Teaching Yoga for People with Disabilities – Guided by Humanity with Mary Sims

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Teaching yoga for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities can be an extremely rewarding yoga career. Today, we are chatting with Mary Sims, the Executive Director and Founder of the non-profit, Guided By Humanity. 

👉 How and why Guided by Humanity was started

👉 The mission and vision of Guided by Humanity

👉 The challenges, struggles and serious rewards of teaching yoga for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

👉 How you can get involved with Guided by Humanity

About Mary

Guided By Humanity is a non-profit organization that offers accessible, inclusive, and compassionate mindfulness programming to Colorado residents that traditionally lack access to health and wellness resources. We are dedicated to providing health and wellness opportunities to all underserved communities that are accessible to everyone, regardless of ability or background.

How To Get Involved

Stay up-to-date on all of their events here!

September 13 – Yoga for All – GBH Fundraiser!

Key Takeaways

[00:06] Who is Mary Simms and Guided by Humanity

[03:08] The mission and vision of Guided by Humanity

[05:14] The biggest challenges and struggles of teaching people with intellectual disabilities

[07:52] Challenges and struggles of teaching people with physical disabilities

[10:41] The Mindfulness Bus Program

[12:08] Mary’s biggest rewards from teaching people with disabilities

[15:31] How to get involved with Guided by Humanity

Quotes from this episode

I know the therapeutic benefits of yoga just for myself personally. And I did not see anyone with a physical disability in our classes or, anyone with an intellectual disability.  So I wanted to create a space and classes where people feel safe, they feel like they belong and also they feel that they are included in the practice. And that’s why Guided By Humanity started.

Our mission is to provide inclusive, accessible, compassionate yoga and mindfulness to underserved communities. And our vision is to create those safe spaces where people feel like they belong.

If you want to teach people with disabilities, you want to understand and to recognize that there might be some things unexpected in your classroom. And as a teacher you must be really grounded. We have a specific method that is very repetitious for our new students and anyone that comes into the classroom. It’s very safe and grounded.

I don’t teach a pose if I do not know three variations of that pose. That way, I feel assured that people are included.

And I think with our Accessible Yoga Training, it’s been very helpful to empower teachers to feel like they can give a quality classroom experience. 

I would say first of all, a huge reward is the joy in the classroom. It’s always light and easy. 

There’s always laughing and there’s no competition, no judging. It’s just a really open and joyful space to be in.

Our data shows an increase in leadership skills and the voices in the room become louder and more confident.

They’re using their yoga breathing, different poses and relaxation techniques outside of the classroom. 

Yoga Nidra’s Transformational Power with Jenn Brennan

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iRest & Yoga Nidra can help people lean into their life regardless of the situation or circumstance and support them to discover that there is nothing to fix, heal or change.

Today, with Jenn Brennan, we are talking about Yoga Nidra’s healing effects:

👉 What is Yoga Nidra?

👉 The difference between Yoga Nidra and meditation

👉 The purpose of Yoga Nidra

👉 What yoga teachers should know about Yoga Nidra, iRest and the different Yoga Nidra practices/”styles”

👉 How Yoga Nidra can change your life and achieve transformation

About Jenn:

Jenn Brennan is a Holistic Health Practitioner who empowers women to discover a deep connection within themselves that unlocks more joy in their daily life. She is passionate about helping others in times of stress, transition & loss.

Check out Jenn’s online program: https://www.facebook.com/DeepRestore/

Visit Jenn online: http://www.yogabathandbody.com

Key Takeaways

[00:04] Introduction to Jen Brennan and Yoga Nidra

[00:43] What is Yoga Nidra?

[03:12] Is it normal to fall asleep in Yoga Nidra?

[04:47] What is the difference between Yoga Nidra and Meditation?

[05:45] Is your meditation practice benefiting those around you and yourself?

[09:04] Do certain types of meditation separate us?

[09:45] Yoga Nidra gives us a sense of connection.

[10:37] How Yoga Nidra translates from the supine state into the rest of our lives.

[14:08] The different “brands” of Yoga Nidra and how yoga teachers can get started.

[18:14] When is a good time to do Yoga Nidra?

[19:17] Why you sleep so well after Yoga Nidra.

[22:22] Resources Jenn recommends for Yoga Nidra.

[25:27] How Jenn uses Yoga Nidra in her classes and yoga business.

Quotes from this episode

Yoga Nidra takes you from the waking state, the thinking state, all the way through the different levels of the brain waves that release you into deep relaxation.

With Yoga Nidra, we want to be able to navigate through these different layers of brain wave states and still be aware.

It can be super challenging for people to enter into a Yoga Nidra if they’re used to being on the go all the time because we actually invite in deep relaxation by laying down and resting and stillness so that they can enter into the deeper states where healing can happen and more awareness can shine through. 

Another difference between Yoga Nidra and regular meditation is that it’s a deep practice of welcoming and also befriending life in the body. 

