beach yoga

Need to Retreat to Mexico?

There is nothing like a warm break from winter where several hours of yoga are wrapped up with relaxation or special excursions in a tropical climate! Doing yoga in fresh air in an outdoor studio or on a beach while learning new meditation, pranayama and asana techniques can be inspirational to a stale practice. And removing yourself from the busy-ness of life even for just a week creates a sacred space for rest and renewal!

beach yogaEach year SOYA teachers hold the 200 hour yoga teacher training is Mexico. Consider joining us in this lovely warm climate!  Find out more!




Sharing Your Yoga with Your Own Children

By Dorothy Fizzell, SOYA, IYTA, ERYT500, mom and grandma.

If you are a yoga teacher, and you have children, do you do yoga with them? Or is it something you do separate from raising your children? Or, are you a parent/grandparent of young children, who also participates in yoga classes?  Do you share the knowledge with them?

There is a quote from Eyre in 1984 that defines play as “What joy is in the body! The joy of work, and of hard, purposeful effort, the joy of singing, the joy of sport and activity, the joy of tenderness and physical touch, the joy of controlling physical things!”  This is also a perfect definition of yoga asana!!

Children love to move! Yoga is a natural extension of what children already do, and sharing yoga, as with other aspects of bringing up children to be positive, confident, healthy, contributing members of society, can be exciting.

karlAs a yoga teacher, with young children, I did not spend much focused time sharing my passion with them.  There were, however, many spontaneous teachable moments, while I was doing my personal practice, or preparing for teaching, that my two sons did become aware of what yoga is. I used photos of my ten year old son, Karl, in my specialty project on “Yoga for Preschool children”.  It was enjoyable to answer their questions, to pay attention as they said “Watch me!” and to demonstrate breath and body movement, sitting still, as well as model some of the yoga philosophy such as yamas and niyamas.

Karl, doing Trikonasana at age 10.

Yoga can be extremely important in a child’s life.  Just as with adults, life for even very young children can be very structured, busy and competitive.  Yoga, in children, can reduce stress, can improve body awareness, strength and flexibility and can improve self-discipline and self-confidence.  And with concerns about children not being active enough, yoga is perfect!

Play is the most important aspect of a young child’s life and is the major method of learning.  When yoga is done in a fun, natural way, children will learn it.  It is exciting for them to use the Sanskrit language, and they love to show and feel how their bodies move in space.

As parents, or grandparents, we can involve children in our yoga practice, challenging them, having them use their imagination, with all the same yoga asanas, the same breath techniques, the same meditation techniques.  We do need to be mindful of the “dos and don’ts”, of not having to be precisely aligned, and we need to modify accounting for different body proportions.

Doing yoga with children also teaches us, as we open our minds to children’s perspectives, as we develop patient calm when they want to repeat and repeat again, as we move with more ease and relaxation, having some laughing moments in a yoga asana.

Karl2And…who knows, your child may then pass yoga onto their children!

Karl, doing Sirsasana prep/ Svanasana with two year Odin.

Erich Schiffmann

“Continuing Education” in Freedom Yoga with Erich Schiffmann

Submitted by Mugs McConnell, E-RYT500, Co-owner of SOYA

Bob and I have just returned from a 5 day yoga teacher’s training with Erich Schiffmann at Exhale Yoga in Venice Beach. I always look forward to continuing to learn and deepen my knowledge of yoga. Even though Bob and I have trained for more than 100 hours with Erich since I first experienced his yoga in 2005 we are continually so very grateful for his depth of spirit and incredible ability to inspire our personal practice.

So what makes Erich so different from other yoga teachers? Of course the asana is awesome… it starts so easy and then the next thing I know I am in something so very deep and I wonder how I got there! His hip-opening sequences create amazing space leading to the ultimate achievement of the lotus position. His back-bending is delightful to watch, and his dog sequences are liquid as they open up the heart.  But it isn’t so much the asana that is so incredibly inspiring, it is his union with the Divine that takes me to places beyond.

“Your personal practice is being in class with the Infinite. Having your notebook ready is like inviting the insights in. The insights are the fruits of your work. Write them down right away, when they are the most clear.”
Erich reminds our class that the Infinite, the Universal Consciousness, or Big Mind – otherwise known as God – is Love. And Love is oozing out of every one of his pores as he teaches us teachers. “Put more love into your asana”. “That’s YOU in there. Be gentle!”

