• 7 Tips for a Successful Yoga Practice in the New Year

    You’ve made a resolution to do more yoga this year, and you’re determined to stick with it! With a few helpful tips and plenty of dedication, you can make the most out of your new year’s yoga goals. Here are some ideas for how to stay motivated and get the most out of your practice:

    Make a Commitment to Yourself

    Making a commitment to yourself isn’t as simple as it sounds to many. How many times have you started something only to give up by February? Here are a few quick tips to make sure you don’t do that again this year.

    Start Small and Work Your Way Up

    When you set your yoga goals for the year, start small and work your way up. If your goal is to practice yoga five times a week, don’t jump right in with that intensity. Start with one day a week and slowly increase the frequency as you get more comfortable with your practice. Starting small will help you stay motivated because you won’t feel overwhelmed by too much too soon. It also gives your body time to adjust to the physical demands of practicing yoga.

    Create an Accountability System

    Another great way to make sure you stick to your yoga goals is to create an accountability system for yourself. For example, join an online community dedicated to helping yogis reach their goals. You can even enlist the help of friends or family members who will check in on you from time to time and offer moral support when needed. Having someone there that can give guidance and advice can help keep you motivated and accountable when things get tough.

    Set Personal Rewards

    Rewarding yourself is another great way to make sure that you stay focused on reaching your goals. Every time you hit a milestone, treat yourself! Whether it’s going out for dinner with friends, taking some time off work, or buying something special – set rewards along the way that will motivate and encourage you as you work towards achieving that end goal.

    Choose a Consistent Time to Practice

    The best way to make sure your yoga practice sticks is to set a consistent time that you will practice each day. Whether it’s in the morning when you wake up, during your lunch break, or before bed. Consistency and routine are key when it comes to starting a good habit.

    Find the Right Type of Yoga for You

    With so many different types of yoga styles out there, it can be hard to know which one is right for you. These tips will help you choose the best yoga style for your new practice.

    Figure Out What You Want from Your Practice

    Before you start searching for a yoga style that’s right for you, think about what you want from your practice. Do you want to focus on flexibility? Strength? Balance? Stress relief? Are you looking for something more meditative or something active and high-energy? Knowing what your goals are will help narrow down your search and make it easier to find a style that meets your needs.

    Do Your Research

    Now it’s time to do some digging. Start by researching some common yoga styles like hatha, vinyasa, yin, and Ashtanga (to name just a few). Look into the type of poses each style focuses on, the typical class length, and any special equipment. You can also check out reviews online or ask around at your local studio—talk to other yogis who have tried different styles and see what their experience was like.

    Give It a Try

    Once you have done some research and narrowed down your list of potential styles, give them a try! On Omstars, we offer beginner classes in a wide variety of styles. When you join you get access to thousands of on-demand videos you can practice with. This way, you can get a feel for each style without having too much knowledge beforehand. Plus, if one style isn’t quite right for you, it’s easy enough to switch over and try another one without feeling overwhelmed by too much information upfront.

    Set Realistic Yoga Goals  (Don’t expect to be able to do a headstand on your first day.)

    Don’t get ahead of yourself! While it’s great to have lofty goals, it can be discouraging if you expect too much from your practice right off the bat. Set achievable goals and work your way up slowly. Even experienced yogis don’t expect to master every pose on their first try—it takes time and patience to develop the strength and balance needed to do a headstand. So remember to be kind to yourself, focus on progress rather than perfection, and enjoy the journey!

    Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

    It’s easy to get caught up in comparing ourselves to others, especially when it comes to yoga practice. Everyone develops at their own pace and has unique strengths and weaknesses. Practicing yoga isn’t a competition—focus on your own progress and don’t worry about what other people are doing.

    Be Patient and Consistent With Your Yoga Goals

    Consistency is key when it comes to yoga practice! Even if you don’t feel like you’re making any progress, keep going and eventually you will start to see results. Be patient with yourself!

    Have Fun!

    Don’t forget to have fun with your practice. Yoga can be a serious business at times, but don’t take yourself too seriously! Laugh when you fall out of a pose, and remember that there’s no wrong way to do yoga as long as you are safe and comfortable in what you’re doing.

    Yoga is a wonderful practice that can help you stay physically and mentally healthy. As with any new habit, it takes time to build up a routine and develop your skills. By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to incorporating yoga into your life for the new year! Be consistent with your practice, set achievable goals, and don’t forget to have fun. With just a few small steps, you can make yoga part of your life and reap the benefits for years to come! Happy practicing!

    Do you want more guidance to help you with your yoga journey? Sign up for Omstars to learn from the best yoga teachers in the world in the comfort of your own home. 

  • How to Make Practicing Yoga Part of Your Daily Life

    I’ve practiced consistently 6 days a week for the past 6 months. I went from someone who hardly ever stepped on the mat to someone who makes time for practice every day. Here’s how I did it.

    Sometimes, even though you want to practice, you just don’t feel like it. It’s difficult to get out the yoga mat and even attempting a single sun salutation makes you feel tired. If you’ve experienced that, you’re not alone. I’ve been there too. You want to have a consistent yoga practice and start a yoga habit, but it’s hard.

    My practice hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. After injuring my shoulder, I struggled to get back on my yoga mat. Practicing regularly was the last thing I wanted to do, but after an extended break I realized I missed it.

    Starting an old habit up again wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. Even though I knew how good my yoga practice made me feel getting back into the yoga habit was difficult, but with a bit of time I figured out how to get myself back into the habit of practicing.

    I’ve practiced consistently 6 days a week for the past 6 months. I went from someone who hardly ever stepped on the mat to someone who makes time for practice every day.

    Let’s look at the crucial steps I took to having a consistent yoga practice.

    Put yoga on your daily calendar

    The first step is to pencil in your yoga practice into your day. Just like you would an important meeting or dinner with friends. If you don’t have a time for it, you won’t do it.

    I understand that some days are busier than others, but try to at least put aside 5 minutes for yourself. It doesn’t have to be a long, elaborate yoga practice. You can do just one sun salutation.

    5 minutes of practice is better than no practice at all. Even if it’s just standing in mountain pose for a few moments, breathing, and truly being present. The key is to show up for yourself every day.

    Some people like to practice first thing in the morning, but if that’s not possible for you, find a time that works in your schedule. If you have to practice at night, that’s totally fine too.