I’ll never forget the moment when I was drinking a cup of tea and for some reason Oprah was on Super Soul Sunday and somebody said, “if your meditation practice is not benefiting those around you, it’s not very powerful.”

When I heard that, I realized my form of meditation was causing more separation. I could only find meditation in specific states. I had to have stillness in order for it to feel like it was working. 

And yet Yoga Nidra is you walking in life, walking through life, feeling everything as it is.

Is your meditation feeding you in a way that you’re a more kinder, more compassionate person, not just towards others, but towards yourself? 

Because if we’re not careful, we can use our meditation as a medication from feeling real life. 

And we all know that the more we put up the resistance patterns of just not meeting ourselves in our meditation practice, then we put that out into the world of not being able to meet the world is it comes to us on an ongoing basis. 

The principle behind the Yoga Nidra and particularly iRest, is that everybody is wanting to feel a sense of connection, a sense of belonging, a sense of being seen and a sense of being heard. 

And so if we are integrating that into the Yoga Nidra or into our meditation practice, there’s a very good chance that it’s going to create a more expansive state. 

iRest protocol is a step by step process to feel into each of these layers of our being so that we can integrate back to the true remembrance of wholeness that we are. 

It’s trying to lead you into a place where you remember that your true nature is really this wellbeing of vitality, of joy and of love. 

The more you practice Yoga Nidra, the more the practice remembers you. It becomes part of your life. It lives through you.

Jenn’s Book Recommendations

The iRest Program for Healing PTSD by Richard Miller

Daring to Rest by Karen Brody

Yoga Nidra: The Art of Transformational Sleep by Kamini Desai

Theming From The Heart with Shauna Hylenski

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Theming your yoga class is so much more than just reading an inspirational quote.

It is part gift and part skill.

Shauna guides you through a few tips on how to find a heartfelt theme and how to integrate themes into your yoga teaching that create impact and a dedicated following of students.

About Shauna

Shauna quickly realized there was more going on in her practice than the physical experience, which motivated her to learn more. The basis for her training has been in the Anusara Yoga system and has been greatly influenced by her experiences in AcroYoga and she has recently completed her Aerial Yoga Teacher training.

What can you expect from a class with Shauna? To feel grounded and calm. Shauna expertly guides her students deep inside their own bodies and minds, where they will discover their own inner wisdom and true teacher, themselves.

She has been practicing yoga for over 20 years and has been teaching all ages and skill levels for 8 years. She was initially drawn to yoga as a supplement for her dance technique classes in NYC.

Study with Shauna and her advanced yoga teacher training.


Key Takeaways

[00:39] Shauna’s experience on the mat

[01:25] An example of theming your yoga class “off the mat”

[03:28] Choosing a theme

[07:29] Who am I today- making sure the theme feels authentic to you

[09:25] The integration

[11:13] The Spiritual Sandwich

[11:53] The Reminder

[14:07] Shauna’s favorite resources

[15:32] Amazing quote from Theme Weaver

[18:17] Interested in studying with Shauna? Check out her upcoming 300-hour program! 

Referenced Books:

Soul to Soul: Prayers & Stories to End A Yoga Class by John Mundahl 

Theme Weaver by Michelle Marchildon

Quotes From This Episode

My experience on the mat started to deepen into a place that was beyond the physical experience of moving from asana to asana in order to achieve some physical goal into something that touched my heart and my spirit and felt like a way in which I could integrate yoga into my life. 

And the wisdom that I learned in those early years of my practice guided me towards becoming a yoga teacher myself. 

What kind of nuggets of wisdom and experience can we offer to our students? 

I feel like that’s where theming can really enhance someone’s precious time on their mat. 

To create a great theme, ask yourself, what is my mission?

One of my passions and my mission as a teacher is to help others find that internal wisdom. So instead of me just putting the wisdom onto them, I interweave my questioning, my theming, my asana sequences and my meditations in service to helping them find that inner wisdom and awareness within themselves, that inner teacher.

As I progress in my journey as a yoga teacher, I learned that it’s important that these themes really speak to you, that they resonate with you in some way, that they support your mission and that you have experience with them. 

I think the more and more we can continue to extend our reach beyond the time on our Yoga Mat, the more impactful our offering is going to be for our students. 

A great theme speaks to you. It resonates after class. It has the potential to motivate on the mat and off the mat. It’s able to reveal more about the self, creates an expansion of who we are, illuminates something either about us, about yoga or about the world, is motivating, inspiring and enlightening. Is all of the above or just one of the above.

Studio vs Gym – Which is Better? with RaeAnne Roseman

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Where do you teach? At a studio or a gym? Which one do you think is better and why?

Today, we are talking about the pro’s and con’s of teaching at a studio vs. a gym and things to be mindful of in each setting.

👉 Does yoga belong in the gym? Is teaching yoga in a gym bad???

