Five Important Things I learned at Yoga Teacher Training

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I recently completed a 300-hour yoga teacher training in Rishikesh, India. The training was packed into a 30-day period, and the days were long and intensive. I learned what every teacher should in a training: alignment, anatomy, and philosophy, as well as a few unexpected things. It is safe to say I am moving on with more personal and professional knowledge than when I came in!

  1. There is Such a Thing as Too Much Yoga

When I first went into the training, I was excited to build on my knowledge of Hatha yoga, and to learn Ashtanga! For six days a week, we practiced for five hours a day. At first this felt hardcore and great- it took dedication to attend, the classes and to feel muscles that you didn’t know where there. But then in week three, I began to feel very tired. And proceeded to get sick. In order to heal, I had to is out of classes and let me body rest. It was then that I realized I had been doing too much yoga for my body. This isn’t a great thing to admit to the ego- you want to feel powerful, perhaps invincible, and it never feel good to have that illusion shaken. But bottom line- your health comes first. Practicing to the point of exhaustion isn’t good for the mind or body, and unfortunately it is our health that pays for it. Take home point: always listen to your body, and learn to let go of the ego when it comes to just how much you can (and should) practice!

  1. Your Fellow Teachers are Just as Valuable as the Classes

Throughout the training, we had some incredibly informative courses ranging from yogic philosophy to anatomy. I learned a lot from the teachers and classes, but the most diverse, valuable source of knowledge came from my fellow classmates. We spent a lot of time together in personal and professional settings, and the diversity and skills of every person provided an incredible platform to learn and grow. Every single person on the course taught me something I didn’t know and made me a better yoga teacher. There is no way you can make a class from this- it is the product of dedicated, passionate people coming together for a common purpose.

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The awesome yoga crew.
  1. Pushing Your Boundaries Helps You Learn More About Yourself

Yoga Teacher Training pushes you. Sometimes, it downright sucks. As noted above in regards to your health, this is not always an easy line to identify. In fact, most of the time you step over the line in one way or another, by either holding back and not reaching it, or overstepping it. The silver lining in this challenge is that you learn more about yourself: you limits, strengths, and weaknesses, and where you would like to improve in the future. This process is far from comfortable and I found it challenging and frustrating. However, every discomfort and fear makes you better, stronger, and more in tune with yourself. These situations happen in everyones life without attending a yoga teacher training, but there is something about traveling abroad and 14-hour days that seem to accelerate the process! This is truly the magic of a program- limits are pushed, and you learn how to deal.

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Early morning cleansing.
  1. There is No Perfect, just Practice

People are drawn to yoga for different reasons. Maybe to get a healthier body, a slimmer body, or to find mental peace. Others go for a spiritual side. One thing that I have realized on this course is that there is not no perfect, no peak we must reach. A yoga practice is a constant fluctuation, where ups and down define the experience. The most valuable part of a yoga practice you can have are different tools to adjust to these fluctuations and give yourself the practice you need to be the best you can be.

  1. Reflection is Integral to Integration

Yoga teacher training is packed with information and long days. It is mentally and physically strenuous, and reflecting on the day and new information you have received may take a back seat to sleeping or basic self-care. Despite the time constraints, it is important to reflect on the information, experience and how you are personally feeling every other day. This will help you decompress and assimilate valuable information and integrate it into your personal and professional practice.

Yoga Teacher Trainings teach you a lot in a very limited time from. Of course you learn a lot about yoga, but you also are forced to learn about yourself. What have you learned in teacher training or though your practice? What has this taught you? Share your thoughts!

Yoga For Nature: A Global Yoga Community Inspiring Deeper Connection with Nature

Yoga fosters a deeper connection between the body and the mind. Can it help foster a deeper connection to nature as well?

The Yoga For Nature community and its founder, Phil Dickenson, thinks so.

I recently spoke with Phil to learn more about him and Yoga For Nature. Read on to hear Phil’s story and understand the purpose of his non-profit, Yoga For Nature, to exemplify how yoga can promote action for positive change for the community and environment.

Inspiring Action: The Roots of Yoga for Nature

It all started in savasana.

