Thank You for Your Labors

This weekend is a long, holiday weekend in the U.S. Monday marks Labor Day, generally a weekend in which everyone gets together with friends and family to eat, drink, and be merry knowing that they don’t have to go to work on Monday. Labor Day was started in the late 19th century by union workers  and laborers as a way to recognize those that work day by day. It has been an official American holiday since 1894, always falling on the first Monday of September. This year I decided to get back to the roots of the holiday and celebrate some of my favorite activists, commending them for their dedicated work – on top of the typical barbecues and bonfires.


 

Jamie Oliver

You might just think of Jamie Oliver as a chef with a funny accent, but he’s much more than that. Jamie digs into our modern industrialized food system and delivers displeasing knowledge. (Pink slime is a prominent example.) His primary work was with school lunches in both his home U.K. and also here in the U.S. That’s noteworthy, a famous chef who champions for quite literally the little guys.

Food these days has transformed into chemically-laden, pesticide-pumped, GMO, never-rotting, highly processed science of convenience. Now, do I eat processed food now and again? Yes, but I try to keep it out of my kitchen and my body as much as possible and to educate myself on nutrition and health. Do I think that America’s and the world’s children should be protected from being fed it daily in their homes and public school cafeterias? Definitely.

Jamie had a reality show back in 2009 in which he embedded himself in America’s most unhealthy city, Huntington, West Virginia. He investigated what the children were in eating in their schools and it wasn’t appetizing. The rest of the series Jamie worked with schools and the community to educate them about eating fresh and healthy foods as opposed to quick and easy processed food, attempting to alter the way that food was prepared in the schools and homes in the area.

Since then Jamie has spearheaded a Food Revolution, click on the link and read articles about how to be healthy and current write-ups on the food industry.

 

Safia Minney of People Tree

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“slow fashion” fair laobr

Another Brit is my notable hero – Safia Minney, founder & CEO of People TreePeople Tree clothing, a U.K. based, slow fashion company. I first heard of Safia in a great documentary, The True Cost which is about the horrendous industry that is Fast Fashion. In the documentary Safia is not only inspiring because she is a female CEO, but also because she displays her fluent Japanese, which she uses when working with craftsmen and women in Japan who make pieces of art for People Tree’s clothing. Having a second language has always been inspiring to me. If you get a chance to watch the documentary I highly suggest it as it outlines the problems with the fashion industry today while at the same time giving alternatives such as People Tree.

But back to Safia, she is a woman of power who promotes fair trade in an industry that generally treats it’s labor extremely poorly. People Tree not only pays attention to the way that the people creating the clothing is treated, but they also source traditionally made, artisanal materials that help keep traditional crafts alive. The company also uses organic cottons and other sustainable materials that are better for our bodies and the earth.

Leo & Jin of BAPS

BAPS stands for Busan Abandoned Pet Sanctuary and is a dog rescue organization in Busan, South Korea. Although BAPS has grown in the years with many expat and some Korean volunteers helping the organization, donating time and money, and fostering and adopting furry best friends; the vast majority of the work done for the completely privately run dog rescue organization is done by two people alone. They are Leo and Jin and what they do inspires me completely. Leo and Jin are a married couple, one expat one Korean, who started BAPS in 2008 and have saved the lives of hundreds of Korean street dogs and abandoned pets.

They not only run the shelter, but they also have a dog kenneling business, and have recently started an international pet travel company although they have been assisting with international travel of countless dogs to their new forever homes for years (including my very own Freddie.)

The Day We Fostered Fred

We instantly fell in love with that little face with big ears the first time we walked him and he kept looking back to make sure that we were still with him.

The kindest, most from-the-heart work that these two do is run a related organization called Wendy’s Last Meals. This is heartbreaking work that I am certain I would not be strong enough emotionally to do. As the name suggests, the work involved is providing a final meal to dogs at a pound in Busan whom have not been claimed or adopted and therefore face certain euthanasia. You can read more about the process and how you can help by donating by clicking here. Before the meals are given, Jin takes pics of the dogs in a last hope effort of getting them rescued, so if you’re looking to find your new partner in crime, then have a look at the beauties that are waiting for you.


 

There is great work being done around the globe to help fight for those dis-empowered to do so for themselves such as school children, laborers working in developing nations to produce our clothing, and dogs left on mountain sides by families unwilling to continue raising them.  I am so grateful for all that they do and am motivated to do my own positive work to make a difference in my community.

