Changing the Face of Yoga Podcast

Hosted by Stephanie Cunningham, a yoga teacher herself who is committed to sharing yoga with anyone, especially the over 50's. Stephanie created this podcast to share how yoga can be practiced by anyone with amazing benefits. Yoga teachers themselves will share their stories; discussing why they teach, who they teach, how students benefit. Every fortnight or so, we will release a new episode. We will talk with teachers about teaching children, curvy bodies, the elderly but also those that each yoga to support students with diabetes, cancer and mental health issues.
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Dec 10, 2019

00:01                                     Hello and welcome to change the face of yoga teaching toddlers through golden oldies. I'm very excited to be talking to lots of yoga teachers who will explain their passion for teaching yoga to students with different ages, physical fitness levels, wellness levels and different goals. They will explain the benefits of yoga for these students and we'll be including teacher tips and pose modifications. I am Stephanie Cunningham of yoga lightness and I've been teaching over 50s for 10 years. So this area is my passion and the passion of many other yoga teachers that you will be listening to in this series. Thank you so much for listening and let's get started.

00:49                                     This is episode 129 of Changing the Face of Yoga and this is the last podcast of the year. As in previous years I am developing a meditation as a thank you to the listeners and to the guests. There would be no Changing the Face of Yoga without either one of you. So the topic of this particular meditation is cultivating authenticity. I have in all areas of my life the concept of authenticity coming up a lot in the past two months and as I work my way through my particular ideas of authenticity, I thought it might be helpful if this meditation also addresses that issue.

02:05                                     If you listened to the podcasts in November of this year that were about supporting yoga teachers and yoga therapists in their yoga business, all of the guests talk about authenticity in some way or another. And how our business must reflect what is authentically us. It was quite an interesting set of podcasts and I realized how much that was true. We have to reflect what we truly are to the outside world, whether it's through our business or through our connections or relationships.

03:01                                     This particular meditation has the following structure. It is based on Yoga Nidra. It will then have a breathing session. Then I will give you some prompts to start you on your way about thinking about how authentic yoga is in your life. Then relax again and then slowly come out of the meditation. So the first thing to do is to get very comfortable. This will probably take about 20 minutes or so. So you want to be in a comfortable position. If the body is uncomfortable, sometimes that can interfere with your meditative state. So you want to be as comfortable as possible. You can be lying down, you can be sitting, whichever is best for you.

04:08                                     So get into a position that you can hold for a while and is comfortable. I want you to set your intention for this meditation. What do you want to achieve? What do you want to get out of it?

                                                I want you to concentrate on a part of the body that I am going to give you in a minute and release it and relax it after you review it.

05:14                                     We'll start with the top of the left foot. Left toes, the sole of the left foot, the left heel, the left ankle, the left shin, the left calf, the left knee, the front of the left thigh (the quadriceps) back of the left thigh (the hamstring), the left hip. The left side of the waist. The left ribs, the left shoulder joint, left upper arm, left elbow, left forearm, left wrist, back of the left hand. Left fingers, left Palm, left thumb. Top of the right foot. Right toes, right. So, right teal, right ankle, right shin, right calf, right knee, top of the right thigh, back of the right thigh. Right hip, right side of the waist, right ribs, right shoulder joint, right upper arm, right elbow, right forearm, right wrist, back of the right hand, right fingers, right palm, right thumb. Groin, abdomen, lower chest, upper chest, buttocks, lower back, mid back, upper back, shoulders. Neck, throat jaw, lips, eyes. Eyebrows, space between the eyebrows, forehead, scalp, head, torso, Arms, Legs. Your whole body.

15:43                                     Now let's move to the breath. Long, slow inhalations with a pause long. slow exhalations and pause long slow inhalation, pause and long. slow exhalation pause. Just continue that rhythm or two or three more breaths.

                                                Just be aware of how your body feels and consider this to be a baseline. So when I give you these prompts about authenticity, you will probably have an intellectual reaction, but you also might have a physical reaction and just be aware that that's a possibility.

17:55                                     The first prompt is: I was attracted to yoga because,

18:25                                     the second prompt is: I've continued with yoga because.

18:57                                     the third prompt, is there anything connected with yoga in my life that seems out of alignment?

19:37                                     And the final prompt, is there anything I can do say that will allow yoga to reflect my inner truth?

                                                NOTE: the last two prompts come from the Authenticity Meditation by Kat Kansansis-Semel, NYU's mindfulness Chaplin Thank you Kat.

20:23                                     Now release all the reactions, whether mental or physical, to these prompts and relax and release again so that your body and your breath are without strain or tension. Start the breathing again and just take some time to fully appreciate this relaxed state.

25:45                                     Slowly become aware of your surroundings and the sound of my voice. If you are lying down, when you're ready, roll over to your right side. Everyone slowly open your eyes, try to maintain your sense of ease and relaxation. Those that are lying down come to a seated position.

27:09                                     Thank you all for being a part of changing the face of yoga.

27:25                                     Thank you for that wonderful interview. If you would like to be a guest on changing the face of yoga, please go to my website, au under the Changing the Face of Yoga tab. You can complete Be our guest form and after reviewing the form and finding it applicable to this podcast, we will send you a link to schedule an interview.

                                                Please download, review, and tell your friends of any podcasts that are of interest to you and to them. If you would like to contact me, email to and thank you for listening to Changing the Face of Yoga.

Dec 3, 2019

Changing the Face of Yoga; episode 128. Aqua Yoga with Christa Fairbrother

Major points:

  1. Balance between offloading weight by being in the water and the hydrostatic pressure ("maple syrup" effect) that has the water pressing on the body from all directions.
  2. Offloading weight by being in the water is very helpful for people with joint problems.
  3. Aqua yoga is a form of accessible yoga that is very helpful for older students, students with arthritis and chronic pain.

00:45                                     This is Changing the Face of Yoga and this is the 128th episode. My guest today is Christa Fairbrother and we're going to talk about something that we've never had on the podcast before. And that's about aqua yoga. And I find this very fascinating. I tried it once, teaching it. I was really much pretty, pretty awful at it. So I am really looking forward to talking to Christa about things that you should do for your students when you're participant or guiding that kind of yoga class. So welcome Christa. Christa has been living with arthritis and teaching yoga. She believes they are integrated. She had arthritis for more than 20 years before she knew about it and had a hard time reconciling everything she had achieved and her relative lack of pain and extensive joint damage. She gave her lifelong yoga practice the credit and now helps other people get more comfort in their joints and use the tools of yoga to manage their health. Aqua Yoga is their focus because it is kind to people's joints and is so accessible. It's an easy way to start a yoga practice. It allows people who've lost a land practice to continue and challenges people with an active land practice to explore their bodies in new ways. Welcome Christa. And I think there's going to be a fascinating podcast that this is a very interesting topic, I think.

02:26                                     Well thank you so much. I really appreciate the opportunity to talk about it.

02:31                                     Great, like I said, I had my students ask me if I would give them an aqua yoga class and I found it amazingly difficult. It was very hard to keep them moving enough to keep them warm.

02:48                                     Yes.

02:48                                     That's good. I wasn't just me. All right.

02:52                                     No, it is a different medium. You're in the water and there are some considerations. The facility you're working at, the water temperature might be a challenge and so you have to teach to your environment the same as you would in a land class. As yoga teachers who teach on land, we wouldn't think about that. Right?

                                                It's like we put somebody in a posture and talk about yoga philosophy, intention and breath, not in the pool. People are starting to shiver and looking at you like, I've been standing here and I'm dying. It is not aerobics. And that's a concern I get from yoga professionals is, well, how is this really yoga? You're getting in the pool and you're maybe moving around and that's maybe not mindful. It's not grounding. There's no yoga philosophy. How do you incorporate breathwork? I hear different concerns from people and these are all valid concerns that we do manage as teachers and we do, at least the way I teach them, the other professionals I know really do try to stay true to the lineage and practice of yoga. It's just that we're doing it in a different medium of water, which means you might have to approach it a little differently to keep the warmth.

04:15                                     Yeah, I realized that. When I got in the middle of the class, I should have prepared a bit better because I really wasn't expecting that and I was up on the side so I wasn't getting cold.

04:29                                     But you're getting warm.

04:31                                     Yes, so what does an aqua yoga class look like?

04:43                                     Yes. So great question. I'll just round out the temperature thing by saying if you're in 80 (degrees) would be the end range of like really what's too cool. And then all the way up to 90 is, especially you mentioned in the intro how I have arthritis and I work with people who have arthritis. If you have the choice to work in a therapy pool, which is like that 90 degree temperature, that's really great. So on average for most people there are considerations where that can be, you know, have to change a little bit. That's a great temperature. So I don't know what you were working at if you were at 76 degrees. That's why everybody was shivering.

05:22                                     I don't think it was heated at all.

05:24                                     So there you go. Yeah. So you were struggling. So the typical aqua yoga class that you know that temperature can be a consideration in terms of the pacing. But how I like to format a class is we do like some big body moving to warm up. What is big body moving? That could be like walking forwards and then backwards and then taking it in strides and then to the side and let's start to integrate some arm movements with that. And I like asymmetrical movements because of what it does for neural networks and stuff. So you're maybe stepping with your right foot while you're moving your left arm in a different direction. So that's just, it gets us mindful, it gets us moving. Right.

                                                Also keeping in mind people who come to aquatics classes, and I think this is a little more true than some of the traditional yoga classes, people like that social element. So if you give people a few minutes to kind of get their chatting out it helps with that. And then we always come into mountain pose and talk about, well what is mountain pose? My students are mostly new to yoga. They might be new to aquatics. They're really beginners. You have to start, okay, well I'd like to say it's Yogi homebase, right? Cause we come into it and we come out of it. And so we talked about, well what is mountain pose?

                                                And then we warm up our spine. So we take our spine through the six ranges of motion, I twist in each direction and then a side stretch to each direction and incorporating some sort of gentle back arch and then the forward fold that would be that sixth range. We do so much of it in our lives and it is a little hard to incorporate into the pool. Nobody wants to get their head wet. We're doing versions right. So forward fold is not like what we would do in a land class, but there's an element in there so and so that would be kind of like the base that gets us into about 15 minutes of practice. And then from there it would be predominantly standing postures perhaps in flows, meaning like you know a sun salutations can be done in the water and then we would finish off with just all right kind of like relaxing transition pose that works with the theme of the day and then going into a floating meditation.

07:53                                     I like floating meditation.

07:54                                     Floating meditation, it's awesome. Tons of noodles. It's like, you know, it's not a bath party cause you don't have a pool floaty but you can give yourself, you know like six, eight noodles if you wanted that. It feels like it. So that's kind of like the structure of the class. Most aquatics classes are about 45 minutes because another feature of working in the water that we don't deal with on land is you've got the hydrostatic pressure. So that's that feeling when you get in the water and you feel almost like you're in a sock and everything's pressing in on you a little bit, it makes your kidneys more efficient. So that's why everybody has to go to the bathroom.

08:30                                     Is that why ?

08:32                                     Yes. Everyone always does. It's like, oh I thought it was just me. Perhaps like with the younger real fit audience who's used to being in the pool, they can take about an hour. But frankly that's why most aquatics classes are 45 minutes in. That's considered best practice for that. So it is a slightly shorter class. Then you know, you're a teacher and you're used to working in an hour and 20 minute format, it is considerably shorter. But as you addressed you have got the issues of keeping people warm and you've got this hydrostatic pressure, people you know, need to get out and use the bathroom as well as you don't realize that working in the pool is actually kind of dehydrating because of that hydrostatic pressure. And if you're working hard enough, I wouldn't say Aqua Yoga does this to us, but some of the other aquatics disciplines, you're actually sweating in the water. You just don't feel it. So if you're working in the water for an hour and 20 minutes, you're starting to get dehydrated. That's why we keep the classes a little shorter because that's kind of the structure. We'll probably talk about props that, depending on what props we're using, obviously impacts the postures and the pacing and things like that. But that's just gives you sort of the general backbone of an idea of how I would teach it.

09:50                                     Well let's go on to props since you mentioned them. Obviously noodles are important.

09:56                                     Noodles are important about the only land product. I guess there's two: blankets and bolsters don't work out real well. So anything that gets wet, right, but we have got the pool noodles. Amazing what you can do with pool noodles. And I actually use pool noodles in my land yoga classes too cause I enjoy it so much. It's in a different way, but they're great cheap props. They're only a buck at the dollar store and you can do  so much with them. So I love them compared to blankets and bolsters with the investment and weight of those as you know, as a yoga teacher.

                                                A feature that you can use with noodles that we don't have in land classes is something called buoyancy assist and buoyancy resist. So what happens is when we exert muscular effort in the pool, it is an equal effort in both directions because you've got the resistence of the water, right? The water, it's not as solid, but it's almost like if you thought about, well what if I was moving in Maple Syrup, right? You have resistance in every direction. If you think about bending your elbow and bringing your palm up towards your shoulder and then lowering it back down on land, we put say like a barbell in our hand in the gym. And we're exerting a lot of effort in that flexion to bring the object up, we have to exert a little bit of effort to bring it down, but not as much as in the water. When you put something in like a pool noodle, which is buoyant, wanting to fly up to the surface. So when you curl your hand up, you're having to exert effort to control it. So it's not just shoving up on your shoulder.

                                                And then when you bring that noodle back under the water, well again, it wants to fly to the surface. So now you're exerting effort to get it back below the water. So it's a very equal muscular effort that you get from that noodle, which is a kind of a unique thing. Also we use them to support us. So it'd be like buoyancy-supported and that's the example of the floating meditation where you just kind of use them as a neutral space on the surface of the water. So that's something noodles can do for us.

                                                Yoga belts, there are some other aqua yoga teachers I know who've really pioneered using yoga belts in the water. I prefer personally because I work with people with arthritis. I really like inner tubes. So you go to that in your local bike shop, shout out for your local small business and you get a regular bike inner tube and cut out the stem and now you've got this great durable free yoga prop. It is rubberized, right? So you get that action. We were talking about about this buoyancy as system resists that it doesn't involve your hands because you can wrap it around your wrist. For a lot of aquatics prop, that is a big issue for people who have arthritis in their hands. If you think about noodles and dumbbells and all these things we grabbed and then you move them through the water, it can be really hard on your wrists and fingers if you've got arthritis in your hands. So to eliminate that with the these bike inner tubes is I think really great. So we would use them the same way when you use a yoga belt.

                                                 So you know, in the Yoga studio we think about, well a belt, it's either basically like trying to bring the floor closer to us or us closer to the floor, right? Same way we would use an inner tube in the pool. If you're not in the pose and you would want to do a leg lift, you could use that inner tube to help you get your foot a little closer to the surface of the water and connect your lens there in that way. Iinner tubes are really fun.

                                                Kick boards. Most pools have kick boards because most, especially public pools, cater to swimmers and kick boards are a really nice, solid prompt there. They have a lot of surface area. They feel very secure. And so when you use them to support you in a standing posture, like you think about taking triangle pose in the water and if you think about what your hands are just on the surface of the water, you're going to be really interacting with all that movement. Maybe feel a little unstable. But if you put a kickboard under one hand, it almost like gives you this little platform to work against.

                                                So those can be a real nice props. Those are the three in addition to the aquatic barbells or dumbbells, whichever you want to call them, that people think of for aqua aerobics. I do incorporate those in my classes from a yoga perspective as well. Those are real traditional aquatics props, but those are the four main props I use most often.

14:41                                     Oh, that's interesting. I would assume the breathing would be very much the same in in the water. I mean, just being really aware of your breath and that kind of thing.

14:58                                     Great question. Yes. Same in the sense that you can teach the same perspectives of yes, mindfulness and being aware of your breath. But we already talked about the hydrostatic pressure. The ideal height to do aqua yoga at is about mid chest height. So if you're thinking about where your body is, it's at mid chest height, that's basically kind of bisecting your lungs. If anything you have a little bit more lung out of the water right? But your whole diaphragm is under the water, for example.

                                                And since we've got that hydrostatic pressure pushing in on us a little bit, it actually we have to exert more muscular effort to breathe. So it can be a very powerful Pranayama practice in that you're really building your breath capacity. Sometimes people who live with anxiety or breathing issues like COPD, they'll really struggle because of that pressure that you wouldn't have on land. So there's some slightly different considerations. It can impact you and that it helps you kind of build your breath and build a potentially stronger Pranayama practice because you really feel that inhalation and exhale interacting with the water.

16:25                                     I hadn't thought of that but that makes a lot of sense. You said that you had arthritis undiagnosed for 20 years and that one of the reasons that you're doing aqua yoga is because you believe that it's really good for people with arthritis. I can see that because it certainly wouldn't impact their joints like being on land might. Do you have a lot of people with arthritis that find this a really easy entrance into yoga?

17:03                                     Yes, definitely. So when we talked about that mid chest height for example, that we're working at, when you're at mid chest height, your offloading approximately 70% of your body weight. So if you live with any kind of arthritis below mid chest, your joints just got an automatic little opening for example. And helped restore your original range of motion that you had because you're offloading that weight. So I do work predominantly with seniors, so my most common clients have osteoarthritis and osteoarthritis is we've now learned, it's much more complicated, but we used to just describe it as, well, you've old and you've just worn out your joint, right? It's a wear and tear kind of arthritis. Obviously we, we know it's a little more complicated than that now, but most of the people who have arthritis that I work with have that. I personally have the autoimmune, I actually have several arthritic or immune diseases and a smaller slice of the people I work with have that. So the differences is kind of what Aqua Yoga can do for you, depending on which kind of arthritis that you have, compared to land yoga, is you do get that huge offload of weight.

                                                And what that can mean for example, is if you're in a lot of pain and you come to a yoga class, there's that whole element of getting on and off the ground. And if you're going to do mat yoga, and even if you can get on the ground and then the teacher leaves you there for 20 minutes and you're just like, oh my God, I'm sitting here and I'm not moving. Because that lubrication of the joints by that subtle movement all the time is how a lot of people will manage a chronic arthritic pain condition, right? So they're just kind of a little bit of moving all the time, which is frowned on in Yoga when you do your opening meditation and then you're starting postures and you're just sitting there, sitting there, sitting there, right?

                                                And then you might move into a whole lot of sun salutations. So now you're being asked to bear all this weight on your hands and your wrists. If you do not have arthritis there, perhaps especially we as women are faced with this even more, is you've got rotator cuff stuff going on up on your shoulder assembly, right? So even if your hands and your wrists are okay, you've got something going on in your shoulders. So by moving our practice into the pool, not only have we offloaded all that weight, we're not required to get on and off the floor, nor are we having to bear weight on our hands or take a lot of weight on our shoulders.

                                                It's not just about being in the water. It's also kind of the shift of format just automatically because of what the water requires so to speak. Since we're not doing the inversions and we're not getting on and off our hands and we're not sitting down, it's just like, well, all those problems just became not problems, right? You don't even have to say, I had a joint replacement and this knee is a real problem because there's no expectation you have to get on and off. So it's very empowering. Right.

                                                Because you have offloaded all that weight, you can get people who have a very active physical practice and can handle all those sun salutations and do half- moon and tree and dancers and those postures that become less accessible to us. You can continue to do them in the water in a way that you can't on land. So that is also really empowering and allows people who maybe because of their arthritis or many other issues have to give up aspects of their practice to continue to practice. And that's really wonderful. It is.

20:54                                     Is there a trade-off between the buoyancy of the water that takes away some part of your weight and the Maple Syrup effect of walking through the water and things pressing on you no matter which way you go. I'm just wondering if someone is going to be really tired after 45 minutes of doing that or whether it's kind of a trade-off and it's not a big problem.

21:26                                     Yeah, great question. And so what I find is that there's pros and cons to everything. I find that most people think it's easy as we talked about things like pressure and range of motion. It's like, wow, that was such a relief. I wasn't like struggling just to stand on one leg, right? So that becomes easier, right? But then because you're working in this new environment, you're using your body in different ways than you would on land. So you're perhaps using more muscles and in a different way. And working in the water is a very back body focused practice, which I find as another element that makes it really powerful.

                                                 As we sit in chairs, we drive our cars, we're on our devices and we really don't take care of our back extensor muscles, particularly much in our culture. And so then you get in the water and it really asks people to balance and engage with those. And so they're potentially using muscles in a new way. So what I often hear, wow, that was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. Because it took so much balance, but I could do so much stuff that I can't do on land. And then you talked to them the next day and they say, oh, I'm really more sore than I was expecting. You just don't really feel it until the next day. Yep. So there's exactly like you just described it as there's some trade-offs. Overall, it's not as cardio compared to a flow class. It doesn't have quite the same cardio element. So if that's a need of yours, you would potentially want to add in a different aquatics class or continue that element of your land class.

23:14                                     Well I think that's good to know. I taught seniors too andnot many of them could just stand for 45 minutes. so I just wondered if the water buoyancy was being helpful.

23:29                                     It does, it makes a huge difference. And, I will share, I've had multiple clients cause I teach chair yoga as well, and I've had multiple clients come to chair yoga with me as a teacher and then the aqua yoga with me as a teacher. We don't teach that differently depending on our medium. Right. I feel like it's a fair comparison. And they say the chair yoga class is harder than the aqua yoga class and they feel like they're exerting more in chair yoga in terms of the actual muscular effort, but they feel like the aqua yoga class, they get so much out of their balance and challenge from their balance. So to give you that sort of perspective as a student, and I've heard that from many people, so I think it's, I think it's a valid comparison for them to make.

24:16                                     You said that, you have rheumatoid arthritis or you have the audio immune arthritis. Are there a different things that you do for that type of arthritis as opposed to the osteoarthritis?

24:37                                     Great question. Yes, definitely. The main difference between say Osteo, that wearing out of joints arthritis, and one of the systemic arthritis conditions, which is what the auto immune forms are, is that the osteoarthritis is going to be isolated to certain joints. So it's very common to get it in your knee, your hip, saddle joint of your thumb. You get it where you have used yourself well, so to speak. I like to think of it that way. It's not like you wear yourself out. It's, you had a really good time with those, certainly for a long time. And it shows. There is, as I said, there's kind of more to it. We now know there's a slight genetic component and I have said, oh well it's just worn out one joint. But there is a lot of systemic inflammation that goes with osteoarthritis that we now know.

                                                The autoimmune forms of arthritis though will cause basically systemic inflammation in all your joints. So I also live with Lupus, which will do the same thing. I live with Sjogren's, which will do the same thing and Psoriatic arthritis, will do the same thing. If you're living with one of those autoimmune forms, you potentially hurt everywhere. Beauty of getting in the water is, it just kinda took the load off. Right.

                                                And so for an osteoarthritis person, you're just trying to manage their practice and the queuing that you would give them. So they're aware of the needs and range of motion of a particular joints, for example. Right? So, we'll take knee osteoarthritis because that is the most common form of arthritis and the most common place, right? So I mentioned we do a lot of standing on one leg. So if you've got osteoarthritis in your knee and you raise your leg up off the ground and you've got a bent knee, when you start to move that leg side to side in the water (this is an example of what we would do to keep people warm, right).

                                                 We're not just standing there with one leg in the air. It's like, okay, well now we're going to open that leg in and out. So if you're opening that leg in and out like window shutter and you've got osteoarthritis in your knee, you would not want that ankle below that eggbeatering around because now you've got a lot of lateral movement going on in that knee and you just don't really like lateral movement. And if she's got arthritis in it, they like it even less. Right? So that's an example of how you would manage a common osteoarthritis thing.

                                                For an RA person, you are really trying to help teach them some self-efficacy skills and really sort of pain management techniques in terms of, okay, well how are you feeling today? Because the nature of autoimmune diseases as they vary hugely day to day. If you're not feeling really good today, let's do a mellow practice, take care of yourself, be kind, maybe a longer floating meditation, drop some poses, do a shorter practice. Whatever it is to honor what's going on with you. And then on the days when you are feeling more capable and maybe you're not having a flare up, push yourself a little harder. It's a real mindset and learning how to work with yourself within your yoga practice that potentially an osteoarthritis person doesn't have to face.

28:04                                     That makes sense. I thought I would tell everyone this just because I think it's very interesting, but Christa was a farrier for 10 years.

28:17                                     I absolutely loved it. Everybody always asks did you get kicked, yes unfortunately, I got kicked many times.

28:28                                     Well, I can understand that. I wouldn't like somebody grabbing my foot.

28:35                                     I honestly think it makes me a better yoga teacher really. Because basically for 10 years I would watch horses walk and figure out what they needed to get them moving smoother and more ergonomically in their bodies. Now I go to yoga, I watch people walk, I watch people stand there and I give them active verbs to help them move better and be more comfortable in their walk.

                                                 It's really the same, the same things. It's just that I do it with words instead of sharp hot tools. People don't like to be hurt. But it was part of the process. It's very similar. I think it's interesting and I think I am a better yoga teacher because of it, because I have a very good understanding of ergonomics and chains of motion and weight-bearing. You know that I would say that it's not real common in the yoga cannon.

29:38                                     No, I think you may be a member of a very small group.

29:46                                     I am 100% confident. I am the only aqua yoga teacher in the world who used to be a farrier. I got that one. I am one of a million.

29:58                                     All right. Well, it's nice to be unique. At the end of the podcast I always ask if there's something that you would like to cover in more depth or something that we didn't cover at all that you think is important to the listeners to know about aqua yoga or your teaching.

30:23                                     I would just like to share that it's a real new modality. I would say that it's still very much within the tradition of yoga. So if you heard this and you're like, wow, I don't know, that sounds like goat yoga or beer yoga or something, I would just really encourage you to go try it. I'm assuming all your listeners are yoga devotee's, right? That's why you would listen to your podcast. So you have a strong yoga practice already. So just take it to the pool sometime and experiment with what you already know and see what you get out of it.

                                                 One of the things I think is most powerful in working in the water, and it has made me a much better teacher teaching on land. When we work on land, we've got that little mat and we're just obsessed with our little mat. And all we do is work in this sagittal plane, right? It's just front to back. When you get in the pool, you have 360 degrees, you can move in any direction. So what are you going to learn about your practice and your body and yourself if you move in every direction and you kind of liberate yourself to maybe take the traditional form of yoga, but maybe add in a diagonal or a curve, right? No yoga God will strike you dead. You going to learn about your practice and yourself if you try some of these new things. So that's what I would just really kind of leave everybody with is don't knock it until you try it.

31:48                                     That sounds good. I want to give Christa's contact details. Her email is and her website is  Her Instagram is aqua content yogi and her Facebook is also aqua content yogi and Christa Fairbrother. So if you would like to explore a little bit what Christa's been doing and learn a bit more about it and I'm very tempted to go out and try a yoga class. Actually I would like to say though that I think having taught seniors, I think it's a really nice accessible way for them either to start yoga or as perhaps their bodies become more fragile or perhaps less physical maybe or they can't move as well as they did. I think it's a really great way to get them still into yoga because most of them, if they stay with you really love Yoga and they want to continue. I think that should be said that this sounds like a great accessible type of yoga for older people and for people that may have some other kinds of chronic pain.

33:17                                     Yes, it's very, very accessible. I have worked with people with a diverse range of challenges. And I have to say, the only thing that's been really hard is if somebody is hard of hearing to the point of being deaf because that's just becomes a safety concern in the water. Working in the water, we do have some safety concerns we don't have on land. The odds of you dying on your mat are pretty rare, right? You might have heart attacks per se. In the pool you have to remember that safety concern. I've worked with amputees. People using walkers are real regulars in my classes. It is very accessible and if you're blind, that's OK. But the hearing is the only trouble I've had with just safety.

                                                If you think about what aging is from an eastern medicine, Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic perspective is aging as kind of a drying process. We're kind of drying out. We're getting a little brittle and so to get us back in the water helps us really kind of move us up and return us to that environment that we were born out of. And so it, it does definitely keep us a limber and flexible.

34:42                                     Well thank you so much Christa. I really enjoyed this. Lots of great information and, like I said, if I can find one, I might go try an Aqua class.

34:53                                     Yes. Yeah, just try a nice warmer pool and take yourself in. Thank you. I really appreciate it.


Nov 26, 2019

Episode 127: Social Media: yes, no or sometimes? with Jamie Elmer

Major Points:

  1. It is a given that we use social media to market our business. Is this a good decision for everyone? Does is feel right? Does it bring in clients, students, etc. ? Is it an effective use of your time?
  2. Does cutting back on social media have a deleterious effect? Or does curating your posts give you produce more engagement? Jamie’s found that a human connection through meeting people and having them on her email list feels more authentic to her.
  3. If someone doesn’t have an email list, social media can be a good place to start. But it must feel like a natural, authentic thing for someone to do. Is it fun? Is it something you dread? You have to find the path that feels good for you because you won’t continue if you don’t.


00:00                                     This is changing the face of yoga and this is episode 127 and this is part of the yoga teacher support theme. I'm speaking to Jamie Elmer and Jamie is an experienced RYT 500 teacher. She also provides continuing education through her streaming site. We'll get into that a little bit more. She has been teaching yoga and movement therapy full time, which is impressive for over 18 years. She specializes in alignment, applied anatomy and healing injuries. Jamie travels to teach teacher training, continuing education immersions, retreats, sees students online and has an online streaming video membership site for teachers or for students and as a continuing education resource for teachers. Jamie, thank you for coming on. I really appreciate, your sharing with us on this podcast. Is there anything else you want to add to that particular introduction?

01:18                                     No, thank you. Thanks for having me. I think that about covers it.

01:26                                     The reason I asked Jamie to be on the podcast, especially on this theme of yoga teacher support as you can tell, she's very busy. She's doing lots of different things, which probably requires marketing. Either to other yoga teacher trainings, people or to students or for her video streaming site. But she had posted about she was really looking at social media and how that was supposed to support her efforts. And so I know I've had several business coaches and they always tell you have to be on all these social media sites It's really, really important. But I think we should think about it. And since Jamie has thought about it, I asked her to come on and to talk a little bit about it. So, I assume Jamie and I could be wrong, that you have used social media to, in part, market your offerings and are now thinking about, I suppose the efficacy of it, if that's true. So I just like you to kind of set the stage for where you were and why you decided it needed more thought.

02:52                                     Well thanks. yes, for seeing that on social media and I did think it would be a good topic to bring up because, I too have worked with some coaches that have been great and I've been encouraged to use social media. I also feel like I've come up as a teacher as social media was coming into our life and it was just a given that of course we were going to  use social media and of course we needed to be on Facebook and of course we needed to be on Instagram. And it's just a given that that's what you do, without really even thinking about is this natural for me? Does it feel right? Is this really where I'm getting my clients? is this really where I'm putting my students and is it an effective use of my time?

                                                 I don't, I in no way hate social media. I enjoy it, but I've learned that I need to enjoy it and want to enjoy it in moderation, both just personally and professionally. Because I am the first to admit that I started going down this rabbit hole probably about a year and a half ago where I was really trying to build my business.

                                                As I was launching the streaming site and traveling more than ever and really were quote unquote working more than ever. But most of my work was all behind a computer screen at my desk, not teaching. I went down that rabbit hole of I kind of took the bait thinking I need to be on social media as much as possible. And I started out with posting four times a week and had a whole grid and the theme and the blah, blah, blah of all right, this is what I do at 8:00 AM on Tuesdays and this is when I do it, noon on Tuesdays and  I started spending so much time on this thing that really I don't enjoy spending that much time on. It's not natural for me.

                                                And a year and a half into it, I realized that the people that are still connecting with me, the people that still respond to my newsletter, the people that still come on a retreat, the people I'm seeing for privates, these people, most of them I'd say 99% of them are all people that I've worked with in person and are on my mailing list.

05:33                                     I'm not like the next YouTube, 20 something year old model on Instagram that people are just going to start to follow, that’s just not me, never me. And I'm not the type of person that idolizes people like that either. And so for me trying to put on this presence, it was suggested to me that I actually get an acting coach to help me for my social media posts. And when I got, when I heard that on the other end of the phone, literally in my mind, something just clicked and I was like, I'm out. I'm done. It's not me. Just not me. And there's only so much time on the day, you know? It's a medium that I do enjoy.

06:41                                     I think it's useful to remind people, Hey, I'm still here, out there doing this if you're interested. And I've cut back to about once a week that I post on Instagram and Facebook and that feels good. I like sharing an event. I like sharing some helpful tips. and I think people like it for me at least, they like hearing from me in moderation. instead of, Oh Jamie is going to like post 5 or 8 times today. I'll catch her next time. You know? And it just, it was so unnatural. I can't even describe it, let alone just a total energy and time suck from actually what's most important in my life, which is not to become an Instagram star. Like that's not even a possibility anyway. So why try,

07:41                                     You say that you're really getting your clients and your students from your mailing list and, and how do you build that mailing list if you don't use social media?

07:52                                     Well, I would say that the majority of people that are on my mailing list are people that I have worked with in person. And I think that people connect in different ways. I think that we gravitate towards different people in different ways. I'm not someone, even though I have a streaming site, as I mentioned, I'm not someone that people are going to see on screen or see in a photo shoot and be like, wow, I want to be her. I mean, I connect more with people in person.

                                                 I mean I think the reality is that most of us do, I mean we see someone like in a movie or in a photo shoot and it's different. And so I've built my mailing list through working with people in person and then once in a while I'll put out a post on social media about, if you want to be part of my mailing list, click here. And a few people will sign on. It usually is that human connection that's been made and not a stranger browsing the internet or browsing social media and connecting with me that way. That happens once in a while, but not very often.

09:13                                     Okay, you've actually done some analysis of where your new clients, students, opportunities are coming from and social media is not contributing a whole lot to that. Is that a fair statement?

09:33                                     Yeah, and I would say the people that stay in touch with me via social media, the people that comment, the people that like, the people that repost a post of mine, usually those people also are people that I've worked with at some point in the last 20 years in person. So the social media crowd, that interaction is still most of the people that are on my mail, my email list.

10:04                                     Okay.

10:06                                     And, and I'd say the same goes with YouTube. I had a YouTube channel and really worked that for awhile and I have paused it right now basically. because I also find that people that are going to get content from YouTube, they're going to  stay YouTube users, they're going to stay the users that want something for free. And it doesn't actually drive people to anything that, requires more of a financial commitment.


10:36                                     No, that's, that's a good thing. Good thing to know because, I agree with you, it can be a real time suck that you just spend so much time getting posts ready and stuff. I just put out one post a week on whatever my newest podcast is and that takes time. You have 20 years of experience behind you. Obviously you've made lots and lots of contacts over your teaching and video streaming and your students and your clients. But if someone is brand new and really doesn't have a lot of those contacts and doesn't have a mail list, do you think that there's some value there in social media?

11:30                                     Yeah, I definitely think so. And I really think that it has to do with what feels right for you. Some people it's fun, it's natural, they enjoy it. And I'm not saying I don't enjoy social media and even creating posts for quote unquote work posts. But I think for other people it's actually even more fun. And if that feels like the thing that's natural to you to connect with people and get the word out, then you should go with that. I mean I worked with a couple people a few months ago in Germany and there were a couple of women teachers in the training - lovely teachers, we connected, they wanted to stay in touch, but they were like, you know what? I don't do email. I just am on social media. That's how I connect. I didn't want to be on any mailing list or anything.

12:32                                     I'm like, okay, that's your thing. And I really think that if you don't have a mailing list, social media can be great as long as it really in your gut feels like it's a good fit for you in a way to communicate with other people. I don't necessarily even think that that's an age thing. I think it's just a personality thing. And, I would much rather write out an email newsletter and write someone back or response through old fashioned email, then have direct messages in my Instagram account and messages and Facebook that I know are hanging out there that I haven't responded to. And to me it just gets to feel really messy and it starts to scramble my brain, but for other people, again, just if that feels like a natural, easy means of communication, then it's probably going to work for them more. It doesn't feel natural and it feels forced. It's probably not in the end going to work.

13:43                                     Yeah. Yeah, I agree. I do think though that your take on analyzing where your, clients and students came from is important because just throwing it out there is, and even if it does feel good, that's great. But if you're actually expecting to get something back out of it, I think it's important to kind of track that and say, yeah, it is working or it isn't. And you can try some new things if it's not working. But just to think about, is this really worth my time? Because a business takes up a lot of time and you really have to put your energies and resources into whatever you're trying to achieve. I know everybody's different.

14:42                                     I mean I think there's two important things. Also, it's got a feel. It can't feel like a burden. If you're going to keep up writing a newsletter. If you're going to keep up doing a once a week post on social media or 10 posts a day, it's got to be something that you can actually sustain both timewise, energy and that you look forward to. Don't put off and don't procrastinate. And I think for me too, most of the people that I connect with and that are my students and clients are not 20 and 30 something year olds. They're 40 and up, which I think is also, you got to look at that demographic and most of them are not on social media or so as social media savvy as someone in their teens or twenties. So that's a big reality also.

15:40                                     That's true. So what's your market in and who are you trying to attract? Because that's going to make a difference. Although I have heard that with Facebook and I don't know if it's true, the others, I think maybe they've all migrated to something else. But it's really over forties becoming the majority on Facebook and that the young ones are leaving. I don't know quite where they're going, but that's okay. Because I don't mind my group is not young either. If you were to give some advice to just starting now, how, and given that you've said, Hey, it has to feel good, it has to feel right for you. What do you think is been the best return on investment to use one of those businessy terms for you and might be for someone else?

16:42                                     In terms of advertising?

16:44                                     Yeah. Yeah.

16:48                                     I mean for me it's hands down a mailing list for sure. No doubt. And I, thankfully, I don't even remember who it was, but it was probably 16 years ago where I barely used email and yeah, it was longer ago than that I guess, but maybe about 16 years ago that someone suggested to me to start a mailing list. And I thought like, why do that? I teach at the studio. I wasn't thinking five or 10 20 years down the road.

                                                 And thank God somebody suggested that to me because it's really interesting and it's a bit of a Murphy's law type of thing. In my experience whether it's on social media or mailing list, there's the people that you meet that are like, I'm coming to your next retreat and I'm signing up for the streaming site and I want privates with you and I'll be in touch and you never see that person again. And then there's the people that were always in the back of your class that were on the mailing list 15 years ago, that you hear something like once every five years and they're still on your mailing list. And they comment on, having stayed watching for however many years and you just never know, who those people are really going to be and who's going to just all of a sudden show up at a retreat and be like, Oh my gosh, you've been on my mailing list for 15 years. I never hear from you. And here you are.

                                                 And the people in my experience, the people that you know talk about like, Oh, we're coming into this and I'm going to do this. you never hear from him again. And it's, there's something about people actually in person writing down, with pen and paper, their email that is become, I think more intimate than someone is scrolling through their phone and on their screen just being able to like this and that and comment. But it's not, it's not as much as an investment in some ways. So anyway, point being whoever it was at first told me to start gathering emails, I think them. And that has been hands down the best thing for me in terms of staying in touch with people. And marketing by far. and I actually just talked to the couple of new teachers that, one guy got 22 people on his mailing list and he's like, should I start a newsletter? I'm like, well, sure, if that is, he enjoyed the writing, he enjoys the actual process of it. you get two people on your mailing list, 22 people, and if you feel drawn towards that and you actually enjoy connecting with people through writing and typing, then go for it. But even if you don't enjoy the email thing, I'd say there's no harm in building an email list. Even if you don't use it five years from now, you could have a hundred, 200 people on it and you just never know when you might need that or that it might really help you.

20:03                                     I think that's, that's good advice. I have, an email list and a newsletter that goes out and I'm always amazed that people stay on the list. I agree with you. I think it is more intimate if they've stayed on that list years and years and years, whether they've ever commented or gave you any feedback at all. but they know it's going to come out once a month or every six weeks or whatever your particular schedule might be. I think it is much more, there's just not as much noise in that. It's very much the person that wrote it.

20:54                                     And it's interesting. I recently did send out an email. My emails are different. I've really tried to stick with a format and follow a plan and it just doesn't really work for me. It has to feel more real and inspired following a format. And so sometimes my newsletter is very short. This is what's coming up due to the three things going on this summer. Hope to see you at one of them, period. Done. and then sometimes like this two newsletters ago, I was just, I felt inspired to sit down and write a newsletter. I told people that I had family issues going on. I told people I'm a little bit more just more personal things while protecting my family's privacy. I don't gush too much or anything like that. I had a couple of people that are very close to me respond and say, I think you made a mistake and I think you put yourself in a corner. And that was a little much. I had two people respond like that.

                                                And I also looking back through Mail Chimp, cause they can track how many people respond and open and read it and all. I had more response to that newsletter than I've had in any newsletter in literally over a decade because it was real this is what's going on, this is what I want for you. Hope to see you, it's more than that. But it was the most real and open newsletter I had written in a very long time.

                                                And I got the most support back from it and it was a really good reminder and lesson that, yes, I'm running a business but, essentially I am selling myself. So if I just keep it all very businesslike, that's not, that's not what I do in the moment. That's not actually what's going on while we're teaching and connecting with people. And it's one thing if I were writing the newsletter for a studio facility, but I'm writing it just as me and it was a good reminder that it's, that it's good and actually helpful to be open in our newsletters and social media, I think, to a degree.

23:31                                     I agree. I think your point that basically you're selling yourself and people have to feel that they know you. I've been in business things where, people say, Oh, I'm supposed to be vulnerable. And I am supposed to tell you that yes, I am a business coach, but that doesn't mean I'm perfect. And it always embarrassed me quite frankly. But over the years I've thought - that's right - to know that they have problems too and that they haven't solved everything. It can be a bit daunting if you don't have a really big background in business; I came from a different world entirely. So it's been quite an experiment and that's why I think I was so fascinated by what you were saying that, we get all this advice but it really does come down to what do you feel like, what makes you think it's authentic when you're talking to people? Is it through a post? Okay, cool. That's fine. Or is it an email or whatever or in person, it's that connection.

24:45                                     I think that that is the part of, I mean obviously when it comes to teaching, I've really gravitated in my teaching towards things that are technical and, and a little more scientific. Although a lot of my background is in dance and improvisation and, and the arts. And I think that that really comes out in the, in how we feel comfortable marketing ourselves.

                                                 Because I know for me, even though I may be promoting a technical video on how to access your transverse abdominals, I cannot, or maybe I'm just not willing to follow a system of, okay, Jamie, at eight o'clock on Monday morning, you're doing educational posts and at 6:00 PM on Mondays you do an intimate fun posts. And at Tuesdays at 9:00 AM you do an advertorial posts. And I'm, I'd like that to me, I can't do it. It's a structure, which is, I like structure and it's good for us, but it doesn't feel authentic in the moment. And I think again, for, at least for me, social media has to feel just kind of like fly by the seat of my pants in the moment. And those again are the posts that get the most interaction and feedback and that are things that I personally, I can't, I can't plan and still feel inspired to do.

26:23                                     I agree. I've seen that formula, you have to have a funny one, an informative one.. .  And I did it for a while, but it just kind of went by the wayside. So I'm pretty sure it wasn't anything I was really excited about.

26:45                                     That's the kind of the proof, I think that this is not working for me.

26:50                                     I'll do that tomorrow. Yeah, I know it's not on the schedule but I'll do it tomorrow. What I was shocked at, and I realized this is probably just my inability to see clearly, but what the podcast was doing was providing connections and I hadn't ever thought of it as being that kind of media. I just thought of it as being informative and trying to get out the word that there's a lot more to yoga than maybe you see in an ad.

                                                 And what I got back was people saying, I'm in an isolated area and it's so nice to hear other yoga teachers talking. And I said, wait, Whoa, wait, wait, wait. This is wholly different than what I thought it was going to be. And, it's just been kind of an interesting process, that it's really the connection that people appreciate as well as what everyone does. I think that goes on in social media. It has to be the connection that you're looking for. And if it's not there or it's not authentic, then I think it's probably important to think about whether that's really an important thing to be doing.

28:16                                     Right. And I think people feel it. I mean, I think we even know it when we're posting or, like trying to get a picture for a certain post or we're writing a post and it just isn't coming out right. I think we know when it feels forced. And I think you're right that social media is all about connection. Hopefully. whether it is, well, it has a different theme or not from post to post or person to person or whatever your business is. It is about connection and, and people feeling a part of an online community. we feel community in so many different ways.

                                                It's like people, really so often why people go to a yoga class, it's more about the community than anything else. People go to church, that's why when we're looking at Instagram or Facebook, from our phone and we're home or somewhere alone, it makes us feel like we are a part of. A few months ago we had, we, meaning my husband and I, we had just a series of events that were really disruptive. And I along with that I was spending all this time too much time on work, spending too much time on social media and I committed to taking a week off of social media.

                                                And that's when I knew it was really a problem for me was when I said to take a week off. It seems like a long time. And the first couple of days I felt like I was missing out. I felt lonely. I felt like the world was moving on without me. It made me agitated. it gave me anxiety. Like, if I don't log in and like, or comment on somebody's comment or whatever it is, people are going to forget about me. The first few days were really hard as if I felt I felt lost from my life out there.

                                                 And that was a really good lesson to observe. Like wow, this is a problem. And that's when the week off it turned into, I don't know how like five weeks. Cause once I kicked the habit, I put all of my social media apps on my iPhone, I put them on the last page. They're not just like on the homepage of the phone. And then I made designated times like, all right, I'm going to do this at this time and this at this time. And that's it. I had all sound and visual notifications turned off on my phone for everything. Texts, everything including social media. And there's just designated times now that I check it. But actually once I took the break from it, it was hard to get back into it. I was like, Ugh. This is a drag and this is just so silly - like what are we doing? and how much time was I spending doing all of this?

31:51                                     It's a little, if you actually sat down and thought, kept a log of how much time you were on, I think it might be a bit shocking for everyone. Not you personally, but all of us, you know?

32:06                                     Yes. I think you're right. I mean even those of us that now spend some time once or twice a week, I think it would still be shocking if we really added up the time, where you check those comments or do a couple of likes while you're in the bathroom. If you added up all those moments, it can be a shocking amount of time. And is it how I want to spend my life and if you're doing it for work, is it really helping?

32:45                                     Yes. Is it, and it's not easy to measure, but at least you should have some idea, because it does take up a lot of time. I agree. okay. So, Jamie, I will give you the opportunity if you would like to either talk about something that we haven't talked about at all that you think is important and, or you'd like to go into depth into a topic that we, we discussed a little. So I'll give you that opportunity to kind of say whatever you'd like to the listeners.

33:15                                     Hmm. Wow, okay. Let's open that. Rein it in. Well, I guess not that I have, decades and decades of experience in this, but I guess what I feel like is that for me now that I do think is important to pass on is it is good to ask for help in terms of business coaches and asking people that are doing what you want to do, asking them, how did you do it?

                                                Did you build an email list? Do you use Facebook or do you use Instagram or do you use LinkedIn? Or, and really looking at, not just taking advice from people that say they're good at giving advice, but really people whose life reflects something that do you want to be like, and especially when it comes I think to teaching yoga. I've just recently changed my business name to movement therapy company and taken the name yoga out of it. It's very intimate what we do and as time goes on, we learn more about how we best connect with people.

                                                To observe what works best for you, what your real nature is and not that we shouldn't challenge ourselves and not that, if we are yoga teachers, it's not that we're going to be able to do the business side. Great. And vice versa. We can't wear every hat and be a Jack of all trades and great at all of those things. But if you're an independent teacher or if you teach at studios or you see privates or you're a yoga therapist, I would say more than ever with so many resources we have on line, in social media, through newsletters, really notice like what do you sit down and feel excited to do when it comes to your business and go that route and take advice from other people and try it on.

                                                Don't just say like, Oh, that's just not me. I'm not going to do that. Try it. You may surprise yourself and there's some things like, our monthly accounting or whatever it is that we just have to do because that being a grownup and that's being an adult and we have to do it regardless. But when it comes to how you connect with people in your work, in our work, don't necessarily try to do it like somebody else just because they're a coach or they're a business professional. Because I think people can feel when it feels forced, they can feel when you're holding back or it's contrived, Whether it's through writing or whether it's through a video or whether it's through, a post on Instagram. And I've, in my streaming site, I've had the site less than two years and it's been one of the greatest and hardest things I've ever done personally. Because I'm a trained modern dancer so I'm used to being on stage playing a role. My teaching is, was hard for me for many years at first because I had to be myself and that's super vulnerable and scary and my God been seeing myself on film. It was a massive leap for me in the last couple of years. And what's interesting is I try to sometimes get behind the camera or get in front of the camera and get all professional and have my little script and it just, it looks cheesy. It's hokey cause I'm not just being natural. And the days that I put on the camera and I do a practice of how to strengthen your feet and ankles wearing jeans and I got my dog in the background. The video quality is good, it's great content, but I'm being myself and it all works out, a thousand times better.

                                                How we market, how we run our business and how we teach all go hand in hand where we need to continue to teach. Just like you have to step into the front of the room and be yourself or you go to somebody's house and work with them one on one. You have to be to yourself. Try to find a ways of marketing and connecting with the community online in person through writing that still feels like you so that you don't feel like you're trying to have different personalities. It's all one big yoga process including how we market and really pay attention to that because if it feels forced, you're not going to be able to sustain it.

38:34                                     Yes. I think that's a very good point. If it doesn't feel right for you, you just can't force yourself to do it for any length of time. Well thank you so much Jamie. I want to give your contact details so that people will know how to contact you. Her email is and the website is the same. Okay. Facebook is movement therapy company as is Instagram. So I will have all those in the show notes. But thank you so much Jamie. I think you really put the marketing in a context that probably feels better for all of us instead of all these things that we're supposed to do, but really looking at what is authentic for me. Because that's the only way I can continue to do this kind of stuff.  So thank you so much. I appreciate you coming on. It's been really interesting.

39:47                                     Thank you so much Stephanie. I really appreciate it. Fun, fun stuff to discuss and ever changing. And for those of you up there that have listened to this, thank you for tuning in. I really appreciate it.

Contact Details:


FB and Insta: movement therapy company


Nov 19, 2019

Episode 126 of Changing the Face of Yoga: Working in the Medical System   with Lisa Holland.

Major Points:                     1) A lot of therapy is treating them, doing things passively to them or setting things up. A lot of coaching is holding up a mirror. And asking them to see the truth in the matter and then creating a safe environment for them to do that to self-reflect and to get their own answers.

                                                2) What is helpful for me in terms of a business standpoint is now I have more to share at different places to move them through an experience, the whole picture experience.


                                                This is Changing the Face of Yoga. And this is episode 126 and my guest today is Lisa Holland. This is part of the theme of support for Yoga Teachers and Yoga therapists. Lisa is very experienced having worked within the medical field as a physical therapist and she has some ideas about working in that field. It's just how you position yourself in this area. So welcome. Lisa. I'm really excited about this particular interview because I think it's quite unique. Could you just give us a short bio that will introduce you to the listener?

                                                Sure. Thank you Stephanie so much for having this theme. I think it's important that we start thinking about wanting to have a sustainable business. If you want to help people, you got to make sure you stay in business. I'm a doctor of physical therapy. I've been practicing physical therapy. I don't do as much clinically now because I really moved into some mentorship and some of these business conversations for my peers that are in medicine and Rehab Medicine and also for Yoga physios. Yogis that are kind of the bridge builders. I tend to work with people who kind of walk both lines, walk that fine line with one foot on each side because that's where I came from.

                                                I've been a physio Yogi. I really had my first class really dipping my feet into it about 2000-2001. And then I created my company Belly Guru LLC in 2005. And I did that as a model. It was one of the first medpreneur type of health entrepreneur, boutiquy, clinical/ wellness center, well positioned, direct to market. I did not take any insurances. I did not step into that. I was leaving that for very important reasons. Number one, they weren't accepting of yoga back then. That was 2005. And I really had seen that as a very helpful therapeutic modality and it aligned with what I had done in orthopedics and sports medicine prior to my move to women's health, which was, in that realm, you were really working on mind body things. You knew that they needed to keep their head in the game and you saw the detriments of that in their physio, no matter how physically able they were put together, fixed up, patched up, if their head was out of the game, if they were feeling injured mentally, you saw that performance.

                                                 And then I went over into main stream, rehabilitation medicine and that was like, oh, forget about it. It was every body part for themselves and every person's discipline for themselves. And it did not overlap. So my main migration of over into yoga as my main modality for restoration started out physical in as much as I think every physical therapist that you know goes into that much more than let's say the psychologists that go into that, they go a lot more mind approach.

                                                But my approach was always very holistic, was always mind and body and it really gave me a vehicle. And so I evolved into that. I naturally became a mentor for other people doing that. They were asking me questions, so I decided, hey, if they're going to ask me some questions and I'm not going to be seeing people and I'm talking on all these Facebook pages and giving advice, I need to start getting supported for that. Because I actually really liked it and I knew a lot of stuff and I could save them years. I mean, pretty much right now I've a five day accelerator that took me 16 years to learn. You could do it in five days.

                                                 So I'm trying my best to broaden the physical therapist minds. But they have a lot of legalities and things and then there's a lot of fear in that mentality. I think the yoga teachers and yoga therapists could really learn from their mistakes. And one of the big things I see right now in having been one of these bridge builders in the international association of Yoga therapists trying to bring a conversation for that line of health providers that don't necessarily want to hang up their clinical to become, a yoga therapist or a full time yoga therapist or a yoga teacher. They actually want to combine it.

                                                But what I saw is that we're kind of walking down the line here in yoga therapy, number one, calling ourselves yoga therapists when we can actually can really fit into the market, positioning ourselves in a little different way. And so I've been out there having that conversation. I am actually even more than a health coach as what I was trying to bring in when I went into health coaching, I really saw that was actually still a very clinical conversation and more of what I do is what I was taught in Yoga. Very traditional Raja, Hatha - the holy science of yoga is I help people change their lives.

                                                I'm a life coach. I do that in various ways, it leans towards more rehabilitation versus personal development depending on the person. But when you're dealing with chronic pain and you're dealing with women's health, which are two areas where I tend to work in nowadays or since I moved into women's health in general, those two conversations, long-term, hormonal imbalance, stress induced things. That realm that yoga is in right now to be a very big help in their community is actually needing to make sure they have behavioral change and not just doing these modalities. It actually is about behavioral change.

                                                So I'm having that conversation and I assume that's what, some of the conversation we had from in the last podcast that you so nicely had me on. so that's really where I'm at. My mind-body brand academy is helping people such as yourself and anyone else to literally have a personal brand that they can transport as they evolve into their professional way they want to evolve. And then like I said, I'm actually starting to certify people in these abilities to read other people with some psycho-social assessments. We all start talking about the bio-psycho-social and how yoga is so great on the bio-psycho-social. But you cannot come into mainstream and start talking chakras. You're not going to be able to talk to a physician. You can't go into health care and yoga therapy wants to so much be in healthcare, they have some schools that are putting them in white coats and in hospitals.

                                                But the problem is that you can't go into that. Our psychosocial and yoga-Ayurvedic method and whatnot is such that it is something that they don't have in the Western model. They don't necessarily have that conversation. So we need to enter in their conversation. And that's behavioral change and that's life coaching and health coaching to some extent, well being and all of that conversation. But it's not necessarily we're all, health coaching right now is about learning. You have to become a ninja about the gut microbiome. We're not going to have a bunch of, Yogis doing that. You can.

                                                But I think really what's natural within the practice itself is that aspect of on helping people see themselves of today as they truly are. Not focus so much like therapy does in the past and focusing on the problem and how you got hurt and what's going to change from yesterday and going back to that trauma over and over and over to work it out. We need to focus on the today and let them see the person of tomorrow. Because a lot of times we know when they come to the mat they don't see that yet. It's too big of a gap. And that bridge building right there honestly is a lot more that I do of life coaching. Then just health and wellness. So a lot of yoga off the mat and I think we can position ourselves there.

