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  • 19 Jan 2021 by Ginger Bennett

     

     

    Online yoga teacher training programs are a suitable alternative to in-person trainings, especially in light of the current challenges we face with social distancing. These online trainings are an affordable option that provide students with the flexibility to complete training on their own time. Students are given the tools to develop a strong personal practice so they may better embody the teachings of yoga.

    Due to Yoga Alliance’s temporary provision to “allow yoga schools to offer contact hours in any of the five [mandatory] Educational Categories in a virtual format,” there are many credible options available to fit any budget (Yoga Alliance, Member Update: RYS Provision in Response to COVID-19, 2020).

     

    What to Look for When Searching for an Online YTT Program

    Do your research. First and foremost, see to it the sources that influence your decisions are clear, concise, and thoughtfully crafted. Then, cross-reference multiple sources to see if the information you read is consistent. Finally, do not be afraid to reach out. Call or email the schools you are interested in. Get in touch with someone who is quick to respond, and knowledgeable enough to answer questions such as:

    • How long have you been offering online training?

    • What qualifications do your trainers have?

    • Will I receive live support from a team member as I work through my course?

    • How will you help me get started in my career as a yoga teacher once I have completed my training?

    Also, keep in mind that it is possible for your yoga teacher training to be both of high quality and financially accessible (but again, do your research).

     

    Top Online Yoga Teacher Trainings Worldwide 

    My Vinyasa Practice

    My Vinyasa Practice is the number one online yoga teacher training program worldwide. This training is affordable, and provides students with the most comprehensive experience we’ve seen thus far. Thoughtfully constructed, it guides students seamlessly through the program from live lectures to the content they share in their online platform, Teachable.

    After initial sign-up, students receive a dedicated peer-support team member, unlimited access to their lead trainers, one-on-one coaching, live Zoom lectures, pre-recorded videos, podcasts, and access to an online community with members from around the globe. Upon completion of the program, My Vinyasa Practice continues to support their graduates by offering post-program career teaching, coaching, and job placement opportunities. Their training focuses on both Vinyasa and Hatha techniques and offers both a 200 hour and a 300 hour yoga teacher training. 

    With an IAYT Yoga Therapist certification, and an M.Ed in curriculum development, owner and lead trainer, Michelle Young takes a therapeutic approach to yoga teacher training. Her program offers certified IAYT Yoga Therapy for teachers wanting to advance their studies. 

    Currently, My Vinyasa Practice’s online yoga teacher training is 50% off when tuition is paid in full. Students can refund their purchase for a FULL refund during the first 30 days of registration.

     

    Soul of Yoga 

    The Soul of Yoga, located in Encinitas, CA, is a remarkable yoga school offering a wide variety of trainings in yoga, meditation, and Yoga Therapy. This fall, Soul of Yoga launched its first online Hatha Yoga teacher training.

    This online training gives students everything they need to teach and sequence strong Hatha Yoga classes. This online training is written and facilitated by Flossie Parks, a yoga teacher and teacher trainer with over 20 years of experience.

    In this dynamic online training, students learn the history and philosophy of Hatha yoga, along with strategies to sequence, teach, and theme. Students interact in live Zoom classes and are supported by prerecorded materials. The Soul of Yoga also offers a dynamic and interactive Yoga Therapy program with world renowned teachers and flexible distance learning options.

     

    Siddhi Yoga

    Siddhi Yoga is a top rated yoga teacher training program based in India. Siddhi Yoga has offered teacher trainings registered with Yoga Alliance for years and are now offering trainings online. Their program has made it a mission to be the best yoga school in India, offering an authentic experience learning with yogi masters.

    The online program includes a thorough manual, self-paced teachings, and more than 220 videos. The program offers weekend Zoom lectures which are recorded for student convenience.

    Siddhi Yoga’s program is facilitated by Dr. Sumit Sharma, Shobhit Ghanshyala, Yogacharya Sandeep Pandey, and many more highly qualified teachers. The training is 100% self-paced and is currently priced at $397. Training is refundable within the first seven days. Techniques taught include Hatha, Karma, Bhakti, Mantra, and Raja Yoga. Use code SIDDHIYOGA10 for an additional 10% off.

     

    YogaRenew

    YogaRenew's online yoga teacher training is approved through Yoga Alliance and is available 100% online. It gives students the opportunity to deepen their practice while gaining the skills to teach yoga. This comprehensive training is affordable and thorough. It provides a strong foundation in yoga philosophy and practices. The program itself includes weekly live zoom calls, videos, readings, workbook activities, handouts and lectures.

    YogaRenew is led by yoga trainers, Kate Lombardo and Patrick Franco, 500 E-RYT trainers and YACEP providers, to provide potential students with a wealth of knowledge at an affordable price point. Training includes The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, yoga anatomy, eight different styles of yoga, six principles of alignment, five categories of asana, bandhas, advanced study of yoga poses (including adjustments and modifications, teaching cues, yoga sequencing, meditation, pranayama, and chakras). YogaRenew’s training includes weekly emails with pose guides, sequencing ideas, quotes, playlists, teaching tips and much more.

    YogaRenew’s self-paced training is $437 and offers a 7-day money back guarantee.

     

    The Kaivalya Yoga Method

    The Kaivalya Yoga Method is run by Allana Kaivalya, Ph.D, who founded the school and has been teaching for over 20 years. This method focuses on Vinyasa yoga. This Yoga Alliance approved training allows you to fulfill the requirements to be a Registered Yoga Teacher with Yoga Alliance and provides all of the tools to confidently teach yoga.

