How are we already in the middle of November? I feel like October was just a blip. However, cliche it may be, I love that November is a month that we are all encouraged to practice a bit more gratitude. It goes a long way in improving our mental health and our relationships, so why not weave it into our daily routines?! If you’d like to read a little more on the topic, I love this short article from Harvard.
This month has really pushed me into a gratitude practice… if for nothing else, but saving my sanity. I’ve been solo parenting all month, I flew across the country and back with a toddler, and have been blessed by my fellow teachers with class coverage while I’ve been away and/or otherwise occupied. I’m so grateful for the family who have hosted us, fed us, and shuttled us around. I’m so grateful for the Frontier flight attendants and baggage workers who helped carry our bags and set up our stroller so I could keep Atlas sleeping and calm a little bit longer. I’m so grateful for my fellow yoga teachers who have covered class after class. I’m just really f’in grateful for it all. Even the challenging parts… because it reminds me of what I’m capable of and it reminds me of the goodness within each of us.
In the midst of our busy lives, it’s easy to overlook the power of gratitude. Yet, it is a force that can bring immense joy, peace, and fulfillment into our lives. Fortunately, gratitude is like a muscle. It just needs to be worked and strengthened with practice and use.
Here’s the Science:
Research has shown that practicing gratitude can lead to increased happiness, reduced stress, and improved overall health. When we cultivate gratitude, our perspective shifts, allowing us to focus on the positive aspects of life, even in challenging situations. It can enhance our relationships, boost our immune system, and improve our sleep quality. A Study by Emmons and McCullough found that those who practice gratitude consistently experienced greater life satisfaction and overall well-being. Studies using brain imaging techniques even found that practicing gratitude activates brain regions associated with the experience of pleasure and reward, reinforcing the idea that gratitude is a natural mood enhancer.
Here are the Tools I Love:
1. Gratitude Journaling:
Set aside a few minutes each day to write down things you are grateful for. These can be specific events, experiences, people, or even simple pleasures.
Be detailed and specific about what you appreciate, reflecting on the nuances of each experience.
Writing in a gratitude journal regularly helps train your mind to focus on the positive aspects of your life.
2. Gratitude Meditation:
Practice mindfulness meditation with a focus on gratitude. Sit quietly, breathe deeply, and bring to mind the things you are thankful for.
With each breath, concentrate on a specific element of your life you appreciate. Visualize it clearly and allow the feelings of thankfulness to wash over you.
This practice helps you become more aware of the positive aspects of your life, promoting a sense of peace and contentment.
3. Gratitude Jar (I’ve been doing a gratitude turkey with Atlas)
Keep a jar and small pieces of paper handy.
Whenever something good happens or you feel thankful for something, jot it down on a piece of paper and put it in the jar.
Whenever you’re feeling down or need a boost, read through the notes. It serves as a tangible reminder of the positive aspects of your life.
4. Express Gratitude to Others:
Take time to express your gratitude to people around you. Write a thank-you note, send an email, or simply say ‘thank you’ in person.
Expressing gratitude not only strengthens your relationships but also makes you and the recipient feel good, creating a positive cycle of appreciation.
5. Gratitude Walk:
I’ve been doing A LOT of walking lately with the dogs and this has helped shift my mindset away from it feeling like such a chore:
Take a mindful walk outdoors, preferably in nature.
As you walk, focus on the things around you that you are thankful for – the sunshine, the sound of birds, the fresh air, or the beauty of the trees.
Engaging your senses in this way amplifies your sense of gratitude.
6. Gratitude Affirmations:
Start or end your day with gratitude affirmations. These are positive statements expressing your thankfulness.
Repeat these affirmations aloud or in your mind. For example, “I am grateful for the love in my life” or “I am thankful for the opportunities that come my way.”
Affirmations reinforce positive thinking and help shift your focus toward gratitude.
Add a mudra like Anjali Mudra (prayer hands) or Pushpaputa Mudra (gesture of offering)
7. Be Delighted and in Awe
Allow yourself to be awed every single day. Slow down and notice the beauty around you, watch a small child play in nature, etc.
Notice the miracles big and small
Relish in and delight in your experiences — the food you eat, the company you keep, the air you breathe, the views you take in.
8. Gratitude in Challenging Situations:
Train yourself to find something positive even in difficult situations. It could be a lesson learned, inner strength discovered, or the support of loved ones.
Shifting your perspective in challenging times can foster resilience and help you navigate through difficulties with a positive mindset.
It fills up our reserves so when we’re faced with challenging situations we are able to weather them with more ease and grace.