                                                Let's just talk real basics. You've kind of evolved since the last time we talked, because you were talking about health coaching, but now you kind of evolved into more life coaching. So what would you say are the major differences between being in a clinical position, whether it's physiotherapy or it's yoga therapy or whatever therapeutic versus a life coach?

                                                Okay. Well I think probably what you heard is I feel I am a health coach. I just feel like they're not really two different things. It's just my definition of health and wellbeing involves your life and you really can't split it up just like you can't split up the mind and the body. You are only going to get a piece.

                                                And you can't get behavioral change unless you change what's going on with someone's perception of themselves in their life. Because you can't get them eating organic and Vegan, if at home that's going to be a really big problem no matter how much they believe you. So the real differences I see between health and life coaching is again the clinical concentration while health coaching will bring in behavioral change. You are through the process because of their desire to work in a very allopathic model. You will see somewhat of a diagnostic meeting, some sort of a procedure for certain diagnostics, lots of testing, a lot of focus on the gut microbiome and digestion and assimilation there. They do talk about stress but a lot of stuff will end up working in diet and so it looks a lot like, Ayurveda consultants. I think we have that already, right? We have Aryuveda consultants, we have Ayurvedic physicians, we have Aryuvedic practitioners.

                                                Those aren't necessarily always yoga therapists or therapists in general are life coaches. Taking somebody and telling them what you do for a certain pathology is very different than actually walking them through change. And so the life coaching side and the conversation is how do I actually deal with change? That's not necessarily what do I do to my body or my diet or my sleeping? How do I actually deal with change?

                                                I would assume though that any clinical intervention assumes that you're going to change. You're going to do some more stuff or you're going to do less stuff or you're going to do different stuff, but you're going to change. So is it just that the clinical is very focused on a specific thing whereas the coaching is more holistic?

                                                Clinical work or therapy work is focused on fixing something - a healing per se. Coaching is focusing on process. And the real difference is that in a therapy, both of them will be healing. Okay. Both of them will be change and yes, I agree. It's assumed, but that doesn't mean you can do it because we all know with the science right now, we sometimes have literal changes in our biochemistry and our brain chemistry that have been caused by repetitive traumas or we have injuries and processes that are not working anymore. In that microbiome where we really literally need to change the biochemistry again.

                                                So as much as we might want to, sometimes we need to be coached through that. In a coaching relationship, it's who's in charge versus a therapy relationship. Therapy is about me being the expert and me taking all of that evidence based medicine and me knowing a protocol and me figuring out what you need and then pulling down that protocol and sort of adapting it to you. And that is me in charge of the game really. Even if I say client-centered, it's not like I'm sitting there and I'm like, okay, so we can do and some people do and they try to expand it. They try to have more of a client centered approach and they say, well there's this test and this test, which one do you want to do?

                                                In a coaching relationship, you really are not one in charge. You're there to be a witness and a guide to their process. You say you are the healer. I am not the healer. You are the healer. I just know stuff to maybe make that process a little easier to digest and I might be able to give you some resources, but I'm not even necessarily being the educator. A lot of therapy is educating people. A lot of therapy is treating them, doing things passively to them or setting things up. A lot of coaching is holding up a mirror. And asking them to see the truth in the matter and then creating a safe environment for them to do that to self-reflect and to get their own answers. That's the biggest change between therapy and coaching.

                                                What are the benefits of therapy and then what are the benefits of coaching to the client?

                                                Great question. Thank you, Stephanie. the benefits of therapy are that the best thing would be if you had skills in both and could sort of walk between it because there's always this Pandora's box if you're being really creative, right, and being very effective. And there are times when it becomes a need for a therapeutic alliance and there are times when it needs to maybe be moved over to a more autonomous coaching alliance. The benefits of therapy are that there are things like I can't do for myself. There are things I don't know. I can be a little bit more passive. I could give over a little bit of needing to take the lead when I'm very stressed on something to someone I trust, like and know. The coaching is actually much harder. Coaching is something which is why there's not a lot of people that can sell it well because you need to have a person at a level of readiness for change that they may not be at. Whereas therapy, I can literally have you there passively knocked out and I could probably range your leg or I could have you literally on your death bed and help you in some way, feel less pain or strain or stress and it take you through my process and that might be very helpful for you. But if I'm working towards being autonomous, I'm truly sitting there saying, why can't this person have compliance? Why don't they have self efficacy? It's very hard in a therapeutic alliance to say, here, I'm the expert, I know this, do this. And then sit there and say, why isn't this person independently making their own decisions to heal their own life? It's a different mindset. Whereas the benefit of coaching is that that's the relationship right off the bat. The person's coming in understanding this is going to be more of their work than my work.

                                                So let's take it the other way. What are the benefits of both coaching and the therapy for the therapist? Why would they change from being a therapist to coach?

                                                They would change when they see the limitations of therapy. Therapy can only take the person so far, or at least that's my belief in terms of really truly taking self-ownership of their life and feeling transformed through the process. I do not believe that therapy alone transforms people. I think a conjunct care plan that involves some sort of coaching before the person leaves is really where the transformation is going to occur. I believe a band-aid is given in therapy. I believe a crisis is overcome in therapy and I believe that if the person has enough self-efficacy already to take that ball and run with it, they will end up coaching themselves through a transformation through that process. Such as, let's say somebody is healed from cancer, things like that. That's usually a life changing event that forces them to see their life in a different way, to see a different perspective on things that they were doing every day. Not everybody's sitting in that life threatening situation or feels they are in that life threatening situations. So I think that the people who want to give people transformational experiences will feel that they hit a glass ceiling if they only stay with therapy skills.

                                                So let's look at it from the business point of view We are all in business some form or another if we're therapists or yoga teachers. I think you said something about earlier that really the therapeutic mode is quite crowded and that making your mark in that can be difficult. Is making this transformation to coaching or adding coaching to your skillset; is that helping you in a business way also?

                                                Well, yes, of course. Because everybody is selling something. Even if you're giving a free class, you're selling, you want people to come. That's the first thing. You have to understand that spirituality and altruistic and everything like that - you're still selling something if you want people to partake in something that you want to share.

                                                What is helpful for me in terms of a business standpoint is now I have more to share at different places to move them through an experience, the whole picture experience. The whole transformation. What we are offering people or what at least what I am. I don't sell yoga sessions. I don't sell physical therapy sessions. I don't sell dry needling or massages or any of these yoga classes. What I sell people is outcomes and I honestly feel I have more to sell. I have a better product, I have a higher value thing in the market when I can offer the person who wants a transformation, a transformational experience. If someone just wants a therapeutic experience, in my case, I can give them that too. I can match. I can deliver what they're expecting.

                                                 I can have a conversation. One of the real things about coaching skills is that basically what they are is communication skills. You are getting very ninja styled level ability in communication. And so of course, 99% of business is relationships and you're going to have a much better relationship with people that you can communicate with. And it's not just that you're telling them what you do, it's that you're talking to them with who they are so you understand who they are.

                                                 I mean, my certification is teaching, my work that I do on psychometrics is teaching, literal objectives on people's behavioral styles and their main core motivators, their highest motivators. What's behind, what's under the iceberg of complaints that you see that's either holding them back from healing themselves or once they've healed their booboos keeps them actually doing the whole full work to not end up in that position again. That's very valuable in a society that is literally killing themselves.

                                                That's a strong statement.

                                                They are. That's the truth. Things that are killing us now are not opportunistic infections and all these complaints about vaccinations and all of this. That's not what killing human beings. If you look at the top three killers, it's what we're putting in our mouth. It's coming out of our mouth and our thinking patterns. It's stress. That is self-imposed by our perceptions. That needs a transformation of self-perception, not just, eat this and exercise this many minutes and move this way. But Yoga, and I'm not a yoga therapist, but I'm sure, because I've talked to a lot of them. I mean they're talking about the koshas and, and going deep within, beyond the physical, into the mental, emotional, spiritual, et cetera.

                                                Why is that not transformational?

                                                That is transformational, but not everybody wants to be on a yoga mat. And I'm just saying that from a business standpoint. Not everybody's going to buy yoga, but that doesn't mean that if you're a yoga therapist, you need to not see them. You just have to have it in a different package of what you're going to do and work with them and coaching's an outlet for that.

                                                I see.

                                                For example, I make money on the Internet. I could be working with somebody over in Germany and I'm in Charlotte, North Carolina, in America. I can't do that in a traditional maybe therapy way. Although there is telemedicine, but again, I'm not always selling: you have to feel broken to work with me. I actually have a majority of my conversation is I'm going to work with you so that you don't break.

                                                Something that I would like to get into because I have talked to a lot of yoga therapists and there seems to be a trend that they want to be in the medical realm shall we say. They want to work with doctors. They want to work in clinics, they want to work in hospitals. Not everyone by any means of course, but they are trying to make a statement that they are an excellent partner to these other more traditional medical services. I've got the impression that maybe you weren't thinking that's a great idea or that you have some opinion on it.

                                                Well we have to understand I'm of the mindset again as a business woman that's been doing this for 15 years or so. I wasn't able to build the business I wanted in terms of my vision being under the thumb of a corporation, which is what most hospitals are right now. There's certain rules and there's certain procedures and I think a lot of that catalyst of wanting to do that as number one, everybody wants to be respected and it's very prestigious and respectful, putting on that white coat and working with doctors and nurses and therapists and things like that.

                                                My concern is that they're looking at it as the silver lining of self-validation. What they don't realize is that right now hospital centers make money off of getting staff who can do certain things for less money. And they're also into, and as much as we want to help and we can. I 100% agree that we are great as yoga therapists with that yoga therapy hat on. It's a great complement to physical therapy.

                                                 That's why I started to combine it. It's a great complement for someone who's having major digestive problems. They really need to Vagal downtrain and you have this way. Somebody sitting in a bed disabled to work on breath and self-perception and that be very transformational for them. We have research taking them out of depression and this and that without all the consequences of pharmacology induced support. So that's not what I'm saying.

                                                What I'm saying is I'm not so sure we're in a position because of the difficulty historically I've seen in caregivers. In any profession that has a predominance of women in any altruistic type of really heart-led, mission-driven type of people, they tend to be taken advantage of. And there are people taking advantage of them right now who are billing under their codes, basically bringing them into their centers so that they can get more money, but they don't have to pay a physical therapist. So they'll pay a yoga therapist. It's not that they necessarily believe it, just that they honestly don't respect either of them enough to think that there's a difference.

                                                So the theory is there and it's very good, but we have to be very careful that we're asking for what our value truly is and not just replacing the fact. Physical therapists right now, if you're on acute care, you're not even a billable service. You're getting people out of the hospital and moved out into the next thing. But you're kind of like in this whole overall payment system, at least here in America, where as far as physicians and everybody's in far as corporate is concerned, acute care physical therapists, they're just rolled into the whole thing. They're not seeing you as your own valuable service.

                                                So you know when things may need to get cut, they're going to look at what's going to bring them the revenue and I don't know if we're there yet in the brand of our profession. To go into it showing and really saying this is my value I'm bringing. Instead of going in and being like, oh, I'm so excited I'm doing you such a favor. It's just a mind shift thing that I think we have to be very careful of. My thing is why don't you go build your own business and if they really value you and you market well then they should be by ethics sending people to you and you can get paid way more because you have no ceiling in your own business. That's my thought.

                                                Good. Because I think looking at it from someone who's worked through this system in a slightly different position is good rather than just kind of taking on wholeheartedly: oh, this is going to be really good for me and I will be validated if I get to work with doctors and in hospitals and stuff.

                                                We have to practice what we preach, right. We have to make sure that if we're going in there and we're not going in there in that sort of wounded healer model and needing that. We go in there because we are changing health care and we have to be in a position of power to do that. And then the first thing would be in our own salaries and our own value ladder. And I'm hearing people want a licensure and this and that. And I'm just saying that that's just, political hands being held because there's so much I can't do because I'm licensed and I have to play this game of walking this line that I have. Lliterally I would be able to do so much more online and whatnot if I gave up my doctor of physical therapy.

                                                There's two sides to that. I had a discussion with somebody else about the other side of that, which is if you aren't licensed, then you can be destroyed. You can always run your own business obviously as long as you're within those kinds of guidelines. But it does become more difficult if you want to be within the medical group.

                                                Yes. But you have to understand what that's about .Because they can't make as much money off of you unless you are a licensed provider. They could still respect you. It's just that their liability goes up.

                                                If you're not licensed,

                                                If you're not licensed. It's not because they don't necessarily believe in you. Because honestly, there were very few physicians that will truly be understanding of your education. They just don't. It's not every physician. I'm going to say that I've been in that world and it does not matter that I'm a doctor of physical therapy.

                                                The American Medical Association is constantly fighting the American Physical Therapy association about direct access because when it comes down to it ,we can take money away from them. If you don't need to see a physician and you just walk into a physical therapy office, nine time out of 10 when you have a pain, it's not about cancer. We actually have the skills to make sure that if it looks like cancer, we send them to you, but it's who's getting the money. We do need standards. We do need some sort of regulation because everybody and their mothers are taking a weekend course on yoga for back pain and deciding they're a yoga therapist and you're not. We have to be careful of why we're getting a license. Sure. And what that will entail.

                                                Thank you, Lisa. I was pretty sure this was going to be a really great discussion and it has been because I think you're just saying, hey, stop and think about where you want to go and what you want to do. Because you may have been sold a bill of goods. It's not great because it sounds good. It sounds like you'll be respected in that you'll work with clients, which is what everybody wants to do there. These are helping professions. I love the way you think about it because you have all this experience behind you and I think it's important at this point where there seems to be this rush towards being part of the medical system that maybe we need to think about it.

                                                There's a reason that there's so many medpreneurs now, that there's so many masterminds, that there's so many cash based PT practices and Rehab centers and functional medicine doctors. I mean, we literally have a whole new profession of functional medicine, a new philosophy, and most of those people are not taking insurance and most of those people have left the allopathic confines. Not totally. I mean there's still practicing medicine appropriately, but they've tried to make a path where they could give the care that they believe needs to be given in the way that it can be given.

                                                And we just need to look at that. That's all I'm saying is you just need to see the whole picture. I think yoga therapists should really seriously consider being more along the lines of the functional medicine conversation then the allopathic medicine conversation and they should alliance themselves with functional medicine doctors because those guys get it.

                                                I'm a functional, physical therapist or focused physical therapists. That's all those health coaches. They're all functional medicine. None of them are sitting in there. Those are the registered dieticians that are still sitting there talking about proteins, fats and carbohydrates and giving you a formula like that, that's not going to heal you. The functional medicine people are the health coaches and functional medicine docs and functional medicine therapists and all of that. That's where I think people who are serious about being significant and maybe having some power in how they make their money as well as how they're impacting the world need to go where medicine's going and it's going towards functional medicine.

                                                Give me a quick definition of functional medicine.

                                                Functional medicine is the medical doctors who saw what the naturopaths were doing, the Ayurvedics and the lifestyle medicine. It's the approach of lifestyle medicine. What's nice about functional medicine is it's not a profession specific, so you don't have to be an MD. There's, there's dcs and pts and rns and whatever. It's a philosophy. It's a blanket philosophy which is focused on lifestyle medicine and all the contributing factors into why your body is out of function. It doesn't necessarily wait until you're in a diagnostic disease.

                                                 So if they take blood work, let's say your vitality is down, they're going to look at a much broader screen of your thyroid and your metabolism and all of this stuff, then maybe traditional allopathic medicine person would because they're just looking at your numbers to see when you've crossed the line and you're officially able to be diagnosed with disease. Functional Medicine's going to say, why aren't you feeling well, let's look at the whole picture and let's do a broader scope and see if your T4 is converting to your T3 properly and where this might be an issue. It ends up being a lot of inner inflammation with chronic disease.

                                                Like I said, what is killing us now is chronic stuff that we have a lot of power over by how we eat, how we drink, can we sleep and but the one area doesn't do so well is actually coaching you through that process of change. And so they brought in the health coaches to do some of that work

                                                This has been a great podcast, Lisa. I want to give your contact details . Lisa's website is You can email Lisa@ I don't know why I can't say that. Is that also your Instagram and facebook?

                                                Actually, if you're interested more on the professional side, probably the best way to get me is my personal website, which is And that also is my handle over on Instagram. and you can find me over on Facebook with that as well.

                                                I will note that in the show notes. Okay. So thank you, Lisa. I always like talking to you. You always have such strong opinions.

                                                Well, I'm an evolutionary woman. What can I say? I'm an Alpha.

                                                Thanks so much. And as usual, you've produced a great podcast.

                                                Thank you so much, Stephanie, for having me on and for having this conversation for everyone.

Contact details:

Insta and FB: Dr. Lisa Holland P.T.

Nov 12, 2019

Episode 125: How to make a change in your business with Laura Kupperman

Major Points:                     1) Making a change in your business is needed if the business is not providing the level of satisfaction that you want.

                                                2) It can be scary to change because it is hard to learn new things, fear of scarcity is common, and/or giving up something that you have invested a lot of time, money, etc. can feel like failing.

                                                3) Following others can be satisfactory or not; it is important to explore what is important for you, what are looking to achieve, and what are your goals.

00:00                                     Hello and welcome to Changing the Face of Yoga - teaching toddlers through golden oldies and very excited to be talking to lots of yoga teachers who will explain their passion for teaching yoga to students with different ages, physical fitness levels, wellness levels, and different goals. They will explain the benefits of yoga for these students and we'll be including teacher tips and pose modifications. I am Stephanie Cunningham of Yoga lightness and I've been teaching over 50s for 10 years. So this area is my passion and the passion of many other yoga teachers that you will be listening to in this series. Thank you so much for listening and let's get started.

00:45                                     This is episode 125 of Changing the Face of Yoga and my guest today is Laura Kupperman. Laura is a long-time career and business coach as well as a certified yoga therapist and she is on the Faculty of Inner Peace Yoga Therapy. Through her coaching, she helps yoga, health and wellness professionals make a bigger impact and grow their income. Laura also runs the popular yoga therapy Facebook group and lives in Boulder, Colorado, where I grew up, where she enjoys just about any outdoor activity. Welcome, Laura. I'm really glad that you were able to come on. To make everything very transparent, Laura was my business coach for a long time. She's really spectacularly good at it.

01:39                                     Oh, thank you. Stephanie. Thank you for having me on your show. I'm really, really happy to be here in talking with you today.

                                                Oh, great. Thanks. Is there anything you want to add to that particular introduction?

01:54                                     Oh, that was just fine. Yeah, thanks.

01:59                                     Laura has agreed to be part of the Yogi support month theme and it is kind of in the businessy arena. But basically it's also just about how you are supporting yourself in life. And the thing I want to talk to Laura about today is, as I said, Laura was my business coach and then she started the Impact group, which was a kind of a mastermind on Facebook and it was for a Yogis, and others who, wanted more in depth discussion and community around making our businesses, financially and personally rewarding. However, Laura decided not to go forward with that, after about a year or so. Laura and I just want to talk about that because I have done that too, where I took a total different view of things. And how do you come to that point where you think, hmm, I think this is not what I should be doing. So if you could start off Laura with your own experience about the Impact Circle or anything else really. I just happened to know about that one just to talk people through how you make a change.

03:27                                     Sure., I'm really glad that this is something you wanted to talk about today because I don't think we talk about it enough. How we course correct or how we change course completely or even leap onto another path when we've invested a certain amount of our energy and resources, you know, our time or blood or sweat or tears or money. so let's see. So the impact circle, right? I had it for about a year and it was a membership community, which I really was excited about and I put a lot of effort into it.

                                                It's still kind of trickling out, so there's still some people in there, but basically there were a few different components. There was a really super supportive small Facebook community. There was a bunch of online resources that people had access to. And then people could reach out to me by email if they had a business question and I would respond to them. And I put a lot of energy into thinking this through on the front end, making sure that you know, the interface looked great and everything was really user friendly on my website and I even experimented with not having the community group in Facebook with using a different platform. I played around with it and I got some Beta testers in there. You may have been one of those early Beta testers, I think too Steph. I put a lot of energy into this and it was really interesting because I was super excited about it.

                                                By the time I launched I almost felt like I had some fatigue because that pre- launch phase was significant. And so you know that that's one thing for people who are listening to kind of think about. So many of us when we put something out into the world wanting it to be perfect, we want it to be of the highest quality and sometimes that's merited and it's justified and you really want everything to reflect really highly. You want it to be at a certain quality and so you wait, you wait until you feel like it's perfected. But more often it makes more sense to put it out there before you're comfortable, before you feel like it's perfected so that you can start to get feedback.

                                                 And I did go ahead and get some Beta testers in there to get feedback on it. However I should have put it out even sooner. Yeah. If you're putting out an online course program, you need to imagine like you're a software company where you know you're going to be putting it out there with some bugs and you just know that, you know, on the fly you will adapt and you'll upgrade and you'll refine. So that was, that was the first part. Like by the time I got to the starting line, it felt like it had been a year. It wasn't quite that long, but it was a long time sort of germinating in my head. It was a long time trying to figure out the best way to do it.

                                                And I had been putting out so much energy without getting anything in return. And I don't even just mean financially, but the reward of seeing the people in the group, I'm benefiting from it. It was kind of working in isolation. That was one piece of it. and the other piece that goes along with that is that this whole perfection thing is like what is the price point. If someone is spending $10,000 on something, you do want the quality to be insanely high, right? Like if someone is buying something that's a really big investment, you want it to be an amazing experience for them. The Impact Circle lesson, that thing in terms of the price point, the price point, depending on whether or not you're doing a six month membership or a year membership, like the most someone would have paid was between 450 and $500.

08:17                                     That would have been for a full year.

08:19                                     For a full year. Yep. And so, you know, in order for me to, to justify the amount of energy and work I was putting into it, I probably should have charged more. That was all the front loading that I did and then the group started. And the group was really lovely. I mean, there were super supportive people in the Facebook group. There were people reaching out to me with business questions by email, which is what I had envisioned.

                                                At a certain point. I came to this huge realization, which was people were not getting the type of results and benefits that I wanted and they may have gotten the type of results and benefits that they wanted. A really interesting conundrum because it's like, you know what, if you're doing some good in the world but you have a bigger vision for yourself or a different scope or level of impact that you want to be making . While there were people who were engaged and who were benefiting. I think especially from the one-on-one email coaching conversations, I wanted to see people making huge leaps in their business. I know because I do work with people one on one, I know that when I work with someone one on one, that's the kind of experience someone typically gets and people just weren't getting it in this structure hardly. I think it's because they weren't as invested. You know, my one on one coaching is definitely a higher price point and if you're paying a couple hundred dollars for something, your level of commitment is not the same as if you're paying thousands of dollars for something.

10:31                                     Correct.

10:33                                     And that's related to everyone who's listening. I hope people remember that as they evaluate how much they're charging for something. If you're not charging enough, people aren't going to be as committed. I think many of us have this, soft spot in our hearts. Like I want to serve everybody, so therefore I should make the price low. So it's accessible to everybody. And then what you get are people who are totally fine missing a session with you or missing a group class or never even watching your online program because there's no pain associated with not participating. They lost $100, not $1,000 or $10,000. Right?

                                                So that was the other piece of it for me. I know from experience I can help people, transform their business, have a different relationship with it, reach more people, reach people more deeply, refine their business model. All these things that people weren't getting, even though there was great camaraderie, and I think they were grateful for the support I could give them. It just wasn't going to happen in this structure. Those were, I think the two big factors that ultimately made this less of an appealing offering for me. I already felt a little drained by the time I started and then I wasn't getting the kind of upside I needed in terms of the impact I wanted to make and in terms of the financial gain for me.

                                                What my business mentor said: he's like, you really need like 500 people in a membership site that's sort of your minimum that you want to shoot for. And I think I had, I don't even remember - 50 something. It was a very sweet group of people in there. Everyone in there was just phenomenal, really sort of lovely, high calibre, bright, engaged, supportive person. But it wasn't doing what I had imagined in my mind and I wasn't prepared to do what it would take to get 500 people in there.

13:11                                     Yeah, that's a lot. It's a lot to manage. I mean that's a huge undertaking. I would just add my own, experience. I was a yoga teacher (I still am a yoga teacher, but I'm not teaching) for about 10 years and I was in the over 50s arena. And although I love yoga and I loved working with the students, I never felt very good at it. And I'm probably am an okay Yoga teacher, I'm not horrid and I'm very well trained in safety and that kind of thing for that age group. I did the thing where I had an online course and Dah, Dah, Dah, Dah. So I did the whole thing, but I never felt personally successful.

                                                And this is probably when I came to Laura and talked about a business coach. I don't think that she really knew she was supposed to make me feel successful. I'd been with her, I don't know, eight, nine, 10 months and all of a sudden she said why don't you do podcasts because what you want is more people to know about you. Tthat's interesting. And so I did and I just got this tremendous, in comparison to my yoga classes, response to what I was trying to do.

                                                 And that's when I knew that given my kind of background and outlook on life, I need to be working on a more general basis instead of a very specific basis with individual students. And I miss my students. I really do. I still am in contact with some of them, but I can't tell you how much the podcast is different to me and how I feel about it. And that's why I changed because quite frankly, the finances are not on the side of the podcast. I made a lot more money teaching and I know that other people don't have that opportunity. But I can do that because I have other sources of income. But I just wanted to say sometimes, even if you really love what you think you should be doing, but it just simply isn't giving you what you need, that's maybe another reason to change.

15:58                                     I loved that you brought that up. And it's funny because right before we spoke I was working on some copy for an email I'm sending out and I was using this metaphor about how when our business model doesn't suit us anymore. It's like wearing a pair of shoes that are a size too small and they might be gorgeous shoes and maybe you paid a lot of money for those shoes so you feel very invested. No, I couldn't possibly get rid of them. But ultimately it feels like we're forcing it. Eventually it can literally cause pain and distress. You know, minimally we start to feel a little burnt out or we're not as enthusiastic about meeting our clients or whatever the endeavour is. and it can even lead to, depending on how deep you are into this, like it can lead to physical disease or illness.

                                                And what is so lovely about the courage that you showed in making a really big course correction with your business Stephanie, is that faith that the well is infinite. It's not like we live in a world where we are allocated a really small amount of resources and we have to hold onto them for dear life because we fear that if we don't hold onto this opportunity, there will never be more opportunities for us.

17:44                                     I think that's subconsciously where some of us can come from. I know I certainly been in that place where you feel like I've worked so hard to (whatever it might be) get this teacher training up and running, get this course up and running at the hospital. I'm being really well compensated for doing certain endeavours. We all need to have faith that if something doesn't suit us anymore, if it's like the shoes we have outgrown. Then you know, we need to just trust in our own capacity and skills and know that there's going to be more opportunities than the opportunities we're letting go of. There's probably someone much better suited in our community or in the world to pick up the mantle and that we will find a whole new way to serve, to be happy to prosper if we really just trust that there's more available for us out there.

18:52                                     I think that's important because it's scary I think to change. I did this for 10 years and I can't tell you the money I've spent on training to do it. But it just wasn't right for me. I think that so many of us love yoga for what it does for ourselves and what we've seen in other people. I'm not sure that we all should go into the yoga teaching, yoga therapy road and that there may be other ways that you can serve the Yoga community. And I feel that I am serving a niche of the yoga community in a way. It seems like we just kind of follow the crowd and maybe you just aren't (you in the generic, not you, Laura) maybe you just need to think about what am I like, what do I love, how can I take my skills, my passion, my purpose into this arena? What is the best way for me? To be a little creative about that, I think

20:12                                     I mean, you know, there are enough people in the world, you know, teaching the five-thirty power Vinyasa class at the most popular studio in town. I no longer teach group classes and feel like my focus within the world of yoga therapy is for people who've been diagnosed with cancer. And after I had trained a certain number of people, I felt like, great, they can teach those classes in my community or in other cities.

                                                And really what I noticed, because part of my teacher training, there was a business mentoring component. So people wouldn't just learn how to safely work with people who had cancer, but they knew how to go talk to people at their cancer center and get a class started. They knew how to market the class. And what I realized was, oh, this is what people need even more than the yoga skills is the business skills. And I had already been coaching for so long that I just decided, you know what, I'm just going to go all in with helping other health and wellness professionals with their business and narrow down the scope of my coaching practice. A lot of times we might feel like when we narrow down, we're going to be closing off opportunities or shutting down that funnel of potential income. And I think if you follow your heart, like what you are saying and get focus, usually the opposite is true. We get more opportunities and we're so much happier.

22:04                                     Yes. I think that's important too.

22:07                                     It is the most important. It is. I've changed my tune on this too over the years. Life is too short to finish reading a book you don't love. So there's like two kinds of people in the world, those who finish what they started no matter what. I used to be one of those, and in fact there'll be people out there who will not agree with what I'm saying. But my husband and I went to go see the movie, called Captain Marvel along with Brie Larson that had gotten great reviews and so many people are raving about, and you know, we have some younger nieces who live in Boulder and they were raving about it. We went to see this movie. In literally 10 minutes in, we both looked at each other- you want to leave now. Because I mean life isn't a dress rehearsal. We all know this, but like our life is now, your businesses is now. If you're not feeling it anymore, it is a relief to shed whatever's no longer serving you and bringing you joy.

23:24                                     I was very torn about not teaching anymore, but there was such a tremendous relief because I felt like such a failure. I didn't feel successful doing it. And it was just a relief not to put that mantle on me any longer. And to then go to the podcast and have people saying, Oh, you know, this, I really love hearing about this and it made me feel connected and all kinds of really, really positive things. And I thought, Whoa, this is where I need to be.

24:04                                     I love that. Also it can become a big part of our identity. I had coaching clients who really have spent years ruminating over should I give up this particular class, or should I stop working with this particular student or let go of this opportunity because there's such a heart connection with our students. And that's a totally a real reason why we might drag our feet. and it also can be a really big part of our identity.

                                                I know for me, for a really long time here in Boulder, I was the yoga for cancer person. I also specialize in yoga for fertility enhancement and just got and had a really great partnership with our local fertility center, which is like an offshoot of a huge fertility center in Denver and south of Denver. That's really the number one fertility center in the country, if not the world. And that can be kind of an ego boost, not necessarily in a positive way, but like all these people contacting you and seeking you out and you're helping them and it becomes a part of your identity. That's hard to let go of. It feels like, oh, I belong. People trust me. They come to me as a reliable resource.

                                                There might be other things that I'm not too proud to say like, oh, people like me. It's something like that that seems really silly. That can be just below the surface of who would I be if I wasn't doing this anymore? Which can be heavy sometimes and it can take you months to make peace with that. Like, who am I if I'm not doing my yoga for seniors training anymore and who you are is this amazing podcast host.

26:15                                     I was lucky that way because I was doing both. And it was a very stark comparison about, and I'm not saying that my students didn't say, Gee, thanks. That was a great class. I really loved it. They were, they were saying that, but it was inside me not thinking that I was doing a good job. Actually, you know what, I wasn't, because with all of my podcasts and people talking about what they do, I realized that I had some serious deficits looking back on my teaching. And so I was right to think I wasn't. I'm probably not as successful at podcasting as I think I am. But it certainly is more satisfying to me to do that. And that I think maybe that's the key. Are you really satisfied with it? And if you're not, what do you do with that?

27:19                                     Yes. And that's something I always encourage my coaching clients to have. And maybe we even did this when we worked together,? Like what is your litmus test for saying yes to an opportunity and you know, satisfaction is sort of, that's like an intuitive feeling. Like yes, I know I'm totally satisfied, but sometimes when you're evaluating opportunities in advance, you're not sure if you'll be satisfied . And we each have to know - is there an opportunity here for me too?

                                                Whatever it might be, to learn something, to have fun, to make some good connections, to make some good money, whatever those things are for you. Just know what they are. And a lot of times I think people will be shocked once they have this litmus test in place. If you go back and review some of the things you've said yes to that you wish you had said no to, it'll be so clear , oh my gosh, why in the world would I have said yes to that? That was such a clear no, or why did I hang onto it for so long? It was such a clear no.

28:36                                     I think really the purpose of this podcast is to say it's okay to change. It is scary. It is hard, I can't tell you how the technology has defeated me on many occasions. But if there's just a basic unease there for whatever reason, I think that needs to be delved into.

29:14                                     I agree. Absolutely. And if, you know, and if you resist that, that needs to be dealt with too. My experience is that a lot of times it is coming from a place of scarcity. Like I can't even entertain the possibility of making a change because, you know, I have something now. If I let go of this, I might have nothing.

29:45                                     I'm so glad you wanted to talk about this stuff. I think, I hope it gives people that sense of permission or at least permission to explore and evaluate if they're satisfied, if they're happy and are they making the best contribution, the contribution they want to be making, whatever that means to them. and if not to just really trust that there's someone else out there to pick up the mantle and make that contribution while you step into the next chapter.

30:25                                     And I'd like to say it's not going to be easy and it's going to be hard. Anything new is hard because you don't know the rules yet. You don't know where your boundaries. But, yeah, I think though that it is important and I think some ways the yoga industry, not the individual yoga person, but the yoga industry is very much about churning out lots and lots of yoga teachers and having them all do pretty much the same thing. And that might be fine. That might be something you really love

30:25                                     Sorry, we had technical difficulties at the very end of this podcast. So added a clip thanking Laura for her contribution to this podcast. Laura gave some very valuable information for making changes and I am very grateful for her participation in this podcast. Hope you enjoyed it.

Contact details:



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Nov 5, 2019

Major Points:

                                5:15       Things that usually bring you joy no longer do so is a sign of burnout. Ask yourself why this no longer gives you pleasure.

                                                7:12        There is a mindset associated with burnout that may present as mental, physical, or emotional issues or a combination. Changing this mindset is key to addressing the burnout but professional help may be needed if the mindset is difficult to change.

                                                14:19 Finding purpose: What are the three words that you would want others to use to describe you and what is you intention to elicit that description?


00:01                                     This is Changing the Face of Yoga and this is the 124th episode of this podcast. And my guest today is Susie Bischovsky and Suzie is an expert on protection from and prevention of burnout. I think that that is and can be an issue with yoga teachers and yoga therapists since we give so much of ourselves. I wanted to talk to Susie about this. Suzie is also a yoga teacher and she has her own podcast called Keep Your Candle Lit and she also works in public school education. She embeds what she learned in yoga into her classroom and she teaches gentle yoga at a yoga studio. You could call it extra, extra gentle yoga. We might look into what that means. She's also taught her school colleagues and students at her middle school and she incorporates mindfulness and burnout prevention in the practice. Her ideal client is someone who doesn't think yoga is for them and leaves the class realizing that it is. Welcome, Suzi. Is there anything else you'd like to add to that introduction?

01:30                                     Wow that after listening to that introduction, I'm exhausted, I'm tired. No.

01:38                                     It is an extensive list. I listened to some of your podcasts and one of them really threw me because I thought I knew what burnout is, but given what you said, I don't. I saw burnout was just being so stressed and having so much to do and that you just can't keep going. But what you said, and I'd really like to talk about this, is that if you don't have purpose in your life, passion for what you're doing and vision, that's the cause of burnout many times. So could we just kind of start there and talk about what the causes might be and why you believe this is the cause of burnout?

02:29                                     Yeah. So thank you for that question. as far as that being the cause, maybe it's more like causality or more along the lines of if we sit down and we look at ourselves and we're asking ourselves these questions, what is our purpose? What is our passion? What is our vision? If we can't answer those questions, that could point us in the direction of possible burnout.

02:55                                     Okay, so what we're looking at is not so much a physical overwhelm as kind of being lost. Is that a fair thing to say?

03:08                                     Yeah, I think so. I mean, I feel like the interesting thing for me about burnout is when I was going through my coach training, I didn't recognize that I myself had gone through burnout because it was never framed that way to me. We talk about depression, we talk about anxiety, but at that time, burnout wasn't that thing. Other than like people would say, I'm feeling really burntout or I'm feeling tired. My key was I would say, I'm tired, I'm tired, I'm tired. Or if people wanted to do something, I'm busy, I'm busy, I'm busy. It was like that idea of a hamster wheel, but now it's 2019 and the world health organization itself actually cites burnout as a condition to be mindful of and aware of. They do pretty much pigeonhole it towards the workplace, but we see people talking about caregiver burnout and all other things. So I feel it's something that we're still on the cusp of understanding.

04:08                                     So you said that you didn't realize that you had burnout. What would be something to be looking out for if you feel that you may be either on the cusp of burnout or actually burned out?

04:26                                     So if I can add to that question, just the idea of like how is it different or similar to depression or anxiety, specifically depression, because I think someone could very easily say, Oh, I'm burned out and maybe not even recognize the signs of depression. So I also just want to advocate for the importance of having our own wellness team, like your audience, they're familiar with yoga, right? So a lot of us embody yoga as a physical, mental, spiritual practice. For some people it is physical. So what do other people have in their life that guides them to recognizing when something within is calling out to them. So to go back to that original question of how do we know when we're being burned out? Wait, was that the original question? I'm sorry,

05:13                                     That was it. Yes.

05:15                                     Okay, thank you. My brain just went loo la loo. Oh, so to go back to that original question of like how do we know when we're burned out? I think that sometimes people can see it within us before we can see it within ourselves. And one of the things I think to be mindful of is: if the things that normally bring you joy no longer bring you joy, what's underneath that? Or here's an example that seems very like benign, right? So I'm an avid reader, whether it's paper copy or an e-copy, I can sit and I can read and I can read and I can read. And you know what's wrong with that? Reading is a good thing, but if I sit and I don't do anything else for hours and for days for me that pleasurable activity has become either a substitute or a coping mechanism for something else. And sometimes I need someone to kind of say to me like, Hey, so you've been on the couch coma for like a week, what's going on to point that out to me? Or even for yoga practitioners, if yoga is the thing that brings you joy and release and you're avoiding your mat, or you're avoiding yoga on your chair or yoga on your couch or yoga in your car, you're like, we all do yoga all over the place, right? So when you start to run away from that thing that brings you joy or brings you release, I think that's another indication that we need to look at something.

06:41                                     Okay. So that's, that's really very different from what my interpretation of burnout used to be. It's not really so much, if I'm understanding this, a physical tiredness as much as a mental, not an issue, but a mental problem that you may or may not be able to recognize.

07:12                                     I think that's a really good question. When we think about burnout, it could be physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion, right? Or someone might even have a change in attitude or become negative or unconcerned or disconnected. However, from talking to my clients and supporting them through their own burnout prevention, or even recovery at the heart of it, generally speaking, there's like a mindset. And if we can shift the mindset, we can then go after the physical, the emotional, the mental exhaustion. However, if the mindset can't be shifted or can't be unpacked or can't be uncovered, then I think that's when it's time to talk to a traditionally trained professional, like a therapist or a doctor. And talk a little bit more about, is this burnout? Is it something deeper and what are some things that I can do? As an example? one of the things that came up for me years ago was that I was vitamin D deficient and I was like, all right, whatever.

08:11                                     And then as soon as they started to give me the prescription vitamin D, at that time, it was like someone shot sunshine into me. And I was like, wow, is this what it feels like to not be exhausted all the time? So that wasn't necessarily a burnout piece, but that adjustment to what was coming into my body certainly changed how I showed up and presented myself. When I was burnt out, I didn't know that I was burnt out until I wasn't burnt out anymore. And then with the learning and the knowledge that I did, hindsight's everything right? I look back and I went, Oh, that's what was happening. Oh, that's why I took a piece of chart paper and wrote on it all the things that I had to do and wore it like a badge of honor. And that's why before I understood what values were, when I made a list of all the things that I had to do and that were important, my friendships weren't on there, my family wasn't on there, my husband wasn't on there. It was just all very task-oriented. I think that now a days there is still a stigma with mental health. I like to call it mental wellness for some reason. When you say mental wellness, people listen to a conversation differently. I feel that as the conversation has shifted and evolved and has grown, we do talk about this a lot more. Back then I was just, your average really busy really to hired person who thought everything that she was doing was so important and it was not.

09:38                                     So you said that you are in burnout prevention and I like that. What would you recommend to people, the listeners what is important when you’re thinking burnout could be an issue for me. What is the preventative things that you might be able to do?

10:08                                     So one of the things that I like to incorporate into my coaching practice, as well as yoga, and in the classroom when my students allow, for a second, a three words to describe yourself in the present moment without attachment, without judgment, without trying to change something, without trying to analyze it. Like just pausing, taking a breath, really scanning the body and what are three words that describe how you are in this moment? And then at the end of something I like to do a ticket out or I ask people to check again. And the misconception is I'm looking for you to take your quote unquote negative words and shift them into positive ones. I'm not.  I don't like when we label the words as positive or negative, but if that's what someone needs to do. Like if you go into something and you're like calm and peaceful and you come out of something and you're angry or anxious, there's a reason why. So being mindful and truly connected to how we're feeling without trying to sugarcoat it or hide it is important. One of the things that I've advocated for people to do is like to find a ritual to do it. So maybe when you're brushing your teeth or you put your hands on your steering wheel or you unlock your door, something that you do every single day. Like I tell the students, hopefully it's when you put on your deodorant because we want to keep our friends close, right? So something where you can check in and identify that. Another thing that I like to do, and I'll be honest here, when I do it, it's awesome. When I forget to do it, I run into trouble. The simple step of gratitude.

11:37                                     Yes. It's very powerful, isn't it?

11:42                                     And notice we both paused after that word came up, right? Yeah. There's something about gratitude that makes us pause. it can take your breath away if you're having the moment of anxiety, a situational anxiety, taking your breath, noticing your breath, thinking about what you're grateful for. And when we're having our worst moments, the answer is nothing. I'm grateful to breathe. I'm grateful to be alive today. I'm grateful that I have resources at my disposal. I'm grateful that the sun is shining. I'm grateful that there's rain for 40 days, not so much, because the flowers grow. Like what is it we can find grateful for? And I often invite people to just trick your brain. If you're truly not grateful, find something that you can say that you are or practice something until it becomes your truth. Because eventually it will come very organically and naturally.

                                                Another simple thing that I would say is figure out if you like quiet or music. So when I meditate or I relax, I try a variety of things. Sometimes I need nothing. Sometimes I need focused silence. Sometimes I need a candle, a crystal. Sometimes I need music. Sometimes I need an Ohm chant. Sometimes you need a mala. Experiment. I think too many times we try something and it doesn't work so we move on to the next thing as opposed to trying the thing multiple ways and you don't have to do it the same way. You don't fail at it, right? Like there's no report card that says you failed this, you can't do it anymore.

                                                So whether it's any of those three things that I mentioned or just other things, finding something, trying it and finding a way to make it into a ritual. You mentioned that I'm a school teacher, I have been teaching for 22 years. My summers, I'm quote unquote off. And if any of your listeners are teachers, they understand what I mean by the air quotes of being off. But summer does grant me some more freedom and flexibility with my schedule. And this summer I was super, super careful to cultivate for myself some practices that I could then transfer over during my busy season and not go, well that was summer Suzi, false. Suzi can't be mindful, can't relax. She can't find the thing because she's too busy. Like I think a lot of us, whatever our professions and roles are, we fall into these seasons and we find something that works for us, we run out of time and then we let it go. So I really advocate for super simple, short practices. Okay.

14:19                                     I'd like you to explain a bit more about your thoughts on, purpose, passion and vision. I think those are such fundamental things that many of us may not really consciously think about. I at one point not anymore, had a retirement podcast and that was the theme of that was having passion and purpose, because you are reinventing your whole life and so it can be difficult.                 I think it's equally difficult just not with any major changes in your life, but really kind of knowing who and what you are and what you want to achieve.

                                                When you said retirement, I sat up a little straighter. I'm not close to retirement. I did indicate that I was teaching for 22 years. And to be perfectly honest, I don't know if I'll retire in 10, 15, 20 or 25. But for me, I'm being mindful of my own purpose, passion, and vision. So when I do transition, I can transition into that which I love and not transition into a hamster wheel.

                                                So in answer to that about purpose. I invite your listeners to think about purpose as what's your intention? How do you want to be? How do you want to show up in the world? Maybe purpose is: if you are eavesdropping on people, talking about you, right? What three words would you want them to use to describe you and then what's your intention to earn that? What actions are you taking each day?

                                                 And I'm not thinking about smart goals or measurable outcomes, but more about like what is it you want to do? so for me, my purpose varies, but generally speaking, my purpose is to be kind. Yes, I'm publishing a book in the fall, yes, I'm going to release an online course. Yes, I'm going to do these things, but my purpose is to be kind. Before our call I was reviewing old text messages. And ironically I took a picture of one and the person reached out to me and said, I just wanted you to know that when I think about you, I picture you smiling and I can't say the same about everyone else. And I thought, that's awesome because this person has seen me cry, scream, rant, all the things. But when they think of me, they think of the smile and I think that speaks to the kindness. Am I kind 100% of the time? My students would challenge that, right? My husband would and when we just had the discussion about the air conditioning today very loudly. I feel like I can, I keep saying I feel like. Because I feel that that's where purpose is. It's our intention. It's our feeling. It's our heartbeat. My goal is to be kind. My goal is to walk in peace and my goal is to support people in finding their light, whether they're children or adults or any other variation.

                                                 When I think about passion, to me that goes back to your motivation to stick to your purpose. So the name of my podcast is Keep Your Candle Lit and that's because of the light within us. So what is it that we do? What is it that you do that keeps your flame ignited? How do you stay lit? And then on the other side of that is what dims your light? What dims your light?

                                                A heartbeat of the work that I do is this expression, our self-talk becomes our life walk; our self-talk becomes our life walk. So if you are negatively talking about yourself, that's going to dim your light and then you're going to walk in that manner. Think about someone who like gets a compliment and then they walk with their head held high and then think about someone that gets verbally berated and they walk with their head down low. There is a difference there. So what is it that we're doing that keeps us lit? What are we doing or what happens that dims our light and even the people around us, right? Like who are the people that are stoking our flames and who might be trying to distinguish us or I'm sorry, who might be trying to extinguish us? But I like to distinguish us. That's nice. Friendly, right? Head over the people that distinguish you, not extinguish you.

                                                And then, finally on that purpose, passion, vision train. The idea of vision is of course, how do you see yourself? But it's the alignment of your purpose and passion. Like in our best life, those two integrate, right? Like we can live the life we want, walk the path we want and have it all integrate either in the short term, in the long term, it can be action oriented. But truly for me it's like how I want to be. So if my intention is to be kind and I know that taking 10 minutes a day to listen to calming music keeps me lit and I know that engaging in negative self-talk or shoving donuts in my mouth, which is my easy go to dims my light, right? If I make the good choices so I can be kind, then when people leave my presence, they walk with their head held a little bit higher. When people leave my presence, they feel warm. When someone walks away from me and they seem more stressed than when we started a conversation, that's when I know that perhaps I'm not being 100% myself.

                                                And I recognize that that is also about another person. I get that, it's a two way street there. For me with students, with adults, I want people to know that they're heard. I want people to know that they're seen. And I want people to know that they're valued. And that's why for me, when we do talk about yoga, I don't do headstands as a part of my practice. I love people that do. I think it's magical. I think it's amazing. It's not part of my practice. I can't twist myself into a pretzel. The majority of the people that I work with, they're looking for the release on the mat and if they one day can get to the twisted pretzel and the head stand, that's awesome. But I want the people that say yoga isn't for me, so I can show them how it's not only a physical practice.

20:46                                     Let's talk a little bit more about that. You said that you do extra, extra gentle yoga. What would that really look like when you call it that?

21:01                                     In full disclosure, at the end of August I'll still be doing yin yoga training, because I kind of feel called toward that. I'm wrapping up Yoga Nidra training as well because I felt called to that. When I teach yoga, I don't even like to say the word teach. I know that I'm the teacher when I facilitate, when I support, when I offer yoga. One of my first classes that I ever taught beyond karma classes, so I was like working for the studio. Here we go. One of my friends came and like she never did yoga and she was like, I'm not doing that for all the reasons why. And she came and at the end she's like, that was the equivalent of a really good massage. Thanks. And she has since gone off to do yoga at a whole bunch of studios, she jumps around, she lost weight, she has more flexibility and I think she has more peace of mind is my understanding, which to me is more important than all the other things.

                                                When people enter a class, I offer them time, like we all do to get settled in and find something that they're comfortable with, a nice comfortable position. And then of course we do breath work and we do body scans and all the beautiful things, but I try to offer some sort of an embedded burnout prevention tip. It could again be a gratitude or the three words, something along those lines or it could be something a little deeper, especially as I get to know some of the yogis that are in the room. I would say my yoga class is anti-flow, meaning instead of inhaling and exhaling into poses like a flow class, we might hold a pose or hold the action of getting into a pose for several breaths before we transition into the next piece. I feel that we do less postures, more holding, more breath work sometimes with props, sometimes without, and as far as it being extra, extra gentle, I have discovered a trend of late that I do more groundwork then standing poses, although I do incorporate them because I understand we have to like bring in the balance of all the things. Mountain pose. Oh my gosh. Do you love mountain pose, Stephanie?

23:22                                     Some days. Some days it seems not worth it.

23:33                                     I will say that I love a mountain pose. And when we do Tadasana. If you can picture this. First, we start in the traditional with the hands releasing to the earth and generally eyes are closed or they're invited to have eyes closed and we take breaths and we breathe and then I ask people to check in with their fingers pointed to the earth, what are they releasing? And then after a couple of breaths, we raise our arms. So they're shoulder height, hands, extended palms facing one another. And I invite them to consider what they're reaching for. And then after that hands go above the head, pointing toward the sky, what would you like to express gratitude for? And then after that hands come to chest. What are you hoping for or some variation of that. So, we can take a pose like that. And play with it a little bit and incorporate some language that really invites reflection. Maybe it invites reframing a negative thought that we had during the day or negative self-talk. Something along those lines.

                                                Oh, and I just want to give a shout out for child's pose. Oh my gosh. I think I just kind of described how I am, right. That just pigeons me. I feel like child's pose is such a delicious release and I love using props to bring the earth closer. And I love witnessing people do child's pose with a variety of adjustments that they make themselves and watching people's faces when they come out of child's pose is like my favorite part of the practice. I absolutely can include sun salutations or moon cycle, but when I do, they're done slow as well. Right? So stepping into one of the postures, holding it, stepping into the next one. So I guess you could say extra, extra gentle is just super slow and mindful.

                                                I don't think anyone's going to break a sweat necessarily, however, I think that they're going to get increased flexibility. And a release from stress and tension. I'm also known, this is so embarrassing, but I think it's just become my thing. Like my brain goes a hundred miles a minute and I have to slow it down during my own practice of yoga as well as when I'm teaching and facilitating. I've definitely called the ankle - foot wrists - so many times that it comes out of my mouth almost all the time without even thinking about it. I'm definitely the kind of person that if you're not interested in laughing during a yoga class, I might not be your cup of tea. Cause generally people are laughing at me in a very nice and gentle way. But I think it, it all comes from wanting to be of service to people, right? Like no one becomes rich becoming a yoga teacher. We all have something that calls us to teach yoga. And for me, I never wanted to be a yoga teacher. I just wanted to deepen my own practice and understand it more teaching was an accident.

26:52                                     But I do like all of the things that you're incorporating. I mean I think I can really like Tadasana if I had all those cues to really reflect while I'm doing it. I mean I can understand that. And yet you've said previously those are really good cues, really good things to be thinking about, especially in the context of burnout and looking at it from a preventative point of view. I'm wondering if slow yoga, we'll call it that or we could call it extra gentle, gentle yoga is kind of the opposite. The pendulum has swung from the very, very athletic, physical aspects of yoga and now people are maybe starting to talk about some other aspects of yoga. They aren't sometimes as accessible as the physical and yet they are equally, if not more, important. I think I would enjoy an extra gentle, gentle yoga class with you. I would like the reflection part of it, because that, especially when you're teaching, I think it's, it's difficult to be reflective of your own practice. You are working out poses and all that kind of thing. I think that's a really good offering. If you were going to tell the listeners anything that we haven't talked about or that you would like to talk about in more detail, what would that be?

28:52                                     So I love the title of your podcast and when I think about changing the face of yoga, I want children to understand that yoga can be athletic like you've said. Right? But that yoga can also be a way for them to chill out, decompress. And even if they have to go onto technology to access a yoga class, it's okay for them to step away from the technology and, and take a break to do something along those lines. When I've incorporated yoga in the classroom, not systemically, I like to do a little more systemically this year I've had some sections that are more receptive than others and sometimes it's a chair, sometimes it standing, but it's certainly more relaxing than athletic cause we have some space considerations and safety issues to consider. But when they do like a half moon pose or tadasana or even a simple twist that's slow and they're breathing, that change in them and the change in the environment after. It just makes sense.

                                                So for people that are listening, if they are yoga teachers, encouraging them to find a way, if their schedule allows just to do a, maybe a voluntary drop in at a school somewhere, someone was receptive to that or if someone has a studio, I'm sure that there are people that are doing yoga classes for kids. I would love to see more of yoga with parents and children, specifically adolescents because that can be such a time where adolescents and parents are butting heads. And I think a yoga experience could be a nice way to bring people together, especially around a real beautiful theme. So I would just invite your listeners to just to consider, to think about how the world would change and how the way we all engage with each other would change if our children could find ways to be mindful and prevent their own burnout. Hmm.

31:11                                     Well thank you. That's a lovely thought. I taught seniors and yes, yoga is very, very beneficial for them. But, when you teach children, hopefully you're teaching them some lifelong skills and giving them tools that will help them. I think that's a lovely thought. So thank you so much. I want to thank you for coming on. Suzi is going to be part of yoga teacher month where we're going to talk about issues, opportunities, those kinds of things for yoga teachers and one of them is burnout. I've learned quite a bit cause I obviously had the wrong idea about it, which is okay.

31:59                                     Can I jump in on that one thing? I don't think that you wrong idea. I think everything you said or thought is valid and it's what's out there too. I just invite us to think about it on an additional level because I think sometimes, if we say that it's a physical piece, there's a difference between being tired and tired, right? If there's an emotional piece, well I'm really fine, right? Fine is the worst F word that's ever been created. And if it's mental exhaustion and mental exhaustion or mental fatigue, like who wants to talk about mental health, right? So if we can look at it from that lens, like you said, and thank you for listening into that episode. I appreciate the feedback that you gave. It could be safer to think about purpose, passion and vision, and that could then lead to deeper conversations that support people and understanding the difference between being tired, being exhausted, being burntout and being depressed. So, please, I absolutely think your interpretation and understanding is correct. I just think we can also add more to it as well.

33:02                                     I think that that's important because if you feel stressed because you're doing so much, you may or may not have the opportunity to change that. But if you look at it from a differently - a different lens, you can certainly look at what your passion is and what your purpose might be and how you achieve that. So I think that's a very positive way that everybody can do. It's really part of yoga, isn't it? The reflection part. We really think a little more deeply about some things. So thank you so much, Suzi. I really appreciate you coming on. I think that this has been very, very informative and I agree with you, a very different way to look at burnout and, and hopefully, getting a little more into the burnout prevention mode than we've been before. So thank you again for coming on the podcast.

34:03                                     Thank you for the invitation.

Contact Details:



Insta: coachucation

Facebook: coachucation

Oct 29, 2019

Major Points:

  1. Carla started yoga after refusing for many years to go to classes and found that the stillness and meditation were immensely beneficial to her and she started taking classes regularly.
  2. Through classes and studying, she found many tools to increase her happiness.
  3. She took teacher training, opened her own studio with a mission to help people find their why and their happiness using the tools to yoga.

