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Sivananda Vedanta Yoga Center Los Angeles

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I conducted a field study in a lineage I was not familiar with at all. READ MY FINDINGS!

In this field study I visited the Sivananda Vedanta Yoga Center in Marina Del Rey, California on two separate occasions. Once to attend The Durga Puja or Navaratri  in October and then on November 28th, 2017, I attended a 90 minute āsana class taught by our good friend Joseph Cadiff. The ceremony and the āsana class were wonderful experiences but outside my normal yogic wheelhouse, especially the puja ceremony.

To say the puja ceremony was outside my comfort zone would be an understatement. Please don’t assess my reaction in terms of your own background, but from the perspective of my own. Given that I spent 20 years in the U.S. Coast Guard as a self described Knuckle Dragger, it’s a miracle that I’ve ever stepped foot in a yoga room more than once. To consider my evolution from Knuckle Dragger, to yoga student, to a studio work-trader, to evolving into a rootin-tootin bonafide yoga teacher, and now graduate student in said discipline without losing my essence is amazing.  Just as I was resting on my laurels comfortable in my power yoga world, full of sweat and loads of eye candy, I’ve come to learn there is another colorful yoga world in Sivananda Yoga, and apparently that color is yellow.

This was the first thing that hit me when I came through the door at the Sivananda Vedānta Yoga Center. I said to myself “man is it yellow in here. Was I supposed to wear yellow? I don’t think I own anything yellow.” Feeling as out of place as Johnny Cash would, I did the rookie move, I arranged myself in the back bleachers. Once settled in I started to feel a calm as I looked around and saw some of “my people” present. I don’t recall at this late date as to whether I purposely didn’t do any research into what I was getting myself into or not, but I do love to attend a movie without knowing squat about the plotline. This is my way of avoiding picking up incorrect notions or judgements about the situation at hand. And here is the situation.

A puja ceremony is a traditional worshipping ceremony in tune with Bhakti Yoga or the yoga of devotion. I grew up in the Catholic church which is heavy on ceremony, with specific actions taking place each Mass, including my own father hurdling threats of punishment if I didn’t sit still. One of my first recollections was connecting the puja ceremony to my experiences in organized religion. We sing in the Catholic Church and we sang in the puja ceremony. We had a leader in the church, the priest, and we had a leader at the puja ceremony. Funny for me to note that I was amused in the most loving way that our “priest” dressed in yellow was chanting yogic scripture in a heavy asian accent. This is totally in sync with the Vedānta notion of diversity leading to unity. I loved it!

Quoting from Sri Swami Sivananda, this festival “lasts for nine days in honour of the nine manifestations of Durga. During Navaratri (the word literally means "nine nights") devotees of Durga observe a fast. Brahmins are fed and prayers are offered for the protection of health and property.” As I learned more about the ceremony’s intention I was warmed to learn that we are worshipping the Divine Mother. Durga represents Mother. The relationship one has with one’s mother is so special. Think Forrest Gump and what his “Momma” did for him. This type of relationship is absolutely worthy of formal expression. This is not the emphasis in the  Catholic tradition, nor is dousing the baby Jesus in warm milk might I add.

Hinduism believes God is present within each and everything that exists. This is very powerful and the reason being the use of deities, imagery and certain types of clothing. One of the aspects of the puja ceremony I was not prepared for was pouring milk over Shiva and then rinsing with water. This process is used for “receiving god as our guest.” All participants got in line and while the room vibrated with chanting all poured and rinsed their heart out. When it was my turn I recall feeling a little nervous as you’re supposed to pour with your right hand and support with the left hand. Considering that I’m left handed and theoretically I was receiving god I didn’t want to be the one to spur God away with my shaky hand. When it was my turn, my vision collapsed to the task at hand and I remember a huge smile pasted across my face. I felt the love, I really did.

