The Driven Yogi: Wisdom for New Teachers

About 25 prospective teachers go through Namaste’s teacher training every year. These students take their newfound knowledge and promote wellness in their communities by teaching at local studios, opening up their own studio, or even teaching yoga at non-profit organizations. However, one of our recent graduates is using her time, knowledge, and new skills to help other yoga teacher graduates like herself. Keisha Courtney started The Driven Yogi.com, a site that offers free tips and advice to help new yoga teachers land their first jobs after training. We wanted to find out more about Keisha and her company. Read on to learn more!

1. Where did you grow up and at what age did you discover yoga?
​I’m from a small town in Clinton, Utah. Growing up I was a competitive gymnast and power tumbler. The competitiveness I learned at a young age carried into different areas of my life, including my career.

It wasn’t until the age of 26 when I discovered the magic of yoga. I was in a high-visibility, high-stress career as a TV news reporter. I covered a wide range of stories from natural disasters to murders, and my stress and anxiety got to an unmanageable level. Since I use exercise as an outlet, I started experimenting with different classes. I took one yoga class and was hooked! I left the studio feeling grounded, light, and clear-headed. From that moment forward, I knew that yoga would be an integral part of my life.

2. How has yoga changed for you since you began practicing?
​When I first started practicing I was always frustrated when I couldn’t do a pose (the competitive gymnast was still in there). It was 6 months into my practice when I was finally able to dig deeper and really understand that I needed to accept where I was in my practice from day-to-day. Sometimes I wanted to move and move hard, and other times a child’s pose was exactly what my body needed. When I accepted this idea, I was finally able to let things go on my mat and that’s when my practice truly blossomed.

3. What attracted you to take a yoga teacher training?
​As much as I love yoga, it actually wasn’t the yoga at all that compelled me to enroll in a teacher training. I’m a competitive pole dancer and I absolutely love pole. When tackling difficult moves in pole, I use the breath techniques I have learned in yoga to help me get through the moves. Because of the benefits yoga brought me in pole dancing, I wanted to bring it to other dancers and create a class that combined the two forms of exercise. I was halfway through my yoga teacher training when I realized I wanted to teach yoga, as there were soooo many directions I could take it. For now, I’m focused on teaching yoga, improving my teaching skills, and sharing my journey through The Driven Yogi.com. I may still come up with the pole/yoga hybrid class, but for now, I’m just happy teaching yoga and guiding my students in their practice.

4. Do you have any advice for people who are just getting into yoga?
​There are a lot of misconceptions that stop people from practicing yoga and the first one relates to flexibility. Since teaching I have had several people say “I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible,” but that’s not what yoga is about. For me, yoga reminds me to breath, not take certain things in life so seriously, and to come to my mat to find that release and stillness that my body (and mind) need. If people decide to try yoga for the first time I would just say don’t have preconceived notions about what yoga is or isn’t. Try it out and see what happens. Allow yourself to have your own experience.

5. You have a great presence and have really put yourself out there. Any tips for teachers who may be shy about marketing themselves?
​First off, thank you for that compliment! As for the question, putting yourself out there is scary – I totally get that. But marketing yourself as a new teacher is necessary.
If people don’t know about your classes, how will they be able to come? The studios I work at are super helpful in promoting teachers’ classes, but teachers can’t solely rely on studios to do that for them.

In regards to digital promotion, it doesn’t have to solely​ be about promoting yourself and your classes.​ I find that students actually enjoy getting to know more about their teache​rs outside of class, and they look for ways to relate to them. The posts I put out that don’t have anything to do with yoga tend to get more interaction than the ​posts that ​do​​.​ And ​sometimes, students ​will mention things they’ve seen on my page when they come to my classes – and it’s always the post that don’t ​have to do with yoga.

6. Who are your favorite Namaste teachers and why?
​Oh my goodness, there are so many! I love how much knowledge and experience each one has and I love getting the chance to practice with them. Obviously, I rea​lly enjoyed my teacher trainers: Domonick for his unique yoga classes that combine sequences with dancing, Baxter for his knowledge around anatomy, Vickie for helping me fall in love with alignment-based yoga, and Ashley for helping make meditation bearable (I couldn’t stand doing it before I had her leading me and teaching me certain techniques). On top of the teacher trainers I had, Whitney Walsh (my mentor) is amazing and has such a unique way of leading classes. She drew me in immediately and I HAD to learn more from her. I practice with her weekly and am blown away every. single. time.