Erich has trained with the best of the best… He studied with Krishnamurti and taught yoga for many years in Krishnamurti’s Brockwood School in England. He lived in Madras, India for a year and studied with Desikachar. He studied with Mr. Iyengar in Poona, India in the 1970’s. He studied with Dona Holleman and Vanda Scaravelli in Italy. And in USA, Joel Kramer made it all click for him by taking it beyond the physical to an understanding of the flow of energy.

According to Erich, self-trust is the advanced technique of yoga… as you trust YOU, you are trusting in the ALL. We learn self-trust through the practice of meditation – regularly – on and off all day.  Start when you wake up in the morning by sitting up in bed with pillows supporting your back. In that early stage of waking, enjoy the inner quiet as you enter your day. Let those insights come into your mind and then trust them. With self-trust you are opening up to the Universal Wisdom. As you think less, and listen more… then “new knowing” will flow into your mind.

Erich lives his yoga ALWAYS. “Yoga is a lifestyle, which means living it all the time. ‘All the time’ is the new NOW that you are in all-the-time.” Whatever comes into your day, good or bad, it is your “new now” and how you handle it is a reflection of your state of yoga, your current level of consciousness.

We are very excited about Erich returning to BC next June 5-7, in Sorrento, BC at Sorrento Centre where he will help us celebrate 20 years of SOYA! He doesn’t come to Canada often so we are really very fortunate that he is making the trip here. Registration for this event will open in January 2015, so be sure to register early!

SOYA Yoga Teaching

To be or not to be a Yoga Teacher?

Submitted by Jeff Lutes, RYT500, E-RYT200 from Prince George, BC.  

 There are profundities in many experiences in life.  We have the opportunity to experience them every moment of every day in the interactions we have with people, our environment and with ourselves.   This is what I learned in my Yoga teacher training.

The experience of teacher training itself was unexpectedly profound.  When I began the training I had been doing Yoga on and off for about ten years. My interest in doing Yoga teacher training was not to become a teacher but to learn more about the ancient practice and to understand the philosophical foundations better.  What occurred in the SOYA training was much more.  At the time, it was like a magnificent dive into the infinite pool of energetic power that exits in the universe and how we as individuals embody, contain and manifest that power.  Today, the lessons learned are a source of inspiration that I can draw on when I feel an illusory dark reality descending.


 The experience of teacher training is to be in an ideal nurturing environment.  While I would imagine there are some teacher trainings where group dynamics may go sideways, what I experienced and what I have witnessed others experience is that as an individual you are immersed into a completely supportive group environment.  It is recognized through constant dialogue, re-enforced by the philosophical texts that we all come to the mat with our own respective dysfunctions and that it is these dysfunctions that make us who we are, the unique individual expression of the universal energetic source.  The teaching is constructive, the texts and lessons learned are all about positive intention and energy.  The constant theme reinforced is to learn to accept and love yourself and others with your best possible effort.  Whatever it is you can contribute towards achieving that-it is enough.

The experience is framed within an ancient practice of holistic well being, a physical and mental cleansing of the body and soul, ten to twelve hours of concerted application of well being per day.  Morning kriyas (cleansing techniques), daily pranayama (breath and vital energy manipulation) practices, two or more times per day, to help balance and cleanse the energy channels in our body, mind and soul.  There is Asana practice twice per day to stretch and strengthen the physical body and build capacity within to maximize the application of the increased vitality built throughout the training.


 Through this daily work we inevitably encounter our own personal limitations and obstacles towards our goals.  These become our challenges and as they are recognized they are learned from.  The group of students in the training all face challenges and the magnificent thing that takes place is that we begin to apply the philosophical framework for the discipline and practice of Yoga-love and compassion towards our fellow yogis.  We learn from each other and realize that as we are compassionate toward others we learn to be compassionate with ourselves.  As others are compassionate towards you (the individual you) you begin to see the positive feedback loop strengthening.  You become stronger the more love and compassion are experienced.  This is the ultimate lesson, we are learning beings, built to absorb the lessons of the environment and world around us, and when properly enforced with positivity and prosperity of spiritual growth lessons, we manifest the true nature of our beings, lightness and love.


