Badass Women: Anika

Perhaps my favorite thing about being a yoga blogger is that it connects me with so many wonderful people all around the world. 

I'm lucky that I got the chance to meet Anika, our next lovely lady in the Badass Women series, through a series of emails that immediately clued me in to how thoughtful, strong, and smart she is.

Anika lives in Washington state, practices Hatha yoga, and is dedicated to her practice and to sharing her story on her blog, Chronic Yogi. She is a total badass and she is changing the world through her beautiful, honest, courageous voice! Anika blogs about her life with Lyme disease, discussing her chronic illness in a way that helps people connect to, rather than feel alienated from, their bodies and spirits. I'm incredibly grateful for her presence in the world of yoga blogs, and personally inspired by her story.

Badass Women: Anika

What sorts of things do you do to connect in with your inner goddess and warrior woman energy?

I live with Chronic Lyme, which is really tough condition! For me it looks like some combination of fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and chemical sensitivities. 

My capacities vary widely: sometimes I can cycle and hike, sometimes I need help getting to the bathroom and back or getting covers over my feet (and just about anything in between). 

Having a yoga practice through this means that I cannot strive to a next level or even know, in the morning, what kind of practice I can do in the evening. It means that I have to see what movement is going to support my body and its healing in the moment of my practice: is it an active standing practice, is it a slow practice that allows gravity to release pain and stiffness, or it is simply using a bolster to support the opening of my breath and release of tension? 

Being present with what supports where I actually am in my body on a given day supports my ability to connect to my chronic illness warrior self and finding the capacity for self-love. 

Connecting with other people with chronic illnesses is a huge source of strength for me. This January I ran an eight-week program called Living Chronically, a group for people living with a chronic condition—pain, disability, illness. When living with chronic pain, it’s easy to become isolated and easier still to then feel as if we’re doing something wrong and judge ourselves for not accomplishing everything we would if health issues were not a barrier. 

When spending time with other folks with chronic illnesses and exploring our relationships to aspects of ourselves as whole people—spirituality, sexuality, community—I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the inner strength and badassedness of the people around me. This community reminds me to hold myself in this light as well. When I’m in too much pain to live my life as I wish, when I have to cancel activities I was looking forward to, I am reminded that I share the struggle with kickass friends. 

Our pain is not our fault; our fortitude is to our credit. 

This sense of shared struggle is part of why I have my blog, the Chronic Yogi: On Being a Chronic Illness Healing Badass. I have had folks contact me to let me know that because of a post on relationships and chronic illness someone has been able to revision what they bring to a partnership as someone with disabilities, or that a post on triggers has helped a person stop blaming themselves for changes in friendship networks that they have experienced since getting sick. This feedback inspires me to keep working to shift cultures in which people with chronic illnesses often end up isolated from community. Pretty badass. 

What has shaped your journey to this point in your life?

There are so many things. Being a survivor, I’ve had to work to develop a sense of connection to myself and sense of safety inside my own skin. My yoga practice has been a huge part of this! Being queer has been so valuable to this work. It has given me access to vibrant counter-cultures that celebrate a wide range of having a body—fat bodies, hairy bodies—and different ways of communicating around intimacy and sexuality that does not make assumptions about what works for everyone. 

Having Chronic Lyme has been such a challenge to this work! Since the condition is not recognized by the CDC and treatment is not covered, I have had to spend a lot of time and energy living with intense pain and distress while facing not being believed by health care professionals. This has brought up so much hard history and been such a source of struggle. Holding a PhD in Gender Studies has helped me to be able to research, push back, and continue to seek adequate care and treatment for my health as well as advocating for and supporting others with Chronic Lyme (or those with conditions such as Fibromyalgia, MS, Chronic Fatigue, Chemical Sensitivities and other illnesses that often have symptoms that are the result of un-diagnosed Lyme disease). 

What practices help you stay grounded and help you rejuvenate?

Being in nonstop pain is freaking rough. It takes so much energy to keep getting through the day and keep striving to get well. It’s easy to focus on my body as a problem to be solved. My yoga practice helps me to make a space where I can experience a sense of home in my body. I write more about this here and here.

I have been trying to develop a practice of cultivating small, everyday pleasures. Finding moments to go to the ocean and watch the waves, appreciate eating raspberries off the vine, or sit and have tea with a friend. These moments, however small, can rejuvenate my energy and commitment to working through pain. 

What would you tell a woman who needs help tapping in to her inner strength?

I think many women, in many circumstances, need to hear, “This is not your fault” and, “You are not alone.”

So often women are made responsible for circumstances they did not choose—from bring abused to getting a chronic illness—and are asked to examine how their own actions caused their pain. To women facing this, I want to stress, “This is not your fault.” You can and will heal but this is not your fault. You did not cause the pain you are in and you do not to be worn down through examining what you could have done differently to avoid it. 

When we feel we are to blame, it is easy to feel alone in our pain and struggle. We believe our struggle to be separate from the cultural conditions that make it possible for our pain to play out the way it does. But you are not alone. There are others who face the pain you face and whose struggles are similar to yours. You are not alone. 

