Posted in stay at home mom, wellness, Yoga

Is There Such Thing as Balance?

Today’s yoga practice led me through a series of balancing poses. I transitioned from one balancing pose to the next. Some of them with ease and the other not  so much, fumbling as I moved through them.

That is what I love about yoga. Like life, sometimes I feel graceful and ready to take on the world and other days I feel like I am constantly tripping over my own feet or stopping myself from doing what is going to push me forward.

When practicing this afternoon, I could feel the difference in how smoothly I made the same transitions from the right and the left. The right side was effortless, I was graceful and felt as ease moving from half moon to tree pose back to half moon pose. The left side was a completely different animal. I felt lopsided and off balance not to mention clumsy and doofy. It was entertaining to say the least, and as I bounced around the yoga mat like a pinball in an arcade game, I could not help but sometimes this feels an awful lot like business and life. One moment you are gracefully gliding through, things are going your way, things are running smoothly and the next, you are luck if you can keep a steady cup of coffee in your hand with out spilling it all over your nice white shirt or tripping over your own feet getting from point A to point B no further than 10 feet away.

When it happens I notice how I talk to myself, it is much more harsh and less reassuring than when I am moving with ease. I notice that when I am having a harder day or have more to juggle than other days that I tend to get a bit more flustered with myself and tend to not be so forgiving of myself when mistakes happen. As I work through my yoga journey, I have notice that I am very much a creature of habit. When the practice goes well, I am super pumped and left feeling invigorated. When it does not go as well as I would have liked, I finish feeling unsettled or unfulfilled. I found myself saying things like I could have done that better, or I am never going to be as good as so and so. I noticed this pattern in my every day too. When I begin something and it does not go as well as I would like, I find myself saying things like, well maybe I was not cut out for this or maybe this is just not my thing. I have to find that happy balance between being satisfied with what I am doing and the outcome whether it be perfect or not.

Interestingly, no matter how much trouble yoga poses give me, I have not given up. I have kept keeping up with my practices. No matter how challenging a pose is, I keep working at it. I am finally learning that I need to have that kind of patience with my business with my journey and adventures in life too. Just because it is causing me to fumble does not mean that I was not meant to do it, it just means that I have to give just a bit more of myself and dedication to getting it. For example I just recently released an e-book. 

The first release I received ZERO, ZIP, ZILCH, response. I could not believe it I poured so much time and energy into it and I was so excited to have something that I thought was valuable and helpful. I shared it on facebook, Pintrest, Kindle direct publishing. You name it and I shared it. Feeling like a failure, rather than reworking it, asking for some feedback or evaluating what was up, I just took it down and let it collect dust for a while on my hard drive.  I chalked it up to it not being something that I was supposed to do.

I went about my business and the same theme kept creeping up in every conversation that I was having with people. How do I create a home yoga practice. What can I do to make practicing at home more comfortable? How do you get yourself on to your yoga mat at home? Just like that tugging feeling I get to keep trying and keep working on my balancing poses and transitions in yoga, I started to get that same feeling about the e-book I had written. So, with determination I pulled it back up and started working through it piece by piece. I added components that people were asking me about, and I took out parts that seem to be too much for people to do. I simplified it. I made it prettier, easier to read with bigger text and pictures. I realized that the first book was too starchy, too much like a text book. There was no real flow to it. There was nothing about that first book that made it stick out or say HEY I’M DIFFERENT COME READ ME!

Taking a step back after today’s yoga practice I realized that my journey to writing that e-book was a lot like the floppiness that I experienced on transitions on my non-dominant side. I realized that just because I almost fall over on one side, I do not put my mat and practice in the closet to collect dust, I keep it out and keep working on it, cutting out the garbage and focusing on the goal. That is exactly what I did with the e-book. I cut out the things that were unnecessary, condensed, tightened and honed in on my goal. The result clear, concise, and quality piece that people enjoyed reading and actually did get value out of.

