Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Anger and Large-Heartedness in COVID-19 Times: Michelle Cassandra Johnson and Amber Karnes

Michelle Cassandra Johnson
A few weeks ago, Michelle Cassandra Johnson, yoga teacher and social justice activist, and Amber Karnes, Founder of Body Positive Yoga, discussed some important topics that haven't received much media attention lately. The two yoginis talked about collective care and, in particular, anger and large-heartedness in these times. Here is a transcription of a small part of the discussion.

Amber Karnes
Michelle: We're in an urgent time right now, although things have always been urgent. Culture elevates some people and oppresses others. Yoga and spiritual practice is about mindfulness and how we're behaving and thinking, how we might want to change the way we're thinking and acting, and how we might want to shift how we're in relationship with others.

My practice has given me an awareness of others and the impact my actions have on others, and I feel like it is urgent. We know the inequities that were in place before (the COVID-19 outbreak) are just being illuminated more, highlighted based on services, and current narratives about people, such as who deserves to be well and cared for. There are serious concerns, and I want us to be mindful as we respond to the urgency right now—who gets treatment, who doesn't. And I want to be mindful of how we react.

So how do we engage our spiritual practice at this time? This practice of being present to what is while holding on to what ought to be, while being mindful of urgent concerns, while trying to stay centered and grounded, is not easy. I feel we need to engage in it—although it doesn't feel easy all the time—but recognize that this is the practice.

The question I've been sitting with is: how to be a dutiful warrior? The Bhagavad Gita is all about that. How do we show up for our dharma, our duty, our path, our work? And what does it mean to be large-hearted at this time? When Arjuna is expressing boldness and stamina and strength, he is also moving from a place of large-heartedness.

Amber: How do we lead from the heart? My default emotion is anger, especially when it comes to injustice and greed. As you said, none of this is new; it's just being illuminated and so much more in our face.

I know for me when that experience of anger pertains to injustice, corruption, or greed, it feels so big that I sometimes forget that what I'm feeling is connected to the fact that I love. I want everyone to have equity, to be safe, and have their needs met.

I'd love to have you talk about how you stay connected because you've done this work for a very long time and have the experience of being a person of color in America. I'm sure there's so much anger all of time—how do you stay connected to that large-heartedness? Especially since our drive to make this world a better place comes from that place of love.

Michelle: How to keep an open heart and move from the heart when such horrific things are happening? I also want to name ancestral trauma that's connected to that. It's not just my anger or grief but comes from generations of black people. We hold these things in our bodies. That's one reason why we show up for practice: to feel the body and to breathe to try to move some of that energy.

There are some people who know me from workshops who don't think I'm angry. But I am angry about what's going on, and that's why I do the work I do, and that's part of what drives the work. And part of the anger is passion for the work and the practice.

I've decided that I don't want the anger to consume me. As Amber mentioned, I'm a black woman. And dominant culture definitely wants to consume me, wants me not to be because of my blackness.

I want to see my emotions. I want to be with my anger but I work really hard to keep an open heart. But I have boundaries. It's not a heart that is open to everyone to be carved and fractured. But a heart that is mindful, devoted, connected, and aware of connection with other beings.

Anger is usually connected to grief. People are usually angry because they've lost someone, or something—they're witnessing loss happening. That’s what we're witnessing right now.

I feel like be with your emotions, be angry. See if you can access joy. And be with the discomfort. Try to be with all of them.

If the anger is going to consume you, like it is going to take over your experience, go to the breath, go to the practice, which will help you center and still be able to with the emotion that is there.

Amber: How are you setting boundaries for yourself around you whether that's interpersonal boundaries or consuming news.

Michelle: A few weeks ago I would wake up in my bed, reading the news! And I stopped doing that. I want to know what's going on and I'm hypervigilant, but I don't want to wake up to the news that way. I don't want to feel all the trauma of what's happening—I'm a highly sensitive person. Although I can feel it anyway, even though I'm not connecting with people the way I did before.

I put a limit on how much information I'm going to take in about the news on the virus, about the insults against Asian people which is horrific. It's always bad but it's highlighted for people who weren't aware of it.

Self-care is connected to this boundary setting. I want to prioritize my practice at this time to be grounded and so I can respond to what's going on. This time is so unsettling, so ungrounding, and very unpredictable. There has to be a practice of prioritizing whatever will allow us to stay in our bodies and stay grounded.

One practice that I use is to imagine something wrapped around me that is translucent so I can see what's going on but I don't actually have to take everything in. That's one practice that I use in moments when I feel I need to.

It's a way to come back into my body, energy, strength. I want to see what's going on, but I also want to protect my energy. As I said, I need to show up as a dutiful warrior and if my energy is low, I can't show up because I'm scattered or distracted. People can use whatever imagery works best for them, but that's what I do when I need to maintain my energy.

If you want to hear the entire discussion, you can listen to it here.

Michelle Cassandra Johnson is an author, yoga teacher, social justice activist, licensed clinical social worker, and Dismantling Racism trainer. She explores how privilege, power, and oppression affects the physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and energy body. Michelle is the creator of Skill in Action, a 200-hour teacher training program focused on the intersection of yoga and social justice.

Amber Karnes is the founder of Body Positive Yoga and a member of Accessible Yoga's Board of Directors.

This post was edited by Patrice Priya Wagner, Managing Editor of Accessible Yoga blog and member of the Board of Directors.

