Exclusive for YJ Readers: Tara Stiles’ Swiss Alps-Inspired Sequence

As you probably noticed when planning your summer vacation, hotel yoga is definitely a thing right now, and Tara Stiles is ahead of the trend (of course). Yoga Journal’s August cover model and the founder of NYC’s Strala Yoga just hosted the first FIT with Tara Stiles Retreat package at W Verbier in the Swiss Alps, where she shot these five poses exclusively for Yoga Journal readers. “These poses will get you refreshed like an exotic getaway in just a few deep breaths,” she promises. Read on for a virtual “retreat” with Stiles and try not to salivate over the gorgeous scenery.

swaying forest

Swaying Forest
“Why be a lone tree when you can sway in the forest? This pose celebrates the diversity in trees,” Stiles says. “All the trees are different, keeping the forest interesting. Use your friends for support. Stay easy and enjoy.”

How to do it: Come into Tree Pose (Vrksasana) by shifting your weight onto one leg and press your opposite foot into your thigh. Grab hands with friends and enjoy the breeze.

celebrate nature opener

Respect Mother Nature
“We get so busy in our day-to-day life that we forget we are part of nature, and nature is gorgeous,” Stiles says. “This pose helps us open up and appreciate the outdoors, and respect our natural state.”

How to do it: Come into Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana) with your back knee down. Extend your arms up and back. Open the front of your body. Take a big deep breath and enjoy all you see and all you are.

mountain warrior
Mountain Warrior
“If you climb a mountain—or let’s be honest, get driven up one—to do yoga, your inner warrior comes out. This pose reminds us of our inner strength that is reflected by the strong, constant mountains,” Stiles says.

How to do it: To come into Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II) step your feet wide apart. Turn your front toes out and your back toes slightly in. Sink your hips low. Extend your arms out to the sides as you gaze over your front hand. Enjoy your power.

Queen Bee Guard

Proud Queen Bee
Yoga in a beekeeping mask? Only in Verbier! “It was really cool,” Stiles says of touring a bee colony. “We learned all about how the queen bees and the bee ‘police’ protect the colonies. This pose represents the Queen Bee and her power of protection. Whip it out when you need to remind yourself that you’ve got this.”

How to do it: Come into Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose (Utthita Hasta Padangustasana) by shifting your weight onto one leg. Grab the heel of your opposite foot and extend your leg out to the side. Open your opposite arm out to the side for balance.

repelling side stretch

Rappelling Side Stretch
“If you dream of an active vacation, rappelling off a mountain might just be for you. This pose gets your body warmed up and comfortable playing with the push-pull of opposites, so you can be in tip-top physical and mental form for all of your adventures,” Stiles says.

How to do it: Come into Mountain Warrior. Tip back and extend your front leg. Hang here for a few breaths and try the other side.

Planning your next active vacation? Book yourself a yoga adventure with Tara Stiles at W Vieques Island, W Bali-Seminyak or W Maldives at whotels.com/fitwithtarastiles. Follow @WHotels and @tarastiles on Twitter and Instagram using #PoseWhenever.

–Jennifer D’Angelo Friedman

In Partnership With lululemon: 5 Leadership Lessons Learned Owning a Yoga Studio

Garden State Yoga's Seth Weisberg

Practicing yoga on the mat is one thing, but doing so at the negotiation table flanked by lawyers and high stakes is quite another. Especially when those stakes involve honoring the trust of a devoted local yoga community and anxiety about the future of a beloved studio as it changes hands. Yet when Seth Weisberg sold his trio of New Jersey Garden State Yoga studios to Power Flow Yoga owner Jerry LePore in early July, his attorney remarked that he’d never seen two parties so committed to doing right by each other.

“Yoga’s not just about posture, it’s about acting a certain way,” says Weisberg. “I think we were both in the same mindset.”

That’s not to say creating, running, and eventually selling his labor of love was all deep breaths and mindfulness. We asked Weisberg, who launched his first Baptiste-style power vinyasa studio in 2008, what he learned about leadership in his six years as a studio owner.

