Archive for the ‘home yoga’ Category

The Business of Yoga (part 3)

Part of the fun of being a small business owner is every single day is different.  And as much as I am in control of my own schedule, sometimes I’m just not.  Running a business forces you to learn how to literally “go with the flow.”  For instance, this morning I had a private yoga client cancel which opened up time for me to blog.  After this, I’ll head into Washington, DC (in the pouring rain) and teach a corporate yoga class.  I love what I do.  I also love that on Fridays my day is done by 1:15pm.  There is no denying the amount of freedom and flexibility my business offers me.

As a full-time yoga teacher with a mobile yoga business (abellaYoga – travels to teach yoga in homes & offices)  I primarily teach yoga Mon-Fri.  It’s the behind the scenes stuff that many new business owners (particularly yoga teachers) may not know needs to happen to keep a steady schedule of clients.  I do things like drafting contracts, writing proposals and creating promotional handouts for office yoga programs.  I attend networking events, run to the bank to make deposits and often function as my own IT guru (who really should be fired; technology is an area I struggle with).  Currently, I’m in the midst of working with a web designer to revamp my website as well as prepping for the City of Alexandria’s Employee Health Fair that I’ll be exhibiting at a few weeks.

As much as I love the variety each day offers, sometimes it can be challenging to keep myself on track.  To keep some structure in my fluid schedule here are a few things over the years I have found helpful.

Do Your Yoga – Schedule your own yoga practice.  Write it down in your calendar or on your daily “to do” list.  I’m serious.  If it doesn’t get booked, it won’t happen.  You’ll feel better and your students will have a better experience.  As I mentioned in a previous post, it’s through your own personal practice you’ll find your creative expression as a yoga teacher.  No practice = no expression.  It’s that simple.

Clear clutter – Clutter in our homes and offices mentally weighs us down.  As soon as the mail comes each day, I go through it right away and recycle most of it or file the bills in the “to be paid” folder.  The few catalogs I get, I try to flip through that evening and recycle immediately when finished.  Visit to stop getting junk mail and catalogs you don’t want or need.  Online banking & billing is another great way to lighten your mailbox and keep your counters/desk clean.

Use a calendar – You need to find a system that works for you.  Believe it or not, I use a paper calendar.  I’m certain I could be more efficient by moving my scheduling system online but there is something I like about just quickly being able to open my paper calender when a client needs to make a quick change.  Often iPhones/iPads/computers take a little time to pull up the calendar.  I also keep a list of monthly “to do’s” that happen every month each year.  For instance, I know my corporate business tax is due every September and my Yoga Alliance renewal is every May.  This way I’m never surprised about money that is due or risk missing an important deadline.

Get Outside – All my yoga classes are taught inside.  Most of the “behind the scenes” things I do are done inside.  I find it key to get outside at least 20 minutes a day.  Whether its to walk the dogs or sit outback to read an article, I make sure I get some fresh air so I can return to the indoors with a clearer perspective.  Remember, nature is powerful medicine.

Again, these are just a few things I’ve discovered over the last 6+ years of running my own business.  If you have other ideas, please share!

Satya Will Set You Free (sutra 2.36)

After teaching a corporate yoga class the other morning, I decided to head to the Clarendon Starbucks (sorry, Arlington, VA for those reading unfamiliar with the DC area) to grab a warm drink and read.  I had about 20 minutes to kill before heading to my private client’s house around the corner so I decided to sit.

After sitting at the community table (i.e. a long table with multiple strangers, each doing their own thing), I stood up to put my coat on, my book in my bag and exit.  The guy across from me said “that was fast”.  The guy’s friend just smiled politely.  Then the “guy” said “so you’re a yoga instructor?”  (side note:  Clearly this “guy”  just eavesdropped on a conversation I had moments before with someone who I use to work with eons ago at MCI.  The ex-MCI colleague happen to recognize me as he was making his departure.  He stopped and we caught up on jobs, life, stuff.)

The conversation with the guy/stranger went like this:

-guy:  I have a “good” friend who’s a yoga instructor.  He’s been teaching yoga “for like 12 years”.

-me:  “Oh really, what’s his name?”

-guy: (Long silence with his eyes squinting, and his friend & me staring at him)

-guy’s friend:  “I thought you said he was your friend???”

