A Year of Online Yoga and Powerful Conversations

To wrap up the year, the team at Practice with Clara sat down to reflect on all that we’ve learned and achieved in 2020. We spent a day examining how Practice with Clara evolved and how we might refine our focus. We wrote down all the initiatives we tried and our community members’ responses in our recap session. This practice is one we plan to do at the end of each year to mark our progress, enhance productivity, and observe the areas to dedicate more time and effort than the places we might let go to create space.

In our final podcast episode of 2020, Clara and I shared some of our insights and reflections on the past year working together as we shifted to online yoga due to COVID. We discussed our key learnings around launching a podcast, some of our favorite interviews with guests, how we responded to a year of online yoga, and why Practice with Clara’s focus for 2021 is content that resonates with our community. 

This blog post contains the highlights from our discussion. You can watch the full episode or listen to it online.

Listen to a Podcast Interview to Gain Insight

Key Learnings from Starting a Podcast

  • Invest in the equipment.

The podcast was initially a 30-minute conversation on Instagram Stories two times a week. When COVID erupted in March 2020, we wanted a way to stay connected to the community and decided to host a series of philosophical talks on Instagram where people could join us to engage, ask questions, and participate in Clara’s live meditations. As we encountered technical issues (such as IG kicking us off the platform due to so many people using Instagram Stories to create and share content), we shifted over to Zoom and Riverside to host the podcast. Riverside is a great platform to use if you want to host a podcast as it takes care of many technicalities. 

  • Create boundaries around time.

We kept the podcast discussions under 60-minutes for several reasons. First and foremost, we wanted to keep the conversations short and sweet to maintain interest. Secondly, we wanted to post the full episode to Instagram Live, and sixty minutes is the maximum amount of time for each video to post. Finally, we capped the hours we allotted to pre-production, post-production, prepping, and editing each podcast.

  • Leave space for spontaneity. 

As we started bringing guests on the podcast and creating more of a formal container around the theme and how we wanted to present each guest, we discovered the value in leaving space for spontaneity and the element of surprise in the conversation. Often, the conversation would veer off into unplanned, albeit engaging themes that helped our guests shine as they expressed their passions. 

  • Always have a backup plan. 

As a backup, we recorded every podcast on an app on our iPhones and asked that guests do the same. No matter how advanced, technology still has its hiccups, and we lost audio several times while recording due to slight technical issues we didn’t pick-up on while in the heat of conversation. Having a backup audio file saved us in several discussions that we would have lost. 

  • Invest in quality over quantity. 

We selected simple themes to anchor the podcast discussions that aligned with the yoga classes released each week. Keeping the content strategy simple helped us learn a new skill, respond to mistakes, and keep moving forward as we produced an episode each week. 

Responding to a Year of Online Yoga

  • Keep moving and roll with the mistakes. 

Agility is an asset of any small business to keep trying new things and pivot swiftly as you learn and adapt from mistakes. Whenever we hit a roadblock, such as getting kicked off of Instagram, we shifted our plans to reframe the focus around our initial intention.  

  • Listen to your community.

Let your community tell you where to focus. We sent out a survey in November that received hundreds of responses. We very quickly saw where our efforts were valued and what content resonated most with our members from this survey.

  • Honor ritual and process. 

Thinking about the process around the task is much more valuable than focusing on the task itself. We created simple processes that kept our day-to-day tasks in-check to help synchronize each individual and the team’s work efforts. The PWC team works remotely, and having procedures in-place allows us to coordinate and communicate where we are at week over week. 

  • Move in the direction that the data points. 

Numbers do not lie. One thing we observed through analyzing data was how our numbers in the PWC FB Community Group were growing, whereas the PWC Instagram account was not. To keep refine and create more time to advance our efforts in other areas, we stopped posting on the branded IG account and moved everything over to Clara’s account and Facebook. 

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Practice with Clara’s Focus for 2021 

  • Live yoga classes. 

On December 25th, we hosted the inaugural live yoga class on Practice with Clara and had 81-participants. 2021 aims to host weekly live classes available to all those who cannot make it in the New Releases category of the apps.

  • 30-Day Yoga Challenges.

The most useful feedback we received from the community this year is that the 30-day challenges are the preferred way to receive yoga classes and content. We plan to host several yoga challenges each year that focus on unique themes and yoga styles available to the community-at-large for free during the challenge and afterward in the PWC Apps. 

  • Make yoga accessible.  

At Practice with Clara, we feel that yoga should be accessible to everyone, no matter the financial circumstances. We currently have a Karma Yoga Program and offer the 30-day challenges to all non-members for free. Finding creative, sustainable methods to provide yoga to anyone who seeks a daily practice and cannot afford it is one of our goals for 2021. 

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Andrea Freeman: Mindful Business Insights & Strategy

andrea freeman

The Practice with Clara online platform and apps were launched at the end of 2019. In the past year, there have been many challenges and steep learning curves with the company as we got to know each other as a team and tried various creative projects to build a community online. I joined the team in January of 2020, and Clara and I launched the #PracticeWithClara Podcast at the end of March when the world went into lockdown for COVID-19. 

Creating a virtual yoga community has shown us what can occur when people come together over a shared intention; 2020 has been quite the journey, and we are so grateful for all those who’ve joined us and contributed to the sangha online. 

Looking ahead to what we can do in 2021, we want to focus our efforts on the areas where we feel the most feedback from our community members. This past year, we had many different incentives for people to join us in the practice and contemplation of what it means to live yoga. In the coming months, we want to create more structure around the company’s bigger vision to deliver content that resonates in areas where we’ve seen the most engagement. 

“The biggest thing is to create and brainstorm to make the next step awesome and exciting. Not only for our community but usour team. I want our team to feel like a family and for that to spill out into our community so that even though we’re online, we feel like a family.” –  Clara Roberts Oss. 

To harness our ideas and get an outsider’s perspective on how we can optimize our time and efforts at Practice with Clara, Andrea Freeman joined us on the podcast to provide insight into how the Practice with Clara team can grow the community and business in 2021. 

“When we have a big vision, it’s constructive to reverse engineer so that we can make it measurable. When our goals are measurable, it takes a lot of the emotion out of it, and that will help you determine whether you’re hitting your goals or not.” – Andrea Freeman.

Watch or listen to the full episode. Highlights from our talk are provided below.

Interview with Andrea Freeman

AFI’m super excited to be here with you. I love helping female entrepreneurs build mindful businesses that work for all parts of their lives so that they can thrive in their business and their life.  

I want to start with an intention for the session and hear what you have going on in your business. Can you tell me what’s going on business-wise and what you’re hoping to look at to shift or evolve? 

CROAbout a year ago, we launched our online platform, where we have yoga classes and meditation and mantra. I’ve been running my own business for about 16 years but hadn’t put it online; I’d been teaching all live events. My husband and I launched Practice with Clara in 2019, and then Stephanie came on board to help us with copy and pretty much everything as startups go.

Stephanie joined us in January and then later became a full-time employee. Now we’re looking to build and grow our community; we’re essentially trying to take it to the next level.

AF—What’s the goal of growing the community? What does that make available for you guys personally and your businesses? 

CRO—We want to grow, but a roadblock we’re hitting is that I’m a new mom, and it’s also on me to create all of the content. It’s me on the site. One of our learning curves is finding the right balance between me shooting content and taking care of the baby.

My husband, Alejandro, and Steph do a lot of the backend to maintain operations and keep everything moving forward. We want to grow, but in a way that honors sustainability and our lifestyle because there are only so many hours in a day. 

AFBefore we started recording, you were saying time management, sales, and delegation seem to be the three areas that you want to focus on, is that correct? 

CRO—Yes. The biggest thing for me is delegation. I’ve been running my own business for sixteen years, and I would work seven days a week for long hours. I have a very good work ethic, but now the issue is that I don’t have that much time because I’m taking care of my little one. I need to get better at delegating and handing off what needs to be done. My initial response is that I’ll take care of it, but the tasks don’t get done because I don’t have time. 

New Class – released every Friday 

Just Be: Restorative Yoga

The class you’ve been craving to unwind, a 70-minute restorative session with Clara to hit reset in different shapes. Move through five simple postures with props and hold each pose for 8-10 minutes to restore and drop into your body. Supported twists and heart-opening extend and release the spine to create more space for your breath.

AFIf you look at delegation, your efforts in delegating will spill over into the other two areas you want to focus on and affect everything in your business.

If you’re empowered in your delegation house, then you’re going to see growth, and you’re going to see movement in all the other spaces. 

When you think about delegating in your business, what is there for you? What, how does that feel for you, and what does it look like right now?

CROIt’s hard for me because I’m a control freak. Also, because I’m the brand and because it is the thing that I’ve been doing myself for so long that I feel like I have a hard time letting go. The biggest thing is I have a hard time letting go of all the tasks that need to be done when it comes to branding and the specific look and feel of how things are presented. 

What I’ve been working with is learning how to trust and to soften into it. I don’t want to let my community down; I would feel very disappointed if I let anyone down or didn’t feel like I was offering my fullest potential and expressing myself. 

AFI think it’s beneficial for your business to have some structure around delegation to look at how it will work in the day-to-day tasks that need to get done. This might be where you and Stephanie can look at how you work together. What would that look like?

What are you most excited to accept support about? 

CROThe biggest thing is to create and brainstorm to make the next step awesome and exciting. Not only for our community but us—our team. I want our team to feel like a family and for that to spill out into our community so that even though we’re online, we feel like a family.

AF—When we have a big vision, it’s constructive to reverse engineer so that we can make it measurable. When our goals are measurable, it takes a lot of the emotion out of it, and that will help you determine whether you’re hitting your goals or not.

How you would know that you were successful in brainstorming and creating this big vision that you have for your business?

CRO— It would be more on like the day-to-day things. The biggest ways of being actionable that Steph supports us with are writing most of the copy, the social media schedule, and keeping me on track. I’m the visionary, and I can go off and lose track of what needs to be done and when things are due. Steph keeps me on track and tethers me to the day-to-day, which is helpful.

The biggest way to support me is to hold me accountable, which Steph has been good at, and help me stay on track because I’m so used to working alone, and I just kind of do things when I remember to do them. 

AFYou would benefit from a structured schedule for micro and macro projects, like a calendar essentially, where you have dates or appointments to check in on. 

I would do a session each morning as a 10-minute check-in to your promises for the day. This task asks that every person on the team lives in the space of accountability. This task will keep you on track with the day-to-day list of things that need to get done, and it will help Steph because she’ll be more involved in the big picture and the running of the day-to-day. It will be more of a partnership, and it’s going to build trust.

