Back Pain? Get Off Your Ass.

I recently read an article entitled ‘sitting is the new smoking‘. Yikes! At first, glance that sounded pretty extreme, but is it really? It’s actually not an exaggeration.

Sadly chairs are indeed wrecking our backs (not to mention increasing evidence that prolonged sitting increases the risk of developing several serious illnesses like cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes).


Since I am a teacher who specializes in Back Pain Yoga, I’m going to focus on that aspect in this post. We are hunter-gatherer creatures meant to walk and roam, run, squat and sit on the earth. This is how we are designed to function. Sitting in chairs goes against our fundamental design. Here are some surprising Back Pain Statistics:

  • 80-85% of people will experience Back Pain in their lives and for many it is chronic
  • 56 billion dollars is spent annually on Back Pain treatment
  • The percentage of back pain suffers is the highest in developed nations where people are likely to spend time sitting in chairs

So if you sit at a desk all day odds are at some point you will have pain in your back, hips or neck. If not debilitating pain, you will at the very least have chronic tension or discomfort.

Right now you may be thinking, I know, I know, but what can I do about it? I can’t quit my job.  In the video below I go into more detail about the damage chairs do to our backs and some ideas on how to lessen the damage.


5 Things You Can Do To Get Out Of Pain:

  1. Consider investing in a standing desk or at least a better chair.
  2. Take breaks. Set a timer to go off every hour. Then get up, move around, stretch your legs, get a glass of water then come back to work.
  3. When you aren’t working, stand up.
  4. Move more. It doesn’t take long to eat lunch so you can spend half your lunch hour moving instead of sitting.
  5. YOGA! You may already be practicing some Yoga but stepping it up to 5-7 days a week whether in a studio or home practice will really help.

I hope this post inspires you to not take your back for granted and make changes before you are in serious pain.

Here’s To A Healthy Back,

ox nyk

The Magic of Mantras – By Saraswati

There are as many mantras as there are stars in the sky. Even if you may not know it, you are affected by the power of words each day in both positive and negative ways.

Each of us has a running dialogue within- “I am this. I am that. I can. I can’t.”

What if we could harness the power of words to access greater depths of ourselves and ultimately the world around us?

What if we consciously used these utterances to bring our awareness within and offered these repetitions to ourselves as a spiritual practice, or simply loving self-care?

Or what if they just made us a little more loving, a little more tolerant, a little more peaceful?

This is where mantras come in. Words are powerful, beautiful, transforming…

But what are true mantras? Where did they originate? And how do we create our own personal meditation practice using them?

Om Graphic-3

The ancient origins of mantras:

The word “mantra” is a Sanskrit word. “Man” translates as “mind” or “thoughts” and “tra” can be translated as “tools” or “instruments”. So mantras can be understood as “tools of the mind”.

Mantras are said to have originated from illuminated souls before us, those who were divinely connected to the Earth, the Wind, the Sky. They listened deeply to the vibrations of the Universe, and from them, mantras were revealed and passed down through generations.

They are accessible to all of us at any point in our lives, and need not be connected to a particular faith or belief. The words we choose are powerful, and words that are spoken with deep intention consistently can be the most potent of all.

Creating a simple mantra practice is easy to do and can benefit anyone who is looking to access a deeper connection to the Self, nurture one’s own intuition and inner wisdom.

In most traditions mantras are given by a guru or spiritual teacher, however, this is not necessary. You can certainly choose a mantra for yourself. Some of the most popular mantras are listed below. If you are just starting a mantra practice, simply choose a mantra that resonates with you. Your intuition is always the best place to start!

Three popular mantras to try:


Om (or Ohm, Aum) is one of the most popular and ancient mantras derived from the primordial sound. It is considered the very vibration of the Universe.

So Ham

This mantra is wonderful as it can directly correlate with the breath. Translated as “I am That. “That” can mean the Divine, She, He, Eternal, the Universe. So is the sound of the inhalation and Ham is the sound of the exhalation. It reminds us that we are all One.

