Open post

21 Days of Meditation and the Podcast launch!

Hey Everyone!

I’ve got two big announcements to make!

The podcast that I host, the Sivana Podcast, is finally launching tomorrow!  I will have details up once we launch, but for now you can check out our Soundcloud page (https://soundcloud.com/sivanapodcast) which does have Episode 0 up!

Also, my new online course, Transform Your Life with 21 Days of Meditation, will be launching soon. Guided meditations, breathing practices, video and audio tracks, plans for the busy yogi in the world finding their time to meditate between work and responsibilities, as well as those who are ready to dive in and commit to a complete immersion for 21 days!

If you want to be the first to know about the official launch date and get a special discount code for the course, I recommend signing up for my newsletter! Sign up here: 

Join our community and sign up for our newsletter below!




Open post

Four Steps To More Skillful Sequencing

Ashton Class-8070

Before I begin, I want to include a brief preface to state that there are plenty of ways to sequence a class. Some people plan out a very detailed sequence based on a Queen/King pose, others plan out a class to touch as much of the body as possible in different ways, some teachers don’t plan at all and just “wing it” once they see which students arrived that day, and there is a whole world in between those options as well. I don’t necessarily consider any of them wrong or right, but there are definitely skillful ways to sequence a class and unskillful ways to sequence a class. I know plenty of teachers that “wing it” in class, and still teach a great class with no planning what so ever. I’ve also seen teachers stick too rigidly to what seemed like a perfect plan, and end up offering a terrible class because they didn’t adapt things to the particular students that showed up for class that day.

How to sequence a postural yoga class is a rabbit hole that can go very deep. We’ll be going further into the various ways to sequence a class in my upcoming webinar later this year! (Be sure to sign up for my Newsletter to get the latest info on upcoming workshops, webinars, and online trainings)

All that being said, I think the Four Steps below can offer some help no matter how one chooses to plan and teach a class. Whether the make-up of the class is planned before or done on the fly, these simple steps can help anyone weave a more skillful sequence. It is by no means an exhaustive list of steps, but these four steps can likely be weaved into any method with which you create your classes.

Think Shapes, Instead of Poses

Whenever I am teaching sequencing to a group of students in a yoga teacher training, an area where people get stuck often is being able to call up postures and their names. They try to think about what postures they know of and how to create sequences from that. But if you were to set aside the names of any pose, or even a deep knowledge of postures, what we are all very capable of is recognizing shapes. What sorts of shapes does the human form take?

Let’s say you are wanting to sequence a back bending class. Well, a back bend is a very particular shape. How else can you mirror that shape in other ways? How can I mirror a back bending shape with both legs involved? With one leg involved? What postures create that shape while working against gravity? While working with gravity?

Once we start to see the postures as human shapes, then we don’t have to worry about what postures we know or what their names are, we can start to create sequences based on those basic human shapes by altering and tweaking the shapes slightly. This may or may not lead to a posture with a fancy sanskrit name, but what it will do is set you students up for anatomical success.

Now that you have a bunch of similar shapes in mind, what next? Well, that leads us to the next point.

Build things from Simple to Complex

Now that you have your shapes in mind, it’s helpful to start to deconstruct what shapes/postures are more physically challenging, what shapes/postures have greater demands on strength and/or range of motion. For example: a low lounge with a knee down is a less complex and challenging shape then a high lounge with the back knee off the floor. Bow pose (dhanurasana) is a more accessible shape to find for most then, let’s say, wheel pose (chakrasana), and generally will have less demands on a body to get into the shape.

Part of the process of skillful sequencing is learning how to weave the various shapes within the postures together in such a way that your sequencing warms up the body and prepares it for more complex and challenging shapes as you go along. You are literally training the body in new skill sets in a very progressive and intelligent way.

See the two sets of images below for examples of a shape moving from a more simple and less demanding shape  to greater complexity and higher demands on the body.

side 1back 1
side2back 2
side 3back 3

Bring in the support!

