Jessica has been practicing yoga and living on Capitol Hill for over 20 years. She’s dedicated her entire professional career to teaching: French, Spanish, PE, early childhood and yoga! Jessica is a yoga instructor and certified personal fitness trainer. She teaches vinyasa flow, mixed levels and fundamentals yoga at Results Gym, the Hill Center, the Corner Store and outdoors in Lincoln Park on Capitol Hill. She is passionate about sharing yoga’s Mind, Body, Spirit benefits and cultivating outer and inner strength, flexibility and balance. Her certifications include YOGAFIT® Teacher Level I, Itsy Bitsy Yoga® Facilitator, AFAA Personal Fitness Trainer and CPR. In the summer of 2014 she completed 200 yoga teacher training hours at Yoga District. Jessica enjoys sharing yoga, music, biking and laughs with her son, Miles. She is thrilled to share the gift of yoga with her neighbors in DC.
This all-levels class emphasizes the fundamental poses and alignment principles of a Hatha Yoga practice, but offers more advanced variations as appropriate. Breathing exercises are explored and students will link movement with the inhale and exhale. Special emphasis is placed on moving into and out of postures safely, building strength and flexibility, and relaxation. The pace of the class will be steady and moderate. Beginners welcome.
Updated: May 15, 2014
With the debut of our new registration system, all adult classes, including prenatal, will offer a partial registration class bundle. We still have full session registration and we also have a monthly membership. What are your options?
In yoga, the energetic effects of the full moon and new moon has significance and, in the Ashtanga tradition, marks days of total rest from practice. The Ashtanga Yoga Center of Carlesbad, Ca.1 offers the following explaination:
Like all things of a watery nature (human beings are about 70% water), we are affected by the phases of the moon. The phases of the moon are determined by the moon’s relative position to the sun. Full moons occur when they are in opposition and new moons when they are in conjunction. Both sun and moon exert a gravitational pull on the earth. Their relative positions create different energetic experiences that can be compared to the breath cycle.
The full moon energy corresponds to the end of inhalation when the force of prana is greatest. This is an expansive, upward moving force that makes us feel energetic and emotional, but not well grounded. The Upanishads state that the main prana lives in the head. During the full moon we tend to be more headstrong.
The new moon energy corresponds to the end of exhalation when the force of apana is greatest. Apana is a contracting, downward moving force that makes us feel calm and grounded, but dense and disinclined towards physical exertion.
Most other yoga traditions do not forbid practice, but many adjust their sequences to honor the need for more grounding during heady full-moon days and go with it on already-grounding new moons. For years, Jen taught twice weekly early morning practices and offered moon salutations whenever full-moons coincided with class.
This moon saltuation is a variation of a sequence created by a group of senior female teachers at the Kripalu Center in the late 1980s which Jen found in a no-longer-posted graphic by Laura Cornell.
After a basic warm up, turn to face the long side of your yoga mat to practice the following sequence:
Repeat the sequence, turning to the right to begin and ending on the left.
* Great places to add additional and alternative poses such as
A supermoon is a full moon that occurs within 90% of its closest approach to the earth. Supermoons appear much larger than other full moons and provide very dramatic images at moonrise.
According to the definition of supermoon coined by Richard Nolle over 30 years ago, and popularized only in the past few years, the year 2014 has a total of five supermoons. They are the two new moons of January, and the full moons of July, August and September. January 1, 2014 is the first supermoon of the year, and January 30 is the second. Expect large tides around both dates. We won’t have a single calendar month with two supermoons again until January 2018. – EarthSky.org
Moon through the trees photo by flickr user J. Star | Moon salutation graphic by Breathing Space Family Yoga with illustrations by Charlotte Bradley used by permission. | Supermoon over the Jefferson Memorial by flickr user katieharbath | Supermoon over Washington Monmument by flickr user NASA HQ Photo
1 I actually found almost this exact text on a number of websites, so if you know the original source, I’d love to hear from you.
Kids and parents can identify with the participants in this photo. When combined with others of camp, they get a sense of what their day would be like and are more comfortable signing up.
Sadly, we don’t have good pictures of most of our other classes. We have a a couple shots Hill Center took ages ago, a few of our toddler classes, and little to nothing of our adult, prenatal, family or mommy & me classes. Consequently, I’m stuck using the same images over and over again or shopping stock image sites looking for something to tell our story and the options are not good.
Our story: The story I want to tell is one of a welcoming, down-to-earth yoga community with classes for all ages and stages, grounded in solid yoga alignment principles, with instructors who understand modern family and professional life and don’t take themselves too seriously.
