• Posted on January 28th, 2014 12:30:30 PM Alice G. Walton No comments

    The Language of Yoga: Prana

    Most of us have heard the word “prana” somewhere along the road: Yoga teachers might mention it in reference to a person’s energy or their breath – or both. In fact, prana has elements of both energy and breath, as the two are intimately linked. Classically, it’s thought of as being the life-force that sustains us all, the energy that’s present in all forms of matter. Whether you think of prana as a physical entity within our bodies, or more generally as a metaphor to describe the underlying energy in everything – perhaps even in the universe itself – is up to you. Defining prana is difficult – feeling it is much simpler.

    Prana comes from the prefix “pra,” and the root word, “an,” which means to breathe. The word translates as “to breathe forth,” or often even more simply, “life.” Jillian Pransky, director of Restorative Therapeutic Yoga teacher training for YogaWorks, and a founding Director of Bright Spirit Yoga Trainings, says that the concept goes back thousands of years, to the ancient writings known as the Vedas. Pransky describes prana as being “the sum total of energy that is manifest in the universe; the ‘universal life force.’ In western science, the atom, of which matter and all life are comprised, is 99.999% empty space. From the yogic perspective, this space is not really empty but is filled with creative potential, the universal energy, Prana.”

    It can be hard for Westerners to wrap our minds around prana being a physical entity, as it’s understood in Eastern thought. Researching it will lead you to wildly disparate fields: from yogic philosophy to psychology to molecular biology to particle physics. Pransky points out that though it may not be quantifiable – now – this doesn’t mean it won’t one day be. “While not measurable by western scientific instruments,” she says, “yogis and most Eastern spiritual practices, agree that there is an energy, a life force, that, just like the breath – it is both within us, keeping us alive, and around us, pervading the environment and all of creation. Yogis believe that  ’energy’ – also known as prana – is the universal life force that makes all our bodies systems work, our mental and emotional systems produce activity, and fully sustains our actual ‘aliveness.’”

    Pransky says in her classes she sometimes has students do various exercises in which they rub their hands together very fast and then place them close together, but not touching. “They notice,” she says, “that when their eyes were closed they experience a sensation of heat, vibration, or energy. Some say it feels like they are pulling apart taffy; there is a magnetic force between their hands; a cushion between their hands; a heavy liquid barrier. Definitely something tangible is there. This is energy. Your prana. This is the part of you that walks in to a room before you do. This is the part of you that enters another persons space before your bodies touch.”

    Prana, as Pransky points out, is also intimately linked to the breath, which she says is “both a major source of prana and serves as a vehicle for regulating the flow of prana throughout the body. For this reason the science of the breath is called pranayama, or the channeling or harnessing of prana.” Pranayama is the fourth limb of yoga, and allows us, at least to some degree, to control the mind. As many people have pointed out, it’s a lot easier to control the gross form (the breath) than the subtle one (the mind) – hence the study of pranayama.

    Finally, there’s another, really fascinating way to look at prana: The ancient Yoga-Vāsishtha describes prana as the “vibratory power” that underlies everything, animate and inanimate alike. Sri Swami Satchidananda in his commentary on the Yoga Sutras also describes it as the “basic vibration which always exists whether it is manifesting or not. It is never-ending…. We say that animate objects move while inanimate ones do not, because it appears that way to our eyes. We can’t see any motion in a stone, but that does not mean it is motionless. We need not go to the scriptures; the scientists themselves have proven that.” Indeed physics tells us that matter is made up of tiny vibrating particles – and even what appears to be empty space isn’t really empty at all.

    Perhaps prana is simply another way of expressing the idea that there’s more to us than meets the eye – more to our bodies, minds, and even the “empty” space that makes up everything. In physics, it’s called string theory. In psychology, it’s known as gestalt, borne out by the phrase, “the whole is other than the sum of the parts.” What that other is and why it occurs is anybody’s guess. Though science can’t quite explain it all just yet, yogis were talking about the underlying vibration of things thousands of years ago and learning how to direct it. Most of us can feel that energy in ourselves if we look inward, and in the person sitting next to us if we look outward. And perhaps right now, that’s all we need to know.

