Yoga for Back Health: A Q&A

We had the chance to interview our lovely Poh Teng on her upcoming workshop Yoga for Back Health on November 1st – check it out and learn more about why back health is such a critical part of a balanced practice:

Yoga for Back Health is an offering dear to me. Over the years, I’ve hurt my back from falls, a car accident, moving heavy boxes and from habitual, asymmetrical ways of moving and being. Yoga was my main modality of healing. A little bit of self-care can go a long way, especially when you are hurt today but your doctor’s appointment is in two weeks. I’m thrilled to offer this special workshop again and I hope you’ll join me for a gentle afternoon of healing.

Q: What kinds of back injury have you experienced?

A: I’ve had scoliosis, sacroiliac joint dysfunction that lead to sciatica, neck and shoulder pain from falls and from a car accident, and facet joint inflammation.

Q: How is your back today?

A: My back is great! I am living with full mobility.

Q: How did yoga help you heal?

A: Yoga helped me address imbalances in the physical body, and in my life as a whole. It is a mindfulness practice that continues to teach me to be embodied, to drop in and tune in, rather than space out and tune out. It has helped me modify habitual ways of being which have brought me off-center (causing scoliosis). It has helped me nurture parts of my body that grip out of fear and of wanting to protect (from falling and whiplash). It has nurtured me so that I may relax and come back to a state of ease. It has also helped me strengthen parts of the body needed for spinal stability (to heal from sacroiliac joint dysfunction).

Q: Did you try other types of healing?

A: Yes – massage, chiropractic and acupuncture have also helped me heal in tremendous ways.

Poh Back Health

Q: Who would benefit from a workshop focused on back health?

A: This workshop is for anyone interested in a healthy back and in practicing self-care in a mindful and loving way. If you’re experiencing a new injury, acute pain or if you recently had surgery, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor and email me ( with questions.

Q: What can students expect to gain from this workshop?

A: Students will come away with soothing self-care practices to help them feel good in their bodies. Much of the yoga and self-massage practices that we will practice together can be practiced anywhere – at work, on a plane and at home. All it takes is a minute here and there, as you can spare, to gently nudge the body back to a state of ease. One doesn’t have to wait until the weekly 90-minute yoga class to work on all the contractions and aches that have accumulated in the body.

Q: Can people come to the workshop if they are not strong or flexible?

A: Yes! Yoga and self-care is for EVERY BODY. The goal is not to be strong/flexible, just as being strong/flexible is not a prerequisite for this or any yoga class.

Q: The workshop offers an afternoon of practice. How will I remember the practices after it’s over?

A: Every issue of my newsletter includes a Yoga Posture for Back Health. In this section, I include pictures and instructions of yoga postures that we practice during the workshop, and for back health in general. Visit this link to receive inspiration and instructions.

Yoga for Back Health
a healing workshop with Poh Teng, PhD, CYT, RYT 500
Nov 1, 1.30-3,30pm | Namaste Grand Lake

unnamed-1Yoga with Poh is an amalgamation of her education across multiple yoga lineages and life experiences.  She is trained in the Vinyasa and therapeutic styles, and continues to be inspired and informed by the Power, Shadow, Anusara and Forrest Yoga lineages. She is also guided by her Passage Meditation practice and her work as an academic scientist.  She has healed from scoliosis, osteopenia and back injury through yoga.  After over 10 years of practice, she is finally a mellow type-A.  Known for her curiosity, playfulness and nurturing style, she leads group classes through movement with breath, awareness, healthy alignment and safe, creative sequencing. With over 500 hours of training, she blends yogic tradition, intention setting, and current findings in biology and yoga therapy. Occasionally, there’s a splash of Bhakti and she sings. Because yoga is not one-size-fits-all, Poh also offers private yoga sessions for your specific wellness needs.

Yoga is a come-as-you-are-party.  Poh invites you to honor your truth in the present moment, and to breathe, strengthen, heal and play. Poh is a Yoga Alliance Registered Yoga Teacher, a Certified Yoga Therapist for Chronic Physiological Conditions and a Cancer Yoga Therapist.  She is also a UCLA graduate with a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.  Get to know her better at

Connect on FacebookInstagramTwitterPinterest and LinkedIn.



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A Note on Yoga for Grief

by Ken Breniman

Grief is a multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something, who has passed away, to which a bond or affection was formed. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, spiritual, and philosophical dimensions. Source: Wikipedia 

I am very honored to be offering the Yoga for Grief: Healing Hearts/Healing Bodies gathering at Namaste Berkeley on Saturday, December 17th. I have been offering this workshop for the past six years throughout the Bay Area and have learned so much from the participants.

