Tag Archives: yoga

Teaching Corporate Yoga Classes: Trusting the Group

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#sequencingblogtour #yogateachertour

This blog post is one in a series of articles all month long on the topic of Sequencing To The Individual hosted by Kate over at You & the yoga mat. Many awesome yoga experts are contributing to the blog tour throughout the month. Be sure to check out Gabriel Azoulay’s post and tomorrow, check out Adam Grossi’s too. Want to get all the #sequencingblogtour posts? Use the hashtag #sequencingblogtour on Instagram and swing by here to get emails with each post to your inbox all month long. 

Yoga can be taught just about anywhere, but to contain the infinitely variable and adaptable art of yoga to the myriad settings we as yoga teachers can find ourselves teaching in requires a specific set of skills. Since I’ve been teaching yoga, I’ve been teaching in corporate settings. Workers end their days and come to the conference room. We move furniture, dim the lights, and settle in for our practice. In front of me are a pregnant woman, a dyad of giggly 20-somethings, a overweight man who is also a smoker, a 60-something woman with herniated discs, 30-somethings who have been practicing yoga on the weekends at their neighborhood studios, and someone with chronic asthma. If this sounds like a motley crew, it is. And it is par for the course when teaching group classes in corporate locations.

I would wager most students in group classes at a fixed location (a job site, the building fitness center) are there because a) it is affordable, maybe even free b) it is convenient and c) they have heard of the benefits of yoga. Maybe their workplace or management company have even hung posters in the elevators detailing them.

Most office workers are sitting there on their mats in the conference room because they want to feel better, they want something different than what they have experienced before, and they are more than a little curious about this yoga stuff. It is now your job as a yoga teacher offering group classes in a corporate setting to meet their expectations while at the same time, meeting their needs. It is an incredible opportunity to turn a whole group of people who otherwise might not seek out yoga onto yoga. Given the range of abilities and aptitudes, the general lack of yoga props, and the novel setting of teaching in a room that just a few hours ago held a stressful meeting, there are few things that I have found to be very effective for teaching corporate group yoga classes:

1. SPEAK UP and SET THE CONTAINER. You are the head of the meeting now. When you take the seat of the teacher, take it with authority. Workers come in revved up and chit-chatting about their day. The conference room is an extension of where they have been all day; they are just in different clothes now. It is your opportunity to shift the energy by drawing their attention away from work. I start by firmly, but pleasantly stating, “let’s begin,” which is usually enough to settle the energy.

From here, the transition from the work world to the inner world begins. Some people cannot sit cross-legged. I invite them to sit on a chair. Any extra mats can be rolled up in to a bolster to help those who need a little lift under the sit bones, if blocks are not available. I look around the room to make sure no one is visibly struggling. If someone is, I coach the rest of the class into closed-eyes breathing while attending to the one person having trouble until we find a suitable seat for them.

2. START WITH BREATHING. One of my favorite sayings, and one I repeat often to my corporate classes, is “if you can breathe, you can do yoga.” I know these folks need encouragement, especially if they are not used to moving their bodies. I strike down ideas of needing to be flexible or thin or young right away. On day one with a new group, I tell them definitively that you don’t need anything to do yoga but your breath and your ability to pay attention and respond authentically. Over the course of our time together, we go deeper into what these ideas are. What does it mean to pay attention? What is responding authentically?

I coach the students at their mats to breathe and move with their breath, placing my hands on areas of their bodies where they can get more space/awareness/breath in. We always spend at least 10 minutes just breathing. But I give a lot of instruction and do lots of hands-on work so they can begin to experience that “just breathing” is actually a very profound subject in its own right.

3. BREAK EVERYTHING DOWN TO ITS COMPONENT PARTS. A challenge to teaching group classes in a corporate location is time. We have one hour. They have an expectation that they are going to “get something” out of their hour. I tell them on day one that we will build the series progressively. The first few classes will be an introduction to concepts in yoga, basic poses they will encounter over and over again, and most importantly, the breath. I tell them that if the classes feel too easy now, just wait (and smile impishly, which usually elicits a few laughs) and that if the classes start to feel too hard, they will know the modifications based on the earlier learning we will accomplish as a group.

I encourage them early and often to listen to their bodies and respond to what they most need, not to what the person next to them is doing. I remind them often of the variations we know for each pose. If I see someone struggling, instead of coaching that person directly, I might remind the class of the variations they already know and usually this results in more than a few of them stepping their practice up or down as needed. This builds a practice of self-care in the students, as well as a degree of autonomy that I want for all my students to have. Nothing makes me happier than to see them coaching themselves.

