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Are Muscular Engagement Cues Doing More Harm Than Good?

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When I practice yoga, I love a class with longer holds. Exploring the movement of my breath and body while also experiencing stillness causes me to go back to life feeling better able to handle everything.

In a recent class, the instructor asked us to come into Virabhadrasana II (Warrior Pose II) and mentioned that we were going to hold the pose. I was excitedly about to drop into my breath when the teacher called out, “Contract the muscles of your back and outer hips, and engage the muscles of your inner thighs.” Then she added, “Then, turn on your triceps.”

I was boggled. I have a PhD in neuromechanics and I couldn’t figure out exactly how I was supposed to contract my outer hips and engage my inner thighs and turn on my triceps. As a result, that inner quiet I’d wanted turned into utter confusion.

Muscular cues such as “engage,” “turn on,” or “relax” in relation to specific muscles are increasingly common in yoga classes. But do most students—even experienced practitioners—really know how to engage specific muscles? Do these cues achieve the intended goal of helping us find better alignment and feel more embodied?

Why Specific Anatomical Cues Aren’t Helpful

Research on motor learning consistently finds that specific instructions to “contract your hamstrings” (internal focus) are much less effective than cues that draw attention to the bodily movement that results in contraction, such as “try to drag your heels toward your butt” (external focus).

A study in the journal Medical Education found that external cues automatically activated the muscles necessary for accomplishing the task. It makes sense. When you’re asked to move, your brain generates a motor command that activates the muscles necessary for accomplishing the task. It does this with the help of several systems, among them the visual, vestibular (relating to the inner ear and sense of balance), and proprioceptive (the ability to sense joint position and movement). In other words, you don’t need to intellectualize the movement in order for the specific muscle to contract.

Some studies have even found that offering cues for specific muscular actions can interfere with the body’s normal motor planning and execution, potentially resulting in poor pose execution and muscle-activation imbalance. That’s not exactly helpful in a yoga class.

The Biomechanical Breakdown of a Cue

To explore and illustrate what I’m talking about, Jana Montgomery, PhD, and I decided to conduct a small scientific study of our own to get a biomechanical snapshot of what happens when yoga practitioners attempt to activate the glutes—or not—in Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana). Teachers often cue what to do with the glutes in an attempt to engage the hamstrings.

We collected data on a single student with no history of injury via wireless electromyography (EMG) and measured activity in seven key muscles: the gluteus maximus (buttocks), biceps femoris (hamstrings), erector spinae (spinal muscles), latissimus dorsi (mid-back muscles), rectus femoris (quadriceps), gastrocnemius (calves), and tibialis anterior (shins).

To start, we found a baseline max contraction (known as maximum voluntary contraction or MVC) for each of the seven muscles that we could then compare to the activation in the pose. We then calculated the percentage of MVC of each muscle during each of the Bridge Pose cue variations. We asked her to do the following in Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana):

1. “Engage your glutes” (an internal or muscular cue)

2. “Relax your glutes” (another internal or muscular cue)

3. “Drive your knees forward and isometrically drag your heels back” (an external or movement cue)

We chose to use two different internal cues because engaging versus relaxing the glutes in Bridge Pose is fairly controversial, with some teachers instructing students to activate the glute muscles and others urging them to “let your glutes hang like a peach from a tree.”

The Findings

Along with data from scientific research, our findings strongly suggest that giving an external cue, such as “drag your heels back,” is more likely to result in muscles working together than an internal cue.

With the internal cue “engage your glutes,” muscle activity was highest in the glutes (94 percent MVC). It was second highest in the spinal muscles (78 percent MVC). Muscle activity in the hamstrings was 15%.

Hamstring muscle activity during the “relax your glutes” cue was a mere 3 percent MVC compared with the 15 percent measured during the “engage your glutes” cue. Instead, the back muscles and the quadriceps picked up the extra slack. Muscle activity in the calves and shins also decreased considerably compared with the “engage your glutes” cue. You may have heard that when you relax your glutes in Bridge Pose, your hamstrings will activate more to compensate. However, we found that the opposite happens.

When the student heard the external cue “drive your knees forward and drag your heels back” during Bridge Pose, the glutes activated at 82 percent MVC, and the erector spinae shared the load at 77 percent MVC. What’s more, the supporting muscles at work in Bridge Pose—the latissimus dorsi and the hamstrings—worked equally as hard at 15 percent MVC.

In our small experiment, the external cue created a synergistic activation of the muscles throughout the body, while the internal cues led to just one muscle or muscle group performing the majority of the work. That can lead to muscle imbalances, which leaves us susceptible to injury, particularly for anyone with existing injuries.

On the contrary, balanced action within our yoga poses, we reduces the risk of injury both in class and out.

The Research-Backed Way to Cue a Pose

Based on published research and our findings, I use the following cues when I’m practicing and teaching Bridge Pose:

1. Lie down on your back with your feet on the floor, knees bent and stacked above your ankles.

2. Press the floor away with your feet, and push your hips toward the ceiling.

3. Take your arm variation of choice, whether you clasp your hands under your back, hold onto a strap, or use “robot arms” by bending your elbows and keeping your upper arm bones on the mat while pointing your fingers toward the ceiling.

4. Drive your knees forward as you try to drag your heels toward your hips (your heels won’t actually move).

When we aren’t constantly trying to figure out how to “activate” or “relax” certain muscles, we can more easily stop fidgeting and drop into our breath and our body, allowing the practice to truly be a moving meditation.

This article has been updated. Originally published July 22, 2018.

About Our Contributors
Author Robyn Capobianco, PhD, is a yogi whose curiosity about the science of yoga led her to a doctoral program in neurophysiology. She brings more than 20 years of yogic study, practice, and teaching to her scientific research on the neural control of movement. Her research aims to fundamentally alter the way yoga teachers teach—and provide the scientific foundation that she feels is missing from the yoga community. Learn more at drrobyncapo.com.

Jana Montgomery, PhD, is a lifelong learner and athlete. Her passion for science and sports led her to pursue her PhD in the biomechanics of human movement. Her research specializes in understanding how external forces or equipment affect the way people move­—specifically adaptive equipment and technology. Learn more at activeinnovationslab.com.

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Vote Now on the 2023 Defender Service Awards Finalists

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Ready to play your part in making the world a better place? This year’s Defender Service Awards, which reward nonprofit organizations doing critical work in their communities, was the most competitive yet. But the judges have narrowed the hundreds of applicants to just 25 top contenders, and now you can help choose the winners. For these finalists—all small nonprofits—there’s a lot at stake. Five category winners will each receive a customized Land Rover Defender 130, as well as a $25,000 cash prize from their category sponsor. (Outside is sponsoring the Outdoor Accessibility and Education category this year.) All finalists will each get an additional cash prize from CHASE ($5,000) and Warner Bros. Discovery ($2,500).

(Photo: Land Rover)

Plus, a sixth category has been added to the 2023 Defender Service Awards: 2021 and 2022 Defender Service Awards Honorees. More than 20 previous awards finalists have entered this category for consideration. Their heroism and service to their communities is commendable, and now they have a second chance at winning a new Defender 130.

So, how will Land Rover determine the winners? That’s the catch: it won’t. You will. Starting September 15, the 2023 finalists will go head-to-head in an intense round of public voting. Get to know the finalists below as they rally their supporters to the cause, and then cast your vote once a day until October 4 to help your favorite nonprofit win it all.

Why a Land Rover Defender 130?

When you have a big mission and a tiny staff, making time for fundraising isn’t easy. But while most nonprofit groups become skilled at making do, many still lack the tools to truly maximize their impact. For some groups, the biggest missing piece is financial backing or costly equipment, like a capable four-wheel-drive vehicle. 

To provide reliable vehicle access to nonprofits in need, Land Rover launched its annual Defender Service Awards in 2021. Over the past three years, Land Rover has identified dozens of hardworking nonprofits and distributed tens of thousands of dollars in financial support. Each category winner also receives a brand-new, custom Land Rover Defender 130. With high clearance, four-wheel drive, seating for eight volunteers, and a spacious cargo area, the Defender 130 is one of the best tools for community outreach in any terrain. Past winners have used their Defenders for everything from releasing sea turtles to rescuing lost hikers to delivering food to disaster sites.

Meet the 2023 Finalists

While hundreds of nonprofits applied, only 25 were selected to continue to the final round, and more than 20 finalists from 2021 and 2022 awards will be given a second chance. Here are the category finalists for 2023.

Animal, Wildlife, and Marine Welfare Award | Presented by Animal Planet 

Lowcountry Marine Mammal Network (North Charleston, SC): This small nonprofit rescues and rehabilitates dolphins, whales, and seals along the South Carolina coast. The group has about 350 dolphins in its care at any given time. In addition to nursing these animals back to health, it conducts valuable research on causes of injury among marine mammals.

(Photo: Appalachian Bear Rescue)

Midwest Animal ResQ (Raytown, MO): Midwest Animal ResQ operates a six-acre animal rehabilitation and adoption center just outside Kansas City. The group also manages an extensive foster network that helps dogs and cats find their forever homes. 

Sea Turtle Inc. (South Padre Island, TX): Founded in 1977, Sea Turtle Inc. rehabilitates between 40 and 100 sea turtles each year and has released more than 7,400 hatchlings so far. That legacy continues today through critical sea turtle research, education, and emergency veterinary care.

Manitoba Underdogs Rescue, Inc. (Winnipeg, MB): This Canadian canine rescue helps hundreds of dogs find homes each year. To date, the group has cared for more than 3,500 dogs and manages a foster network of about 600 volunteers. But its reach goes well beyond Winnipeg: the nonprofit also sponsors outreach programs to spay and neuter pets in remote areas of Manitoba.

Appalachian Wildlife Refuge (Candler, NC): These are the folks you call if you find a wild animal injured in North Carolina. From snapping turtles to bats to birds of prey, creatures of all kinds receive life-saving care here. Then, whenever possible, this highly skilled team releases them back into the wild.

