The big question of the day is… is it shavasana or savasana? By the time I did my own 200 hour yoga teacher training I was thoroughly confused. I had heard both pronunciations of śavāsana and I had never seen it spelled with all of the diacritical marks. Most of my previous teachers had pronounced it shavasana, but my YTT teacher pronounced it savasana, so which was correct? Shavasana, or corpse posed, is beloved by all and deserves to be pronounced correctly.
Well, both shavasana and savasana are a little correct and a little wrong. Phonetically, shavasana is the correct pronunciation and spelling of our beloved Corpse Pose. However, “savasana” is missing its diacritical marks, so we’re lacking the pronunciation info found when it is translated from the Sanskrit. Follow the pronunciation guide below for spelling. For writing, choose either the phonetic spelling or the transliteration, but don’t spell it “savasana” — it just leads to more confusion for your students and fellow teachers. I’m totally guilty of this. Please tell me I’m not the only one.
Phonetic spelling: shavasana
Pronunciation guide: sha-VAH-suh-nuh
- ś = pronounced as the “sh” in “shoot”
- a = pronounced like the “a” in “about”
- ā = pronounced like the “a” in “yacht”
śava = corpse
āsana = seat
If you really want to geek out on your Sanskrit pronunciation, Graham Schweig has a great pronunciation guide in his version of the Bhagavad Gita. So it’s a win-win, a great copy of the Bhagavad Gita to help you deepen your understanding of yoga philosophy and a Sanskrit pronunciation guide. Graham is an amazing yoga philosophy teacher and frequently gives lectures for the Smithsonian, Embodied Philosophy, and at other venues.
Alright yogi, now go get your shavasana on! And give yourself this opportunity to rest into your essence. If you find that your lower back tends to get cranky during savasana then slide a bolster, (I love Hugger Mugger for restorative yoga and shavasana — they’re a little pricy, but totally worth it) or rolled blanket underneath your knees (like in the illustration above). If your mind tends to race during shavasana try lengthening out your exhales before you settle in, this simple technique can help calm your nervous system. I also have a great yoga nidra script inspired by nature that those with busy minds tend to find helpful. You could record the script yourself and play it back during shavasana or have a friend or partner read it to you.
It’s so hard to decide on just five great yoga teacher training books to put on a YTT reading list. After I completed my 200 hr YTT I remember feeling like I had just scratched the surface. I was so hungry for more knowledge. Over the years, I have had a chance to read all kinds of yoga books, from yoga philosophy to anatomy to history and everything magical and mystical in between. These are the books I wish were included when I did my yoga teacher training way back in 2013.
What Makes a Great Yoga Teacher Training Book?
I’ve decided to share these books in this blog post because of their readability, their emphasis on yoga philosophy, and their influence on the modern yoga scene. And a huge bonus, none of them feel like you’re reading a yoga textbook, you feel like you’re reading a story while gaining the wisdom of yoga. I’ve also found these books to be powerful and profoundly transformational, even more so than some of the yoga classics… Hatha Yoga Pradipika I’m looking at you! None of these books are about asana or yoga posture. Instead, these books are about living your yoga practice. They are about living the truths of yoga. To be an effective yoga teacher, you eat, sleep, and breathe this stuff.
Embarking on a yoga teacher training will lead to one of the biggest shifts of your life… physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. The books I have chosen are great books to read before, during, and after your yoga teacher training. You will find inspiration for your classes, with themes and stories to relay to your students to teach them all 8 Limbs of yoga, not just yoga poses. These books are about embodiment, not theory. My copies of these books are well worn, dog eared, underlined, and highlighted. We discuss them in yoga teacher training. They join me on retreats and workshops. I’ve shared them with fellow yoga teachers, students and curious-minded non-yogis. I think you will love them and share them too. I invite you to dive in.
5 Yoga Books You Should Have Read During YTT But Didn’t
The Bhagavad Gita translated by Stephen Mitchell
I’ve had a love affair with the Bhagavad Gita since I first read it in high school. I studied another translation in college and I’ve read various translations, both good and bad, since becoming a yoga teacher. The Bhagavad Gita is one of the core books of Hinduism. The Gita teaches universal truths and the ancient wisdom of yoga. As a yoga teacher trainer, I think it’s so important that yoga teacher trainees are exposed to these older texts because they bring depth to their understanding of yoga’s cultural and historic roots.
