3 things you don’t need to pack for a yoga retreat

When you are packing for your yoga retreat, rejoice in the fact that you will not need any of the following items:

Thing #1–Makeup

Thing #2–High Heels

Thing #3–A bra


You are welcome.


This article originally published on www.groundingup.com

I do what I want (sometimes).

On Sunday, my friends from ThreeDogYoga and I are leaving for a yoga retreat at Haramara in Sayulita, Mexico.

Unlike a standard vacation, it seems a yogi needs to have “reasons” for going on a yoga retreat. And for every reason there is for going, there are at least three reasons for not going on a yoga retreat; believe me, I have been talking myself out of yoga retreats for YEARS.

Here is a sampling of some of my reasons for NOT going on a yoga retreat sooner
1–It seems like way too much yoga
2–I get incredibly homesick (yes, I know that I am a grown woman)
3–My work and family schedule just can’t accommodate it. How will everyone live without me for 5 whole days?
4–Yoga retreats are expensive and a luxury. It’s not fiscally responsible.
5–My husband can’t go with me and if I’m going on vacation I should probably go with him.

The Internet of Yoga is more than happy to provide lists and lists and lists of reasons for attending a yoga retreat. And while most of those reasons seem fairly legitimate, I have to say that none of those reasons are really MY reason for going. 

Some reasons the Internet says you should go on a yoga retreat
1–Take your yoga practice to the next level
2–Expand your meditation practice
3–Digitally & nutritionally detox
4–It is part of your yoga teacher certification
5–Because you really need a break

If you are a human being, it has probably been a really long time since you felt like you could do what you wanted to do when you wanted to do it.

If you honor your responsibilities and value your livelihood and relationships than there is an endless list of things that come before you and what you want to do. A yoga retreat in Mexico is probably not on that list.

That is life and it is the life we love and willingly created, blessed with rewarding careers, happy homes, sweet and loving spouses and kids, pets, friends and neighbors, and extended family. But, these blessings don’t maintain and nurture themselves. You have to be there to water all that green grass day in and day out. Who will water that grass if you are in Mexico?

Yes, I’m heading to Haramara to expand my yoga practice and to explore yoga teacher training, to detox, and do whatever else the Internet says goes on there.

But if I’m really being honest, I would have to say that going on this retreat is a way of proving to myself that I can still do what I want sometimes. Work will still be there, my husband will forgive me for leaving him alone for 5 days, and the kids will survive.

P.S.–I’m already homesick.

This article was originally published on www.groundingup.com



Studio Review: Thunderbolt Power Yoga

I have always had huge admiration for well put together southern ladies. Growing up, I spent quite a lot of time in Atlanta with family and friends and never once did the South fail to make me feel like a rough neck Yankee.

As I’ve grown and matured into a professional woman, wife, and mother I have managed to sand off many of my rougher edges; however, I still can’t rally to the idea that I can or even should aspire to the qualities of a true southern lady (no matter how desperately my mother would like me to).

Southern hospitality, cultivation of beauty, strength, grace, and excellent comportment are not in my toolbox and at 40, it is probably time for me to be okay with that. But, how or if these qualities might show up in a southern yoga studio setting didn’t occur to me until I checked in at Thunderbolt Power Yoga in Buckhead, GA.

Thunderbolt Power Yoga was established in 2014 by studio owner and operator Carly Grace Hinchman. I was in Atlanta for a work thing and on the hunt for a good power yoga class. Thunderbolt Power Yoga came highly recommended by actual yogis as well as Yelp and I heard there were several Baptiste trained instructors there, so I thought I would give it a try.

The Studio Space
This studio has a strong feminine vibe. The color palette, decor, retail area, and facilities were most certainly designed with women in mind. I mention this because I found it slightly curious; where do men in the south practice yoga? In Northern California, our studio membership is about 50/50 men and women and most studios are decidedly gender neutral when it comes to design and decor. Overall, Thunderbolt has everything a yogi could ask for including great parking and a huge selection of K Deer Activewear.

The Instructor
I attended the Heated Power Flow class led by Elizabeth Beggs (instagram: @beggsyoga.com). The class was well attended by students at a wide variety of levels. Elizabeth led an organized and creative flow class, which included a fun little flow from shoelace pose (yin yoga) to tripod headstand and back again. She closed the practice with cool essential oil infused towels during savasana (because southern hospitality, duh!) and an OM with a beautiful Tibetan singing bowl.

