4 Yoga Poses for Everyday

As we all know, keeping a regular yoga practice has a multitude of benefits mentally, physical and spiritual. Yoga is a key component to leading and honoring a balanced lifestyle. According to B.K.S. Iyengar in Light on Yoga,

“Yoga is not for him who gorges too much, nor for him who starves himself. It is not for him who sleeps too much, nor for him who stays awake. By moderation in eating and in resting, by regulation in working and by concordance in sleeping and waking, Yoga destroys all pain and sorrow.”

That being said, I find it beneficial to the body to practice a little yoga each day. There are days, however, when there simply isn’t time for a complete practice, or the body is craving rest. In those times, these four poses will alleviate congested energy, cultivate calm and stimulate agni within the body.

Uttanasana – Standing Forward Bend

Begin by raising the arms above the head and then hinge forward at the waist, bending the knees generously to go easy on the hamstrings and lower back. The aim of this pose in this sequence is not to gain maximum stretch necessarily (depending on how warm/loose/flexible one’s body is) and more to reap the benefits of blood flow to the brain and the relaxing effects of the pose. Grasp opposite elbows and hang for 5-8 long, deep breaths.

Plank Pose

As one would in Sun Salutations, lift to a flat back and then step back into plank. Check for proper alignment of wrist creases to the front edge of the mat, middle finger pointing straight ahead or slightly towards the outer edges of the mat (as my yoga mentor says, “When in doubt, turn out!”). Bring the shoulder blades down the back, engage the belly firmly, firm the quads and hold. Remain here for two minutes if you’re able, or hold for ten long breaths. This pose works the entire body and stimulates the strength of the mind.

Push back into Adho Mukha Svananasana – Downward Facing Dog before coming into the next pose.

Navasana – Boat Pose

Tipping back onto the sit bones, pulling the chest forward, extend the arms and lift the legs (either bent or straight). I have to say, once I began taking the modification of bent legs in Boat Pose I grew immensely stronger. Sometimes the ego can really hold you back, which is why the ego oughtn’t get to tag along to yoga. Bending the legs can allow you to really engage the lower abdominals, creating a straighter back and more compact pose, while protecting the lower back. Hold here for up to a minute, or eight long breaths.

Balasana – Child’s Pose

Come forward to hands and knees and sink back into child’s pose. If you’re flexible, practice this pose with your legs closer together. This can be nice as it massages the internal organs when breathing deeply, but legs hip distance apart is equally relaxing. Arms may lie straight ahead or back by the heels, whichever is more relaxing for you. Remain in child’s pose, sealing your short practice, for ten long breaths. Come up slowly and place one hand over the heart, one hand over the belly. Seal your practice with an intention for the day and a moment of gratitude.

These four poses, when infused with long, deep breaths, are enough to stimulate belly fire, circulation, warmth in the body, and a steady sense of calm to carry with you throughout the day.

Turn on the Lights

I am a firm believer in the mantra “thoughts become things.” I advocate for positivity, knowing full well that negativity manifests itself physically in the body. I own, admire and periodically watch The Secret, even just as background noise while I take care of things in the evening, to revamp the beliefs I have regarding the power of the mind.

That being said, I completely let negativity overpower my otherwise joyous mindset last week, and was unconscious (or ignorant) of this fact until a morning conversation with my mom. My mom is my best friend, my greatest confidant, and my hero. We talk every single day, multiple times per day, and frankly are carrying on some sort of conversation 24/7 be it via email, text, phone or facebook. Seriously. We’re in constant contact, and I like it that way. Now that I’ve grown up and moved away we have a very close relationship that is no longer co-dependent but rather strong, unbreakable, resilient and the bond dearest to my heart. That being said, hearing her opinion through the phone on that chilly morning walk to work was enough to shake me from my funk.

