For most people, summertime often involves a lot of travel and outdoor activities. It’s easy to neglect our fitness routine and healthy diet when we are visiting new places. The practice of yoga can help us maintain good habits while traveling and it can even enhance our enjoyment of our vacation.
How does yoga do this?
Yoga is a mind-body discipline that improves our physical, mental and emotional well-being. The physical postures develop our strength, flexibility and balance. Breathing and meditation techniques aid in relaxation and stress relief. An intelligent yoga practice keeps us calm, focused and emotionally balanced even in unfamiliar or difficult situations.
On a practical level, the strength and flexibility you gain from yoga makes the physical aspect of traveling much easier. You can carry your own luggage at airports, take long walking tours in museums and historical sites, and participate in physically demanding activities. Yoga teaches you how to move and stretch your body properly so you can combat the negative effects of long hours of sitting in cars or airplanes.
Unexpected events are sure to happen when we go on holiday. Delayed flights, language barriers, and unfamiliar surroundings all contribute to the stress of traveling. In yoga, we develop skills that help us deal with challenges and disappointments. You know how to take a break and breathe deeply for a few moments so you can calm down and respond to the situation with more clarity. Your yoga practice also helps you get into a more relaxed state so you can sleep better and make good food choices.
Most of all, yoga teaches us how to be present and how to be grateful. Before the vacation, we spend a lot of time and energy anticipating the trip. When we’re actually on the trip, however, we’re too busy either taking pictures or thinking of home to fully appreciate what’s happening in the here and now. Yoga gives us the gift of presence and gratitude so we can fully immerse ourselves in the experience of traveling.
These are some of the wonderful benefits of yoga. Taking the time to practice, even for just a few minutes, can make a big difference in keeping us happy and healthy during our summer vacation.
Note: I wrote this article for the Front Door Fitness website where it was first published.
The first thing you see on the home page of my website is my mission statement. In one sentence, I tried to capture 3 things:
Intention – why I teach yoga
Method – how I achieve my intention
Benefit – what I want my students to experience
“My mission is to help students nurture their body, mind, and spirit by clearly and compassionately guiding them through a yoga practice that is skillful, intelligent, and enjoyable.”
It took a lot of time and effort to come up with this! I had to reflect on the last six years of teaching and distill all my experience into one statement that can clearly express who I am as a yoga teacher. My style is not for everyone. I needed to define my yoga offering so students can decide if I am the right teacher for them or not. More importantly, this was an exercise in self-knowledge and self-evaluation. I needed the clarity for myself. I had to put into words why I teach yoga in the first place and how I intend to share this practice to benefit others.
So, let’s break it down:
Intention – “…to help students nurture their body, mind, and spirit…”
I teach yoga because I want others to experience the gift that my yoga practice has given me – SELF-CARE. In a previous article, I wrote about how yoga taught me the importance of self-care and made me see my tendencies towards over-giving and self-neglect. “You can’t pour from an empty cup,” has been a helpful reminder to me that I need to take care of myself first before I can serve others. My yoga practice is my way of filling up that cup so I have something of value to offer others. This self-nourishment is what I want for my students when they’re on their yoga mat.
Method – “…by clearly and compassionately guiding them…”
Being a clear and compassionate guide means expressing myself in a way that makes students feel safe, confident and accepted. I do my best to give precise instructions and effective cues. In my classes, all levels are welcome and I provide many options for poses to allow students to work at their own pace. I encourage people to let go of competitiveness and harsh judgment as they breathe and move mindfully. There is no need to force ourselves into shapes that are not right for us. In yoga, we cultivate kindness to ourselves and honesty about what we need in the moment.
Benefit –“…a yoga practice that is skillful, intelligent, and enjoyable…”
Most people come to yoga to take a break from mental activity but the practice can also be a place of learning and discovery. I want my students to master skills that will enable them to practice for a long time while staying free of pain and injury. I also want them to learn beneficial techniques for relaxation and stress relief. Intelligent exploration in yoga means having a practice that is not only physically sound but is also conducive to emotional and psychological growth. Most of all, I want my students to have fun! I want them to look forward to their time on their mat. Your yoga can be a way of expressing creativity and playfulness. Enjoying your practice is also about being comfortable in your own skin and being grateful for everything your body is able to do.
