Pro-tips for Beginning a Home Practice

One of the reasons coming in to Renkon Yoga Studio FEELS SO GOOD is this: we put a lot of thought and energy into creating a space that feels sacred for you.

Consider some of these ideas to help your home yoga practice feel extra-special.

CHOOSE A YOGA NOOK: This can be in a tucked-away corner, a spare bedroom – or heck, even in YOUR bedroom (that’s my favorite place to practice). Consider your happiest-feeling rooms of your house – the rooms with the most comfortable temperature, lovely natural lighting, and – this is a big one – the least amount of visual and audio distractions. That’s the spot!

GATHER WHAT YOU NEED: Once you’ve decided on your perfect yoga nook, lay out your mat in the direction you think you’ll like best (we recommend near a window if you can), keep in mind your needs for a screen and plug for streaming your virtual classes from Renkon. Add a blanket or thick towel or two, a yoga bolster or small, firm pillow or chair cushion, and yoga blocks if you’ve got them. We also love to keep a book of poems nearby, some incense and/or candles (and a kid proof lighter if you’ve got littles), a journal and pen. We also recommend an easy-to-add, light layer like a zip up sweatshirt to toss on if you get chilly during meditation. Try grabbing a basket to store these items when you’re not practicing so your nook always looks tidy, lovely and inviting.

ORGANIZE YOUR TECH: Since you’ll be joining us virtually, decide if you’ll be using a phone, device or computer to tune in as you practice. Figure out the best way to set that up so you can easily see it, and get the charger organized so you stay powered on. (These are all things that will interrupt your practice if you don’t take care of them ahead of time! You’re welcome!). To protect the audio quality, our online classes won’t have music – if you’re a music lover, consider adding a small speaker so you can stream some relaxing music into the background of your yoga nook or dialing up the Spotify playlist our teachers might somtimes provide. Bonus: this can sometimes help block out the noise of a passing truck or a conversation elsewhere in the house to help you stay present.

SELECT A SCHEDULE: We don’t want this daily virtual yoga practice to become a nagging thing on your to-do list that you never get to. When we hold classes at the studio, they have a scheduled start time. – our virtual, live-streamed classes do too! This helps our guests stay accountable to yourselves and your yoga practice by showing up on time and staying consistent and steady. Reflect on the reality of your current life and determine what time of day you’ll practice, check out our schedule to see which classes line up with your needs. Do your best to practice at the same time of day, or at times throughout the week that really support you and the schedule/flow/logistics of your reality – this is how your yoga practice becomes a longterm, sustainable part of your life instead of an item on your to-do list that you struggle to get to.

Real talk: We know this is a pretty dynamic time with lots of changing logistics and unseen developments daily so please select the time to practice as an experiment, see how it goes, and reserve the right to change your mind about your practice time if it becomes necessary.

BEGIN WITH INTENTION: Just like we ask you to arrive to the studio 5-15 minutes ahead of class, show up for your live-streamed class or personal practice just as intentionally on time. 30 minutes before you plan to practice, change into clothes that allow for ease of movement. 15 minutes before practice, turn off your devices (except the one you need to stream the class), light your candles, bless your space in the ways that work for you, and find your way to your mat. 5 minutes before class begins, click the link, enter the password, and hangout in the virtual waiting room until your teacher welcomes you in – or if you’re practicing on your own, tune in to your needs and consider what will best support your practice on that specific day. Spend a few minutes arriving, breathing and being before you begin.

If your mind is over-full, consider using the few minutes of stillness before yoga practice to write down all your worries in your journal. Give yourself permission to be petty, curious, and real with yourself. Say it all into the pages where anything goes. Acknowledge the fear. Allow the anxiety. It’s real, it’s there, and its warranted, love. This practice helps you move that fear energy out of your body so the journal pages can hold a bit of the edge for you so you can step onto your mat and practice. This is a great activity to do before bed too.

