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People are People; An Encounter for Reflection

Today I had an encounter that has me thinking about how we treat people and how it relates to the teen yoga classroom.  It was a classic day for longboarding– sunny and beautiful with waist-high gentle waves and very little wind. (Longboarding is a style of surfing with a board that measures somewhere between eight and eleven feet in length that has more stability than shorter boards and is best for waves that are not too steep.)

The waves were coming in sets and the conditions were calm.  I found myself next to a jolly guy who kept sliding off his board and floating alongside it. It looked like he was having fun and I felt like being friendly.  Because we had wetsuits on and it was a fairly warm day, I asked, “Are you hot?”  With a laugh he said, “I know I’m hot!  And yes, I am a little warm as well. I spent too long on the base being cold so I’d rather be warm.”  I laughed, too, and our surf session continued.

imagesOnce a wave was coming in and he looked like he was having trouble catching it or else he was out too far to catch it.  Looking at me, he shouted, “Go on.  It’s yours!  You can get it.”

He and his friend talked about the military and made small talk. I asked whether he lived on the base and we talked about John Basilone, the famous war hero from WWII who lost his life in battle. His friend caught a wave and smiled the whole ride.

I bid them farewell as I paddled north where the waves were breaking better so I could catch one in to the beach.  As I was paddling by this fellow and he was once again pushing himself off his board for a dip, I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before:  this man had no legs.

I looked once again to be sure and paddled off with a different feeling in my gut and a shift in my thinking as I reconsidered this fellow’s perspective.  I thoughtfully considered how I had treated him and was at peace.

At some level, I wonder if it was a relief for my friend in the water to be laying on his stomach like everyone else, with no differences called to attention.  When I teach teenagers I take them at face value for that time and that place.  In teaching at a youth shelter where teens are recovering from attempted suicide, I marvel afterwards that these same adolescents with whom I had just enjoyed the tranquility of a yoga class were also greatly troubled in the recent past.

When we make no assumptions about our students (or anyone else, for that matter), it translates to them being treated respectfully.  Just as famous people tire of being recognized in public, individuals tire of conclusions being drawn about them.  Young adults are particularly sensitive to how they are treated.

Remain curious of new students and friends and we give them dignity to have their own experiences without judgement.  I now say a prayer for my long-boarding friend and hope that I see him again in the water!


You Work Out. But, Do You Work In?

“Working out” is a term we commonly use.  “Did you get your ‘work out’ in?”  “Wow, I worked out and feel great.”  Working out is a phrase ascribed to many activities including a boot camp fitness class, a personal training session, a run, calisthenics of any kind.  Usually it involves muscular exertion, aerobic or anaerobic activity, and perspiring.

reversenamasteHowever, what do we call the after-effect of a peaceful immersion from a great yoga class?  The subtle shift in consciousness after hearing a dharma talk or an insightful sermon?  The mental insight that results from a dedicated meditation practice?  In these more introspective activities, it doesn’t seem accurate to say you’ve had a great work out.

I propose a new descriptive phrase:  “Working In”.  By having the counter to “working out”, it is a subtle reminder that our inner work beckons.  Just as our culture now values the benefits of cardiovascular exercise or “working out”, we should place equal value on “working in”.

Plenty of brain research is coming out that is educating us on the power of awareness, emotional intelligence, and mental resilience.  Dr. Dan Siegel explains in his best selling book Brainstorm, the Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain that in order to live a rich and full life on this planet, our relationships should be in order, both with ourselves and others.  That doesn’t happen without doing our inner work.

It takes work and dedication be kind, compassionate, forgiving and loving.    By “working in” (with meditation, prayer, yoga, etc.) we have the ability to be a better version of ourselves. We can more strongly resonate our truth.  We can experience inner peace.  We encounter Grace.

The next time your asked whether you have worked out, and your day involved meditation, yoga, or a massage,  you can reply that you have “worked in”.  Better yet, ask yourself if you have plans for your “work ins” this week.


Interested in helping teenagers understand the value of yoga and ‘working in’? Register for the next Yoga 4 Teens training with Christy Sept 5-7.




Interested in Teaching Teens Yoga?

Many teachers “fly without radar”, so to speak, when it comes to teaching yoga to teenagers.  This is no surprise as specialized trainings for this group are not widespread.  It was the case for me when I started teaching yoga to teenagers 13 years ago.  I’ve come a long way since those early days of bewilderment teaching yoga to teens.

