Meet Nicole…LIFE yoga teacher feature

1. What class do you teach, what type/level of class, where and when did you do your training?

I teach the Saturday and Sunday community classes at 4 PM, and Sundays at 10:30 AM. I usually teach a vinyasa flow type class. I focus on linking asanas to breath, and I usually throw out the option of flowing through a chaturanga several times throughout class. My classes are all levels, thus I will suggest possible modifications to make a certain asana more accessible, as well as different ways to go further into a pose. I did my training this past June with Ganga and Tracey Rich at White Lotus Yoga Foundation in Santa Barbara. 

2. Why did you want to become a teacher?

I realized very soon after I started practicing yoga daily that I wanted to teach. Yoga, both the physical and mental practice, has helped me grow and transform, and I continue to learn something new about myself every time I come to the mat. I have a lot of gratitude for the practice, and I wanted to be able to send that gratitude out and help others benefit and grow from yoga as well. 

3. Why do you practice yoga?

I practice yoga for balance. My practice varies from day to day, depending on what I need from it (even if it’s just sitting and breathing), but it’s always there. When I come to the mat, it slows me down and helps me center into the body rather than running with my thoughts and moving through life so quickly. I practice yoga to cultivate mindfulness. One of my biggest challenges on the mat is slowing down and not just trying to get through my practice like another chore on my to-do list. 

4. What do you hope your students take from your classes?

While my classes tend to be physically challenging, one of my biggest hopes for my students is that they take their practice at their own pace. I think one of the most important things you can learn from yoga is patience, i.e. breathing calmly into a stretch that is particularly intense, modifying in a way that makes your body feel best, and knowing that if a particular asana isn’t accessible today, eventually it will be. I think a lot of these lessons we can take off the mat, and into our daily lives, and I hope my students are able to get that out of my classes. 

5. What are some favorite musical groups that you play in class?

I put a lot of thought into my playlists, and always practice to them before using them in the studio. They always vary a lot, but Sigur Ros and Mogwai regularly find their ways onto them. I also like to play some local bands, like Sweet Crude and Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band. 

6. Where do you get your inspiration as a teacher?

My students! I am constantly amazed by how strong they are. Seeing their practices grow and flourish is a beautiful process, and I am so thankful to be there to witness it!

7. What’s your current fav pose?

I’m split on this one, recently I can’t get enough of child’s pose or headstand. There is something that feels so good about sitting back into a child’s pose and resting my forehead onto the mat with my eyes closed and breathing deep, especially after a long day. On the other hand, headstand is energizing, but it’s also incredibly centering, and every time I come down from one I am totally zen’d out. 

LIFE + life tips for the holidays!

It’s November—the holidays are just around the corner, which means schools are closing and families are gathering. With all the excitement (and, often, stress) that accompanies this time of year, it is easy to forget about staying healthy: virtuous eating gives way to holiday treats, and regular exercise is postponed in favor of visiting with loved-ones. This type of vacation from the normal routine can bring about a jolt of energy, strengthening our spiritual and emotional selves. However, when taken to excess, relaxation can turn to sedation, and we could find ourselves battling colds and flus until March.

I, like most New Orleaneans, enjoy a good holiday here and there. But I have also realized, through trial and error, the follies of excess. Through independent study, a yoga teacher training, and my work at WELL, I have learned a lot about health from both a physical and emotional standpoint. In order to remain healthy at any time of year, we have to fuel our hearts and minds with joy and curiosity and feed our bodies with quality calories.

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So don’t guilt yourself out of that sliver of pumpkin pie or the three-day weekend you have been planning with friends! While you’re lovin’ the sweet life, try some of these tips for staying healthy during the winter chill:

EAT HONEY. Local, raw, and unfiltered to be precise. Raw honey is a natural antiseptic, which means it can actually be used to disinfect and help heal wounds on the surface of your skin, in addition boosting the immune system internally. Unfiltered honey contains little flakes of the beehive and wax—both of which are chock full of immune-boosting properties. Heating honey (pasteurizing) kills off the natural enzymes that gives honey all of its super powers. My favorite cold-care tonic includes warm water, honey, lemon juice, ginger and unfiltered honey. For an added kick to get rid of phlegmn, add a dash of cayenne pepper.