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Monday, April 27, 2020

Ask the Yoga Doctor: How Yoga Philosophy Can Help

What's the best way to get through difficult experiences? In this new video, Dr. Timothy McCall says that yoga philosophy offers clues.

If you want to submit a question to Timothy, email it to

Timothy McCall, MD is a board-certified internist, Yoga Journal's medical editor since 2002 and the author of the Amazon #1 bestseller Yoga as Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing. He practiced medicine in the Boston area for a dozen years before devoting himself full-time in the late 1990s to yoga therapy. He has studied with many of the world's leading yoga teachers, including BKS Iyengar and TKV Desikachar. In 2005, Timothy began his studies with a traditional Ayurvedic doctor, Chandukutty Vaidyar, and spent more than a year at his clinic in Kerala, India. His latest book is Saving My Neck: A Doctor’s East/West Journey through Cancer. For more information see

This post was edited by Nina Zolotow, Editor in Chief of the Accessible Yoga blog.

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Saturday, April 25, 2020

En Español: Ocho efectivos consejos para que tu práctica personal de verdad funcione

Por Sarit Z Rogers
Por Barrie Risman, traducción al español de Alma Durán

Durante el trabajo de investigación que realizé hace algunos años para mi libro Evolving Your Yoga: Ten Principles for Enlightened Practice (Desarrollando tu yoga: diez principios para una práctica inteligente), entrevisté a 25 maestros de larga trayectoria sobre cómo su práctica ha evolucionado y se ha hecho mas profunda a través del tiempo. Aunque los detalles difieren, todos están de acuerdo en un punto: si deseas adentrarte en el yoga la práctica independiente –lo que tu haces por tu cuenta, fuera de las horas de clase- es esencial, especialmente si tu intención es que el yoga sea parte de tu camino en el proceso de auto-desarrollo, auto-crecimiento y auto-descubrimiento.

Esto significa que además de participar en clases, talleres y entrenamientos, ya sea en línea o en persona, pre-grabados o en vivo, también necesitamos pasar tiempo practicando a solas en nuestro tapete, sin un maestro externo, auto-dirigiendo nuestra práctica.

Solamente en la práctica auto-guiada –aquello que hacemos cuando nadie nos dice lo que debemos de hacer– experimentamos lo que es el contar solo con nosotr@s mism@s; esto permite que la exploración del yoga se transforme en una danza de participación íntima y poderosa con nuestros cuerpo, mente y corazón.

Comparto aquí algunas sugerencias que, en base a mi experiencia, ayudan a que puedas disfrutar de una práctica personal consistente y satisfactoria: 

1. Planea. El primer paso está en tomar la acción –aparentemente tan ordinaria– de comprometerte a practicar un cierto día a una hora específica. Agenda tus tiempos de práctica, márcalos en tu calendario y acátalos, tal como respetarías cualquier otra cita profesional o para almorzar con un amigo. Asegúrate de contar con una forma de recordatorio en que puedas confiar, como una alerta en tu teléfono, alguna nota en tu escritorio, o quizá un mensaje de texto programado. ¡Se trata de que te ayuden a acordarte de que tienes una cita sagrada contigo mism@ y con tu tapete o tu cojín de meditación!

2. Modestos inicios. Prepárate para el éxito al empezar con un plan muy realista y con el cual de seguro puedas cumplir a pesar de lo ocupad@ que estás a diario. Recuerda que siempre puedes hacer más, o algo menos, a último momento si es que así lo decides. Inicia, sin embargo, con algo que sea accesible: ¡15 minutos son mejor que nada!

3. Ten tus soportes o props de yoga a la mano y visibles. Si sacas tu tapete de yoga del rincón del closet, es más probable que lo uses.

4. Practica tan temprano como te sea posible. El hacer tu práctica temprano por la mañana, es confirmar que le das importancia a cuidar de tí mism@ antes de que surjan otras cosas que te distraigan. También te permite disfrutar de los beneficios de tu práctica durante todo el día.

5. Dáte la bienvenida a tu práctica con la mas amplia sensación de auto-aceptación. Permítete estar tal y como estés. Tómate un momento para sentarte con calma antes de iniciar, o mientras acomodas tu tapete, para de forma consciente valorar el hecho de que estás iniciando tu práctica. 

Date la bienvenida, como estés en el momento, al inicio del tiempo que dedicas a ti mism@. No des espacio al crítico interno, ni al juicio cruel. Si estos invitados no deseados aparecieran, obsérvalos y luego déjalos ir con tu exhalación, regresando de inmediato al sentimiento de aceptación que has estado cultivando y a la intención de permitir que todo fluya.

6. Empieza con algo que te encante y que le guste a tu cuerpo. Podría ser algo tan simple como acostarte de espaldas y llevar las rodillas hacia el pecho rodando un poco en diferentes direcciones. Quizá te apetece estirar las piernas hacia el cielo y dejarlas descansar contra una pared por algunos minutos. O a lo mejor te vendría bien hacer círculos con tus hombros y tus muñecas. Cualquier movimiento o postura que recuerdes o que disfrutes es muy buena forma de empezar.

7. Observa los efectos de tu práctica. Ten a la mano un cuaderno en el que puedas hacer notas al final de tu sesión privada y tómate unos minutos para anotar cómo te sientes, o aquello que hayas notado, o las preguntas que hayan surgido. También podrías simplemente registrar los efectos de tu práctica de forma interna cuando finalices. El expresar tus experiencias en torno al yoga te ayuda a reconocer, procesar y cultivar los beneficios de tu práctica independiente.

