Thursday, August 20, 2009


We went to Cannon Beach last weekend, just for the day - the girls, me and my husband. What a goregous place. Reminded me a lot of Del Mar, California where my husband and I met about 13 years ago.

On our way home, my husband and I were talking about how we would really like to move back to the beach someday. We were discussing how much we really miss that lifestyle. Isabella pipes up from the back seat, "So if you liked living at the beach so much, how come you moved?" Ouch...reality....right in the kisser.

Why did we move anyway? Let me be clear... we both know and understand that all choices made in our life leads us to the road we are meant to follow. Do we regret moving up here from sunny San Diego? Not even for a second. In the 6 years we have lived here we have made more friends, shared more stories and lived more than we could have ever imagined. But the question asked by this little angel deserved an answer. Honestly I didn't know what to say.

So I politely told her that we really wanted to see what it was like to live in the Pacific NW. We had lived at the beach for so long we wanted to see what it would be like to live where there were four seasons, a snowy Christmas and mountains visible from every window of our house. That seemed to appease her curiosity but the question still rang in my head. Why did we move up here? I LOVE San Diego!

My husband and I have always been ... non traditionalists. We were living the "life" back in San Diego. We had an 800 square foot apartment, garage sale furniture, 4 blocks from the beach, no debt and a lifestyle that allowed us to travel every year to exotic places. Then we had Isabella and it all changed for some odd reason.

We were under the impression that since we had a baby we had to act all grown up and be super responsible.... what does that mean anyway? To us, at the time it meant, buying a newer, more reliable car, buying a house, contributing to a retirement plan, getting a "real" job, moving near family, finding affordable housing. None of those things sounded like me but I went along for the ride.

So now, here we are, 6 years later, yearning for that simple life again. A life that allows us time and freedom and space to roam around without so much "grown up" responsibility to carry on our shoulders.

Am I saying that we should live a hippie lifestyle? No, not necessarily - although it does depend on how you define "hippie". I am suggesting however, that we can reevaluate what's important and make decisions from there. When you get close to losing every material possession you "own" you realize you really don't "own" anything and nothing is important but the time you spend with each other. Nothing ever matters but the quality of life you are living.

It doesn't matter if you rent or own. In the end, nothing belongs to you anyway. What matters is if you are happy where you are. Can you make it through with joy and gratitude even if you aren't in the "perfect" environment? Do you see the beauty in each day as it is presented and ask for more? That's what matters.

So we spend a glorious day at the beach. Racing down hill, swimming in the ocean, making sand castles, eating ice cream really fast and digging for China at the beach. In the past I may have said, "Oh man, I wish we could live here". Now I say, "How much fun is this?"

I admit I conformed to what I thought I "should" be doing when we moved up here. I know that one day we will once again live at the beach. I realize, most importantly that each decision I have made brought me here. That even though I conformed to what society would define as "best for me" - I now know that I have the gifts within me to make the choices that work for me - regardless of what society says. But I would have never known it had I not gone down this road.

Following your heart may not always mean that people will understand you, let alone follow you. But in the end, whatever decision you make, make it from your heart. Let it speak the loudest. And know that whatever decision you do make, leads you to a road that opens you up to being who your were born to be.

The Little Things in Life

I have to say that I have always thought that I had this higher purpose. That being a stay at home mom was just not enough for me. I have always needed more for some odd reason. Now, before you go gasping and getting all huffy let me explain.

Since I have been home this summer I have realized that I am no where near ready to stay home all day with these little people. I LOVE THEM WITH ALL MY HEART but I do believe they need more than me in their face all day.

But I have to say that nothing in all my years of corporate executive positions, traveling the globe, entrepreneurship and teaching yoga...nothing made me feel more like I was part of a Higher Purpose than this experience we had the other day.

My girls and I are sitting in the family room hanging out. I hear this huge rustling in the trees in our backyard. I look outside and see the branches from our tree just falling onto the lawn. I have no idea what is happening but I hear chirping so I head outside, mini-Me's following me in awe of course.