                                                This is episode 123 of changing the face of Yoga and my guest today is Carla Simpson and Carla is known for being full of energy, love, and inspiration. She's very enthusiastic about life and love and wants to experience as much of what life has to offer. She has discovered her why. My mission in life to help others live a happier and more fulfilled life. And she's going to share with us how she uses this inspiration in her yoga teaching. . And to hssist for students. She opened her own yoga school four years ago, Happy Hot Yoga, and they have a range of classes to suit everyone. And they also are a yoga community, a real family. We have social dinners once a month, workshops and yoga retreats. So welcome Carla. And would you like to add anything to that introduction?

01:47                                     No, I think you got it all. Thank you very much for having me on the show. And you're right. I do. I'm a big lover of life. That's cool.

01:56                                     Great. Okay, let's start there. You said you were on a journey of self-discovery and that's when you discovered your why. Can you talk a little bit about that.

02:02                                     Growing up, I hated yoga. You couldn't have got me into a yoga class at all. My mom was always doing yoga and I just remember, getting up in the morning and her out in the lounge room on her yoga mat doing in class. It wasn't me and she always trying to encourage me, but I've always been a bit of an adrenaline junkie. Growing up I got very into fitness and running marathons, things like that. It was only that my knee was really starting to ache a lot in the long runs. My physio kept saying, you should go to yoga, it will really help you. And I was like, no, I don't do yoga, I don't do yoga. Anyway one day, I cried my way to the finish of one of the races, and I was in my head, I'm not going to do this anymore.

03:04                                     So I'd dragged myself to a yoga class and yeah, it wasn't the first class that definitely changed my life. But in that sort of journey into the first few classes, I, I first started with Bikram Yoga, more because it was the adrenaline as well of the hotness, the hard. I found it very difficult and I couldn't believe that I couldn't do some of it. So that was what dragged me back. And then I had gone to visit my friend who lived a little bit out of the town that I live in and I thought I was going to do a Bikram yoga class. But when I got there, the teacher had said, oh, sorry, we had to change your schedule is not bikram Yoga. And at that point I would have walked away. but I'd already paid.

03:55                                     I was a student then, so I was like okay, fine. So I dragged myself into these class and it was like a slow class and it was strong. It was something teacher said to at the end in savasana and it honestly changed my life. I still remember it. I was just lying there and she says, so it's now time to turn off the voices in your head. If you think you have no voices in your head that was a voice that just told you that you have no voice in your head. aI was like, oh my God, I have a voice in my head and I'm not the only one. Then that was the start for me was I wanted to find out more about how to find that stillness in that space.

04:43                                     And I started to get really into yoga then and more into mindfulness and meditation. And I really discovered what true happiness is without our voice telling us different things or what we should be doing or could be doing. But how I could just feel happy and joyful in any moment and that it was my choice. So that was the start of my whole journey. And then I just really loved what yoga had done for me. And the closest yoga school to where I live was about 20 minutes and I just one day, sort of having a conversation with my ex-boyfriend at the time, so said, why isn't there a yoga school around our area? And then anyway, that put the plan in my head and the plan started to grow and so I opened up my own yoga school.

05:34                                     Oh, excellent. you say that you are helping people find their purpose and you have a multitude of ways to do it. You've been an entrepreneur or business owner, global backpacker and a podcast host. And so I like all these different ways you're looking at it, but you are a yoga teacher and so how are you trying to meet that purpose, that mission, that why through your yoga studio or your yoga teaching.

06:06                                     Well really, for me it's just about sharing my experiences and my knowledge throughout my class and then throughout the studio. So if you come to a class with me, you probably get one of my stories. I just spent a month working in an orphanage in India over December. And so the first part of me coming back, I was sharing stories of that and I'm really just trying to educate people that we can be happy no matter what's going on in our lives at any one point. And life is a journey. We're always going to have ups and downs. Kind of like yoga class, we're falling in, we're falling out of poses.

06:48                                     But that stillness in there is  being okay with whatever is going on around us. So that's really what, for me it is about and just really helping people to be happy with themselves. We spend so much time growing up trying to change ourselves. Every advert on television wear this makeup, whiten our teeth or whatever it is. But I think we all can just learn that we're perfect the way we are. And it's a hard journey sometimes, but that's why I want to help people realize.

07:30                                     Your school is Happy Hot Yoga, so I assume that you're doing hot yoga. You said that you like the adrenaline at one point and so isome of them would probably be very physical, but it sounds to me like you are saying that and please tell me I'm wrong, the meditation, the stillness, how you think about yourself, the self-talk, all of that is more of the journey to being happy then actually the physical. Is that a fair statement?

08:09                                     Yeah, for sure. Yeah. The physical just helps us sometimes find that space and I think a lot of us feel good when we are being physically active as well. So we have a range of classes at a studio. We not all just power, strong classes. We have the slow, the meditation, the yin classes as well but I think that often in that flow or it's in that everyday life, where it can get chaotic that we sometimes need to learn to just be okay with the stillness and be able to find the stillness even when things are strong around us or we are caught up in an argument or whatever it is or your yoga class. I think that you find the true happiness when you can allow this, not necessarily the stillness, but you can allow yourself to have the, maybe the chitter chatter or the boys talking on the sidelines and you didn't have to be so involved in that by choosing to react or choosing to just let it pass by.

09:16                                     You now have a yoga studio that's in an area that didn't have one before. And how are you introducing the community to Yoga?

09:31                                     Well, we've been here for four years now. So a word of mouth is definitely a great tool. But I do lots of different things. Like we have obviously our Facebook and social media, but we have these signs up and I put our flyers and offer free classes to mostly people in cafes around the area. We might go out, I've spoken at events. Earlier this year I spoke at a big event in Gosford, which is a health event. So I spoke and hosted the meditation in the morning there. It's just brand awareness really, but I think what assisted me was word of mouth and it has taken four years to build the studio up. I've got other teachers now we're running workshops, teacher trainings, things like that. It has been a climb. I'm not going to lie. That's what I love about it too; is it has been journey. And I remember those days of first opening the studio and having no one show up to some classes. And it broke my heart. But as you chug on and the next class someone will show up. And that's what happened. And over time it has grown.

10:52                                     When you talked about your first experiences with Yoga, I think it's important sometimes that we take into consideration what the student is going through, because our own ego, like it is upsetting when you have a class and nobody shows up. I've been there. But when you're talking about, the first class wasn't all that great, but you went back and then you finally found what made sense for you. How do we make that transition for the students, especially a new student to understand that there's so much that yoga offers and maybe this particular class or this particular way of doing things, isn't it? But that there's lots and lots that they can dip into.

11:46                                     Oh, sure. And that I think, is something that is so important that new students understand. So when new students walk into my studio, I always introduce myself and we have a community so everyone might be chatting around and we'll introduce ourselves to the new person. Even the other students will. My students are very welcoming as well, which is lovely. Then throughout the class I always talk about picking the options that best fit you, taking your time, that yoga is a journey and we're not really here training to be able to stand on our head or to do all these amazing, cool poses. I think we're just really training to become better at life.

12:28                                     And that's what I often say to people is that, not every day is our day and some classes I turn up to I walk away thinking, Oh God, I've had enough. I'm done. But that's the shit that I'm going through on that day. And, sometimes we can step back from things so involved in ourselves and just let it all fall off the mat. Then we can realize that. And I do believe that it takes a new client a few classes. I do love to watch that journey myself. I always say you see these new people and I was one of them; they can't shut their eyes, their eyes are looking around at everyone else and they can't sit still, they're twitching.

13:10                                     But then I always say that four classes in, then you see it'll drop away and you see them slowly sink into their mat and they shut their eyes and it's like that light bulb goes off and they're like, oh my goodness. I think that it is a journey and I think it's important to explain that to clients and it's still a continuing journey to me as well. Gosh, I don't think we're ever going to be perfect. And there's no such thing anyway, but I'm training to be better at my life and I think yoga helps me become a better person and to make better choices in my life.

13:44                                     You've been a variety of things. I love the global backpacker, and you're doing podcasts and I assume that the entrepreneur and business owner has to do with yoga, but maybe you had other things. But why did you choose the yoga path, given all of these great things that you've done?

14:09                                     I still do them as well. I always say to people I am a jack of all trades. I always say yoga really changed my life and it made me become a softer person. I'm not so hard. Not that I was hard. But I still am very driven, still, that Type A personality, but yoga allows me to come back to my roots. And I still travel a lot. But yoga has taught me so much about just the way to live life, gratitude and kindness. Just trying to be conscious of the little moments that I get to experience.

15:02                                     So maybe once when I backpacked I wasn't so aware of everything going on around me. when now when I do it, it's a totally different experience and I'm just very humbled and grateful for the people I meet and the kindness that is shown across all areas of the world. I do think that yoga and the yoga teachings, the yoga philosophy has helped me as a person to be able to understand that and to understand myself more and to understand really what makes me feel the best. And it might not necessarily be the yoga practice, but it might be showing acts of gratitude to people, smiling at someone down the street. But for me that whole lesson came through yoga.

15:47                                     But you've really delve deeper into that. Do you try to introduce the yoga philosophy in your classes?

16:00                                     Yeah, always, but always doing different teachings. Each week I'll have a different theme in the week. We're always learning about all that. Yes.

16:08                                     Okay. And how do your students react to that?

16:12                                     Oh, they love it, they love it. Yeah. So at the studio you get like all different, you might still get a work out, but you'd definitely get some yoga learnings and I do a monthly newsletter with a little passage in it. There's always things. Then I do believe that as I just said, that everyone that comes to our studio will walk away maybe more physically fit. Yes. Maybe not. They might come to the meditation classes, but they will come with a deeper understanding of what I believe life is truly about.

16:47                                     Is there anything that you would particularly like to either expand on that we've talked about or something we haven't touched on at all that you would like to share with the listeners?

17:00                                     I mean, my purpose and my why now is to help people, to be able to make those conscious choices every day that they can choose to be happy. They can choose to smile no matter what's going on around them. And yes, for me the teachings came from Yoga, but that was my personal journey. So whatever teachings anyone can get from me or from my journey, then hopefully that helps them become better in living their life. Because I think we're all on a different journey. And yoga is so broad. There's so many wonderful things that we can learn from yoga or take from Yoga and my job I feel is just to open up what those lessons are in the way that people like to experience it at my studio. And then hopefully they can take that and share that with their life and their families and the way that their world.

17:59                                     You're trying to help people find their purpose is what you told me. How does that go from having a yoga class? And I understand that you're certainly trying to offer them a really large spectrum of yoga. but do you think that's how they come to that purpose when they can quiet the mind and feel a little better about themselves?

18:32                                     I totally believe that. Yeah. When you start to quiet your mind and you realize you've got an intuition and that intuition is talking to us, and if we allow ourselves to listen to that, that's when your purpose comes back. So sometimes it's a journey to get to that point, but that is definitely what happens, I believe, and in my own experience.

18:56                                     So, let's talk a little bit about the podcast. Why did you decide to start a podcast?

19:05                                     I loved podcasts myself. I love listening to podcasts. I have a little puppy dog and I was always walking down the street and listening to something and it just makes me smile. It was one of my favorite things to do. And I was just talking to a friend how I wanted to share my story. I wanted to share my learnings and my teachings about yoga and happiness and how I could do that maybe on the bigger scale. It was literally over a cup of coffee. She said, well, Carla, you're such a great chatter. You could do your own podcast. And then I was like, I've never even thought about it. And I was like, oh my gosh. And then, and again, a seed was planted in my head and then I sort of, again, just sort of let it sit there. And then throughout my yoga, my meditation, listening to my intuition, I decided that, yeah, I'd give it a go and see what would happen. And that's what happens.

20:09                                     Explain your podcast purpose or whatever you would like to call it in a few words. I know that you interview people, but what are you trying to get across?

20:26                                     Happiness and that happiness is a choice. So that's my main message. But then I interview different people from just all different areas of life that are doing things. And I ask them about things that make them happy because everyone finds happiness from a different thing. This is what I'm trying to change; the education is that happiness doesn't come from external things. We grow up thinking if we get that job or we get that house or we get that boyfriend, then we're going to be happy. But happiness really comes from within and the choices that we make in every day. And I think that yoga has helped me learn to listen to my intuition so that I can make those right choices and then make me a happier person.

21:11                                     I'm trying to get everyone's view on what they do to make themselves that little bit happier every day. And then we educate more people out there that these little things like maybe smiling at a person down the street. Someone was saying their happiest moment is when they call their mom every day just to say hello to their mom. so just that there are so many different ways we can live our life and be consciously aware of the choices we're making to make sure that we feel good and we feel happy. And we can learn to listen to that intuition and be more complete with just even the incomplete.

21:52                                     It sounds really interesting to have all these people talking about what makes them happy. I agree with you. I bet that most of them aren't external, more internal about what you do and what you think. So thank you so much, Carla. This has been great And thank you so much Carla for coming on the podcast. I really love your message. I think it's great and that it's coming through you as a result or as a start from yoga.

23:23                                     Yoga is something that's part of me now and I could never imagine my life without it. And once I could never imagine my life with it. All those people out there that haven't quite yet stepped into that. It can be scary to step onto that mat, but honestly I say to people all the time, that changed my life.

23:42                                     Thank you so much. I appreciate you coming.

23:45                                     No worries. Thank you so much for having me. It's been lovely.

Contact details


website is www, and \

Facebook: happyhotyogaWoyWoy

Instagram is CarlaMareeSimpson and happyhotyoga

Podcast: Get Happy Hour podcast.

Oct 22, 2019

00:01                                     Hello and welcome to change the face of yoga teaching toddlers through golden oldies. I'm very excited to be talking to lots of yoga teachers who will explain their passion for teaching yoga to students with different ages, physical fitness levels, wellness levels, and different goals. They will explain the benefits of yoga for these students and we'll be including teacher tips and pose modifications. I am Stephanie Cunningham of yoga lightness and I've been teaching over 50s for 10 years. So this area is my passion and the passion of many other yoga teachers that you will be listening to in this series. Thank you so much for listening and let's get started.

00:48                                     This is episode 122 of changing the face of yoga and today we're going to do a very short, fun podcast. When I produce my podcast for release, one of the first things I do is a transcript and it is usually quite good. But I've had several guests this year that have been talking about some of the more subtle aspects of yoga and so it doesn't quite know how to translate Sanskrit and some of the things that comes up with are quite funny. I'm going to give you just a short look at this. If you are interested in looking at some more, just go to the show notes of this particular podcast and I'll add some more in, but just to give you a taste of how very, very confused the artificial intelligence transscription service gets by Sanskrit.

                                                Let's start at the very basic, which is what does it think Sanskrit is?Well, it came up with sunscreen, which I rather liked. Hatha is hot tea and yoga is yells. I don't know where that came from, but anyway, Asana is assets, which I think we'd all agree with, don't you? Ujaii breath is with GI breath. One of my favorites was when we were talking about chanting and my guest said that her students would come up to her and say, I really liked that happy, puffy breath and this is in pure English, so I don't know just why it happened, but then it came back with happy puffy breast, which kind of reminded me of a self-inflating breast implant. I just thought it was kind of cute. I really liked that when we get into some of the terms of yoga in the yoga philosophy, it really did confuse it greatly.

03:17                                     Vritti: apparently it thinks of people when you say vritti so we have Christine, Ruthie, I don't know where that came from and for Richie. It took me quite a while to figure out what we were talking about when I was editing the transcript. Namaste is numbers stay and  Upanishads, which I really do love is called funny shots (or open. A shoddy). Don't ask me, I don't know. Shakti is champion, which actually isn't far off. Shiva is Shavon and Jalandhara is jolly turban. I think I might always, always remember it as jolly turban from now on. Moolahdhara is Moodles. Moodles sounds nice, doesn't it? Kind of, I don't know. Something to do with poodles.

04:19                                     I had several guests this year about, like I said, the subtle aspects of yoga and so we talked about chakras and we talked about mudras and we talked about yoga Ninja, sorry, now it's got me saying it. We talked about yoga Nidra and they came up with some really, really funny kinds of translations. As you might've guessed, yoga Nidra is often written in the transcription as Yoga Ninja. Chakras are several things and it was interesting because Kristine Kaoverii Weber taught me how to say chakras and it is that hard cha instead of Shah. And so if I was saying it correctly, and she of course was always saying it correctly, was chockers or chuckers or choppers or chocolate and if I wasn't saying it correctly, it was called shockers. Chakras are definitely confusing to transcription. Mudras are the same. I have quite a few on Mudras. I'll just give you a few. A mood Rose. That's kind of a lovely thought, isn't it? Metrology. I'm not sure where that came from. Motors and my favorite - Madeira. Tantric was contract and I think my absolute favorite is Gomaghasana and it came out as cammo cousins.

06:10                                     It's always good just to laugh. There's also laughter yoga. Haven't ever taken that but I'm sure it was a really good, experience. All this is, it's just a little bit of a laughter to have us remember that laughing is also important in life. This is just a little bit of self care just to get you laughing and thinking about some of the ridiculous things that this transcription service came up with. So thank you so much. Like I said, very short, very sweet and to the point. Hope you enjoyed these bloopers. It was fun for me to gather them together and get some lists going. And just actually be kind of in awe of the creativity of the transcription service of all the different things they came up with for words that were obviously very normal to us and not at all familiar to it. Thank you so much for listening and this is Stephanie Cunningham.


07:37                                     If you would like to be a guest on changing the face of yoga, please go to my website, under the changing the face of yoga tab. You can complete the be our guest form after reviewing the form and finding it applicable to this podcast, and we will send you a link to schedule an interview.

                                                Please download, review, and tell your friends of any podcasts that are of interest to you and to them. If you would like to contact me, email to guiding you and thank you for listening to changing the face of yoga.

Additional Transcriptions:

Chakras: child, chapter, charter, truckers, tracker, chuck rose, shoppers, shock grows, shocker is

Mudras: Mujeres, blue dresses, blue dress, motors, motorised, motive, Missouri, Woodrow(?), withdraws

Kriya: Korea

Gamoghasana: goa goose center, gomo us.

Agni: agony

Ayurveda: are yours I

Oct 15, 2019

00:45                                     This is the 121st episode of changing the face of Yoga and my guest today is Ayanna Parrent. She is a the owner and founder of Befree coaching and wellness, a wellness center whose mission is to change people's lives through Movement, mindfulness and fun. She is a licensed independent clinical social worker, registered Yoga teacher and certified fitness instructor in multiple areas. Her goal is to help people heal from issues such as trauma, addiction, depression, and other issues that get in the way of people living their best lives. Welcome. And is there anything you'd like to add to that introduction?

01:35                                     No. Hi, that was wonderful.

01:41                                     Now you say that BeFreeWellness is a wellness community and offers yoga classes there. Is that correct?

01:53                                     Yes. That's great.

01:54                                     I want to start the podcast with this great idea that you gave me, which is that you're committed to making movement, fitness classes and yoga classes accessible to all. You've designed your studio to include people of color, men and larger bodies. So can we just go into that a little bit. First of all, why do you think that's important?

02:24                                     Oh my gosh. Well I think that's actually most important just coming from a personal standpoint that Yoga really helped me to heal personally and change my life. I'm a person of color and I just think that what I was seeing in studios, particularly my own personal journey and just talking with friends. It became particularly hard when you would go to studios and there was prominently, mainly white women, thin, white women, and not a ton of larger bodies, not a ton of diversity. There was men, but there was, without trying to stereotype, there was like really hardcore men.

                                                I just started just on a personal journey of yoga myself. I'm a person in recovery and it's really helped me with addiction and just to really help me with my thoughts and sort of controlling negative images of myself or anything negative. It really was the catalyst of releasing some of that. The movement piece is really important. However, I feel like the mindfulness is the key to yoga. And I feel like a lot of it's become certainly commercialized and all these clothes and stuff. Who really cares? And mats are just so expensive. Yoga teacher trainings are a gazillion dollars which would certainly block out any person of color or a person that doesn't have a lot of money. It's just finding that in order to really heal some groups of people that really need it, we have to look at it in a different way and sort of offer it in a different way and talk about it in a different way. To speak to certain communities that otherwise might not access this. I just sort of found that as my mission as I opened my studio.

04:29                                     What are the specific things that you're doing that is making it more accessible?

04:36                                     I do a lot of marketing to communities of color. I live on Cape Cod right now. It's not a huge, diverse community, but there are places where people are. I just make myself available. I really work hard to market to those areas, offer different discounts , or keeping prices low that you can access that or giving discounts to certain communities that would allow them to access it. And again, I also put in my marketing and everything that you'll see publicly that I write in there that it's for all bodies, it's for diversity. It's for people of color so that when you actually go to the website or look at any market materials, you can see that this is going to be like an inclusive place. I've had people call: I saw this, is this true? Yeah. I've had people that are larger bodies. It's hard to walk into a place. Not only am I saying that, but is that true? Like how are you doing that? So we've had people call, which I totally love and appreciate and their experience has been great. I've just asked for feedback as well.

                                                You can still offer yoga, you can still offer Vinyasa, but you can offer it in such in a way where all bodies can access different poses so you don't have to be so rigorous. It doesn't have to be, you can show modifications. You can adapt it so that anyone one can do them. You can certainly design sequences if you have enough knowledge and background that pretty much anybody can do, but you have to have that in mind. You can't teach a Vinyasa class and expect all bodies to do it. So if I say that, I really have to hold myself accountable and the community accountable for that. That's in my teachers too, when I hire people, I'm very clear. I talk about the mission of the studio first. This is who we are. This is who we're accessible to. We treat everybody with respect and we're looking for people that might not necessarily come to yoga. We're looking to heal those communities particularly.

06:49                                     These teachers that you're interviewing, do they feel comfortable that they have the knowledge to teach people who don't look like other yoga teachers?

07:05                                     I've sought out ones that I've either taken their class or I have familiarity with.

07:13                                     You really have a commitment there. I see that you don't sell high end yoga clothes, but that you do offer larger sizes. Is that another way to make people feel comfortable and welcome?

07:31                                     I think that's really important. I think a lot of yoga studios, they'll say, yeah, I work for everybody. And then you go into their boutique and you can't get larger than a size large. Some people can't fit into that and that's okay. But to not carry it is sending a message that that's not who we want here. And I know that's not for everybody. And that's not maybe people's intentions. Because I certainly have wonderful friends that have amazing boutiques that are yoga teachers and yoga studio owners. But I do think we really have to be careful of that and calling it.

                                                So here's my other thing that I wonder what people think about this is like in terms of accessibility. Yoga studios have like a class that's called the community class. That what's where they have would maybe offer it for $10 saying that's the community class for everybody. I struggle with that because why would you want that sort of communication that you're separating people out in some way. Is that the class for people that can afford it, the $10 or is it dumb? Dumb down sounds bad. But is it a different type of yoga? Like what is the community class that we're offering and how is that different? Is it just the price? And if it's just the price, why are we calling it a community class. Isn't every class with the community. I just wrestle with some of this stuff. I don't offer a quote community class.

                                                 I make  it accessible to everyone. Then I do get push back from people a lot about like when you're running a business, you can't offer every class for people that can't afford it and Dah, Dah, Dah, which I totally get. However, if that's your mission, then you need to stand by it. I do lots of other things on the side to support the business so that I can offer affordable packages to people and I also say nobody's turned away. So there are scholarships available. I do partner with a non-profit in Boston - Namaste Sober - and so they help with some of the things as well. So I feel like you can run a business and still be accessible, but you have to really work with the money in terms of holding your own self accountable as a studio owner to make sure that you really keep your doors open to everybody. It's hard. I totally understand. I get it. It's hard. Yeah.

09:53                                     I talked to someone else about that and he said that the big studios and the big franchisees and the worldwide ones all across the US, they really aren't very interested in being accessible because it's not financially rewarding.

10:14                                     Right, right. Yeah.

10:16                                     So are we saying that it's really the small business owner that's going to be the one that may most likely be offering these kinds of classes?

10:28                                     I don't know. I'd love to not think that because I mean, it's hard. People say different things to me all the time, but you can make a lot of money and still be accessible and be community based at the same time. There is a way, but you have to be really strategic about what that looks like. You have to have it on paper and you have to market it and you have to hold yourself accountable as the leader. So I'd like to think not. But right now I think that's probably what's happening. Money is a tricky thing. They start small and they're like, yes, this is who we are. We're grass roots, right? And then they get bigger with money and values start to change. So there's a lot of attachment with money in terms of what that means and who you are. I do a lot of work around that, about staying grounded. It's all the yoga stuff, staying grounded and then who I am while building something that's still accessible to people. But you have to keep that in the forefront. If you don't, then you lose the whole purpose of what you're doing. So, yeah.

11:38                                     You said you have to work hard and you have to be creative. If someone came to you and said, I want to start a studio and I want it to be really accessible, what kind of advice would you give them?

11:52                                     One is just cultivating relationships with communities of color. I have a bunch of friends who ask me this all the time. What am I going to do? All the only people around me are white people and I don't know how to bridge that gap. There are ways to really cultivate that. This sounds crazy, but I just opened my studio and I went across the street to Stop and Shop and talked to the manager. There's a lot of employees there who are young people and people of color. There's a large economic development there that has a huge amount of people of color who work there. I offered a discount to their employees and that was a huge benefit for all of us. I'm across the street and come on over. I mean that's a creative way to really do it. You wouldn't necessarily think of like, Oh, let me partner with Stop and Shop as a studio of yoga. But I was like, wait a second. My friend actually came, she was visiting from Boston and she had that idea and was like, how about that? And I was like, oh, totally and so just starting to think of ways.

                                                People bring up churches and churches are great. I go to the NAACP meetings on Cape Cod. I didn't know there was one, but as I was researching people in Cape Cod and where the demographics were. That's a lot of work there and just getting creative and then going to those meetings and then joining groups. There's lots of networking groups out there that are more predominant than others for people of color or diversity.

                                                It's also really about hiring staff. People of color are going to go where there's leadership; hiring staff that are people of color and also diversity. I did workshops co-led by gay, lesbian; all the people that are representing diversity, making sure that they're a part of the community in a leadership way. Sort of how you look at racism and the anti-racism work. But it's a similar model in terms of looking at the paradigm and really working with it so that you shift who's allowed to come in your doors by what you represent.

                                                The other thing in terms of clothing, so if you're a guy and you walk into these yoga studios and you're looking at these like pants and stuff clearly catered towards women. There's a tiny section for men and I get it. It's just about thinking about who your studio is tailored to. So my studio, if you look at it, it's pretty general literal. You wouldn't pick out necessarily one gender or the other. It's very simple stuff.

                                                And a lot of people that I work with  - a lot of veterans, a lot of people have PTSD and trauma. I work with people who just come out of jails and that community. So if we want those people to really access yoga, what would be welcoming to you when you come out of those environments? You're not something super flashy, something super warm, but not gender specific. Those are the things I've been thinking about in terms of getting creative with being accessible. And then just wiping out the community class, and saying we're community based, and figuring out other ways to offer services at a lower rate to people that couldn't afford it. Having larger sizes are XXXXL.

16:12                                     You said you partner with a non-profit to provide scholarship money for people to take classes who may not be able to afford very much. How's that working? Is that sufficient for what you need or do you think it's a good start?

16:41                                     It's a good start. I had two women the other day, single moms that were struggling and wanted to do (yoga). So I offer a life coaching program too, which is the mindfulness program and people can take the fitness classes and movement classes while they're in the coaching program. They really wanted to do the coaching but couldn't afford it. I reached out to them (non-profit) and just said, hey, listen, I have two women who want to do the specialized program. And so we just communicate about what the needs are. How can we help each other out? What can I do, what can they do? We're able to offer stuff. I can still offer it and as a business owner, not have to lose all the general money going to somewhere else. it's a good start. But I still have to get creative about bringing in money in other ways to not have to jack up prices so high to still make it accessible. But yeah, it's a good start. It's a wonderful idea. I think it's hard being a business versus a non-profit. You're still offering services and good things to people, but the business model works for me right now. Partnering is great.

17:52                                     Have you considered partnering with like the Big Companies? I mean I understand that perhaps you don't want to do Lululemon. Someone said they were thinking about that and I just wondered if that's a viable thing.

18:12                                     I don't know. It is tricky for me. Their mission really has to be on point. The people that I partner with now, their, their admission is 100%. So it's hard with larger companies but it's something to think about for sure.

18:39                                     You said that you're recovering and I know that you are offering Y12SR and I had Nikki on earlier. I thought it would be interesting because she told me what she does and why she started and everything. And I thought it would be just interesting to see how, how you do it at your studio from the grassroots. Getting both ends of the spectrum of that because she was great. But I just wondered how it was working for you and your studio.

19:28                                     Yeah. So she first of all is like my favorite person of all time. When I took her training, it was just a weekend, but I literally could have taken way more from her. In some ways I learned more from that training than I did from my 200 hour yoga teacher training. And that's saying a lot. She actually helped a lot in terms of offering and making yoga accessible to everybody. The way she teaches and describes things in a simple way, but it's still, you still get so much out of it, even though it's so simple. I just learned a lot from that. I just implemented one day a week where I did like a Sunday afternoon class and just make it for anybody that's either in recovery or has a loved one in recovery. I almost do it restorative style. So we do like an open meeting and I pick a topic or someone picks a topic and we share and then I do a really gentle flow and end with a few restorative poses and try to verbalize some of the issues that had come up in the meeting and integrate the healing into it. And I've had probably more people that have loved ones in recovery than are actually in recovery. A few of my friends have come. But it's a wonderful, wonderful class and I love it. .

20:57                                     And it does add to your accessible mission, I would think.

21:01                                     Oh totally. She's an incredible individual.

21:06                                     Yes, she is.

21:07                                     Everyone should take her course, everybody. Everyone needs to really take it.

21:16                                     Gee, she got a free ad there.

21:17                                     That's right.

21:24                                     To make sure I'm understanding - you've got a really strong mission, you're really committed to keeping that mission front and center. That's affecting prices, affecting who you hire, it's affecting who you try to attract. Is there anything else that you think is contributing?

21:58                                     What we haven't hit on is that it's just really important to, when you say that you're having a community it's really that you're drawing in members of any community. You'll see in the studio versus other studios, you'll see diversity in there. So in order to create a community, I really sort of had to cultivate it. So I have a lot of potlucks and book clubs and social gatherings and we're implementing a whole first Friday night that's going to be without alcohol. It's cultivating, reaching out to people. Lots of like dancing hip hop, like different types of music that you're not necessarily going to get into an actual class And I know some people push back on me, they're like, well, it's not real yoga if you're playing like different music, and do hip hop, which is very silly.

                                                No, I get that. Why people are saying that because it's not traditional. However I think part of it, of what people oh, this is what I wanted to say too about being accessible. White cultures are very in yoga studios. It's like if you walk in there and you feel like you can't be loud, you can't talk, you can't laugh. It's very structured in the way where there's not a lot of vocal boisterous talking and lots of cultures and people of color are just naturally that way. I've heard that people have gone into spaces like that and feel like they've gotten like shunned, like shhh, like stop it and they're like, I'm just talking. so to allow that to be okay. So I allow some banter in the actual class. I allow laughter, I create moments where there's laughter, but then I'm really conscious about the times where we need to be quiet and really settle in. But to not have it so serious in a way where you feel like you don't belong if you don't fit that mold. If you're not a meditator that is can you sit there for long periods of time without, moving around or things like that. I'm just so really being aware of what community looks like. We all don't look the same. We all don't act the same. So being conscious of that, like what community really actually looks like and then just making sure that you're cultivating everybody's place.

24:41                                     No, that's a good point. I hadn't thought of that, It is very structured and often very serious in yoga studios and I kind of will always want to do something that'll liven it up, but I refrain. They're all just serious and you're thinking, oh, come on,

25:10                                     We can breathe and smile, Instruction too, which is great, but it's like sometimes it's taught in a way where you feel like you're doing it wrong. If the person comes over and aligns you a certain way. There are just so many descriptions and how you're supposed to hold your body. there's not room for fluidity there. There's room for conformity and there's room for doing things the same way. And there's room for looking like somebody else. And that's not what we're talking about when I talk about yoga. It's really about cultivating the person, their own spirit, their own movement, and everybody's looks different. so it's hard when I hear yoga teachers over and over again, like they'll see somebody not look necessarily the pose is supposed to look and then keep describing it over and over again. And I'm like, it's okay. It's all right.

26:08                                     Yeah, I've worked with seniors and after you've lived in a body for decades, it's very different from the body that's next to you. And so you get into your own body, right?

26:21                                     And larger bodies look different and poses and that's hard if you're not trained on that. So sometimes yoga teachers will go over and try to fix and shift and I'm like, nope. Because they're fine. Just the way they are.. And most 99.9 % of the time, larger bodies are strong and they don't necessarily need manipulating or props or chairs or any of that. It's really more a comfort level on their part to just do what works for them and then just getting them used to that. That's all.

26:53                                     So we didn't really talk too much about that. I think you did allude to it, but are you teaching differently  and addressing people who have not the typical yoga teacher body. I've talked to people who are teaching and who have a larger body. And they said so often, teachers didn't know what to do.

27:30                                     Right. Yeah. And then looked at people funny. Like it's very clear when the yoga teacher doesn't know what to do with the larger body, unfortunately. Like I get it. But then it gets this awkward moment in class for both of them. That's it. I mean, I'm lucky in the way that I'm trained in like 15 different fitness modalities. Yoga is just one of them. I've taught a variety of different dance, all kinds of stuff, aqua aerobics, with a variety of different bodies. Aqua aerobics lends to a larger body, Zumba lends to a larger body. Some people think that but so it's easier for me to kind of assess and work with that. But I also have done a lot of research and taken a lot of courses on that as well, just to make sure that I'm supporting that. And honestly, most of it is just not doing such intense Vinyasas not going up and down all the time. And if you are, modifying in a way where then you're up, you're on your knees. There's different ways where it's not this intense. You can still offer a power yoga class: a larger body, should be able to take it.

28:56                                     Well, that's good to know. Yeah. I don't offer power classes to seniors. I don't think I want to take it either. I would like to do is to either talk in more depth about something we discussed or to actually introduce a new topic that you think is important for the listeners to know around this general podcast topic that we've been talking about.

29:34                                     I think just what I love to share with people is that like the reason I started my studio and the coaching that I do is just the powerfulness of mindfulness alone and movement. But that breath and connecting the mind, the body and spirit just for people that are not familiar with yoga it's just such a powerful healing tool that I feel like gets missed if we don't.

                                                I love your whole thing of like changing the face of the yoga. Like if, if we're not getting that out to the people that aren't used to that and don't know that is out there as a healing tool. I just think it's so important for people, for yoga studios, and whoever, just to make that available to those people. And I think it's really hard for men or the veterans that I have met. I get the Veterans through my coaching program which gets them into the studio. But otherwise I'm not sure that they would be walking in just off the street but is so healing for trauma for women with domestic violence, all that. I feel like it's just the key to shifting your life in a positive direction that might not come in another way. So I'm also a licensed independent clinical social worker. So I did that for years and years. I did traditional therapy. I worked in schools in a variety of different ways. and I wasn't finding that talk therapy was helpful anymore. so that's why I integrated the movement into the actual healing process, so that people could discover a different way of healing the mind, the body and spirit as one. So I just wanted to share that.

31:23                                     Thank you..

32:20                                     I have a podcast. Sometimes I forget to mention it's called Fit Phat Chat and I do with my friend Christie. She's also a Zumba instructor. But we just started that to talk about just making movement in general, accessible for everybody. So that'd be a great for your listeners .

32:41                                     What's it called again?

32:43                Its Fit Phat Chat: it's on Spotify, it's on apple. All of the places.

                                                Well thank you so much. It was great fun talking to you.

33:14                                     Thanks for asking a really important topic and.

33:19                                     I think this is a good addition to the general accessible conversation.





Facebook: befreecoachingandwellness

Podcast: Fit Phat Chat

Oct 8, 2019

Major Points:

  1. With yoga and proper nutrition, the aging body and mind can feel better, younger, and live a vibrant life.
  2. Menopausal women can also accrue benefits from yoga and proper diet  through a variety of mechanisms but decreasing inflammation is one of the major benefits.
  3. Baby boomers do not accept the aging model of their parents



00:45                                     This is the 120th episode of Changing the Face of Yoga and my guest today is Anne Noonan.  She is a Silver Yogi and a food coach and she specializes in showing women how to age backwards with Yoga and mindfulness. She has a passion for showing the woman facing her second half of life that these years can be full of vitality rather than ill health or frailty. After going through her own health journey of insulin resistance, adrenal fatigue and varied menopausal symptoms in her forties and found a way to holistically turn back her inner odometer and is now thriving in her 60th year and looking and feeling younger than she did 15 years ago. She not only turned those health issues around but has transformed in the process. She now teaches women facing similar health and aging issues that through mindful, functional yoga-based movement, breath. and eating for health, you can most certainly find your strength, flexibility, and youthfulness. Welcome Anne

02:01                                     Thank you, Stephanie. Fantastic to be here. Look, everything you just said is pretty much a perfect summary of where I've come from. I did experience pretty serious health issues and I had to find my way, so to speak, through the quagmire. I had to find a direction that wasn't completely medical and it was stumbling across yoga. It was learning to eat for an aging body. And then combine it with the right movement for an aging body. And once I could see the results happening for me, it was like a calling. I absolutely have to teach this to other men and women who are facing those later years. So you're pretty right. You summarized that really well.

02:56                                     Okay. I think we should start off what you made a statement which I thought was interesting, which was we're aging very differently to the way our parents aged. Can you kind of explain that and what new things we might be dealing with that perhaps our parents didn't or vice versa?

03:22                                     We women, let's say we are, I'm 60 so I'm a typical baby boomer and I would hope maybe don't you know them, maybe people who are listening to this might also be in those baby boomer years. So we're the people who were born between 1946 up to 1964 and we have all had parents who may have come from the war years. Our parents are now, if they're still with us, they're now pretty much in their early eighties through to about 90 and just over 90. And in that era they aged very differently. They had different things occur in their life. They had different stresses. They had a different mindset towards aging. So by the time our mothers, us Boomer women, by the time our mothers were say 50 or 55, they were planning retirement or they were considered over the hill, sliding down the other side and starting to think and move their way into old age.

04:30                                     I'm not going to say that absolutely every single, elderly mother back in those days, there's some who aren't, who are an exception to the rule. But generally they did have a different attitude to aging. Now we are the daughters and we are the children of those elders, the silent generation.  And we have so much more technology at our fingertips. There's so much now about nutrition. There's so much extra knowledge and things that are right there on a silver platter for us to choose from. And as far as media is concerned that the way the world has changed, there was an expectation, there's a big expectation on us to keep working, to remain employable, to continue giving and contributing to the community around us. So we cannot afford at the age of 50 or 55 to slide downhill into age. It's just can't be.  As baby boomers age, we don't want to age like our mothers. We don't want to have the mindset - some might be a little bit thinking a little differently - but generally we want to stay healthy. We want to stay vibrant and God help us, we're pretty vain. We want to look darn good too. So there is a different attitude. So there must definitely be a lot of new things available for us.

06:07                                     So really we have many more opportunities or we're making many more. I sometimes think we're making more opportunities because we do not accept that previous model of aging. At least most of us don't. I don't think.

06:23                                     You're pretty right, Stephanie. We are refusing to accept it. And I'm noticing it, in like general media, if we look at the celebrities, for instance, some celebrity may not make the remotest difference to us, but even in Hollywood, Judy Dench and Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep's roles, these older women, Glenn Close, these older women starting to really lift their profiles. I guess if there's any filtering out from what's happening in the world of celebrity, it's wonderful to see the older woman is starting to become lifted, starting to become a little bit more noticeable. And I'll tell you what, the older woman still has incredible knowledge, experience. She's got goals to kick still. She's got such contribution to the world that the rest of the world and the media would, at their own peril, ignore the older woman because I think she is stepping up. And someone said, I can't remember what some entrepreneur said a while ago, it's the older woman who is going to soon be the disruptor. She will be the business disruptor. She's the decision maker. She is the one with money and she is the one whose health needs to be careful. Seriously.

07:50                                     Yes. I think I agree. I think we have perhaps a position of power that is not recognized yet but is still there. And I think probably it is that we have a deep (okay, I'm talking about myself obviously) but a contentment that perhaps we haven't had before. I mean we went to school, we raised children, we had our careers, we did all of that stuff and now it seems to be a time of, as someone said, we're done with the biological and we're looking towards the existential.

08:27                                     Yeah, that's such a good way to put it, isn't it? That's so good. And we are looking to the future now we're ready. It's our time now. You're right. We raised our kids, but then again, we might've raised our kids, but we're possibly dealing with a spouse who might not have the same attitude as us. We may be dealing with a spouse whose health is changing. Some are divorced. Dealing with elderly parents still. So there's probably still a little bit of that stress on us. And of course a lot of us are dealing with the diagnoses that come with middle to older years. We've got barriers, maybe autoimmune, different things that might've popped up that we might not be too pleased with that we might have to deal with but doesn't matter. We've still got a lot of years that this body has to serve us in and we definitely want to know that those years are going to be vibrant.

09:26                                     There was a show on TV last night: Catalyst. It was good about aging, stopping the aging process or aging backwards. And one of the doctors said we don't want our later years to be a long, slow, degenerative downhill process. We want those later years to be so fruitful and vibrant so that when our last year's come they're quick and they're done. So we want them to go right up to those last years really being vibrant. I have found eating the right way was emphasised in the show. They really went down into diet and the way you moved and the variety of yoga combined with the way you eat is just that perfect combination to make that possible.

10:22                                     Let's talk a little bit about that. I think you said in what you gave me, that the aging body requires balance, agility, flexibility, hormonal balance, calm strength and cardio and all of these are possible with yoga. I taught seniors for 10 years, so I do have some experience in this area and yes, all of that is possible, but I think it has to be managed correctly because not everybody can do everything.

10:57                                     That's right.  In my classes, my classes might range from a 45 year olds all the way up to about anywhere between 75, 76 year olds. And I then do a special functional movement class for the 80 plus up to about 90 plus. So if we talk about that age group, 80 plus up to just over 90 year olds and admittedly they are very limited with what they can do. So we work from the chair, we make it gentle, we keep the stretch, we did the left and right brain cooperating with each other. We don't go into any strong agility or cardio. Sometimes getting up and out of the chair is enough for them. And I know I can kind of puff them out after about 30 minutes. So we're very mindful with that age group.

11:53                                     My general yoga class between 45 and 75, there is a dramatic range of ability amongst those girls. It all depends on what their younger years did deliver to them, what state their body is in. And it's such a variety amongst that age group. So we're careful, again, careful and mindful as to what level might individual students want to go to. But we concentrate specifically on balance first and foremost, balance agility and getting the muscles stretched. So as soon as they feel release in the body, as soon as they are releasing the tension around the hips and hip flexors and the hamstrings and sometimes the upper body and shoulders, as soon as that feels a little released, then we can start coming up into building strength. And when it comes to cardio, again, I truly believe the older person really does need to bring cardio and a little bit of high, medium to high intensity interval training to keep their heart healthy and vibrant.

13:08                                     And Yoga will offer a reasonable intensity in very short spurts depending on if their body's responding well to it. So I'm finding with the different programs I do that we can bring agility, flexibility and balance or not only the body but also the mind. Once the body can find balance. So too does the mind, because we can become even with age, even mindfully. That's why it's such a mindful practice. As we age, we can start to become a little bit,  the word irrational is not the right word but lose a little bit  of our balance. We can sometimes become a bit more reactive rather than really think it out and respond to things calmly. That's why yoga is so good because it will train the mind to think, breathe before we respond and then respond to our situations mindfully, which creates balance in the brain.

14:16                                     Then when you train that attitude with balancing the body on your one legged poses, some the various things we do to train balance. You've got this lovely mind to body connection happening and it's perfect and I see bodies improving all the time. In my older age group of students, I am seeing such fabulous results. They’re calmer. They can feel their minds are sharper, their bodies released and then when they start to improve then we start to liven the class up a little bit with a little bit of high intensity. They sometimes think I'm half killing them. I'm not, but they feel fabulous after the class.

15:03                                     What exactly do you mean by high intensity? I mean, what would that look like in a yoga class?

15:11                                     Well, what that looks like. For instance, when you bring high intensity into Yoga,, you only kind of bring it in for a very few short minutes. So let's say you're in downward dog. I call, it's like a burpee version of a downward dog in downward dog. We then start to come up on the toes, bend the knees slightly, and we encourage the little jumping. Now young people will jump in and out of downward dog quite easily. 50 plus doesn't find that as easy. So we bend the knees slightly, jump forward to the hands, gently come up, reverse down, come on up and then back down. Jump back into downward dog. Now we can liven that up a little further. Jump forward from downward dog. Gently jump a little bounce up into reverse swan dive, back on down again, jump back into downward dog. Let's say we do six of those. That starts to get the heart rate pumped.

16:12                                     Now we can do chair pose. Let's say coming back into chair pose comes back, you've got that nice deep squat. The arms come forward. Normally we would hold in chair pose, but to make chair pose a little high intensity we then swing the arms down, come up, jump, a little bounce up and then bounce back into chair pose. Swing the hands back down again, swing forward, jump up. Little chair pose, little yoga moves with a bounce. So, and that starts to just lift and of course different level of intensity depending on who's in the room. And that not only tones the body, it helps with weight loss, it lifts the cardio, and it's quite incredible. I specialize too in teaching water yoga. So not water aerobics, not water fitness, not water running, water Yoga. So once we're in the water again, yoga based move in the water, you're coming to your warriors, you come into all of these moves. But then swinging the arms through into chair pose and back again through the water also creates that little bit of resistance against the muscles.

17:28                                     And it starts to build the heart rate up. We do a little bit of yoga walk through the water. So moving the spine, moving the hips, moving the arms, and then we speed up a little and it's amazing how the water resistance makes the heart work. But I'm a great believer too in making it fun. We have to heal the body and healing the body is also very relevant to laughing and we've got to laugh and I make sure it's fun. I caught up with about 12 of my students this morning, just before this podcast and they were saying that we can't wait for water yoga season to start again. Because it's some of the heartiest laughs they ever get is at water yoga. I know they when get out of the pool,  they are feeling good and that's such a reward for me. It's great.

18:17                                     It's great. You've also added some nutritional advice to what you're doing with your reversing the odometer idea. Do you feel that it has some Ayurvedic basis or is it more of naturopath, dietitian kind of thing?

18:43                                     I'm a qualified nutrition coach so it's more nutritional to mop up the inflammation. I know Ayurvedic is a wonderful way to eat. I didn't go the Ayurvedic route. I went the nutrition coaching route. So because I'm also dealing with 40 plus 50 class and beyond woman when we are at this age, we're holding more inflammation as the years have gone by. We hold a lot of inflammation and that's what we have to deal with is reducing the inflammation. First off that's why I love yoga so much because yoga is instrumental in helping the inflammation, mind body, inflammation to settle. But particularly nutritionally I run the roll back your body's odometer course. I run a five week transformation course and I speak and show how to cook and such with a very antiinflammatory approach to your food. I'm also a qualified diabetes food advisor.

19:51                                     So I teach people how to bring their sugar levels down, how to eliminate sugar from their diet, but not rob yourself of beautiful tasting food. How to bring high level macro and micro nutrition into the way you eat and mop up the inflammation. It's not a magic bullet. It's a slow process. If we've got our body into such a state at say 55 or 60, it's taken years to get our body into whatever state we might be unhappy with now. So it's kind of take a few weeks, maybe a few months, up to a year or more to really get that body into the state you want it in by changing a few habits with eating. So I'll teach people how to if they want. If a woman is a wonderful baker and she loves her cakes and her slices and she's been baking all her life. Well, we show them how to tweak up the baking.

20:53                                     Let's take the white flour and the white sugar out and find something else to substitute in the baking so that you can still enjoy your baked goods. Let's say a woman's an amazing cook. We work out the correct, the better quality fats, the better quality vegetables to bring into your cooking to bring the weight down, bring the inflammation down, which in turn makes the body feels so much better, clarifies the brain, sharpens the thinking and makes the joints start to feel less painful. Brings inflammation down everywhere through the body. So the combination of the right way to move, the right way to eat and calming the mind and uniting the body and brain together, body and mind together is in my opinion, the best way to reverse aging. And I'm all about reversing aging or aging as well as possible throughout these years. I am passionate about it.

22:00                                     You say that Yoga helps in reducing inflammation. Could you expand on that a little?

22:07                                     I can pretty much go by my own personal experience. I'm 60 now. Back when I was 47 I had to face a hysterectomy. I was just in a terrible state. My menopausal symptoms were through the roof. My weight was through the roof. I was aching everywhere, everywhere. And these symptoms started in my very, very early forties and that decade was hideously painful and coming into my early fifties, I had to figure out what did I have to do to make this body of mine feel better, deal with stress levels, deal with the way I deal with the pain and age better. And of course I knew, always knew exercise was important. So I went to, I had no idea of yoga back then, just had heard of it as this weird practice as you do, some wacky practice.

23:05                                     Somebody said Yoga, I forgot about it and thought, well I need a PT. I need to become part of a gym. That's probably what I need to do. So I was doing the circuits. I was powering along. I had a PT who would thrash me the moment I would turn up. Anne, on the field, round you go, do a few laps of the field and come back and we're going to do our calisthenics and such. What was happening to me was my inflammation was worsening. It was just worsening. My body shape wasn't changing, I wasn't losing weight. I wasn't feeling better. My inflammation was ramping up and I don't think this PT realized quite what she was doing. She was looking at me thinking, well, why isn't your body changing? Why aren't you changing the way you're eating? What's going on? And I didn't realize back then about what I was doing, how I was eating and the whole combination of what was going on with me. I was worsening and I was putting on weight even though I was thrashing myself at the gym. I soon realized sometimes that a vigorous form of exercise does not do an inflamed, midlife body any good at all. It can send you downhill. This is what was going on with me.

24:24                                     Okay, maybe I'll just stick to walking. Maybe that's what I need. I'll Just stick to walking. So off I go and I start walking every morning. My husband's really good. He'll get up with me, come walking with me. But what was happening was my knees were getting worse. My hips were tightening up, even walking is not doing me any good and I'm not losing weight again. Wasn't right. Someone said to me then try yoga. Yoga, what's Yoga? Oh look, I have nothing to lose. Okay, fine. I'll try yoga. And of course this overweight, achy, inflamed body walked into my very first yoga studio, but at this stage I was over 50. So what do I do? I walk into a Bikram Yoga class and there's even the instructor looked at me like Are you sure? "This is my first time at yoga."

25:29                                     She said, "You've never done Yoga before?" Nope. Never done yoga before. I might've followed a DVD a hundred years ago. I don't know. I've never done that before. “Have you ever done hot yoga before?” Never done hot yoga before, but of course everyone's around me going, oh it's addictive, you're going to love it. And she goes how about you stand behind that lady over there and you just watch what she's doing and just follow everything she's doing. Mind you that lady over there was a bodybuilder and powerlifter. Her body was just exquisite. And here's me at the stage when I'm thinking, I am such an unhealthy lump. I thought I was about to die in that class. So I made it through and got out and of course the instructor comes to me "Are you alright? Yeah, I think I'll be okay. Well, I went back for a second class. I realized I had to hydrate phenomenally. I didn't do Bikram again, but just those two classes of Bikram then led me into a slightly more sane temperature, more yin, and the more gentle yoga and such. My body was changing. Even after those two classes, there was a level of release. There was my knees. I just felt, oh my God, what's happened here? Something shifted, like dramatically shifted because I knew how good I felt afterwards, but okay. All right. All right. I'm going to try. I went to my local yoga studio just down the road from me. I thought, oh, I'll try a few classes there and I had this almost addicted. I have found my nirvana. I have found what my body has been screaming for all these years. It wasn't high level training, it wasn't a PT, it wasn't thrashing myself out at a gym.

27:27                                     It was yoga, so my body was calming. That was step one, calming. My breath - I learned how to breathe, which did wonders for my heart and my mindset. My joints started to feel like the inflammation was reducing. My weight started to behave and reduce, my strength, particularly upper body. The moment a woman feels her strength boost, the moment a woman feels stronger, her competence goes through the roof. And the moment I felt my strength build, I could see my core was strengthening, my clothes started to look better, even my skin, because I  tried a few more warm classes and more. I did go into the hot yoga a little bit, not as hot as Bikram, and then the next level of hot, my skin just started to glow. So considering an inflamed body was showing all of these levels of improvement.

28:32                                     I could say Dear God, if Yoga is doing this 50 class body, this amount of good, and I'm surrounded by women complaining about how their menopause is just making them feel dreadful, then this must be the perfect combination for many, many, many, many other women out there. And it's proven to be exactly that. So I had to go to a few yoga classes, obviously myself and really feel the difference. Then I thought, right, I have to get my certification in it. So I went and studied and got all my titles and my training done and even while I was doing all of that, I was just purely using my own body as a petri dish. I had to watch and observe what I was going through and that was great that I was in a class with a few other older women as well and I watched how their bodies were responding to it.

29:25                                     It's now I'm learning with all the material I have read and I've been a teacher now from when I was about 52 or 53 when I qualified now I am 60. With all the material I've read now I'm finding doctors are prescribing yoga for the menopausal woman and for the older age men and woman. Yoga is becoming more and more and more recognized in mainstream western medicine. It's been recognized in eastern medicine forever. With Western medicine, they are really starting to wake up to the power of yoga, and because it still can be strong. I can still be a workout or it can be gentle. That's what I love for that reason.

30:08                                     I love the diversity of it. You can have almost any kind of class you'd want. I don't expect you to have the answer to this, but I would like your opinion. I was not having health problems when I started yoga, but I did start in my early fifties, and I also recognized the tremendous benefits. But what you see in the media is not the older woman taking perhaps a more gentle class or at least not as strong a class as might be available. And how do we get that message out that this is for everyone. This is for older women, menopausal women. You know, you're teaching people up to 90. I've done that too. I've taught 90 year olds and they're great fun actually. How do we get that message out that it's not pretzel poses, it's not having to be flexible to start with. It's not all of those things.

31:16                                     You are so right Stephanie, that irks me too. I see Instagram, people think yoga is about gorgeous young bodies in beautiful gear, moving their bodies into the most unnatural pretzel shapes that the older woman does get a little terrified of it. That's probably why I took so long to do yoga cause any googling I did was, oh, these beautiful young things flipped upside down and ridiculous shapes. I've had many a conversation with the older woman, a couple of which, oh, I'm not flexible. Oh No, I couldn't, I'm not flexible. I could never do that. Oh, I can't get up off the floor. I could never do yoga or Oh no, that looks too hard. I'm not 25 anymore. I don't want to wear yoga pants. I could never do yoga. That is such close minded attitude. That was probably my own as well when I was first looking.

32:17                                     So I make sure I bring myself into pretty normal yoga poses. I can't even do the pretzley stuff and I'll make sure I put photographs of myself and my students on Facebook, on Insta. We need more older women like us, Stephanie. We need more of the older teachers, all the yoga students getting on social media and showing not only is yoga wonderful for the older body, but it's also to show the young girls. Look young girls you will be great if you continue with your yoga at this young age. You also age well someone, some Yoga Guru said a while ago, yoga is a the fountain of youth. I totally believe it's the fountain of youth simply because it makes your body feel so good. So we have to get more older women out there not being afraid and putting their images at it so that people can say yoga is phenomenal.

