Yoga for Runners: Why Adding Yoga Will Help You on the Trails

Clara Hayes

I came to the yoga practice via a running injury. It was my freshman year of high school and I was training rigorously with my cross country team, running five days per week. My dislike of stretching and resistance to cross-training led me to notorious tight calves and aching hips. So, when I stepped into a pothole on a long run, heel dropping until my achilles tendon tore, it became time to look at adding in other methods of exercise and rehabilitation. Only years later when I began teaching yoga did I begin to realize that this is the origin story for many yogis out there. Whether it be an injured achilles tendon or shin splint, a nagging hip or stress fracture, yoga often comes in when seen as a necessity. But the hard and fast truth is, the yoga practice will best supplement your running lifestyle, prevent injury and increase your sense of well-being when implemented consistently.

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Even 10-20 minutes of practice after your long run can change the course of your week. Below, I’ve listed five reasons for every runner to take up a yoga practice. By sharing this knowledge, my hope is that you see how yoga can not only supplement, but enhance your experience of running to keep you pounding the pavement for life. 

  • Faster Recovery Time

Ever go running two days in a row and the second day your legs feel like lead? They somehow seem heavier than the day before and with each step you’re just dragging. When you begin to incorporate yoga post-run and on your cross training days, you’ll begin to notice more ease in a demanding training schedule. Most yoga classes incorporate hamstring, quad, IT band and hip stretches to help you bounce back faster! 

  • You Need Strong Hips!

Many running injuries result from weak hips. While a lot of us often feel tightness in the hips and hamstrings after a run, that tightness doesn’t necessarily equate to strength. When our hip stabilizing muscles are weak, we overcompensate for this weakness with other parts of the body during a run. So, that sharp shin splint? Its origin could be your hips. Strengthening your hips through yoga and muscle-building exercises can be key to injury-free running. 

  • Strong Core = Good Form

Our ability to maintain good, upright posture has to do with our core’s ability to assist us. Having a strong core will help you keep your running form, too! With the amount of planks and vinyasas you’ll find in a Flow or Power class, you’re bound to gain core strength quickly. Get faster, prevent injury and feel good by planking it out!

  • Deepen Your Breath

The yoga practice teaches us how to breathe deeply while taking on the physical strain of postures. Through guided meditation, asana practice and breathwork, we can expand the capacity and length of our inhales and exhales. As you progress, you will notice these deeper breaths carrying over to your time on the trail. The easier your breath, the less effort you’ll need to exert to get the results you want out there. 

  • The Joy of Mindfulness!

Yoga can promote mindfulness both on and off the mat. The more you tap into your senses and the subtle body in class, the more you’ll notice on your run! Do you ever head out for your run and immediately get into your head? Or maybe you go on auto-pilot? Once you start practicing yoga, you may find yourself paying more attention to the trees, people and happenings all around you!

Want to learn some running stretches? Check out the following links!

The Benefits of Restorative Yoga

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For a well-balanced life, we need a variety of types of rest. We need the Netflix, brownies and wine on a Friday night kind of rest, the cuddles with loved ones kind of rest, the recreational, adventurous new experiences kind of rest, and most of all, we need intentional rest. This last one, arguably the most important, is usually the one we get the least of. It is easy to go an entire day stimulated by screens, conversation, driving, things to do and places to be. But have you ever noticed that the busier you are, the harder it becomes to slow down for the sole purpose of slowing down? Once there’s some momentum, it might seem scarier to stop for a moment, to rest intentionally. What would it look like to commit to a practice of rest for the sake of rest?

Below I’ve outlined three incredible benefits of restorative yoga in hopes that you will give it a go. Restorative yoga is a style that consists of deeply restful poses where the body is fully supported with props. Give this a read, and then take a deep breath. The spaciousness of restorative yoga awaits you!

The Benefits of Restorative Yoga

  • Permission to Rest and Prioritize Your Own Comfort

The best thing about a restorative yoga class is that the instructor is purposely holding space for you to do nothing! If you have trouble granting yourself permission to rest in your daily life, the instructor can do that job for you! In restorative yoga postures, your comfort and ease is the #1 priority. Every element of your comfort is taken into account in a restorative class- how much noise is in the room, to the lighting, the temperature, the atmosphere, the list goes on! For an hour, you and your well-being are the top priorities.

  • Give Your Nervous System a Break

Restorative yoga can be deeply nourishing to the nervous system. The ease of the postures (mostly reclined and all supported by props!) takes you into your parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest portion, opposite of your fight or flight!), so your body and mind can begin to renew themselves. Having trouble sleeping? Restorative yoga just might help you restore your circadian rhythm through deep relaxation.

  • Experience Silence and Stillness

This one is pretty simple. Restorative yoga contains very little movement, and either calming or no music, with as few verbal instructions as possible from the teacher. This creates an environment of silence, stillness and spaciousness for you to restore. If your life is full of stimulus, silence and stillness may seem scary at first. When we’re still, we can no longer ignore what’s going on inside us. But I can promise you, this practice, and the space held by the teacher is welcoming for everyone, no matter where you’re at. 