Phil Dickenson was attending a yoga class to focus on quieting his mind. During the final resting pose of savasana, a thought popped into his head. Unlike the standard fleeting ideas that often crop up in this restorative pose, this idea would not go away. It stayed lit like a light bulb and stayed in Phil’s mind for the rest of the evening. So he slept on it.

The next day, this thought became an idea, and “Yoga For Nature” was officially born.

Yoga For Nature is a straightforward concept: the yoga community (including practitioners and studio owners) supports exceptional conservation projects all over the world by attending regular Yoga For Nature classes. The classes then generate funds that go directly to conservation organizations, most often in the form of providing digital media support (such as filmography and photography) to help share an organization’s story and educate people of the cause.

Stories are powerful. In the current digital media age, it is vital for conservation organizations to have a platform to tell their story and to have the story reach a large audience, ultimately connecting people to the organizations and their specific causes. Yoga For Nature provides a platform for these stories with the support of the yoga community

Phil’s Story

The initial stubborn thought of Yoga For Nature has roots in much of Phil’s life. Since the age of 14, Phil found himself empathetic to animals and became a vegetarian. This interest further blossomed in a curiosity about animals as well as their ecosystems, and was further refined by an interest in marine life and a love for surfing. After studying art theory and painting, he became involved in the digital media side of art: filming, directing and producing television shows. He led a successful life in a popular field, but felt something wasn’t right. He quit his job, grabbed a surfboard and traveled the world for two years to take a break.

This is who I am. My values are represented by yoga.

After his travels, Phil returned to the television industry, and developed a yoga practice to cope with the demands of the industry. As with many people who come to yoga, he was first interested in a physical practice and quickly opened to the idea of yoga philosophy. “This is who I am. My values are represented by yoga,” said Phil, noting the personal connection to his yoga practice. He earned his yoga teaching certification and aims to live a yogic lifestyle beyond the mat.

Nature and the Yoga Community

The concept of “nature” is debated and rooted in cultural and historical contexts. So what does “nature” mean to Phil? “I just read a fascinating book called ‘The Abstract Wild’ which speaks about our ideological concept of nature, and our tendency to curate and define wild spaces in line with our own needs or desires,” he said. “So right now, the nature I’d like to describe is untouched or better still unaffected by us, so flora and fauna are able to support us without suffering and degrading. That’s what Mother Nature wants, to love and support us so we can be together rather than forced apart.”

Yoga For Nature uses a model that focuses on developing relationships to form an interconnected support system, not unlike the support system that, as Phil notes, exists in healthy ecosystems.

That’s what Mother Nature wants, to love and support us so we can be together rather than forced apart

 

So why focus on the yoga community as the root of this support system?

Phil recognizes that conservation is a complex field with complex issues, but noted that the global yoga community is rooted in compassion that, when unified, can make good things happen.

“Storytellers always think about the audience and how a narrative will sit with certain people, that’s nothing new. But when your audience is less defined (i.e. you’re not able to screen to a specific group with shared values and interests) then the response will naturally vary. The fact that Yoga For Nature is pitching certain stories to a certain group of people is one of it’s strongest strategies because the way things are, we don’t want people to be apathetic or mildly interested, we want people to rise up and take action. I believe Yogis aren’t politically swayed or influenced by economics, they’ll assess a story with their heart and their measure of compassion for the story being told will elicit the desired response.”

Basically, yogic principles promote a healthy relationship with the environment, and yogis are already connected to a global community that can make a difference. And that is some good Karma!

International Yoga Day is coming up on June 21st! Why not celebrate the day with Yoga For Nature?
Learn more about Yoga For Nature and connect with its founder, Phil, here.
Interested in joining the community and supporting Yoga for Nature? Get involved here.
Follow Yoga For Nature on Facebook and Instagram! Don’t forget to show you love via hashtag @ #yogafornature!
Want to see more? Check out what yogis have helped support by watching the video below!

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A Peek into a 300-Hour Yoga Teacher Training in Rishikesh, India

About 10 days ago, I traveled to Rishikesh, India for a one-month yoga teacher-training program.

