Category Archives: Life

Tune In & Sleep Better

Transition into winter feeling calm, grounded, and centered with these self-care tips from the holistic wellness experts at Still Soul Studio in Charleston, South Carolina.

Still Soul Studio in Charleston, South Carolina

Sun Meditation

“If your nervous system is already overstimulated and depleted, seasonal changes can trigger anxiety, depression, and increased stress,” says holistic life coach and co-owner Elli Richter. Meditation can be an integral part of calming down, re-centering, and finding more joy and clarity. Try this visualization meditation for a few minutes at any time of the day: Find a comfortable resting position, close your eyes, and take three deep breaths. Next, inhale to the count of four, and exhale to the count of six. Visualize a bright sun far above your head, and sense its warm light washing down on you like a gentle shower. Continue for at least three breaths. On each exhalation, feel any tension you are carrying begin to release and dissolve into the earth beneath you.

See also First-Timer’s Guide to Yoga Retreats

 Foot Rub 

Raw sesame oil is known in the Ayurvedic tradition for its calming and grounding effects. Rubbing it on your feet before bed can help relax your body and calm your mind, allowing for a deep and restful night’s sleep, Richter says. “I love warming the oil slightly and adding lavender before massaging it in,” she says. Try it: In a saucepan, warm one-quarter cup organic sesame oil over medium-low heat for three minutes. Add three drops of organic lavender essential oil—a scent that research suggests can help reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality. Slowly and mindfully massage the oil into the bottoms of your feet. Richter recommends sleeping with socks on after applying the oil to help maximize absorption and keep it from staining your sheets. …

What is Ahimsa?

Ahimsa, or nonviolence, is one of yoga’s ethical principles. Explore its origins and how it might be interpreted and practiced in your everyday life.

Ahimsa in Sanskrit

When we hear about concepts like nonviolence, we often think of historical figures such as Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. leading movements for peace in the face of oppression. Several articles mislabel Gandhi as a “father” of nonviolence, not aware that he was symbolically reclaiming India’s rights and identity from the British Raj by embodying what had long been integral to ancient Indian spiritual teachings: ahimsa.

Ahimsa, commonly referred to as “nonviolence” but more literally translated from Sanskrit as “absence of injury” is an ancient concept originating in the Vedas—Indian spiritual and philosophical wisdom dating from as far back as 1900 BCE, or nearly 4,000 years ago. The Vedas, approximately meaning “divine knowledge,” were considered authorless and were originally passed down in oral tradition for centuries. Four Vedas, which make up the Bhagavad Gita, were eventually compiled and written down in Sanskrit by a sage known as Vyasa. Another sage, Patanjali, is said to have studied these Vedic texts and developed what we know as the Yoga Sutra and the basis of classical yoga’s eight limbs.

See also The First Book of Yoga: The Enduring Influence of the Bhagavad Gita

Ahimsa is part of the first of the eight limbs known as yama, or practices of self-regulation designed to free us from being victims of our own human impulses. Yama practices are likened to cleaning techniques for our minds, bodies, and spirits that allow us to live more conscious, liberated lives. In addition to being a yama in yoga, ahimsa is also a foundational principle of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.

See also 10 Ways to Bring the Yamas +

The South is Ripe for More Access to Alternative Healing and Yoga

While markets on the coasts are saturated with yoga studios and a variety of healing modalities, yoga teachers and wellness practitioners in Southern states are noticing an unmet need for non-traditional approaches to health.

While the trend in alternative healing and yoga grows (thanks in part to social platforms where 30-day yoga challenges and Dr. Sebi alkaline memes are popular), according to regional yoga teachers and alternative health practitioners, the South has been slower than the rest of the U.S when it comes to embracing new forms of wellness.

I spoke with three Memphis, TN-based yoga teachers separately about their experience working and finding an audience in their region. “There are so many misconceptions,” said Libby Campo of Your Inner Yogi. “I think the large majority of resistance is the fear of trying something new.”

Yoga Teacher Deanna Taylor of Finally Fit Memphis agrees. “People come to the South because it’s the comfort food capital or they come here to slow down and relax,” she said. “So there’s no expectancy to tap into the healing work of the practitioners out here.”

Olivia Lomax of Delta Groove Yoga Studio explained the challenges she faces in the current market in Memphis. “I think it’s mostly a lack of experience and availability [of yoga in the South]. It’s hard for us in the healing arts to be here and do our work, but we stay because it’s so needed here.”

