Understanding Advanced Yoga: Exploring Inner Awareness and Physical Abilities

What does it mean to be advanced in a yoga practice? Is it the ability to perform each asana illustrated in Iyengar’s Light on Yoga? Is it the number of years of practice? Is it a deep inner awareness that has been cultivated over time? Or is it even the significant and uplifting changes it has made to an individual, their relationships, and in their life off the mat?

In truth, an advanced yoga practice culminates from all of these aspects and more. In our goal-driven society, it might seem counterintuitive to learn that with yoga there is no final destination or mark of notable achievement, it really is all about the journey. It is a path that requires a deep understanding of the physical body and how it moves, as well as a secure and loving connection to the mind and spirit. It is a ceaseless commitment to a practice that requires patience, dedication, and a willingness to explore the unknown, go within and journey back to one’s true nature.

An advanced yoga practice is the pursuit of cultivating inner awareness and understanding. It involves the recognition that the body is not just a physical vessel, but also a container for consciousness and evolution. By connecting with this inner awareness, yoga practitioners are able to tap into a deeper source of strength and resilience, one that allows them to face life’s challenges with more grace and equanimity. They can spread their focus to many points at once, creating a wider field of vision, a higher perspective, if you will, that helps to cultivate more compassion for themselves and even extend that higher understanding and empathy to others. They can learn to breathe, surrender to the moment and can move out from the details and everyday minutiae to clearly see and understand ideas and concepts from a higher vantage point, where they see themselves reflected in the whole of humanity. The practice then becomes a lens that helps them not only relate to themselves but to the world in a more intentional and conscious manner.

When practicing advanced yoga poses, for example, such as Urdhva Dhanurasana, or upward-facing bow pose, practitioners are not simply contorting their bodies into fantastic shapes. Rather, they are exploring the safe range of their physical capacities and challenging themselves to go beyond what they thought was possible, not only physically, but mentally and energetically as well. They are learning to trust their bodies and above all, listen to their unique messages, whether they tell them to push harder or to back off. In return, this teaches deeper lessons, learning how to take care of themselves in daily life, to recognize their patterns on the mat, and find the similarities within their lives. If they stay too narrowly focused on the asana itself, they miss the greater meaning behind the experience of the asana and how each one is designed to widen their perspective and help them evolve mentally, physically, and spiritually. The evolved understanding becomes that yoga is not just a physical practice, but also a deeply spiritual one.

Ultimately, an advanced yoga practice is not about mastering a specific pose or achieving a certain level of physical ability. It is about cultivating a deeper connection to oneself and to the world around, and about recognizing the interconnectedness between the two.

In this way, an advanced yoga practice is not just about what one can do on the mat, but also about how they live their life off the mat. It is about bringing the principles of yoga into every aspect of their life, and about recognizing that everyone and everything is connected and that their actions have a ripple effect on the world around them.

So what are the guideposts, if any, of an advanced yoga practice? There is no one answer to this question, as each person’s path is unique. However, certain markers can be identified along the way, such as the ability to move through a series of poses with fluidity and ease, the ability to hold challenging poses while sustaining attention to multiple areas for extended periods of time, the ability to approach one’s practice with a sense of curiosity and exploration, and the ability to just as easily let go of the physicality of the practice enough to receive the higher guidance of the body, the breath, and the experience aimed to help them know themselves better and their purpose in the world.

Truly, an advanced yoga practice is not something that can be measured by external markers of success. Rather, it is a deeply personal journey of self-discovery where the final destination deeply connects one with their most true, authentic expression of self, and teaches them to approach their life and the world with mindfulness, compassion, and equanimity, remembering their connection and integral role within it.

Whether a seasoned practitioner or a beginning yogi, we can all aspire towards cultivating an meaningful and fruitful yoga practice by staying present, being curious, and allowing ourselves to be guided by the wisdom of our bodies and our spirits to make our world a safe, inclusive and loving place for all.

How Yoga Can Help You Have Better Sleep

Have you ever considered the profound impact your morning routine can have on your energy levels, circadian rhythm, and the overall quality of your sleep each night? I’d like to shed some light on the dos and don’ts of your morning routine. Here are five simple steps that can help you develop effective morning habits. These habits can provide you with a fresh burst of energy in the morning and set the stage for a restful night’s sleep. And the best part? It only takes 15 minutes.

  1. No More Blue Lights!: Many of us rely on phone alarms to wake up. I earnestly urge you to turn off the alarm promptly and resist hitting the snooze button. Falling back asleep and repeatedly waking up can leave you feeling groggy and sluggish when you finally get out of bed. Once your feet touch the ground, avoid looking at your phone or any other source of blue light. These lights disrupt our natural circadian rhythm and energy levels, sending misleading signals to the brain. Instead, head directly to a source of natural light. Whether it’s sitting by a window or stepping out onto a patio or balcony, let your eyes absorb the natural daylight. Time required: 2 minutes.
  2. Embrace Your Morning Beverage: Do you savor a warm beverage, perhaps one with caffeine? Excellent! Go ahead and enjoy it. Take your time relishing that delightful cup. It’s a wonderful moment to awaken your body’s systems. If your beverage contains caffeine, it provides a gentle brain boost. The enjoyable taste also sparks a sense of joy, and these small, joyful routines accumulate to create a positive impact. Joy triggers the release of beneficial hormones in our central nervous system, which contribute to the hormones necessary for sleep later in the day. Time required: 2 minutes.
  3. Step Outside and Breathe: You might be tempted to grab your phone or sit in front of your computer right away. However, I encourage you to resist the allure of blue light for now. Step outside, breathe in the fresh air, and immerse yourself in nature’s beauty around you. This doesn’t have to be complicated: Walk your dog if you have one, take a stroll to a nearby store for a snack, stand on a patch of grass, or sit on your balcony. I know my enthusiastic use of exclamation points might be a bit much, but this moment is pivotal. You can do it. Time required: 3 minutes.
  4. Engage in Gentle Movement: Engage in some light movement, such as simple stretches, meditation, pranayama (breath control exercises), yoga asana (poses), or simply lying on your back and feeling your breath. After spending about 8 hours in bed, your body yearns for this movement. Your body doesn’t want you to remain hunched over, scrolling through devices. It craves a wake-up that gets your blood flowing. Time required: 5 minutes.
  5. Gratitude and Intentions: Lastly, I’ve discovered that creating a gratitude list or setting small intentions for the day can significantly shift my energy. It redirects my focus toward my heart and away from the overwhelming to-do lists that clutter my mind. Humor me for a moment: Take 3 minutes to either write down or visualize three things you’re grateful for and three things you’d like to experience today. Reflect on what’s going well and what could bring you joy, love, or creativity. These final steps hold great meaning, especially on days when you’re struggling. You have the power to set the tone and make small changes. As you write or imagine, try to feel these thoughts in your body. Amidst our day filled with racing thoughts, distractions, and the pursuit of tasks, this is the moment to set your rhythm and connect with your heart center. Our heart’s center is rooted in gratitude, and gratitude serves as the cornerstone for all the positive emotions we cherish: joy, creativity, laughter, empathy, compassion, happiness, and love. Time required: 3 minutes.

