Horse Yoga

Horses Teach Yoga Students

Discover yourself though yoga and equine-assisted learning

By Sandy Bell, Chinook Communications at Windhorse Retreat.  SOYA teacher Jo-Ann Bance will be leading the next retreat March 22-23 in Rimbey, AB.

horses_yoga The breeze strokes your face during a seated meditation.  You soften your gaze and slow your breathing, and a horse moves closer to smell your head and hands.  She stands beside you.  Another horse moves into the centre of the circle of people and horses.  She rests quietly with her head down and gently sighs.  The feeling of unity deepens.

This experience is one of the highlights for participants in workshops and retreats that offer a unique blend of yoga and equine-assisted learning.   Weekend workshops are hosted by Windhorse Retreat, west of Rimbey, Alberta and week-long retreats are at Painted Pony Guest Ranch, Costa Rica.  Our yoga partners are Jo-Ann Bance, For Our Inner Yogi, Calgary and Mary Byerly, Panacea de la Montana Yoga Retreat and Spa, Guanacaste, Costa Rica.

“We are excited about hosting the retreats at Painted Pony Guest Ranch.  The combination of people, horses and yoga is magical, especially when set in a tropical paradise of Costa Rica,” says Kay Dodge, owner, Painted Pony Guest Ranch.

The yoga portions of these “Discover You!” experiences are not about doing yoga poses with horses as props.  The horses are full partners or facilitators in horse-human interactions – a foundational belief of equine-assisted wellness.  Our activities with horses are also grounded in the philosophy of natural horsemanship; that is, horses have complex, emotional lives as herd beings.

Horses are gifted and intuitive teachers who give us honest feedback to support our personal development if we are prepared and willing to listen.  The yoga portion of the workshops and retreats aims to enhance our sense of our inner state, so when we move on to activities with horses, we are more open to learning from them.

“We expect the participants to grow with all the positive energy, but for us, it is a positive experience for the horses as well.  Natural horsemanship helps the horses communicate with humans, and our horses were certainly hooked on to the people as well,” says Kay.

The yoga practice is designed for beginners, and when possible takes place outdoors.  The practice is intended to be restorative and rebalancing.

“After a deep connection made with the horses through the equine assisted learning activities, participants easily settle into the yoga practice.  They are asked to pay particular attention to the breath and to bring awareness into the body,” says Jo-Ann Bance, instructor, For Our Inner Yogi.

“Then as we move from the stillness of Savasana, we are invited once more to connect with our equine friends,” says Jo-Ann.

horses winterEnergy flows from person to person to horse as they connect to help each other work through an obstacle course.  The human partners describe trust and patience, and the horse partners rest their heads against kind hands.  The herd is complete.

No horse experience is needed for the equine activities, and safety and well-being for all is paramount.  Sessions with the horses are on the ground in small groups.  The retreats in Costa Rica also offer cultural and spa components, and trail rides into the countryside are tailored to all abilities.

Jo-Ann Bance, a SOYA 200 teacher who is currently upgrading to her SOYA 500 hr certification.  She and Sandy Bell will be hosting workshops at Windhorse Retreat on March 22-23 and April 5-6.  Planning is underway for a week-long retreat in December in Costa Rica.  Space is very limited.  To register text or phone  403-700-7880, or email  For more information visit


Open Your Heart in Camel Pose

Ustrasana – Camel Pose
by Joanne Scheurwater, SOYA500 teacher in Ft McMurray, AB

“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”  Kahlil Gibran.

The Camel or “Ustrasana” is a chest opening pose which helps us to open our heart chakra.  Jack Kornfield says that when we open our heart and listen as if we are in a temple all kinds of great possibilities awaken.   Even miracles can happen.   Let’s enjoy opening our hearts today in Camel pose.

Kneel with knees directly under hips and legs hip width apart. Feet can be flat with bottom of foot facing upwards or heels up with weight on the ball of the foot.

