The second limb of Patanjali's Eight Limbs of Yoga is Niyama. (Read Part 1, an introduction to the 8 Limbs and all about the Yamas here.) With this second layer, we dig a little deeper into ourselves.
The Niyamas are similar to the Yamas, but they're more personal. The word Niyama breaks down to Ni + Yama, and depending on your favorite translations, Ni can be in, into, within, back, down. I like to think of the Niyamas as the ME version of the yamas.
Like the Yamas, there are 5 Niyamas: Saucha = cleanliness or purification, Santosha = contentment, Tapas = internal fire, discipline, drive, or motivation, Svadhyaya = self-study or study of texts, and Isvara Pranidhana = surrender to the divine, or letting go of what you can't control. We can practice the Niyamas both on and off our mats, and like everything in life, some will come easier than others.
As a yoga teacher I always shower before I teach (and practice) so I'm clean for my students, but I'm terrible about dropping an occasional F-Bomb; I curse like a sailor. Language is one area in which I'm really working on saucha. I've learned to practice gratitude when I'm in a funk to find contentment, santosha, and constantly remind myself that I am exactly where I'm supposed to be. Each month I do a goal-setting check-in with one of my friends, Sheri Matthews, and we set reachable short and long-term goals; those sessions keep my tapas going! I'm constantly practicing svadhyaya, noticing what thoughts come up for me, reactions before they become actions, how my daily schedule and eating habits affect my energy level. And while isvara pranidhana is the hardest one for me to practice, I try to remind myself that the only person I can control is myself and that after I've done what I can do, I have to let go.
How do you practice the Niyamas?! Find your own versions with this Niyama Flow!
One of the first emails I send to my yoga teacher trainees before they join me for a training includes the question “What is yoga to you?” The common translation of yoga is “union,” or “to yoke.” Some people will tell you yoga is a union of body, mind, and spirit, others will tell you it’s a religion. For every 10 people you ask, you’ll get 10 different answers. I find yoga to be such a personal practice that I struggle defining it one way. For me yoga is a way of life; it’s self-discovery, exercise, therapy, meditation, and medicine. It’s a spiritual practice that connects me to something greater; it’s a physical practice that grounds me and makes me appreciate the strength and power of my body; it’s both challenging and fun. Yoga is what I turn to when I feel like my life is going to shit and it’s how I celebrate beautiful highs and magical moments. My yoga practice varies from day to day.
Yoga has been around for more than 5,000 years, but ancient yoga looked quite a bit different from what most people consider yoga today. Yoga’s goal throughout the years has been to answer life’s tough questions – Who am I? What is my purpose? How do I connect to something greater? - and it’s evolved greatly through time and location as our lifestyles have evolved. I find it totally normal and expected that we practice yoga in a very different way than our yogi ancestors did. Because most of us lead relatively sedentary lifestyles (working on computers, driving to get where we need to go), it makes sense that we are drawn to the physical aspect of yoga, the postures or asanas. But as most of us discover when we start to delve a bit deeper, yoga is much more than just poses.
One of my favorite sessions of teacher training (each time I discover something new for my own life and practice), is our discussion of The Eight Limbs of Yoga. Patanjali, the “father of yoga” and one of the leading sages associated with yoga, defined these guidelines for living in the Yoga Sutras as follows:Yama. Yama is often explained as restraint or control, and there are 5 Yamas that can be characterized as ways of controlling yourself or behaving in relation to the outside world. They are: Ahimsa = non-violence; Satya = truthfulness; Asteya = non-stealing; Bramacharya = self control over physical impulses of excess; and Aparigraha = non-hoarding.
I’m adding a series of classes to my YouTube channel that explores each of these limbs, or layers of yoga, in detail through a guided practice. Follow along each week, leave comments and thoughts, and find your own connections and examples in your life. This week we dig into the Yamas!
Our Summer 2017 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training in Lake Placid, New York is filling up quickly and I couldn't be more excited. It's been amazing talking to the students who are joining, hearing about and sharing their passion for life and yoga, and realizing what an incredible experience this is going to be for everyone. I fell in love with the Adirondacks on a road trip last summer and knew I had to come back and share some of the beautiful energy of the area!
We'll spend three weeks immersed in all things yoga, with days off to hike, paddleboard, swim, be in nature, and reset. AND...If you book by Wednesday, March 15th you get $500 off shared or private room prices and $200 off locals' rate, which means...
For $1,800 you get 3 weeks of yoga, all training materials, and lunches on training days. You leave certified to teach under Yoga Alliance guidelines, and go home with new friends and a fresh outlook on life.
For $3,250 you get the above plus get shared room accommodation and all meals.
