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!

You know your yoga practice is working when your life gets better NOT when your yoga gets better.

You know who I’m talking about.  Maybe this was you; maybe this is you.  The mala bead wearing, namaste talkin’, slightly arrogant, super neurotic, i-never-eat-meat-refined-flour-or-non-organic-food,  type. The person who looks down on anyone who doesn’t do yoga, isn’t vegan, has “negative energy” or has a corporate job.

I know this person because this person was me.

When I lived in New York City, I would pause when I walked by a McDonalds and pray for the people inside. I prayed that they would find enlightenment and stop eating such low quality food made with tortured animals and additives.  Then I would walk off, feeling better than everyone and very satisfied with myself.

You see, yogis don’t overtly judge, we cover it up in spiritual guise.    621855_336352119784529_1103007688_o

I practiced yoga religiously, I was a vegetarian, I had mantras memorized, I’d been to India, and could get both feet behind my head. Meanwhile, I was stuck in a codependent relationship, addicted to sugar, and in a constant battle with a core belief that I wasn’t enough.

For me, yoga is a tool for self-awareness.  When we are self-aware, we can cultivate compassion.  Compassion for ourselves is where it starts; if we don’t have that, we’re destined to idealize or demonize others. Yoga teaches me to remain grounded in the moments when I want to be reactive.  My yoga practice has forced me to face my inner critic and start to let go of my perfectionist (who believes that I only deserve love if I’m perfect).  If I think that I need to be perfect to be worthy of happiness, then I will subconsciously be thrilled when I see others being imperfect (like the folks eating Mc-y- D’s, or someone doing an improper chatturanga), for this gives my flailing self-esteem a fleeting boost.

Back when I used yoga as a whip with which to beat myself, I was drawn to more punitive teachers who made me feel worthless and want to strive for their approval.  I wanted to master the inner spiral, and the rooting of the big toe while doing perfect Ujayi breathing and staring at a drishdi.  As I started to get wiser and see that perfectionism is a dead end road, I started making different choices.  My practice turned into an opportunity to love and accept myself exactly as I was in that moment (that concept would have made me throw up in my mouth previously).

Today i know this:  the purpose of discipline is to create more freedom. If your discipline just leads to more discipline, it ain’t workin’ baby!  I knew my sugar addiction was cured, not when I stopped eating sugar, but when I could have one or two pieces of chocolate without inhaling the entire bar and then going for another one while drowning in my own shame.

If you are like I was, and you’re imprisoned by a quest to be the perfect yogi, ask yourself this question, “what am I afraid would happen if I let go a little?  What am I trying so hard to control?”

I am not suggesting that discipline is bad.  In fact, it’s necessary.  As a step towards freedom. I don’t look back on my years of discipline and think i did the wrong thing; Ijust see now that I was mistaking the boat for the shore.  I know my yoga is working because I’m happier.  My relationships are health, I don’t have a voice in my head all the time telling me that I’m worthless.  I can’t get my feet behind my head anymore, I don’t do full splits or balance in handstand, and I have a slightly pudgy belly.  And I’m happy! Not perfect- I have a lot more to learn, and I’m OK with that.

Next time you’re on your mat, ask yourself this question, “who am I being right now?” Many years ago I was in a very packed, sweaty, vinyasa flow class filled with overachievers.  At one point the teacher said to us, “So you can do all this fancy yoga, but does anyone want to hang out with you?”  Do they?

-Hala Khouri

Early-Bird Pricing is NOW Good through 12/15 —Find Out More Here:
2016 Training

Jay Fields Joins Our California Yoga Teacher Training Faculty!

j_fieldsWe are delighted to announce the new addition to our teaching staff: veteran teacher, author, trail-blazer, and all-around inspiring human being Jay Fields.

She is a perfect fit for what Julian and Hala have created, and will bring a unique and well-honed skill set to our California yoga teacher training.

Here is her official bio:

Jay Fields is not your ordinary yoga teacher.  As the author of the books Teaching People, Not Poses and Homebody Yoga, Jay is praised for walking her talk and for supporting her clients in showing up authentically and unapologetically. Jay’s gift lies in her practical and poetic approach to helping people find embodied integrity. She does this through yoga that is as alignment-focused as it is introspective, and through a private somatic mentoring practice. She has spent the last 15 years leading vision quests, teaching yoga and helping people fall to pieces so they can come back together whole. She holds a Masters degree in Integral Transformative Education.

Jay begins her AHEM tenure in the 2015 training starting January 9 , and will be weaving in her pragmatic, detailed and authentic take on alignment, anatomy and an approach to practice and teaching rooted in embracing our vulnerability and cultivating genuine self-awareness.

Find out more and read some of Jay’s astute and honest writing here.

YOU Have A Unique Voice To Share As A Yoga Teacher!

One of our highest values is helping our trainees find their voice. We are not interested in you becoming cookie cutter teachers and mimicking us! We believe that everybody has a unique expression as a yoga teacher. When you teach from who you really are, you are naturally more compelling. So, in addition to learning the nuts and bolts of safely teaching yoga, the Awakened Heart, Embodied Mind Yoga Teacher Training invites you to investigate what gifts you really want to share.

