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Valerie Knopik

Yoga Techniques for Stress: Calming the Nervous System for Mental Health

By Valerie Knopik PH.D for Yoga Medicine®.

Engaging in yoga for stress is a common therapeutic modality to calm the nervous system and work towards greater mental health. Valerie Knopik PH.D talks about the stress response and shares a yoga-related technique to activate your parasympathetic nervous system.

Find the original video on Yoga Medicine’s Youtube channel.

Yoga for Mental Health: Epigenetics, Neuroplasticity and a Practice for Community Support

How can certain yoga related modalities get “under the skin” to positively impact our mental health? Yoga for mental health can be a powerful tool but when teaching or practicing this as a therapeutic practice it’s important to understand the role of epigenetics and neuroplasticity in reframing our experience to paint new neural connections. Valerie Knopik PH.D and Professor at Purdue University speaks on the subject of epigenetics as it relates to our DNA expression and how we can use neuroplasticity and emotional regulation to take control of our mental health.

After the lecture at 7:00, Valerie welcomes you into a short yoga technique based on the idea of community support. For this yoga practice, you’ll need a partner or a wall. This technique for mental health can be access by a yoga student of any level, including beginners, and is an exercise you can integrate into your yoga class if you are a teacher interested in utilizing community support and mental health techniques in a yoga setting.

Find the original video on Yoga Medicine’s Youtube channel.

Changing Your Internal Landscape

A (Not So) Little (and Super Cool) Thing Called Neuroplasticity

Valerie Knopik, Yoga Medicine® Instructor, discusses how mindfulness-based techniques, such as yoga and meditation, can cause structural and functional changes in the brain.

There is growing research that mindfulness-based techniques, such as yoga and meditation, induce changes in brain structure and function. How can this happen? What are the underlying mechanisms? How can this behavior get ‘under the skin’ to affect our biology? Let’s take a quick look….think of this as the speed-dating version, because we could seriously spend a career delving into this cool stuff!

Luders and Kurth (2019) describe meditation as an active mental process that, when done repeatedly, regularly, and over longer periods of time, can change brain structure. This is due, in part, to the fact that meditation incorporates efforts to exercise awareness, attention, concentration, and focus. Yoga is a mind-body practice incorporating many of these same qualities alongside movement. There is accumulating evidence of positive effects on yoga on mental health, physical health, and well-being (Tolahunase et al., 2018). Going even further, a recent investigation examining all studies to date (or meta-analysis) suggest that mindful-based practices, such as yoga and meditation, hold promise as evidence-based treatment for mental health disorders, particularly depression (Goldberg et al., 2018). I think that this is something that we, as yoga practitioners have ‘felt’ for a long time and I love that, as a mental health researcher, there is now some evidence to back up our experiential claims.

Diving just a bit deeper……A recent review by Tang et al (2015) in Nature Reviews Neuroscience discusses possible mechanisms that lend further support to these processes. They suggest that one possibility is engaging the brain in mindfulness affects brain structure by inducing dendritic branching, synaptogenesis, myelinogenesis or even adult neurogenesis – all super cool brain changes we tend to lump together under the umbrella term of ‘neuroplasticity’. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the central nervous system (CNS) to adapt and reorganize its structure and function in response to internal or external stimuli and manifests at both biological and clinical levels. You may have heard the phrase, “neurons that fire together, wire together,” and this is a general underlying principle of neuroplasticity. Yoga and meditation teach us to slow down, notice, be aware, and (hopefully) be non-reactive. By practicing these behaviors over and over, we are reinforcing these positive neural pathways making them the ‘default’ pathway. In other words, we have the capacity to change the way our neurons (brain cells) connect with one another! We can actually, through mindful awareness, reinforce positive neural connections!

Relatedly, research also suggests that mindfulness positively affects autonomic nervous system regulation and immune activity (think stress response!), which may result in neuronal preservation, restoration and/or inhibition of apoptosis (aka cell death). We know, experientially, that mindfulness-based techniques are highly effective in stress reduction, and it now appears possible that such stress reduction may also mediate changes in brain function (Tang et al., 2019).

