How I saved my shoulders for long paddles.

Pupu2Since I can no longer run due to a knee injury, I have to get my cardio in other ways. This summer I’ve been spending my Wednesday mornings on the water leading a weekly “Power Paddle.” We start at 8am at the Mission Bay Sportcenter at a swift pace, glide under one of the Ingraham Street bridges, speed around Paradise Point Island, float under the second Ingraham Street bridge, and land back to the Sportcenter. Depending on wind, waves and weather, this can take 50-75 minutes, and that’s if you’re going as fast as you can! It’s a tough paddle and first-timers are often left in the dust, er, foam. Paddle experience is highly recommended, in addition to at least one forward stroke and turn lesson prior to joining this type of group paddle.

The first 5 or 6 times I did this route, my shoulders were screaming at me for a few days after. This could be partly because of forward stroke mis-alignment, or because I was using an old, all-around, used-up, heavy, ugly adjustable paddle. While I think stroke can always be improved upon, I think in this case it was more so my paddle. I figured it out after a friend of mine sold me her Kialoa Pupu Paddle. (Thanks Anna!) Despite the dirty-sounding name (which really means “appetizer” because it is a great paddle for beginners), it has made a world of difference on these longer, powerful, morning paddles. It weighs under 2 pounds, is made of fiberglass, and glides out of the water effortlessly. I’ve had zero shoulder pain since using it, and as a bonus, it’s really cute!

While the Pupu is an older model, the Kialoa brand has new fiberglass paddle models that are great for entry-level paddlers, such as the Insanity paddle, that may even be more developed for a quality stroke than the Pupu. These start at $179, which is very affordable considering the cost of a lot of the really good stand up paddles these days!  Check them out at: www.Kialoa.com.

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Summer of Sun

I had an amazing summer teaching paddle yoga, fitness and night time paddle board classes, as well as learning more about my own paddle technique, and co-creating a kick-ass paddle yoga teacher training program. It was over before I knew it, which only means it was chock full of fun!

FallInWithFlair

That being said, teaching yoga on the water is an entirely different animal than in-studio yoga. You’ve literally got to go with the flow. Cloudy and cool? You better think of a nice heat-building sequence that is paddle board friendly. Windy day creating slight waves? You have to find a glassy area of water to anchor down. Anchor? Those F*&^%ing anchors! Probably the least convenient, most troublesome piece of equipment that happens to be imperative for a yoga class on the water. Of course, I always manage to pick the area of water that also seems attractive to the family of 6 screaming kids under the age of 10 that post up on the beach 20 feet from my class, creating a very un-zen environment for Savasana. Then you’ve got your boats (with un-educated drivers), jet skis (with crazy drivers), other passerby paddle boarders cutting through your class (or trying to join in), jumping fish, squawking cockatoo’s (really), and first-time yogis who decide they want to try paddle yoga and think it’s ok to have full-blown conversations in the midst of class while you’re trying to teach. Plus, the fear level of students who have never paddled before is higher than that of a first time in-studio student, which can be an anxiety-filled experience for some as it is.

All of the above can test your patience, but nothing compares to the goose bumps I get when a paddle class is ending, it’s a gorgeous day in San Diego, the students are resting in Savasana on the water after likely having recently fell into the water trying some one-legged pose on the board, and the phrase comes to mind “This is my job.” Tourists pass by on the boardwalk pointing and gawking “Hey, look! They’re doing yoga on paddle boards, we gotta try that.” Some stop and take pictures. This is my job.

Beach Fit Slip n slide

In addition to teaching on the water this summer, my partners and I got ACA Level 2 certified and WPA Class 1 certified.  If that means nothing to you, it just means we upgraded our paddle board skills. I love being a student and I feel I learned from the best—Jose Gonzalez with ACA and Gillian Gibree with Paddle Into Fitness are true professionals in the industry.

My Beach Fit class got on TV (45 seconds into this video):  http://www.thelisttv.com/the-list/around-town/around-san-diego/san-diego-peddling-for-a-cause.

Our Night Glow tours have become a popular tourist and local attraction, almost too popular for our britches, but that’s a great “problem” to have.

Night glowWe also hosted our first paddle yoga teacher training this past September, and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to enjoy that experience with. I can’t wait until the next one in March!