This is my mission. If you teach yoga or any other mind-body discipline, I highly recommend writing down your mission statement. This exercise will give you clear direction as you navigate life as a teacher in a constantly shifting yoga landscape. The words in my statement might change as my own personal life evolves, but one thing will stay the same – I will continue to share the wonderful practice of yoga with as many people as possible for as long as I can.
Curious about yoga but intimidated to try a class? You’re not alone. Online articles and images sometimes create the wrong impression that yoga is only for young people who are fit and flexible. Rest assured that yoga is for everybody – EVERY BODY. There is a right style, class, and teacher for everyone. I’ve been teaching for 6 years and I’ve seen a lot of brand new yoga students in my classes. Here are my suggestions to help beginners have the best experience possible. Read on for my tips on surviving (and enjoying!) your first yoga class.
Do your research.Visit the websites of yoga studios in your area and read the class descriptions. It’s okay to call the studio to ask which classes they recommend for you. If possible, go to a class that is designed specifically for beginners. This way, you can learn the poses in a non-intimidating way. Feel free to ask the teacher questions before or after class. It is their job to help you and make sure you practice safely and effectively.
Don’t hide in the back!I often see new students sheepishly make their way to the farthest corners of the room, as if that makes them invisible. Hey, we won’t bite. 🙂 It’s much better to position yourself where you can see and hear the teacher clearly. You’re paying for the class so you might as well get the most out of it. When you buy movie tickets, you want to get the best seats, right? I understand beginners often feel self-conscious and try to be as inconspicuous as possible by placing their mats in the back row. Believe me, other students are too busy with their own practice to spy on you. 🙂
Arrive early.Don’t underestimate the importance of having an extra 10-15 minutes to settle into a new place. If it’s your first time at the studio, they will need you to fill out some forms and perhaps give you a short tour or orientation. This will help you feel more comfortable in the space and give you an opportunity to ask questions and relax before class starts.
Come prepared.Wear comfortable clothing you can move and stretch in. Yoga is done barefoot so don’t worry about shoes. Bring your own yoga mat, towel, and water. If you’re not sure what items you need, call the studio ahead of time to find out if they rent or sell yoga items. I am of the opinion that your yoga mat can make or break your first yoga class experience! Please do your research on the types of mats out there. Choose a mat with good traction to help prevent or minimize slipping in poses. If you’re like me and you tend to sweat a lot, a yoga towel might be necessary even if your mat has good grip. You can check out my reviews of some yoga mats and towels if you need more information. Trust me, knowing these seemingly unimportant details will save you from unnecessary suffering. 🙂
Have a BEGINNER’S MIND – This is my most important tip. Be open to learning. Be okay with making mistakes. You need a positive attitude and a sense of adventure as you step into your first yoga class. A sense of humor helps too! Remember that you are not there to perform, achieve, or compete. You’re there to discover the practice and nurture yourself.
Sometimes, no matter how prepared you are, things don’t work out. Maybe you stumble into an advanced power yoga class and are unable to keep up. Perhaps the teacher’s style or the class vibe simply doesn’t resonate with you. I encourage you to continue trying other classes and instructors until you find a good fit. This is all part of the process. Eventually you will have a yoga community of teachers and fellow students who will support you in your journey.
It’s my first Mother’s Day today. I don’t have much to say except that I’m so GRATEFUL. I’m grateful that I was raised by a wonderful Mom who showed me what it means to love unconditionally. My three brothers and I are so lucky to have her. I’m also thankful for my mother in law. Not only is she a great mom, she’s also a super fun grandma!
Most of all, I’m filled with gratitude for our ridiculously adorable 4-month old baby boy. Dave and I went through so much to have him. We struggled for years to conceive, suffered through several miscarriages, and endured a ton of fertility treatments. I would gladly go through it again. It was all worth it. Now we have this little bundle of joy and we love him more than we could’ve ever imagined was possible. Kieran, I’m so blessed to be your Mom.
