When my little man, Carter, who will soon be turning 9, was just a baby, I began giving him watered down fresh fruit and vegetable juice from our home Juicer. As a baby, he loved it and drank it with gusto. As a finicky toddler, when he began to turn his nose up at it, I resorted to using his favorite hero, Superman, for back-up, calling it “Superhero Juice” and listing all of the super powers he would enjoy, if he drank it. He played along and would pretend to run “super fast” and fly through the house after each glass. Throughout the years, his love for fresh juice has waxed and waned, but it remains a regular part of our family’s diet. Carter loves to help make the juice, pushing whole and chopped fruits and veggies into the juicer and watching the amazing colors that come out. The beautiful earthy tones of carrots and beets, vibrant greens of spinach, kale, parsley, and cilantro, and the wonderful smells of ginger, pineapple, and apple make the experience all the more enticing for a child. We keep our family nourished and healthy with fresh juices throughout the year. We have found that we all suffer from fewer colds and flu’s, and maintain healthy weight and energy levels. We have also found great therapeutic benefits with specific juices. Sore throats in our house have been treated with a combination of pineapple and ginger. The pineapple juice breaks up mucus and has a natural analgesic effect. Ginger fights germs and opens and soothes sinuses.
I began “juicing” in my early twenties, nearly twenty years ago, and have never looked back. There are times when my life gets hectic and I fall away from it for a time. As I begin to feel sluggish and unhealthy, I quickly come back to fresh juice to rejuvenate. I have found, throughout the years, that juicing, along with yoga and healthy eating, keeps my weight at a healthy balance, my digestive system working properly, and gives me boundless energy. My skin is clearer and softer, my hair and nails grow faster and are stronger and healthier, my eyesight is clearer, I have no aches and pains and I generally feel great and at the top of my game. The enzymes and nutrients in a glass of juice made from fresh fruits and veggies cannot be found in the store-bought juices. The heating process and preservatives used to preserve store-bought juice kill most of the vital enzymes and destroy many of the natural nutrients. Freshly made juice also retains more of the natural fibers, making the natural sugars in the juice less likely to cause the ups and downs of sugar rush.
In our house, when the juicer begins to “whir,” there is certain to be something delicious and nutritious in the making. My husband loves to tease me about juicing everything in sight. He has been known to bring me a shoe or a pencil or some other object to see if I will juice it “just to see what happens.” While I don’t recommend shoe juice, (or cabbage juice, for that matter), there are endless possibilities with fruits and vegetables. A single glass of raw, fresh juice can easily supply your daily requirements of fruits and veggies in a form that your body can easily digest and get full benefits from. Your healthy, vibrant self awaits you!
Some of our favorite recipes:
1 part Apple, 2 parts Beet, 3 parts Carrot (a great blood builder, cleanser, and toner)
GREEN APPLE JUICE (our daughter, Madelynn’s, favorite)
Green apples (such as granny smith), cucumber, mint (refreshing) OR squeeze of lemon (pucker up!)
Carrot, Apple, Spinach, Celery, Parsley
Melon, cucumber, apple, mint
Stephanie Shepard, RYT, is the owner of Blooming Lotus Yoga and Wellness of Interlochen. She teaches yoga and offers various workshops including “Juicing for Better Health.”
(Stephanie with her teacher, Sandra Carden E-RYT 500, at teacher training graduation.)
The question has come up several times recently.
How do I choose a yoga teacher training program?
While most go to teacher training to become yoga teachers, this is not always the case. Some go simply to learn about yoga and further their practice and understanding. But as a yoga teacher, it is vital that you get a comprehensive education with a master teacher.
When I was looking for a program, I spent many hours researching and finding just what fit for me. I was fortunate to find such an amazing program and teacher just an hour away from where I live. Many people have to travel great distances for the right program. Some things to consider and questions to ask when “shopping” for a teacher training program…
Who is the teacher?
Do you know him/her personally, or can someone you know and trust recommend him/her. How long has this person been practicing yoga? How long has he/she been teaching yoga and teaching teachers? This might be the most important aspect. Time and experience are the greatest teachers. You can read about yoga, you can go to as many teacher trainings as possible, but until you have put in the time, you are not a master. There is a certain wisdom and humility that comes with time and experience. These qualities cannot be substituted. The teacher is the one who has gone before you on the path. If this person has not been there yet, he/she cannot guide you there. You will be trailblazing together, not an ideal situation. Look for a teacher who has been practicing, living and teaching yoga for several YEARS.