    Teachers in training gain access to a private Facebook group, expert mentors, individual feedback, and accountability assessments. Teachers also receive lifetime registration with TKYM and can teach anywhere in the world. The program is $397 when paid in full, or $462 with an installment plan over six months. 

     

    FAQ

    Will I be able to teach yoga if I get trained online? 

    In March 2020, Yoga Alliance initiated the temporary provision for online learning, which gave credibility to online yoga teacher trainings worldwide. Online yoga teacher training is an excellent way to become certified to teach yoga while still maintaining social distance and your own health and well-being. Reputable yoga schools from across the globe are offering online trainings, and graduates report positive experiences when seeking employment. There really has never been a better time to take online yoga teacher training. Even if you aren’t interested in teaching yoga professionally, online yoga teacher training will help you deepen your practice and give you the skills you need to teach in your community. 

     

    Will I Get Certified With Online Yoga Teacher Training?

    Each yoga school certifies their own teachers. Currently, there are no certification bodies in the yoga industry. There are registries, like Yoga Alliance, but these registries are professional directories and do not certify teachers. Teachers who are certified through a school affiliated with a particular registry enable graduates to register their certification to be featured in their registry. 

    An example of this is Yoga Alliance - an online registry that allows certified teachers to join for a yearly fee. This fee gives teachers who are registered the opportunity to showcase their training in the member directory. Whether you register with Yoga Alliance or not, you will be certified to teach yoga regardless of where you complete your training. 

     

    How do I know which school to select?

    You have to ask yourself why you are taking yoga teacher training in the first place? If you’re taking a training to deepen your practice and enhance your knowledge of alignment, then you will want to take a training that is thorough and includes a strong emphasis on self-study and asana (physical practice). If you’re looking to teach in a yoga studio or looking to create a yoga brand, you want to select a school that supports the business of yoga and helps you to develop yourself as a professional teacher. If you’re looking to go into Yoga Therapy you may want to consider going to a yoga school that also has an accredited Yoga Therapy program

    When researching, you might also want to look at each school's reviews on the Yoga Alliance website. A school that has consistent reviews is rigorous and transparent and provides you with individualized support. Yoga teacher training is a transformative experience, and you want to make sure you’re going to be supported. Reach out and have a conversation with different schools to see if their values align with yours’, it is important to learn from a school that has similar values and beliefs as you.

     

    Do I need to be Yoga Alliance Certified in order to teach?

    Yoga Alliance is a registry, and registration is not required to teach. Many students believe that they have to be affiliated with Yoga Alliance to teach in a studio, but that is simply not true. Some studios ask their teachers to register with Yoga Alliance, but typically this is to protect their own training. Ultimately, Yoga Alliance is just one of many professional organizations designed to provide yoga teachers with visibility. You do not need to belong to Yoga Alliance to teach. 

  • 13 May 2021 by McKenzie Wallace

    by Sarah Maurer

    Within the last few decades, ancient wellness techniques have been brought to mainstream Western audiences at an accelerating rate. We saw a similar time in the late sixties when the Beatles traveled to India and helped to popularize meditation in the West. This has been reflected in yoga over the last century, and more recently with Covid-19, people in the medical community are paying attention to the potency of breathwork (also known as pranayama) in yoga.

    Doctors have an understanding regarding the regulation of the breath and how it can help to lower blood pressure and cortisol levels. Statistics from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America state, "Generalized Anxiety Disorder affects [more than] forty million Americans... [and of] those who are diagnosed with GAD, only thirty-six percent seek treatment." Based on these statistics, we could assume the issues are systemic or an issue to the entire body and not just one particular area. Perhaps consistent breathwork and mindfulness practices could be implemented as effective supplementary practices, which in conjunction with Western medical care, may be the secret sauce to alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression over time.  

    With studying a personal practice of yoga, my only exposure to belly and diaphragmatic breathing was in my therapist’s office.  He was trained in using somatic techniques in his cognitive behavioral therapy practice. Somatics describes any practice which uses the mind-body connection to help you survey your internal-self and listens to signals your body sends about areas of pain, discomfort, or imbalance. This type of practice can be beneficial in situations where someone has faced minor or even acute trauma. Part of how they utilized this work was having me breathe through moments of anxiety and emotional discomfort.  Initially, I appreciated the sentiment, and noticed there was something to this practice, but did not quite believe it wholeheartedly until realizing how the use my breath could take me out of or lessen the severity of a panic attack. This is when I had a realization surrounding the breath as a powerful tool which should be treasured and understood so it can be useful in a multitudes of ways in life.  

     

    Three Easy Breathing Techniques to Manage Stress

    The quality of your breath fluctuates throughout the day based on the various stimuli you encounter in your environment.  I invite you to observe your breath throughout the day with curiosity.  You may find that there are patterns that reappear or circumstances that change the quality of your breath.  For example, I am a nervous driver, some people I know feel a sense of freedom behind the wheel, but that is not my experience.  When I drive, I almost hold my breath completely at times, or my breath is shallow and only in my chest.  My body’s stress response just takes over, my shoulders curl forward, and I lose any space or buoyancy in my posture.  If and when I am able to be mindful in these moments, I may begin to consciously breathe from my lower abdomen to move through the stress response in my body.  

