The Power of Choice and The Yoga of Action

Life is Good

I mean, really, REALLY GOOD. It is easy, however, to get caught up in the not-so-good – the suffering, the disaster and the struggle. With so many of us fighting just to pay the bills and to put food on the table, it can be comforting to commiserate and complain with others who are experiencing the same thing. Lately though, I have noticed that focusing on the struggle is actually counter-productive. It is overwhelming and frankly pointless.

Suffering is Optional

I am aware that struggles will continue to occur in my life. I also realize that how I respond to the struggle is my choice. Yoga and mindfulness practices have helped me get to the point where I can notice the things in life, and in the world, that are unfair, unjust or downright difficult. I can notice these things and not get wrapped up in the hopelessness of it all. In the midst of crisis, I can still feel connected and comforted. I am fully aware of the suffering in my life and in the lives of others but I also see the potential that lies in each and every one of us. It is empowering. It is inspiring. It leads to the kind of action that can make a difference.

Unsure about what action you should take? Join the club.

If you find yourself feeling confused or helpless, know that you are not alone. Take comfort in your choices, even the little ones. Making a choice to live a life of mindfulness is taking action. Making a choice to roll out your mat or sit on your meditation cushion is taking action. Whether the choice is to go for a walk, to help a neighbor, or to simply feel better about yourself, the choice itself is the first step towards making a difference. No matter how small or insignificant it may seem, when you claim your power of choice, it has a snowball effect in your life.

Why Yoga?

In yoga practice we confront ourselves both physically and mentally. We practice letting go of attachments in the simplest of ways. For example, we let go of thinking about our To-Do Lists and instead focus on breathing and relaxation. Yoga reveals to us our strengths, our limitations and our unhealthy patterns of thinking. It teaches us acceptance and shows us where we have room to grow. With that awareness, we are left with a choice. And just as we practice, we can choose to let go of fear and suffering and focus on solutions and potential instead. Take comfort in your choices because they contain your power for transformation, for change.

Every minute of every day is full of opportunity to claim your power. And it really is as simple as a choice – a choice, right now, between fear and LIFE. I choose life – fully awake, vibrant, healthy, active, compassionate life. And with that simple choice I am seeing evidence of my untapped potential. And it is good, really, REALLY GOOD.

So, how do you shift from worry and fear to decisive action? How does yoga practice help you make a difference in your life and the lives of others? I would love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment below.

Yours in Gratitude,

Lindsay

A Yoga Pose for Letting Go and Opening to Potential

 

Reclining Hero's Pose Variation

Practice moving into this pose with intention and deliberate placement of your body. Exercise your power of presence, choice and action.

 

supported hero pose supta virasana

Sit with your feet at the outsides of your hips. You can separate your knees as wide as you'd like to find a comfortable position for your knees. Keep your feet close to your hips with the tops of your feet on the floor and your toes pointed directly behind you. Place a bolster or  folded blankets behind you and begin to recline back, resting your upper body on the bolster. Your neck should be in a neutral position which means you may need to use additional bolsters or blankets to see that your head and neck are supported. Relax as completely and deeply as possible. Breath slowly in and out through the nose. Relax your shoulders down and rest your arms on the floor with your palms facing up. Allow your heart center to widen as if the skin and muscles of your chest and your ribs are opening side to side, exposing your heart and revealing your true nature, your choices in this moment, your power.

Yoga to the Rescue: Winter Warmth is Just a Pose Away

Snowed in and stir crazy? Or is it just me?

I am so restless in fact that I've moved furniture in the coldest room of my house so that I could have some space to get busy and heat things up yoga-style. I've even busted out the camera (and leg warmers and yoga socks ).

Here is a short yoga practice, about 20 minutes total, that I put together with the intention of heating up my body and soothing my nerves. The sequence includes a fire starting breathing technique, sun and moon salutations, strength building poses, deep hip stretches and backbends. And don't forget about final relaxation to help spread that fire to your whole body.

The audio and video quality is not the best but the information is there. This sequence (and my legwarmers) has been so helpful to me while I've been snowbound. I hope it helps you, too.

So, turn up the heat and move your body. Let's melt the snow together y'all.

Yoga for Winter Warmth Part 1 – The Warm Up

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Yoga for Winter Warmth Part 2 – Deeper Stretches and Heat Building Poses

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Post your questions or share your Yoga for Winter Warmth experience below.

Namaste,

Lindsay

Yoga for Clarity YouTube Video

Yoga to the Rescue: The Other Side of Confusion

Have you made your resolutions for 2011?

I can't say that I've ever been in the habit of listing my New Year's Resolutions at the years end. For one, I am constantly striving to be a better me. My goals and inspirations come to me throughout the year. However, this awareness of my un-involvement in, and in fact apathy for this very popular tradition has me indulging in introspection.

Is it because in the past I haven't seen myself as the deliberate creator that I am? Am I prone to a victim mindset (you know, faulting the economy, the job market, my upbringing, and other endless excuses)? I am simply too lazy to take responsibility for my life?

The question often contains the answer

Ouch. The truth sure stings sometimes. Still, I prefer it to living a life of illusion (not the Joe Walsh song – actually, I really like that song). With all of this in mind, I have begun a new practice, a "resolution" if you will. When I have a tendency to question, I turn it into a statement. The result is that I find clarity where there was previously floundering. With clarity I am more likely to take action. It is like this: When I state that I haven't recognized my power for intentional living and that I use excuses to let myself off the hook and that I can claim my power and my responsibility at any moment, a pretty wonderful thing happens. I know what my next step is.

