Summer Sun Salutation (Yogi Surprise July Review)


Are you enjoying your summer, yogis?

I can't believe July is already halfway over! Hope you're enjoying slow, sunny days whenever you can. The summer season is one of my favorites, and I've been especially grateful for cooler weather on the coast lately.

I made a trip to visit friends and family in the Sacramento area last week and it was over 100 degrees-- too hot for me! When we returned to the green forests and cool breezes up here in Humboldt County, I felt quite relieved :)


I love that summer encourages us to celebrate. To be outdoors. To invigorate our hearts, be creative, and strengthen our determination!

I believe with all the heat and passion of summer, it's also important to find ease and balance even in this active time of year.


What are some of your favorite ways to wind down on warm summer nights?

I absolutely love my new Yogi Surprise July box, which was filled with summer essentials to help me relax and unwind.


These are my three favorite products from the box:

Shea Radiance whipped shea butter with apricot oil. Oh. My. Goodness. This stuff is incredible! I've been using it on my feet at bedtime and it feels so luxurious. It's also great for moisturizing my feet, especially the area around my heels which has been dry and a little cracked lately from walking around barefoot and going to the beach. I'll definitely be buying a new stash of this amazing butter after I run out.

Gypsy Soul Organics sun salutation salve. This little guy is my new favorite lip balm. It's now at home in the easiest-to-reach-pouch of my purse -- 'nuff said :)
Manduka Equa yoga hand towel. This super-soft microfiber towel absorbs sweat quickly, and is now an essential in my gym bag or whenever I take a sweaty hot yoga class. It's perfect for someone like me, because as you know, I sweat a lot! :) I'm grateful that Yogi Surprise has partnered with Manduka because I believe they're one of the best brands out there for yoga gear (you can read my review of their lightweight travel mat, or check out how much the Sponsored Yogis team loved their cushy, supportive eKo mats.)


Cheers to keeping cool, calm, and refreshed all weekend, and throughout the rest of summer, too! Namaste.

Have a Beautiful Weekend.


Happy Friday, yogis!

What are you guys up to this weekend?

I'm excited to relax, make s'mores, go grocery shopping for new recipes, take the dog for a walk, and do some writing.

Here are some fun links from around the web:

Staying mindful even when you're frustrated (I so needed this one!).

Questions to ask before your yoga teacher training.

Do you ever drink alone? Also, a yummy mango colada.

Which spot in northern California would you visit? :)

These vibes.


Plus, a recap of posts on Alive in the Fire from this week:

Here's hoping you have a beautiful weekend! XO


Illustration found on Pinterest and photo found via Tumblr.

Solstice Celebration (Yogi Surprise June Review)


Summer is here!

Are you doing anything to celebrate the summer solstice this weekend?

I don't know about you, but here in California we are definitely already feeling the summer vibes :)


During the summer months, I'm grateful for sunshine, longer days, barbecues with friends, staying up late and sitting on the back patio, live music, time in nature, naps on the beach, and of course, sangria, Caprese salads, garden tomatoes, and watermelon! ;)

What are you grateful for during this time of year?


This month's June Yogi Surprise box reminds me to take time for centering, and to balance the fiery energy of summer with time for resting and renewing.

Here are my favorite items from the box:


Kate's Magik Moon Goddess anointing oil. I love the Jasmine scent and have been using this often in my essential oil diffuser. It really does make me feel more like a goddess!


Anima Mundi Apothecary Palo Santo Mist (Bad Vibe Killer). Palo santo is soooo amazing! Have you guys tried it? It has this rich, earthy, woodsy, masculine smell that reminds me of being around a campfire. Apparently you can spray this on the body for pain relief, but I just love the scent so much I spritz it around the house!


GoMacro Organic Cashew Caramel Bar. We were just talking about these bars on Alive in the Fire recently and how they are great energizing snacks for before or after yoga! I agree with Kelsie's conclusions about how delicious they are :)

Thank you, Yogi Surprise team, for always knowing exactly which seasonal items will make my day.


Photos in this post by Brynna Bryant of Respiro Photography.

PS More Yogi Surprise goodness from May, April, and March.