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Why Rishikesh?

Rishikesh possesses multiple identities. It is a holy city to Hindus, marked by the Ganges River (often referred to as “Mother Ganga”) flowing through it. The city is also called Tapo Bhumi, translated as “place for meditation of the Gods”. According to legends, Lord Vishnu defeated the evil demon Madhu here, and Lord Shiva is said to have ingested the halahala poison here during the Churning of the Ocean (Samudra Manthan). Today, many people visit the site for meditation during their pilgrimage. It became popular to Westerners when the Beatles stayed and studied with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in an ashram and wrote hit songs for the White album. Rishikesh has deemed itself the “Yoga Capital of the World”, attracting tourists from around the globe to practice and study yoga. I am one of these yoga tourists!

Why study more yoga?

I earned my 200-hour Yoga Teaching certificate in 2015, and I wasn’t planning on advancing to a 300-hour course any time too soon (if you are wondering what the heck 200-RYT and 300-RYT are, check it out here). But you know when things just fall into place? The combination of exploring my personal and professional yoga practice, as well as getting a contract position in India helped me decide to take the leap into a 300-hour course.

So how did I choose?

Budget, convenience, reputation, and of course, what you want to study. I really had to think about what I wanted from this course, and to set goals accordingly. In my case, I wanted to advance my knowledge of traditional yoga, including but not limited to:

-improving my knowledge of Sanskrit

-improving my knowledge of Hatha yoga

-improving my knowledge of pranayama (breathing exercises) & meditation

-exploring yoga philosophy

– enter the program as a student, not a teacher, and be open to all ideas and experiences

Basically, I want to take in as much information as possible from the teachers, as well as my fellow yoga instructors on the course with me. So far, we are one week into the program and I am having an awesome time exploring, learning, laughing, griping, and ultimately becoming a better yoga instructor.

So what exactly happens in a day?

The 300-hour course is complete in just 1-month- not a lot of time to pack in so many classes and valuable information! Below is a layout of the day with some commentary and a few pictures thrown in for good measure.

5:15 AM CLEANSING

18741527_850867328517_1650223966_nThe first step of the day is to practice cleansing exercises. Neti translates to cleansing of the nasal passage, and all cleansing practices are considered preparation for pranayama. So far we have been focusing on the Jala Neti and Neti Sutra. Have you ever put a cooked piece of spaghetti in your nose and pull it out of you mouth to scare you friends? This is essentially what the Neti Sutra is doing, but with a rubber cord. This technique (which I hard to do at first, but gets easier as your practice) is followed by Jala Neti, which is rinsing the nasal passage with lukewarm saline water.

5:45 AM PRANAYAMA

Pranayama (breathing exercises) are the fourth limb of the yogic path. We don’t think about it a lot, but our breath is really important. Once you begin to strengthen and control it, it is beneficial to your mind and body. In my opinion, this has been the most important class in the course. It sounds silly, but we are learning how to fully breathe. Many people, including myself, breathing just from our chests and have weak diaphragms.

6:50 AM STRETCHING

We do some deep stretching to prepare for yoga classes during the rest of the day.

7:50 AM BREAKFAST

After the early rise and stretching, I’m always ready to eat! The diet we eat is known a sattvic, a concept derived from Ayurveda. Sattvic food is light, nutritious and vegetarian. It is never meant to weigh you down or make you feel sluggish. I like to think of it as eating foods that are vibrant and hold more life. It is always important to eat balanced and healthy, but when you are straining your body and mind in a new environment with about 5 hours of yoga a day, you really need to make sure you taking in enough calories and nutrition. One day I cheated and ate a chocolate bar- mistake! I felt that bar the next day, and realized I need to be cognizant eating the most nutritious foods. Sattvic diets do a good job of that

8:50 AM PHILOSOPHY

Yoga is an ancient science dating back to over 5,000 years ago. As you can imagine, we have a lot of history and philosophy to explore! We did this in the 200-hour training as well, but only now am I connecting some of the topics to form a holistic framework.