At first I was defensive, as we often tend to be when someone bluntly states that your attitude lately has been subpar and your complaining is getting out of hand. Naturally, I wasn’t a grinch 24/7 that week, but I was really grumpy in regards to obligations and the onset of working a holiday week in retail (which I’ve done once before, last year, and was not eager to do again) and I was complaining like no other over how achy and tired my body was after standing all day long on hard concrete, blah blah blah. My mom is a psychology major, so her carefully selected words, in their wise brevity, kept me from clinging to my defensive reaction and instead led me out of the fog. I decided to simply change my mindset. I decided to simply be happy, regardless of the fact that I was mid-8-day-work-week, and not in a cute outfit, and feeling a little sleep deprived, and, and, and…

That night I was challenged sincerely. I struggled a bit through the day, my defensiveness battling my newfound positivity (I say newfound because I’d spent several days without my normal sense of positivity which, as you know if you too are as naturally upbeat an person as I am, can be devastating to the senses and the mind). I received an email that evening after work from my roommates (of which I have four) regarding house matters, chores, etc. which left me reeling, with a tumultuous desire to defend myself and counter all accusations. Which I did. Which did not help, it in fact worsened the situation as I tossed in my own bitter ten cents to the pile of bitter coins already in the chain email. I closed my laptop and went to yoga, which cleared my mind entirely. It was one of my good friend’s classes and he focused on what he’d just learned from an extended workshop with the great Maty Ezraty, so I walked out brimming with new knowledge and inspiration for the practice. I drove home feeling a bit of a second wind, though it felt more like a meek and quiet breeze. I arrived home to a confrontation (I’m very non-confrontational, and I mean very). Immediately, as though an alarm had signaled, the troops appeared: Colonel Cortisol, Sergeant Stressed-out and Commander Norepinephrine all joined my roommate and I in the kitchen. My hands literally shook for the next hour. By some miracle we resolved the incident far better than any incident has been resolved in this house before, and I slept soundly. I went to bed that night intent on my morning decision to change my attitude, my mindset, and the way I react to things. I set in motion this shift with no room for debate from my little inner demon who loves to stir the pot when things get shaky, and with no room whatsoever for negativity. I laid down in bed, shutting my eyelids as one would curtains and hanging up a “Do Not Disturb, Negativity, You’re Not Welcome Here” sign.

I was almost instantly rewarded for my conscious change of mindset. By instantly I mean about by the end of the next day I was waltzing out of work feeling spry and ready for anything thinking to myself, “Wow…it is scary how well this worked.” It was dusk and I called my mom jabbering on about how much energy I had and how happy I was and how I’d call her after I cooked dinner. I didn’t want to jinx my sudden 180 so I just kept on with my happy self. About three days later, I quietly acknowledged my abundance of physical energy, seemingly unshakeable attitude of positivity, and relaxed manner with wide-eyed wonder. How could it be that nothing had changed apart from my mindset? The work days drug on (mind you I was at the start of a monstrous week when my little breakdown occurred), actually getting longer and busier, the weather got colder, my to-do list grew longer, and yet…I was unaffected. As a sensitive little Cancer ruled by the moon, I’m easily affected and always emotional. This can be dangerous but I am aware of my über sensitivity and therefore make it through most days emotionally unscathed (after all, we must be aware of our own traits and protect ourselves!).

Rather than wait for an ensuing wave of negativity to wash down my carefully built force of positivity, I’m taking this experience as a valuable lesson. Yes, negativity will try to enter into my days now and again, this is unavoidable. No, I will not let it take me down for days at a time, because I have as much power to change my own mind as I do to switch on the lights in my room. It takes conscious effort, which in the wake of negativity we are often not strong enough to muster, but it’s essential. I will let myself the negativity, I won’t deny myself a full spectrum of emotion, but I will not dwell.

We all have these episodes, it’s part of being human, and if you have experienced (or someday experience) this type of negativity-attack, may my words help guide you back to the sunshine. We are perfectly imperfect and “hard weeks” teach us more about ourselves than we’re often ready for, but take the lessons in stride. Things happen exactly when they’re meant to, lessons often hold a heck of a lot more weight than meets the eye, and this life is about falling and getting back up.

