Staff Gratitude

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Evolve, and particularly Kim Greeff, have been such a source of inspiration and development for me. I searched a long while for a place to practice yoga that resonated with me in terms of skill, intention, and community. I found all these things in my first class with Kim, and with the many yogis I’ve met here since. I am grateful as a student and as a teacher for the opportunity to be part the studio and look forward to continuing to practice with Kim and the wonderful Evolve teachers in new places and new ways.

Peace, peace, peace ~Linda

I was out of the country for an extended amount of time when Evolve opened.  While traveling, I practiced yoga wherever I could, but upon my return in 2013, when I stepped into Kim’s new studio – “Evolve” – I immediately felt at home and gr
ateful for a studio without loud music or an emphasis on sweaty hot workouts.  I breathed a deep breath of gratitude and have felt that way ever since. I had returned home.

I will never forget the first few weeks, when I practiced almost daily there and realized that teaching yoga was something that was calling me.  At 45 years old, it felt like a crazy idea, and when I broached the subject to Kim, I expected to be politely redirected. Not the case.  She encouraged me and even said that upon my return she would have a place for me to teach at Evolve.  I couldn’t believe it!  I was stunned.

Thus began my journey, and my “evolution” as a person in my body, my mind, my soul, and my community.

This studio has enlivened me, protected me, embraced me, and grown me.  I will be forever grateful.  It’s funny, the word “evolution” has become part of my daily vocabulary, as I realize that we are in a constant state of change, evolving as human beings.

Thank you Kim for encouraging and supporting me in my evolution as a yogi and as a yoga teacher, for your firm acceptance of who I am and your unwavering belief in me, your tough love and your fierceness, your mentorship and guidance.

Thank you to the entire Evolve tribe for your gracious and calming support and guidance.

Evolve will forever hold a special place in my heart. ~Jen G.

When I received the news, the first thing in my mind was, “Wow, what a hard decision.” I asked myself if I could hold space for Kim. What came was a flood of wonderful memories of this year and how Kim has been a huge part of it. There was so much gratitude for Kim, that the answer definitely was “YES!, you are capable of holding space for Kim.”  Kim is not Evolve and Evolve is not Kim. Change is hard for all of us and it is truly courageous to face the fact that there is a need for change. Kim will continue to share her knowledge because that is what she loves.  ~Marie

I began my yoga practice at Laughing Lotus and quickly saw how important it was for my well-being. By luck, I chose to practice with an instructor so rich in the healing arts that class after class felt more like a transformation than a workout. The more I took class, the more I wanted to share the gifts of breath and renewed life force with others. With encouragement from Kim and her willingness to nurture me through the process of early teaching, the idea of becoming a teacher was more than just a pipe dream. I have experienced continued support and encouragement to follow my heart, heal myself, and share this powerful journey with others. I am full of gratitude for all that is Kim Greeff—a mother, a wife, a teacher, a climber, a massage therapist, a voracious reader, a biker, a person who walks her journey fearlessly talking to monkeys on both shoulders. I consider the space at Evolve to be my sanctuary. It is with love and passion that I will continue to enjoy all that Kim brings to the journey and the space of Evolve Yoga in Spenard. ~Annie

Since Evolve opened her doors over three years ago, I have been so grateful to have a place to “call home” in my personal and professional education and growth. I have deep gratitude to Kim for her constant support of my evolution as a Yoga Teacher, Rolfer and Artist. I have been humbled, amazed and deeply touched by all of the individuals who have shown up over these years- in the yoga studio and in the Rolfing room to share the practice of deeper presence and embodiment. As Evolve enters her fall season, the richness of lessons, relationships and connections that have been fostered here will continue to nourish and feed my growth. It has been an honor to share this space with all of the teachers, staff and students that have been a part of this amazing community. I look forward to seeing our paths continue to cross and our roots continue to be fed by this common source as we move and grow in the coming seasons. ~Heidi

How do you say goodbye to a place that has been at the heart of so much personal transformation and growth in your life? A place that has taught you so many lessons of how to treat others, how to treat yourself, and how to listen? A place that has helped shape you in to the person you are today, who you are proud to be?

