Yogi योगी Insight (part 12 in a series)

If you are coming here for the first time, you have entered part 12 in a series about aspiring and experienced yogis’ journeys. I hope that you enjoy it and follow along. Namaste!

I met Dan through an Intro to Arm Balance Workshop he taught at Fierce Om, where I work. During the workshop, he shared great breathing and warm-up exercises along with tips for breaking down the arm balance poses. He kindly agreed to stay after the event for an interview.

Dan Castan

Dan likes to live life on the edge! 😉

Yogi: Dan Castan
Studio: Dan Castan Yoga

Q: How long have you been practicing yoga?
A: Since freshmen year of college. I thought I was going to an easy stretching class to supplement my long-distance running, but it was more than I expected and I developed a love for yoga. I took four years of Vinyasa, Hatha, Ashtanga and Bikram Yoga, then decided to pursue my 200-hour teacher training in Virginia Beach where I was going to college.

Q: What aspect of practicing yoga do you like the most and why?
A: I like being able to physically and mentally challenge myself. Finding the edge where I am at on a given day and then pushing myself physically and mentally. It feels empowering to me!

Q: Which is your favorite yoga style to practice?
A: The first yoga style I practiced was Hatha, but more of an athletic Hatah style because of my instructor’s background at the time. From there, I went on to take Vinyasa classes, which I liked a lot, especially as a long-distance runner, the stretching and strengthening aspects were great. Then I took Ashtanga, which helped me get into a meditative state. It (Ashtanga) is now my favorite style.

Q: What is your favorite posture and why?
A: Bakasana (crane pose) because it was my intro pose to arm balances. Being able to fly, balance on my hands in Bakasana was special to me because I felt empowered the first time I achieved it. I thought this is awesome!

Q: How long have you been teaching yoga?
A: I have been teaching yoga for 10 years. I started in a studio setting teaching group classes. Now, I do private sessions and semi-private sessions with 3-4 people and lead workshops. I help people improve their form by teaching them things like how to shift their weight and gracefully get into/achieve poses.

Q: What aspect of teaching yoga do you like the most and why?
A: I love seeing my students progress, seeing the aha moments on their face when they get postures and reach milestones. I love seeing them grow as students.

Q: As a male instructor, do you feel your teaching style is different?
A: Yes, but only because of my athletic background in running and cross-training. I think my style of teaching incorporates more upper body poses. I focus on those because I have found that the upper body postures are beneficial with the progression of inversions and arm balances.

Q: What advice would you give to a new yoga teacher?
A: Keep it simple. When I first started teaching, I tried to give every single alignment for a posture, and that’s the quickest way you can mentally burn out a student.

Q: What are the different kinds of workshops you teach?
A: Arm balances rate number one for me because, through my personal practice, arm balances opened up a whole different aspect. They help to improve your inversions and transitions — instead of jumping back I started to flow back. The arm balances workshop is my favorite to teach because of that. Second would be the transitions workshop — jump backs, jump throughs. My practice became more playful when I started working hard on the transitions. I may offer a workshop down the road in 2020 on inversions like shoulderstands, headstands. I’m currently working on improving mine.

As I have taught and gotten deeper into the practice of yoga, the biggest thing I have learned is how to slow down and pay attention. Also, I have gained more self-confidence in my body’s ability to do things physically, which in turn has helped mentally.

#yearofyou

#yearofyou

Before the official start of 2019, I created the hashtag yearofyou and challenged you to invest in yourself this year through healthy activities and events. Trying to lead by example, I’ll share my life experience and the progress on my goals along the way.

Life Experience Share: A friend recently asked me, how do you stay committed to exercise and motivated? My response, set time aside for yourself every day whether it’s 5 minutes, 60 minutes, or whatever and schedule it on your calendar like an appointment. You are more likely to commit to a workout if you treat it like an appointment that you cannot cancel without penalty. If you have a doctor appointment, you take it seriously and don’t skip it. Same goes for self-care time. If you need a mental health recharge, take some quiet time and meditate or listen to music that fills your soul. If you need a physical release, take a yoga class, go for a run, whatever activity challenges you while you are doing it, but then afterward makes you feel fulfilled. My friend shared that she does well for a few days or weeks, goes out and eats/drinks too much, and then feels like all her efforts were for nothing, so she throws in the towel altogether. My advice to her, DON’T GIVE UP! YOU ARE NOT ALONE! This is one of the most common reactions people have when they go off track. If this happens, you need to switch your mindset from self-sabotage that all your workouts were for nothing to it’s alright, I had some indulgences that everyone is entitled to, and I will get back on track! If you do or think in extremes you set yourself up for failure. Nothing is unrecoverable. Will you have to work backward a little to return to the point you were? Yes, BUT your efforts are never a total loss.  

A relevant quote I posted on Facebook that a friend told me … Life is like a camera, focus on what’s important, capture the good times, develop from the negatives, and if something doesn’t turn out, take another shot (try again)!


I strive to present everything I do in life in a meaningful and inspiring way. The yellow color of the hashtag is on purpose. I selected it to empower the words yearofyou because yellow is the color of the Solar Plexus Chakra, the Third Chakra of the body known as the Manipura. It is the center point in which all energy from the power of life and vitality flow throughout your entire body. It governs self-esteem, warrior energy/anger, and transformation and it controls digestion and metabolism.

Mental Core Exercise: Get some fresh air and meditate outside on a sunny day focusing on your breathing.

Physical Core Exercises: Anything that works your core or involves twisting — crunches, plank, twisted lunges, Boat Pose or Child’s Pose.

2019: Year of Transformation

Every December I set core fitness goals for the upcoming year to give me something to focus on and to plan my training. I also try to calculate expected financial costs because as fellow racers know, a year’s worth of race expenses adds up quickly. In addition to my main goals, I sprinkle in smaller events throughout the year as people tell me about them.