Happy Mother’s Day to all you mommies out there. 🙂
As a yoga teacher, I live in yoga clothes. I teach classes, film videos, run errands, and do almost everything else wearing capri leggings and tank tops. I’m currently 14 weeks post-baby and working to shed some extra pregnancy weight so I haven’t bought any new outfits in the last year. When YogaClub reached out to me about trying their yoga clothing subscription box, I jumped at the opportunity to find some quality gear that I can feel good in as a new momma!
READ the full review below or WATCH my unboxing/review/try-on video (9 minutes)
WHAT IS IT?
YogaClub is a monthly subscription box for yoga gear. It’s like having an online personal shopper. They handpick workout clothes for you based on your style and preferences then ship the box to you every month. What makes it special is you get these name brand yoga apparel for a fraction of the retail price!
There are 3 packages to choose from:
The Chakra – $45/month ($100 retail value) The Karma – $69/month($140 retail value) The Guru – $79/month ($160 retail value) – This is what I got!
HOW DOES IT WORK?
After setting up your account, you pick one of the 3 packages. You answer their Style Quiz to let them what your preferences are for styles, patterns, colors, and size. They will then “curate” your box and ship it to you. If there is anything that doesn’t work for you, you can exchange it. You may also pause or cancel your membership anytime.
WHAT’S IN MY BOX?
My box isTHEGURU which costs $79 and contains 3 premium items. If you’ve been watching my yoga videos, you know I tend to stick to solid/neutral colors and simple patterns for my leggings and tops. Every now and then, I’ll wear something in a bright color or with a fun print. Here are the 3 pieces I received:
Electric Yoga – Faded Legging in Gray (Medium) – $88 retail price
Teeki – Rainbow Priestess Hot Pant in Coffee (Medium) – $72 retail price
Satva – Kumari Cowl Sweater in Black (Small) – $64 retail price
I must say that you do get amazing value with this package. The retail price of the Electric Yogaleggings alone ($88) is greater than that of the entire box of 3 items ($79)! To be completely honest, I think the individual pieces are too expensive and I normally would not purchase these unless they were on sale. With this package, each product ends up being under $30 and that is a significant discount.
Satva – Kumari Cowl Sweater in Black (Small)
The tag says it is made from organic cotton and the company promotes non-GMO toxin-free production. I love cowl neck sweaters! This is lovely and fits beautifully on the neckline. The style is more loose and flowy which would be perfect for layering in the fall and winter. (Note: I live in the Midwest) The soft material does not itch, unlike other thick sweaters. I also like the simple button details on both sides. This can even work for maternity wear (here’s hoping for baby #2 next year! 🙂
Electric Yoga– Faded Legging in Gray (Medium)
Tag says it is made of 55% nylon, 33% polyester, 12% spandex. The fabric feels very stretchy yet surprisingly durable. It is heavy enough to wear during the spring and fall but it feels too warm for me in the summer. Even though the material is slightly thicker than what I’m used to for yoga pants, it is still very comfortable. I enjoy teaching and practicing in these. You can not see through the pants, which is a problem for other leggings and tights. It does fit very snugly on the thighs, hips, and crotch area. It’s not an issue for me but it might be for others who prefer less revealing clothes. The design is simple but not boring. I appreciate the simple detailed stitching/pattern on the side of the leg and the “ombre” effect of the black and gray colors.
Teeki– Rainbow Priestess Hot Pant in Coffee (Medium)
The tag says the pant is made in the USA and made mostly from recycled plastic bottles in California. This is probably my favorite of all 3 pieces. The fabric feels amazing! It is so comfortable and it truly is like second skin. Recycled plastic bottles? Who knew?!! 🙂 It feels much more lightweight than the Electric Yoga leggings so I will probably still wear it in the spring and summer. Be warned though, if you are really looking at it in harsh lights, it is a tad see-through in the back. I didn’t feel self-conscious during yoga but you do need to wear the right underwear for this one! I love the fun detail print on the right leg. I also appreciate the wide waistband that makes it stay put while you’re flowing through poses.
