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yoga teachers

What Kind of Yoga is This?

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What Kind of Yoga is This?

"Oh, you're a yoga teacher. What kind of yoga do you teach?"

I get asked that a lot.

My yoga doesn't really have a name, nor is it any one thing -- it's hard to put into words something that is more than just physical.

To give the short answer I usually say that I teach an "alignment based flow".

But if they really wanted to sit and chat for a while, I'd tell them more:

At 90 Monkeys, our school, we teach a yoga that embraces three values:

• Longevity & Alignment

• Integrity in Community

• Life Affirming Philosophy

Our yoga focuses on good form to support longevity and sustainability in the body over time. Through intelligent alignment principles, sound biomechanics, and a workable understanding of anatomy, it offers a deep, efficacious practice to enhance the physical aspects of embodiment.

We value the power of community - one that is inclusive, honest, warm, and kind. We cherish collective support and seek to live with accountability for our energy and actions. We strive to be responsible for the earth and it's inhabitants and as such, value coming together in person (not just online!).

We start all endeavors saying yes to life -- receiving what the world presents us. We wish for humanity to love their life and appreciate the miracle of being alive. We enjoy having fun, value lineage, and believe living a conscious and skillful life is the secret to deep fulfillment.


This January we will be immersing into the worlds of this yoga path in our first ever - weekend format - 200 Hour Teacher Training in Boulder, CO.
Learn more and join us!

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5 Surprising Things You Can Do to Instantly be a Better Yoga Teacher

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5 Surprising Things You Can Do to Instantly be a Better Yoga Teacher

Seven years ago, if I asked the average yoga student whether they were interested in supplementing their local yoga classes with a yearly yoga retreat abroad, a big yoga conference, or a summer festival, the answer would have been a resounding “HELL, YEAH!”

Fast forward to 2018, and I’m certain that if I asked that same question to an average yoga student, I’d get a puzzled look, followed by a “No, probably not. If I taught yoga, maybe I would?”

Increasingly it seems that yoga events like weekend workshops, retreats, festivals, and conferences, which offer more in-depth opportunities to study and practice than ongoing classes, are much more highly attended by yoga teachers than yoga students.

Have you noticed this trend too?

As someone who loved attending workshops before I became a teacher, and who has witnessed non-teaching students radically change their lives after being on retreat or attending a conference, it saddens me that such a large percentage of our yoga students are not attending supplemental yoga events.

And it begs the question: why?

Let me be frank with my theory on this:

  • Only a small minority of yoga teachers convey to their students that yoga is a practice rather than an activity.
  • The majority are not doing this. A lot of well-meaning teachers are leading exercise classes with occasional sprinkles of feel-good, self-help sound bites, not yoga. (Before you jump on me and say that "yoga is anything you make it", please keep reading...)
  • The majority of yoga teachers are not teaching their students how to embody their practice on the mat in their day-to-day lives.

I know I’m generalizing, but if this is the majority, would a student value traveling abroad to deepen their practice by doing five hours of yoga a day? Would they schlep to a ski resort in order to learn from senior teachers and keep company with other students on the spiritual path?

Probably not.

Yoga teachers, on the other hand, value supplemental yoga because their teacher trainers have taught them that yoga is more than just sweating and stretching.

Yoga teachers also know how different and incredible it is to practice yoga for more than 60 minutes - sometimes up to 3 hours on the mat.

So, how is this message not getting to our students? And why are we depriving them of this experience?

Let me be frank again.

I think it has a lot to do with the messaging propagated by well-intentioned yoga teachers on social media.

There are far too many posting things along the lines of “Yoga is anything you want it to be.” or “Yoga is what you make it".

So. much. NO.

Yoga has a history, a timeline, a lineage, and yoga is connected to a vast body of knowledge. It's way more than 'what you make it'. It's grounded and rooted in something much larger.

