Running Away to the Circus

As a kid, I always wanted to go to the circus. If I saw a poster on the street or an ad in the newspaper, I would whine to my parents, “Can we go to the circus, pleeeease?” They would always reply, “If you’re a good girl.” They got miles of leverage from this strategy but never paid up, and I was an adult before I had my first experience of a big top at Cirque du Soleil in Santa Monica.

By then, the idea of a circus to celebrate music, movement, flexibility and strength both intrigued and inspired my curiosity. The performance remains one of the most profound experiences of my life. I was astonished and amazed. It was as if a group of alien beings had made a friendly visit to Earth for the evening and invited a few humans along to observe their culture. I was transported.

A decade or so later at a Somatics course in northern California, I met Caroline Wright, an aerial artist who not only qualified for Cirque du Soleil in 2008 but is a teacher of aerial and circus arts. We became fast friends, and I got an inside view of circus lore from the stories and experiences she shared with me.

A gifted somatic educator and bodyworker, Caroline is playful in the presentation of her craft, yet her experience and confidence inspires trust. We welcome her return to our Yoga Source Conference next weekend, where she will present Foundations, Fulcrums and Fun on Saturday, March 11 from 1:30-3:30 p.m.

In Caroline’s workshop, you’ll connect with your inner child and find new ways to use your body in relation to gravity, building body awareness and perception. You won’t want to miss this chance to run away to the circus for an afternoon, and enjoy an exploration of trust, partner work and somatic movement. Sign up here today to reserve your spot.


Stress Less

For most animals stress is episodic, the short, sharp response to a predator. An array of hormones cascade through the body, increasing blood flow, focusing attention and mobilizing energy systems to prepare for action. This hormone array includes adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol and is the organism’s response to an immediate, alarming change in the environment. Once the danger has passed, hormone levels will return to normal and homeostasis will resume.

Sadly, as humans, few of our stressors are episodic. While we are all likely to experience short-term grief and pain, the everyday stressors of life on earth are abundant, chronic and acute. Each time the body/mind perceives stress, hormones are released and the “fight or flight” cycle is activated. Over time the immune system is depleted, and the body’s ability to repair, renew and restore is compromised.

How our brain perceives stress, threats or changes in the environment will have an impact on the release of hormones. Over the last two decades, several studies have linked chronic stress with increased pain, digestive disorders and disease onset.

But what can we do? How do we handle it? These are some of the questions that we will address at this year’s Yoga Source Conference. Stress, it seems, is inevitable but with tools to recognize it and strategies to manage it, we can decrease its effect on our mind and body.

Check out this year’s workshop schedule at and choose your workshops, then register on Eventbrite. See you there!


Yoga Source 2017: Reduce Stress, Resolve Pain

Challenging situations are inherent in our daily life. We are sure to encounter fear, insecurity and pain during this human experience. But our pain, emotions and behavior are all influenced by stress — the effects of which are felt globally in the body.

Internal and external factors affect our ability to cope with life’s challenges. External elements include our home environment, relationships and pressure at work. Internal elements such as our emotional health, lifestyle and fitness all influence the amount of stress we experience, and how we respond to it.

Becoming aware of the habitual patterns in our daily lives that feed the stress response, and finding strategies to navigate the highs and lows, is a necessary part of our personal development. We may think we’re reducing stress by watching television, playing video games or surfing the internet to relax — but these activities can actually increase the stress response and add to your symptoms.

Yoga can help. That’s why we decided to plan our Yoga Source 2017 Conference around reducing stress and resolving pain. The workshops and presentations are designed to teach you about the influence of stress on the mind and body, how to heal your pain, and practical tools for responding to stress.

We’re pleased to have Denver physical therapist Rick Olderman, MSPT joining us again this year after offering such great information about headaches, neck and shoulder pain last year. He will again deliver the keynote presentation on Friday, March 10 and two workshops on March 11 & 12.

Aerial and circus artist Caroline Wright is also offering another fun workshop this year on building trust through circus play. Foundations, Fulcrums and FUN is on Sat., March 11. And for a very special music experience, the talented bass player Dan Pritchett (Dreaming Upright) will bring the sultry, soothing tunes. We also have a few new presenters from our own staff.

Click here to view the entire Yoga Source 2017 Conference schedule, and register here for classes on March 10-12. We have a wide range of stress- and pain-reducing classes, and an opportunity to more deeply explore your yoga practice. We hope you will come away inspired, encouraged, and set free from stress.

Subscribe below to receive updates. And we’ll see you there!


Yoga Source Wrap-Up: What Now?