I understand your schedule is packed. That’s why I’ve indicated minimum times for each step. However, I implore you, if you have extra time to spare, don’t rush. Consider savoring these precious moments we’re granted every morning.

Wishing you sweet dreams and a wonderful night’s sleep. You’ve got this, humans!

PS: Yes, you can now retrieve your phone and computer.

Active to Calm: Why Asana and Pranayama are Important Steps to Cultivating a Meditation Practice

Meditation helps us enter a more open space in our minds and bodies, allowing us to become more present in our day and less affected by dominating thought patterns and untrue storylines that try to disrupt us. However, letting go of continuous thoughts can be challenging. One way to help with this is to start with a yoga practice that combines movement and breath work.

Asana and pranayama can help us cultivate a meditation practice by redirecting attention to the body and breath, allowing for the release of tension and stress. Asana is an introspective practice designed to switch the mind’s focus to the body and breath, loosening the grip of mental chatter. With the mind re-centered, mindful movement and tending to the body can reveal the tension we’re unknowingly carrying and allow for the release of excess stress, creating more space. By cultivating greater awareness in the body, we feel a sense of inner calm and mental quiet that can bring about even more awareness of the breath.

The ujjayi or victorious breath is ideal because you simply listen to the sound of the breath as it moves across the back of your throat. The breath’s calming effect helps you let go and wash away any excess thoughts, worry, or stress. When combined with movement, your body can begin to shake off and free any tension or strain that might also be taking up mental space, calming and regulating the nervous system.

When the nervous system is relaxed, the body and breath feel different. Every breath, especially the exhalations, can become like a release valve for the mind and body. A shift happens that moves us away from the analytical mind into a more perceptive and feeling space. Practicing asana and pranayama helps us let go, becoming more aware of the mind’s chatter and the first step towards becoming more mindful.

Mindfulness is almost like a type of training, where we learn how to focus our attention on something else other than what the mind formulates and offers to us. The combination of breath work and movement opens us up enough to let go of these deep ties to our mind. We become more aware and actively begin to choose not to be ruled by external distractions and thoughts that no longer serve us. This is why these practices are perfect prefaces for a meditation practice.

The body is more open and able to sit or relax for extended amounts of time. The mind is quieter, and the breath is established as a focal point to return to when mental chatter happens. The practice creates a newfound sense of mindfulness that helps us enter into meditation and the openness and fleeting moments of peace and freedom that it can offer. When we meditate, we clear our mind and open ourselves to the present moment, allowing us to remember our own true nature, which I like to think of as peaceful, content, and loving-awareness.

Try this meditation practice:

After your movement and breath work practice, try lying down or sitting quietly for a few moments and tune in to yourself. Notice and observe your thoughts without being dominated by them. Let them pass like the tide that rolls in and away from the shore. Explore how deeply you can let go. Let go of your body, mind, role, to-do list, and current situation in life. Allow yourself to be in the complete experience of non-doing, of just being as you are without changing anything. Whenever thoughts roll in, notice, yet allow them to roll out just like the passing tide. Give yourself the space to keep letting go. Open your breath, open your mind, open your body. Don’t judge your experience. Stay open enough to receive the possibility that is the present moment and the sweet reminder that all is perfect.

The Importance of the Beginner’s Mind in Your Yoga Practice

Yoga goes far beyond the physical shapes; it is a mindful, intentional journey encompassing body, mind, and spirit. For those of us who have been practicing for a long time, it’s easy to forget what it means to be new… And forget the benefits of engaging with the practice with a beginner’s mind. We think we’ve seen it all; we know the movements inside and out, and it’s easy to fall into routine, auto-pilot, or operate from assumptions. But the essence of what yoga is goes hand in hand with cultivating a beginner’s mind: a mind fresh, free, and open.

What is the beginner’s mind?

Think of a time when you were brand new to something, perhaps your first yoga practice, the time you tried underwater basket weaving, or when you went to a fancy cooking class. Being a beginner at something can spark many feelings: discomfort, curiosity, excitement, to name a few. It also requires a different state of mind to foster learning: open-mindedness, receptivity, and presence.

Regardless of how long you’ve been practicing yoga, coming into class with a beginner’s mind allows us to approach our practice with fresh eyes continuously. It allows us to observe, discern, notice, and reflect in real-time, which in turn allows us to connect to the spirit of what yoga is: an opportunity to cultivate a deeper understanding of ourselves and our connection to others.

So how do we cultivate the beginner’s mind?