STAY WARM. Lowering your body temperature slows circulation and the immune system. While your body will signal to you when it is time to put on some warmer clothes, it will not necessarily alert you when your circulation is slowing due to lack of physical activity. So go ahead and skip a morning run during your vacation, but make sure you get back to it in the next few days!

WELCOME GOOD BACTERIA. Did you know that 10% of your body mass is actually bacteria? Before you run off to bath in sanitizer, remember that bacteria has been in existence for billions upon billions of year—much longer than the human species. As living organisms continued to evolve and die via the process of natural selection, certain strands of bacteria remained unaltered. Some of these strands developed symbiotic relationships with more complex forms of life—like humans. Ingesting food therefore feeds bacteria that in turn aid us in processing the food. Good forms of bacteria also help to decrease inflammation caused by certain foods and other “bad” parasites like. The most beneficial strands of this bacteria, probiotics, can be found in fermented foods like pickles and kombucha, or in high-quality supplements.

GET SOME D. Vitamin that is. When I got sick as a kid, my mother would hand me chewable vitamin c and eccinachea. However, I didn’t know until recently that vitamin D also aids in immune health. Furthermore, it plays a role in emotional health. We get our vitamin D from direct exposure to sunlight, and it is not present in any of the foods we consume. As the days become shorter and colder, making outside play less and less appealing, it is no wonder that illness and depression are an expected seasonal occurrence. Feeling a little sad and sniffly? Check in with your doctor about having your levels tested and for the recommended dosage, then try getting some extra D from a heat lamp or supplement.

BALANCE YOUR CHI. Finding a good amount of  yin (creativity, relaxation, and spirituality) and yang (power, energy, worldliness) is important for a healthy body and soul. I balance my energy by practicing vinyassa yoga. A good class incorporates forward folds for relaxation, back-bends and standing poses for energy, and seated and reclined poses for introspection. As you continue to practice on a regular basis, you will become intuitively aware of which poses your body needs at any given time. For example, if you have trouble sleeping at night, practicing child’s pose or paschimottanasana (seated forward fold) will help to calm your central nervous system. It is important to create heat in the body for immune health, but it is equally important to cool down and rest when it is time to do so.

LOVE YOURSELF—IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH. The theory that positive thinking plays a prominent role in illness recovery and prevention is not alien to even old-school western healers. Optimism has even been linked to increasing the rate of remission for aggressive cancer. If you tend to feel a little depressed when you become ill, you are not alone! Remember that your mind is not a separate entity, but rather another muscle working in tandem with a very complex system—your body. Just like any other muscle, your mind can be shaped and strengthened through practice. Begin by thinking of something good and positive first thing in the morning and right before you go to bed. This might seem corny at first, but as you progress, the neuron pathways in your brain that fire off during a positive thought will thicken and fire more quickly, making happy thoughts feel more natural.

Love is the foundation of good health, and it will motivate you to practice everything else on this list. 

Graciously written by LIFE yoga teacher, Hana Denson

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yoga + reiki: by LIFE yoga teacher, Amberly Fox

Reiki is a Japanese healing therapy that is noninvasive and can safely be used on anyone, including plants and animals. As an alternative mode of healing, similar to massage, acupressure, and acupuncture, Reiki channels energy to bring about spiritual and/or physical healing. Reiki can never harm and only flows to those willing to accept it.

Reiki, (pronounced Ray-Key), is loosely translated as “Spiritual Energy” or  “Divine Energy.” Ki is the same as what we call Prana in the yogic tradition. It is the life force we are all made of that merely vibrates at different wavelengths. And it is this energy that differentiates us while still connecting us to all things.

There is an infinite supply of Ki within our physical bodies and surrounding us, but like in the Chakra system, if we have blockages or ailments, the life-force energy within us can become stagnant. This restricted energy can result in us feeling tired or even getting sick. Reiki is a divine energy that can promote healing in these instances, even though it is not a cure-all. It knows exactly where to go to encourage physical and emotional healing, as well as spiritual growth. It can be used to change bad habits, and like yoga, help you move through life with a greater sense of calm and a relaxed mind.

