Acts of Yoga

Seriously, who knew I could make it 4 days in my 30 day challenge! I’m terrible at commitments, remind me to tell you the story of how my husband got me to marry him. But we’ve done 4 days so far, unfortunately we started out with a slight injury, but I’m starting to feel much better.

My back was just a touch angry at me. So of course, actually doing 30 days of yoga has been out of the question, but it’s those small acts that count! Here’s a little reminder to join me in sharing your acts of yoga on Instagram!

Since I say it all the time, why don’t we talk about what I even mean! First off, it can be anything that involves giving yourself love and care! (Going to the doctor? Act of yoga. Getting your hair done? Act of yoga.) Indulging yourself a little is great for you. If it makes you happy, and if it isn’t hurting you or anyone else, it qualifies!

What isn’t an act of yoga is over indulgences and unhealthy practices, i.e. eating an entire chocolate cake in one sitting alone. Sounds delicious, totally not good for you though. This can also include negative thoughts toward yourself or others. (Sometimes they happen though! Don’t get mad at yourself for a momentary lapse, read my post about 24hrs complaint free if you’re curious about this kind of negative thinking.)

An act of yoga is that fine balance between the two. Your health and care routine doesn’t need to be awful. Beyond being healthy, it should also make you happy. After all, happiness is mental health, and mental health is just as important as physical in yoga.

I find it’s also a good way to remind yourself that you’re doing well. If you’re trying to loose weight, for example, it can seem like a grueling process sometimes, but perhaps your body (or mind) really needs it! It’s a wonderful thing to do for yourself, even if the process is tough. Rewarding yourself once a week with small treats, like rest days or desert after dinner, are wonderful acts to look forward too. Holding off your cravings and working toward a goal an awesome act too. Also super hard! I’m very guilty of snacking and giving into my salty/sweet tooth.

Really, I find many people forget about loving themselves and getting caught up in life, so if you have the chance for a quiet morning cup of tea, enjoy it! That can be your morning yoga today. Just don’t forget to do your proper yoga tomorrow! ❤

If you would like, follow me along on Instagram! Join in yourself and use #actofyoga so I can find you!

Namaste

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Self-Esteem | Yoga’s Positive Effect

I mean seriously, have you seen me? Not only am I hot, I know I’m hot! That seems a bit more like vanity than high self-esteem…

In all reality, yoga does have amazing benefits on self-esteem. There are actual studies people have done on this, it’s awesome! Like really science people! They probably even have lab coats.

 

I hate to break it to you, but you aren’t perfect. It’s OK though. Yoga teaches us that. By learning our limitations and even learning about ourselves, we learn to accept our imperfections. Perhaps you’ll never have your hips squared off “perfectly” in Warrior II. Maybe your knees will never touch the ground in cobblers pose. It’s fine, that’s the way your body is built. That’s actually the trick to loving yourself and having high self-esteem. It’s not about being flawless, it’s bout owning those flaws!
It also teaches us that the outward appearance of out bodies dictates nothing. Sometimes larger bodied people can fold into the most advanced poses, sometimes thin bodies can’t. Being skilled at anything has nothing to do with your looks. We learn not to judge ourselves. In fact, we can learn to love ourselves.

We are also taught to not be competitive. On occasion, competition is a good thing, like in the business world, the Olympics, and Monopoly. However, yoga gives us time to stop being competitive, even with ourselves. We strive to be better and see improvement, but we don’t need to compete. You get my drift? Competing with yourself is definitely better than competing with other people, but you can really get down on yourself if you hit a plateau or aren’t seeing improvement like you wanted.
(Note: If you are facing a plateau and are getting down on yourself, check out my post about Discouragement and getting back into yoga!)
This gives us the tool to switch off our competitive nature. Like I said, it isn’t always bad, so we don’t need that trait to be gone, but there are times in our lives that it isn’t healthy or helpful. Once you figure it out, you can stop competing with other people and look at yourself in a positive way. Rather than losing a beauty contest, which only exists in your head, you are your own person and they are their own person.

Now you can also stop thinking. This gives us the opportunity to be worry free. Though this likely takes the most time and patience in comparison to other reasons in this post, it is very true when it finally happens. If you are having a bad day, yoga gives us the tools to stop judging ourselves and others. We are able to stop thinking negative thoughts. This applies to a lot of things, but in this context, we stop thinking about what we feel is a flaw. Plus we’ve already learned that imperfection is OK, so now we can stop thinking about it if it starts bugging us at all, until we are ready to accept it again.