1. Cultivate community.
“When we started out, we really wanted to create the right feeling so we didn’t charge for towels or mat rentals and did things like allowing people to share 10-packs with spouses. It created a great sense of community. Right from the get-go, I knew that was important to me, but [now] I think it’s possibly the biggest draw to yoga as a whole.”

2. But you can’t please everyone.
“Our goal really, truly was to try and help everybody involved as much as possible. I’m not sure we ever said ‘no’ to a teacher looking for more money…and we put so many classes on the schedule to try to accommodate every student. A yoga studio is a tough balance, being that it’s a business and you’re paying bills, but you want to do it the right way; you don’t want to be greedy.”

3. Be honest, even when it’s hard.
“A mentor once said to me, ‘Seth, if you’re always telling the truth, you never have to worry about what you’re saying.’ I live by that.”

4. Mistakes are excellent teachers. 
“I’ve made massive mistakes. The biggest was opening spaces that were too big, and even opening multiple locations may have been a mistake. (If we’d just kept one, the concern over potentially losing money would have been smaller.) But it was a great lesson because I realized you don’t necessarily have to create something large to make it special.”

5. Find your center—again and again.
“Owning a business took away from my own practice—it was just too challenging to be in the room and not be in my own head. I realized that was my yoga, that’s what I needed to get over. [In fact] I’m constantly learning from my dog: He’s got good moments, he’s got bad moments, but he always comes back to the center. ”

Join the conversation in progress on Facebook and sign up for our next Leadership experience here.

—Jasmine Moir

Free Wisdom from Yoga Luminaries, No Travel Required? We’ll Take It

Seane Corn Hala Khouri Suzanne Sterling

If your budget is holding you back from booking a yoga retreat or workshop with a big-name instructor, how’s next week look? The good people at The Shift Network, which hosts online events aimed at personal and global evolution, have a treat for you. Their first-ever yoga tele-summit starts Monday, is completely free, and sounds pretty awesome.

Jam-packed with some of YJ’s favorite yogis, the summit will offer something for everyone, says host Laura Cornell, PhD, founder of Divine Feminine Yoga. “We really wanted to show how diverse yoga is,” she says. “We have fiery activists like Seane Corn who’s just so passionate and has so many words to get out there and then Deva Premal who has so few words but is just so full of love.”

Maybe you DIY your own workshop: Start with a home practice then call or log in to hear Shiva Rea speak on activism, Cyndi Lee talk on how yoga is going wider not deeper, or Scott Blossom and Chandra Easton discuss yoga and relationships.

“The future of yoga” is the summit’s underlying theme, and Cornell wants the speakers to suss out where the digital age is leading the community. “There’s this feeling of global oneness and this opportunity to learn online,” Cornell says, noting the summit will feature live speakers from India and Greece. “But it also can be abused. We have to kind of recalibrate how we want to live our lives, because we would never go back and say we’re not going to put yoga in books. That was a great opportunity, but what is the opportunity for yoga on the Internet? And what is the boundary?”

Register for free and check out the full program of sessions offered live Monday through Wednesday and for 48 hours after.

—Jessica Levine

Perspective Shift: How Shooting a Yoga Festival Changed My Practice

“Yoga is Relationship.” —T.K.V. Desikachar

A yoga practice teaches us to observe the internal flux of the body. Photography teaches us to observe the external flux of the world around us. Doing both at the same time can either create a bewildering competition between two divergent perspectives or an acute sense of union between internal and external worlds.

hanuman yoga festival huge class

This summer, I shot photography for Hanuman Festival, one of the nation’s fastest growing yoga events. Rather than act as a traditional festival photographer, tip-toeing the perimeter of the tent while capturing freeze-frames of the class, they asked me to try a new approach and take photographs from within the class, on my mat, while simultaneously twisting, inverting, and sweating with all the other yogis in the room.

yoga pose feet sianna sherman locust

At first it was disorienting. While trying to engage in my own practice, I would look up to see the teacher giving a beautiful adjustment to a student behind me, or I’d catch the live kirtan musician framed between the outstretched arms of someone’s Tadasana, all while my camera lay untouched beside my mat. At other times I found myself attached to my camera, waiting for a good moment to snap a poster-worthy picture while the rest of the class connected to their breath through mindful vinyasa. In Ani Difranco’s song “As Is,” Ani says “When I look down I miss all the good stuff/when I look up I just trip over things.” This is exactly how I felt.