For $3,750 you get the above plus private room accommodation and all meals.
Email me with any questions!
I have big things planned for Floating Yoga School for the rest of this year and next year! I just secured a bunch of dates for retreats and teacher trainings around the world, and I can't wait to share them with you.
See below for the full schedule, and message me for more details!
In just a few months I'll be kicking off another yoga teacher training in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. It's the perfect chance to visit a gorgeous Caribbean island, learn more about yoga, and spend some time on yourself.
I set up my 200 hour yoga teacher trainees as 3 week retreats because I find that being immersed in yoga allows you to really focus in on your personal goals and practice without the distractions of work and day-to-day life. Our schedule is 3 days of training followed by one full day off, so you have time to rest, reset, and explore St. Thomas (which usually translates to long naps, beach days, and strolls through town :)).
Click here for all the details. I'm happy to offer a day rate that includes the training and lunch if you'd like to find your own lodging or are already in St. Thomas. And I'm always open to payment plans. Feel free to message me - Helen@FloatingYogaSchool.com - for more information.
Big thanks to Marshan and the crew at WildHeart Studio in St. Thomas for your support and help making this happen!
After more than four years of hard work, endless edits, and countless refinements, I'm very happy to announce that my Yoga Teacher Training Manual is for sale as an e-book on Amazon! Here's the link to purchase. (I'm working on iBooks now - stay tuned.)
I use this manual in my Floating Yoga School trainings (and it's free if you join me!), and I'm happy to offer a cobranded manual for your studio if you're interested - email me for details.
So why am I selling it? There is SOOO much to learn about yoga, and you could spend years reading and studying and still feel like you only just scratched the surface. Ever since my own teacher training seven years ago, I've been on the hunt for great yoga resources. There are thousands of incredible books out there, but the scope of choices and subjects is really overwhelming. Most yoga teacher trainings include required readings, and the long list of books you're supposed to buy will end up costing you a fortune and leave you even more confused. I see those lists and all I can think about is my first semester of college, when after standing in line for 20 minutes with a huge stack of books I finally got to the check-out desk of the University Bookstore, was told my total was $400+ for one class, and with sweaty palms had to reluctantly hand over my brand-new debit card. Welcome to adulthood.
I wanted to get away from that feeling and consolidate what I've learned and found to be most helpful as a modern yogi through my 15 years of practicing and 7 years of teaching. The Floating Yoga School approach to 200 hour teacher trainings is to think of yoga like a buffet (I love food). Instead of loading up your plate with a few subjects, we offer a small taste on a wide range of topics. As a participant of a Floating Yoga School Yoga Teacher Training, you leave comfortable and ready to teach a really solid yoga class that fits your personality as a teacher. You learn the basics of history and philosophy, anatomy, meditation, pranayama, chakras, Sanskrit, and Ayurveda. You learn to safely and intelligently sequence a class, how to approach yoga from an ethical business point of view, and how to teach and adjust more than 100 yoga poses (including modifications for injuries and specific populations like prenatal students and kids). You also get an amazing chance to focus on yourself and your long-term goals away from the distractions of everyday life. And that's what this manual is all about: 287 easy-to-follow pages designed to kickstart a lifelong exploration of the lifestyle of yoga.
Check out the manual, whether you're brand new to yoga or are looking to start your own yoga teacher training. I always welcome feedback and will continue to add to it as I continue to evolve my practice and teaching. And if you'd like to join for a training, the next one is Summer 2017 in Lake Placid, New York. Click here for all the details. Our February session starts in just a few days in Caberete, Dominican Republic - I'll be posting lots of behind-the-scenes photos on Instagram, so be sure to follow along :)
The Floating Yoga School 200 hour teacher training is Yoga Alliance approved.
I have to say, I’ve been riding high on a wave of inspiration these past few days. I usually find that I feel more inspired when I’m in nature away from from electronics (thus the sailing life), but I’m always drawn back to Facebook to see what my friends are up to. I love how social media has the ability to connect us, humanize us, and inspire us.
I think more than anything our world needs inspiration, and I truly believe there’s no limit to what we can achieve if we’re able to positively motivate each other. In a world full of frustration and negativity, we need more light and more love to keep us going.
I love that you stand up for what you believe in. To those of you who marched around the world: thank you for peacefully representing and improving our world.
I love seeing photos of your cute kids, hearing how you balance career and home life and still have time to pursue passions, adventures, and community involvement. I love getting a glimpse into the future of our world.
I love learning about the world through your travels and adventures.
I love how you support your friends and community, and how you give so much of yourself unconditionally.
I love that you’re building sustainable, positive businesses that impact so many people.
