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15761 W Dodge Road
Omaha, NE, 68118


Est. 2013

Head yoga instructor, Lisa Kanne has been teaching yoga for over 10 years.

New studio with familiar faces.

Teacher Blog

Fall is here and your skin may be telling you so, if you feel drier, itchy or otherwise off it is time for an Ayurvedic Facial. 

Vata Season is settling in and our natural response to this is dryness - both internally and externally, it is vitally important to lubricate through our diets adding good oils, ghee (clarified butter) and cooked foods that are comforting and nourishing and massaging good quality oils into our skin. One tip I share with my Ayurvedic clients is to shut the shower off and immediately massage oil into the skin before toweling off, less oil is required and the skin benefits greatly from being warm, the oil able to absorb deeper into the tissue. They say self massage invokes the inner pharmacy and is anti-aging, I say it is well worth the small amount of time this might take to add to your daily routine.

Gaby Van Houten

Ayurvedic Health Practitioner

Pancha Karma Specialist

Licensed Esthetician

Book your Ayurvedic Facial now and claim your Free 1oz massage oil while supplies last. Your skin will thank you. Call 402-614-2244 or

My Yoga Journey by Frani Assaf

Lisa Kanne

I grew up on a farm in a very small town in Iowa. Family was/is very important and I always felt supported in all my ventures. My older siblings were 14, 12, and 10 years older than me, so I was very fortunate to learn very important life lessons by watching my sisters and brother go through them. My oldest sister Lisa was like my second mom and we had/have a very special connection growing up...she has always been my biggest fan.


I discovered yoga while in college at Iowa State University. After 14 years of dance and sports, I realized all the stretching I was doing was actually yoga. I started by reading a couple books and manuals and had a home practice for 2 years before ever taking a class at a studio. My first class was when I moved to was in a church basement with rotating instructors trained in Bikram, Ashtanga, Kundalini, Qi Gong. The main teacher, Dr. Bill Mitchell, was one of the founders of Bastyr University and taught the most important aspect of yoga was not necessarily the poses, but the mental and spiritual clarity one received while in the postures.


After trying various styles of yoga, I took my first Bikram class in 2000. I was working in corporate Public Relations and was always on deadline and living under lots of stress. After my first couple of classes, I had less anxiety and a calmer state of mind. The physical results were huge - I was stronger, more flexible and down a dress size - but the mental results were what kept me coming back to class. After practicing consistently for 6 months, I knew I wanted to share this yoga with the world. In 2003, I moved to LA for 9 weeks of training to become a certified teacher. 


Becoming a teacher has been the most rewarding decision I have ever made. When I was little, I wanted to be an environmentalist and save the world. I did earn a degree in Environmental Studies (I am obsessive with my recycling and composting:), but I found that I wanted to save the world on a personal level, by teaching my students that they are beautiful, their bodies are capable of doing amazing things and that it is important improve, while still loving yourself for where you are right now. 


Lisa has been one of my greatest teachers. She has always led with love and compassion and it shows when you walk into her studio. Her students love her tremendously because she opens her heart and shares herself in her classes. In a world focused on creating a certain aesthetic via social media, Lisa and her Karma Yoga studio is truly authentic. No gimmicks, just real yoga and real community.


I try to be like Lisa in my life; not just while teaching, but while parenting as well. Lisa is the mother of 4 boys, which practically makes her a saint, and has more patience than Job. When I feel anger or frustration, Lisa comes to mind. When I struggle with an issue with my studio or a student, she is who I reach out to first. Lisa gives thoughtful advice and is incredibly knowledgable on all forms of yoga and philosophy.


Considering we live over a 1000 miles away, we don't get to practice together often, but I hear her words when I struggle with a pose. Lisa's words remind me to be compassionate with myself and that the pose isn't as important as how I feel while I'm in it. Being present and sitting with those feelings are the hardest lessons learned in yoga, but have greatly improved my relationships with my family and friends.



When a student comes to me with an issue or obstacle, I advise them to slow down and breathe through the discomfort. Avoiding an issue or a pose or a relationship only hinders self-growth and does not solve the problem. Meditate upon what you really need in your life to deal with this issue and know that though it may be uncomfortable, it's not forever. And then face it head on.

How to Practice Yoga Safely during Pregnancy!

Lisa Kanne



Be a Poser -- How to Practice Yoga Safely During Pregnancy

Can you continue to practice yoga when you’re pregnant? Will it do you any good or would you be better off choosing another activity to pursue while your bun is in the oven?

Yoga is safe during pregnancy, but there are certain positions that need to be avoided. It is important to learn which poses are safe and which are not before you embark on your yoga journey while you’re posing for two.

You may wonder why you should even consider yoga during pregnancy, but it can provide your body with great benefits. Even if you have never done yoga before, your pregnancy is a great time to start.

Yoga can benefit you and your unborn baby tremendously. But some expectant mothers steer clear of yoga because they have never done it before, or they don’t want to do it in front of others.

The good news is, although recommended, you don’t have to take a yoga class to do yoga. You can do it from the comfort of your own home. There are numerous videos out there that can guide you through a step-by-step routine every day. 

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What Kind Of Yoga Should I Do When Pregnant?

There are actually prenatal yoga routines. Yep, that’s yoga specifically designed for mommas-to-be.

The best part about prenatal yoga is since it’s designed with pregnant mothers in mind, its benefits are all targeted toward helping you.

Why Prenatal

You aren’t limited to prenatal yoga alone, although it is highly recommended and it is the safest for you right now.

Prenatal yoga helps keep you happy and healthy as you progress on your journey to parenthood (source). This type of exercise is probably the most beneficial for you and your baby, and provides the least amount of negative impact.

The Benefits Of Yoga When Pregnant

There are numerous benefits associated with doing yoga when you are pregnant.

Let’s look at them.

  1. Improves strength and stamina: It requires both of these to be able to execute and hold yoga poses. You will be able to strengthen your hips, arms, back, and shoulders. All of which are going to need all the strength they can get for this pregnancy (source).
  2. Breathing: There is a certain type of breathing associated with yoga that will help you tremendously during labor. It’s known as three-part breath. This might be one of the most important aspects of yoga when you are pregnant (source).
  3. Strengthens pelvic floor: Many yoga poses you can do during pregnancy actually promote the strengthening of the pelvic floor. This can help during labor and delivery, as well as making your pregnancy more comfortable.
  4. Balance: As your body changes and grows, your center of gravity also changes. Yoga relies a lot on balance, both physically and emotionally. Executing poses helps you find your balance and relax.
  5. Helps relieve pregnancy symptoms: A little exercise can do the body good, and a little yoga can do the body a lot of good. Yoga can relieve back pain, nausea, headaches, and fatigue.
  6. Relaxes your body: Yoga requires deep breathing, and this can help your body relax. When your body reaches that relaxation point, you can expect to experience better sleep and digestion.
  7. Improve flexibility: The routine poses you will do will eventually build up your range of flexibility.
  8. Helps you bond with your baby: Yoga allows you to solely focus on your baby in a way that can almost seem surreal. You will become more deeply connected and emotionally attached (source).
  9. Can provide you with a great support system: If you join a prenatal yoga class you will be surrounded by many other empowering women who are taking the same pregnancy journey with you. Nothing is better than having someone who fully understands your situation.
  10. Keeps you in shape: Many expectant moms just can’t wait until they can get back to their pre-baby weight. Well, yoga helps get you one step closer. By partaking in yoga during your pregnancy, you are helping your body stay in shape (source).

The practice of yoga alone will benefit your overall well-being. You will notice improved sleep and reduced stress and anxiety. Overall, yoga helps better prepare you for labor and delivery. Not only are you learning ways to stay more comfortable throughout your pregnancy, but you are benefiting your baby too. When it comes time for your baby to make its grand entrance, you will be thanking yoga for your increased strength, stamina, and breathing and relaxation techniques.

Related Reading: What are the Best Yoga Pants for Pregnancy?

What Are The Risks of Yoga During Pregnancy?

Like most things in pregnancy, it seems as if everything has potential risks. Yoga is no exception.

While yoga can be very beneficial for an expectant mother, it can also cause potential harm.

  • Miscarriage: Some doctors believe yoga during the first trimester is extremely risky. This is a vulnerable time for you and your baby, and it is possible that yoga could cause a miscarriage.
  • Strained muscles: There are certain yoga poses that can cause you to strain muscles and possibly the ligaments supporting your baby. This typically does not pose a threat to your baby, but can make you extremely uncomfortable.
  • Can negatively affect blood flow: Particular movements like closed twists, can inhibit the amount of blood that is flowing to your baby (source).
  • Can compress your uterus: Poses that require you to lay down on your belly can compress your uterus, which is obviously not good for you or your baby.
  • Can move your baby out of the birthing position: If you choose to do inversions once your baby is in the proper birthing position, there is a chance your baby will flip and possibly become breech.
  • Potential falls: Some yoga poses require you to have a great deal of balance. That might be something you are lacking at this time, so you should avoid poses that require you to stand on one leg, or use reliable support.

If you have never done yoga, it is important you focus specifically on prenatal yoga to stay safe. Someone who is experienced with yoga can still partake in her normal routine, but needs to include modifications.

What Safety Precautions Should You Take?

If done correctly, yoga is usually safe. The potential risks usually come when an expectant mom tries to push herself a little to far, or does not follow her doctor’s orders.

One of the best things about yoga is it will help you become in tune with your body. If your body is telling you something is too difficult, then you need to call it quits.

Pushing yourself will only increase your chances of causing potential damage to you and your baby.

Yoga Safety Precautions

To ensure maximum safety, there are some precautions that you can take (source):

  • Try to avoid or limit yoga during the first trimester.
  • Only partake in yoga with a doctor’s permission.
  • If you aren’t used to yoga, make sure you start slowly.
  • If you join a yoga class, make sure your instructor knows you are pregnant.
  • If something makes you uncomfortable or it hurts, stop.
  • Avoid hot yoga.
  • Stay away from poses that can cause strain or compression near your abdomen.
  • If a pose is even slightly risky, modify it or choose an alternative.
  • Never push your limits.
  • Focus on your breathing — your baby relies on that oxygen, too.
  • Avoid backward bending.
  • Avoid poses that solely focus on the abdominal muscles.
  • Avoid pressure on your belly.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no.

Yoga In The First Trimester

Most doctors say yoga is safe during the first trimester, but it is usually advised to use modifications. If you are a high-risk pregnancy, your doctor may advise against you partaking in yoga during this time period.

The most important thing is to listen to your body. If you are over-fatigued, extremely nauseous, or experiencing headaches, maybe you should push yoga to the side for a little bit. If your body is fighting you to rest, but you want to exercise — you should rest and then see if you can work in some fitness.

Once you get through the first trimester, your energy levels will come back up and your hormones will have balanced out. Don’t feel like nothing is changing in your body just because there aren’t any changes you can visually see (source).

Why the First Trimester Is Crucial

The first trimester is very important, because it is when most of your baby’s organs start developing. It is also the trimester with the highest risk of miscarriage.

If you have never done any type of yoga, and you want to begin now, you should probably wait until your second trimester just to be safe. Yoga may seem simple, but it does take practice.

First Trimester Yoga Tips

You now have a growing baby inside of you, so it’s important you take extra precautions and have an increased awareness of your body.

If your doctor has approved, you can still do your typical routine yoga, you just need to make specific modifications (source).

  1. Abdominal work: Try to limit the work you do on your abdominals. Your body is trying to prepare for its outward expansion, and overworking your abdominals can be seen as fighting back.
  2. Avoid jumping: You should avoid any positions or poses that would require jumping or jerking. You can supplement jumps for steps to still partake in positions requiring this movement.
  3. Steer clear of inversions: It is important you don’t put your body in a position that would encourage blood circulation to flow away from your uterus.
  4. Belly down: It’s okay for you to still partake in poses where you will be belly down. This is because your uterus is still rather small, so it is protected by your pelvis. You should be sure to avoid the bow pose and locust pose because they put direct pressure on your uterus (source).
  5. Eliminate backbends: Backbends have the tendency to overstretch your abdominals and compress your uterus.
  6. Focus on relaxation: Pay special attention to your breathing, and maybe even focus more time on meditative practices.
  7. No deep twists: You can still do twists that focus on the upper back, but eliminate those twists that focus on the deep belly.
  8. Avoid hot yoga: It is important you do not overheat when you are pregnant — a higher body temperature can be dangerous for your baby.

Just remember to keep it gentle this trimester. Chances of miscarriage are the highest, and you don’t want to hinder implantation.

Best Poses During The First Trimester

These are the best poses for you to do during the first few weeks of pregnancy:

  • Cobra pose: Decreases stiffness in back and increases flexibility.
  • Butterfly pose: Improves circulation and relieves anxiety.
  • Cow pose: Improves balance and posture.
  • Cat pose: Improves blood circulation and relaxes your mind.
  • Mountain pose: Helps steady your breathing and relieves aches and pains.

If you are looking for a safe routine, but are not sure where to start, this video has a great prenatal yoga sequence. This sequence is great for beginners and those with a vast amount of yoga experience. The best part about this sequence is it is safe for all trimesters.


Yoga In The Second Trimester

Most women will begin their prenatal yoga experience during the second trimester. Hopefully your morning sickness has dwindled away by this point, and you are starting to feel more like yourself.

It’s likely your energy levels have returned to fairly normal by this time too, so you probably can’t wait to get back into the swing of things.

The challenge with this trimester is you’re going to have to begin modifying poses that accommodate your growing belly. You should still have a decent amount of mobility to be able to move freely (source).

Many of the poses you do during the second trimester should focus on strengthening and stretching. If you have begun to show, make sure you have noted your uterus is no longer protected by your pelvis.

Second Trimester Yoga Tips

All of the tips that were mentioned for the first trimester, also apply to the second trimester with one exception — belly down poses. You should no longer partake in poses that require you to lay on your belly.

Here are some other tips you should know.

  1. Standing poses: You can still do standing poses, but use support.
  2. Avoid straining: You don’t want to put unwanted pressure on your body, so modify your poses to avoid straining.
  3. Use alternatives: If there are certain poses you are missing, you can modify them to make them safe for you to do. If you don’t know how to do this, take a prenatal yoga class and they can show you many tips and tricks.
  4. Begin eliminating supine positions: The weight of your growing baby can cause a major vein to become compressed when you are lying on your back. This can lead to dizziness, nausea, and other complications. It is best to avoid these positions (source).
  5. Focus more attention on breathing: You should begin paying close attention to your breathing and learning new breathing methods. These will become very useful during labor.

Best Poses During The Second Trimester

If you’re looking for some great poses to do in your second trimester, you can start with these.

  • Open chair twist: Maintains spinal health.
  • Tree pose: Should be done by leaning on something for support.
  • Standing hand-to-foot: Helps you maintain balance and adjust your center of gravity.
  • Warrior 2: Helps open up your hips and strengthen your legs.
  • Reverse warrior: Helps loosen tight obliques.


You should always have any yoga routine verified by your doctor to ensure maximum safety. Don’t push yourself — if something hurts you need to stop.

Related Reading: What are the Best Maternity Workout Clothes?

Yoga In The Third Trimester

The third trimester may be the trickiest because you now have to accommodate that basketball-sized bump into your yoga routine. Unless otherwise specified by your doctor, yoga is safe during your third trimester. You just have to be make sure you don’t push yourself too hard.

There are numerous poses you can do during this trimester that will help prepare you for labor and delivery.

You should try to focus a lot of attention on poses that will promote the correct positioning of your baby, improve your breathing techniques, and relieve back and hip pain.

Third Trimester Yoga Tips

The tips from your first and second trimester carry over into your third trimester. It is probably in your best interest to avoid one-legged poses. Your center of gravity is now extremely altered and it makes it much more likely you could fall (source).

Here are some other tips you should consider.