In the ancient story of “Kisa Gotami and the Mustard Seed”, Ms. Gotami realizes some form of loss has touched everyone. Over my years of leading grief healing sessions, I have realized this continues to be a truth in our modern-day society. In my experience, I have come to understand the main difference with societies understanding of grief today is how grief is quickly pathologized and so often grieving persons can feel isolated and not understood. Historically, the process of grieving has gone through many evolutionary changes due to pressure individuals receive to handle a loss in a way that is culturally acceptable.

The practice of embalming, which became standard in the funerary business around the turn of the 20th century, further dissociated us from death. Funerary directors, like doctors, became authority figures and took over the mourning process, while embalming changed how the body felt, looked, and smelled. “It’s amazing how we can block out the truth of death,” says Frank Ostaseski, who founded Zen Hospice in 1987 and the Metta Institute in 2004,  which are based in Northern California and offer educational programs about death, dying, and mourning. . “If you are surrounded by a family or a culture that says, ‘Don’t talk or think about it,’ it can hinder our capacity to acknowledge the loss.” – Excerpt from Grief is Good

My hope is that my workshop and other gatherings for the bereaved can help to normalize the grieving process. The gathering is here to provide space and create a supportive community setting for each person to show up with all their feelings and memories. Once individuals feel comfortable enough to recognize the feelings of loss we move into being able to tap into the healing powers of a yoga practice that is specifically modified to address many of the aspects of grief.

Please remember that if you are experiencing loss whether it is from early childhood or more recent, that grief can easily get stored in the body. And also remember that the human heart grieves all different types of loss. Never feel that somehow what you are grieving is ‘lesser than’ or doesn’t deserve healing. Loss can include the death of a person, death of a pet, a life transition such as a break up, a divorce, losing a job or moving. Many past participants have come to mourn the loss of a healthy happy childhood. The gathering is open to anyone who is experiencing any loss. In addition to yoga, breathwork and relaxation practices, there is also an optional ear acupuncture session offered at the end of the workshop during an extended Yoga Nidra.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the upcoming workshop or are interested in learning more about healthy grieving.

KenProfileAKen has practiced yoga for over 10 years and became certified with Yoga Alliance as a RYT-200 after graduating from Yoga Tree’s Yoga Teacher Training program in 2006. Yoga Alliance has recognized him as a ERYT-200/RYT-500 as he completed his Yoga Therapy training at Ananda Seva Mission in July 2010.   Ken is very excited to be joining the Namaste family.

In his classes, Ken provides eclectic non-denominational Hatha yoga guidance, honoring a variety of traditions, such as Iyengar alignment principles, invigorating Kudalini Kriya, and playful Acroyoga-inspired partner work.  He invites you to embrace SIMPLICITY, PATIENCE and COMPASSION as you deepen your practice and your connection with your true Self. Ken offers Yoga Therapy workshops on a variety of topics such as restorative yoga, grief, relationships, stress management and coping with chronic illness.  In addition to yoga, Ken also serves as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, clinical supervisor and a private practice yoga therapist in the Bay Area. Daniel Quinn and Paulo Coelho are among his favorite authors.

His life work of service is inspired by Ram Dass’ words:  “We are all just walking each other hOMe.”

Please visit Ken’s website at  or email him at kjbreniman@gmail.

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3 Reasons Yoga is Perfect Birth Prep

Preparing to give birth is an incredibly exciting and complex time. At Namaste, we are fortunate to have a thriving community of prenatal and postnatal mommies who continue to gather to celebrate the gift of life and the beauty of yoga. We love finding new ways to help our moms relax and flourish during this period of growth whether it is through our Prep for Birth workshops or creating a sacred space like our Namaste Lounge. Here are our top three reasons why yoga is our most recommended resource when preparing for birth:


Gentle movement and exercise are important during pregnancy. Many soon to be moms will realize that the exercise routine they had previous to becoming pregnant may no longer work with their new bodies. Yoga is a soft, nurturing way for pregnant women to become re-familiarized with their evolving bodies, increase overall vitality, and enhance both relaxation and mindfulness tools that can prove helpful in the delivery room. Yoga’s intimate way of achieving both exercise and personal connection to this special time in life is a gift which benefits include a boosted immune system, quicker recovery, and better sleep.


