Ashley Turner touring the SouthEast!

The focused, exciting and famed yoga/meditation teacher, registered Marriage + Family Therapist Intern, writer and Ordained Priestess is visiting us here in the Southeast this month.  Ashley Turner is the Artist-in-Residence at Montage Laguna Beach, leading monthly workshops where many of you have worked with her.  Now she will be closer to us for some great sessions.

Ashley’s schedule is:

Atlanta, GA: May 10th – 12th at Atlanta Hot Yoga

Chattanooga, TN: May 16th at Hot Yoga Plus

Nashville, TN:  May 17th-19th at Sanctuary for Yoga

Enter to win $1500 of free yoga gear!


Ashley Turner + Tiny Devotions launch the Urban Priestess Mala this month and to celebrate we’re giving 3 lucky winners $1500 worth of yoga swag! We’ve collaborated with Tiny Devotions, YogaVibes, Manduka, Juil, YogaEarth, Solow, Beyond Yoga, The Travel Yogi, MeSheeky and more of our favorite handpicked lifestyle brands to create deluxe yoga gift bags just for you! Head to the site: and follow the three easy steps to enter to win!

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Anya Porter Breaks It Down

Guest column by friend of Beerasana, Rebecca Brachmann

Joy. It’s out there for sure. You see it and feel it in clichéd experiences like wedding days, mothers looking at newborn babes, and love blooming. But how often do we tap into this emotion in our daily lives? The answer, for most of us is not nearly enough. Anya Porter, the dynamo behind Breakti, is campaigning on the platform of more joy for all. She’s got my vote.

On Sunday I attended a Breakti workshop led by Anya at Evolation Yoga in Tampa. If you’re a yogi who can be described as a 70s baby, early-80s child you’ll appreciate this melding of the Sanskrit word for devotion “Bakhti” with breakdance.

Anya and The Crew at Evolation Yoga in Tampa

The serious pursuit of a career in hip-hop dance and breaking led Porter to NYC, where a steady diet of dancing and waitressing started to trouble her body (no surprise here). Like other starving artists before her, she hoped yoga would be all the medical attention she would need.  At first, she thought yoga was boring. Then she found more athletic practices that included arm balances and inversions that spoke better to her dance-self. The joy of dance rose up and began to plant a seed in Anya’s heart and mind. From this seed, Breakti grew.

On Sunday, we reversed the role, opening our yoga selves up to dance. We played, danced, got hella upside down, and came face to face with our fears. Fears that plague almost every adult I know: fears about looking silly, stupid, or weak; fear of not being “good” enough to step out of our comfort zones (where, often, real joy is hiding), fear of pursuing something challenging (and potentially joyful).

Given permission, and inspired by Anya, we faced these fears with confidence and a spirit of adventure. In two hours, Anya reminded me that finding more joy in our lives isn’t about falling in love, or having a baby, or any other clichéd situation — it’s about what we cultivate. Joy doesn’t live in a scenario, it lives in us — we just have to have the guts to let it out.

Breakdance, Anya’s primary source of joy, has also been a source of fear and self-doubt for her. But she knows that breaking through that fear and letting yourself have the fun you want is where joy can be the purest.

To close the class, Anya offered this powerful directive: whatever your practice is — be it yoga, breaking, ballet, piano, activism, or knitting — it must be something that serves you by challenging the lens through which you see yourself, the world, and yourself in the world. It is that challenge that allows you to break through fear and break into joy… pun intended.

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Technologies of Qi: Yin Yoga & Connective Tissue

Reposted from Body Divine Yoga

Connective tissue

“ A new paradigm is evolving in the West, one that broadens the scope of information and energy transportation mechanisms far beyond simple chemical and electrical models.” Berni Clark, author of The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga.

We are uncovering a new frontier within our bodies – one with previously unimaginable implications for our health and well-being. What was once disregarded by medical science as inconsequential “goo” – our connective tissue – turns out to be our largest (and most neglected) organ!

As our understanding of the body as a matrix of electromagnetic energies deepens, we’ve come to see that the fascia or connective tissue (structuring, sheathing and interconnecting our circulatory system, nervous system, muscular-skeletal system, digestive track, organs and cells) is actually an energetic communication system.

liquid crystals composing collagen

The collagen that makes up most of the connective tissue in your body is liquid crystalline in nature. Liquid crystals -known to be semi-conductors – are able to conduct energy in the way the wiring system in your house conducts electricity. They are also able to send, receive, store and amplify energy signals – like your high-speed internet connection.

Because fascia interconnects every system in the body – it provides a basis for information and energy transfer beyond purely chemical origins. In other words, while we’ve traditionally thought of communication in the body as mechanical ( chemical molecule fits into receptor like a key into a lock), we now realize we can open the lock faster with energy (like remote control devices).