Om Shanti

Om (the sound of the Universe) is paired with Shanti meaning “peace”. You can chant this mantra for inner peace and with the intention of peace for all living beings.

These are only a few of the mantras available, so if none of these feel quite right a quick search online will take you to hundreds of mantras from varying traditions. You will know when you find one that resonates!

Starting a practice:

For those who want to start a formal mantra practice, begin by creating a sacred space. Find a place that is quiet where you will be undisturbed when you sit for meditation. You can have a decorated altar or simply arrange a space that is comfortable and that brings you joy when you are in it.

Sit in a comfortable seated position and take notice of the breath. Let your thoughts play without judgement. Soon they will slow and your breath will deepen.

When you feel ready, begin to chant your chosen mantra out loud. This can be on any pitch that feels comfortable for you and at any pace. It may take some time to get used to chanting out loud if you have not done so before, but roll with it and keep going! You will eventually get into a natural rhythm that feels good for you.

After you feel you have reached that natural rhythm, begin to lower the volume of your chanting for a minute, then again to a whisper. Ultimately, we want to bring the chant within and hear the mantra silently. This brings the awareness deeper and is considered the most powerful of all practices.

Set a timer if you like or chant as long as you feel you would like to. If you find concentration is hard, just start small. Your meditation practice need not be an hour a day! Just waking up in the morning and chanting a mantra is a beautiful beginning. The next day chant it twice and so on.

Your mantra will become like an old friend with you always. You can chant your mantra silently while you walk the dog, feed your kids, wash your dishes, brush your teeth, just before sleep, you get the idea!

Mantras aren’t just intended for formal practice. Bring the wisdom you have acquired off the cushion and into the world! Enjoy the benefits of creating a new positive groove in your consciousness and watch your life begin to shift with the magic of mantras.

unnamedSign up for The 7 Day Mantra Challenge! Learn all about the power of mantras in this week-long challenge with Saraswati.

To Round Or Not To Round – That Is The Question

This post could stir the pot a little and maybe even cause a wee Yoga uproar. Believe it or not, Yogis just like everyone else can be pretty attached to ‘their way’ of practicing being the ‘right way’.

So if you are a Yoga teacher or a long time practicing Yogini and you are reading this, I encourage you to keep an open mind on this and try it out for yourself.

My first 300 hour teacher training was taught almost exclusively by Iyengar teachers and it was such an amazing training as it had such a diverse group of seasoned teachers. In addition to our traditional Asana training it included a strong therapeutic foundation, as well as a good degree of Restorative Yoga training.

sportswear sitting in head to knee forward bend pose, doing Janu Sirsasana variation with strap, studio full length isolated shot

I’m so grateful for that foundation and I look back on those days with such a fondness and reverence for my teachers. During my time in the Iyengar circles it was drilled into us that all forward bends should be practiced with a flat back period, no questions asked.

A couple years after graduating I discovered the work of Paul Grilley. I felt like the anatomy training I had in my teacher training barely scratched the surface and so I bought Paul’s Anatomy For Yoga DVD as a means of extra self study. Needless to say this DVD literally pulled the Yoga Mat out from under me! So much of what I had learned didn’t ring true and for the first time what was happening in my body made sense. That DVD changed the way I saw my body and my students bodies forever (and for the better).

Before studying with Paul I had never considered that someone could choose to practice a forward bend with a rounded spine or what the benefits of that might be (let alone how good it feels). Now I alternate practicing with a flat spine and a rounded spine depending on my needs and intentions at the time.


In the video I’ll go over this in more detail including why one might choose whether or not to let their back round in a forward bend.

Please note: If you have bulging or herniated disks it may not be a good idea for you to round your spine in a forward bend so please check with your health care practitioner before attempting this video.


Here’s to happy hamstrings and spines!

ox nyk

Vedic Astrology and Yoga

The following is a guest post by my Vedic Astrologer Lorae Marsten. I was highly sceptical about Vedic Astrology at first since I tend to have one foot in the woo woo and one firmly planted in practicality. I thought getting my chart read was a bit out there for me but Lorae and I have a mutual friend who raved about her so I gave it a chance. I was blown away …no joke by how accurate and useful the information Lorae gave me was, and so she has made me a believer 😉  So with that in mind I’ll hand this post over to Lorae.


