Sarah Scharf, MFA is a yoga teacher, author of the upcoming book, Holding Space: The Creative Performance and Voice Workbook for Yoga Teachers and theatre artist. She holds an MFA in Physical Theatre and has completed multiple training courses in Yoga of various styles. In London she taught at Triyoga – the largest studio in Europe – and worked as a mentor for the Yogacampus Teacher Training. She runs popular workshops and training on voice work and performance skills for yoga teachers, and works as a movement director and teaching artist for theatre. She is an American currently living in Vienna.
Improvisational theatre has a rule that is not to be broken under any circumstances: Yes, And. The principle is simple: whatever is happening must be accepted before we add to it. The pandemic has made this principle my greatest ally. It helps me acknowledge the challenge of uncertain work income, the inability to plan or make decisions with a full picture and the intensity of grief that has rocked me as our world has changed so quickly. At a recent workshop I gave, a longtime yoga and meditation teacher commented that improvisation is very much like mindfulness. I totally agree. Mindfulness as a practice of being aware of what is present, what is actually happening versus being stuck in our thoughts and expectations, is the basis of improvisation.
The “new normal”
Teachers of all types have suddenly been asked to teach through new mediums. People with different types of jobs are zooming and working remotely. Those of us who have work that can be moved online are lucky, yet the transition has been rocky for a lot of us. My background in theatre and many years of teaching experience have really helped me to adapt. Most of this blog is adapted from my upcoming book Holding Space:The Creative Performance and Voice Workbook for Yoga Teachers. We don’t need to be trained actors to communicate clearly and effectively through screens. We do need to embrace improvisation, allow for the learning curves and be extra kind to ourselves. Continue reading →
In these unprecedented and extraordinary times, we are all experiencing lots of different emotions. Yoga offers a set of tools to help us understand and soothe our minds when feeling overwhelmed, and to help both mind, body and soul.
Follow this soothing, relaxing practice with Sian O’Neill, for you to feel refreshed and reset. Take time out to nourish yourself.
During this Coronavirus crisis, remaining healthy and motivated have become more important than ever. Fortunately, technology is on our side and there are many excellent live stream options for home yoga practice with your regular teachers.
To complement this, I highly recommend having a home yoga practice where you practice on your own. You effectively take charge of when you practice, what you practice and the duration of your practice. This gives you total flexibility, especially if you are short on time or you want to focus on something specific as opposed to doing a full spectrum class practice.
Where do you start?
OK, so you want to practice at home but you don’t know where to start or how to find the motivation. Continue reading →
Robin Rothenberg, author of Restoring Pranaand forthcoming Svadhyaya Breath Journal: A Companion Workbook to Restoring Prana (June 2020), served for six years on the IAYT Accreditation Committee in addition to running a busy yoga therapy practice. Her yoga therapist training program was one of the first to be accredited by IAYT in 2014 and she has been a yoga therapist for over 20 years. You can find out more about Robin at Essential Yoga Therapy. Below she shares tips for keeping the mind and body healthy through COVID-19.
Over the past few weeks I’ve seen numerous social media posts counseling people to stay calm and stay clean. In my experience, employing good breath hygiene is the most effective way to both remain grounded and support immune and respiratory health. The breath is our greatest inner resource and with a little breath education, you too can develop the capacity to settle yourself, even when fear is gnawing at your gut! Initially, breath hygiene may feel unfamiliar or awkward (much like learning to wipe down everything you touch with disinfectant) but the more you work with it, the easier it gets.
Here are five valuable tips for how you can use the breath as a powerful BFF to enhance emotional regulation, while simultaneously giving your immune system a boost.
L-R: Alison Leighton, Tarik Dervish, Sian O’Neill, Wendy Teasdill, Graham Burns
We recently met with contributors to the new Yoga Student Handbook, including Sian O’Neill, editor of the book and host of the discussion, as well as Tarik Dervish, Alison Leighton, Wendy Teasdill and Graham Burns. In this podcast, they share ideas and tips for the budding yoga student as well as seasoned yogis and yoga professionals.
In their discussion, the contributors touched on the history and philosophy of yoga, where to begin your yoga practice if you’re a beginner yogi, how to develop your home practice and when to consider teacher training. Although they’ve all contributed to the book, some of them have never met in person. This was a great opportunity for them to meet, get to know each other and exchange ideas.
Believing in its transformational power, Sian O’Neill has been practising yoga for over 15 years. The first book she edited for Singing Dragon, Yoga Teaching Handbook (Singing Dragon, 2017), was a great success – and with the publication of Yoga Student Handbook, Sian and the contributors share their tips and advice for yoga students and teacher trainees. In the second of three instalments about yoga journeys, Sian talks with Liz Lark, who has been teaching yoga for almost 25 years and has been a Board Member of Yogacampus since its inception in 2003.
We meet in Liz’s garden in Sussex. The garden is characterful and charming, with Turkish tiles above a pond, plentiful plants and artistic touches. Liz is as generous with her time as she is in her yoga classes, interspersing our conversation with many anecdotes and inspiring quotes (Liz’s memory for quotes from all sources is amazing).
How did you become interested in yoga?