This should not hurt your lower back or your neck! In yoga we never move into pain! If your back hurts, don’t bend so deeply and be sure you are pressing your pelvis forward. If your neck hurts, be sure you have tucked your chin in. If it still hurts, please come out of the pose right away.

With an exhalation, press the pelvis strongly forward and pull the thighs forward and upward.

Gradually bend your back towards the floor while at the same time lifting the ribcage and broadening the chest.

Now lift your sternum towards the ceiling, pull the shoulders back and stretch your arms from the shoulders towards the feet. If your fingertips or hands touch your heels, you may grasp them while continuing to press the pelvis forward to protect the low back.

Tuck the chin in towards the ears to protect the neck.

Continue to breathe evenly.

Come out of the pose slowly and carefully. Release the heels if you are holding them and inhale, come up evenly without allowing the shoulders to twist. Once you are up, sink down into Child’s Pose, Pranatanasana, and breathe strongly into your back. Take deep breaths, such that your back might rise towards the ceiling with your inhale and your chest sink more onto your thighs with the exhale. Take several breaths here, sending the breath to anywhere in the back that might feel fatigued or stiff.

Increased lung capacity, benefical for the liver, pancreas, kidneys.
Improves blood circulation to organs.
Tones muscles of back and spine.
Removes stiffness in shoulders and back.
Stretches quadriceps and llipsoas muscles, aiding sciatica.
Relieves abdominal cramping.

Do not do if suffering from headache, migraine, or uncontrolled high blood pressure.
Not recommended if recovering from heart attack or hernia.
Do not hold breath, be careful not to compress neck.
Not appropriate if suffering from constipation or diarrhea.

If sore knees, place blanket under knees.
If can’t keep hips forward, don’t grasp heels.

Back Problems: 
Take a very shallow bend and move into and out of pose slowly and cautiously.
Support the back with props or a chair padded with blankets
Take care to breathe evenly while in pose, do not hold breath.
Take care to breath deeply into back in counter pose.
Sit on chair and grasp the outside rings of back of chair, then exhale and press hips forward, lifting ribcage and sternum and moving into pose.

Heart Problems:
Move slowly and carefully into a supported pose, using bolsters, blocks and blankets or a chair padded with blankets.
Be sure to advise the instructor if you feel any discomfort at all.

Sarah Powers

Sarah Powers Finds Power in Stillness


sarah_ meditatingDo you find sitting for meditation uncomfortable and difficult?  Or feel that while you’d like more balance and depth in both yoga and life, your asana practice often seems more focused on achievement and attainment than on gaining inner harmony and peace?

Well, you’re not alone. In fact, it was a similar feeling that led Sarah Powers, now one of America’s leading yoga teachers, to explore ways to achieve greater harmony in her body and to feel more at ease in it when she sat for meditation. The result is what she calls “yin/yang yoga”, which combines passive and active asanas with pranayama and meditation into what for her is a very deep, integrated and satisfying practice.

When Sarah began teaching at Yoga Works in Santa Monica, Calif., in the 1980s, one of the other teachers there, Paul Grilley, led classes in “yin yoga.” Grilley had studied with Taoist teacher Pauly Zink and Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama, an internationally renowned Japanese yogi, Shinto priest and expert in Indian and Chinese medicine. Yin yoga uses long, passive holds to work on the deep, dense connective tissues of the body- the tendons, ligaments and cartilage – which are difficult to energize and open. Sarah used to take Paul’s class after her ashtanga practice and liked the deepness of his approach. So she began to look into it.

The reason for her interest was the fact that despite an intensive practice in Iyengar, viniyoga and ashtanga styles of yoga, Sarah was still not able to sit comfortably for long periods of time in meditation. While her active asana practice had increased her strength and flexibility, she found that after she cooled down she felt stiff and unable to rest deeply in the core of her body.

