8 Reasons Why our Teacher Training is Ranked in the top 5% Nationally

This fall, we are honored to be offering – for the 3rd time – The Hard & The Soft Yoga Institute’s 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training. We feel beyond grateful to have this highly ranked extraordinary program right here in our small town in southern Maine.

You might not realize it, but besides being a wonderful teacher and inspirational human being, our direct, Beryl Bender Birch, is an international yoga super star. She is one of the first people to popularize yoga in the United States.

But that, in itself, would not be enough to rank The Hard & The Soft as a Yoga Alliance® 5-star Rated Accredited Training School.

Here are eight reasons this yoga teacher training course,  when compared to hundreds of other programs, is consistently rated in the top 5%.

 

  1. The students. Our programs attract top quality students and genuine, bright, compassionate human beings from all over the world. We consistently hear from our trainees and graduates that “this is the best group of people I have ever been a part of – I look forward to the training weekends because it feels like I am coming home.”
  2. The Sangha (community). Students meet and are supported by like-minded practitioners and forge lifetime friendships.
  3. The faculty. Unlike many other programs, our teachers have all been practicing and teaching for many years. Most are Certified Yoga Therapists (IAYT) and nationally renowned specialists in a wide variety of fields and yoga applications. Students would need to combine several different professional trainings in order to duplicate the comprehensive quality of our single program.
  4. The practice. There are many ways to teach yoga and many ways to practice. Every weekend includes study and practice in asana, pranayama, and meditation, in order to help students find and define their unique path. The foundation and primary focus of our asana study for the 200 hour training is a brilliant vinyasa sequence of postures called Present Power. It can be as challenging or as accommodating as desired. Every student is certified to teach this power vinyasa system, plus more moderate styles of the practice that are capable of being amended for all limitation and disability, as well as beginning forms of pranayama and meditation.
  5. The depth of training. Because all our faculty have actually been studying yoga and practicing all its aspects – asana, pranayama, meditation, service – for so many years, we can offer insight into the deeper dimensions of yoga that, frequently, the staff of other trainings does not have the experience to provide.
  6. The emphasis on service. Through our affiliation with The Give Back Yoga Foundation, we prepare our graduates for a career in yoga service and help them to take their practice out into the world and be the change they want to create.
  7. The Individualized Yoga Plan (IYP).  Every student develops an Individualized Yoga Plan with help from faculty and the director of the studio where they are training. This provides students with a way to identify their dharma and pursue a path into the specialized field of their choice.
  8. The Director.  American yoga pioneer Beryl Bender Birch, is the founder/director of The Hard & The Soft Yoga Institute and co-founder of the Give Back Yoga Foundation. As a best-selling author, (Power Yoga, Beyond Power Yoga, Yoga for Warriors) and teacher, Beryl has been teaching yoga and meditation internationally for over 40 years and is a longtime faculty member at Kripalu and Omega Institute. She graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in English and Philosophy, and began the study of meditation in 1971 with her teacher, Jain monk Munishree Chitrabhanu. She traveled to India in 1974 to further her studies and started practice of the ashtanga vinyasa asana system with her teacher, Norman Allen, in 1979. She continued to study with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois from 1987 through 1993. Her book Power Yoga (1995), an accessible form of the ashtanga asana practice, sold nearly 300,000 copies and was primarily responsible for introducing yoga to the athletic community. She, more than most, walks her talk…and is one of the brightest, most down to earth, knowledgeable, accessible, funny, and joyful people you will ever meet. One of her gifts is making authentic and therapeutic forms of asana accessible to all. Everyone on faculty has trained with her for decades and is at least a 1000-hour graduate of her school, The Hard & The Soft Yoga Institute. Beryl’s vision trickles down from the top and infuses the program, the faculty, the community, and the students.
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Once In A Blue Moon

Stay tuned for a Blue Moon celebration!

The year 2018 is going to be a very exciting year. Why you ask? 2018 is not only going to bless us with one Blue Moon, but TWO Blue Moons!