Where will you go from here? Any badass plans for 2016?

I will continue to develop the Chronic Yogi as a blog through this year. Often folks living with chronic pain, illness, and disabilities face mental fog that makes long reading too laborious. I am committed to writing the Chronic Yogi blog in short, accessibly written pieces. Over time, I plan to publish a Chronic Yogi book, keeping the commitment to accessible writing and chapter breakdowns. 

I first started Living Chronically as part of my work as a UU Director of Lifelong Learning. When talking with people in the role of a director, I learned that many folks with disabilities and pain talked about not being “as much” a part of the community due to limited energy or not being able to contribute to committee work or the financial life of the organization as much as they would like. 

Living Chronically was different from a support group in a medical context. It was led by and for those with chronic illness, with the goal of facilitating as sense of belonging and membership in a larger community, rather than with the goal of imparting new skills or beliefs. This year I will also be applying for grants to further develop the Living Chronically series, piloting the format in a variety of community settings. This project will also lead to publishing a curriculum and facilitation guide to support different communities forming their own groups… which would support larger networks of badasses! 

A heartfelt Namaste to you, Anika, as you continue to walk your path and share your story!

PS Meet more badass women: Megan, Lauren, and Summer.

5 Daily Activities You Can Do While Practicing Yoga

Illustration via Pinterest.

Note: This is a guest post by yogi Alberto Güitrón

5 Daily Activities You Can Do While Practicing Yoga

Who hasn’t had one of those days when it’s hard to find time to catch your breath? I know I’ve been there. Sometimes it is challenging to relax and be mindful, let alone find time to get on the mat and practice a full yoga sequence.

But hey! We don’t have to be on a peaceful yoga retreat to practice. Because even surrounded by the constant hustle in which we live in, we all still have to take a shower, right?...I sure hope so :) We all still have to eat, sleep, get dressed, and go about our day. So, why not fit in some yoga during the activities we do each day?

These simple poses can help you create awareness, soften any muscles in your body that are tight, and help you keep a positive attitude.

Here are the five activities that can help you fit asana in, even during your busiest days:

Image source: Power Living

1. Practice yoga while taking a shower
I will share a brief personal story for this one. Before bringing yoga into my life, I used to find it hard to wash my feet. I had to balance leaning against the wall and grab my foot trying not to slip and fall. Until one day it occurred to me: Why don’t I try it in a Standing Forward Bend? Voila! Now I can easily reach my feet and wash in between the toes in Uttanasana without worrying about the slippery floor. Then, a Halfway Lift is ideal to wash the legs, and whenever I feel adventurous, I even try the Reverse Prayers Pose to reach my back with the sponge. I encourage you to do the same. Just pay attention to your breath or the water will run down your nose.

Image source: Storyteller Within.
2. Practice yoga while writing

Even if writing is not one of your main duties, I’m pretty sure almost everyone sends an email, writes a memo or just types on a laptop at least once a day. How about doing it while sitting in a Lotus Pose or a Hero’s Pose? Just put a flat surface on your lap to hold your notebook, laptop or whatever you’re using to write, and feel like a hero in your Virasana.

Also, if you’re on a chair behind a desk and are too shy to sit on the floor in the middle of the office, you can try to grab one ankle and bring it over the opposite thigh (something like a Figure Four but sitting down). Send the chest forward a little bit and feel the juices flowing in your hips and hammies without the shame of your coworkers staring at you.

Image source: Elemental Embrace.

3. Do yoga while reading

Since you are such a busy person, you may not have the time to read a good novel. However, there might be some boring reports waiting to be read. Motivate yourself with a Sphinx Pose! Grab those papers, lie on your stomach and put them in front of you. Enjoy the backbend and you’ll be done with the task way faster.

Image source: Yoga Shala.

4. Get dressed while practicing yoga

How about dressing up in a fun yoga-ish way? You can put on a t-shirt while transitioning from Warrior I to Warrior II, both arms would escape through the holes at the same time avoiding the usual struggle. You could adjust your shoes practicing Triangle Pose; and if you feel brave enough, you could even try to put on your pants in a Headstand... gravity will do most of the work.

5. Sleep and yoga

This one is easy. At one point you will have to sleep no matter how big of a workaholic you are. Therefore, go to bed in Shavasana, relax your body, focus on your breath and let your body move deeper until you fall asleep. You’ll wake up feeling fresh, energized and with no back or neck pain.

Now, those who claim not to have time for yoga have run out of excuses. And even if you do have time for your regular practice, these poses are fun to do and will help remind you to carry your practice with you no matter where you are.

Alberto Güitrón is a Community Manager at He is a committed yoga practitioner who still can’t touch the ground with his heels in Downward Dog. One day he’ll do it and he will probably write a story bragging about it.

Cosmic Chai, A Recipe for Kapha Energy

Photos and post by Claire Ragozzino of Vidya Living. 

