Yoga

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.

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

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.

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!

The Lost Lightworkers

*Disclaimer: Since writing this post, I have been informed that some people see the term “lightworker” as an offensive term synonymous with spiritual bypassing (the using of spiritual teachings and beliefs as a way to avoid facing unresolved emotional and psychological issues and trauma and generally avoiding and denying necessary “shadow work”) and colorism (discrimination based on the shading of skin color, generally labeling lighter as good and darker as bad).  Thus, I want to be clear that the definition for “lightworker” that I am working with is not attached to spiritual bypassing and colorism. My use of “lightworker” and “light” does not have any correlation to skin color or race and does not promote spiritual bypassing or emotional avoidance of any kind. My definition for the term “lightworker” is someone who dedicates their work and/or life to helping others by promoting health, wellness, kindness, compassion, and love. This is the definition I am working with for the below article. Based on the research I have done, the use of “lightworker” is safe when such a clarification as this is made. If you would like to discuss this topic further, please fill out my contact form and correspond with me directly. Thank you.*

            In a time where the fear and the reality of job loss, business closures, financial ruin, social separation, illness, and death plague our country, there has never been a greater need for lightworkers. In the spiritual, new age community, a lightworker is broadly defined as someone who is intensely drawn to help others. Lightworkers display an abundance of empathy and compassion for others in their close and distant circles. Such individuals often pursue careers in healthcare, psychotherapy, massage, yoga, meditation, reiki, and other such modalities in which their jobs directly touch and impact other humans. (Please read the *Disclaimer above for further clarification on the definition being used here) Lightworkers who have chosen careers as doctors, nurses, and the like find themselves in higher demand than perhaps ever before. And that demand is sure to only continue rising in the coming weeks and months. There are, however, many other lightworkers in this country who find themselves unable to fulfill their vocations. What happens to those of us that exist in other corners and sectors of the wellness world who want desperately to work, to help, and to heal, but find our paths for doing so closed? What happens to us lightworkers who are ready and willing to come to the aid of others but suddenly find ourselves struggling for survival in an economy that never truly realized our value and potential? In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us lightworkers find ourselves wandering, wondering, and lost.

            I consider myself to be a lightworker; a title I wear proudly. I am a yoga and meditation instructor as well as a writer in the wellness and mindfulness space. Like many other lightworkers, I am deeply passionate about my modalities. The work I do is work I would always do no matter how much money I had in my bank account. Give me a billion dollars and you will still find me teaching yoga at the studio and writing articles to inspire inner growth. True retirement from these jobs is something I will never choose. My work is less of a job that earns income and more of a vocation that fulfills the mission of my soul. Yet as the coronavirus continues to alter the state of the country and the larger world, I find it increasingly difficult to perform the work I believe I have been placed on earth to do.

            I live in California where a statewide shelter-in-place mandate has been instituted until further notice. With this, both of the yoga studios I teach for have closed and temporarily laid all instructors off without pay or benefits. The corporate offices I contract for as a yoga and meditation instructor have closed as their employees are required to work from home if they are to work at all. While some private individual clients may still continue to request me to come and teach them in their homes, at any moment they could choose to suspend our classes or else law enforcement could prevent me from reaching their residences as more and more checkpoints are put in place. Furthermore, I am certainly not acquiring new clients during this time of social distancing and quarantine. 

            Thus, I suddenly find myself with fewer platforms to practice my modalities of teaching yoga and meditation to the hundreds of people I used to see regularly every week. The modest income I earned from these opportunities has been halted. Like the ever growing millions of people in the US who have temporarily or permanently lost their means of income in a capitalistic economy that clearly has no elasticity and flexibility to it and a social security net that is being loosely woven at the eleventh hour, I now must wonder about how I will procure the money I need to support myself and survive in a system that would normally allow me to fall into ruin. And worse, I must mourn the loss of the work I did, love so deeply, and want so badly to continue doing for the value I believe it adds to the world.

