Breathwork

Breathwork has become one of my favorite meditation techniques to teach my clients and to practice for myself. Breathwork is an active meditation technique in which we practice a controlled breath, allowing us to enter a meditative state in order release stress, tension, and blocked energy from the body and mind while achieving a wide array of benefits.

Some benefits of breathwork include:

  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Increased focus

Controlled breathwork techniques can achieve these benefits by calming the central nervous system, activating the parasympathetic nervous system, and oxygenating the blood.  One recent study found that during breathwork exercises several brain regions linked to emotion, attention, and body awareness are active (source).  This suggests that the breath is a powerful tool for tapping into those brain regions to regulate stress and awareness.  More research is being conducted on breathwork and the findings are showing the benefits are not only psychological but also physiological and physical (source).

Now there are many different breathwork techniques with various origins and benefits.  In my opinion, no one technique is greater than the other – all just different tools we can use to achieve greater wellness in body and mind.  Below are a few of my favorite breathwork techniques with background, written instructions, and audio instructions.

Breathwork Techniques


Rest Breath

Benefits –

  • Activates Parasympathetic Nervous System
  • Reduces stress

Formula –

  • Inhale for 4, Exhale for 6
  • Repeat for 2 -10 minutes


Box Breath

Benefits –

  • Sharpens focus

Formula –

  • Inhale for 4 seconds – Hold for 4 seconds – Exhale for 4 seconds – Hold for 4 seconds
  • Repeat for 2-5 minutes

Ladder Breath

Benefits –

  • Clears mind and sharpens focus

Formula –

  • Inhale for 1 – Exhale for 1 – Inhale for 2 – Exhale for 2 – Inhale for 3 – Exhale for 3 – Inhale for 4 – Exhale for 4
  • Begin again at 1 and work up to 4
  • Repeat for 2-5 minutes

4-4-8 Breath

Benefits –

  • Releases stress and tension

Formula –

  • Inhale for 4 – Hold for 4 – Exhale for 8
  • Make the 8 second exhales out of the mouth
  • Repeat for 2-5 minutes

4-7-8 Breath

Benefits –

  • Calms the nervous system

Formula –

  • Inhale for 4 – Hold for 7 – Exhale for 8
  • Make the 8 second exhales out of the mouth
  • Repeat for 2-5 minutes

Interrupted Breath

Benefits –

  • Cooling effect
  • Quickly release tension and rest

Formula –

  • Take 3 quick inhales through your nose – Take 1 long exhale out of the mouth
  • Only repeat for 30 seconds to 1 minute

Sun & Moon Breath

Benefits –

  • Balances left and right sides of the brain

Formula –

  • Plug right nostril and inhale through left nostril for 2-3 – Plug left nostril, open right nostril, and exhale through right nostril for 2-3 – Inhale right nostril for 2-3 – Plug right nostril, open left nostril, and exhale through left nostril for 2-3
  • Repeat for 1-2 minutes

3 Part Breath (Dirga Pranayama)

Benefits –

  • Grounding breath
  • Increases oxygen flow
  • Inspires presence

Formula –

  • Inhale deeply to chest, then ribs, then belly – Exhale deeply from belly, then ribs, then chest
  • Repeat for 2-10 minutes


Enjoyed the information in this article? Let me know in the comments and feel free to share out into the world! Happy Breathing 🙂

Alternatives to Chaturanga Dandasana

As a Power Vinyasa Yoga instructor, I am well acquainted with the posture/transition Chaturanga Dandasana; well enough to have decided to have a restricted relationship with it.  Chaturanga Dandasana, also known as High to Low Plank which typically proceeds an Upward Facing Dog, is a challenging movement that indeed tests and strengthens shoulders, arms, chest, and upper back.  It is, however, a movement that requires proper form in order to be effective and not destructive.  Additionally, it is a transition that is often overused with many Power Vinyasa Yoga classes containing 25-30 Chaturangas or more per class.

 As yoga has risen in prominence and we have begun to apply more scientific theory and critical thought to the practice of yoga, we have discovered that the prominence of Chaturanga Dandasanas in Vinyasa Yoga can create complications for many practioncers, chief among them pain in the shoulders, elbows, and wrists.  Why?

  • Compression – Chaturanga Dandasana and Upward Facing Dog together create a good amount of compression in the shoulders and wrists even when form is optimal.
  • Form – Suboptimal form when performing Chaturanga Dandasana equates to the straining of muscles, ligaments, and tendons leading to inflammation.  Unfortunately, many practioncers – even advanced students – do not have optimal form in Chaturanga Dandasana.  Even those who do have optimal form may begin to sacrifice that form once fatigue sets in after dozens of Chaturangas have been offered in the class.
  • Repetition – Too much repetition of ANY movement can result in injury and complication.  Science tells us that when we use parts of bodies in one particular way too often while neglecting to counterbalance with other movements it can create reoccurring stress which will manifest as inflammation and injury.