That doesn't mean we can't live our own version of yoga, but my hope is that we honor yoga's roots, study hard, and get time with its elders whenever we can.

And while 60 minutes is enough time to drop the occasional yoga bomb here or there (and please do!), it is not long enough to impart the depth and breadth of yoga.  

So if you teach yoga, please step up and start telling people what yoga is. It’s your dharma (duty)!
 

Here are 4 Things You Can Do to Instantly Be a Better Yoga Teacher:

  1. Define yoga and share the definition at the beginning of class. Refer to the definition throughout the class. A simple way to define yoga to your students is to translate the word yoga which comes from the root “yuj” - to connect, to unite, to bring together. Then, having contemplated the definition, share what that means to you personally. Does it mean being more conscious and aware of our interconnection with nature and other beings? Does it mean being more responsible or present in our relationships? How does the practice on the mat relate to that? Can you make a link between how we place our feet on the mat to the sensitivity we bring to our relationships with loved ones?
     
  2. Share the yoga teachings! Give your classes themes. Tell your yoga students about the Yamas and Niyamas. Describe the five elements and how they are part of the microcosm of the body as a reflection of the macrocosm (Dude, whoa). Break down a sutra from Patanjali. Talk about “beginner's mind.” Om with them. Translate a mantra and chant it. Discuss what it means to be present or aware. Articulate how stunning and beautiful it is that we exist (I mean, consider the breath!). Get them thinking about how we are part of something as vast as this universe - and because we know this, now we get to choose what we're going to do about that! How do we want to live a life of meaning?
  3. Teach them how to be a great yoga student - Help them cultivate curiosity and a sense of wonder. Encourage them to ask questions. Pause every now and then to help them pay attention to how their body feels right after a pose. Ask them to feel. Make it safe for them to challenge you so they learn it’s OK to think for themselves. Ask them how they feel so they will be seen and heard, and then do the same for others! When they come with questions, be there for them 100% so they are rewarded for their curiosity.

  4. Show them how to take their yoga off the mat - Invite them to bring what they are learning about themselves on the mat as a training camp for the real world! Invite them into a self-reflective process. Who are they when faced with challenging poses, or when they fall out of an arm balance? Do they laugh at themselves or engage in negative self-talk when they stumble? Does resistance arise for them with certain poses? When they have a breakthrough moment, are they ready to channel that success into their lives? Chances are the way they are on the mat is how they might be off the mat - do they want to work on that?

It's our responsibility as yoga teachers to convey that yoga is more than just a physical activity and that it’s more than just “what you make it”. Yoga is an embodiment of what we do on the mat, brought into a life of meaning, service, and skillful offering.

Teach this and change the world.

 

 

 

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Yoga: Not for the Faint of Heart

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Yoga: Not for the Faint of Heart

Swimming in 31 years of notebooks from my studies of yoga. (And there are a handful missing in this picture!) 📙📘📖📕📗📓📒

In this age of social media, sweaty yoga workouts, and quick rises to fame in the yoga world, people forget that studying yoga is physical, yes, but it's also academic and it takes TIME.

There is an infinite body of knowledge to tap - so much to learn, and so much to know. No one person could ever imbibe it all!

Studying yoga was never meant to be easy. It takes perseverance, dedication, and devotion. There is no such thing as overnight success yet the benefits are worth your efforts tenfold! 

Cheers to your studies!

AmyIppolitiYogaNotebooks

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What Your Inner Child Can Teach You About Back Fat

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What Your Inner Child Can Teach You About Back Fat

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Ever catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror or in a photo and you see “it”? Back fat.

And then you start battling those years of subliminal messaging and airbrushed magazine photos in your head.

Upon seeing the rolls, you may have worked yourself into a frenzy of limiting, non-supportive thoughts, as we are taught to do in our culture.

You are gorgeous. I want you to know that, and I hope that your yoga practice will always support you in creating your world of body positivity.