Who are you tipping your hat to on this Labor Day weekend that works hard and inspires you?

Yoga for Diving & Snorkeling

20151223_132208.jpgIt is a beautiful thing to have the opportunity to delve into the seas and oceans to view and be with the fish, coral, and other beings that live below. On my recent trip to Panglao, a small island off of Bohol which is part of the thousands of islands that make up the Philippines, I packed my fins in my bag and got in the water to see some amazing sights. Blog post on those specific experiences in the future, but for now here are my pre-snorkel/pre-dive yoga tips.

 

Isolate

Because it’s all about those hips, bout those hips… and ankles. Focusing on twisting from side to side at your torso and hips will greatly improve your propulsion through the water with fins on. Here are some yoga asanas that will get your body twisted.

Torso Twists

  • Sukhasana/Easy Seat Twist: Sit cross legged. Feel grounded through the sit bones, tall all the way up the spine and through the crown of the head, knees fall out to the side. Bring awareness to the breath for 30 second, making it long and calm. Then on an exhalation cross your left hand to your right knee and place your right fingertips back behind you. Stay and hold for 5 breaths. Inhale back to center and exhale to the left side. Hold 5 breaths. Continue for 3 rounds.

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  • Anjaneyasana/Low/High Lunge Twist: From Downdog come into a low lunge, right foot forward, right knee directly over ankle. Lower your left knee to the mat, toes tucked. Bring your arms to your heart in prayer position. Inhale, lift your left elbow high to the sky, exhale and cross the left elbow to the right knee. Try not to crunch the left ribs, but instead create space there. Use the left elbow against the right knee for resistance and extension. Option to lift the left knee off the mat and extend the leg straight. Hold for 5 breaths. Switch sides.

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  • Dynamic Standing Twist: Stand with feet hip distance and a slight bend in both knees. Let your arms hang limp by your side, shoulders down your back. Inhale and twist left, swinging the arms with you so that the right arm gently hits the area of the left kidney. Inhale and twist to the right, this time the left arm hits the right back body in the space between the hip and ribs. Continue moving left and right while swinging the arms and gently hitting the back. Keep the bend in the knees the entire time. Focus on the twist coming from the abdominal area. This is the part of your body that you will mostly use when snorkeling. The fins makes it easy to move yourself through the water primarily from the torso twist, and when you have it down well you won’t even need to use the arms, freeing them up for your go-pro!

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Open Ankles

  • Adho Mukha Svanasana/Downdog Variation: Come in to Downdog, feet hip distance. Lift the right foot slightly off the floor, point the toes and cross the foot over the body to place the top of the toes (your toenails) to the left of your left foot. Breathe energy into the top foot and ankle area, where your shoe laces are. Switch sides after 5-10 breaths.

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  • Ardha Hanumanasana/Half Split Variation: Kneel on your knees and swing your right foot out front, don’t let the right hip change position when you do this, make sure that it stays in line with the left hip. Flex the right heel and lower the hands to blocks or the floor. Breathe to stretch the back of the leg. After 3 breaths, extend the right toes to the floor, hold and breathe for 5 breaths. Repeat on the left side. Opening the top of the foot, front ankle area will increase the effectiveness of your fin use while snorkeling or diving.

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Breathwork to Calm the Mind

  • Slow it Down: I often instruct students to lengthen their breath at the very beginning of class and to attempt to keep their breath at the long and steady pace during the entire class, no matter how challenging the poses become. The same technique can improve your diving & snorkeling, because although it’s a beautiful and tranquil world down there, feelings of stress and anxiety can arise by putting yourself in a whole new environment.
    • Slow Breath: Before getting in the water sit, or stand and breathe as slowly as you can. Begin breathing just through the nose like you do for yoga.
    • Diving/Snorkeling Breath: While diving & snorkeling you will breathe only through your mouthpiece for an extended length of time and venturing into the unknown vastness of the deep deep ocean can sometimes cause panic. Practice lengthening the breath, and especially lengthen the exhalation. Make the exhalation longer than the inhalation which lowers the heart rate, calming you down. Do this only through the mouth only for a few breaths to stimulate the mouthpiece, or do it right when you enter the water with the mouthpiece already on. When diving, use the deep breath only as a calming technique and ask your instructor for the appropriate breaths to be taking during the dive as you don’t want to suck up your tank too quickly!

