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Yoga Diary
Reflections on yoga from our editors


For Those Times When You Just Don't Want to Teach

February 24, 2010

by Hannah O'Reilly

YJI'm going to go ahead and admit it: some days I really, really don't want to teach. I know--I'm always supposed to be a bright, happy yogi who would rather chop off an arm that have to miss a yoga class, let alone miss the opportunity to make someone else's day brighter through teaching--but, you know what, some days the natural light and love that brought me to yoga teaching in the first place just cannot find a way to shine through.

On those days I grumble and complain and wish I didn't have to teach and then drag my sorry little behind to the yoga studio.

And then a funny thing happens. As my students start to walk in I find my mood lifting. I start to teach and I completely forget all of the reasons I really didn't want to be there in the first place. And by the end, I almost always leave feeling lighter, happier and wondering why I don't teach a whole lot more often.

That, to me, is the power of teaching. Hopefully my students gain a thing or two from a class but I know that I always, always gain so much from them.

Now all I have to do is remind myself of that each time I get the teaching grumps.

How Do You Help Others through Yoga?

January 15, 2010

by Hannah O'Reilly

As the world is still reeling from the recent tragedy in Haiti I have been moved this week by seeing so many people pull together to find ways to help. In the yoga community, many local yoga studios are offering benefit classes for the victims, clothing collections, and donation funds. I encourage each of you to participate in whatever way you can.

For me, this has also brought up a bigger question that I have had kicking around in my head recently: How can I help?

Not just how can I help with this most recent devastation, but how can I help others in an ongoing way? I know teachers who teach ailing hospital patients, at-risk teens, prisoners, and many others in need. I know its now time for me to take this on as well.

And, for this, I realize I need a bit of guidance and inspiration:

What do you do to help others through your yoga teaching? Were trainings helpful / needed? How did you connect with the people and organizations that you are helping?

Welcoming in the New -- Teachers that Is

January 8, 2010

by Hannah O'Reilly

This week began a new teaching schedule for me with a new day, new time, and new "mellower" take on my style.

As students trickled in to my first Monday night class, I was thrilled to see some familiar faces, but I was equally happy to have some students who were new to me. I always feel like having a new student is a bit of a gift. They have taken a leap of faith to go to a teacher and class that is unknown to them. I hope to repay that gift by giving them a great yoga experience.

Sometimes I notice with seasoned practicioners that they are more hesitant to try out someone new. They have their teacher -- who they adore -- and really don't want to bother with anyone else. That always seems a little sad to me (although I have to say I have fallen into this trap myself from time to time). Shouldn't we as yogis be open to new possibilities, new avenues of learning and new teachers?

I challenge you in the new year to try out some new teachers and new styles. Take a chance on a class that you have been meaning to try for ages. Or go to a class randomly without even knowing what style or teacher you will be experiencing.

You never know -- you may just learn something completely, magically new.

Recommitting to Your Yoga Practice

December 31, 2009

by Hannah O'Reilly

I have a confession: I have been avoiding my yoga practice lately.

After being sidelined for a few weeks by holiday travel, illness, and a pesky hamstring injury, I haven't been able to get myself back on my mat. Now, I know in my head that the minute the asanas start flowing I'll feel stronger and calmer and more centered -- more me. My body, however, is rebelling. It seems to think its much nicer to sit on my couch and channel surf instead.

But then I realized: This is the perfect time to recommit myself to my yoga practice. It's the start of a new year -- a new decade even -- and I know this one will be the best one yet.

As a student, as a teacher, we sometimes need these opportunities of renewal to remind ourselves what is most important to us. We are given the opportunity to commit and recommit to these things in a thoughtful and meaningful way.

For me, my yoga practice will be a key focus to work back into my routine in the new year. What will it be for you?

How Do You Give Thanks on Thanksgiving?

November 24, 2009

by Hannah O'Reilly


Even though I love Thanksgiving for its abundance of stuffed tofurkey, candied yams, and cranberry sauce, my favorite Thanksgiving memories all involve the true spirit of the holiday: Giving Thanks.

As a yogi I try to practice karma yoga, the practice of serving others, as often as I can, but I have to admit that sometimes I lose site of helping others as I get caught up in my daily life. Thanksgiving is always that brilliant reminder to refocus, give thanks, and give back.

In my classes this past week I have tried to inspire my students to think of ways they can give thanks or give back this holiday. Some of my favorites from Thanksgivings-past are volunteering at a soup kitchen to give back to the community, teaching a free yoga class to give back to your students, going to a donation yoga class and giving back to the charity of choice, and simply telling all the people that you love why you are so thankful that they are in your lives.

