Gut Check: Benefits of Using Yoga Tools in Your Practice

Photo by Unsplash

I “met” Jennifer McGregor, a pre-med student, when she reached out to me via email in July and asked if she could be a guest writer for Gal on the Go! As part of her pitch, she explained that she and a friend co-created PublicHealthLibrary.org as a way to share reputable material on health topics and bring them to the forefront, making the information easier and quicker to find. I said YES, your project aligns with Gal on the Go’s mission! Her article below focuses on gut health and references a variety of resources. Enjoy!

Exploring New Options Can Maximize the Benefits of Yoga

All it takes is a single yoga practice to start experiencing the benefits, but we all want to get the best possible results from our efforts like anything in life. Trying new tools and ideas for deepening your practice can help you get even more out of yoga and benefit your health.

The Link Between Yoga and IBD

Yoga is one of the best exercises for someone with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) because it addresses many of your body’s needs. Yoga focuses on breathing and meditation, which lowers stress and anxiety. Researchers found a link between stress and IBD symptoms. Practicing yoga consistently gives you an ongoing mental health benefit that may also help manage IBD symptoms. The physical effects of yoga are pretty powerful, too. Yoga is a gentle way to increase your strength and energy, plus the movements can ease your symptoms by helping release trapped gas and bloating.

Give Your Practice a Tech Upgrade

One of the best ways to maximize these positive effects is to use yoga apps on your phone. Yoga apps are especially beneficial for your home practice because they can guide and help you focus on your specific needs. For example, the iGeeksBlog highlights the app Universal Breathing that’s all about breathing techniques, and the app Yogatailor offers the ultimate in customization.

Expand Your Use of Props

Some people mistakenly view using props as a shortcut, but this couldn’t be further from the truth! Using props is really about support, which can allow you to work into more advanced poses gradually. 

Yoga Block

Your yoga block supports you, helping make any asana you’re practicing work for your body. Examples include using a block in a pose like pigeon to get a deeper stretch or using it in seated poses to ease your joints’ pressure. 

Yoga Strap

Using a yoga strap is a way of lengthening your body to work into more challenging poses and get a deeper stretch from the poses you’ve been practicing. In addition to helping you achieve more advanced poses, using a strap can also help you achieve correct alignment. This is especially important when you’re practicing at home and don’t have a mirror or instructor to rely on for guidance.

Yoga Bolster

Some of the most popular uses of a yoga bolster are getting into a really good restorative stretch. Along with these common uses, your bolster can also be a highly effective way to expand your practice in other ways. For example, the Yoga Journal guides us through multiple ways to use a bolster to access a gentle backbend.

Beyond the Basics

Besides props, you know the basics that every yogi needs, like a good mat and comfortable clothes. But another way to reach the next level in your practice is to give your basics an upgrade. An example of one we love is yoga pants that have a built-in pocket for your phone. Or if you travel frequently, a travel yoga mat simplifies keeping your practice mobile.

Set Up a Home Practice

You can still make yoga a part of your everyday routine with at-home practice. Find a quiet space in your home away from high-traffic areas. Create a positive vibe by removing clutter, letting in natural light, and lighting some sage. 

When you think of these tools in terms of support, you can see how taking advantage of that support can transform your practice. And really, doesn’t that get to the heart of yoga, and the spirit of namaste? Your practice is personal, but you’ll get more out of it with other people’s support and the right tools!

NOTE: If you would like to be a guest writer for Gal on the Go, submit your story pitch to galotgo@gmail.com.

My Mat Is…

When I read my friend Laura’s candid post about her yoga mat, it moved me. I asked her if I could share her story, and she said, “yes”. Gratitude for #Manduka and our mats, a valued tool of the trade!

Laura Hitchman practicing self-care on her Manduka mat.

