Teacher Todd Vogt on Hot Yoga

Todd Vogt shares with Jenna Lynne Roberts about the history of hot yoga at Yoga Union, and the benefits of a heated practice.

How did you get into hot yoga?

Hot yoga is how Yoga Union got started. It was primarily a hot yoga studio in the very beginning. It was why people came to Yoga Union and it really got it going. Hot yoga wasn’t something that we wanted to put all of our emphasis on, but we definitely could see how it was benefitting people, myself included.

I hadn’t always lived the most mindful life. I had probably accumulated a tremendous amount of toxins in my body. Also, being a stiff kind of guy, hot yoga was a powerfully transformative practice for those first three or four years of practice.

What do you feel are the hot yoga benefits?

Well, the psychological benefits of hot yoga are huge. People go and get that runner’s high from the endorphin rush, and that is a powerful motivator to keep up a healthy practice. So, there’s this intrinsic thing built in that when we exercise hard, we feel better immediately. And hot yoga gives you that, probably more than any practice that I’ve engaged in.

For the physiological benefits of hot yoga, I’ve seen people lose weight; it just falls off of them. Also, it’s extremely detoxifying. So if you’ve lived a hard life, or have been drinking a lot or if you’ve been a smoker, hot yoga is an extremely cleansing practice.

In terms of just gaining flexibility, your body is obviously a lot more pliable in 100-degree heat. Hot yoga just makes you more malleable. It doesn’t take long to warm up and then you’re in the poses.

How has hot yoga adapted into the growth of Yoga Union?

It has never just been a hot yoga studio. They had Vinyasa classes and such even way back then. It has always been a place that honors diversity. Maybe a hot yoga class is great for me, and maybe I should try your kind of practice. That can change from day to day, so I think having a facility where you’re allowed to change is great.

What do you define as the difference between a hot yoga class at Yoga Union versus a CorePower yoga or a Bikram Yoga class?

Generally, the word hot in there just means that the room is going to be hot, it doesn’t tell you what you’re going to be doing in your hot yoga class.

A Bikram class is 26 postures taught, each one twice.  You do the pose, stop, do the pose again. You do that 26 times, same sequence every time. It’s scripted out, really, so it’s a set thing.

Whereas, in our hot flow yoga courses, you’ll never get the same one twice. Even one hot flow teacher is not likely to teach the exact same hot yoga sequence twice.

Another difference is that, instead of stopping between poses like in Bikram, we just move and flow, that’s why we call it hot flow, from one pose into the next. So it gives the class a sense that you’re on a journey, you’re embarking on this hour or hour-and-a-half-long adventure with yourself, which I love. It’s fascinating.

Then there’s value also to having a set sequence. Bikram classes are very organized. It works very well for people who have a difficult time staying motivated. It can be great to do your 26 postures and just get that done.

We like to have fun, and I think that our hot flow yoga classes are more creative. I don’t know any teacher who wouldn’t rather have some creative faculty involved in their hot yoga class versus doing a system.

One other thing about our hot flow yoga classes is that they are not Vinyasa classes. In this modern time, a Vinyasa class is a more upper-body-oriented practice with downward-facing dogs and chaturangas and plank poses. Vinyasa practice has it’s home base in downward-facing dog.

In our hot yoga flow practice, we keep people off their hands generally. It’s a standing, balancing practice, with the home base being tadasana, mountain pose, just standing at the top of your mat. We get people in hot yoga who either have a wrist injury or a shoulder injury or just are more interested in building lower-body strength than upper-body strength. I think our hot flow practice caters more to them if they enjoy the heat.

For someone who is taking their first hot yoga class, what recommendations would you give them?

I would say, try not to eat for a couple hours before you come to your hot flow class. Bring water with you. Make sure you’re dressed in yoga pants and a top that will be comfortable when they’re soaking wet and drenched in sweat.

And just know that, it doesn’t matter what the teacher says, you take care of yourself. You can take a break, you can leave the room, you can drink water. All those things that some hot yoga teachers have told students that they can’t do, you still can, you’re in charge of your body.


Hot Flow Classes are currently offered at Yoga Union six days a week. See the Schedule for details HERE


Anniversary Story – A Commitment Practice

On October 15th, 2006, Annie and I made the biggest, scariest, most radical decision of our lives. We stepped into leadership of this great community. And in becoming the studio owners, we had no idea what we were getting into. We were only twenty-four and had no experience running a business of any kind, and we had only a short history of participating in the Yoga Union community. But Julie, the previous owner, insisted that we be the ones to carry the flame, and we took her approval as a great honor, embracing the opportunity to jump head first into a new life together.