In a Power Vinyasa yoga class, we can have all of the above happening at once.  And if a practioncer is partaking in Chaturanga Dandasana bountiful yoga classes multiple times per week, the above complications will be amplified.

 And so myself and many other yoga instructors of migrated away from defaulting to Chaturanga Dandasana and instead opted for other transitions and postures.  Incorporating alternatives to Chaturanga comes with a multitude of benefits, chief among them:

  • Variety – Science tells us that moving in a variety of ways – Dynamic Movement – optimizes mobility and overall health by introducing vectors and forces that work to ensure the body is strong at every angle and capable of all types of movement as oppose to just a few.
  • Neuroplasticity – Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to form and reorganize synaptic connections in response to learning and experience. When we present the brain with new movements to learn and experience, our brains work to carve out new neural pathways, and this helps to keep neuroplasticity optimized long term. (Yoga and dance are great practices for Neuroplasticity)
  • Presence – The introduction of various transitions and postures in a Vinyasa Yoga class inspires us to be more present in the practice because we are not following a familiar or even memorized routine and therefore cannot just go through the motions.
  • Fun! – It is both challenging and fun to try out different transitions and postures in the yoga class.

    Now, none of this is to say that Chaturanga Dandasana is wrong or bad.  After all, when used correctly Chaturanga Dandasana can also be dynamic movement.  However, knowing the complications Chaturanga Dandasana can present when being taught dozens of times, multiple days per week, I think it is advantageous for more Vinyasa Yoga instructors to offer alternatives. 

*Note: What about teaching Chaturanga Dandasana and giving students the option to skip the movement?
I have found that even when I offer this option, many students – particularly those that really do need a break from Chaturangas – will perform the movement out of habit or even ego.  And so, I typically opt to take Chaturanga Dandasana out of the equation.

Below are a few of my favorite Alternatives to Chaturanga Dandasana.  These Alternatives still provide a path back to Downward Facing Dog in the middle of a Vinyasa Flow whilst also offering new challenges and benefits.


Active Seal Pose

Arguably the best part of a Chaturanga Dandasna to Upward Facing Dog to Downward Facing Dog combination is the Upward Facing Dog which stretches the chest and belly and strengthens the upper and middle back.  Active Seal provides the same frontal stretch and lateral strengthening but passes on the compression of Chaturanga Dandasana and the additional compression Upward Facing Dog places on the wrists. Additionally, this pose flows easily and seems like a natural path back to Downward Facing Dog.

How to:

From Plank Pose –

Inhale – Active Seal

  • Drop knees to the floor
  • Curl your heels to your glutes
  • Straighten your arms
  • Lift your chest

Exhale – Downward Facing Dog

  • Land your already tucked toes on the ground
  • Lift your hips up and back
  • Gaze between your feet

Core Stabilizers

I never want my students to feel as though they are missing out on a more challenging work out because of the absence of Chaturangas in my class. So I like to have my Chaturanga Alternatives provide challenges of their own. For me, Vinyasa Yoga is all about core work, and few things challenge the core more than these Core Stabilizers! Here again, this movement easily transitions to Downward Facing Dog.

How to:

From Plank Pose

Inhale – Core Stabilizer

  • Lift right arm forward and your left leg back
  • Square your hips to the ground
  • Pull your abdominals in
  • Shrug your right shoulder blade and your left glute towards on another

Exhale – Downward Facing Dog

  • Place your right hand and your left foot down
  • Lift your hips up and back

Note: Invert rights and lefts for the other side.


Falling Star

This sequence is sure to challenge you and your students with upper body and core work! As a more complex string of movements, this is a fantastic one for neuroplasticity.

How to:

From Lunge or Plank Pose

Inhale – One Legged High Plank

  • Lift your right leg up and back

Exhale – Knee across body

  • Draw your right knee to your left elbow

Exhale – Falling Star

  • Extend your right leg out to the side
  • Turn your hips and chest up
  • Reach your left arm up

Inhale

Exhale – Bring your left hand down

Inhale – 3 Legged Dog

Exhale – Downward Facing Dog

Note: Invert rights and lefts for the other side.


Windshield Wiper Drills

Sometimes in place of Chaturanga Dandasana, I like to offer a muscle action drill which trains the body in strength and stamina. This sequence is sure to challenge you and your students with upper body and core work! As a more complex string of movements, this is a fantastic one for neuroplasticity.

How to:

From Lunge or Plank Pose

Inhale – One Legged High Plank

•           Lift your right leg up and back

Exhale – Knee across body

•           Draw your right knee to your left elbow

Inhale – Draw your knee to your right elbow

Exhale – Back to the left elbow

Repeat the movement several times

Inhale – 3 Legged Dog

Exhale – Downward Facing Dog

Note: Invert rights and lefts for the other side.


Side Plank with Extended Bottom Leg

Plank to Side Plank to Down Dog is a challenging and smooth sequence of postures on its own. Now add in the extension of the bottom leg in Side Plank and you have a smooth transition with a major core challenge in it! This is a great chain of movements to incorporate into a class with an oblique focus.