-me:  “…a good friend?”

-guy:  “His name is XXX”  (me here:  I don’t remember the name).  Then the “guy” continues to say “I wasn’t expecting you to ask for his name so quickly”.

-me:  “Well, I don’t know him (with a smile).  Have a nice weekend.”

As I walked away, I was thinking what kind of “good” friend was this…someone he met on the metro once and never saw again.  Or maybe he’s just a facebook friend.  And as we all know, facebook has somewhat become a violation of satya…I mean take inventory of how many of your “facebook friends” are truly friends vs. acquaintances.  I am at full violation here.  Do you think I really have 600+ friends?

Anyway, on the walk to my car after this brief Starbucks encounter I felt lied to.  Here I didn’t even know the “guy” nor his Starbucks friend (or the yoga instructor).  I’m assuming he was trying to impress me but why?  Suddenly I felt sorry for the “guy”.  If he’s telling a little white lie to a stranger, then what types of lies does he tell his “real” friends or even just facebook friends?

Why?  Why tell a lie even if it’s small and meaningless?  Coincidentally, I had a copy of The Yoga Sutras in hand (that was the book I had been sitting in Starbucks reading & placing in my bag as the “guy” tried to name his yoga instructor friend).  In hindsight, I should have opened it up and read sutra 2.36 that specifically speaks about satya (satya is Sanskrit for truth)…“To one established in truthfulness, actions and their results become subservient.” 

More on satya (truth) as explained further by Swami Satchidananda in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali“The more we lead a life of honesty, the more we will see the results, and that will encourage us to be more honest.  With establishment in honesty, the state of fearlessness comes.  One need not be afraid of anybody and can always lead an open life.  When there are no lies, the entire life becomes an open book.  But this comes only with an absolutely honest mind.  When the mind becomes clear and serene, the true Self reflects without disfigurement, and we realize the Truth in its own original nature.”

Start with your words.  Think the truth.  Speak the truth and then your actions will be true.  From there (with practice & patience), you’ll stand in your truth.  Trust me, satya/sutra 2.36 is a big sutra to fill and I often catch myself telling the little white lie.  So I must say:  thank you Starbucks “guy” for reminding me to speak the truth, act the truth and live the truth.     

The Business of Yoga (part 1)

I’m sure you’ve heard it multiple times…when you’re passionate about what you do professionally, it doesn’t feel like work.  I’m lucky to say I’ve been experiencing this for the last six plus years teaching yoga full-time in the vicinity of Washington, DC.  When I left my last marketing gig, I realized I no longer thrived in the corporate atmosphere like I once had just a couple years prior.  Already an Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT), I wondered how I could possibly make a living doing something I loved.  After some research and brainstorming, abellaYoga was born.

So yes I make a living teaching yoga.  I’m often asked “how?” both by other experienced yoga teachers and those just fresh out of a yoga teacher training program.  I’ve received calls and emails from several around the country asking for advice on how to start teaching yoga full-time.  More than once, the business side of me has thought “I could make additional money coaching new yoga teachers on “the business of yoga” (aka being a yoga teacher mentor).

It happened again last week.  As I hung up the phone on Thursday with a girl from California who wants to create a mobile yoga business like abellaYoga —offering in-home privates and office yoga classes— it dawned on me that maybe it is just in my karma to share what I know.  Sure I could charge for these 30-45 minute calls but why?  Why not simply help those who want to spread the power and joy of yoga?  I’ve had the honor to teach yoga full-time the last few years and continue to be blessed so why shouldn’t others experience this.  It’s selfish and non-yogic to not share what you know (think Aparigraha, sutra 2.30).

So here goes.  Let me first say the yoga times have changed since I started teaching.  There are way more certified yoga teachers than 5 years ago.  Secondly, when I started abellaYoga in 2006 there really wasn’t much information available on how to start a yoga business, or make a living teaching yoga.  My 200-hour yoga teacher training program didn’t cover this topic.  Unlike today, you can Google the business of yoga (or teaching yoga full-time) and you’re bound to find free articles on the topic or yoga teachers who are willing to mentor you on the subject for a fee.