These discoveries have caused James L. Oschman, in his book Energy Medicine in Therapeutics and Human Performance, to suggest that fascia is an intelligent organ of communication that is “conducting electromagnetic signals not only in the body, but from the cosmic energy field of the universe into the body and from the body into the field.” And in an idea eerily reminiscent of the healing wisdom of ancient Taoist China –  Oschman suggests that a healthy fully ‘integrated’ body may be a body that is entirely free of restrictions to the flow of energy signals.

Ancient Taoism held as a central tenet that the body was composed of vast network of energy pathways which they called meridians. And if one was to maintain a healthy body, these meridians had to be free of restrictions to the flow of Qi – the life force energy that permeates the cosmos.

And it seems the Taoists knew all about connective tissue, which they classified as Yin. They believed when we are active and energetic, Qi energy flows through our muscles, the Yang layer of the body. When we are still, Qi moves through the more resistant connective tissues and skeletal system, the Yin layer of the body. Balancing the energetic aspects of yang with the still practice of Yin was essential in maintaining the free flow of Qi through the body’s meridians.

Paul Grilley

Today Yin Yoga utilizes this Taoist philosophy in the creation of a modern practice which uses long slow holds in postures as as opposed to more fluid vigorous Yang practice. Yin yoga seeks to open and release the tightest places in our bodies – connective tissue, joints ligaments and tendons – which have become tight and restricted through injuries, repetitive stress, poor postural habits and even emotional trauma.

And according to Yin Yoga leaders such as Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers, this loss of mobility within the connective tissue restricts the flow of Qi energy through the meridians as well. Yin yoga by working the connective tissue helps cleanse energy meridians and stimulate the flow of Qi.

Western science has long been skeptical of Eastern energy or meridian maps. Looking for channels and conducting tubes, they found little evidence of energy lines. But their investigations did not include the supposedly inert connective tissue. And ironically as Yin Yoga teacher Bernie Clark suggests “they may have discarded the very tissues that formed the channels they were seeking.”

It was Dr.Robert Becker, back in the 60′s who first demonstrated that connective tissue provides pathways for the energy flow. He established that when pressure is applied to connective tissue, joints, bones (as in Yin yoga poses or externally applied stretch and pressure during bodywork and massage) they polarize into positive and negative electrical poles and generate piezo-electricity. This current of electromagnetic energy then travels along the most conductive channels available in the body, channels that Becker suggested corresponded with the meridians of Eastern healing wisdom.

Today researchers like Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama in Japan, and Helene Langevin of the University of Vermont are documenting further evidence that the fascia network corresponds to the network of acupuncture points and energy pathways as described by the ancient healers. Dr. Motoyama was able to demonstrate a correlation between the electrical conductivity and the location of meridians. Motoyama has found chains of Hyaluronic Acids  in the connective tissue of the body. Hyaluronic acid has the amazing property of being able to fix and polarize water in large quantities. When water is polarized it is able to conduct electrical impulses and therefore information. Motoyama theorizes that Qi flows throughout the pathways created by chains of hyaluronic acids.

electromagnetic fields of the body

Grilley contends this research reaffirms that the meridians run through the connective tissue of the body, and he writes, if “researchers are right—if the network of connective tissue does correspond with the meridians of acupuncture and the nadis of yoga—strengthening and stretching connective tissue may be critical for your long-term health.”

No kidding. That’s a big understatement when you consider that electromagnetic frequencies are vastly more efficient in imparting information than chemical signals. fMRI imaging has shown that when meridian or energy points in the body are stimulated, neural circuits in the brain are activated faster than what neural conduction can explain.

That’s why, as our technology allows us to peer ever more deeply into the body we are discovering a new land. One that brings us full circle with ancient philosophy by envisioning the body -not just a mechanical system of separate parts -but as an energetic system that is interconnected to all that is.

So that’s why I consider Yin Yoga to consider to be a Technology of Qi. We are not only balancing yin and yang -we are cleansing our energetic circuitry. This encourages the free movement of information and perhaps even invites in what the Taoists considered the flow of life force energy itself.

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10 Things We Learned in Costa Rica

Editor – repost of article from

Last month, Beerasana held its first international retreat. We took 17 people to the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. We learned a few things.

1. We were supposed to take 19 people, unfortunately, two weren’t allowed to board the plane. Lesson: make sure your passport is in good condition. A detached back cover means you get left at home.

Two fewer than there should’ve been.

