Monday, February 20, 2017

The Benefits Of Moon Salutations

practicing lunar salutations
By Faye Martins

In many traditional cultures, the moon is revered as a sacred object that is one of the most powerful in nature. According to hatha yoga tradition, the lunar energy that is released by the moon also resides within every human being. It is possible to harness and channel this energy with yoga, and that is why the ancient yogis created moon salutations.

A Calming Energy

According to hatha yoga tradition, the moon and the sun emit two very different types of energy. While the sun is the source of warm, active and outwardly manifested energy, the moon is quite different. Lunar energy is thought to be much cooler, receptive, and directed inward.

This means that yoga practitioners who learn the art of moon salutations will have a great way to calm themselves whenever they need to. In hatha yoga tradition, a moon salutation is a way to calm the energy in the body. This is even more important today than when it was first invented.

There are two reasons for this. The first is that today's society is a much more fast-paced, hectic society than at any other point in history. Everyone is always running around in 20 different directions at once, and this means stress levels are through the roof for most people.

Finding Balance

The other reason that the moon salutation is more important than ever is because of the type of yoga that is practiced in most yoga studios today. In traditional yoga practice, it is thought that the two main forces that are at work inside the body are the solar and lunar energies represented by the sun and moon. The aim of traditional yoga practice is to use asanas to balance the two energies.

However, in most modern yoga studios, the asanas that are practiced are primarily asanas that channel the solar energy. The main reason for this is that many yoga studios aim is to help people get into shape and lose weight. The best way to do this is to use energetic asanas that get the body working hard, and these are the asanas that focus on solar energy.

This focus on solar-centered asanas means that most people do not get the balance they need with their yoga. That is why it is more important than ever to regularly focus on asanas that harness the lunar energy of the moon. The best way to do this is to use a moon salutation.

The traditional moon salutation draws from many classic yoga poses to create a 16-step routine that channels the feminine, thoughtful energy of the moon. Although many of the poses like downward-facing dog, child's pose and cat's pose are familiar to most yoga participants, the energy generated by a moon salutation sequence transforms these familiar poses into something quite different.

Anyone who uses a moon salutation regularly will find that they become much more centered and balanced in all aspects of their lives. They will be able to lower their levels of stress, allowing them to deal with difficult situations with a much greater sense of calm and assuredness.

The key to great yoga is balance. Anyone who wishes to find balance must look to harness the power of lunar energy. Using the moon salutation is the surest way to help find this sense of balance.
Faye Martins, is a Yoga teacher and a graduate of the Yoga teacher training program at: Aura Wellness Center in, Attleboro, MA. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Teaching Hatha Yoga Contraindications For Standing Asanas

By Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

There seems to be no single text that lists the contraindications for each Yoga technique; the reason being - the monumental task of listing, categorizing, and matching up each technique, with a corresponding contraindication, would be a feat that would take years to complete.

Therefore, let's look at techniques, in groups, and match them to corresponding advice. Standing Postures seem easy enough for most of us, but can still be quite challenging for your legs, regardless of age or physical condition. Many commonly seen standing poses are Warrior (Virabhadrasana) postures.

Here are some cautions, which will open your eyes to modify your practice and that of your students. At the same time, always research and remain current in your knowledge of Yoga posture contraindications, because medical and sports medical research changes by the day.

General Guidelines for all Standing Postures

If pregnant, do not stand for prolonged periods of time. If you are in your third trimester, please use a chair and modify your standing and warrior poses. Most of all, unless you are an expert teacher, please work with a certified and competent prenatal Yoga teacher specialist.

Never stiffen, or apply extra isometric force, to the muscles in your legs and arms. These postures give wonderful results without pushing the limits. People can collapse from over exertion while performing standing asanas; especially when practicing on warm days, in hot rooms, and in the sun.

Never lock the joints. Hyperextension of any joint tends to lead to premature skeletal wear. Who wants arthritis earlier? You should not be locking joints in any activity, especially Hatha Yoga practice, which is designed to enhance long term health.

If you have low blood pressure, high blood pressure, or heart problems, you should be moderate in your practice of standing postures and consult your physician or cardiologist. Why are there precautions here?

People often hold their breath when practicing strenuous postures. Never hold your breath if you have high blood pressure. Be cautious about keeping the hands over the head for prolonged periods of time. 

When performing Warrior I, do not look up at your hands if you are experiencing neck problems or have a pre-existing neck injury. Warrior II: Avoid if you have diarrhea, and do not force your head or neck forward, if you have neck problems.