    The important thing is that you make it a priority and put it on your calendar. Once it’s on there, treat it like any other appointment you can’t miss.

    Make having a consistent yoga practice easy

    Make it easy for yourself to practice. This means removing any obstacles that might stand in your way.

    For me, that means making sure my yoga mat and props are visible. They sit in the corner of my office and everything I see them I remember I need to practice.

    You could set up your yoga space so it is inviting and comfortable. You could choose what you want to wear to practice the day before and make sure everything you need is in one place.

    If you’re practicing at home, take a few minutes to set up your space before you begin. If you’re going to the studio, make sure you have your yoga mat and any other props you might need.

    You don’t want to be fumbling around looking for things when you could be practicing. The easier you make it on yourself, the more likely you are to actually do it.

    Set a realistic goal

    If you’re just starting out, your goal might be to practice 20 minutes a day.

    If you’ve been practicing for a while, your goal might be to practice longer. Whatever it is, make sure it’s something that you can actually commit to.

    Don’t set a goal that’s too lofty or unrealistic because you’ll only end up feeling bad when you don’t reach it. Just set a simple, attainable goal that you know you can commit to.

    Find a yoga class or group

    There’s nothing like being part of a community of people who are all committed to their yoga practice.

    If you can’t find a class or group where you live, there are plenty of online yoga classes you can join. Omstars has more than 4,000 on-demand classes and daily live classes you can practice with. No matter what type of yoga you’re interested in or what level you’re currently at, you’ll find something here to meet your needs.

    I love taking this yoga class on days I don’t feel like practicing.

    The important thing is to find something that works for you and that you enjoy. If you don’t like the class you’re in, or the video you’re following, you’re not going to want to practice.

    So find something that you like and that feels good for your body. Then stick with it.

    Remember why you want to have a consistent yoga practice

    What is it about yoga that drew you in?

    For me, it was the way I felt after I practiced. I feel calmer, more centered, and more present.

    I also love the physical challenge of yoga. It’s a way for me to connect with my body in a new way.

    Whatever your reasons are, make sure you keep them at the forefront of your mind. Because when the going gets tough (and it will), these are the things that will motivate you to keep practicing.

    Practice regularly

    The more you do it, the easier it will become. Eventually, you’ll get to the point where you won’t feel right if you don’t practice. Yoga will become such an important part of your day that skipping it won’t be an option for you. It will just be part of your daily routine – something you do without even thinking about it.

    But it all starts with taking that first step and making the commitment to practice regularly. So if you’re ready to make yoga part of your life, follow these steps and you’ll be on your way.

    By Lovelyn Bettison

    Lovelyn Bettison has been everything from a massage therapist to a life coach, but her life didn’t start falling into place until she decided to put all other pursuits aside and follow her childhood dream of being a writer. When she’s not doing copywriting for companies like Omstars, she writes scary stories about things that go bump in the dark. She also runs a pretty popular newsletter about all things spooky and supernatural. If you like that sort of thing, you really should click the link to download a free copy of her novella “A Haunting at Cabin Lake.”

    Click here to download your free novella.

    Photo by Julia Caesar on Unsplash

  • Yin Yoga: Who Needs It?

    A flow class will get your juices flowing, a restorative class will bring you to a state of deep relaxation, and a yin class will make you ache. Fun, right?  Yin and Yang are two parts of a beautiful whole but most of us are robbing ourselves of half of the gifts that yoga has to offer. I am a huge fan of Yin yoga and want to share it with as many students as I can, and even better, train more teachers to teach it. But I didn’t always love it. In fact, for a time, I really hated it.

    Perhaps you’re indifferent, skeptical, or have convinced yourself that you don’t need or like Yin yoga. I hope that the seeds I plant here might get you to consider working Yin yoga into your regular practice for a month or two to see if you start to feel like you’ve tapped into something really big and incredibly healing. Maybe you’ll even decide to train to teach Yin yoga to others.

    My Yin Yoga Journey

    My first introduction to Yin was in what was supposed to be a restorative class with a beloved teacher in my early yoga days. We always ended with a long restorative pose or supported savasana, but the rest of the class was a pretty intense Yin practice, and that’s exactly the way I liked it.  This practice, and this teacher, saw me through an auto-immune disease diagnosis, a cancer diagnosis, and treatment. After surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy for breast cancer, my body was wrecked. That’s the point, right? Chemotherapy lays to waste everything from the inside out. It’s a rough journey. An incredibly painful one. But it was worth it, because here I am, nine years later. I practiced yoga as I could during treatment, but the cumulative effect was harsh, and my physical recuperation took more than a year after treatment ended. During that time, I leaned into Yin yoga a lot. Naturally flexible, it had always been a go-to for me, and some days I just couldn’t muster the strength it took to take even a heavily modified flow class. I understood that my muscles weakened during treatment, so the many months it took to even attempt a modified chaturanga were not in the least bit frustrating.

    I knew I had to rebuild strength, so I just kept at it as energy allowed.  But I didn’t understand the effect of chemotherapy on my joints and connective tissue. No one talked about that. Not my doctors, not my yoga teacher, not my acupuncturist. It seems obvious now, but really, how much do we pay attention to the strength and vitality of our joint tissue? Injured athletes pay attention. Pregnant women pay attention, for a time. Those with RA and other joint-related chronic illness pay attention. The newer trends of functional mobility exercise pay attention now. But nine years ago? Not so much. So what happened to turn me from love to hate to love again in my yin yoga practice? During my cancer treatment recovery, I went way beyond the limits of my joints in deep, long-held pigeon poses, twists, folds, backbends, and hamstring stretches that were even more accessible to me with weakened, thinned joint tissue throughout my whole body. Most painfully, I damaged my SI joint and herniated a disc which sent ripples through my torso and legs and debilitated me just as I was starting to notice more strength overall. It was a physically painful and emotional setback that took months to recover from. Fast forward through three years of an increasingly strong vinyasa flow practice and I found myself in yoga teacher training. I couldn’t get enough yoga. The anatomy, the philosophy, the practice. It was a magical time. Until we got to Yin yoga week.