Today I’m honored to share a guest post by Claire Ragozzino, who is an amazing plant-based chef, holistic nutrition coach and blogger over at Vidya Living. Her chai recipe below is wonderful for this time of year, when we’re feeling the effects of spring’s arrival. Enjoy!

Photos and post by Claire Ragozzino of Vidya Living. 

I’m writing you with a mug of chai in hand, wrapped cozy in a blanket while a fierce rain falls outside. We’re going on day 4 of April showers here in the great plains of Oklahoma, and while the land dearly needs this water, my body is swimming in what we Ayurvedic yogis call Kapha energy (ie. lethargic, heavy, slow, sleepy). 

Ayurveda, which translates to the science of life, is the study of our health in relation to the elements and the cyclical rhythms of the earth – think seasons and moon cycles. In Ayurveda, everything in nature, including ourselves, can be categorized by three primal energies, known as doshas, which consist of the five elements. We seek inner harmony through balancing these elements within us in accordance to what elements are showing up around us.  Through self-study, we begin to apply this science as a way to align with the beautiful cyclical dance of nature. Kapha dosha, the element of earth and water, governs the late winter and early spring, and regulates the water in the tissues and lymphatic system. When an abundance of Kapha is present, it can mean emotional and physical stagnation, slower digestion, excess mucous, and overall congestion showing up in body and mind.

Photos and post by Claire Ragozzino of Vidya Living. 

Keeping a balance of cooked foods, fresh astringent greens, and warming pungent spices like ginger, clove, black pepper, cinnamon and cardamom (think Chai spices) can help to balance out the presence of slow moving Kapha in the body.  These food habits paired with a more active asana practice and purifying pranayama practices, like Kapalabhati and Bastrika, will begin reawaken a dormant body and mind after a long winter of hibernation.  But while it’s still raining, curl up with a big mug of this springtime herbal chai and your favorite journal where you can write, reflect and usher in the new life, creativity and joy that comes with this new season of rebirth and awakening.

Photos and post by Claire Ragozzino of Vidya Living.  
6 cups water
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tbsp fresh grated ginger
2 tbsp fresh grated turmeric
10 cardamom pods
1 tsp whole cloves
5 black peppercorns
4 star anise pods
½ tsp whole allspice
Optional: ¼  cup dried tulsi leaves (holy basil)

Bring the water to boil on the stove top.  Add the spices and simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Reduce heat to low and add the dried tulsi, let steep for 3-5 more minutes. Remove from heat and strain the liquid.  To serve, pour the hot concentrate into a mug about ½ to ¾ of the way full, then top your favorite nut or seed milk.  Sweeten with a spoonful of raw honey. Makes 2 cups concentrate.
Photos and post by Claire Ragozzino of Vidya Living.  

This Cosmic Chai recipe was originally posted on Vidya Living. Claire Ragozzino is a certified yoga instructor, plant-based chef and holistic nutrition coach. She works with clients around the globe to inspire transformational changes in their health and wellbeing. Her wellness programs are infused with Ayurvedic principles, plant-based nutrition, and yogic philosophy to cultivate knowledge for intuitive healing. Work with Claire one-on-one to craft a unique personal nutrition and lifestyle plan, or join the online community as she guides you through a purposeful seasonal detox. Learn about her seasonally-inspired plant-based recipes, e-courses, global retreats, and transformational nutrition coaching programs at and follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

PS More info about how to do an Ayurvedic cleanse and how to do Ayurvedic oil pulling for oral detoxification. Also find out more about your dosha, or Ayurvedic energy type, by taking this dosha quiz. Cheers to your health, yogis!

What It's Like Being a Yoga Blogger and Teacher (An Interview with Candace)

Photos via Yoga by Candace.

How did you find yoga?
My mom brought me to Kripalu, a center for yoga and health in the Berkshire Mountains when I was 15. It used to be a monastery and it's this gorgeous, sprawling building with the most amazing energy. Back then, it was only $20 to take a class and spend the whole day there using the facilities and having a delicious lunch. Now, it's over $120 for the day!

What keeps you on your mat?
A connection to something deeper. I know that sounds a little out there, but my practice is like going to church. It inspires me, it fuels me, it motivates me, it nourishes me.

When did you know you wanted to become a teacher?
When I a kid, I used to make my brother play School with me. I was the teacher (obviously), and he had to be the student. I always, always, always wanted to be a teacher because I was inspired by so many great ones at such a young age (shout out to Mrs. Rutolo, Mrs. Neary, and Mr. Norris - my kindergarten, first and fourth grade teachers). When I started practicing yoga, I found a whole new love and another realization - that I could explain things to people in a new and innovative way. So I started a yoga blog after my teacher training with the hopes of sharing these ideas. I used my background (I have a Master's in Secondary Education) to create visual learning guides and explain things in simple ways.

What advice do you have for new yogis?
Let go of expectations for where you ought to be. So many people say they're not flexible enough or something similar. Not being flexible enough to do yoga is like saying you're too dirty to take a bath. New teachers? Always be a student first. Approach the class with the idea that it's for the students, not for yourself. Tune in to your best qualities and know what you can offer. Then find ways to infuse your gifts into the teaching of the class.