As shapes progress into greater complexity, you’ll want additional support for that complexity. Taking the above images as an example, by the time we get to the final shape on the right column (dancers pose, aka natarajasana), not only do we want the back to be more prepared and warmed up, but we’ll also want to make sure that the hamstrings are open (for the standing leg) and the hips and core warm so they can help stabilize the body in the pose. While a stable hip and plenty of range in the hamstrings might not be the focus of your sequence, some attention will be needed for both if your sequence is taking on shapes that require that in particular poses. A back bend class isn’t going to be all back bends, you’ll need supporting postures to help build the skill set of the variations of the shape.

Weave in Counter Poses

Which leads us, as well, to the counter pose! Sticking with the back bending class, you won’t want a class emphasizing back bends to ONLY have back bends and the supportive postures. You’ll also want some counter postures. In the case of our back bending class, we’d want to include some forward folding postures. You can also mirror opposite shapes here. So if you are doing a lot of back bends with a single leg involved, then you can do lots of single leg folding postures as your counter. If both legs/hips are involved in your extension (eg: dhanurasana, bow pose), then perhaps mirror it with a posture that has both hips in flexion (eg:paschimottanasana, seated forward fold).

In summary, remember that there are plenty of ways to skillfully sequence a yoga class. I encourage you to put as much time and thought into your process as possible, so you can develop and grow as a teacher, no matter what type of class you choose to offer.

 

Namaste!

 

Open post

5 Tips for Teaching a Better Yoga Class

Ashton Class-7901

Not only are there many facets that make up a great yoga class, there are also lots of different opinions on what actually constitutes a great yoga class. Different strokes for different folks, as they say. But regardless of your teaching style, your students, or the type of class your are offering, here are five simple tips for teaching a better yoga class that can apply to absolutely anyone.

1) Build the Container

  • Plan a Beginning – Middle – End, and I don’t just mean in your sequence. You are holding space for your students during the time of their practice. That space needs a container. How do you plan on starting the practice? Do you have a theme? A story? Are you going to start class with a breathing exercise or meditation to help center/ground your students? What’s the middle point of the practice? What’s the energetic peak (more on this later)? How are you going to end the practice? Do you just get your students out of savasana and say goodbye (We’ll talk about a Call to Action further down this post)? How do you tie your ending to the beginning and middle? How does your voice support the framework of your class? These are all important questions to know the answers to when holding space for your students.

2) Make it about your students

  • It’s never about you. It’s about your students. So once you step into the seat of teacher, set your ego aside and serve your student’s needs. If you are sharing a personal story, make sure that you relate it back to your students because: it’s not about you, it’s about them. If you have a certain way of doing things, but it doesn’t work for a particular student, them let them do things their way because: it’s not about you, it’s about them. I don’t mean be an overachieving people pleaser. If you try to please everyone you’re likely to just piss everyone off. Be your authentic self, but your responsibility is to your students, not to uphold your ego or image. So leave your ego at the door. Can you make every single thing you do in that class room be a gift of service to your students?

3) Know your peaks and valleys

  • Whether your are teaching to a Queen/King pose or offering a potpourri class (touching on a bit of everything), it’s important to also know where your energetic peaks and valleys are. A lot of teachers use the term “peak pose” to signify what I might call the Queen pose, but I use the terms to mean different things. To sequence to a Queen/King pose means that all postures in the class serve that one pose in one way or another (as opposed to sequencing a potpourri class where students get a little bit of everything). But your Queen might not be your peak energetic experience of a class, it could be a floor posture towards the end of class, for example. Knowing your peaks and valleys allows you to know in a general sense where your student’s energy levels will be guided throughout the class and it will also help you to understand how to play with the pitch of your voice throughout the class. You’ll likely want a stronger, more energetic voice during your peak, but a calmer, more grounded voice during your valleys, like your intro and closing. How you navigate your peaks and valleys is a large part of building a container of space for your students during the practice.