Energizing Snacks


What are the best foods for yogis to eat before and after class? 

This is a question I often return to, especially on days when I have intense, sweaty workouts and need to keep my energy levels up.

Recently lovely sponsored yogini Kels was given a chance to try some yummy GoMacro macrobars, and these may be our new favorite pre- and post-yoga snacks...


GoMacro loves flavor. Healthy, wholesome, flavor. They’re macrobiotic, meaning they’re made from wholesome ingredients. 

They are minimally processed and help you maintain health and balance in your life. 

Go Macro’s mantra is that if nature didn’t make it, they don’t use it in their bars. They’re delicious, nutritious and life-giving.






My favorites are the GoMaco Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip and the Apple Walnut. Trust me on this one.

What snacks do you like to eat before or after a workout?

I'd love to hear! 

A heartfelt Namaste to the team at GoMacro and to Kelsie for sharing her review :)
Photos in this post courtesty of Kelsie and from GoMacro.

Have a Beautiful Weekend


What are you up to this weekend? I'm excited to get a haircut, spend time outside in the sunshine, and go for a cruise on the water in Eureka and taste oysters. 

Hope you have a refreshing summery weekend, and here are a few fun links from around the web...

Are you traveling this summer? Here's a great 30-minute yoga practice for travelers from The Journey Junkie. Sneak it into your day, between driving or flying, so you don't get stiff.

A fun and simple dating tip for keeping the sparks alive.


Building your brand as a yoga teacher.



And a few Alive in the Fire posts from this week, in case you missed them:
Four little life-changing words.
Advice from real-life yoga teachers on how to sequence a class.
How do you define abundance?


Cheers to a fun weekend!

Pre and Post-Workout Snacks

What are your favorite snacks for before and after a yoga class? 

My current faves:

  • A handful of trail mix with almonds, raisins, craisins, sunflower seeds and dark chocolate chips
  • A green smoothie with any of the following: banana, mango, strawberry, spinach, kale juice, peaches, and avocado

Photos via

Jem

 and

Pinterest

.

Here's a site with some other ideas for

healthy snacks

, including vegan options, snacks for kids, and high-protein snacks.

Cheers!

Yoga Wear for Summer


Pfew! It's getting hot here in Sacramento.

In the last few weeks we've had pretty strange weather... ranging from 105 degrees, super dry, and hot to some rain and heat around 80 degrees, ranging down to upper 60s, which made me think of being in North Carolina in the summers when I was a kid. Quite a range of temperatures!


Today I'm requesting your advice, yogis and teachers... where do you shop for loose, comfortable, cool yoga wear? I'm finding with spending hours at yoga studios where the room is 80+ degrees, driving around in my super hot black car, and moving in and out of heat and then indoor AC, my body's all over the place!

I'd like to find some tops and pants that aren't form fitting, and maybe even that can double as outfits for outside of yoga. Any thoughts?

I appreciate it! XO

PS If you're a brand that makes great yoga wear for summer and want to be featured here on Alive in the Fire, please send me an email at aliveinthefire at gmail dot com. I'd love to post about you!

PPS Balancing the pitta dosha (fire and heat) and ways to cool your practice in the summer. And fresh juice and smoothie recipes for staying hydrated.

Summer Salads

Photo courtesy of Elizabeth.

Happy Friday, yogis! I hope you're all enjoying a beautiful week. Do you have any fun yoga plans this weekend? :)

I wanted to share a little post from my lovely sponsored yoginis Elizabeth and Keyla. They've both been making new summer salad recipes featuring Litehouse dressings. If you're looking for quick meal ideas for this weekend, try these! 
Photo via Litehouse.
From Elizabeth:

Being quite picky with my salad dressings I have to say I am so in love with the Spinach Salad dressing. The texture of the dressing did take a little getting used to, however the flavor is so yummy! I really enjoyed the bits of bacon and the smoky flavor. 

My favorite salad mix so far with this is:
  • spinach
  • fresh strawberries from my garden
  • walnuts
  • hulled hemp seed
  • Litehouse Spinach Salad dressing
Mmmmm! It's my go to lunch these days. I was also quite impressed with how many varieties of dressings Litehouse offers.