We currently offer Restore at the Soul Strong main studio every Sunday evening at 6:45PM. We’ve also just added Skin Glow Restore once per month at the Sanctuary. Join us for this unique class! Replenish, restore and rehabilitate your mind and body. This 60 minute class includes a 45 minute restorative session, followed by an organically crafted facial mask that will leave you feeling cleansed, physically and mentally. This time around, the masks are Pumpkin Latte Hydration masks from Eminence. They will be followed up with the Stone Crop Hydrating Mist and your choice of moisturizer (options available for different skin types). $5 supply fee (pay HERE). Limited spots available. This class is one Friday each month at the Soul Strong Sanctuary. The Fridays in 2019 are as follows:

October 18th, 7:30PM

November 15th, 7:30PM

December 13th, 7:30PM

Want to learn more about restorative yoga? Check out the links below!

The Art of Private Lessons: Make it YOUR Practice

Clara Hayes


Have you ever left a yoga class feeling like you didn’t get quite what your body needed? It’s happened to all of us. The yoga practice is vast and the needs of every person in the room are always different. One person might request hip strengtheners, while your hips feel tight. Another student might request core work, when you went hard at bootcamp yesterday. But fear not! While it’s true that the typical 60-minute public yoga class is usually the instructor’s pre-planned sequence, the space we hold at Soul Strong is really for you to do what YOU need to do for your body. 

Oftentimes in class, instructors try to cue things like “make this practice your own” or “find any variation that feels good” to remind you of that permission. Ultimately, we want you to take what you need and leave the rest. Move like YOU! But many of us have also felt lost hearing this cue. How exactly does one make this practice “their own”? How does one first approach moving freely in a public space without being self-conscious? Or maybe you’ve been confronted time and time again with this classic situation: everyone in class is in a wide-legged forward fold when the instructor cues “feel free to find a headstand if you’d like”... and you’re over there silently wondering “HOW???” If any of these situations sound like you, it might be time to look into private lessons.

Our second ever post on the Soul Strong blog went up in June of 2018, outlining our top 5 reasons to take a private yoga lesson (read it HERE). While our top 5 reasons still remain relevant, what our instructors can now offer in those lessons has expanded far and wide! A little over a year in business, it’s crazy beautiful to see how much our community, and our services, have expanded! As our community has grown, so has our talented staff. So when it comes to private lessons, you can now contact Jessica for all things sound therapy, Adrienne and Anabelle for BUTI yoga, and Sepi to learn restorative. Get in touch with myself (Clara) and Julie to learn about adaptive yoga practices and chair yoga, find Nicki for hip health, and Sarah and Jill for prenatal/postnatal. Maura can give your entire family a private lesson, from crawlers onward! And a handful of different instructors here can help you learn everything from meditation to inversions. The list could truly go on, but in short, we’re here to help you. 

We want your practice to be just that: YOUR practice! Tell us what you need and we’re happy to serve it up. Book your private lesson now by emailing Buy a package of 5 private lessons for the price of 4! Can’t book a private? Try a new instructor from our growing team! Check out our class schedule HERE

Want to learn more about the art of private lessons? Check out the links below!

Yoga and Social Justice: Every Action Counts

Clara Hayes

Yoga Social Justice

While the yoga practice is often portrayed as something zen, bendy and brightening, the heart of yoga is far from passive and apathetic. The stereotype of the carefree hippie may still be strongly tied to the practice, and yoga may bring about feelings of well-being, but at the end of the day, this practice has the power to create warriors out of us . After all, the hippies practicing yoga of the 1960s and 70s in the U.S. were often passionately protesting violent wars and advocating for civil rights. Consistent yoga practice has the tendency to open our hearts, expand our awareness and can unearth such deep empathy that we’re sprung into action. Today, I want to discuss with you this intersection of social justice and yoga, why it will always exist, and how to find your place in it. 

While there are technically four spiritual paths of yoga, Karma Yoga is the yoga of selfless action. There may be many Western yogis that don’t necessarily adhere to Hinduism and consciously choose this path of Karma Yoga, yet this intersection of social justice and yoga is still a natural occurrence. Yoga practice, along with the study of the self and the eight limbs, can often lead to a more expanded sense of empathy, as well as awareness of ethics and injustice in the world. After all, when you spend time in meditation exploring the darkest parts of your being, it can be hard not to look around and see everyone else’s inherent humanity, too. Practices of cultivating gratitude and sending metta (loving kindness) can amplify this as well. Our yoga practice then teaches us to use our voices (open throat chakra) and tap into our intuition (third eye chakra) to follow our path in this life (dharma). 

However, in a world full of stimulation, online conversations and endless news alerts, it can seem overwhelming to know WHICH actions to take. Doomsday thinking can make daily efforts feel pointless. Big-time, school-skipping activists like the incredible Greta Thunberg can be awe-inspiring, and at the same time leave you thinking, what can I do? My answer to you: a whole lot. In a world this large, we need activists big and small. We need the dramatic movements and the mindful efforts. We need people yelling for justice, and people breathing through a yoga practice together. Every moment counts, and your efforts, no matter how small, have a ripple effect.

I recently had a conversation with a friend about this “ripple effect” and it changed my life. She was telling me how she truly believed her smallest efforts added to a larger impact. She told me how she wouldn’t have come to recycle if she hadn’t seen her parents dedicated to the practice, and she believes that her recycling, composting and reducing her waste will inspire others just through the act of it. This took me aback because I realized I had, in fact, been inspired and moved to action by her efforts myself. 

Even just yesterday, I was listening to a yoga podcast in which the host, Rachel Brathen, spoke of having recently posted a short yoga flow video to Instagram, centered around neck health. She did it without a second thought, only to receive a message from a woman thanking her, for she’d recently been almost completely paralyzed and this video was her first accessible reintroduction back into yoga since her accident. Small action, huge impact. 