January and March are the two months in 2018 that will host a Blue Moon speculator. What does this mean exactly? By astrological definition, this means Earth will be able to witness two full moons that fall within a single calendar month, in this case January 31st followed by March 31st.

Although the Blue Moon will be visible internationally, the prime time for us New Englanders will be 8:27AM EST. From the United States, the Blue Moon that we will be viewing is technically considered a waning gibbous moon, however, it is going to have the appearance of being full to naked eye. If you look closely, you just might be able to catch a glimpse of Regulus, the 1st-magnitude star in the constellation of Leo the Lion.

What is the significance of these Blue Moons you may wonder? Depending on who you ask the answer is significant! Another occurrence of two Blue Moons in one calendar year will not happen for another 19 years!

Now, the biggest question of them all: Is the moon going to turn blue? Unfortunately the answer is no. Due to various astrological reasoning and theory, the name of the moons is based off of the natural phases it goes through annually.

Although astrology and yoga are not technically related, many yogic traditions have been born around the movement of the stars and moons, there are even  Moon Salutations you can do! (As seen on Yoga Journal: https://www.yogajournal.com/videos/moon-shine).

Yoga in ME will also be celebrating in this astrological phenomenon so stay tuned and keep an eye up at the stars!

 

Namaste!

 

 

5 Reasons YOU Need A Weekend Retreat

If you’re like many of us New Englanders, making the investment to participate in a Weekend Retreat seems like a big financial commitment. Many of us think of these types of purchases as a luxury… or even selfish. As frugal New Englanders, we are reluctant to make a big investment in something we perceive as only benefitting ourselves.

But guess what!? Participating in a weekend retreat is NOT selfish. Making the investment in your own self-care is actually a great way to “fill up your cup” and make sure that you are able to offer your best self to your daily commitments and to the others in your life who depend on you!

Here are just a few reasons to join us on our weekend retreat :

1. Take time to focus on YOU

I touched on this a little bit already, but I have to talk about it again because it is SO IMPORTANT. Some of us write off self-care because it seems.. well… selfish. But taking time to practice self care is extremely important for your mental and physical health. If that still doesn’t seem like a valuable way to use your time, remember that taking are of YOU is a way to ensure that you are able to rise to face all of the challenges life throws your way! Plus, if you’re down and out, you are less able to care for those in your life that depend on you. Taking care of yourself by spending a weekend practicing yoga, meditating, and eating healthy is a great step towards being the best you possible!

2. Community

This weekend retreat is a wonderful opportunity to spend time with like-minded individuals. Yoga in ME is beloved by many for our diverse and welcoming community. You’ll have a chance to connect with other yogis both on and off the mat and get to know the people you practice next to every day. Meals will be prepared and eaten as a group, family style. And that’s just one of the ways that we will be sharing as a community during the retreat. We’ll be practicing, eating, sleeping, breathing, discussing, sharing and relaxing as a group all weekend! We can’t wait to hang out with you!

3. Learning

Are you interested in deepening your practice? Learning more about the 8 limbs of yoga? Getting into the details and the practices that we don’t have time to get into in a 60-minute class? On this retreat, you’ll have full access to Lydia and Nancy for the whole weekend! While we have a plan for the weekend, discussions will follow the lead of the group. This means that we’ll have a chance to delve into the topics that particularly interest YOU. Between the 2 of us, we have over 20 years of yoga experience and expertise to share with you. The shared experiences and knowledge of the group are another valuable resource that we can’t wait to tap into. Plan to leave inspired and excited!

4. Relieve Stress

It’s no secret that yoga and meditation are great for relieving stress. And we’ll have the unique opportunity to be immersed in these practices for a the whole weekend. Time will be set aside for asana, meditation, breathing practice, and even rest! This is an opportunity to learn new relaxation techniques, and hone the ones you already know. We’ll be placing an emphasis on self care, nurturing ourselves and the group. Leave feeling relaxed, renewed, and ready to face the week ahead!