33:22                                     I have one of the best books in the world at the moment written by Suza Francina . And she wrote The New Yoga for people over 50 so if your listeners are interested in these books, The New Yoga for people over 50 and The New Yoga for Healthy Aging by Suza Francina. They are the most fabulous books about getting yoga out to the older community. And she used 70 plus year old and 80 plus year old models in her book and they look incredible. So the moment we start saying 70 plus and 80 plus year old gorgeous models in their yoga gear doing their yoga poses, that will be what the world needs to see. So I want to get more of that out there. I see that, what's that lady's name, she's 101 years old. Yeah, she's that good. She's inspirational. That's inspirational.

34:34                                     And I hadn't really thought about that. But you're right, we just need to get our own photos out there of us and our students.

34:45                                     And we social media driven, we are image driven, we are video driven. So the only way to really get it out there is to join the social media. We can't keep this to ourselves. We've got to put it out there. The baby boomer woman is one of the biggest demographics on Facebook. We have to let these images be seen so that older women can go, oh, if it has done that for her. I'm sure I could do it.

35:22                                     We've had a lovely talk. Is there anything that you would like to go into in more depth or that we haven't covered at all that you think you would like to tell the listener?

35:39                                     I'm very grateful Stephanie. I think we've  had a fantastic chat. As you can probably tell. I can go on for hours probably. I guess by the time the listeners are hearing this, by all means head to my website: au. I'm starting water yoga classes, so you've never tried a water yoga class. And if you're in this region, by all means yell out. in October as well, we'll be ticking off our Rollback the body's odometer eight week program. And I'll have that on my website as well. We do have an odometer and we can roll it back. And this is what we teach everything from nutrition to gut health to attitude, to mindset, to yoga, meditation, anti-inflammatory eating. It's a very comprehensive program and we create community as well. And that's the other really important part about aging well is having a like-minded community around you. And we're growing all the time. Quite wonderful. That's probably about all I can think of to add to that.

36:49                                     Contact details:

                                                 Facebook: AnneNoonanYogi

                                                Instagram: anneNoonan01


                                                Thank you so much and it was a fun and informative podcast and I love your passion about your subject.

37:32                                     Oh, absolutely. Absolutely passionate about the woman or man for that matter facing the second half of life who thinks they're on their downhill side and they think all is lost and they can't change anything. You absolutely can. You absolutely can turn things around without a doubt.

37:51                                     Thanks so much.

37:53                                     Lovely talking to you Stephanie

Oct 1, 2019

Major Points:

                                                32:03 Grief is a developmental and learning process not a healing process. Grief is not pathological; it is a normal part of life.

                                                35:22 But you don't need closure on a relationship of a person you love who you don't want to be done with.

                                                48:50 You don't have to believe in yoga for it to work, because Yoga believes in you.

00:45                                     This is episode 119 of Changing the Face of Yoga and my guest today is Karla Hilbert and Karla is a licensed professional counselor, a certified yoga therapist, a compassionate Bereavement Care Provider, certified divine sleep Yoga Nidra guide, an award winning author, and a bereaved mother. Her life was forever changed after her firstborn son died of a brain tumor in 2006. Her therapy practice focuses on loss, grief and bereavement working in particular with those affected by trauma and traumatic death. She leads classes, workshops and retreats for the bereaved as well as training for professionals on how to work with those impacted by traumatic grief. Her book, Yoga for Grief and Loss describes each of the branches of Yoga and how they are ideally suited to support those in grief. Her newest book, the Chakras in Grief and Trauma is the first book of its kind to explore the energy body and how it is impacted by trauma and grief. Both books have creative ways to bring yoga and mindfulness into a regular practice to support your broken heart and remember your essential hope. Welcome Carla. Is there anything else you'd like to add to that introduction?

02:42                                     Oh no, that's really long and, but really beautiful. Thank you so much. I so appreciate being here, Stephanie.

02:49                                     Thank you. I wanted to start by asking you in, one of the things that you said, was that there is a societal and medical model of grief and then there's yoga's model of grief. And so can we define the medical and social model and then the yoga model and compare and contrast so we can see what the differences are.

03:26                                     I don't remember saying that but the Western model of medical model in general of what we call mental health. I don't particularly like that label because what I really do and what the people who are therapists and who do this profession really are dealing with our emotional health as well, which doesn't really get talked about.. Our thinking, our thoughts about things are not the same as our feelings and our emotions. And I think it's really interesting that we don't even talk about emotional health. It's always about quote unquote mental health. but anyway, the Western medical model deals with disease, right? And when something goes wrong, when something has caused pain or is a disease or a problem, the medical model goes in and says, let's fix this problem, cut it out, or put chemicals on it or do something to fix this and then bandage it up, send somebody home and hope it gets better. They don't really look at the whole being.

                                                 I don't know about a social model of grief. I think so it's hard to kind of pull those things apart. Our society, again, Western society and there's so many different layers of how various cultures deal with grief and I don't really think any one culture is perfect. I think there's a whole lot of other cultures around the globe who do a better job than our culture does. And when I talk about our, I mean like the Western culture, America, Europe, Australia. So the Western model societally, and socially we are not very hospitable to grieving people. And it's interesting cause death itself is having a moment right now, which is not bad. That's good.

                                                I don't know if you've heard about the death cafes, which I believe started in England. Now they're all over the place and it's community-based things where people get together. There's a facilitator and it may or may not be supported by a community organization like a hospital or a hospice or it could just be a person. But you find the information about the death cafe and sort of the guidelines of how you run a conversation. And it can literally happen in a cafe or it might happen at somebody's house, but people sit around and drink coffee and eat some snacks and talk about death: planning our own deaths, what death must be like or how we deal with death. But that's not the same as grief.

                                                And grief is the experience that we have when something precious to us is gone. And that can be anything that we love. It tends to be a lot more impactful when it's a person who dies, but there's all sorts of losses that people deal with all the time.  But when people die, the grieving person, the bereaved person who's left behind has to deal with how to manage existence without this person in their lives like they were before as a living and breathing presence on the earth. It's different than death itself. It's a very difficult process and it varies individually. Grief is like a fingerprint really. We all have it at some point and it's completely, totally unique to us, but our society tends to be really unhelpful sometimes.

                                                I mean, we have groups of people who experienced what we call, marginalized grief, disenfranchised grief, where that grief isn't necessarily recognized by society. And there's lots of categories for that. But, that could be your ex-husband dies and you've separated and gone on with your lives . Maybe he's remarried. He has children with this other person and a whole life that doesn't include you, but yet you have this major grief response. It's not the same as his current wife might be experiencing. Miscarriages are one of these places. Stillborn babies often are this way that's not very recognized by society as intense grief.

                                                There's disenfranchised grief but when it's a socially sanctioned grief, everybody knows, of course she might be grieving. There's tends to be a lot of support. And then after the funeral, a few weeks, a few months, that support dwindles away and people expect the grieving person to go back to the person that they were before, which depending on, the grief itself, the relationship itself, whether or not there was trauma involved might be impossible to do. It usually is, and grief can go on for a long time and that, and it changes over and over. In fact, it really, truly never ends. It just changes and gets different. We learn, hopefully with good support, how to grow and develop through that process. But what happens is we tend to lose more people the longer that we live. So it's a thing that we're going to go through over and over and over. So we don't have a real good social model.

                                                And a lot of people really love to talk about the five stages of grief from Elizabeth Kubler Ross, who is an incredibly wonderful, beautiful pioneer in this field. But she herself even said that she wished that her five stages model hadn't been so broadly applied to grief. In fact, it was meant not for bereaved people in the first place, but for dying people. She revolutionized the hospice model, the hospice care field in general. She worked with terminally ill people and she noticed that they tended to go through these stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. It makes more sense in the context of a terminally ill person than it does in terms of a bereaved person.

                                                So we don't have a very good social model for dealing with grief at all. And our medical model tends to want to pathologize grief in many ways, when in fact, grief is not pathological at all. It is a completely normal and natural response to a loss. Depending on whether trauma is overlaid, and the circumstances surrounding the death itself, and how intensely that person is grieving, how much they're functionally affected by their grief and their loss varies.

                                                The medical community might come and say, oh, hey, you need to medicate that. It's gonna lead to depression, which isn't true necessarily. Grief and depression are two totally different things, but I see a lot, as soon as there is a death, often people days after the event or maybe even the day of are given prescription medications, either antidepressants or antianxiety medication, usually Benzodiazepines, which is really dangerous often. We see often in society people supporting grieving people and avoiding the pain. I'll come over, bring a bottle of wine and we'll just drown those sorrows for a little while. So we don't have a real good supportive, nurturing kind of model at all in the Western model period.

11:37                                     So how would we contrast it with either your model or a more generic model of yoga helping with this issue?

11:48                                     I personally feel that yoga offers us so many tools to help us deal with grief and loss. And there's not really a specific yoga grief model that really exists. I mean what I've done is taken the yoga teachings and philosophies that are already existed and applied it in this way. This is one of the things I think is so beautiful about yoga, is that we can take these tools and yoga really is the life path. It isn't just asana, it is so many other things. The asana as poses are a tiny fraction of what yoga is. I mean in fact yoga itself, the word means union. So, Yog in Sanskrit, if we spell it the way the Sanskrit translates, it's y o g with a little dot that says we say yog and that means yolk and it's this yoking together of body, mind, spirit and then our yoking together with something larger than ourselves. And that for me and for my clients, and readers who read my book, this thing that's larger than yourself is individual as well. I mean maybe that thing might be God, it could be community, it could be the universe, it could be the planet. It's something else. The thing that we really can't do alone. We need something to connect us. And then again to the tools of yoga help us.

                                                Because I think it's crucial to continue to have a relationship with the people we love who have died. That's one of the things that I say is one of the most important tasks that we have to do is figure out how we have a relationship with somebody who's no longer physically here. And there's many tools in yoga that can help us to do that. All the branches of yoga have different tools that help us manage this. And a lot of my teachings when I work with people individually, really focus on not only different things from the various branches of Yoga, like Bhakti Yoga,  Jhana Yoga, Tantra yoga, Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga. But in the Raja Yoga branch, the Yamas and Niyamas and it comes down to the first thing that's the most important is ahimsa, which is do no harm.

                                                And so this is also nonviolence, meaning with yourself. We start with ourselves. Iyengar said in his book, the Tree of Yoga, which is one of my favorite books where he talks about the branches of Yoga. And I see how essentially within all the limbs of yoga, each limb is within all the other limbs. So you can practice one limb and you're practicing the whole entire branches and all of the tree of yoga itself. But he says about ahimsa he says I don't know why everybody focuses on the violence in the world when we don't first look at the violence in ourselves. So I talk to people about self-care and self-compassion, which can be very difficult to do in early days of grief, in traumatic grief because people tend to not want to care about themselves. It's very difficult to care about themselves or to have compassion for yourself when you're in such a terrible state.

                                                But it is very important because, as I learned through my own research and I probably learned this in my initial teacher training but it really like hit me in a different way in all the research that I did. These things are in order. The limbs are in order. The yamas come first, and the first Yama is ahimsa. Everything else builds upon that. And so first you look at how much pain am I increasing for myself? What can I do right now in this moment to have compassion and care for myself? And that is the crux of my teaching with people, because sometimes that's just the very place to start. Which would be an awesome place too, for society to start.

                                                But I know what's happening is that people who are in grief and in pain, it's difficult for other people to witness that pain. And I know that most people want to genuinely help. But the fact is, is that you can't just take this away. And even there's times when I'm with somebody who's in intense pain and I wish I could ease that pain and I know I can't, but also that grief is there and they have this grief for a person because they love that person so deeply. A good friend of mine who I work with Joanne Cacciatori says, where there is extraordinary grief, there is extraordinary love. And it's true, and again, this is one reason I support people in using Bhakti practices, the path of devotion, which is all about love and all about the heart, connecting with the love they have for the people who have died. Because I've not met a person yet who would trade the love that they have for this deeply beloved person to be rid of the grief. I've not met that person. And so when we can remember that right now I'm in this kind of pain and grief because I love this person so much. It really can help to soften the pain. And it is also a mindfulness practice because it's asking the person to be present in their pain, have compassion for themselves in this pain and recognize that its existing right now because of this deep love, which is really beautiful. So when we cannot escape pain, what happens is we get really scared of the pain. People are afraid of the depths of this pain that they can be in and the depths that they can go to. And I totally understand that. When we can be present to that and have compassion for ourselves and say, okay, let me connect with the love I have for this person I'm missing so much right now. It can really help us to be present instead of run away from the pain like everybody wants to do. Nobody wants to be in pain. And then to say, okay, I can bear this because of this love that I have. It's a strength and it's weird. It's almost like the pain can soften. And then what you learn is that you have the capacity to be present with that.

                                                And every time you get through, I call them grief bursts, we go through these, like everything else in the universe, contraction and expansion. When we go and move into the winter time, when we move into that state, the earth moves into that state. It's contracting, and then it's going to expand again in the spring. Nothing lasts forever; no feeling. The poet Rilke said, no feeling is final. And that's true. No matter how much pain you're in right now, it's not going to stay like this. It's going to change. And if you allow yourself to be present and watch how that happens with compassion and as little judgment as possible, you can see it happen. And then what you learn is that you can trust yourself to move through these places of pain and then you come out of them. It's simple, but it's difficult, but it's kind of amazing. And all of that I learned from Yoga.

19:37                                     Some people will think they're helping by emphasizing positive thinking to bypass pain and that has a yoga link that would help in that particular instance. Because I have a lot of people say, oh no, I'm fine, I'm fine. I'm getting through this. It's okay. I'm not sure that helps a lot sometimes.

20:20                                     Well, I mean the person themselves is saying, oh no, I'm fine, I'm getting through this. It does depend on the context, where are you have somebody saying that and you're standing in the grocery store, it might not be the best place to say, oh no you can really tell me how you're really feeling. It depends on the context, and if the person themselves is saying, no, I'm fine, then maybe that's okay. I mean, cause we don't want to insinuate ourselves too much into somebody else's emotional place. I mean, that's another thing I talked to clients of mine about actually moving into the, the second Yama - Satya, (nonlying). So telling your truth, that follows ahimsa. And so again, this is the rule. Ahimsa comes first, do no harm or as little harm as possible, right? Nonviolence, it would do harm to you to start talking about your story right then or if you feel this is too sacred to share with somebody, then don't do it. You don't have to tell the truth all the time about how you're feeling. I mean, grieving people are approached a lot with questions that are very hard to answer and sometimes, how are you is one of them?

                                                After my son died, I took like two weeks off of work. It had been six months of him dying and I had gone to work part time and one of us was home with him 24 hours a day. One of us was always with him and I stopped working for two weeks and when I came back it was really hard. I mean it was very difficult to go back to work and be able to focus. There's so much that that's going on and your entire being is consumed with this grief. It's very difficult to focus.

                                                 It really affects us on every layer of being. Yoga has this awesome model called the Koshas, which really helps us understand this. It impacts us physically, energetically, mentally, intuitively, emotionally, spiritually. The Koshas is a beautiful model for helping people understand that. And also teaching yoga teachers and therapists how to help people manage it. So when I went back I was like, okay, I know people are going to ask me how I am and I don't really want to stop in the hall and start talking about how I am. Because I don't want, this was me, to do that in the middle of the work day. I can't because I can't keep it together. If I do that, I know knew where I could go: coworkers, friends of mine, I could go in and have a safe space. If I needed to, I could go in my office and shut the door and cry, but I didn't want people talking to me. So I thought I have to come up with something. And so I couldn't say I was fine cause I wasn't. But to me I could say I'm okay. because to me that meant I'm here and I'm breathing and I'm getting through this day. And so it wasn't a lie, but it wasn't also the full truth either.

                                                So sometimes we don't need to ask the grieving person. But sometimes it's helpful to be a listening, nonjudgmental, compassionate ear for this person to say, how are you really? And if it's an appropriate kind of context and space, then that's beautiful. It gives somebody the space to tell their story, which a lot of people really don't. And I think that this bypassing that you were saying like bypassing the pain with the positive stuff. So if a grieving person says the positive things, that's okay.

                                                I mean, there's a lot of things that a grieving person can say that somebody else shouldn't say like for example, anything that starts with at least, at least you have all your other children, at least your house isn't burnt down or whatever. At least anything is never good. At least he's not in pain anymore. Now the grieving person can say that and that's okay to a point. Because it's true that everything can be worse. Things can always be worse. And sometimes that's kind of comforting in a way, to me anyway, to say, okay, and it helps you sort of put things in perspective. And for a long time I said things like that to myself, well, at least he didn't die in pain, I hope. At least he wasn't afraid. At least he was surrounded by love, at least, he was with us - all these things. At that time when my son died, there was a lot of focus on awful things happening in Darfur and how mothers were witnessing the death of their children right in front of them in terrible ways. And I just thought, well, at least that's not happening in our town where we live. There was a horrible murder of an entire family. And I just was like, at least he didn't die in that kind of way. And so, but eventually I had to say to myself, I need to stop saying that because what happened was bad enough. And I felt if I kept saying this at least stuff, then I was harming myself because what I was going through was bad enough. And I felt it was not honoring him and his life and also was not honoring myself and my own grief where I was. But it took me awhile to realize that.

                                                 I don't think, unless somebody could say to me in a compassionate, loving way: hey, I feel like when you say that over and over, this is harmful to you and here's why. And that's okay. And I think you've got to have a really trusting relationship with somebody to be able to say that to them. Because grieving people can say a lot of things that other people shouldn't. Like he's in a better place. People would say that all the time. And that's hurtful because to a mother there's not a better place. Was I glad he wasn't in pain? I wouldn't want him to be in pain, of course not, but I didn't feel he was in a better place necessarily. There's no better place.

                                                This is another thing I hear all the time from people. People say they're in a better place, but where are they really? I don't know. And so when other people say that sort of line, it just sort of triggers, could potentially cause this cascade of other thoughts in the grieving person head. Well I don't know that they're in a better place. What is it really like where they are? I don't know where they really are and who knows? It's very difficult. I get in conversations with people fairly regularly who say, well people are just trying to be helpful and being defensive about it. And I say, I know that, but often it's not. It's so unfair to the grieving person that often the onus of educating the people falls on us. So it's either we say nothing or we get really angry, some people get really angry, which I totally identify with. That happened to me a lot. And then say things we might regret or mean things that maybe we don't mean in that moment out of pain or we feel like we have to educate you. And I wish it wasn't.

                                                 I don't mind educating people. It's my job now. I call myself a grief activist, because I feel like it's my job now to educate the public on how to deal with grief. But it shouldn't be on the newly grieving person and they don't know, you're so vulnerable and you're desperate. And it's just this really open wounded space that you're carrying around. And there's so much pain that's heaped on top of the pain when all they really need is compassion and non-judgment and presence and love.

                                                And that is also a thing that yoga really teaches beautifully. It is also based on the teachings. The first thing is always ahimsa. And if you don't know if what you're about to say it's going to cause pain. Don't say it because it's better to say: I don't even know what to say to you. I'm so sorry. I just don't have the words. It is so much better than saying something that could be painful.

                                                People really do think it's okay to say a lot of stuff that may not be because they've not been in that situation and I get it. If they express to you, well that's not helpful or that's hurtful or I don't think they're in a better place than don't argue it. Oh well I'm sorry. I didn't know. Tell me, tell me how you're feeling. Having active compassion for this person and open to wanting to hear what they're saying. Ahimsa, I don't want to do any more harm. Tell me what would be helpful or tell me what you're going through and then to be really aware of your own discomfort around it because it's uncomfortable. It's uncomfortable when you don't know what to say or if there's silence.

                                                But in general, in our culture, I don't think we're very good at listening to people. We're thinking about what am I going to say to them before they're even done talking which means you're not really listening. To be able to really listen, you have to be fully present, which is another thing yoga can teach us how to do. You talked earlier about this bypassing and I think some of this comes along whenever I talk about aparigraha for example. So non-grasping and you hear a lot  that you have to let it go and you can't hold onto that pain or whatever.

                                                People when they are supported and they're able to grow; grief is really a developmental process. I haven't just learned this on my own because I've done a lot of study and work. But I do remember the moment when I was on my own and I was looking at a tree and it had been like five years since my son had died. I was doing this work at that point. And I had written a lot about healing and I talked about healing and I was trying to heal and doing my own healing stuff and I was looking at tree and how it was growing. I love trees; I find a lot of comfort from trees and nature. But I thought, what if this is not a healing process, but what if it's a growth process and a learning process? And that made sense to me because I want to always be growing and learning forever for the rest of my life. I saw a quote yesterday from Eartha Kitt that said, I'm always learning and my gravestone will be my diploma. I loved that. Anyway, I thought it's a growth and a learning process. What if it's not a healing thing? And at that it really felt like a weight was lifted off me because I thought, oh, what if I don't have to heal? And it was just so freeing because I am not going to heal from this. I don't need to heal from grief.

                                                Because grief is not pathological. It is normal and it is natural. You don't need to heal from it. Now you can heal from trauma of all sorts. You can heal from the pain and relationships. So you might have unfinished business when the person has died and that can be healed. Any situation that is traumatic can be healed and integrated and processed. But the grief itself does not need to be healed. It's a normal and a natural thing that we're always moving through and growing through. There's not an end place.

                                                 Coming back to the yoga piece and the bypassing and looking at aparigraha and let it go and all these things, it doesn't make sense. it depends on the loss and it depends on the person. Like yesterday. I still have a landline phone. I'm one the very few people. I do have also a cell phone and we have an answer machine that's digital and it had like 14 old messages on it from when my daughter was like three. And there was a message to me on my birthday from my grandmother who died this past March and there was messages, all these birthday songs and just people's voices and we kept them for a long time. There was some weird things going on with the phone yesterday and it was beeping and doing weird things and ringing. I was touching buttons on the thing and then the man's voice said deleting all messages, all messages deleted. And I was like, oh my God. And I like was so devastated. That was a loss. And I thought, oh my gosh, I'll never get those things back. Like it was a loss for me. I was very upset for a few minutes and then I just thought, okay, I can let that go. I mean I have other things. I've got pictures, I've got some voicemails on my phone, there's videos of the same people talking. I can let that go. There's some stuff we can just let go.

                                                Often really intense grief helps us to let things go. After my son died, I just didn't care about stuff anymore, my material things. That was an interesting because I collected a lot of different things and I don't care. And so when we moved, shortly after he died, which is a hard process, I got rid of so many things and I just did not care about the stuff. It was interesting how this changes you, but in terms of people letting somebody go, closure is not a real thing. It's really not. You might get closure on an incident and say, okay, this is done. But you don't need closure on a relationship of a person you love who you don't want to be done with. I'm never going to stop being his mother. If when somebody's parent dies, you don't stop being their child, when your friend dies, you don't stop being their friend.

                                                It's weird to think like that to me now, but it's a cultural thing, but also what makes sense in terms of letting something go and grow. There's a difference in grasping onto something and releasing it. It's just holding with what is - is what I say. You don't have to let go of things. Our brains are literally wired for attachment. We have evolved to the state that we're in these big, huge brains that we have because of our ability to attach to each other. Our social attachment is our life. If we don't attach to others, we don't live. If a mother doesn't attach to her baby, that baby's not going to thrive. If you don't attach to your partner, then you're not going to have a good solid family unit and then you probably won't have children. And then the biological imperative to create the children isn't going to be there. All these things we're meant to attach and that doesn't go away.

                                                It's a balance; are you grasping and that's different and maybe we can talk about that. Somebody in early days (of grief) you don't want to have that conversation with because they are grasping everything. Later when you're comfortable and you're growing in your grief, this is what happens when you develop as a being through your grief. You don't necessarily have to hold on to everything. But that's also individual. I mean I know people whose children have died and their room is exactly the same as it was the day that they last saw that person a lot. And that's fine. Look at Graceland, it's an entire house and this dude has been dead for a long time and people go to see it all the time and they don't even didn't even know Elvis in his life, but they want to go see his house, which is a memorial to him. Nobody thinks that's weird, but somebody thinks it's weird if a person keeps their child's room the same. I don't see the difference. I mean, in fact, it makes more sense that you would want to keep your child's room this way. What's interesting is that probably it changes over time that room. Little things happen and it evolves and it's fine.

                                                But we need these attachments. There's a whole thing in grief now called continuing bonds. It's makes sense. Grieving people know that it makes sense, but now it's a therapeutic technique to help your clients have continuing bonds with their deceased beloveds. Because we know it's healthy. Instead of saying, Oh, I'm cutting it off, I'm getting closure. It doesn't make sense. The love goes on and the love can continue to grow. In fact it's like that relationship with that person can grow over time and you grow and you change just like it would if they were here. You grow and develop in that relationship in different ways.

                                                But I think yoga also supports that through ahimsa and telling your truth and being aware of your own truth. You're the person who you have to tell the most truth to, 100% of the truth if you can. And then being honest with what you need and how you feel. Yoga gives us these tools to be able to do it. And then, having self-study around svadhyaya. You have the definition that includes holy scriptures, but I don't see how anybody can be helped by a holy scripture if they can't apply it with self-awareness, which is self-study and self-inquiry. And so you do this and you really look with honesty and with the most amount of compassion and how your behavior, how your inner dialogue, how it's affecting you and it helps you to grow through your grief and develop as a person. So you become more emotionally well-rounded eventually. If you let it, grief can just make you so much more compassionate and open to others. But it requires being present to your pain and hopefully having good support.

39:47                                     It's a really different way to think about it because I do agree that the societal norm is that this is going to end and that you will become okay and then it's all over with. I used to teach seniors and of course grief was something that was in the classroom often and anniversaries and stuff were always hard. I had some limited knowledge of that, but you've explained it very well. I think that's excellent. We don't have a whole lot of time left and I understand this is a very complex topic, but talk a little bit about your book about Chakras.

40:56                                     The first mention about the Chakras was in the Yoga for Grief and Loss book and the Tantra Yoga Chapter. That's where I first mentioned it. And when I started writing about the Chakras, I just kept going and going and going and going. And my husband said, you can't keep doing that. You can't write that much. I can't stop. I did go through all seven of them. But then I literally took it out and put it aside for later. It's interesting and I got this feedback from clients of mine who read it and friends too. And one person had said, you should have written this one first. And I said, well, I couldn't have because it just kinda grew from the other one. She said, well, it's so much easier to understand. And this is from a person who is not a yoga person at all and had no previous knowledge of Yoga.

                                                And then I realized what the difference is. And I think it's true because the charkra book really talks about each of the chakras and describes some basic information about each one, the senses which each one is connected (the Muladhara, the root Chakra is connected to the sense of smell) and the colors and that basic sort of information. It talks about how each one of the chakras might be impacted in trauma and also grief. It's also about non-death trauma as well.

                                                People who read it will say, oh my gosh, I totally understand that because that's exactly how I feel, that's what I went through. It totally resonates with my experience. Whereas the yoga book is more instructive. It does have some of that really personal stuff in it. It reads like a conversation that we might have. And I mentioned some of my story and talk a lot about social stuff around grief, but it's not that really intense inner experience. And I think when people read the Chakras book, they resonate with it because it mirrors their experience whether they know anything about it or not.

                                                I've said before that I don't care whether people believe that they're real. It makes no difference whether you think that there are actual things that really exist. And I know in a lot of Tantric texts, they're meant to be points of meditation, but they do correspond with physical places in the body, like marma points do. So they're points on the body where you would put your focus. A lot of people have said, well all of this modern interpretation is not based in vedic texts, but I see sort of an inner interwoven place there. I think that the vedic texts really do talk about a lot of these things because it mentions the correspondences and it's all symbology as well. And I think it works metaphorically just as well as it works if you think it's factual. If you think I really do have this energetic space at the base of my spine and I'm going to work with it because I know it's there, it works just as well to see it as a symbol. I don't care either way.

                                                I do a lot of artwork with people and all of that stuff, symbol, everything that we work with that's in our Vijnanamaya kosha, the wisdom body is a symbol. Like we're a whole being. We're spiritual and emotional and there's so much that resonates in the symbolic spaces for us. It doesn't mean it's not real quote unquote real. Because it definitely affects us in our real physical world. So to me it makes no difference. think they're real, but you don't have to believe they're real to get the benefit from looking at it this way. The book deals with each of the seven Chakras and speaks to my thinking around grief and trauma as a developmental process that we learn and grow through this process.

                                                And we do that by having balance as much as possible in our lives and in all of our koshas. And we don't stay balanced all the time. It's not normal for your chakras to be balanced all the time. It's just like your physical body. It's always working toward homeostasis the best that it can. And so does our energetic body and this book really gives suggestions and ways that you can work with your own energy and to be as balanced as possible. And I think the Chakra system and the Chakra book itself breaks down a grief and trauma process in these ways that make sense in terms of the emotional aspects, the physical aspects, and the interactive social aspects. All the things that go along with each of the qualities of each different Chakra. And so you can think, oh well I know I've got those Chakra issues, let me read that chapter. You can do that. Or if you know nothing about chakras at all, you can read the introductory chapter and it helps to make a lot of sense of what that system can potentially do for you. You can read it straight through and there's so many exercises. I do energy work with people too. And I really try to tell people, look, you don't need me to do this for you. You need to be doing this at home. Like learning how to do your own energy work and have your own balancing. If you go get a pedicure, it's nice that somebody else can do it for you. Sometimes you just relax, but you can do it yourself if you need to know. And maybe you should take care of your nails yourself on a regular basis.

                                                It's the same kind of concept, but I think it's a more personal, intimate look at your individual experience through grief and trauma.  The yoga book doesn't do that exactly. In the Yoga for Grief and Loss book, l each chapter talks about a different branch of yoga and why that particular branch of Yoga is very helpful in grief. It gives you exercises and it says try these things. But I think the Chakra book really says, Oh, I can see you and this is your experience. And it's very valid thing to a lot of people. You don't have to believe in yoga for it to work, because Yoga believes in you. And it's like the force, when I explain Prana, I'll talk about it in terms of Chi and Qi. It's the same life force, but really it's also the thing they talk about in star wars. It's this force that binds us and surrounds us and connects all of us. And whether you believe it or not, these tools of Yoga work to support that. And then you end up getting the benefit, whether you believed in it or not in the first place. And I just think that's amazing.

49:07                                     Yes, I agree with you. It is amazing. Thank you so much Carla. It's really been interesting. I've heard other people talk about this idea of grief not being something that stops exactly, but your idea of it being an evolution, a growth opportunity. And I think your point about as we get older, we're going to have to deal with it more and more becomes quite relevant to know that this is something that just happens as lots of things happen in life. So I want to really thank you. I think it was really interesting.  I think using yoga in this way is definitely an expansion of the way that people think about yoga. So, it was great to talk to you.

51:14                                     Oh, thank you. Stephanie. I'm so happy that you do this program because people have this really limited idea about yoga. People would even say to me, Oh, I really want to read your book, but I can't do yoga. People have this idea of what they think yoga is. And your show really flogs this and helps people to see, Well maybe this is something that I might be interested in. Maybe it is something that could be helpful to me. I really appreciate that because the concepts of yoga really help us to live our lives day to day. Thank you so much.



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Sep 24, 2019

Major Points:

  • IRest Yoga Nidra, supported by research studies, helps those with stress, anxiety, depression and is used to help returning veterans in the US with pain and PTSD.
  • IRest Yoga Nidra is a structured relaxation practice based on the Pancha Maya Kosha model for students to find their wholeness through this practice.
  • In the practice, students develop their own sankalpas based on a three part system.

00:47                                     This is episode 118 of Changing the Face of Yoga. And my guest today is Gina McCauley and Gina has graciously agreed to be part of my meditation theme and she has taken training and is an IRest meditation teacher. We're going to discuss Irest but let's hear a little bit about Gina. She began as a student in the late eighties, and she's been teaching since 2009. She feels there's no one practice, no one style for everyone. She offers different things for different people so that they can take what they need. She has an advanced diploma in Yoga teaching through the Academy of Yoga Learning, a graduate certificate in Yoga therapy through The Australian Institute of Yoga Therapy and is a certified Irest Yoga Nidra teacher. She's on the faculty of the Academy of Yoga Learning and Australia Institute of Yoga therapy. She runs her own teacher training and she is undertaken studies with Indian teachers, A.G. And Indra Mohan and Saraswathi Vasudevan. I hope I said that right. She's a senior registered teacher with Yoga Australia and has served on the Yoga Australia Victorian Committee. She is continually studying and practicing yoga and is currently inspired by Lee Blashki, Paul Wood and Richard Miller. Welcome. Gina. I'm so glad that you agreed to come on and talk about this and is there anything you would like to add to that?

02:32                                     Oh, well thanks Stephanie. Thanks for inviting me. When you string it all together like that, it sounds bigger than how it actually is. No I have nothing to add to that.

02:44                                     All right. It is still an impressive list.

02:50                                     Well, it makes me feel a little bit more important than what I actually am. Everybody doing their own thing to the best of their abilities. As I go through that, I do bits of training here and there that support where I'm at. So when you string it together it does sound impressive.

03:13                                     Good. I'm glad. We're going to talk about IRest and I think it will be good. I'm sure almost everyone has probably heard of it, but it probably be good to have just a little background about it and maybe what makes it a bit different from other types of meditation.

03:32                                     Yeah. Irest is Yoga Nidra, basically. It was developed by Dr. Richard Miller and Richard tells how he rocked up to a yoga class to meet people and Yoga Nidra was part of that class. He was trying to fit into a community. And it turns out that, this little class was silent. So he didn't actually get to meet any other people, but he got to meet himself with his little story that he tells through Yoga Nidra. And he knew that Yoga Nidra was the method.

                                                He just really had a deep connection to it in that first instance. And so over the years, he started practicing it and eventually started teaching it. And really that was really his thing and through, students and through other people, he was teaching Yoga Nidra to ex-serviceman. And they were going back to their peers and saying how much they were getting benefit from this practice of Yoga Nidra. And eventually the military approached him and said we have been hearing about this thing you're doing and the results you're getting. And we'd really love to, see how it works and do some studies and see if it would support other veterans. And so he started this research program in the military, but they said to him, you can't call it Yoga Nidra, you can't call it yoga because we're the military.

05:08                                     Right.

05:12                                     He spent some time with what can I call this thing, what is it? And when he came up with was essentially what they doing is, well, what he was doing was integrative restoration. So really, and that's what Yoga Nidra is - it's restoring and reintegrating ourselves to our fullness, our wholeness. He just started to call it IRest and the military loved it. They loved it, they thought it was great. They did this study and that was quite successful. And they said, oh, love this. We want to make this part of an option for returned servicemen when they come back to help support them with pain and PTSD etc. And they said, you can call it anything you like. We love it so much you can call it whenever you like that. Then Richard said, Irest Yoga Nidra is what we call it, or IRest Yoga Nidra meditation, but essentially Yoga Nidra is meditation and I love it too.

                                                It's I what I love about it is it is a beautifully gentle form of meditation. So it's not forcing the body into some position that isn't quite right. And you know, not everybody as you would know, with the people that you've been speaking to. Sometimes certain things aren't available for people. Sitting still with your legs crossed on the cushion is not available to a lot of people. So are we saying that you can't do meditation if you can't sit like that. One of the things I love about Yoga Nidra is that you can do it anywhere, anytime, any position, any way you like sitting, standing, lying, walking. And it is so beautiful and restorative. And I think personally meditation should be about that. Restoring, reintegrating, that kind of thing. The kind of practice of coming back to your wholeness. One of the things that Yoga Nidra does that helps in that journey is as people might know, it is within this framework of the Pancha Maya Koshas, the five layers or shields that veil our true nature essentially.

                                                So Yoga Nidra takes us through these five layers, which are the physical body, the energy body or the breath layer, the mind that processes that kind of information from our senses, where feelings and emotions kind of sit. The deeper wisdom mind that is that place where we have the wisdom and the Aha moments. It's also the part of the mind where we hold our habitual patterning and the joy or bliss layer that covers all of those five layers that cover out true nature. The process of Yoga Nidra, any Yoga Nidra takes us through these five layers to help us reconnect back into our wholeness.

                                                To be able to have this study though, Richard had to be very clear about a protocol. These sort of studies must have a protocol to prove your point, I guess. And so he developed some very clear processes, a 10 step process that includes the journey through the koshas to come to your wholeness. It's through this model that the IRest protocol has been developed. It's very specifically taught and trained. so shall I keep going on about that?

09:12                                     That's great. I didn't realize all this. It's the first time I've noticed IRest has Yoga Nidra after it? All right, go ahead. No, I would continue. I think it's very interesting.

09:32                                     That's a great point about not realizing that Yoga Nidra is IRest. One of the things with Yoga Nidra is it has those elements of it. And if you think about a traditional Yoga Nidra we, we do our sankalpa which is clarifying our intentions, our sankalpa, our mission or dharma if you like. It has, generally an instruction from the teacher that asks us to maybe set an intention to remain aware and awake. It's talks us through a body scan. Usually every yoga nidra has this lovely body scan associated with it. And then some kind of breathing practice like a breath counting practice and then feelings, it goes through feelings generally or something like heavy, light, hot or cold.

                                                And then in a traditional yoga nidra, you might go into something like a visualization, which is when we're working on those secret layers of the mind. But one of the things with visualization, it can be problematic with certain types of trauma A little bit of visualization; they might be walking through a forest or in a garden or in the ocean or about water. All these different kinds of associations can actually be a little bit triggering for some people. The IRest protocol has a very specific process through that area where we don't, so much do the visualisations. There are definitely some that we can but generally we're looking at the functioning of the mind in terms of emotions and thoughts and long held beliefs and we work with opposites as you do when doing Yoga Nidra. And then we come out through the process, same as you would in a normal Yoga Nidra through the intention and I guess your sankalpa and re-integration.

                                                But to make it have a specific way to train and, and to have it have a specific protocol, we kind of take out that potential trauma issue that could be triggering to some people and we add this more specific work with our emotions and with our thoughts. So really looking at our deep held thoughts and beliefs about ourselves and about the world. Seeing if there can be an alternative or an opposite to that that can help us to break free of some of that patterned conditioning. It's often part of issues when dealing with our emotions and things. Our conditioning can really get in the way of that. So it's a lovely way to help break free of that. And as I said, it's very gentle when we go through the whole relaxation process, the body scan, we're interested in people sensing what's going on in the body, re-integrating a felt sense of themselves that somatic sense of themselves, which we often come away from. We kind of tend to not listen to our messages from our body.

13:16                                     True. Especially if trauma is involved. Obviously since the military liked it, there must have been a positive result from the protocol that he put together. Can you talk a little bit about what that was like?

13:33                                     They loved it. I'm just gonna tell you a little bit here. This is from the IRS website. I'm actually just going to read straight from it. "Based on the current studies, these IRest in the military, the defense center of excellence has approved IRest as a complementary and alternative medicine warranting continuing usage for its use in the treatment of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). In addition the US Army surgeon general has listed Yoga Nidra (based on the research with IRest) as a tier one approach for addressing pain management in military care. IRest has been shown to be effective in scientific trials for conditions including chronic pain, sleep problems, depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress." So there's a lot.

                                                And then from the IRest website there's links to a whole heap of studies being done on that. Things like IRest meditation for older adults with Depression, Effectiveness of integrative restoration or IRest Yoga Nidra for mindfulness, sleep, pain in health care workers, Effects of Integrative Restoration IRest on perceived stress in in workers, Comparative effectiveness of three occupational therapy sleep interventions: A randomized controlled study. There are all kinds of different research, but the people who are really quite interested in that kind of thing and really getting to the in to the depths of it. There is lots of research now on IRest specifically because of the protocol would help people to so you could a handle on them. It’s a huge benefit.

15:08                                     Great. Okay. Yeah, go ahead.

15:12                                     The training, is quite extensive to be an IRest teacher. So you had to have had the practices obviously meditation to start with. We have level one and level two training and a certification process. The level one and level two, are very extensive, intensive week long training, a huge manual. I remember when I said I was heading off to do level one IRest training. My students are like a week of IRest. And I kind of felt the same myself for a while. Then I got there I was like, oh my gosh, this is a really full on. It's very extensive and it was great. But it was it was a full on training program. Which I wasn't quite expecting so I didn't get to spend a whole week of IRest.

16:09                                     No, doesn't sound quite relaxing. Did you go to the States for it or was it here in Australia?

16:19                                     No, I was so lucky that I got to do my level two and level one IRest training with Richard as he, I think he's only offered the training himself once and I was just fortunate enough to be able to be on both of those courses. but he doesn't do the training in Australia anymore. We have quite a few people in Australia now who can do the training. We do have training in Australia, in most of the capital cities. Fuyuko Toyota is a senior IRest trainer in Australia. She's in Brisbane; no, she's on the Gold Coast. To be honest with you. I'm not 100% sure, but I think she's on the Gold Coast. She offers trainings, Leigh Blashki also offers trainings at Irest Level one and two as well. The certification process is done through a supervisor and a mentor. It is a two year program with extensive study and in-depth training and study. My mentor was Fuyuko here in Australia, but, when you sign up for certification, you could get a mentor from anywhere around the world.

17:41                                     I used to teach seniors and I would always do a yoga nidra at the end. And I found what you said about the visualizations. I stopped saying what you had to do. I picked an emotion and say find some place where you feel happiness or where you feel calmness or where you feel joy or something. And then they would pick the environment. Some people say, oh no, I don't want to go to the beach, or I hate that, or I don't want to be on a mountain top, or you know, I don't want to do any of that. I thought yes, we better back off on that one.

18:13                                     No, exactly. You're exactly right. And one of the parts, the early parts of the protocol is this thing called your inner resource. And for me personally that has been the most powerful part of this practice. And basically it's exactly what you've just said. Its giving people, our participants, our students the opportunity to develop their skills, their own kind of special place, their own favourite place that they like to go to, to feel safe and secure. We encourage them to use their own memory, their own kind of imagination. So yeah, if they don't like mountain tops and prefer babbling brooks, then they can go for that.

                                                We encourage them through a process of  kind of questioning and interviewing to come up with something that really, really touches them internally. And the essence of that resource is not so much the memory. So we might think of something that made us feel really beautifully safe, peaceful and have a sense of well-being. But what we're actually interested in is when we bring that memory to our mind, how does that make us feel? And that is essentially what an inner resource is. So to my mind with that, you can be feeding into your inner resource just about anything that you come across that gives you that little sense of aw, that's beautiful. All that makes me feel so nice or isn’t that lovely or I feel really safe in this place or I feel really peaceful here so we can see an inner resource.

                                                Sometimes for me, the simplest thing to really help me trigger that inner resource and really bring it forward is quiet, simple things and not the great big grand things that I might've achieved. It's when I take that first sip of tea in the morning and you get Ahh, or coffee or whatever that might be. You get that sense of Ah, thank God, I've got my cuppa here. Or you get home and the dog's so excited to see you. It turns itself inside out because they are so excited or you know, that cuddle you might get from a newborn or your partner or a child. It's like, ah, this is so lovely feeling of, okay, I'm home or I'm here or this is just right, nothing else.

                                                Then we kind of realized that that really is our oh, deepest kind of truth and that is where we invite people to kind of wrangle those things in and feed them into your inner resource. And the reason we do this is so that in the practice, oh, in any time in your life when you're feeling a little bit uncomfortable, or more than a little bit uncomfortable, you've got this little tool within you that's always within you, that's always available that you can just tap into and know that there is a part of you that is unchanged, that is safe, that has this sense of well-being and peace and calm. Even though you're out in circumstances, like in the middle of a hurricane. We can have these kind of sense of deep peace within us, but it's well like everything and anything it takes practice to cultivate it. So as we cultivate that in the practice of IRest, we then have access to it more readily out in the world when we really need it.

21:51                                     Great point that, first of all, it takes practice and I agree with that. Secondly, that, if you do practice and have that available to you, that's very helpful when you really run into a lot of stress. Or whatever anxiety or just a bad day, you know, some days aren't great.  So did you teach Yoga Nidra before you got into IRest?

22:23                                     I did, yeah. And I taught that traditional, when I say traditional, probably what I taught was the Satchidanda Yoga Nidra, which I think is what most, most people are familiar with in Yoga Nidra, certainly where I coming from and all of my teachers and training is  Satchidanda Yoga Nidra, which is beautiful. And so yes, I taught that and I was always uncomfortable as a student in some of the visualizations and some of the associations as a teacher when I was teaching it.

                                                Knowing that there might've been people in the room, I remember once I had this lady who I knew had had an experience of almost drowning. I felt when we were doing the Yoga Nidra, I got to the visualization part and I didn't really realize until we were right in the middle of it, that there was this element of being in the water and then going under the water and you know, being completely safe and ok in the water. But it just really struck me that that would not be comfortable for me if I was in her position to have this kind of water visualization. And it just dawned on me in that moment that yeah, this isn't a one size fits all thing. What right do I have to be kind of imposing these things on people that may or may not be useful for them. And I think there's a fine line between it being a challenge and being useful to being a challenge and not being useful. So I don't think we can really judge that. So I came across IRest and that I discovered that through Leigh Blashki. I was just, Oh, this is so great because actually it gives people in the practice the option to choose their own so they can choose their own kind of emotion or they can choose their own feelings. But you might give them the option of choosing heavy and light or hot and cold or comfort, discomfort and that was really powerful for me. And I really have not taught that visualization in Yoga Nidra since I've learned IRest. And the people I teach it to when I started teaching it, lots of comments about how they enjoyed that. They didn't have kind of feel into that visualization that wasn't suited to them. But that they could kind of set their own framework for it really. That's powerful to people.

25:09                                     It is. Would you say that's the major difference between what we considered to be a traditional yoga Nidra and I'll leave traditional up to each individual and IRest or do you think there's other significant differences?

25:24                                     I think that is the main difference. There are other significant differences. So in that initial stage, Richard's broken the sankalpa if you like down into three parts. So whereas in the other kind of Yoga Nidra, we, the teacher might dictate what the intention is. So you might say and repeat to yourself, I'm practicing Yoga Nidra and I will remain aware and awake. That's kind of a common one that I would hear a lot and I would use a lot myself and then I would invite them to their own sankalpa.

                                                But Richard has broken that down into three. So he gives the student the option to set their own intention. So their intention might be, it might be to remain aware and awake, absolutely. But it might be: one of the things I often say is if you're here and you are exhausted and this is the only hour you have to yourself for the whole week and you need to rest, set your intention to rest deeply, there's nothing wrong with that. Having that big rest. It that might be to rest deeply, it might be to rest deeply while remaining aware and awake. It might be to explore a particular part of the practice. Maybe using the safe boundaries of the practice to experience a particular emotion that keeps arising might be a great intention. They might move into their own very specific sankalpa or we would probably call that, in the practice, it might be called your heartfelt longing or your heartfelt desire. But it's really that big picture intention of how you see yourself out in the world. What is the world asking of you? Is that kind of much bigger intention? Yeah, that's your sankalpa or your Dharma, your life purpose.

                                                It fits into that second part of that heartfelt mission, the heartfelt desire. And the third part is the inner resource. So we start there. We have that kind of initial relaxation phase that then we go through this sankalpa , the intention, the heartfelt desire and the inner resource, with a firm foundation of safety within the boundaries of the practice. Which really give people that sense of security. And I've really found that in myself that when I've got that foundation, that clear intention and clear inner resource the rest of the practice is quiet. I'll say easy. That's not really the right word. You feel quite safe working through the rest of the practice. The other thing is that the practice is pretty much always the same steps. So as a student you can feel safe knowing that after the inner resource we're going to do body sensing, and then we're doing breath sensing, and then we are doing feelings and emotions. Then we're doing beliefs. Then we're doing joy and the whole time through the practice, what's woven in is understanding or beginning to recognize that there is a part of you, the witnessing part of you, that can recognize all of the things that we're experiencing, the sensations, the breathing, the emotion, the joy that they're all changing, coming and going.

                                                And we begin to tap into our deeper awareness, which if you think of the Pancha Maya Kosha model is what those five veils, five shades are covering our true nature, that optimal awareness. Whatever you want to call that, whatever your tradition might call that central entity that the five koshas are covering. So that's the journey as we take that through this journey to this deep sense of awareness. We come out in a very clear way as well. We kind of do a little integration practice and back through the intention, the heartfelt desire, the inner resource to help them. To really anchor it and give clear bookends; the real clarity of the practice is in those 10 steps. Whereas, I had never really been trained in another form of yoga nidra that was so clear. Like there was lots of freedom I felt in the other forms of yoga nidra. And when I look back at that now, probably not much safety for students, not in the way I was teaching it at any rate because it was always different, that could change and I didn't really feel like I had that container. Whereas in IRest, I really feel that there's a clear container for holding me as I go through this process. And it's a real trust you know that as well.

30:26                                     Yeah. Because they could feel very vulnerable. I mean I always had my students close their eyes and, and just kind of relax and listen. Some, some laid down, some sat; it was up to them. I hadn't thought about it in quite that way before, but I think you have a good point. We're almost at the end of the podcast, Gina. Is there anything that you would like to go into with more depth or something we haven't talked about it all that you would like the listeners to know?

30:59                                     I think the only thing that I would add is: if this is interesting to anybody, teachers or students alike have a look on the IRS website. Because anybody who's done the IRest training is on the IRest website. So you can find a teacher in your local area. And if you are a yoga teacher, or even a psychologist, lots of psychologists do these IRest trainings as well, I recommend seeking another teacher who is teaching the student course. It's a six week course that students can do just to begin to learn about IRest for themselves. And then if that interests them, then source some level one training. If they want to come get on that path, that's the pathway. Anybody who's interested, I strongly recommend you have a fully trained IRest teacher. It can be level one, two or three. But yeah, just make sure you have an IRest trained teacher to take you through the process. It's beautiful. You'd be, you wouldn't regret it.

32:05                                     Okay. Do you teach it as part of a class or is it a separate meeting shall we say? I mean you come to teach just IRest.

32:17                                     Both. I do both. I have one class a week where it's a gentle IRest yoga nidra class.. And we would do gentle yoga and we do IRest yoga nidra and we do that every week. I also run the six week course periodically at my studio. So they are 90 minute sessions where we go into more detail about the stages of IRest and then we do an IRest practice focusing on each of the stages over those six weeks. The other thing that I do which I think really works well and I really love is I also teach a lot of yoga retreats. I love Yoga retreats. And on my yoga retreat retreats. I teach the six week course in the week retreat. So each day we're focusing on a different part of the IRest protocol and we're doing a different IRest practice each day on retreat. And I get lots of great feedback about that as well. That immersive kind of way of learning. I've been back two weeks from Fiji and I had quite a few people on that retreat. I think there was probably eight or nine people who had never done IRest or Yoga Nidra even before. Had such great feedback from them on this process of getting to know themselves. I guess essentially is what yoga nidra is about, coming back to your wholeness. That's great. That's great.

33:44                                     Gina this has been really fascinating. I have not really had much experience with IRest Yoga Nidra, but I love Yoga Nidra in general. So I think I'll do a little more research on that, see if I can find myself at one of your retreats. I like that idea of just doing it for a week I really do. Thank you so much for coming on and talking to us, the listeners. You did a really great job and I think you've explained it very well. I think I have a good grasp of what the differences might be.

34:17                                     Great. Thanks so much, Stephanie. It's been great. Thanks for inviting me and I love talking about IRest and waffle on.

34:27                                     Hey, good. All right. Thank you.


Sep 17, 2019

Main Points:

  • Meditation is for everyone; but it may need to be modified for Western meditators.
  • Making meditation accessible can be done by looking at the physical positions associated with meditating, offering different types of meditation, tailoring meditation to your audience.
  • Meditating can lower stress based on recent research.


00:47                                     This is the hundred and 17th episode of changing the face of yoga. And my guest today is Gin Carter. Gin is part of my meditation theme and she's also has a podcast about meditation. And it's called Meditation Monday's with Gin. And we're going just talk about her take on meditation, how she teaches it.

                                                She is used to be a conservation scientist. And she's changed to teaching yoga because she realized that all the science in the world won't save the planet unless people are willing to make the choices to implement that science. And she feels that by teaching yoga, she decreases people's stress, which allows them to make better choices for themselves and for the world. She teaches very alignment based asana, but also lots of practical yoga philosophy and meditation. And she has an incredible diversity of clients: young athletes to 911 dispatchers to 90 year olds doing chair yoga, which I think would be interesting to talk about how meditation fits in with each of those different groups.

02:11                                     Welcome. Gin. Is there anything else that you would like to talk about?

02:17                                     No, that was a great introduction. I will say I have not updated my podcast in a while, but there's a lot there already. I think about updating it sometime, but I've got a lot going on these days and I haven't done it, so I'm glad that you guys listened to it though.

02:34                                     I thought it was very interesting, one of the things I would like to talk about is you really do have a very diverse group of students. Young people, very stressed people, 911 dispatchers I would assume would be very stressed and 90 year olds. Do you have any way that you approach this? So that might be different for each group or do you think that meditation...

03:02                                     Oh, definitely. So I teach almost exclusively privately. So even when I'm with a group, it's a private group. They're not usually public classes. So I've been brought in specifically to work with that group or that individual. And so every time I teach its customized to whatever's going on with that individual or that group. So it's very different from class to class. Certainly the 15 to 25 year old athletes are doing very different things than the 90 year olds in the chair.

03:40                                     Is the meditation also different or is that a bit more universal?

03:45                                     So the meditation varies between groups between days and and between whatever we're focused on that day. Sometimes they're the same meditations, but depending on who is the audience, I often explain them slightly differently to make it a little more relatable to their life and what's ever going on with them at that time, if that makes sense.

04:09                                     No, that does. I listened to your first meditation podcasts and I thought you had very interesting way of going about it because you gave them some tips for meditation success. And I was wondering if you could kind of talk a little bit about that.

04:29                                     Sure. I think a lot of times we think that meditation has to be a certain way and I'm a big proponent that it doesn't, and so setting yourself up so that you're comfortable. Like you don't have to sit cross legged on the floor. Like it's not a requirement, I promise.. I think the most important thing as far as your position is that you're able to keep your spine long and you're able to breathe. So , if that means sitting in a chair with your feet planted on the ground, I usually, if people are sitting in chair encouraging not to rest against the back of the chair, but told yourself up and sit on the front. If you're sitting on the ground and it doesn't feel that great, you can elevate your hips so that your hips are in line with or higher than your knees. And that usually will take some of this stress out of your hips and your back and help you to sit up tall.

                                                 Sometimes I have clients that both of those things just don't feel good and they're not accessible. And I love having people meditate in Savasana, laying down, because if it's straining you be in the position, you're definitely not going to get where you want to go in meditation. And so it's beautiful to sit in Lotus. I don't ever teach Lotus. I just don't. It's beautiful, but like you can get so many benefits of meditation without trying to get into some crazy pretzel pose. When you're in that pose and you're hurting, you're not going to be focused on the meditation. You're going to be focused on the pain in your body. I think there's some schools of meditation where that's kind of a part of it. Like you're meant to work through it and whatever.

                                                But I think for regular people, they can use meditation so much and making it easy for people to do is really important. I also think there's a lot of ideas about what it's supposed to be like if you can just sit in your mind quiet and it's going to be magic and that doesn't happen. And so meditation can work so many different ways , I think that's one of the things that people can realize is set themselves up for success. So there are so many different ways to go about it and you try something, it doesn't work for you. There's always different things to try.

07:17                                     so if I were really uncomfortable, If I were really uncomfortable sitting in Lotus, which I don't do lotus anymore, what would you suggest? Because I agree with you, if you're in pain, that's what you're thinking about. You're not thinking about the meditation or whatever it is that you want to think about.