If you don’t already have a yoga or mindfulness practice, here are some simple tips to get you started on changing those neuronal connections:

  1. Bring mindfulness and meditation into your daily practice. Starting with just 3 minutes a day and building to 10 minutes over time. If sitting down to meditate feels too daunting, try a walking meditation. This isn’t just going on a walk. Being barefoot is really helpful for this approach as it will help you stay very aware of each blade or grass or grain of sand or plank of wood floor. You could literally walk back and forth over the same area trying to stay very focused on the feeling of each movement of your feet, noticing your mind wandering, and staying super present in your experience.
  2. Bring breath to the forefront of your yoga practice. I come back to this a lot. I wrote a piece for Yoga Digest last year about going back to the breath and well, it’s hard, but it just might be a game changer for your practice. Approach your practice as if your breath is the peak pose. Instead of thinking about what you look like in each shape, focus on your breath instead. Notice how a shift in mental focus might stir things up and change your perspective.
  3. Notice your habitual responses. When your alarm goes off in the morning, do you automatically say something to yourself (or out loud) like, “Argh (or insert another expletive here)!” Try shifting your internal (and possibly external) voice to be more positive….something along the lines of “It’s going to be an awesome day! I’m grateful to be able to experience this wonderful day and all that it brings.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m sold. Well, I was already sold. But if I wasn’t, I would be! Even though we, as scientists, as still exploring these underlying mechanisms, I find it so powerful (and super cool!) that we have these initial results that suggest we have the capacity to change our internal landscape …. What about you?

Mental Health And Wellness Module Overview

By Nat & Sandy Yoga Podcast.

Recently, Nat (from Nat & Sandy Yoga) took a short trip to Portland for a training on mental health and wellness with Yoga Medicine. In this episode, Sandy interviews Nat on her experience and the main takeaways from her week in training. We discuss the importance of epigenetics in mental health, depression and anxiety, the enteric nervous system (your gut) and its connection to mental health, and so much more. This topic is hugely important for yoga teachers to be well-versed and sensitive towards, so if you’re currently a yoga teacher or looking to launch your teaching career, please do have a listen! We discuss tools and techniques to use within group yoga classes that may help someone with depression or anxiety feel a bit more comfortable.

Listen to the full podcast here. Enjoy!

The Depths of Winter

Valerie Knopik, Yoga Medicine® Instructor, discusses the “Depth Year” and how you can use these concepts to re-invest in your yoga practice.

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was, in me, an invincible summer.” – Albert Camus

With the holidays behind us and winter weather in full swing, many of us experience feelings of being let down during the months of January and February. Do any of these thoughts and ideas sound familiar?

• Now what?
• Is it time to do a New Year’s Detox?
• New Year’s resolutions?
• I’m going to get back into my normal workout routine.
• What can I buy with these gift cards?
• This year will be the year I do weekly meal prep every Sunday!
• I commit to moving for 30 minutes every day this year.

How can we fill the dark days of winter and still fulfill some of those normal desires to do something new?

Recently, I read an article by author, David Cain, about something called a “Depth Year.” Back at the end of 2017, this author had suggested the Depth Year with the original intent of taking a year where we don’t acquire any new possessions or start any new hobbies. The idea caught on, with many people deciding to try this idea of ‘going deeper instead of going wider’. The author decided that, since he had suggested it, he should actually do it too. Instead of doing what he himself had suggested – i.e., one full year not acquiring anything new or starting any new pursuits – the author decided to keep depth at the forefront of mind whenever he made any decisions. His follow-up article discusses how his Depth Year changed his life – offering him more creativity, more opportunity for mindfulness, in fact, he stated that depth was a “new lens for looking at the tools and opportunities that were already there.”

I look at this concept of the Depth Year as an extension of some of the rituals and traditions tied to Winter Solstice – the shortest (and darkest) day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, which took place on December 21, 2018. The time surrounding Winter Solstice asks us to reflect on our whole selves, including those parts we hide from others. We might then go further to ask ourselves what we can leave behind (symbolically) ‘in the dark’. This self-reflection can be done, at least in part, through journaling, meditation, and introspective yoga practices. The Depth Year concept asks us to consider, among other things, why we’ve let certain projects go unfinished, why we’ve given up on certain pursuits, why we’ve not invested in certain relationships, and why we constantly need more. Both approaches invite us, in simple terms, to go deeper…to check in with ourselves, with our blockages, with our fears, with our fall back habits of procrastination or lack of motivation. And, then each approach asks us to confront (and actually sit with) the reasons why.