Reaching Deeper

As she studied yin yoga, Sarah learned that it had its greatest benefit when practiced before more active asana practice, not afterward. When we work actively, the pranic flow and circulation are directed into the muscles and superficial connective tissues. By comparison, a long-held passive pose practiced while the muscles are not yet warm allows the energy to reach the deeper connective tissues of the joints and the corresponding pathways of the meridian system. (The meridian system is composed of energy channels) The prana (or life force) stimulates and tones the joints, deep connective tissues, increasing the supply of fluids to them, making them less dense and enabling them to stretch appropriately.

As a result, we become more flexible, our joints become “juicier,” and energy blocks along the meridians are removed, enabling the organs to function better. And because the influx of prana works on the nervous system too, we become not only calmer but also more focused.

“If you never go into the deeper connective tissue,” Sarah says, “it becomes denser and less flexible-more yin-making it more difficult to go deeper into asanas and uncomfortable to sit in meditation..

For me, the purpose of doing yoga is to feel more at home in my body. I’m interested in having harmony in my body and in enabling energy to flow freely to all channels, joints, muscles and organs. Yin yoga enables me to reach levels of my self I otherwise could not get to.”

Pushing Your Edges

Sarah finds that the passive yin approach gives students a new edge to work with in their yoga practice -the edge of just being in a pose without trying to get anywhere in it. “Yin practice takes you deeper into where you are, not out to where you think you should be,” Sarah notes. “This approach challenges us to rethink what asana is about. It marries meditation and asana into a very deep practice. Some people, especially beginners, are not interested in or willing to do this -to sit inside their discomfort and just watch their reactions instead of trying to fix or change the pose. Yin yoga challenges you to sit in the pure presence of awareness. It’s hard in a different way than active asana practice, but in a way that’s more profound and satisfying as well as more beneficial to the deeper tissues.”

This doesn’t mean that Sarah has given up her active asana practice. In fact, she is continually working on deepening her yang practice, too. “We learn how to be still, but we also have to utilize our muscles and express ourselves energetically,” she says “The goal is a sattvic [pure] balance of tamasic (passive) and rajasic (active) energies -a beautiful marriage of yang and yin, effort and surrender, ha [sun] and tha [moon]. The practice of yin/yang yoga helps us learn about stillness in movement and the flow in stillness.”

Sarah finds that her yin practice has helped to facilitate and deepen her yang practice. “The ability to surrender to that yin practice becomes deeply engrained in you and carries over into your yang practice,” she says. “This keeps you from ‘overefforting’ and trying to push yourself into various poses, which increases the likelihood of injury. Plus after yin practice, you find that there is already more energy flowing at deeper levels, so you are more flexible and require less warm-up. As a result, you go deeper with less effort.”

Cultivating Wholeness

Sarah’s meditating has been primarily in the Buddhist traditions. She has studied in the U.S. and Asia with highly distinguished teachers – most notably, Jack Kornfield in the vipassana tradition, Toni Packer in the open awareness of the Zen tradition, and the Tibetan reincarnate lama Tsoknyi Rinpoche in the Dzogchen path of effortless clarity. Buddhism has given her a clear map to the mind and helpful tools for getting into silence and stillness.

She is also inspired by the teachings of Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta Maharaj of the Advaita Vedanta, school of Indian philosophy based on the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita that emphasizes non-duality and holds that liberation is attained through a dissolution of all individuality. She uses these tools in her workshops because she wants to share them with others and help them experience the power of stillness that she finds in yin/yang yoga.

By Sarah Powers.  First Published in YOGAChicago, Sept/Oct 2001. Reprinted with permission from Sarah Powers.  Photo by Martin Sconduto


Instructing from the Ground Up. By Sarah Powers

Patanjali’s linked concepts of “sthira” and “sukha”–effort and ease–can help structure your teaching. Learn how situating your instruction between these two poles can help your students find harmony.

In describing the qualities of asana with the adjectives “sthira” and “sukha,” Patanjali uses language very skillfully. Sthira means steady and alert–to embody sthira, the pose must be strong and active. Sukha means comfortable and light–to express sukha, the pose must be joyful and soft. These complimentary poles–or Yin and Yang co-essentials–teach us the wisdom of balance. By finding balance, we find inner harmony, both in our practice and in our lives.

