Beginner Yoga Tips Everyone needs to know

My mission in life, and certainly over the last 18 years teaching yoga, is to be inclusive not just to beginner yoga students but to all.

Making yoga accessible to everyone is important to me.  I actually prefer it when there are people of all ages and abilities in one class. I love how yoga teacher Eoin Finn describes his classes: “All levels. All good.”

The list below was originally drafted for beginner yoga students. But really, this is what every yogi needs to know. It is my hope that these tips are of benefit to you. Please let me know in the comments if there are any tips you want to include!

 

21 Tips for beginner yoga to advanced students

 

1- There is no right or wrong way to do yoga. Yoga is an art, a healing science, a lifestyle, and mindset. ANYONE can do yoga, regardless of age and ability. {See Why Practice Yoga}

Socks are fine in yoga if sweat a lot or just prefer to keep them on.  (This is Koji, my son, practising his “Yoooooga”!)

2- Ask your doctor if you have pre-existing medical conditions or are pregnant. Consult your doctor before practicing so you understand what kind of things you must be careful doing. Then, tell your yoga teacher. She/he should be able to offer you modifications so that you can still enjoy your practice. This is very important for beginner yoga students!

3- Please turn off your cell phone or place on ‘do not disturb’ mode in another room. “Real life” will still be there after your yoga practice. You may actually be better prepared to handle things after a little deep breathing and yoga.

4- Practice on an empty stomach. Meals should be taken at least 90 mins prior to practice, so you digest fully and avoid eating heavy food. A small snack before practice is ok, especially for diabetics, hypoglycemics or pregnant women.

5- Simplicity: You don’t need a $400 yoga outfit… All you need is comfortable clothing that will allow you to move without restriction or distraction and bare feet! So no need to spend a fortune on “high tech stuff.”

6- Stuff you need to get started:  a sticky yoga mat & possibly a towel or a cotton yoga mat if you sweat a lot. Other props like a chair, a strap, yoga blocks, pillows, and blankets are used for some postures and practices.

7- “Don’t make and Asana of yourself,” said David Swenson, Ashtanga Yoga Master.  The original intent of the yoga practice has little to do with yoga postures (‘asana’). Yoga postures are meant to build strength, stamina and increase flexibility so that the practitioner can maintain a steady pose for long periods of time without discomfort. So as senior yogi Hart Lazar says: “Let go of competition, especially with yourself at a younger age!”

Beginner yoga students often feel pressure to do what their neighbours are doing. Let go of competition and comparison. Listen to the instructor. Seek stability and work on the edge between comfort and discomfort!

8- Breathe! The breath is the MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THE PRACTICE. In yoga, we breathe in & out through the nose during regular asana practice. We never hold our breath. Basic rule: if you can’t breathe in a pose, you are in too deep! Breathing exercises (known as “pranayama”) may require other methods or practices.  {More about Breathing}

9- Don’t worry about the names of the poses. Names of yoga postures are often taught in English & Sanskrit (ancient Indian language). I hear beginner yoga teachers stress about this all the time. Don’t worry, in time you will know all of them. {Check out my Introduction to Ashtanga Yoga book. It features both the English & Sanskrit names of each pose.}

10- Work on the edge between comfort and discomfort. If you feel a sharp pain in a joint, ease out of the posture, ask your instructor for advice and/or use a prop for support. {More about Finding a Comfortable Posture}

11- Seek stability before flexibility. Be sure that you are stable & grounded in a pose before seeking depth or a greater “stretch”. Buildings need a solid foundation, so think of your postures in the same way.

 


CLICK HERE to access my Yoga Basics Breath & Alignment 20 mins yoga video on YouTube – perfect for beginner yoga!

 


 

12- Water bottles are for the gym. Drinking too much water during your yoga practice fills your stomach making it difficult to practice, so it is recommended to drink water after the yoga practice, but not during. Of course, if you are thirsty, you are welcome to take a couple of sips.

13- When not to go upside down. Inverted postures, like shoulder-stand, are not recommended during menstruation as there is a natural downward flow of energy during this time and reversing this flow can disrupt the cycle. (It can also cause a flood!)

14- Keep the potpourri out of the studio. Refrain from wearing perfume, cologne or essential oils when practicing with a group, because these smells will only get stronger the more you deep breathe and sweat.

15- Beginner yoga students must ask questions.  Don’t be shy to ask your instructor for a further explanation during class or after class. (Sometimes you may need to schedule some time with the instructor if the inquiry is complex or personal.)

Enjoy your yoga practice and the process. Yoga isn’t always fun, as it can be challenging, but it is rewarding. Approach yoga with curiosity.

16- About chanting… Most classes begin and/or finish with OM chanting. “OM” isn’t a word. It’s a vibrational sound that helps release tension from the body and helps to connect to the breath and the body. Ashtanga classes traditionally start with an invocation in Sanskrit which pays tribute to the lineage of teachers past & present.

17- Better out that in. It’s possible to feel a little sensitive or emotional after your practice. This is normal, as yoga and meditation dislodge deep tensions from the mind and body. Clear the residual tension by resting, drinking a soothing tea/water, eating good food and practicing again tomorrow!