This is an excellent studio and I can’t wait to go back. Here in Northern California, we take our yoga a little more “earthy.” The feminine niceties and southern hospitality offered at Thunderbolt were what I needed so far away from home.

And yes, Mom, I did get an emergency manicure and  pedicure after I saw how nicely all those yogis were put together.

This article was originally published on www.groundingup.com

Studio Review & A Crock-Pot

Every year for 45 years, members of my very large and geographically scattered extended family have convened at the family cabin on the shores of Lake Pokegama in the woods of Northern Minnesota. Last week, my little family of four joined the rest of “The Wulf Pack” at that cabin for our 2016 pack gathering.

Before we left, I did some digging to find all the yoga one can do that far North. I love visiting yoga studios and Lutheran churches when I travel. By the way, it is infinitely easier to write a yoga studio review than it is to write a review of a Lutheran Church. But I digress.

My search for Northern Minnesota yoga yielded exactly one studio, CENTER Mind Body Fitness in Grand Rapids, MN.

CENTER is not a yoga-only facility. It offers a range of yoga, pilates, TRX, and spin classes throughout the day. The entire Center facility is fantastic and features not only the studios for exercise programming, but also a spa, salon, and cafe.

I’m a purist, so I was in it for the yoga (and the spa treatment I got later). Unfortunately, there was only one yoga class that wasn’t going to interfere with the sleeping and boozing schedule I had lined up for my week.

So, Gentle Yoga with Jenna Hass on Monday and Friday morning it was. Initially, I felt a little guilty missing a week of power yoga classes and substituting something called “gentle yoga,” but I decided that some yoga was better than no yoga and I was on vacation so maybe I could take a vacation from yoga too.

The Practice and the Crock-pot

So I entered the stunning studio space and that is when I saw the crock-pot. Yep, an old school Rival crock-pot right up at the front of the class. Were crock-pots now a midwest yoga thing? We midwesterners love our crock-pots, but this might have been taking it too far.

The practice began without a mention of the crock-pot, so I had to actually make an effort to put that out of my mind until the universe would reveal to me the reason for its presence. Because that is yoga.

Aside from the arctic temperature in the room, the practice was excellent. The sequencing was creative and appropriate for all levels with clear instruction and good timing. It was very much a moving meditation on happiness, and in my case, the crock-pot.

I will not think about the crock-pot, I will not think about the crock-pot, I will not think about the crock-pot, I will not think about the crock-pot… 
And then, at the end of the practice, while we all lay in savasana, the crock-pot served up hot river rocks lightly coated in essential oils. Two warm rocks appeared on the upper corners of our mats and we were instructed to place them on chakras that may be in need of some healing.

My chakras were far beyond help, but just holding those warm rocks in that chilly room gave me a whole new perspective on savasana and I was finally able to let go of the crock-pot.

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This article was originally published on www.groundingup.com.







No, I Don’t Want To Be A Yoga Teacher

I have worried about posting this article because I don’t want readers or my yoga community to think that I am against teacher training programs, because I’m not.

I just wish there was more available for those of us who want to expand our practice and knowledge with programs on par with teacher trainings, that aren’t you know, teacher trainings.

See, a while back, I registered for a  one-day yoga intensive program at another studio and among the standard-issue registration questions were three designed to gauge my interest in becoming a certified yoga instructor. Immediately, I thought, “Still with the teacher training? Come on now! Aren’t we all trained already? Can’t we come up with something new?”

It would seem that the yoga industry is out of ideas when it comes to developing new revenue streams. I’m sure that in the beginning, offering teacher training programs was a great way to increase profit margin in an increasingly commodified market. But now, in true western yogi fashion, the industry is way overdoing it.

It is no longer a secret that the yoga business model is not exactly rock solid and achieving and maintaining profitability in an extremely saturated industry without losing your mind is nearly impossible. And, this model of discounted sessions and packages to get people in the door only to have to upsell them to teacher training programs is not really sustainable; not to mention what it is doing to the experience of yoga.

In 2014, nearly 15,000 new teachers registered with YogaAlliance, a yoga industry association and the largest yoga teacher registry. Some industry sources believe that just as many yogis completed teacher training but didn’t register to teach.

I choose to assume that the 15,000 who completed a training course but didn’t end up teaching are like me–yoga nerds with non-yoga day jobs just looking for a way to expand their knowledge of yoga and strengthen a practice that may be getting stale. Those people already know that yoga as a business is brutal and requires the right “personality” to attract and maintain a steady stream of clients. They recognize that a great yoga instructor is extremely rare and that the magical combination of spiritualist, nutritionist, therapist, educator, personal trainer and entrepreuneur can’t be mass produced.