This year there’s an additional component to my plans. Yoga. In 2018, I completed a year of dedicated training to become a certified yoga teacher in both sculpt and power styles, and in December I proudly started teaching sculpt and flow at a yoga studio called Fierce Om. Jenny, the owner/manager, has been amazingly supportive as I strive to build up my client base and become the best teacher I can be.

Bev, my life coach, told me that she foresaw 2019 as being a transitive year for me. Typically, change makes me uneasy, but for some reason, I am very excited by this prospect of life transformation, and I’m going to carry it with me and trust in the journey ahead! 

The reason why I started Gal on the Go was to inspire girls and other women through my life examples, to take reasonable risks trying things outside of their comfort zones that would help them to lead healthy lives and discover what they are capable of in areas they never imagined!

Since 2014, when I entered my first race, the Virginia Spartan Super, I have learned a lot through trial and error and advice given to me by other racers. One thing you should never underestimate is the power of your mindset. Sure, physical training is essential, but your mindset can have a significant influence on your outcomes in life situations. Keeping your mindset in check when moments of uncertainty start to creep in is crucial. IF you find your head leading you down a path of doubt or negativity, I offer you these two things to help you push through …

  • A mantra … Mirror, mirror on the wall, I’ll always get up after I fall. And whether I run, walk, or have to crawl, I’ll set my goals and achieve them all!
  • A song (music is a great mind booster) … download and crank up DREAMER by Black Violin.

I promise that you can truly achieve anything you set your mind to combined with honest prep work. Every time during a race, defeating thoughts enter my mind at a grueling point and I have to focus hard to push them aside. I refuse to let those negative thoughts get the best of me. During those moments I tell myself STOP WITH THE SELF-SABOTAGE! I CANNOT FAIL, I WILL NOT FAIL! I may not finish exactly how I hope, BUT make no mistake, I will finish. I am naming 2019 the #yearofyou; get out there and do things that fulfill both your mind and your body!

So what’s coming up in 2019? Some cool stuff!!! Here’s a sneak peek.

YOGA EVENTS I’M LEADING

(NOTE: If you are seeking an enthusiastic yoga instructor for your event, email me at galotgo@gmail.com.)

DATE EVENT LOCATION
January 27 (Sun.)

 

 

Doggy Noses + Puppy Poses: Yoga Flow Class @10:30 a.m.
NOTE: Tickets SOLD OUT in two days!!! Thank you!
Mustang Sally Brewery, Chantilly, VA

 

February 9 (Sat.)

 

 

Athleta In-Store Sculpt Class @9:00 a.m.
Free and open to the public.
*bring your own weights
ATHLETA, Reston, VA

 

 

February 17 (Sun.)

 

New Year Transformative OmWorkshop: Nutrition + Restorative Yoga; Time: TBD Fierce Om, Chantilly, VA

 

??? ??? ???

RACES I’M PARTICIPATING IN

(NOTE: If you there is a race you think I should do or you are looking for a team member email me at galotgo@gmail.com with the details.)

DATE EVENT LOCATION
May 5 TD Five Boro Bike Tour (40 miles) NYC
August 17 SeaWheeze Half Marathon + Yoga Festival Vancouver, BC
??? ??? ???

I don’t have any financial sponsors yet for 2019, but I hope to have some soon. I was fortunate last year to have the support of Westfields Dental, Bitar Cosmetic Surgery Institute, Essence of Om, and Downs and Associates Insurance. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor of Gal on the Go, please email me at galotgo@gmail.com.

“Here’s to the dreamers! Yes, I’m a dreamer!”

– black violin

Limitless Possibilities

The Suddenly Single Show With The Danielle Daily

My talented friend Danielle, creator and dynamic host of the new podcast The Suddenly Single Show, is an expert at formulating ideas, tackling her dreams, and networking. She was recently looking for sponsors for her new show so I took a leap of faith and signed on. I believe that there are no limits to what we can achieve when we support each other’s endeavors!

[The Suddenly Single Show is THE inspirational podcast for people who find themselves, “Suddenly Single.” Divorce, death, separation, or good old-fashioned gettin’ dumped. Like it or not, sometimes you find yourself Suddenly Single.]

Be sure to check out Danielle’s podcast through her website, iTunes, Spotify, and more! The episodes are loaded with great insight from people of many walks of life.

Yogi योगी Insight (part 11 in a series)

If you are coming here for the first time, you have entered part 11 in a series about aspiring and experienced yogis’ journeys. I hope that you enjoy it and follow along.

[I posted this latest edition of Yogi योगी Insight today, the 11th day of the 11th month in the 11th year at 11:00 a.m. because it’s considered the most powerful day in a century and I hope to spread enlightenment through this series! Each yogi has something of value to offer. The #Sanskirt word associated with today is Shambhala, meaning a space of peace, tranquility, and happiness. It’s seen as a time for bringing a wind of fresh change into your life and putting bad and tired feelings in the past. Namaste!]

I first met Alyson, co-founder of WheelHouse Yoga, at a yoga festival when my omie Beverly and I were walking around and stopped at their booth. She introduced me to Alyson Pollard and Kelly Layfield. I instantly felt uplifted by their positive energy! Alyson part of the WheelHouse dynamic duo ownership juggles many roles and is hard to catch. I am thankful that she made time to sit down with me for a candid interview.

Alyson Pollard

Yogi: Alyson Pollard
Studio: WheelHouse Yoga

Q: How long have you been practicing yoga?
A: Knowingly and consistently for about 10 years.

Q: Who or what influenced you to take up yoga?
A: A knee injury. An overuse injury from running. I knew I needed to stretch more. I started my practice at Lifetime Fitness, and it was helpful. I was also going through some challenging life stuff at the time — a death, divorce. I thought, wait, yoga is more beneficial than just helping my knee!