Anne-Marie Bonneau, a zero-waste chef, has recently been quoted saying “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” Whether it be zero waste, or other ways in which you take action, this quote applies. Do it anyways, no matter how imperfect. We might never know how our actions affect others. Our ripples may not even show themselves to us in this lifetime, but they exist all the same. 

Want to learn more about yoga and social justice? Check out the links below!

September Meditation Makers at Soul Strong


As summer winds down, vacations end, and kids go back to school, it’s a great time to move back into routine and re-ignite your connection with the communities that support your daily well-being. We’ve all heard the proverb about it taking a village to raise a child, but what about adults? Sustaining our own healthy, and quite possibly demanding, lifestyles can be made more enjoyable when surrounded by uplifting community and systems of support. For our September Meditation Makers we'll be creating friendship bracelets and focusing on community and connection. Participants will have an opportunity to create a bracelet for themselves and/or someone they love while applying meditative practices. 
Meditation Makers is our newest monthly offering with yoga teacher, Kristin Booth. Kristin describes it best below:

“Through the process of craft, we will explore traditional meditation techniques and how to apply them while creating something beautiful. Each month we will provide a new, small craft that will inspire participants and serve as a gentle reminder of their mindful practice long after the gathering is over.”

Come join us this Sunday, September 15th from 3-4:30 at the Soul Strong Sanctuary (503 E Main St)! Just BOOK this class like you would any other, using your membership, a $15 drop-in, or a class from your class pack. There is an additional $5 class fee to cover the cost of supplies. You can pay the $5 fee HERE.

Prenatal Yoga Series Returns to Soul Strong Yoga

The PREPARED Series: Childbirth and Motherhood with Jill Birt

By Clara Hayes

prenatal yoga austin

If you’re currently pregnant, not only is your body busy creating an incredible human, but your quest to find the right prenatal and childbirth classes before your nine months is up can be a feat of its own. Thankfully, the incredible Jill Birt- yogi, mother & registered nurse- is offering something especially unique this fall. Her PREPARED series not only leads you through prenatal adapted yoga practices, but also prepares your body, mind & soul for the birthing & life of your new baby. Jill is here to help you gain a deeper understanding of the connection between mind, body and spirit and learn ways to apply this knowledge through labor, delivery and into motherhood. 

So, what makes PREPARED different than other prenatal and childbirth classes? Similar to traditional childbirth classes, you can expect to be educated on the process of labor and delivery, but unlike a traditional class Jill will guide you through an understanding of the process from both scientific and energetic perspectives. PREPARED is also a series, meaning you will progress through the classes with the same group of expecting mamas, with individualized attention along the way. Jill’s Prenatal website,, really describes this series best. She states:

“Each class of this series is structured with a specific intention in mind. These set intentions weave their way throughout class in the form of discussion, breathwork, movement and meditation allowing you to fully embody the teachings of the class. Topics of discussion include ideals such as fostering your mind-body connection, understanding the process of labor from both a scientific and energetic viewpoint, and tools to manage labor, delivery and motherhood. Each class will also include a guided take home reference to allow you to continue your practice at home as well as guide you through your labor when the time comes. The series will end with a spiritual blessing ceremony for all participants to solidify the community of connection and bless the way for your journey into motherhood.” 

PREPARED meets Saturdays from 4:00-6:00PM September 21st - October 12th. $199 or book by September 15th and save! The Early Bird Special is only $175. Sign up HERE!

For more information on Prenatal Yoga, see the links below:

For more about Jill’s offerings, click here:

What is Buti Yoga?

Adrienne Gibson, Soul Strong Yoga Buti Teacher

buti yoga

Buti is a Marathi Indian word meaning “a cure that has been hidden or kept secret.” BUTI is not all about BOOTY, but we will tone, lift and generally elevate all aspects of the physical and energetic bodies. Instead, BUTI is helping practitioners toward a deeper inner knowing of themselves through movement. Yoga means “to join, unite” or “yoke.” In Yoga, the joining of the soul body and the physical body is achieved through a series of steps including physical movement, focus, breath work, ethical behavior and meditation, and the same is true of BUTI where we work to soulfully blend power yoga, cardio-intensive tribal dance, conditioning and DEEP abdominal toning. BUTI also facilitates complete inner transformation, working inside out to release what is stagnant and unnecessary within the body. Students AND Teachers are encouraged to let go of their minds and get all the way into their bodies. Classes are NOT pre-choreographed, moves will NOT go right to left, and combinations won’t go in order. LET GO OF COUNTING & KEEPING TRACK! Songs can go from light stretching to intense tribal dance in a matter of seconds. Let go of any judgement, accept yourself where you are and let the rest happen. 

What Should I Expect? 

Music and movement incorporate Chakra balancing techniques and activates Kundalini energy, a concentration of feminine energy that lies dormant at the base of the spine in all bodies, male and female alike. The movements are woven seamlessly throughout class culminating in a beautiful and full savasana and plenty of post-Buti Bliss.

BUTI uses the patented Spiral Structure Technique to train the muscles of the core using opposing muscle pairs. Most core training is linear which over-works some muscles and, more importantly, misses the deep stabilizing muscles of the abdomen and does not incorporate strengthening through back body. Spirals are key to creating stable, strong and visible core abdominal muscles.

We won’t use a mic so you can let go of having to hear every cue (they’ll be minimal anyway). Trust that there will be me to get to moves and even if you miss one, it’s ok. Just jump back into the energetic flow of the class as you can. 