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Have a great time exploring the surface and depths of the beauty below. For tips on how to keep coral safe while snorkeling, read this blog post about eco-packing which includes tips for the harsh sun and against harsh sunscreens that can cause coral bleaching.

 

 

2015 in review, report by wordpress

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this humble little blog.

It’s been just over a year that I’ve been sharing my thoughts, ideas,  and inspirations. Thank you to everyone who clicked and read.

I’m very much looking forward to continue sharing in 2016!

Here’s an excerpt from karabemisyoga’s 2015 report:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 3,900 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Beginners’ Yoga with Kara – Tuesdays, June & July

My good friend and studio owner, Mindy Sisco, is ditching town for a few months to lead workshops in the United States and get some training in acro a littler further north in Montreal. While she’s away being amazing at what she does, I’ll be subbing at her studio, leading class every Tuesday through July.

The class that I’ll be leading is a Beginners’ Yoga class. All of my classes are designed with beginners in mind, as well as advanced students, but teaching this class gives me an opportunity to really break it down for students (which all levels benefit from.)

During the eight week session, classes will teach students about the basics of standard yoga poses, give great alignment cues to improve studio/home practice, and utilize a lot of props. As the weeks progress students will notice a building of strength, flexibility (of body and mind,) and understanding of yoga. Poses will also progress into more playful and empowering balancing poses and inversions.

Classes begin this Tuesday, June 9th and run every Tuesday through July 28th. Directions and costs can be found on the Facebook page.

Get Outside! Take Your Yoga Practice into Nature

One of the best things about yoga is that you can practice it anywhere. It can be done with or without a yoga mat in nearly any space that is big enough to outstretch your arms, whether that be in your tiny Korean apartment, at an airport during a layover, or at work on a break. If you need a pick-me-up or have some tightness that you want to breathe into, then all you have to do is a few breathing exercises and simple poses. Another way to enjoy yoga is to practice in the great outdoors.

There’s something about feeling the sun on your face and listening to the birds chirp that makes it a much more enjoyable experience.

Here are my recommendations for practicing in the elements.

  • Find an Outdoor Class Most people like to practice yoga outside and as the weather heats up, classes begin to move from the studio to the boardwalk. Check around your community for classes held at beaches, parks, or other outdoor venues. When the weather permits, there are classes held here in Busan on the boardwalk at the beach.
  • Practice Solo If you feel experienced enough to practice without the guidance of a teacher, then take your mat along on a walk and find a nice quiet place to roll it out.
  • Location It will be more peaceful to practice somewhere that isn’t very populated. If your closest park or beach gets really busy then consider making it a priority to get up early and beat the crowds. It might be hard to answer to the alarm clock to go out for a sunrise yoga session, but you might find that it’s worth the serenity. Plus, starting your day with yoga clears your mind and opens your body up for whatever tasks lay ahead.
  • Surface In order to keep your wrists safe during chaturunga, it’s best to practice on a hard, flat, leveled surface. Avoid sand, or thick grassy lawns. Find a flat piece of ground or platform to practice on. A mat is not necessary, but will keep your hands and feet free of dirt, which could be a distraction while you practice. If you’re travelling or heading somewhere afterwards where you don’t want to be taking your mat, then consider purchasing a travel mat, yoga towel, using a beach towel, or some nifty little yoga socks and gloves which have sticky little grippy, circular, textured pads on them. Practicing a sequence of only standing poses means that you won’t even have to remove your sneakers.

    Comfy and useful.

    Comfy and useful.

  • Layer Up Wear layers for wind or clouds. Be sure to apply sunscreen to exposed skin to keep safe from sun burn or unwanted tan lines. Layering allows you to keep warm on the walk to your practice space and shed your top layer after the sun salutations that will warm you up quickly. Once it’s time for Savasana, it’s a good idea to put your layers back on and have something to shield your eyes from the sun, such as an eye pillow or just use the sleeve of your jacket.

An outdoor practice came to the forefront of my mind recently after hearing some shocking statistics on a podcast. The author being interviewed, Dr. Scott Sampson, had recently written a book titled, “How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling In Love With Nature,” and the tagline of the interview was that American children on average spend only a measly FOUR TO SEVEN MINUTES A DAY PLAYING OUTDOORS!!! That finding deserves an all caps delivery; can you believe it?!?!