8. Felicítate por asistir. Sin importar cómo haya estado tu práctica, aún y cuando creas está por debajo de tus expectativas, te invito a que cultives una sensación de gratitud por el simple hecho de que la realizaste. Algunas formas sencillas de expresar este sentimiento al finalizar tu sesión serían, por ejemplo, el unir las palmas de tus manos frente a tu esternón e inclinar tu cabeza hacia el corazón, o bien el disfrutar por algunos minutos de tu respiración consciente y de la conexión que has logrado contigo mism@. El valorar internamente tus esfuerzos y expresar este aprecio internamente te motivarán a continuar con tu práctica.

Barrie Risman es la exitosa autora del bestseller Evolving Your Yoga: Ten Principles for Enlightened Practice y creadora, además de The Skillful Yogi, una comunidad en línea que reúne maestr@s y dedicad@s estudiantes en todo el mundo. Si lo deseas, puedes descargar de manera gratuita la Home Yoga Practice Guide, un documento de 52 paginas en inglés que Barrie ha escrito para asistirte

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° Aquí puedes hacer una DONACIÓN. Ayúdanos a compartir la práctica del yoga con aquell@s que han sido excluid@s o marginad@s de la misma, tales como personas con capacidades diferentes, retos físicos, enfermedades crónicas, y aquell@s que no se sientan bienvenid@s en una clase de yoga regular. 

Friday, April 24, 2020

My Journey to Post-Lineage Yoga

Travelers on a Mountain Path at Night by Hiroshige
by Nina Zolotow

Accessible Yoga is a post-lineage yoga community. There is no guru here. And the members of the community were all trained in different yoga schools and traditions. While many of us continue to have yoga teachers, we also learn from each other as colleagues and friends. While we are all committed to making yoga accessible to all, we also understand there is no one yoga that fits all.

Yoga teacher and scholar Theodora Wildcroft came up with the term “post-lineage yoga.” In her article Post-Lineage Yoga & Dandelions, she defined it this way:

“Post-lineage yoga describes a shift that many yoga teachers and practitioners go through—they might start out only learning from one teacher, and never questioning their authority. But at some point, many look beyond the lineage teachings to expand their understanding of how yoga works in practice. They might or might not maintain a strong respect for their original teachers, but they might read books from other lineages, or be fascinated by the latest neuroscience research, or share a practice with peers or go to workshops with other teachers.

“Post-lineage yoga is incompatible with any doctrinal view that claims that only one way of practicing can ever be valid and that methods should not be mixed between schools.”

I don’t know about you, but that describes my experience almost exactly! But it has been a long journey for me, from my first yoga class in the 1980s to where I am now. I thought today I could describe my journey as a way of exploring why post-lineage yoga is so important for the future of yoga. For another and very different personal story of a journey to post-lineage yoga, see Jivana Heyman’s post Reflecting on My Teacher Swami Satchidananda.

Falling into Yoga. I started doing yoga in the mid-1980s completely by accident. At the small software company where I was then working as a technical writer, some of us decided we should have an in-house exercise class, and one of the programmers suggested that his wife could teach it. So, we decided to give her a go, and the class she taught turned out to be a yoga class! I liked it immediately because it just felt like the right thing for my body to be doing.

It turned out that the teacher, Rylin, who I came to love, was teaching us Iyengar-style yoga. And because I found that style such a good fit for me, I decided to stick with Iyengar-style yoga after I moved away from the area and could no longer study with her. Over the years, I took yoga classes from several other Iyengar-style teachers, and I gradually learned that many of them, even those who had studied with Iyengar himself, were no longer part of the official Iyengar system. There were a number of reasons for this: they didn’t feel comfortable with B.K.S. Iyengar now being called a “guru,” they felt there were now too many rules and restrictions in the system, they felt uncomfortable with the harsh way Iyengar and some Iyengar teachers treated their students, and they didn’t like the official response to a prominent teacher who was credibly accused of sexually abusing students.

No Yoga Lineage. So, as a student, I was never actually part of any official lineage. And when I ultimately decided to do a teacher training, I chose a program at the Berkeley Yoga Room, which was run by teachers who had once studied with Iyengar himself but who had since parted ways with him.

I sometimes felt uncomfortable not being part of a lineage—it was as if I was somehow “less than” people who were fully committed to a certain teacher and a certain yoga path—but I agreed with my teachers’ reasons for parting ways with Iyengar. And I also never found any other lineage that I wanted to commit to instead. Over the years, as I looked into the various yoga traditions, it turned out there was a problem with sexual abuse in virtually all the lineages, teachers made claims about poses, practices, and even yoga texts being ancient that turned out not to be true, there were health claims made for poses and practices that were just not believable, and many of the founders of these yoga schools were being treated as “gurus,” as if they were enlightened beings.