4) Know your Soundtrack

  • Do you plan on having music or not? Some people love music during their practice, others: not so much.
  • If you plan on playing music in class, then it’s important to know where your energetic peaks and valleys are. When creating a playlist it’s important to understand the container you are creating for class, the pacing of your class, and the overall mood. You don’t want super fast paced energetic music for a mellow Yin class, nor do you want sleepy meditation music playing if you are doing a fast paced power class, or while you are doing something like core work in the practice. You want music that suits the energetic vibe on the practice.
  • Let’s say that you don’t plan on using music at all. Wonderful, AND, there will still be a soundtrack. What’s the soundtrack? The students breath and your voice. So it’s still important to know the various peaks and valleys of your sequence and class, and it’s also important to make sure your students are breathing.
    • Something I will often do in a class where students aren’t breathing very much and seem to be low in energy is to get them laughing or making silly sounds. Whatever pose I have them in (usually tadasana or downward dog, but it can be any pose), I have them close their eyes, inhale and exhale with a silly noise. Having them close their eyes makes them feel less self conscious and making a silly noise diffusing some of the social tension of people feeling weird about taking strong audible breaths. Sometimes it may take 2 or 3 attempts at this before the room really breaks the ice, but MAN-O-MAN do they start breathing after!

5) Call to Action

  • This is, in my opinion, one of the most important things we can do as teachers: offer a call to action. Students having time out of their day to come to a yoga class is huge, but given the hectic pace of life, students often jump right back into their day without any consideration of the practice. So remind them and give them something to do! How can they bring the practice into their lives? Bring your theme into it. How can they continue the message of the theme of your class throughout your student’s day? As you close the container of your practice with them, open up a new container for them that extends into their day and life!

So what do you think? What are some other universal tips that teachers can use no matter what type of class they teach or style of yoga they offer? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

 

 

New Yoga in America Study

Ashton Class-8195

The new Yoga in America Study has been released, giving us the most thorough statistics on yoga in America since the last study came out in 2012, and it’s all pretty exciting news if you are in any way involved in yoga! There are a lot of interesting details in there about yoga students, yoga teachers, and yoga studios. If you are a  yoga teacher or yoga studio owner, it’s definitely worth looking through the 87 page document.

 

Here are some of the things I found most interesting:

  • The total number of people practicing yoga has continued to grew at an amazing rate. Approximately 37 million people practice yoga in the United States, up from 20 million in 2012.
  • The number of men practicing yoga has also exploded! The number has more than doubled in these last few years. That’s awesome! Men are finally starting to get the clue that yoga is for everyone. And women have typically hovered around 80-90% of the people doing yoga, with these new statistics, they are down below 80% for the first time that I have ever seen (78% but that’s a big shift!).
    • 2012: 4 million men practicing yoga in the United States
    • 2016: 10 million men practicing yoga in the United States
  • The top three qualities that people believe make up a great yoga instructor
    • Is warm and friendly
    • Easily understood/clear with instructions
    • Is knowledgeable about the poses (asana)
    • And rounding off the top 10: Participates in ongoing learning, is challenging, and focuses on the spiritual aspects of yoga
    • This validates why I spend so much time on these things in teacher trainings.
      • Connect with your students! Talk with them before and after class. Get a sense of their goals, any injuries they have, and who they are as people.
      • Clear, direct language is IMPORTANT! People need to be able to understand what to do, even if they can’t see you (heck, they should be able to do it with their eyes closed).
      • Anatomy and kinesiology! They are sooo important! You need to know how the body works and moves, so you can understand the postures! It’s not enough to simply memorize postures You have to know how each body can work around, into and out of those basic shapes.
  • As a father, it was great to see the statistic that 37% of households have a child under the age of 18 that has taken a yoga class or considers themselves a yoga practitioner.
  • The majority of people are going to yoga 2-4 times a week, which means people are heading into yoga classes more often then ever before!

 

You can check out and download the full study in PDF form HERE.

 

You can also check out the info-graphic below for some highlights!

 

And feel free to share this blog post with anyone who you think might find it interesting!

Yoga Infographic

Creating new Yoga Videos

 

Hey Everyone!

 

This video was posted on my Facebook page a few weeks ago, but I am posting it here so I can continue to get feedback from all of you! I am currently working on all sorts of new yoga video content: free youtube videos, online yoga,  meditation and philosophy courses, and more! I’d love to hear from YOU about what you’d like to see the most. What sorts of things are you interested in?