5. Be Fully Present

We’ll be physically close to home, but far away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. During the retreat, we invite you to unplug and join us on an adventure towards being fully present. This weekend retreat will be an opportunity to be fully present with the group and the community, taking a break from the stress and anxiety that so often come hand in hand with work and home life!

Convinced? Spots are filling up FAST. Sign up to reserve your spot here!

Still not sure? Lydia and Nancy are available to answer any questions or address any concerns that you still have. Ask us at the studio, in the comments below, or contact us. We want to hear what you have to say!

Yoga in ME Food Drive

In 2012, Yoga in ME celebrated our grand opening with a food drive to benefit Footprints Food Pantry. (Footprints serves Kittery, Kittery Point, and Eliot residents) Participating is easy! Bring in any donation (big or small) all week and your class is FREE.

In order to make this event even better for those who are already Yoga in ME members, we also give you one entry into our raffle each time you bring in a donation! This year, we have lots of great prizes available. Prizes include private lessons, yoga gear, Yoga in ME swag & more! We’re also offering special discounts on retail and class passes. A very limited supply of discounted annual pre-paid memberships will be available!

As our community has grown, we have continued to celebrate this tradition each year. Every year, we have collected more & more food to benefit our local Southern Maine community. This year marks our 4th birthday and 5th annual food drive! Each year, we have managed to donate hundreds of dollars worth of food, toiletries, and pet supplies to Footprints. The opportunity to see a physical manifestation of the support of our community is so humbling!

We truly love this opportunity to give back to the community. We are really looking forward to this year’s food drive. Help us make it our biggest donation year yet!

Here is how you can participate:

Bring in any food, toiletry, household supply, or pet item donation. Items must be new and unopened. Footprints requests that any food items be date checked to ensure the product has not passed the expiration date.

Here is a list of items that are consistently in high need:

      . peanut butter
      . canned vegetables
      . macaroni & cheese
      . macaroni & spaghetti
      . canned pasta
      . canned “hearty” soups
      . cold “low sugar” cereal & oatmeal
      . rice – brown and white
      . canned fruit
      . canned tuna
      . ramen noodles
      . beef stew
      . dog & cat food
      . sides – pasta, rice, potato
      . hamburger & tuna helper
      . pasta sauce
      . diapers

We thank you all for supporting us and this community for the past 4 years! We wouldn’t be here without each and every one of you!

Looking For Your Community? Join Us For Coffee, Conversation, at Yoga in ME

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we are social animals by nature. Although we naturally exist in communities, many of us spend a lot of our time alone. Further, the technology and devices that are supposed to connect us to others actually make us feel left out, lonely and even more isolated.

Finding a community of like-minded individuals is a great way to combat loneliness. At Yoga in ME, we want all of our members to feel welcomed and included. Sometimes, coming in for class is enough. But it’s also nice to have opportunities outside of class to connect and get to know other people at the studio.

Recently, we have noticed that our members really enjoy and value these opportunities to connect with each other outside of class. For this reason, we have decided to start offering more of these opportunities for FREE.

Starting in November, we will have Coffee & Conversation every 2nd Tuesday of the month at 10:15. (Immediately following the Boomer class.)

Stay after the Boomer Yoga class, or just stop in to socialize after class. We will  provide coffee, tea, and some light snacks. No registration or purchase necessary!

At the conclusion of our teacher training, we interviewed our graduates about the training. We asked graduates what they would say if recommending the training to a friend. Nearly every graduate mentioned the feeling community that they experienced at Yoga in ME.

In fact, many of our graduates said they had never felt like they fit in to a community before. The community at Yoga in ME was the first time some of our trainees really felt they belonged.

This was a huge wake up call for us. Our hope is that each and every one of you also feels valued and supported by the community here at Yoga and ME. If you don’t, please, please, please let us know if there is anything that we can do to make you feel more at home here. We are always open to feedback and happy to provide a listening ear.

