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

Braces | A Blessing and A Curse

Whoops, well it’s safe to say I am extraordinarily bad at blogging. Some of that has to do with changes that have been going on with the channel. Since I only write posts about the videos that are talks, not routines, and those are now only going up every other week (ish), I may be writing less posts. I may also just update you on other things in my life as well. Would you like that?

Anyway, we have something serious to talk about. Braces. Not the kind for straightening your teeth, though those probably would get a similar blog title, but the kind for your joints. Like a knee brace! I am a firm believer that we overuse braces on our joints, or rely too much on them. Let me tell you why!

First of, if your doctor has told you to wear a brace, WEAR IT. There are reasons not to wear braces, but there are also a lot of reasons TO wear braces. So, let me reiterate, if you have been told to wear a brace by your doctor, wear that brace.

If your doctor never told you to wear a braces, then this is for you. We experience pain, a brace relieves it, whatever. Something like that. It’s great! Or is it?

So what a braces does is hold your joint in place and support it. It does what the muscles in that joint are supposed to be doing. That’s where the problems also happen though. While a brace can help your muscles work, your muscles can also atrophy because they’re not being used as much, your body starts to rely on the brace, not your muscles. This could eventually lead you to being dependent on a brace in fact.

You know when someone breaks their arm, then they get their cast taken off a long time after and their arm is smaller than it was before? That’s the same thing, except in a cast there’s even less use of the muscles, so you lose strength faster.

This is where it turns into a viscous cycle. A lot of injuries are caused because of weak muscles, so if you’ve injured your knee, your muscles might already be weak. Now, you’ve put a brace on, which may weaken the muscles further while eliminating your pain. What happens when you take the brace off? You’ll probably start hurting again or hurt yourself again.

If a brace is helping you, there’s nothing wrong with wearing one, but it’s important to continue strengthening that joint. That’s why most doctor’s will give you a brace and tell you to go to physical therapy.

So generally, try not to use a brace too much. I will wear mine only when my knees and hips super hurt, and that will be for one or two days, then not for weeks. Obviously if you’re in a lot of pain, wear it! If you’re struggling, wear it! It’s a lot easier to heal if you’re not in pain. Plus, you may lose muscle, but once your pain is gone, you can also slowly work to get the strength back. Just don’t abuse a brace.

If you think you need a brace, talk to your doctor or get a second opinion. Also, consider physical therapy or see if your doctor recommends anything like yoga to help you heal.

Namaste!

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.

 

The Internet’s Yoga Culture

Since we’re on a bit of a slowdown with the videos, I’ve decided to throw in an extra blog post. Hopefully this will help hold everyone over and pick at your brain a little. I never really planned on turning this into a video, but if people would like me to, I can! For now, we’re going to settle with this being a blog post on its own.

Let’s talk about the problems surrounding Pinterest and Instagram (and a lot of websites in general), and their yoga culture. I’m going to preface this by saying that I am not telling anyone there’s something wrong with sharing your yoga practice. It’s fine if you want to take a picture in a bikini on the beach of a pose you’ve mastered. Heck, you probably even deserve it! I’m not saying anyone isn’t a “real” yogi. It’s just a little bit of an exclusive club that’s been created, which we need to talk about. I love all of you and I think it’s great you want to share your practice/pose/pictures/progress!

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From Take Back Your Health Conference – Yoga on Flickr

 

Before I started saying anything, I needed to do research. So I scrolled through Instagram on a little mission to see where different groups of people were represented (such as men, curvy people people, and non-white people). I looked at the top 9 pictures that Instagram had under the tag “Yoga”. I didn’t bother with their recent posts with the same tag, since it was approximately 75% quotes, 10% selfies, and 15% random unrelated exercises.

One of the pictures I found on Instagram wasn’t even yoga, it looked like CrossFit, another was a picture of two men just standing there and all you saw was their butts, and yet another was just 4 women talking holding yoga mats. That picture with the 4 women, which is clearly an advertisement, was the only picture with a non-white person in it out of the 9 top pictures. So ignoring those 3 posts, which have almost nothing to do with yoga, I was left with 6. It did make me pretty happy to see that 2 picture were of men doing yoga. And the other 4 had a pretty diverse looking group of women, even if they all appeared to be white. (I’ll give you a D+, you’re almost passing, but you’re still leaving out a lot, Instagram.)