👉 Pro’s and con’s of teaching in a gym vs a studio.

👉 Who should teach in a gym?

👉 Who should teach in a studio?

Tune in every Wednesday at 2PM for our FREE FB LIVE series with Yoga Teachers of Colorado.

RSVP receive a reminder FB message: https://www.facebook.com/events/371137380168968/

About RaeAnne:

RaeAnne’s teaching journey began at Samadhi Center for Yoga & Meditation where she completed a 250 hour Hatha Yoga training that focused on many different styles of yoga practice, including restorative and therapeutics. Over the years, she has deepened her own practice and teaching and is now a 750 hour certified Baptiste teacher.

When she is teaching in the room, she is completely present and aware of what is going on with each and every one of my students. She empowers each student to become the best that their bodies and minds will allow in that moment. When you practice with her, you will feel loved for who you are, as you are, and you will walk away from each class feeling strong and inspired.

RaeAnne has taught in yoga studios and gyms for several years and is now offering a 200-hour yoga teacher training program through the Longmont Rec Center this September!

Key Takeaways

[00:33] Introducing RaeAnne

[02:05] Pro’s & con’s of teaching in a studio vs a gym

[03:46] Can teachers create a studio ambiance in a gym?

[10:07] Different tools to bring in for a studio vs. gym setting

[10:34] Different pay structures at a gym vs studio

[15:21] Music differences

[19:49] Who should work at a gym or a studio?

[21:30] Benefits of teaching at a gym

Quotes from this episode

It’s up to the teacher to set the ambiance and they can create the same ambiance at a studio and a gym.

It’s not so much about the location as it is about the energy that the teacher brings in. The teacher provides the energy for the space.

When you walk into a room, it’s not about you anymore. It’s about the bodies and the students that walk into your room and take your class.

But a lot of times the opportunities and financial rewards can be more abundant if you expand your view of what’s possible and where you can offer yoga.

And I also feel that it’s important not to disempower any teacher because they’re not in a studio. We need to uplift and empower all of our teachers.

There’s so much growth that can happen if you learn to teach parks, gyms and other environments outside of the studio.

Another great benefit of teaching at a gym is you have access to a much wider population like seniors.

It’s an exciting, exciting time to be a yoga teacher because the opportunities have expanded so much.

Astrology & Yoga with Sirena Dudgeon

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Yoga is not only the connection of body, mind, and spirit, but also to the cosmos and planets around us.

Sirena Dudgeon connects the cosmos and planets into her yoga classes to create a truly unique class experience for her students.

She’s going to share with us some examples of how you can start to bring astrology into your classes and help your students connect more with body, mind, spirit and the cosmos around us.

Tune in every Wednesday at 2PM for our FREE FB LIVE series with Yoga Teachers of Colorado.

RSVP receive a reminder FB message: https://www.facebook.com/events/371137380168968/

About Sirena:

I am a 200 RYT for about 3 years now, I teach in Longmont, Boulder and Lyons. My love of yoga is coupled with my love of Astrology. I design my classes around moon and sun phases of the zodiac – and which part(s) of the body are associated with those signs. I also place a lot of emphasis on the spiritual side of yoga (versus it just being exercise and a workout) in my classes with pranayama, meditation, japa, yoga sutras, etc. I hold workshops on astrology/yoga and also Yoga in the “Church” with a dear reverend friend of mine. We explore spirituality amongst all beliefs and combine them with vinyasa yoga flows in a beautiful sacred space.

Find Sirena online: https://sirenanow.wordpress.com

Key Takeaways:

Allison’s personal takeaways: I don’t have much experience with Astrology and it was fascinating to get my chart read by Sirena. I HIGHLY recommend her for an astrology reading or an astrology workshop. She recently did an astrology workshop for her co-workers- how cool is that?!?

[00:24] About Sirena

[01:56] What is astrology and they type of astrology that Sirena practices

[04:06] The different elements of the signs, cardinal signs, and how Sirena brings these into her class theme

[05:16] Horoscoping

[06:26] Is horoscoping and astrology trying to predict the future?

[10:19] How Sirena brings astrology into her yoga classes – new & full moons, body parts, energies, all the good stuff!!!

[15:02] How yoga teachers can bring in 

[18:08] Mercury Retrograde- what is it and how does it really affect us???

[22:25] How to work with Sirena- workshops, chart readings & yoga classes.

Quotes from this episode

“Astrology is just a huge snapshot of a person’s life. So when you’re born- it’s a snapshot of the sky, the cosmos, and that’s your chart.”

“You have to just work with the energies and it takes time to learn that.”

“Astrology kind of gives you that deeper level of understanding of the “Why” this is happening in your life. It helps fill in the blanks sometimes.”

“Astrology is similar to yoga. It’s a journey.”

“Mercury is a planet of learning and sharing ideas, sharing information, learning information, connecting and communicating. It’s not just technology.”