I love how you hold space for others and are able to share your opinions so eloquently while fostering respectful discussions and discourse.
And I love the day-to-day realness, the permission to just tell it like it is.
My biggest goal is to inspire others to live a life they love. (And that’s been a hard one for me to put out there because it feels like I’m saying “I want this to go viral” – and I know that’s not how it works ) I came out of 2014 completely worn out. Everything in my life was turned upside down. After a really painful divorce, a hard look at who I was and how I was living, I decided that I needed something different and I basically started over. It took two years of work, big decisions and even bigger changes, and I know the work is far from done, but I finally feel inspired again. If I can do it, you can do it.
I’d love for you to share my journey. Watch the videos and share with anyone you think they may resonate with. I won’t refuse financial support (boat life isn’t cheap!), but more than anything I’d appreciate if you’d help me share my Patreon page. https://www.patreon.com/FloatingYogaSchool
Share it with someone in your life who needs a little inspiration. Share it with someone who wants to travel. Share it with someone who loves to sail (or who needs a reminder that even if you don’t sail well you can still buy a boat – I did!). Share it with young women and men who have big dreams. And share it with someone who needs a reminder that even when things seem really bad, you can reinvent yourself and create a life you love.
If you told me 15 years ago that someday I'd be a yoga teacher and that a big part of my life would be spent training other teachers, I wouldn't have believed you. But if you told me I'd be helping people find health and balance, teaching them how to discover their passions and live lives with more depth, I would have said, "yep, that sounds like exactly what I want to do!"
My path to Floating Yoga School and leading yoga teacher trainings was not a direct one, but I don't regret one turn. At 18 I was an eager premed bioengineering major at Rice University, finding balance as an adult on my own, studying hard for classes I didn't really enjoy, and stressing out over whether or not I wanted to commit to a career that seemed so competitive and intense. I slowly realized that my passion for medicine was less about the science side of things and more about helping people. I switched my major to sociology, felt happier and lighter, and moved to New York City after graduation to pursue a master's degree in public health at Columbia University. I worked in benefits consulting for a few years and moved to San Diego to create more personal balance and shifted my career toward corporate wellness.
Although I found yoga in college, my practice didn't become consistent until a few years later. Now I can't imagine my life without it. That doesn't mean I'm doing handstand-heavy classes everyday. Sometimes my yoga practice is about sitting quietly, reflecting, or actively letting go of negative thoughts. Yoga is a personal practice and it looks and feels different to each of us. As cheesy as it sounds, I'm so grateful for what I've learned through yoga, and I feel very lucky to share the gift of yoga with others.
One of the biggest reasons I love leading yoga teacher trainings is because we really get to explore everything that is yoga; there is so much to learn and a 75 minute class just doesn't cut it. You don't necessarily have to want to be a yoga teacher to do a teacher training. All you need is the desire to dig a little deeper. We all have something personal we can work on, something we can heal from, something more we want from life. Whether you've just gotten into yoga, or you've been practicing for years, taking a yoga teacher training gives you a deeper understanding and appreciation of the ancient and ever-evolving practice of yoga.
Maybe you're a therapist, PT, OT, or personal trainer. Understanding yoga can add to your professional resume, enhance your current practice, and provide something extra to your clients.
Maybe you're a consultant or you work in sales. Learning to better understand how humans work on all levels can help you communicate more effectively, connect to your clients, and boost your sales.
Maybe you're a teacher or caregiver. Imagine giving your students or patients the gift of mindfulness and meditation in addition to everything else you provide. A personal yoga practice can help you feel refreshed and replenished, and taking care of yourself allows you to better care for everyone else around you.
Or maybe you're in a place of transition, ready for a new career but aren't sure what that is. Teaching yoga is a rewarding way to connect with people and can be an excellent source of primary or secondary income. Yoga can help clarify and solidify goals and future desires.
Whoever you are, whatever your reasons may be, I promise that a yoga teacher training will enrich your life. I work really hard to make our trainings fun, inspiring, approachable, and affordable. Our trainings are Yoga Alliance approved, 3 weeks long, and feel like you're on a yoga vacation with amazing people in incredible settings. We have two 200 hour trainings coming up in 2017 and I would love for you to join us for one: February in Encuentro, Dominican Republic and July in Lake Placid, New York.
Email me at Helen@FloatingYogaSchool.com with any questions or concerns you have!
If you've been wanting to do a yoga teacher training but can't can't quite make the numbers work with your budget (we get it!), now's your chance to follow your dreams with our Yoga Teacher Training Scholarship Writing & Video Contest.
We're giving away at least one spot in each training we do in the Caribbean (read the fine print here), and can't wait to read or watch why you should be the one to join us.