How to:

From Plank Pose

Inhale – Side Plank

  • Power down into your right hand
  • Roll open to the left
  • Stack your hips and shoulders
  • Reach your left hand up to the sky

Exhale – Extend Bottom Leg

  • Kick your right leg out to the side and hover it from the ground

Inhale – Reach your left arm

Exhale – Downward Facing Dog

  • Land your left hand
  • Square your shoulders and hips down
  • Send your right foot back
  • Lift your hips up and back

Note: Invert rights and lefts for the other side.


Sphinx Pose

Sphinx is one of my favorite poses for stretching the front line of the body and strengthening the back line of the body. Using this in place of a Chaturanga Dandasana-Upward Facing Dog-Downward Facing Dog sequence is not as quick, but it is effective and feels great.

How to:

From Plank Pose

Exhale – Forearm Plank

  • Lower down to your forearms
  • Bring your elbows underneath your shoulders
  • Bring your arms parallel like the number 11

Inhale – Sphinx Pose

  • Lower your hip bones to the ground
  • Untuck your toes
  • Lift your chest
  • Gaze forward and down
  • Breathe here for a couple rounds of breath

Exhale – Forearm Plank

  • Tuck your toes
  • Lift your hips in line with your shoulders

Inhale – Plank Pose

  • Plant one hand down at a time under your shoulders
  • Straighten your arms

Exhale – Downward Facing Dog

  • Lift your hips up and back


View all tutorials in 1 video here –

Conclusion

These are just a few poses, transitions, and sequences you can use in place of Chaturanga Dandasana to offer new challenges for body and mind.  Again, I do not wish to demonize Chaturanga Dandasana. We can absolutely still do and teach Chaturanga Dandasana, we can even still do Chaturanga Dandasana heavy classes from time to time, it still has a place in our lives.  I simply offer the science that incorporating other varieties of movements into our practices and teachings is advantageous and the opinion that doing so can be fun too!

Did you enjoy learning these Alternatives to Chaturanga? Do you have others you would like to share? Let me know in the comments.

*Disclaimer – While I believe all of these yoga postures and transitions to be safe, I take no responsibility for any injuries or ailments sustained for practicing them. If you practice, you practice at your own risk.

The What’s the Pasta!? Podcast

I am excited to announce the launch of my new podcast – The What’s the Pasta!? Podcast!⁣

To quote my intro jingle “The podcast where the pasta of the day could be anything and everything from thoughtful discussions of wellness & spirit to candid conversations about culture & life. All served with a cup of mindfulness and a side of sass!”⁣

‘The What’s the Pasta!? Podcast’ is now available on Spotify and iTunes which you can access via the buttons below. If interested, please listen, rate, review, and subscribe as well as share with your friends!⁣

I sincerely hope you enjoy what I have to offer with this new venture. Thank you for all of the support!

3 Year Anniversary of the Leap

3 years ago today, I left my full-time career as a digital marketing manager to pursue a career of my design comprised of yoga and meditation, mindfulness and wellness, and the craft of writing.  Teaching yoga and mindfulness, engaging in the wellness world, and writing were all deep passions of mine that I had been doing on the side part-time whilst working full-time in the marketing realm for nearly 6 years.  Finally, I reached a point where I realized I would never be fulfilled being a full-time marketing manager or eventual executive.  It became crystalline clear that in order to be fulfilled I profoundly needed to teach and to write and to see the direct impact of my work on other humans.  And so, I leapt from the stability of my marketing career into the unstable, riveting gig economy.

Me running away from the corporate world

Since then, I have taught thousands of yoga classes, led multiple yoga teacher training programs, taught hundreds of meditations and mindfulness workshops, written hundreds of articles, pages, and posts, become a ‘micro-influencer’ and a somewhat working model, and met hundreds of beautiful, inspired humans and have had greater opportunity to work with and befriend them.

It has not always been easy.  Leaving my marketing career meant leaving a perfectly steady paycheck, employee covered insurance, perks, and more.  I have still worked in the marketing world taking on consulting and project jobs as means of supplementing my income.  (And to be clear, I am grateful for any marketing job I have had and have great friends from those jobs who I would still work with in some capacity!)  Especially in 2020, having a career like mine has been incredibly stressful and continues to be uncertain.  

My current work attire

Still, I would not change the last 3 years for anything.  For in these years of doing the work that I love and building a life that is more on my terms, I have felt myself blossom into the best version of myself.  It is this version of myself who has been able to help more people, learn and grow abundantly, and connect with so many wonderful humans.  Thank you to everyone who has been a part of and supported my journey.  Now, let’s continue forward together!