Fortunately for me, my years in the business & marketing world came in handy.  The first thing I did was create a business plan and to this day I still use it as a guide to keep me on track with my vision, annual goals, marketing, pricing and the many “to do’s” that go on beyond just teaching yoga in homes and offices.  If you’re not sure where to start, again go to Mr. Google (as my Grandmother called it), type in the phrase business plan and you’re bound to find a slew of free templates.  No one has to see your plan especially if you’re not seeking a loan (i.e. to open a yoga studio).

As you go through the business plan process, keep a copy of The Yoga Sutras close at hand.  There are a slew of instructions in there that can be helpful in guiding your entrepreneurial spirit.  “Effort toward steadiness is practice” (sutra 1.13) is the first one that comes to mind.  A business takes dedication, through both the highs and lows.  To be successful, there will be plenty of times you’ll need to do things that pull you out of your comfort zone (think Tapas, sutra 2.1).  And through it all, it’s key to stay positive (think pratipaksha bhavana, sutra 2.33), grounded and focused (sutra 2.52 & 2.53).

In my next post, I’ll share a few other biz tips that come straight from my heart.

Dharma Whispering in my Head

Sutra 1.2, as I blogged here, defines yoga as stilling the fluctuations of the mind.  Yet it is sutra 2.1 starts to address what yoga practice is all about. 

Accepting pain as help for purification, study and surrender to the Supreme Being constitute Yoga practice.  sutra 2.1 

This sutra really offers up the nitty-gritty of yoga and clearly demonstrates that yoga is so much more than just asana.  Of course, depending on one’s intention, an asana practice can (and should) contain discipline, self-study and total surrender.  Truly this is what can make the practice of asana a beautiful yogic experience and transform one’s life beyond the yoga mat.   Unfortunately I think most today practicing asana miss out on the three essential elements stated in sutra 2.1 (discipline + study + surrender = aka kriya yoga) as they are only drawn to yoga as a fitness regime.

Personally, I absolutely can’t read sutra 2.1 without thinking about Sri Dharma Mittra and what originally drew me to him.  It’s impossible to take a class with him and not hear him speak to this sutra in his own subtle way.  He always says things like:  Surrender the fruits of all actions.  Study yoga text every day, even if just for a few minutes.  Do a little asana every day (tapas) – a few minutes a day is better than three hours just one day a week.

Even as I do my home yoga practice and traverse around the streets of Arlington, VA and DC, I am constantly welcoming his voice in my head messaging sutra 2.1:  The key to success is repetition (tapas).  Invite every pose to be an offering (surrender).  You have to find your own tricks (study).  For the instructions of this sutra and the spiritual presence of Dharma Mittra in my life, I am forever gratefully humbled to be a Dharma yogi.

Suffering is Optional

The title of this post Suffering is Optional is inspired from a phrase I almost incorporated on my 2012 vision board.  As usual my board is filled with athletic challenges to encourage me to run & mountain bike more; new challenges like learning to actually do my own bike maintenance; and cook “mo ‘betta” vegetarian meals my husband will LOVE!  Of course another section of my board inspires me to live a stronger yoga life.  When I say “stronger” I mean more daily home yoga asana time & philosophy study, taking more time for meditation & pranayama as well as just write, write, write more & more.

By now in my new age journey, (since 1994 at least) I should be able to quote who first stated “suffering is optional”.  My guess is the Buddha gets first dibs on it though the point is the same regardless of who stated it or how.  All I know is through a strong yoga practice, I’ve personally realized suffering is optional.

At every moment in our lives we have a choice:  be happy or suffer.  Of course, sometimes its not that black and white.  Yet I believe (and I’ve experienced) even in the grey moments/situations we have the authority within to decide to either be “p*ssed off” about it or “let it go”.  It’s not always this easy in every situation but its nice to know in advance we have options.

The point is just as I was about to tape the statement Suffering is Optional on my 2012 vision board I realized “I already live this; I just need to breathe and remind myself every now and again”.

