Lymphatic Drainage and Facial Massage can Help Minimize Length of Sinus Infections and Combat Allergies

Lymphatic Drainage and Facial Massage can Help Sinus Infections and Allergies

The lymphatic system is a complex network of ducts and vessels that transfer white blood cells and antibodies to your organs and tissues. These cells and antibodies arm your immune system and help your body combat infections. Unlike the circulatory system, which uses the heart to pump blood to vital organs and tissues, the lymph system must rely on hundreds of muscular units, your body movements, and water intake to move the lymph through the vessels. Normal lymph movement in the body can be reduced by stress, fatigue, inactivity, cold temperatures, infection, chemical or food additives, even one's age and heredity.

This is where lymphatic drainage massage comes into play. It's basically a type of holistic therapy that gives your lymphatic system a "tune up." By manually stimulating the increased flow of lymphatic fluid, it can reinvigorate your immune system and sweep out harmful toxins.

Using very light rhythmic massage to increase circulation and lymphatic flow, lymphatic drainage therapy concentrates on specific lymph nodes under the jaw line.

The main lymph nodes for facelift massage are pea size and under the mandible. During a face massage, muscles are "pre-warmed" and the lymph nodes stimulated to open and enhance circulatory and lymphatic flow. A skilled therapist will use his or her hands to feel the body's lymphatic rhythm, direction, depth, and quality. This helps the therapist assess the overall lymphatic circulation and the best way to drain stagnant fluids.

Lymphatic drainage massage can be helpful in addressing a wide range of conditions. It can reduce fatigue, menstrual cramps, cellulite and water retention, even sinusitis and hayfever allergies. When one suffers from hayfever, the body's immune system goes into high gear as it over reacts to pollen, mold spores or other foreign body invaders. The result is irritation and inflammation of the sinuses. Lymphatic drainage massage through sinus tapping can relieve these hayfever symptoms.

For those suffering from sinus infections, Lymphatic drainage procedures can remove much of this congestive material from around the facial area. It allows the body's own healing system to do what it is intended to do.

What of the many antibiotics and topical nasal steroids on the market? Do they offer relief from sinusitis?

A four-year year randomized non-pharmaceutically funded double-blind, placebo-controlled trial* conducted in 2007 revealed some interesting conclusions. They concluded that 90 percent of the antibiotics and topical nasal spray steroids prescriptions written by doctors for sinusitis sufferers in the study showed no clinically useful effect. Studies also revealed that three meta-analyses have found no evidence for superior effectiveness of any particular class of antibiotics in acute sinusitis over any other, making it unlikely that a different antibiotic would have produced different results. Finally, the use of antibiotics or topical steroids- used alone or in combination - was ineffective as a treatment for acute sinusitis in the primary care setting.

Lymphatic drainage massage should only be used on the advice of a medical doctor and is not intended as a substitute for medical care or as a therapy to cure or prevent diseases.

*Journal of American Medical Association Vol.298 No.21, December 5, 2007 :2487-2496

~ Melissa Gallagher, Certified Lymphatic Drainage Therapyist and Founder of Healthy Being Wellness Center in St. Petersburg, FL .

Visit our website for more information out Lymphatic Drainage or Facial Massage.

Pain in the Koshas

Wound tighter than a drum. Energy bound up in my body. Ideas stuck in my head. Pain in the koshas. That's what life was like before I began the liberating practice of yoga. Without question, I have been on one whirlwind of a journey to liberate the Universal energy that flows through me. The process of letting go (or surrender) has been an interesting one, filled with surprises and delights along the way. But relieving the pain in my koshas wasn't all sparkles and ponies.

The healing or transformation process requires great courage and strength--which I learned to develop on my mat. Prior to the practice of yoga, I relied on addictions to work, money, food, sex/relationships, and alcohol to get through life. By getting on my mat every day, I developed "what it takes" to live fully in reality. Which, by the way, is something we create. But that's a subject for another day.

This process also requires incredible flexibility--in body and, more importantly, mind. Before I began practicing this yoga, I was rigid in my thinking and my physiology. I fell prey to the illusion of rules as safety, and I didn't have much ability to be fluid and let life roll. My energy was so stifled that I seriously felt like I was locked up all the time, even though I was walking freely through the world. I took to yoga immediately, and the longer I continue to practice, the more free my mind and experience become. It's pretty amazing to walk fluidly through the world, allow life to be what it is, and enjoy the natural rhythm of myself and the world around me.

The balance between these two - strength and flexibility - is what I was told I would cultivate through my practice. Indeed, the longer I stay with the mat, the stronger and more flexible I become in every area of my life. Without the inspiring gift of pain in my koshas, I wouldn't have sought out yoga, and I wouldn't be experiencing a new and wonderful reality.

Suffice it to say, daily practice helped me develop the mental-emotional-physical-spiritual strength it takes to be a more fully present and more loving being. Today I show up for life instead of shrinking away from it.

And the journey continues, now with more joy than ever!

Rasa-Lila Fest Interview with Yoga Teacher Colleen Rose

RLF:  Where do you teach yoga?

CR:  Yoga 360 Studio and Spa

RLF:  What type of yoga do you specialize in?

CR:  Inner Power Yoga


RLF:  What does yoga mean to you?

CR:  Yoga takes me to the truth of who I am. It helps me delve and unveil the reason why "this soul dropped into this vessel." As a teacher, yoga to me is pure service. I am here to learn and to share without judgement. As a student, I am here to learn and share without judgement.


RLF:  How long have you been teaching yoga?

CR:  Over 10 years.


RLF:  What made you interested in yoga?

CR:  AS a third generation yoga teacher, I vaguely grew up around yoga. My Grandmother a Hatha Teacher and My Godfather and Uncle as well as his wife are Kundalini Teachers. I was always intrigued by "yogis." Their sense of peace, calm. I did not know what it was but I new I need and wanted some of it. I came for the peace... I stayed for the love.


RLF:  What do you find rewarding about being a yoga instructor?

CR:  As third generation yoga teacher, I approach my professional endeavors with the same yogic principles I emphasizes with my students and in my own life: love, compassion and nurturance of self and others, reverence and responsibility for the planet, and an acknowledgment that we are all connected. With love and laughter, I works toward finding a comfortable balance in of my classes, challenging students to move toward positive change in all aspects of their lives. I emphasizes the alignment principles of Hatha Yoga, and the inner authenticity of Inner Power Yoga, while also incorporating meditation, affirmation and intention to create an inner journey towards healing, self-awareness, acceptance and empowerment.

RLF:  What is the greatest challenge you have overcome because of yoga?

CR:  Dyslexia. I get up in front of students, many of whom despite being all grown up, are the same type of kids I was afraid to read in front of for all those years. Sometimes I say raise your right arm when I mean left, and sometimes I say look to the left when I mean right. Occasionally, I still see a student in the room who rolls her eyes when I get it wrong and all those feeling come rushing back, but I keep going. I even call myself the Dyslexic Yoga teacher. Not because it’s funny (although it gets laughs), but because it’s true and I’ve accepted it. I recently named the walls of my yoga studio Grace, Love and Peace. Initially it was just one more way I had chosen to make my dyslexic life easier; knowing right, left, front and back of the studio. But it has now become a constant reminder that as I teach from that place of a little girl who read jumbled words that I must continue to treat myself with peace and love and grace.


RLF:  What top three qualities should someone look for in a yoga instructor and studio?

CR:  Compassion, Presence and Non judgement.


RLF:  What advice do you have for people who have never tried yoga?

CR:  If you can breath you can do yoga. Come, we will start this journey together.


Colleen Rose
Email *

Phone Number *  (815) 806-0360

For the Love of Yoga: Paddle Board Safety




     On April 28, Jeffrey Comer, 50, of Tampa, parked his car at Fort DeSoto beach, and went out for a day of Paddle Boarding.  Later that evening, his paddle board was found  at the North Entrance of the Manatee River, other than that,  no trace of Comer. The paddleboard was given to Holmes Beach Police Department where Comer’s wallet, car keys, and cell phone were found in his PFD, personal flotation device, that was still attached to his board.

        “Using the information from the wallet, Tampa Police Department conducted a welfare check at Comer's residence and didn’t find him During the 55-hour search, rescue personnel saturated an area more than 560 square miles, an area nearly the size of Pinellas County”, says the USCC web-site.

          Rasa Lila Fest Sponsor, Jessica Cichra, of Wave of Wellness in Orlando, FL shared with me her views on Stand Up Paddle Boarding safety,  “SUPing is an amazing & fulfilling sport that Wave of Wellness wants to share with everyone...but like any other sport, it has it's risks.  We encourage you all to practice safety, no matter how experienced you are!”

     Here are Cichras' top 5 saftey tips:

     1. Research the area you will be paddling.  Look online at local condition & weather reports for tides, currents, & weather forecast.  Talk to locals, they can help you time your paddle with the tides & direct you so you flow with currents.  If you're paddling out & back, always start against the wind & current.  Paddle along the shore so you have a close refuge if the wind changes direction or the weather flares up or if you just need a break.   If you encounter a heavy gust of wind, paddle from your knees (so you are less of a "sail"), choking up on your paddle, with your bottom hand close to the water (giving you a stronger, more efficient power stroke). 