10:10 AM ASHTANGA

Before coming to India, I had never taken an Ashtanga course. Maybe I was scared. Or the stars didn’t align properly. Well, the stars are aligned now as well as my tailbone, shoulders and hips! Truth be told, I was always kind of scared of Ashtanga because it seemed hardcore, a little too different than my beloved vinyasa flows. But now that I am learning about it and pacticing it, I really enjoy it. There is no doubt this style is intense, but it is helping me understand my body in a different way, as well as cultivating focus with the many alignment cues in each pose.

12:15  PM LUNCH

18720703_850867952267_29428327_oAnd more Sattvic food!

1:45 PM ANATOMY

An understanding of anatomy is vital for yoga teachers. In saying that, yoga teachers are not trained like physical therapists. But an understanding of anatomy is helpful to cue students to get into the yoga poses, get stronger and open space in their body. This class is focused on functional anatomy so less of the straight up memorization that was done at the 200-hour level and more about how the body works holistically and what adjustments we can do to help students understand alignment, the posture, and an awareness of their body.

4:10 PM HATHA

It was my understanding that “modern” yoga we see today (especially in the West) is derived from Hatha yoga. Hatha is focused on two opposing forces to create balance. The word literally means sun and moon. I am familiar with the poses we are exploring in this class, and learning some tips for alignment, strength building, and muscle awareness.

6:10 PM MEDITATION

After two hours of Hatha yoga class, meditation is a fabulous thing! The cool thing is that meditation is not sitting down with the goal of turning inward- we are learning different kinds of meditation to create awareness and hopefully deepen our meditation practice! For example, this week we have been exploring Kundalini meditation, where we shake for 10 minutes, dance with joy for 10 minutes, sit and stay aware of the body for 10 minutes, and then relax fully in savasana.

7:30 PM DINNER

My body is being pushed to limits, and I’m growing. I’ looking forward to the next few weeks here.

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This course has also been a great reminder of just how much you can achieve in one day. Get out there, set some goals, and go for it!

Exploring the “Flow”

Reality is so much more delicious than our concept of it.

-Judson Brewer

Think positive. Think outside the box. Think it and it will happen. Okay, I made that last one up, but have you ever been told to think a certain way to improve an area in your life?

Did it work for you?

Shifting your thinking and perspective seems so simple, but in reality it isn’t an easy thing to do. It is a process of breaking habits, challenging yourself to do something different, and growing. Bottom line: it is uncomfortable, especially when you think about it too much.

Wait a minute… of thinking is part of the problem, how can it be the solution?

It isn’t really an issue of thinking- thinking is necessary and can actually cultivate focus. The issue is when you overthink in a way that removes you from the present. Instead of appreciating what is in from of you, you are dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. That type of thinking isn’t productive and can suck a lot of energy away from enjoying life right now.

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If you are an over thinker (like me) yoga is a great way to calm your mind and literally help you find your “flow”. It helps you connect with your body here and now, and shut down the flow of thought and start up the flow of the body. In fact, the “flow” is such an integral concept in yoga that is can be traced back to the first known written document about yoga known as Yoga Sutras.

What is a flow and why you should explore it

Flow is a psychological term describing when a person is fully immersed in a task. Generally speaking, a flow consists of concentration and enjoyment. When you are in the flow, you are in the moment, enjoying life and free from worry for the future or past. There is evidence that being in the flow promotes higher levels of happiness.

Why find your flow? When you are in your flow, you are at the your optimum- the best you can be. What could be better?

Check out Judson Brewer’s TEDx talk where he discusses and describes the state of flow.

Basically, we need to do more, think less.  And this is much easier said than done.

The irony of realizing you are in the flow is to sometimes not be in it. Like all things, balance is necessary, and understanding the flow, how to enter it and engage, as well as reflecting on when you were in it and how you felt, are necessary to create awareness around the entire flow experience. Brewer notes that you need to get out of your own way, usually obstacles you think up and trip over. Stop the trip up and develop the reflection by working on your own flow.

How to get into a flow (from Mrs. Mindfulness)

Step 1

Take 5 deep breaths, closing your eyes if you want. Focus just on your breath here and become aware of what it feels like to be in the moment.