What has helped you grow your following on your blog, and in your teaching?
The secret to a successful blog is offering a solution to a problem. Identify a problem, help people, and they'll want to share it with their friends. That action of sharing is what will help grow a blog. In teaching, I've done one really important thing to grow my teaching: 1) Remain a student first. I try to take master classes and participate in in-depth study as much as I can. The more I learn, the more I can grow and share as a teacher.

How has yoga changed your life?

Ah that's a tough one! How hasn't it changed my life is probably more relevant, haha. Yoga has taught me so many things about how to handle challenging situations from anxiety to conflict to self-doubt. It's taught me self-acceptance, and the important lesson that everyone I encounter is doing the best that they know how so to take nothing personally. It's taught me that no matter where I find myself, and however stressed, angry or sad I might feel, the breath is the boss and it's always there to anchor me. It's taught me to breathe, relax, and let go. It's taught me discipline, courage, and strength.

Thanks, Candace, for your lovely insight! 

For more awesome yoga routines and inspiring blog posts, visit Yoga by Candace. Here are a few of my favorite posts:

Creating a Yoga Studio Space at Home

Have you ever thought about creating a sacred space at home where you can practice yoga or meditate?

I’ve always had the goal of clearing a spot where I can do my home practice.

No matter if your home is spacious or small, creating an at-home yoga space is a great thing to do. I’ve even seen beautiful little backyard areas and corners in the garage transformed into custom, calm ‘studios!’

Here are some tips from Dane O’Leary at the team about how to create a yoga space at home.

How to Create a Yoga Space at Home

Not only is yoga helpful in becoming physically healthy, but it's also great for your soul. 

Many people invest in gym memberships and expensive classes in order to master the art of yoga under the impression that having a yoga studio at home is too expensive or requires too much space to be realistic. However, just about anyone can have a yoga studio at home. Here’s how you can create a home yoga studio where you can balance body, mind and spirit.

Less is More

When it comes to a yoga studio, you don’t need much in the way of furniture and décor. In fact, most experts and yoga instructors will tell you that less is more. In your minimalist yoga studio, the most essential thing is just to have the space to practice.

Serene Seclusion

Ideally, your at-home studio space will have a door you can close, so that you separate yourself from the rest of your home (and any kids or pets that want to join you!). 

However, not everyone has the space available to designate a room for just yoga. A home office or spare bedroom — rooms that aren’t frequently occupied or are only occupied by you — are great for doubling as an at-home yoga studio.

The Space

To inspire serenity and tranquility, your yoga studio should feature calm, muted cool colors and warm cream colors. The color palette shouldn’t draw attention, but rather recede into the background. Lighting is also important. Installing a dimmer so that you have full control of your studio’s light would be optimal. Lamps with a three-way switch also give you more control over the amount of light.


Accessorize your yoga studio with things that will remind you of yoga and of your intent to improve your body and mind. Candles create a calming, serene environment and come in a variety of calming fragrances such as lavender, lemon, and jasmine. It might be a good idea to invest in a sound machine or an iPod dock you can use to play calming music. Potted plants are also soothing and therapeutic, lending themselves to the mood of your sanctuary.

Flea markets and yard sales are great places to find other treasures for your yoga studio. A trunk would be useful for storing your yoga supplies and a bookshelf or wall shelves would house candles, books, and inspirational items. You might consider hanging some posters, pictures, or artwork on the walls, but make sure they embody tranquility; things like ocean and beach scenes, Impressionist and abstract art are great for an at-home yoga studio.

Finish on the Floor

Professionals say that the floor of your yoga studio is perhaps the most important feature of your at-home yoga studio. Most recommend hardwood floors since they don’t get as cold as tile and other types of floors, they give a little while you move while being firm enough for support, and they won’t hurt your knees. Carpets are too soft and are poor for stability, but would be a good second choice.

Every yoga enthusiast needs a good yoga mat, perhaps more than one if you plan to ever have companions join you in your yoga studio. Large pillows and cushions also make for great floor seating as well. 

Head to for more home ideas and inspiration. 

Thanks, Dane, for these awesome ideas!

Photos via Unsplash.

PS How to create a space for hot yoga at home.


Photo by Justin Kral.

There is a person in your life who loves you.  This person loves you with all of their being.  

They are always on your side and they pray every day that you succeed.  You’re missing the beauties of life every time you’re too busy for this person.  

You’re giving up a little bit of your soul every time you choose work over this person.  Love them.  Call them now and make them laugh.

This post is from Brooklyn to Mars, a blog by Markus Almond. (It’s my new favorite blog, and I hope you’ll check it out for inspiration!)

Meditation (A Guest Post)

 Photos via Pinterest.

Today I’m honored to share a guest post by Marcia Keilen about the powerful practice of meditation. I first read Marcia’s work on Elephant Journal, and I loved her words about how yoga extends beyond asana. As she said, she loved yoga most for the way the time spent on the mat alone gave her access to her inner wisdom.