By far, Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Bhagavad Gita is the most beautiful. As you read it, it feels as if you are right there on the battlefield with Arjuna and Krishna. The story and teachings are palpable. Stephen keeps the wisdom of the teachings flowing by not including a bunch of in-text commentary like some other popular translations. The audio version of this book on Audible is so beautiful. The orator (voice actor — what is this person’s title?) has a great voice and it sounds like you’re being read a story or epic poem. If you already have Audible, go download it, if you don’t have Audible, they frequently have deals like signup and get two free audiobooks.
There are so many beautiful passages within the Gita. In the passage below, Krishna is describing himself as the all-encompassing Divine through a series of opposites.
I am the father of the universe
and its mother, essence and goal
of all knowledge, the refiner, the sacred
Om, and the threefold Vedas.
I am the beginning and the end,
origin and dissolution,
refuge, home, true lover,
womb and imperishable seed.
The Bhagavad Gita, translated by Stephen Mitchell
I am the heat of the sun,
I hold back the rain and release it,
I am death, and the deathless,
and all that is or is not.
Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda
Autobiography of a Yogi is one of those classic yoga books that it seems most yoga teachers and spiritual teachers have read at some point or another. In 1999, a panel of theologians at Harper Collins deemed Autobiography of a Yogi one of the “100 Most Important Spiritual Books of the 20th Century”. It follows the spiritual journey of Paramhansa Yogananda from his childhood in India through his creation of Kriya Yoga and life in America.
It takes a moment to get into Yogananda’s writing style, but once you do, it is easy to get into the flow. His yoga journey began as a child and he began searching for his guru at a very young age. Along his seeker’s path, he meets many characters before eventually finding his guru, Sri Yukteswar Giri. In the 1920s he made his way to America, even visiting the White House. He was a renowned spiritual teacher and created the Self Realization Fellowship in Los Angeles.
“Softer than the flower, where kindness is concerned; stronger than the thunder, where principles are at stake.”Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda
The Laws of Spirit: A Tale of Transformation by Dan Millman
Dan Millman’s The Laws of Spirit follows the protagonist’s encounter with an ancient sage. As they travel through nearby forests and mountains, she teaches the universal principles of balance, choice, process, presence, compassion, faith, expectation, integrity, action, cycles, surrender, and unity. It is a beautiful book for anyone just starting their spiritual journey.
Although The Laws of Spirit can be read quickly, I like to read one Law each week and integrate the teaching throughout the week. It’s one thing to just read about the Laws and it’s another to live them. Living out these principles improves our relationships, guides our spiritual transformation, and helps us live a more full, harmonious, and meaningful life.
“Process transforms any journey into a series of small steps, taken one by one, to reach any goal. Process transcends time, teaches patience, rests on a solid foundation of careful preparation, and embodies trust in our unfolding potential.”The Laws of Spirit: A Tale of Transformation by Dan Millman
The Path of the Yoga Sutras by Nicolai Bachman
The Path of the Yoga Sutras is a great introduction to the concepts outlined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Nicolai Bachman explains Patanjali’s teachings in a way that is easy to comprehend. He provides journaling exercises and other contemplative practices to expand and deepen your understanding of each concept. I recommend reading it alongside a classic translation of the Yoga Sutras, like Swami Satchidananda’s translation. You can read the Path of the Yoga Sutras like a guidebook to explore and deepen your understanding of the principles taught in the Yoga Sutras.