    One of my teachers seemed surprised and shocked to see me raise my hand in the “hate Yin yoga” camp. I assume it was because I was naturally flexible and seemed to find the poses relatively easy, but I’m not sure. I never asked him why. I did give him my reasons, though: debilitating injury not completely healed and fear of making it worse. His answer to this shocked me. Yes, he said, these are injuries that you will have the rest of your life. What?! I have a defiantly independent feminist streak in me and although I didn’t say it out loud at the time all I could think was NO, I don’t accept that. This person is not going to tell me that I’m broken. Of course, we’re all broken in some ways, but that wasn’t the point. The point, at the time, was that I knew that there must be more resources out there and it was time for me to do some deeper healing. So I asked around to other yoga teachers and physical therapists and found ways to strengthen around the damaged, weakened connective tissue to find a better balance of strength. Those spots are still vulnerable, of course. But nothing like what they were, even at the height of my strength in athletic style yoga practice. With years of both Yin and Yang practice since that time, I have found ways to work with chronic illness and injury along with a desire and need for strength and athletic conditioning.

    The Physical Practice

    Yin yoga is a complementary practice to the more active and athletic Yang style yoga (Iyengar, Ashtanga, Power yoga, Vinyasa, Hatha). In Yang styles, we focus on contraction of muscles to stimulate, strengthen, and stretch. In Yin yoga, we focus on the dense connective tissues around and within muscles and joints to stretch and strengthen. Our objective in a Yin practice is to stimulate, strengthen and revive tissues that are less emphasized in the active styles of yoga. We move the body into a Yin yoga pose where we stay, passively, while feeling a moderate sensation. We relax and find relative stillness, holding the position for 3 to 10 minutes.  We stimulate dense connective tissue (bones, cartilage, fascia, tendons, ligaments, blood, fat, lymph) to promote its strength and vitality and to hydrate and revive it.

    Those knots in your neck and shoulders aren’t just muscle, but contracted fascia. Likewise with those “tight” and shortened hamstrings: you can try to lengthen the muscle all you want, but if the fascia is contracted and dehydrated, you will return to the same, shortened resting length over and over again.  You get to choose how deeply you go into a yin yoga pose, just as you choose to use 50%, 80%, 100% of your strength and concentration in a power flow class. But in Yin yoga, we slow it way down and keep reminding ourselves to go for the moderate sensation, not beyond. Holding a 10 minute pigeon is no joke, and if you start way beyond your edge, you’ll injure yourself quickly. If you stick with the moderate ache, you will see over time that the range of mobility changes. And even after one class of moderate aching, you will feel freer, lighter, clearer energetically almost immediately.

    Subtle Body Effects

    If connective tissue is, as many energy workers suggest, the biological substratum through which energy flows and communicates within the body, a Yin yoga practice that focuses on the connective tissue promotes energetic circulation and flow. As yogis, we often experience emotional release in our practice. We understand through experience that with or without scientific research, our tissues hold unprocessed emotion. Movement in and out of poses in an active practice as well as long holds using compression, tension, and stretching in a still,

    Yin yoga practice unlock pathways for our emotions to emerge and release. Consider also the mental aspect of your yoga practice. In an active practice, we are asked to concentrate and focus on our breath while tuning into physical sensation. We’re often reminded that yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind, and too often, that translates in practice to controlling the mind. In a Yin practice, we are asked to be receptive, to increase our capacity for receptivity, to allow for what is, and to cultivate inaction.

    Isn’t Yin Yoga Worth A Try?

    Fluidity in movement, better coordination, stronger joints, body awareness, less injury, emotional release, mental receptivity and clarity. Aren’t each of these benefits of Yin yoga worth an investment of your time? As my personal practice and teaching continues through the years, awareness of Yin and Yang imbalance has become my focus when deciding how to practice each day. Some days I need a strong sweat and strengthening, some days I need release and stillness, and some days I need both. I’m guessing you are the same, so I invite you to build Yin yoga practice into your regular weekly schedule and tap into this powerful other half of yoga.

    By Jennifer Winther

    Jennifer Winther. LA based Yoga Teacher Trainer. Retreat leader. PhD. Writer. Traveler. Camper. Hiker. Walker. Cyclist. Meditator. Breast cancer survivor. Motherless mother. Karateka. Libra. Art Lover. Creative dabbler. Bi-racial hapa. Scout leader. Community builder. Novice chef. Advocate. Ally. Community member YBIC. Badass ninja mom.  @JenniferWintherYoga

    NOTE: This post is part of a collaborative media series organized and curated by Omstars and the Yoga & Body Image Coalition intended as a deep dive into yoga & body image.

  • Top Three Yin Yoga Postures to Relieve Stress

      Puppy Pose is perfect for stretching out tired shoulders and tight lower back muscles. Supta Baddha Konasana is a therapeutic pose that allows your mind and body to truly relax and heal. Viparita Karani is the ultimate pose for all over stress relief and healing.  

    Puppy Pose

    Puppy Pose is perfect for stretching out tired shoulders and tight lower back muscles. A nice long hold in this asana helps relieve tension in the body and mind. Start off in table top pose and then slowly extend the arms forward. Align the hands as close together as possible. Exhale as you send the top of the forehead towards the ground. Be sure the hips are slightly open and that your body weight is evenly distribute between the hands and legs. Stay for minimum five breaths but up to a few minutes. To deepen the pose, try sending your chest towards the ground instead of your forehead (but avoid pressing too much weight on to the chin).

    Supta Baddha Konasana

    Supta Baddha Konasana is a therapeutic pose that allows your mind and body to truly relax and heal. Start off in Constructive Rest pose with your sacrum resting on the ground. Place two blocks wider than your hips width apart. Exhale as you send your knees outwards and rest your thighs on the blocks. If you need a little extra support for your back, use a bolster under the spine. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Hold the pose for a minimum of 30 seconds but up to five minutes.

    Viparita Karani

    Viparita Karani is the ultimate pose for all over stress relief and healing. To practice this pose, lie on your back and slowly fold your legs in towards your chest. Extend the legs upwards, engage your quadriceps and point your toes. Relax your shoulders and be sure that your sacrum is pressing into the ground. If it’s uncomfortable to lift the legs in the air, then rest your legs and feet against the wall. Hold for minimum 30 seconds, but up to five minutes. This pose is great for long days of standing, sitting or walking. Viparita Karani calms the nervous systems and helps your body and mind release tension.

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    By Kino MacGregor

    Practice LIVE with Kino MacGregor on Omstars!