I get about a foot away from the fallen branches and see a mother squirrel grabbing it's fallen baby by the back and then watch her scurry behind the tree to a secret location of safety. I can't believe it! A baby squirrel has fallen from our tree! Then I notice the second baby, not so lucky, still under some branches, pulling itself out so it can be seen by someone who will hopefully save it. Now these baby's eyes aren't even open yet. I am in tears, immediately identifying with this mother squirrel. Oh my how sad she must be that her babies have fallen out of their nest. My girls are watching me intently and I am seriously overwhelmed with the feeling of true Oneness.

So I first grab one of our cats and tell my oldest daughter to put her in the garage. I then go into the house and call the vet. They tell me to nail a box to the tree, pick up the baby squirrel and put it in the box so the mother can come and get it. And I am thinking, really? I'm supposed to pick up this baby squirrel? Won't the mother eat it if is smells my scent on the baby?

Meanwhile, I notice my other cat running after the mother who has come for the other baby. I am yelling at my cat (yes yelling) to stop .... poor kitty. It's her natural instinct after all. So we get the other cat in the house and I find a box. My girls are awesome. They are chanting, "Go mommy. " And "Hip Hip Hooray for Mommy!" from the upstairs bedroom. They want to get that aerial view.

So I nail a box to the tree and I look down at this baby squirrel. Time seriously stops. We are One in that moment. I comfort the baby and pick it up. It's no bigger than my cell phone (NOT an iPhone, an old fashioned cell phone) and I can't believe how gorgeous it is. It is chirping as I pick it up - scared and hungry. I gently place it in the box and put a few branches in it. I can't believe this.

Within an hour the mother comes to rescue her baby and the girls and I have a Popsicle, celebrating the fact that we made a huge difference today in our own little backyard.

Nothing in corporate America can touch that. Not one thing.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Facing Our Fears

Is anyone else completely terrified of Ferris Wheels?

This past weekend we went to the Clark County Fair. Honestly, the fair really isn't my favorite place to be but I always have fun watching the girls in amazement.

Ava - my little daredevil - really wanted me to go on the Ferris Wheel with her. I didn't want to tell her I was afraid....I couldn't do that. So I agreed. OMG! I was terrified to get on that thing with her. Where that fear came from I am not quite sure but I was seriously afraid.

So we get on and she is totally excited! I can't get her to stop leaning forward - she was making the seat we were in rock and it was freaking me out! The wheel was moving because other people were getting on and I seriously wanted to get out.

She kept laughing and looking down and then looking at me. I was so happy to have my sunglasses on so she couldn't see my face. She is so intuitive; she would have seen right through me. So we are going around and around and I am wondering when this thing is going to stop!

I was trying to enjoy it and experience it through her eyes, really I was, but it was difficult! I didn't realize I had my arm around her so tight until she said, "Mommy, please! Get your arm off me!" Poor girl!

And of course, you know, at the end of our ride, we were stuck at the very top while everyone else was offered the opporutnity to get off. How does that happen? So we wait and all I can hear myself saying is, "Lean back Ava." I didn't look down once.

Finally, after what seems like an eternity, we get our chance to exit the ride. My husband is like, "Great job you guys! How awesome was that!?" I feel like I am going to throw up but everyone else is so happy and excited.

I enjoy their excitment and realize that once again, one of my little angels helped me to grow and face a fear.

Thanks Ava!

Face Time

When I first closed the studio and was offered the opportunity to spend every day at home with my girls, I was so thrilled! So thrilled in fact that I actually entertained the idea of home-schooling them. For those of you who know me, you know this could have turned into quite a challenge for me but you also know, I am always up for a challenge!

Now 8 weeks into summer vacation I know, at this point in my life, I am not ready to home-school. Not even close. But I have learned many, many valuable lessons while being at home and I am grateful beyond words that I was given this opportunity.

I always go back to the reality that my daughters were born to teach me something. I am only here as their guide - they are my lesson and as soon as I accepted that, it made life very easy. In fact, my new mantra is "What quality can I birth during this challening situation?" Every single day I am offered the opportunity to birth more and more qualities that move me more toward the mom I really want to be. Too many times to count actually.