Above photo courtesy of Keyla. Below photo via Litehouse.



From Keyla:

Here's a great summer salad featuring the Greek vinaigrette

Black Eyed Peas and Barley Salad

  • 1 cup of dried black eyed peas 
  • 1 cup of dried barley 
  • 1 cucumber 
  • 1 pack of grape tomatoes
  • Handful of cilantro
  • Handful of cheese (Feta)
  • Lite house Greek vinegarette 
  • Salt and pepper to taste 

Cook the peas and barley in separate pots and prep the veggies as they cook.

How to cook black-eyed peas: Soaking is not essential for black-eyed peas, but cooking time can be shortened if they get a quick soak in hot water, or soak overnight in cold water if cooking the next day. Place dried peas in a pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil for 2-3 minutes. Remove pot from heat and allow to stand for 60-90 minutes. Drain water and replace with fresh, cold water for cooking - or if you skipped the hot-soaking step, just rinse and add cold water. Place on stove and bring to a boil in a pot with a lid. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer, tilting the lid slightly to allow steam to escape, and leave to cook for up to an hour, or until tender

How to cook Barley
1 cup pearl or hulled barley
3 cups water or stock
Salt (optional)

Instructions
  • Combine the barley and water. Add salt if needed
  • Bring to a boil: Bring the water and barley to a boil over high heat. Keep an eye on the pot to prevent foam from overflowing.
  • Simmer the barley: When the barley has reached a boil, lower the heat to a low simmer, cover, and continue to cook until the barley is done. For pearl barley, start checking at 25 minutes. For hulled barley, start checking at 40 minutes. The barley is done when it has tripled in volume and is soft yet chewy. Add more water if the pan becomes dry before the barley has finished cooking; check every 5 minutes until desired chewiness is reached.
  • Drain the barley (if necessary): When the barley is done, it will have absorbed most of the water. If there is a little water still left in the pot, just leave the barley to sit for 10 minutes, covered, until it has all been absorbed. If there is a lot of water left, drain the barley in a strainer over the sink.
  • Fluff the barley: With a fork, fluff the barley to separate the grains and set aside.

Assemble the Salad:
1. In a big bowl, combine diced cucumber, grape tomato halves, cheese, barley and black eyed peas. Toss in Litehouse Greek Vinaigrette and add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with a handful of fresh cilantro or parsley. You can serve as a side or on top of fresh spring greens. Enjoy!

Have a lovely weekend, and big thanks to Elizabeth and Keyla for sharing these yummy salads! Namaste.

PS More summer salads.

On Eating Healthy (Plus, A Raw Vegan Protein Smoothie Recipe)


What do you like to eat, yogis?

I’m continuously amazed at what a difference it makes when I eat a balanced diet and stay consistent with my yoga practice.

One of my friends who is a personal trainer suggests taking an “80/20” approach – when you’re looking to get in shape, focus 80% of your efforts on your diet, and 20% on your physical activity.

It’s important to make gradual changes and set attainable goals when you change how you eat. In order to sustain the changes, take small steps.

 
Incorporate one or two new healthy habits into your daily routine. Maybe instead of drinking soda, drink water with your meals. Or cut down your alcoholic beverage intake by one less drink per night.

I also love adding greens to each meal, and drinking more healthy smoothies for breakfast and lunch.

 

My favorite recipe is super simple, if you’d like to try it!

Berry Smoothie
1/2 cup frozen berries (strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries)
1/2 cup spinach
1 cup almond milk
1 packet Vanilla SunWarrior (Warrior Blend Raw Vegan Protein)

Blend and enjoy!


PS Leo at Zen Habits also has some amazing ideas for a gradual approach to healthy eating.

Yoga for Weight Loss

 
Photos via Pinterestand A Cup of Jo.

Do you have a goal to lose weight this year?

I encourage you to include yoga in your wellness routine!

Here are some ideas for how to utilize yoga and healthy habits if you’re looking to shed a few pounds.


Practice three to five times a week, with the goal of taking classes at a studio at least three times per week. The other two classes can be using a DVD at home. I know personally I’m pushed to work harder when I’m surrounded by other yogis, and under the direction of an empowering teacher!  