Settling on the Tuesday 10:30am āsana at the Sivananda Vedānta Yoga Center for my second visit I had no idea (once again) about what to expect. I turn to our colleague Joe C, who is in the know, asking for clarification and he says “I’m teaching that class.” What are the chances. Of course I was a little more comfortable this second visit as it was a smaller gathering and of course I know Joe. The room was lit up yellow in the beaming morning Los Angeles sunshine as I arrived. I was greeted by a woman named Om Kari who gave me a little background on the organization, especially about “The Farm” in Grass Valley. In strides another delightful person who introduces himself as Vishnu Prem which means “Cosmic Love.” I don’t skip a beat which tells me two things, that I’m now a true Californian and I’m less of a Knuckle Dragger now.  

Joe did take a few moments ahead of time to give me a brief on what to expect as he understands my world of power yoga and that his class would be in the Sivananda tradition. Joe explained that the class is intended to not spike heart rate, but all activities are centered on calming and tapping into the subtle body even though we plan to move. We began with a few minutes of relaxation followed by 3 Oms. Then Joe’s sweet baritone sang out leading us through a prayer to invoke the Gurus’ and teachers’ blessing.  This helps to set the mood and mindset for the remainder of the class. Next we did two basic prānāyāma breathing exercises, Kapalabhati and Anuloma Viloma followed by Sun Salutations. Between each sequence we spent time in savasana preparing for the next phase of the practice. Our next task for 12 basic postures followed by a 10 minute savasana and final prayer.

The beauty of this practice is its simplicity and straightforward nature. In the world of yoga I’m used to there seems to be an emphasis on having a good time and the layering on of complexity within a sequence or a pose. I am certainly guilty of this. I think from the teacher's standpoint, If I were to teach the class Joe taught over and over again it would become stagnant and boring to me. However, from the student perspective this course of instruction is as healthy as I could imagine. Someone who does this practice daily will be picking themselves up off the floor at 90. If someone took my class daily they would likely be in a wheelchair by 70 (Just kidding of course).

This leads me to placing this Sivananda Yoga within the context of the flow of yoga today as I understand it. Unfortunately within the yoga world that I have been baptised, this practice would still be considered fringy.  It’s entirely possible that the culture of Los Angeles is such that a practice such as Sivananda Vedānta Yoga can thrive. I acknowledge that the point is not to necessarily pack a studio room constantly, but there is the reality that us teachers must make a living, this means pulling clients in and retaining said clients. It clearly is in the best interests of studios to differentiate, this is healthy for the industry. After my visits to the Sivananda Vedānta Yoga center I’m of the opinion that this style’s compelling virtue is that it is literally “old school.” Like vinyl and flip phones making a come back, maybe Sivānanda yoga will become all the rage.

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Yoga as Self-Mastery Workshop

SOLD OUT!

SOLD OUT!

I recently did a workshop called "Yoga as Self-Mastery." Really it is more of a presentation/lecture type thing which can be tough for people to sit for so long. The overwhelming feedback was that this workshop should be done over a 3 day period in a retreat format. It is always a challenge for me to balance "academic" info pertaining to the subject matter and actual hands on training or simply moving the body. For example if the workshops topic is the Eight Limbed Path I don't want to use the time to do an asana flow. It's easy to find a yoga class, it's not easy to find deeper yoga training. Below is the topics we covered.

 

The true yogin is a Master of everything in his or her own life. To be a Master of your own Self is to fully understand who you really are and integrate all components of your humanness. Without a dedicated practice there can be no Self-Mastery. Yogins already practicing asana have taken a first step toward Self-Mastery, now it's time to learn the methodology behind Self-Mastery via the Eight Yogic Disciplines as outlined in the Yoga Sutras. The Eight Limbs are the Master Key to understanding the system of yoga. In this workshop you'll develop skills and acquire tools that will guide you into boldly being of service for your yourself, community and your business/family life.

WE WILL COVER:

Eight Yogic Disciplines
Yamas- Self disciples/restraints on behavior
Niyams- Spiritual observances
Asana- Seat, posture, practice of postures
Pranayama- Expansion of vital energy through control of breath
Pratyahara- Withdrawal of the senses
Dharana- Concentration
Dhyana- meditation
Samadhi-Complete absorption/Integration
Self-Inquiry & Drishti
Template for creating a morning ritual
Goal Setting w/suggested template
We will tie it all together by discussing/analyzing the Authentic Leadership Model to drive the point that yoga is a complete system of personal development that has real world impacts.