07:36                                     I would tell you don't do Lotus.

07:39                                     Just stop that.

07:41                                     Yeah. I'm a firm believer, actually I, we could go on a lotus rant like I feel like in the Western world, we don't sit on the floor and we don't sit cross legged that much in our life up until the point where we think, oh, it might be good to do this meditation thing. Maybe I should try to sit like that or we started yoga and we tried to sit like that and so for a lot of us, our bodies aren't made to go that way. It's hard on our knees and our ankles to be in Lotus. It's also hard on our back to keep your spine long and its hard on our hips. For Western bodies. I'm not a fan. For bodies that started out sitting on the floor, that makes a lot of sense. But for most of us it just doesn't. And so I would advise you to come out of it.

                                                There's a few different ways you can sit on the floor, you can sit obviously in easy pose just cross-legged. You can kind of sit with one leg sort of folded in front of the other, which is I think what I do most of the time. But there's a few different variations. You have to see where that person's at as far as their seat goes, but there's a lot of different options other than trying to pretzel yourself into Lotus.

08:55                                     Okay. no, I think that's smart. I think you're right. We haven't really grown up sitting on the floor or squatting either one. That one I can't do very well either. You said there was lots of different kinds of meditations and there are. How do you match the meditation with the person or the group that you're going to be trying to teach this too?

09:28                                     I think it just depends on that group's needs. There's a bit of reading the room and reading the person or the people. I also sometimes I like to just cycle through different meditations to let my students experience them. And then I have some students that will really hone in and say when we did, heart-centered meditation or that breath-centered meditation, it really worked for me. And then we know that we'll do more of those kind of things for that person.

                                                But with my students, I do like to try a variety and kind of show them how there are all these different things that you can do so that they're aware. Then once they feel like they want to really start getting into it themselves and then you can kind of hone in on something. I think it benefits a lot of people to do different ones at different times. I change my meditation practice constantly. Sometimes I'll get going with one and focus on it for a few weeks or a few months. But I like to change it up because I think there are all these different techniques and each technique can kind of be a window into where you're trying to go. As human beings we can get complacent and we can get bored in a way. And so having a bunch of techniques in your tool belt to change that when you need to, I think it can be a really great thing.

11:02                                     Great, great idea. I think that's another rule, shall we say, of meditation that you do the same thing every day.

11:12                                     Right.

11:13                                     I hadn't thought about that and it's probably not true either. So what are the kinds of techniques that you try to cycle your your students through?

11:26                                     There's so many different ones now.

11:28                                     Okay. Pick your favorites.

11:29                                     There's kind of groupings. So there's breath focus meditations and those, I feel pair well with other meditations. So a lot of times we'll start with focusing on our breath in a certain way and then maybe we just stay with that. But maybe we also move to a mindfulness meditation where you can even pair that with breath in a way where you're being mindful of your breath or mindful of something.

                                                I love guided meditation as in visualizations. So really getting deep into a scene or something you're trying to imagine. I teach sometimes meditations that are very body focused, so giving different focus to different parts in the body depending on what meditation it is and that's kind of a mindfulness meditation tool. And they all kind of overlap in different ways.

                                                But there's so many different ones. I love it. I love learning different ones. One of my favorite texts is called The Vyana Buyerva and I think it has 112 or so. They're not all different meditations, Most of them are meditations, some of them are also just what we call pointing out instructions. with the idea that the state you're trying to get to in meditation is a state that you've been in many times in your life. We call that being in the flow. And so my favorite example of that is like a concert musician who doesn't even have to read his music and he's just playing right? And you can tell nothing else in the world is going on. He's just there completely present.

                                                There's some instructions that are about moments like that you can find in your life. So there's even sometimes instructions for students to think about those things. There's also open eyed meditations that are kind of mindfulness meditations, taking a walk and focusing only on the wall. And when your mind starts to wander, bringing it back to your feet, hitting the ground, the tree that you're seeing, the plant that you're seeing whatever it is as you're walking. So, yeah, there's so many different things we can do.

13:51                                     Okay. Interesting. What was the name of that book that has the mostly meditation's in it. So I can spell it right.

14:02                                     It's called the Vijnana Bhairava., so let's spell it. Let's see. I have to write it down to spell it right. Okay. So it'd be V I, J A. N. A. Yana.B H A I R. A. V. A. Yeah, it's an interesting older text. It's lots of little verses on meditation and pointing out instructions. And my meditation teacher, her name is Sallie Kempton, she has a downloadable, or you can buy a CD called Doorways to the Infinite, and she actually walks you through that whole entire text. It's really lovely.

14:54                                     Doorways to the Infinite, I'm writing this down. Okay. So if somebody was out there and they said, well, I don't know how to meditate and I'm not sure I want to do that, what would you tell them that might be a benefit for them.

15:15                                     I would encourage them and tell them that it really doesn't have to fit what do you think in your mind It is, like what it is that you're resisting. Because I imagine usually they're thinking I'm just supposed to sit still and my mind is supposed to be quiet. I can't do that and I don't want to do that. I would tell them that it can become this beautiful thing that you look forward to. And in fact it can be a very actively-minded thing.

                                                 I believe rather than getting your mind to be quiet, you really trying to get your mind to focus. So to focus on one particular thing so that it becomes nice and easy and isn't fluctuating about. And so I think sometimes by explaining that to people so that they understand that it's not just trying to sit and be quiet but rather really to help them tame their monkey mind. Because I think we all have that wild mind that wants to flux about.

                                                There's a lot of science now behind the benefits of meditation. So I often bring that up. There was a recent study, actually from Harvard now I want to say like in March that actually showed that the genes involved in stress are downregulated and the genes involved in the relaxation response, which is the opposite of stress, are upregulated which I think is incredible to show.

                                                Well, when we meditate, there have also been other studies that actually show that our brain gets rewired. There's science behind it. It's not just this hand-waving, yoga teacher thing to do. Like it really makes a big difference. When I go and speak with the 911 dispatchers and first responders and folks like that, we really try to emphasize, the science behind why we're there to teach them what we teach them. And we really give them very practical ways of meditation.

                                                 I also encourage people and tell them, no, it doesn't have to be that long. You don't have to sit for four hours even; five minutes or seven minutes or three minutes or 12 minutes has tremendous benefits. I think that takes away the intimidation factor. Oh, I just have to do this for a couple of minutes so it doesn't have to be this whole day long thing.

17:45                                     Well I noticed that you said you were on a mission to make meditation accessible and I you're starting to talk a bit about that, but is there anything else that you would add that you're doing to make it accessible?

18:02                                     I mentioned it a little bit, but I feel like making it practical and making it not so hand wavy and soft and out there. I think is really important to let people see oh, this is a thing that I can use. Like right now in my life in five minutes, even when I'm at work or my kid is being crazier, my partner is stressing me out: just a couple minutes next with my breath. It can be such a useful thing. It doesn't have to be this thing where you think you have to go and sit on a mountain for hours alone? Right. It's something you can really use. And so I think expressing that, to be willing to making it practical is very important.

18:53                                     I recently had a guest on and she was my first student. I was so excited. She said that when she went to her very first yoga class, she was in a very high stress position at work and she had a lot of medical issues because of it. And it was just too much, too quiet. And you say you work a lot with people that have stress, so how do you get them from that really high stress position to meditation?

19:25                                     I believe that meditating with a teacher, at least at first, is super important. So having that guide so that it's not just you sitting and being quiet and I don't know what was going on in her first yoga class. But what I specifically know, maybe the teacher was guiding and it was still a struggle for her, but maybe the teacher had given them quiet. The quiet is important, but I like to get people there slowly.

                                                You listened to my podcast. I talked for quite a bit at the beginning of the meditation usually. I think that's one of the really important things is to start with a teacher. And I mean, I'm a big advocate, keep going with the teacher. I've been with my meditation teacher for almost 10 years and there's something powerful in having a teacher that can guide you especially when you're in those places where you are just beginning or you're in really high stress. Because there is a bit of a transference- an energy transfer?

                                                I also do Hawaiian bodywork called Lomi Lomi and we talk about energy work. And I think a lot of times people, like I don't really know what that's about, but I tell people anytime you enter a room, you're doing an energy exchange, right? Whether you realize it or not. And if you've in a room where people are really calm and like a crazy person, not a crazy person, but a person who's really high energy comes in and there's this energy exchange. Something else is happening now. And so the same goes in reverse. So if you can be in the presence of a teacher who's guiding you and grounding themselves and really settling in, that can really help you get going with your practice in that moment and, and going forward.

21:25                                     Okay, I agree with you and making it accessible. But it is maybe for western consumers a very different way to think about it and, just to use your brain that way. I think it can be very difficult sometimes for people to really feel it is good for them. How are you breaking down those stereotypes?

21:56                                     Well that's interesting. So I believe that people are not going to do something until they're ready for it or until they need it. I wouldn't just walk up to people on the street and say you should meditate. There has to be a moment where there's a connection; where there's either a need and the person is obviously reaching out for help or they've already seen oh, this is kind of something I want to try or something I know I need.

                                                I don't tend to talk directly about meditation when I first meet people randomly through whatever reason. But I will see where they're at and see if it fits inappropriately because I teach yoga and I do the body work that I do. Sometimes people come in through those two avenues first. Then I hone in on actually, maybe we should try this meditation thing. With Yoga students, I think there's a magic in pairing up the movement of your body with introducing new ideas. I think we're more receptive when we're doing kinesthetic things. I think there's science behind that, but it's also just something I've seen in my life. It's the way the practice works anyway. I'm moving around doing yoga and then at the end you're like, we're going to close our eyes and breathe and they're like, okay. Because I just did all the other stuff too. Right. Maybe there's a bit of tricking someone.

23:39                                     Guiding, guiding that's the word. Yes. So this has been really interesting. Do you have online classes too? Did I read that on your website?

23:52                                     So I teach a few different ways. I teach in person and then I also teach online. So I teach in person online over Zoom, Skype, Facetime or Facebook messenger too. However you want to access, you can access me. And so I have a few clients that do online yoga and meditation with me.

                                                 I occasionally have an online course going. So right now I have an online course that is sort of an introduction to stress management and meditation with my business partner, Dr. Jessica Norris. She and I do our 911 dispatching, first responders stuff together. Our course online right now is just for anyone and it's kind of an introduction to meditation and stress management. And then I periodically run other online courses too. Sometimes I teach a very goddess focused course about the way energy works in our lives and a few different other things. I'm online a lot. Also in person.

24:56                                     We're coming to the end of the podcast, but what I would like you to do is if there's anything that you felt we didn't cover in enough depths or something that we didn't cover at all that you would like the listeners to know, please go ahead.

25:15                                     I think maybe I'll just share the reason that I teach all of this meditation, Yoga, and my practice of Hawaiian body work. It's all really to help people feel better and it's driven not just from helping individuals feel better, but from trying to help the planet feel better.

                                                 So as you said at the beginning, I was a conservation biologist for the Smithsonian for about 12 years. And I got out of that and started teaching yoga. As you said, I found all the science in the world isn't going to make a difference unless we do implement those changes. And I believe that when we feel better in ourselves, we're better able to make better choices.

                                                 I always use this example: if your neck hurts and you just want to go home and lay down and you're somewhere and you need to throw a can away, but the recycle bin is 50 yards away and the trash can is by you. I think you're not going to walk the 50 yards to go recycle your cans. Things as simple as that if people can heal within themselves, then I feel like we can heal together and heal the planet.

                                                Meditation, I think is a huge part of that because we know that a lot of our healing deals with pain that isn't specifically physical. And so the more I think we can stress less and manage these kinds of things, the better we will fell and the better the whole planet it would feel.

26:45                                     Well thank you. I want to give people your contact details so that they can perhaps, either talk to you in person or online. Gin's website is Yoga with Gin and that's one word and it's g i n dot com. And her email is Gin, which again is g I She has couple of Facebook's: yoga with Gin; we've got a whole bunch of Yoga with Gins: Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. It's been really great talking to you. I like your attitude towards meditation. I like meditation, but it does seem to scare, I think just the word sometimes scares people.

27:41                                     Yeah, definitely.

27:45                                     So I think your idea of making it accessible for everyone is smart. I want to thank you for coming on the podcast. I think you really contributed some different ideas about it and hopefully will make people feel a little more comfortable trying it out. So thank you again.

28:05                                     Thank you. This was wonderful.




Sep 10, 2019

Main Points:                       1) Modern Western yoga pays less attention to the inward based practices in favour of asana.

                                                2) Mindfulness can lead to meditation or vice versa

                                                3) Mindfulness and meditation are different but complementary.

00:42                                     This is Changing the Face of Yoga and this is episode 116, My guest today is Hannah Perkins and she is part of my meditation theme for the month of September and Hannah has been leading mindfulness groups, courses, retreats since 2013 and teaching Yoga since 2016. She is passionate about helping those on the frontline of our community, particularly health care professionals, school teachers, parents and the populations they served. She is a qualified mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR), mindfulness-based cancer recovery and mindfulness school facilitator and offers in-school programs for teachers as well as primary and adolescent school students. In addition to her weekly trauma aware yoga classes offered through her business. Love This Moment. She also teaches from Mindfulness Works, the Yoga Place, Blacksmith and Twine yoga studio here in Newcastle in Australia. So welcome Hannah. I'm so glad that you came on. Our topic today, that Hannah has agreed to talk on and has a great deal of interest and experience in is mindfulness and meditation.

02:12                                     Are they the same? Are they different? What's going on there? I guess I see them being used kind of interchangeably many times. So we're going to explore that idea. And Hannah, is there anything else you'd like to add to that particularly introduction.

02:30                                     No that was a lovely introduction, Thank you.

02:31                                     Thank you. As you can tell, she's extremely qualified in the mindfulness area., How did you come to that and how did that become something that was important to you?

02:47                                     Well, actually it started in my twenties. I was living in Thailand and I was working for a handful of NGOs over there, including Greenpeace for a  period of time. And I found myself on my weekends when I was usually trying to get some relief from the stress I felt at work. Just ending up at the temples in my local area in Bangkok. And I'd sit there and I also understand and can speak a bit of Thai. So I'd sit there listening to the monks, talking about Buddhism and suffering and the Dharma and all of these things I didn't quite understand at the time. But I just felt into their energy and the energy of the people who were going to temple. And I just found myself doing the things that they were suggesting. So I found myself, circling the temples 27 times and bowing to the Buddha and lighting incense and doing these things to try and relate. What I didn't know back then was what I was experiencing as suffering. But I just thought I was under a lot of work related stress.

                                                But, it was not long after that that a friend of mine was riding a bicycle around the world and he was starting in Newcastle and leaving, to go through the northern territory and then get a boat over to Indonesia and Singapore. And by the time he got to Thailand, he needed a translator. So he invited me to ride the legs of Thailand with him. And I at that time was consulting for these NGOs as a fundraising executive and really just was so burnt out in my life and very, very unhappy, probably borderline depression. And I just decided to go with him. So I bought myself a bicycle and I rocked up in Penang on the train and met him. And I've never done anything like this before. And we rode for 2,500 kilometers from Penang in Malaysia up to the top of Thailand.

                                                And during that time I really got to know the chaos that was going on in my mind. I really got to see how crazy I was. And I don't say that lightly because it was quite an endeavor to get on this bike and ride and spend so much time in my own head. And in order to stay places cheaply, we actually would rock up to the Buddhist temples and ask could we stay in their Sala, which is the temple area. And most of them would allow us to do that for free. And they'd give us food and they'd also give us Dharma talks, which I would then translate to my friend. And I started to just really pick up this language around Buddhism, the relief of suffering and started to think, oh my goodness, this is something that could really help me. And so, yeah, it was during my sort of mid-life, mid-twenties life crisis started to explore, these themes of Buddhism and later led me to all the styles of meditation. But it all started with mindfulness and meditation in that sense.

05:51                                     Obviously since you're now in Newcastle, you've come back to Australia and you're teaching a lot about it. How did we get from Thailand to here?

06:08                                     Well, it's also a long story. Later in my twenties, I was actually living in the UK at the time. I was attending a Buddhist Sangha weekly and practicing meditation every day. I had a very healthy lifestyle. And again, I found myself in the depths of depression and feeling very hopeless and uncertain about my life. I was very unwell, had had chronic fatigue for two years and didn't know what was going on with my body.

                                                And I took off to Plum Village, which is where Thich Nhat Hanh the Zen master used to reside. And I checked myself in for the winter retreat for three months. However, after two days of being there, I fell very ill. I started to bleed from my intestine and I later found out that I had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, so a type of cancer and I had to make the decision what was I really going to do in order to wake up in my life. So I decided to come back to Australia and heal here and I also recognized that I needed to do a lot of healing in my family, towards my place of birth and where I grew up and that sort of thing as well. So I've been back ever since. I've had some trips away for retreats.

                                                But yeah, I've really established myself here and it was not long after I recovered after surgery and chemotherapy and I started to heal that. I started a Buddhist Sangha in that tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh here in Newcastle and that was in 2013 and that went on for about two and a half years. I just held a space that was by donation. People can come and I would just teach them what I was learning about meditation through using it to heal my body and my mind. And whilst I was doing that, someone came along to those sessions and she saw what I was doing and she invited to support me, mentor me to become a meditation teacher. And she very kindly sponsored me to go and do my MBSR teacher training.

                                                MBSR is a global globally recognized, scientifically proven course of secular mindfulness training. So it's an eight week program, which is often offered in clinical settings in hospitals and mental health outpatient units and also in schools. And so I trained in that in 2014 and as these things happen, one thing led to another where just opportunities would arise for me to teach this. And I was learning more through doing my own practice and through applying it to my life. And that's where the movement component came in as well because I was suffering from chronic pain post surgery that I had in 2012. And so I've recognized that I actually needed to apply this in lots of different ways in my life, not just sitting on a cushion.

                                                So I've been trained as a yoga teacher and started to merge these two worlds of mindfulness and movement together, which actually they are married, they already were synonymous with each other. It's just that I think modern yoga has taken a lot of the awareness based inward practice away from the actual physical form of the movement. And my teaching is not just asana-specific, it's very much about the hatha yoga principles of asana leading to Pranayama leading to chanting a mantra and leading to meditation and these different stages of meditation. So we have the Pratyahara of withdrawing the senses and Dharana which is more the mindfulness component of concentration, focusing our attention leading to Dhyana, which is where we can connect with an object of our attention and that might be a higher power or it might be an image or light or a being and then eventually to Samadhi. So yeah, my movement practice and movement I'm teaching is not specifically asana focused. It's very much about how can we be in a state of meditation while moving sitting, walking, daily life, that sort of thing.

10:19                                     Why don't you give your definition of what mindfulness is and then we'll do meditation.

10:30                                     Well this isn't actually my definition, it's comes from Kevin Zinn who started the MBSR program. But I like it cause it's very simple and it breaks it down. So his definition is that mindfulness is paying attention, which most of our waking life, we're not paying attention, our attention is distracted on other things. So we're paying attention in the present moment, which is the only moment we can pay attention to whatever's happening now on purpose. So it actually directing our attention to some things, whether that be the breath or a sound. Maybe something in the visual field or it might be sounds in the outside world.

                                                 It might be what we're feeling, what the emotive field is saying to us inside. And it's also paying attention in this nonjudgmental way so that we're not actually saying that this moment is a good moment or it's a bad moment. We're not wanting things to be better; we're not wanting things to go away. We're just being with the moment as it is. And that's what I would use to define mindfulness as paying attention in the present moment without any judgment on purpose.

11:41                                     And meditation?

11:43                                     Well, meditation, I really, believe has so many different definitions because it's come from a wide variety of wisdom traditions that actually put into practice meditation and it means different things for different people. My, I guess, experiential definition of meditation is the state that we can move into or even towards after we've learned too quiet the chaos of the mind. So I would say that meditation both enhances mindfulness, expands mindfulness and mindfulness, the concentration on some thing, can lead us into a state of meditation, which is actually of no thing eventually.

                                                So meditation is more than expansive awareness where we are just holding in communion, some form of reverence towards something. And that might be in your words, it might be God or it might be spirit or it might be universal power, but meditation for me feels more like a communion with something that's bigger and wider and outside, well also inside, but outside the field of the mind, if that makes any sense. It really is an opportunity to still the mind that is always getting in the way of us connecting with that other thing.

13:23                                     I took, Hannah's class. I wasn't a very good student but I took it and had some incredible insights because of it and I wasn't expecting that at all. I was doing it for a whole different reason. And so I think these insights can come from either system, shall we say, either mindfulness or meditation. But, I like the way that you've put that together cause they really are on a spectrum aren't they? It's a range. You start with the mindfulness of getting the mind, focused and in the present, and then you can then move on to meditation isthe way I thought you said.

14:14                                     Yes You could do it in that way around or you could also say that if you were to practice meditation and there are many routes to meditation. I myself am very interested in the different dharanas from the Daoist and the Tantric traditions, which are actually quite Bhakti and devotional focused often towards a deity or towards energy in a certain form, very visual, that sort of thing. And those kinds of meditations actually I find through practicing, actually practice regularly, can improve mindfulness in everyday life as well.

                                                So I wouldn't say that mindfulness always has to be a precursor to meditation, if what I mean. It can be either way, but I love also a TKV Desakichar's description of Samadhi in his book, the Heart of Yoga where he's talking about that when we succeed in becoming so absorbed in something that our mind becomes completely one with it. We are in a state of Samadhi. He says Samadhi means to bring together, to merge. So sometimes we actually, when we practice yoga and then maybe find ourselves in meditation at the end, we're already in that state of being merged with something and it's very indescribable. It's hard to actually put into words what that is. But I'm sure most people who've been practicing for a while, I've had little glimpses of that experience.

                                                And I would say that then when you get out of that experience and you go on with your daily life, that changes the way that you interact with the moment. So you are often more mindful after an experience like that. And just an example from my own life, I was on a nine day meditation retreat when I was on that bicycle journey and oh and I think it was day seven or something like that. I had one of these experiences where I was completely merged. It's something that was indescribable, couldn't actually name or even really visualize. It just felt like my mind was completely still. So my whole body was very peaceful and calm. And, it was a different experience than I've ever had ever again. And afterwards I got back on my bicycle and for about two or three days, the only thing that was in my mind was the thought of placing my foot on the right pedal and then the left pedal and then the right pedal, and then the left pedal. And then eventually I'd come to a shop where I needed some water and all my full attention was on having the conversation with the shopkeeper. Or walking back to the bike, I became incredibly more mindful, aware of my body of my mind, my thoughts and feelings and emotions due to having had that experience.

17:12                                     What do you think, I don't like this term, but the average person would get from mindfulness. You've studied for many years and you've gone into great detail and you have depths of knowledge. What about someone who's coming to it new or might learn about it in a yoga class? What do you think the benefits for them might be?

17:47                                     Oh numerous. And I think different for everyone as well. But I would say that most people who come to my classes, the thing that they say is the most powerful sense for them is actually to just be remembering in the moment that they are breathing and that the breath is actually keeping them alive. And that in itself is a very powerful thing.

                                                It changes your perspective on life because when you come back to the breath and you realize that this moment in itself is a complete miracle and the fact that I'm breathing there is so much going right with my life really helps to bring things into perspective. But in addition, there are so many health benefits from practicing mindfulness, from slowing down our attention and coming into the present moment. And those include a decreased heart rate and reduced stress, I myself have used it very much to do with the journey I've had with pain and that has been I think a life-saving tool because living five years with a chronic pain condition that I really had no control over in that time, really severely affected my mental health.

19:03                                     But with the practice of mindfulness, I always, I will too see what was happening and feel the sensations and be with it and in not such a reactive way. I mean, there were times where I couldn't do that and I would react to it and I would scream or howl or I would need to get some pain relief. But I think the only way I could've coped with that for five years, and still remained on the whole, happy and well and able to teach. And feel like I had a sense of purpose in life was because I was able to see things clearly from my mindfulness practice and know that this too will pass eventually and it always did.

                                                And just keep on coming back to what was here. So the breath was moving in my body or I could feel these bodily sensations and I could actually learn how to be with them, how to explore them, how to open to them being here rather than constantly trying to push them away or numb them or react to what was happening.

                                                It's helpful in chronic pain. a lot of studies have suggested that it helps with depression in that it's less likely that depression will relapse when you have a regular mindfulness practice. So you may have experienced the initial depression but there is a reduced rate of relapse in clinical depression from practicing mindfulness. And there's numerous health benefits from this: better sleep, reduced anxiety and worry, increased self-acceptance and compassion towards ourselves. I think which is a really, really important piece. I've heard so many times that mindfulness without compassion is actually just pure concentration. Anyone can do that. But as a society on the whole we are very reluctant to use the tools of self-compassion and self-love towards ourselves. And mindfulness with compassion becomes heartfullness and that is a totally different practice from just the straight Dharana practice of being concentrated on an object can sometimes feel a bit cold and harsh.

                                                So the practices of meta meditation, loving kindness, even just using some self-talk interventions, when we notice that the mind is very busy or maybe there's a self-critical voice, noticing that and then just coming back and telling yourself, okay, it's okay. I don't really believe that. That's just my thoughts. Well then might be a bodily sensation. It's not who I am. So these tools can also be really helpful in calming a very busy or chaotic mind, one that often takes us away from who we truly are.

22:00                                     I think you've been amazingly clear in explaining this. I think that it's really valuable to the listeners, but I always like to end the podcast, which has another few minutes to go yet. But, is there anything that you would like to tell the listeners that we either haven't gone into enough depth or something that we haven't addressed it all?

22:32                                     Yeah. I would also like to say that mindfulness is something that can be practiced anywhere and anytime. It doesn't have to be on your meditation cushion or on your Yoga Mat. So in the MBSR program, we have a distinction between the formal practices of mindfulness, which is the dedicated time you take to build your mindfulness muscle, to actually learn the techniques and embed them in your mind so that when you're in your daily life and you're participating in the normal routine activities of your daily life, you can be more mindful.

                                                So for the past seven years practicing and teaching mindfulness, I have tried to be more mindful while brushing my teeth, for example. However, every time I go to the dentist, my dentist says, you're still brushing too hard. I have a habit of trying to rush. Certainly this process of brushing my teeth or just trying to get it done. And probably from childhood where I probably felt stressed or too hurried to do this properly. So it's been a real habit break. It's actually every morning when I brush my teeth, try to slow it down, be there, look at myself in the mirror, feel the bristles on my teeth, feel the warmth of the toothpaste. I mean, I'm really picking something apart, but we can apply mindfulness to any situation. Walking from our bedroom to the bathroom. First thing, it can become a walking meditation or when you're driving the car, you can see your hands on the steering wheel. As you turn, you can notice sounds as they come in to the ears or you can notice how your heart starts racing when you have to jolt and stop because the car in front of you stopped suddenly.

                                                So mindfulness is something that we take on the road with us. And meditation is not so easy because it actually takes you, I wouldn't say out of the present moment, but into states of being that are so relaxed and so maybe even into different brainwave states that you can't really participate in daily life whilst meditating, I would say. but you can be mindful in every moment of daily life. And that is a real art in practice. And again, Thich Nhat Hahn has been the most influential person on that to me.

                                                His whole premise was around being engaged in the world through Buddhism and mindfulness. So yeah, even little sayings that you can say to yourself while doing something. So washing my hands, I feel peaceful and calm, that sort of thing. Or whilst holding a child, looking into their eyes and just appreciating that moment. He's very into applying mindfulness to every situation with daily life. And that's where it can really bring about more joy, more contentment and more ease. Really just dropping into the present moment and realizing that there's so much to see and witness that can bring pure joy when you pay attention to it.

25:35                                     Ff you all would like to contact or might like to go to one of your yoga classes. she's at and her website is: au Now about your mindfulness best based stress classes? May come about. Okay. Occasionally, shall we say.

26:12                                     Yeah. So the general public that is, however we can also offer that in workplaces and we do from time to time get requests from different corporations to come and offer it to the whole staff body or something like that.

                                                But to the general public twice per year, usually in Autumn and in Winter. And I have another colleague in Newcastle who also runs them in Summer and in Spring, Lisa Pollard, her name is, and so between us there should be four courses a year usually.

26:42                                     And would people find out about those?

26:45                                     g

                                                Go to either au or to to find out about the eight week program. Oh, I also ran a four week introduction to mindfulness, which is more like a taste of the practice and shorter practices. Because mindfulness-based stress reduction actually does involve quite a lot of home practice and you would have witnessed that when you did it. Stephanie, you're expected to do between 30 and 45 minutes a day of home practice, which is a lot for some people to manage. So this other course that I run, which is called an introduction to mindfulness, is four weeks, one hour a week, and just 12 minutes a day of home practice to just dip your toe in the water, see how you feel about it and see if you'd like to apply it. And a lot of those people go on to do the MBSR program after that.

27:36                                     Probably your best bet, listeners, is and you can get information about the different kinds of things that Hannah is offering. And I want to thank you. I think you've done a great job of explaining this and it's much clearer in my mind now and I think it will be in the listener's mind and I certainly thank you for agreeing to be on.

28:09                                     Thank you so much for having me. It's been lovely to reconnect with you. And I think every day is an exploration. So my definition is a working definition, but it's based on practice and we can only dive in and see what happens for ourselves. Through this exploration, we might become a little bit more clearer in terms of who we really are at our core.

28:31                                     Yes. And that's always important. Thank you so much.

Sep 3, 2019

Major Points:

  1. Meditation is for everyone; but the introduction of meditation should be tailored to the audience.
  2. One of the major benefits of meditation is postponing an immediate response to a stimulus.
  3. Jay started meditating as a child and has continued meditating to the present (with certain breaks).

Stephanie: This is Changing the Face of Yoga and this is meditation month. I am going to be talking to people who have different takes on meditation. And I have a very interesting guest today. His name is Jay Cole. Jay has written a book called Calm the Fuck Down meditation for Blue Collars. I have to admit that's a little bit different than we usually think about it. Jay and I are going to talk about his experience with meditation and why he wrote this. Jay's a RYT 200 level yoga teacher. He started with Yoga with Adriene and then went to some classes. He's since decided that he really enjoys yoga and became a teacher. He's also been meditating for 20 years and we're going to ask him why he chose to make this book and why he chose to target blue collars. So welcome Jay. Glad to have you on the podcast. I think you're going to add some stuff that most people wouldn't and I'm looking forward to it. So do you have anything else to add to your introduction?

Jay Cole: Well, first of all, thank you Stephanie for having me here. This is a great honor to be on your podcast and a part of anything in the Yoga community. Definitely a fan of this kind of stuff. The intro was great. You've done your research. I don't know.

Geez, So, yeah, yoga is like one of like the newest things, I guess to come into my life. So before that, if it helps anybody, I started out as an artist and doing graphic design and I still do that on the side. And I probably did graphic design for like 20 years, the last before getting into yoga even. But then alongside of that I was a musician in a hip hop band. I think I've had three different like rap crews. Yeah. And then I've had my own solo music that I make too. And I dunno, I just, you know, I lived such a hard life and then it was just so interesting to like kind of go from the sex, drugs, rock and roll kind of lifestyle, like live fast and free and hard and, and then, flip flopping completely into a more of a soft kind of existence, you know, in the whole world of yoga.

Anyways, the reason I got into that was, oh, I think it was like 2007 I had been talking to my grandfather when he was still alive and I was trying to find out what the illnesses were in my family so I can be proactive about that stuff and kind of get a handle on it early, in my youth, my twenties. So he was saying how the worst thing in our family is arthritis. And so I definitely did not want to get into arthritis cause my dad has it pretty bad. And his arthritis went all the way to rheumatoid, so it's pretty bad for him. It's nasty stuff. So rheumatoid, for anybody who thinks that rheumatoid arthritis is arthritis. It's not, it's literally your immune system. It's like eating itself from the inside out so it your immune system goes, oh, what are these bones doing here, let's get these out of here and it will start to eat away at your bone. They are so brittle, they will break, shatter, release. My Dad's had so many operations. He shattered his ankle and he had like 52 pins put in his leg all the way up to shinbone. It's been reconstructed; he's part robot. Now I call him the cyborg father.

Yeah. So yeah, I was like, how am I, what am I going to do about this arthritis thing? And any research that was available online back in 2007 was yoga. That's what everybody said. You know what? It won't make it better, but it'll stop it from getting any worse. And I said, okay, sign me up. But you know what, I don't feel the pain, so not right now.

It was probably 10 or so years later, 2015 when I was living in Los Angeles, which was great because the humid, the climate and everything was great. But then something miraculous happened. It actually rained in LA. Well it hadn't rained in probably six months. When that rain hit, the contrast, just the humidity in the air, it just hit my bones like a bag of bricks. I couldn't get up out of bed. I was just in so much pain and I knew what it was. I was like, well this is it. This is the day I have to start doing yoga.

And that's when I just started following yoga videos on Youtube and I was falling over all the time and hurting myself. It wasn't working out. I must've watched a hundred different videos and a friend of mine said, Oh, you need yoga with Adriene. That'll fix everything. So I started watching Adriene and, it's still a part of my daily routine. Even though I teach my own stuff and I write my own classes, I still follow yoga with Adriene. It is just amazing and it's good.

I mean in between I went to real classes, you know, to learn, okay, am I actually doing downward dog properly? I don't know. In my room by myself, I didn't come in here to look at a mirror on the wall. Okay. So, yeah, taking a few classes, you know, getting some alignment and whenever you're going to a yoga class, whenever you tell the teachers like, Hey, I'm new at this, they're just like, oh yes. I love that.

And I love it too because that's your person. This is your demonstration person you're going to use for the whole class, I think it's just  a good bonus to have somebody who's there to be taught to learn. So you're like, no micromanaging every little move that they make. They're like, oh, you could, this could go over here and that could go over. You really, really help someone deepen their practice. I love it when students say that, and they definitely loved it when I came in there saying that I didn't know what I was doing either, and that was it. So 2016 on the end of 2016 I decided I love this. I love doing it every day. I would love that. If this was my life, that's all I had to do. And I went and took the training on Vancouver Island.

Stephanie: On your blog, you tagged your book as meditation and mindfulness. Do you equate those two things?

Jay: I feel like people who meditate become more mindful after. I wouldn't say that it just happens right away and I wouldn't call meditation mindfulness. It's like a by-product or an after effect that happens.  I find all the benefits of meditation are that way. Whereas you start doing it and over a period of time you start to notice it expanding. It's not just in that hour that you're meditating or 20 minutes or 10 minutes when you're meditating before it starts to creep out into the rest of your life, seeps into everything. So then you get cut off in traffic. You're not freaking out about that person. You're not being reactionary. As a very reactionary person. Back in the day before I meditated. And even when I did meditate, it wasn't full time for the last like 22 years. It was an off and on kind of thing. I would go like little bursts of months, days, but it's been the last two years, two, three years, I've really just gone hard at it. And by doing that now I'm really noticing the benefits of it. I don't know if it's because I'm older, I'm more mature, I have a better head for these kind of things and I can recognize them. But I wasn't seeing it before for what it really was in my youth. Now, today I can definitely feel the benefits of it.

Stephanie: So how did you get interested in the beginning?

Jay: So an interesting story. When I was about nine or 10 years old, we would vacation at my grandparents cottage on a lake. So it was me and my brother and my sister and then two grandparents would be there. Usually they would have us and my parents wouldn't be there. So sibling rivalry starts happening, little bickering, a little bit of fighting. Next thing you know, it's all out war. All Day, every day. Fighting with my brother and sister and I wasn't having fun. I didn't like it. My grandparents didn't like it. You know, back then they still had jobs. They weren't retired. This was their vacation too.

One day I was like, I'm just going to stop fighting. I'm just going to just get away from this and I'm going to go sit on this rock. There are these, that's the other cool thing. There are these giant stones coming up out of the earth. They had pulled as many as they could out with bulldozers and tractors, but a lot of giant rocks are like an iceberg, a piece sticking out on top. But the piece below is far bigger. And I climbed up on this rock. I folded my legs into a full lotus. My Dad taught us how to do full lotus when we were really young. So all of us kids could easily do that at least. I crisscrossed my legs in a little pretzel, close my eyes, I was in it. Fighting went away. Everyone stopped bickering. My grandparents were happier. I was happier. Brother and sister are happier. Neighbors weren't listening to us all yelling and running and there's this calm washed across the land.

And that was the beginning of meditation, I didn't know what it was. I didn't know what I was doing. I had seen Ninja movies. You would see like a monk in a monastery meditating before the Ninjas attack and just little glimpses. The Ninja Turtles, a popular cartoon in Canada, they have Master Splinter, he was always meditating. He would tell the Ninja Turtles, oh, I have to go meditate on this problem that we're having. So I okay, all I need. So I sat down on that rock, close my eyes. That was it.

People laughed at me and my brother and sister would run over at first and try and get me out of it. And then after a while they realized, oh, leave him alone. And then, my grandmother would step in like, leave Jay alone. He's meditating. Right. They didn't know what it was. Nobody knew what it was, but everyone knew that something peaceful and quiet was happening. That's all that really mattered.

And from there I had read, we used to have these like Buddhist magazines, can't remember the name of it, but I would read these magazines. I didn't know any of the Sanskrit terms, words. We're talking like early nineties here. There is no internet to research with, so I was reading these books, not having a clue, but kind of gleaming little bits of information here and there. And I don't know if they helped or just confused things more. The fact is that the existed and I read them. Maybe that stuck somewhere in the back of my head. Now I understand a little bit more. I don't want to say I know it all..

Stephanie: It sounds like you might've had a family though, that you know your dad taught the lotus position and you had these Buddhist magazines around.

Jay: No, not at all. My dad had taken karate and so I guess that's where he learned it. He's young and he just taught us how to do this fun thing where we cross our legs and then you could even flip up onto your knees in full lotus and then try and walk on your knees and walk around the living room. My brother would crisscross his legs and I'd cross mine up and then we would like have wrestling matches the first person to like break their legs open would lose. So that's where the Lotus came from.

And yeah, the magazines were just something I bought myself. The store, I remember walking in, I remember the first time there was a little magazine store and that's all they sold was magazines and newspapers from all over the world. And I just saw this, somebody was meditating on the cover and I was like, oh, I wonder what that's about. Bodhisattva, that might've been the name of the magazine. Anyways, that's where it all began. I just kept doing it throughout life, like I said, on and off. So throughout my twenties and in my early twenties to late twenties that's when I really got into music. That's when like the sex, drugs, rock and roll started. So there was a lot less meditation happening. I found it really became one of those things like prayer. So you'll hear about people who pray only when shit is going wrong. Right. That's when they reach out and that's when, for me, that's when I would, I would pray. I'm like, okay, I got to meditate on this. You know, go sit down and close my eyes; have a good meditation session. Usually I would come out of it with some kind of like revelation and accomplished something. It wouldn't always be for nothing.

I mean there are, there are many days nothing happens, that's for sure. Yeah. But what I like to tell everybody is that those are days also you're training your mind to know that it can be in this state. Doesn't have to be like it says in my book and nail trying to hit a hammer, I mean a hammer trying to hit a nail on the head. Your mind is always looking at everything as if it's a problem. So your mind is this hammer and everything is a nail just constantly trying to bop these nails.

When I finished yoga teacher training and I'd gone back to the east coast to Atlantic, Canada, everyone, I guess had seen this like difference in me. Something had changed like, man, your different You're so much calmer now and so much more peaceful. You're grounded and centered and can you teach me how to meditate? I'm like, yeah, I can. But logistically it never worked out that I could teach 40/50 different people how to meditate. Going to their house, each of them. There's thousands of videos online if you're watching.

When it got to that point of like maybe 50 people had asked me how to meditate, I'm like, I know what I'm going to do. I'm going to write a workshop. So I sat down, I got a PowerPoint presentation and I started writing everything I knew about meditation. And then anytime I had a question I would just do a little bit of research and try and fill in some spots here and there. And then I was like, well, maybe I'll teach people about different kinds of meditation. So then I'm like, okay, now I got to really research. I got to really know my shit. I started figuring out like, what is a mantra meditation , what's entailed with that? What is loving kindness meditation? Was that all about? What's a Kundalini Meditation? I wanted to know what all the different styles do just to get people with a bit of a foundation to go off of if they want research further later on.

Kind of like a course. And I put up flyers all over town. I bought Facebook ads, I rented out a center, I had a TV and a big screen set up and PowerPoint ready to go and three people showed up. I was like a little disappointed. Like, man, everybody's been asking literally daily to teach them how to meditate and I told everybody I'm going to do this workshop and everybody's so interested in it and then nobody showed up. So I did a few more of those workshops. It's still literally like three people would show up at the most. Okay, this isn't maximizing the value of my time here or anyone else's to have like three people because in the workshop I had things like I'm sitting there and I'm bouncing a ball and I would throw the ball at someone in the crowd like this is, these are part of the things that I was gonna teach with. I had little puzzles, games that required more than three people to be in the room.

So I said, okay, I'm going to just put this on the back burner for a little while and just kind of let it sit there.  It sits for probably a year. And then I decided, oh, I know I'm going to take all the speaking notes from my excel or PowerPoint presentation because with excel you have the stuff that's on the screen. Then you have your own private screens, your speaker's notes and no one else gets to see . So I took all my speaker’s notes with the bullet points, combine those, I'm going to make this into a book. I started typing; got It all formatted, put it into a book. I sat there and I looked at it, I read it and I was like, Oh crap, I've gone and I've written just another generic old meditation book. There are millions of these things. It will end up in the new age section and a discount bin at the bookstore. And I could just see it like, you know, stacks of these books piling up in my house, unable to sell them.

So rather than doing anything about it, I just kind of, again, I put on the back burner. I said I'll find a way to do something with this eventually here in Victoria. It is weird for here because it's kind of stuff, it doesn't generally happen here. I find there's more of a high vibe kind of a people that live here. So you don't really find a lot of views that you find in the rest of the country. Especially with like the blue collar workforce.

I was walking by a job site and they're doing construction. I heard wrenches being thrown and hitting the wall. Yeah. People cussing, freaking out and fight noises and fists. Then a circle gathering of employees and all stopped what they're doing and form a circle around these two guys fighting and yelling, calling each other down to the lowest. Productivity had completely stopped everybody's on edge. Everybody's tense, the eyes are fighting, wrenches are flying through the air. Like this is a dangerous environment to be in.

And almost as a joke it ran through my mind; if anybody needs meditation, these guys do. And that was it. That was my like light bulb moment. So I ran home, hopped on the computer busted opened my meditation book and I just started re-typing the whole thing from scratch. And almost as a joke. I had this voice in my head so it was like a light southern accent. Like, la Matthew McConaughey kind of accent. I don't know why most people associate that with those kinds of jobs and it was in my head so that that's like the first line of text in the book is: this book is best read with a light southern accent, think Matthew McConaughey. You put that in your head and you started reading and then I threw in like there's lots of swear words.

But also there's a lot of allusions to the construction industry, labor jobs, things like that. Yeah, I've done a lot of that work myself with my dad growing up and I've worked a few jobs sites and I really, I really hate it. I don't like it. And I wouldn't call myself a worker. I know a lot of people spend entire lives working in these industries to become the best at it. I would go in and I'd put it in my like six hours and okay, I've had enough of this. Not For me. So I know I have the knowledge anyways how to do all the things. At least I had that. So I know about building foundations and building upon structures. How to put up drywall or pouring concrete. Putting shingles on roofs. I've done tons of stuff. I've mixed my own concrete poured it, added extensions on two houses. I've cut down trees in the forest, run the trees through a machine that turns the trees in the boards that you can then build with. We've done it all. So I have a lot to go off of here and I just sat down, and started typing away at this book. It probably took another few, probably six months, to get it all finalized and then sent it out to Amazon and they do their little thing with it. And here we are today.

Stephanie: Do you have an idea of what the responses to it is from the blue collar community?

Jay: So far it's been pretty good.

Stephanie: So you changed the language to attract your target market? Did you do anything else to massage the information to make it more palatable or easier to understand for this group?

Jay: Yeah, so I took out all the Sanskrit words, kind of said everything at face value for what it is. Okay. It was a couple times I put something in. If I do, I explain it, that means this. I find when I read a lot of books they'll say like, so like even in Yoga poses and Asana. Asana means pose, right? So I'll find that you'll be reading a book and they'll explain that. They'll be like such and such asana and asana means pose. But then they won't ever tell you that again and they'll just continue using the word asana throughout the rest of the book. You have to constantly keep flipping back. What does asana mean again? Oh yeah. It means pose. I didn't want that to happen, so I figured I would completely remove it. Frequent swear words placed throughout the book. And then the allusions and the metaphors in relation to building and constructing things. Okay, a little bit of humor. My own humor. I mean I did that. I was a comedian for five years. I did stand up five, six years so that never goes away.

Stephanie:  If you were giving advice to someone who wanted to do a meditation book that was not going to end up in the bin at the bookstore at half price, what were the most important things that you did that you think made it more successful?

Just because of the process and the progress of it. Like it started out as a workshop and then became a book, then became a second book. Finding your target market is probably the best one. You can write a book about anything. Who is your market? Who are you aiming it towards? What do you know a lot about? Those should be some of the things you should think of if you are going to write a book and I mean any kind of book.

I'm working on another book right now. This one I started writing back in 2004, I finished in 2011 and it's just been sitting there. I like it. It's a fantasy book and I like it, but I was like, yeah, I dunno. It's not, it's not anything that I would read. Like I would never pick this up and go, wow, this is awesome.

 So I'm in the process now rewriting up, which is thousands of pages longer than my meditation book. I just got through chapter one and it's already the past what my meditation book was. Think about who the end user is. Think about who you want to read this. Who do you think would enjoy it? What do they want to read? What do they want to see? What are ssome of the imagery. What is the age range? You don't want to be using old timey words from back in the forties if trying to reach the new millennials. I feel like it will just hit you one day  and you'll go, oh, I know what to do now. Okay. But they weren't necessarily things I thought of on purpose. Applied it on purpose. Yeah. I guess we could probably use it almost as a business model for other things.

Stephanie: When you first started out, you did all these different kinds of meditation, Kundalini Meditation, and is that still in there giving them kind of a broad overview of the different kinds of meditation?

Jay: Oh, definitely. I'll bring the book up. There's an introduction. There's a couple stories. Just personal life stories goes into the benefits of meditation. A little section on don't get caught up. Tried and true techniques, physical techniques, positioning of your body, mental techniques, kind of some of the things that you, that people like to think about when they're sitting there, does it, we all know, we've all heard. Everyone thinks that, oh, it's all about just completely emptying your mind and then nothing, just go into this white space. Oh, now you're just the white space. It's not really about that. It's about witnessing the thoughts. There they are. There they go. I don't own them. I'm not getting attached to them, and now they're gone. Whoosh - that kind of idea. There's a few guided meditation ideas there. Uh, some potential hindrances like roommates, neighbors making noise.

When you sit down and meditate, it's kind of like running. You start running; you're not really in the groove yet, but after about five, 10 minutes of running like you're okay. Yeah. Now I've got it. Yeah. Then you're in that flow state and just going with it. And it's kind of the same with me with meditating. There's this like rocky road, grumbly challenge to get through it at first and then your through that. For me it's about 20 minutes in and then it's like smooth sailing. Okay. First 20 minutes - oh, what's that itch? Or I gotta do something. So for about 20 minutes, there's a lot of that nonsense going on. But after 20 minutes, it's like smooth sailing.

Stephanie: So how, how long do you meditate if 20 minutes is just getting you into it?

Jay: I do an hour every morning. That's just what I built up to when I first started getting back into meditation. okay, I'm going to do this. I'm going to hit it hard and I got through, you know, five minutes. I was like, okay, I'll build up to it.

I understand why people say that. So even when I recommend to people just do a minute. Just do one minute. Set your alarm a minute earlier before you wake up this morning. Get up a minute earlier. Just close your eyes. Just be awake and sitting. And people are like, oh, I'd meditate when I'm sleeping. I'm like, no, it's not the same. It's not the same. You're not training your body that it's okay just be sitting there and not doing anything. Being okay with just being in the room at first. Just be there. Eventually you'll have to be there with your thoughts. Eventually, you'll get through some of the other processes.

Yeah, it took awhile. I built up and do an hour. I mean, I've done two and three and four hours. But yeah, at what ends, you know? At what point is this becoming a drug? At what point are you tapping out of life? When are you procrastinating? You can meditate all day', it's not gonna to pay the bills.

Stephanie: That's an interesting thought though, that you can really take meditating to an extreme that's not beneficial.

Jay: Yeah, so like there's monks who sit and meditate all day. They'll do a 14 hour meditation. That's what they do, right? No, they're not doing, they're not doing yoga all day. They're not working out in the gym. They're not doing pushups. They're not doing a lot of physical, strenuous activity. They're not cleaning houses. They're not biking and running and jogging, just sitting. It's easy to just sit.

Your body really doesn't use up that much nutrients or energy when you're just sitting and when you tackle the whole breathing thing. So everything starts with the breath. Then the breath dictates to the heart. Everyone here in Western medicine thinks that it starts with the heart. Actually it starts with the breath. Breath tells the heart what to do and then the heart works for the rest of the body. So when you can tackle the breathing, you can get the heart rate really lowered down to almost nothing. That is the key I guess for long term meditations, and heart health and all that kind of stuff, which I kind of go over that in the book too. Yeah, the benefits.

Stephanie: So what would you say was the best benefit for you?

Jay: For me, I would say not being so reactionary. Like I was someone that would react, I would react right away. Not really fly off the handle, but, and there's certain people who know, especially with family. People know how to push your buttons. My Dad and my brother could very easily just like make up funny joke about yoga or something about stuff that I'm into. And I would just be so defensive about it and aggressive. No, you don't understand. Oh, it's like this. And they sit back and laugh. We've got them again. Look at Jay's getting all red in the face. Okay. Mr Yogi. Oh, I'm like, Damn, they got me.

Through all the meditation that's really just kind of melted away. And I don't just mean with my family. I mean with anything. Get cut off the traffic, beeps the horn at you. I'm like, yeah, whatever. I know we're driving and he keeps going. You can attach to that. You get grumpy, you have all these angry thoughts, you can grab onto those thoughts. You can hold them, keep them with you all day long. You could bring them to work with you and be angry and pissy with everybody. Well, you don't have to, and I feel that meditation is really what has taught me that it's okay to have thoughts. It's okay to let them go. It's like, yeah, anger. Of course, you are angry. You almost got in an accident and all of the problems that are associated with that accident, you don't have to think about them right now because it didn't actually happen.

The other issues, so much stress, so much cortisol in your body that is so damaging to everything inside of you. Cortisol is like one of the worst things. Cortisol is there for fight or flight. So when we used to live in the woods, you hear a twig snap your heart rate goes really fast And you get jolted with some cortisol and some adrenaline and you can either run away from the animal or you can stay and fight it. Today, you're sitting in traffic and didn't get hit and your heart's going through the roof and you're angry and this is not supposed to be happening.

People watching the news, they’re in their own home, totally safe. Nothing is happening, especially here in Canada. And they're watching all this bad stuff about terrorism bombs going off and violence and people are dying and all this aggression and they're sitting here and they’re clutching the arm chair and they're getting all aggravated and they're yelling at the TV and the cortisol's coursing through their body and all the stress is reacting, it's so damaging.

Stephanie: Thank you, Jay. I really think that you've educated us a lot, but you've done it in a very entertaining way, which I always think is helpful. And I love the idea. I love the idea that a meditation book together for people that perhaps we haven't thought of as meditators. So I appreciate you looking beyond what we usually do and adding some new people in.

Jay: There's nothing worse than preaching to the choir.

Stephanie: So if you would like to talk Jay or ask him a question or something. His website is His Facebook is jcoleyoga and his book Calm the Fuck Down; Meditation for Blue Collars is on Amazon. Thank you Jay] it was great talking to you again and I think you've really added something to our discussion on meditation.

Jay: Oh, thank you Stephanie. It was a blast.

Contacts:, FB: jcoleyoga, Amazon: Calm the Fuck Down; Meditation for Blue Collars

Aug 27, 2019



Major Points:

a) yoga as a complement to western medical knowledge has benefits for burn out

b) People may not know they have burn out as burn out just becomes part of your life

c) Secondary traumatization occurs when you work with trauma victims. Yoga helps you maintain your compassion but decrease your empathy so that you do not become traumatized.


This is episode 114 of Changing the Face of Yoga and I have a very interesting guest today. This is Dr Shailla Vaidya. She is a physician, a yoga therapist, and a compassionate change agent, practicing mind body medicine in Toronto, Ontario in Canada. She completed her MD at Dalhousie medical school, a residency in family and emergency medicine at the University of Ottawa and a master's of public health in health management and policy at Harvard. She has had her own experience with physician burnout and she created the yoga of burnout, recovery stress resilience program, which combines yoga practice and philosophy with the science of human functions, self-compassion and stress resilience.

                                                Her current medical practice is focused on helping her fellow professionals and others with stress-related illnesses to regain their health and well-being. She's also certificant of the International Association of Yoga Therapists and teaches medically informed therapeutic yoga to yoga therapists internationally. Welcome. Shailla . I think this is an important topic. Is there anything else you'd like to add to that introduction?

02:16                                     No. I did change the name of the program to the yoga of stress resilience burnout recovery program only because burnout has so many things to prove that it's actually burnout you're fixing as opposed to stress. So it's actually the yoga stress resilience burn-out recovery program.

02:36                                     What exactly is burnout and let's as opposed to being stressed?

02:48                                     Burnout was first described by Dr Christina Matlock at the University of California Berkeley. And she described it as having three components. I think we all use burnout in a very colloquial way. But the three components are emotional exhaustion. So many of us had the experience of not being able to mentally handle yet another thing that we may not always recognize or acknowledge that state. So just being emotionally tired is one part of it.

                                                 The other part of it involves depersonalization and that's a fancy word to say that we go numb. We're, we're not really human anymore. We're not feeling as we used to feel. And that usually occurs when we're overwhelmed with a lot of the feelings that we face, a lot of the people that we come in contact with who are suffering with pain and grief and so many other things. As we get exposed to that over time, we may lose our ability to feel empathy for people who had that because we've been exposed to it so much.

                                                And then the third thing is reduced personal accomplishment. And this is , the feeling that we're no longer active at our jobs. We start to view ourselves negatively in regards to our work and with the people we're working with. So we feel negative and we don't feel like we're accomplishing anything in our day. The World Health Organization also just recognize burnout as an actual thing. I don't know if it's a medical diagnosis, but they did give it an ICD 10 code. So a diagnosis and such, but mostly related to one's work. So that burnout is related to the jobs that we do. . And there are many, especially women, caregivers and other people who are caring for people in our community.

04:45                                     It's actually a very specific thing. I agree with you, that term gets bandied about a lot. But there are some ways that a person could say I'm having those kinds of issues. And if they do feel that maybe they are, what should they do?

05:07                                     Well, that's the big thing. We all say you need to take a break. You need self-care. That's a hard thing because we make that the job of the person who is experiencing the burnout and not everyone is really able to understand that or understand what they need to do to get out of this cycle of burnout. And essentially it happens when we've had chronic stress.

                                                The big thing would they really have to do is start to release stress. And as yoga therapists and yoga teachers, we know that stress builds up in our body. And completing that stress response and then releasing stress from the body is a real big component in helping recover from burnout. Because there's some neurologic things that are happening when we hold stress in our body, we're sending signals up through our brainstem through our limbic system particular around the Thalamus. And of course this is far more complicated than the breakdown I'm giving right now. But our brain stem or thalamus and our limbic system can actually shut down those signals. So we don't actually know we're experiencing the beginnings of burnout until we're exhausted and we can't do anything. So yes, take a break but also do the things that help reduce or release stress from our body as we give ourselves that care. And there's so many components within that but yoga happens to be a fantastic technique to help people with burnout.