This is a practice. It won’t ever be perfect; it can’t be (and it’s not supposed to be), by the nature of what this is: a practice. It will be ever-changing day by day. Some days you’ll be energetically dialed in and FEELING it. Other days, you’ll resist, resent, and even maybe skip it entirely. In these tender times, it’s 100% important to keep what you need in mind, my loves. Don’t bail on yourself, though. If a full yoga practice feels like too much, give yourself permission to lay on your yoga mat and close your eyes and feel your belly move up and down as you breathe in and breathe out instead. If a full yoga practice feels uninspired, check into what does sound great – maybe its a long walk, maybe its cuddling up with a book, maybe its a guided meditation, or perhaps it’s pulling out your guitar for a solo jam session. Whatever is your living, breathing, true-blue self care practice on any given day, that’s enough. Go with grace. Follow your gut. Tend to your needs in ways that work for you.

The times, they ain’t easy

The times, they ain’t easy (what an understatement), but there sure are spots of sweetness blessing us in between the worries.

The future is full of uncertainty. Even so, I hope none of us wait for this to be over to start living into the moments.

Between the hustle and hunkering down, the mask-making and e-learning, the work-from-home and the unemployment applications, the too-much-together and the longing for connection, the worry about the bills and keeping the pantry stocked, the memories of our lives being written.

Keep your eyes up so you can take it in.

Prioritize your mental health and that of those you love. Let go of productivity, tune in to what must be done, and make space for the beautiful moments wherever they arise.

Sending love and peace,
Brad + Sarah
Owners, Renkon Yoga Studio
Yoga for every body.
(Yes, even you!)

It’s Not a Contest

There’s legit no contest.
No one’s pain is more important.
No one’s grief is more valuable.

It really doesn’t matter if their struggle is harder or easier than yours.

It matters not if the cards are stacked against you and someone else has better odds.

(I mean, it does from a social justice perspective and it certainly does impact the road to healing and the resources you’ll have access to that others won’t. Privilege IS real and important to acknowledge, but doesn’t change the point of this post)…

At the end of the day, I hope we all make it.

It’s not helpful to you or anyone else to make comparisons to other people’s problems or how you think it’s easier for someone else.

Life is hard.

We’re all walking each other home.

We’ll all encounter rock bottom moments and experiences that will take us out at the knees. It’s happening across the planet right now. Times have been tough before and they’ll be tough again.

It will look different for each of us and it ALL matters.

You ALL matter.

What you’re facing matters.

What you’re feeling matters.

And what matters most is that we keep looking up at the horizon line to take one more step forward today, and we keep reaching out to the hands and hearts around us that are available to help us hold what’s happening in just the right ways.

I hope we all make it.
I’m rooting for you.
I’m here to help make the journey a little more doable.

You don’t have to do it alone. We were never meant to.

Sending deep love and peace,
Brad + Sarah
Owners, Renkon Yoga Studio
Bloomington, IL
Yoga for every body.
(Yes, even you!)
Questions? Connect with us:

