Guided Relaxation for Teens & Adults

Relaxing guided audio meditation for teens and adults. Use this meditation before bedtime for a peaceful night's sleep or anytime you want to release stress and find peace & relaxation.

Narration by Andrea Creel

Music by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) "River Flute" Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

Photo by Pexels

Kids Yoga Teacher Training - March 15-17 in Gaithersburg

Are you interested in expanding your skill set and career opportunities? Consider becoming a children's yoga teacher!

Shining Kids Yoga will be offering a weekend teacher training March 15-17 at Opus Yoga in Gaithersburg, MD. You DO NOT need to be a yoga teacher already to attend, just a familiarity with yoga and an interest in sharing the benefits of yoga with children! This training is perfect for parents, educators, counselors, health professionals, and anyone who works with children and wants to share this special practice with children!

If you have any questions about the training, email Andrea Creel at info@shiningkidsyoga.com. Payment plans and full-time educator discounts are available.

www.shiningkidsyoga.com/training

Spring Yoga Retreat - Valentine's Day Special!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

To celebrate this day of love, I am offering a special discount on my spring Music, Mantra, & Vinyasa yoga retreat to Afton, VA, April 26-28, 2019.

Discount available from 2/14-2/21 - register at the special rate of $475/person when you and a friend/partner book a shared room (either main house or porch w/cots) for the retreat. Please mention Valentine's Special when booking! NOTE: This discount is available for SHARED ROOMS ONLY.

Retreat fee is all-inclusive: 6 vegetarian meals, 2 night's lodging, yoga classes, music jam, meditation classes, and more!

Click the link below for more details on this blissful weekend getaway!

www.inspirationyogaandwellness.com/retreat

If you have any questions about the retreat, feel free to email me at andrea@inspirationyogaandwellness.com

spring 2019 retreat flyer.jpg

Yoga Rituals to Ring in the New Year



The turning point from the old year to the new year is a very auspicious time. It is a chance to begin anew, to let go of the old ways of doing, thinking, and believing; to release thoughts, beliefs, and experiences that are no longer serving us so that we have a fresh slate for the year ahead. It is also a time to set intentions to help guide us as we move into the year ahead. Below are some of my favorite suggestions of yogic practices that you can do on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day:

  1. Mantra Meditation

A mantra is a word or phrase that uplifts and protects the mind. In the yogic tradition, mantras are often chanted in Sanskrit. Sanskrit is a vibrational language so each word and sound has a resonance and vibration that affects us on a cellular and energetic level. We can use a mantra to help us find our voice and power.

Om Gum Ganapataye Namaha



The mantra above is a recommended mantra for the new year. It is a mantra for removing obstacles from your path and for honoring new beginnings.

If possible, try chanting this mantra 108 times, an auspicious number in the yogic tradition. Using a mala (prayer beads) is helpful if you are going to chant this number of times. An alternative is to simply chant the mantra 3 or 7 times as a way of centering yourself in meditation or the beginning of a yoga practice.

2. Create a Sankalpa

New Year’s Eve is a great time to set an intention for the year ahead; a quality that you would like to embody in the new year. The yogic term for an intention is a sankalpa.

Unlike a New Year’s resolution, which we often think of as a goal to help us achieve something we don’t currently have, a sankalpa is designed to bring forth from within qualities that are already inside of you, just waiting to blossom with the right nurturing and focus.

According to psychologist and yoga instructor, Kelly McGonigal, “a sankalpa practice starts from the radical premise that you already are who you need to be to fulfill your life’s dharma. All you need to do is focus your mind, connect to your most heartfelt desires, and channel the divine energy within.…A sankalpa speaks to the larger arc of our lives, our dharma—our overriding purpose for being here. The sankalpa becomes a statement you can call upon to remind you of your true nature and guide your choices.”

Find a time and place where you can be alone and in a quiet, welcoming space. Light a candle, burn incense, sit quietly, and take a few deep breaths. If you’d like, you can begin with the mantra practice described above, or practice a few rounds of alternate-nostril breathing to help balance and calm your mind and nervous system, promoting clear thought and insight.

You may also want to have a pen and paper nearby.

With the eyes closed, begin to brainstorm a list of qualities you would like to embody in the coming year. If its helpful to you, you could write down a list of qualities as they come to you.