     2. Paddle with a friend.  If your buddy isn't available, be sure to tell someone your planned route & what time to you expect to return.  Bring a fully charged smartphone with your GPS locater turned on & keep it inside a pack (like a hydration pack or inflatable pfd) attached to your person.  There are plenty of waterproof cases available.  This way you can be tracked if you're not responding, or of course, you can call for help!

     3. WEAR a hydration pack & make sure it contains enough water for the duration of your paddle.  You will not only avoid dehydration & it's nasty symptoms, but you will have a happy mind & body & a more enjoyable, longer lasting paddle!

    4. WEAR a pdf with an attached whistle.  There are inflatable pdf's that can be worn around the waist.  They are small & light weight & won't get in the way of your paddle stroke.  If not, at least tether to your board with a leash.  Your board is a flotation device, but won't do you any good if it gets swept away from you.  If you're paddling at night, you must have a light for distress signals & proper navigation lights.  Wear bright clothing...don't count on boaters having the best eye sight.

     5. Work your way up to paddling long distances.  If you were new to running, you wouldn't throw down 6 miles on your first session.  SUPing can be leisurely, but it can also be intense, especially in (sometimes unexpected) high winds or against current.  It's better to start with shorter duration paddles & build your endurance to tackle longer ones.  If you're tired, head to shore to take a break.  You can also sit down or paddle from a kneeling position to rest.  Bring protein-rich snacks to refuel your exerted body.



     Another Rasa Lila Fest sponsor, Tim Ganley, of Yoga Energy Studio, in St. Pete,  offers up some more safety tools to use when Paddle boarding.  Ganely reminds us,  “ There are numerous things that you can do to make your time on the water safer but these are the ten obvious things that should always be in place first.”

     Some of Ganleys' tips may overlap Cichras', but honestly, after the loss of Comer, we all need to have these rules deeply engrained into our  mind, bodies, and souls.

     Ganleys' top 10 tips:

     1. Wear your life jacket. Your board floats on its own, it does not need a life jacket attached to it. It is federal law that any one outside the surf zone must have a life jacket and whistle with them.

     2. Wear a proper (for stand up paddling) leash with a quick release mechanism that attaches you to your board.

     3. If a safety issue does occur stay with you board. It is easier to see a board floating on the water than a person. (If it is more dangerous to stay with your board than not to stay with your board, then, please, do not stay with your board.)

     4. Have a float plan in place with a responsible adult. Some one should always know where you are going and what time you are supposed to be back. They should also know what to do if you do not return.

      5. Know your waters. Whether you are paddling on the ocean, on a river or on a lake you need to know if there are any safety risks related to the area.

     6. Know your weather. There is no bad weather, there is wrong gear. And sometimes the paddle board is the wrong gear. There are just certain times that you should not be going out.

     7. Do your hard paddle first. Paddle out into the wind or into the current first when you have the strength and energy. That way you can rest more on the way back in.

     8. Wear your cell phone in a dry bag that is attached to you.

     9. Take a safety class by qualified instructors.

    10. Always paddle with a pal. Try to find a stand up paddle club in your area. If there isn't one, create one!


       We at Rasa Lila Fest dedicate this blog to Jeffrey Comer and his family and friends. They all are in our hearts and minds.  I hope his story stays with you during your next trip out on the water, it might save your life.

     If you have any information regarding the whereabouts of Comer, you are asked to contact the Coast Guard at 727-824-7506.


Please be safe, have fun, and enjoy every day for each one is a gift.


For the Love of Yoga: Bella Prana's New Studio Space is Open!



      This weekend the very excited highly anticipated grand opening of Roni Sloman’s new studio space for Bella Prana Yoga & Meditation.  The re-opening party on will be Friday April 27th from 7-9 pm. The new studio is located at 1000 Kennedy Blvd. on the corner of Kennedy and Edison. It is one block east of the current Lotus Room and is on the south side of the street. Yes I can tempt you with food and drinks at the party, but if you are like me, your get to SEE the new space!



If you can’t make it Friday night, here’s a little For the Love of Yoga sneak Peak:

      The new space will offer 2 studio spaces with tons of natural light. Bella will be the only yoga studio in Tampa with sprung floors! This means that there is foam blocks 1.5 inches tall set about 6 inches apart underneath the floor. When you jump or place your weight, the floor will have give in it to absorb and help to protect your joints, prevent injuries, and reduce aggravation of past injuries. Unlike The Lotus Room, Bella will have ample parking; I mean there are PLENTY of spaces!! 

     The studio will be offering some new classes that include Hot and Warm Flows, and you can REALLY let the sweat flow without worry because the new space will have SHOWERS! YES, showers and changing rooms for men and women!  Not only did they add the hot and warm classes, but they are offerring a mixture of  Kids yoga! From babies to tweens, there is something for every age throughout the week.

     You will be delighted by not only the selection of new classes, but the plethora of Tampa Bay teaching talent under one roof.  I am sure one of your favorite Lotus Room or  Bella Prana teacher has a class on the new 50 plus class schedule offered thoughout the week. 

     Pricing is a bit different.  Bella drop-in rate of $13 will go to $15, but packages will continue to be available allowing you to pay as low as $9.90 per class, and Bella students will now be able to purchase more package deals!

Grand Opening Weekend Special: Brand new students can enjoy One Month Unlimited for $39.00! (Students who practiced at either at The Lotus Room or Bella Prana do not qualify)

1 Year Unlimited Yoga on Sale our Grand Opening Month for $1,000.00!

Bella Prana will be honoring non-expired Lotus Room packages until June 1st.

For this weekend only Bella Prana has created a special schedule for Saturday and Sunday, see it below.  Then the regular schedule begins Monday morning the 30th, 2012.

Saturday April 28th 

9:00am - 10:30am           Flow Level 2 DJ Class Chay Prieto
9:30am - 10:45am           Shelly Yoga
12:00pm - 2:00pm          Core Workshop w/ Stephen Kaleda
11:15am - 12:30pm         Hatha with Carla Jimenez 
1:00pm - 2:15pm            Power with Eric Wheeler
2:30pm - 3:45pm            Hot Flow 1 Tina Tidwell
2:30pm - 4:00pm            Flow Level 2 with Ashley Halley
4:30pm - 5:45pm            Stress Relief Yoga with Dina Georgoulis
4:15pm - 5:30pm            Heart Openers with Megan Weathers
6:00pm - 7:15pm            Donation All Levels Class with Shari Feldman

Sunday April 29th  

10:00am - 11:30am         Flow Level 2  Chay Prieto
9:30am - 11:30am           Foundational Meditation Class
12:30pm - 2:30pm          Power Level 2/3 with Stephen Bickle
12:00pm - 1:15pm          Donation Crystal Bowl Meditation
2:00pm - 3:00pm            Free Kids Yoga - All Ages
3:15pm - 4:30pm            Gentle with Karen Kessel
3:00pm - 4:30pm            Warm Flow 1 with Erin Wheeler
5:00pm - 6:30pm            Hot Flow 2 with Stephen Kaleda
4:45pm - 5:45pm            Donation Yoga Nidra with Laraine O’Neill
6:00pm - 7:15pm            Donation All Levels Class with Shari Feldman

Studio's Pricing Below:

Single Drop-In Class $15.00
5 Class Package  $58.00 ($11.60 per class)
10 Class Package $108.00 ($10.80 per class)
20 Class Package $198.00 ($9.90 per class)
1 Month Unlimited Yoga   $150.00
3 Month Unlimited Yoga   $400.00
6 Month Uniimited Yoga   $680.00
1 Year Unlimited Yoga  $1200.00

I am excited about the new Bella Prana and I hope you are too, see you on the mat!






Erin Wheeler is a mother, writer, and yoga teacher in Tampa, Florida.  Her weekly column, The Balanced Life, covers yoga postures, yoga happenings & events, around Tampa Bay.  Her company Lucky Cat Yoga brings the art of yoga to anyone, anytime, at any place!  “Like” Lucky Cat Yoga on Facebook and see her teaching schedule.  Follow her  @luckycatyoga on twitter.




"Whoever gossips to you will gossip of you."

- Spanish Proverb


You know the type - there's a gossip in everyone's life.  It may be a friend, an acquaintance, or a total stranger.  Regardless, it is the person who shares with you any amount of information about another, either about what they have accomplished, or more often, what they have not.

Why does a gossip perform his or her service so readily?  Self-aggrandizement is often the culprit.  Knowing such valuable information about another as to be able to share it, reasons the gossip, reflects favorably on the provider of such knowledge.  In fact, however, gossiping is nothing more than the act of judging others.

When a friend passes judgment on another, might it be that, in your absence, they also pass judgment on you?  In most cases that is true.  Thus, one measure of another's character might be the presence or absence of such a tendency.