Step 2

Be present and aware in the now. Notice how you feel.

Step 3

Do an activity with purpose. It can be anything- washing the dishes, going for a walk, looking at a picture. Just do it completely in the moment. If thoughts arise, notice them and allow them to float by.

Step 4

Continue the activity. Notice how the activity is different when you do it with mindfulness. You may see that the activity comes “alive”.

Me writing this blog is an example of finding flow in patterns of thought. I may not be engaging with the room I am sitting in at the moment, but I am actively engaging in an idea- that is also a form a flow!

If you are struggling to find a flow in everyday tasks, do some yoga and apply the same awareness listed above. You may surprise yourself.

Enjoy the day, don’t overthink it, and get into the flow!

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Powerful Pictures: How does Yoga Imagery Influence You?

A week or so ago, I saw a picture of a frog riding a turtle. It looked like the frog was catching a ride on the turtle’s back- it made me genuinely smile. Not long after the photo was splattered around the Internet world, another article emerged- this one discrediting the picture and revealing it as fake.

It gets worse. Both animals were purchased from exotic animal dealers, promoting a cruel industry where animals are sold off as “pets”, or in this case, macro models for a wannabe natural photo shoot. Why would someone make the effort to do this? To get attention and acclaim, of course.

This picture got me thinking about the images associated with yoga. Yoga photos, yoga marketing, how yoga is pictured in my head and how I, in turn, push that message out to other people. Do we really understand what we are doing? What effect are these images, regardless of our intention, having?

The Peak Pose Eclipse

In yoga, peak poses are advanced poses that require preparation and enter safely. You build toward them, and release them. The whole process looks like a normal distribution or a hill, with the peak pose sitting at the top.

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The process of the peak pose: the poses should warm up, cool down and help you enter the pose safely and with intention.

I’m new to the digital yoga game, which is part of the reason I am in tune with this. Marketing yoga highlights a primary message: Yoga is awesome, and it is good for you. And you want to communicate this message in images. How do you achieve this? Most people focus on poses (often “peak poses”, or poses that take preparation and warming up to even get into). By highlighting what a person can achieve through a peak pose, we ignore the rest (and just as wonderful and important) part of the practice.  Yoga injuries are on the rise. Is this due to unhealthy standards and focusing on a peak pose image as a ruler for success? Why do peak poses eclipse other poses in the practice? Peak poses are not an end goal- they are just a potential part of the larger yoga practice.

Yoga is for every body. But do the photos say that?

The yoga industry has come under fire for being marketed as exclusive and essentially not accessible to all people. For example, Yoga Journal, one of the industry’s leading magazines, uses thin, white, able-bodied women as their models for the front cover of the magazine. These images have a dichotomous meaning- on one hand, they are screaming “Yoga is healthy! Yoga makes your look good!” and on the other, they are saying, “Yoga is for fit, young, white ladies”! Just like the “frog on the turtle” picture, the images market multiple messages and may inadvertently cause harm. Be aware that, like all photos, they tell a story. But the story these images tell don’t have to be your story- you are ultimately in control.

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We live in the age of digital consumption. More than ever, we are bombarded by images and maintain multiple selves on various social media platforms. On Instagram, yoga pictures can be found in all forms: peak poses, yoga in beautiful places, naked yoga, yoga quotes. In the midst of so much visual yoga, it is easy to fall into the ocean of Dancer’s Poses and sunsets. Because of this, some photos promote shock value- think yoga pose on a cliff, in the freaking subway, or the most recent one I saw, a yoga pose on the rump of a live horse. All of these places look like terrible (and highly dangerous) places to practice yoga. They are made to stand out and challenge your view of yoga- but definitely not to give you ideas on new locations to practice!

Yoga Image Exercise

Try this. Each image below portrays the balancing asana Tree Pose (Vrksasana). Take a few seconds and look at each one.

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Which of these pictures fit your image of yoga? Why or why not?

Bottom line: you can’t make everyone happy. The message you get from a photograph may or may not be what the author intended it to be. Like all visual media, the interaction between the creator and the viewer is varied. As the viewer, you can ultimately create awareness to how images affect you, and how to handle that.