We won’t modify movement Instead we ask you to listen to your body. BUTI emphasizes the belief that many people restrict themselves from what’s considered difficult before even trying. Try, then do. You might amaze yourself. We don’t take breaks in BUTI so having water at your mat, taking small sips along the way is key.

What do I Wear/Bring? 

Wear comfortable yoga-type clothing We will sweat, and body acceptance is encouraged - so minimized athletic apparel is more than acceptable. A Yoga mat, towel and water - or leave those items at home. The studio can provide you with mat rentals and water bottles for purchase.

Mat. Towel. Water. Soul.

Top 3 Benefits of Backbending: Yoga Heart Openers

Clara Hayes, Soul Strong Yoga Writer & Teacher

yoga heart opener

If I had to choose one kind of yoga pose to do every single day, it would be a heart opener, hands down. You’ve probably heard yoga instructors throw around the term “heart opener” but what does that really mean? Heart opening is really just a less-intimidating term for a backbend. Backbending can sound scary at first. From afar, it can seem like a practice meant for the Cirque Du Soleil performer that can bring their head between their knees. But the truth is, backbends come in all different forms, shapes, and intensities. Depending on the day, a low cobra, cactus arms, or sphinx pose may be the yoga backbends for you. Other days, wheel, camel, or scorpion might be in your practice. Backbends have a myriad of benefits, from countering our daily slouch to re-energizing the body! Come learn more at our upcoming workshop. The amazing Sami Solbrig is hosting a backbending workshop on July 21st from 3:00-5:00PM. Whether you have no idea how to backbend or you love your daily dose of wheel, this workshop is for you! In this fun, inclusive environment, you’ll practice breathing techniques, meridian stretches and asana designed to bring greater awareness to your backward bends. Sami will safely guide you through a backbending practice so you can leave with an open heart (and maybe having flipped your perspective!). Sign up HERE! Want to learn more about what backbending does for the body and mind? Below I’ve listed 3 incredible benefits of backbending! 

Open your heart! 

When you practice backbends, you get the chance to stretch out areas where many of us often hold tension (upper back, shoulders, chest). We hold our tension here for a myriad of reasons, but some of them are emotional. Ever feel a tightness in your chest in the midst of a heartache? Or have you felt your shoulders creep up to your ears during times of stress? The psychosomatic connection is very real, and in yoga is usually referred to through the chakras. The sense of well-being that comes after doing a heart opener largely has to do with prana (life force) once again being able to flow through the heart chakra with ease. Once you’ve opened up through backbending, it’s likely you’ll be able to breathe more deeply, find emotional release, and move with a little more ease.

Energize the body!

Backbends are energizing! Sometimes a second cup of coffee isn’t an option, so it might be time to learn how to stop, drop and backbend! When you move through a backbend, it’s common to get a bit of an adrenaline rush. Your nervous system lights up when the spine begins to move in a way that it’s not used to and it invigorates your whole body! Try a backbend next time you’re feeling low, moody, or just plain tired. It might just change your whole day. 

Nourish your spine! 

In our fast-paced world, it can be hard not to slouch! With computers at our fingertips and steering wheels to droop over, we need to counter the all-too-easy postural deviations that pop up in life. A backbending practice not only dramatically counters habitual forward rounding for a brief moment, but its  feel-good effects will make you WANT to carry this feeling of openness into your daily life. Give your spine some love with a backbend of your choice! 

Want to learn more about the art of backbending? Join Sami on July 21st by signing up HERE and check out the following links below!

3 Yoga Poses That Help Your Back

Welcome guest blogger, Adam Peterson! Adam is based in San Diego and writes primarily on health and wellness topics, including yoga, fitness, and medical care.

In today’s technology-driven world, most of us spend far too much time hunched over our phones and computers. As a result, back problems are all too common and now they’re starting from earlier ages.

Yoga is an effective way to conquer back pain and keep your body in shape, especially if you have a job that puts frequent stress on your spine. “If you work on your feet all day like I do, practicing yoga can offer great relief,” says Dr. Nicholas Sager, a dentist in Hewitt.

While getting into the world of yoga may seem intimidating, it’s actually far simpler than you might think. Keep reading to learn about three poses for beginners that can significantly reduce your back pain.

Downward-Facing Dog

yoga for the back

Probably the most recognized pose in yoga, downward-facing dog is a great place to begin for newcomers. To perform this pose, bend down from a standing position and place your hands at the front of your mat. Then, keeping your knees slightly bent, slowly draw your heels towards the mat behind you. Keep in mind that your heels don’t have to actually touch the mat in order to get the benefit of this stretch.

Downward-facing dog strengthens the lower back muscles that help to support your spine. Practicing this pose regularly will increase your flexibility and reduce back pain.  

Cow Pose

yoga for back pain

Cow pose is one of the easier poses to learn in yoga. Simply start on your hands and knees, keeping your hands aligned with your shoulders and your knees aligned with your hips. This is often used as a lead-in to cat pose, which describes dropping your head between your knees and arching your spine.

Though it may seem basic, cow pose is a fantastic way to stretch your back. It improves your posture and balance while also increasing flexibility in your hip and abdominal muscles. This helps to alleviate lower back pain and sciatic nerve problems.

Sphinx Pose

yoga for back pain

For this pose, begin by laying on your stomach with your feet extended straight out behind you. Face forward and draw your elbows in under your shoulders, holding the pose for one to three minutes.