  1. Avoid faster-paced classes: Chances are, a fast-paced class will make you uncomfortable and cause you to lose your breath much faster.
  2. Try more open poses: Your body is becoming more cramped for space, so sticking to poses that cause you to be more open can be very beneficial.
  3. Spend time learning relaxation techniques: You will need as many ways as possible to help you relax during labor, so you should start learning and practicing these techniques now.
  4. Incorporate alignment poses: This type of pose can help relieve aches and pains, as well as prepare your body for birth.
  5. Embrace your figure: Don’t let your new body shape hold you back. This is a special time in your life and you shouldn’t worry about how silly you might look when doing yoga.
  6. Focus on comfort: If anything makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t do it. There are many other beneficial options out there.

Best Poses During The Third Trimester

Check out these fun poses to do in your third trimester.

  • Garland pose: Great for opening up the hips and strengthening the pelvic floor.
  • Pigeon pose: Helps release tension in the lower hips and back.
  • Reclining bound angle pose: Gently stretches your pelvis and groin.
  • Rocking lizard pose: Helps strengthen the pelvic floor.
  • Corpse pose (lying on left side): This pose helps master breathing and relaxation techniques (source).

If your baby is breech, doing the bridge pose can help your baby turn into the correct position. This pose should only be done if you know for sure your baby is breech, otherwise it can cause a correctly-positioned baby to move the wrong direction (source).

There are certain poses and movements you can do that will be extremely helpful for you once labor begins.

Below is a video clip that will guide you through a yoga routine designed specifically for birth preparation. Not only does this help you get in tune with your body, but it helps relax your mind as well.


The Bottom Line

Exercise benefits you and your baby. Yoga is a great way to relax, cut down on aches and pains, and help you prepare for delivery.

Yoga will help you bond with your baby, learn excellent breathing techniques that will benefit you in labor, strengthen your birthing muscles, improve your relaxation, and reduce your stress levels.

As long as you seek permission from your doctor, and you don’t push the limits of your pregnant body — yoga is safe.

Yoga can be a helpful and emotionally-inspiring part of your pregnancy journey. So what is holding you back?

Feel free to leave your opinions regarding this topic in the comment section below. If you enjoyed this article and thought it was helpful, please give it a share!


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Ayurvedic eating for this season!

Lisa Kanne

How to Use Ayurveda to Get Healthier Every Time You Eat

Ayurvedic experts offer five simple tips that you can start using now to improve your digestion—and your health.


JUN 15, 2018


Last year, I spent a week at an Ayurvedic spa in the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains and learned immediately that in Ayurveda, the quality of your digestion is the biggest key to your overall health. If your digestive system is running smoothly, you’ve got the best shot at staving off disease and feeling great. It’s that simple.

See also Stoke the Digestive Fire: A Detoxifying Sequence

But let’s get real: If you’re not cocooned in the lovely confines of an Ayurvedic retreat center or don’t have a degree in nutrition, there’s a good chance you take your digestive system for granted. You expect it to do its job of turning food into energy and neatly disposing of waste effortlessly—yet your eating habits (read: skipping meals, eating take-out too often, snacking constantly, and eating too much food overall) make it tough for it to get the job done. The result? Minor digestive woes—think things like bloating, gas, and constipation—that cumulatively impact our health in big ways.

The good news is that you can fix the imbalances that cause these issues with Ayurveda, says Kate O’ Donnell, author of The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook and a yoga teacher based in Boston. Here, she and other Ayurvedic experts offer five simple tips that you can start doing now to improve your digestion—and your health.

5 Ways to Improve Your Digestion With Ayurveda










Yoga Tips for Beginners

Lisa Kanne

Yoga Tips for Beginners

It’s a new year, which means that some 70% of the population has resolved to get healthy and start a yoga practice. But for many, buying a new pair of yoga pants (or as I like to call them, thigh corsets) and top of the line mat is the easy part. When it comes to actually getting off of the couch and onto the mat, especially in the cold winter, we would often prefer to keep scrolling through Instagram pictures of sculpted yoginis on a beach doing the standing splits, rather than move through the initial inertia and start our own practice (no judgment - we’ve all been there).

It’s not just laziness that keeps us from starting a yoga practice. Yoga is a highly personal practice, and with the dozens of schools of yoga to choose from, it can be difficult to identify a practice that suits our individual physical, mental, and emotional needs. It’s hard enough to choose a yoga mat color, let alone a practice!

Luckily, you came to the right place! Learning yoga starts with stepping onto your mat. Simply follow the tips below to begin your yoga practice.

#1 Release expectations: Often we equate yoga with tough, limb-twisting poses. However, yoga is not about touching your toes or stretching 98 degrees to the northeast. Yoga, quite literally, means “to yoke” or “union.” Yoga is a process of uniting with yourself, and it should be easy and effortless. You are in yoga when your body, mind, and breath align.

So, throw away the idea that you should already be flexible, that you’re too old to venture into yoga at the age of 40, or that yoga is the only thing that will save you from your love handles (although love handle disappearance is one common side-effect of a regular practice)! Remember: yoga is a process, not a pose. Whether or not you touch your toes is irrelevant - what matters at the end of a practice is the state of your body, mind, and emotions. If you feel at peace and are able to pay attention to your breath for one more second than usual, then you are practicing yoga.

#2 Find a teacher: It is best to start practicing yoga under the guidance of a qualified yoga teacher who can lead you through the correct sequences and alignment. Doing so will help you properly learn different postures and avoid possible injuries. Ideally, find a teacher you enjoy and practice with them consistently, as you will be able to progress more steadily with the help of a trusted guide.

Also, some of the philosophies or techniques taught in yoga may be new to you, and having the guidance of a teacher aids in understanding. Keep an open mind, as it will help broaden and enhance your yoga experience.

#3 Focus on the yoga, not the pants: Yoga has become trendy, and entire industries now revolve around $120 yoga pants. Luckily, for the 99% (didn’t mean to get political...), you don’t have to buy the newest Ganesh tank top to reach enlightenment. Simply wear comfortable clothing while going to a yoga class or when practicing yoga at home. Hey, some of the best practices are done in pajamas after waking up. Also, avoid wearing excessive jewelry, as it can get in the way of yoga practice.

#4 Wake up early: Ideally, yoga is practiced in the early morning at sunrise when the mind is clearest and the world is quiet. The traditional yogic texts state that the hours between 4 am and 6 am are the most conducive to reaching a meditative state. Practicing first thing in the morning allows you to avoid distraction and start the day off with health and intentionality, thus setting the tone for the rest of the day. However, if you are not able to wake up early to practice, don’t let it be an excuse to skip! You can do it any time of the day as per your convenience.

#5 Practice on an empty stomach: It is best to practice on an empty stomach or at least 2-3 hours after your last meal, which is another reason why practicing first thing in the morning is most ideal. When practicing yoga, you are much more in tune to your body’s subtle feelings than at any other point, and practicing with food in your stomach inevitably leads to discomfort. Eating before practicing can lead to feelings of heaviness, and can disrupt the digestion process. It is also advised to drink at least three to four litres of water during the day in order flush toxins that are released while practicing out of the body.

#6 Start with intention: Before starting the physical aspect of your practice, creating an intention can help to set the tone for your practice and prepare your mind for an introspective experience. Whether your intention is “world peace” or “accept my nose”, centering your mind around that thought will help bring you into the present moment before beginning. Also, gentle warm-up exercises help loosen up the body and prepare it for the yoga postures coming ahead, functioning as a sort of physical intention.

#7 Seriously - talk to your doctor...and yoga teacher: Almost every yoga video opens with the instructions to talk to a medical professional before starting yoga. Most people, however, shrug those instructions off. While yoga is accessible to all bodies, many people injure themselves while practicing due to pushing themselves too far. At the least, let your doctor know that you are practicing, and be aware of your own physical limitations. If you have a medical condition, inform your yoga instructor before class begins. Doing so helps the teacher customize your sequence.

#8 Slow and Steady: The ancient yogic text entitled the Patanjali Yoga Sutras, defines yoga posture (asana) as Sthira Sukham Asanam, which translates into “steady, comfortable, and meditative”. We live in a competitive culture, where we can be competitive with ourselves and others, often pushing ourselves beyond our limits to be the best. However, the winner in yoga is the one who can achieve the greatest ease within a posture. Do only as much as you comfortably can and then stretch a bit more (to improve body flexibility). If you are having difficulty discerning your body’s sweet spots, use your breath as a reference point; when it is light and long, the muscles begin to relax, but when it is jagged or uneven, it means you have over-exerted. Going slightly beyond your comfort zone will keep the yoga practice interesting and will add a spark of challenge as you progress and adopt new postures. However, make sure you understand the difference between going beyond your comfort zone and straining.

#9 Be Where You Are: While we would all love to be able to wrap our left leg around our neck, that simply is not possible for everyone. This the beauty of yoga: it meets you where you are. Wherever you are in a yoga posture is exactly where you are supposed to be, so avoid comparing yourself to other students in a yoga class. Remember that each body type is unique and that different people are at different levels of expertise. Some might easily perform a particular asana, while others may need a little more time and practice to get there. Yoga teaches us to accept the present moment as it is, and therefore to accept ourselves (and bodies!) exactly as we are in the moment.

#10 Savor the end: As you complete your yoga practice, don't be in a hurry to get up and start moving about with the tasks lined up for the day. Often, if you attend a yoga class, students will jump up at the first opportunity to leave corpse pose. However, learn to savor the moment and allow your body the rest it deserves after a long practice. If you have time, give yourself extra love and lie down in Yoga Nidra for a few minutes, as it helps cool down the body and completely relax the mind and body after the session.

Yoga, like anything else in life, requires regular practice to experience sustained benefits. Not only will a regular practice get you closer to your goal of touching your toes or doing a headstand, but regular practice will also culture your subtle body, resulting in a peaceful state of mind that extends to life beyond the mat. Yoga encompasses postures, timeless ancient philosophy, pranayamas (breathing techniques) and meditations, which take you beyond the body level, offering a deeper spiritual experience.

So give yourself plenty of time and be patient! The rewards of regular practice will unfold in unexpected ways.

Do not be alarmed if you experience soreness during the initial days of your yoga practice. However, if there is any pain, inform your instructor immediately.

So roll out that mat, set your intention, and go!



5 Simple Ways to Counter Stress

Lisa Kanne


5 Simple Ways to Counter Stress

A national survey in 2013 found that 80 to 90 percent of doctor visits were likely stress-related. Over the previous five years, 44 percent of Americans reported an increase in psychological stress. In the United States’ fast-moving lifestyle, it’s no surprise that many people report increased amounts of stress. Here are five simple ways that you can counter stress in your own life

Sleep Better

Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things you can do to help yourself manage stress. One of the ways that stress manifests is by an inability to get to sleep or to stay asleep. More than 35 percent of Americans reported that they did not get the CDC recommended seven hours of sleep on a regular basis.


One way to make sure that you sleep better is to purchase a mattress that is suited to the way you sleep. People who on their stomach or back may prefer a firmer mattress than those who sleep on their sides. You are supposed to replace your mattress every 5 to 10 years, so if you can’t remember the last time you did, it may be time to search out a new one.

Practice Yoga

Doing yoga regularly has been found to be helpful in getting a good night’s sleep, as well as reducing work stress. Nurses who did yoga twice weekly reported both less work-related stress and improved sleep quality. Doing a light workout like yoga can also reduce the amount of pain you’re in when you wake up, giving you one less thing to stress about.


If you’re feeling a lot of anxiety, it may be helpful to keep a journal that you write in every evening. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it can help calm your mind and cut down on those racing thoughts.


Keep a paper journal and pen on your nightstand, and write down what you’re anxious about, as well as positive events during the day. You may find yourself just a little bit calmer afterward.

Cut Down on Caffeine and Nicotine

If you’re a regular smoker or coffee drinker, you know that you shouldn’t be doing either right before bed. What you may not know is that both chemicals can stay in your system for nearly six hours, which could be causing a problem for your sleep schedule, and disrupting your circadian rhythm.


Try and cut down on the amount you’re consuming, and you’ll find yourself less twitchy throughout the day and night.

Keep Your Phone and Electronics out of Your Bedroom

Many younger people tend to keep their offices in their bedrooms, which is a problem when you need to go to bed. Often, having those items in the same space that you sleep can cause anxiety about not working on something when you should be taking a break from it.


You should separate your office from your sleep space. At the very least, keep your electronics out of sight and out of reach when you’re sleeping, to avoid the possibility of sending or receiving emails in the middle of the night.

Thyroid Imbalance Solutions

Lisa Kanne

The Hidden Culprit: Thyroid Imbalance and What to Do About It

by Sarah Gottfried

A sluggish thyroid can leave you overwhelmed, run-down and depressed. This three-step holistic plan can put you back on track and get you moving again.

Six years ago, I was a 38-year-old stressed-out mess, working as a doctor at an HMO and seeing 30 OB/GYN patients a day. I’d wake up exhausted every morning, nurse my infant daughter, and race from one task to another until I’d arrive home to care for my baby again, cook dinner, and fall into bed—only to start all over the next morning. My mood tanked, my weight climbed, my focus suffered, and my sex drive? What’s that? Yoga provided my only respite, but unfortunately, my home practice withered as my to-do list grew.


My mood tanked, my weight climbed, my focus suffered, and my sex drive? What’s that?

How did this happen? As a doctor, shouldn’t I have known better? My Harvard medical training finally kicked in: Could this be my thyroid? Turns out it could—and it was.

A Little Troublemaker

Your thyroid, a tiny butterfly-shaped gland in your neck, may weigh only an ounce, but as I learned firsthand, it wields formidable influence on your metabolism, mood, and body temperature. My symptoms all pointed to a sluggish thyroid, which shoulders the blame for a whole litany of complaints, such as middle-aged spread, hair loss, poor concentration, depression, constipation, aching muscles and joints, low libido, and even rising cholesterol. To add insult to injury, an underperforming thyroid can even raise your risk of Alzheimer’s.

If that list sounds familiar, it’s because we may very well have an epidemic of borderline- to low-function on our hands. Consider these statistics: 20 percent of women aged 40 and over have hypothyroid (low thyroid) symptoms; women are seven times more likely to suffer with thyroid problems than men; rates of thyroid cancer have increased steadily for the past 30 years, for no apparent reason; and some 80 million people worldwide have swollen thyroids (goiters) caused by a completely preventable iodine deficiency. Nor do these numbers tell the whole story: thousands of people go undiagnosed, and thousands more don’t get the treatment they need for the fatigue, depression, and weight gain that accompany low thyroid.

A Brief Physiology Lesson

Before we explore the reasons for such a monumental increase in thyroid problems, let’s take a moment to understand what the thyroid actually does. Your thyroid converses with every cell in your body, as it governs the rate of nearly all the body’s biochemical reactions. Together with the hypothalamus and pituitary gland it forms the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid (HPT) axis, which is the master regulator of your metabolism, including your heart rate and body temperature. Using iodine, the thyroid produces two hormones (thyroxine or T4 and triiodothyronine or T3) and stores them, awaiting instructions from the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. The hypothalamus shoots the pituitary a chemical signal telling it when to deliver the hormones, and the pituitary responds by dispensing thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which tells the thyroid just how much or how little to release.

For people like me who have sluggish thyroids, the thyroid gland releases too little. Others have the opposite problem—the thyroid releases too much into the bloodstream, resulting in weight loss, increased pulse rate, heart palpitations, and muscle weakness.

Why the Epidemic?

No one knows why we have such an astonishing increase in thyroid problems. But we do know that the thyroid is extremely sensitive to environmental toxins. Anything from excess gluten in our food supply to endocrine disruptors in the products we use—Bisphenol-A (BPA) in our water bottles, phthalates in our cosmetics, and flame retardants in our mattresses—can cause it to malfunction. And we can also pin some culpability on that ever-present health wrecker, chronic stress. It plays a part in most of our health problems, so it’s hardly surprising that an unabated stress response would have a role in the emerging slow-thyroid story.

Chronic stress can make you feel like your thyroid is a total slacker that’s not doing its job, even though your blood tests come back normal. What gives? When cortisol, the main stress hormone, either soars too high or sinks too low, it blocks your body’s ability to make T3, the active thyroid hormone, even when your pituitary sends the right signal. So, when your doctor measures the pituitary’s thyroid-stimulating hormone it may indeed be normal, but your body may not be converting the inactive hormones (the T4s) into an active form it can use (T3). If that is the case for you, I generally recommend checking your basal body temperature, a simple way to assess thyroid function, especially if you’re under a lot of stress (see below).