Steven Covey (of "Seven Habits..." fame) offers a solution when he says, "If you do not judge others, they will not judge you."  In other words, if you are of such character as to never discuss the merits or actions of others, unless they are favorable, it is highly likely that others will reciprocate in kind.  If someone makes a negative comment about another, Covey suggests that your reply might be, "That's interesting.  He has always spoken very highly of YOU."

Many wise men, in many languages, over many centuries, have repeated and paraphrased the maxim "Judge not, that ye be not judged."  It's easy to neutralize the gossip's sting by practicing such clear advice!


For the Love of Yoga: Moses Love and I Love Yoga Apparel

     Teacher, student, Yogi, Author, and Clothing entrepreneur Moses Love, of the I Love Yoga apparel line, will be presenting his Organic Inspirational Vinyasa Flow class for tonights sold out opening event at Rasa-Lila Fest.  I had the opportunity to speak with Moses this week and get to know him a little and found inspiration by the story of another human’s art. 

     Yoga found Moses when he was a small child, “I would see my grandmother practicing Yoga, she practiced till she was 90. I remember watching her at 7 or 8 years old, it really imprinted into me, an energy field of a peace, curiosity, a wonder seeing her being so graceful and intentional and moving in her body.”   Love found meditation at the age of 18 and cultivated a practice of pranayama and philosophical studies.  Around 28 or 29 Love began “the study of asana.” 

     Hot Yoga is what “opened the door” to the asana practice for Love.  “It was really powerful for me, I remember being on, what I considered to be a spiritual quest, having the sensitivity, compassion and connection to all life forms, that had been there for me, but to actually experience it  in my physical body the synchronicity of moving and breathing, that I had missed.   I was a professional water-skier, waterskied my whole life, surfed, snowboarded, tennis, and college football; I had spent my whole life being very active.  I was BLOWN away when I did my first hot yoga class. It really opened up a whole new realm of possibility, of really being at peace, really being connected to god, and being connected to the things that matter most, It was a profound experience.  I continued to practice and continued to study and never looked back.” 

 I LOVE YOGA apparel will be on sale in the Green Bus tonight for a trunk show from 5-6.

Come and meet Moses and his wife Zeina today and tomorrow at Rasa-Lila Fest 2012!


For the Love of Yoga: Heat Yoga and Fitness

     Since I started writing about Yoga, I am continually fascinated by the stories expressed to me how people find yoga, and how yoga is changing their lives.  Stephanie Kaisowski’s has added another inspiring story to my journey as a writer. Owner and instructor of Heat Yoga and Fitness, 25022 USHY 19 North, Clearwater, FL 33763, Stephanie tells her story of living more than half of her life suffering from chronic back pain.  Loving the art of movement  all of her life, in modalities like cheerleading, dancing and running, Stephanie was asked by her doctors to stop running to prevent further damage to her spine.  Confused and frustrated about letting go of her love of movement Stephanie unfortunately suffered the tragic loss of her sister 5 years ago.  “Three months after her death, a girlfriend of mine was trying to drag me out and get me moving again, I tried yoga for the first time and I actually felt good for the first time since everything that had happened; it quickly became the one thing that got me out of bed every morning.” 


   Stephanie was inspired again by the art of movement through yoga and moved on to get her certification becoming a 200 hour RYT.  Teaching part-time Stephanie found her true calling as a teacher and made the leap of faith and became a full-time yoga teacher.  Stephanie’s healing through yoga flowed into opening her own studio and now Heat Yoga and Fitness has been open for over a year and a half with great success. “We are really happy with our progress and looking forward to expanding more!”


 Heat Yoga and Fitness
is committed to their students offering a multitude of yoga and fitness options.  Specializing in Hot yoga, that is hatha based, in every class having a focus on abdominal strengthening.  They offer hot yoga and hot Pilates that run 75 minutes in a room that averages 105 degrees.  Having something for everyone, Heat Yoga and Fitness also offers two 60 minute classes, Hot Power Pilates and a Warm Intro class, both heated to 95 degrees.  “We have suggestion boxes in both bathrooms and listen to our members and their needs.”


     Heat Yoga and Fitness is a Rasa-Lila Fest Sponsor for the 2nd year, check out their Heat Fitness and Yoga booth and introduce yourself to Stephanie and her instructors on March 31, 2012.



“We have been promoting the festival in the studio and are hoping for a lot of our members show up; I am not teaching, so I am very happy to be  a student and check out all the classes and workshops, I am really, really, excited to support yoga and the community Saturday!” 

You can also check out the schedule and other class options on their web site.

Want to read more about a Heat Yoga and Fitness experience? Check out Amelia Bartlett‘s blog on




Erin Wheeler is a mother, writer, and yoga teacher in Tampa, Florida.  Her weekly column, The Balanced Life, covers yoga postures, yoga happenings & events, around Tampa Bay.  Her company Lucky Cat Yoga brings the art of yoga to anyone, anytime, at any place!  “Like” Lucky Cat Yoga on Facebook and see her teaching schedule under “info.” Follow @luckycatyoga on twitter.


Rasa-Lila Fest Interview with Yoga Teacher PositiveLY Pat Conklin

RLF:  Where do you teach yoga?

PC:  I teach Laughter Yoga throughout Central Florida … and beyond. I offer mobile Laughter Yoga services, so I go wherever I’m called to teach or speak, be it a yoga studio, gym, healthcare facility, church, school, event, conference, or business.


RLF:  What type of yoga do you specialize in?

PC:  Laughter Yoga is both my specialty and passion: It is the only type of yoga that I teach. I’m this passionate about Laughter Yoga because I’ve experienced its healing and transformative power on a deeply personal level.


RLF:  What does yoga mean to you?

PC:  To me, Laughter Yoga signifies “transformation,” and I don’t say that lightly. It’s not uncommon for people who have known me for many years to remark on the changes they’ve noticed in me since I started laughing. And if you had told me four years ago that today—in my mid-fifties—I would be leading others in laughter, speaking in public, and starting a business for the first time in my life, I would have replied, “You must be joking!” That’s how dramatic the transformation has been for me, and IN me. It’s also why I believe so strongly in Laughter Yoga’s power as—in the words of its creator Dr. Madan Kataria—“a life-changing experience.”


RLF:  How long have you been teaching yoga?

PC:  I’ve been laughing for three years now and teaching Laughter Yoga for more than two. I can say that laughingly today, but it’s really true: Before I found Laughter Yoga in early 2009, I wasn’t laughing much. In fact, I had lost my laugh altogether.

I’m certified as both a Laughter Yoga Leader and a Laughter Yoga Teacher, which means not only do I lead Laughter Yoga sessions, I train and certify new Laughter Yoga Leaders as well. I’m also Central Florida’s only certified laughter life coach. And because I take laughter and its benefits so seriously, I’m committed to my specialty as Central Florida’s authority on laughter for wellness. As such, I’m an active member of the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor (AATH) and a student in the AATH Humor Academy—a year-long program of study exploring theory, application, and research in humor and laughter.


RLF:  What made you interested in yoga?

PC:  One morning in November 2007—quite out of the blue—I discovered that I no longer had the full use of my right arm and shoulder. As I was getting dressed, I was struck by a sudden, stabbing pain in my right biceps, one that would persist for days, weeks, months … years. That morning marked my entry into the world of chronic pain.

And then, things got worse! I was already feeling enormous strain from years of tending to elderly parents long distance, yet my load was to grow heavier still as I started a new job, I lost my father shortly thereafter, and I assumed all of the responsibility for Mom’s care. Now, on top of working full-time, I was spending my nights and weekends dealing with lawyers, financial institutions, healthcare providers, and a mountain of paperwork. And, because of the chronic pain in my arm, I could no longer sleep.

Three doctors, a steroid injection, and many months of physical and massage therapy later, I was exhausted, depleted, and still in pain. I soon found myself in the depths of a dark and vast cavern—with no apparent way out. Most nights, as I tried to capture a few elusive moments of sleep, I prayed not to wake up the next morning. I was close to giving up.

And then, one day in 2009, I found Laughter Yoga. Actually, I believe Laughter Yoga found me. To my astonishment, the day I started laughing (for no reason!) was the day that everything started to change for me—a testament to Dr. Kataria’s words, “When you laugh, you change. And when you change, the whole world changes.” I’m here to tell you that laughter heals—and that’s no joke!

RLF:  When did you decide to dedicate yourself to yoga personally and professionally?

PC:  For me, Laughter Yoga is so much bigger than a personal interest or line of work. It’s a calling that I know deep in my heart was set in motion from the moment of my birth. You see, up until the second grade, I lived on a street named “Jolly Way.” No kidding.

A few short months after experiencing my first “laughter meditation”—which had culminated in a healing watershed of tears streaming down my face—my pain had diminished, my mood had lifted, and my outlook had brightened. There was indeed a way out of the enormous cavern I had entered: not through heavy-duty painkillers or anti-depressants … through laughter! It was then, in May 2009, that I traveled from my home in Orlando to earn my Laughter Yoga Leader certification, and my dedication to spreading the joy and power of Laughter Yoga began.

Today, I look upon that morning four years ago when chronic pain entered my life as the greatest gift I have ever received, for it put me on the path to connecting with my purpose in life: bringing joy, positivity, and hope to each person I reach through Laughter Yoga.