4. TRUST THE INTELLIGENCE OF YOUR STUDENTS. Starting with the basics and gradually building classes up, while regularly  reminding them to choose the variations that are most appropriate for them and coaching them on their breath creates a group of students that is not afraid to be different from one another. When someone needs my help, I come to them, but as I see their intelligence and ability to guide themselves grow, I can be freer in what I teach. Newness is not something to be feared, but a logical and attainable step up, something achievable because they already understand the basic theory or structure behind a pose or concept.

As the group field of the class grows, we are no longer in a corporate conference room. We have transcended that and have become a sangha, a practice group, all invested in one another’s growth. When the group classes reach this stage, I can utilize the pregnant lady or the woman with herniated discs as a teaching example, and then we are learning from one another. When the classes reach this stage, we are building community, which has far-reaching implications for the health and well-being of our people.

One of my teachers Ana Forrest made a spirit pledge to “mend the Rainbow Hoop of the People,” and as a Forrest Yoga-trained teacher, I also take to heart healing at the group level. The group field grows to encompass caring for all the participants by never leaving anyone behind and staying centered in the practice of breath, reminding all levels in the class that it is our ability to breathe and feel that is the true practice of yoga, not poses. When students stay focused on their breath and feeling authentically, the poses come, often to their surprise and delight.

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July Relaxation Reward: Private Yoga & Thai Massage Bundle

thai massage NYC jersey city

Take advantage of my special July private yoga/thai massage bundle to get that lazy day summer feel!

July is here, and on this first day of the month, I’m reflecting about how summer FEELS in the body. Remember being a kid and feeling so good and relaxed when school ended and your days just stretched out in front of you with no obligations or responsibilities? We had fun exploring, being with our friends, or taking quiet time with a book or art project. We moved our bodies and got dirty. We played and scraped our knees. And at the end of the day, we slept peacefully and soundly, then jumped out of bed to do it again the next day! Childhood was so much fun and our bodies remember that delightful combination of physical activity and relaxation, of being so tuned in to the present moment and enjoying everything that came our way.

To help us busy New Yorkers reconnect with this feeling, I’ve designed a special July bundle of Private Yoga & Thai Massage. This is a 2 to 3 hour time commitment but afterwards, you will feel amazing, and maybe even reclaim some of that sparkly summer energy we had as kids.

I can only fit a few of these into my schedule because ideally, we should do 60-75 minutes of private yoga, followed by an hour to 90 minutes of thai massage, so if you’re interested, please let me know soon so I can organize my schedule. I’m pricing these to encourage you to do it! It’s like getting the yoga free, or the thai massage free, however you want to slice it.

60 minutes yoga/60 minutes thai for $135
75 minutes yoga/75 minutes thai for $165
upgrade to 90 minutes of thai on either package for $30

To schedule your appointment, email me at rephann at gmail dot com.

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Holiday Forrest Yoga & Yin Yoga Retreat in Paradise, Costa Rica!

I’m thrilled to be leading another retreat at Anamaya Resort in beautiful Montezuma, Costa Rica from Dec. 19-26, 2015. How special to be teaching over Christmas week! I am honored to be spending my holidays with the beautiful people and guests of Anamaya and invite you to join us for week of magic, play, rejuvenation, growth, community, kindness, friendship, and fun! What a better way to end your year than in the paradise setting of Anamaya.

This week I will be teaching my two passions, Forrest Yoga and Yin Yoga! We’ll have energizing, strength-building, and healing Forrest Yoga-inspired Vinyasa classes in the morning, and meditative, healing, grounding Yin Yoga practices at night. There will be meditation offered both morning and evening and a workshop on “Unlocking the Gates,” a revitalizing and prana-moving Forrest Yoga workshop to open the hips, quads, and groins. Ooooh!

Anamaya Resort is a top notch destination featuring incredible views of the Pacific Ocean and Costa Rican cloud forest canopy. Located just above the canopy, the location of Anamaya offers unparalleled views of the coastline, flora, fauna, and our resident animal friends, the howler monkeys, iguanas, birds of prey, and many other incredible species, all right there in front of your eyes. There is an ozonated pool (no chlorine here!), an infrared sauna, hammocks and chaises for napping, and 3 meals daily of the cleanest, freshest, most high-vibe organic food you’ve ever had. I always leave Anamaya inspired to revamp my own meal plan! Anamaya also has a world-class spa for facials, massage, and other mind-body wellness treatments. And the grounds of Anamaya are an epiphany of how we can live in balance with our natural surroundings.