Stock image photographers are not yoga instructors and it’s not clear from the photos that their models have ever taken a class. I often find photos with the following challenges to telling the story I want:
(Suits, costumes, wearing sneakers – which used to be nearly all stock photos tagged “yoga” –
and that doesn’t even begin to address the common lack-of-wardrobe issue.)
(yep, and, ya know, fruit.)
(When actually I went looking, I didn’t find as much crazy alignment as I feel like I find when I’m not looking for it. But I suspect our lady in pink may not be protecting her hip or low back in this pose and I guarantee that mom’s back is going to hurt after locking her knees and picking up such a big baby with her back muscles.)
(I like our couple above except for the two really common warrior 2 misalignments any beginners class instructor would address – shoulders should be over hips for both and front knee should be over ankle for the gentleman.)
(This is actually a lovely pose – wardrobe issues notwithstanding – but clearly of an advanced practitioner and not something you will see in our weekly prenatal classes.)
(Please don’t; and where is her forehead?)
(I promise NOT to teach this pose to your 5 year old.)
(there are hundreds like this)
(again with the fruit?)
(next time we do a family or women’s beach retreat . . . .)
All of these photos and lots more really good shots without watermarks can be downloaded at istockphoto.com
Now, in reality, stock photos have improved enormously even within the last year, but they still lack that real-people-in-a-real-place aspect I’m going for. So, if you see my camera or a photographer in class, you know why.
Grossly simplified, William Broad of the New York Times, who last year made the charge that yoga could cause paralysis and death, is now blaming the practice for an increase in hip-replacements in not-so-old women.
So, William Broad is again being lambasted in
yoga circles – nice thoughtful posts too – for shoddy reporting, imprecise language and poor analysis of causal relationships, and
everyone is wondering where he takes yoga that they tell him to “push
through the pain.” Honestly, if your instructor uses that phrase, you might want to consider pushing open the door instead.
That said, I wonder if instructors say the opposite often enough. One
of my teachers always said “pain is nature’s way of telling you that you
are out of alignment with her.” Are students hearing that message enough? Adult beginners may not have a lot of experience discerning the difference between sensation and pain and students with a background in sports or dance might actually have a lot of experience ignoring pain.
New, unusual postures, stretching and hard working muscles often send us strong messages and it’s up to us to figure out if the activity is therapeutic and we should work through sensation or harmful and we should head the warning that is pain.
In my prenatal class, I often talk
about being present with and breathing through intense sensation. But if what you are feeling in a posture in my class is pain, please stop and tell me
so we can address that or find an alternative for you.
For beginners, part of our message as yoga instructors must be to listen to your body and not try to duplicate anyone else’s pose. Naturally a beginner looks around at the rest of a class for cues on what shape to create with his or her body, but just because the person next to you can comfortably do a posture that doesn’t mean your discomfort should be ignored. A good instructor can look at your pose and make suggestions, so let your instructor know if something doesn’t feel right.
I particularly like Leslie Kaminoff’s take on the original article Broad used to launch his book. I particularly like Kaminoff’s explanation that you cannot take the asana out of the body. To paraphrase: there is no such thing as a down dog pose without the yogi in the posture, with all of that person’s physical uniqueness, and, therefore, every down dog is different.
Here’s a link to the Ashtanga Yoga New York post Kaminoff references in the video.
Sun salutation is the first sequence most yoga students learn. Moving through the positions with your breath can be both calming and invigorating. It is often the buildng block of vinyasa flow classes and there are hundreds of posible variations from the essential form.
Learning the Basic Form
The basic sun salutation tends to follow one of two formats: 1) the Ashtanga Yoga variation (as seen in the video below), or 2) what often gets referred to as the classic sun salutation, which explicitly includes lunges between down dog and forward bend (illustrated below the video). See below for modifications as well.
Surya Namaskar in the Ashtanga Tradition
The above video shows Surya Namaskar A. Surya Namaskar B incorporates warrior poses as well as beginning and ending with chair pose.
Jen's Favorite Sun Salutation Variation
Sun Salutation as demonstrated above does a great job warming up the spine with forward and backward bending, openning the shoulders and stretching the backs of the legs. The addition of lunges in the modifcation below warms up the hips as well. (Throw in a few side bends and a twist or two and you've got yourself a well-rounded practice in only a few minutes.)
This post was originally published as Capitol Hill Yoga‘s Pose of the Month in April 2013.
It’s a standing pose introduced in most beginners yoga class, yet its classic form and variations continue to challenge me years after first encountering it. Uttita Parsvakonasa (extended side angle pose) is one of my favorite asana (postures) and I teach it in nearly all classes from beginner, to early morning open, to prenatal.