RLF:  What do you find rewarding about being a yoga instructor?

PC:  It’s been enormously gratifying for me to share Laughter Yoga with my Central Florida neighbors during the past two years. In fact, it’s been the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’ve had the great privilege and joy of working (laughing!) with so many wonderful groups, among them, medical professionals; brain and spinal cord injury patients; cancer survivors; business leaders; public servants; churches; students and teachers; seniors; library patrons; and the members of my laughter clubs. I’ll ask you, how many people get to go to work to laugh? Life is good!

On the surface, laughing purely for the sake of laughing may seem utterly ridiculous. The impact, however, even after a single session, can be remarkable. I’ve received comments like, “This was a super experience, and I actually felt I was breathing better afterwards,” “I felt myself forgetting about (my) problems and felt the physical release of stress,” “I really enjoyed the group activity: laughter with colleagues that barely speak to each other,” and “Fun time. Got some people to laugh I wasn’t sure could.” I’ve heard from some of my laughter students that Laughter Yoga has softened their anxiety or depression, and I’ve celebrated a birthday with a cancer patient that her doctors said she’d not live to see.

Still, the most rewarding thing for me about teaching Laughter Yoga has been helping people to find the joy within themselves—to show them how they have the power to be happy despite their external circumstances, as captured by one of my students when she said, “I will look at life differently now.” In our modern culture of fear mongers and “humordoomers,” to have such a gift as laughter that can shift your mood, your perspective, and your behavior within a matter of minutes, I think that’s simply amazing.


RLF:  In your opinion, what are some of the benefits of yoga?

PC:  As far as the benefits of Laughter Yoga go, the question for me is not so much, “How do I start?” but rather, “Where do I stop?” A gentle form of cardiorespiratory exercise, Laughter Yoga is the world’s HAppiest aerobic workout. Its blend of easy and fun “laughter exercises” with yoga deep breathing engages the facial, thoracic, and abdominal muscles; improves breathing; decreases muscle tension; increases pain tolerance; boosts brain power; enhances communication and social bonding; and promotes a healthy mind/body balance.

From my own experience, I know Laughter Yoga to be a powerful tool for coping with pain, lifting mood, cultivating a positive outlook, and reprogramming the body’s automatic reaction to stress. It’s also a healthy way of releasing internal pressure and pent-up emotions. And it’s a great outlet for adults (and children) to “let their hair down” and be just plain silly, to create, to explore—to play—something many of us have either sidelined or even forgotten how to do! In the three years that I’ve been laughing, Laughter Yoga has connected me with a global community, as well as with many of my immediate neighbors whom I had never before met. But in my view, Laughter Yoga’s greatest benefit is acceptance: Laughter Yoga provides a safe space for each of us to express our authentic selves without fear of being judged by others.


RLF:  What is the greatest challenge you have overcome because of yoga?

PC:  If I were to tell you that the greatest challenge I’ve overcome through Laughter Yoga is chronic pain, I’d be painting only a small piece of the picture. Laughter Yoga has been a real lifesaver for me because, more than anything, it brought me hope—hope that I desperately needed to keep going. My Laughter Yoga practice has also given rise to a new-found courage to break free of self-limiting beliefs that were ingrained since childhood, opening a whole new world of possibilities for living outside of the box that was my former home. For such a simple thing, laughter has changed my life in ways that are both profound and quite marvelous.


RLF:  What advice do you have for people who have never tried yoga?

PC:  I’ve noticed that when I tell people I teach Laughter Yoga, they’ll often say, “I can’t do yoga. I’m not flexible enough.” I think for many people who have never tried yoga, there can be an almost automatic assumption that you’ve got to be super flexible before you even set foot in a yoga class. For them, my suggestion is, “There are many different types of yoga to suit all kinds of needs, so if you’re interested in yoga, have some fun exploring until you’ve found the type that’s just right for you!” For instance, Laughter Yoga involves only simple laughter exercises, yoga deep breathing, and play—no mats, no poses, no joke!


For the Love of Yoga: Yoga Stage


     Yoga Stage is an innovative company, striving to help the yoga professional flourish in their art.  This week, it's  all about the yoga professional.  I can tell you first hand, making it as a full time instructor is a hustle for sure! My husband Eric and I have been full time instructors for the past 6 months.  Before that, he and I taught about 8 gigs a week between us, now it's about 8-10 a week for each of us!  I was so happy to hear about Yoga Stage and had the opportunity to speak to Jessica Ewart, one of the owners of this Chattanooga, Tennessee based company set up to help people like my husband and I thrive in the yoga industry.

     "Yoga Stage is an industry web site for yoga professionals.” Ewart explains. Ewart and Jeff  Krupcale are the founding partners of Yoga Stage.   Ewart, having a background in the music business as a promoter would create press kits for bands for touring.  When she began promoting herself for her yoga career, she found it was a difficult feat to search the web in particular city, make calls, mail out her own press kits, from that the birth of idea began to expand. 

     Yoga Stage connects studios, festivals, and students to view the yoga professionals bios, video submissions, press, and testimonials to decide if a particular teacher is a good match. “It takes allot of the leg work out for teachers who don’t have allot of time to actually go from web site to web site, make calls, send in submissions.”  Yoga Stage creates a platform and includes one stop shopping for yoga professionals who are making careers out of teaching.  “The teachers that we represent, we manage them and book them all around the country and all around the world. It’s fun, really fun.”

     Yoga Stage is one of a kind in that it is the only online database.  Ewart and partner Krupcale believe, and are committed to “seeing Yoga Professionals get paid enough so that they can teach full time. We all invest thousands of dollars in our trainings and there should be a return on that investment.”

     Yoga Stage is free to students of yoga and helps them by taking the  web searching legwork out searching for studios, their favorite styles of yoga, or a specific teacher, along with workshops, festivals and trainings.  This is an additional help for the Yoga Professional to be found by potential students on a wider scale.  Students also can also RSVP to classes online and share their plans via social medias resources.

     In partnering up with studios, venues, and businesses, Yoga Stage posts “calls for teachers.” Teachers who become members of Yoga Stage can use the online resources such as creating a Yoga Press Kits, or YPK™ and post this info on the Yoga Stage Web site. Press Kits are used in many other industries especially the music industry. Using YPK (Yoga Press Kits) helps provide information like education, special skills, past experiences that can be viewed by potential clients or students. Yogis can ultimately use Yoga Stage to create thier very own teaching tour.

. For teachers there are a couple of membership options standard or premium.  You can then choose if you want to pay monthly or yearly for your chosen membership.  Both memberships include a YPK, Bios, Testimonials, press, ability to post teaching calendar, and browsing the submission of  “calls for teachers” feature. 


  • Standard membership ($5.99 for a month, 10.99 for the year) also includes: 2 photo submissions, 1 audio file, 5 monthly credits.


  • Premium Membership ($65.00 for a month and $119.00 for the year) also includes: Browsing Premium “calls for Teachers”, 10 photos, 5 audio files, 2  videos, and 20 credits.


     Yoga Stage and Rasa Lila have joined forces to find the next Rasa Lila teacher  to be featured at the Orlando Festival in October.  Holding contests like this one is another way Yoga Stage helps the yoga Professional find work.  Clothing Brands, television, and magazines often  use Yoga Stage for searching for talent to represent a brand.  If you are interested in being a part of the Rasa-Lila Fest Teacher search, Yoga Stage will give you 3 months for free for just entering! Click here for the details.

     "The Yoga industry is a multibillion dollar industry, and most of the money is not going to the teachers.  It’s going to the magazines, clothing and product industries.” Ewart shares, “Teachers should be able to make a living.  I want teachers to feel empowered in this industry not defeated. Yoga Stage can be the tool to help accomplish that goal.   Not everyone is going to make a $100,000 but, I want them to be able to make a living, live a middle income life, and the standard American dream without having to work an additional 2,3,4 other jobs.” I love the sound of that, I  am off to sign up!

Look for Jessica's Business of Yoga Workshop, From Local  to Global,at Rasa-Lila from 2:00-2:45 on March  31st, 2012.





Erin Wheeler is a mother, writer, and yoga teacher in Tampa, Florida.  Her weekly column, The Balanced Life, covers yoga postures, yoga happenings & events, around Tampa Bay.  Her company Lucky Cat Yoga brings the art of yoga to anyone, anytime, at any place!  “Like” Lucky Cat Yoga on Facebook and see her teaching schedule under “About."  or follow @luckycatyoga on twitter.



Hot Core - Yoga Energy Studio in Downtown St. Petersburg, Florida

Being completely honest, I've driven past Yoga Energy Studio (YES, for short) and not thought much of it. It seemed rather small, just off on Central Avenue in Downtown St. Pete and with so many things to do in my busy life (italicized for sarcasm), I'd never stopped in. A friend invited me to go and since I've taken up yoga blogging, I've been a real yes-girl, up for anything. What I was in for was an awakening. 

