Speaking Your Truth as a Yoga Teacher

best kids yoga certification onlineI sit cross -legged on the floor with my hands in prayer pose saying to the class, “Take a deep breath in and exhale out everything you need to let go of. ”  Am I  just saying those words or am I actually doing them?  How much of what we say during our classes are we doing?  It doesn’t matter to what population you teach –  adults or children.  I found myself thinking what if we, as teachers or even as humans, told the truth.!! Wouldn’t that be scary?  Are the students coming to us and wanting to hear poetic words?  So, today I told my chair yoga students this, “Let go of anything we need to let go of, even if we find it hard to do so at times, because I do.”  The good news is I looked out and saw people smiling. I’d like to think they were smiling in agreement.  If I am seeking their approval, then I have an attachment to their response. So maybe, the answer is several:

1. Speak from the heart.  It’s your class. Speak from your heart.  Why not say “Let’s all try to let go of something today and then we can share our experiences when we meet again?”

2. Let go (here I go again) of other’s approval.  Whoa, did I say that? That’s a big one!  If you have a following, then people are coming because of you.  They resonate with you. Kids love you.  You’re asked back. Isn’t this what we are teaching the children? Be yourself! Then folks, let’s really do it!  Don’t feel the pressure to conform!  I mean, within reason.  There is a freedom in this. 

3. Be genuine!  I really enjoy teaching kids and seniors.  I look forward to them every week.  I make an effort to know them and take an interest in their lives because hey, that’s 13092764895_88e3944754_zwhat I would like, too.

I realize that this is not always easy to do.  I’m thankful that the places I teach allow me freedom to teach the way I would like to.  It’s not always what you as the teacher can do on the mat, but off the mat.  My favorite teacher reads beautiful and motivational passages. I go to her class to hear that.  So, keep in mind that everyone is coming to receive something from you.

I started practicing yoga a long time ago. It has definitely changed. I am still going to receive something from the teacher; a workout for the body and soul. You decide what message you want your students to receive. Children are wonderful to teach. They are so open to receiving messages. Children speak the truth.  One class, I had just come from the salon and my hair had been straightened. (I have very curly hair.)  One of the students looked at me and said, “You’re not Jennifer today, you have curly hair.”   It really made me laugh but, I appreciated her honesty.  She knew what she liked and wasn’t afraid to share that with me. We seem to lose that for a while and then regain it.  The chair students they also tell me what they like and don’t. I like that honesty from them. Some days, I think I should pay my students ,but as I type this I realize I am paying them by giving them a workout for the body and the soul.


Creating a Blissful Secret Garden

21289923953_400910a28f_z“Highest happiness comes upon the yogi whose mind is calmed,” says the Bhagavad Gita.  Easier said than done.  We all have thoughts that cause us to get on that hamster wheel and ride it continuously going nowhere.  Sometimes, the hardest part of our yoga practice is seemingly the easiest pose. I remember going to a yoga class years ago and the teacher would say now just lie there and if a thought comes up don’t give it any energy just let it go. I lay there thinking about that!  I never thought I would be able to lie still without a thought for any length of time.  In today’s world, we are constantly bombarded by things vying for our attention computers, cell phones and any number of distractions. 

This is when going to the Secret Garden becomes vital. The Secret Garden is what we call Savasana in my children’s yoga classes. It is the time where we rest quietly and let our minds decompress. Children and adults love Secret Garden time. I’ve had very active, excitable kids come in at the start of class and immediately ask if we’re going to the Secret Garden. So, what makes a good Secret Garden?

Here’s a list:

(I did have some help compiling this list I’ve been asking students both children and adults what makes a for a great Secret Garden trip)

1.       Music: Rain music is number one. There is something about the constant sound of rain mixed in with some thunder that magically relaxes all.  The sounds of nature are next.  I don’t play any music with words. I try to come up with music that has a rhythm that is repetitious. The repetition of rhythm allows the brain to focus on nothing and seems to lend itself to relaxation.