2. We are some lucky motherfuckers. The people who came on the trip were awesome. A handful of them were friends and family, another handful were perfect strangers, and the bunch were students, none of whom we knew very well. Through the whole nine days we were thanking our lucky stars for the happy, easy group we got, and now we have some new friends.

For example, we didn’t know Melissa, and she was delightful!

This yoga retreat was simply awesome! It provided an amazing yoga experience and allowed me to challenge myself and find my strengths as well as my not so strong abilities. It gave me a new love: Yoga!!

Melissa Lelonek
Kodak, Tennessee

Continue reading

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Learn how to fly!!

As a kid i always had this dream that one day i could spread my wings and fly! Unfortunately very soon i realized we as humans don’t have the ability to fly and i forgot about my dream. Sometimes i caught a glimpse of what it must feel like when i ‘flew’ to a holiday destination but, although amazing, it wasn’t the real deal at all! So i forgot again……


Many years and even more forgotten dreams later i found yoga. I bumped into this challenging arm balance called Crow/Crane Pose. Named after two beautiful birds, my teacher told me i could actually learn how to fly i the pose….yes…. FLY!! like a crow or crane…that sounded like music to the ear so i set out to learn how to fly!


Crow/Crane Pose is often called the gateway to all arm balances. When you are able to do this pose, you will be able to do all the other arm balances with ease 😉 It’s not an easy pose to learn (i’m still learning!) but when you follow the steps below and practice on a regular base you will find that balance, gain more arm-and core strength and eventually learn how to fly! Enjoy your Crow/Crane Pose journey and may all your dreams come true


Ready for take-off……..


1.Begin in seated squat, knees pressing into the arms, hands namaste. Inhale lengthen your spine, exhale place your hands, shoulder width, in front of you.

2. Now focus on creating a strong firm foundation! Lift the knees up and create a lock between the knees and your arms. Knees come to the upper outer arms and press in strongly. Hug your thighs in and round your back using your abdominal strength by scooping in your navel and lifting your belly up!

3. While squeezing your knees, hugging in your elbows and rounding up through your belly, take your elbows forward over your wrists. Move your chest forward a bit and try lifting one leg. If this feels comfortable try lifting the other leg. Really try to squeeze in and up even more and lift your heels as close as possible to the buttocks. Keep yourself really tucked tight! (this is Crow Pose)

Eventually (a lot more arm-and core strength later) try straightening your arms in the pose (Crow will become Crane) and fly away!!

Have fun trying! Xx

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Brand Thyself With Jess…What began as a review for an article turned out to be career/life changing!

Several weeks ago I cozied up with my laptop and a warm cup of tea in my bedroom.  I got out my journal and pen and settled in for a long awaited session with Jessica Boylston-Fagonde of Brand Thyself with Jess, a RuYoga Design offering.  The familiar ring of the Skype call heightened my anticipation of this discussion.  Jess was her usual warm self when she answered.  We exchanged lighthearted greetings and my nerves began to calm as she explained that I didn’t need to over think my answers but please “Don’t edit yourself.”  The reason she asks this of her clients is, as Jess says, “When we can express ourselves freely it gives us an opportunity to be more creative/authentic (insecurities go away), which is how I get to see the ‘true expression’ of a teacher’s nature, and I want teacher’s to not hold back, we have 2-hours to cover a lot of content.”  I trust Jess and respect her as a colleague so the idea of just speaking the truth without reservation actually seemed very liberating and appealing.

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”

~ Martha Graham

Jess shares this quote with me as we begin.  She repeats it and allows some moments of silence to pass as the gravity of the statement begins to press upon me.  It really is a profound idea and I understand why she offers this thought first.  We are going to spend the next few hours digging through my life experiences and try to determine what it is that I bring to the mat as a teacher entrusted to guide my students through a practice that is physical YET far beyond the earthly at the same time.  As a teacher, I (like many others) often cue students to set an intention for their practice.  I do take this very seriously.  To do anything without intention, even something that seems positive or harmless, is dangerous.  If we are not aware of our reasons for acting, then we may be executing someone else’s intentions or possibly acting for reasons that could be harmful in their nature.  I even tell students that if they are practicing because they want a svelte body, that is fine, but they should know if that is the reason and they should probably ask themselves WHY a svelte body is important to them to attain.  Or if they are seeking something of more depth, the practice is an opportunity to use their present moment awareness to aid them.

As we have all witnessed scandals from various teachers in the yoga world, it is definitely a time for every instructor to closely examine why they enter the studio and stand at the front of the room.

Jess had me relay my first studio class experience and we discussed what teachers I’ve practiced with, what has influenced me and what keeps me coming back as a student.  We also examined my motivations for signing up to do a teacher training, what my expectations were and the real reasons that I arrive to teach every day.