Yoga and Gratitude:
In our yoga practice, we can infuse gratitude into every breath and every pose. With each inhale, we can invite gratitude into our hearts, and with each exhale, we can release any negativity or tension. Let’s approach our yoga mats with an attitude of gratitude, acknowledging the incredible gift that our bodies, minds, and spirits are.
As we practice gratitude, let’s inspire one another and create a positive and supportive community.
Wishing you a heart full of gratitude and a spirit at peace.
During my 200 hour yoga teacher training… way back in 2013/2014 I did a project on yoga and the immune system, specifically how it affects an immune system that isn’t working as well as it should. I am by no means an expert on the topic, but I thought I could at least share what I found and the resources I used. So the big question is, “can yoga really boost your immune system?” We’re going to get super science-y here, so if you want the TLDR version, the answer is yes, yoga as a lifestyle absolutely boosts our immune system.
As a teenager and young adult, I always struggled with getting colds and upper respiratory infections. However, I quickly noticed that when yoga is a part of my daily routine I am generally healthier, less likely to become ill, and I’m less stressed out. So I’ve been curious as to whether my general wellness has been a coincidence or related to my yoga practice.
The Western Medical World is Finally Embracing Yoga
Much of the research on yoga and the immune system has been based on questionnaires instead of scientific evidence. Most importantly, researchers have finally begun studying yoga and its effects on mononuclear blood cells (MNBCs), RNA and genome analysis, but the studies have just begun. In 2013 Harvard University began a two-year study on the effects of yoga and meditation and I look forward to their results. In assembling my research I broke the yogic lifestyle down into its main components: asana, pranayama, meditation and diet and how each of these aspects relates to the function of the immune system.
Overview of the Immune System
We will begin our exploration of yoga and the immune system by reviewing the components of the immune system. The chief organs and tissues of the immune system are the bone marrow, spleen, thymus, tonsils, Peyer’s patches, Appendix, the lymphatic nodes and vessels and the blood capillaries. In addition to these organs and tissues, the body has an auxiliary immune system that helps the body combat invading microbes. According to Steve Parker, author of The Human Body Book (2013), the auxiliary immune system consists of the lacrimal glands of the eye, the mouth and throat (production of mucus and antibacterial saliva), the respiratory tract from nose to lungs (mucus and cilia help trap and remove foreign particles and microbes), the stomach, intestines and genitourinary tract (acids, enzymes and “friendly” bacteria eliminate ingested microbes) and the skin (the body’s first line of defense against invading organisms).
Where do Immune Cells Come From?
Where do immune cells come from? Immune system cells, lymphocytes and phagocytes develop from stem cells within the bone marrow in a process known as lymphopoeisis. The lymphocytes are differentiated into either B cells or T cells. B cells mature within the bone marrow and make gamma globulins, protein antibodies that act on antigens (foreign proteins). The thymus, located in the mediastinum, produces 5 types of T-cells in a process called T-cell education. The 5 T-cells created are:
1) Memory cells 2) Lymphokine-producing cells (Lymphokines are proteins that are toxic to microbes) 3) Cytotoxic T cells (Killer Cells) 4) Helper T cells 5) Suppressor T cells (Anatomy & Physiology Made Easy, 157)
The thymus is largest and most active in infancy and childhood; beginning in the teenage years the thymus decreases in activity and function as the stroma cells are replaced with adipose tissue. Although the thymus continues to decrease in productivity, the process of lymphopoeisis continues throughout adulthood.
Two Types of Immune Responses
The body has two types of immune responses: non-specific and specific and they can occur simultaneously.
Non-Specific Immune Response
A non-specific immune response is a reaction to any kind of bodily damage (ex. burn) or to the presence of microbes or parasites. In a non-specific reaction, white blood cells flood the damaged area and destroy invading microbes. The main type of non-specific immune response is inflammation.
Specific Immune Response
There are two types of specific immune response the first is cell-mediated, which begins when T-cells recognize foreign antigens. Once the antigen is recognized, T cells rapidly multiply and enlist the help of B cells to initiate an antibody response and macrophages to destroy foreign microorganisms. The second type of specific response is antibody-mediated. That is to say, when B cells recognize antigens (foreign proteins) they rapidly multiply with some of the B cells developing into antibody-producing plasma cells. The antibodies attach to a microbe’s antigen sites, marking the microbe for destruction by a process known as phagocytosis, in which the microbe is engulfed and destroyed by a phagocyte (ex. a macrophage).
