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Sabrina’s Yoga Experience in our Westlake Village Studio

Sabrina's Yoga Experience in our Westlake Village StudioIn the last 2 years, our family has experienced immense loss. Loved ones who were grounding, loving and always there for us passed away, some unexpectedly, some after fighting long battles with their health.


With each loss, I tried to rally. I held onto those who were still here in my heart and whenever I can, tightly in my arms. And I tried to continue on, by participating in the usual daily routine of life.


It was during one of these routine life things that I met Doug Milliron. I was feeling down and decided to pick up a yoga class. And since it was a pick up class, I remembered the schedule wrong and was accidentally 15 minutes late when I thought I was half hour early. Peaking into class, I saw that it was full and was about to turn away, when I noticed he was enthusiastically waving me in. I must have shook my head or made a face as the next gesture he made was for me to set up my mat next to his. My mind quickly filled with how rude it would be to run away so I reluctantly joined the class.


I found Doug’s style of teaching to be mindful. On the surface, it is energetic, joyful and full of butt kicking fun. But really, while he is presenting this butt kicking fun class, he is inviting you to explore, inviting you to feel, inviting you to grow and inviting you to just be. And always, he sneaks in words of encouragement.


I took a couple of Doug’s classes that week and went home to encourage my family to do the same. Our daughter, who was just about to start working as a lawyer for Interscope Records was feeling the onset of young adult life challenges. My husband has suffered from back pain. But they did not feel comfortable in a class setting because they were afraid they were “not good” at yoga. A few private classes with Doug quickly reassured them that they can and should do this. In fact, practicing yoga reminds my family that any challenge we face is something we can and should overcome. Sabrina's Yoga Experience in our Westlake Village Studio


A Buddhist monk once told me that life is not random but actually filled with conditions. And when all the conditions align, something happens. He reminded me to keep an eye on these conditions, because some we can control and other we cannot. I often reflect on the conditions that brought me to that class- the condition of loss that I cannot control and the condition that I can control which was the decision to go to a yoga class.
Doug is an incredible teacher. The world could be burning and Doug would remind you to be grateful for one thing, one person, one quality that you have in your life. And maybe this one thing, or person, or quality you have will be enough to bring about a new condition, one that is full of possibility and hope.
– Sabrina Chu-Hurd

Lauren’s Experience with Sweat Yoga in Santa Monica

sweat yoga santa monica hot yogaMy name is Lauren. I’ve been practicing hot yoga for a little over a year now, but I’ve been coming to Sweat Yoga in Santa Monica for about two months. My story is about a class I took with Danielle in the beginning of July.

The back story is that this year has been a bit of a tough one for me and my family, as we’ve lost two family members within the same year. I have always struggled to accept grief and to allow myself to feel things (just ask my mom, she’s been telling me for years that ‘it’s okay to cry’), and this year was no different. I have had a hard time dealing with my family’s loss, and coped by keeping myself so busy that I don’t have time to think. If I’m not at my full time job, I’m picking up hours at a second job to stay busy. If I’m not at the second job, I’m working out somewhere.


In the beginning of July I took one of Danielle’s classes after work, and it happened to be on the year anniversary of one of my family members passing away. I’d been struggling a lot that week and I remember at the beginning of the class she challenged us to just be present, and to be in the moment. I’ve wished multiple times in the past few weeks that I had a recording of what Danielle said throughout the class, just so I could remember and remind myself, but her leadership through our practice and her words allowed me to actually be present with myself and to open myself up to accepting my emotions, and to let go of a lot of the things I had kept bottled up and locked away for the past year. And that’s how I, embarrassingly, ended up crying (stealthily) during the cool down before Savasana.

To make a long story (semi) short, that experience was so meaningful and healing to me because it spurred me on to slow down a lot of other things in my life to allow myself some room to breathe and to be present, and to just give myself grace when I feel sad or miss my family.
I have honestly meant to tell this story for a while now, but have chickened out every time, so I feel like you guys asking for stories could be the universe telling me that it’s time to buck up. I truly hope that Danielle knows that her teaching and practice are beautiful and I know for me it has absolutely helped created a positive change for my life, and I’m confident that I’m not the only one.

8 Keys to Take Your Yoga Teaching Beyond Standardized Alignment Cues

Standards are nice—they make it much easier to learn how to guide students into the large number of poses taught in yoga classes, but unfortunately students are not standardized.

Modern yoga teacher training programs offer many standardized cues for each posture learned. Standards are nice—they make it much easier to learn how to guide students into the large number of poses taught in yoga classes, but unfortunately students are not standardized. There is no average student. The alignment cues absorbed by teacher trainees are approximations: at best they can serve as guidelines but they should never be used as dogmatic requirements. If the student’s intention in taking a yoga class is to regain or maintain optimal health, then postures should serve a functional role, making the aesthetics of the pose secondary, at best. The following 8 tips may help the new yoga teacher become aware of this important distinction.