06:41                                     Let's explore that a bit more. Why don't you explain your program? I think that might be the easiest way to do it because it will give us specific information.

06:55                                     I get referred a lot of people with stress related illnesses from their family doctors and so they've had chronic stress their whole life. And actually when I do their histories and do their assessments, I also do adverse childhood experience scores. So the majority of the people I see also had stressing as a child. And so their nervous systems developed under stress and that may make them more stress responsive as they leave that environment and go on to the rest of the world. And what's so interesting is a lot of people who had stress as kids who survived that tend to be professions where they want to help other people. I always joke with them that no, you want to help other people the way you weren't helped as a kid or give back in that way.

                                                 It's very interesting. I can't generalize that to the whole population of burnout. I'm really only looking at the people that I see come through my door and so adverse childhood experiences is huge. The way I use yoga is yoga really helps us re-integrate the body. So we know that yoga is more than just the asanas that we practice. The Yoga Sutra says it's a process of slowing down, change the perceptions of our mind through this process. How do people come in who are just exhausted, their bodies can't take anymore. And then using a restorative approach and a bottom up approach to help release tension through the body and then work with breathing and meditation techniques so that they can, you know, exhale and start focusing their mind on other things.

                                                 It's very effective when we bring them to those places of concentration, meditation and maybe, hopefully bliss. But learning how, first of all to have compassion for the self and take care of the self because so many of us put others before we put ourselves. So my program really helps people come back to that self-care component, taken care of themselves. Actually stopping and moving and releasing the stress and breathing and then learning how to have compassion for the self. Much like they have compassion for the other people in their lives.

09:21                                     I noticed on your website that you have several supportive resources. I think you have a drop in where people can just come and meditate once a week or so. Is that correct?

09:37                                     I usually run that in the summertime for people to help them keep up with their practice. During the spring, winter and fall I'm usually busy with working at the medical aspects of Yoga. But I had that drop in because a lot of people after they'd gone through my program can't find a yoga class that is like what I teach. There's tons of people out there teaching yoga. To find a good restorative class, that's just what they need, but might not always be available to people or they might not feel comfortable going to their local yoga studio for whatever reason.

10:22                                     That happens a lot, unfortunately. When you've got someone who you have diagnosed as having burnout, are they open to coming to your program or does it take them a little while to really accept that that's what they have?

10:43                                     That's a great question. I work with a lot of family doctors who have assessed their patients over time and some of my patients have had you know, back pain or migraines or other stress related illnesses and they've seen specialists and a lot of other people who can't give them the quick fix or the understanding. So when they come and see me they're usually recommended by somebody that they trust - their family doctor.

                                                Many of them have never tried yoga and so they are hesitant at first, but when they come and they meet me and they see the they see my set up, my room, my yoga room, and I explained to them the mind-body connection and why they may be feeling, what they're feeling. I get buy-in that way. I'll talk about anxiety and depression and sleep. I screen them for those things. I screen them for their disability score and as were going through the screens, I bring them to that. They start to realize, well, actually this is a problem for me and that is a problem for me and I'm not surprised that this is four on the clinical scale that I use. And then I actually tell them how yoga can work for that. When we release stress from our body, how that affects our physiology. So I'll teach them about their Vagus nerve, teach them about their heart rate, teach them about these other things and they get buy in because at that point they just want to see somebody who gets it.

                                                When I can explain it to them that way, I think it gives them a sense of agency that they understand what's happening. And then when they actually come to the class, which I think is the biggest thing. I really build that trust with them or I hope I do when they come to the class and they realize my God, I'm not alone. Like there's other people who are going through the same thing who have maybe have had similar jobs or jobs I can relate to or are caregivers to elderly parents or have children who are also autistic. Once they see that group and they start the program and they feel like they have the experience of what it feels in their body to practice, that's when I really get the buy in.

13:08                                     It's really a combination of information and building trust and build a relationship with them. Is that a fair thing to say?

13:20                                     Yeah, I would say.

13:22                                     We have a general idea of what you do, but you say you also teach medically informed therapeutic yoga to yoga therapist. Is this in the burnout area or just more generally than that?

13:40                                     I'm a part of the Svastha Yoga therapy training program. When I was going through my training there would be medical things that I would bring up and offer advice around that type of thing. So we're building our yoga therapy training Svastha training. I'm not certain if you're aware that's led by Doctor Ganesh Mohan and his family.

14:06                                     I've heard of the Mohans

14:07                                     So it’s through the Mohans.

14:10                                     Your training is basically through this particular yoga training opportunity that's available.

14:19                                     I've done talks for the Montreal International Symposium of Yoga Therapy and I've also done a few things, it's a little bit more informal, but with licensed health care providers. You call them allied health here in Canada who have yoga teacher training background and they want to have some therapeutic yoga skills with their patient population. So that's the type of stuff I also do as continuing education. In that format, I often just call it mindfulness.

14:57                                     When you're helping professionals, like medical professionals, like yourself or others, do you find them open to yoga or did they take a little convincing?

15:13                                     You know by the time they get through my door, they're open. I'm sure family doctors who mentioned this to their patients and they might not be open. A lot of the people I get also come word of mouth. So they had a friend who had gone through my program and who was a social worker and their burnout. And so by the time they get referred, they have buy in already. So I think I probably have a biased population, but we know the science of this stuff. and also I think what's really fascinating, but the time that were at, I do have a lot of support from my medical community. Many, many physicians who are specialists find it very interesting and will start to refer to me. So I get referrals from neurologists and psychiatrists, cardiologist that have been interested. I think more than anything is the support I get from my medical colleagues to do this work. It shows that they are interested and that there is buy in.

16:18                                     I think that's great. My typical listener is either a yoga teacher or yoga therapist; what advice would you give to them if they think they might be experiencing burnout?

16:41                                     I would just tell them that it's real. A lot of yoga teachers are doing trauma informed practice now and a lot of yoga therapists are.  Just to understand that there is such a thing as secondary trauma, vicarious traumatization, that we resonate emotionally with the people who we work with. And that's your neurons, our limbic system picking up on the emotions of others. And we are designed as people, as humans to do that so that we can feel another person.

                                                 But what the science shows is we actually feel that other person's pain as if it's affecting us. We're experiencing it. People should know that. This is real; you are feeling that heaviness. The person you're working with, you're feeling their heaviness, you're feeling that pain. We have science to show that; brain scans have shown that. The most important thing is that we as yoga teachers and yoga therapists also have a tool that we can use and that is fostering, developing compassion within. We can start to use those meta techniques to breathe in compassion for ourselves, to name the pain that we're feeling. Then we can start to reduce our own empathic distress and our own empathic resonance. We're still resonating with them, but we're dealing with what we're feeling. And then as we start to generate that compassion within, compassion works on a different neural network than empathy, we can actually hold space or be able to be there for our clients, for the people with whom we're working.

18:18                                     Great point. That actually working with people with trauma can have an effect on the teacher or the therapist. Do you see a lot of trauma training and I haven't taken it so I can't say, but I hope that they're also looking at the wellbeing of the person giving the yoga. So we're almost at the end of the podcast. Shailla. Is there anything that you would like to talk about in more depth or something that we haven't covered at all?

18:53                                     I think those are the biggest things. I think that what I would like to do for the people who are out there is just to know that there are techniques to read about even, you know, the mindful self-compassion program or compassionate listening programs so that they can start to employ those techniques when they're working with those who have trauma.

                                                 And to recognize that it might not appear the way they think it's going to appear in them or the others, Especially when you're working in a trauma informed practice to recognize that you may also be triggered by something and that's completely normal. As time goes on, you may start to get triggered simply by working with people who've had trauma. By hearing their stories, you may start to develop that secondary trauma pattern.

                                                And you may actually also develop what we call moral distress or moral injury. Moral distress is when you know what to do for someone, but you can't do it. And moral injury is when you feel like the system within which you're working is not able to support what you feel needs to be done in that time. That these are things that helping professionals deal with and that are real and that lead to burnout and beyond. Right. So I think my basic thing is that people should have an understanding of who they're helping and why they're helping, but also the fact that it can happen.

20:21                                     Do you have any resources? I mean, we've touched on it very briefly, but it sounds like an important thing for people to understand and be able to handle

20:32                                     I know the Center of Mindful Self-compassion San Diego, California has a website on some of these thing. A fabulous author, Laura van Dernoot Lipsky did a Ted talk on secondary trauma. Babbette Rothschild wrote a book Helping the helpers. So there's resources out there. I think that people can explore around this.

21:08                                     That's great because I didn't realize that. I mean it makes perfect sense what you say but helping these people who have trauma could be very, it's very satisfying. But it can have some other things that you need to be aware of. This has been a great podcast. I learned so much. So thank you Shailla. You've done a great job and you're an excellent speaker. I think you're doing a really great job, especially this amalgamation of western medicinel and Yoga because I think they do go well together. They complement each other, but it's sometimes it's hard to do that. I congratulate you and thank you so much for being on the podcast.

22:08                                     Thank you so much. This is actually my grandfather's dream. My last name Vaidya means Ayurvedic physician. So he always wanted his grandkids or his kids. He wanted his kids. But that didn't happen. He wanted his grandchildren to blend the two, to not lose this culture. So much is lost under colonization and my uncles were jailed and great uncles were jailed as they were trying to keep these, these things alive. For me, it's really an honor to be able to speak on this stuff and to be able to combine these two. So thank you for having me.




Aug 20, 2019

                                                Major Points:

  • Integrating the eight limbs into teaching asana to bring the fullness of yoga to everyone. (12:58)
  • Media images of yoga will affect people’s decisions on whether to attend yoga classes. (4:22)
  • How do we become more inclusive in yoga (32:23)
  • Practicing yoga helps you become more discerning by making us pause and reflect between the stimulus and response of day to day life (7:56)

00:47                                     This is Changing the Face of Yoga and this is episode 113. I have an incredible guest today. Her name is Doctor Christiane Brems who is a certified psychologist from the American board of Professional Psychology. She is an RYT 500 yoga teacher, a certified yoga therapist and she received her Phd in clinical psychology from Oklahoma State University in 1987. She currently directs YogaX an innovative Yoga School Initiative in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine. It provides yoga training, continuing education and services. Dr. Brem has been extremely interested in yoga all of her life and she's integrated it into her research for clinical work and also, has developed this program called YogaX. YogaX sounds like a really different kind of yoga teacher training. We're definitely going to go into that. It is the integration of science and spirituality in service of individual and communal health. It's work is grounded in modern neuroscience and psychology research as well as the ancient philosophy and psychology of Yoga. It is based on the fact that yoga is a lifestyle practice and has many health and mental health benefits. So thank you Christiane for coming on the podcast. It's amazing what you are doing there and I think it fits so well with what Changing the Face of Yoga is all about. So welcome.

02:42                                     Thank you. It's absolutely a pleasure to be here. I'm very excited. Thank you.

02:50                                     Is there anything you'd like to add to that introduction? I kind of zoomed through it because it's just incredible what you've done. I wanted to hit the highlights, but is there something that you would like to emphasize?

03:03                                     Well, maybe I'll just emphasize that YogaX really is a team effort. I happen to be the director of it at the moment, but our team includes 10 people and YogaX is really our collective brain child. And so I just want to acknowledge that I'm speaking for the group, not just for myself. We have been together for quite a while now. I think coming on seven years. So even though the Stanford initiative is very young, our team is pretty seasoned.

03:32                                     There are a couple of things I've picked up that I thought was really interesting. You said that you had done a study or seen a study, I'm not sure exactly. There really is a media bias against inclusiveness, shall we say in Yoga where you have to be young and white, probably economically safe. It isn't, in the west, very welcoming to other people. Did you do that media study or did you see it or what's the background of that?

04:22                                     Yeah, that's actually our own work. We did a review, a fairly thorough review of about 10 years worth of yoga journals, looking at all their images and articles, the graphics that go with advertisements in Yoga Journal. Obviously we were pretty successful in showing that there's a strong bias towards white, skinny, wealthy women in the images, not just in the advertisements, which was originally our hope. Also in the graphics that accompany the articles in Yoga Journal. So there's clear sexism, there's racism in the sense that there are not a lot of people of color. There are lots of images of white people. They're more images of women than men. And the interesting thing is when men are depicted, they are typically in teaching roles, whereas the women generally are more likely to be in the student role.

                                                 There just a lot of really interesting things. We've published a couple of papers about this, but we also did a really interesting study where we took Yoga Journal images and we took some information about yoga. We created a control group and a treatment group and we invited people in to learn more about yoga and then at the end of this study asked them whether they might be inclined to try yoga. The treatment group was exposed to the yoga images whereas the control group was just exposed to information about yoga. Then both groups just got a little power point presentation about yoga and we ask them our questions. Being exposed to the images of Yoga Journal as opposed to just learning about yoga made men feel much less likely that they'd want to try yoga then if they just read something about yoga. And we thought that was really fascinating because it's sort of undergirds this premise, right? That if we show the wrong images then we disinvite or uninvite certain parts of our population from the practice.

06:36                                     Yes. I used to teach seniors and a lot of ads for senior yoga and stuff would have this very young girl, the typical yoga person. And I kept saying that's not a good idea; people need to see themselves to think I can try that.

06:57                                     Yeah. We need models.

07:40                                     Yeah. So I just thought that was interesting because it is a bit of a thing with me that I was really glad to hear that there was actual research to support what I've seen. So, I loved this. This came from your blog and it just totally got me, because I didn't ever think of it this way, but you said, that yoga is when we find the gap between stimulus and response. Yeah. I thought good grief. That is what we do. But it just seems like stimulus and response is so close. For Yoga to define that gap is kind of amazing. Can you kind of expand on that idea a bit?

07:56                                     Yeah. That to us is sort of the central practice, right? And even going all the way back to the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali's yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind. That's the second line in the yoga sutras - right now is the time for Yoga, which is sort of a call to mindfulness. And so even Patanjali argues if we can still the mind, then we can transform ourselves. And it's the same idea when you start looking at that gap between stimulus and response, you need to have a moment of quiet in the mind, right? You need to be able to take the stimulus and then have some discernment and some deliberate choice about how you will respond to that stimulus. And in our day to day life, that doesn't tend to be our habit, right? Our habit is more stimulus  and reaction,; there's no gap at all. And so in Yoga, we tried to cultivate is this pause, whether it's through breathing practices where we have a pause at the top and the bottom of the breath or whether it's through a physical practice where we pause to take a moment to tune in to the sensation in the body before we just sort of blow out our physical boundaries and limitations. It's all preparation for having that capacity when a stimulus reaches our nervous system to take a moment and make a deliberate choice about how we respond. So to me that has always been the very central part of the practice is this instilling of the capacity to pause.

09:41                                     I like that. Now I'd like to talk about, your teacher training because it sounds to me having been through two different sets of teacher training, that it's very, very different because it seems to have a real emphasis on community. . As well as, , learning all this stuff you got to learn. Sure. All that's in there too, but it's really, I wrote it down. It's fostering of community, encouragement of service and engagement, creation of accessibility and inclusion and I liked promotion of inspiration. The teacher training contributes to the student's personal and relational health. Relational health I don't , recall anything like that in any of my trainings or anyone else talking about that. And so could you kind of expand on that? What, what do you mean by relational health and how does the Yoga teacher training contribute to that?

11:10                                     It brings us right back to that gap between stimulus and response, right? So our relationships are often a reflection of our own capacity to self-monitor, to be compassionate, to be empathic and to understand what's happening in the other person before we react to whatever is happening in our relationship. In YogaX, in our group we have used yoga a lot in mental health care settings. And we have learned there that what happens with our clients as they do yoga because they increase the gap between stimulus and response. They become better partners in relationships. They bring us back anecdotes where their partners or spouses say, oh my gosh, you're so much more patient. Oh, you're less likely to fly off the handle. You haven't been as angry. You're easier to talk to. Bosses make comments to their employees about what changed for you? You're more patient, you're more thorough, your attention is better. There are really these reverberations into day to day life that enhance relationships. And we find that when we teach teachers, the same thing happens, right? We expect basically when we teach teachers that they too master this capacity to create a gap between stimulus and response. And that in that moment they become better people because they can make a choice about how they want to relate to the community in which they're learning and which they're grounded and in which they are responding.

12:58                                     You said that, and I thought this was excellent, really, that you do not emphasize the physical, but that all eight limbs of yoga get equal attention. I think that the physical, I hadn't actually put it in these words, but I think it's a beautiful way to say it does seem to get most of the attention both in the media and in the training that I took anyway. So how do you give equal time, in the training to all these eight limbs?

13:38                                     Yeah, that's a wonderful question because we are a yoga alliance registered school now and so we did have to comply with their criteria that they set for curriculum development. And of course, the alliance has an overly heavy emphasis on teaching asana. And so the way we make sure that we bring all eight limbs into our teaching is that bringing all of the limbs also into how we teach asana. And we do this also when we teach classes, not just when we teach teachers. When we do clinical work or research.

                                                Everything is infused for sure with Limbs one and two. That just is a background for everything. We really believe that you can’t do or teach asana without also being very clear about the first limb, the ethical practices. Otherwise you practice asana in a way that might be violent to yourself. We see this all the time when people get injured in yoga classes because they're pushing past their limitations or their boundaries and they get hurt, right? Because they're not practicing acceptance and a compassion or nonviolence toward their own body.

                                                We also really believe that in all physical practice you need to be truthful. You need to recognize when you need to use a prop or when you need to ask for help or when you need to say, this is a posture that's not accessible to me in this form. I need a modification. But we see people all the time when we offer them supports in asana, they reject it because the person next to them isn't using it. And so they're not being truthful to themselves. And so in the same way, when you infuse moderation, you infuse non-jealousy, you infuse joyfulness and non-stealing.

                                                Cover all of the first limb in everything you do in your physical practice, including your form, your movement, but also your breathing practices. And so this is a way to do that. The second limb can very naturally be infused in everything we do. We can practice with contentment, we can practice with discipline, but we can also practice with introspection and with a dedication to a greater purpose.

                                                So all of our classes always start with the setting of an intention and the presentation of a theme or the class. This will happen in our teacher training as well. That's a really beautiful way of bringing the second limb into everything you do and to always have in front of you. That realization that I'm not really on the map to enhance my body but to become a better human. Yeah. So I could go on for a whole hour talking about how we integrate that into everything we do. But that's sort of the basic premise that if you integrate them all the time, then it doesn't matter how much time we've used to any one because you're never just talking about one.

16:57                                     That makes sense to me. Towards the end of my teaching, I used to, have them set an intention, didn't tell them what it should be. But I thought it helped, again, to make it more personal for them so they would do what they needed to do, not what they thought they needed to do.

17:24                                     That's the beginning. And then we constantly come back to the theme of the class and we give lots of reminders for people to come back to their own intention. And to breathe it into their heart and then to breathe it into their community throughout the practice. Right? So that's the intention and the theme of the practice, whatever the theme of the day is, is never a lost during the time on the map. And then we asked people to take it with them when they leave the room.

17:54                                     Very, comprehensive. Yeah, that's a good idea. I didn't do that, but I think that's a really good idea. You say that what you're doing is, you are adding or supplementing the ancient yoga traditions with the current research in psychology, neuroscience, interpersonal neurobiology, cultural sensitivity, inclusivity and humility. Why is that important to take the modern with the ancient?

18:48                                     That's a wonderful question. It's addressed a little bit in my most recent blog about why do we practice yoga? And the point I'm making there is that the modern enhances the ancient and the ancient enhances the modern, right? The ancient comes to us. Well, it's a lot of wisdom and a lot of sort of subjective, qualitative, anecdotal evidence, that this practice really works. It transforms us as human beings. That helps us be agents for change and helps us transform our community, our society into something better.

                                                If you work in modern healthcare settings, however, if you say, I want to teach yoga to mental health clients or to people with cancer or to individuals who are coping with MS or Parkinson's, administrators will not be compelled when you say it's because it's in the yoga sutras. But if you can say, there's research that shows that when you practice yoga, you enhance people's resilience. You enhance their day to day functioning, their wellness, you optimize their autonomic control. You help people regulate their endocrine system and their immune function. You shape more adaptive, emotional, and behavioral responses. You down-regulate their reactivity, right? You make them more patient. All those things that we talked about earlier that happens in relationship.

                                                People start to listen to you and they say, wow, this would be really great for my clients because they do have immune issues or they do overreact or they need to be more resilient when they face stress, their executive function isn't quite what it be. Their memory could be better, their pain tolerance, could use some help and we now have research that shows that yoga can do all of this. I think that's the power of modern science and integrating it, For us, they stand side by side because it's amazing. You can look at the sutras and then say, and here is how we see that in modern neurobiology or in neuroscience or in psychology research. I find that just so inspiring and people love it. Our students love it when we talk about this in classes because it gives a language that bridges the philosophical and the medical, the soul and the science.

21:35                                     Yes. I've often thought that the sutures are a little difficult to understand, or was I understanding it correctly? I think you're right that it does give a bridge between the modern and the ancient with hopefully keeping the ancient wisdom intact.

22:00                                     Exactly right. We don't want to lose that wisdom because it is incredibly compelling. And to me, because the science is actually confirming that wisdom. To me, it just strengthens it, right? It allows it into the room now in a way. yeah, that's both subjective and objective, right? It's research based, but it's also experientially based and it just creates a beautiful whole.

22:29                                     Would you say and okay that you would give more weight to the experiential now that we have found that the research is supporting it. I felt that experiential was not very compelling until I heard all this other research and I thought just because it didn't have (we can go through all of the research protocols if we want) that (protocol) doesn't mean it wasn't, true. Or at least as true as we can think anything is true. So does it really give support to that kind of multiple decades and centuries of experiential learning?

23:29                                     Yes, I think it does. Most definitely. And modern research is starting to become more open-minded as well. So we don't just do clinical trials anymore. We don't just do sort of the really control, every variable kind of science anymore. We also use qualitative methods where we're talking to people, we do focus groups, we do interviews and we talk to people about their actually experience in the room. And to me that's a very powerful paradigm when you study yoga because you don't just say to people, okay, fill out this depression measure or this mindfulness measure, so we can track over time whether your depressive symptoms get better and whether your mindfulness is enhanced. I mean all of that is great, right? Because it gives us hard objective data.

                                                But we also at the end say and what else happened for you on a deep or subjective experiential level? And people will come up with things that you would have never thought about. Right. They got these amazing insights about themselves that you didn't find in your objective data, but their experience just sort of threw it to the foreground and that was the meaningful thing for them and then giving them a chance to talk about that just sort of blends with your hard, more scientific data. But it's entirely experiential and so to me, the two are utterly connected. We call this, in science we call this mixed methods. We use quantitative and qualitative data and I'm a big fan. I like to blend that sort of very objective data collection with the more subjective experiential piece and then bring both of those aspects together to really demonstrate that it's true in either paradigm.

25:26                                     That's excellent because I've always been concerned because yoga is so inclusive of all the things, the breathing and all eight limbs. How do you research that? You can research a part of it: you can research meditation, you can research breathing. But how do you bring that all together, Maybe that experiential, the subjective, the qualitative research may be the answer to that or at least partially an answer.

26:01                                     Yes, indeed. Indeed.

26:04                                     I was interested in the students that you've taught through YogaX, You have people with mental health and physical challenges, individuals and correctional settings, inpatient mental health settings, first responders and care providers. So you're looking at a really wide variety of people who are dealing with a wide variety of things. And is it kind of that yoga is so large, shall we say it can help people all in all of those areas? Or is, are each of those classes kind of tailored a bit to look at resilience or whatever is needed by possibly this class in front of you?

27:05                                     Yeah. Let me just say that our clinical work is what is pre-existing, right? So that is what happened in our group before we became YogaX where we were embedded in a comprehensive health care clinic. We did a lot of community outreach. Our first responder work was in the community, not in the clinic. and there are some basic premises that undergird our work, that are always present in everything we do. And with any population with who we do this work, right? We are always an Eight limbs based practice. And we are always very focused on the layers of self.

27:57                                     So looking at the five Koshas, body, breath, mind, intuitive wisdom and then ultimately joy, bliss or union, however you sort of want to translate the names of the Koshas. So in this work, they are always present, no matter which group we work with, we do however, adapt how we deliver the message to the group in front of us, right? And so, when we work with our mental health clients, we really work a lot through the body, the breath and the mind, really always in combination. And the more trauma we have in the room, the more careful we are to really work with body and breath, or body and energy and less so with kind of the more analytical, cognitive sort of strategies in the mind. Because the research is really clear that the contribution that yoga makes to help ameliorate traumatic experiences, is through the body and the breath.

                                                And then integrating that with work that happens in the mind that whole top down, bottom up integration. When some of our team members have worked with the police force for example, then breathing and, and thinking breathing and decision making is more in the foreground, right? And asana of course, because that group is drawn into yoga because of the physical demands. But bringing them into balance, right? Giving them the asana, talking about how that actually can help them down regulate their nervous system, how it can help them inspire that gap between response, right? If you are a police officer in the field and you have to make quick decisions all the time, if you can help get that gap long enough that the decision is more discerning, that's a wonderful, wonderful skill for them to have.

                                                But you're not going to use Sanskrit with every group like that and your tone will be much more matter of fact, you're going to use some humor. You'll adapt sort of to the cultural environment of that particular group. When you go into the prisons, which one of our team members did, she taught in a teacher training program in the prison and they taught an eight limbs practice, but they had to be much more discerning about how they practiced asana in prison, right? There were prison rules that they had to abide by - so no skin tight clothing, practice in sweats and you sort of, hide your female body if you're working with men. And so there are always adaptations that you need to make. But I think that's true no matter what, Any yoga class, a public class, anything you're always going to have people with different demand characteristics. And as a teacher, I think the more nimble you are in recognizing that and in responding to that need with appropriate modification and adaptation and suggestions, the more inclusive and inviting your practice.

31:42                                     I agree. I'd like to ask one last question. Your research showed that the media is not as inclusive as perhaps we'd like it to be. That yoga alliance has a great emphasis, has an emphasis, let's just say that on the physical as opposed to the other eight limbs. What is your suggestion to helping, us become more inclusive in yoga in the west.

32:23                                     Yeah. Well, one thing we really need to do is we need to become more inviting to underrepresented groups. Right. It's interesting that you ask this question because this is an ongoing conversation in our group, right? We are very dedicated to diversity and inclusiveness, but sometimes we hear from people, but you guys are all, yes white women. We're not. There are eight of us who are out of the 10 are white women. Some of us are young and some of us are older. We're not all white, but, and, and we grapple with this, right? How can we say that we are dedicated to inclusiveness and diversity when our own faces are often not perceived that way by other people.

                                                And so we have been making very deliberate attempts to figure out ways to become more inclusive. So for example, we're working now on a scholarship, a fund to draw people from underrepresented groups into our teacher training program so that they can participate without having to think about where the money will come from, right? But we also try to be inclusive and the images that we put on our website, we're not always successful with that because we, we don't want to use stock images. We want to use our own images. And so we have limitations there, but we also offer physical practices that honor all levels of skill, all levels of body capacity, all levels of emotional and psychological needs.

                                                We're really dedicated to making sure that when we demonstrate postures, we don't demonstrate the advanced. Oh, we demonstrate the beginner's pose, right? So that people have this sense of, yeah, I can do this. I work with a lot of seniors and they're always so excited when they can get into a warrior. It's a modified warrior, but I'm not going to say it's a modified warrior. It's a warrior pose. It's a beautiful expression. We can adapt and modify and so variety should make the practice accessible. We become gentler in how we teach asana. We bring the Eight limbs in. I like to say, , if somebody has the capacity to breathe, they have the capacity to do yoga. If they have the capacity to focus their mind, they can do the yoga.

35:23                                     It's a difficult problem. It really is.

35:28                                     It has to be a collective effort. And I really see this happening. I mean, if you just look at the accessible yoga website of Jivana Heyman. You interviewed him. They're fantastic. And the images that they can show and that's what we need to do. That's where we need to end up. But we also need to do better. We need to offer sliding fee scales. We need to draw people into the practice.

36:01                                     So I'll give you an opportunity here if there's something that you would like to say in a little more depth than we covered or if there's something that you would really like to share with the listeners that we haven't covered. please do so.

36:15                                     The one thing that maybe we haven't touched on as much as would it be necessary to truly reflect where we come from in YogaX is the culture of the Koshas. We really have a very strong commitment to working with the Koshas. We view the Koshas as a developmental model. And this is maybe our background in psychology. Most of us are a psychologist and the Koshas are really this beautiful ancient model of how we transform as human beings. Starting with as we come into the world being primarily focused on our body. And then as we relate to our caretakers, recognizing sort of our aspect of self. And then we began to acquire language and our mind comes on board and then we recognize we're in relationships and our wise, intuitive self has to come on board so that we can be compassionate toward others. And then ultimately we have to recognize that there is sort of this bigger connection. There's this bigger union, this very joyful interdependence. And that then brings us to maybe later in life when our existential imperative needs to become more important than our biological imperative.

                                                And this is something that I think is a lovely paradigm for Yoga students and for Yoga teachers to understand that even 2,500 years ago or whenever yoga first started to be transmitted, whether orally or in writing, there was already this wisdom that as people, as humans, we evolve. We have sort of a central capacity that's innate to develop toward an existential imperative. As long as our biological imperative is taken care of. If our survival is assured, if we have food, shelter, clothing, then then we can live to do amazing things. And so we talk about this quite a bit in yoga classes. It's a model for mental health. It's a model of resilience, it's a model for coping with illness. It's a model for enhancing relationships. so I just wanted to put a plug in for really working with the Koshas and recognizing them as this very beautiful developmental model that finds a lot of support in psychological research in terms of how we evolved through brain development and such to become more empathic and compassionate loving and kind as we get older.

39:09                                     Thank you so much, Christine, for coming on. I think you've given us some different ideas or how to think about some of these things. I really appreciate you taking the time and sharing your knowledge and wisdom with us.

39:52                                     Well, thank you, Stephanie, for including me. It was an absolute pleasure. It's, yeah, and I'm humbled by the invitation.

40:01                                     Thank you.

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Changing the Face of Yoga – episode 113


Aug 13, 2019


Major points:

  1. Small Yoga pauses during the working day can refresh and relieve discomfort.
  2. Carol has developed a series of minute movements, breathing and meditation to bring the body, mind and emotions into a healthier state during the workday.
  3. Carol is helping people develop sustainable habits that are beneficial and easy to do.




00:41                                     This is episode one hundred twelve of changing face of yoga. And my guest today is Carol Confino. Carol has been a nurse for over 20 years and she's now shifted to preventing illness and disease becoming a yoga teacher, a yoga health coach and a certified yoga therapist. She's found ways of dealing with depression, self doubt and anxiety. The simple prompts process of noticing when these issues come up begins the process of overcoming. Welcome. Carol. Is there anything else you'd like to add to that particular introduction?

01:38                                     Just to clarify, I was an RN way back. I was an RN 14 years, but it's been 20 years since I've actually been a practicing nurse. But, I've been teaching yoga since 2006. Transition.

01:55                                     We all are doing that, aren't we?. I was very interested in what you were talking about doing desk yoga classes at a health fair. And you said it's a really different format from just doing office yoga or corporate yoga or whatever you want to call it.

02:23                                     It was interesting because I hadn't really thought about doing much corporate, but I was offered this job to do a health fair. Not so much in handing out flyers about my business or anything, but to teach office yoga. first time I had done hour long workshops at offices in the past, but I wasn't sure how this is going to work in a health fair. And I hit on what I call pause practices. I had done a workshop at my studio, Sun and Moon Yoga Studio here in Fairfax, Virginia. I did practices to pause during the day where you just take a minute or less and do some kind of practice that's going to either change your mind or your body in some way. So I used some of that and some of the things that I did with the desk yoga and there were a few practices that when I did them really resonated with people who didn't usually do yoga. So that's when it hit me that there's a whole population cause I've gone in offices and I've done a yoga class before or after work. But actually having it as part of their work day. Because yoga is more about mindfulness, being aware and when you start to become aware of when your posture is getting out of whack, what can you do?

04:04                                     And you know, you can go through all the alignment cues and things and sit up and you can bring your shoulders back. But I found that just bringing your arms out to a tee position brings in all the alignment cues and then you can add some practices that bring some strength up into your shoulders so you don't round forward so much. And if you incorporate that during your day, like as you're typing away on the computer, you notice you're rounding and you're in the middle of a thought, bring your arms out to a t, you've just broken up the muscles that were tight rounding you forward. And then you go back to typing and you roll down again. When you get to a breaking point where you've come to the end of the thought or the paragraph, you can do some stretches that will keep your shoulders up and keep you in better alignment because it's not so much the rounding forward that's bad. It's staying there. So if you can a couple of times an hour come in and out of it and to get them to sit and listen cause everybody's in a hurry.

                                                All these practices take a minute or less and I have about 20 different ones: minute meditations, eye exercises, shoulders and the arms. And they all fit into a nice little format and I give them a little handout they can take back to their desks that goes through all the practices, some breathing practices, some energy medicine practices and I go over the ones that are more unusual and then I say you can look everybody can round and arch their back and roll the shoulders. But explaining some of the things that I do that can keep you in better alignment and gets you through your day a little more comfortably.

06:13                                     Oh, how clever. That's really interesting. I'm sitting here doing the T thing.

06:22                                     If you do that t and then bring your arms in a cactus position. So you bend your elbows.

06:27                                     I am.

06:30                                     So if you turn your palms towards your head, okay, your upper back muscles are getting a little stretch and so your shoulders and the chest is contracting but they're not moving any bone. Really turn your palms away. And now the upper back muscles contract and the chest muscles stretch. So you go back and forth between those two. And then bring your arms down without moving your shoulders. I found this out from doing it over and over again. By at the end of the day, when I go to round my shoulders, I would feel a little more resistance than I did before I did cactus arms, which is different than if you bring your arms behind your back and squeeze your shoulders together. Your shoulders can come immediately come forward because you haven't gotten the stabilizing muscles to stay there. So that's like a revelation for a lot of very tight men particularly. But even women, they come and they do this and they notice it right away. And there's other ones, a couple of other ones that I do, and I talk about how to fit that practically into your day. Just like I said you're middle of something and then when you get to a stopping point, you do the stabilizing things and before you go on break, you can do some eye exercises. There are lots of different ones, there's even more than that. I didn't even go into the wrist with the ones that I do with the office. The wrist is much more subtle to work with.

08:06                                     I saw you had a a youtube video on it.

08:09                                     I had some on there and I'm going to have a little course. I'm doing the health fairs. Then I started making up the whole little handout that I have is going to come out as a course where all 20 practices are done. And the minute meditations I have recorded about a minute and a little longer because I just startto welcome them and then do about a minute. I've had people ask me when I've done this in offices, do you have any videos with this? And I said I have a few on youtube but this is going to be an actual little course package.

08:58                                     It's interesting.I think it's hard for people when they're working, but to take that time to take an hour or so for a yoga class, but just to get that habit in of really noticing where your shoulders are or whatever is, it's quite clever really. Because they can do that without really taking away from there their time at work.

09:21                                     And it makes them aware because actually if you do it over and over again, it actually becomes more comfortable to sit upright. You're really working your body very hard rounding your shoulders forward. It's not a bad position but the strongest position for your spine is when your head is balanced on top of the spine. Once you get your muscles used to that again, because that's how you were when you were a little kid. Your head couldn't go forward cause it was so heavy. Babies when they sit up, sit upright. Because that's where your spine is the strongest. You don't usually see little kids with rounded shoulders cause their heads are so heavy. Then when they bring them forward, it throws their balance off.

                                                But if you can kind of get aware that this is really more comfortable and also it gets them moving, even if like it's not get up and walk around the office. But even when you're in your chair you can change your position a lot. You've seen a belly dancer move, they have their arms in a tee position, they can bring a lot of movement to their body. But their shoulders stay where they are. It's actually not a very tight position, rounded shoulders. You can't move as well. You're restricted cause you're crushing your chest.

                                                You know, if the belly dancer had rounded shoulders, she couldn't get that movement down through the rib cage because she's crushing it. But if you bring your arms up, you actually can get a lot more movement. Your body is free or to twist. Not that you're going to stay still. Your body likes to move, your eyes like to move. Those things that you do every day is going to have more of an impact then what you do once a week in a yoga class or at least as much impact. Developing habits that are sustainable that aren't hard.

                                                We've had master teachers, like Leslie Kaminoff. He talks about even how you walk you can really, if you really are mindful of how you walk, it can help prevent some bunion's and things like that from just being aware of how your body's designed, which we didn't come with a book of how to, and so you kind of winging it. And when when somebody talks about what bones hit the floor first. When you put more weight on the outside edge of your foot, you're going to get a bunion there because it's protecting you. Work on your muscles, which isn't just the foot, it's the muscles of the leg and all that. They are all connected and bringing people in with these simple things they do at the desk, it might get them more interested. Some of these other aspects that aren't necessarily yoga poses, but like mindful movement and mindful sitting.

12:32                                     Let's go into that. How do you define mindful sitting?

12:38                                     Well, mindful sitting is noticing when my shoulders are rounded forward first of all. Where your feet are; are you really comfortable where you are? Because I do share with my classes at the studio sometimes and even when you do like cactus arms, when you're seated, notice that what happens with your feet and your legs too. If you don't cross your legs, your feet kind of come flat on the floor and the knees come over the ankles and your rib cage is lifted and you're in alignment without me telling you anything else. Now it's good to break it up and really notice and why you want everything aligned. But your knee likes to be at a right angle or a little, maybe a little bit straighter. I was just hearing something on the radio about when you put your car on cruise control, now they're saying put your feet flat on the floor in the car and sit up a little. But anytime you habitually do the same movement, always have your knees apart or together it's going to put strain on the knee, ankle or wherever. If you always cross your legs, real tight, that's going to start working on your hip. Just kind of noticing and being aware.

14:20                                     I was just going to ask do you give them help with getting that habit into their daily movement? I think that would be the hardest thing is just remembering to do it each time,

14:36                                     I'm building this as a business idea. I started with this office yoga, with the health fairs and then I'm going to start to work with either local companies or even online doing. My ideal is to have like little 15 minute things once a week or a couple of times a month because much longer people don't really want to do a lot like at work there. When you're busy, saying take an hour and for this relaxation practice or whatever it is, too much time, 15 minutes sounds reasonable. And then I'll have time for questions after, but what I can talk with them about whatever their issues are and it's like chipping away. So if you first get this idea of just coming into that cactus once in a while when you're at your desk. When you find that successful, then you start to notice other things. And I have talked to people about, do you notice, , what do you do with that arm that always hurts? I mean, is that the arm you use your mouse with.

                                                 It's sometimes just bearing your position a little bit can make a big difference, and what kind of wear and tear you do on your body. That's kind of what I can build it into. From my own experience in working with brand new people to yoga because it's the type of people that really need yoga. It's the people who aren't going to go to work an hour early with yoga clothes and then change and go to work. These are the people that are just going to sit at their desk and not do anything unless it's really quick and easy. Some of the CEOs or the people running the thing running the health fairs will come over and they say, oh, office yoga, what is that? Or it's called all different things. Desk stretches. Each place has a different name, but they say, oh I only have about five minutes. So I'll just say, okay, I can do something in a minute or less. And I do it. You can see in their eye that it made an impression like wow, that does feel different. And it was so easy. And it's really easy.

                                                And especially when you think about it, even mindful sitting you kind of once somebody brings your attention to it. You think my outer outer part of my knee, that is always getting pulled out once because I sit with my knees apart all the time and it's fine to do, like I said, all of these positions like I tell the people at the health fairs is: none of these positions is wrong for your body. It's just what you do all the time is going to cause wear and tear. Knowing what is neutral for your body or because you kind of know what isn't putting any stress on your muscles. If you ever carried a crate or something and you had your fingers around it and you had to hold it longer than you expected. And your fingers don't open really quick, that's what happens to your back. But we sit with our back rounded forward for an hour and that's what happens with any muscle. You hold in one position for a long time.

                                                 Our muscles are meant to move And whether we think about it or not, we're always moving like that. Even when you hold a Coffee Cup with your hand here, move your fingers up and down. You know, you never perfectly still and we don't think about that. But we do sit in front of the computer now and, and it's, I think as we do more and more on the computer, it is going to take its toll on our eyes, on the body. You know, they, they show that picture of how people progress from programs. Magnum man, the little, yeah. Chimps off and then they're going back. I've seen pictorials where they show it coming back down and this guy sitting at his desk all curled up looking just like the monkey at the beginning. Whatever you do over and over changes your body. People develop the hunchback and their shoulders are always rounded and that has long-term health impacts.

                                                What I usually have next to my station when I go to these health fairs is, there was an article in the Washington Post that you can Google just by putting in, don't just sit there. And what it is, is it's a picture of a guy over his desk and a cross section and next to it, it's got all the things that can happen from sitting improperly. And what that picture does is it draws people over, either laughing or you know, or concerned a little bit. It shows it crushes your heart. It doesn't let your lungs open up just from the way you hold your body and people know that it's not working well. And then when you explain that your body was meant to sit up, right? You've let certain muscles get stronger and other ones get weak that you feel like rounded forward is more comfortable. But after a while, once like I noticed as soon as my shoulders round forward now just because I've been doing yoga for so long.

                                                One other thing I do with the eyes is eye exercises and it struck me that even working in the office when we didn't have the computer doing everything, you would get up from your desk to look up information. You'd have to go over, get a book, find it on the shelf, bring it down and then your focus would change four or five times just looking up something. So your eyes got a little movement and your eyes didn't stay right in center right on this middle of the screen and just move in like an eight inch or 12 inch square. Even with the big screen, it's still only about 18 inches. Your eyes got a lot more range. We keep on for eight hours looking the same distance away with the same focus. Because now you can look up everything online. You don't have to move and , it's taking its toll on the eyes as well. And those are really simple just looking near and far, I'm making a point, you know like before you go on break, when your eyes are a little fuzzy focus far away, focus near in. you know, if you'll have a window, look at, look out the window, think about looking around, up, down at and then the sides.

                                                 So these are all little things that don't take any time. You don't need a yoga mat, you don't need special clothes. But it's yoga, it's my your mind becoming aware of your body and then breathing practices to calm you down or to get you energized. There are all kinds of practices that it can be done in a very short period of time.

22:57                                     Excellent. I really think that's interesting because you're doing the essence of Yoga aren't you, of noticing, of being present and feeling what your body and your breath and your mind are doing. And that's basically, yoga is more than the Asanas. Where do you see this going? it sounds like a very accessible, easy to do kind of practice that it has a lot of benefits. How do you see it growing?

23:35                                     Well, I'm just trying to get it started. I think like having like either live or recorded 15 minutes little sessions periodically and seasonal, like doing packages of seasonal or topical like could be longer 45 minute sessions. If places want something like that can be customized to what the needs of an organization would be. You could bring in all kinds of practices like for anxiety and depression for sleep. and pain. I have a lot resources from all different certifications for Yoga, for depression and even with the brain, brain longevity, and memory and incorporating right and left brain and work like that can all be brought in. Make it really simple and easy practices that can be brought into any of these companies.

                                                My ideal is at some point to have people doing a year-long program where either a monthly or biweekly or quarterly packages where I could do either the short ones and even like for new employees when they come in, maybe have a recording like a, a zoom or a, not a Webinar, but a little video of me of going through the basics of these press pause practices; taking a practice and incorporating it every day.

                                                 On the front of the flyer that I give out, it usually says, pick one or two to do each for the day and see which ones benefit you the most. And then maybe there's ones you always go to. And what happens eventually is you notice, oh, I really need this one now. End of the day practices, things like to leave work at work. So all of these we are creating either through a breath practice or a mindfulness practice at the end of the day, instead of rushing out the door. Do something that like almost like a little, not a ceremony, but a little thing that work is over. I clear my mind, I clear my thoughts and just let everything go and now I'm ready to go home and I'm not in a panic getting out the door.

                                                 I'd like to see more and more corporations are getting more and more into the wellness and into retaining employees and in to employee health and these kinds of practices where they do it, they can do it anywhere, any not even just at the desk. You can do it anywhere, anytime. It can be incorporated in your daily life without you having to worry about being flexible.

                                                That's the whole thing. When you talk to people about doing yoga, they're all worried. You have to be very flexible and the idea is you're really thin and really flexible and you get into all of these positions. The positions are just way of someone who is real flexible of getting sensation. Someone said the difference between a flexible and an inflexible person is how much they have to move to feel the sensation. So someone is tight doesn't have to move as far. And they feel it. And somebody else who's more flexible has to move deeper and everybody's body is different. So things that work for some people aren't going to work for others and that's where you kind of tailor things in the therapeutic vein. That helped bring us all together. But where I'm seeing is that corporations might might be interested in having this be a regular thing that they can share with their employees. It can vary over the year or different topics?

28:16                                     I could see where, especially since it's not taking them away from work. It's just giving them a little time to reset themselves as you say.

28:36                                     Pause, reset, refresh is like on my website. That's another little catch thing.

28:44                                     You said you're a yoga therapist. Do you do these kinds of things with your Yoga therapy clients also?

28:54                                     I haven't done as many privates. When training. I did a lot of yoga therapeutics with clients, I also got into Yoga Health coaching with Ayurveda. Kate Stillman had these 10 practices where you do things in Kaizen. So kaizen, which is taking little, little things at a time. And I think between the Yoga Therapeutics and the Yoga Health coaching with these health fairs, I kind of combined some of that.

                                                When I work with individual students, you give them small things to do, get them to incorporate them and then build on that instead of a whole bunch of things to do at once.

                                                What is the main focus of what I want? What do you want to accomplish? What the client wants to accomplish. What are the simplest practices that can get you there that you can do easily along with a more formal practice you can do during the day daily or three times a week. Practice would be longer if I was working with an individual client, but what things you could change in between. Something simple, even like a pause practice. If they're working with me for depression or anxiety - a breathing practice. What breathing practice is most effective? We'll try these different ones. Which one would work for you? And you said every time you're feeling stressed because with any of the therapeutic things, the earlier you recognize that you're having an issue, the easier it is to head it off.

                                                So sometimes in the west we tend to ignore pain and ignore signals from our body, which may or may not be pain. There may be just discomfort, but we think we can push through it and sometimes we can, but it's all taking a toll because with pain and discomfort, your body is telling you something, If you don't listen and make an adjustment, your pain level usually increases because you keep ignoring the pain signal and then all of a sudden things fall apart. I'd often hear, people say it would be like I was healthy and then I had this one thing go wrong and now everything is off.

                                                And even back then before I had done yoga, I'm thinking it probably was happening all along. You just chose to ignore it. Your body has this amazing ability to help you do whatever you want to do. Even if you're having pain, it will, it will push you through it. But it's taking its toll and body can compensate for a lot of the things we do, which is why a bunion is a compensation for your gait being in a way that you always are rubbing on that part of the foot. Your body, in order to protect your foot, forms a bunion forms harder skin there. if you start to notice it earlier and instead of ignoring it, take action. that's really helpful.

                                                Working with people with anxiety and depression and pain and arthritis you do your regular practices and then you notice when something's aggravating it and when it's aggravating it, you stop. Then you do a practice that you know will relieve it and then go back to it. So it's all again yoga; your mind listening to your body.

 Your breath will often be an indicator of when things aren't working well. And if you notice, I notice every time this happens, my breath gets faster in my heart rate goes up a little bit. You do a breathing practice or even just a sigh or something that changes your breathing pattern, changes your muscle movement which in turn changes your mind, your mindset.

                                                This is a global yoga therapy day is coming up. Yoga therapy is fairly new and a lot of yoga teachers do yoga therapy they modify things, but the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) actually created a certification for people who are focusing on going beyond the poses. And a lot of what IAYT is doing is funding and working on research to show that yoga therapy is effective. And, it's kind of hard to do some of the yoga therapeutics because a lot of it is preventive, so it's can't prove that something, did not happen. But a lot of people are doing research with pain, anxiety, arthritis, trauma, and are documenting changes that they see. For the next seven weeks before this comes up the global yoga therapy, it's on a Facebook page is just a global yoga therapy day and they're putting up videos every week of somebody's research and then other topics through, on the website that might be papers and things like that.

36:03                                     That sounds like a great resource.

36:10                                     YogaMate, is a place where you can look up yoga, yoga therapists and they put out all this information you can get all kinds of names of yoga therapists and how yoga therapy is researched. This Yoga therapy day is to highlight how yoga therapy it is making itself known a little bit more. Most people don't really think about yoga therapy or don't even know what exists.

36:46                                     Is there anything that you would like to add to what you've said or talk about something else that you would really like the listeners to know?

37:04                                     I think this is going to be kind of a, maybe not what I'm doing, but yoga I think is going to become more of a useful element even in medicine and in daily life. Even if they don't have enough, it's not called Yoga, this mindfulness and all it is really kind of the wave of the future. So I'm kind of happy to be here at this time and share some of this information with you and your listeners.

37:37                                     Thank you. It's been really interesting and I'm really impressed with how you've made it so accessible because I think that corporate yoga is probably really needed and yet it's a difficult a place to be because people are really busy. It's hard for them to do it, but I think you've done it really cleverly. I think it's really very interesting. So, thank you so much for being on the podcast. I really appreciate that you're bringing this information to the listeners and I'm sure they'll be interested also.

38:12    , thank you for having me. It's been really nice.



FB: CarolfinoYoga


If you enjoyed the podcast and would like to learn more about what I do I am offering a free 5 day challenge.  In this challenge, each day you will be offered a practice to include your day to see the difference to take a minute break.  

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For more information on yoga therapy you can still access all the videos and information from the Facebook page

If you enjoyed the podcast and would like to learn more about what I do I am offering a free 5 day challenge.  In this challenge, each day you will be offered a practice to include your day to see the difference to take a minute break.  Follow this link


For more information on yoga therapy you can still access all the videos and information from the Facebook page

Aug 6, 2019

                                                SunnyBee Yoga with Jacquie Barbie - Changing the Face of Yoga podcast #110

                                                Major points:

  1. a) Everyone in yoga classes should be doing the pose modification that is best for their body (5:49)
  2. b) Representation counts, and the public should be able to see all different kinds of yogi bodies (10:10)
  3. c) Thank your body at the beginning of class and accept that today may look and feel very different from yesterday (18:04

00:47                                     This is the hundred and 11th episode of Changing the Face of Yoga. And my guest today is Jackie Barbie and she's from Sunny B yoga in Florida in the US. She's a 200 hour experienced RYT and she specializes in accessible yoga for all. She's trained with Diane Bondi and Amber Karns and yoga for all. And Jivana Heyman of Accessible yoga. It is her passion and she believes her Dharma to help bring yoga to those that can benefit from the practice, but don't fit the stereotypical image of a yoga practitioner. I love this. I tell clients that call on the phone who have never seen me and are afraid of trying yoga, that I'm a fat gray haired lady with Fibromyalgia teaching the yoga class, you will be fine. It's great. She teaches a variety of classes, really impressive variety. A wheelchair yoga, Chair Yoga classes, beginner, gentle classes. She works privately with people in their homes. So she's really got the full spectrum of students who may need a little different kind of yoga. And we're going to talk about some of those different kinds right now. So welcome Jackie. I'm so glad that you're here. Is there anything that you'd like to add to that introduction?

02:24                                     Oh, that was great. Thank you. It's always kind of interesting to hear that back when I get a lot of people who call me on the phone and say, I'm too old, or I'm too fat, or I can't do yoga. I just tell them, trust me, when you see me, you will feel 0kay, you'll think, oh well she can do this, I can do this. So I think I bring a lot of people to ease just visually and then we have fun.

02:56                                     I taught seniors and they were very nervous that they would get someone very young and I'm not. So I think that helped because I knew what they were going through. I understand what you're saying. I'll give you all these contact details later to my listener, but I really want to tell them about your Instagram account because you have all these wonderful pictures of modifications of really common yoga poses. And I especially liked boat pose. I thought that was quite clever. I like to talk a little bit about how your yoga teaching, your guiding of your students includes all those modifications. When I do modifications, everybody wants to do the most intense one or the most difficult one. And sometimes it's really hard to get them to say, yeah, that's great, you can do that. We can work towards that, but why don't we think about it like this way too. Sometimes that works and a lot of times it doesn't. How do you introduce and guide people to modifications that might be a little better for their body.

04:25                                     So we start with that first and we start with the simplest and maybe even they might not even feel like they're in the yoga pose to begin with. Maybe like you said, boat pose. So maybe we'll start with the bolster popped up behind her back and just do that and then ease into something a little bit more. Or if we're in the chair, maybe we're just lifting the feet one at a time and we just ease into it slowly so that we just say, hey, if this feels good, stay here. But if you want to be a little curious,  let's try this. And if you go there and that doesn't feel good, come back to this where it did feel good and safe. Safe is always a big word for me. We throughout the practice introduce a little bit more and a little bit more and then remind them, don't forget, we have these options too. So we usually have maybe four different options of a pose that we work on in a class. And like I said, a lot of times it's very subtle. They don't realize that they're doing this, what they might look at if they were to open up an average Instagram page and say, I could never do that. But they're doing their version of the pose that fits their body, which is the most important thing to me.

05:40                                     So in a subtle way, you're really asking them to really pay attention to their body and how it feels.

05:49                                     Absolutely. Absolutely. I don't want everybody to look alike. I tell everybody in the classroom if everybody's in a different version of the pose, that makes me extremely happy. Because that means my job of making them comfortable in their own body, I was successful because that's when I'm trying to get everybody to listen to their body. I'm not trying to do what the person next to them is doing.

06:18                                     I think that's excellent. I notice that you said, I think on your Facebook page, that you're starting to create video content.

06:32                                     Yes. So I have a 15 year old daughter who was an aspiring videographer. She's taking all kinds of classes, is already accumulating certifications. in video editing, photo editing, things like that. So she is very interested in creating videos. We actually did one yesterday. She impresses me in how she can whip these together, edit them very quickly and make it look like it was the easiest thing in the world. And so we're working on that. We're trying to do that because I have people in different states, different areas who are saying, if I had you as a yoga teacher, I would go to yoga .I know that there's like hundreds of other me's out there. They're just afraid to try. So I figured I can at least get them started by practicing online with me. Maybe they can do some of the videos and, and they just need to do one video and they're officially a Yogi. Hopefully that will make them feel better. My sisters are in Pennsylvania. I really would like for them to practice chair yoga. I'm the baby of the family and I have lived over a thousand miles away from them for 30 years now. So this is a way for me to bring a practice to them and just to anybody who's just interested in trying some modified yoga, some adaptive yoga, whatever works in their body.

08:03                                     How do you do that? Because I've always been concerned that if people are just watching me, I can't really tell what's going on with them. Or is it kind of a two way thing, like on zoom or something like that?

08:17                                     That would be a great long term. That is something I hope to work towards in the future. I've seen that there are platforms where you can practice, where you can see people and do that. Right now we're just doing very basic, simple, beginner chair yoga type things. I really feel like anybody can really easily follow along. We're not doing anything complicated that they need someone quite there. It's not much different from anybody getting a yoga DVD or going on Youtube, we posted our first Youtube video today. And it's on SunnyBee Yoga on Youtube. You can look that up and we'll plan on adding more as we go along.

09:05                                     I did see some videos, I don't know if your daughter had anything to do with them, but I was so tickled at them because they were at a very fast pace. People are going up and down and round and it was kind of fun. It really was and I thought, you know that that's very clever to say Yoga can be fun. It's not always terribly, terribly serious.

