Shoulders and hips. If I had a dollar for every time I have been asked how to open these two areas I would have a summer home. Shoulders and hips are the most mobile joints in the body and, therefore, are easily injured if not properly balanced with both strength and flexibility.
You will need a strap to follow this segment. You can actually use anything else that will hold the tension on the line, like a towel or rope. The idea of using a strap is to create heat and allow for isometric stretching during a yoga flow. Isometric strength and stretch work is great because it keeps the joint at one angle and the muscle contracted. This combo will really help with alignment.
These isometric stretches are great warm-up before overhead squats and snatch work. The most important part is to challenge yourself to pull both ends of the strap so that the muscles get the full opening effect while staying in a contracted state.
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CrossFit can be intense, to say the least, so a healthy, moving body is top priority. Treat it right between WODs with these yoga poses from Team Bodybuilding.com athlete and yoga instructor Karla Tafra!
Free Classes in Your Community
It might take some sleuthing, but there could be a variety of free yoga classes offered in your town. If you’re enrolled in an academic institution, go online or visit the fitness center to find out what’s being offered. But, no need to stop there! Local libraries and churches often offer free or donation-based classes. Many yoga clothing stores like Lululemon and Prana offer free weekly in-store classes. If you’re into Kundalini Yoga, sadhana (daily morning practice) is always offered free of charge.
Work Trade Programs
Many studios offer exchange programs where you can exchange time working in the studio at the desk or cleaning after class for a free or discounted membership. Many studios have this opportunity listed on their site, but for those that don’t, reaching out to studios and inquiring is definitely worth it.
There are many skilled yoga instructors that have their own YouTube channels offering high quality and free video classes with a wide variety of styles and lengths. Some great channels to check out are (links) Yoga With Adriene, Body Positive Yoga, and DOYOUYOGA.
You’re already here. Stay a while! Head on over to our sequences and video pages to find hundreds of free practices: from stress and anxiety reduction to vigorous strengthening workouts.
Many studios have at least one donation-based or free class on their schedule. Check out some of the local studios in your area to see if they offer these more accessible classes. Attending these free classes at multiple studios is a great way to expose yourself to a variety of yoga teachers and styles for little to no cost. Also, many studios offer very low introductory rates: pay $40 for two weeks of unlimited classes, for example. Check the website or call to find out.
See also The Business of Yoga: Why I Run a Donation-Based Studio.
Turning to a book to practice yoga may not be your first instinct, but there are many amazing books out there that offer different yoga poses and sequences that you can choose from based on what you are needing out of your practice. Sequencing your own at-home practice out of books is a fun way to get creative and deepen your understanding of asana. Buying a yoga book, or better yet, borrowing one from the library, is a simple cost-efficient way to practice at home.
Here are some great books to enhance your home practice:
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Jumpsuits are a trendy and flattering alternative to yoga pants. They keep everything in one place so you don’t need to worry about accidentally flashing someone. Even better, they’re super cute and sexy. Most jumpsuits are a blend of spandex and other fabrics, which impacts their breathability and flexibility. If you’re trying to find the perfect jumpsuit for your next class, check out our guide to our favorite one-pieces below.