If you love our community and/OR you want to feel a little more at home here, we hope that you will join us for Coffee and Conversation! You never know who you might make a connection with.

What is your favorite way to connect with the Yoga in ME community?

4 Reasons To Join The Yoga in ME Book Club

Have you ever thought about joining a book club? Sounds fun, right? But too often reading is not a priority in our busy lives. In fact, 1 in 4 Americans did not read a book last year! Not to mention, getting together with friends often becomes one of those “I’ll call you…” situations where it just never ends up actually happening.

But don’t let all the discourage you. Yoga in ME is starting a book club! Our first meeting is in December. Here are 4 reasons why you should join:

It’s FREE!

It is completely free to join and you can choose buy or borrow the book. All you need to do is read (at least some of) the book and show up. For our first book club, we are reading Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart. We have copies available for purchase at the studio or you can get it at a local bookstore, on Amazon, or borrow from the library or a friend!

A great chance to encourage yourself to read.

As mentioned earlier, 1 in 4 Americans did not read a book last year. If you struggle with finding the motivation to read, this might be just the push that you need! I always find that a deadline makes me much more motivated to accomplish my goals.

There will be food!

We’ll be providing some light refreshments and attendees are encouraged to bring a pot-luck dish to share. As always, tea and water are available free of charge!

Community!

When questioned about what they love most about the studio, almost every person I talk to says: the COMMUNITY. Joining us for our book club and pot luck is a great time to connect with the Yoga in ME community and get a chance to interact with other members outside of class. Some of us might even wear “normal” clothes! (Read: not yoga clothes).

There you have it, 4 great reasons to join the Yoga in ME bookclub! We hope to see you there!

 

FIND OUT THE NEXT BOOK GROUP DATE

 

 

5 Opportunities to Practice Gratitude at Yoga in ME This Holiday Season

The opportunity to practice gratitude at Yoga in ME  is a very important part of our community. At the end of many of our classes, we offer an opportunity to take a moment of gratitude. Often, I will invite students to think of one thing that they are grateful for today. Practicing gratitude is a great way to improve your interpersonal relationships and spread positivity to others in your life. Practicing gratitude can also bring numerous benefits to YOU. Read more on the “selfish” benefits of practicing gratitude in this post.

Some of you may be thinking “well, that’s all great… but what does practicing gratitude even mean?”. There are many small ways to practice gratitude. Some of these include: keeping a gratitude journal, verbally expressing gratitude to loved ones, or even just thinking about things you are grateful for on a regular basis. Another wonderful way to practice gratitude is by giving back to your community.

If you’re looking for more ways to incorporate gratitude in your life, here are 5 opportunities to practice gratitude at Yoga in ME this holiday season:

1) Join us at our Veterans’ Day Outreach and Fundraising Event

Grateful for our veterans and want to support our FREE Yoga for Veterans Classes? Curious about the class? Now is your chance to try it out and/or ask questions – or just show up to show your support for this life changing program. This is a once a year opportunity for friends and family to join the class to see what it’s like – or to bring a veteran(s) you know that might enjoy their first class more if you were there to support them.

2) Come Practice Gratitude at Yoga in ME at our Annual Thanksgiving Day Gratitude Class

Take some time to care for yourself and cultivate gratitude before the distractions take over the mind. You may notice the rest of the day is truly something you can feel grateful for. Any donation appreciated.

3) Participate in Our Fall Food Drive

How lucky are we to have the opportunity to give back to others? Each year, we celebrate Yoga in ME’s birthday at our fall food drive. During this week long event, we collect a trunk load of food and other items (or more!) to donate to Footprints Food Pantry in Kittery. More information about this fun annual event coming soon!

4) Monthly Give Back Yoga Nidra

At this class, we support a different cause each month. We are grateful to Erica for donating her time to host this class and for the opportunity to give back to some awesome local organizations. We especially love to support local causes that our members are involved in, like End 68 Hours of Hunger. If you are active in a local non-profit please talk to Erica about how this class can help you!

