• ym-workshop-banner
  • shop-banner-4
  • yoga-teens-instructor

Insight on SUP Yoga and Teens

Did you ever avoid something because it WAS trending?  SUP Yoga is hot right now.  If you doubt the challenge or enjoyment of it, I challenge you to give it a try.

I’ve enjoyed Stand Up Paddleboards (“SUP”‘s) since 2007 when my husband and I bought two boards.  What fun to be on the ocean, connecting to nature.  I regularly go out on my 10 ‘ SUP, usually with a friend.  I’ve even learned to surf with it, which makes catching small waves a tremendous thrill.  Here in California, there are some great SUP designated surf spots.

With all there is to enjoy with Stand Up Paddleboarding  (“SUP”) and my personal yoga practice to boot, I hadn’t gotten around to actually trying SUP yoga, until NOW.  So I’m reporting in….. what a great way to mix up your ordinary asana practice, open your mind and body to something different, and enhance the yoga experience with all that water and the outdoors element offers.

OliviaGateBest of all, I was able to share my SUP Yoga experience with another young lady.  Together, we had a good time experimenting with what yoga poses we could and couldn’t do.  I loved having the water underneath me, constantly shifting my balance point.  We even took an unplanned dip or two in the lake, which was a sure way to let go of expectations during practice (and add a good laugh, too).

Earth practice is so dependable;  but with SUP Yoga, the water provides a shifting base, making one refreshingly uncertain.  New ways to balance abound with SUP Yoga. The lovely and peaceful water element offers a profound relaxation experience (at least in certain conditions).  Is there anything more relaxing than the sound of water lapping?

If I am to be honest about my first SUP Yoga experience, I need to come clean with the fact that I felt a little embarrassed.  I’m used to doing my asana practice in private.  There were moments when I was self-conscious and concerned that I was being scrutinized.  That my young friend was open to joining me made me more comfortable.  I imagine that group SUP Yoga classes also would help ease the awkward factor of doing yoga by yourself on the water.

ChristyTadasanaI have a few more thoughts on this experience and how it might relate to teenagers.  As one legged balancing is irresistable for teens to try on the ground, the challenge of balancing on a SUP on even two feet is  enticing.  Believe it or not, Mountain Pose (or Tadasana) pictured below, can be so difficult to balance.  I was really squeezing into the mid-line here in the photo.  Savasana on a SUP is brilliant for posture awareness across the shoulders and upper back.  One can instruct the outer shoulders to touch the board and it’s an instant presto posture improvement.  Prayer hands (or namaskarasana) comes particularly alive on the water, I discovered, too.  My young friend agreed.

My guess is that the sensory stimulation of SUP Yoga would also be great for teenagers.  It’s pretty hard to focus on anything other than balancing and feeling what you feel when you’re doing SUP Yoga!





photo 2 Olivia UpDogOliviaCamel






ChristySirsanaUpavista ChristySirsana ChristyGate ChristyDownDog ChristyCamel ChristySUP


LA Library Needs Teen Yoga Teacher

I was recently contacted by librarian and teen outreach coordinator, Dana Eklund, from the Sylmar branch of the Los Angeles library system.   He is looking for a certified yoga instructor who wouldn’t mind volunteering to teach yoga to teenagers and adults one or two Saturdays a month.

SyLibYouAreHereCropMPHSign-PBktTeenagers along with adults and some kids currently meet on Saturdays and do yoga with videos like Yogaminded’s Yoga 4 Teens DVD.  Dana says, “the teenagers really loved the workout with the Yoga 4 Teens DVD”.  The response for attracting teens has been encouraging, since adding teen specific videos.  Adding a live instructor to lead an hour long class would really complete their program.

Read and respond to this opportunity on yoga activist here.

What a fantastic opportunity!  I’m hoping this blogpost will touch the heart of the right, qualified person.  Either that, or I’m going to make the hefty commute myself!

Such a cool story, Dana writes:

“As a harried Dad working full time with another full time job at home raising a needy daughter, I couldn’t find time for yoga at home so I came up with the idea to get some mats and show videos  to people at the library. For the first two years, I only had one or two people (adults), a TV set  and a yoga for dummies video, but as the economy took a downturn more and more people started to show up and now with a supply of yoga mats and a big TV screen I’m getting usually 10-20 people each time. Still mostly adults but as my job is to do outreach to teens,  I’m really keen on aiming the program specifically at tweens and teens.  Since showing more yoga videos specifically for teens, more teens are coming a few are actually starting to bring their friends. Also Phoenix House, a local drug rehab center for teens, brings a group of their girls once or twice a year to do yoga.”

Here is a map and workout schedule  for the Sylmar library.  Dana will receive all responses from people through the yoga activist job posting so go ahead and make his day!







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.