The Yoga Loft, Bethlehem, PA – Studio Review

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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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Visiting Montreal

At the very end of 2017 I took a trip with my husband to visit his close friends in Quebec. It was a last-minute trip and the temperatures were brutal, averaging around -25C (-13F) most of the time,  but we managed to sight see a little and succeeded in not spending our entire trip indoors.  Here are my top highlights from our trip that I think will interest other yoga people, history nerds, and slow fashion enthusiasts out there.

First, the Yoga

There is a huge and important Sivananada ashram located an hour north of Montreal. Our friends lived north of the city as well, so the ashram was even closer to us for our stay. While visiting I attended one two-hour, beginners yoga class at the ashram. They have classes open to the public twice daily, once at 8am and again at 4pm. It costs $10/person and you can choose between the beginners’ class or an intermediate class.

The ashram is a large compound that unfortunately,I did not get to explore (remember the temperatures?) I did however step inside the registration office to pay for the class – the building was warm and welcoming. The woman at reception spoke French and fluent English. After classes there is an option to pay $10 on top of the class for a vegetarian meal, we passed on this option, but the smells were wafting around in the registration office and they were tempting me to cancel our prearranged dinner plans and stick around for the food.

The class itself was taught by whom I would guess is a student of the ashram. He led the class though pranayama at the beginning of class, which was a good 20-30 minutes long. After breathwork the asana practice began. It was a beginners class, but the teacher threw in some more challenging poses such as sirsasana. At the end there was an enjoyable savasana and the class began and ended with chants sung beautifully by the teacher and the few devotional students who somehow managed learn the minutes long chants – dedication.

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I planned to go back and attend an intermediate class, but it didn’t fit into our schedule, so I’ll have to go back on our next trip. If you’re planning a trip to the area, check out their website (hyperlinked above) for more information and schedules on themed weekends. There is lodging on sight and the schedule is that of an ashram – early morning risings for satsang and asana with karma yoga in the middle of the day and more asana in the afternoon, a busy, disciplined schedule that is fully optional, for those not quite ready to live life like a yogi.

Next, Some History

I am a self-proclaimed history nerd and Montreal had some lovely history to satisfy my dorky desires. I searched Tripadvisor and Google for a historical site that interested me and was in my price range (I am a proud budget traveler), and I came across the perfect Victorian townhouse that offered guided tours by guides decked out in crinoline and waistcoats. The townhouse was  the prior home of Sir George-Etienne Cartier, a Canadian politician and former Prime Minister. It is located in Old Montreal, a historic district near the river. The tour guide gave us a tour in English around the townhouse which took about an hour (there are also tours in French) and as mentioned previously, he gave the tour in head-to-to-toe Victorian attire (and he had a very endearing French Canadian  accent.)

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We visited at Christmas time so the focus of the tour was a Victorian Christmas, which is really interesting because the Victorians gave us most of the Christmas traditions that we follow to this day. The museum also had  some fun hands on experiences, such as making Christmas cards, sampling Victorian hot drinks – wasil and tea, and trying on Victorian clothes. The best part? The museum was free  during all of 2017 because it was the 150th anniversary of Canada. Although it’s now 2018 and it will no longer be free, I recommend visiting if you have some free time in Montreal, even if to simply get out of the bitter cold temperatures for a while.

Finally, Vintage Clothes

My friends knew that I was interested in doing some second-hand shopping while in Montreal and surprised me with a stop at a massive vintage store. It’s called Eva B and it’s more than a vintage clothing shop, it’s also a cafe and bistro, and in keeping with the world-wide stereotype of Canadians being extremely friendly, a woman handed us small cups of hot apple cider (in glass not in single use plastic) as soon as we walked in, she also had little bags (paper) of popcorn, too.

After searching a multitude of racks, I sadly left empty-handed, but there was a lot to choose from, most from the 70s/80s/90s. The price tags were more than I’m used to at Salvation Army, but most things were actually vintage, no H&M or Forever 21 in sight. Before leaving we grabbed a couple of hot samosas for $1 that were amazing, so that convinces me of their menu. Photos below are of the second level of the store and the front entrance, recognizable by the graffiti.

