What is Water Yoga by Christa Fairbrother, MA, ERYT 200/500

Water yoga, at its essence, is doing the yoga you already know, in the water. 

When you think about it a little harder, you realize there’s more to it than that. You can’t sit or go upside down without getting wet.  Your yoga mat and most of the other gear you’re used to using isn’t going to work. And maybe you don’t know how to swim, so you have concerns about being in the water. My book, Water Yoga:  A Teacher’s Guide to Improving Movement, Health and Wellbeing, breaks down these misconceptions and gets you practicing and teaching water yoga like a pro.

On land, a yoga practice is made up of eight limbs of yoga. In the water, I call the limbs of yoga waves. The concept of the different aspects of yoga being waves fits into the aquatic environment better. It also reinforces the idea that you don’t have to do the parts of yoga in sequential order. Water yoga is very accessible for beginners, and emphasizing the aspects relevant for each person, instead of a rigid hierarchy, is student-friendly.

The first wave of water yoga, the Yamas. Ahimsa is the first Yama and is traditionally translated as non-harming. I translate it as being kind.  Being kind to yourself is even easier in the water because of the water’s buoyancy. Buoyancy offloads your weight and relieves sore joints making a water yoga practice easier for many people than a land-based practice.

The Niyamas are philosophical practices we want to do more of. For example, Tapas is about right-effort. All your yoga practices should be done at the right level for you. In the water, if you want to work harder in a posture, you can use the water’s viscosity (water’s thicker than air and harder to move through) and make your movements big and fast. If that vigorous movement hurts, the pain stops immediately when you stop because the water’s viscosity slows you down immediately. On land, managing your momentum and gravity require continued muscular effort, so you continue to ache as you return the heavy weight to the floor. It’s easier to customize your yoga experience in the water.

The wave of water yoga that most people are used to splashing around with is the poses. One of the most common questions, is how do you do Down Dog pose or other inversions without drowning people? Easy, we modify water yoga poses to make the best use of the aquatic environment. The focus is on using the same physical and energetic properties as the poses on land, and less on making them have the exact same shape. 

Pranayama, or breath practices, are even more powerful in the water.  Hydrostatic pressure is the force that the increased density of the water applies to a submerged body. It also makes your inspiratory muscles work harder, increasing your breath capacity with water yoga.

The hydrostatic pressure also contributes to a Pratyahara practice. The universally applied increase in pressure calms your nervous system, similar to how a weighted blanket is used for neurodivergent kids. Pratyahara is withdrawing your senses to prepare you for meditation. It’s the natural response to getting in the water. When you say, ‘Ah’ and close your eyes because you’re feeling relaxed in the water, that’s exactly what the fifth wave of water yoga is.

Concentrating on a single point, a Drishti, is a Dharana practice. With all the visual movement of the water’s surface, and the hustle and bustle at a pool, there’s a lot to distract you. Dharana is learning to sharpen your focus so all those other things clamoring for your attention don’t affect you. For example, when you’re in a balance posture and focus on a single point far outside the pool, the distractions right next to you won’t impact you as much.

Floating meditation is a Dhyana practice. You’ve withdrawn your focus from what’s happening around you and are focused on just what’s going on inside your head. Just like it’s easier to be reflective and spend time with yourself at the beach, the pool is a natural environment to get to know yourself better and focus on what really matters.

Just like with land yoga, Samadhi or bliss, is your intent with your practice. It’s integrating all eight waves of water yoga as best you can to be comfortable and secure with the most essential aspects of yourself. However, just like with land yoga, in water yoga, you have no guarantee you’ll get there as an outcome. That’s why it’s more important to pay attention to your time in the pool and appreciate the process more than worry about the results.

As a concept, you can’t beat water Yoga. It allows you to enjoy the comfort of the water. Outdoor pools allow you to get outside and enjoy the sun, all while getting the benefits of yoga. Water Yoga: A Teacher’s Guide to Improving Movement, Health and Wellbeing teaches you how to practice all waves of water yoga for yourself as a first step. Then moves beyond that with the tips to guide others through the practice. Once you know how to apply these concepts for yourself, the book helps you with the communication strategies and teaching tips to help your students succeed.