A Southern Wellness Event Finds an Audience 

Holistic health practitioner and event curator Jenny Emblom also realized the need for wellness in the South, which became the catalyst for Attune, Emblom’s four-day wellness retreat on the edge of Atlanta. “I was born and raised in Alabama, and I’ve felt called to serve that part of the country for years,” says Emblom. “I’ve …

4 Young Yogis to Follow

These teenage yoga teachers are proving that there’s no age requirement for sharing your gifts with the world.

Tabay Atkins

Tabay Atkins

INSTAGRAM: @tabayatkins

Tabay Atkins was only 10 years old when he got his first 200-hour vinyasa teaching certification. Now, the 14-year-old yoga teacher reflects on what brought him to the mat—plus his journey to veganism and conscious living.

The 108-second interview

YOGA JOURNAL: Who’s your biggest inspiration right now and why? 

Tabay Atkins: My biggest inspiration is my mom. I think about her courage every day and how strong and determined she was while battling cancer—which helps me to be brave, too. Seeing how much yoga helped her heal inspired me to become a yoga teacher so I could help other people who were going through similar experiences.

YJ: What’s your go-to mantra? 

TA: Think good thoughts; speak kind words; feel love, be love, and give love.
 This mantra reminds me that my thoughts are powerful. By thinking good thoughts, I emit positive energy into the universe and that makes me feel happy and peaceful. 

YJ: When did you decide to go vegan? 

TA: It was after watching the documentary What the Health. At first, I did it for my personal health, but after some research and time, I realized how important it is to help the environment, the planet, and the animals.

YJ: What’s your favorite recipe to make right now? 

TA: My mom and grandma, who are Persian, made a Persian rice dish called lubia polo—rice with green beans, tomato sauce, and ground meat—when I was little, and I loved the flavor. My favorite part of the dish is tahdig, crispy rice. In Persian, lubia means bean and polo means rice. I was really happy when my mom taught me how to make it vegan, which …

Your Next Yoga Retreat Could Actually Empower Young Women

Souljourn Yoga collaborates with local organizations in Cambodia, Peru, and Morocco to support girls’ education and empowerment.

Jordan Ashley

Jordan Ashley took her first yoga teacher training at the end of college while she was dealing with a toxic and abusive relationship. After she broke away from her partner, she stopped practicing and moved to Cambodia to be a reporter. There, she connected with women who had been in similar relationships or who hadn’t been allowed academic opportunities. Ashley recognized that her laser focus on education had given her the strength to leave her relationship, and her eyes opened to education’s power to liberate and empower women. When she came back to the United States in the spring of 2012, she returned to yoga, and the more she practiced the more comfortable in her body she became. Yoga, like education, had become a source of power. The seeds for what would become Souljourn Yoga had been planted.

In 2016, Ashley founded Souljourn Yoga to help support girls’ empowerment through education. Souljourn Yoga holds international yoga-and-service retreats that help fund local partner organizations dedicated to girls’ education. Each year Souljourn Yoga returns to the same locations, including Cambodia, Peru, and Morocco, nurturing long-term relationships with its partners, such as the Sacred Valley Project in Peru, which provides secondary education for girls who live in the Andes Mountains. “I want to spend time cultivating relationships with the incredible organizations that are really doing the work,” Ashley says. “And I want to support them more than one time.”

See also This Nonprofit in India is Changing Children’s Lives Through Yoga

Built into the retreat fee is a donation to Souljourn Yoga’s local partners, and Ashley encourages retreat participants to bring commodities that the girls affiliated with its partners can use. “It takes …

Yoga in the High Desert

Contributor Jennifer Davis-Flynn finds both stillness and whimsy in Moab, Utah at the Desert Shakti yoga retreat.

The desert in spring is a magical experience. The cacti bloom with red and pink flowers; days are warm, but not hot; rosy sunsets burst over jagged red rocks; cool, clear nights are perfect for campfires and stargazing. With its miles of sandstone mesas, thousands of natural rock arches, wide canyons carved from the Colorado River, and easy access to five national parks, it’s easy to understand why sleepy little Moab, Utah – located in the state’s Southeastern high desert region – attracts over a million visitors a year.