Since meeting my co-author, Jennifer Lightsey, in 2002 and lots of experience teaching teenagers later, I’ve come to learn the importance of classroom skills and the value of modifying typical yoga teaching for this group.  It’s a lot more fun and rewarding with some teaching skills and specialized knowledge.

  1. If you would like to improve your engagement with teens in the yoga classroom, or
  2. If you are starting a teen yoga class and would like some help preparing, or
  3. If you would like to connect your passion for yoga with teenagers in your life, or,
  4. If you’re simply curious …….

Consider coming to a YogaMinded Yoga for Teens training.  

Discover the joy and skills in connecting with teenagers.

Next training is in southern California September 5-7. Learn more about what a training entails and register here.








It Was A Busy Day

It was a busy day, a busy week, a busy month, a busy life.  I can choose to be less harried, though that choice is often obscured by the tasks before me. I made a choice yesterday that I want to share and celebrate.  First, here’s a little more background to lead you to today’s short story.

The tasks for taking care of my two daughters (ages six and two), my husband, and our home are never-ending.   Ordinarily, I joyfully engage in what has to be done because my eyes are on the prize.  I adore my girls and husband, too!

However, as any mom knows, the duties of being a householder can be overwhelming.  As the saying goes (and I’ve amended it), all work and no play make mom a dull mom.   Yikes! I don’t want to be overwhelmed and dull!

So I found a beach, 20 minutes away, with not a soul around (not a “given” in southern California).  I let myself be free and joyful.  No one was watching so that made it easier.

I skipped.  I balanced on one leg. I twirled.  I did side bends. I walked down the beach doing lunges, adding a prayer-hands side twist, and stepping forward into a one-legged standing forward bend. I did Warrior 1 looking up at the sun with the ocean breeze cooling me down.  I did Sun Salutations adopted for the sand (i.e. no poses on the belly and no traction for Downward Dog).  I did cartwheels.  I did handstands dropping into backbends kicking into back walk-overs.

I made up poses that felt cool and fun and I moved in ways that made me feel joyful and alive.  Every movement I made released my mental constructs and unleashed more happiness.  The energy of the ocean infused me (as it always does) with remembrance of my aliveness, of that part of me that is the joyful, little girl.
beachphotoI sat and breathed it all in, thanking myself for making this choice.  This was significant — my soul told me.

I returned home bursting with joy from my secret experience.  To make time and to allow myself the liberty to be carefree— it was so easy to do. Yet I recall that it also seems like the hardest thing to do.  So I write this blog post to inspire others as well as myself.  May I remember how to do this again and again.  This is yoga.

Yoga for Birthday Parties? Not Just for Kids

This week, I had the honor of being a private yoga instructor for a birthday party.  Typically, I hear of yoga birthday parties being hosted for children.  What a wonderful thing, I often think, for children to come together with their friends to physically and imaginatively express themselves as an alternative birthday honor.

This party had a different target age, women in their sixth and seventh decade. This special group of 65-70 year old women gave me good reason to advocate the yoga birthday party theme for adults.  Carving out time for guests to enjoy this reflective and restorative practice can set the stage for a lovely interaction amongst friends.

Here’s an short interview with the 71-year-old birthday girl:

Why did you decide to have a yoga birthday party?

Because my friends and I are of an age where we really need yoga.  It’s always hard for us to work it into our schedules.  I thought it would be a good way to celebrate my birthday with my friends to do something that we like and need.

How did your birthday party with your friends turn out?

Hugely successful.  The teacher was great and much appreciated.  My friends loved the session.  Everyone was in a great mood.  We spent the rest of the evening enjoying dinner, wine and each other’s company.

Did all your friends participate?

No, two did not because of prior injuries.  They joined us for dinner.

Seems like you gave your friends the “present” of “presence”, yogically speaking. What did your friends bring you for a birthday present?

There’s an organization in town that supports underserved children to have a summer camp experience.  I asked my friends, in lieu of bringing me a gift, to please make a donation to the non-profit, ForKids.  They brought me checks and I couldn’t have been more pleased.

Would you consider incorporating yoga into another birthday celebration?

Definitely, because people enjoyed it so much.

Live Teen Classroom- Get a Peek

There are two new short videos in the store that will give you a good idea of how to lead and share yoga with teenagers effectively.

Take less than 8 minutes to improve your teen yoga classes.  Buy Christy Teaching Teens video 1 or Christy Teaching Teens Video 2.

Put both videos in the shopping cart a $1.95 discount will automatically be applied.


