Restorative Yoga for Grief

It’s time we talk about grief and sadness and loss. This year, 2020, has been full of both large and small losses for many of us… from losing the life we knew and loved to losing friendships/community/connection to the loss of our small businesses/income to the loss of loved ones. Just in our family, we have lost a grandfather, two uncles, an aunt, and our sweet pup Jedi is doing his best to fight off a very aggressive form of cancer. It’s heavy, and we’re doing the best we can, the best we know how. If you are grieving right now, know that I see you and I hold you in my heart. I invite you to join me for a restorative yoga for grief practice.

Restorative yoga is such a beautiful practice when you’re grieving. It’s an opportunity to feel held and cared for whether you’re practicing alone or in a group. It gives you time to heal, rest, and restore and it gives you time to bear witness to and acknowledge your emotions and thoughts without judgment and time to receive the teachings of your higher self, guides, and ancestors. Carve out this time to hold yourself in your heart space.

“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go”

Jamie Anderson

Here is the thing, grief can’t be quantified by the type of loss. The only way your grief can be measured is by how it is felt by you. So don’t let anyone tell you how to grieve or if your grief is excessive or “not enough”. We grieve because we loved. Your grief is part of this human experience and it will help build resilience as it is expressed and resolved.

Restorative Yoga for Grief: The Practice

Today I really want to share a few yoga practices that I use when I feel the weight of grief descending. I hope that you will find the following restorative yoga for grief practice helpful. The following practice will take between 20 and 50 minutes if you follow the suggested times.

Below the infographic, you will find descriptions on how to set up your props and modifications if you don’t have props. You can use all kinds of things that you likely have around the house like blankets, couch cushions, pillows, and books. If you keep scrolling you’ll find some info about the effects of grief, a handful of tips to help you on your healing journey, and a few resources.

restorative yoga for grief

Five Restorative Yoga Poses for Grief

These five yoga poses can help you through the grieving process. I will explain how to do each pose in detail and offer modifications if you don’t have all of the props. If you have questions about the poses, please feel free to reach out.

Supported Child’s Pose

Props: 1 Bolster (stack of blankets or pillows will do), 1 blanket, optional sandbag or folded blanket

supported child's pose
Salamba Balasana

Child’s Pose gently grounds are energy and can help heal our first chakra, Muladhara. Muladhara Chakra, our Root Chakra, is our center of security, support and safety. After a loss, we may lose our sense of security, safety, and support, which is why I like to start a restorative practice for grief with Child’s Pose. When you’re practicing Child’s Pose think of breathing into the backside of your heart, the back of your lungs and your back body. Allow each cycle of breath to soften the armor surrounding your heart.

Set-Up

Place your bolster lengthwise in front of you and place your folded blanket over the top of your bolster. Bring your knees just wider than your bolster and slide the short edge of your bolster between your knees. Bring your hips back toward your heels and lower your torso down to your bolster. Rest your forearms down on either side of your bolster and bring one ear down. Halfway through your pose, bring the opposite ear down.

Hold this pose for 3-8 minutes.

Supported Reclined Bound Angle Pose

Props: 1-3 Bolsters, 1-8 Blankets, 2 blocks

supported reclined bound angle pose
Salamba Supta Baddha Konasana

This is my favorite restorative yoga pose. It helps open the front body from the groin all the way up to the throat. I, however, like this pose for how it can balance and heal the second and fourth chakras. The second chakra, Svadisthana, is our center of creativity, sensuality and sexuality. The heart chakra is our fourth chakra. In Sanskrit, its name is Anahata and it is our center of love and compassion. Anahata chakra can become blocked by grief. Salamba Supta Baddha Konasana helps heal the second and fourth heart chakras by creating space that allows for the flow of prana.

Set-Up

Most people don’t have access to a million props, so I’ll walk you through setting this pose up with a minimal amount of props. First, place your blocks toward the back of your mat. The one farthest away from you should be placed on its middle setting and the one closest to you should be placed on the lowest setting. You can have a couple of inches between the two blocks or they can be touching. (No blocks? You could use a couple of pillows or a stack of books instead) Then place your bolster (or pillow, cushion, a stack of blankets) on top of the blocks, so you’re essentially building a ramp. With another blanket, make a long roll that’s at least 3 feet long.