“If you want to start learning astrology, attend some classes or workshops. That’s really the best way to get started.”

Iyengar Yoga for Healing with Rick and Michelle Gindele

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Iyengar yoga is heavily based on alignment and form. Join us as we chat with Rick & Michelle Gindele of Santosha Yoga and hear their experience of Iyengar Yoga and its healing power. 

We are talking about these topics today:

👉 The Philosophy of Iyengar Yoga

👉 The importance of “proper alignment” for yoga teachers

👉 Rick’s recent experience of Iyengar Yoga’s healing benefits

👉 How to learn more or become a certified Iyengar yoga teacher

Tune in every Wednesday at 2PM for our FREE FB LIVE series with Yoga Teachers of Colorado.

RSVP receive a reminder FB message: https://www.facebook.com/events/371137380168968/

About Michelle & Rick:

Michelle is the founder of Santosha Yoga and a certified Iyengar Yoga teacher (CIYT). She began practicing yoga in 1997 and started teaching in the Denver area in 2002. Michelle is very grateful for the opportunity to study the yoga sutras, yogic philosophy, meditation, and astrology for over fourteen years with her guru, GOSWAMI KRIYANANDA. Her primary yoga instructors include Craig Kurtz, Leslie Bradley, and many senior Iyengar Yoga teachers. Michelle’s compassionate and balanced teaching style incorporates principles of alignment, focused awareness, and mindfulness.

Rick a Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher (CIYT) started practicing yoga on his own in 1984 when he bought a used copy of Richard Hittleman’s Yoga 28 Day Exercise Plan in order to relieve chronic back pain. In 1988 he began taking Hatha Yoga classes as a way to bring balance back to his body from years of serious athletic training and outdoor pursuits. Since 2001, Rick has dedicated himself to the study and practice of yoga.

Check them out online http://santoshayogastudio.com

Key Takeaways

[00:16] Introducing Michelle & Rick

[01:40] What is Iyengar Yoga and the Philosophy behind it?

[05:39] What does “alignment based” mean in the Iyengar tradition? And where did Iyengar come up with alignment based yoga?

[15:58] Rick’s personal experience of the healing benefits of Iyengar Yoga

[19:34] What is the first step in becoming an Iyengar certified teacher?

Quotes from this episode:

BKS Iyengar’s quote about yoga – “I just try to get the physical body in line with the mental body, the mental body in line with the intellectual body and the intellectual body with the spiritual body and and so they’re all balanced. It’s just pure traditional yoga from our gurus, from Patanajali.”

“You can reach all the other limbs of yoga through the postures.”

“The point of holding the poses longer is so you can go deeper. It’s an inward journey so you can go deeper into your own body into those different layers and you know, get to the core of your existence. And so it’s all that self exploration that you go through with the help of the teacher of course.”

“Another purpose of proper alignment is so the Prana does move through the body, less restricted and therefore there’s more healing that will take place and all sorts of other things can take place too.”

“if you want to learn more about the alignment than go to an Iyengar class and learn from your own experience. Experience is your best teacher.”

Preventing Injuries in Yoga – Active vs. Passive Stretching

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How we transition between poses and hold ourselves in certain poses is very important. Many students fail to engage certain muscles, compensating and overusing muscles where they’re already strong and flexible leading to injuries.

To increase body awareness, strength and control, we need to actively engage muscles, especially those we don’t use on a regular basis. This helps strengthen our muscles so they can better protect our joints and decrease injury.

In today’s chat with Kylie Rayne, we’re talking about:
👉 the difference between active vs. passive stretching
👉 mobility vs. flexibility
👉 the science behind outdated cues
👉 the importance of being mindful and educated in our teaching language

Tune in every Wednesday at 2PM for our FREE FB LIVE series with Yoga Teachers of Colorado. RSVP receive a reminder FB message.

About Kylie:

Kylie’s teachings has it’s basis in the traditional Vinyasa style but has evolved as it became increasingly disheartening to teach class after class in which her students could achieve a crow pose or stand on their heads but struggled immensely with simple mobility work.
She makes it her goal to maintain a breath-to-movement style while also implementing innovative movements that help to target places in the body that can be neglected by traditional poses alone. She aims to teach body awareness from an educated and intuitive perspective.

Follow Kylie on IG: @Kylie.rayne.yogi
Check out Kylie online: https://www.kylierayneyoga.com

Key Takeaways

[00:18] About @Kylie.Rayne.Yogi
[2:28] Active vs passive stretching and the injury potential
[4:14] Flexibility vs. Mobility and the injury potential
[6:10] Common yoga injuries and ways to prevent them
[7:55] Difference between connective tissues and how to strengthen the connective tissue
[12:49] What is muscle tightness?
[13:57] Cuing to prevent yoga injuries
[15:06] Keeping the knee behind the toes – WHY?
[17:23] The importance of advancing your yoga teacher education
[18:53] Are your cues based around fear?
[23:35] Sequencing for a peak pose – the Foreshadowing….. 😉
[25:35] Mobility exercises to bring into your yoga classes
[33:32] Let’s get Kylie to do a workshop for YTOC!!!!
Watch Kylie’s amazing mobility videos on IG @Kylie.rayne.yogi

Quotes from this episode

“How should we cue to prevent injuries? Before cuing, ask yourself the question “Why?.” Anytime you cue a pose, know why you’re cuing that pose or why you’re cuing a certain way.”

