These top podcasts will inspire you when you’re on and off your mat
It was a rainy Tuesday morning, and things were not going well. I had slept in late, snoozing my iPhone alarm twice and missing the morning yoga class I had been counting on—for the second time that week. Annoyed and frustrated, I had rushed out the door in the rain to get to work on time, only to find myself stuck underground in a grimy subway station, waiting for what felt like forever for a delayed train. I sighed, slipped my headphones on, and turned on a podcast.
Even though the train didn’t come for a full 17 minutes, the longer I sat in the subway station listening, the less upset I was. In fact, by the time the train arrived, my mood had entirely shifted.
Seventeen minutes later, I was calmer—even though I’d missed my morning practice. I was feeling more aware and in tune with myself—even with my less than stellar surroundings. I had switched on “From the Heart,” a podcast by yoga celebrity Rachel Brathen. That day, Brathen talked in a vulnerable and revealing way about her foibles and anger, about how upset she sometimes got about stupid things outside of her control (like sleeping through a yoga class, or in her case, noticing someone had painted a fence outside her studio), and about holding on and letting go. It was like she was talking directly to me, in a way that made me both forgiving of myself and forgiving of the train for being late.
See also 5 Secrets to Help You Quit Comparing Your Body to Others During Yoga Class
I learned from Brathen that day—and from the countless other podcasts I’ve added to my library—that sometimes it’s not enough to just “think positively” and coach myself out of a negative mood. Sometimes, I need someone else to remind me. With a podcast, I can instantly hear from spiritual masters, yoga teachers, and great thinkers, and they can help call me back to the way I feel at the end of a yoga class—even if I miss it.
Ready for the same kind of inspirational listening? Here are the 11 best yoga and mindfulness podcasts to get started.
Best yoga podcast #1: From the Heart: Conversations with Rachel Brathen
The worldwide community Rachel Brathen, a.k.a. Yoga Girl has created around Instagram, Facebook, and podcasting is impossible to ignore in the yoga space. Brathen is a trailblazer who runs her own yoga retreat and teacher training center in Aruba. Her deeply honest podcast covers a range of issues, including self-doubt, yoga teaching, mindfulness, the struggles and triumphs of being a new mom, and developing her thriving yoga business.
Best yoga podcast #2: On Being With Krista Tippett
I personally love this award-winning podcast, which features deep conversations on issues from death to spirituality to joy. Krista Tippett, a journalist and author, asks experts to talk about the big picture things at the core of our lives. While it’s not specifically about yoga, it is about thinking and mindfulness—and conversations about the “inner landscape of beauty,” “the spirituality of imagination,” and the “difference between fixing and healing,” has impacted my yoga practice, and the way I live, in powerful ways.
See also How to Deal with Holiday, Gift-Giving Resentments
Best yoga podcast #3: Jivamukti Yoga with Jessica Stickler
Popular New York City-based yoga teacher Jessica Stickler records her live classes, giving listeners an opportunity to catch her inspiring dharma talks and chanting at the start of class and even follow along if they want to practice. “Jessica is a wonderful teacher who discusses yoga philosophy in a way that brings it direct to the heart of humanity,” says Daphne Lyon, a top yoga and meditation teacher in Portland, Oregon.
Best yoga podcast #4: 10% Happier with Dan Harris
Former ABC news correspondent and New York Times bestselling author Dan Harris talks to fascinating meditation teachers, authors, and thinkers like Mallika Chopra, daughter of Deepak Chopra, and Thupten Jinpa, the principal English translator to the Dalai Lama since 1985. Harris asks about their mindfulness practices in an effort to help listeners develop their own tips and tricks to cultivate a happier, calmer mental state. With charm, wit, and a light-hearted approach, Harris makes the shows as fun and approachable as they are deep.
See also These 6 Simple Exercises Can Help You Cultivate More Compassion For Yourself
Best yoga podcast #5: Yoga Talks with J. Brown
Writer and world-traveling yoga teacher J. Brown offers a podcast dealing with issues in the yoga community, from sexual harassment to Instagram to the evolution of ashtanga. (Recent guests range from Pedro Luna, creator of Insta account YogiMemes, to Dr Loren Fishman, founder of yoga medicine resource yip.guru.) A smart, intellectual podcast about everything happening in the yoga world, you’ll find some of the yoga world’s biggest movers and shakers talking about everything from culture and mindfulness to philosophy and the business of yoga.
Best yoga podcast #6: Meditation in the City!: A Shambhala Podcast
This fun, laid-back podcast out of the Shambhala Meditation Center in New York tries to approach topics in meditation from a relaxed, down-to-earth, talk-centric perspective. The show features guests like award-winning writer Laura Simms and psychotherapist Natalie Baker, who analyze topics like the nature of courage. These accessible talks can help you both improve your own practice and learn helpful ways to teach others to meditate in class.