Now I hope that you can inspire each other with your own favorite stories. What is your favorite way to give thanks for Thanksgiving?

Can Yoga Teachers Teach Full-Time AND Pay the Bills?

November 17, 2009

by Hannah O'Reilly

Yoga Money

Friends often ask me if it's possible to make a living as a full-time yoga teacher. I always say absolutely! But at times it can be a hard road to venture down.

As a newer teacher (under the five year mark), I feel much more secure maintaining a full-time job outside the yoga studio and teaching on the side. (I'm also lucky enough to work for Yoga Journal where I can continue feeding my yoga passion every day in a different format.)

I have other teacher friends who I can barely drag out of the studio. They teach ten to twenty classes a week and sometimes more, if the opportunity arises. They work hard and make enough to make ends meet through sheer number of classes. And they love what they do. But I'm not so sure this excess outpour of teaching energy is sustainable. I've seen it lead to burn out more than once.

And then there's the Uber-Teachers. You know the ones -- they teach four classes a week and pull in enough people to fill a stadium. They're doing well and so they should. They're great teachers, well loved, and they are getting compensated for what they do.

So my question is -- how do teachers make the jump from teaching as many classes as they CAN to make ends meet to teaching as many classes as they WANT instead? At what point and in what way does yoga teaching transform into a job that is just as monetarily sustainable as being a banker or a web designer or a school teacher for that matter?

Does Music Have a Place in Yoga Class?

November 10, 2009

by Hannah O'Reilly


There appears to be an unspoken debate about using music in yoga class. Sometimes classes are accompanied by soothing melodies, devotional chanting, or even all out of rock. Other classes lean towards no music at all. It's gotten me to wondering -- is there a version that's best? Or, like most things in yoga, does it simply come down to what feels right for you?

In my own teaching I have covered all sides of the spectrum. When I started teaching, music always accompanied my words. I found that music helped to calm my new-to-teaching-nerves. It created an anchor that I could draw inspiration from to structure a class and inspire my students. Plus, some of my favorite teachers use music woven masterfully into their classes so I thought it seemed like a great idea to follow suit.

And yet, after a few years of teaching and, frankly, listening to my small selection of mixes over and over and over, I decided I needed a bit of a musical break. I'd like to say I was inspired by the desire to move towards stillness but, really, I was just tired of all my songs. I'm not a DJ and I didn't want to be one. So I turned the iPod off and just taught.

And then an interesting thing happened.

I found that, for me, turning off the music helped me to focus on the energy of the room and the rhythm of my students' breath. It allowed me to feel more in sync with my students and it felt like they were able to reach a depth of stillness that I hadn't seen before. And so it stuck.

Has this experience caused me to swear off all music in yoga? Definitely not. Sometimes it feels like the room (or maybe me) could use a bit of a musical lift and so I pull my iPod out. I also love live chanting so I weave that into the beginning and end of class as often as I can. I love going to yoga classes with music and without. So I guess I would say I am firmly planted somewhere... in the middle.

For those days that you lean more towards the musical side, visit our monthly playlists for inspiration or check out this Jivamukti sequence set to a downloadable musical track.

Do You Meditate?

October 23, 2009

by Hannah O'Reilly


If you are anything like me then when you practice yoga you focus on the asana -- poses that stretch the body (and often the mind). You know that meditation is an important part of the practice and you might sneak in a minute or two of stillness at the beginning or end of your asana fiesta.

Or maybe you sit and meditate for five, ten, twenty minutes a day.

Or maybe you think you should. And you don't.

At one time or another I have fallen into all of these categories. When I began yoga it was hard for me to sit for ten seconds. I was so used to moving and doing and multi-tasking that I'd completely forgotten how to get still. As I became more involved with my asana practice I gradually started to unravel and could proudly hit the ten second mark without even a flinch. From there my endurance grew so that now, ten years later, I can sit for ten minutes straight and not run screaming from my zafu.

Doesn't sound like much, does it? Well, for me, ten minutes feels like a huge victory. (Even then, I go in and out of my meditation practice more often than I would like to admit.) But I know that every time I meditate I feel like I want (need) to do it more.

Where do you sit on meditation? Or do you sit at all?

Looking to learn more about meditation? Check out our collection of meditation articles.

Why Do You Do Yoga?