18- Find what’s right for you. There are many different types of yoga and many different teachers. It’s important to discover what and who resonates with you, and this may change over time.

19- Become sensitive to your needs. Whether you are a beginner yoga student or not, kindly remember that yoga is a process of going deeper inside and connecting with what’s happening within and also, understanding the world around you. {See Why Practice Yoga}

20- What’s “Namaste”? Most yoga classes finish with a gesture and the saying “Namaste.” In Sanskrit, this means: “I honor the divine spirit within you and recognize that this is the same spirit that is in me.

21- Have fun and enjoy your practice. That’s the most important part! Allow your practice to change with you, so that it will always suit your ever-changing needs.  {See Postures for Freedom}

{If you think I missed something, please post your additions in the comments below.}

 

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Stress Management with Pranayama & Three-Part-Breathing

Pranayama is the practice of learning how to breathe consciously and increasing our vital energy. Regardless of life’s ups and downs, the breath is always with us and is our most tangible connection to the present moment.

Nevertheless, it is surprising how little emphasis is placed on breathing throughout our daily routines. It’s the same tune we’ve heard before: We wake up. We run out the door. We work all day, barely stopping for a lunch break or a deep breath. We multitask all day and then run errands after work. We have dinner perhaps while watching TV or being on our phones, and then we go to bed only to do the exact same thing the following day.

Running around all day, living and breathing on autopilot, isn’t optimal for our physical and psychological well-being and yet most of us do this often, self-included.

Some statistics about stress

  • According to Health Canada, more than 70% of Canadians feel stressed on a regular basis.
  • Statistics Canada reported that more than 30% of adults between the ages of 25 and 54 claim that most days were quite a bit or extremely stressful.
  • Women were 1.5 times more likely than males to report that most days were quite a bit or extremely stressful.
  • Interestingly, the proportion of residents who reported that their days were ‘quite a bit’ or ‘extremely’ stressful was higher than the national average in Quebec (26.2%).

The impact of these findings by Statistics Canada indicated that high levels of daily stress resulted in a lower rate of life satisfaction.

Physically the body responds to stress with a “fight or flight” response, explains Barbara A. Brehm in her book Stress Management: Increasing Your Stress Resistance. The heart beats faster and harder, blood pressure rises and breathing becomes more shallow and rapid. Over time, countless studies, including several conducted by Stat. Can., have shown that chronic stress can lead to serious health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, arthritis and rheumatism, migraines chronic bronchitis and stomach or intestinal ulcers.

How to manage stress with pranayama

Practicing proper breathing techniques is perhaps the simplest way to help the body cope during strenuous times while allowing the mind to relax and focus on the task at hand. Yogis say, “When the breath wanders, the mind is unsteady, but when the breath is still, so is the mind still.”

2018-06-30-Pranayama-2

Pranayama is about increasing life force. In his classic book Light on Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar’s wrote: “Prana is the breath of life of all beings in the universe. They are born through and live by it, and when they die their individual dissolves into the cosmic breath.”

The yogic practice of breath work is called pranayama, which also means to control vital energy. There are three types of breathing: clavicular (shallow), intercostal (middle), and diaphragmatic (deep).

Clavicular Breathing: Air enters the body by raising the collarbone and shoulders. This method of respiration is the least efficient since it only involves the upper part of the lungs. When we are stressed or anxious, we often revert to this type of rapid, shallow breathing. (Studies show that more women breathe this way, as women react to a higher range of stressors than men.)

Intercostal Breathing: Often referred to as ‘athletic breathing,’ the intercostal form of respiration fills the middle region of the lungs by lifting the ribs and expanding the thoracic cage or chest wall. When combined with diaphragmatic breathing, the body is properly oxygenated.

Diaphragmatic Breathing: This type of breathing is categorized by the swelling of the abdominal region, as the diaphragm subsides on the inhalation and the base of the lungs fill with air. The rhythmic lowering of the diaphragm produces a constant, gentle massage of the abdominal area and helps the organs function correctly. (Most men breathe this way.)

Dirga pranayama or threepart breath

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The most energy efficient method of breathing incorporates all three types of breathing— diaphragmatic, intercostal, and clavicular. In yoga, it is important to breathe in and out through the nose, because the air that enters and exits the body nasally is warmer and more filtered than through the mouth.

As you inhale –
1- Lower and flatten the dome-shaped diaphragm – ‘breathe’ into your belly’
2- Expand the rib cage;
3- Raise the upper part of the thorax and collarbone.

As you exhale – 
1- Lower the collarbone and upper thorax area;
2- Deflate the rib cage;
3- Gently contract the abdominals and squeeze out any residual air left in the lungs.

TIP: Focus on the exhalation
Most people believe that, in the act of respiration, one must give precedence to drawing in the breath. However, unless we first exhale the breath completely, it is impossible to inhale correctly. At the end of the exhalation, the abdominal muscles should contract to help empty the lungs of impure air.

Pranayama is also an excellent segway into meditation as it calms the mind and has myriad benefits.