Early-Bird Pricing is NOW Good through 12/15 —Find Out More Here:
2016 Training

The “Operating System” —Teaching Yoga with Knowledge & Curiosity…

Have you ever wondered how really good yoga teachers seem to have a sixth sense about what their students need, about who should modify and how, who might benefit from an adjustment, and how to support someone over time as they heal an injury or correct an imbalance?

Well, like most things that seem magical, there is both an art and a science to it.

Julian calls this developing an “intelligent eye,” and it is a life long process and practice.

This includes:

* Looking at yoga postures through the lens of functional and practical anatomy
* Understanding how to teach safely
* Aiming to both heal and prevent injuries
* Honoring the individual’s journey, process and body-type

Julian Walker ERYT-500 gives you a glimpse of how the Awakened Heart, Embodied Mind teacher training gives you a platform, or “operating system” based in the relationships between yoga postures, anatomy and an understanding of how to look at bodies intelligently and respond to your student’s needs.

The idea of an operating system is that it allows us to teach our classes with a sense of confidence and curiosity, meeting our students in the moment and applying the knowledge we have in ways that honor their unique bodies, history of injuries, and capacity to heal and find balance.

Early-Bird Pricing is NOW Good through 12/15 —Find Out More Here:
2016 Training

The #1 Modern Mind-Body Yoga Training..

What do we mean when we talk about the mind-body connection? What does this have to do with yoga, meditation and brain science? Hala and Julian sat down recently to discuss the underlying philosophy and approach of the Awakened Heart, Embodied Mind Yoga Teacher Training.

Hala talks about leaving teacher training with “a lot of new words” —but terrified that anyone would ask her what they meant?! Julian talks about his passion for the intersection between anatomy, psychology, neuroscience, meditation and yoga… Watch the video above for more on how the Awakened Heart, Embodied Mind yoga teacher training will (instead of just buzz words and vague beliefs)  give you practical tools and a grounded path to both self-transformation and sharing effective healing and personal growth experiences with your future yoga students.

Early-Bird Pricing is NOW Good through 12/15 —Find Out More Here:
2016 Training

Yoga Superpowers: Creating Effective Yoga Class Themes!

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This Yoga Superpowers video is about creating effective yoga class themes. It empowers you to reflect on your own life experience and yoga practice as a way to identify authentic themes that you can share in your classes.

Everyone has something meaningful to share that can be moving and inspiring to their yoga students. We all value authenticity at an emotional level, and this is a key part of connecting and communicating with your community!



Yoga Training Tips – Yoga Superpowers #3: Freedom From Demonstrating Everything

Perfecting Your Playlists: Yoga Superpowers #2

DJ julian close up 

Have you made the leap into using music in your yoga class already, but it didn’t quite work?

You know, the uptempo tracks started too early in the sequence, or that  emo singer/songwriter tune you love just seemed to fall flat. Or maybe you realized too late that the order of the songs could have been so much better, if only you had put Shaman’s Dream before Kaya Project and kept that Bon Iver track on ice for the end of class.

Perhaps you’ve felt the burn of multi-tasking with your iPod in hand, trying to rearrange songs while your students wonder what the nonsensical instructions absently coming out of your mouth actually mean!

“Put your left foot under your shoulder and lift your tailbone…. I mean One Love by Bob Marley… ummm hold on a second please…wait, uh child’s pose for 10 breaths..”

Creating playlists that work is an art form, but I don’t want you to imagine that the teachers you admire who seem to always have just the right mix of meditative, tribal and uplifting tunes setting the tone for their sequences, were just born that way!

You can get good at this too.

In the video below is the simple secret I have used for the last 20 years that has made the musical component of my classes somewhat legendary amongst my students.



You know, when I started using music in my classes back in 1994, I didn’t know anyone who was doing it, and I was certainly the only teacher at my studio who brought a boom box with a 5 CD changer and a carrying case of 100 CD’s to class. Remember CDs?! I am so grateful for digital music revolution!

The reason I started doing it was that music that enhanced the experience of yoga, meditation, massage (and of course dance) was such a big part of how I had meaningful experiences on my own journey, and I knew intuitively that if I wove that soundtrack into my classes it would heighten and deepen the experience for my students.

I guess a lot of other teachers felt the same way, because classes without music have become more and more rare over time!

I eventually ended up creating a yoga & dance hybrid class called “Funky Friday” —where I get to really play at being a DJ! But my other classes have no Dirty Vegas or dubstep remixes, it’s more like Ben Harper, Kruder & Dorfmesiter, Mickey Hart and Lisbeth Scott!

In any event, please enjoy this short video suggestion on one very effective way  to perfect your playlists so that you and your students have powerful, beautiful experiences together! That’s why we do what we do, right?

All the best,


Why Yoga Works! #2: Being OK With Discomfort Sets You Free.