“When it comes to cuing, think of the bio mechanics behind what is happening in your body.”

“Passive stretching is the majority of what we do in our traditional poses. It’s whenever you use an external force to achieve a certain range of motion, like using your hands to lift your leg.
Active range of motion is using your muscles to do the work. It’s the ability to lift your leg without pulling it with an external force.
And it’s good to have both.”

Teach Yoga at Festivals and Events

About Heather Hottovy

Heather Hottovy, who also goes by Feather, started yoga when she was only 10 years old at the YMCA. She’s been practicing for a long time and finally decided, she wanted to dedicate her life to helping others through yoga. She relocated to Colorado in 2013, and took her first yoga teacher training at Full Circle Yoga in Longmont, CO. Heather is able to impact many lives by teaching at festivals and conferences. She’s taught many studio classes, private sessions, and at festivals like Arise, Sonic Bloom and Rocky Grass. Today she has a wide range of knowledge and experience and a passion to share it with the world. We’re excited to have Heather on today so she can share some of her knowledge of how we can teach at yoga festivals and conferences.

You can learn more about Heather at http://www.heatherhottovy.com.

Let’s get into the interview!

Allison: Thank you so much for joining us today. I think conferences and festivals are a great way to reach a lot of people all at once. Would you like to tell us a little bit about your yoga journey or how you really got into teaching at festivals and conferences?

Heather: Thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to hopefully help some other people spread this awesome teaching of yoga in a bigger, more impactful way.

I’ve always been a little bit of a hippie at my heart. I’ve been going to festivals since 16 or 17 years old, and just really enjoyed them. I noticed that there was a big community in every single festival that I went to. And there’s usually yoga, workshops, music and everything. And as soon as I started to dive into the world of Yoga a little bit more and get my certification, I realized it opened up something that I’d been wanting to do without even knowing that I wanted to do it for a long time.

So I put my feelers out and started to contact people. I realized that one of the people that I knew through being a nanny, which I do on the side, was the manager and producer of Arise music festival’s, personal assistant. So I definitely had an in.

I went to Arise and taught children’s yoga at my first festival and that was a lot of fun. I taught children’s Yoga at a few more of those festivals before graduating to “grown up” yoga at different festivals.

If you’re interested in doing something like this and becoming a familiar name with the community that you’re trying to teach to then get your foot in the door any way that you can.

I was very lucky and I’m very, very grateful that it all fell into place the way it did. And it’s just been a self propelled thing since then. People now come to me and ask, “Hey, can you do this?” And that feels really amazing.

Allison: Yes. I find our personal network is so valuable. I often think that to find more clients I need to reach out on social media and Instagram and be in all these places online and turns out, I know a lot of people around me, why am I always trying to go and search out new people when there are people around me who are teaching at conferences and festivals? Why not network with them?

Heather: Yes, communication is key and I believe in the fake it until you make it saying. Just keep putting yourself out there and already be grateful when you put in those applications. Say to yourself, “I’m so grateful that I’m able to apply to this right now. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to perhaps share my gifts, my lessons that I’ve learned with this audience.”

Shauna: What specific skills have you learned from your experience working at these festivals? Is there any specific way that you organize your sequences for the large audience? What are some tips that you can share with those of us that have never had that kind of a teaching experience?

Heather: I think it’s really, really important to have a base flow. At a yoga festival, they could be anyone from the age of 1 to 101 and within a various range of fitness levels and experience levels. It’s hard to accommodate everyone. So I think that the most important things to come prepared with are that base flow and a willingness to change. Be able to see when something’s not working. When half of your class is going the wrong way you see that, make sure that everyone’s balanced on both sides, stop that flow and do something else that’s more attainable for everyone.

Yoga should be all inclusive. It shouldn’t be exclusive. And if you’re putting together a flow, if you have one in your mind and you’re thinking, ‘okay, today we’re going to do warrior three at the festival.’ And then you see someone doing something dangerous, you have to change your game plan and say, “okay, we’re going to hold this for one breath, not the 10 that I was planning on.”

You just have to be really flexible and teach to who is there.