Only a half-year earlier, we each had migrated to Portland separately; me from my hometown in Eugene and Annie from Sand Point, Idaho. Our two worlds united in the sacred space of Yoga Union’s main studio. I can still remember where I stood, a relative newbie to the practice, trying to balance and stay inside my body. I can still remember where Annie stood teaching from the front of the room. I remember nothing other than the two of us in the yoga studio; no other faces, no specific postures we worked on, and no grand revelations from that practice aside from the feeling of something triggering inside me, urging me to become the best person I could be. I remember a vague but powerful feeling, inspiring me to commit to the practice of yoga.

It’s impossible now to differentiate the vow I made to Annie and the vow we made to the Yoga Union community. We had been dating for only a few months when we took a leap of faith and bought the studio. I knew at the time that promises to Yoga Union were promises to Annie. So, on October 15th 2006 we didn’t just buy a yoga studio, we got married. It was unspoken, but it was as real as anything that has ever been promised in words. Among the promises were the following:

  1. To search for the best in each other and ourselves.
  2. To honor the inner work we still have to do.
  3. To keep life in context by viewing it as the ongoing yoga practice.
  4. To trust and jump ever into the mystery of life’s grand unfolding.

I do forget these commitments from time to time. It’s in my nature to forget and to remember. For this reason I am grateful for the anniversary that comes each year as the leaves fall, revealing their branches, the supporting structure of their existence. I am reminded of the commitments I have made and how integral they have been. Only through committing do we build the consistency necessary to support growth for ourselves and others. Just as the bark of a tree forms layer upon layer, each passing year reinforces the promises of our past and we grow stronger, more dependable, and more capable of holding up life and love. This is a rebirthing of our purpose in life.

In order to be sustainable, yoga requires commitment. The scriptures tell us once we’ve started down the path of yoga, the inevitable result is the complete revelation of self – enlightenment. It could happen now. It may take lifetimes. But once we begin, there is no turning back. There is only recommitting, reinforcing, and growing our resolve stronger every day through the practice.

Every time I recommit myself to the practice of yoga, I am refreshing my commitment to my lover, my work, my community, and myself. I feel grateful beyond measure for all of you who serve as steady reminders. As though there are post-it-notes stuck to your foreheads, you (Yoga Union Community) kindly remind me why I am here. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to practice recommitting, day after day. And every time I renew my commitments, is with greater strength and meaning.

Living is yoga!

The Yoga Bubble Bursts

Since last year, we’ve planned to return to Miami and study with our teacher John Friend. Our flight departs in 24 hours. Our classes are covered, our hotel is booked, registration completed, and our $2,290 payment has been made to Anusara Inc. In light of the recent J.F. exposed findings, the question is this – “what do we do?”

Circumstances are a matter of timing. Just one week ago, we were full-blown, all in Anusara yogis in in every way. At the moment I’m not sure where I stand. Over the last five years, my girlfriend and I have practiced, taught, and operated a yoga studio from the central teachings of the brilliant system put forth by founder – John Friend (J.F.). In that time, we have devoted most of our available time, energy, and money to the study of Anusara – a system that has enhanced our lives in every way. So I begin as I have been taught to do, by “looking for the good,” and I am forever grateful.

Anusara yoga is composed of a powerful combination of two main things:

  1. Universal Principals of Alignment (U.P.A’s) &
  2. The life affirming Shiva/Shakti Tantric philosophy.

When applied appropriately, the U.P.A’s heal suffering without fail. I’ve seen examples so radical, I hesitate to mention them for fear of disconnecting with my audience through disbelief. But let me assure you, Anusara alignment works. It is good because it enhances life in all its nested layers of existence from physical to the spiritual, and it frees people from suffering. Nothing about the validity of the system of Anusara yoga is in question for me.

Here are some of my very basic understandings of the Tantric philosophy. It’s called “life affirming” because it awakens its practitioners to their divine nature in this this life rather than showing them some way of escaping it. The purpose has never been to elevate practitioners per say, but to help them navigate the complicated earthly web of embodied living relationships and find enlightenment down here on earth. This is why John is applying the teachings in his upcoming workshop called “The Dharma of Relationship,” the workshop we’re scheduled to attend the day after tomorrow.

