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Stuff to make Yoga Even Better!

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Over the past year I have had the privilege of being asked to review a a number of products from Yoga Addict and Mandukka. I wanted to share some of them with you.  I don;t spend a lot of money on yoga stuff.  My first teachers were all about the work, not the stuff.  My early mats were crap that peeled and flaked after a few weeks.  I used blocks cut from industrial foam, wood and old books.  We were hard core and we loved it!

Now I have a beautiful mat, great equipment and blocks in pastel colors.

 

Now is better.

 

As you become more dedicated to your yoga practice you realize that there are products that make it easier and more enjoyable. Comfortable clothing, a great mat and a few props cam make it easier to focus on the practice and not be distracted by the accessories.  These are a few of my favorites.

 

 The Best Mat I've ever Owned: Manduka Pro

When I first started taking yoga 25 years ago I used these thin, green mats my teacher cut off a giant roll and sold for $10. They had no padding and started to peel and flake after a few months. I remember washing particles of it out of my contacts after class and the salty rubbery taste in the back of my throat. I didn't know any better and I loved yoga. At 40 I'm not sure I would have it in me to practice yoga in a school cafeteria on that mat anymore. Thanks be to any God who is listening that I don't have to anymore.

Two years ago my boyfriend bought this for me at Christmas and I still love it. It still looks great, it provides fantastic support and cushion and I love it. No other mat has held up like this, cleaned as easily and been so cushy yet supportive. Even on carpet, the slight stiffness of the mat makes it easier to balance. I've used this mat in beautiful yoga studios, in old school rooms, outside, on pavement and gravel. If you do yoga where you are, where ever you are, this is the mat for you.

My only complaints are how slippery it gets when I sweat and how stiff it gets in winter.

 

 Two Great Yoga Bags:

For years I just tied my yoga strap around my mat to grab and go, but especially during the summer when I don't have a coat with pockets to stash mt stuff in, these bags are great!

Yoga[Addict] Yoga Mat Bag "Supreme"

First of all, this is a beautiful yoga bag, I get compliments about it every time I take it to class. It is plenty big enough for my Manduka mat, well balanced and easy to carry with lots of pockets and places to stash valuables. This is my go to bag as a student especially if I am going to a studio class. As a teacher and someone who frequently does yoga outside and in "non-studio" locations (community centers, churches and parks) this falls a bit short, the pockets are just a bit to small for yoga blocks and I still have to bring a separate bag for props and blankets. I love it and wish I could use this bag more than I do.

I you are a yoga student, this is a perfect bag for you.

 

YogaAddict Yoga Mat Bag With Pocket:
This is the simpler option.

I have a big, heavy mat. My Manduka is the best mat I've ever used, but it weighs more than my mixed breed Rottweiler, finding a bag that has room and doesn't cut into my shoulder is hard to find - this bag fits the bill. It is good looking, sturdy and easy to carry. It doesn't have all the extras that some bags have, but I don't need 20 pockets and a built in lawn chair. This is a great, simple bag.

 

When I first started I wore my gym clothes. While I don't think you have to spend lots of money on yoga clothes, these are nice.

 

Yoga[Addict]™ Men Yoga Shorts:
The first thing I noticed about these shorts is how soft and thick the material is; the last few pairs of yoga pants and shorts I've purchased were thin and flimsy feeling. The material breathes well, soaks up sweat and does not feel constricting. They are extremely comfortable, move well and stay on even through multiple Sun Salutations, inversions and pigeons.

These are my favorite exercise shorts, I use them for yoga, cardio and strength training.  WHen I started taking aerial yoga this year, these were my go to pants for ease of movement without getting in the way.  Sadly, the waistband is starting to seperate and curl making them less flattering and comfortable.  Great shorts, but could last longer.

Be aware, they are designed to be form fitting and will show off you booty, if that's not what you are after, you may want to go a size up.