    Alice G. Walton, PhD is a health and science writer, and began practicing (and falling in love with) yoga last year. She is the Associate Editor at TheDoctorWillSeeYouNow.com and a Contributor at Forbes.com. Alice will be exploring yoga’s different styles, history, and philosophy, and sharing what she learns here on the YogaGlo blog. You can follow Alice on Twitter @AliceWalton and Facebook at Facebook.com/alicegwalton.


  • Posted on January 27th, 2014 7:00:48 AM YogaGlo 3 comments

    When things in our lives change or fall apart (especially when those things threaten our survival), we get pulled out of center and out of alignment with the present. We feel like we’re ungrounded and lacking direction. We can become unsure, indecisive, unsteady and are unable to focus. If you are in desperate need to be pulled back to center, then we’ve got the classes for you.

    This week’s featured classes will help anchor the mind, reconnect you to balance, bring focus to your heart and mind and will support you completely.

    Yoga for Grounding

    • Anchor the Mind, Create Clarity with Tiffany Cruikshank: A grounding class with timed holds to create clarity. This class starts with some pranayama work to take you into a more meditative practice to anchor the mind. We’ll do some more intense timed standing holds and then take it into some timed held yin poses. This class is great if you want to build strength and balance it with some yin type opening or if you want more of the grounding practice when you need a little clarity.
    • Grounding Meditation with Felicia Tomasko: This meditation begins as a guided practice incorporating a combination of breath, awareness, and visualization to connect us to the battery pack of the earth so we can draw up prana, energy, or life-force from the earth in order to become rejuvenated, revitalized, and restored.
    • Let’s Get Grounded with Dice lida-Klein: With no standing postures and only one downdog, this Hatha based class will weave through seated postures to open the hips, hamstrings and low back, grounding through our roots, all in 20 minutes! Enjoy my fellow yogis!
    • Deep Grounding Practice with Noah Maze: Commit to what supports and stabilizes you with this class of inversions, inversion variations, forward bends and twists. This is a great class to do before meditation, or on any day when you want a focused practice that deeply grounds you.
    • Rebalancing & Grounding Stretch with Elena Brower: Complete grounding stretch if you’ve worked out, arrived from road or air travel, or just need a little rebalancing. Simple seated stretches, some standing postures and supine poses to release and restore your muscles and respiration.
    • Grounding & Centering with Hip Openers with Jason Crandell: Deeply soothing, grounding, and centering, this unhurried practice will unwind your hips and calm your mind. The vast majority of the practice stays low to the ground, featuring more than enough seated hip-openers, forward bends and twists. The practice will also help you release tension from your abdomen and pelvic floor.


  • Posted on December 4th, 2013 12:30:03 PM Jason Crandell 10 comments

    How to Keep Your Teaching Real and Relevant

    The landscape of teaching yoga has changed dramatically over the last 15 years. First, the practice of teaching individuals transformed into the practice of teaching larger and larger groups. Now, with the advent of more accessible technology and ubiquitous social media, teachers are engaging with their students over an even greater distance. Personally, I love the opportunity that all of these mediums provide. With this ever-changing environment, though, it can be challenging to stay grounded, present, and down-to-earth. It can be challenging to remember that we’re educators, not entertainers and our role is to share the vast, sublime teachings of yoga in a way that anyone can understand and find meaningful in their daily life. Here are some reminders that will help you keep your teaching real, accessible, and relevant.

    • Witness Your Students

    I love having a job where I’m able to express myself. I’m mindful, though, that I can get so wrapped up expressing a teaching that—ironically—I stop paying attention to my students and become absorbed with articulating a concept or theme. Whether it’s getting lost momentarily in your playlist, sequence, technique, or philosophical agenda, all teachers face the challenge of focusing on the students that in the room. Being aware of this challenge is the first step in transcending it. The next step is honing your attention on your students’ body and breath. Watch your students’ eyes, arms, legs, and feet. Watch your students breathe. Trust that you don’t have to impress your students. You just have to witness them clearly.

