What is Yoga?

by Isabelle on December 6, 2011

Living in America is truly a blessing for anyone interested in Yoga. It is offered everywhere: in gyms, in spas and hotels and of course in Yoga centers and schools nationwide. Yoga can be learnt, studied and practiced in many ways.

But what is Yoga? What defines Yoga? Where does it originate from? Is Yoga a religion?

Yoga (Sanskrit, Pāli: योग yóga) refers to traditional physical, mental and spiritual disciplines originating in India. The Sanskrit word Yoga has many meanings, and is derived from the Sanskrit root “yuj,” meaning “to control,” “to yoke” or “to unite.” Translations include “joining,” “uniting,” “union,” “conjunction,”.Yoga is not a religion, it is a perennial philosophy. As it was created in India, there are some cross cultural influences from Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. Yoga also constitutes one of the six orthodox (āstika) schools of Hindu philosophy. Major branches of Yoga include Tantra Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga. 

The Raja Yoga tradition as a philosophical pillar of  the Yoga teachings, is represented and  compiled in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and it is part of the Samkhya tradition. Many other Yoga sacred texts discuss many aspects of Yoga, including the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Shiva Samhita and various Tantras.

Yoga is a discipline, an art, a science and a philosophy. It is a practice of the body of the mind, soul and heart. It is also an energetic practice.  Yoga can be defined as a tool and a technique, an approach, a body of knowledge to understand life, to describe the phenomenon of life and how to live in the best possible way. The tools and techniques of Yoga allow us to overcome obstacles and understand who we are, the true Self within.

What are we bringing together in that state of oneness that is Yoga?  We bring together and merge mind, body, breath, and spirit- that more intangible aspect of the Self. For example in the Ujjaii  breathing technique where we breathe deeper through both nostrils accompanied by a visualization of the breath flow moving  up and down the spine. And as we breathe, we focus our attention effortlessly from the base of the spine up to the crown into the spine on the inhale and down on the exhale. We bring our mind on the thread of our breath within the spine. This action, attention and visualization bring those three aspects: body, mind & breath together, merging as one.


If Your Life is Rocking Good- Expect Waves

by Isabelle on November 28, 2011

A few days ago, I was in the most optimal condition, teaching a private class in Hollywood on a sunny morning and the most unbelievable thing happened that I wanted to share with you.

So here we are with my private student on the roof of a nice building in Hollywood. Imagine a 360 degree view from the Hollywood sign to the Pacific Design Center, all the way to Santa Monica and the Ocean. My student is lying on her back.  It is a beautiful Californian day with blue sky and sunshine.

My student is relaxing on her back, breathing slowly and peacefully. From the corner of my eye I see this cook with his white coat coming out from the door of the elevators onto the roof and wheeling this big cart. The only way through for him is to come over the mat, but my student is in relaxation. So I’m thinking “Can he go another way?”.

I have to move her out of his way. He passes through and says “Good morning! By the way, I’m going to be roasting a pig right here on the roof.” My eyes went so wide. Here we are in the most optimal situation, rocking good this private class and the man wants to roast a pig of all things right there next to us.

So I’m trying to tell him “Maybe you can do it later in about 45 minutes?” and he goes “No, I can’t. It takes a long time to roast a pig. It’s the only place I can do it.”

And at that moment,I understood an amazing Yoga insight  from this burlesque situation: a Yoga teaching in real life, very simple indeed:

1-When we reach a plateau in our life, when things are really good and smooth sailing, this is when the waves of changes come through. Life changes all the time and all we can do is embrace changes. And we need to expect challenges and changes in order to find that flexibility. 

2-The other lesson from that incident is that there’s nothing we can entirely control. We do control or co-create our destiny to a certain degree but yet there’s always an element of uncertainty calling for surrender;Which allows us to become supple and flexible.  As we are navigating our life’s currents and experiences, we need to totally accept and embrace reality as it comes and not resist at all costs.

As the buddha said, “The only certainty in life is change”. 

So what is the roasted pig in your life at this moment? That is the question. 

And are you ready to embrace changes and flow with them even if you don’t want to?


Can Yoga Bring Out Our Inner Beauty?

by Isabelle on October 14, 2011

The 9 Yoga Secrets for Radiant Beauty

Who does not want to look and feel fabulous? Who said beauty is out? So today let’s be vain and beautiful!