Q: What aspect of practicing yoga do you like the most and why?
A: It depends on the day, but mindful meditation is hands-on my favorite! It’s something that even if I skip a day of Asana work (the physical practice of yoga), which is frequent as a studio owner, I don’t ever miss a day of meditation!

Q: What is your favorite style of yoga class to take and why?
A: Vinyasa. A challenging Vinyasa class because that’s when I’m able to be the most present — when I’m physically challenged.

Q: What is your favorite posture and why?
A: Wheel pose for sure! When Kelly and I opened the studio that’s one of the reasons why we called it WheelHouse, both of us are drawn to that posture. Starting a business wasn’t something we really planned to do, it just sort of kept evolving and happened. The word wheelhouse came up a lot. We were like what are we going to offer? What do we really want to do? We kept saying it’s in the wheelhouse of fitness, the wheelhouse of mindfulness. Then we thought why don’t we call it WheelHouse Mind Body Studio?! (That was the original name of the studio, now it’s WheelHouse Yoga.) We looked up the definition of the word wheelhouse — a yoga pose, your core, being in the sphere, which for us is being in the industry of fitness and mindfulness; and in baseball, it’s part of a batter’s strike zone most likely to produce a home run. There are so many meanings! We thought, this just works!

Q: How long have you been teaching yoga?
A: About four and a half years.

Q: Who or what influenced you to become a yoga teacher?
A: My personal yoga practice influenced me to become a yoga teacher. It helped me physically and emotionally with balance in my life. It motivated me to want to offer yoga to others because I found it to be such a great tool.

Q: What aspect of teaching yoga do you like the most and why?
A: 100% helping others! It’s cool to get someone into an arm balance that they’ve wanted to do, BUT way far beyond that, the stories of how people’s lives off the mat have been profoundly affected is what I like the most. Integrating into the mindfulness, the thoughts of benefiting others outside of ourselves. When you invite people to attend a class dedicated to someone else, it tends to be a very energetic class because you’re all working for the sake of another. I think that is my favorite shift to see within students.

Q: What is your favorite style of yoga class to teach and why?
A: A powerful Vinyasa class! I always allow at least 20 minutes for floor work and Savasana at the end. It’s good when you leave a class and feel like you’ve had a solid workout. Some people leave on that high, but if you can really take it down and contemplate at the end all of the insight you reflected on whether it’s physically, mentally, emotionally — that’s important.

Q: Why did you open a yoga studio?
A: Before opening the studio I was a special education teacher. I thought I was going to be able to balance both because I was an assistant teacher. I thought I can do this, then OK, I can’t do this. I quit my job in August with school starting only a month later. I had to do something with purpose! Before opening the studio, Kelly and I had taught a few classes together, I was already teaching private sessions and had personal training clients. She was doing the same with pilates. We always came together on yoga. We had been friends for about 10 years before opening the studio. We were planning one of our classes one day, and she said you know, there’s a place in Clifton that is available. I said, oh yeah? I kind of thought it may be fun, and I said YES! Kelly was like oh sh**, she said yes! Then I kind of pushed her down the hill — yep, we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna do this!

But that doesn’t tackle the why we opened the studio because I don’t think that part was as clear back then as it is now. In the beginning, it was more of there’s an opportunity let’s seize it. Despite all that was going on in my life at the time, I thought I could make this work. I had teacher training and retreats in mind from the start, but didn’t know it would all be what it is now. I was career driven in the beginning, but then quickly shifted to what a humbling opportunity it is to provide a place where people’s lives are so affected. That started happening pretty fast, which was incredible. It was all worth it! My gut told me you’re gonna be fine. It was one of those moments that I’m thankful for my family because in the beginning if I had gone to the bank to ask for the loan for the money I needed they would have said you’re funny, no, good luck! Fortunately, I was able to go to my parents for a loan. It was the same situation as a bank; I had to pay them back interest and all of that. My dad was like I believe you. It’s going to work, but you have to report the numbers to me every single month. I did that for the first 10 months, and he said OK, I see the trend, you’re fine. It was one of those things in life where I was like I believe this is going to work! It has to work! It was a feeling that I trusted.

Q: What are you most excited about as a studio owner and what are some challenges?
A: One thing that excites me is creativity. I don’t like to be complacent, but rather always evolving. I’ve had some other opportunities in the past where I was my own boss, got away from that and thought OK, I don’t really want to work for anybody else the rest of my life. Being an owner comes with its own set of challenges. You have to be accountable for yourself. Coming from a place of wanting to benefit the students in the most accessible way, that is what keeps me motivated more so than personal accountability. For example, I told students I would do this or I know this will benefit them, and this is what I’m going to do to make it happen. That is very important. Another challenge is financial. It’s always scary, but I must keep the strong faith that I had in the beginning — this is going to work and be OK. My only other challenge is because I have three kids and I’m a single mom, I have to juggle a lot. I would love to teach at the studio several times a week because I like the nighttime crowd, but that balance can be hard. Also, with nine instructors if they have a problem, that means I have a problem because as an owner I have to be the one who picks up the slack.

Q: Your studio offers a range of classes. How did you determine the types of classes you would have?
A: It was a challenge at the beginning for sure. When we first opened, we offered yoga, barre, pilates, HITT classes, everything, which is what we had to do to figure out what was going to stick. The Vinyasa yoga has definitely stuck. But I would say our most faithful crowd, besides the Saturday morning crowd, is Gentle Yoga. It’s so interesting because it’s not what I expected. The only day of the week we didn’t offer Gentle Yoga was on Thursday, but as of November 1st, it’s now offered every day of the week. It’s well attended because for instance — right now I’m personally nursing a hamstring injury and that class is really challenging. I think a lot of people come to it even if they are an advanced practitioner. Sometimes they’ll stay and take it as a second class to cool down, sometimes they’ll take it before another class, and it becomes their warm up to whatever class is next. I think we’ve definitely settled in now to what classes people like and what works for our community.