Split “Yogini” Personality

I’ve been debating on sharing this blog post (from my journal) for a week or so.  Then I had a shift on Friday during a Dharma class at Pure Prana in Old Town Alexandria.  I’ll save the “wow” moment for the end.  So get reading…

In my previous blog post, I offered a glimpse into what my daily Dharma Mittra practice/plans and diet are for the next couple months.  One aspect of the daily practice is reflecting on satya.  This reflection process means spending time each day to reflect on thoughts, words and actions I will constantly practice (and which ones I will let go of ) to cultivate steadiness towards living complete truthfulness.

Another element of my daily Dharma “Life of a Yogi” training is the asana practice, specifically a Level II sequence created by Dharma that I do everyday.  In addition to practicing it, I also have to teach Level II several times over the next month or so before heading back to NYC.  So last Monday I attempted to teach a Dharma Level II class to one of my corporate groups in DC.  The truth:  I had a hard time with it.  Teaching it doesn’t flow naturally for me.   Practicing it doesn’t seem to flow naturally in my body either.  For instance, it feels odd in my body to end the practice with energizing backbends (wheel, bow and locust —in this order which also feels odd to me) and then move into savasana.  For years backbends have served as the peak of an asana practice for me, both as student and teacher.  This is just one example of how this specific flow hasn’t resonated with me.

This is where the blog title “split yogini personality” becomes apparent.  I feel I’m violating satya by teaching a set sequence of postures where it has yet to jive for me in my body.  It’s as if when I’m teaching it the truth is coming out —awkward teaching due to awkward practice of it.  Really we can only truly teach what we’ve personally experienced, right?

The other part of all this is I’ve been practicing Level II everyday at home since returning from NYC mid-Sept.  It’s what I was told to do and I would be violating satya if I didn’t follow the plan, right?  But I’ve also been believing (talking to myself in my head) that doing this same sequence day-in and day-out is causing me to regress in my personal practice.  Clearly I made this up in my head because here’s where the shift/magical moment starts to happen…Earlier last week I took, for the first time in weeks, a non-Dharma class (different style, studio & teacher) and I felt way stronger than ever.

Then even more magic…on Friday (10/7) I went to Pure Prana to practice Dharma’s Level IV flow with Brittanie.  I was more open than I ever have been.  The tension in my chronically tight shoulders seemed to melt (not completely but dramatically!).  And putting my legs behind my head was done without even an internal grimace.

Today as I type this, I’m realizing I’ve had some unconscious mental resistance (those darn monkeys in my head!) to this daily flow practice even though I’ve physically been doing it.  And as split (and resistant) as I’ve been with finding Level II in my body, feeling it in my mind and teaching it to my students,  something is clearly starting to happen.  I think the real truth has yet to be revealed.

We’ve Only Just Begun…

I returned home on Monday 9/19 from the start of my 500-hour yoga teacher training with Dharma Mittra in NYC.  The entire week up in NYC at The Dharma Yoga Center was amazing!  In a short 8+ day period with Dharma and his fabulous (ego-less) teachers, things have already shifted for me in a way I can’t fully explain.

Even more exciting is realizing the 8 days I just concluded in NYC were just the beginning of the training which might explain why the song title “We’ve Only Just Begun” keeps singing through my head.  As a child in the 70’s, my Mom played this Carpenters’ song plenty but I honestly haven’t thought of it until I returned home and realized my new endeavor/advanced teacher training is just now officially starting.

Let me start my saying that being in Dharma’s environment for 8 days was intense;  yet I now consider it a vacation compared to what I have committed myself to the next 60 days.  On our last day up there we were given very detailed plans to follow each day until we return there mid November.  The plans include things like:  Every morning wake-up earlier than usual (ideally before 6am) to do Pranayama and Meditation.  Currently this takes about 35 minutes/morning, though I will build up to and maintain 60 minutes within the next couple of weeks.  Then over hot water with lemon, I review my personal Yama plan for the day (Ahimsa and Satya currently) and complete a Japa OM worksheet with a chant.  The daily Asana component is a set Dharma Mittra sequence that takes about 60-75 minutes.  And believe it or not, these few rituals seem relatively easy and adaptable compared to the diet restrictions/limitations I must obey (the diet details I will save for another time.)