7. Where do you hope to be in 5 years?
​In five years I hope The Driven Yogi is the go-to source for new yoga teachers. Many great and experienced teachers have already contributed to the site by providing insightful tips for new teachers. As the site grows I will continue to reach out to teachers, but I definitely have plans for the future of the site​ – stay tuned!​

8. What is one tip or self-care practice that you can’t live without?
​This is cliche, but I couldn’t live without yoga. I have a Type-A personality and my mind is constantly on the go trying to figure out how I can check more things off of my neverending to-do list. Yoga reminds me to breathe, be present and let little things go, and it also keeps me grounded so that I can get back to tackling lists – in a healthier way of course.

9. Anything else you’d love our Namaste community to know about you?
I​f you’re a new teacher and curious about the next steps you should take after your yoga teacher training, or if you are thinking about doing a training, please visit my website and sign up for our email list so that you are always in the loop when new tips come out – TheDrivenYogi.com.

The Season of Gratitude

[Photo of Namaste Teacher Danielle Woermann]

November feels like the beginning of the end. Blink twice and the holiday season will be here before we know it. The ceremonial death of one year while the birth of a brand new chapter rests on the horizon. This is the optimal time for inward reflection before the tizzy of celebrations pulls our energy into external events. This is why we’ve chosen, as routine as it may be, to focus on gratitude. Gratitude for the big things in life: family, friends, health in body, mind, and spirit. Gratitude for the small moments too: a warm cup of tea, the silent dark mornings of fall, or a smile from a stranger. We ask you to sit with gratitude in your practice and use it to fuel a more intimate connection to everyday life.

What does it mean to Make Every Day Sacred ?

Every Day Sacred was the name of our first yoga teacher training and the phrase has stuck around because we believe it encapsulates our vision and purpose. Every single day is a gift. We are awake, breathing, and engaged in a world that exists in a temporary and ever-changing realm. How lucky we are to be conscious and to have the power of choice! Each day gives us the opportunity to flex our resilience and perspective in order to shape our reality. Dedication to our yoga practice can be the constant that brings us back to this understanding of our inner strength and power.

To Make Every Day Sacred is to live with mindfulness and non-attachment. We notice, like a soft breeze, when something enters our threshold of awareness and triggers within us joy, pain, or an indescribable emotion. We watch our reaction and give thanks for the experience of connection to this very moment. Then, like an exhale, we release our grasp on whatever it was that came our way. We acknowledge the heartwarming of a kind act and just as simply we let it go – opening to the next experience. We actively choose to see the hidden beauty unfolding in every moment regardless of its tenor.

Community Practice:

Gratitude Meditations

How you can participate:

This month we will be offering journal prompts, inspirational videos, and opportunities to give back to the community. Take your first step by finding a sweet journal where you can begin making your daily notes of gratitude and growth!

Keep up with us on the blog, Instagram, and Facebook where we’ll be sharing tips from your favorite Namaste teachers.

3 Branding Tips for New Yoga Teachers

The yoga industry is booming. In the last year, over 15 million new yoga students began practicing within the US alone, spending over $27 Billion on yoga related products and services. Where it use to be difficult to find a quality yoga class – now, in certain cities, studios outnumber Starbucks. The improved yoga studio business model, an increase in celebrity attention, and the rise of mindfulness practices (especially in tech) have led to a massive boost in popularity.

New students entering this space are often excited, nervous, and overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices, including what style and whose class they should take, and that is once they decide on a studio.

With so much marketing, advertising, and corporate money being poured into the yoga scene – it can be daunting figuring out where to start as a new student, let alone a new yoga teacher. Who are you? How can you communicate your uniqueness to your students?

The good news is this…yoga is still very much about just being yourself.

At Namaste, we have a large community of over forty teachers and over a hundred classes per week. Over the last few years I have had an opportunity to watch what works best. Here are my top three branding tips for new yoga teachers:

Yoga takes discipline. Most yoga teachers don’t end up teaching because they have nothing else to do. A large percent of yoga teachers have master degrees, some of them are CEO’s, and some of them have gone through immense life challenges to be here, sharing their path. Let your students in on your life.

Write down or say aloud to yourself why you love teaching and why you decided to become a yoga teacher. Think of it as creating your personal brand’s “About” page. What was the catalyst that led you to this way of life? How has your life changed? You are a living, breathing advertisement for your own product (your class), your content (your own practice), and your brand (your teachings). Streamline this story, so it becomes easily digestible, succinct, and highlights the parts that are unique to your path.

Share this story with your students. They will appreciate your openness; they will feel more connected to you, and they may even share your story with friends (leading to bigger class sizes!). Depending on how succinct you can make your story, you may share intermittently in class, but always have it available online. In addition to having it on your website, consider writing a blog post and posting through social media to gain more traffic. Also, spending time to connect with the front desk staff at your studio will increase the likelihood they also share your story with new students.