Sphinx pose offers great relief for your lower back, helping to promote the natural curvature of your spine. This pose is especially valuable if you work at a job that involves sitting all day, as excessive sitting can flatten your lower back and lead to chronic pain.

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Start Your Yoga Journey Today

If you suffer from back pain on a regular basis, yoga could be the solution you’re looking for. It also provides a wide range of additional benefits to your mental and physical health, including stress relief and increased energy.

So why wait any longer? Visit us as Soul Strong Yoga in Round Rock to get started on your journey today.

Practicing the Niyamas: #SELFCARE 

yamas and niyamas

Yoga philosophy time! If you’ve been keeping up with the Soul Strong blog, you might remember how we recently spoke about the yamas and niyamas. This week, we dive deeper into the niyamas! To refresh, yama and niyama are the first two limbs along the eight-limbed path of yoga. The 8 limbs come from the Yoga Sutras and are thought to be the path to enlightenment. If enlightenment doesn’t resonate with you, think of it as a path of self-betterment, of finding deeper union with yourself. Yama refers to broader-scope ethical practices, while niyama refers to personal practices. These first two limbs are meant to serve as the foundation for your yoga-inspired ethics and lifestyle. As the seasons change and we near the summer heat, taking a deeper look at what personal practices you’re holding close can set the stage for an easier transition. #Selfcare, y’all. The five niyamas are as follows:

-Sauca (Cleanliness)

-Santosha (Contentment)

-Tapas (Internal Heat)

-Svadhyaya (Self-Study)

-Ishvara Pranidhana (Surrender)

As you can see, the niyamas are super accessible! You can practice these concepts in your daily life, on and off the yoga mat! Sauca (cleanliness) can be practiced literally through your grooming habits and more philosophically by working with your mind to encourage positive thinking. Santosha (contentment) can be practiced by refraining from unnecessary purchases, or by cultivating a simple practice of gratitude. Tapas (internal heat) can be found by building up a sweat in your physical asana practice, or through practices that motivate and inspire your daily life, getting your internal flame going. Ishvara Pranidhana (surrender) can be letting someone pass you in traffic, a deep exhale at the end of the day, or letting go of attachment to certain outcomes.

At the heart of all of these, however, is Svadhyaya (self-study). Throughout each day, we come into contact with countless opportunities to learn more about ourselves. However, with each learning opportunity that arises, you have the choice to say yes or no to deepening your self-inquiry. Most of the time, it’s all too easy to move through the day in a reactive state, making judgments everywhere we go and going on autopilot in routine situations. So for this week’s assignment, I want to encourage you to find some time and space to pause. It doesn’t have to be in the form of a seated meditation session. The next time you’re in an interaction or experience that brings up strong emotions or reactions, the next time you find yourself late to work again, or when a repeated thought pattern arises, step back. Take a breath. Ask why. Get to know the contents of your daily life on a deeper level and let the learning begin. And remember, we’re all on this journey of self-inquiry together. Walk this incredible path with us!

Looking for a little more guidance in your summer self-care routine? Check out Jill’s upcoming workshop Rituals of the Sun on June 2nd from 2-4pm. Learn more HERE and sign up HERE!

Check out the links below for more on the Niyamas!

The Yamas: Where Attention Goes, Energy Flows!

Want to take a deeper dive? Take our 200 hour Yoga Alliance registered Teacher Training.

Want to take a deeper dive? Take our 200 hour Yoga Alliance registered Teacher Training.

This week, we dive right into the yamas! A couple of weeks ago, we touched briefly on the yamas and niyamas on the blog. To jog your memory: yama and niyama are the first two limbs along the eight-limbed path of yoga. Yama refers to ethical practices, while niyama refers to personal practices. These first two limbs are meant to serve as the foundation for your yoga-inspired ethics and lifestyle. However, keeping a “yoga-inspired” lifestyle is a lot easier said than done. Life happens, things get crazy and sometimes we need more than just a reminder to “stay positive” or a cute Instagram quote (although, some days those quotes do help!). Being grounded in your truth with a clear field of awareness takes work. The yamas refer to the ethical and external (outside of yourself) practices you can ground yourself in to keep walking your yogic path. You can think of the yamas as how you interact with the world. Ultimately, how you treat others and your surroundings reflects how you treat yourself. By practicing the yamas, you are not only caring for others, but caring for yourself. The five yamas are as follows:

-Ahimsa (Non-violence)

-Satya (Truthfulness)

-Asteya (Non-stealing)

-Brahmacharya (Right use of energy)

-Aparigraha (Non-attachment)

The concepts of non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing and non-attachment are all fairly common vocabulary and useful concepts. So let’s look at brahmacharya or right use of energy. What exactly does that mean and how can you utilize it? Traditionally, brahmacharya referred to celibacy. The first yogis dedicated their lives to the practice and did not have families or relations as they committed to ascension through the eight-limbed path. The energy that could have been used for pleasure and to create a family was instead dedicated to the spiritual practice. Yoga has now come to more common folk, but we may still explore this concept in ways that are realistic to daily life. Feel free to explore a commitment to celibacy or times of conscious celibacy if that calls to you. But I encourage you to think about the words “right use of energy” or “conservation of vital energy,” as it’s defined in Bachman’s The Path of the Yoga Sutras. This concept is all about prana (life force) and where your prana goes in daily life. It can be as simple as shifting your speech away from gossiping (likely a waste of your energy), to more time spent in silence or using kind words. It could be not over-committing yourself in a society that encourages being excessively busy. Or maybe it’s a literal, physical conservation of your energy. Been hitting the gym too hard and feeling run down? Take a day off! Too much chaturanga? Take a restorative class! This week, your yogi homework is to center your meditation practice around brahmacharya. Notice one area in your life that could be brighter if you realign your energy. Where attention goes, energy flows y’all.