    • Embrace Repetition

    Most teachers are fearful of sounding like a broken record. Of course, they are—who wouldn’t be? But, when you teach yoga you are teaching a subject. In order to teach a subject, you need to repeat, repeat, repeat. And, repeat. Imagine you are teaching someone a new language—or, how to do math or play an instrument. Would you be concerned about repetition then? By embracing repetition, you are embracing education.

    • Don’t Confuse Being Authentic With Being Complicated or Difficult

    You don’t have to be complicated or difficult to be authentic. Most of the teachings we yearn to share with our students are simple: we want to teach people how to breathe, how to listen to their body, how to be less judgmental, how to release unnecessary tension, and so on. These are our “authentic” teachings and expressing them in simple, clear ways honors our dharma.

    • Keep Things Accessible

    Pressing into handstand, doing complicated arm-balances, and experimenting with deep backbends make for good social media clips. They are striking, inspiring poses that speak to our aspirations. They are also good, interesting things to include in your advanced classes—I work on these poses, I teach them and I post them on social media platforms. That said, we have to remember that these poses are not terribly realistic for the vast majority of students. It’s incredibly valuable to experiment with your edge and encourage your students to do so from time-to-time. But, let’s not get carried away—or become convinced that harder poses provide more benefits than simple poses. Feel free to challenge your students, but make sure that your classes are chock full of postures that your students can do with precision and care.

    Jason is a contributing editor for Yoga Journal and has written over 13 articles for the magazine and website – many of which have been translated internationally (including Japan, China, Italy and Brazil). His integrative and accessible teachings support students of every background and lineage, helping them to find greater depth, awareness, and well-being in their practice – and in their lives. Follow Jason on Facebook and Twitter.


  • Posted on November 20th, 2013 7:00:34 AM Jason Crandell 5 comments

    5 Ways to Stay Healthy, Safe and Grounded While Youre Teaching

    As yoga teachers, we’re committed to the wellbeing of our students. After all, our bottom line is to help people reduce their suffering. We even commit to ongoing, continuing education to help provide more skillful service. Yet, we often ignore how easy it is to injure ourselves—or become overly stressed out and ungrounded—when we teach. No, our job isn’t too dirty and there are plenty of other vocations that carry much greater risk. But teaching yoga presents plenty of physical and emotional challenges. Here are few ways to keep yourself healthy, safe and grounded while you teach.

    • Limit Demonstrations

    It seems so safe, easy and effective to demonstrate postures in class. You just pop yourself into an arm-balance, backbend or twist to visually express what you’re teaching. The problem is that you’re cold, a little adrenalized, and focused on the outward appearance of the pose—oh, and you’re probably always doing your demos on the same side. Sure, there is a time and place for demos, but the list of injuries that occur from seemingly simple, innocuous moments like these is frighteningly long. So, if you need to demonstrate please remember not to max yourself out. Check yourself if you realize you’re trying to impress your students.

    • Be Mindful When You Give Adjustments

    When I teach trainings, I ask students to raise their hand if they’ve been injured while receiving an adjustment. Unfortunately, 25-40% of the room usually raises their hand. If I were to ask a room full of teachers how many of them have injured themselves while giving an adjustment, I’m willing to guess that the percentage would be similar. Giving adjustments can compromise your body if you’re not focused on your own alignment and sensations. You can also make matters worse for yourself if you’re already experiencing a knee, lower-back, or shoulder injury and you ignore them while teaching. Providing good adjustments is nice, but give yourself permission to prioritize your own safety and comfort in the process.

    • Remember to Breathe

    Every time you tell your students to breathe, pause and take a breath yourself. Doing this will help you stay grounded, relaxed and focused as you teach. Staying grounded, relaxed and focused will make your classes even better and help stave off fatigue and burnout.

