Ask an Instructor – Diana Markessinis

Diana Markessinis
Diana Markessinis – Yoga instructor and fine artist

Diana Markessinis is a yoga instructor and fine artist specialising in sculpture.

ask an instructor – 10 questions

• the very first yoga class you attended?   As a small little lady with my mom we walked to an old Victorian house in our neighborhood of Wilmington Delaware. I remember the sound of the pocket door sliding shut, deep breathing, and quiet organized movement in a full room of ladies.

• what is it about yoga that inspires you?   The merging of our internal and external worlds, to explore and travel our internal world then the outside physical body world…it’s a lovely dance back and forth and eventually they merge and unite creating a one pointed focus, where all else falls away, in that peacefulness I get inspired

• what yoga item(s) could you not be without?  I suppose my blocks, but honestly if they aren’t with me, I find something else, books, buckets, a railing, whatever is available to give me more space!

• your favorite post yoga class snack?  Something juicy and refreshing like fresh veggie or fruit.

• what book would you recommend to a brand new student of yoga?  Depends on that persons interests…Donna Farhi ‘bringing yoga to life’ has a nice overview or for a deeper level ‘the body has its reasons’ by Therese Bertherat

• if you could teach a class anywhere in the world, where would it be?  On the floor of a soft forest on a sunny day.

–  type of class you like to attend when you are not the instructor?  Relaxation classes like Restoratives or Yin, as I practice this at home, but have to keep watch of the time, it’s luxurious to have someone else keeping track.

• favorite thing to do if not doing yoga?  Being outside and creating objects.

• if you weren’t a yoga instructor?  I’m an artist, my love and knowledge of yoga is to make this life fuller for myself and others.

• as a yoga instructor, what do you hope a new student takes away from your class?  To simply feel better then when they arrived. Showing up on our mat is to be a witness to whatever is happening that day, and in theory as that awareness comes through we can better serve ourselves and therefore others.

To find out more about Diana’s yoga schedule and sculpture work visit her website http://www.dianamarkessinis.com

Diana teaches a weekly Yoga Fundamentals class at Inner Space yoga studio in Santa Ana.

7 Reasons Why I’m Happy to be a Middle Aged Yogi….

Can I go get coffee instead?
As a yogi embracing the middle years there are many yoga trends I’m happy to let pass me by.  Here are 7 of them…

  • Any yoga class that has been heated to a temperature worthy of an industrial laundry.  My own body creates that heat spontaneously so why would I consider turning up the temperature…..on purpose?
  • Any yoga class that has the word ‘burn’, ‘boot’, ‘butt’ or ‘bust’ in the description.  Need I say more?
  • Any type of yoga clothing design that incorporates large cut out panels or swathes of mesh.  Worse still, not enough fabric to make a handkerchief from.

    Any yoga class that has the word ‘burn’, ‘boot’, ‘butt’ or ‘bust’ in the title.  Need I say more?

  • Any pose that involves contorting myself into the shape of a badly twisted pretzel.  I know Madonna managed to get both feet around her neck and good on her, but me?  With these hips?
  • Any yoga cleansing programs that involve a diet of foods I can’t pronounce and the need to perform four hours of acrobatic poses every day.  Just the thought of it makes me pine for a lie down…..when’s savasana?
  • Achieving a one armed handstand in the middle of the room/beach/park/any other random open space.  Didn’t happen for me at the peak of my yoga fitness so I’m happy to practice acceptance in the knowledge that it won’t happen now.
  • The trend for posting multiple yoga pose photographs to social media on a daily basis.  Can I go get a coffee instead?

How are these trends working out for you?

Yoga to Support Bones & Joints in the Middle Years

Caring for our bones & joints with yoga in the middle years and beyond

Knee bone’s connected to your thigh bone.……so the song goes.  As we age, we can anticipate the structure of our bones and joints changing but there are ways, through the practice of yoga, that we can support our bodies through these changes and a little self care now can go a long way later.


The adult human body is comprised of 206 bones – there’s a useful fact to log for your next game of Trivial Pursuit – and these bones are cleverly hinged and connected across a range of joints to form the human skeleton.

As we age, we can anticipate the structure of our bones and joints changing but there are ways, through the practice of yoga, that we can support our bodies through these changes and a little self care now can go a long way later.

Osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are three of the more common skeletal conditions all of which feature in the list of chronic conditions we may come to experience in older age.

