Yoga Source Presenter QA: Jo Schillinger & Annika Ihnat

We’re a little more than a week away from our first-ever Yoga Source conference in Simi Valley! If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the full line-up of workshops and register online today.

This week, we’re bringing you a new Q&A with Jo Schillinger and Annika Ihnat, who will be presenting a workshop on Sacred Dance to awaken your inner dancer:

Sacred Dance
Saturday, March 12 | 2-3:30 p.m.
Yoga Nook on Cochran

Tell us a little bit more about your background and why you became interested in somatics. 

Jo: I taught modern, ballet and jazz dance for LAUSD for 25 years. After retiring, I began taking AIM classes and was amazed by the transformation even a single class could achieve. I’ve also found it to be effective for healing. I wish I knew 25 years ago what I know now.

Annika: I trained in jazz, ballet, hip hop and lyrical dance growing up, and danced professionally in film and television for 10 years. Although I enjoyed my time as a professional dancer, I ultimately found myself wanting something more. That’s when I fell in love with yoga and later, AIM somatic education. I am fascinated by how these practices empower us to heal ourselves.

Why did you decide to present a workshop on Sacred Dance? What are you looking to offer attendees? 

Jo: I find there is a strong link between dance and yoga. Early yogis used asanas to prepare for meditation. Early man/woman used dance to transcend and celebrate life. Today we often think of dance as something to watch. If we participate, we must look like someone or something. We have lost the connection to the primal and the sacred.

Annika: Although I’ve been a dancer my whole life, it was only when I began practicing yoga that I gained the self-awareness to move intuitively and express myself freely while dancing. To me, this is what both yoga and sacred dance are about — getting in touch with our bodies and our selves, and moving from that place of awareness. I hope to offer attendees a fun and liberating experience in a safe, open environment.

How have you applied somatics in your line of work? 

Jo: There is an organic way of moving for every body. I think it’s important to make individual accommodations to find safe and expressive methods of movement. I’ve also learned the value of gentle movement and moving efficiently through daily activity.

Annika: I incorporate AIM in every yoga class I teach to help students tune into their internal experience and build a stronger mind-body connection. I think somatic education is useful for anyone who dances, not only to heal injuries and move in more functional ways, but also to get in touch with the deepest parts of ourselves, where authentic self-expression originates.

If there is one thing you would like attendees to take away from your workshop, what would it be? 

Jo: There is a dancer within all of us. What you did when you were four years old is an offering to the Source.

Annika: There is no right or wrong way to dance. There is only your unique expression of your truth in the moment.


Yoga Source Presenter QA: Caroline Wright

In last week’s Q&A, we met Rick Olderman, the Denver-based physical therapist who will present workshops on Headaches, Neck & Shoulder Pain and Running Better, Healing Faster at the Yoga Source conference.

This week we’re turning our attention to Caroline Wright, an aerialist and Certified Hanna Somatic Educator. Caroline became an approved artist for Cirque du Soleil in 2008 and currently teaches circus arts in San Francisco. She is offering a fun workshop at Yoga Source to help you get in touch with the child within:

Mindful Circus Crafts
Saturday, March 12 | 2-4 p.m.
Yoga Nook @ Fifth

See the full conference schedule and register online today!

Tell us a little bit more about your background and why you became interested in somatics. 

I have been performing as an aerialist and teaching throughout North America for nearly a decade. In 2010, injuries threatened to end my career. I found a unique form of neuromuscular re-training called Hanna Somatic Education. I used it to make a full recovery, and still use it daily to enhance my performance. Now, as a Certified Hanna Somatic Educator, I am committed to sharing these life-changing techniques with others.

Why did you decide to present a workshop on Mindful Circus Crafts? What are you looking to offer attendees? 

I decided to offer this workshop because the body awareness gained through somatics is a wonderful preparation for exploring movement within the context of circus arts.

The workshop will consist of a centering somatic warm-up, followed by some basic postures with a focus on sensing optimal alignment. This will progress into basic static partner acrobatics, learning how to support the weight of another person in a healthy way, and how to climb, lean or balance on someone else safely.

How have you applied somatics in your line of work? 

I use somatics with clients and circus students to help them unwind contraction patterns that are causing pain and dysfunction, and teach them how to move with more efficiency and ease. Overcoming plateaus of any kind is a mind-body experience that is accelerated with somatic education.