As a Level II practitioner, I’ve been given the ability to channel Reiki by a Reiki Master through a sacred initiation process. Reiki Masters are able to attune others to the sacred energy, but one need not be a practitioner to use Reiki. Practitioners never force the energy but only allow it to flow to those who desire Reiki and who need it most.

There may be a specific problem to tackle or just overall healing, whatever the case, Reiki flows to where it is most needed through the hands of the practitioner over the client’s body. The hands may touch the skin or hover a few inches above in the aura. Reiki can even flow through time and space to offer distance healing to someone. Or if there’s a big upcoming event, and you’d like Reiki to help provide a favorable outcome, you can send the energy to your future self.

I often bless the studio space at Life before students enter and will sometimes offer Reiki at the end of class during Savasana. The placing of hands over the eyes, ears, and crown of the head are common ways to begin and end a Reiki treatment. It’s perfectly fine to not believe in Reiki and receive it. If one does not want the energy, it simply goes to where it is most needed and only works for the highest good. Above all, Reiki is about setting the intention to heal and creating the Divine space within to allow the changes to take place. 

tips + thoughts on FOOD to enhance your yoga practice

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by Christine Durant (Life yoga studio Director)

Spend any time in LIFE yoga + boutique and you will probably hear about what we are eating. Green juices, raw nori wraps, kale chips, and veggie stews are always being passed around the studio for everyone to taste, as is chocolate and other goodies!

So, eat to live or live to eat, but either way we all have to do it! And often our teachers are presented with the question of how can we eat to best support our yoga practice? This is a pretty tricky question for yogis in the modern world with everything possible under the sun available for easy purchase down the street at Whole Foods. 

Some tips are pretty simple, for instance it’s recommended to eat no less than 2 hours before and 2 hours after practice. You don’t want heavy food weighing you down (or coming back up!) during your practice. Therefore, if you are hungry and it’s close to class time try eating something like fruit, a homemade seed and nut bar, or kombucha. Try different pre-yoga snacks and see what gives you the energy to get through class. A bowl of chili and a beer probably isn’t going to be good yoga fuel minutes before class, but even healthy foods like a huge green smoothie might be too much in the stomach when you’re twisting and upside-down. Interestingly enough, after a sweaty class filled with a strong pranayama (breath work) practice you might think that you’ll be starving for a cheeseburger, but what you’ll probably want is something fresh and clean that makes you feel healthy and strong! Without realizing it, most yogis’ diets begin to change as they become more in tuned with what their body wants and needs.

But what about that tricky yoga nama, ahimsa. Ahimsa is all about not harming others, being kind, and living a life of compassion. Many yogis consider a carnivorous diet harmful to animals and therefore practice veganism (not eating or wearing or using anything from a living being). Taking another’s life for your eating enjoyment is not necessary to live and practice yoga, but there are those who believe that their body needs meat. Therefore, this is one of those times when yogis and yoginis must really listen to their bodies and their physicians and make the decision for themselves.

So, what kind of diet is right for you as a yogi? Gluten-free, vegan, raw, no sugar, or eat anything you want at any time all sound good to me. But, what I’m going to recommend to you is that you eat real food. Eat regularly, until you are full, and then stop. Eat healthful foods including fruits and vegetables and stay away from anything that comes in a package. Limit the consumption of animals products and then see how you feel on and off the mat!

from yoga to your everyday LIFE!

we know that getting on the yoga mat/or to your workout is important to all of us…and if you’ve been to our boutique you know that’s what we are all about, making it easy for you to go from the mat to your rest of your day with ease .

here is an example (that margarita is showcasing) with just some of our NEWEST arrivals in the boutique.

what she’s wearing:
- lightweight + flowy maxi in charcoal by LIFE
- basic black leggings
- pink cotton scarf by LIFE
- leather flip flops by YOSI SAMRA

p.s. thanks mandi for totally photobombing us…we LOVE IT!

Day 15 - 30 Day Yoga Challenge - NAMASTE

Half way! Yoga challengers, how do you feel?