Choose heated classes, and practice a vigorous style of yoga. I suggest trying vinyasa, Bikram, Ashtanga, or anything with ‘power’ or ‘power flow’ in the description. If you do go to hot classes, be sure to hydrate before and after class! Also try to incorporate at least one restorative (calming) practice like a yin class into your weekly routine, as a way to balance out the heat. Keep in mind that the harder classes will yield the most results in terms of burning calories in order to lose weight, and the restorative class will help you release toxins, calm your mind, and become aware of your body.


Photo via A Cup of Jo.

Improve your diet with a few simple, easy changes. I recommend these: Eat more greens. Drink water or tea in place of sugary drinks. Trade unhealthy snack foods for fresh fruit, nuts, or an avocado with salt and pepper sprinkled on top. (Note: here are more healthy snack ideas from Joanna at A Cup of Jo.) If changing your diet feels overwhelming, think in terms of what you can add that’s healthy, rather than what you have to eliminate. Start by adding a few glasses of water throughout the day, and more veggies at each meal. As you gain some momentum in making healthy choices, you’ll feel empowered and be able to tackle more challenging changes.
  
Start a 10-minute meditation habit. Mindfulness will help you notice what’s causing you stress, and discover how to release tension. For more information about the benefits of mindfulness, read hereIf sitting still sounds overwhelming or uncomfortable, start by doing legs up the wall pose for a few minutes, either when you first wake up or before bedtime. Let your whole body relax, and close your eyes. Notice your breath. There’s nothing you need to do or change, so if thoughts come up, simply acknowledge them and then let them go. Continue to place your attention on your breath. 


Sleep seven to eight hours a night. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try yoga nidra, a meditation for full-body relaxation.


Track your success, and focus on the positive! Try a mantra like, "Practice makes perfect." Thank yourself for being dedicated to your health.


What habits are you incorporating into your weight-loss plan? I’d love to hear!

PS As always, if you have any questions or would like support, please feel free to email me at aliveinthefire at gmail dot com. Namaste, lovely yogis! 

This post was inspired by an article on Yoga Journal about yoga for weight loss.

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 Inspiration

Photos via Sweaty Betty.

Where do you go to find motivation on the days when you feel uninspired, burned out, and tired?

Life moves quickly. In the last few weeks, I’ve been feeling spread thin. I find myself saying yes to projects I know in my heart I don’t really have the energy for, making plans on days when I’d rather spend time solo, regretting both.

It helps when I make time to be still, in silence. Wisdom makes its way through. In the moments of discovery and clarity, I am at peace.


I am allowed to be imperfect.

I’m working on loving myself even on the days when I feel tired, or self-critical.

I don’t have to wear yoga clothes and roll out my mat every day. Maybe right now it’s OK to have too many projects and to feel spread thin. This won’t last forever, and I can choose to make positive changes. To set new habits.

In the same way that I approach a challenging posture, I can approach life with fierce determination.


Loving myself is its own practice. Learning to be comfortable in my own body, whether I’m ready for a night out or I’m just wearing yoga shorts and a sports bra at home. Finding ease. I release the attachments that do not serve me.

Dharma Mittra says: When you are quiet, you see everything with love.

I keep coming back to these words on the days when I feel overwhelmed and scattered. When I do slow down, when I am quiet, I see the beauty that’s been sitting there all along.


“Freedom does not come from a checklist, and a ‘zero inbox’ is not a life aspiration.
If liberation is a chore, it’s not really liberation.
You can’t contract your way to freedom.
You can’t punish your way to joy.
You can’t fight your way to inner peace.
The journey has to feel the way you want the destination to feel.
Let me offer this again, in reverence to your life force:
The journey has to feel the way you want the destination to feel.
And again, with respect to your potential:
The journey has to feel the way you want the destination to feel.”
- Danielle La Porte, posted on Mystic Mamma

Manduka Yoga Mats

Photos by Justin Kral of Kral Studios.

Yoga mats matter. Not only because they lay a foundation under our hands and feet when we practice, but because the way they’re produced can have a big impact on the environment.

I have a new favorite mat: Manduka’s LiveON yoga mat. Their team was kind enough to send me one to try out and I’m absolutely in love with it.

