Wednesday, August 3, 2011

"A Yoga Poem" by Danna Faulds

I'm back, fresh from another yoga teacher training weekend! These weekends are such a blessing, and I come away from them with my spirit refreshed and my mind and body challenged (just ask my poor hamstrings!).

This is a poem that Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy instructor, Ruth Jacobson, shared with us on our last day of training. I love how it describes how yoga speaks to us on a deeper level than just asanas and couldn't wait to share it with you all! I hope you enjoy this poem and can take a few minutes to reflect on your yoga practice and what it means to you!


Yoga is not about the pose
It’s not the alignment of
toes or hips or shoulders.
It’s not about the form.

Yoga is an invitation to
explore, not a command
performance.  It speaks
the language of the soul. 

In the flow of breath and
motion, yoga coaxes us
from the confines of the
known, across the silent
threshold into vastness. 

Yoga is the union of prayer
and movement, guided from
inside.  It is healing and the
joy of saying yes to life. 

Breathe, relax and feel the
body receive its own truth.
The seed of freedom flowers
within each of us whenever
we are open to what’s real.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Yoga is Like a Bowl of Mango Salsa...

So, I think I have yoga on the brain! It seems like everywhere I look lately, I see a lesson in yoga. Some back story:

My husband and I just spent an amazing week with our dear friends, Natasha and Peter, and her welcoming and wonderful family! We spent a few days at the beach, relaxed around the pool and took a much needed break from our hectic summer lives. At our last dinner, Natasha whipped together a delicious mango salsa. Now, I have never had mango salsa (mostly because I firmly believe that fruits and vegetables should not mix), but since she made it and is a great cook, I tried it. And loved it!

When we returned home, I threw a surprise party for my husband's birthday and I wanted to re-create Natasha's mango salsa. I looked and looked online for a recipe that matched my friend's, but wasn't able to find an exact match. I found myself starting to get frustrated because I wouldn't be able to create an exact replica of the salsa. I knew how great it had tasted, and I felt like mine should be the same. I finally resolved to try to remember the main ingredients and then add whatever I liked to the mix. And as it turns salsa was great! It was not the same exact taste, but it had the same core flavors plus some of my other favorites mixed it. I had been fixated on recreating the same thing, and I had to check in with myself on why it was so important to make THAT salsa.

I find this check in to be important for me in yoga as well. I've learned the fundamentals and the basics of what goes into a pose or a practice, but I also am learning to trust myself. I have to allow my body to tell me what's right feels right. It does not matter if I can create the exact same pose as the teacher or a person on the mat next to me. I have the basic recipe, but it is up to me to add my own flavor. And sometimes my poses can be spicier than others! I love finding these connections between every day life and yoga. It reminds me that my practice is constantly evolving and I'm learning more every day!

Here's a quick recipe for MY mango salsa, but I hope you'll add your own spice!

  • 2- Heirloom tomatoes 
  • 1/3- Vidalia onion 
  • 1- Ripe mango
  • 2- Tomatillos
  • 1- Jalapeno (most seeds removed)
  • Cilantro to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Squeeze of fresh lime juice 
Chop ingredients, add lime juice, salt and pepper and mix! Then grab a big bag of tortilla chips and some friends to enjoy what you've made!

Friday, June 3, 2011

10 Things to Know Before Your First Yoga Class

Many new students wonder what to expect in their first yoga class. Will it be obvious that I'm new? Will I be the only one who can't do a head stand? What if I don't have the right equipment? Do I need the cute yoga clothes? This post is what I as a teacher want my students to know!

1. First things first: pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself for coming to class! This is often the hardest step for new students (beginner or just students new to the class) and you've already completed it! The hard part is over!

2. Props are a yogi's best friend! Many students fear looking like "beginners" if they use a block in triangle or a strap to help reach their toes. The reality is that experienced yogis are the ones who know when they need a prop to help create space in their pose, give more stability or allow them to deepen their stretch. Props can make your pose more comfortable and therefore help you receive more benefits from the pose. When a teacher offers a prop, try it out! See what helps you get the most from your practice!

3. Modifications are not for the weak. Just like the prop misconception, modifications are for the yogi who knows what they're doing. A person very dear to me recently was complaining of wrist pain in plank. I suggested doing plank on her knees to relieve some of the pressure in her wrists. She responded, "But I want to do the real pose!". Yoga is about sustainability. We want to be doing yoga for the next 50 or 60 years. If you are creating pain in your poses, that is not sustainable. It is much better for your body to do a modification that allows you to build strength in a pose than force yourself into something uncomfortable or painful. A teacher may offer a modification that makes a pose more gentle or more challenging. See what's right for you!

4. Saying no is always an option. This is YOUR practice! This means that if a teacher is telling you, "Touch your toes in forward fold.", and it is uncomfortable for you, don't do it. Yoga is about being in touch with your body and knowing what's best for you. A teacher may come up and offer a modification or adjustment, but the reality is, you are the one in your body. You know better than anyone else what works for you. Another way to say "no" to a pose, is child's pose. This is a perfect one to come back to when you are getting in touch with your body.

