Today I'm honored to share a Q and A post featuring my friend and fellow yogini, Cassandra.Read More
What helps you stay mindful throughout your day?
I was recently asked to answer this question. What practices do I use to fight stress and boost productivity? My favorites are yoga, breathwork and writing.
Meditation, yoga, writing and breathing practices help me stay mindful.
On stressful days, I try to give myself permission to sit with what is, whether I'm tired or emotional or overwhelmed. I like to sit down or sometimes take 'legs up the wall' pose and just spend a few minutes noticing my body.
Where do I feel tense? How am I breathing? What is the energy in my body like in this moment?
Rolling out my yoga mat and moving for 15-20 minutes allows me to release stagnant energy. Some days, I'll stay with one pose for an extended period of time. One minute in headstand, or two minutes in Pigeon on each side -- that can make a huge difference in how my day is going!
I also love to write in my journal. I think it's important to write from a place of authenticity. If I'm having a rough day, I might not write a gratitude list. I might write about why I'm upset, why I feel stuck, or what I'm fearful of. On happy days, a gratitude list or a blog post or a long post on Instagram might be more fitting. The important thing is to start with how I'm truly doing, instead of trying to pretend I'm in a different space.
Breathing is so important too. Lately I've been all about Nadi Shodhana, alternate nostril breathing. I feel so relaxed after just a few minutes of this Pranayama technique. I'm grateful that there are so many methods for staying mindful and for releasing stress, since different days I need different tools.
- Exhale fully.
- Cover your right nostril as you inhale on the left.
- Pause at the top of the breath and close both nostrils.
- Cover your left nostril as you exhale on the right.
- (Keep your fingers as is as you) inhale on the right.
- Pause at the top of the breath and close both nostrils.
- Open your left nostril and exhale on the left.
- Inhale left, exhale right.
- Inhale right, exhale left.
- sharing space with students
- filing taxes as an independent contractor
- figuring out if you should accept or decline a teaching opportunity
- memorizing sequences and creating a flow for your class
- advice for new yoga teachers
- Comprehensive source of info on all things related to the business of yoga
- Offers great tools which you can personalize to your own experience
- Awesome at-a-glance lists and links to other sites
- Objective, factual, and balanced with many perspectives
- Start here: The Ultimate Yogipreneur's Guide to Designing Your Sweet Yoga Career
- I love that the site offers articles on a wide variety of topics and is written by real-world yoga teachers
- Some of my favorite articles: keeping your own practice alive, planning a yoga retreat, what to put on your website, things to ask from your students
- You can also contact the team at Teachasana and ask a question, and they'll post an article on the topic!
- Yoga Journal has a wealth of informational articles on their site, with a variety of topics written by many different teachers
- Some of my recent favorites: ways to avoid burnout, how to break 'rules' and mix up your sequencing, and how to be authentic on social media
- I love Allie's heartfelt writing. Her site is a wonderful resource for finding creative sequences to incorporate into your own home practice. I appreciate that she offers short yoga routines, and as a teacher sometimes a 10-minute or 30-minute video is the perfect pick-me-up for during your busy day!
- She's also got a great post on how to create a blog, if you're a teacher hoping to share your story more.
I believe summer is a wonderful time of year to go on adventures, try new things, and meet new friends.
Here are a few of my favorite creative outlets. I hope they help you discover new, fun, exciting ways to spend your summer!
- Write. Even if you don't consider yourself a 'writer,' try putting a pen to paper. You never know where the ideas will lead you! Whether you're simply journaling about your experiences, making a list of things you want to accomplish, creating fictional characters and stories, or even doodling, let yourself try something new. Don't censor yourself or edit, just write! See where it leads you.
- Cook. Look up recipes on Pinterest, buy a cookbook at your local used bookstore, or consider asking a friend or family member for a new recipe. I often find that when I give myself time to be creative in the kitchen, it yields wonderfully delicious results! It's also fun to try making a fancy breakfast or special dessert, and surprising someone you love. Cooking dinner with a glass of wine (or two) is always fun, too! :)
- Spend time in nature. Being outdoors often feels like a 'reset' for your creativity. Try going for a hike, walking on the beach, watching the sunset, or even just taking a walk around your neighborhood. Being outside can offer the breath of fresh air you need to spark a new idea. I also love taking my yoga practice outside to mix things up!