Pinterest is ever changing, but we might as well look at the first 9 posts on there too when you search “Yoga”. Okay, so I looked at more than 9 posts. I was really disappointed. If I had seen more than 9 posts on Instagram, I’m almost positive I would have seen more diversity. Pinterest was really just thin white women.
I scrolled for a while and I only saw a few posts with people who weren’t white or women. And yes, there was someone doing yoga on the beach in front of a sunset. To cut Pinterest a little slack, if you want to even begin to find things you like, you need to be specific. If you look up things like “curvy yoga”, you can find posts and boards which center around not being thin! I love it! It also isn’t just a bunch of weight-loss routines, there genuinely were mostly pictures of women if all sorts of body types getting their Yoga on. Some tags, like “fat yoga” produce mostly weight-loss posts, though. So be careful in your search. However, curvy Yoga is still Yoga. So in reality, it should exist under the tag “Yoga”.

Long story short, we have a problem. A lot of people do yoga, and not all of them are thin, not all of them are white, and not all of them are women.

We have a tendency to exclude people who are not white, thin, or female. We also sometimes ignore people who can’t always afford to do all this fancy stuff and take expensive classes. They don’t have the time and/or money to spend on yoga and a yoga “lifestyle”. People who are interested in something, often get scared to try when they don’t see people like them participating.

It also creates a sort of superficial culture around Yoga. We begin to believe that we can’t do a pose right, or look right, because our bodies don’t look the same as someone else. At the end of the day, you should be doing Yoga for your own reasons and you shouldn’t feel like you need to compare yourself. In reality, Yoga is really possible for anyone! And you can rock a Dancer’s Pose if you’re thin or curvy or somewhere in between.

In addition to all sorts of ethnicities, genders, and body types practicing yoga, people of varying ages, with disabilities, and illnesses can also all practice yoga. There are wonderful programs out there for Yoga in wheelchairs or for people missing limbs. Yoga is also beginning to be considered a very real treatment for PTSD. Children are being taught yoga to help with ADD, ADHD, and Autism. We have cultivated a very diverse and wonderful community in which we are able to share all our experiences and struggles together. We have different goals, but are using the same method to get to them. This diverse community is what helps make people comfortable to experience Yoga for the first time. Rather than saying, “I’m not flexible, it’s not for me”, people understand that there is much more to Yoga.
One of my favorite things about Yoga is the amazing community we have, and I think it’s important that we encourage it to grow and make as many people as possible feel comfortable.

There are fantastic communities online, and you can find really good inspiration and routines on these sites as well. Don’t stop enjoying the posts on Instagram or Pinterest, but help the community grow! There’s nothing wrong with enjoying these pictures, but when you run into a curvy non-white lady practicing yoga, maybe show her a little love. Encourage diversity in a community! After all, even if we all looked the same, our joints and muscles would still work differently. So we might as well promote people who look a little different on the outside too. Anyone can do Yoga, or partake in some aspect of Yoga, so let’s show the world how vibrant and amazing our community really is!

 

Interested in finding more inclusive people to follow? Check out:

Biggalyoga on Instagram. She’s amazingly talented and so strong. She’s also extremely honest with herself and her community. That’s an Instagram that’s all about self love. She also has her own website.

For a body positive blog look at, Body Positive Yoga. This website also talks about modification for bigger bodies. Modifications like these can be so important, and thin instructors may not understand them! So check them out and spread the word of modifications!

Mic posted this article about the sweaty side of Yoga. Any yogi knows it isn’t always graceful, and now there’s a book about it! (Or at least the Kickstarter hit its goal.)

Check out this article about Queer and Trans Yoga! The whole website is wonderful and about all sorts of things, but I want to include my LGBTQIA+ friends!