It’s a big idea to try and wrap my head around, but I do know that it has been the people in this space that have helped me along my path. And though we won’t have this common gathering space, the people will still be around, and I feel so lucky to have shared this space with all of you. Sitting behind the front desk has provided me with the opportunity to witness the comings and goings of our community and I have shared countless long, happy, thoughtful, nurturing talks in the spaces before and after classes. I made many friends here, including learning how to be a better friend to myself. I am grateful to Kim for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this community, and providing me with plenty of space to grow in to. I’m also grateful to all the members of this community that have taken the time to share their stories with me. I know I will walk away from Evolve with mixed feelings (gratitude, grief, nostalgia to name a few) but I also walk away feeling much more whole and at home in my body. ~Hilary

Let Your Belly Go & Benefit – By Kim Greeff

New Blog PostBreath; it is your most natural resource. It goes with you wherever you are and will be with you as long as you are alive. It’s also one of the few things that we can both consciously alter, harness and use to help us. Unconsciously it has the power to harness us, altering our mood and our physiology. In yoga we use the breath as a tool to stay present to what we’re experiencing but is your yoga breathing harming you? Allow me to lay some context for this by sharing my personal experience with breath…

When I was 24 and in my first teacher training my teacher at the time saw me in a pose with my belly “sticking out” and quickly cued “Kim, pull in your belly”. I was not fat mind you, I was actually extremely underweight and in the throws of an eating disorder. I was simply allowing my belly to relax but promptly pulled it in tight, which gleaned the approval of my eagle eye teacher. I would later learn this was to protect my lower back and strengthen my abs. I wanted those things and so I did pull my belly in corseting my back for protection. I would continue to be (and hear others) to be cued to pull their low belly in repeatedly over the next few years.
My teacher was big on pulling the low belly in or down while expanding the ribs up and o
ut. This breathing pattern was deeply ingrained in me as the correct and necessary ways to breathe properly. Doing so repeatedly drastically changed my posture – as eventually I began thrusting my ribs forward to accommodate my habit of drawing up and in. A celebrated move in some styles of yoga, this posture is often called “heart opening” and coupled with dramatic backbends. For me however, it was creating postural imbalances that eventually led to much confusion in my body.

This impression of my first teacher training stayed with me for years, as was tucking the tailbone down (but that’s another post for another day or just attend my upcoming workshop Happy Hips; Tips & Tricks). This pulling the belly in while expanding and telescoping the ribs during challenging poses is the reason believe I got addicted (more on that in a moment) to asana and the grounds for much discomfort, digestive issues and eventually this habit created much body confusion with my spine, ribs and tailbone.

I know I’m not alone in this practice, many people walk around with their stomachs constantly held in. Especially in the fitness industry where many a midriff are showing we constantly bombarded with the messaging to get “flat abs” or “banish belly bloat” we might be told to “suck it in” or “hold the abdominals tight” to help protect our spines, and look good while doing it! There is so much confusion around these ideas and beliefs and I hear many students share their inquires around what they’ve been taught and what should they do. Should I suck it in? Should I contract my core when standing? How about sitting? I have low back pain and was told to use my abdominals at all times to protect my back. I know I’m not alone in sharing – there is a lot of perplexity about the core!

Over the past 15 years, I’ve been on a journey to understand the human body with more awareness. In the last few years, my studies have deepened significantly and I’ve dove into the world of not just anatomy but the biomechanics of that anatomy. What I’ve learned has forever changed the way I practice yoga, the way I teach yoga and the way I breathe and lead others to breathe.

Remember how I shared I was addicted to asana ?

I was an intensity junky. The harder the pose the more I wanted to do it. It turns out the breath and the core are intrinsically connected. I now understand why I became so addicted to the up regulating state of my old yoga practice. You see, when the belly is pulled in and the breath primarily expands the ribs, it sends an up-regulating signal to the nervous system. It’s good for being alert or focused – for a short time but it is neither suitable nor sustainable over long periods of time as it created internal stress. The very reason most of us make our mat time a priority in the first place is to let go of stress, isn’t it? When living in a constant state of hyper vigilance the nervous system adapts and even learns to thrive there at the expense of other systems in the body (like the adrenals!)

Ok, back to the core and breathing. Because I know you’re now wondering, ok, then what am I supposed to do with my belly, my breath and my yoga practice?
I’m getting there! But first, stop what you’re doing and relax your belly. Good. Now, relax it again and noticed if even when you thought you were relaxed you were still holding. Why so much holding? And one more time, really let it all hang out. If you’re used to pulling your belly in to hide your goodies then this might be very uncomfortable. I want you to know, it’s ok. Now, take a deep breath in allowing your abdomen to swell with the inhale and then expand the ribs. We call this abdominal thoracic breathing. Abdominal breathing is deeply relaxing to the nervous system. It’s the stuff that makes deep sleep happen. We don’t want to put you to sleep just yet – I’d rather teach you to harness the relaxation of the abdominal breathing and couple it with the alert and focused state of the thoracic breathing. Now, pull your belly in how and try – just try to take a deep breath. What happened? You couldn’t, could you? Can you feel the different in the quality of your breath when you abdominal thoracic breathe? You can be relaxed and alert. Calm and focused – together!