Warrior III and all Standing Postures: Use your core muscles, rather than place excessive stress on your joints. Proper head, neck, shoulder, spinal, back, hip, knee, and ankle alignment is essential. Never place excessive stress on any joint. When in doubt, always consult with a physician or specialist.

© Copyright - Paul Jerard / Aura Publications

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Just Use It! - Helping Students Understand Why They Should Use Props

use props
By Kathryn Boland 

Do you notice that some students display an aversion to using props? Do you sometimes struggle to help them get past that feeling? Yoga students are sometimes reluctant to use props for many different reasons, but there are a few prevailing ones. First, some feel as if using props means that they're incapable “newbies”. Second, prop usage just feels too complicated and difficult. They'd rather just flow, and not have to stall that free movement to “fuss” with props. 

Yoga students at all levels display this tendency. Novices already feel out of their comfort zones, perhaps a little out of place in a room full of folks “better at yoga” than them. They can feel like using props gives them a huge name tag labeling them as such. Experienced students can be averse to props as well, however, as the following example illustrates. 

After class one day a student new to the studio I frequent asked the owner “Are there any classes that are more traditional? I just feel as if telling students to use props is disrespectful.” The student clearly was familiar enough with yoga practice to be able to evaluate ”traditional” versus “nontraditional”. Thus, not only beginning students are hesitant to use props. In any case, I couldn't help but think to myself “Disrespectful? How is it disrespectful to teach students how to use props to enhance their practices?” I tried to hold unto the yogic value of non-judgement, but the comment truly baffled me. 

And on another point, I didn’t understand the connection of traditional versus nontraditional and prop use versus lack thereof. Case in point, Iyengar yoga heavily centers on prop use, and that is considered one of the most traditional forms around today. But I digress. Let's look at some strategies for helping students overcome their aversions to using props - and thus, allow our students to enjoy more of yoga's potential healing, empowering potential in our lives. 

1) Use your personal experiences.

While teaching one day, an instructor whom I respect and admire described how she came to understand the truth about using props - 1) that it doesn’t mean that you're a “beginner” 2) that it can be very helpful no matter what level practitioner you are. This was meaningful to me personally, as a student of yoga, because she shared this while cueing a pose wherein I thought I don't “need” a block to be stable and strong. 

Part of me - also as a certified 500-hour instructor - knew that props are helpful no matter level practitioner one is. But another, less developed part of me was confident that I don't “need” a prop in certain postures. My instructor’s personal sharing led me to take a more objective look at the matter.  
From that, I could more clearly see that sure, I may not technically “need” props in certain postures. They do, however, help me to build stronger, more stable, more effectively aligned, and more beneficial versions of those postures. Such personal sharings (as always, brief and focused on practice and the students) can, in such ways, be effective ways for helping students understand the value of using props. That holdd true despite how “good at yoga” one is or isn't (which we know has little to nothing to do with the shapes one can make and hold with his/her body). 

2)  Show students how props can help strengthen and refine. 

We as instructors are fully aware that props aren’t only used for physical support and for “bringing the floor to you” - but also for contributing to strengthening exercises and for honing alignment within separate postures. But students don’t necessarily understand this. We can show students the multi-faceted possibilities of props by using these techniques in our classes. Thus, they can experience - on many sensory, visceral levels - that props aren’t just for helping yoga practitioners achieve postures that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. This can be far more effective than telling students that using props doesn’t mean that they’re “beginners” - an argument that could fall on deaf ears, because they’ve heard it many times before without any evidence to support it. 

These prop usages include placing a block in between one’s inner upper thighs through a Sun Salutation, or in Bridge and Wheel Poses, as well as during core work (such as passing a block in between the feet and the hands while doing full-body crunches). With these techniques, students can come to see props with new eyes - as tools that enhance any person’s practice, not just those of beginners. They’ll then be more inclined to use them not only without hesitation, but with enthusiasm. 

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Balancing Teaching Yoga and Other Endeavors - Combining Passions

By Kathryn Boland 

Do you have employment apart from yoga instruction, and see ways in which both might complement each other? Do you perhaps wonder how that might work? Many yoga instructors combine teaching yoga with other career endeavors (out of choice and/or necessity). This can certainly be difficult to manage - but our practice can help us do that with  effectiveness, efficiency, and peace of mind.