However, my focus in writing this isn’t really about addressing body image, but rather the physiological and therapeutic aspects of the “back fat” phenomenon.

So here’s my take: your back fat may actually not be back fat.

As we age our rib cage sinks with gravity, nearing closer to the hip bones. And as a result, we lose a lot of length in our lateral or side bodies, creating the appearance of fat when in actuality, it’s folds of skin that don't know where to go anymore.

In addition, the most mobile part of the spine is located between the bottom ribs and the hips. Because this part of the spine is not hindered by the pelvis or the rib cage it is easy to jam the front ribs forward, collapsing this part of the spine (a.k.a.,your mid section or waistline). This also contributes to the folds of skin on our backs.

So you think you have back fat? You may, and that in and of itself is no big thing. Instead, ask yourself, “How long is my side body? Is my rib cage sitting on my freaking pelvis? And what might that be doing to my posture, my organs, and my respiratory system?”

In other words, we can stop obsessing about how we look and start focusing on freeing up our side body in order to breathe easier and more efficiently, make more space for our organs, and improve our orthopedic longevity!

This isn’t a question of body fat, it’s a question of optimal health!

Sure, a higher percentage of body fat is going to create a larger fold, but before you start looking at your rolls and unnecessarily worrying about your weight, realize that gravity is at play here and that you can hold your ribs for optimal alignment, minimizing the appearance of that supposed "back fat".

Of course, one could reduce body fat percentage and that will help decrease the size of the folds. However, until you embrace these folds as a postural issue, they will stay around until you start doing one simple posture modification.

I call it: “Get bright like a toddler”.  And it means:

  1. Stand up tall.
  2. Lengthen your sides starting from the top of your hips up to your armpits until your collar bones are square with the base of your neck. Do this without shrugging your shoulders up toward your ears, just lift from within.
  3. Inflate your mid-section and lift your back ribs up away from your hips.
  4. Finally, pull your shoulders back (or in anatomical terms, pull the head of the humerus ie. the ball-like head of the arm bone that goes into the shoulder socket) back.

Most fitness experts try to target "back fat" by prescribing back extension exercises such as “superman” where you lay on your stomach on the floor or on a fit ball and lift everything off the floor or ball, thinking this will “tone” the back. Which it will, but this does not address sinking rib cage syndrome or posture problems.

If you look at the picture of the toddler below, you’ll see that her whole torso is bright with breath and energy, her armpits are elevated, and her shoulders are not pulled “down away from her ears”. If anything the head of her arm bones and collar bones are elevated.

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And here is the rear view on another little tyke. Notice, no skin folds on his back. The head of his arm bones are square with the base of his neck and from hips to armpits, he has nice length in his side body. His midsection is also full and bright.

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I figure if babies and toddlers hold themselves like this so recently out of the womb, they've got something to teach us! When I used to take my baby sister to the playground, I observed that the children 3 and under had this bright posture. It's universal. But by ages 4 and up, their posture started to look more like the grown ups. Hit the playground and see for yourself!

In contrast to the toddlers, the photo of myself below is what I call “dull-like-an-exhausted-adult”.  You can't see my face, but I'm hamming it up for the camera and exaggerating the undesirable posture in my body for you.

BackFatYogaBad

Notice the head of my arm bones and collar bones drop well below the base of my neck as indicated by the horizontal line and arrows.  My side body (distance between my hips and my armpits) is shortened, and energetically my torso is listing downward with little life or energy in it.

Even without this being a profile shot - you might be able to see that my mid section is collapsed. And not surprisingly, my back skin folds are visible.

It would take just those four little postural changes to even out the folds, open up the breath, protect my back, and make more space for my organs. In this photo you can see the transformation when I do that:

BackFatYogaGood

Here my side body is lengthened from hips to arm pits as indicated by the arrows, my collar bones are square across with the base of my neck (indicated by the horizontal line), the head of my arm bones are back, and my mid section is full, with front ribs down. Energetically the whole torso is lit up. Skin folds? They vanished.