FINAL THOUGHTS – As with any subscription box, there are pros and cons. Overall, I had a great experience communicating with the company and trying out the products. I feel you get a lot of bang for your buck because you get high quality clothes at a huge discount. I’m guessing subsequent boxes will be hit or miss but it’s not a problem because you can exchange items you don’t like. Here are a few more details to help you decide if the YogaClub membership is right for you:
This is for you if:
You like the element of surprise that comes with online shopping. They curate the box for you so you can’t pick out the actual items for your box.
You enjoy discovering and trying out new brands.
You follow fashion and tend to wear on-trend pieces.
You need/want new yoga/workout clothes on a regular basis.
You favor expensive name-brand yoga apparel but at a discounted price.
You are too busy to do the shopping yourself.
You don’t enjoy going to stores and trying on clothes.
This is not for you if:
You can’t deal with the hassle of returning/exchanging purchases. There’s a chance you might not like the items in your box. They let you exchange it for something that you will like so it is essentially risk-free.
You are a minimalist who only wants a few quality pieces that you can wear for a long time.
You have a set style and don’t feel the need to constantly update your wardrobe.
You prefer shopping for yourself and trying on clothes before buying them.
Get 20% OFF your first box!
Use my discount code: YOGAUPLOAD20 (Expires May 15, 2017)
We live in a time when frenetic activity is the norm. We jump out of bed and immediately check our phone, take a shower while mentally running through our to-do list, and rush through our day to get things done. Some of us do physically demanding work, while others have jobs that are mentally and emotionally draining. We rarely take the time to rest, enjoy a meal or connect with loved ones. At the end of the day, we’re exhausted but unable to relax and get a good night’s sleep.
This way of living can negatively impact our health in a myriad of ways. Chronic stress is associated with heart disease, digestive problems, anxiety, depression, weight gain and many other issues. Now more than ever, it’s important to be proactive in managing stress and preventing disease. Integrating a regular yoga practice into our daily life can help us move towards true relaxation of the body and the mind.
Restorative Yoga is a unique yoga style designed to aid us in dealing with the stresses of modern life. “We work very hard in our lives, and while we may sleep, we rarely take time to relax. Restorative yoga poses help us learn to rest deeply and completely,” says Judith Hanson Lasater, Ph.D., PT, world-renowned yoga master and author of Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times. In a restorative yoga class, all poses are fully supported using various props to encourage deep relaxation. Poses are held for a few minutes to still the body and the mind. The emphasis is not on achieving the pose but on being comfortable and allowing yourself to surrender.
Here are 3 Restorative Yoga Poses you can do for stress relief. Use a timer and hold each pose for 3-5 minutes. If you don’t have a yoga bolster, use a stack of blankets. Find some wall space for support. Set up in a quiet room with a comfortable temperature where you will be undisturbed during your practice. Make sure you unplug all your devices and eliminate distractions. While you’re in the pose, focus your wandering mind by paying attention to your breathing. To help you calm down, lengthen your exhales more and soften your face. Keep your eyes closed and use an eye pillow or small towel over your eyes.
1) Legs Up the Wall Pose
Lie on your side and move your hips towards the wall. When your hips touch the wall, bring your legs up. If your hamstrings feel too tight simply bend your knees a little bit. Experiment with placing a blanket or stack of blankets under your hips to test which version feels better.
2) Supported Child’s Pose
From an all-fours position, place your bolster (or stack of blankets) in front of you between your knees. Sit your hips back towards your feet then rest your belly, chest and face on your bolster. Add more blankets if you need more height. Notice your hips, knees and ankles. Relax your arms on the floor. If it’s more comfortable for you, rest one cheek on your bolster then switch sides halfway through the pose.