By the end of the training it is not as if you have become a permanently enlightened being.  Though euphoria and glimpses of the infinite universe led me to think I had achieved permanent enlightenment, the reality that it was not so was a major bummer.  For most, the embodiment of lightness and love are fleeting experiences, throughout the training and in life.  In teacher training though, when these moments of enlightenment arise, they are nurtured and the experience may linger longer than it otherwise would have.  The moment of enlightenment will probably pass though and we encounter the challenges within ourselves once again.  This is a natural ebb and flow.  The highs of these experiences are amazing and in the context of the training the lows are made less by the support of those around us.

The difficulty is in applying the experiences of what we learn to our every day lives.  Re-entering reality can be challenging.  Describing your experiences to others who have not done a teacher training or do not understand the practice and principles of yoga can be met with ponderous looks of bewilderment and disbelief.  In the teacher training you have been surrounded by reflections of your own experience, and the magnification becomes brighter and enhances your own experience.  In your normal reality the reflection may not be as bright or exist at all and as time goes by the magnification of the reflection diminishes within yourself.  The framework of positive re-enforcement disappears and it is up to you, on your own, to keep the light shining.  Many people are overwhelmed by this prospect.  I am one of those people.  Within this there is a vital lesson though.  While it is up to you to maintain the discipline and path in the experience of lightness and love, understand that what the environment of a teacher training provides is a community of people to keep the flame burning strong.  It was through the experience with others and the provision of compassion and love to others that created a brighter flame within the personal individual experience.  The lesson within this is that while the community you live within may not initially embrace your knowledge with open arms, trust that there is a community who will.  As you seek out and find that community, the continued application of the lessons of lightness and love will only serve to help the people and loved ones who viewed your knowledge with skepticism see the brilliance within what you have to offer. Maintaining the lessons learned is difficult but through persistent effort the benefits will continue to grow and the experiences of enlightenment will become more and more natural.

To Immerse or Not to Immerse:  That is the Question

 There are different options for how one can do a teacher training.  I did my initial training as an immersion-it began with completing a number of philosophical lessons at home on topics like chakras and the Gita, followed with an immersion of 16 days/12 hours per day.

Another method is to do it over a longer period of time.  Some schools provide opportunities to do it over three or four months, every other weekend and other schools provide the student an opportunity to work toward a certification in several short modules which amount to the required number of contact hours with approved teachers.  Obviously there are no right and wrong ways of going about getting certified as a teacher.  Each method has its own strengths.

Going the immersion route seems to manifest more dramatic shifts due to the consistent application of the lessons from Yoga day after day.  The armor most individuals have built up over the course of life is stripped away quickly.  A few days of feeling raw and vulnerable may take place but the support of those around you helps to ease the difficulty of the process and feel open to the depths of the practice of Yoga.  The result is both a positive and a challenge.  Due to the immersion the cathartic changes that take go to deeper depths.   The realm of constant positive re-enforcement forms a more innocent integration of the lessons learned.  Upon re-entry into regular life the bluntness of reality may overwhelm the innocence.   A trust is required that the seeds of what were planted during the training will continue to grow as long as they are nourished.

Doing a teacher training over a longer period of time gives one the benefit of integrating and experimenting with applying the lessons over the few months the training takes place.  The stripping of armor may not go as deep though.   The constant reentry into “normality” may cause a student to put the armor back on before they have experienced the lessons of what vulnerability has to offer.  It is a more pragmatic learning experience and as such has its obvious benefits and limitations.

Whatever a student chooses to participate in will be beneficial to themselves and the world as a whole.  There is nothing to compare that one is experience is better than the other, rather, it is important for a student to choose what seems right for them.

Profundities v. Normality

 Acceptance, love and compassion are fundamentally important experiences and attributes to have in your life.   These form the foundation for a healthy community.  Understanding and experiencing these through a Yoga teacher training has a profound long term impact on your own reality.

Other experiences may happen during the teacher training.  Through the consistent balancing, cleansing, strengthening and stretching or our energetic beings some interesting shifts and happenings can occur.  The subtle energies in our mind and body and spirit can manifest cathartic energy explosions that have profound impacts on our understanding of ourselves our own energetic connection to the universe around us.  In some form or another a student will experience a connection to the Chakras, the raising of Kundalini energy and a depth of connection to the vital life force-Prana.  The connections may be subtle or may be dramatic.  What is certain is that a student can experience and learn that the energy they are comprised of is as magnificent and mystical as the energy contained within the power of nature that surrounds us.