The studio wasn't large, but it had a very big personality. There was a mural on the far wall, tapstries and posters hung in every available space; there were paddle boards hanging from the ceiling, various exercise equipment and a shelf just for small statues and stones and photos. There was a chalkboard wall and a very accomodating locker area that I could never imagine being filled. All I could focus on was the space, comparing it to what I'd seen - the large open studios and the fancy entranceways and striking details. But I felt a weird feeling as I set down my mat, cautiously trying to be as far away from the heat sources (though there was no escaping). Looking around, talking to the instructor, Nice (pronounced like the city in France), and allowing my body to heat up and relax, I felt oddly at home. 

The class filled quickly and I was glad I arrived early, we were packed in like best friends in no time and before I could scooch and find what I hoped would be some personal space, we began. 

A great deal of the class is a meditative blur, and that is in all honesty. I can remember moments in Crescent pose, eyes nearly rolling back in my head from the sheer strength I was feeling and exherting simultaneously, or the times when I looked down and saw that even my shins, my elbows, the tops of my feet, were covered in droplets like I'd just been hosed off. The rest of my practice was just breathing and moving, challenging and succeeding, pushing and pulling, meeting myself for the first time. Every once in a while Nice would pop over, and her smile reminded me to do the same as she politely guided me to a Forward Fold that left me looking through my legs at my neighbor behind me and aware of all the toxins I was sweating out, simply by having my nose so close to my skin. 

At the end of class, we did a couple breathing exercises, my favorite being the forced rapid exhale and left me feeling breathless and full at the same time. Savasana was a dream, my heart calming down to rest and my body temperature adjusting to make it almost warm, rather than hot. I left in a daze, quickly shivered by the breeze outside against my soaked skin. Reflecting over the practice, it was the most meditative I've ever felt in my life, as there were no other things to do in each pose but breathe. There were no mirrors to remind me that I was doing it right, and there was no looking around or waiting for the next pose or waiting to be challenged. There was only looking inward and finding every nook and cranny from which I could squeeze strength or endurance or peace, and I found in more places than I knew existed. 

You can visit Yoga Energy Studio (YES, isn't that wonderful?) at or 1010 Central Ave, #102, 33705.

Free Yoga - Curtis Hixon Park Tampa, FL Every Sunday Downtown Tampa

          It was another beautiful, full turnout for Free Yoga in the Park on Sunday; energies were flowing and good vibes were all around. It was hotter than normal, the seasons changing and the time change leaving it still sunny at 6pm. People played and rested and watched us all over the park, but 50+ of us all collectively sat in a calm seated position and waited to begin. Our host, Francine of Yoga Downtown Tampa let all of us know at the beginning that our normal instructor was in Europe so we'd be led by another instructor, Dale. Something about Dale, his sense of humor or his positive glow, gave me the impression this would be a great class. It was.

          We started on our mats, doing small stretches, movements, and lots of circular rocking to warm us up. His practice was different and seemingly out-of-order - my favorite style, than most yoga practices I'd done and I could feel myself getting into it. He spoke often, discussing poses and providing many beginning to advanced modifications for many poses, something we don't normally see in the park. One consistent question he'd ask, usually jokingly, was "Could you find Savasana here?" It was so small but after a few times he'd say it, I asked myself - Could I find Savasana in Warrior Three with falling over and looking ridiculous? Could I find Savasana in his 'Skyway Bridge' pose? Each time I asked, I took a deep breath and closed my eyes and for a moment, no matter what pose I was in, I found peace. 

          Dale's practice was almost what I'd call sneaky; he'd have us on our backs doing simple and effective leg stretches, then stand us up and say "Some people are better standing than on the ground - find your balance!" and the lot of us would suddenly be in standing leg lifts, kicking the person next to us and being reminded to smile, all the while laughing. At one point, he had us in forward fold and had us bend our knees, bringing our elbows to our triceps and at that point I nearly said aloud "He's tricking us into crow!" I know that when I hear just the word crow I cringe, knowing how hard that pose usually is and how I can hardly ever hold it. But without even thinking, I just picked my legs up freely and was standing there in crow, looking around at the crowd as we all realized we'd just been led into doing a pose that wasn't as hard as we thought. 

          It was a great day to conclude my Sunday, having a great teacher and a great practice remind me that there are so many things I get to learn and experience for the first time. His practice gave me another new perspective on yoga, something each class I write about has given me, and these perspectives remind me that there is so much to look forward to with my practice, with my body, and with my life. There will always be something new and exciting to surprise you and teach you along the way, and these moments remind me to keep my mind and heart open to all I can receive. 

*Note - Sorry for misspelling your name Dale! 

Hot Cardio Flow - Heat Yoga & Fitness in Clearwater, Florida


          The entranceway to Heat Yoga Studio in Clearwater was more minimalist than I expected. Block–colored walls and an IKEA-esque atmosphere gave me a feel for what I might be experiencing in the studio. From what I’d read about Hot Yoga, it seemed more contempo-modern than anything I’d tried, and the 105 degree temperatures were certainly intimidating. On the wall, I saw a sign asking that there be no conversation in the yoga room, which struck me as odd. I suppose I’d never thought of it, but in the yoga I’d experienced, the teacher almost always conversed with the students between poses or simply expressed small side stories relating to practice. I didn’t know it, but this sign would play a large part of the Hot Yoga practice. I left my camera and phone in the lobby, along with my inhibitions, and set off.

            I took my first breath of hot air; and was surprisingly comforted. Our teacher Heidi’s voice moved softly through the room, reminding everyone to move with their breath. I’d heard that many a time from every yoga teacher, but before my mind had a chance to wander, we began to move, and there was no option but to breathe.

            We started simply, with Cat-Cow and Ujjayi breathing. I started to breathe more deeply than I ever had. Throughout class, Heidi constantly reminded us to breathe, and move with the speed of our breath. Because this practice was focused on Cardio fitness, it was the focus on breathing that made the heat and our bodies work in harmony. It became like a dancing, closing your eyes and breathing to your body’s rhythm, not needing to catch up to anyone or hold still for long. It was unlike any meditation I’d experienced.

            We moved through to harder poses, sweat dripping relentlessly from everyone in the room. Even with frequent water and towel breaks, the name Hot Cardio Flow meant that this was going to be a productive class. We primarily did ‘pulsing’ sequences focusing on every target area of the body – 5 Point Star to squat sequences, and Down Dog split sequences which made a unique combination of traditional yoga poses applied in a very non-traditional way. But the comforting fact through the Plank to Side Plank pulsing and slippery spots on the mat was the breath. I found myself moving through Vinyasas and poses in complete yogic meditation, something I am rarely able to do in even the most calm yoga environment. It was as if the complete harmony of my body and my breath moved me into the one true focus.

            Savasana came and went peacefully, giving us a few final moments to drink in the heat and sweat out any more toxins that might be in our bodies. I reflected on my practice both surprised and proud to have finish 75 minutes of 105 degree Cardio Flow, but I was even more surprised by how much I’d grown in that time. I felt more flexible and free than I can even remember, and I could now say that I’d done Hot Yoga, and loved it. But more importantly, I’d forged a new relationship with myself in that studio that I expected to have. Hot Cardio Flow was much more than a not-your-average workout, it was a new way to see myself and value my strengths.


You can visit Heat Yoga at or at 25022 US Hwy 19 North. Clearwater, FL 33763.

Meditative Yoga at The Lotus Pond

Many people say one of the hardest parts of yoga is the savasana, or relaxation portion at the end of each class. Compared to some of the strenuous yoga poses that challenge the limits of our flexibility and strength, it wouldn’t seem that simply “relaxing” in a supine position would even rank on the list…so why does it? 

Let’s face it. It really is hard to just let go! This week my visit to The Lotus Pond was for a Meditative Yoga class. In summary, the challenging parts of the typical few minutes of the savasana become the focus of the entire session...

Andrea College, instructor at The Lotus Pond

Taught by Andrea College, Meditative Yoga is 1 hour 15 minute study in mindfulness. After a slow and gentle yoga practice for 45 minutes, Andrea leads the class through a 30-minute series of breathwork and guided meditation. The goal? To melt away every day stress that we harbor within.

This was my third class at The Lotus Pond. On my first visit, I attended Michelle Fletcher's Hatha class and on my second, Jaclyn Divine's Power Hour.  I have taken away many important learnings from each.

“Yoga is a metaphor for life,” says Andrea. “When skills of mindful attention and meditative awareness are applied while on the yoga mat, the resulting integration of your being will help you navigate the challenges you encounter in your daily life.”


Andrea College, instructor for Meditative Yoga at The Lotus Pond

Some of the ways that Andrea led us through the guided meditation portion were with her calming voice – as well as steady, consistent reminders to not try to rush through the poses. She also provided us with individual adjustment during savasana, stretching limbs and necks of each individual in the class, so that they were placed in the ideal savasana position.

After the class I took a few moments to take in the sights on The Lotus Pond property. (I have only been here for evening classes, meaning that typically when they end, it’s been dark outside.) Daylight savings started today so it allowed me a few extra moments of outdoor reflection.


The garden in the backyard of the property at The Lotus Pond, where cabbage, vegetables and herbs are grown.