Parsvakonasa is great for building leg strength, flexibility, and hip openness. The bent front leg and simple modifications often makes this posture much more accessible than triangle pose for students with tight hamstrings and hips. However, it’s easy to just hang out in the pose, not truly challenging yourself and forgoing many of the benefits of full engagement.
Taking the Pose
Before starting, warm up with a few sun salutations, lunges or other poses that take you gently through all four directions of spinal motion.
1. Take a wide stance on your yoga mat with your feet 3 1/2 or four feet apart, approximately wrist distance apart if your arms were extended to either side.
2. Turn your right foot 90 degrees toward your right and your left foot slightly in the same direction.
3. Lift and spread your toes to help engage your shins and draw your heals isometrically (without actually moving them) toward each other to engage your inner thighs and hips.
4. Press your right heel into the floor and bend your right knee until your thigh is parallel to the floor with your knee directly over your angle and in line with your toes.
5. Lean your torso to the right, and place your right elbow on your right thigh.
Optional: Bring your right hand down onto a block or the floor on the outside of your right foot.
6. From your core, root down through your legs and extend through your spine.
7. Stretch your left arm overhead, bicep toward your ear, palm facing down.
8. Hold for two to three breaths.
9. Keep your legs engaged, inhale and return to standing.
Common Misalignments in Parsvakonasana
Beginning yoga students often take too short a stance in this pose. While standing with your feet further apart requires more leg engagement to maintain, it actually makes the rest of the pose easier.
Because Parsvakonasana is taught so early in many yoga curricula, it can be taken for granted by more intermediate students. But the full pose requires a sophisticated perception of alignment: aligning the back leg foot to hip, keeping the front knee tracking over the front foot, keeping weight evenly balanced in all four corners of both feet and legs evenly engaged, drawing the top of the back thigh toward the back plane of the body, drawing the lower ribs back and maintaining spaciousness and length on both sides of the torso while revolving the heart toward the sky . . . There’s a lot work on in this pose.
Want to challenge yourself further? Try revolving the pose or adding a bind. (BTW: I don’t recommend wearing jeans for either variation, generally.)
Jennifer Mueller brings a sense of joy and playfulness to her classes – both the adult and kids classes – and hopes to offer her students the sense of freedom she finds in yoga. She founded Breathing Space to create hub for family yoga on Capitol Hill and share her enthusiasm for age- and developmentally-appropriate poses, games, and songs with yogis of all ages.
Our kids and family yoga classes require full session registration and, while we allow single class drop-ins to our prenatal and postnatal classes, we encourage adult students make the same commitment and here’s why:
Building a habit takes consistency and humans often need accountability to get that. By committing to attend every week you establish that consistency for yourself. Having already paid can be a strong motivator to keep that weekly yoga appointment with when possible conflicts arise 1.
When I wanted to start running more than once in a blue moon, I signed up for a training group. Perhaps the marathon was overkill, but I’m always more consistent – running, yoga, and everything else – when I’ve made a public, social commitment. ~Jen
Children, even more than adults, benefit from consistency. It often take a few classes for children, especially toddlers, to feel comfortable in a space, with a teacher, and with other students and start to show their true personalities. Some children warm up more slowly than others and might not participate very much for weeks (even if they are teaching entire classes to their dolls or siblings at home).
Children benefit from the repetition. Instructors will do similar routines from week to week to help students learn activities and sequences. By creating consistency in class, children feel secure and are more able to learn. Your toddler doesn’t get that many opportunities to demonstrate their expertise. Their pride upon showing that they know the sequence of their tot yoga class warmup awesome to witness.
Practicing next to the same friendly faces every week, struggling through the same challenging poses, chuckling over the same jokes or instructor’s verbal gaffs (no, that never happens), and simply being together every week builds community. Friendships are established in yoga classes and we are practicing with our neighbors.
That community helps bring us back every week and helps create a safe space where we can do the inherently vulnerable work of yoga. It’s not just that we are bending into unfamiliar positions in yoga pants – though that’s vulnerable enough, the reason yoga is so effective in reducing stress is that a major component of it is learning to let go. Many yogis find the postures and balancing effort and surrender in the poses help them access parts of themselves that are often hidden away during our daily lives.
It can be disconcerting to adults to be surrounded by strangers and expected to try something new. That’s much worse for kids. Not understanding why they are uncomfortable, children will act out and disengage from class. Having the same students (and parents in our family classes) in class each week helps children feel safe, let their guard down, and learn.