            Clearly, I am not alone in these personal and financially devastating losses. Yoga and fitness instructors, meditation leaders, massage therapists, reiki and alternative practice healers across the nation all find ourselves out of work, forced away from our vocations, and in some cases, fresh out of luck.  It hurts our wallets and our hearts. We worry not just for ourselves, but for the clients that we have served in earnest for so long. We want so desperately to continue helping, but our industries are not safe to operate in. Our industries are closed for the greater good and health of our clients and ourselves. And as we reflect, we face the hard truth that while our clients may personally value us and our work, clearly the society we reside in and serve does not – at least, not enough to ensure that we too are cared for and that our resource needs are met during these uncertain days.

            Still, not all hope is lost. Some of us lightworkers are finding innovative ways to continue performing our vocations. Many yoga and fitness instructors, including myself, are teaching virtual classes via platforms like Zoom and Instagram Live. I have been teaching four to five free community classes per week via Zoom to an audience comprised of most of my normal students. On the financial front, some of my students have contributed donations for these classes via Venmo which has been nice. More importantly, it has been a rewarding experience to see my students’ faces, hear their voices, and still be able to lead them through a yoga flow. My students have expressed immense gratitude for my continued teaching in this time which provides them with a way to move their bodies and clear their heads as well as evoke some sense of normalcy in a season in which nothing feels normal. Additionally, one of the corporate companies I contract for as a mindfulness and meditation instructor has decided to expand the program I normally lead solely at their Southern California branch and roll it out nationwide with virtual sessions, allowing me to reach even more people across our country. And again, I am not alone. Lightworkers are leading virtual classes and support groups, performing “distance reiki”, creating online mindfulness courses and workbooks, and much more.

            Yet for as wonderful as these new ways of performing our vocations, the innovative ventures some of us lightworkers are pursuing are still insufficient for us on fiscal and energetic levels. Furthermore, these alternative paths for virtual work are not accessible for all lightworkers who do not have the necessary technological savvy or for those whose modalities simply cannot be offered virtually – an older meditation teacher may not know how to operate Zoom for a virtual class and a massage therapist simply cannot work unless they are physically present with a client. For those of us who do have virtual offerings, there is a heightened level of competition present between us. None of us want to recognize this truth, for as empaths we want everyone to succeed, but when it comes down to earning the money we need to pay our rents and put food on the table, we cannot help but realize we want and need students to be taking our own classes and making donations to us. And so, us lightworkers find ourselves in a paradoxical time. We want to help our communities and we want our comrades to succeed in doing so too, yet we often cannot help our communities and realize that some primal part of ourselves we wish we could ignore desires our own success and survival at a greater tier than we have before. All of this has created the overwhelming sensation of being lost.

            Although, while the reality is that we are facing a uniquely challenging time comprised of loss of resources, lack of support, and daily fulfill-able purpose, us lightworkers will never truly stop. It is true that the current pandemic has us feeling unstable, uncared for by the crumbling social structures in this country, and confused about exactly how we fit into the world at this time, but something that we possess is a potent, undying drive to do good in the world. While we may endure moments of fear, scarcity, and hopelessness, we will ultimately return back to our inner truths that we simply want the best for all and want to play some part in that. At the end of the day, lightworkers will find our way back to ourselves and strive to do our work no matter what. Even if all we can do is meditate and pray for the well-being of the larger collective that is what we will do. We are lost in this time, but we are still here, and we are still trying.