Now, once you know how you feel about all the things that you’re doing and how you’ll support each other, next you look at the data, you look at the engagement, you look at where your audience is growing. From these numbers, you will see where you should focus. 

The decision is always in the data, and you use the data to align with your intuition and what’s feeling right for you and your business at that moment. When those two things come together, you show up in your most authentic form. Your most creative self-expression is where people will resonate with you most.

I love working with entrepreneurs who are trying to scale and trying to build a bigger vision because you want to go deep. That’s the thing when you’re concerned with building community; when that’s your passion, it’s because you like going deep with people. So you have to focus on that space where the data shows engagement, and you feel the most traction. 

CRO— This is something that Steph, Alejandro, and I are always talking about. Your actions don’t ever affect just one aspect of your life; it ripples out into all aspects of your life. In terms of using the word mindful in your coaching title, this is what we do; our whole thing is to be mindful and to ask the bigger questions of ourselves so that we can show up as the best humans for our community.

I’d love you to share a bit of your journey and how the mindful business coach showed up for you. 

AFWhen you’re fully yourself, it’s exactly how your ideal customer or client recognizes that you’re for them. It’s all about having a business that feels as good as it looks. I like to say, let your personal evolution fuel your business revolution.

More About Andrea Freeman

Hello there! I’m Andrea and I believe that transforming your life is the access to transforming your business.  As a mindful business coach and peak performance planner, I work with creative entrepreneurs to support them in their evolution.  I operate from the foundational principle that businesses develop alongside the individuals who run them.  Meaning the higher your consciousness the greater the impact you make in the world.  It’s my personal joy to work with business owners to help them align with who they are at their core – with their unique personal gifts and unstoppable power.  

Join the Uplevel Collective

A free group for successful, creative, female entrepreneurs who know the money is in their mindset and want to truly have it all – the thriving business, the impact, the money, the vitality!

Or visit Andrea’s Website.

Janet Stone: Sangha, Mantra, and Sadhana

Cultivating a community is a way to create a home no matter where you are in the world. Sangha means community in Sanskrit; we contribute and support each other whether we practice in a shared space or online. When we come together to express a shared intention—be it asana practice, mantra, or meditation—we enhance our ability to evolve through a shared and supportive experience. 

We interviewed renowned yoga teacher and bhakta Janet Stone on the power of mantra, Sangha, and Sadhana. Before COVID, Janet traveled worldwide, sharing her voice and practice as a means to create community.

“When I do mantra, my jealousy, fears, anxieties, and depression, whatever the things are, all of it falls away. Whatever’s coming up during this COVID time, whatever’s coming up in your life, when you’re willing to show up and churn and not just choose to go to sleep, Netflix, vices, all this stuff, it’s uncomfortable. So let’s do it together. My one voice mixed with all the voices. Everybody drops their story for a second.” – Janet Stone. 

To hear and discover more of Janet’s music and mantra, follow her on Spotify or Apple Music

Watch or listen to the full episode or read the highlights below.

Introducing Janet Stone

If you could be born in any era, what period would you choose and why? 

JS I would choose now because it’s ripe with knowledge. The speed at which things are evolving and growing and shifting is completely rapid fire. In every single moment, we have a choice to go forward, to enter the shadow space and the darker realms. We can pull back and see more of a context of where we are. So I’m just going to go with now.

What are three things you never leave home without? 

JSCompassion, empathy, and acts of kindness and maybe somewhere. I never leave without my intention. Intention helps me with those other three. I try to bring my kids when they’re willing to come with me, but sometimes they’re not. A snack, I’m weirdly always hungry, and turmeric, ginger, and warm water because it’s like my little security blanket. 

Janet Stone Yoga
What’s your superpower? 

JSMy superpower is my compassion for humanity and being able to see a larger view. I have this ability to go way out to see the macro view of things, and also really micro; I have a lens that can expand to take it all in, and I can be right here with you and see you as who you are, where you are and hold a context.

How did you come to yoga?

JS I was in the film industry, and I was there for a dozen years, and I was passionate about it. I worked with the company that did Seinfeld and worked with Larry David, who created it, and many other amazing people, and I loved it. I never meant to leave. 

My grandfather and three generations prior had been born and raised in India and what he brought back to my California childhood was enough to plant a seed for sure. Thanksgiving was curry and naan, and all the stories and something about it kind of hit me. I had that moment, you know, Saturn Return, vibes maybe. So I took a hiatus, as they call it in the film industry, and went traveling. One of the places that I stayed in was both India and Nepal, and both of those just were ripe with teachers. 

I found a teacher and took up meditation, and this is a whole new level that opened up to me. It was funny and fun and great. I returned to LA and went back to the film industry, but then there was this one moment where someone asked me to step in for them to teach.  So I taught the class, and every person in the room asked me where else and when I was teaching.

I felt like it kept going, calling me toward it. Till one day, I was at a dinner party, and I discovered that I wasn’t saying I was in the film industry. I was saying, I’m offering yoga. 

When did you start traveling? 

JS I had my babies, my little girls, with me initially. I was pretty young when I was on my own with them. It was just the three of us; I had one on my front, one on my back, and the world was just always like, come here, come here. Travel was an open invitation from the world. 

The roots of one place were all of the nutrients I received. In Sadhana, we show up no matter the elements. Rain, shine, happy, sad, divorce, marriage, birth, death. We show up; it doesn’t matter. Every single practice is different, it’s not like today. We come together to sit in Sadhana, and then we all disappear and go back to our busy lives. 

Can you share a little about your practice of mantra? 

JSI think being in India and hearing chants in the temples and even up in Nepal, the resonance was what woke something up in me. It’s when I realized I’m not going to figure out enlightenment staying in my mind. 

Through mantra, the resonance, sound, and reverberation exist within the vibration. It’s where it all makes sense. The mind drops down into the heart. The heart gets bigger. In this place, I feel that it’s not about me. It’s not about you or me; we’re not telling our story. We’re not performing. I don’t perform. I don’t even sing. I chant. There’s zero performance in Bhakti yoga. Bhakti is devotion; it’s participation. Singing is performative, and there’s zero performance in Bhakti. Bhakti is participating. 

When I do mantra, it’s like my jealousy and my fears, anxieties, and depression, you know, whatever the things are, all of it falls away. Whatever’s coming up during this COVID time. Whatever’s coming up in your life, when you’re willing to show up and churn and not just choose to go to sleep, Netflix, vices, all this stuff, it’s uncomfortable. So let’s do it together. My one voice mixed with all the voices. Everybody drops their story even for a second, 

What does your practice look like right now? 

JSI’m so geeking out on slow flow and nourish. I’m out in the world, hiking. I offered the anatomy of emotion recently; it’s this course where we dive into where we hold emotions in these places in the body. So I thought, why not, while we’re sitting here, why not go into those places. We forget that we store certain things and places in our bodies.

CROI feel like all of my practices lately have been so much slower and so much more still because it feels like the right fit. It feels like the right thing to do. I can’t move quickly right now. 

New Class – released Friday, December 11th

Block Tutorial

Join Clara for a quick prop tutorial on how to use blocks to assist and enhance your practice to create more space and strength in the body. 

In every practice, ask yourself: Where am I supposed to feel the stretch in this pose, and how can I best create the shape to facilitate that sensation?

How do you manage your time? 

JSThank goodness for my film ministry experience. I think producing, and production has helped me understand how to prioritize what to let go of. It’s about cultivating a sense of fierce boundaries. 

I was able to take the eight limbs and see how the eight limbs are actually about containment of my life force energy and directing it where I want it to go. 

I had no social life. I’ve made choices, and you’ll have to make choices. I’m not special in any way, I don’t have a different time clock than anyone else, but the reason I’m able to do so much is that I know my priorities and my intentions. You’re not seeing me out at the birthday parties that much because I choose to contain and prioritize my energy. Mothering is way up there on my priorities, and sharing my offerings; is where I focus all of my efforts. 

I’ve had amazing people from the get-go, like Hanuman people, who come and want to lift this up and want to bring their PhDs and their hearts and their practice and love to this. So much of me feels like I’m on the mountain

being carried by the love and support of people bringing in their genius. And I give all that I can, I’m like, take it, you own it too.

 How can we support each other as a global community? 

JS All of the small businesses going out of business, everyone losing their leases, or the payroll, it’s just sort of endless. And I think that by holding a place of compassion for the grieving and letting go of what was, I think we can help each other by really just sitting together. We need to look at it all; it’s like we’ve got to clean the chalkboard, wipe the slate clean.

Staying in integrity with what the teachings are is how we support each other. That means staying to the heart, staying to the root of the teachings, and giving them to other people. I’m giving endless scholarships and telling people to join my offerings and pay whatever they can. Whether you’re a teacher or a student, it doesn’t matter. Be in studentship and arrive. 

In terms of coming together, I would encourage you to ask: What do we want to create? How do we want this to go?

What are a few of your online offerings? 

JSBecause of the concessions made by Yoga Alliance, we do have a full 300-hour and 200-hour yoga teacher training online. We have a lot of live sessions. We have many social activists and environmental activists, like a lot of special people joining us.  

I have a 40-day Sadhana, a daily practice coming up, meaning we all go together. We start, we commit, and we just pour our attention into the practice once a day for 40-days. It’s a powerful practice to be kind of held and show up together.  

It’s really about ritualizing. It’s about making a little moment in your day, a ritual. The practice is to make a ritual that alleviates stress instead of jacking up our adrenals with coffee, or picking up the phone, or taking care of everybody else’s needs, or the computer’s needs. 

Some rituals involve dry brushing, abhyanga, tongue scraping, or splashing cold water on the face. Every day we do sun salutations and move the body and the joints. It’s not complex. It’s not fancy. It’s simple, just show up for yourself, stay in it day in and day out, just show up for yourself. 

Bernie Clark: The Influence of Mythology in Yoga

bernie clark

The roots of yoga are firmly established in philosophy and myth. Yoga, as we know it today, is vastly different from the origins of the practice. Yoga is meditation, and the method has evolved to accommodate contemporary life, focusing on the asana postures to move the body and encourage physical health. In honoring yoga’s artistry, we need the influence of myth and philosophy to create a well-rounded practice and approach to reality. 

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras explain the theory and approach to the practice of yoga through philosophy, and The Bhagavad Gita—a beloved text among yogis—shares the popular myth of Arjuna and Krishna to illustrate the concept of fate, devotion, non-harming, and other themes contemplated in the practice of yoga. 