- Chant, sing, or play an instrument. Music is a wonderful way to be creative. Personally I love to sing to the radio in my car, pull out my djembe and chant in the living room, or look up new artists and songs on Spotify. Someday it would be fun to take up piano again (I took lessons as a little kid) or try playing the guitar. Do you play any instruments?
- Clean and declutter your home. Does anyone else out there feel relieved and more open to creativity after catching up on dishes, laundry, and tidying the house? :) I can't tell you how many times I've prioritized cleaning and then given myself time to be creative, and what a difference that makes. If you're short on time, you can also choose to clean just one area of the house or just around your desk, and then go from there.
- Take a single static yoga pose for 3-5 minutes. Headstand is my favorite, since it brings fresh oxygenated blood to the brain, and is a literal way to shift my perspective. Backbends are also great postures for opening your creative energy channels, or if your body is feeling fatigued, try a yin pose such as pigeon (sleeping swan) or supta baddha konasana.
- Clear your schedule. This might be my favorite item on this list :) I find that when I create empty space in my schedule-- no plans, no to-do items, nowhere to be-- this is one of the best ways I can bring more creativity. By allowing space, I'm able to let my thoughts settle, and this often leads to new ideas.
- 3 sun salutations to warm up
- Tree pose (option to shake it and dance to "Happy" between sides!)
- Triangle pose on each side
- Mountain pose
- Extended big-toe-pose (balance)
- Reverse Warrior on each side
- Cat/cow release
- Dancer pose (balance)
- Seated stretching
Here are a few things that I know, in this moment.
Yoga is a practice.
And my practice is in a constant state of flux, just like me.
Postures will come and go.
Inversions? Fancy transitions? They do not define me.
Today I practiced yoga for the first time in a week, and my body felt stiff and tight. My joints ached. I tried for binds in Goddess pose and Extended Side Angle, and felt as though I was in a different body than my own.
I felt uncomfortable. I kept going. And, in Shavasana, I felt relieved and a little proud of myself for sticking through the discomfort.
I've heard other teachers and students talk about 'taking a break' from their practice. It has been years since I've done that with mine, but in the last few months there have been moments when I'd rather do anything than yoga.
I know I've spent a lot of time comparing myself to other yogis, teachers and students, deciding who has a 'stronger' practice, who knows more, who is capable, who is worthy.
I'd love to let all of that go.
I journaled about it today, actually. How I'm tired of letting my practice define me, rather than support me.
I don't live to do yoga; I do yoga in order to live a more balanced, happy, peaceful life.
Let that be my mantra. Let the comparisons and judgments fall away.
I want to be remembered as a yogi who loved wholeheartedly.
I want to be remembered as someone who cared, who took care of herself with grace and kindness, and who refused to let fear get the best of her. If handstand is in that picture, OK. If not, OK.
How do you practice ahimsa in your yoga routine? How do you let go of a fear of failure, of not being good enough?
- 3 sun salutations to warm up
- Star pose
- Warrior I on each side (can be repeated 3 or 4 times to build heat in the body)
- Optional - 3-5 minutes of ab work, either seated, or on your back
- Goddess pose
- Crow pose
- Feel free to move between goddess and crow 3 or 4 times, seeing how long you can stay, and cultivating awareness of the present moment (strong Ujjayi breath!)
- Child's pose (rest for a few breaths)
- Bridge pose (or Wheel, if it's in your practice)
- 3 sun salutations to warm up
- Cat pose with lion's breath
- High plank with audible exhale
- Downdog (move freely, let go of any tension)
- Leg lifts/ stacking the hips (hip opener)
- Warrior 2 / Reverse Warrior waves on each side
- Optional short rest in Child's pose
- Goddess pose (malasana/ squat) with three lion's breaths
- Happy baby
- Plow pose
- 3 sun salutations to warm up
- Mountain pose, tadasana
- Mountain pose with a baby backbend, arms overhead
- Seated cat/cow pose
- Clearing breath (audible exhale!)
- Seated side bends
- Lotus mudra at the heart
I’m visually minded, so once I have my game plan, I write/draw out the sequence for class. I like to use symbols, abbreviations, and little stick figure yogis. :) I keep a format that divides the various sections of class, so that it's easy to reference when teaching, if needed.