Patience has been a big one that keeps carrying over week after week after week....
Anyway, sometimes I get it and sometimes I fall right back into my old patterns and behaviors. But the Universe is there reminding me .... next time you'll get it... not to worry. I will keep giving you chances to get it right!

A valuable lesson I have learned is how taking the time each day really helps. I was talking to a friend of mine and she mentioned that she read that the "appropriate time" we should be spending with our kids each day is something like 15 minutes, twice a day. Both of us laughed and agreed that was crazy. That was nothing!

So I decided to really look at what I was doing to spend quality time with the girls. Not just letting them play on their own, or going to the park and watching them run around or even watching movies together. I'm talking real, quality, face-to-face time.

It's amazing what a shift it makes in our day.

That's all they want. Our face - listening to them intently without distraction. But isn't that what we all want? To be heard?

So we swim and have dive races. We paint, we take turns reading, we play tic-tac-toe and hangman. And I am doing these things before I sit and do my writing or my reading or my phone calls. I sit and spend 15-30 minutes doing something with them several times a day and it works!

Maybe I'm the only mom out there that didn't get this. Maybe I'm the only one who was trying to get some "alone time" before I gave them "face time". But for those of you who are in the same boat as me, wanting some alone time .... give them face time first. It works every time and the love, respect and admiration that is created for everyone in this situation really is incredible.

Have a great day!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

New to Blogging!

Welcome to Zen Yoga Off the Mat Blog!!

Thanks to my husband for creating this forum for me. I kept bugging him about it and then when he created it, I didn't know exactly what to do with it. Story of our life sometimes right? You get what you want and then think, now what do I do.

So I have been thinking about this space and contemplating on the mission of this blogspot. To relate every day experiences with our yoga practice. To find "enlightenment" through every day circumstances. That really opens it up!

My ideas are endless as most of you know who know me! But we are leaning toward book reviews, monthly poses, interviews with some really awesome authors I know and pictures of YOU, my yoga dudes and divas! In your most amazing pose! Fun stuff...where can YOU do Dancers Pose????

Tonight, I posted all of the articles I wrote for local magazines and publications. They are interesting and full of really cool information; especially if you are new to yoga or even thinking about trying it out. Read through them send them to people you know!

At this time, I am guessing that most of my blogs will be about something I learned being with my kids all day. That's where I'm at right now. After working 60 hours a week at the yoga studio and now thrust into part time yoga instructor, full time mom, believe me, my days are full of fabulous learning experiences.

They won't always be like that though so I invite you to read them even if you don't have kids. The lessons these little ones give us are amazing. Right back in your face is what I think all the time when I am with them. I teach them some lesson and within hours, they are recalling it - showing me how I disobeyed the lesson.

It's crazy! How do we do that as parents? We get on our soapbox of "all knowingness" and tell them how it IS and then we turn around and do exactly what we said not to do. No wonder our kids are confused. In fact, my older daughter told me that the other day she was confused because I told her how important it was to wear her glasses and she said, "I'm confused. You don't wear yours."


So - for this time around - let's just say welcome to my blogspot! Some days the writing will be deep and profound (you'll know I had time alone that day!) and other days it will be funny and lighthearted. Feel free to offer your thoughts and ideas too! I would be happy to post something you have on your mind too. My mind is nowhere near, all THAT! So write away! Just make sure it's moral, ethic and legal is all!

Have a peaceful day everyone! Check out our site at!

The Heart of Our Breath

written by Dana Layon, ERYT

It’s a staggering fact – heart disease is a killer. According to the American Heart Association, coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, causing about 1.5 million heart attacks each year. Additionally, more women than men die from heart disease in the U.S., and 1 in 3 women are living with it today.

Since we all know the statistics, instead of living in fear, let’s ask ourselves: What causes heart disease and how do we prevent it? There are risk factors that can’t be changed such as genetics and aging. Otherwise, the following risk factors can be modified, treated or controlled by incorporating yoga and meditation into our daily lifestyle:

Physical activity
High blood pressure
Smoking cigarettes
Drinking too much alcohol

First and foremost, yoga influences the hypothalamus gland directly, the area of the brain that controls endocrine activity, and helps prevent heart attacks. A complete yoga program consists of breath control (pranayama), physical postures (asanas), sleep control (yoga nidra) and mind control (meditation). Our yoga practice can look different every day – practicing physically to tone, strengthen and stretch the body one day, meditating, breathing or reading a book in silence the next. Yoga is dynamic and can change our life, physically, mentally, emotionally and energetically.