Get back up, and show that pretty world your positive glow 🙂

Be well sweet souls!

Namaste.

People Pleaser

I’m a self-professed “people pleaser.” I always have been. I also happened to be a “type A” personality growing up (and it’s frankly comical that I use that reference in the past tense). The combination of these traits has made me into an adult that, annoyingly, cares very much about praise and acceptance.

I’ve found, however, that this driving need for acceptance is pretty widespread. It’s certainly not just me, though I’m bothered by how much I care sometimes. Mostly it’s my family (even at 24, it drives me nuts for my parents to not agree or support a decision of mine, and I’m grateful that the such an occurrence is rare), definitely some of my friends, and my academic and professional superiors whose approval I so eagerly seek. Upon inspection, I find the whole concept a little bit crazy. I’m 24, single, out on my own, figuring out who I am, supporting myself and making decisions that affect me and only me; so why should anyone’s approval but my own take center stage?

I don’t know why approval and acceptance are so highly valued in our minds. I’m referring to what I’ll call “superficial” approval and acceptance. The kind of praise and validation that is based not on the content of one’s character and more on one’s actions, decisions, beliefs and opinions. The latter are less significant means of accepting a person; we’re all so unique, with different backgrounds, quirks, traits and attributes. How can we expect to all agree? And yet we do expect to agree, we try desperately to convince one another of our “rightness.”

Think politics, I’m sure plenty of us have experienced this in the past weeks and in the wake of the election. Social media arguments were rampant, face-to-face debates, even blatant name-calling over one’s political beliefs. The same thing happens in the world of parenting; to vaccinate or not to vaccinate one’s child, to send them to childcare full-time or part-time, to breast feed or not to breast feed…the list goes on and on. Relationships, diets, religion, parenting, politics; there are so many methods available for us to differ and thus seek agreement.

I have recently had conversations with some close friends and family members who lead healthy lifestyles similar to mine, and who have experienced the same bewilderment from others over their choices. Many people seem to have a hard time embracing belief systems outside of the ones they themselves hold. I have a friend who’s vegan and constantly under pressure in some form or another. Whether it’s finding a dish on the menu that is indeed vegan, or fielding questions from baffled peers, “You mean, you don’t eat meat or dairy…ever?” Unless one is blatantly allergic to food, others often find it their business to try and “convince” them out of their personal dietary beliefs. Same goes for alcohol, I love me a fine glass of wine, but I drink very infrequently because I’m not keen on the disorientation I feel. Being just 24, I get bombarded with questions and sheer shock as to why I don’t want to drink.

In a crowded bar, out with friends, the last thing I want to do is relay to (what is oftentimes a perfect stranger) my personal pillars of health, the fact that I actually care to listen to my body and not dull my senses when the rest of my lifestyle strives holistically to heighten them, and (perhaps the least appropriate) pillar is, “It’s none of your stinkin’ business.”  The bottom line can be summed up by a brilliant line I read today in an article on MindBodyGreen by Karen Sherwood. She wrote, “Mark David says it best, “‘If there are 6 billion people on the planet, there should be 6 billion diets.’”

I’ll leave you today to ruminate on that quote, as I have been doing. It makes perfect sense to me. It applies not only to diets, though, it applies to people in general. If there are 6 billion people on the planet, there should be 6 billion views on religion…politics…marriage…spirituality…on and on and on. While we can likely agree that most of us fall under umbrellas of titles, we are all so individualized that each human being takes a unique approach to, well, everything! That being said, how is it at all possible or probable to please everyone, every time? It’s not. It’s as simple as that. The very best, and frankly all, we can do is be ourselves. Be kind, be spirited, be authentic; offer up the best version of ourselves to the world and to others, and have our own backs. You be the one to approve and accept yourself, every single time. That way, if others don’t, you have the most important person on your side…you.