Immune Cells Circulate in Both Your Blood and Lymph
Not only do immune cells circulate throughout the blood system, they also circulate through the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is comprised of lymphatic vessels and lymph nodes or glands. The lymphatic vessels gather lymph from the interstitial fluid between cells, and through a system of capillaries, lymphatics and one way valves the lymph fluid is moved toward the lymph nodes.
The lymph nodes hold an important position within the immune system. The lymph nodes drain lymph fluid from nearly all of the tissues in the body. Within the lymph nodes lymphocytes are produced, stored and readied for an immune response. The immune response within the lymph nodes is capable of filtering and cleansing the lymph through a process in which macrophages engulf dangerous microbes and debris. Afterward, the filtered lymph is then circulated out of the lymph nodes into the thoracic duct and into the blood stream at the right and left subclavian veins.
A healthy immune system can eliminate viruses, bacteria and cancerous cells from the body. In the same vein, general tips to maintain a healthy, balanced immune system generally consist of stress management and proper rest, diet, and exercise. Can a complete, balanced yoga practice boost the body’s immune system?
Yogic Diet and the Immune System
The old saying, “You are what you eat” is a friendly reminder to eat healthy, whole foods that will encourage health and wellbeing. According to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali the yogic diet is one that doesn’t add toxins to the body and it is “free of meat, fish, eggs, stimulants and excessive spice” (Satchidananda, 144). The reason for such a diet is to allow the body to sit in meditation without the interruption and discomfort of “pain, stiffness, bile, gas, etc.” (Satchidananda, 144). The yogic diet, avoids rajasic foods (ex. stimulants, heavily spiced and salty foods, and refined sugars) which can lead to overactivity and tamasic foods (ex. meat, eggs, drugs and alcohol) which can lead to lethargy, in favor of sattvic foods, which are pure, whole foods that provide the body with easily digested essential nutrients, maximum energy, vitality, strength and endurance (Yoga Mind and Body, 129).
The Yogic Diet Provides an Abundance of Essential Nutrients for Immune Health
A diet high in healthy, whole vegetables and fruits, like the yogic diet, provides the body with necessary nutrients, like phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals, for optimal function. According to Dr. Joel Fuhrman, “A phytochemically deficient diet is largely responsible for a weak immune system. Populations with a much higher intake of vegetables have much lower rates of cancer, and the longest-living populations throughout history have been those with the highest intake of vegetables in the diet (Fuhrman, 19).”
Plants are Rich in Phytochemicals and Micronutrients
Plants rich in phytochemicals are usually characterized by black, blue, red, green, and orange colors and are rich in not only vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, but also phytochemicals like carotenoids, flavanoids, polyphenols and many more micronutrients. Dr. Fuhrman also states that green vegetables have the most immune-supporting micronutrients and that diets high in raw, green vegetables are associated with a reduced risk of cancer (Fuhrman, 26).
One study in Vietnam, found that children with a micronutrient rich diet had a lower rate of respiratory illness than the children in the control group, who were on a rice based diet (Fuhrman, 32). It is also shown that micronutrients like lutein, lycopene, folate, bioflavanoids, riboflavin, zinc, and selenium have immune-modulating functions (Fuhrman, 33). Recent studies have shown that the nutritional health of the host affects the genetic sequence of invading pathogens (Fuhrman, 34). Isothiocyanates, found in cruciferous vegetables, “have been shown to increase the immune system’s cell-killing capacity and heighten the resistance to viral infection” (Fuhrman, 65). Mushrooms, berries and pomegranates also contribute to immune function.
The yogic diet utilizes nuts, seeds and lentils as the main sources of protein and fat. Flax seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds are excellent sources of vital nutrients necessary for a healthy body and immune system. Seeds provide a range of nutrients from omega-3s to vitamin E, calcium and zinc. Zinc (15 mg/day) supports antibody-mediated and cell-mediated immunity, and therefore can help fight off infections and cancer. Dr. Fuhrman concluded, through utilizing Cochrane meta-analysis, that zinc supplements help reduce both cold symptoms and the length of infection (102). Fat is also an important part of a healthy diet. Healthy fats enhance the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and phytonutrients.
Caffeine and Cortisol
The yogic diet avoids both caffeine and alcohol, both of which suppress the immune system. Caffeine stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the fight-or-flight response and increased stress hormones. “Caffeine stresses the adrenals, the glands that sit on top of the kidneys and support the body’s immunity and energy” (Guthrie, Yoga Journal). “A 2006 study published in “Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior” found that men and women given large amounts of caffeine, three 250-milligram doses, experienced the release of higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol in response to physical and mental stress (Daniels, 2014).” Elevated cortisol levels are known to decrease the ability of your immune system to fight infections (Daniels, 2014).”