Please keep a sharp eye for a retreat that I'm hashing out. 

Kindly,

Christian

 

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Analysis of Yoga as a Stress Reduction Program

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Literature Review

How does yoga reduce stress? A systematic review of mechanisms of change and guide to future Inquiry

Yoga is morphing into something much greater than a mere physical fitness regime. It is now being used to administer remedies in clinical offices the world wide. It’s efficacy for stress reduction is intuitively understood but remains poorly studied and understood in the western sense. The authors of this study searched databases conducting systematic reviews of other studies conducted targeted toward measuring stress management/reduction outcomes via the practice of yoga. The authors noted positive effects such as self-compassion and salivary control helped to regulate stress. However, given the numerous studies only seven mechanisms were identified that play a recognizable role in yoga and stress reduction.

This study was conducted by Kristen E. Riley and Crystal L. Park both working in the Department of Psychology at University of Connecticut. In this study from Health Psychology Review, 2015 the authors posit the mechanisms in which yoga impacts driving direct health benefits such as positivity, self-compassion, inhibition of the posterior hypothalamus and salivary cortisol levels. The researchers conducted research on existing studies to flesh out the ways in which (if at all) yoga reduces stress. Differentiating between psychological benefits versus more concrete measures such as bio-markers called “mechanisms.”  The authors give a thorough explanation/definitions of stress, does yoga reduce the same, proposed mechanisms both biological and psychological, methodology, search criteria and finally synthesis and results.

This is an effort to create a snapshot of where research stands in terms of the efficacy of yoga and stress. As yoga continues to penetrate deep into the western mind empirical evidence is crucial if yoga is to gain respect as part of the healthcare system. Stress is a true killer, thus a sustained effort linking stress reduction to yoga is important as I believe the price point for a yoga intervention vis-á-vis our current HMO system is the best course of action.

The authors found 926 abstracts and filtered these down to 5 for systematic review. Weighed 4 for biomarkers and 3 for psychological mechanisms. It would have been best to have studied 6 total for an even comparison. The psychological mechanisms weight more toward the social sciences versus hard sciences making these factors more subjective. The studies used Hatha yoga as the controlling factor. This is a methodological flaw as Hatha could be as strenuous as a Bikram style yoga class or a gentle flow. Effort was made to compare “expert” yogis to new students without defining each, nor the complexity of asana for each. Results could be incorrect based upon whether inversions were offered to experts, where new students lack to skill to invert for example.

Biomarkers were used to success in measuring the HPA axis, baroreflex sensitivity and vagal nerve stimulation decrease. Specifically HPA axis showed positive endothelial function and release of nitric oxide. Endocrine response showed stress reduction measured by plasma cortisol levels and reduction in inflammation. Even short term yoga intervention demonstrated “increased activity of antiviral interferon regulatory factor, both associated with chronic stress” (382). One criticism I have is they used a study from 1983 using the hypothalamus as the mechanism. This study is to old in my view to be credible, supporting the idea that fresh research is sorely needed.

In conclusion, much more rigorous research needs to be done. Accurate control groups need to be setup to differentiate the styles of yoga and the level of practitioners. Yoga and stress reduction could have a tremendous impact on society, but the research needs to be methodized to include the fuller system of yoga to include the entire eight yogic disciplines of aṣtanga yoga. Siloing off different components of yoga, i.e. meditation, āsana or prāṇāyāma is too narrow in my view.

Article analyzed:

Kristen E. Riley & Crystal L. Park. How does yoga reduce stress? A systematic review of the mechanisms of change and guide to future inquiry. Health and Psychology Review. 15 April 2015.

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Baptiste Advanced Art of Assisting

I had the honor of being on the faculty for this awesome Baptiste Program held at Soul Yoga and Wellness in Santa Rosa, CA. As yoga teachers our ability to "listen" to a student is a key component to assisting the student to higher levels of yoga practice. A great yoga class is partially predicated upon the conversation between student and teacher. When a class has 50 people or more for example, how does the conversation take place? This is the art of teaching. It is possible to assist a student to greater or lesser depth in a pose as a teaching tool to speak through that student to the rest of the class. The trick is to ascertain trends specific to that class in asanas and give tools in the moment that make an immediate difference. This is very challenging to do. Folks will think a teacher is multitasking. But really what is happening is as a teacher gains years of experience teaching and practicing  yoga sequences flow takes over and becomes second nature.  The teacher can focus less on the mechanics as that part of the brain is on autopilot,  and direct attention toward the art of listening and giving tools. This is what it means to move toward mastery. 

