Zefea Samson shares her personal journey in her yoga practice post baby.
How can use the wall to explore your Standing Bow? Evolation co-founder Zefea shares her best advice.
There’s two common mistakes that are often seen in this posture.
Externally-rotating the hip too much, on the side that’s kicking back.
Not kicking back enough before bringing the upper body down.
For mistake #1, stand sideways, with your right arm and leg against the wall. Grab your right foot with your right hand, and raise your left arm in the air to prepare to kick back. As you slowly kick back, try to keep your entire right leg (especially the knee) against the wall until you reach full extension. You may feel you can’t kick back as much, but this prevents you from externally rotating the hip too much, so that you can really feel the benefits of the spine twist in this posture. Then repeat on the other side!
For mistake #2, stand with the front side of your body pressing against the wall. Grab your right foot behind you, and raise your left arm straight up, pressing the palm and chin on the wall. Now try kicking back and up into your hand. You will probably feel a lot of restriction as you kick back, but this allows for much more of a backbend, strengthening those muscles. Now repeat on the other side!
No question, it can be difficult to transition back into school mode after the summer months. Did you know that a regular yoga practice is proven to improve concentration, focus, and overall wellbeing? Not only that, but yoga, meditation and mindfulness are known to relieve anxiety and depression, and be greatly beneficial to stress management.
We compiled some of our favourite easy yoga poses to improve brain power and study like a pro. If you or your kids are heading back to school this fall, try incorporating some of these into a daily routine!
1. Half Tortoise
This posture is said to be equivalent to an 8-hour sleep. With your head is below your heart in this pose, it's technically an inversion! So if you have trouble with inversions for any reason, Half-Tortoise is a great alternative to receive those calming benefits. By increasing cerebral blood flow, this pose provides maximum relaxation to the entire body and mind.
2. Balancing Stick
This posture works every muscle, stimulating the heart, improving balance and endurance. Best of all, it's great for enhancing memory and concentration.
3. Shoulder Stand
One of the most accessible inversions, this pose is known as the "queen of all yoga postures". It can be held for 30 seconds or 30 minutes. Stimulating the thyroid gland, this pose relieves stress and depression by regulating hormone production. It has a soothing effect on the parasympathetic nervous system to help stabilize your mood and promote deep sleep.
4. Spine Twist
B.K.S. Iyengar describes spine twists as a "squeeze and soak" action; they compress organs and glands, and once released, allows clean, oxygenated blood to refresh the tissues. This action stimulates circulation and has a cleansing, healing effect. Opening up the shoulders, chest, and back releases stored tension which in turn decreases feelings of anxiety.
5. Downward Facing Dog
One of the most widely-recognised yoga poses, this one gives us an overall, rejuvenating stretch that improves brain function and cognition. With increased blood flow to the top of the body, down-dog gives you an energy boost and clears your mind. And finally, this posture also releases any tension in the neck and spine to prevent headaches and manage stress!
6. Seated or Standing Forward Bend
Forward bends are all about soothing your nerves. As it stretches and releases the entire backside of your body, it also allows for blood flow to the brain to relieve stress and fatigue. If you suffer from headaches, asthma, insomnia or anxiety, try incorporating forward bends into your daily life.
7. Alternate Nostril Breathing
This is a simple but extremely powerful practice we stand by to restore balance when things are overwhelming. It serves to regulate the flow of air through your nasal passages and restores balance in the left and right hemispheres of the brain, clearing energetic channels. Learn how to do this breathing exercise here.
Alternate Nostril Breathing, or Nadi Shodhana is a simple but extremely powerful practice to restore balance when life get overwhelming. Did you know that Hillary Clinton practiced this breathing exercise to relieve stress and anxiety following the 2016 presidential election? Alternate Nostril Breathing serves to regulate the flow of air through your nasal passages and restores balance in the left and right hemispheres of the brain, clearing energetic channels. By practicing this breath regularly, you can effectively bring a renewed sense of clarity to your everyday life.