So now what? The yoga industry is so deep into this teacher training model that they can’t seem to see past it. Mostly because conducting certified teacher trainings on top of their regular daily yoga business is so labor intensive there isn’t time to formulate and promote anything new to replace the teacher training revenue.

How about this? Let’s modify the teacher training programs into a yoga intensive program instead? You know, give us all the yoga and none of the “you too can be a teacher” priming?

There are plenty of yoga retreats doing that now already and some of the more prominent yoga methodology founders offer them through their affiliate studios (you have to wade through the teacher training programs to find them though). Yoga Journal has a whole host of events and conferences along these lines.

I would much rather go on a retreat led by my personal instructor (I’m looking at you, Three Dog Yoga) than attend an intensive led by a teacher I don’t know, which is risky. And I’d happily pay the $2,000-$5,000 I would otherwise have to pay for a teacher training to take my practice to the next level without hearing about teacher training.

This article was originally published on www.groundingup.com.

Happy International Yoga Day!

Two years ago, the United Nations General Assembly declared June 21 the International Day of Yoga. So popular was the resolution that it was adopted by all member countries without a formal vote. The aim of the declaration is to:

  • highlight the importance of individual and populations making healthier choices an following lifestyle patters that foster good health
  • stress the fact that global health is a long-term development objective requiring international cooperation and information sharing
  • recognize that yoga provides a holistic approach to health and well being

June 21, on or near the summer solstice, was chosen for the International Day of Yoga, because it has special significance in yoga. It is believed that on the day of the summer solstice, Adiyogi [the first yogi] turned south and first set his eyes on the Saptarishis or Seven Sages, who were his first disciples to carry the science of yoga to many parts of the world. And there you have it, a reason to celebrate (incase you didn’t already have a reason).




Hello Summer, Goodbye Beautiful Routine

It is summer, which means your kids are out of school, and for the next 2 months, your life will likely become a barely manageable hairball of summer camps, family vacations, sporting events, and mild-to-moderate childhood injuries.

And don’t think that because your kids are out of school your company or place of employment will likewise take the summer off and cease to do business. Nope, that train will keep on rolling and you have to be on it.

So no, you probably won’t be making it to your regularly scheduled yoga class or training run, or whatever fitness-related thing you do. Luckily, the internet has more than enough excellent and free fitness programming to keep us healthy until the blessed first day of school.

A personal favorite of mine is the Three Dog Yoga podcast series available on iTunes. There are 10 yoga classes you can download or stream for free. Each podcast ranges in duration from approximately 30 minutes, for a quick workout, to 90 minutes for a fuller practice.

The  audio classes are led by Anna McLawhorn, the studio owner and a registered yoga teacher with Baptist Power Yoga. She is also the director of the studio’s California Power Yoga Teacher Training Program.

Don’t worry that the practice is audio-only. Anna gives great verbal instruction on the podcasts so even someone new to yoga will understand what they should be doing.

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Fangirling at Baptiste Yoga San Francisco

I spent the last morning of my San Francisco business trip fangirling again at Baptiste Yoga San Francisco. This time I took the 9:30 Power 60 class taught by Hannah Jenkins.

I showed up on my mat feeling like hell; 3 solid days and nights of “executive retreating” had done their worst. I couldn’t tell if I was hung over or just really f’d up from too many days in a windowless conference room. But that is neither here nor there because I left Hannah’s practice feeling like myself again–NO–better than my regular self.

The Power 60 class is 60 minutes of Baptiste Power Yoga. She started the class right on time even though there were a couple of stragglers coming in a bit late. I really appreciate that. Hannah led a powerful well paced practice. She dedicate a good amount of time to supporting each student in the class and offered several great assists I hadn’t seen before.

Hanna is a 200-hour certified yoga teacher and has completed Levels 1 and 2 with Baptiste Institute.

Hannah Jenkins Baptiste Yoga SF

And now, back to the office…

Studio Review: Baptiste Yoga San Francisco

I’m in San Francisco this week for a work conference. Since I’m here already, I decided to check out Baptiste Yoga San Francisco, the city’s Baptiste Yoga Partner Studio.

Practicing yoga somewhere other than Three Dog Yoga always feels like I’m cheating on my yoga instructors; however, we may have to agree to have a polyamorous yoga relationship for the purposes of this BLOG so I can review teachers and studios without angst.