#mymatis my home. I feel safe, secure, and able to be myself when I’m on my mat. It’s not the integral yet supportive nature of the quarter-inch rubber mandukayoga under my body, but rather what it has come to represent over the past eight years. A gift from an ex, I could’ve allowed my mat to represent that relationship. I chose to let go instead. While I rid my life of a lot of physical things that reminded me of that time, I knew in my heart that my mat wasn’t one of those things I needed to purge to cleanse. I’ve taken time to build a strong practice, and my mat has seen a lot of sweat. I’d venture to say pounds upon pounds of toxins have been absorbed into that rubber along with many tears and lots of laughter. It’s been through endless hours of training. It’s traveled with me. It’s provided me with a place to take a nap. It’s witnessed countless yoga injuries because if you aren’t falling, you aren’t trying. It’s gone camping (never again). It’s seen the likes of lovemaking (maybe more than once and yes, you should give it a try; I know you’re thinking about it now). I’ve shared it with friends. It now holds their sweat. Maybe some of their tears, and I know it holds their love. It’s provided me with a safe space to feel love, to allow my heart to be open. I’ve danced on it. Farted on it. Taken my time to heal on it from chronic illness and heartache. It even melted once in my trunk, into a shoebox. Somehow it got its shape back. No harm, no foul. It’s hosted the likes of small children doing Down Dog. It’s held up to my drool. It’s carried me through to the present moment. It’s been to the beach. I’ve squatted on it with friends to watch the full moon and listen to drums beat in my chest. I’ve eaten on it (bad yogi, I know, pizza and subway (Ewww). I’ve shared wine on it with friends. It’s witnessed so much of who I am. I’ve gotten funky on it, created flow upon flow on it. Gotten naked by myself on it. Flowed in that way on it. A judgment-free zone, a cathartic warm hug from my main squeeze. So there you have it, #mymatis home!

If you would like to share your personal story about your mat on Laura’s Insta page, go to: https://www.instagram.com/ovpoweryoga/ 

Instructions for posting under her #mymatis Insta story:
1. Post a photo of yourself in your natural habitat! Something that depicts who you are!
2. Share what your mat means to you.
3. Use the hashtag #mymatis with your post.
4. Tag and mention the studio @ovpoweryoga in your post. (they can’t track it if you don’t do it)
5. Tag a friend or 2 to play along. *Post deadline is November 30. They will select a post to win an unlimited annual membership; all are eligible!

You may recognize Laura from my Yogi Insight section. She is the owner of OVPY in Wheeling, WV. I encourage you to get your flow on there if you are in the area!

A Sure Sign: Creative Branding

at GALOTGO

hashtag GALOTGO

Four and a half years ago, I was brainstorming creative ways to market my Gal on the Go brand when I had an actual aha moment. It was right in front of my face!!!! I thought, why not take my personalized license plate, GALOTGO, and place a hashtag in front of it?! A unique way of marketing to a captive audience of fellow drivers. During my initial search for the symbol, I couldn’t find a hashtag sticker anywhere, so I bought four number 1 stickers from a Home Depot store and made a hashtag. About a year later, I sold my Prius and had to remove my homemade hashtag. I researched the symbol again online, and this time found a 4″ vinyl version on Amazon. Score! The reaction to the sticker has been a lot of fun over the years… people tell me frequently how creative it is, they take photos of the back of my car, and ask me if I mind if they copy my idea. If you follow my blog, you know that I recently did an overhaul on the look of my brand, which got me thinking… how can I update the use of my hashtag? I know, replace the # with an @ sign!!!! All of my marketing materials — business cards, flyers, etc. use @gal0tgo and @rocknflowyoga, so it made sense. I’m happy to share that the at sign has received a lot of positive feedback. If you see my car on the road, give me a honk or a shout!

Gal on the Go Gets a Makeover

Gal on the Go

I launched my Gal on the Go blog 14 years ago as part of a grad school project. I cannot believe how fast time has passed!!!! My writer’s voice has evolved and it was time for my look to progress too with some fresh branding. I hope that you enjoy the blog and continue to follow along. Like a fine wine, my goal is for it to keep getting better.

This year I created a sub brand of Gal on the Go called Rock N Flow Yoga, combining my past experience as a DJ with my passion for yoga, by offering private yoga instruction to musicians and bands and leading fun power flows at public festivals and events.

It takes a village of amazing friends and strangers with heart to help make your dreams a reality. You can try to do it alone, but it is much more achievable (especially on rough days) when you have people who are behind you rooting for you!