5) Weekly By-Donation Community Class

We are so grateful to our teacher trainees for donating their time to teach this class and Rachel for volunteering to coordinate it! This class is a great opportunity to show your appreciation to these teachers (all you have to do is show up!). It is also an opportunity to support our FREE yoga for veterans program by donating.

Bonus opportunity: participate in our November Gratitude Tree! Read more about that on the blog soon!

We hope that you will join us for as many of these opportunities as possible. These are just a few of the ways that we are practicing gratitude at Yoga in ME this season. How are you practicing gratitude? Let us know in the comments!

Laughter Yoga: The Art of Laughing for No Particular Reason.

Laughter Yoga: The Art of Laughing for No Particular Reason Written By: Rachel D.A.

Laughter Yoga was really my first experience with Yoga. Wait…What? Laughter Yoga? “What the heck is that?” you might ask. That would be a very valid question.

Laughter Yoga is a series of exercises that promote unconditional laughter.

Yup, it’s silly, very silly, and it IS meant to be. There is really very little Asana involved, however the yoga part comes from the deep breathing involved to keep the oxygen flowing through the body while you are having so much fun. To me, it is another form of Pranayama (a basic aspect of the yoga practice). So, your next question might be “WHY?”

Why would you want to spend time laughing at nothing at all?

There are actually so many reasons to laugh this way. They say that Laughter is the Best Medicine and research is finding that that is very true. More and more studies support the positive effect that laughter has on the body, mind and spirit. In the 1960’s a well known author named Norman Cousins was diagnosed with a severe immune-deficiency disease. This disease left him in extreme pain and unable to function.

At the time there was very little the medical field could do for him and no hope for recovery. He found that when people visited him and made him laugh through funny stories, movies and jokes, he felt better for awhile. He created a rule for all his visitors that they must make him laugh if they wanted to spend time with him. Eventually he did make a full recovery that he credited, in large part, to laughter.

Let’s take a look at just a few of the benefits:

  • Helps control blood pressure and heart disease
  • Boosts the Immune System
  • Alleviates pain by releasing endorphins and serotonin as well as other “feel good” hormones
  • Suppresses the release of cortisol, the stress hormone. In fact they have found that laughter can reduce cortisol in your system by 24% as opposed to medication (4%) or meditation (4 – 5%).
  • Makes it easier to cope with challenge and conflict
  • Defuses fear, anger and boredom
  • Helps build teamwork
  • And possibly the most helpful of all is that 10 minutes of laughter will yield about 2 hours of being pain free

Another advantage is that it makes you vulnerable.

Many might argue that vulnerability is not an advantage and are afraid to be vulnerable, yet, according to Brene Brown, vulnerability is the key to living completely in the present moment – that wonderful place where creativity, joy and hope thrive.

When I talk to people about laughter and it’s benefits, many people react with “Oh, I love to laugh! I laugh all the time.” I always say “that’s great! Keep it up”. But most don’t realize that when you laugh at something funny, like a joke or a funny story, you only laugh for about 20 seconds.

The truth is that it takes about 10 minutes or more of laughter to bring you to the place where you can reap the benefits listed above. That’s why Unconditional Laughter (Laughter Yoga) was developed. It doesn’t hinge on something funny, you just keep laughing at nothing at all. Don’t worry, a good Yoga Laughter Leader will help.

One of the most wonderful things about this practice is that you don’t even have to laugh for “real”.  Your body will get just as many benefits from fake laughter as it will from real laughter.

Keep an eye out for more on the benefits of laughter and how to incorporate more of it into your life. And a  Laughter Yoga class.

Top 3 Reasons People “Can’t Do Yoga” (And Why They Should Do It Anyway)

Whenever I get asked the age old question “What do you do for work?” My answer is: “I own a yoga studio!” Sometimes people are excited and want to know more – but more often, people’s faces fall. “Oh, I can’t do yoga” they say… followed by a reason why. These responses are so discouraging to me. Not just because I want people to come to my business. But also because people think that they can’t participate in this wonderfully healing practice for exactly the reasons that they SHOULD be doing this practice.