New teachers can have a difficult time building yoga classes off the bat. The best technique I have seen for gaining new students is through subbing. In order to sub for popular classes, new teachers must put themselves out there and get to know the other teachers in their community. I highly encourage new teachers to make the rounds. Attend other teacher’s classes and workshops, community events for the studio, and yoga industry gatherings. If your style resonates with another teacher (or vice versa), it works out great for both parties.

Once you have connected with teachers, share your experiences. Share photos of you attending their class, status updates about hanging out with others in the community, and event invites for workshops being taught by other teachers. These types of social media posts are attractive to students. They enjoy seeing your engagement with the community, syncing with more established teachers who they trust already, and will assume you likely teach a high-quality class, since other teachers are actively supporting you.

The more you share other teacher’s works, the more likely those teachers are to promote and share yours. When you are cross-pollinating your promotions with other teachers, you give yourself access to a larger demographic. Students can categorize you and your style of teaching faster when you are connected to another group of teachers, and this allows for faster development of your personal brand.

Deciding to be a yoga teacher means you have chosen a life that is now largely in the public eye. Your regular students will look up to you the same way people look up to some celebrities. As tempting as it may be to shy away from self-promotion, embrace it. It is a necessary aspect to ensuring your career is successful.

Take advantage of all the self-promotion tools available. Set up a Facebook Page (not a personal page) as a public figure. Create an Instagram account dedicated to your yoga practice and teachings. Create a website and make sure to list all of your classes, your bio, and any upcoming workshops. There are several great website services such as Squarespace, Wix, and WordPress that all make it easy (and cheap) to create beautiful sites with minimal technical experience. It is also worth hiring a professional photographer to take a variety of photos that you can repurpose across all of these platforms. A professional photographer out of the budget? Ask a friend or even your studio. Often times studios have access to a nice camera and may be willing to help you take a few pictures.

Once you have established your social media pages, continue to update. Feed your new fan base with recent pictures, new insights, and fresh content such as blog posts and favorite teachings of yours. In order to stay at the forefront of your student’s minds and to attract new students you must stay engaged with your online community.

Empowered by [Practice]

Habits set the tone for our daily lives. Having the courage to look at our habits in an unbiased way can lead to more authenticity and connection. Taking the time to understand why we act transforms habits into intentional practices.

When we align with our core values we reap the benefits of a purposeful life. We have more confidence and power to adapt to whatever changes or obstacles we may face.

This is the beauty of a yoga practice. The ritual of returning to our breath and body allows us to stay present. The effects ripple beyond the edges of our mat and lift us up in the most mundane moments. Yoga opens the door for deeper awareness of our mortality, intuition, and potential. The opportunities created by a strong mind-body connection can heal and prepare us for the journeys our physical bodies take through life.

In the spirit of empowerment, we collected stories from our community to inspire you to reflect on your own practices. Every day we hold space within the studios for our community to live more courageously. We do this so that we may shine with confidence both on the mat and off.

Stop by our empowerment posters to share how your practice empowers you!

Keepin it Rheal

Featured Maker: Made by Rheal

Products we carry: Cast hands, coasters, concrete vessels, votives

Materials: Cast concrete objects

From the moment I saw these hands, I knew they were perfect for our boutiques. They speak of offering, they beg to have some precious object placed in them for reflection, they provide the sense of the sacred. Please don’t let this precious product pass you by. Bring a set home and let it remind you of what you offer the world every day. Or what you want to offer the world. The hands are a beautiful metaphor.

The hands were just the first step on my path of finding Rheal, the man behind the hands. He is inspiring! He is a local Oakland maker, with a little backyard studio on the Oakland/Emeryville border. He is immensely inspired by material – it is what lights him up. Currently concrete is the material he works with most consistently, but he veers off into resin and glass as well. He creates molds to cast his concrete menagerie. The concrete is amazing because it lends everything a weight, a heaviness. The cast object is actually there, in reality. You can feel it and touch it and fill it and empty it and start again. It’s earthy and feels grounding to hold in your hands.

I can’t get enough of his work, but perhaps you need to know what to do with it? It’s sculptural, so just enjoy it. But also…. I’m going to make you a list:

• Put the hands on your altar and put a precious object in them. A stone, a crystal, a leaf, an air plant, a flower, something seasonal, something that you value, something that represents your intention.

• If you get hands without sparkly touches, they are food safe. Offer your guests a dash of salt. Set a unique table.