Best yoga podcast #7: Here and Now with Ram Dass
Maui-based author and spiritual teacher Ram Dass is a popular American spiritual leader and teacher. This podcast, featuring his talks recorded from the past and present, covers bhakti and spiritual enlightenment with heart-centered personal lectures and advice he’s delivered for more than 40 years. “The lectures and spiritual talks offer incredible insight in the journey back to the heart,” says Lyon. “Any time I am in that unknown space or seek guidance, I turn on Ram Dass. His stories deeply resonate with the human journey, what goes on in our mind, and how to bring it back to the heart.”
See also Spiritual Leader Ram Dass on Zen and the Art of Dying
Best yoga podcast #8: Yogaland Podcast with Andrea Ferretti
In this podcast, Yoga Journal contributing editor and yoga teacher Andrea Ferretti interviews a variety of experts about topics like mindfulness, yoga, and self-improvement. She dishes on anatomy, meditation, dealing with emotions, as well as yoga news and developments, like the practice being used in more schools. This podcast is a top download to learn more about yoga—and also, to learn more about yourself.
Best yoga podcast #9: Radically Loved with Rosie Acosta
In this podcast, Rosie Acosta—a popular yoga and meditation teacher and Yoga Journal cover model—covers a variety of topics ranging from overcoming a fear of public speaking (an important thing for yoga teachers) to simple ways to start your day off on the right foot. Her warm and welcoming tone coupled with the interesting guests she invites on the show come together to make this a humorous, fun, and uplifting listen.
See also How Yoga Transformed Rosie Acosta’s Life
Best yoga podcast #10: Tara Brach
Tara Brach, a prominent psychologist, meditation teacher, and the founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, DC,offers years of her recorded lectures and meditations related to mindfulness, intentional living, and self-care. “I adore her talks, because I always learn something about my emotional health and come away with tidbits or ideas to live more mindfully and intentionally,” says Molly Porth Cabrera, a yoga teacher and doula in Mexico City. “Her podcasts are a part of my regular spiritual practice and have allowed me to grow significantly on a spiritual and personal level.”
Best yoga podcast #11: M.B.Om | Mastering the Business of Yoga with Amanda Kingsmith
Canadian yoga teacher and business school grad and Amanda Kingsmith is just starting out in the yoga world—and she has a lot of questions. Her podcast, “M.B.Om” (titled as a play on “MBA”) is about learning about the business of yoga, centered around stories from yoga studio owners on how they got started. Kingsmith interviews yoga studio owners from around the country to find out. This podcast is a fascinating, insider look at things like starting your own yoga studio, running a teacher training, and creating a global yoga brand.
See also 10 Business Secrets to Starting a Successful Yoga Career
About the Author
Gina Tomaine is a Philadelphia-based writer and editor. She is currently Deputy Lifestyle Editor of Philadelphia magazine, and previously served as Associate Deputy Editor of Rodale’s Organic Life. She’s been published in Prevention, Women’s Health, Runner’s World and more. Learn more at ginatomaine.com.
Yoga Helped Clare Cui Find Peace In Her Body
Weightlifting was wreaking havoc on my body and spirit—until I found yoga.
I couldn’t see much in the darkness, but I could smell the tanning oil that covered the toned bodies of women who were nervously clustered together in lines waiting to take the stage. As I stood there in my group, my number pinned to my bikini, I looked down at my body, which I had beat into peak physical condition, and I still didn’t like what I saw. I’m sure I looked confident in my own skin, but what I really wanted to do was to crawl out of it.
I know there are countless women who feel self-conscious about a little squish on their belly or thighs—wondering what new workout or crash diet to try—constantly worrying about making “healthy” decisions around food and exercise. For a long time, I was no different. I was insecure and constantly pursuing the “perfect” body. It was a race that I was never going to win. I was inundated by negative messages in a culture where validation, praise, and value relied on placing in competition. I couldn’t get out of the get-up-and-grind mentality. This chiseled body that kept garnering praise became an addiction.
That is exactly why—despite the three first-place fitness titles I had earned that year—I was left waging a secret war against myself and my body. In that moment in the darkness backstage, my soul was sending out an SOS. I knew something was wrong.
See also Is Social Media Wrecking Your Body Image?
I left that competition and tried to go back to my life as the head strength and conditioning coach at a Denver public high school. I vowed to let go of superficial goals, obsessive negative self-talk, counting calories, incessant workouts, and all-consuming anxiety about what I looked like on stage. This spaciousness in my thoughts was a welcome breath of fresh air, but it also felt strange and empty. Without competition, I craved focus, so I threw myself into fostering strength in others, helping students to rid themselves of pain and reach their physical goals.
