Sunday, May 31, 2015

Committing to a Yoga Practice: Making Time

yoga practice time
By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed.

Many of the most profound benefits of Yoga come with a committed, regular practice. The reason for this is that many of the postures, breathing exercises and meditative relaxation techniques are cumulative and synergistic with each other. A regular practice of Yoga postures several times a week allows the body to relax and open up, as the muscles and ligaments begin to release deeply held tension and stress, which may have been lodged in the body for quite some time, possibly even for years. 

When the physical practice of Yoga postures is combined with pranayama techniques, the benefits of both the breathing exercises and the physical poses are enhanced. For example, when the Sun Salutations are performed while practicing Ujjayi Pranayama, not only is the body toned and strengthened, but the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems are also brought into balance. This synergistic effect leaves a Yogi or Yogini feeling both calm and energized, after flowing through a series of classical Sun Salutations. 

One of the primary obstacles to truly experiencing the physical, psychological and energetic benefits of Yoga, is the time crunch that most of us experience on a daily basis. Balancing our work, family and professional obligations, with a regular routine of self-care in the form of daily exercise, is quite tricky for most of us, to say the least. This is why so many of us try to multi-task while we are exercising.  For example, many people in health clubs work out on an exercise bicycle, while reading the paper or answering their emails. 

Recently, I even saw a television ad that showcased a Yoga student contacting her auto insurance company about a claim she filed on her iPhone, while she was trying to hold Downward Facing Dog! This created a situation where she was holding the one-armed version of the posture, hence creating an unstable base and almost toppling over. I have to wonder if it would have made much of a difference in the processing of her claim if she had waited to contact her insurance company until after the class was over. Irregardless, this anxiously driven need to constantly multi-task is familiar to many of us. 

The first step to really committing to a Yoga practice is to experience the profound and transformational effects of a daily practice of asanas, pranayama exercises and meditative relaxation techniques for yourself. In this way, you won’t just be taking somebody else’s word for it; you will experience the increased level of strength, flexibility and well-being in your own body and mind. When you feel better in your body and your mind is more at ease, you will naturally seek out time to spend “on the mat.” 

If you find it difficult to practice Yoga every day, rest assured that you will also experience a substantial number of the same benefits by practicing every other day. By committing to a regular practice at least several times a week, for one week, you can experience the comprehensive benefits of this ancient practice for yourself. If you are pressed for time, and you find it difficult or even impossible to practice for an hour at a time, don’t feel demoralized. Practicing for 20-30 minutes, several times a week, will increase your overall strength, flexibility and peace of mind more effectively than a longer practice of an hour or two only once a week. 

By practicing with other Yoga practitioners at a local studio or health club, you can also combine socializing with taking classes. This will allow you to make and maintain friendships while practicing Yoga; back to multi-tasking!  

If it is difficult for you to find the time to go to a studio or health club to take Yoga classes, there are also a number of websites that offer a wide variety of classes for a nominal monthly fee. As you experience the benefits of a regular practice of Yoga, finding a daily slot of time to spend on the mat will feel like coming home and the obstacles will simply fade into the background, as your Yoga practice naturally becomes an integral part of your day or evening. 

Virginia Iversen, M.Ed, has been practicing and studying the art of Yoga for over twenty years. She lives in Woodstock, New York, where she specializes in writing customized articles that are 100% unique. She is currently accepting Yoga and health-related writing orders and may be contacted at:

© Copyright 2015 – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Keeping Challenges Safe In Kids Yoga Classes

By Kimaya Singh

Yoga is a wonderful way for children to stay fit and healthy. Today, 18 per cent of children between the age of six and 11 are obese, while one-third of children are overweight. Studies have also found that yoga can have emotional benefits as well, including greater optimism and less reactive nature. Mentally, it increases a child’s focus, helps with concentration and improves their quality of sleep. Academic performance has also been found to improve when students are doing yoga.

These benefits are wonderful, but as a yoga teacher it is important you keep your children safe during yoga challenges. Children often push themselves too far, including during exercises, and that can lead to injury. It is important that children in your class are safe, because as long as they are safe with their challenges, they will continue to come to classes to get fit and create a pattern of health that stays with them for years to come.