Support for Ra Yoga

I decided to bring my teaching to Ra Yoga in early 2018.  I had only heard the highest of praises and deepest of gratitudes for Ra Yoga from students and teachers alike.  I was ready to be a part of another yoga community and it seemed that Ra was calling to me, inviting me to join.  From my original audition with Jenny and Amanda and my very first class at Ra Costa Mesa, I felt not only warmly welcomed, but also deeply connected.  My students received and appreciated my classes, my fellow teachers treated me like kin, and the staff supported and uplifted everyone.  Right away I knew that I had found another home.  Fast forward almost 3 years later, I have taught hundreds of classes to hundreds of students in Ra’s beautiful studios, I have had the immense honor of supporting their teacher training programs, I have bonded truly with my incredible and dedicated students, I have befriended deeply my fellow teachers and managers, and I have cried, learned, and laughed with my fellow Ra Family members underneath Ra’s roof. 

Ra Yoga is more than a business offering students a work out in exchange for coin. No, Ra is much more. Ra is a community offering its vast and diverse family a place to come to flow and lift, to sweat and cleanse, to sit still and ground down, to clear minds and unlock hearts, to learn and grow, to meet new friends and commune with old ones, to be accepted and celebrated, to give, receive, and be love.  I cannot tell you how many students have expressed to me how the classes taught by myself and my fellow teachers at Ra have helped them through difficult career seasons, break-ups and divorces, deaths of family members, and more and aided their journey to healing and evolution.  I cannot tell you how many fellow teachers have shared with me how Ra changed not only their careers, but their lives as well.  So I repeat, Ra is not just a business, it is truly a community and a family. 

Unfortunately, capitalism does not necessarily value community or heart based businesses.  It comes as no surprise that the pandemic has taken a great toll on the financial health of Ra and other heart based businesses like it and very little government support has been offered to keep these businesses afloat in these tumultuous times.  The hard truth is that Ra, especially being a fitness center and a small business, is in danger of not surviving this unprecedented pandemic. 

The thought that Ra might not be there on other side of this stretch of history is truly devastating.  Again, Ra Yoga is a community and it is a sacred space for so many people.  For some, to lose Ra is to lose a means of maintaining physical, mental, and emotional health. For some, to lose Ra is to lose a place a refuge, acceptance, joy, and peace. For me, to lose Ra is to lose a family I have come to love and cherish more than I can fully express.

And so, I am asking for your help.  I am not asking for my own benefit; yes, Ra is a place of employment for me but trust me when I tell you that I am completely fine and secure.  No, I am asking for your help on behalf of Ra Yoga and on behalf of the family it supports.  If you feel called to contribute, here are some ways you can help.

1 – GoFund Me for Ra Yoga – A GoFund Me campaign has been created by some of the family members of Ra’s owners.  Every contribution counts, helps, is humbly received, and greatly appreciated.  You can access the GoFund Me for Ra Yoga via the button below,

2 – Sign-up for Ra Yoga Live – Ra Yoga has created a truly phenomenal streaming platform for you to practice yoga in the comfort and safety of your own home.  I LOVE Ra Yoga live and would use it even if there was no pandemic.  Check it out for yourself! Here’s what it entails:

  • 6 Classes per day, streamed live AND available to be streamed for 48 hours after the original air time
  • Class formats include: Vinyasa Flow, Strength, Yogalates, Hot Ra, and Rastorative
  • A+ streaming quality: clear visuals, crisp audio, a perfect blend of teacher’s voice and teacher’s music
  • Classes taught by phenomenal Ra Teachers including myself (Johnny), Laurie, Madison, Darren, Amber, Juliet, and more!
  • 2 week FREE trial
  • $20 per month

3 – Purchase Gift Cards –  Buy gift cards for holidays and birthdays to be redeemed for eventual class packages and retail

4 – Purchase Retail – Ra Yoga Studios are still selling retail including mats, water bottles, and yoga apparel from your favorite brands.  If you are ready to upgrade your gear, purchase from Ra!

I sincerely thank you for taking the time to read my words and consider my ask.  Whether I know you personally or you are a follower I have never met, you are part of my community.  And so I am turning to you to help me support the Ra community which means so much to me and many others.  Thank you.

All my love,

Johnny

Seeing the Multitudes in Others

Recently I have been bringing more awareness to how I and those around me describe and categorize others.  It has been interesting, and sometimes concerning, to see how an adjective can suddenly become a defining component of someone’s entire identity when assigned to them by another.  Certainly it is not news to anyone that our society has an affinity for labels, boxes, and color codes.  Our collective tendency for discrimination and prejudice based on these affinities has and continues to create problems and cause harm.  And as many of us seek to become less judgmental and exclusive and instead become more empathetic and inclusive, we must become more mindful about how we think and speak about others; even and especially those that stand on the opposite of us on various issues and beliefs.  For the truth is that one or two adjectives cannot accurately describe anyone, for everyone contain multitudes.

“She is just basic.”
“He is a problematic man.”
“She is just crazy liberal.”
“He is an ignorant republican.”