2.       Aromatherapy: I’ve tried several scents and the most popular one is lavender. I use a lavender spray. I tried put ting the lavender oil on students’ hands but it was too intense for the children. So, now I spray it in the air as I walk around the room leading them down the garden path to relaxation.

3.       Comfort: Children love to use the props: blankets, scarves, eye pillows, stuffed 13495173_10208410674657213_7265338346234649807_nanimals, whatever is accessible.  They will most likely make a big production of assembling the props before settling in, so keep that in mind as you’re watching your schedule.

4.       Massage: I’m going to incorporate this into my classes. I recently have had requests for this. Take a drop of essential oil and place on the student’s third eye, drawing the thumbs over the eyebrows out to the temples and giving a circular temple massage.

 5.       Positioning the shoulders and feet: Lifting the students shoulders up and then pressing them down with the heel of your hand is supposed to aid in releasing the shoulders down to the mat. It is suggested that you use some essential oils on your hands to do this.

6.       Breathing: I have the students take a deep breath in to fill up their lungs, and then release it making a loud “ah”. Of course, for the children, I have them blown p their bellies like a big balloon and then pop it with a silly sound! Which usually starts them giggling. But, isn’t giggling allowing them to release tension?

7.       Tell a story: For children, I tell them a story about fairies and ask them to imagine the fairies flying, sailing in fairy ships or riding on dolphins. With adults, inspirational poems or passages are often best received after Secret Garden.  

With our trips to the Secret Garden, I want to create an enjoyable experience which is a 22598770661_3781eced50_zdeparture from their busy daily lives, giving the students the opportunity not to think and allowing them to simply be. These are just a few suggestions that have worked in the classes that I have taught. But the best to way to provide a great Secret Garden is to listen to your students and give them what they need.  We all need time to relax and depart from our lives!

Daily Gratitude

best childrens yoga teacher training programsI have always been interested in Ayurveda, which is the sister science to yoga. Ayurveda is the world’s oldest healing system.  It was developed thousands of years ago in India and based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body and spirit.

One of the important components of Ayurveda is developing a Dinacharya–or daily routine.  We can teach our youngest yogis about developing a daily routine early on.  The development of this daily routine will help bring balance into their lives.  There several parts to the daily routine: gratitude, early-to-bed and early-to-rise, clean the face, mouth and eyes, evacuation, clean the teeth, oil the ears, bathing, healing scents, hydration, tongue scraping, gargling, nasal drops, self -massage, exercise, pranayama and meditation.

I’m going to focus on the first one: Gratitude. This would seem to be a simple practice to bring into your daily routine, but how many times during the day do we focus on gratitude? It is easy to get caught up in the negative energy of complaining.  We need to gently remind ourselves what we actually are grateful for.  Here are some simple exercises that we can adapt in our yoga classes for children (but even if you teach an adult yoga class, you can think about incorporating a gratitude time into that practice as well):   21964882533_51eccae459_z

  • Draw what the children are grateful for and sharing the pictures with the class. This activity assists the children with their creativity, writing, sequencing and speaking skills.  Even the youngest child is capable of drawing a picture. You can give an easy direction like “draw what makes you happy or are thankful for.”
  • Play a round of “Orange You Grateful”. Pass an orange (or a ball, stuffed animal, or beanbag) using only your feet around a circle while saying what you are thankful for. Encourage the children to think wider than the usual answers like, “mom and dad”. Yes, we should be grateful for our parents but encourage the children to focus outside, and even inward. Being grateful for themselves, each other, our minds, and opportunities to learn. Taking it another level, what is the group grateful for? Make a list in class and discuss each one.
  • If you have older students, have the children write in gratitude journals. Children bring in a notebook to label and decorate. When children make something or design it for themselves, they are more likely to continue this practice. Have the children keep it with their yoga mat and bring it to class, sharing in each class something from their journal. The children can also cut out pictures or draw in the journal making the journal age-appropriate for all levels. 
  • Affirmations are powerful spoken moments of gratitude. You can repeat this each morning before stepping out of bed. Some examples are (you may substitute “Universe” or “God” or any other appropriate word for “Divine”):

Divine, you are inside me, you are all around me, you are with me.