Mythology is a powerful tool of evolution. Through others’ stories, we learn how to accept, integrate, and interact with others. Myth demonstrates a way to live and be in the world; our stories create communities, ecosystems, and the economy. 

This week, we had the pleasure of interviewing the West Coast yin yoga teacher and author of From the Gita to the Grail, Bernie Clark, to talk about the influence of mythology in yoga, the mystery of quantum physics, and how to access a yin mind to balance the yang energy of Western society. 

“When I first started teaching yin yoga, people were horrified because they thought I was exercising joints. Each practice has a different definition of exercise. A yang definition of exercise is a lot of repetitive, rhythmic movement. With yin yoga, we work with long-held static stress. Think of braces: people wear braces for years. That’s yin stress, and that’s what you need to affect the bones.” – Bernie Clark. 

Check out the movie mentioned in the podcast: The God Particle.

You can watch or listen to the full episode or read the highlights below.

Introducing Bernie Clark

If you could choose any era to be born in, what period would you choose, and why?

BCProbably the 22nd or the 23rd century, about a hundred years from now. I’m really curious to see what’s going to be happening then. If we’ve calmed down global warming or developed new forms of energy? I’m going to die before all that happens. I would like to see that. 

What’s your superpower? 

BCI remember reading Herman Hesse when I was a teenager, and in his book Siddartha, the superpower of Siddartha stuck with me. It was the ability to just sit, despite whatever happens around you, to be able to sit and be present and know that this too will pass. That’s the superpower I always tried to work on, just being able to sit and be with what’s happening. 

bernie clark blog

How did you come to yoga?

BCI  took up meditation in my early twenties to deal with stress in the business world. I was not in the high-tech industry selling, and the stress was just getting to me; and I asked my manager’s manager what he did to deal with stress, and he said he meditated.

I dove into Zen meditation when I was about twenty-two, and it wasn’t until twenty years later that I was looking for a Sanga to sit. I found a place that just opened up in Vancouver, and the owner at the time she kept saying, I should try yoga. I didn’t want to try yoga. I was just there for the Zen. I was only there for the meditation three times a week, but she convinced me by saying the magic words, she said, yoga will help your golf game. I thought, well, if it’s going to help my golf game, yeah. I’ll try it. And so I tried it, and she was right. It did help my golf game. 

I realized the point of yoga is to meditate. And so I’ve been doing yoga since my twenties. It wasn’t until my early forties that I added the asana, the physical part, to help my meditation part. So I guess I got into yoga over 40 years ago. But the asana is, I’ve been only doing those for just over 20 years. 

How do you define yin yoga, and what is a yin mindset?

BCOur culture is full of Yangsters, is what I like to say; we are very driven. If you think of New Year’s resolutions, it’s always to change something, and that’s a very yang energy. A yin mindset is more receptive and accepting, whereas the yang mindset is more controlled and directed.

The Ashtanga practice was my favorite, but I needed to balance, or I would have burned out. By the time I hit 50, I was stronger, but it was unrequited. I needed to find a balance. 

I came across yin yoga through the teachings of Sarah Powers. And through Sarah, I met Paul Grilley, and I just fell in love with what they offered. At first, I hated it because it was hard, but it was simple, and I realized I needed to balance my yang activities with more yin activities. Like everything in life, you need balance. 

The difference between yang and yin yoga is for you to think of muscles versus fascia. Muscles are active; I have to make an effort to contract the muscles. Fascia is kind of springy like your Achilles tendon and plantar fascia. Fascial things are elastic, they stretch a little bit, and then they snap back.

You don’t have to will your Achilles tendon to retract. We have active movements. Then we have passive movements, things that we just allow to happen. We’re targeting these more passive tissues, the fascia, the ligaments, and the joint capsules with yin yoga.

When I first started teaching yin yoga, people were horrified because they thought I was exercising joints. You should never exercise joint capsules or stretch ligaments. Each practice has a different definition of exercise. A yang definition of exercise is a lot of repetitive, rhythmic movement.

We don’t apply the same movement in yin yoga as we do in a yang practice; with yin, we work with a long-held static stress. Think of braces: people wear braces for years. They don’t take them out every twenty minutes and put it back in again, that’s yin stress, and that’s what you need to affect the bones.

For our deeper connective tissues, we need a different form of exercise or load or stress. Our health needs both. You need to work the muscles you need that active, rhythmic yang movement. And when you work the deeper tissues, you need the long-held static stresses by tractioning those tissues through yin yoga.

New class

In My Own Ocean

Gentle, fluid, and slow-moving, this Hatha class lengthens the body and creates space through rhythmic flows and moving meditation. This class provides plenty of modifications to accommodate yogis of all levels and yogi mamas in their third trimester. Side waist lengthening, hamstring and inner thigh opening, and gentle twists create space and support the low back. 

What are your key components of physical health? 

BCIn my realization, there are three components to physical health. 

  1. Strength, you need to work on the strength. I’ve found when I first started doing power yoga; I couldn’t believe how hard it was. I remember getting a video of Rod Striker. It was a power yoga thing, and it kicked my ass. It was so hard, but after a year of doing Ashtanga Yoga, I went back, and I tried that video again. I couldn’t believe how easy it was. I found that through practice, I was getting stronger and stronger. But the strength plateaus because I could work with my body weight; that’s all you do in yoga. Today I also swing kettlebells and do other things to enhance my strength. 
  2. Endurance, there’s only so much the heart rate can go up in the yoga practice; it doesn’t provide high-intensity interval training. I will run sprints, or I’ll do stair climbing to get the heart going. 
  3. Mobility, I do a yin practice to keep the joints and everything very mobile. 

Is there a correlation between physics and the mystical? 

BC I always wanted to know why and how we do the things we do. I love studying mythology. I love studying comparative religions. Joseph Campbell, an American mythologist, very much influenced me; he influenced me a lot. I’ve always been fascinated by the mind and how it works. I also want to know how the universe works. 

There’s my interest in physics. I love to build the bridges between East and West because we have certain experiences in the East. You cannot deny an experience. It’s an anecdote, it’s a fact, and somehow we have to describe the scientific models for the maps. If you will, they have to accommodate these experiences. Some of the experiences don’t fit on our maps. It doesn’t mean that the experiences are wrong. That means the maps have to be improved.

I’m always looking at ways to explain what people in the East experienced with our current Western maps. In the West, we invoke things like quantum entanglement and spooky action at a distance that Einstein hated. Einstein spent the rest of his life trying to disprove quantum mechanics. This is one of the most robust findings of physics, this entanglement in the action at a distance. What we know is that it works in a certain way. We don’t understand how it can possibly work that way, but we know it works that way. 

The other side of the coin is a lot of new-age wellness. People have taken the buzzwords from quantum physics and misappropriated them and applied them in ways that quantum physicists have admitted that they don’t understand. Richard Freeman was one of the most brilliant minds in the world, and he didn’t understand it. 

There are things we can’t explain, like dark matter. We have no idea what that is or dark energy. So there’s a lot of God particles still out there. Things we don’t know. Only 5% of the universe is unknown to us, which is crazy. A small percent of the universe is just what we know as electrons, protons, neutrons. The rest of it we don’t know yet.

What are the components of mythology? 

BCJoseph Campbell said that there are four main functions of myth.

  1. The cosmological function explains why we are here, how we came to be, and all cultures that exist. 
  2. There’s the sociological function that serves to put you in your place in society. You are born to do a certain thing; that’s your Dharma. 
  3. Then you have your psychological function. This is going to describe how you deal with the arc of aging. The stories that you do when you’re a child, what you do when you become a teenager, a young adult. How to raise a family, what you do in your grandparent, going to the forest, becoming a guru, all that’s described by their cultures, myths, and how you relate to your life.
  4. And then the biggest, most important thing, is the mystical. What’s it all about? Why are we here? 

Ally Mazerolle: Girlvana Yoga and Community

ally mazerolle

If we’ve learned anything in the past eight months, it has to be the power and presence that occurs when we gather as a community. Through the loss of physical communities and the ongoing creation of organizations online, how we relate to each other and communicate continues to shift and evolve, be it for better or worse

This week on the podcast, we interviewed yoga teacher, writer, and entrepreneur, Ally Mazerolle, founder of Girlvana Yoga and Ladyvana Retreats. Ally started teaching yoga well over a decade ago and founded Girlvana to bring yoga and mindfulness practice to teens. 

“Today, we’re working with Gen Z, and it’s this new, emerging generation that’s so cool, and also terrifying. This generation sees the world in a way we never did because of social media. Gen Z has such a pulse on all things political because of social media and the internet; it’s more native for them to be online.” – Ally Mazerolle. 

Girlvana, like so many other studios and community-focused businesses, shifted classes and training online to continue connecting young women from all over the world as we continue to social distance. 

“My superpower is a vulnerability in my ability to share how I feel. My former business partner used to call me very emotionally agile. I think this aspect of who I am helps create a safe and conscious space for teens to share how they feel and who they are. This is what community means to me, the ability to come together and learn from our experiences.” – Ally Mazerolle.

Read the highlights from this week’s episode; watch or listen to the full discussion with Clara and Ally. 

Introducing Ally Maz and Girlvana Yoga

AMI’m so excited to have this conversation with you, particularly Clara because the idea for Girlvana was brewing inside me, but it wasn’t fully realized until I did one of your Morning Yoga Intensives. Girlvana was created in 2010, so almost a decade ago. The intention was for young women to feel seen and heard, and connected through the avenues of yoga, meditation, and real conversation.

I wanted to create a space for mindfulness for teens, and it also pertains to gender and sexuality and identity and consent and periods and all of the things that young people have to deal with as they come of age. 

Girlvana started with me teaching yoga in high schools; I was just knocking on the doors of principals and school counselors and anyone I could think of. At this time, I was already leading yoga retreats, and I thought, how cool would it be for this retreat to be all teenage girls and have sort of like a summer camp meets yoga retreat experience? 

We’ve trained over a hundred teachers globally to teach Girlvana Yoga to teens; you can find Girlvana in Scotland, Switzerland, Canada, and the US. Girlvana is also a book that will be published by Penguin Random House next year.

Today, we’re working with Gen Z, and it’s this new, emerging generation that’s so cool and terrifying. This generation sees the world in a way we never did because of social media. Gen Z has such a pulse on all things political because of social media and the internet; it’s more native for them to be online. 