To some, it sounds crazy I know.  I already have had a few eyes roll and heads shake.  The daily regimen along with the diet appear to many as boredom.  Yet I know from a yogic perspective all of this “home training” is partly about practicing Tapas —burning off the impurities & creating discipline.  It’s also about Pratyahara —controlling the senses to calm the mind.  I also know the training is about fully immersing myself into all 8-limbs of Astanga yoga (as outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras) in a way that meshes with my daily life as a “householder”.  The practices will make my meditation sittings more effective.  Ultimately, the guidelines of the plans and diet will open me up to discovering a new way of being (i.e. more sattvic/balanced) in my day-to-day life as I begin to eliminate obstacles/impurities in my body, mind and life.  After all the training is titled “The Life of a Yogi”.

There are a couple cool parts to all of the above —such as I have directions.  Yes, I know exactly what I need to do each morning, what to eat throughout the day, how long to meditate and even what time I should be in bed every night.  In some ways these demands keep life very simple.  In a way, they help me weed out some of the clutter in my life.  For instance, when I go to the grocery store my shopping list is already made for me thanks to Dharma.  When I unroll my yoga mat, I know exactly what I need to do.  Less thinking is required so that more “being” (aka living) can take place.

The other cool piece to all this…knowing I’m not totally alone on this journey.  As I type this, there are 30+ other Dharma yogis all around the world right now following the same plan I am currently so I know I’m not flying solo.  Hmm…this very well could explain the tune that keeps ringing in my head:  We’ve Only Just Begun… 


I just realized this morning during my meditation practice (as the birds & fresh air surrounded me) how much I adore the month of May.  We’re beyond the cold, dreary winter and just out of the somewhat rainy, warm month of April.  For me May signals the start of summer and a year ahead, full of possibilities.  I’ve decided May is my New Year!

Living in the DC area for 15+ years now, I have been fortunate not to acquire any allergies to pollen, grass, etc. so I love the smell of fresh cut grass, mulch and flowers.  It’s warm enough, yet cool enough, to sleep with the windows open (before my husband seals our house up with AC for a few months).  Though I’m not a fan of birds, I do enjoy hearing them at 4:30am chirping in the distance.  As 6am nears, all of nature seems to all be awake.   I love being up early this time of year enjoying the quiet time out in the fresh air.

Coincidentally, May is my birthday month so maybe this is why for me it signals a new year.  I feel the summer holds a ton of possibilities for work, play and all things yoga.  I love taking my mediation & yoga practice outdoors this time of year.  I love teaching yoga outdoors when the opportunity presents itself.  It’s also usually around this time of the year I pick up a couple new private and/or office yoga clients (not sure why that is).  Everything just seems to flow naturally.

So as we near the end of the first week of May, the first week of my New Year, I’m looking forward to both the known -planned beach trips, the 5K I’m running 5/21, BBQs @ BQ’s, hooping, cocktails on our new patio, biking, etc.- and equally looking forward to the unknown -like me spontaneously deciding to send myself flowers earlier this week.  Which reminds me…for those of you who are curious about the card that arrived with the flowers I sent myself, here’s what it reads:  Thanks for being a fantastic person.  Wishing you a great day, week and year full of all things active (mountain biking, running, skiing, handstands, sex & more), love and fun.  Love, Me and You.  Happy May!

Step Out of Your Routine

“Step Out of Your Routine” is one of the affirmations beaming from my vision board.  And it’s fitting given the last couple of weeks has been nothing but routine, particularly my yoga practice while I was on the road.

Up until last Tuesday, I was on holiday travel for about 1.5 weeks.  In order to continue with my daily yoga practice, I had to settle for practicing on plushy carpet.  If you’re a yogi, you know carpet is not ideal particularly for a practice that is mostly standing & arm balancing poses that are best supported by a hard surface.

For the last 8+ years, I’ve fully known in advance of travel the carpet circumstances will exist.  I take my travel yoga mat anyway to DE, KY, LA and wherever else and just do my best.  Yet as I move through my vinyasa practice, trying to simply stay focused on my breath, there is always this underlying thought of “I wish I had a harder surface to practice on”.

So a few days before New Years Eve while in KY at my in-laws – don’t worry we spent 12/31 and beyond in New Orleans 🙂 – I unrolled my mat and  jumped into downward facing dog to kick off my morning practice.  Immediately my mind went right to chatting with the carpet.  Then something shifted.  Suddenly I realized that my practice that day/moment doesn’t have to be like it is at home.  At the same time, my vision board and the “step out of your routine” phrase popped into my head.