 

There’s plenty more to do in Montreal, I am sure, sadly the weather prohibited a long day trip to the city, but what I did see of it on this trip was enjoyable and entertaining. I’m already looking forward to a return when the weather is more hospitable. I’ll be back, Montreal.

Bye-bye 2017, Welcome 2018

Well, that was fast. It doesn’t seem possible that 2017 is coming to a close and a new year will be here full of hopes and goals. This year was a big year for me personally and quite the roller coaster around the world. In this post I want to reflect on my past year in terms of my personal life, yoga, & sustainability, as well as use this platform as a way to commit to a few goals for my 2018.

My previous year was full of primarily of weddings and green cards. On Earth Day 2017 I married my love in our down to earth civil ceremony. The choice to marry on Earth Day was intentional as was the entire day and the way that we designed to tie the knot in the most sustainable way that we could. You can read here for ides on planning your own DIY, sustainable wedding.

My husband I again got married in September which was the big shindig with my large family and friends the came from near and far to celebrate with us. This event we also planned to be as DIY and sustainable as possible. I have not written about our wedding in any blog posts yet, I will post tips bit by bit during 2018 as wedding season gets nearer.

As mentioned above, my year was full of our two weddings and a green card, which belongs to my husband (finally). That was a stressful, long, and moderately pricey endeavor, but it was well worth all of the hard work and sacrifices that we both had to make so that he could settle with me here in the U.S. We completed the entire process with some advice from a few friends whom previously obtained green cards, yet without the assistance of an attorney. Coming in 2018 will be a few posts with tips for others who are going it alone to get a green card.

In terms of yoga, my year was both quite and busy. Unfortunately, I did not attend any trainings in 2017 save a few workshops with my dear friend Mindy and some classes here and there at local studios and during my travels. It is a serious goal of mine to attend a weekend or week long retreat in 2018 and to seek out a YTTC in the next couple of years to continue to build my teaching tool bag.

This past year, however, was busy for me as a teacher. I taught in studios and increased my corporate schedule. I continued to teach vinyasa, designing classes appropriate for my students, hatha classes for the corporate students, and some fun workshops and seasonal classes. My 2018 teaching goals, besides training in classes, workshops, and YTTCs, is to push myself more and more to therefore safely push my students to their abilities and beyond as well as to force myself to become more creative with workshops and collaborations.

Finally, and most importantly, I have had some great experiences in my local area, attending educational events on the environment and sustainability. On a personal level I have tried my best to cut back more and more on plastics and have continued my slow fashion lifestyle. Looking towards the future, I am excited to have been accepted as a 5 Gyres ambassador, a title that means that I will host some educational events in 2018 and into the future in which I’ll share the damaging effects of plastics on our oceans. Being an ambassador is a commitment to learn and share and by having an association with their name I have more weight when sharing information with the public as opposed to standing alone on my soapbox. Many people are already aware of the dangers of plastic, but many more are not, and to ask someone to change their daily habits for fish can be seen as a stretch and annoyance, so I am looking forward to utilizing 5 Gyres resources to give myself more credibility.

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This time of the year is an excellent time to reflect on goals and lessons learned from the past year’s experiences and an even greater time to dedicate yourself to personal goals and resolutions. I can’t wait to give 2018 my all and hone my skills and craft with each passing month and year. This yoga thing is such a journey, as is life as a whole. Each new pose is a practice to get there and each teaching experience is an opportunity to obtain more and more knowledge to benefit my students of the present and in the future.

Tis the Season for Karma Yoga

The holiday seasons is not only fast approaching, it is on top of us. As I write this, it is December 20th, so Christmas is just five days away for many in the west and those all around the world who celebrate the Christmas holiday. Here in the U.S. Christmas began showing up commercially way back around the time of Halloween. Retailers unpacked their Christmas stock, to what many is considered way too early, and each year it comes out earlier and earlier, so that customers can decorate early and check presents off of their lists. Although Christmas seems to have morphed into a season of materialism it still offers a time of giving to those in need.

