Should You Become a Yoga Teacher? 3 Key Issues to Consider

Are you considering becoming a yoga teacher? Do you look at your instructor and think what an amazing life they must lead? Has yoga changed your life and now you want to share this practice with the world?

Teaching yoga is a big commitment. Before you invest your time, money, and energy in yoga teacher training; make sure you ask yourself these 3 questions:

(Note: Watch the 7-minute video below for a more in depth discussion. I dive deeply into these 3 issues and share my own experience. OR, read my short summary in this post. :))

 

Do you like TEACHING?

Teaching yoga is an entirely different experience from practicing yoga. Just because you enjoy doing something doesn’t mean you will enjoy teaching it. Also, just because you are good at something doesn’t mean you will be good at teaching it. Not everyone has a natural talent for teaching but teaching skills can be learned and developed. Are you willing to do what it takes to become an effective teacher? Are you willing to learn how to communicate better? Will you have the patience and dedication to guide your students no matter how difficult it gets? What’s simple and self-explanatory to you may not be so for your students, especially if they’re beginners. Ask yourself if you truly want to TEACH others or if you just want to have more yoga in your life. Maybe a yoga retreat to deepen your practice is what you need, and not necessarily a yoga teacher training.

Can you get up in front of people to teach yoga?

Even if you have a sincere desire to teach, you still might have some sort of “stage fright.” I know a few people who were in yoga teacher training with me who ended up never teaching because they were deathly afraid of being in front of people and actually doing it! Ask yourself if you are willing to develop the necessary confidence and presentation skills to teach a public class. There are ways to learn this: workshops on acting/theater, presentation skills seminars, etc.  As a yoga teacher, you must also confront your anxiety about making mistakes and getting criticized. Have courage and keep practicing!

Will teaching yoga be a side gig or a full-time career?

This is a complex issue that deserves its own blog and video! In a nutshell, ask yourself: Is teaching yoga merely a hobby that you do for fun and not for money? Is teaching yoga a side job that helps supplement income you already make from a steady job? Is teaching yoga going to be your full-time profession after you transition out of your current career? Whichever one you choose, you must know that working as a yoga teacher can be financially challenging, especially in the beginning. Are you sure you are being realistic with your expectations when it comes to money? Have you dealt with any money issues you might have? Do you feel guilty about making money because you view yoga as a spiritual practice? Do you dislike the business and marketing side of yoga? You must look into your conflicting thoughts and feelings about money if you are to be happy and fulfilled as a yoga teacher. Also, burning out is a very common issue with yoga teachers. Ask yourself how much yoga you actually want in your professional life. (note: I will make separate post about this. It’s too complicated!)

These are just few of the issues you must consider before making that commitment to become a yoga teacher. Go ahead and talk to the yoga teachers you know to get a better idea of what their lives are truly like. It is a truly challenging and rewarding journey if it’s right for you. Good luck!

 

How Do I Get My Partner To Do Yoga With Me?

Note: The entire video has captions/subtitles so you can watch it without sound if you need to. It’s only 5 1/2 minutes 🙂

The question for today’s Yoga Q & A is:

“How do I get my partner/loved one/significant other to practice yoga with me?”

When you fell in love with yoga and became consistent in your practice, you probably felt so good and noticed positive changes in your life. It’s natural for us to want the people we care about to experience the same benefits we’ve received from yoga. Here, I share my thoughts on the most effective way to encourage those around us to start practicing or at least begin exploring the idea of practicing. Also, what do you do when you finally get what you want? If you’re successful in getting your loved to go to yoga class with you, I have an important tip for you! 🙂

 

How Yoga Keeps You Happy and Healthy while Traveling

For most people, summertime often involves a lot of travel and outdoor activities. It’s easy to neglect our fitness routine and healthy diet when we are visiting new places. The practice of yoga can help us maintain good habits while traveling and it can even enhance our enjoyment of our vacation.

How does yoga do this?

Yoga is a mind-body discipline that improves our physical, mental and emotional well-being. The physical postures develop our strength, flexibility and balance. Breathing and meditation techniques aid in relaxation and stress relief. An intelligent yoga practice keeps us calm, focused and emotionally balanced even in unfamiliar or difficult situations.

On a practical level, the strength and flexibility you gain from yoga makes the physical aspect of traveling much easier. You can carry your own luggage at airports, take long walking tours in museums and historical sites, and participate in physically demanding activities. Yoga teaches you how to move and stretch your body properly so you can combat the negative effects of long hours of sitting in cars or airplanes.