Side benefit! Your rhomboids, the muscles between your shoulder blades and spine (that help hold your shoulder blades flat on your back), get very strong when you do this. They might be fatigued at first and you may feel a bit stiff, however as you hold your posture this way more and more, your rhomboids will get in shape and the road to permanently awesome posture begins.

Especially as we clock more years on this planet, the “dull-like-an-exhausted-adult” is an easy posture to find yourself in, but I submit, if you can find the inner toddler inside you, your (supposed) “back fat” will go buh-bye and your body systems will thank you!

Give it a try and tell me what you think in the comments below!

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Amy's YogaGlo Picks for the Week: Self Love Fest!

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Amy's YogaGlo Picks for the Week: Self Love Fest!

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Now is one the most important times in the year to keep up with your practice, but also one of the most challenging. There was such a great response to my last playlist of YogaGlo classes on Facebook that we’re moving it over to the blog and I’m releasing new, curated collections to help you all stay strong and motivated! The holidays are notorious for robbing us of personal time, overextending ourselves, and then getting stressed and resentful. You’ll have so much more capacity and energy to be on your A game and to be there for others if you stay connected to your self. So, let’s practice!!

We’ll start with this week’s collection: a SELF LOVE FEST! That’s right, this week it’s all about learning to cultivate love for yourself on and off the mat. Love for the beautiful body that moves you through life, for the mind that helps you make decisions and learn new things, and the heart that beams your light out into the world!

Game on for a great week of passionate practice:

Self Love Fest - Vinyasa Flow Level 1-2

You are Irresistible - Vinyasa Flow Level 2

Yes, You Matter! - Hatha Level 2

Appreciation Flow - Vinyasa Flow Level 1-2

Yoga for Bliss - Hatha Level 2-3

Enjoy your time on the mat and tell us how your practice goes in the comments section below!

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Top 5 Tips for Marketing A Beginner Yoga Series

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Top 5 Tips for Marketing A Beginner Yoga Series

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As you may know, I recently launched a new online course: Build Your Following: How to Launch a Beginner's Yoga Series. And the success stories have been pouring in! Teachers are rocking it out with SOLD OUT Beginner's Yoga Series and waitlists. This means that even more people are getting on the mat and we are spreading the yoga love! Freaking awesome. Building a successful Beginner's Yoga Series from scratch isn't always easy which is why I created the course as a turn-key solution.

Whether you took the course or not, you still need to prepare and apply ninja marketing skills to spread the word, since new students could be anywhere and are not always easy to find if you are new to an area or live in a rural part of the world.

If you're planning a Beginner's Yoga Series and are struggling to find people out of thin air, here are my top 5 tips for marketing your series with success:

1.  Let your people know! Word of Mouth.

Announce the new series in classes (your own and other teachers). Email your current students, friends, family and everyone you know. Ask everyone to spread the word to their friends and family who are new to yoga - tell them all about the benefits of yoga and why your series will help them. Your current students are your best advocates for your teaching, but if you are new to an area, you'll have to start from scratch and do good old fashioned "networking".  Even if it means starting random conversations with the mail man!

2. Rock your social media skills!

Post regularly on your Facebook and Twitter accounts about your Beginner's Series. Don't be shy about posting every day! Remember: you might be seeing every one of your posts, but chances are, most people are only seeing a fraction of your posts. Also - be sure to reach out to other online communities in your area. Make a CTA (call to action) that specifically asks people to share, retweet and post about your series.

3.  Feature the series on your website.

Put your Beginner's Yoga Series info in a prominent place on your website, the studio's website, your Facebook Page and any other online outlet available.  And link to it, link to it, link to it!

4.  Link to your series in your email signature.

Even if you aren't emailing a prospective yogi, include a link in your email signature that promotes the course. You never know who might be your next student!