Hold the Martini – Alcohol Suppresses Our Immune System
Numerous studies have been done on the effects of alcohol on the immune system. While having a glass of wine or a beer may enhance immune function by increasing circulating lymphocytes, leukocytes, neutrophils, and basophils (Zabriskie), “investigators suggest that excessive alcohol exposure weakens host defenses by impairing function of T and B lymphocytes, natural killer cells and monocytes and macrophages, decreasing the inflammatory response, altering cytokine production and causing abnormal reactive oxygen intermediate generation (Zabriskie)” the affects of binge drinking may last for up to 24 hours after the consumption of alcohol. Excessive consumption of alcohol causes liver cells to swell with fat, which can lead to alcoholic hepatitis when the liver floods with white blood cells and becomes inflamed.
Even moderate alcohol consumption suppresses the immune system for up to 16 hours by decreasing monocyte function and the circulation of cytokines (Zabriskie). The yogic diet, rich in vegetables and fruit and lacking alcohol and caffeine, allows the immune system to function optimally and brings balance to the body and mind.
Meditation and the Immune System
There are a handful of studies about the benefits of meditation on the body and mind, but unfortunately there aren’t too many on its effects on the immune system (although there are quite a few on its effects on cancer). “One study found that people who attended an eight-week mindfulness meditation class (a three-hour class once a week, plus daily meditation for an hour) ended up with stronger immune systems than those people who didn’t meditate” (Guthrie, yoga journal).
When practicing meditation, you release stressful thoughts and emotions and create a more positive mental, emotional, physical state, which increases oxygen, blood flow and general well-being. Thoughts of compassion, love and contentment override stressful and negative thought patterns. According to Doc Lew Childre, “the emotions of happiness and joy have been scientifically demonstrated to increase the presence of white blood cells and the levels of antibody immunoglobulin A, both of which are fundamental to the immune response (Childre, 48-53).”
Mindfulness Meditation Helps Lower Anxiety and Improves Our Outlook on Life
A University of Wisconsin study lead by Dr. Richard Davidson found that practicing mindfulness meditation increases the activation of the left frontal portion of the brain, the area associated with lower anxiety and a more positive outlook. Dr. Davidson’s team also found that a practice in mindfulness meditation increased levels of antibodies circulating in the blood in response to the study administered flu vaccine.
Harvard University began a two-year study in 2013 studying the practice of kundalini yoga and meditation and their effects on gene expression, particularly the genes that regulate stress and immune function. I am looking forward to seeing the results from the Harvard University study. I believe that the Harvard study will spark interest from other researchers in the fields of immunology and integrative medicine.
Asanas and the Immune System
Asanas, inversions in particular, are great for increasing the circulation of lymph throughout the body. Lymph is affected by gravity; therefore by lowering the head below the heart the lymph is able to flow into the “respiratory organs where germs often enter the body. When [the body] returns to an upright position, gravity drains the lymph, sending it through [the] lymph nodes for cleansing” (White, Yoga Journal). Dynamic movements typically found in vinyasa style classes also help move lymph throughout the body.
According to Timothy McCall, author of Yoga as Medicine, “when you contract and stretch muscles, move organs around, and come in and out of yoga postures, lymph flow improves and with it lymphatic system function (McCall, 37).” Heart openers like Bridge, Cobra, and Camel Pose may also increase circulation to the thymus, the immunity powerhouse where disease fighting T-cells are created (Guthrie, Yoga Journal).
Restorative Yoga Can Help Boost the Immune System Too
According to BKS Iyengar the following series of asanas can strengthen a low immune system. This series, done in a restorative fashion utilizes props, such as: bolsters, blocks, straps, rolled towels, and chairs. By supporting the neck, chest and head with the use of props the body is able to relax and the lymph can move freely.
1) Setubandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) 2) Supta Baddhakonasana (Reclining Bound Angle Posture [Cobbler’s Pose]) 3) Supta Virasana (Reclining Hero Pose) 4) Setubandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) 5) Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) 6) Salamba Sirsasana (Headstand) 7) Viparita Dandasana (Inverted Staff Pose) 8) Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand) 9) Halasana (Plough Pose) 10) Setubandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) 11) Viparita Karani (Inverted Lake Pose [Legs up the Wall with/hips on a bolster]) 12) Savasana (Corpse Pose with torso propped up on bolster and head propped up slightly higher) 13) Ujjayi Pranayama (in Corpse Pose) 14) Viloma 2 Pranayama (2 second pause after each exhale)(in Corpse Pose) (Iyengar, 286)
Dr. Paul Martin states that, “moderate exercise elicits phagocytic activity in white blood cells” and “decreases biological reactivity to stressors” (Martin, 247-248). He also makes the case that extreme exercise increases stress, which decreases our immune system’s ability to function (Martin, 248-249). For example, intense exercise may create “a drop in two main classes of antibodies (IgA and IgM), a decline in the number and responsiveness of circulating lymphocytes and a drop in natural killer cell activity” (Martin, 249). As yoga practitioners it is important to practice ahimsa on ourselves and remember to gently challenge ourselves without overdoing it.
