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Latest From The Blog

Yoga for Grief and Healing

Grief can be defined as our reaction to a loss, whether it be life, heart-break, empty-nest, or any unexpected life change. If you watch television or listen to the news, you know the images and events that we have seen all too often, are now part of our daily tapestry.

We sometimes store these events away in our physical or energetic body, run from them, avoid them completely, or numb them away. I believe the only way to get to the other side, is thru.

I do not believe there is any one correct way to grieve, but I do know the effects of not allowing yourself the opportunity to feel what you feel. I always remember the simple words of my teacher, after bringing up tears I had been holding back for nearly a decade, “Better out than in”.

According to Eastern medicine, we hold Grief in our lungs. So this series is the opportunity to slow down and breathe into whatever you are sitting with. I also think this season, or any season for that matter, is a good time to give yourself extra attention. You deserve it! After-all when we honor our needs, we are more available for those we love.

There is no one way to do anything. But I’m starting to believe it takes support, a safe place, and the willingness and courage to dive inside.

What is Qigong

An Introduction to Taoist Yoga

You might have heard of this mysterious practice from China called “Qigong” (pronounced chee-gong), but what is it? Qigong is the yoga of China; or, perhaps more accurately, yoga is the qigong of India! Why would that be? Qigong comes from two words – qi, meaning energy, and gong, meaning work or effort. Qigong is therefore literally means “energy work.” And, since any practice that moves qi (or prana) can be considered “qigong,” yoga is, technically speaking, a form of qigong!

If you understand the concept of prana from yoga, then you know what qi is – it is the energy that underlies and animates the physical form. Whether you consider it to be a bio-electrical energy or a spiritual energy, it does not matter. Qigong is designed to move the energy to create better health, well-being, and longevity.

Qigong, like yoga, has been around for thousands of years and has its roots in ancient Taoism. In Taoist philosophy, the balancing of opposites – the yin and the yang, the masculine and the feminine – plays a key role in finding that connection with the Tao, or all that is. The ultimate goals of yoga and qigong are quite similar, and many of the practices overlap. Alternate nostril breathing, for example, is a yogic practice that is also taught in qigong, as is so-called “belly” or diaphragmatic breathing.

Qigong, like yoga, incorporates postures, movement, meditation, and breathwork. Where qigong differs from yoga is that it adds a component of visualization and refined energy awareness. It also relies less on mantras or connecting to specific manifestations of divinity. Qigong movements are also generally more fluid, more subtle, and typically easier for people with physical limitations, although some choreography can be more challenging to learn at first. Most standing qigong practices can be modified to be performed in a chair, which makes them very adaptable.

A lot of people see qigong in practice and say “Oh, that looks like Tai Chi!” Tai Chi, is, in fact, a form of qigong, although it has since developed into its own martial art and its forms are much more complex and involved than the typical qigong practice. In fact, “Martial Qigong” is its own branch of qigong that focuses on developing strength and vitality for self-defense as well as human potential.

Spiritual qigong focuses more on meditation and building spiritual qualities; Confucian qigong works to build character. The type of qigong most common today in the West is Medical Qigong, which is simply the use of qigong to help improve health and well-being. At its simplest, Medical Qigong can be used for self-healing, and at its most advanced, Medical Qigong has been practiced in special hospitals in China, where qigong practitioners would guide energy for their patients using special healing techniques.

After being taught only to a few chosen disciples over generations, or passed down through families, qigong secrets are now being shared with the public, fostering a growing interest in qigong in the West. It is a wonderful complement to yoga, as the softer qigong movements can potentially teach breath awareness and movement with less strain, which can be very useful when applied to traditional yoga asana. Most qigong is gentle, and can be practiced by people of all ages and physical abilities. And since much of qigong is practiced standing, it does not required a yoga mat, or special clothes, so you can slip in a quick practice in an office or even a small closet if you need to!

What is Yoga Therapy?

ANCIENT TOOLS FOR MODERN HEALING

Yoga Therapy is the practice of applying the art and science of yoga, Ayurveda, as well as research-based anatomy and kinesiology principles to optimize wellness for the individual. By integrating yoga philosophy, effective assessment methods, and the application of therapeutic yoga techniques, yoga therapy successfully addresses a wide variety of health and wellness concerns.

Yoga Therapy empowers individuals to take charge of their own health by incorporating manageable practices into their daily lives. These practices are constructed by integrating time-tested yogic wisdom and tools, current applied research, and the science of behavior change. This therapeutic approach is making major breakthroughs in mainstream healthcare as a powerful, non-invasive, and cost-effective complement to Western medicine.