Embrace Open-Mindedness

The cornerstone of the beginner’s mind is rooted in open-mindedness. Being open-minded in yoga means letting go of preconceived expectations of ourselves and our practice and embracing the present moment. It’s common to consciously or unconsciously focus on achievement or specific shapes. Though they provide excellent benchmarks for your physical practice, lessening emphasis on aesthetics lets us focus on our relationship to the practice and the self. By releasing expectations, we create space for self-acceptance and compassion.

Do you ever think about what you “should” look like in a pose? Or what yoga is “supposed” to look and be like? If you ever catch yourself ruminating on these questions, see it as an invitation to step back and remember that approaching yoga with openness creates space for exploration, discovery, and listening to our bodies without judgment. We learn to appreciate the journey, not just the destination.

Each practice becomes an opportunity to explore, nurture, and listen to our bodies without judgment. Before we know it, we appreciate the journey instead of fixating on the destination. As we foster a harmonious relationship with our practice, so do we foster a loving relationship with ourselves.

Cultivating Curiosity

Curiosity is the gateway to endless possibilities. When we approach our yoga practice with curiosity, we create a sense of wonder in our exploration.

For long-time yoga practitioners, it’s easy to go on auto-pilot, and our brains naturally do it when we’re adept at the physicality of a movement or skill. But remember, our yoga practice is much more than just the physical side! So when we rely on autopilot, we lose the chance to understand the intricacies of each asana, movement, breath, and our bodies on any given day.

Practical things to focus on when in class are approaching sensation, movement, and breathing with curiosity by asking questions like, “How does this make me feel?” “What does it feel like when I press here?” “What happens if I change my alignment in this posture?” Regardless of the outcome, being curious gives us the ability to make informed decisions about what we need.

Learn to Love Humility

In the beginner’s mind, humility flourishes. We recognize the number of things we don’t yet know and acknowledge that we are perpetual learners on the yogic path. No matter how long we’ve been practicing, there is always more to discover and appreciate.

Approaching the yoga practice with humility allows us to be receptive to feedback and guidance and to recognize how our needs shift and change over time. It reminds us that the “goal” of a yoga class isn’t the most complicated shape or transition but to utilize our ability to engage with the present moment fully. Simple things like focusing on your breath, taking a break, or focusing on bodily sensations, can return you to the beginner’s mind.

The beginner’s mind catalyzes personal evolution, continuously expanding our understanding of yoga and our practice. It becomes a tool we can use on and off the mat to deepen our connection with our bodies, ourselves, and the world around us.

Whether we are novices or seasoned practitioners, approaching each practice session with a beginner’s mind allows us to tap into the limitless possibilities of the yogic journey.

Listen to Your Body: How to Find Healthy Challenge in Your Yoga Practice

You’ve heard it before in class. “Listen to your body!” Everyone around you is doing sixteen variations of Crow pose and the world is upside down. This casually thrown-out phrase is the one reminder that your yoga practice, ultimately, is about you and your body. 

“Okay, yeah, totally,” you think to yourself, drenched with what is most likely not just your own sweat, “but how?” The words echo in your brain, yet you’re still scratching your head at what it means. Class ends. You go home. You lie awake in bed. Sleepless nights ensue. “What does it mean?” you cry in the night, “What does it all mean?!” 

Alright, I’ll be serious now: listening to your body is not a pointless buzz-phrase. It’s an invaluable skill within your yoga practice! It allows you to make real-time adjustments based on how you feel. Without it, we run the risk of mindlessly going through our practice. Then we push too hard and get injured. Or we push too little, and we stagnate. 

Understanding the importance and applying it are two different things. How do we determine what feels right for us on any given day? 

We all have our motivations for stepping onto the yoga mat. While personal intentions differ, when it comes to the physical aspect of the practice, we have to take on some objective considerations.

Here are five key questions to ask yourself during your yoga practice to gauge if you’re pushing too hard, going too easy, or if you’re finding optimal balance: 

How’s your breathing? 

Pay attention to your breathing patterns and remember that cultivating a mindful connection to breath is a big part of what makes yoga, yoga. Aim for a steady, rhythmic breath, even when it’s challenging. If you notice you’re holding your breath or breathing too fast, that’s a good indicator that it’s time to slow down or take a break! 

Is it productive work or pain? 

Productive work in your physical practice can come from “feeling the burn,” experiencing a deep stretch, or mild tenderness from massage-type pressure. This type of work often creates a broader sensation that generally stops when you stop the pose or action. Pain, however, feels sharp or acute, and worsens as you hold the pose. 

To put it simply: if you’re making a face, gritting your teeth, or wincing, then ease off, make adjustments, or find a suitable variation through the help of your teacher. 

Where do you feel it? 

Notice where you feel sensation in your muscles & joints. Compression generally refers to a feeling of compactness, squeezing, or “stuff running into stuff” around the joint. Feeling a deep pinch in your front hip in a low lunge is an example of compression. Tension refers to a stretching or elongation sensation in the muscle belly, like what you feel in your hamstrings in a forward fold. 

Most often in yoga, we’re guided to look for tension instead of compression, but extremes to either end can indicate you’re pushing too hard. Ask your yoga teacher for options to help you find balance and check out this handy little graphic below: 

What are your thoughts and feelings? 

Beyond physical sensations, check in on your mental and emotional landscape. Are you judging or comparing yourself to others? Are you feeling frustrated or competitive? These thoughts are a normal part of the human experience but can be a sign you’re losing sight of the essence of yoga: self-compassion, acceptance, and non-judgment. 

Take a moment to reset, cultivate a mindset of kindness towards yourself, and remember that your yoga practice is a journey, not a destination. 

How do you feel after your practice? 

How you feel after class matters, too! For example, you may leave feeling invigorated, energized, calm, or centered (or all of the above!). However, if you feel constantly exhausted or depleted after class, you may need to slow down, incorporate more rest days, or choose less vigorous practices. 

