Current Status: Chill


Sometimes you think you’ve slowed down and the Universe backhands you and says: YOU THINK THIS IS CHILL?

My body has shown up in a big way, forcing me to step back.

Translation: STOP.

Doctor orders: No core engagement or stretching unless I want to end up in emergency surgery.

I don’t want to get into the details, but share because my classes are going to look a bit different until surgery and rehab are complete.

Not for you, but for me.

Being still is hard AF. It’s a constant practice of patience and presence I’ve never known before.

It’s time to get creative.


What I learned leading a yoga retreat.

As soon as I finished my RYT 200 I knew I wanted to lead a yoga retreat. Preferably on the Greek island of Corfu after I had an epic 30th birthday adventure. I mean, a paid vacation seems like a no-brainer, right? Fast forward a few years, and I discovered a few things while leading my first yoga retreat in Paamul, Mexico last month:

  1. Leading a yoga retreat is not exactly a paid vacation. Theoretically, on a vacation you aren’t working. To lead a yoga retreat, you will work. Hard. Before announcing the retreat, you’re dealing with logistics. Who, what, when, where, how long, how much? After announcing the retreat, you’re hustling with word of mouth advertising, paid advertising, flyers, and endless plugs online. Not to mention, you’re planning classes, themes, etc. Once you’re there, you’re leading, you’re mingling, you’re assisting in any issues or problems that may arise. You are always on call. There really isn’t that much downtime.
  2. Be clear about what the retreat entails. Is the yoga practice going to be for yogis of all levels? Is it for more advanced practitioners with emphasis on inversions, etc? A more physically demanding vinyasa practice, or more relaxing with yin and restorative? Will you be staying at an all inclusive luxury resort and spa, or a charming jungle beachfront home? Camping among the redwoods, or sleeping in a cabin? These details are important! I love the outdoors, but tent life is not for me. I want a hot, indoor shower after my 5 mile hike. Make sure your guests know what they’re signing up for.
  3. Arrive earlier than your guests. Get to the venue early enough that you have time to do a run through. Check guest rooms to ensure cleanliness and to make sure they have all the things they need (towels, toilet paper, soap, shampoo, gift bags, etc.).
  4. Hire a private chef. This was by far the most successful part of the retreat. Delicious menus designed to meet each guest’s individual dietary needs. Everyone was happy with every single meal. Chef Shawn was by far the most popular human at the entire retreat.
  5. You can’t please everyone. People attend yoga retreats for a myriad of reasons. Some people go for physical or emotional healing, some go to further their practice, to make new friends, to visit new places, or because their friend talked them into it. Everyone’s yoga journey is different. Everyone’s needs will be different. As a teacher, all you can do is bring your very best to the mat each practice. It’s their job to take what they need from it.
  6. Make a schedule. Stick to it. If you’ve ever experienced group travel, you know it feels very much like herding cats. In theory, having a “go with the flow” island mentality is great, but you won’t get anything accomplished. Including yoga. You’ll have those who want to sleep in, those who want to welcome the rising sun. If a yogi doesn’t want to wake up early, they miss morning practice. If they don’t make it to the van at 4:30pm, they miss the trip to the cenote. You are doing your part by making a schedule. It is their decision to show up.
  7. Sunrise practice is the best part of the day. Well rested yogis with sleepy eyes and open hearts, snuggled up in hoodies with hot coffee looking out at the ocean in complete awe of such perfect, natural beauty. That was by far my most favorite part of each day. Leading practice on the rooftop terrace with the sound of waves crashing against the shore and the ocean breeze dancing through our hair was a surreal and spiritual experience.
  8. Set personal boundaries. This was the hardest part for me knowing that these yogis traveled to another country and paid good money to do yoga with me. I was the first to rise each morning, and felt obligated to stay up until everyone had retired to their room. Unnecessary. Get lots of sleep, drink tons of water, and make sure to schedule time for your own practice and meditation. I generally chose meditation time prior to sunrise yoga, and practiced before sunset yoga while everyone was getting ready. Although the rituals that keep you grounded may have to be altered to fit a new schedule and setting, make sure that you’re still meeting your own needs. To be the best you can be for others, you have to take care of yourself first.
  9. Enjoy every minute. You are in a magical place with miraculous souls. Be present. Enjoy every single minute. Things might get a little chaotic at times, but ultimately you have the opportunity of leading yoga in paradise at your very own retreat! That in itself is a privilege and a huge accomplishment. Don’t forget it.

I had such a wonderful time at my first retreat, that I already have a Women’s Full Moon Retreat scheduled for early June. This one is different as I’m building it from the ground up instead of going with an establishment that specializes in retreats. In the upcoming weeks I’ll be documenting the process and my experiences. Stay tuned!

Yoga for Anxiety

Everyone experiences anxiety. Whether we’re working on a big project at work or in school, find ourselves running late, or have more chronic anxiety due to other elements in our lives – stress is a part of everyday life. Thankfully, anxiety doesn’t have to control you – and studies have found yoga can help!