If there is one thing you would like attendees to take away from your workshop, what would it be? 

I’d love for participants to leave with a heightened body awareness and improved culture of movement. By the end of the workshop, I would like them to be able to apply the knowledge to both support weight and be supported by others in a stable, healthy manner, inside and outside of a circus arts context.

Next week we’ll feature yet another Yoga Source presenter — be sure to subscribe below to get updates in your inbox.


Yoga Source Presenter QA: Rick Olderman, MSPT, CPT

Our 3-day Yoga Source conference is less than a month away! To give you a sneak peek into all the great workshops and experiences we have in store for you, we’ll be posting a new Q&A with one of our fantastic presenters each week leading up to the conference.

This week we’re featuring Rick Olderman, MSPT, CPT and author of the Fixing You book series, who will be traveling from Denver, Colorado to present TWO engaging and informative workshops:

Headaches, Neck & Shoulder Pain
Saturday, March 12 | 10-11 a.m.
Yoga Nook @ Fifth

Running Better, Healing Faster
Sunday, March 13 | 8:30-10 a.m.
Yoga Nook on Cochran

See the full conference schedule and register online today!

Tell us a little bit more about your background and why you became interested in somatics. 

As a physical therapist, I’m fascinated by chronic pain and nagging injuries. Our bodies are designed to heal — then why don’t they? Although this seems obvious, I’ve always believed chronic pain must happen from how we are using our bodies (and brains).

But if you look at most treatment systems out there, they are not based on principles of movement. Somatics is, however, and has been an enormous tool for me in understanding how the interplay between body and brain create pain, and fix it.

My therapists and I apply somatics to biomechanics and behavioral corrections, which completely elevates our outcomes with patients. Somatics has helped me see my patients more wholly, and has widened my realm of perceptions of possible problems. It truly has made me a better physical therapist.

Why did you decide to present workshops on Headaches, Neck & Shoulder Pain and Running Better, Healing Faster? What are you looking to offer attendees? 

In my practice, I see a lot of upper extremity and neck pain, as well as headaches, in yoga and Pilates practitioners. In general, we’re very successful in fixing these issues. It typically comes down to having a deeper understanding of how the upper extremity system works. This hinges, literally, on scapula function.

Yoga instructors already have such a great degree of body awareness and education that they grasp these concepts rapidly and are then able to help their own clients.

My intention for the Headaches, Neck & Shoulder Pain workshop is that attendees leave with a greater understanding of how the shoulder girdle creates neck pain, headaches and even other problems like thoracic outlet syndrome or common shoulder or elbow pain. This understanding will use somatic elements where possible.

I love to offer clinics about lower extremity injuries and running because running is popular everywhere, and running injuries are common. The leg and pelvic system is fascinating, and is the foundation of our movement paradigms. So having a more complete understanding of how we move and how that relates to pain carries over into understanding back and even neck pain. Often solutions are very simple.

Runners are a very educated population too, and are eager to learn more to become the best they can be. Their enthusiasm for the information I present is very satisfying to me.

My intention for the Running Better, Healing Faster workshop is for attendees to leave with a clear understanding of key concepts involved with most running injuries I see. These will include understanding how femoral retroversion or anteversion influences the hips, knees and feet, and how the feet influence issues up the chain too. I’ll also present a novel fix for posterior chain tightness.

How have you applied somatics in your line of work? 

I apply somatic thinking and interventions to every patient I see in my clinic. One of the things I love about somatics is that it can be applied to so many ideas. The spectrum of issues that I deal with in my clinic can fall between purely physical at one end and purely psychological at the other. Somatics allows me to work at both ends and everywhere in between.

If there is one thing you would like attendees to take away from your workshops, what would it be? 

My goal for both of my workshops is that attendees leave with a deeper, practical understanding of how movement systems in our bodies work together to unlock pain. I use hands-on learning techniques to drive these points home because I want everyone to be able to use them immediately with their own clients.

Check back next week for a new Q&A with another Yoga Source presenter — or subscribe below to get updates in your inbox.


Yoga Source: A Yoga and Healing Arts Conference

I love what I do. I love teaching, and I love getting creative with Yoga. I think the passion I have for my craft shows in the classes I teach and in the way that I’ve continued to develop AIM and integrated it with postures and poses.