I’m still a little punch-drunk after the whirlwind of Yoga Source. It was an amazing weekend, and I want to send a profound thank you to so many people for making it a success.

I had a huge amount of fun reconnecting with my classmates from the Thomas Hanna Somatic group, watching them work and sharing my work with them. It was inspirational to see our own Yoga Nook teachers pushing the envelope and creating new classes, bringing new ideas and combinations to the floor.

Yoga Source Hanna Somatic Educators
Yoga Source Presenters and Hanna Somatic Educators (L to R): Rick Olderman, Jeni Winterburn, Elise and Thomas McMasters, Caroline Wright  (Photo credit: Kim Galbraith)

All in all, it was a weekend full of creative energy that was invested in our Simi Valley yoga community. Yoga students at both studios are still buzzing from the experience, and everyone has asked about next year.

What now?

Some information from the workshops will be blended into your regular classes, as Yoga Nook teachers integrate their newly acquired knowledge into their own practice and then bring it to you.

Yoga Source Yoga Nook teachers
Yoga Nook teachers Lisa, Yasa and Sarah  (Photo credit: Kim Galbraith)

Some presenters will be making repeat visits to offer individual workshops over the next 10 months. Other teachers are being invited to expand on their subjects, providing you with more detailed information in the form of workshops to improve your yoga experience.

Watch this space because next year will be bigger and better. The Source team has learned a great deal from this first experience and will be bringing you more inspiring classes, amazing presenters and healing arts. Save the dates… March 10, 11 & 12, 2017.

Yoga Nook continues to move forward, bringing creative Yoga to Simi Valley and connecting to the community with open arms and hearts. Thank you for your support — we couldn’t do any of this without you.


Yoga Source Presenter QA: Elise & Thomas McMasters

There are just a couple days left until our 3-day Yoga Source conference kicks off, and we couldn’t be more excited! If you haven’t already, take a look at the schedule, pick out your workshops and register online to get a head start.

You can also register at Yoga Nook @ Fifth on Friday, March 11 from 4:30-7 p.m. Then, join us for the Welcome Address from 7-8:30 p.m., where you can mingle with the presenters and enjoy music, wine tasting, singing and chanting in a relaxed atmosphere. (First-come basis, free to all attending the conference.)

Our final presenter Q&A is with Elise and Thomas McMasters, Certified Hanna Somatic Educators who not only work with people, but also horses and dogs. They will be presenting a fun workshop on how to help heal and communicate better with our pets:

Healing Touch for Animals 
Saturday, March 12 | 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Yoga Nook on Cochran
(Dogs will be present for this workshop.)
Only a few spots left! Sign up today.

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

Our background began in human massage therapies and branched out to include equine and canine massage and bodywork, small and large animal acupuncture, as well as Hanna Somatic Education (HSE) for equine, canine and humans.

Hanna Somatic Education bridges the gap between working on clients and working with clients. The goal of HSE is to teach our clients the exercises necessary to continue their practice at home and in other areas of their lives. HSE continually renews our ability to access and release our muscle potential, allowing us to re-create more efficient and comfortable movement.

Why did you decide to present a workshop on Healing Touch for Animals? What are you looking to offer attendees? 

We are offering a window into the possibilities that Hanna Somatic work brings to our animals, specifically dogs and horses. Somatic Education, massage therapy and acupressure for horse and rider fill a need not addressed by any other type of therapy.

Simple guided release movements allow a horse and rider to experience the renewed ability to access muscle potential, creating a synergy of strength and balance. This results in the possibility of smooth, powerful movement with less effort.

Hanna Somatic work for canines, both athletic (such as agility or working dogs) as well as our at-home companions, offers simple movements that may increase a dog’s well-being, comfort and athletic career.

Working with dogs or horses aids in injury recovery and rehabilitation. Most of all, it is a fabulous preventative therapy for injury, the effects of aging, arthritis or any other conditions that affect or pertain to the muscles and soft tissues.

How have you applied somatics in your line of work? 

Somatic work has given us a greater understanding of how our minds work with our bodies. It is through a willing participation in this mind/body collaboration that we are able to refocus our mind to reach and recover muscle potential that otherwise may be unavailable. We can offer our clients simple, effective techniques to help recover from and prevent injury, achieving results that can be astounding.

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

Awareness that there is a simple and phenomenally effective way to help preserve not only our health, well-being, physical/athletic abilities, but also that of our animal companions. Having the ability to maintain health and wellness on a daily basis in a way that is pain-free and easily applied in the privacy and ease of your own home is unprecedented, but thoroughly possible and available.

Image credit: Taro the Shiba Inu via Flickr (CC)


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!