09:31                                     A lot of times we do our family yoga videos where I actually get a lot of people requesting, I haven't seen a Barbie family high speed yoga video lately. We like to go hiking a lot or camping and we'll put up the iPhone and put it on high speed, videotaping it at high speed and just so that they can just see like this is our real life. This is actually what we do this is just for Instagram and we don't always videotape it obviously, but people will say, oh, I need a Barbie family video. So up sometimes just for fun, if anybody really ever wants to practice the yoga that we're doing in the high speed, I'll be happy to write down the poses for them.

                                                But I did start them at high-speed because I was always so nervous about posting pictures and posting videos of myself doing yoga. Just very self- conscious of the way I looked. But representation matters. And if people don't see me in a bigger body, in an older body, in a body with chronic illness doing yoga, then they're never going to think that they can do yoga. So representation matters. We have to all be posting these pictures and posting these videos so that they don't only see white 24 year old women standing on a rock off a cliff doing yoga, you know, like that's not all that it is. It's being silly. So someone had told me do your first videos at high speed because nobody will see the mistakes or nobody will see the things like that and you won't be as self-conscious and it will just be creating the practice for yourself. So now I can do it slower, but it's really just for fun.

11:17                                     I think that the representation sometimes kind of gets lost in yoga that it's very, very serious and it's a practice. It has a philosophy and all that is true and it's great, but it also can be very enjoyable.

11:34                                     Laughter is a huge part of my teaching. I think. I like to try to keep things light and humorous. I think laughter helps people relax. You come into a beginner's class or it's their first time in their wheelchair class or something. Then if I can make them laugh, they just relax just a little bit. It's a stress reliever. They laughing with the people around them, so it immediately starts to build community. Someone once told me laughter's a breath practice too. So I think laughter in Yoga is really, really important. So sometimes I call myself a yogamedian. I honor the practice. It is really mostly just to make people more relaxed with them when with themselves.

12:24                                     Let's segue into the wheelchair yoga class that you teach. I think you said it was your most favourite class. I have tried it and I found it quite difficult. what would an average, normal class look like in a wheelchair class?

12:46                                     So I teach wheelchair in a nursing facility in the nursing home. Most of these are long-term residents. So there's strict rules, no touching, no standing. They can't get out of their wheelchairs for safety reasons obviously. So at first I thought, what am I going to do? Like we can only do so much for their arms and I'm supposed to be there for an entire hour. So how am I going to do this? And then the average age is probably 85 to 90. So what in the world am I going to do?

                                                Well, let me tell you, I run out of time in that hour because we have so much fun. We have so much to do. We do move our feet and move our toes. You might lift our legs. Maybe we're lifting them independently. Maybe we're lifting them, using our hands. We use our props in our practice. We use straps, we use blocks, sometimes we'll use the therapy bands. We might do a little bit of practice with using our arms and we let them rest. And then we will focus on our feet and our ankle;, spending time pointing and flexing the toes a work, the calf muscles, because the calf muscles, the second most important muscle for good heart health. And they're sitting in their chairs all day long so that they need to get this blood pumping. They need to get this movement. Their posture becomes not really good because there's sinking back into the chair. So we remind them, I remind them throughout the practice, straighten the spine, ground your feet into the floor, pull the shoulders back. And even they just say, just doing that alone just helps them with their breath.

                                                And we try to speed things up a little bit, get a little bit more active. It may not look like a traditional yoga practice. Probably 80% of the class might just look like exercise or movement. we spend a lot of time stopping and then take some deep and open up, open up the airways, lift the chest, lift the heart, do a little introspection, what's happening in the body, how does this feel from when you came into the class?

                                                They really love it. A lot of them begged their physical therapists to not make them go to therapy that day so that they can just come to yoga. I've had occupational therapists bring their patients into the yoga class. One occupational therapist said one day, I want you to be in here every Wednesday because you're going to get more out of this class that I can do for you. And I thought that was just an amazing compliment because I'm not a therapist. I don't pretend to be a therapist. I don't have a medical background. We just have some fun and we just try to move the body and, and if it's not comfortable for them in that position or that pose, they can just sit there and be in the group. That's perfectly fine because community is yoga also. And I just love being in the room with them because they're so happy there. Your spirits lifts so much after they've had that movement, that interaction with everyone in the room. And if somebody who the nursing home scheduled gets cancelled, the activities director has been told by the patients there to call Jackie so she can come in and do yoga with us. We want an extra yoga class. So that's exciting.

                                                There was a patient who started coming and she had had stroke years ago, wasn't really recovering from anything. She had a difficult time speaking because she just couldn't get her breath. She started doing yoga and she's practicing things outside of our yoga class. And so at the end of yoga she would grab my hands and not let me leave because she could talk, somebody could hear her because her breath had picked up and it's stimulated her vocal chords. I don't know anything about this physically or medically, but she wouldn't let me leave. She'd hold onto me because she had a lot to say and she could say it at that time. And that was totally fine with me. She's come a long way. She's been doing all kinds of things. One of the ladies who comes every Wednesday, that's when we have our class. She had me write down some sequences for her and so she gets up every morning and does yoga in her room before she get dressed and does her activities. I'm really proud of those students there.

17:18                                     That's a great testimonial to your teaching. That's wonderful.

17:22                                     I've learned so much from them. I just walk out every day going Oh my gosh. I just can't believe I got to do that.

17:32                                     When you're teaching these types of classes, do you have them set goals for themselves, either physically, mentally, emotionally. Or are you guiding them through the practice given the experience that you have?

18:04                                     We come in and the very first thing we always do is we just tell our body: thank you for showing up for us today. Whatever it looks like today, whatever is going to happen in our bodies today, they might be feeling more pain. They might have a little bit more limitation. Maybe they're having a good day and they can move a little bit more, but just to thank their body for showing up and that we honour it wherever it is. If I say now, lift your arms up as high as they can go. If it's just two inches off your lap and the person next to you can put their fingertips towards the ceiling, perfectly fine. That's where you're supposed to be today. And I just try to show them different modifications and variations that they can move their arms. Opening their arms out to the side is painful on their shoulders. And it is for a lot of people with shoulder replacements. Bring the fingertips out in front. It's okay to do it your way, to customize your practice. I want you to feel good. I want you to come because it feels good, not because you do it and then at the end of the day you can't do anything else.

19:12                                     You said on your introduction that you have fibromyalgia and there's been some research that yoga helps fibromyalgia. And so I thought we could talk about that for people that may either be working with students who have that or they themselves have that. How yoga has affected that in your body, if you feel comfortable.

19:50                                     Fibromyalgia is one of the big reasons why my practice became so important to me because I was working and if I wasn't working, I was in bed because my pain was so bad. I couldn't move. My quality of life was not that great because I was 40 years old or 45 years old and I could only work and stay in bed. I wanted to do more things. I wanted to have more of a life and have more fun and someone has suggested to try yoga for the fibromyalgia pain. And I went and just a little bit of movement was incredible because I would have small moments of not being in so much pain and it would get longer and I might sleep better and if I slept better than my pain levels were down. It was really nice that it just gradually helps; little by little for me to recover after I might've been working a full day. I worked retail at the time and I was the manager of a clothing store and I ran all the time for 10 hours a day. it helped me be able to keep up the pace and then be able to do things, not stay in bed so long.

                                                And it, it helped me to get a lot of peace with my body too because being young at that time and I was saying what is it going to be like, in 20 years? I'm not going to be able to move at all, not going to be able to do anything. I have a young child who wants to enjoy life and being able to make that peace with my body and say it's okay.

                                                Whatever it is, we're going to be fine. We're going to move a little bit today and then we're going to move a little bit more. Between Yoga and doing some swimming, I really got my quality of life back, got to have a lot more freedom to go places and do things, was able to come off other medications. And I'm not saying that that's going to be the case for every single person, but it's worth a try. I've seen people come in, with fibromyalgia, to a chair class and say from the beginning to the end of the class, well this part of me doesn't hurt anymore. Just from making the moments, cause that's the cycle, with fibromyalgia that I was in where if I was active, the pain wasn't so bad, but the pain was too bad to be active. So it was just the cycle of I hurt too much and I'm too tired to do anything. So once I started moving, then I could move more and then even more. So it's, it's been a plus for me. I don't have perfect days every day, but I know what I need to do. I know what will help. Even the smallest movements make big differences in your body.

23:02                                     You might modify for yourself when you're doing this. I mean, what kinds of things do you do that helps?

23:10                                     When I started yoga, of course I come in with this, painful body and a bigger body and a lot of times teachers just didn't know what to do with me. They would just say take child's pose or use some props. And she didn't really tell me how to use props and I wanted to do yoga. I didn't want to, I mean, I know child's pose is yoga, but I didn't want to just stay there. I wanted to do some other things. I came here to move. So eventually I started just learning different ways, modify my practice. I was grateful that through these other amazing teachers that I've been able to work with have shown me more modifications for my practice.

                                                 And so now it just becomes like a little game when you asked me about modifications earlier. It's like, give me a pose and we'll figure out a way to do it in a chair or we'll figure out a different way to do it. Like, it's almost a game. Let's have fun. How can we get the same effects from this pose and what feels good in our body today? So maybe today I do it this way and tomorrow my body might feel differently and I can do it this way. So that's another reason why I like to show maybe four different ways. If I'm lucky, if I can come up with four different ways to do a pose because our bodies feel differently from one day to the next, from morning to evening. And um, you know, it might feel one day and just might not. Lots of modifications. There are lots of props. I'm a prop goddess. That's what the props are. We use blocks, straps, bolsters, walls, chairs, you name it, it's a prop. we will do yoga with it. So when people come into my class, they always look at me, go grab everything, right? Yes. Just get all the props, have everything, have as much of it as you want.

25:06                                     I think I saw a picture of you with a large stick.

25:09                                     So we may fun sticks. My husband and I got creative one day and they’re push broom handles and we sawed off one end and we put these furniture stoppers on each end.  We're in the chair and we use the stick just to lean forward a little bit deeper and let's find a down dog with the hands on a stick. Tt opens up the shoulders a little bit more. I have a student who almost always grabs one because if we're doing balancing poses, she used to always have to stand against the wall, but now she can using the stick stand freely on her mat but just still hold onto the stick for balance and stability and I mean anything can be a prop. Anything can be your prop I'm telling you. So that was a lot of fun. There's all kinds of fun things to do with, I need to do more videos using that.

26:14                                     I just was very fascinated by that. I hadn't ever heard of that as being a prop before, but I thought I can see where that would work. I did think it would be really good for balance, especially if someone's unstable, I think that would be very helpful for them mentally as well as physically to have that as a help there.

26:38                                     Yes. And it was fun trying to come up with like what is going to be the right thing. So we played with different wooden dowels and it was my husband who said, let's try a push broomstick we were there at Lowes, the home labyrinth kind of stores and you buy the stick for the push broom, you buy them separately. And he said, look at that. Like look at the grip in the hand, it's the right width and we've found the furniture stoppers that were the right size. And we just put them on and we said, there we go, there's our Prop and it was all for under $10 and it was just easy.

27:24                                     I like to end the podcast with an invitation to you to either discuss something we've discussed in more depth or bring in a brand new topic that you would like anyone who's listening to know about.

27:42                                     All right. So I always just like to explain the Bee part of Sonny Bee Yoga. Obviously it goes with my last name, Bardie But love bees. I love honeybees. Bumblebees, all bees. The one thing that I love about the Bumblebee is that bees, if you look at the way that their shaped and their weight and then their wing size, it is supposed to be impossible for them to fly, right? They fly anyway. Right.

28:23                                     And I feel that way about our yoga is that you can do this; if the bumblebee can fly, you can do yoga. I also love about the bees is that their hive, they have this amazing sense of community and that every bee in the hive has a purpose and that purpose is to serve the greater good of the community. So each bee has one job, it's their Dharma, what they're supposed to do, their focus, and they all do that. And it makes the hire successful and happy. And I feel that way about yoga. This is what I'm supposed to do. I'm supposed to help bring yoga to people who don't think they're supposed to be flying. And I'm going to let them know that they're just a bumblebee and they can fly too.

29:17                                     Thank you. You've talked about some really interesting topics that will, make a great podcast, You really explained it well and I think I've got a really good handle on your philosophy of teaching, which is always fun. because I think we're all different. We all have our different reasons, but you and I are probably close in how we would teach.  I want to give your contact details in case people would like to see those lovely videos, which are really fun guys. The website is sunny and it's s u, n n y Bee

30:06                                     And it's Bee not the letter B, but it's like, the Bumblebee,.

30:10                                     The same kind of spelling for sunny Bee Yoga on Facebook and Sunny Bee yoga on Instagram. And there's some really incredible photos of Jackie doing some modifications on the Instagram account that I think if you're interested in that kind of thing, they'd be a great resource for you. So if you are interested in this topic , those are the contacts for Sonny Bee Yoga for Jackie. Thank you. Jackie. You did a great job. I really commend you for the service that you're providing people who may not think of themselves as Yogis, but you're proving to them that they can be. So thank you.

31:11                                     Thank you. Thank you so much.

Jul 30, 2019

This is changing the face of yoga. And this is episode one 10. My guest is Linda Lang and Linda was on, , earlier in the year, but she said something that really intrigued me. I have taught seniors, mature adults, , for over 10 years now. And the way she talked about it was very, very different from the way I taught. And I wanted to explore that a bit more. , I'm going to let Linda introduce herself and then we're going to start. So thank you Linda for coming on again. I appreciate that. And tell the listeners a little bit about yourself.

01:28                                     Thank you, Stephanie. I started practicing yoga in my late teens. I was part of a generation introduced to yoga when the Beatles brought their guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi to the United States. So my foray into eastern philosophy and yogic practices began in my late teens and early twenties. I will be 66 years old this s mer. I always wanted to be a yoga teacher, but did not become one until the late 1990's so now I am full 20 years into a teaching career. During that period of time for about 15 years, I taught as full time as I possibly could in studios, community centers, memory units in assisted living centers. I worked for eight years at the Center for Integrative Medicine at George Washington University where I worked with patients in a clinical setting and taught medical students electives on yoga therapy so that they could learn how to embody the benefits of practice. And then take it into their medical practices, knowing that they would affect far more people in the course of their lives than I, than I ever might. So that's my work in a nutshell. I do my best to educate in the greater community in the Washington DC areas through the Smithsonian institution there, the Smithsonian associates educational programs, and I mentor other yoga therapists and train yoga teachers when I can.

03:18                                     You have the whole spectrum there. I appreciate the communication issue. I  think we were talking earlier and we decided the first thing we're going to start with is what does it mean or when do you become old? What criteria would you be looking at, Linda, if, if you had to define it.

03:46                                     Yes. Well, if I had to define it, I would emphasize the, the experience of working with individuals in their late forties and fifties who, because of illness or debilitating conditions or the impact of medicines, chemotherapy or radiation, accidents, trauma might consider themselves old because they are no longer feeling vital and already feeling quite limited on many different levels. So I can tell you, I've met people in their forties and fifties who have the characteristics of people who reach into old age and began to experience frailty on many different levels.

                                                I think of older students, quite frankly, as anyone over 60 years old is an older student, which doesn't mean that I have not taught headstands to people in their sixties. I have so you can approach older students and people with potentially severe limitations in some ways, but continue to teach them asana practice in ways that raises the bar in terms of what they believe they can do themselves. So, age is a huge factor, obviously and what makes a student old. But I just wanted to be clear that some people really do feel quite limited when they're younger than that.

05:38                                     And I think you brought up a really good point, which was self-limiting thoughts. That's it sometimes isn't so much what's actual as what you think it is. And I think that's an important topic that we might want to explore a little bit.

06:05                                     It is one of the greatest obstacles and because yogic philosophy focuses a great deal on obstacles and the deity of Ganesha is the remover of obstacles. It's nice to be able to literally bring these very profound images into the classroom, working with students, particularly older students and remind them that the stories that they tell you about themselves physically are meaningful to them. But when I hear people talk about what they cannot do or things they no longer do, I asked them to think about things in terms of realistically, is it because you're choosing not to do it anymore because you physically cannot do it anymore. Really important to differentiate on because you know, Stephanie as well as I do that you start to do something in a class and somebody will say, oh, I can't do that. And then you give them some modifications and 30 seconds later they're doing it. So, my suggestion to anyone who wants to know more about self-limiting thinking is to think of the things that you feel you cannot do or in the past did not think that you could do that you have already overcome. That's our job as teachers working with people who are feeling very limited because of age. Our responsibility is to eliminate possibilities for them to modify practices so that they can feel successful but still hold out hope that they actually will be able to achieve something beyond what they might expect for themselves.

07:58                                     You said in our earlier podcasts that you actually help them set goals.

08:04                                     I do.

08:06                                     And, and could you kind of explain that and give us an example of what you mean by that?

08:14                                     Yes, I'd like to differentiate intentionality from goal setting. If I come to the mat with an intention of quieting and calming my mind while stretching and relaxing my body. That's a very nice intention. But if my goal is to create strength, then I approached my practice with a different intention. I'm being very specific that there's an outcome. Goals have outcomes. So let's imagine well this just happened to me this morning. One of my students is 82 years old and she works with a physical trainer. She's got a lot of individual strengths in her body, but she has some inherent weaknesses in her feet and her hands. So if we don't pay attention to building strength from the tips of her fingers up into her knuckles, her palms, her wrists, all the way up to her elbows and shoulders, whatever strengths she has and her biceps and triceps and her trapezius muscles and whatever's going on in her neck and back. If she loses strength in her hands, she will become diminished with her strength in the rest of her body. Same thing is true with her feet. So we set a goal this morning of being able to literally to bear weight longer in her hands, doing a variety of different postures that we're not totally weight bearing, where she had a lot of control over her movement and she was ecstatic because she started off saying, oh, my arms are tired, my shoulders hurt already. We just went immediately to the modifications and she said, oh, this is great. Oh, Oh, if I just do it, isometrically, oh, I really can feel my strengths there. Oh, I really feel the weakness there, or I really feel the vulnerability in my neck. So by being clear about the goal, she started sensing things in her body and asking me questions and giving me feedback that I could use to illuminate her challenge and help her feel successful by building on existing strengths rather than saying, oh gosh, well, I guess that's just going to be a weak spot and going on to something else. Another goal, for instance, it's really important with older students is being able to walk longer distances to build endurance and resilience, able to hold certain poses longer. So let's say my goal with you, let's say that when we practice tree pose, you always hold onto the wall or the chair. My goal with you might to be, you're going to practice tree pose using my index fingertip. And then the ultimate goal is for you to be able to practice tree pose without using a support, having it close enough by, but to begin to play with the possibility of becoming stronger, more balanced, more grounded. Another goal might be to say, you know, normally we practice 15 minutes doing these specific asanas. Let's expand to half an hour. What is my expectation of you in your home? Practice your homework. I don't want you to just practice this for 10 minutes once a day. I'd like you to practice it for 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes at night. That kind of thing. Finite goals.

12:14                                     These are all more or less physical goals - balance and endurance and resilience. Do you also work with them on emotional or mental goals?

12:26                                     Yes. This same woman this morning has a lot of aches and pains and she said to me, Oh, you must be so tired of me complaining. And, I said, you know, for me to grow tired of your complaining isn't really part of the nature of my experience with you. You're complaining is your way of communicating to me your frustration. And my question to you is, is what are you really frustrated with? So the goal setting that she and I have has to do with acceptance. She's 82 years old. She's going to have aches and pains. What I did tell her was that given the nature of what she complains to me about, I would take every one of her complaints in the grand scheme of things, it's what she's complaining about is not so bad as I see it. And she wanted to know more about that. So I'm not afraid to open the door to inquiry through yogic lens, I'm not trained as a psychologist, but when someone says to me, asks me how I feel about, their complaining to me, it's an opportunity. Another example of this is when she's in Shavasana and another student that I work with, their hands start speaking. You know what I mean? They get a little impatient and all of a sudden I see the hands starting to move. And so it's an opportunity during the Shavasana or guided imagery to say, I notice that impatience is present. I see movement in your hands telling me that you're feeling restless. And then I'll give them some breathing cues. I might ask them to place their hands on their belly. So for instance the goal of my noticing, I will be very clear about it. I will ask them to put their hands on their belly and a specific mudra. I will tell them what the intention of that mudra is. And that for me it would be a goal, help them set the goal of calming and comforting themselves whenever impatience or restlessness is present.

15:18                                     You're basically giving them a tool to help manage that. Did you ever ask them or give them the invitation to kind of explore why they're restless during Shavasana?

15:35                                     You know, I have. And usually the answer has to do with the fact that people are challenged by stillness. They're happy to move at my instruction or invitation. They're happy to try the pranyam. Lying quietly in the presence of another person has a certain intimacy to it. And sometimes somebody will say, it just feels weird for me to be lying here quietly with my eyes closed or open in front of you while you're just talking to me and I'm not doing anything. So the answer to your question is yes, I will ask them, but not all the time. Sometimes I will simply notice and invite them into the opposite of what I'm noticing. So if I noticed restlessness, I invite them into patience by guiding them and giving them something else to think about. Yes, I think it's important to inquire as to where that might be coming from. I will do that. But it depends if it's during the course of class, but if it's already in Shavasana and I want to try to set a tone that they can remember, I might not, I might not do the inquiry then maybe if I'm doing yoga Nidra with them, it might be more appropriate to inquire, but sometimes I just will guide them to, to a state of mind that would be more, what shall I say, appropriate.

17:20                                     I understand. I'm just fascinated by this idea. I feel like I've really concentrated on the physical issues of people aging and that I haven't been as noticing or open to some of the mental issues. I have, as I'm sure you do, that insomnia can be a problem. I always do a Yoga Nidra at the end and that always went very well. But I know what you're talking about. That's the first thing I would do as I was talking, I was looking around and saying, is there anyone restless here? Is there anyone that's not really going into it? And yeah, I think that's something you do, but I never, addressed it.

18:15                                     You have permission, you have permission to do that. And I think that that's part of your voice. And I will tell you that I think it's one of the things that has made the biggest difference in my teaching when I ask someone to come into bridge pose, which I very rarely practice bridge unless it's at the end of a session because that's just the sequencing that I like to use. It could be an hour long session or it can be a 20 minute session, but bridge is always a transition from an active dynamic aspect of practice moving into quieter, more yinful mode. So I always talk about transition in bridge. Setu bandhu is a construction where your head and your shoulders are in one place, but your feet are in a very different place. And I might even invite them into a visual imagery of what that might be, but especially working well, people of all ages, but especially when you're working with older population transitions are profound and rarely discussed. So in bridge pose, I invite them into the idea of this is a transitional pose from one part of practice to the other. Just the way there are things in your life right now that are in transition. And I want you to savour this pose as a symbol of transition. And breathe softly, deeply, gently. And so I build the experience of being in bridge pose into something metaphorical. The other thing I want to tell you is that all of my poses, so imagine you're standing with people in there in mountain pose, they close mountain pose at the end of every post, I have people close the poses. You bring your hands in front of your heart and Anjali Mudra you close the pose and you keep your hands in front of your heart until you begin the next pose. Because every pose has a beginning, a middle and an end. So let's say you're practicing eagle pose and so your hands are together in front of heart and you get the guidance to float into Eagle and very frequently people fall out of eagle pose and then they step back in and then they step out. But when it's over, it's over. And in a yoga pose, if you're practicing eagle and you lose your balance or control, you step out, you close the pose. It's just a pose. So you close it and then we talk about control. And so over a short period of time the person in your class or the people in your class all begin to acknowledge that I use the control I have at the beginning, in the middle and then I learned to step out of my asana with control and I close the pose. But if I lose control I just close the pose anyway. So by teaching, people about transition and process and beginning, middle and end, you opened the door to deeper conversation.

22:02                                     Yes I can see that. That would be something that is very easy to take off your mat and think about how much control do I have? And walking, not walking away, but closing something down that really needs to be closed down. Because sometimes, at least I used to run into students who were really, well, the word you used was acceptance, which was, you know, no, I know I'm this age and yes, my body's changed, but I can still do all this stuff. Well, okay, but have you thought about doing it this way? I really loved that idea of closing the pose. I never have done that, but I just might take that one up. I just think it has real value.

23:01                                     People move through life with certain sets of expectations and believe that part of my responsibility as a teacher of yoga is to help people have realistic expectations. And sometimes that can be demoralizing. It's my responsibility to keep it uplifting and life-affirming. So I might have realistic expectations for one student who at the age of 72, retired and immediately fell into quicksand, emotional quicksand, psychological quicksand, physical quicksand. It manifest as a quick onset of arthritic conditions. Die hard, tough man who went through a series of falls, triggered by one very terrible fall and we have been in the process over the last two and a half years of reclaiming strength.

                                                Now, something else I want to talk about teaching older students, and this is really important given our scope of practice as yoga teachers, it's really important that your students know the impact of side effects of the medications they're taking. It doesn't come up in yoga classes in the community, but it will come up when you start teaching older people because there is a tendency, unfortunately for people to be on more medicines. I can't tell you how many people I've worked with who have after hour classes sat down with their physicians and gone through the physical complaints that they have had once they realized that the onset was coincidental with taking these medicines.

25:17                                     So in our work it's critically important for us to be very clear with students that some of the things that they may talk about in terms of self-limiting or aches and pains that create something called kinesiophobia, which is fear of movement can really arise from side effects of medicine.

25:46                                     Yes. When I had my intro forms, I always asked how much medicine they were taking. And I was sometimes just appalled and 15, 18 different kinds of pills during the day. And I thought, how can anyone figure out how all of those side effects are acting and interacting? It's a very important thing to do because often it does affect balance rather badly. And so that's something you want to be aware of and I'm kind of anti-pills these days.

26:29                                     It's easy to be, but it's important for people to know that many cholesterol lowering drugs create extreme joint pain drugs and not sure what family Tamoxifen is in, in terms of, of the type of drug that some people will be put on a five year regimen after a cancer treatment. Those drugs can create inordinate joint pain that simply go away when the drug is discontinued at the end of those five years that people don't know it. There's this fearfulness and this is the other thing that's really important when we're working with older students is that there are legitimate fears. The fear, I mean, not that no fear is ever not legitimate, but if my short term memory seems to be fading and I'm taking Lipitor and I stopped taking Lipitor, the chances are very good that my short term memory will be better. And that's a side effect that's on the bottle. So we need to be aware as teachers that without coming across inappropriately, we want our students to be as well informed as they can possibly be about what they're experiencing in their bodies. And why and continue to try to build strengths where there seems to be weakness, but be really careful because if, if I have a lot of pain in my shoulders, I'm going to be afraid to move and that fear alone is going to trigger pain. So that's the other thing I would, I would say in this realm of working with people who are older and whose bodies may be becoming more compromised and more compromised because of the impact of medicines, we need to know more about what our students are experiencing and why and tailor our asana and pranayama practice with them. And whatever philosophical discussions we have to really try to help them cope with what can be quite overwhelming.

28:48                                     Well, you really wouldn't want to make a decision of taking something like, the cancer drug that supposedly keeps it from coming back as opposed to having all the side effects. I mean, that would be a horrible decision.

29:07                                     But my idea is not that I would, I would never, so this one woman, I, who used to be in my classes stopped coming because she developed terrible pain in her wrists.

29:16                                     And I suggested that she never had pain in her wrist before. And that my hunch was that it might, I'm not a diagnostician, I'm not a doctor, but it might be something to do with her medicine, but just to keep it in mind. But she was becoming so demoralized that she thought this was an arthritis. She thought it was another comorbidity. And in fact, at the end of those five years when she went off her medicine, she had no pain in her wrists.

29:50                                     So really it's more of an education; these kinds of things might be happening, but it might not be your body. It might be a side effect, which to me, if someone told me that, that would be a very positive piece of information for me because, it can turn around if you stop taking the medicine for whatever reason, it's no longer diagnosed or whatever. I think that's really important. I have someone who has Parkinson's and the mental fog of Parkinson's I sometimes think has much more to do with the medicine than the actual disease. And so it's important to know that yes, medicine is good, but there may be things that you also will be dealing with because of that. And I'm with you. I don't have that kind of background, so I can't say for sure, but I think it is something like that. Just in general, we as teachers of older people can say, you know,  medications do have side effects. Just be really, really aware of what's happening.

31:21                                     Yes. And as you know, it, it, it can also get into sleep patterns. It affects diet. It, it affects so much cognitive functioning. One other thing I didn't want to forget to talk about is that especially with older students, when they present with a new ache or pain or if you, or if you haven't worked with them before and they've got anything going on in their hips and low backs, this is really fun ask them when they think these symptoms started and ask them if they've gotten a new car. Oh, the new car chassie's are a little bit higher than many of the old frames and so people have to step up a little bit higher and swing themselves into a seat that's a little bit higher. And I can't tell you how many times people look at me and their jaw drops open. Then they go, oh my God. And I literally go out to their cars with them and teach them how to get in and out of the car was less strain and, and so that's taking your yoga off the mat. If you think about balance lunges, twists, all of those things are required when you get into a larger car. And when you go to get out of your car and you swing your leg and you throw one leg out and the other leg is following the impact on people's knees is not to be underestimated. So I see my responsibility as a teacher, especially of older people, is to really think outside the box and think about where else is this person moving? What are they doing on a regular basis that might be exacerbating pre-existing conditions or creating new ones.               

33:28                                     No, that's amazing. I'm glad I always have old cars. Linda, this has been great. I love the way that you approached this; it's really different from, from how I do it and I think I need to learn from you. But I want to thank you. Is there anything else? I know you've been really good about bringing out stuff that you thought the listeners might be interested in and, and need to know about, but is there anything else that you would like to finish the podcast with that you would really like to explore in more depth or just bring up a new topic?

34:12                                     Quite frankly, one thing that drives my teaching and I would discuss it with students is that and it can come up many times during any class. People are frequently wondering how long, when, they wonder if ,they wonder why. There's a lot of specific wondering and I invite them into wonderment so that when we're in an asana or we're practicing the cues, the invitations, the language, the vocabulary the cadence, the tone is to inspire a sense of wonderment so that when they step out of, let's say, a more challenging pose or move out of a longer yin hold that what they're left with is a quiet state of appreciation. So that's one thing. The other thing is that there are a great many things that we can know but more things that we cannot. And so being able to embrace the unknown and the unknowable is really fundamental when I'm working with older people because they want answers to questions that may not even be the right questions to be asking. So I try to create time in all of my classes for some type of dialogue driven by whatever's on the student's mind that I can then respond to through this yogic lens where we're looking to find the extraordinary and the ordinary and approach the unknown and the unknowable with a sense of wonderment.

36:15                                     Yes, I think that's a really critical in that perhaps as we age, we do lose our sense of wonderment in it's important to cultivate it.

36:40                                     Yes, yes. And what you do and what I do puts us in a position to shine a light on that path towards wonderment, just like any other piece of the landscape we want our students to dwell in.

36:57                                     Excellent. Okay. Well this is as usual been a fascinating podcasts. I love talking to you, Linda. I think you'll find that she's an incredible Yogi who has really taken the precepts of what we all do and applied them in very interesting and creative ways. Thank you so much, Linda. I appreciate it so much that you came on again. And I think this is a great podcast. Podcasts on yoga for older people have proven to be extremely popular and I think this has many new ways to think about it. So thank you so much.

38:38                                     You are so, so welcome. Thank you.


Email: Lindalang @Theopen-hyphen

Websites: www.therapeutic and

Jul 23, 2019

00:47                                     This is Stephanie Cunningham and Changing the Face of Yoga. And I have a great guest today. This is Kistine Kaoverri Weber. Christine has agreed to be part of the subtle aspects theme to talk about more of the subtle aspects of yoga. And Christine will be talking about Chakras and what chakras are, what system she uses and how you might use it when you're teaching. Welcome Christine and Cristine is  committed to the widespread adoption of yoga as a population health strategy. She has been studying yoga and holistic healing for nearly 30 years advocating, speaking and teaching about yoga since 1995 and training educators since 2003. Her organization Subtle Yoga provides holistic mind and body trainings, education and clinical services with the mission of enhancing community health infrastructure. She is the director of the Subtle Yoga teacher training for behavioral health professionals program at Mahec at Asheville North Carolina, presents workshops and trains internationally and is frequently invited to talk about yoga at health conferences. And is there anything else you'd like to add to that introduction?

02:27                                     Oh, thank you. It's so nice to be here, Stephanie and no, I mean I've got a lot of stuff going on. One of the things that I'm doing right now is called, I call it the subtle yoga revolution. And I'm really trying to help empower teachers who love teaching slow mindful practices to feel really not like second class citizens because we don't necessarily want to do the sweaty fitness stuff, and are more kind of committed to the internal practices. And what I see is that there's a lot of science behind the validity of these practices that has begun to emerge in the past 10 years or so. And that's something that I'm really passionate about right now. So I have some online programs about the subtle yoga revolution. I'm happy to share some of that information if your listeners are interested later.

03:26                                     We'll be sure to get into the contact details so that people can explore that. So let's start really basic and to explain the Chakras, and I believe in an earlier conversation we talked about that there's the traditional look at Chakras. And there may be another version of it. So first of all, define and contrast those two things.

03:55                                     So first of all, I would request, my Sanskrit teacher would be very happy, if we would use the word Chuck Gra Not Chalk Gra. And that's a really common pronunciation issue. Just remember it's like chocolate chip cookies that'll help you remember. And also it's not French, it's Sanskrit. It's not like charkra^] it's a Sanskrit word. So the Sanskrit, the c sound is always the hard cha and if you spell it properly with the International Sanskrit spelling, it would be c, a, k, r a , believe it or not C h, but it has really become a western word really like over the past hundred, 100 years or so.  Because it is the hundredth anniversary when Chakras, became known in the West which was 1919. So let's pronounce it Chuck Gra. And because we know we have sh sounds in Sanskrit? We have Shiva, Shakti, and Shavasana. And so we have a lot of sh sounds, but it's the ch sound is Chakra.

                                                And then the second part of the question was like, define Chakras. Oh my gosh, that's going to take me a couple of days. So I'm going to give you a really simple; that Chakras are basically these energy centers that in the subtle body that have a physical ontological correlates. I would suggest, I know that there are certain people in this tradition who say they don't have ontological correlates. There are Buddhists who say that they do. What that means is like they really exist. That's all that means. Like they really are there. I believe they're really there. I think the tools of science are not quite subtle enough to measure them a yet, although there have been some attempts at measuring these centers by different people, I don't want to get into that too much, but there have been some sciencey , quasi-sciencey attempts at measuring these energy centers in the body. Even if you don't believe that, one of the things that I think almost every human being can agree upon is that on the midline of the body from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. And typically in the center of the chest, typically in the center of the belly, most of us experience some kind of emotional experiences there. Whether it's we say I have butterflies in my stomach, or I loved him with all of my heart, or I was so upset I was choked up or that really gives me a headache trying to think about it. So we have emotional reactions that often happen along the mid-line. And so if we can't agree on the models, and by the way, the Yogis tended to not agree on them either. They had many different systems. So if we can't agree on them, that's okay. But one thing we can agree on is that there are these emotional expressions and science hasn't necessarily explained them adequately yet. But the subtle body does give us a frame of reference that maybe is a little more subtle and more explicit. And the Yogis left us these beautiful maps of the system that I think are worth looking into more deeply.

07:54                                     So what are Chakras? There are energetic centers in the body where we tend to process some kind of mental, emotional tendencies. You know, we tend to have mental, emotional tendency processes happening in those centers. And the other piece is that many of the Hatha yoga practices that emerged within the past six to 800 years, many of them were actually originally intended to help create a better control over these centers. And that was the original purpose of Asana. So why not work with them? You know, why not continue with that tradition and see what we can do with Asana? You know, the other thing I always like to say is people come to yoga class a lot of times because we live in the 21st crazy century. People come to yoga class and they're like, I don't feel good and I'm going to go to yoga. And then at the end of Yoga class, pretty much, most of the time, people tend to feel more balanced. And often that's mental, emotional or mood shifts that happens. Why is that happening? You know, it's, yes, it's happening because of parasympathetic activation for sure. It's happening because of shifts that are made via the vagus nerve, of changes in Acetylcholine and all that stuff is happening. I would suggest that tha happens because of breathing and movement practices and these things I don't think are just random. I think that Asana is as they've been delivered to us and yes, some of them were developed very recently and others are much older. Asana is a way that we create more balance in the mental, emotional parts of ourselves or the mental, emotional body if you like, or the subtle body. Therefore we can be more intentional about how we use the practices to create better psychological balance.

10:05                                     Chakras, how many are you working with? There's seems to be different numbers of them.

10:20                                     Yes, there are different systems., I would call it the traditional seven chakras system, which comes from the Bengali tantrics. A lot of my teachers were from Bengali, so I work with that Bengali system. There are systems that predate that system. And of course there are systems that postdate that system because everything basically that happened after 1977 is a whole different ball of wax. I mean there was a whole movement, a new age Chakra movement that happened in the '70s. Largely from writers in California and other places that defined a whole new system. I don't want to say a whole new system, I would say a revamping of the system. So let me back up. I hope this is okay to go into the history because without it it's very difficult for me to talk about the system and what I do.

                                                So a brief history of the Chakras. We have to look at texts in a scholarly way. What do the texts say? What were the texts showing us? And, and you do have mention of this system as far back as the Bhagavad Gita so it goes, it goes pretty far, 2,500 years or so. You have some mentions of these points in the body and the Charak Samhita, which is the original book of Ayurveda. You have some mentions of the system that go into antiquity but then you really don't have the definition of the system as we know it today, until a book that was written in 1544 called the such Ṣaṭ-chakra-nirūpaṇa . And that was a Bengali text. It's from the Shiva worshippers in that part of India, that northeast part of India. That text gets translated in 1919 into English. And really that's the introduction of the Chakra system to the west.

                                                I always tell people that you have to go back a hundred years and think about what was happening socio-politically in India, what was happening in the world at that time. We're still in the middle of the occupation of India by the British, of the 300 plus year occupation. You still have a tremendous amount of both superiority complex of the west over the Indians, and then inferiority complex of the Indians towards the West because they'd been dominated, politically dominated, and there's all the racism and all that stuff that goes with it.

                                                So what you have at this time in 1919 is sort of the revelation by Sir John Woodruff, who was very well regarded by both the Indians as well as by Westerners. He was a judge in Kolkata. And he started studying Tantra. And, and by the way, the Chakras come from the Tantric system of yoga. He's studying about the chakra system. He translates this text with the help of some Indian Sanskrit scholars, and then he presents the subtle body to the west. What happens from there is you have people like Alister Crawley and people like Charles Leadbeater from the theosophy society and many others who pick up on this notion of the Chakras and without immersing themselves in Indian culture and Indian history and Indian philosophy, which is as you know extremely complex and, and varied. It's an incredibly sophisticated system. So without immersing themselves in that they pluck the subtle body out of it and they plop it into their own worldview. This is going to necessarily render that system different than what the Indians understood and so Leadbeater comes out in 1927 with a book called the Chakras. And it remains to this day, one of the most widely read and the most widely sold book of the Theosophical Society by far. So that book, the Chakras, is the first place where someone suggests Oh, you can see somebody else's Chakras. You can manipulate somebody else's Chakras. There's colors in the Chakras. Leadbeater says anybody with a modicum of intuitive capacity can see somebody else's Chakras, so you get all this sort of new-agey, proto new-age stuff. That's not what the Indians were talking to.

                                                John Woodruff writes his book, his second edition of his book, which was that first translation of the system. He says, as much in that book, and he says, look, there are people that are talking about Chakras but that's not really what the Indians were talking about. You have the west with its biases against the east and it's orientalism and it's racism plucking this very sublime system out and saying, I can interpret it better than the Indians can.

                                                And from that, then we have to fast forward to the 70s and the Esalen Institute in California where they start putting together all these charts about Chakras and stuff. Again, very little reference to the Indian system. It's still kind of carrying forth this orientalism or this bias against the east. And then you get that in the 70s. And then the 80s is when all of the books come out. Like Anodea Judith, the Wheels of Life. And um, Hiroshima Motoyama's book comes out. If you go to Amazon, you will see hundreds of books about the Chakras based on an amalgamated system that's primarily from new age thinkers. That really doesn't go deep. It doesn't have any scholarly, deep or, experiential deep look into the yoga system. Anodea Judith, bless her heart, she did a service by bringing Chakras to the world, but she's not a yoga practitioner and wasn't writing as a yoga practitioner. She was writing as sort of an intuitive person or you know, a new age person. And that's the Chakra system that we get taught frequently in yoga teacher trainings. You get these laminated charts and that stuff comes from the Esalen Institute in California. It's not coming from the traditional system.

17:38                                     I didn't know that. And that's a bit scary, isn't it? Because we're learning something different. It's certainly not the Indian tradition. I think that bothers me.

17:52                                     Yes, definitely. I totally relate. And in my humble opinion, Carl Jung said it best. He said, we, we've done such a tremendous of violence against the East. He was talking about the world wars. You can also talk about colonialism. Tremendous violence has been done against the east and he said, we owe it to those cultures to look deeply into them and try to understand them. And I'm paraphrasing, but you know what I mean? l I'm so grateful for this tradition that has helped me so much personally and that I've dedicated my life to, and that I teach about. It's my life and, and I feel like it's a tremendous affront to not go deep into these topics. It's an affront to the system and it's a manifestation of that colonialist mentality and a basically a racist mentality to not look into it and to really see the deeper value beyond the color coded charts. I remember walking into Barnes and noble a bookstore here about, it was like 20 years ago. I walked in, I was like really getting into Chakras and I walked into Barnes and Nobel and I saw this little kit on the table and it said, Chakra Balancing Kit, $12.99 on sale. I've been studying the Chakras and I was like, really? So I could just get like a color card thing to meditate on and a little essential oil in a gemstone and I'm going to balance my chakras. That's a really good deal for $12.99 considering that from what I understood, it's really hard to balance your chakras. It's pretty much a life's journey to do this?

                                                I think we have taken it too lightly and I think there's a lot more to it. And the other piece is that a lot of people won't listen to this podcast and the reason they won't is because they're going to see the word Chakra and go, oh yeah, that's that fluffy garbage. They're going to be like, yeah, whatever. There's no science behind it. It's not real. It's just a laugh, essential oils and some kind of a gemstone thing or, I swear a rainbow, that whole thing. The rainbow, by the way is not traditional. That just comes from the human tendency to want to see things in seven and put them all together. There's no reality in the rainbow according to the Indian system. Maybe some new age intuitive people have seen rainbows with the Chakras I don't know, but I'm a yoga teacher and I wanted to know what the yoga tradition said about the Chakras and that's where I operate from and that's what I teach from.

20:57                                     It's been trivialized.

21:01                                     I think so. I think it's been trivialised. It doesn't mean that we can't be creative . I'm not a rigid person and not a rigid yoga teacher. I'm all about innovation and creativity and I mean, that's what Tantra has always been about The Tantrics were really innovative. I think it's okay to be creative and innovative, but I also think it's really important to not just make stuff up, but to really situate it in the tradition and what the Indians were talking about and why it's important and how it's different. if I can do one thing that may be helpful here because I don't want to belittle the new age system, a lot of people benefit from it. That's not my point.

                                                I've always thought this is so useful, is to look at western versus eastern worldviews. You know, so if you look at the West, the eastern Worldview, it tends to at least traditionally that worldview tends to be like inner technology. Like what is inside of me. Some of my history teachers have talked about how the ancient name for India is Mahabharata - the land that feeds everyone. Mahabharata. In India you have the development of civilization and lots of food and people had time to sort of contemplate the meaning of life and the mysteries of the universe. And that's why you have this development of such a sublime philosophy, Such sublime philosophies emerging from the subcontinent. In the west, what we have really dominated and focused on is like mastering the external so in India there's this focus on mastering the internal, the internal technology, and the word technology in, in Sanskrit is Tantra, by the way. And then you have the west with the external technology you just go to yoga class and you're like, okay, so we're going to do some meditation. And most of you who are yoga teachers have heard this comment before. Like, I've got an APP for that.

23:21                                     There's an APP for that because that's our western worldview. We're focused on the external. So when the Chakras came west, what happened was they became the technology of personal development and self-actualization, like the transpersonal psychology stuff. They were about individual achievement in the external world. Then you get that whole thing of the first Chakra is about survival. The second Chakra is creativity and the third Chakra is about power. I'm not suggesting that that's completely erroneous. I think there's a lot of power in that map but the eastern map doesn't do that. The eastern map is, these are the powers of the elements. These are the powers of the universe, and you're going to internalize them and then you're going to become one with the universe? "Sanskrit saying" which means everything that exists outside of you exists within you. And you're going to discover that through this process of working with your Chakras, you're going to become the universe - a totally different goal than like self. It's a totally different goal. I think those worldviews are related and so my approach has been like I'm a westerner. I liked that self actualization stuff and I'm going to really give lots of value and lots of time to the study of the Indian system so that I can use the best of both of those paradigms in my personal work and also in my teaching. I do combine some things.

                                                I think Carl Jung's teachings on the Chakras have been super helpful. Some people diminish them, but he was the one who helped me to understand what do the gods and goddesses and the traditional Chakras mean and how are they relevant to a western person. Carl Young said, don't practice yoga as a Westerner because you're going to fail. He's an interesting dude for sure. By the time he gets to the throat Chakra, he's just not interested anymore cause it's not psychology, It's not as psychological as the lower chakras.

                                                That's something interesting that we can break down and is practical. I'm been talking about all this theory stuff, so maybe practical for your listeners. We kind of have to fight through some of our animal tendencies like tendencies to get distracted and our tendencies to be jealous and our tendencies to just kind of be lazy. All sorts of stuff that we move through on the way to the heart Chakra, where we start to become really a lot more human, we start to kind of have a sense of ourselves, our individualization and how we're different and what is important to us and what's not important to us. We start to get boundaries in the heart Chakra. The lower chakras are really useful for us in understanding where we've come from in terms of our evolutionary tendencies.

                                                And then as we start moving into the upper Chakras, the heart, the throat, and then the third eye and the Crown Chakra, we really start to become more of our potential. Like the potential for being a spiritually connected and expanded human being; that's what those Chakras were used for. You meditate on your third eye or you meditate on the crown. Those are typical meditations or you meditate on the heart center. Those are typical meditation places. What that means is fixing your awareness interoceptively at those points. You're typically repeating some kind of mantra. Those are traditional practices that can be very valuable to modern people.

                                                 I had some clients going through really difficult surgery, heart surgery a few weeks ago and asked me for a meditation and they were Christian. I said meditate on Jesus with his hands, how he does that Mudra where he holds two fingers up and then he opens his heart, the sacred heart. So meditate on that image of Jesus, say your prayer in the heart Chakra and let that be a way to help you feel more centered before going in for the surgery. And they loved that. That kind of creativity with the practices I think is I think is super useful for people, particularly if you're basing them on the traditional tantra practices. I'm basing it on what I've learned from, from my teachers that can be really useful and that's a way to create balance in the heart. That's a way to really harness the power of the heart Chakra.

28:54                                     Let's talk a bit about, now you've got me very nervous, chakras and the individual ones that you're using. Like you said, the lower ones are kind of understanding where we came from. The upper ones are our potential, which is really nice way to think about it I think. How have you developed what you either train other teachers in or that you teach in your classes?

29:30                                     How have you developed it; which is a very eastern tradition that is not fitting well on top of the western tradition in our minds because we don't quite think that way. How do you use it so that it becomes very, you obviously like the example that you just gave about the heart Chakra. You've obviously worked it around so that it can fit into both systems.

30:01                                     I think it's fair to say that these tantric practices have always been adapted to the belief system. You have tantra that's showing up in Buddhism a couple thousand years ago and Tantra that comes in the form of Shivaism. It started really with Shivaism I would suggest. But history scholars may have some different opinions about that and then Tantra, by the way, gets adapted through the trade routes into alchemy. I mean, what do you think Harry Potter is? That's Tantra. That's external esoteric Tantra. So making things happen in the external world. Esoteric Tantra - alchemy came through the trade routes. So that's why you see so much similarities. You know, Hermione Granger with her wand saying Wingardium Leviosa you know, the mantra in Latin, but it's a mantra. The stick is the Donata, Gurus often had a stick and they would do stuff with it.

31:29                                     The stuff is deep and it was coming through the trade routes probably before the Middle Ages. It goes out into Persia and becomes Persian alchemy. It goes into China and becomes Chinese alchemy, you see roots of it in African shamanism, perhaps African shamanism is proto-tantra, becomes the Tantra in the south, south India. This is not exclusive to India. In fact, I would suggest that it's simply the Indians who really got into it and refined it. But we find it in all cultures. I do think these practices are largely universal.

                                                When I'm working with a client one on one, which is a lot easier to help develop the Chakra practices, I will be using mantras and the mantras often are not just Indian or Sanskrit mantras. They may be something that's more appropriate for somebodys belief system. I'm going to use Asana because Asana we have four places that we get into with Asanas? So we get into the lower abdomen with forward bends, we get into the abdomen. And so the second Chakra with forward bends and then the third Chakra, which by the way the position is traditionally at the navel, not the solar plexus. A lot of people peg it at the solar plexus , which is the new age thing. And I don't think it's not the solar plexus, it's just that the root of it is typically the navel. So we get forward bends, we get twists that get into those Chakras and get the back bend. And that also will work those Chakras, but also really get into the heart center. And then we get inversions, like Shoulder Stand, but where we get some activation in the throat center.

                                                 And I do think that there is something happening regionally, like when you do an Asana and there's something like this, just say Cobra, there's something happening at the location of the Chakra, but there's also things that are happening globally in the autonomic nervous system that have to do with parasympathetic activation, That have to do with a vagal tone, that have to do with the release of neurochemicals. All sorts of things are going on that I think we're just beginning to understand. There are things that are not happening at the location. And there's also things that happen in the whole body that create a greater neuroendocrine, Neuro - immune response to the practice. And there's a body of research that's emerging that's validating that.

                                                Now I'm not saying there's a body of research emerging, validating existence of the subtle body that is still really nascent. There's a couple of studies, but we still don't really have subtle enough tools, I don't think, to measure the subtle body. But I think when we do have those tools, I think we'll start to see a seven brain model emerge that there are seven sub brains. They're talking about the gut brain now and they're talking about the heart brain. But I think there probably will come up with something like five, six, seven areas that are remarkably similar to the subtle body. so I use Asana as focus on the area.

                                                 I also want to say one thing for your listeners because I think it's great to be creative and, and spend time on this, but don't get hung up on feelings of like, I have a second Chakra imbalance so I'm just going to focus all my time and energy on my second Chakra and do poses for the second Chakra. The yogis didn't prescribe that necessarily. I think it's great to spend time there, particularly if you've had sexual trauma or c-section or something where you're feeling cut off from that area. I think great to spend interoceptive time there and build the maps in your brain by spending time there. However, what the yogis would say is don't doubt the healing potential, the healing possibilities of the heart Chakra, that bringing your awareness to that center after whatever other work you're doing is a really simple and powerful way to bring a sense of peace to the nervous system and a sense of completion to whatever work you're doing. So I like to bring attention back to the heart. Not everybody practices like that. That was one of the things that I find tends to be really helpful. And you know, most of my students are women. I don't want to make any kind of generalizations, but there sometimes is this stereotype of the ascetic Yogi male focusing on the third eye. And third eye is . powerful stuff for sure. But it's not the whole of who we are as human beings. And I think coming back to the heart really can provide a very powerful healing center focus for many people, not just women, but for many people.

36:55                                     You would do probably asanas for all seven Chakras and then bring it back to the heart? Is that what you're saying?

37:09                                     Well, it kinda depends on what you're working on. Plenty of times I do classes that we're just going to get into the third Chakra today., Because so many Asanas are really great for your third Chakra. And the third Chakra is the place where so many of us have problems - digestive problems, but also the problems that the yogis outline. You know, the yogis actually gave a a whole map of the system. The word that the Yogis, the tantrics used is vritti. The Yogis gave a map of the subtle body and in that map what they did was they showed where different mental-emotional tendencies reside in the body. I think it's a fascinating thing to look at that somehow through these deep interoceptive practices where they were spending hours and hours and weeks and months focusing on these centers of the body for meditation They came up with a map essentially that said there are different emotions that are located in different parts of the system. You find this map in some of the Upanishads. It's sort of a later addition to the system.

                                                Some of the tendencies in the Third Chakra are challenging. For example shame is in the third Chakra and jealousy and some depression. There's actually two different depressions one's in the heart Chakra, one's in the third Chakra. Irritability infatuation, fear, hatred. Those are all third Chakra Vritti according to the tradition. I think it's very useful to do Asana with the intent, holding that intention. I'm working through this jealousy vritti or whatever it is, and I'm working through this fear vritti and then to do a practice that's really third Chakra focused. And then as you said, maybe at the end of the practice, bring your awareness back to the heart with the idea of the heart is the center and I'm practicing for the highest good, and I let go of my whatever vritti, my jealousy vritti or whatever it is. Then spend some time doing that practice over some weeks and months and notice if there's a shift that happens for you. That can be really powerful. I've worked with many people like that in that way over the years. I think there's some beauty in looking at what the tradition offered and then working with the mental, emotional tendencies in a way that can create a better sense of self regulation and mental balance.

                                                But just to finish up what I was talking about with the Chakras and the practice and stuff, I would suggest that if you're working with the Chakras, if you want to work with the Chakras, would want to know more about the Chakra. It's totally lovely to experiment because yoga is an experiential practice. Doing postures and noticing how that feels in your body and noticing, is there an effect on my mood? Is there a shift in certain tendencies when I do certain practices, like my original Indian teachers would say, you should be the scientist and be the experiment. Go for it in yourself. I think it's great. And I also think it's great to read and learn more about the traditional system. And as Carl Jung said: it's respect for the culture that's quite different than western culture. That the culture that this information comes from and, and making the attempt to understand a little more deeply.

41:30                                     So thank you so much for having me. It's been really nice to be here.

42:24                                     Thank you, Christine. That was a really interesting and cohesive description of what chakras are and how you use them. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast. I really appreciate your expertise and time, so it was great to hear from you.


                                                The Rainbow Body by Kurt Leland and it's a history of the western Chakra system. That's a really interesting read to kind of see the difference between the western and the eastern system. So I recommend that.

                                                Chakra and Subtle Yoga Courses: I do have some online chakra courses where I talk more about the I talk more about the um, system from the Indian perspective and then some of the work of Carl Young and other psychologists I think have been helpful. And um, and I also have practices that go with them. So those are on yoga. U Subtle Yoga also has other courses about teaching Subtle yoga and other topics from Kristine.




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Jul 16, 2019


00:46                                     This is the 108th episode of changing the face of yoga and I have a great guest today. Her name is Kelly Di Nardo. Kelly is part of my subtle yoga themed month and she's going to talk about yoga philosophy, which is something I've always had trouble getting into a class.

01:06                                     So let's learn about Kelly. Kelly is a freelance journalist and the author of several books, including Living the Sutras a guide to yoga wisdom beyond the mat. It gives readers a modern, accessible and personal look at ancient yoga philosophy and the wisdom found within, she is also the producer editor and cohost of the living at podcast and owner of past tense Yoga Studio in Washington DC. As a freelance journalist. She specializes in exploration, whether it is internally through yoga and meditation, physically through health and fitness, culturally and socially through profiles or the myriad other ways travel brings all that together. She has written for, Okay, the Oprah magazine, Martha Stewart, Living Health, the New York Times, National Geographic Traveler and others. So welcome Kelly. And is there anything else you would like to add to that introduction? No, that was beautiful. Thank you so much for having me. I'm really excited about this

02:12                                     I've always found it really hard to integrate the yogic philosophy into classes. I read a bit about your book and I liked the fact that after you've explained the sutras, you actually give related writing prompts so people can really apply what they've learned. I thought that was a great idea. So why did you decide to actually write a book about this?