    International yoga teacher, Kino MacGregor has over 20 years of experience in Ashtanga yoga & 18 years of experience in Vipassana Meditation. She is one of a select group of people to receive the certification to teach Ashtanga Yoga & practice into the Fifth Series of Ashtanga Yoga. With over 1 million followers on Instagram & over 500,000 subscribers on YouTube & Facebook, she spreads the message of yoga around the world. To Kino, yoga is more than making shapes. It is a daily ritual where people tune deeply into their spiritual center & experience the peace of the Eternal Divine. Her goal is to make the tools of traditional yoga accessible for all different sizes, shapes, ethnicities, & ages. She believes yoga is truly for everyone. Learn more from and connect with Kino on Instagram!

  • Five Tips to Turn Any Room into Your Personal Yoga Sanctuary

    Walking in through the doors of a dedicated yoga center transports your mind and body directly into that familiar yoga zone. The atmosphere palpably impacts your sense. The dim lighting calms the nervous system and provides an antidote to the perpetual blue glow of phones and mobile devices. Sanskrit chanting acts as a portal to a timeless past rooted in India’s rich history.

    Incense wafts through the air and the smell ignites something within your subconscious. Each step into the yoga center seems to mirror the inner journey until you’re standing on your yoga mat, in the yoga room. And then, you’re ready to practice. You’re in the mood for yoga. That’s all well and good if you have the luxury of going to a yoga center for practice. But what about if you’re traveling and on a busy work schedule and all you have is your hotel room? Or, what if you need to practice yoga at home? It is possible to transform any room into your personal yoga sanctuary. There are some DIY methods to recreate the feeling of sacred space wherever you are. As a home yoga practitioner and a yoga teacher who travels and teachers, I practice at home and in hotel rooms almost all the time. It is a rare and happy occurrence when I find myself practicing yoga as a student in a dedicated class. I cherish those classes because they will me up! But, I’ve learned how to make any room into a space for spiritual practice. I’m sharing a few of my tips below. Feel welcome to adjust as needed and add your own tips in the comments below.

    1. De-clutter

    Ok this sounds basic, but it really makes a difference. If you’re unrolling your yoga mat in a small hotel room the first and perhaps most important thing you can do is to clean up a little. The same goes for shared spaces at home. If you’re thinking of making your living into a mixed-use yoga space, decluttering is crucial to give you peace of mind while practicing. The outer world is a reflection of the inner world and it will be exceedingly hard to relax and turn your mind inward when you’re surrounded by a mess. For a mixed-use shared home yoga room, try finding some furniture that doubles as storage. When you’re not using non-yoga items like toys, magazine, hats, or shoes, store them neatly away.

    2. A Nice Shawl

    This may be entirely personal, but I travel with a large shawl that I wrap myself in for meditation and lie under for final relaxation (called Savasana in many styles of yoga). This blue woven shawl comes from India and having this item with me brings a feeling of coziness and safety to wherever I am in the world. Yes, I realize I’m basically saying I carry the adult’s version of a blanket around the world in my suitcase. But it really helps create that feeling of sacredness for me.When I unpack in a new hotel room I take out my shawl and fold it up near the spot where I will practice and mediate. When you walk into any room at my home you’ll see blankets and shawls folded up and neatly kept over sofas, and most importantly, stacked in my home yoga room. If your yoga room is also doubling as your living room, try keeping a neatly shawls close by the area where you’re going to practice.

    3. Mood Lighting

    Changing the intensity of the light makes a big change in the feeling of a room. If you crack up harsh fluorescent lights it can feel jarring for the nervous system. Try installing dimmers in your home, or, even better, smart lights that can change both color and intensity. If your yoga room is also your home office, you might find that you like a pure white light during work hours, but prefer a soft white or even amber toned light for yoga and meditation. When I’m traveling there are not often dimmers available, let alone app-controlled smart light bulbs, so my next best solution is indirect lighting. If I’m going to unroll my yoga mat for practice and meditation near the bed, I’ll turn on a light in a different part of the room, preferably one with a lampshade. Or, sometimes I’ll leave the light in the bathroom on and partially close the door. It really depends on the hotel and the lighting. They key with lighting is to find the perfect balance between so dim so you feel sleepy and so bright so your nervous system is not able to calm down.

    4. Smells

    I love scented everything. Whether essential oils, scented candles, incense or good quality perfume. But that also means I’m really sensitive to smells. There is one scent that I’m very picky about when I’m about to practice yoga or sit for meditation—food. I’m sure you can imagine why. The last thing you want to be while practicing yoga or aiming for a deep meditation is to be hungry. Sometimes smelling food starts an automatic hungry reflex. Whether I’m at home or in a hotel room I clear out the surrounding scent with fresh air, either by opening the windows or turning on a fan. I make sure that all food items are stored properly and all dirty dishes are placed in the dishwasher or cleaned. Then, I’ll either light a scented candle, burn some incense or diffuse some essential oil. If I’m traveling and I don’t have an oil diffuser what can also work is to place a few drops of essential oil on a cotton ball. Then place the cotton ball near the fan or AC vent.

    5. Mat, Props and Cushions

    While I travel with a shawl stuffed into my suitcase, I do not often travel with a full set of yoga accessories. If I’m traveling and teaching I often borrow a yoga mat. Some hotels have yoga mats in the gyms. But there is a really great trick for yoga in hotel rooms—use a big bath towel right on the carpeted floor. Don’t let not having a mat stop you from practicing while traveling. Using a big bath towel is about as big as a yoga mat and will give you good traction and cushioning. For a cushion, grab a pillow off the sofa, chair or bed. For props, be creative—instead of a block, use a book or a bottle. Instead of a bolster, use a pillow. For your home yoga room, there is no need to go out and purchase the full set of yoga accessories. Instead, think consciously about what tools you actually use in your practice. Then choose the ones that will truly assist your practice and keep them neatly stored in a designated area along with your yoga mat.

    By Kino MacGregor

    Kino MacGregor is a world renowned Ashtanga Yoga teacher, the author of several yoga inspired books, including The Yogi Assignment, and founder of OmStars.com. Practice the Ashtanga Yoga Full Primary Series online with Kino to get started on your journey today.

  • Five Common Mistakes that Hold your Home Yoga Practice Back

    I saw the most progress in my yoga practice when I practiced at home, alone. When there was no one there to watch me I discovered who I really was in relation to yoga and I found out what this practice really was to me. When you face difficult poses without the guidance of a teacher to support your body, you are forced to find a way to make even what feels impossible work.