    • Trust the Power of the Practice

    Teachers (including myself) have a tendency to be very critical of themselves. When we’re overly critical or lack confidence in our ability to teach, we start to over-effort. We forget that yoga is not about us teacher—it’s about the transcendent, timeless experience the practice. In order to stay grounded, relaxed and comfortable as a teacher, you have to trust that the practice is inherently transformational and that you’re simply facilitating your students’ experience. You’ll stay happier and healthier if you let the students’ practice do the majority of the work.

    • Be Kind to Yourself

    Teaching yoga can be an emotional rollercoaster—and, it will certainly expose aspects of your personality and ego that other aspects of the practice don’t. Be mindful of your inner-narrative and practice kindness towards yourself. Doing so will decrease stress and help you weather the challenges that arise.

    Jason is a contributing editor for Yoga Journal and has written over 13 articles for the magazine and website – many of which have been translated internationally (including Japan, China, Italy and Brazil). His integrative and accessible teachings support students of every background and lineage, helping them to find greater depth, awareness, and well-being in their practice – and in their lives. Follow Jason on Facebook and Twitter.


  • Posted on November 11th, 2013 7:00:50 AM YogaGlo No comments

    The seas of change and stress can rough us up in life, but it’s in those times that it is so important to remain anchored. Anchors help us maintain our stability even in the roughest and toughest seas of life. Whether we realize it or not, all living things yearn for stability. We are constantly seeking to establish harmonious and balanced relationships with ourselves and our environment. But how to do we achieve stability in this unstable and unpredictable world? Yoga can help. This week’s featured classes will help us recognize that we have the power to create anchors of stability in our lives and in ourselves.

    Yoga for Stability

    • Stability Practice with Jo Tastula:Take a few minutes to relax and set the tone for the type of practice that you’d like to have today. Need some healing? Inspiration? Strengthening? Centering? Practice can be what ever you set your mind and heart to. In class we play with poses that are internally rotated in the legs which create stability in the pelvis and spine. From simple 3 legged downward facing dog (adho mukha svanasana), crescent, wide legged forward bend (prasarita parsvottonasana), eagle (garudasana), swan (hamsasana), side plank (vasistasana) and a few variations of head to knee pose (janu sirsasana). Try to follow on with my infamous ‘around the world’ transition (I have trouble with that one myself).Savasana to finish.
    • Stability and Flexibility with Steven Espinosa: Strong Level 1 challenging enough for beginners and intermediate students. Steady opening warm up leads into an energetic Standing Pose flow with Warriors 1, 2 & 3 for strength and endurance. Focus is on establishing stability to create greater flexibility. Continues with Utkatsasana (Chair) and Parivrtta Utkatasana (Twisting Chair). Followed by Hip Opener in Agnistambhasana (Firelog) also includes brief tutorial to safely engage hamstring stretch in Hanumanasana (Monkey). Continues with Back Bends in Bridge and/or Upward Facing Bow, Spinal Twist and brief Savasana.
    • Boost Your Stability, Find Positivity with Stephanie Snyder: Boost your stability and power to express yourself in a meaningful and positive way. This is a midline practice that will fortify your connection to center and balance. It is a strong and flowing practice that includes heart, shoulder, quad openers (low lunges, wild thing, anjaneyasana, dhanurasana, etc) twists and standing balance poses. This practice will clear your inner vision.
    • Turn Your Fear into Stability with Elena Brower: With this practice we transmute any “heavy” energy – sadness, grief or fear – into grounding stability. Through this sweet flow sequence, with interesting use of the back foot leading into anjaneyasana, even forearm stand, we will address the musculature of your legs and groundedness of your feet in order to transmute what’s weighing us down energetically into a strong and steady foundational energy.
    • Find Stability with Kathryn Budig: A simple, grounding flow meant to help us feel stability both in our body and in our life. Great if you want a mellow practice with elements of strength. Sun salutations followed by a few standing poses and a headstand hold.
    •  Strength & Stability with Felicia Tomasko: This practice begins with bridge pose moving with the breath to both strengthen and stretch the muscles along the spine before moving into an abdominal strengthening series and gentle backbends. This balanced group of postures can be done at any time of day to encourage strength and stability.