If you don’t think you can accept your imperfections or stop thinking about them, you will likely be forced to face them. You will also be forced to be vulnerable with them around other people too, if you take a class. Yoga isn’t all that glitz and glamour Instagram makes it out to be. It’s a lot of sweat, fat rolls, and, let’s face it, embarrassing poses. Yes, even the thinnest and strongest of yogis suffers through all of these. We accept that they happen, to ALL of us. And on top of all of these things we all go through, we all have our own weirdness we’re forced to face.
You may simply not like your butt, well, my friend, you are about to stick that think proudly in the air in Downward Facing Dog. Don’t like how your arms jiggle? Too bad! They’re getting sent up to the sky for everyone to see! Think Happy Baby is embarrassing? Well… you’re about to expose your (probably) covered genitals to the entire class.
It’s fun though! Especially these embarrassing poses. Everyone has fun, everyone laughs, and everyone accepts that it’s OK together.

After being forced to do a series of poses, you’ll find everyone is different and everyone is happy you’re there. People are welcoming and happy to see you as you, not as “arm flaps”. Everyone has a goal of sorts too, but they are usually different from one another. One person is dealing with an injury, another is going through weight-loss, and someone else is working through grief. So you’re all working through something together anyway, even if you don’t know what it is.
On top of this, everyone in the class will probably look different. You get all sorts of shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. So your “weirdness” that you’re afraid of, is totally fine to everyone else.

Let’s be real though, while you’re accepting you are wonderful and attractive, you’re also strengthening your body. You may actually be changing how you look, so you could even start looking more how you want. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to change how you look, you just shouldn’t hate yourself in the process.

Even though we lean out and can be toned, we start to trust that there is more to us than looks. Our strength is more that what we appear to be. Besides, few people can really obtain and maintain a six-pack, without rigorous and strict exercise and diet. Your muscle definition is rarely indicative of how strong or useful your muscles are.

Finally, yoga combats depression and anxiety, which can be root causes or side-effects of low self-esteem. As you raise yourself up out of depression, you’ll find yourself feeling better about yourself as well.

You are worthy of your own love!

Reasons Why NOT To Do Yoga

Okay, so I lie in the video and say that this will be up the same day as the video. I’m only like… 48 hours late though, at least I’m in the same week! I promise to TRY to get these posts out a lot more, especially since they used to really help me organize my thoughts. So here’s to trying?

Without further ado, here are a number of reasons you shouldn’t be doing yoga!

  1. Contradictions

I meant this in the medical sense. If you don’t know what that is, I don’t blame you. We throw that word around and never define it for you. It’s pretty much a medical condition that may limit your poses, or make certain poses a bad idea.

There are a whole long LIST of these, ranging from injuries, like knee injuries, back injuries, Carpal Tunnel, etc. To diseases, pregnancy, and old age. So on, and so forth. Pretty much anyone, and everyone probably, suffers from a contradiction. Mine is that I have bad hips, so I can’t do Half-Moon Pose.

Even low blood pressure and eye injuries have contradictions. We generally suggest you avoid any and ALL inversions. Yes, even Downward Facing Dog.

While these may not limit ALL yoga poses, with the exception of things like paralysis, you may find that you feel so limited that it just isn’t worth it.

If you are paralyzed, or have a lot of issues with a lot of poses, keep in mind there are other aspects of yoga you can still enjoy, like meditation and lifestyle.

2. You only want to be flexible

If this is your sole reason for doing yoga, you’re probably going to hurt yourself OR be in for a rude awakening.

While flexibility is part of yoga, it isn’t the only reason to practice. In fact, it’s not even the biggest reason. It’s at least on par with strengthening. Yoga is also wonderful for healing injuries, increasing mobility in old age, and has a crazy amount of mental and emotional benefits. You might as well commit to all of them!

3. You want to show off

Wow, you’re already good at that pose, cool. Not. No one in a class is likely paying attention to you, and if you’re trying to attract attention, you’re disrupting the class! Showing off isn’t cool anywhere, except for dog shows and the Olympics.

Going to a yoga class is also supposed to harbor a non-competitive and non-judgement community. By going to show off, you’re going against these ideals.

You also are likely not reaping the benefits you could be from pushing yourself in more advances classes, or by going deeper in the pose, OR even focusing more inward on your mind and balance.

The students are there to listen to the instructor, not watch you show off.

4. To hit on/check out people

There’s a really common joke that men like to go to yoga classes to check out women. Luckily, it appears that joke is going out of style.

But there are still people who talk about that kind of stuff. It’s not cool. Don’t do it. If you think you can be lazy and ogle people, you’re not just going to get your butt kicked by yoga, but also get your butt kicked OUT of class!