Finally, I wondered if maybe all I needed to do was redirect my drishti, or focus, as we are so often told to do in balancing postures. Drishti not only refers to focus, but also means intelligence. By taking photos from the mat, I had the opportunity to develop an awareness of the teacher’s style and the class’s energy level, and shoot more intelligently than I could on the sideline. As soon as I realized this unique opportunity, my experience changed.

I began to tune in to the energy of the teacher and observe the flow of the class. In this way I could anticipate what was coming and react mindfully by quickly and quietly picking up my camera for a good photo opportunity, or joining the rest of the group during grounding, meditative pauses. My bindu—Sanskrit for “seed” or “point” and referring to the place where all energies are focused—eventually stopped shifting back and forth from my first-person practitioner-self to my third-person photographer-observer. Rather it began to encompass both, as I experienced myself as a part of the larger whole of the class. Through this exercise, I discovered the “union” that is the namesake of the word yoga, uniting my individual experience to the collective experience of the class.

sianna sherman teaches backbend yoga pose

Back in my home studio, although I’m no longer carrying two cameras and a media badge into my yoga classes, I do carry the lessons I learned as an on-mat photographer by drawing upon the collective energy of the group to enhance and inspire my own movements.

three women in down dog moon pants

3 Ways to Shift Your Perspective

1. Practice Listening. Tune into the steady Ujjayi breath of your neighbor or notice the harmonic quality of a shared om. When your own practice feels stale or lethargic, allow the sounds of the community around you to rejuvenate your body.

2. Choose Inspiration over Comparison. After photographing other yogis on the mat, instead of being jealous of a neighbor’s Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (a pose that may not be in store for me this lifetime), I am newly awed at the beauty of the human body. By observing a neighbor in a more advanced posture, we can develop a clearer vision of how to achieve that shape in our own bodies.

3. Focus on Transitions. “Think of your practice not as a series of disjointed poses, but rather one pose,” advises renowned yoga teacher Seane Corne. “Move through them with your breath to encounter passion, love and forgiveness.”

yoga hands practice tent casey coviello

—Casey Coviello

Calmtivity Yoga Takes a Bite Out of Hollywood

Even if you’re tired of seeing celebrity “yogis” all over Instagram, you can’t help but be inspired by Nina Dobrev, the Vampire Diaries starlet whose pose pics are so pretty they belong on the cover of Yoga Journal. Check out this recent post for evidence:

Inspired by Dobrev’s gorgeous Wheel Pose (@ninadobrev) and her accompanying caption—”Absolutely the best way to get the day started #yoga” (we couldn’t agree more)—we tracked down her teacher Jason Anderson, a former professional basketball player who became a yoga teacher after studying with Bethany Vaughn at Atlanta Hot Yoga in 2008. Anderson (@calmtivity2), who now teaches Vinyasa flow at Atlanta Hot Yoga and has also worked with Dobrev’s Vampire Diaries co-star Ian Somerhalder as well as Julianne Hough, trains 25-year-old Dobrev using his “Calmtivity” method, or what he calls a “cool flow” with the goal of training your body to keep its composure no matter what. 

2013 CW Upfront Presentation - Arrivals  Featuring: Nina Dobrev Where: Manhattan, NY, United States When: 16 May 2013 Credit: Iv

“Nina’s movements and transitions have become as graceful as a jaguar,” Anderson says. “When she marinates in poses, she keeps the most relaxed face even in the face of great challenge.” Anderson has worked with Dobrev two to three times a week for the past four years, a regular practice that helps keep her “calm” inside and outside of the studio. “Whatever is happening in her life off the mat, she never brings it to the mat,” he adds.