I feel inspired by the idea of a Depth Year, but to be honest, it also feels a bit daunting. If you aren’t ready to jump into the Depth Year in all aspects of your life, one idea is to start small and apply these Depth Year concepts to re-invest in your yoga practice, even if you have been practicing forever. I am a believer that how we treat ourselves on the mat is reflective of how we treat ourselves (and others) off of the mat. If you feel as inspired about this Depth Year approach as I do, here are some simple ways to start to play with this concept in your yoga practice:

Go back to the basics. Spend quality time with the foundational poses of your yoga practice. Revel in the principles of alignment. Be fascinated with thoughts about what muscles are working and which muscles are lengthening. Use these investigations as a way to stay focused and present on your mat.

Approach decisions about your practice with depth in mind. This might involve decisions about what kinds of classes to take or what options you choose during class. For example, if you always take the ‘up-level’ or more challenging option, consider dialing back and just sitting in the depth of the base option/pose.

Bring breath to the forefront. I wrote a piece for Yoga Digest last year about going back to the breath and well, it’s hard, but it just might be a game changer for your practice. Approach your practice as if your breath is the peak pose. Instead of thinking about what you look like in each shape, focus on your breath instead. Notice how a shift in mental focus might stir things up.

Bring mindfulness and meditation into your daily practice. Starting with just 3 minutes a day and building to 10 minutes over time can add a layer of depth to your day that is virtually indescribable. Before I started meditating regularly – primarily because I was convinced I didn’t have the time (insert eyeroll here) – my teacher would tell me that meditating would actually give me more time. She was right. I don’t know how to explain it, but meditation can leave you feeling as if you have more time in your day.

Journal about new breakthroughs in your yoga practice as you practice these ideas of going deeper instead of going wider. What did you feel after focusing on nothing but your breath? How does it feel to sit in the depth of foundational poses and sequences (such as sun salutations)? What did you learn about yourself? About your habits? About your thought patterns? About anything? Write it down so that you can look back and recall how this Depth Year approach has changed you and your practice.

“There are vast amounts of untapped value in what you already have. We just need to cultivate it.” – David Cain

Meditation Styles to Match Your Personality

6 Meditation Styles to Match Your Personality

Many shun meditation because they find it intimidating or too woo-woo. However, even a minor effort on your part yields positive results. Firstly, know that it’s possible to meditate for as little as 3 minutes per day and notice a difference.

It’s important to find a practice that suits your personality best. “Remember, there is no right or wrong way to meditate since there are different techniques or styles of meditation,” says Patricia Young, certified professional and holistic coach at Inner Prosperity Academy.

To begin the practice, you should discover the type that works best for you, as you will be more likely to make it a habit. These experts provide examples to try:

TRY: CANDLE STARING

This simple style is just like it sounds: Light a candle and stare. “If your mind has thoughts, just thank them and go back to staring at the candle,” says Young.

TRY: WALKING MEDITATION

“As you are walking, focus on the way your feet hit the ground,” says Tom Bruett, MS, a  licensed psychotherapist. He says to set an alarm on your phone for 5 minutes. “If your mind wanders, simply bring it back.”

TRY: MINDFULNESS MEDITATION

Don’t worry about freeing your mind and, instead, simply think about what is happening in the present. “This includes thoughts, sounds, feelings in the body and anything else present,” says Young. The idea is to observe “without judgment and remain open and aware.”

TRY: MANTRA MEDITATION

“Mantras can be really helpful. Repeating the same phrase over and over can help keep the mind from wandering,” says Valerie Knopik, PhDYoga Medicine instructor. “Some of my favorite examples: ‘I am enough’ and ‘I am.’ This meditation type works well right before a race when you want to cool your nerves and heart rate down to conserve energy.”

TRY: VISUALIZATION MEDITATION

“Many professional athletes use meditation to visualize the athletic abilities they hope to have,” says Alisa Duclos-Robinson, PhD, owner of Another Direction Recovery and Wellness.She says you might want to practice imagining yourself running at your goal pace, as well as any potential obstacles you could incur and how you will overcome them. “Try to be as detailed as possible in your visualization, and make sure it is realistic.”

TRY:  GUIDED MEDITATION

You do not need to meditate alone; look for outside help if you need it. “Meditation apps, for example, HeadSpace, can be really helpful for beginners,” says Diane Malaspina, PhD, a Yoga Medicine therapeutic specialist.