- Most Comfortable: URBAN K Women’s Active Yoga Wear Jumpsuit
- Best for Hot Yoga: LOVESOFT Women’s Sexy Sport Yoga Jumpsuit
- Most Colorful: Amilia Women’s Spaghetti Strap Tank Jumpsuit
- Best for Easy Movement: Sumtory Women Crisscross Bandage Jumpsuit
Most Comfortable: URBAN K Women’s Active Yoga Wear Jumpsuit
If you’re looking for a jumpsuit that is simple and flexible, look no further than URBAN K’s spaghetti strap or scoop neck option. It looks great in class and when you throw a sweater over it on your way home, and the stretchy cotton material is made for comfort. The scoop neck and tight waistline add style to make this utilitarian jumpsuit flattering. Better yet, it’s available in plus sizes! Ding: This jumpsuit may not be as stretchy as others and it’s only available in four colors. Double ding: White and beige may not be the best colors for hot yoga. $8-$27.99; Buy Now
Best for Hot Yoga: LOVESOFT Women’s Sexy Sport Yoga Jumpsuit
This jumpsuit is perfect to wear to all of your hot yoga classes. Many jumpsuits are designed to be backless to allow for easier arm movement during class. This jumpsuit takes it a step further by including a built-in sports bra so you don’t need to worry about restraining bra straps either. Its fabric is a durable nylon and spandex blend, making it light-weight and moisture wicking. Note: this jumpsuit runs small, so check the size chart and consider ordering up a size. Bonus: Check out that back design! $29.99-$39.99; Buy Now
Most Colorful: Amilia Women’s Spaghetti Strap Tank Jumpsuit
Most jumpsuits are available in black and gray, but if you want to make a bold statement in a brightly-colored (or patterned) jumpsuit, this is your pick. Made with spaghetti straps and a low scoop neckline, this jumpsuit is available in 14 fun colors and patterns. It will hug your curves and easily move with you because of its flexible polyester and spandex blend which won’t bunch up (or show sweat) like cotton. Note: This jumpsuit may run a little short, so be sure to check the sizing chart if you’re tall. $14.99-$16.99; Buy Now
Best for Easy Movement: Sumtory Women Crisscross Bandage Jumpsuit
Most jumpsuits fit skin-tight, but if you want an option that’s a little looser, this is the choice for you. The Sumtory jumpsuit loosely hugs your curves for a more modest twist to the fad. The open back allows for easy arm movement and the breathable fabric make this pick perfect for cardio as well as your daily yoga routine. Note: This jumpsuit (especially the camo pattern) runs small, so consider ordering a size up. $20.99-$21:99; Buy Now
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As climate change activism heats up this month (the Global Climate Strike is taking place from September 20-27), yoga studios, teachers, and organizations are joining the call for a healthier environment and sustainable future. Eoin Finn, founder of Blissology and the EcoKarma foundation, encourages yogis to recognize their connection with nature and make preserving the planet a lifestyle.
“We are one with the environment” says Finn. “Take breathing for example. Breathing brings the outer world inside of you. We take air into our bodies and it passes through us via our blood – it’s hard to separate where physiology ends and the environment begins. Our job as yogis is to create experiences and rituals in our practice where we feel this interconnection.”
Amy Ippoliti, another renowned yoga teacher and environmental activist, pushes for action above all else. “We are deeply interconnected with all life on earth and the practice of yoga only heightens that awareness. Our actions need to be consistent and relentless. Let’s be clear.”
Here are six ways yogis can get involved in climate activism.
See also The Rise of Eco-Friendly Yoga Studios
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Live Be Yoga ambassadors, Lauren Cohen and Brandon Spratt share a snapshot of their time in Chicago. Each city they travel to they are constantly on the go with studio events, content creation, connecting with the yoga community and so much more. Thankfully EVOLVE® is a tour sponsor and provides them with plant based protein bars to sustain their energy from city to city. EVOLVE® protein bars are convenient on-the-go nutrition and taste delicious.
Learn more about the Evolve® Brand by visiting, drinkevolve.com.
Lauren Cohen and Brandon Spratt are on a road trip across the country to sit down with master teachers, host free local classes, and so much more—all to illuminate the conversations pulsing through the yoga community today. Follow the tour and get the latest stories @livebeyoga on Instagram and Facebook.
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When I was younger, I wondered why children my age were taking road trips with their families to vacation spots, when the only road trips I took with my parents were to different doctors. As time went on, I began to wonder why I couldn’t run like the other children in gym class. I wondered why nobody else around me seemed to sympathize with me when I explained that I just didn’t feel good today, even when I looked fine on the outside. It took a year of different tests, scans, and diagnoses, some false, to finally reach a conclusion at age 10: I had rheumatoid arthritis.