Just as the activities of the mind influence the breath, so does the breath influence our state of mind. ~T. K. V. Desikachar
How To Practice Alternate Nostril Breath:
- Find a comfortable cross-legged seated position. Take a moment to ground yourself, and place you left hand on your left knee.
- Hover your right thumb over your right nostril, and your right pinky-finger over your left nostril.
- Close your right nostril with your thumb, and inhale deeply through your left nostril. When you reach the top of the inhale, close both nostrils and hold the breath for 3 seconds.
- Keep the left nostril closed and exhale completely through the right nostril. At the end of your exhale, inhale again through the right nostril.
- At the top of your inhale, close both nostrils and hold for 3 seconds.
Practice this breath regularly to lower stress, improve cardiovascular and lung function, lower heart rate, and give you an overall sense of peace and wellbeing.
Camel Pose, Ustrasana. Sometimes just hearing the name can make me feel lightheaded. When I started practicing, my friend and I used to give each other a knowing look of fear whenever the instructor would announce this dreaded posture. I can vividly remember one class, a few months into my yoga practice, where I was finally starting to feel much stronger as I set up for camel pose. It wasn't until I layed down in savasana immediately afterwards, I started crying. I laid there, shocked, confused and overwhelmed with emotion. Any possible causes of stress or sadness in my life flipped through my mind, but nothing stood out. I wiped my eyes and carried on with my practice, and the feelings faded away with my breath.
Perhaps you've had a similar experience. It's common to feel dizzy, nauseous, or emotional in this deep backbend. But why?
In our society, we're often found slouched over our laptops, phones, and desks... This posture is opening our body up to the complete opposite range of motion, an opportunity that is rarely found outside of a yoga studio. Although this expression is tremendously healing for our spines, it can feel anything but. We hold a lot of tension in our chest, physically and emotionally, while Camel Pose stretches and opens up the whole front side of the body.
If you think about it, our body's natural reaction to danger is to curl inward; rounding our shoulders and upper spine, tucking our chin to our chest... similar to fetal position. This is done to protect our neck and chest, the most vulnerable areas of our body. When we bend backwards and expose these spaces we normally protect, it's forces us into a very vulnerable position. Personally, I feel more mind-body connection in this pose than any other.
Camel pose is a heart-opener. The Heart Chakra (Anahata) is said to be tied to your sense of compassion, love, acceptance and forgiveness. This posture encourages us to open up in those areas of our life. To find new space, get comfortable with our emotions, and live life with an open heart. So next time you're in camel pose, don't shy away. Take a moment to breathe deeply, and enjoy whatever arises.
Stop the words now.
Open the window in the centre of your chest,
and let the spirits fly in and out.
Evolation co-founder Zefea Samson has had quite the dynamic yoga journey. She had her first experience with yoga at age 4, when her parents practiced with renowned teacher Angela Farmer in the Iyengar tradition. In her twenties, Zefea started practicing Bikram yoga in her hometown Amsterdam, and graduated from Bikram's Teacher Training in 2005. Following her teacher training, the next chapter in her life focused on competing. She represented the Netherlands as the Dutch gold medalist three times in the International Yoga Championships, finishing in the world's top 10 not once, but three times!
Later, Zefea and Mark founded Evolation Yoga in a desire to evolve the way the Primary Hot series is passed on and to focus on a collective and community approach. Almost ten years, 2 children, and 100 trainings later, it's safe to say Zefea's practice has changed over the years. Change is inevitable, in life and on that mat. What we have more control over is how we choose to perceive those changes; whether good, bad, or simply something to embrace.
Zefea is currently in Berlin training our yogis in their 250-hour certification. Saturdays during trainings are reserved for something we call "expand class"; a chance to explore the full 84-posture series, from which the regular 26-posture class was born. These classes are a way to have fun and expand on the basic practice with other sequences and routines. Zefea shared her thoughts on this week's expand class, and in particular, her experience with full-cobra pose...