Chronic stress can make you feel like your thyroid is a total slacker that’s not doing its job, even though your blood tests come back normal.

Unfortunately, Western doctors don’t always make the cortisol/thyroid connection. When they detect deficient thyroid hormones in their patients, they immediately start them on synthetic medication, usually T4. But I don’t believe the answer automatically lies in a bottle of prescription pills. When my own thyroid problems surfaced, I turned to a more integrative approach, taking a hard look at my stress levels, as well as my diet and other lifestyle choices.

An Integrative Approach

After my own experience—and as an integrative doc—I know better than to tell anyone struggling with these symptoms to just exercise more and eat less. Janie, a 41-year-old woman, is a case in point. She came to see me hoping to find answers for her flagging energy and cranky moods, as well as her unforgiving metabolism that kept an extra 10 pounds on her frame no matter how much she exercised or how little she ate. “I’m more negative than I used to be,” she said. “The usual life problems feel more difficult to solve, and I can’t concentrate like I used to.”

She said these symptoms had been going on for two or three years, with her doctor insisting all the while that her hormone levels were just fine; but in reviewing her lab results, I noticed that her thyroid was borderline slow. Instead of trying to solve all her individual symptoms, I suggested we focus on their underlying cause.

Root cause analysis—practiced for millennia in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and ayurveda—looks into why a set of symptoms keeps occurring. In my case, instead of filling a prescription for synthetic thyroid hormone, I took time to reassess my lifestyle. Could the stress of a new baby plus an over-the-top busy practice and an overachieving personality have anything to do with my hormone imbalance? What could I give up or change that would make my life easier and ultimately healthier?

I helped Janie face similar questions. Together we came up with a plan that also took into account her perimenopausal fluctuations.

I call this thyroid-reclaiming protocol “evidence-based integration,” which means I combine the best of ancient wisdom traditions (yoga, ayurveda, and Traditional Chinese Medicine) and cutting-edge science (bioidentical hormones and even prescription drugs when absolutely necessary) to help prevent or heal thyroid dysfunction. One caveat, however: Overt symptoms, including labored and slow breathing or the more serious thyroid coma, need immediate Western intervention.

3 Steps to Rebalance Your Thyroid

1.  Nutrition and Nutraceuticals: When you know your thyroid is out of balance, take a hard look at your diet. What you put in your mouth may profoundly affect your thyroid function. Certain very common foods and nutritional supplements can help reset your thyroid.

When you know your thyroid is out of balance, take a hard look at your diet.

Eat brazil nuts. Brazil nuts are rich in selenium, which is a crucial nutrient for thyroid function. Selenium has recently gotten attention for its connection to fertility, which may also be directly tied to normal thyroid function. Other sources of selenium include eating shellfish, particularly crab, and foods from composted soils. Many holistic doctors recommend using coconut oil; it’s worth a try, but I could not find convincing evidence that it actually affects thyroid function.

Check your iodine levels. Your thyroid gland depends on iodine to make its hormones. Levels among Americans dropped by half between 1971 and 2000, when bakers in the United States began using bromide instead of iodine as a dough conditioner for making bread. Also found in soda, bromide competes with iodine, which means that it can block your absorption of iodine even when you think you’re getting enough. Solution? Don’t eat bread with bromide or drink soda. Make sure you are getting sufficient iodine to support normal thyroid hormone production by getting at least the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance). Note: Anyone with autoimmune thyroiditis should not supplement with iodine.

Consider supplements. Unless you live on an organic bio-sustainable farm or eat exclusively from composted soils, you probably lack sufficient levels of minerals—particularly copper, zinc, and selenium—that help convert the inactive thyroid hormone T4 into T3, its active counterpart (see sidebar on page 58). Have your levels tested, and if low, take a daily mineral supplement that contains 500 mcg to 1 mg of copper, 10 to 15 mg of zinc, and 200 mcg of selenium.

Increase your vitamin D. The body needs vitamin D to drive the thyroid hormone into the core of the cell. Otherwise, it can’t perform its task well, and you’ll likely feel slow, tired, and apathetic. Unless you live in a sunny climate year-round, you need to supplement your vitamin D, since food rarely provides adequate amounts. Shoot for the high-normal range—1,000 to 2,000 IU a day. Maximum doses are 10,000 IU per day, and toxic levels are rarely encountered even at these dosages.

Give up (or limit) certain foods. When I first heard that tofu, broccoli, and even my beloved kale could slow me down by interfering with thyroid hormone production, I refused to believe it. Sadly, reliable data support that theory. While not all goitrogens (foods that interfere with iodine uptake and thyroid function) are well documented, one study in particular showed that isoflavones from soy can reduce T3 by 7 percent in women who have had their ovaries removed. You may want to at least limit these foods to be on the safe side.

2. Targeted Lifestyle Changes: These commonsense lifestyle changes have proven effective in reducing thyroid-related symptoms.

Minimize environmental toxins. Limit exposure to flame retardants found in mattresses; mercury found in fish, high fructose corn syrup, and dental fillings; and plasticizers (phthalates) found in cosmetics to dissolve ingredients and to moisturize the skin.

Try Traditional Chinese Medicine. Most Western doctors learn to treat the thyroid in isolation by tweaking the biochemistry with a pill or surgery. TCM practitioners most often identify kidney deficiency as the root cause and may further see a problem with the heart or liver meridians. TCM is a great place to start if your symptoms are mild, because there are few side effects.

Practice yoga. Although limited data exist showing that yoga increases the release of thyroid hormones, many women report their symptoms improved when they committed to a regular practice. Timothy McCall, MD, a Western-trained internist and author of Yoga as Medicine (Bantam, 2007), points out, “Many things from the yoga tradition that haven’t been tested turn out to be true, and as long as yoga’s done appropriately, there’s little risk in doing asana—and many benefits beyond just helping the thyroid.” B. K. S. Iyengar champions sarvangasana (shoulderstand) as a way to balance the thyroid, because it employs a chin lock. However, I don’t usually recommend unsupported shoulderstand to my patients, especially those who are new to yoga, because of the intense pressure it places on the tiny cervical vertebrae. I prefer ardha halasana (half plow pose with your legs resting on a chair) or viparita karani (legs up the wall pose), both of which offer gentler alternatives.

B. K. S. Iyengar champions sarvangasana (shoulderstand) as a way to balance the thyroid, because it employs a chin lock.

I also prescribe shavasana to my stress-case clients every chance I get. This deep relaxation pose gives the master glands (the hypothalamus and the pituitary) a break from their red-alert vigilance. Ellen Heed, an anatomy teacher for Forrest Yoga’s teacher training program, agrees. “We’ve bought into the idea that we need to spend 75 percent of a 24-hour day in high productivity, and whittle sleep down to six hours per night,” she says. “Deep healing is not possible at night with that approach.” The result? Organs, such as the thyroid, don’t replenish reserves, and metabolism suffers.

Consider structure. Structural issues can also affect the thyroid—something I never learned in conventional medical training, but a core concept in my yoga teacher training. When you hold stress in your jaw, for example, or your neck and shoulders, you chronically tighten the muscles that may, theoretically, reduce the blood flow into your thyroid and prevent optimal outflow of toxins and waste. A consistent yoga practice can not only release that tension, but also help you notice when you start gripping those areas of the body.

Reduce stress. While scant research exists on yoga and thyroid health, studies point to yoga’s ability to reduce the stress hormones—particularly cortisol—that interfere with normal thyroid function. A full yoga sequence, including simple breathing practices, may indirectly have a profound effect on the thyroid. “Your endocrine glands, like the thyroid and the adrenals, need regular doses of deep relaxation to regenerate,” explains Heed. Furthermore, in a very small study at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, participants were able to reduce their cortisol levels doing sequences that included sarvangasana (shoulderstand), halasana (plow pose), and vrikshasana (tree pose).

I suggest spending at least six weeks focusing on nutrition and lifestyle strategies and then having your thyroid hormones and BBT rechecked. (Six weeks is the minimum amount of time it takes for your body to reach homeostasis.) If you don’t see the improvements you hoped for, you may want to consider bioidentical hormones as a short-term solution.

3. Bioidentical Hormones: When changes to your diet and lifestyle still don’t allow your body to produce enough hormones to balance your endocrine system, bioidentical hormones—given in the lowest possible dose—may be your best alternative. These medications, structurally the same as the hormones your body makes, are no panacea, but can often quickly correct irregular thyroid levels.

Thyroid hormones are not one-size-fits-all. Some women do well with a natural dessicated thyroid medication, such as Armour Thyroid or Nature-Throid. For others, I recommend a synthetic preparation such as levothyroxine (T4) with or without liothyronine (T3). To find out which one is right for you, check with your holistic health practitioner. Tracking symptoms, checking your basal body temperature, and getting the correct blood tests will inform your path and next steps.

Thyroid hormones are not one-size-fits-all.

If you suffer from fatigue, weight gain, depression, and a host of other unexplainable symptoms, try some of these tests and techniques to assess your thyroid, even if your more conventional lab tests come back negative. With a rigorous, integrative strategy, you can get to the root of your malaise. And, believe me, once your thyroid is back working for you instead of against you, you’ll have that longed-for zip back in your step.

Deciphering the Thyroid Players:

TSH Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone. Released by the pituitary gland, this is the most commonly tested thyroid hormone in Western medicine. Higher levels, above 2.5 mIU/L, suggest borderline- to low-thyroid function.

T4 Thyroxine. T4 is the inactive thyroid hormone, generally kept in storage in the thyroid gland until it’s turned into T3, the active thyroid hormone.

T3 Triiodothyronine. T3 is the active thyroid hormone, which means it has the most profound effect on your metabolism, heat, and weight.

RT3 Reverse T3. RT3 is made in excess during times of stress, which can cause thyroid resistance by blocking the thyroid hormone receptor. In other words, when you’re stressed out, the body responds by making reverse T3, which keeps you from losing weight or controlling your mood swings. Reverse T3 is the body’s way of adjusting metabolism, such as during a famine, and we make too much these days because of stress.

Take the Thyroid Quiz

Three or more of these symptoms may mean that your thyroid is working against you.

  • You’ve packed on a few pounds and can’t get them off.

  • You look at a piece of pie and the extra pounds appear on your hips.

  • Your body feels a little slow, maybe a little tired.

  • What’s that called again? Oh, yes… brain fog.

  • Your reflexes are sluggish.

  • Your hair is dry, tangles easily, or is falling out.

  • Your joints feel geriatric.

  • You wear more layers than anyone you know. Your spouse has terms of endearment for your cold feet and hands.

  • You’ve lost a bit of spring in your step.

  • The world isn’t quite as rosy as it used to be.

  • You’re slower than you used to be—your reactions, your thoughts, and, yes, your thyroid.

Basal Body Temperature

Basal body temperature (BBT) offers an important low-budget assessment of your thyroid function; you should consider taking your BBT even if your blood tests come back within the normal range. BBT measures your T3 activity inside the cells, which is where thyroid truly affects metabolism. Doctors used to recommend BBT mostly for women who were trying to conceive, but now I encourage anyone trying to assess their thyroid health to keep track of their basal body temp, especially those who suffer from chronic stress.

Chronic Inflammation? Cool the Fire with Ayurveda

Lisa Kanne




Chronic Inflammation? Cool the Fire with Ayurveda

by Shannon Sexton

Do you have arthritis? Fibromyalgia? Ulcers? Bursitis? Colitis? Your allopathic doctor may have told you that your condition is incurable, but don’t despair. Ayurveda classifies inflammatory conditions as derangements of the pitta dosha (the fire principle) that can be cooled—and even cured—with simple adjustments to your diet and daily routine along with herbal supplements.

When metabolic fire burns too hot or flares up in the wrong places we end up with chronic inflammation, and a host of disorders arises.

Fire is one of the principle metaphors in ayurveda; it is an essential ingredient to good health. In the form of metabolism it digests our food, generates life-sustaining energy, and incinerates waste. But when metabolic fire burns too hot or flares up in the wrong places we end up with chronic inflammation, and a host of disorders arises. Here are a few tips for redirecting your metabolic fire.

A Cooling Diet

If your internal environment is overheated, watch your diet. Red meat, caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco all increase inflammation. Avoid them and instead follow a pitta-pacifying diet of cooling, slightly dry, low-salt foods. Eat plenty of whole grains (especially barley and basmati rice), vegetables (especially bitter, leafy greens), and protein. Beans, tofu, egg whites, soft cheeses, and milk are great for you. You can also dine on organic poultry or freshwater fish on occasion if you’re craving more substantial fare.

Good Fats vs. Bad Fats

In today’s low-fat/no-fat obsessed society, we have forgotten that some fats are good for us. Healthy fats are the kind that melt in your mouth—like fresh organic butter or the cocoa butter in high-quality chocolate. Unhealthy fats, on the other hand, taste like candle wax—margarine, crisco, and overprocessed, refined oils that are unstable under heat, like canola oil. To maximize profits, manufacturers chemically alter these products so they have a longer shelf life. In the process, however, they become indigestible and burden the liver, thus inflaming pitta. They also irritate mucus membranes and predispose us to heart disease.

Generally speaking, oils aggravate pitta. Of the cooking oils, for example, only ghee and coconut oil have a cooling effect on the body; the rest are warming. The exceptions are Omega-3 oils, which quell inflammation. You can get your Omega-3s by incorporating flax oil and coldwater fish into your diet.


Turmeric and Ginger:  These herbs will reduce your joint pain, muscle pain, gastritis, or cystitis. Like all astringent herbs, turmeric cools inflammation by tightening and strengthening tissues, reducing swelling and congestion. Ginger is more enigmatic. A pungent herb, it assists digestion and so theoretically should aggravate pitta conditions. However, it has constituents that are cooling and calming for irritated tissues—hence its traditional use as an anti-inflammatory.

Spiced milk:  Here’s an anti-inflammatory recipe you can try at home. Bring half a cup of water to a boil and add:

  • 1⁄2 tsp. ground turmeric

  • 1⁄2 Tbsp. freshly shredded ginger root

  • 1⁄2 tsp. ground green cardamom

Let the mixture simmer for 2 minutes, then add 1 cup of milk. Boil for 3 minutes, strain, and serve. Stir in sugar or maple syrup to taste (optional). Makes one serving.

Drink this mixture twice a day—early in the morning and just before bedtime—for 40 days.

Brahmi and Ashwagandha:  Inflammation often begins in the mind, for when we create a hard-driving, goal-oriented mental environment and begin to ignore our body’s need for good food, rest, exercise, and a regular yoga practice, we start overworking—and overheating. We know the warning signs but stubbornly ignore them, listening instead to the inner critic that commands us to accomplish more. Brahmi and ashwagandha are herbs that can help. They calm the mind without sedating it, leaving it clear, grounded, and inspired. And ashwagandha is a tonic that keeps the body strong and counters overexhaustion. It also treats a variety of ailments that result from depletion: arthritis, nerve pain, and infertility.


Homemade extracts are superior to store-bought ones. Put 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon of each herb (in powdered form) into 1 cup of milk, add 1 cup of water, stir, and gently boil the mixture down to 1 cup of liquid. Let it cool off slightly and then drink it.

If you’re short on time, take 1–2 droppers (40–80 drops) of each herb in extract form twice a day. In capsule form, take 2–4 pills of each twice a day. Best taken with warm water or milk for 2 to 12 months

Ayurvedic Tips for Chronic Fatigue

Lisa Kanne

Ayurvedic Tips for Chronic Fatigue

by Kayla Kurin

Often referred to as yoga’s sister science, ayurveda originated in India more than 3,000 years ago. Over the last 50 years, there’s been a surge of interest outside India in this holistic practice as a complement to Western medicine.

One condition for which some have turned to ayurveda is chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). CFS is characterized by extreme fatigue that precludes activities that caused an individual no strain prior to the illness. While Western medicine currently has no known cure, some people who have CFS have reported that ayurvedic practices have allowed them to feel better—and some even see these practices as providing a road to recovery!



