Great Arm Balance Workshop at Kula Yoga!

Great Arm Balance Workshop at Kula Yoga!

A few more pics from our Arm Balance Workshop this past weekend at Kula Yoga In Port Orange!!!
These pictures are of the Firefly Pose variations and the Tortoise Pose. The first picture is of the Firefly variation with straight arms and the arms and legs perpendicular to the ground. The second picture is of the Firefly variation with bent arms, the elbows at ninety degrees like in the Low Plank pose, and the legs parallel to the ground.

These poses are similar to the Crow Pose and the Crane Pose. The major difference between them is that in the Crow Pose and the Crane Pose the knees are in flexion.
A long time ago — one of my teachers told me that the arm balance poses were just advanced warm up poses. Each of the arm balance poses is just a standing warmup pose done in either Plank Pose or the Low Plank Pose. Later, another teacher told me that it’s not strength that holds most people back in the arm balance poses, its flexibility. It’s good to note that the arm balance poses aren’t going to help you open your hips up a lot but you do have to have open hips in order to do them.
These two Firefly poses are in the same family as the Seated Forward Fold and the Standing Forward Fold. The last picture is of The Tortoise Pose, another Pose in this family and a close relative of the Firefly.
Be careful of your low back when you are working on these poses. Make sure the muscles on the back of your legs are open and you don’t feel pain in your low back.
If you want to get better at these poses work on your hamstring flexibility. The Hand to Foot Pose would help a lot, especially the lying down variation. And work on all your forward folds

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One Legged Crane (Eka Pada Bakasana) Variations.

One Legged Crane (Eka Pada Bakasana) Variations.

I am back in LA! I had a wonderful time at Kula Yoga this past week. It was the perfect end to a 3 month teaching trip. Wow! I can’t believe I was gone for a full 3 months! It’s good to be back. I’m looking forward to sleeping in my own bed tonight.
Here’s a couple more demo pics from our Arm Balance Workshop yesterday. These two pics are of the One Legged Crane (Eka Pada Bakasana) variations.
Once you are balancing in the Crane Pose, to come into the first variation of the One Legged Crane, try to lift one knee off of your arm and bring it to the middle of your chest, or bring it across your body and tap the other knee. If this is successful, try to straighten the leg behind you. Reach up and back like you are in the Standing splits. It’s hard to keep the arms straight in this pose. Do the same work in the arms and the shoulders as you would in the Crane Pose.
The second variation is easier to come into from Downward Dog. Step your right foot forward. Move your foot to the right and bring both arms inside the right leg. Drop your shoulder and work your shoulder behind your knee. Place your hands down, shoulder distance apart. Now, step your back foot forward and bring your knee to the back of your arm, by your armpit. This knee is in the same position as the Crane Pose. Drop your hips and lean back. Lift the front leg and straighten the leg. The front leg will be in the same position as Koundinyasana 2. Press your arms, lean forward, and lift your back foot. Bend your knee and pull the heel closer to your buttocks

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Crane vs. Crow

Crane vs. Crow

The first two poses we explored yesterday in our Arm Balance Workshop at Kula Yoga in Port Orange were the Crow Pose and the Crane Pose.
I think we sometimes confuse these two poses, or, maybe just refer to them as the same pose sometimes — but they actually are two separate poses.
Kakasana is the Crow Pose. Bakasana is the Crane Pose. I think the confusion partially comes from the challenge of the Crane Pose. It’s hard to straighten the arms in this pose. So, a lot of us are working towards the Crane Pose but our pose might look actually more like the Crow Pose. The Crow Pose is a pretty challenging pose too.
Bring the knees farther forward and outside the arms when you are coming into the Crow Pose, and try to stay low to the ground, keeping the arms bent like in chatturanga.
Bring the knees onto the back of the arms, near the arm pits, when you are coming into the Crane Pose. Press the arms to straight like you would in your Plank Pose or in a Handstand.
Hug your elbows in and push your upper arms out. Externally rotate your arms. Slide the shoulder blades down your back and widen your shoulder blades. Engage your core and extend your spine. Hug the inner thighs in and push them back. Bend your knees and your heels to your buttocks. Point your toes.