The Tantric philosophy is the “common vision,” shared by both myself and my teachers, which should make things convenient in that we may see eye to eye. But some of what has been recently published on the subject at hand hasn’t lined up with my understanding of the teachings or my life experience, so now I’m at least a little confused about a lot of things. For example: Christopher Wallis recently published an article called How Should the Teacher Behave? vs. What Can I Receive?: Understandings and Misunderstandings Around the Role of the Teacher

In that article Wallis states “Lack of awareness of this truth [the truth about the Guru Principal] causes teachers to be put on pedestals, and students to be disempowered. Then, inevitably, the teacher “falls.” In fact this fall is not real, because the pedestal was never real.” Is this true? Have I placed my teacher on a pedestal and asked any more of him than I would ask of myself, or anyone who I place on a level with myself? Am I somehow accountable for the “fall” of J.F? I really don’t think so, as I’m only applying basic laws of human relationships to my judgments. I guess the question isn’t really all that important because he goes on to say “the only one thing that actually matters for the yogi is “Can I receive something from this person?” Is that true? My understanding of the Guru Principal is that EVERYTHING is a teacher, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to spend thousands of dollars and decades of my life listening and practicing from just anyone because they “I can receive something.” In reality, choosing one teacher means not choosing another, at least for that moment. It’s called discernment, and in this moment, it’s what is needed. What do we do? I’ve got to make a decision.

It’s difficult to tease out my individual perspective from what I’ve learned in my studies. The practice of yoga adjusts our worldview for the sake of greater clarity and truth, which ultimately leads to higher experiences of bliss – it’s basically chit and ananda. Because of my devotion to Anusara, my observances will inevitably flow through its unique lens. Thus, while I’m making my decision to go study with J.F. in Miami, I’m thinking as a free individual, but I’m also thinking as a yogi applying the tools I’ve accumulated on my path.

As an individual I am a yogi, a teacher, a business owner, a community leader, a homeowner, a “husband,” and a father among many other things. All this, I understand is part of my “story” which inevitably frames my perspective. I get that from Wallace. But as I make my decision, it’s important for me to keep things rooted in the “real world,” and refrain from exhaled thinking as a way of bypassing simple laws like cause and effect or the Golden Rule. To do so would be like trying to learn to fly without acknowledging the law of gravity.

Being who I am, family and community are of the highest importance. I understand that for some older single men, sleeping with married women doesn’t seem like a “bad” idea. As a husband and father, my “story” reveals that to me this decision has a devastating effect on families and on even entire communities, as I’m sure is being revealed to J.F. at the moment. Relationships are so intricately woven that one missed stitch, one misalignment can affect the whole web. That’s why society has a system of integrity and accountability. These are the checks and balances of relationships. When someone in the community makes a mistake and creates anguish in the larger group, they must be held accountable for their act. This includes EVERYONE; nobody is exempt – students, partners, employees, and self. Call it judgment. Accountability serves a purpose, and I know that it can be done out of love and kindness and a big picture perspective. I ask for accountability from everyone else in my life, shall I not ask for accountability from my teacher?

I AM contemplating J.F’s situation with compassion. He is inevitably suffering at the moment. I want to give him a big hug and tell him how much I feel for him – and I do feel deeply for him. It’s got to be damn hard thing being a single man in his position of power. I also understand that his behavior is really very normal for a single older man. So I offer compassion – there must be humiliation, emotional pain, distress, and a general struggle for peace. But I have been taught to see these experiences as indicators of “misalignment,” painfully obvious road signs on the path to deep inner harmony. So, I know my teacher is out of alignment in the grand form of the concept – life in general.But since I too am suffering, I must also be out of alignment.

I’m not suffering the “fall” of J.F. because I placed him on a pedestal, I’m suffering because this is yoga, we’re yoked, and we’re all in this thing together. That’s the truth. One person’s actions can be the cause that affects us all in ways that either enhance or diminish life. That’s why we’ve got the Golden Rule. Anyone who wants to simplify complicated matters with statements like “the only thing that matters here is…” aught to seriously consider this method – do onto others as you would have done to yourself. It’s simple but also true, and it works.

We’re living in a time when we lack true leadership. All too often we have been let down by those in power. Company executives, politicians, the president, coaches… But nobody is “above” basic laws of humanity – this is a lesson to all. People of power have to play by the same basic rules as us commoners because these basic rules are woven into the fabric of nature. People get busted even if they’ve surrounded themselves with an insulated bubble of believers, money, and power. The truth has a way of revealing itself. That is grace. Sometimes it’s really not pretty and people often get caught in the crossfire and that’s tragic. This is true of website – J.F. Exposed (a site that in no way do I sanction)

The question now is – what do we do? What do we do when we’ve been let down by the people we thought to be living examples? Many have made comments like “it’s so good to hear that he’s human like the rest of us.” Is this helpful – admitting that you had him on a pedestal and then reducing humanity to mistakes like sleeping with other people’s wives? This situation is a brilliant opportunity; it can raise or lower our humanity, and in my opinion it’s time to raise it.