What is important to learn, whether you have done or will do a teacher training, or if you are a regular practitioner of yoga, or an aspiring practitioner, is that all of this, yourself and our universe are profound.  We see the profundity every day and it is this that sparks the awe of our unique, individual and collective reality: the smile on the face of someone who needs to make a connection to community and does so, the amazing power of the natural world we live in, the power within ourselves to be compassionate and loving towards others, this is what our practice is about.  Acknowledging that.  It is profound and yet the more it is practiced, the more normal it becomes.

jeffJeff Lutes is an enthusiastic teacher of Hatha yoga with a little vinyasa, power yoga, the yoke, and good times thrown in. He is an owner of Chinook Yoga in Prince George and our newest addition to the SOYA Lead Trainer faculty.

Horse yoga

Yoga opens our hearts to horses

Explore the horse-human connection by reconnecting with yourself – Sept 13-14 or Oct 18-19.

By Sandy Bell, Chinook Communications at Windhorse Retreat and Jo-Ann Bance, SOYA500, Our Inner Yogi

Breath and balance between mind and body — these yogic principles can bring us closer to awareness of ourselves through our reflections in equine eyes.   This is what we try to help participants achieve in our unique workshops blending the principles and practices of yoga and equine assisted learning.

Horses live in the present completely integrated with their whole brain, all of their senses and their physicality.  They are thoroughly connected with the natural world that surrounds them.  Contrast this with what many people in the developed world experience in our day-to-day lives.  In our work especially, we often are right-brain, visual, verbal and detached from our bodies and nature.

We may be, as well, self-limiting in our perception of the world around us, and our place in it, as received through our senses.  We may focus on using our vision and our hearing primarily, and our touch and taste to a lesser degree.  We may be unaware of the messages given to us by our sense of smell.  We may be fairly unconscious of some of the other senses we have that inform us about the world around us — proprioception and balance, for example, which tell us our about our bodies relative to the spaces around us.

The meditative experiences and yoga poses we offer in our workshops begin to re-open awareness of all our senses, thereby broadening our experience of ourselves in our environment. This enhanced awareness deepens the potential connections to the sentient and sensitive horses encountered in activities facilitated for personal reflection.  We do not merely think we know or try to rationalize about what the horse is telling us, we sense it in multiple ways, we feel it, we know it at a deep core level.

Horses are expert at non-verbal communication and can read people in a glance.  They absolutely know and trust their gut feelings coming from the non-verbal as perceived by multiple senses.  People often ignore or distrust their gut feelings — their intuitions —even though 70 to 80 per cent of human to human communication, we are told, is non-verbal in nature.

All things share the same breath – the beast, the tree, the man. The air shares its spirit with all the life it supports.”  Chief Seattle

We encourage people to release themselves to the non-verbal through a yoga practice designed for all levels.  Yoga can open a person’s whole being — heart, spirit, mind and body — to what a horse has to offer in honest and immediate feedback from them.  horse in mistFor instance, at the beginning of the retreat, during a guided meditation participants are asked to imagine walking up to a field and in the distance noticing the silhouette of what appears to be horses.  They open the gate and make their way across the field.  As they get closer, they are asked to make one simple request “Can I be part of your herd?” Participants are encouraged to pay attention to the answer.  After the session, the group is then introduced to the Windhorse Retreat herd.  Through an equine-assisted learning exercise, individuals are asked to choose their herd and then to share their insights with the group about their choice.

Two-day “Discover you! Reflections in an equine eye” workshops at Windhorse Retreat ( take place on Sept. 13-14 and Oct. 18-19.  A weeklong retreat in Costa Rica runs from Dec. 4-11.  No prior horse experience is needed for the workshops or the retreat.  Please text, phone or email for more information or to register: 403-700-7880 or

supta baddhakonasana

Supta Baddhakonasana: Yoga for Menopause

Contributed by Helen Mikuska, SOYA, ERYT500, IYTA and SOYA Teacher Trainer. Helen is a lead trainer for the SOYA Teacher Training and is offering a workshop on Yoga for Menopause, Sunday, October 19, 2014 at Harmony Yoga Pilates Studio in Calgary. For more information visit