She was interested in my perceptions of myself and the way that I am viewed by others in my family, circle of friends as well as my students.

This is me giving a public presentation on the psychology of happiness. photo by Bret Douglas

It was a raw and honest exploration that brought some real insight and helped me crystallize my relationship to yoga personally and professionally.  I now feel like I have an even more solid foundation from which to serve my students and to continue to grow my own practice.

Jess’s questions are very deliberate. She is an acute listener whose measured responses leave room for you to continue digging into the heart of your answers.  Even when I was trying to be completely open, she had a way of perfectly forming an inquiry that would help me peel back yet another layer so the truth could be unveiled.  I got far more from the experience than I imagined possible and have found that the session is continuing to serve me on my other career paths as well as in my own classroom instruction.  It was an invaluable conversation and I highly recommend it to any yoga professional who is seriously trying to work in this industry full-time.

So, what did I uncover? And how has it impacted my instruction?  Happiness and emotional well-being has always been of interest to me (as it is for most people!)  But I really have been delving deeper into the research that has been done on the psychology of happiness and how it has been discovered that happiness is truly sourced internally…that there are actual parameters for how much external sources can impact our well-being and sense of being happy.  Not surprisingly, the conclusions found by the psychologists and researchers falls very much in line with yogic philosophy and practice techniques.  I am now utilizing more precise meditation cues and specific lessons from the Yoga Sutras in my classes to aid students in the process of internally mining their own bliss in a way that is relatable and accessible in our current, modern culture.   I am also working to emphasize the importance of prioritizing their happiness (when it is based on intrinsic values) as it benefits not just them but also their families and the world at large (service to the community being a significant component of internally-sourced bliss).  This trajectory is in alignment with my Ayurvedic professional practice as well.  It has been remarkable to watch everything I learned from my session with Jess weave seamlessly into these healing and therapeutic modalities.  Whether in an asana group class, a therapeutic private yoga session or during an Ayurvedic consultation, the end goal of these practices has become crystal clear for me and I now have a very specific methodology for reaching that goal (to empower individuals to take responsibility for their mind/body well-being).

Jess will be teaching 3 workshops in San Francisco on Sept 7th, 8th, 9th, and speaking at the Southeast Yoga Conference in Atlanta, Ga. Oct 5th, as well as offering workshops at Iowa City Yoga Festival the following weekend. To learn more about Jess’ schedule, 1-on-1 sessions, and her online interactive course called ARCHEOLOGICAL DIG TO YOUR HEART, visit and yoga-inspired brand identity solutions at

Q & A with Jess

JE:  The work we did together was called “branding”.  I think the term “brand” as it relates to your work is much different than the word as it refers to a trademarked brand, for example, Anusara or Bikram, etc.  What does “branding” really mean to you and why do you recommend teachers “brand” themselves?

JBF: At the core what branding means to me is clarity. The fundamental branding questions used to decipher a brand—who are you, what do you have to offer, and how is it uniquely different—is an invitation to a deeper conversation when applied to a person, especially a yoga teacher. I called this method Brand Thyself, as a call to action to “know thyself”—to know who you are and what you have to offer as a teacher. And just as importantly, how does this offering benefit students and the community. My approach with Brand Thyself is an exploratory process to reveal each teacher’s unique offering from the inside out. ‘Knowing’ this sets a strong foundation for your career path, and helps you settle into your purpose and carry out your mission more confidently. The means in which I use branding is a tool for strengthening your offering, becoming aware of your greatest assets (the good, bad, ugly, and beautiful), aligning to what means the most to you, and bringing your message to the community with authenticity and integrity.

JE: How did this line of work evolve for you and what is the most satisfying aspect of helping teachers identify their authentic offering?

JBF: My main line of work and study since 1997 has been in the fields of marketing, branding, and film—process, concept, identity, and expression for independent, and small and medium sized businesses. Since 2005, I’ve had the good fortune to work with yoga teachers on their brand identity solutions via my businesses, RuConcept and RuYoga Design. Evolving into Brand Thyself has become a deeply fulfilling experience. It’s allowed me the opportunity to use many facets of my professional and personal life (all things dear to me) to bring a unique experience to assist teachers on their career path.

The most satisfying aspect of guiding teachers to identify their authentic offering is when we arrive at the teacher’s core message. For me the core message is the bull’s eye of the conversation—it’s what anchors us closely to the heart, where we really start to see what matters most to a teacher, and how this realization can help a teacher recognize their purpose more clearly. When a teacher lights up from having a deeper connection and understanding about why they’re here to teach, what’s driving their purpose, and how this understanding can impact their mission and message in the world, I feel honored to be present in that discovery.