Kitchoree Yoga. After training to be a yoga teacher, I wanted to learn more about yoga history and yoga philosophy. So, I began to read and study on my own (and with a friend), something I’ve continued to do ever since. I learned about the incredibly wide variety of types of yoga that were practiced throughout Indian history, which helped me understand that there wasn’t just one way to practice or even think about yoga. And I also learned about how Modern Postural Yoga—the kind yoga most of us do now in the West—came to be, with most of it being invented during the early 20th century. When I realized that most of the yoga poses I had been practicing weren’t actually ancient at all and that some were based on Chinese acrobatics and British gymnastics, I began to venture into customizing my yoga, mixing in Viniyoga poses with my Iyengar poses, for example, and incorporating practices and ideas that I picked up from a wide range of teachers. I also started learning about how yoga related to neuroscience, human evolution, and psychology and added all that to the mix of how I thought about and practiced yoga. I did feel a bit uneasy about this, though. I wondered, was I some kind of yoga dilettante?

But eventually when I was reading The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Edwin Byrant, a comment he wrote about how yoga was like a “kitchoree” (an Indian dish that is a combination of rice legumes, various vegetables and spices all blended together) made me feel relieved. He said that mixing yoga from different traditions into one kitchoree was not only something that generally was happening in Modern Postural Yoga, but it also occurred in premodern India as well. Here’s how Bryant described it:

“Thus one finds a generic sort of yoga as presented here in the bits and pieces of Patanjali-type practices as presented here in the sutras but articulated with neo-advaita-vendanta/Brahman terminologies and flavored with elements from tantric subtle physiology, all blended together as if representing a single coherent homogenous tradition. This is understandable—and with plenty of antecedents in premodern Indic traditions themselves one might add (indeed it can be argued that such blending is the very nature of religious traditions)—and perhaps inevitable in the modern West.”

Many Yoga Paths. Although I felt relieved about practicing my own form of yoga I did continue to wonder where I was going with my practice. When I studied the Yoga Sutras in depth, I realized clearly that the end goal of the eight-fold path, which is to abide in perfect aloneness (kaivalya), was not even a goal I wanted to achieve. Following the eight-fold path meant I would have to become a renunciate because even being attached to people you love, including your family, interferes with your ability to achieve samadhi, the state of consciousness needed to achieve liberation. And the path itself—with its intended goal of liberation from everyday life as we know it—is really quite arduous and severe as I would eventually have to let go of all connection to external reality.

So, I looked into other yoga paths. In the end, I decided I most liked the path of Karma Yoga in the first half in the Bhagavad Gita. However, it turned out that some scholars says that the path in the second half, Bhakti Yoga (adoration of Krishna), was actually the final stage of a single yoga path described by the Gita. I definitely wasn’t on board for the adoring Krishna part of the path; after all, I’m not a Hindu or even religious at all. Then, I had an epiphanette (a tiny epiphany): I could just take the path part way up the mountain if that was what I wanted. In other words, I could just do yoga practices to make my life better and not even aim for total “enlightenment” or the final stage of any path at all.

Recently, as I felt validated in this approach when I read Robert Wright’s book Why Buddhism is True. His is a very pragmatic approach to Buddhism, in which he, too, is using the practice to make his life better rather that aiming for the type of enlightenment the Buddha was teaching his followers to aim for.

“The object of the game isn’t to reach Liberation and Enlightenment—with a capital L and E—on some distant day, but rather to become a bit more liberated and a bit more enlightened on a not-so-distant day. Like today! Or, failing that, tomorrow. Or the next day. Or whenever. The main thing is to make net progress over time, inevitable backsliding notwithstanding.”

Although that quote is about Buddhism, it’s obvious to me that applies to any type of yoga as well.

Post-Lineage Yoga. So that’s how my yoga practice and the way I think about yoga have changed over these many years. I learn from my latest teacher but also from my colleagues and friends. And I change my own practice to incorporate the new practices I learn and those concepts I’ve reached new levels of understanding about. As a writer, I communicate these evolving ideas about yoga with a wide range of people, sometimes as a teacher but mostly as a person who just likes to share what’s helped her recently or what she’s currently thinking about. This following advice from Georg Feuerstein is something I always take to heart, and as we move toward a future where I hope post-lineage yoga will play a big part, I hope you will, too.

“In our struggle for self-understanding and psycho-spiritual growth, we can benefit immensely from a liberal exposure to India’s spiritual legacy. We need not, of course, become converts to any path, or accept yogic ideas and practices without questioning. C.G. Jung’s warning that we should not attempt to transplant Eastern teachings into the West rings true at a certain level; mere imitation definitely does more harm than good. The reason is that if we adopt ideas and lifestyles without truly assimilating them emotionally and intellectually, we run the risk of living inauthentic lives.”

This post was edited by Patrice Priya Wagner, Managing Editor of Accessible Yoga blog and member of the Board of Directors.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Core Qualities of Yoga, Part 10: Resilience

This post is part of a series that explores a variety of core qualities and suggested practices to consider for inclusion in your classes and private sessions (whether on a mat, in a chair, or a combination of both).

by Beth Gibbs

“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” — Lena Horne

Feeling COVerwhelmed? Suffering from CORONAphobia? If so, you have lots of company. Elana Amsterdam, cookbook author and lifestyle blogger, coined these helpful words to describe what many of us are feeling right now.

It is disheartening to hear about the growing number of Covid-19 cases and deaths. It is scary and stressful to think about what might happen to our loved ones and to us. How to cope? Building resilience will help us carry this load. Embodying resilience is one way to manage anxiety, reduce stress, and get clear about what we can do to get through this global pandemic.