Q: What services do you offer beyond yoga classes?
A: Teacher training and retreats. The teacher training is when the teaching becomes exponential because you are producing other people that can go on and continue to share what beautiful shifts people can have in their bodies, minds, and hearts. That is an important part of why I got into yoga.

The retreats have been nothing short of magical — each one we have done. We go into them with the mindset of hey, we’re going to hit some bumps along the way, but we’ll figure things out. And we have every time! Many more retreats are on the horizon, which is something that I didn’t think would be such a big part of my yoga journey. I traveled and did the spring break thing in college. Now I travel healthy and balanced with a purpose! It’s been beautiful to see ho many people want to travel in that way — not just with their families, but with complete strangers. It’s a really neat experience! The first retreat I held for WheelHouse was local at the summer camp I went to growing up. It was very sentimental to me. Then Kelly and I did one about a month and a half after that in Mexico during Halloween time. That retreat was amazing, and I would do it again in a heartbeat!

Teacher training and retreats are 100% at the top for me. Even if I never taught another yoga class, I would absolutely still continue to do both of those things!

Q: Do you have a yoga mentor?
A: Yes, the people who I went through teacher training with at Stil Studio pretty much instantly became mentors. Our studio was open for some time before Kelly and I went through teacher training. I am forever grateful to Kelly. I was supposed to take a teacher training the month that we opened, but I pulled out. I was like I’m drowning, there’s no way! She told me that Stil Studio was coming to the Fairfax area from Boston to hold Fluid Yoga School. She said I really think you’re going to love these people! I probably said no to her 15 times. Then, about two days before the teacher training started I told Kelly, fine, I’ll go. It transformed my life in more ways than I ever expected! That’s when I found my meditation practice and everything changed. Stil Studio now comes here to conduct teacher training for WheelHouse and Kevan Gale leads it. They have been open for 10 years and have a lot more experience under their belt. They’ll tell us oh, we did that and it didn’t work, don’t do that. It’s been very helpful. I learned the compassion piece of teaching in this business through their training. That for me became the huge difference — seeing teachings delivered in a way that focused on building up the students instead of the teachers.

Q: What advice would you give to a new yoga teacher?
A: If you deliver teachings, touch with compassion, and connect with your students, it’s going to be OK even if they don’t love your flow or your music.

We get nervous about teaching. Are students going to like my class? Are they going to hate it? Well, the answer is both. Half of them will love your class and the other half may think that it sucks. You just have to know that you’re not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s OK!

YOGI योगी INSIGHT (part 10 in a series)

If you are coming here for the first time, you have entered part 10 in a series about aspiring and experienced yogis’ journeys. I hope that you enjoy it and follow along. Namaste!

I met Daniel a few years ago when one of his businesses, Jammin’ Java, hosted Jammin’ Yoga — a music-infused pop-up yoga series with proceeds to benefit Music Makes Life Better. I admire how Daniel pays it forward through his community organization, encouraging people to “serve their neighbors in need.” His pursuits align with all of my life passions — music, community, and yoga, so I was stoked when he carved out time to sit down with me and share his yoga path!

Daniel Brindley

Yogi: Daniel Brindley
Studio: Down Dog Yoga

Q: How long have you been practicing yoga?
A: Nine years. I started at a local gym setting, and then I went to Bikram Yoga in Tysons Corner and Reston for a while. After about year or so of that people kept saying you should try Down Dog, it’s hot yoga, but different from Bikram. I started coming to Down Dog about eight years ago.

Q: Who or what influenced you to take up yoga?
A: You know what, I was probably latching on to the trend. In around 2009/2010 I was on a personal journey to get healthy and looking for things to get myself healthy in every way. Yoga just really resonated with me. It kept working for me.

Q: What aspect of practicing yoga do you like the most and why?
A: It’s different from when I started. Now it’s very much body maintenance, staying healthy. With the busyness of life, especially with hot yoga, it’s very much a rinse. From looking at screens all day, email, phone, business, kids, and running around it’s a good way to show up, take a pause and get it all out. Rinse out and reset! That’s the way I think about it now. When I started, I was on a mission five days a week. It was very much a path to transforming my life and then becoming a teacher.

Q: What is your favorite style of yoga class to take and why?
A: The yoga that we do at Down Dog is called Baptiste Yoga™, power yoga. It’s hot yoga. It resonates with me — the sweat and heat. They are critical for me — I love it! It feels like more of a workout. There’s a vigorous side to it that I appreciate. Other yoga styles I have tried are fine, in my view, they are softer, calmer, slower, but I don’t get much of a workout. I don’t do it often, but I like Bikram yoga, it’s pretty special. The heat is amazing — it’s a very good counterbalance to Baptiste.

Q: What is your favorite posture and why?
A: I know what poses I don’t like, balance poses. Those poses can be tricky for me. I have a bad left ankle. In general, I find balancing poses challenging. I don’t know if I have a favorite — the way that the sequence is set up in Baptise, Wheel Pose is very much an apex/peak pose. Thinking back to my full history of yoga, I remember in my early days when they would call Wheel it was very challenging and very exhilarating every time. It was like whoa! I don’t have a favorite, but Wheel is definitely something that resonates with me.

Q: How long have you been teaching yoga?
A: Roughly four years, but I took a break. I taught a lot at the top and then I kind of burned out, took a break and then returned.

Q: Who or what influenced you to become a yoga teacher?
A: It felt inevitable to me. As I said, when I started yoga I wasn’t healthy. I wasn’t me really; I was a different person. It changed my whole outlook on everything. I got into immersions, training weekends away — it started feeding on itself. I did a teacher training with Baron Baptiste who started Baptiste Yoga™. I also trained with Patty Ivey, owner of Down Dog. I’ve always been that guy — a teacher, good communicator — I like sharing and being in front of people. I’ve always found it exhilarating. Then falling in love with yoga and seeing how transformational it is, it became a thing that was obviously going to happen. I remember questioning if I should go to trainings and spend the money, but I kept doing it and was inspired to teach. As soon as I finished the second training I was teaching a couple of weeks later. 