I actually had an experience teaching 75 plus people. We weren’t expecting that many people to show up for the morning yoga so I didn’t have a microphone. Yelling the cues while trying to maintain this container of calm while sound check is happening was really, really difficult. I saw all of these things happening and I was like, ‘okay, and now we’re in our downdog shake your hips to the jam that’s coming on because it’s sound check now.” 🙂

So I think having a playful spirit when you’re in these situations is necessary too. You’re not in a yoga studio. You don’t have four walls surrounding you. You don’t have a roof. I mean I’ve even had a student running around being chased by a bee and that was a really a humorous little thing to experience halfway in a yoga class. But we all learned from it. As soon as that person calmed down the bee left. I’m pretty sure I even said something like, “See, calm is the key. “

Shauna: Can teachers expect to be paid for something like this, are you working for free or are you working for a trade for tickets to the show? How has that worked in your experience?

Heather: That is a great question. And something I really wanted to talk about today because I have been in a situation where it was strictly volunteer and I paid for my own travel, food expenses, everything to go out there. It was more of a passion project. It was something that I felt very, very deep about doing. And I’m actually going to be going back to the same festival to volunteer even more this year. So that is one side of the coin.

Another side of the same coin, you can get paid along with festival tickets along with free food, drinks, along with VIP sometimes depending where you are. I’ve been on one end of it and the other end.

And then there’s also times where it is just strict ticket trade.

And honestly figuring out whether or not this specific event that you’re being offered is worth what they’re going to offer you to come and perform there. It really has to resonate with you. It’s a give and receive and if it doesn’t feel like it’s balancing out for you and you have this gut feeling usually the answer should be no.

I have one time said yes when I wasn’t really jiving with the event. And it was the most difficult one that I’ve taught at because I wasn’t happy with what I was getting paid and I didn’t really enjoy it. So it was a very good educational experience for me. And now I know that I need to be getting paid what I’m worth. And I think every single yoga instructor, whether you teach at a studio, private clients, festivals, conferences, you need to be getting paid what you’re worth. Either that or it’s something you’re feeling super passionate about.

Shauna: Do you have any tips for teachers who want to get a little bit more noticed? Any tips for filling out those applications that might give us a little edge above others?

Heather: Great question. I definitely think there is an art to filling out applications.

First, have a good yoga teacher bio. You’ve been teaching for a while, you should have one written up. If you teach at a studio, you’re not going to use that same exact bio. The bio that I have for studios is a completely different bio than the one that I send out to festivals because it’s very similar to a cover letter. It’s going to be super specific to that event. You’re also going to want to have a more fun bio. If you’re trying to be out in the festival community, you can’t be boring. You need to be someone that’s attention grabbing. Perhaps your bio turns into more of a story then an actual biography format.

Also, be active in the community that you’re trying to teach to. Usually on social media you can find festival communities, such as Sonic Bloom Community. Be a social butterfly with the people that you’re trying to teach to. Not only will this make your classes more applicable to them when you do get the gig, but it’ll make people want to go to them. You’re not going to be teaching to just five people that just so happened to know that you’re going to be teaching at a certain time at a festival. You’re going to have a whole community so excited that you are there and you get to offer something that they perhaps have never had before.

Networking is super duper important. Also fun pictures. I know that everyone’s all about their yoga Instagram pictures these days but it’s not even about who’s got the best hand stand picture.

It’s who embodies the personality and the vibes that the crowd would jive with.

Allison: I love that you brought in the networking again because I think it’s important. Just because you have an Instagram and you have a yoga class doesn’t mean that people actually know who you are. You have to network, online and in person. Working that network is important. There’s no better way to really get your name out there.

Shauna: This is a great time to mention our Yoga Teacher Talk events, since we’re talking about networking. One of the best networks to utilize is other yoga teachers. Sharing this kind of knowledge that we’re talking about today, this experience, this wide diversity of backgrounds, experience and passion we can really support and utilize all of this knowledge when we come together. We’re starting monthly gatherings at rotating studios around Longmont and looking to happily expand. It just so happens that Allison, I and Heather live in Longmont. We have our first meetup on April 19th at 7:15 at Shri Studios in the Longmont Climbing Collective. We also have another date set for May at Verve Movement Studio in Longmont. This is a nice opportunity to get teachers together in one place, maybe see people you haven’t seen in a while, or meet new people. We will be talking about all things related to being a yoga teacher and supporting each other and having a nice Friday evening together.

Shauna: Heather, what’s been your favorite experience so far? Out of all the festivals and all the events that you’ve done what would be your top experience?

Heather: I have to say it’s a tie between that ridiculously awesome 75+ person class at Planet Bluegrass right here in Lyons, Colorado. Because that was the best energy that I have ever felt from a group of Yogis. Everyone was there to have fun. It’s one of the most happening festivals in this area that we all are located in. And there were so many people, it was amazing. I felt so ecstatic when I left that place.

But this one also is tied with Aloha, which I mean traveling across the sea, having the honor to teach in Hawaii with my friend TLooP a yoga musician. I believe that has given me a little bit of a niche to teaching with live music at these festivals.