    Yoga really became an introspective journey of self-exploration after I got established as a home yoga practitioner. There are common mistakes that many students make when they’re trying to set up a regular home yoga practice. I faced many of them and I’m sharing some of my self-sabotaging moments with you so that you can hopefully avoid them.

    Decision Fatigue

    If you stand on your mat and have to ask yourself the question—what shall I practice?—you will have a harder time actually practicing. When you spend valuable mental resources just deciding on what to practice rather than on actually practicing, you can end up exhausted before you start. To alleviate that, try this. Instead of waiting until you’re on your yoga mat to decide what to practice, have a set routine that you do every day. If you practice Ashtanga Yoga then this is already there for you in the repetition of the same series of poses every day. But, if you’re looking to establish a home yoga practice with the support of online videos, that’s something else. Set time aside on Sundays to choose one video that you’ll practice for the week and then practice with that video every day for the whole week. So many people want something new each time they get on their mats. But if you only do a routine once you won’t give it time to integrate. Having a set routine helps you get better at that routine. Repeating the same thing over and over with intelligence targeted for improvement is the definition of practice. There are studies that show that reconsuming content relaxes the nervous system. Just think about watching a rerun of your old favorite show. If you cannot stand to do the same class every day, then try setting a playlist for one week of practice and repeating that week of practice for four weeks. At Omstars, we create playlists of the week to help guide students through their yoga journey.


    Let’s face it, being home is distracting. Between laundry, dishes, dust, and the mail, there is always something to do. Turn off messages apps and disable your phone function while practicing. If you use an online video streaming service to guide your practice, try setting the phone or device to WiFi only and quitting your messaging apps. That way you won’t get interrupted by phone calls during your practice. Don’t feel like you have to answer the door for every package that arrives. Some deliveries requires a signature, but most parcels can be left at your door. If you notice dust in the corners make a note of it, but don’t stop your practice to start cleaning. If you hear the ding of the washing machine, avoid the temptation to get off your mat and put the clothes in the dryer.

    Ease Friction

    Choosing your yoga clothes first thing in the morning can be daunting and lead to distraction. Lay out your yoga clothes the night before and place them by your bed. Then, the moment you get up out of bed put on your yoga clothes. If you like to shower first thing in the morning, they place your yoga clothes next to the shower so they are ready for you. Studies show that once you’re wearing exercise clothes you are much more likely to actually just do the activity. Similarly, unroll your mat. If you can in fact keep the mat unrolled in a permanent place that’s even better. But if not, then unroll the mat as soon as possible and go stand on the yoga mat in your clothes. At some moment the practice will simply start happening.

    Not Eating

    I know the yoga dogma says don’t eat before practice. This works well if you can get on your mat within an hour or two after waking up. But, if you’re a parent who has to shuttle kids to school before getting on your mat it can be hours between when you wake up until when you get on your mat. Trying not to eat before practice can lower your blood sugar and make your body too hungry to practice properly. The solution? Eat a small, healthy breakfast early in the morning that will be digested before you get on your mat later in the day.

    Going it Alone

    As a home yoga practitioner you may feel like island on your own. Your family may or may not support your decision to get on the mat from the beginning. Connecting with yogis in a virtual community can be a big support. Whether you decide to join a yoga challenge or get involved in some of the thriving online communities built around certain yoga channels or just cultivate a few friendships with fellow yogis that inspire you, building relationships in your yoga world means a lot. When a friend leaves a positive comment on your post it motivates you to keep going. Similarly, checking in with fellow yogis that you find inspirational can keep you motivated. Remember, it’s not about comparison and competition but genuine connection and community.

    What other obstacles do you face in your home yoga practice? Share them below!

    By Kino MacGregor

    Kino MacGregor, Backbending yoga pose, how yoga works

    Kino MacGregor is a world renowned Ashtanga Yoga teacher, the author of several yoga inspired books, including The Yogi Assignment, and founder of OmStars.com. Practice the Ashtanga Yoga Full Primary Series online with Kino to get started on your journey today.

  • The Myth of the Pain-Free Practice

    With your first heartbeat, you sign up for a ride called life. Life is a Self or God choreographed sequence sprinkled with crazy experiences, joyous events and untimely disasters you couldn’t even imagine ever happening to you. What an amazing ride.

    Not knowing everything that is going to happen in the game of life is par for the course.

    Doing everything “right” will not shield you. Following all the rules does not guarantee results because, when you signed up, you were not given the rule book in the first place. You can only do your best and follow what you think are the rules. Life comes with no guarantees. And even if it did, it is locked away in the same forgotten place you put the rule book.

    When you get on your mat, you are still within the parameters of the game of life.

    Your Yoga mat is not inside a bubble that shields you from unexpected pain. You still don’t have the rule book or even a user’s manual for your body. Scientists and doctors do not completely understand the human body. If they did, you could go to the body story right now and get a new one. You could order the perfect body on Amazon Prime and get one day delivery. You wouldn’t even need Yoga poses because you could order a body that is already primed for meditation. Want to do a handstand or put your foot behind your head? Order a body that can already can do it. Done.

    No one can promise you a pain free life or a pain free Yoga practice.

    I don’t care how many letters are behind their name, how many followers they have on Instagram, what their lineage is or if they know every muscle, bone, organ, ligament and vein in the body by heart. Your body is a complex glorious creation that no one fully understands. Throughout your life, this body is shaped and formed by unique experiences, many of which you don’t even remember. Even the traumas you do remember can shape your body in a way that is completely undetectable by you, your doctor, your pastor or your teacher. A movement, a food, a scenario that has never been a problem, all of a sudden is.

    No Yoga alignment, anatomy or technique training comes with a mind/body/soul reader that allows you and your teacher to see every single trauma, ailment, bacteria, fungus, and diseased cell in your body. No one can see the ticking time bomb that is your existence. Even if this mythical machine existed, you would need to be scanned with it every minute of the day because you are constantly having new experiences and being exposed to new inputs that could possibly become a problem.

    Learning as much as you can about your body prevents most injuries and ailments but not all of them.

