To me as a yoga therapist, the most important part of my work is how I ask questions. Everyone has been to a medical or wellness provider-allopathic, holistic, whatever-that either doesn’t pay attention to your answers after a question has been posed or just doesn’t bother to ask you anything in the first place.
Everyone hates that!
What does this all lead to? You not going back to that practitioner. You not following through with the recommendations, guidance, needed medical attention, etc. All of which is not in your best interest.
…Because why bother! They don’t care. They didn’t hear a word I said. They just wanted my money. They are in cahoots with big pharma. ETC. ETC. We have all had this conversation in our minds.
My goal as a yoga therapist is for my clients never to feel this way. I want them to feel heard. Truly listening and hearing someone=Empathy!
Specifically in Yoga Therapy, we use the Panchamaya Kosha Model. The Panchamaya Kosha Model suggests that the human system is interconnected and functions optimally when there is a state of balance between the Koshas (layers). The five Koshas (layers) are physical, energy/breath, mental/emotional, wisdom/intuition and bliss layers.
By applying this model, a yoga therapist can provide support for a client’s physical, emotional and mental well-being. I intentionally frame the conversation with my clients around the Koshas so that they feel heard, seen and partnered with.
Some Examples of my Questions:
1. On your intake, you mention tightness in your shoulders. Can you describe what you are feeling?
2. On a pain scale of 1-10, how are your knees feeling today?
3. Compared to the average day, is your pain better or worse (scale of 1-10) today?
4. Does the range of motion in your shoulder impact your daily activities? How? What are those limitations?
5. As a yogi, are there any asana(s) that cause you pain? What are those poses and where is the pain?
6. How does your arthritis affect your knees? Stiffness, range of motion limited, etc.?
7. Do you notice certain things trigger tightness in your shoulders and neck? Stress, overexertion, etc.?
8. Does your pain or discomfort prevent you from certain life activities? What kind? Do you use work arounds, just don’t do the activity, have someone else do it for you, etc.?
9. When you are standing in tree pose, do you notice anything about the posture? How does your standing leg feel? Your shoulders? Etc.?
10. When you are in plank pose, do you feel the muscle in your back activating? Where?
1. Where do you feel the breath? In your chest, ribs, abdomen, all?
2. How restful is your sleep? Do you wake throughout the night or sleep the entire time?
3. Do you feel rested when you wake up? All the time, sometimes, never. Does it affect the rest of the day?
4. Do you ever experience the afternoon slump? How often? What do you do to remedy it (such as coffee, etc.)?
5. How would you rate your stress levels (scale of 1-10)?
6. What causes you stress? What are your triggers? How does the stress make you feel (anxious, lethargic, etc.)?
7. Do you have any go-to activities for helping with stress? What are they? How often do you do them?
8. On the average, how would you describe your energy level? How does that compare to today’s energy level?
9. When you stated you had difficulty starting certain activities, can you describe to me what that means to you?
10. How would you describe the quality of your breathing?
1. You mentioned poor concentration, how would you describe it? When does it occur?
2. When do you feel anxious? What are some of the things that create anxiety for you?
3. What does “overwhelm” feel like to you? Does it have a color, texture, etc.?
4. Where in your body do you experience anxiety?
5. In your intake you mention poor memory, how has that manifested in your daily activities?
6. When you have difficulty making decisions, how does that impact you?
7. How does stress manifest in your body or breath? Do you notice it in certain parts of the body?
8. What do you do to relive stress and anxiety? How often?
9. How do you show yourself self-compassion? What do you do to nurture emotional health?
10. How would you describe the quality of your support network? How satisfied are you with the quality of your relationships?
1. How would you describe your true nature?
2. How could you reframe stress to lessen its impact?
3. How could you transform anxiety so that it works for you?
4. How content are you? How could you cultivate contentment?
5. What are some tools you use to ground and center yourself?
6. How does reframing stress into something helpful look to you?
7. What brings you discontentment? Why?
8. If you stripped all the layers, what does your true nature “look” like?
9. How does contentment feel in your body? Texture, Sounds, Smells, Visuals, etc.
10. What tools could you utilize to bring the sense of contentment into your daily life?
1. What brings you joy? How?
2. Do you cultivate joy internally? How?
3. How do you cultivate overall well-being?
4. What inspires awe for you? Why?
5. What is an inner resource (memory, visualization, etc.) that connects you to your true nature? How does it appear to you?