    Belly or Diaphragmatic Breathing

    This is called belly or diaphragmatic breathing, in which you are breathing in through your nose, allowing your lower and mid-abdomen to expand, and then exhaling through pursed lips, almost as if you are trying to whistle.  It can be helpful to rest your hands on your lower rib cage to connect to the cadence of your breath and the expansion of your abdomen.  Yoga utilizes this type of pranayama, in order to counter the fight or flight response of the sympathetic nervous system.  I recently discovered it being used as a tool in mobility training, and its purpose in this type of movement therapy is to relax the body in order to unlock the fascia, and in turn new ranges of motion.  Technically, this technique should be performed lying down.  However, I enjoy utilizing belly-breathing, because it is relatively easy to do anywhere, and it really does not need to take place lying down to be an effective tool in times of stress or overwhelm.  It is also very discreet, so if you are in a public place, no one will know that you are doing it.   

    Box-Breathing

    Box-Breathing is another accessible approach to breathwork, and similarly to other techniques, it can help to regulate the autonomic functions of the body, like our heart rate.  If you are new to this breathing exercise, it is probably best to start with a count of four.  So, imagine that your breath is tracing the edges of a square, and you will inhale for four counts, hold the inhale for four counts, exhale for four counts, and hold the exhale for four counts.  Now, if suspending your breath for four counts increases feelings of anxiety, you can reduce this to one or two counts, and build up your stamina over time.  

    Nadi Shodhana

    Finally, we have Alternate Nostril Breathing, or Nadi Shodhana.  This breathing technique is a great tool before job interviews, exams, or to shift your energy before meditation.  You will want to begin with the left side to promote calming sensations.  Before starting this type of pranayama, it is best to take one deep cleansing breath.  With your left hand resting on your lap, fold your pointer and middle fingers towards the middle of your palm, and leave your ring finger, pinky finger, and thumb extended.  Keep your right nostril closed with your thumb and inhale through your left nostril.  Then, close both nostrils before releasing your exhale out of your right nostril.  This is one cycle, and you can repeat this for as long as you would like, but nine or ten rounds is a good place to start.  You can also use the four counts of breath to help with timing, just like box-breathing.  So, you would inhale for four counts, close the nostrils and suspend the breath for four counts, and exhale for four counts.  This is a highly beneficial practice, and relatively easy to start practicing.


    For those who are new to these types of practices, these breathing techniques may feel intimidating at first.  It is also important to note that these are fairly effective in the moment, but their true efficacy builds up overtime and is revealed after consistent practice.  Hopefully, one or all of these types of pranayama or breathwork speak to you, as they each can give you a sense of agency in dealing with stress and anxiety.  It is always good to have a diverse toolkit in daily life, so you are prepared in times of crisis.

  • 26 Apr 2021 by Jodi Rose Gonzales

    When you think about your business goals for teaching yoga, do you feel scattered, stressed, burnt out, or drained? I get it—I felt that way, too—until one of my yoga mentors advised me to ‘teach from what the well spills, not from the well itself’. My mind immediately explored this as an off-the-mat profit-versus-loss model. I wondered: what if my business decisions were based on an energetic (not monetary) cashflow? 

     

    Yoga Teaching and Your Energetic Profit

    As Westerners, we are enculturated to believe that business “success” means that we are financially profitable. Yet, this often conflicts with our values as yoga teachers. Our practice is often an observation of service to others, humility, and simplicity. Our beliefs about “abundance” can overshadow—and even redefine—our ideas about success. 

    Meanwhile, it’s easy to conform to expectation. Our family, friends, and business planning mentors rarely ask us to probe our individualized, ultimate picture of success. To be fair, we often forget to pause and ask those same questions of ourselves. It is assumed that as teachers, we are in business to make money. Yet, as practitioners of yoga, we know that isn’t necessarily so. 

    What follows is inner conflict—and an energetic principle that happens anytime your values are overstepped: you feel drained, overwhelmed, fearful, etc. The more you try to fit yourself into a traditional or expected model, the more your internal batteries continue to drain….and so does your energetic profit.

     

    Permission to Explore the Energetic Profit Model

    While money-making has its place (you have to pay your utility bill, after all), it doesn’t have to be the sole guiding principle in your yoga teaching business. Here are some questions to consider as you start your energetic business plan:

    • Name 3-5 core values such as safety, ethics, gratitude, freedom, excellence, kindness, inclusion, etc. Google “values list” to explore options and ideas. 

    • Clearly define what “success” means to you. Complete the following sentence: For me, success is less about monetary profit and more about _______ . Be thorough!

    • What would your life look like and feel like as the ultimate expression of your yoga teaching, values and self-defined success? Sit with this image and notice any sensations in the body. Do you feel lighter, expansive, or warm in the heart? Take time to collage or journal about this embodied vision of business. 

     

    Now’s the Time to Build an Energetically Profitable Business

    Remember, when it comes to energy, like attracts like! Therefore, when you can envision and feel yourself earning an energetic profit, you will start to explore your business with more gusto. As you become clear on your values and success models, it will be easier to expand your vision and to align with opportunities that fuel you and move you head. Energetic profit will improve your business and your outlook. NOW is the perfect time to consider how to stop living a business vision that drains you: choose expansion, instead! 

     

    Join the author from 10am-Noon CST on Saturday, May 15 for Business Mindset for the YogaPreneur: Claim Your Vision! Cost is $15. 

    You can also join the author on Mondays at 7:30pm CST for the YogaDoodles®, a fun fusion of art therapy journaling and gentle hatha yoga. YogaDoodles® are designed to help you deepen your yoga practice and live with more intention. Register for this donation-based class on the Yoga Specialists website.