Pranayama and the Immune System
There are many benefits to the practice of pranayama; beyond calming the mind and soothing the nerves, pranayama benefits the respiratory and digestive systems, which support the immune system.
The practice of Ujjayi Pranayama, according to B.K.S. Iyengar “aerates the lungs, removes phlegm, [and] gives endurance (Iyengar, Light on Yoga, 443).” Surya Bhedana, a pranayama practice of inhaling through the right nostril and exhaling through the left nostril “increases digestive power, soothes and invigorates the nerves, and cleans the sinuses (Iyengar, Light on Yoga, 445).” Iyengar also teaches that, “Both Bhastrika and Kapalabhati activate and invigorate the liver, spleen, pancreas, and abdominal muscles. Thus the digestion is improved, the sinuses are drained, the eyes feel cool and one has a general sense of exhilaration (Iyengar, Light on Yoga, 450).”
One other pranayama practice that may boost the immune system is called Sitali Pranayama. Sitali is a cooling pranayama in which the mouth forms an O and the tongue curls up on the outer edges. In Sitali, the inhale is through the tongue and mouth and the exhale is through the nose, using Ujjayi technique. This method of pranayama is “beneficial in cases of low fever and biliousness (Iyengar, Light on Yoga 452)” and “activates the liver and spleen (Iyengar, Light on Yoga, 452).”
Calm the Mind and Soothe Your Nerves with Your Breath
By calming the mind and soothing the nerves, a strong practice in pranayama can reduce stress and its associated hormones, thereby allowing the body to utilize its energy optimally. Pranayama’s ability to cleanse the sinuses, drain mucus, and activate the spleen brings balance to the immune system. Therefore, pranayama boosts the immune system’s ability to recognize and remove foreign microbes and damaged or infected cells.
Yoga Boosts Your Immune System
Yogis have been applying yogic principles and practices to live healthy, fulfilling lives for centuries. Modern medicine is just now realizing the benefits of a full yogic practice, one that includes asana, pranayama, meditation and proper diet. One small study conducted by the University of Oslo found that a practice in yoga, pranayama, and meditation (Sudarshan Kriya and Related Practices) had a “rapid and significantly greater effect on gene expression in PBMCs compared with the control regimen” (Qu S., 2013) of walking followed by listening to relaxing music. PBMCs are peripheral blood mononuclear cells like lymphocytes, macrophages and monocytes. These immune cells function as the body’s main line of defense against invading organisms.
With each scientific study being conducted on the practice of yoga scientists are finding multiple health benefits. Western medical practitioners are realizing the benefits of yoga as a method to reduce stress, boost the immune system, and heal the human body.
Hello beautiful soul! I’m happy you’re here. I’m guessing that since you’ve stumbled upon this blog post that you’re considering an online YTT and you’re wondering what the benefits of online yoga teacher training are. I don’t want to waste your time, so let’s get right into it.
You can take the course wherever you are and from any device
One of the biggest and maybe most obvious benefits of online yoga teacher training is that they are flexible. You don’t have to give up all of your evenings, weekends, or a month of your life and you’ll still have time to spend with your friends and family. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to convince them to be your yoga student “guinea pigs”.
You can take your course from wherever you are AND from any device… as long as you have an internet or phone connection. If you know you’ll be without internet on your upcoming vacation, and you don’t want to fall behind, you can download any videos you may need and you can call into weekly calls via phone.
Course material hosted online
All your course material is hosted on the web and you can access it anywhere. Yep! No need to lug around tons of books, which means you can keep up with coursework while lounging in a hammock, relaxing on the beach, or cuddled up in your favorite reading nook or cafe.
And finally, you can work at your own pace. Some weeks are simply busier than others and that’s okay. There is no reason to feel shame, guilt, or overwhelm when your attention is needed elsewhere. Study when you have the time. Practice when you have the time. And then touch base weekly with your instructor and peers on live calls and your accountability buddy by text, email, or whatever works best for the two of you.