6. What is your sankalpa (your intention or vow to yourself)? How can you manifest it in daily life?
7. Do you have a connection to something greater than yourself? How does that manifest in your life?
8. How do you relate to the word “hope”? What feelings does it create?
9. What does “connection” mean for you?
10. What gives you meaning?
What questions would you ask?
How would you feel if a practitioner framed the interaction in this manner?
I recently learned that Body Fat (Adipose Tissue) is an endocrine organ and actually has more impact on the body than the thyroid gland. Therefore, too much adipose tissue (obesity) can lead to diabetes. Obesity increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol as well as contributes to the risk for heart attacks and strokes.
So what yoga therapy tools work great for the management of diabetes?
I recommend these 3 yoga therapy tools:
1. After a few rounds of natural breathing, begin Ujjayi breathing. While your breathing, some food for thought-How Tapas (effort) is balanced with Santosha (contentment). Tapas can bring about change like improved health and lower blood sugar levels. While Santosha brings peace in the current circumstances. Always remember the importance listening to the doctor regarding nutrition and monitoring insulin levels. (5-10 minutes)
2. A short series of asanas to develop an exercise habit that can help with obesity, heart issues, high blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome. Also , these practices can help lead to improved mood potentially leading to lifestyle changes and improved quality of life. Always watch for any dizziness with the increased movement. (30 minutes)
• 10 ½ Sun Salutations: The Sun Salutations can be completed as slow as necessary or even use a chair.
• Warrior I: Warrior I (lower body) with goal post arms. Transition to straight legs and Warrior I (straight) arms. Repeat 5 times per side with an extended hold at the end (3 counts/breaths). You can also do this posture in a chair if needed.
• Seated Spinal Twist: Depending on our flexibility, the opposite leg can be bent or straight as well as accomplished with deer legs or from easy pose.
• Seated Forward Fold: Finally, transition to a seated forward fold to begin the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system.
3. Savasana: Practice a relaxation pose of choice and begin breathing with an extended exhale. You can also use a guided visualization of your peaceful place to continue the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. (10 minutes)
Yoga can be incorporated into your daily life and have positive impacts on glycemic control. Studies suggest that yoga has a direct impact on psychoneuro-endocrine and immune mechanisms as well as contributes to parasympathetic activation and anti-stress mechanisms. This all leads to improvement in overall metabolic and psychological profiles, increases in insulin sensitivity, and improvements in glucose tolerance and lipid metabolism.
In addition to the practices listed above, yoga practices utilized in the management of diabetes often include cleansing exercises, and the use of bandhas, meditation, relaxation, chanting, Yoga Nidra, or mudras. These practices can reduce blood glucose levels as well as contribute to the management of co-morbidities.
What yoga practices will you incorporate in your fight against diabetes?
Raveendran, A. V., Deshpandae, A., & Joshi, S. R. (2018). Therapeutic Role of Yoga in Type 2 Diabetes. Endocrinology and metabolism (Seoul, Korea), 33(3), 307–317. https://doi.org/10.3803/EnM.2018.33.3.307
I was once hired at a recreation center for a class called “All Levels Hatha Yoga”. The core group had been taking this class for a year. I soon realized they had never been taught alignment, pranayama...well, let's just say, they pretty much hadn't really been taught anything "yoga" in the course of the year. They were also all over 60 years old. Not surprisingly, I had to teach with a lot of modifications and props.
After nine months, a director (a non-yoga instructor) takes my class (they develop a performance assessment based on one class) for my yearly appraisal. A week later, we have my performance discussion.
Director: You do this weird breathing thing that I’ve never seen.
Me: You mean pranayama? No other yoga teacher here does pranayama? So, I then explained what pranayama was and why I have the class do it.
Director: We advertise this as a Hatha Yoga class. Why are you not linking breath to movement?
Me: Do you know what Hatha Yoga means? So I explained Hatha, Vinyasa, etc. and the differences between styles.
Director: Why don’t you use modifications like other instructors?