Girlvana just wrapped a very ambitious digital summit for teens. We’ve created online offerings through Zoom to stay connected while we social distance. We had yoga, meditation, and keynote speakers. The girls had breakout sessions and were able to speak and be involved in conversations around allyship, mental health, yoga, and breathwork practices. I underestimated how profound digital offerings can be and how deep and vulnerable young people are willing to go. 


What’s a belief that’s holding you back? 

AMI just started a new job, and I feel like my imposter syndrome is coming up a lot. Even though I’m 34 now, I still feel like I’m the youngest in the room. The belief that arises is that I don’t have enough experience to be teaching.


What book guides your philosophy of living? 

AMThe Woman Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I love that it’s based on fairytales, and I like how it’s soaked in the female psyche and the experience of women being wild. That book was revolutionary for me.

What’s the superpower that you bring to your communities? 

AMMy superpower is a vulnerability in my ability to share how I feel. My former business partner used to call me very emotionally agile.

My ability to open up and share is a doorway for young people to feel safe to share. When I am open and vulnerable, I create a space or a brave space for other people to be open and vulnerable. That has created a really strong sense of community for me.

CROI feel like we go deep into our dark caves, and we’re in our own caves, but together. There’s a quiet and space for introspection, but we’re all in it together.

When I’m teaching, I go deep down into myself and kind of sit in the mud, this very dark and heavy space. When I meet myself in the mud, people come with me and enter their own mud; the darkness and the heaviness we all carry.  

What have you learned through the community that you could not have done alone? 

CROThe biggest gift that I’ve received being in the community is how much deeper I’ve gotten to know myself in the community. By simply showing up and being together, whether it’s a yoga class or dinner with friends, I feel like I get to know myself so much more by being around other people.

Through this interaction with others, I feel way more inspired by what I see around me and the amazingness that is in all of us. 

AMRight now, being in quarantine and not being directly in the community in the same way, I miss feeling reflected in others. I enjoy it when someone shares something beautiful or their joy or sadness. It gives me something to relate to. That’s what community gives me, relatability. 

The only word I have for it is humanity. We’re all on our journeys. We’re all trying to figure it out. No one has the answers. Coming together as a community shows us how we’re all just figuring it out. I miss being with people in that way. 

What does it mean to hold space for others? 

AM—Holding space means staying in your body and breathing for yourself. 

I don’t need to jump out of my own experience to make anyone feel safe. It’s so interesting because when someone cries, it’s like, oh, don’t cry, or here’s a tissue, or you want to run over and give them a big hug.

Especially with young girls, this is how they want to show up and support each other. I stay in my own body to set boundaries and let this young person have their emotional experience without trying to coddle or stifle it. 

I have the mentality of; I’ll sit here as long as you need me to just be present for you to move through this.

CROAll of my teachers are very strong with boundaries in doing the work stepping back to allow others to have their own experience. I used to get a lot of slack from yoga studios because they wanted me to be around before and after class to be with students. When I taught at this time, I felt like I would give my soul to the class as a way to hold space, and by the time I got home, I would be exhausted. 

I always have to remember when I’m teaching classes or workshops, or when I’m on retreat, that I need to take a lot of time for myself too.

Holding space takes up a lot of energy. In my younger days of teaching, I was so depleted from the work of being together. When I teach, I feel my breath and open my own heart to what I’m directly experiencing, what I feel, and hear. The gift of this practice is that it brings up your own experiences and emotions. The lesson is to sit with how you feel and not try to change what’s happening around you or change what’s happening within.

I learned early on from my teachers that when somebody’s sharing, you don’t go and rub their back or do anything that takes them out of their experience. You sit and observe and just be with them. You become the space for them to unload something; we all carry a burden that becomes lighter if we share it. 

What are some of the communication strategies you use in workshops or retreats? 

AMSomething we use in Girlvana is clarity, transparency, and brevity. This way, the intention, and communication are super transparent. We let everyone know at the beginning of the workshop or retreat that these are the three agreements, so people can self-correct if they start rambling. It’s a great way to bring everyone together in the circle. 

CROI use the four agreements taken from the book by Don Miguel Ruiz, and I add a fifth agreement that I’ve found helps.

The agreements are:

  1. Be impeccable with your word, 
  2. Don’t take anything personally, 
  3. Don’t make assumptions, 
  4. Always do your best,
  5. Be mindful.

I add in the fifth rule because we’re in a group, and it’s essential to be aware of how much you contribute versus how much you’re not contributing. When we come together as a collective, we can learn so much from each other. If you’re the type of person who’s always engaging and speaking, it’s an opportunity to step back to observe and listen. If you’re the type of person who’s quiet, it’s an opportunity to speak and see what you can learn through bringing your voice and opinion to the group. 

I’ve been to training where it’s the same three people talking the whole time, in a group of like twenty people. There’s so much more knowledge in the room that we could be sharing instead of just listening to three perspectives.

New class 

Expand Meditation

A short meditation that asks you to connect to the wisdom and resilience of the heart space. This meditation taps into the expansiveness of the heart to bring more awareness to the breath, how you feel, and how you relate to the environments and individuals in your life. 

Irene Sanchez: Expressing Energy and Emotions

irene sanzhez

The subtle body, or energetic body, represents one of five body’s within each individual. Alignment within the five body’s creates harmony and unites the physical and energetic realms. The five bodies consist of the physical body, the prana (breath) body, the intuitive or wisdom body, the emotional or mental body, and the bliss body, which is also called the soul. The five bodies are known as koshas in Sanskrit—learn more about the koshas in this interview.

Yoga and other movement practices provide a means to engage the physical body. Breathwork, or pranayamas, is a way to ignite the pranic body. Healing modalities such as acupuncture, meditation, Chi Gong, and visualization provide a way to stimulate the intuition/wisdom body and the emotional/mind-body. The bliss body may be discovered through any of these techniques; tapping into the spiritual self or the soul depends on the practitioner and what brings you joy. 

In this week’s podcast episode, we interviewed Irene Sanchez of the AdiShakti Method. Irene is a TCM practitioner, Doula, and yogi who works with the energy flow to create a healing space for clients to discover a deeper connection to themselves and their bliss body. 

“Energy is everywhere; it’s all around us. In Chinese medicine, you’re working with meridians, which are energetic channels. The same can be said of Chi Gong, which is energy management. Meditation and yoga tap into different energies. All are ways of working with the energy we have and share with our environments.” – Irene Sanchez. 

Highlights from our discussion are noted below, or you can watch or listen to the full episode.

Your preferred treatment to receive? 

IS I love acupuncture for chronic pain, hormonal balancing, and managing stress. Acupuncture helps to boost my immune system. I love cranial sacral therapy. I love chiropractic sessions. Many people don’t like to be cracked, but I love being cracked because it creates a space of possibility for healing in the body. I love therapy. I love Watsu therapy, which is a form of massage in a body of water. 

The instrument that captures your soul?

IS I would say piano because it has a lyrical quality that brings me into this ethereal space, and I love living in the ether. I feel like I have a lot of earth energy, and I’m very grounded, but I love playing in the energy realm, which is the ether. 

I’m a psychonaut, exploring different states of consciousness to investigate the mind and the human experience. I use various tools to examine other states of consciousness; one of them is yoga. I also use meditation and Chi Gong. 

irene sanchez

What’s your relationship, or understanding, of energy?

CRO— Nine years ago, I taught a 200-hour teaching training that Irene attended, and on about day fifteen, the energy was really heavy. It felt like many people were going through a lot of their transformation and going deep into their journey. I chose to lead a Kundalini mantra for healing and asked everyone to come to sit in a circle. And then I say, if at any point you feel like you need some healing, you sit down in the center of the circle, and you receive the mantra from the group around you. A couple of people go into the center, and we start to sing this mantra. And as we’re singing the mantra, I’m starting to feel the energy, not only in the room but in the jungle around us. We were in a place on this beach in Ko Pen Yang Thailand, surrounded by the jungle. 

As we chant, I start to feel the jungle awakening, and as we’re chanting, I feel that we’re opening a portal of energy, and other energies start coming towards us. It was as if the jungle woke up energetically, and I could feel that there was all this outside energy trying to enter our circle. There were four of us in the circle who I could feel holding the energy down, almost like pillars representing the four directions. I felt that the four of us wrapped ourselves energetically around the circle so that these outside energies couldn’t come in. I remember feeling like I was being pushed; that’s how much energy was trying to enter.

When the chanting ended, it was so intense; many people cried, and we burned incense to clear the room and over each person to clear their energy fields. There are a lot of times when I don’t know. What’s going to happen, but I know that something needs to happen, that something needs to shift. I could feel that in the room that day when I chose the Kundalini mantra.

I have guides who work on different planes, teachers who work through me and tell me what to do. The guides don’t give me the why or how, or what’s going on; they’re just like, you need to do this. I trust that, and I trusted that what we did that day needed to happen for the energy to move. 

IS— Energy is everywhere; it’s all around us. In Chinese medicine, you’re working with meridians, which are energetic channels. The same can be said of Chi Gong, which is energy management. Meditation and yoga tap into different energies. All are ways of working with the energy we have and share with our environments. 

What I’ve found is that mainstream people are not very aware of yoga. They’re very aware of the physical world’s density, but they don’t have as much of an understanding of the subtle body, which is the energy we work with in acupuncture. We use a needle to move the energy around and direct the flow of energy. I love giving first-time clients or people who are unaware of the subtle realm the first glimpse into this dimension; that there’s more to the world than we can physically see.

Bliss Mantra & Meditation

A short mantra and meditation to experience the bliss body, this class invites you to experience joy as a felt sensation. As you take your seat, ask yourself, what does joy feel like in the body? How do I experience joy? You’ll join Clara to chant a mantra for bliss, Om Shri Anandaye Namaha. This mantra translates to the idea of recognizing and honoring the bliss we carry within. 

Om = primordial sound
Shri = blessings and salutations
Anandaye = bliss
Namaha = I bow to thee

How do the vayus work with energy?

CROThe values are how prana moves through the body. There are five directions of the vayus in terms of how energy moves.

Prana Vayu is the most vital direction of energy as prana represents the body’s life force. Prana refers to the inhalation, so its direction moves inward. We take in prana through our nose and mouth in the air we breathe, but prana is contained in all things. It’s in the water and food we consume, and prana is contained in how we see, hear, and feel the world around us. 

Samana Vayu is the assimilation of prana; its location is at the stomach and intestines as this vayus function is primarily digestion. It’s often associated with the solar plexus, Manipura chakra, and Agni—the digestive fire. 