“Remember, the purpose of yoga is clarification of our individual field of consciousness in order to perceive external events clearly and connect to our inner light of awareness, our inner Self.”The Path of the Yoga Sutras by Nicolai Bachman
How Yoga Works by Geshe Michael Roach
How Yoga Works weaves the teachings of the Yoga Sutras into a beautifully crafted novel that follows a young girl named Friday. She is imprisoned near the Indian-Tibetan border and held captive because they believe she has stolen the Yoga Sutras. Friday is wise beyond her years. She is able to transform her difficult situation into one of growth as she shares the wisdom of the yoga sutras with her captor. This novel, although long, is a captivating read that enhances the teachings of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
“Everything is a reflection of the condition of your own heart … And so looking at the world is like looking in a funny kind of mirror”How Yoga Works by Michael Roach
Whether you’ve been teaching yoga for many years or you’re just starting your journey, these five yoga teacher training books that I’ve shared above will expand your understanding of yoga, beyond asana.
Many blessings on your journey,
Hey beautiful soul. I’m guessing that since you’re here, you have been playing with the idea of signing up for an online yoga teacher training and you’re probably wondering if it’s worth it. I mean, can you actually learn how to teach yoga online? Is it just going to be a colossal waste of time and money?
Deciding to do any yoga teacher training, whether it’s in person or online is not only life-changing, it’s a huge time commitment. These days, most yoga trainings are a minimum of 200 hours, either packed into a couple of weeks or spread out over multiple weekends. I’ve taught both intensive and weekend format teacher trainings and now I’m branching into the online world. (Read about why I’m so passionate about this here). To be honest, all of the formats have a fair number of pros and cons. The most important thing when deciding on your YTT is finding a teacher, schedule and price point that works for you. Your 200 hour yoga teacher training just scratches the surface. You’ll be so hungry to learn more, I know I was, and my 200 hour training was fantastic!
Get to Know The Instructor
So is an online YTT worth it? Well, that depends. As with any yoga teacher trainings, or other large purchase, I recommend doing your research. I would hate for you to invest in a YTT (any YTT) and have it basically be a “lemon”. Check out the teacher(s), read their reviews and chat with them on the phone. Who did they train with? What are they passionate about? Is there training more “magical” or rooted in modern science? I would highly recommend speaking to one of their former students. I know that I would happily connect a future YTT student with a former student because honestly, I want to make sure that the students that join my yoga teacher trainings are a good fit.
I think scheduling and flexibility is a huge perk to participating in an online training. A good online training will provide live calls, one on one coaching, and community building activities in addition to their online resources. You don’t want to sign up for a training that is just a series of pre-recorded videos. Interaction, feedback, and discussion on online calls and in closed forums are invaluable. Check the call times and figure out exactly how many you need to attend to get your certificate. If you need to miss a call, are live calls recorded and available for you to watch? While we’re on the topic of schedules, I would also recommend that you find out if there is a deadline to send in your course assignments. Personally, I like deadlines because they hold me accountable, without them it could take me years to send in that final assignment. So, know if you do better with or without them.
Get A Sneak Peek
If possible, ask the instructor if you can see some of the material. Is it presented well? Is it professional? Or does it look like it was slapped together in Word. Ask to see a chapter of the manual, a module, a workbook page, or video — whatever you’re comfortable asking to see or are most concerned about. The more you know about the course, the more you will know what to expect AND you’ll know if it’s actually a good fit for you.
Unlimited Access to Materials
There were so many powerful, engaging lectures and discussions from my early trainings that I wish I had recorded copies of them, just so I could go back and review the material or sink deeper into the knowledge and wisdom provided to me. Another benefit of joining my online yoga teacher training is that all of our calls are recorded and available for you to view, review, fast-forward, rewind and rewatch.
Online Yoga Teacher Training Fits Your Already Busy Life
One of the beauties of online yoga teacher training is that you can show up exactly as you are… sweat pants, crazy hair, toddlers hanging off your hip. You can hop onto your calls from home, the beach, or a cafe. You can listen to your video lectures on your morning commute, while you’re making dinner, or after the kids are in bed. Training to become a yoga teacher online fits into your daily life… no need to add commute times, no need to hire a babysitter, no need to take copious amounts of time off of work.
In my experience, a well thought out online yoga teacher training or online workshop is totally worth it. They provide flexibility, community, and access to the materials anytime you want them. I recently brainstormed the many benefits of online yoga teacher training and put seven of them into a blog post. Check it out.
In the not too distant past, training to become a yoga teacher online was looked at as being “less than” training in person, but I’m here to change that. I’ve been pouring my heart, sweat, and tears into this project. And it’s ready to share. Registration is open for the our next YTT.