That said, I would like to give a shout-out to the following people for their unwavering support with this venture…

  • Angela Tarantula, my friend who is a talented graphics designer created the new Gal on the Go logo down to the detail of the arrows giving a sense of action and looking like a pair of legs running. (She also created my Rock N Flow Yoga logo.) Insta: @angtarantula
  • Lauren, my friend who is a skilled photographer and owner of Elle Three Photography took the photo used as the base of the new Gal on the Go logo.
  • Danielle Daily, my friend, and business mentor who is a TED Talk savvy businesswoman and host of the Suddenly Single Show podcast who came up with the concept of rebranding Gal on the Go.
  • Yorke B., a new friend and my Custom Ink rep who has been beyond helpful with all my merch needs for Rock N Flow Yoga.
  • Christina, my friend who placed the first order for some Rock N Flow Yoga merch and gifted it to me as a gesture of her belief in me and my dream.
  • Amanda, my original omie who attended my first studio yoga class ever and every one of my public yoga events.
  • YOU (my blog readers) and the people who grant me interviews — all of whom are a constant inspiration.

Sit back and enjoy this wild ride as we keep it moving onward and upward together!!!!

Yogi योगी Insight (part 14 in a series)

If you are coming here for the first time, you have entered part 14 in an interview series with aspiring and experienced yogis called Yogi Insight. I hope that you enjoy each person’s shared journey. Namaste!

I first learned about OV Power Yoga when my boyfriend mentioned that he saw a sign for the studio during a visit to see his family in Wheeling, WV. I was in town for a few days and needed re-grounding, so I borrowed his bike and peddled off to a 60-minute power flow class led by Lauren Newton. I instantly felt a connection to the OVPY community and a sense of peace in the space. So strongly, that I returned every day for two more days during my stay.

While I was there I had an opportunity to meet Laura Hitchman, the owner. I found her lively personality invigorating as you will learn from her interview below. She has a playful attitude, but make no mistake, she respects the practice of yoga. Her power flows are on-point and challenging, and her business plans are ambitious.

Laura and I vibed so well, that she extended an invitation for me to return as a guest instructor whenever I’m in town and teach sculpt! I cannot wait to reunite with the OVPY community in July (dates TBD)!

Yogi: Laura Hitchman, founder and teacher
Studio: OV Power Yoga (OVPY)

Laura Hitchman

Q: Who or what influenced you to start practicing yoga?
A: Actually, it was my Dad — he doesn’t even do yoga! In 2011, (time in my life when I was very unhealthy and living the party girl life), he offered to hire a personal trainer to help me lose weight and create wellness goals. I didn’t take it lightly. I got mad at him. It wasn’t exactly the type of thing you want to hear from your father, but part of it rang true and deep down I knew there was a need for change.

Q: How long have you been practicing yoga?
A: I attended my first yoga class in 2007 at WVU. I took a class for a semester but didn’t practice regularly until 2012. That’s when yoga started to make an impact on me. It’s been seven years. I practice roughly three to five times per week. I’d love to tell you that I practice every day, but it just isn’t true. Sometimes I want to go for a walk or watch Netflix for six hours instead. 😉

Q: What do you like the most about practicing yoga?
A: There are so many things I love about it, but if I had to pick one I’d say laughter. Yoga, especially teaching yoga taught me to laugh at myself, to be myself regardless of the opinions of others. I crack jokes in class; some of them are a hit and the rest well… Yoga is continually teaching me to grow through the uncomfortable times, you know, that awkward silence when no one “gets” your joke? I’ve learned to love that awkward time; I no longer want to hide when I find my edge. I say, “OK, Laura here is an area where you can do a little work and grow; not get better, but grow and develop.”

One Saturday evening at the end of a very long day during my yoga teacher training, my friend, yoga teacher and life coach stopped me in my tracks and made me tell a joke. I got so nervous and embarrassed that I froze. All of a sudden these friends of mine became (in my mind) a sea of judgmental people. But, that wasn’t the case at all! I don’t quit easily, so I stood there shaking, beat red and I told a joke. Everyone laughed, and I returned to my mat. Life went on. I’m likely the only person that remembers that experience out of the 17 people in my YTT class. I work hard to teach people to show up as they are and to not worry that others are paying much attention to them — they’re busy thinking about their own lives.

