Heat Up Your Practice
Awkward Chair Squats
It’s the holiday season, meaning that many of us are scratching our heads trying to think of personal gifts to buy for friends, families, and partners that will make them happy. Buying gifts can be fun and enjoyable or annoying and boring. If you’re running out of ideas for what to get someone in your life who loves yoga, then let me help you out a bit.
Pay attention and get a sense of where your loved one enjoys practicing yoga. There is a chance that they have a preferred teacher or studio. It is highly likely that the studio that they prefer visiting sells gift cards and/or class passes. Class passes are electronic or are physical punch cards that give the buyer a discount on drop in prices. Generally the savings is enough to encourage students to buy passes instead of paying per class so that the student saves and the studio has . somewhat of a commitment from students of attending more than one class.
The best thing about buying a class pass or gift card is that not only are you encouraging the continuous healthy habit of going to yoga class, but you are also supporting a small, local business. Bonus! Many yoga studios are women owned!
These comfy organic cotton apparel items were recently gifted to me by my twin for our birthday and I instantly fell in love. For the environment and for my wallet, I try to only buy new yoga gear when I ‘need’ it, which isn’t often since I have a closet full already, which is because Fast Fashion is a major problem in our modern world, but there are some companies out there trying their best to practice environmentally friendly business and fair trade. Pact Apparel is one of those companies.
Their products are organic cotton meaning that they are less harmful to the environment because harmful pesticides were not used on their cotton, which is non-GMO, and let me tell you, these babies are soft. I have worn my leggings to do yoga in, as a layer under jeans when it’s really cold out, to work, and to sleep in. They have performed well in all movements, and not so active movements
(the sleeping). This is a company that this environmentalist yoga teacher can get behind.
Most people who practice yoga begin to learn more about their bodies, how they treat them, and what goes into them. That bodily awareness often extends to where their food comes from and to all aspects of being a consumer; it’s more likely to see a yoga student walk from the studio to the co-op than from the studio to the box store. Awareness of a healthy lifestyle often moves from the yoga mat to the aisles.
In keeping with fair trade and supporting small businesses, a great gift idea for your yoga friend is a hand poured soy candle, made locally if possible. The hand poured aspect supports local artisans and the soy is important because it is a purer than one pulled off of the dollar store shelf.
Candles are a great gift for someone who has a home practice. There’s nothing like a slow flow or long holds with some soothing music in the background and a nicely scented candle glowing in the foreground. Just be sure not to fall asleep in Savasana, or at least to not be the only one in the house if you do.
My recent post was about choosing which workshop or retreat will be best for you and around the time of writing it an opportunity arose to practice with a travelling, well-known teacher nearby where I live. Although the teacher was quite well-known, I had never heard of him, so I did my research and decided to attend one session of his weekend workshop and these are my thoughts about attending a Rolf Gates yoga workshop.
From the description of the Faith & Flow weekend I had a hunch that Rolf’s classes would offer more than simply asana. In my research I discovered that Rolf consults works with the US Military and has projects supporting boys and men, all through meditation and yoga. This peaked my interest as service and karma yoga are two areas of the eight limbs that speak to me. The weekend description included meditation and lectures both of which he delivered in the module that I attended.
The three-hour workshop began with him having all 60 or so participants join him
around his mat so that he could speak to us about philosophy, yoga, and life in general. From this I took away some lessons and put them down in my notebook to reflect on and possibly incorporate into future classes. One thing I should mention is that due to the lecture portion of the class there was a decent amount of time spent sitting. I presumed as much and brought a cork yoga block to use under my sit bones. If you are attending his workshop or any classes that involve long periods of sitting, I suggest bringing along a yoga block, meditation cushion, or blanket to use under the sit bones for ease of sitting.
The asana portion of the class was very similar in style to a class of his that I found on YouTube from five years ago. It was vinyasa and a nice steady flow. Rolf incorporated his philosophies into the flow sprinkling them into his cues now and again, enough to make an impact and still give cues to the flow.
There must be a note made on the organization of the event and event space. Whoever arranged the workshop paid close attention to detail that I myself quite appreciated. There was water sit out in the hall with real glasses (no plastic!) and little ginger candies for participants. There were flowers on the sign in table and a bowl of cards. It was explained to us upon signing in that the cards were for participants to take and leave notes for the teacher. I assume they were for comments and compliments, which after more thought I think are a great idea. As a teacher I would very much appreciate instant feedback from class attendees. I had never seen that before and think that it was a nice touch.
