Have you ever lost yourself only to realize that you’ve actually FOUND yourself?

An experiment.

You know yourself pretty well, right? What does it mean to not feel like yourself? I have a theory that these moments of discombobulation are a sort of crossroads and that insecurity can be a useful tool for growth and expansion. These are moments of choice and of power. For in these precious and vulnerable instances, you can choose to remain as you know yourself to be or you can choose something different. The key is letting go and, believe it or not, losing yourself.


WITS END

 

So, next time it happens, next time you’re not feeling like you, try this:

Let go. Really. Let go. Forget what you think you know about yourself. What would your life be like if you dropped your labels, your personality and your limits?

Think about it. Go there. Feel it.

Think about something that you are absolutely CERTAIN that you can not do or be. Maybe it’s a yoga pose or winning the lottery, for example. Perhaps it is simply telling the truth about something, learning a new skill or overcoming an illness. It could be a dream you had a long time ago of being a movie star or a MEGA ROCK STAR standing on that stadium stage, with lights and smoke machines and hundreds of thousands of adoring fans screaming for more of (oh, that’s just not possible) you.

Are you there? Are you certain about this thing whatever it is?

Now, what would your life be like if you did not have that thought or belief?

and please do share …

Love,

Lindsay


Bonus and somewhat related MEGA ROCK STAR video: OK Go “This Too Shall Pass”

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Image: Now & Zen Photography / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Does Poor Alignment in Yoga Class Cause Injuries?

I’ve taken lots of yoga classes in my life with lots of different teachers and, yes, I have injured myself a number of times. Do I have a clear, general answer as to why? No, not really.

This got me thinking about alignment and the role of the teacher.

Over this span of time that is my yoga practice (how’s that for vague? A lady never reveals her age … or something like that), I’ve noticed some fundamental differences in teaching styles. To name two things thing I have noticed, well, the first would be the amount of verbal cues given in class and and the second would be differing philosophies on alignment.

Some teachers give very minimal instruction in class leaving lots of room for you to explore your body (after all you know it best) in a more intuitive way while other teachers put a strong emphasis on a “correct” alignment in poses in order to receive maximum benefit and avoid injury (sounds good – who wants an injury, right?). Some teachers believe everyone can do a posture the same way, based on certain and specific alignment principles and others declare that every body is different and there is a unique and perfect position for everyone.

Is this confusing to anyone else?

And it seems important to ask … can having incorrect alignment in a yoga pose cause injury? I in no way blame my teachers for any injuries I’ve experienced (nope, I take full responsibility for them) but for the yoga novice it seems this distinction might be important. Heck, perhaps even for more seasoned practitioners it could make a difference (injury vs. no injury, a lifelong practice vs. discouragement).

So, in my exploration of this topic I came across an article written my friend Lucas Rockwood, a yoga teacher in Thailand & Spain, about yoga class injuries:

Yoga teachers often blame injuries on bad alignment or “pushing too hard,” but since you’ll never meet any serious yoga student who hasn’t had a least a couple injuries, I just call it “part of life…” to be avoided, whenever possible.

Don’t get me wrong, you should always practice safely, but it’s gotten to the point where some teachers won’t even let you lie on the floor without perfectly supporting your neck and putting fluffy pillows under your legs.

That’s not yoga. That’s therapy. It has its place, but it’s overkill for most able-bodied people the same way it’s overkill to wear a helmet while walking down the street. More …

Lots of good info in the full article (Lucas knows his stuff!). Click here to continue reading.

Thanks for stopping by. As always, feel free to share any thoughts or reactions in the comments below.

To your safe and healthy yoga journey,

Lindsay

 

Foot Yoga – Foga? How yoga and stretching your feet can help with pain, stress and more! [VIDEO]

Many yoga postures stretch and strengthen your feet and ankles. Standing poses such as Warrior II and balancing poses are great for this purpose. In addition to regular yoga practice, it is helpful to add to your routine some targeted stretches for your feet.

In my experience, if my feet are able to function pain-free and as the built-in shock absorbers that they are meant to be, I do not experience a transfer of impact up my legs and back when I’m walking. With happy, healthy feet my knees and hips find a safe and comfortable alignment. Also, I have noticed that stretching my feet  has had a beneficial effect on my other yoga postures. For example, in Downward Facing Dog Pose, I have noticed that with wide open feet, my legs naturally relax and I find a spaciousness in the pose that … well, I can sum up in just one word: YUMMY!

