5 Reasons You Should Be Wearing A Mala

92101c960cf511e3949522000ae8002b_75 Reasons You Should Be Wearing A Mala
1. It is a reminder of the infinite in the midst of the mundane. When I wear my mala it is a reminder of something true and good, regardless of whatever else may be happening at that moment. It reminds me to take the high road, even during those times when let’s be honest, I would rather kick someone in the shins. It reminds me that there are forces greater than me working together for my good. That I am a spiritual being in this human experience. That even though I may not see it at the moment things are working out exactly as they should.  
2. They have healing qualities. My Tiny Devotions Mala is made of Rudraksha beads and the Guru Bead is an Amethyst. They say that crystals choose you, and in my case I am starting to believe it is true. This is the third Amethyst that I have been given this year. They are said to have a spiritual quality to them aiding in meditation, restful sleep, conquering addiction and healing of all types. 
3. They are stylish and beautiful and add a bohemian flair to any outfit you put on. I am constantly in yoga clothes, in fact without yoga clothes on people barely even recognize me. Sometimes it is challenging to look stylish and cute when you are constantly wearing some type of spandex and sweating all day. A beautiful mala is just the thing to add a little flair to any outfit whether you are teaching a yoga class or headed out for the evening. 
4. They are excellent for meditation adding a tangible and tactile way to count your breaths or chants. I am a bit of a baby meditator and have only been meditating now since last October. As anyone that has tried meditating knows staying present is hard work! One minute you are meditating and the next thing you know your mind has wandered and you are obsessing over what you are going to make for dinner later. Malas have  long been used to keep the hands busy and help to focus the mind by running your fingers over each bead as you meditate, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale…you get the idea.
5. Stones create a magnetic field that our body responds to. Crystal healing works on the electromagnetic field around the body, known as the aura.  Any form of disharmony or disease in our lives can cause blockages or other disturbances in our aura, which may eventually manifest as illness and dis-ease in the body. Wearing a crystal balances your electromagnetic field keeping your body happy and healthy.

To find your own beautiful mala check out www.tinydevotions.com!

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Yoga Retreat in Santa Barbara Oct. 3-6th with Angela Kukhahn and Aimee’ Donahue

Angela Kukhahn in Upward Facing Dog in the Tuscan sunflower fields (yoga pose) photo by Tara RiceJoin me & Aimee Thursday, Oct 3rd to Sunday, Oct 6th for a wonder-filled weekend at the legendary White Lotus Retreat Center nestled in the rustic coastal mountains of Santa Barbara

This Dynamic & Restorative retreat weekend includes:
* Gourmet vegetarian meals
* Kundalini Yoga (level 1-2) & Vinyasa Flow (level 2-3) classes daily
* Pranayama & Meditation Instruction
* Special Inversion & Thai Yoga Partner Massage Workshops w/ Angela
* Deeply Restorative Sound Healing & Relaxation with Crystal & Tibetan Singing Bowls w/ Aimee
* Group Discussions on how to apply Yogic Wisdom in Daily Life
* Hiking & Swimming in Clear Mountain Spring Watering Holes
* Relaxing in the Hot Tub under a canopy of Stars
* Meditating in the underground Kiva & more!
All levels welcome.

Decompress from stress, renew & take your practice to the next level in this dynamic and restorative weekend among like-minded friends in a beautiful & tranquil environment. If you are interested in bringing a good friend or partner and prefer private accommodations, see below* We welcome those who wish to accompany their loved one and do not wish to attend all or any of the classes or workshops. There are plenty of amazing alternatives; take a hike, get a massage, sit back and read a book, enjoy the mountain air and ocean sunsets…

Price per person is $795.00 which includes lodging for 4 days and 3 nights, all meals, classes & events. Lodging is first come first served. We encourage camping, the grounds are beautiful! We are extending a special price of $695, please let us soon if you prefer to camp as these spaces are limited. *For couples or anyone seeking more privacy, private cabins are available for an additional fee of $125-350 per person.

Massages may be scheduled, please reserve yours early, there are limited time slots.

We recommend placing your deposit as soon as possible as this retreat is expected to sell out quickly based on the interest we have received. You can submit your transferable deposit immediately to hold your space below. (If you are unable to attend for any reason, your deposit is transferable to a future retreat.)