Unexpected events are sure to happen when we go on holiday. Delayed flights, language barriers, and unfamiliar surroundings all contribute to the stress of traveling. In yoga, we develop skills that help us deal with challenges and disappointments. You know how to take a break and breathe deeply for a few moments so you can calm down and respond to the situation with more clarity. Your yoga practice also helps you get into a more relaxed state so you can sleep better and make good food choices.

Most of all, yoga teaches us how to be present and how to be grateful. Before the vacation, we spend a lot of time and energy anticipating the trip. When we’re actually on the trip, however, we’re too busy either taking pictures or thinking of home to fully appreciate what’s happening in the here and now. Yoga gives us the gift of presence and gratitude so we can fully immerse ourselves in the experience of traveling.

These are some of the wonderful benefits of yoga. Taking the time to practice, even for just a few minutes, can make a big difference in keeping us happy and healthy during our summer vacation.

 

Note: I wrote this article for the Front Door Fitness website where it was first published.

Beginner Yoga Tips: How to Survive your First Yoga Class

Curious about yoga but intimidated to try a class? You’re not alone. Online articles and images sometimes create the wrong impression that yoga is only for young people who are fit and flexible. Rest assured that yoga is for everybody – EVERY BODY. There is a right style, class, and teacher for everyone. I’ve been teaching for 6 years and I’ve seen a lot of brand new yoga students in my classes. Here are my suggestions to help beginners have the best experience possible. Read on for my tips on surviving (and enjoying!) your first yoga class.

  •  Do your research. Visit the websites of yoga studios in your area and read the class descriptions. It’s okay to call the studio to ask which classes they recommend for you. If possible, go to a class that is designed specifically for beginners. This way, you can learn the poses in a non-intimidating way. Feel free to ask the teacher questions before or after class. It is their job to help you and make sure you practice safely and effectively.
  • Don’t hide in the back! I often see new students sheepishly make their way to the farthest corners of the room, as if that makes them invisible. Hey, we won’t bite. 🙂 It’s much better to position yourself where you can see and hear the teacher clearly. You’re paying for the class so you might as well get the most out of it. When you buy movie tickets, you want to get the best seats, right? I understand beginners often feel self-conscious and try to be as inconspicuous as possible by placing their mats in the back row. Believe me, other students are too busy with their own practice to spy on you. 🙂
  •  Arrive early. Don’t underestimate the importance of having an extra 10-15 minutes to settle into a new place. If it’s your first time at the studio, they will need you to fill out some forms and perhaps give you a short tour or orientation. This will help you feel more comfortable in the space and give you an opportunity to ask questions and relax before class starts.
  • Come prepared. Wear comfortable clothing you can move and stretch in. Yoga is done barefoot so don’t worry about shoes. Bring your own yoga mat, towel, and water. If you’re not sure what items you need, call the studio ahead of time to find out if they rent or sell yoga items. I am of the opinion that your yoga mat can make or break your first yoga class experience! Please do your research on the types of mats out there. Choose a mat with good traction to help prevent or minimize slipping in poses. If you’re like me and you tend to sweat a lot, a yoga towel might be necessary even if your mat has good grip. You can check out my reviews of some yoga mats and towels if you need more information. Trust me, knowing these seemingly unimportant details will save you from unnecessary suffering. 🙂
  • Have a BEGINNER’S MIND – This is my most important tip. Be open to learning. Be okay with making mistakes. You need a positive attitude and a sense of adventure as you step into your first yoga class. A sense of humor helps too! Remember that you are not there to perform, achieve, or compete. You’re there to discover the practice and nurture yourself.

Sometimes, no matter how prepared you are, things don’t work out. Maybe you stumble into an advanced power yoga class and are unable to keep up. Perhaps the teacher’s style or the class vibe simply doesn’t resonate with you. I encourage you to continue trying other classes and instructors until you find a good fit. This is all part of the process. Eventually you will have a yoga community of teachers and fellow students who will support you in your journey.

How to Relieve Stress and Relax Deeply

We live in a time when frenetic activity is the norm. We jump out of bed and immediately check our phone, take a shower while mentally running through our to-do list, and rush through our day to get things done. Some of us do physically demanding work, while others have jobs that are mentally and emotionally draining. We rarely take the time to rest, enjoy a meal or connect with loved ones. At the end of the day, we’re exhausted but unable to relax and get a good night’s sleep.

This way of living can negatively impact our health in a myriad of ways. Chronic stress is associated with heart disease, digestive problems, anxiety, depression, weight gain and many other issues. Now more than ever, it’s important to be proactive in managing stress and preventing disease. Integrating a regular yoga practice into our daily life can help us move towards true relaxation of the body and the mind.