Yoga requires focus and it teaches us to slow down, shut out the external world, and to be completely present in that moment. It occupies your mind, exerts your body, and soothes your soul. It allows space from your troubles, the never-ending to do list, eventually you may start to notice that your anxiety and worry begins to fade into the background until it completely evaporates. For me, personally, once I return to the world around me, everything seems a little bit brighter. And lighter. More manageable. And some days I really, really need that. (Read more about my relationship with anxiety here.)

These asanas, or poses, to help decrease anxiety by encouraging you to regulate your breath and relax your body by releasing muscular tension, providing your body and brain with fresh blood, oxygen, and other nutrients, and boosting those happy little sunshine endorphins. Plus, some of these poses can be challenging. They get you out of your own head. Who has time to worry about tomorrow’s presentation when you’re balancing on one leg trying not to crash in half moon?


Extended Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana) – Begin in a tabletop position with the wrists below shoulders and knees hip-width distance apart. Walk the fingertips forward, and allow your chest to melt towards the ground while leaving the hips in the air, directly over the knees. Your forehead can come down to the floor, or you can gaze forward, past your fingertips. Stay here for 5 rounds of breath.


Locust Pose (Salabhasana) – Lay on your belly with your forehead to the mat, palms beneath the shoulders with elbows hugged into the ribs, and legs together with big toes touching. On an inhale peel your upper body off the floor a few inches (you should be able to float the hands from the ground) with your gaze a few inches in front of you. Squeeze the lefts together and lift the legs, big toes still together and reaching the legs behind you. Hands can stay where they are, reach behind you (bound, as shown, or unbound), or overhead. Gaze should be on the floor a few inches in front of you to avoid compressing the back of the neck. Stay here for 3-5 breaths.


Bow Pose (Dhanurasana) – Begin in locust pose (shown above) with arms reaching behind you. Bend the knees and if your fingertips can easily brush the ankles, hold onto the outside your feet or the ankles and kick into the hands. Remain here for 5 breaths.


Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) – Begin in a tabletop position with the wrists below shoulders and knees hip-width distance apart. Spread the fingers wide apart, tuck your toes under and on an exhale lift your hips into the air. Press the mat away from you with your hands, and rotate the triceps towards one another so that the “eyes” of your elbows are reaching towards the top of your mat. Shoulders press away from the ears, and drop the crown of your head towards the earth as you gaze past your knees. Keep a slight bend in the knees, lift the sitz bones towards the ceiling, and make sure that the outer edges of your feet are parallel. Eventually, the heels may begin to stretch towards the ground. Take 5-10 breaths in this pose.

Triangle Pose (Trikonasana) – Stand with arms reaching out like a “t,” and feet about wrist distance apart (or a little closer together). The outer edges of the feet should be parallel. Bring the left hand to the hip and turn the right toes towards the front of the mat. Reach the rib cage over the right leg, and when you cannot extend any further, bring the right hand to rest on a block, the leg, or the floor. The torso should stay flat instead of twisting down towards the floor, so that if you did this pose against a wall (which you totally can!) the torso, both arms, legs, shoulders, and hips would be flat against it. Eventually read the left fingertips towards the sky and gaze can be directed towards the floor, straight ahead, or past the left fingertips. Remain here for 5 breaths and repeat on the left side.


Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana) – Stand with arms reaching out like a “t,” and feet about wrist distance apart (or a little closer together). The outer edges of the feet should be parallel. Bring the left hand to the hip and turn the right toes towards the front of the mat. Bend your right knee (Warrior II) and reach the rib cage over the right leg. When you cannot extend any further, bring the right hand to rest on a block, the leg, or the floor 6-12 inches in front of the right foot. Begin to straighten the right leg and lift your left leg from the mat so that it’s parallel to the floor. The left shoulder should be stacked over the right, and the right hand should be directly under the shoulders. The left leg is reaching through the heel towards the wall behind you with the left toes flexed towards the wall that you’re facing. The left hip is stacked over the right. Eventually the left fingertips can reach towards the ceiling. Gaze can be towards the floor, straight ahead, or past the left fingertips. Remain here for 5-10 breaths and repeat on the left side.

Eagle Pose
(Garudasana) – Begin standing, and slightly bend the knees. Transfer your weight onto the left foot and cross the right thigh over the right. Point your right toes towards the floor and wrap the right foot behind the left calf muscle, hooking the right toes around the left ankle.

Reach your arms out like a “t” and bend the elbows so that your fingertips are reaching towards the ceiling. Cross the arms in front of your chest (left over right) with the left elbow tucked into the crook of the right elbow. Leaving the elbows as they are,  wrap the wrists and press the palms into one another (the right wrist should be closest to your chest).

Hold for 5 breaths and repeat, balancing on the right foot.