Yoga Therapy has been shown to improve conditions including

  • back & neck pain
  • joint pain & other movement issues
  • disc & spinal conditions
  • injury recovery
  • heart disease
  • diabetes
  • digestive disorders
  • anxiety & depression
  • PTSD, trauma & grief recovery
  • insomnia
  • post surgery recovery
  • support during cancer treatment
  • neurological disorders (Stroke, MS, Parkinson’s)
  • autoimmune disorders
Peaceful Practices for a Smooth Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and as we get closer to the date of marathon cooking and eating,  it is easy for tension to build. Friends, family, food and festivities can offer an opportunity for blissful gatherings, but can also induce a sense of chaos.  Strike the right balance by planning ahead, nourishing yourself, and taking time to soothe your mind and soul. In order to avoid falling into the pit of Thanksgiving overwhelm, follow these simple tips:

Plan ahead. In the days before Thanksgiving, check off as many to-dos as possible. This will help free up the big day for the bare essentials that have to be performed on Thanksgiving. Makes sure you have double-checked your list of ingredients or other supplies to avoid last-minute trips to the store. Prep and cook as much of your menu as possible. For example, make any baked goods ahead of time, prepare stocks and sauces, and wash and chop vegetables so they are ready for immediate preparation the day of. Having a clean house and a set table assures there is no last minute rushing around to do.

Start with a good breakfast. It can be easy to wake up on Thanksgiving morning and to immediately begin bustling around. This year, pause and take a breath before even leaving the bed. Set your intentions for a calm and thankful day. Take the time to enjoy a healthy breakfast in order to fuel your body for the day’s long haul activities. Breakfast doesn’t need to be complicated, in fact in can be prepared the night before. Recipes such as Muesli and Honey Nut Granola can be made ahead of time and enjoyed with almond milk the morning of. Multitask by baking some Spiced Pear and Banana Baked Oatmeal Cups ahead of time and enjoy them for breakfast, as well as a healthy dessert option later in the day.

Begin with a clean kitchen. This tip cannot be stressed enough. Not only is it essential to have clean surfaces, make sure the dishes are all washed and put away. This way all of the tools of the day are ready and waiting. Additionally, make time in the days leading up to Thanksgiving to clean out the refrigerator, including purging old leftovers and wiping down the shelves. You will be glad you’ve saved yourself the headache when the time comes to pack away the leftovers stuffing.

Take a yoga break. The most impactful thing you can do for your own well-being: take some time out to rest and refill your well sometime in your big prepping day.Once the stuffing is in the oven, sneak away for a “yoga nap” of as little as 10 minutes. Try a simple yoga pose, such as legs-up-the-wall (viparita karani), or even just lying on your back and placing your calves on the seat of a chair. Sure, you could fold napkins or iron linens or sweep the floor instead, but your guests will notice your shining, rested countenance much more than your shining kitchen faucet. You will be able to be more present with your guests and actually enjoy their company, and isn’t it what the big day is all about?

Special thanks to Staci Brindle from Natural Epicurean for her collaboration on this article.

The Benefits of Singing Bowls and Sound Therapy

The first time that I heard a Tibetan Singing Bowl, the sound enveloped me. The undertones gradually changed into undulating overtones.  I began to want to know more about the Tibetan/ Himalayan singing bowls, so I found Jodie Roberts, a Shaman and sound healer, and started studying with her. I acquired bowls of my own and began learning how to play.  Eventually I began studying with Suren Shestha a Tibetan sound healer from Boulder, CO, using  techniques that were commonly used hundreds of years ago. After some time with Suren I decided to continue studying, practicing and going to trainings and workshops in England and Nebraska. I like to say that I am always a student learning more all the time.

I truly cannot express enough how healing the sounds of these instruments are.  Because of the power of these healing tools, I use sound in all my classes and do private sessions at my home, incorporating gongs, chimes, drums, conch horns, rattlers and flutes in sound concerts.

There are so many benefits of Tibetan Singing Bowls:

  • Reduce stress and anxiety significantly

  • Lower anger and blood pressure

  • Improve circulation and increases blood flow

  • Deep relaxation and pain relief

  • Chakra balancing

  • Increase mental and emotional clarity

  • Promote stillness, happiness and well being. Stimulate the immune system.

  • Aid the immune system and fibromyalgia and psoriasis in individuals that meditate

8 Yoga Poses to Strengthen and Stretch Your Pelvic Floor and Glutes

Recently, I read an article about a woman named Katy Bowman who discovered some real scientific reasoning behind a weak Pelvic Floor (PF). We have all heard that doing Kegels will strengthen the pelvic floor, which we want because of several reasons including urinary incontinence (which happens to both men and women so read up boys!), but Katy, during her years of research, has discovered that

Weak glutes + too many Kegels = PFD (Pelvic Floor Disorder).

Interestingly enough, if your pelvic floor is too tight, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is strong! A kegel attempts to strengthen the PF, but it really only continues to pull the sacrum inward promoting even more weakness, and more PF gripping (or tightening).

Based on this new information, I have compiled a list of yoga poses that will both help strengthen and stretch your pelvic floor/glutes by lengthening your pelvic floor in poses that require you to NOT tuck your tailbone!