    Studying with teachers who know a lot about the body, will prevent many Yoga injuries, but not all of them. If you get stuck on the idea that there is a such thing as a pain free Yoga practice or existence, your Yoga practice will also become stuck. Why? Because there will inevitably be some pain. When that pain comes, you will have the choice of continuing your practice and learning from this new information your body and your life has given you or quitting. You will have the option to grow or stagnate.

    This article is not about pushing through pain.

    This article is not against learning as much as you can about your body and finding a good Yoga teacher who also knows a lot about the body. Do not push through pain. Please find a good Yoga teacher. Use the best technique that you can. Rest when needed. Do all of those things. This article is about the unattainable need for perfection that has also permeated the world of Yoga. If you sit and think, you can come up with many examples in life where you and people you know have done everything right and everything still ended up incredibly wrong.

    But yet, for some reason, you expect that everything that happens on your Yoga mat should and can be perfect. You expect your teachers to be perfect. Your lineage to be perfect. Your community to be perfect. All while knowing that you have never met a perfect human being in your life. Knowing that you have never met a human being that has never had pain, a baby who never cried, a man that has never been sick or woman who could predict everyone’s future with 100% accuracy. However, when you get on your mat, this magical scenario supposedly can be achieved.

    Fear is a great marketing tool.

    The world of Yoga is now bursting with people who can promise you a pain free practice, with no unpleasant feelings…for a fee. There are many charlatans building their platform on the promise that they will never hurt you. Anyone who has been in any long term loving relationship can attest to the fact that all the love in the world is not a guarantee against hard feelings and misunderstandings. Anyone who has worked with the human body for a long period of time, you fall into that category, can tell you that things don’t always go to plan. But for some reason, you feel that this smiling Yoga teacher, who also came into this world without a body rule book, can give you this guarantee.

    Another component of the promise of a pain free practice is the canceling of teachers who speak openly about their injuries. I have seen people on social media use a teacher’s injury as proof of that teacher’s ineptitude, lack of knowledge about the body or to prove that their teachings are harmful. This could be the case for sure. It could also mean that they were yet another person without the life handbook. An old soccer injury reared its head at the very moment they perfectly stacked their joints for a handstand. Or maybe, they fell down the stairs running after a baby wearing slippery house shoes (true story).

    In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 2:16 it says, “Pain, that has not yet come, should be avoided.”

    This is amazing advice. You should not be seeking painful experiences in your Yoga practice. You should do everything possible to not have pain on your mat. However, without the mind body soul x ray machine, the user’s guide and the ability to know every single thing going on in your body and your student’s body at any given time, total avoidance of pain is not possible.

    By Shanna Small

    Read More Articles by Shanna Small

    Shanna Small is the author of, The Ashtanga Yoga Project, a website that teaches how to live the wisdom of Yoga in modern times. Shanna began her Yoga journey in 2000 and her teaching journey in 2005. She has studied the Yoga Sutras, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, chanting and Ashtanga at KPJAYI in India with Sharath Jois and Lakshmish. She received her Yoga Alliance registration for Vinyasa Yoga in 2005 and served 4 years as the director of Ashtanga Yoga School Charlotte. She has written for Yoga International, OmStars and Ashtanga Dispatch Magazine. Photo Credit: Wanda Koch Photography

  • A Beginner’s Guide to Yoga

    So, you want to try yoga? As a beginner, it can be both overwhelming and intimidating to start. You don’t know where to begin and all the people practicing seem to fit a particular mold. Well, this beginner’s guide to yoga is designed to help you get started safely and find the tools you need to begin your own journey.

    What Time You Practice.

    Some basic things to think about are what time you practice, how often you practice, and how to choose a teacher. Practice is best done as a daily ritual, much like brushing your teeth. The body also responds to consistency with training. Choose a time that works for your schedule and then commit to that practice time for at least one full week, or ideally, one full month. Tradition yoga texts recommend to practice first thing in the morning, before breakfast and before the mind gets too stimulated.  However, if your best chance at consistency is to practice after work, at the end of the day, do that. In order to increase your likelihood of maintaining your practice, schedule “yoga” in your calendar and set a reminder five minutes before. Put on your yoga clothes as soon as you wake up in the morning. Studies show that just wearing your work-out clothes increases the likelihood of actually working out significantly.

    How Often You Practice.

    A big part of getting started is about taking the “shoulds and shouldn’ts” out of practice and really connecting to what feels right for your body, what works for your schedule and making conscious decisions that nourish your personal journey. At a minimum, I’d suggest to practice twice a week. But ideally it is recommended to practice six days a week. Five minutes a day six days a week is better than an hour once a week. The daily discipline makes a difference in how the practice integrates with your life.

    How to Choose a Teacher.

    Choosing a teacher or a class can be a big question. If you’re searching for a local teacher, find the most qualified well-trained teacher in your city and see if they offer beginner programs. if you don’t like the style of yoga that they teach after the course is over, try another studio. Remember, yogis are human beings. Don’t expect your teacher to be an enlightened master or a copy of the Buddha. They are people, just like you, who have been practicing and studying yoga for awhile. They have taken a few steps further on the yoga path than you have, but on a human-to-human level you’re equals. That being said, be open and hear what the teacher has to offer and be respectful while maintaining your personal boundaries.

    Joining a Yoga Challenge or Course is Another Way to Get Started.

    If you’re looking to start a beginner yoga program online, there are many offerings. A good way to start is with a program that takes you through a full 30 days of practice. It helps if the online system allows you to track your progress so that you can both hold yourself accountable and give yourself positive reinforcement for practice sessions completed. Just like searching for an in-person teacher, choosing the right online teacher requires a bit of research. Find the most qualified well-trained teacher whose style you connect with and see if they have a beginner yoga program. Joining a yoga challenge is another way to get started. When you’re practicing at home you’ll miss the feeling of community that you get at a yoga studio. But when you join a yoga challenge there is a virtual community of yoga that you connect with as you practice and share the experience together.

    You Don’t Need All the Gear to Start.

    You don’t need all the gear to start, especially if you’re practicing at home. If you have an area rug or carpeted floor you can just put on a pair of old sweatpants and a t-shirt and follow the videos. No one cares what you wear at most authentic yoga studios, but sometimes it just feels safer to start at home when you no know it’s just you and the practice. Try it out for a week or two and then if you fall in love with the practice, buy a mat.

    Allow Yourself to be Where You Are.