And have you ever experienced a foot massage? If not, what the heck are you waiting for? Seriously. With massage, you can release unnecessary tension and find relief from stress and your overall energy increased. Just the thought triggers my drool reflex …

So, without further ado, here is a video where I share my favorite stretches and tips for loving your feet:

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If you enjoyed this post, please share and as always, I welcome any questions or requests!

With Love,

Lindsay

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Meditation For New Yoga Teachers

FINDING YOUR CONFIDENCE

In the matter of dealing with yoga teacher jitters, confidence doesn’t always reveal itself as expected.

Certainties: You love yoga.  You know this from a deep place inside your being.  Everything about yoga practice screams a loud, ethereal “YES!”  You’ve dished out the big bucks and completed a rigorous and intensive yoga teacher training that involved some pretty deep, soul-searching work on your part.  You’ve emerged as not only a committed, lifetime student of yoga, but now a certified teacher with a vast world of possibilities before you.

But, darn it, what’s with all the nerves and anxiety? Surely, your training and passion is sufficient for the role of teacher.  Your heart is in the right place.  You truly want to share and help others because, let’s face it, we yoga teachers don’t do it for the money.  We are driven like the prototypical “starving artist”, by what seems to be a force much larger than our physical bodies, something older, wiser — the voice, the calling.  Who cares if we have to eat pinto beans and rice for a year? You’re happy doing it because it feels right and it is groovy, man.

Not-So-Certainties: Can I be successful as a yoga teacher or will I meet that dreaded f-word (yes, I am referring to failure)? Can I run a business? Will studios hire me? What if I mess up or offend someone or, lordy-heavens-almighty-in-the highest, hurt somebody? What if students hate my class?  Hate me?  What if studio finally hires me and then (the other dreaded f-word) fires me? What kind of teacher am I?

Exhausting, isn't it?

To this, I will simply say: Teaching is another form of yoga, really a practice in itself.  Not all of these questions will be answered right away just as you weren’t able to do every yoga posture in your first class (perhaps a bit presumptuous, but in regards to people that do not struggle with asanas, well, I will restrict my comments to my own mind space).  In other words, you will never “get it done.”  It’s the journey, not the destination and other such whimsical metaphors … you get it.

So, yep — been there, done that.  Here is something that helped me when I first began teaching and feeling, at times, as though I might not be successful.  A meditation of sorts, to be read before you teach a class:

Meditation for New Yoga Teachers

It is not about me.
It is not about whether they like me
or whether they are going to come back to my class.

It is not about my performance.

It is about helping people to have the best experience possible,  
helping them explore their bodies safely.
It is about empowering others to seek their potential.
It is about sharing, giving, and offering myself completely.  
And by opening up in this way,
giving others permission to do the same —
fearlessly, joyfully.

It is not about me.

So, you see, your confidence comes not from validating yourself and your credentials, or even from trying really hard to be the best teacher ever, both of which the outcomes are an intense focus on yourself (you selfish son-of-a …).  It comes from letting go and allowing your focus to be in the present moment, which when you are teaching a yoga class, is on instructing others in their postures.  When you are present and fully engaged in the moment, you are genuine.  You are not focused selfishly on your performance.  Confidence comes from that deep, intrinsic place, that voice that speaks so loudly to you, “YES!”  Let go of the chatter, the questions and insecurity.  Be honest, be genuine.  Here you will find success that really means something.

Fortunately, from experience in yoga classes, you already have the tools to make this all possible.  You have practiced letting go and being present and without judgement.  Time to practice what you teach.  Incidentally, we teach what we most need to learn.

So go on, you know you've got this.

Lindsay

If you enjoyed this post, please share with fellow newbies or yoga teacher trainees using the buttons below!

Photo courtesy of Anna Ferguson.

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You Can Yoga In Your Chair – You Can Yoga Anywhere!

Yoga Stretches You Can Do At Your Desk

So, I've been spending an inordinate amount of time in front of my computer these days connecting with other yogis, writing and sharing.  While this is loads of fun for me, I have begun to notice its effect on my body.  My hip flexors are tightening causing compression in my low back that radiates discomfort up my spine.  This triggers a "slouch reflex" moving my shoulders  forward and putting excessive pressure on my neck — um, ouch!  Then, a silly realization came to me: "Why don't I incorporate yoga postures into my writing/web time?"  After all, yoga asana practice was in part designed to prepare the body for prolonged periods of sitting in meditation.