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This is my job. And it’s just beginning. The idea factory that is my team of partners is unmatchable, and I’m so excited for some of the things we have brewing.  Check out our schedule for public classes at www.SanDiegoPaddleYoga.com. We’re cutting back on classes for the duration of the winter, but can do private groups by request.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep watching this video over and over, to bring me back to that goose bumpy Summer fun feeling, and you should too:  http://vimeopro.com/sdpaddleyoga/summer2014

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Posted in Uncategorized, Vacation Yoga

Teacher Feature: Heather Grisco

I know, it’s been awhile since my last post. It’s been a crazy busy summer with paddle board yoga…more on that later. I wanted to give a shout out to a teacher, mentor and friend who is an intelligent female entrepreneur with morals, plus she’s totally chill and fun to hang out with outside of the yoga world. Heather Grisco owns and operates two yoga studios: Bird Rock Yoga (where I did my teacher training with her in 2011) and the Little Yoga Studio in downtown San Diego. She is always evolving her practice, teaching, and businesses, and has an interesting background having worked for the government. I had some questions for her, check it out!

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Q: What were you doing before you owned not one, but TWO yoga studios?

A: Oh geez, it feels like a lifetime ago.  I was working for the Department of Defense on various projects that led me from DC to FL, Cuba, Afghanistan, and Hawaii.  It’s a long story and not one that’s expected from a ‘yoga girl’ but yeah, this yoga girl has a Forensic Science degree, can shoot a gun, and has worked on some highly classified projects.

Q: Tell me about your yoga beginnings.

A:  I started yoga when I first moved to NorCal for grad school…Yoga was so prevalent (way more than it was in Chicago where I had moved from) so I thought I should give it a try.  I stepped into my first Bikram class and loved it.  I never sweat more in my life!  And the instructor just kept pushing me to reach my fullest potential, some call it yelling, but I was hooked!  I came into yoga for the physical benefit. The workout. Even better, I was good at it, so I continued.  I had practiced off and on in the years to follow, but it wasn’t until I moved to Hawaii (about 7 years ago) that I truly had a regular practice.

Q: When did you realize you simply HAD to make a career switch to the yoga world?  

A: Once I was in Hawaii, I started practicing regularly…I was still practicing Bikram yoga and had also started practicing Ashtanga from a woman that was just amazing with beginners, the Ashtanga practice isn’t always accessible to everyone, and I felt that she made it so.  It really inspired me to teach.  I went through a teacher training program and started teaching after work and subbing as much as I could at a few studios on the island.  Teaching became my outlet.  I loved it and looked forward to every time I got to teach.  It became more and more rewarding whereas my full time job became less and less.   I quit my government job, left Hawaii and moved to SD, knowing no one here and took over ownership of Bird Rock Yoga. I haven’t looked back since.  The community of teachers and students here have truly become my friends and family of SD. I’m so grateful to have found such a wonderful space and group of people.

Q: How do you feel about dating in the yoga community—as far as dating students? How about fellow teachers? How about dating in general?  

A: (Lol, I hate you) I have a policy that I don’t date my students or fellow teachers.  It’s just a line that I don’t like to cross.  It’s also nice to have a partner that has a different hobby or career than I do so that we can each have our own outlets when needed.  That being said, if true love comes around and it just happens to be from within the yoga community, then I may be open to making an exception to the rule. Heather teacher feature pic 3

Q: What’s your most embarrassing teaching moment?

A: I’m pretty sure I block those out, because I can’t remember any extremely embarrassing moments.  An extremely funny moment though was when I was teaching and gave the option to go from a flip dog into a full wheel.  As I was encouraging students to hold back and not push it, one of my students, right up front, got the full advanced variation and shouted “in yo face!” It was hilarious, but slightly embarrassing in the moment because it totally threw me off. It was like I just got served. In front of my entire class.

Q: As an owner of two studios that run two teacher trainings a year each, plus helping to manage another studio’s teacher training program in Arizona, you’ve churned out at least 100 (or 200? or 300??) new teachers into the yoga world. What’s your all-time favorite tip for new teachers?

A:  Be yourself.  There’s not a specific way a yoga teacher should look like, act like, or sound like, so don’t try to put on an act, be yourself.  People will be drawn to you and resonate to your teaching style if it’s genuine and natural.

Q: What is one of your pet peeves when taking a yoga class?   

A: I don’t really enjoy when the instructor spend the whole time on their mat.  The class is for the students, not you!  Get out, adjust…teach…share your gift!