    Don’t expect to be good at yoga from your first class or even first 1,000 classes. If you think you need to be flexible and strong from the beginning then yoga will be utterly impossible. Instead, allow yourself to be where you are, which is at the beginning of your journey. In doing so you will learn your first lesson from the yoga practice—that is, how to be humble enough to admit the vulnerable truth that you’re a beginner. It doesn’t feel good to be the person in the room who seems not to know what pose to do, where to put your mat or have to modify all the poses. But, every single yoga practitioner has gone through just that. Even the master teachers whose practice seems to exist in an effortless gravity-free zone started off dazed and confused by even the most basic poses. When I first started the practice I couldn’t touch my toes in a forward bend, lift my body off the ground or say a single word in Sanskrit. Over twenty-years later and things look a lot different.

    You Don’t Need to be Particularly Good At Yoga To Experience the Deep Benefits of the Practice.

    It takes time. If you think yoga will be a panacea for all your life’s problems within your first class, you will be disillusioned. But if you commit to at least a month of consistent practice, somewhere between three to six days per week you will start to experience some small shifts that act like a beacon for the path ahead. You don’t need to be particularly good at yoga to experience the deep benefits of the practice. You just need to show up on your mat and try. It takes at least a year of practice before you will start to notice substantial life changes. Commit to the practice for the long haul and the practice will lead you down the rabbit hole of personal transformation, the end of which brings your life more peace, happiness and joy. That’s the promise that yoga makes to every single practitioner. All you have to do is keep practicing and put in the work.

    Expect to be Sore.

    Expect to be sore. I still remember the morning after my first yoga class. During and immediately after the session I felt amazing. My mind was calm in a way that I hadn’t known possible and my body felt light and free. The next morning, however, I could barely walk. My hamstring muscles were so sore and achy that I could hardly move at first. I started off practicing two days a week. That lasted for about four months before I jumped into a six day a week practice. Each time I increased the frequency, length or intensity of my practice I got sore in new places. A healthy dose of muscular soreness that leads to increased strength and flexibility is part of the practice of yoga. Twenty-years later and I’m still sore!

    There is No End to the Journey.

    Think about yoga as a slow steady progression towards a more mobile body, a happier and more peaceful life. The more you give to the practice, the more it gives back to you. There is no end to the journey, just more steps to lead deeper down to center of yourself. Much more than just a bunch of poses, stretches and power moves, yoga is a true spiritual path that opens the door to deep life learning. At first you may not make the connection between body, mind and soul, but that’s ok, that’s why you’re here on the mat and why you want to start yoga. Whether you’re interested in beginning yoga because you want to heal your body, relieve chronic pain, decrease anxiety, lift depression, manage your temper, or whether you’re on a spiritual quest from the beginning, the practice can be for you. All it takes is that you show up, unroll your mat and practice every day you can.

    Ready to get started with yoga?

    Learn More About Kino’s NEW 5-Week Online Beginner Course today!!

    Over one full month, you will get fully established in your yoga journey. Build up from the basics of yoga poses and learn healthy anatomical technique to be sure your body is safe. Calm your nervous system with breathing techniques and meditations that you will return to over and over again. Learn the basics of yoga philosophy and be happier and more peaceful right after your first class.

    By Kino MacGregor

    Why do you practice yoga? Kino Macgregor Ashtanga Yoga teacher, OMstars

    International yoga teacher, Kino MacGregor has over 20 years of experience in Ashtanga yoga & 18 years of experience in Vipassana Meditation. She is one of a select group of people to receive the certification to teach Ashtanga Yoga & practice into the Fifth Series of Ashtanga Yoga. With over 1 million followers on Instagram & over 500,000 subscribers on YouTube & Facebook, she spreads the message of yoga around the world. To Kino, yoga is more than making shapes. It is a daily ritual where people tune deeply into their spiritual center & experience the peace of the Eternal Divine. Her goal is to make the tools of traditional yoga accessible for all different sizes, shapes, ethnicities, & ages. She believes yoga is truly for everyone.

  • Breath is Life

    Breath is directly linked to life force energy. Yoga often uses the word prana which refers both to the breath and to the vital energies of our body. As we move breath through the body, we also move Prana. The steadiness, fullness and depth of our breath reflects the same characteristics of that vital flow of energy.

    The practice of pranayama, the fourth limb of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, is the practice of intentionally directing the movement of the breath. It requires practice to become aware of our breath and to direct it intentionally. As we focus our attention on the movement of our inhales and exhales, our awareness is drawn inward to experience ourselves on a deeper, less distracted level. So how does this benefit us? What are the effects of breath control?

    On the physiological level, breath is literally life. The oxygen we take into our bodies through breath is processed through our lungs and heart into our blood where it is transferred throughout the body to every single cell. Within the cells, oxygen is the catalyst for the chemical reaction that creates energy, it keeps our cells alive. Our cells breathe. Breath equals prana equals life. The more effective our breathing, the healthier our bodies are on the cellular level. The health of our cells affects the well being of the entirety of our anatomy: our abdominal organs, our brain, our muscles, bones, skin, blood… literally everything.

    While breathing is something that happens naturally without our effort it is also something that we can control, direct, and manipulate. It can happen on the subconscious level as well as the conscious level, a function of the autonomic as well as the somatic nervous systems. It is the only system in the body like this. The autonomic nervous system is divided into the sympathetic, our fight, flight, or freeze response, and parasympathetic, our rest and digest function. You may easily observe how the breath responds within these two functions. When we are stressed, experiencing some extreme emotion or circumstance, our breath becomes quick, forceful, possibly erratic.

    When we are at rest, calm, and peaceful, our breath slows, and lengthens, even quiets. Our breath responds to our state of mind and emotions. This relationship also exists in the reverse. Our nervous system is affected by our breath. By intentionally slowing, lengthening, deepening the breath, we send a message via the diagram and vegas nerve throughout our body that all is well, we are safe, we are at peace, slowing the heart rate and initiating relaxation. Through the breath, we can control the state of our minds and emotions, we can control our experiences.

    In our asana practice, we are increasingly challenging the steadiness of our breath. The first layer of an asana practice, especially a vinyasa method, is the breath. The breath establishes a rhythm and dynamic, and we then layer movement over it. Ideally the movement and positions of our bodies do not alter the pace, rhythm, or tone of our breath. Of course, this is difficult, this is the challenge, this is the point. We are intentionally creating increasingly intense situations for our nervous system and then requiring our breath to remain steady, requiring our nervous system to remain steady. This practice over time lengthens the space between impulses, allowing us the time to make intentional discriminative choices of response rather than pre-thought reaction. Establishing control of breath affects the experience of our nervous system, allowing us to grab the reins of our impulses, directing thought and eventually life force energy.