All in all, the workshop was a nice way to spend a Friday night. A room full of local yoga students and teachers is refreshing and inspiring. Two other local yoga teachers went as well and we practiced together. It was a nice way to get to know them better and to learn and grow together. If you are considering attending a workshop with Rolf Gates then I would recommend it. It was a good blend of yoga, meditation, and philosophy. A nice balance to the heavy asana practice that I personally, usually practice.
Yoga retreats take place around the globe, in Costa Rica, Greece, Canada, the US; most everywhere. At first it might seem self indulgent to gift yourself a yoga retreat or something that only the wealthy can afford, it’s true that they can be costly, but for not much more than the cost of a hotel stay, you get the added benefits of yoga classes, healthy food, a beautiful environment, and like-minded yoga people.
As a yoga teacher earning some of my income from teaching, it is on my mind to invest some of my income on the betterment of my teaching – this means attending classes, workshops, trainings, and retreats. Especially if you are a yoga teacher, spending to attend a retreat is an investment in your teaching and having a few days away from it all to practice and reflect is good for everyone.
If you are a yoga student who hasn’t made the leap into becoming a teacher, and may never will, then attending a yoga retreat is just as beneficial for you. Give yourself the gift of well spent time investing in your wellbeing. Treat yourself as memes on Instagram say.
Consider where you want to practice yoga for a few days. Likely, taking time off of work and away from your family will mean that this time away is both a retreat and a vacation, so choose a place where you would like to visit. Are you a beachy person or mountains? Tied into this question is the question of travel costs – how far are you willing to travel? Remember to keep those costs in mind as well. Can you drive to the location or must you fly?
Take a look at the retreat center and make sure that it is somewhere that you want to spend your time. This website is great to find retreats. Once you have one in mind, look up the retreat centers website and find them on Facebook to look at photos. Make sure that the place jives with your desires and needs – are they vegetarian friendly? Sustainable?
Ask yourself the same questions you would ask of any teacher that you are going to spend a fair amount of money on practicing with. There are countless different styles of yoga out there so make sure that the style that will be taught at the retreat is a style that you enjoy or have interest in learning about. Research the teacher on their social media and see who they trained with. If you can’t find the information, write them a private message or email and ask. They will be glad that you are interested in attending their retreat and should happily reply.
Find out if your local studio is hosting any retreats. It’s becoming more common for yoga studios to book retreat locations at beach locals for a few days to a week. To be able to go to a retreat with a teacher that you already have a relationship with and to get to build upon that relationship as well as get to know the other students that are attending would be a beautiful thing. Make your yoga community tighter. If you plan ahead enough you can likely benefit from early bird pricing as well to save some money.
Different styles of yoga speak to different people. Research what style of yoga will be taught at the retreat and how many classes there will be. If it is a new style to you, jump on YouTube and do a few classes to see if you’d be willing to spend the money and time to study the new style, just because it’s unfamiliar, doesn’t mean that you won’t enjoy it. If you are a yoga teacher, exposing yourself to a variety of styles can benefit your yoga teacher toolkit and therefore your students. How much meditation are you looking for, pranayama, service? Do the research to make sure that you are investing your valuable time and money into the right fit.
The photo above is of Jason Crandell demoing an assist in handstand at a weekend workshop that I attended in the spring. That sort of break down to challenging poses and assists to utilize as a teacher is exactly what I was looking for. As organizers and teachers if the retreat will be geared towards teachers if that is what you are looking for. Likely, may will not be as they will not be considered continued education, but there’s no harm in asking and maybe the teacher will then throw in a few teaching tips if they know that is what participants are looking for.
If you’re not a teacher or are one but just want to get away for a few days to relax, then look into what other activities the retreat offers or things to do in the area. A retreat that I researched recently had a beautiful lake and hiking trails for leisure time. Check if there are any day expeditions offered or that could be added on to make the most of your time away.
Finally, once you’ve made it to your selected weekend workshop or retreat, let go of expectations and settle in to learning. Recently I was at a workshop and the teacher said that out of the hundreds of things that he taught and said only one may speak to us as students, and to accept that possibility and take that one thing away to incorporate into our teaching and daily lives. This was reasurring to me, because sometimes things do not turn out as we were expecting, but there are always a few take aways. At the very least, enjoy some time away from your day to day responsiblities, let someone else cook for you, and do that thing that you love – yoga.
This is a short memo to yoga teachers out there. No negativity is meant by this message. The message is simple and differs only in verbage, while at the same time has a major effect on your students.