Marcia explores that even further in this reflection on how meditation has allowed her to wake up to her life in ways she never imagined were possible.

Meditation: My Personal Journey
By Marcia Keilen
This is my personal story about the transformational power of meditation.

My experience meditating started out many years ago, sometime during the 1990s. I had been attending some yoga classes on and off when I first became interested in the subject of meditation. Since I lived in a small, rural community, my best resources were books. I read books on mindfulness meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn and Sharon Salzberg. I practiced the suggested meditations and did this for a while, but was not consistent with my practice. This was a pattern that would continue on and off for a number of years as I just didn’t know how to fit a meditation practice into my life.

In 2004, I went through a 200 hour teacher training program and started my journey as a yoga teacher which continued with me finishing up the 500 hour yoga teacher training in 2007. It was during the advanced part of my teacher training that I was introduced to some more meditation techniques. I then met a Buddhist minister who taught me some guided meditations. This seemed to keep my interest a bit longer than my previous experience but still my meditation practice was rather erratic.

Then in the year 2009 I found myself at a crossroads in my life. I was really struggling and my life continued to spiral downwards. Actually, this was a continuation of a pattern that started years before, only I was not aware of just how confused and lost I had become.

The following quote pretty much sums it all up:

“In the middle of the journey of our life
I found myself within a dark woods
Where the straight way was lost.”
~ Dante Alighieri

I then began searching for some type of retreat I could go to that would not only detox me on a physical level but on an emotional level, as well. Also, something that would reconnect me with my spiritual roots and help me rediscover my authentic self. I took to the Internet and did several searches. The one place that caught my eye was the Chopra Center for Well Being in Carlsbad, CA. They had a program called Perfect Health and there was an option of doing a 10 day program. I thought, “Why not?”

I signed up for the program that started end of August and ran into September. Little did I know at the time how transformational this part of my journey would be. 

I arrived at the Chopra Center for Well Being and the very first part of the program was learning a meditation technique called Primordial Sound Meditation. My teacher was a man by the name of Davidji and everything he said about his own exploration of different types of meditation immediately resonated with me. I thought finally, a meditation technique that I can stick with and apply in my daily life. He took all the mystery and myths out of what a meditation practice is. That 10 day program released so many toxins out of me physically and emotionally. I really struggled on an emotional level, something that took me by complete surprise. The Perfect Health program is an Ayurvedic program called Panchakarma. The following information is taken from the Chopra Center for Well Being website describing this program:

“Several times each year, we offer a 10-day Perfect Health program that includes panchakarma, an elegant Ayurvedic cleansing process that releases accumulated toxins and stress from the mind-body system. You will receive daily panchakarma therapies and massage treatments tailored to your unique mind-body constitution. Your healing arts master will select specific essential oils and natural herbs to purify and nurture you at the deepest cellular level.”

I spent a lot of my time crying and releasing deep emotional wounds, essentially I was a basket case all 10 days. I am so grateful for Dr. Valencia Porter who took time to talk to me one on one as I struggled with so many overwhelming emotions. The Ayurvedic treatments were very nurturing and I felt I was in a safe space to just allow the whole process to unfold in the most advantageous way. There was a small group of us going through this program who really bonded during this time and I will be forever grateful for their support. But essentially it was up to me to do all the necessary inner work.

What really struck me was how much the meditation became the biggest gift I took away with me from this program. I immediately signed up for Seduction of Spirit, the signature meditation program of the Chopra Center. This was going to be held in August of 2010 in Sedona, AZ. In the meantime, I continued practicing my meditation on a regular basis.

Since some of the benefits that we take out of meditation include reduced stress, making more conscious choices, being less reactive, more compassionate, less judgmental, to name a few, I was hopeful that my life would now turn around. Well, it did, just not in a way I had expected.
Looking back it seems that my pattern was to prove to everyone that I was unlovable, not good enough, didn’t deserve people in my life who treated me well, and the list goes on, but this is essentially how I felt. So, I hit rock bottom in 2010 and found myself in the underworld trying to find my way back into the light. Also, during this time I had a serious lower back injury that laid me up for about eight weeks which I felt was a culmination of my feelings of inadequacy and lack of self love. At the time it was hard for me to understand how this could happen after integrating a regular meditation practice into my life. But now I see that my meditation practice actually allowed me to be aware of what I was doing, something that had not happened before. In the midst of the chaos a light bulb went off and I finally gained insights that my behavior was completely out of sync and counter to my authentic self. This was a time of self-discovery and the life long pattern was finally broken. 

I then continued going to several more Chopra events and finally went through the Primordial Sound Meditation teacher training which makes me a certified meditation teacher. My regular meditation practice has brought many gifts into my life. Not that I am perfect now by any means but I am living a life of integrity and being true to my values. I credit my meditation practice for helping me choose the healers that have been exactly what I needed at each critical point in my life. 

As I continue on my meditation journey, I have discovered more and more synchronicities in my life and I am learning to be more self loving and self forgiving. As I heal and become more loving and compassionate towards myself, I am then able to spread more love and compassion out into the world. The healing of our world really does start with our own inner healing and connection to our authentic self.