Vedic Astrology and Yoga

You may wonder, ‘What does Astrology have to do with Yoga?‘ Actually, the answer is Plenty. The two are deeply entwined and each adds to the other. Vedic Astrology and Yoga, along with Ayurvedic Medicine, are three sister sciences that can provide a framework for a healthy and worthwhile life. Here is a simple example of the connection between Yoga and astrology: Ganesha, the great remover of obstacles, is a representation of the intelligence and wisdom of planet Jupiter. So….. if you have ever chanted the Ganesha mantra in class (or any other mantra) you were calling forth the higher energy frequencies of a particular planet or an energy associated with a planet. Pretty cool!!



The intention of Vedic Astrology is to help you grow and evolve and to point you in directions that will lead to a happier life. It provides an accurate picture of your tendencies, strengths, weaknesses, and can point out areas of success or difficulty in your life. A good astrologer can predict when, or if, events will take place in your life. The best part of this is that, just like a great Yoga practice, you can feel more relaxed in your life, have more clarity, and you can also receive guidance on things you can do, to make good situations better, and improve difficult ones.


Horoscope circle


Differences Between Western and Vedic Astrology

Western astrology is often seen as an entertainment but Vedic Astrology is taken very seriously. Called “Jyotish”, or light, in many parts of the world, no one starts a business or gets married without consulting the wisdom of Astrology. Important festivals and meetings are all timed with the celestial rhythms as well.

Western astrologers use the tropical zodiac, which is lined up well with the seasons, whereas the Vedic, sidereal zodiac, is accurate with what is happening in the sky at the moment. Therefore, some of your planets may change signs if you have your Vedic chart done! We also recognize a number of powerful, distant stars and star groups, called Nakshatras, and their influence; the Moon’s cycles; and the Dasha Cycle which determines when your planets are most active in your life.

Planets in the space and stars with galaxes

Why is Vedic Astrology could be important for you?

This Astrology is practical, accurate, and aims to help you grow in consciousness and have a good life. It is not meant as entertainment. Here are some examples:

1. We provide remedies for problems, to strengthen weak areas, and reduce or avoid difficulties as they arise. One common remedy is prescribing mantras, sacred sounds which create powerful creative vibrations. It would be very practical and beneficial to know which mantras would be most effective in your life. Other remedies can include prayers, wearing gems, helping the poor, and more.

2. Depending on your chart, certain career paths will be more suitable and successful for you than others. Also, some times are much better than others for taking a big step, eg. going back to school, or starting a business. It can be extremely useful to know when and how to move forward!

3. You can learn about the various Moon phases, and use them to improve time management: some are good for removing obstacles, some for celebration, wealth creation, romance, etc. Some other moon phases are best for resting, planning or meditating. Using knowledge of the Moon Phases, you live more in the natural flow and don’t have to second-guess yourself about decisions.

4. Relationship astrology can help you choose a good romantic partner. Find out if this person will be faithful; if the relationship is likely to last; if you will feel valued, loved and respected; if you will prosper together; and if you will be sexually compatible. Relationship astrology is also very useful in choosing a good business partner too.

So, Astrology for Yogis?

You bet! You can learn more about yourself, manage time wisely, avoid difficulties and stress, and make better decisions. Astrology can even help you improve your Yoga practice by pointing you to types of practice most in line with your unique life path.

How the sessions work: You start by contacting me with your request and forward your birth information: date, time, and place of birth. Then you agree on a time for the session – which lasts about half an hour. Many of these sessions are by phone. Other clients prefer their sessions to be in person.

I will explain where your planets are in the sky, and what that means about you, also the Dasha period and what it might bring to you, as well as your Nakshatra or birthstar, and its gifts for you. If appropriate, I will suggest a remedy for you.

I also offer full, more in depth readings, Transit Readings (what is happening this year), and Relationship Readings.