Let’s start with the simple act of breathing. Normally we use only 1/3 of our lung capacity when we breathe, if we are breathing at all. When we slow, rhythmic breathe we allow the body’s systems to function properly. Breathing slowly and rhythmically increases circulation, lowers blood pressure, lowers the heart rate and tells the brain that everything is working perfectly in the body. Conscious breathing takes us away from “flight or flight” mode and brings us to a state of calm awareness.

Breath control not only improves circulatory and respiratory function but is also a key component in mind control. We all experience stress regardless of gender, age and socioeconomic status. It’s how we perceive or respond to that stress that is important. If we can breathe when we are uncomfortable, anxious or stressed, we reduce stress and make decisions on how to react or not react with much more clarity and less emotion. Controlling our emotions with our breath can lower our blood pressure immensely.

When we control our breath consciously and are aware of our emotions, we make conscious decisions with regard to our physical body. We realize we are in control of our own health – we decide to exercise, eat right, and smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol. It’s all our choice that can be made with clarity once we slow down long enough to know what’s right for us.

Because of their effects on both the physical and energetic bodies, specific types of yoga postures can be used to control and even prevent heart disease.

Upper back bending poses that open the chest, improve heart function and respiration: Matsyasana (Fish), Kapotasana (Swan), Bhujangasana (Cobra), Ustrasana (Camel)

Side Bending poses open the energy channels of the liver, gallbladder and heart to help remove physical and energetic blockages in the heart and the chest: Parighasana (Gate), Maricyasana (Twists), Virabhadrasana (Warriors), Trikonasana (Triangle), Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon)

Spine lengthening poses promote proper postural alignment, reducing compression of the heart and the lungs facilitating proper functioning of the heart. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge), Dandasana (Staff), Marjaryasana (Cat), Adho Mukha Savanasana (Downward Dog)

Relaxing poses such as Savasana produce a deeply calming effect on the body and has been proven to reduce stress and lower blood pressure in just a few weeks.

The physical practice of yoga is all encompassing because it combines physical activity, breath control and mind control. Classes can be as short as one hour or up to 2 hours. It is advisable for beginners to seek the yoga class that is right for them.

The value of guided instruction is priceless. Be sure to seek a certified yoga instructor prior to beginning yoga on your own. Many injuries related to yoga are caused by lack of instruction, attending a class beyond your level of fitness and performing the poses incorrectly for your body. Be sure to find the right yoga style and instructor for your body.

Go to for more information.

Yoga and Spirituality

written by Dana Layon, ERYT

Spirituality can be defined as a sense of connection to something greater than oneself, which includes an emotional experience of religious awe and reverence. Equally important, spirituality influences physical and psychological health.

Cultural historian and yogi, William Irwin Thompson once said, “Religion is not identical with spirituality; rather religion is the form spirituality takes in civilization”.

Yoga is not a religion but it can be the most powerful spiritual journey you may ever take in your life. It is a personal practice which brings us closer to our spirit, our inner guide, our intuition, our emotional and spiritual self. By quieting the mind, we hear the most.

In its simplest form yoga means union: to unite – bringing mind, body and spirit together. To be present in every moment – whatever it is we are doing: walking our dog, or playing with our kids. Each of us arrives with different intentions: peace, empowerment, strength, guidance or just a great stretch. We come to class, free of distraction and honor our personal intentions for one hour, ultimately connecting with our spirit.

Most often, we are too busy to unlock the potential of our mind and spirit. How do we feel? What are we thinking? What is important to us? These thoughts can become overwhelming without deeper examination. We come to yoga to slow down – to breathe deep and focus inward to evaluate.