Being around the studio so much these past weeks, I’ve noticed so many new faces. I love January for this reason. Everyone is starting fresh, setting goals, and taking their health seriously. As a yoga student, I enjoy the energy new people bring to the practice. As an instructor, I recognize the awesome responsibility that comes with introducing new students to the discipline of yoga. I want everyone to fall in love with it like I did, of course, but I understand that every person is on their own path. Though, this week, at the end of a practice when we all sat silent in Sukhasana (Easy Pose, or The Pose of Happiness) I realized something may be lost on many newcomers—“Namaste.”

Do you know what “Namaste” truly means? Even if you’ve been practicing for years, you may not have been acquainted with the word past a common translation—“The divine light within me honors the divine light within you.” Yes, Namaste is that, but also so much more.

A quick story: A few years ago, I was enrolled at a university in northern Ontario and it was a particularly dark time—winter, midterms, I had just injured my spine, and I was living far from friends and family. Nearly every day I was on campus, would hobble over on my crutches to the “home-cooked” section of the cafeteria where a cheery old man whipped up stir-frys and fresh pasta dishes in front a long line of undergraduates. The little chef was from Asia somewhere, with a thick accent, and he made light conversation while I waited for my lunch. He was really charming. One day, I finally asked him where he was from.

            “Nepal,” he said, “Above India.”

I already knew where it was and I knew that Nepali people sometimes say, “Namaste” to each other, so the next time I ordered lunch, I greeted him with “Namaste.” He laughed, his eyes twinkling.

“You know Namaste?” he asked and I told him I had learned it during my yoga training. From then on, we greeted each other with “Namaste” and it served as an acknowledgement. He wasn’t just a chef behind the wok and I wasn’t just another student in line. Namaste was a little light in my day.

While we respond “Namaste” to our yoga teacher at the end of a practice, we should really be offering “Namaste” to the entire class, and traditionally greet each other at the beginning of practice as well. Breaking down the word, ‘Nama’ means ‘bow’, and ‘te’ means you. So, a fairly direct translation leads to “I bow to you.” Outside of the everyday, and infused with a spiritual practice within a community, “Namaste” can offer so much more. It is an act to perform. You place your hands, palms together, at the center of the chest or forehead and bow slightly (or deeply, depending), offering honor to your counterpart. It’s not necessary to know someone to trade “Namastes,” but perhaps the salutation feels as if it means more when you exchange it with those you know or love. That’s not the case. “Namaste” acknowledges that we are all pieces of the Universe, maybe made up of stardust, and containing the divine. In this way, we are all the same. We are all one. “Namaste” reminds us of this most important principle of life.

My favorite expression of Namaste’s essence comes from Mahatma Gandhi— “I honor the place within you were the entire Universe resides; I honor the place within you of love, of light, of truth, of peace; I honor the place within you where, when you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, there is only one of us.”

Remember the meaning of “Namaste” the next time you say it and your words will hold even more power.

“Namaste.”

- Melissa

carrot, ginger, lemon, apples = yummy, healthy goodness

A late afternoon pick me up JUICE (instead of the ever tempting king cake) :)

With the ever changing weather here in NEW ORLEANS (it was 80 degrees yesterday and 55 degrees today) we are constantly trying to keep up our immune systems and energy levels with healthier habits (fresh juices + yoga). Today’s treat was a spicy carrot (with LEMONS of course) based concoction! try some today.

JUICE(ing)
- carrots
- lemon
- apple
- ginger
- cilantro 

* and we couldn’t help showing off our NEW WATER bottles at LIFE 

when LIFE gives you lemons…


This cold weather is the perfect time to try a warm cup of water + the juice of 1/2 a lemon. We have been reading about all the health benefits of incorporating lemons/lemon juice into our lives daily and are excited about SHARING it all with you in 2013. This is our way of helping to compliment your yoga practice/workout and promoting health on the go.

We are offering fresh lemon water daily in our yoga studio. Nothing like getting a great stretch and then quenching your thirst with some lemon water. 

So look out for more tips and flavored water recipes from us in 2013!

ENJOY some LEMON today.

Why Lemons:
- boost immune system
- aids in digestion
- clears skin
- hydrates the lymph system
- helps with weight loss
- acts as natural diuretic 

(* some of this information was provided by mindbodygreen.com)