In short, it’s the perfect backdrop for outdoor yoga, quiet reflection, and connecting with the natural stillness of the ancient desert landscape. And I was thrilled to be invited to the first-ever Desert Shakti retreat this past May, hosted by Jayne Gottlieb, founder of the Aspen Shakti in Aspen, Colorado – a destination studio and spa that features Vinyasa, hot yoga, and Buddhi Shakti yoga (a blend of asana, dance, Kundalini kriyas, tantra, cardio, and more) 

Moab Under Canvas at night

The Ultimate Glamping Experience

Set at the glamping destination, Moab Under Canvas, the location had an upscale festival vibe thanks to sturdy canvas tents featuring all the comforts of home: king-sized beds, wood-burning stoves, lamps and phone chargers. Some high-luxury tents even include indoor toilets and showers. 

Theatrical “Burning Man” touches added a bit of drama to the weekend. Costumes and colorful clothing were encouraged for participants. If you didn’t bring anything wild, you could select from a variety of handmade headwear, called Spirit Crowns designed by artist and shaman Sophie Howell. These whimsical pieces of wearable art were displayed on a table and could be worn or exchanged at anytime during …

6 Simple Strategies for Quieting the Mind

Slowing down and stepping away, even for a minute, can save your soul. Discover the healing sound of silence and how to live more fully in the present moment.

Slowing down and stepping away, even for a minute, can save your soul.

When I was 12 years old, I hated having braces on my teeth. But when I begged my parents to have them removed, Mama responded simply: “Sure. We can have your braces taken off. You’re old enough to make this choice. But having the braces taken off now means short-term easy and long-term hard. Leaving them on for another few years means short-term hard and long-term easy. Which one do you want?”

Well played, Mama. In the end, I didn’t get my braces taken off until I was 14 when the orthodontist decided it was time.

These days, “short-term hard, long term easy” is my working definition for self-care. I’m not talking about the consumption-driven idea of self-care such as getting a pedicure or a massage or treating myself to lunch at a fancy vegan restaurant. Those are luxuries.

I’m talking about unglamorous, everyday self-care. Flossing my teeth. Cooking. Exercise, asana, pranayama, and meditation practices. And about spending time every day away from my phone and off social media and instead visiting inspiring places like art exhibits, old libraries, beaches, and forests. Put simply, I’m talking about slowing down and finding silence.

These acts share the quality of being short-term hard, long-term easy. With each, I must surpass a small hurdle of resistance or laziness or inertia—the short-term hard part. But the long-term easy part is the accumulated mind-body space that I inhabit when my days, weeks, and months begin to fill with tiny acts of self-care.

See also 18 Reasons to Practice Self-Care

What if true

YJ Investigates: Can Singing Cure Sleep Apnea?

Season 2 of Big Little Lies contained a scene where a yoga class sang a song in Savasana to combat sleep apnea. Does it really work?

Still reeling from season 2 of Big Little Lies? Us too. Especially that scene where Bonnie Carlson, played by Zoë Kravitz, leads a yoga class of practitioners who are singing Chicago’s “If You Leave Me Now” in Savasana (Corpse Pose). They’re allegedly doing it to mitigate sleep apnea (which repeatedly halts breathing while sufferers sleep), Carlson admits to her father: “Stanford Sleep Clinic…diagnosed everyone in the class as a cash cow.”

Even if the apnea was fake, we wanted to know: Was there any truth in the treatment? So we turned to Rohit Budhiraja, MD, sleep medicine specialist in the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. The verdict? He says Bonnie’s sing-along Savasana is just another in a trail of big little lies.

See also Find Your Own Authenticity By Singing For Inspiration.

There’s no real data to suggest that singing significantly improves snoring or sleep apnea, says Budhiraja, explaining that when we fall asleep, the muscles at the back of the throat relax and collapse upon one another, narrowing the airway. When air goes in and out of that tiny space, it makes an ungodly noise, and that’s snoring. Sometimes, the back of the throat completely closes up, and that’s sleep apnea. “There are a couple of studies suggesting that snoring may improve in people who sing regularly, but those are very low-quality studies,” Budhiraja says.

And when it comes to Corpse Pose, Budhiraja advises people with sleep apnea to avoid lying flat on their backs altogether—because gravity makes the tongue fall backward. The only tried-and-true path to improving sleep apnea, says Budhiraja, is …