Here are my take aways from today’s visit to the studio:

The Practice–
I attended the POWER 75 class at 10AM taught by Eric Tabora. The practice sequencing was classic Baptiste Power Yoga, which is great because that’s what I was there for. It was a fantastic 75 minute practice led by a world class instructor.

There were several out-of-towners in attendance and it took everyone a bit to get a handle on the pacing, because that is different with every yoga teacher. Eric, the instructor, recognized the fact that we were all out of whack and got everyone settled into a steady flow. After that, we were all set.

Practice rooms for Baptiste Power Yoga are heated to 90-95 degrees and this was no exception. The room was good and warm and was heated by infrared heat panels installed in the ceiling. The heat was evenly distributed, steady, and there was no air blowing around to dry out your contact lenses.

I’m always on the look out for the ways studios and yoga teachers use music in the classes they lead. In this particular case, there was not music in the practice room before class began. Music was added for savasana and the track selected consisted of some chanting, bells, and what may or may not have been whatever sound whales make. There was a cool mix of music throughout the rest of the studio space, however.

The Instructor–
The class I attended was taught by Eric Tabora whose extensive experience was very apparent. He is a 500 hour Certified Baptiste Teacher, has completed levels 1, 2 & 3 at the Baptiste Institute, and is a 200 hour certified yoga teacher through an affiliate studio in Cleveland. He is well versed in the asanas, alignment, modifications, and toured the class offering assists and adjustments.

The Studio Space–
Located at 38 Mesa Street, San Francisco, the studio is in the beautiful San Francisco Presidio near The Golden Gate Bridge. It is easy to find and there is plenty of parking.

Inside, the studio lobby is spacious and welcoming with yoga-related retail offerings including shirts and mats.

The practice room is very warm and spacious with lots of light and windows. The walls feature beautiful murals.

They rent shower and sweat towels, and mats in the event you are visiting the city without your yoga gear or you forgot something. They only provide one size of block (that I could see), so if you need a particular prop or a few different block sizes  you may want to bring your own or check with the studio before you arrive.

And finally the spectacular locker room! This studio has a locker room with lockers (obviously), two showers, shampoo, conditioner, and body soap, and hairdryers. Heaven.



Wanted: Demo Yoga Students

Recently, I was invited by my yoga instructor to serve as a demo student for a teacher training she was conducting at her studio. The class was called “The Art of Assisting” and was exactly that, eight or so yoga teacher trainees learning the Baptiste Yoga Assisting Methodology.

Having never served as a demo student or been through a yoga teacher training, I had no idea what to expect. Did I have some sort of “job”? Would there be role-playing (God, I hoped not)? What would the practice be like? The answer was, in this particular case, “just show up and do some yoga.” Fortunately, I am really good at showing up to do yoga.

What I learned in this experience is that as a demo student, you do have a responsibility. You are there to create an authentic yoga class experience for the yoga teacher trainees. However, it is important to keep in mind that the yoga teacher you are receiving instruction from is learning and likely feeling uncertain or tentative about the instruction they are providing.

That means you should be nice; bring your most open, inquisitive, and happy self to your demo student practice. They have actually signed up to touch your sweaty body. So help the trainees get the most out of their training experience by being relaxed and communicative while they are giving you personal instruction, adjustments, or assistance.

What is great about being a demo student:
1)  Being assisted feels amazing and helps you go deeper in poses. Prepare to be assisted or adjusted and touched way more than you are accustomed to in the regular course of your studio practice.
2)  Serving as a demo student is a fun way to give back to your yoga program and studio.
3)  It’s an opportunity to passively learn more about alignment in your practice.
4)   Demo students get a view into the teacher training process. If you have been considering enrolling in a yoga teacher training program, do a bit of demoing first to determine if it is something you could commit to.

What is slightly less great about being a demo student:
1)  Having yoga trainees walking through the class adjusting at random is distracting and can take you out of the flow of your practice. And once again, prepare to be assisted or adjusted and touched way more than you are accustomed to in the regular course of your studio practice.
2)  The trainees are just learning so you may have some awkward moments.
3)  You may get a bad assist because they haven’t learned to anticipate your practice. Be sure to communicate with the yoga trainee.

Yoga teacher trainees need real-life yogis to practice on just like residents in medical training need real-life patients to practice on.

If you are interested in serving as a demo student, make sure your yoga community knows how to contact you with those opportunties. And, have fun!