Resilience is the ability to rebound quickly from a crisis, tragedy, trauma, or a serious case of ‘stress mess.’ In this current crisis, highly resilient people won’t fall apart easily and when we do ('cause we will!), it won’t be for long. Why? As yogis, we’ll call on our inner resources and ask for outside help when it’s needed. We’ll ‘tweak’ our expectations to fit the new reality of physical distancing, over-the-top personal hygiene, and wearing face coverings or masks (if we can find them!).

A major obstacle to being resilient at this time, is fear. In the yoga tradition, fear (abhinivesha) is the fifth klesha; kleshas are the obstacles to self-awareness and Self-realization. I. K. Taimni, in The Science of Yoga defines abhinivesha as “Desire for life or will-to-live.”

In the West, fear is generally defined as an uncomfortable feeling resulting from something we recognize or perceive as an immediate danger or threat. Fear shows up in many forms: anxiety, alarm, panic, insecurity, uncertainty, etc. In terms of the fight/flight response to stress, fear is the flight response—pushing us to get physically or emotionally as far away from the situation as possible. In this global crisis, the only place we can go is home.

There we stay and do our part to flatten the curve of the pandemic, avoid infecting others, and lessen the pressure on our local hospitals and health care systems. We count on our yoga practice to support us as we ride out the storm, find ways to run our business and help our students and clients build their resilience through the practice of yoga.

Not surprisingly, research has found that resiliency varies from person to person due to a variety of factors, including genetics, but like any skill, resiliency can be learned. Resilient people tend to share several common characteristics. I reviewed lists from Psychology Today and a second source and selected six characteristics that relate closely to the goals of yoga.

Resilient People
  • Know how to handle their emotions
  • Keep calm in stressful situations
  • Are empathetic
  • Cultivate self-awareness
  • Practice acceptance
  • Practice self-care

The difference between those who are more resilient and those who are less may be in how self-aware the person is and how they put resilience into action. It’s recommended that we build our capacity for resilience before we face difficulty. If we have a consistent yoga practice, we’ve been building resilience right along with flexibility, self-awareness, and peace of mind.

However, it’s important to know that even if you are highly resilient, you can still have moments of falling apart. That’s when your will power plummets, your body slumps, your breath becomes shallow, and your mind moves from optimism to mucking around in your personal well of despair. If you are resilient, you will recognize this, call on your Witness, figure out the 'what' and the 'why,' and take right action. Remember, when resilient people fall apart, it won’t be for long and yoga can help us put ourselves back together.

This happened to me around week three of being home with everything cancelled and the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths in my state growing daily. I was aware of the 'what' and the 'why,' knew I needed a huge dose of right action, but felt stuck. My Witness was watching and shaking its head at my reluctance to follow its lead. Sometimes, the nudge we need comes from an external source. The next morning, when I dragged myself from bed and opened my email, I saw a message from the owner of the yoga studio where I teach (or taught until it closed for the lockdown). It contained this advice:

Routine is medicine
Movement is medicine
Sleep is medicine
Breath is medicine
Consistency is medicine
Laughter is medicine
Storytelling is medicine

That was the nudge I needed and it was right on time! I picked three items from the list (routine, movement, and breath) and got to work. An hour later, my mood shifted and my resiliency re-surfaced.

Here is a helpful practice for routine, movement, and breath.

The Half Sun Salutation

I like this sequence because it can be done standing or seated. As a yoga routine, it stretches the whole body and involves awareness of both breath and movement.

Mountain Pose: 
Stand or sit with your feet hip width apart and your spine comfortably straight. Relax your arms by your sides.

Upward Salute: 
Inhale and raise both arms overhead.

Half Moon: 
Exhale and bend to the right. Inhale to center and repeat on the left side. Inhale to center.

Standing/Seated Back Arch: 
Place your hands on your lower back, fingers pointing down. Inhale, lift your chest, soften your shoulders and arch your back. Keep the head up or drop it back as long as your neck is comfortable. If standing, bend your knees a little. Hold for a few breaths. Come up on an inhalation.

Forward Fold: 
Inhale. Raise both arms overhead. Exhale and come into your Forward Fold. If seated step your feet wide and fold forward as far as you can. Place your elbows on your knees or relax forward and place your hands on the floor. If standing, soften your knees, fold forward, and place your hands on thighs, knees, lower legs, ankles, or the floor.

Standing Twists (Rishi’s Posture):
Hold your Forward Fold and breathe slowly. With your left hand on your left foot, knee, or thigh. Inhale and lift your right arm out to the side and overhead as you twist your upper body to the right. Exhale and lower your right arm. Repeat on the left side.

Upward Salute: 
Inhale and raise both arms overhead.

Mountain Pose: 
Exhale, lower your arms to your sides. Rest for a few breaths.

Note this quote: “Resilience is very different than being numb. Resilience means you experience, you feel, you fail, you hurt. You fall. But, you keep going.” ― Yasmin Mogahed

 Elizabeth (Beth) Gibbs, MA, C-IAYT, is a certified yoga therapist through the International Association of Yoga Therapists and is a guest faculty member of the Kripalu School of Integrative Yoga Therapy. Her masters’ degree in Yoga Therapy and Mind/Body Health is from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. She is the author of Ogi Bogi, The Elephant Yogi, a therapeutic yoga book for children. For more information please visit her website at:

This post was edited by Patrice Priya Wagner, Managing Editor of Accessible Yoga blog and member of the Board of Directors.