'Some postures were once a given. Now, ten years and two children later, sometimes my legs feel like rocks and my hips often cry. And on other days my spine sings and my heart smiles and I am pleasantly surprised this is still accessible to me. I'm grateful for every posture and take nothing for granted.
"With yoga you are practicing your wholeness. Your wholeness includes your scars, your weakness, your mood swings, the days of your life you'd rather pull the covers up over your head and stay in bed. Yoga is the practice of peeling away labels of good and bad an embracing whatever form of beauty you bring to the mat each day." -Liz Huntly'
If you’re reading this blog, I would guess that you’re interested in becoming a certified yoga teacher. Maybe you’re extremely passionate about your practice, but feeling hesitant to apply for a Yoga Teacher Training. You might be asking yourself, “Am I really qualified for this? Can I do this? Is my practice strong enough?”.
These questions are completely normal. Doubt is common. Rather than resisting the doubt, it can often be easier to accept it. One philosophy we like to live by is this:
If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives. -Lemony Snicket
Here are a few signs you should take the plunge and apply for your YTT.
1. You share your practice with others.
You may as well be an ambassador for your local studio, with all the friends and family you bring in. When a loved one complains to you about stress, stiffness, or sore joints, you know exactly what to do... Drag them to yoga! Or at the very least, preach the benefits. You genuinely want to help those around you.
2. Yoga has improved your life or made you a better person.
Your practice creates balance in your life, and you can feel it when you don’t practice for a while. Maybe yoga makes you feel more connected and more at peace with yourself, and the world around you. You recognize how it enhances your physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing.
3. You want more.
Maybe classes seem to be going by quicker than when you began practicing. Sometimes a class doesn’t quite feel like enough. You’ve started to search out ways to deepen your practice, whether it be from yoga and philosophy books, workshops, or personal research. And you love it!
4. You’re prepared to grow.
A Yoga Teacher Training is one of the most transformative experiences you can go through. With hours of daily practice, meditation and learning, you’re definitely going to go through some changes, externally and internally. And that’s something that you’re open to.
5. Yoga goes beyond hobby or workout for you -- it’s a lifestyle.
Your practice means a lot to you. It’s not something you do, it’s something you are. I’ts a part of your character, and you’re glad for that.
From New York to Norway...
Evolation is thrilled to be heading to Scandinavia for the first time! This October 2018, we will be hosting a 250-hour hot YTT in the beautiful city of Bergen, Norway. Located on the Southwest coast in the heart of Fiord region, it's no question why this stunning location is on UNESCO's World Heritage list. A historic city with strong cultural spirit and views of the North Sea & towering Fjords, Bergen is the perfect Scandinavian location for this extraordinary yoga experience.
Svanhild Hausberg is an Evolation graduate from a little island just off Bergen, called Sotra. She teaches at Hot Yoga Bergen, the studio where our training will take place. We asked Svanhild her favorite thing about her home country.
"What I really love about Norway is the climate, the changes in the seasons, the fresh air, clean water, and the fact that we live in peace. Bergen is just big enough and has seven beautiful mountains surrounding it. When the sun is shining, it is the most beautiful place."
When asked about teaching at her home studio of Hot Yoga Bergen, she said,
"It is great. So many dedicated students. I love entering the hot room, feeling the energy, and just being present. I love the stillness, the challenging work, the balance, the breath, the discipline, and when my students smile and manage to slow down."
Finally, we asked Svanhild about her experience training with Evolation.
"For me, it has been life changing, and I finally found my voice. It was both tough, fun, scary and very educational."
During this 250-hour, 4-week immersion training, you will be fully equipped to teach Hot 26+2 classes and will be qualified for your RYT 200 Hour Certification through Yoga Alliance. Study and practice alongside a small group of other likeminded aspiring yogis, while creating friendships and bonds that can last a lifetime. Take this chance to dive deep into the physical asana, meditation, and yoga philosophy.
Click here for registration, dates, and details. We look forward to practicing and learning with you!
Today we are excited to announce that we will be hosting our first 250-hour yoga teacher training at Hot Yoga Lake Placid!