    Pranayama practice similarly creates a challenge for our nervous system but instead of maintaining an even steadiness of breath, it varies the rhythm and pace of breath, working with retentions and alternating the use of the nostrils. By challenging the extremes of breath, it challenges the experience of the nervous system and asks us to remain calm, remain at peace, remain in control. Physiologically, it strengthens the muscles of respiration and increases lung capacity which improves the efficacy of the function of breathing.
    New research is still being done on the breath, particularly how it affects our brain and its functions. One recent study I’ve heard about focused on different mindfulness practices, like yoga asana and meditation.

    They found that the common link that resulted in neurological benefits was the attention to the breath. Another breath study of epileptics came to a similar conclusion, they observed that different types of controlled breathing activated different regions of the brain, noting that simply focusing on controlling the breath may be the key. Our focused intention lights up otherwise un-accessed parts of the brain. A third study I recently came across was related to how breath affects the cleansing function of brain fluid. The fluid of the brain is meant to draw out impurities and toxins to be filtered and released from the body. The depth and breadth of the breath seemed to increase the volume and effectiveness of this process which has implications for diseases like Alzheimers.

    The breath is our link between the conscious and subconscious mind. It is the communication between our body’s experience and our mind’s awareness. It is connection. The breath supports the vitality of every key cell in our body, affecting the functionality of every system. It is the force that drives vitality, prana. It is life. Giving attention to breath in our yogic practices provides deep and broad benefits to our body, mind, and spirit.

    By Angelique Sandas

    Practice Ashtanga with Angelique on Omstars

    Angelique Sandas is a life long student of movement and the interconnectedness of mind body and spirit. It began with gymnastics and dance, initiating her love of movement, the body’s natural way of expressing ideas, emotions, and experiences. Angelique received her B.A. in dance from the University of Minnesota, graduating in 1999. It was during these years that she was first introduced to yoga. In yoga, Angelique’s relationship with movement developed new depth and meaning. Movement became a path to profound inner transformation. She was inspired to share what she was learning and felt drawn to teach. In 2003, Angelique traveled to Thailand to study with Paul Dallaghan in the Ashtanga yoga system as taught by K. Pattabhi Jois and received her teaching certification. She has also studied pranayama and yogic philosophy with Sri O.P. Tiwari of the Kaivalyadhama Institute, India and received advanced anatomy and adjustment training from David Keil. Until 2007, Angelique taught and practiced in Chicago. She then moved to Miami Beach where she worked closely in the Ashtanga method with her teacher and mentor Kino MacGregor as well as Tim Feldmann and Greg Nardi at Miami Life Center. Angelique ran the Mysore program at Shanti Yoga Shala in Philadelphia, PA in 2012 – 2013 and Delray Yoga Shala in Delray Beach, FL. 2014 – 2016. Currently, Angelique runs a Mysore program Ashtanga Yoga Palm Beach at Yoga Path Palm Beach in West Palm Beach, FL. She remains a dedicated instructor and a devoted student of yoga, growing into the potential of the spirit through it’s physical expression.

  • Downward Dog: Reexamining What is Habitual

    I teach a broad range of classes, from basics to hot vinyasa to honey flow (and if that intrigues you, check out my website!). Joining those classes on any day are a range of yogis from beginners to advanced to fellow teachers, those with whom I have practiced for years and those I meet for the first time.

    Now for the surprise. I break down downward dog to every single student in every single class. Only a day-one yogi has never been in downward dog, so of course, it is my honor to introduce that yogi to this foundational pose.

    And most yogis who have been in downward dog many times can still benefit from the grounding instructions, “sharpen your arms, bring your toes up to engage the front of the legs, don’t worry about touching your heels down to the ground.”

    But what about the advanced yogis? What about fellow teachers in my class? Is there a purpose to breaking down a pose they do dozens of times each and every day? Yes. And it is a reason that extends far beyond downward dog and even more broadly than yoga.

    Things we do again and again become habitual. In fact, it is a great evolutionary survival mechanism of our brains that we can approach familiar movements with an automaticity that reserves our precious brain power for novel endeavors.

    But this automaticity exacts a toll. It can be hard to be mindful in the habitual. Reexamining the things we do regularly can give them a renewed sense of purpose. So no matter how many times you have been in downward dog, make it feel like your first.

    • Feel the even weight of your body between your limbs.
    • Sharpen your legs, sharpen your arms, and extend the side of your trunk.
    • Push the front of your thighs towards the back of your thighs and lift your hips upwards and backwards.
    • Feel the stretch extend from the soles of your feet, through your calves and into your hamstrings. Let that lengthen your spine.
    • As you fold forward, sending your unique energy inward, accept that calming effect on your nervous system and allow yourself to look within. I bet you’ll like what you find. 

    By Ahmed Soliman

    Check out Ahmed’s Mindful Alignment course on Omstars

    Practice with Ahmed LIVE on Omstars

    Before I found yoga and began teaching, I was a wildlife biologist and environmental scientist. Serving the natural environment and helping to recover endangered species was my way of giving to a greater good. This is a concept that I’ve carried daily into a yogic lifestyle, both in teaching and in practice. I seek to serve this community in a way that supports strength, healing, and sustainability. After having multiple knee surgeries due to a car accident, I myself sought these qualities from my own encounter with yoga. I had to transition from contact sports like soccer to the safer and deeper space that the practice provides. A continuing student of Iyengar yoga, vinyasa, and meditation, I believe that awareness of breath, knowledge of the body, and mental focus on the mat lead to mindfulness and living harmoniously off the mat. I draw from my own experience and the study of human anatomy to offer a safe and grounded space for practitioners. I endeavor to help them explore their physical boundaries with a focus on intelligent alignment, awareness of breath, and steadying or relaxation of the mind. I have studied with Nikki Costello, Nikki Vilella, Magi Pierce, and other influential teachers. I am an ERYT-200 hour yoga alliance certified teacher with additional specialized training in anatomy, meditation and yoga nidra. Connect with Ahmed on Instagram or http://yogisoli.com/