My Yoga board on Pintrest! I try super hard to be inclusive of all sorts of people. It isn’t always easy though. Send me a picture of you doing yoga atyogicamnesiac@gmail.com and I might put it up! Tell me if there’s anything you’d like me to add in the description.
There are so many Yogi’s out there who are inclusive of all sorts of different people, These are just a few examples, but if you look around, you’ll find WAY more!

Namaste

 

Yoga on a Budget

We’re talking about whether you have no money or very little money to spend on doing Yoga. Doing Yoga on a tight budget is 100% possible. It isn’t just for those who have a lot of disposable income!

No, you don’t need to worry about all these brand names. I know we have a lot associated with Yoga, but most of them aren’t necessary at all. And often times, they aren’t actually better! So let’s get started

First things first, mats. If you can afford to go to a class, they usually have extra mats for people who forget or don’t have one. They’re there for you to use. While many studios ask that you clean off the mats after you use them, it’s not so bad if you don’t have to invest in your own.
I find that it’s pretty important to invest in a good mat. Cheap mats can start falling apart, slide, or be super flat. Instead of buying a cheap mat you’ll have to replace there are a few options you can use at home.

  • A towel: A lot of the well practiced Yogis in India use something simple like a towel, in fact. It offers a barrier between you and the floor. Keep in mind they can slide, since they don’t have grip like a mat would. Be careful if you’re using it on wood floors, a towel is probably best on carpet or grass! (Bonus, a towel is much easier to wash than a mat too, so why not use it instead of a mat on grass or surfaces like that?)
  • A blanket: This is pretty similar to a towel, just larger. You’ll have more room to work with too! I suggest the same precautions as a towel and similar uses.
  • An area rug: If you have an area rug already, this can be a pretty great substitute. Most area rugs are made so they don’t slip, but they also sell rug pads to help your rug from slipping. (I highly suggest one of these if you have a rug that doesn’t stick to the floor for everyday life.) An area rug is also nice if you only have tile or a floor that you really don’t want to be walking or sitting on. You can still roll out a mat on top of it as well.
  • Nothing: You can also do Yoga on the floor. If it’s safe and comfortable for you, there’s not reason you can’t do this. Just whip our the vacuum or broom first to be safe.

Props can be super pricey too, and most of the time, people don’t use them at home to do Yoga. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love using them when I can, but it’s not always necessary.

  • Blocks: Blocks are great, they have all sorts of uses, but they’re not always cheap. Plus there are so many kinds, it’s best to try out as many as you can before buying one. In the mean time, I recommend a book. You can use them to sit on or place your hand on for support. Please don’t use a library book though!
  • Blankets: There’s really no alternative here, and I hope you already have one of these lying around! The most common style I see in people’s houses specifically for Yoga is a Traditional Mexican Blanket, but you by no means need a specific type of blanket. If none of your blankets work, you can also use a towel, especially if you just need to fold it a few times to sit on the edge, or to cover that book you’re sitting on.
  • Bolsters: I don’t even own one of these. I just use pillows and blankets instead. I found a whole list of uses for body pillows too! Many pillows or cushions can work, you just have to find what works for you. It’s also nice because pillows give you more wiggle room and option to change. Sometimes I stack them and use them.
  • Straps: Straps tend not to be too expensive, so if you really want one and you have a couple extra bucks you can order one! Like everything else though, it’s probably not necessary. If you have a normal belt for keeping your pants up, you can use that, I’d suggest a cloth one. They’re often even made out the same material. Keep in mind you want it to be comfortable when you hold it. Anything works really though, a shirt that doesn’t stretch too much, and pair of jeans… a towel (what a multi-tool!)

Once you have the tools, we need to find a place to practice! All you really need is enough space to move around, and we don’t move too far in Yoga. This could be at the foot of your bed, or maybe you’ll need to move a table out of the way so you can practice. Here are some suggestions to spruce up the place a little so you get that “Yoga feel”.