September 16 - 30, 2018
April 22 - May 18, 2019
Choose from either of these dates to train for your certification in either hot yoga or vinyasa flow. Expand your knowledge and practice, learn from world-class teachers, and embark on a transformational journey.
Many yogis find it very special to train within nature, tucked away from your regular life, so you can let go and focus all your energy on deepening your knowledge and reaching your highest potential. In Lake Placid, you can study among the trees, overlooking the beautiful mountain range, and spend your time off walking through the woods or around Mirror Lake.
Kristin Perry, Evolation alumni is the wonderful owner of Hot Yoga Lake Placid. Her space is a beautiful boutique studio in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. Kristin completed her first training back in 2012 in Santa Barbara California. We asked her a few questions about her yoga journey...
What is "yoga" to you?
Love, balance, movement and unity.
How do you incorporate yoga into your everyday life?
The balance aspect resonates with me on every level. Everything from balance with home and work, balance with diet, to balance on the mat, and everything between. It's such an important aspect of life.
What do you feel was the best aspect of your training with Evolation?
Working so closely with my teachers Mark and Zefea.
What are you most passionate about?
If you've ever done your yoga teacher training, it's hard to explain the experience to someone else, because there's simply nothing like it. Have you ever wondered what it's like to be right smack in the middle of it? Gina Anderson, recent Evolation graduate, shares a day in the life.
Evolation Yoga encourages journalling during our trainings because it's a great way to track your day-to-day progress. We often have journalling workshops to help you perfect this tool that so many yogis carry with them beyond their trainings.
If you're interested in applying for your yoga teacher training, this can be an insight into what you can expect. If you've already completed your certification, perhaps it'll bring you back to those transformational days of your yoga teacher training...
250 hour Flow Training - Buffalo, New York - June 4th-30th
Day 7 (June 11th 2018)
It’s the beginning of the second week! I’m learning so much, every day. And everything is fascinating!
Today during Posture Mechanics we discussed the Sun Salutations – Surya Namaskar A and Surya Namaskar B. We walked through alignment and cues. And we did an exercise on Chaturanga with broadening out through the upper back to understand the feeling of the correct alignment and how to guide students to find it. We also taught some of the poses and got feedback. I had good rhythm but need to add more cues for upward-facing dog and downward-facing dog. Kelly encouraged us to record ourselves teaching, as an improvement tool; she also said it could be helpful to become aware of any thinking language. We also discussed Ujjayi breath – what’s is all about, how it works, etc.
We practiced teaching each other outside on the lawn during Group Study and after lunch. It’s not very hot here at the moment but it was sunny out! We’re working on mastering the Sun Salutations, with the breath cues, and also developing our own integration/warm-up sequence.
We’ve been teaching every day since Day 2 of the program – first one posture at a time and now we’re linking multiple poses together. In Teaching Clinic today we taught Sun Salutations – I need to be careful with breath cues and make sure they’re smooth. Watching other people teach and listening to their delivery style and cues is really helpful for improving my own teaching. And getting concrete feedback is very useful. Teaching every day has helped me learn so much, and progressively feel more confident with teaching.
Philosophy Lectures have been really good – mostly on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras so far, but this evening we started on the Chakras, which was fascinating. I’ve heard of Chakras before but never specifically studied them. We discussed them one by one and also related them to everyday life. Chakras are energy centers in the body. Ideally energy should move dynamically through your body, but any blockages can lead to emotional or physical imbalances and even illness. Chakras can also been seen as perceptual filters – how do you understand the outside world? With a focus on grounding or communication or openness?
Doing yoga every day is making me feel great! Even through the program is intense – long hours, lots of information to learn and teaching every day, etc. – I’ve been feeling good. We have at least one class per day (or more!) plus we do poses during posture mechanics to feel things in our own body, as well as in teaching clinic.