Like all visual media, the interaction between the creator and the viewer is varied.

So what can we do? Reflect on what yoga means to you. And how yoga looks to you. Can it be encompassed in a picture? Do you find yourself “falling into line” and promoting the image that is sold to you? Develop an awareness of how the yoga photos affect you.

And remember:

Have a body + do yoga = yoga body.

It really is that simple, regardless of what the pictures say.

Beyond Tree Pose: Yoga, Environmental Awareness & the Yamas

Today we released the final video for our Yoga for Environmental Awareness Series. The project was a celebration of our environments locally and globally. Each video was set in a different location, and most highlighted ways you could set an intention and do something good for the environment.

Does it sound weird?

Yoga. Environmental awareness. Can the two be connected?

Yes? No? Not sure?

You aren’t alone.

When I first began to practice yoga, I didn’t consider yoga as a tool for environmental awareness. In fact, I probably would have noted that the only connection yoga had to the natural environment was through vrksasana (tree pose). However, as I’ve grown into my practice, my understanding of yoga has changed. I am able to see the benefits of practice beyond my mat and how it can be used to facilitate change beyond the the self, and expand to the broader social and environmental contexts. But how does a yoga practice achieve this? It all starts with empowerment and tools to take action.

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Tree Pose. Photo Credit R. Jaypalan

Yoga Empowers Us

A yoga practice makes you powerful. This varies for every person-maybe you will feel empowered in your mind, stronger in your body, or in your behavior. People who are empowered are more likely to take action, and this is where real change can come about.

Yoga provides an eight-limbed path that practitioners can utilize both on and off the mat. Despite its ancient history and philosophy, modern yoga is primarily marketed as a tool to improve your body. This individual, physical focus overlooks the potential for yoga to encourage collective action that benefits the community and environment. Don’t get me wrong- yoga is a great tool for self-improvement and is beneficial for the body and the mind. But how does yoga function off of the proverbial mat? I believe that people who feel empowered are more likely to adjust their behavior to help their community and environment. In this way, yoga can help empower people to step up and make changes on both an individual and community level.

Yoga Gives Us Tools to Take Action

Yoga provides everyone with a toolkit (manifested in the eight-limbed path) to operate in the world. Ultimately, these tools set the stage for self-improvement. This stage may also function as a launch pad allows for an improved person to conduct themselves in ways that benefit others and the environment.

The task to do something can also feel daunting- but yoga can help you take steps toward making a difference. The size of the difference doesn’t matter- it is the action, no matter how big or how small, that does.

We are living in a time when climate change caused by our behaviors is a threat to every being on the planet. The task to do something can also feel daunting- but yoga can help you take steps toward making a difference. The size of the difference doesn’t matter- it is the action, no matter how big or how small, that does.

Using the Yamas to Promote Environmental Awareness

The first path mentioned in the Yoga Sutras is the yamas (standards of how we should conduct ourselves with others and our environment). While each of the yamas can be personalized for specific situations, each are connected to how we interact with our natural environment. The environment, our communities and each of us as individuals are inextricably interconnected.

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Ahimsa (non-harming): Does your behavior harm the environment? Scientific consensus provides overwhelming evidence that our behavior has a detrimental impact on Earth (i.e. climate change). This, of course, has a negative impact on people, animals, and flora around the world. Most of the harm is rooted in out choices as consumers, including a dependence on fossil fuels and using products that are toxic for the environment. Focus on shopping locally, reducing your dependence on gas, and repurposing and re-using instead of buying new products.

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Satya (truthful): Speaking the truth is vital when it comes to protecting out environment. A plethora of science exists about how we can help improve our environment- people just ignore it. Speak to others about these issues and do not be fearful of stating the truth.

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Asteya (non-stealing): Are you taking things from others? An example of this may be the consumption of energy. Reduce your energy consumption by washing clothes on cold water, air drying laundry and watching your electricity use in the house.