Thank you to the Divine spirit for this beautiful day before me.

May joy, peace and love be a part of my day.

yoga for children online trainingBringing your hands together in prayer pose, touching your heart center with your thumbs, closing your eyes and tilting the chin to the chest may you know love, may you feel love and may you be love. Namaste. (I always end my yoga class for adults and children with these words.)

So, what are you grateful for today? How will you incorporate gratitude into life on and off the mat? What can we do daily to express gratitude to those around us? A hug? A kind word? Opening a door? A thank you?

Mango Mania!

In Florida, summertime means mango season and they are very plentiful at this time. Even if you don’t live in Florida, you can still enjoy a mango either fresh or frozen.

Mangoes have many health benefits. One cup of mango contains only 100 calories. Each serving is fat free, sodium free and cholesterol free! There are 20 different vitamins and minerals, making it a superfood. There are more than 13 varieties to mango-642957_1280choose from all with their own different taste. When selecting a mango don’t focus on the color but on how they feel instead. Just like a peach or an avocado, go for the soft feeling as they ripen. Ripe mangoes will sometimes have a fruity odor from their stem ends.
Summer and ice cream are synonymous, but what do you do when you’re lactose intolerant or just cutting out dairy products? Make coconut milk mango ice cream! The other great thing is that you don’t need an ice cream maker to make this ice cream! It’s easy and a fun project to do with the kiddos at about 3 pm when it’s too hot to venture outside. The kids can pretty much do the entire recipe under the guidance of an adult. Cooking teaches children many skills: reading, measuring, writing, math and communication. And, at the end you get a nice treat!

Coconut Milk Mango Ice Cream

  • Food processor or blender
  • cutting board
  • spoon
  • Knife
  • measuring cup
  • plastic container with lid
  • 5-6 ripe mangoes
  • raw local honey
  • 1 can Thai organic full fat coconut milk

You’ll need to select, cut and peel the mangoes the night before. There’s no easy way to cut and peel a mango. I’ve tried. The best I tip I can offer you is to peel it in your sink! There’s less mess to clean up this way. Use the ripest mangoes you can find. After you have them cut up, place in a container and freeze overnight. The next day, about 15 minutes before mixing up your ice cream, allow the mangoes to defrost a little. Once beverage-909517_1280they can break apart, place them in your food processor or blender along with the can of coconut milk and ¼ cup of your local honey. Blend up until smooth and creamy! Tasting is always encouraged! Then transfer the mixture to a container and freeze until ready to enjoy! It’s that simple. I’m thinking about trying with other seasonal fruits!

The one thing that I noticed when comparing our own ice cream to store- bought coconut ice cream is that you don’t really have that much of a coconut taste. It definitely is a very creamy ice cream. This ice cream is also paleo friendly, which in our house is a huge bonus!
While your ice cream we can even do a little mango- inspired yoga!25529846162_2e25cf3d3d_z
Begin in forward fold slowly make your way up bringing your hands up to the sky. Salute the sun! Thank the sun for helping everything grow. Go into mango tree pose. Do each side. Make your branches big and stretch them up to soak up all the rays from the sun. Forward fold. In forward fold, move your arms around signifying the rain that the tree needs to grow. Come down to mango pose (child’s pose). Take five breaths here. Then come to table top. This is the table where we enjoy our mango ice cream. Sit in chair pose with a big smile on your face! You can grow a mango tree, care for it, and then harvest your own fruit and turn into a delicious treat to share with others!

Going Paleo as a Family

**Our blog author, Jennifer Sacket, is a green-market booth owner, cooking teacher, and kids’ yoga teacher**

Several years ago, I embarked on a lifestyle change. I found out after years of battling with an upset stomach that I was gluten and lactose intolerant. I came home and fruit-924937_1280emptied the cupboards of all goldfish crackers and practically everything else in the cupboard. It brought cries and protests from my two children. It meant that we had to find a new way of eating. This was about eight years ago and the marketplace was not that gluten-free friendly as it is now. The majority of the gluten free products tasted like cardboard at best. Gluten is a sticky substance that holds most baked goods together and gives them their elasticity. I decided to play around in the kitchen creating different snacks for the kiddos.