Three years ago, I graduated from a therapeutic movement program in Novato, Northern California that certified me as a Hanna Somatic Educator (HSE). Some of you have reached out to me for help with functional movement issues and are familiar with the one-on-one work that I do in the AIM room, as well as the group classes we offer at both studios.

I have stayed in contact with several of the students who were in my class at the Novato Institute for Somatic Research, and it’s been interesting to see how we have all integrated the new somatic knowledge within our professions.

Wouldn’t it be fun, I thought, to bring the best and brightest together in one location and have everyone present their own skills along with somatics? So I invited four of the other graduates from the Novato program to visit Simi Valley in March and be part of a three-day weekend of movement, healing and somatic education.

Somatics, or somatic movement, refers to techniques in movement study that emphasize your internal physical perception. Yoga is innately somatic because the yoga teacher is attempting to keep your attention in your body as you practice moment to moment.

When perceiving how our body moves, we become more aware of our relationship to the ground and gravity. What habitual postures have we developed? How are we using our body to create certain movements? With this deeper awareness gained, we are then able to cultivate change, to move with more efficiency and improved function.

Thomas Hanna was an inspirational teacher, philosopher and healer. His research, insight and enthusiasm for educating individuals has been passed on to all who complete his training through the Novato Institute for Somatic Research.

The guest teachers who are presenting at this conference are part of a group of individuals who are dedicated to healing through somatics. They are all Certified Hanna Somatics Educators (HSE), and I am thrilled that they’ve agreed to be part of this first conference and are willing to share their healing arts with you.

We are currently completing the class schedule for March 11-13th, and we’ll be offering a wide range of classes, from Healing Touch for Animals to Circus Crafts and Sacred Dance — as well as an opportunity to more deeply explore your own yoga practice and help heal shoulder and lower body injuries.

I hope that you will be able to join us for part of or the whole weekend, and that you get inspired, encouraged and set free from postural habits that may be limiting your potential to live a full and active life.

Watch this space over the next few weeks for more news about Yoga Source… and we’ll see you there!


Journey to the Center of You

Someone asked me what I was doing for Thanksgiving. I could feel my face light up with childish glee as I replied, “Painting.”

She laughed (she knows me well). I love color and I love painting. The focus it creates is soothing; my mind floats as my hands work deliberately to stay inside the lines.

The wall is my canvas, and I enjoy watching as the painting evolves organically. I choose and mix colors as they are needed, with no real plan.

The blank wall at Yoga Nook @ Fifth was an invitation. I knew it needed something that would suit the scale of the room, but what?

As people were lying in Savasana after class one day, I stared at the wall. I had toyed with the idea of painting a purple-and-lilac version of the ombré wall at Cochran, but thought it would be too heavy for the space.

Then it came to me — it needed a mandala. This cross-cultural symbol representing the universe without, as well as the journey within, is used to create focus and relieve the busyness of the mind.

Mandalas are one of humankind’s most ancient art forms. There is evidence that they were used in the earliest Indo-European cultures, though they are certainly not limited to Eurasia. American Indians have used sand mandalas, medicine wheels and dream catchers, all based on a pattern of ever-decreasing circles.

First, take in the whole circle. Then allow your eye to be drawn to the center, and focus there. Keep your eyes still and watch your mind as it tries to distract you from your focus. If your mind wanders (which it probably will), begin again with the whole circle and let your eye be drawn back to the center.

Training the mind to focus is like training a puppy — the puppy is distracted by anything, even a leaf blowing in the wind. Tools like yoga, meditation or even gazing at a mandala open the door to the mind, but consistency is the key.

Come see the mandala at Fifth, and enjoy the Holiday Bazaar on December 12 from 10:30 a.m – 3:30 p.m. There will be music and refreshments, fair-trade gifts for your favorite yogi, a Blue Lotus Yoga Wear trunk sale, free reflexology, door prizes and more! See you there.

Yoga Nook Holiday Bazaar
December 12
10:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Yoga Nook @ Fifth


FREE YOGA + an exclusive Black Friday deal

Come celebrate the holiday weekend with your Yoga Nook family, and get your body moving after the big feast! We have 2 FREE CLASSES on Friday, November 27, open to members and non-members alike — plus an exclusive Black Friday deal.