Born and raised in France, I was surrounded by history, fashion and beauty. Later on in my teens, I took on Yoga and discovered a vast well of knowledge cultivating life, radiancy and inner beauty. In Tantra Yoga, the body is sacred: it is considered as a vessel and a temple to be respected, nurtured and loved. The synthesis of both inner and outer approaches to beauty makes for a new paradigm: living beauty through our daily habits. Do you want to know the 9 Yoga secrets for radiant beauty?

1- YOUR BODY: Scrub or Brush your body every morning  for one minute or so just before your get in the shower, with either a scrubbing glove or a soft brush to remove dead skin and activate blood circulation.Then do a brisk oil full body massage still on dry skin, up and down on long bones and in a circular manner around the joints. It will wake you up, moisturize & soften your skin. It will also lubricate your joints, connective tissue and ligaments. Use sesame or safflower or coconut oil (best in summer). I recommend the www.banyansbotanicals.com organic Ayurvedic oils.

2- YOUR FACE: Gently exfoliate your face once a week. Apply a facial moisturizing mask at least once or twice a week. Before bed, always cleanse thoroughly your face to remove all pollution. dirt & make up then moisturize your skin. Your face will rest and rejuvenate overnight.

3-  YOUR SLEEP: Follow the sun’s cycle. Get to bed early for your beauty sleep, before 10 or 10:30pm if you can. Wake up early and rise with the sun.

4-  YOUR WATER INTAKE: Drink a minimum of 2 liters of purified or mineral water a day. Give up the sodas and any sweet beverages that induce pimples and yeasts.

5-  YOUR FOOD: Eat fresh nutritious organic food whenever possible. Choose from vegetables and fruits of all colors, green, orange, red, yellow for your daily intake of chi, anti oxidants and vitamins.

6- YOUR BREATH: Slow down your breath and breath consciously through the nostrils both on the in and out breath. Enhance your lungs capacity with Yogic breathing techniques or pranayamas and build your cardiovascular capacity with aerobic exercises..

7- YOUR MOVEMENT : Move, exercise and practice Yoga at least once a week. Emphasize inverted postures such as shoulderstand, plow, headstand and handstand to enhance your blood circulation throughout your body and  to irrigate your brain and face. You will slow down the aging process and look amazing.

8- YOUR STRESS RELIEF: Release stress, relax and rejuvenate. Allow yourself to unwind and meditate for a few minutes every day or practice a supported rejuvenative L shape inversion at the wall with your back on the floor, your sitting bones agains the wall, your legs up in the air leaning against the wall, your arms open to sides and your eyes closed covered with a scarf or an eye pillow. Get a massage or go to the spa. Relaxation releases stress, reduces facial wrinkles and cellulite while strengthening our hormonal, immune and nervous systems.

9- YOUR HAPPINESS: Re-ignite the joy and playfulness within. Smile, laugh and be happy for no reason.

The Dalai Lama said : “ The miracle of all miracles is to be alive”.


Does Yoga Have Cardiovascular Benefits

by Isabelle on October 3, 2011

I recall a few years ago having a passionate discussion with a Yoga Teacher friend of mine on this subject. Yes, Yoga does have cardiovascular benefits, particularly the Flow Yoga and the Kundalini Yoga approaches such as Ashtanga Yoga, Power Yoga, Vinyasa Flow and Kundalini Yoga. Yoga does build strength and stamina.

Continuous deep breathing in Yoga enhance blood circulation and increase the oxygen amount in the bloodstream, heart, organs and body in general. The cool down end part of a class will recondition and pacify the nervous and cardiovascular systems. Think of it as the yang and the yin benefits of Yoga.

In the Flow Yoga practice which is a more dynamic and challenging approach, breath links to movement in a continuous way like a dance. The Yoga postures or asanas are woven together in a flowing practice which builds inner heat & sweat increasing the heart rate at a steady faster pace during most of the class. Often, the room is heated adding more heat to the body. Sun Salutations used as a warm up the first 20 or 30 minutes of a class, are a good example of the purifying and activating benefits of Yoga on the cardiovascular system.

Kundalini Yoga unique cardiovascular benefits are based on the activated Sat Kharma breathing techniques such as breath of fire or Kapalabhati and the rhythmic repetitions of movements or Kriyas linked with breath and mantras, for example, standing on your feet with your arms up to the sky, hands together, you turn to one side and to other and so on for 10 minutes.

Yes, yoga will definitively boost your cardiovascular system and create a blissful experience.


Why Do We Go To Yoga Retreats?

by Isabelle on June 29, 2011

A Yoga Flow Retreat is not your typical vacation. It is a special time that you give to yourself for rejuvenation, relaxation and Yoga. The locations are amazing, often in a tropical, warm and sunny climate surrounded by nature: on the beach, in the mountains or in the rainforest. I call it the “Yoga Club Med immersion” as the retreat is all planned and organized for you including some afternoon group excursions. You travel in the world with a purpose: deepening your Yoga/ breathing and meditation practice while enjoying the company of like minded people, making new “best friends” and finding balance within.