I have the good fortune of having an extremely handsome dog companion who comes with the responsibility of needing a walk two to three times per day, which means that I have to spend time outdoors rain or shine every day. I also live close enough to my work that I commute by bike, so that’s another 30 minutes per day during the work week that I spend outdoors by necessity. I also have a very active partner and friends that enjoy being out, so a lot of our weekend activities are outside. Even as an adult I spend my play time outside, and it’s much more than seven minutes.

When I was a child, I remember spending hours outdoors playing with my twin sister and our best friend. During the short Western New York summer months we would explore our expansive yards catching fireflies until our mothers called us in. So it’s hard for me to even fathom children of today not having that experience and it’s also really sad. I witness my Korean students live their lives indoors for the majority of the day, shuffling from school, to academy, to home where they might continue their studies well after dark meeting with tutors or doing homework.

During the interview the author made an excellent point, which boils down to this: If today’s children aren’t spending time outdoors, then they are not going to appreciate nature now or in the future, and therefore, who will be tomorrow’s environmentalists; who will fight to protect national parks, wetlands, and the environment in general in the future? Pull the plug on the screen, throw on a jacket, and get out there already, and be sure to bring the little ones along for sure.


Beach yoga classes in Busan and other outdoor seasonal events such as equinox and solstice events can be found via the Busan Yoga & Meditation page on Facebook.

Beach Yoga

Preparing to lead a beach yoga class.

Creative Back Bends

Recently, I had an opportunity to co-host a small event on a warm Sunday afternoon. The event was an art and yoga meet up through the website http://www.meetup.com. Earlier in the year I had attended an art therapy meetup event in Busan which I really enjoyed. The hostess Justina, is a Korean art therapist who lived and worked abroad for many years; she has been offering meetups in which participants create art together in a group setting. Justina and I discussed hosting an event together that involved yoga and art, which materialized just two weeks ago, and I believe that it was a success!

 

When I considered what I was going to teach for the event, I knew right away that I wanted the lesson to have an element of community. The reason being that I knew some group art would be made together by the participants. To create a sense of community, I started class with a chant of Om. I absolutely love the feeling that I get when I close my eyes and make the single syllabic sound with other yogis. Om creates this vibration that encircles everyone and brings the class together. It’s natural to have a sense of nervousness or roll your eyes at a room full of adults chanting together, but it’s something that should be tried. There’s no need to feel shy because all eyes are closed, just follow the lead of the teacher and ride it out.

After the opening chant, I led the six participants through a quick 30 minute yoga session. I designed a class focused on heart opening. Practicing heart opening poses, such as a simple back bend in tadasana, help to open up the upper spine and back and are good to practice to create a sense of general openness in the body. Not only did I want everyone to feel open in their bodies but also in their hearts, open to the experience and to each other, and likewise open-minded.

group art work

Example of some group art work.

After the yoga we reconvened in a small room to start the art which Justina led. We created works individually and together. It was a fun afternoon and good experience for me as a teacher. Below are some poses that you can try before activities involving creativity.

 

 

 

  • Back Bend in Tadasana After warming up with some sun salutes, stand at the top of your mat with feet hip distance. Check your alignment, make sure that your feet are pointing directly forward and that your knees are above your ankles, your hips over your knees, and shoulders over your hips. From there, point your fingers up to the sky behind you and place your hands on your lower back, near the top of your pants. Hug your elbows in towards each other. On an inhalation, lift your chest and press through your hands to move your hips forward. Focus on opening through the chest. Gently release your head back, but if that causes you any discomfort, then tuck your chin to your chest. A slight bend through the knees may increase comfort. Hold for a few breaths. Return to standing on an inhalation.
  • Sphinx Pose Also known as, SalambaBhujangasana in Sanskrit, is one of my favorite back bending postures. It’s a very subtle pose that has great effect. This pose begins on the belly. Align your elbows directly under your shoulders. You should have a 90 degree angle, if you look at your elbow and your bicep is  touching your forearm, creating a long crease, then you probably need to bring your elbows up closer to the front of the mat. Spread your fingers wide and place your palms down directly in front of your elbows. On an inhalation,isometrically pull your arms back towards the back of your mat, whilst simultaneously pulling your sternum through your arms. Your body won’t actually move much, but imagine that you’re performing these actions and you will feel your lower back working to open your chest. If you have any pain in the low back, then decrease the action. Exhale to come out.