 

Yoga[Addict]™ Yoga Socks and Gloves Set

I've had these for a few weeks now and the more I use them the more I like them. I rarely have trouble with my mat getting to sweaty and slippery, my biggest problem is cold mornings when I cannot get traction in certain poses, like Downdog. These have been great for morning yoga and my more quiet practices. The gloves can get uncomfortable between the fingers in certain poses but the socks are wonderful. They make standing balances easier, help my ankles warm up and provide great traction - I want to wear them all the time.


Non Slip Skid Socks:
I love an intense yoga session, but these are prefect for a few quick warmup poses before other workouts. When I can't get outside for my workout I like MMX style cardio workouts and will often do a few yoga poses to warm up, wearing these I can quickly transition from yoga to cardio without taking the time to put the mat away and let my heart rate slow.
They fit snugly without feeling constricting, don't leave my feet feeling sweaty and let me run through the house without slipping on the wood floors. My only complaint is I wish they had dots on the toes as well. Great product!

 

The benefits of yoga practice in helping people affected by trauma can be tremendous, and they are becoming better researched and documented.

With so much press on the issue, many survivors of trauma check out yoga classes on their own, unaware that so much variety exists in styles of yoga and teachers.

As a mental health/addiction counselor specializing in trauma, I often suggest yoga for my clients. Since I have an active yoga practice and teach trauma-informed yoga/dance, I am generally able to steer people towards the right fit of style, studio or teacher. Yet many of my well-intentioned colleagues who lack yoga knowledge often tell clients just “go to yoga.”

With the wrong fit, clients may become retraumatized or further alienated from body-based practices.

Addressing my colleagues on guiding folks to the right class is a separate subject. Here, I strive to address yoga teachers in all styles. Traumatized, vulnerable, or otherwise emotionally injured people will come to your classes.

You may believe people will decide whether or not your class is a good fit for them and will naturally check out if your class is too much. Some of you may believe that “yoga is yoga” and the people ought to be informed about what they are getting into.

I believe that such attitudes are not compassionate and may even cause harm, especially if your intention in teaching yoga is to play a part in healing the world. What I offer you here are some simple suggestions—from a trauma therapist who loves yoga—that teachers in all styles can take into account to make your classes safer for a general public:

1. Being trauma-informed is a best practice for everyone working with the public, not just “mental health” or “recovery yoga” teachers.

A yoga teacher once challenged me for being too worried about the “trauma issue,” too sensitive to matters of trauma because of my perspective as a counselor. She offered, “Not everyone has been traumatized.” Point taken. Not everyone has HIV or blood-borne illness either, yet in healthcare settings we take universal precautions to prevent transmission because there is enough of a risk.

The same reasoning applies here—trauma is enough of an issue in the general population and simple precautions can be taken to assure optimal safety for most.

2. If even one new person comes to the class, review protocol for a safe practice.

Topics to cover include not pushing oneself past a physical edge—exploring the difference between the slow burn of a stretch and overt pain. Also review protocol for needing to step out of a class if required, especially for water. If you teach in a style that discourages leaving or locks people in, I ask you to consider what kind of message this might send to people who are not familiar with your practice. Ask yourself if the orientation you give them prior to closing them in is sufficient.

3. Avoid making hands-on adjustments without asking permission, or review a protocol for declining.

Touching people without their permission is the greatest potential trigger for people in yoga classes. This one always seems like such common sense to me, yet time and time again I see teachers touching people for the sake of “alignment” or “deep relaxation,” oblivious to how badly they might be freaking someone out. I’ve heard just about every defense too: “We want correct alignment because students might hurt themselves,” or “We want people to receive healing touch.”

Don’t assume—give people a chance to decline whether you have some sort of system (e.g., cards near the front of the mat, asking quietly or making eye contact when you approach). Avoid approaches from behind.

I recently attended a new wave vinyasa class known for physical adjustments. Although I am generally okay with being adjusted, the teacher, who didn’t know me and didn’t review a protocol for declining, came up from behind to adjust me in Warrior I. Her hand meandered uncomfortably south of my waistline into the (forgive the crudeness) “ass crack.” Even though I am a body conscious, touch-friendly person who has done a lot of her own trauma work, I still freaked out and froze. The location of her hand, the from-behind approach, and not feeling I could say no all contributed to my discomfort.