JE:  You’ve spoken with a LOT of teachers and helped them to solidify a mission for their professional life.  What is one of the biggest pitfalls you’ve heard teachers relay to you over and over again?  Are there common mistakes that we all make or challenges that we all face as yoga instructors?

JBF: The biggest obstacle relayed to me by teachers is not having enough clarity about their offering as a teacher. Some teachers realize fractions of it, but aren’t able to see it as fully as they’d like, nor in a unique way. As a result I’ve found that for some teachers this may lead to professional difficulties, such as, lack of direction which can lead to burn out or feeling stuck; short of inspiration and creativity; not finding one’s true voice; missing a deeper connection with their mission; low self-esteem; or even unhealthy competition. Naturally, these challenges can stem from other conditions too. Though some teachers have expressed to me that by gaining more clarity about their offering, they are able to achieve a healthier relationship with their challenge(s), and even have breakthroughs.

Jessica Boylston Fagonde (Jess)

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Rasa Lila Fest announces Winner/Runners Up of the Yoga Teacher Search via YogaStage&Namaste Y’all

The votes are in and here is the winner and runners up from the First ever Rasa Lila Yoga Teacher search:

Denice McClure, 500 Hour CYT from Live, Love Teach

Denice McClure


A retired Chemist …she ditched chemistry for yoga three years ago. Power Vinyasa Flow, Baptiste style instruction.   Founder of Florida Power Yoga, opening in Fall of 2012

Jenny Miller


St. Petersburg-area instructor who wants you to have fun while you’re getting your butt kicked. Find her at or on Facebook, and come to a class at Yoga Etc. Studio or YogaBlu Studio when you’re Gulf-side.

Shelley Adelle


Yoga Teacher, Spiritual Enthusiast, Experimental Human: With a passion for Yoga and Energy work that is accessible Shelley brings joy to each class and encourages you to connect to the voice of the great teacher within! A former military brat, farm girl from Texas, soap store goddess & actress Shelley spent almost ten years in NYC where she studied with the top teachers in the industry including Shiva Rea, Dharma Mitra, Anna Forest, Jonathan Fields, Schuyler Grant, and many others. An artist, life-coach, reiki practitioner, erotic writer, blogger, studio mama hen & friend…check out more at or follow her @shelleyadelle, on YOGANONYMOUS and Elephant Journal.

Rasa Lila Festival is coming to Orlando October 5-7, 2012.  Check out their website for the full teacher line up including headliners Dice Iida Klein, Briohny Kate Smyth and Kelly Green!



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All you need to know about the upcoming Southeast Yoga Conference!

We asked the co-organizers of the Southeast Yoga Conference (formerly known as the Atlanta Yoga Conference) all about this amazing event which is coming up the first weekend of October.  Nicole Jurovics and Melissa Katz

Melissa Katz (far left) and Nicole Jurovics (far right) at the Atlanta Yoga Conference 2011

have cooked up an epic schedule of workshops, presenters, and even a new Friday night symposium to bring yogis in the Southeast a varied and well-rounded weekend of events to expand and deepen their practice.  Read our interview below:

NY: You organized and hosted the first Atlanta Yoga Conference in 2006. What was the inspiration to create a conference in Atlanta and how did you go about pulling it off?

MK: The Atlanta Yoga Conference started in 2006 as a one-day local event bringing together the diversity of yoga practices as represented by several prominent and community-building yoga teachers with a depth of practice and teaching in Atlanta. The Atlanta Yoga Conference’s initial mission was to be a forum for yogis of all experience levels in the community to learn about and immerse themselves in the practices and philosophies of various yoga styles represented by these teachers. The conference was also formed as a celebration of the breadth and depth of yoga teaching and practice available within the Atlanta yoga community. The conference began as a very grassroots effort, started by two local yoga teachers with hands-on help and financial support from local volunteers, teachers, and sponsors.

The conference has consistently expanded since its inaugural year. In 2007 and 2008, the conference was still focused on fostering the growth and development of local yogis in Atlanta and learning from within the local community from local yoga teachers, but became a weekend-long event with more workshops offered. By this time, the conference was already receiving attendees from outside of Atlanta, elsewhere in the southeast, throughout the country, and even outside the country.

In 2009, the Atlanta Yoga Conference began to look beyond the resources of the immediate yoga community to include national- and internationally-known teachers in its presenter lineup as well as a broader geographic draw of sponsorship and financial support. While the conference continued to utilize the wonderful experience and knowledge base of local teachers within Atlanta, its mission expanded to make Atlanta a forum for the development and understanding of yoga as practiced throughout the world.

NY: This year, the conference has been renamed the Southeast Yoga Conference. What is the significance behind the new moniker?