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    Jodi Gonzales ATR, NCC, RYT200 is the creator of the YogaDoodles® and a credentialed art therapist, yoga teacher, and top-selling Amazon author. She offers weekly YogaDoodles® classes and monthly Business Mindset workshops at YogaSpecialists.org. Jodi’s virtual services including art therapy life coaching, business coaching, and yoga classes from her studio in the northern Wisconsin. Find Jodi on her website JodiRoseStudio.com and check out @jodirose.studio on Instagram and Facebook.

     

  • 20 Apr 2021 by Jodi Rose Gonzales

    Does the “BUSINESS” of yoga make your head spin? Do you have unchecked beliefs (or fears) about becoming an entrepreneur? Believe it or not, your role as a yoga teacher gives you an edge over other small business owners. At the heart of it all is your yoga practice.

     

    Business as an Off-the-Mat Practice

    As a yoga teacher, you are uniquely positioned to be a heart-centered entrepreneur. You can use the teachings of your own asana practice to guide your self-inquiry into what means to be in business. Much like your responses to any singular pose, your response to being in business is unique:

    • Are you naturally predisposed to certain aspects of business?

    • Do you resist certain ideas about being in business?

    • Are there certain areas that need more time for growth?

    Just like a complex or difficult pose, your business vision doesn’t always immediately appear. It happens over time. With consistent study, you can cultivate the skills you need while clarifying your business model and goals.

     

    Yoga Teachings Give You an Entrepreneurial Edge 

    Teachings such as the yamas and niyamas offer a wonderful guide to approaching business. You can use their principles to establish a business vision and culture that is compassionate, meaningful, and responsive to your own design. This applies to whether you plan to open a studio, or wish to be a business of one. As you consider your business, ask:

    • Is your business idea true to your values? (Satya)

    • Does your business idea steal from other responsibilities, needs or dreams? (Asteya)

    • Does your business idea trigger a strong inner critic? (Ahimsa)

    • Does your business idea inspire contentment versus a need to achieve? (Santosha, Aparigraha)

    Once you honor that yoga’s teachings are evident in all aspects of your business design, business planning offers you the opportunity to deepen your yoga practice. Practice self-study (svadhyaya) as you start to explore what being in business means to you. Notice where your mindset can be re-aligned or improved.

     

    Business, Redefined: You are a YogaPreneur

    Ultimately, yoga teaches you how to quiet your mind so that you can connect with your True Self. As your yoga practice develops, or deepens, you learn to how to live your life as an expression of your True Self. Your business is simply an extension of that. Few disciplines offer the opportunity to serve others in a manner that is so deeply aligned with your own self-discovery practice! 

     

    Evict Your Inner Critic

    It’s natural to have fears and doubts about what you will do as a yoga teacher. Still, your future is one of possibility. Allow yourself space for compassionate self-study. Use the model of your yoga practice, and your teaching skills, to explore the unique path of the YogaPreneur.  

    Join the author from 10am-Noon CST on Saturday, April 17 for Business Mindset for the YogaPreneur: Inner Critic Eviction. Cost is $15.

    You can also join the author on Mondays at 7:30pm CST for the YogaDoodles®, a fun fusion of art therapy journaling and gentle hatha yoga. YogaDoodles® are designed to help you deepen your yoga practice and live with more intention. Register for this donation-based class on the Yoga Specialists website.
     

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    Jodi Gonzales ATR, NCC, RYT200 is the creator of the YogaDoodles® and a credentialed art therapist, yoga teacher, and top-selling Amazon author. She offers weekly YogaDoodles® classes and monthly Business Mindset workshops with Yoga Specialists. Jodi’s virtual services including art therapy life coaching, business coaching, and yoga classes from her studio in the northern Wisconsin. Find Jodi on her website JodiRoseStudio.com and check out @jodirose.studio on Instagram and Facebook.

  • 07 Apr 2021 by McKenzie Wallace

    by Sarah Maurer

    Think of all of the steps that we take each day with the goal of finding or maintaining a sense of security.  For example, my partner checks the stove every time he leaves the house. If he forgets, he will either turn the car around if I am not at home, or call me to double-check that everything is turned off.  While I give him quite a bit of flack for this behavior, it is also incredibly endearing.  We all have certain habits that help to quell our uncertainty and worry, things which give us the peace of mind and have found a way to safeguard against potential problems or harm. We lock our doors, install security systems, set reminders on our phones for important meetings and appointments, and check to make sure the oven is off.  All of these actions take place in our external environment to ease our minds, and hopefully, our internal ecosystem.  

    Our nervous system can be thought of as our body’s security system. It sends signals to our brain allowing us to process threats in our external environment.  Unfortunately, our beautiful internal security systems cannot distinguish the stress of a looming work deadline with more acute threats, it reacts to our normal daily stresses like it would react to the threat of a Saber-Toothed Tiger on the Serengeti. As humans living in a modern and complex world, it is imperative to find ways to shift gears from the sympathetic, or our fight, flight, or freeze response, to the parasympathetic, our rest and digest response.  Similarly to building muscles to gain physical strength and agility, we also need to find ways to tone our nervous system, so our body’s reaction to stress does not overtake our ability to tap into our inner peace.  

    Toning Your Nervous System

    Finding ways to ground yourself throughout the day is beneficial to alleviate stress.  This will look different for everyone, but one relatively simple game-changer is spending time outside.  First of all, if you are working from home, you need to give yourself opportunities to separate from your workspace.  Spending even fifteen to twenty minutes outside offers mood-boosting vitamin D, and it can also give you some perspective. If taking breaks is not an option for you, here’s a short grounding exercise from therapistaid.com that might help in moments of overwhelm.  As you go through each step, bring your awareness to the physical sensations that arise.