The more time I spend at The Lotus Pond, the more I come to look forward to it each time I return. There are many knowledgeable instructors here with a wealth of knowledge, as well as a community of yogis who take their practice seriously.  I would recomend trying this class to anyone who experiences any level of stress (who doesn't?!) or anyone who has been curious about the pratcice of meditation and mindfulness. This truly was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday evening and get mentally prepared for the week ahead.



For the Love of Yoga: Yogani and The Exalted Warrior Foundation




          This week I had the pleasure of sitting down with friend and owner of Yogani Studios, Inc. and founder of The Exalted Warrior Foundation, Annie Okerlin.  Teaching for the first time at Kripalu in May and Omega Institute in October, she is a woman on a mission, to help heal our courageous wounded men and women of the military and their families with yoga through the Exalted Warrior Foundation.  At hospitals like James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa, Fla., the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Va., and Walter Reed in Washington, D.C., Okerlin and her team help our Vets with their physical and metal traumas, and find health and wellness through the art of Yoga.

         The Exalted Warrior Foundation has been “mandated” this year, by the US Marine Corp to place yoga instructors into their Wounded Warrior Regiments and then out to all their detachments.  Training yoga instructors to teach yoga in a military setting to our wounded vets is the main focus this year for Okerlin and Exalted Warrior.  “In January I taught at Kripalu with Warriors at Ease, on how to teach yoga in a Military Setting; it’s a 3 part training.” She described that she felt even more passionate about these trainings and their importance, when at Kirpalu. “I looked out and there was a room full of people, and I realized this wasn’t just my passion, and that there are people all around the country interested in this too. It was beautiful.”  In July at Yogani Okerlin will present a similar seminar on Adaptive Yoga, how to teach yoga to an amputee, honing in on the specific approaches to this population.




        In October, Annie will teach the second part in a 5 day certification program with Robin Carnes that will provide a solid foundation in the art and science of teaching therapeutic yoga in a military setting at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies.  It will cover things like neurobiology of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).  “It’s nice to have something to be passionate about and the thirst for knowledge in a new area, that’s how I feel about the neurobiology of PTSD, I have been geeking out, reading as much as I can absorb, I love it and I can’t wait to present in October!” 


       Okerlin will be presenting the i-Rest form of Yoga Nidra. “I will be there to teach on of my love, yoga nidra; I am very excited about it. This year I wanted to present the idea of radiating gratitude at times when we are least wanting to. How do we radiate gratitude when life presents us with other things? It’s like taking lemons and turning them into lemonade, making it a yummy experience.”

        At Rasa-Lila “ Yogani’s tent is going to have so many elements!” The intention seems to be to create a comfortable space to relax and talk with the teachers.  “John Allen Gibel will be there to talk about our sold out trip to Nepal in April, and he will be able to answer any questions about our next trip and have those dates, too!” There will also be “Lots of information about teacher training, workshops and monthly events.”  Make sure to introduce yourself to Annie and the Yogani family, on March 30th and 31st for Rasa Lila Fest 2012!



 Here’s a list of Yogani’s future happenings:

Yoga Ascent Nepal: A 12 Day Yoga & Trekking Adventure with John Allen Gibel and Annie Okerlin
| April 13-27 | Currently Sold Out...ask us about 2013!

Teaching Therapeutic Yoga to Seniors: Immersion and Teacher Certification with Libby Hinsley
| April 20-22 | $375 | earn 22 YA approved credit hours

Aim True Weekend Workshop with Kathryn Budig
May 18-20 | $45 each or $175 for all (before 5/4)
Introduction to Thai Yoga with Annette Scott and Johnny Erb | June 2, 9 & 30 | 10:00am-4:00pm | $150 each or $350 for all (before 5/1)

Rock the Shakti and Prana Flow Weekend with Micheline Berry and Red Musette
| June 20-24


Sensory Enhanced Yoga with Warriors at Ease Training & Adaptive Yoga with Annie Okerlin | July 20-22

Yin Yoga Teacher Training and Intensive with Shala Worsley
| August 17-19 | $275 | earn 15 YA approved credit hours

The Oasis at the RNC with Seane Corne
| August 27-30 | details TBA

Introduction to Thai Yoga with Annette Scott and Johnny Erb |
Sept 23, 30 & Oct 7 | 10:00am-4:00pm | $150 each or $350 for all (before 9/1)

Total Yoga Immersion - 230hr Teacher Training Program through Yoga Alliance and the Asheville Yoga Center with Stephanie Keach, Shala Worsley and Michael Johnson

Fierce Medicine with Anna Forrest | December 14-16

Monthly Yogani Offerings:
Embrace, Explore, Evolve with Ashley Halley | Sundays 2:30-4:30pm | $25

Sound Healing Journeys with ELUV | Sundays 4:00-5:30pm | $25

Yin Yoga for Athletes with Lisa Jamison | Sundays 4:30-6:30pm | $25

iRest/Yoga Nidra with Annie Okerlin | Sundays 4:30-5:30pm | by donation








Erin Wheeler is a mother, writer, and yoga teacher in Tampa, Florida.  Her weekly column, The Balanced Life, covers yoga postures, yoga happenings & events, around Tampa Bay.  Her company Lucky Cat Yoga brings the art of yoga to anyone, anytime, at any place!  “Like” Lucky Cat Yoga on Facebook and see her teaching schedule under “info.”









"If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend seven sharpening my axe."
- Abraham Lincoln


OK, OK, - you've heard all the New Year Resolution stuff before.  I'll try to steer clear of that topic today.

Going back to "Honest Abe's" quote, how many trees do you plan to chop down in 2012?  24? 48? 96? 300?  The higher you plan to go, the sharper your axe had better be.  What's more, most axe blades lose their edge after only a few trees.  That means it will be necessary to step back from the hard work of chopping, and hone the blade numerous times throughout the year.  Here are a few suggestions to keep your "edge" in 2012:

Planning is a necessary first step.  If you don't know how many trees you want to chop, how will you know when you're finished?  Will you be chopping small, medium or large trees?  Apple, maple or pine?  Will you take long powerful swings, or just hack away 'till they fall?  Make some important chopping decisions before you begin.

Education is the next step.  It comes in many forms, like books, recordings, videos, seminars, professional courses, and so on.  Vary your approach to education to avoid boredom.  Seminars and courses are an excellent way to boost your attitude by sharing ideas and strategies with colleagues and associates.

A positive attitude is critical too.  It is the magnet that brings trees to your doorstep.  Recreation is vital to maintaining that attitude.  When you find yourself working 60 and 70-hour weeks, you'll also notice your energy level and attitude begin to dull very quickly.  Learn to schedule time off for yourself and family members.  Choose activities that leave no room for thoughts about work.  You'll notice an immediate improvement in your tree chopping.  Soon you'll be off to a flying start with a very sharp axe!  Best wishes for the New Year!

Yoga Instructor Reflects on Teacher Training at The Lotus Pond

Last week was my first visit to The Lotus Pond, sponsor of Rasa Lila Fest 2012. It was a great experience -- and I was hooked! So this week I returned to try a Power Hour class, offered on Tuesday evenings at 6p.m. and taught by Jaclyn Divine.

Jaclyn Divine teaches Power Hour at The Lotus Pond


The room where we practiced was amazing.   An ornate fireplace adorns the left wall, white Japanese lanterns hang overhead, and there’s a view of the beautiful pond out in the back of the sprawling property.  I couldn’t imagine practicing in a more relaxing environment.



This class takes place from 6-7p.m. each Tuesday evening.

Jaclyn’s class was intense!  Fast-paced and focused, we never stopped moving. It was a great hour full of vinyasa flow, with a real focus on arm balance poses, making it a workout for the upper body. The class is targeted to the intermediate/advanced student, but I could see how any level of yogi would be comfortable -- and challenged – in this class.

In fact, there was a student in the class practicing yoga for the first time. It struck me how Jaclyn was able to make her feel so welcome in a room where most of the students had seemingly practiced for years. She created adaptations for her so that she didn’t miss out in any way, without interrupting the flow for the rest of the class.


Jaclyn in an arm balanace during Power Hour.

On the other hand, Jaclyn truly pushes the intermediate student to the next level of their practice. When I was say, 80 percent of the way there toward getting the Flying Crow pose (one of the more advanced arm balances), Jaclyn provided special attention to help me out as I practiced toward eventually “getting it.”

On this second visit to the studio, I learned Jaclyn actually received her yoga teacher training from The Lotus Pond, so it holds a special place in her heart. We sat down on the front porch of the studio, where students and teachers can relax and co-mingle before and after classes, so I could ask her about her Yoga Teacher Training experience.


Reflections on Teacher Training at The Lotus Pond:

Can you describe your experience taking part in The Lotus Pond’s Teacher Training course?

Jaclyn : I chose to complete both my 200 hour, as well as my 500 hour Yoga Teacher Training at The Lotus Pond. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't change a thing. Val Spies, owner of The Lotus Pond has created a comprehensive and enriching program that draws upon the experience and wisdom of several Master Teachers from Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The training includes: Yoga Philosophy, Anatomy & Movement, Mindfulness, Ayurveda, Pranayama and a week Immersion in the mountains or at the ocean. The required texts used in the program are interesting and enlightening.  With practice "teach backs", all students become well prepared for a teaching role.