By doing this, you’re violating a trust and disrupting a safe space that has been created for people who want to be there for yoga, community, whatever. You’re essentially preying on people’s vulnerability.

Plus it’s totally non-consensual. I can assure you that no one wants you to be staring at their butt, unless they’re there to show off, which is also a bad reason to be there.

Note: If you are there for yoga and really hit it off with someone, ask them out! There’s nothing wrong with it. If you’re scared of seeming creepy, just remember it’s best to do it in public, so maybe while you’re all rolling up your mats after class, or walking to your car. Also, accept “no” as an answer. Rejections happen.

5. You just don’t want to

Yes, I believe you can not do yoga because you just don’t want to. You could be the coolest, least creepy, non-show off, totally perfect health, and still not want to do yoga.

If it’s not for you, it’s not for you! I’m a pretty firm believer that there’s a type of yoga out there that just about anyone can enjoy, but you’ve clearly got better things to do!

 

Namaste!

Finding Happy – 24hr Complain Free Challenge

I’m looking into making series out of “Finding Happy”. Since so much of yoga is finding peace, relaxation, and happiness, I thought it might be a good idea to talk about what you can do to feel better. Obviously, I’m not qualified to diagnose or treat depression, anxiety, or any other emotional or mental health concerns, but I can offer help. 

It seems only right to start by telling you my experiences with going complaint free and what that even means. I’ve done it twice, actually. The first time was no complaining for 24 hours, and I felt so good that I kept going for 48 hours. The second time, I was complaint and comparison free. The first time I just wanted to try it and see how it made me feel, the second time I was going through serious depression and knew I needed to do something. I encourage you to try it too! In this pose, I’ll explain what it did for me, and why I think everyone should try it and how to go about doing it.

We might as well talk about both of the times I did it, so let’s start with the first. The first time I tried to go complaint free was over a year ago. I was learning to fly helicopters at the time, I had a great boyfriend, and I was taking classes at the local community college. I was pretty happy. I figured, why not try, I wanted to see what it does to me. I was really inspired to try this by Facebook posts I would see. They would be people complaining about silly things that seemed super small. 

Here are the rules:


    1) If I can fix it, I need to fix it
    2) If I can’t fix it, I need to accept it
    3) Stating a problem is not the same as complaining

There was a reason for each rule I established. I found it odd that people would decide to complain over fixing the problem, which is why I came up with rule #1. That rule was the easiest to follow.

#2 was a challenge. It is hard to accept that something just must be as it is, especially if it is a BIG something. That didn’t mean ignoring that something happened, but rather acknowledging that it happened and accepting I have no power over it.

Rule #3 was the tricky part. Stating, “I need to do the dishes.” is fine, there is a problem and I already had the solution, but if I sighed and said, “I need to do the dishes.” That’s definitely complaining. Not just a statement. I found it hard to find the fine line dividing the two. It was easy to get lost in justifications too. This rule was also important to me, in that it meant I had to face problems, I had no excuse to ignore them, even if it couldn’t be fixed. Brushing a problem under the rug can be just as bad  complaining about it nonstop.

If you’ve never tried doing something like this, there may be a chance that you say, “but I never complain! It can’t be so hard.” I’m sure many of you don’t, but you should try to analyze what you say before thinking that. I believed I complained very little, I thought this should be easy. In reality, the first few hours was insanely hard. (Let me just take a moment to COMPLAIN about those hours…grumble…)

So I quickly learned that, complaining seems to be something that we love to do. I was, in fact, addicted to complaining. There was some weird pleasure I got out of complaining, which seems strange since my nickname was “The Happy Rainbow”. There is a seemingly infinite amount of things to complain about. A stain on the carpet, dishes, being bored. Anything!

I quickly adopted what I like to call the “Oh Well” strategy. The “Oh Well” strategy is exactly what it seems like. The dog threw up on the carpet? Oh well. Your friend isn’t texting you back? Oh well. You really want to complain about not complaining? Oh well!!! I tried to say “oh well” out loud too, I found that saying it out loud made a bigger difference to me than simply thinking it. Now, this wasn’t an excuse to leave it, it was sort of a “shit happens” mantra. 

So I had managed to stop saying my complaints, but I was still thinking them, but by telling myself “Oh well” I was telling myself it mattered less. Eventually I could just look at a problem and shrug, I didn’t need to tell myself that it was fine. By the end of the day, I had stopped complaining almost entirely. I was refusing the complaints and replacing them with how to fix it, or accepting that it was okay to have imperfections in the world.