I love the way that this starts to build a catalog of classes. It is fun to look back at past classes; I will often revive, and sometimes refine, things that I've taught in the past.
In the beginning I would write almost every single transition or pose down in a linear list (took up half a page!) but now I focus on just one or two key poses or transitions that I really like and put in my basic flows around those pieces. I stop writing as much down too and just practice on my mat more WITH music. For me, music inspires my movements so getting on my mat with a great playlist is where I get inspired. From there, it's a random note-fest of transitions or poses that I must have in my class.
The biggest tip my teacher had for me in my classes she would take was "BREATHE!" I try to never skip a breathe cue. I try to emphasize fuller breaths in the middle and end of class when that can sometimes be forgotten. When I feel lost or nervous, I breathe. I also remember that some of my favorite classes was more because of the vibe and energy of the teacher and less to do with the sequences or poses.
Because I work with those with some mobility challenges, I pick a pinnacle pose and develop a sequence around the pose that doesn't require getting up and down off the floor in between poses.
So I try to think in terms of a wave. We begin seated, move upward and end on the floor again. Since my background is in dance, I find that if I do the sequence myself beforehand I can commit it to memory better. I also use tummee.com to see the visuals of my sequence and can rearrange things if it doesn't look quite like I wanted. Of course, if the class requires something else when I get there, I have a few alternates in mind.
- Spend time during your own practice noticing the transitions between poses.
- Keep a journal of class sequences you've taught.
- Let music inspire you.
- Choose a peak pose and work up to it.
- When you arrive to teach, remember to breathe and adapt to who's in the room.
For all you Vinyasa yogis, I also recommend checking out my post on how I memorized the Baron Baptiste sequence during my 200 hour training.
Do you have tips or tricks for sequencing? I'd love to hear in the comments below!
Photos of me in this post by Brynna Bryant of Respiro Photography, and courtesy of Tristina, Jany and Elizabeth.
I don't know about you guys, but so far this year is bringing many changes into my life, both personally and professionally.
A yoga studio where I've been teaching announced that it will close at the end of the month. I cried on my mat and felt a sense of dread at having to share the news with my students. The experience has been a bittersweet lesson in aparigraha (non-attachment) and santosha (contentment with what is). Two important yogic principles that are not easy to practice!
Much love to you, dear readers!
PS Another heartfelt post on contentment, and more about the ethical practices of yoga, called the yamas and niyamas.
Also check out my review of the wheel for more info.
The great yogis have always caught our attention with these exquisite and difficult positions they put their bodies. These positions spark our curiosity, "Could I do that?" "That's so cool!" What is really amazing is what is going on that we cannot see. We usually don't realize the breath control, the mental fortitude, and the strength being exerted in flexible positions. But, if we think Yoga=Cool Poses or Yoga=Hot Body then we are completely missing the purpose of the practice. 😱 Yoga grabs your attention with the physical postures and through practice turns your heart to God. You realize that every single person, including yourself is a spark of the Divine. The real yoga is when you begin to treat every being as if they are Divine even in tough situations. You see everything with love. This is true yoga. 💖🙏🏼 #bereceptive
I just found this most amazing post on Instagram by Alissa Kepas (pictured above). I wanted to re-post it here because it is such a beautiful, heartfelt reminder of what yoga is truly about-- loving others, surrendering to the moment, and being receptive. Thank you, Alissa, for sharing this and for the reminder to re-think the definition of yoga as something more than just a physical practice.
The great yogis have always caught our attention with these exquisite and difficult positions they put their bodies in. These positions spark our curiosity, and we think, "Could I do that?" or "That's so cool!"
What is really amazing is what is going on that we cannot see.
We don't usually realize the breath control, the mental fortitude, and the strength being exerted in flexible positions.
But, if we think Yoga = Cool Poses or Yoga = Hot Body then we are completely missing the purpose of the practice.
Yoga grabs your attention with the physical postures and through practice turns your heart to God.
You realize that every single person, including yourself, is a spark of the Divine. The real yoga is when you begin to treat every being as if they are Divine even in tough situations. You see everything with love. This is true yoga.
Lately I've been working on my crow pose :) Do you enjoy bakasana? Here are some tips.