Deposit:
A non-refundable $200 deposit holds your space. You can pay by cash or check or to make your secure deposit via PayPal. All major credit cards accepted. Please note that a 3% surcharge will be added if you pay via PayPal bringing the total deposit to $206. Click HERE.

Balance due September 9th. If you need any assistance, please feel free to contact me at (310) 985-0218

Yoga Handstand Hip Opener: Handstand with Baddha Konasana

Doing Baddha Konasana in handstand sounds ridiculous, but it is actually quite delightful ounce you get the hang of it.

I remember the very first time I tried this. I was just beginning to flirt with the idea that I may indeed be able to do a handstand. This really helped give me the confidence to try handstanding in the middle of the room.

The reason this works so well is because when you bring your feet together it helps to get your hips up over your hands. Also, your center of gravity is lower than it would be in a traditional handstand.

Start by warming up for your handstand with a few Sun Salutations and a seated Baddhha Konasana. The Sun Salutes will warm up your hamstrings, shoulders and the Baddhha Konasana will prepare your hips for this handstand.

Try a few practice hops.

My teacher always says”Remember they are like pancakes, the first few are never that good”.

Remember these key points…

Keep your eyes focused between your index fingers.

Draw your arm bones into the shoulder sockets.

Do not let your elbows bend

Exhale and pull your navel back towards your spine as you go up. It is normal to get nervous and forget about the breath so try a few where you exhale audibly to get the hang of it. Once you are sure that you are breathing properly feel free to go back to silent breathing.

Have fun handstanding!

How to Make Your Yoga Inversions Better: External Rotation of the Shoulder Joint

Website for this image http://www.yogajournal.com
Website for this image http://www.yogalifejourney.com
Inversion Principle for the Shoulders: External Rotation of the Arms.
One of the cornerstone principles of alignment in any inversion is external rotation of the arms. We practice this every time we turn our palms to face out and sweep our arms overhead so it should be easy right?
Sadly, no!
Most of us have developed some very bad habits! What makes full external rotation with arms up so challenging is that typically when we take our hands up overhead several tragic things occur.
Yes, I use the word tragic…
Common Misalignments When Taking the Arms Overhead in External Rotation
1. Our shoulders draw up by our ears
2. Our ribs poke out
3. Our butts stick out to compensate for our now contorted alignement
4. I get my yoga teacher panties all in a bunch
For most of us, these bad habits are born way back in the beginning of our yoga practice when the teacher first asks us to take our arms overhead and we try to take our arm bones past our ears.
Perhaps we secretly believe that if we are to score any yoga “street cred” we must display feats of unusual and exemplary flexibility.
Maybe it’s because we long to be teachers pet and in the dark corners of our young impressionable yoga minds we believe that yoga teachers tend to favour the students that look like they could spend a couple of hours on “The Rack” without so much as a peep of discomfort.
Or perhaps we are showing off for the cute boy we met at Starbucks who just happens to have parked his Manduka mat behind ours (What? He has the same mat as you?..it’s a SIGN! Now all you have to do is impress him with your flexibility and bam! The two of you will ride off together into the proverbial yoga sunset…or better yet float off on his Manduka Mat like Walt Diseny’s Alladin.)
Yes, I’ve given it some thought you see, but probably not enough…
In All Inversions: Draw your arm bones in to your shoulder sockets and externally rotate them. 

Above you can see the most basic example of external rotation of the arms in the first photo the model has the hands alongside her body her thumbs pointing away from her body. (in internal rotation the thumbs would point in see below) In the second photo the model has kept the external rotation of the arms and taken her arms up overhead. Several amazing things are happening here.

Proper Alignment When Taking the Arms Overhead in External Rotation

  1. You can see that her shoulder blades are firmly on her upper back and not riding up by her ears.
  2. Her shoulder blades are spreading apart from one another. This action helps to engage Serratus Anterior. (Serratus Anterior is the MVP when it comes to inversions!)
  3. The armpits are hollowed out and her arms are stick straight. Her triceps are firm and wrapping forward towards her front body and her biceps and inner shoulders are moving  towards her back body.
  4. Her tailbone is drawn down towards her heels and is neither squeezing nor sticking out too far.

Work your External Rotation in Plank, Downward Dog and Cat/Cow Poses. 

  • You can work external rotation of your arms in many poses but in particular Cat/Cow, Plank and Down Dog. When your shoulders are in true external rotation it feels as if you are hollowing out your armpits. Imagine you had to hold a tennis ball under each armpit and you will get the feeling I’m talking about.