Below, Anderson demonstrates some of Dobrev’s favorite poses, and gives the calm, cool “Calmtivity” take on each.

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Warm-Up: Honoring the Sun

Start standing at the top of your mat in Mountain Pose (Tadasana). Inhale, sweep your arms to the sky and exhale, fold into Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana). Inhale, step your right foot back only. Bring your right knee down, let your hips sink toward your left heel and send your arms up to the sky in a Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)—all in one inhale. Then exhale to Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga) or a modification and inhale to high Cobra (Bhujangasana) or Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana). Exhale to Downward-Facing Dog. Next, inhale and lift the right leg up toward the sky and exhale as you step it through your hands, place your left knee down and let your hips sink toward your right heel. Inhale your arms toward the sky into Low Lunge. Exhale into Standing Forward Bend. Inhale, roll all the way up to Mountain Pose. Exhale and repeat, stepping your left foot back first. Complete 5 rounds.

THE CALMTIVITY TAKE: “This is a great way to calm the mind, quicken the blood and warm the body for the heart of the practice,” Anderson says.

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Standing Pose Vinyasas with Knee Coils 

Flow through: High Lunge, Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II), Triangle Pose (Trikonasana), Side Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana), Wide-Legged Forward Bend (Prasarita Padottanasana) and Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III). Hold each pose for 3 breaths with intention, follow with a vinyasa, and repeat on the opposite side. Each time you step up to take the next standing pose, do “knee coils”: From Downward-Facing Dog, lift one leg, draw the knee toward your forehead, coiling your spine and tucking your chin toward your knee. Re-extend your leg repeating 3 times before stepping forward for the next standing pose.

THE CALMTIVITY TAKE: ”Plant strong for security and stability while moving with no hesitation and freedom of expression.”


Eagle Pose (Garudasana)

Take 2 to 5 breaths in Downward-Facing Dog, then walk your hands toward your feet until you are at the back of your mat. Relax in Standing Forward Bend for a moment or two, then gracefully inhale and roll all the way up, reaching for the sun to get ready for Eagle Pose. Once your arms are up toward the sky, exhale your arms out to shoulder height. Inhale your right arm under your left arm and exhale to intertwine the forearms. Inhale and lift your elbows. Exhale, sit down and inhale your right knee high. Exhale to cross over your thigh and maybe wrap your foot around. Draw your left hip back to square your hips and press your forearms and inner thighs together for stability. Take 3 breaths with intention and inhale to release the pose reaching your arms up and exhaling to the left side.

THE CALMTIVITY TAKE: ”Eagle Pose opens up all of the major joints, plus the balance aspect teaches us if you lose balance, it’s cool. Whatever happens just happens.”

photo 3-3

Dolphin Plank + Plank Pose

After you complete your last Eagle Pose, exhale and fold forward. Inhale, walk your hands forward to Plank and exhale to Downward-Facing Dog. Take 2 breaths in Down Dog. Inhale to Plank Pose. As you exhale, lower your left forearm, then your right forearm down to Dolphin Plank Pose. As you inhale, press your right hand up to Plank then your left hand up to Plank. Do 5 rounds, then press back to Downward-Facing Dog or Child’s Pose to rest. After you rest, do 5 more rounds starting with the right forearm.

THE CALMTIVITY TAKE: ”These really tone and empower the core, changing from highs to lows gracefully with strength and composure.”

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Lower all the way down and lay on your belly. After you rest, do 2 rounds of Cobra (Bhujangasana). Next, Locust Pose (Salabhasana). Rest, lying down flat between each pose, rocking your hips from side to side. From there, inhale to Cobra or Upward-Facing Dog.

THE CALMTIVITY TAKE: ”Allow the heart to expand and open to allow what no longer serves us to pass through and exit for liberation.”

photo 2

Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

From Downward-Facing Dog, place your right knee on the mat behind your right wrist in line with your right hip and your right heel in line with your left hip. Your left leg extends back behind you with your knee and the top of your foot facing down. From there, lower your torso toward the mat. Hold for 10 breaths then repeat on the other side.