A naturally sporty person, Liz Lark attended a yoga class as a teenager, where a teacher remarked (favourably) on how slowly she performed a simple movement of raising arms overhead – she was in the flow and enjoyed the coordination of movement and breath. Liz regularly returns to basics, although clearly an extremely proficient yoga practitioner, having taught yoga for over 20 years – ‘can I live in the present?’ She sees yoga ‘as a vehicle to explore creative expression, connect with the transcendent function with curiosity, without dogma, enjoying creative expression through ritual, singing, scent’. Continue reading →
Believing in its transformational power, Sian O’Neill has been practising yoga for over 15 years. The first book she edited for Singing Dragon, Yoga Teaching Handbook (Singing Dragon, 2017), was a great success – and with the publication of Yoga Student Handbook, Sian and the contributors share their tips and advice for yoga students and teacher trainees.
In the first of three instalments about yoga journeys, Sian talks with Katy Appleton, founder of appleyoga.
appleyoga is probably one of the better known brands in the yoga world in the UK today. Founder Katy Appleton, self-described as a ‘lover of life’ and ‘recovering control freak’, was a former professional ballet dancer with the English National Ballet. Running in the family, Katy’s mum practised yoga while pregnant, and Katy remembers being a new student and attending yoga classes with her mum as a very little girl. Yoga arrived in her life as an adult to counterbalance the extremities of performance while a professional dancer, and she would practise breath work and tools to help her rebalance and sleep after a performance.
As a student, Katy’s first teacher training was in Ibiza in the Sivananda tradition. Other key yoga influences in her life include well-known yoga teacher, Shiva Rea, whom Katy credits with broadening her understanding of yoga and in particular, vinyāsa krama (which can be interpreted as meaning ‘step by step progresion’). Katy became Shiva’s assistant, travelling with her and then becoming a mentor on Shiva’s teacher training. She has also dabbled with Ashtanga with David Swenson, and mentions other yoga friends/influences including Annie Carpenter and Tiffany Cruikshank.
Why did you decide to teach?
Katy describes her decision to teach as a calling. Indeed, that is a common theme in the chapter by Katy and co-author Natasha Moutran on building a yoga business in Yoga Teaching Handbook that it is important to know the ‘why’ behind starting your yoga business. Katy has clear values underlying appleyoga including honesty and humility. She believes in holding a safe space for people and quotes Maya Angelou: ‘People remember how you make them feel’. For Katy, yoga offers a space that is ‘tangible and palpable that is touched when practising yoga’. She describes yoga as a ‘homecoming’ which offers a chance for the nervous system to relax, a place beyond the internet and understanding from books. She believes yoga can offer an anchor from which to move around in life. Continue reading →
The team at Singing Dragon would like to thank everyone who signed up, read, watched, listened or interacted with our first ever Virtual Yoga Summit. We believe that yoga really is for every body and we hope we managed to embrace that in this summit, putting a strong focus on accessibility, body positivity, empowerment and on yoga’s ‘whole person’ approach. Continue reading →
Marlysa Sullivan is an assistant professor of Yoga Therapy and Integrative Health Sciences at Maryland University of Integrative Health. She is also adjunct faculty at Emory University in the doctor of physical therapy where she teaches an elective on integrating yoga into physical therapy care. Her research interests have focused on developing an explanatory model of yoga therapy based on philosophical and neurophysiological principles. She is the co-editor of the book Yoga and Science in Pain Care: Treating the Person in Pain (Singing Dragon, 2019).
In this video, Marlysa guides viewers through a meditation practice for inner well-being.
Yoga and Science in Pain Care Treating the Person in Pain
Edited by Neil Pearson, Shelly Prosko and Marlysa Sullivan. Foreword by Timothy McCall.
This is an integrated approach to pain rehabilitation that combines pain science, rehabilitation and yoga with evidence-based approaches from respected contributors. The book shows how to integrate the practices of yoga and pain science, and promotes the movement to a patient-valued, partnership-based biopsychosocial-spiritual model of healthcare. Read more
Language is powerful, as is pain. Both can be forceful motivators of behavioural change. Spoken language can be interpreted in many ways. Sometimes we even question whether words mean what we think they mean. Pain can be the same. We wonder whether pain really is intended to “get us to stop or change our behaviour”. We might also wonder “exactly what is it that I am supposed to change? Maybe the change I need to make is to stop responding this way to my pain!”
As a yoga teacher, leading groups in asana requires instructions that will keep your students safe. As such, cognitive contemplations such as the above are not well-suited as part of an asana practice dialogue. We use language that guides our students to be aware of what is happening in the present moment. We guide them to find the right challenge so they can explore preconceived notions, all the while staying present with, and not ignoring what’s happening now. We use language that provides options for change. “What would happen if you changed the way you are breathing right now?” “Or what you are thinking?” “Or if you let go of some of the aversion to the emotions or tension that you are feeling in your body right now?” In other words, we use language that encourages awareness and language that encourages self-regulation – often of body, breath, thoughts and emotions. Note that this language of awareness is not the same as asking a student to be aware “as the first step to change”. This is language that focuses on awareness as important in and of itself. Continue reading →