TIPS FOR GETTING STARTED

  • Start small. “Set your meditation timer for 3 minutes and work with that time for several weeks,” says Malaspina.
  • Practice in the morning. The “best time to meditate is early in the morning (before your coffee or tea), because that way you set yourself up for a peaceful start to your day,” says Young.
  • Choose a comfortable position. “Sitting on a cushion or blanket can ease discomfort in the lower body,” says Malaspina. “If sitting upright is uncomfortable, lean against a wall, sit in a chair or lie on your back.”
  • Slow down. “Direct your attention inward, and just notice your breathing. Do a gentle body scan,” says Ellis Edmunds, PsyD. He recommends starting with your toes and slowly shifting your attention upward to each body part.
  • Relax. “Every time your mind wanders from the point of focus (your breath), you gently bring it back without judgment or criticism,” says Duclos-Robinson. “Meditation is essentially like exercise for your brain. So your strength and ability will get better with time.”
  • Watch your inner dialogue. “Always make the statements you use positive and moving toward what you want,” says Tracie Strucker, PhD. She recommends something like, “I am … or I’m moving toward …” This way, you put what you want top of mind rather than resisting.

If you’re still on the fence about meditation, consider its benefits. “Regular meditation can enhance your wellness regimen,” says Malaspina. “It nourishes our mind and the mind-body communication system, improving performance, increasing immunity and easing the effects of chronic stress.”

Read on MyFitnessPal here.

The Mood Boosting Effects of Yoga

 for Mantra Wellness Magazine shares how yoga can boost mood through mindfulness and physical activation. Learn more about the evidence, and how to start practicing yoga for a better mood.

Is Yoga the Magical Mood Elixir?

After teaching last week, a new student came up to me two days after class and said, “That yoga class… I felt muscles that I didn’t even know that I had turn on; my body was literally humming the next day. It was as if I had this calm, positive, internal energy uplifting me. It was amazing, and I can’t wait until our next class.” This is the ultimate response one can hope for as a teacher. And as a student? This opportunity to practice yoga and then walk away from our mats and keep the positive shifts we make during our practice? This is, in many ways, the heart of our practice.

When asked why we practice, both teachers and students alike tend to mention things like yoga being grounding, yoga is a tool to help them be ‘in their body,’ and yoga is the magic mood lifter. But have you ever paused to think about why this yoga practice, consisting of physical poses (asana), focused breath work (pranayama), and meditation, can have these profound effects on mood?

Yoga as a Mood Lifter

There is a growing body of research that lends credence to our own personal stories of yoga being a mood lifter. Researchers have recently shown preliminary evidence that yoga can ease depressive symptoms, particularly when life stressors are on the rise. Further, yoga and focused breath work can decrease depressive symptoms in individuals diagnosed with major depressive disorder. In short, there is suggestive evidence that yoga, meditation, and pranayama can keep us, dare I say it, more content.

How does this happen? When we practice mind- body techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, and focused intention tasks, we influence brain activity in regions that are involved in reducing psychological stress and increasing the parasym-pathetic response. These effects have downstream results of reducing heart rate, increasing immune function, and making digestion more efficient – all of which feed back to the brain to affect mood and behavior. Further, when we engage in the physical aspects of yoga or controlled breath work, both of which require us to use our musculoskeletal system and increase our cardiovascular output, we subsequently influence the body’s capability to fight illness, balance between the parasympathetic/ sympathetic nervous systems, and improve mood.

Mindfulness & Cognitive Response

A yoga practice including mindfulness and focused intention in a non-competitive and non-judgmental atmosphere can change our cognitive response to stimuli. In other words, we have the capacity to retrain our brains and change what we choose to pay attention to. Yoga teaches us to be in the present moment and to accept ourselves and our experiences, just as they are. Meditation teaches us to become the internal observer of our thoughts and to learn to identify negative or irrational thoughts. Through these practices, we can, over time, adjust our frame of thinking.

Find the Right Practice

The beautiful thing is that you need not be a well-seasoned yoga practitioner to reap the mood-enhancing benefits of yoga – although a consistent practice will indeed bring long-term benefits. Even those newer to the practice show positive mood responses to this practice. If you struggle with depressive symptoms, it’s worth some investigation of your local yoga studios to find an environment that suits you. Research suggests that knowledgeable and well-trained yoga teachers who promote positive ‘non-judgment zones,’ provide individualized attention, teach mindfulness and breathing, and provide guidance for translating studio class elements into a home practice are most effective for decreasing depressive symptoms. It’s worth the effort to seek out the right teacher.