I have spent half of my life feeling defeated by this disease. The summer before my diagnosis, I spent on my living room couch because I was too fatigued to even speak. The only visitor I had was the at-home nurse who administered my weekly dose of medication via the PICC (Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter) line that ran through my body. I picked out new knee braces more often than I went shopping for new clothes
I’ve spent a lot of time suffering from this disease, And, I’ve spent just as much time running away from it. I would avoid my parents when they told me it was time for my weekly injection of medication. I avoided telling my friends, because nobody seemed to really understand. “Isn’t arthritis for old people?” Rheumatoid arthritis socially isolated me from having the normal life I desperately desired growing up. Throughout high school, it made me feel depressed, anxious, and completely helpless.
It wasn’t until I reached my sophomore year of college when I discovered that I didn’t have to be a victim of this chronic disease. That’s when I discovered yoga.
The first time I stepped on a yoga mat was unlike any other. On this particular morning, I woke up with a tightness in my chest, a raging headache, and overwhelming anxiety. Unfortunately, this was an inevitable outcome of dealing with a controlling, progressive disease; to me, this was my “normal.” I desperately wanted to work through the pain I was feeling, but going for a run always left me too worn out. Laying around never helped either.
I decided to search online for a “yoga for anxiety” video, and I was immediately led to a plethora of different classes and instructors. I chose one and as I did the different breathing exercises and gentle poses, I was soon relieved of my mental and physical pain. It was a miracle how at ease I felt afterward. I decided that I would try a different video the next day. Soon, my favorite part of the day was looking for a new yoga video and examining the positive change that was the result of practicing. Slowly, the heaviness in my body was being lifted. Slowly, I was gaining back my control.
I’ll admit that practicing yoga while at college isn’t easy. For the life of me, I can’t even keep a plant alive for more than two weeks; how do I expect to keep myself balanced while being a student? It’s hard for me to let go during a meditation session when there’s five different subjects of homework stacked on my desk. And my roommate has walked in on me numerous times in the middle of Warrior II pose. I’ve even encountered instances when I roll out my mat, only to roll it back up again within minutes because I just didn’t have the energy to practice that day.
Nonetheless, I still return to my daily yoga practice because, for a moment in time, I feel freedom from rheumatoid arthritis. Despite the complicating factors that stand in the way of the ideal, perfect yoga practice, I wouldn’t trade how I practice for the world; yoga isn’t meant to be perfect.
My yoga journey in college has taught me to be grateful for everything—from the small practice space between the beds in my room to even the loud music that may try to interfere with my mind while I lay in Savasana, reminding me to keep returning to my breath despite distractions. Most importantly, yoga has given me the gift of finding myself, something that many other college students yearn to do. I turn to it when I need creative inspiration for my writing, when I need to sit a bit straighter and just breathe during my classes, and I return to it when I’m having a bad day and just need to acknowledge it on my mat and let it go. Through yoga, I continue to discover new things about myself, and I am truly grateful for the never-ending journey it holds for me.
I’m 20 years old now and beginning my junior year in college, following my dream to become a writer. Ten years ago, I would have never pictured this life. I was trapped inside the mind of a girl who feared the power her body had over her. I saw no hope for the future. Today, I feel no evil in the relationship between my body and my disease. Because of yoga, I am finally at peace.
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Caitlin Gottschalk knows how to create beautiful things. The 30-year-old yoga teacher studied design at both Parsons and London College of Fashion before launching her first business, sustainable clothing and accessories brand Cait the Great. She worked with Wanderlust Festivals in 2016 to bring pop-up shops to a number of city stops and last year served as a studio partner, putting together a tour guide for mindfulness seekers in her hometown of Minneapolis. Her mantra for her career, one she still relies on heavily today, is Create the grace: “It’s my way of saying, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world,’” she says.
Since February 2017, she’s been channeling her artistic vision as the founder of Sacred Space, a Minneapolis wellness sanctuary where practitioners can try a range of offerings such as energy work, sound baths, reiki, and crystal healing. Oh, and there’s plenty of yoga and meditation—about 20 classes per week—with limited sessions held in an adjacent yurt, an old storage facility that she rescued and gave new life. Gottschalk takes design cues from worldly artifacts such as Moroccan rugs and Joshua Tree’s minimalist landscape (she fell in love with the park as a kid on family vacation). Warm white walls create an easy canvas for her rotating collection of crystals, textiles, and singing bowls. “I find the most joy in integrating found objects with alive elements—like flowers, fresh incense, and handcrafted oil blends—that activate your senses and pull you into the present moment,” she says.