Many young children won’t be able to do the movements or postures that adults can, because they may lack the strength and coordination to do so. Children have flexibility, but a child with flexibility alone needs supervision. As a teacher, there are other alternative poses that you can have children try in the yoga class, including:

1.   Rock Pose: This pose involves the children sitting on their feet with their palms resting on the thighs.

2.   Child’s Pose: This pose involves sitting down on heels and resting the forehead on the floor with arms at the side.

3.   Cow Pose: In this pose children positioned with hands and knees on the floor, with knees hip-width apart.

4.   Dog Pose: This pose involves children curling toes under and pushing with hands and feet as hips are lifted up.

5.   Puppy Pose: For this pose, the child will lower the hips from the dog pose and balance on the balls of the feet and hands.

In order to keep children’s yoga challenges safe during the class, you should take into consideration the attention span of the children, as well as their energy level. Obviously, make sure the children warm up before they start the yoga. This will help loosen up their bodies for the yoga session. One of the most important things to do is to set limits for children depending on how old they are. These limits can be similar to:

1.   Children below the age of six should spend only one minute on each pose and the yoga session itself should last no longer than 15 minutes.

2.   Children over the age of six should hold poses for 90 seconds at most, and the yoga session should last no longer than 25 minutes.

Above all, in terms of safety, the best thing you can do is to supervise the children doing yoga challenges at all times. This is important because you can make sure the children do not attempt poses they are not ready for, which could injure them. You can also prevent them from forcing their bodies into a harmful position.

As a yoga teacher, you don’t need to worry too much on alignment when dealing with children. The two things you should ask yourself are whether or not the children are having fun and are they doing yoga in a safe manner. There is no need to be picky about the poses as a result. The most important thing is that you want to give the children a positive experience in yoga. That positive experience will foster a love of yoga in them, which will keep them living a yoga lifestyle well into adulthood, keeping them mentally and physically fit.

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Monday, May 25, 2015

Courage and Teaching Yoga: Speaking the Truth

about courage and teaching yoga
By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed.

There is a great deal of courage required to teach Yoga in such a way that your classes are safe, effective and transformational. Of course, one of the most important aspects of any class is to maintain the safety and comfort of your students. In addition, you want to make sure that your classes are challenging enough for the majority of your students, so that your classes effectively help to improve their strength, coordination and flexibility. As you become more adept at teaching Yoga classes, you will be able to also offer classes to your students that improve both their physical health and their emotional well-being and sense of optimism. 

The term “courage” can be loosely translated to mean “of the heart.” Ideally when you are teaching a Yoga class, you want to guide your students from the wisdom of your own heart. In order to move from the essential nature of your own being, you must speak the truth. When you are teaching Yoga classes, there will be numerous occasions, sometimes even from moment to moment, when you have the opportunity to either speak the truth to your students, or to sweep the truth underneath the proverbial carpet, by ignoring what could become an uncomfortable situation to address during the course of your class. 

For example, if you are teaching a strong back bending Yoga class, and you notice that one of your students is struggling to practice Upward Facing Bow, you could quietly approach this student and let him or her know that it would be best to practice a more moderate, restorative version of the posture for safety reasons. Although this may feel uncomfortable to you at first, you will be serving your student more appropriately by gently guiding this student through a practice that is individually tailored to his or her own ability level. By allowing your students to practice Yoga postures and pranayama exercises that are beyond their ability level, you are not serving them. 

As you begin to become more comfortable with teaching Yoga classes at a variety of levels, you will notice that there are many different opportunities when you can stand in the courage of your own heart and speak the truth, or when you can shirk away from speaking the truth with courage, forthrightness and without apology. You will find, overtime, that if you speak the truth to your students in an appropriate and kind manner, your classes will go far beyond simply increasing muscular strength and flexibility. Your classes will actually become a transformational tool for your Yoga students. 

When you have the courage speak the truth, you will notice that the alchemical process of Yoga will unfold at a much more rapid pace for many of your students. In order to gauge if it is serving your students to speak the truth in any given situation during a Yoga class, the Buddhist Four Gateways of Speech are a wonderful framework in which to evaluate your verbal and nonverbal communication. If you are considering whether or not to approach a student during your class, you may want to internally evaluate if what you are about to say is true, necessary, kind, and if your timing is appropriate. 

For instance, if one of your less flexible Yoga students is struggling to practice Upward Facing Bow in correct alignment, you may want to pause for a moment and make sure that it is actually true that your student is not physically able to practice Upward Facing Bow today without risking injury. If you ascertain that yes, indeed, the student is unable physically to practice Upward Facing Bow in a safe and effective manner on this particular day, you may then want to move on to the second Gateway of Speech, and evaluate if it is necessary to verbally approach this student. 