Yoga can bring us closer to our religion through spiritual contemplation if that is our intention. However, yoga can also create openness in our hamstrings that we have never felt before. Yoga can introduce us to the people in our community – creating new relationships. It can make us physically stronger through sun salutations, warrior poses, plank and downward facing dog. Yoga can help reduce our stress and increase our immunity. Yoga can help relieve all over body pain resulting from chronic illness such as arthritis, insomnia and fibormyalgia. It can also help people going through cancer treatments, recovering from a stroke or dealing with cardio vascular issues.

In our Western World, we tend to dismiss these healing modalities that have been around for thousands of years. Yoga, massage, acupuncture, reiki, reflexology, meditation: they all have merit in healing. They have helped to heal the sick and comfort those with terminal illness. They have helped people become stronger physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Come to yoga with your own personal intention. Erase the misconception that is a religion. Accept that it can elevate your sense self through spiritual meditation. For those of you who already do this – hoorah for you! You have found a key to spiritual and emotional health. For those of you who are not quite there yet, give it a try. What do you have to lose?

Love Your Body

written by Dana Layon, ERYT

Too many times we look in the mirror and are discouraged by what we see. Our hair should be longer, our teeth whiter, our legs smaller our breasts bigger. And that’s just what I see when I look in the mirror! The point is: we all do it, even yoga instructors.

In our society, the media drives what we are supposed to look like. Thin bodies, flawless skin, shiny hair but they don’t ask us how we feel on the inside. Do any of us know? When was the last time you looked in the mirror and looked past your face – inside your eyes?

The majority of people who come to my yoga classes don’t have perfect bodies – there is a whole range of people – big and small, young and old, fit and not so fit. They come to class with different body types and different intentions.

When I started yoga, I couldn’t touch my toes, I couldn’t find my breath, and I definitely couldn’t do any of the poses I do now. From all the cardio and weight training I had done over the years, my muscles were strong but tight and it was difficult to take long, deep breaths. Savasana (Final Relaxation) was the most difficult pose – five minutes seemed to go on forever!

After I had my babies, I found myself starting from the beginning. My center was hard to find, my physical body had completely changed and my personal hurdle in each class was self-acceptance. I had to accept that my body wasn’t as thin or as strong as it was before. My yoga class took work – it didn’t come easily. This time, Savasana was my favorite pose because I could sit in complete silence – treasuring each last minute.

We grow into our yoga practice. Coming to class each time can bring us something different – we name our intention at the beginning of class and honor that intention throughout our practice. We eliminate judging ourselves as each day is different. We release any thought of competition or expectation of the class so we can be fully present and accepting of where we are in each pose.

When we quiet or mind during our deep breaths, we allow ourselves to look inside. Yoga teaches us to look at ourselves from the inside out. What inspires us; what makes us happy; what humbles us. It also teaches us self-acceptance.

Yoga is not a destination to the perfect body it’s a journey of self-awareness and acceptance – being content with where we are right now in our bodies and in our life.

Check out the class the works for you at

Basic Benefits of Yoga

written by Dana Layon, ERYT

What is Yoga?
Yoga can be many things. It is first, an ancient philosophy originating 5,000 years ago in India. The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word meaning “union”.
Hatha Yoga means “yoga for health”, and is the physical aspect of the practice. It renews, invigorates and heals the body. Simply, yoga is a physical and psychological discipline seeking balance. In yoga we seek to balance the mind, body and spirit.

Is yoga a religion?
Yoga is in no way connected to religion. However, those who practice yoga have said to have found a stronger connection with their personal religion through their practice.


Reduces Stress
Through slow, rhythmic breathing we can lower our heart rate and blood pressure; thereby reducing stress.

Increased Immunity
Through deep breathing and conscious movement, the amount of oxygen in our blood increases, the amount of carbon dioxide decreases, assisting the blood to flow more efficiently. This in turn increases our immunity functions

Improves Flexibility, Strength, Balance and Posture
Although yoga does improve flexibility, postures are also great for strength, balance, mental focus, awareness and concentration.

Pain, Anger and Depressions Decreases
Yoga can help to minimize chronic pain through specialized yoga postures. After continual practice, we notice an increase in vitality and an overall sense of well-being.