 

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Finding a Comfortable Meditation Posture

Finding a comfortable meditation posture was always my biggest challenge when I was first starting my practice. My back would ache, my knees would hurt, and my feet would fall asleep. The only advice I ever remember getting was to sit still and ignore the discomfort. This didn’t make me look forward to or enjoy meditation in the least.

Luckily, I was fascinated by the practice of meditation from a young age, having watched my mom sit daily. So despite the physical discomfort I experienced from my poor meditation posture, I continued to accompany my mother, grandmother and later, my teachers to meditation ashrams and classes. And while I am glad I persevered, I wish I had been taught earlier how to sit in a comfortable meditation posture.

I suspect not being able to find physical comfort can be a deterrent for many people new to meditation and since I highly recommend meditation during my 30 Day Healthy Living Program and nearly every other program I teach, allow me to offer some suggestions.

Here are several options for how to sit with ease during meditation:

Meditation Posture on a Chair

YY-Meditation8For many people, sitting on the floor is either inaccessible because of injuries or physical limitations. Sometimes meditating on the ground is inconvenient, for instance, if you are meditating at the office or on the train home from work. So sitting on a chair is a great option for everyone.

  1. Sit on the edge of the chair with your back well aligned and away from the backrest;
  2. Feet should be hip-width apart and flat on the ground for stability;
  3. Root your sitting bones into the chair and elongate the spine;
  4. Lengthen your spine and relax your shoulders;
  5. Rest your hands in your lap & breathe.

 

Virasana or Hero’s pose Meditation Posture

YY-Meditation5This is my favourite meditation posture. I like the symmetry of this pose and sitting upon a block seems to help support my spine best. Plus, virasana is good for the digestive system and I find it the most sustainable posture.

  1. Place a folded blanket on the ground as cushioning for your ankles;
  2. Start in a kneeling position with feet pointing straight back;
  3. Before sitting back, pile as many blocks or books under your buttocks as you need in order for your knees to be comfortable*;
  4. Your thighs are hip-width apart;
  5. Root your sitting bones into the block and lengthen your spine.

*Although it may not feel like it at first, this meditation posture is fantastic for the knee joints.

 

Sukhasana or Easy Crossed-legged Meditation Posture with Support

YY-Meditation3I wish I could remember who taught me this version of the easy crossed-legged sitting pose because it is genius. The  ‘V’ shape of the blocks gives support to the sitting bones and hips without putting pressure on the tailbone and allowing it to release.

  1. Place a folded blanket on the ground as cushioning for your feet and ankles;
  2. Using two or four blocks, depending on the height of the support needed, create a ‘V’ open to the front by placing two corners together, as in the feature photo of this article;
  3. Sit crossed-legged on the V with your sitting bones on either block and your tailbone ‘hanging’ in the space between the blocks;
  4. You should feel comfortable, but you can also add another set of blocks, books or rolled towels under your knees for further support;
  5. Root your sitting bones into the blocks and lengthen your spine.

 

Once seated comfortably in a meditation posture you can sustain, I recommend setting a timer for the length of time you’d like to sit. Then close your eyes and breathe deeply. (Stay tuned for meditation downloads, which will be available on my site very soon. )

PS Yoga is also very good for helping to strengthen and stretch your body, making the meditation posture easier and more comfortable.

 

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10 Tips for Exercise and Working out

I get it. It’s not always easy to be consistent with exercise especially when you are on vacation, when times are busy or when you’ve just had a baby… Here are my 10 tips for exercise and working out:

  1. If you don't have gym close by or you are on vacation, this is a great opportunity to get creative!

    If you don’t have gym close by or you are on vacation, this is a great opportunity to get creative!

    Prep the night before – Set out your workout clothes at night before you go to bed and set your alarm for 30-60 mins before you actually have to get up! (See My Miracle Morning Routine)

  2.  Exercise in the morning  – Training first thing gives you a feeling of accomplishment early in the day and a boost of energy. (This said, any time you can squeeze in exercise is good!)
  3. Drink a tall glass of Arbonne Greens Balance + Energy Fizz in the am before your work out. It’s my ‘getting in the zone’ tip!
  4. Have a plan – I have suggested workouts in my 30 Day Program and/ or work a trainer once a month to design a personalized workout for you. I can also help you with this.
  5. Apps – Get Audible & download SoundCloud. I listen to audio books while walking & hiking (and driving and cleaning, etc.) and short motivating podcasts while training at the gym. I also love Spotify’s personal Run Mix that is set to your run tempo and the Run Keeper app to keep me on track.
  6. Focus and get to work – You can do it. Just take small actions everyday. Even if it is only 15-20 mins. This is better then no minutes.
  7. Exercise daily. Even on vacation. You will be happy you did! If you don’t have the ‘perfect gym set up’, bring your yoga mat and be creative.
  8. Hydrate during and after your workout. I especially LOVE the Arbonne Phyto Recovery Formula.

    Darling, it's mostly a mental thing. You may need support to get started or restarted. Yoga now comes naturally, so I can freestyle, but I work with a trainer every month and have a program designed for me.

    Darling, it’s mostly a mental thing. You may need support to get started or restarted. Yoga now comes naturally to me, so I can freestyle, but I still work with a trainer every month to have a strength training program designed for me.