Assisting an event participant in sphinx pose.

Assisting an event participant in sphinx pose.

  • Back Bending Tree This is a fun variation of vrksasana or, tree pose that plays with balance. It’s best to try this at a wall for support. Stand with the left side of your body at the wall. Place the sole of your right foot either somewhere on your calf, low on the thigh (just above the knee,) or reach down for your right ankle and place your foot as high as you can on your inner left thigh. Never place the foot directly on the knee to avoid knee pain. Place your hands on your hips. Once you find your balance you can try to bring your hands to prayer at the chest. If that feels good then inhale your arms up over your head, palms face in towards each other. To bring the back bend into the pose, inhale and lift your chest up towards the sky while leaning back carefully. It will be a little bit easier to do this with your hands at prayer at the chest or on the hips as opposed to arms extended, so adjust your hand placement for more stability, or keep them overhead for a challenge. Use the wall to support you if you start to fall out. Just like in tadasana, be mindful of your neck and find a placement of your head that feels comfortable for you. Inhale to bring your torso back over your hips. Exhale and release the lifted leg down. Switch sides.

    Having fun in tree pose.

    Having fun in tree pose.

Have fun trying these poses that open you up both physically and mentally. Maybe they will open you up to feel inspired to create something for yourself, whether you create art, a meal, something with your hands, or simply openness in your body.


The event was an art and yoga meet up through a group called Busan Creative Art Healing : http://www.meetup.com/justina

Spring Equinox 108 Sun Salutations – Lesson in Discipline

Yep, you read that correctly, one-hundred-and-eight Sun Salutations. That was the number that a group of us in Busan, South Korea recently performed for the Spring Equinox to mark the arrival of spring. The number has significance, which I will not go into here, what I want to touch upon is the discipline required to perform such a feat.

It might be hard to grasp how big of a number that is in terms of performing a yoga sequence and in case you are not familiar with what a Sun Salutation is, let me first explain that. There are two primary, traditional Sun Salutations, known as Sun A and Sun B, or Surya Namaskara A and B in Sanskrit. They are routines of poses performed in a quick moving pace, one breath one movement. By their name, you may have guessed that they were traditionally performed in the morning at sunrise to salute the sun, giver of all energy. In western yoga classes they are still performed, but usually long after the hours of sunrise. If you’ve attended a yoga class, chances are are that you performed either, or both A and B as a warm up that begins the class. Typically a teacher guides students through 4-6 salutes as a warm up, and boy do they do the trick to warm up the muscles, so imagine how much heat is created performing 108!!

108

For this event there were six teachers who split the teaching. Each teacher had free reign as to which salute (A and/or B) and whatever modifications they wanted to add on. The first three teachers who taught added a lot of modifications to their sequences, which was a great workout and  a good mental practice. That first section was where the practice of discipline was really honed for me. Thoughts went through my mind such as,

“This is difficult, I wish I could take a rest, but no, keep enduring with everyone else!”

It truly helped to pump through the event with a group. We were all silently working towards the same goal.

You don’t have to be participating in a long event to struggle with endurance in yoga, in any yoga class or in your home practice, you might bump into big walls that try to push you down and defeat you. I have two views on how to react to those overbearing obstacles; first, succumb to the pressure and take a rest; second, kick up some dirt and plow through that bad boy.

To expand, during any physical activity it is good to be reminded and to remind yourself, that it is not necessary to overexert yourself. Not only is it not necessary, but it is generally not safe as injuries can arise. As a teacher, I remind my students to take child’s pose whenever they need to and I enjoy when I see students doing just that because I know that they’re listening to their bodies and giving themselves the rest that they need in the moment.

Saluting the sun.

Saluting the sun.

On the other hand, it’s also good to grit your teeth and go deeper.You have to ask yourself if you really need the break, or if you can push on and complete the pose or sequence (safely.) For if you always slumped into child’s pose instead of giving it one more go, you might never discover that you can accomplish a pose. Also, you wouldn’t be building the strength that comes with those trembling quads in your 42nd warrior pose of the afternoon.