Take a seat in front of your bolster with your sacrum nice and close to the short edge of the bolster. Bring the soles of your feet to touch and wrap the blanket around your feet. It will go over the top of your feet and then wrap underneath your ankles/shins (it can also potentially support your thighs) Then release your knees out to the sides, like the pages of a book. Slowly lower your torso down onto your bolster, rest the back of your head down and release your arms by your sides. Turn the palms to face upward. This will help facilitate the release of your chest and heart space.

If your chin is jutting upward try to lengthen your cervical spine or support the back of your head and neck with another folded blanket. If you feel like you need support for your hips, slide blankets, bolsters or cushions underneath your knees and thighs.

Hold this pose for 5-10 minutes. If at any point it starts to bother your hips, lengthen your legs long.

Supported Twist

Props: 1 Bolster

restorative twist yoga for grief

I find this restorative twist to be really soothing to my own nervous system. I’ve even been known to fall asleep in this pose. In general, twists help to balance and heal our third chakra, Manipura, and they cultivate samana vayu. Manipura Chakra is our center of will, determination and drive. If you’ve ever had the wind taken from your sails, do some twists (corework is also deeply healing for the third chakra– but that’s for another day). Samana Vayu is the air that integrates. Working with samana vayu can help us integrate, assimilate and adapt to new circumstances.

Set-Up

You only need a bolster for this pose. You could also use a stack of blankets or cushions again. To come into the pose, place your bolster lengthwise in front of you. Sit with your right hip close to the bolster and then bring your right thigh close to the short edge of your bolster. I like to stagger the legs, but you could also allow them to be in a more stacked position. Turn your torso toward your bolster. Lengthen your spine long and then lower your torso down. Your forearms should rest on either side of the bolster. Bring either ear down. You can always switch the direction of your gaze at any time. When you’re ready move slowly as you switch sides.

Hold the pose for 4-8 minutes on each side.

Elevated Legs Up the Wall Pose

Props: 1 bolster, optional sandbag and eye pillow

legs-up-the-wall-pose-restorative-yoga-grief
Viparita Karani

Legs Up the Wall helps balance all of our chakras because the spine is nice and long in this pose. It’s also a gentle inversion, which helps bring blood to the head and heart. I like this pose because I feel both grounded and elevated after coming out of it.

Set-Up

This is one of my favorite grounding poses. Bring your bolster right up next to the wall lengthwise. You could easily skip the bolster or use a folded blanket or two. To come into the pose, sit on your bolster with your left hip, then mindfully lower your torso down to the ground. Roll down onto your back and extend your legs up the wall. You can place an eye pillow over your eyes to help turn your focus inward. It’s kinda tricky to do yourself, but placing a sandbag on the soles of your feet is deeply relaxing and comforting.

Hold this pose for 2-5 minutes.

Side-lying Shavasana

Props: 1-2 bolsters, 1-2 blankets, 1 block (as a modification)

restorative yoga grief shavasana
Shavasana

I love a traditional shavasana, but this side-lying version is just so magically calming and soothing. It really gives that sense of being held and comforted. It’s a great pose for when you’re feeling out of sorts. I highly recommend it.

Set-Up

Place a folded blanket or pillow at the top of your mat. At the bottom of your mat, you can place another blanket. This will make the pose comfier for your feet and ankles, but it’s not necessary. Then lay down on your right or left side, rest your head on your pillow or folded blanket. You can place your bolster or folded blanket between your knees (like in the illustration) or keep your bottom leg straight, bend your top leg, bring the leg forward and rest your knee and shin on your bolster (my fave). If you have another bolster I like to support the top arm with it. If you don’t have a bolster you can rest your forearm on a yoga block, a pillow, or stack of blankets. Feel free to get creative.