I mean teaching yoga on the beach at a festival- it doesn’t get much better than that.

Shauna: Thank you so much Heather for sharing with us today. How can people find you and connect with you?

Heather: I am super happy to make myself available to any questions. I know that this is a really niche area to get yourself into and there may be a lot of questions that we didn’t go over today. So if you want to reach out and have some questions feel free to reach out on Facebook. Also, I teach Monday nights at Full Circle Yoga where I did my teacher training. And I do have a very awesome set of clients that I see every week, sometimes more than once a week. So I’m always taking new clients and always happy to work with someone.

Thank you so much Heather! Until next time,

Allison Rissel & Shauna Hylenski
Yoga Teachers of Colorado – President & Membership Manager

Connect with Heather on FB: https://www.facebook.com/heather.hottovy
Connect with Heather online: http://www.heatherhottovy.com

Kegels- Common Myths & Best Exercises

People mistakenly believe that pelvic floor weakness only affects child-bearing women. However, women, men and even children can suffer from a weak pelvic floor!

Our current sedentary lifestyle is one cause of weak pelvic floors.

Since so many people suffer from weakness, it’s important that we learn how to strengthen the pelvic floor to prevent weak or hypotonic pelvic floor symptoms. However, when we complain of incontinence, we are given a simple prescription of kegels with no explanation or instruction.



Kegels are a complicated exercise. Done incorrectly, they can do more damage than good. And what’s worse, some people have TIGHT pelvic floors and shouldn’t do kegels at all! 

Basically, there are three types of pelvic floor dysfunction:

  1. Hypertonic – a TIGHT pelvic floor
  2. Hypotonic – a LOOSE pelvic floor
  3. Hypertonic AND hypotonic – One part of your pelvic floor may be too tight, while another part is too loose.

Before starting kegels, check out the symptoms below to determine if you have a weak or tight pelvic floor.

Hypertonic, Tight Pelvic Floor Symptoms

  • Most painful symptoms
  • Pain during sex
  • Pain during urination
  • Urge incontinence (difficulty urinating)
  • Difficulty initiating urination
  • Pelvic pain
  • Decreased libido due to pelvic floor tightness
  • Vaginal Pain
  • Difficulty with conception *this is a new finding and needs further research

Hypotonic, Weak Pelvic Floor Symptoms

  • Stress urinary incontinence (involuntary leakage)
  • Pelvic organ prolapse
  • Decreased libido due to weak pelvic floor muscles
  • Difficulty achieving orgasm due to weak pelvic floor muscles
  • Childbirth and a sedentary lifestyle can often lead to weak pelvic floor muscles, but not always! You can reverse this!

Remember, it’s first important that we end any pain symptoms before strengthening the pelvic floor. If you suffer from pain during sex or trouble urinating, you may have a tight pelvic floor. Check out this article on ways to end the pain and release your pelvic floor.

Once you’re pain free, start to strengthen the pelvic floor through various exercises and yoga poses.

Remember, a lot of people have hypertonic AND hypotonic pelvic floors. Your pelvic floor can be too tight in some areas and too loose in others. If this is the case, start with the pain free routine then add the strengthening exercises once you’re pain free.

If you suffer from severe pain, consult with a physical therapist that specializes in pelvic pain. She can perform massage and prescribe specific exercises tailored to your body.

3 MYTHS ABOUT KEGELS (and how to do them correctly)

MYTH: To perform a kegel, squeeze everything down there as hard as you can.

TRUTH: A kegel is much more complicated than this. To perform a kegel, sit down and visualize your pelvic floor as a bowl or sling. Just like in the picture below, gently pull this bowl up.

Gently pull up this bowl or your perineum (the place between the vagina and anus) and hold for 10 seconds. Release your pelvic floor for 10 seconds. Repeat 10x. If this is difficult at first, stick with the imagery and use your breath. Do not struggle and do not bear down. The releasing is just as important as the strengthening. You should never push down or hold your breath. Allow your breath to flow and engage just the pelvic floor.

MYTH: Everyone should do kegels.

TRUTH: NO! If you find that kegels cause pain or increased bladder or bowel frequency or urgency, stop! It may mean that the pelvic floor muscles are too tight. See a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor dysfunction and read this to gently relax your pelvic floor.

MYTH: To perform a kegel, act like you’re trying to stop the flow of urine.

TRUTH: Using the muscles to cut off the flow of urine only works ONE section of the pelvic floor, the urethral sphincter. If you’ve been practicing this way with no results, don’t worry. You’re not alone. Proper kegeling takes time, effort and a deeper understanding of the exercise. Read on to work the full pelvic floor.


Proper kegeling engages the pubococcygeous (PC) muscle. The PC is part of the levator ani which is part of the pelvic diaphragm. Basically, we are trying to engage all of the pelvic floor muscles, not just the urethral sphincter.

In yoga, we call this contraction mulabandha.