Need Still Further Convincing that Externally Rotating Your Arms is Important?

  • When external rotation is not present when taking the arms overhead it can cause impingement syndrome. (Head of arm bone crashing into the acromion process.) Ouch!
  • Feel It: Notice how different it feels to take the arms overhead with the arm bones rolled in (internal rotation palms facing back shoulders rolled forward) vs. rotated out (external rotation palms facing forward shoulders rolled back).

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5 Tips For Having the Best Savasana Ever!

Savasana: savasana is being without was, being without will be. It is being without anyone who is.”   
 Light on Life, B.K.S. Iyengar

How to make your next savasana the best five minutes of your life…

You know that excited feeling you get before your first “real date” with you new snookums? Well, I get that feeling when I’m about to take Savasana. Yep, I’m weird. Or maybe, I’m enlightened. Let’s hope it’s the latter.

Either way here are my top five tips for dropping into bliss and having the bestest savasana ever.

1. Don’t know what to do with your feet? No need to stress, this isn’t dancing with the stars and I’m not going to try to teach you the fox trot!

Relax….ahhhhh…

Alright, now just take your feet about as wide as the mat and let them roll out naturally. Here is a tip: Your toes will point out to the sides.

2. Lift your buns and lengthen your tailbone away from your lower back and towards your heels. This is not JUST for those sporting a badonkadonk, but J. Lo if you’re reading this, listen up, because this one is for you girl!

This amazing little adjustment will eliminate any “crunchy” feeling in the lower back. The term “crunchy” is only cute when it’s used to describe peanut butter,…(and even then it’s questionable), try to keep your savasana “crunch-free!”

3. Pickup your shoulders and move them down away from your ears. Use the “stickiness” of your sticky mat to hold your shoulders down. Much like a fly caught on some sticky fly paper your shoulders will be stuck down there away from your ears and no longer able to bother you. Brilliant! (Don’t get your panties in a bunch over the flypaper analogy, no flys were hurt in the making of this blog post and bunched panties do not a comfortable savasana make.)

 4. Place your hands with your palms facing up about 5-8 inches from your body. The only exception to this rule is if you are right next to someone. Touchingthem. Touching. sweaty. hand. touchingyou. What you’ve just encountered here is the recipe for a potentially awkward savasana. You could bravely leave your hand there. Or for a less awkward savasana and more relaxing experience place your hands on your chest, belly or pretty much anywhere you won’t meet with someone else’s clammy fingers.

5. Relax the skin between your eyebrows. Most of us have jam-packed lives that have us running around  feeling like red bull fueled spider monkeys, but it’s time to make sweet savasana! Power down the noggin’ and smooth the eyebrow wrinkle. THE BIG BOSS wrinkle that looks like the number 11 between your two eyebrows. Imagine the teacher has her thumbs on each of your eyebrows and is pulling them away from one another gently. Aaaahhhh. Feels better already, right?

Now drift away to your happy place. It’s okay if  your “happy place” consists of Johhny Depp bringing you cupcakes for lunch while your boss keeps you cool by fanning you with a palm frond. I won’t judge you. Nobody will. That’s why savasana is so freakin’ awesome! Not to mention I’ve rested better in those five blissful minutes than a full eight hours on my fancy-pants-egyptian cotton sheets!!!

Enjoy.enjoy.pure.bliss.savasana…..

If you enjoyed this article please share the love below 🙂 Thanks!

Keep Calm and Carry On: Equanimity of Interest

“To cultivate equanimity we practice catching ourselves when we feel attraction or aversion, before it hardens into grasping or negativity.”

What is Equanimity of Interest?
Equanimity of interest means we are just as excited about working the nuances of down dog as we are about working something we are really good at or the bigger, “grander” postures. (think handstand scorpion)
The difference between a beginner and an advanced yogi is the ability to stay focused, interested and calm no matter what discomfort arises.
Can you bump up against your limitations without running away? This may be the most important “yoga practice” of all.
Equanimity is the state of beingness where we are unattached and undisturbed. This does not mean we are aloof, on the contrary, we remain fully engaged in the present moment without feeling that we need to control the outcome.
We are not just interested in the postures that stroke our egos or bring us pleasure. At the same time we don’t avoid those either.
It is standing in the middle between avoidance and attraction. It’s neither heads or tails, it’s when the quarter lands on the edge and balances.
Our attention and interest in the “fine tuning” of the basic poses so to speak are the ultimately the building blocks we need build the bigger more “impressive” postures.
Patience, practice and dedication are the keys!
“When one is fully aware, one does not attach to the world, rather sees the world.” – The Bhagavad Gita 