Weight Normalizes
Yoga is a wonderful complement to any other exercise regime. It can help keep weight off and balance your workout routine.

Do I need to be a pretzel to practice?
Absolutely not! Anyone who commits to a yoga practice can experience the health benefits. Classes can be modified to fit individual needs.

Supportive guidance from a certified yoga instructor can help anyone follow the path to a more well-balanced life. It is important to remember that yoga does not always mean movement. It may be quiet and focused thought, slow and methodical breath, awareness and focus. When we quiet the mind, we hear the most.

If you are interested in a yoga class that fits your level of ability and interest, check out for information and get started today!

Yoga for Athletes

written by Dana Layon, ERYT

Everyone is doing it – this thing called yoga. Doctors are prescribing it as an alternative therapy to reduce stress; physical therapists are recommending it to help patients rehabilitate; personal trainers are suggesting it as a complementary activity to cardio and weight training and schools are offering it as an elective in physical education courses – learning to balance the mind, body and spirit.

Simply put, yoga means “union” – uniting breath and movement, uniting mind and body – being present in every moment – not thinking about the next.

Some of the most prominent women in sports practice yoga.

Tennis pros Venus & Serena Williams and Martina Hingis swear by their regular yoga practice. Golf pros Annika Sorenstam and Tiger Woods, basketball stars Lisa Leslie and Michael Jordan and the entire US Women’s Soccer team have admittedly improved their athletic performance through a regular yoga practice.

Benefits for Athletes
All athletes can benefit from a regular yoga practice – football players, swimmers, tri-athletes, cyclists and gymnasts to name a few.

Increased Awareness
It all starts with the breath. Through slow, rhythmic breathing we become more aware of our surroundings and what is happening within our body. The breath is the foundation of reducing performance anxiety and improving concentration.

Increased Muscle Flexibility, Range of Motion, Core Strength, and Balance
All of these things benefit athletes no matter what the sport. All yoga poses require core strength and stability; routines are comprised of dynamic flowing poses lengthening and strengthening the muscles. By relieving tension from the muscles we can increase our range of motion in our hips, shoulders and spine.

Injury Prevention
Probably the most important benefit of a regular yoga practice is injury prevention. When we are more aware, more focused and strong through our core – we are less likely to get hurt.

Check out our website for class times and get yourself hooked on yoga today! Truly, the cornerstone off all athletic programs!

Yoga and Pregnancy

written by Dana Layon, ERYT

Times have changed when it comes to exercise guidelines during pregnancy. In the past, moms-to-be were told to rest up for the nine (ten) months of pregnancy. Thankfully, those days are over and today’s modern mom-to-be can look forward to less weight gain, less stress and more energy as a result of exercise.

Yoga Benefits
For pregnant women, the benefits of practicing yoga are endless. Yoga increases strength and flexibility; promotes balance and coordination and develops deep breathing patterns which helps in relaxation. The breathing technique -- known as ujayi -- requires you to take in air slowly through your nose, filling your lungs entirely, and exhaling completely until your stomach compresses.

Learning how to do ujayi breathing primes you for labor and childbirth by training you to stay calm when you need it most. When you're afraid -- during labor, for example -- the body produces adrenalin and shuts down the production of oxytocin, a hormone that makes labor progress. Yoga training will help you fight the urge to tense up when you feel the pain, and show you how to breathe instead.

Yoga Precautions During Pregnancy
Exercise during pregnancy is highly encouraged, but it's important to use caution and common sense when doing so. It is advisable to obtain physician consent prior to beginning any yoga class. Additionally, it is imperative to inform the instructor about any complications such as high blood pressure, a breech baby, chest pain, leg cramps or continual fatigue.

If you've never done an inversion, (ie, an upside down pose such as a head stand, shoulder stand or down dog), this is not the time to attempt one. Ask yourself, I know I can do this but should I? Although many women who are used to these poses can continue to do them well into their second trimesters, it’s not always safe.

Avoid positions that stretch the abdominal muscles too much, such as deep forward or back bending and deep twists. You're more apt to tear and strain muscles now because pregnancy hormones, which allow the uterus to expand, also act on all connective tissue.