Sometimes work apart from yoga instruction has not much, per-se, to do with yoga instruction. Given yoga instructors’ interests, knowledge, and skillsets, however, work apart from teaching yoga often does relate to yoga in some way - such as physical or occupational therapy, teaching other fitness/wellness forms, nutrition/dietics, and psychology/counseling. Read on for ways that the two types of work can support each other, and thus result in greater service to others and greater well-being for yourself - whichever your unique situation may be. 

1) Transfer your knowledge and skills.

Teaching yoga involves much knowledge, and many skills - creativity, clear and fluent speech, anatomy, a strong sense of how the body moves, listening, and empathizing. That's not to mention knowledge of yogic history, theory, and methodology (which, though with timeless truths, might be less directly applicable in the modern world). 

Most, if not all, of that is transferable to other work. If you're a talk therapist or psychiatrist, for example, yoga instruction experience might draw your attention to physical signs of tension, anxiety, sadness, fatigue, et cetera - such as the quality of breath, carriage of the head and torso, gaze, and muscular tension. It can also help you to more accurately read those things. Your observations and subsequent inferences can become fruitful talking points in sessions. That could lead to much progress for your patients/clients. 

In the reverse, experience in mental health work can help you learn how to hold space for those who are hurting, in non-judgemental ways. As instructors, that’s a skill that we do need in our arsenal. On the other hand, one must be careful about doing work outside of one's role in such circumstances; yoga students do not come to class to be in therapy, and therapy/psychiatry clients don't come to sessions to be in yoga class. 

Even in work seemingly less directly related to yoga instruction, such as marketing and public relations, teaching yoga can help. It can hone your skills in crafting a theme and cohesive message, and delivering it with assured language and a clear voice. In addition, the corporate world all too often engages in unethical conduct. Living yogic values can help you to encounter such behavior with grace, objectivity, and clarity. You might also be able to be a role model of ethical conduct for your colleagues, and thus help fuel a decrease in corporate misconduct (perhaps at least in your workplace). 

2) “It’s who you know.”

Every job, and through that engagement in a certain employment sector, carries with it many contacts. The whole concept behind the successful media platform LinkedIn, for instance, is to organize and activate that network. These contacts can offer useful things such as referrals, recommendations, consultation, and input for publications. 

Perhaps you're having trouble with your platform for making yoga class playlists, for instance. A colleague at your other job could perhaps help you solve the issue. That’s informal help, unless the colleague does that professionally. Some help might be more formal, with the individual having set rates and other terms for their service. Whatever the case may be, if you're going to put your network to work in such ways, take efforts to keep it professional. Ensure that everyone's clear on expectations, and that no one is compromising anyone else's paid work. 

It's similar with making sales as a yoga instructor in an alternate workplace or vice-versa. First keep in mind if you might be applying competition (such as promoting private sessions in a public yoga studio), and regard the ethical boundaries of doing so. Next, remain aware that there are times and places for advertising services. Others are not appropriate for doing that. Even so, if handled ethically and with due discretion, connections at certain jobs can lead to boosting the strength of others. 

3) Find your “slash.”

Innovation comes from developing ideas and solving problems in ways that haven't been done before. The yoga field is competitive, and bringing our own unique offerings can help ensure your business success. At the same time, you can help more fully offer yoga's gifts to more people. If you sell essential oils, for instance, you could incorporate aromatherapy into your teaching - and thus further solidify your personal brand as a teacher. If you're a musician, you could build a class form with asana as well as pranayama, chanting, other singing, and music from a harmonium or other instrument. 

These types of “slash” forms (aromatherapy/yoga, music/yoga) often work well as workshops. Those can often pay better than standard public classes, as well as boost your notoriety as a teacher. One must be careful to ensure that potential students are clear on what you're offering, if it's something notably different from a typical modern Western yoga class. 

These types of beneficial integrations and connections - as with the utilizing your network and personal attributes (as previously described) - can evolve on their own if you stay open, curious, non-judgmental, and refuse to let fear take control. We thankfully have yoga practice to help us with that. When we create and channel connections in our professional lives in these ways, we can allow the wisdom and power of yoga to channel through us. It can then to more significantly help heal the ailing world in which we live. 