How our mind perceives our body actually has a physical effect on the body. The mind is plastic and so is the body. Yoga helps to constantly reshape toward optimal functioning and it is our job as teachers to remind students constantly to clear the baffles so the mind and body communicates effectively. Most of the time we are not aware of what our mind perceives of our body unless of course we place our attention on the body. This is the yogic practices of dharana (focus, concentration) and dhyana (maintaining a focus, meditation). Teachers are constantly directing students to tune back in to breath as a pathway to body awareness. Also called drishti. 

Learning to assist creates flow in a class adding to the experience and hopefully inspires students to keep coming back to the practice. As teachers we become more intimate with our students and this will speed up students capacity for deeper practice. Below is some notes taken by one of the students during the workshop. It just gives you a sense on the types of things a Baptiste Program would focus on. Although this is targeted toward assisting the whole is the goal in Baptiste and thus the Baptiste Methodology is always front and center. 

Actions of Artful Assisting

  1. Attune to the student ( energy, breath, assist, appropriate for level of practice)
  2. Assist from your True North Alignment
  3. Align center to center
  4. Enter and exit with ease
  5. Be clear and purposeful
  6. Create flow
  7. Assist from the ground up

Types of Touch

Skin- Fingertips to indicate attention and direction. Impacts form.

Bone- C-shape hands to grasp and move bones. Impacts alignment.

Muscle- Palm with steady pressure. Impact action.

Body Mechanics

  1. Feet/Legs: Setting a strong foundation, knees straight and not hyper-extended, Internal-external rotation of femur as needed for the purpose of the pose.
  2. Hips- Neutral and balanced, round lower back for backbends, “hollow out” low back for forward fold
  3. Supine- Flexion, extension and rotation; ascension, and extension before rotation
  4. Arms- Shoulder integration with external rotation of humerus, shoulder blades pulled in towards spine, upper arm bones back.

Watch outs

  1. Do not pull shoulders back in upward facing dog
  2. Do not press shoulders down in down dog
  3. Do not pull on hands to open shoulders
  4. Do not pull hips up in bridge or wheel
  5. Do not press hips down in hip opening 
  6. Do not press Thoracic spine down in forward folds 
  7. Do not press feet down in inversions
  8. Do not press hips toward head in deaf man’s pose or plow
  9. Do not increase twist in supine twist
  10. Do not force anything

Types of Adv. Assisting

  • 3 point Assist
  • Prop Assist
  • Partner Yoga Assist
  • Thai Massage (muscle compression/ Joint traction)
  • Transition Assist (enable movement to advance pose)

PICS!

While workshops appear to be serious business, we have tons and tons of fun.

While workshops appear to be serious business, we have tons and tons of fun.

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Christian, Nick, Suzie, Lisa and Todd. THE TEAM!

Christian, Nick, Suzie, Lisa and Todd. THE TEAM!

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Filmed a Class/Christian Allaire

Hey Yoga Tribe,

I set up my little Canon GX7 Mark 11 and filmed about 30 minutes of one of my last classes that I taught at Frequency Yoga San Rafael, CA. I intended to film the entire class but I think the camera may have heated up and shut itself down. However, this particular class was really memorable with terrific energy and students that have attending my class for years. Please consider subscribing to my Youtube channel by clicking here.

Enjoy!

Yogi C

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Yoga Journal LIVE! Event

On January 14th I had an inspiring experience teaching at the YJL conference in San Francisco. The event was held a the a Hyatt Regency along the San Francisco water front. It was pretty crazy to walk in and see my head on a poster board. First time for everything! 

We had a great attendance for the free class, about 60 people or so. I'm super grateful to my 3 assistants from Baptiste Yoga San Francisco and all the super from my home studio in the city. 

Here are some pictures from the event. Christian Allaire Yoga is thriving!