All you have to do is submit your entry fee and send us your written or video submission. Tell us your story: what sets you apart, what you'll get from a yoga teacher training, how you'll give back, or anything else you'd like us to know.
Share with friends! The more submissions we receive, the more scholarships we can award. Email with any questions.
The end of teacher training is always a bittersweet time for me. Graduation day comes and I feel like a proud parent, teary-eyed and nostalgic about how far my students have come (our first day together feels like just yesterday!), excited to be able to catch up on Netflix again (mostly kidding), and so excited and eager to see where they’ll go.
As a new teacher you might feel a sense of relief that you’re getting your weekends back, you might feel a little lost as to where to go next, you might feel a mix of emotions, or you might feel nothing at all (I guess we wore you out, huh?). All of those feelings are valid, and in light of them, I share some parting words of wisdom to my teacher trainees and any other new teachers out there:
1. Keep practicing. Practice teaching, practice yoga, and remember that your yoga practice isn’t necessarily all physical. I have weeks where I practice asana daily, either on my own or in a public class, and I have weeks where my yoga is a mindful walk, a quiet moment with my phone off, or turning on loud music and dancing my heart out.
I’ve had people give me advice about how as a teacher I shouldn’t let go of my own practice. And while I completely agree, they never asked me what my practice was like; they judged for themselves and projected their ideals onto me. When I wanted to yell “you don’t know anything about my life, a$$hole!” I held my tongue, took a deep breath, tried to understand why I was annoyed when they were trying to help, and smiled and thanked them for their advice. So sometimes my practice is not letting my inner angry mean girl freak out at people (hey, no one’s perfect!). And I would argue that this practice is more important for me than picking up the latest trendy creative sequencing to get into headstand, or the theming of a Valentine’s Day class.
Don’t let society’s standards of what a yoga teacher’s practice should look like make you feel like you have to master handstand or meditate in lotus an hour every day. You’re a better yoga teacher by being mindful, compassionate, and present than by bending into a pretzel. Only you know how to get yourself into that state of mind.
2. Things will continue to change and evolve in your life. Find people who support you through those changes, and change out the people who don’t. Nothing is forever. You’ve probably noticed some shifts in your life since you started your teacher training, and will continue to notice them as time goes on. Change can be scary, uncomfortable, throw you off your game, or make you feel like you’re going crazy (or all of the above). Change can also be really awesome because it means you’re growing, you’re moving onto better things, and that you won’t experience the same year 90 times in a row and call it a life.
It helps to have supportive people around you, and a place where you can be yourself. Find your people (or person), a home studio that feels right, and don’t be afraid to change those as needed. When you’re honest and true to yourself you attract people who resonate with that truth. The people who matter don’t care how you’ve changed, and the people who care don’t really matter. And if nothing else, know that your teacher training family is there for you, even if you haven’t spoken to them in years.
3. Be authentic, and let that authenticity transfer into your teaching. Don’t try to be your favorite teacher. It’s great to borrow sequencing or cues that you like, but try to make them your own. If you learn something new and want to teach it, teach yourself, and teach from that place. Be honest about what you don’t know - no one can know it all, and no one likes a know-it-all.
Teach the kind of class you’d want to take and what comes naturally to you. Know that you will never be able to please everyone, and that’s totally fine. Do you, and the right students will find you.
4. Take care of yourself. This one feeds into all the others, but it’s a super hard one for me so I’ll reiterate it on its own. You may have been drawn to teaching because taking care of others comes effortlessly to you. You will lead classes and people will come to you for advice as a leader. They’ll ask about poses, and about life. They’ll share and cry, and you will be there for them. And it will probably feel really good to help them.
There may be a moment (or a few years, if you’re anything like me) that you realize you’re putting everyone else before yourself. You’re helping others reach their goals and feel better about themselves, while you’re still stuck in the same rut you’ve been in for so long. Don’t forget to help yourself. Take some of the advice you give, and give yourself a break from always being “on.”
5. Keep learning. I like to consider a 200 hour teacher training a buffet where you can only fill your plate once so you take a little bit of everything. Now is your chance to go back to the stuff you liked on the first pass and really dig in (go back for seconds and thirds; fill 3 plates!). Read, read, read (you can never read enough). Take workshops. Take classes from teachers you like. Take classes from teachers you don’t like. Take class from yourself. Research questions you don’t know the answers to. Work with people you don’t know. Learn a completely new style of yoga.
Figure out what makes you tick, and what ticks you off. Ultimately this practice is a self-study (svadyaya for the bonus points). We are each our own best teachers, and there’s ALWAYS more to learn.
Helen's Adventures as a Traveling Yogi
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