  9. Ideal Workout Plan includes Yoga, Walking & Strength Training + good nutrition – aim to eat 9 cups of veggies a day!
  10. Meditate – Meditation is key to mental & emotional wellbeing. It keeps your stress levels in check and your observation skills sharp, allowing you to notice and appreciate what’s important.

Incorporating new healthy living habits and getting started (or restarted) on your own can be daunting. This is why I created the Lean, Fit & Strong 30 Day Healthy Living online program to coach, mentor and support you. The program combines personal consultations with yoga, fitness, relaxation techniques, nutrition, recipes and more. It’s really complete and designed to help you establish and maintain a daily routine that enhances your life on all levels.

Click here for details about the upcoming 30 Day Program and join my Healthy Living Facebook Group.

 

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My Miracle Morning Routine

Miracle-Morning

This is a great book. I jumped out at me and I devoured it within a week. I am now recommending it to friends and clients. The best way to improve your life is one day at a time.

Good Morning! I have always been a morning person, but found establishing an effective routine a challenge. This changed recently. My Miracle Morning routine is inspired by the fantastic book Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, which I highly recommend. My Miracle Morning Routine has drastically improved my mood, productivity and energy levels.

After a few weeks of this routine, I now feel confident to share it with you.

The night before I prep for the next day –

  • Set out my yoga/ exercise clothes & my ‘rest of the day’ clothes – I spent most of my life in yoga pants, so when I’m not practicing or teaching, I like to dress like a normal person in dresses, shorts or jeans, weather dependant of course;
  • Prepare my morning greens – I fill up two (and a half) tall mason jars (what I use for glasses) with filtered water and cover them. I set up my ‘Greens Station’: Arbonne Greens Balance (it’s seriously the best Greens ever), 1 sachet of Arbonne Energy Fizz & a lime;
  • Prepare Breakfast Stuff for smoothie & Koji – Wash & chop fruits & veg for the smoothie, prepare cut fruit for our little man and defrost Koji’s pancakes in the fridge (I make a bunch of pancakes for Koji on Mondays and freeze them for the week);
  • My Bedtime should be 10:30pm, but usually ends up being 11:30pm by the time I’m ready for bed… I am still working at rolling back my bedtime.
miracle-morning-tools

Tools for my miracle morning routine: Pencil case with nice pens, a timer, hair elastics, high lighters, Energy Fizz sticks and vitamins; a Super Smoothie; my mala beads for meditation, a nice journal; and nice juicy pens.

Miracle Morning Routine Part I

  • 6:05am – Wake up – I use the Bedtime App on my phone. It’s a little nicer than an alarm;
  • 6:10am – Brush teeth, wash face & dress – I use Arbonne’s newly formulated RE9 Advanced Anti-aging linesee video. It’s five steps that feel like a spa treatment and my skin has never been better. The new RE9 is unbelievable. (Let me know if you want to try a sample);
  • 6:20am Mix up Greens Drinks for Arturo, Koji & I;
  • 6:30am – Meditate & Breathing exercises ~15 mins – I wish this was longer, because sometimes I go really deep in just a few short minutes;
  • 6:45am –  Write ~15 mins – Sometimes I write in my journal. Sometimes I write in Koji’s journal. Sometimes I “Brain Dump” all the things I have to do that are floating around in my head. And sometimes I ‘write and burn’ all my tensions, fears and worries;
  • 7:00am – Koji wakes up (if he isn’t up all ready) – We cuddle, have booby milk, change diapers, etc.
  • 7:30am – Yoga – I roll out my mat and lay out ‘toys’ (boxes, bottles, lids, spoons and maybe a ball or two) for Koji to play with.  My practice is usually a mix of opening poses and different versions of sun salutations and is often interrupted by Koji digging into something he isn’t supposed to. I just take these mini pauses part of my practice and when possible, I will practice again in the afternoon for a longer session;
  • 8:00am – Breakfast – Koji has fruit (blueberries, strawberries, orange, mango or melon – he loves fruit) while I prepare a smoothie or warm up his pancakes in the toaster (I make a batch and freeze them);
  • 8:30am – Arturo usually wakes up, unless he worked overnight which he is often required to do. We have smoothies and clean up breakfast;

    three-smoothies

    Smoothies are my / our breakfast of choice. They always contain Arbonne’s vegan protein powder, veggies and fruit. See #yysmoothies on my Instagram @yasminyoga or facebook @yasyoga

  • 9:00am – Walk or Gym – I take Koji out for a nice long ‘power walk’ during which time I listen to a podcasts or audio books like The Miracle Morning. Alternatively, I will go the the gym below our Loft in Old Montreal. Trainer Roberto Starnino makes me a new program every month and I like the balance between yoga & strength training.

