Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Gurus, Gossip, and Gaslighting: Tending To Ourselves and Our Tribe During Tumultuous Times

by Tali Thomason

“I don’t really know him that well but he practices yoga so he’s got to be a good person, right?”

Have you ever said or heard something like that? Maybe it’s online dating or making new friends or a new business partnership but you’ve said it or thought it. I know I have and lately I am having more and more conversations with friends and even with life-coaching clients about the false sense of trust we have with our fellow yogis.

While yogic studies give us guidelines, the reality is that someone’s ability to press-up to a handstand in the middle of the room or share breathtaking yoga selfies doesn’t guarantee they live in accordance with the Yamas and Niyamas. Bottom line – yoga doesn’t automatically make you a nice or good person. Even though we know this about ourselves, we know that it is an ongoing process, sometimes we just give our trust away and let people in because they’re fellow practitioners and unfortunately, we can end up very hurt.

When it comes to taking care of ourselves and each other there are three areas that we can focus on – Gurus, Gossip, and Gaslighting. With a little transparency and care we can avoid some heartache, dings to our pocket books, and protect our faith in humanity and love.

First let’s talk about Gurus. By definition a Guru is a spiritual teacher and usually one that imparts initiation. However, in Western culture, Guru tends to mean expert. A true Guru is spiritual leader - someone who has dedicated their life to living in accordance with their spiritual beliefs and transmitting that knowledge to others. Often, we fall so in love with how we feel after yoga that we award this title to the teacher. We seek out mentorship with these individuals because our experience in their classes makes feel good about ourselves. Unfortunately, a good yoga class doesn’t always translate to a great teacher training or mentorship. I implore you to research your teachers well if you’re going to study with them for your teacher training or any form of mentorship. Ask questions and ask for references. Ask who they study with. The best teachers are always students. If your intuition tells you to keep looking, then keep looking. The right teacher will show up at the right time.



Now when it comes to asking around about other people’s experiences you may feel like you’re Gossiping or inviting gossip in. This is such a fine line for yogis. We don’t want to talk about people poorly but sometimes people do bad things and by not discussing them honestly we are hurting each other.

In the past year I have heard of people
  • signing teacher training contracts with payment plans and then cancelling their credit card to avoid payment
  • a teacher offering advanced trainings claiming to be registered with the Yoga Alliance and featuring international teachers when in fact none of that was true
  • teachers partnering on retreats with other teachers and then embezzling money from the joint account
BAD THINGS HAPPEN EVEN BY PEOPLE WHO PRACTICE YOGA! So when it comes to asking for referrals notice if the person providing the referral seems as though they’re providing you necessary information in a kind way. If you’re hearing negative experiences are they repeated by others or does it seem to be a one-off incident? What should be taken with a grain of salt and what is something with gravity? When giving referrals always be kind, always be honest, and always give only necessary information.



The final thing we should keep an eye out for is Gaslighting. Manipulation happens everywhere, even in yoga. Unfortunately, when someone is behaving badly there are various steps they will take to protect themselves:
  • They will want to keep you from comparing notes with others. They may tell you that someone said negative things about your or refer to others as “crazy”.
  • They will challenge your dedication to living a yogic life. If you don’t want to work for free you’re being selfish. If you want to work at another studio you’re being disloyal. If you seek advice from others about a situation you’re being a gossip.
  • They may try to convince you that something was your idea like signing up for a training you cannot afford or picking up a class that you didn’t want to teach.
So if you find yourself in a situation with a Gaslighting peer, friend, teacher, and/or mentor what can you do? Take notes, document, interact via email, and if something feels fishy talk to other people. Call out gaslighting and manipulation for what it is and do not be afraid of comparing notes with others. As long as you keep the conversations productive, kind, necessary, and honest you won’t be gossiping but rather protecting yourself and your tribe.

I honestly hope that if you’re reading this you never need this information. The tides seem to be turning a bit and we are learning to protect ourselves and our community through transparency. Please remember – yoga gets tender. We make ourselves vulnerable. We share deeply and love with a vibrancy. It’s okay to guard that love and not give it away and not let just anyone with a nice Pincha Mayurasana in.  When the right mentor, friend, lover, business partner comes to light your intuition will guide you and you have the guidance of your tribe as well.