My Love Affair With Yoga: How Yoga is Like a Long Term Relationship

Yoga and  I  are in a long-term relationship. It is one that I am continually finding new reasons to fall in love over, and over and over again! It’s spicy! I love that it isn’t just down dog and warrior two. Even if those may have been the reasons I fell in love with it in the first place.

No, it’s mysterious. Dangerous! Even more than a hint naughty!

Just when things are threatening to get a bit stale, it surprises me. Sometimes it’s a nuance in the way to place my hands on my mat. Other times, it’s floating into scorpion handstand from the back of my mat. It keeps my interest piqued and coming back for more.

Oh sure, there are days I am so frustrated I want to swear it off all together! We have our fights. No relationship is entirely drama free. I don’t always get my way. I pout. I lay blame where it doesn’t belong. It’s the poses fault I can’t do them. Perhaps I’ll just ignore certain poses as a way of “getting back at them”. Of course we make up and I realize it’s not anyones fault. Relationships are just hard work. Gaining deeper understanding requires a lot of work, time and patience. Patience I don’t always have. It also provides a mirror. One I don’t always want to look into.

Yoga often offers me well meaning yet unsolicited advice. I sometimes feel its being bossy. I don’t appreciate being told what to do. I’m not proud to say that I ignored a lot of it on good days. On bad days, I even did things out of spite! (Oh, I should take it easy today you say?! Well, maybe I will practice twice today….take that! I can do whatever I well please!) I usually come around and realize that yoga does really have my back and is just trying to look out for me. I feel lucky to have it in my life. It seems to know what I need before I do. It brings to my attention that which I would otherwise miss.

However, regardless of the hard work, the ups and downs, and disagreements nothing soothes me like those first few ujjayi breaths in down dog. I am suddenly home. This is love.

Yoga Inversions: Step 1 – Do The Work!

From Fear To Fun

How does one go about conquering their fear of inversions?

Just do it.

That is to say in yoga, as in life itself, there are no shortcuts.

You have to do the work.

I heard a teacher tell that to a student last week when asked how to get better at a pose and it made the whole room laugh. Mostly because he acknowleged thst on some level we are all looking for a shortcut. A way to conquer our fears that is less difficult, less confronting, and of course quicker.

While there are certainly guidelines and principles that will guide you in being more efficient with your efforts, nothing can take the place of simply stepping onto your mat and doing the work.

Unrolling your mat is half of the battle.

There is a very true saying that goes “Where your attention goes prana flows”. In order to wake up “sleepy”  places inside our bodies we have to visit them. We must go about  reawakening them over and  over again.

It is scary. It kinda feels like walking out to the edge of a cliff and hanging ten of the side preparing for a high dive.

In order for it to feel second nature you have to go to that place where it is no longer comfortable or safe.

This is where the breath comes in. The breath keeps us in our bodies. It keeps us in the moment. It keeps us steady, easy and consistent.

Without the wisdom and guidance of the breath we also may become overly ambitious thrashing about unwittingly without proper limitations. The breath keeps us grounded, sensitive and aware.

photo credit: Marysia Weiss of The Hot and Healthy Blog. Photo by Jasper Johal

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Yoga Workshop on Inversions with Angela Kukahn Saturday Febuary 11th from 12:30-3:30pm

Yoga Workshop on Inversions with Angela Kukhahn Saturday February 11th from 12:30-3:30pm
Angela Kukhahn in Handstand. Photo by Jasper Johal
In Advance: $45
Day Of: $55
This is an All Levels Class!
Playing Upside Down: From Fear to Fun!
In this workshop we will explore inversions with a sense of adventure, curiosity and most of all fun! Inversions are for everyone and are extremely beneficial in strengthening the body and focusing the mind. We will work on the strength and flexibility needed for inversions, develop core awareness and discover proper alignement for floating and flying. We will explore headstand, forearm balance, and handstand. In addition we will explore how different variations and the use of props make inversions approachable to just about anyone! Come expecting to sweat, laugh, play and fly!