These are just a few examples of statements I have recently heard those around me speak about others.  And I confess, I am guilty of thinking and speaking about others in much the same way.  As I reflect on these descriptive, categorical statements, what strikes me about them is not necessarily the use of any one of the words, but rather the finality and permanence with which they were spoken.  As if “basic” or “problematic” accurately sums up the entirety of those people’s beings.  Of course, we know on some level that these people must be more complex than just being basic or problematic, right?  True – she might be “basic” in that she is an average woman who enjoys popular things, but she is also probably a loving daughter/sister/mother/etc., she probably has worthy talents, and she probably cares deeply about something important in the world.  Sure – he might be a man who says and/or does “problematic” things, but he also probably is a loving son/brother/father/etc., he probably has respectable skills, and he probably has and does try to do some good in the world. 

While it may be accurate to describe her as basic and him as problematic in some respects, is it not unjust to reduce them as people to being only such?  Is it not wrong to deny their other admirable qualities?  Is it not cruel to not give them the opportunity to be more?  These are the considerations that I have been meditating on as I catch myself labeling and categorizing others.  These considerations may or may not change the verbiage of the statements, but will change how they are spoken.  I may still think or say “She is basic,” but the way in which I say it does not cancel out her other admirable qualities nor does it solidify with finality that “basic” is all she is or ever could be. 

 Personally, I am striving to edit the way these statements are spoken to allow for more consideration and respect. For example:

“In some ways, she is basic.”
“He can be problematic.” or  “He does have problematic tendencies.”

I feel that when I think and speak in this way, I am finding a balance between honoring my own perspectives and opinions and allowing space for the people I am speaking about to be more than just the adjectival labels I have attributed to them.  At once, I am affirming in my eyes that he or she is this or that, but also recognizing that he or she also contains multitudes.  For me, this seems more respectful, more empathetic, and leaves open space to foster conversation and connection, even between two people who may oppose each other. 

Now, there are of course individuals in the world who seemingly can be summarized with strong adjectives and harsh statements.  We know there are people whose entire beings are consumed with negative and evil qualities and they do not deserve any considerations.  However, these people are the exception.  I would argue that the rule is most people are dynamic, multifaceted beings that are capable of being many things at one time and have the great potential for change and evolution.  I believe that in order to cultivate authentic connections, have honest conversations, and share different perspectives, harboring consideration and respect for each other without harsh discrimination and permanent condemnation is of the utmost importance.  Imagine if each of us looked at and listened to each other through the lens that everyone, no matter who, contains multitudes.  How much deeper would those authentic connections be?  How much more productive would those honest conversations be?  How much more could we grasp and understand others’ perspectives to then work toward mutual agreements?  

To be clear, this is not to say that we go through life with rose colored glasses on, bypass conflicts, and blindly hope for the best.  Absolutely, we must continue to call out harmful behaviors, demand change for the betterment of the collective, and engage in disagreements and conflicts as they arise.  All I offer is that as we do so, we allow the space for connection, growth, and grace by staying rooted in the knowledge that all of us contain multitudes and each of us has a role to play as we navigate this lifetime.

Fun Yoga Transitions 2

Creatively sequencing challenging and fun vinyasa flow yoga classes is one of my favorite parts of my job as a yoga instructor.  For me, sequencing is both art and science – artistically choreographing movements while scientifically choosing postures and exercises that safely and effectively fulfill a purpose. 

In my 2019 article Fun Yoga Transitions, I shared some of the different, unique transitions I sometimes incorporate between yoga postures to create a diverse, challenging, and fun yoga flow class.  That article has become my most viewed post on Johnny La Pasta and I humbly continue to receive positive feedback from other yoga instructors who have found success in using those transitions in their own classes.

Now, I present to you Fun Yoga Transitions 2 in which I am sharing even more transitions I have been enjoying teaching and I think perhaps you will too!


Chair Vertical Twist Kick to Crescent Lunge

This transition challenges balance and coordination.  While it may be a complex move, it feels intuitive, dance-y, and fun!

How to:

From Chair Pose –

Exhale  – Chair Vertical Twist Kick

  • Sweep your Right arm back, reach your Left Arm Forward
  • Kick your Left heel up
  • Balance on your Right Leg

Inhale – Crescent Lunge

  • Send your Left foot to the back of your mat and land your toes
  • Circle your Right arm down, forward, and up
  • Turn your torso forward

Reverse Rights and Lefts when repeated on second side.


Half Splits to Revolved Low Lunge

This is a great low to the ground transition that links a great hamstring stretch (half splits) with a core strengthening twist (revolved low lunge) and therefore preps two key areas for a continued sequence. I enjoy using this transition at the beginning of a Sun Salutation B flow that will present further exercises for the hamstrings and the core.

How to:

From Half Splits

Inhale – Revolved Low Lunge

  • Lunge forward and plant your hands
  • Lift your back knee from the ground
  • Sweep your Right/Left arm forward and up

Revolved Low Lunge to Wide Legged Forward Fold

This is another transition that feels dance-y and fluid.  Additionally, it is a great transition for keeping low to the floor for classes focusing on grounding and foundation!