Regularly checking in and engaging in self-inquiry is a part of yoga. Use these questions to help you navigate the line between finding your edge and going over it. Most importantly, remember you don’t have to navigate these questions alone! That’s what your yoga teacher is there for. Check-in with your teacher and ask for guidance to find a healthy challenge in your practice. A good teacher can provide variations, adjustments, or feedback to suit your individual needs. 

The yoga journey is, at its core, one of self-discovery, growth, and being present. Listening and embracing your body and mind’s signals allows you to honor your unique needs and deepen your connection to yourself and your practice. 

How to Start a New Yoga Practice and Actually Stick with It

Starting a new yoga practice can be a transformative journey with numerous physical, mental, and emotional benefits. Whether you’re seeking stress relief, increased flexibility, or a stronger mind-body connection, yoga has something to offer everyone. However, beginning a new practice can also be overwhelming, and many find it challenging to maintain consistency. Today, we’ll explore essential tips to help you embark on your yoga journey and, most importantly, stay committed to your practice for the long haul.

1) Set Clear Intentions

Before you unroll your mat, take a moment to reflect on why you want to start a yoga practice. Understanding your intentions will give your journey a purpose. Whether it’s to enhance flexibility, find inner peace, or cultivate mindfulness, clearly defining your goals will guide your practice. You’ll discover showing up becomes easier and easier as you become intrinsically motivated.

2) Start with Simple Practices 

As a beginner, it’s vital to gradually ease into your yoga practice. Avoid jumping into advanced poses that could lead to frustration or injury. Begin with gentle, beginner-friendly classes or videos focusing on the basics, such as proper alignment and breath awareness. These foundational practices will lay the groundwork for your journey and build a strong foundation.

Most importantly, be committed to doing the same or similar practices repeatedly! Remember, repetition is how we learn something new, whether it’s yoga, soccer, cooking, or spelunking.

3) Create a Consistent Routine

Consistency is the key! Find a schedule that works for you and stick to it. Creating a routine will help you make yoga an integral part of your lifestyle, leading to long-term dedication. Practically, this means shorter classes more often than one long class every week. It could be as simple as setting aside 15 minutes every morning or during your lunch hour. As you get comfortable with this routine and find your motivation for showing up (see point one), you’ll naturally carve out space for longer classes! 

4) Be Kind to Yourself, aka, It’s Okay to Be New!

Starting a new yoga practice can be awkward, uncomfortable, and humbling. Think of the last time you ever tried something new. Maybe it was a cooking class, a company-wide axe-throwing competition, or that one time you decided to learn circus arts. New stuff always comes with a little bit of discomfort! Remember that yoga is a journey, and progress takes time. Be patient with yourself, embrace your imperfections, and celebrate even the smallest victories. Let go of self-judgment and cultivate self-compassion throughout your practice.

5) Find a Supportive Community

Joining a yoga community can be incredibly beneficial for staying motivated and accountable. Whether it’s an online group, a friend you drag to class, or attending a workshop or yoga retreat, surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals can foster a sense of belonging and encouragement. Engaging with others who share your passion for yoga will inspire you to keep showing up on the mat.

6) Explore Different Styles

Yoga offers a diverse range of styles, each with its unique benefits. Feel free to explore different styles of yoga to find what resonates with you best. From Vinyasa to Hatha, Yin to Kundalini, there’s a style suited for every individual. Trying different classes will broaden your horizons, teach you new things, and invite variability into your practice. 

7) Embrace Mindfulness Off the Mat

Yoga goes far beyond the shapes we make on the mat. It’s also how we live our lives. Embrace mindfulness in your daily activities, whether savoring your morning coffee (and your afternoon coffee), walking in nature, or practicing deep breathing during stressful moments. Taking yoga off the mat also means compassion, kindness, and moving through the world with a little more purpose than we might otherwise. Integrating mindfulness into your everyday life will reinforce your commitment to yoga beyond the studio.

Starting a new yoga practice is a journey of self-discovery and growth. By setting clear intentions, maintaining consistency, and cultivating self-compassion, you’ll be well on your way to making yoga a lifelong practice. Embrace the process, find joy in each step, and remember that your yoga journey is unique and beautiful, just like you. Now, go unroll your mat and embark on this transformative adventure with a heart full of enthusiasm and dedication!

Ultimate Bedtime Yoga Routine

In today’s fast-paced world, where productivity is often prioritized over self-care, sleep has become a luxury that many people sacrifice. However, sleep is not just a state of rest; it is a fundamental pillar to our overall well-being. Getting adequate sleep is key to maintaining our physical health, supporting our mental clarity, and enhancing our emotional balance. 

One of my favorite ways to improve the quality of my sleep is by incorporating a little yoga as a pre-bedtime routine. In this blog post, I will share with you five of my tried and true yoga poses and breathing exercises that can promote a deep and restful slumber. Best of all, you can practice these poses in the comfort of your own bed.

Are you ready to catch some Z’s?

Follow along, all it takes is 5 minutes. 

5 Yoga Poses to Help Promote Sleep:

〰 Box Breathing (Sama Vritti) is a breathing technique that will help ease your mind and soothe your central nervous system. I love to incorporate this type of breathing right before bed to help reset my breath and invite a sense of peace and relaxation to my body and mind. Sit comfortably with your back supported against your bed frame or wall, rest your palms on your thighs and soften your gaze. Breathe in through your nose for 4 counts, hold your breath at the top of the inhale for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts, hold at the bottom of your exhale for 4 counts. That is one round. Repeat for a total of 10 rounds.

〰 Child’s Pose (Balasana): This yummy and restorative pose helps to gently stretch your lower back, hips, and thighs while promoting a sense of relaxation and ease. Start in a kneeling position, bring your big toes together, open your knees wide, sit your hips to your heels, extend your arms forward (or rest them alongside your body), soften your forehead on the mattress or pillow. Take 10 slow breaths. 