If you find that it is necessary to quietly and diplomatically suggest that your student practice a supported version of Upward Facing Bow, or even a less strenuous back bending asana, determining the optimal timing to approach your student is an important element of teaching Yoga and in a truthful and courageous fashion. Of course, you must also keep in mind the wisdom, alignment principals and training that you learned in your Yoga teacher-training program. By approaching your students from a place of compassion, patience and kindness, you will help them to progress at a faster, safer pace during your Yoga class.

Virginia Iversen, M.Ed, has been practicing and studying the art of Yoga for over twenty years. She lives in Woodstock, New York; where she specializes in writing customized, search engine-optimized articles that are 100% unique. She is currently accepting Yoga and health-related writing orders and may be contacted at:

© Copyright 2015 – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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Friday, May 22, 2015

Committing to a Yoga Practice: Confronting Obstacles

committing to a yoga practice
By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

As most of us know, health experts and doctors advise us to exercise on a regular basis. This generally means to engage in a moderate form of exercise 4-5 times per week. Practicing Yoga several times a week is a well-rounded form of moderate exercise that helps to improve muscle tone, burn calories and increase flexibility. Practicing Yoga also helps to improve concentration, focus and quell the incessant mental chatter that many of us live with on a daily basis. 

Even though you may have a strong intention to practice Yoga regularly, you may find that there seems to be a plethora of obstacles that seem to preventing you from practicing several times a week. For instance, you may feel that you don’t have enough time to practice for 30-60 minutes per session, or you may feel that the cost of taking classes is too expensive for you. You may even feel that you don’t have enough room in your home to roll out your Yoga mat and extend your arms fully in Warrior 1 Pose, without knocking a plant over or a picture off the wall!

If these obstacles sound familiar to you, remember that you are not alone. The first step to confronting your obstacles to practicing Yoga regularly is to be excruciatingly honest with yourself about identifying the obstacles. For instance, if finances are tight, you may be able to participate in a Yoga class for a nominal fee at a local community center or at no additional cost at a health club where you are already a member. 

There are also a number of Yoga studios throughout the country that offer donation-based classes. Other studios are offering community classes at a discounted rate throughout the week. If it is still too costly to take classes at a studio, community center or health club, you may want to consider taking classes online. There are a number of websites that offer a wide range of unlimited Yoga classes to their members for less than $5 a week. 

If you find that it is more convenient and affordable to practice at home most of the time, it is still recommended that you take classes with a certified Yoga teacher at least a few times a month, so that you can have some professional feedback on your personal practice. One advantage to taking a class at a local studio is that there are no distractions when you are practicing at a dedicated Yoga space. In other words, you can’t answer the phone, stir the soup that is cooking in a pot on the stove, check your email, or answer the door when you are practicing at a facility outside your home.  

On the other hand, it requires a larger investment of time to drive to a studio or health club to take a class, than it does to simply roll out your Yoga mat and press, “play” on a DVD player or computer screen. If you find that two of your main obstacles to practicing Yoga several times a week are largely about limited finances and time, you may find that combining practicing at home, with occasionally taking a community or donation-based class at a local studio, is a nice, affordable balance. 

Additionally, if you participate in Yoga classes at a local studio, health club or community center, you will have the opportunity to form new friendships and to become involved in a community of like-minded individuals. Maintaining social connections is a very important aspect of nurturing your emotional and mental health, as well as bringing depth, fresh perspectives and a sense of levity to your day-to-day life experiences. All too frequently, many of us become isolated as the demands of our familial and financial responsibilities gains momentum over time. 

If you take classes from a Yoga teacher who offers a period of contemplative reading or scriptural wisdom as part of his or her class, your daily challenges will often seem a little less dire and be framed in a more positive light. Even if you find yourself facing daunting challenges, such as a divorce, death or life threatening illness, taking a few minutes during a Yoga class to contemplate others’ journeys through the arc of a lifetime of experiences will help to give you a broader perspective on your own life journey. 

Virginia Iversen, M.Ed, has been practicing and studying the art of Yoga for over twenty years. She lives in Woodstock, New York; where she specializes in writing customized, search engine-optimized articles that are 100% unique. She is currently accepting Yoga and health-related writing orders and may be contacted at:

© Copyright – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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