During Times of Duress, Try Expanding Your Awareness

It’s really easy to be bombarded with thoughts of doom and dread. The news, your newsfeed, and probably most of your thoughts are being flooded with information about the pandemic, the death tolls, the lack of PPE and the extension of shelter in place order timelines.
As a result, our survival fears are being constantly activated, our emotions are surging, and our general sense of well-being is dwindling by the minute. It’s incredibly easy to get caught in the undertow of fear and hopelessness right now.
Without minimizing the reality we’re facing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic across the planet, I’d like to invite you to experiment with a new kind of daily practice to stabilize the way you’re experiencing this unprecedented moment in time. This practice will allow you to both honor and acknowledge the thoughts, fears and emotions that are very real, relevant and important to your experience while also expanding your awareness to create room for something else: vitality.
I often teach on the topic of life being an “and” experience, meaning this: even when we’re in the midst of painful moments or tough times, there is always ALSO at least a little glimmer of beauty, gratitude, and bits and pieces of joy.
So today, take a moment to experiment with this practice. You’ll need a journal and pen (I always encourage doing this work the analog way with an actual piece of paper in front of you to put your thoughts onto with a pen or colored pencil in hand).
For this practice/exercise, I’m going to request you to try a new kind of intentional language. Instead of writing down your responses to the prompts below in any old everyday kind of language, try starting every sentence with these words: “I am aware…” This is important because it connects you with your observations of yourself and of your experiences, rather than getting tangled up in the judgement of and swirling stories that we are often quick to attach to our experiences. The second thing I’m going to invite you to try is finishing each observational sentence with the words “right now” – using this language helps your intellectual center mindfully acknowledge the reality that this situation is temporary without minimizing the importance of your current experience.
With that in mind, read on:
STEP 1: Write down everything you’re experiencing that feels negative (overwhelming, fearful, unknown, etc). Be sure to write it down as an OBSERVATION of the pain as discussed above. It’ll sound something like this:
I am aware that I’m feeling lonely right now.
I am aware of a sense of constant brain fog right now.
I am aware that I’m feeling like I can’t control anything in my life right now.
STEP 2: Write down everything you can bring awareness to that feels positive (lovely, nostalgic, cozy, safe, etc). Again, be sure to write it down as an OBSERVATION of this vitality experience as discussed earlier. I’ll encourage you to get really, really specific with this part. This will allow you to intentionally identify the experiences, relationships, and even superficial things in your life that are feeling very supportive and nurturing right now. It’ll sound something like this:
I am aware that I’m really cozy under this blanket right now.
I am aware that I’m feeling really connected to Aunt Susan right now after receiving her text today.
I am aware that I am so grateful for good health and strong legs and a safe neighborhood sidewalk that allowed me to enjoy a walk to begin my day.
I’m aware that watching spring begin to bloom through my windows brings me great joy, especially watching the fat squirrels run through the trees.
PRO TIP: If this feels overwhelming or a bit like busy work on your to do list, try giving that a spin. Set a timer, grab a cuppa tea, put on some music that lights you up, and set a timer for 15-20 minutes as an intentional act of self care today. THIS practice is another form of yoga in your life, friends! And we promise: it can really change the way you experience your day!
Ok, that’s the practice of expanding your awareness to elevate your consciousness beyond the doom and gloom of our current reality. It’s all about acknowledging (and expressing) the negative experiences with intentional language that creates a healthier experience of the pain and fear and then expanding your awareness of some good things happening in your life and on your behalf, too, even in the midst of this really surreal time of social distancing and interruption of life as we’ve come to know it.

TLC for your Yoga Mat

Think about your yoga mat for a moment. Is it becoming like a trusted friend? Your go-to place when you feel the need for some tender loving care? When you are in need of invigoration? Relaxation? Contemplation? Even a good cry? Your yoga mat is with you through it all.

Your trusty yoga mat may need a little tender loving care in return. Here are some tips for making sure your mat stays fresh and ready for the next time you need it.

When you borrowed one of our studio mats, I’m sure you cleaned it with the spray bottles of mat cleaner we have available. You always want to leave it prepared for the next user. Do you give the same care to your personal mat?

There is nothing less relaxing than rolling out your mat to prepare for a refreshing practice – only to see a grimy mat and having the smell of stale sweat hit you. Even if you don’t typically have a ‘sweaty’ practice, a clean fresh mat will set the tone of for your next lovely yoga experience.

Many people have mentioned how good the mat cleaner smells at the studio and you are always welcome to use it to clean your personal mat. Would you like that same experience for home?

Did you know that I make our own cleaner from just a few simple ingredients? Here is the recipe:

Yoga Mat Cleaner

– Clean spray bottle, a glass bottle is great if available

– Fill bottle about ¾ full with clean water

– Fill the remainder of the bottle almost full with witch hazel OR white vinegar (I use witch hazel because the smell is less – vinegary – but both will work for their antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.)