THE CALMTIVITY TAKE: ”Pigeon teaches us to surrender our fight with gravity, letting go of negative energies such as fear and guilt.”


Reclining Supine Twist

After Pigeon, come back into down Downward-Facing Dog, then place your knees on the mat and come onto all fours. From there, walk your knees to the back of your wrists. Sweep the legs out to the side and come into a seated position to lie on your back. From there, hug your knees into your chest to lengthen your lower back. Then place your feet down on the mat. Press through your feet just to shift your hips to the left, but let your knees fall to the right in an easy twist. Keep both shoulders down and either keep your face toward the sky or turn your head to face the opposite direction of your knees, whichever is most comfortable. On each exhalation, surrender to gravity. Take 5 breaths and switch to repeat on the other side.

THE CALMTIVITY TAKE: ”This is another surrender pose to help us identify anxiety with an inhale and release it with an exhale.”


Corpse Pose (Savasana)

Lie down on your back, stretching your arms our away from your thighs with your palms up. Take easy breaths and stay here for 10 to 15 minutes.

THE CALMTIVITY TAKE: ”It’s time to rest and cure ourselves of fatigue before our next journey.”

—Dana Meltzer Zepeda

Soul Surfing: 5 Yoga Poses to Help You Catch More Waves

Yoga poses that build core AND make you a better surfer? We’ll take ‘em.

Vinyasa teacher Cristi Christensen, co-founder of Yoga Surf Camp, a 180-minute workshop that combines beachfront yoga with surf lessons at Exhale Center for Sacred Movement in Venice, Calif., says yoga is the perfect complement to catching waves. In fact, many pro surfers (including Laird Hamilton and 11-time world champion Kelly Slater) swear by yoga as their secret weapon.

“Yoga helps to increase flexibility, improve balance and gain core strength and awareness,” and a strong core is the perfect starting point for surfing, says Christensen. “Yoga teaches us presence to remain calm and to return to our breath again and again no matter what the outside circumstances, all tremendous skills to have while out in the water.”

Are you new to surfing or an experienced board babe? Either way, adding these 5 poses to your regular practice will help you reap big rewards on and off the beach:


Goddess Pose with Eagle Arms
Step your feet approximately three feet apart. Turn your toes out approximately 45 degrees and spin your heels in. On an exhale, start to bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Make sure your knees are over the center of your foot. Raise your arms straight ahead to shoulder height, palms facing one another. Cross your right arm on top of the left and bend and hook your elbows. The backs of your hand reach for one another or wrap around your wrists. On an inhale, lift your forearms up a few inches and, on an exhale, reach the forearms away from you, spreading your shoulders on your back. Engage your core by drawing your navel in and up, and add this pulsing rhythm into your legs as well. Inhale, straighten the legs a few inches, exhale, sit deeper as the hips lower toward thigh height. Repeat the pulsing arms and legs simultaneously for 5 to 7 breaths. After the last one, slowly free the arms and straighten the legs. Repeat on the other side.



Warrior II to Side Angle Pose
Step your feet wide apart and raise your arms up to shoulder height. Your wrists should line up over your ankles. Turn your right foot out 90 degrees and turn your left foot perpendicular to the right. Inhale, engage your core and exhale bend into the right knee. Be sure that your knee is gently pressing open and tracks over the center of your foot. Bring your attention to your back foot now and ground the outer edge of your foot up the entire leg (stay here for 3 breaths). On your next exhale, bring your right forearm to your thigh and stretch and reach your left arm up to the sky. Lengthen the sides of your body while turning the underbelly of your waist and chest up to the sky. Breathe into the sides of the body and the entire length of your spine for 3 to 5 deep breaths. Repeat on the left side.


Plank Pose
Plank is an excellent pose for gaining strength and stability in your core and your shoulders. This will help you build the power for your pop-ups (surf-ese for getting on your feet). Start on all fours, placing your hands directly under your shoulders. Gently spread your fingers apart, grounding all four corners of your palms. Tuck your toes under and lift up behind your knees to straighten your legs. You want your hips and shoulders at approximately the same height. Draw your abdominal wall up to support the entire length of your spine. Your tailbone lengthens in the direction of your heels as your pubic bone moves toward your navel and your navel extends toward your heart. Keep your neck long and breathe. Start with 30 seconds and build up to 90.