It’s been really great to connect with everyone in the program! Some people are doing hot training and others are doing flow training – and having a mix of both has been valuable. The first week some posture mechanics were combined – which was useful for understanding different approaches to the same posture. Everyone is already making progress! From the first day when we were all terrified about getting up and teaching until now when we’re already linking poses together and becoming more confident with our cues. It’s awesome ☺
“I'm committed to living a yogic life.” –Daniela Gil
Meet Daniela Gil, Evolation Yoga alumni. Daniela completed her first training with us 5 years ago in Tampa, Florida. Now she teaches in Santa Monica, Venice, and at Snapchat HQ in California. She is a reknown Akashic Records Practitioner; her spiritual readings can help you learn how to be more conscious and proactive to create positive changes in your life. We asked Daniela a few questions about her yoga journey.
"What are you most passionate about?"
Sharing Akashic Record Reading trainings!
"What did you enjoy most about your training with Evolation?"
It was so tremendously healing and transformative. I learned so much about myself and it was an initiation into realizing my dharma and committing myself to a life of service.
"What is "yoga" to you?"
Everything! The practice of hatha yoga welcomed me into practices all types of yoga.
"How do you incorporate yoga into your everyday life?"
I'm committed to living a yogic life.
If you're in California and would like to learn more about Daniela's amazing work, check out her website here.
"The lotus has its roots in dark murky waters, yet still grows towards the light and blossoms where it has been planted."
We're excited to offer you a special discounted price for this amazing yoga retreat with Flowing Spirit Journeys.
Kristie Lonczak, one of our Evolation Yoga teachers is running a very special life-changing, 18 day retreat through India in February 2019.
The "Lotus of the Desert" retreat is a powerful exploration of the divine feminine and how she manifests within each one of us. It is a unique opportunity to travel as a group of women, in sisterhood, supporting one another as we open and flower as the radiant beings that we are!
This moving retreat balances an inner and outer journey as we adventure through the colorful and vibrant Indian state of Rajasthan. In moments of self- introspection we will retreat into silence, yoga, meditation, sacred ritual, healing, dance, and group sharing. In other moments, we will live with presence in the movement of life amidst ancient temples, exquisite palaces, sacred waters, never ending deserts, smiling camels and exuberant locals
2 night camel safari in the Desert, Blue City of Jodhpur, Spiritual Delhi, Expert Guides, Sacred Sites, Powerful daily practices, Life Changing Experiences, Support in “getting unstuck,” deepening your practice, and/or putting your purpose/intentions into action
Does this sound like how you'd like to start your 2019? We have some discounted prices to offer you:
Register before August 1st for an earlybird discount and receive $200 off.
Book together with a friend and each receive $100 off.
When you register, mention Evolation Yoga to receive a free massage treatment!
Head to the Flowing Spirit Journeys website for more information and registration.
Congratulations to Nick Gonzalez, the winner of our YTT contest! Nick won a free yoga teacher training with a month of guided mentorship from Evolation co-founders Mark & Zefea.
Read Nick's entry below.
"My next 30 Years I can see it now: me at 64, still ruggedly handsome, even under a coat of gray. Active as ever, I spend my days making updates to the house, hiking Montana’s beautiful wilds with my buddies, and teaching the occasional class at my yoga studio. Although it’s not my nature to be cocky or dramatic, I’m extremely proud of the reputation that I’ve quietly built in my community for being the best at what I do: imparting the gifts and power of yoga to those who need uplifting and encouragement – people who doubt the relevance and inspirational power of the practice, as I once did. It’s why I want to start my business in the first place. I was once a lost and hardened Army veteran, struggling to single-handedly keep my anxiety and PTSD under control. I didn’t need anybody, I never asked for help. But life has a way of pushing us into the changes we need most, and as I met my wife, moved to Montana, and started my family, it became clear that the only way out of my darkness was through it. Slowly, I began accepting help. With regular counseling and the support of my wife, I started making small changes that led to an entirely new and better lifestyle. I changed my diet, stopped using alcohol or any medication, and (reluctantly) tried yoga. It felt boring. Too quiet. Not enough action. But I pushed through, kept going, and soon, my body and mind felt an enormous shift. Yoga is a big part of what brought me back to life – made me a better husband and father, showed me how to push my own limits and achieve milestones I never before imagined. Now, I’m an entirely new person, and I’m ready to take on anything. In my next 30 years, I plan to share the power of yoga with as many people as possible. I plan to complete my instructor certification and pursue training in every type of yoga available. I plan to open my own studio, where everyone is welcome and nobody is beyond saving – even veterans like me. Right now, I’m 34 years young, and my next three decades are going to be action-packed and awesome. I want Evolation Yoga to be part of the journey. Your progressive approach and dedicated focus is the ideal environment to get the most out of training, and I’m a Carp kid, born and raised – it would be transformational to walk part of my path in my own hometown, a beautiful location that will always hold a special place in my heart. So, what do you say? Will you be part of my journey?"