    1. Take 5 long, deep breaths through your nose, and exhale through puckered lips.
    2. Place both feet flat on the floor. Wiggle your toes. Curl and uncurl your toes several times. Spend a moment noticing the sensations in your feet.
    3. Stomp your feet on the ground several times. Pay attention to the sensations in your feet and legs as you make contact with the ground.
    4. Clench your hands into fists, then release the tension. Repeat this 10 times.
    5. Press your palms together. Press them harder and hold this pose for 15 seconds. Pay attention to the feeling of tension in your hands and arms.
    6. Rub your palms together briskly. Notice and sound and the feeling of warmth.
    7. Reach your hands over your head like you’re trying to reach the sky. Stretch like this for 5 seconds. Bring your arms down and let them relax at your sides.
    8. Take 5 more deep breaths and notice the feeling of calm in your body.

    Years ago, I was in my therapists’ office and he had me go through an exercise for anxiety, after I had been experiencing regular panic attacks.  He asked me what my favorite color is, and he had me identify where I saw that color in my space.  It was also important to the effectiveness of the exercise that the objects were stationary and unchanging.  I invite you to try this exercise yourself.  This can create an anchor for you at the onset of anxiety, and I still use this to center myself when I am stressed or feeling anxious.  

    Lately, I take a walk to a place near my house where I can see the mountains in the distance.  Feeling the magnitude of nature around me, helps me to ground myself and recognize my place in the world.  It reminds me I am alive and exactly where I need to be.  Whether you decide to take a walk outside, or you use these aforementioned grounding exercises, it is important to have a few tools that help to take the edge off in moments of stress, especially if you are experiencing acute anxiety. In more extreme cases, these types of grounding exercises can help to lower your heart rate, and bring you back to homeostasis. 

    Journaling

    Perhaps you take time before you start your day to journal and get clear on anything that may be looming over you, taking you out of the present moment.  Part of experiencing a sense of peace is identifying the things in your day and your life that strip you of that feeling.  Maybe your journaling practice reveals certain recurring themes over time, which you never really recognized, and this can be very valuable information.  It can also highlight areas of your life which may benefit from some minor tweaks so you can circumvent these mental loops in the future.  These types of changes do not need to occur overnight.  Finding effective ways to navigate through your daily experience more mindfully takes time and courage, be patient with yourself, and make sure you are being truthful about what is actually possible for you to accomplish.  

    Remember, if any of this stuff was easy and effortless the world would probably be a very different place.  However, creating a toolkit for yourself establishes new habits or that reinforces your existing practices in response to stress, is important.  You can think of it as adding another layer of reinforcement to your internal security system, and your nervous system will thank you for that.

  • 15 Mar 2021 by McKenzie Wallace

    Do Emotions Affect Heart Health? 

    There are contributing factors to the health of your heart. Experts say that eating more vegetables, working out, not smoking, and getting enough sleep can contribute to a healthy cardiovascular system. But more recent studies show that forgiveness can play a huge part in your heart health as well. 

    We all experience anger from time to time; it is a human response that when handled with care can be healthy, and in some cases, a necessary catalyst for change. But when we stay angry for an extended period of time, our bodies are eventually triggered to release stress hormones, such as adrenaline, which causes our blood pressure to rise, and our heart-rate to increase. 

    It is well known that stress plays a leading role in heart disease. And when we grip tightly to a powerful emotion such as anger, the physiological effects manifest similarly to stress

    Forgiveness Exercises the Heart Chakra and Leads to Better Overall Heart Health

    Maybe you have experienced it: someone has done or said something so offensive or obtuse that your anger boils your blood, your face grows warm, your heart rate speeds up, and your fists grip tightly. It is not unnatural to be angry; it’s not even unnatural to be really angry for a bit of time. But when we are so angry that daily life is made less enjoyable, it is time to check-in with whether or not this emotion is serving us. Though we may be justified in our anger, and though it may feel satisfying at first to direct our anger towards the offending party, in the long run, as the Buddha says: “Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent to throw it at someone else. You are the one who gets burned.” 

    The immediate and delayed cardiovascular benefits of forgiving have become more apparent over the past decade or so, but to say to the offender that they are forgiven when they offer an apology can be very different from consciously releasing anger. However, when we come to understand that the benefits of forgiving those who have wronged us extend beyond the offender’s liberation to the potential to heal our physical hearts, we might feel more inclined to let go. Though forgiveness alone may not cure heart disease, holding onto anger has such a negative impact on our overall health, that forgiveness is essential for healing the impact anger has on the physical body. 

    Recognizing that it is time to forgive is the first step to healing, but this alone is not enough. The connection of mind and body is undeniable, and evidence suggests a strong connection between the anahata chakra and cardiac plexus in cardiac activity. 

    What is Anahata?

    The anahata chakra is the fourth chakra, and it is located at the heart-center. “Anahata'' is translated from Sanskrit as unhurt, unstruck, and unbeaten. The anahata chakra is responsible for unconditional love for self and others, compassion, and empathy. When the anahata chakra is open and balanced, one may be full of love and the ability to forgive. 

    How to Heal Anahata Chakra

    When the anahata chakra is blocked, we may protect ourselves by withdrawing from love and allowing ourselves to become cold and rigid. There are several holistic heart health tips we can use to unblock the anahata chakra, including asanas for anahata chakra healing, heart chakra crystals, heart chakra affirmations, and anahata pranayama practices.

