Your Yoga Practice Beyond Physical Asanas

By Gina Southern, Karma Yogi

There, having the mind actively focused upon a single point, with thought and sense activity controlled,

Sitting on a seat, one should practice yoga for purification of the self.

With an aligned body, head, and neck-keeping these steady, without movement.

Focusing the vision toward the tip of one’s nose without looking about in any direction.

- Bhagavad Gita 6.12 - 13

Yoga isn’t about YOU.  Ok, well it IS about you, but it’s so much denser than that. Yoga is all of you and none of you all at once.  Yoga isn’t about sweating profusely, and it’s not about how toned your calves are.  And it certainly isn’t about whether or not you can do a better headstand than your neighbor on the mat next to you. And when you fully realize this idea, it is a paradigm shift.  It took me many years to realize this (and hello, I’m so still learning!).  Actually, I was forced to realize this upon health challenges I faced in the last few years and a slew of studios that left a bad taste in my mouth.  Those things made me step away from my mat and really reevaluate my practice.  And what a blessing that was because without those a-ha moments, I’d still be wondering how my ass looked in my forever 21 spandex pants (I know, you all expected me to say my Lululemon pants or something like that, but don’t get it twisted, I may have been doing yoga for the wrong reasons for a very long time, but I NEVER thought it was ok to spend $100 on pants I’m just gonna sweat in. #truth).  Can I use a hashtag in a blog?  Well, I just did so, now it’s a thing. #Blogtag.

So, back to my point, yoga isn’t necessarily what most of us think it is.  Often when we hear the word “yoga,” we think of static physical postures like Downward Dog or Warrior I.  But what if yoga wasn’t about the pose at all? What if the postures were more like illustrations of the breath?  What if your practice could take you to a place that was so deeply hypnotizing, you simply forgot about comparing yourself to your fellow yogis, to your teachers and yoga celebrities, and even to yourself at maybe a time when your “yoga game was on point”?  Well, ladies and gents, that is possible AND, drumroll please, that is when true yoga happens! The mystery to life, huzzah! Ok, well maybe not the mystery to life, but a pretty damn good way to make your yoga practice count as more than just your cardio for the week.  It counts for so much more, and the physical asanas are just the tip of the iceberg.  Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing myself challenged physically, and I love when I have noticed progress from all of my hard work, but if that is all yoga was do you know what it would be called? EXERCISE. I know, mind-blowing right?  Well, seriously it might be! Most of us really don’t explore the “other” stuff for myriad reasons.  Maybe you don’t want to convolute your physical practice, maybe the philosophy stuff scares you, or maybe you haven’t ever been introduced to the teachings of yoga and all you know is that some teachers chant “OM” at the beginning of a class and you’re left sitting there feeling like an asshat because you have zero clue what the hell is going on. These are just a few reasons few on the western side of the world delve into the beauty and complexity of what yoga truly can be.

We must learn to understand that the breath IS the movement, and we do not need any more or any less than that.  You can be in the same pose for 5 min and think you are not doing yoga because you’re not moving and sweating, but that IS yoga.  When your mind stops thinking about what you’re making for dinner, that is yoga.  When your mind stops telling you you can’t do something; when your mind hits a wall in a pose because you’ve challenged your body, and most importantly you’ve challenged your MIND so much you forget you’re even in a pose, forget you’re in a class, and maybe even forget what day of the week it is. If you’ve come to that place in a pose, well, I dare you to try and compete with your fellow yogi on the mat beside you.  YOU CAN’T!!!  When you’ve connected your breath to your mind and to your movement, the physical desires to be perfect and to be the best simply float away and you can truly, authentically benefit from what you are doing.  Don’t get me wrong, every time you leave the house and get into your car, drive to your favorite studio and step on your mat and do physical asanas, that is still very much yoga. You’ve chosen to carve out a sacred space for yourself.  You’ve chosen to be a part of a practice with others who have made the same choice.  The choice to be better to yourself, and to be better to those around you.  Those things are wonderful and should be honored.  But the even MORE wonderful thing is that every single time you come to your mat, there is an opportunity for yoga to be more than it was the day before.  EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.  An opportunity to see past the physical, past the judgment and competition, and past the poses and yoga clothes.  Every single time there is a brand spanking new opportunity to learn something more, to grow and become more conscious, and to connect in new, deeper ways to your breath, your mind, and your spirit.  And most of all, connect to this amazing, spinning sphere of energy we call earth.  Challenge yourself today. But not just in the physical sense, as that comes the easiest.  Feel the ground, smell it. Heck, taste it. Recognize today that yoga is indeed not “about” you, it IS you.