Miracle Morning Routine Part II

  • 10:00am – Koji Naps. I shower & dress;
  • 10:30am – Coffee & toast (or tea and/or granola) + Emails – I am not hungry in the first thing morning, so mid-morning I have a coffee or tea plus a small something like gluten-free toast and sit down to respond to emails, texts or messages. I often spend 30 mins or so catching up on things and organizing. I may also schedule meetings or calls during this time;
  • 11:00am – Arbonne stuff – place orders, follow up calls and/or book appointments. My Arbonne business is important as it  allows me freedom and flexibility to travel six month a year, so I make time for it everyday;
  • 11:30am – Koji Wakes up from his nap – Booby milk, diaper change and play;
  • 12:30pm – Lunch – Koji typically has a veggie patty, avocado and steamed veggies. I have a big salad, soup or steamed veggies over quinoa or rice (I try to have 6-8 cups of veggies a day);

    morning-walk-koji

    I walk with Koji on my back about four mornings a week. He is very happy in this carrier. I will often listen to podcasts or audio books during our walk.

  • 1:00pm – Arturo and I switch parenting duties. Three mornings and two afternoons a week, I am the ‘parent on-duty’ and then we switch and Arturo becomes the parent on duty. Since we both work from home, this works really well as it allows us both to have time for ourselves and work on our respective businesses.

My Miracle Morning routine has been very helpful for me, as I tend to be a little disorganized and easily distracted. Having daily rituals allow me to save my creative ideas and decision making power for important stuff rather than on mundane things like what to wear, what to have for breakfast and when to exercise. I don’t always follow this perfectly, but it does help me stay on track and sets up the rest of my day beautifully.

Love to hear about your Miracle Morning Routines, so please share.

And if you are interested in starting / restarting a healthy routine with guidance, you may enjoy my 30 Day Healthy Living Program.

 

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Day 108 – Yoga on Facebook Live

It was still dark in Panama when I unrolled my mat and set up my computer on Day 108 (April 18) to lead a yoga practice on Facebook Live. We did 108 sun salutations together online and by the time we finished, the sun was high in sky, Koji was miraculously still sleeping and over 500 people had tuned in!

I am loving doing yoga practice on Facebook Live!  So cool.

I am so happy & grateful I was able to share a yoga practice on Facebook Live this year.

I am so happy & grateful I was able to share a yoga practice on Facebook Live this year.

In various ancestral traditions, and particularly in the yoga tradition, 108 is a sacred number which represents union, spirituality and infinity. The 108th day of the year is the perfect occasion to celebrate this tradition together by joining in a practice of 108 sun salutations. This day is also the anniversary of my 108 days of 108 Sun Salutations. This epic adventure led to becoming the first woman to break the Guinness World Record in 2010 for the Longest Yoga Marathon (32 hours) and raising nearly $15,000 for charity.

(Side note: My Guinness World Record was recently broken by an Indian woman who practiced for almost 60 hours. I just found out and I’m actually pretty happy about this. It’s about time the record was broken and good on her. It’s an unbelievable experience and I am happy to share it. )

This year’s Day 108 practice was really beautiful. Despite being far away, I was so happy to connect with students online via live boardcast. If only this technology had been around in 2010, I might have been able to share my yoga marathon on Facebook Live and maybe we would have raised more funds for the Stephen Lewis Foundation. Isn’t it crazy how fast things change? Who knows, maybe one day, after I’m gone, people will be able to practice yoga with my hologram!

Click here to see the video of the yoga practice on Facebook Live. (I have some technical difficulties, and the video recorded sideways, but I am working on editing.)


 

Timeline of Day 108 Celebrations

2011 - We did 54 Moon Salutations by candle light.

2011 – We did 54 Moon Salutations by candle light.

2010: Yasmin begins a 108 sun salutations for 108 continuous days with the intention to study the yoga practice in the microcosm of surya namaskar. This was life changing.

2011: Yasmin teaches a quiet candlelit practice at her former studio, Om West Holistic Centre in Pointe Claire along with 25 close students. This is also the last day of 54 days of 54 Moon Salutations, her second long practice.

2012: It’s a Leap Year, so Day 108 is on April 17 this year. Yasmin co-leads a smallish but powerful group practice at Lululemon Athletica on St Denis along with several other yoga teachers from around Montreal.

2013: Yasmin organizes a big multi-studio 108 practice connected by video conference. Yasmin is at Studio Wanderlust in Plateau Montreal and there are five other locations around Montreal (Le Studio Wanderlust, Naada Yoga, HappyTree Yoga, Viveka Yoga & H~OM) hosting simultaneous community practices of 108 Sun Salutations.

yy-108-2014

2014 – 108 Sun Salutations at Loft108

Yoga teacher David Good also organized a practice in Toronto. Over 30 yoga teachers led sets of Surya Namaskar and we had nearly 200 participants joining us. There are also several online participants tuning in some as far away as Europe and Vancouver!

 

2014: H’OM Yoga Centre and Moksha Yoga NDG join Yasmin and offer yoga mala practices. More than 100 people participate. Gigi Cohen formerly of Café Juicy Lotus caters a delicious dinner for after the yoga practice.

2015: There is a full house at Loft108 for a yoga mala practice led by various Montreal Yoga Teachers, but Yasmin is in Las Vegas for a conference and practices in the dessert with four friends. She sends a greeting video and more than $600 of donations are collected for la Fondation du Dr. Julien, a Montreal-based organism which ensures the development of Social Paediatrics in Community for the benefit of as many children as possible.

yy-108-2015

2015 – Yoga in the Nevada Desert

 

 

2016: Yasmin is pregnant with Koji. She offers a recorded 108 Sun Salutation practice for free and encourages students to ‘pay it forward’ by donating to their favourite charity or doing some other random act of kindness.