First Trimester
There aren’t many restrictions this early in pregnancy. Just remember to follow general safety guidelines such as drinking lots of water, breathing deeply and regularly and accepting that your regular routine will require modifications as time goes on. Listen to your body and trust what it tells you.

Second Trimester
By now, morning sickness may have subsided. Hopefully you feel more energetic. Take advantage but be mindful to not overdue it. Listen to your body at all times. Make sure you are working with a yoga instructor, specially trained in prenatal yoga. Your balance and coordination may be off a bit so be aware of that. Also, as the ligaments and joints begin to loosen up, hold poses for strength and release when it’s too much. Some women may start to feel uncomfortable on their backs now; some may not. Notice how you’re feeling and if it feels okay to lie on your back, do it and elevate your feet while you’re at it.

Third Trimester
You're probably feeling less graceful now that your belly is bigger. Perform standing poses close to a chair for support to avoid losing your balance and risking injury to you or your baby. Props such as blocks and straps can also help you move through different poses with greater stability.

Best Poses For Pregnancy
More important than just poses, I recommend attending a specialized yoga class for prenatal women. After continued attendance, it may be alright to do most poses during a home practice. Remember though that attending a regular prenatal class creates bonds and friendships that have the potential to last a lifetime.

Cat/Cow: This position helps relieve back pain, a common problem during pregnancy. Get down on your hands and knees, arms shoulder width apart and knees hip width apart. Inhale and lift your heart, stretch back through your tail and concave your spine. Exhale and roll your spine, lowering the head, pressing through the hands. Repeat following your breath.
Childs Pose: From any kneeling position, sit your tail back toward your heels. Sit back as far as is comfortable and rest your head toward the mat. You can stack your fists and rest your forehead there or use a block. Otherwise, stretch your arms out long in front of you and lower your forehead all the way to the mat.
Modified Down Dog: Anchor a chair onto your mat or against the wall. Lean over and press your palms into the seat of the chair. Walk the feet back away from the chair, the belly will be parallel to the floor, as if the baby was lying in a hammock. Feel the stretch from your heels up your calves, through the hamstrings and then all along the spine. Your head should only be low enough that when you shake your head “no”, you should be able to feel your ears near your biceps.
Squats: You should squat every day to relax and open the pelvis and strengthen the quadriceps. As you start to feel heavier in pregnancy, use props such as blocks or a pile of books to rest your bottom on. Focus on relaxing and letting your breath drop deeply into your belly. Stand facing the back of a chair with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes pointed outward. Squat toward the floor as though you were going to sit down in a chair. Contract your abdominal muscles, lift your chest, and relax your shoulders. Most of your weight should be toward your heels. You can also do this against the wall for support.

Other good poses during pregnancy are the standing postures Warrior II, Side Angle Bend, Triangle Pose, Reverse Warrior, Tree pose and Modified Dancers Pose. These poses help strengthen your joints and improve your balance. Warrior poses can also ease backache and sciatica.

Prenatal Yoga Classes are held every Wednesday at the Vancouver Yoga Center. Contact us at to register prior to attending class.

Embracing Menopause Through Yoga

written by Dana Layon, ERYT

When you understand menopause and how yoga can help you can:

Make nutritional choices that will be in alignment with your personal needs
Find relief from symptoms of peri-menopause through yoga postures and breathing techniques
Make lifestyle choices that better fit your needs as well as the environment
Redefine your outlook on menopause and what it truly means to us as women

What is Perimenopause?
During the perimenopausal transition you may experience a combination of PMS and menopausal symptoms or no symptoms at all. This process can begin anywhere from about 35 years old to 45 years old.

What is menopause?
The word comes from Greek roots: “Meno” meaning “Month and 'Pausis' meaning, “Pause”. Menopause in its true deep meaning is the end of a woman’s fertility.

Our Renewed Outlook
Our society tends to look at menopause with despair. While instead we should be embracing this time – looking at it as a time of wisdom of kundalini energy – inspiration and renewal.