The principles and practicalities of teaching teenagers yoga, as defined in the book Yoga 4 Teens: An Instructor’s Guide to Teaching Yoga to Teenagers, are illustrated in Christy’s teaching. Principles and practicalities such as using queries and prompts, prioritizing self image, promoting healthy self-talk, proximity and more all are dynamically demonstrated in these short clips that less than 4 minutes each.

Viewers can learn from the tone and the pace that Christy sets for her class.

The videos features 6 teenagers, most who are new to yoga and attending their first class with Christy.

One video shows a downward dog-lunge-side angle sequence.  The other shows a cross-legged rock n roll and partnering activity.

Teachers who view can learn:

  • how to approach alignment corrections with teens such that they remain engaged
  • an approach to class atmosphere that includes learning and experience
  • ideas of how to effectively sequence their own classes

Take less than 8 minutes to improve your teen yoga classes.  Buy Christy Teaching Teens video 1 or Christy Teaching Teens Video 2.

Put both videos in the shopping cart a $1.95 discount will automatically be applied.

Yoga for Shoulders- How to Use a Block

B.K.S. Iyengar pioneered the use of props to aid and assist our yoga practice years ago.  With ropes, blankets, straps, blocks and more, yoga props have greatly enhanced the modern yogi’s life.

In my class last week, I incorporated a basic block hold to teach proper shoulder action.  It’s very important to note the details of how to hold the block.  Truly, it’s more of a palm press than a “hold”.  The fingers are extended and together. The rim of the palm is what presses the block in place.

Ideally, the width of the block matches the width of the shoulders for good alignment.  Some blocks are somewhat wider than others. I distribute my wider blocks to the students with broader shoulders (usually male).

It turns out that when the hand is open, i.e. not cupped, and equally pressing around the rim of the palm, the shoulder blade muscles engage in a very useful way for proper shoulder action.

This blogpost is meant to inspire your practice, rather than provide anatomical and therapeutic detail.  It is the followup to a facebook post where I mentioned how great a practice my class had with the block and these actions.  Those in the YogaMinded facebook community  who responded “show us”, this is for you.   I hope it helps and would love to hear your feedback.

The following photos illustrate the main part of the sequence I taught, photos courtesy of my six-year-old daughter.

1) Lying over a block at the shoulderblades.

Take extra care with the placement of the shoulder blades on top of the block.  If it is not in the proper place, the desired awareness is not created.

Hands pressing block, block close to chest elbows bent.



Hands pressing block, block extended away from body, arms straight.




Hands pressing block, block extended away from body, arms straight, and arms raised overhead.



2.) Namaste Hands

Note the difference between the press of the hand on the thumb side versus the baby finger side in all three of the following positions.

Namaste Hands, Block Wide



Namaste Hands, Block Narrow



Namaste Hands, No Block


3) Sun Salutations while holding block

In Tadasana, block close to chest, elbows bent.



In Urdvha Hastasana, block extended away from body, arms straight.



Proceed to slight back extension.



In Uttanasana, gradually placing block on floor.

Lunge or Warrior 1 prep, block close to chest elbows bent.



Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior 1) with arms overehad,block extended away from body, arms straight, and arms raised overhead.



Without block: Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Dog), Plank, Low Plank (Caturanga Dandasana), Upward Dog (Urdvha Mukha Svanasana), Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Dog)

Other side, Lunge or Warrior 1 prep, block close to chest elbows bent.

Other side, Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior 1) with arms overehad,block extended away from body, arms straight, and arms raised overhead.

Uttanasana, collecting block

Urdvha Hastasana, block extended away from body, arms straight.

Proceed to slight back extension.

Tadasana, bringing block to chest.



4.) For fun and continued use of the block, add in Vasistasana, after Virabhadrasana 1, balancing block on flexed hand. Emphasize the placement of the shoulderblade deep against the back ribs, especially on the weight-bearing side.




5.)  Warrior 3 (Virabhadrasana 3), hands pressing block, block close to chest elbows bent.



Warrior 3 (Virabhadrasana 3), hands pressing block, block extended away from body, arms straight, and arms raised overhead.




Second time Warrior 3 (Virabhadrasana 3), add standing on another block




6. Paschima namaskarasana (Reverse Namaste)




Ten Things I Would Say to Teenagers About Yoga

I’m a believer in knowing the big picture.  If someone asks me to do something, I do a lot better when I understand WHY I am doing it.