The three top reasons The Grinning Yogi makes me Grin

by Adriane Jones, student and Karma Yogi

When I moved to Portland nearly three years ago, I did what every money-conscious yogi would do, I tried nearly every yoga studio’s new student special. Some new student specials got me a freebie class, while others offered two to four weeks of classes for 20 or 30 bucks.  While all of the studios I tried offered good deals for new students, discounted classes were not enough to draw me to the studio as a member, and my search continued. This search of mine went on for nearly two years until one day last spring, tucked along cute shops and popular eateries on SE Division Street, I found The Grinning Yogi, where I’ve been grinning… err, I mean practicing... ever since. As I approach my one year anniversary as a grinning yogi, I thought now would be a good time to capture some of my top reasons why I love this studio so much.


1. The teachers are real.

When was the last time your yoga instructor shared a personal journey of recovery, triumphs, struggles, and self-reflection? Yoga teachers at The Grinning Yogi not only pour their heart into what they do, they share a piece of it in every class. Not a class goes by that doesn’t offer a personal sentiment by one of the instructors. This authenticity is a great reminder of our humanity and the importance of carving out time for ourselves on our mat.


2. The classes are on point.

I love the different types of classes The Grinning Yogi offers. As a current mama-to-be my current favorites are the Chillin’ Flow classes, which offer a medium-paced vinyasa sequence followed by slow, restorative stretching, and usually wrap up with a lengthy savasana. These classes offer me just the right amount of challenge for my changing body while also getting me a wonderful stretch. Pre-pregnancy, I enjoyed the faster paced Grinning Flow and Grinning FLY, where I often got my heartrate slightly elevated and had an opportunity to practice more challenging poses and inversions. I’m looking forward to returning to these classes once Baby arrives but in the meantime I’ve been checking out the monthly prenatal classes in addition to my normal routine.


3. The studio is beautiful.

From the outside, The Grinning Yogi appears to resemble just another storefront along the trendy southeast Portland street, but once inside the door, it is obvious that the studio offers so much more. Inside, the studio is flooded with tons of natural light that pours in through the wall of windows facing Division Street. Two additional walls are painted a beautiful turquoise and a fourth wall has a colorful graffiti-style mural with the word “Love” plastered in the center of all of the vibrant blue, purple, and pink designs. While yoga teaches us to look inside ourselves, The Grinning Yogi has showed me that pretty yoga studios do matter. I can’t help but find my breath flowing a little smoother when I’m practicing in this well designed, beautifully lit space.


I could go on and on about reasons I love The Grinning Yogi, but some things must be left to experience. So, if you’re new to Portland, or just new to yoga, and still trying to find your place to find your flow, I encourage you to press pause on your search and head over to The Grinning Yogi this week and get your grin on.


The Gift of the Pause

with Tori Greising, teacher at The Grinning Yogi

The end of the year brings to us many points along the path - points of completion and continuations - the Winter Solstice, the Full Moon, religious holidays, the transition to the New Year. Each of these moments invites us to pause, to reflect, and often to celebrate.  

For some, the end of the year is a necessary time to be quiet and look within - a celebration of contemplation. For others, this time of year is full of gifts, parties, people, and community. Still others might find comfort in the simple continuation of daily life without much attention to specific dates or traditions. How each of us chooses to honor these ‘end of the year’ events is individual. There is, however, something to be said for everyone inviting a moment of pause.  