Douglas Brooks famously says, “Enlightenment is a collective endeavor.” But if we discount the mistakes of our leaders by passing them off as “human” we fail to hold them accountable and this damages the integrity of us all. If we don’t call a spade a spade, we’ve participated in the deception. When turn a blind eye on one person’s blatant lack of integrity, in turn we sacrifice our own. If we’re going to elevate consciousness, it won’t happen by bypassing basic laws of civilization like “don’t sleep with another guys wife,” and “don’t have sex with the interns.” Even though yoga does explain these things, we really shouldn’t need yoga to do that because these are lessons everyone has learned, however spiritually immature they may be.

What do we do with all of this?

Let’s use the painful transparency of this situation to engage in a large-scale conversation that enhances life and raises consciousness. Truth be told, the Anusara community tend to prefer cloaking reality in a shroud of shri. We’ve been taught to “look for the good,” and this is a valuable practice. But there comes a time to look for the truth, and the truth is this: the shadow is real. We’ve been a group that commonly beats around the bush and avoids it. Here’s the result: jfexposed.com. Let us all take a good look now and get real clear about our own accountability. Let’s attempt to live with the highest integrity and hold each other to it. When I slip and I don’t see it because I’m shrifully gazing into the eyes of the divine, I want to know someone’s there to wake me up and say, “Hey buddy and get real!” I’ll do my best to make sure that doesn’t happen, but I can’t make any promises. I AM human, and I’m going to make mistakes like everyone, but without the checks and balances of relationships, I may start to feel like I’m on an island when I’m not. I’m down here like the rest of us, in this tangled web of relationships where the teachings begin. The practice of yoga starts now.

Todd Vogt (Studio Owner)

Rushing to Relax

Every sane person recognizes the ridiculous contradiction involved with rushing to relax, and yet the contradiction can ensnare us all. We know the hazards of stress, and we have experienced great relief through practicing yoga, and so we often spend some portion of our day blitzing toward our hour and a half of tranquility on the safe haven of our yoga mat. We know stress is unhealthy and we know that yoga helps, but in today’s rat race how can we attune ourselves at work, or in the car, or when communicating with our family, so that we don’t end up rushing tired and anxious to the mat for relief? Continue reading “Rushing to Relax” »

Pose of the Month: Setu Bandha Sarvangasana

July brings us a new pose of the month- Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, or, Bridge Pose (setu = dam, dike or bridge, bandha = lock). This is a great pose for yogis in all stages of practice, and the benefits are extensive. Anatomically, Bridge focuses on the neck and shoulders and in women, the uterus. The chest, neck and spine are stretched, while the abdominal organs, lungs and thyroid are stimulated. The pose can also alleviate stress, improve digestion and rejuvenate tired legs. Here are some tips to help you get into Bridge:

  • Lie on your back, and if necessary, use a blanket under your shoulders to support the neck. Bend your knees with your feet on the floor, keeping the heels close to the sitting bones
  • As you exhale, actively press your inner feet and arms into the floor, pull the tailbone up toward the pubic bone, and lift the buttocks until the thighs are about parallel to the floor. Engage your thighs and inner feet to keep them parallel
  • Keep the knees over the heels and press them forward away from the head, lengthening the tailbone
  • Keep your arms on the floor or clasp the hands below your pelvis and extend, allowing you to rest on the top of the shoulders
  • Lift your chin slightly away from the sternum and firm and broaden the shoulder blades against your back. You should feel the space between them lift up into the torso
  • Stay in the pose anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute. Release with an exhalation, rolling the spine slowly down onto the floor.

For an added challenge, try lifting a leg until perpendicular to the torso and repeat on the opposite side. Sliding a block under the sacrum can provided added support and increase the restorative properties of the pose. Use caution if you have a neck injury and if you have any questions, be sure to ask an instructor.

Photo Source:?http://yogajournal.com/

Inner Spiral – with Chris Calarco

Sunday  was Father’s Day and even though some of us were not able to spend it with our dads, we were lucky enough to set our intentions for them in the Anusara class led by Chris Calarco. The practice felt particularly special that morning- maybe it was because we were getting to share our gratitude for life with a room full of yogis who also have fathers that helped them get to where they are today. Or maybe it was because Chris’s parents were visiting from the East Coast and were in class with us, beaming with obvious pride and love for their son. Or perhaps it was the deeply personal and insightful guidance given by Chris himself. Using the principle of Inner Spiral as a theme, he led us through an inspiring physical practice while sharing his struggles and triumphs with his own Inner Spiral. This principle has had such an effect on Chris he wrote a piece about it and graciously shared some of his writing in class.