Me: The poses are already "modified" to the level of the students. I don’t show them the hardest version and then modify down-that’s demoralizing.
Director: You need to make the class harder, so more students come.
Me: So, the students you have are not important and you would rather I drive them out of the recreation center in order to increase numbers. It sounds like you want young students and don’t value your older students. You also understand that if I make it harder-your current students will get hurt, right?
And so the discussion went….which leads me lead this crazzzy concept called ETHICS!
There are certain values that informed my decision-making in this particular situation. They include:
What Where My Options:
So What Did I Do?
Based on my professional and personal ethics which are ultimately framed and defined by the yama-s and niyama-s, I could not stay in a place with that type of moral and ethical compass. I gave notice and I quit.
I use the yama-s and niyama-s daily in my professional and personal life. They guide me in developing classes and therapeutic offerings that are non-harming, truthful, honest and informed. I always put the student or client first and meet him/her/them where they are on the yoga journey. This has always included making my services adaptable and accessible both physically and financially.
How do the yama-s and niyama-s frame your daily life?
What ethics or values do you hold dear? Personally or Professionally?
How do you handle a situation when someone crosses those boundaries?
Albert Camus: "A man without ethics is a wild beast loosed upon this world."
Over the years, I have noticed there are certain wardrobe faux pas that yoga students (including myself) commit on a regular basis. So as the self-ordained yoga Blackwell (a long dead super famous fashion critic for those born in the 2000s), I will list them and their remedies.
Booty shorts: Don't not wear booty shorts to class. When half the poses I put you in require some variation of spread eagle, I do not want to see your lady bits and know the frequency of your wax appointments.
Remedy: Wear shorts/pants at least to the middle thigh. This ain’t amateur porn hour; it’s a yoga class.
Baggy Shorts: Likewise, do not wear baggy shorts and no underwear. I do not need to see your manly bits nor do I need to know that you have never manscaped in your entire life.
Remedy: Wear some flipping underpants, please!!! Preferably the boxer-brief stye so nothing down there can break free.
The Demi Pushup Bra: Whaaaaa!!!???? Keep control of the girls! Demi bras and, I don’t know, INVERSIONS do not mix well. Another possible test to use--If they pop out when you raise your arms in Warrior I, you are NOT wearing the appropriate bra for said activity.
Remedy: There’s this new fangled invention called a sports bra. Try it; you’ll like it.
Fabio Hair (another pre-2000 reference-Damn, I'm getting old!): It looks really pretty but I have a hard time teaching Cousin It. I will break out into “Dah-dah-dah-DUM" and start snapping my fingers.
Remedy: Pull it back, cut it off or let it dread. Trust me-I'm guilty of this one on a regular basis so I started carrying a supply of hair ties in my mat bag along with extra deodorant (another faux pas we wouldn't cover here but please for the LOVE OF GOD wear some!)
Makeup: Did you really think Harry Stiles (WOOHOO! A 2021 reference for ya!-we think he is cute, right?) was going to be in class today or something?
Or is the full makeup (complete with lipstick and false eye lashes) just for me! The average yoga student’s face touches their mat a few times during class--so does a yoga student's feet...and sweaty hands...and plumber’s butt. Now combine all that bacteria with all that makeup...YUM!
Remedy: Buy some makeup wipes. Your fresh clean zit free face will thank you.
The Mala: These are beautiful strings of beads to help a practitioner keep count when chanting and meditating. You may have noticed, I said...Meditating. Not practicing asana. By the time I have untangled you from your long strand of Mala beads, you will be unconscious. That’s not samadhi; that’s brain death.
Remedy: Leave the Mala at home. A self induced hallucinogenic bliss can be achieved on your own time--assuming your health insurance covers it.
And last but not least--I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried!--the Poker Dealer Visor. You know the kind--the one your grandma wears to BINGO. How will get your forehead to the mat? AND....What harsh firehouse bingo hall light are you shielding your eyes from?
Remedy: Yeeeaahhhh-just don’t wear those to yoga class. Unless you enjoy the completely perplexed look on my face when I see you wearing one, then by all means go forth and deal me in....after all, I do love a good round of Blackjack.
Comment below with your own yoga class snafus!