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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Friday, December 09, 2016

Continuing Education for Yoga Instructors That's Doable - Convenient and Low Cost

yoga instructor
By Kathryn Boland
Have you reflected on the value - no, necessity - of continuing education for yourself as a yoga instructor? Do you sometimes find it hard to have the time and money for it? Even so, a certain number of continuing education hours are required to uphold yoga instructor certification - no exceptions. And we see how we need to keep studying to keep teaching in fresh and informed ways. Read on for some ways to fulfill those requirements, for formal credits and informally for yourself, that are inexpensive and accessible. Happy learning, good luck, and Shanti!

Invest in a studio membership!

While you can't quite count practicing at a studio regularly for official continuing education hours, it can be an invaluable learning tool. First off because it allows you to consistently take class with a variety of instructors - who all bring unique knowledge and teaching styles to the table. With an unlimited membership, the more you go, the better value you get! Memberships range from $80-$130 per month - not nothing, but much less as a payment at one time than many other continuing education options.  

This frequency and diversity of classes allows you to adopt and adapt what works for your own teaching, and leave behind what doesn’t (as well as lead you to think critically about why). You'll also develop relationships with your teachers, who can then support you through the trials of your own teaching (while you’re also there to support them!). 

Second, you can keep cultivating your practice. Like a garden, it cannot grow and flourish if not nourished. We need healthy, inspired practices in order to authentically guide our students in their own. It also allows us to have common ground with our students. What we learn about them, and how we learn to put that to use in teaching them most fruitfully, is certainly a kind of continuing education - and an important one!

Work it all out in workshops!

Almost without exception, reputable yoga studios offer workshops. Depending upon factors like materials used (e.g. workbooks, special equipment), length (typically anywhere from two hours to entire weekends), and credentials of the teacher, these range in cost from roughly $20-$200. On the lower end, you can gain invaluable new learning for less than restaurant lunch!

Another advantage of workshops is the specificity; you can immerse yourself in a particular area of practice or instruction, with a teacher who is an expert in that area (why he or she chose to offer the workshop in the particular area, most often). This is a plus especially if you find that a particular area of your knowledge is lacking or needs a refresher. Or perhaps you're really interested in a particular area, and would like to incorporate it into your teaching more and/or start building a niche there - but you need more know-how first.

A workshop can be a great kick starter in any of those cases! You might also be able to get continuing education credits for workshops. You can find that out through the event’s promotional literature, or you can also ask the workshop teacher/organizer/hosting studio official. Keep an eye out for workshops that spark your interest (promoted or on studio websites “Workshops and Events” page). Or express your interest in learning more in depth about particular areas - to officials at your studio or your favorite teachers. These can be incredibly beneficial, enlightening, and game-changing opportunities - so try not to just let them pass you by!

Explore all that's online.

There’s a massive amount of free information on yoga instruction and practice out in there the virtual world. All accessible at the click of a mouse or smartphone keypad. Not all of it is informed and well-expressed, but it's there from which to probe and gather nuggets of valuable information. Being discerning about what we read and believe is a professional skillset that, just like any other, takes practice.

While often hazy and undefined amounts of time browsing online yoga resources (checking email and social media at least a few times, anyone?) cannot officially count for continuing education credits, through that browsing you might just find opportunities for that which are accessible and affordable for you. Some of these might count for CE credits!

As a matter of fact, that is how I found out about Aura Wellness Center’s independent study certification programs. Without that, I don't know if I ever could have been able to afford (and afford taking the time away from paid work for) yoga instructor certification. You can just never know how life changing a Google search can turn out to be. Happy internet surfing, and may the learning roll on!

Kathryn Boland is a Yoga teacher and a graduate of the Yoga teacher training program at: Aura Wellness Center in, Attleboro, MA. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Yoga Teacher Tips

instructor education
By Faye Martins

Many people find yoga to be a great way to relax and get exercise. Yoga is a great way to mentally unwind and it promotes sports recovery. You may have thought about how great it would be to learn how to teach yoga students.

If you are interested in teaching yoga, you probably have already taken classes before. If you are new, you may wish to try different types of yoga to see which types you would most enjoy teaching. You may wish to sample a few different classes if you have been with one instructor for most of the time you have been learning. By sampling different instructors you can also get ideas based on what other teachers do for your own classes. When you are planning to teach your first class, you may want to focus on a beginner class to keep the moves simple.

There are training courses available to teach yoga instructors about how to lead their classes. These courses can give you all the tools you need to be a good instructor, though you will still need to do some planning and practice on your own. Like everything else, teaching gets better with practice. If you are nervous about teaching your first class, it may help to tell the students that it is your first class. Simply disclosing a fear can often make it seem less scary, and your students will understand if you stumble a little bit. Don't worry if your first few classes aren't perfect--you can make a note of what you thought went well or not and strive to improve the mistakes.