Anahatasana (Heart Chakra Pose)
Start on all fours and begin to walk your arms forward, lowering your chest and forehead toward the ground. Keep your hips right above your knees. If there is no pain in the shoulders, press into the palms, lift the forearms up off the ground and melt the back of the heart. Remain in the pose for 5 breaths.


Locust Pose (Salabhasana)
Lie on your belly and place your hands right under your shoulders. Your legs are either together with the ankles touching or hips-distance apart. Lengthen your buttocks toward your heels and extend and reach through your legs and spread your toes. Inhale and, on an exhale, press the pelvis down and lift your hands, chest and feet off the ground. Lift with the whole of the spine not just from the back of your neck and keep the legs active and strong. This will help keep space in your lower back and keep you from compressing and jamming up the lower back. Try coming up and down for 3 rounds on your breath. Inhale up, exhale to lower and, on the 3rd round, hold the lifted posture for more breaths.

–Dana Meltzer Zepeda

5 Things to Consider on Body Image for Yoga’s Community Leaders


When I started writing about the intersection between yoga and body image in 2010, it was to share how yoga had made a positive impact on my body image—one that had been toxic and negative most of my life. It’s a stance that I continue to take: yoga can re-connect us to our bodies and return us to ourselves in compassion, humility, grace, love and forgiveness.

But, the conversation was complicated, and still is. The mainstreaming of yoga started around 2000 (five years before Chuck Miller and Maty Ezraty sold Yoga Works to AskJeeves.com). The practice passed through the filter of popular culture. As a result, and as a way to remain competitive (not to mention capitalize on yoga’s increased popularity and access to a larger market), Yoga Journal covers changed, advertisements of an increasing number of yoga products increased and reflected the marketing tactics employed by many of the high-end fashion magazines, the emergence of the yoga celebrity and the cult of personality flourished, as well as the styles and “brands” of yoga taught.

In the process, “contemporary” yoga culture emerged and it became imperative to distinguish between yoga practice and yoga culture (as well as the business and branding of yoga) – they are not the same. Yoga culture began to look like our celebrity-obsessed, white-washed, size-zero pop culture with a bit of “spirituality” thrown in the mix.

And, unfortunately, the visual representation of the “yoga body” and what a “yogi” is in yoga publications and on social media, mimic the sterile, homogenous and one-dimensional images of beauty in mainstream culture. Yet those images are not benign. They marginalize many members of the yoga community and elevate one “yoga body” over all others.

The frustration of some members of the yoga community has brought various corporations, publications and public figures under fire for perpetuating these stereotypes and fueling body-image anxiety.

On July 12, lululemon and Yoga Journal came to the table at The Practice of Leadership panel discussion at YJLIVE! in San Diego to discuss the relationship between yoga culture and body image. The main goal: to examine the current representation of yogis and yoga bodies, the effects of imagery, and what can be done to create positive change for the yoga community as a whole.

There’s no doubt in my mind that this represents a water-shed moment in yoga culture. And, while people may remain skeptical about the motives behind this conversation, this is a brave and courageous move to continue to build on.

Based on our dialogue, here are my 5 things to consider as we move forward:

1.      Conscious conversation: It is possible to navigate uncomfortable topics and conflict with compassion and courage. And, as a “conscious community,” it’s up to us to live our practice by showing up and engaging with respect, humanity, and curiosity. Panel moderators, Kerri Kelley and Hala Khouri, set the groundwork and tone for a conversation that I view as successful and productive. In future conversations, we can continue to ask ourselves how to approach conflict and be authentic in the process.