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Monday, April 20, 2020

Home Practice Club: Loving-Kindness Hand Washing

Lotus by Sarit Z Rogers
by Nina Zolotow

Today I wanted to share with you a lovely idea I learned about through social media. As you all know by now, one of the common-sense steps being recommended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus is to wash your hands, frequently, for 20 to 30 seconds. Typically, the experts tell us that to help us time our hand washing, we should sing a short song, such as Happy Birthday. But the alternative suggestion for timing hand washing that I learned about, which is to use the Loving-Kindness meditation, appeals to me much more. After all, when you take this common-sense step to prevent yourself from catching the virus, you’re also helping to protect the vulnerable in your community, including:

  • People with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, kidney diseases, and compromised immune systems.
  • People with disabilities that make it harder for them than others to take steps to protect themselves.
  • The elderly.
  • People who have no health insurance and cannot afford good medical care.
  • People living in poverty, without access to healthy food, good hygiene, and/or shelter.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Loving-Kindness meditation, you can focus on a particular individual, either someone you’re concerned about, someone you don’t even know, or even someone you have a difficult relationship with or who has hurt you. Or, you can focus on “all beings” in general. Repeating it twice while soaping your hands and once while rinsing will result in a good, long hand wash.

To focus on an individual, say silently to yourself:

May you be safe.
May you be healthy.
May you be happy.
May you live with ease.

To focus on all beings, say silently to yourself:

May all beings be safe.
May all beings be healthy.
May all beings be happy.
May all beings live with ease.

Thanks so much,


This post was edited by Patrice Priya Wagner, Managing Editor of Accessible Yoga blog and member of the Board of Directors.

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Saturday, April 18, 2020

En Español: Enseñando yoga en tiempos de la pandemia

Cloud Study por John Constable
Por Jivana Heyman, traducción al español de Alma Durán

Ya me tocó vivir una pandemia—en los años 90s el SIDA mató a muchos de mis amigos y a buena parte de mi comunidad. De hecho, aún en nuestros días el VIH es una de las diez causas principales de muerte en el mundo, así que no podemos considerar que esa etapa se ha cerrado. Si hay algo que aprendí durante la epidemia del SIDA es que la gente se negaba a usar condones. Ciertamente, ninguno de nosotros desea cambiar su estilo de vida, o hacer algo que signifique una reducción del placer o la diversión.

Algo de esa tendencia veo surgir de nuevo ahora, que nos enfrenamos al novedoso coronavirus. De la misma manera que ante el VIH, las comunidades marginalizadas serán afectadas más directamente por este virus. Estas incluyen personas sin recursos, quienes no cuentan con un seguro de salud, a aquellos cuyo sistema inmunológico se encuentra comprometido de por si, y a los ciudadanos de mayor edad. Es doloroso ver que algunos que gozan de una situación desahogada restan importancia a la necesidad de una respuesta activa e informada ante la crisis, ya que ello interferiría de alguna forma con su estilo de vida.

Nicole Cardoza, fundadora de Yoga Foster y Reclamation Ventures, publicó un informativo artículo sobre este tema en Medium. Ella explica que, "la industria del bienestar (wellness) es la de mayor crecimiento mundial, y conforme nos acercamos a la segunda mitad del 2020 la rutina de ejercicio mas nueva y popular es el lavado de manos de 20 segundos. En apenas unas semanas el coronavirus ha desbancado a la industria del bienestar, desencadenando una rápida reevaluación de nuestra relación entre “salud y bienestar”, y “privilegio y acceso”. Si bien el coronavirus en si no es responsable por la desigualdades que existen en materia de bienestar, si está exacerbando esas divergencias al reflejar las injusticias sociales que persisten es esa industria– y en la sociedad.

Ahora el reto es pensar en los otros, en vez de sólo en nuestras necesidades, lo cual –de hecho– es la definición del karma yoga. Podemos considerar nuestra forma de reaccionar a los desafíos del momento como una oportunidad de practicar yoga en acción, de actuar pensando en el beneficio de los demás. Pero esto es muy difícil para los maestr@s de yoga cuando lo que es mejor para los estudiantes está tan poco claro. 

El yoga es un gran auxiliar para lidiar mejor con el estrés, la ansiedad y el miedo que muchos de nosotros, y nuestros estudiantes, estamos experimentando. Pero el yoga no nos va a proteger contra el virus. El yoga nos puede ayudar a mantenernos más calmad@s, y esto es esencial en este momento cuando el pánico reina a nivel mundial. Pero también debemos tomar responsabilidad por la salud y el bienestar de nuestros estudiantes en formas bastante prácticas.

Las noticias provenientes de China e Italia dejan muy claro que no basta con extremar medidas de higiene, y que el distanciamiento social es necesario para desacelerar la propagación del virus. De acuerdo con el CDC (Centro para el Control y Prevención de Enfermedades de Estados Unidos), “el distanciamiento social significa evitar aglomeraciones, evadir reuniones grupales, y mantener una distancia mínima de unos dos metros con otras personas si es posible.“ El reto que enfrentamos l@s maestr@s de yoga es que somos trabajador@s independientes y no contamos con recursos que nos permitan reducir nuestro numero de clases o cancelarlas. Pero eso es lo que estamos siendo llamados a hacer.