• His “vessels,” tinged with a touch of sparkle, can be filled with soil and succulents. (Perfect wedding table objects anyone?)

• Clean up your workspace and upgrade to a really nice pen holder.

• Use a set of hands as an incense burner. I purchased a roll of charcoal discs and I break a little piece off of one and put it in the hands, light it up, and then drop little bits of loose flower-y incense on it. It’s heaven and perfect to set the mood before a little home yoga class.

• Moon coasters for your moon party!

Made by Rheal products can be found at both our Berkeley and Rockridge boutiques. Support local artisans and local businesses and shop at Namaste boutiques!

 

 

Brooke Brings Art & Love to Oakland

[Photo of Energy Bells created by Namaste Student Brooke Levin]

The Namaste community is full of wonderful and impressive yogis who bring creativity and inspiration to our daily lives. Brooke Levin joined Namaste in 2004 when the Rockridge Studio first opened. Brooke has gained so much from the Namaste community both through classes, workshops and the friendships she has formed. Namaste is so much more than a place, it’s a neighborhood to Brooke! We love Brooke and wanted to share an upcoming event highlighting local businesses and artists in Oakland.

Brooke is sponsoring a group of amazing women in an Artisans and Makers Pop Up Shop on Sunday November 5th from 1-5 pm. It will be held at The Rare Bird Makers Space at 3883 Piedmont Avenue. We are delighted to highlight this special event featuring not only Brooke, but also our Yoga Advisor Bekah’s beautiful pottery (featured on the left below) and Namaste student/friend/vendor Tracy from White Sage Wellness (featured on the right below).

Each Artisan has a unique offering, elegant jewelry, essential oils & wyldcrafts, collage journals, chocolates, hand knit goodies, original ceramic mandalas and hand sewn oil cloth bins.

Brooke’s work, shown here include Art Boxes, Energy Bells & Tins. Brooke’s Art Boxes are created from repurposed cigar boxes and a variety of images. The Monarch Butterfly and Bumble Bee boxes are to honor her commitment and charitable work around pollination and as part of her role as a member of the Pollinator Posse, an Oakland based group working to grow the pollinators.

The Energy Bells are created to be used to clear space of “stuck” energy. It’s a great alternative to smudging and can be done anywhere, home, work or in the car! Just ring the bell in every corner of every space and use as often as needed. All items are made with lots of Oakland Love and handled with care.

We hope you can make it to this great event. Look forward to seeing you there!

The Perfect Prenatal Practice

Preparing for a new baby may be one of the biggest events you’ll experience in a lifetime. As a woman, your body is changing constantly while mentally you prepare for birth and what a brand new member of your family means to your way of life.

In the midst of it all yoga can be a valuable tool for birthing mothers and their partners to remain calm, grounded and present during the transitions of pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood. This simple five-minute flow from Namaste teacher and new mom Annemaria Rajala is perfect for sneaking in a few moments of self-care. Enjoy this prenatal yoga practice in the morning, evening, or even on a lunch break! Plus, check out this weekend’s upcoming Prenatal Partners Workshop with Annemaria and Julia Anne Stathis!

Living with Courage & Confidence

[Photo of Namaste Teacher Elika Aird]

We’ve entered the final quarter of the year. The air has a new chill as our hearts and minds begin to turn inwards. As yogis and wellness warriors, we have a responsibility to acknowledge the tragedy occurring in our world. The political climate is devastating our country’s ability to make progress on key issues. Natural disasters have wreaked havoc from coast to coast. Last weekend, we experienced the collective trauma of another mass shooting in Las Vegas. It is easy to use our practice as an escape mechanism, and sometimes we may need to, but this month we encourage you to stay present.

What defines Courage & Confidence?

Our Year of Empowerment has been a journey focused on self-love, integrity, and action. Each month we’ve encouraged you to look inside and reflect on different facets of self-care. This month is no different. Living with courage and confidence means that we do not shy away from the tough questions, the difficult events, and the challenging conversations. We choose to practice bravery. We choose to believe that we have the power to change, to help, and to heal. A healthy yoga and wellness practice can empower us to recognize both inner strength and softness. Like a deep breath, we inhale power to exhale love.

We have chosen the focusing question: how does my practice empower me to live with more courage and confidence? 

Community Practice:

Share Your Story

Sharing your story can be the inspiration someone else needs to live with more courage and confidence.

How you can participate:

This month we will be creating community “empowerment” posters around the studio. We encourage you to share your story of empowerment. There will be materials for you to write and paste your statements of empowerment. Share how your practice lets you live with more courage and confidence. Keep an eye out for stories shared by your teachers and our Namaste family.