2.      How do we define yoga?: Inevitably, in discussions about yoga and body image, we need to dissect what “yoga” means. Asana? Meditation? Awareness? While I don’t propose to have the complete answer, I certainly have an opinion. And I do know not everything or anything can be called “yoga.” I also know not all yoga practices are taught in the same way or emphasize the same things. And when it comes to body image, practicing with a yoga teacher that (un)consciously touts the body (i.e. “bikini season”) as an incentive for doing more vinyasa, will not make a positive impact. In fact, yoga classes like these, that emulate fitness rhetoric, can actually exacerbate body dissatisfaction.

3.      Conscious community and responsibility: What is the role and responsibility of the yoga teacher in facilitating safe, body-positive spaces? What is the role and responsibility of yoga publications and corporations in creating and disseminating inclusive and diverse representations of yogis and the yoga body? Which teachers are most heavily promoted? Is it because of their marketability, skill or knowledge? What images do we as yoga teachers and practitioners share on social media? Do we only post and share images of flexible, thin and toned bodies or do we promote a diverse range of images? We all create the yoga culture and we can all turn the tide.

4.      How do we define “health”? In promoting yoga as the key to a “healthy” lifestyle, how many fallacies, inaccuracies and stereotypes do we perpetuate when we focus on a body type that statistically represents only 5% of the population? Are we equating “health” with weight, BMI, flexibility, strength, or absence of disease? Too often, people, including yoga practitioners, undermine their health in its pursuit. How can we continue promoting wellness and “health” while increasing the range of diversity we feature and celebrate?

5.      Authentic inspiration: In discussing aspirational marketing, the panel agreed that authenticity is what is most inspiring, beautiful and powerful. And in focusing on authentic representations of beauty, power and sensuality, we’ll be able to create fully-dimensional and diverse imagery of yogis and the yoga body that promote inclusivity, self-love and acceptance.

Melanie Klein, M.A., is a writer, speaker and Associate Faculty member at Santa Monica College teaching Sociology and Women’s Studies. She is a contributing author in 21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics and Practice and is featured in Conversations with Modern Yogis. She is the co-editor of Yoga and Body Image: 25 Personal Stories About Beauty, Bravery + Loving Your Body, and co-founder of the Yoga and Body Image Coalition.

See more on our Practice of Leadership Panel:

Yoga’s Evolving Body Image: A Call to Action from Justin Michael Williams

Wrap Up: Sociologist Kimberly Dark on the Practice of Leadership Panel

Out There: Yoga for Lawyers


Can yoga make lawyers better at their jobs? Yes, according to a new book from American Bar Association Book Publishing.

Yoga for Lawyers: Mind-Body Techniques to Feel Better All the Time is filled with basic asana and meditation instructions to help attorneys lower their stress levels and stay on task. Many of the poses can be practiced at the office or while taking a break in court. There’s “Desk Dog”—an office-friendly version of Downward-Facing Dog, where you put your hands on a desk instead of the floor—and seated Camel or Fish Poses that can be done in your desk chair. The meditations are short and simple, such as staring at a thumbtack on the wall for one minute without blinking.

“A little practice always changes my day for the better and makes me more productive, not to mention happier,” says coauthor Nathalie Martin, a law professor at the University of New Mexico School of Law. She hopes her book will bring lawyers a calmer, clearer mind, a more open heart, and a heightened ability to communicate and control their emotions.

What: Yoga for Lawyers: Mind-Body Techniques to Feel Better All the Time

Where: Purchase the book at the American Bar Association website.

Cost: $29.95

How Cupcake Hands Saved My Vinyasa: Learning to Flow Again with Annie Carpenter



I’m seriously questioning why I signed up for a Sun Salutation Lab at Yoga Journal LIVE! in San Diego. I’ve hardly practiced Surya Namaskar since I injured my rotator cuff in those very poses. And, as exhilarated as I used to feel after flowing, my wrists just plain hurt. I blamed it on thin bones, maybe age, and switched to Iyengar.

Here comes Annie Carpenter, a master vinyasa teacher with a personality as bright as the sun and a stature slender like a flamingo. There goes my theory. She asks the class if we have sensitive wrists, elbows or shoulders. Hands fly into the air.