As teachers, we need to help our students find that balance in their practice. Our instruction should assist them in an exploration of both sthira and sukha. In practical terms, we should begin by teaching sthira as a form of connection to the ground, and then move to sukha as a form of lighthearted exploration and expansion. In this way, we can teach from the ground up.

Manifesting steadiness (sthira) requires connecting to the ground beneath us, which is our earth, our support. Whether our base is comprised of ten toes, one foot, or one or both hands, we must cultivate energy through that base. Staying attentive to our roots requires a special form of alertness. Our instruction should begin there by helping students cultivate this alertness at the base of a pose. I will demonstrate this form of instruction for Tadasana, the blue print for all the other standing poses. The principles of Tadasana can be easily adapted to any standing pose you wish to teach.


In all the standing poses, steadiness comes from rooting all sides of the feet like the stakes of a tent. We need to teach students with high arches to pay particular attention to grounding their inner feet, and show students with fallen arches to move their ankles away from each other.

After rooting the feet, we move up, reminding students to draw the kneecaps up, the upper inner thighs in and back, and the outer sides of the knees back. This allows students to notice whether their weight feels evenly distributed between the right and left leg, the front and back of the foot, and the inner and outer thighs.

Next we should remind our students to adjust the pelvis, allowing the weight of the hips to be above the knees and ankles. This often requires them to draw their weight slightly back in order to allow the point of the coccyx to face down. In this alignment, the tailbone is not tucked nor lifted, but merely directed down between the fronts of the heels. Those with flat lumbar spines will need to allow the tailbone to move slightly back, moving away from tucking, while those with over-arched backs will need to encourage the tailbone to draw slightly in.

We should then instruct our students to lengthen the side waist, lift the top of the sternum and relax the shoulders down the back, aligning them over the hips and ankles. They should bring their heads above their shoulders, aligning the chin in the same plane as the forehead. Finally, they should relax the jaw, allowing the tongue to float freely in the mouth and the eyes to soften.

Once our students have attended to steadiness, the other qualities of alertness and comfort become accessible. They are now ready to bring their hands into Namaste position and reflect on their motivation before beginning their practice.

NatarajasanaEncourage your students to view this grounded base as their home base, the foundation from which they can create, explore, and at times expand. From there, they can navigate to a place of ease or sukha. Just as steadiness requires and develops alertness, comfort entails remaining light, unburdened, and interested in discovery. By teaching this quality, we encourage a balanced equilibrium rather than impose rigid rules for alignment. This helps students develop a natural respect toward their bodies and themselves, while encouraging them to fully inhabit their bodies. They can then learn to move away from commanding their bodies to perform poses, and instead breathe life into them from the inside.

With sthira and sukha as the points on our compass, we can organize our teaching and help our students enjoy exploring their places of limitation and liberation in every pose. As a result, regardless of your students’ individual abilities, their practice can focus on celebration and refreshment.

At a deeper level, the way we practice and teach yoga poses mirrors the way we live the rest of our lives. As we reflect on our practice and our teaching, we can use yoga as a tool for developing greater insight into ourselves and the world around us. Sthira and sukha can then become not only tools for teaching or understanding yoga, but also principals that help guide the way we live.

Sarah Powers will be leading the SOYA Annual Retreat with her husband Ty Powers this coming June 6-8, 2014 in Naramata BC.

Reprinted with permission from Sarah Powers. Published in Yoga Journal, September 2005,  Photos added by Mugs McConnell

Runners Twist

Runners Twist

Runner’s  Twist

Submitted by Mugs McConnell, ERYT500.  Photo of Gail & Amy  at the SOYA Retreat.

Runners TwistThis is a nice gentle twist that can be done in both directions. It can be used as preparation for Trikonasana (Triangle pose) or for those days when you want a gentler practice. We learned it from Dharma Mittra at the SOYA retreat in June.