To perform mulabandha, lie or sit down. Then find your perineum, the area between your vaginal opening and anus.

Gently lift the perineum (the pelvic diaphragm), then lift the urethral sphincter (like you’re trying to hold your pee), then lift your anal sphincter (like you’re trying to hold your poop). Hold for 10 seconds, then release for 10 seconds. Repeat several times throughout the day.

This should all be very gentle. You shouldn’t be bearing down or gritting your teeth.


It can be very difficult to control all three of these areas. It takes a lot of concentration, focus and visualization.

Don’t forget to release between sets! Doing too many kegels can lead to a tight or hypertonic pelvic floor.

As you become more proficient, advance to standing kegels. Then complete kegels while jumping, doing lunges, squats, etc.


Your pelvic floor didn’t become weak overnight so it will take time to re-strengthen these muscles.

For you moms out there, your body is a miraculous vessel that created a human!!! That’s so freaking cool and amazing!! Don’t expect too much, rather stick with these exercises every day and notice how you slowly improve over time. Consistency is key!


Yoga Teachers – Are you ready to help your yoga students Restore Their Pelvic Floor? Attend my online workshop – Teaching Yoga for the Pelvic Floor- to learn stretches and strengthening exercises for the pelvic floor. By the end of this workshop, you’ll have the tools to teach your own workshop or class series!

Mandala Flow Yoga Sequence

As yoga teachers, we can get pretty burned out teaching the same flow over and over again. I mean, seriously, how many sun salutations can we teach in a day???? 

Our students can feel pretty burned out as well. Often, I see my students “going through the motions” rather than actually taking the time to mindfully move.

This Mandala Flow is super fun and breaks the rut for teachers and students!


This is a powerful sequence that you can teach as quickly or as slowly as you’d like.

I typically work through the full mandala (both sides) slowly the first round. This allows the students to learn what we’re doing, deepen into the poses and I can cue the kośa allowing them to experience more mental and emotional benefits (see below).

On the second round, we move faster, with our breath (see cues below). We may go through it 1-3 times depending on how everyone is feeling.

This sequence is challenging and powerful, not only for your students but for you as a teacher.

I usually demo while I teach this sequence to keep my Right and Left sides straight. On the first round, as you demo, move around the room so the class can see you. For example, if you ask your students to face the side wall, then you move to the side wall so they can see the next few moves. When they face the back wall, move to the back wall so they can see the form for a Warrior III.

On the faster rounds, you won’t have time to move around the room so keep it easy and demo and cue from the front of your mat. Make sure to keep your Right and Left sides straight!


Change up this mandala flow to make it your own. Sometimes, I add a Goddess pose instead of Wide Leg Forward Fold. Sometimes, I add a Balancing Half Moon or Warrior III squats to increase the intensity. The options are endless! Just make sure your sequence creates a circle around the mat.
When you teach this sequence in your next class, tell me how much your students love it by tagging me on Instagram! Have fun ya’ll!

As yoga teachers, we can get burned out teaching the same flow over and over again. This super fun Mandala Flow breaks the rut for teachers and students!


*note: This is just an example. Feel free to move and cue with your own breath.

Mountain Pose

Inhale arms above head

Exhale Forward Fold

Inhale Half Lift

Exhale Forward Fold

Inhale step left leg back, pause for an exhale

Inhale rise up to High Lunge, pause for an exhale

Inhale straighten front leg

Exhale turn to the side into 5-pointed star

Inhale deeply and exhale into Wide Leg Forward Fold

Inhale twist to the right, exhale fold

Inhale twist to the left, exhale fold

Inhale rise up

Exhale twist to the back of your mat

Inhale arms up

Exhale Left High Lunge

Inhale fully

Exhale hands to heart

Inhale lift the back leg off the ground

Exhale Warrior III

Inhale fully

Exhale Forward Fold

Inhale step left leg straight back, pause for an exhale

Inhale rise up to High Lunge, pause for an exhale

Inhale straighten front leg

Exhale turn to the side into 5-pointed star

Inhale deeply and exhale into Wide Leg Forward Fold

Inhale rise up

Exhale twist to the front of your mat

Inhale Left Warrior II, exhale pause

Inhale Reverse Warrior II

Exhale flow through a vinyasa

Repeat on the other side


Allow your students to move beyond the poses and into the mental and emotional aspects of the practice by cuing through the kośa’s. Click here to learn about the kośa’s.

  • I love teaching this sequence because it allows the students to experience a change in perception. Have they ever noticed the back wall? What else are they missing in life that is “right behind them?”
  • People in the back row suddenly get to experience life in the front row (and your front row people learn about life in the back). Encourage your students to think about other areas of their life where they may need a change in perspective.
  • When your students turn to face the back wall, challenge them to listen to your cues rather than watch your demo. Ask them questions about how well they listen in life. Can they hear the cues or are they easily distracted?