Restorative Yoga is a unique yoga style designed to aid us in dealing with the stresses of modern life. “We work very hard in our lives, and while we may sleep, we rarely take time to relax. Restorative yoga poses help us learn to rest deeply and completely,” says Judith Hanson Lasater, Ph.D., PT, world-renowned yoga master and author of Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times. In a restorative yoga class, all poses are fully supported using various props to encourage deep relaxation. Poses are held for a few minutes to still the body and the mind. The emphasis is not on achieving the pose but on being comfortable and allowing yourself to surrender.

Here are 3 Restorative Yoga Poses you can do for stress relief. Use a timer and hold each pose for 3-5 minutes. If you don’t have a yoga bolster, use a stack of blankets. Find some wall space for support. Set up in a quiet room with a comfortable temperature where you will be undisturbed during your practice. Make sure you unplug all your devices and eliminate distractions. While you’re in the pose, focus your wandering mind by paying attention to your breathing. To help you calm down, lengthen your exhales more and soften your face. Keep your eyes closed and use an eye pillow or small towel over your eyes.

 

1) Legs Up the Wall Pose

Lie on your side and move your hips towards the wall. When your hips touch the wall, bring your legs up. If your hamstrings feel too tight simply bend your knees a little bit. Experiment with placing a blanket or stack of blankets under your hips to test which version feels better.

Legs-Up-the-Wall

2) Supported Child’s Pose

From an all-fours position, place your bolster (or stack of blankets) in front of you between your knees. Sit your hips back towards your feet then rest your belly, chest and face on your bolster. Add more blankets if you need more height. Notice your hips, knees and ankles. Relax your arms on the floor. If it’s more comfortable for you, rest one cheek on your bolster then switch sides halfway through the pose.

Supported-Childs-Pose

3) Corpse Pose or Savasana

This is the most important and sometimes most difficult yoga pose. Lie on your back with your feet more than hip distance apart, arms relaxed by your sides and palms facing up. If you feel discomfort in your lower back, slide your bolster under your knees to bring your lower back closer to the mat. Keep your forehead slightly higher than your chin by sliding a pillow or blanket under your head if needed. Relax your tongue and let it fall away from the roof of your mouth. Let go of controlling the breath and allow it to flow naturally. Feel every part of your body softening and melting into your mat. Be as still as possible.

Savasana-or-Corpse-Pose

 

As with any skill we learn, relaxation takes practice. We all start out with tense bodies and chattering minds. That’s okay! Be patient with yourself and be consistent in your yoga practice. Soon you will reap the benefits of restorative yoga and you will know how to truly nourish your body, mind and spirit.

 

*I wrote this article for the Front Door Fitness website where it was first published. FDF is a wonderful personal training company in Kansas City; and I am proud to be part of the team. Check out the FDF blog for more free articles on fitness, nutrition, and healthy living.

How to Change Unhealthy Habits through Yoga

Yoga is a wonderful practice with numerous physical benefits. It can also affect one’s mental and emotional well-being. A consistent and intelligent yoga regimen can initiate many positive changes and help transform unhealthy habits.

How can yoga do this? The skills we acquire through regular practice are the tools we can use to gradually change our behavior.

Skill #1: Ability to Focus Attention
In yoga, we flow through poses mindfully. We learn how to pay attention to even the most subtle sensations in the body and nuances in the breath. We start being attentive to the thoughts and emotions that come and go. Bringing awareness to whatever is occurring in the present moment is the first step towards changing habitual patterns. We are able to recognize that impulse to reach for junk food or mindlessly scroll through social media as it arises. Sometimes, when we are truly present and mindful, we discover that we don’t even enjoy these behaviors and we only engage in them out of habit.

Skill #2: Ability to Slow Down and Pause
When we are unaware, we react to situations blindly. We repeat actions simply because they are familiar. Once we bring awareness to the behavior we want to change, we now have a choice. In yoga, the slower pace of movement enables us to observe repetitive patterns in our thoughts and emotions. This ability to slow down and hit the pause button will help us respond to the situation with more clarity. Instead of losing our temper or lighting another cigarette, we can now stop and choose how to act instead of being on autopilot.

Skill #3: Ability to Stay with Discomfort
Whenever we try something new or encounter an unfamiliar situation, a sense of discomfort arises. In the physical practice of yoga, we learn how to sit with this discomfort. We discover how to find ease within challenging poses and how to observe our thoughts and emotions without judgment. If we are trying to drink less or exercise more, for example, recognizing uncomfortable feelings as they come to the surface is very important. We realize that we sometimes behave in certain ways in order to avoid being uncomfortable. When we are able to dispassionately observe our own discomfort, it will eventually lose its power over us and only then can we initiate real change.