〰 Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana) is one of those poses I can never get enough of. This pose helps to stretch your inner thighs and restore the freedom of your hips and lower back while stimulating your digestive system and restoring the function of your kidneys. Start by lying down on your back, bend your knees and grab the outer edges of your feet with your hands. Relax your head and your spine on the mattress. Feel free to play with extending one leg out and then the other. Take 10 slow breaths.

〰 Reclined Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana): This twist helps release tension and tightness in your spine, hips, and lower back, while helping to induce deep relaxation. From happy baby, hug your knees into your chest and lower both knees to the right. Turn your head to the left and soften your gaze. Take 10 slow breaths. Repeat on the left side. 

〰 Corpse Pose (Savasana): Offers us the opportunity to let go of our day and prepare for deep relaxation. Start by lying flat on your back with your arms by your sides and your palms facing up. Close your eyes and do a mental scan from your toes all the way to the crown of your head mentally relaxing every part of your body. Continue in this pose breathing slowly allowing your body and mind to fully unwind as you fall asleep.

On top of doing these stretches before bed, I also like to take a relaxing class on the YogaWorks App. Yoga Nidra and Gentle Yoga are some of my favorite classes that always rock me to sleep.


P. S. Check out this Get Ready With Me for Bed video here where I share a few more tips on how I unwind and set myself up for a night of restful sleep. 

Let’s talk CORE with Tracy!

Your core is the central most part of your body, the trunk or torso. Think of your core as a strong column that links the upper body and lower body together. Core muscles are responsible for stabilizing the spine and pelvis as well as generating and transferring energy from the center of the body to its limbs.

Having a solid core creates a foundation for all activities. All of our movements are powered by the torso. The abdominals, hips and back work together to support the spine when we sit, stand, bend over, pick things up, twist, chop, throw, any exercise and more. It includes your pelvis, back, hips and abdominals. Core exercises train the muscles in your core to work in harmony. This leads to better balance and steadiness or balance. 

Training the core with classic and functional movements ensure greater mobility of the spine and trunk and ensure proper transfer of force and stabilization from the lower body to the upper body and vice versa. Having a strong, stable core helps us to prevent injuries and allows us to perform at our most efficient level. Although we all love a good “crunch” I find it more beneficial in programming more functional exercises to enhance the strength and stability of the hips, torso and shoulders.

Let’s look at some basic, but key exercises, i use to train this important system of muscles and some helpful tips and tricks!

After a proper warm up such as 3-5 minutes of squats a light jog or as simple as some jumping rope, begin with basic static stability work like planks or split leg squat holds to make sure your muscles are properly stabilizing your spine. This is essential to both protect the spine from excessive loading, as well as ensuring your abdominal muscles are staying fully engaged.

Split Stance Squat

  1. From a neutral, hip width squat or chair pose, step one foot back into a split or staggered stance position with your hands by your side, looking forward and down.

Forward plank

  1. Come into an all fours position on your mat.
  2. Place the hands shoulder width apart on the floor and feel each finger tip and palm of the hand ground gently to your mat. 
  3. Press away from the floor to engage your back  and draw your abdominal up and in like strings on a corset as you walk one leg back to plank at a time.
  4. Keep a straight line through the body, preventing the hips from sinking to the floor.
  5. Gently squeeze the glutes as if you are holding a pencil between the cheeks. 
  6. Feel length in not only your spine but as you reach your legs long and press into the floor stronger with hands and feet, you will feel strong and stable!

For athletes and non-athletes alike, the side plank resembles the challenges placed on the torso muscles while performing simple activities of daily living, such as carrying grocery bags or removing a suitcase out from overhead compartment on an airplane. 

Side plank

  1. Start by lying on an exercise mat on your side with your forearm flat and your elbow directly under your shoulder.
  2. Your legs should be long with your feet stacked on top of each other.
  3. Your chin should remain tucked throughout the movement, as if you were holding an egg under your chin.
  4. Rotate your shoulders outward to engage your lats, and pull your forearm down toward your midsection to create tension.
  5. Tuck your pelvis, squeeze your glutes and quads, and engage your core. All repetitions should begin from this position.
  6. While maintaining your alignment, lift your hips off the floor. Your body should remain in a straight line from head to toe.

Let’s now take that activation and stability and apply it to the first initial stages of strength training, which will include a combination of dynamic stability, muscular endurance, and some introductory strength work. With your muscles properly activated and engaged, your endurance will help them stay active all throughout, and you can apply that skill of stability into some more functional movement.Because the core muscles are divided into front (anterior), back (posterior) and sides (lateral), they need to be trained on all planes of motion.

Single Leg Balance with Overhead Hold

  1. Stand tall with feet together with weight of choice by your side.
  2. Draw the collarbones open and engage the core to maintain a strong posture. You can take one arm out to the side slightly for balance if you feel unsteady.
  3. Lift one foot off the ground, bending the knee slightly. Don’t lift the leg too high – instead just let it hover slightly above the ground.
  4. Maintain an upright posture keeping the abdominals drawing up and in as you take the weight overhead.
  5. You can maintain the overhead hold for 30-60 seconds.
  6. For added stability and core strength challenge, begin to lower the weight to shoulder height and press overhead again for 8-12 reps! The movement of the arm will challenge both!

Hip bridge or thrust

  1. While lying on your back, bend your knees to roughly 90 degrees and press your feet firmly into the floor.
  2. Squeeze the glute muscles to lift your hips off the floor, getting your shoulders, hips, and knees into a straight line while you also draw the abs down and in.  Think as if you are zipping up a tight jacket.
  3. As your hips lift and your abdominals pull down you create a reverse tug of war feel between the posterior and anterior muscle groups. This resistance is bracing, and in turn, strengthening the core!