En un anuncio reciente, el Yoga Alliance sugirió que todas las formas de instrucción en persona deben ser canceladas para ayudar a prevenir la difusión del virus. “Yoga Alliance recomienda enérgicamente, para aquellas comunidades donde la distancia social es conducta requerida o norma comunal, que toda la instrucción en persona sea cancelada hasta que las medidas de distanciamiento social hayan sido levantadas, a cuyo tiempo evaluaremos si es seguro resumir la oferta de prácticas regulares o bien modificarlas.” Pueden consultar la página de información de Yoga Alliance en relación con el coronavirus

L@s maestr@s de Yoga Accesible normalmente trabajamos con poblaciones que son susceptibles de adquirir el virus, por lo que tenemos mayores responsabilidades y nos enfrentamos a la necesidad de tomar una serie de decisiones duras. Claramente cancelar clases es la manera de proceder, pero nuestr@s estudiantes podrían estar con ello expuestos a un aislamiento social aún mayor, lo cual puede repercutir seriamente en su condición médica. La otra opción es ofrecer las clases en línea, a lo cual muchos de nosotros nos orientamos rápidamente. Sin embargo, esto es un reto para los colegas que no cuentan con la tecnología que implica enseñar por internet, o para los estudiantes que no pueden acceder a clases en línea.

Amber Karnes y un grupo de voluntarios de Accessible Yoga han organizado una serie de fuentes de información para maestr@s relacionadas con el coronavirus: el COVID-19 Resource Guide for Yoga Teachers incluye las prácticas más adecuadas para enseñar en línea al igual que otros recursos que pueden ser útiles en este momento.

Amber y yo somos anfitriones en las conversaciones en Facebook Live que todos los días ofrecemos en nuestra página grupal Accessible Yoga Community. En ellas conversamos con lideres comunitarios y maestr@s sobre cómo responder a esta crisis. Este blog también ofrece una multitud de recursos para aquellos que quieren practicar yoga en casa, o que desean invertir parte de su tiempo estudiando nuevos aspectos del yoga; éstos están disponibles tanto para instructor@s como para practicantes.

Aún y cuando las redes sociales nos ocasionan a veces una sensación de separación, éstas ofrecen también el potencial de permitir que nos sintamos más conectados con otros. A lo mejor podemos aprovechar esta oportunidad para pensar sobre cómo podemos valernos de las redes sociales para construir conexiones y comunidades, usando estas plataformas para interacciones saludables y para apoyarnos mutuamente.

Esta nueva actitud podría iniciarse simplemente al reflexionar antes de responder a una publicación, o podría reflejarse en publicar preguntas que inviten a una discusión constructiva y educativa. También implica el ser cuidados@ y no difundir información falsa sobre el virus. Si no reconoces la fuente que la información, no la compartas, o investiga más para conocer el origen de los datos. Todos los artículos que son publicados en Facebook cuentan con un pequeño “I” icono en la esquina inferior izquierda. Este te dará acceso a la información sobre al fuente del material. 

Me pregunto si, al final, el distanciamiento social nos puede llevar a acercarnos. ¿Será posible que un desastre unifique al mundo al hacernos enfrentar juntos un reto compartido, y que nos lleve a abrirnos e identificarnos con la experiencia común que estamos viviendo? Por ahora, cada un@ necesita reflexionar sobre cómo nos vamos a protegernos a nosotr@s mism@s, a nuestras familias, a nuestr@s estudiantes, y a nuestras comunidades en general.

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° Aquí puedes hacer una DONACIÓN. Ayúdanos a compartir la práctica del yoga con aquell@s que han sido excluid@s o marginad@s de la misma, tales como personas con capacidades diferentes, retos físicos, enfermedades crónicas, y aquell@s que no se sientan bienvenid@s en una clase de yoga regular. 

Friday, April 17, 2020

Achieving Deep Relaxation with Savasana

Water Lilies by Claude Monet
by Nina Zolotow

Although Savasana is the name of a yoga pose, it’s also the practice that you do while you’re in that pose. This Savasana practice is what turns a position that you take all the time in bed or on the grass under a blue sky into an experience of deep conscious relaxation. Without the practice, you’re just, you know, resting on the floor. (Of course, resting in a comfortable position is okay, too, if that’s what you’re after.)

For the Savasana practice, from beginning to end—as you set up in, rest in, and come out of Savasana—set an intention to stay present and perform all your actions with awareness and care. There are four basic stages to the practice:
  1. Aligning Your Body
  2. Quieting Your Body
  3. Quieting Your Mind
  4. Staying Present
Here are some suggestions for how to practice the four different stages.

Stage 1: Aligning Your Body

After you choose the version of Savasana that you want to practice (see Eight Ways to Practice Savasana (Relaxation Pose) and have set up any props you need, you’re ready to carefully lie down and arrange your body—and that means every single part of you, including your arms, your legs, your torso, and even your head—in that pose. 

Once you’re in the basic pose, bring your attention to your legs and arms. Move your feet so they are eight to ten inches apart from each other. Then, move your arms away from your body so your hands are six to eight inches from your body, with your palms facing up. If there is anything on the floor that is now touching any part of your body, move it out of the way. The idea here is to reduce the stimulation to your body-mind that physical contact with objects or your own body parts creates. 

Next, make whatever subtle movements you need to, to make your position as symmetrical as possible. Check that your head is evenly between your two shoulders and is not turning to one side or the other, and that your eyes about equal distance from the ceiling. And if your weight feels uneven on the two sides of your body, shift around so it is as even as possible. 

After you’ve made all these adjustments, your alignment is close to “anatomical neutral,” the position your body is in when you are not activating any of your muscles. When you are in this neutral position, it’s possible to relax your body completely. And your complete lack of muscular activity, except for the muscles used in breathing, also helps quiet your mind.