I live with multiple forms of arthritis. Yoga provides me with excellent self-management tools to stay healthy. Water yoga is even better for people who live with arthritis because of the properties of water. My success in managing my arthritis inspired me to become a water yoga teacher and share the practice with you through the book. Use the book for yourself, share it with family and friends, and learn to teach water yoga, because the bottom line is yoga is awesome, but it’s even better when wet.

Christa Fairbrother, MA, ERYT 200/500, is an internationally recognized water yoga coach and trainer. In addition to being a yoga professional, she is certified both as an Aquatic Therapist through the Aquatic Therapy and Rehab Institute and as an Aquatic Fitness Professional through the Aquatic Exercise Association. She combines her background in education, yoga, and aquatics to provide high-quality training for other pros so more people worldwide can get the benefits of water yoga. She lives in Florida with her husband and two sons. When she’s not in the pool, there’s nothing she loves better than a good book and a huge cup of tea.

Yoga tips for summer 2022

Sizzling summer temperatures, while exotic for those of us based in the United Kingdom, can be a bit enervating and leave one lacking in energy. How best to adapt your yoga practice so that the practices chosen help cool and soothe rather than exacerbate the heat? According to Ayurveda, the sister science to Yoga, in summer the pitta dosha (one of the three ‘doshas’ or constitutions) can be aggravated, leaving us feeling extra hot and potentially short-tempered.  Adapting your practice for summer according to Ayurvedic principles involves choosing cooling and calming postures and practices that will help soothe and balance rather than aggravate excess pitta.

If you’re not able to get away to the beach just yet, here are a few yoga tips for keeping cool this summer:

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Hypermobility Happy Hour Podcast with Author and (retired) Bowen Therapist Isobel Knight

Written by Isobel Knight

On 22-4-22 I had the honour of being interviewed by Kerry Gabrielson who runs a Podcast series called, ‘Hypermobility Happy Hour‘. The interview assumes some knowledge on the topic of hypermobility, heritable connective tissue disorders especially the ‘hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome’ – the one and most common subtype of a total of 13 different (much rarer) types of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). The other condition much referred to is Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder (HSD), which is the resultant diagnosis if one has symptomatic hypermobility and doesn’t meet the (2017) criterion of hEDS. So what do these terms mean in lay-terms?

What is meant by Hypermobility?

Figure 1.A hypermobile joint being measured with a goniometer
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How the Microbiome, Gut Health and Oriental Medicine Can Help Us Find The Way to a Happy and Healthy Life

By Lisa Lee, Lic.Ac, PhD

As we approach the final countdown to the release of my book exploring the fascinating cross-over between the microbiome, gut health and Oriental Medicine, and the opportunity this affords us as practitioners and patients of Eastern or Western medicine, and as human beings, I noticed the coincidental timing of the ‘Healthy Eating Week’ run by the British Nutrition Foundation. I pondered upon seeing this on the meaning of ‘healthy eating’. I also found myself thinking about how we often underplay the significance of food as medicine and the role of inadequate diets in the initiation of disease. For there is a real paradox in many advanced societies that despite the abundance of food available, dietary deficits remain significant, and health problems linked to our diet and digestion are all too common. Many will rightly question what lies at the root of today’s struggle to define and implement healthy eating to achieve sustained good health.

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Why there’s way more to teaching online in 2022 than setting up a zoom class

Written by Jade Beckett

Rewind to March 2020 and it’s fair to say we all thought teaching yoga online was a temporary thing. It was passable to have a thrown together space with the sofa as the backdrop, sit your laptop on a pile of blocks on a chair, not have a microphone, get interrupted by your cat during class… here in Summer 2022 that really isn’t the case anymore.

Online yoga has had a heck of a glow up over the past two years and is constantly evolving. The landscape for yoga teachers has changed forever, with this sector of the industry predicted to boom even further by 2027. Yet again, it is time for us to step up our game so we can keep developing top-tier online offerings that are slick, student-friendly and deliver expert transformation to our students and we’re ready to capitalise on that growth.