When should you engage your core? It depends on what your doing. The corso, not just the abdominals but also as the entire soft tissue canister of the torso including the muscles of the back, ribs and even into the neck all help with respiration. One of my teachers, Jill Miller refers to this as the “Corso” (core + torso). The “Coreso” (not an official anatomical term so don’t even think about looking it up!) responds to the load that is presented there- be it above or below, the core really needs to have efficiency to respond appropriately.

If you’re out trail running you will need to implement different stabilizing actions when compare to driving in your car or sitting at your desk.

Here’s the deal, the constant upward movement caused by pulling your belly in or sucking in your gut creates a shift of pressure that pulls your whole abdominal content up, displacing your entire gut against your respiratory diaphragm. Try this on for size. Suck your cheeks (on your face!) into your mouth – growing up we called this fish lips. Feel how your cheeks go into the hollow cavity of your mouth? Well when you suck your belly in, there is no hallow cavity in your corso – all you’re important stuff is in there. There is no space, so when you pull your belly up and in all your important stuff gets totally crammed and constricted. How’s your digestive tract supposed to move sh*t around if it has to do it under direst? The answer is, not very well.

The results of continually displacing your gut stuff can lead to some pretty serious stuff. The biggest one in my book is the disruption of the diaghram and the inability to take a deep breath in. We just tried that out in the exercise above. The second biggest concern is that of the digestive system. Hold your belly back and imagine your digestive system doing what it’s supposed to do against the restrictive pressure of engaging your abdominals at all times.

Holding the belly in can harbor a whole host of digestive issues such as sluggish digestion, constipation, belly bloat not to mention lower back pain as the pressure of pulling the belly in can create excessive pressure in the lumbar spine and rib thrusting of the upper spine.

Your abdominals do help protect your vital organs and there are times you’d want to engage them! Like bracing for impact when you’re about to wreck your car or taking a blow to the stomach. But seriously people, you don’t want to HOLD your stomach in ALL the time!

If you’ve been told that you need to strengthen your core, please know that pulling your belly back or in doesn’t do that. It creates confusion, and constriction.

If you’ve been told to pull your belly back to get better posture, please know that it decreases your bodies’ ability to do its work effectively and efficiently.



Restoring Balance During the Holidays – by Linda Isaac

With the holidays often comes an unexpected package – stress. An extra busy schedule and increased social engagements can be deliciously stimulating, though it can also deplete your down-time and let stress creep in at the very moment you’d most like to be at ease with family and friends. What better time to give yourself the gift of self-care with a Restorative Yoga session?

Restorative Yoga is the ultimate practice to sooth your nervous system, slow your heart rate, and calm your mind. Using a sequence of special poses supported by props, you are transported to a place of deep and deeper relaxation. In 8-10 minute increments, your body’s parasympathetic system kicks in, offering a chance to recover from the fatigue that comes with chronically revved-up adrenal hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.

While the body might appear still, a flood of activity is taking place inside. Up goes the activation of the neurotransmitter serotonin, influencing improved mood and sleep. Oxytocin gets a boost as well, which reduces anxiety and increases happiness. Sounds pretty great, right? Oh yes, and let’s not forget that we can trim down while relaxing. A study by National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that restorative yoga burns subcutaneous fat.*

During this season of “doing”, don’t forget the importance of simply “being.” Join us to rest and rejuvenate with Restorative Yoga.

Read More: Restorative Yoga and Subcutaneous



How We Do Things

I recently experienced an “Ah-ha! This-puzzle-piece-fits!” moment in my own life. It stemmed from a comment my teacher Jill Miller said in my recent teacher training with her. She stated, with conviction and a long pause afterwards to let it sink in, “The way we do one thing is the way we do everything.” Several students nodded in agreement and I agreed too. I mean, it sounded powerful and brilliant. However, I had NO IDEA WHAT IT MEANT! It was like someone pointed out a distant place on a map and stated “This, this place is amazing”, and I believed them, and I could feel that it was meaningful and deeply impacting on them, knowing full well that I may never get to that particular place on the map myself. Fast-forward a few months and I continue to hear this particular phrase uttered by other teachers and even see it hash-tagged quite a few times. “What does that even bleeping mean???” To my surprise, I was about to find out for myself.

It started, not on my yoga mat, but on my couch!