Community Services Award | Presented by ei3

Connecting Kids to Meals (Toledo, OH): This organization works hard to bring hot meals to kids in need all year long. Connecting Kids to Meals has been a community staple for more than a decade. In that time, it has served more than 7 million meals at nearly 200 different schools, churches, and community organizations. 

Enjoy Detroit (Detroit, MI): One of the driving forces behind the ongoing revitalization in Detroit, this group works to make the city a more equitable place to live. Volunteers organize community cleanups, mentorship programs, school-supply drives, and leadership workshops, both to uplift current residents and help newcomers find community. 

LiveOnNY (Queens, NY): About 9,000 New Yorkers are currently sitting on a long wait list for life-saving organ transplants—and not all of them have time to wait. LiveOnNY exists to help patients find critical transplants, getting them out of line and back to their lives and loved ones faster.

Kairos Adventures Inc. (Casselberry, FL): This Florida-based group uses art, performance, and music to help kids who are differently abled find their talents and thrive in a welcoming, inclusive environment. It also runs a beloved community choir for participants of all abilities. 

(Photo: Mercy Chefs)

Chattahoochee Riverkeeper (Mableton, GA): For nearly 20 years, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper has been the voice of the Chattahoochee River, one of Georgia’s most biodiverse bodies of water. During its time in operation, the group has removed more than 55 tons of trash from the watershed, conducted critical research, and lobbied for game-changing conservation legislation.

Search, Rescue, and Emergency Support Services Award | Presented by PELICAN

Allegheny Mountain Rescue Group (Pittsburgh, PA): Volunteer rescuers regularly risk their lives to save outdoor recreationists in need. In the rugged Allegheny Mountains, the risks are all the higher. Fortunately, the Allegheny Mountain Rescue Group has the technical skills and experience to manage those risks and bring lost and injured hikers home. The group also operates a skilled canine search and rescue team for particularly difficult cases. 

Taos Search and Rescue (Taos, NM): This hardworking team is dedicated to making the wilds of New Mexico safe for all. Since 1978, Taos SAR has conducted all kinds of rescues, from cliffside pluck-offs to swiftwater recoveries. The group also maintains specialized units for avalanche terrain and vehicle recoveries.

Squamish Search and Rescue Society (Squamish, BC): For the Squamish Search and Rescue Society, no location is unreachable—and that’s saying a lot given the region’s soaring peaks and remote backcountry. Whether you’re trapped on a mountaintop or surging along a frigid river, these experienced rescuers have what it takes to find you and bring you home. 

Resources in Search and Rescue Inc. (Monroe, CT): Many search and rescue teams do a little bit of everything. But Resources in Search and Rescue has just one specialty—and does it at the highest level. This Connecticut-based group deploys nationally certified search dogs and handlers to find lost and missing persons in the most difficult-to-search terrain.

TEXSAR (Wimberley, TX): Established in 2004, TEXSAR responds to all kinds of emergencies and disasters across the state of Texas. These volunteers are experts in everything from backcountry search and rescue to disaster relief. TEXSAR will also deploy to each of the state’s counties, making it one of the most agile emergency response groups in the state.

Veteran and Civil Servant Outreach Award | Presented by Hearts and Science

Heroes Homestead (Clayton, WA): Heroes Homestead provides holistic care to veterans and their families. The homestead itself is a local farm where veterans can gather, enjoy fresh food, and participate in educational events. The organization also provides innovative programs designed specifically to help the families of veterans find connection and healing.

(Photo: Patriot Service Dogs)

Big Red Barn Retreat (Blythewood, SC): This group’s eponymous big red barn hosts retreats and classes for veterans working through mental health issues. The nonprofit utilizes a number of innovative approaches, including yoga, gardening, financial education, and equine-assisted health programming.

Honour House Society (New Westminster, BC): When Canadian veterans came to Vancouver for medical treatment in the past, they struggled to find an affordable place to stay. Now, they can reside at Honour House, a free refuge that houses patients and their families until they’re well enough to return home. 

Calgary Veterans Services Society (Calgary, AB): Founded in 2018, this community resource offers nutritious food, clothing, financial assistance, therapy, and laundry services to local veterans in need. It’s a crucial stepping stone for many folks to get back on their feet after deployment.

Warriors Choice Foundation (Jupiter, FL): Warriors Choice Foundation might be best known for its highly trained service dogs, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The group also provides workshops, retreats, networking events, and recreational opportunities to local veterans searching for community and companionship.

Outdoor Accessibility and Education Award | Presented by Outside Interactive, Inc.

Camp Rainbow Gold (Boise, ID): Idaho’s first medical camp, Camp Rainbow Gold gives children with cancer the chance to have a true summer camp experience. The camp is equipped to support medical needs of the children and provides families a refuge from the hardships of diagnosis and treatment.

(Photo: Green Lake Association)

The Bethlehem Center (Chattanooga, TN): Bridge Outdoors, a youth program of a Methodist nonprofit called the Bethlehem Center, works to get hundreds of kids outdoors every year. Bridge uses trauma-informed programming to help kids find healing and confidence through activities like mountain biking, hiking, climbing, and trail stewardship. 

Youth Sports Alliance (Park City, UT): Established more than a decade ago, the Youth Sports Alliance provides winter sports programs and scholarships for young athletes in the northern Utah area. These programs benefit more than 2,000 children each year.  

Idaho Trails Association (Boise, ID): Over the past few years, Boise has been growing fast—and so have the impacts to its landscapes. The Idaho Trails Association works to advocate for the state’s world-class trails, repair trail damage, and maintain them so they remain resilient for years to come. 

Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports (Killington, VT): Based in the heart of the Green Mountains, this group believes Vermont’s skiing and mountain biking are too good for anyone to miss out on. Its inclusive programs help athletes of all ability levels get out there, learn new skills, and find their stride.


Defender embraces the impossible. Each member of the Defender family is purposefully designed, highly desirable, and seriously durable. A modern-day hero that respects the past but at the same time anticipates the future. Available in 90, 110, and 130 body styles, with up to eight seats, each has a charisma of its own.

A beacon of liberty since 1948, Defender supports humanitarian and conservation work with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the Tusk Trust.

The Defender brand is underpinned by Land Rover—a mark of trust built on 75 years of expertise in technology and world-leading off-road capability. Defender is designed and engineered in the UK and sold in 121 countries. It belongs to the JLR house of brands, alongside Range Rover, Discovery, and Jaguar.

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6 Challenges to Practicing Yoga and Running And How to Fix Them

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Runners come in all shapes, sizes, speeds, and experience levels. Yet there are general truths related to being a runner, and one of them is having to deal with muscles that feel tight or tense.

Lower-body muscle tension can provide joint stability each time your shoes hit the pavement or trail, help you bounce back after impact, and propel you forward in much the same way that a tight elastic band snaps back more powerfully than a loose one.

The same tension that is beneficial to your running is the very thing that you might find challenging when practicing yoga. But yoga’s benefit to runners is directly proportional to its challenge. And part of that benefit is not needing to change what makes you a strong runner. You simply need to change your approach to yoga.

How Yoga and Running Complement One Another

Practicing other types of movement outside of running can help you become even more resilient. This we know.

On the physical side, integrating yoga into your run training can help ease muscle tension and improve your range of motion. It also draws your awareness to areas of tightness and helps you identify muscular imbalances.

Also, the mindful movement needed to move from one yoga pose to another improves your balance, body control, and proprioception, which translates to more confident and efficient movement on varied terrain, whether you’re hopping up on sidewalks or navigating trails.

Yoga’s ongoing attention to your internal state can also help you tune into early warning signs of irritation that often predate injury but tend to be overlooked in the loudness of life.

Finally, by cultivating an inward focus, yoga helps you tap into your current energetic state, to get a feel for when you can push, when you should maintain, and when you need to dial things back.

Yoga offers you an array of movement, breathing, and awareness practices that you can use to steady yourself on the start line of a race and support your recovery the moment you cross the finish line.

6 Yoga and Running Challenges—And How to Fix Them

Yes, there are major benefits yoga can provide to runners. But there are also challenges runners tend to face when starting up a yoga practice. Here’s how those common challenges can be turned into benefits, and how yoga can enhance your run training.

(Photo: Andrew Clark)

1. If You Have Tight Hamstrings…

It doesn’t take long for a runner to become intimately aware of just how much hamstring stretching happens in an average yoga class. It may seem as though other students fold forward over their legs with ease or reach their heels to the mat in Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) without thought.

Runners tend to have a very different experience. Not to worry. The solution is not aggressively forcing your body to assume the shape of the person next to you.

The solution: Tension in your hamstrings can create a feeling of failure whenever a pose demands flexibility. But think of your muscle tension as stored energy, similar to the elastic recoil which literally propels you forward each time your foot hits the ground. Reconsidered in this fashion, your tightness becomes something to appreciate rather than eradicate. With that understanding, you might think about releasing rather than pulling taut and easing rather than pushing through.

This becomes most obvious in any pose that asks you to bend forward. Rather than forcing your chest to come close to your leg, focus on feeling a gentle stretch in the middle—the belly—of your hamstrings.

In practical terms, that usually means keeping the knee(s) of your stretching leg(s) slightly bent. It could also mean using blocks beneath your hands so the ground lifts to meet you. Remember: release and ease.

The poses:
Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
Pyramid Pose (Parsvottanasana)
Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)
Head-to-Knee Pose (Janu Sirsasana)

(Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia )

2. If You Have Tight Calves…

Everyone around you is in Downward Dog and their heels seem to easily touch the mat while yours tower above it, your calves screaming. Or you’re in Warrior 1 and your back heel simply won’t connect to the mat.

The solution: You don’t need to bring your heels in contact with the mat in some poses, including Downward Dog, to get a beneficial calf stretch. Let your heels reach toward the mat but don’t worry if they don’t touch. Instead, use the weight of your heels to create a subtle sense of stretching or lengthening in the calf muscles.

