Move It Or Lose It —Variety is The Spice of Embodiment..

foot and hand danceby Julian Walker

I have been reflecting lately, as I continue my own studies and experiential exploration of mind-body practice, on the old adage “move it or lose it…”

In neuroscience there is the relatively new (20 years or so) concept of neuroplasticity.

This is defined as how the brain changes both function and structure in response to experience.

In terms of practice, it is very pertinent that mindful states heighten neuroplastic change in the brain, as does the feel-good reward chemistry activated by physical activity, meditation etc..

The sweet spot for neuroplastic change combines:

* Familiar beneficial routines: yoga sequences, dance warm ups, meditation techniques, familiar locations, communities, and rituals, with
* Novel experiences: new physical and mental challenges and discoveries, all held in
* The mindful, warm-hearted sense of exploration and self-care
* An open-ness to acknowledging and taking in what feels good, while cultivating resilience and compassion in the face of our difficulties.

So, mix it up, friends!

Come to yoga, come to Dance Tribe, meditate at your desk for 2 to 5 minutes before you reply to THAT email, roll around on the floor at home before dinner for 15 minutes, experimenting with new movement patterns that use familiar shapes or sequences as a platform for improvisation.

Notice the blind spots you usually avoid and get interested in how you can reclaim resilient, courageous, compassionate engagement of how you work with that shoulder, low back, sense of gratitude or forgiveness, open-ness to new experience and healthy risk taking etc…


My Evolving Sequence: Stability & Variety in Movement

If you take my classes regularly, you may have noticed that my yoga sequence has evolved over the last few years to include a couple significant new innovations:

1) I have been seeking to highlight moments of the kind of joint stability work that has been sorely lacking in the last 40 years or so of yoga instruction.bracing

This has included refining certain aspects of the core work I learned from Ana Forrest many years ago, when she was pioneering the inclusion of abdominal exercise in yoga.

Because human knowledge keeps evolving, in the years since, the “draw your navel toward your belly” instruction has been replaced (based on newer research) with more of a focus on “abdominal bracing” or firming up your core as if expanding a cylinder form the center of your abdomen outward in all directions.

I have also been really exploring how to focus on shoulder stability, because this is our most mobile, versatile, and therefore vulnerable joint —and the fast swooping caturanga that has characterized the popular flow sequence since the last 90’s has a massive blind spot in terms of bearing all your weight rapidly down to the floor in that fancy-looking (but bad for your rotator cuff) transition!

In addition to emphasizing more of a joint stability awareness (hips, low back and shoulders) you may have noticed me seeking to inspire an attitude of inquiry around movement…

The transitions in and out of postures, rotating certain joints as part of the more static posture, and reminding your brain and neuromuscular system that there are ranges of motion, and responsive articulations that have to be used in order not to be lost!

Routine is good —but if we always do the same things in exactly the same ways, we run the risk of conditioning a very limited sense of embodiment, and also of going into auto-pilot mode and missing the alive, intelligent, curious exploration that always unfolds only in the present moment.

For me, yoga, dance, martial arts, fitness, and any kind of mindful practice, are all part of one continuum that invites adaptive health in response to experience and placing demands on our system.

I am excited to keep sharing this process with you!

See you soon,

Yoga’s Evolving Story Of Cross-Cultural Innovation

Screen Shot 2017-03-11 at 1.35.33 PM“Yoga” has a complex history with many twists and turns. It has always been an adaptive, evolving process, continually redefined by innovators with their own ideas and beliefs.

There is no pure, authentic, authoritative and infallible version or lineage of the practice, postures, or ideas, only an adventurous tale of great variation, innovation, and differences in emphasis.

But the story of how we get to where we are today is well worth exploring.

Are the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali the official philosophy of the yoga asana practice we get from 5,000 year old tradition?

Can we actually draw a straight line back 5,000 years from today’s yoga class?

Should we use the Sanskrit names for the poses, or might  Danish names actually be more accurate for the sun salutation and standing poses?

Do modern liberal values, psychological self-compassion, and brain science based insights already exist in ancient approaches to meditation and yoga, or are they part of an evolving adaptive, cross-cultural process?

Click here to read the fascinating story of Yoga, and where Awakened Heart, Embodied Mind fits into this evolving tale!

FREE 30 Minute LIVE Info Session for the 2017 Training!

HalaJayJulian-97-HiRes-©saritzrogersCome and meet your trainers, see Santa Monica Yoga, and have your questions answered!

Saturday December 17th 11 a.m.

More info Here.