Another benefit of a weekly commitment is how it enables progressive teaching. Because the same students attend week after week, your instructor can build on skills learned from week to week.
Additionally, over several weeks, your instructor will get to know the students’ bodies and preferences and can customize teaching to match.
Consistency in attendance enables progressive teaching and enhances safety. Your instructor won’t teach the advanced versions of a pose before instructing the basics. When students come back week after week, your instructor will get to know any special conditions and limitations and be able to personalize their instruction to students.
All our classes are offered in multi-week sessions. Families sign up for season, or semester, of classes, which is typically 6-14 weeks, depending on the calendar. If you must miss a class, you can take advantage of our generous make-up policy.
1) Of course we understand that life happens, which is why we have a generous make-up policy should you have to miss class.
While she was supposedly cleaning up the toys in the playroom at my mother’s house, I caught my daughter in a classic w-sit. Since she’s not a habitual w-sitter and a discussion of the position sometimes comes up with parents or kids yoga teacher trainees, I pulled out my camera.
A w-sit is a children’s phenomenon. It’s a reference to the position of the legs when viewed from above.
Adults don’t do this because our knees and hips simply don’t flex like that anymore, but child development experts generally discourage the position in children too.
Persistent w-sitting can cause (1) problems with decreased stability in the trunk and hips, (2) orthopedic issues with the hips, knees and feet, (3) and/or tightness or contractures in the hamstrings, hip adductors, internal rotators, and heel cords. W-sitting can also decrease the amount of rotation of the trunk and crossing the midline of the body, which is essential to development of hand dominance and refinement of motor skills.
Another feature of the position is how it disengages core muscles and encourages poor alignment of the spine. In a w-sit, the child’s thighs roll inward and pelvis tips back to accommodate, pushing the spine into a c-curve rather than it’s natural s-shape.
Children who are most likely to w-sit are those with hypermobile joints and poor core strength, which unfortunately means they are not building strength while they play. That has ramifications for movement development and more. Core strength is essential for cross-the-midline movements such as crawling, well developed walking, running, and climbing which are so helpful in integrating left-right brain function essential for reading and school success.
So Should We Be Teaching Hero’s Pose in Kids Yoga?
There’s sometimes confusion between Hero’s Pose and the W-Sit, and therefore its appropriateness in yoga classes for children.
Contrast the W-Sit (above left) with Hero’s Pose (above right). In Hero, the child is still sitting between her feet, but her feet are pointed straight back, toes down, shins in close to her thighs, which no longer roll inward. This reduces the strain on her ankles, knees and hips allows her pelvis to come up into a neutral position.
Maya’s spine position is in the most pronounced c-curved in the first image. But you can see that after she sat in hero’s pose and I asked her to go back to a w-sit, the natural s-curve disappeared even though not as dramatically as before.
So, We’ve Identified a Less-than-Optimal Sitting Position, now what?
Some experts recommend that you correct your child’s posture and remind them anytime you find them in a w-sit. That certainly has the potential to send some pretty negative messages to a child who’s simply doing what comes naturally. In yoga class, we teach hero’s pose and a few alternatives and then we address core strength through movement and play. This therapist’s approach is similar and worth a read if your child tends toward this position.
My Turn Mom
Maya was a good sport about modeling the positions, so then we got a little silly:
Finally, she wanted to demonstrate her favorite pose (which is a transition, actually): mountain to volcano, complete with dramatic breaths and explosion.
Amalie is a certified Next Generation Yoga teacher and has been teaching kids yoga in D.C. since 2010. She began her own practice of Iyengar yoga in early 2008 as a student of John Schumacher. Amalie’s teaching approach is therapeutic, alignment-based, playful and creative for adults and children alike, she strives to inspire healthy and peaceful minds and bodies.
Amalie is a lead instructor for Breathing Space Family Yoga summer and day off camps and will be teaches our tweens class.
Breathing Space Family Yoga offers kids’ yoga camps in the summer and on days DC Public Schools are closed during the school year.
Camps offer students a longer-format kids yoga experience with activities that tie to yoga class themes, but that we we wouldn’t have time to do during a 45- to 60- min class. Our camps often have a theme based on the natural world, qualities of friendship and citizenship, or a fun book. We do yoga classes, games, crafts, journaling, stories, outings, and more.
Yoga helps children and pre-teens learn techniques for concentrating, reducing stress, and connecting to their bodies in a loving way while having fun. Classes incorporate age-appropriate poses, breathing, movement, games, music, and art. Classes often revolve around a philosophical or natural theme and always include some form of quiet relaxation.
This class is for tweens ages 9-12 without their parents. Due to space constraints, we do not allow observers.