    Asanas for Anahata Chakra Healing

    There are several asanas we can utilize to promote anahata chakra healing. You can decide which ones are best for you depending on the present energy in your body. These targeted postures offer expansion of the space around or behind the heart.

    Gomukasana- Cow Face Pose

    This seated posture can be done with a strap if the bind is not available. 

    Bhujangasana- Cobra Pose 

    There are several variations of this pose, but in each variation it is important to continually lift the heart and soften the shoulders away from the ears. 

    Bitilasana and Marjaryasana- Cat/Cow Pose

    These two poses are generally sequenced together. By synchronizing your breath to your movement you can utilize Cat/Cow to create a moving meditation. 

    Ustrasana- Camel Pose 

    You can take a very gentle variation of Camel Pose by placing your hands on your low back with your fingertips pointing down (almost as if you were tucking your hands into your back pockets), and gently lifting the gaze towards the sky. 

    Setubandha Sarvangasana- Bridge Pose 

    This is a great posture to support yourself in by incorporating props. To do so, you may use a block or a bolster between the sacrum and the earth. 

    Urdhva Mukha Svanasana- Upward Facing Dog

    This posture is often included in Vinyasa style classes sequenced after a chataranga and before a downdog, but it can be incorporated elsewhere. 

    Garudasana- Eagle Pose

    Though this pose may ask you to balance on one-leg, it is possible to find more stability by using a block under the hoovering toe.  

    Matsyasana- Fish Pose 

    This posture could be made more restorative by utilizing a bolster underneath the length of the spine.

    Heart Chakra Crystals

    Heart chakra crystals can be used in meditation, or they can be worn. These crystals have been known for promoting the healing of the anahata chakra. 

    Rose Quartz 

    Rose quartz is one of the most well-known heart chakra crystals used to promote the anahata chakra. It is known specifically for increasing unconditional love and forgiveness.  

    Rhodochrosite

    This stone helps to cultivate compassion and is known for benefiting the heart, respiratory system, blood pressure, and circulation. 

    Jade

    Jade is generally perceived to bring good luck, good health, wealth, and love. Jade is good for addressing stress and anxiety. The energy given off by Jade has been studied, and what they found is that far-infrared rays radiate from the stone and affect the body in a plethora of ways.  

    Malachite

    With its vibrant green color, malachite is also associated with anahata chakra. It is thought to assist in the regulation of what we permit to enter our lives, and what we might resist. It is also thought to promote love and security within your relationships. 

    Prehnite

    Prehnite is another green stone associated with anahata chakra. It is considered to represent unconditional love, and it is thought to assist in controlling the emotions. 

    Heart Chakra Affirmations

    Affirmations are declarations of what we choose to invite into our lives. They are powerful, especially when repeated aloud. When declaring your affirmation, you create space for your desire to manifest. You can use several affirmations throughout your day, or you may have just one affirmation that you return to throughout the day. The following are just a few examples of heart chakra affirmations, but always take the liberty to modify them according to your specific needs. 

    • I am open to give and receive love.
    • I choose forgiveness. 
    • I am worthy of unconditional love.
    • I forgive myself and I understand that my worthiness is not hindered by my mistakes. 
    • I choose to release my anger. I choose peace instead.

    In the examples above, you can see that they all begin with an “I” statement, and they all directly relate to self. Feel free to say these out loud, or write them down somewhere where you will see it throughout your day. You may even write it down and take a picture of it to make it the background on your phone. 

    Can Balancing Anahata Chakra Help To Improve Overall Heart Health?

    Forgiveness heals the soul, but it can also assist in healing the physical heart. When we come to understand the way emotional health partners with physiological health, it can motivate us to pay closer attention to what is happening in our emotional bodies. Building rituals around asanas and elements known for balancing anahata chakra can assist in balancing the emotional body, and in effect, improve the overall health of your physical heart. 

  • 22 Feb 2021 by Ginger Bennett

    Coping with anxiety is not about downplaying the causes of anxiety, or invalidating our worries. Instead, by observing the observer, or practicing non-attachment we can learn to recognize our triggers and nurture the parts of us that feel threatened and beckon us towards anxiety. As we practice and better understand non-attachment, we are likely to increase our ability to self-soothe.  

     

    Ensure that Basic Needs are Met  

    When you recognize that something has triggered you, especially when you are not certain what it might have been, it can be helpful to pause and ask yourself a few questions: Do I need food? Water? Rest? Because though these things are not always readily accessible for us, recognizing what might be lacking could alone be enough to settle some of our anxiety. Now, I am not saying that it can all be alleviated with food, water, and sleep, but without these fundamental needs being met it is certainly more difficult to return to a state of equilibrium.

     

    Aparigraha on the Mat

    In moments of dis-ease, coming to the mat for even a short period of time can give us a sense of peace, familiarity, and comfort. To practice non-attachment or aparigraha on the mat is to show up to practice without any expectations, or need to accomplish anything in particular. 

     

    Asana 

    It is common knowledge that the practice of yoga can strengthen and lengthen the muscles, but even the physical practice of yoga is not merely a workout. By connecting breath to movement, we create a moving meditation that can draw us into the present moment and ease the mind. However, it is not necessary to practice for a full hour or half-hour. There are several yoga asanas for mental health that you can spend a few minutes in to de-stress.