Want to learn more about the yamas? Come study with us in yoga teacher training! Sign up HERE. Need some time for self-study? Check out the links below for more on the yamas.

5 Methods for Reducing Your Daily Waste! Earth Day with Jackie Cawthon

earth day.jpg

Earth Day is almost here! And whether you’re the gardening hippie type, or brand new to celebrating, this day is for all! Earth Day is this Monday, April 22nd, and is a global holiday that asks us all to take a step back and look at our environmental impact. It’s a great time to go green! Re-dedicate yourself to environmentally friendly lifestyle choices or volunteer for local environmental organizations. Here at Soul Strong Yoga, we do our best to reduce our waste through providing compostable cups and reusable hand towels. However, we’ve got the magnificent Jackie Cawthon, also known as @thegirlwiththecarrottattoo, on our team to inspire us to always go the extra mile! I interviewed her about the increasingly popular zero-waste movement, as Jackie is always deepening her sustainable lifestyle. Check out the interview below for inspiration on how to reduce your daily waste, buy second-hand, and more!

CLARA: What exactly is the zero-waste movement? How did you become interested in adapting zero (or low) waste practices into your life?

JACKIE: I'll start by saying, I wish it was more popularly known as the "less waste" movement, due to the discouragement of how difficult a zero-waste lifestyle is to live, but I understand that ideally, we do want to eventually live in a 100% zero-waste world. I think the zero-waste movement is about making more conscious decisions about what you buy or accept and also how you dispose of things that you no longer need or want. We are working towards loving this planet a little more, by being more mindful of how we treat it.

I think the first time I was ever exposed to this idea was when I watched an interview of this woman who kept all of the trash she produced in a whole year, and it all fit into a small mason jar. I was absolutely blown away that that was even possible, seeing that I created more trash in a day than she did in a year. Honestly, this didn't encourage me enough to actually make any changes in my life right away, but I was immediately actually aware of the trash I was creating. It was not until some time last year that I got a lot more serious. Seeing photos of beautiful beaches destroyed by empty Hot Cheetos bags and single-use cutlery broke my heart. I noticed even in my own city, trash cans overflowing with waste. Trash trickled down the streets. It’s repulsive. And even worse, I realized I am part of the problem. I decided enough is enough. I no longer want to participate in the destruction of our home, so I started doing research on zero-waste and found so many helpful hints on Google, Pinterest, and Instagram.

CLARA: Why live a zero (or low) waste lifestyle? What are some of the benefits, both for the environment and for you?

JACKIE: Oh there are so many wonderful reasons to work towards zero-waste, and I continue to discover new benefits all the time! I'll list a few of the first ones that come to my mind:

a. Cost: I've saved a ton of money by cutting down on paper towels, making more food at home, and buying only what I need, instead of making impulse purchases. b. Power of making a difference: It just feels good to know you are changing the world.

c. Growth: You can learn new skills to fix broken items and get creative to make your own supplies (Makeup, cleaning products, laundry detergent, etc.)

d. High quality: When you give each purchase you make a little more thought and consideration, you will usually go with high quality items that will last longer.

e. Avoid chemicals: You'll begin to notice how much crap is in everything we buy! When we make our own, or opt in to buying local, there are usually fewer fillers and toxic ingredients.

CLARA: What are the easiest ways to reduce waste in daily life? What are some of your other favorite ways to reduce waste?

JACKIE: Some of the easiest ways to reduce waste in your daily life will probably depend a lot on your kind of lifestyle. For example, I eat at my job mostly every day, but our kitchen only has plastic, single use utensils. One of the first and easiest things I did was simply bring my own silverware and ceramic dish from home to keep in my desk. For traveling and going out, I bought an adorable bamboo travel cutlery set off amazon for $9. I will include a small list of some of my other favorite ways to reduce:

a. Second-hand shopping: I've always loved thrifting and treasure hunting, so this is a breeze. If I check all my favorite second-hand stores and do not find what I need, I will ask friends, and as a last resort, I will buy new, high quality items. Favorite stores include: Revival Vintage, Uptown Cheapskate, Goodwill, Room Service Vintage, Savers, Plato's Closet and Salvation Army.

b. Reusable bags: Grocery shopping is so much easier with your own sturdy bags. I can get at least 4 or 5 plastic bags worth of groceries into just 1 of my reusable bags. I try to have at least 2 in my car, but if I forget, and only have a few items, I will refuse the plastic bag and just carry my items out in hand.

c. Ceramic coffee mug: I love Starbucks. I try to make my own coffee at home, but occasionally I'll treat myself to a cup of joe in my reusable ceramic starbucks mug.

d. Stainless steel straws: AMAZON! I keep a handful at home and one or two in my bamboo travel cutlery set.

e. Paper towel replacement: I use worn out hand towels to clean up messes in my kitchen and have switched to cloth napkins for meals instead of paper towels.

CLARA: Any last tips? Things for folks to remember as they move towards reducing their waste?

JACKIE: Don't stress about being perfect. There's no need to beat yourself up EVER. This movement is all about love and respect - not only loving and respecting your planet - your home - but showing that same love and respect towards yourself. Just do your best and know that you are making a powerful difference.