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Thanks so much Heather for taking the time to answer my Q’s. The world should know how awesome you are! If you haven’t taken one of her classes yet, head to BRY‘s website and check out the schedule to see when she’s teaching. Her creative flows are accessible yet sweaty!

Posted in Dating, teacher feature, Vacation Yoga, yoga mentor, yoga teacher

Ask Sarah…

Introducing “Ask Sarah,” a monthly interactive forum for inquiring minds to ask anything regarding life, love, relationships, career, yoga, or a combination of all of the above, or none of the above. The answers are strictly Sarah’s yogic opinion. Take it or leave it!

Dear Sarah, Has yoga given you more flexibility in your sex life? –S.O.

Dear Sarah, Are there any poses to increase my partner’s libido? –L.B.

Dear S.O. and L.B.,

I’ve decided to combine answers to your questions. Instead of talking about my own personal sex life, I’ll talk about how yoga in general does in fact give you more flexibility in your sex life, and raises your libido naturally.  First of all, I’m not sure if S.O. is referring to physical flexibility, or being more open-minded and confident in the bedroom. To either I’d say the answer is yes, and as a result of said physical flexibility and confidence, one’s libido is automatically increased.  If you develop a regular yoga practice, you are bound to become more physically limber, so during sex you may find yourself in positions you previously weren’t able to muscle or contort into, thoroughly impressing your partner.partner yoga pic

You also start to become better at yoga poses that you keep trying in class—because you really can’t get any worse after the first time you try them—and you start to feel like a badass for being able to do things you once thought impossible. Also as a result of your regular yoga practice, your body becomes stronger, possibly leaner, adding to your confidence level.

Knowing first-hand that what happens on the mat translates into your life off of the mat, that badass feeling and pride for what your body can do, will carry over to confidence in your life and in your bedroom.  Perhaps most powerful, is the love that you find you have for yourself, regardless of whether you carry around a few extra pounds. Yogis start to focus more on what our bodies can do for us, rather than what society says they “should” look like. This all translates into feeling more attractive. Feeling attractive=Confidence. Confidence=Feeling sexy. Feeling sexy=Wants to have more sex (aka. Libido). yoga-bad in bed

Secondly, let’s talk about stamina. Yoga is exercise that has you concentrate on your breath—that thing that you have with you every second of every day of your life, but you don’t pay attention to it until you get on your yoga mat. Your growing awareness of your breath, and breath work (Pranayama) will help you to expand the capacity of your lungs, which in turn will help you to last longer between the sheets (wahoo!).

A healthy and balanced second chakra (Svadisthana), which governs the hips and genitals, can also help dictate a healthy and balanced sex life. Poses that stimulate this chakra include hip and groin openers such as Cow Face Pose, Pigeon or Double-Pigeon, Bound Angle (Reclined or seated), and Seated Wide-Legged Fold, among many others.

Finally, the mother of all muscles, that which we ladies call the “kegels” is actually referred to in yoga as the “Mula Bandha” energy lock. Guys can find this lock too, by engaging the same muscles you would to stop a flow of urine. In yoga we use it to help us lengthen our tailbone and keep from over-arching the back, as well as to feel lighter in arm balances and inversions. Ideally, in any yoga class you should have this engaged throughout most poses, but usually we forget. Having this muscle strong can help you to have stronger orgasms, and possibly for men, stop that orgasm from happening too soon.  Your ladies will thank you!

Dear Sarah, My friends all tell me that I should try yoga, but I think I’m more of a cardio class person.  I love the music and energy.  What say you? –R.M.

I used to feel the same way, R.M. I used to love (and still do) kickboxing and hip hop dance classes, and way back in the day I used to go to step aerobics classes. But one day I found Vinyasa yoga. Vinyasa is a physically challenging, movement-oriented class. Specifically, you move to the beat of your breath rather than the music, which is what makes it more meditative than an aerobics class, because you are actually paying attention to what you are doing. For those of us who like to move, rather than simply hold poses forever and ever (although sometimes we hold poses in Vinyasa), it works out well. What I love most is that the sequence of poses connected to each other is usually different every time, allowing the creativity of the teacher to shine through, similar to a dance class. Many modern Vinyasa classes include fun and upbeat music too!  Between the two studios where I teach, we have Hip Hop Yoga, Reggae Flow, Blacklight Yoga, and Live Music classes followed by wine drinking. These are not your traditional ho-hum yoga classes, and I promise you will find a satisfactory sweat level, so you get your workout fix too!