Q: What aspect of teaching yoga do you like the most and why?
A: I have never been into the fancy poses and dissecting them. It’s never been what I have been drawn to. It may be a guy thing; I’m not sure. For whatever reason, I’ve always just been more drawn to the simple straight ahead Baptiste style if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I make subtle changes/tweaks to the sequence in my classes. Within that for me, what I’m most drawn to is the inspirational, transformational lesson — that’s what I mean by the non-pose part of yoga. That’s what keeps me going — sharing things I’ve learned with others. Also, I have a keen sense I realized. With yoga, if you give yourself to it — it can be a powerful transformational experience. I reference Christian faith in it in terms of being born-again. I feel like yoga, granted not a religion, I do see different people in the room having been saved or not saved by yoga. There’s something to that, again, not in a religious sense, but personal growth and transformational human story.  When I walk into my class, frankly I’m not focused on the seasoned people in the room. I’m not that guy who’s going to take them into crazy poses. When I see brand new people who don’t even know how to touch their toes — literally, there’s no reaction or response.  I notice that they’re a beginner and think, wow, I have the opportunity to show them how freakin’ amazing power yoga is and how their life can be impacted positively by the whole experience.   

Q: Do you feel your teaching style is different than others? Especially as a male instructor?
A: I do air on the preachy side, but I’m conscious of it. I’m very excitable. I like to go off and share. I can only teach once a week. I kind of wish I had the time to teach more because I want to share all this stuff. That’s my sort of style. I also think I’m good at getting people motivated. The momentum in my class is this train is moving, and there’s no lagging. It’s powerful and challenging. That’s what I want to do because that’s what I reacted to with yoga. It’s designed to be a highly physical practice. It’s supposed to be hot. It’s supposed to be vigorous. There’s a speed to the flow. I think I’m good at keeping people moving, sweating and being challenged.

Q: Do you feel the student’s perception of you is different as a male instructor? Your class is always jam-packed.
A: I think my class resonates with people. They’re getting the poses they need. I don’t complicate it. I think I have the wisdom to share that people are seeking. It’s the same thing that makes them buy self-help books, go to religious services, counselors, it’s all the same stuff — people are looking for guidance and growth. It’s a physical practice first definitely, and it’s a spiritual experience. Before I started yoga, it would go to the gym and workout and go to wherever else for spiritual stuff. It was all segmented, but in yoga, it’s all integrated. I think people keep coming back to my class because I’m very tuned into all of that. I’m not just mechanical pose-to-pose. I also bring in the spiritual elements. I think it’s kind of a holy sh** moment for some people. Wait, I thought I was just coming to workout. I think there’s something to that.

Q: Do you think your role as a father, businessman, etc. influence you as a teacher?
A: It’s the other way around. Doing yoga and teaching help me in different areas of my life. There’s an interplay, but yoga has definitely transformed how I look at problems, business, people, etc.
SIDE NOTE: Before the interview, I took Daniel’s class, and he talked about staying in the flow of life and the perception of letdowns and setbacks. There was a time in his life when he would have felt “the sky is falling” if crappy stuff happened, or things didn’t go as expected. But he has a different outlook now. He shifted from seeing those things as dead ends or problems to each one of the seaming roadblocks as the opposite — a sign of possibility. For instance, he said he went to go swimming for some self-care time and forgot his goggles. At first, he felt frustrated that he didn’t have them and could have said forget it and went home. Instead, he changed his mindset, grabbed a kickboard and did a different workout than he originally planned. Swimming laps with the kickboard and running in the water turned out to be equally if not more fun for him once he adapted to the situation.

Q: What advice would you give to a new yoga teacher?
A: There’s not a lot of money to be made in teaching yoga, at least at the local level. It’s very common for new teachers to burn out. They’re very excited and keep saying yes to teaching lots of classes, but they still have to work a full-time job. You can easily burn out and lose the excitement because of all the busyness. Also, you don’t think of this, but people who teach a lot have that much less time to spend in the studio and practice. There’s a sacrifice. You should be strategic with setting up your initial schedule to make sure it’s sustainable because burn out is real.

Q: What advice would you give to other males?
A: There is a perception out there that yoga is a woman’s thing, but it’s kind of funny because a lot of luminaries of yoga were male. Find a role model you can relate to. For instance, Baron Baptiste is a role model to me. I don’t know him, I’ve talked to him, but I don’t know him. I read his books, took his training and other things. I encourage other guys to practice yoga and consider teaching. If you’re a type A male, you probably think that you should be in the weight room and do CrossFit, but you really should be doing the opposite. You’re probably good at all that stuff, but the counterbalance to it is where you should be spending your time and energy. Yoga is where you’ll get the balance — the counterbalance to what you can naturally do.

Yogi योगी Insight (part 8 in a series)

If you are coming here for the first time, you have entered part 8 in a series about aspiring and experienced yogis’ journeys. I hope that you enjoy it and follow along. Namaste!

I met Shannon during sculpt teacher training. She is a smart and strong woman who is soft-spoken outside of the studio, but radiates with a commanding presence when she leads a class!  

shannon blog pic

Yogi: Shannon Yun
Studio: CorePower Yoga

Q: Who or what influenced you to take up yoga?
A: My first time doing yoga was through the Nike Training Club app. I came across the yoga program on the app and thought it would be very easy, but it wasn’t at all! I continued to do it and try to get better. Soon after, I started watching and following a yoga instructor on YouTube called Yoga by Candace. I used to struggle with doing her power yoga sequences. In the fall of 2016, I attended a yoga workshop she held in the area and I thought wow, this is easier! I became more confident in doing yoga and joined a studio to lose weight and tone up for my upcoming wedding.     

Q: How long have you been practicing yoga?
A: Since September 2015.