The Lotus Pond is where Jaclyn received her 200 hour and 500 hour training.


Why would you recommend The Lotus Pond's Teacher Training programs to yoga teachers?

Jaclyn: My intuition drew me to The Lotus Pond for Teacher Training and I am entirely grateful for my experiences. Both the 200 hour, as well as the 500 hour programs are very well organized and structured, however with flexibility to complete the programs at your own pace. The friendships I have developed with my fellow teachers and the camaraderie we shared in these programs are unforgettable. My yoga Teacher Training at The Lotus Pond not only opened my eyes to the exploration of yoga, but also allowed me to explore who I am and the gifts I have to offer. Yoga Teacher training is truly a life-changing experience!

For you personally, what is the overall experience at The Lotus Pond all about?

Jaclyn: For anyone interested in a new physical, emotional, and spiritual experience, I invite you to try The Lotus Pond! This is a place where you not only practice yoga, but also a place to rest, relax, breathe and meditate.

I truly enjoyed my time here  as well as the time spent talking with Jaclyn to learn about her background. While I am a student of yoga, and do not have plans to become an instructor, it was interesting to learn what teacher training entails. During her classes, Jaclyn likens the journey of yoga to the journey of life. She reminds us that it is important to always stay open-minded, and take time to breathe and look introspectively. No matter your level of yoga experience, there are many key lessons to take away from Power Hour, beyond simply a rigorous workout.


A First Look at The Lotus Pond Yoga Studio in Tampa Bay, FL

This week I had a great experience, visiting The Lotus Pond, a yoga studio located in the Carrollwood/Citrus Park area, and a platinum sponsor of Rasa-Lila Fest 2012.

The studio is in a beautiful log cabin, set back on a large piece of property.  A peaceful pond and an herb garden in the backyard create the feeling of a remote retreat. 

The Lotus Pond offers a full schedule of yoga and meditative classes.  On this first visit, I attended a Hatha yoga class held at 6:30 p.m. each Thursday, taught by Michelle Fletcher. This is an hour and fifteen minute class focused on basic yoga poses incorporated with deep stretching and breath work. Michele had us use blocks and yoga belts to enhance the practice and stretch more deeply.

Michelle Fletcher teaches the Hatha yoga class on Thursdays at The Lotus Pond.

Michelle’s method of teaching fostered a heightened sense of awareness during the class.  She reminded us not to rush into poses, instead to approach each pose mindfully and with care in order to get more out of the practice.



Michelle Fletcher of The Lotus Pond in a reverse warrior

One of the highlights of the class was how detailed Michelle was when describing what we should be aiming for in our savasana pose.  She really took the extra time to explain how and why the posture in savasana is so important for final relaxation.


Ayurvedic treatments, products and training are available on-site.

The Lotus Pond’s location, tucked into a suburan neighborhood, makes it a bit of a hidden gem. This is a studio that can be enjoyed by all levels of students.


Beautiful landscaping enhances the calming environment at The Lotus Pond.

I look forward to trying more classes here in the near future and sharing my experience with the readers of Rasa-Lila  Have you visited The Lotus Pond?  We want to hear your thoughts; leave them in the comments below.



For the Love of Yoga: Bella Prana Yoga and Meditation



      Last week I was fortunate enough to meet and have lunch with Bella Prana owner and yoga instructor Roni Sloman

We got to sit down nice and cozy over tea and coffee to talk about Bella Prana, its new location, and its bright future.  Roni has roots in the Tampa community being that she prettymuch grew up since the age of 3! When she opened Bella Prana, meaning beautiful breath, over 3 years ago, it quickly became one of the fastest growing studios in the Tampa Bay Area. “The studio is growing at such a fast rate, I saw there was a need to find a larger space,” adds Sloman.  Making a courageous move a couple of months ago she acquired a whole community of students and teachers and saved them from the displacement of The Lotus Room as it faced its demise. “The opportunity came about to merge with the Lotus Room and get a new space; I had to seize, literally had to close on it within 48 hours!”

       Opening in early spring, Bella Prana will be moving from its current South MacDill location to 1000 Kennedy Blvd suite 100, Tampa, Fl.  The merger means that Sloman is now managing double the instructors and has almost doubled her square footage.  “It’s going to have one studio about the same size as our current Bella space holding about 15-18 people and another larger studio that holds approximately 25 students comfortably, about 30 mat to mat.“  Bella Prana having more space will also allow “us to invite the big named Yoga teachers for workshops and special events.”

      Sloman’s vision for Bella Prana is “not to be just another yoga studio, I want to be a community center for Tampa.”   Sloman sees artists to have a place to show their art and a space for musicians to have concerts. “I want people to have an affordable place to utilize, during the hours we don’t have yoga.”  Other ideas to utilize the new space would be birthday parties for children and adults, group fitness or private yoga for groups “even if I don’t make any money off the event, I am happy that the beautiful spaces being used!”


     Sloman, trained in Prana Vinyasa Radiant Transitions program led by Stillpoint’s Sara Devi, will be hosting the program at her current studio and into the new space when it opens.  The philosophy of this program is to make it “affordable, flexible (with rolling enrollment), and high quality teaching. I will be one of the trainers for the program at Bella Prana.”  For more information on the Prana Vinyasa Radiant Tradition transitions teacher training program check out info  on Bella Prana's web site or Stillpoint's.


      For the students of the Lotus Room, Sloman “wants class schedules to remain familiar and as close to the same as it was at The Lotus Room, as much as possible when the move happens.” Welcoming packages bought at the Room at the current Bella location.  When the move happens, there will be over 50 diverse yoga classes a week, which will include kids yoga.   Sloman said the changes will be slight, which adds a donation class will be on Sunday at 6-7pm headed by Jacklyn Divine and Shari Feldman.   

      For the Bella Prana students, Sloman will still offer amenities like being able to store personal bag/purses in cubbies within the studio spaces, “we carry around very expensive items these days between our i-pods and phones, we allow these in the room to set our students mind at ease,  hidden in their bags, in an off or airplane mode.” Students will also be able to store their mats in the new space too, “right now, 20 or so students store their mats at the studio and that won’t change in the new space.” The exciting new amenities for ALL students will be at least 2 bathrooms with showers.


      There will also be AMPLE parking at the new space,” about 80 available spaces between the main parking lot and another adjacent to the building.”  Sloman believes flexibility with light sources “is essential.”  Both studios in  the new space offer natural lighting and  black out curtains to help shield the light when “looking for a more meditative atmosphere; it’s important to me that our teachers have the ability to create the mood.” 

      Roni’s life will get even more exciting as she will be starring in YOUnity Yoga with Roni on Sundays starting late 2012 on the new Health and Wellness channel, headquartered in St. Pete. This will be the only national channel dedicated to health and wellness 24 hours of day 7 days of week. The show will be a mixture of yoga and will have a blend of meditation and life coaching.


      I asked Sloman what community meant to her, “When I think of community I hope that people can see the fact that we are all connected and that energy are recycled.  It’s a scientific fact, and how you interact with that truth is up to you.”
Check out Roni during Rasa-Lila, connect with your beautiful breath, and will be teaching meditation.









     Erin Wheeler is a mother, writer, and yoga teacher in Tampa, Florida.  Her weekly column, The   Balanced Life, covers yoga postures, yoga happenings & events, around Tampa Bay.  Her company Lucky Cat Yoga brings the art of yoga to anyone, anytime, at any place!  “Like” Lucky Cat Yoga on Facebook and see her teaching schedule under “info.”



Work It Out On the Mat

Almost every difficulty I go through can be worked out on my yoga mat.  Let's face it, sometimes just sitting or standing on your mat in quiet contemplation, puts you in a sense of reverance.  My mat represents my personal space.  It grounds and centers me.  As I bring my hands in prayer pose, I literally bring all of my energy in, just for myself.  When my emotions are high, I get on my mat and begin flows that assist in releasing the tension.  When I'm getting a migraine headache, I sit on my mat and practice pranayama until I feel free and liberated from the pain.  When my back, knees or feet ache, I know they are calling me to my mat.  "Work it out," they say.  When my energy is low, I come to my Kundalini practice and strengthen the warrior within.  If I feel lost, without direction I come to my meditation practice which helps me to heal and connect to my higher-self.  All done on my yoga mat.

I believe that all of these issues are simply stuck energy in one form or another.  By moving our spines, we move the synovial fluid up the body, juicing up our joints and vertebra.  It is said that there is a -mini-chakra at each of our joints.  Imagine them at each vertebra, opening and releasing layer upon layer.  Notice your hands and feet.  They are full of joints and are chakra-ful.  Be good to your feet.  Stop slamming them into shoes.  Release them and massage them with an essential oil blend that gets absorbed through the skin.   Express yourself through mudras, which also benefit the neck, shoulders and jaw.  Try this mudra to connect your energy centers.  Place all of your fingers to your thumb and hold this pose for at least a minute.  Our meridiens (energy lines) end at our toes and finger tips.  When we speak, we project energy out of these points and share it with others.  By bringing these points in, through the mudra, we connect to ourself. 