  • Posted on October 23rd, 2013 12:30:12 PM Jason Crandell 7 comments

    The Practicing of Teaching Yoga

    As yoga students we’re committed to the process and concept of practicing. Even though we may slip here and there, we remember that we aren’t competing with anyone—including ourselves—when we’re on our mat. We remember that our practice is not the preparation for a scored event and we’re not on a timeline to develop postures or gain particular insights.

    And, yet, we’re committed to the spirit of practice and this means that we’re not simply resting on our laurels or going through motions. As practitioners, we’re honing our focus, deepening our self-awareness and developing our experience of embodiment. We’re repeating postures, sequences and elements of the spiritual practice in order to refine our skills. We’re also exploring our edge so that we discover what’s beyond our comfort zone.

    As yoga teachers it’s essential that we see ourselves in the same light: as teachers practicing the art of teaching. Too often, we’re overly critical of ability to convey information and inspire students. We ask our students not to be competitive or judgmental in our practice, but our inner-monologue about our own “performance” is often extremely harsh. As educators, we have to remember that we will always be honing our craft—which means we’re not always perfect and expecting as much creates unnecessary tension that causes more harm than good. We’ll continue to refine our awareness in key areas like anatomy, sequencing, manual adjustments, verbal cueing, and so on. We’ll continue to practice witnessing our students clearly and unconditionally. And, we’ll continue to develop our voice and clarify our sense of purpose—and, we’ll allow both to naturally change over time.

    As teachers, we should hold ourselves to an extremely high standard, while, at the same time, remembering that just like our students are practicing down-dog, we’re practicing the many, many layers of teaching during our classes. Even more, we need to make inner-room and allowances for the countless mistakes that we’ll inevitably make as we teach our classes—after all, we need to make mistakes and have confusion in order to grow.

    In my trainings, I encourage trainees to be proactive about the practice of teaching by listing several skills that they are currently developing. I hear teachers talk about what postures they’re working on—or see pictures and video clips—but I rarely hear what aspects of teaching and knowledge development teachers are currently working on. In order to be transparent and encourage everyone to do the same, I’ll end with my list of skills that I’m currently focused on deepening in my practice of teaching yoga. I’d love to hear what you’re working on.

    • Seeing my students’ shoulders with more clarity and accuracy.
    • Experimenting with sequencing structures that are unconventional for me.
    • Trusting that I can give less instruction from time to time and allow greater quietness.
    • Continuing to give simple, clear, accessible instructions without diluting the content.
    • Maintaining a steady tempo for longer durations in class.
    • Using my students names and giving personalized instruction in the middle of large classes.
    • Learning the names of new students more quickly.

    Jason is a contributing editor for Yoga Journal and has written over 13 articles for the magazine and website – many of which have been translated internationally (including Japan, China, Italy and Brazil). His integrative and accessible teachings support students of every background and lineage, helping them to find greater depth, awareness, and well-being in their practice – and in their lives. Follow Jason on Facebook and Twitter.


  • Posted on October 3rd, 2013 12:00:19 PM Jason Crandell 6 comments

    5 Poses I Love And Why

    Common wisdom tells you to work on the postures that bring up resistance and challenge you. Yoga apparel bags also tell you to do things that scare you each and every day. Personally, I’m okay with these sentiments—after all, there’s plenty of value in exploring the edges of your comfort zone. As a practitioner and teacher, though, I choose to emphasize the opposite—I choose to indulge the postures that I love with egregious frequency. I encourage the teachers that I train to do the exact same thing. We love the poses that we love for good reasons: they awaken us, they ground us, they soothe us, they challenge us, and they nurture our mind’s ability to focus and settle down. These 5 postures come up time and time again in my classes because I’m shamelessly enthusiastic about them.