See also The A-to-Z Guide to Yoga Cues

1. Not every pose is for every student

No two individuals have the same biology and biography. Due to genetics, anatomical structure, lifestyle, nutrition, level of activity as a child, injuries and accidents, and a wide host of other biographic and biological factors, we are all truly unique. This applies to every yoga teacher as well as to each student. Just because the teacher has learned to master a particular asana does not mean that every student, following the same directions and path, will also be able to master that posture. The reality of human variation guarantees that no one can do every posture in yoga; and every posture will be a struggle for some people.

2. Is your goal function or aesthetics?

It is important to understand the intention of the yoga practice. If a student’s intention is to optimize health, a functional approach to her yoga practice is required. If the intention is to look good in a pose, an aesthetic approach is sufficient. From a functional perspective, how a student looks in a posture is irrelevant; what is important are the sensations being created. Alignment cues based on how a student looks in a posture is aesthetic yoga; cues based on generating sensation are functional.

See also Patanjali Never Said Yoga Is Fancy Poses

3. Stress is different from stretch

Yoga postures create a variety of stresses in the tissues. These stresses may create a stretch or they may not. A tensile stress is likely to create a stretch (but not always). For example, a backbend may create tensile stress in the front of the body stretching the abdominal muscles. A compressive stress does not create a stretch. For example, in that same backbend you may feel the spine’s vertebrae hitting each other before a stretch can occur. The intention in a functional practice is to generate a stress, regardless of whether a stretch occurs or not. The stress stimulates reactions and communication at a cellular level within the body and within the fascia. Embodied sensors monitor, measure, and react to stresses, creating a cascade of signals that stimulate growth and healing. We know we are stressing our tissues if we can feel the stress of the pose. This leads to a mantra we can recite often, “If you are feeling it, you are doing it!”

4. Each pose needs a purpose

If we are taking a functional approach and want to create a stress in the body, then each posture becomes a tool to help us generate an appropriate stress: either tension or compression. As a teacher, ask yourself, “what type of stress do I want the student to experience, where and how much?” That will lead to a choice of which posture to use. For example, if your intention is to stress the spine, you can do so via both compression and tension. To compress the spine, you might choose postures like Bridge Pose and Cobra. A desire to stretch the spine will lead to postures like seated and standing forward folds. Rather than starting with a playlist of postures that simply seem cool, start with an intention, which then leads to carefully selected poses which you can combine in an elegant choreography.

See also Principles of Sequencing: Plan a Yoga Class to Energize or Relax

5. “What are you feeling?”

Let students know the intention of the pose and the targeted areas. This allows them to monitor whether the practice is working for them or not. Asking a student, “What are you feeling?” helps them develop an inner awareness. This is both a meditation and guidance toward a more effective and deeper practice. The greatest gift any teacher can offer to her students is the one that allows the student to become her own teacher. Answering “What are you feeling?” guides the student to determine for herself if the pose is having the desired effect, and if not—the student is allowed to modify the alignment of the pose to get sensations in the targeted area. In this way, she finds her own alignment for that posture.

6. Never ignore pain

If the answer to “What are you feeling?” is pain, something needs to change. Not everyone has the same subjective experience of pain, or the same tolerance levels. One student’s pain is another student’s discomfort, but pain is a signal the body is sending that it is on the verge of being damaged. Listen! With a deepening inner awareness, the student will become wise enough to know whether the sensations experienced are healthy or harmful. If a pose has become painful, change the alignment or do another pose that obtains the desired stress in the targeted area without the pain. (Also, be aware that the pain may not be felt while in a pose, but while coming out, or even the next day. Whenever pain arises, it is worthwhile to review what you have been doing over the last day or two to see if you can find a cause, and then resolve not to do it like that again.)

See also 19 Yoga Teaching Tips Senior Teachers Want to Give Newbies

7. Explore options—avoid dogma

Paul Grilley, developer of Yin Yoga, has noticed that two students can look identical in a posture and yet be having two very different experiences: one may be marinating in the juiciness of the stress in the targeted areas while the other may be feeling nothing, or may be struggling to stay in the pose due to pain or discomfort. This second student needs some options: let her play with the pose until she can find the stress in the right places. Aesthetic dogma that demands she look a particular way is not helpful. Let her find her own way to the appropriate sensation.

8. There are no universal alignment cues

While important, alignment cues are not universal. Since everybody is different, there are no alignment cues that will work for every body. Alignment’s purpose is to create a solid, stable, and safe position in a posture, but which position is the best alignment will vary drastically from person to person. The intention of a functional practice is to create appropriate stresses in targeted areas, without pain. The alignment that does this is the correct alignment, even if it does not fit with the aesthetic principles found in standard alignment cues. For example, not everyone is aligned properly when their feet or hands are pointing straight ahead in Down Dog. You are unique and so is every student. Find the yoga that works for each body.

About the Author
Bernie Clark has been teaching yoga and meditation since 1998 and is the creator of the website www.YinYoga.com. He has written several books on yoga including his latest Your Body, Your Yoga: Learn Alignment Cues That Are Skillful, Safe, and Best Suited To You.

Original Article: Yoga Journal, 8 Keys to Take Your Yoga Teaching Beyond Standardized Alignment Cues