Why do we go to Yoga Flow Retreats?
- Because we need to unwind, relax and recharge in nature
- Because we want to have fun and find pleasure in our life
- Because we love Yoga and we want to experience that blissful inner journey
- Because we need to slow down and nurture ourselves
Because we want to explore the world with a purpose
Because we want to be part of a like-minded community
Because we want to be still and silent
Because it feels so good to not cook, not drive and not work for one week
Because it is a unique life affirming and transformative experience that allows us


Today, a friend and I were discussing consciousness as being Yoga primordial pursuit and goal through the numerous practices. Both in Philosophy and in Yoga, consciousness is a key exploration on all levels: physical, mental, energetic, psychological and of course spiritual.

What is consciousness? where is it located? Where does it come from? What is the difference between awareness and consciousness? Did matter precede consciousness or did consciousness created matter?

Awareness can be defined as having knowledge or understanding of one self, others and the environment.

Consciousness is the condition of being awake and aware at once  and of cultivating a higher mental & spiritual energy.


Do We Need to Learn to Breath?

by Isabelle on April 27, 2011

As a Yoga Teacher, my beginners students often say that they “want to learn how to Breath”.
Yoga does not teach us to breath because we do breath effortlessly since birth.
In Yoga and Pranayama ( breathing techniques), we learn how to first UNDO the physical, mental and emotional tensions we hold in our body. It is those contractions that inhibit our breath by reducing the movement and our breath/ lung capacity.

How can you release those tensions?
Step 1- It all starts with simple relaxation on your back with your hands on your belly. Relax your abdomen and your entire body. Watch the rise and the fall of your abdomen under your hands. Notice where you hold tensions and consciously let go, release and relax even deeper. Cultivate abdominal breathing every night before you fall asleep.
Step 2- Now you can start to consciously deepen your breath with the Yogic dual nostril breath called “Ujayi” either lying down on your back or in a crossed legged seated position. You want to inhale and exhale through both nostrils. After a few rounds, add a soft sound in the back of your throat by gently contracting the glottis at the back of your throat. Listen to the sound of your breath like ocean waves coming and going.

This slow rhythmic breath when practiced for a few minutes daily is soothing, calming and balancing for your nervous system.
It will enhance your sleep. It will also help you reduce, manage and prevent stress in your life.


How I Discovered Yoga At Age 14

by Isabelle on March 15, 2011

I met my first Yoga Teacher, May Kazan, in my mother’s pharmacy in Paris, France where I grew up. I was 14 years old and curious about everything. May Kazan was working as a helper to make some extra money. She exuded a strong presence and a striking beauty with a tall standing grounded posture. I could see that she was connected to the earth as she was standing centered and calm. She is half Lebanese,
half French with long dark hair and caramel skin. After I found out, she was a Yoga Teacher. I asked her right away if she would teach me Yoga. Lucky me, she agreed. It was more intuitive than anything on my part.
A few days later, here I was, taking the Parisian metro to the American Center and entering into this big room filled with students from all walks of life. I “fell in love” with Yoga right there. I can still remember and feel in my body this amazing feeling of relaxation, spaciousness and freedom I experienced after my first Yoga class. My shoulders relaxed, my face and my heart softened. I had found a way to cope with my chaotic family back then. I also experienced a spiritual connection that I had always longed for in my childhood: an anchor and a map to embrace the flux and challenges of life.
I returned time after time 3-4 times a week to dive again into that new delightful feeling. Yoga gave me invaluable tools for life: self reflection and a deeper understanding of reality.
From that day on, May and I embarked on a long interweaving partnership. I became her assistant at the American Center, a vibrant happening cultural center in downtown Paris.
Nearly 3 years later when I turned 17, I received a special birthday gift. May called me and commanded me that I teach for her that same evening. I was scared at first and declined. But she hung up the phone. I gathered my inner strength and courage and stood in front of the 20 some students. Surprisingly, I felt at ease. This was when I realized I had found my purpose: my dharma.

Be in the flow until next time,


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Excited About My New Yoga Retreats

by Isabelle on February 3, 2011

Many of you have been looking forward to a centralized place where you would be able to keep up to date with my Yoga Retreats, Workshops and Classes. I have been working very hard with my team and now am very excited to have YogaFlowRetreat.com here.