Recently I’ve been drawn to the great goddesses of the Hindu pantheon. Their stories are magical and moving, exciting and inspiring, and sometimes even terrifying. My original intention was to write a blog post introducing the goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of abundance, well-being, harmony, good luck and prosperity in all forms, but she also personifies so many other characteristics worthy of discussion and embodiment. We call on Lakshmi to access the ocean of abundance that lies within, to find our radiant inner beauty, and to guide us on the path of our dharma.
As one of the Great Mother goddesses, Lakshmi guides us from the darkness to the light. She helps us move from a mindset rooted in fear and lack into a mindset of love, abundance, and generosity. The name Lakshmi comes from the Hindu word Laksya with means “aim” or “goal”. When manifesting abundance we can practice self-inquiry and take a moment to examine our intentions. Why do I want this? How would having this influence my life? How would it improve my life and how could my having it improve the lives of others? How can I use this to serve my community?
Abundance Flows to You and Through You
“Abundance flows to you and through you” has been my mantra for more or less the past year. And yes yogis, it is true, abundance flows both ways! I’ve experienced this flow (and lack of) again and again. When I found myself getting stuck in feelings of fear of not having enough or lack I could feel the Universe pulling back. But what’s even more amazing is when I drop back into the space of abundance, gratitude, and worthiness, I feel the support of the cosmos, Lakshmi, the Universe, God, whatever you want to call it. It’s as if I could do anything.
Our ability to give and receive freely depends deeply on our own personal beliefs that we are worthy of love, worthy of gifts, and that others too are worthy of these same gifts. Sally Kempton, author of Awakening Shakti, said it perfectly, “When you can allow yourself to receive with the feeling that you deserve the gifts of life, and then give with the feeling that others deserve them also, you find yourself in what one of my teachers called the auspicious state of mind, the state where shri is simply flowing through you. You feel Lakshmi’s presence as internal abundance and also as gratitude and as the desire to bless others. It’s then that you can begin to feel Lakshmi’s energy as your own.”
Lakshmi: A Tale of Generosity
One of my favorite stories of Lakshmi personifies an attitude of generosity, compassion, and empathy. As the story goes, Lakshmi and her husband Vishnu were the manifest deities at a wealthy temple for the high-caste in Varanasi, India. One year, during the festival of Diwali, Lakshmi decided to visit the town’s untouchables and bestow the untouchables with food and money. Her generosity extended to both those who worshipped her and those who did not. A beautiful reminder that we are all worthy, whether we (or others) deem us to be worthy.
Upon learning that Lakshmi has been spending time with the untouchables, Vishnu becomes angry with her. She immediately flees and goes to live with a group of sweepers. Upon Lakshmi’s arrival, the sweeper community begins to prosper, there is an abundance of food and there is enough money for the sweepers to fix-up their homes.
While the sweepers are being lifted up out of poverty Vishnu’s temple is falling into ruins, the community stops bringing offerings, and the surrounding trees begin to wither. Out of desperation, Vishnu finds Lakshmi and begs her to return. She obliges on one condition, that he may never restrict her ability to share her blessings again.
I think we all probably know a Lakshmi. We have a friend that we can count on… she lends us an ear when we need to chat, she nourishes with food and her gracious spirit, she uplifts us when we need a pep talk, she believes in the abundance of the Universe and is happy to share. She gives from a place of love and heart and soul. She gives without expectations. And yes, abundance seems to flow her way.
The Goddess of Abundance and Padma Mudra (Lotus Mudra)
The lotus is a common image in Hinduism and Buddhism and Lakshmi is often depicted either sitting or standing on a lotus flower and holding two lotus flowers in her hands. Bansi Pandit goes into even more detail about the symbolism of Lakshmi’s lotuses and explains that “since the right side of the body symbolizes activity, a lotus in the back right hand conveys the idea that one must perform all duties in the world in accordance with dharma. This leads to moksha (liberation), which is symbolized by a lotus in the back left hand of Lakshmi.”