Whether it is a women’s first birth or not, having a new baby can bring up a lot of emotions, questions, and concerns. Having a strong community for support can be a lifesaver for new mothers. Prenatal yoga is a perfect way for women to connect with other like-minded mommies in the neighborhood. Having a community provides new moms with information that is tried and true. A strong network of prenatal and postnatal moms creates a forum where women can learn from each other and share what birth prep techniques have worked and which have not. Having more first-hand knowledge allows for the first time mothers to feel at ease and less fearful of the birthing process.


Love is such a huge part of the birthing experience. Self-love, new love for the baby, compassion and love for your partner and support group all are important for creating a healthy, happy atmosphere for baby’s birth. Yoga teaches how to let go of judgement and criticism and instead practice compassion for ourself and others. Prenatal yoga is optimal for keeping this compassion in the forefront. With a growing and changing body, it is easy for women to sometimes feel not as great as they did pre-pregnancy. Hormonal changes can lead to erratic thoughts, and achy muscles may leave women feeling worn out. A regular yoga practice is a gentle reminder to be kinder to one’s self and to continue to cultivate love and appreciation.



Weekly Prenatal Class Schedule:  Berkeley | Oakland

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Mama, I Hate You: A Lesson on Peace and Parenting

by Rebekkah LaDyne [This post originally appeared on Rebekkah’s blog, This Mindful Life]

Mama, I Hate You.

..said my little girl, looking up at me with sadness and anger in her eyes. This from a girl who really loves her mama. She’s my daughter who often says she does not want to go to school or even playdates because she would rather “be with mama.”

On the morning of her birthday party my daughter had a special breakfast at a restaurant with her grandmother – kind-hearted grandma who incidentally uses the word “hate” frequently. It’s a generational thing, I tell myself, and yet, when grandma is visiting, “hate” always seems to make a few cameo appearances in my daughter’s speech. But until this morning it had never been used to describe how she feels about me.

While she was out for her party day breakfast, I had been busy hiding surprises all over our yard. As grandma’s car pulled into the driveway, my husband jumped outside and called to me, “Stall them,” as he ran to our backyard to hide more surprises. I headed out front as casually as possible and kept everyone in the driveway interviewing them about their restaurant adventure. I commended myself for successfully acting nonchalant while inside I felt slightly frantic – I still needed to frost the cake, set out the snacks, and get my girls dressed. After the hiding was complete and everyone back inside, I rushed around like a slightly off-kilter tornado. As I whirled this way and that, I was all too aware that I needed to calm myself so I could provide the most important element of the party for my little girl, a settled and present mama. But centered mama was no where to be seen at that time. When my daughters started protesting about getting dressed for the party, I was quick to cut them off at the pass. Firm and uncompromising mama was now in residence, kids were going to get dressed and the stern tornado—me—was off to frost the cake. Birthday girl was not happy with the frosting. Her displeasure was made clear as she hid from her cake inside my apron.

Mama’s tornado was desperately trying to complete its tasks without leaving any rubble in its wake.

I was losing my patience despite my efforts to play it cool and be the friendly, calm, loving mama I wanted to be right then. While I attempted to smile and “fix it” (the cake), my tension was mounting and the rock in my back that appears when I am forgetting my mindfulness was pressing hard on my spine. Apparently the birthday girl felt tense too, because that’s when the dreaded declaration made its debut: “Mama, I hate you.” At first I felt startled. Then I felt frustrated with grandma, whom I blamed for re-injecting this high-octane word into our household. And finally, I was sobered. “Mama, I hate you” had been my mindfulness bell. It had pulled me out of the mindset of there and then — the party fun will begin out there in the yard (with all the fun things I’ve been breaking my back to hide) and the cake will be enjoyed then, during the fun, fun party we are about to have, (enjoying it now is of no importance). This mindfulness bell had brought me back to the here and now. The fun birthday celebration for my little girl was right now, not then, and right here, not there.

“Mama, I hate you” echoed in my head once again and I got what she was telling me. She hated how I was being. The rushed, frantic, short-tempered mama who was throwing this party was not the mama that my daughter wanted to spend her party day with. I was being a mama to be hated.

When I realized all of this I scooped her up in hugs, kisses and empathy. While we talked through the incident; each of us apologizing and conceding to use our kind words and calm bodies, something more important was being transmitted, and it did not come from what we were saying. As we were talking, my body was softening, my frantic energy was transforming into calm, and I was with my daughter for the first time since she’d come home. I was finally in the here and now. She responded right away to my presence and as we went to the kitchen to finish the cake together I was careful to sidestep any of my own inner reactivity at her delivery of this important message. While, “I hate you” is not the way I would have wished to receive her plea for me to return to her, those were the words she had at that time and so I chose to just hear her message. After I had returned to my body and my mindfulness, and saw clearly that what I had intended to do was very different from what I had actually been doing, the tornado flew away. I was relieved to be left there in the yard on a bright sunny day with my family and a lovely party ahead of us… and I can happily share that it turned out to be a truly wonderful day.