Vyana Vayu moves energy outwards to the peripheries of the body; it moves in all directions to distribute the prana to all parts. It moves upwards and downwards, from side-to-side, and is centralized around the heart chakra to stimulate the lungs and respiration of breath. 

Apana Vayu moves downwards and is responsible for the exhalation and all down and outward movement of energy. Digestion, elimination, menstruation, ejaculation, and childbirth are all influenced by Apana.  

Udana Vayu moves upwards and is responsible for the inspiration; the inhale of the breath. Udana influences speech, song, and communication. 

ISThere are different levels of anatomy in the body; we have the physical body, and then we have the energy body. The energy body is more subtle, whereas the physical body is denser. The acupuncture meridians are connected to the physical body, while the chakras are connected to the subtle body. The energy moves differently through different systems and in different channels. 

We have the 12 main meridians with the acupuncture channels, and then we have the eight extra meridians. The 12 main meridians are related to our internal organs. The 12 standard meridians are divided into the Yin and the Yang groups. The Yin meridians are the lung, heart, pericardium, spleen, kidney, and liver. The Yang meridians are the large intestine, small intestine, triple burner, stomach, bladder, and gallbladder.

It’s cool because our bodies keep an internal clock where each organ and meridian has a two-hour time period where the energy is at its peak at that specific area. The energy, we call it qi in acupuncture, moves through the body in two-hour windows over the full 24-hour time period and shifts between the Yin and Yang energies. The organ functions best when the power is flowing and focuses on that point. In acupuncture, we tap into the energy flow and where the energy is focused to benefit the individual’s overall health.

How do you prepare to receive energy?

CROTo prepare, this means living my life with as much integrity as possible, because as we said, this energy shift can happen at any time. To the best of my ability, I take care of myself to get enough sleep, ensure I’m eating correctly, and stay hydrated. That’s what living with integrity looks like, on a fundamental level. 

When I’m healthy and feel good, it’s going to put me in a better state of mind to navigate anything that comes towards me or anything that shows up in my path. 

Other ways I take care of myself is to include some sort of daily mindful practice. Navel-gazing, meditation, yoga, playing with my little one; all are ways I take care of myself. 

ISI’m an introverted extrovert, meaning I can be very social, and I love connecting with people, but I can get zapped by all the energetic output. So I need to make space to retreat, to settle and ground in my own space. Or I go out into nature and spend time in the trees. 

Sitting and meditating, talking to plants, being in the stillness of nature, I am so blessed that I can live with this beautiful playground on the Squamish nations’ sacred ancestral land. Being in nature is one of the things that fill me up so that I can show up for people. 

What’s the AdiShakti Method?

ISThe AdiShakti Method integrates all the different modalities that I have studied for the past 20-years. It bridges Western Medicine with Eastern practices and traditional Chinese Medicine, with body-mind therapy. My focus of study has been primarily yoga and tantra. I merge a lot of tantric meditation with practices like yoga and Chi Gong. I also use a lot of herbal medicines, and I work a lot with plants. 

My goal is always to open the flow of energy for the person. We all create defense patterns to cope with our experience that may show up as blockages in the physical body. I believe that healing occurs on many levels, not only the physical body but also the emotional and spiritual body. I believe in integrating all the parts of the self, that this integration is necessary to heal. 

AdiShakti is a beautiful combination of all these different modalities. Depending on what the person arrives with, I have a toolkit of methods and practices to choose from based on my intuition, which will assist in the healing experience.  

Learn more about energy transformations and relaxing your body and mind through our vinyasa flow yoga, online yoga classes, or try out the 30 day yoga challenge and try something new.  Learn more about Clara’s 300 hour yoga teacher training OR 200 hour yoga teacher training courses.

I want people to remember their one true nature, to remember their divinity in this body, in this reality.

Alexis Anderson: The Beauty of Setting Boundaries

alexis anderson

Boundaries are a common theme in the world right now. There’s a global shift in how we introduce ourselves with personal pronouns, working from home,  socializing during the pandemic, and responses to cultural appropriation; each represents a way of setting boundaries to create experiences that make people feel safe. 

This week, we interviewed Alexis Anderson of Reiki with Lex. Topics we discussed were: the many ways we set boundaries, deal with energy vampires and create safe spaces for students and teachers of the craft. Alexis is a reiki master who teaches Holy Fire Reiki and hosts Holy Fire levels 1, 2, and the Master Level to aspiring teachers. 

“A boundary is knowing how to say no and owning it without guilt or shame. I became interested in setting boundaries because anytime I would say no, I would still be attached to the person and feel guilty; I would worry that the person would be mad at me. So when I think of boundaries, I think of being empowered to choose to say no without guilt.” – Alexis Anderson. 

Below are the highlights from our discussion. Please feel free to watch or listen to the full episode and join the #PracticewithClara Facebook Community discussion.

Meet Alexis Anderson

If you could be the sunrise or sunset, which would you choose and why? 

AASunrise, because I think the sunrise gives people hope and a sense of a new beginning. I would love to be that for people.

If you were to select a character to play your joy, who would you choose as an actor? 

AAJim Carey because of the wide range of emotions that he could portray. 

What’s one of your earliest childhood memories?

AAKindergarten, and It was like a bit of a traumatic experience. I was in French immersion, and I couldn’t pick up the language. I remember I couldn’t get the words, and the teacher shamed me, and I had to sit in the circle by myself.

The story that I started to tell myself was that I wasn’t smart, and it impacted how I moved through school. This shaped me because I’ve had to do much work around reversing the story I told myself about not being smart enough. 

alexis anderson

What is Holy Fire Reiki?

AAHoly Fire Reiki came about in 2014. It’s a modern version of the traditional Usui Reiki training. William Lee Rand pioneered Holy Fire Reiki. In March, when we went into quarantine, we had an energetic upgrade that allows master teachers to attune people from afar, over the internet. I had my attunement in March and have been teaching online ever since. 

I have Master Training in both Usui and Holy Fire Reiki. I love teaching Holy Fire, and I love how the practice is continually evolving so that we’re aware and keep up with the energetic shifts in the world.  

All living things have life force energy; plants, animals, humans. Reiki energy is channeled through the practitioner to serve the highest good of the person they’re healing or themselves.

Reiki aims to balance energy. Anything that comes up in terms of blockages, traumas, negative thoughts, or physical ailments, sometimes that energy is stuck, and Reiki serves to flow through the energy centers to bring more balance and harmony.

Reiki creates more plow, so when people leave a session, they often feel lighter, relaxed, and less stressed in the physical and emotional body. A lot of things can come up in terms of emotions because when the Reiki flows through, it can start to bring up the intense emotions that have been stuck.

What’s your definition of boundaries, and how do you set boundaries with others?

AA—A person with who I’ve had to set really firm boundaries is an incessant talker. I’m sure we all know those people who just talk and talk, and you just can’t get a word in edgewise. The boundary I’ve had to set with this person is I have to set limits on how long the conversation lasts, and it’s usually a phone call. I time the calls, and I know when I start to lose my energy. This person is an energy vampire—they suck the energy out of me when we talk, so I time the length of the call. After the time is up, I get off the phone; I wrap up the call to preserve my energy. 

For a highly sensitive person, empaths, or people-pleasers, energy vampires are challenging. Setting the boundary of wrapping up the conversation is hard because I don’t want to upset anyone, and I fear disappointment.

CROThe first one that comes to mind is definitely around teaching yoga. When I was much younger and had just started teaching, these women in their late forties would come to class and disrespect me, and give me a hard time. I think it was because of my age, at least that was the energy that they would put towards me. These women would talk over me, or they would take over the room energetically. It took me months to stand up to them and be assertive.

When I teach, if you don’t like what I’m offering, or it’s not serving you, I don’t have a problem. You can leave, but this is my room, and I’m teaching. This attitude took a long time to cultivate because it brings up a lot of stuff around self-worth and what I have to offer. 

This experience was essentially a boot camp for boundaries because there was also such a strong sense of entitlement coming from these women. It’s hard because some students think since they’re paying clients, they can do and say whatever they want. 

What’s your process for teaching teachers of the craft?

AAI think it’s essential to have an abundance mindset; that there’s room for all of us to be successful and to thrive. 

Those are questions I love to ask students, where do you thrive? Where does your intuition take you? Who do you want to serve? In Master Reiki Training, I ask students to discover what they want their niche to be and where they feel the magic. 

CROOne of my favorite quotes from my father is that we’re all bozos on this bus. Some of us may have been on the bus longer than others, but we’re still all riding the bus towards death.

When I’m teaching teachers, I always approach it with the idea that we’re co-creating this training together, and it’s always different because it’s based on who shows up and what questions are asked.

One of the big things I like to do is sit in a circle because, in a circle, there’s no hierarchy. We’re all offering the center and feeding each other from the center; I’m just facilitating the experience. I guide a general direction based on whatever it is I’m teaching, but how we get there depends on who shows up and what questions are asked. 

New class

Chakra Meditation

A meditation class that brings awareness to each of the main energy points, known as the chakras, that travel along the spine. In this class, you’ll use the power of visualization and breath to bring awareness to the chakras and the body’s inner landscape. Visualization is a powerful practice that develops awareness of the subtle body; through visualization, we move away from the physical, gross realm that we see, into the subtler realm of breath and energy that we experience through felt sensation. 

What do you hope students leave training with, other than a certificate?

CROA deeper trusting of their knowledge. One of the biggest things that I hope we create together in any training is a deeper relationship to intuition or empowerment. 

I want students to leave with knowledge of moving from a place of their inner power. I hope that we learn how to trust and also trust our instincts. As yoga teachers, we teach the physical poses, but what we’re doing is holding space for people to experience themselves. 

AAThe most significant thing would be trusting their intuition. That’s the one that comes up with Reiki because when people enter level one, many students don’t know what to expect. They want to learn about energy and how to heal themselves but are unsure of how it will go or what’s going to come up.

The biggest thing in classes is to follow your own guidance and intuition, and not go by the book. I hold space to allow students to come up with their answers; this makes the experience rich, and people come away from the class feeling connected and trusting.

What do you do with energy blockages?

CROWhenever I feel stuck or blocked energy, I don’t do anything with it. I feel my feet, and I connect to earth energy. Whenever I feel the energy shift, and it usually does because I tend to poke a little when I teach yoga, things tend to come up for people in the room.

Whenever I feel an energetic shift that’s heavy or blocked, I don’t do anything to change it. What I do is I feel my feet on the ground and connect to earth energy because the earth can take it; she supports us. The earth will be able to transform it into something useful. 