Cop her style
1. Be tidy: “It’s amazing how much more light can come into a space when you keep it clean,” Gottschalk says. “The more you show it that you care, the more it will reflect that back to you.”
2. Invoke the senses: “I almost always have a candle burning to bring life into the studio and the record player going while people are checking in. It’s a little tongue-in-cheek, but there’s something about a record player that’s so distinctly human,” she says.
See also A Yoga Playlist That’ll Leave You Feeling Fearless
3. Keep it moving: “I switch things up—the crystals, design elements, the altar—with the seasons,” says Gottschalk. “It’s a way to liven and refresh.”
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One day John [Brathen’s boss at the time in Costa Rica – Ed.] told me the commune was hosting a cacao shaman at the farm and that there would be a chocolate ceremony later in the day. I had heard of chocolate ceremonies for emotional healing and I was intrigued. A cacao shaman works with special types of beans from sacred parts of South America. An ancient ritual to prepare the cacao involves roasting and grounding the beans, then mixing the hot chocolate with brown sugar or agave syrup and cayenne pepper in a large pot. Cacao increases the blood flow to the heart and frees the heart chakra. Emotionally it translates to releasing pent-up feelings, and the ritual can be both intense and therapeutic.
John and I arrived at the farm in the early afternoon and joined the group on the patio. The circle of twenty or so people, some of them new faces, sat around the big pot of bubbling cacao. I’d never met a shaman before and was intrigued to see what he would look like. I envisioned an indigenous man, dressed in beads and robes. Instead, I arrived to find that the shaman was an American man in his sixties, with white hair and a long white beard. I sat down in the circle feeling a little wary—what had I signed up for? Of all places, the shaman sat down right next to me and we locked eyes. Looking into his clear, blue eyes, I felt a jolt of electricity zap through my body. It felt as if he were looking into the depths of my soul.
“Interesting,” he said. “We’re going to do you last.” I had no idea what he meant, but I felt chills up and down my spine. We all drank the cacao and my mouth went dry from its bitter, spicy taste. This tasted nothing like the hot cocoa I used to drink on ski trips back home! My friends from the farm told me it could take some time for the cacao to “work its magic,” but it was only a few minutes before I felt myself welling up with emotion. How did I end up here? In the middle of the jungle, with people I barely knew but somehow trusted deeply? The circle felt absolutely sacred, filled with a golden glow.
For an audio excerpt of To Love and Let Go, click here.
One of the attendees was a sweet man named Jesse who lived on the farm and had come to the ceremony with his wife and kids. Jesse was a realtor in town and a friend of John’s. His last name was Angell (seriously!). I felt curiously drawn to his four-year-old daughter, Grace, who sat on a cushion— cross-legged, eyes closed, fingers in a gyan mudra—meditating. Grace wasn’t trying to be present the way the others were. She just was. Seeing her so intensely present without effort awakened something deep inside of me. We were all just trying to make our way back to what we already are! We are born this way, full of light, emanating love. We see it in children; it’s effortless. But somehow we get lost along the way. I felt a light emanate from Grace straight into my heart and, before I knew it, I had lost track of time and space. My eyes were open but I was breathing so deeply, completely immersed in the intricate workings of the moment unfolding around me. I felt one with the circle, one with the earth and the sky, one with all, and it lasted for what felt like forever. It was the most intense spiritual experience I had ever had. There was no thought, no ego, just light.