I have an intro mini session for promo for you (Nyk’s community) for $30 until the end of 2016. This is a great gift for friends or family members, as well as yourself.




unnamedLorae Marsten is a Certified Vedic Astrologer, meditator, healer, mentor, and a long-time Yogi. After a life-changing encounter with a Vedic Astrologer in Kathmandu, Nepal, she began learning about the myths and legends surrounding Vedic Astrology and Yoga, and later with the encouragement of her teacher, Dr. Baskaran Pillai, began training as an astrologer. These days Lorae is on a mission to help bring more happiness, health, and meaning by using the power, beauty and practicality of Vedic Astrology to Westerners.

You can learn more about Lorae, Vedic Astrology and book a session here.

Yin Yoga – Sleeping Swan Pose

Sleeping swan pose is a variation of swan pose only folded over the front leg. Folding over the front leg will increase the sensation in the hip, butt, IT band area and is a pretty sweet hip opener.

sleeping swan pose

If your front knee doesn’t like this pose, sometimes moving the knee towards the mid-line of the body can take the pressure off. If it still hurts you’ll want to skip this pose and choose a different hip opener like shoelace pose.

If it’s the knee of the back leg that is the issue, a small rolled up towel or a blanket under the thigh of the back leg will often do the trick or curling the back toes under to take pressure off the knee cap.

Once you’re able to settle into this pose it is quite soothing for the nervous system so is a great pose to do before bed. Feel free to have blankets and pillows near by for comfort.


Sleeping Swan

In the video below I’ll walk you through the complete how to, including how to use props and modify sleeping swan.


Here’s to happy, healthy hips.

ox nyk








Yin Yoga – Swan Pose

Swan pose is great as a back bend on its own, and a great pose to lead into Sleeping Swan Pose (more on that in a future post). Of the Yin Yoga poses Swan is a bit more on the Yang side so the hold time isn’t as long. In general 1-3 min is good, but of course if you are an experienced ‘Yinnie’ you’re welcome to hold for longer.

Swan pose is a great backbend and also awesome at opening up the hip, butt and IT band area of the front leg, even in its upright position. It’s also a sweet little stretch for the hip flexor of the back leg.

If your front knee doesn’t like this pose, sometimes moving the knee towards the mid-line of the body can take the pressure off. If it still hurts you’ll want to skip this pose and choose a different hip opener like shoelace pose.

If it’s the knee of the back leg that is the issue, a small rolled up towel or a blanket under the thigh of the back leg will often do the trick or curling the back toes under to take pressure off the knee cap.


Yin Yoga Swan Pose

In the video below I’ll walk you through the complete how-to for Swan pose, including variations and modifications.



Happy Practicing

ox nyk

Neck Pain? Get Relief!

I have a few neck pain poses in my Yoga tool belt and they are all helpful, but this one is the granddaddy of all neck stretches. For some of you, it may even stretch out some little hidden muscles you didn’t even know you had and it can even get into tightness the shoulders for some of us.

So this is the neck stretch I do when I need some serious neck love and have a little more time.

How you get in and out of this one is pretty important especially when exiting the pose. So watch the whole video once first before you try to practice on your own.

In the video below we’ll practice this together.

If you know someone suffering from chronic neck pain why not share this with them?

Here’s to relief

ox nyk

Foot Pain? Yoga To The Rescue!

Plantar fasciitis, foot pain, fallen arches, flat feet and bunions oh my! These are just a few foot problems that affect so many people. I’ve got some pretty strong opinions on why this is and what we can do about it.

We can blame most of our foot issues on shoes! Now you might be thinking ‘oh no not me I wear good supportive shoes’ and that I’m afraid is exactly the problem. The more support we have in our shoes, insoles and orthotics the tighter and weaker our feet become and this can become a vicious cycle.

Our feet are sore and weak so we get orthotics, insoles and more supportive shoes, then our feet become weaker and tighter and so on and so on.

Of course occasionally someone actually needs orthotics or custom insoles because of an injury or a problem from birth, but this is very rare. Most foot issues are because our feet are weak and tight. We have been wearing thick shoes and walking on pavement, we are meant to be barefoot or very close to barefoot. We are designed to walk and run on the earth which naturally keeps the muscles in our feet strong and supple.