Homegrown

I started my mushroom kit tonight. I’m BEYOND excited. In just 10 days’ time I’ll have homegrown OYSTER MUSHROOM (cue the applause!!! Of me…because I’m that excited). This, paired with my measly basil plants I’ve grown every year (and my lavender), added to my entire childhood and adolescence happily eating out of my parents’ gardens have led me here: growing mushrooms in a box, pining after the dream of one day having my own sprawling garden from which to feed myself and my family. Homegrown is precious, special, hard-earned. Eating a plant-based diet is something I’ll always do, but growing as much of my own food as possible is something I truly hope to work up to. For now, mushrooms. In the future, I intend to grow everything from collard greens to sprouts to tomatoes to sunflowers whose seeds I’ll grind up into a spread…the possibilities are endless, I’m so excited. Homegrown, that’s the way I like it.

Seeking Balance

I’ve come to an interesting point in my quest for holistic wellness. I’m about to embark upon my YogaWorks teacher training, and intent on beginning an education with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition once that’s complete. I’m passionate about longevity and as curious as can be about how to best fuel the body, mind and spirit. I have noticed in the past couple of weeks, however, that I seem to be hunting for “one right way” and, as most of us know, this can result in a cyclical pattern of ending up right back where one started.

One of my most powerful beliefs is that we, as human beings, are all vastly different. We operate on totally different levels, thrive on totally different forms of fuel, are interested in totally different aspects of life…pardon all the “totally’s” (I am a California girl after all), but it is TOTALLY beginning to blow my mind. The more I learn, the more puzzled I become, to an extent. I’m not frustrated or confused, don’t get me wrong, I know exactly where my path is leading me; I’m simply observing something that’s highly interesting to me. Each unique circle of the wellness community is a little bit different, each intoxicatingly attractive to a health-nut like me, but all boasting (in a positive manner) a different recipe for wellness.

Well, what’s a yogini to do?

I am discovering, day by day, what works for my body. What sleep patterns, dietary choices, emotional rhythms, physical activities, interpersonal relationships and long-term goals get my fires roaring. I admit that there is risk involved when one is on such a journey; sometimes making discoveries like seven hours for some reason is not enough sleep, dairy just does not properly digest in your body, highly materialistic friends no longer bring you any joy, running sucks, you no longer want to live in the area you’re in…you get the picture. Change and growth come running when one embarks upon such a journey.

I’ve been on my holistic wellness journey (this particular avenue of it, that is) over a year and a half. In that time I’ve grown immensely, I’ve also changed immensely. I’ve developed my own beliefs and patterns, and I’ve been influenced by the beliefs and patterns of those I admire. I’ve collected some seriously rawkstar role models, whom I look up to with respect and utmost admiration; I’ve also encountered some positively intimidating extremists. I find the latter to shake me, and frankly stick with me more. I get this little voice in the back of my head flinging around the words “should” and “shouldn’t” like they’re conjunctions, and I find myself feeling (infuriatingly) inferior.

The calmer, more passive voice says things like, “Oh that’s silly, don’t let others’ extremism affect you. That’s just silly.” But the other voice pipes in going, “Yeah it’s not silly when your central nervous system gets deadened by drinking tap water like that one guy said.” What the funk am I to do?
One gal brings her own organic, raw, super clean meals to restaurants when she’s eating out with others. Extremism? Yes. But can I blame her for not wanting to be faced with a gluten, dairy and meat saturated menu? No, I can’t. Do I want to limit myself so outrageously? No way, Jose! Would I prefer to eat at organic, healthy cafes when I go out to eat? YES, HECK YES!

So that’s where I stand. I seek holistic wellness, but I also seek balance. I already don’t care for going out to restaurants much because I so adore cooking; I adore knowing that my food is nourishing me from the inside out; I find pleasure in preparing meals that I spent the time and energy shopping for (or growing), preparing, and presenting. I prefer this lifestyle, it brings me great joy. I pack snacks and meals when I travel, I google yoga studios and local health food stores, and am like a kid in a candy store discovering the local wellness community when I am visiting a new place. And, the best part of my discoveries outside of myself, I’ve learned there are a gazillion other totally rad, totally normal, totally everyday people who are just, like, ME! My twitter and facebook are now filled with girls and guys who are as freaking STOKED on yoga, nutrition and learning as I am!