  1. UTKATASANA: CHAIR POSE

 

  • Contraindications:
    • Headache or low blood pressure
  • Compensation pose:
    • Tadasana: Mountain Pose (stand tall with navel slightly engaged, leg muscles activated to prevent locking your knees out, root down into you big toe mound and your heel evenly and take several deep breaths.)
    • Uttanasana: Standing Forward Fold (keep knees bent, let head and neck relax towards the earth, continue to breath deeply)
  • Tips:
    • Try this pose by the wall so you can stay for a few more breaths, especially if you are a beginner!
    • Allow your weight to rest a slightly more in the your heels and engage your low belly (if you’re not pregnant) and glutes while keep your heart lifted.
  1. UTKATA KONASANA: GODDESS POSE

 

  • Contraindications:
    • Chronic or recent injury to the hips, legs
  • Compensation pose:
    • Prasarita Padottanasana: Wide Legged Forward Fold (Turn your toes in from goddess pose, let you head and neck relax, breathe)
    • Tadasana: Mountain Pose
  • Tips: Try different arm variations for your shoulders.
    • Eagle arms: Eagle Pose but just the arms, keeping the legs in Goddess. One elbow on top of the other, make sure to switch which elbow is on top.
    • Hands to hips (Especially if you have any shoulder injuries)
  1. URDHVA PRASARITA EKA PADASANA: STANDING SPLIT POSE

 

  • Contraindications:
    • Back, knee or ankle injury
  • Compensation pose:
    • Balasana: Child’s Pose (Come to hands and knees, bring your knees together or out wide, take your hips to your heels and rest your arms out in front of you or on either side of you. If your forehead does not rest comfortably in the floor, use a block or bolster to rest on)
  • Tips: Use one or two blocks to bring the floor closer to you
  1. VIRABHADRASANA III: WARRIOR THREE POSE

 

  • Contraindications:
    • Low back injury, knee or ankle injury
  • Compensation pose:
    • Uttanasana: Forward Fold (keep knees bent, let head and neck relax towards the earth, continue to breath deeply)
    • Bhujangasana: Cobra Pose (lay flat on you belly, hands underneath your shoulders, lengthen your neck and lift your chest and you draw your shoulder blades towards each other, lower down, repeat a few times.)
  • Tips:
    • Start from tadasana and slowly tilt forward lifting your floating foot off the ground only about two inches, maintain a strong line of body from the ball of your foot to the crown of your head and continue tilting until your head and foot are no longer in line. This pse is about strengthening your posterior muscles and the pose is not as effective if your toes are not in line with the crown of your head.
    • Also, try different arm variations. you can have you hands out by your side by your hips or palms touch in front of your heart for less extreme variations.
    • Make sure to do both legs!
  1. SALABHASANA: LOCUST POSE

 

  • Contraindications:
    • Pregnancy, neck or spine injury
  • Compensation pose:
    • Balasana: Child’s Pose
  • Tips:
    • Keep your crown of your head reaching towards the wall in front of you. You want to maintain a neutral spine with the chin slightly tucked
    • You can try different arm variations. Hands out in front for a more extreme version of the pose
    • make sure to keep drawing your shoulder blades towards each other and away from the floor.
  1. SETU BANDHA SARVANGASANA: BRIDGE POSE

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  • Contraindications:
    • Neck,shoulder or knee injury
  • Compensation pose:
    • Apanasana: Knees to Chest Pose. Lay down flat on your back and gently bring your knees into your chest.
  • Tips:
    • You don not have to bind your hands underneath your low back.
    • You can gently move your hips up and down from the floor before you hold this pose for a few breaths.
    • Keep your tailbone reaching towards your heels to protect your low back and target your glutes.
  1. MĀLĀSANA: YOGI SQUAT POSE

 

  • Contraindications:
    • Hip, knee or ankle injury. Tight glutes
  • Compensation pose:
    • Uttanasana: Forward Fold (keep knees bent, let head and neck relax towards the earth, continue to breath deeply)
  • Tips:
    • Place a blanket underneath your heels if they do not touch the ground
    • Let your hips sink towards the earth but keep your heart lifted.
    • Press your triceps into your knees for a slightly more active stretch
  1. SUPTA BADDHA KONASANA: SUPINE BOUND ANGLE POSE

 

  • Contraindications:
    • Knee injury or tight hips
  • Compensation pose:
    • Apanasana: Slowly bring your knees together and then into your chest, gently rock side to side massaging your low back.
  • Tips:
    • If you do have tight hips and your knees are high, place a block underneath each thigh to help support you through the stretch.
    • You can gently bring your knees towards each other as you breathe in and take them back down to the floor as you exhale. This simply movement will connect you with your breath, helping to reduce stress, and it will gently strengthen your inner thighs and glutes.

Hold each pose for at least 5 deep inhales and exhales. Repeat each pose once or twice if you like and be sure to rest after.