This is an old tradition that may even go back to Mary and Joseph being given room in a barn, but at the very least goes back a few hundred years. According to a historical documentary by the BBC, Victorian Farm Christmas,  the Victorians were charitable during the holiday season giving through collections at churches to go to the poor or by giving food directly to those without. Many today continue this tradition of giving at Christmas time, whether it be by dropping change in a red, metal Salvation Army pot, or by making a donation to an organization.

Within my communities I have noticed multiple ways to give this year, such as by donating toys to children without, food to a food cupboard, and yoga classes by donation in which the money raised is given to a specific cause. In fact, I hosted a candlelit Slow Flow earlier in the month that was by donation. Teaching for free or attending a class and donating to a cause is what is classified as karma yoga, or yoga in action.

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Karma yoga can come in many forms. It might be performing a chore, giving of time or money, or freely sharing yoga with others. Around the winter holidays is a great time to host a karma yoga event or find one to attend. People have it in their hearts to give and it’s cold, so a great time to move towards indoor activities. Of course, however anytime of the year would be a good time for karma yoga, but during the holiday season is a very appropriate time to give.

As a student look for donation classes in your community. If you are a teacher or studio owner, host a class or two by donation and find a local organization that will benefit from the money you raise. It is so easy as a teacher to host a karma yoga class, the skill is already there, and the space if a studio is readily available is there as well, all that is required is organization, promotion, and some time to plan and teach.

May you and yours have a joyful holiday season and may you find ways to give to your community this season and into the new year.

 

 

Yoga Farm, Lansing NY – Studio Review

A few weeks ago my husband new husband and I took a week long trip across New York State for a mini-honeymoon. We drove to Ithaca and the Adirondacks in the height of the beautiful fall leaves to hike, bike, kayak, and do yoga, of course. In fact, our first stop on the trip was to the Yoga Farm in Ithaca and boy am I glad that this studio was on our itinerary. Yoga Farm is welcoming, in the middle of nature, and is sure to provide an experience for students in which they do more than the physical postures, they evolve to know themselves better as a person.

The Saturday that we drove to Ithaca the Yoga Farm was hosting a workshop called ‘You’re Personal Key to Fulfillment & Connection‘ which is a snipet from their larger Radiance Course which is a five month program.  The Saturday workshop that I attended was two hours long, included no physical asana practice, save some minor tension relieving neck and shoulder work, but rather included a lot of self reflection and guidance by teachers and studio owners, Christopher & Daniela.

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Christopher & Daniela are founders and owners of Yoga Farm and emanate a depth of warmness and sincerity to their students. They both instantly give acute attention to each and every student that walks through their Yoga Farm door. And once in the door, you are welcomed by not only the teachers but also a hominess of the studio. At Yoga Farm there is a student library, a water dispenser that gives cold or hot water and tea and mugs for students to make tea, and for our workshop, all of the props were set up before the students arrived so that we could find our seats and begin right away.

Their studio has an abundance of props, and you know I am a prop fanatic. They even have little floor chairs for students to lean back in which is a benefit to most of us who cannot sit for two hours in a crossed legged position without our lower limbs going numb and feeling as if they might fall off after 10 minutes.

After encouraging us to get as comfortable as we possibly could with bolsters, meditation cushions, and blankets, the workshop got started which included some meditation and group discussion with the intent of finding a guiding force to lead us to clarity of our true self and to guide us away from negative reactivity to daily stressors. I found the workshop to be personally insightful and I took away from it a personal resource that I have the opportunity to utilize daily. As mentioned the workshop was a teaser from their longer Radiance course that is a multiple months endeavor.

The studio offers a variety of workshops and courses that, for the Radiance Courses specifically, fall under their  ‘Pay what is honest and in integrity for you’ philosophy. When I saw this information on their website I read further, which you can do here. Before attending my two hour Radiance workshop at the Yoga Farm, I had decided to pay a typical fee for a weekend yoga workshop, regardless of what I took away from the workshop because I am a yoga teacher who earns a supplementary portion of my income from teaching yoga, so I wanted to pay a respectful sum for their work and effort. I assume that most students follow a similar payment choice when deciding how much to leave for the workshops. What I love about this unique payment option is that it opens the doors of the studio to people who might otherwise be limited to not being able to attend classes due to financial difficulty such as unemployment or disability, and finding Radiance within ourselves shouldn’t be restricted to only those who can afford it.