According to ayurveda, illnesses like chronic fatigue syndrome and adrenal fatigue are imbalances of vata, one of the three doshas or dispositions that define our physical, mental, and emotional makeup. Ayurveda views good health as resulting from balance in these doshas.

The Three Doshas

(Each of us is composed of all three doshas, but one or two doshas are dominant for most individuals. You can take this quiz to help you identify your primary dosha, and this quiz to find out which, if any, doshas are out of balance.)

Kapha: Kapha dosha is an interweaving of the water and earth elements. Content and deliberate, people who have a lot of kapha in their constitutions generally have a wide, strong build, thick hair, and smooth skin. They tend to move slowly and enjoy nurturing those around them. Kaphas will be drawn to slow types of yoga like Yin and restorative yoga.

Pitta: Pitta dosha is a combination of fire and water. Fiery and intense, those with a dominance of pitta in their constitution are driven, intelligent, and quick to anger. They often have a medium build with yellowish or reddish skin and red hair and freckles. Because they are competitive and focused, pittas may be drawn to a vigorous yoga practice like Ashtanga.

Vata: Vata dosha is composed of ether and air. Airy and scattered, vatas love talking about many ideas and can never seem to get warm. They tend to have a thin build and often have knobby joints. Vatas resist routine and may be drawn to the quick movements of vinyasa.

Ayurvedic principles hold that when one dosha is out of balance (whatever balance may mean for an individual’s constitution), the imbalance can negatively affect the mind or body and eventually lead to illness. For example, when vata is out of balance, it can cause insomnia, anxiety, running thoughts, dry skin and nails, gas, bloating, brain fog, and a dislike of cold. To many with chronic fatigue syndrome, these symptoms will sound all too familiar. Insomnia, problems with memory, and trouble with digestion are all characteristic of CFS.

Using ayurvedic practices to balance vata, we may begin to decrease fatigue and bring the body back into balance.

Six Ayurvedic Tips for Countering Fatigue

1. Create a routine. An excess of vata can express as a feeling of distraction or spaciness, and establishing a routine may help counteract these feelings. Commit to a time to both go to bed and to arise each day. Eating meals at the same times and scheduling activities like work, study, and socializing may also help to reduce vata.

2. Get an ayurvedic massage. You can seek out an ayurvedic massage therapist or practice ayurvedic self-massage (abhyanga) at home. (Learn how to do self-massage here.) Choosing heavy oils like sesame, almond, and olive for massage will help reduce and calm vata.

3. Do a grounding yoga practice. When you’re experiencing extreme fatigue, exercise may be the last thing you want to do. But gentle exercise is important to keep your muscles and joints healthy. The right kind of practice can also help to reduce stress and replenish your energy stores.

Poses that focus on grounding and balance, and on the muladhara chakra, are considered best for balancing vata. If your CFS symptoms are severe, begin with a floor yoga practice that involves only seated and lying-down postures, and then gradually include standing poses. At that point, you might like to try this brief yoga practice for balancing vata.

The most important teacher to listen to when practicing yoga is yourself. Make sure you pay attention to your body during your practice, and gently come out of any poses that aren’t working for you.

4. Incorporate meditation and pranayama (breathwork) into your day.Western medicine is beginning to recognize the benefits of mindfulness meditation, yoga, and deep breathing. Meditation and pranayama can help calm the nervous system and reduce stress. (Try a mindfulness meditation or this vata-reducing relaxation-in-action practice.)

5. Reconsider your diet. According to ayurvedic philosophy, vata is related to the element of air. When vata is in excess, this can lead to symptoms such as bloating, gassiness, diarrhea, and constipation. To combat these effects, ayurveda recommends consuming warm and nourishing foods, and staying away from raw foods like smoothies and salads. Stick to warm soups, curries, rice dishes, and cooked vegetables.

Healthy fats and oils are recommended for decreasing vata dosha, and even a sweetener such as honey can be used in a hot ginger tea. Rice and wheat are considered the best grains for vata imbalance, while the best fruits are those that are more dense, such as bananas, avocados, mangoes, berries, and figs. Minimize bean consumption, as beans can cause gas. But cheese lovers can rejoice, because dairy is recommended for balancing vata!

6. Practice self-care for your mind, body, and soul. Vata dosha thrives on creativity. Help soothe the running thoughts in your mind by channeling them into a creative pursuit like journaling, painting, or photography. Taking the time to nourish your passions and artistic inspirations may help bring you into balance. Schedule times every day to pursue your passion.

Ayurveda offers many benefits for those who experience chronic fatigue. Implementing these ayurvedic tips can help to balance your vata dosha and bring the energy back into your life!






Practicing with Scoliosis

Lisa Kanne


Embracing the Curve: Practicing with Scoliosis

by John Zadroga

I remember it like it was yesterday—being corralled down a corridor to the school nurse’s office in separate boys' and girls' lines. Being instructed to bend forward and then stand back up again. Feeling the nurse palpate up my spinal column, tracing a painfully obvious lateral curve…how could this be? Although seemingly insignificant to many, my primary school scoliosis screening is a memory that has remained with me throughout my life.


Until this point, I figured back pain was a part of everyone’s life, and I asked how he managed his.


In high school, I swam varsity. I recall one very frank locker room conversation with a friend about back pain, and how I felt it was keeping me from performing at my best. Until this point, I figured back pain was a part of everyone’s life, and I asked how he managed his. When he told me he didn’t have any, my jaw practically hit the floor. This sparked an interest in the interrelation between anatomical form and function, and it set the stage for my personal philosophy and career choice.



I now understand that the prevalence of back pain is, in fact, remarkably high in the United States—especially among people with scoliosis. Scoliosis is a condition marked by a lateral deviation of the midspinal line. It can be inherent from birth, or develop during growth periods due to poor posture. Its severity is quantified in degrees by a clinical measurement known as the Cobb angle.

Shortly before college, I (reluctantly) attended my first yoga class, at the insistence of my older sister. The teacher that day delivered a structurally oriented class with liberal prop use and consistent verbal feedback. She made me feel as if I were the only student in the room. Without once rekindling my primary school insecurities, she made me feel that she understood my scoliosis better than I did. Most importantly, she gave me a huge gift that class—a pain-free afternoon. This not only convinced me that I could manage my pain by physical means, but also inspired me to become a yoga teacher.


Yoga is for every body. Modifications can make it work, and it is possible to feel at home in a pain-free body.


As a medical student, I spend a fair amount of my day sitting in lecture halls, attempting to absorb what can occasionally seem like an impossible volume of information. As an osteopathic medical student, I receive additional education on the manual diagnosis and treatment of conditions affecting the musculoskeletal system. This, coupled with my own struggle to “find alignment” in my inherently asymmetrical frame, inspired me to reach out to others and let them know that yoga is for every body. Modifications can make it work, and it is possible to feel at home in a pain-free body. I would be remiss to share this sentiment without providing practical examples of how you can accomplish this, so here goes.


Understand the underlying anatomy of your curve.

This might not seem revolutionary, but don’t count on yoga teachers who have completed a 200-hour training program to understand the fine points of your anatomy. A scoliosis-type curve can really be anywhere in the spine and can sometimes result in a compensatory “counter curve” (i.e., an S-curve). Ask your primary care provider to do a musculoskeletal exam on you and tell you if your curve is more predominant in the thoracic or lumbar region. Understand that scoliosis can cause other physical nuances (one shoulder sitting higher than the other, one hip lower than the other, etc.). Depending on your degree of curvature, some physical therapy might be indicated before beginning an exercise regimen like yoga. In severe cases, surgery is the only intervention indicated. Don’t let even this deter you, as I have a client with Harrington rods (i.e., surgically implanted, spine-straightening devices) who is quite capable in her practice.


Watch yourself in the mirror.

The first time I practiced in a studio with mirrors, my mind was blown. “Do I really look like that?” I asked myself in virtually every posture. Humbling as it was, it was an excellent opportunity to learn self-awareness on a very literal level. Need proof? Take yourself to your mirror now. Come into warrior II. Are your arms level with each other? (Mine rarely are.) A neurological mechanism known as “proprioception” is responsible for this awareness (or lack thereof) of our bodies in three-dimensional space. When you have a curvature of the spine at baseline, visible misalignment might feel entirely natural. Be aware of this, and try to make the effort to internalize visual cues and rely less and less on mirrors as you reset your proprioceptive “normal.”


Take verbal cues seriously…but not too seriously.

I genuinely believe in the power of concise, tactful verbal cues for improving form. However, getting caught up in the excessive verbiage employed by some teachers can be far more harmful than helpful. Listen carefully, but do not obsess.


Avoid teachers who make you feel bad about yourself.

I once took a very challenging class with a teacher at a local studio who made me feel terrible about myself. She pointed me out to the class as someone with “poor form,” when in reality her demonstrated knowledge of anatomy was very shaky. I felt compelled to continue to attend her class because of the physical rigor, but then noticed that I left the class feeling down on myself and far from centered. I decided one day that no amount of physical challenge was worth the borderline emotional abuse, and I found a new class.

Acknowledge that you are perfect just the way you are.

I basically consider myself a bonsai tree in the literati style. Pin-straight posture is a beautiful and rare thing, but I embrace the curve handed to me and recognize that some of the most beautiful things in nature are asymmetrical. Although alignment is always a good goal to have in a yoga practice, recognize that concerning yourself too much with perfection is anti-yogic in itself.


I embrace the curve handed to me and recognize that some of the most beautiful things in nature are asymmetrical.


Do what feels right and set small goals, keeping in mind that there is nothing ugly or wrong about your essential physical composition.

Feeling “at home” in my body is a choice I had to make, and my constant postural self-adjustment continues on. However, the corporal awareness yoga has instilled in me has helped not only to address discomfort in the physical sense, but also to correct some misconceptions I had internalized over the years of how one “ought” to stand tall.



John Zadroga

developed an interest in the human body and how its form influences its function as an awkward 10-year old at a school-mandated scoliosis screening.

Scoliosis and Yoga: The Do’s and Don’ts

by Amber Burke

Editor's note: The below are intended to be general recommendations for yoga practitioners and teachers. They are not a replacement for the personal advice of a health professional.

Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine whose most commonsymptoms are lower back pain and stiffness. Nascent research into the effects of yoga on scoliosis has shown that regular practice of a single posture, side plank, can reduce scoliosis curvature. If one pose has that kind of power, some yogis might wonder about the value of a more complete yoga practice for those with scoliosis, as well as how to approach such a practice to make it as safe and beneficial as possible.




Bill Reif, a physical therapist, yogi, and author of The Back Pain Secret: The Real Cause of Women’s Back Pain and How to Treat It, believes that yoga can be a valuable part of the treatment for scoliosis. “Yoga can help foster the self-awareness—and the strength and flexibility—that make it possible to improve the alignment of the spine, which can in turn minimize pain and possibly respiratory issues, too,” Reif says.

But for a yoga practice to be helpful, both students with scoliosis and their teachers need to understand the condition and its implications when choosing and approaching poses.


Understanding Scoliosis

Unlike kyphosis and lordosis, which refer, respectively, to the outward and inward curvature of the spine, scoliosis refers to the sideways, or lateral, curvature of the spine. While a healthy spine will have some degree of kyphosis and lordosis, ideally there is no lateral curvature at all; viewed from behind, the spine should appear relatively straight from neck to tailbone.

Scoliosis can be categorized into two main types: nonstructural, or functional, scoliosis, which results from a soft tissue asymmetry and is temporary, and structural scoliosis, in which the changes to the curvature of the spine are generally more permanent.

Most cases of structural scoliosis, the focus of this article, are idiopathic; that is, they have no clear cause. Idiopathic scoliosis tends to appear just before puberty and occurs in females more frequently than in males.

Scoliosis has been observed in 10.7 percent of women and 5.6 percent of men between the ages of 25 and 74. In an older population, scoliosis may occur in up to 68 percent of individuals. (The increased prevalence in older adults may be connected with osteoporosis, loss of bone density, which has been observed in many older people with scoliosis.)

Though scoliosis can often be treated nonsurgically (for example, by bracing and physical therapy exercises), in severe cases, the insertion of a titanium rod to straighten the spine may be necessary.


Types Of Curves

The most common curvature pattern in scoliosis is a spinal curve to the right (dextroscoliosis). Usually this occurs in the thoracic spine, with the midspine curving to the right as if to avoid the heart. On the other hand, a leftward curve (levoscoliosis) most often occurs in the lumbar spine.

Both of these spinal curves are examples of a singular C curve—one concave side, which curves inward and is shortened, and one convex side, which is lengthened and rounded laterally.

But in some cases of scoliosis, there are S curves; for example, the right thoracic curve may be accompanied by a left lumbar curve, making an S shape, with two concave sides and two convex sides.


“Some, but not all, S curves may start as C curves,” Reif says. “Compensation over time may cause an S as the body attempts to level itself, but one curve is generally larger—a major curve—and accompanied by more restrictions. That’s the one you’ll want to focus on in your yoga practice: You’ll feel the greatest effects of stretching and strengthening there.”


Symptoms and Symmetry

The relationship between asymmetry and pain is a complex one. “When the spine curves abnormally, spinal cord compression can occur,” Reif says. “Just as in conditions like intervertebral disc disease, when the spinal cord is compressed, pain and neurologic signs will result.”

However, while those with scoliosis do not always have back pain, some studies seem to indicate that adolescents with scoliosis experience more frequent and more severe episodes of back pain than control groups.

According to Reif, “Whether or not scoliosis leads to pain depends in part on the load the asymmetry is asked to bear, and how often it bears that load. For instance, someone with scoliosis who participates in vigorous sports might be more likely to feel pain than someone who doesn’t, since more weight is moving through that asymmetry more repetitively. Pain can also depend on the severity of the asymmetry.”

Further, more severe curves (greater than 40 degrees) tend to correlatewith higher degrees of pain, and problematically, many curves become more severe over time. While smaller curves are less likely to progress, many curves greater than 30 degrees do tend to increase over time. As many as 68 percent of curvatures detected in children will progress even after spinal maturity. Curves may continue to progress with age because of disc degeneration and muscular imbalances.

If the scoliosis progresses to a degree that places pressure on the heart and lungs, it may impair cardiovascular and pulmonary function. In severe cases, scoliosis may even lead to respiratory failure.

Because so many curves progress in magnitude, and because curves of greater magnitude may be linked with greater pain as well as lung and heart problems, Reif believes in being proactive, suggesting that even those with minor curves or without symptoms practice movements and poses designed to minimize asymmetries.

“Even though it is unlikely that you can make dramatic changes to a longstanding scoliosis curve through targeted exercises, what you can do is reduce the negative impact of a large curve—usually breathing difficulty, upper or lower back pain—and prevent further deterioration of the curve over time,” Reif says.


Practicing Yoga With Scoliosis

If you have scoliosis, it’s important to check with a medical professional before embarking on a yoga practice. During your consultation, the more information you can find out about your curve pattern the better. Work with your doctor, physical therapist, or chiropractor to find out which adjustments bring your torso closer to neutral—i.e., what you have to do, and in what order, to even out your hips, shoulders, and head; you can then apply this information to your yoga practice.

If you have had corrective surgery for scoliosis, as long as you have been cleared by your doctors to exercise, you may also benefit from a yoga practice, though your practice may be more limited. As Reif explains, “Your focus will need to be on poses that help to elongate the spine above and below the surgically fixated region.” Since a corrective rod would not allow backbending and forward folding, he recommends that you skip extremes of all motion and instead focus on neutral-spine poses, poses in which your back is in its “mountain pose” alignment.

In addition to speaking with your doctor, it’s a good idea to talk to the teacher before taking a yoga class. While being able to give adjustments and advice tailored to a particular curvature often requires medical training, your teacher might be able to provide or reinforce general advice. At the very least, a conversation with your teacher will ensure that they do not unwittingly make things worse, for example by giving encouragement or hands-on assistance designed to bring you more deeply into a pose than you can safely go.

The following do’s and don’ts for a general yoga practice may be helpful for students with scoliosis and their teachers. If you’d like a yoga practice specifically designed for scoliosis, try this one.

While you’ll notice that very few types of poses are off-limits for many of those with scoliosis, Reif points out, “If your scoliosis is accompanied by another condition, like kyphosis or osteoporosis, you may need a gentler practice that forgoes extreme ranges of movement, especially forward folds.”