As part of the natural aging process, the body produces smaller and smaller quantities of reproductive hormones.  The ovaries and uterus shrink and ultimately the menstrual cycle ceases.  Menopause is a gradual process that may extend over several years.  Usually it occurs between 45-55 years of age, but may occur earlier.  Other factors affecting the age of menopause is one’s general standard of nutrition, weight and whether or not one has had children.  An early menopause can occur as a result of disease or surgical removal of the ovaries.  Hysterectomy usually does not precipitate menopause unless both ovaries are removed.  The decline of estrogen and progesterone triggers minor changes in the bones, skin and circulatory system but essentially all the menopause really signifies is that a woman can no longer achieve a child.  Women may experience hot flashes, vaginal atrophy, weight gain, headaches, digestive upset, dizzy spells, palpitations, blood pressure irregularities, insomnia, lethargy, irritability and depression.  They are not directly related to the fall in estrogen, but the stress of hormonal fluctuations do influence a woman’s mood and these difficulties could then be precipitated in more vulnerable women.

For women who have been practicing yoga in earlier years often physical difficulties at menopause are less intense and any emotional disturbances practically non-existent.  As with all hormonal imbalances, yoga asanas have a tremendous stabilizing effect.  Some estrogen continues to be produced by the liver and kidneys even after the ovaries cease their secretions, and the correct yoga practices can stimulate these extra sources as partial compensation for loss of ovarian hormones.  For those who have not been practicing yoga before, it is never too late to begin. Women who have undergone a hysterectomy or other major operations are equally able to commence.  Workshop will include the practice of asana, learning pranayamas specific to menopause along with some suggested mantras and mudras.

 Supta baddhakonasana:

supta baddhakonasana-menopause2

Sit in butterfly pose with a bolster behind your back and a block underneath each knee. Wrap a strap around your waist and tuck it under your ankles. Breathe in, then exhale as you recline onto your bolster. Place an eyebag over the eyes. Place a folded

blanket under your head for comfort if desired. Relax here for up to 10 minutes.

This pose is beneficial for irregular periods, heavy bleeding, insomnia, headaches, eye strain and fatigue.


Savasana for Stand Up Paddle Board Yoga: Letting Go of Edges!!!

Join Natasha for SUP Teacher Training Sept 13th!

Article contributed by NATASHA SCOTT, SOYA,ERYT500, IYTA. Natasha is lead trainer for the SOYA Teacher Training and will be leading a SUP Teacher Training Saturday, Sept 13th from 10am to 6pm at Summerland Lakeshore Fitness. For more information please contact

The gifts that teaching SUPYOGA have given me are far beyond anything I could have ever expected.  The peace of the water. The freedom of having a lake all to yourself. The open-ness of asanas in a new way…..but the best gift of all is this:  SUPYOGA has offered me laughter with  people I barely know, it breaks down walls when given the chance to LET GO and FALL IN.

Fall in to water, to freedom, to open-ness, to peace. It allows you to reclaim your sense of humor with yourself, all the while having moments of incredible strength and balance.   After all the splashes, the toddler steps, the hugging to center, the riding of the waves ….we rest. We rest in SHAVASANA on our boards and take it all in.

Lying on our backs on our boards letting the gentle ripples and waves rock us into pratayahara.  My Favorite asana on my SUP****


Eyes Closed.  Let the arms and hands float in the water.   Slowing down your breath. Watching the inhalations and exhalations….creating a softer and longer breath.  Watch how your body responds to the waves of your breath.

Take your awareness right up to the crown of your head for a body scan.

Slowly move down thru your body checking in with how everything is feeling.  Notice places where you feel evidence of your practice, warm fuzzy like sensations where prana is flowing like water.

With your awareness at your feet soften you feet. Relax your feet. Relax your feet.

Fully relax your legs. Let the legs feel heavy fully relax your legs.

Let the knee caps feel like they are floating.

Soften the lower back, let the lower back sink, creating spaciousness thru the lower back.

Feel your breath at your lower lungs. Feel the ribs expand on the inhalation and feel the breath come back to center back home on the exhalation.

Soften your heart center. Soften thru the front side of the heart center,  soften the back side of the heart center, in between those shoulder blades, the sides of your heart center…relax the heart center.

Let the shoulder’s sink. Relax the shoulders, let the shoulders fully relax.

Fully relax your arms, as you relax your arms let them float. Relax your arms.

Soften your hands. Feel the water thru your fingers and fully relax your hands.

Relax your neck. Soften thru the front side thru your throat. Soften the back side of your neck, and soften the sides of your neck…fully relax your neck.