Q: What aspect of practicing yoga do you like the most and why?
A: I like how I feel after taking a yoga class. The same goes for other workouts I do such as lifting and Crossfit. All of them are hard while I’m doing them, except yoga is a little different because it challenges both my mind and body — when I’m done taking a class it puts me in a euphoric-like state.   

Q: What is your favorite posture and why?
A: I love forearm stand. When I first saw someone in the pose it seemed elusive to me. I thought I would never be able to do it. I practiced the posture for a very long time and suddenly one day it clicked and I was like wow, I can do this! I still enjoy doing forearm stand because I worked so hard to achieve it. I continue to practice the pose regularly at home and after class. I like staying after class to work on my form because I’m warm and forearm stand requires a lot of shoulder opening and core strength.       

Q: What aspect of practicing yoga do you find the most challenging and why?
A: Breath. I struggle taking full deep breaths. When you take a full deep breath you have to extend through your diaphragm and your belly. In a public setting, I don’t take full deep breaths because I’m distracted thinking my belly looks distended. It’s my own personal struggle and I’m trying to let go of that mentality. It’s very easy to take a deep breath and fill from your chest, but filling through your belly is different. I think that’s why I have I have back issues because my thoracic spine isn’t fully extending when I take breaths.

Q: What is most fulfilling to you in your yoga practice?
A: It’s a tie between strength and flexibility. I love being able to accomplish the forearm stand, which requires strength and flexibility. However, my number one wish through yoga is to have open hamstrings, that would be my dream. I admire people who can fold their chest to their legs in forward fold. I have made progress over the past few years in reaching my toes and having a flatter spine in seated, standing and wide-legged forward fold which is fulfilling.

Q: How long have you been teaching yoga and who influenced you to become a teacher?
A: I’ve been teaching since March 2018. Tatiana, the manager of CorePower, where I practice influenced me to become a teacher. I was taking a lot of sculpt classes and I knew that I wanted to take teacher training, but I wasn’t sure which style class I wanted to pursue. She encouraged me to take sculpt teacher training and then at the end assess where I want to go from there.

Q: What aspect of teaching yoga sculpt do you like the most and why?
A: I love creating interesting sequences that include poses that challenge people to try something new. I aim to make my classes difficult, BUT doable. For example, this week in class I incorporated power push-ups, where you lift both of your palms off the mat. It’s a move that most people would never try on their own. Seeing people attempt an exercise they wouldn’t normally try because they feel safe in my class is great!

Q: How are weight training moves beneficial to yoga practice?
A: Strength is very important in yoga — when you combine strength and flexibility it helps prevent you from overextending your muscles. Yoga sculpt combines those two elements, which is one reason why I like the format so much. Take backbends for instance, if you have a really flexible spine you can overextend your back. What keeps you from doing that are your core muscles. A strong core will help you do backbends safely. Also, when it comes to increasing strength it’s smart to mix up and progressively add on when incorporating weights. Your muscles adapt to your physical activity. Doing a variety of poses with various weights is taxing on your central nervous system and challenges your body so that your muscles don’t become stagnant.

Q: Is there one exercise that you always include in your sequence?
A: Yes, planks because they are a full body movement that can be done in various ways that present new challenges. I incorporate four to five different plank exercises in my sequences to awaken various body parts.

Q: What advice would you give to a new yoga teacher?
A: Be confident! If you feel nervous tell yourself I have the skills and knowledge, I can do this! Squash any self-doubt or thoughts of making mistakes or you risk fulfilling those expectations. Instead, think to yourself, I’m awesome! That attitude will come through and be apparent to others and they will, in turn, think wow, that was a great class! Confidence is everything, but not in an egotistical way, rather you are valuable and you have something to share with others.

Also, whether you’re a student or a teacher, take different styles of classes. Never be afraid to try other exercises — there’s so much you can benefit from if you have an open mind to learning new things. Even if it’s discovering a fresh way to cue something by participating in another teacher’s class.

The sky is the limit for Shannon and I cannot wait to see what new heights she takes herself and her students!

Yogi योगी Insight (part 7 in a series)

If you are coming here for the first time, you have entered part 7 in a series about aspiring and experienced yogis’ journeys. I hope that you enjoy it and follow along. Namaste!

I met Nat, a kind spirit, in the tea room of YYOGA after a Flow class while on travel in Vancouver, BC. We started chatting and I learned that Nat is from West Sussex, England. Also, she’s a huge dog lover, so I knew she was cool. Nat shared her personal story with me of why she got into yoga, and I asked her if I could interview and feature her in Yogi Insight. I am excited that she said yes!

Nat

Yogi: Nat Joos
Studio: In-home private practice

Q: Who or what influenced you to take up yoga?
A: I read articles about runners getting fewer injuries through stretching out in a yoga class. I was a big runner 15 years ago, doing 10Ks about five times a day. Yoga was important in assisting my body in the amount of running I was doing. Then, yoga became my constant companion after I lost my husband to skin cancer five years ago. I turned to yoga drenched in grief and yoga transcended me to a place where I felt nourished with a sense of acceptance and peace. It presented itself in a positive way, and I’ve never forgotten that.

Q: How long have you been practicing yoga?
A: I have been practicing for about 15 years.

Q: What aspect of practicing yoga do you like the most and why?
A: I love the way yoga makes me feel. I can unplug from the past and future and just be present on my mat. It feels wonderful!

Q: What aspect of yoga do you like the least and why?
A: This is hard to answer … I guess it’s certain postures I find the hardest. I have relatively tight hamstrings, so forward bends are not textbook for me. I believe that it’s not about how far you go into a posture, it’s about how you feel when you arrive!

Q: What is your favorite posture and why?
A: My favorite posture is side plank, just like the one in my photo. It makes me feel calm and very strong!