In certain standing poses, it’s essential for your overall body engagement to ground your back heel, such as in Pyramid or Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana I). If you simply cannot ground your heel to your mat, consider shortening your stance slightly. You can also experiment with sliding a rolled blanket beneath your back heel or rolling the back of your mat a couple times to give your heel something higher than the floor to press against.

The poses:
Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Squat (Malasana)
Pyramid (Parsvottanasa)
Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana 1)
Side Lunge or Flying Monkey

Woman in Easy Pose variation with bolsters
“Easy” Pose with rolled blankets supporting the thighs (Photo: Andrew Clark; Clothing: Calia)

3. If You Have Tight Hips…

The classic image associated with yoga is a student sitting comfortably cross-legged, knees resting comfortably on the floor and an expression of bliss on their face. Hip openers like the classic cross-legged seat are said to bring up stored emotions in yoga students. The dominant emotion that may arise for runners is likely frustration—especially when that pose is accompanied by an invitation to fold your torso forward over your legs.

The solution: Perspective: Tension in your glutes, similar to tightness in your hamstrings and calves, helps propel you forward in your running stride, and tension in your back muscles helps hold your torso upright as you run, enables you to breathe, and absorbs the impact of each footstrike. These are valuable adaptations your body has made to run training. Instead of viewing them as impediments to deep hip openers, know that you still receive the benefits of stretches but with less range of motion than other students.

Rather than being concerned about how your cross-legged sitting poses and forward bends look, focus on finding a version of the pose that allows your hard-working muscles to feel a sense of release or relaxation. When you experience a gentle stretch, whether in your glute(s), outer hip(s), inner thigh(s), or down your back, you are in the right version of the pose for you. There’s no need to go deeper.

If you’re sitting cross-legged, using props beneath your knees or thighs or leaning back on your hands rather than bending forward can make the stretch more tolerable. You can reach for blocks, a rolled towel, even a water bottle. In Pigeon Pose, propping yourself up with straight arms creates more space between your torso and your front leg and reduces the amount of hip flexion required. Once again, it’s about the pose meeting your needs rather than trying to force yourself to meet its shape.

The poses:

(So-Called) “Easy” Pose (Sukhasana)
Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)
Lizard Pose (Utthan Pristhasana)

Warrior 1 Pose
Warrior 1 Pose with the front leg straighter than is typically cued. (Photo: Andrew Clark; Clothing: Calia)

4. If You Have Lower Body Fatigue…

Although yoga brings more than just physical benefits, some students turn to the practice as their primary source of working out. For them, it makes sense to challenge their leg strength by bending their knees more deeply in certain poses, or hold standing poses as long as possible to maximize muscle engagement in each moment.

Runners might come to a yoga class straight from a run, or be practicing yoga the day after a particularly hard run. In either case, your legs may feel heavy and sluggish when you arrive on your mat. Or, if you plan to run any time after your yoga class but on the same day, you may be wanting to reserve your expenditure of lower body strength for when it matters most to you.

The solution: Exert yourself less than you are able. Bend your knees less deeply in Warrior poses or Chair. Keep your stance a little shorter in Triangle and Pyramid. By setting up your physical shape to challenge your lower body less intensely, you allow yourself to focus on mobility and flexibility rather than brute strength. It might take a little acclimating not to give everything on the mat—you’re an athlete, after all—but easing back will enable you to reserve your best efforts for your run training.

The poses:
Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
Goddess Pose (Utkata konasana)
Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana 1)
Warrior 2 (Virabhadrasana 2)
Extended Side Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana)
Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
Pyramid Pose (Parsvottanasana)

Plank Pose
Plank Pose builds upper body strength as well as patience. (Photo: Andrew Clark)

5. If You Have Upper Body Strength Challenges…

Running prioritizes leg and hip muscles rather than those in your upper body. After all, you run on your feet, not your hands. But this comes at the expense of your wrist, arm, and shoulder muscles, which means the amount of time spent on your hands in yoga class can create unwelcome sensations for many runners.

Multiple high planks, low planks, side planks, and even the supposed “resting” option of Down Dog feels challenging enough for frequent yoga students. For those who don’t regularly work to build upper body strength, these poses can elicit an extra psychological sting.

The solution: Unlike poses that emphasize your lower body, these are the poses that you can treat like training. Approach them with a little more drive and discipline, knowing that the weight-bearing strength you build here can both make you more resilient, and actually help improve your running. Having a strong upper body allows a better arm drive, improve your balance, and maintain good form. Find versions of these poses that you want to linger in for an extended period of time, or repeat an extra time or two. And challenge yourself to approach them without expectation of performance, but be willing to place equal value on the experience of trying something new and building strength.

The poses:
Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Plank Pose (Phalakasana)
Side Plank (Vasisthasana)
Chaturanga (Low Push Up))
Arm balances like Crow or Crane Pose (Bakasana)
Inversions such as Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana)

Woman sitting in a yoga pose and laughing
(Photo: Andrew Clark)

6. If You Have a Competitive Mindset…

Confronting your expectations can be one of the biggest challenges facing any student of yoga. For runners, the disciplined and competitive drive that is helpful in your run training can actually get in the way of deriving benefits from your yoga practice.

If you’re used to comparing your performance to that of those around you, it can be easy to forget that other students in a yoga class may have adapted to yoga the same way that you’ve acclimated to your running. Disparaging yourself for your abilities in yoga would be like comparing a sprinter to an endurance runner and expecting their needs, goals, and outputs to be the same.

Runners who are inwardly driven by their own metrics might be hard on themselves if, from one week to another, they feel they “perform” better or worse in a yoga class. Keep in mind that you may feel better, be able to hold poses for longer, or stretch deeper in yoga class during a week where you had light run training load than you do the week of a more demanding training block.

The solution: All of these are compelling reasons to run toward, not away from, a yoga class, even if you don’t feel like the star student. It’s okay not to “win” or even “progress” at yoga, and that’s actually the point. You are there to cross-train rather than compete. You don’t ever need to “master” yoga asana practice. It’s enough to restore tight or tired tissues, to build balanced strength, and to cultivate a little sukha, or ease, to balance the sthira, or discipline, that you’ve already honed by running. Just like hill repeats are different from speed drills which are different from easy recovery runs, yoga does not need to feel like your other training efforts.

As you do in your run training, focus on your purpose. When you understand yoga for what it is—a tradition of practices for body, mind, and even spirit—there’s potential to add tools and awareness that can supplement your running in unexpected ways. Yoga encourages you to soften where you are strong, and strengthen where you are soft. It suggests that practice is as important as performance, acceptance as powerful as achievement. And by giving you opportunities to address your weaknesses or imbalances, yoga reminds you of your existing strengths even as it helps you create new ones.

About Our Contributor

Rachel Land is a Yoga Medicine instructor offering group and one-on-one yoga sessions in Queenstown New Zealand, as well as on-demand at practice.yogamedicine.com. Passionate about the real-world application of her studies in anatomy and alignment, Rachel uses yoga to help her students create strength, stability, and clarity of mind. Rachel also co-hosts the new Yoga Medicine Podcast.

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A Yoga Sequence for Beginners

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As a beginner to yoga, you know that it can take some time to understand the basic shapes of poses. As you’re familiarizing yourself with how these postures feel in your body, you probably want to practice them outside of the online or studio classes you attend. But you may have no idea how to string the poses together in a yoga sequence for beginners that makes sense for your body.

Yoga sequences come in all different shapes and sizes. Most progressions of poses are linear, with one posture follows another in a logical step-by-step direction, moving from less challenging to more challenging and back to less challenging. In general, a practice, or sequence, opens with stretches that warm up the body, then progresses to more challenging standing postures, and then slows to cooling stretches before it ends with your final relaxation.

This is just one way to sequence. Each school of yoga has its own ideas about how to sequence an asana practice. Typically each posture in the sequence is performed once, but as a beginner it could help you to perform each posture two to three times, focusing on a different aspect of the posture each time. For example, you can practice a pose such as Triangle (Trikonasana) focusing on your feet or legs the first time and then repeat it while focusing on your spine or arms.

How to Create a Yoga Sequence for Beginners

The poses in most yoga sequences for beginners are grouped into four basic sections:

1. Centering

Begin your practice in a seated or reclined position with either a simple meditation or breathing exercise to collect and concentrate your awareness. A breathing exercise can be as simple as resting your attention on each inhalation and exhalation and focusing on allowing them to become slightly longer and deeper.

2. Warm-Up

These are simple stretches and less-intense versions of poses that allow your body to slowly warm up in preparation for the poses to come.

3. Standing and Balancing

The middle portion of a sequence usually includes standing poses that challenge you to find the shape of a pose while not forgetting to breathe, and to engage your body in various ways while maintaining a balance of effort and ease. The pose itself is not yoga. Being aware of how you hold yourself in the pose is yoga.

This part of class can include balancing poses in which you are challenged to steady yourself with less connection to the ground than usual. When you focus on our balance and steady your gaze on a single point in front of you and quiet your thoughts to focus on your body, you can become even more grounded in yourself despite having less contact with the floor.

4. Cool Down

The last portion of class includes simple seated and reclined stretches and culminates in the final resting pose, Savasana. It can be temping to skip the last pose. Don’t. It allows you to integrate everything that came before it.

A Yoga Sequence for Beginners

The following basic yoga sequence for beginners is something that you can practice as-is or adjust to your needs. In poses that have you bring one foot forward, remember to practicing it on both sides before moving on to the next pose.

Because this is designed to take you from one pose to the next and become more aware of your body, we’ve left out extraneous words. You can come into the poses based just on the photos and your recollection of any previous beginner classes you might have taken and calling to mind a cue that a teacher gave you that helped you find more of a balance or focus. Or if the pose is new to you, you can click on it to learn more cues and variations to help you find a version that feels right in your body. This is, after all, your practice.