My meditation practice also has helped me to develop a sense of gratitude and inner peace. I am truly grateful for all the many teachers who have come into my life, the ones who had my best interest at heart and even those who didn’t. In fact the latter were probably my best teachers and taught me the life lessons that I needed the most in order to become who I am today. My meditation practice is an ongoing journey and every day I approach it with no particular expectations, just allowing it to unfold and trusting the process. This is also what I take out of my practice into my everyday life.

My practice is what keeps me grounded and allows be to connect to the highest aspect of myself. In the moments of stillness between thoughts is where I find my deepest insights, my authentic self, inner wisdom and inner peace. I am forever grateful.

Marcia Keilen is a yoga teacher, meditation teacher, but mostly, she is a student of life and all the lessons that it has taught her and continues to teach her. She is finding that nothing heals more than love, that in the final analysis, all that matters is love. You can reach her at

Thanks again, Marcia, for the inspiration to make time to sit in meditation! Wishing you much peace and happiness.

Real Men Do Yoga: Vincent

Photos courtesy of Vincent.

Today I'm honored to share Vincent's yoga story as part of the Real Men Do Yoga series. Vincent is a yogi from Washington state who I connected with on Instagram.

He's a military man with a strong practice and a big heart, and I could tell right away that he's the real deal. Thank you, Vince, for sharing your inspiring yoga journey and awesome photos! May you continue to walk a peaceful path, shining your light and lighting up others around you.

How did you end up in yoga class?

To be honest, it took me a while to get into an actual yoga class. I had wanted to try yoga for a long time but never had enough courage to sign up and attend one. I didn’t know why I was so scared because the first glance I ever had into a yoga class (which was during a 2009 deployment in Afghanistan) there were several other men in it. 

I think it really came down to me not wanting to be embarrassed of my lack of coordination or something. 

So fast forward a few years to the beginning of 2013 and the yoga itch came back and I decided to scratch it this time. I didn’t automatically just dive into a class; I started with videos from YouTube and like most people these days Instagram helped fuel my growing obsession with my practice. Being self-taught can only take you but so far in your practices so after a point I decided that I was ready to get over my fear of being among other people practicing yoga in a public venue. I have never looked back since.

What style do you practice?
I mainly practice Vinyasa Yoga. The thing I like about this style of practice how it focuses on gaining a better discipline when getting into postures and maintaining strong breathing techniques. Breathing is something I have a hard time keeping calm when practicing but the more I give myself into the flow the easier it becomes.

How do you feel when you practice?
I feel free and challenged all at the same time. I used to not believe that yoga was a serious workout until I gave it a go myself. But I always prepare myself for a great challenge every time I step on my mat. 

You never know what progress you will achieve or what setbacks will come your way. That’s one of the thing I love about practicing yoga.

Share about an experience you had on your mat that you’ll never forget.
Well there are so many experiences I could go on about (positive and negative) so to narrow it down will be rather hard. But this happened at home and at class. For a long time I was trying to get into wheel pose and could not understand what I was doing wrong. I was getting more and more frustrated with every attempt. So when I had enough I decided it would be the best idea to gain some proper instruction. 

My teacher Erin at Harmony Yoga in Spokane, WA gave me the confidence (with proper advice and a watchful eye) that was I was lacking in my posture. Out of nowhere I popped up into a proper aligned wheel. I have never been so happy on my mat before that time. I couldn’t stop smiling and Erin could see the shear excitement radiating from me. That is why that moment will stay with me.

 Are you ever aware of being one of few men in a yoga class? What are your thoughts on yoga for guys? What would you say to a guy who’s intimidated about taking a class?

I am typically one of two (if any) other guys in any of the classes I attend. I think that, like me, most guys do not see doing yoga as a “manly” activity to do while at the gym. 

One thing that I believe is a great benefit of doing yoga is that it adds another great tool in your toolbox of fitness. I know yoga has given me the ability to be calmer in times that it was needed. Giving me the chance to be more flexible and have greater control over muscle groups which can come in handy when lifting weights like most males will do in the gym. 

So I would say that more men need to give it a try and see what it is really about. There is no real reason to be intimidated by practicing yoga.

How do you see your yoga journey evolving in the next few years? Do you have any goals you’re working toward?

I would love to see my yoga journey evolve into something great over the next few years. What that actually means has yet to be revealed as of yet. I can only imagine how far practicing will take me. I have already met some wonderful yogis and made some lifelong connections all because of my practice so to ask for more seems crazy. I have some goals that I am working on within my practice but with my current job in the military and the demands that come with that I may not be able to dedicate the proper amount of time to landing a handstand that I can hold for more than one second. 

Other than that posture goal I just want to continue to be able to radiate positive vibes from within and have those vibes affect those around me in a positive manner.

Thanks again, Vincent! Readers, I hope you'll join me in following his journey in photos on Instagram.

Finding Your Voice As a Yoga Teacher (Plus, A Giveaway!)

Photos courtesy of Caren.