Scoliosis Do’s

1. Do asymmetrical poses a second time on the more challenging side…or stay on that side longer.

“You may notice that your abilities on each side differ,” Reif says. “This difference comes from the scoliosis curvature causing asymmetries in your torso muscles. Often the concave side is tighter, and the convex side is longer and weaker.”

Some recommend that yoga students with scoliosis practice a pose on one side and not the other in order to strengthen the convex side and lengthen the concave side. While Reif understands this advice, he notes that it can be complicated to apply, especially when students have S curves—two concavities or two convexities—and wonders if such methods might lead to other imbalances elsewhere.

Reif instead recommends practicing asymmetrical poses on both sides and then repeating the pose again on the side where the stretch felt more intense or the strengthening work felt more challenging. This way, neither side of the body is entirely neglected. Through this method, any asymmetrical pose in which you notice a difference in how the pose looks or feels on different sides would be practiced a total of three times.

But Reif explains, “The purpose of repeating poses like this is to establish which side of your body is not as mobile or strong in a particular pose.” If you already know which side of a given pose is more challenging, feel free to simply spend more time on that side than you do on the more mobile or stronger side—perhaps another five breaths or so.

2. Using mirrors, practice self-study to create a longer, more neutral spine.

While mirrors are often eschewed in yoga, “a mirror is the best way to learn awareness and provides important feedback when not being observed by a medical practitioner,” according to Reif.

He suggests that while sitting or standing at the beginning of your yoga practice, you move your spine as close to neutral as you can. For those with scoliosis, creating a more neutral spine will entail some degree of side bending and/or twisting “First, create length by imagining a marionette string pulling you up,” says Reif. “Once you’ve created that length, look in the mirror. Side bend and rotate your spine as needed in order to make the spine more neutral and to level out your hips and shoulders.”

If you have an S curve and know which curve is primary (often the thoracic curve), make adjustments there first and then adjust the area surrounding the secondary curve (often the lumbar curve), so that you are not treating the compensatory effect rather than its root cause.

Don’t expect to instantly achieve a neutral spine. Reif acknowledges: “This realignment can be very confusing, especially if there is a double curve. Only a professional—like a physical therapist, doctor, or chiropractor—can tell you with assurance which way you need to move, though over time you might get better at making these changes on your own.”

Having moved closer to neutral, maintain an awareness of that alignment. “Throughout your practice, look in the mirror to observe the levelness of head, shoulders, and hips,” Reif recommends.

3. Strengthen core- and back-stabilizing muscles by holding neutral in increasingly challenging positions.

For those with scoliosis, some sections of the multifidus and erector spinae, supportive muscles running along the spine, will need strengthening (particularly on the side that’s convex) in order to hold this new, more neutral alignment. The best way to strengthen the muscles that stabilize the spine, in Reif’s view, is simply to hold a near-neutral spine for longer periods and in more challenging positions.

For example, once a student can create a neutral spine in mountain pose or while seated, they can then try to hold that alignment when moving from sitting in a chair to standing or when practicing poses like chair, bird dog, plank, and side plank.

4. Practice pranayama.

Though holding the alignment described above will require some degree of “tensing the torso,” as Reif puts it, the effort you apply should never be so great that you can’t breathe comfortably.

“With scoliosis, often one of the primary losses involves your capacity to inhale and exhale,” Reif says. “Your energy level in turn is affected by this lung capacity. Through stretching and pranayama [breathwork], your vital lung capacity may increase, which in turn increases your energy levels. If your lungs are more efficient, you will be slower to fatigue.”

Deergha swasam (three-part breath), which aims to increase lung capacity, may benefit those with scoliosis. It encourages slow and deep diaphragmatic breathing: The lungs are filled and emptied in three steps each.

Toward the beginning of practice, experiment with this pranayama either sitting or standing while holding the neutral spine you’ve created. Breathe into this alignment, imagining filling your lungs from bottom to top on the inhale, first by expanding the belly, then the lower and middle ribs and lungs, and finally the upper lungs. On the exhale, visualize the breath emptying in reverse, from top to bottom. Draw your belly in slightly at the end of the exhale.

Reif says that you can give yourself additional feedback by placing one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest throughout deergha swasam. Ideally, on your inhale, you will feel your belly expand first, and then your chest will lift. On the exhale, your chest will drop slightly, then your belly will draw in gently. Once this begins to feel natural to you, you can begin to expand your awareness: work to inhale into, and exhale from, your right and left sides as evenly as possible.

“Notice any limitations,” Reif advises. “Does one side of your rib cage have more difficulty expanding—likely the concave side of the curve in the thoracic region, where the ribs are close together? You want to facilitate more expansion in the area that feels restricted on the inhale, and try not to let the restricted space collapse when you exhale.”

5. Emphasize poses that lengthen the muscles between the ribs, like side bends and side glides.

The concave, or shorter, side of the torso can be stretched through side bends and poses called side glides. Reif describes the difference between a side bend and a side glide this way:

“When side bending, you intentionally lengthen one side of the torso and lift one shoulder higher than the other—as you reach back for reverse warrior, for example. But in side gliding, the goal is to try to keep the shoulders—and head—level as you shift the rib cage or the hips to the right and left.”

You can practice such glides standing: Initiating the movement from the middle of the rib cage, encourage your rib cage to move side to side, and then your hips to shift from side to side, without disturbing your shoulders and head. Hold each glide for several breaths.

“Where we will feel the stretch when side bending or side gliding is where the concavity is, and that’s what we want to lengthen,” Reif explains. “So you’ll want to spend more time bending, or gliding, to the side opposite the concave side of the curve.”

6. Practice slowly, holding each pose for at least five breaths.

Instead of practicing at a fast clip, in which it may be possible to forget about alignment and breath, Reif suggests that you hold each pose for several breaths: “Take the time to make sure you are elongating your spine as much as you can in a pose and breathing diaphragmatically.”

Additionally, according to Reif, applying a milder version of deergha swasam to every pose—filling both the right and left lungs from bottom to top, then emptying them from top to bottom—will enable you to discover, and eventually release, tight areas.

7. Add yin or restorative classes to your yoga regimen.

“In these floor-based, slow practices, the extra time spent in each asana and the support of blocks, bolsters, and the ground in gentle poses will allow gradual lengthening of shortened structures,” Reif says.

While relaxing, Reif recommends that you facilitate deep muscular release by imagining your breath moving into restricted areas.

8. Take a side-lying savasana.

For some students with scoliosis, the pressure of the floor beneath their backs may cause them to be acutely aware of asymmetries, and they might find themselves actively trying to fix them—for instance, working to press one side of the middle back toward the floor—even during time set aside for relaxation.

Reif suggests that you lie on the side that is more convex as you relax. In addition to placing a pillow or blanket under your head, “try placing a bolster or other support under the part of your rib cage that’s rounded outward the most—that way you are still encouraging an adjustment, but passively this time.”

If you have two curves, after several minutes of lying on the larger curve, you could roll over to rest on your other side, placing a rolled-up blanket or towel under the second (smaller) curve.


A yoga practice for scoliosis aims to create length in the concavities (as illustrated here).

Scoliosis Don’ts

1. Don’t practice inversions without support if your scoliosis is severe or you are experiencing pain.

Though Reif is a fan of inversion tables, and a cautious supporter of many yoga inversions when they are practiced against a wall, he has concerns about the pressure an unsupported inversion could place on a scoliotic spine. “Be careful doing any inversion. Inversions allow the spine to compress—the opposite of the elongation that those with scoliosis need to prioritize,” Reif explains. “Use a wall to take some of the load off the spine when doing poses like headstand, handstand, and shoulderstand.”

2. Don’t expect asymmetrical poses to look (or feel) exactly the same on both sides.

In any kind of asymmetrical pose you may find it harder to lengthen, twist, or bend on one side. While, over time, practicing poses on that more challenging side twice or for longer periods, as suggested above, may help create more evenness from side to side, forcing one side of your body to do exactly what the other side is doing may cause strain. In your quest for evenness, “never push yourself to the point that you experience pain,” Reif says.

3. Don’t become overly stressed by the degree of your curvature as you practice, or how much or little your yoga practice is changing your curvature.

While certainly moving toward increased symmetry is important, Reif suggests balancing that focus on evenness with a degree of equanimity. “Don’t obsess or fret,” he says. “Your goal is not to become perfectly neutral, but rather to prevent any further increase in your scoliosis, and perhaps improve your alignment gradually—finding a little more length in the concavity, a little more strength in the convexity—so that you can move without pain and breathe a little easier.”


In Daily Life

Outside of yoga class, those with scoliosis can benefit from continuing to focus on lengthening the spine. “Keep upright, striving to be as tall as you can be,” Reif recommends. “Throughout your day, visualize a marionette string pulling you up by the crown of your head. Slumping will cause further distortion of the spine.”

He suggests that while sitting, you support your lumbar curve and perhaps one arm: “Many of those with scoliosis have one shoulder that is lower than the other. The head tips in that direction, too. To level your shoulders and your head, try placing the arm of the shoulder that’s lower on an armrest or even a bolster to raise it.”

When you stand for a long period, Reif recommends propping one foot on a block or footstool to level your hips, shoulders, and head. If you are not sure which foot to bring to the block to create greater evennness, experiment, looking in a mirror to assess the effects.

Throughout your day, avoid lifting heavy weights or other objects, especially if your scoliosis is severe and/or you are experiencing pain. “Lifting heavy loads will place greater stress on the concave side of your curve, which may lead to further tightness on the muscles within the concavity, causing or exacerbating back pain,” Reif explains. He also recommends that those with scoliosis who weight train counter the downward pressure of the weights by following their routine with some time on an inversion table or with gentle backbends over a large therapeutic ball.

At night, try sleeping on the side that is convex, just as you did in savasana, with some light support—like a pillow—under the convexity, or sleep on your back, if that is comfortable for you. Reif advises against sleeping on your stomach, “which can compress the neck.”

Through a regular yoga practice and this continued awareness, yoga students with scoliosis might find that it gradually becomes natural for them to stand taller, and perhaps even notice that they are breathing easier and moving with less pain.

Beyond Foam Rolling: 4 Self-Myofascial Release Practices for Tension

Lisa Kanne

Beyond Foam Rolling: 4 Self-Myofascial Release Practices for Tension

Relieve pain and increase mobility through these self-myofascial release tips from Tiffany Cruikshank, at Yoga Journal LIVE!






Relieve pain and increase mobility through self-myofascial release.

I jumped at the opportunity to attend Tiffany Cruikshank’s “Myofascial Release Revealed” workshop at Yoga Journal LIVE! in New York City. OK, to be honest, it was more like a one-legged hop followed by a labored shuffle. As a yogi, CrossFitter, and (temporarily side-lined) runner, I deal with my fair share of injuries and tightness; you can bounce a quarter off my upper back muscles, and I’ve got a bout of plantar fasciitis that just won’t quit.

See also 6 Yoga Poses for CrossFit Cross-Training

Judging from the attendance for Cruikshank's class, I’m not alone. The room was filled to capacity with achy yogis, all of whom eagerly gathered around as she began the class with a brief explanation of the purpose and role of the body’s fascia. She described it as a sort of “saran wrap” that connects the muscles in chains so that they can move together. And, like muscles, fascia can bind up, form scar tissue, restrict movement, and cause pain.

See also Ease Lower Back + Shoulder Tension with Fascial Work



3 Guidelines to Ease Muscle Tension and Practice Self-Myofascial Release

Cruikshank spent the next couple hours walking us through myofascial release techniques we could do on our own with just a yoga mat and a couple of tennis balls. Before we began, she provided us with three important guidelines for any self-myofascial release practice:

  1. Stay away from bone.

  2. Stay away from nerves or any sensations that feel sharp, shooting, or radiating.

  3. Avoid swollen tissue.

She also noted that less is sometimes more, as the muscles may tense up if the sensation is too strong.

4 Myofascial Release Practices to Try

With those rules in mind, here are some exercises you can do at home to relieve tightness and release any chronic tension that plagues your body. You’ll need a yoga mat and two tennis balls.

1. Relax tight calf muscles.

Roll up your mat to 2–3 inches in diameter. With your hands and knees on the floor, bring your forehead to the ground and tuck the rolled up mat into the crook of your knees. Gently sit up on your knees.

If you have tight calves like mine, you’ll feel this immediately. (I think I actually said “whoa” out loud.) Spend some time here before releasing the mat and moving it to a point on your calves that’s about 1/3 of the distance between your knees and ankles. Sit up again, allowing your body weight to press the mat into your calves. Repeat with the mat positioned 2/3 of the way between your knees and ankles.

Once you’ve worked your way down your calves, unroll your mat and take Savasana. Cruikshank instructed us to do this after every exercise so that we would have the opportunity to notice any new sensations in the muscles.

See also 7 Ways to Upgrade Your Next Massage

2. Loosen your hamstrings.

Sit on your mat with your legs straight out in front of you in a narrow V shape. Move the flesh from below your sitting bones so that they are resting directly on the floor.

Slide a tennis ball under each thigh and position them directly under your sitting bones. Try leaning forward and back to increase or decrease the sensation as needed, but resist the urge to stretch forward, as stretching will pull on the muscle. This was another “whoa” moment for me. I didn’t need to do much more than simply sit there in order to feel a significant amount of pressure.

When you’re ready, move the tennis balls so that they’re about 1/3 of the way between your hips and knees and repeat the process. Then do the same with the tennis balls positioned about 2/3 of the way between your hips and knees.

Take Savasana.

See also How Bodywork Can Transform Your Practice

3. Release tension in your back.

With your knees bent, lie on the mat with the tennis balls positioned on either side of your spine (about an inch apart) just below the trapezius muscles.

Allow your bodyweight to press the tennis balls into the muscles on either side of your spine. When you’re ready, use your legs to roll up two inches so that the tennis balls roll down your spine. Spend some time here and then continue to roll the balls down your back two inches at a time. Once you’ve traveled the length of your spine remove the tennis balls and take Savasana.

Perhaps it was the two and half straight days of yoga I’d just done, but I actually fell asleep during this portion of the class. For me, it had the same effect as a deep tissue massage that’s both effective and relaxing.


4. Deepen your hip flexibility.

Lie down with your knees bent and the bottoms of your feet on your mat. Slide the tennis balls under your hips so that they’re positioned about 1 inch from either side of your sacrum. Rest here for as long as you like before straightening the right leg and moving the right tennis ball further away from the sacrum. Use your bent left leg to roll to the right slightly, increasing the pressure.

Continue to move the tennis ball away from the sacrum a little at a time, rolling your body to apply pressure. When you get to the outer edge of your leg just below the hip bone, roll your body so that you’re not quite all the way on your stomach and position the tennis ball so that it’s in the front “pocket zone” of your hip and apply pressure there. Judging from the symphony of collective gasps, groans and sighs in the room, we���re all carrying more than a little tension in our hips.

Take Savasana before moving on to the left side so that you can observe the differences between the right and left hips.

See also Hip-Opening Yoga Flow Video


While all of Cruikshank's exercises are informed by her comprehensive training and education in health and wellness, she concluded the class by assuring us that none of these exercises are an exact science. She encouraged us to explore and experiment to find what works best for our particular bodies.




Yoga in Pregnancy!

Lisa Kanne

Prenatal Yoga Poses for Each Trimester

Find the best prenatal yoga poses for all stages of your pregnancy.


AUG 28, 2007


Find the best prenatal yoga poses for all stages of your pregnancy.

Sitting cross-legged on sticky mats arranged in a wide circle, seven women inhale deeply, fling their arms wide, and turn their faces up toward the ceiling. Exhaling slowly, they round forward and wrap their arms around their big bellies to embrace their growing babies. The room, seafoam green and mirrored, is pleasantly dim. Unstructured, relaxing music plays quietly in the background. It is almost like being underwater. Or in the womb.


The women, all in the second and third trimesters of their pregnancies, are here strengthening their bodies and spirits and finding a measure of comfort and community in Amanda Fitzgerald's prenatal yoga class at BodyMind Inc. in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Fitzgerald is a childbirth educator who owns Mother Spirit, a company that provides education and support for natural childbirth and parenting.