I started a new knitting project. I dub myself a “seasonal knitter” because when the leaves begin to turn, I turn to find my knitting needles. So I’m busy knitting away on a beautiful new project, being careful to count my stitches, to keep track of my rows and my place in the pattern. A few hours into the project, I noticed that when I joined the project to knit in the round, I twisted it. For those of you who knit, you know that there is no fixing this and you have to start over. For those of you that don’t knit, it basically means you were F*%$ed from the beginning AND you have to start over. I didn’t. I convinced myself it wasn’t necessary and that I could go on as it was. Then as the project really began to take shape I saw clearly that I couldn’t go on as I’d F*#%ed up. Still, I convinced myself that I could make it work and that I already had like 7 hours into this thing there was no way I was going to begin again. Why did I knit anyways? This is stupid, right? I mean who knits for 7 hours to get 4 inches done (sorry knitters – this is my process…every damn time) Then like a flash “the way we do one thing, is the way we do everything” popped into my mind. Oh. My. God. I got it. I totally got it now. The way we do one thing, the way we create the story and then convince ourselves, the way we try to avoid the messy part by side-stepping our integrity and being true to the path (or the pattern). This phrase, suddenly had very personal meaning to me.

Brene Brown, author of The Gifts of Imperfection, talks about how knowledge isn’t knowledge until it’s a personal experience for us. It’s like finally visiting the place on the map to see it for yourself. The experience of which will be different for each one of us. I shared this particular phrase with a dear friend over tea. She looked at me and was like “yeah…. no.  That doesn’t mean anything to me.” Then she took it here: “Do you mean the way I poop is the way I do everything?” We laughed and then both got real quiet as we both pondered that for a moment. Then I went on to share my “Ah-ha” moment with her. We sat in a long, reflective silence and I pondered the journeys in my past, following the trail of how I have done and currently do things.

“Damn” she said. I could tell by the look in her eyes that she got it.

I can’t get this phrase out of my head as I’ve experienced the “belief busting” moment. I can no longer look at the way I do things the same.

I ripped out my knitting and started over. I noticed it was twisted. I started my knitting over… again. I also realized that this is why I knit – because it tests my patience requires persistence and in the end, the payoff is creating something beautiful for someone else to wear and enjoy. The way we do one thing, is the way we do everything.

We want to hear from you! Our studio is full of inspiring conversations on a daily basis. Please join us on Facebook to share your thoughts and comments!

What is your personal experience with this phrase “the way you do one thing is the way you do everything?”

Where in your life have you experienced an “Ah-ha” moment?

What is your creative process for hashing out the inner workings of your life experience? Is it knitting, journaling, painting, singing, dancing…?




Does Your Down Dog Measure Up?

No, I’m not talking about the comparison of instragram selfies or how your neighbor on the mat is practicing in comparison to yours. These are not assessments of your own body. Rather, it’s reaching outside of yourself to discover where you are in your body. The problem with this, aside from “comparison being the killer of joy”, is that your anatomy doesn’t live in someone else’s body and imitation can create limitation.

In order to assess your own down dog you’ll need to take a few things into consideration:

Is it a good idea for your shoulders to be in the down dog position? Meaning, do you have the range of motion required to do the external rotation and flexion of the shoulder joint in addition to the mobility in your radius to plant your palm on the ground?

Let’s break this down by looking at the biomechanics of your shoulder. Your shoulder is in the most stable position when it’s externally rotated. That’s where your bone structure fits together in the most secure fashion. When it’s internally rotated, it becomes unstable.

So where does Down Dog go wrong?

It’s when we’re loading our shoulders in that unstable internally rotated position.

How do you know if you’re internally rotating your shoulders in downward dog?

Do this self-test to find out. It’s a different kind of selfie – you won’t likely find on instagram.

  1. Hold out your arm at shoulder height and grip your elbow to hold the elbow joint steady.Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 1.31.53 PMUntitled6

2. Now pronate (rotate to palm down) your hand without allowing movement in the shoulder. Does it go parallel to the floor (demonstrated in image below)? Or does the shoulder internally rotate and elevate while arm bows out to the side (demonstrated below and to the right)? If not your down dog will look like the third picture on the bottom left.

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If you’re able to pass the initial self test, then down dog is a pose that your shoulders are prepared to move into (your back and hamstrings might be a different story – another article for another day – or better yet, come practice with us to discover more!)

If not, you’re likely going to begin seeing soft tissue damage (if you’re not seeing it already) such as inflammation, bursitis, tendonitis, rotator cuff syndrome, or even a rotator cuff tear when holding down dog.

So what’s a yogi to do?

Dolphin Supinate, or what I affectionately called dolphin sunny side up! The thumbs are rotating towards the floor and the block is simply providing space for the forearms to stay parallel.

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This pose awakens the infraspinatus, teres minor, and posterior deltoids while training (or retraining) them to remember the positioning needed to support your shoulders in Downward Dog, Dolphin with the forearms parallel, and your Handstands and Forearm Balances too!

Untitled1About Kim:

Kim is a Yoga Tune Up® certified teacher bringing awareness to all layers of your body, mind, emotions, and energy so that you can embody your body and live better!