5. Class is not a fashion show. Yoga has become much more marketable in the past few years and the merchandising shows it. Open a fitness or yoga magazine and the models are wearing name brand, perfectly coordinated clothes. This is not what a typical yoga class looks like. There is no top that makes your Warrior II better. Wear what is comfortable and allows good range of motion. If that happens to be a cute "yoga" top, great. If it's a worn in shirt left over from your school days, even better.

6. Bring the focus onto your own mat. I firmly stand by the belief that yoga is for every body. Everyone is different and no one looks the same in every pose. Different bodies experience poses in different ways. Letting your focus drift to others and how they look on their mat takes away from your practice. When you find your mind wandering, just remind yourself that you are exactly where you should be in your practice.

7. Adjustments are gifts from your teacher. Before I began taking yoga workshops, I had never been in a class with a lot of hands on adjustments. I was so worried, thinking that because the teacher was adjusting me because I was doing something wrong, I wasn't able to enjoy my practice. Through trainings and workshops, I realized that adjustments are about making poses safe for students. They are also about creating an experience in a pose that we can't give ourselves. No matter how hard we try, we can't get that length that we receive when a teacher lifts our ribs in low lunge.

8. Yoga is not a religion. Sometimes new students fear that they will be forced to participate in Hindu chants or learn Sanskrit in class. Some classes do focus on Sanskrit, but most classes will allow you to choose to participate or just listen. There is a spirituality in yoga, but in my interpretation it is about connecting to your divine spirit. It can be God or Shiva or Buddha or nature or whatever you find most inspiring. I usually end class with, "Namaste", which means, "I bow to the divine spirit in you". I feel that this is a beautiful way to close a practice and connect with students. It is up to you if you want to answer with "Namaste", "thank you", or silence.

9. Savasana is the most important pose of your practice. Life is busy, we know this. As class winds down, it's easy to look at the clock and think about leaving early to get dinner ready, picking up the kids or running errands, but savasana is the most important part of class. These final minutes in class allow you to settle into your body and feel the benefits of your practice. Your mind calms and a sense of peace comes over you. This is one of the biggest gifts I can give to my students. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and enjoy your savasana.

10. I'm here for YOU! Please feel free to come up to me before or after practice with any questions or feedback. If you have any injuries, let me know. If you have an area you would like to focus on, I want to hear about it. This also applies to class. If you are in pain in a pose or have questions about body placement, raise your hand or your head and I'm more than happy to come over and assist in any way I can.

These are my top ten, but if you have any other questions before your practice, please feel free to ask! You can comment here or e-mail me:

Saturday, May 14, 2011

An Easy Morning Smoothie

The warming weather (and rising humidity) signals to me that it is smoothie season! After years of making smoothies in our tiny little food processor, my husband and I finally invested in a real life, honest to goodness blender! Smoothies are a great option for mornings when I'm short on time, or a great afternoon treat. My favorite breakfast smoothie is a tropical mixture that always reminds me of summertime and beaches. I may not be able to rush off on a beach vacation, but at least I can have a beach smoothie! If you don't have time to make a smoothie in the morning, I would suggest making it the day before and putting it in the freezer. You can take it out right before bed and let it thaw overnight in the fridge. Instant breakfast! Let me know if you have a favorite easy, quick breakfast you'd like to share!

Tropical Breakfast Smoothie

-1 C. Milk (I use vanilla soy milk)
-1 C. Frozen Strawberries
-2/3 C. Fresh Pineapple
-1/2 C. Oatmeal
-1 Tbs. Unsweetened Coconut

Add the ingredients, milk first, into your blender or food processor and blend to your desired consistency. 
Have fun an experiment! If you like a sweeter smoothie, add some honey! If you want more coconut flavor add more coconut! If you don't want pineapple, try some peaches!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Gift of Savasana

As I continue to learn and grow as a teacher, I've discovered the thing I enjoy most about teaching is the last moments of class when students groggily sit up and open their eyes after a sweet savasana. There is something so powerful about a room of people experiencing total relaxation after an invigorating asana practice.

I was recently struck by this realization after working with a group of staff members at a local non-profit organization during their lunch break. These are people who work with and for children and our community. They work hard and they often work without receiving the recognition they deserve. I felt so honored that I was able to give them a small break and sense of serenity in their busy day.

Savasana is said to relax the body, help lower blood pressure, reduce headache, fatigue and insomnia, and calm the brain to help relieve stress and mild depression.