– Add a few drops of tea tree OR lavender essential oil (I use tea tree oil at the studio – this is a strong essential oil and you only need 2 – 3 drops in a small bottle. Both oils have antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.)

– Add a few drops of another essential oil for the scent of your choice (I use Lemongrass and Rose Geranium at the studio.)

Simply shake the spray bottle well, spray your mat and then wipe off with a clean cloth. You may also wish to wet the cloth and wipe your mat again to ensure remaining traces of grime and sweat are removed, especially if you have a practice that builds a good sweat. Allow to air dry.

If you’re concerned about keeping your yoga mat free of bacteria or even potentially mildew or mold, you’ll definitely want to pay attention to making sure it is dry before rolling. Don’t roll it up immediately after you clean it. Allow it to thoroughly air dry before rolling up or storing. A warm, damp environment is the perfect place for mildew to grow so be sure that your mat is dry if you are leaving it in the car, especially on a warm day!

Deep cleaning your yoga may need to be done on occasion, again depending on how much of a sweat you typically build up. Confirm with the manufacturer of your mat for its cleaning instructions, but most can handle a deep cleaning in the tub or shower. A natural rubber mat and/or a grippy yoga mat may absorb a lot of sweat and may require a regular deep clean. You can scrub your mat with a cloth and mild dishwashing soap and let it soak in the tub water for a few minutes or give it a good rinse in the shower before allowing to completely air dry.

You may also wish to invest in a yoga towel to help keep your mat from getting so dirty or sweaty in the first place. These are typically made from a micro-fiber fabric and come in fun colors and designs. It is recommended to lightly spray them with water before your yoga practice to enhance their grip. As with the mat, be sure that your yoga towel is dry before storing. Yoga towels can be thrown in the laundry for regular cleaning.

Now, roll out your lovely fresh yoga mat and enjoy today’s practice!

It’s OK

It’s ok if you’re afraid.
It’s normal if you’re worried.
These are heavy times.
Feel what you feel.
Tell a kind human what you’re feeling.
Tell your journal what you’re feeling.
Tell your cat what you’re feeling.
Tell the wind what you’re feeling.
Don’t keep it to yourself.
Say it out loud.
Move it to the outside of you
so your body doesn’t have to hold
that for you, too.
Sending love and peace,
Sarah Nannen
Bloomington, IL
Yoga for every body.
(Yes, even you!)

A Review of “Yoga and the Quest for the True Self,” a book by Stephen Cope

Yoga And The Quest For The True Self begins where many personal quests begin, at a point of deeply felt loss—in this (the author’s) case, a relationship involving infidelity and abandonment. And, as people often do when faced with a traumatic life event, he decides on a yearlong sabbatical from his practice as a Boston psychotherapist. A yoga retreat at a center in the nearby Berkshires beckons as a short but perfect first stop—one of many planned destinations. But what was to be a one-time retreat turns into a decade long recurring series of long weekends and entire summers steeped in the practice of hatha yoga in a community of like minded seekers at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in the Berkshire Hills near Lennox, Massachusetts.

What follows is a deep, insightful account of the author’s journey of self-discovery. Eventually confronted by a fatigue in his yoga practice, he is compelled to re-examine a preconceived idea that somehow yoga would purify and transform him into a more perfect being—not unlike the medieval European alchemists who sought to change lead into gold. But he soon discovers that yoga works not to change who we are, but rather to bring into consciousness an awareness of the divine being that we have been since birth. Removing the layers of false identities that obscure this ability to see ourselves clearly is the only path forward.

