Tips & Articles

Yoga Confusion: Systems, Styles, Certifications . . . what do they all mean?

Hatha, Kundalini, Amrit, Vinyasa, Iyengar, Ashtanga, Kripalu and so on and so on…

There are many “styles” of yoga, which can lead to many confused students. However, there are really only six systems of yoga.

As a long- time yoga teacher and yogini, some of the questions that I hear from students are: What do all these styles mean?  Which one is “best?” Which one is for me? What style are you “certified” in? It seems to have become trendy to be part of a “style of yoga.”

I hope I can clarify some of the confusion and mixed messages. Read more.

Bringing Yoga to Rural America

As you walk through city and suburban streets it is common to see yoga studios, people wearing yoga clothes or yogis with a mat in tow.

Most of us don’t think twice about it.

It’s different in rural America. There you’ll more likely see a hunter wearing camouflage with a rifle slung over his shoulder.

On occasion I still hear a comment like, “If you participate in yoga you will go to hell,” or I get the occasional “Jesus Saves” sticker adhered to one of my flyers.

You may find this hard to believe, but there are still residents here that have never heard of yoga. Because of this, I feel compelled to share my story as a “Rural Yogini /Yoga Teacher” and tell the story of yoga in the remote parts of our country.

I have been teaching and practicing yoga for 23 years. My yoga roots began at the Kripalu Center with Yogi Desai. From there I continued steadfast on this wonderful journey of self-realization, sharing it with others as my right livelihood.

My teaching formally began in Florida, where yoga was quite accepted in 1990. In 1996 I felt guided to move to the North Carolina Smoky Mountains, to an area that is barely on the map. Living in the Appalachians has been a 17-year delight, and I have come to love the richness of the local culture and community.

Read more.

Winter 2012 Practice Tip

Create a Self Care Practice for the New Year

Winter and end of the calendar year can be a great time to reflect upon the past year and the upcoming one.  I encourage you to take time to be still and ponder the things that worked for you, the things that didn’t, the changes you’d like to make, the manifestations you’d like to create.  After that, I invite you to put a Self Care practice into place for your new year.  This exercise takes a little time and should not be rushed.  After meditating on these things, I suggest writing them down like you might do for a business plan.  I also suggest sharing them with like minded friends to help empower your intentions and to speak them out loud.  Lastly, don’t forget to ask Higher Power for support in these efforts.  When writing your plan, make three columns.  Body.  Mind.  Spirit.  Under each column, write the ways that you feel guided to better care for each aspect of Yourself.  We must remember we are three part beings, by taking care of all, we can truly create balance, versus only taking care of one or two aspects, which can leave us imbalanced.  Be realistic when setting your goals.  By setting the bar too high, we can sometimes set ourselves up for disappointment.  Passion for living well and self care is a truly worthwhile investment to make in your New Year.  All the best with your practice of Self Care.

Fall 2011 Practice Tip

The Importance of Stillness

Taking time to be still can be one of the most nurturing gifts we can give ourselves, and a true act of self care.  There are many good reasons to take time for stillness.

1: Stillness is a counter balance from all the “busy” and “doing” time in our lives, allowing time for “just being”.  All the active time is valuable, but too much of that and we can become out of balance.

2: Meditation is the “key” to any spiritual practice.  The Bible says, “be still and know that I am God”.  Without meditation true knowledge of the Self or Higher Power can not be fully acquired.

3: Wisdom arises.  There are 3 distinct stages of meditation, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi.  In one of these stages, Dhyana, you are in a space of non doing, pointed inward, no object awareness, effortless, absence of activity, no longer in mental activity. You’re relaxing into knowingness, the knowing of that “which knows”. This stage can be a wisdom arising state. “Watch the news that arises out of silence”. You release into what you are, the truth of what consciousness is.  It is a knowingness that cannot be comprehended by the mind, thoughts or perceptions.

4:  Stillness is the place to pray from, receive guidance from, and answers to all life’s questions as we have the opportunity to tap into the Universal Mind/Energy

5: “As much happens in the non doing as does the doing”.  All of the efforts, intentions and manifestations we’ve made now have the chance to transpire as we release them into Sacred Stillness, into the field of pure potentiality.

6: In stillness we have the chance to recharge, by simply “getting out of our own way” and allowing  inner wisdom work without our having to be involved.

7:  Stillness simply “feels goods, a rest, a respite, a renewal.

In reality, most of us do not live the lives of Monks, and do not have hours a day to meditate. Stillness does not have to be long to be effective, but rather quality, commitment and with intention.  I encourage you to set aside a reasonable amount to time each day/week to experience sweet stillness and see how it effects your life, coming to your own conclusions of why it is important.  Enjoy Stillness!

Summer 2011 Practice Tip

Be mindful not to “over extend”, on your yoga mat and in your life.  I teach that yoga practices are simply metaphors for living.  Over extending is obviously one that can apply to both the mat and life in general.  Summer can be an easy time to over due, with lots of invitations, plans, yard work and the like.  As winter usually lends itself to a quieter, more still time, summer can be just the opposite.  Keeping balance in all that we do is one of the keys to “living well” and “the art of living”.   As you may know, if we over extend on the mat, that can lead to injury and over exertion, forcing us into slowing down.  Best not to be forced into anything.  It feels much better to make conscious choices, so choose wisely and keep the balance, taking time for rest, play, work, spiritual life etc…  and don’t forget to have fun…after all it is summer!

Spring 2011 Practice Tip
Are you living under “mass hypnosis”?

In yoga practice there is a term called Avidya and here is its definition: Cosmic ignorance; blindness about life and its purpose; unable to distinguish between the permanent and the transitory; regarding the individual as a separate entity instead of a microscopic part of the cosmos. Avidya men/women pursue the wrong ends; pleasures, material things, success, power and all that is ephemeral.

Remember, ignor-ance, means to ignore something, what many ignore is our true nature and life’s purpose, confusing that with ego, material goods, and other distractions that take us from our source.
Many in our society seem to be living in this way, getting caught up in consumerism, stuff, dramas, success, media and the like and not really choosing where to direct our energy.  I assure you it can be much better used to enrich your life and contribute to higher consciousness on our planet .  This is not to say that we can’t be successful, or enjoy right use of material goods, or even stay abreast of current events.  It is when that way of being becomes priority your life and you loose touch with what is really important does it become an issue.  This way of being creates imbalance and keep us shackled in unfulfilled, un-content lives.
I want to encourage you to utilize this new found spring energy  to nurture your Spirit Self.   You may say what does that mean exactly?  Or you may think of traditional ways to “be spiritual”  Nurturing the Spirit Self is much more than saying prayers or attending a weekly religious service , though those things may be part of your Spiritual life.
Nurturing the spirit is being aware of your Sprit Self and living from it in all that you do, from your actions, thought, words and deeds.  It also includes; listening to your Spiritual or Higher voice in the decisions you make, to receive guidance and how to live your life well and in alignment with the Great Spirit.   The Spirit Self is ALL knowing and holds the answers to living well and life’s questions.  The Spirit Self does not act alone or independently, but is connected to the Great Spirit or Higher Power (however you like to define it, as the words are not really so important).
You have the power to choose consciously and direct your new spring energy where ever you like.  I hope that you will choose to direct it to nurturing of your Spirit Self.  I believe you will be happy you did!



The following articles are in PDF format; you will need Adobe Reader to read them (available for free download at

New Life Journal articles by Cathy Woods

WNC Newspapers

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