His message has become widely popular (!Go Chris!), and can be read on the Wanderlust Blog page  among others.

So for those who were in Chris’s class yesterday and want to be inspired by the whole article, or those curious about Anusaras 3rd principle of alignment,  please enjoy Chris’s story below 🙂

And take a minute to check out his website (http://chriscalarcoyoga.com/) which has details about the upcoming July 23rd Yoga Groove- a class that unites yoga and music, with a dance party to follow. Mark your calendars, you won’t want to miss this party!


I had been practicing yoga regularly for about 5 years…

I was certified to teach Vinyasa and loved the feeling in body and mind yoga produced. I thought of this feeling as a combination of exhaustion and exhilaration. I sought it out whenever I could fit my practice into life as a child psychotherapist. However, without warning, my motivation to practice fell off the face of the earth as I lost my way. For almost 9 months my whole being shifted and I lost touch with my body, my friends and my practice. Even before yoga came to an abrupt halt I had gradually, and unconsciously, migrated away my first teachers and their studio. I hadn’t found a new studio per se but lived as more of a yoga vagabond, wandering from studio to studio with my head down, practicing hard and then quickly getting out the door. I wasn’t a very social yogi. Around the time I became a nomad, my teacher’s, Annie Adamson and Todd Vogt of Yoga Union in Portland, Oregon, were beginning to integrate Anusara Yoga’s 5 Universal Principles of Alignment into their classes during their process of training.

Upon deep self-reflection, a hefty dose of depression, and a lot of help I finally returned to the mat, making a massively liberating decision to commit myself fully to the practice and teaching of yoga. As I became reacquainted with my body I soon found myself bound and stuck in common poses like Trikonasana (Triangle) and Utthitha Parsvokonasa (Extended Side Angle). I was disappointed that after 5 years, even given the layoff, I remained shallow in my Triangle with bottom hand just below my knee. Athletic but never super flexible I felt a sense of resignation, as if I had reached my edge in asana practice and I would not grow. I knew I could always access the good feeling after a class but deep inside this was not enough, I longed for much more. I wanted access to advanced poses, I wanted to increase my strength and flexibility but most of all I yearned to change my habits of mind and magnify my life from within. I left yoga because of depression and was determined to make a resonant and permanent change.

I scheduled a private lesson with Annie and expressed my frustration with Triangle and Extended Side Angle. Quickly, I found Anusara’s third principle of alignment was going to be my new intimate dance partner. Inner Spiral is an “energy spiral” thought of as a refinement of the body’s alignment in all yoga postures. The spiral begins on the inner edges of the feet and widens as it moves upward toward the pelvis and outer edges of the waistline. Inner Spiral turns the front of the legs and pelvis inward, towards the midline. It moves the inner edges of the feet, legs, and pelvis backward as the inner heels, inner knees, and inner thighs flow back. These actions also broaden the legs and pelvis apart. Inner Spiral’s key words are “In”, “Back”, and “Wide”. Physically, this manifests an increased healthy curve in the lower lumbar spine and the sitting bones press out. Renowned teacher Sianna Sherman often half-jokes that one of Anusara’s secret principals is “when in doubt, stick it out”.

Importantly, Inner Spiral requires the engagement of its partner principle, Muscle Energy (Anusara’s second principle), to be radically transformative. When the muscles of the legs are engaged and we actively make them flow “In”, “Back”, and “Wide” there is integration throughout the entire lower body that creates vibrantly new ripples of freedom in the groins, hamstrings, and lower back. Within the first ten minutes of my private with Annie I looked into the mirror and was astounded. I did not recognize the person in Triangle pose. My stance was wider and more stable, my bottom hand was on the floor (Hallelujah!), and I felt a lusciously deep stretch in my groins and lower back. Now I had to begin working with Inner Spiral and all five principles in every pose! The work had beautifully just begun.

In Anusara’s methodology, each Universal Principle of Alignment is associated with one of earth’s natural elements. Inner Spiral is like water. Just as rivers flow naturally, nurturing the surrounding land, Inner Spiral watered the seed of each asana inside my body. With active engagement, Inner Spiral created a new sense of liquid depth in me and in turn granted access to the freedom and revelation l longed for. I no longer am a yoga vagabond as I have found a home inside my body and with Annie and Todd at Yoga Union. I am expanding my limits, working at my edge, and nailing postures I never imagined. Inner Spiral has literally blasted me open to the new possibilities that are always available if we align heart, body, and mind. For me, the body came first, and the others soon followed suit. Feeling extraordinarily liberated and full of deep gratitude for my fellow yogis, teachers and this system of yoga, the journey continues. Inner Spiral changed my life and it can change yours.