I released it again, same outlets, new and improved version…it was a HIT. I received so much positive feed back from it was an easy read, to it was beautifully laid out to things like “you really made it feel like I could pull out my yoga mat right now and get started.” Is it perfect? No, but neither is my yoga practice and I am OK with that. It was value packed and it was something that people appreciated. What this says to me is that even if I am floppy or not graceful, that does not mean I am not successful or accomplished. I just have to look to my yoga practice to see that I am growing and a work in progress.  I know that if I keep practicing my yoga the balancing poses and transitions will get smoother on both sides and what was once challenging will no longer be a challenge and I will move on to other things that will present me with challenges. What I have learned is that I can and will endure the shaky moments and walk away better and stronger for having stuck it out.

My message to you is to keep on keeping on. You will find the balance that you are looking for. It will be your balance, not what someone else’s version of balance is. Your life is not like anyone else’s and neither is your yoga practice. We each have our own struggles and our own challenges to over come. There is no such thing as perfect balance just balance that works for us. You will persevere if you continue to be faithful on your journey to self growth and you will find success in all that you do with continued practice.  Remember your yoga practice is here to help you tune in to you and break free from limiting beliefs so that you can let your brilliance shine through! Namaste ūüôā

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Calm, exercise, Fit facts, Fitness, fitness instruction, getting fit, health, health lifestyle, healthy, healthy life style, me time, mind body fitness, motivation, natural solutions, relaxation, self care, Uncategorized, Yoga

Why I Love Yoga During the Holidays

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can really leave us drained and needing energy. The thought of getting exercise in seems impossible with the endless things we need to get done on a daily basis.

What I love about yoga, is that it leaves you feeling like you can take on the day. Just 3-5 yoga poses can completely shift our thinking from a negative mindset to a positive one.

5 of my favorite poses to help bring me energy and leave me feeling ready to take on the day no matter what time it is are the following.

  1. Cat and Cow
  2. Downward Facing Dog
  3. Warrior II
  4. Reverse Warrior
  5. Child’s Pose

What is it about each of these poses that possess the ability to lift our spirits?

Cat and cow helps to liberate the spine. Having flexibility in the spine helps to prevent back pain, it loosens the muscles of the back helping us to feel like we have space to move and feel free.

Downward Facing Dog is a nice way to get blood to the brain in a safe and effective way. Increasing blood flow to the brain increases our energy naturally. This pose also helps to elongate the hamstrings, the muscles in the back of the legs which helps to stave off low back pain and it lengthens the spine to help us feel taller and more confident.

Warrior II:¬†What’s not to love about warrior II? ¬†It is expansive, strong and expressive. Warrior II is grounding giving us a sense of stability and it fosters our inner strength.

Reverse Warrior: This pose is awesome for helping you put things into perspective! Sometimes we feel like we are being pulled in a million different directions especially at the holidays. Reverse warrior helps us to come to peace with that feeling because it too pulls you in different directions while maintaining the same position at the same time. Physically you are maintaining most of the Warrior II position but the slight modification with the arm reaching up and over your head lengthening your side body. Energetically however, your are being pulled up and over, forward, back and in. If you can handle doing all of that you can handle anything!!

Child’s Pose:¬†Besides stretching the lower back and hips, Child’s Pose is a very relaxing and self reflective pose. Our lower back and hips hold a lot of stress & tension. That stress and tension build up can cause us to feel chaotic and out of sorts. Child’s pose liberates the hips and lower back helping you feel less tense and stressed. It also is an introspective pose in that it allows you to look inward and close yourself off from things that can cause you to be over stimulated over the holidays.

Give these 5 poses a try and see if when you are done, you feel ready to handle the holiday season with grace and energy.

 

 

Namaste!

Jules

Posted in Fitness, flexibility, healthy lifestyle, mind body fitness, wellness, Yoga

Yoga more than just fluff

Image courtesy of arztsamui at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today I was just about to start my class and it was freezing in the room. I was teaching body conditioning so I knew it was not going to be cold for long. As people came in to set up their spot, they all were commenting on the temperature of the room.¬† I assured them that it would only get warmer so not to worry. One woman looked at me and said, “ooh I like it cold. I come to another class this is right after a yoga class and it is terribly hot in here it makes things so much more difficult, I like it cooler. ” “Besides, how much body heat can be generated by yoga any ways?”¬† “It’s just stretching, she says.” Having begun my own yoga journey I was quick to defend that form of exercise. I said, “you’d be surprised how warm it can get doing yoga especially if you are doing a flowing vinyasa yoga. I mean don’t get me wrong there are gentler yoga classes but I have a funny feeling the class your walking into after that one is not gentle yoga.” She looked at me skeptically but I assumed she took my word for it because she did not question it.