If you have a question for Sarah, please write to info@sarahdoesyoga.com with “Ask Sarah” in the subject line. Your question may be featured in next month’s “Ask Sarah” column.

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Ode to Vinyasa

What’s the best type of yoga?

These days, I feel like lots of yogis are hating on the vinyasa style. Especially those that practice traditional types of yoga that have set sequences or move a little slower. Some claim that vinyasa classes differ so much from class to class that you can’t benchmark your progress on a particular pose, or they move too fast for practitioners to get very deep into poses or focus on alignment. Others maintain that you are more likely to hurt yourself, or that it focuses too much on the workout aspect of yoga and not enough on the meditative element, etc. These are all fantastic points, but vinyasa is one of the fastest-growing and most popular types of yoga in modern times, and if it’s getting people on their mats, who cares?bikram-sweaty-yoga

Before you behead me for suggesting it’s ok if someone participates in an activity where they may hurt themselves, consider that pretty much any physical activity that you do outside of sitting on your ass risks potential injury. Take me, for example. I’ve broken my arm (twice), tore my ACL (twice), sprained my ankle (twice) and broken it too (just once). One day I even required 14 stitches to my face. Not one of these injuries were sustained participating in vinyasa yoga, which I’ve been practicing for 8 years now and teaching for 3. How many injuries have I received as a result of yoga? Zero. Sometimes my wrists hurt from too many chaturangas, arm balances or inversions, but it’s those days that I give myself permission to back off until they’re feeling strong again.  That doesn’t mean you can’t hurt yourself. But you’re just as likely to hurt yourself simply jogging (been there, done that).

treadmill fall gif

Part of moving your body, whether it’s in a yoga class or participating in a sport, involves a human survival element. You’re not going to walk off of a cliff if it’s right in front of you (unless you’re crazy or fearless) and you’re probably not going to pop up into a headstand uninstructed in your first yoga class (unless you’re crazy or fearless). These people do exist, I see them all the time, but no matter how strongly I suggest that they don’t do something, their ego will convince them to do it anyway, until it results in injury. head-stand-8

This can happen in any type of yoga class, not exclusively vinyasa. Well, maybe not gentle yoga. It’s just that type-A people gravitate more toward vinyasa as a way to start a practice, because of the sweat factor. Anyone who maintains a consistent yoga practice over time, vinyasa or otherwise, is bound to have that Oprah light bulb moment where they realize that it’s not just about the exercise. They learn to listen to their body and the teacher, not their ego. They start to notice the meditative effects of moving with and connecting to the breath. The mind chatter will eventually start to quiet down, which is, according to Patanajali’s Yoga Sutras, pretty much the #1 goal of yoga.

I love vinyasa because of the infinite possibilities of creative sequences.  I love taking a class when a teacher instructs a unique transition between poses, or even a single pose that I’ve never seen before. I love when a teacher gives cues to get into a pose in a way that I’ve never tried before. In fact, it truly is one of my pet peeves when a teacher feels there is only one tried and true way to get into a pose. For example, there are at least 6 ways to kick up into a handstand that I can think of, but I know teachers that will only teach one way.

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I also love the variation of the one-breath-one-movement flow. It may be a result of my dance background, but whatever the reason I love to move, and then I love to be still after I move to feel my heart beat and prana moving. I also like to work hard. It feels good.  I may not be the most bendy, flexy, perfectly inverted yogi, but I have indeed made lots of progress, and I’ve realized that I have the rest of my life to continue that progress, it’s no rush!

The best type of yoga is the yoga that YOU do. It’s the yoga that makes YOU happy. Whether that is Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Gentle Hatha, Kundalini, Anusara, Beemashakti, Jivamukti…you get the point. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that if you’re not practicing a certain sequence, a certain number of times per week, that you’re not a real yogi. Just get on your mat and have fun. If you’re not having fun — try something else.

Just one more, because seeing people fall is really funny…
model fall

 

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I Get So Emotional Baby.