A couple of months ago, my partner went to the doctor and the doctor suggested that he go on the Paleo diet. The Paleo diet is a diet that relies mainly on animal protein and eliminates sugary foods and starches. I can’t say that it’s been easy, but I’ve seen the benefits of this diet. You can eat most leafy greens and lots of protein. There is a twist here. I am a sometimes vegan and a vegetarian. For me, I eliminate some of the animal proteins, but will occasionally add wild caught fish to a meal. We’ve come up with a lot of pretty good and tasty dinners.

15455475349_bf316bf8ea_zIn combination with the paleo diet, we run several times a week, and eliminated a lot of sugar from our diets. Most people think that diets are hard. I think that it’s all in your perception. I like to look at it as a lifestyle change. Maybe, you’re changing your lifestyle for different reasons. There are many benefits to eating better. It’s not just one thing that promotes a healthy well being. It is a combination of physical exercise, diet, and meditation. Incorporating these things into your life and making positive changes can promote a healthy life style for anyone.

One of the biggest questions I always got at my cooking classes was: how do you get children to eat this way? It was pretty simple . I didn’t buy sugary treats. We substituted sugary , carb-laden treats with nuts, raw desserts made from dates, and nut milk ice creams if we needed a treat. It exposed the children to many different choices in foods.

Each body is different, so we shouldn’t all be eating the same things. There is a plethora of information and recipes on the internet for whichever lifestyle or combination of lifestyles you choose.

This is one of our favorites and it’s pretty quick and easy:
Spaghetti Squash and Sausage (vegan sausage can be substituted here)
Medium sized spaghetti squash
Coconut oil
Italian seasoningpumpkins-228505_1280
Handful of chopped fresh basil
3 – 4 chopped cloves of garlic
Vegan sausage or chicken sausage links

Directions:  Cut and seed the spaghetti squash . Oil, salt and pepper the insides of the squash. Place the squash face down in a pan of water. Place in oven which has been preheated to 375. Cook for 45 minutes or until the skin of the squash can be easily pierced with a fork. Meanwhile, chop garlic and basil. Sauté garlic in a pan with a tablespoon of coconut oil. Add sausage which has been cut up into bite size pieces. When squash is done roasting, scrape the inside of the squash out with a fork (squash will start to look like threads) . Place the squash threads into pan with sausage, basil and garlic. Stir to combine. Serve in bowls with vegan parmesan cheese sprinkled on top or vegan butter.

What I like the most about this recipe is that spaghetti squash is very inexpensive as compared to the price of pseudo, gluten-free pasta. You can cook the squash ahead of time and then add to the pan when you are ready to finish preparing the rest of the meal. It tastes pretty darn good! It’s filling, too!!

Visualize Your Business Blossoming

Meditation is a fantastic practice to lead a less stressful life.  Meditation creates an alpha state so the mind is relaxed, present, and receptive. It creates a state of being still instead of busykids yoga teaching training. The senses become enhanced: sights, sounds, touching, feeling are all brighter and clearer, more intense. With meditation, practioners are more in touch with and understand their feelings. It can lead to greater happiness and self acceptance.

Visualization is a great preparation for learning to meditate. Creative visualization is like a picture story you create in your head. The story keeps the mind focused on one thing-keeping the mind from jumping from one thought to another. I have created a personal picture story about growing an idea to help me visualize growing my children’s yoga business. Here’s my story:

Spring is the time for new beginnings. The weather is near perfect: the flowers are blooming, leaves are popping out on trees, and birds are singing.

Many religions celebrate the beginning of life. No matter what religion you practice or don’t practice, you can’t help but get caught up in the rhythm of life. There is a cycle within us that we naturally follow. Everything in nature begins again, grows, stays the same, and then dies. Take this time to embrace spring, begin to meditate on new adventures, whatever they may be. yoga kids teacher training

Imagine in detail a dream you have, whether it is a new class, new business adventure, or simply personal growth. Visualize this idea as a tiny seed. How will you take care of the seed? You will nurture the seed and start to care for it. This could mean making phone calls, writing a business plan, or catching up with an old friend. All these things will give life to your seed. See yourself carrying out every step of the plan.