  • osteoporosis – is the most common chronic condition of the joints and ccording to the National Osteoporosis Foundation 54 million Americans are suffering from osteoporosis.  As our bones get older so the living tissue inside them loses density causing them to weaken.  The closely packed honeycomb look of a young, healthy bone gradually changes creating a more loosely packed honeycomb that is far more brittle and prone to breaking.  Most of us reach our peak bone mass between the ages of 25 & 30 but by the time we’re celebrating our 40th birthdays we have already begun to lose that bone mass.
  • osteoarthritis – is a form of arthritis that can be genetic but can also be caused by previous injury, overuse or misuse of a joint and excess weight.  Osteoarthritis occurs as the smooth cartilage lining where bones meet one another at a joint, begins to break down losing its smoothly gliding properties which ultimately compromises the range of movement within the joint.  Research conducted by the Arthritis Foundation found that those with osteoarthritis can be more at risk of having balance issues simply because of the decreased function, physical weakness and pain they experience in arthritic joints.
  • rheumatoid arthritis – is another common form of arthritis which is an autoimmune disease caused by the individual’s own body mistakenly attacking the joints causing bone and cartilage damage.

This little trio of conditions makes for grim reading but the physical and meditational aspects of yoga alongside other healthy life choices can help reduce, limit and, in some cases, improve symptoms.

How Yoga Can Help

Firstly, we can help ourselves stay healthy by regular exercise.  Something you’ve read many times before, I’m sure.  The affects of osteoporosis can be improved through a regular yoga practice.  Often described as ‘weight bearing’, the standing yoga poses such as the Warrior poses and chair pose are great ones to practice as they create movement in the joints as well as being excellent muscle strengtheners.

Strong muscles support and protect the joints as we move.  By keeping joints fluid and open by working through their full range of motion we help to prevent joint stiffness and discomfort.  In a yoga class we may recline and use a strap looped over the foot in hand to foot pose to help maintain hip joint flexibility, for example.

A recent study by yoga loving physician Dr Loren Fishman MD, a life long practitioner and teacher, showed interesting results suggesting that the daily practice of a twelve minute yoga routine could help with osteoporotic bone loss.  He started a similar study again this Fall.  Go to sciatica.org to learn more.

With osteoarthritis & rheumatoid arthritis, regular exercise is also recommended.  In both cases keeping the body moving to preserve flexibility and maintaining a healthy physical weight are key.

Another great benefit of yoga, which can’t be overlooked, is the relaxation and mental focus of the practice.  Whether in the form of a regular meditation practice, mindfulness techniques or simply enjoying an extended savasana at the end of class, the benefits are enormous.

These are two common conditions which many of us may be confronted with further down the line, but research shows that exercise can help minimize and help with symptoms.

Yoga poses often practiced in a class include cat/cow, to warm up the spine, and triangle to strengthen the lower back and stretch the hip joints.  Reclining poses are helpful too.  Poses such as bridge work to strengthen the back body and gentle twists open the shoulders, mobilize the spine and work abdominal muscles.  Furthermore, a regular yoga practice is particularly helpful for stability and improving our sense of balance which, in turn, makes us less prone to falling.

Another great benefit of yoga, which can’t be overlooked, is the relaxation and mental focus of the practice.  Whether in the form of a regular meditation practice, mindfulness techniques or simply enjoying an extended savasana at the end of class, the benefits are enormous.

Relaxation can reduce the stress and anxieties we may experience and, in turn, make our physical challenges easier to embrace and live with. 

These aspects of yoga assist with dealing with physical pain and offer support in coming to terms with a diagnosis.  Additionally, the community element of joining a class cannot be underestimated.  Practicing with others who may have conditions in common provides the perfect social environment to help with low mood or depression that sometimes occurs as our physical bodies change with age.  Relaxation can reduce the stress and anxieties we may experience and, in turn, make our physical challenges easier to embrace and live with.

So, make yoga part of your self care routine.  Go join a class and your joints will thank you!

How yoga can help with perimenopause symptoms

The time leading up to the menopause, known as the perimenopause, can be challenging and full of physical and mental changes but news flash – or should I say hot flash – yoga can help!


There is a long list of symptoms that may be associated with the perimenopause –  ‘yippee!’ I hear you cry.  Three of the most common are hot flashes, mood swings and sleep disruption but don’t lose heart as yoga can help.

Starting with the whole heating issue.  Some research estimates that almost 80% or women are affected by hot flashes.  Thought to be caused by the combination of unbalanced over and under active hormones bouncing about there are a number of yoga poses that can support you and inversions can be particularly helpful.