Packages start at $1500 all inclusive for an incredible week in one of the most magical locations on planet earth. Please message me with any questions about this incredible yoga retreat in Costa Rica during the holidays.

http://www.anamayaresort.com/holiday-yoga-retreat/

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Forrest Yoga Suns & Sun “B Series”

Here’s a little video I shot the other day at Yoga in the Heights, Jersey City, NJ before teaching. I teach Forrest Yoga at Yoga in the Heights Mondays & Wednesdays at 7:45pm and Saturdays at 9:15am.

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Connect To Your Core: Core Anatomy, Integration, and Application

In Forrest Yoga, we do core work. If you’ve never encountered this in a yoga class before, your first thought might be WHY? A strong core is incredibly important. In our modern day, “weakness” comes not just from lack of tone, but also from too much tone, or tightness. Sitting at a desk all day confers both lack of tone in some parts (lower back, pelvic floor) and too much tone in others (psoas, rhomboids). In Forrest Yoga, core work builds tone and connection where it is lacking, and releases tension where hyper-tonicity is adding to weakness and disconnect.

Our core muscles protect the bones and organs of our trunk, hold our organs in our abdominal cavity, and connect our trunk to our legs. A healthy toned core, one that is neither flaccid nor rigid, provides the best support for our vital organs, and in particular our guts. It’s a new way of thinking that “toned core” means “healthy guts” more than “six-pack abs,” but this is what Forrest Yoga does: takes you far deeper into understanding your body, and also helps dismantle a lot of popular, but erroneous, ideas.

In this two-hour workshop, we’ll review the basic anatomy of the core, in particular the muscles most commonly used in our basic core moves. I’ll explain what the muscles do, then you’ll experience that (integrate the information) by doing the poses yourself. For regular practitioners, you’ll get a new level of detail in understanding your core work poses. For new folks to Forrest Yoga, you’ll get a crash course in knowing how this part of your body works. Doing the poses following the anatomy part of the workshop should help everyone feel more educated and aware about this part of our body that for many of us, is an area we’d rather not think about, or don’t really understand well.

Once we’ve talked about and experienced our core muscles, we’ll put it all together into a back-bending class (yup, you use you core in that too and the more intelligent you are about the application of your core muscles in back-bending, the more pleasure and the more results you’ll receive from your back-bending practice). You’ll feel the support of your core from, as Ana Forrest likes to say “crotch to crown” and that’s pretty exciting. My experience of core work is that it makes me feel really connected, really powerful, sexier, and more alive.

I hope you will join us on Friday, May 15th from 7-9pm at Yoga in the Heights, 317 Central Ave., in Jersey City, NJ. www.jcheightsyoga.com

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Neptune is Transiting My Sun. And, I Need Rest.

neptune-in-piscesToday I was introduced to a concept called the Forer Effect, which in a nutshell says that people have a tendency to believe statements about themselves to be highly accurate, even if said statements could be applied to anyone. The Forer Effect is used to denigrate subjects like astrology, numerology, the Enneagram, etc. as pseudo-science.

As my boyfriend will tell  you, one of my favorite words is “anecdotally.” The Forer Effect doesn’t really explain about anecdotal evidence. This was on my mind as I checked the ephemeris for 2015 and found that transiting Neptune is back on my solar degree. This is the second time in about 8 months this has happened, and I can feel when Neptune is on my sun. I am tired. My brain isn’t so good for organization, clear thoughts, tasks, deadlines. I’m forgetful. Have trouble formulating a coherent or elegant sentence. And my mild dyslexia flares up so I read things like “tonight” and see “Tuesday.” This makes for snafus a-plenty.

Also lately, I have been working seven days a week. It happened sort of by accident during a time when I was worried about money and scheduled more things than I should have, and when I wasn’t being careful, and yah, when Neptune was transiting my sun and I couldn’t keep Tuesday and Thursday straight and ended up with too many commitments, several of which I couldn’t break because they were contractual. So after about a month of this schedule, and Neptune doing its thing, I had to make some room.

So I gave up my beloved Yin Yoga class at Reflections Yoga, a class I have taught for about 3 years. It was the first time Yin was offered at Reflections, and what started as my love for the practice has grown into a very popular class and a beautifully community of practitioners. I just found out today that Reflections found a new teacher for Fridays. Her name is Tatum and she looks lovely and I am certain that everyone will love her class.