Rebekkah’s informal and accessible manner makes learning Mindfulness easy.

Rebekkah has been practicing Mindfulness, Meditation and Yoga for over 20 years and been teaching these wisdom traditions for the last 15 years. She teaches Embodied Mindfulness by guiding each student to bring the practice not just into the head but into the heart and body as well. As director and lead teacher of a thriving Yoga and Mindfulness Center from 1998 – 2008 Rebekkah guided thousands of students to reconnect with their hearts, minds and bodies. She taught at Spirit Rock Meditation center as their ongoing Family Program Teacher from 2010 – 2013. Currently, through this mindful life, she delights in teaching Mindfulness to families, teens and adults through her private practice, workshops, and retreats.

Rebekkah is leading a Mother-Daughter Mindfulness Series beginning next week!

Wednesdays October 1 – 29
7-8 year olds + mom
Namaste Berkeley
Wednesdays October 1 – 29
9-10 year olds + mom
Namaste Berkeley
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Intro to Yoga: Heartfelt Advice for the New Practitioner

by Bethany Hobbs

1. Keep it simple.

The Intro to Yoga workshops offer the chance to become familiar in our studios, to explore a simple movement practice, to feel through the foundational element of breath, and maybe to get some ideas about which classes might be best for you, going forward.

It’s an afternoon during which a safe space is available for you to meet yourself where you’re at, to blast through the intimidation factor of taking that very first yoga class, and get to ask some questions from a Namaste teacher (in this case, me, who happens to love teaching Intro workshops). Enjoy yourself, make yourself comfy and arrive a few minutes early to put down your mat, have a cup of tea, and feel out the space.

2. Trust yourself.

There are a few things that I know with total certainty. One is that these bodies of ours never lie.

One reason I love teaching introductory workshops is because I get to witness people discovering new sensations and wisdom inside of their bodies. Yoga is largely about paying attention, whether it is your first class, or your millionth. Honor your body. Listen. Trust. The practice of trusting oneself will serve you for a lifetime.


3. Stay curious.

I will always remember my first yoga class. I will always remember my first yoga teacher, the first yoga mat I bought, the first time I fell in love with a pose, the first time I truly found my breath, the first time I felt anchored into something deep, something real, through the physical practice of yoga.

Whatever your “firsts” are, hold them close to your heart. They matter. Remember the wonderment; hold your first-time self in a soft, kind way, and bring something of that fervor and openness with you each time you step onto your mat or your meditation pillow in the days and months and years to come.

Any disciplined practice requests a great deal of kindness from us. Observe, watch things change and rearrange and show themselves to you– if you choose yoga as a path of study and/or devotion going forward, I promise you this: you will never run out of things to learn. So: stay curious. Stay kind. Keep showing up.

4. Welcome Home.

For me, yoga has been the practice of coming home, coming back to a sense of authenticity and belonging.

After you attend the initial introductory workshop, I encourage you to seek out a class and teacher with which you align. What do you value? Who and what speak to your spirit? What pace does your body crave? You will more than likely find others who value (and teach) those things as well.
And, P.S., you’re already home– just let yoga remind you of that, should you ever happen to forget.


The next Intro to Yoga workshop is:
Saturday September 6
Namaste Grand Lake
$30*, includes a week of free yoga!

Bethany Hobbs fell in love with her first savasana in 2003, and her life hasn’t been the same since. She has been committed to her yoga practice for over a decade, first under the tutelage of Rached Malouf in San Diego, and, later, her mentor Alice Joanou in Oakland, along with many other incredible yogis and healers in India and Oakland (including herbalist Atava Garcia Swiecicki and therapeutic yoga teacher trainer Antonia Fokken). Bethany’s classes hold space for the wholeness of each individual through breath, alignment, ritual, and joy.

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Creating a Home Yoga Practice

by Naushon Kabat-Zinn

Do you find it challenging to practice yoga and meditation regularly at home? Join the club!