I always have students ask me if it’s normal to get a little choked up during or after a yoga class. I talked about this in some of my classes a couple weeks ago, and I had someone thank me after one of them for bringing it to light, because during a previous class she randomly felt anger and then mentally directed said anger toward the teacher, not realizing it was something within her that had “come up” as a result of whatever poses she had been doing, but now it made sense to her.Cry

Not two days later I had a friend send me an email asking if it was normal to get emotional during a yoga class. It had been about a month since she practiced yoga, and during that time she was stressed out and sad from some things happening in her life. On this day in particular, when coming onto her mat she had made the intention to be completely present and feel totally connected to her body, and at some point during class she started to lose it. Trying to hold it in so as to not interrupt her fellow practitioners and not be known as “that girl that cries in yoga,” she pulled it together as best as she could.

I have another friend who lost someone very close to her last year and for the few months following her friend’s passing, every time she came into “that damn pigeon” on her yoga mat, the tears started flowing either immediately or as soon as she left class.

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Perhaps the most memorable time I witnessed an outpouring of emotion as a result of yoga, was during my teacher training. We had just finished our first flow together and we were all resting comfortably in savasana, and I started to hear an intense and ongoing sobbing from a fellow trainee. I wasn’t quite sure if I should get up and go comfort her, or just lay there and pretend not to hear it, but it was kind of an awkward situation at the time because I hadn’t yet realized how deeply yoga can get into your body and dig out things that are going on currently or happened in the past. It turns out she was going through some tough times.

Why exactly does this happen? I’ve googled it, with too many results to put in this blog. But the general consensus is that every bad thing that has happened to you in your life has manifested itself in your body and hides out in little nooks and crannies. Think about heart disease, the #1 cause of death in the USA. What is a huge factor in the development of heart disease? Stress! People who are really anxious and worried tend to get ulcers. People who were sexually abused sometimes tend to have reproductive issues. Many of these emotions lodge themselves in especially your hips, spine and chest. This is why hip openers like pigeon, and backbends (ihateyou) like camel or full wheel, tend to release these emotions, and it’s not always pleasant.

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I cried once during savasana. I think it was a combination of the yoga practice I just completed, as well as something beautiful the teacher was saying about forgiveness that struck a chord with me, as I was going through a time when I needed to do just that—forgive someone. It became so clear to me that holding that grudge in my head was blocking me from being completely happy and I truly believe that in that very moment I released that negativity from my body and haven’t felt it again since. So even though these things can rise up during or after class, it’s for a good reason. Even if you don’t feel it or realize it, you’re releasing this negative energy from your body so the good kind can find its way in.

If you ever find yourself in this state as a result of a yoga class, try some poses that are calming and more of a “closing” nature. For example, forward folds, child’s pose, shoulder stand, and my favorite—legs up the wall, which looks exactly what it sounds like.

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Posted in emotional release, Uncategorized

Yoga Tunes of the Month

I LOVE music–all types, and my class playlists always vary widely.  Below is a great list of songs whether you’re a yoga instructor or not. I’ve been playing it the past couple of weeks and getting a lot of requests for song titles after classes. This is probably a little over 75 minutes of music. It follows the pace and flow of a typical yoga class but if you find that a particular song isn’t fitting the energy you’re going for, or if you’re teaching a shorter class, you can always skip a song or two.

Most of these links are via YouTube…sorry for the ads!

1. Alone in Kyoto by Airmeditation-boombox

2. Stay (feat. Mikky Ekko) by Rihanna

3. Lotus Flower by Radiohead

4. Smoke and Mirrors by Gotye

5. Sapphire by Bonobo

6. Antenna by Bonobo [This DJ/band has a lot of cool ambient music, great for yoga]

7. Peponi by The Piano Guys [This one will sound familiar]

8. The Remedy (Live) by Jason Mraz

9. Too Afraid to Love You by The Black Keys

10. 32 Flavors by Ani DiFrancojared leto

11. Hard to Concentrate by The Red Hot Chilli Peppers

12. Hurricane (Unplugged) by 30 Seconds to Mars [Featuring my future husband, Jared Leto]

13. Human Nature by 2Cellos (Sulic & Hauser) [Usually a favorite of my students']

14. Train Song by Ben Gibbard & Feist

15. Going to California by Led Zeppelin [This is a random live version, but I downloaded the recorded version on iTunes]

16. Landfill by Daughter [Beautiful song, and a typical story when it comes to me and men]

17. Over the Pond by the Album Leaf [Helloooo glorious Savasana]im just here for savasana

18. Dawn by The Cinematic Orchestra [This band has a lot of great tunes for a yoga class and I like this song after Savasana, and sometimes at the beginning of class]

 

Posted in Music, Uncategorized, Yoga Tunes
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