Here is what I have been doing — some stretches you can do right at your desk:

Begin in Mountain Pose … Sort Of

Your posture while you are working is important.  Keep both feet on the floor.  Try not to cross your legs (trust me on this one) as it can cause imbalance in your hip extensors putting unnecessary pressure on the low back.  Think of it as a Seated Tadasana.  Draw the the pelvic floor up and the navel and lower ribs inward.  Instead of hunching forward, squeeze the shoulders up towards the ears and then roll them back and down, lifting the chest.  The neck can get tweaked with the head forward as is common when focused on a computer monitor.  Bring the head back so that the crown of your head stacks on top of your tailbone.

Your workplace set up is also important.  Click here for more information on creating an ergonomic workplace.

 

Seated Cat-Cow

A great stretch to help combat slouching.  On an inhale, arch the back, lift the chest and look up toward the ceiling.  Try not to bring your shoulders up close to your ears but rather roll them back and down toward your hips and continue to lift the chest.  On the exhale, draw the navel inward, round the spine, chin toward the chest, and let your head hang forward.  Repeat, coordinating this movement with slow, deep, rhythmic breathing for 3-5 breaths (or whatever amount feels yummy to you).

 

Neck Rolls, Because They Feel So Good

Again beginning with your feet flat on the floor, bring your chin to your chest first.  Roll your shoulders back and down.  Slowly roll your head around to the right bringing your right ear to the top of the right shoulder.  Then, head goes back and slowly over to the left with the left ear coming to the left shoulder.  Bring your chin back to your chest.  Repeat this motion moving slowly and noticing at what point you feel tension and want to move through it a little faster.  Move extra slowly at these places, breathing through the tension.  After 3-5 repetitions, move the head in the other direction for another 3-5 reps.

 

Wrist Stretching Good Times

With your arms outstretched and palms facing down, flex the fingers of one hand up and back so that your palm faces away from you.  You can use the other hand to move your fingers toward your face, deepening the stretch on the bottom of the wrist.  Hold for 1-2 slow breaths.  Then bring your fingers down, bending the wrist in the opposite direction so that the palm is now facing your body, stretching the top of the wrist and forearm.  Repeat with the other arm.

Pelvic Floor Exercises

Your already sitting down.  Why not add some pelvic floor exercises (also known as Kegels) to your computer time?  You don't even have to stop typing to do these.  Pelvic floor support is not only useful in yoga class (also known as mula bandha), helping you get a little higher in crow pose or hold a steady headstand, it also has many health benefits if practiced regularly.  A strong pelvic floor is helpful when dealing with incontinence and also supports the bladder, bowel and reproductive organs, preventing prolapse.  Click here for more information on pelvic floor muscles and exercises to help strengthen them.

 

Perched Eagle Pose

Extend your arms out to either side and then bring them in front of you, crossing the right arm under the left, hooking your elbows and crossing your wrists in order to bring your palms facing each other with thumbs towards you.  If you are not able to bring your palms together, simply bring them as close as you can or grab your left thumb with your right fingers.  From here you can play with the stretch, moving your elbows up and down slowly.  I like to bring my elbows down so that my fingertips line up with my eyebrows and I feel a nice stretch on the tops of my shoulders and arms.  Once you've settled into a comfortable arm position, you can add the leg/hip stretch (optional).  Bring the right leg to cross on top of the left thigh and cross the right foot behind the left calf if you are able to.  If not, simply point the right knee to the left and work with the stretching sensation in the right hip.  Hold for 3-5 breaths and then switch the cross of the arms and legs and hold the other side for another 3-5 breaths.

 

Your Chair With A Twist

Seated with both feet flat on the floor, knees and feet are parallel and facing forward. Maintain this position with your lower body and begin to rotate your upper body to the right on an exhale. You can use the outside of your right thigh and back of your chair as leverage to help you twist a little more.  Repeat, this time twisting to the left.