Nataraj, the Cosmic Dancer

Have you had a chance to check out the statue, or “Murti”, in the front of the bamboo room at Yoga Union?  Perhaps you’re like me and you’ve used it as your focal point during a difficult balance sequence but don’t know much about it. In order to appreciate more than just the beauty of the murti itself, I asked Todd to answer a few questions about the dancing deity he chose for his studio.
Q: Who and what is being depicted?
A: The statue or “Murti” depicts Shiva in his form as Nataraj, the cosmic dancer. Shiva is divine consciousness and his dance, called the Ananda Tandava or “blissful dance”, creates the entire universe. The symbolism reveals to us that the universe is a divinely blissful dance of consciousness in which no individual is separate. We are both engaged in the dance, as Shiva is, and we are also the dance itself.
Q: What made you choose this particular statue?
A: The sheer beauty of it is honestly what first drew me to the Nataraja.
Q: What significance does it hold for you and the studio as a whole?
A: This particular depiction of Shiva is probably the most relative to yogis who practice “asana” or physical yoga poses. The statue has movement and life in it. In fact, it is actually placed in a yoga pose, so it’s a good fit for the yoga studio. The symbolism it presents also has a lot to teach us about being graceful in our practice. Shiva’s standing on one foot atop a dwarf who symbolizes our ego. It is this ego that keeps us small by insisting we aren’t worthy, don’t have enough, aren’t ready yet, or haven’t earned the right to be all that we can be. Here we learn here what’s required is to squash that limiting voice in our head and to transform the ego from a problem, as Shiva did the dwarf, into the actual stage we dance all over. The other foot is the graceful upturned foot which symbolizes revelation- that through yoga we embody the power of grace and our true nature is revealed; joy, goodness, delight, fun. We are never more ourselves than in that enrapturing moment of blissful dance; when we’re in the zone so to speak.
Q: What do you want your students to gain from it?
A: Primarily that life is a dance and that like all dance, it’s primary purpose is to delight in life.
Q: Any other fun facts in regards to Nataraj?
A: One of our teachers, John Friend (Anusara Yoga founder), has called his tour this year “Dancing with the divine.”

If you’re interested in learning more about Shiva, the link below has some great information:


Sun Salute!

Summer in Portland is… unbeatable. When the sun comes out, the streets fill with smiles, exposed flesh and the smell of backyard BBQs. An open patio seat is hard to find and bodies lay strewn about in parks- victims of the Vitamin D assault. We even seem to forget the 8 months of incessant rain that only just stopped yesterday. It’s on these glorious days that it can sometimes be a challenge to take our bodies out of the sun and into the studio. So instead of compromising one for the other, why not take your practice outside? Yoga is, after all, about unity. When it’s practiced in nature, your connection to the universe may feel more readily available and your sense of awareness will have room to grow and evolve. Continue reading “Sun Salute!” »

Be Human, Stay Human

Are you tired of schlepping your yoga clothes all over town in your purse? Does your mat fall out of your backback while you’re cruising down Burnside on your bike? Do you wear the same t-shirt to class, regardless of if it made it in the wash or not? Have you neglected to treat yourself to something nice, even though you definitely deserve it? And do you dig using products that are organic, sustainable and recycled?
If you answered yes! to any or all of the above questions, we recommend checking out the awesome bags, clothing and accessories created by Stay Human, a company by Michael Franti and Carla Swanson.

According to the founders, the product line was inspired by yoga and a desire to cultivate a “stay human lifestyle”. They guarantee that throughout each stage of construction, ethical, humanitarian and environmental practices are utilized and 10% of all proceeds are donated to the Bumi Sehat Natural Birthing Clinic in Indonesia and the Hunter’s Point Family in San Francisco. Check out these sites for more information on the causes:

Yoga Union is happy to offer several of the Stay Human products in our own studio, ranging from tanks with built in bras, to bags made for the yogi-on-the-go.

 Our favorite bag, made from organic hemp, doubles as both a carry-all for your daily life (including a change of clothes!), and as a stylish yet functional way to carry your mat.

If you want something smaller, traditional tube-style yoga bags are available in eye-catching prints, assuring you’ll never forget your bag in the locker room again (or at least not as often ).

There are several pant and top styles for both men and women, and if you can’t find your size or favorite color in the studio, the website makes online ordering a breeze.
For women, we are loving the simple, comfortable feel of the Womens Eco Heather Cropped Pant, which can just as easily be worn to the grocery store as to the studio.