Stage 2: Quieting Your Body

After you’ve finished making adjustments to your pose, you are now entirely supported by the surface on which you are lying. You no longer need to contract your muscles to hold yourself upright or partly upright, and you can simply release your body onto that support and allow your muscles to soften and melt. Because we’re so used to contracting our muscles—even when resting—it may take some time for you to let go completely. 

At this point, it’s time to make a commitment to remaining still for the rest of your time in the pose. Staying still helps reduce external stimulation, which tells your nervous system that you’re safe and starts to quiet your body as well as your mind. 

Finally, bring your awareness to your sense organs. Even after you still your body, there’s still a lot to hear, smell, taste, and feel, and you’ll continue to notice the light (or lack of it) in the room even with your eyes closed. And all these sensory impressions stimulate your brain. So, take a few moments to consciously relax your sense organs. Let your tongue rest on the floor of your mouth. Allow your eyes to soften back toward your skull and try gazing with your closed eyes under your cheekbones. Relax your ears, your nose, and your skin, consciously withdrawing your awareness from your senses of hearing, smell, and touch. 

Stage 3: Quieting Your Mind

After you have stilled your body and quieted your sense organs, you’re ready to turn your awareness inward. Rather than just letting your mind wander as you would if you were lying on the grass in a park, choose a focus for your mind that you’ll use throughout your time in the pose. Maintaining a mental focus helps you stay alert in the pose, allowing you to reap the benefits of conscious relaxation, rather than simply falling asleep. It also helps you stay present in the pose by anchoring you in the here and now, rather than ruminating over the past, anticipating the future, or drifting off into fantasy.

Here are some suggestions for a mental focus in Savasana:
  • The gradual relaxation of individual parts of your body (sometimes called a body scan), usually starting with your toes and working your way up your body.
  • Your breath, which you can observe as you do in seated meditation.
  • A mantra that you recite silently to yourself.
  • A peaceful image, such as a beautiful place in nature or place where you felt happy and at ease.
In this reclined meditation, practice concentrating the same way you do in a seated meditation. When you notice your attention wandering, without judgment, gently return your attention to your chosen focus. For example, if your breath is your focus for your practice, continue to watch your breath for the entire practice, and each time you notice your mind wandering, gently bring it back to your breath again.

As you continue your concentration practice, you’ll notice that even as your mind still wanders periodically your thoughts will gradually slow down and you’ll feel calmer and quieter. This is a result of the relaxation response, which is triggered by your concentration practice. With time, you may even reach a deeper state of relaxation, in which you may feel as if you’re floating, notice dreamy images flitting through your mind, or completely let go of your connection with external reality. 

Stage 4: Staying Present Throughout

I suggest you stay for at least 10 minutes in Savasana because it takes 7 or 8 minutes to trigger the relaxation response, which is when your nervous system fully calms down and enters you into the rest and digest state. Of course, you can stay even longer if you like. 

After your time in the pose is up, you should be feeling very quiet and relaxed. To maintain that feeling of peace, stay present and aware as you come out of the pose, which should be a slow process. You can start by opening your eyes just a crack, keeping your vision passive as you let the light in the room fall into your eyes. Then ease back into movement by slowly wiggling your fingers and toes and then maybe stretching your limbs a bit. 

When you are ready to come out, again, focus on moving slowly, because quick movements are stimulating. So slowly bend your knees and place the soles of your feet on the ground or on the prop you’re using for your legs. Then, slowly turn over onto your right side and rest there for a couple of breaths. When you’re ready to come to a seated position, rather than leading with your head, use your hands to slowly push yourself up to a seated position, allowing your head to release downward until you are completely upright. Finally, when you are seated upright, slowly lift your head.

This post was edited by Patrice Priya Wagner, Managing Editor of Accessible Yoga blog and member of the Board of Directors.

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Thursday, April 16, 2020

Check Out Accessible Yoga Blog's New Features!

by Priya Wagner

We’re excited to announce that we’ve added three new features to the blog. We’re trying our best to provide you with helpful information during this challenging time, and we hope you’ll find these features useful. Briefly, they are:

1. Resources for Teachers.

A blog page was created that offers pandemic-specific information that we are collecting for you. It also includes excerpts from the Resource Guide, which originated in Accessible Yoga's Community Page on Facebook and was edited by a group of Ambassadors to ensure the integrity of the information. You can find the Resources for Teachers page here.

2. Home Practice Club.

Since the majority of us are currently forced to remain at home, the blog is providing a multitude of posts about home practice and providing links to them on a special page called the Home Practice Club. You can find the Home Practice Club here.

By the way, if you contribute a post or video for the Home Practice Club, you can request a donation to yourself (via PayPal, Venmo, or other app) to help make ends meet while most studios have been forced to shut their doors temporarily. For further information about this, contact Nina Zolotow at

3. Spanish Translations.

Many of the articles posted in the blog are now being translated into Spanish! This is an ongoing process with the hope that many of our current and past posts will be available in both English and Spanish. A new page called En Español has been created on our blog that provides links to all the Spanish articles. We will be adding to this list every time a new translation appears. You can find the En Español page here.

This post was edited by Nina Zolotow, Editor in Chief of the Accessible Yoga blog and co-author of Yoga for Healthy Aging: A Guide to Lifelong Well-Being.

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