Online support and accountability
You’ll receive support and feedback on your teaching from your instructor and peers. You’ll learn tips and tricks to refine your teaching skills. You’ll have an opportunity to ask questions and get answers from peers, teachers, and TAs. Weekly calls help you stay on track, while accountability buddies help you with the little daily tasks that keep you moving forward. One-to-one support, mentoring, and coaching is so incredibly helpful. If your training offers one-to-one support I highly encourage you to take advantage of it. And make sure to be prepared with questions and concerns for each of these meetings.
Learning anything new and making life changes is easier in a group, it’s scientifically proven. A great online yoga teacher training will help you hold yourself accountable. Group calls and accountability buddies make it so much easier to stay on pace. If you’re like me, you’ve probably signed up for a fully go-at-your-own-pace course on Udemy or Coursera, you watch the first video or two and then life happens and you never pick up the course again. That’s my M.O. So many courses have gone to the online course graveyard! So that’s why I think it’s so important to include the group work with the independent study. You get a good balance of learning on your own, connecting with peers, and yes, accountability.
Learning that works for YOU
One thing that I love about online yoga teacher training is that it is so flexible and students are empowered to make the course work for them. For myself, I know that I am super productive in the morning or late at night after the rest of the house has gone to bed. These are typically good times for me to create class plans or writing assignments because I’m distraction-free. By late afternoon, I’m usually lower energy and I’m quite happy to sit on my butt, watch a video, and take notes. I modify my schedule and activities to fit my energy levels.
I also love that there is no rush to finish the online content and complete the course… this will be different for each course. I give my students 18 months to complete their 200-hour course material, however, I do encourage them to complete their coursework shortly after the online courses are over, simply so they don’t lose momentum!
Online yoga teacher training benefits include the much important time for assimilation and integration
Each week another topic and another group of poses is introduced and then you have a week to explore, integrate, and apply what you’ve learned. Access to the course material is available to you even after the course is complete. It’s awesome to not feel rushed! I did my 300-hour yoga teacher training as an intensive course and let me tell you, it was intense! So much information, piled on so much information… I really struggled to retain it all!
Every student is different and some do great in an intensive environment, while others thrive in an environment where they have a bit more time to integrate all the information, ask questions and apply what they’re learning. One benefit of online yoga teacher training is that you really have the time and space to live what you’re learning and integrate the yoga philosophy into all areas of your life… your real everyday life.
Some students learn great through reading, some through listening, some are more visual, some require a more tactile experience, and some thrive in groups or solo study. A great training will accommodate multiple different learning styles. Let’s be honest, none of us want to sit on our butts and watch lecture videos all day long! (okay, well maybe some do)
Quizzes can be super helpful when you need or want to check your progress and they help bring our awareness to the topics that you need to spend a little more time exploring AND they show you your natural strengths! What have you learned and integrated well? What are you naturally drawn too? So much insight can be gained from these simple little quizzes.
A worldwide yoga community
One of the great things about doing an in-person training is the sense of community you have, sitting in circle and holding space for one another. Just because we’re online doesn’t mean we can’t connect and hold space for one another! Weekly calls, the private Facebook group, and small group projects can really help you connect with your fellow trainees. And when you’re traveling to California or Europe or wherever… you can meet up with fellow trainees, take each other’s classes, go on a local hike, and share your favorite local restaurants.
Technology has improved so much!
Technology has improved so much in the past five or ten years and has really made online yoga teacher training a possibility, a viable and awesome possibility. With resources like Zoom, Thinkific, Facebook groups, Google drive and all the other resources out there, we’re able to connect and learn in a new and fun way. Literally, you can do your online yoga teacher training from your Iphone!
You can still learn how to teach to different bodies in an online setting. You can still learn how to “read” bodies and energy in an online setting. You can still learn to weave yoga philosophy into your classes. You’ll still be an effective teacher and leader, so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Our second to last benefit of online yoga teacher training: It’s AFFORDABLE!
Another benefit of online yoga teacher training is that it is typically more affordable than an in-person training because the teacher’s expenses are reduced and that savings gets passed on to you. All of the extra expenses that come with an in-person yoga teacher training are removed from the equation; expenses like travel, accommodation, and parking don’t apply anymore. Not only that, but you don’t have to give up your job for three weeks and lose out on income! You don’t have to hire a nanny to watch the kiddos or pay a dog sitter to watch your pooch.
And finally, it’s good for the earth
Yep! If you follow us on Instagram, you know that we love getting outside as much as we love practicing yoga. We love this life-giving planet so much, which is why we LOVE how eco-friendly online yoga teacher training is. No driving! No flying! No need to order take-out or eat pre-packaged food because you only have an hour for lunch. No need to order a huge stack of books because most of them are available on kindle or used. You can even keep your manual as a digital copy instead of printing it!