The take-home message is simply to practice. Whether it’s every day or once a week, just practice. Whether it’s asana, pranayama, or meditation, just practice. And then, build to a consistent practice. The more you make time for yourself, the more consistent your practice. And the more you go inward and stay present through yoga, pranayama, and meditation, the more seasoned you become at recognizing the thoughts and patterns that don’t serve you or bring you joy. You’re worth it.

Yoga Practice Getting Boring? Learn How to Mix it Up

Kristen Fischer for Spirituality & Health shares some advice on what to do when your yoga practice is getting boring. Try these tips to mix it up, and maybe learn something new.

7 Ways to Make Yoga Class a Self-Discovery Goldmine

Time on the yoga mat is enlightening for most of us, but it can get a little blah no matter how much we love it. Liven up your practice by using your average yoga class to learn more about yourself.

“If your yoga practice feels stale, consider the following tips to pull your lotus flower out of the mud,” said Kris Fleischer, a yoga teacher from the Jersey Shore.

1. Slow down your breathing.

We focus a lot on breathing techniques during class, but some of us don’t pay attention to the pace. “By slowing down your breaths, your nervous system calms and your mind settles, allowing the muddy water to settle,” Fleischer said. “Your mind settles, and as a result, you are able to make better decisions.”

2. Make time for rest.

Need a break 10 minutes into a one-hour class? Don’t be afraid to be the person who randomly takes Child’s Pose. It may be just what you need to discern what’s going on in your body and mind, leading to the breakthrough you need. “By giving your body what it needs on the mat, you take the practice of making clear choices with you into the world,” Fleischer explained.

3. Get creative.

Tired of your yoga teacher’s musical preferences or practicing in the same studio? Make up your own routine and practice at home (or somewhere else really inspiring) and use your own playlist. “When you listen to music you are connected to, you move in ways that further connect you to your yoga practice,” Fleischer said. “The postures become new all over again.”

4. Keep showing up.

Looking for more from your yoga practice but just not getting it? “Show up anyway. Persevere,” Fleischer recommended. “These are the practices when you discover what you are really made of because you are giving yourself to be in the present moment on the mat, warts and all. Your practice becomes an offering of self.” That may just lead you to find out more about what you desire or need—and exactly how to get it.

5. Don’t go big.

Avoid going into your deepest expression of a pose—at least for one class. “Stay up higher in Triangle Pose and focus on getting equal length on both sides of your torso by elongating your spine. Use a block in Half Moon Pose so that you can pay more attention to your Quadratus Lumborum [that ab muscle on your back] than getting your hand to the floor,” suggested Valerie Knopik, PhD, Yoga Medicine® instructor from Indiana. “Slow down enough to focus on subtlety and nuance rather than depth.”

6. Focus on the poses you hate.

We all have at least one pose that we dread. Why don’t you like that pose or those poses? “Sit with this and cultivate some wonder about what your most disliked postures might be able to teach you,” Knopik, said.

7. Stay after class.

Maybe your practice isn’t where to look for self-discovery after all. It could open you up and help you connect with the energy of others in the class. That may spark a discussion that helps you feel more in tune with who you are. So don’t rush out the door right away. “Some of the best lessons come at the moments when you want to bail,” Knopik said. Staying—whether in a pose you can’t stand or just hanging out after class—is often the harder work. “That time spent lingering is the time when breakthroughs and wonderful ‘aha’ moments come about,” Knopik added.

Read on Spirituality and Health here.

Yoga Breathing: The Importance of the Basics

 for Yoga Digest discusses how seductive new practice can be, and the true value of focusing on the yoga basics and proper yoga breathing, no matter where you are in your journey.

Back to Basics: Breathing is the New Black

Lately I’ve been fascinated by the human brain’s proclivity for being seduced. Yoga students are seduced by the fancy (and perhaps erroneously labeled ‘advanced’) yoga poses. University students are seduced by the new, sexy, advanced concepts in certain academic fields. We are seduced, visually or otherwise, to the point where the basics—the very foundation of what we are trying to learn—is considered boring. We, quite frankly, don’t seem to want to spend the time mastering the basics. As a yoga teacher and university professor, I often see this in my students, and just so that all is on the table – I still find those seductive tendencies creeping into my own brain every now and then.