3) Corpse Pose or Savasana
This is the most important and sometimes most difficult yoga pose. Lie on your back with your feet more than hip distance apart, arms relaxed by your sides and palms facing up. If you feel discomfort in your lower back, slide your bolster under your knees to bring your lower back closer to the mat. Keep your forehead slightly higher than your chin by sliding a pillow or blanket under your head if needed. Relax your tongue and let it fall away from the roof of your mouth. Let go of controlling the breath and allow it to flow naturally. Feel every part of your body softening and melting into your mat. Be as still as possible.
As with any skill we learn, relaxation takes practice. We all start out with tense bodies and chattering minds. That’s okay! Be patient with yourself and be consistent in your yoga practice. Soon you will reap the benefits of restorative yoga and you will know how to truly nourish your body, mind and spirit.
*I wrote this article for the Front Door Fitness website where it was first published. FDF is a wonderful personal training company in Kansas City; and I am proud to be part of the team. Check out the FDF blog for more free articles on fitness, nutrition, and healthy living.
In today’s Q and A video, we talk about age and physical limitations. Can one be too old to start a yoga practice? Is there yoga for people with physical disabilities or injuries? I share with you 3 inspiring stories:
Tao Porchon-Lynch – one of the oldest living yoga teachers in the world
Matthew Sanford – a yoga teacher who is paralyzed from the chest down
Dan Nevins – a veteran who lost both his legs in Iraq
“I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible!”is like saying, “I can’t drink water because I’m not hydrated!” As a yoga teacher, I’ve heard this excuse many times from people hesitant to try the practice. It’s time to shed light on three of the most common misconceptions about yoga and debunk those yoga myths.
Yoga Myth #1: I have to be an acrobat/gymnast/contortionist to do yoga.
Magazine covers and social media are rife with images of bendy yogis in fancy poses. Let me assure you that this is not what happens in a regular yoga class. You are there to move and stretch your body safely. Your instructor will help you adapt yoga poses to suit your needs and will not force you into shapes that are not suitable for your physique and level of experience. If you are a beginner, start with basic or gentle classes to learn the foundational poses.
Yoga Myth #2: Yoga is boring. You just sit around doing nothing.
Not all yoga classes have the same intensity level. Restorative and Yin yoga are more passive practices. Certain yoga styles like Ashtanga and Power Vinyasa, to name a couple, are physically challenging. In these classes, you will work up a sweat and increase your heart rate as you flow through a sequence of poses at a moderate to fast pace. I’ve had new students say after practice that the class was much harder than they thought it would be! A well-rounded yoga flow practice improves your strength, flexibility, balance and mental focus.
Yoga Myth #3: Yoga is a religion.
I’ve been asked about the spiritual component of yoga by students who are worried that the practice might be in conflict with their faith. Every yoga teacher will have a different approach when it comes to this. A few classes will delve into spirituality and yogic texts, others will emphasize the mind-body connection, and some will focus mostly on the physical aspect. Some yoga styles incorporate chanting and yoga philosophy in their teachings. The good news is you will not be forced to do anything you are not comfortable with. The yoga classes I teach are filled with students who have different beliefs, backgrounds, and religious affiliations. You are free to absorb what you like about the practice and set aside what doesn’t serve you at the moment.
The important thing is to do your research. Talk to yoga teachers about the style they teach. Ask other yoga students about their experience. Read the descriptions of yoga classes at gyms or studios. Take classes from different instructors to find a good fit. With some trial and error, plus a sense of adventure, you will eventually discover the teachers and classes that are just right for you.
*I wrote this article for the Front Door Fitness website where it was first published. FDF is a wonderful personal training company in Kansas City; and I am proud to be part of the team. Check out the FDF blog for more free articles on fitness, nutrition, and healthy living.
Who loves drinking tea? To be honest, I’m more of a coffee person but I do enjoy the occasional cup of tea. Dave introduced me to good quality loose leaf teas a few years ago and I loved it. That’s why I was excited to try out the Field to Cup Loose Leaf Teas. The company sent me one of their monthly subscription boxes to test and review.