4. Consider that some people believe that they can’t say no, especially with adjustments.

Many emotionally vulnerable folks believe that they have to say “yes” to you in order for you to like them. Thus, people may say it’s okay for you to touch them, yet if the body language suggests they are uncomfortable, remember that the body doesn’t lie.

If you can, approach students after class to verify their feelings about adjustments if you are unsure. Another safeguard, modeled beautifully by one of my collaborators, Many Hinkle, RYT-200, is to assure people that you will respect their right to say no (see next item).

5. Offer a protocol for opting out of uses of essential oils or creams.

As Mandy says during the opening sequence of her classes (usually while students are in a centering meditation): “At times during the class I go around and spray a mixture of essential oils and Witch Hazel. If you prefer not to be sprayed please raise your hand now and of course I will respect your right to decline.”

This statement is both respectful and validating.

During the class where I was snuck up from behind, the teacher went around with a strong lotion without once telling people that they could opt out—what if someone was allergic? I found it amusing that she talked so long at the beginning of the class about the importance of a vegan diet to honor “all living beings,” yet she didn’t practice the respect of asking people if they even wanted products applied.

6. Make yourself available after class.

It is not lost on me that studio schedules can be tight. Yet I’ve found that students knowing you are open to questions, comments or concerns after the class, even if they do not take advantage of your offer, puts them at ease. If you practice in a large class studio and fear getting bombarded, ask if some of your regular students might be willing to assist you after a class.

When I teach conscious dance, I announce that I do not want anyone leaving our space feeling overtly unsafe or threatened in any way and to please see me if they are. While this may feel a little unnecessary to you or out of your comfort zone to address, please consider the power in that intention. In reflecting on your classes, is it a possibility that students are feeling unsafe or threatened when they leave? If so, what is it about my class/teaching style that could potentially trigger this feeling state?

7. Closing the eyes is not always optimal.

As a young therapist, I made the mistake of asking a client to close her eyes while we went through a breath work exercise. Afterwards she said, “I didn’t like that—I felt too claustrophobic being in the dark. I was abused in the dark and told to relax.” The lesson she taught me was one of the most valuable of my career.

To this day, when I do breath work or other relaxation exercises with clients I give them the option of the eyes being closed or remaining open. Safety is imperative. I find that exercises can work well either way as long as the person is safe, even if the eyes are open. Consider offering the alternative of a fixed gaze spot (dristi) to closing the eyes. Just hearing that they have a choice about the eyes, instead of feeling commanded to close the eyes, generally makes people more comfortable about giving closed eyes a try.

8. Be mindful of the guided imagery that you may use.

Yoga teachers and therapists alike may rely on some variation of the “calm place” or “happy place” exercise during sivasana. These guided meditations may seem harmless, especially if you let the person choose the place for himself. Yet, be aware that places may come with an emotional charge, especially if there are people involved.

In therapy sessions I’ve witnessed people have full-on meltdowns during such imageries. As a safeguard, give the option for opting out, or consider finding an alternative guided meditation like Light Stream Meditation that promotes more of a here-and-now focus. Of course if you know your group and their practices well, doing calm place/safe place may be welcome.

9. Just because a pose makes you feel a certain way, don’t assume it’s that way for others.

As a larger yogini, I am especially conscious of this issue. I’ve attended many a class where rail thin or ultra fit teachers seem oblivious to the art of modifications. If you truly believe that yoga is a practice for every body, be prepared to suggest modifications, especially if a student’s body language suggests they’re struggling. More on this in the next item.

10. Avoid telling the class how a pose “should” feel.

We’ve all been guilty of making these statements: “This pose alleviates depression,” “Notice how delicious this pose makes your spine feel,” or “This breath is very balancing.” Okay, these things may happen, but what if they don’t? A student may feel defective or flawed hearing such a statement if their experience is different. This one is an easy fix if you’re willing to make a few adjustments to your language. Here are some examples of language variations on the statement made above:

>>> This pose may alleviate depression.
>>> This pose has been known to alleviate depression.
>>> Many people say this pose creates great space in the spine.
>>> This pose is known to create great space in the spine.
>>> This breath can be very balancing.
>>> This breath may take some practice for you to experience its intended balancing effect.