2017: Yasmin is in Panama and sees an opportunity to connect to her community anyway by offering the yoga practice on Facebook Live. The feed reaches close to 3,000 people and more than 500 tune in. Moksha Yoga NDG in Montreal do their own Day 108 practice. Out in Victoria, British Columbia, Carlo Kuhlenschimdt, Yasmin’s senior student and sometimes teaching assistant, organizes 108 sun salutations for charity.

 

 

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Kutumba Energy: Acroyoga duo

Kutumba Energy is an acroyoga duo based in Montreal comprised of Anna Kowaleski & Jaime Schmidt-Little. They will be teaching at Loft108, so we thought you should get to know them! Cousins Anna & Jaime became hooked on acroyoga after just one class purchased on GroupOn. Originally from Ontario, Kutumba Energy is known for highly creative acroyoga photos on Instagram and their accessible yoga classes for everyone. Coming up, the duo are leading two workshops and a six week acroyoga series at Loft108. (click here for details)

We thought you should get to know Kutumba Energy. Here’s our interview with them:

Cousins Anna (left) & Jaime (right) became close after moving to Montreal.

Cousins Anna (left) & Jaime (right) became close after moving to Montreal.

1- What does Kutumba Energy signify and why did you pick this name?  

Kutumba Energy comes from a Sanskrit expression that we connected with – “vasudhaiva kutumbakam” which means, “the world is one family”. Our family is extremely important to us, and they are the reason we became the people we are today. We wanted to be able to share this feeling of closeness, and safety, and love with the rest of the world – make everyone part of our family! Kutumba means family, so the name literally means Family Energy – which is the vibe we are going for.

 

2- How did you start practicing Acroyoga together?

Anna was looking to reconnect to her yoga practice in 2014 and at the time could only afford to buy a GroupOn pass to a studio near her downtown, and she immediately connected with the teacher, who also taught Acroyoga classes. We went to one Acroyoga class “just to try it out” and became instantly hooked. We’ve been practicing non-stop ever since.

 

3- We know your cousins and close friends, we you always close growing up?

We were somewhat close, but definitely not how we are now. We always lived far apart growing up and only saw each other at family get-togethers. We became extremely close when we both moved to Montreal. As we are the only two members of our family living in Quebec, our relationship is very important to us. We have been very fortunate to also have similar passions and life goals, and to have become not only yoga partners, but business partners as well.

The four pillars of Kutumba Energy are: Communication, Community, Connection & Creativity.

The four pillars of Kutumba Energy are: Communication, Community, Connection & Creativity.

 

4- You have a very cool Instagram account with so many nice photos. What or who inspires you?

Inspiration comes from everywhere! Much of our inspiration comes from other Acroyogis’ social media accounts. It also comes from our many amazing teachers and fellow Acroyogis who we practice with. We also draw inspiration from the beauty of Montreal itself. We’re not from here, and we’re not sure if the novelty will wear off eventually, but the city is just so beautiful!

 

5- Some of your photos look very acrobatic. What would you say the difference is between acrobatics & acroyoga?

We’ve never actually trained in acrobatics, so for us, we can only really speak about it from the Acroyoga standpoint. Acroyoga fuses acrobatics, yoga and Thai yoga massage. Although much of our practice is very energetic, it always incorporates proper technique, alignment and breath, and can also incorporate very relaxing and healing partner/group work. From what we know of acrobatics, it is much more just an emphasis on the aesthetic and the physical acts.

 

6- How do you hope to serve the world through your work? What imprint would you like to leave behind?

For this photoshoot, Anna made sparkly tutus for them to wear. The theme was 'Urban Fairytale'.

For this photoshoot, Anna made sparkly tutus for them to wear. The theme was ‘Urban Fairytale’.

Acroyoga is an amazing tool for helping to get past perceived limitations. Neither of us come from an acrobatic or gymnastic background of any sort and we were amazed at what we could do (in fact it has changed our entire lives!). We also hope to create a sense of family wherever we go and with whomever we meet in our journey, and we believe that through the beautiful practices of yoga and Acroyoga, we can help others to see that at the core, we are all the same and we all belong. By working together and cultivating patience, community, communication, connection and creativity, we can build not only a wonderful Acroyoga practice, but we can also change the world.

 

Acroyoga & Kutumba Energy Events:

Cloud Forest Yoga & Hiking Retreat Panama

Our Cloud Forest Yoga & Hiking Retreat Panama just ended and it was so spectacular. I am thrilled that we are going back for a second Yoga & Hiking Retreat in February. This upcoming retreat will also include a certificate in Ayurveda + Yoga Healing I which can be used as continuing education credits or put towards a 200 or 300 hour yoga teacher training.