Soften your jaw, relax your jaw, relax the jaw.

Let the tongue sink right down to the bottom of your mouth. Relax your tongue. Relax the tongue.

Let there be a natural space between your teeth and your lips.

The space between your eyebrows; make it even bigger.

Relax the eyes, let the eyes feel soft and light, relax the eyes.

Soften your forehead, creating spaciousness thru your forehead, relax your forehead.

Let the entire face feel soft and light.

Relax your scalp. Soften the scalp. Let the ears feel like they are sinking.

Staying right here just above sleep…. fully enjoy all the sensations outside of you…the sun, the warm breeze, the water….and then fully enjoy all the sensations inside of you….the lightness, the warmth …..

A few minutes of silence.

Bring to seated. Finish with quote:

“The wave rises in the sea, and having arisen appears to have its own form, to be a “thing to itself”. In fact, however, the wave is always and everywhere one with the sea. It arises from and returns to the sea. It is made of the same stuff as the sea. It is the sea in every way. Indeed, even in the fullness of its apparent individual being “wave-ness”- it is never really other than the sea.” Stephen Cope


Headstand – Sirsasana

Submheadstand sarah 2itted by Sarah Trombetta, SOYA 200 hour teacher in Ft. McMurray.

Starting in child’s pose, take a couple of breaths. Then sit up on your heels. Make a firm foundation to support your body by placing the forearms on the floor. Grab each elbow with the opposite hand to ensure elbows
are the correct distance apart. Interlock the fingers and keep the elbows beneath the shoulders. Now you have created a firm triangle foundation with the forearms.

  1. Place the top of your head on the floor with the back of the head firmly against the clasped hands. Tuck your toes under, straighten the knees and raise the hips up to form an inverted V shape. Keep pressing into the forearms and walk your feet towards the head until your hips are over the head, or as close as is possible.
  2. If you are able to, press your forearms into the floor and use your abdominal strength and lift the feet off the floor and bring the knees into the chest. Slowly straighten the legs and bring the feet up toward the ceiling. Keep 2/3rds of the body weight on the forearms and only 1/3rd the body weight on your head. Hold the headstand for 5-10 breaths.
  3. To come out of the position use your abdominal muscles to slowly bring the knees back towards the chest, then bring the feet to the floor and relax into the child’s pose. Do not sit up too quickly to prevent dizziness or a headache.


Helps to increase balance. Gives relief to varicose veins by taking the weight off the legs. Increases circulation to the spine, the brain and heart. Tones the endocrine glands. Rejuvenates the entire body increasing energy and vitality. Abdominal organs are relieved from constant pressure and with the inversion it stimulates those that are sluggish. Blood vessels can contract fully. The heart does not need to exert itself so pumps slowly and can rest.

Precautions and modifications:

Do not do if you have glaucoma or whiplash or a detached retina. Do a mild inversion instead, such as legs up the wall.

If you have anxiety or fear doing this inversion, use a wall with an assistant to help support you.

If you have weak wrists difficulty keeping your elbows under the shoulders (they tend to spread apart) then use a strap to keep them the correct distance apart.

For neck injuries or weakness in the upper body strength, do only phase 1. This is known as ardha sirsasana or the dolphin pose. Holding this pose will help you to build upper body strength without compromising the neck and head.

Advanced variations:

headstand 2While in the headstand, you can stretch the feet wide apart to the side and to the front/back.

You can drop one leg down towards the floor while keeping the other leg up, then raise the leg back up and repeat with the other leg.

Lower both legs down towards the floor and raise back up again. With legs extended, twist them to the right and then to the left.


Preparing for Your Yoga Teacher Training

By Julie (Jools) Andrés, SOYA500, Roberts Creek, BC

The first module of my 300-hour SOYA upgrade immersion took place a year ago in beautiful Water Valley, Alberta. Three weeks beforehand my excitement began to build. To-do lists sprouted forth on sticky notes on my fridge and monitor and I made arrangements for garden minding. My head swam. I knew from my earlier training that I would be facing a wonderful, challenging, and even befuddling time. While I geared up, that nagging voice inside—the one that likes to feed the hungry pit of doubt—that voice said, “Maybe you should cancel. This probably isn’t the ideal time. You have too much other stuff going on in your life. This is really an extravagance. Maybe you shouldn’t…”

Somehow I got past that little devil. I drove 1,000 kilometres and arrived well prepared, I thought. I was ready. We began our work. In study groups we explored ancient texts that speak to us in a universal voice that is both comforting and confounding. Of course, in yoga it is all about practice, and practice we did: pranayama, mantra, meditation, specialty workshops, and asana, asana, asana. We went non-stop for 12 hours or more every day, living, breathing, eating, thinking yoga in every activity. As wonderful as it was, the nagging voice needed to be silenced again and again.

