If you still have trouble stepping through, turn your blocks up to a higher height.
4. Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
Look down at the front knee to make sure it's stacked directly over your ankle. Your front foot should be in the same line as your hands. Readjust as needed, then actively press your hands into your blocks and lengthen the spine forward. Look forward. Stay for 5 breaths, then step to Downward Dog and repeat poses 3 and 4 on the left side. After both sides, step to Downward Dog.
Tip: You can keep your blocks on the lowest height or turn them up to their 2nd height (pictured left) to feel more lift in the chest.
5. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
From Downward Facing Dog, bend your knees and slowly walk the feet forward towards your hands. Reposition the blocks so that they are placed directly in front of your feet on the highest height. Press the palms of your hands down into the blocks as you straighten your legs as much as possible. Firm up your quad muscles (front of your thighs) and lift your low belly up to activate your abdominals. Stay for 5-10 breaths, then soften the knees and slowly roll up to stand at the top of your mat. Let your head and arms stay heavy for as long as possible.
Tip: If you are able to fold deeper, lower your blocks to their middle or lowest height (as pictured left).
6. Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
Step your left foot back about 4 feet and raise your arms in line with your shoulders. Turn the left toes slightly forward, then make sure your right toes face the front of the mat. Reach forward through the right hand - keep the legs straight and feel the torso lean forward as your right hip moves back. Lower your right hand onto a block (on its highest height) outside of the right ankle. Press your hand down firmly into the block as you raise your left arm up. Look up at your fingertips. Hold 5-10 breaths, then stand up with straight legs. Transition directly into Side Angle Pose (see next pose).
7. Side Angle Pose (Parsvakonasana)
Bend your right knee over the ankle. Place your right hand on a block outside of the right foot, then reach the left arm all the way over your ear, fingertips stretching forward. Look up as you press the press the right hand and the left foot down. Lightly press the outer right knee into the right arm. Hold 5-10 breaths, then stand up, step forward, and repeat poses 6 and 7 on the left side.
Tip: Try 1 or 2 blocks on their lowest height here, so you have a nice wide surface to press your hand into.
8. Garland Pose (Malasana)
Stack two blocks together on their lowest, widest height. Stand in front of your stack of blocks, then step your feet out almost as wide as your mat with the heels pointing slightly inward and the toes pointing slightly outward. Press the palms together at the center of your chest, then bend the knees and sit all the way down onto your blocks. See if you can fit your elbows just inside the knees. Then squeeze the knees into the elbows as much as you press the elbows into the knees. Lengthen the spine, sitting a little bit taller with every breath. Hold 5-10 breaths. To transition out of the pose, lower your hands to the ground and carefully remove your blocks. Sit down on your mat, then roll down to lie on your back with both blocks nearby.
Tip: Adjust your blocks to either a lower or higher height as needed.
9. Supported Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Lie on your back for a few breaths, then bend the knees and place your feet on the floor. Lift the hips and place 1 block underneath the pelvis on its lowest, widest height. Pause here for several breaths, then lift the hips enough to stack the 2nd block on top of the first. Rest the arms by your sides and feel the lift of the chest, sternum reaching towards your chin.
Tip: Make sure that your blocks are under your hips and not your spine! Also, feel free to use 1 block instead of 2.
10. Supported Shoulderstand variation (Salamba Sarvangasana variation)
From Supported Bridge Pose, lift your feet off the floor, stacking your knees over your hips. Keep the same feeling of lift in your chest - again, think of reaching your sternum towards your chin. Then lift the soles of the feet straight up towards the ceiling. Lengthen the backs of your knees to straighten through the legs as much as possible. Notice whether you feel the chest collapsing and if you do, bend the knees slightly and lift your heart up even more. Once you feel stable in your legs, open the arms out in line with your shoulders in a wide "T" shape. You can also bend your elbows with fingertips overhead in a goalpost shape (as pictured left).
Tip: Perform this pose with the legs against a wall for more support. You can also keep the arms by your sides if that feels better on your shoulders.
11. Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
Take the soles of the feet together and allow the knees to open wide apart. Place your blocks on the middle height, angled in slightly so that they fully support your outer thighs. Place one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly. Close your eyes, and breathe evenly into the palms of both hands. Stay for at least 5 minutes, but also feel free to stay longer (up to 15 minutes).
Tip: Feel free to stretch out your arms and legs into a more traditional Savasana if that feels more comfortable.