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Connecting with Community!

Connecting with Community!

Really fun Shiva Power class at Kula Yoga yesterday morning!!! I enjoy connecting with this community so much. There’s something really special about a community of like-minded people coming together. We are all helping each other along. Find your tribe. Like attracts like and same attracts same. Your energy affects everyone around you. Let your line shine brightly. Some days you will inspire the person next to you and help lift them up. Some days they will inspire you and help to lift you up. Push yourself to work a little harder and challenge yourself to go a little deeper. Go into the fire and stand your ground. You’re surrounded by friends. You’re surrounded by family. You’re not alone on this journey. Take it one step at a time. Breathe into it. Let’s keep moving forward. Thank you, Kula Yoga for letting me join and be a part of your community. Always grateful to spend time with you. Love sharing the teachings of my teachers and love practicing with you. It’s been a really fun week. Seeing how much some of you have grown so far this year is really exciting. I look forward to seeing you all again soon. Namaste

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This is your journey. This is your life.

This is your journey. This is your life.

We are all on this incredible journey, each one of us walking our path. The yogis say our journey is from darkness to light. Samkhya philosophy calls the darkness tamas and the light sattva. Tamas is the quality of stillness, heaviness, inertia — when your body feels stuck, heavy, lazy, and tired, and when your mind is dark, depressed, and you have a lot of confusion, and are living in ignorance. We go first from tamas through rajas before we reach sattva. Rajas is the quality of movement, fire, and intensity. You have to go into the fire. Your practice will be intense. It takes hard work. You are up against old, stuck energy, bad habits, and patterns in your mind that aren’t serving you. Breathe into the fire. Stand your ground. Stay calm and find stillness in the middle of the movement. It’s the balance of these first two qualities that will lead you to the light of sattva. Sattva is the quality of balance, a place where the body feels light and energetic, and the mind is focused but calm. This is the place where the light can flow through you. This is the place where you will be able to experience the true nature of your Self. Keep walking on your path. It’s a long, slow journey. Just take it one step at a time. Enjoy every moment. This is your journey. This is your life.

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Building a Meditation Practice.

Building a Meditation Practice.

It took me a long time to develop a meditation practice. Building a self practice is challenging. The best way to start is with a very short practice. Try five mins everyday. Try that for one month and see how it goes. You don’t have to start with a long practice. It’s better to pick something you know you can do everyday. Think of it like brushing your teeth. After one month if you were able to do the practice consistently then try adding another five minutes. Pick one technique. It’s not helpful to do every technique you know and jump from one to the next. The yogis often compare this to digging a well. You don’t want to dig a bunch of shallow wells. You will never hit water. Dig one hole and go deep! A consistent, daily meditation practice will change your life.

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Back to Basics.

Back to Basics.

Really fun Shiva Power class last night at Kula Yoga Port Orange!!! Back to basics.

I was talking yesterday about practice and detachment. What is practice? Effort to steady the mind — concentration. What is detachment? Letting go of distractions. So, our practice is the practice of concentration, staying present, looking at the distractions, and letting them go.


You’re taking a journey to the center of your Self. You’re walking to the center of the wheel. You’re not going to suddenly burst into flames when you experience the true nature of your Self, or turn into light and disappear. Yoga won’t make all your problems and all of life’s challenges go away. But you can change your relationship to those problems and challenges. Yoga will help you shift your perspective. You change your relationship to your Self and you change your experience of the world.


The ego is the part of us that is constantly created separation. If you identify with the ego then you are constantly looking for the world around you to change for you. Yoga is asking the opposite. You change your relationship to your Self and your experience of the world changes.


Be the change! This is our practice. This is the shift of perspective.

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Variations in Scorpion Pose!

Variations in Scorpion Pose!