Camel Pose (Ustrasana) – Begin kneeling with the knees hip-width distance apart (knees should be directly under the hip points), toes tucked or untucked. Bring the hands to the low back/hips with fingers reaching towards the floor. Lengthen the tailbone towards the floor and draw the elbows towards one another behind you. On an inhale lift the ribcage and on an exhale take a slight backbend. Hands can stay at the hips, or they can move to the heels. Press into the feet and think of sending the hips towards the top of the mat. Gaze can be towards the ceiling, or you can drop the crown of the head towards the floor if it isn’t uncomfortable for the neck. Remain here for 5 breaths.

Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana) – Begin seated. Bend your knees and bring the soles of the feet together. Eventually begin to draw the feet towards your groin and press into the outter edges of the feet, opening your feet like a book so that you can see the soles. On an inhale sit as tall as possible, and on an exhale start to fold forward, leading with your sternum. Keep the back as flat as possible. Stay here for 5-10 breaths.


Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) – Start laying on your back with hands by your side, palms down. Bend your knees and plant your feet hip-width distance apart with the heels drawn in close towards your glutes. On an inhale press into the hands and feet and lift the hips from the mat while drawing the inner thighs towards one another to ensure the knees remain over your heels. Scoop your tailbone under and shift your weight into your feet to take pressure off of the low back. For more opening in the chest, begin to draw the shoulders beneath you, maybe even interlacing your fingers behind your back and pressing your fist into the mat. Remain here for 5 breaths.

Fish Pose (Matsyasana) – Begin seated with knees bent and feet planted hip-width distance apart. Keeping the legs where they are, lower to the elbows which are beneath your shoulders and hands reaching towards your feet (forearms should be parallel and hugged closely in towards your body. On an inhale, press into the palms and lift your ribcage towards the sky. Gaze can be focused towards the ceiling, and if it isn’t uncomfortable for your neck, begin to drop the crown of the head towards the floor. Eventually the crown of your head might actually rest on the ground. Variations include squeezing the legs together and floating the feet and arms, or with legs in padmasana (lotus pose). Stay here for 5 breaths.

How to Create a Kick Asana Playlist

Designing a playlist is very similar to pairing wine with a gourmet meal – you want the music to compliment your yoga sequences. Music, like yoga, sets the mood. It is therapeutic, affects our mindset, and elicits a myriad of emotions. Music makes us feel. Combining music and asana practice can have a very powerful effect if done well.

Songs should match the energy level of the class. Have you ever gone to a candlelit restorative class set to disco or heavy metal? No, because that’s about as chill and relaxing as jumping into an ice bath.

Slow moving yoga like Yin, deep stretch, or classes for beginners pair well with more ambient background tunes – think Euro Lounge or Americana. Save the more upbeat genres like pop, hip hop, and electro for Power Yoga, Vinyasa, and other yoga classes designed to get your blood pumping.

Know your audience. Seniors in your Gentle Yoga class do not want to hear the new Taylor Swift. The class you lead at the church does not want to yoga to gangster rap.

On the other hand, those 20 and 30-somethings on their mats first thing Saturday morning are ready to sweat out last night’s cocktails. They will probably be willing to overlook a few questionable lyrics if the beat can help them groove through six sets of abdominals. Honestly, they probably won’t even notice questionable lyrics over the sound of their abs screaming. I, personally, am a huge fan of giving an especially loud cue when I know profanity is coming up.

How to build your playlist.

  • Push play and go! Match the length of your playlist to the length of your class. Teaching is way more fun when you can focus on your students, your sequence, your cues, and not have to mess with your phone.
  • Stick to one or similar musical genres. As much as I love both The Weeknd and Black Sabbath, it is difficult (if not impossible) to place them on the same playlist in a cohesive way.
  • If you like to begin class by verbally guiding students through pranayama or other exercises to help set the class tone, consider instrumental music. For most of us, it’s easier to focus on one voice at a time.
  • As a general rule, there should be a direct correlation between yogi heart rate and musical BPMs (beats per minute). As breath flows and movement builds throughout the asana practice, so should the tempo. As cool down begins, the music should slow as well.
  • Abdominal exercises are best approached like running – people need super upbeat music to help power through.
  • Choose a calming song for savasana. Instrumental music is great because there are no lyrics for wandering minds to attach to. If there are lyrics, make sure they are either positive or neutral. Yoga practices often leaves us feeling raw, vulnerable, and emotional. If you can avoid making the mid-breakup yogini burst into tears during her time for meditation because the song just happens to be about love in some abstract way, do it.

Where to find music. Friends, family, your own personal stash of musical favorites. Take requests, ask for suggestions. Pandora, iTunes Genius, Spotify playlists and radio. I draw from a playlist comprised of songs I hear in passing that I think might be good for yoga class. Mix and match songs that you love with the tolerable songs from the radio that your students will love.

In the end, make sure you’re playing music that moves you. When you’re feeling inspired, that energy will leak into your teaching and into the hearts of those whose practice you guide. Plus, you’re the one hearing the same playlist over and over. Life’s too short for mediocre jams.