My students had restricted movement from ailments such as torn ACLs and back problems. I grew fascinated by how the body moves and how rigidity causes all sorts of problems. Health wasn’t just about strength. I was discovering another piece of the puzzle: Flexibility—both physically and mentally—was critical. Bulldozing my way through competitions on shear strength and willpower like I had been was killing me because I didn’t have the flexibility of mind to take days off and let my body recover.
I could see that my clients’ mindsets were determining their recoveries. Some of them were stubborn, stuck on one way of doing things, forcing the same approach over and over again with few results. I saw them like a mirror, exposing my own flaws. Rigidity wasn’t working, for them or for me. We need strength to overcome our challenges, but also flexibility to pivot when things aren’t working the way we want them to.
See also Kat Fowler on Embracing Yoga and Conquering Self-Doubt
Fueled by a desire to learn more about increasing flexibility, I walked into a power yoga teacher training having never taken a yoga class. Halfway through class, covered in sweat, I was falling on my face attempting Bakasana. My inner strength coach had been beaten into submission by how much I had underestimated the whole “yoga thing,” and something unexpected happened: I found myself deeply in love with asana practice.
I’d huff and puff my way through vinyasa classes, where each pose got me closer to answering the aching question: How do I stop fighting with my body? I had long approached my fitness routine as a tool to punish myself into a better body—one that mirrored the standardized images I saw in the media. Through yoga, this armor slowly started to come off. Each time I attempted to slow down and soften into a pose, using my strength to support my body rather than demand a result from it, I could feel myself deeply listening to what was going to heal instead of hurt me. I began to witness the compassion and kindness toward myself that I had been missing for years.
Yes, the intelligent placement of my bones and muscles in space supported my strength. But this magical organization of my walking meat sack got me in tune with so much more than any fad diet ever had. Instead of regarding my body as an obstacle in the way of a shiny new trophy, through yoga I realized that this awareness in my body meant that I was the trophy.
See also The Avoidance Mechanisms We Have to Face In Order To Heal
I no longer saw my shoulders as something that needed more shaping, but a beloved elevator to lift me higher in Handstands and inspire courage and confidence. Now, I absolutely won’t deny that yoga and strength training have toned my backside. But what I flex (no pun intended) regularly with my yoga tools is not a physical muscle, but an internal one. The skills of softening, deep listening, and presence were dormant and weak before I found yoga. These mind muscles allow me to see the shapes my body makes without focusing on what it looks like externally. I can now focus on what it feels like from the inside of the pose.
I’ve become more in tune with a source of joy and wholeness that doesn’t come from a judge or a medal. It comes from deep within. Real confidence comes from an internal knowing that we are worthy, beautiful, and whole—no matter what shape we take.
See also Jessamyn Stanley on Moving Beyond Body Positivity
About the author
Clare Cui is a Denver-based yoga teacher with more than 12 years of experience in strength training. Her passion is supporting career women and business leaders to create the strength in their bodies and minds to show up confidently in their own skin. Find her at theyogathlete.com and @clare_cui on Instagram.
The Avoidance Mechanisms We Have to Face In Order To Heal
This new awareness made me realize that if you don’t pull out tension by the roots, it just migrates elsewhere—that boiling water has to let off steam somewhere.
I learned about “release valves” in a teacher training a couple of years ago. We were working in groups, observing other students’ mobility and looking for dysfunctional movement patterns. For example, when one of my classmates shifted into Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold), you could see that her hips were excessively rotating while her spine seemed awkwardly rigid. She was able to reach her toes because, instead of sharing the load, her flexible hips were doing the work for her stiff back. I quickly started to notice how my own body was compensating for areas that were too tight, too lax, or uncomfortable.
The teacher of that particular training, Gary Kraftsow—a yoga therapist and founder of the American Viniyoga Institute—calls these compensatory release valves “avoidance mechanisms.” They help us understand which parts of us we’ve been neglecting—out of pain, weakness, injury, numbness, shame, or fear.
See also Yoga Therapy: Need to Know
All of a sudden, I started to pay attention to all of the things I had been evading in my life. I noticed I had release valves at the office. I would sit through a meeting, quietly stewing about a decision I didn’t agree with, then head to my desk, venting ungracefully to anyone I ran into. I’m not proud. I was avoiding confrontation and compensating for it with toxic negativity. At home, I kept conversations about money at arm’s length. Ashamed about my debt, I preferred to hide expenses and not ask for help.
This new awareness made me realize that if you don’t pull out tension by the roots, it just migrates elsewhere—that boiling water has to let off steam.
See also 30 Yoga Sequences to Reduce Stress
This issue of the 2019 July/August magazine is steeped in yoga therapy and the myriad ways the practice can help us identify, confront, and heal our wounds so they don’t get infected and derail our lives. The term “yoga therapy” has an official definition: According to the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT), it is “the process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and well-being through the application of the teachings and practices of yoga.” Here, we’ve collaborated with both IAYT-certified and non-IAYT-certified teachers to share asana, mantra, meditation, and pranayama that can help you beat addiction (yes, your iPhone habits count), manage pain, face fears, calm your nervous system, protect your lower back, and connect to your true Self. We tap Ayurvedic psychology, medical research, and the wisdom of therapists and senior teachers for guidance on how to feel healthy and whole.