After an intermission of moving entertainment by two fellow yogis, who perfored a stunning acro yoga sequence, we moved on to the last three teachers, I should mention that I was one of the teachers in the last set! At this event I was the final one to lead and for this reason, I switched my lesson plans up a little bit by removing all chaturungs to give achy wrists a break (did anyone just get Achy Breaky Heart in their head? If you didn’t, you do now!) Personally it wasn’t my wrists that needed the break as much as burning triceps! It was very rewarding as a teacher to be able to guide everyone through the final salutes and to give the cue of “Just three more.” and “Last one, you did it!” There were smiles and sighs at the completion of the event. And I’m sure we all learned a little something about ourselves in the push through those 108.

 


This event was organized by Kaizen yoga studio of Busan. It is the wonderfully talented and ambitios Mindy Sisco who has made the equinox and solstice events possible that I have been so fortunate to be a part of. Mindy and her business partner Simon have regular classes at their gym. Schedule and pricing can be found here.

Mindy and Simon of Kaizen.

Mindy and Simon of Kaizen.

 



Simon of Kaizen is credited with all photos of the Spring Equinox event used in this post.

“I’m bad at yoga” An Untruth of the Ego

Yoga is a practice of body and mind. By synching our breath with our movement, we bring ourselves into the present moment and forget about our worries or anxieties about the past or future, if only for an exhale. To be completely aware is something that needs to be developed and practiced, it does not come easily for most of us. In fact, our minds can often wander into a dark place- our ego.

This is a topic mentioned before in a previous post; it often happens that we got to a yoga class and instead of focusing our dristi (gaze of the eyes) where it should be, we let it roam around the room to our fellow classmates. In doing so, negative comparative thoughts can creep in such as, “Wow, she’s going so much deeper than I am.” or “I wish I wasn’t right next to this insanely flexible girl, I must look terrible.” A good thing to do if you find yourself thinking like that, is to take an audible exhale through the mouth, create a sound like a sigh, and as you do so, imagine that the exhale contains that negative thought and  through the sigh it has been expelled from you.

The ego doesn’t always put you down, sometimes it lifts you up. For example, you might hear the teacher give cues to come into a pose that is new to you, and wow! success! you can do this new and impressive looking pose. In that moment a smile should come to your face and you should feel proud and empowered by your practice. That’s a very healthy feeling to have. Yoga teachers want you to have that feeling in their classes, to explore your body and your limits and progress your practice, but a place that isn’t good to let your mind go to is to compare your practice with the other students in the class in a way that lifts yourself up above them. Don’t get cocky. Try your best not to compare for better or for worse, and if you do, use that breath as a tool to bring your mind into a neutral place focusing on the present again.

Another common happening in yoga is to compare yourself to yourself. You might find frustration when today’s bakasana (crow pose) is less steady than yesterday’s. Exhale it out and remember that your body will perform differently day-to-day depending on an array of factors such as the way you slept, stresses in your life that are causing you to lose focus, if you drank alcohol, etc. You will find differences in not only your balance day-to-day but also in your strength and flexibility.

Yoga is a skill like snowboarding.

Yoga is a skill like snowboarding.

My final thought (for today) on this is to remind you that yoga is a skill. I think that most people come to the conclusion that they have the same two legs and arms as everyone else in the room, so therefore they should be able to do the same things with their bodies. Yes, most of us have the same number of limbs, but they are not “the same.” Due to gender, natural flexibility, lifestyle, other areas of practice, all bodies are totally different. In terms of yoga as a skill, while teaching a class I likened yoga to snowboarding (or insert other individual-skill-based-sport,) you wouldn’t go snowboarding for your first time and feel down about the fact that other people at the resort were pulling tricks in the half-pipe and you could not. That would be an absurd thought to have, so why do people often think that way in yoga? Come to your mat again and again, and one day, maybe years away, you might drop into that half-pipe, but if you don’t, don’t worry about it, just enjoy where your practice is today.

To have thoughts like these are utterly normal while practicing yoga. I have had students come up to me and vocalize such thoughts by asking, “How were my poses today?” or “It’s been a while, so I’m bad.” and I reply to them by saying that there is no such thing and that their practice is perfect, for them, today. I’ll come out and admit that I still have these thoughts now and again, especially as a teacher, I sometimes think, “I should be able to do that- I’ve practiced long enough.” When my pesky mind goes into that dark corner, I smile, shake my head a little, and exhale it away.