Additionally, we are working on creating opportunities for our community to give back to the tragedies occurring around the world. We’ll keep you updated on ways to take your practice beyond your mat.

Keep up with us on the blog, Instagram, and Facebook where we’ll be sharing tips from your favorite Namaste teachers.

5 Stress Relief Tips with Sarah Moody

Stress. Ah. That word alone makes me want to let out a big sigh. It’s hard to avoid, nearly impossible these days. And in some ways it’s become our cultural norm; the standard as to how we measure our busyness. If we’re not stressed, we perceive it as a sign that we’re not doing enough, aka not valuable or important enough.

Practice: Next time you ask someone how they’re doing pay close attention to their response; do they reply with something along the lines of, “I’m just so busy!” or “There’s so much to do and so little time!”?

Notice for yourself, are you inclined to respond in a similar way? And maybe taking it one step further, how does it feel in your body when you express these emotions? Notice how the constant pushing feels in the body.

I’ve spent many years letting stress run my life. And I’ve also dedicated many years to studying, teaching, and working with clients on how to channel stress for the better. There will always be some form of stress in our lives, and a certain amount is healthy. The right kind of stress can spur us to go for our dreams, to ace that presentation, to not settle for less than our best. The wrong amount of stress can create dis-ease in the body, harm relationships, and negatively impact our work.

It’s a delicate balance, and like anything it takes practice and a whole lot of patience.

But I promise the more you do it the easier it will get. It’s like any other muscle, you have to use it if you want to get stronger. But remember, once you get in shape you don’t get to stop working out, you have to stay on it if you want to stay mighty.

Below are the top 5 ways I choose to de-stress. In no way is this list exhaustive or all inclusive. Find what works for you, then do more of it.

This is a big one. The more time I spend hunched over a screen the worse my body feels (wrist, shoulder, neck tension anyone?!), my eyes ache, and I actually feel more disconnected. I’m committed to turning my phone off at least an hour before bed and choosing to read or spend time with my partner instead. Use your phone as your alarm clock? Put your phone on airplane mode so you’re not tempted to check your email or IG page for the 73rd time that day (the average American checks their phone 80 times in a day!).

 Water is medicine. Baths can be both soothing and energizing. Try adding different ingredients into your tub for different results. Two of my favorites: epsom salts for tired muscles and an overworked mind; or for a moisturizing soak combine 1 T. coconut oil, 1 T. apple cider vinegar, and 1 t. honey (just make sure to clean the tub afterwards otherwise that coconut oil could surprise the next shower guest, and not in a good way!).

Mother nature heals. Have a picnic in the park; breathe in the ocean air; take a hike or go for a bike ride outdoors. Pressed for time?— even 5 minutes of soaking up the sun can improve your mood and stimulate a foggy brain.

Find activities you love and do them often. Aim to sweat a little every day. Sweating is therapeutic for the body; gives your mood a boost, and helps you sleep sweeter.

Laugh more. Those deep belly laughs. Call a friend, read the comics, watch a movie; get really creative here and let your playful side run free.
Here’s to strengthening your stress-less muscle!

Water Meditation to Stress Less

Water meditation can enhance the powerful benefits of mindfulness practices. Reverberating a mantra’s sound current inside a human body of water can calm the overactive mind and encourage a feeling of non-attachment and weightlessness. Allowing ourselves to be fully present creates space for every day stress to fade away into the background.

This guided meditation is led by Anne Koller, Namaste’s newest Kundalini yoga instructor, and was created by Hari Kaur Khalsa, author of A Woman’s Book of Yoga: Embracing Our Natural Life Cycles, with Machelle M. Seibel, M.D.

This water meditation is meant to be performed in warm, shallow water that sits at or below bellybutton level. Fill a bath, light a few candles, and sink into your own meditative bliss.

To begin, cross your legs and find a comfortable seated position. Sit up tall with a lengthened spine, hit play, close your eyes, and allow your mind and body to fully connect with the water.

Anne has been a KRI certified Kundalini Yoga and Meditation teacher as taught by Yogi Bhajan for four years. Anne was trained by Hari Kaur Khalsa, named 10 Influential Yoga Teachers Who Have Shaped Yoga in America, in New York City.

Her passion for sharing the power of breath awareness, emotional-balance, self-empowerment and mind-body alignment permeates all of her yoga and meditation classes. She has been featured in Huffington Post, Today Show, Tennis Channel, ReachMD and YogaCity NYC for her work in wellness training, specifically in water healing and corporate mindfulness. She believes that if we can feel at home in our mind and body, we can thrive in any environment.