Come into table pose and step the left foot forward, between the hands. Leave the right knee down on the mat directly below the hips, forming a 90 degree angle at the knee.  Both hands are placed on the floor as in table pose.

Move your left hand to the inside of the left foot, beside the arch. Raise your right hand up towards the ceiling, rotating your torso to the right, and looking up if it is comfortable on your neck.  Create a nice long line of energy through both arms. Breathe evenly and smoothly while holding the pose.

Revolved Runner Twist

Return the right hand to the floor and move the left hand back to the outside of the left foot. Keeping the right hand beside the arch of the left foot, raise the left hand up towards the ceiling. Rotate the torso to the left.  Create a nice long line of energy through both arms. Breathe evenly and smoothly while holding the pose.

Be sure to spend equal time in the pose on both sides to promote balance in the body.


  • Improves digestion and circulation.
  • Increases the synovial fluid of the joints. Spine becomes more flexible and hips move more easily.
  • Opens throat, chest and shoulders, which may help to increase lung capacity.
  • Reduces discomfort from backache, neck pain and sciatica. Helps to relieve muscular problems in back and hips.
  • Tones roots of spinal nerves and the sympathetic nervous system, and brings fresh blood supply to spine.  Beneficial effect on entire nervous system.
  • Massages abdominal muscles.
  • Benefits gallbladder, spleen, liver and bowels. Kidneys and abdominal organs are activated and exercised.
  • Relieves menstrual discomfort.
  • Stimulates lymphatic system.
  • Brings peace of mind.


Cautions and Modifications

  •       For tender or injured knees, place a folded blanket under the back knee to give it extra cushioning.
  • Twists tend to compress the diaphragm.  As you inhale, lengthen the spine and as you exhale, revolve gently into twist.  Pause and lengthen again on the inhalation and rotate farther with the exhalation.
  •         Do not let the cervical spine do all the work – the head and neck should follow the movement, not lead it. For neck pain and discomfort, look down.
  •         Be conscious not to over-twist in the more mobile areas.  Try extending the movement into some of the more resistant areas.
  •        Some twists in combination with forward bends can strain the back.  Watch range of motion for lower back or sacroiliac joint strain.

How do I know when my Nadis are Purified?

How do I know when my Nadis are Purified? 

By Marion (Mugs) McConnell, ERYT500, SOYA, SYVCA, Canadian Representative for IYTA

During the immersion portion of our Yoga Teacher Trainings, we engage in a steady practice of Nadi Sodhana for two weeks, morning and evening. The purpose of this is to get established in this pranayama practice for the purpose of purifying our nadis.  A very good question came up during a study session in our training, “How do I know when my nadis are purified?”


My first response to the question was, “When the prana is able to go into the sushumna” but of course the next logical question that came back was “How do you know when it does that?” There are certain things that occur, like unmani avastha, a state of deep concentration where the breath stops and the mind becomes still (Hatha Yoga Pradipika Chapter 2 verse 4-10).


Swami Sivananda says in his book “The Science of Pranayama”, when the nadis are purified there is a “lightness of the body, brilliancy in complexion, increase of the gastric fire, leanness of the body, and the absence of restlessness”.  He says in the first stage of purification perspiration arises without effort, the middle stage is the tremor of the body, and the last stage is levitation in the air” (or in a broader sense, siddhis begin to appear).


When you do a cleansing fast, you really notice the difference in how you feel during and after the fast. It is difficult at first, and you may feel rather ill as the toxins are cleaned out.  As time passes, you begin to feel lighter and brighter and terrific!  It is similar when you do yoga practices to cleanse the nadis.  At the start you may not feel too well as blockages begin to release.  Blockages in the nadis often manifest themselves physically, so you may feel symptoms such as headaches, emotionally off balance, or one nasal passage becomes blocked.