YouTube Classes

Made for YouTube Vinyasa Flow and Restorative Yin Yoga Classes


In this 35 minute class, I guide you through a juicy, full-body focused flow with the intention of indulging in all that In this 45 minute class, I guide you through a challenging flow with the intention of building strength, stamina, and trust to move thru all aspects of your life.
Level: Intermediate-Advanced
Emphasis: Full body
Postures: Warrior 2, Revolved Lunge, Wide Legged Forward Fold, Standing Splits
Duration: 45 Minutes


In this 35 minute class, I guide you through a juicy, full-body focused flow with the intention of indulging in all that the practice has for you.
Level: Intermediate-Advanced
Emphasis: Full body.
Postures: Wide Legged Forward Fold, Side Lunge, Warrior 2, Side Plank, Forearm Side Plank.
Duration: 35 Minutes


In this dynamic class, I guide you through a full body focused class in just 28 minutes with the intention of being dedicated and engaged with the present moment.
Level: Intermediate-Advanced
Emphasis: Full body.
Postures: Revolved Crescent Moon, Warrior 2, Triangle, Core Stabilizers.
Duration: 28 Minutes


In this action packed class, I guide you through a challenging vinyasa flow aimed at helping us get committed to the moment and the experience.
Level: Intermediate-Advanced
Emphasis: Full body.
Postures: Crescent Lunge, Warrior 2, Triangle, Revolved Crescent Lunge, Side Plank, Wild Thing.
Duration: 30 Minutes
Includes music!


In this compact and succinct class, I guide you through a challenging vinyasa flow aimed at helping us become more present and then unlock our power.
Level: Intermediate-Advanced
Emphasis: Full body.
Postures: Airplane Pose, Warrior 3 Pose, Bear Pose, Falling Star.
Duration: 40 Minutes
Music – Any music you like!



In this 40 minute class, I guide you through a short and sweet Vinyasa flow you can squeeze into your busy day! This class is aimed at opening and releasing tension as well as building strength and stamina in mind, body, and heart.
Level: Intermediate-Advanced
Emphasis: Full body.
Postures: Side Lunge, Warrior 2, Revolved Triangle, Half Moon, Wild Thing
Duration: 40 Minutes
Music – Any music you like!


In this 35 minute class, I guide you through a short and sweet Vinyasa flow with a full body emphasis you can squeeze into your busy day!
Level: Intermediate-Advanced
Emphasis: Full body.
Postures: Mountain, Crescent Lunge, Exalted Warrior, Warrior 2, Tree, Boat Pose.
Music – Any music you like!


In this hour long class, we check in on our foundations and ground down to build and rise upward.
Duration: 1 hour
Level: Intermediate-Advanced
Emphasis: Core, legs, arms.
Postures: Warrior 1, Revolved Triangle, Wide Legged Forward Fold.
Playlist: YouTube/Zoom Yoga – Burn – https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1Bw… Song Placement: “Fading” by Shallou for when we flow Sun A unguided, “I Feel You” by Sol Kaskade for building Sun B, “Shades” by Tchami for flowing Sun B, “Rain on Me” by Lady Gaga & Ariana Grande, “..Last Day” by Shallou for cool down, “New Endings” by Bon Vie for Savasanha.


In this hour long class, we aim to release tension from our bodies, minds, and hearts while also doing the necessary hard work to be successful achieving that sweet release. Prepare for a juicy class that gets into all those tight, tense areas of the body as well as a good sweat too!
Duration: 1 hour
Level: Intermediate-Advanced
Emphasis: Hamstrings, hips, shoulders, chest, front line, back line, and side lines
Postures: Wild Thing, Half Moon, Chipasana
Playlist: YouTube/Zoom Yoga – Funky – https://open.spotify.com/playlist/35g… Song Placement: “Heal Me” by Lady Gaga for when we flow Sun A unguided, “The Journey” by Sol Rising for building Sun B, “Can You Feel It” by Boehm for flowing Sun B, “Say a Prayer for Me” by Rufus Du Sol for Core, “Electric” by Alina Baraz feat. Khalid for cool down, “Immunity” by Jon Hopkins for Savasanha.