The seed will then start to grow roots firmly anchored in the soil. Soon, a tiny green shoot will emerge out of the ground. It is still fragile. It needs lots of care. It needs to be sheltered and lovingly cared for. Soon, the leaves begin to uncurl taking the seed into the shape of a plant. How will you care for your new seedling? (This is where your “idea” takes on more life.) What can you do at this time for your idea? lily-1180307_1280Maybe the leaves are opening up to the sun. What does the sun represent to you? The sun can be other people helping your idea along. The sun gives us life. Remember, we need to water our plant and give it lots of sunlight. How big will you allow your seedling to grow? Has it become a plant with a beautiful flower? Visualize the plant flourishing in the garden. Bees, birds and butterflies are all around it. Maybe, the flower goes to seed, but the plant is still rooted in the ground and may appear each season. Or, the tiny seeds ride on the wind to other parts of the garden or even into other yards where they land and the cycle of life may begin again.

Your Best Life

Your best life isn’t as simple as it seems. Best life isn’t necessarily your favorite life or the one you selfishly want. It’s simply the life you’re best at. learn how to teach yoga

I read that a year ago in a book called, The Bucolic Plague. It’s a book about the Beekman brothers and their transition from corporate life to farming. I don’t think I understood that message completely until tonight when I was driving home from work. It repeated in my head like a mantra, “It’s simply the life you are best at.”

I’ve been playing around with “what to do with my life” for a couple of years now. I’ve had a myriad of jobs. I’ve learned a lot from these jobs, but never felt like I was fulfilled by them. I recently applied for a job, one that I could picture myself going to everyday. It seemed to fit the bill! I could wear a suit! I could be Alicia from The Good Wife! Yes! I screamed in the car!” This is it!” Until…the phone didn’t ring. Feelings of inadequacy hit me like a ton of bricks;  it’s the life I want. I kept questioning myself why didn’t it work out? Was I too experienced for no experience? ” No”, said the universe. This is not the best life for you.

There have been several things that have been constant in my life: Yoga, teaching, and spirituality. I have taught everything from cooking classes to healing classes. I’ve taught young and old. Teaching is something that I’ve always done. It is my “best life”.

I took my first Yoga class back in college. I really needed that “A”. I got a lot more than an “A”. I got a lifetime relationship with Yoga. I don’t mean just the physical practice of Yoga, but the spirituality of Yoga. The Yoga that really forces you to look at yourself. Yoga has been there for me. During a particularly difficult time in my life, I was going to a Sunday night study of The Yoga Sutras. One of my fellow Yogis came up and just hugged me without saying much other than ” You looked like you needed it.” Yoga; its friendship, it is personal growth, and exercise, these are a bonus, to me. Yoga allows me to go deep into myself.  Quiet the mind become calm and realize the truth. Truth is not always what we want to hear. We dodge the truth like bullets.

I decided to say, “Yes to the universe!” Yesterday, I taught a children’s’ Yoga class. The littlest girl came up to me and said, ” I love yoga.” I knew at that moment that I had made the right choice. This particular child is the quietest, most reserved child in the group, but she was there doing her downward dog and loving it. I am committing to blogging, teaching and promoting the children’s yoga business. Every day, I am going to commit to treating the children’s yoga as a business. Maybe there’s something for me to learn.

Teaching and Yoga are the life that is best for me. What’s your best life? Can you step out of your comfort zone? When we step out of the comfortable and into the uncomfortable we allow for change to take place inside ourselves. We stop controlling.

Stepping out of the comfort zone doesn’t have to mean a career change. It means allowing yourself to be uncomfortable. It can be anything that will allow for personal growth.262165_2144294489959_2644638_n

What will happen when you say yes to the universe and allow for possibilities?