When we pause, take a breath and find stillness - even if just for a few moments - we give ourselves permission to truly be in that moment. We allow ourselves to feel the capacity and complexity - and the honest goodness - that a full deep breath can bring to our bodies and minds. We stop and appreciate our daily rhythms. We remove ourselves from the ‘busy’ness. We clear our sights and invite the experience of just being - again, even if only for a moment.  

This year has been full. It has been full of many great things. It has been full of many difficult things. It has been full of change - on personal and global levels. For many of us, change does not present as being easy, it might even bring up feelings of fear or the need to grasp harder and attempt to find more control. The truth is that change it the only thing you can really depend on. Change is the only constant - time is always changing, the times are always changing. And, this is a good thing. Things need to evolve, shift, blossom and fade. If they didn’t we’d be stuck in a perpetually stagnant state. We are a world that depends on change to survive. In order to embrace this consistency of change, we must find ways - and courage - to accept this flow and dive in time and time again. This is where the gift of a pause becomes truly powerful.  

When we pause, we are able to see a bit more clearly where the changes may be leading us. We are able to detach and look objectively at the experiences - 'good' and 'bad.'  We are able to lean into the unknown, because we open ourselves the clarity of the moment in front of us and find our footing. We serve ourselves by opening up to the flow instead of resisting. Ultimately, we transform our relationship to the changes in life - realizing that change is what allows us to grow and truly be.

I invite you, in these last few days of 2015 to take a moment to pause. Take a moment to reflect on the changes in the past year. Tap into the lessons and be grateful for everything you have experienced - the 'good' and the 'bad.' Cultivate openness and excitement for the changes and shifts that will come in 2016. And then, for a few more moments just be still.


Try it:

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, stop. Take a deep breath. Listen to the sounds around you. Feel the rhythms of your body. For a few more seconds - allow yourself to simply be.  Close your eyes and open them. Take another deep breath.

Now, do what you need to do for you.  

Flow with the shifts. Flow with the changes. Celebrate in ways that fill you up and bring you peace of heart, mind and body. And continue time and time again to give yourself the gift of the Pause.  


Notes from an Out-of-Practice Yogi

Eva Johnson

with Eva Johnson, Karma Yogi at The Grinning Yogi

A month ago, I was able to say I hadn’t done a single yoga practice in five years. Instead, I was a full-time student who rock climbed as much as possible and occasionally salsa danced in all that free time I didn’t have. Rock climbing was my way of staying sane among the craziness of schoolwork. Because it requires so much concentration and problem solving, climbing has been a sport that kindly forces me to be present with myself. It, like yoga, is a practice of connecting the mind and body with intentional movement and breath. Through climbing, I began to appreciate the importance of taking time to bring awareness into my body; and it was through climbing that I became interested in adopting yoga into my lifestyle.

I’m not going to sugar coat this: yoga is f***ing hard. Day one I’m suddenly in twists and balances I never knew existed. My glutes are on fire, my breathing is out of sync, my mind is worried about keeping up, and when I think I’m getting the hang of it, my Downward Dog slowly widens into Splayed-Out Dog because my hands are sweating profusely and sliding forward no matter how hard I press my knuckles down like my instructor tells me to.

I was sore for two days after my first class. I was surprised. I should be strong and flexible - I’m a rock climber! But yoga is not just a practice of the mind and body, it’s a gentle reminder that you’ve got a lot to learn. My instructors continually comment that yoga is a practice of coming to terms with yourself, recognizing your ego, and accepting where you are in that moment. This has been my mantra for the past four weeks.

Like rock climbing, yoga is a practice that ceaselessly involves micro-adjustments. There isn’t a movement nor pose that doesn’t need improvement. Now that I’m seven classes in, I am starting to recognize how of certain poses feel and identify where in my body I need to direct my awareness. For instance, I’ve come to notice I unconsciously protect my neck, my right hip is much tighter than my left, I have a habit of breathing shallowly into my lungs rather than full into my belly, and I hold tension in my left shoulder from a previous climbing strain. These little pieces of information inform how I approach my practice and motivate me to be patient and compassionate with myself.