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Brahmacharya (not wasting energy): Being aware of our natural environment and plight of climate change can be a huge energy drain. Be mindful of what you can take on. Small steps, whether it be recycling more, planting a garden, or speaking to a friend about making more environmentally friendly consumer choices all require you to take care of yourself. Remember to take care of yourself so you can care for others and the environment.

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Aparigraha (non-greedy): Do you have every thing you need? We are avid consumers, and often buy things we simply do not need. Try to curb the urge to buy things that you don’t actually need, and share with others. Volunteering with a local conservation effort is a great way to get involved and share yourself actions with your local community.

 Yoga Can Make a Difference

Our behavior has an effect on the world, and that is a powerful thing.

The yamas are just one example of how you can get started being more engaged and aware with our natural environment. Does yoga directly affect climate change? No. But yoga does empower people to take action and make a difference in their community and environment. Our behavior has an effect on the world, and that is a powerful thing. Let’s adjust our behaviors in a way that promotes celebrating and protecting our environment, our communities, and us.

Has yoga helped you take action?

The effect of yoga advertising: when does selling yoga become telling yoga?

“The success of Yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures but in how it positively changes the way we live our life and our relationships.” – T.K.V. Desikachar

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Recently, I picked up a yoga magazine at a local library. It took a few page flips to actually find the content I wanted without an ad. I originally opened the magazine to read articles about yoga and instead, I was being sold yoga. After looking at a few pages of advertisements, I found myself wanting to purchase a new yoga mat that I didn’t even need. I closed the magazine and practiced a few minutes of sitali breathing to regain my composure. I became curious- exactly how many pages of ads are in this yoga magazine?

And so I counted.

Out of 129 total pages, 49 pages had one or more ads plastered on the page, sharing educational content with marketing content. That is a whopping 38% of the journal’s content is based in advertising.

Admittedly, I am the type of consumer that gets excited about a good deal, a phenomenon that produces “smart shopper” mentality. It is an ego-expressive feeling that makes you feel validated by getting something for a good deal. Bottom-line: you bought something that fed something in your ego or concept of the self. Exposure to a product or idea doesn’t necessarily mean you will buy into it right away, but eventually, over time with consistent exposure, you likely will.

When you open a yoga magazine, it is nearly impossible to miss the colorful ads, promoting teacher trainings, classes, clothing, jewelry and anything not related to yoga that suddenly is related by the mark of a branded lotus flower. Advertisements are effective- they grab your attention and manipulate your psychological needs and wants- and they are powerful!

I get that magazines need to make money, and that they can be a helpful medium for a yoga business. Ultimately, this business is necessary- yoga clothing and accessories can provide benefits to different people. I also understand that we live in a capitalistic and globalized society that promotes commodification of products and ideas to sell to consumers. Therefore, it is important for people to reflect on how marketing is affecting them. When are advertisements are no longer selling yoga, but telling yoga? The only way to assess on how this affects you is to reflect. What does yoga mean to you? How do products or brands enhance, or hurt this concept?

When are advertisements are no longer selling yoga, but telling yoga?

When I first became interested in yoga, I began to look at yoga brands and magazines, simply because of their accessibility and mainstream appeal. My interest in exploring postures started to become and interest in wearing certain yoga attire, having a specific type of yoga mat, and even drinking yoga-related teas. I felt like I was living yoga, when in fact, I was buying into brands that were telling me what yoga was. I was a perfect yoga consumer, until I noticed the effect it was having on my mentality.

But it wasn’t making me a better student of yoga- it was making me a follower of brands telling me what yoga is and should be.

Marketing is a powerful tool, tapping into out psychological needs in way that makes us want more, need more, and buy more. But it wasn’t making me a better student of yoga- it was making me a follower of brands telling me what yoga is and should be. I was literally buying into how other people- people interested in profit- defined yoga. Having a specific mat, wearing certain attire, and consuming particular food items do not make you a better yogi – it makes you a good consumer.

So what can you do? Try to be mindful of yoga advertising and how it affects you. Do advertisements evoke emotional  or physiological responses? Create awareness and explore how yoga advertising affects you, your perception of yoga, and your yoga practice.