October 21, 2009

by Hannah O'Reilly


I was recently watching Yoga Journal's latest DVD: Yoga For Strength and Toning with Flow teacher Stephanie Snyder. (Full disclosure: Stephanie is my main teacher so I am thrilled that she just released this brand new DVD.) Strength and toning seems like a great reason to do yoga but it got me thinking: I wonder how many different reasons there are that people practice yoga?

Some super-busy students of mine do yoga to de-stress; others to stay in shape. Some sporty students do yoga to stretch out after their workout.  I do yoga for different reasons on different days but mostly because it makes me feel good: mind, body, and soul. (And sometimes I joke that I do yoga because it makes me a little bit less crazy.)

I know my students do yoga for some many reasons. What are those reasons for you? What brings you to the mat?

Sharing Wisdom through An Offering of Leaves

October 13, 2009

by Hannah O'Reilly


Recently I came across An Offering of Leaves by Jivamukti yoga teacher Ruth Lauer-Manenti. This new book is a collection of "'dharma talks' -- stories from her life that accompany her classes and represent the yogic commitments to ahimsa (non-violence), compassion, and service."

Usually when I pick up books based on yoga philosophy, all full of enthusiasm to absorb some yogic wisdom, I get lost after three pages and end up abandoning ship. Thankfully, this book was a very welcome exception.

Ruth writes with such simplicity, humor and authenticity that I was immediately drawn into each story. It was easy to see the connection to the Sanskrit verse with which the story began. By the end I felt like I had delved into the ancient texts of The Yoga Sutras and The Bhagavad Gita in a way I never had before and in a way that made sense to me. I'm hoping I can bring this new-found knowledge into my days and to my students.

What other books have helped you deepen your understanding of yoga philosophy in an easy and accessible way?

Beginner's Mind

October 6, 2009

by Hannah O'Reilly

corpes pose.jpg

This weekend I had the pleasure of teaching an Intro to Yoga workshop to a shiny, new crop of yogis. Some of them had never done yoga. Others had done yoga a bit but had never gotten the basics. And yet they all had one thing in common: they were super-eager to learn.

It was as if just by signing up for a workshop called "Intro" they had taken on the "Beginner's Mind" and embraced it. And oh what a wonderful thing that was.

In case you're not familiar, we often refer to a "Beginner's Mind" in yoga as that space where you examine everything as if it were new. By opening ourselves up to the possibility that there is always something new to learn (even when you have done the "same" downward facing dog a thousand times) all kinds of things can shift and change and evolve.

I found myself inspired by my beginners. Not only were they discovering yoga with all of its possibilities but they were so open and receptive to everything I (and yoga) had to offer. I found myself wanting to give as much of myself as I possibly could. I wanted to learn more and absorb with the same openness and fearlessness that they were exhibiting.

And so, my beginners, for this I thank you. And I ask you, my readers, where could you benefit from applying your Beginner's Mind?

The Secret to Adjusting

October 1, 2009

by Hannah O'Reilly


Since I began teaching I've been on a quest to learn the secret to adjusting. Until last weekend, it hadn't gone so well.

I've been down many avenues on this quest: I learned a bit in teacher training ("adjusting basics", which I then promptly forgot in favor of pose names and sequences); I've bought "adjusting" books (its hard to learn hands-on from a sheet of paper); I've attended short "adjusting" trainings (they didn't quite get into what I was seeking); I've assisted other teachers (I was free to give all the adjustments I wanted but I was never quite sure what those should be). None of them measured up to what I was hoping to learn.

And then last weekend I had the pleasure of attending a Thai Yoga Massage workshop led by Jonas Westring, (Anusara Yoga Instructor, Therapeutic Bodyworker, and owner of Shantaya Yoga and Bodywork School).

I have to admit, when I signed up I thought the workshop would be informative but have very little to do with my yoga teaching. It was obvious from the first sequence that I was dead wrong. Turns out I had discovered the secret to all of those fantastic, deep, yummy adjustments that I have been longing to learn.

After just one day with Jonas I left equipped with clear insight into how to adjust the body, be sensitive to what is going on with my students' bodies, and to take care of myself while I'm adjusting. It was an invaluable experience that left me feeling like I had finally found a practice that could deeply change not only the way I adjust but how I interact with my students and their practice. I can't wait to learn more.

To get a taste of some Thai Yoga Massage adjustments check out Saul David Raye's article: Get in Touch.

Your Yoga Teacher's Headshot: Is it Up to Snuff?

September 24, 2009

by Hannah O'Reilly

As a yogi I try to keep my crankiness to a minimum. But I have to say, nothing puts me on the cranky-train faster than a poorly done yoga teacher headshot.