Inspired to make a difference? Keep reading about the less-waste movement by checking out the links provided below. Ready to learn more from Jackie? She teaches the Beginner’s Flow at 6:30 PM at Soul Strong Sanctuary and 8:00 PM Power at the Soul Strong main studio every Thursday. Jackie also has an inversion workshop coming up! Learn to take flight and sign up HERE!

Jackie Cawthorn

All photos in this post are by Jackie Cawthon. Follow her instagram @thegirlwiththecarrottattoo. Did you know Jackie is also a yoga photographer? Check out her gram and schedule a session with her!

Ready to Detox this Spring: Live in the moment and experience Santosha

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Spring is in the air, yogis! Springtime in Texas, allergies aside, is truly incredible. It feels like a brief, in-between gray area of the seasons here in Texas. The bone-chilling cold days suddenly disappear, yet we aren’t running from air-conditioned room to air-conditioned room yet. And it seems to happen so fast that if you aren’t paying attention, you could miss it. But isn’t it funny, that spring can bring us so much joy in its lack of extremes? If spring is simultaneously beautiful, while being a pit stop between our more extreme seasons, what does that say about our personal “in-between” seasons of life? You know what I’m talking about - those in-between seasons where we don’t feel like we’re in our flow. Times where we aren’t clear about our purpose or have some extra bumps in the road. When those times arise, can we slow down enough to see the unique beauty of the present moment? Must we always be chasing the next extreme, 100 degrees or icy cold, the new career or next big ticket item, when we have beauty right in front of us? What’s the risk in finding contentment exactly where we are? Because once summer comes, my friends, once this season of life passes, you may just be wishing you’d paid attention to spring.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali outlines the eight-limbed path of yoga. The eight limbs outlines steps towards enlightenment, or union with your highest self. One of the Niyamas (personal practices) he speaks of is the concept of Santosha, meaning contentment. Actively cultivating contentment with your current state can help you find more ease and enjoyment in daily life. Patanjali also speaks of Saucha, meaning cleanliness or purity. As you grow more content, you may begin to notice where there’s excess, things and attitudes you’ve been holding onto that are no longer serving you. Or maybe you’ve been on a Marie Kondo kick and are literally inspired to tackle spring cleaning. Either way, as you practice being content in the spring of things, actively living in gratitude, find some cleansing practices that help you pare down to only what serves you. Breathe in, breathe out.

If you’re still looking for inspiration, be sure to check out our spring events. Sunday Social is back at The Brass Tap starting March 31st! Sign up HERE.

Then we have two spring-inspired events. Practice Saucha at Jill’s Cleanse and Renew Workshop on April 7th! Jill will help you detox with a heated yoga flow and Saucha-inspired essential oil mixes. Sign up HERE.

Next, on April 14th, we have another Yin & Sound Bath with Jessica Cross. The theme is Refresh for Spring. Be sure to snag your spot HERE!

For more springtime inspo, check out the following links:

Happy Spring and Namaste!

Release What’s No Longer Serving You! The Moon Magic and Gong Flow Series.

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As I sat typing out the following interview with Soul Strong co-owner and yoga instructor Sepideh Jafari, I remembered that today (March 6th) is the new moon. The timing could not have been better to manifest great vibes for our upcoming Moon Magic and Flow Series! Sepi and Jessica Cross, another beloved Soul Strong instructor and sound therapist, have put together an incredible series that will guide you through yoga asana, sound therapy and ritual for two full moons and two new moons in 2019. You can purchase the whole series, HERE and attend all four events throughout the year at a discounted rate. You can also purchase the passes individually HERE, starting with the upcoming Crow Moon event on March 22nd.

The Moon Magic events will be transformational, as we draw on the powers of the moon to guide us. Check out the interview with Sepi below to learn more about the events, as well as the magic of the moon!  And be sure to snag your spot for March 22nd’s Crow Moon yoga experience!

Tell me about the powers of the moon. Why is being in tune with it important to the yogic lifestyle?

Sepi: The moon represents a lot- feminine energy, the tides change with the moon. We do sun salutations everyday but moon salutations get overlooked. By taking the time to tune into the moon, it’s really just another way to take a step back and evaluate yourself. It’s Svadhyaya (self-study), which is one of the Niyamas (Internal Practices) of yoga.

What’s the difference between practicing yoga on a full moon verses a new moon?

Sepi: The Full Moon is when you practice letting go of things that are no longer serving you, cleansing. The New Moon is about bringing things in, manifestation.

What inspired you and Jessica to create this series?

Sepi: I love moon manifesting. It’s a great time to set an intention and manifest more of what you want to bring into your life. And I love Jessica’s sound work and wanted us to do more with the gong. The gong has a really strong vibration so it’s perfect for something like this. By doing a series, we get to reflect in all four seasons when there are big changes and your focus changes. The first one, the Crow Moon, aligns with the Equinox.

What can students expect when attending the series?

Sepi: When folks arrive, we’ll give them pen and paper to write what they want to release and bring in.  Then we’ll move through Moon Salutations - it’s more legs and standing, not like a vinyasa. Then we’ll get everyone settled in a comfortable, restorative savasana. From there, Jessica will play the gong and chimes. Afterwards, there will be a warm beverage- golden milk or a cacao drink. Students have the option to stick around a little longer and go outside for an optional palo santo cleanse.

Want to learn more about Yoga and the Moon? Check out the following links below!

And don’t forget to sign up for the upcoming series HERE!

Wondering why a Crow Moon is called a Crow Moon? Read about the history HERE!