Below are a few qualities to get you started, but don’t let this list limit you!

passionate, loving, peaceful, abundant, joyful, serene, healthy, vibrant, compassionate

Take your time, and allow all of the possibilities to bubble up to the surface. Once you’ve completed this practice, sit for a few minutes as you allow one quality to emerge as the one you’d most like to embody in the coming year. There is no wrong answer, but when setting an intention, it is helpful to have a one-pointed focus so that your energy is directed very clearly towards unfurling this gift inside of you. When your focus becomes scattered, things become more difficult.

As my friend, Tricia, used to say, “set an intention. Trust that the universe will support you in all ways.”

Once you have chosen a word, it is time to set your intention in the form of an affirmation. Remember, a sankalpa is an internal vow you make to yourself.

When creating a sankalpa, it is important to keep it positive, in the present tense, and in the first person.

For example, if the quality you chose is kindness, your intention for the year might be:

I am always kind and caring towards myself and others

Here are a few more examples to inspire you:

  • I am peace

  • I am the embodiment of lovingkindness

  • I am guided by inner wisdom

  • Compassion is my true nature

  • I am in perfect health

  • I can see all things with clarity

  • I am filled with abundance

  • I accomplish whatever I wish to do easily and effortlessly.

  • I am powerful, capable and strong.

  • I am loving to myself and others.

Once you’ve created your intention, you could write it down on paper, post it on a wall, mirror, or keep it in your pocket to remind you each day of your intention. The more you repeat your sankalpa, either out loud or silently, the more power it has to manifest in your life this year.

3. Asanas (yoga poses)

Yoga asanas (poses) are a powerful tool for transformation. When combined with mantra and pranayama (breathing practice) asana can serve as a form of moving prayer, moving the energy of your sankalpa through you and out into the world.

Metaphorically, at least, twisting poses can be very helpful for “wringing out the old” from your energetic and physical body to clear the way for the energy of the new year. Below are some twisting postures that can be done either individually or as a progressive sequence:

Twisting Chair (parivritta utkatasana)

Revolved Triangle (parivritta trikonasana)

Seated Twist (ardha matsyandrasana)

Supine Twist (supta jaṭhara parivartānāsana)

If you’d like to add more fire to your practice, try adding 8 sun salutations before or after the twisting sequence. Finish with a long savasana, silently repeating your sankalpa as a focal point for your awareness.

Wishing you and your family peace, love, and yoga this year and always!

~ Andrea

Andrea Creel

Andrea is the founder of Inspiration Yoga & Wellness and  Shining Kids Yoga and has been teaching yoga to all ages since 2005.  She is also a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) through the State of Maryland, having received her MSW degree from University of Maryland, Baltimore. 

When not teaching or practicing yoga, Andrea enjoys playing board games with her son, Quinn, singing karaoke, and trying out new vegetarian recipes!

You don't need to "burn the bird"! Loving your body on Thanksgiving & everyday

Every year around this time, I see workshops for special “Burn the Bird” yoga practices on the day after Thanksgiving. Sometimes the title of the workshop is seemingly just meant to tie in with the aforementioned holiday (or perhaps the yoga studio or instructor in question doesn’t recognize the connotations of the phrase); but often there is either a subtle or sometimes not-so-subtle insinuation that the focus of the yoga class is to burn off those extra calories you indulged in the day before.

Take these “burn the bird yoga “workshop descriptions for example:

“cleanse your body and spirit”

‘Holiday season leave you feeling full? Glutinous? Do you need to rinse, twist, and detox? This class is for you! Join us for 75 minutes to burn off the bird.“

“Ate too much turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie? No worries! We got you covered! Come and burn all that extra sludge off and get your weekend started off lighter!“

All of these yoga class descriptions reinforce feelings of shame that many people have around food, eating, and body image. Our yoga mats are supposed to be a refuge from our worries and the epidemic of body shaming that plagues our individual and collective psyches; however, often yoga studios and western yoga culture actually exacerbate existing body issues through images of particular body types in yoga magazines, yoga instructors who focus on practices to create a “yoga butt” or “tone your core”, and comparing our bodies to the bodies around us in yoga class.

If you are going to yoga to burn off extra calories, I am here to tell you that you are in the wrong place. Yoga is not supposed to be an exercise class, and it’s certainly not supposed to be a punishment for enjoying delicious food and experiences with friends and family.