There is a large gap between teaching yoga and guiding yoga. Teaching yoga is necessary for beginners and students with injuries – most students will have injuries, chronic or temporary at some point or another, and often times there is no easy way to ask all of your students if they are working with an injury in a well attended class. In order to keep the students that choose to attend your class safe, teach them pose by pose, cue proper alignment and watch your students as the make their yoga shapes. Know that bodies differ widely and that your students may never look like pictures of BKS Iyengar or Pattabhi Jois. Even as a yoga teacher, you yourself may never exactly mimic classical yoga images, or to put a modern spin on it, you may never pop into a handstand the way Kino does, c’est la vie. It is far better to be kind to yourself and respect your unique limitations (and those of your students) than to push bodies beyond limitations which is when yoga injuries occur.
How guiding a yoga class differs from teaching is that when a teacher guides they flow along with their class and neglect to give individual attention to students; before I go into it further, I realize that there are times when guiding is preferred to teaching, for example when a class size is large or space is limited for the teacher to be able to walk around the room. There is also the belief that guiding and demoing every single pose for beginners is beneficial so that they have pose-by-pose demonstrations to look at and follow along with. This is completely valid and something that I was taught and sometimes utilize, but I sprinkle my class with walk-arounds and give students further cues or ways to use props to make the pose more comfortable and effective for them.
Teaching yoga is not a yoga teachers time to practice yoga. If a teacher is guiding because they want to have a good practice themselves, then they are doing their students a disservice. As a teacher it is vital to make time in the day for self practice and to differentiate that time and the valuable time that you give to your students.
The advancement developed through self practice will translate to your students through your teaching. As teachers practice, learn, and feel their own bodies they are better able to serve their students. Recently, I attended two classes back to back at a studio. One was for advanced students, one was for beginners. I can only presume that the teachers trained and studied with the same teachers at the same studio because parts of their sequences were identical, although their classes were advertised as being for different levels of students. Were the classes good? Yes, but I can’t help but think that had the teachers stepped outside of their well rehearsed cueing and taught and watched and adjusted, that the classes would have felt more genuine and personal.
There are times to guide and there are times to teach. As both a student and a teacher, I much prefer to be taught than to be guided.
On December 31st, 2016 I made a new years resolution to try to become a healthier person. I had struggled for the majority of my life with weight control and mental health issues. The resolution I made came during my very first yoga class at Phoenix Rising Wellness Studio in Jamestown, NY, taught by Kara Bemis. I really enjoyed the class and knew that it was something I would like to continue to do, even though I remember thinking, “wow downward facing dog is SO hard!” This was huge for me as I had never found a physical activity I really enjoyed doing. It even seemed to be mentally beneficial; after only one class my mood had improved. I decided that my resolution for 2017 was going to be regularly doing one thing for myself that would teach me to be more mindful and self-aware, as well as improve my physical fitness, so I signed up for more yoga.
I began taking classes at Sun Moon Yoga when it opened in a new location in January 2017 with Karen Hansen. Over the next several months I slowly learned to be more comfortable with my body and gradually began feeling improvements in my health. I felt more energetic, flexible, and overall more positive. I even began documenting the food I ate as a way to become more aware of what I put into my body. I consider this point to be when I really started making my journey about mindfulness, specifically relating to how I treat my physical and emotional self.
I continued to track what I eat as well, and as of today, I have lost 97 lbs… most importantly I have found a physical and mental strength that I never knew I had. Without yoga, this probably wouldn’t have happened.
Over the next 18 months I began to lose weight while gaining strength and confidence. I began trying other physical activities as well, and found that I also really love hiking. So for many months I continued doing yoga 1-5 days a week, both at class and at home, and hiked during the warmer months. I continued to track what I eat as well, and as of today, May 30, 2018, I have lost 97 lbs. I have lost over 10 inches on my waist, 8 inches on each thigh, and 9 inches from my hips. Most importantly, I have found a physical and mental strength that I never knew I had. Without yoga, this probably wouldn’t have happened.
Yoga has taught me to accept myself where I’m at and to not be discouraged by not being able to do everything at once. I have learned patience and acceptance for myself and continue to work every day on loving myself for who I am right now. To anyone who has considered doing yoga but is afraid to try something new, I say do it. Even if you don’t want to lose weight or change anything physically, you can learn so much about yourself just by trying something new. One of the biggest lessons I have learned throughout all of this is that even when your life situation seems like the “end-all-be-all,” it doesn’t have to be forever. Be patient with yourself. Go through the steps. Trust the process. Just breathe. Downward facing dog won’t always be hard.
Ashley Ordines is a freelance artist/illustrator living in Jamestown, NY. Her focus as an artist is mainly illustration, concept art and design. She is also a passionate environmentalist and hopes to bring focus to environmental issues through her art. Ordines is also an avid gamer and spends most of her free time playing video games or hiking.