A lotus flower begins down in the muck and mud and rises up through the water to blossom unscathed at the water’s surface. You can think of the path of the lotus as the journey to enlightenment. It is the journey from the darkness to the light.
To practice Padma Mudra, bring your hands into Anjali Mudra (prayer mudra) in front of your heart center and then separate your index fingers, middle fingers, and ring fingers. Allow the fingers to spread away from one another like a lotus flower blooming while keeping the pinkies, thumbs and wrists touching.
Did you also know that Ambuja means lotus? Learn more about the meaning of Ambuja here.
Four Lakshmi Inspired Practices to Cultivate the Art of Giving and Receiving
“Until we can receive with an open heart, we’re never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help.”
A practice in self-love.
Lie down onto your back and come into Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose/Reclined Butterfly Pose). To practice Supta Baddha Konasana, bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet to touch. Allow your knees to drop out to the side like the pages of a book. If you have any pain in your hips or knees support your thighs with blocks, cushions, etc.
Now bring your right hand to your belly and your left hand to your heart. Before continuing, take a moment to bring your awareness to your breath and your heartbeat and simply witness.
Your right hand is often considered the hand of action and your left hand is often considered the hand of reception. In this exercise, envision a free flow of self-love flowing through your left hand and into Anahata Chakra, your heart center. Your heart, mind, and body receive this love graciously and without judgment or expectation. Stay with this free-flowing self-love, allow it to flow into your body for ten to fifteen breaths. Then release this awareness and bring your awareness to your right hand, repeat a mantra of kind words and affirmations of self-love, gratitude, abundance, and/or worthiness. If you’re feeling stuck, perhaps try the same mantra that I have been using, “Abundance flows to me and through me” or try “I freely give and receive the gifts and blessings of Lakshmi.”
A practice in the art of giving and receiving inspired by Sally Kempton’s Awakening Shakti
Set aside thirty minutes or so to journal about your beliefs about giving and receiving.
- To begin, let’s focus on what you would like to receive. Free write a list of the blessings/gifts you would like to receive, whether they are material or spiritual. Be specific. Are other people involved? If yes, name them.
- From the above list, decide which three are the most important blessings. For each of the three blessing answer the following questions:
- How would this blessing influence your life? How would things change? How would this influence your relationships with others? How would you be able to serve others better?
- How do I intentionally or unintentionally limit my ability to receive these blessings? In what ways do I limit my potential or practice self-sabotage?
- How could I help someone else receive the same blessings that I want for myself? Write down a few actionable steps to help someone else achieve the same blessing that you want for yourself.
- Now put it into action, for yourself and for this other person.
Say yes when help is offered. Ask for help when needed.
When we accept help from someone, we gift them the opportunity to be of assistance. If we deny their offer to help, we are shutting down the energy and flow of abundance. I know I struggle with this one! I like to be in control and allowing someone else to help with a task, means that it is out of my hands, but what a gift it is!
I was reminded of this recently when I was leading a yoga teacher training weekend in Bend and we had to be out of the studio quickly, so the next group could come in. One of my gracious students offered to help sweep the floors and my first instinct was to shut it down and say “no” and “that I’ve got it” simply because I’m a people pleaser and I want to make sure that I’m not inconveniencing anyone. I quickly checked myself and my ego and accepted her offer to help. The next time someone offers to help you I encourage you to check in and say yes.
And yogis, we have got to ask for help when we need it! I’m still working on this one. I will run myself into the ground before asking for help, so maybe I’m writing this more for myself than for you. But we cannot do it all ourselves.
And plus, when we ask for help, we are gifting someone with the opportunity to lend a hand. They will feel good about helping someone in need (YOU) and you may end up with a bit of free time to take care of yourself or help someone else in need.
And finally, get your chant on. Chant to Mata Lakshmi.
Okay, I’m definitely the crazy lady chanting in the car, walking the dogs, etc. But I don’t really care.
Invoke Lakshmi with this beautiful simple chant.
Om shrim maha Lakshmyai namaha
Ohm shreem muh-hah luhk-shmyai nuh-muh-huh
Om, I offer salutations to the great goddess of good fortune.
Until next time beautiful yogis!
Love and Light,