This has been a big week in my yoga teaching journey… I taught five classes! Two of them were at my beloved home studio, and it feels amazing to be able to share yoga with the community I love so much. I’m learning to be more open, more vulnerable, more present with my students, again and again offering up the practice. I’m also finding new cues, exploring what words are effective for getting yogis in and out of the postures. Teaching is an incredible journey.

Today I have a lovely guest post from yoga teacher and writer Caren Baginski. She offers her inspiring story about how she found her true voice as a teacher.

Finding Your Voice as a Teacher
By Caren Baginski

Finding Your Voice (A Post for Yoga Teachers)

I'll never forget my first yoga class as an official, paid instructor. I meticulously wrote down my sequence, showed up early at the recreation center, unrolled my mat and waited. Waited for anyone to join me, while secretly hoping no one would.

The butterflies I felt that day lasted a whole year while I discovered my voice as a new yoga teacher. The students were patient and new to yoga themselves, which helped when I flubbed a cue or accidentally had them flowing through the same side, twice. Apologies were always met with kindness.

As cueing became second nature, I started to worry about the Dharma message — that epic "Why are we here on the mat" opus I felt compelled to deliver each class. With so much to say and so many ways to say it, my message frequently got lost somewhere between Child's Pose and Savasana.

The difference between my teaching then and four years later is that I started to think like a storyteller… and I started to tell my own story.

Discovering your voice as a yoga instructor is a lifelong metamorphosis. One that begins when you realize you don't have to teach like anyone else, and instead can teach like YOU.

Here are three things I recommend to speed up that process.

1. Find the theme in the poses.

When I started teaching how each yoga pose makes one feel, in addition to the physiological benefits, my teaching took on a new tone. Many of us practice yoga specifically because of how it makes us feel, so allow your students to savor feeling more than doing. This naturally creates space for talking less (hooray!) and more adjusting.

2. Narrow your focus.

There are endless topics and themes to explore in yoga class, and it's hard to choose just one. However: Choose just one. Really! And then get specific.

If you go too broad, "It's spring! Time to open our hearts," your class won't be as memorable as, "It's spring! Let's cleanse our heart chakras by easing into Wheel Pose." Plus, the more specific you get, the more you discover what makes you light up as a teacher. That leads to...

3. Give yourself permission to be you.

Teaching yoga can be as vulnerable as taking a class. You never know what backstory each student might bring to the mat or what every student needs that day, and that's okay. The more you show up as yourself, the more you'll authentically be able to assist others.

Do you like to crack jokes? Chant? Take yoga photos with your dog? Is your style slower or faster than other teachers? Within the class framework you're given, inject your personality (minus the dog). You'll find your tribe once you start showing up as yourself.

GIVEAWAY: Want to journey into your authentic self? Caren is giving away one free spot to her 30-day digital yoga and meditation program, You Again Yoga, to a lucky Alive in the Fire reader!

This program will benefit anyone who feels disconnected from themselves, whether through stress, depression, anxiety or just a case of the blahs. To enter, like Happy Momentum on Facebook and leave a comment here about what you’re hoping to gain from the yoga and meditation program. A winner will be chosen on May 3rd. Update: deadline extended! Giveaway open until May 15th.

Caren Baginski is a writer, yoga instructor and creator of You Again Yoga who overcame depression through her practice. She takes yoga photos with her dog (seriously!) and writes weekly on her website Happy Momentum. She lives in Denver, CO. 


Photo by Cait Loper.
The only way out is through. 

The only way through is up. 

And since there are no other ways to go, you are obviously exactly where you are "supposed" to be. 

You are perfectly positioned to perform miracles at every moment of now. So, what do you choose to dowho do you choose to bein this perfect opportunity of now?

Photo by Yoel Eisenstadt.

*This is a guest post by Aaron Ward, who is soon to be featured in the Real Men Do Yoga series.

Staying Young: Yoga and Its Effects on Aging

With yoga, you can grow younger every year.

I mean, have you guys seen the world’s oldest yoga teacher (above)? Or Dharma Mittra (below)?

They glow. And it's because they have been dedicated to their practice for years. Today I bring you an awesome guest post by health writer Tara Heath about the anti-aging benefits of yoga. Haven’t you heard you should do inversions for fewer wrinkles? Well, that’s only the beginning! Read on…

Photo via Pinterest.

Aging is something that nobody can prevent – even as much as everyone in the world would like to. However, there are some things you can do in your day-to-day life to help slow the process of aging and stay healthy. The most obvious of those being simple things like eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep each night.

Yoga, despite its popularity and generally accepted health benefits, isn't something people always think of when considering ways to slow the clock on aging. Surprisingly, it turns out that it may actually be a beneficial weapon in the fight against time. 

Even if you’re not in your senior years quite yet, or aging isn't the first thing on your mind, taking steps to stay healthy and feel young can benefit everybody, and starting early is always better than starting late. 

Image courtesy of Flickr .

Increased Flexibility 

Men and women are born with the same amount of flexibility, but as they age, that flexibility decreases. While the decline typically occurs faster in men than women, adults over the age of 35 are generally much less flexible than they were in their 20s.