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Yoga with hummingbirds

My husband, Arturo and I discovered the Mount Totumas ecolodge about a year ago when we were looking for places of interest near Volcán, a small town near the boarder of Costa Rica where Arturo spent his summers growing up. It took us a couple of attempts to reach Mount Totumas, because to get there requires a 4x4WD vehicle and a lot of patience. It is 10 kms (or 45 mins) on a rocky mountain path into the “Cloud Forest“.  When we finally arrived, we were blown away about its beauty and remote tranquility. We knew in an instant that we wanted to host a Yoga & Hiking Retreat here.

Perched high in the mountains boarding La Amistad National Park, Mount Totumas ecolodge sits 6,300 ft above sea level at the foothills of myriad hiking and nature paths. We trekked through first and second generation rainforests, to waterfalls, hot springs, highland pastures and a coffee orchard. The air is fresh and when the clouds part at night, the sky is a blaze with stars that actually twinkle. It is an idealic setting for a retreat.

Our group arrived on Friday Nov. 26, just days after the tropical storm/ hurricane Otto ripped through Panama causing torrential rains, landslide and school closures across the country. Panama doesn’t get hurricanes, so this was historic.

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What a joy to hike with Koji! He was a trooper!

We drove in convoy along the above mentioned 4x4WD road and as we approached the second of two rivers, it was clear that our CRV would not make it across the swollen waters. So we left it on the side of the road and squeezed into the other vehicles (baby Koji too!) more equipped for deep water. The journey was a nice little adventure and the challenging drive on the mountain road made us feel all that much more removed from the civilized chaos of our daily lives.

Because we arrived at the end of a hurricane and in last days of rainy season, most mornings were clear and sunny. The clouds and rains moved in just after lunch, which made napping and restorative yoga practices all that much more peaceful.

Our Cloud Forest Yoga & Hiking Retreat Panama days looked like this, although the timing of activities was flexible :

  • 7:00 am Wake up, tea, greens and/or fresh locally grown coffee – coffee is the hidden gem of Panama, artisanal and incredible;
  • 7:30 – 8:45 am  Meditation & Yoga flow practice overlooking the rainforest canopy – we frequently stopped to observe exotic birds and monkeys playing in nearby trees;

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    Ayurveda Yoga Flow practices are for everyone.

  • 9:00 am Breakfast of pancakes, oatmeal, eggs or granola;
  • 9:30 / 10 am Departure for hiking – slow trek, pausing to observe and appreciate the miraculous nature surrounding us;
  • 12:30 / 1 pm  Lunch of homemade soup and corn bread or tortillas;
  • 1:30 – 3:00 pm Free time – napping, reading, colouring, day dreaming, etc.;
  • 3:00 – 4:30 pm Yoga practice – restorative, long hold poses, myo-fascial release work, breathing exercises and/or partner yoga, all workshop style;
  • 4:30- 5:30 pm Hummingbird Happy Hour – hummingbirds are very active at this time, so we watched up to 17 different species of hummingbirds swarm around 6+ feeders on the “hummingbird deck”. These little birds are so active that feeders need to be refilled twice daily! 
  • 5:30 – 7:00 pm Late afternoon session – journaling, ayurveda workshop, discussion or free time;
  • 7:00 pm Dinner – delicious fresh meals that catered to all tastes and diets: curries (chicken or veg), lasagna, ratatouille, fish, etc.
  • 8:00 pm Evenings – free time, insect observation (amazing bugs!), movie night, spa night, or discussions;
    + usually an early bedtime around 10pm.

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    Homemade meals made with love.

The owners of Mount Totumas were fantastic. Alma created superb restaurant quality meals for us and made us all feel at home. Jeffrey has a background in biology and ecology and generously shared his knowledge, passion and excitement for birds, flowers, plants, monkeys, etc. with us during our hikes. In short, being at Mount Totumas was amazing experience, kind of like walking through the pages of National Geographic magazine.

 

Here are some of the highlights shared by the group since the retreat:

Seeing three species of monkeys: Howler monkeys, spider monkeys and capuchin monkeys. The spider monkeys are acrobatic and followed us throughout one of our hikes. 

The natural hot springs were so soothing.

The amazing food clearly made with love.

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A natural spa! Hot springs and cool river water!

Seeing how coffee is grown, harvested, roasted was really cool and so was tasting it!

Having a chance to concentrate on developing and deepening a daily yoga and meditation practice in nature.

Spending time with like-minded individuals and getting to know people for who they truly are.

For me, being able to teach, share what I love, spend time and have my husband, parents and baby join me on this adventurous Cloud Forest Yoga & Hiking Retreat Panama.

 

 

Thank you to all participants, to my adventurous husband and to my amazing teaching assistant Carlo Kuhlenschimdt, whose thai yoga massage techniques were appreciated by all.

The best part is that we have another Cloud Forest Yoga & Hiking Retreat Panama Feb. 25 – Mar 3.  Would you like to join us?

 

Myofascial release with foam roller

Introduction 

Please meet Amanda Roemer, an expert in myofascial release with foam roller and balls. She is also wonderful yoga teacher, hockey player, specialized kinesiologist and recent 500 hour graduate of my yoga teacher training. Amanda gave a workshop on myofascial and trigger point releasing at Loft108, my studio in Old Montreal, Sunday May 1, 2016.