Make sure you’re super comfy in this pose. I consider shavasana to be one of the most important yoga poses in an entire practice, whether that yoga practice is restorative or active. Take your time setting up, settle in, and then let go of the need to adjust, fidget, or monitor your surroundings.

Hold this pose for 5-15 minutes.

Restorative Yoga for Grief: Practice Letting Go in a Million Little Ways

The beautiful thing about restorative yoga is we get to practice letting go in a million little ways. By softening the muscles of our face, letting go of tension in the belly, surrendering into the support of our props, etc. Little by little, we find peace. I will be recording this practice and uploading it to my YouTube channel soon. Sometimes it’s nice to have someone else hold the container, keep track of the time, etc. And I am more than happy to do that for you.

The Physiological and Psychological Effects of Grief

I would like to speak a little to the physiological and psychological effects of grief, so if that interests you, feel free to keep reading, if it doesn’t, go ahead and stop here.

You might wonder why I’m including science in a post on restorative yoga for grief, but the way I see it, we’ve been blessed with these human bodies that allow us to experience the world so fully. Shouldn’t we know how it works? Shouldn’t we be able to recognize the signs our body and mind give us, so we can heal and not be bound by pain and dis-ease? I also understand that there is a time for learning and a time for healing (although not mutually exclusive I know in my heart that it is easier to focus on one or the other). Take what you need and leave what you don’t.

Grief in the Body

The wave of sadness that accompanies loss can make just getting through the day challenging. When I write about grief in the body my heart breaks just a little more knowing that so many of us are suffering. Grief, much like fear, elicits our body’s stress response and causes an increase in stress hormones that have a whole array of effects on the body. Under normal circumstances, the parasympathetic nervous system and sympathetic nervous system work in concert to allow us to move between “rest and digest” and “fight or flight” with ease. However, elevated stress hormones in addition to the sheer weight of grief can lead to a multitude of problems and persistent stimulation of our sympathetic nervous system.

Grief and Cardiovascular Health

This may seem obvious, but grief affects the heart and is associated with heart and cardiovascular issues like irregular heartbeat, stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure, and Broken Heart Syndrome. 

Grief and the Digestive System

The functioning of our digestive system is also impacted by grief. As stress hormones shunt the blood away from the digestive organs, some of the bereaved experience diarrhea, constipation, IBS, bloating and flatulence, nausea/queasiness, lack of appetite, binge eating or emotional eating, and reflux or heartburn. It is also common to lose or gain weight while grieving.

Grief and Sleep

Grief affects our sleep too. When my sleep starts to degrade the whole cookie crumbles and I struggle to keep myself together. When I sleep too much I’m a sluggish, achy mess. Anyone else experience the same? Grief affects our sleep in a myriad of ways from insomnia to oversleeping. Sleep is supposed to be a sacred time for restoration and healing. Without proper rest fatigue sets in, our ability to focus and concentrate declines, and our motor coordination is impaired. If you or someone you know is grieving ask/offer help so the bereaved has ample time to rest. Restorative yoga and yoga nidra can both be helpful during the grieving process and beyond.

Grief and the Immune System

Even our immune system is affected by grief and the onslaught of stress hormones. Have you ever gone on a vacation after a period of being super stressed only to get sick? That’s because those pesky stress hormones have been suppressing your immune system. The same thing can happen when we’re grieving. One study found that after loss of a loved one people are more likely to experience a physical health issue and another study found that “bereaved people demonstrate higher levels of systemic inflammation, maladaptive immune cell gene expression, and lower antibody response to vaccination compared with non-bereaved controls.” 

Grief and the Musculoskeletal System

And finally, grief can manifest as physical pain and fatigue. Some experience body aches, headaches and stiffness, while others experience muscle weakness, limb heaviness, and decreased coordination. 

Mental Health and Grief

Grief is caused by a painful or traumatic event that impacts our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. It can be experienced as acute grief, which is experienced 6-12 months after loss and persistent grief which is experienced beyond 12 months.