How to:

From Revolved Low Lunge

Exhale – Wide Legged Forward Fold

  • Sweep your top arm forward and down
  • Spin on your feet and turn your toes to the Right/Left edge of your mat
  • Walk your hands over to the side and place them underneath your shoulders
  • Allow your head to hang heavy

Revolved Crescent Lunge to Prayer Twist to Revolved One Legged Mountain

This has become one of my favorite chains of postures! This sequence is the ultimate challenge to core and balance requiring complete presence and concentration.

How to:

From Revolved Crescent Lunge

  • Inhale breath – Gaze down at your front foot and shift your weight forward

Exhale – Prayer Twist

  • Step your back foot up to meet your front foot
  • Sit your hips down below your shoulders
  • Maintain the twist in your torso
  • Inhale breath
  • Exhale shift the weight to your Right/Left foot

Inhale – Revolved 1 Legged Mountain

  • Slowly straighten your Right/Left leg
  • Lift your Right/Left knee up
  • Maintain the elbow to knee connection as you rise up

To Reverse – From Revolved 1 Legged Mountain

Exhale – Prayer Twist

  • Bend your standing leg and slowly lower your lifted toes to meet your grounded toes
  • Maintain the twist in your torso

Inhale – Shift the weight into your Right/Left foot

Exhale – Revolved Crescent Lunge

  • Step your Left/Right foot back
  • Maintain the twist in your torso

Low Lunge to Extended Side Angle

This is a different path to entering Extended Side Angle.  As oppose to coming down into Extended Side Angle from a Warrior 2 or a Reverse Warrior, this transition calls to move up into Extended Side Angle and thus utilize our muscles in a new way to enter the posture. The “Exhale – Lift your torso up by 4 inches until your side body is long” also provides a core challenge and capitalizes on the importance of a long side in this posture.

How to:

From Low Lunge

  • Bring your Right/Left hand to the inside of your front foot

Inhale – Extended Side Angle

  • Spin your back heel down
  • Roll your hips and chest open to the side
  • Lift your Right/Left hand to the sky
  • Exhale – lift your torso up by four inches until your Right/Left side body is long

Low Lunge to One Legged High Plank to Falling Star

Most often when we come down into a Low Lunge from a Reverse Warrior, Warrior 1, etc. we step our front foot back and move through a Chaturanga Dandasana.  This transition offers a fun alternative that challenges upper body and core in a way that is more dynamic than a typical Chaturanga.

How to:

From Low Lunge

Inhale – 1 Legged High Plank

  • Shoot your Right/Left Foot back
  • Hover your toes from the ground
  • Keep your hips in line with your shoulders

Exhale – Bring your Right/Left knee across your body to your opposite elbow

Inhale – Falling Star

  • Extend your Right/Left foot out to the side
  • Push down into your Right/Left hand
  • Lift your hips, chest, and Left/Right hand up to the sky

One Legged Mountain to Half Moon

This has become my favorite way to enter into Half Moon. Most often, we move into Half Moon from a Warrior 2 or an Extended Side Angle which requires us to launch forward and up by straightening our standing leg, lifting our back leg up, and finding length in our torso.  In this transition, the standing leg is already straight and we are already balanced one the one leg so we just have to focus on the rest of the posture.

How to:

From 1 Legged Mountain

Inhale – Open your Right/Left knee out to the side

Exhale – Half Moon

  • Kick your lifted foot back
  • Hinge forward and bring your Right/Left fingers down to a block
  • Roll your Right/Left hip and shoulder over your Left/Right hip and shoulder
  • Lift your Left/Right hand up to the sky

View all tutorials in 1 video here –

I hope you have enjoyed learning these transitions and posture chains. Try them on in your own practice and in your teaching. Let me know how these work for you in the comments below!

*Disclaimer – While I believe all of these yoga postures and transitions to be safe, I take no responsibility for any injuries or ailments sustained for practicing them. If you practice, you practice at your own risk.

California Power Bowls

I am truly Californian – born and raised at the beach, a lover of summer, a practitioner of yoga and meditation, and a lover of fresh, healthy cuisine.  Most of my food is inspired by the Mediterranean and created with a California sensibility.  My California Power Bowls are a prime example of this – a perfect blend of Mediterranean and Californian ingredients and flavors designed to at once satisfy the nutritional needs of an active lifestyle and the desires of the taste buds.

These bowls have everything going for them – tuna for lean protein, quinoa and brown rice pasta for complex carb fuel, greens and veggies for vitamins, fiber, and hydration, and avocado and avocado oil based dressing for heart healthy fats.  They are satisfying without being too filling, cooling and hydrating, and of course, tasty as hell!

The dressing I like to use for these bowls is Primal Kitchen’s Ranch DressingPrimal Kitchen produces salad dressings, mayos, marinades, and sauces all made from real food, organic ingredients without the nonsense you find in many other store bought options.  While many store bought dressings, mayos, and the like are made with refined oils like canola oil, Primal Kitchen’s products are made with avocado oil which is a superior oil rich in good fatty acids and vitamins.  All Primal Kitchen products are Paleo and Keto friendly and they have Vegan options as well.  Their ranch dressings have all the savory, cool flavors of classic ranch without the dairy and other processed ingredients and are the perfect topping for my California Power Bowls.  Order Primal Kitchen here!