     

    Balasana (Child’s Pose) 

    How to: Begin in table-top, draw the big toes to touch, either bring the knees wide to create space for the torso to soften between the thighs or draw the knees together to allow the torso the spill over the top of the thighs to lengthen through the spine. The arms can either reach out in front of you, or you can reach out first, bend at the elbows to draw hands to prayer, and lower the thumbs to the nape of your neck for reverse namaskar, or you can reach the arms long by your sides so that the fingers point the same direction as your toes. You might try on different variations to find which one best suits you. Though this posture is notoriously noted as a resting posture, it can be intense for some, so do not shy away from using your props. It can be helpful to place a block under the seat, or a rolled-up blanket between the calves and thighs. If you have a bolster, you might also try tucking it longways beneath the torso. Rest the third-eye to the earth or to a prop.

     

    Benefits of the posture: This posture brings you close to the earth to offer a sense of grounding. The natural compression of the body created by this shape can offer a sense of being held and feelings of security. The pressure on the third-eye can release stress held by the muscles in the face. 

     

    Sukhasana (Easy Seat Pose)

    How to: Come to sit on the floor or on props (folded blanket or blocks). Root down through the sitz bones, and bend at the knees so that they splay out east to west. If possible, draw the ankles in towards the groin and cross the right ankle over the left. You may land the hands to the tops of the knees with the palms either facing up or down. With an inhale, grow tall through the spine; as you exhale, release the shoulders away from the ears. If it is comfortable to do so, you may close your eyes and draw your attention to the breath. 

     

    Benefits of the posture: Sukhasana is a posture meant to require little physical effort while offering calming benefits to the mind. With the eyes closed and the attention on the breath, you can take the opportunity to turn inwards and reflect without judgment on what is happening in the mind, or to become so present that what is happening in the mind no longer feels like a distraction, even if only for a few moments.  

     

    Vrikshasana (Tree Pose)

    How to: Begin standing with the weight evenly distributed between both feet. The palms can press together at heart’s center. Slowly begin to shift the weight into one leg as you lift and bend the opposite knee to point out towards the side, draw the bottom of the lifted foot either to kickstand on the earth or a block at the instep of the standing foot, or slide the bottom of the lifted foot to the upper calf or to the inseam of the mid-thigh. It is very important that you avoid placing the bottom of the foot at the knee, as you want to protect the joints. You can try a few variations until you find the one that works best for you. When you find your balance, take a few steady rounds of breath before switching to the second side. 

     

    Benefits of the posture: This posture requires that you be mentally present and focused. As you continually redirect your focus on your balance and your breath, you might find that there is less room for anxiety to creep its way in. Physically grounding your feet into the earth as you imagine yourself strong and firmly rooted like a tree can also give a sense of grounding.

     

    Yoga Beyond Asana

    The mat is not only for creating shapes, and asana is not the only way to practice yoga. Whether or not you feel up to a physical practice, you can come to the mat and practice mindfulness in whichever form is accessible to you. Some days, this might look like lying into savasana as soon as you arrive to the mat. Maybe your whole practice is just one long savasana. So long as you are showing up without any expectations, or need to accomplish anything in particular, you are strengthening your practice of aparigraha and chipping away at the human desire to be always in control, which can, over time result in a calmer mind.

     

    The Power of Pranayama  

    "Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor." -Thich Nhat Hanh, Stepping into Freedom: An Introduction to Buddhist Monastic Training

     

    The breath is a powerful tool; it is our life source; it is the very thing that keeps us alive from moment to moment. We are all breathing all the time with or without conscious effort.  The difference between pranayama and breathing is that in the practice of pranayama, we are intentionally manipulating the breath to achieve a specific result; in this case, the result we are looking for is to regulate the nervous system. 

     

    Pranayama 

    The effects of pranayama on the nervous system can be observed almost instantaneously, as you oxygenate the body. Pranayama, though typically practiced after asana is available all times of the day. The pranayama practice that follows is meant to be performed with generous, even breath, though at no point should the breath be forceful.   

     

    Nadhi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing)

    How to: Begin in an easy seated position. Take a few rounds of cleansing breath. Hold the right hand out, palm facing up. Close the pointer and the middle finger to the middle of the palm. Maintain this hand position and then draw the thumb to plug the right nostril. Exhale through the left nostril. Pause. Plug the left nostril with the ring and pinky fingers. Inhale. Pause. Plug the right nostril with the thumb. Inhale through the left nostril. Continue in this manner for 10 or so rounds of breath, finishing with an exhale on the left nostril, and then return to your normal breath. 

     

    *There are contraindications for those who are pregnant or have high blood pressure. If you experience dizziness or shortness of breath, return to the natural rhythm of your breath. If you are unsure if this practice is for you, you can speak to your doctor about whether or not these practices will benefit you. 

     

    Meditation for Anxiety 

    There are really helpful apps (such as HeadSpace) that break down the how-tos of meditation. If you are interested in committing to your meditation practice, it is a great tool to keep you motivated and consistent, but the truth is that meditation does not require organized practice. As Thich Nhat Hanh continually preaches, mediation can be done in conjunction with every other daily activity, including mediation while washing the dishes, walking meditation, or mediation for organization. The practice of meditation is not a practice of clearing the mind of all of its content, but rather learning to sit with and observe what’s there while using the breath as an anchor. 

     

    If you are interested in guided meditations, there are many youtube videos, free meditation classes, and virtual meditation classes online. You can also check out these Yoga For Anxiety Workshops/Courses: 

     

    My Vinyasa Practice

    This course focuses on ways to process anxiety through mindfulness and yoga. It is designed to help those looking to foster their relationship with their practice to reduce stress and anxiety. It is easy to follow and you are supported by the guidance of their Yoga Therapy  Clinic.

     

    The Soul of Yoga

    This program helps student better understand that chronic pain is a complex, whole-brain experience that profoundly affects people’s lives, and that by reducing stress, we can shift autonomic nervous system activity and lessen pain.