Remember that everyone experiences grief differently, you may recognize some of these experiences in your own grieving process and you may not. Some people experience depression, anxiety, or nervousness. Grief might manifest as apathy over their own wellbeing– an inability to make healthy meals, to exercise, to keep their living space clean, etc. Sometimes the bereaved develop unhealthy coping mechanisms and they turn to alcohol, drugs, food and unhealthy relationships.

They may experience overwhelm and anxiety if they are having to navigate planning a funeral or execute a will. Others may experience brain fog and have trouble planning and organizing. They may have a hard time thinking and will think more slowly or be confused more frequently. And sometimes the mind gets caught in a cycle of rumination and becomes preoccupied with images, memories, and thoughts about the past and the loss.

Emotional Health and Grief

Any type of loss, in particular the loss of a loved one or pet, is devastating. The waves of sadness that accompany loss are more than just unpleasant, they can feel inescapable and overwhelming. And they can leave us feeling empty and depleted. There is no need to rush the grieving process. Again, it is an important part of being human. Give yourself the time and space to experience it. Allow it to move through you and take this time to take care of yourself and your needs. Get comfortable asking for help.

I think that while we’re talking about emotional health and grief it is a good opportunity to mention the 5 stages of grief according to grief expert Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and her books On Death and Dying and On Grief and Grieving. The five stages of grief are:

  1. Denial and isolation
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

I won’t talk too much about the five stages of grief, simply because there are so many resources already available on the internet. I will say that not everyone experiences the five stages and not everyone experiences the five stages in the order listed. As I’ve said multiple times already, everyone experiences grief differently. 

Grief and Traditional Chinese Medicine

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) grief and sadness are associated with the lungs. The lungs, on both a metaphorical level and physical level, bring in the new and let go of the old. Intense stress or grief can be experienced as shortness of breath, faintness, tightness in the chest or throat, and shakiness in our voice. 

In TCM each organ is considered either yin or yang and it is paired with a complementary organ. In this case, the lungs are considered yin and they are paired with the large intestines which are considered yang. When the lung qi (chi) is low, one is susceptible to colds, flu, bronchitis and pneumonia. When lung qi is strong, one’s sense of smell is sharp, they breathe easily, they think clearly, communicate well, they’re open-minded, and they are able to relax and let go. If someone is having a difficult time letting go of the past or letting go of a loved one and their experience is characterized by intense sadness and grief it may indicate that their lung qi is low. Practices like yoga, qigong and tai chi along with acupuncture and traditional herbs can help elevate lung qi.

Healthy Ways to Cope With Grief

  • Establish Healthy Routines
    • Do your best to wake up and go to bed at the same time each day.
    • Eat regularly.
    • Set a gentle schedule for yourself that includes time to just be.
  • Exercise
    • Move your body every day. It doesn’t need to be anything big. Walk the dog. Walk with loved ones. Do yoga, tai chi, or qi gong.
  • Diet
    • Eat healthy meals. Ask friends and family for help. Keep it simple.
  • Community
    • Reach out to friends and family for support. You don’t have to do it all yourself. Spend time with a trusted friend– preferably someone who is a good listener.
  • Talk to a Professional
    • Talk to a grief counselor.
  • Give yourself time.
    • Give yourself time to experience it all. Meet yourself with love and compassion. Be present with the way you’re feeling. Share the same love you would share with a child with yourself.
  • Acupuncture and massage may help relieve tension and achiness.
  • Focus on gratitude and treasure happy memories as they arise.

Resources for Grief

Is it Shavasana or Savasana?

shavasana or savasana

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.

Sanskrit: शवासन
Transliteration: śavāsana
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.

5 Great Yoga Teacher Training Books

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.


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.

The Bhagavad Gita, translated by Stephen Mitchell

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

yoga teacher training books

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,

Autumn

Is Online Yoga Teacher Training Worth It?

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?

How to create an intention

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.

train to teach yoga online

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.

is online yoga teachre training worth it

The Goddess Lakshmi and the Art of Giving and Receiving

Lakshmi goddess of prosperity

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.”

~Brene Brown

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.

Jai Lakshmi!

Until next time beautiful yogis!

Love and Light,

Autumn