There are many distractions at home, and so we often just don’t do it. With cell phones beeping at us, children or pets asking for attention, dirty floors that glare at you in downward dog, the list of possible things we can be doing besides yoga is endless! The fact is, once we commit, it can be such a beautiful thing to practice more consistently and be able to listen really to what your body needs. Even for just ten minutes a day. The key is to create a habit and stick with it.

If you feel that a home practice is a luxury, think about it this way: home practice is about listening to your body and catering to your individualized needs, exploring whatever it is that you want to work on for that day.

Going to a yoga class is valuable when you want to check-in on your alignment, learn new poses, or dive deeper with the assistance of an experienced teacher. Classes can provide an encouraging environment where you feel like you can go further and adventure in your practice.

That said, often we are so focused on keeping up with the class or advancing our practice that we start to lose touch with our breath and the ability to tune into our deep inner voice. A home practice opens up a world of creativity and freedom that becomes completely personal and intimate.

Taking your practice home allows you to keep the spontaneity of deciding what you want to work on rather than having to follow the flow of the class. It could be a practice geared toward relieving headaches, or a practice of preparing for handstands, or just a quick wake up and get energized flow to help you start your day right.

Practicing at home can bring more of a sense of balance and clarity and joy to our everyday lives.

So how to get started? Join Naushon Sunday August 24th for a fun and playful exploration of what Home Practice can look like and how we can work through the challenges and move towards a beautiful and rewarding process of getting on our mats at home or when we are traveling.

Naushon_Kabat-ZinnNaushon has been a student of yoga since she was a little girl. Her challenging, yet compassionate Power Vinyasa classes are a wonderful way to cultivate strength, serenity, flexibility and balance. Inspired by her studies with Baron Baptiste, Shiva Rea, Baba Hari Dass, and the teachings of Vispassana (Insight) Meditation, Naushon’s all levels classes emphasize the linking of movement with breath, cultivating our ability to be more fully present and awake in our lives, and navigate the challenges that arise with more grace and kindness.

Check our schedule for Naushon’s class schedule.


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Why Thai Massage is Perfect for Yogis

by Fiana Anderson

Thai massage is an ancient healing art form, and is no doubt a unique experience. It delivers a deeply meditative and relaxing massage through an intelligent
Thai massagesequencing of palm, thumb and knee presses, stretches, and much, much more. Not to mention that it is unequivocally one of the best therapeutic massages for yoga practitioners.

Thai massage is done on a mat, on the floor, with loose clothes on. A series of deep and rhythmic pressure is applied to the body, along what are called “sen” lines in the body. These lines, especially in the body of a yoga practitioner and Thai Massageparticularly one who sits for meditation, tend to accumulate static tension or lactic acid. This stagnation is relieved and largely released through this massage.

Lactic Acid is built up through rigorous exercise. According to WebMD, when you cross the lactate threshold, the activity rapidly becomes much more difficult and unpleasant. Muscles ache, burn, and become fatigued; the heart pounds; and you feel starved for air. These symptoms increase if you continue to exercise above the lactate threshold, and, in a brief time, you may be physically unable to exercise any longer at that intensity.* This is why massage is a great tool for yogis and athletes looking to detox their systems of lactic acid.

The benefits of Thai Massage are simply innumerable, and include improved flexibility, relief from anxiety and emotional tension, detoxification, boosting the immune system, increased blood circulation, lower blood pressure, improved breathing, posture, balance, corrected body alignment, dissolving energy blockages, relieving arthritis and back pain, toning the body, strengthening joints and can even relieve chronic joint pain.

Thai massage actually slows the aging process.


Furthermore, this modality is an awakening and engaging experience. There is no ‘zoning’ out in this massage, and although you may experience euphoric and elated sensations, you are always aware of your surroundings and present in your environment.

Thai massage given by a conscious practitioner or partner is a deep form of meditation for both parties. You feel a deep sense of release and often, a sedative quality overtakes the body. Indian, Chinese and Southeast Asian cultural spheres of medicine have influenced this healing modality.

*[American Thoracic Society. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, May 15, 2003. McPherson, R. Henry’s Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods, 22nd ed., Saunders, 2011. eMedicine: “Lactic Acidosis.”]  

Fiana_AndersonFiana came to work for Namaste Yoga through sheer love and passion for the yoga community.  She moved to the East Bay last year to study classical, medical Ayurveda at Vedika Global. She spent two years studying in India and has over 1,500 hours of combined education and training in yoga, massage and Ayurveda.

Upcoming Thai Massage Events:
Domonick Wegesin will be leading a Partner Yoga + Thai Massage workshop this upcoming Saturday, February 14.


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