Tag Archives: health

Group Health Insurance for Yoga Teachers

10 Jan

I have a yoga teacher friend who recently had to choose between paying her rent and fixing a chipped tooth. It’s simply shocking to me how many of us yoga teachers live a hand-to-mouth existence (no pun intended), without the benefit of paid sick leave, vacation days, health insurance or any guarantee that our classes will stay on studio schedules during lean times.

You see, we are considered independent contractors, not employees, and we are not afforded many of the legal rights that come along with full-time employment. Minimum employment standards just don’t apply to us and, to make things worse, many of us work without having negotiated contracts. I know you don’t like to think about legal mumbo jumbo and I know you’re young, vibrant and healthy today, but all it takes is an injury or illness to take us away from our livelihoods in a scary way.

So, I’ve been in discussions with a number of health insurance providers and I’ve finally negotiated a group health insurance plan I’m happy with. It includes extended health care, dental coverage, life insurance, and short- and long-term disability. The monthly cost starts at $103.78 CAD (plus tax) for someone under 35 without any dependants and it runs to over $200 CAD (plus tax) for someone in their 50s who needs family coverage.

Here’s the bottom line: this plan is significantly better than anything I could negotiate as an individual or even as a small business owner, but you may be able to do better if you have a partner or parents with benefits through a large corporation or the government.

You’ll see that we are defined as an association but I don’t propose to formalize this association just for the purposes of gaining insurance coverage and I will not be collecting any kind of fees or dues—this is not a for-profit venture for me in any way and the only people taking a cut are the insurance broker and the insurance company. Robertson Insurance has agreed to manage the plan on our behalf and they will take care of the associated administrative work.

I’m signing up as we speak.

If you are interested, please contact Durant D’Intino directly at DDintino@robertsonhall.com. His phone is 1-800-640-0933. Please send him (1) your name, (2) your email address, (3) your date of birth, and (4) whether you need single of family coverage so he can send you the enrolment forms and provide a quote. Please note that there are medical questions involved and they will not insure you at this price if you are currently on disability leave or have a major illness.

Please feel free to pass along the info. The plan is open to any certified yoga teacher in the province of Ontario who teaches 20 or more hours a week (this can include class prep time and travel to and from classes). As our group grows, I will be in a position to re-negotiate the terms and also to negotiate a good price on liability insurance. If you live outside of Ontario, take the plan details to your local insurance broker and ask them to create something comparable for the yoga teachers in your area.

Please remember that you are important and what you do is important. Take good care of yourselves so you can serve your students they way you are meant to.

The Daily Dozen

11 Oct

The yoga teachers I admire most are also among the busiest people I know. They travel extensively, they write, they manage businesses, they’re socially and politically engaged and, in additional to all that, they somehow manage to maintain a daily practice that fuels their endeavours.

I’ve often wondered what their practices look like on their craziest days, when their schedules are erratic and jam packed from morning to night. What are the poses they do without fail? Inquiring minds want to know…

Enter Sharon Gannon’s Magic 10. This is a nifty 10 minute sequence of yoga asanas narrated by the co-founder of Jivamukti Yoga herself. I like the notion that one’s yoga practice can be distilled down to its essential elements like this—that I can be a devoted yogini without dragging my sleep deprived self out of bed at 4:30 a.m. to get in a 90 minute yoga practice before heading out for a day of go-go-go.

My own list of must-do practices is not much longer—let’s call it the Daily Dozen. It includes the following asanas, self-massage and cleansing techniques:

1. Sinus irrigation with my trusty neti pot, tongue scraping, and dry body brushing. These yogic detoxification techniques get the breath flowing, sweeten the breath and help out with lymphatic drainage, which is good for the immune system and overall health.

2. Kapalabhati. I always do this in the shower right after using the neti pot. This is a breath-based cleansing technique that clears the airways, stimulates mind and body, and tones the belly.

3. Uddiyana Bandha, Agni Saura and Nauli. Isolate the muscles of the core, kick-start the metabolism and overcome sluggish digestion and elimination with these practices. They also make for good parlour tricks!

4. Self-Massage with Yoga Tune-Up® Therapy Balls. I’m talking about deep tissue massage and myofascial release all in the comfort of your own home. This is a game changer, folks.

5. Reclining Twist Sequence: apanasana, twist (a.k.a. leg stretch #3), and a shoulder/chest opener. I’ll do a special podcast dedicated to this little gem. It’s the best way I know to restore mobility to the back, chest and shoulders. And it feels so good first thing in the morning.