Interestingly this is not an uncommon statement to doing yoga. Yoga is looked at by people who do not practice as not difficult, just stretching and not requiring the same amount of stamina that running takes or weight lifting uses. However, this is a huge misconception. In fact, yoga takes just as much, if not more effort that running or strength training. I am not trying to say that one is more beneficial than another I just want to make sure that I give credit where credit is due.  So you might ask how is this possible?

Well lets start simple. Close your eyes and sit in your chair or lay on the floor still &¬†silent. I mean so silent that you can’t even hear the voices in your head making a peep. Stay there…stay there…don’t move a muscle. Okay, open your eyes, how long were you able to do that for? Be honest. Now say that for however long you were able to do that for, was it easy? For most people the answer to that is going to be NO! If that was easy then okay, I get it, you tuned into your inner zen and that’s great. Let’s make it a little more difficult.¬† Now I want you to step into Warrior I¬† (lunge into right front foot and place left back foot on floor toes forward, hips forward, arms over head) and hold it. Keep your mind focused only on your breath and on the pose.¬† If you are holding it right then you should be feeling this in your arms, your abs, your chest, your thighs and your shins. Is your mind shifting to your shaking arms? Can you feel your inner thighs shake? Keep your mind still focus on your breath. Harder, right? Yeah I know it.

You see you do not have to pump endless reps to be strong and sturdy. I thought I was strong, I thought my core was solid. But when my teacher asked us to do a hand stand, my arms,¬†my legs, and core were everywhere but centered. All the endless crunches I had done, shoulder presses and Biceps curls,¬†I might as well have not done them at all. I was sweating and I hadn’t even been up there for a minute.¬† Who turned up the heat in the room? It hit me like a ton of bricks and all I did was a little bit of yoga!
So what I am trying to say is that yoga is not just a bunch of fluffy stretching exercises that don’t require thought or energy as the woman in my class had eluded to. In fact yoga actually requires a lot of energy, patience, strength and stamina! Which in my opinion as a personal trainer who promotes strength training and being fit as part of a healthy lifestyle, yoga fits right in!
Namaste!
Written By Julie S.

Posted in Teaching yoga, wellness, Yoga, yoga class, yoga students

Yoga with my Students

*Image courtesy of samarttiw @ http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

As a new yoga teacher, I try really hard to stay conscious of “bad” habits such as using passive language and being cautious of “doing” the poses with the class unless they need to see an example. My personal goal as a yoga teacher is to teach to my students so that they can take from the class what they need. I set intentions for the class making sure there is a clear focus on what my plan is for the class and I am cognizant of watching the class to make sure that everyone is “OK.”

Last night however, was a slow night and I only had one person show up for the class. Rather than send her home, I offered her¬† a private yoga session so that she could still reap the benefits of yoga and not feel like it was a waste of her time to drive over. It’s very rare that this happens so I embraced it and ran with it.¬† What an amazing experience it was and I am so happy it happened to fall that way.¬† I started class as usual, sitting quietly for a few minutes to clear the mind and tune into the breath. I had planned to do hip openers for the class but after talking with my student¬† before class, it was clear that what she really needed was to connect her breath with everything that she did, from movements to intentions. It was a simple but profound focus for the hour but an amazing amount of energy and exhilaration was flooded forth as the practice continued.

As stated earlier, I truly do try and refrain from practicing with the class.

First off, it is not my practice it is for them. 
Secondly, it’s really hard to give a direction from downward facing dog.¬†
Third, well it’s just not practical because it’s too easy to get lost in your own practice and lose sight of those whom really need the attention.

¬†However, as I began the warm up and moved into the meat of the practice, I noticed something that this particular student does not usually do…she was looking around, she looked lost, she looked distracted. My first instinct was to redirect her, repeat the intention of connecting the breath, remind her it was her practice, but¬† rather than creating the comfort I thought these tactics would bring, it made the room more tense. Stumped, I listened to my gut and jumped into the practice with her. Was it challenging for me to direct and practice at the same time? YES it was! Was I thinking this is not right? I should not be doing this? YES I was! But did it bring continuity and comfort and re-connection to her practice? Yes it did!