In fact, yoga philosophy teaches us that we are not our physical bodies. Our physical bodies change - they get larger, they get smaller, they get taller, they get shorter, they get healthier, they get sicker, they get weaker, they get stronger, they get wrinkled, they get older (the one thing they don’t get is younger)! Our physical bodies are constantly changing. As therapist and eating disorder specialist, Jennifer Rollin, eloquently states, “even if you love the appearance of your body - it’s going to change.” And eventually, our physical bodies die - a moment that we practice for at the end of every yoga class when we rest in corpse pose.

The practice of yoga is not designed to make our physical bodies thinner, it is supposed to help re-connect us to our own true nature - to help us remember the goodness and wholeness that is already inside of us, whether or not we ate an extra helping of stuffing or mashed potatoes the night before.

Our physical bodies are too often the focus of yoga practice in the west - from yogis needing to wear the latest Lululemon pants, or enviously watching the person across the room do the “perfect” headstand or crow pose (spoiler alert: the only “perfect” pose is the one you do on your mat without comparing yourself to others or wishing you were meeting some arbitrary physical goal - the pose where you are perfectly content exactly as you already are).

Western culture teaches many of us, especially women, including myself, that we need to be smaller, and thinner. But instead of using our yoga mats to try to get smaller, what would it feel like to take up MORE space on our yoga mats and take up MORE space in the world?

Instead of “burning the bird” this Thanksgiving, I invite you to offer gratitude to your self and to your body for all of the amazing things it can do, and all of the unique experiences you are able to have because of your amazing, beautiful body.

If you’d like, you might choose to offer thanks and gratitude to your physical body with one or more of the following affirmations:

  • my body is beautiful

  • I love myself exactly as I am

  • I am whole, perfect, and complete

  • my body is a blessing

You might also remember the miraculous things your body can do that we often take for granted. I’ve listed some below as a guide (note: these are my personal remembrances of gratitude for what my body can do; everyone’s body is different and unique so yours might be different from mine!):

  • I am grateful to my lungs for filling with air, allowing me to breathe

  • I am grateful to my heart for pumping and moving blood all around my body

  • I am grateful for the ability to sleep at night and feel rested

  • I am grateful for my brain’s ability to think clear thoughts, and my fingers’ ability to type them and share my words with others

  • I am grateful to my stomach and intestines for their ability to digest and process the food I eat

  • I am grateful to my skin for protecting me from diseases in the environment

  • I am grateful to my legs and knees for allowing me to walk and run with ease

  • I am grateful to my vocal chords, mouth, and tongue for allowing me to speak and sing

If there is something amazing your body can do (of course there is!) or an affirmation that you love, please comment and share it below!

Wishing you a happy, healthy Thanksgiving filled with food, friends, family, and an extra helping of body-positivity!!

~ Andrea

Book Recommendations

Andrea’s Yoga Book Recommendations

Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases from the links in this article.

Books About Yoga Philosophy

The Secret Power Of Yoga A Woman’s Guide to the Heart & Spirit of the Yoga Sutras by Nischala Joy Devi

Living Your Yoga by Judith Lasater

Yoga & The Path of the Urban Mystic by Darren Main

The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali - New Translation & Commentary by Chip Hartranft

The Yamas & Niyamas by Deborah Adele

Books about Mindfulness & Lovingkindness Meditation

Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Everyday Blessings by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn

A Heart As Wide As The World by Sharon Salzberg

Inspirational Readings & Poetry

Go In and In by Danna Faulds

Limitless by Danna Faulds

Peace Is This Moment Without Judgement by Dorothy Hunt

Inspiring Generosity by Barbara Bonner

Mala of the Heart 108 Sacred Poems edited by RAvi Nathwani and Kate Vogt

Books About Yoga & American Culture/Social Issues

21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics, and Practice edited by Carol Horton

Yoga Rising: 30 Empowering Stories from Yoga Renegades for Every Body edited by Melanie Klein

Other Favorites

Sacred Sound by Alanna Kaivalya

Myths of the Asanas by Alanna Kaivalya

Mudras for Healing & Transformation by Joseph & Lillian Le Page

Chanting: Discovering Spirit in Sound by Robert Gass

Wishing you peace, love & yoga!

~Andrea

Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases from the links in this article.