Yoga, which puts the body in a variety of unique positions, helps improve flexibility in a way that isn't overly uncomfortable or painful. Over time, doing the poses can make it easier for you to do daily tasks. This can help you tremendously as you age, as many injuries for adults and seniors come from doing everyday activities. 

Image courtesy of Flickr .

Improved Joint Strength 

Like flexibility, joint strength tends to diminish with age. Yoga is beneficial for building or restoring some of that joint strength, however, as many types of yoga incorporate poses that require you to support your body weight. In that way, yoga is much like strength training, which also helps improve joint strength.

Of course, the positions you use that require you to support your body weight also aid in building muscle. More muscle mass also helps reduce injuries and keep your body weight down.

Better Sleep 

Aging adults tend to have more sleep problems than younger ones. Not getting enough sleep can result in serious health problems and more rapid aging.

Doing yoga regularly can help you improve your quality of sleep since the asana practice combines both exercise and relaxation techniques – two things we know are essential or a well-regulated sleep schedule. 

If you have trouble sleeping at night and it’s causing problems in your daily life or making you feel run-down, taking a few yoga classes could go a long ways toward curing your problem.

Photo via Pinterest.

It’s impossible to stop the aging process completely, but that doesn't mean that you can’t slow it down a bit. Although eating right is what you hear about most when the topic of aging comes up, exercise and relaxation are both a close second.

Luckily those are two things that yoga can provide for you, making it an almost ideal anti-aging activity. 

Photo via Pinterest.

Tara Heath is a freelance writer in Southern California. She enjoys practicing yoga regularly, finding that it is very beneficial in helping her to relax and unwind after a long day. As a health writer, she contributes to the Presidio Home Care blog

Tips for Creating a Meditation Room

Photo via Pinterest.

Do you meditate?

Are you hoping to start?

Creating a sacred space in your home can help. Today I bring you a guest post from writer Victoria Cunningham on the benefits of setting up a meditation spot in your house. (You may remember her last post on yoga for busy moms.) Read on for some great ideas about how to get your space set up!

Photo via Pinterest.

Establishing a meditation practice becomes easier when you have a place in your home that you can go to for the express purpose of relaxation...where everything in that room is devoted to helping you clear your mind and quiet down from life’s busy schedule and demands. 
While not everyone has the luxury of a spare room to devote to meditation, those who do should consider outfitting that extra room to be as relaxing as possible. If you do, that space can become your own meditation room. It could be as simple or as complex and decorative as you want it to be. 

The point is that it’s your room and above all else, it offers you a tranquil escape from everyday life.

Photo via Creative Commons.

The more you can relax and block out the rest of your thoughts, the easier it will be for you to meditate. It can be hard to relax in rooms that are devoted to other things, often times simply because they are too noisy or busy for any kind of consistent focus. You might have other family members there or other things going on that distract from your meditating and make it nearly impossible to concentrate. Having your own space would solve most, if not all of these problems. 

Here are a few things you can do to make your quiet space into a full-tilt meditation room: 

1. Scented candles and oils — You might prefer incense, candles, or aromatherapy, but whatever method you use, just make sure that you keep a calming scent in the air of your meditation room. Having it smell different than the rest of the house will help to set it apart and make it a more exclusive place, so that when you go into that room, you immediately feel more relaxed and peaceful. 

2. MP3 or Music Player — An iHome or some kind of music player for playing soothing sounds or white noise is essential for your meditation room. It’s one of the only electronic items (aside from lights) that you’ll need. Try and get something small that won’t overpower the room and distract from the decor. 

3. Calming decor  — You’ll want a soft color for the walls; perhaps a soft off-white or a cool shade of green. Try to incorporate some live plants as well, since they’re always great for adding a calming element to a room and giving off oxygen. Decorations should be soothing and subtle, and as non-distracting as possible. When decorating a meditation room, it’s best to stay on the minimalist side of things so that you don’t risk making the room too “loud.” One thing that can really make the decor of a meditation room come alive is a water wall. It doesn’t have to be big, but even a small one with the sound of running water can make a room incredibly relaxing. If you’re going to invest in your own relaxation, a water wall will have some good returns. 

4. Minimal furniture — You only need one piece of furniture to sit on, and many people just prefer a small pillow in the middle of the room. If you want to incorporate more furniture, that’s fine, but you don’t really need to, and anything more than a side table or two, and perhaps a small couch if you’re not a fan of the pillow, will probably be too much. Again, go for a minimalist approach here

A Room Set Apart 

However you design your room, you want to make sure it’s distinguished and set apart from the rest of your house, both in appearance and in the way it feels. If your goal is to keep things minimal, you won’t have to spend a lot of money. Get the decorations you want and do what you need to do to make the room a place of quietness and tranquility. If you do that, your home meditation sessions should see a significant benefit. 

Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer from Southern California and enjoys practicing meditation as a way to escape from the stress of work and life in general. She always tries to make some time to visit her home meditation room daily. Follow her on Twitter today!