Now, let’s make the California Power Bowls –


California Power Bowls
featuring Primal Kitchen’s Ranch Dressing

Serves: 1 | Prep Time: 10 minutes | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:

  • ½ can to 1 can of tuna in olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups salad greens
  • ½ cup tomato, chopped
  • ¼ cup cucumber, chopped
  •  ¼  cup red onion, sliced
  • ¼ cup shredded carrots
  • 1 cup quinoa, brown rice, or other gluten-free pasta, cooked and chilled
  • ½ medium avocado
  • 2 tablespoons Primal Kitchen Ranch Dressing

Directions:

Assemble ingredients tuna through pasta side by side in a large bowl.  Drizzle with Primal Kitchen Ranch Dressing.  Top with avocado.  Eat and enjoy!


Vegan Zoodle Pasta Salad

I love a good pasta salad, especially during summertime. A savory, chilled pasta salad is one of my go-to dishes for contributing to summer parties. A couple of years back I was invited to a summer gathering at which I knew several people with dietary restrictions would be in attendance – a few vegans, a couple of gluten-frees, and a paleo-er. I wanted to make a dish that all of these guests could eat, and that is when I came up with this Vegan Zoodle Pasta Salad.

This Vegan Zoodle Pasta Salad has everything going for it: it’s vegan, it’s gluten-free, it’s paleo-friendly, it’s veggie-full, it’s savory flavorful, and it’s cooling for the summer season. Make this recipe to share at summer bbqs and potlucks or for yourself to enjoy as a meal-prep lunch for several days. Bon appetito!


Vegan Zoodle Pasta Salad

Serves: 4-12 | Prep Time: 15 minutes | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 medium zucchini
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup roasted or fresh red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 cup Kalamata olives, halved
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 cup vegan pesto (I use Trader Joe’s Vegan Cashew Basil Pesto)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Optional:
    • Add 1 cup chickpeas for protein (makes recipe not paleo)
    • Add vegan feta or mozzarella cheese (may make recipe not paleo)

Directions:

Spiralize the zucchini and spread the noodles out on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the noodles with the salt and allow to sit for 30 minutes. The salt will draw excess water out of the zucchini. Squeeze the noodles over a strainer in the sink until most of the water is released. Place the noodles in a large bowl. Add the pesto and toss well. Add remaining ingredients and toss well again. Serve and enjoy!


Visuals :


Spiralizers:

I have a Cuisinart CTG-00-SPI Spizalizer which can be purchased for under $40 here:

There are many other models out there at various price points for your selection. Search and find the best one for you!


Let me know my Vegan Zoodle Pasta Salad goes for you! Cmment below and/or tag me on Instagram @johnnylapasta

Favorite Music Artists for Yoga Playlists

Music is an integral part of what I do as a yoga instructor. I have become known for my yoga playlists in the circles that I teach in. I feel very honored that I receive great feedback from students and fellow teachers on my playlists and happily share my playlists for students to enjoy on their own and for other instructors to use in their classes. In my article Creating a Yoga Playlist I detail my process of and advice for producing a yoga playlist for your yoga classes – click here to read.

In this article, I want to highlight some of the phenomenal music artists that I regularly include in my yoga playlists. I receive a lot of questions about who my go-to artists are, and so, this article will detail those top artists I return to time and again. Also, I hope if those artists read this article that they know how grateful I am for their work!


Sol Rising

Description:

DJ and music producer who creates eclectic electronic, mid-tempo, down-tempo, chill-trap, ambient, and lo-fi music.

Sol Rising is hands down my favorite artist for yoga playlists. He is known for creating “yoga music” and regularly appears at yoga festivals, workshops, and events to DJ live for yoga classes. His lush and layered soundscapes create unique “vibes” that are perfect for yoga classes. He has produced a stunning amount of work, sometimes releasing multiple albums in a year. He has songs that work for every part of a yoga class: slow, tranquil, and meditative to chill and relaxed to upbeat and empowering.  His music is mixed and mastered in such a way that it is at once prominent and helps to create an environment, but does not compete against a teacher’s voice with overbearing effects or forward vocals.

Most of my yoga playlists from the past few years include anywhere from three to eight songs by Sol Rising, and I can always count on him to have the perfect piece to help round out and finish a playlist. I even have a meditation playlist created from his more chill and tranquil songs that I use for my personal practice and my corporate wellness classes.

Additionally, Sol Rising creates a new “Yoga Playlist of the Month” every month on his Spotify page. This playlist features his own music and sometimes music from other similar artists. The playlist is always structured perfectly for a 60-75 minute yoga class. Especially when I am teaching a private or a more hands-on beginner yoga class where I do not want to think about my own personal playlists, I can play Sol’s “Yoga Playlist of the Month” and trust that it will work for the class perfectly.