What is the program curriculum?
Hopefully, if you are considering yoga teacher training, you recognize that yoga is more than just exercise. There is a rich history and philosophy to yoga that dates back thousands of years. A comprehensive curriculum includes:
History and Philosophy of Yoga
Anatomy and Physiology
Asana, Pranayama, Meditation, Chant
Types of Yoga
Esoteric Anatomy and Physiology
Business principles and ethics
The Sutra of Patanjali
Assists, adjustments, and modifications of asana
Class structure, teaching methodology and experience teaching
Is the Program Licensed by the State of Michigan?
Although the State of Michigan does not currently require yoga teachers to be certified, it does require teacher training schools to be licensed. When the time comes that yoga teachers are required to be certified, they will most likely need to be certified from a licensed school. Currently, the State of Michigan follows the standards set forth by Yoga Alliance, which brings me to my next point…Is the program registered with Yoga Alliance? This is the standard regulating agency in our trade. They are global and comprehensive. At Blooming Lotus, all teachers are required to certified in what they do.
Does the Program Fit into Your Life?
There are many options out there, from month long immersions to weekends only for several months; local options and traveling to great distances; very expensive options to quite cheap. Find a program that is suitable, but keep in mind a couple of things. First of all, most people waver back and forth before entering teacher training. If you finally decide to make room in your life and dive in, the waters will part and create space for it to happen. You won’t be sorry. The other thing I urge you to consider is price. Remember, in general, that if cheap is what you seek, cheap is what you will find. There are always discount options, but a program or studio’s price will directly reflect their confidence in their ability to deliver quality. Teacher training is an investment, any way you slice it. Quality is important.
Lastly, Do Your Philosophies Align?
What is most important to you? What do you want to learn, achieve, experience, create? Does the program offer it? Does the teacher live and teach in a way that affirms your aspirations? Yoga teacher training will change you, most likely forever. It is not just about learning to teach yoga. It is about learning to live yoga. You will be transformed if you are in the right program with the right instructor.
I hope this has been helpful. Please offer your comments and questions! Thank you, and namaste
Stephanie Shepard RYT 200
Everyday, we get together, roll out our mats, smile, laugh, cry, speak freely with insight and kindness, and love and support each other and ourselves. We do our “work” on the mat, then get up and take our yoga out into the world to make it a better place. Yoga awakens us, makes us more alive…softer, but more stable…kinder, but less fragile…aware, excited, luminous, and resilient. My job, as “teacher” is to serve, to light the path for others. Through that service, I, too, am served. My cup is filled, and I, too, am healed. I just wanted to take a sweet moment in this busy season to express my love and gratitude to you for allowing me the opportunity to serve. Thank you for trusting me, for enriching my life, and for sharing your practice with me. I have the greatest “job” on the planet, and I am grateful every single day!
Aum, Shanthi, Namaste
How is it that we form communities and strong friendships through our yoga classes and studios? When I first opened Blooming Lotus Yoga and Wellness Center, I had a vision in my head of how my classes would unfold. Every student would enter the studio, silently take care of his or her belongings (remove shoes, turn off cell phone, etc.), sign in, and roll out his or her mat, silently lying or sitting down to begin meditation. This, of course, has not been the case. Our classes have become tight-knit communities of loving friends, laughing and sharing life’s experiences. I quickly realized that this was not MY studio, it was Interlochen’s studio. This warm, inviting space has created an atmosphere where people feel reconnected to each other, and to themselves. Websites, Facebook, IPADs are great tools of communication, but nothing takes the place of looking into another human beings eyes and offering a warm smile, a hug, or a laugh together. I deeply cherish the friendships I have formed and watched others forming through our yoga practice together. I love that when someone new comes in, others introduce themselves and welcome them to our studio. Yoga offers us unique and beautiful opportunities to go deep within ourselves and see the rich, vibrant beauty we ALL have within us. When we carve out moments to enjoy the best within ourselves, we open to the best in everyone else. We become more compassionate, more understanding, patient, open, and more mindful of ourselves and others. For some, this is a process that takes time and personal healing. For others, it happens in an instant.
I recall classes I have attended in which the instructor worked very hard, class after class, to convince everyone to be silent, go within, not interact with others, not disturb others. It often became a situation in which the teacher’s irritation with the students was more distracting than the interactions in the class. It felt to me that the teacher was encouraging intolerance in others. I chose, instead, to get out of the way and watch the bonds of friendship form. Taking time, instead, at the beginning of each class for silent meditation, so that we could, as a group, unwind, quiet down, and go within. The beautiful yoga family that has formed at Blooming Lotus was more important than each student’s silent, pious entry to each class.