Q: What is your favorite pose and why?
A: It changes all the time… it used to be half moon, then garudasana (Eagle), wheel. Right now it’s plank. You know this if you attend my class. I love plank because for years I would opt out of doing it because my internal dialogue was you’re not strong enough, you’re too tall to do a pushup, etc. so I would never try. Then, one day I decided to do all the planks offered in the sequence of a 60-minute class. I built the strength (mostly mentally) to plank and now I want to do them all of the time!

Q: Who or what influenced you to open up a hot yoga studio? Is there any significance of why you chose that location?
A: I moved back home to Wheeling, WV, after living in Charleston, SC, for 10 years. I wanted to be closer to my family, get a handle on my health (I have autoimmune diseases.) and casually teach yoga a few times a week. I didn’t have a lot of time to teach yoga in South Carolina due to illness and working a full-time job. Also, I didn’t have the energy to teach night classes like the rest of my friends.

Much to my surprise, upon moving home, I found a budding yoga community in Wheeling that was craving the practice as much as me! Not to mention it’s a town that’s currently ripe for new business and fun, healthy things to do. I worked hard in 2018 to bring the community together even more — hosting local events and supporting other businesses. I was inspired by the people who live in the Valley and their desire/dedication to shift the perspective for the whole, to bring healthy options to our town and support one another. I’ve worked in business and hospitality my entire career. The combination of majoring in those fields in college, my YTT 200, Life Coach certification and community support, made starting a business in Wheeling make sense. It finally felt like all of my skills, passions and education were pulling me in the same direction and I could no longer ignore it. I’ve had a lot of mentors over the years — yoga teachers, coaches, business owners who have influenced me, but also crappy jobs, relationships that didn’t end well and chronic illness all that have shaped me. I grew into who I am today from walking my ass through the fire and choosing to shift my perspective and change accordingly.

Q: Your talented sister, Hannah Wagner, painted the chakras mural on the wall, how did that come about?
A: How much time to do you have? Just kidding. We sat down and talked through the concepts behind the chakras, the elements that each encompasses and how we could interpret the chakras through art. It’s personal. We worked to portray the meanings through the imagery of relatively ethereal concepts. It was challenging and got us thinking about how art is left to interpretation and so is yoga; they flowed together!

Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of owning/running a yoga studio?
A: There are so many, but I love hearing stories from my clients when they start a practice, develop a passion for it and return to tell me how yoga is starting to impact all the areas of their lives in ways that feel light and lifted. One client recently told me that her co-workers mentioned to her that she spends a fair amount of time at work these days taking deep breaths and letting the air out through her mouth. We teach breathing techniques at OV Power Yoga because they’re a tool you can use everywhere you go at any time.

Q: What is your mission as a yoga owner?
A: To get more people on mats!!! At home, in nature or in the studio. It doesn’t matter where you start; just start. The rest will unfold the way it’s meant to be. Yoga makes us friendlier, happier and more accepting of ourselves. It’s an introspective practice at best and through breath, movement and sweat we release endorphins and build serotonin and calm our nervous system. For me, it’s about COMMUNITY. We need it for our health; it’s a major part of sustaining us well into our 90s. My mission for the Valley is to bring The Blue Zone Project to town. Check it out! (Blogger’s Note: I looked into The Blue Zone Project, and it’s intriguing!)

Q: What is the biggest challenge for you as a studio owner?
A: Patience. As I said earlier, I don’t quit easily. I’m learning that it takes time for people to realize you even exist as a business. It’s slow, but picking up every day. I’m very pleased with our success so far. On average we have nine people per class and 14 classes per week. To me, that’s impressive for only having been open for five months so far.

Q: What is your short- and long-term plan for your studio?
A: We will be doing it ALL! My vision for the studio is grand! YTT is coming this year. I’m getting ready to submit materials to the Yoga Alliance for curriculum approval. We will host an assistant training (my first love), and next winter we will go on our first retreat. It’s all in the works! I spend a lot of time developing the business when I’m not at the studio. In June we will hold a co-lead workshop with myself and Jim Weekly called My Husband Does Down Dog. It’s designed to get more men on the mat with their wives to enjoy the practice together. We will also be around town doing events at places like Nikki’s Garden Center (Yoga in the Hot House) and Generations Pub (Hot Yoga on the Deck). Keep checking the OVPY website and our Instagram (@ovpoweryoga) account for updates.