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Light In Me Illuminates The Light In You: Yoga Teacher Mentorship

by CSOY Faculty & Alum Ange Stopperan


My first mentor was my dad.  He told me that if I wanted to accomplish a goal I needed to:

1.     Set it clearly
2.     Make a strong commitment to myself
3.     Work harder than ever

So I grew up setting goals and learning from a family of entrepreneurs and coaches on how to bring those goals to fruition. When I set the goal was to make it to the Iowa State Championships in track back in 1994, I also learned the value of working with a dedicated coach. Very often they are like our yoga teachers are, they help illuminate that which we can't yet see.



After college, I went into the marketing and advertising, which was a wide-eyed awakening when I discovered it was not nearly as "easy" as I'd thought. It felt like a continuous pulse of hard work to keep up with the ever-changing industry and constantly receive constructive criticism from clients who had high expectations and demands that surpassed the limits of time. After the initial shock, I began to see every challenge as an opportunity to learn from successes and mistakes and my inherited entrepreneurial spirit found it's rhythm in the non-stop action.  

After fourteen years in the industry and giving birth to my son Easton, I decided it was time to switch careers and reinvent myself. I began practicing Yoga in 1999 and had always thought about teaching others. During my 200-hour Teacher Training, I had a mentor who guided me through the training and helped me along the way after graduation and I found that support invaluable. When I was later asked to pay it forward and be a mentor to the next group of trainees, I recognized an opportunity to combine my passion for yoga and my expertise in leadership and project management to help support these teachers as they went through their training. That illuminating opportunity was one of the best experiences of my career and I had a sense this is was precisely where my passions and gifts would translate into service.

After my 300-hour Teacher Training at the Colorado School of Yoga, I folded my past experiences with my present skill set to create a mentoring and business coaching business specifically for yoga teachers, who often have great passion around the practice but perhaps not as much confidence in the realm of business, branding and a fluctuating industry. 


I’m deeply inspired to help yoga teachers gain clarity around their purpose, their teachings, their business and their bottom line. I believe that each teacher has their own unique gifts and though we may feel the teaching scene is saturated, I feel that there is always room for a unique voice so that our students may have the opportunity to experience resonance and recognize something in themselves in their teachers. There are millions of people who still haven’t stepped on their mat yet and because of that, we need every kind of teacher there is. And these teachers may need the same support I received over the years from my earliest mentor, my dad, my coaches and my professional mentors.

"Sometimes in order to do this, teachers need a lighthouse, a mentor to serve as a navigational aid to shine light onto the direction of their path."


I believe right now there is a call for every teacher to connect with the offerings within them that feel most powerful and most authentic so that we may be there when the student is ready and my goal is to help teachers get there in an empowered way. Sometimes in order to do this, teachers need a lighthouse, a mentor to serve as a navigational aid and support to shine light onto the direction of their path. I love working with new graduates who are ready to get their careers started and may feel apprehensive or afraid of that leap as well as seasoned teachers who want to create systems and structure to their offerings to take them to the next level in a sustainable way. 

I’m thrilled to lead an online Teacher Mentorship Program through the Colorado School of Yoga this summer. This program is for teachers who want to take a proactive step towards being an extraordinary and impactful yoga teacher and who want the support and resources to guide and help them in their next steps. 

I’ve taken many online mentorship courses over the years and some felt extremely helpful while in others I was lost in a sea of people with little or no attention. As such, this program provides personal attention, one-on-one mentorship each week and customized feedback on all of your work. We'll have inspiring, weekly live video calls, weekly emails with engaging exercises, thoughtsheets and homework. There will also be a private Facebook group for accountability support and an online forum to ask questions, share ideas and forge connections. 


If you feel the call to disrupt your status quo and take your next big step as a yoga teacher, here's some more info on our upcoming course!



Monday, February 20, 2017

Coffee: Friend or Foe?