5.  Start marketing early and don't get discouraged!

Keeping a positive attitude and visualizing a yoga room filled to capacity with new beginners can make a huge impact on your outcome. Get creative, stay inspired and don't give up!

Get advice from someone who's been there!

The teachers who've taken Build Your Following: How to Launch a Beginner's Yoga Series have some great marketing tips to share, too.  Read on to hear their advice.

I hope that these ideas help you build an amazing beginner yoga series, and, ultimately, introduce more people to the benefits of yoga. The world needs you!

Here's more advice from fellow teachers like you!

KM:  Add a question to your the feedback form, what would it take to keep you coming back? Or a discount or freebie for their first punch card? Do the beginners return for another beginner series? Inquiring minds want to know!

YS:  Tried discounts but will try again (i.e. 10% if you sign up during the week following end of intro) and yes... quite a few take the intro again. This year offering 2 kinds of intros, one 4 week (4 classes), another 4 week (12+ classes :-)... hope one leads to the other.

Taro Smith:  Social interaction is the number one reason for coming back to classes yet it is the most underrated. Remembering names, having forums so students can chat with each other, asking questions of students, having them add value in some way to the class. You can also take it off the mat by having students connect with a FB professional page where you can keep dialog running.

KO:  Guerrilla marketing all the way -- I get 75% of my students by personally inviting them. Put a bunch of postcards/flyers in your purse and hand them out to everyone -- I invited the beer stock-er at my local co-op and he's now a devoted student -- loves it for remedying his back pain. Invite people to come --anyone (friend/acquaintance) who has ever expressed an interest in yoga -- send them a postcard with a handwritten note like -- I hope you will join me! Really, I grow my classes by appealing to everyone I know and it works. And, they love the personal invite. And keep inviting people -- I just perceive myself as a yoga class hostess and it is really working. My 4 classes are solidly at 10-12 people enrolled for 12 week sessions -- and growing. I am all about personal attention and people love it! I live in rural Wisconsin -- so its challenging yoga terrain. This approach is working great and 90 Minutes has helped me a lot.

KH:  How about leaving some flyers with your hairdresser? They see and speak to lots of people every day and can help spread the word....

NR:  Thanks! Hairdressers, chiropractors, acupuncturist, flower shops, colonics place, health food shops, ups store what have I missed? :-))

JI:  How about gyms (that don't offer yoga)? Dry cleaners? Local health-conscious restaurants?

LS:  Have you seen the bulletin boards in almost every STARBUCKS? There's a spot for us on those boards!

PS:  One simple way I market to teens is I list my age requirement for my adult classes as 14+ years old. I also teach Teen and Tween Yoga classes, which I market in their PTA newsletters and participate in any school-sponsored fitness event (for free with flyers in hand) to get the word out, like Family Fitness Night and I even did yoga for school volunteers before they had a planting day. I have sent constant contact emails to the athletic coaches and PE teachers at the middle and high schools in my area, and I hang flyers on any community bulletin board I can find. The most effective marketing though is through my best ambassadors... my own teenage daughters!

... And here are a few more ideas I found online:

Try a referral program, like “refer a friend” or “bring a friend to yoga class” with your current students – for Beginner Series, you could offer existing students a free class if they refer someone to your beginner series, and their friend could get a discount.

Some great ideas from http://www.ivillage.com/how-can-i-market-my-new-yoga-business/7-n-221241  include: - Volunteer to write a community newspaper column or do a local radio show - offer free workshops or talks at schools, college athletic centers, libraries, health fairs, sports expos, health food stores - Visit the athletic departments of schools and universities and let coaches know about your services.

A few more good ideas here: http://www.wikihow.com/Advertise-a-Yoga-Class such as: -Write a press release about the benefits of yoga, then send it to local television and print reporters. Follow up by calling to invite reporters to attend your class at no charge.

Have other tips to share?  Leave a comment below!

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