FLASH SALE: Intro to Yoga Series

We're so excited to be offering this special FLASH SALE for the upcoming Intro To Yoga Series at Stone Mill Elementary on 5/24, 5/31, 6/6, and 6/14 from 7:30 - 8:30 p.m.  This class series is a great way to learn about yoga in a safe, supported environment.

Take $12 off your class series registration when you register and pay by 5.17.17  (that's only $9 per class!).  Total cost for the 4-week session is $36 (regular price $48).

Hurry, this special FLASH SALE ends at 11:59 p.m. on 5.17.17.  

A breathing practice for when you need to cool off...

Now that the weather's getting warmer, its easy to feel overheated. Luckily, yoga provides us with a built-in mechanism to help us cool down both from hot temperatures and when we are feeling hot-tempered.  Tongue-curling breath, known in Sanskrit as the sitali breath is a quick way to cool down from whatever's gotten you hot-and-bothered!

Here are the simple steps to practicing this breath:

andreayogaphotobradbarnwell1.jpg

1. sit comfortably with your spine long, lengthening through the crown of the head

2. either close your eyes, or find a single spot to look at, so you can focus inwards

3. curl your tongue. if your tongue doesn't curl, just lightly place the tip of your tongue behind your top front teeth.

4. with your mouth slightly opened, breath in as though you are breathing through a straw. You will make a slight sucking sound - that's normal! When you do this, you should feel a wave of cool air on your tongue.

5. close your mouth and exhale through your nose

Repeat 5-10 times, or until you feel cooler and calmer!

After you try this breath, let me know how it goes!  Post your experience below or shoot me an email at andrea@inspirationyogaandwellness.com!

 

Source: photo credit www.bradbarnwell.com

Happy Spring Equinox!

I know it hasn't felt very spring-like recently, but spring officially arrived at 6:29 a.m. EDT this morning.

I’ve always been drawn to honoring the cycle of the seasons in my yoga practice.  And the Spring Equinox is one of my favorites!  The Vernal Equinox is one of two days in the year when the day and night are perfectly balanced (well, actually, not exactly, but as close as it ever gets).  Flowing with the energy of the Equinox gives us the opportunity to align with nature and bring more balance into our own lives. I don’t know about you, but I often feel that I could use a little more balance in my life!

 The symbolism of the Equinox flows nicely with the basic philosophy of yoga. The word yoga means “to yoke” or “unite,” a practice that encourages finding a balance of opposites and merging together. 

The Yoga Sutras teach us that our yoga postures should be both steady/firm and filled with ease; Twoqualities which serve as counterpoints for each other.  We cannot maintain a yoga pose without muscular action and a steady mind and body, but yoga also teaches us that we don’t always have to try so hard, and to develop a sense of ease, or letting go within the posture. Our yoga mat is the practice space for our lives.  Finding balance on our mat can help us to find and cultivate balance in our relationships with others and within ourselves. 

 There are many ways to celebrate the Spring Equinox on your yoga mat, but to get you started here are 2 yoga practices designed to cultivate balance in body, breath, and mind.

 Tree Pose (Vrksasana) – Stand tall in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) with hands in front of your heart, find a steady gaze in front of you, and begin to bring your weight into your right leg. Bend your left knee and take the sole of the left foot onto the inside of the right leg, either above or below the knee. If you feel steady, raise the arms alongside the ears.  Press your left foot into your right leg, and your right leg into your left foot.  Take 5 deep breaths in this pose, then repeat on the other side.  If you’d like to deepen your connection with nature and the new season, find a tree and practice this pose facing the tree, honoring your connection with the tree, the cycles of nature, and all living things.

 Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana) – Find a comfortable seated position, and begin to pay attention to your breath. Bring your right hand up to your nose and place your right thumb against your right nostril, right pinky finger against your left nostril, and rest your 3 middle fingers in between the eyebrows at your third eye point.  On your next inhale, close of the right nostril and inhale deeply through the left. At the top of your inhale, pause, then close off your left nostril and open the right as you exhale. At the bottom of your exhale, pause, then inhale through the right nostril. At the top of your inhale, pause, then close off your right nostril and exhale through the left. At the bottom of your exhale, pause, then start the cycle again.  Repeat for several rounds. This breathing practice helps to bring balance to both sides of the body.

May this season bring you balance, joy, and harmony with nature!

Namaste!

Andrea