Some fun variations on the forearm’s yesterday in my Shiva Power class at Guruv Yoga Lake Mary in Orlando!!!
Work on the Dolphin and the Forearm Plank to strengthen your arms and shoulders and prepare for the Forearm Balance. Once you’ve mastered the Forearm Balance you can work on the Scorpion Pose. Or play with splitting the legs, or work on the charging scorpion hollow back variation to open the shoulders and upper back.
Backbending poses and poses that challenge my hip flexors are so challenging for me. I love practicing them, though. And I feel so good after a big backbending practice. 3 rounds of backbends is the bare minimum. 7 is better. And 10 is the best! These words are from my teacher Dharma Mittra.
It surprised me to learn when I started studying yoga therapy that it’s not backbends that are the most dangerous poses in yoga — It’s actually forward folds!
I think we are afraid of backbends because they make us feel vulnerable. They take us into the fire. They challenge us to open up and to let go. We aren’t good at being vulnerable. But the walls we put up around ourselves to protect us from the outside world don’t just keep out the bad things, they keep out everything good we could be experiencing as well.
Make sure you stabilize your low back when you backbend by engaging your core. Don’t go too far. Don’t push too hard. But don’t shy away from backbends in your yoga practice either. We are sitting in flexion most of the day. Chronically tight hip flexors! Herniated discs! Tight shoulders! A closed off heart! Backbends can help you with all these things. These poses are energizing and lift us up too! They are great for the spine! You get to flood the spinal discs with nutrients. Keep your spine flexible and strong, yogis!

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“Copy the teacher, copy the teacher, copy the teacher.”

“Copy the teacher, copy the teacher, copy the teacher.”

“Copy the teacher, copy the teacher, copy the teacher.”

“I am Yogi Gupta, I am Yogi Gupta, I am Yogi Gupta.”

A happy belated birthday to my teacher — Dharma Mittra, who turned 80 yrs old last month. I’m so excited that I will be able to see Dharma this week while I am in New York. I’ve been lucky enough to take 3 Teacher Training programs with Dharma over the past 8 yrs and have come to New York on several additional trips for intensive study.
Dharma sometimes shares a story about practicing with his teacher, Swami Kailasananda — Yogi Gupta. He talks about focusing intensely on copying the teacher, trying to become like the master himself. We walk in the shadows of the great teachers who have come before us. We try to follow in their footsteps. We keep moving things forward, and our students are right behind us. As Dharma would say, “we are all just helping each other along.”

“Copy the teacher, copy the teacher, copy the teacher.”

“I am Dharma Mittra, I am Dharma Mittra, I am Dharma Mittra.”

Feeling grateful for this moment and everything that has led to this moment. Thank you, Dharma.

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On to the next adventure!

On to the next adventure!

On to the next adventure!!! I’m flying to New York today. It’s a long journey. First to Chongqing. I have a layover and then a direct flight from Chongqing to JFK. It’s been an amazing trip so far. These last 2 weeks in Shanghai have been a lot of fun. I’ve met a lot of new students and made a lot of new friends. My first stop on this trip when I left Los Angeles was to New York. Feels like a long time ago! I’m excited to be back in New York. Hoping to get a practice in with Dharma. I’m teaching 3 special event Shiva Power master classes at Pure Yoga this week. If you are in New York please join me for a class. These classes are super affordable and free to Pure Yoga members. I’m teaching as part of the Visiting Teacher Series. Hope to see you there. Namaste. See you again soon, Shanghai! And to everyone in China — thank you for being such amazing hosts and treating me so well these last 2 months.

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Backbending Workshop at Space Academy yesterday!!!

Backbending Workshop at Space Academy yesterday!!!