When my daughter struggles with her homework, I explain that her frustration is a sign that she is building her brain “muscle” and strengthening her ability to learn. (For more, see Mindset by Carol Dwek.)  Because she understands the benefit of the struggle and how the process unfolds, she can continue her work without letting frustration get the best of her.

I think we are all like this, performing at a higher level when we have a certain education.

That is why I talk to teenagers all the time as I’m teaching.  Like my daughter and her homework challenges, yoga can seem strange and even difficult for the unfamiliar.   Why we do yoga, who does yoga, and the benefits of yoga are discussion topics that provide a chance, not only to educate teens, but also to encourage them to be open to the experience.

Here are some discussion topics that I regularly start with teens, whether they are already doing yoga with me or considering it.   Come to think of it, these are useful conversation topics for adults, too.

First, the short list:

  1. Yoga is relevant for everybody.
  2. Learn how to care for yourself.
  3. Yoga helps you recharge and become clear-minded.
  4. Yoga helps you cope.
  5. Yoga is a workout, too!
  6. You can get better at the poses.
  7. You’re so lucky to be doing yoga now.
  8. We’re so lucky to be doing yoga now.
  9. The point of yoga is to remain curious .
  10. Seek things to do that will empower you.

Now, the list with a little explanation:

  1. Yoga is relevant for everybody because every “body” has a body and every body can breathe.
  2. Yoga is a system of self-care.  It’s incredibly useful to learn how to care for yourself.  Yoga helps all the systems of your body function properly (circulatory, muscular skeletal, endocrine, digestive, nervous, reproductive.)
  3. I’ve asked a lot of teens how they feel after doing yoga and I overwhelmingly hear  “very calm”.  Yoga helps you recharge and become clear-minded.  The experience of relaxation that comes with a good physical yoga practice can be very profound.
  4. Yoga helps you cope with things like anxiety, depression, ADHD, anger, jealousy.  I always feel grateful after I practice yoga.
  5. Concerned about getting exercise and losing weight?  Yoga is a workout, too!  It really is.  It helps regulate metabolism and increase self-awareness so that you’re less likely to eat too much, and you’ll feel better about yourself, in general.
  6. Just like you can get better at a sport, you can get better at the poses.  As long as you are operating from a place of knowledge and respect for how your body works, expect improvement for yourself as you get stronger, your coordination improves, and your muscles lengthen.
  7. Your so lucky to be doing yoga now.  SOOO many people say to me that they wish they had known about yoga earlier in life.  And, if they had had yoga as a teenager, it would have changed their life for the better.  I’m one of those people.
  8. We are so lucky to be doing yoga now.  It’s really a gift to have the time and place to practice yoga.  It’s a sacred time to acknowledge the blessings of our life, including our body and breath.
  9. The point of yoga is to remain curious about what you can do.  If you ever feel bad about yourself in any kind of way while you are doing yoga, you are NOT doing yoga.  Yoga helps you improve your mental outlook so if you’re feeling jealous, self-defeated, or envious, yoga gives you the chance to forget those methods of thinking and instead to observe and engage in your own experience.
  10. Seek things to do that will empower your strength of mind, body and character like yoga and not things that will disempower you (like drugs, drinking, wrong relationships).

From the viewpoint of a teenager, what would you add to these discussion points?

This short clip shows a teen class taught by Christy where she incorporates some of these points.

The Instructor’s Guide for Teaching Yoga to Teenagers is also available for helping prepare you to teach teens.


Vote to End Childhood Obesity — Win Prizes

If you’re reading this blog, chances are good that you support yoga for young people.  Getting children moving from an early age is a great way to get our nation’s youth off to a healthy start.

The national community of children’s, teens and school yoga teachers feel this way so we are joining forces in a community action project to support our colleague, Leah Kalish, founder of Move with Me.

Please join us in this powerful cause.  It can’t happen without you and it’s so easy!  Even better, our community has donated wonderful products for you to win, as a thank you for voting.  Check out the list (below) of over 65 raffle prizes including books, dvd’s, decks, trainings, manuals, curricula, cd’s and more.

Here’s the deal:

Partnership for a Healthier America chose Move with Me as one of the top 10 ideas for ending childhood obesity.  Only 3 will get to present their plan.  If Leah wins, she will get to present to Michelle Obama and other leaders at the 2013 Health Summit.

  Leah Kalish

All you have to do is vote and you qualify for entry into this great raffle!

FIRST, To Vote:
1. Click on this link.

2. Select Move with Me

3. Select: VOTE

Next, To Enter Raffle:

Click this link for the raffle.
Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the Rafflecopter page to enter.