Meditation for Anxiety - Destress with Yoga Nidra

Transform Your Brain! The Benefits of Yoga Nidra

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Yoga Nidra. The Yogic Sleep. We are so excited to bring this practice to you through our upcoming yoga workshop with Todd Cline. Our regulars may know Todd for his fiery Power classes or the sweaty HIIT Fusion Saturdays. However, Todd is a great example of a yoga practitioner that lives out a well-balanced practice. While it’s important to move the body and stay strong for all of life’s ups and downs, rest and recovery are equally necessary. However, sitting still in what most of us traditionally know as meditation can be difficult! It takes a lot of practice to be able to sit with yourself, in silence, and not get caught up in reeling thoughts. While the practice of seated meditation is certainly worth it, I highly recommend easing your way into the world of meditation with Yoga Nidra! Or supplementing your meditation practice with it. Yoga Nidra, is both exponentially more restful but also incredibly accessible to the general population! The scripted, guided meditation practice brings the mind to surrender towards restfulness. And you’ll be set up in a comfortable, supported Savasana for extra coziness!

When I think of Yoga Nidra, I almost think of it as “leveling up” your practice of rest. Yoga Nidra feels like pressing a reset button in a way that a full night’s sleep doesn’t always accomplish. From Savasana, the guided meditation of Yoga Nidra lands the brain between alpha and theta waves. From this state, deep healing of all kinds can happen. Some of the most common benefits are stress relief, decreased anxiety, improved mood, and an easier time sleeping at night. However, this practice is expansive and has been proven to assist with resetting negative thought patterns. We all carry around samskaras (scars of the mind), simply from the trauma of everyday life. Consider deepening your restful, meditative practices next time you feel something’s getting in your way. I promise you won’t regret it. You can join Todd on Sunday, March 10th from 3:00-4:15 PM for this rejuvenating experience! Sign up HERE.

For more information about Yoga Nidra, check out the links below!

Achieve Neck and Shoulder Health Now! Simple Solutions for Tension and Stress.

My Neck and Shoulders...! An Interview with Josephine Ashford

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Are your motivations in taking a yoga class ever fueled by a need to relieve tension? Or quite possibly to relieve stress? Do you often find your stress creeping in as tension, rising up to the neck and shoulders? I learned in the interview below with Josephine Ashford, yoga instructor and massage therapist, that the experience of tension and stress usually go hand in hand. And that most of us are caught in a cycle of stress leading to tension and poor posture, which then leads to self-shaming and stress about our poor posture, which leads to worse posture which leads to....catch my drift? However, Josephine’s holistic, yogic perspective around healthy posture strips away the shame and helps us work towards a pain-free life with self-compassion. The upcoming workshop, titled My Neck and Shoulders…!, gave me the opportunity to interview Josephine and dive deeper. Be sure to check out the interview below, and then snag your spot by signing up HERE. Join Josephine on Sunday, March 3rd from 3:00-4:30PM at our main location, Soul Strong Yoga, in downtown Round Rock.

What are some of the biggest benefits of taking time out to focus on your neck and shoulder health?

--Learning to actively prioritize your own well-being—this is self-love and compassion.  You’re taking care of an issue that is causing you distress.
--Alleviating physical discomfort and range of motion limitations. Staying more comfortable and mobile in your body on the whole.
--Prevention and slowing or stopping the progression of postural dysfunction. The impact of shoulder and neck problems is not isolated, but concurrent with, or predictive of, future issues in other parts of the body.

What inspired you to teach this neck & shoulders workshop?

Along with yoga teaching, I have also been a massage therapist for nearly 12 years. Between the two, I can tell you what I hear most frequently is:
“my problem area is my neck and shoulders”
“my shoulders are really tight”
“my upper back between my shoulder blades is really tight”
“the tops of my shoulders and neck hurt…they just stay tight”
“I feel hunched in my shoulders all the time”

These statements are usually accompanied by an acknowledgment that this is a common issue. Most of us are all too familiar with this type of tension and even pain, but many people don’t know exactly what can be done about it.

I often hear clients and students berating themselves for not having better posture, which is not psychically helpful or kind to self. And I hear that they try to “sit up straight,” but know they fail all the time. I see people needing to better understand what is happening in their bodies and why on a deeper level. I see them needing some concrete and accessible ways of starting to change their thinking about postural health (starting with not calling it “bad” or “good”), physical and daily living practices that can start them on a path to a healthier, easy posture, and more body awareness and presence—this is also strongly related to stress management, habit change, and a great use of mindfulness.

What should students expect when signing up? How will yoga be tied in?

Students can expect to gain a deeper understanding of their postural health, learn simple exercises and stretches (to do during the workday, for example) that will start to move them into having a more natural posture (and thus feeling so much better). They will learn how to go about different activities of daily living (particularly use of screen devices and sleeping positions) in ways that promote healthy posture and movement.

We will do an asana practice of some key poses for the neck, shoulder girdle, and back (and what to focus on while in them, posturally) that help to develop the balance of soft tissue strength and functional flexibility, as well promote maintenance of optimal joint movement (ie: the vertebral joints).  The asana in this workshop will be accessible to beginners, and modified as needed.

We will also share a conversation about habit change, stress manifestations in the body, and a somewhat guided mindfulness meditation.

I am very excited to teach this workshop, and grateful for the opportunity to spend purposeful time with everyone there.  One of my greatest passions is to help people learn how to live easier in their bodies. Namaste!

Want to learn more about Yoga for the Neck and Shoulders?
Check out the links below!