Fitzgerald, other prenatal teachers and students, and even some medical professionals say that prenatal yoga can ease the discomforts of pregnancy, such as moodiness, shortness of breath, and swollen ankles; can give women time to bond with their babies; and can help them prepare for the rigors and mysteries of labor.

Angela Gallagher, another prenatal yoga teacher located in Winston-Salem, feels strongly that a sense of community is important during pregnancy. "I end class with a muffin, a cup of tea, time to talk, and sometimes different speakers," she says. She tells her students that if they don't feel up to a class, they should come at the end—just for the fellowship. Prenatal yoga classes can provide a chance to spend time with other pregnant women sharing experiences and concerns, especially helpful if a woman is feeling stressed, unsupported, or fearful.

Class is a place where information is exchanged and questions answered, so it's important that the teacher be trained in prenatal yoga—and it's even better if she's been through the experience of childbirth. Prenatal yoga is a great way to train for labor and to enhance the experience of pregnancy, explains Gallagher, whose daughter, Ruby, is 3. "Labor is one of the most physical things you'll ever do," she explains. "You would not run a marathon without preparation: Why would you go into labor without preparing for it?" asanas, the physical poses, can help build strength and stamina and improve circulation. Meditation can improve the abilities to relax and to concentrate. Pranayama, breathing exercises, can help manage the pain of contractions.

Standing postures, like Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II Pose), can increase your leg strength and also generate courage and self-confidence. Kneeling on hands and knees and rounding the back up toward the ceiling can help a woman rehearse tilting her pelvis to facilitate the baby's delivery. "This modified Cat-Cow is a good one to move the baby into the right position for the delivery," says Fitzgerald. Sitting in Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose), with the soles of your feet together and the knees moving away from each other, and doing modified squats can increase blood circulation to the pelvic floor and help a woman get used to the feeling of opening up. "The most open you will ever be is in labor," says Gallagher. "Labor is no time to be shy."

Yoga class is no time to be shy either. It's a time to get to know your body and to build confidence in your ability to give birth. Yoga students and teachers alike stress the fact that women possess the innate skills to give birth in a natural and healthy way, despite Western medicine's inclination toward interventions like epidurals, forceps deliveries, and C-sections. In yoga class a woman can learn to tune in and respond to her body's needs, so that during her labor, when rational thought may be suspended, she'll be able to identify and ask for what she wants.

The process of birth is not a Hollywood script with harp music, diaphanous robes, and sweetly smiling cherubim. It is work made of muscle, sinew, sweat, blood, and love. By toning the body, mind, and spirit, yoga can help a mother be present for the miracle of birth.

What to Expect

Experts agree on some general rules for practicing yoga during pregnancy:

If you have never practiced yoga or have practiced very little before your pregnancy, you should practice only prenatal yoga while pregnant.

If you already had a strong yoga practice before your pregnancy, you may be able to continue a fairly vigorous practice-with modifications-after your first trimester.

During the first trimester both beginning and experienced yogis should only do a gentle practice or none at all, as the fetus is still implanting and the risk of miscarriage is highest.

Shari Barkin, M.D., a pediatrician with Wake Forest University Health Services/ Brenner Children's Hospital in Winston-Salem, who practiced yoga during her two pregnancies, cautions against starting "any new kinds of strenuous activities during pregnancy. However do spend at least 10 minutes a day doing Ujjayi breathing(Victorious Breath). Do some hip openers, forward folds, and Cat-Cow poses," she says. "If you are used to doing yoga, then keeping up your regular routine with modifications is important."

In all three trimesters pregnant women can expect to experience hormone surges, mood swings, bouts of insomnia, and frequent urges to urinate, explains Stephanie Keach, director of the Asheville Yoga Center and mother of two boys. Two kinds of pranayama are especially beneficial during pregnancy: Ujjayi, a long, strong, deep breath that helps you to focus on the present moment and maintain calm, and Nadi Shodhana, (Alternate Nostril Breathing), which according to yogic teachings helps to balance the body's energy flows. Avoid any kind of breath retention or hyperventilation that could limit the baby's oxygen supply. "As the circulatory, cardiovascular, endocrine, digestive, and nervous systems get nurtured by correct deep breathing, sleep comes easier and moodiness is less intense," Keach says.

During pregnancy the body produces the hormone relaxin, which softens the connective tissue. The good news is that this allows the pelvic joints to become more flexible while the uterus expands, making space for the baby. The bad news is that it can lead to instability in the sacroiliac joints and can cause lower back pain, so pregnant women need to be careful not to overstretch in their asana practice. "Pregnancy is not a time to strive for more flexibility, although it may occur" adds Keach.



First Trimester (0 to 13 weeks)

The first trimester holds mixed blessings for most women. There can be a lot of joy as well as much discomfort. Most women experience nausea and fatigue. They may not look pregnant, but profound biological and musculoskeletal changes are occurring in the body. "It is rare to want to do anything physical during this time, so I don't have many first trimester mamas," Keach says. Although most experts advise against starting a yoga practice in the first trimester, they also say if you already have a strong practice, you can continue yoga with modifications."Do not do inversions, twists, or jumps in your first trimester," Barkin says. "Step back; don't jump back in Sun Salutations. It's important not to jar or threaten implantation of the fetus and placenta." Barkin also advises substituting Ustrasana (Camel Pose) and Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) for Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward-Facing Bow Pose) during your first trimester. Consult with a prenatal yoga teacher to find out how to modify your practice as your body changes.

See also Prenatal Yoga: 6 Feel-Good Backbends Safe for Pregnancy

Second Trimester (14 to 28 weeks)


Most women begin their prenatal practice during the second trimester. Often they may feel very good. "They are not too huge and can do just about anything they feel comfortable doing, with or without props, as long as they can breathe deeply," Keach says. A woman may feel faint or light-headed during this time. "She will feel like eating more," Crawford says. "Pregnancy is a natural low blood sugar state." During pregnancy, explains Barkin, "the volume of blood in the body expands 40 to 60 percent to support the fetus and placenta, the blood circulates faster, your rate of metabolism increases, and your resting heart rate rises. You're using up your body's sugar faster; important reserves are being used to support the placenta and fetus." To meet the needs of your changing metabolism, eat a light meal or snack about an hour before class, drink plenty of liquids, and don't push yourself. Increasing your protein intake (as long as the kidneys are healthy) to about 60 grams a day is the best way to keep the blood sugar steady, Barkin says.


See also Prenatal Yoga: An Imprint Flow for Strength and Space


Third Trimester (29 to 40 weeks)

Now your body is really changing. The baby's movement is strong. The sacroiliac joints are loose, and breathing may be difficult. The extra weight and your protruding belly will likely challenge your balance in every posture. "Balance is an issue, as is weight, and the presence of a protruding belly makes a lot of poses difficult, requiring modifications and props," Keach says. Barkin, however, says she loved doing balance postures throughout her pregnancies. "Balance postures made me feel lighter and more aligned...but do them near a wall if you are feeling unsteady." Although some experts advise against lying on your back after the sixth month so as to avoid putting pressure on the vena cava (a large vein that runs along the side of the spine and curves behind the uterus), others say it's acceptable for short periods of time. It is especially important for a woman to do deep breathing when she is lying on her back, says Keach.

"Pretty much six months and on, I prop mama's head and heart up." She advises the same modification for Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose)—"so she is like a 'V' with legs up the wall and head above heart above pelvis, breathing deeply." The medical perspective, says Barkin, "is that compressing the vena cava for long periods of time (as when sleeping) is dangerous . . . It is not clear if small bursts of lying on your back are problematic or not." Lying on the left side with pillows for props is the modification most often made for Savasana (Corpse Pose) during the relaxation period at end-of-class.

For those women who are practicing with a prenatal teacher and listening to their bodies, the third trimester is as good a time as any to build stamina and courage. "When I notice a pregnant woman at 38 weeks, say, in Warrior Pose, and her knee is hardly bent and her breath is short, my job is to encourage her to take her breath down deeper, to face her feelings of weakness and doubt," Crawford explains. "Then she can take that step into the unknown with her baby. Pregnancy is a time of changing, an opportunity to transform her feelings of weakness into strength."

Barkin says that "backbends and inversions are great in the last trimester for the practiced yogi. The caveat is, if you're body doesn't feel good doing it, stop." To avoid compressing the belly, Fitzgerald and Keach instruct women to take their legs apart during standing or seated forward folds. They also recommend moving the knees apart when resting in Balasana (Child's Pose).


See also Prenatal Yoga: 5 Psoas-Releasing Poses to Relieve Low Back Pain


Labor Training

Many women who practice prenatal yoga and give birth at home, in birthing centers, or in any situation that they helped create, describe their labors as amazing. But both prenatal yoga teachers and their students say that when approaching labor, it is best to expect the unexpected. "A woman brings everything from her whole life to this moment," Crawford explains. "You can not go into a birth planning what you are going to do. You have to go in empty, so that life guides you."

"With my very first contraction, it became clear to me that nothing anyone had ever said about labor had prepared me for this," says Camille Mulchi, who studied prenatal yoga with Crawford. "But my prenatal practice reminded me to simply be fully present in each moment and to allow my baby's birth to follow its path."

To teach women to breathe through the pain of the contractions, Fitzgerald invites them to hold Warrior II for one minute, about the length of a contraction. To help her students tolerate the burning pain of stretching open to accommodate a baby, Gallagher has her students take Thai Goddess Pose (sitting back on their heels with the toes tucked under) and breathe through the pain in their toes for several moments. "It may not seem like a very long time, but even 10 seconds can seem like infinity for someone in labor or holding a difficult yoga posture."

"The way to prepare mentally and physically for labor is to practice yoga every day," Gallagher explains. "We live from the neck up. Birth happens from the neck down." Yoga teaches us to listen to the needs of our bodies and to trust the wisdom of our bodies. Deeper intimacy with the body allows pregnant women to rely less on rational thinking and more on intuitive wisdom.

In Fitzgerald's class the women speak quietly to one another as they move into position for a seated, partner stretch. They work together, gently bending and stretching, elegantly balancing effort and surrender. When class is nearly over and they are lying in final relaxation, Fitzgerald softly invites them, "Imagine your baby, floating inside you, happy, healthy, and growing, soothed by the beating of your heart." Like life and yoga, pregnancy is not only a destination but also a journey—a time to savor the experience of having a life growing inside. "I love being pregnant, because it is the only time you can take your child everywhere," Barkin says.

Watching a class full of pregnant women with round bellies, it is easy to see where the concept of the Earth as a mother came from. Just as the Earth sustains all life, a mother-to-be provides a life-sustaining environment for her baby. And a prenatal yoga class can create an environment that nurtures the nurturer. At a time when you may feel tired, moody, nauseous, and out of control, a regular prenatal yoga practice can give you the energy to enjoy your pregnancy, the serenity to build a deeper intimacy with your own body and spirit, and also the presence of mind to expect the unexpected and be fully present for the miracle of birth.

Moving Through Mantra and Poetry: Create a Home Practice!

Lisa Kanne


Moving Through Mantra and Poetry: How I Created a Home Practice

by Kathleen Kraft

I needed a home within my home,

A place to return to

With many needs weighing me down—

Some of them my own—

I built a home by bowing to the sun

Last spring, I was searching for a way to bring clarity into my new life as housemate and default caregiver to my partner’s elderly mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease. My new family’s road seemed paved with rocks; it was unfamiliar and hard to navigate. I suddenly had many roles to fill, and too many people to take care of—loved ones, as well as students in numerous locations—and I had gotten lost in the shuffle.

Staying centered during difficult or busy times can be challenging, even for yoga teachers. And it’s particularly the case when it comes to staying connected to your own practice in a way that keeps your teaching true and embodied. The upside of times like these is that teaching can actually become an oasis, a place to explore the practices more deeply, and a means of exposing more of yourself to your students. For me, it was a matter of truly accepting my vulnerability and giving it a shape.

Becoming a caregiver and dealing with its complexities forced me to look at my practice with new eyes, and to take inventory. The essential questions that demanded review included this: How did I first arrive at yoga, and how could I get back to that pure place? I had begun my practice at another difficult juncture of my life, and it was the devotional movements of surya namaskar (sun salutation) that swept me off my feet. The flowing movement, the rising energy, the rinsing of body and mind... I found that I could be strong and free, maybe even fearless, with the help of a 68-inch-long piece of rose-colored rubber.

Many teachers—although, of course, not all—agree that asana practice without sun worship is like dressing without vinegar. Without its harnessing of mental and physical energy, asana practice loses its connection to something more primal and devotional. Regardless of our personal beliefs about surya namaskar and its origins, the knowledge that it is a shared sequence of movements spanning generations, possibly centuries and worlds, is powerful. We rise and we fall, we lift up and move back, and we jump forward to our starting position, only to rise again. The cycle invites us to think about life and faith, and about our own lives—where the kinks are today and what we’re doing with them.

But what happens when our prayers to the sun become rote and somewhat disconnected? What happens when the practice loses its luster?

I needed to start over somehow. Take a step back to the land of vairagya, or “detachment.” I needed to gain some perspective on my practice in order to bring light back into it. Practically speaking, I also needed to create a shorter, more focused practice that would work with my zigzag schedule.

Most of all, I wanted to touch the earth gently, in the morning, at home.

As one who has always enjoyed words and derived solace from them, I turned to mantra for the first time in earnest. I knew that mantra was, among many other things, a way to focus the mind. Georg Feuerstein used the phrase positive mental tracks when discussing the power of mantra to “help us gradually overcome spiritual darkness.” Let’s linger on the words “positive mental tracks” for a while.

Practicing mantra creates a passageway in the mind. I tend to think of neurons lighting up in a pretty, holiday-lights kind of way. But in reality, the sounds of a mantra create a kind of portal, a way out of something and toward something else—essentially an altered consciousness. It diffuses and defuses my thoughts. My first off-the-mat “aha” moment was on the R train, on my way to teach transit workers in Brooklyn. I was stuck in my head, in the past, and the mantra I was practicing at the time rose up, seemingly from nowhere, and it stayed there until I got off the train. Yes, at that moment, I was somewhere else (!), but I was also free from the former prison of my mental entanglement.

The sounds of a mantra create a kind of portal, a way out of something and toward something else—essentially an altered consciousness. It diffuses and defuses my thoughts.

So my mantra journey began by pairing mantra with movements that were accessible to me—the classic sun salutation (sometimes called Sun Salutation C). The classic sun salutation Surya mantra felt like the right fit, given my limited knowledge of Sanskrit. To better engage with the words, I talked to different teachers about their various meanings.

Here is the mantra, along with the English names of the sun that suited my ear. (The English translations for the names of the sun were gifted to me by Jenny Meyer, her teachers, and Prem Sadasivananda.)

Om Mitraya (friendly one) Namaha

Om Ravaye (shining one) Namaha

Om Suryaya (dispeller of darkness) Namaha

Om Bhanave (one who illumines) Namaha

Om Khagaya (mover in the sky) Namaha

Om Pusne (nourisher) Namaha

Om Hiranyagarbhaya (one of golden color, the container of everything) Namaha

Om Maricaye (possessor of rays) Namaha

Om Adityaya (son of Aditi, the cosmic divine mother) Namaha

Om Savitre (the cause of everything) Namaha

Om Arkaya (healer of afflictions) Namaha

Om Bhaskaraya (giver of wisdom) Namaha

It was a process to sync the mantra with the movements (each name goes with a position of the sun salutation), and to stay focused on the words as I chanted (initially out loud, and later silently). I’d like to say that it was a beautiful process, but it wasn’t. It was a way of digging out. A way to practice in a slower, more deliberate way. I realized that I was quite scattered, which though not necessarily terrible, was not a welcome realization. I also began to realize that that was a result of caring for someone who has a mental illness, which allowed me to be more patient with myself. Mostly, I learned that it’s not easy to slow down, now, in our Instatimes. And it’s not easy to slow down a sequence that I initially learned to practice with speed. But eventually the lento rhythm came. And eventually it sped up again. And now I have choices as to how to practice it.