Join us for our annual Turkey Trot at Yoga Nook on Cochran, or the 1st annual Turkey Jam at Yoga Nook @ Fifth:

Turkey Trot 
9:00 – 10:30 a.m.
Yoga Nook on Cochran
30 min. each of Core, Floor & Restore
Level 1 (some Yoga experience preferred)

Turkey Jam with Jeni
8:30 – 10:00 a.m.
Yoga Nook @ Fifth
All levels

We’ll also be offering an exclusive Black Friday deal from 10:30 a.m. to 12 noon at Yoga Nook @ Fifth. For one day only, get an annual membership for $59.99 per month! (Annual contract required, see our website for details.)


Image credit: Jason Devaun via Flickr (CC) 

Got the Back Pain Blues? Attend Our FREE Back Care Basics Workshop

So here’s the bad news: Your experience of pain is real. The good news is: You can reduce your pain.

Back pain is one of the most common reasons people visit the doctor’s office, second only to upper respiratory infections. Ninety percent of people suffer from back pain as a result of poor body mechanics, bad posture and lack of core strength. The road to recovery must include movement education, exercise and awareness. Yoga can help.

If you’ve ever suffered from back pain, you know how debilitating it can be. Pain as a result of movement will quickly teach us to avoid moving. We begin to limit our range of motion, and when we do move, we reach out for any stable object in an attempt to decrease pain. We lean on furniture, work surfaces, shopping carts — anything that will decrease the workload of the painful site in our backs.

We become our own worst enemy as we shift our center of gravity, causing other muscles to bear the load. Vulnerable and weak, we feel as old as the pain in our backs.

I see clients with back pain every week. Using AIM (Awareness, Integration and Movement) techniques, we gradually decrease pain levels, recover range of motion and discover what movements are actually the root cause of their discomfort.

Some pain resolves very quickly, while some takes more time as we slowly unwind many years of adaptation to less-than-functional movement patterns. The key to resolving pain is to not create it when you move, so any movement must be very small and slow to begin with. Releasing tight compensatory muscles is a major factor, along with reducing the effort involved.

During a private AIM session or group AIM class, I direct attention to how the movement is created: Where does it begin? Once we have established a pain-free range of movement, no matter how small, we begin to build sequences and patterns that remind the brain of different options for functional movement.

Gradually the body and brain are reeducated, and the client can enjoy pain-free movement. Once free of pain, Yoga continues to affirm the retraining as well as strengthen and stabilize the body, preventing the recurrence of pain and increasing the client’s body awareness.

Yoga Nook @ Fifth is holding a FREE workshop called Back Care Basics this Saturday, October 10 from 10:30-12 p.m. In this workshop, we will identify some organic causes of back pain and help improve range of motion using gentle AIM sequences. If you’re interested in attending or would like more information, please call 805-390-8175.

See you there!


Related articles: 
3 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Your Back Pain
Correcting Poor Posture with AIM Somatic Movement
The World on Your Shoulders

Image credit: Michael Dorausch via Flickr (CC)

Windows to the Soul

It’s 8 p.m. and daylight has withdrawn, leaving a golden twilight to bathe Rocky Peak at the east end of Simi Valley. One or two people wander around Yoga Nook @ Fifth, walking to and from the laundromat or sushi restaurant.

I’m alone in the new studio, the rhythmic sound of sandpaper on wood echoing throughout the empty space. I’m repairing the window frames that will soon be positioned in the partition wall between the vestibule and the yoga studio.

These window frames are old, Victorian probably. They bear the scars of hot California summers, indifferent painters and unskilled glaziers. The distressed wood is pitted from sloppy attempts at repair, yet they are just the right size and shape — and I’m conscious that I’m not the first person to think they are perfect for the setting.

I discovered these frames at an architectural salvage store in Pasadena, a dream playground for anyone with an eye for antiques and the willingness to put a little elbow grease into a project. They specialize in doors, windows and hardware. Need a Victorian hinge, a crystal pull, a 12-foot door? Then this is the place to go. You’ll find aisle after tidy aisle of stained glass, oak doors and objets d’art.

I scrape at the brittle paint with a putty knife — an unusual tool for the job, but one that fits the need. It’s just thin enough to reflect the paint, just flexible enough to avoid gouging the wood. As I peel back time, revealing alternating layers of color, I wonder what kind of house these windows dressed. Who looked out of them? What views are recorded in the photographic memory of the glass?

