yoga

Why I practice

private yoga instructor in Tampa

I have been practicing yoga for 18 years, and meditating for 8 years…I’ve gone in waves of being super diligent in my practice…to completely blowing it off. And, I can ABSOLUTELY tell when I’ve been blowing it off. It’s when I’m NOT practicing that I REALLY understand the reasons why I practice…because the benefits are present when I am being present, and practicing daily.

Here are 3 BIG reasons why I practice:

  1. Less anxiety. This is my absolute #1 reason for both meditation and yoga practice….but ESPECIALLY meditation. I suffered with anxiety for YEARS without even knowing it…until I started meditating. I realized that with a daily meditation practice, the anxiety that has been a constant in my life isn’t there in the way that it used to be. The constant buzz of nerves I felt in my belly (for YEARS without realizing it) goes away when I practice. I now can actually FEEL the anxiety coming on, and have the opportunity to respond to it in a different way…which has absolutely changed my life (I know, I KNOW…this sounds pretty dramatic, but it has been truly life altering!!)

  2. Greater strength. Another biggie. The physical strength that comes from my yoga practice isn’t even as important as the INNER STRENGTH that comes from both yoga and meditation. My practice leaves me feeling empowered.

  3. More self-compassion. So, with yoga I’ve learned over the years to be ok with falling out of tree pose, or my tumultuous relationship with shoulderstand. Truly, I’m ok with it…some days I nail the poses, and some days I don’t. With meditation, I’m ok with the monkey mind…and I can see when my super-judgmental thoughts creep in about it. The biggest benefits come from paying attention without judgement. I think this is why, when I’m not on the mat, or meditation bench, that I’ve gotten so much better with self-compassion.

Does any of this ring true for you? Why do you practice? I’d love to know! Leave your comments below!

5 ways to teach a better yoga class.

5 ways to teach a better yoga class.

I just got home from taking what I would consider a terrible yoga class. It was bad on so many different levels. I KNOW, I know, we aren't supposed to be judgmental....but it got me thinking about what I would have told my teacher today, had she asked for input. This doesn't come from a place of ego...there's no "my teaching style is better than yours"....promise! This ultimately comes from a place of concern for the safety of the students in the  yoga class that I took today.

yoga for your wedding day

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You've gone out to get your drink on with your girlfriends...What's next?!...Schedule a detoxifying yoga class after your night of debauchery! More and more brides are seeing the value of yoga for calming their nerves before their big day. It's a fun thing to do with your very favorite people! AND, it will help you de-stress, feel confident, and present for your special day!

Here are some ideas to make your pre-wedding yoga class extra special:

  1. Buy matching/personalized yoga mats for your bridesmaids! Try ClaireBella, My Custom Yoga Mat, CafePress, or Your Yoga Mat.
  2. If a personalized mat is too steep for your budget, make some lavender eye pillows! Here's a great tutorial on Make It Do. Or, check out Etsy...they have a ton of different ones to choose from...I love these from Pacha Mama Body Care....or these (with removable covers...a plus!) from Heather Shawn.
  3. Ask your yoga teacher to have a heart-centered class. Open up your heart...and the hearts of your bridesmaids...
  4. Request a special reading...chances are, your instructor will have special quotes or words of inspiration that will be perfectly fitting.
  5. Turn the event into a brunch with your girlfriends...or a spa day...endless possibilities!

speak the same language.

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One of the highlights of our trip to Morocco was visiting a school, and getting to spontaneously teach the kids a little yoga! SUCH fun! Our family stayed in Tighdouine, a tiny town in the middle of the Atlas Mountains, and a friend of our guide, Hamid, was a teacher at a school in Talatast, about 20 minutes drive away from Tighdouine (over a river & some seriously bumpy roads):

school_sign
school_sign

The kids were attending an after-school program..they were kids who wanted to be there, we were told...who wanted a bit more education. This is not a touristy town...they might get a few people through who are hiking through the mountains, but most of the kids don't see strangers too often...so, our family was definitely a different sight to see.

The kids spoke primarily Amazigh (Berber), and then possibly Arabic, and maybe a tiny bit of French. They sang us songs (kids singing ALWAYS brings a tear to my eyes...does this happen to anyone else?!), the teacher told us about the school, and wrote our names in Amazigh on the chalkboard.

Amazigh names
Amazigh names

They had questions...and we were thankful for interpreters! First, they wanted to know what kind of jobs we all had...and I thought for SURE they were going to ask my daughter about her hot-pink hair...but they all wanted to know more about yoga.

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IMG_9310

I know how to say hello and thank you in Arabic. I can count in French, and I don't know a drop of Amazigh...I was worried at first about not speaking the same language. But really...they just copied the moves that I made. They had no worries about doing the pose "right"...they know how to breathe, and could watch me demonstrate. The kids were so open to learning, and excited to try something new, it was absolutely heartlifting!

We were speaking the same language...that of yoga!

the sound of the universe.