Weighted carries – a great way to practice transferring force through the body.

  1. You can carry a weight in one or both hands and simply walk for a certain distance or time.
  2. The focus is on staying long through the body and not bending or twisting in any direction.
  3. These carries can be done with the weight by your side(s) or pressing the weight overhead and reaching as if you are reaching for the clouds.

Whether you’re hitting a golf ball, chopping wood or mopping the floor, the necessary motions either originate in your core, or move through it. Weak, tight, or unbalanced core muscles can undermine you in any of these realms. Ultimately, developing core strength and stability enables everyday athletes (yep that’s you!) to maximize their power output and enhance everyday performance.

Practice these solid core exercises and more online!

The Difference Between Flexibility and Mobility

Flexibility and mobility are two similar concepts that play vital roles in human movement and physical performance. While they are often used interchangeably, they actually refer to different aspects of our body’s ability to move. Although their definitions are not necessarily agreed upon by everyone in the movement profession, and often times semantics come into play, there are a few things that most can agree on.

Mobility, is the broader concept of the two. It encompasses flexibility but also includes factors such as joint stability, strength, and control. Mobility reflects the ability to move freely and effectively through a full range of motion without restrictions or compensations. It involves not only the flexibility of muscles and soft tissues but also the coordination, strength, and control required to execute movement patterns.

While flexibility focuses on passive range of motion, mobility involves active movement. Mobility requires not only the ability to stretch and lengthen muscles but also the capacity to activate and control them throughout the range of motion. For instance, a person with good mobility in their hips can not only achieve a deep squat position but also maintain balance and control during the movement.

A yogi may possess exceptional flexibility in their joints and muscles, enabling them to perform splits and backbends effortlessly. However, if they lack mobility, they might struggle to perform complex transitions that require a combination of strength, coordination, and control, even within their extensive range of motion.

Both flexibility and mobility are essential for overall physical health and performance. Flexibility helps prevent muscle imbalances, reduces the risk of injury, and improves posture and body alignment. Mobility, on the other hand, enhances functional movement patterns, sports performance, and activities of daily living by allowing individuals to move with efficiency, stability, and control.

Developing both flexibility and mobility is crucial for optimal physical performance and well-being. It is important to incorporate a variety of stretching, strengthening, and movement exercises into our routine to promote both flexibility and mobility in our bodies.

Nutrition Over 40

Women aging smart is my new obsession. I have always made smart choices regarding nutrition with the occasional indulge on this or that. This is normal and I am not a fan of restricting. I have the burger and fries if I want to. Lets be real, you have to enjoy life and food is delicious and fun! The best challenge is taking a cool recipe and health-ing it up!

Choosing whole, organic, fresh and locally based foods ensure that you are getting quality nutrients to nourish your body. This is not only important for the general population but especially critical as women enter into their 40s and 50s to to further support energy levels, hormone changes, mood and overall quality of life.

I try to look at nutrition the same way I look at fitness or the physical side of this symbiotic relationship, with mindfulness.  Moving the body with a mindful approach, has led me to feeling strong and functional.  This should always be the goal. I approach food with the same theory. Is  what your choosing, what you are about to put in your body, going to be nourishing and help in maintaining strength and functionality or will it weigh you down and make you feel slow and sluggish and in turn decrease health and longevity?

We all know that what got you by as a younger adult will not necessarily work as we get older. This is especially true for women as we begin to enter into our 40s and 50s.  Hormones are changing kids and we want to select food and nutrient choices that can support those changes.

Protein rich foods are so helpful because they help preserve lean body mass which means a higher metabolism. It also helps regulate blood sugar and is essential for maintaining a healthy body weight.

Each persons needs vary, but I like to aim for 1.2 grams of protein per body weight or 20-30 grams per meal. I chose a variety of animal proteins as it is the most efficient delivery system and is more easily absorbed for most.  Animal proteins are considered complex proteins which means they provide all of the essential amino acids our body needs as opposed to plant protein which are incomplete proteins. Plant proteins lack in either one or the other required essential amino acids, so they should be consumed in combination in order to serve as complete.

Healthy fats play a multitude of roles in the body. They provide energy, keep cholesterol and blood pressure under control and assist your body in absorbing vital nutrients. They feed the brain! Try an avocado, macadamia nuts or a tablespoon or extra virgin olive oil and watch your energy climb!

Nutrient dense foods are those rich in vitamins, mineral and antioxidants. Eating a variety of these foods can help to calm inflammation and sometimes help in regulating hormones, blood sugar and mood. Berries, apples and citrus fruits are loaded with antioxidants which help keep free radicals at bay. Cruciferous vegetables and many lettuce varieties are very high in nutrients such as B, A, C, E, K and fiber.  I love the micro green versions as they contain up to 40 times more nutrients compared to their mature equivalent. Toss them into a smoothie or on top of a salad!

Ancient grains like farro and buckwheat are loaded with protein, fiber, Vitamin B, iron and manganese with the added advantage of being gluten free. The best is a cold farro salad with cucumber, tomato and feta.  Load that salad with basil, mint, parsley and cilantro and its a refreshing nutrient burst!

Think positively about the change in food lifestyle you plan to make. Keep it basic but delicious. Emphasize whole, minimally processed foods.  Focus on grass fed, pasture raised animal products and ancient or whole grains. The most local and seasonal organic fruits and vegetables available and add nuts and seeds with some dark chocolate as a treat.

Check out Yogaworks and Tracy’s Instagram for healthy fun and fresh recipes to add to your plate!

Cross Training for Yoga

The health benefits of yoga are vast, numerous and well documented. In addition to the mind/body connection that our practice builds, yoga can incorporate a variety of different fitness elements. Depending on the style that you are drawn to, it can be strength, mobility, flexibility, balance, and even more. However, no matter how hard we try, yoga won’t cover everything. For those of us that look solely to our practice for fitness, it is important to acknowledge its limitations.