Why do we do this?

Why do we scroll through our social media feeds or thumb through yoga magazines, pausing at those in handstands, arm balances, and pretzel-like positions? We sigh and say, “Wow, I wish I could do that.” Have you ever paused in awe at a picture of someone meditating? How about an image of someone in Tadasana/mountain pose, who is working tirelessly at all of the loops that need to be set up in order to ensure proper alignment and posture? Why are yoga workshops focusing on inversions more well-attended than workshops focusing on the bones of the basic sun salutation? Or even more importantly, the breath?

What is it that drives this behavior? Is it impatience? Excitement? Curiosity? Dare I say, laziness (i.e., to get to some desired point faster and skip the hard work along the way)? Is it our socialization to believe that bigger is better? Maybe a combination of several things? And before you give me the evil eye or send me some hate mail, let me say that I do think that there is a place for inspiration and for working toward a goal. But tell me, how can we get to those ‘advanced’ poses or concepts if we skip the foundation? How can a house be built if there’s nothing to build it on?

An Unexpected Peak Pose

A few years ago, I took a class where, as is fairly typical, we were focused on a peak pose. Surprisingly though, it wasn’t the ‘usual suspects’ of peak poses….backbends, inversions or an arm balance. It was breath. Let me say that again. It was breath.

For an entire hour, we moved, one breath per movement, through a continuous and very simple breath flow. It was transformative, it was flat out challenging. It was inspiring. And it really taught me how much the breath is lost in our standard vanilla yoga class. Our students have been ‘trained’ to see bigger as better. A wise mentor said to me once, “If you don’t train them, they’ll train you.” And she was right.

As a yoga teacher and trainer of aspiring yoga teachers, I believe it is part of our responsibility to inspire our students to learn. After all, if we don’t encourage a strong foundational practice, who will? What if we encouraged our students to be in awe of the breath? In awe of the foundations of the practice. Amazed by the process by which we integrate breath, alignment, and movement. Fascinated, not with standing on our hands, but with the self-awareness that is built through yoga.

What if we made the basics downright amazing? If we change how we speak about and teach the breath and the basic, foundational poses, we may just change how our students approach them. Not only will this shift in perspective guide them to be more present in their own yoga journey, but it will also decrease comparison and feelings of inadequacy, and encourage joy and contentment on the mat. Becoming an active listener and observer to our mind and bodies throughout the yoga practice can, indeed, be the ultimate seduction.

Five Lessons on Teaching the Basics

As you consider this perspective shift, here are five things I’ve learned from trying to focus on the basics in my own practice and with my students:

1) It’s hard.

Even the basic poses can be challenging. Particularly if the intention is to sit in the pose for several breaths and become the internal observer. The mind wanders. A lot. And, to sit with ourselves? I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t hard. The mind is a muscle and we need to exercise it and teach it to be present.

2) Paying attention to the breath can be exhilarating and expansive at times and downright aggravating at others.

I’ve left my breath-centered practices feeling cracked wide open and breathing more fully than ever and I’ve also left them feeling agitated that I couldn’t find ‘the groove’ that day. Stick with it….this is teaching the practice of patience and allows us to check in with why we react the way we do when things don’t go our way.

3) Leave the ego at the door.

Going back to the basics can be a humbling experience. But…to be able to find contentment with the sensations you feel while pausing in, for example, Warrior 2? That is tapping into one of the main intentions of yoga. Be willing to stay. To steep. Linger. Explore. Some of the best lessons come at the moments when we want to bail. Staying is often harder work.

4) Focusing on the foundations has decreased my brain’s relentless quest for ‘bigger is better’ and replaced it with ‘subtlety/nuance is better.’

For example, instead of focusing on how deep I can go in Trikonasana (i.e., how flat can I get my bottom hand on the floor), I stay up very high in this pose, focusing on creating equal length on both sides of my waist by lengthening my spine. I focus on keeping my mind present by trying to find the subtle firing of my Quadratus Lumborum muscle. The possibilities for focal points in simple postures are quite literally, endless.

5) Teaching these concepts to students is more challenging than teaching a vanilla yoga class.

Some of your students will buckle in, stay the course, rave about it, and want more, more, more. Some won’t. If you’re teaching from a place of authenticity (no matter what approach you take to teaching) you’ll ignite a fire and change the lives of those that stick it out.

Read the article on Yoga Digest here

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