For the men, check out the Downward Dog t-shirt, made from 100% organic cotton. The illustration is beautiful and may even help you mindfully get into the pose.

Or maybe you’re searching for the perfect gift for someone you love? This beautiful bracelet would look great on anyone, and since the eco-silver is reclaimed from
film, cellphones and computers, you can feel good knowing you’ve done your part to support a company focused on reducing their environmental impact.

Everyone Yoga!

How old were you when you began your yoga practice? Do you ever wish you had found yoga at an earlier age? Many parents in cities across the country are encouraging their children to explore yoga and its teachings earlier, and classes taught for kids are becoming increasingly more popular. Yoga can be a wonderful way for children to learn how to calm the mind, exercise the body and appreciate the inner strengths and resources of every individual.

While some research has been done on the effects of yoga on children, definitive results are limited. However, there are several speculated benefits and many of them include the same advantages adults receive from a regular practice. Here’s just a few of the ways getting your child involved in yoga could help them later in life-

*Improved attention, concentration and promotion of emotional and self-control. Mindfulness is one of the greatest teachings of yoga. Exploring and developing mindfulness within yoga can be especially helpful for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with one study reporting a reduction in mood swings, temper outbursts and crying fits.
*Improved ability to plan and carry-out complex brain functions. Research suggests that yoga increases blood flow to the frontal lobe of the brain, which results in a faster realization and correction of errors. This can be especially helpful during standardized tests given in schools.
*Improved strength and flexibility of muscles. Besides the obvious benefits of being strong and flexible, strengthening the muscles allows for an increase in circulation which results in an uptake of oxygen and hormones. This allows the parasympathetic nervous system (the “Rest and Digest” component of our brain) to take over. What does that mean? Reduced stress! And also an increased resistance to its effects later on.
*Decreased depression and anxiety. Research shows that people who practice yoga regularly have increased levels (sometimes as much as 27%!) of neurotransmitter y-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which is known to elevate mood. Starting yoga early can help young children develop and maintain positive outlooks on life.

If you’re considering yoga for your child,  it’s important to find the right learning environment for the development of foundations that will be used throughout a lifetime. The focus should be more on the cultivation of compassion and acceptance, as well as the connection between breath and postures, than on competition or perfection of poses (this is true for adults as well! But sometimes easy to forget ). Do your research before enrolling your child, and develop a relationship with the instructor.  Communicate with your child and make sure yoga classes are fun and that they are enjoying the experience. Some studios offer joint parent/child classes where you can practice together. This can be a great way to introduce them to yoga with you there to guide, support and offer encouragement.

Information received from:,38

Below are some resources for additional information on yoga for children.


Pose of the Month: Ardha Chandrasana, Half Moon

The pose of the month for May happens to be one of our very favorites, Ardha Chandrasana, commonly known as Half Moon. As many of you know, the moon often plays a significant role in the various practices of yoga and commonly represents one of the two polar energies of the body. Try channeling your inner lunar spirit as you practice the pose!
Below is a step-by-step to help you get started:

1) Start in Trikonasana to the right side, with your left hand on the left hip. Inhale, bend your right knee, and move slightly forward while also reaching your right hand in front of the little-toe side of the right foot<

2) As you exhale, press your right hand and right heel strongly into the floor (this should provide you with some balance). At the same time lift the left leg parallel to the floor. Extend through the left heel and keep your foot engaged to keep the raised leg strong. Be conscious not to lock or hyperextend the standing knee

3) Raise your left arm straight up as you rotate your upper torso, keeping the left hip moving slightly forward. Most of your weight should be in the standing leg while you use the hand on the floor for balance. Keep the head in a neutral position or allow the gaze to follow the left arm upward

4) Remain in the position for 30 seconds to 1 minute. When finished, lower the raised leg to Trikonasana. Then perform the pose to the left for the same length of time.

This particular stretch can be therapeutical in relieving stress and anxiety, backaches, osteoporosis, sciatica and even gastritis. It can also lessen feelings of fatigue, constipation or indigestion and even menstrual pain.
As you continue to practice, the abdomen, ankles, thighs, buttocks and spine will strengthen, while the groin, hamstrings, calves, shoulders, chest and spine will stretch. Balance will also improve.

If you are a beginner, it can be helpful to use a block under your hand for stability- practice with the block at different heights until you find the fit that’s best for you.
Happy yoga-ing!