You can train exactly where you are. Listen to calls while hiking on a local trail or watch a YTT video while you make dinner. It’s awesome! Let’s keep this planet beautiful for generations to come. We’re practicing the yogic principle of ahimsa, or non-harming, by taking our training online.
Whether you choose to train online or in-person, it’s important to make sure the course is right for you! It doesn’t really matter what other people think. Take time to get quiet and clear about what is important to you. Then do your research and find the course that fits your needs. If you’re wondering if training online is worth it, check out this blog post. If you’re not sure what course you should take, check out this blog post that is packed full of questions to ask the instructor(s) before handing over your hard-earned cash. Reach out if you need help! I’m always happy to answer your questions. Did I miss any benefits of online yoga teacher training? Please share in the comments below. <3
For the entirety of my adult life, I’ve always felt the call to escape winter’s cold. The shorter, cold, wet/snowy days have never been my thing. I end up feeling foggy, heavy, lethargic, and unmotivated… which just snowballs into more of the same. So each year, I’ve packed up and headed south to Bali or Nicaragua or Mexico or Costa Rica or Thailand. The destination hasn’t always been important, but the heat and the warmth sure have. I’ve learned that if I take the time to listen to the wisdom of my body it will guide me back into balance. My body naturally wants to balance kapha dosha, even during kapha season. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, hop on over to this blog post that talks about the basics of Ayurveda and dosha theory.
Now that we’re on the road, traveling in the RV we seem to be chasing warmer weather, much the same as I have always done, but at a slower pace. We’ve experienced all of nature’s beautiful fury… from giant storms on the Oregon Coast, to monsoon rains in the Redwoods, to snow in Joshua Tree. We’ve experienced her wonder and beauty too… seal pups playing in a calm cove in Florence, the majestic energy of the Redwoods, the first signs of spring in Santa Barbara, hiking on “new to me” trails to discover hidden gems, exploring new cities and visiting familiar ones, and the warmth of the sun on my skin.
This afternoon I’ll throw my yoga mat down in the dust and sand of Joshua Tree N.P. and flow with the sun on my skin and savor every moment.
This is the season of kapha dosha… from the darkness of winter to early spring, soon we’ll begin to transition into pitta and the heat of summer, but for now, we’ll work on balancing kapha dosha. I find this time of the season to be the hardest to navigate, but with the pitta season right around the corner, it’s also exciting. It’s time to shake off the weightiness of winter and invite my energy to return.
Kapha dosha is associated with the elements of earth and water. When it’s in balance, the kapha person is loving, loyal, stable and dependable, but when kapha is out of wack and excessive they can be prone to lethargy, weight gain, and dullness (I’m just going to go ahead and raise my hand here). In Ayurveda, they use opposite qualities to bring balance to the out of balance dosha. If you’re in a season of excess kapha, you would want to incorporate dynamic movement and light, dry, and warming foods and spices into your day.
This time of year, I naturally want to stay inside, eat soup, and cuddle under a giant pile of blankets because I crave the warmth. But as we know, kapha creates more kapha, and I need to move. This winter I took the plunge and signed up for classpass, so I could, gasp, go to CorePower and take a hot yoga class… don’t judge me! While there is no spiritual aspect to a CorePower class there is heat and it does get the blood flowing, which is exactly what I need this time of year. I can weave my meditation practice and spiritual practices into other parts of my day OR invite my yoga practice to be a moving meditation.
Your Guide to Navigating Kapha Season
If you’re also feeling bogged down by kapha, here are my favorite practices to shake off the excess. And if you’re not sure what your dosha is, I really like this dosha quiz from Banyan Botanicals.
1. MOVE YOUR BODY
Yes, you’ve got to move your body. More than you’re naturally inclined to this season. This is the season where we walk the fine line between restoration and rest and doing and building. Do a more strenuous activity… hot yoga or a dynamic vinyasa practice, hop on the stair climber at the gym, do that challenging hike you’ve been eye-balling, but you think is just a little too long/too hard, take up skiing or mountain biking, etc. Do something that gets your heart pumping and blood flowing to clear out stagnation. It will help lift the mental fog while keeping your energy levels up.
If you’re practicing yoga at home, or wondering what type of studio class to seek, a practice to balance kapha dosha would include dynamic movement, lots of standing poses, and perhaps some heating pranayama techniques like kapalabhati, ujjayi, or surya bhedana (solar breath). If you prefer a guided practice at home, check out this dynamic, energy building prana vayu class on my YouTube channel.