    • URDHVA DHANURASANA – IT SOOTHES ME

    Yep, that’s right, I find urdhva dhanurasana deeply soothing. Yes, I’m aware that everyone and their cousin goes on and on about how uplifting and energizing backbends are. But, honestly, my experience is the opposite. A nice, strong urdhva dhanurasana (or 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6) actually cuts through whatever narrative my mind is engaged with, focuses my attention, and burns whatever anxiety I may be experiencing. Urdhva dhanurasana is never easy for me, but it’s always settling.

    • PASCHIMOTTANASANA – IT HUMBLES ME

    Paschimottanasana bums me out. I’m always prattling on about integrity of movement being more important than range of movement. Even though I firmly believe this, the first thought that runs through my head when I practice paschimottanasana is, “really, ugh, this is as far as I can go today?” This pose continues to reveal how judgmental I can be toward myself and provides me with the opportunity to let go.

    • PIGEON POSE – IT GROUNDS ME

    The bittersweet release of Pigeon is undeniable. While the big, tension-busting stretch in the outer hips steals the show, the posture has another component that helps produce a grounding effect: the vast majority of your body is laying on the floor when you do the posture. Sure, it’s intense for many, but the intensity is always local. The majority of the body has the opportunity to drop, release, and let go into the floor.

    • HANDSTAND – IT BALANCES ME

    There’s a saying in England that black tea wakes you up if you’re tired and quiets you if you’re unsettled. My experience of handstand is the exact same. If I need an uplifting boost of energy, practicing handstand does the trick. If, on the other hand, I’m over-stimulated 1-2 minutes in handstand grounds my energy and rebalances my mood.

    • PARIVRITTA JANU SIRSASANA – IT UNWINDS ME

    Oh, the poor side body. It can be challenging to access and rarely gets treated to elongation in day-to-day life. Even in asana practice the side-body rarely gets the TLC that the hips, shoulders, core and spine receive. Thankfully, parivritta janu sirsasana digs deeply into the side-body and wrings out tension. When I do this pose I literally have to will myself to get out of it. I want to stay there, nestle in, and take a nap.

    These are currently my top 5. How about you?

    Jason Crandell was recently named one of the next generation of teachers shaping yoga’s future by Yoga Journal for his skillful, unique approach to vinyasa yoga. Jason’s steady pace, creative sequencing, and attention to detail encourage students to move slowly, deeply, and mindfully into their bodies. Jason credits his primary teacher, Rodney Yee, teachers in the Iyengar Yoga tradition such as Ramanand Patel, and ongoing studies in Eastern and Western philosophy for inspiring to him bring greater alignment and mindfulness to Vinyasa Yoga.

    Jason is a contributing editor for Yoga Journal and has written over 13 articles for the magazine and website – many of which have been translated internationally (including Japan, China, Italy and Brazil). His integrative and accessible teachings support students of every background and lineage, helping them to find greater depth, awareness, and well-being in their practice – and in their lives. Follow Jason on Facebook and Twitter.


  • Posted on September 30th, 2013 7:00:53 AM Alice G. Walton No comments

    Restorative is the application of Yoga practice using props and postures held for longer periods of time to initiate deep relaxation of the body, mind and spirit. Slow Restorative Yoga is beneficial to balance a more active practice or decompress after a stressful day.

    So this week we are featuring deep, quieting, and nurturing restorative classes that are designed to rest your body and soothe your mind.