MK: 2012 is the first year we are operating under our new name, the Southeast Yoga Conference. This name change reflects our more regional draw of participants and our growing national presence as well. While a key component of our mission is still to foster the growth and development of yogis in the Atlanta community, our mission has further expanded to include yogis in the larger southeastern regional community as well. 2012 is definitely a watershed year for the conference.

NY: Your location has moved from a yoga studio to the W Hotel. What can past attendees (and new ones) expect from this space?

NJ: The main difference is the size of the workshop rooms. In our previous location(s) we’ve only been able to accommodate 25-28 people in each room, now we can comfortably have double the mats with plenty of breathing room. The Marketplace  is also larger, allowing more Vendors and Sponsors, which will make it more fun to hang out in the time between workshops. Also, this particular W feels like stepping into a far-off island escape; the decor is all rocks and water, it’s just awesome inside.

NY: Another change this year is the addition of an offering on Friday evening…the Symposium (of which I am honored to play a small part!) and the panel discussion with workshop instructors. Can you tell us a bit more about the structure on Friday and especially how the panel discussion will work?

NJ: Yes, I am especially thrilled about the Friday afternoon Symposium! We’ve pulled together what we think are six wonderful presentations covering special ideas or therapies that support a growing yoga practice; for example we are fortunate enough to have you giving an overview of Ayurveda and how learning our Doshas and the foods that support them, we can better develop a lifestyle that flows more seamlessly with our yoga practice. We also have a Thai Yoga Bodywork demo, where people can either watch or participate while the masterful Tra Kirkpatrick talks you through some yummy partner bodywork and explains the benefits of Thai Yoga Massage. Jim Bennitt, a knowledgeable and wonderful yoga teacher from Chicago will provide a dynamic Tantric Vinyasa yoga sequence, so you can sit back and just watch this amazing flow and get inspired! There will be music and yoga chanting, a presentation on discovering your authentic self and how to thread that knowledge into your yoga teaching, or any other profession. And another former-Chattanooga resident, Mike Fecht, will speak about Healing the Soul, and how yoga in all it’s mental and physical offerings, can be used as a tool for overcoming grief. The Symposium will conclude with a panel discussion featuring three of our presenters, Faith Hunter, Sarah Faircloth, and Joe Palese. Attendees are welcome to email questions in advance (to that they’d like to ask these teachers; anything pertaining to their personal yoga experiences or their thoughts on the somewhat tumultuous terrain that the yoga blogosphere experienced in the past year. There’s so many amazing people and ideas coming together for this Symposium, I hope people take advantage of this Symposium! The event costs only $20 and all the money will go to the METAvivor Organization, funding research and support for Metastatic Breast Cancer.

NY: Yoga festivals and conferences seem to be popping up all over the country (even the world) these days. What are the differences between a conference and a festival and why did you choose to create a conference in the Southeast rather than a festival?

MK: We think of a festival as primarily a celebration. For example, in Atlanta we have several arts festivals offered in the city that are a celebration and showcase of the talents of artists in the city. These arts festivals are a chance for the artists to reach a large audience and for like-minded individuals to gather and share in their appreciation for the arts in Atlanta.  A yoga festival can be considered in the same light – as a celebration of yoga practice and community among like-minded yogis.

We hope that the Southeast Yoga Conference is also a celebration of yoga and community, which was an major component of the conference when it was originally founded in 2006. However, we think a conference should also have a more “serious” component of being a forum for yogis to learn and develop in their personal yoga practice (and teaching for those yogis who are yoga teachers as well) by both deepening and broadening their understanding of yoga styles and philosophies. We hope that with both yoga festivals and yoga conferences, there is overlap so that a yoga festival might be an opportunity to learn and grow and a yoga conference might be an opportunity to celebrate!

NY: Is there a particular workshop or offering at this year’s conference that you are particularly proud of or excited to offer?

NJ: I can’t say that one workshop stands out more than others, I’m pretty overwhelmed by the variety and expertise that our presenters are bringing to us. Again, I think the Symposium will be a blast, and it runs directly into the kick-off party, which is free and offers food and drink and an opportunity to get together with our regional community, it’s just a great time….and we have a yoga-loving DJ providing music for the party!

NY: What advice can you give attendees to maximize their experience this year (especially if they can only get away for one day?)