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What is Pelvic Yoga Therapy?

by Cheri Dostal Ryba, C-IAYT 

I suspect by now many of us have heard that kegels may exacerbate symptoms for some people, and can have limited benefit for others. Pelvic health, like any health or fitness pursuit, requires a dynamic, whole body and whole person approach to creating a lifestyle that both minimizes symptoms and supports healing and thriving. No ‘correct posture’, ‘best’ exercise, or one cookie cutter approach can possibly meet the varied demands of daily life, our psychoemotional fluctuations, and the ever-evolving needs at different seasons in a woman’s cycle and lifespan. Yoga therapy represents a customized, integrative, and collaborative approach to healthcare and wellbeing that respects the complexity of the individual.

Pelvic yoga therapy, put simply, utilizes this comprehensive, therapeutic approach to yoga to improve someone’s pelvic embodiment and function.

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How Theory Becomes Practice

By Dolma Johanison, D.Ac., L.Ac.

The Eight Extraordinary Vessels theory has been in existence for thousands of years, and many practitioners of Eastern medicine find themselves intrigued by these “mysterious vessels.” Over the years, many practitioners have indicated it is too dangerous to deeply explore the eight extraordinary vessels, while others believe quite differently. Li Shi Zhen of the 16th century had the viewpoint that not employing the eight extraordinary vessel theory with patients is a disservice to them. Following this guidance, I was profoundly inspired to deepen my study of these vessels and the works of Li Shi Zhen. During the course of my study and employment of the theory in my clinical practice, I discovered there is limited information on how best to proceed as a beginner practitioner regarding the eight extraordinary vessels. This discovery motivated me to write a book for the practitioner interested in knowing more about the eight extraordinary vessels and putting that knowledge into practice for the benefit of their patients.

“Early practitioners and philosophers were not afraid to use these vessels. Li encouraged all of his students as herbalists and acupuncturists to honor and practice the highest level of medicine by incorporating these vessels into their treatments.  In this way, he believed practitioners could serve the highest purpose.” (pg.13)

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Sabine Schmitz on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and skin diseases

Practical and useful advice for the clinical management of patients with acne

Some of you may already know my first book Treating Psoriasis with Chinese Herbal Medicine. I am very excited to introduce my new book, which has been just released, which is called Treating Acne and Rosacea with Chinese Herbal Medicine. It is the second book in my series on dermatological diseases and zooms in on another of the most common skin conditions of today: Acne. The book covers prescriptions and treatment options with Chinese herbs for all types of acne and TCM syndromes. In addition to this, and for better understanding and assisting in your practice, a separate chapter on acne rosacea is included.

As crucial as Chinese herbal medicine is in the treatment of acne is, I always say – never let a patient go home without giving suitable dietary advice. As well as a good diet can improve the skin, an improper diet can worsen the skin. You and I know this from our daily practice. With the following information, I would like to give you an insight into how general diet rules work best and which ones you can give to your patients with acne.

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Sandra Robertson on What does “Processed food” really mean?

Sandra Robertson is a Practitioner of Chinese Medicine in Victoria, B.C., Canada. She is the author of Treating Children with Chinese Dietary Therapy. You can find more information at Nourishlifemedicine.com.

Food awareness

I recently spoke on a podcast and the subject of “processed food” came up frequently during the interview. After we had concluded I realized that I could have elaborated on the different levels and methods that are utilized in the processing of food. Not all processed food is unhealthy and in our often-busy lives, it’s helpful to make a distinction so we can choose efficiently and wisely for our health. Nowadays our grocery store aisles contain food products that have been hugely altered from their original states in ways that would have been unimaginable 100 years ago. Many staples such as bread, yoghurt, cereal, and baked goods have gone from being just simple processed food items to becoming ultra-processed food (UPF). Awareness and education of what we think we are eating and what we are actually eating is crucial not only to our own health but for the health of our children and grandchildren born into this world of quick, easy and addictive food products.

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Allie Middleton, JD LCSW E-RYT C-IAYT on Moving From Me to We

In an old and favorite verse from thousands of years ago, the author of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad IV.4.5, considers this:

You are what your deep, driving desire is.
As your desire is, so is your will.
As your will is, so is your deed.
As your deed is, so is your destiny.

And yet, as we all wonder about the future now, shall we ask each other this next question, “What is OUR collective desire and what shall OUR collective deeds create now?

In my experience over decades as a systems change catalyst and leadership coach, I’ve had the privilege of helping many individuals and teams develop new strategies for high level impact. Whether in business, healthcare or communities, one of my initial questions is, “Who are we really, and what is our work?

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