Aside from the achy muscles, I have happily welcomed yoga into my life. While yoga and climbing have many similarities, yoga challenges me in a way that impacts my entire lifestyle. I catch myself fixing my posture, breathing a little deeper, and randomly going into Cat/Cow during conversations with people. And I gotta say, I’m genuinely proud of myself! I’ve felt my vinyasa progress from labored to easeful, I'm finding alignment in Warrior One and Two (we don't need to talk about Three...), and I mean, my Chaturanga is darn beautiful.

Ready to see what's in store for my second month of practice!

Friday Night Vino Choco Vinyasa & other weekend events!

Join your TGY Friends for a YUMMY opportunity to Flow, Fuel (with wine + chocolate!) & meet the lovely yogis you practice with at Grinning! We will move, groove, and delight in the sensational consumption of local wine and chocolate. It's the *perfect* Friday yoga nightcap!

Vino Choco Vinyasa

Other awesome Offerings this weekend...


Presented by lululemon athletica Portland

The holiday season is a time for ugly sweaters, sweet drinks and unrealistic expectations. A time when we create a substantial amount of internal stress to create 'the perfect ________.'

The perfect decorations. 
The perfect gift.
The perfect nog.

When the decorations keep falling and you spill the jug of nog on your dress/pants, there are two thought trails to take: you can either 1) freak out or 2) accept the fact that YOU ARE HUMAN.

We would like to invite you to join us in a celebration of humanity. Some of the raddest, most successful folks in our collective will take the stage to share their story. Not their story of perfection, but their story of failure.

They are individuals who have attained huge goals, who are living lives that they love. They are going to share the biggest flops that led to the biggest laughs and the even bigger lessons. The moments they invested everything, became vulnerable, and exposed their humanity.

Let’s do this. #failyes
Fail to Fruition to #fuelhappiness

Dion Sekone-Fraser, Honor & Conquer
Marni Renison, The FIT Project
Jamie Silverstein, The Grinning Yogi - PDX
Kathryn Durkinlululemon athletica Portland
David Ogle, lululemon athletica
Jami Curl, Quin
Jessi Duley, Burncycle PDX

Doors 7pm/Show 7:30
Tickets $16 – includes 1 drink ticket

Fall into Fear in Yoga

with Elizabeth Martin, community member at The Grinning Yogi

I’m afraid of ridiculous things—aside from snakes—that’s legit. I’m scared of sinkholes (have you seen the Mexican city blocks that get swallowed whole?!). I’m fearful of those janky wooden bridges that idiots people think it’s fun to jump up and down on, like stop I don’t want to die, kay, thanks. (That was a solid use of the work “janky,” BTW).

My fear of falling has actually run its course to a ludicrous level. Before I took part in the adventure of studying abroad in Tampere, Finland you would think it was natural for me to have some trepidation about moving to a country I’ve never been to, where I know no one, and don’t speak the language. But those things didn’t really get to me. No what I, nearly 20-year-old Elizabeth, was terrified of was falling down during the snowy, slippery, and icy Finnish winters. Like, I thought about it a lot.

However, being practical in my absurd fear, I plotted a fool-proof course to not fall all semester. I was going to find the perfect pair of sneakers with good traction. And man, I really out did myself. I found these sweet black sneakers; I recall them having a cool white stripe too! But the real selling point was the traction was unbeatable: the bottom was covered in black pointed bits. They looked like a shark’s mouth. No ice was going to bring me down when I had these shark teeth sneakers. I thought I was a real genius, probably a trendsetter even.

So, there I am all fall and winter breaking in my siiiiick sneakers, not falling one time. Little did I know that other people really did notice my shoes. Finally as the semester was nearing its end my British friend, Andrew, asked me a question that he has been wondering all season.