“Perhaps even after four or five days of vinyasa in a row there’s fatigue or strong sensation in some of these joints,” says Carpenter, the creator of SmartFLOW Yoga. “Once you pass, let’s be general and say 30, I think that’s true. I don’t mean to imply you should stop doing vinyasa. I’m only 56 and I do it most days of the week!”

I’m in the right place. The key, she says, starts with cupcake hands. Really, straight from the mouth of Annie Carpenter who’s instructing us to do Child’s Pose on our fingertips like we have two giant cupcakes in our hands. The idea is to raise your palms completely off the mat as if the little confections are sitting precariously beneath them. I’m thinking Red Velvet with cream cheese frosting.

“It’s a tall cupcake!” she says to a chorus of muffled laughs, our hands clawing the earth in this exaggerated lock. “Oh no! There’s smashing of cupcakes.”

Who wants to smash a cupcake? Carpenter says she borrowed the tantalizing term from another teacher because it highlights an important reality; if we don’t have the ability to do a vinyasa on cupcake hands, we’re not getting proper lift of the forearms, armpits and core. If the front body doesn’t have that support we’re dumping on our wrists and shoulders. Check. We venture into Downward-Facing Dog—cradling those cupcakes. (Try it—it’s fun!) Then we move on to a more sustainable hand lock.

Hasta Bandha: While I’d previously been trying to press my palms flat on the mat, in Hasta Banda we suction up from the center palm so it’s no longer touching the mat. (Insert Carpenter’s suctioning sound effects here, closely related to the slurp.) Fingers are still pressing down and forward. Now we bring the mouth of the thumb and the mouth of the pinky in a tad to create a little canal between the two mounds of the hand. (The carpal tunnel to be exact.) Okay, keeping the canal open, stretch through the index finger. Feel the tendons in your forearms come online? If so, you’re having the lightbulb moment I did as my wrists become buoyant.

Not that it’s easy. “We’re tired already!” one student says before we’ve started flowing. Carpenter’s strategy is to get the foundation down before the weightier poses.

So next up is the shoulder girdle. She says it doesn’t change one iota between Standing Forward Bend and Upward-Facing Dog in your Sun Salutation. As Carpenter guides us through a round, a new horizon opens for my wrists and shoulders. Here are some tips that helped.


Ardha Uttanasana (Standing Half Forward Bend): Carpenter says if she could fix one Sun Salutation pose, this would be it! The main thing I was doing wrong is putting my fingertips on the earth, with a rounded back. Carpenter told those of us with rounded backs to bend our knees and place our hands on the side of the shins so the back flattens. (Putting hands on the fronts of the shins encourages legs to hyperextend.) Now, widen across the collarbones, extend through the heart, and pull the shoulder blades down so the neck lengthens. As those shoulder blades push into the chest, lift from the bottom of the sternum, and extend the top of the sternum forward. Keep the shoulders on the back where they belong.


Plank Pose: Bend your knees enough to place your hands on the floor and step into plank without changing your shoulders. At this point, Carpenter adjusts me by lifting my bottom sternum up so my torso rises. I’m out of my wrists and into my core power! (Shaking and all.)


Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose): Shift slightly forward into Chaturanga keeping the same shoulder actions: widen across collarbones, lift bottom ribs and bottom sternum up and back, slide shoulder blades down back. I’m doing a pose I’d avoided for the past year—pain-free! My hand lock is on and my core is solid.


Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog): Flowing into Upward Dog, Carpenter instructs us to move our feet back to keep the shoulders over the wrists, not in front of them. Reach back through the legs, she says, which both stacks the arms and keeps us out of the lower back. Now, pull the chest forward and push the floor away. Carpenter is tugging back on the feet of one yogi now sporting perfect Upward Dog form and a bright red face. Like I said, this is work—but it feels good.

“That’s why we do workshops like this, because you have old hawk eyes catching every little thing,” Carpenter says. “It’s nitpicky but if you get this, flowing is fun for many years to come.”

Carpenter is a shining example. I leave feeling a new dawn of Sun Salutations and gratitude for the sweetness of cupcake hands.

—Rebecca Tolin