In the video, I do an unboxing to show everything inside the box (8 tea packages plus some paper filters). All teas claim to have high quality ingredients with no tea dust or artificial flavors. The subscription also comes with a unique steeping guide that the company emails to you. Dave and I taste each and every tea and we also explain the proper way to steep the tea using the different types of infusers. We share our thoughts and just have fun trying all of it out. Also, baby Kieran makes a special appearance! 🙂
These are the different teas in my subscription box:
GREEN TEA Banana Chocolate Walnut (57 g.) – A chocolatey blend of green tea leaves with pieces of banana and walnut
WELLNESS TEA Stress Cure (10 g.) – A healing blend of tulsi with lemongrass and gotu kola
GREEN TEA Organic Market Chai (10 g.) – An exotic blend of green tea leaves with pieces of cardamom and mint
BLACK TEA Organic Peppermint Zing (10 g.) – A thrilling blend of black tea with peppermint and ginger
ROOIBOS TEA Organic Forest Chai (10 g.) – A rich blend of rooibos with cacao nibs and pieces of ginger
ROOIBOS TEA Organic Orange Creme (10 g.) – A smooth blend of rooibos with organic orange and licorice root
BLACK TEA Simply Cinnamon (10 g.) – A simple blend of black tea with cinnamon pieces
BLACK TEA Organic Irish Breakfast (10 g.) – A rich cup with hints of malt and chocolate
This was an interesting experience for us. There were definitely some special flavors that we’ve never tried before. I think the company is very creative with their blends. For tea enthusiasts out there, I recommend you check them out. The teas are different each month so you will enjoy trying something new each time. You can also return and replace the teas you don’t like and customize your box to suit your preferences.
Watch the 12-minute video to see the unboxing and to hear our thoughts on each tea. If you are interested in purchasing the subscription, there’s a link below. Also, the company was kind enough to give my yoga community a discount! Use the my discount code 25yogaupload to get 25% off your order.
Yoga is a wonderful practice with numerous physical benefits. It can also affect one’s mental and emotional well-being. A consistent and intelligent yoga regimen can initiate many positive changes and help transform unhealthy habits.
How can yoga do this? The skills we acquire through regular practice are the tools we can use to gradually change our behavior.
Skill #1: Ability to Focus Attention
In yoga, we flow through poses mindfully. We learn how to pay attention to even the most subtle sensations in the body and nuances in the breath. We start being attentive to the thoughts and emotions that come and go. Bringing awareness to whatever is occurring in the present moment is the first step towards changing habitual patterns. We are able to recognize that impulse to reach for junk food or mindlessly scroll through social media as it arises. Sometimes, when we are truly present and mindful, we discover that we don’t even enjoy these behaviors and we only engage in them out of habit.
Skill #2: Ability to Slow Down and Pause
When we are unaware, we react to situations blindly. We repeat actions simply because they are familiar. Once we bring awareness to the behavior we want to change, we now have a choice. In yoga, the slower pace of movement enables us to observe repetitive patterns in our thoughts and emotions. This ability to slow down and hit the pause button will help us respond to the situation with more clarity. Instead of losing our temper or lighting another cigarette, we can now stop and choose how to act instead of being on autopilot.
Skill #3: Ability to Stay with Discomfort
Whenever we try something new or encounter an unfamiliar situation, a sense of discomfort arises. In the physical practice of yoga, we learn how to sit with this discomfort. We discover how to find ease within challenging poses and how to observe our thoughts and emotions without judgment. If we are trying to drink less or exercise more, for example, recognizing uncomfortable feelings as they come to the surface is very important. We realize that we sometimes behave in certain ways in order to avoid being uncomfortable. When we are able to dispassionately observe our own discomfort, it will eventually lose its power over us and only then can we initiate real change.
These skills, along with the patience and discipline we acquire through yoga practice, will help us in our journey towards better health. We can slowly let go of old habits that keep us from living full and happy lives.
***This is an article I wrote for the Front Door Fitness website. FDF is a fantastic personal training company in the Kansas City area and I am proud to be part of their team. Check out the FDF blog for more articles on fitness and nutrition from my other colleagues.