Next time, you are having aches, pains, emotions, scatteredness--get to your mat.  Through the many aspects of yoga, we can heal ourselves.  Just stop and listen to the signs your body is telling you.  Be well!

In Love and Light,

Maggie Batt

For the Love of Yoga: Jai Dee Yoga and Wellness Studio in Tampa, Florida

This week I visited Gwen Hanner owner of Jai Dee yoga, 5803 N. Florida Ave.Tampa, FL.  For the past  3 ½ years, Jai Dee Yoga, meaning in Thai “good heart,” has been in the heart of Seminole Heights offering a place for relaxation, renewal and healing and  fitting nicely into the historic community that surrounds it.  Appropriately its exterior is a 1920’s bungalow style home and its interior an intimate, open, and welcoming studio.  I always feel like I have entered a close friend’s home compleletly dedicated to the practice of yoga.  Warm wood floors and a vaulted ceiling create a feeling like you have all the room in the world to practice.  I sat down with Gwen all nice and cozy on some floor pillows in the light of the afternoon sun to talk about how yoga heals and helped her, the birth of Jai Dee Yoga, and her love of her community.

 ”Hanner has had her psychotherapy office in Seminole Heights since 1995 and has been a therapist since 1986.  Hanner is a trained psychotherapist, in particular, she uses Heart Centered Hypnotherapy to help with emotional blocks. Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy integrates hypnosis and effective psychotherapy with healing energy work and the clients’ personal spiritual connection, if desired.  “I used yoga in my 20’s, to manage anxiety, panic attacks and quitting smoking, so I would I always referred my clients to practice yoga, since it helped me, I knew it could help them.” 

The Jai-Dee building sat empty for about a year before Hanner bought it. “After long negotiation’s,”  Jai-Dee was born!   “I love Seminole Heights, my office is here, my home is here; part of my feelings in creating Jai-Dee was partially so I would have a place to send my clients for additional healing.  Jai Dee is also a place for the community to have a source for yoga in the neighborhood, and the building looked as though a business deserved and belonged there.” 

 Creating a community center for Seminole Heights and beyond is Hanner’s vision for Jai-Dee.  For yoga they offer all levels including beginners yoga, beginners and beyond, Hatha flow, intermediate Hatha flow, therapeutic yoga, restorative, and prenatal classes throughout the week. 

We are dedicated to the beginner practitioner along with added healing,  “I am really excited about bringing in more Therapeutic yoga into the studio, because it’s so needed and so helpful to every level.” 
Jai-Dee also offers many modalities of massage as well, having 5 in house massage therapists specializing in Thai, Prenatal and Oncological Massage.

Gwen will be teaching Gentle Hypno Yoga Flow at Rasa-Lila on March 30th.  Since the  class is later in the day, it is sure to help you rejuvenate and prepare for the evening festivities.  Make it a point to get to Gwen’s special class; you won’t want to miss it.  Introduce yourself to Gwen and the rest of her talented teaching and wellness talent at Rasa-Lila March 30th and 31st!


Erin Wheeler is a mother, writer, and yoga teacher in Tampa, Florida.  Her weekly column, The Balanced Life, covers yoga postures, yoga happenings & events, around Tampa Bay.  Her company Lucky Cat Yoga brings the art of yoga to anyone, anytime, at any place!  “Like” Lucky Cat Yoga on Facebook and see her teaching schedule under “info.”




Rasa-Lila Fest Interview with Yoga Teacher Justin Kaye

RLF:  Where do you teach yoga?

JK:  Jai Dee,Treehouse Yoga,and privately


RLF:  What type of yoga do you specialize in?

JK:  Hatha Yoga (Krishnamacharya tradition)


RLF:  What does yoga mean to you?

JK:  Yoga means Union. The Yoga Sutras are very clear on that. Union of body,breath,and brain functioning in a effortless and seamless flow. In a very true sense we CANNOT "Do Yoga". Yoga is an experience. It's not something we do. Yoga is a lifestyle. A complete system for healing on all levels. Yoga is good medicine. Yoga (and teaching Yoga) is truly an art. I feel it is much like learning how to play an instrument. It's very musical in so many ways.


RLF:  How long have you been teaching yoga?

JK:  I have been teaching Yoga officially for 4 years. Before that i was a personal trainer for 10 and in my fitness sessions I often used asana for strength and rehab of injuries. I am also a massage therapist and would often recommend different postures and pranayama to address various ailments.When I realized how much I actually used yoga in my sessions I decided to commit myself to teaching yoga.


RLF:  What made you interested in yoga?

JK:  The idea of using the body and attuning the nervous system in such a way as to bring about a shift of consciousness. I was an athlete and competed in bodybuilding as a teenager. After years of intense powerlifting I had sustained many injuries and knew I couldn't continue on in that way. Then Yoga found me. I had a good hunch that hatha yoga as a system for healing was just what my "Inner Doctor" ordered. But really it was and continues to be more of a philosophical journey. It has always been about the more esoteric aspects for me. Working with the mind and changing from the inside out.


RLF:  When did you decide to dedicate yourself to yoga personally and professionally?

JK:  I'm not sure when or if I decided? In one sense I was born a yogi. I remember doing shoulderstand and vigorous pranayama as a young child. I would spontaneously participate in the Sufi practice or "Whirling". I was always interested in things which change our perspective or consciousness.


RLF:  What is the most important thing you received from your Yoga teacher?

JK:  My teacher Mark Whitwell demystified yoga as well as shined a bright light on it's depths. He showed me proper pranayama which had never been explained before. I learned more form Mark in 1 hour than I learned from every other teacher before that.


RLF:  What do you find rewarding about being a yoga instructor?

JK:  The most rewarding part of teaching Yoga are the deep connections I have with my students. I care for them and they give me their trust. I enjoy witnessing the opening that a regular practice can provide. The most rewarding part is seeing a student learn how to actually,naturally,and non-obsessively learn to practice on their own. That is the heart of Sadhana. It is a personal thing. Not just something you "do" at the yoga studio. It is a way of living.


RLF:  In your opinion, what are some of the benefits of yoga?

JK:  The purification of the body and mind. The potential for thoughtless awareness provides with it a great deal of healing. When the mind relaxes and we abide in our natural state then true healing can occur. Yoga done correctly has the ability to reduce the fluctuations of the mind bring us fully into the moment. The biggest benefit is maybe the reduction of EGO. Ego is the source of most suffering as I see it. Yoga reduces Ego and puts it in it's right place.


RLF:  What is the greatest challenge you have overcome because of yoga?

JK:  The greatest challenge I have overcome though Yoga is probably the death of my father. I continued to practice ,even through the tears and pain I could practice Yoga.


RLF:  What top three qualities should someone look for in a yoga instructor and studio?

JK:  Trust your gut. Listen to YOUR " inner teacher". Look for a teacher who emanates love and peaceful passion. Ask this person sincere??? Do I trust them????


RLF:  What advice do you have for people who have never tried yoga?

JK:  Find a good teacher. Not just any teacher. Get private instruction. it will save a lot of time and money in the end. Get off the hamster wheel of life and start practicing Yoga. Don't wait any longer. THE FUTURE IS NOW!!!!!


Rasa-Lila Fest Interview with Yoga Teacher Erin Wheeler

RLF:  Where do you teach yoga? 

EW:  Lucky Cat Yoga, Yogani, Evolation, Bella Prana, Yoga Downtown Tampa, A.R.C


RLF:  What type of yoga do you specialize in?

EW:  The art of Flow


RLF:  What does yoga mean to you?

EW:  Yoga means I can release myself of the sufferings of life and open myself to the healing.


RLF:  How long have you been teaching yoga?

EW:  I have been teaching almost 5 years.


RLF:  What made you interested in yoga?

EW:  I was taught by by husband pranayama after surgery. After I felt the healing of my own breath, then I began practicing asana. I have been in love ever since.


RLF:  When did you decide to dedicate yourself to yoga personally and professionally?

EW:  Yoga the practice almost 10 years. 5 years professionally.


RLF:  What do you find rewarding about being a yoga instructor?

EW:  It's rewarding to be able to be able to help others find a sense of healing, self love, and inner genius.


RLF:  In your opinion, what are some of the benefits of yoga?

EW:  The benefits of yoga are an individual journey. I have felt deep healing physically mentally and spiritually.


RLF:  What is the greatest challenge you have overcome because of yoga?

EW:  After losing a 100 lbs from gastric bypass surgery,yoga helped me loose another 100lbs. Yoga helped me to be healthy enough to get pregnant and have my son. 


RLF:  What top three qualities should someone look for in a yoga instructor and studio?

EW:  For studio and instructors look for the number of years experience and the ability to teach all levels. In a studio look for the things YOU need, showers, props, or variety of classes and again levels.
In a teacher, you want them to be relaxed and attentive.


RLF:  What advice do you have for people who have never tried yoga?

EW:  Try it, you'll love it!