“Elizabeth, why do you wear football cleats everywhere?”

Wait, what? My ice sneakers are actually sportswear? (Side-note: guess who wasn’t an athlete in high school?). I was dumbstruck, as apparently was most of the school. I was Cleat Girl (lamest superhero ever? Look, she NEVER falls).

In hindsight, I could have just pushed into my fear of slipping on the Finnish ice and worn much more comfortable shoes (“football” shoes are NOT comfy on sidewalks). That would have been a better self-challenge. After all, what’s the worst that could happen: I fall.

In yoga, we are encouraged to push into the fall. Maybe we fall because we are meant to know that feeling. We are meant to gather our strength to get back up. Yogis tell us that we are doing it right, pushing ourselves if we fall out of a pose. And just maybe, next time, we’ll stand solid.


Elizabeth can often be found talking to her dog like he’s a real human boy, being inspired by TED Talks, and creating an ever-growing travel wish list. Her newest dream is to live in a tiny house mansion. Her longest dream is to be a best-selling author. She’s working on one of those at:


Special Goings On ...

On Sunday December 13th Jamie will be speaking at Lululemon ... Come hear her amazing story! 

And as always ... We have some great stuff coming up this weekend and next week! Mark your calendars! We can't wait to see you! 


Prenatal Yoga: Your Practice, Your Body, Your Baby with Tori Greising 

Saturday Dec 5th from, 2pm-3:30pm

Here Comes the Sun: Sun Salutations 101 with Lisa Tilch 

Sunday Dec 6th, from 1pm-3pm

 FUNdamentals: Back to the Basicswith Jamie Silverstein  

Thursday December 10th, from 7:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Friday Night Vino + Choco-Vinyasa! with Lisa Tilch

Friday December 11th, from: 7:15 pm - 8:30 pm

FREE Yoga School Info Session! with Jamie Silverstein 

Saturday December 12th, from: 11:00 am - 12:00 pm




Importance of Sequencing

with Lisa Tilch

Why must we give any thought at all to what order we place asanas when constructing a class?  


As teachers, we want our students to achieve the maximum benefits from the yoga practice and leave closer to a state of yoga, or union, than when they arrived.  It is not necessarily about achieving the “correct” pose or the biggest, fullest expression of a pose, but more so about how the student steps off of the mat and re-enters the world.  After a well-sequenced yoga class, the physical body should feel expansive and balanced and the student should have more access and a deeper understanding of the inner frame of their body, energetically and even spiritually.


When sequencing a class, there is much to take into consideration, but it is valuable to keep in mind the concepts of vinyasa krama and parinamavada.  Vinyasa krama refers to the class occurring in a step- by- step progression, from simple to complex, to ensure that there is minimal risk of injury when instructing more advanced asanas.  Parinamavada is the understanding that constant change is an inherent part of our lives.  Not every body will respond in the same way to a sequence and those bodies may feel different from one day to the next.  Teachers should be able to hold a space where students can safely explore their own varying levels of practice within the arranged sequence.  


Regarding choosing postures and in what order to place them, teachers must first be able to identify the physical risk in each asana to ensure sequencing in a way that is safe.  Protecting the joints, tendons, and muscles of our students goes hand in hand with building the strength and flexibility of those same parts.  Mindfully choosing poses that are appropriate and accessible for the level of class and ability of the students will lead to achieving the desired effects of the practice.   


In order to create a practice that builds, (vinyasa karma), it is helpful, especially as a newer teacher, but even as a seasoned teacher, to plan a class based on a theme or a peak pose.  It is a on a rare occasion that a teacher can create a truly transformative class on a whim.  Having a peak pose or theme will begin to narrow down the focus on specific postures you choose to place in the sequence and the actions within those postures worth highlighting in order to reach the desired peak.  Whether or not the student is able to achieve the posture is not important, rather, it is about constructing the journey to potentially get them there.  As long as sthira (steadiness) and sukha (ease or comfort) are present along the way, the movement toward a state of yoga will have been achieved.