In yoga, many people come into a class stressed about their day, trying to figure out what they're going to do for dinner, worried about tomorrow. They come in fidgeting and visibly tense. Through the power of yoga, they work through their stress and by the end of the practice, they are able to fully surrender in savasana. In a class I once attended, the teacher encouraged us to let go of all of our labels (wife, mother, father, employee) and our responsibilities. She encouraged us to fully embrace the savasana, or Corpse Pose. The idea of letting go of everything that we believe defines who we are resonated deeply with me. Life is too hectic. Life is too stressful. Life is too...full of life sometimes. If I can give a student 10 minutes of letting go and being present in the moment, I believe I have done my job to its fullest.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Blankets and Bolsters and Blocks, Oh My!

Sometimes new students come into a class thinking that "props" is a dirty word! I, like many yoga neophytes, assumed in my first class that only people who didn't know what they were doing used the props. Being self conscious, I didn't want people to know that I was new to the practice, so I ignored the teacher's verbal cues to use a block under my bottom hand for support in Extended Triangle Pose or sit on the edge of a blanket while seated in meditation. I was so focused on what I thought I was "supposed" to look like in these poses that I was struggling to stay in triangle pose and was uncomfortable while seated. I was unable to realize that it was the people around me who had been practicing for a while who were taking advantage of the props! They knew that using props could deepen their poses and keep their practice safe. It wasn't until a teacher explained to me how to use props to improve my practice that I learned how a prop can be a yogi's best fried!

Some of the more common props you may run into in a class and a few of their applications:

Bolsters: Can be rounded or rectangular. Usually long enough to rest your entire torso on. Great for sitting on in meditation or any restorative poses.. Bolsters can gently help you open your chest by placing one along your spine in Savasana or allow you to sink deeper into a hip opener by placing one under your front knee in Pigeon.

Blankets: Perfect folded up to sit on the edge in Easy Pose during meditation. You can fold a blanket beneath your shoulder to create padding and add space for the neck during Shoulder Stand. Blankets can also be rolled up and used as neck support or cover you during savasana.

Blocks: Come in a variety of sizes and materials. Blocks can give you more balance by placing one under your bottom hand in Half Moon Pose or elevate and support your hips when placed under the sacrum in Bridge Pose. Interested in using the block for strengthening? Squeeze it between your legs in bridge pose instead!

Eye bags: Small bags, sometimes scented. Usually filled with rice or sand. Savasana is one of, if not the, most important poses in our practice. It can be very difficult for people to truly relax and eye bags are a great tool to use to block out the world and make the most of our precious savasana.

Straps: Long straps usually with either a plastic buckle or a D-ring buckle. The buckles can help secure the strap in certain poses, for instance, secured around your knees in Legs Up the Wall. Having trouble reaching your feet in twists? Just loop a strap around your foot and hold the ends to get the same benefits of the pose.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Comfort Food

Rainy days like yesterday always make me crave soup. In my mind, there is nothing better than curling up on the couch with a steaming bowl of soup and crusty bread! Usually, once a week my husband and I whip out the big spoons and bowls to enjoy one of our favorite comfort foods!
This is a delicious recipe from Vegetarian Times that serves 8. I make this with spinach instead of swiss chard and dried sun-dried tomatoes instead of oil packed.

Spicy Sun-Dried Tomato Soup with White Beans and Swiss Chard


  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (1 Tbs.)
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced (1 cup)
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced (1 cup)
  • 1/2 tsp. chopped rosemary
  • 2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 2- 15 oz. cans diced tomatoes
  • 1- 15 oz. can small white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped, plus 2 Tbs. oil from jar
  • 1/2 bunch (6 oz.) Swiss chard, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 cup torn basil

1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook 1 minute, or until garlic is fragrant. Stir in onion, carrots, celery, zucchini, and rosemary, and cook 10 to 15 minutes, or until onions are soft.
2. Add broth, 1 can tomatoes, and beans. Scoop 1 cup mixture into food processor or blender, and add remaining can of tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, and sun-dried tomato oil. Purée until smooth, stir mixture into soup, and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Simmer 10 minutes.
3. Add Swiss chard and thyme; simmer 5 minutes more, or until chard is wilted. Remove pan from heat, and stir in basil.

If you have leftovers, this soup freezes very well and is just as tasty re-heated!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Yoga is for Every Body

    Your yoga practice is exactly that. A practice. As someone who believed that you had to look a certain way or eat a certain diet to be a true "yogi", it was a liberating experience when I leaned that I could be a yogi at my own level. I have been lucky enough to have wonderful teachers who encouraged me to experience yoga at my own pace and celebrate my body and it's abilities in every pose.

    Yoga class was the first time I attended a group class where I didn't find myself comparing my pose or ability level to everyone else's. Of course I noticed if someone was doing an impressive balance or a graceful Warrior III, but I was OK with where I was as well. I've learned that yoga is not about the final pose, but the journey towards the pose. If today your forward fold leaves you with your hands on your knees, that's great! Maybe after a week of practice you'll touch your shins. A month from now, your ankles. A year from now, your toes. Maybe your final forward fold will always be hands on your knees, and that's OK too! It is all about being empowered in your body and its abilities at any and every level.