Society has been slow to show the menopausal woman the same patience as we show to our teenagers going through puberty. Technically and clinically the same thing is going on. Hormonal imbalance – same thing, different time frame.

On the contrary – instead of celebrating a woman’s “coming of age” – our culture bombards her and the 50 million other women who will enter menopause within the next 15 years or so – with images of barrenness, of stooped women who are brittle of bone but could come alive and be young again with the help of pharmaceuticals and elective surgery.

The most important thing you can do for yourself prior to getting to menopause is to enter into those years as healthy as possible – body, mind and spirit. If your diet has included fast food, white sugar, non-organic choices – your body may rebel physically. If you live a high stress life, only exercised sporadically, laughed only randomly – you may enter into menopause feeling depleted, your adrenals will be physically depleted, your nervous system overloaded and your endocrine system will be imbalanced.

Find time for meditation and contemplation. Participating in activities that soothe our hearts so we are at peace with what is and see the joy we hold within ourselves.

We all know there are many symptoms related to menopause: Hot flashes, heavy or erratic periods, mood swings, insomnia, fatigue, fuzzy thinking
Headaches, urinary incontinence and heart palpitations.

What we found – in relation to each of them – is they are all related to an estrogen/progesterone ration imbalance. Additionally, our symptoms usually are in direct proportion to the level of stress we are experiencing in our daily lives.

All of these symptoms can be pacified by practicing yoga and meditation on a regular basis. Coupled with a healthy balance of nutrition and supplements that fit your personal needs, menopause and perimenopause can come and go without such drama and anxiety.

Stop watching television programs and reading magazines that are telling you what you should be doing at this “stage” of your life. Instead, go inward and listen. Stop and breathe, deeply and intentionally create your reality of what menopause is.

Remember what some of these great doctors have said about menopause – “it’s a time in our lives when we can use our extra energy to bring about change in our community. We can surrender to what is and shine from the inside out. If we are ready to finally, after all these years, ready to go inward and examine the beauty that truly lies within us. Find that spiritual place of peace in the stillness of your own heart.

Hot Flashes
Fact – 80% get them
Estrogen/Progesterone ratio imbalance
Caused by stress – anything that affects your central nervous system

Why do we get them?
No one really knows. But, we do know it all starts with a gland located in the brain called the “hypothalamus”. This gland controls and regulates many functions in the body, including temperature. It also controls the pituitary gland and production of hormones that serves as a primary connection to the endocrine system. It is my belief a balanced endocrine system is the key to hormone regulation and in return can reduce or even eliminate hot flashes. Exercise and nutrition can be the vehicle in which to balance the endocrine system.

How can yoga help?
Awareness is the key Know what it is that causes them and then change your attitude when that situation happens again.

Breathe more

Inversions are simple poses that bring the pelvis higher than your chest will help tremendously.

Forward bends and supported backbends are cooling poses that can help pacify the nervous system, restoring a sense of calm, peace and connection with the earth

Suggestions to alleviate insomnia
As women we are always thinking – even when we are sleeping. Below are a few suggestions that use yoga and meditation to help relieve insomnia.

Go to be at the same time every night – allowing yourself at least 8 hours of rest.

Before your set bedtime – read a book that interests you or meditate. Listen to your breath and only your breath – letting go of the thoughts from your day.

Your evening ritual should begin with writing in a gratitude journal – recounting the circumstances during your day that you are thankful for.

Eat dinner at least 4 hours prior to your bedtime.

If frequent urination occurs, do not consume beverages at least 2 hours before bed and do not consume any stimulants or diuretics 5 hours before bed.

Upon waking each morning – spend at least 5 minutes slow, rhythmic breathing before starting your day. If time permits, write your intentions in your journal. Phrase them as…”My intention today is to…..” instead of “I want…” or “I need….”

Exercise early in the day – pranayama practice every day, alternating days with cardiovascular and strength training for heart health and bone health.

Practice yoga at least once daily – even if it’s only 15 minutes of stretching.

Find something beautiful each day to cherish.

Basically a daily practice of yoga and meditation can calm the nerves and bring about peace within the mind and heart.

For more information about our next Embracing Menopause Through Yoga workshop, go to