So if this resonates with you and you want to improve the health of your feet, I’ve got general stretches and strengthening exercises in the video below to help you. But don’t burn your orthotics just yet. This video addresses some of the common foot problems and because every case is different, if these don’t work for you I would recommend seeing a physiotherapist to get exercises specifically for you.

To happy healthy feet,

ox nyk

From Skeptic to Believer: A Yoga Journey- By Liana Bakker

It was 2005 and I was in the middle of training to become a Registered Massage Therapist. One of our courses was “Therapeutic Exercise.” Not only did we learn about specific rehab exercises, but we learned a little bit about other exercises that could also benefit our patients.

When we got to the Yoga section I remember thinking, “It’s basically just over-rated stretching.”
And of course, stretching is good but really, what is all this fuss about?
We also had an in-depth class on breathing.  While it was interesting, I wondered how this was going to help anyone?


The problem was that I couldn’t see the benefits from only 15 minutes of Yoga. I was still in good shape from the Kickboxing I had done for the past 2 years. I thought had learned all about it. I thought I understood Yoga, but couldn’t see it actually working.

Once I was close to finishing school, all hell broke loose!

I didn’t make time for exercise and even if I did, I couldn’t actually do anything. Moving too fast or holding too still would make my arms go numb.  I had horrible headaches and neck pain. All the time I’d been spending hunched over studying, was finally taking its toll.



I also suddenly became a business owner. Sure, I’d held a part-time job since 16, but now owned a business and was supposedly an “Adult.” My body was exhausted from final exams, and I had accumulated some major student debt.  I felt so overwhelmed and started to experience anxiety attacks.
My doctor prescribed medication. Meds? Really? (Yeah, because it was obvious that I had a severe SSRI and Ibuprofen deficiency.)

But I knew better. For me, medication would be the last resort.  I had just learned all this wonderful stuff in school, and my first patient was going to be myself!
I found a local Yoga class for beginners. I signed up to attend one class a week, for 8 weeks. If I didn’t notice any difference after that, I would try the medication.


Full length of sporty people stretching hands at yoga class in fitness studio

The class was slow moving and gentle. VERY different than the competitive Kickboxing classes I once took. And after 6 weeks I was shocked! No more anxiety attacks. My headaches and neck pain were at least 75% better. From then on, I was sold! And I’ve been doing Yoga ever since.

Now, I tell people that if they can’t commit to doing a few preventative exercises every day, then they should commit to just 1 hour of yoga a week. Often it’s easier to do it all at once than trying to do a bit every day on your own, without support.
I must admit, I still slack a bit every now and then ( I am human). But when I start to feel my breathing quicken, my fingers tingle, or my neck crick, I re-commit 8 hours to my therapy, to my health, to my life.


11066724_799300256790108_37923214_o Liana Bakker is an entrepreneur and author with a background in health care. She wants to show people that they can live a life that’s true to who they really are.  She shares stories to inspire and information to help people take care better care themselves.  Looking to feel happier and less stressed? Check out for a free E-book on ’67 Ways To Help You Get Happy’

Tight Shoulders? Best Shoulder Stretch Ever!

I have some crazy tight shoulders. Before I was a Yogini I was a body builder and a hairstylist and both of those activities led to some really tight shoulders. Those tight shoulder muscles in my case also led to wrist issues.

So to say that I have focused a large amount of my Yoga practice time to stretching my shoulders would be an understatement! Thanks to this stretch, my shoulders have become much more flexible and my wrist issues are completely gone.

So if you suffer from tight shoulders or wrist issues, this is for you. In the video below I’ll walk you through step by step my favorite shoulder stretch.

Once you are familiar with this pose you can even practice in “Yin Style” by increasing the length of time you hold this working your way up to five min holds. This will really help you get into the fascia as well.

If someone you care about is suffering with shoulder or wrist issues please share this post with them.

Happy Practicing

ox nyk