Centering

Clothing: Calia (Photo: Andrew Clark)

Sukhasana (Easy Pose)

Warm Up

A pair of photos showing a woman in blue tie-dyed tights and matching crop top practicing Cow Pose and Cat Pose. She is kneeling on a wood floor with a while wall behind her.
(Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia)

CatCow

A Black woman wearing cream colored tights and top practices Child's Pose (Balasana). She is on a wood floor against a white backdrop.
(Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia)

Balasana (Child’s Pose)

A man in blue shorts and a top practices Downward-Facing Dog with his knees bent. He is on a wood-plank floor with a white wall behind him
(Photo: Andrew Clark)

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

A woman practices Half Standing Forward Bend with her legs slightly bent and her hands on her shins. She is swearing mottled blue yoga tights and a matching top. She has blonde hair in a ponytail.
(Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia )

Ardha Uttanasana (Standing Half Forward Bend)

A man with dark hair bends forward in Uttanasana, Standing forward fold. He wears gray-blue shorts and top. His knees are slightly bent. He has his hands on the hardwood floor near his feet.
(Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia)

Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)

Practicing Upward Salute standing on a wood floor against a white wall in the background. Wearing a deep pink/magenta tank and yoga shorts
(Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia)

Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute)

Plank Pose
(Photo: Andrew Clark)

Plank

Cobra Pose
(Photo: Andrew Clark)

Cobra Pose

A man in blue shorts and a top practices Downward-Facing Dog with his knees bent. He is on a wood-plank floor with a white wall behind him
(Photo: Andrew Clark)

Downward Dog

Progression

Extended Side Angle Pose
(Photo: Andrew Clark; Clothing: Calia)

Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Woman demonstrates Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend
(Photo: Andrew Clark; Clothing: Calia)

Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend)

Tree Pose
(Photo: Andrew Clark; Clothing: Calia)
Vrksasana (Tree Pose)
Extended Triangle Pose
Triangle Pose (Photo: Andrew Clark)

Utthita Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)

Boat Pose
Boat Pose (Photo: Andrew Clark; Clothing: Calia)

Navasana (Boat Pose)

Hiro Landazuri practicing Half Locust pose with his legs on the floor, shoulders up and hands clasped behind his back
(Photo: Andrew Clark)

Salabhasana (Locust Pose)

Cool Down

Seated Forward Bend
(Photo: Andrew Clark)

Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)

Bound Angle Pose
(Photo: Andrew Clark; Clothing: Calia)

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)

Bridge Pose
(Photo: Andrew Clark; Clothing: Calia)

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Supported Bridge Pose)

Young Black woman wearing light green top and tights is lying down to practice Supta Matsyendrasana (Supine Spinal Twist)
(Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia )

Reclining Twist

Legs Up the Wall Pose
(Photo: Andrew Clark; Clothing: Calia)

Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose)

Savasana
(Photo: Andrew Clark; Clothing: Calia)

Savasana (Corpse Pose)

This article has been updated. Originally published November 7, 2012.

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What Libra Season Means for You, According to Your Sign

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Late September brings us the beginning of Libra season within hours of the autumnal equinox. It’s a day filled with paradox and equilibrium as light and dark come into balance, with day and night sitting equal to one another. As we observe these two opposing states of being, we are reminded that life can hold two possibilities, two states, two truths, two divergent directions at once.

Concepts and entities can not only coexist, but they can need the other to be its fullest self. Light cannot exist without dark, much as self cannot exist without the other. On this day, we are reminded that nothing exists in isolation. This is Libra.

When Does Libra Season Start and End?

As the Sun enters the constellation of Libra on September 23, 2023, we are invited to step into the essence that is this air sign. To become it, learn from it, and begin to experience the world through its lens until the Sun exits Libra on October 23.

What Awarenesses Does Libra Bring?

As the Sun illuminates our world under the influence of this Venus-ruled air sign, the Libra in each of us steps to the forefront to be embodied and experienced. Whether Libra is our Sun sign or our Moon sign or simply resides in one of the astrological houses in our birth chart, we each have Libra within us, operating at different volumes and expressing itself in different areas of our lives.

The Sun’s journey through the zodiac is directed by two distinct chapters. The first half, Aries to Virgo, is the development of the individual self. These signs are self-directed, aimed at both creating and learning about who we are and offering us definition and clarity about our self. The second half, Libra to Pisces, symbolizes our journey out in the world and our relationship to other people, society, and life itself.

Libra, then, is the meeting point of these two chapters. It is where the self meets the other. It represents the lifelong journey of exploring and seeking balance between the self and the other and the self among others. It is the archetype of collaboration and partnership, where we come together to enhance the beauty and pleasures of the human experience. Libra represents our initial awareness of the other.

The sign of Libra exposes us to other perspectives and helps us learn how to balance and exist within these different, and often opposing, perspectives while finding harmony within. Libra is the opportunity to see and learn through the eyes of another, through our vast and diverse experiences, opinions, and unique journeys.

Libra reminds us that we are not alone in this journey, and that, in fact, others play an integral role in the building of our identity and our sense of self. It is through this experience that we move beyond the limitations of the self.

To be alive is to be in relationship—with one another, with ourselves, and with the world around us. It is through another that we sometimes experience the words we are ready to hear, the gentleness we are ready to receive, the perspective we are ready to experience before we can find more openness in ourselves. Others are the mirror through which we can see ourselves more clearly. Sometimes it is within offering love to another that we gain access to it ourselves. We cannot not be in relationship in life. We are made better by those around us.

With harmony as the primary theme influencing Libra’s purpose and intentions, the sign has an intuitive ability to sense the balance, or imbalance, in the energy around it. Whether in a conversation, a relationship, an outfit, a home, a piece of art, or the workplace, Libra is always intuitively aware of what the other needs to achieve a state of peace, balance, beauty, and fairness. Libra can then become or offer that very thing.

The zodiacal wheel. Each set of signs that sit across from one another, such as Libra and Aries, create an axis that challenges us to balance the complementary characteristics. (Illustration: Vadim Ezhov | Getty)

What to Watch For During Libra Season

Libra often learns to read the other before learning how to read the self. Reading the other means that we know what is needed, in that moment, to create a sense of balance or a feeling of safety within the interaction and environment, whether or not it is the most authentic or aligned direction for the long term. To learn to tune into the other before tuning into the self can create distance between our actions and our needs, desires, and preferences. And to address this, we turn to Libra’s opposite sign, Aries.

In astrology, each zodiac exists on an axis in partnership with its opposite sign. These signs in seeming opposition find themselves as partners, both needing the other to become fully engaged with life. When we find ourselves in an unsupportive expression of one zodiac, we can look to its opposition for guidance.

In opposition and partnership with Libra is the first of the zodiac, Aries. Just as Libra teaches us about the other, Aries invites Libra to come back to the self, tune into its own energy independent from another’s, and connect with its own desires.

Libra is an air sign. It conceptualizes, it mentalizes, it learns, expresses, processes, and shares. There is a strong intellectual drive to Libra that asks us to continue feeding its internal thoughts. Whereas Aries teaches us communication, courage, and safety within oneself. The boldness and directness of Aries in communication balances the diplomatic, fair, and harmonious communication of Libra. There is a magic in confidently communicating our needs while feeling safe in our bodies to do so and also considering the other in a way that is fair, loving, considerate, and peaceful. In its highest and balanced expression, Libra becomes the leader, the peacemaker, the mediator.

A devotion to balance and harmony is needed in our world, yet an overemphasis on this can have us close our eyes to what may not fit within that ideal state. To be fully alive is to journey into depths that live beyond the peaceful and harmonious realm of Libra. Emotions often demand to be felt fully, and that may not always be a beautiful thing in the moment. Love, when surrendered to, can take over us, taking us into depths beyond our rational mind and throwing us out of balance. And in those depths are immense healing and catalyzing opportunities to come home to ourselves and all of life.

For this, we need a healthy amount of space and opportunities to get to know ourselves. Time spent creating or observing art, exploring what we find beautiful, playing in the inner workings of the mind, and dreaming up an ideal day supports the expression of Aries.Time spent with the mind through journaling or any other creative endeavors will also help establish the deeper and more confident sense of self that is represented by Aries.

Another way to support the gifts of Libra is to create time and space to come into the body. Being an air sign can sometimes seem as if life is spent exclusively in the mind. The medicine is in the body. In not just analyzing our experience but being. Not just conceptualizing love but expressing it. Not just understanding emotions but feeling them.

RELATED: What the North Node in Aries and the South Node in Libra Means for You

Your Invitation During Libra Season

Ruled by Venus, Libra also knows the value inherent in beauty. Throughout Libra season, we are invited to look through the eyes of this sign. That is, to seek beauty in all and to add beauty wherever we can. This appreciation and creation of beauty is an integral component of Libra’s evolutionary purpose, which is to promote harmony within and without. With its sensitivity to aesthetics, Libra intuitively understands that a harmonious environment—whether through design, color, furnishings, fashion, nature, florals, art, words, or something else—supports harmony from within. It calms the nervous system and invites ease in the exhalation.

When we are still learning to access and work with the gifts of Libra, we may find ourselves stumbling around in the lower aspects of the archetype. For Libra, this can look like a devotion to short-term harmony placed before long-lasting harmony, driven by a fear of discord, imbalance, unpleasantries, or conflict. A fear that can often come back to a lack of safety found within the self, especially as we find our way.

What Libra Season Means for You, According to Your Sign

Like each zodiac signs that initiate a new season in nature, Libra is a cardinal sign. Cardinal signs initiate. They are designed to exert energy into the world and begin a new chapter. Libra thrives when moving and working toward something, whether creating, connecting, or taking steps toward its dreams and desires. A likable, beautiful, graceful, and pleasing archetype, underneath the surface of this sign is acute awareness, insights, creativity, charisma, and also a deep drive to move forward in the world, to meet fairness and justice wherever it can, and  to cultivate diplomacy and communication.

As the Sun shifts into the constellation of Libra, it simultaneously moves through a house or two in your birth chart, bringing focus to that specific area of life throughout Libra season. By looking at your rising sign, you can become aware of which house will be highlighted for you.