  • Lighting: Adjust the lights as you see fit. This may mean leaving the light off in one room and turning it off in the neighboring room. It would be great if we all had dimmers in our house, but that’s often not the case. Play around with it, but try not to let it get too dark, it’s probably best you can still see.
  • Candles: If you’re struggling with lighting, or just like candles, they can really set a calm mood. If you can spend a few dollars, they can be super cheap in so many places. Plus they come in all sorts of sizes, scents, and colors! A candle can also give you a point to look at if you choose to meditate.  (Fun Fact: The point you look at is often called a Drishti. The act of gazing at a point is called Trataka.)
  • Plants: If you have one, move it into the room you’ll be practicing in! Plants can also be super cheap too, and you can buy them at your local drug store sometimes.

So all this is great, but what if you want to take a class? Yoga alone can be nice, but it’s also pretty nice to have an instructor.

  • Videos/Blogs: YouTube is your friend. Not only are these classes free, but by watching the ads, liking the videos, commenting and subscribing, you’re still helping out the teacher! I’m totally happy to interact in the comments section as well. There are tons of blogs out there dedicated to yoga too, and the communities online can be so fantastic. Just because it’s not in person, doesn’t mean there isn’t the chance of creating a relationship between different people!
  • Colleges/Universities: If you’re a student, then check out your classes and see if a yoga class is offered. (Keep in mind it can effect your grades, not that they’ll fail you.) If you’re not in school, you can still enroll in your local community college! This also gives you freedom not to worry about your grades, just let your instructor know what’s up if you don’t plan on being there consistently. Plus, some teachers are willing to fail students who won’t be effected so that they can re-enroll in the course. (Or they allow for students to continue coming even if you aren’t enrolled.)
  • Drop-ins: Find a studio you like with a reasonable drop-in rate. Obviously this isn’t smart to do all the time, and some studios may have higher drop in fees, but some places are only $5, and if you only plan on going once in a blue moon, it’s not a bad idea! (Especially  compared to buying 200 classes for $150, but they all expire next month…)
  • Free in person classes: No, I’m not kidding. They do exist! I’ve seen Yoga in a library before as part of a summer program, but a lot of places like museums and or parks may offer free classes. Just because they’re free doesn’t mean they’re lower quality either!
  • Practice with friends: If you and your friends enjoy Yoga, you can do it together. Perhaps you can also come up with a routine together, which you all enjoy.
  • Instructor friends: This is kind of hit or miss. Just because your friend is an instructor, doesn’t mean they can give you free classes, they need to make a living. If they do offer, it’s still a good idea to offer to buy them dinner or something too. They may be willing to offer you a discounted price though, or let you and a friend split the cost. That being said, private instruction can be pretty pricey.
    • If an instructor friend is trying to create a new routine they’ve never taught to students, it’s not a bad idea to offer your services as a test run too! They might be really happy to have someone to practice on. I know I would be.

Hopefully those tips helped, but remember, when all else fails, being nude in the middle of a forest is totally fine. For Yoga at least, perhaps not with the law…

Namaste

It’s Not Just for Beginners – Tadasana and Alignment

Note: I’m really sorry this is coming out late. Due to the holidays (my favorite excuse) I’m slowing down a little bit. Come January we’ll be back to a normal schedule!

You say, “But Nisha, I am an experienced Yogi and have a perfect understanding of Tadasana and alignment. Why should I read this?” To that I say, the best way to ensure you have your practice down and are doing things safely, is to revisit the basics. Practicing doing things which you already know, only reinforces those good habits. It makes it second nature. If you stop and forget to check yourself, you may find yourself getting loosing a little bit that greatness you had created as a beginner. This also can go on to effect how you stand and carry yourself outside of your practice. Having proper alignment during practice is great, but it can’t undo the harm of poor posture in everyday life!

For my beginner friends, the basic poses really are the building blocks. Once you figure out basic alignment, and poses like Tadasana, you will find that other poses seem to make sense. If you know how to stand in Tadasana, you can figure out how to do Tree! The basics are you friend, so while you wan to have fun when you practice yoga, don’t forget to try and perfect even the simplest pose.