So now I should talk about God … or sun gods? Or perhaps how it’s all the same. I prefer not to. Suffice it to say that these names of the sun can also be applied to the Big One. Or whomever you choose. But can you chant it without that type of belief, without intense devotion to a supreme being? I believe you can. For many, the notion of a higher power is personal, so why don’t we just stay with that vibration. What if one or two names of the sun resonate with you more than the others? What if one or two evoke qualities you’d like to bring to your daily outlook? Or what if, as Prem Sadasivananda said, every time you look at a tomato you see the sun?

That level of appreciation echoes the leading 20th century theologian Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s concept of “radical amazement.” He says:

Wonder or radical amazement is the chief characteristic of the religious man’s attitude toward history and nature. One attitude is alien to his spirit: taking things for granted, regarding events as a natural course of things. To find an approximate cause of a phenomenon is no answer to his ultimate wonder. He knows that there are laws that regulate the course of natural processes; he is aware of the regularity and pattern of things. However, such knowledge fails to mitigate his sense of perpetual surprise at the fact that there are facts at all. [...]

As civilization advances, the sense of wonder declines. Such decline is an alarming symptom of our state of mind. Mankind will not perish for want of information; but only for want of appreciation. The beginning of our happiness lies in the understanding that life without wonder is not worth living. What we lack is not a will to believe but a will to wonder.

I wholeheartedly agree, but would argue that wonder can be the chief characteristic of every person, religious or not. I remain in awe of “my” mantra and what it gave me, that it brought me back to the bigger questions—the ones that need poetic license—the ones that arise.

Poetry of the Sun

As a poet, the Surya mantra led me to seek out poems about the sun. There are many gorgeous, profound poems of reverence, of quest for what exists beneath and beyond human desire and folly. For example, “O Sun of Real Peace” (from Leaves of Grass), by Walt Whitman, who worked in a hospital during the Civil War, is about the process of creation, and it celebrates the war’s end. You can hear the long echo of a yearning many of us feel today. There is a lot here to contemplate, but the imperative is clear: Pale as we are, we must follow the ideal of the sun.

It is yogic ultimately in its return to the present moment:

O SUN of real peace! O hastening light!

O free and ecstatic! O what I here, preparing, warble for!

O the sun of the world will ascend, dazzling, and take his height—

and you too, O my Ideal, will surely ascend!

O so amazing and broad—up there resplendent, darting and burning!

O vision prophetic, stagger'd with weight of light! with pouring glories!

O lips of my soul, already becoming powerless!

O ample and grand Presidentiads! Now the war, the war is over!

New history! new heroes! I project you!

Visions of poets! only you really last! sweep on! sweep on!

O heights too swift and dizzy yet!

O purged and luminous! you threaten me more than I can stand!

(I must not venture--the ground under my feet menaces me--it will notsupport me:

O future too immense,)—O present, I return, while yet I may, to you.

A more recent poem whose flowing language has a relaxing effect is Mary Oliver’s “The Sun," which asks:

Have you ever seen


in your life

more wonderful

than the way the sun,

every evening,

relaxed and easy,

floats toward the horizon...

And here is a poem for our times. A poem of now: Can we actually give up the things that we think we need? Can we really spend more time in contemplation? I wonder. But poems like these resound with faith and can be read more frequently in the yoga room—the one you teach or practice in.

Celebrate Love this St. Valentines's Day!

Lisa Kanne

3 Ways to Celebrate Self-Love This Valentine’s Day

Adults tend to think of Valentine’s Day as a time to revel in romantic love, but what if instead you used this day to simply celebrate another kind?


FEB 8, 2018

Adults tend to think of Valentine’s Day as a time to revel in romantic love, but when things aren’t ideal in that area of your life, the holiday can become downright depressing. It can put a magnifying glass on an iffy relationship, remind you of trouble within a long-term partnership, or enhance your longing for one. What if instead you used this day to simply celebrate love—the most real kind there is?


1. Recognize love as something you always have.

“If you go underneath your habits and underneath your immediate experience, you will find the capacity for growth, for change, for wisdom, for love that’s never, ever destroyed,” says Sharon Salzberg, meditation teacher and author of Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection, in her Untangle podcast interview with Meditation Studio last year. “It may be covered over—it usually is. It may be hard to find, and it certainly may be hard to trust, but it’s there. There’s nothing that we can go through that will make that not be true.” Instead of seeing love as a thing your family, friends, and romantic partner give you, truly embrace the knowledge that it is something you have within you at all times.

2. Love thyself often.



In her Falling in Love with Yourself meditation on the Meditation Studio App, yogi and meditation teacher Coby Kozlowski recommends a powerful self-love exercise: Think of your top three qualities, look in the mirror, and with each quality say, “One thing I love about myself is…” This is not a narcissistic practice, but rather a reminder to celebrate what you love in yourself. It’s a better pick-me-up than your daily dose of caffeine.

3. Open your heart to others.

Feeling good about yourself has benefits for others too. In relationships it can eliminate the tendency to cling to or control your partner’s love, allowing for a truer, deeper connection. You can open your heart more freely to others when you feel love for yourself from within. “Recognizing that no one else can complete us actually enhances our capacity to love and receive the love of others,” Salzberg writes in Real Love. “It’s in that process of really listening, really looking at somebody, really being there, that the possibility of genuine connection, and then real love, can grow.” Listen to the full interview with Sharon Salzberg on Untangle.



4 Ayurvedic Self-Care Practices for Spring Renewal

Lisa Kanne

4 Ayurvedic Self-Care Practices for Spring Renewal

Turn to Ayurvedic self-care practices to regenerate your body and your mind to feel fresh and healthy this Spring.

Turn to Ayurvedic self-care practices to regenerate your body and your mind to feel fresh and healthy this Spring.

As signs of springtime—renewal, warmth, and expansion—emerge, you may still feel stuck in the cold and heaviness of winter, fighting sleepiness and possibly extra weight from the holidays and being holed up. Or, you may feel worn out from battling budding allergies, rather than energized and ready for the new season. But adopting these simple time-­tested Ayurvedic self-­care practices for balancing, purifying, and rejuvenating the body and mind can help you fully prepare for and enjoy the dynamism of spring.

See also The Ayurvedic Diet For You

1. Add Turmeric

This common kitchen herb has potent healing properties. A 2014 meta­study in the journal Biotechology Advances tallied more than 6,000 articles about its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, and anticancer activities. Make a cup of morning tea using 1⁄4 tsp each of ginger and turmeric powder to wake up your digestive system and soothe aches and pains. Turmeric is also effective at drying mucus and soothing irritation associated with allergies and colds. To tackle the sniffles, take 1⁄2 tsp of turmeric powder with equal parts raw honey, used to help clear phlegm, three times a day.

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See also Eat Your Way to Happy: The Mood-Boosting Benefits of Food

2. Rinse your Sinuses

Using a neti pot, a teapot of sorts that helps you pour saline solution through your nasal and sinus cavities, can clear cold­ and allergy-­related sinus issues. The saline solution, prepared with 8 ounces distilled water and 1⁄2 tsp non-iodized mineral or sea salt, helps tiny hair­-like structures called cilia sweep out dust, germs, allergens, and mucus. Fill the pot with solution, and stand over a sink. Place the spout in one nostril, and tip your head back and slightly to the side until the solution starts to drain out your other nostril. If you are really congested, gently drain the saline solution out the same nostril into which you poured it.

See also 7 Tricks to Nip Allergies in the Bud

3. Eat your Greens

The spring harvest includes important foods for promoting a healthy liver, colon, and lymphatic and immune systems, all of which can become stagnant when you spend a lot of time indoors. Dandelions start popping up this season, and both the leaf and root are excellent for purifying digestive organs. The Italians make an excellent dish by sautéing garlic and dandelion greens in olive oil. If you find the taste too bitter, substitute with kale or spinach, which also pack in fiber, minerals, and antioxidants that promote elimination.

See also 7 Ways to Renew Yourself from the Inside Out for Spring

4. Practice Peace, Love, and Understanding

One of the most powerful ways to feel in sync with the change of seasons is to work on lingering issues in your relationships. In winter, we go inside ourselves, but spring encourages us to open up again, and that includes opening up to new possibilities in our relationships. Make a list of loved ones with whom you would like to clear the air or just reconnect,and reach out to them. Forgiveness, peacemaking, and understanding will help lift emotional heaviness and ensure a joyful spring!

See also 10-Minute Guided Meditation for Self-Compassion

Scott Blossom is a traditional Chinese medical practitioner, Shadow Yoga teacher, and Ayurvedic consultant. Learn more at


Natural ways to cope with Flu and Colds

Lisa Kanne

Natural Ways to Cope with Winter Colds and Flu



It’s the dead of winter and you’ve got a miserable cold or the flu—again. Why is it so hard to escape this season without sneezing, coughing, aching, or running a fever?

Because winter is a kapha-dominant season, we begin to feel increasingly cold, heavy, wet, dense, and inert.

We often invite these ailments in unwittingly. As the temperature drops and twilight falls earlier and earlier, we’d rather slouch on a couch and eat pizza in front of the TV than take a brisk walk or head to the gym. Throw in a few festive holidays and we’ve got an overburdened, underexercised body brimming with ama (toxic buildup). And because winter is a kapha-dominant season, we begin to feel increasingly cold, heavy, wet, dense, and inert. As kapha rises and ama builds, the body becomes congested.

In its wisdom, the body attempts to slough off this toxic buildup before it causes bigger problems (according to ayurveda, ama is the fertilizer for all the seeds of illness). A cold or the flu can be the mechanism for a little “spring cleaning,” however unpleasant.

So while it’s tempting to raid the medicine cabinet for cough suppressants, decongestants, anti-inflammatories, and anti-nausea medications, ayurveda encourages us to support our body’s cleansing mission, even if it means toughing out uncomfortable symptoms. Here are some natural ways to cope with colds and flus.

At the first sign of sickness…

Support your body’s cleansing efforts and boost your immune system with the following items:

Vitamin A (20,000 IU once a day for 5 days at your heaviest meal. Contraindicated in pregnancy.)

Zinc lozenges (25 mg up to 3 times per day, best with food to prevent stomach upset.)

Echinacea extract (30 drops in an ounce of hot water, 4 to 8 times per day. Best absorbed on an empty stomach, 30 minutes before meals or 2 hours afterward.)

Vitamin C (500 mg 4 to 8 times per day on an empty stomach.)

Sip hot water throughout the day. It will counteract dry indoor environments by hydrating you and liquefying toxins so that they’re easier to move out of the body.

If you have a sore throat…

Take a Ceanothus compound extract (30 drops, 3 to 4 times per day in an ounce of hot water). It helps soothe a sore throat by releasing lymphatic congestion.

Gargle with warm salt water up to every two hours.

If you’re congested…

Rinse your nose with a neti pot 4 to 5 times a day until your congestion dissipates. After filling the neti pot with warm saline water, tilt your head and let the liquid pass from one nostril to the other and out. Then repeat on the other side. The nasal wash carries away airborne particles—dust, bacteria, viruses, and fungi—and flushes out excess mucus. Neti pots are available online and at many health-food stores.

Put a few drops of eucalyptus oil into a pot of steaming water. Drape a towel over your head, lean over the pot, and breathe in the steam for several minutes up to 5 times a day. Eucalyptus is an anti-kapha aroma that will energize you while increasing the circulation and drainage of mucus.

If you have a fever…

Wait it out. Recent medical studies show that people tend to stay sick longer when they suppress fevers with medication. A fever is your body’s way of destroying an invader, so many ayurvedic practitioners do not treat a fever unless it’s over 102°. Instead, they recommend dressing warmly and using cold compresses or taking tepid baths to alleviate the fever’s discomforts. (And, of course, resting!)

If you’re nauseous…

Don’t suppress the urge to vomit. This purging activity is so kapha-diminishing that ayurvedic physicians use it as a form of therapy for people with sluggish, overburdened systems. Nausea is a sign that your body is unable to digest whatever you’ve eaten. Vomiting relieves the body of that burden.

If your body is strong and the disease is weak…

Follow a modified kapha-pacifying diet for 2 to 4 days. Eat plenty of fruit and hydrate yourself with vegetable juices, broth, and herbal tea. This gentle fast will stave off hunger while freeing up digestive energy that can be used to fight off disease instead.

Yoga movement to help prevent cognitive decline

Lisa Kanne

Twice-weekly workouts may be best medicine for cognitive decline

Cheryl Platzman Weinstock

(Reuters Health) - - There’s little evidence that medications improve mild cognitive decline associated with aging, according to a new review of research, but doctors can recommend exercise with confidence. 

A man exercises in downtown Los Angeles, California, March 9, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Researchers reviewed 11,530 studies of so-called mild cognitive impairment (MCI), to see how many older people are affected and which interventions and lifestyle changes have been shown to improve symptoms. 

MCI becomes increasingly common at older ages and is characterized by mild problems with thinking and memory that usually don’t interfere with daily life or independent function. People diagnosed with MCI are more likely, however, to go on to develop Alzheimer’s or other dementias than people without it. 


Until now, said Ronald Petersen, the lead author of the new study and American Academy of Neurology (AAN) treatment guidelines, “Clinicians didn’t know what to do with these people. Now that we know that it’s a burgeoning condition we need to pay attention when folks come in and complain.” 

Petersen, who directs the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center in Rochester, Minnesota, and his coauthors found that between ages 60 and 64, 6.7 percent of people have MCI. In the 65-69 age group, that rises to 8.4 percent, and about 10 percent at ages 70-74, nearly 15 percent at 75-79 and just over 25 percent at ages 80 to 84. 

When they looked at the use of drugs, such as cholinesterase inhibitors, they found “no high-quality evidence” that the medications work, according to the report in the journal Neurology. 

Their analysis of studies looking at the effects of physical exercise on cognition did find a benefit, though. In one study involving 86 women with MCI, 70 to 80 years old, researchers found that twice-weekly resistance training for 26 weeks was more effective than aerobic training over the same time period at increasing what’s known as executive functioning. After completing the exercise regimen, the women were better able to plan, manage and organize their thoughts. 

Based on their review, the authors updated a practice guideline for MCI to include, for the first time, a recommendation that people with the syndrome should exercise regularly as part of an overall approach to managing their symptoms. 

“This is a rich area of study. I don’t think you can say that if you exercise 150 minutes a week you can push back cognitive decline a certain number of years,” Petersen said in a telephone interview. “We don’t know that for sure, but . . . physical exercise might be beneficial in slowing down the rate of cognitive decline since it has been shown to cause some stabilization or improvement of cognition.” 

He thinks a combination of aerobic exercise and resistance training is likely best for MCI patients, but the data about its long-term effectiveness remains “scant.” He recommends that patients with MCI try to work up a sweat by walking briskly for 50 minutes, three times a week, because it might improve blood flow to the brain or induce enzymes to break down proteins that can build up into brain plaques. 

Neurology researchers are hoping to develop more specific evidence-based guidelines on how much exercise and what kind is needed to potentially delay or prevent cognitive decline based on ongoing clinical trials, he noted. 

The new AAN guideline, which is endorsed by the Alzheimer’s Association, also urges clinicians to discuss with their MCI patients the diagnosis, prognosis, long-term planning and the lack of evidence that drugs and dietary options, such as vitamins E and C, homocysteine-lowering B vitamins and flavonoid-containing drinks, are at all effective. 

Petersen and his colleagues also analyzed five studies of brain-training interventions and found “insufficient evidence to support or refute the use of any individual cognitive intervention strategy.” Nevertheless, they conclude that doctors may recommend this approach because it might improve specific cognitive skills. 

“Continuing to be cognitively and physically active is paramount for overall brain health,” noted Dr. Neelum T. Aggarwal of the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago, who wasn’t involved in the review or guidelines. 

Some cases of MCI are associated with reversible causes of cognitive impairment, including medication side effects, sleep apnea, depression and other medical conditions, so it’s important for patients to visit their healthcare provider at the first sign of memory problems, he said in a phone interview.

Letting go

Lisa Kanne

Why It's Time to Replace "Letting Go" with "Letting Things Be"—& How to Start

In this excerpt from her new book Deep Listening, Jillian Pransky offers a practice for creating space to let yourself be just as you are.