Here are the 3 most common reasons people give me that they can’t do yoga:

I can’t do yoga: I’m not flexible.

Guess what! Most of our students aren’t flexible. In fact, I probably have the tightest hamstrings in the room. Yoga is not just for people who can already put their foot behind their head. People who can’t touch their toes need to be here because yoga can help BUILD flexibility!

Strength and flexibility are both extremely important for our health, especially as we get older. And regular yoga practice is one of the best ways I know of to increase flexibility. Furthermore, “flexibility” can mean very different things to different bodies. Or we might be very flexible in some areas or not others. A well rounded yoga practice might not get you touching your toes in 2 weeks, but the best way to start working towards that goal is to start practicing!

I can’t do yoga, yoga is for young, skinny people!

Sorry, this excuse isn’t going to work on me either. First of all, most of our students at Yoga in ME are 50+! Most of us have regular human being bodies here, too. Second, yoga can age right along with you. Here are Yoga in ME, we base a lot of our classes on a sequence of postures called Boomer Yoga (taught to us by Beryl Bender Birch). The Boomer Yoga sequence is athletic, dynamic, and also takes into account that we can’t do all of the things that we could when we were 15. And that’s okay!

Furthermore, physical activity continues to be extremely (if not even more) important as we get older! Regular physical activity keeps us healthier. Plus, yoga improves balance, flexibility and even bone density! Yoga is also great place to make connections with other like-minded people and reduce stress.

I can’t do yoga, I don’t have time.

An old Zen proverb tells us: “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” The same principle can be applied to practicing yoga. If you don’t have time for it, you probably need it even more! Busyness is an unfortunate plague in our modern society. Most of us are on the run from sun up to sun down (and some of us all night too. And we are STRESSED out.

Did you know that yoga is great for stress and anxiety? Find out more about our upcoming series: Yoga for Stress and Anxiety here. Even if you don’t have time to come in for a class, these practices can be extremely beneficial. Sitting in meditation for as little as 3-5 minutes a day can have a huge positive impact on stress. If you’re looking to get started with a home practice you can schedule a private lesson with me to learn more about yoga and some tools that you can take home with you. Another option is to read about these techniques online or in books and start a home practice on your own!

Before you started yoga, did you think you couldn’t do it? Share why – and your experience when you did come to class in the comments below!

 

My 6 Year Old Wanted To Raise Money For Las Vegas Children “Who Don’t Have Parents Any More” What She Said Next Brought Tears To My Eyes…

On Tuesday, my 6 year old daughter, Lilliana, came home from school and told me she wanted to “send money to the kids in Las Vegas who don’t have parents any more.” I was touched. My girl has a big heart and, as a result, she always wants to help others. Unfortunately, there was just one problem: she doesn’t have much money beyond her piggy bank. I asked her where she was going to get the money. Her response surprised me. In fact, it brought tears to my eyes.

Lilliana told me she wanted to teach a yoga class for kids “because your job is already to help people feel better”.

I was touched that, not only does she want to help, she wants to do it by spreading peace, love and mindfulness in our local community. I can’t think if a better way to raise money to raise money for such a deserving cause! We hope that many of you will consider taking a break from all of the negativity that surrounds us and joining us for this fun class!

Sometimes it feels like we are surrounded by disaster. One tragedy after another plays out on the news. As a result,  it seems like we are powerless to do anything to stop them or help. Seeing tragedies like the recent shooting in Las Vegas, it is easy to sink into this hopeless mindset.

However, my teacher, Beryl teaches that part of our responsibility as yogis is to practice kriya yoga. Yoga in action. Sometimes, even the most experienced yogis need a reminder of this. And sometimes children are our best reminders.

Please join us Saturday, October 14th and 1pm for a fun, playful family yoga class lead by budding yoga teacher, Lilliana and experienced adult and children’s yoga teacher (and mom) Lydia.

Register and/or Donate Here