Our practice should not be driven by the ego to simply achieve the most advanced shape, but by desire to nourish the body as well as the mind and soul.  When approaching the asana practice from this place, the student can more deeply tune into the energetic qualities of each individual asana and their effects. It is the teacher’s job to take this knowledge and intelligently put a well-rounded class together.  Over time, a teacher will find their own voice through an authentic desire to serve their community of students and friends in a way that is safe and transformative.  


Lisa teaches on Tuesdays at 7:30pm and Fridays at 9:30am. She is also one of the lead teacher for Grinning's RYT 200hr starting April 1st, 2016. 


Here Comes the Sun: Sun Salutations 101

Join Lisa on Sunday December 6th and 13th for a deeper investigation of the flow! 

Surya Namaskar, or Sun Salutation, is performed in almost all Vinyasa classes and is the foundation of much of the asana practice. Moving intelligently through the Sun Salutation sequence will warm the body properly for deeper movement to be attempted as the class progresses. The sequence serves as a salute to the life giving energy of the sun and a prayer for that energy to vitalize the body, mind, and soul. Once the foundations of the Sun Salutation are established, the practice will open to more clarity, structure, and mental freedom.

Sun Salutations 101 will break down the individual posesin the sun salutation sequence, exploring proper alignment, energetic actions, and use of breath. We will also address variations and modifications for individuals. Expect to light your practice up!

Investment: $35 for both sessions. Pre-enrollment required.

 Click Here to Register and then click on "Workshops" tab OR go to the Workshops Page to register! 

Inspirations from Jamie

M-A-P-P-I-N-G the h. e. a. r. t.

“When I get lonely these days, I think: So BE lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience." -Elizabeth Gilbert

When I was a little girl, my mom used to get Triptiks from AAA. Before every skating competition, we would go to the mall and she would sit with a person who brought out a map and highlighted it for her.

And, then we would go.

<Incidentally, her driving did not improve but I digress...>

She had a plan. She had an end. She *knew* her way home.

Map. Direction. Security.

Yesterday, beloved asked me to make a map of *my* intimacy for him.

I told him to tell me where to go. (Shit)

And, that's the rub.

We require direction in so many parts of our lives but seldom travel the roads to know the way. We mistake recklessness for wanderlust and call Fear: 
<The Universe>

If there is one thing I know it's this: Moving is NOT the same thing as *knowing*. And, the only way to know is to explore. Get lost. Nest. In you.

And, sometimes the best going is: S-T-A-Y-I-N-G in it.

written August 26th, 2015

YOGA and You, after Septemberfest!

We are *so* thrilled about offering two free weeks of YOGA to kick off the fall (September 1st-13th). Many of you are asking, what about after September 13th? 

Well, we've got some amazing options and incentives. 


Deepen Your Practice! Practice Yoga everyday (September 1st-13th) and receive 25% off your next class package or the first month of your class membership! 

Newer to Yoga? Attend each of our Fundamentals classes during SeptFest (9/4, 9/6, 9/11, 9/13) and receive a free class, or 10% off our Fundamentals series - Part 1 with Jamie in October and Part 2 with Tori in November! 

Discounts on ALL class packages and memberships! Purchase any of our class packages or sign up for a membership during SeptFest and automatically receive 10% off! 

Friends and Smiles

Welcome to Community LOVE - the *new* Grinning PDX Blog

What an amazing year it has been so far for us here at TGY - PDX.  We are so excited to continue to grow our incredible community.  So here on the Community LOVE Blog, we will post photos, stories and letters from the community, events, workshops & all of the LOVE that makes up TGY - PDX! If you are interested in sharing your TGY story, or just some thoughts, let us know and we will get your post posted :) Thank you all for being so awesome! 

First up:

Septemberfest 2015 is just around the corner! Join us for 2 weeks of FREE YOGA - that's right - all classes, all day, for everybody.  This is not just for new students, it is for every member of the community! Come join us and share the love of movement, laughter and just feeling damn good!