NOV 7, 2017



When I was growing up, my father was not an easy person to be around. He was the guy who’d drive 100 miles per hour on Main Street, cutting people off. He would walk into the house after work holding a gum wrapper he’d found on our driveway, and my brothers and I would brace ourselves for his fury—and our punishment. My father controlled everything in our house, from the thermostat to the emotional climate. I learned early on how important it was to yield to him.

The conversations I had in my mind about my father took up a lot of my thinking time. This dialogue felt urgent and true, but more important, it became “me.” My “story” developed—the one where I must not be good enough, and to get my father to pay me the kind of loving attention I wanted, I had to be better. I pushed myself daily—in sports, in school, at my job. I spent all my time achieving, and these achievements became who I was in the world.

We’re often not consciously aware of these old foundational conversations that live inside us—how they define us, and how they often control us. I certainly wasn’t. It wasn’t until I started the practice of Deep Listening that I learned how to respond differently to the story in my head; for the first time, I learned how to truly relax and just listen to my body.

Deep Listening is the process of truly connecting to ourselves and our lives. It isn’t so much a specific technique as it is an approach to how we receive and respond to ourselves and others.

Over the past 25 years, Deep Listening has helped me recover from injuries, illness, and grief. It has helped me better understand my challenging relationships and become closer to the people who are important to me—including my father. Through teaching this practice, I’ve discovered a number of things. Namely:

  • Most of us are used to living life as a series of reactions to what’s going on around us.

  • Most of us feel stressed and overwhelmed much of the time.

  • Most of us live with tension in our body that is wreaking havoc on our health.

  • Most of us suffer from anxiety and don’t know why it arises.

  • Most of us carry around powerful emotional narratives—the “stories” we tell ourselves about our undigested pain—and we’re not sure how to heal those hurts from the past.

  • Most of us don’t understand how to change the habits that keep us stuck.

  • And most of us don’t know how to be gentle, kind, and compassionate with ourselves—the conditions that allow us to evolve.

But the truth is, stress is not really the problem. The problem is that we need to respond differently—not only to stress but to anything that makes us uncomfortable. We need to make space so we can respond differently. And most of us have no idea how to do that.

See also Why Restorative Yoga Is the ‘Most Advanced Practice’ Plus, 4 of Its Biggest Benefits

Making Space Versus “Letting Go”

Creating space is different from “letting things go.” I once believed I needed to let go of certain things, because I thought the stuff I was holding on to must be “bad” parts of me. That perspective reinforced the idea that I had to get rid of something or I wouldn’t be okay. It felt like a little war was going on inside me.

I am no longer fond of the concept of letting things go because it implies that we need to eliminate something from our life, and that idea can create more tension. The truth is, we are all a walking summary of our life experiences—everything we’ve taken in, good and bad.

So instead of trying to “let things go,” I invite students to “let things be.” This is the attitude from which we can make space. Rather than pushing parts of us away, we are instead creating an environment that allows us to simply loosen our grip. We don’t have to fix anything. All we’re doing is bringing tender, nonjudgmental attention to our body and making room for whatever is living there. This is how the process of sustainable change begins.

Nothing ever goes away

until it teaches us

what we need to know.

—Pema Chödrön

Study with Jillian Pransky in Yoga Journal's Restorative Yoga 101 online course

Try This Practice for Making Space

Take a moment to gather yourself here.

Let your body land on the ground.

Let your breath arrive in your body.

Let your mind rest on your breath in your body.

Here, now.

Welcome the breath with a receptive belly.

Your breath will gently unravel the tension it meets.

Your breath will tenderly expand you inside.

Allow your breath to unwind you,

unfurl you.

Let yourself be opened by your breath.

Allow your breath to rise and fall.

Let it flow in and out of you,

on its own,

softening everything in its path.

Expanding you.

You’re bigger than you think you are.

Adapted from the book, Deep Listening, by Jillian Pransky. Reprinted with permission from Rodale.

Ten Ways to be Fearless in the Face of Grief and Loss

Lisa Kanne

10 Ways to be Fearless in the Face of Grief and Loss

Fearlessness is about having the courage to show up to your reality, to face your real emotions, and to be brave enough to continue moving forward with your life.

LEAH GUY - Ocotber 30th, 2017

Natural disasters, public or personal tragedies, and general feelings of unsafety in the world are giving many people reason to feel extreme stress, fear, grief, confusion, and loss. Learning to healthily move through these emotions will help you avoid stagnation in your pain and suffering. Being so close to your deepest feelings can make you feel very vulnerable, but that is where you learn to trust and transform. Fearlessness isn’t about mindlessly bulldozing through life like a daredevil, it’s about having the courage to show up to your reality, to face your real emotions, and to be brave enough to continue moving forward with your life. Here are 10 tools you can use to process difficult emotions so you can continue to function as optimally as possible through times of bereavement.

10 Ways to Be Fearless Through Grief and Loss

1. Practice present-moment mindfulness.

You can call it meditation or mindfulness but essentially it is the practice of acute awareness of self and your surroundings to help you stay grounded in the present moment. Notice how you feel, the smell of the air, what you hear. These very simple but powerful exercises of mindfulness can help heal your heart and mind.

2. Give yourself a grieving schedule.

Often grief can feel all consuming and emotions can feel out of control. Setting aside time on your schedule to grieve will give you structure with attentiveness to the reality of your suffering. If grief starts to overtake you, tell it you will attend to it at your next designated time and focus on the current tasks at hand. This practice will allow you to continue healing for as long as you need without causing total emotional depletion.

3. Allow and accept your authentic feelings.

It’s natural to want to run away from deep emotions out of fear. As you learn to sit and trust the moment, you can learn to trust yourself and take emotions as they come. Allowing emotions means not judging them but accepting what is real.

4. Express your emotions.

It’s important that you not only accept the feeling but that you find ways to express the feelings. Painful emotions can feel overwhelming but the more you healthily express your feelings, the more trust you build in yourself. The danger arises when you deny your emotions. Years of suppressed feelings can grow within you and cause ill health.

See also Emotions in Motion

5. Stay connected to others.

It’s easy to isolate during difficult periods. Although it is important to spend some time alone to process grief, it is vital to stay connected with others in your community and who care. As you are brave enough to accept your emotions, you can allow others to be present in your life to share experiences.

6. Keep a journal.

Writing can be a very helpful tool to help express emotions and track the flow of healing. Let your thoughts and feelings pour out onto the paper and try not to judge or filter what is said. Keep this journal private. It is where you can safely share and express your feelings.

7. Be of service.

Helping others is a wonderful way to stay connected and to keep your heart open. When you serve others, your community benefits and so do you.

8. Get extra rest.

Grief and loss can cause intense stress and it takes a toll. It’s important to honor yourself by allowing extra time for rest. Don’t expect to perform at your highest level during this time and don’t push yourself. Get plenty of sleep and rest. Emotional processing can cause energy depletion.

9. Optimize nutrition.

Excess stress requires enhanced nutrition. Nourish your adrenal glands with extra vitamin c and enough proteins and healthy fats to feel more grounded and safe. Include plenty of superfoods and micronutrients to support your overall health. Reducing sugar and processed foods will not only make you feel better physically but will help stabilize your mood and your mind.

10. Create a memorial.

Create a special art piece, plant a tree, or craft a memory book. Place a special plaque on your favorite area or name a new recipe. Imprinting your emotions onto a memorial is a beautiful way to treasure and stay connected to your loving memories.

5 Things I Learned When I Took My Yoga Practice Way Off the Mat

Lisa Kanne

5 Things I Learned When I Took My Yoga Practice Way Off the Matt



An American yoga instructor shares lessons from her experience in Kenya.


By Maria Chatman, Contributor |Oct. 18, 2017

"In every country, all over the world, our yoga mats are a place to cultivate a deeper sense of compassion for ourselves and for one another." (Getty Images)

Yoga is growing in America by leaps and bounds. A practice once thought of to be reserved for flower children or patchouli oil-wearing vegans is now attracting carnivores, CrossFitters and executives worried about being unable to touch their toes.

All of this can seem contrived and elicit the occasional eye roll – especially from longtime practitioners who shame commercialization and the recent proliferation of nontraditional yoga classes. But I love the fact that more people are finding their way onto a mat and doing it in their own style. Because more important than whether you take your yoga hotor room temperature, in English or Sanskrit, fast or relaxed, is how you translate your practice off the mat.

For example, presence, acceptance, equanimity and non-judgment are words we lean on in our classes, but how are we yogis walking our talk once we leave the studio? Where do the hashtags end and the real impact begin? How can we use yoga as a tool for change?

These are questions I asked myself when I became an ambassador for Africa Yoga Project, a program that trains unemployed youth from marginalized communities to earn a self-sustaining income as community yoga teachers. Based in Nairobi, Kenya, AYP has trained more than 200 yoga teachers who provide free yoga classes in 80 locations across Africa to those who wouldn't otherwise have access. As an AYP ambassador, I spent 14 days in Kenya working with schools, informal settlements and prisons to get a firsthand look at the impact yoga is having on these communities.

Here are the top five things I learned from taking my yoga off the mat:

1. Community is our lifeline.

Many people I spent time with in Kenya live in poverty, do not have access to clean water and have lost parents and loved ones to illness or violence at young ages. In dealing with tragedy and heartbreak, their yoga community became their lifeline; their method for dealing with and overcoming extreme hardships.

In an increasingly digitized world, we are witnessing more and more people flocking to yoga studios seeking real connection. My suggestion is to pull your mat a little closer to the person next to you, make eye contact with your teacher and open yourself up to the like-minded individuals with whom you are fortunate to share your practice.

[See: 9 Surprising Things That Happen When You Go on a Digital Detox.]

2. Limits are self-imposed.

During my first week in Nairobi, I accompanied AYP teachers to community classes, often in the slums, usually followed by lunch in their homes. Seeing firsthand the environmental challenges these instructors overcome while having tremendous impact on their communities by teaching yoga was by far one of the most inspiring things I have ever experienced. In a place with no yoga mats – let alone fancy gear – these yogis were transforming lives.

It became clear that any limits we place on ourselves are self-imposed and that much of what holds us back from seizing opportunities is our own self-doubt. Setting an intention at the beginning of your yoga practice is an invitation to reframe your thoughts, let go of resistance and work toward your highest potential.

3. Authenticity is the key to great leadership.

The most effective instructors and practitioners I encountered in Nairobi were not necessarily the most credentialed or anatomically knowledgeable, but were those who spoke with openness and led with their hearts. In fact, some of the most powerful leaders didn't speak at all: One class I attended included participants and instructors who were deaf. They led with such passion that no words were needed to express themselves.

[See: 9 Misconceptions About Yoga.]

This is not to discount the value of solid training, experience and continuing education, but when looking for a yoga teacher, both physical and spiritual alignment should be considered. In addition to finding an instructor who challenges you physically, seek out someone whose ethos inspires you to make conscious choices, take action and have a positive impact on your community.

4. Being teachable is the foundation of personal growth.

My second week in Nairobi, I gave a presentation I had prepared for for weeks before my arrival. But after spending seven days in the city, I realized that most of what I planned to share did not translate meaningfully to what these teachers were experiencing daily. I had to ask questions and listen intently to what challenges they faced and – together – discuss ways to enhance their teachings.

It was a reminder that to be teachable means being consistently open to learning from anyone at any time in any environment – especially if it's one that's unfamiliar. By letting go of control and being open – whether it's to an unexpected substitute teacher or a challenging new flow – we learn to be truly present and grow as individuals and yogis.

5. Human suffering is universal.

After a particularly emotional day spent visiting outreach programs, I discussed how difficult it is to witness this degree of human suffering with the co-founder of AYP. Being face to face with such extreme poverty and inequality that we know exists but almost never see caused me to question a lot about my perception of the world. It was then that she reminded me that all suffering is universal – regardless of age, race or income level.

In that moment, I truly understood that while we all live differently, we are all connected as a global community. While our individual challenges may be unique, we all experience pain, joy, fear and love. In every country, all over the world, our yoga mats are a place to cultivate a deeper sense of compassion for ourselves and for one another. Compassion, like yoga, is a daily practice that we must commit to and choose to come back to over and over again.

Lisa Kanne


Tapas, Hinduism (Sanskrit: “heat,” or “ardour”), in, ascetic practice voluntarily

carried out to achieve spiritual power or purification. In the Vedas, tapas refers

to the “inner heat” created by the practice of physical austerities and figured in

the creation myths, as a means by which Prajāpati (the main creator god)

brought the world into existence. In later Hinduism the practice of tapas was

especially associated with yogic discipline as a way of purifying the body in

preparation for the more exacting spiritual exercises leading to liberation

(moksha). Among the austerities mentioned in the are fasting, the holding of difficult and often painful bodily postures, vigils kept in the presence of fires or extreme cold, and breath control literature sacred.   (

Okay, okay, that I fully understand the meaning of Tapas, I can

finally define my struggles to achieve it. I get it. Our discipline to experience it

or to achieve it. To define Tapas as being a struggle was what I initially saw

as confusing because I did not view this concept as a struggle. After a bit (a

lot, actually) of exploration of the concept and with myself I realize that the

“struggle” is what keeps us from finding Tapas. Not that Tapas is as struggle.

So, what part of me makes it difficult to practice (or find) Tapas in my life?

Well, as hard as it is to admit, I like to be in control. An enormous side of me is

very open to accepting help.... I like to personally believe anyway. Help in big

or small ways. Whether it be help with daily chores around the house,

understanding certain financing, completing a task or assignment, organizing

an event, calming the chaos, getting the girls ready for school, so on and so

forth. One of two things are bound to occur.... One, I ask for help only to find

myself annoyed with the help I am offered, turning it down, or demanding that

it be done a very complicatedly and precise way. Two, I simply will not ask for

help knowing that the answer might be scary or I simply won’t like the answer.

OIY! What is wrong with me!!!???


Definition of my struggle toward achieving Tapas: unadmitted (but now


admittedly) “help control freak”.

Wow, I never knew that I felt that way about myself until this very instant. I


I am very proud, highly educated, know what I want in my life, I always try to

be openminded and supporting of others even when I don’t feel like it, I am a

positive and influential leader. But I am also sad. I don’t need, or want, people

to know this. As a mother, supporting wife, coach, and friend I don’t feel that I

can be sad or down or anything other than optimistic and “strong”. So, I

replace it with this behavior. “Help Control Freak”. Maybe if I am in “control” of

all help that I need (but won’t necessarily request) I will always come across

strong? I don’t really know, to be completely honest.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not the type to always be right. That is not the

control I am talking about. My struggle is entirely regarding asking and

receiving the help that I need. So maybe control is a crazy term to use. But

really it is about the control. I feel like I need to be in “control” of the result that

I may get from the asking part. The result.... Eeek. The result may, very likely,

be to pliable for me to handle.


wrote that. I said that out loud. That is terrible. I always thought of myself


differently. But, it’s absolutely truth.

I think this is called vulnerability? Whew. Scary stuff. But I am discovering

more about myself EVERY SINGLE DAY! I cry EVERY SINGLE DAY,

because I realize I can be vulnerable. I am finally realizing I don’t have to be in

control of every result. I think I feel that if I can control this one thing, the

potential results, I can maintain face. I will never be caught in a state of

weakness. Because asking for help may expose my weakness.... My

sadness, right? Or so I thought. If the result opens a can of worms.... It’s ok. I

can feel sad and no one will be negatively affected by it. If the result scares

me and someone sees it.... It’s okay. And hey, maybe my exposures will help

someone else in some way. That is what I am here on earth to do anyhow.

Help others. That [helping others] is what I feel my purpose here on Earth is.

So, why the heck am I so padlocked from accepting help from others if I am

so determined to help everyone else? I know that me being sad, a lot, is a big

obstruction and I believe that it stems this need to be in control of the results. I

need to realize that it’s okay. I’m okay. This is another path to help me learn

more so I can teach more. This vulnerability, the need to be in control of the

results, the fear of letting anyone discover that I too can be weak.... It’s ok.

Just ask for help gosh dangit! I will be okay. I did break down and ask you for

help the other day, didn’t I? Wewhooooo! See, I am already beginning to be a

stronger soul.