This post is perfect for me, I’ve been finding myself letting my feet turn out and slouching more lately. I needed this reminder to check myself, so I decided to share it with all of you! There’s a lot of writing in this too, but don’t be afraid! While I attempt to explain as much of this pose as I can, 90% of this should come naturally. If you stand regularly, and aren’t falling over, then you’re most of the way to Tadasana!

Let’s start down at our feet and work our way up. One thing to notice is, as we go through this pose and work our way up, your body will magically stack your next body part properly most of the time. So your knees and hips will be mostly correct, if your feet are correct.

You want your feet to be hip width apart. There’s a common misconception that this means your feet will be super wide apart if you have wide hips. This has to do with your bones, not the outer curves of your body. Think of the placement of your femur, that large bone that runs straight down the middle of your upper leg. That bone should be more or less vertical.
Some instructors say keep your feet together, I don’t understand this. While this should not cause any harm to your body, it seems odd. I also tend to feel pretty unstable with my feet together. If I’m ever in a class and an instructor says to do this, I usually keep a little bit of space between my feet. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with keeping your feet together. I just don’t do it.

We also talk a lot about the 4 corners of your feet. This is to help figure out where you want your weight to be. The 4 areas are:

  1. The large pad just below your big toe
  2. The pad below your little toe
  3. The outer edge of your heel
  4. The inner edge of your heel

You’ll notice that the 1 and 2 are connected, and 3 and 4 are connected. Really what you’re trying to avoid with this is letting the natural arch of your foot take your weight. Rolling in on the arches of your feet can cause some damage to your joints. The converse is true as well if you always roll your feet outward. (Perhaps I’ll write about this another day.)
Note: You can check if you have a natural tendency to roll your feet in or out by checking out the soles of your shoe. If one side is more word down than the other, you may have the habit of pushing too much weight on the inside or outside of your feet.

Before we move up, check your toes. I recommend doing this periodically anyway. Lift them off the mat. Relax them. Avoid gripping the mat with your toes or curling them! Now keep your feet parallel, as if on railroad tracks!

Let’s briefly discuss our ankles. If your weight is all properly distributed on your feet, then your ankles should actually be fine. If you’re not sure if your feet are right, take a look at your ankles. It should look like your ankles are coming straight out of your feet. You don’t want your ankles bending in or out. (This may be hard to see on yourself, but it doesn’t hurt to know!)

On to the knees! This is hard to explain without just showing you in person what I mean, but darn it, I will do my best. Try not to lock your knees. This means pushing your knees back straight where they just stop bending any farther. For some people, this also involves hyper-extending your knees. If your knees are curving backward, you’ve gone too far! This will take some playing around with, but it may also help to think about staying soft in your knees. You’re not bending them, but they’re not completely locked either. Play around with this on your own. (It may also help to talk to me or any other instructor about this to help you find out where that is.)
Note: If you stand with your knees locked for too long, you can over-stretch ligaments, and even pass out eventually. Sounds like a good habit to break now, doesn’t it?

Next stop: the pelvis. This is another one of those moments where you’ll have to do a little self discovery and find what works for you. I also know that tucking and tilting can be really confusing for some people, so I promise to make a video about those terms, what they mean, and how to do them. Tilting your pelvis forward and arching your lower back can put a lot of strain on your back. While I’ve never seen someone do this, tucking your pelvis too far and dropping your tailbone to completely straighten the natural curve of your low back isn’t so good either. If you’re totally confused, just think about what you would normally do when you stand up straight. Think about what your lower back is doing. Is it too curved? Is it too straight? Chances are, you’re fine. unless your low back is hurting or you’ve been told before that your alignment is whack, don’t worry!

For your upper back and shoulders, I had a teacher once who taught me this neat little trick. He would say that you do your cactus arms, where you bring them straight out like a T, then bend your elbows to 90 degree angles and keep your palms facing forward. Now bring your arms black slight and draw your hands down so they’re near your sides. Almost like you would have your arms if you were just standing with your hands relaxed at your sides. One key difference is that your upper arms may feel as though they’re turning out or forward a little, while your lower arms and palms can relax and face in toward your body. I find that my hands naturally hover a couple inches away from my sides when I do this properly. This is also a good way to stand up straight.