Q: How long have you owned a private yoga practice?
A: I’ve owned my own practice for just over a year and love it! My Yoganat classes are in the comfort of my own home shala, which creates a more personable practice experience. It’s important to me to keep the authenticity of yoga by sealing every class with an Om to deepen the practice.

Q: What is your favorite part about teaching yoga and why?
A: I like to offer a practice that’s for everyone and I open my doors with a big friendly welcome! If you’re lucky, you get to meet my furry kid “Minnie the choccy lab!” Unfortunately, she’s unable to attend the sessions because she’s a distraction.

Q: What advice would you give to a new yoga teacher?
A: Give it time and be patient. Also, be yourself.

To read more about Nat, check out her website YOGANAT!

Yogi योगी Insight (part 6 in a series)

If you are coming here for the first time, you have entered part 6 in a series about aspiring and experienced yogis’ journeys. I hope that you enjoy it and follow along. Namaste!

I met Elena two years ago when I walked into her HPF class. I instantly felt at peace by her soothing voice and her nurturing spirit! I never experienced an immediate calming reaction to a person like that before. I returned and took Elena’s class whenever possible. She is both a life coach and a yoga teacher, two roles that could not fit a person more perfectly!   

Elena Sonnino, life coach and yoga teacher

Elena Sonnino, life coach and yoga teacher

Yogi: Elena Sonnino
Studios: Beloved Yoga, Wheelhouse Yoga, and in-home private practice

Q: Who or what influenced you to take up yoga?
A: I never really liked yoga, other than when I was pregnant with my daughter. I had a difficult time being still in Savasana. Then one day, I started to feel and appreciate the benefits of it for the first time during a hiking and weight-loss retreat in British Columbia. I returned home with a DVD from the instructor. For a year or so I only used that DVD and sought out classes when I was on travel – until I found a local studio to regularly practice. The big shift for me came when I stopped focusing on yoga as a workout and embraced it as a daily practice.

Q: How long have you been practicing yoga?
A: I am a baby yogini. I practiced the physical asanas when I was pregnant in 2004 and then started to cultivate a practice in 2014. It wasn’t until 2016 that it became part of my everyday life. My first introduction to yoga was hatha style, then power vinyasa, and eventually I found my way to yin yoga and even Kundalini yoga.

Q: What aspect of practicing yoga are you most passionate about and why?
A: Yoga offers me a mirror whether I am studying, focusing on pranayama, or moving my body with asana – to unearth and attune to what is within me. Pema Chodron wrote, “Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”

The idea that our body and our deepest self, come to us as benevolent messengers, inviting us to recognize and learn what we need to know is the essence of yoga for me, whether it is vinyasa, yin, or even kundalini. It is a practice that invites us to explore and reveal that which is hidden. It is an opportunity to notice that what is practiced is also reflected. It is a practice that focuses on and highlights self-compassion instead of self-improvement.

Q: What keeps you coming back to your mat?
A: My mat is one of my best teachers for acceptance. My mat reminds me that each day is a new day, and what happened the day before or what may happen the next day doesn’t really matter. Each practice allows me to notice the shifts in my balance — the subtle ways my body reacts, and the deeper qualities of my breath from one day to another.

Q: What aspect of practicing yoga do you find most challenging and why?
A: Challenge looks different on different days. In the early days of my vinyasa practice, approaching inversions and arm balances felt like my biggest challenge. I was insecure about my own strength and it was hard to detach from the outcomes when it felt like everyone around me made it look so easy. Aparigraha, non-attachment, in general, is an aspect of yoga that is both my favorite and perhaps most challenging. Even when I believe that I’ve approached a moment with curiosity and willingness, one of my daily practices is to notice and observe sensations, emotions, and thoughts so that I can catch myself when subtle attachments to expectations creep up.

Another aspect that has been challenging, is creating an at home practice for myself as a daily tool. Even though I know that yoga is more than the physical shapes we take on a mat, it took me a long time to allow myself to explore diverse styles and practices at home and tune in to what I needed rather than following the herd.

Q: What is most fulfilling for you in your yoga practice?
A: Connection to my inner source is what is most fulfilling for me in my practice. Sometimes that comes through breath work, sometimes it finds me in a shape on the mat, and sometimes it finds me in meditation. It is during those moments that I feel connected to something deeper and I can feel the energy in my body that makes my heart smile. I smiled a lot the first time I flew in crow pose or went upside down, supported by a wall.

Q: How long have you been teaching yoga? Who or what influenced you to become a teacher?
A: I completed my teacher training and started guiding practices in 2016. The thing that drew me to want to teach was my life coaching practice. In my own self-work, I’d integrated so much of what I knew as a life coach with my personal yoga practice and I wanted a way to bring the two together. I had been an elementary school teacher for 12 years, and there is something about being a guide and facilitator that energizes me, so the symbiotic relationship felt like a perfect way for me to blend my strengths and passions.

Q: What is your favorite aspect of teaching yoga and why?
A: Creating and holding space for practitioners to have their own experience with their body, their breath, and their mat. I consider myself a guide more than a teacher and like to invite individuals in my yin and vinyasa classes to attune to the inner strength and wisdom that is always within them.

Q: What is your least favorite aspect of teaching yoga and why?
A: When I first started teaching, my own practice changed. At first, it was hard for me to find time for my own practices, and then even when I did make it to my mat it felt like a part of me was always considering how the practice could inform my role as a teacher. It took a while, and to some degree, a change in the style of physical asana to help me ground into a practice that felt sustainable and nourishing just for me.

Q: What piece of advice would you give to a new yoga teacher?
A: Find the time and commit to your own practice. Be willing to explore and to study, to ask questions and look for answers within the sacred texts and in yourself.