(Illustration: ProVectors | Getty)

Aries Rising

As the Sun transits through Libra, it moves through your seventh house of relationships, partnerships, and collaborations. This is a social time, a time to explore and revel in the company of your loved ones or to establish new connections and collaborations that support you in your endeavours. Libra season is where others play an integral role in the building of your identity and sense of self by acting as a mirror. It is where we are invited to play with who we find ourselves being and becoming while in the company of others.

(Illustration: ProVectors | Getty)

Taurus Rising

There is harmony offered within Libra season, Taurus, for you are both ruled by Venus, the planet of love and beauty. As the Sun journeys through the air sign, you are invited to bring that love and beauty into your body, your everyday routines, your habits, and your mind. This is a season to adorn your day with flowers and art, bring love into the kitchen, organize and refine anything that feels as if it is not already in place, and review your habits, observing if they are truly supporting you.

(Illustration: ProVectors | Getty)

Gemini Rising

It’s a season of play and creativity, romance and happiness for you, Gemini. Under the influence of Libra season, you are invited to return to the young spirit that lives within, the curious spirit, the playful spirit, the spirit that seeks pleasure and, within that happiness, finds peace, harmony, and beauty within themselves and life. Whether this looks like art classes, candlelit dinners, galleries, books, or dancing, allow your expression to be the doorway to equilibrium found within.

(Illustration: ProVectors | Getty)

Cancer Rising

Libra season invites comfort, Cancer. It’s an inward turning, a season for reflection and time with yourself, a focus on your safe space, your sacred space, your family and chosen people, and your home. Balance comes from within, and it comes from sharing sacred moments with your loved ones. Invite peace into your home and body this season, invite spaciousness into your day and your mind, adorn your home with love and art, and allow these small moments that seem to mean everything to fill your body with beauty.

(Illustration: ProVectors | Getty)

Leo Rising

Connection is at the heart of this season, Leo. Communication is your art, your journey of connection with another, your reminder that life is not fully lived without the people you treasure most. Words are one of the many ways that we come together with another, that we bring forth the world living in our minds into the mind of another and vice versa. This is what this month is about. It is your mind learning, communicating, speaking, writing, listening, reading, and exploring the world—not only through your mental processes but through the worlds that live within others, too.

(Illustration: ProVectors | Getty)

Virgo Rising

Libra season invites you to sink deep into your body, Virgo. To slow down and celebrate your value. To recognize your self that has moved through so much in this life, and has been brought further and further into you as a result. This is a beautiful season to bring peace and beauty to your body and senses, whether that looks like indulging in a massage, taking yourself for a hike, anointing yourself in essential oils, or moving through a nurturing yoga flow. This is also a harmonious time to explore and build upon your skills and perhaps introduce something new to your repertoire.

Illustration of the astrological zodiac sign Libra, depicted by scales hanging in the balance
Libra is often depicted as scales hanging in the balance, which refers to the sign’s concern for equality. (Illustration: ProVectors | Getty)

Libra Rising

It’s your season, Libra. As the Sun moves through your first house of self, you are gifted renewed life force. It is a celebration of who you are and, simultaneously, a welcoming of a new season of yourself. This is a beautiful season to invite a deepened clarity of your wants and desires, whether this is through journaling, daydreaming, conversing, or creating, the month invites you to spend time simply engaging in what you love and what seems to bring you home to yourself.

(Illustration: ProVectors | Getty)

Scorpio Rising

Libra season and its qualities of beauty, harmony, and balance are a gateway into your connection with something greater, Scorpio. As if appreciating and being in beauty is your way of falling into the hands of the divine, this season reminds you that beauty is sacred, that harmony is peace, art is holy, and love and connection are the true purpose and meaning of all of life. An internally focused month, this season invites a surrender into the moments that allow you to feel held by something greater, whatever name you assign to that.

(Illustration: ProVectors | Getty)

Sagittarius Rising

Libra season invites you to look to the future, Sagittarius. To play in the realm of your hopes and dreams and allow the space for frequent visioning, dreaming, and creating. A cardinal season, this month reignites a flame for a vision of yours, asking you to pursue it with grace, balance, and charisma. It also asks that you look to your community not only for support, but also potential collaborations and partnership that align with that vision, bringing it to life as you come together with others.

(Illustration: ProVectors | Getty)

Capricorn Rising

As the Sun moves through the constellation of Libra, it moves through the highest point in your birth chart, Capricorn. This season invites more Sun into your life, both literally and metaphorically. This is where there is more access to light, to life force, to vitality.  As you look to this point in your chart, you look to a sense of direction, a bigger life calling your name. This season invites focus on career growth, your sense of purpose, and access to ideas and aligned opportunities, all with forward movement.

(Illustration: ProVectors | Getty)

Aquarius Rising

Beauty for you, Aquarius, is found in meaning, in truth, in expanding your perspective, in soaking up wisdom. This month brings a nourishing invitation to lean into the moments that bring you closer to that truth, whether through philosophical conversations or books, experiencing other cultures, learning about art or history, or simply seeing through the eyes of someone else for a moment in time. There is much to be learned through the wisdom shared by another’s teachings, creations, narratives, and experiences, and this season, this will bring you deeper into yourself.

(Illustration: ProVectors | Getty)

Pisces Rising

Libra season invites you inward, Pisces. Into your depths, and into the depths of another. To observe the unspoken threads that seem to bring us together, and the emotions and greater meaning living beyond words expressed and art shared. Deep inner healing sits at the core of this month, beckoning you toward it, where real love, intimacy, art, creative expression, time alone, and beauty seem to be its doorway.

For a more personalized exploration of Libra season, learn which house or houses in your birth chart are occupied by Libra, as this where the Sun will be journeying. Bonus tip: if you have any planets in Libra, as the Sun moves through its constellation it will bring a focus to the energy of that planet, bringing it to the forefront of your life for this season, too.

Learn more about the influence of astrology in your life, including astrological events the Moon cycles, your Sun and Moon and rising signs, how journaling can help you connect with the current influences, and more with Jordane Maree at Girl and her Moon.

About Our Contributor

Jordane Maree is the founder of Girl and Her Moon, a platform and community exploring Soul through the lens of astrology, tarot, and energy healing. She is a writer, intuitive astrologer, energy and soul guide, and host of Girl and Her Moon, The Podcast. She is inspired, every single day, to be the mirror for you to see all that you truly are, you in all your infinite abilities, in total expansion, in infinite opportunity and love.

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Just Because You Love Yoga, Doesn’t Mean You Need to Teach It

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If you’ve spent any time in the yoga world, you’ve probably observed that one of the most common ways to access what’s described as a “deeper” or “more profound” understanding of yoga is enrolling in yoga teacher training (YTT).

But your love of practicing yoga a few times a week doesn’t necessarily equate to wanting to study all aspects of yoga. Most classes don’t go much beyond asana, which are the physical postures. This is just one component of the practice. When you study to become a yoga teacher, you also explore the philosophy, the breathing techniques, the meditations, the self-work, the surrender to the practice, and many other teachings from the ancient tradition.

Learning is an essential part of your yoga practice and should be a lifelong process. Even if you choose to study yoga in more detail, it doesn’t mean that you want to teach it, need to teach it, or should teach it. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But before you commit thousands of dollars to a YTT program, you should understand more about yoga and its philosophy so you can discern whether this is a commitment that you want to make.

4 Things You Need to Know Before You Enroll in YTT

There are several essential things you need to consider prior to enrolling in a yoga teacher training.

1. Start With Free Resources

If you’re curious about yoga, pause before you put down a deposit on a yoga teacher training. Explore some free resources to see if you like the non-asana aspects before making a larger commitment. Read articles, books, and blog posts about various aspects of yoga. Listen to yoga podcasts. There are even video lectures on the philosophy and history of yoga available for free online. If you find that you have little to no interest in doing this, consider it a pink flag.

You may love the non-asana side and decide to explore it more. Or you may realize that yoga beyond the physical practice is not for you. But start small so you can truly understand your interest and bandwidth. You can even explore mini-trainings on a particular topic, such as breathwork. Instead of jumping into a training, you can take a two-hour workshop, a weekend course, or an ongoing online program that’s 20 rather than 200 hours.

2. Understand That Teaching Yoga is a Commitment

There’s a common assumption that if you’re good at asana, you’ll be good at teaching yoga. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Becoming a capable yoga teacher demands consistency, discipline, humility, hard work, sacrifice, non-attachment, mindful presence, an attitude of service and many other attributes that are more important than being able to kick into Handstand.

For centuries, people studied, practiced, and committed to bringing yoga into their everyday lives without any pressure to become an expert. They studied with a yoga teacher for a long time—decades or even a lifetime—without a thought of becoming a teacher. They learned the nuances of asana as well as how to engage in everyday yoga. Those who went on to teach others were first selected by their teacher and then became an apprentice, assisted classes, attended lectures, read and reflected on philosophical texts, engaged in thoughtful conversation, and stepped in to substitute when the teacher was indisposed.

It was not an option to sign up for a yoga teacher training and receive a teaching certificate after three months. But the way the western capitalistic yoga system is currently designed, most yoga students are led to believe that the only way to become a yoga teacher is by enrolling in yoga teacher training.

3. Know That Becoming a Yoga Teacher Takes Time

If teaching is the path you choose to take at the end of your training, you’ll need time to evolve as a teacher. Receiving a certificate does not make you a teacher. Yoga is like any other career—it requires dedication, patience, time, discipline, and drive to do more and be better.

Traditionally, yoga teachers were “tested” to prove their competence and skills before they were allowed to teach a class—for the sake of the student and the teacher. Teaching anything is a responsibility, especially when people entrust you with their body and their being. It is a tremendous honor to be able to serve.

Ask yourself why you want to teach. It’s not about focusing only on those parts of yoga that you like or make you feel good. Only one in thousands becomes a “celebrity” yoga teacher and few even make a living exclusively from teaching yoga. Becoming a yoga teacher is not an escape from your life or a quick ticket to anywhere.

4. Take a Training If It Feels Right for You, Without the Pressure to Teach

If you choose to take yoga teacher training for reasons that are right for you, you might approach the end and realize that you don’t want to teach or that you would rather spend more time studying. In either case, that’s great! Your practice is not lesser in any way because you’re not a yoga teacher. The pleasure of being a student of a subject for life is something we don’t pause and consider enough. Even if you choose to teach, you should remain primarily a student.