I was curious and intrigued by the Radiance open tuition, so I emailed Daniela and we set up a time to have a phone call and talk about it, from that conversation I will write a separate post to come soon.

If you would like to attend a Radiane workshop you can find the schedule on their website. On top of two hour workshops they also offer two upcoming weekend workshops that are day long courses but are not residential, so are more readily available to locals of Lansing.  One weekend workshop is right around the food-coma-corner, happening the Saturday immediately after Thanksgiving, Saturday, November 25th, 3-5pm, titled ‘Discover Your Inner Voice’ and the other over the weekend of New Years – Saturday, Sunday, & Monday, December 30 through January 1st.

If you are looking for an asana practice as well as or instead of a self reflection course, then look no further because they also offer yoga classes throughout the week. I attended a class the week I was visiting which was a Slow Flow class that left me with the ubiquitous yoga bliss afterwards. They have an array of classes on their clanedar which you can find updated on their website. Unlike the Radiance Courses and Workshops, there is a set fee for yoga classes at the studio. They cost: Drop-In Class prices: One for $18, Three for $45, Eight for $96, Unlimited for $95/month.

If you find yourself in Lansing, NY which is itself beautiful and a short drive from the college town of Ithaca, NY I would highly suggest checking out a class or workshop at the Yoga Farm. As implied in the name, the studio is located in a beautiful landscape not far from Cayuga Lake, one of New York’s Finger Lakes. The studio is inside a refurbished barn and sits on many acres of land. Practicing at Yoga Farm is a step beyond a city studio, they have created their own little yoga paradise in a beautiful landscape; you won’t regret a visit.

Falling for Yoga

The seasons are changing – weather is chilling, moods are shifting. It’s a time of transition, something that those of us that live in regions that experience four seasons go through four times each year, but each time still feels new and fresh. Sometimes excitement for cozy blankets and books, sometimes with sadness to lose the heat of summer. Likely a bit of both.

For me this change of season is a time to rededicate myself to my yoga practice. People are sometimes surprised to learn that my practice ebbs and flows. This is hard to admit. I know that I should, and need, to be practicing yoga daily, but like all other human beings living in our high paced, overworked, distraction filled modern times, I too have difficulty at times practicing as much as I should. Recently this has become more apparent to me via workshops and meditation.

As a yoga teacher I have been trying my humble best to give my students as much of my knowledge and genuine self as I can. I spend a lot of time studying articles and books about sequencing and anatomy, but what gets pushed aside for the book work and for balancing my time with my family, my full-time job, and teaching gigs, is my practice.

I have never totally lost my practice, it just gets smaller and smaller to where I am sustaining my flexibility and strength but am not evolving it. With this public post and inspiration from the falling leaves, I recommit to setting my alarm, abiding by it, and rolling out my mat. Making a habit stick takes time, 21 to 60 days at least, so I am hopeful that by the time winter rolls around that I will have made personal progress.

The primary goal not being to “land” or “master” certain poses nor to improve my Instagram feed – although if being totally honest, both of those things are benefits of a constant practice, sad as it is we live in a social media world; the primary goal is to have personal discipline and to learn my body more in-depth. By doing these two things I will improve my personal practice and my teaching abilities.

With the weather cooling down and the hygge setting in, I am ready to fall for my yoga practice again. To fall in love and to fall out of inversions. To heat up with vinyasa and to cool down with restorative. To be the forever student that I so love to be, not just a bookworm, but a student of the mat.

Arm Balance Fun

Are balances are poses that constitute “crazy”-contortionesque yoga poses, the sort that elicit students to think to themselves that they could never do that, but they really could, or might be able to, with enough dedication to drilling strength and technique. Just as with all poses it takes time to develop the bodily awareness of what each area of the body should be doing in terms of strength, where to push and pull, what to engage, what should be lifting or sinking. Every pose, even those considered beginner poses such as Warrior II involve a lot of technique, the same is of course true for arm balances. If you’re struggling with an arm balance that has been evading you for months, or if you’re just considering taking the leap into practicing them, take a deep breath and read on.