You know the ones - where your favorite yoga teacher (who is cute as a button and radiates sunshine) looks like a blurred-out, fuzzy mess who quite possibly has just finished an all night bar crawl with her ten closest friends (who are of course whooping it up in the background of the tiny image.)

Or the one where your teacher is twisted up so far into a pretzel that you are not sure where her legs end and her head begins and you just want to look away because, frankly, that looks like it hurts and you just don't want that to happen to you because you quite possibly will get stuck. Forever.

Come on folks. Let's get our headshots together.

Often a yoga teacher's headshot is the first thing that you will see when deciding if you want to take your class. Wouldn't a happy, meditative, in-focus yogi convince you to take a class more than a lot of the pictures out there?

I beg of you - if you are a student and your yoga teacher's headshot is just not up to par, let them know. Take a snapshot yourself if you must. You'll be helping them, I promise.

And if you are a teacher - take a quick look. What is your headshot saying about you?

For articles with some lovely headshots check out our Yoga Mentor Experts.

Where to Teach

September 22, 2009

by Hannah O'Reilly


Recently a friend and newly anointed yoga teacher asked me for advice on how to pick a yoga studio to teach at. I thought it was a great question from a newbie since I see so many new teachers salivate over ANY class they can call their own, even if it's at 4:30am AND 20 miles outside of town AND they have to pay for cleaning AND the list goes on...

After several years of trial and error I think the best way to ensure success is to make sure you consider all aspects of any teaching opportunity:

Do you like the studio & its students? A studio you teach at should be a place you feel at home in and you would want to practice there yourself. Every studio has a very different personality so some will fit and some just won't.

Do you like the owner? The owner/management has so much influence on a studio and your experience in it. Make sure your personalities mesh before committing to a class

Do people like working there? Talk to other teachers and get their experience.

Are you going to get a time slot that works well? While it can be good experience when you're starting out to get any slot (especially at a studio you really want to teach at), it can also be a real bummer to show up and have just a few students (or none at all some days). Figure out what attendance that slot currently gets and what you are willing to live with.

What don't you know yet? Do you get paid per student or a flat-fee? Is there a minimum you will be paid or if you show up and no-one else does do you go home empty-handed? Do they take anything out of your pay per month (like insurance or a cleaning fee)? Are you required to have liability insurance on your own? How often are you paid? Do they have front desk people working or do you have to sign people in? How early are you expected to be there for your class? Are you responsible for getting your own subs? Is there a sub list or can you get anyone to sub? What is the process? Are there any other things you will be expected to do?

For those more seasoned teachers out there—what else do you consider before committing to a new studio or new class?

Need ideas on how to get your chosen studio to notice you? Learn how to catch a studio's attention.

To Plan or Not to Plan

September 18, 2009

by Hannah O'Reilly


That is the questions I ask myself each week as I start to think about my classes. Some weeks the answer is a clear "yes" and I will plan a class around a pose, a sequence, a story, or even a feeling. And some weeks it feels better to just, well, go with the flow.

Yet, I still wonder what the right balance is between planning and spontaneity. As a student or a teacher. which approach do you prefer? Or do you even notice a difference from your blissful place on the mat?

To read more on this topic, go to Yoga Journal's article, "What's Your Plan?"

Let Sleeping Yogis Lie?

September 15, 2009

by Hannah O'Reilly

corpes pose.jpg

I've been noticing lately that a lot of my yogis are falling asleep in Savasana. Even snoring sometimes. Whereas in most other "classrooms" I'd be slightly offended if my students fell asleep on me, I am choosing to take this as a compliment.

But it's got me thinking: is sending your students into blissful slumber a desired effect of savasana? Have I helped them to get a snippet of deserved rest that they most clearly need? Or have I pushed them over the edge from mindfulness to unconsciousness?

It reminds me of a friend asking a similar question in our teacher training program: "What do I do if a student falls asleep?" Our teacher Stephanie Snyder had a response that I loved: "God bless them—they're tired! Let them sleep."

And so let them sleep I do. Hopefully my students will thank me for it... when they wake up that is.

I am a Yoga Teacher

September 10, 2009

by Hannah O'Reilly

Four years ago I graduated from yoga teacher training and was declared, officially, a "yoga teacher".

I have to admit that declaration scared me to death. Did I know enough to teach? Had I absorbed enough alignment, anatomy, physiology, philosophy, sequencing and Sanskrit to really teach others? What I be a fabulous success or a total flop the first time I stood in front of a group of brand new, paying (!) students? Yup, I was scared. But as all of us "teachers" do, I went out and I taught. Because I knew deep down that I love yoga and I had to share this joy with others.