 

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Christian Allaire Yoga. Veteran Turned Yoga

Christian Allaire Yoga. Veteran Turned Yoga

Yoga Teacher Brittany Lamb from Baptiste Yoga SF

Bo Billi Yoga Teacher Baptiste Yoga San Francisco

Christian Allaire Yoga. Veteran Turned Yogi

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Lululemon Ambassador Photoshoot

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Lululemon Ambassador Photoshoot

Last week I had such a terrific time shooting in San Francisco with pro photographer Ian Tuttle for my ambassadorship. What an honor to be selected as a Lululemon Ambassador based out of the Corte Madera California store. What is a Lulu Ambassador? From the website here is the explanation "Our athlete programs support a community of driven athletes and inspirational people who harness their passion to elevate their communities."

I've always been a fan of Lululemon. While studying for my MBA I did  a couple of projects studying the company, its ethos, the controversy with shear clothing and the issues with Chip Wilson. None of issues left me feeling freaked out about the company. The company you will notice has not popped up on every corner like Starbucks. You'll notice they are managing there growth well. This takes courage, especially in light of all the companies that are trying to take there market share. The list is long. In any event.....I love the Lulu Manifesto below.

Below are pictures taken while were taking pictures. Thank you to the team at the Lululemon store in Corte Madera. Leaders Jessie Whalen and Patty Prislin have to so great to me. They really do support their ambassadors.

Kindly,

Christian Allaire

VETERAN TURNED YOGI

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Volt Planner/Life at the Next Level

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Volt Planner/Life at the Next Level

I have a real fetish with Goal Setting/Life Planning. I've done it for years and years. I had my first training in the topic when the captain of my ship in 1994 (thank you Mike Mohn) took the entire crew of 16 to the Franklin Quest (soon to be Franklin Covey) day long seminar in Honolulu using the Franklin planning system. It brought me back to when I was a child watching my dad use his Daytimer  and if my memories serves, since I expressed such interest in his Daytimer he bought me one!

I wanted to show you the tools I've been using with success at achieving goals, tracking outcomes and thinking ahead. Success is always visualized prior to achievement. The prepared warrior wins in the mind first then on the field of battle type thing. 

I also point to two books that recently (past 4 years) has inspired me immensely. Mark Divine's Way of the SEAL and Unbeatable Mind. Contained within these two books and his associated trainings are the keys to unlocking greatness. Mark calls it Self-Mastery. I like that. 

I recently had the Volt Planner pop-up on my Facebook feed. After some investigation it appears to be really juicy. So much so I plunked down the $40 + $6.95 in shipping for the 2017 version. I hope it delivers. You can check out the youtube video above. Just remember that anything in slow-motion makes things a little more ominous.....like your future closing in on you! Partially what sold me is they had the temerity to film a left hander using the notebook.

The reason the Volt Planner is important to me is I've exclusively shifted to an all cloud based system from Asana which is SO POWERFUL. Above is the screen shot of my Annual Focus Plan template created by Mark Divine. I also use his temples that are similar for a month & weekly focus plan all derived from the annual focus plan. I've always thought that going back to basics is important in life. Whenever I have to hand write something it is painful. This skill is atrophying. I also believe the act of writing versus typing to be powerful. Furthermore the amount of time I spend on the computer I think has now become damaging. This is why this Volt Planner seems to be worth the stretch. I hope I can use both cloud based and paper based system together to help me grow.

I have the honor of being chosen as a Lululemon Ambassador recently. So very cool and inspiring on so many fronts. But this is not the subject at hand. One of the things so compelling to me about Lululemon is they provide tools and hire people who are motivated to use said tools to meet their goals. This is how they do business. As an ambassador they offered up some of the things they are afforded. One of them is this template above for achieving some BHAG's. 

One of our challenges is to plan for a future but live in the moment. The best tool for living in the moment derives from yoga + meditation, always come back to your breath.

Kindly,

Christian 

Update: The Volt Arrived today with this cool little note in it.

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Baptiste Yoga San Francisco

I am such a huge fan of the Baptiste Methodology. I recently completed Baptiste Level 2 and will now pursue in earnest my Baptiste Certification. 