Gradually, over time through the cleanse you have more energy and more clarity too. You feel good about yourself and your discipline and the results are generally quite delicious. There is a peacefulness that comes with the cleansing of the nadis because the thoughts are no longer jumping between the right and left brain… the union of “ha” and “tha” has brought this into balance and we experience santosha or contentment.


But nadis can become impure again if you, for example, reinstate junk food into your body, smoke, allow negative thoughts to run untamed, or cultivate ill intentions. So the nadis don’t necessarily stay purified if you don’t keep up your practice on all levels, on and off the mat.


When we do our yoga we are working with more than the physical body. Our sadhana also affects the astral body (which includes the emotional and mental aspects of our being), and the causal body (which involves our spiritual well- being).  Each layer of maya we uncover takes us closer to another vritti or samskara to perhaps deal with. As we change and develop our thought patterns through our yoga practices (ie: how we respond to new circumstances) they reflect the cleanliness of our nadis.  Pure thoughts = pure nadis, and negative thoughts such as fear or anger = not so clean nadis.


In Chapter 2 verse 4-10 in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika we discuss the cleansing of the nadis.


Nadis(4) When the nadis are impure, breath cannot penetrate into the sushumna. Then the yogi achieves nothing, nor can he reach the state of deep concentration [unmani avastha].

If there are blockages in our 72,000 nadis then the prana, or life force, is impeded in its flow.  Nadis are the energy channels for the flow of prana, the life force that brings movement to our bodies and thoughts.  The chakras are transmitters of this energy, and they have the potential to transmit both positive and negative energy depending upon where our thoughts and behaviours are centered.  Therefore, this energy is expressed or manifested in our outward actions through our body.

I often say “I see myself through the reactions of others towards me.”  If I am angry or annoyed, this will create a reaction in others that reflects my state of mind. If I am angry or annoyed, I am distracted (attachment) and I cannot concentrate.  My state of mind is a reflection of how purified my nadis are.  As yogis we are constantly trying to live a higher life and increase the supply of prana through the nadis to the sushumna. Only then will we feel peaceful and therefore be able to reach the state of deep concentration.

(5) Only when all the nadis, which are still impure, become purified can the yogi practice pranayama successfully.

(6) Therefore one should practice pranayama with the mind in sattvic condition until the sushumna is free from impurities.

Here we are back to the basics of the yamas and niyamas.  A sattvic mind is essential for success in ALL practices of yoga, and definitely during the practice of pranayama.  Pranayama is the ability to control the movement of the life force. It establishes intention and focus.  A wandering mind means the prana is being dissipated away from the task at hand – yoga or union with the Self.

A sattvic mind is reflected in our outward expressions through our body.  Kindness, compassion, understanding, patience, a peaceful presence, loving actions; these are all outward expressions of a sattvic mind.  By practicing the positive expression of your True Self regularly, steadily, and catching those negative thoughts before they get a chance to have any power, it will help you to maintain the sattvic state of mind, particularly during pranayama.

Sattva must become established in thought, word and deed. This may seem like far too much of a challenge, but we are given the tools to change our thought-waves from negative to positive in Patanjali’s yoga sutras where we discover the mind is made up of “manas, buddhi and ahamkara”.  Manas is that which records the incoming information from the senses.  Buddhi is that which classifies this information as truth, untruth, etc.  Buddhi is normally clouded by the ego, the ahamkara, and therefore classifies information under the influence of the ego.  This is because we are more in tune with our “ego-personality” than we are with our Spirit.

The Spirit is rich with the qualities of love, peace, compassion, non-judgment, etc. The ego-personality has the potential of both positive and negative qualities because it is in this manifested world.  Therefore, we must establish the habit that each time the mind receives information through the senses, we pause before judgment. We don’t make assumptions, we don’t jump to conclusions, but we filter the information based on the higher principles of yoga beyond the ego, and then classify the information according to the principles of the Spirit.

Let me give you an example.  An older couple lived in my community.  The wife passes away in the fall, and I went to Mexico for the winter.  When I returned, I was walking by the man’s home and saw a woman going in the front door. I immediately assumed he had remarried.