Some of you may say that this was coddling my student. Some of you would say that I caved under pressure. You are probably saying I should have continued to work through the discomfort. But to me that is not yoga. Not to mention, that to me, that mentality does not embody the essence of what yoga is all about.

My understanding of yoga is that one should not experience painful discomfort, that pushing the body past what it can tolerate is not honoring your body. To me, the body is more than just the physical, tangible body. It is also the mind, the spirit and soul. Yoga is a connection of the mind and the body, its the meditative state the is developed through each of the poses that creates a yoga state of being.

By being with my student, experiencing what she was experiencing, and creating a sense of comfort and calm she was able to focus on her breath more clearly and ease her fear of inadequacy or embarrassment. Each of her inhales and exhales were done with intention and purpose. Poses that she was struggling with earlier in the practice, she was able to dig deep and hold, appreciate and enjoy. When she had trouble with a pose, I was able to dig into the root of the problem by having her watch me do the pose. As she watched¬† I was able to step back after the demonstration and help her understand when to use the muscular energies and the organic energies. I was able to see where her strengths and weaknesses were and together we conquered the practice. Was it choppier that some of the other practices with a full class? Yes. But being able to break things down with her helped her to understand where her body was and what it’s potential with continued practice can bring.

Would I change how I went about the practice yesterday night? No.  I think that it was just as it was supposed to be.  She learned about her body and what she was capable of by feeling secure and safe. She was able to take poses that she struggled with and saw how making the experience personal by staying in tune with the breath can enhance the bodies ability to do amazing things.  At the end of class as savasana was coming to a finish. As she sat up and reoriented herself the glow of accomplishment, the sense of self and the feeling of calm emanated from her face.

I am so glad that every once in a while it is “OK” to break the rules and just go with the flow of a practice. Each time, an opportunity is going to present itself, and this particular opportunity helped to¬† make me a better teacher.¬† I was called on to not only feel the atmosphere and see its profound affects on a practice, but I¬† also had to dig deep into myself and describe the poses¬† from the poses and the students perspective.¬† By doing this, the practice offered me powerful tools in helping my student get the most out of her practice.¬† For that I am grateful~

Written By Julie S.

Posted in flexibility, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, sports specific exercise, stamina, strength, tennis training, Yoga, yoga and tennis

Tennis and Yoga, a Perfect Match

* Image courtesy of nixxphotography at freedigitalphotos.net

Focus. Concentrate. You got this! Be patient. Is this a tennis court or a yoga class? Hard to tell right? That’s the point. Many of the same elements of a yoga class are also played out on the tennis court. When you marry tennis and yoga together you get the perfect match. Like¬† yoga, tennis is mental & physical and what you do on your yoga mat can directly relate with how you handle yourself on the court.¬† When you practice yoga, you will find a huge improvement in your over all tennis game. Some of the things in yoga that will enhance your tennis is deep breathing, increase strength and flexibility through purposeful stretches, & positive thinking by letting go.

One of the most important things yoga teaches us is to “come to the breath.” What exactly does this mean and how can it help my tennis? Come to the breath simply means to focus on your breathing. Sounds simple, right? It’s not as simple as it sounds. It takes practice, time, and even energy to focus solely on breathing. Try it, place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. Which hand is moving? If it’s the hand on the chest, then you are shallow breathing and not fully getting a good quality breath. A deep inhale where your diaphragm is activated causes your stomach to push out allowing you to take in more air. To do this you have to clear your mind and only think about the breath until it becomes second nature. Things like slowing down, thinking things through, and increasing stamina are just some of the benefits.¬† As you practice your deep breathing you will find yourself slowing down and relaxing a bit.¬† You might notice that you are more aware of your surroundings and your body.