Facebook: Ash Ordines Artworks
Yoga…. to someone who has had extremely poor flexibility (like I couldn’t even touch my toes) for my whole life, this four letter word held a lot of intimidation for me. I mean, sure, I had tried a few basic poses at home, but the thought of a class where other people might see me struggle made me shudder. To say it was out of my comfort zone was an understatement to say the least. But the truth is, good things happen outside of your comfort zone, and once I was able to recognize this, I was able to truly embrace this wonderful art form.
I started my fitness journey in December of 2017 with at home Beachbody workouts. Yoga was my Sunday workout video, and this truly was my first introduction to any sort of yoga beyond those couple basic poses I knew. As the weeks went on I began to look forward to my Sunday’s but I still felt like something was missing from the experience. I looked around online to get some more info on the yoga classes in the area but was incredibly hesitant because I truly felt there was no way I could ever measure up to the people in those classes and that I would be the most inexperienced person in attendance. So I waited.
At the end of February my birthday weekend rolled around and I found out there would be a Restorative Yoga class at Sun Moon Yoga, and since this sounded more my speed, I convinced my sister to join me as a birthday gift. It was great! My instructor Karen made me feel so comfortable and there was something so different about the energy in the room when you have fellow practitioners with you. I was hooked. At the end of class, I signed up for beginners yoga that just happened to be starting that Wednesday, and I went for it!
Now, was a nervous showing up to class that Wednesday? Absolutely! It was a new experience and those always make me anxious. But do you know what outshined that nervousness that I had? EXCITEMENT! I was so thrilled about this new journey I was embarking on, and I couldn’t wait to see what I could learn.
Every week I walked away from class with more confidence in myself and more appreciation for what my body was able to do for me. I could see my flexibility increasing, slowly but surely, and I feel myself getting stronger. I was no longer intimidated by the thought of someone seeing me struggle or the teacher adjusting me. In fact, I fell in love with adjustments. These are something you very much take for granted when you are only practicing on your own. It was great to finally have someone showing me the right way instead of just guessing. I could feel the poses working for me instead of struggling to get them to be what I thought they should be. There was absolutely no looking back now!
I no longer fear new experiences when it comes to seeing what my body can do. I’m not afraid to be the least experienced person in the room. We are all on different journey and we are all at different places in our journey. To compare yourself to someone else’s capabilities is so futile. I’ve learned to love my body for what it is today while also being excited for what it will be capable of doing for me tomorrow.
The biggest thing Yoga has taught me isn’t how to touch my toes or the proper way to do downward dog, it is to love myself always… To love myself through the failures and successes, and to embrace my imperfections and work through them. This is the only body I get, and I am so blessed to be able to use it for the short time my soul gets to inhabit this planet. I won’t waste any more time doing anything but wholeheartedly loving my vessel and working to improve it however I can.
Usually in class I demo poses myself, but often times Jason had a student perform a posture while he pointed out adjustments or assists, never to the embarrassment of the student, he demoed students capable of the poses. Often times his assistants were called over to a central mat to perform the pose, as in the photo below.
I made a commitment to myself that I would train more this year, so when I saw on Instagram that Jason Crandell was teaching a weekend workshop on the east coast of the U.S. I didn’t have to think twice before booking a spot. The studio is a good five and a half hours from where I live, but the idea of a weekend with a well-known vinyasa yoga instructor to practice and learn made the drive worth it. A separate post to follow regarding the workshop with Jason, this post is about the studio alone.
The Yoga Loft is in a central area of Bethlehem which is an old steel city with the decaying remnants of that time still dominating the skyline. The studio is in an old brick building with street parking and a parking lot to the side. The studio is up three flights of stairs, something to keep in mind if running late or suffering from an injury.
Once up the flights of stairs you pass through a door into the foyer of the studio. There you can register at the front desk, browse their yoga accessories for sale (clothes, books, etc.), and lounge in a sitting area. There’s also a water machine to fill up your reusable water bottle before class.
Just beyond the entry way and slightly to the right is a doorway that leads to two changing rooms and the toilets. The double doors directly ahead lead to one of their three studio spaces. The space that I practiced in was massive, photo below, it held 70-80 people with mats tightly placed side by side. The floors of the studio are beautiful hardwood and there are a lot of windows to let natural light in. All areas of the studio are welcoming and kept clean. Staff that I interacted with during registration and during breaks from the workshop were friendly and sociable, although I did not take a class with any of the local teachers while there.