OUR yoga studio continues to be a community center and yoga family. I wouldn’t have it any other way!
The other day, my husband, Jason, and daughter, Madelynn were talking about school and growing up. Madelynn is in the 5th grade and very excited that she will be going off to middle school, next year. Mom and Dad, of course, are not quite as excited. In this conversation, Jason told Madelynn, “I remember how crushed I was when I got to the 6th grade and discovered there was no more recess.” Madelynn’s jaw hit the floor. “What do you mean NO MORE RECESS?!” she cried. “I know.” Jason agreed, “I think everyone should get recess everyday for their entire lives! A break from the day to just play, climb, jump, and be free and silly. Even grown-ups should have recess!” At this point, I smiled and said, “I get to have recess everyday! And I teach other grown-ups how to have recess everyday! We play on the mat, and it’s so much fun!” I won’t tell you what kind of look I got from them. Misery loves company, I guess.
I have always wondered at what age we begin to become stagnant and stop “playing” and moving our bodies in every possible way. Now I know that it happens exactly in the 6th grade. The free play of recess is replaced with electives and sports, where competition and external pressures replace open fun and exploration. Yoga provides us with an opportunity to explore our full range of motion, stamina, and determination, not just physically, but emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, as well. Your yoga practice is for you, and should be a fun, safe, and inspiring way to create and maintain mobility, agility and strength of body and mind.
Don’t stop playing! Don’t ever stop playing! At 108 years of age, you will still be able to bend, flex, jump, and flow with the 5th graders…and you’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of the seventh graders, apparently.
Since the explosion of yoga in the west, many new types of yoga have been created and are continuing to emerge. We hear about Gentle, Vinyasa, Hatha, Kundalini, Ashtanga, Yoga Nidra, Yin, Anusara, , and many more. With all of the different styles, it’s easy for a new yogi to feel a little lost and confused. Your yoga practice will hopefully compliment and supplement your life, providing a well-rounded experience. If your daily life tends to be hectic, busy, stressful and physically demanding, a yoga practice which provides the opposite is suggested. A quiet, relaxing yin style yoga is a nice compliment to a very active lifestyle. In contrast, a sedentary lifestyle would benefit from a more active, heat building, calorie burning yoga, such as vinyasa. If you are attending several classes each week, try combining different types to create a balance of strength and vigor with rest and rejuvenation. Over time, you might find that your needs and desires change, and what once worked well for you no longer suits you or your lifestyle. Be open, pay attention, and honor yourself. Also, be open to trying something more than once. Occasionally, when someone tries yoga for the first time or tries a new type of yoga, he or she finds the practice to be agitating, disturbing or aggravating. Yoga can cause deep-seated emotions to rise to the surface and release. Feeling inexplicably angry, sad, or even overwhelmed during yoga is not uncommon…and not necessarily a negative experience. It might be an indication that you have found the exact place you need to be to release something you’ve been holding onto. You might be directing those emotions at something specific at the moment, the music, the sound of traffic outside, a pain in your leg, etc. that you feel is annoying you and causing those emotions. More likely, the emotions are arising from within and releasing out of you. Try the practice one or two more times, and you might grow to absolutely love it! Very often, the style or pose you hate the most is the one you need the most…and the one you grow to love the most!
Almost every yoga class taught at Blooming Lotus begins and ends with Savasana. This quiet stillness at the beginning of your practice allows time for quieting the mind and relaxing the body, so that you can create the movement of your practice with a calm focused mind, an open heart, and complete awareness. It is not a time to reflect on all of the days events or to think about everything that is waiting for you when you leave the mat. It is a time to let go of all of that and commit to your practice and the focus on the present moment.
Savasana at the end of class is for the purpose of absorbing and digesting the benefits of your practice. It is, in many ways, the most important part of your practice. To skip final Savasana is equivalent to fixing a four course meal and then throwing it away without taking a bite. Or drawing a nice warm bubble bath and pulling the plug without ever getting in. It makes no sense. This deeply relaxing meditation is reason we do what we do.
You may hear the word pronounced Savasana or Shavasana, or called corpse pose or sponge pose, all different ways of saying the same thing. It is a time to be still and quiet and observe your body melting away into relaxation as your mind creates a state of absorption. Try not to fidget, just be still, open, and absorb. That is where the real “yoga” happens.