Teach if you feel that you’re called to do so and only if you’re willing to put in the work to keep it true to yoga—and true to you. But only you can decide if you truly want or need to teach yoga. Feel no shame if you opt to never teach yoga. Learn to recognize how FOMO, peer pressure, pack mentality, and even capitalism, are subtly at play here.

YTT is still a valuable learning experience. You can do a teacher training as a study program and never teach an asana class ever and it would be no less valid. Don’t let anyone convince you that the only way to study yoga is to become a teacher.

About Our Contributor

Arundhati Baitmangalkar is an Indian immigrant yoga teacher and the creator and host of the Let’s Talk Yoga podcast, a free continuing education resource for yoga teachers. Baitmangalkar has been teaching yoga for 18 years and owns a studio, Aham Yoga, in Seattle. She’s passionate about raising the bar for yoga teacher education. She offers a variety of online continuing education and mentorship for teachers. She’s also a Bollywood choreographer, former professional dancer, and the owner of BollyWorks, a home for Bollywood dance. She shares her passion of yoga through her podcast, blog, studio, trainings, YouTube, and Instagram.

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Vote Now on the 2023 Defender Service Awards Finalists

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Ready to play your part in making the world a better place? This year’s Defender Service Awards, which reward nonprofit organizations doing critical work in their communities, was the most competitive yet. But the judges have narrowed the hundreds of applicants to just 25 top contenders, and now you can help choose the winners. For these finalists—all small nonprofits—there’s a lot at stake. Five category winners will each receive a customized Land Rover Defender 130, as well as a $25,000 cash prize from their category sponsor. (Outside is sponsoring the Outdoor Accessibility and Education category this year.) All finalists will each get an additional cash prize from CHASE ($5,000) and Warner Bros. Discovery ($2,500).

(Photo: Land Rover)

Plus, a sixth category has been added to the 2023 Defender Service Awards: 2021 and 2022 Defender Service Awards Honorees. More than 20 previous awards finalists have entered this category for consideration. Their heroism and service to their communities is commendable, and now they have a second chance at winning a new Defender 130.

So, how will Land Rover determine the winners? That’s the catch: it won’t. You will. Starting September 15, the 2023 finalists will go head-to-head in an intense round of public voting. Get to know the finalists below as they rally their supporters to the cause, and then cast your vote once a day until October 4 to help your favorite nonprofit win it all.

Why a Land Rover Defender 130?

When you have a big mission and a tiny staff, making time for fundraising isn’t easy. But while most nonprofit groups become skilled at making do, many still lack the tools to truly maximize their impact. For some groups, the biggest missing piece is financial backing or costly equipment, like a capable four-wheel-drive vehicle. 

To provide reliable vehicle access to nonprofits in need, Land Rover launched its annual Defender Service Awards in 2021. Over the past three years, Land Rover has identified dozens of hardworking nonprofits and distributed tens of thousands of dollars in financial support. Each category winner also receives a brand-new, custom Land Rover Defender 130. With high clearance, four-wheel drive, seating for eight volunteers, and a spacious cargo area, the Defender 130 is one of the best tools for community outreach in any terrain. Past winners have used their Defenders for everything from releasing sea turtles to rescuing lost hikers to delivering food to disaster sites.

Meet the 2023 Finalists

While hundreds of nonprofits applied, only 25 were selected to continue to the final round, and more than 20 finalists from 2021 and 2022 awards will be given a second chance. Here are the category finalists for 2023.

Animal, Wildlife, and Marine Welfare Award | Presented by Animal Planet 

Lowcountry Marine Mammal Network (North Charleston, SC): This small nonprofit rescues and rehabilitates dolphins, whales, and seals along the South Carolina coast. The group has about 350 dolphins in its care at any given time. In addition to nursing these animals back to health, it conducts valuable research on causes of injury among marine mammals.

(Photo: Appalachian Bear Rescue)

Midwest Animal ResQ (Raytown, MO): Midwest Animal ResQ operates a six-acre animal rehabilitation and adoption center just outside Kansas City. The group also manages an extensive foster network that helps dogs and cats find their forever homes. 

Sea Turtle Inc. (South Padre Island, TX): Founded in 1977, Sea Turtle Inc. rehabilitates between 40 and 100 sea turtles each year and has released more than 7,400 hatchlings so far. That legacy continues today through critical sea turtle research, education, and emergency veterinary care.

Manitoba Underdogs Rescue, Inc. (Winnipeg, MB): This Canadian canine rescue helps hundreds of dogs find homes each year. To date, the group has cared for more than 3,500 dogs and manages a foster network of about 600 volunteers. But its reach goes well beyond Winnipeg: the nonprofit also sponsors outreach programs to spay and neuter pets in remote areas of Manitoba.

Appalachian Wildlife Refuge (Candler, NC): These are the folks you call if you find a wild animal injured in North Carolina. From snapping turtles to bats to birds of prey, creatures of all kinds receive life-saving care here. Then, whenever possible, this highly skilled team releases them back into the wild.

Community Services Award | Presented by ei3

Connecting Kids to Meals (Toledo, OH): This organization works hard to bring hot meals to kids in need all year long. Connecting Kids to Meals has been a community staple for more than a decade. In that time, it has served more than 7 million meals at nearly 200 different schools, churches, and community organizations. 

Enjoy Detroit (Detroit, MI): One of the driving forces behind the ongoing revitalization in Detroit, this group works to make the city a more equitable place to live. Volunteers organize community cleanups, mentorship programs, school-supply drives, and leadership workshops, both to uplift current residents and help newcomers find community. 

LiveOnNY (Queens, NY): About 9,000 New Yorkers are currently sitting on a long wait list for life-saving organ transplants—and not all of them have time to wait. LiveOnNY exists to help patients find critical transplants, getting them out of line and back to their lives and loved ones faster.

Kairos Adventures Inc. (Casselberry, FL): This Florida-based group uses art, performance, and music to help kids who are differently abled find their talents and thrive in a welcoming, inclusive environment. It also runs a beloved community choir for participants of all abilities. 

(Photo: Mercy Chefs)

Chattahoochee Riverkeeper (Mableton, GA): For nearly 20 years, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper has been the voice of the Chattahoochee River, one of Georgia’s most biodiverse bodies of water. During its time in operation, the group has removed more than 55 tons of trash from the watershed, conducted critical research, and lobbied for game-changing conservation legislation.

Search, Rescue, and Emergency Support Services Award | Presented by PELICAN

Allegheny Mountain Rescue Group (Pittsburgh, PA): Volunteer rescuers regularly risk their lives to save outdoor recreationists in need. In the rugged Allegheny Mountains, the risks are all the higher. Fortunately, the Allegheny Mountain Rescue Group has the technical skills and experience to manage those risks and bring lost and injured hikers home. The group also operates a skilled canine search and rescue team for particularly difficult cases. 

Taos Search and Rescue (Taos, NM): This hardworking team is dedicated to making the wilds of New Mexico safe for all. Since 1978, Taos SAR has conducted all kinds of rescues, from cliffside pluck-offs to swiftwater recoveries. The group also maintains specialized units for avalanche terrain and vehicle recoveries.

Squamish Search and Rescue Society (Squamish, BC): For the Squamish Search and Rescue Society, no location is unreachable—and that’s saying a lot given the region’s soaring peaks and remote backcountry. Whether you’re trapped on a mountaintop or surging along a frigid river, these experienced rescuers have what it takes to find you and bring you home. 

Resources in Search and Rescue Inc. (Monroe, CT): Many search and rescue teams do a little bit of everything. But Resources in Search and Rescue has just one specialty—and does it at the highest level. This Connecticut-based group deploys nationally certified search dogs and handlers to find lost and missing persons in the most difficult-to-search terrain.

TEXSAR (Wimberley, TX): Established in 2004, TEXSAR responds to all kinds of emergencies and disasters across the state of Texas. These volunteers are experts in everything from backcountry search and rescue to disaster relief. TEXSAR will also deploy to each of the state’s counties, making it one of the most agile emergency response groups in the state.

Veteran and Civil Servant Outreach Award | Presented by Hearts and Science

Heroes Homestead (Clayton, WA): Heroes Homestead provides holistic care to veterans and their families. The homestead itself is a local farm where veterans can gather, enjoy fresh food, and participate in educational events. The organization also provides innovative programs designed specifically to help the families of veterans find connection and healing.

(Photo: Patriot Service Dogs)

Big Red Barn Retreat (Blythewood, SC): This group’s eponymous big red barn hosts retreats and classes for veterans working through mental health issues. The nonprofit utilizes a number of innovative approaches, including yoga, gardening, financial education, and equine-assisted health programming.

Honour House Society (New Westminster, BC): When Canadian veterans came to Vancouver for medical treatment in the past, they struggled to find an affordable place to stay. Now, they can reside at Honour House, a free refuge that houses patients and their families until they’re well enough to return home. 

Calgary Veterans Services Society (Calgary, AB): Founded in 2018, this community resource offers nutritious food, clothing, financial assistance, therapy, and laundry services to local veterans in need. It’s a crucial stepping stone for many folks to get back on their feet after deployment.

Warriors Choice Foundation (Jupiter, FL): Warriors Choice Foundation might be best known for its highly trained service dogs, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The group also provides workshops, retreats, networking events, and recreational opportunities to local veterans searching for community and companionship.

Outdoor Accessibility and Education Award | Presented by Outside Interactive, Inc.

Camp Rainbow Gold (Boise, ID): Idaho’s first medical camp, Camp Rainbow Gold gives children with cancer the chance to have a true summer camp experience. The camp is equipped to support medical needs of the children and provides families a refuge from the hardships of diagnosis and treatment.