They should be fun. All yoga should be fun and enjoyable. If you find that your practice causes frustration and annoyance at not being able to do a pose, then you need to breathe more deeply and recognize the negativity in your mind, push it out of there, and replace it with positive thoughts such as – “I am trying my best” or “I am building strength” or ” One day I will succeed, it may not be today, but the work I do today will bring me there when my body is ready.”

That last part is important to remind yourself of because your body may not be ready for what your yoga teacher is doing, at least not yet. All poses require strength and flexibility, for arm balances the strength is in the core, so work that a lot. Flexibility will vary pose to pose, but consult a teacher to find out where you should be opening for each individual pose. Once you have the knowledge of what to work to move towards the pose that you’re aiming for then work it, a lot. Train your body for what you’re asking it to do. This will take time and effort. There are poses that I have been working towards for years that are still out of my reach, so I work them. This may continue for a few more years and I may or may not ever reach what I’m trying for, but I build strength and awareness while I practice and I try to be unattached to the pose, whether I land it or not.

To practice nonattachment to your goal pose you must focus on the physicality of it and then release whatever emotions that it brings up. As mentioned earlier, if you find yourself becoming frustrated because you “can’t” do a pose (and there’s no such thing as being bad at doing a pose in yoga, for more on that read here) then simply shake those frustrations out of your head. The same is true for the reverse, if you try something different or for the 100th time and are finally able to get your body into the pose, then smile and have a humble celebration within, but also let that go. Do not let the ego run away with itself, practice nonattachment to either outcome.

The fun in arm balancing comes in opening your heart to try new things, in pushing your body to it’s limit and expanding it’s capabilities, and in one day lifting off and flying. When you’re ready to tone up and build strength put on some of your favorite tunes and welcome the sweat then use that heat to stretch out your body and work your poses. You’ll get there one day, or you won’t, it’s the journey that matters, enjoy and have fun.

 

 

 

Beginner’s Workshop at Yoga Roots, Cleveland Heights, Ohio – Studio Review

Yoga workshops, can’t get enough. Workshops are more than classes, they’re longer and they’re for learning and generally they cost a fair bit more than a normal drop in class, but not the Beginner’s Workshop at Yoga Roots in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. In fact, their Beginner’s Workshop is totally free, but it’s still two hours long. I know, I couldn’t believe it either, so I checked it out.

I admit that it might sound odd that a trained yoga teacher would attend a workshop for beginners, but I went with a friend and I enjoy taking beginner’s classes sometimes because, guess what – I teach beginners! Attending beginner’s classes is a good opportunity for me to witness and hear how other teachers communicate effective teaching to their students. This workshop was no different and it was really inspiring as a teacher to attend.

19866498_10100474775782817_358879747_nThe studio space at Yoga Roots is pretty cool. It has an industrial feel with a high ceiling and exposed heating units. There’s a wall of props and a nice floor space to practice on (it’s heated, too – must feel amazing in winter.) My friend and I walked in somewhat late so we took spaces up front right next to the teacher. The room was packed full of at least 30 students. The teacher settled us all in and we began gently, after she explained how when she began yoga years ago that she had injured herself by pushing herself too far beyond her physical abilities, and therefore she enjoys teaching beginning workshops so that she can teach others to avoid doing the same thing to their bodies. I very much appreciated her openness and honesty to a roomful of mostly strangers, who likely had the same emotions of the ego as she had as a beginner. By sharing her intimidating experience as a beginner the teacher broke the ice and brought her down to the level of of everyone else in the room.

The workshop that continued from her introduction was similar to a typical vinyasa class, but was broken down into pieces, first teaching a vinyasa itself bit-by-bit and then standing poses that are common posses in classes at Yoga Roots. I have not attended a general class at Yoga Roots, but I gather from things said by the teacher that a typical vinyasa class consists of little breakdown of poses and is taught more as a guided vinyasa sequence, which are great for students who know what the heck the difference is between Warrior I and Warrior II, but very intimidating (and not necessarily safe) for beginners.