Open To Grace with Natalie Gildersleeve

A special congratulations are in order today! A few weeks ago our very own Natalie Gildersleeve started working on a project. Her goal was to tell others what being “Open to Grace” meant to her as an instructor. Her product was a wonderful poster featuring her 1 year old daughter, Juniper and a moving written piece, which she shared with us Yesterday in her Prana Vinyasa class. And as if this wasn’t already accomplishment enough, Natalie then told us that her beautiful self definition of being Open to Grace had won her a private teaching session with Sianna Sherman, an internationally recognized Anusara teacher. It was an absolute treat to get to share in Natalie’s accomplishment today, and you could feel the collective excitement and joy in class as she shared her news. As we sat and closed our eyes to begin practice, Natalie stared to read us her piece. Not far in, she paused and we heard her giggle,

“It appears when I printed this off, half of my message got deleted! Talk about being open to grace!”

We laughed with her, spirits high and bubbling, and she promised to share the message in it’s entirety at the close of class.

This was my first class at Yoga Union in a little while. I started my yoga practice there a little over a year ago, but after moving to North East, the commute made it hard to attend regularly. Luckily for me, the cosmos recently aligned and I was blessed with a chance to start practicing at Yoga Union again and I could not have picked a better first class back. Following Natalie’s lead, I dedicated my practice to Opening to Grace and what it meant to me. She guided me through both a physical and spiritual exploration of the innate inner good that exists in every one of us, and how we can always open up and receive grace, even in the hardest of situations. I found myself lifting my face and heart upward more than usual, and a feeling of warmth, love and positivity flowing down upon me, which I accepted graciously. I reveled in those around me, people at all levels sharing their practice and intentions with me, moving as a collective. And I thought about the ways I could say “Yes! I am open and ready!” in my own life, today, tomorrow and forever.

As I settled into shavasana, reverberating in the good vibrations we as a group had created, she shared her message. It was a lovely message and one I will carry with me for many days to come. For those of you who weren’t as fortunate as I to be in Natalie’s class today, please read her piece below. Don’t hesitate to give her a high-five the next time you see her too 🙂 We will surely all be looking forward to hearing how her experience with Sianna is.

Much Love

This is what she wrote:

I have been personalizing the meaning of Open to Grace for a long time. I contemplated this a lot when I was introduced to the principle in some of my first Anusara classes years ago. I remember the feeling of being a child. Running and laughing so hard I would collapse into the fresh grass with my breath full and my heart pounding. I could feel in nature and within myself an undeniably sweet goodness to life. As I have grown older I have gone through times where I have forgotten this sweetness, the true fragrance of life. But for me, especially right now, my biggest reminder is my one year old daughter Juniper. I love to watch her eyes light up with curiosity and wonder at the sight of something new, to see her squeal with delight when we chase her naked little body around the house. I am inspired to witness her love without hesitation. All of this reminds me of the wonderfully pure taste of innocence I had as a little girl.

Opening to Grace, for me, is remaining open to the beauty that fills our lives. It is remembering possibility and intrinsic goodness even after experiencing growing pains, heartbreak, loss, and tears. It is staying bright and playful like a child – yet sensitive, receptive, and full of love. It is my promise to spirit to truly live my yoga as a person, mother, and teacher. I strive to continue to connect more fully to myself, and to live a life that reminds others to do the same. I believe that we are all manifestations of grace herself – and even if we forget that at times, grace waits patiently for us to reconnect, to reawaken to a life that is fresh and full of wonder. -Natalie Gildersleeve

Street Yoga

Street Yoga is a local Portland non-profit organization that was started in 2002 by a group of yoga teachers going to teach yoga at a day shelter.  Street yoga serves to teach students, young adults, families, and caregivers who may have had endured abuse, addiction, trauma, homelessness, being at risk, or any personal obstacles an opportunity to learn effective social skills amongst peers while learning the founded fundamentals of breathing and positive reinforcements through the teachings and principals of yoga.  Trained volunteers teach yoga to 22 local organizations who bring their clients the gift of yoga.

Street Yoga Mission:
“Street Yoga gives youth and their caregivers the tools to overcome early life trauma, through the sharing of life-building mindfulness and wellness practices grounded in the ancient healing principles of yoga. We serve by helping them create a sense of true home in their own bodies, minds and communities” www.streetyoga.org
Please go to http://streetyoga.org/portland-programs to learn about all the programs in Portland that Street Yoga provides.
Join us on  March 19th at 4:30pm as we come together at Yoga Union for “Heart Yoga with Annie and Todd”, an Anusara Inspired, donation only class. All procedes will go to influence the impact Street Yoga has with Portland’s own OutsideIn.

Suggested Donation $8 – $18. An RSVP is greatly appreciated.