The lesson I got from this experience is that sometimes we have to let even beloved and dear things go, because holding on to them is taking more from us than we can give out. And if we try to give from an empty place, it’s no good for anyone. That’s what Ana Forrest calls the “sacrificial whore” and it’s an ugly phrase to express an ugly condition that we sometimes find ourselves in.

Needing rest is REAL. Especially when Neptune is transiting your sun. Working seven days a week, even if one of those days was just teaching one yoga class, has worn me down. And, I’m also going thru something. It’s hard to say what. This is part of the Neptune transit. It’s a time marked by fogginess, confusion, delays. Neptune in mythology rules the seas. Water represents our deepest emotions, and the hidden and mysterious parts of ourselves. It’s also where we are most fluid, most playful, and most adaptable, literally in the flow. To align with the way I’m feeling now, I need more time for quiet, for rest, for being ok with being in an in-between state. When the transit is over, what’s most important will be clear. I really get that, even though I’m not close to knowing what will be revealed, but I really get that this is a process, and letting go, feeling exhausted by the “regular world,” by work and obligations is part of that.

I am proud of the work that I do. I consider myself a hard worker, and very responsible. So to feel this way, that I don’t have the energy for much directed activity, is weird. I’m not used to it. I feel strange saying it, admitting it, which is why it’s safer to do so on my blog, although I have shared this feeling with a few friends who will understand. But I don’t want to be analyzed and questioned and given advice. I want to find my way through on my own.

 

 

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Beauty Report: Paramahansa Yogananda Awake Documentary Awakens Me

Paramahansa Yogananda

Paramahansa Yogananda

Last week I went to see AWAKE: The Life of Yogananda, a documentary about the life of Paramahansa Yogananda. Yogananda gave the world Autobiography of a Yogi and dozens of other books, the Self-Realization Fellowship, kriya yoga meditation, and a wealth of teachings on how to live a divine life.

I’d been feeling very disconnected the last few months, over-worked, over-burdened, and tired. I felt my spiritual practice had plateaued. Watching Awake I was reminded of my love for God and how Yogananda, and millions of others, have made the choice to serve God the central theme or purpose of their lives. The fullness of my heart in the closing credits brought tears to my eyes. These were not tears of sadness, but of a longing for God, for the feeling of being one with the Divine, with the energy of creation, with the supreme intelligence that knits together our universe and beyond.

I finished reading Ana Forrest’s Fierce Medicine for the second time for my Forrest Yoga Mentorship homework, and between that book and seeing Awake, I have begun speaking to God as I know him/her/it once again. But, as I approached it this time around, I had to re-think what exactly I do believe. I wondered why my faith wavered so much, why I couldn’t really zero in on a way to STAY connected to God. I knew that part of it was due to my mind and my heart being on opposing sides of the debate.

I have a conflict. My cynical and habitual thinking mind questions the concept of divinity or a positive, loving force in the universe. In my darkest moments, I feel adrift, a boat on a chaotic sea that is totally random in its movements and machinations. Thriving in this random universe is a combination of luck and wits and it is exhausting. But seeing Awake reminded me of how I FEEL, which is knowing I have touched the vastness and beauty of God as manifest in our physical world, in periods of meditation, the practice of yoga, sex, love, being in nature, or playing music.

With this reminder that I do love God and know God, and that I know this through a feeling sense, I was able to return, with faith, to speaking to God, which Yogananda oft repeated to his devotees: in meditation, they should repeat over and over again “reveal thyself!” and to the true disciple, God will. Then I had to find a way to speak to God that felt authentic to me. Drawing from Ana Forrest’s work, I found the way I could commune. Oh Great Spirit That Moves in All Things…

And so began a ritual of prayer, a ritual that I have abandoned in the last strange year of my life, and one that has never really stuck with me as much as I liked the idea of it. The last year has seen me leave 20+ years of corporate life for life as a self-employed yoga teacher; return to an abandoned relationship and the healing and growth therein; review who I am and what I truly need and what I’m here for. In prayer, I ask the Great Spirit to give me the strength to persevere and not fall to the pressures of city living, money, confusion, fatigue, and day-to-day relationship struggles, to infuse me with patience and gratitude, and to have the strength to see the good in my life and to keep going.

It was a Beauty Moment that I took myself to see this documentary. I haven’t really been attending to my needs well, to romancing my spirit, as Ana would say. The last year has been all about working and making sure the bills are paid, about deep inner work in terms of my training as a yoga teacher and within my primary partnership. It has been a more difficult year emotionally than I’ve had in a long time. It was Beauty that I took myself to see this and got a small bit of an answer that I am seeking. A-ho!

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