NJ: Give yourself time to get to the W, it’s very easy to find and there’s a lot of $5 parking lots located across the street or up a block or two, so you won’t have far to walk. The event will be on the 4th floor and the Marketplace is open to anyone, whether they’re taking a workshop or not, so we hope people will drop by just to visit the amazing Vendors and Sponsors. As for choosing workshops, think about your practice and what you’re curious about or what you’d like to cultivate in your practice; there’s workshops for inversions, for twisting, for relaxing, for any level of yogi, no experience necessary unless indicated in the workshop description. And if you’re a seasoned practitioner, pace yourself! Don’t tackle three challenging workshops in a row, you might not make it back the next day. 🙂

NY: Your prices remain significantly lower than some other weekend yoga events around the country? How do you keep the cost of admission so affordable?

NJ: It’s hugely important to us that this conference remain accessible to every level of yoga practitioner. Our community is home to some of the most knowledgeable and driven and compassionate yoga-minds, it’s our hope that this event brings them a greater audience as that, in turn, spread the gifts of yoga and builds other communities. The Sponsor support allows us to bring in these nationally-recognized teachers and give those of us, myself included, who do not have the opportunity to travel as much as we’d like, a chance to practice with people we’ve read about and admired. We would love to double our numbers this year, since the space is there, and have each workshop full with open minds and open hearts. We want to keep this event affordable for a very long time!!

NY: I have a feeling you’ll be pretty busy during the conference but will you be able sneak away to take any of the workshops?

NJ: Absolutely! I try and sneak into at least one workshop a day, although maybe this year I’ll aim for two.

NY: It must take a lot of organization to pull off an event this size. Do you have a volunteer program in place to help out and do you need any more help? What can people do to be a member of the volunteer staff and what are their responsibilities?

NJ: We do welcome volunteers, just email me, and we thankfully have a growing number of volunteers this year. It’s a pretty fun responsibility; picking up teachers at the airport and bringing them to the W, directing people into the appropriate workshop room and monitoring the door so no one sneaks in too terribly late, spending time at the registration desk checking people in, selling the custom-made (by our out-of-town teachers) Arden’s Garden smoothies, attending to the bag lunches that attendees pre-order, simple but important stuff.

NY: As you approach your 7th year putting on this event, you must be reflecting on how it has evolved and taken shape. What’s your vision for the Southeast Yoga Conference in the coming years?

NJ: We’ve grown organically and feel that the event will take shape in the coming years to reflect the feedback we receive after each conference. We’d like to serve our regional community and offer more or less of things based on this feedback. I could see us tying-in more music and more group-events, dinners, speakers, there’s so many ways to grow the experience.

The Southeast Yoga Conference is taking place at the W Atlanta Downtown Friday October 5 through Sunday October 7, 2012.  Registration is open so go ahead and snag your spot today!  Some of these workshops will fill up fast so reserve your class space online to ensure you get to experience all that the conference has to offer!

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Are you calmer than a 5th grader?

Yesterday I taught a class to a group of 5th grade students at Academy Prep in South St. Petersburg. Academy Prep is a donation-supported charter school that enrolls all of its students based on need and gives them full scholarships to attend. The school is located in a tough area where the neighboring public schools boast about a 35% high school graduation rate. When the owner of one of the studios where I teach texted me asking if I’d like to lead class for a group of 5th graders that Thursday, I jumped on it. I had no idea what I was signing up for.

My class was to be the weekly installment of a “fit for life” program run by a veritable saint who I know only as Lynn. She volunteers her afternoon, once a week, to bring fitness and nutrition to these kids. When I spoke to her on the phone about teaching a class, she told me that she would provide everything for the kids but added “you bring your patience.” Okay.

When I got there, Lynn told me that we can’t call it yoga. She had prepped the kids the week before, telling them we were to have a yoga class, and one of the mothers called the school and complained that the spirituality of yoga was not in synch with her kid’s faith. Unfortunately, that’s something that keeps a lot of people off the mat [like this bloatface -ed]. I think I’m one of the most spiritually irreverent and un-religious teachers you could have, so this mom’s worries seemed unfounded. But, alright, we’ll call it core strengthening.

I thought I’d start with a calming breathing exercise called nadi shodana (alternate nostril breathing). This quickly proved impossible as everyone was snorting and choking through it. Nevermind. I tried some short warm-uppy stuff of the sort adults appreciate, but that was soon rejected with a “Can we do something else now?” Shit. So I got them moving but they could not stop talking to each other. There were two other adults in the room whose full-time job during my class was to walk around trying to hush everybody up. It was NOT easy for them. I just kept on rolling with it, trying all different kinds of moves, and checking my watch like every two minutes. They did a pretty good job in tree. Tree is a feel good pose that everybody can agree about. Phew. Then I did a bunch of sun salutation-y things to try and wear them out. I added major sound effects to get them participating. This worked. “BOOM!” “He-eeey!” They responded much better when I gave them a way to be vocal that wasn’t disruptive.

Most people can agree about Tree.