There are a lot of classes on offer at The Yoga Loft. Looking at their weekly schedule online, there are three to eight classes offered per day, with less offered at the weekend. Classes on the schedule are labeled by level, a guideline that ensures students attend appropriate classes, something that not all studios provide prospective students with. Styles offered on the weekly schedule include: Yoga Flow, Infant Yoga, Barre & Pilates, Candlelit/Restorative, and more. Special events, workshops, and free events also found on the website.
The studio offers a lot of promotional classes to get new students in the door. There is a six-week beginners series for those new to yoga to help them get them on their feet and gain confidence to then explore other teachers and styles at the studio. They also have a new student, promotional, unlimited monthly rate of $39. Lastly, they host open houses that include a free class and option to ask questions about yoga to staff. These all make a lot of sense in terms of brining new students in the door and getting more people interested in yoga, especially those that may feel shy or nervous to try yoga for the first time.
Another interesting page found on their website that I have never seen before on a yoga studio website is a section called ‘Places We Love’ which includes restaurants and places to stay recommended by the studio. This is so useful because the studio hosts traveling teachers with big names that no doubt draw in students from all over the east coast; case in point my five and a half hour drive there, I also met two women rushing out the door at the end of the Jason Crandell workshop that were rushing because they had something like a nine-hour drive home to Maine! Us out-of-towners appreciate recommendations. Listing restaurants is very smart as most people who do yoga tend to lead a healthier lifestyle than the average American, therefore would appreciate knowing where the local vegan restaurant is as opposed to walking into the nearest McDonald’s.
I enjoyed every aspect of my short visit to The Yoga Loft in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Never before had I even really heard of the city or studio, but I am glad that a post on Instagram about the workshop got me interested and travelling across New York and Pennsylvania to travel there. If you live in the vicinity, vicinity being the entire east coast it seems, then check out their upcoming weekend workshops and book yourself a spot. A highly recommended experience.
Taxes are no fun. They’re something that we put off all year until April rolls around and they become a quick necessity and an annoyance. Taxes as a contracting yoga teacher are more manageable and less scary than they may seem leading up to April, however. The one thing all yoga teachers need to keep in mind is to keep track of almost everything. This sounds ultra-annoying, but a little work throughout the year means less digging for information at tax season.
Unfortunately there is no shortcut to filing taxes when working for yourself as a yoga teacher. Whether you work part-time now and again, or fill your weekly schedule up with as many classes as you can, you will need to keep track of how much you worked, where, what you spent to do your job, and how much you made, of course. It can be easier than it seems.
One thing that helps is to keep track of all of your classes, taught and classes attended. Keeping track of hours taught is beneficial for two reasons. One, you can add up your teaching hours and eventually use them to increase your yoga teacher title from RYT (registered yoga teacher) to E-RYT (experienced registered yoga teacher). The second benefit is that you can look back at your calendar and track your driving mileage to and from class to be deducted. Miles to and from classes and trainings taught and/or taken can be tracked and used as deductibles.
The rule on deductibles is: They must be both ordinary and necessary. Ask yourself what you need to teach yoga and if those things are common necessities for all yoga teachers. For example: yoga mats, clothes, and trainings. By clicking the hyperlink you will find an article by Turbo Tax which goes into detail on this.
Other business expenses might include accommodation during weekend long workshops as well as meals out during those trips. Keep track of spending during such cases by using a consistent credit card that continuously tracks spending, keeping receipts, or by keeping paper records. My credit card offers a year-end summary that is very handy to double-check my spending, specifically business spending, which I printed out and highlighted before filing my taxes. My credit card, (Capital One Venture) also earns travel points and has no international fees. Perfect for international yoga retreats.
When working for multiple studios or for companies teaching corporate yoga, you will receive a 1099 from each employer as long as you earned more than $600 in the year. The 1099 is a form that you will have filled out when you started the job and at the end of the year the employer will send you the completed 1099 with your year-end earnings to be used for filing. Keep track for yourself so you can check for mistakes. One thing to keep in mind, if you send an invoice at the end of December but are not paid until January for that work, then the money paid to you in January will be applied to your following year’s earnings.
Final tip, find a tax professional to help with taxes. It may seem as if taxes are a DIY item, and they may very well have been for you for the majority of your life, but with the complications of working for yourself and juggling multiple studio employers, taxes may no longer be self-manageable. Plus, by hiring a professional you will be able to relax knowing that everything is by the book and that you will be receiving the largest possible refund.
Follow hyperlinks for more information. This article does not constitute as legal, professional tax advice, for the real deal find a tax professional.