Hosting Karma Yoga Classes

A karma yoga class is a class in which the payments are donated to a charity. As a teacher, they are very easy to  host and you do your part by donating the money, but also by teaching others about a charity or non-profit that has a lot of meaning to you (not to mention by giving everyone a well deserved yoga class!) Donations Only classes can be taught regularly or during special holidays or vacation times.I find that hosting karma yoga classes during holidays gives them just a little extra meaning; for example, I recently taught a class on Valentines Day, a great day to spread some love around. Here are some tips in hosting a karma yoga class.


Venue: 
Holding a donation based class outside at the beach or at a park is great, Beach Yogabecause no money gets lost to rent payments. When I first moved to Busan I hosted early morning beach yoga classes on the boardwalk and gave payments to my local non-profit of choice. Not much was raised, because not too many people are early risers, but every little bit counts!

Cost: Choose a minimum donation cost that is required, $5.00 is a good place to starDonationst. When I create my events I describe the cost as Minimum Donation of xxx, this way people might consider donating more. When class is finished and everyone is making their payments, I remind them that I have change for them if they need it, but if not their extra money is greatly appreciated by the organization. Many students will be generous.

Choose an Organization: Find a cause that means a lot to you personally and that you are knowledgeable enough about to tell others about in detail. At the beginning of the class, explain your organization of choice, where and how the money will be used, and other ways that people can help. Below is a description of the non-profit that I have been donating to.

BAPS- Busan Abandoned Pet Sanctuary

Busan Abandoned Pet Sanctuary is a privately run dog shelter in Busan, South Korea. The dedicated couple that run the shelter have rescued, medicated, and rehomed hundreds of dogs since 2008. Dogs have been saved from off the street and from the local pound; these are dogs that would have otherwise not had much of a chance at survival. BAPS is a no-kill shelter, so dogs are cared for until they are hopefully adopted for life. Money from donations goes to dog food, shelter upkeep, medications, male neutering, operations, etc.

My personal attachment to this non-profit is my love and joy, Fred, who I adopted from BAPS in 2011 with my boyfriend. He’s come a long way from his skin-diseased-street-dog-days and now lives a life of comfort, spending most of his days sleeping, curled up on my bed. He also loves to join me at beach yoga class. He takes a nice little nap in the sun while others flow.

To learn more about BAPS, visit their website or search for them on Facebook. Donations can be made within Korea by bank transfer or internationally by using Paypal. Information on how to donate is easily found on their website. There are even weekly dog walking volunteer events if you’re missing your furry loved one from back home, those can be found via Facebook.

Flow N Glow Event

This is a fun, laid back, and unique yoga event to both host and attend. I’ve had opportunities to co-host two previous events with another local teacher, both of which were well attended with students saying they had a good time. Recently I hosted a Flow N Glow, but this time solo as the other teacher was out of town on vacation. It’s a great event to hold in the cold months when not much else tends to go on.

Listed below are the vitals to hosting a successful Flow N Glow.

  1. The Studio– In order to get everyone shining their brightest, you’ll need backlights, the more the merrier. The space will have to be totally dark minus the backlights, so a space with not many windows is ideal. If there are windows, be sure to hold the event a while after the sun has set or block out the windows with some sort of opaque covering (bed sheet, cardboard, anything.)
  2. Things That Glow– UV Paint, glow in the dark stickers, and glow bracelets are what we’ve used. For my past event I chose not to provide glow sticks in order to reduce waste, but I didn’t discourage people from bringing their own. UV paint glows really well and is so much fun to apply. When planning be sure to give attendees at least 30 minutes to create their designs. Encourage everyone to wear white or neon clothes.
  3. Pumpin’ Playlist– Music is key for a dance inspired event. I took a lot of time to find out what songs are trending lately. If you go out, take note of what’s being played frequently. Be sure to include a range of styles to please a crowd. I included funk, pop, electronic, etc.
  4. Cleaning Supplies– The paint will come off throughout the night, especially if you get sweaty or spend time on the mat (on the belly or back.) Be respectful to the studio and be sure to clean up thoroughly afterwards. I provided my own home-made non-toxic cleaning spray.

And that’s how you host a Flow N Glow. One last, very important thing, be sure to advise students that not much alignment cueing will be given due to the loud music (and the lack of visibility for you as a teacher.) As always, it’s up to the practitioner themselves to keep their body safe. Encourage everyone to take child’s pose whenever, and as much as needed, and to only go as deep into a pose as they still feel comfortable in, and where they can maintain elongated breath. Glow on!

Photos by Nina- http://www.ninasn.com/