Eye Asanas

That's right – yoga for your eyes.  Staring at a computer monitor for prolonged periods creates a great deal of strain for your eyes.  In order to prevent future eye-related problems and maintain optimal function, perform these exercises regularly, especially if you are going to be at the computer for any length of time.  I would even recommend taking a break ever thirty minutes to do this.  Begin by rubbing your hands together briskly until you generate enough heat to really warm your hands.  Then quickly place your palms over your closed eyes.  Take slow, deep breaths and relax for a minute or two.  This relaxes the eyes and surrounding face muscles and is very soothing to the optic nerve.  Also, it's helpful in relieving tension headaches.  Next, perform these basic eyes exercises.  With the same seated position,  back and neck straight, keep your head perfectly still as you lift your eye gaze and look as high as possible.  Then shift your gaze and look down.  Repeat this 10 times and then close your eyes for about 30 seconds before moving on to the next exercise.  When you are ready, open your eyes wide and look as far to the right as possible, and then to the left.  Repeat this 10 times, then close and rest the eyes for 30 seconds.  Last one, make wide circles with your eyes by rolling them clockwise.  Perform at least 10 circles and then repeat going counter-clockwise.  Close and relax the eyes.

Pranayama

In addition to these yoga stretches and exercises, pranayama (yogic breathing) can be practiced from a seated position.  Alternate Nostril Breathe is a wonderful exercise to bring focus and clarity and it helps to reduce symptoms of stress in the body.  Here's how you do it: From your comfortable seated position, place the thumb of your right hand over the right nostril and the ring finger of the same hand over the left nostril, keeping your left nostril closed with the ring finger.  Inhale slowly through the right nostril for 5-10 counts (gradually increasing the duration with continued practice).  Then, hold both nostrils closed for the same mount of time as your inhale. Next, release the ring finger and exhale through the left nostril for the same duration of the inhale.  Your next inhale will be through the left nostril and your next exhale through the right nostril so that you are switching open nostrils on the exhale.  Perform 3-5 cycles (or more over time).

Thanks for reading!  Feel free to share and comment below.  I would love to hear about what you do to combat "desk posture."

Keep on rockin'!

Lindsay

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Yoga Class Etiquette

Here are some basic yoga dos and don’ts to help you feel comfortable attending a class if you are new to yoga, or perhaps as a refresher for more seasoned practitioners. These simple tips can help create an enjoyable, productive experience for everyone. Be on time. Try to arrive 10-15 minutes early for class. This will allow time for registration and payment and help the teacher to start class on time for everyone. Also, arriving early will help you prepare for class by finding your spot in the room and beginning to get centered and relaxed. If you do arrive a little late, that’s okay. Most teachers are very understanding. Just try to enter the yoga room as respectfully as possible as others have already begun to relax and prepare for class. Try to scope out an open spot first then move carefully through the room and unroll your mat quietly. Turn your cell phone off. A phone ringing can be very distracting to both teacher and students. If you are on call, you can let the teacher know before class begins and set your phone or pager to vibrate. Also, if you have a watch or an iPod that beeps, leave it outside the yoga room or set to silent. Take your shoes off. Most studios have a place outside the yoga room to keep your shoes. You will spend a lot of time on the floor and practice in bare feet. Removing your shoes helps to keep the floor clean for everyone. Refrain from wearing perfume or scented lotions. This is out of consideration for others. Some people have sensitivities to fragrances. Even natural essential oils can be too much for some people, especially when breathing deeply as we do in a yoga class. Keep talking to a minimum. Comments and loud conversations can distract others from their experience in class. If you have a specific question about something as it occurs in class, you can feel free to ask the teacher (not another student) at the time. It is likely that another student has the same question. Just keep it to a minimum and not too chatty or lengthy. Also, try to refrain or to at least speak quietly just before and after class as people are relaxing or meditating. You can have your conversations outside of the yoga room. Final relaxation is part of class too! This is so important. This is the part of class, arguably the most important part, where we integrate the benefits of the body work, the breath work and focus of the yoga class. If you absolutely have to leave early, let the teacher know before class, position yourself near the exit and leave as quietly as possible. Thanks for reading!  If you enjoyed this post (we could all use a reminder now and again), please share using the buttons below. Namaste, Lindsay Photo courtesy of Anna Ferguson.

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Try Something Different: Music To Make Yoga To

I love practicing yoga to music.  Mantra and kirtan (chanting with musical accompaniment) are wonderful and can add so much to the transcendental aspect of a meditative yoga class.  However, much like individual people, there is so much music out there, all so varied and beautiful.