The extremists are few and far between, but they still get to me. I seek balance in my journey, in my everyday life, and (most of all) within my own being. The extremist views that make me fearful of every non-organic, potentially chemically-ridden thing I touch, eat, breathe or entertain the idea of, and the potential that it will kill me or negate the healthy choices of my otherwise healthy lifestyle is terrible. So, here’s what I say, I’ve survived for 24 years, and tap water hasn’t killed me yet! I’m about as clean of an eater as they come, but if I’m out in some random land and the restaurant the people I’m with want to go to is not healthy or organic, I’m not going to pack a tupperware of food and call the restaurant ahead of time (the thought makes me shudder!); equally, I will not judge those who feel oppositely of me. I will never preach my way as “the right way” nor will I condone the “ways” of others for any reason whatsoever.

The most exciting part is, there’s so much I’ve still yet to learn. So many changes I’ve still yet to make, so much growth I’ve still yet to experience. So how could this way, this way that I’m being right now, be the “only” or “right” way? It can’t. It simply isn’t possible because I know the immeasurable possibilities out there waiting for me will continue to help me hone my ways. It’s a journey, not a destination. I’m positively certain that, if I listen to myself and ground down into the center of my being with confidence and assuredness, I’ll always be able to navigate the myriad of opposing views that swim before me. Wading through suggestions and doctrines as I fine tune the recipe that works for me. 

One thing I know for certain: on my quest for holistic wellness, balance is a key ingredient.

🙂
Be well, be balanced, be happy.

Back in Action!

Hello lovely souls!

I’m ELATED to report that, not only am I back in action, but I am back in action on my brand new, absolutely stunning MacBook Pro. Yippee! Poor ‘ol MacKenzie crashed (after six years of diligent laptop service) and now I have welcomed ProNelope (yes, I give my Mac laptops pun names, don’t judge) to the family. So, that being said, I’m happy to post after a long week and a half!

Before the crash of Kenzie, I was in Tahoe City for a long weekend on a fantastic Father/Daughter bonding vacation (long overdue!). My dad and I stayed at a family cabin for four days and had an absolute blast. The cabin is my aunt’s and we spent a nice, slow, quiet weekend in the 70’s cabin, playing board games, cooking nutritious and delicious meals, having lots of laughs and just soaking up some downtime. I’d saved up my Hawaii vacation and Tahoe weekend for a long time, having graduated college in June, and always having worked whilst attending school. Needless to say, I’m TOTALLY revamped from my vacations and ready to give my writing and yoga teacher training my 100% attention!

That being said, I’m thrilled to report I received the ITA position for my YogaWorks teacher training program, which means I get to participate in the next two months worth of marketing as well as have a certain set of responsibilities for the duration of the program, and I receive a scholarship for the tuition. I’m overjoyed! I’m perhaps a bit abnormally excited for this program, so the marketing is a killer gig for me. I’m looking SO forward to the blogging I’ll be doing as soon as this program begins in January! I’m going to be gaining a wealth of knowledge to share here.

Speaking of gaining a wealth of knowledge, I have decided that once I graduate from my YogaWorks training, I am going to embark upon an education through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Some true greats were bred from (or further enhanced by) this education, and I strongly feel it’s my next step. In the quest to build a career in health and wellness, it will be the perfect compliment to my yoga certification and journalism degree.

I leave you this evening with the promise of a full post tomorrow on something holistic wellness related and not a blabber fest all about me 😉 I beg your pardon for such a post tonight, but felt it necessary to explain my absence for the past week and a half. I’m looking forward to some introspective posts I’ve been planning this past week, as well as a review on some amazing herbal tonics I’ve made and adaptogens I ordered! 