     

    The Minded Institute

    This 8-week course is a comprehensive and evidence-based program for anyone looking to reduce stress, anxiety, and/or depression. 

    *As an Amazon Associate, Yoga Specialists earns from qualifying purchases.

  • 12 Feb 2021 by Ginger Bennett

    Who is Affected by Mental Health?

    It is common that upon the mention of mental health, the first thing that comes to mind is mental illness. And though it is important to have open conversations around mental illness, mental health is not exclusive to those who suffer from mental illness. Of course, if you suspect that you are struggling with mental illness, it is important to speak to a professional and to seek appropriate treatment, but I am not a mental healthcare professional, and so this article is not about how to identify or treat mental illness in any way.  

    Instead, this article is an invitation to consider that everybody with a mind has mental health to be minded. That is to say, we do not have to wait until we are struggling with depression, or caught in the midst of anxiety to acknowledge or check in with our mental health. Because even if you have not been clinically diagnosed with a mental illness, it is likely that as you experience the ebb and flow of emotions that accompany a life where the only constant is change, you may feel “down” or “a little off” from time to time. 


     

    Effects of the Pandemic on Our Mental Health 

    Even though we have now been struggling with the pandemic for more than a year, and we might even feel accustomed to some of the changes it has brought about, the effects it has on our mental health cannot be overstated. For some, it has been an adjustment of lifestyle: now they work from home or limit social interactions; for others, the effects have been more gruesome, and they have: lost loved ones and not been able to celebrate their life as to avoid gatherings, lost jobs, suffered themselves from the illness, or are stuck at home with a partner who is emotionally or physically abusive. But wherever you fall on the spectrum of bad things that happen due to the pandemic, it is important to acknowledge that your experience is valid. That even though we are not the only ones suffering, and even though others may have it “worse,” the challenges that are present in our lives are still present and challenging, and in need of our effort, time, and attention. It is not uncommon to experience intermittent feelings of anxiety, fear, or uncertainty, and especially not now. 

    However, to be able to address the plethora of emotions that lead to dis-ease requires a certain amount of surrender. Because as quick as we can be to invalidate our own feelings by way of comparison, we can also fight with everything we’ve got to avoid invalidating Ego; we might even go as far as to prevent ourselves from feeling better after we’ve invested both time and energy into feeling disappointed, frustrated, angry, or sad. Because after investing both time and energy into these feelings, we might fear that by letting them go, we are actually admitting that we are somehow wrong for owning these feelings at all in the first place. And being wrong upsets Ego. But what is helpful to understand is that we are allowed to feel bad and we are also allowed to emotionally evolve.  

     

    How to Observe Triggers 

    Once we have determined that letting go of dis-ease does not invalidate our experiences or emotions, and is not by nature an admission of fallibility, the scope through which we perceive reality becomes a little less foggy, and the capacity to observe without judgment just may increase. With the ability to observe without judgment, we can begin the check-in process. This is the process of pausing and peering into the situation at hand with both compassion and non-attachment so that we can ultimately return to peace of mind.

    As we practice mindfulness daily, recognizing when we are triggered will eventually become second nature. But this is a lifelong practice, and some days it will be more accessible than others. On the particularly difficult days, we can begin our check-in with the basics. HALT is an acronym for Hungry Angry Lonely Tired. Now, I am not suggesting that all experiences of dis-ease can be explained away by hunger, anger, loneliness, or exhaustion, but any of the aforementioned would most definitely exacerbate other accompanying experiences of dis-ease.     

    Once the fundamentals are covered, it will be easier to access the rest. 

     

    Yoga and Mental Health 

    In the yoga world, there are loads of airy, ooey-gooey phrases or notions such as “you choose your reality” or  “yoga is about letting go” that when used out of context, can be easily manipulated into a form of spiritual bypassing, or “a tendency to privilege spiritual beliefs or experiences over and against psychological needs creating a means of avoiding or bypassing difficult emotions or experiences” (Picciotto, et al.). To spiritually bypass others’ or one's own experiences in the name of yoga is to misunderstand the aim of the practice altogether.
     

    It has been studied and determined that the practice of yoga is very effective in calming the mind and assisting in the practitioners’ ability to achieve a state of relaxation and peace. Committing to a home practice, even for just 10-15 minutes per day can reinforce our mindfulness practice by keeping us engaged in the present moment. Of course, asana, or the physical practice of yoga is good for the physical body. Strengthening and lengthening the muscles can result in increased mobility, and as we all know, increasing the heart rate can lead to a release of endorphins, but yoga does not end with asana, and the benefits of yoga are not limited to the physical body. 

    Pranayama or breathwork is another limb of yoga and can be practiced in conjunction with seated meditation. To manipulate the breath requires attention to the present moment and to the intricate sensations of the body. To meditate is to gently, yet firmly retrain the mind to stay focused on the present, though the goal of meditation is frequently misunderstood; this practice is not meant to be done as a way to ignore your worries or take any life from them at all, but rather just to simply give you the peace of being present for even a short period of time so that maybe after you can return to that which is in need of your effort, time, and attention with clarity. What I’m suggesting here is not that we disown or take life from what might be perceived as negative emotional responses i.e. anger, anxiety, sadness, irritability, but rather we learn to identify them, to validate them, and detach from them, so that we can begin to recognize what might be triggering these emotional responses and better understand how to cope with them.

    If you are looking to deepen your practice, My Vinyasa Practice offers a free course called Yoga for Anxiety. You can click here to register.