How I Quit the Brown Juice
by CSOY Alum Gabriella Cascone
Just over two years ago, I made the leap, delved into the unknown – the world of life without coffee. The decision at the time seemed common sense, yet radical: Give up coffee for the duration a one-month intensive yoga teacher training, while living on a ranch in the mountains just north of Napa Valley with thirty-five like-minded human beings from all over the world. Easy.
The part that scared me was that I had just finished a temporary job on a political campaign, working more hours in an eight-month period than I had ever worked before. I was exhausted. With only a three-day break from one intense experience to another, giving up coffee was never the plan. Turns out I learned more about myself during this month of extraordinary consciousness than I had bargained for. What surprised me from the month-long “experiment” is how I was able to challenge my long-held belief that coffee is not only a prerequisite, but a necessity, to sustain a high-output lifestyle.  

But why quit coffee altogether? The choice was motivated by our teachers, Gina Caputo and Kathryn Budig, who encouraged us to think about quitting the brown juice, at least for this one month, for the sake of our learning experience while in an intense immersive environment and our ability to meditate. As it turns out, caffeine has an effect on your natural energy levels. Go figure.
During the training, I was surrounded by a group of individuals who are deeply invested in self-care and the quality of their energetic output into the world. I noticed at least half of them were not hooked up to a coffee IV, unlike most of my usual high energy, extroverted colleagues. Instead, the most popular beverage at our "yoga camp" was kombucha - the poster child for mason jar-carrying, yoga mat-toting modern yogis - a fermented tea made with probiotics that tastes like tangy club soda spiked with ginger or berries. If all of these amazingly upbeat, healthy, and happy people were getting along just fine without coffee they must be doing something right. Right? OK – all of that sounds nice, but how am I seriously supposed to keep my eyes open every morning for a two hour long, 8am lecture without my morning jolt?
Honesty hour: the first month wasn’t all rose petals and unicorns.  I definitely had a rocky ride during this adjustment period. What I found – and continue to find true since switching to hot tea – is that quitting coffee actually helped me feel MORE energized, especially in the long term. No longer am I beholden to a relationship of pick me ups and let downs, riding my personal rollercoaster wave of energy highs and lows. Rather, I find that I am much more capable of sustaining a relatively consistent level of high energy throughout the day, taking the rest I need when necessary. With tea, my energy levels are more like a bell curve than a stock chart. 

So, how do you make the plunge? Here are five easy tips for making the dive:
1: Start small. Cold turkey works for some, but not others. If you’re on three cups per day right now, make a plan to wean yourself down to one per day over the course of a month (or however long you deem necessary) then eventually a handful of times per week, and eventually a couple of cups per month, etc.
2: Consider timing. I’ve found that when I start my day with coffee, I’m likely to continue. As an alternate morning pick-me-up, I recommend any variation of black tea or my new favorite ritual – rubbing 2-3 drops of peppermint essential oil into your palms and taking three deep breaths, then blending with carrier oil and dabbing the remaining oil onto any muscles that need an icy hot treatment.
3: Break complacency, try something new. Steering away from coffee opened my mind up to a wide array of tea varieties I previously didn’t realize existed. I have a lot of respect for the diversity of coffee culture and those who take the time to study the nuances in taste and texture of these oh so magical beans based on their terroir and origin, but have you had a turmeric almond milk latte lately? They’re dope. The world is your oyster.
4: Know WHY. They say habits take at least three or more weeks to build or break – that takes a lot of commitment. Make sure you’re in tune with your intentions and be clear on them being your own, then own it.
5: Lastly - be kind to yourself. All lifestyle changes take time. The benefits are usually worth the journey.
I still drink coffee or espresso occasionally because I genuinely enjoy it as a drink (cappuccinos please!), especially on particularly long and grueling days. Added perk: long road trips only require one cup of coffee because I am now so sensitive to it.

After giving up coffee and then spending another year and a half on the campaign trail I’m still surprised I have been able to defy my own expectations and live relatively coffee-free. Sometimes what once seemed necessary turns out to be more of an illusion we’ve convinced ourselves to be true than anything else. If you’re ready to come over to the dark side, you don’t have to go cold turkey, but you do have to be patient with yourself. Isn’t that what change is all about anyway?