Here’s why:
  • The no-slip grip is incredible, better than any other mat I’ve used before.
  • The mat is lightweight but still provides a lot of comfort. It’s amazingly cushiony for only being 5mm in diameter.
  • I love the color! So fun and spring-y.
  • The mat is made out of 100% recyclable PLUSfoam material. After using this mat for a long time, I can send it in to PLUSfoam and they’ll make it into new products. As they say, they’re “putting landfills out of business.” Amazing! 


The LiveON yoga mat is perfect for my at-home practice and for when I do yoga in the park (it’s ideal for non-heated classes). I highly recommend checking out this mat as soon as it releases – you can sign up here to be in the loop when it goes on sale in June 2014.

Thanks, Manduka, for living up to your promises as a sustainable company – and for your generous sharing of this yoga mat! I’ll be practicing on it for years, I can already tell.

Manduka is more than eco-conscious yoga gear. Way more. We are joyology – a study in living. Our { mission } starts on the mat. --> I couldn't agree more! :)

Stink-Free Yoga Mats


I'm a big fan of using all-natural mat spray after class. As you know, I sweat a lot, so it's especially important for me to clean my mat after yoga.

If you're looking for high-quality yoga mat spray, check out my two favorites:
DeekasDream and AromaZen.

 


Both are made with high-quality, all-natural ingredients and come in portable bottles you can carry with you. And they smell AMAZING! (Lavender, eucalyptus and witch hazel are so refreshing.)

A heartfelt thanks to Patricia and Sidd for sharing their amazing yoga spray with my sponsored yogis. Namaste!

Gifts from the Heart: For Yoga Beginners

Photo via Pinterest.

First up in the Gifts from the Heart series is a guide to finding gifts for newbie yogis. Here are some ideas for what to buy any beginner so that they feel prepared for class.

Yoga Gifts for Beginners

Pick Your Yoga Practice by Meagan McCrary, a guide to exploring and understanding different styles of yoga (so they can figure out which classes to try).

A class pass to their favorite studio (because helping them learn from an experienced teacher is really the best yoga gift you can give!). Try Groupon or the Yoga Journal Directory to find local studios.

A handmade yoga block from JBN WoodCraft Design (to stay safe when trying new poses).

A mat strap from The Apron Shop (so it's not awkward carrying a mat around).

Mat spray from AromaZen (to keep so fresh and so clean).

An album of relaxing yoga music by Adam Lees or Neil Middleton (so they can drop into their practice while at home. Check out my review of First Light or my review of Sunrise Music.

Next up in the series: gift ideas for yoga dudes!

Marika Athletic Wear for Yoga, Skydiving, and Rock Climbing

Illustration above via Pinterest. Other photos via Marika.

When it comes to yoga wear, I tend to look for a couple of key things:
  • Is it comfortable? (and hopefully flattering)
  • Is it functional? (meaning it won’t get in the way or slip down as I stretch)
  • Is the style unique? (good colors, fun design)
  • Can I wear this outside of yoga class? (bonus!)

 

Marika women’s active and yoga wear fits all of these categories. Their products are the kind of athletic wear that makes you feel like a million bucks, and that gets out of your way so you can focus on your practice.

I am so grateful I connected with their savvy, passionate team. They sent me an awesome new outfit to try:

 

…and the Balance line divine intervention flat waist capri.
 

Both fit wonderfully—the material is soft, stretchy, and snug without being bunchy. The capris are the perfect length for a hot yoga class, and I love the fun printed waistband. And I love that the print on the shirt looks like a heart, but every time I wear it someone comments that it looks like an owl! :)


And my favorite part about this new outfit?

Not only have the tank and capris been perfect for yoga class, but I’ve worn them skydiving and rock climbing, too! And I’m pretty sure I could pull off wearing the top under a hoodie at work, or out to dinner with friends (which makes for an easy transition if you’re in a hurry to get to the studio for class, by the way!).


If you’re looking to find high-quality yoga wear from a stellar company with great customer service, add Marika to your list. Highly recommended!

PS You can browse their new items here: Marika New Arrivals. And their tie dye tops are fantastic!