In a tennis match it is easy to get caught up in the excitement, energy and fast paced nature of the sport. When this happens you are more likely to be bombarded with thoughts and actions that do not serve your game. When your breathing is in check, you are more likely to play with awareness, making conscious choices about ball placement, or choice of shot. When you’re playing with a deliberate purpose and using the breath to slow you down your ability to make smart decisions is enhanced. Another benefit of a good quality breath to your tennis match is that it builds more stamina. Think about it. When you can take in more air, more oxygen can be distributed to working muscles and more of the carbon dioxide and other waste products produced from this work can be effectively transferred out increasing your stamina and longevity on the court.

On the yoga mat many of the same actions we do in class directly correlate with actions on the tennis court. From explosive transitions on the mat to lunging, & reaching also happen when we are playing tennis. Think about it. When we jump to the top of the mat from downward facing dog to say standing forward fold we are engaging the legs and hips to launch ourselves forward. This same power from the legs is also needed for serving, sprinting to the net and over all explosiveness in all aspects when playing a match. Poses such as Trikonasana (Triangle) or Warrior II for instance are also great poses for tennis players in that many of the same muscles being used to achieve the pose are also used on the tennis court. In tennis, strength, balance & flexibility in the shoulders, quadriceps and hamstrings, are essential in being a quality tennis player. Playing tennis not only takes technical skill but also physical fitness and finesse to be able to move well on the court. Poses such as Triangle and Warrior II are great for tennis because they effectively hit all of those areas of the body. Triangle and Warrior II both balance and stretch, the shoulders, specifically the scapula, which is important for serves and overheads. These two poses also strengthen the quadriceps and stretch the hamstrings which is particularly important for agility and speed on the court without injury. There is nothing worse than pulling a hamstring lunging for a ball that could have been prevented with Triangle Pose which stretches the hamstrings and Warrior II that strengthens the quadriceps.

I don’t know about you, but when I am in a heated match, letting go of even the littlest mistake is extremely difficult. I want to analyze it and replay it over and over even though there are still more games to be played. Not only that, but the negative self talk begins. Things like, “How could you be so careless?” “What kind of¬† a crappy forehand was that?” “I cant believe I could be so stupid!” I am sure like me, these thoughts invade your mind too like an out of control avalanche without time to consider how these thoughts are actually affecting our game. In the short term we may believe that this negative self talk is “helping” us or making us “better.” We believe this because sometimes when we talk this way we still win the match reinforcing the negative behavior thus fueling the belief that we are being productive.

¬†However, in the long term these patterns will become hindrances to progress and improvement causing us be stifled and stunt our growth as tennis players. This is where learning to let go on the mat can greatly facilitate our progress and growth on the court. On the yoga mat, it is not about perfection its about progress and the journey. That too is how we should approach a tennis match. Each pose in yoga presents us with a challenge maybe its tight hamstrings preventing us from lengthening our legs in Downward facing dog. Or our ankles are weak and we wobble during tree pose. How do we handle ourselves in this situation? Are you calling yourself names? Telling yourself you are stupid? No! More than likely you are slowing down, breathing, you are probably encouraging yourself to give it one more try or maybe you are accepting your challenge for what it is and moving on without guilt. This is letting go and getting rid of thoughts and emotions that are not serving us during our practice. We can do this on the court as well.¬† On the tennis court try and take the same approach. When you double fault on a serve, don’t beat yourself up for it. Accept it for what it is and prepare for the next point.¬†

When we spend time analyzing the past while trying to be present it just sets us up for failure. Each point in a tennis match is part of a journey. We all want the end result to be a win, but we cant get to the end by being hung up in the past or worrying about the future. When we walk out on to the court we must approach the match the same as we do our yoga practice. Accept that you will have challenges and know that these challenges are being presented to make you stronger. Stay present win or lose it is all part of the journey. When you let go of the things that do not serve you on the court, those challenges become a great deal easier to handle and seem a lot less daunting.

Mental to physical, yoga and tennis are so intertwined it’s amazing. I truly believe that practicing yoga and improving your tennis game can go hand in hand. You can see from what I talked about today that physically, yoga prepares the body for the wear, tear and stress that tennis puts on the body. At the same time the mental component of yoga also strengthens our resilience to difficulties on the court. Yoga makes us aware of our thoughts which allows us to be proactive and not reactive tennis players thus improving our chances of success. I am confident that if you take the time to marry tennis and yoga you too will see that they are, “the perfect match.”

Written by Julie S.