Backbending Workshop at Space Academy yesterday!!! My last workshop. Coming to the end of my 2 weeks in Shanghai. It’s been a wonderful collaboration with Space Academy. Thank you to everyone who came to practice with me these last 2 weeks. I’ll miss you. And I will look forward to seeing you again soon.
This was a big workshop yesterday. We packed a lot of information into 2.5hrs. We discussed yoga theory, philosophy, anatomy review, Asana Breakdown, the spine, the tug of war actions, why we backbend in yoga, and we looked at a number of backbends in greater detail. When we backbend we are primarily looking at movement in the saggital plane, and poses that take the hips into extension, the spine into extension, and the shoulders into either flexion or extension.
Some simple things to remember:
1. We want to stabilize areas that are vulnerable and open up areas that do not have a lot of flexibility.
2. Finding the Tug of War actions in the body means in every backbend there will be a little forward fold. One side wins but the other side doesn’t just give up.
3. We want to depress and abduct (protract) the shoulder blades.
4. We want to externally rotate the shoulders.
5. When the hips move into extension they also want to abduct and externally rotate. Don’t let them!
6. Backbends are good for the spinal discs. Backbends are energizing and uplifting. They take us into the fire. They help us to concentrate but they also teach us to be vulnerable and let go. Backbends stretch out the muscles on the front of the body and they strengthen the muscles on the back of the body.
See you on your mat!!!

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It’s been such a great 2 weeks at Space in Shanghai!

It’s been such a great 2 weeks at Space in Shanghai!

It’s been such a great 2 weeks at Space in Shanghai! I’m really impressed with this company. Grateful to Robyn for inviting me to collaborate and teach at the studio. Thank you to all the amazing Space staff for being so welcoming and for all your support. And thank you to the wonderful students who have been coming to my classes. It’s been a pleasure practicing with you and helping you to deepen your practice and understanding of yoga. This weekend I’m leading my last 2 workshops — Handstand on Saturday and Backbending on Sunday!!! See you on your mat!!! Namaste.

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The Symbol of Hanumanasana

The Symbol of Hanumanasana

A couple of weeks ago I got to do this really fun photo shoot at this incredible location in Shitang, in the mountains, about an hour from Wenling. It was a really fun afternoon. We went to these beautiful caves and I learned that this was where my friend Lee grew up. I loved that he took me here to show me this place. I am enjoying the Chinese culture so much on this trip. My hosts have all been very kind and warm hearted and it’s moved me several times how they treat guests with such honor. I was at dinner the other day and poured tea for the table before filling my own cup. This is a Chinese custom. I didn’t realize I was doing it until the table stopped and looked at me, and then everyone starting laughing. They told me I was becoming more and more Chinese everyday.


I take a lot of pictures in hanumanasana. I love this pose. I love the story of hanuman and the symbol of masculine and feminine coming together. What happens when masculine and feminine energy come together in perfect balance? A new energy is born! The energy of creation! Hanuman is a symbol of perfect balance, a symbol of the awakening of the kundalini force, a symbol of our yoga journey. Study the symbols. Yoga is sometimes described as a code language. You don’t see the signs until you are ready to see the signs. The teacher doesn’t show up in your life until you are ready for the teacher. And you don’t find balance and experience a deeper connection to yourself and the world around you until you are ready for that experience.

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A hot and sweaty Shiva Power class at Float Yoga!

A hot and sweaty Shiva Power class at Float Yoga!

A hot and sweaty Shiva Power class at Float Yoga! Thank you, Stella for inviting me to teach at your studio. It was a really humid day and, WOW, did we go into the fire!!! Strong students!!! Great job, everyone. It was fun practicing with all of you. I’m looking forward to seeing you all again soon.


Sit in the fire and let it cleanse you. Let your stuff come to the surface and let it go. There’s no spiritual by-pass. You have to go through it all to get to the other side. It’s messy. It’s intense. It’s uncomfortable. Sometimes you leave it all on your mat. Sweat, tears, frustration, anger, sadness? What are you working through? What’s coming to the surface for you? Are you looking at your stuff? Are you ready to look in the mirror and see the truth? This is the practice. This is yoga. Fire is the catalyst. You are sharpening your sword. You are cleaning your pot. Transformation isn’t easy. Change isn’t easy. Undoing patterns and working through old stuck energy isn’t easy. But it’s worth it to take the journey! It’s SO worth it. Just get on your mat. Start walking down the path. One step at a time. Namaste.

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Dreamer Yoga Festival Teacher Introductions and Party!!!

Dreamer Yoga Festival Teacher Introductions and Party!!!