Jen and Sean Silvera Own the Partnership Studio Baptiste Yoga San Francisco in the city. They have nurtured me and allowed me to pick up two classes at the studio. This studio and the people who practice and teach are truly a tribe. I couldn't be more enthusiastic about this place, this time and the opportunities to serve via the practice of yoga.

I constantly keep my schedule fresh and up to date on this websites schedule page. Would love to see you all on the mat!

http://christianallaireyoga.com/when-where/#new-page

Kindly,

Christian

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VYP Fundraiser Big Hit

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VYP Fundraiser Big Hit

On Sunday November 13th we held the donations based Veterans Yoga Project yoga class. It was a smash hit! We don't have all the financial data in quite yet. However I think we'll hit close to 9k. Our goal was a smooth 10k. Please enjoy some of the photo's below.

Thank you thank you!

Kindly,

Christian

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Need a Cleanse? 6 Benefits of Detoxing Your Body

THIS IS A GUEST POST CRAFTED BY TRAVIS WHITE. CHECK HIM @ http://learnfit.org/

You’ve probably heard of detox diets and detox drinks, but is a detox something you should be doing? Detoxing is the process of ridding your body of unwanted substances and toxins, which is usually achieved by fasting or consuming specific types of foods and beverages specially designed for helping to flush such toxins from the body, or some combination of these approaches.

Detoxing should be done carefully, and if you have a chronic health condition, always discuss detoxing with your healthcare provider first. The process can be incredibly beneficial for your health and well-being; here are just a few of the benefits you can reap from a detox.

Energy Boost

If you’re feeling tired, fatigued, and sluggish by mid-day, the right detox can restore your energy and vigor. Focusing on removing toxins from the lymphatic system with herbs and other methods clears out your lymph nodes so they’re better able to filter the unwanted substances out of your system that contribute to fatigue and illness.

Stress Management

Foods like sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and refined foods can contribute to adrenal fatigue, which leaves you feeling sluggish and tired, as well as more susceptible to stress. A detox can rid your body of these substances, giving your adrenal glands a healthy reboot so they can do their job – helping your mind deal with everyday stress without getting overwhelmed.

Better Sleep

A lack of quality sleep leads to all sorts of undesirable effects, such as irritability, mood swings, mid-day slumps, and even illness. Your body might attempt to compensate for a sleep deficiency by craving certain foods – sugary or processed foods, for instance – which in turn adds more toxins to your body that can make it harder get quality sleep. A detox breaks this vicious cycle, ridding your body of the substances that are contributing to insomnia. When you’re better able to rest, you’ll have more energy and stronger immunity.

Weight Loss

A detox can result in the loss of a few pounds immediately by eliminating water weight caused by bloating and other factors. You should never use a detox program continuously in order to facilitate rapid weight loss. However, a detox can be beneficial for resetting your body’s systems to kick-start a weight loss program and initiate long-term healthy nutrition choices.

Better Focus and Concentration

By reducing the effects of adrenal fatigue and brain fog that comes from sleep deprivation and lack of energy, a detox can drastically improve your ability to focus and concentrate. When you have the energy and the attention to laser-focus on the task at hand, you’ll be more effective in every area of your life.

Improved Skin

A detox can leave you with smoother, clearer skin by removing toxins that contribute to oily skin, wrinkles, and a dry or dull texture that takes the glow from your skin. If you suffer from acne, a detox can offer dramatic improvements, but like most acne treatments, it may get worse before it gets better.

There are hundreds of different detox programs, recipes for detox beverages, and food recommendations for different types of detoxes that focus on specific physiological systems. Depending on your goals, you can design a custom detox regimen that cleanses your body of unwanted toxins and leaves you feeling refreshed and reinvigorated. Once your cleanse is over, don’t let bad habits throw you off course. Implement a healthy diet and frequent exercise so that you can continue the benefits of your cleanse.

 

Thank you Travis!

 

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A Gratitude Practice

Here's to another 50 Years!

 

One of my yoga students did a terrific beautiful thing to pay it forward. On Christine's 50th Birthday she came to my 5pm class and paid for everyone that showed up. It brought Christine and everyone such joy. The energy that would created was palpable!

Thank you Christine!

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