Yoga has a mental aspect, and consider including poses intended to promote relaxation in your sessions while instructing students on their breathing and which areas of the body to focus on. Learning how to teach others where to focus and how to relax is one of the key aspects of learning how to teach yoga students.

You may wish to write down the sequence you want to do in your class and then practice it yourself a few times, including what you will say during your class. If you are especially nervous before teaching your first class, you could even practice teaching with a couple friends first before you teach your first class of people you don't know. You can ask your friends for feedback to get a student's perspective.

Decide whether you want to provide mats or have people bring their own. The market for supplies for doing yoga is growing, so you may wish to ask if anyone has any questions about yoga mats you would recommend. This can be done after class when you are inviting students to come back to class and make yoga a regular practice in their lives. A good yoga mat can be a great investment, especially for certain types of yoga like hot yoga, which requires a mat that can provide traction and dry quickly even when its user is producing sweat. Consider the surface you will be working on, since the mats may need to be thicker on hard surfaces. If you provide mats, consider how you will sanitize them between uses.

Faye Martins, is a Yoga teacher and a graduate of the Yoga teacher training program at: Aura Wellness Center in, Attleboro, MA. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Yoga for Enhanced Academic Performance

improving attention and concentration
By Bhavan Kumar

The benefits of yoga are well known for adults, but many of these benefits also carry over to young students. Research has shown that regular practice of yoga techniques can help students fare better in their academic and emotional lives in various ways.

Physical Fitness

According to the CDC, childhood obesity rates have doubled over the past 30 years. About 1 out of every 3 children is obese. Improving the physical fitness of children is not only important for their bodies, but it also helps the mind. Studies have shown that practicing yoga not only improves physical fitness in children, but it also promotes better academic performance and emotional stability. The benefits of children's yoga come from a calmer heart rate that allows the brain to activate responses from the parasympathetic nervous system. Systems of the body such as immunity, circulation, digestion and glandular balance are enhanced as well.

Attention and Concentration

Yoga provides an avenue for the mind and body to relax from fast paced learning environments. This can help students apply themselves in a more effective way when learning and studying in the classroom. In a 2013 study, students reported better concentration and more restful sleep after practicing yoga for only one month. A study from the Department of Psychology at Stanford with 4th to 7th graders showed that eight weeks of practicing meditation for just one hour resulted in decreased anxiety and increased ability to focus their attention. The breathing techniques associated with yoga can increase concentration in ways that also enhance academic performance.

Behavior and Conflict

Yoga can also help students get along better with their peers which allows for a more effective learning environment. A school in Wisconsin began a yoga program for kindergarten to 8th grade students that consisted of two classes a week. These lessons emphasized breathing and movement yoga practices alongside teaching respectful behavior. After a year of using this method, the school saw a decrease of disruptive behaviors by more than half. It was found that behavior improved outside of the classroom as well. These results show that yoga may teach students how to manage their reactions and respect others in improved ways.


Many adults practice yoga to improve their moods and reduce stress. Just like adults, students are susceptible to the detrimental effects of stress. They are often pressured and stressed by their peers, social lives, family burdens and academic worries. A study published in 2009 analyzed the effects of yoga on adolescents with higher stress levels. The study showed that after seven weeks of regular yoga practice, breathing exercises and meditation, their stress levels were reduced and their academic performance improved as a result. A 2014 study showed that ten weeks of yoga practice reduced stress in a group of low-SES students.


Self-consciousness is often contingent upon academic performance, and excessive worry about it can lead to decreased performance or mental health concerns. Studies have shown that yoga can result in improvement of self-esteem to enhance mental health and improve academic performance. Students also deal with poor body image and feelings of awkwardness. A study in 2013 found that high school students that substituted yoga for standard physical education reported better respect for their bodies and improved spatial awareness. In other studies, students reported that regular yoga practice could provide incentive to refuse peer pressure to engage in destructive activities.

Practicing yoga offers a number of physical and mental benefits to students that allow them to better handle everyday stressors. This allows them to put more focus on their academic concerns with less of a toll on their health away from the classroom.


J Educ Health Promot. 2013; 2: 55.
Published online 2013 Sep 30. doi:  10.4103/2277-9531.119043

Adolescent and School Health