Yoga psychology names five kleshas, or afflictions as the root of all self-estrangement: ignorance, ego, attraction, aversion, and fear of death. Here Pantajali in his Yoga Sutras (II, 26, 28,) written probably sometime in the 2nd century C.E., cryptically points out a central truth of yoga: “The uninterrupted practice of the awareness of the Real is the means of dispersion of avidya [ignorance].” And “From the practice of the component exercises of yoga, on the destruction of impurity, arises spiritual illumination which develops into awareness of Reality.” Cope soon discovers through self-observation the emergence of several notable changes within himself that signal this “awareness of the Real.” The most notable for him is the use of important relationships to “explore and reveal the real Self” as opposed to those that continue to prop up “our false compensation.”

The author eventually comes to realize that for all his ten years of striving and efforts he has come full circle. Like the hero of the classic yoga parable “Viveka’s Tale,” (which he retells in the Prologue}, once he uncovers his true self—once the “web of mistaken identities” is dissolved, he comes to see that all along he was the very Self which he sought—one with the divine, immutable Atman. One might expect that such a liberating experience (moksha) might bring relief or respite from constant struggle, but for the author this new found Reality leads to only one course of action. Like Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita he must plunge back into the mundane, ordinary world of samsara (literally: “flow,” “change,” “passing in and out of being”) with no notion of gain or loss in all his actions. The very same world he previously so desperately wanted to control.

At this point the reader may legitimately ask, “So what?” For all the expended effort one ought to feel exalted in some way and be different somehow. Isn’t that why we so desperately crave infinite life, infinite knowledge, infinite bliss (sat, chit, ananda)? For the author (and for that matter, many other authors of other spiritual traditions: Theresa of Avila, Thomas Merton, the anonymous author of “The Cloud of Unknowing” to name only three) the answer would be a resounding chorus of  “Yes, everything changes and yet nothing at all changes.” We return to the world of samsara to live life fully in body, mind and soul. The purpose of life now is the expression of compassion in infinite form grounded in the certain of knowledge from personal experience that all is One, and One is all. Or, as Buddhist tradition teaches: “nirvana is samsara, and samsara is nirvana.” Zen, in its characteristically dry, direct fashion, says it another way, “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”

Stephen Cope’s book is the clearest, most easily accessible a description of what hatha yoga is and how it works that I have thus far encountered. His perspective as both psychotherapist and yoga practitioner allows him throughout the book to be here the scientific observer, analyzer, synthesizer—here the student, storyteller, and teacher—at all times the warm, caring, welcoming traveler.  Yoga And The Quest For The True Self already has a place among my collection of reference works that I continue to re-read and consult over time for gems of insight and wisdom.  I recommend it to any and all travelers who seek truth.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and struggling to find energy, focus, or rhythm

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and struggling to find energy, focus, or rhythm to find your way through the days during this challenging time, here’s a message from our hearts to yours:
We see you. This is hard. Life got really, really extra recently. On top of what was already pretty big for some of us. Tiny actions to take care of yourself count. A little bit of care for yourself makes a big difference in your day, and it adds up to make a difference in your life. 

Start with teeth brushing – take your time with it. Maybe even floss and toss in some mouth wash.
Open the blinds and stare outside til you’re done. See what you notice through the window. There’s a lot of life happening in nature this spring, and a few moments to connect with that is really good medicine for the soul.Schedule making your bed into your day. Even if you just make your bed before it gets dark out it so you have the momentary delight of pulling back the covers when you go to bed. If it feels good, add some essential oil spray or a diffuser next to your bed. Aromatherapy in your nest is everything.

Drink a whole glass of room temp water before noon. You can fill the glass and set it on the counter where you’ll see it. Either take a small sip every time you walk by, every hour, or down it all in one gulp – but try to get it down before noon. Challenge yourself to drink a second glass before 5 pm. It’s a start, love – hyration gives your cells what they need to take care of you in ways you can’t see but you’ll definitely feel.

If you’ve got it in you, put on shoes and a coat and stand outside and breathe fresh air. Even 2 minutes counts.

You can do this. We’re here – we’ll be here, you don’t have to do it alone. 