Q: How long have you been teaching yoga?
A: Actively, for three years. I say yes before I say no. Humans tend to back out of things that they overthink. I’m no different, so I say yes and there is less anxiety. I find a new edge!

Q: What do you like most about teaching yoga?
A: That light-bulb moment in class when I notice the look of excitement on a student’s face when the person lands a pose for the first time. It’s not about doing the pose flawlessly, but rather falling so many times that when you finally achieve what you have been working on, it feels good.

Q: How do you come up with your sequences?
A: I wing it. I don’t plan; I don’t write them out. That gives me anxiety. I prefer to look at the bodies in the room and to teach to who is there. I’ve found that if I write out my sequences, I back myself into a corner and get attached to what I planned and then I’m not as present to the needs of the people in the room. I’ve taught my instructors to do the same. We know what we need to do; we have the knowledge, we need to have faith in ourselves. If we screw up, well, the next time will be different. It’s forgiveness, courage, trust and a smile.

Q: What is one piece of advice that you would give to a new yoga teacher?
A: Put your notes away, trust yourself and say YES before you can say no. Also, if something feels off, talk with your studio owner — voice how you feel. Don’t be afraid to ask for guidance. Value yourself and everyone else will.

Yogi योगी Insight (part 13 in a series)

If you are coming here for the first time, you have entered part 13 in an interview series with aspiring and experienced yogis called Yogi Insight. I hope that you enjoy each person’s shared journey. Namaste!

I first learned about Homegrown Power Yoga when I was visiting a mom-and-pop coffee shop next door and noticed the studio. Curious, I checked out Homegrown’s website and classes online and about a week later wondered in with my friend Christina to try a class. It was an amazing hot yoga flow led by Alison, the owner. The experience made such a positive impact on me, that I became a member.

Alison has a unique way of leading a challenging sequence with true deep mindful reflection throughout the class. She is authentic to her belief that “yoga is for every single body. Whatever apprehension you may have, show up — show up and do what you can, and let the rest be gone.”

Yogi: Alison Adams, founder and teacher
Studio: Homegrown Power Yoga

Alison Adams

Q: How long have you been practicing yoga?
A: It’s very seldom that I count the years. On and off since my early 20s and then more continuously in the last 15 years as a regular practice.

Who or what influenced you to take up yoga?
A: Initially I had a dance teacher that incorporated yoga as part of our warm up, and I didn’t even know we were practicing yoga. I thought it was really cool — that’s why when I started I was in my 20s and didn’t know it was yoga. Later, when I went to a yoga class, I was like I’ve done this before!!!! I recognize all of these movements! I was doing yoga and didn’t know it! That was the start; it wasn’t super direct. I bounced around in different yoga classes, going wherever I could find a class because it wasn’t popular back then. It became a daily practice when I lived in Rochester, and I started practicing at Breathe Yoga with Cyndi Weis, an owner of the studio. That’s where I did my first 40 days and got involved with the Baptiste practice and started a daily practice. That was probably the biggest influence on me making it a constant practice.

Q: What aspect of practicing yoga do you like the most and why?
A: The practice has radically transformed who I am — it’s really hard for me to see the practice as something other than a lifestyle. For me, it’s not I do these things, and this is why I practice. It’s a way of being. It has become a system for my life to operate. It has given me the ability and ease to be in my life 100% — the ability for me to self-reflect, self-aware, take accountability and responsibility for how I show up in the world.

Q: What is your favorite style of yoga class to take and why?
A: I have taught Baptiste yoga for the past 10 years. Baron and the Baptiste yoga practice have clearly had a huge influence on who I am, and will always be my practice.

Q: Why did you open a yoga studio?
A: I genuinely love teaching. There was a natural progression for me to want to cultivate and build an environment that was closer to a community that was relatable to the experiences that I wanted to put in. The studio is named Homegrown because I wanted to teach in the place where I live, the community where I am — the influence of yoga impacting every part of my life. I have people like my neighbors, people from the ballet studio where my kids go, people from the grocery store I shop at — it’s a hub and that impacts and spreads out to the community. It’s a lot of the reason why I opened up the studio here. When I was teaching I was doing it in DC and Bethesda — more outside of my community which was fine, but I wanted to be more localized and have a more saturated impact.