Recognizing my quick assumption, I immediately stopped the thought wave of him being remarried to further assess the situation before I jumped to conclusions.  She could have been his sister, housekeeper, friend… there were numerous options!

Manas had recorded what it had “seen” through the eyes (senses).  My ahamkara “ego-personality” immediately influenced the buddhi to classify this information based on the assumption the man had remarried.  I caught myself by observing my thought waves, and thus stopped the influence from the ego-personality, allowing the buddhi to reclassify the information as based on no truth whatsoever.

Simple example of how we control our thought-waves. Not a very important situation (and really none of my business), but this is how our mind works! So by putting this process of observation into practice on the little things like this will create a new standard of observation for when we encounter the bigger, more important circumstances in life where we really need to see things “clearly”!  No matter how unimportant the circumstances may seem, it is always important to establish yourself in Truth, sattva, a pure mind.

Yoga is the control of thought waves in the mind. To emphasize how important this is for our yoga practice and the purification of the nadis, I quote from, “If we now become aware that every breath we take is in a sense pranayama, we can readily realize how frequently we damage our delicate psyche with an impure or bad thought. In the long run we shorten our lives with every negative gesture in deed, word, or thought by overburdening the conductors of the life stream with these impurities.”

Now, for the last few verses in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika on the process for cleansing the nadis:

(7) Assuming the padmasana posture, the yogi shall guide the prana through the left nostril [chandra = moon] to the ida nadi, and, after having retained the breath as long as possible [in kumbhaka], should exhale it through the right nostril [surya = sun].

(8) Then he should inhale through the right nostril, do kumbhaka according to the rule, and exhale through the left nostril.

(9) Inhalation is [always] through the same nostril as the previous exhalation. After the breath has been retained to the utmost possible limit [until perspiration breaks out or the body begins to trembler, one should exhale slowly–never quickly [since that reduces the energy of the body].

(10) Take in prana through the ida nadi and exhale it through the pingala. Then take in [new prana] through pingala and release it through ida, after having held it [in kumbhaka] as long as possible. The yogi who has perfected himself in the yamas [having thus developed the sattvic mind] will purify his nadis in three months [of practice].

So, how do you know if your nadis are purified?  Watch your thoughts and watch your actions, and they will reflect exactly how purified your nadis are. And remember these wise words from the Katha Upanishad, “When the five senses and the mind are still, and reason itself rests in silence, then begins the Path Supreme.  This calm steadiness of the senses is called Yoga.  Then one should become watchful, because Yoga comes and goes.” 


Hatha Yoga Pradipika, commentary by Swami Vishnudevananda

How to Know God, The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali, commentary by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood

The Science of Pranayama, by Swami Sivananda

The Upanishads, commentary by Juan Mascaro

Yoga Alliance

Yoga Alliance

Yoga Alliance credentials are the premier form of recognition for yoga teachers. If you become a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) you will be awarded a specific designation based on your level of training and experience.  Registration with Yoga Alliance is a globally recognized credential that helps ensure that yoga students can find knowledgeable instruction and training programs.

Chair Yoga

Yoga – The Parkinson’s Way

Chair Yoga for Parkinson’s Disease and other Movement Disorders.

Article by Rhona Parsons, SOYA500 Hour Yoga Teacher in Vernon, BC

WHAT IS PARKINSON’S DISEASE?     PD is the second most common degenerative neurological disorder after Alzheimer’s disease.

PD is caused by a loss of dopamine (a chemical in the brain that controls the way messages travel from one nerve cell to another) in the area of the brain called the “substantia nigra”.  The cells that produce dopamine begin to die, reducing the amount of dopamine.  The symptoms of Parkinson’s appear when over half of the dopamine cells are lost.  The progression of the disease and accompanying symptoms vary with each person.