Here is here’s her article on the subject:

Self myofascial release with foam roller 

In 2008 after several hockey and sports related injuries, I began to search for something to compliment my yoga practice and release the restricted areas of my body. I started experimenting with self-massage and release techniques using a foam roller. The results were immediate. I could get rid of headaches, body pain, joint pain, sleep better and had more energy! It was amazing. I started to teach this technique to my post-rehabilitation clients, my athletes, and blended it with Yoga years ago. It was very well received! It became a part of my own practice, my life, and a way to help people. I have now been teaching this technique ever since. Below is a brief description of what Myofascial and Trigger Point Releasing is and some of my favorite releases!

What is facia?

The main tissues in our body that are affected when doing these release techniques are fascia and muscles. Fascia is a dynamic and interactive tissue because it will change depending on what you do…or don’t do. One function of muscle fascia is to reduce friction of muscular force. Fascia is compromised when circulation to an area is reduced. Adhesions or ‘ knots’ can form as the ‘fibres’ of the tissues stick or clot together. Trigger points are portions of muscle where there is a small involuntary contraction that will feel like a ‘knot’ and is painful when pressure is applied. Trigger points weaken muscles because they can no longer relax and will stress the points where they attach to bone causing joint pain.


Self myofascial release and trigger point releasing is a simple way to restore normal function back into tissues. By applying slow moderate pressure you force-feed blood/oxygen to the muscles creating heat and separation of muscle fibers, which increases elasticity and relieves pain significantly! Here are some of favorite release exercises.

Hips (Piriformis) HipRoll

Target the area just above the boney part of your butt. Begin sitting on the roller with foot crossed over opposite knee. Pull the knee toward the opposite shoulder so you can target the belly of the muscle. You can also use a ball in the hip area and move the leg by bending the knee and moving the leg outwards and then inwards repeatedly.

Benefits: Sciatica relief, reduce pain in the lower back and buttocks, improved range of motion and rotation of the leg and hip.

 

 

Lateral thigh and hipQuadITRoll3

this can be painful for some people and can take a few months get on top of the tension in this area. Use a softer rolling tool to start. Roll back and forth slowly with deep breaths. Do smaller movements over any area that feels tight. Roll the area just in front and just behind the IT band. This would be equivalent to rolling just in front and just behind the side-seam of your pants.

This can be more effective because you are now addressing the quadriceps tissue that is also tight and binds to the IT band. Use your top leg and supporting arm to adjust the amount of pressure on your thigh.

 

Spine Middle and upper back

SpineRoll2

Roll along the spine from your kidneys (no lower than your belly button), to your upper back. Roll back and forth slowly with deep breaths. Do smaller movements over any area that feels tight. It’s normal to feel pops and cracks! Complimentary Posture – back bends will feel better after this release due to opening of the middle and upper back where back bending is often restricted.

 

 

 

If you missed Amanda’s workshop on Muscle tension release & Foam Roller May 1, you may want to check out Dawn Mauricio’s Therapy Ball Rolling Workshop coming up in June!

Date:  June 19, 2016,  2-4pm
Address:  Loft 108, 377 St Paul Street W, #200, Montreal, QC

Related:

Day 108 – Free Yoga Mala Download

Tomorrow is Day 108, the 108th day of the year! This year, I am offering you a free Yoga Mala download, a guided audio practice leading you through 108 Sun Salutations.  Click here to register & get your free download!

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Day 108 is a communal celebration. Consider gathering friends!

Day 108

Day 108 holds a special place in my heart not only because the number 108 highly auspicious, but it is also the 6th anniversary of the start of my 108 Days of 108 Sun Salutations, a journey that lead me to breaking the Guinness World Record for the longest yoga marathon in 2010. To celebrate, normally, I co-organize a huge Yoga Mala (108 Sun Sal) practice in Montreal & elsewhere, but this year, I decided to offer something different : a guided audio Yoga Mala 108 Sun Salutation practice available for download.

Pay it forward

On April 17 (tomorrow) this practice will be offered for free. However, I ask that you to pay it forward: help a friend or family member, make a donation to a charity of your choice or contribute some other kindness to the world and tell me about it. My 108 x 108 challenge was all about sharing love. We rallied the community, practiced in parks, rooftops, studios and kitchens, and we raised nearly $15,000 for charity. It was the most powerful experience of my life and changed me completely. I blogged the whole 108 days. You can read it here.

How to do a Yoga Mala

Now, 108 Sun Salutations is not easy per se. It’s a moving meditation, a prayer set in motion and it will surely uplift your spirit in ways you can’t imagine. Know why you are practicing.  Have a clear intention. It have be for yourself or you can dedicate the practice to someone else’s healing.

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Day 108 : A Yoga Mala practice is a prayer in motion.

Also, you don’t have to do the whole Yoga Mala. This practice was recorded in three sets of 36 Sun Salutations (thanks to the help of my wonderful student Carlo Kuhlenschmidt, who is also a fantastic yoga teacher). You can do the first set only or take breaks as you need to. Click here for more tips.

The benefits of doing a yoga mala practice are abundant and will be felt over the coming days. I would love to hear about your experience and I would love to hear about “how you paid it forward”. Please share it with me here or via email : yfgow @ yasminyoga.com

REGISTER NOW

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