One girl requested that we do “burger.” I had no idea what the hell she was talking about but she kept asking for it, and so, grateful that she was paying attention to me at all, I finally invited her to demonstrate it. I’ll be damned if this little lady didn’t roll right back into Halasana — plow pose. I was so psyched! Yes, darling, we will definitely do burger! (This is the only place that I could find a connection between burger and Halasana: Kitteh Style.)

When it was time for Savasana, corpse pose, I told them all to lay down and be quiet — that we were going to pretend we were dead. The other two teachers were walking around reminding the kids that dead people do not talk. One girl responded loudly that dead people DO fart, though. (And she is correct: this or this). The rest of Savasana passed with with various farting noises emanating from different corners of the room, lots of laughing, one girl singing, and me walking around the room repeating “Shhhhhhhhhh” as calmly as I could.

Maybe I’m projecting my own love of yoga and my own knowledge of its benefits, but it did seem to me that the students were behaving better at the end of class and listening more to Lynn. But that could also be because she had the snacks. I’ll never know. But I do know if they ask me to come back and teach not-yoga again, I’m gonna say hell-to-the-yeah!

In Savasana, J demonstrates how putting a towel over a kid makes him quieter, just like a bird.

Katelyn Grady (Thureson) is a yoga teacher as well as a YogaStage Delegate and writer working and living in St. Petersburg, FL.  Her work has been published on Elephant Journal and you can find more of her writing on her blog, Beerasana.   This post was originally published on Beerasana and we are grateful for the opportunity to share it with you! ~ Editor

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So You Just Got Your Yoga Teaching Certificate…NOW What Do You Do?

Editor’s Note:  This is a guest post from Mimm Patterson of Practically Twisted blog.  

When you boiled it all down, the question my friend wanted an answer to was this:

“What do I do now?”

Deepa and I began Avalon Art and Yoga Center’steacher training course in September 2011.  Six months and almost $3,000 dollars later we had a beautiful piece of paper to show the world that we were yoga teachers.

Hold up.  Actually, what we had was a piece of paper that said we’d completed the program.  The Avalon Teacher Training program is an intense and comprehensive six months of study.  It was worth my time and my money.  But when it was over, did the world have twenty-eight more yoga teachers?  I’m not sure.

It’s one thing to learn the techniques of teaching and another to know how to touch a student with words that describe the impact of a yoga practice or to provide support that make her feel safe.  Knowing how to instill confidence, knowing how to adjust a posture, knowing how to set the tone in the studio – it takes time and experience to develop those skills.  It takes an instinct that I’m not certain can be taught.  It’s a bit like learning that red and blue make purple.  Knowing how the color wheel works does not make you an artist.  And completing a teacher-training program does not make you a teacher.

The reality is I taught for many years before becoming a certified teacher. Instead of certification, I studied informally.  I read books and attended classes.  I asked questions.  I practiced.  I was a student for ten years before I began teaching.  I’m not suggesting the path to teaching I chose is better or even desirable.  There were holes in my “home study” yoga education I had a craving to fill.   What I’m trying to point out is that there are different paths, and maybe this push to collect certificates and to study with the flashiest Pop Star Yoga Idol (and after this past year we certainly know how quickly and how far yoga idols can fall) is blinding us to the truth that being a compassionate, effective and capable teacher takes more than a file cabinet of certificates.

So how important is that piece of paper?  I’m happy that after eighteen years I have certificates not only from Avalon but also from Paul Grilley’s Yin Teacher Training.  I could have continued to be a fine teacher without them, but they represent opportunity. They open doors.  If you choose – and for what it’s worth – your new certificate allows you to register with Yoga Alliance (which I’ve done).

But I’m through with formal training for the time being.  I’m happy to return to reading, talking with fellow teachers, attending classes in my neighborhood.  I’m happy to focus on my students and my teaching.

So how did I answer Deepa as she tried to decide what to do next?

I told her to take a step back.  I told her to find her teaching voice.

Your yoga voice – how you speak to students, the vocabulary you use to describe asana or pranyama or mudras or bandhas – it can’t be taught.  You have to find it and the only way to find it is to teach.

When you find your authentic voice as a teacher, that’s when you’ll begin to teach your truth.  And when you are teaching your truth you’ll know that the path you chose – the path that brought you here – it was the right one.

ps….Some people, by the way, are born to teach.  They’re naturals.  Deepa is one of them.  From mid-July she’ll be teaching at Downtown Yoga Shala in San Jose, California mornings and Friday evenings.  

As for me, I continue to teach my truth at California Yoga Center, Avenidas in Palo Alto and Prajna Yoga and Healing Arts in Belmont, California.  I also teach for Feinberg Medical Group and privately.

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