Goodnight from my part of the world. Be well, be harmonious.

Timing is Everything

“Wow, hip openers do release a lot of emotion…” was what ran through my mind (no, wait, it didn’t “run” through my mind…more like gradually traipsed through my mind) as a monsoon of tears streaked my still-pink-from-vinyasa cheeks.

I walked out to my car feeling melancholy but unsure why. The moment music bled from the car stereo my heart clung to the sad syllables eagerly. Sadness. Frustration. Emotions came creeping out of the deepest darkest pockets of myself as I drove. Each song that came on somehow made me cry harder, as I recalled my last relationship. I want to say it’s one that failed, but I can’t really say that. I feel like it succeeded; like its purpose was not to last forever, but rather to teach two human beings invaluable lessons…take our hearts unparalleled places…forge a union and bond that will remain timeless, one we hope we can call on anytime in our lives. 

Those are beautiful achievements, I think. Beautiful achievements and growth came from the failure, and yet the pain of another human being willingly walking away from you never stops hurting. Even when you too were walking away from them. Memories somehow stay so vivid, the deep wound somehow tears open again despite layer after layer of healed skin that now cover it, nearly a year later. The mind, frustrated, thrashes about, demanding, “Why am I still disappointed? How could I still, in just an instant, get so sad again? It doesn’t make any sense.” But then my heart pipes up and says, “Oh yes it does. It makes perfect sense.”

Tonight’s vinyasa was taught by my most favorite yoga teacher, and incredible human being. We focused on hip openers which, and I’ve always chuckled at the claim, are said to release a lot of emotion. I’m pretty darn in touch with my emotions, though, and have never experienced any such release. Until now. The tears that poured down my face (and, to be quite honest, are still are dripping as I type) did not literally come from my hip joints, no. But I delved deep into some emotional “gunk” and was essentially blindsided.

I’d not realized that the growing indifference between two people would hurt so much, when it’s only natural. It’s only natural that when two people separate, so do their lives. I feel completely whole, healed, moved on and happy; but driving home tonight it might as well have been 10 months ago. The wound might as well have been raw. That was the most relationship-induced pain I’ve ever felt, and from the wreckage came the most profound emotional growth I’ve ever experienced. My heart is whole and, frankly, I now can’t even imagine handing it over to anyone…which is another post altogether…

I’m happy for the open hips, tonight, as well as the raw emotions. I am grateful to have a sniffly nose and red-rimmed eyes because it means I felt something. Though pain hurts, it is a reminder that we are alive. There’s a beating heart in my chest, and while it sometimes aches, it continues to beat. It’s a reminder of strength, of survival. The most valuable lessons are not easily learned. One must stoop down – or hell, fall to their knees – and collect the fragments of their heart at least once in life to really know what this whole “life” thing is about. The heart can be put back together and made to feel new, but the pain will still resurface from time to time. I imagine it’s the emotional equivalent of the throbbing ache an amputee feels after losing a limb. There’s still a pulsing sensation, even though the heartache in question is no longer there. The fact that it’s gone is part of the pain. But the growth that comes from these moments when we crumble into our tears and revisit a long-since-healed sadness is intense. It’s sincere. It’s necessary.

One can’t help but feel a bit bashful after such a breakdown. Coming out of it, wiping away the tears, shaking one’s head and thinking, “Did that just happen? Did I just fall apart completely, even though that happened so long ago?” Yes, it did. And it happened for a reason. 

No questions were answered and no huge leaps made tonight during my cry-fest, but somehow I feel better. I didn’t know, going into yoga tonight, that I had any emotion to release…and yet I feel like that’s what propelled me to drive to the studio and unroll my mat. The Universe works in mysterious ways. Little moments of impact, when one is aware, are enough to lay a blanket of warmth over the heart. A sensation that someone or something is looking out for you, steering you exactly where you need to go, at exactly the right time…

Timing, after all, is everything.