This Father’s Day, we want to share the story of two recent Evolation grads.
Fyona and Hugo Flinn are a father-daughter yoga team from Limerick, Ireland. The pair have been practicing hot yoga for almost 10 years. Fyona became hooked on the practice while working in Belfast as a child psychologist. After years of playing hockey, hot yoga was a welcome change that improved her flexibility and sport-related injuries. Fyona firmly believes that physical and mental health go hand-in-hand, and that yoga represents the bridge between the two. Her passion for yoga encouraged her father to begin his own practice, and he quickly became hooked as well.
After a few years of dedicated practice, the Flinns decided they wanted to dive deeper into yoga and learn to teach others. As a result, they made the long flight out to Hawaii for their Hot Yoga Teacher Training. Rather than bonding over a weekend camping trip, the pair took two months off to complete their 500-hour teaching certification.
Going off the grid and becoming fully immersed in the yoga lifestyle for two whole months was quite the adventure to share. Classes, meditation, philosophy lectures, and exploring the beautiful island of Oahu made for an "incredible experience, made even better by getting to share it with my dad. I think that Evolation created a very positive, supportive environment that brought out the best in both of us."
Hugo felt lucky to spend so much time with his daughter. "To do so in the yoga bubble, on the same path, was particularly special."
We’re grateful to have these two lovely yogis be a part of the Evolation family. With a shared passion for the healing powers of yoga in body and mind, Fyona and Hugo have returned home to Ireland and have begun their teaching journeys. Both have received incredible praise for their classes at Bikram Yoga Limerick and Yoga Farm Belfast. We’d like to send our congratulations to the Flinn’s for their incredible achievement and a Happy Father’s Day to all the yoga dads out there!
Week One Challenge: “Stretching Back”
Prize: Yoga Retreat in Hawaii
This week we kicked off our 100th yoga teacher training in Buffalo, NY with our founders Mark Drost and Zefea Samson.
Nine years, 26 locations, and over 1,000 graduates later, evolation has reached this milestone; an extraordinary journey of yoga.
Warrior III/Balancing Stick is a balancing pose that requires you to stretch back while reaching forward - all the while cultivating strength and support. That is how we are looking at this achievement. We want to celebrate our history – how far we’ve come – as well as the excitement for what the future holds. And we want to celebrate by really connecting with all of you; past, present, and future students & teachers.
We will be hosting four weekly challenges throughout the month of June, with some very exciting yoga prizes. Stay tuned on Mondays, when we will post the details of each challenge on Facebook, Instagram, and here on our website. Every weekend we will announce the winners.
Week one’s prize will be two spots at our yoga retreat in Hawaii. The following 3 weeks will be more geared towards yoga teacher training…
The theme this week is “stretching back”.
Here’s how to enter:
- Post a photo from your early days of yoga on Instagram and/or Facebook.
- Share with it how you began your yoga journey! Why did you go to your first class, and what did you think of it? What made you want to go back? Share whatever you think is meaningful about the beginning of your personal practice.
- Use the hashtag #evolation100 and tag us in your photo.
- Make sure your photos/account are set to “public” so we can see it.
Good luck, yogis! We look forward to hearing your stories.