That is where the Beginner’s Workshop comes in. It is a long class where beginners can feel comfortable in a room full of other students that practice at their level and where basics are broken down and taught to them. It’s Yoga 101. Then, when they are comfortable and ready, they can make the leap into other classes on the schedule at Yoga Roots, and there are a lot, classes at time slots at all times of the day, seven days a week.

The best part, in my opinion, of the Beginner’s Workshop was that it was Q & A. Students were encouraged by the teacher to ask questions about poses if any arose and once one student asked a question, many followed. Some questions were personal, such as about a previously acquired injury and how to perform a posture, which displays how special this event was, that a student could ask a trained and qualified teacher a very specific and personal question, not common in all yoga classes and certainly not while practicing with YouTube. By asking questions students will have gained confidence in areas of uncertainty so that they could then go into a class at Yoga Roots feeling sure of themselves. At the end of the class they offered everyone who attended a discount if they signed up for a membership, another, and happily surprising bonus; unfortunately, I don’t live in the area.


It would make anyone happy to enter this nestled studio. Initially it was difficult for my friend and I to find, but a guy in the neighborhood helped us out (it’s down a driveway right next to the hair salon.) When you enter the studio there’s a counter to sign in at and merchandise to browse if you’re on top of your game and arrive early. Remove shoes upon entrance and sign in. There’s a bathroom and separate changing room as well as cubbies to keep your personal items. A special event happening while we were there that I was told about after the workshop was a yoga challenge and it wasn’t one of those “do an impossibly challenging pose in your cutest Lululemon and post it on Instagram” type of challenges, it was an actual challenge. Students earned gifts for attending classes. The first mark to make got you a mug then a T-shirt and finally if you attended 30 classes in the month time frame of the challenge then you received a gift card to the studio. The amount of participants was impressive and the fact that they were improving their well-being and being a bigger part of their yoga studio community by attending more frequently were secondary bonuses beyond the gifts.

To wrap up, if you live in the Cleveland area and are looking for a great studio then try Yoga Roots. If you are a beginner then get to their next Beginner’s Workshop which happens monthly, except for in the summer, check their website for exact dates.

Celebrate International Day of Yoga

Wednesday, June 21st is International Day of Yoga, or at least it has been since the prime minister of India  and the United Nations General Assembly declared it so three years ago. On that first day of International Day of Yoga in 2015, thousands of people practiced yoga in hundreds of different cities in many different countries around the world and did so again in 2016. Just the same, there will be thousands of celebrations around the world this year, and there may be one near you.

International Day of Yoga is a day in which people are encouraged to practice on their own or find an event to attend, the day is a day to take time to practice for health and well-being, and it is also the summer solstice – the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, which makes it a great day to practice outside in nature.

This internationally celebrated day, as opposed to other silly national and international days (say National Donut Day, sorry to throw a dash of negativity in here, but I do find it slightly infuriating that more people recognized National Donut day as compared to World Ocean’s Day  here where I am in the U.S. and nobody I know locally participated in National Ride Your Bike to Work Day, but there’s hope for next year and chance of redemption with International Day of Yoga) is a day that promotes health and well-being in yoga studios, communities, and schools. The practice of yoga is beneficial for the physical and mental body. Yoga strengthens muscles and increases flexibility in muscles and joints. Yoga is a safe form of physical activity for all ages when taught and practiced with awareness. When meditation and breath practice is included, yoga has the added benefit of calming the nervous system and mind and relaxing away tension. This is a day that encourages all of this and on which you can likely find an event nearby to practice at, in my opinion this is an international day worth recognizing and participating in.

Most events are free or donation based. Many are held in front of monumental and historical landmarks such as the Capital Building in D.C. and the Eiffel Tower in Paris (shown below). For the past two years I have had the good fortune of teaching at and being apart of events in Busan, South Korea, my old expat-hometown. I have since relocated back to the United States and am excited to be bringing an International Day of Yoga celebration to Jamestown, New York, it’s first I believe – very exciting.