Meanwhile, the shaman worked his way around the circle, taking his time with each person, sitting with them, guiding them deeper. Eventually, after many hours, I was the only one left. Turning to me, he spoke out loud to the whole group. “We are about to enter a very sacred space together now.” I heard his voice clearly, but it was as if I were somewhere else. I felt like I was floating above the ground. “You are on the verge of something life changing,” he told me. “Everyone has a purpose in life, but it’s very rare that I meet someone and immediately know theirs. I knew it the moment I looked into your eyes. And you are meant to realize and understand it now, too.” When he said this, I started crying, but it was different from the tears I had shed in the past. I wasn’t gasping for breath or wiping snot from my nose. Streams of tears flowed, no, poured from my eyes, but it didn’t feel like I was crying. It felt like I was purging. These are not my tears, I thought. But if they weren’t mine, where were they coming from? “They’re your ancestors’ tears,” the shaman said, as if he’d heard my thoughts. “That light you’re feeling in your chest? We all feel it, too. Keep expanding it. Keep breathing into it. We are going to move into your ancestry now. It’s a dark place and you’re going to need to bring this light with you.”
I did as he said and closed my eyes. “Standing behind you are your ancestors,” the shaman said. “To your left is your mother. To your right is your father.” Behind them were their parents—my grandparents—and behind them theirs, and so on, he said, “creating an infinite triangle of generations behind you and forming the entirety of your past and your lineage. As you can feel, your ancestry is weighed heavy with pain.” Suddenly, I was overcome with emotion. I still felt the light emanating from my chest, but the rest of my body grew heavy with sadness and fear. Visions came before my eyes that felt like memories. I saw it all so clearly. Just like the tears I was crying weren’t mine, the memories I saw flash in front of my eyes weren’t mine either. I saw my dad, as an infant, being thrown across the room by his father in a fit of rage; whipped with a belt; abandoned in a sterile hospital bed. My mother as a little girl with bruises on her arms, all alone and crying under her bedcovers while her sisters ate dinner with my grandmother in another room. My grandmother as a child locked in a cold dirt basement, the space so small she couldn’t stand up or lie down. My grandfather, chased down by his dad and beaten with a closed fist. The flashes of abuse went so far back that I didn’t recognize the children in them anymore, but I felt their fear and their sadness intensely. I was witnessing abusive behavior as it was passed down through generations. I felt my whole being weighed down with pain and sadness, but if I kept breathing into the light in my heart the way the shaman guided me to, it was bearable. Vision after vision passed in front of my eyes, and although I wasn’t speaking, the shaman was able to address them all. He saw what I saw. After a while, I felt myself strangely distant from yet intricately connected to what I was seeing. A part of me understood: this all lives in me. I was witnessing pain passed down from person to person, and however awful it was, it was what it was. I couldn’t change it. It was the past I’d been given, and it was given to me for a reason. In an instant I had a massive revelation: None of the people in my family had acted with intentional cruelty. They were acting out what they knew, repeating a pattern that started long before their own consciousness, generations before they were even born. The trauma was passed on to them and, strangely, they had no other choice. This was the best they could do.
Finally, I saw myself as a child, and all of the emotional damage that was done to me. I saw glimpses of my mother’s depression, her suicide attempt, leaving me alone to take care of myself. All the separation and divorce in our family. I saw my father abandoning us to start another family. Threatening us. Yelling at me. With every flashback I felt the pain I’d been carrying for so many years. With that came the insight that I’d lived my life up to that point with the idea that my parents “should” have done things differently—as if they had made a conscious decision to bring about such hurt. Once I could see and feel what they endured as children, my own childhood began to make more sense. In one swift moment, I understood that my parents loved me the only way they knew how. They had done the best with what they were given. What more could I possibly ask?
The next breath I took was so deep it felt like the whole of the universe was breathing through me. As I breathed out, I exhaled much of the resentment I’d been carrying for most of my adult life. The pain was still there, but it was bearable now. There was still healing left to do, but the weight of my sadness was lighter. With that realization, I cried so hard it felt as if the world was crying through me. I’d been right earlier when I’d thought my tears were not mine. They were the tears of an entire lineage, of all of my ancestors combined. I cried for my mother, for my father, who were just children once, too. I cried for my grandparents and for their parents. I cried for every child who had ever felt unsafe, for every moment of pain they’d ever endured. I cried for all of humanity until, suddenly, there were no tears left to cry.