I also want to note that while Sol Rising is known for his “yoga music”, he is a prolific electronic artist in his own right and I am very excited for all the music he is going to produce and believe you will begin hearing him in other niches as well.

Top 3 Favorite Songs:

  • Love Can Only Change You
  • Chillaxing
  • So Simple

Odesza

Description:

An electronic music duo who creates indietronica, electropop, chill wave, futurebase, and trap music.

Odesza is a go-to for many yoga teachers who make their own playlists. With their eccentric, layered, upbeat, and sometimes bombastic sound, Odesza produces fun, uplifting music for a yoga class. When I first began my career as a yoga instructor, I relied heavily on Odesza and still continue to use them in my playlists to this day. Odesza even has instrumental versions of some of their songs that previously had vocals included which can be great for new teachers!

Top 3 Favorite Songs:

  • Kusangi
  • A Moment Apart
  • All We Need

Shallou

Descripton:

Music producer and singer creating electro house, down tempo, and indie electronic music.

Shallou is yet another artist that appears in many yoga teacher’s playlists. He creates soothing yet upbeat tracks often with soft, rich vocals that is pleasant to listen and flow to. He is another artist that really supports a yoga class without overpowering with effects and too-forward of vocals.

Top 3 Favorite Songs:

  • Fading
  • Begin
  • Lie

Beauvois / Kidswaste

Description:

Independent music artist and producer creating music somewhere between indie, folk, electronic, and pop music.

Quentin Beauvois has produced music under both the stage names “Beauvois” and “Kidwaste”. Like the other aforementioned artists, Beauvois creates uniquely structured and layered songs that blend multiple genres. He has a good variety of down tempo to up tempo songs that are great for various sections of a yoga class and easily fit in with other artists like Odesza and Sol Rising.

Top 3 Favorite Songs:

  • You Were Right
  • Tonight
  • Daylight

Bob Moses

Description:

An electronic music duo who creates deep house and rock influenced electronic music.

Bob Moses has become a go-to artist for me when I am creating a playlist that has a more intense, darker, grittier feel to it. Their deep house beats and rock influenced effects help establish a powerful rhythm for a challenging vinyasa yoga class.

Top 3 Favorite Songs

  • Back Down
  • Don’t Hold Back Down
  • Tearing Me Up

Rufus Du Sol

Description:

An alternative dance group who creates indie dance, alternative dance, and house music.

Similar to Bob Moses, Rufus Du Sol creates slightly grittier, more intense music that can be great for challenging vinyasa yoga classes. Their powerful house influenced beats establish rhythm and influence a higher energy for a class.

Top 3 Favorite Songs:

  • Underwater
  • You Were Right
  • Say a Prayer for Me

Troye Sivan

Description:

Australian singer-songwriter who creates pop, synth-pop, electro-pop, and dance-pop music.

Troye Sivan is a mainstream pop artist who gets radio play, but also produces music that somehow works for yoga classes unlike many of his peers. I have found that Troye’s music is very atmospheric and dreamlike with unique electronic effects and deep percussion. Additionally, Troye layers and blends his vocals in such a way that his vocals are beautiful but not overpowering; there is a good balance between Troye’s voice and the music he is singing to.

Top 3 Favorite Songs:

  • Bloom
  • Youth
  • The Good Side

Alina Baraz

Description:

Like Troye Sivan, Alina Baraz is more of a traditional radio artist, but produces music that flows well in a yoga class. Her downtempo electronic based music paired with her uniquely sensual and sultry vocals definitely create a relaxed vibe for a yoga class, especially toward the start or end of class.

Top 3 Favorite Songs:

  • Electric
  • Buzzin’
  • Floating

Bob Marley

Description:

The late Reggae artist who changed the world with his tropical jams and messages of peace.

The man, the myth, the legend. Bob Marley is an icon on every level. And sometimes his summertime tunes and poetic words are just what a chill yoga playlist needs. Also, his grandson Skip Marley has been collaborating on some truly sensational reggae-pop and tropical house tracks that have also made their way into some of my playlists.

Top 3 Favorite Songs:

  • Could You Be Loved
  • Is This Love
  • Waiting in Vain

Florence + the Machine

Description:

World-renowned indie rock band producing alternative rock and baroque pop music.

The music that Florence + the Machine makes can be great for creating a wild and free vibe in a yoga class room. There is a mystical element to their music that can fit beautifully into a yoga playlist.

Top 3 Favorite Songs:

  • Cosmic Love
  • Hunger
  • Queen of Peace

And there you have it! There are so many other great artists I include in yoga playlist that I have deep respect for, but the artists listed above are the ones I come back to time and again and fit well into my style of teaching to music. Keep in mind, music is incredibly subjective. So many different types of music can work well in a yoga class if it is authentic to the instructor teaching to it. Try the artists above as well as artists you know and love and make the yoga playlist that suits you!

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