In this 30 minute class, we softly move to and from gentle restorative postures to release tension from various spaces in the body and promote relaxation. This mini class perfectly integrates into a more rigorous exercise and vinyasa yoga regime, allowing you the opportunity to slow down and rejuvenate.
Level: All-Levels
Emphasis: Full body, back, chest, shoulders, hips
Postures: Supported Child’s Pose, Puppy Pose, Butterfly Forward Fold, Supported Fish, Easy Twists, Legs Up the Wall
Playlist: YouTube/Zoom Yoga – Restore https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1Qz…
Song Placement: Simply play from beginning to end.


In this hour long class, we connect to constant source of strength, power, and light that we all have within us and use that to move through challenges. Just as clouds are temporary to the sky, our struggles and challenges are temporary to us, we will always get through them and back to the sun.
Duration: 1 hour
Level: Intermediate-Advanced
Emphasis: Full body, shoulders, hips
Postures: Stargazer, Airplane, Revolved Dancers
Playlist: “YouTube/Zoom Yoga – Astral”
Song Placement: “Breathe Deep” by July Child is for when we flow Sun A unguided. “Take Me Higher” by Sol Rising is for when we are building Sun B. “Love Can Only Change You” by Sol Rising is for when we flow Sun B. “Stupid Love” by Lady Gaga is for when we do core. “Stargazer” by Sol Rising is for when we cool down starting in Swan Pose. “Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomorrow” by Hammock is for Savasana.


In this 50 minute class, I invite you to find patience for the situation and for yourself, to find your strength to work through challenges, and to find your breath to keep calm as you navigate the journey.
Duration: 50 minutes
Level: Intermediate-Advanced
Emphasis: Full body, core, shoulders, and back.
Postures: Handstand, Warrior 3, Airplane
Playlist: “YouTube/Zoom Yoga – Edgy” – https://open.spotify.com/playlist/6lX1VfYkDp57Id8gsSgApZ?si=dLBh4vgKS_iRc4FTTUygAQ
“Back Down” by Bob Moses is intended for when we flow Sun A twice through without guidance. “Tearing Me Up” by Bob Moses is intended for when we build Sun B. “Underwater” by Rufus Du Sol is intended for when we flow Sun B. “You Were Right” by Rufus Du Sol is intended for when we do Core. “Southern Sea” by Garth Stevenson is intended for Savasana.


In this hour long class, I invite you to feel and experiencing everything that comes up for you in your body, your mind, and your heart. I encourage to keep breathing through the easy and good, the hard and the dark, and continue the journey.
Duration: 1 Hour
Level: Intermediate-Advanced
Emphasis: Fully Body + Hips Peak Postures: Flying Squirrel, Horizon Lunge, Crow


In this hour long class, I invite you to accept where you are and what you are experiencing, trust the process you are working through, and trust your own self to find your way.
Duration: 1 Hour
Level: Intermediate-Advanced
Emphasis: Full Body + Core
Postures: Side Crow, Revolved Crescent Lunge, Prayer Twist, Revolved 1 Legged Mountain


In this hour long class, I invite you to make the choice to bloom where you are planted, even if you find yourself in a space that feels difficult to bloom and flourish in. Recognize that you have what it takes to rise up and add beauty to the world where you are and as you are.
Duration: 1 Hour
Level: Intermediate-Advanced
Emphasis: Full Body, Hips, Core
Postures: Birds of Paradise, Wild Thing, Side Lunge


Keep It Moving, Quarantine

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all spending a lot more time cooped up inside our homes. This forced period of isolation can result in a lot of sitting, lounging, and general lack of movement. Even for those who typically sit at a desk in an office all day may find themselves even more sedentary than normal as need to commute to and from the building, walk to get lunch or coffee, or migrate to different offices for meetings are all eliminated. While social distancing and quarantine offer us the opportunity to slow down and to rest, it is still important to continue moving and exercising our bodies to maintain our best possible health. Studies have shown that sedentary behavior is linked to a variety of health issues including high blood pressure and a heightened risk for over 30 chronic diseases and conditions. So clearly, we are species that needs to be moving and doing so often.  