    Restorative Yoga

    • Unwind & Let Go of the Day’s Tension with Jo Tastula: This restorative class is perfect for the end of a hard work day or work week as a way to unwind and let go of pent up tension. For a real restorative treat have ready a bolster, blanket and 2 blocks. Starting with slow spinal rolls we gently work our way up from the base of the spine and the hips, into supported back bends and easy spinal twist. We finish in reclined cobblers pose (supta baddha konasana). Please note that there is no savasana in this class. Blessings.
    • You Deserve to Rejuvenate with Amy Ippoliti: Give yourself the gift of renewal through a set of tranquil restorative poses including shoulder and upper back openers, hip openers, twists and more…set to relaxing music. Turn your yoga mat into an insta-spa with two blankets, a strap, two blocks and a bolster.
    • Restore and Heal Your Mind, Body & Spirit with Stephanie Snyder: This is a very very very mellow class that will restore and heal your body mind and spirit. Based on the work of Thomas Hanna this movement takes place on the floor either on a blanket or carpet without a mat. We will spend the entire time on our backs. This is phenomenally beneficial work for all levels of practitioners and is accessible to most everyone.
    • Relax and Refresh with Marc Holzman: These four restorative poses are perfect for reducing anxiety, grounding your energy, and soothing your nervous system. Props used: 1 bolster, 1-2 blankets, 1 strap, 1 block, eye pillow (optional but recommended).
    • Find Calm & Unwind After a Long Day with Steven Espinosa: This calming 15 minute segment is perfect to unwind and relax at the end of a long day! Consisting of a variety of Reclining and Restorative Poses including Supported Bridge and Half Shoulder Stand. Also includes several inner and outer Hip Openers to release lower back stress. Using a block is recommended for some poses while others can be done at the wall.
    • Rest Your Body, Soothe Your Mind with Jason Crandell: This is a deep, quieting, nurturing restorative practice designed to rest your body and soothe your mind. What else needs to be said….? (You will need 2 Blankets, a belt and a bolster)

     


  • Posted on September 24th, 2013 7:00:40 AM Alice G. Walton No comments

    The Language of Yoga: Namaste

    To kick off a new series that will cover some of the more common terms we hear in our yoga practices, it seems fitting, if a little backwards, to begin with the term that most people hear at the end of every yoga class: Namaste. It’s actually become so much a part of everyday language, depending on whom you hang out with, that it’s not so uncommon to hear Namaste in everyday conversation or even to see it in an email signature or on a business card. But the term has a long and lovely history, and what’s especially important about the term is that when you look at its derivation, the three short syllables manage to encompass everything that yoga is about.

    Rolf Sovik, PsyD, the president and spiritual director of the Himalayan Institute, says that breaking down “namaste” into its parts yields a couple of different meanings, which is fairly common with Sanskrit words. “’Namaste’ is a word composed by joining two words,” he says, which are “namas and te, meaning ‘obeisance’ and ‘to you,’ respectively. The first of these two words, namas, originates from the verb root nam (pronounced “num”) which means to bow, to submit one’s self. This is a matter of heart and it implies a relationship characterized by humility and reverence.” He adds that Namas or Namah is often heard in mantras, where it encapsulates a feeling of devotion, and as such, “it helps a meditator acquire the sense of trustful surrender that is so essential to inner life.”

    The final syllable, “te,” Sovik says, translates as the pronoun “you,” but because of how the language is set up, the preposition “to you” is actually more accurate. Many mantras also bring this expression of deference to mind. “For example,” says Sovik, “in the familiar mantra ‘namah shivaya’ the sound shivaya ends with a dative case ending ‘aya’ meaning ‘to shiva.’ ‘I bow to the Infinite.’” So one way of thinking about the full translation of Namaste, says Sovik, is, beautifully, “I bow to you” or “I surrender to you.”

    The other way of conceptualizing Namaste, which is somewhat less common but also worth mentioning, is that you can also divide “namah” into “na” and “mah.” Sovik says, “the word ‘na’ has the meaning ‘not.’ ‘Mah’ means ‘me, or mine.’ In this derivation, the word namah (or namas) takes on an even more fundamental meaning—unselfishness.” This way of breaking it down is not at all at odds with the more common meaning mentioned above, and it is also extremely relevant, since yoga is so much about acknowledging the lack of separation between the self and the other.

    Sovik agrees that part of the beauty of Namaste’s meaning is that it “is suggestive of the most essential quality of spiritual life, love for the Infinite embodied in the world and people around us.” Even the physical gesture that often accompanies it underscores its intention, he points out. “It is usually uttered with palms joined at the heart and head bowed – a respectful union of action, devotion, and contemplation. As for its meaning, ‘I bow to the Divinity in you’ captures its essence.”