11. Make a few statements about non-competitiveness during the class.

I have several yoga teacher friends and colleagues who do a wonderful job of teaching that yoga is not a competition. My first yoga teacher, Maureen Lauer-Gatta, E-RYT-500 often says, “If you can touch your foot in this pose, it doesn’t make you a better person.”

Author Darren Littlejohn, RYT says, “It’s about the pose, but it’s not about the pose.” Although Darren’s classes are generally demanding in a physical sense, use of this statement speaks volumes to those who may be struggling. Mandy Hinkle and other teachers I’ve taken from teach that how you treat yourself on the mat is how you treat yourself in life. I recently began taking classes in aerial yoga, an experience that triggers some of my “last kid picked in gym class” issues.

My teacher Jennifer Neal’s assurance at the beginning of the class that the practice is not a competition helps me feel safe to give this way-out-of-my-comfort zone practice an honest effort. Jennifer reiterates that the
practice is neither a competition with others in the room, nor with yourself.

12. Avoid public or overt praise of your “favorite” or “best” students—consider the message it might send to others.

Part of creating a non-competitive environment is assuring that students don’t feel that “the prize” for improvement is your public, gushing adulation. We are teachers—it’s only human to want to bestow praise on the students who seem to be getting it.

It’s important to check ourselves on what kind of message this might be sending to students who never get praised publicly. I’m not saying do away with public praise altogether, but as an example, consider also giving equally enthusiastic shout-outs to improvements, good efforts and deep breaths.

One time I was in a class with master teacher, Beth Piper, RYT-200 and a group of yogis way more advanced than I in terms of acrobatic asanas. As she moved by me, she looked me in the eye and said, “Good, strong ujjayi breath—very nice.” Beth’s comment imprinted as one of the greatest moments in my yogic journey, and I strive to emulate that encouragement when I teach.

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Purifying Breath

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Keep Your Cool

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It was a hot summer and when the heat rises tempers can rise as well. Yoga teaches us to maintain tranquility even is challenging positions and temperatures, but sometimes we need a little help.  This meditation combines breath, visualization and mindfulness to soothe your temper and lower your temperature.

 

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Brahmari or Humming Bee Breath

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Lindsey of Golden Scarab Yoga is back with annother fantastic yoga breath video!  Humming Bee Breath has always been a chalenge for me and Lindsey does an amazing job of explaining and teaching this technique.

Sometimes we get really caught up in thoughts, or something we experience a very emotional event. Humming bee breath is a wonderful breathing technique to release and relax a busy mind. - Lindsey, Golden Scarab Yoga

 

My talented friend, Lindsey, is sharing the yoga breathing techniques that helped her heal her asthma. Very well explained!

 

"I have healed my asthma through different pranayama techniques. Various people [including my mother] have asked me to post a series of videos with different breathing exercises. This is part one. It is very simple, including only breathing awareness and deerga swasam, three part breath. This is a very beautiful technique, since it is able to be practiced at almost any moment where you have some free time. Please watch, practice, and comment.
Namaste.
"  - Lindsey, Golden Scarab Yoga

 

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Yoga to Still the Mind

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This short yoga series is to help you still your mind and body for meditation. Focus on your breath and lengthening you spine.  Feel the energy of the Universe flow through your body all through your practice.

Filmed on location at my childhood home.

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Sun Salutation

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Sun Salutation Filmed in my Office.

PrayingBuddhaI offer Private Lessons at my home studio or the location of your choice in the Youngstown Area.  If you are looking for special help, personal training or the luxury of one on one yoga training, Private Lessons are for you.  Each session is dedicated to your personal fitness and growth. I bring props, music and twenty years of experience to each session, all you need is a mat!

1 hour classes:

1-2 students = $35 each or 10 classes for $280
3-4 students = $25 each or 10 classes for $200
5-10 students = $15 each or 10 classes for $120
Existing classes are $10 and limited in size, call to make sure there is room for you! 

 

For longer classes add $5 for 15 minutes.

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