Attending yoga teacher training intensives over 12 to 16 days, or extended programs spanning over several months is life altering in a beautiful way. Because we pack so much learning and experience into a compressed timeframe it can be overwhelming. Here are a few tips for keeping sane and getting the most out of your time in retreat.

  • Don’t arrive already exhausted. Whether you are driving or flying, arrange to make your transition time adequate for acclimatizing to the new surroundings. Ensure that you have enough time to rest and go over logistics before the program schedule begins. If facilities are available for soaking in a hot tub, swimming, or other recreational activities, take advantage of them during this time. Relax and enjoy yourself.
  • Ramp up your home asana practice for two or three weeks beforehand. This way you will not be dealing with intense soreness and fatigue. Almost all yoga teacher training programs have a very heavy asana component; be ready to learn as much as you can from highly experienced teachers by being up for the physical challenge.
  • If food service is available take advantage of it rather than bringing and preparing your own. If self-catering is the only option, bring ingredients for meals that are healthy and simple. Don’t try to cook in the same way that you do at home. A Magic Bullet or other small appliance and supplies for high protein smoothies are a good option. Bring a thermos for your tea and a one- or two-litre water bottle for daily hydration. You’ll need it. Make protein bars to refrigerate or freeze at the retreat centre. Get an ample supply of fresh fruit. Bring nuts, seeds, dried fruit and, if you fancy, some nibbles of good dark chocolate.
  • If you have left young children at home arrange to have specific times to be in touch with them. This will allay any separation anxiety and allow you to focus on your training.
  • Some of the habits or mannerisms of your classmates may push your buttons. Be aware of this and witness without reacting. Interpersonal clashes can really ruin things for everyone.
  • Know that as you work deeply you will likely stir up emotions that you didn’t expect to surface. The best way to prepare is to go in with an attitude of self-acceptance. It’s all good.

Write your lists, pack your bags, arrange to cover for your absence at home or work. As your time draws closer, remember that every conscious breath in your personal practice strengthens you. Don’t back out. Each mantra repetition brings you closer to inner peace. Every observance of your thoughts leads you toward the brilliant flame that is your fearless soul.

Remember, this is why we learn, practice, and teach yoga.

Jools is a grad and lead trainer of the SOYA 300 hour upgrade. To learn more about this program click here

organic food

Mugs’ Raw Granola

I like granola but I prefer it without any added sweetener and that is hard to come by. I created this very easy recipe based on one from the book “Uncooking with Raw Rose” by Rose Vasile, which is a great book to introduce you to raw foods. I leave out the date-apple paste so this recipe is quicker and the only sweetener comes from the raisins or dried cranberries.

The groats are sprouted and the seeds are soaked.  Soaking and sprouting seeds and grains activates and multiplies nutrients like Vitamins A, B and C.  It also removes anti-nutrients or compounds that interfere with the absorption of nutrients, making them more digestible.


2 cups buckwheat groats

1 cup raw sunflower seeds

1 cup raw pumpkin seeds

1 cup flax seeds

1 cup raisins or dried cranberries

1 cup unsweetened shredded or shaved flakes of coconut

1 cup raw cashews or pecans, slightly chopped



Soak the groats in water for about 1 hour, then drain and let them sprout overnight, then rinse them well.  Soak the pumpkin seeds 4-6 hours, then rinse them well.  Dry the groats and seeds in your dehydrator or oven at a low temperature (about 115 degrees F), which takes about 2 hours depending on how thinly you spread them out.

In the meantime, mix together the coconut flakes, nuts, raisins and flax seeds.  Add the groats and seeds from the dehydrator once they are dry.  Store in a jar with a tight lid.

Top with a tablespoon of raw hemp hearts and sliced banana, apple or fresh berries. Serve with raw almond milk (or any milk of your choice).  If you aren’t eating totally “raw”, then this goes great with yogurt or non-dairy coconut milk yogurt.