So leave feedback in the comments section below, or email me at ashton@yogawithashton.com! I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for your support and I can’t wait to be sharing more videos with you soon!

Costa Rican Yoga Teacher Training – Jivani Yoga

I finally have some time to sit down and post about the recent Yoga Teacher Training I co-taught with Emma Warmington in Costa Rica, the Jivani Yoga Level 1 Training. In one word, it was: AMAZING! The location was incredible, El Sabanero Eco Lodge, located about 20 minutes outside of Tamarindo on the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica. The staff and food was all wonderful. We had multiple locations to practice at, a pool to relax in during the day, and while we were close to town and other great locations, we were also far enough away that we were in our own quiet secluded space.

 

The group was amazing. All wonderful people, and I’m confident they are all going to make great teachers! With everyone attending the training living on sight, we had a wonderful family feel, with all of us interacting on a regular basis.

costa-rica-yoga-teacher-training-smlogo-1266

 

 

The Principle Teacher, and Founder of Jivani Yoga, Emma Warmington, was amazing as always, and totally in her element, sharing with the students her vast knowledge and understanding of yoga.

 

I think the greatest part for me personally, was being able to have my family there for two weeks. With my wife and daughter around, enjoying Costa Rica, I was felt super loved up and able to truly enjoy my experience.

Family Photo - Costa Rica

I also had a pretty proud Daddy moment during the training as well. When all the students were working hard and practicing their final practicums (teaching a full class to all the other students), Sequoia decided she wanted to teach a class too. She put a class together with my wife, Kristi, then taught it to the two of us in our room, before deciding that she wanted to teach it to everyone. All of the students showed up for her class. It was pretty special watching my four year old daughter teach her first yoga class… and of course she was a natural. Direct, clear language. Very polite. “Do side plank, please.” It was awesome and probably my most memorable experience from the training.

 

If you want to get a taste of some of the wonderful experiences we had, check out the slide show, below!

 

The Jivani Yoga Level 1 Training in Costa Rica was from November 8th until December 6th 2015. For more information check out the Jivani Yoga page for the Costa Rica Training at http://jivaniyoga.com/yoga-teacher-training-costa-rica-2015/ or visit Jivani Yoga.

Jivani Yoga Student Teachers

St. Louis Trip!

It’s official, the people of St. Louis are just awesome. Had another great trip to St. Louis, MO to teach anatomy for the Yoga Six Teacher Training. It was a pretty rapid fire trip, as I arrived Friday afternoon, co-taught an outdoor yoga class to raise money for Pedal the Cause, had dinner with some great folks, went to sleep, woke up the next day to teach anatomy all day, went to bed early, woke up early the next day, taught all day, then hopped right on a plane back to San Diego after I finished teaching!

 

In addition to all the great yogis that showed me such wonderful hospitality, on my way back to my AirBnB place, a guy was the first guy ever to recognize my tank top. “Dude, is that the shirt from Big Trouble in Little China?” And then went on to quote a bunch of lines from the movie. Yes…. yes it is. And you are awesome! I’ve had that shirt for over a year, and no one has recognized the reference. It kinnnnnda made my day.

 

stlouis2

 

stlouis

 

stlouis3

This was a smaller group than usual for a Yoga Six YTT, which was actually pretty great as I got to spend more individual time with the students. I feel like everyone walked away with a greater understanding of the human body and the necessary inspiration to continue their journey with anatomy and kinesiology well after their training is complete!

 

I feel so blessed to be able to share my passion of the human body and of yoga with aspiring yoga teachers. I’m constantly learning, growing, and deepening my understanding of the material as well as how to teach and communicate it to others. I’ve recently been re-inspired to write more on the topic again, and to organize my thoughts into a manual. I’ll be putting together some advanced anatomy and kinesiology trainings for teachers in the coming months, with offerings in 2016 and beyond! So keep checking the website for announcements!

 

If you are a teacher or a studio owner looking for more anatomy training, contact me at ashton@yogawithashton.com to discuss possibilities! 🙂

 

Scroll to top