“Music is what feelings sound like.”

In conjunction with the physical movement of a yoga class, music can provide an incredible emotional release.  We tend to store a lot of emotions within our physical body (example: notice what happens to your neck and shoulders when you’re feeling stressed).  The power of practicing yoga postures is the way in which it strengthens our body-mind connection.  The power that music has is its ability to get you out of an analytical, thinking state and into a more intuitive, feeling state. The two combined can be quite effective for releasing emotional “stuck” places.  Music also has the ability to inspire a frame of mind open to creativity and joy.  Think about a song that, every time you hear it, you feel different, you feel like moving and dancing, simply for the fun of it!

“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without” -Confucius

Mix it up. A universal language, there is truly music for everyone and for every experience.  I recommend trying something a little different next time you practice.  Try making a playlist of your favorite songs, no matter the genre or if it might seem totally wrong at first.  Try music that moves you – to tears, to laughter, joy, excitement, rage, anything.  Experiment with this.  Play around and above all, have FUN with it.  By the way, it is also perfectly acceptable to sing and dance in a yoga class.  In fact, I recommend it.

“Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul”-Plato

Upbeat and Uplifting. Here are some examples of music that is GREAT for a yoga class, music that I enjoy playing on occasion:

  • The Beatles pretty much any song
  • Coldplay Viva la Vida, God Put A Smile Upon Your Face
  • Jason Mraz I’m Yours
  • Jem It’s Amazing, Keep On Walking
  • Gnarls Barkley Going On, Smiley Faces
  • Justin Timberlake My Love feat. T.I. and Timbaland
  • MIA Pull Up the People, Sunshowers, Paper Planes
  • Bitter:Sweet Don’t Forget To Breathe
  • Goldfrapp Beautiful
  • Feist I Feel It All
  • OK Go Invincible, Do What You Want
  • Vampire Weekend M79, Bryn, The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance

Yoga and music dork that I am, I could go on and on ….. and on.  Hopefully, you get the idea but if you happen to be thinking, “What the heck is she talking about?”  It’s okay.  Emotional reactions to music are completely subjective.  Like I said, try some of YOUR favorite music and see what happens.

Namaste and Rock On with Your Funky Self ……

Lindsay

Please share an example of your favorite music to “make yoga” to below!

“Music speaks what cannot be expressed, soothes the mind and gives it rest, heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from heaven to the soul.”

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Cleaning Your Yoga Mat

After a few hot yoga classes your mat might lose that New Mat Smell.  Okay, truthfully, it might be down right stinky.  These are my preferred methods.

 

yoga matsHOMEMADE CLEANERS: for light washing periodically, maybe even after every hot yoga class to maintain a fresh, functional mat.  Just spray, wipe and hang to dry.  Here is what I use:  To a 32 ounce spray bottle add 1 cup vinegar.  Fill the rest with water and add 15-25 drops of your favorite essential oils.  You can also add 1 tablespoon castile soap or mild detergent (optional).  Experiment with your essential oil blends.  Just know that essential oils are extremely strong and only a very small amount is needed.  Tea Tree oil is perfect because of its antibacterial properties.  Lavender and Thyme are also wonderful.  Another combination I like is equal parts rosemary, clove, eucalyptus, cinnamon and lemon essential oils.  According to stories, this mix was used by a group of thieves who robbed the dead and dying victims of the bubonic plague.  The robbers did not contract the infection and for this reason the blend is known as the Theives Blend.  Added bonus – it smells wonderful!  A very simple homemade cleaner would be water and Thieves Blend only.*

WASHING MACHINE: Most people don’t realize you can wash your yoga mat this way.  I do it every 2-3 months.  Use cold water and don’t over do it with the detergent.  Stop the machine before the spin cycle.  Hang your mat and allow to dry completely.*

*Some mats are made of different materials (rubber, jute, etc.) and require special care.  Always check the care instructions when you purchase a yoga mat.

Also, I’d like to add that vinegar in the rinse cycle is great for getting that sweat smell out of your yoga clothes and towels.  You just have to run an extra rinse cycle at the end.  Baking soda added at the beginning of the wash cycle also works wonders.

Here’s to a happy, healthy yoga mat and practice!