Q: What excites you the most about owning the studio?
A: It’s interesting and surprising — some things have caught me from left field where people are bringing people in, practicing regularly and then emerging as teachers. And I’m like whoa, that happened, I didn’t foresee it coming! Andy just came back from Level 1 training. He had been practicing with me for a year. He was like, “I’m going to do it! I’m going to Level 1. I’m going to be a teacher!” I was like what!?! That’s the stuff that you have no idea when you start teaching a class to one person who walks in the door how the seeds are going to land. What is going to grow from the seeds — that’s the piece that I wake up every morning and feel the work I do really matters, and it makes me show up and contribute in that way.

Q: What has been a challenge for you as a studio owner?
A: Maintaining the integrity of the practice of yoga and the integrity of the practice of business and merging the two so that they can co-exist. They are two very exclusive worlds unless you bring them both mindfully and consciously into the world of the teachers. It’s not a hardship, but marrying the two with intent to be the integrity of both of the worlds.

Q: Some studios use music in class and some do not. You do you not. Why?
A: I don’t want to make a comparison; I can only speak to how I created this space at Homegrown. It’s very intentional so that when you’re in your practice space, the only thing you are actually in fact sharing is your own experience. It gives you the opportunity to be 100% in your body, in your mind, without the pull of external information. We live in a world that bombards us with information, and we’re at a time of crisis where we need to learn to pull ourselves out, we need to know how to unplug, turn things off — this becomes sacred.

Q: What advice would you give to a new yoga teacher?
A: Be respectful to where your teachings are from. Stay close to the source, and present your teachings with a clear understanding and intention. Basically, don’t go making stuff up, focus and get really good!

Don’t Stop Believing: The Debut of rockNflow Yoga

rockNflow logo

rockNflow yoga design by: Angela Tarantula

I heard the song Don’t Stop Believing by Journey at an impressionable age. Jonathan Cain’s first stroke of the piano key immediately hooked me and then the distinct vocals of Steve Perry. The lyrics of that song have resonated with me in different ways over the years in my love life and personal life, but the one constant takeaway has always been not giving up on a dream.

Parallel to that time, I watched a lot of PBS programming, drawn to a yoga show called Lilias, Yoga and You. I didn’t understand the depth of yoga back then; I just knew that I enjoyed watching Lilias Folan and mimicking what she did.

Yoga faded out of my life for a while, but music from all genres remained an integral aspect — entertaining me and teaching me life lessons through the lyrics. In college, my music spark thrived as I worked as a DJ at an alt-rock radio station.

Over 10 years ago, I started a blog called Gal on the Go and regularly hear from readers and followers how my actions have positively influenced them to get healthier, change their eating habits, and be more adventurous. I always wanted to start a business that was an offshoot of Gal on the Go, but I was unclear about my destiny and what direction to go. One day, I had an aha moment leading to a surge of business ideas for the merging of my passions of music and yoga organically to form Rock N Flow Yoga (Insta: rocknflowyoga)!

Through rockNflow I offer private yoga sessions to bands, artists, and their crews on tour. I also teach at outdoor festivals and lead workshops on protein nutrition and positive mindfulness in your life. Stay tuned because I have some exciting projects in the works that I cannot wait to share with you in the next month or so!!!! Also, I will be opening up a merch shop soon via Threadless.

The reactions from my friends have been overwhelming, rallying in support of me and my new venture. They have lent their unique skills to see my business succeed, which fills me with gratitude. I hope I can help their pursuits thrive along the way as we uplift each other. My creative friend Angela designed the custom font and logo for rockNflow (credit: Insta @angtarantula), my talented friend Lauren took photos of me (credit: Elle Three Photography), my omie Amanda has shown up to every one of my events, and others have generously given me their feedback and shared wisdom.

My soul is filled with optimism with the launch of Rock N Flow Yoga, a business that is truly authentic to me. I hope to use this new platform to bring mindful and physical health into people’s lives in a fun way one musician and festival attendee at a time!!!!

To book a session, DM me through Instagram @rocknflowyoga or email me at rocknflowyoga@gmail.com.

Yogi योगी Insight (part 12 in a series)

If you are coming here for the first time, you have entered part 12 in an interview series with aspiring and experienced yogis called Yogi Insight. I hope that you enjoy each person’s shared journey. 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