Dreamer Yoga Festival Teacher Introductions and Party!!! This was a fun night. Grateful to have been invited and honored to teach with such a talented group of teachers. Some beautiful performances after the teacher introductions and a hot and sweaty Zumba class at the end of the night. I even got an award for being one of the students dancing with the most enthusiasm during the Zumba class. Not necessarily with the most talent but with the most enthusiasm.

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How old were you when you first started practicing yoga?

How old were you when you first started practicing yoga?

How old were you when you first started practicing yoga? Fun pictures at the Guangzhou Dreamer Yoga Festival.
My first yoga practice was when I was studying acting in the UK at RADA for a summer program. We did yoga in one of the movement classes. I don’t know if they were allowed to call it yoga back then because of the perceived connection to religion. I looked back on what we were doing when I started practicing regularly after I’d returned home from the program and realized we’d been doing yoga in some of our movement classes

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“He who teaches and doesn’t practice is a fraud. And he who practices and doesn’t teach is a thief.”

“He who teaches and doesn’t practice is a fraud. And he who practices and doesn’t teach is a thief.”

Our final Shiva Power class at Haipoo Yoga yesterday morning! A deep Twisting class with extra core work to prepare for our afternoon Handstand Workshop. This was a really fun group to work with and I’ve enjoyed watching everyone grow a lot in just a few days. We managed to cover some yoga philosophy and I had the students read and discuss five of my published articles on different aspects of the practice as well. I am confident that I shared as much as I could in our 3 days together. I think the greatest thing we can do as teachers is share everything we have with our students. If we do a good enough job they won’t need us anymore. Ideally, we want to eliminate ourselves from the equation altogether. Everything I have is yours! The way we honor our teachers and pay back the debt we owe to them is to share the teachings and become teachers ourselves. There’s an old yoga saying — “He who teaches and doesn’t practice is a fraud. And he who practices and doesn’t teach is a thief.” Better not to be either one.

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Shoulder Opening Workshop today at Haipoo Yoga!

Shoulder Opening Workshop today at Haipoo Yoga!

Shoulder Opening Workshop today at Haipoo Yoga!!! We mostly work in our yoga practice on opening the shoulders in Flexion and in Extension. Having a full range of motion at the shoulder joint helps to prevent injuries to the cervical spine and helps release tension in the muscles of the upper back and around the neck. Most of our shoulder opening poses in yoga are backbends. Usually the more advanced backbends take the shoulders into flexion but not always. It’s important to also remember that yoga is not just about flexibility. We are always looking for balance. Too much flexibility can lead to injuries at the joints. Not enough flexibility can lead to injuries in the muscles. This picture is of one of my favorite shoulder opening partner exercises. In this position, you can help your partner take their shoulders deeper into flexion, you can use your hands to help them externally rotate their shoulders, and you can encourage them to find more core and pull their front ribs in making more space and lengthening their spine. When you engage your core while Backbending you lengthen your spine and you actually deepen the pose

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Keep your mind open. Listen. There’s so much to learn.

 Keep your mind open. Listen. There’s so much to learn.

Sometimes the students inspire me so much! This student came to my class on Sunday afternoon in Fuzhou. She worked so hard! She listened to everything I was saying and paid such close attention to my cues. And she tried so many advanced poses and variations, even though many of them were out of reach. I was so proud of her. And the whole time she smiled and even laughed a few times when she fell out of some of the more challenging poses. I love teaching students like this. They are so easy to teach. No ego. So much light. The irony is that these students are already practicing so much of what we are teaching in yoga. They don’t need the practice as much as some of the students who are the hardest to teach. Sometimes students are rude and disrespectful and don’t pay attention and don’t listen. It’s hard to teach these students. Their mind is closed off. But really they need the practice most of all. Master teacher, Krishnamacharya has a famous quote about only wanting to teach the beginners and the really advanced students because they both know that they don’t know anything. He said the ones in the middle, the students with a little bit of knowledge who think they know everything are the hardest to teach. Keep your mind open. Listen. There’s so much to learn. Be a good student. Learn as much as you can from the teacher. Are you done learning? Is there no more room for growth? Really? You’ve got it all figured out? There is so much more to learn. You just have to stay open.

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