See also Why More Western Doctors Are Now Prescribing Yoga Therapy
Prescribed reading also includes a look at how the yoga program at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego is helping kids and their families cope with cancer; inquiry into whether your health insurance covers yoga; transformative reader-submitted stories about yoga’s power to ease depression, trauma, and anxiety; advice for navigating big change; thoughts on how restorative yoga can help heal race-related wounds; and the importance of vulnerability.
As soon as I started to recognize release valves, or coping mechanisms, everywhere—on my mat, in my day-to-day behavior, and in other people—curiosity and contemplation became constant companions. Sometimes my experiments and homemade remedies fail and I can’t figure out how to dissolve my headaches, quell anxious thoughts, or recover from clumsy conversations, but I feel better for trying. Yoga, particularly breathwork, has become the salve I need to persevere. The relief that comes from embodying balance, creating space to feel my feelings, and finding the courage to speak my truth has started to heal me from the inside out.
See also 5 Yogis Using Their Practice to Heal On The Mat
Yoga for Diabetes: 12 Poses and a Meditation to Mitigate Stress
Use this sequence to find refuge from the clutches of chronic illness.
Resting is hard for me. I would rather be on the go, overcoming hurdles or realizing my life vision. However, it’s difficult to achieve creative goals without rest, introspection, and relaxation. The same is true in diabetes care. If you have diabetes, like me, you’re constantly connected to your continuous glucose monitor, personal diabetes manager, or insulin pump. People with this condition are plugged into a monitor to stay alive, and blood glucose readings get mixed up with who we think we are and we lose our sense of self. Every arrow on the screen, every deviation up or down leaves a residue of subtle negative emotion in the landscape of the body and mind, making it impossible to relax, because every misstep can have potentially deadly consequences.
Any person facing modern technological advances suffers a great deal from similar mind spin; diabetes is just the microcosm of the macrocosm. The disease simply accentuates the detrimental distractions that people face without diabetes. Mental fluctuations are influenced by external and internal factors. For instance, a blood glucose reading of 400 mg/dL (very high!) can be a catalyst for thoughts that can spiral out of control because of past negative experiences—any number outside of normal range may cause you to remember the last time your glucose was too high and how awful you felt. Even more subtle than the thought is the impression left by the event. You may carry judgmental guilt, stew in the past, fret about what you should have done, worry about the long-term effects, or whatever the story may be. When the mind spins, we often react instead of respond. On a physiological level, the nervous system is in overdrive. A heightened state of arousal (being on guard) sends internal alarms into hyper-mode. Our brains tell our bodies that there’s an emergency, pumping stress hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline, and glycogen into the bloodstream. The unintentional effect is insulin resistance (resulting in increased blood sugar), making diabetes much harder to manage. The cumulative result of this vicious cycle is distress, anxiety, and depression.
See also Why More Western Doctors Are Now Prescribing Yoga Therapy
There is a saying in the diabetes community that we are greater than the sum of the highs and lows. What this means is that although you may have diabetes, you are not diabetes. This may make sense on a cognitive level; however, it cannot be fully understood and integrated into your life until it is realized directly through practice. The sage Patanjali writes about mind chatter in the Yoga Sutra as chitta vritti—fluctuations of consciousness. A goal of yoga is to nullify these fluctuations so that you can rest in your own self-essence, free of all conditions. Yoga intervention practices can stop the spinning cycle, calming the mind and promoting your natural ability to regenerate, heal, and process unwanted emotion. I have type 1 diabetes, and although, as a yoga therapist, I prescribe different exercises for different types of diabetes, the yoga therapy practice on the following pages will benefit anyone who is living with a chronic illness. It promotes an exciting mix of energies—some stimulating and some pacifying—to help you self regulate and balance out the highs and lows.
People with type 1 diabetes cannot produce insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas that transports energy from food into the body’s cells. They need to take insulin to avoid complications from hyper-glycemia. Insulin can be administered with a pump or an injection pen.
Sequence – Mitigate Your Response to Stress
See also A 5-Minute Meditation to Release Anxiety
About our author
Teacher and Model Evan Soroka is a yoga therapist living with type I diabetes in Aspen, Colorado. She is the owner of Evan Soroka Yoga Therapy, founder of the Rise Above Diabetes Program, and a contributor to Yoga Journal and Yoga International. She received her extensive credentials from Gary Kraftsow and the American Viniyoga Institute. Evan continues to study under the guidance and mentorship of Yogarupa Rod Stryker. Learn more at evansoroka.com.
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