    Alice G. Walton, PhD is a health and science writer, and began practicing (and falling in love with) yoga last year. She is the Associate Editor at TheDoctorWillSeeYouNow.com and a Contributor at Forbes.com. Alice will be exploring yoga’s different styles, history, and philosophy, and sharing what she learns here on the YogaGlo blog. You can follow Alice on Twitter @AliceWalton and Facebook at Facebook.com/alicegwalton.


  • Posted on September 17th, 2013 7:00:13 AM Jason Crandell 11 comments

    How to Survive Teaching the Worst Class You've Ever Taught

    We’ve all had the same gut-wrenching, heart-breaking thought at some point while teaching a class: “This is not only the worst class that I’ve taught, this is the absolute worst class that has ever, ever been taught in the history of yoga.” In fact, by writing “at some point,” I’m being generous. We’ve all (yes, ALL) had this feeling more than a few times. Since you’re a consummate professional, highly trained in objectivity and managing your emotions, you probably finished class without burying your head in the bolsters or breaking into self-absorbed tears. But, honestly, what do you do with this voice—this feeling—of not quite being fully engaged or clear when you’re teaching? Well, let’s start with looking at the facts:

    • Class probably wasn’t as bad as you think

    Seriously, it probably wasn’t as bad as you think it was. Teaching yoga is a raw, vulnerable experience and sometimes you beat yourself up about it. People often talk about the importance of being authentic. What gets left out of this discussion is that being authentic means showing who you really are and expressing what you truly care about. Wearing your heart on your sleeve isn’t always easy or pleasant—especially if you feel that you aren’t communicating or engaging well. When this happens, your inner narrator may be telling you that class is much, much worse than it really is.

    • Even if class was as bad as you thought, well….

    You just taught the worst class in the history of yoga? Ok. It’s time to let it go and move on. This is what you’d tell someone else, right? If class was truly lousy, chalk it up to being human. You’re not a robot and even the most accomplished professionals have off days. If you don’t watch sports, it’s time to start in order to get some perspective. Not every top-notch pitcher throws and excellent game each outing. In fact, none of them do. And, thankfully, yoga students are infinitely more kind in the midst of an off night than football fanatics (especially if you live in Philadelphia).

    • Remember that students are having a different experience than the teacher

    Are you ready for some ego-busting news? Students are not hanging on your every word or emoted vibe. Yep, students are engaged with you but they’re also having their own experience. They are doing yoga, not just listening to you pontificate and DJ. Trust that even if you did not deliver what you feel was a million-dollar, soul-stirring class, your students got to breathe, move their bodies and have their own experience—and, they probably feel better after class than they did before.

    Here a few more things to remember when you bomb

    • You’re human and you’re teaching a live class. This means you’re going to trip over your words, feel energetically flat, forget the second side of a sequence, and mismanage your time on occasion.
    • You have the opportunity to learn and grow from your mistakes. Be as objective as possible about what didn’t work in your class and learn from it. As teachers we’re committed to growing and learning—which means that we’re not already perfect.
    • Breathe in the difficulty and emotion, then breathe it out and let go.
    • Be comforted by the fact that all teachers go through this including the most popular and most respected teachers. In fact, my advice is to get used to moments like this because they never stop—you just get better at contextualizing them and letting them go.

    Jason Crandell was recently named one of the next generation of teachers shaping yoga’s future by Yoga Journal for his skillful, unique approach to vinyasa yoga. Jason’s steady pace, creative sequencing, and attention to detail encourage students to move slowly, deeply, and mindfully into their bodies. Jason credits his primary teacher, Rodney Yee, teachers in the Iyengar Yoga tradition such as Ramanand Patel, and ongoing studies in Eastern and Western philosophy for inspiring to him bring greater alignment and mindfulness to Vinyasa Yoga.

    Jason is a contributing editor for Yoga Journal and has written over 13 articles for the magazine and website – many of which have been translated internationally (including Japan, China, Italy and Brazil). His integrative and accessible teachings support students of every background and lineage, helping them to find greater depth, awareness, and well-being in their practice – and in their lives. Follow Jason on Facebook and Twitter.