(Photo: Green Lake Association)

The Bethlehem Center (Chattanooga, TN): Bridge Outdoors, a youth program of a Methodist nonprofit called the Bethlehem Center, works to get hundreds of kids outdoors every year. Bridge uses trauma-informed programming to help kids find healing and confidence through activities like mountain biking, hiking, climbing, and trail stewardship. 

Youth Sports Alliance (Park City, UT): Established more than a decade ago, the Youth Sports Alliance provides winter sports programs and scholarships for young athletes in the northern Utah area. These programs benefit more than 2,000 children each year.  

Idaho Trails Association (Boise, ID): Over the past few years, Boise has been growing fast—and so have the impacts to its landscapes. The Idaho Trails Association works to advocate for the state’s world-class trails, repair trail damage, and maintain them so they remain resilient for years to come. 

Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports (Killington, VT): Based in the heart of the Green Mountains, this group believes Vermont’s skiing and mountain biking are too good for anyone to miss out on. Its inclusive programs help athletes of all ability levels get out there, learn new skills, and find their stride.


Defender embraces the impossible. Each member of the Defender family is purposefully designed, highly desirable, and seriously durable. A modern-day hero that respects the past but at the same time anticipates the future. Available in 90, 110, and 130 body styles, with up to eight seats, each has a charisma of its own.

A beacon of liberty since 1948, Defender supports humanitarian and conservation work with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the Tusk Trust.

The Defender brand is underpinned by Land Rover—a mark of trust built on 75 years of expertise in technology and world-leading off-road capability. Defender is designed and engineered in the UK and sold in 121 countries. It belongs to the JLR house of brands, alongside Range Rover, Discovery, and Jaguar.

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Weekly Astrology Forecast, September 17-23: Dancing In Between Extremes

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This week we look toward the Sun—or rather, the Sun asks us to look toward it. In astrology, the Sun sits not only at the center of our solar system, but at the center of who we are. When it shifts into the constellation of Libra this week, the light of our consciousness is filtered through that sign. As the outer planets, Neptune and Pluto, also dance with the Sun, a stream of consciousness similarly shines on them, bringing their invitations to the forefront of our awareness.

The zodiacal wheel with opposing signs opposite one another.m(Photo: Getty Images)

Sun Opposes Neptune

An opposition is when two planets sit directly opposite one another on the zodiacal wheel. If one sits at the top of the circle, the other sits at the bottom. If one is on the left, the other is on the right. If one planet looks toward one direction, desiring to move toward it, the other planet looks in the other direction, wanting to move that way. Yet they sit on the same energetic spectrum, with the same overall intention, existing as opposite sides of the same coin.

As the Sun in Virgo comes into an opposition with Neptune in Pisces on September 19, 2023, we experience the conscious awareness, clarity, and life force of the Sun opposing the mystical, unseen, intangible, and illusory energy of Neptune. As they look in their opposite directions, we are invited to explore our relationship with intuition, illusion, perception, truth, oneness, and identity.

The Sun in Virgo desires to shine forth in a fully embodied sense of individuality and self. Neptune in Pisces wants to dissolve this self and bring us into the space where we are all one with another and one with existence itself. This tension is intentional and ensures that we reach deeper into the partnership of opposites. Here we are gifted an opportunity to marry our sense of identity with all that awaits beyond that. Whether you refer to it as your higher self or soul or true nature of who you are, how do you bring more of yourself into ourselves?

Sun Trine Pluto

A trine represents the coming together of two celestial bodies in different signs yet in the same element, whether fire, air, earth, or water. They come together with the same intentions, desires, and messages. As they meet in the cosmos, they are in cohesion, in harmony, and in sync.

Pluto represents our underworld, our unconsciousness, our depths and unknowns of who we are. As the Sun in Virgo shines upon Pluto in Capricorn on September 21, 2023, the light of awareness that the Sun represents highlights these Plutonian parts of ourselves, bringing the unknown to the known, the unconscious to the conscious, and all that is ready to be known within us to the forefront of our awareness. On this day, and the days leading up to and away from it, we are gifted an opportunity to look at these parts of ourselves, feel them, and begin to integrate more of us into our concept of self.

Libra zodiac sign
Libra (Illustration: ProVectors | Getty)

Sun Enters Libra

The Sun represents the center or essence of self. It is our experience. Our life force. Our spirit. And as it journeys through the 12 signs of the zodiac, it brings these parts of us along with it.

On September 23, 2023, the Sun enters the constellation of Libra, where it will remain until October 23. Throughout Libra season, we, too, are invited to step into the essence that is Libra. To become it, learn from it, and begin to experience the world through its lens. We all have Libra alive within us, operating in different volumes and expressing itself in different areas of our lives. And as the Sun shines in this air sign, the Libra in each of us steps to the forefront to be embodied and experienced.

Ruled by Venus, Libra is an archetype that knows the value of beauty, perhaps more than any other sign of the zodiac. It is throughout this season that we are invited to experience the world through the lens of Libra. To seek beauty in all and to add beauty where we can, whether in another human, piece of art, conversation, or a moment of stillness.

Throughout this season, there is an emphasis on the other so as to move beyond the limitation of our self. Our partnerships, relationships, and collaborations. Our opportunities to learn through diverse experiences, opinions, unique journeys, and perspectives. This season reminds us of the truth that we are not alone in this journey. Others play an integral role in building our identity and sense of self as well as simply adding to the beauty and magic of being alive.

Your Invitation

As the Sun in Virgo opposes Neptune in Pisces, we are invited to explore where we have been holding onto a false sense of self or an identity that no longer fits the breadth and width of who we are. There is a mystical essence to the dance between the Sun and Neptune. Wherever we find Neptune involved, surrender is an integral aspect of any dance—surrender to a higher self that desires the essence that is you. For this to happen, we must begin making space by cracking open the confines of our identity.

As Neptune begins to fade from its opposition to the Sun, Pluto dances toward it, with the Sun’s light building and building upon it, becoming brighter and brighter. Influenced by Neptune, we will have created space within our consciousness for ourselves, and then will be invited to begin exposing more of our true selves through our unconscious.

These two aspects to the Sun have beautiful potential of transformation. There is an invitation to rebirth who we are, and more importantly, who we believe we are and how we see ourselves. More space is desiring to be made as the old is ready to clear away. Aspects of ourselves from above—Neptune–and below—Pluto—are ready to make their way into what we see when we look in the mirror.

After this cracking open, expansion, and dance with Neptune and Pluto, the Sun makes its way out of Virgo and into Libra, where we enter the realm of beauty and balance, harmony and love. In this space, we are invited to shower ourselves in what brings a sense of inner calm, whether that comes through looking into the eyes of a loved one, decorating our home, or bringing our body into yoga poses that feel like we are creating art. This season is an opportunity to look around at our lives and intuitively feel the presence of balance or imbalance so that we can begin to harmonize.

There is a beautiful healing this week, as there always is in life. Opportunities to come home to ourselves and deep into love with others. Invitations to find our balance as we move through this vast, diverse, sacred, scary, beautiful, challenging, nurturing world. And doorways that reveal more layers and bring more awareness and understanding of this existence.

Learn more about the influence of astrology in your life, including astrological events the Moon cycles, your Sun and Moon and rising signs, how journaling can help you connect with the current influences, and more with Jordane Maree at Girl and her Moon.

About Our Contributor

Jordane Maree is the founder of Girl and Her Moon, a platform and community exploring Soul through the lens of astrology, tarot, and energy healing. She is a writer, intuitive astrologer, energy and soul guide, and host of Girl and Her Moon, The Podcast. She is inspired, every single day, to be the mirror for you to see all that you truly are, you in all your infinite abilities, in total expansion, in infinite opportunity and love.

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What Are the Signs & Is It Safe?

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You’re probably already familiar with the concept of a kundalini awakening, which is commonly described in yoga tradition as a transformational moment in which a person experiences a sense of connection or “oneness” with all beings in the known and unknown universe.

The descriptions of what actually transpires in such an awakening vary from rapturous euphoria to irrepressible and erratic movement not unlike demonic possession. According to many, the event marks a turning point in life after which nothing is ever the same. So, what does such an epic moment feel like? There is no single answer.

Kundalini Rising: Exploring the Energy of Awakening is a compilation of essays from medical doctors, scholars, and spiritual teachers who say they have experienced ani awakening. Each story contained within is unique. Dorothy Walters, PhD, recalls, “Suddenly, I felt a ball of rapturous energy in my lower abdomen. And, within seconds, it seemed these energies rushed up towards my head. I felt an influx of ecstatic energy streaming into my skull while my very brain was infused with rapture. As my crown opened, it felt like ‘a thousand petals unfolding,’ just as the ancient texts described…”

Penny Kelly likened her kundalini awakening to “[uncontrollable] orgasms in my head.” A less pleasant experience awaited someone, identified only as Sherry, who felt “pain and anxiety on the left side of [my] body. [I] thought [I] was having a heart attack.”

Others in the book describe their kundalini awakenings as “near-death experiences” or even “psychosis,” while other yoga practitioners have described the moment as “a total and complete sense of peace that could only be described as bliss.”

These varied experiences can prompt more questions than answers. Including “What gives?”

What is a Kundalini Awakening?

In Sanskrit, kundal means “coiled snake.” Kundalini refers to the energy that is believed, in tantric yoga tradition, to be present within each of us since birth and coiled at the base of the spine. Kundalini energy is considered to be the ultimate life force and the source of our creative power, spiritual gifts, and shakti, or divine feminine energy.

Tantric yoga tradition holds that when dormant kundalini energy is unleashed in an awakening, it flows upward through the seven chakras (energy centers) to the crown of the head, balancing the energetic body and accessing expanded consciousness.

It is believed that your entire being—mind, body, and spirit—goes through a massive energetic shift, causing you to move through life in a very different way. A kundalini awakening is a powerful experience in enhanced self awareness. According to tradition, an awakening can instigate long-term changes, including:

  • Feelings of blissfulness
  • Enhanced psychic abilities
  • More compassion and empathy
  • Increased creativity
  • Increased spiritual connection
  • Feeling aligned and in the flow

How Do You Have a Kundalini Awakening?