AAOne thing I learned very early on is how I’m not here to fix people. I’m not here to necessarily take away their pain, though I may want to. When I’m in a session, I’ll be intuitively guided to an area that might feel out of balance, and I’ll channel Reiki to that area, but my job isn’t to heal people. My job is to hold space for healing to occur. 

In the Reiki session, the hands might be placed on the shoulders or the head, but that doesn’t mean that that’s where the energy is going. Energy always flows to the area that serves the highest good of that person. The energy has its own intelligence. 

My hands could be on somebody’s shoulders, but they may feel it at their feet the whole time because they were receiving and clearing energy through the feet. So I don’t get attached to where my hands are placed in the session. Sometimes I’ll spend the entire session just in the auric field and stand further back from the client. I find that sometimes it’s more powerful not to touch. I send energy in the person’s direction, and they can receive it if they want it, any way they like. 

What are some of the things you do to stay clear and grounded before you teach?

CROI get very clear of my intention, what I’m arriving to do in the space, and honesty with how I feel that day in my body and mind.
I find that when I’m clear in my intention, I have a better understanding of what’s mine and what’s not mine; this is a question I often ask in terms of energy. What’s mine, what’s yours, and what’s ours? What is the exchange that we’re part of? 

Whenever I step into space, regardless of whether or not I’m teaching, it’s helpful to understand what’s mine. If things arise, if it’s mine, I can take responsibility and take care of myself and what’s happening. If it isn’t mine, I leave it and simply send loving energy. I always ask, what am I here to do, how do I want to be with people, and how do I feel? 

Susanne Mueller: Rediscover the Wisdom of the Body

susanne mueller

The gift of mindfulness practices is that we start to develop an ear to hear the body’s subtle messages. The body never lies, so if you want the real information, take the elevator downstairs out of the mind to feel what’s happening in the body. – Clara Roberts-Oss.

There are so many ways to nourish the bodya warm bath, sunshine, cozy blanket, yoga class, body lotion, a hug from a friend, all unique experiences to tantalize the senses and make us feel good. The so-called happy hormonesserotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphinsare released when we indulge in pleasing ourselves through various activities and affect the vital processes of the body, including heart rate, digestion, and how we feel. 

Food is one way we feed ourselves; it’s the most basic and primal form of caring for our bodies and caring for others. We create familial bonds through food, establish culture and community, and sustain the local environment and agriculture. Eating is a quick and easy way to attain instant gratification and make ourselves feel good after a long and tiring day. 

“Food is such an easy way to feel comforted because it’s instant gratification. We need it, and once we’ve eaten, there’s an immediate physical change. What was so interesting for me to observe in my youth,  was the emotional void or emptiness that I was feeling, and how I would eat something to fill that emotional void.” – Clara Roberts-Oss.

On October 1st, we launched Feed Your Whole Self—a 30-day yoga challenge— to feature all the ways we feed our body, mind, and spirit. This event focuses on highlighting all the ways we create pleasure and harmony within the body through movement, diet, community, and holistic practices such as acupuncture, that treat the physical and energetic body. 

This week, we had the pleasure of interviewing fellow yoga teacher and Holistic Nutritionist, Susanne Mueller of Undrgrnd Yoga. An empath and one who’s sensitive to those around her, Susanne used food to cope with the anxiety she felt growing up. Food became a means to manage extreme emotions before Susanne discovered yoga.  

Susanne’s work with clients in addressing eating patterns, diet, and the emotional inconsistencies creating habits around food that don’t serve the body. “As I continued practicing yoga, I noticed that my eating patterns softened, I felt calmer and began to make choices that felt better both with food and with life.” – Susanne Mueller. 

Read the highlights from our discussion below, or watch/listen to the full episode.

Meet Sussanne Mueller

I ventured into holistic nutrition and then eating psychology to better understand how and why so many struggle like me with food, eating, and their body. I now use this knowledge and experience to support others in finding more peace on their journey. – Susanne Mueller.

What’s your favorite season to prepare meals?

SMI prefer fall because I feel like it’s cozier with the rain, especially here where we live in British Columbia. I like squash and warm foods. Coming into the fall is really like an invitation to step into the kitchen.

What are the self-care practices you indulge in your family? 

SMSomething I like to do with everyone before we eat is to talk about one thing that we’re grateful for that day. I feel like that’s a great bonding experience. We enjoy family reading time before bed, where we all read the same book together. Right now, we’re reading Amelia Bedelia. 

susanne mueller

What has yoga taught you about your body?

SMWhen I started doing yoga, I realized what was happening around my relationship to food wasn’t alright. I began to feel like I needed to control what I was eating because I knew it wasn’t good for me. I didn’t want to binge eat anymore. It just didn’t feel good.

When I started practicing yoga, I became more aware of my body, and I wanted to change, but then the next stressor would come, and something would show up that I wouldn’t know how to deal with. Food was my fallback when I didn’t know how to manage stress. 

As I kept practicing yoga and my practice became more consistent, I saw how much better I felt and how I felt more comfortable in my body. There was this direct experience between what I was doing and how I felt. I didn’t need food anymore to make me feel good, because yoga made me feel good. 

I started to realize how food is just one of the ways we feed ourselves. We may think that food is the problem, but it’s really that we’re lacking in taking care of ourselves in other ways, and we use food to fill that void. 

CROWhen I was an emotional eater, I noticed how there’ was a void in one part of my life. Instead of trying to work with the void, we try to fill it up in a different way, and the easiest way is through food.

Food is such an easy way to feel comforted because it’s instant gratification. We need it, and once we’ve eaten, there’s an immediate physical change. What was so interesting for me to observe was the emotional void or emptiness that I was feeling, and how I would eat something to fill that emotional void.

SMThat’s a pretty intelligent response. We’re feeling low, or we’re feeling something, and we seek something to make us feel better. Food is meant to nourish and nurture us. Right from the beginning of our lives, we cry as a baby, and we’re comforted with milk, so we’re designed to seek pleasure and avoid pain. What’s important to remember as adults is that what’s happening is OK and that there’s nothing wrong with you. There may be something there to look at and explore, but essentially we are safe, and there’s nothing wrong with us. 

How do you introduce a more mindful approach through the body to clients?

CROOne of the coolest things that I’ve learned through mindful practices and yoga is how the body innately wants to heal itself. That’s its job, not only to survive and stay alive but to run at its most efficient form. I feel like sometimes, our minds get in the way, which is why following the current diet trends and fitness fads may take us away from what’s good for us. 

Asking how you want to feel is a great question to always start. How do you want to feel right now, and how do you want to feel moving forward?

When we ask these questions, not only around food, it also asks us to consider every detail and pay attention to each experience’s sensation. This way, we can better decide how to move forward in the best direction for ourselves, which includes consideration for the body.

We’re so bombarded by the media with images of how things should look, and so we move forward with that consideration from the mind. When really, we should be asking how we want to feel. Food is just one aspect of a bigger picture. 

SMExactly, in a way, it’s such a small piece. Sometimes I laugh with clients because we’ll go through a whole session, and we didn’t even talk about food. We’re taught to believe that food and our body is the problem. The message becomes, my body is the enemy or food is the enemy. A lot of people walk around with this mentality. I teach clients how our bodies aren’t against us; they’re there for us; they want to do all they can for us. 

We’ve been taught to live in our heads, so I ask clients to get into the body or any subtle feedback they may be experiencing. At the moment, it may just be that how you’re sitting is uncomfortable; that’s body feedback. That’s your body telling you what it needs. I want to address how to listen to the body and subtle feedback and manage it in a way that isn’t popping a pill or numbing the sensation. 

CROThe other thing that I think is so interesting is that when we feel something very intense in our body, it’s your body sending a really loud, really obvious message. The messages start subtle, but if you don’t listen, it gets louder and louder and more intense.

The gift of mindfulness practices is that we start to develop an ear to hear the body’s subtle messages. The body never lies, so if you want the real information, take the elevator downstairs out of the mind to feel what’s happening in the body. 

New class

Shiva Mantra

Call upon the power of Shiva to transform and transcend in this mantra and meditation class. Shiva, also known as The Destroyer, Is the patron saint of yoga, meditation, and the arts; his whole mission is to transform reality and transcend consciousness. Sit in meditation and observe before joining Clara for Shiva’s mantra, Aum Namah Shivaya, which translates to the idea that we bow to Shiva and the eternal Self as we continue to shift and transcend our current consciousness. 

How do the koshas relate to the body?

CROThe koshas are from Vedantic philosophy. Kosha usually translates as the sheath or the layers of ourselves going from the grossest to the most subtle.

The first and grossest kosha is the Annamaya kosha, being the physical body. It deals with all the things that we take in, such as what we feel and eat. 

The second kosha is Pranamaya kosha, being the layer just below. Pranamaya kosha is your energetic body. We work with this kosha through the body’s energy lines; in yoga, we call the energy lines nadis, and in TCM and acupuncture, they’re called meridians. 

The third kosha is Manomaya kosha, which represents your emotional body. It represents the mind and emotions, and who we think we are. 

The fourth kosha is the Vijnanamaya kosha, which represents the intuitive or wisdom body. 

The fifth kosha is Ananadamaya kosha, the bliss body, or what I like to call the soul. 

The practice of Vedantic yoga would be to deal with all of the layers; all the various bodies that contribute to the individual. Generally, we’re more preoccupied with one of the layers, so for example, for those of us preoccupied with the physical body, we would be working with Annamaya kosha. The koshas can be a gateway into your practice to connect you with that specific body, so for meditation, it would be a practice for Manomaya kosha. 

What do you hope to teach your children about body awareness?

SM I hope to teach them that their body is amazing, that all parts of their body are amazing, and that their bodies are really cool and not something bad. 

CRO I like to think of their body as a celebration, to think of her body as a celebration and a way to feel and to experience joy. We do a lot of dancing as a family, and I hope that my daughter gets into it because I feel like it’s such a beautiful way to celebrate and to connect to freedom.

SMWe have to remember that our kids are listening to us, but way more than that, they’re watching. And what they see is what they’re going to take in and internalize. We can tell them whatever we want, but it only goes so far until they see us doing it. 

What is your experience of seeing versus being present in the body?

CRO I’ve never enjoyed looking in the mirror, and the reason is that I find it very distracting. I feel like it’s always taken me out of my experience. What I feel and what I see are never the same thing, and I used to find that very upsetting. 