02:39                                     Well, honestly very similar to you, I had a really hard time wrapping my brain around the philosophical side of yoga. And I met this wonderful teacher, Amy Peers Hayden who ended up being my co-author on this project.

02:57                                     And she gave these beautiful Dharma talks before her classes that really made it very modern and accessible. I mean, I remember one time she gave a Dharma talk about, I think it was about discernment, but she related it to Tacos and I thought if someone can make yoga philosophy and tacos relevant. This is just amazing. I wanted to understand it more. I kind of had turned over this idea for a book that would make the sutras modern and accessible and relevant. And then when I brought it to Amy. We really talked about having it be a journal as well, so that people could make it personally relevant and very tangible to themselves and their lives. That's kind of how that came to be. I think you can read all the philosophy you want and all the interpretations, but you know, our hope is that with the writing prompts that people can really do the work and make this fascinating and very, very smart, relevant wisdom, really personal to them.

04:20                                     I noticed that you said this particular book is about the first two chapters , the Vrittis and the Yamas and Niyamas. And could we just have a little bit of definition of Vrittis and Yamas and Niyamas. I'm sure the listeners will understand, but there may be a few that would like a little refresher. Absolutely. So our book focuses on the first two padas or chapters of the Yoga Sutras. And those two are really about the practice of yoga. The system of yoga. They start by defining what yoga actually is, what gets in ,the way; and then it outlines the eight limb system which is the practice of yoga. And the second two books really in the original, in the yoga sutras, really talk about the results of what happens and when you, when you reach the state of Yoga, when you reach enlightenment.

05:36                                     And so Amy and I focused on the first two books for two reasons. One, they're the most tangible. It's the work. And second, we have not yet reached a state of enlightenment ourselves. We didn't really feel like we were capable of talking about that. So the vrittis, these are the fluctuations of the mind. The whole potentially defines yoga as the stilling of the sensations of our minds. So I love the phrase that Buddhists used, which is monkey mind, which is that idea that like a monkey jumping from branch to branch, our thoughts jump from one to the other. And so yoga according to the Patanjali is calming those fluctuations. The way that he describes how we do that is this eight limbs system. And one of the things I found really interesting, especially given our age today where we talk a lot about you do you and working on ourselves Patanjali actually says we should do the opposite. We should work from the outside in. And so the Yamas and Niyamas are often referred to as the 10 commandments of yoga they're the moral code of Yoga. And the first five are how we deal with the outside world, what our relationship with others is kind of the rules for how we interact with other people in the world around us. And then the second five or how we treat ourselves and how we behave towards ourselves. And then from there, once you've got your moral code, your foundation, then you move towards to Asana, which is the third limb. And I, what I found really interesting is that it's less than 2% of the entire yoga sutras. So I know our focus again is usually on downdog and pigeon pose, but potentially it says nothing about that. You move further inwards, you've got the physical body and then you move to the breath, which is really a gateway to the mind. And then the last four limbs really deal with our minds. So stilling the senses and or controlling the senses would be the better way of putting it. And then different depths and levels of meditation are the last three. That whole process is all to still the fluctuations of the Vrittis.

08:25                                     What's your best advice for a teacher who wants to introduce the yogic philosophy into her class? How would you advise her or him to go about it?

08:46                                     I think it's really important to make this advice modern and relevant. In our book, I'm pretty sure we're the only yoga book that references Fight Club for example, or Dr Seuss, , the talented Mr Ripley. We also talk about things like the power of habits, which is made famous by Charles Duhigg's book or we talk about the flow state. I think that we can find yoga everywhere in so many places off the mat. I think you can introduce this philosophy in ways, in surprising ways, in ways that you might find in, in books or television or in psychology or social research. And so maybe there's something in your newspaper or a magazine that you read and you think, oh my gosh, you know what, this story is actually really about ahimsa, or this thing happening now is really about discernment or the importance of a consistent and steady practice. There are really interesting ways to bring that into play. I have a 4 year old and one of his favorite books for a long time was this wonderful book called Penguin problems. And I, after I read it a few times to him, I realized that this book was really about the importance of being in the present moment and the here and now and this idea of abundance. And I brought the book in one of my classes and I read part of it and use that as a way into talking about abundance. And not wanting what we do not have. I think it takes a way of looking at the world with your yoga glasses always on, if that makes sense.

11:01                                     I think that does, cause sometimes to me the sutras almost sound like Nostradamus. You can take it almost any way you want to and I think it's really smart of you to anchor it in the current culture because what he has to say of course is, is timeless, but it can be kind of hard to understand sometimes. So I think that's a great idea. I love penguin problems. That's a great way to think about it. Has the book been published yet?

11:35                                     Yes, it came out in June of last year. It's done really well. It prompted us to take it to the next step with our podcasts so that we can talk to other people, not just yogis that we in our first season we did talk a lot to mostly yogis. But just how they do what we're talking about. How do you take this ancient philosophy and actually live. Because I think we as teachers have to be living it or at least trying to live it, before we can bring it to our students.

12:13                                     I think that's true. So let's your podcast, I have it here somewhere. Living it podcasts. that might be a great resource for all you listeners out there, so you could actually see how people are usually using it. We can just kind of skim over the surface on this podcast, but I think that would be very helpful to people because I do think it's hard to make that translation.

12:43                                     Yes, I think so. And, and I'll give you, I'll give you an exclusive here, our first season of the podcast, really looked at what yoga is, what gets in the way, and then how we can practice with ourselves and our ego and then in our relationships. And then how meditation and Yoga are kind of intertwined. Our second season is going to be 10 episodes just on the Yamas and Niyamas. So each episode will focus on one of them. Um, so that will hopefully be dropping in September.

13:22                                     f

13:22                                     For the listeners, that's just a really great resource for you and I'm really glad you told us about it because I do think it needs some serious contemplation before you can make it really work for you in the class. Can you give us a specific thing that you either wrote about, are you doing your own class? Although I did like penguin problems, I thought that was great. That people could use say about, about Vritti. I had a teacher that talked to me about Vritti and he, he said something I thought was very interesting cause I'd never heard this before, that Vritti is not exactly the state that you're trying to get to. It's just is that's kind of the, not quite monkey mind state, but it's, you're really trying to work beyond that, that you, you need to calm yourself even more. So how would you in your class talk about vritti?

14:34                                     Yeah, that's a great question. The way that we talked about it in the book, and I'm going to flip to that page, the way that we talked about it is that the Vrittis are like Instagram filters? Honestly, they're filters or lenses that color, how we see things and sometimes they can make the picture prettier or rosier and sometimes they distort it and like a fun house mirror almost. The trick then is to really see things clearly and without the filter. And I think that, um, I think that when we can do that, when we can see things clearly without any filter on it, then we can begin to understand who we really are. And when we can begin to understand who we really are, then we can understand our unique purpose or Dharma for being here on this planet and what we're supposed to do. And that, I mean, when you knew those things, that is incredibly expansive. That's how I would describe the Vrittis and in a way that I think students could really understand what they are. Because I mean, let's be honest, everyone seems to be on Instagram and knows how to doctor a photo. Right? Sure.

16:03                                     No, that's, that's really good as soon as you said that. I can understand that. Give me, if you feel comfortable doing so, a benefit for yourself for doing this study and working internally on this.

16:23                                     I mean, I think there are so many, the the way that Amy and I worked on the book as one example, it felt like I was getting my PhD in the, in the yoga sutras and I, we really had to dive into it in a deeper way and, and she has been studying them for much longer than I have. I'm not going to write something that I haven't done or that I don't really believe in. So for me, this was a really deep dive into this and I came away with some very, very tangible things and changes that I made to my own life. And probably one of my favorite takeaways is this idea of cultivating the opposite and Patanjali talks about the fact that you're never going to replace bad thoughts, negative thoughts with positive ones. Our brain just doesn't work that way. If I tell you, I mean this is a famous psychological study. If I tell you right now to not think about the white dog for 30 seconds, the only way you're going to not think about the white dog is if you replace it with something else like a green elephant. And it's the same. It's the same with our thoughts. And so the way that that feels really tangible to me is when I'm dealing with somebody who's difficult or maybe just challenging me in some way. I try and think instead about instead of how they're driving me crazy, what could the thing that they have brought to my life and if I can't think of a very good thing, at least thinking that all situations and everything is temporary, everything is always changing. That's enough to replace the negativity. And then I can see that person or sometimes myself in a much more positive way. I think some of it's fake it till you make it kind of things that, you know, it feels a little weird to think nice thoughts about someone who's driving you crazy. Or for some of us it's hard to think actively positive thoughts about ourselves. You work that muscle a little bit and it gets a lot easier. I think that is one way that for me is really important. I think these are little things that in total really make life better and that make us a little less crazy and a little calmer and more appreciative and aware of the abundance that does exist in our lives. And when we can do that, I think that starts to kind of clear the smudges off of the lens, so that we can see things more clearly. That, does that make sense?

19:23                                     It does. this particular book is the first two books of the Patanjali Sutras. Are you planning anymore?

19:37                                     We do have another project in the works. It will be more of the first two books and it really will be a great resource for teachers. So we have not signed our contract with Shimbala on it who is our wonderful publisher. I can't say more yet, but I promise as soon as I can I will email you

20:10                                     i

20:10                                     Is there anything that you would like to talk about that we haven't covered or we haven't covered in enough enough depth that you would like the listeners to know about this?

20:21                                     Oh, that's a great question. You know, I, I will say I was very intimidated by the sutras. I mean I studied them in a couple of early teacher trainings, way back in the day and then I didn't really do much with them. And, and I get that. I get how they can be intimidating and the ideas seem, you know, a little old. I think really the wisdom within is life changing truthfully. And I think one of the, one of the big things that I have remembered, I am somebody who came to my yoga practice very much just interested in the Asana and the physical. You know, I, I was not really interested in the other aspects of yoga and it's still really struggle with meditation. And for me it's a nice reminder that you can practice yoga and never do Asana ever in your life and you can do Asana and never practice yoga. And I would like to take credit for that. But it's actually something I learned from Rod Stryker and I think that as intimidating as the sutras can be, there are so many good, um, modern translations and approaches to it. Ours being one of them, that they're really worth the work, the study.

22:00                                     I think that's very wise that you can do asanas, but never do yoga. So, because so many people now think that yoga is Asana and, and that's a good way to start. You know, it's a nice gateway, but there is a great deal more if, if you choose to avail yourself of it.

22:24                                     And I say that with no judgment because I think, I know that this is a debate that happens often in the yoga community, my feeling is I don't care why someone comes to their mat. For me as a teacher, that's an opportunity. I'm not going to judge if they're there to lose five pounds or to get looser hamstrings or to destress or because they want to sleep better. Personally, I don't care. My job as the teacher then is to start to open up their idea of what yoga is and what it can be. And so that's just an opportunity for me. And I think that's really kind of a wonderful gift that we teachers have. It's really sort of amazing.

23:12                                     That's a great way to think about it. I really want to thank you for coming on the podcast. I think it was a really interesting one. And I do want to say again that the book is Living the Sutras: A guide to yoga wisdom beyond the mat. And I assume that people can get it at all of the regular outlets like Amazon and all of that.

23:42                                     Exactly. Absolutely.

23:44                                     I do think that the way that you put it together with writing prompts after you've read about it, is a really excellent way to go about learning My problem with the philosophy is that I learn it, I think, oh yeah, that makes sense. And then it just goes totally out of my mind. And with the writing prompts, I think it would stick hopefully a little better.

24:07                                     What I usually suggest to people as they read it once through before starting the writing prompts, because I think for some people the writing prompts can also be intimidating for people who think they're not journalers, but, um, you don't have to do them. No, nobody's checking.

24:25                                     Okay. You don't have to send in your answers. If you're interested in this for yourself, or to apply this to your classes, this sounds like an excellent resource. And don't forget that the podcast, Living it. Is going to be a, you even more in depth information and that starts, the second season starts in September. The first season is already gone, so you can probably even find it on Itunes, is that correct? Yes. Itunes, Google play. And we have a website called so you can listen directly from there. That's great. Okay, so those are all available to you. I'll put all that in the contact details. hank you so much for coming on the podcast. I really appreciate it and I thought it was really interesting because like I said, I'm kind of out of my depth when it comes to the philosophy and then giving it to my students. So I think you're doing a great service, so thank you.

                                                Thank you so much for having me, Stephanie




FB: kellydinard0





Jul 9, 2019

                                                Hello, this is changing the face of yoga. I have a great guest today. Her name is Beth Spindler. Beth has over four decades of experience in utilizing yoga as a healing modality plus the highest certification in her field. Her book -Yoga therapy for fear, treating anxiety, depression and rage with the Vegas nerve and other techniques - is recognized in the yoga therapy community as a text for those studying in the field. She is frequently a featured writer and presenter for Yoga International and leads retreats worldwide. And this is the thing I didn't know. Beth also has a long history of using sound as a healing modality and was a professional jazz vocalist for 35 years. Welcome Beth. And I'm very excited that you are a jazz vocalist. That sounds so interesting.

01:40                                     Thank you, Stephanie. I'm glad to be here. Yeah. I'm not performing a lot of late. I do get to jump back in occasionally now.

01:56                                     I think that's exciting. I'd love to hear that someday. This month is the more subtle aspects of yoga and as Beth is an expert in using the sounds, of her voice and other issues, she's going to talk to us about chanting and how that helps in the healing efforts of yoga. Do you actually use it in class or is it more just using the concepts of the sound to help in the healing of Yoga?

02:42                                     Yeah, when appropriate. I do incorporate chants and use techniques like Bhramari breath, humming the bumble bee breath a lot. That's a good way to introduce people to it. And certainly what I'm doing in groups that I sense there might be an allergy to things of a spiritual nature. I keep it pretty secular, you know, I'm not going to be introducing the names of theories and that kind of thing that might ruffle some feathers initially. But I find that people love the practice once they loosen up a little bit about it, but I'd like to start with just humming and sometimes I'll do that even when they're in Shavasana or lying down for Shavasana just to help them hum away any tension. It's a nice way for people to relax and they don't know that this is Nada Yoga. Nada Yoga is an ancient Indian metaphysical system and it's philosophical. It's a medicine and it's a form of yoga., Nada is its own own category. because of the powerful nature of using vibration, that helps ground and center people and helps them connect with sound energy that is individual and can heal issues. I think it's very important part of yoga that often we'll worry that we're going to put people off so we avoid it.

04:52                                     I think that's true. When you decide to do chanting do use the Indian chants or do you ever use one in, in English or something like that?

05:04                                     Generally I'll use Sanskrit because of the nature of Sanskrit. The words themselves are vibrational in nature. And for instance, when we're going through the sounds of the chakras, even names of the Chakras have the vibrational quality of, when we say Muladhara it reverberates at that point in the body of the root Chakra. People can really get a handle on how that feels, by taking the eyebrow Chakra, which is actually located more toward the center of the head and use the sound Ajna, Ajna, Ajna. Ajna. They'll repeat that. You're going to feel that vibration right above the soft palate, right in the center of the mind where that sound vibrates and I invite people listening to try repeating it in that way. Ajna, Ajna, Ajna and setting up that vibration because it's a good way tune in. Also we use sound in ways like Ujaii breath. Ujjai breath is another way to help set up that vibration there above the soft palate that impact areas of the brain that may need stimulation. I also work with a friend of mine is a sound therapist and the things that she can pick up from voice analysis, she uses computer and voice analysis. So I'll plug Andy Palmer. She uses voice analysis on the computer and she can pick up things in your voice, like hormone imbalances. She can tell you what medications you're on. Based on the sound of your speaking voice. She can, she can pick up osteoporosis. I mean, it's just remarkable what she's able to discern from the sound of the voice. But we become so disconnected from using the voice for healing. Historically, every culture has used singing and music as a healing modality. And we're disconnected.

08:12                                     We are all kind of with our I phones are really looking at that and typing with our thumbs, but that we don't speak as much as we used to. Do you start the class with some kind of vibration work or is that working through the whole entire class?

08:35                                     When I'm teaching workshops more often, I'll start with something like, the teachers student prayer and have the group join me in three ohms at the beginning and three ohms at the end. Most of the time they know the teacher student chant. I invite them to join. People often respond really well to it.

09:12                                     Do you find that you do have some pushback, shall we say in a general yoga class to chanting. Obviously yoga is kind of different for everyone and so it takes a while to get everything going. But do they like the chanting? I personally have absolutely no musical ability. So I hate chanting because I don't know what I'm doing. I'm just wondering if you're like me, if you have no musical ability, do you suggest just using the ohms and Ujaii breath.

09:56                                     Bhramari again is a really good way just giving people the cue that changing that the tone doesn't have to match the one I'm singing. Start with something in a comfortable register for you and and people find it very interesting an exercise I'll often do, especially in a workshop setting, but it amazes people. If groups are comfortable with a partnering situation, which not every group is. And certainly if I'm working in a trauma setting or whatever, we're not going to probably do partner anything. But if people are usually in with groups of teachers who were a little more open and I've done it with public groups and they loved it, especially if it was kind of a friends group that's been together for a long time. taking one partner and having placing fingers on either side of the chest and inviting them to find a tone that rumbles in their chest and then try to center that tone, bring it to the middle of the body Have the partner say to work toward the front, toward the back.

11:16                                     You're getting it and they can refine that tone until it vibrates in the center of the chest then And then move to the throat area and notch of the throat, in the back of the neck, and have them vibrate there or up in the head. Now the head tone often sounds like a mosquito and, but it doesn't have to be a perfect B flat. Each person can find that and see if they can set up that vibration in the head. And I was told, when I was doing teacher training I had a neurologist who would come to the class and all of her lectures, sometimes. Dr Sripada and he was an Alzheimer's specialist and he said, if I can get people, if I could get my patients to use vibration and find that vibration that moves up into the head that way. And he said they wouldn't need Aricept. He said you can break up plaques in the brain with that tone. Yesterday an article came out that details how they are eliminating Beta amyloid plaques in the brains of mice with a combination of sound and light.

13:10                                     How exciting.

13:10                                     We have this ability to heal and release those Beta amyloid plaques. I think it's pretty, pretty exciting, especially at my age and I have a family history of Alzheimer's. And so it's one of those working little fears there in the back. I do that. But you were asking about introducing sounds to the group. More often I'll use Bija Mantras or seed mantras. There are Bija mantras for the chakras like the lum bum brum yum hum sa Hum Hum Sa be. The Bija mantras for each of the major chakras. Of course there were more chakras than the seven. But those are the tones and I'll use those. Then there are also sounds like 'chants' Those are also connected to the Tantric mantras used for stimulating the chakras. People are not as afraid of those I'd say as they would be say 'chants' or 'chants' . People are less threatened by sounds that sound more like humming, more like just syllables. But what a Bija mantra does, it's like an amplifier, when you place them in a mantra. For instance, if you were chanting a sort of chant , you might use the bijas ohm and ihm like, chant. Ah, that kind of amplify. It's like push forward that , an intensifier. So Bijas themselves are said to contain a lot of the power in the universe. Bijas are very powerful in and of themselves.

16:38                                     Do you explain to the students or to your workshop participants about why or how powerful chanting vibrations are to healing?

17:21                                     I do. They want to know the science end of it. They'd want to hear Western medicine proof of what we're asking them to do. And I think it's incredibly important for teachers to keep up to date on current research and studies being done because there's everything is being proven, , that, I mean, we used to think , that you couldn't ever find the Nadi's - the Meridians in the body. We thought that those weren't actual things. And then we find out about the interstitium that this is a, an actual layer that runs through the Fascia of the body. And there's a little fluid filled compartments that they couldn't see because they were looking at dead tissue. And you could only see those in live tissue. So they had to use microscopy and endoscopy too. They had to move through the body with a scope in a live human body to find these, but they exist. Here we thought they were metaphysical things, they were just something that we talked about. We knew something was going on but the ancients knew and so a lot of what we are we're doing is gaining western understanding of the whys of why yoga does work. There is a lot of research going on about sound.

19:23                                     You're saying that your students or your participants are very open to something that has a bit more familiarity with Western medicine context.

19:36                                     Yeah If I encourage people with a way of saying, this is what we're doing and this is why we're doing it, here's what research has to say about it. You ready to give it a try? I rarely have an have someone just sit there and , not give it a go, people, people are interested. So, definitely the audience is where and when to use to use it; it takes a little discernment to know which group is gonna dig it. If you go into for instance, if I'm going into work in a recovery center or something like that, I am not as likely to start bellowing ohm the minute I walk in the door, but I might introduce humming to them at the end of the class. I might do that because it's not super threatening. It, particularly if they're not looking around at each other. They're lying down and starting to relax and, and they've already done some practice in their bodies feel better. They're more likely to enjoy playing with some, some vocalizing at that point. And as you know, and we say, no, my stay at the end and people that sound people resonate with it makes them feel more a part of what we're doing.

21:25                                     If I'm kind of iffy on ohms, maybe it's just the way people present it to me or something, but they, sometimes they are really very comfortable and you like doing it and sometimes you don't. Is that the vibrations or is that the context or, and I know I'm asking you to guess here, but what would be your best guess on that?

21:57                                     Yeah I mean, we all have moods where we're receptive and moods where we're not. And I think, it's okay if you don't, if you just want to listen, sometimes if you don't feel like, like opening up and doing that but you still get benefit even if you're not participating in things, they get the benefit. You mean as a teacher?

22:38                                     No, it's a student or a participant. Now, if I don't do ohms as a rule, of course I'm not teaching right now. But I just, I just feel like sometimes it feels really, really comfortable to do it and sometimes it feels really, really uncomfortable to do it. Now if it's just me, that's fine because I have this musical issue. I just wondered if sometimes the class really responds and sometimes they're do we have to do this ?

23:10                                     Yeah. There's, I think ebb and flow. Everybody has days when they're feeling really yogaful feeling in the Yoga groove and times when you're just kind of there to stretch. I think what they are, and I there are times I don't ohm at the beginning of the class, there are times that I just say here's what the class is about. We're going to lie down and, and, , constructive risk position, take a moment. And, I've often said and use the breath as mantra. Using the breath itself as mantra and internally because internally hearing the sound of the breath, which is so hum which is also the mantra for the Ajna Chakra, the one of the Bijas but hearing so on the inhale and hum on the exhale internally can be as powerful. That's, , what we call, the on the Anahata which means unstruck sound. It's the sound that reverberates inside of us. Whereas external music is Ahata Anahata is the heart chakra it is sound the unstruck sound that reverberates inside of us.

25:13                                     You obviously work with people in rehabilitation places or something like that. those people also, I'm sure not knowing anything about what that means about rehabilitation can also use this sound? Do they seem to feel like it's a good idea or are they more, cautious than say a just a general yoga class?

25:51                                     They'll often flat out laugh and I've learned, especially working in recovery anything can happen and they will, they often will ridicule poses. They'll laugh at whatever we're doing. So you have to be cautious. And a lot of it is because they've been through trauma and anybody in addiction has also also been through trauma. You can, you can be certain that they've experienced a lot of stuff. They'll want to pull away from weird parts of the practice especially, or they'll want to pull themselves out. It's that, this association that that will happen in that group. So same with vocal things. They kind of like Namaste because they've seen it in movies and they've heard it on commercials. Yoga all over the possible advertising world. If I get to work with a group for a long period of time, which is rare, usually you have sometimes two weeks sometimes, which is not enough time in recovery, but that's all Medicaid would cover often. I used to be able to be with them for a month at a time and, and then they start asking question. Do we get to do that? Are we going to do that Huffy puffy breath? Are we going to do this thing? And they become more interested. But when I have people for a short period of time, I'll keep it pretty western and pretty clinical in terms of we're going to do this this is specifically for this is something that can benefit sciatica. And I know some of you have have issues with that or we're going to do back care yoga today or we're going to do, and that perks interest. Can you help me with my pain? Later on if we want to refine it to things that are more subtle like breath practices and sound practices, then, they'll connect with them. But I want to give them in those groups especially, I want to give them something really tangible that they can see. I feel better. my neck doesn't hurt anymore. My jaw is more relaxed. Sometimes sound can help those things. Eventually I can get them to play.

29:21                                     Just take some patience. Do you ever, not in your recovery classes, but in your general classes, do you ever do a full chant?

29:31                                     Oh, sure. Yeah. And then I'll do workshops at studios on Nada Yoga on, on the yoga of sound because there are many who are very interested in learning more about Sanskrit, learning more about how to use I used to do a lot of kirtan. I don't do that a lot right now because I'm not working with musicians,. Occasionally people are really liking something. We'll do a little call and response in kirtan style. I don't have, I mean bring any instrumentation usually. I think it's wonderful when teachers do, right. Hmm. Come in with their harmonium or whatever. I think. Very cool.

30:39                                     So is there anything that you feel we haven't covered in enough depth or we didn't cover at all that you would like the listeners to know about? Chanting or sound therapy or, or in this area we've been talking about?

30:58                                     I think people need to note that this is I would like to reiterate that this is a science, that this is considered medicine as well as just a fun part of Yoga and that we can direct sound to really any area of the body that is needing vibration and vibration is the origin of the cosmos. which sounds a little woo, but its sound energy in motion rather than matter and particles that's the building blocks of the cosmos. And, it’s said that everything originated from sound. So when we connect to sound I can remember when I was a little girl and I loved to sing when I was a little girl and if I was down and I would get very depressed during school and I'd come home and if my mom saw I was really blue, she would go over to the piano and play something. And, if I could get over and sing, my mood would change. And she knew it helped me with dealing with depression and, and I can't tell and tell you how many times when I had gigs, when I'd be going out and I'm, maybe I'd have a horrible sore throat or, , I'd have an awful runny nose and I think I am just going to have to cancel. And as soon as I would get to the job and start singing by the end of the first set, I was, I wasn't sick.

33:16                                     I mean sometimes it was an exploration of whose voice is this rumbly voice with a cold. But I would feel well and it would help me heal. Even young like that, I recognized the healing qualities of vocalizing and, and not just vocalizing, listening to music. I mean, why are they playing those music tracks in every grocery store and every place we go? If they don't help people so, and attract people and help us relax and elicit a response, you know, that's the type of music they play may make us buy more stuff. But I think that we haven't even fully recognized the power of sound and music.

34:30                                     Thank you. Because that makes sense to me. I guess with my western science background where, yeah, the vibrations of it make it, I can understand that because to me, given my lack of any musical ability, it just was in a very embarrassing kind of thing. but I can understand that if it's that the vibrations could be very healing, have a friend who does healing and she talks about vibrations a lot. And I think that it's, that's a really important point here is that that is a healing modality along with much, much else of yoga if you use it correctly.

35:12                                     So I really want to thank you, Beth. I think you've really added considerably to my knowledge. I'm sure to the rest of the listeners

35:26                                     Contacts: if you want to get a hold of a bath and see maybe if she's going to have one of these workshops.

35:31                                     Her website is teach to inspire dot com

35:38                                     Its otherwise it won't go there for some reason, Facebook is Beth Spindler yoga therapy and also teach to inspire yoga education. And I have something called at Yoga chant. Is that okay? Is that a net? Yeah, that's the Facebook. Okay. Teach to inspire Facebook.. So at Yoga Chant and Beth Spindler yoga therapy. Thank you so much for this. I think you've just done a great job of explaining this and, and I have a much better idea of why adding sound to our classes. It's a really good idea

36:41                                     Even if it's just spoken, spoken chant, it's helpful.

36:47                                     Or what was it on ahata where it's inside channel where you don't make a sound but you think about it. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

37:01                                     Thank you, Stephanie. I enjoyed it.

Jul 2, 2019

                                                I have an incredible guest today, Indu Arora. She is an expert in many areas. She is an yoga and Ayurveda therapist and her philosophy is nothing has the greatest power to heal but self. She has written several books and we will talk about Mudras: The Sacred Secret. She has taught and been insprired by Kriya yoga, Himalayan yoga, Kashmiri yoga, Shivaism and Sivananda yoga. Welcome Indu and thank you for joining us on the podcast. Let's start at the basics: What is a Mudra?

01:32                                     Well, please accept my Namaste Stephanie to you as well as my greetings and Namaste to all the listeners. So yeah, what is Mudra? You know, when we talk about a subject, there are three basic ways to understand what it is. One is we can simply understand the meaning of the word. Second, if we go more on linguistics, we can understand what is the root of this word. And the third is actually left for exploration, which means your own experience and realization will help you unveil the meaning. So we can talk about the first two. When we say the word Mudra, it basically means a gesture, a lock, a seal, an impression, and even currency. But basically it's a nonverbal mode of communication. Now, there are so many different meanings to the same word, but where we use the word and in which context you're using it, the meaning of it changes, but what keeps it logged and anchored is the root. So that takes us to the second meaning of the word. And the root from which the word Mudra is derived is mud. Mud then comes a suffix - dru. Now mud means delight and dru means to draw forth. So if we combine these two things together, it basically means to draw forth from Vidan (sp?)a state of delight innate happiness, joy. So a practice, a tool that helps us unreal that innate state of happiness and delight that is mudra in context to yoga.

03:13                                     Excellent. How does that work? I mean, how do you draw forth that delight by using mudras?

03:22                                     So again, there are a couple of ways to look at it. One is to understand that there are different kinds of mudras depending upon from which group of texts we are refereeing and what kind of Mudra. Are there are Mudras that are used in classical Indian dances, there the entire story or legend as communicated merely with the movement of the eyes, face and neck, hand and so on and so forth. The second group of texts is you know the Mudras which are associated with mantra chanting and you know for example: Gyatri mantra there are 32 Mudras, hand Mudras that go along with the practice of Gyatri mantra and the third series of texts or group of texts mudras that are used at the time of specific rituals and worships or invocations and so on and so forth. When you talk about Yoga Mudras there are mudras which are used for meditation and then are mudras that are used for therapy. So then you asked the question of how does it actually work and unveil that inner state. It really depends. What kind of Mudras are we talking about. If we talk about spiritual Mudras, they are actually, those are the mudras that are actually unveiled in a state of meditative experiences to the Yogi's, to the Rishes, to the sages, which means that once they were in that state of Yoga, mentally, physically, emotionally, pranically their bodies, their eyes, you know, either logged up or roll down or close gently and their hands would go in different positions. In that case, we are simply mimicking the consequential body positions so that it slowly when you bring the fingertips together in different hand positions, it slowly kind of start relaying a signal, creating a specific loop of energy, creating a certain impression over and over and over again, almost like a domino effect. To slowly bring that affect just starts from physical, sensory, expedience, kinesthetic experience to changing of our biorhythm, our body temperature and our state of mind and of our state of emotions. Now, the second category of Mudra Therapeutic Mudras, they are totally based on the art and science of understanding and maintaining that ratio, proportion and harmony of the five elements. Earth, water, fire, air and ether. And the foundation of Yoga practices and Ayurvedic practices is that everything is made up of five elements. So whatever we are experiencing in the sense of imbalance, whether physically, mentally, emotionally, in whatever form it is. It is a result of the change in the ratio and proportion of these five elements and our hand represents the five elements. If you look at your palm palm facing up, your, let's start with the ring finger. The ring finger represents the earth, little finger - water, thumb - fire, index finger - air, and the middle finger - ether. Now how you combine the thumb and the fingers together, it will help in either increasing the element, reducing the element or purifying the element. And as a result of it, the different organs, organ systems receive a full or fresh supply of oxygen, blood circulation and also the intercellular and extracellular communication becomes more sharper and clearer and the metabolic wastes at released. So this is what I mean by you know, unveiling of happiness or delight, which here it means heath physical, mental, emotional health. So I know it was a short question and a little longer, but I wanted to go step by step a little bit because I know this subject is so new for a lot of us.

07:13                                     Yes. You said that in the Indian dance, that mudras also included not only the hands but the eyes, the neck and other parts. Is that true of mudras in general that is just not hand motion?

07:35                                     Absolutely correct. There are so many different kinds of Mudras. The most common ones are the hand mudras because they are the ones that were talked about or practice the most or shown the most. But basically there are Mudras. Let's take a journey from our head to toe. There are mudras of the eyes, you know that we use in prana. When you fix your eyes on a candle flame or something, or you roll the eyes and look at the tip of the nose and the center of the eyebrows or focus the eyes on the tip of the tongue. Those are the Eye Mudras then that are Mudras of the oral apparatus of your mouth. You know, when you round the lips and say ohm or when we roll the tongue, you know, vertically or horizontally for practicing the cooling breath, that is a mudra the tongue. Then there is mudras of the neck, you know, in certain postures like bridge pose and the shoulder stand, you tuck the Chin in Or in certain practices bandhas, you know, Jalandhara bandha , the Chin lock or the Mula Bandha or the abdominal lock or the root lock. In all these things we are practicing the Mudras in fact bandhas are types of mudras and then there are hand Mudras, which are the commonest ones then that are feet mudras. When you join the foot soles in Namaskar or in Tree pose, you press keep the foot sole by the inner thigh or by the knee or by the ankle depending upon where you can find most, balance or which one is most convenient and effortless for you. So, and then there are full body Mudras like the Gomughasana and I will not translate it as cow head face because it has such a deeper, I'm in seriously, I can talk about the name of an asana and it's actual real meaning versus you know, just the translated version. But I will just say Gomughasana, you know what I'm talking about? Or tree pose, they are actually all body mudras. Mudra is a state of the mind expressed through the body.. we have kind of a small slice of what mudras really are, It's a much deeper and and kind of fascinating idea that mudras are really expressing through the body certain things. As a yoga teacher or a yoga student, what would you do to find some good information and feel that it's really good for you as an individual?

10:23                                     Okay, so there are two ways. One is, you know how I shared in the beginning that that is this third meaning of the word or third way to understand the meaning of the word. And that is exploration in your own experience. So that is one thing I would urge the listeners, the practitioners, the teachers, is that experience what you are practicing. And that would mean maybe practicing, just opening up a mudra book and just whatever opens up or whatever aspect inspires you, practice that Mudra but while you're practicing, pay attention to what it does to you because otherwise it all sounds so magical. You know, you hold your hand like this and it will have this effect on kidney or liver or lungs. How does that actually happen? It happens because when you hold your hands in a certain way, it exerts a specific nerve ending tension. It exerts a certain self acupressure. It triggers reflexology. And if you talk in terms of Ayurveda, triggers marma points in our hands and through our hands in different parts of our body. And by doing so, it changes our biorhythm. It changes the structure of our breath, the length of inhalation, exhalation, the temperature of the body, the taste in the mouth, the kinesthetic experiences, the sensations, all of that changes by merely observing. So do not interfere, just observe when you're practicing. And slowly you will get a grip of it. That how is my body responding to it? If you feel calmer than before, clearer than before, restful than before, focused on how you are before you know it's working. And if it does not for you, the body will speak. Maybe you feel uncomfortably cold or uncomfortably hot or your mouth may start feeling parched and dry or you might feel a sense of nausea or headache. If you get these signs and symptoms from the body, then you know this is not working for you. So that is one path. Explore. Just open up the book and practice and give time for your body to respond and stay a witness. The second way I would say is let's say I want to explore the Mudras and in a certain way and therapeutic way, do it for myself or even kind of introduce it if you're teaching a class or leading a class or a group. So in that way I would say that let's go into the foundation of Yoga, Yoga therapy, and Ayurveda. Any kind of imbalance that we experience in the body is either as a result of agni or fire imbalanoce, which is metabolism imbalance or digestion imbalance or the vayu imbalance. When there is Vata disturbance, which means there is some discomfort or disharmony in the nervous system and and as a result of it that is either physical disturbance or mentally, emotionally there is a disharmony, so the root cause of all the conditions, anything that we experience in the sense of disease, disharmony lies in either agni which means fire, or vayu, which means air or vata. So one would be: practice the mudra related to vayu. Where you fold the index finger at the root of thumb and keep the other three fingers stretched out and press the index finger with the thumb over it. This is to calm down the vayu and if you're working to balance the agni that is just fire. For that you bring all the four fingers and the thumb together. These are the two basic mudras which anyone can practice. It will help in calming down the Vata and balancing the agni, not by increasing or decreasing. It may be harmonizing it. So that is one path that I would say that that is really good for yourself. The second is, you know, practice of the mudras of five elements. That is the foundational understanding of our body and the cost models that the microcosm and the macrocosm is made up of five elements and anything that's happening inside of our body at the physical, mental, emotional level, which is a disturbance, is a result of disharmony in the ratio and proportion of these five elements. So practice the mudras of these five elements, earth, water, fire, air, and ether holding them for minimum two to three minutes and practicing them two to three times a day. Now you can introduce that practice to the group, exploding one mudra each day, or exploring all five mudras depending upon the time and the readiness and the curiosity. . So these are the two ways I would suggest.

15:12                                     You said that some of these are therapeutic and it's not really a metaphor is it. I mean you're saying that by pressing certain ways with your hands and probably with the other areas that you talked about, you're actually giving a different nerve signal to certain areas, so it's actually a physical change done by this. Is that fair to say?

15:41                                     Absolutely. Absolutely. What is your body position? Tell me all these postures. Why do we have so many different postures? What is the benefit of all these different postures? Each posture triggers a specific response in our nervous system, creates or stores or awakens a specific chemical reaction in our body, awaken certain chemicals and changes of our biorhythm. That is why we try so many different postures apart from the fact that each one of them is working, twisting, turning , stretching, contracting a specific organ area, organ system or joint and so on and so forth. Apart from that, it has a tangible effect by changing our biorhythm. That's the same that goes with Mudras, that when you press the hands together by bringing the finger and the thumb close to each other, it is actually changing our bio rhythm. It is not a magic, you know, one part of it is just communication which is body language, but the other part of it is science and I have been, you know the first time I was introduced to Mudras I was 15 years and since then I have been practicing it and I've experience that results in my body and that is what I would urge the readers, the listeners to do that when you read something, when you listen to something, apply it and see what are the results for yourself. If this speak to you, if it is working for you, go ahead and do it. If it is not working for you, if it is not connecting, don't waste time, move on. But it does work if you do it sincerely. Every Mudra creates a rhythm in the body. It's like you know like a vibratory field, like a spiral effect. It creates a rhythm in the body that stays for four to six hours. Now when we go a nutritionist and prescribe a supplement or to a doctor and she prescribed some medicine, they say, okay, take twice in a day or once in a day and so on and so forth. They say that because the effect of that medication is going to stay in our system for that time and after that you need again, a second dose. The same goes for all these yoga practices. mudra creates a rhythm that kriya stays in the body for four to six hours. So if you are doing it as therapy, you must do it three times a day for that rhythm that you have generated to sustain and stay in the body. So if you're starting and doing a Mudra practice as therapy, practice it for many months, seven days, give one day for each tissue, you know, let it speak to all the seven level of your tissues and practice it for two minutes, three times a day. If you don't see any change in your sleep patterns and your appetite and your level of rest focus, then it is not for you. But I know it works. So you have to try it sincerely.

18:34                                     The key to this is to be really self observant about what this is doing to you. That it's just not something you do at they sitting in a particular way and when you're meditating or when you're just focusing. But really the cell phone awareness is the key to this.

18:55                                     Again, for two different practices, if it is a therapeutic Mudra, it was really important that you stay a witness to the effects of the practice so that you can modify and it's almost like a communication. You know, when you do a practice for your body, your body speaks and the practice should not be a monologue. It should be a dialogue. It should not be that this is what I'm going to do today. And I tick mark by the end and I did it and I did a great job. It is a dialogue when you are talking to someone. I'm sure no one enjoys it. When you're talking to someone with the idea of conversation and there is only one person speaking and the other person does not have any chance to speak. In this case with practices, you're speaking to yourself. You do the practice, you listen, you let the body communicate, the body communicates through temperature, through taste, through all the five sensory organs, through kindness tactic experiences, stay present to them when they are therapeutic. Melvin, there are spiritual, the language is different. The language is the state of your mind. So in that case you do not separate so much you because by separating you almost create interference with the practice. If you're so much hyper aware of what is my taste, what is my body temperature, then that meditation, which is one plus one is equal to none or numbness, we'll create a separate identity. So what kind of mudras you are practicing makes a difference to how you are going to interact with them or just to witness them or simply allow them? So in spiritual Mudras, let's take an example of the most common, spiritual Mudra, ca;;ed the Gyan mudra, where the word Gyan means wisdom. This is Gyan seal. When you join the index finger pad with the thumb pad and keep the rest of the three extended, you know which one I'm talking about? It's the most common mudra that anyone must have ever seen in any picture in the name of mudras or in the name of a Buddhist sculpture and so on and so forth. Now, this mudra is called wisdom seal for a reason. In this kind of mudra, you do not so much pay attention to your body contemplation and taste in the mouth and so on and so forth, but more the state of the mind. This Mudra has beautiful symbology. If you extend your palm forward and face up and joined the index finger with the town, the index finger represents the individuated mind and it represents the Shakti, the feminine energy. The thumbpresents a universal mind, the consciousness and the masculine principle. So then you bring the index finger pad with the thumb pad. It represents the union of the individuated mind, the matter, the feminine energy with the Universal Mind, consciousness and the masculine energy and that represents yoga and that is the wisdom we are talk about. I'm beyond the state of awake. I'm beyond the state of dream state. I'm beyond the dreamless sleep. I'm beyond these three states of mind. Then if we talk about the context of Ayurveda, I am beyond the three Gunas, Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Those of us who might be familiar with the ayurvedic terminology or I am beyond the three Doshas Vata, Pitta and Kapha and those of us who are practicing Tantra and yoga, I'm beyond the bondages of time: past, present, and future. So there is such a symbology in this Mudra that merely by holding it, I am communicating to myself that I am beyond these three: the bondages of time and place, states of mind and doshas. I am the union between the individuated mind and the universal mind and it is represented not by the coming together of this, but by the hollow that is held in the loop. We again get lost in because you know that yoga means plus means joining. It could mean one plus one is equal to two or one plus one is equal to 11 or one plus one is equal to infinity, but yoga is a different kind of union here at means one plus one is equal to none. So that hollow in the loop between the index finger and the thumb representing noneness, the void or even the everythingness, not noneness is everythingness also. So when you are practicing this Mudra, then pay attention initially to the point of contact between the index finger and thumb. And as you pay attention to it, you can hear or sense a pulsation like heartbeat, throbbing at the point of contact. Pay attention not to the throbbing, but the silence between the two throbs. Let them be connected like a string of beads. Silence to silence, to silence. That is the gateway into this loop into this void, into that nothingness that unveils the state of mind, which is not colored, which is not this or that. So see here we are not paying attention to the taste. Here we are paying attention to a different aspect.

24:53                                     I mean it's so complex. I mean you went through the whole thing and said, okay, all of this has meaning. And I can understand now why you might want to do this, but are all mudras like that, that they have layers and layers of meaning.

25:09                                     The meditative, spiritual mudras do. There are Mudras associated with Chakras, there are mudras associated with mantras. They do have layers and layers of meaning and symbology and almost they open a gateway to enter into a different state. And when we talk about therapeutic Mudras that is not so much about symbology, that is more about pressure and posture. So where are you putting the pressure? What is your body position? Are you allowing the channels in the Meridians to be open for communication so that the right messages can go in and the metabolic waste can move out?

25:46                                     Okay, so really I understand that they may not have been started with yoga, but they have so much to add our practice and to our teaching.

26:01                                     Everything which we call a yoga practice is a mudra. Whether it'd be practicing pranyam, a breathing practice, alternate nostril breathing, how you fold your fingers to press the nostril. That is a hand mudra now that has a deep symbology and maybe we have time or not have time to go into it. I will leave it for you to see if that question comes up. Everything even the practice of agnisar are you know, bramacharya, which is also known as the breath of fire. They're the place, the place where we place our hands over body position. That is a Mudra in the asanas that is mudras, in the meditation over body position why cross legged only. Why the spine has to be upright, why it cannot be leaning forward or backward, why the chin has to be parallel. Everything. It is basically coming from the Mudras, but I would also like to say I know I'm sharing a lot of different details which kind of explore its intensity and depth. I also want the listeners to know that each one of you, no matter how you're sitting right now, no matter if you're laying down and listening, you are in Mudra. Mudras are accessible to everyone and everyone knows about it. Even if we do not know the term, we are all practicing mudras,of our body language is mudras. How the expression in our eyes change and squinted them or make them broader or focus them. It is Mudra how we move over hands and at times interlace the fingers or keep the hand on the chin. These are, or how we say hello and how we say bye these are all Mudras so you know them. The only thing is now you're knowing them a little bit more. That's all.

27:42                                     So this is a lovely introduction to move drugs, but you've really done a wonderful job of kind of hinting at the complexity of them and if someone is really interested in that, how do you suggest that they explore it more? What's the most effective way shall we say?

28:05                                     I would say that in your meditation, explore it, you know, hold one of these bija mudras and see how does it change your meditative experience, which means that how easy or effortless it becomes for you to slip into the zone of talk freeness. I wouldn't say thoughts lessness because there could be freedom from thoughts but there could not be minus thought state because as long as we're alive there will be vibrations and that will be thought and so on. So one is you know in your meditation, introduce them with that. If you are not doing yet and choose any mudra. My favorite one is the Yang would rather that I just shared with all of you. Just use that with the palms facing up or palms facing down, whichever is more comfortable, like there'd be that space for you to experience and explore and if you are looking for practicing therapeutic Mudras, a good starting point would be the five elements or the five Pranam mudras:, the prana, vayu, udana, apana practicing those Mudras, taking a Sankalpa, making a resolve for doing it for seven days, two minutes, three times a day, and allowing the space to experience how is the mudra communicating to you. But if these teams do structured ways for you, a lot of my students, I know what they do is they just open up the book and see which mudra comes up. They believe in the power of you know that there are no coincidences and they practice at Mudra and see how it changes their breath and how does it make them feel. So you can choose the structured pathway or can choose to be absolutely free and see how it unveils to you.

29:45                                     I want to really thank you and Indu this is just been fascinating. I really had no idea that there was so much to mudras. If you would like to contact Indu. She is that Info@ I will spell this. It's y o g s a d h n a. dot. com. It's not yoga. It's Yog and website is Her Book Mudra. The sacred secret is available in Europe. It's actually been translated into French and German. It's available on her website, which I just gave you and on Amazon. So it sounds like an excellent resource for those of you that have become interested in this. Her Facebook pages is InduAroraOfficial and Indu Arora and Official are all caps. Instagram is the same, but there are no caps. So it's into Aurora official. So this is how you might like to get a hold of Indu to find out how. I know I've looked at a small youtube video that she had about mudras, which was very fascinating. So I think there's a lot of resources that Indu has provided. Indu, Is there anything that you would like to cover that we maybe didn't cover in enough depth or didn't cover at all that you would like the listeners to know?

31:19                                     Well, I would say to the listeners is stay curious. Don't become stagnant in your practice. Let there be space for exploration. Keep moving and keep your eyes and your ears open when you are doing a practice. Don't become too compliant and passive and also don't become too structured and robotic. Let there be that space for communication conversation. Let your practice be a dialogue, not a monologue and there is beauty that is there in these practices and it opens up layers by layers, by layers. No matter where you start. We all are going to meet in the center at this one point called Yoga. No matter which lineage what style you're coming from, it is all going to end in just one place. called yoga. Mudras you already know them. You already are them. You're just becoming a little bit more curious, inspired and looking into it. So I really hope you enjoyed this journey, this pilgrimage of knowing the self and realizing the self. And thank you so much, Stephanie, for holding this podcast and creating this space. And I really sincerely

32:40                                     hope that our conversation is beneficial for everyone.

32:44                                     Oh, I'm sure it is. And do it. So it was very instructive and, and obviously something that you've studied for a long time. So I want to thank you so much for agreeing to be on the podcast and sharing your wonderful knowledge with us.

33:02                                     My pleasure. And if you don't mind, maybe I would like to chant a mantra if that's okay. And if we have time,

33:08                                     that's fine. Go ahead.

33:11                                     Indu chanting

34:47                                     Namaste. Thank you so much.



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Jun 25, 2019

This is changing the face of yoga and this is episode 105 and I have a really exciting guest today. This is our first yoga student on changing the face of yoga. Her name is Diane Randall and Diane is energized, committed, and passionate about leading wellness conversations around life balance, self-care, plant based nutrition and whole life wellness. Her joy is seeing individuals adapt health and wellness methods that reduce stress and bring harmonious balance to their lives. She excels at equipping business professionals with workable wellness advice and strategies that meet their demanding lifestyle. And she's been a yoga student for 12 years. Welcome Diane. And I'm really glad to have you on the podcast. I think the way you're going to look at it as very different from most of my guests and I'm really excited to talk to you about it. So can you just tell us how you started in Yoga?

(02:00 )
I started in yoga many years ago. Probably 15 years ago. I went to a class, I won't say I started, I'll say I went to a class maybe 15 years ago and I went with my brother and, and just to make the story go faster. I did not like the yoga because my mind was running 50 miles a minute. And then here I am in this yoga class trying to relax and be still and it just wasn't happening. So I decided that yoga wasn't for me. It wasn't for me because I'm laying down in Shavasana thinking about all the calls I need to make, all the things I needed to do. So I, I left the class and I didn't go back until about 12 and a half, 13 years ago when what I realized was I wasn't ready, ready for Yoga because my life at that time was so hectic, so stressed. I literally had a monkey mind just going 50 miles a minute. I wasn't sleeping.

And what I realized was when I went back that I was really rattled, ready to settle into the classes just to see what it was all about. Because at that time I had, I had very high blood pressure and a lot of stress. So I was just looking for something to help me to just calm myself down. But what ended up happening, I settled into, I surrendered really into the practice because I didn't know what I did know. But what has happened over the years is I found so much peace, so much a enjoyment in just having a calm mind. It really helped me to settle down over time.

And I didn't even see that coming. Not only did it helped me settle, it has really enriched my life in a way over time that I have developed more patience. My heart has opened up a lot more, you know, just settling into the calmness of the meditation and the Yoga. So what I'd say is it's really, really helped me to change my life over the years. And I've taken some of the practices that I've learned to help, not only to center my clients, my students, whoever I'm with initially, but I help people to just clear any noise or chatter that is in their heads. Before I started class or I started coaching session or start of just consulting. So it's really allowed me to just be present with people in my life as far as my work, in my home life.

(05:25 )
As teachers and therapists, we all know this, but it's so exciting to hear that it really worked well for a student. But that you had to be ready to accept it first.

Yes. I had to be ready and I was like, this is too slow for me. I don't want to do this anymore. And I'm like, you know, I don't know what that's about, but I recognize that I wasn't ready. I really wasn't ready at that time.

That's a good thing for teachers to know for somebody that comes to class and never comes back. No, not to put it on ourselves all the time. They're saying, hey, maybe they just weren't ready to do yoga yet. Exactly. Yeah. So you did yoga and how long do you think it took you through learning these tools and stuff to really see that significant emotional and physical difference?

(06:25 )
What I can share with you is that I've seen it over time. I've noticed and observed myself over time because you know, it's not like you know that all these different things are going to happen to enrich your life. I would say after a few years I started noticing how much more peaceful I was, how I was engaging and sharing what I learned at my practices. Just not even thinking about it. It just became part of what I do to help to settle and integrate myself into my life as well as sharing with others. And I know how good I feel using some of my yoga techniques that I just shared that with everyone around me.

Those yoga techniques are like grounding and breathing or what ?

It's mainly grounding, it's breathing and sometimes it's just closing our eyes and sometimes I'll say a mantra and have my people close their eyes and, and I'll say a little mantra just to get everybody centered.

So your role is mainly working with people that are really stressed out, is that correct?

Stressed out. And you know when you're running, running, running, and then you meet up, whether it's at a coaching session or a class, most of the time your mind is not in the room yet. So what I do to bring everybody together and just to clear a release, whatever chatter is going on in that moment, just to get everybody in the room and ready for what I'm about to say or do.

Do you give them, what we would call yoga tools but tools of any kind that help them when they're not in the room with you?

No, no, no, I don't do that. It's mainly a tool to get everybody present to what we're about to do as well as get me present and grounded for what I'm about to do with my audience.

I see. Now you actually have expanded this out so that you're looking at wellness on several different levels. , I think you were talking about life balance, self-care, plant based nutrition. Were you doing that before, before you started taking the yoga or ?

I'll say it's been evolving. The more peaceful and the more quiet my mind became, the better I felt because I feel that yoga helped too with the stress. So at that time I just evolved into looking at life balance, helping people with demanding schedules like mine was at the time to just settle into their life and take care of themselves. Not only, mentally, physically, and spiritually, but just to look at the whole, and I feel that the yoga help to settle me down enough so that I could share everything that I was learning, which allows me to show up and just be present in the moment and grounded. That is such an awesome feeling and experience to just be grounded in the moment. And when you're running around all the time, you notice that difference. You notice it is not something you experience all the time.

when you say that you were really stressed in, in your job, have you changed your position? Have you just changed yourself?

Oh my goodness. As I've changed myself over the years, everything changed. Everything changed. I definitely don't have a stressful life anymore. Two things. My kids grew up for one thing. But I evolved so much into this person who loves the quiet when I was younger and stressed out, just be still and quiet. You know, it just didn't feel right at the time. But that's, that's my life. That's who I am. And in my work, a lot of it is helping people to come into balance, whether it's with their food, whether it's with their mindset. It's just been awesome because I feel that all that is in alignment with my life in the work I do. And I still go into corporations to do consulting work. But what I notice is over the years, I've just evolved it into this practice where I go in and I can just share. It's not that stressful energy that I used to just carry everywhere with me.

You really have taken yoga off the mat and, and use it in your life, not just in the class. Is that a fair statement?

That is a correct statement because I use all the tools that I've learned to help me to change from the inside out and be able to quiet your mind just for a second. That is huge. I've wanted people that I encountered that I come into contact with to experience the same thing, just to slow that mind. To the point where for the last five years I go to silent retreats. Well part of the retreat is yoga. I love yoga because it's such a calming. Not only do I get to stretch my bodyand to all the different positions, but when I want to check out and just go somewhere and calm down, yoga is usually involved even on the silent retreats that I've gone to for the past five years.

You say that you help people with self-care and there is a certain level of, shall we say, a burnout among yoga teachers. What would you say to someone to help them with their self-care? What would you give them, some tools or some help or ?

The first thing I would say in, the main thing I would say is I always tell people to check inside. So really close your eyes and explore to really feel what's going on? What is the truth of what I'm experiencing? Because you know when you're burnt out, it's a combination of things that have happened over time and it's being honest and authentic about what may be going on inside. It's really taking an honest look at your life and what's going on to get an indication of where your energy and attention is in the moment around the time that you're feeling burnt out. It's exploring that burnout. What does that mean? What has transpired? Why am I in this? The current situation? It's exploring that, not just looking at it as burnout. How did I arrive here? It's really digging in and exploring that.

As you experienced, you would have to be ready to do that. I'm sure it could be a little off putting, perhaps is the word, that you know to really dig into yourself and see what's happening. Sometimes you just kind of ignore it.

You've really said it because if you're not ready then you're not going to figure it out, but you have to be ready. And if it's off putting, then it's like, okay, what is that off putting about? Why am I feeling that way about it and everyth