Keep in mind, you don’t need to thrust your chest forward. You sternum can be in a relaxed neutral position. (I know, that’s super cryptic.) Again, you have to play with it and find what works best for you. In my video I demonstrate what I mean.

Your neck! This is going to be hard to describe without showing you. I highly recommend checking out the video for this tip. Another teacher liked to say, imagine holding a big juicy grapefruit between your chin and chest. You’ll have space there, but you’ll need to hold it a little bit right? So you’ll tuck your chin ever so slightly in this pose. It may help to think of the vertebrae in the back of your neck as being straight.

Finally, we’re at your head. Just relax your face here. There’s nothing you need to do with your face, so concentrate on letting everything relax. Let your jaw relax, your scalp, your cheeks. Literally everything.

You are now in Tadasana! Like I said at the beginning, poses build on more basic poses, so once you’ve got the alignment down for one, they rest will come much easier!

Namaste

Calming your mind – Dealing With Constantly Thinking

Hmm… I probably could have picked a better title for this. Thinking is good, but it’s also bad. Thinking about things can help you sort those things out, come to a better understanding, or just to learn more. But when it comes time to relax and not think anymore, our brains seem to love to take this “down time” as an opportunity to run rampant. In today’s post, we explore how to deal with having trouble clearing our minds during out practice. You can probably also apply this to trying to fall asleep at night too or any other situation. Voilà!

Like any aspect of Yoga, clearing your mind is something that needs to be worked on. If you stop practicing, you may even find that you’ve reverted to having an overly cluttered mind when it isn’t beneficial to you. I absolutely struggle with this, I stop doing yoga, and my hamstrings tighten up, my injuries act up, and my mind starts racing! You have to go back through the process of getting back into Yoga. (Check out my video on getting back on the mat!) This process also means we’re back to loosening the hamstrings, working out the stiffness and kinks, and clearing our minds!

Some people just have lists of things to do, and being busy isn’t bad. However, if it starts bogging down your mind and taking up so much space that you can’t relax, maybe it’s time to find a solution. I’m not going to tell you that you need to cut back. I’ve known people who thrive on busy lives, where every minute is scheduled! It might be something to consider, but it isn’t necessarily your only option.
What I will suggest though, is to create a “To Do” list, or even a worry list. It may help to write down things that need to be done, or what is on your mind that you need to work on. This way, you can go into your practice knowing that you have it safely written down and don’t have to worry about forgetting in class. This is only a before class fix though. Unless you use Yoga for brainstorming, I don’t suggest getting into the habit of stopping your practice to write. (If it’s super important, what can you do though?)

It’s also important to remember that there is nothing wrong with random thoughts floating through your head when you’re trying to relax. You see them, they’re there, then let them go. Don’t fret over trying to get it out of your head, just come back to yourself. Smile it off, take a deep breath, and let go.

Letting go isn’t so easy though, this is a large reason why some may struggle with stationary, seated meditation. This is also why most types of meditation are done by focusing on something. If you aren’t practicing seated meditation, and are just struggling with thoughts in your Downward Facing Dog, a lot of these types can still help you.
While in a pose, you can concentrate on that pose, think about where your fingers are, what they are doing. Think about your toes, calves, legs, spine, ribs, head, and your body as a whole. By the time you’ve done all this, there’s a good chance you’re moving onto the next move. A lot of Yoga is about being in the moment, so it’s fine if you’re thinking, so long as it’s in the moment.

If you’re in a pose where your body scan has checked out, and you’re still waiting (probably savasana), concentrate on your breaths and making them longer and deeper. you can do counted breaths (i.e. 4 count inhale, 1 count pause, 4 count exhale. We’ll talk about counted breathing another time.) On top of giving you something to think about, breathing exercises help to calm your mind and nervous system!

Other “meditative” options could be repeating a mantra out loud or in your head, focusing on an object, or even music. While some people may tell you that music isn’t good for meditation, you should do what you find helps. I recommend staying away from music with lyrics, but I have been known to cheat.