I studied dance for a long time, but I didn’t dance to be a professional dancer. I dance because I love moving. I remember in school, when we were doing the choreography, how I felt, how free I felt. When I would look at the videos of myself dancing that we had to watch afterward, I would cry because of how I felt and what I saw were two different things. 

I eventually came not to care because I’m not trying to perfect my technique; I’m there to dance my heart out. To this day, I prefer yoga studios that don’t have mirrors in them because I don’t want to see what I look like. I want to feel it.

SMIf there were a mirror in the first yoga class that I did, I would have never gone back. I think it would have been way too confronting because, already, I felt so awkward. I think how many people likely don’t come back, just because they didn’t want to look at themselves in practice.

Yoga isn’t about how it looks, it helped me feel good, but you can’t see that from the outside. It’s like Clara said, yoga is all about the feeling that it brought for me. 

Learn more about Clara’s 300 hour yoga teacher training OR 200 hour yoga teacher training courses.

Celebrating the Cycles: Interview with Sara Jade

celebrating the cycles SJ

Autumn asks that we turn inward. As we enter the colder months, we might use this time to reflect on the months past and the final months of the year ahead. The outer environment’s darkness provides space to focus on our inner landscape to see how and where we may shift to discover a more profound sense of alignment. Alignment occurs when we come into an agreement within and with the world around us. Alignment is possible when we move from a space of integrity; when we ask questions and examine our lifestyle to see whether or not we’re moving in the direction we intended. Alignment also means receiving change. When we’re open and receptive to the changes in the world around us, we come into harmony with the universe. 

Nature is symbolic of inner transformation. The transition into fall symbolizes a season of harvest and of letting go. Resisting the swift shift into the next phase results in inner turmoil; what we resist, persists. Witnessing the cycles of the seasons is a practice of reception and allows events to sweetly unfold with a sense of surrender and assurance that all things come to pass.

The breath is one way yogis work with the process of letting go; the inhale is the inspiration and creation, while the exhale represents death and surrender. In Indian mythology, the deities represent specific energies that contribute to the cycles of change. The Tridevi and the Trimurti, specifically, express the cycles of Creation, Preservation, and Destruction, which are all necessary to the evolution of the universe.

Clara and I interviewed Sara Jade, or SJ, to discuss how we celebrate nature’s cycles and how to use ritual to create alignment and inner harmony. Sara is a Kundalini teacher and co-owner of The Dharma Temple living in Vancouver, BC. “My life is a spiritual practice. My breath, body emotions, and environment create my sacred space. I hold what I have with deep respect and reverence. I love and nurture through cycles of joy and grief.” – Sara Jade. 

SJ is offering an Inner Harmony Workshop with tools and practices to shift into Autumn. At Practice with Clara, we launched a 30-Day Yoga Challenge, Feed Your Whole Self, for October. Feed Your Whole Self is a ritual to explore the many ways we feed ourselves spiritually, physically, emotionally, and mentally. Ritual, sacred space, and ceremony come in many forms, so we hope to introduce members in the challenge to a wide assortment of tools and practices in hopes that something will align and encourage a state of groundedness as we shift into the darkness.

Read the highlights from our discussion below, or watch/listen to the full talk with Sara Jade.

Introducing Sara Jade and the Inner Harmony Workshop

Inner Harmony is meant to be a supplementary practice for autumn with videos that include breath and movement. I provide simple tools that have worked for me to offer that individuals may choose what they want and practice when and how they want. It’s more of an offering to create your ritual. I share what my practices look like and how to do them, but there’s no set way to do it. I wanted this workshop to be more about exploring the shift of seasons and discovering your intuition, so finding what works for you and making it your own. 

One way I honor the shift into fall, and something that I offer students is to slow down. To allow yourself to turn more inward and notice the stark contrast between the extroverted summer energy and what we’re experiencing now. 

I’ve started to consolidate and revisit some of the things I shelved during summer. My practices have slowed down. As far as breath, I’ve been doing a lot of Nadi shodhana, alternate nostril breathing, and longer exhales. Longer exhales to calm and come into rest and digest. 

This program, overall, really asks the practitioner to honor what serves. Much of my work is a practice of surrender, acknowledging what I can do to ground and stay connected. I wanted to provide a space for others to step into their ceremony of self to rediscover ritual and sacred space.

Follow Sara Jade on Instagram, @radianceandritual

sara jade blog interview

Honoring the cycles in the practice

SJ—Much of what was offered in The Dharma Temple reflects my practices, which use Ayurveda and working with the elements. My approach is reflective of the cycles we see in the seasons and how they shift and change. Inner Harmony embraces the aspect of living with the seasons and aligning with the cycles, the cycles being life and death, and everything in between. 

CROIn terms of Indian philosophy, from the Hindu Pantheon, the cycles of life are presented in the form of deities. There’s the masculine aspect with the Trimurti and the feminine aspect with the Tridevi. In the Trimurti, we have Shiva, Brahma, and Vishnu. In the Tridevi, we have Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Durga. Each of the deities represents a part of the universe; they represent the beginning, middle, and end. 

Brahma and Saraswati represent the creation of the universe, Vishnu and Lakshmi represent the preservation of the universe, and Shiva and Durga represent the destruction of the universe. For the universe to exist, we need all three. 

When we work with the deities in yoga or mindfulness practices, we ignite these different aspects within ourselves. In the creation, we bring in new energy to start new projects or relationships; in the preservation, we develop the ability to sustain whatever it is we’re moving through; and in the destruction, we energetically shed whatever it is that’s holding us back. 

We’re moving from the light into the darkness. This period is a time for introspection and an opportunity to go inside and observe what’s there and what needs to be harvested and what needs to die. 

The other question I like to chew on, is what is my role in all of the chaos?  What is my relationship to what’s going on inside me, and what’s going on globally for us as a collective? We all play a part in the events that occur. There’s so much happening right now; there are so many shifts occurring in the world at large. I’m asking myself what I want my role to be and how I want to create change inside my household and community. 

And then the next question is, what do I want my role to be? And, and how do I want to create 

Space for ceremony and tea as the teacher

SJ—Tea ceremony came into my life about four years ago. The first time I sat, I felt so calm. I love tea ceremony for its simplicity; it serves everyone. If you go into anyone’s home, there’s a chance that you’re going to be served a cup of tea, and it’s this beautiful gesture of generosity from the heart. 

Tea has this innate quality as being the teacher. There is no hierarchy; that’s what I love about tea. There’s no one person on the podium leading the practice. It’s just leaves in a bowl of water that’s served, so we are working with the elements and connecting to nature. That’s a teaching if you know how to sit with it and read it and be receptive to the experience. 

When we opened The Dharma Temple, I had a toddler and was very busy with being a mom and the studio. I had to wear many hats, and sometimes, I wouldn’t make it to my mat or even to meditation. I struggled to balance my inner energies, the masculine and feminine, one being more focused and achievement-based, while the latter is a state of intuition and ease. The way that I began to rebalance these energies within me was through tea. Tea was a powerful instrument for me to slow down and take more time and space for myself; to tune into my receptivity and the softer, feminine space. 

Tea ceremony is similar to a Zen-style meditation. It’s silent, and you do one thing at a time. You pick something up in one hand and pass it to the other hand before setting it down on the table. It’s a very intentional, mindful practice, and also very engaged. It also works with spiral energy as you serve others, you move in circles from the heart coming in and out. So you’re really connecting with your guests in a shared experience. I fell in love with it. It was what I needed and is still a huge piece of my day and who I am. 

Many things take our energy, and we really need to simplify and take a good look at what we’re doing and all we have. I like to ask myself, what am I really grateful for in this space right now? Tea ceremony made me more aware of the spaces around me; it opened me up to healing. Tea is the teacher, and it prompted me to examine how if things are not adding to my life, they’re taking away. So I ask you, where in your life do you feel that things are not adding to what you want to create? 

How we create sacred space

SJ—Ceremony to me is a means to induce a change of state, almost like a marker to reflect the change of state. The process of ceremony is like you come in on one side, and then you’re not the same on the other when the ceremony ends. That’s a yoga class; if you can use the act of stepping onto your mat as a ceremony, and once the class has ended, you’ve changed your present state from how you felt at the beginning of class. 

Sacred space for me, is where you claim it. It’s similar to the space I create for the tea ceremony; it’s all in the intention you bring to the space. Ceremony is sacred as it creates a transition in the day, that moment when we decide that whatever our actions will be, are sacred. It’s as simple as that, really. I don’t think there needs to be incense or bells; it’s about the moment that you create for yourself. The moment is sacred because you’ve carved out the time and space and set the intention. The intention being to transition from the mundane to the sacred. 

CROI feel like it’s a decision, the decision to shift gears. It’s the biggest one for me to shift my mindset, and this generally starts for me with a deep breath. I make the decision, close my eyes, and take a deep breath, and as I exhale, I envision I’m letting go of the mundane and what came before. I focus on letting go to bring myself to the present moment. Sometimes it involves lighting a candle. 

I like to burn something in the room and envision that the smoke is literally clearing away the room’s energy. Before I teach my morning intensives or teach a training, I’ll burn something as a way to clear. I think the way that we start creating sacred spaces is through the decisions we make, through the breath, and then through clearing the space in some way, shape, or form.

SJEnergy sweeping is another way to clear, through physically sweeping the room with a broom or energetically sweeping the body by brushing the arms and legs. This is a way to prepare before stepping into the sacred.

CROSacred space is a decision; I think the biggest takeaway for listeners is that sacred space is a decision you make that you can take with you anywhere. It’s in the way you wash dishes, eat food, or walk down the street. 

The idea of the sacred is to come to the present moment. To arrive here and now, and allow everything else to fall away just for a little while.

On letting go with grace

SJ—By nature, I want to hold on. I love my people. I love my things. I really savor those things.  I can really speak to the letting go and letting go of the physical space of Dharma temple; that’s the largest piece that I had to let go of recently and was a big loss. Dharma Temple represented a creative portal that I poured my energy into for the last four years. It was a container for the community. With the way things shifted and ended due to the pandemic, it was so abrupt; there was so much to let go of all at once. 

When we let things fall, it’s like the leaves fall to the trees being supported by the earth. And I hold onto that image, that the earth is there for you and we are supported. The practice is to let go and have trust, to surrender to the process, and be held for a time. There will be a time to regenerate and create something new, but letting go comes first and we have to rest when it does. Receive the rest and digest represented in the fall and winter; the letting go is expressed in nature’s cycles. 

I feel like I’ve got the sustenance, I’ve got the nourishment that I need to go forward with respect to letting go.