 In this piece, I am sharing with you some ideas for how you can move your body, in addition to regular exercise, throughout your days in quarantine! You do not need any special equipment or large amounts of space. There are plenty of ways to move your body throughout the day and maintain your health.

Regular Exercise

 Before I go any further, I want to stress the importance of continuing to get regular exercise every day. I am defining “regular exercise” as 30 minutes or more of consistent movement – walking, yoga, pilates, weight training, kick boxing, etc. There are thousands of coaches, teachers, studios, and gyms online right now providing resources, instruction, and tips for how to continue exercising during this time. There are online yoga, pilates, and HITT classes, there are sample body weight and cardio routines, there are full, well rounded at home programs to follow. I suggest exploring your options, choosing what works for you, and striving to do regular exercise for a minimum of the 30 minutes per day, 5-6 days per week.

 Now for the remainder of this piece, I want to offer ways in which you can move your body throughout your quarantine days in addition to the “regular exercise” discussed above. Once again, we will be finding ourselves more sedentary in the coming weeks, and so getting creative and dynamic with movement throughout your day is key.

Movement Breaks

 Again, you may find yourself sitting and lounging for hours on end. While stillness and rest are great, we are a species built for movement and ignoring that fact can lead to a myriad of health problems. According to Healthline.com, sitting for extended periods of time everyday can lead to weakened leg and glute muscles, tight hips and back, weight gain, a heightened risk for cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, and can instigate and/or exacerbate anxiety and depression. Thus, we are encouraged to move, to move dynamically, and do so often.

So, I propose incorporating “Movement Breaks” throughout your days in quarantine. Set a recurring timer for every 1.5 – 2 hours, and when it goes off, stand up and do one of the following:

1 minute of Push-Ups

  • Maintain pectoral, arm, and back strength
  • Try different variations like:
    • Wide Arm
    • Narrow Arm
    • Diamond Hands
    • Claps

1 minute of Squats

  • Strengthen glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves and more
  • Try different variations like:
    •  Standard Squats
    • Hamstring Curls
    • Calf Raises
    • Lateral Raises
    • 1 Legged Twists
    • Squat Jumps

1 minute of Lunges

  • Strengthen legs, glutes, and more
  • Try different variations like:
    • Backward Lunges
    • Forward Lunges
    • Side Lunges
    • Switch Lunges

1 minute of shoulder taps or army crawlers

  • Strengthen arms, shoulders, pectorals, and back as well as practice coordination

1 minute of mountain climbers, plank jacks, burpees, or jumping jacks

  • Strengthen a variety of muscles groups while incorporating plyometric and cardiovascular exercise

Dance Break!

  • Incorporating a cardio burst into your day and have some fun!
  • Put on your favorite pop, R&B, or hip hop song and dance to it for the full 3-4 minutes.
  • This is my personal favorite!

Choreography

  • Find a choreographer/dance instructor on YouTube and learn the choreography dances from some of your favorite performers like Britney Spears, Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, and more!
  • This leads to a full cardio workout as well as coordination exercise and can be a fun group activity!

Walks

  • While we still have the privilege to take walks through the neighborhood, consider taking multiple 15-20 minutes throughout your neighborhood and enjoy the fresh air!
  • Be sure to stay at least 6 feet away from any other passerby.

I hope you enjoy these suggestions for keeping your bodies moving in this unique time! Cannot wait to see you all again when we are out of this!

Virtual Yoga with Johnny La Pasta

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic which has led to yoga studio closures, I will be offering virtual yoga classes via Zoom for my students and anyone else who would like to join!

Classes are completely FREE! I simply want to connect with my students during this unique time.

If you would like to make a donation for class, you can Venmo me @Johnny-Newnes

See the updating schedule and RSVP via the Google invites below


Zoom:
https://zoom.us/j/7950920452
Meeting ID: 795 092 0452
Password: 022891


I hope to see you all there! Namaste!