Please consider sharing this invitation to act of a whole community far and wide. This  is a tiny something you can do right now to enrich the lives and health of young people.

And now for the prizes:
10 Move with Me DVD’s
2 three month GOLD memberships to Kids Yoga Academy

2 Yoga 4 Teens DVD from YogaMinded
1 Yoga 4 Teens Instructor’s Guide to Teaching Yoga to Teenagers1 Yoga 4 Classrooms Card Deck
3 I Grow With Yoga: Yoga Songs for Children CDs from Childlight Yoga
4 Whale Yoga DVD’s from Next Generation Yoga
5 Hip-HopYoga tees from Mindful Practices
1 The Story of Ganesha with companion book from Yoginos: Yoga for Youth
1 I Am OHMazing® music CD with bilingual coloring book from Yoginos: Yoga for Youth
2 Yoga Skills for Youth Peacemakers DVDs from Shanti Generation
2 Partner Yoga for Teens DVD’s from Shanti Generation
3 My First Yoga books
1 Yoga Cutter from Yummi Yogi
2 Yawning Yoga books from Laurie Jordan
4 Imaginations books from Carolyn Clarke
1 Dance for the Sun: Yoga Songs for Kids from Kira Wiley
1 Kings & Queens of the Forest: Yoga Songs for Kids, Vol. 2. from Kira Wiley

1 January’s Child: A Birthday Month Book by Andrea Alban from OMazing Kids, LLC
2 Grounded Superheroes: An Elevated Yoga Curriculum for Kids and Teens from Grounded
1 Agate: What Good Is a Moose? by Joy Mogan Dey from OMazing Kids, LLC
1 Sophia’s Jungle Adventure from Kids Yoga Stories
1 Anna and her Rainbow-Colored Yoga Mats from Kids Yoga Stories
1 Luke’s A to Z of Australian Animals: an Alphabet Coloring Book from Kids Yoga Stories
1 Calm & Connected: Yoga Based Tools for Self-Regulation from S.M.Art Kids Adaptive Yoga
1 The Dragonfly’s Adventure and Ocean Surf-ari – (S.M.Art Stories™ – photo-illustrated adaptive Yoga curriculum books)
4 ABsolute Beginner Yoga DVDs from Joanne Spence
1 Still Quiet Place: Mindfulness for Young Children CD’s from Amy Saltzman
1 Still Quiet Place: Mindfulness for Teens CDs from Amy Saltzman
1 YogaBuddies Bedtime Stories DVD
1 Good Morning, Good Night CD set from YogaBuddies
5 copies of Every Kids Yoga Manual and DVD
1 The Whole Brain Child by Dan Siegel from Little Flower Yoga
1 Building Inner Resilience by Linda Lantieri from Little Flower Yoga
1 LOTUS mat from The Little Yoga Mat
1 Storyland Yoga DVD
1 Frog Yoga Alphabet Teacher Training Double Pack – e-book from Young Yoga Masters
1 Yoga Man vs. The Stressor – Yoga for Boys Teacher Training – e-book from Young Yoga Masters
2 OM Schooled book from Sarah Herrington
1 What I See, I Can Be: A Guided Yoga for Children Book and CD from Janet Williams
1 Yoga Match: A Memory and Movement Card Game from Janet Williams
1 The ABCs of Yoga for Kids Hardcover Book by Teresa Anne Power
1 The ABCs of Yoga for Kids Coloring Book by Teresa Anne Power
1 Yoga Adventures with Down Dog, a children’s yoga dvd produces by Teresa Anne Power
5 Come Play Yoga CD’s from Karma Kids Yoga
1 Coaching Session with Leah Kalish: In-person or Skype

Thank you to PHA for organizing, promoting and sponsoring this opportunity for leaders, teachers, administrators and entrepreneurs to come together to end obesity and give every child a healthy start!


One Week Away: Teaching Teenagers Yoga Webinar


Registration is now open for my webinar on Teaching Teenagers Yoga: Principles and Practicalities.

It will be held Thursday, December 6, 8:00-9:00 p.m EST (5:00-6:00 p.m. PST).

This live phone call and powerpoint presentation will help you set a solid foundation for teaching teenagers yoga in any setting and give you some tools to immediately apply in your classes. It is hosted by Kids Yoga Academy.

Read more about this webinar here.

Register for this webinar today and don’t miss this easy and exciting way to get a an educational boost in teaching teens yoga.