In sanding the frames, I discover abandoned locks and screw holes where blinds once hung, and I’m curious about the family that lived behind these windows. Perhaps the house faced west and the heat of the afternoon sun was shuttered out. I imagine a dim room filled with antiques, a grandfather clock ticking slow and steady, a grand piano displaying four generations in silver frames.

Stripping away encrusted paint, the well-defined edges of the original frame are revealed, sharp and crisp against the soft blue of the glass. Once, many years ago they looked like this, a statement in yellow.

Perhaps the whole house was yellow. I imagine a beach house with the windows flung wide open, the sound and smell of the ocean invited in. Perhaps children laughed and played here; life emerged, developed and matured here; and now these windows will grace the Yoga Nook studio with light.

Something old, something new, love, passion and dedication — these are the ingredients of Yoga Nook @ Fifth. Many hands have joined in the making of this new space. I send a heartfelt thanks to everyone who has supported this new and beautiful studio, and I look forward to welcoming you all on Saturday, September 12th.

yoga nook @ fifth sign

jeni rachel yoga nook @ fifth

Related articles:
Words That Matter
The Business of Yoga: The Exquisite Risk


Image credit: Maia C via Flickr (CC)

Yoga Nook Event: Essential Oils Wellness Workshop

Who doesn’t like the smell of fresh-cut lemons? So energizing, vibrant and refreshing. Lemon balm, or Melissa officinalisis a perennial herb in the mint family that has a delightfully fresh, lemony scent. The plant can grow up to three feet tall, and blooms with tiny white flowers from summer through fall. Bees are very attracted to the pollen produced by the flowers; in fact, the genus name Melissa comes from the Greek word for honeybee.

Essential oil extracted from the lemon balm plant is commonly sold in stores as “Melissa essential oil.” It is one of the rarest, most expensive oils in the world because it requires such a large amount of the fragrant herb to yield a small amount of oil–it takes 95,000 pounds of dried plant material to yield just one gallon of Melissa essential oil. As a result, there are many cheap imitations on the market labeled “lemon balm oil,” which may be adulterated with lemon oil or lemongrass oil. Consumers beware!

Pure Melissa essential oil is generally used to alleviate digestive and respiratory problems originating in the nervous system.* The oils in the lemon balm plant have a calming effect, which also make it useful for depression, menstrual cramps and stress-related conditions.

You can use Melissa essential oil in an aromatherapy diffuser, or chop fresh lemon balm leaves and add them to salads or fruit dishes. You can also make a refreshing herbal tea by adding 2 tablespoons of torn or chopped lemon balm leaves to one cup of boiling water. Steep for up to 10 minutes, strain and drink. Hot or cold lemon balm tea will put a zing in your step!

To learn more about preparing, mixing and using essential oils for health and wellness, come to Yoga Nook instructor Cindi Hunt’s Essential Oils Wellness Workshop at the Nook on Saturday, June 27 from 12:30-2:00 p.m.

In this fun, hands-on workshop, you’ll be able to smell, apply and even taste dozens of essential oils. Cindi will show you how to use oils in your home, in your cooking and for proactive healthcare–for only $15 a person. You’ll get to make and take home your own room spritzer and de-stress with special essential oil combinations.

Hope to see you there!

Essential Oils Wellness Workshop with Cindi Hunt
Saturday, June 27
12:30-2:00 p.m.

*Please note, Melissa essential oil should always be diluted and should not be applied to sensitive skin. To avoid contact with sensitive areas such as eyes and nose, always wash your hands after handling the fresh herb or essential oil.


Image credit: hitomi on Flickr (CC)

It’s Meditation March at Yoga Nook!

To celebrate over one year of FREE community meditation classes, Yoga Nook teachers will be integrating a five-minute meditation in every class at Yoga Nook throughout the month of March.

The meditation may be a mindful movement portion of the class or a more classic seated experience, and will be included in every 75-minute yoga class regardless of the level.

Be Present Meditation Workshop

Join Pat VanBuskirk, Jessica Nilson and Jeni Winterburn for a FREE meditation workshop on Saturday, March 21 from 12-1:30 p.m.

Together we will practice simple seated concentration, mindfulness meditation, as well as meditation in movement. Learn how to bring greater mindfulness to your yoga poses and enhance your experience in meditation.

Beginners are welcome. Please call (805) 390-8175 to reserve your spot today.


Image credit: Brian Ambrozy on Flickr (CC)