What Types of People Join The AHEM Training?

Jay, Julian and Hala discuss the various types of trainees who sign up for the Awakened Heart, Embodied Mind yoga teacher training:

* Young People just out of college AND Older Folks entering a second career or seeking a new skill set after the kids have grown up
* Brand New Teachers AND Teachers who already have one or two other certifications but are wanting to connect the dots, or fill in the gaps
* Intelligent and curious yogis interested in an integration of ancient and modern, Eastern and Western, psychological, scientific and spiritual
* People who value diversity and inclusivity
* Yogis who want to deepen their understanding of how to hold space, be mindful of trauma, support collective and personal healing and evolution
* People who simply want to explore the experience of their own deepening healing, self-awareness and growth through our course work and experience of practice and community


Julian: The Books We Study Together in the AHEM Training

Julian describes the course work in the training, and the unique integration of yoga, meditation, psychology and brain science that you’ll learn about and apply…

Hala: Why is Trauma Awareness Important For Yoga Teachers?

Hala answers the question: Why is trauma psychology is an appropriate topic for  yoga teacher trainees to learn about?

She reflects on how as teachers, inviting people into breath and body awareness gets them in touch with their feelings, their life experiences —and understanding that, given how trauma is a fact of most people’s lives, it is to be expected that students are sometimes being present with their past traumas in yoga class.

Knowing this, and being compassionately attuned to our own life experiences as teachers can help us serve students more sensitively, and manage our own reactions more skillfully.

Powerful topic addressed in this brief observation. Watch:

Webinar with Hala & Jay: Teaching People, Not Poses!

jay-hala-croppedTeaching People, Not Poses
A Webinar for Yoga Teachers Who Want To Take Their Teaching to the Next Level

What does it mean to teach people, not poses? What stops many teachers from doing it? Why is it hard to train teachers to teach people?

Join Hala and Jay for an online series that explores these questions and offers practical techniques for how to move past simply sharing instructions to being able to connect with the people on the mats in front of you with more presence and purpose.

Session 1 / Next-Level Teaching: What it Means to Teach People, Not Poses
During this session, Hala and Jay will talk about their experience, both as teachers and as trainers of teachers, with the challenges and benefits of teaching people. We will discuss why yoga teachers, both new and experienced, often default to simply teaching poses rather than speaking to the whole experience of their students’ bodies, minds, and hearts. It’s hard to teach to the whole person–doing so requires a quality of presence and self-awareness that can feel daunting. We think that it’s worth it, and we want to see you bring more of YOU to your teaching!

Session 2 / Passion, Purpose and Embracing Your Inner Critic
Hala will take you deeper into your own personal exploration around how you show up as a teacher.  We will look at your critic and your cheerleader, and we’ll talk about the importance of knowing your purpose as a teacher and letting that guide all that you do.

Sessions 3 / Tools for Transformative Teaching
Jay will look at specific places where teachers get tripped up and offer techniques and assignments that will help you bring more of yourself to your teaching. We will look at how you can quiet the voice of the inner critic and let the more vulnerable parts of you be seen, as well as find inner resources that allow you to stay present with yourself and your students as you teach so that your teaching can be just as growth-oriented for you as it is for your students.

Sessions will be interactive, so do your best to be on the live calls.
If you can’t make the live calls, recordings will be sent to you.

Dates: Nov 1, 3, 4 (3 sessions)
-join for Session 1 or all 3!

Times2:30-3:45pmPT / 5:30-6:45pmET

Click here for pricing and sign up details.

Jay: What Does It Mean To Teach Yoga Safely?

In part 3 of the 3 Questions series, Jay Fields talks about what it means to teach yoga safely…

Geeking Out: Psoas, Low Back, Emotions, Altered States, Deep Release

In this conversation, Jay and Julian share their overlapping nerdy obsession with the psoas muscle!

They talk about the anatomy, emotional significance, and powerful role this muscle plays in the health of your low back, digestive system, sexuality and capacity to manage stress, let go and experience healing relief, grounding and peace.

Check it out!

3 Questions #2: What Do You Love About Teaching Yoga?

Watch Hala, Julian and Jay each talk about why they love teaching yoga.

Hala shares about the joy she feels creating a space for people to experience their bodies with greater ease in a way that is not common in our society.

Julian talks about being touched by people sharing what their practice has meant to them during difficult times.

Jay reveals how for her, teaching yoga is very related to her love of story-telling as a writer —and how she is privileged to weave a meaningful experience for people out of her own life experience using poetry, postures and themes to support the journey.