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Aum is often called the “sound of the universe”. People can get a little freaked out about chanting OM (or AUM) their first few times. I was. It just seemed weird at first...but the more I practiced, the more I loved the vibration...ESPECIALLY with a big group of people.

The infographic above is a detail of the symbol for AUM, and provides a little deeper meaning about it....but for beginners, here's what's up:

The AUM chant is actually 4 sounds: 1. A...sounds like "aaahhh". The vibration begins in your chest.... 2. U...sounds like the o in "home". You will feel this resonating in your throat. Go ahead, make the sound, and put your hand over your throat. It vibrates! (this isn't ALL just hippie-dippie stuff!) 3. M...sounds like "mmmm". This sound that can be felt in your head. 4. Silence. take a moment after chanting to feel the vibration, and listen to the stillness.

Benefits: The vibration that resonates in your body when you chant has both physical and physiological benefits! It can bring a sense of calm and focus, it can decrease blood pressure, increase relaxation, and the vibration can give a little massage to your chest, throat and head.

Still don't want to chant? Then don't! As a yoga teacher, I've chanted many times in a room of new students not wanting to! Here's a little secret...even if you don't chant, you still reap the vibrational benefits from the others who are chanting. It's all good.

Do you regularly chant in your yoga class, or at home in your personal practice?

boys in the front.

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How a well meaning high school yoga teacher can perpetuate gender stereotypes.

I'm proud to be raising a feminist daughter. Not sure how it happened, really...but I'd like to think I played some role in my 18 year old's awareness of gender bias, and desire to make things right in the world. She is in the process of working with her high school administrators to update the dress code during her senior year there. Equality works it's way into her circle of friends, too...She has friends of different ethnicities (even in our very homogeneous suburb), different interests, different sexual orientations...it's a pretty great group of kids that she hangs out with! Yep. I'm a proud mama. But enough about me and my kid, here's what's going on in her yoga class:

Her high school offers yoga as an option for PE...which, as a yoga teacher, former studio owner, and lover of all things yoga, I think is fantastic! Sweet, right?!

I was pretty surprised when she told me that the handful of boys in the class are made to practice in the front of the class. The reason? Well, you've probably guessed it...so the boys won't check out the girls' butts during their class, and make the girls uncomfortable.

My daughter and I both believe that this is wrong...and I'm so glad she brought it to my attention! I wonder how often this happens in other yoga classes for teens?!

What's so wrong with keeping boys in the front, you ask?!! Well...

1. The notion that boys can't control their impulses around girls is preposterous...and that it's the GIRL'S behavior that disrupts the learning environment is ridiculous. When it's assumed that boys can't control themselves , it becomes a girl's responsibility to keep from showing her butt (or cleavage, arms, legs, etc. etc.). This in turnpromotes "rape culture"...by taking any blame from the boy, and puttingit on the girl.This can become a HUGE problem down the road. Studies show that college aged women have a high risk for being victims of sexual assault. I firmly believe that allowing boys to believe at a young age that they aren't responsible for their actions can contribute to justifications by them before/during/after an assault. It's the "she was dressed like a slut and was asking for it" mentality that is so prevalent in our culture. This same type of thing happens with the dress codes in school...the notion that girls need to be covered because boys can't control their lustful desires when they see a bare shoulder...it distracts from the learning environment. Humph. 

2. Why should boys automatically be guilty, and girls innocent? Boys aren't the only teens with raging hormones.Until they commit an offense, shouldn't boysbe allowed to practice yoga where they feel most comfortable?

3. Who's to say that girls aren't checking other girls out...or, that boys aren't checking each other out! Should it be ok to pretend that LGBT teens don't exist? That this is only a boy-girl issue? I think not.

Sure, a high school yoga teacher might have some eyes wandering during class. However, it's the teacher's responsibility to keep an eye out for her students...both for safety in the asana, as well as making sure that more of the students' attention is on his or her own practice, and not on the person practicing on the next mat. These 1950's-era gender stereotypes should not have a place in a yoga classroom. Sexual advances in yoga class of any kind should not be tolerated (at any age!) and should have consequences when they happen in a high school class, but boys should not be punished in advance for something they didn't do.

Fortunately, her yoga teacher was incredibly understanding when my daughter talked to her about it. She hadn't considered the message it sends to the students...and when she spoke to the school administration about it, she found that it is school policy to have the boys in front. REALLY! So, I'm proud to say, that my daughter was able to have the administration change their policy, and now boys and girls are assigned their places in yoga class alphabetically. Hurrah!!

Yoga is a practice of turning our attention inward, and has SUCH a great benefit to teens...I hope they all can now find peace on their mats.

savasana.

Ok...this is a little sassy, I know...but It's SO important...don't skip savasana!!

Here's the big deal about savasana:

  • calms the nervous system
  • quiets your mind
  • releases stress
  • gives your tissues & cells a bit of time to repair
  • can help with headache, fatigue and insomnia
  • reduces blood pressure

See. So, next time you think about rolling up your mat and taking off...I think you should reconsider!