When I opened my eyes again, it was getting dark outside. The whole day had passed and the only people remaining were the shaman, my boss, John, and a woman I didn’t know. They were all looking at me with tears rolling down their cheeks. The shaman spoke to me: “It is your life’s purpose to take on the accumulated pain of your ancestors, carry it on your shoulders, and transform it to light throughout your lifetime.” As he was speaking, I felt a palpable light shining from my chest. If light was a feeling, this was it. “This all ends with you. All of this pain—it ends here. It’s a heavy life purpose to have, but you can do it. It’s why you are here. This pain ends with you. Your daughter will be the first in your lineage not to take it on.” Goose bumps suddenly covered my body. “My daughter?” I asked. “Yes,” he replied. “Your daughter. Spirit has great plans for her, too.” I smiled. One day. A daughter. Looking at the others, he said, “Place your hands on Rachel. She needs to feel this connection.” They did as they were told, but I felt uncomfortable. My own hands were on fire—I didn’t need people to put their hands on me. I needed to put my hands on someone else. I turned around and put my hands on John’s and the woman’s backs. It felt like flames were shooting out of my palms. John later said it felt like he was being lifted off the ground.
I don’t know how long we sat there, the four of us, on that wooden deck, but I felt the need to rest, so I closed my eyes. When I awakened, I was alone. A quiet rain fell on the tin roof, and a mist rose from the grass. The light I’d felt emanating from my body earlier was still there, and my heart felt like it was swelling out of my chest. Everything was so unbearably beautiful. The silence was otherworldly, like nothing I’d ever experienced. But it wasn’t that the world had gone quiet. It was my mind. The incessant chatter I’d lived with, that little voice in the back of my head that said, You’re not good enough . . . no one loves you . . . that’s why everyone abandons you—the voice I was only ever able to quiet during moments of intense meditation—that voice was quiet. The silence was coming from within. Is this enlightenment? I wondered. With that thought came the instant realization that it wasn’t, because if it were, I wouldn’t be asking the question. I felt no disappointment. Okay, it wasn’t enlightenment. But it was damn close.
From To Love and Let Go by Rachel Brathen. Copyright © 2019 by Yoga Girl, LLC. Reprinted by permission of Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Inc.
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Build a Strong Base
Want to up-level your flow? In Focused Vinyasa: 11 Fresh Sequences and Drills to Advance Your Practice, Irene Pappas, cofounder of Bodhi Yoga Boulder, hits pause at key teaching moments in your vinyasa to break challenging poses down into moves you can practice and master. Learn more and sign up today!
Within the past decade, many different styles of yoga and movement have influenced Irene Pappas’s practice and teaching. “I started with weightlifting, then found Rocket and Ashtanga yoga, and eventually added in gymnastics-style strength training and calisthenics,” she says. Her teaching incorporates concepts from each of these movement styles into a yogasana-based flow designed to build strength and improve mobility.
This creative sequence from Pappas includes her favorite squats and leg lifts within a vinyasa flow, but each move can also be practiced on its own. She likes to warm up with a few minutes of light cardio and a wrist routine, but she says you can also start with some Sun Salutations or even just a Downward-Facing Dog.
Watch also A Glute and Hamstring Strength Drill Yogis Really Need.
This practice is meant to be a challenge, so don’t get discouraged if you find it difficult. “You might not be able to do all of these exercises the first time you try them— I definitely couldn’t,” Pappas says. “The first step is committing your mind to doing the hard work, and the physical strength will follow!”
Watch it Follow this 20-minute practice on video at yogajournal.com/irenepappas. Then, sign up for 10 more video practices with Irene at yogajournal.com/focusedvinyasa.
About our teacher
Irene Pappas has studied Ashtanga Yoga, Rocket Yoga, Yoga Nidra, Animal Flow, and other functional movement styles. She has also studied with hand balancers, circus performers, movement artists, and contortionists to expand her understanding of the body and apply that knowledge in her practice and teaching. For more information, go to fitqueenirene.com.
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