It was many years into my love affair with yoga that this realization finally hit. But when I fully embraced the need to cross-train for other elements of fitness, it freed up my practice. Yoga no longer had to be everything to me. I could get my cardio, endurance, and strength elsewhere, thus opening up more possibility on the mat to go deeper with what yoga is actually good at.

When looking for ways to mix it up off the mat, everyone’s needs are different. Cross-training for yoga should incorporate a variety of complementary exercises and activities into your fitness routine to enhance your overall physical well-being. By engaging in activities such as hiking, swimming, weightlifting, and more, you can develop strength, cardiovascular health, and endurance, which will also directly benefit your yoga practice.

Hiking is an excellent cross-training activity for yoga enthusiasts. It offers the opportunity to connect with nature while simultaneously improving cardiovascular fitness and lower body strength. The varied terrain and inclines encountered during hikes engage the muscles in your legs, hips, and core, helping to build strength and stability. Additionally, hiking can enhance your endurance and stamina, which can be beneficial during longer yoga sessions or challenging poses.

Swimming is a low-impact, full-body exercise that provides a unique form of fitness. It offers a gentle yet effective way to improve cardiovascular health, increase lung capacity, and enhance overall body strength, mostly by pulling, which is something our yoga practice lacks. Swimming engages all major muscle groups, including the arms, legs, core, and back, while providing resistance through the water. This resistance helps to build strength and muscle tone without putting excessive stress on your joints.

Weightlifting, when done with proper form and technique, can be a beneficial addition to a yoga practitioner’s cross-training regimen. When most people begin their yoga journey, the body weight resistance is enough to build strength. But over time, as we get stronger on the mat, body weight just isn’t enough to be challenging. Resistance training exercises targeting major muscle groups, such as squats, deadlifts, and bench presses, can help build overall body strength and improve muscle tone. It can also help prevent muscle imbalances and promote better posture, which are vital for maintaining proper alignment during yoga practice. Remember to start with lighter weights and gradually progress to heavier loads to avoid injury and ensure proper technique.

These are just a few of the ways that one can augment the physical benefits of their yoga practice. Of course there are so many more. In addition to those we’ve already discussed, some of my favorites are walking, cycling, pilates, running, and slacklining. Slacklining is a balancing activity that involves walking or performing various poses on a narrow, flexible webbing suspended between two anchor points. It can greatly enhance your balance and proprioception, which is your body’s awareness of its position in space. Improved proprioception can enhance your ability to hold yoga poses with better alignment and stability. Additionally, slacklining helps develop core strength, leg strength, and overall body control, which are essential for maintaining balance and stability in yoga postures.

When incorporating these activities into your cross-training routine for yoga, it’s important to strike a balance and listen to your body. Allow sufficient time for rest and recovery, as well as mindful stretching and relaxation. Be mindful of any limitations or injuries and modify the activities as needed to ensure safety and prevent overexertion. Consult with a fitness professional or yoga instructor if you have any concerns or questions about integrating these activities into your routine.

11 Signs You Should Finally Enroll in Online Yoga Teacher Training 

Completing your online yoga teacher training enables you to transform lives, build a flexible career, and share your passion with the world.

If the thought to teach yoga has ever crossed your mind, consider this blog post your official sign to take the first step. 

People who complete their online yoga teacher training don’t just walk away with their certification – they deepen their practice on a physical, intellectual, and emotional level, forming a deeper connection with themselves than they’ve ever had before. 

I get it – finally making the leap and signing up can be intimidating. 

But your yoga practice doesn’t need to be a vision of perfection in order to be an instructor. You don’t need to have mastered complicated arm balances and inversions. In fact, when you start your online yoga teacher training, it’s best that you leave your ego at the door.

You may be more ready for this journey than you realize. Here are 11 tale-tell signs it’s time to finally get your yoga certification online.

1. You want to take “yoga” beyond your practice and into your life

If you’ve been going to yoga classes for a while, you’ve experienced the euphoria and bliss that arrives the moment you open your eyes after Shavasana. And you’ve listened when your instructors talked about Yoga Sutras or the Yamas and Niyamas. 

You were tuned in. You may or may not really know what a Yama is – but you do want to learn how to bring that same feeling into every part of your life.

Follow that desire to dig deeper into the world of yoga philosophy right to online yoga teacher training. A credible yoga certification teaches you much more than poses and flows. You’ll learn important definitions, ideologies, and philosophies. 

For example, the word “yoga” can have several translations, but Pantanjali’s Sutra 1.2 tells us that the definition is “quieting the mind chatter.”

If you’ve been wanting to live a more peaceful and mindful life, online yoga teacher training will give you the tools to do so. 

2. You want to share your passion with others

Most people seek out an online yoga certificate course because they have their own moving story about how yoga has made a profound impact on their lives. 

And they want to share that experience with others. 

Whether you’ve been attending a regular yoga class for a few months or have had a dedicated practice for several years, you know how you feel about yoga. You LOVE it! It’s a discipline that’s brought you a lot of health and happiness and you can’t help but tout the vast benefits of yoga to friends and family. 

Online yoga teacher training will inspire you to stay on your current path, learn more, and eventually make an impact on your own students.



3. You consider yourself a lifelong student

You consider yourself a “student of life,” but when is the last time you truly dedicated yourself to mastering a new skill?

Online yoga teacher training brings you back to the supportive learning environment you crave. 

Does the idea of having challenging – yet achievable – goals and “homework” activate a long-dormant feeling inside you? Do you love to get lost in a good book or a philosophical discussion? Have you been fostering a daily journaling habit? 

Maybe challenging your physical limitations is what excites you the most.

Do you want to learn about the mechanics of the body and how many different parts must work in perfect harmony to master a single pose or flow? Then it’s time.