A great reference book with detailed yoga sequences for perimenopausal symptoms is ‘The Woman’s Book of Yoga & Health’ by Linda Sparrowe & Patricia Walden.  Patricia, an experienced and respected Iyengar yoga teacher, recommends inversions as they can ‘jump start a sluggish system or calm an overly excited one by allowing fresh, oxygenated blood to flow into the head and neck’.

There is a long list of symptoms that may be associated with the perimenopause –  ‘yippee!’ I hear you cry.  Three of the most common are hot flashes, mood swings and sleep disruption but don’t lose heart as yoga can help.

Whether in the full form of the pose i.e. headstand or shoulderstand, or in supported versions using props and the wall, inverted poses will help as they are calming and soothing for the nervous system.  You may already have a strong inversion practice but if you haven’t or if you are completely new to yoga or have neck and back issues that prevent you doing inversions safely there are many alternative supported inversion poses to try.  (Although be mindful, it is not recommended that you do inverted poses when menstruating).

Mood swings are another aspect of the whole perimenopause journey. Seated forward bends can be good for mood as they are soothing in anxious moments but as they are ‘enclosed’ poses with the forward folding torso they will not be suitable if you suffer with depression.

Supported restorative poses are good alternatives as a restorative practice lying over bolsters and blankets offers the opportunity to quieten the mind and body at stressful, moody moments.  A great resource for restorative yoga is Judith Hanson Lasater’s book ‘Relax and Renew’.

Finally, sleep disruption, which can be impacted by the effects of the previous two symptoms.  Hot flashes become the night sweats and the root of insomnia can be the stress and irritation that comes from mood swings.

With a little time spent quietening the chatter of the mind and negative self talk the perimenopause can become an opportunity to embrace change.

There are various lifestyle changes that can be made in terms of eating and avoiding stimulants such as smoking, alcohol and caffeine.  Exercise is still important but if you are dealing with sleep issues then consider a more energizing and active yoga practice at the beginning of the day to avoid being too ‘wired’ closer to bedtime.

Besides the physical practice, mindfulness and the meditative practices of yoga are a great asset when dealing with perimenopause symptoms.

Being able to embrace physical changes with a more positive mindset will make these inevitable changes more manageable.  As Christiane Northrup, MD author of ‘The Wisdom of Menopause’ says ‘when all is said and done it is your attitude, your beliefs and your daily thought patterns that have the most profound effect on your health’.

With a little time spent quietening the chatter of the mind and negative self talk the perimenopause can become an opportunity to embrace change and benefit from a healthy and positive transition to the next life chapter.

As with all health related issues researched on the internet be sure to seek medical advice for any symptoms you experience.

Ask an Instructor – Alison Scola

Alison Scola

Alison Scola

Alison is an E-RYT 500 yoga instructor,  C-IAYT Yoga Therapist, Licensed Massage Therapist, Reiki Master, Lead Teacher Trainer 

ask an instructor – 10 questions

the very first yoga class you attended?  Ohio in 1994, seeking relief for debilitating back pain.  Divine guidance led me to my mentor & yoga therapist’s Hatha yoga class.

what is it about yoga that inspires you? The opportunity to heal on physical, emotional, energetic, causal, & spiritual levels. A yogic path offers limitless tools for continuous growth & ultimately, to identify as only Love.

what yoga item(s) could you not be without? My mat, blanket, & bolster.

your favorite post yoga class snack?  Water or tea is always nice.

which book would you recommend to a brand new student of yoga?  Moving into Meditation by Anne Cushman.  She articulates beautifully the relationship we are building with ourselves during practice.

if you could teach a class anywhere in the world, where would it be? A  sunrise class at Hanalei Bay on the island of Kauai, my favorite place on earth.

type of class you like to attend when you are not the instructor? Those classes that keep a focus on holding space for healing & self discovery.

favorite thing to do if not doing yoga?  Outside of asana practice I love dancing, running, swimming, hiking, & singing.

if you weren’t a yoga instructor?  If I wasn’t a yoga therapist/massage therapist…. I would devote myself wholly to music & dance.

and finally……

as a yoga instructor, what do you hope a new student takes away from your class?  

My greatest wish is that a new student finds a place where they can feel safe, get quiet, & begin to hear & sense the voice within.

Alison is an experienced yoga teacher, yoga therapist and teacher trainer.  E-RYT 500, C-IAYT Yoga Therapist, Licensed Massage Therapist, Reiki Master & Lead Teacher Trainer.

You can contact Alison by email alisonscola@gmail.com

Or find out more about her schedule via her website www.alisonscola.com