Again there was a shift.  I started to live my yoga in that moment.  Simply, I woke up to what could be possible in that moment if I just surrendered to my circumstances vs. resist (which I’ve been doing with the carpet for 8 years).  I started to explore down dog by playing with as many variations that my body & breath led me into.  I practiced Sun Salutations from sitting in dandasana.  Then I stretched fully on my back (horizontal tadasana as I’ll call it) and explored Sun Salutations from there.   I worked in the moment with what I was given rather than forcing my routine into the now.  The result of stepping out of my routine (in this case, dropping a mental fixation), I had an extremely creative and refreshing asana practice – physically, mentally and spiritually.

To conclude, I leave you with a quote I seem to keep stumbling upon:  You cannot do yoga.  Yoga is your natural state.  What you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state. – Sharon Gannon

Visions Dancing in My Head

A couple of weeks ago I woke up in the middle of the night unable to fall back to sleep.  Instead of sugar plums and my holiday to do list cluttering my head, anxiety/thoughts swirled in my mind about the vision board for 2011 I was scheduled to do.  I had a date on my calendar to spend an afternoon with my dear friend/yoga teacher Ursula discussing our goals for 2011 and creating our vision boards.  Side note:  if you’re in the VA/DC area, visit Ursula’s studio Inner Power Yoga – it’s a beautiful space.

Why I couldn’t sleep that particular night, who knows!  Was it the thought of sharing my goals with someone else?  I haven’t really had to do that since having my own business.  Was it the notions of having to be “creative” for this project and living with a huge board on display in my home office/yoga studio space for a year? Or, was it the idea that I would possibly be wasting a precious afternoon just before Christmas to do a silly school kid project (as my husband referred to it).

I admit last year I considered doing a vision board but quickly nixed it thinking it would be a waste of time.  Why spend an afternoon ripping, arranging & taping pics out of magazines on a big piece of cardboard when I could simply type up my goals and refer to them daily just as easily.  Then I began to think…365 days is a lot of time to accomplish a few lofty goals, right?  Yet as the years fly by, I realize more and more how precious time is.  How we opt to spend our time is key to our ultimate happiness.  So shouldn’t my thought process & the time I spend goal planning/visioning be just as precious?  Does the tone/environment in which we outline goals set the foundation for what’s ahead?  Given everything is connected in some way, I’m starting to think goal planning with a girlfriend sets a solid and positive foundation.

In my pre-yoga teacher life (corporate marketing world), I tended to structure my typed-out goals around what others thought would be best for me and my career.  And just a couple of years ago, I created rigid goals that supported my business, abellaYoga, and not so much my heart.  I am a firm believer goals should be made to provide some direction and stimulation in our lives.  Though I also now believe goals should be flexible and reflective of what truly speaks to our hearts.  If we handcuff ourselves to written words we wrote 3 months ago, for example, we may miss a grander opportunity for growth by being limited to the goal.  Or worse, often we reach the goal and then simply forget about it as we delve into tackling the next one.  Maybe there was more to the goal then just checking it off the list.  A year is full of unknown possibilities so be flexible and open to what each moment presents.   So yes, commit to goals that challenge your spirit as well as create a smile in your heart but be open to venturing beyond the goal.

This brings me back to my vision board.  If you’ve never done one, do it!  It is way more powerful and inspirational than writing down a list of goals.  By looking daily at the board, a collage of inspirational words & pics related to my goals, I create a vision in my mind of me achieving the goals.  It’s also so simple to mentally refer to which I have already done a few times this past week.  At the same time, I am finding myself meeting 2011 goals already without really having to think about doing them.  It’s as if the visuals have been planted in my subconscious and they’ve started to naturally extend into my daily life.  Lastly, I’ve realized a vision board provides the flexibility the written word can’t.  Pictures invoke more than just the specific goal.  They allow the mind to shift thinking around and beyond the goal in a more creative way.  I know I’m not doing a good job explaining this but I’m thinking maybe this really can’t be explained.  As with yoga, a vision board is a personal experience.  It’s a personal tool to support my personal growth in the year ahead.