6. Downward Facing Dog. Woof!

7. Bending Tree. A classic Jivamukti pose that improves your balance and offers a deep lateral stretch. Breathe deeply while doing this one and learn something profound about cultivating generosity and ease during unstable times.

8. Prasarita Padottanasana C. I like to do this one with a block between my hands at its widest width. Imagine you’re pulling the brick apart with the hands for an extra juicy shoulder opener.

9. Shalabhasana. A safe way to warm and strengthen the back. A shalabhasana a day keeps back pain at bay. You can quote me on that one.

10. Urdhva Danurasana. A big, bold backbend that’s akin to a shot of expresso for my nervous system when I’m feeling sleepy. Opens shoulders and hip flexors like nothing else. Don’t forget to dedicate this heart opener to someone you love.

11. Malasana Twist with Bind. This multi-tasking pose works the hips, ankles, spine and shoulders all at once.

12. Shoulderstand, Plow and Fish or Legs up the Wall. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika says you can defeat aging and death if you practice these inversions regularly. I’m determined to experience this for myself.

As always, I’d love to hear from you about the poses you do without fail.

A Deep 10 minute Savasana

28 Feb

Feeling Blue

When e.e. cummings wrote: “For whatever we lose (like a you or a me), It’s always our self we find in the sea,” do you think he contemplated the possibility that we might lose the very sea itself one of these days? In the fifty some-odd years since he penned these words, much has changed on our watery planet, and fragile marine ecosystems everywhere are under serious threat from overfishing, pollution, and climate change. The facts are alarming:

■ Humans have taken—eaten, actually—more than 90% of the big fish in the ocean, including tuna, swordfish, marlin, cod, halibut, and flounder. Some of the world’s most productive fishing grounds have been depleted and entire coastal economies have collapsed. If current trends in industrial fishing continue, scientists predict the world’s fish and seafood populations will be totally extinct by 2048.

■ Much of the waste we produce on land eventually reaches the oceans through both deliberate dumping and run-off. In coastal areas, untreated sewage and fertilizer are responsible for algal blooms that suffocate other marine life and create enormous dead zones. According to a recent study, there are 405 dead zones and counting.

■ Nearly half the coral reefs have disappeared. They are among the first casualties of climate change. Higher surface water temperatures have resulted in coral bleaching, while ocean acidification due to rising carbon dioxide levels is making it harder for coral to build their calcium carbonate shells. The rising sea levels, decreases in sea ice cover, changes in salinity, shifts in ocean circulation and increased storms that come with climate change will undoubtedly change marine life forever.

If we care at all about the fate of our seas, we humans need to be more mindful about what we take out of and what we put into the water.

Why should we care? Well, for starters, over three quarters of our planet is covered by water and up to 60% of our bodies are composed of water. All life came from the ocean and 90% of life on earth still resides there. Healthy oceans are absolutely necessary for a healthy planet. We land dwelling creatures mustn’t make the fatal error of thinking we’re immune to cataclysmic, or even subtle, changes at sea.

On the bright side, it’s now easier than ever to stay abreast of the issues: as of earlier this month, Google Earth includes the oceans in its maps. This means users can now dive underwater, see ocean topography, and watch regions change over time. You can get it all free at Google Earth.

Compelling and eye-opening information from leading ocean researchers is also just a mouse-click away. Legendary oceanographer, Sylvia Earle’s extraordinary TEDTalk, “Here’s How to Protect the Blue Heart of the Planet,” has been spreading virally online since it was delivered in mid-February. Educational and inspirational, it’s a must-see for anyone who dares to care about the planet and its inhabitants.

I’m also greatly buoyed by the fact that people like my friend Jeff Warren, an author and explorer of consciousness, are still out there during these turbulent times looking to the sea for insights into the true self. His most excellent radio documentary, Ocean Mind, explores the world of dolphins and whales as a way of moving beyond the confines of the human experience. Episode 2 is a favourite of mine. As Jeff explains: “This episode is about the limits of human knowledge. It’s about imagination and empathy – and science – and how we may be able use all of these things to get insights into the fantastic alien world of the great whales.”

Hoping for a taste of this “fantastic alien world,” I spent an hour in a flotation tank earlier this month. I went in expecting something completely outside the realm of my experience, but was, instead, pleasantly reminded of the time I spend on my yoga mat lying in savasana, or corpse pose.

The way I figure it, yogis are experts at stepping outside the human unwelt, a German word usually translated as “self-centered world.” We try on the various forms of nature—in dog, tree, and even fish pose—partly as a way to get over ourselves and partly as a way to gain insight into the essence that underlies all form so that we may better know ourselves.