  • Resting Tremor – repetitive shaking movements that often occur in the arms or legs at rest

  • Rigidity – increased stiffness in muscles and joints

  • Bradykinesia – “slowness of movement”

  • Balance and Postural Impairment    (Parkinson’s Society British Columbia)

Most of the evidence showing that yoga is beneficial in slowing down the disease’s progression is, for now, anecdotal and comes from yoga instructors, people with Parkinson’s disease, and physical therapists.  I have been working with people who have Parkinson’s Disease (PD) for the past 10 years and have seen firsthand how Yoga and stretching has helped them with their balance, flexibility and mobility.  It connects them with their breath (which keeps them present and reminds them to slow down), it induces relaxation which helps control tremors, activates affected muscle groups, teaches them where their body is in space and how it should move, and takes them to a place of calmness.  I’m told that they feel more limber and taller after the class, and more relaxed.

Most people, when they are first diagnosed, notice that one side of their body is more affected than the other; this can eventually cause an imbalance in their posture and gait.  Stiffness in the body’s core is one of the most debilitating symptoms of PD because it hampers a person’s ability to walk across a room or simply stand upright.  When we walk, our body is meant to naturally twist at the waist, bringing one arm forward with the opposite foot, keeping the rotation in our trunk and helping us move with ease and grace; this is our natural gait pattern.

Although the specific effects of PD can differ significantly from person to person, people with PD may be particularly prone to problems in their feet because of the difficulties they can experience with gait, posture, cramping in the feet, and balance which increases their chances of falling.  Abnormal foot function can cause a person’s stride length to shorten, increasing the amount of time both feet remain in contact with the ground.  Rigidity in the ankles can also cause normal gait loss and a shuffling action can predominate.  A flat-footed gait can produce foot, leg, and knee pain and reduce ability to absorb the shock of ground contact.  All this can lead to falling, which in turn instills fear of falling again and the person begins looking down which unfortunately begins to create a flexed spine.

Chair Yoga with twistRestorative twists poses can help prevent rigidity for people with PD by strengthening the trunk and increasing flexibility through the waist, and bringing focus on posture.  This helps to reduce stiffness in the body, help maintain a normal gait and a sense of balance, and improve mobility. By working the muscles of the trunk, we can help our clients come back to a normal gait, which in turn, will affect their overall posture.  (See Seated Chair Twist in this enews).

Rhona Parsons CPT, RYT500, SOYA, IYTA  is Registered Yoga Teacher, Master Trainer of Bender Ball, CanFitPro – FIS, PTS and Stott Pilates Instructor.  She leads workshops for Yoga Teachers on Yoga for Parkinsons Disease.  If find out more about her upcoming workshops, or to invite her to lead one, please contact her at  If you would like to read her full Specialty Project on “Chair Yoga for Parkinson’s Disease and Other Movement Disorders”, please email us at

Healing Your Mind and Soul Therapeutic Interventions in Quantum Reality by Dr. Garry A. Flint, PhD.

Healing Your Mind and Soul Therapeutic Interventions in Quantum Reality

By Garry A. Flint, Ph.D

Submitted by Marion (Mugs) McConnell, SOYA, E-RYT500, IYTA, 
Canadian Rep for International Yoga Teachers Assoc.

When I first got this book I briefly perused it and I just didn’t have the time to get into it. But since then I have had a new awareness of yoga students with PTSD and C-PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Many teachers and yoga studios are finding it very important to understand how their words and touch can trigger PTSD, and if we want our students to feel welcome and safe in our classes, we must learn more about this ourselves.

This book is not about PTSD, but about healing of the mind in whatever way it need, AND including the soul in the process! How imaginative! This book offers an understanding into the missing link in psychotherapy today, as described by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood in their commentary
of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali “How to Know God”. (We use this text book in our SOYA Yoga Teacher Training program so we have broached this topic with our students for many years. Read more


International Yoga Teachers Association

All SOYA 500 Hour Graduates are automatically eligible for Full Teaching Membership in the International Yoga Teachers Association (IYTA). You can apply directly to IYTA for Full Membership (200 hour grads can become subscribing members). Contact to learn more. Visit