Grief is not linear. Grief needs continuous movement. It comes up at weird times, and I haven’t had the opportunity, like many others, to visit community spaces to share the grief we carry. There’s still a lot of grief around letting go of the Dharma Temple. There’s still more to let go, so I’m continuing to move through that. 

New yoga class

Sweet Hips

Unwind with a hip-focused class to treat the legs and pelvis; this class brings length and ease to the adductors, hamstrings, and glutes. Fluid and slower-paced, this class features rhythmic movement using the arms and legs to stimulate the flow of prana (breath) through the body. Stay low to the ground for a reclined spinal twist flow, hip mandalas, and abdominal crunches. Come up to sit for Janu Sirsasana (head-to-knee forward bend) and a supported variation of Paschimottanasana (forward fold). 

A Practice for Self-Inquiry: Interview with Carolyn Anne Budgell

meditation - interview

In an interview with Carolyn Anne Budgell, we share the benefits of developing a practice of meditation and self-inquiry. 

Honoring the practices and people who assist our spiritual transformation is more important than ever before, considering the pandemic’s lingering trauma. This week, we sat down with fellow yogi and meditation teacher, Carolyn Anne Budgell, to discuss the benefits of mantra, meditation, personal reflection, and slower-paced yoga classes. 

Carolyn’s been teaching yoga and mindfulness practices for over a decade and has co-taught various workshops, retreats, and yoga teacher training with Clara in locations worldwide. Coming from diverse backgrounds and yet arriving at a similar goal, Carolyn and Clara share a passion for self-inquiry; they provide students with a well-rounded practice that asks tough questions to acknowledge the fear and lack of control over events in the world. 

“A question I’m asking right now is, how can I divert my mind from focusing on fear? There’s way more fear and anxiety within us and around us right now, more so than ever before; the fight or flight system is heightened in all of us. I understand how my questions affect my brain and my body, which is why I get more excited about the questions that I’m deciding to focus on.” – Carolyn Anne Budgell.

In the podcast episode, Clara and Carolyn share the questions they’re currently sitting with, how self-reflection impacts the mind and nervous system, and what kind of questions they pose for students. They also expanded on the people and practices who inspire, and what they’re offering their communities in terms of online or retreat-style yoga and meditation classes. 

Highlights from the discussion are below, or you can listen to the full episode.

Introducing, Caroyln Anne Budgell

What’s one of the lessons your daughter has taught you?

CarolynOne of the most recent lessons is how to allow for joy and just allow myself to feel worthy of joy. 

Name a few teachers who’ve inspired your meditation practice. 

CTara Brach would be one because she has a really sweet way of weaving in research and education and speaking to all hearts. 

Michelle St. Pierre used to live on Hornby Island and had a nice space that we would go to. She was one of the first people who inspired me to meditate and to inquire.

My family, all of the members of my family. 


What's your process for self-inquiry?

CMy question right now is, who am I becoming? That’s one of them. Who am I becoming, and what else is possible?

Another question I’m asking is, how can I divert my mind from focusing on fear? There’s way more fear and anxiety within us and around us right now, more so than ever before. The flight or flight system is really strong right now, and it’s heightened in all of us. I understand how my questions affect my brain and my body, which is why I get more excited about the questions that I’m deciding to focus on. 

I keep asking myself, what could I replace with fear? And what comes up a lot now is wishing others well. What happens for others affects me, so  I feel like if others around me are well, or if at least I wish them well, this has a direct impact on me and how I feel. So I wish others well.

The questions I used to ask started very simple like, how can I love myself more? Now it’s evolved into, what am I becoming? More around the process of self-discovery. I think this is the beauty of almost reaching my forties. I’m really excited for this decade.

ClaraAs a new mom, I’m discovering how what was working before is not working now. I’ve been stepping back and observing because all I was doing and asking before isn’t working anymore. 

My process has been around the inquiry of, can I step back and just watch? Instead of following my first instinct of doing something, can I do nothing and wait and see if the answer arises? 

There’s been a lot of grief and sadness around letting the old part of myself go; there is a part of me that’s dying right now. I’m just witnessing and honoring that. My practice has been stepping back and observing and being with the fear that’s arising within me lately, due to what’s going on in the world and the transition within my life, and doing nothing about it. 

The questions I used to ask had to do a lot more around rage and anger. These very intense energies still move through me, but they don’t drive the bus anymore. My question has always been around managing intense emotions: how can I work with these two very strong energies in a productive versus destructive way?

meditation for compassion
New class: 
Mantra for Compassion (15-mins) Meditation

Create and connect to inner quiet through mantra; join Clara for the simple practice of chanting to feel calm and grounded. This mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum, is a Buddhist chant that translates from Sanskrit as, “Praise to the Jewel in the Lotus.” It’s said that the entire teachings of Buddha are contained in this six-syllable mantra. Ideal for beginners, repeat this phrase to simmer in the sweetness of vibration, clear the mind, and release negative karmas. 


How is your practice of self-inquiry reflected in what you offer students?

CROI haven’t been teaching publicly, but I have been shooting content for the Practice with Clara Site. The classes I’m creating are very slow, methodical, and simple. My meditation practice is super simple. I’m not making anything complicated right now.

CInitially, when we were in quarantine, I was teaching live meditations every day. The response and the community that gathered every day was really sweet. I feel that people realize more than ever now that they need more slowness.

We need to do more reflection. This has been the ultimate test, the test of no control, like what you do when you don’t have control over the world you thought you had?

This is the process that we’re all working towards; those slow weeks at the beginning of the pandemic were challenging and awful and devastating, but also important. We need those slow times, which is what’s showing up for me. I’m teaching publicly in studios, and I’m also teaching on Bowen Island, like twice a month now, and host day-long retreats. And it’s interesting because the people who show up want to be in nature. They want to be still and inquire. 

There’s a big shift, and I want to be able to access those who don’t meditate; I want to make meditation more available for everyone.

yoga teachers vancouver

How would you describe your meditation practice?

CI just recently really started reflecting upon some of the larger issues around appropriation and how it feels bringing Sanskrit into the practice.  I’ve never studied Sanskrit, and it’s not a passion of mine. I’ve never been to India. And I don’t think that I have to go to a certain country to honor and respect the traditions and the language, but I know in my heart that it’s not something that gets me super excited. 

What does get me excited is like talking about neuroses and emotions and conscious parenting. I’d rather focus on what gets me excited than be resentful or harp on the negative, so instead, I’m focusing on what does work for me. When I’m teaching, I want to make it grounding for me as well. So I ask, how can I also make this practice simple for myself, so that after a class, I feel like I’ve had a well-rounded teaching experience and also make it well-rounded for the group.

I want to make things as real and relevant as possible to people who might otherwise be really turned off of yoga because, to some people, yoga seems like only spiritual people can show up to practice. I’ve just been thinking for like two or three years, how can I make this accessible?

I’m not going to make assumptions; I just want to follow my heart. For me, the practice and the offering is meditation in a really simple language. All the things that I’ve practiced and studied over the years have profoundly impacted where I am now in the best way possible. I remember I used to chant at home alone with my Mala beads; at the time, it was such a healing practice for me to do that.

It’s like an interesting time because we want to get as many people to do yoga as possible. So part of me is like, well, whatever brings us to yoga, and whatever gets us excited about yoga is awesome. Whether it’s the physical or chanting, or because you think your teacher is cute. 

I’ve even been wrapping my head around the word, Namaste, and questioning if I really understand the context of what Namaste means? There’s a working definition and in India, there’s a really simple way that people use the word Namaste, but then there’s also a more profound definition.

CROFrom my first yoga class onwards, there was always a mantra. And every class that I went to for like the first five years that I did yoga, we chanted for 20-minutes every single time. That was the standard. I used to sing in a choir, so I really enjoyed being a part of something sharing the voice with a group of seventy people with a harmonium. As Carolyn said, it really fed my soul, and I really needed it at that point. 

When I started teaching,  I dived really deep into it and got into a lot of the more complicated mantras. But I’ll say in the last year or two; it’s shifted again in terms of coming back to simplicity. And I generally only lead mantras that are a few syllables. Sometimes I bring it in longer mantras, but generally, it’s just one line, and it’s more about getting lost in the cadence of sound.

And that’s what I’ve been really exploring in my own practice. When I work with a mantra, I focus on the sound, not necessarily a meaning. And that’s what I’ve always loved about chanting, and Sanskrit is that I don’t have a very personal, intimate relationship with it, so the way that it was taught to me is to just enjoy actually the sounds themselves, the way that it kind of creates and reverberates in the body.

I find, especially if the mantra is only a couple of syllables, it has a tranquil quality to it. Through the sound, there’s an opening. I did the mantra on my own, and then I would sit in meditation because I found it really prepared me to sit. 

Touching on the piece in terms of cultural preparation. It’s a conversation that I’ve been really excited about in the yoga community; instead of receiving something blindly and saying, yes, this is what we’re all going to do, you know, to ask the question of why are we doing it? What does it mean to us and how, what is my relationship with the culture, the practices, or the philosophy? How do I create or make it my own? I think it’s important to observe before you take something in and to ask the question, what is my relationship to this? 

More About Carolyn

Carolyn fell into yoga in 1999, while living the ski bum dream in Whistler. It initially provided agility for her snowboarding, skateboarding, and trail running. Now, as a teacher in Vancouver, she continually learns how to connect with others and feel at home in one’s skin. The magic of yoga surprisingly grows quieter; towards a place where the physical, the internal, the spectacle, and the witness are all one.

Carolyn’s past career was outdoors, in environmental restoration for Environment Canada and BC Wildlife Federation. Since completing her first 200-hour YTT in 2008, she has an extensive CV: as a contributing writer for My Yoga Online and Halfmoon Yoga, filming videos with lululemon and Mala Collective, a presenter at Wanderlust Whistler Festivals, as an educator for international Teacher Training with Lila Vinyasa School of Yoga and Semperviva Yoga, managing yoga studios and guiding students through the mind-blowing practice of just being while in silent meditation intensives. 

Carolyn’s vinyasa classes are chock-full of unique alignment cues, smart sequencing, helpful touch, and lighthearted jokes to which she pays gratitude to Schuyler Grant, Ana Forrest, and Clara Roberts-Oss.  Her passion for silent meditation in forests is thanks to Adyashanti and Michelle St Pierre.   The many years of ‘being on stage’ as a teacher have shown her the importance of stepping back in order to let life happen… to do the work, connect to breath, change the perspective by going upside down, honour the emotions, and then let life continue to happen… and to remember, it’s all okay, it’s all manageable.