Sarah Nannen

And here we are…

“Learn to watch your drama unfold while at the same time knowing you are more than your drama.” – Ram Dass

Last Sunday, I stepped into an unknown world, full of fears and concerns, media cycles constantly crashing into another, and people hurting and scared. I’d been sequestered on a yoga/meditation retreat, without knowing all that had happened in a week, until we left the retreat center heading for Denver.

Jumping back into the world was anticipated to be difficult after this journey; but coming back into our current reality was….Hard. Difficult. Emotional. My heart raced, tears flooded my eyes, and I was anxious to be home. Yet I was in a shuttle bus with my new friends, heading towards a long day of travels with 2 flights through major airports. Walking into the Denver International Airport was a shock. The masses of folks trying to get home, the masks and gloves, warnings and precautions…the extra security, all was overwhelming.

Yet at that same time, I witnessed beauty.  I saw folks smiling and waving at babies and small children, others allowing those needing extra time to go ahead, no pushing, shoving, or yelling.  I had a young man pull out a chair for me when I sat at the counter for a glass of wine. An older lady held open the restroom stall door for me so I could get my backpack in without knocking it around. Folks were social distancing without asking. Everyone took an extra moment or two to be gentle with those around them…cause we’re all in this together.

I’ve seen the social media memes on resetting, on the rebounding of nature, on how families are coming closer together. I also realize the impact of the isolation on many, the frustrations at the lack of Wi-Fi connections or household drag on resources, the search for toilet paper or other goods/food, and the realness of that much togetherness. There is a yin for every yang, a shadow for every brightness.

I also realize that this is cumulative, as the longer we live under these constraints the impact on mental, physical, and spiritual wellness. This is not free will, rather this is imposed for the good of us all, and depending on the location you are in reading this, there could be additional constraints.

As the days go on, as the impacts wear on us all…know we have choices. Choices to stew in the drama, for which most of it is out of your control, or to choose to live/react differently, as that is what we can control. Knowing that you can positively impact your life or others, by reaching out, learning a new skill, taking time to breath or meditate, or simple be. Actively choosing nonattachment to the situation at hand, to lessen the impact upon our nervous systems and overall body systems. Knowing that you are not the situation, rather the situation is happening around you. Electing to have a beginner’s mind, to do something different – and seeing how that choice, the new action, impacts you to perhaps continue on after we emerge into our new world.

Republished with permission, see the original and more at Melissa’s website here. 


May we continue to stay present to the realities unfolding around us, nurturing to the emotions and reactions within us, and intentional in the choices and responses we make on behalf of our future Selves.

Biohacking Grief from the Grief Unveiled podcast with Sarah Nannen and special guest Leah Carver

If you’re feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, run down and/or feeling the heartache, heartbreak and grief as life as we know it shuts down to help slow down the spread of COVID-19 (not to mention all the real life, every day experiences of grief that will continue to happen in addition to sheltering in place and closing the doors of our businesses), this episode of Sarah Nannen’s podcast is the loving conversation we’re all in need of: Listen here!
More about this episode
“I feel exhausted.” | “My body feels heavy.” | “I cannot think through this fog.” | These are just a few examples of the tremendous toll grief takes on our physical bodies. Symptoms are often chronic, but we don’t take them seriously. Instead, we put our “strong” on and sweep them under the rug with a “this too shall pass” attitude. Leah Carver is here today to help teach us how we can better interpret the messages from our bodies, tap into our power, and build sustainable energy.

Tender curiosities we talk about:

  • Where does the fear of slowing down come from? How the “grief hustle” is similar to the “hamster wheel”.
  • Pain, fatigue, and fog: Your body is saying “I need your attention”.
  • The two most common body signals emanating from grief, and specific practices for interpreting these messages and bio-hacking your way to relief.


I hope this podcast meets you where you are today and provides some deeper insight to your inner experience as well as some nurturing guidance on new ways to take great care of your body, mind and soul during this challenging time in our lives.