Now, four years later, I have noticed a shift. I feel confident in telling others that I am a yoga teacher. I no longer shake (yes, literally shake) when I stand in front of a group of students. I am more able to pour my heart and soul and love of yoga into my teachings. But some days, those questions still crop up. And, not surprisingly, a whole new crop of questions has emerged, big and small. What voice do I want to express in my yoga teachings? Do I use music or not? Should I adjust alot or a little?

I am very excited to be writing for Yoga Journal's
Teacher Tells All blog so that I can explore these questions and more with all of you.

I will be so grateful if you will post any questions, comments, advice, or words of encouragement below. Let's form a teaching community and get our questions answered so that we can go out and shout from the rooftops:

I am a Yoga Teacher.

To follow me on my journey please keep reading.

Meet Hannah

September 9, 2009

by Hannah O'Reilly

hannah-oreilly.jpgHannah O'Reilly is Yoga Journal's Online Production Manager by day and a San Francisco Flow Yoga Teacher by night (and sometimes early morning). She simply loves yoga and wants to share it with as many people—in as many ways—as she can. She is thrilled to be contributing to Yoga Journal's Teacher Tells All blog as a new way for her to talk about and form community around yoga.

As a yoga teacher, Hannah is known for her joyful spirit, flowing movement, focus on the breath, and occasionally, some kick-your-butt ab work. Hannah pulls yogic inspiration from far and wide including yoga teachers Stephanie Snyder and Jason Crandell, San Francisco city life and (more often than you might care to know) reality tv. She encourages lightheartedness on and off the mat and finds laughter every day playing with her pup Zeke. For more information about Hannah please visit her website or become a fan of Hannah Yoga on Facebook.

Learning When to Shut Up

December 19, 2008

by Erica Rodefer

Have you ever noticed that yoga teachers really LOVE it when students ask them questions they know an answer for? I haven't quite figured out if we just get questions we don't have answers for so often that we get a little too excited when we actually have a response that might be useful to someone or if it's just an ego thing, but I've been in way too many classes where teachers have just gone on and on (and on) answering one student's question while everyone else sat silently, staring at their toes.

"Oh! You have SI issues! Allow me to tell you (and everyone else waiting for class to begin) EVERYTHING i know about the SI Joint! ... You see, I was reading my anatomy book last week when my SI joint flared up and I found out that sometimes it has to do with a tight psoas. Then I talked to my physical therapist about it .... Let's have you march in place for a minute, so I can show you (and, again, everyone else in the room) what I know."

At this point, all of the other students are waiting politely and genuinely trying to get something out of the demonstration (even though it has nothing to do with them at all), and the poor student who asked the question wants to crawl under a rock. I know this because I ask a lot of questions.

Sometimes the lessons you learn from other teachers aren't particularly positive. Sometimes you learn what NOT to do. As a teacher, I intend to answer only the question that was asked of me, and in a succinct fashion. There is such a thing as too much information.

What things have you learned NOT to do from your teachers?

P.S. Here's an article from Yoga Journal's My Yoga Mentor email newsletter about incorporating silence into your teaching. Silence as a Teaching Tool (

When to Teach a Pose You Hate

October 27, 2008

by Erica Rodefer

There are many poses I avoid teaching to my class because the poses are too advanced for the students. And then there are those poses that I omit because, well, I hate them. These are the poses that when they come around in classes that I'm a student, seem like the perfect opportunity to take a break to adjust my pony tail or my yoga pants because that will cut the pose short by at least a breath or two. Then, when I actually make it into the pose, I might be so uncomfortable and frustrated by it I'll mumble profanities under my breath (or at least in my head).

It's not that I intentionally leave out Revolved Triangle and Revolved Half Moon Pose from my class sequences. It's just that when I'm teaching, my mind tends to go to poses that I think would feel good in the moment, and I never think those poses feel good.

I think there are valid reasons for not teaching poses that are like torture. First of all, the last thing I want to do is pass on my disdain for a pose to a group of students who haven't had enough experience with it to form an opinion. And since I don't practice those poses much myself, I may not be able to guide others to find the essence of the pose.

However, if I always omit poses I don't like, my students might never get to experience them—and the joys and frustrations that come with them. I could be depriving them of a pose they desperately need!

So I'm wondering, how do you know when you should teach a pose you hate and when to skip it?

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