Q: Who or what influenced you to become a life coach?
A: I’d always been a guide, asking questions and holding space for others. It was insights over time ranging from my experience surviving Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, my work as a classroom teacher, divorce, marathon running, learning to surf, and eventually, a chance encounter and experience with a massage therapist in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and a paragliding experience that same weekend that brought everything together. Soaring through the air with the birds, attached to my co-pilot, I noticed how it only took subtle movements to change direction – and knew! It wasn’t about a destination as we flew. It was about noticing. It was about letting the wind move us and fully experiencing each shift with gratitude and wonder. By the time I reached the landing zone, I had decided to embrace the nudges and set off to find a training program to study with, and claim my role as a life coach!

Q: How long have you been a life coach? What is your favorite aspect of being a life coach?
A: I trained with the Martha Beck Institute in 2016 and I have worked with clients one-on-one and groups since that same year. I have spoken with a variety of groups and led workshops and retreats, which always energizes me. My favorite aspect is when a client tunes in to an inner realization based on a question that I asked or an invitation that I offered. Being a witness to my clients as they show up for themselves with vulnerability and willingness is like a gift.

Q: How does being a life coach tie into your yoga practice and being a yoga teacher?
A: The two are very symbiotic to me. I try to create experiences whether they are yoga or coaching related that invite individuals to connect with themselves. The ideas or themes that I find myself exploring with my clients are the same ones that I offer as intentions in my classes and for myself in my own practice.

BONUS ROUND 😃:  Do you have any exciting projects in the works?
A: I am launching a new podcast called Sunrise in Your Pocket on October 8. Everyone needs a nudge now and then to help them get back on track to feeling joyful, vibrant, and alive in the now. Sunrise in Your Pocket is your weekly podcast for playful, easy to implement guidance for reconnecting to the inner strength and wisdom within you. You can sign up here to the be the first to know when it goes live!

Yogi योगी Insight (part 5 in a series)

If you are coming here for the first time, you have entered part 5 in a series about aspiring and experienced yogis’ journeys. I hope that you enjoy it and follow along. Namaste!

I met Danielle about a year ago in a C2 class at CorePower Yoga. She was deep in her relax zone before class, but we spoke afterward and we have been buds ever since. She is an amazing woman who used her private practice experience on her mat to launch and pave a path of inspiration off her mat. Danielle’s credentials include TEDx speaker, author, host of The Danielle Daily Show, just to name a few! I am grateful that she made time to participate in this series.

Danielle Watson

Yogi: Danielle Watson, E-RYT 200
Studio: Private Practice

Q: Who or what influenced you to take up yoga?
A: Massive anxiety. I took up yoga in graduate school as an attempt to save myself from spontaneously combusting from the stress of it. I remember lying on my bed crying at night because it felt like I could not find the off button for my brain. Even in my sleep I was thinking and worrying, which led me to feel tired and anxious all the time. I was already physically flexible but heard that yoga was good for calming the mind, so I decided to give it a try to relieve some of the pressure I was feeling.

Q: How long have you been practicing yoga?
A: I started in 2002, so 16 years now!

Q: What aspect of practicing yoga are you most passionate about?
A: Svadhyaya (self-study) and tapas (discipline). For me, these are the two keys to developing into the person we want to become. Asana practice is something I do most days of the week, but practicing these two niyamas is something that I am committed to working on every moment of the day.

Q: What keeps you coming back to your mat?
A: My asana practice is like a great big cosmic dumpster where I go to dispose of my mental garbage. Often times, when I walk into the studio I feel spectacularly human … vulnerable, anxious, or just plain not in a good mood. My mat is a space where I can safely unload the emotional burden of my humanity whether it happens to be sadness, loneliness, grief, anxiety, or shame. I walk out of the studio feeling lighter, freer and ready to keep marching toward becoming the woman I was meant to be! I like to practice daily when possible because, for me, yoga is the mental health equivalent of brushing my teeth. I love the clean feeling!

Q: What is most challenging for you in your personal yoga practice?
A: Letting go of judgment. I often find myself critiquing how others teach, especially when it comes to what is safe and unsafe for new students. I have to remind myself that it’s none of my business anymore!

Q: What is most fulfilling for you in your personal yoga practice?
A: Seeing my practice grow and change. My practice is a lot like bamboo … so much happens beneath the surface before you can see what has been developing, and then suddenly new abilities come bursting out!

Q: Who or what influenced you to start a private yoga teaching business?
A: I started out teaching classes at a studio, but quickly realized that the pay was not very good. I knew that I could work fewer hours and make more money if I started offering private sessions. Also, I  really liked having a close relationship with my students and offering an in-home practice often led to me becoming a part of a family.

Q: Why did you decide to stop your private yoga business?
A: I decided to stop teaching yoga when I realized I was meant to do something more with my gifts and talents than what I was currently doing. It was a difficult decision for me because my clients loved me and I felt guilty about giving up something that helped so many people so much. I finally decided to stop and give away all of my yoga books and gear when I answered an important question for myself. That question was, “If I can do this much good with something I know I am no longer meant to be doing, how much good could I do with something I am meant to be doing?” I knew the good that I was meant to do was a lot more and that sealed the decision for me.

Q: How long did you teach yoga?
A: About eight or nine years.

Q: What insight do you have for someone thinking about starting a private yoga business?
A: All you really need to get started is an extra mat, a strap, and some blocks. It’s tempting to buy a bunch of nifty yoga props, but work with your clients first and then buy more equipment later as you determine the specific need(s) of your clients. Often, students have/want their own equipment so they can use it at home so you may not need to buy fancy props because they will buy on their own what you recommend.

Q: What piece of advice do you have for a new yoga teacher?
A: I don’t think new teachers often realize how much anxiety new students have about being in a yoga class. People are worried that they won’t fit in because they are not flexible, don’t know the poses, etc. I think it’s important to give a voice to that fear at the beginning of an intro class by saying something like, “If you’re here for the first time today, congratulate yourself for being brave! You’re not going to know how to do all the postures today, but you’re not expected to. After you’ve been here a few times you’ll get the hang of it and see yourself starting to improve. I’m proud of you for giving this a try!”