4. You’ve been waiting for the “right time”

Speaking of time, Sutra 1.1 says, “Yoga begins NOW.” 

There may never be the perfect time to start your online yoga teacher training. 

If you’ve been telling yourself that you might someday get your yoga certification online or if you saw this blog post and thought, “Oh, it’s been on my list!” start doing the research TODAY. 

In the words of Hugh Laurie, “It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now.”

5. You already meditate – or would like to

Let me dispel one common rumor about online yoga teacher training: You don’t have to already have a meditation practice to get your certification. 

But you DO have to have the desire to add meditation into your life. 

You will learn how to meditate during your online yoga teacher training. Eventually, it will become a new habit – a habit that makes you feel incredible and perfectly complements your yoga journey. 

Don’t be surprised at how quickly it becomes a natural part of your daily routine!

6. You can’t do a handstand… but you’ve mastered the art of child’s pose

Remember that I said you don’t need to be able to hold advanced postures like a handstand or side crow

Inversions and arm balances don’t make you an advanced yogi! 

A much bigger indication that you’re ready to complete your online yoga teacher training is that you can listen to your body. You follow your breath. You know when to drop into a child’s pose when you need a rest. 

You will most certainly work on inversions and arm balances during the training, and you may come out of the certification course with some new postures. Or not. 

Either way, it won’t define your capabilities as a future teacher.

7. You can’t wait to surround yourself with like-minded people

If you’ve been yearning to deepen your practice surrounded by an amazing, diverse community of people, there’s no better place than online yoga teacher training. 

You’ll meet people that are as equally motivated as you to learn more about yoga and to share their practice. They will provide you with more inspiration than you could have ever imagined. And they will be there to lift you up when things get challenging. 

You will likely form an inseparable bond with other students. And when the time comes to collect your certification, you’ll find yourself with lifelong friends.

8. You regularly seek challenges and personal growth

Ask any teacher, and they’ll tell you: Your online yoga teacher training will be difficult. 

Whether you’re looking into taking an online yoga certificate course, getting your certification in-person locally or overseas, training on the weekends over six months, or during a one-month intensive, there will be challenges ahead!

But it’s SO worth it. 

The requirement to step out of your comfort zone, both physically and emotionally, will create personal growth you never expected. My advice is to stay open, embrace new things with child-like wonder, and say “yes” to the journey ahead of you. 

9. You’re ready to create change in your life

The last few years have caused many of us to take a pause and look inward for answers. If you’re feeling like there’s something bigger out there, it’s time to pursue it.

You don’t need to have a clear reason for why you want to attend online yoga teacher training. You don’t even need to have a clear plan or desire to become a yoga teacher afterward.

Many people get their yoga teacher certification for personal reasons or to deepen their private practice. There will be a shift in your life, it may be immediate, or it may take months. It could be subtle or it may be big, but it will be there. I can only describe it as a life-enhancing experience!

10. You’re called to make a positive impact on the world

Are you feeling a calling to do something in life that benefits others and/or our environment? 

It took me years to realize that if we want the make the world a better place for all beings, the best place to begin is with ourselves. 

Ed and Deb Shapiro, in their book, Be the Change, write, “When we open to transformation within ourselves, so society also transforms – every change that each individual makes creates a chain reaction that is beneficial to all. Then, instead of focusing on the problems, we can start to live the solutions.” 

After having completed my yoga teacher training, nothing feels more true than those words. If you want to change the world, begin by changing yourself. 

11. You’d love to build a flexible career

Yoga introduces so much flexibility into your life in unexpected ways. Pun intended.

After getting your yoga certification online, you immediately have options. Two obvious ones being to either teach part or full time. 

It could be small way to get paid to do something you love each week. 

Or it could be a huge shake up in your career and life. I’ve seen many people leverage their yoga certification to be able to make money while traveling, or to organize retreats to stunning places around the world. 

Either option gives you more control of your time and your schedule. Online yoga teacher training empowers you to pursue balance, bliss, and happiness – not just in your personal life, but also in your career. 

And that’s what it means to life a yoga lifestyle, bringing this post full-circle.

Make this the year you FINALLY start your online yoga teacher training

After I completed my training, I had others ask (and I asked myself): “Is online yoga teacher training worth it?” 

While I got my certification during an in-person training, my answer is still a resounding, “yes!” 

You will experience profound growth as a result of your teacher training. Regardless of how you decide to use your yoga certification in your life, the experience of taking an in-person or online yoga teacher training is like nothing else.

In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t take very long to get your yoga certification online. As a first-time yoga instructor, you will need to start with a 200-hour YTT class, but you can advance to a 300-hour class. This is usually done over a couple of weeks or a month. 

You technically do not need to be certified to teach yoga. However, you may struggle finding a job or a studio to teach in without one. Being able to show that you are a certified yoga instructor will show potential employers, studios, or partners your dedication to your passion. 

The cost of each yoga teacher training (YTT) will vary depending on the location, size of class, duration and more. 

If you’ve read this far and resonated with even just one of the points in this blog post, it will be worth it to you. I encourage you to finally make the leap. 

Author’s Note: I completed my YogaWorks teacher training in Bali at the end of October 2015. Prior to applying, attending a YTT and becoming a certified yoga teacher was something I had dreamt of for several years, but I had never felt ready for it. I finally decided, there really was no such thing as “ready” and took the leap. It was the best thing I did for myself that year! I began my training with the intention of “deepening my practice” and of becoming a yoga teacher “one day.” I honestly never believed I would be able to lead a class after just one month of training… but I was so wrong. My teachers Alicia Cheung and Oliver Reinsch, along with the YogaWorks format of teaching, provided myself and my fellow students with all the tools and confidence we needed to excel as teachers. As a newly certified teacher, I’m so grateful to have experienced this training, and so excited to share this amazing practice with others.