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Our event in Jamestown, which is being hosted by Sun Moon Yoga, the beautiful, newly-relocated studio that I have had the pleasure of teaching at for the past few months, and will be held in the second story court yard of the historical building where the studio now resides. The two-hour session will consist of 108 sun salutations, also known as a yoga mala. There will be at least three teachers teaching a wide array of styles of sun salutations to students who are encouraged to rest in child’s pose or even step off of their mats for a rest and refuel with provided refreshments. Jumping into a practice of 108 sun salutations is a major increase to students who may only be used to doing 3-6 salutations in a class, or may have never even done them, so taking rests are highly recommended. International Day of Yoga is by no means a day only for those who practice yoga regularly, but rather it is a day for newcomers to try yoga, maybe for the first time, so that they too can reap the benefits of this ancient science.

Celebrate International Day of Yoga

To find an event near you, which may be occurring this coming weekend, June 17-18th or the following weekend of June 24-25th, simply google an event in your city, ask your neighborhood yoga studio, or look for events on Facebook. To attend the event in Jamestown, arrive to the Pearl City Arts Building located on Cherry Street between 2nd and 3rd a little before 6pm to set up. The event in Jamestown has a suggested donation price of $5 or whatever you can give (if money is tight for you at the moment, please come regardless and practice for yourself and the community, donations are suggested, but not required) which will benefit Saint Susan’s Center in Jamestown, a local soup kitchen that provides meals to those in need.

 

 

Teachers – Create a Community in Your Class

We all know the usual drill of attending a yoga class – walk in with your mat, take off your shoes, roll out your mat, either at the back of the room if you’re shy or a beginner, or at the front of the room if you’ve been practicing a while or show up late. Then sit on your mat, maybe stretch out a bit (before you’re about to stretch out) as you wait for the teacher to begin class. Often times it’s quiet in the studio, no music, and generally students don’t speak to each other unless they already know each other outside of class.

The class commences, sometimes without the teacher getting names, the flow is guided, students follow, it all ends in a relaxing Savasana from which the teacher pulls you back into reality and everybody silently rolls up their mats, exits the studio space to slide their shoes on, and walk out the door.

Although the yoga practice itself is calming and rejuvenating, in an atmosphere of solitude and isolation on individual mats feelings such as loneliness and anxiety can also creep in as a result of slight social anxiety and students comparing their body’s abilities in poses to the rest of the class and the teacher, as teachers we have a responsibility to make everyone as comfortable and at ease as we can, which requires some effort from the teacher.

 

As a yoga teacher there are a few easy things that we can incorporate into our teaching to make students feel a part of a community in class.

Meet & Greet

Get names. Ask names as soon as a new student walks in, shake their hand, and give them your name. It seems a simple and polite thing to do, but I’ve been to plenty of classes as a student in which I never meet the teacher and vice versa. Also, have students introduce themselves to each other, it may feel a little forced as if it’s the first day of school (which it technically is,) but by meeting each other relationships may build over the course of the series or if returning students continue to attend.

Definitely as the teacher you should know your students’ names to greet them as they enter class, inquire about their days, and to then use their names to ask permission to make a physical adjustment. I have even attended a class in which the teacher asked us to write our names on a sticker that was put on the top edge of our mats. It was effective for the teacher to remember our names, but I don’t like to be wasteful, so would not suggest to do this unless you are hosting a large workshop.

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Music

Play music before and after class. Even if as a teacher you choose not to play music during class you should have something on as students enter and leave to break any awkwardness. Like music in a waiting room at a doctor’s office, gentle background music can lighten the mood of the room as people enter. It does not have to be elevator music, it could be yoga music or contemporary, just be sure that it is non-offensive and not too loud.

Share Events

Before class begins and as you are waiting for students who are running late, introduce any upcoming events at your studio to promote and ask students if they have any events coming up. This is a great way to learn about things going on in the community and gives students to share any events that they are a part of or care about.

These are a few basic ideas of how to make your class feel more like a community. At this time of polarization and divisive fear-mongering, your yoga studio should be a safe and welcoming place, create that atmosphere as a teacher and keep spreading the love.