I wrote this in 2019 for a dear friend's yoga studio, Soaring Spirit Yoga, webpage. The studio was in Occoquan VA. COVID took its toll on this beloved studio space and Soaring Spirit Yoga now exists as a virtual environment. The little girl that inspired this original story is probably a teenager now. MY OH MY! How time flies!? Long ago, in a land far away and in a time before COVID, this little girl's wisdom is truer now than ever before. Even when you can't physically be with your friends and family, your community is still there (Zoom in; telephone in; FaceTime in; visit through social distancing measures if facilities like retirement homes allow it). Reach out! CONNECT
Little girl: “Someone’s feet stink!”
Me: “Really! Whose? Maybe mine since they are dirty from walking around the gym.”
Little girl: “Yep, it’s your feet.”
Me: “Ya think so?”
Little girl: “Yep, little feet don’t stink.”
Years ago, I had the weekly joy of teaching an after-school children’s yoga class at a local recreation center. I taught approximately 50 students ranging from 5 to 10-year olds (of course with assistance from their regular caregivers).
When I say “taught”, I really mean…I corralled; I shepherded.
I was a herder. Occasionally, in unison but, mostly, it was a free-form modern dance style of yoga.
They were unfiltered and honest to a fault. They were also natural yogis. You see…children don’t actually have bones until they are 12 years old (totally my observation and not scientifically proven…yet) and as any yogi should, they saw joy in everything we did in class.
No matter how bad my day was going, they made me smile a big, huge, toothy, goofy smile. A real smile. Not the adult-world fake smile…you know the kind I’m talking about. An honest smile.
They made yoga fun! They laughed. They were loud. They raised a raucous! However, their caregivers always wanted them to be quiet (they lost that battle quickly with 50 small children in an echoing gym). After all, it’s yoga…and yoga is quiet or at least the proverbial “they” say yoga is quiet.
Whoever mandated that yoga must be quiet to be beneficial? Maybe it was originally quiet because the ascetics didn’t have any friends to raise some hell with! Maybe they didn’t want to be quiet; maybe they were just lonely.
Children, on the other hand, are never lonely in a yoga class. They are never afraid to touch each other’s feet in a shared boat pose, wrap their arms around each other for a joint tree pose, or lay in a big flower pattern touching heads in Savasana.
There is something to be said for the loud communal nature of children. Where is that point along the way to maturity that we lose that sense of community? When do our brains and hearts shift making isolation the ideal?
According to, the great book of “knowledge”, Wikipedia:
“Yoga is the physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India with a view to attain a state of permanent peace. The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali defines yoga as ‘the stilling of the changing states of the mind.’ Yoga has also been popularly defined as ‘union with the divine’ in other contexts and traditions. “
So, if children are loud and rambunctious can their minds be still and are they uniting with the divine? Absolutely!!!
Children do yoga with no preconceived ideas, no biases, and no judgment. They are free in their bodies and free with each other. Children don’t bring the emotional walls and barriers that isolate…that break down community…to the yoga mat.
They are just there in the moment-totally and completely free. That is peace of mind and spirit. That is union with the divine. That is yoga.
Like I said--natural yogis.
My little gurus taught me that permanent peace takes many forms and sometimes it looks more like Burning Man than it does a monastery. Note: Not advocating raging fires for children…but 5 to 10-year olds are definitely into those too.
So, the next time you are in a COVID-era virtual yoga class…be free; be present; smile; laugh. Make some virtual Savasana flowers with your new friends, cheer someone on with encouragement and take notice of your stinky feet.
Research has shown gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
Gratitude is an action!
It is not happiness that brings us gratitude
It is gratitude that brings us happiness
Let's reflect on the many things we have been blessed with this year.
The quarantine has meant more time together as families and has reinforced the importance of human connection and friendship. Remember heroes come from all walks of life and as we enter the season of giving, now more than ever, be grateful for the support of your community.
Gratitude Exercise: Take some time to journal about how this year has brought gratitude into your life. Who might you add to this list (people, pets, things, events)?
Inspired by and adapted from Maryland University of Integrative Health's weekly gratitude email.
I AM Boundless Bliss Yoga. Just me. I'm a one-lady band. I'm a yoga therapist. I didn't start out to be a yoga therapist, I just wanted to learn more and SHAAAZZAMM...here I am.