2. TAKE TIME TO SLOW DOWN
This is a natural season for slowing down and laying the foundation for the season ahead, so take this time to meditate, create, learn new skills, clear out clutter, and set yourself up for success. Because when you feel the shift in energy you’re going to want to do it all. But don’t let this time for slowing down take over your life. Just a few minutes a day is enough.
3. EAT WARMING SPICES
Think cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cayenne, and cloves. Drink hot chai, golden mylk, and warm water with lemon and cayenne.
4. EAT WARM FOODS
If you’re feeling chilled, eat warm food that’s easy to digest like hot soups, sauteed or roasted veggies and stirfries. Avoid heavier foods, like dairy, nuts, and fats (it’s so hard to cut back on avocado). If your digestive fire is still going strong, and spring is near, feel free to start incorporating more raw veggies and salads in your diet.
5. GET OUTSIDE
This is tricky, especially if you’re like me and HATE being cold. I will do almost anything to avoid being cold! LOL. But when the sun is out, get your booty outside and get those sweet rays of Vitamin D on your skin. Feel the warmth of the sun on your cheeks… in moderation, of course, no sunburns! Enjoy a cup of coffee in the sunshine, go for a walk/hike, or take a few moments to stretch it out.
6. CAN’T TAKE THE COLD AND WET OF KAPHA SEASON? TRAVEL SOMEWHERE WARM
If you have the means, take a few days, a weekend, a week, or a month and go somewhere warm! Seriously, it doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Take a weekend in Santa Barbara, Palm Springs (there are tons of hot spring resorts here) or Sedona. Take a long weekend and go to Mexico. Have more time? Head further south… Nicaragua has amazing beaches, jungles, and islands… and it’s freakin cheap, same with Thailand. Just do it. You’re worth it. It will give you something to look forward to and will maybe even motivate you to keep moving your body throughout the winter.
There are so many ways that we can practice self-care and I know that the ones I’m about to mention aren’t that exciting, but they’re easy to include in your daily (or weekly) routine and have big results.
Give dry brushing a try… it helps improve circulation and you’re exfoliating your beautiful skin. It’s a win-win. You can find dry brushes at most health food stores. I’m on the road and I don’t have space for a dry brush, so I use a shower loofah that has a loofah scrubber on one side and the mesh side for soapy tasks… it works double duty for me. You can also find dry brushing gloves. Just a few minutes before you hop in the shower is enough.
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE self-massage or abhyanga. Use a warming oil like sesame and set aside 15 minutes to give your body and nervous system a little TLC. Put an old towel down on the bathroom floor, strip down and give your entire body a massage. Use long strokes on your long bones and circles on your joints. This practice is super calming for the nervous system and such a beautiful way to practice self-love.
Kapha’s tend to be more mucus-y and prone to colds/congestion, so tongue scraping is another practice I recommend for kaphas and especially during this cooler kapha season. With tongue scraping, you’ll scrape off all that extra gunk that’s hanging out on your tongue. I use a copper one that I found for a steal on Amazon.
Hey beautiful yogis! I’m so ridiculously excited to announce that my book The Little Book of Mudra Meditations: 30 hand Gestures for Healing is finally available for presale on Amazon. It still feels surreal to have a book available for sale on Amazon. It’s still sinking in.
This book was written for you. The writing is honest and real, without too much “woo”. It’s meant for anyone seeking more wellness in their life, not just yoga teachers and yogis. That being said, yoga teachers will love having the mudras and meditations already paired… it makes prep time for class, so much faster!
Nowadays I always practice meditation with a hand mudra, I just can’t imagine it any other way. The mudra meditations in this book are actual meditation practices that I practice and teach.
I would love to share an excerpt from the book and one of my favorite mudras with you. Sukham Mudra is so good for stress relief. If you’re like me and juggling multiple projects and trying to maintain a healthy, easeful, joyful life… give this mudra a try!
“In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Patanjali says, “Sthira-sukham asanam,” or “Our seat should be both steady and easeful.” This sutra, however, applies not only to our meditation practice, but also life as a whole. For many of us, we’re overscheduled, overtasked, overstimulated, exhausted, burned out, stressed out, and no longer connected to the cycles and rhythms of nature.
Sukham is all about creating ease, happiness, harmony, flow, and joy. It’s about creating time to slow down and get present with our essence, with our truth.”
Take this mudra outdoors, sit and breathe and be still. With each cycle of breath allow your body to soften and release the tension, stress, and worry of the day.
If you would like to learn more about mudras, you can snag your copy on Amazon now. It’s available for presale! If you bring it on retreat or to a teacher training, I’ll even sign it for you! 😉