24 hours later, I felt great. I was looking at things that I didn’t want to happen and laughing about it. I would drop something and think, “oops!” smile and pick it up. I realized I felt so fantastic, and I challenged myself to go 24 more hours. Those were the easiest 24 hours of this whole thing. I stopped keeping track and making the extremely active effort after that, and the change carried on into the rest of my life. It even made me more productive.

For a while.

This is when my second attempt came, which was in July. I was married by then. There were a lot of things going wrong at the time. As I sunk deeper and deeper into a depression and felt myself disappearing, I remembered that I don’t suffer from chronic depression or anything like that, so I could do something. I NEEDED to do something. 

So I did the one thing I knew, but I made it bigger:

4) Do not compare people to other people, including myself.

I had found myself comparing two famous belly dancers, which I realized is unfair. They know each other, they’re friends, they’re good in their own ways. I had even compared my depression to that of someone who had written an article pretty much saying that I wasn’t depressed because it wasn’t what she was going through. (You can imagine how that made me feel.)

So I did it, and these were the hardest 48 hours. I started with 24 hours again, but I had done so poorly, I decided to go on for another 24 hours. I did better the second day. The “Oh Well” strategy helped, and I had tremendous support from my family and friends. I complained a lot, but I tried to take note of it, tell myself that it was okay, and let it go. Despite it all, it wasn’t enough, so I adopted a new strategy. “Let Go.” “Let Go” was much more active than “Oh Well”. It always involved stopping what I was doing, closing my eyes, taking at least one deep controlled breath, and telling myself to just “Let Go”.

By pushing myself to fix things and allowing myself to accept that feeling bad was okay, I came out feeling a bit better. It helped that I was able to control myself a little bit by just letting the problems go.

So out of all of this what did I learn? Why should you do it?


1) Complaining is addicting
Complaining seems cathartic. You just want to let it all out, but by doing that, you may end up letting it envelope you. You may let those negative thoughts and emotions tell you how you are feeling or thinking, when you can have some influence on that. I immediately knew that from the first time I tried this.

I was also forced to look at things from other perspectives. If I didn’t like how someone said something, I forced myself to think, “what should they have said?” Usually there was not much of a difference, and if there was, I thought about why they didn’t say it that way. This is something I’ve carried over to the rest of my life successfully. Sometimes you will find someone just being rude, but most of the time I was letting myself get hurt over nothing.

2) It is okay to complain sometimes
Sometimes it is okay to complain, though. It isn’t good to just keep it all inside. If there is something bothering you, don’t act like you can just let it go, because maybe you can’t. I learned that the first time around, but it was heavily reinforced the second time. I needed to talk to someone about what was happening, not just say “oh well”. If you need to talk about a problem. Do it. It’s okay to need a friend, family member, or anyone who will listen and help you through a problem.

3) Analyzing what you are about to say
If you think before you speak, it affects how you feel. Is that really worth complaining about it? Is it worth it to stress yourself further by yelling at the TV? Or should you just sigh and shrug it off? Picking what you say makes a difference.

It also makes a difference to the people around you. Teaching yourself to think analytically about everything you say will help you understand and pick the best words to express yourself clearly and reduce the risk of hurting someone else.

4) Think about what you just said
Should you have said that? It’s okay if you shouldn’t have. It’s an easy mistake to let something slip you didn’t mean to. So don’t beat yourself up, but recognize it was a mistake. It may also necessary to tell whoever you’re talking, “That’s not the best way to put it.” or “I’m sorry, that was a rude way to say that.”  Many people will let you try to say what you mean again, but try not to rely on this as an excuse to say anything.

5) You believe what you say
If you tell yourself something, you will believe it. Whether it’s about an object, another person, or yourself. There’s a practice some people do where every morning they tell themselves a list of things such as, “You are beautiful, you are kind, you are loved.” or something like that. It can be very effective. Doing this to everything in your life isn’t such a bad idea. The bump in the middle of the carpet isn’t “stupid”, it’s a funny harmless quirk. (If it’s not harmless, it should be called “Something that I need to fix”!)

6) What you say influences what you think and feel
On top of believing what you’re saying, you will also feel that way. If you describe everything in a negative way, it will all look negative, so you’ll feel bad. If something is just silly, there’s no reason to feel bad about it.

7) Take care of yourself
Above all else, if you don’t take the time to find what makes you happier, improves your thoughts, and how you understand how they work, you won’t be able to function. I’ve had friends tell me they just want to help someone else, but in all of that, they forget about themselves, and in turn, they can’t help the others. So whether you only want to help yourself, or are looking at a larger picture, you come first. There is no shame in self-love.