Practitioners of yoga traditionally spent years preparing for the highly anticipated event of an awakening. It can happen through practices like meditation, pranayama (breathwork), yoga, traditional Indian dance, and prayer. Or it can happen without warning. But unlike the mystical melody of a snake charmer that hypnotizes a cobra, a kundalini awakening cannot be summoned. Yoga tradition holds that you don’t have control over when or even if your kundalini energy awakens.

According to Alan Finger, a tantra master who has taught yoga philosophy for more than 50 years, the way to unlock shakti is the release of avidya, or “ignorance.” Finger describes avidya as the beliefs of the mind that maintain a chokehold on you. These misperceptions are obstacles to stepping into your authenticity because they cause you to see from the mind rather than observe from the soul.

Finger explains that kundalini energy is gently and gracefully released through regular, daily practice, known as sadhana in Sanskrit. “[Daily sadhana teaches people] “to get out of the mind and find passage to the soul, find Brahman or universal consciousness.”

Practicing kundalini yoga is one tool to expand consciousness and reach a state of lightness and boundless love, although it is not required. The first known mention of kundalini yoga is in the Upanishads, a Sanskrit scripture written approximately 1000 B.C. that focused on the metaphysical connection between humanity and the cosmos. Yogi Bhajan, an Indian Sikh, brought a set practice of movement, meditation, breathwork, chanting, and beliefs to the West in the late 1960s and essentially created a practice he claimed combined ancient knowledge with contemporary practicality and called it kundalini yoga.

Although opinions and advice for cultivating the conditions for a kundalini awakening vary, Finger suggests simple practices— asana, pranayama, and tuning into your five senses. It can take many hard years of dedicated practice for some, and, for others, it can happen spontaneously. The process is uniquely individual and quite often unpredictable.

What Are the Signs of a Kundalini Awakening?

There can be many different indications that your kundalini is awakening. When you experience kundalini “symptoms,” the energy is said to be knocking on the door to get your attention and awareness so that you can make the changes that your soul desires. When that happens, you are able to become who you are meant to be and live your highest calling. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Experiencing a heightened awareness of intuition
  • A deep sense of purpose and destiny
  • The urge to make life changes
  • Physical and emotional changes, including sleep disturbances, anxiety, surges of energy, and shaking

Whatever symptoms you experience, try not to fixate on whether or not it is kundalini and why it is there. Instead, focus on allowing the energy to move through you and release any uncomfortable symptoms. The less you resist these feelings, the quicker they will pass. Allow it to take you where you need to go. It is your teacher.

At the end of the day, only you can know if you’re experiencing some sort of awakening or not. And your awakening could be quiet stillness rather than mind-blowing “brain orgasms.” Use your discernment and self-awareness to understand and process what you’re experiencing. Trust yourself.

Is a Kundalini Awakening Safe?

Google “is a kundalini awakening yoga dangerous,” and you’ll find some pretty wild stuff, including websites asserting that kundalini yoga is an occult practice tied to dark forces. Other sources warn against releasing such powerful energy without being guided by an expert.

Meditation teacher Sally Kempton experienced an intense kundalini awakening in her late 20s. Although she acknowledges that the experience of the divine feminine energy can be terrifying for anyone without an experienced teacher to guide them through it, she believes that an awakening is a gift. “In our tradition, we honor and respect kundalini,” she says. “Her energy is trying to awaken you, expand you, and put you in touch with your own deep energy, which is a fundamentally benign process.”

However, according to Kempton and Stuart Sovatsky, a psychotherapist specializing in spiritual work, kundalini awakenings are rare in Western students because yoga is practiced in a less spontaneous way. “People are trying to hold the poses in a certain way, as opposed to doing poses that release energy blocks specific to their body,” says Sovatsky.

Many teachers caution against attempts to induce an awakening through intense pranayama or other methods. Instead, it should occur naturally, when the body, mind, and soul are ready. Finger agrees that a slow and steady approach is best. “Experiencing a big bang kundalini awakening isn’t a good thing.” he said. “The kundalini awakenings that have gone wrong are the ones you hear about…It means that the kundalini energy has entered the wrong channel, which can cause a variety of negative effects such as sadness, fear, introversion, and unwillingness to talk.”

Everyone’s experience is unique. For some, the experience can be filled with feelings of bliss and a sense of the interconnectedness of all things. For others, it can feel more like a bad drug trip or even a psychotic break that instigates altered sleep patterns, changes in personality, and the onset of depression. This discrepancy has led many Westerners to consider the coiled serpent resting in their spine fearsome, as if it were poised to strike.

Kundalini awakenings remind us that consciousness is more vast and nuanced than most of us have ever imagined. Sovatsky says that people who have what could be called a psychotic break following an awakening usually have past experience with instability, high levels of stress, and lack of emotional support. Both Sovatsky and Kempton recommend that anyone concerned about troubling side effects from a kundalini awakening seek support.

There’s yet another interesting aspect of this question, which is whether a kundalini awakening is safe to the status quo of your life and of society at large. Self awareness and spiritual growth often cause us to rethink our own values, goals, relationships, and career and can disrupt our lives. On a systemic level, they can inspire us to rethink the structure of society as a whole, especially in terms of caring for others, sharing resources, and dismantling tools of oppression. An awakening should—and likely will—transform your life. Are you ready for that?

Is a Kundalini Awakening Necessary?

What if you practice yoga your whole life and never experience a kundalini awakening? Are you wasting your time?

Absolutely not. The purpose of the practice isn’t an awakening or what many refer to as “enlightenment” or even what the Yoga Sutra refers to as samadhi, which is the transcendence of the ego and the end of mental suffering. Those are noble pursuits but rather lofty and specific expectations that encourage attachment to the outcome rather than the process.

The purpose is the practice itself, which will help you understand where you need to focus your energy, when you need to find more compassion for yourself and others, and how to become more aware of your own needs.

Your own kundalini awakening could be as soft and gentle as sitting in quiet meditation for 15 minutes and experiencing more peace than ever before. Or it could make you think you’re experiencing a psychotic break. Or any range of experiences in between.

The point isn’t the actual moment of the kundalini awakening. It’s the continued awareness that accompanies it. Keep practicing.

Originally published May 4, 2021. This article has been updated. 

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5 Best Hip Stretches for Athletes

2. Prayer Squat

Benefit: Mobilizes the hips, shoulders, ankles, glutes, knees, hamstrings, and lower back. Increases squatting depth, enhances explosive power, improves running efficiency, and contributes to improved Achilles tendon health.

How to: Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart with your legs turned slightly outward at your hips. Bend your knees and hips and slowly descend into a very low squat, keeping your heels on the floor, your chest lifted, and your knees in line with your toes. Press your palms together in front of your chest and place your elbows against your inner thighs to gently push outward against your knees. Draw your tailbone down as you lift the crown of your head up. Breathe here for 1 to 3 minutes.

Modify: If your heels don’t reach the floor, place a rolled or folded blanket or a small set of weight plates underneath your heels for support. This enables your muscles to release slowly and without strain.

Inspired by: Squat

Half splits can be integral in stretching your calves, hamstrings, hips, and lower back—not to mention increasing your running efficiency. (Photo: Cory Sorensen)

3. Half Split

Benefit: Mobilizes the hips, hamstrings, calves, and lower back. Improves squat depth and power, increases running efficiency, improves range of motion for sports like gymnastics and dance.

How to: Begin in a lunge with your right foot forward and your left knee on the ground. Place your hands on the floor on either side of your right foot under your shoulders, then shift your hips back over your left knee and slowly straighten your right leg, flexing your foot and pulling your toes toward your shin. Keep your back as straight as possible as you walk your hands forward and hinge at your hips until you feel a stretch in the back of your right leg. Breathe here for 1 minute. Switch sides.

Modify: If you experience difficulty reaching the floor or find yourself rounding your back, place yoga blocks or stacks of books underneath your hands to allow for length in your spine and back body. You can also keep a slight bend in your right knee.

Inspired by: Half Splits

Woman athlete in a cross-legged seated forward fold, which is one of the best stretches for athletes
This seated hip stretch for athletes targets the IT band and other potential problem areas for runners and cyclists.(Photo: Cory Sorensen)

4. Cross-Legged Forward Fold

Benefit: Mobilizes the back, shoulders, hips, piriformis, knees, and ankles. Improves gait, increases power and flexibility, supports superior balance for sports such as cycling.

How to: Sit cross-legged with your knees stacked over your ankles. Relax your feet and thighs as much as you can. Press your sit bones into the floor and then slowly walk your hands forward, hinging at your hips and keeping your back straight. When you can no longer fold forward, allow your back to round forward and release your neck and head. You can rest your head on a block if that’s comfortable for you. Breathe here for 30 to 60 seconds. Switch the crossing of your legs and repeat.

Modify: If your sit bones lift off the floor, place a blanket, yoga block, or pillow underneath your glutes until your hips are higher than your knees. This can often increase your range of motion.

Woman athlete practicing a lizard lunge, which is one of the best hip stretches for athletes
One of the most challenging and best hip stretches for athletes, High Lizard Lunge melds elements of three yoga poses to bring release to several muscle groups at once. (Photo: Cory Sorensen)

5. High Lizard Lunge

Benefit: Mobilizes the hamstrings, hip flexors, quads, and lower backHigh Lizard Lunge. Increases overall lower-body power, improves agility and speed, enables a more refined running stride.

How to: Find a Plank or push-up position with your head, hips, and heels aligned. Place your elbows directly underneath your shoulders and clasp your hands. Step your right foot outside your right elbow with your knee bent 90 degrees and your left leg straight behind you. Press down into your elbows and right foot to partially support your weight. As your left hip flexor along the front of your thigh begins to relax, redistribute your weight toward your left side to enhance the stretch. Breathe here for 1 minute.

Modify: If this is a super-challenging position for you, perform this move on your hands rather than your forearms. You can also place your hands on a yoga block.

Inspired by: Lizard Pose and Low Lunge and Forearm Plank

This article originally appeared in Oxygen Magazine.

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