These skills, along with the patience and discipline we acquire through yoga practice, will help us in our journey towards better health. We can slowly let go of old habits that keep us from living full and happy lives.

 

***This is an article I wrote for the Front Door Fitness website. FDF is a fantastic personal training company in the Kansas City area and I am proud to be part of their team. Check out the FDF blog for more articles on fitness and nutrition from my other colleagues.

Yoga Tips: How to Start and Sustain a Home Yoga Practice

No matter how much you love yoga, you know it’s not always possible to attend your favorite class. Yoga studio or gym passes can be expensive. The class schedule doesn’t always accommodate your busy life. Sometimes, the sheer effort of getting ready and driving to the studio is just too much work.

That’s why it’s important to cultivate a home yoga practice. If you truly want to reap yoga’s enormous benefits, you must be willing to do the often difficult task of going solo. I remember falling in love with yoga when I was still living in Manila and making the rounds of all the yoga studios in the area. I could only afford the “new student special” so I ran out of places to go pretty fast. Thanks to free yoga on the internet and cheap back issues of Yoga Journal magazine, I was able to start practicing at home. To be honest, it was not as fun as I thought it would be! Eventually, though, I got over the awkwardness of doing yoga by myself in our tiny apartment. Here are a few tips I’d like to share with you to help you start, and hopefully maintain, a home practice.

1) Let go of expectations
I guarantee your self-practice will be nothing like your favorite yoga teacher’s class. The studio ambiance, your instructor’s familiar guidance, and the energy of fellow students will obviously not be there. The one thing that is there is you. YOU are there. You are all you need for yoga: your body, your breath, your focus, and your intention. It might feel strange at first because you have to decide what sequence to do, how long to stay in poses, and how intense the practice will be. Give it some time and let yourself get used to that freedom. Let go of what you think you should do and simply be open to whatever arises during your practice. Be okay that your yoga at home will be different from your yoga in class. This is your time to explore! You might just surprise yourself.

2) Be flexible
At home, there will be distractions. The phone will ring. Your kids will need attention. Chores will be waiting. Adapt your practice to suit your schedule and your environment.  Do whatever you can with the time and energy you have that day. You won’t always have an hour for a vinyasa flow with all the bells and whistles. You might have days when you can only do gentle poses for 30 minutes. Sometimes all you can do is a few sun salutations for 15 mintues. That’s ok. The duration and intensity of your practice is completely up to you.

3) Do what you know and enjoy
A common obstacle to practicing at home is not knowing what to do. Start with what you know. Practice the poses that are most familiar to you. The beauty of a home practice is you get to do your favorite postures! Remember that you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.
As you get more comfortable in your self-practice, you might want to add poses that you struggle with. This can be a time to work on challenging asana that you are too self-conscious to attempt in public. Practice safely, of course!

4) Seek guidance and support
Talk to the yoga teachers you know or your fellow students who have an established home practice. Ask them to give you some tips or a simple sequence you can start with. You can also find free yoga videos on YouTube (here’s my channel Yoga Upload with all my free videos) and paid online subscriptions on various yoga websites. It might take a while to find online classes that suit your needs and preferences so be patient. Take your time researching and exploring the different offerings available. For beginners, I recommend my yoga class videos for All Levels. Also, try checking out yoga books at your local library. These will enhance not only your physical practice but also your knowledge of the different aspects of yoga.

5) Dedicate a space for practice
Organize a dedicated practice space in your home. It can be an entire room or just a corner with enough space for a yoga mat. You can also have more than one designated spot for yoga if you want the flexibility of unrolling your mat in whichever room happens to be conducive to practice at any given time. For morning and evening gentle yoga, you can even practice in bed! Keep your yoga mat in view if you know the sight of it will encourage you to practice. If you don’t have any blocks or straps at home, you may use common household items as makeshift yoga props. (I have videos on How to Use Yoga Blocks and How to Use Yoga Straps where I also show substitute items.)

Practicing solo without a teacher’s guidance and the energy of fellow yogis might seem intimidating at first. The key is to make that commitment to yourself to practice even if it’s only for a few minutes at a time. It doesn’t have to take long. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t even have to be quiet! Right now, my home practice consists of getting a few poses and stretches in whenever my 8-week old baby is on his play mat for tummy time. I unroll my mat beside his and just flow through a simple sequence. It’s fun to be on the floor together! I’m not always successful in my attempts to weave my yoga practice into the chaos of daily life; but whenever I am able to practice, I’m always glad I made the effort.