8) Look at yourself critically
By doing this, I was forced to look at myself critically. I was forced to understand everything I thought and felt. I made myself realize what I actually was thinking about people and things when I would complain. It made me realize I was putting myself in a situation where I felt worse than I needed to.

9) When all else fails, “Let Go”
Finally, When it all gets to be too much. Just let it go. Close your eyes, breath, and focus on yourself. Focus on telling yourself to just let it drift away. It isn’t worth it to analyze everything, control everything, and feel bad. This is kind of like counting to ten before reacting, but instead, you don’t have to react at all. You’re “pleading the fifth” to yourself and anyone else. No, it’s not easy, but sometimes it needs to be done. Take your time.

This could also be used for something you simply can’t handle right now. If it involves someone else, tell them you understand their concerns and you will address them, but right now you can’t.

Even if this isn’t for you, it is important to make positive changes in your life if you need to. Make sure you are taking care of yourself, whether that’s simply eating better, or taking 5 minutes to yourself this morning, or larger changes, like removing complaints from your life, or developing new habits. Some feel that indulgences and self-love are selfish, but it’s not. It’s wonderful. And as I always say,

Taking care of yourself is an act of yoga.
Namaste!

Finding Fakes – Avoiding online Health Hoaxes

I’m going to present this as a series of questions. Asking questions about the article/video/post (we’ll just say article for the sake of simplicity, but these rules apply to anything) you are reading is how you’ll be able to figure out if it should be trusted or not. Here, I present to you, a list of questions to ask before you believe what you read!

You can pick and choose questions depending on your willingness to trust this person. A lot of that may be based simply on the website you find the information. If you already trust them, chances are you don’t need to research every article.

What are you looking at? Who is an authority on that?
The only way to start figuring out what to even ask, is to know what you’re reading. We need to figure out what you’re looking at and who is an authority on that topic. For example, if you’re reading an article about dealing with tendonitis, that is a medical issue. The article should probably be written by a doctor or physical therapist. Fitness instructors can also help, and people who have dealt with tendonitis can as well. Someone who has little to no medical or fitness background, and little to no experience with tendonitis, probably shouldn’t be acting as an authority. Of course, if that person did their research properly, they may be of great help, but check out other articles or their references before trusting them.
These rules apply to articles about dieting, fitness, health, and even skin care. Just about any topic has experts, and those experts are who you should listen to.

What does the title even mean?
Does the title even make sense? They may better define what they’re talking about in the article, but a confusing title can be a red flag. Plus, if you don’t understand what the title is for, do you really need it? There’s nothing wrong with curiosity and wanting to check these things out, though! Even if they explain what they mean in the article, look it up on your own. (This is a reoccurring theme throughout this post. Do your own research!)

Check their certificate/degree.
Okay, I didn’t phrase this as a question. There are a few parts to this one though.

  • Do they even have a certificate or degree?
  • Is it from a place you can trust?
  • Is it approved by the correct place?

Enthusiasts can be great and have a wealth of information, but they aren’t always good to trust. I generally don’t trust an enthusiast only because they don’t have the training a fitness trainer or physician would have. If they’re my friend, I might trust them more, because they’re more likely to understand me and my body, but a stranger? Usually not.
People can also claim to be fitness instructors, when they really aren’t. It isn’t required by law to have a Yoga certification to teach Yoga. Most studios require it, but who is this person on the internet?

Next, now that we know they have a certificate, we should probably know where it’s from. People who are involved in medical fields, like doctors and physical therapists, go through a lot to get their certificates and they usually have them clearly presented. Because of this, we’re going to focus on fitness instructors more.
Fitness instructors can be certified from anywhere. Some even hold degrees in physical therapy, anatomy, or kinesiology. These instructors are fantastic resources, especially if you are dealing with injuries or illness. Other fitness instructors are also often well equipped to deal with the same things, but not all of them are. Some programs are notorious for being insanely easy to be certified in AND for being bad for your body.

For Yoga, we have the Yoga Alliance. It isn’t a government body, but they look over curriculum of Yoga schools, and approve it. Tons of organizations have been approved, so there’s no excuse to not being properly certified. There’s no excuse when someone else’s well-being is on the line. I got my certificate from Aura Wellness Center. They’re approved by Yoga Alliance. Because of this, I can also become a Register Yoga Teacher. If you see someone with “RYT-200”, “RYT-500” or something like either of those. That means they’ve registered as a Yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance. Of course, that’s not required. It’s just more proof that your program was super real.
That also being said, programs not approved aren’t necessarily bad. I would just question why it isn’t approved.