Practice is the key word here. I am not always as present for myself as I intend to be. Fortunately, my default response to feeling knocked off my center is internalization and questioning. And as I mentioned earlier, the question and the answer are usually very close indeed.

Bonus: I always have my yoga practice which continues to reveal me to me.

Yoga Sequence for Clarity and Inspiration

I have designed this short asana sequence to relax and sooth stressed nerves and reveal a clear headed, confident state of mind. Practice when you feel confused or unclear about what you want, your life purpose or simply what you should do next.

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So there it is, my gift to you as we enter this new year (and new decade!). Please return to it whenever you need. I plan on posting more videos soon. Please let me know if you have any requests.

Also, I would love to hear your thoughts about this video or about your New Year's resolutions. How do you find clarity amidst the chaos? Please share!

Happy New Year!

Lindsay

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bringing Your Yoga Practice Off of Your Mat

In the sacred space of the yoga room, you are provided with a safe place to get to know yourself, your body, your fears and your strengths.

Yoga class can bring many lessons and a variety of experiences within the span of but 60-90 minutes. Learning how to apply your experiences in yoga class to your life outside of the yoga room can bring that bliss-filled-yoga-class-clarity to other areas of your life, too.

Here are a few examples of how to grow your yoga practice into your day-to-day moments.

Notice your breath.

Something that is repeated in yoga class after yoga class is bringing your awareness to your breath. Also, incorporated in a class is pranayama or yogic breathing exercises. This is a helpful and powerful practice that carries over into everyday life almost by default. With regular practice, you begin to notice how you are breathing in any given situation. For example, "Is my breath short and shallow or slow and steady?"

The awareness that yoga practices brings and the ability to return to your slow flow of breathe can be extremely helpful. A relaxed breathe promotes a relaxed body and ultimately a relaxed mind. Try it next time you are stressed while sitting in traffic or facing a deadline at work. First, notice that you are stressing out (that seems pretty obvious). Then, notice your breath. Let go of everything else and breathe slow and deep. What usually comes next is a sense of serene clarity and the ability to to handle whatever it is that has you stressed. The alternate nostril breath is a brilliant "stress-buster" (I have been known to do this while driving).

Release unnecessary tension.

In the same way that awareness of your breath is helpful, so is awareness of your body. The cues given by yoga teachers in class are relevent in many situations daily. That "dawning" you have in class when you finally understand what it means to release your shoulders back and down holds true in life – release unnecessary tension. In other words, find where you are "leaking" energy with tense muscles, let go of the tension, and you might just find that you have more energy and clarity as a result.

Let go of what does not serve you.

In the most literal sense yoga class helps you relieve the physical tension that leads to energy "leaks." In yoga class you are often confronted with your criticisms, comparisons and judgements of yourself (and sometimes others) as well. You can either continue those patterns of thought and be miserable or you can let go of those things (even if just for the span of the class) in order to have a better class experience. This becomes a practice for life as well. Can you let go of certain patterns that you may have outgrown?

Accept yourself as you are.

Comparisons and goal-oriented mindsets are part of our nature. We want to strive, we want to achieve. No different with our yoga practice. We have reasons for practicing, for example, weight loss, peace of mind, or a deeper spiritual connection. It is easy to slip into a mindset of "achieving" or in other words "wanting" and thus living in the mental space of "not having" You won't be able perform the most advanced or physically challenging poses in the beginning, nor would you want to (ouch!). However, you can realize that the beauty is, in fact, in the unfolding – the opening up to yourself.

When you realize that where you are in your ability is perfect and exactly were you need to be, a miraculous thing happens. You accept yourself as you are instead of fighting your limitations. Your focus shifts from that which you do not have (wanting mind) to that of appreciation for what you are. And in this space, you are open to way more possibilities than those stringent goals you set in the first place. Why limit yourself in life? Be easy about it and give yourself the freedom to allow infinite possibility.

Please share your thoughts about bringing yoga union to your off-the-mat life. I would really love to hear from you.

Love,

Lindsay

If you'd like to read more, check out this post where I discuss the subtle ways in which my yoga practice helped me deal with chronic depression.

 

 

 

Hot Yoga Stuff: Ultima Replenisher Review

Hot Yogis and Electrolyte Replacement Drinks go together like Peanut Butter and Jelly

I recently received a sampler of Ultima Replensher's Balanced Electrolyte Drink mix from a giveaway on the My Yoga Life Blog (Woohoo! Thanks Callah!). I have to say, I am impressed.

ultima replenisher

I was always suspicious of other electrolyte drinks and their long lists of ingredients I couldn't pronounce (not to mention the inordinate amount of refined sugar!). Still, knowing that my body needed to replace what I sweat out in just one hot yoga class, I would take them anyway figuring I was choosing the lesser of the two downers (you know, the crappy way I feel when I am depleted vs. the sugar and junk I can't pronounce).

I have done some research and I've even found recipes for making my own all natural electrolyte replacement drink. It is really surprising that I hadn't heard of Ultima before now. Thanks Callah and Ultima for hosting such a cool and useful blog giveaway (just another reason I love blogging!).

Ultima is the only 100% Natural, Sugar Free, Dye Free, Gluten Free, Non-GMO electrolyte drink on the market. Pretty cool, huh?

I tried the following flavors (all of which I could pronounce every ingredient):

  • Grape
  • Wild Rasberry
  • Orange
  • Lemonade

The Wild Rasberry is definitely my favorite, with the Orange coming in a close second. The Lemonade is my least favorite. It's not terrible, just a little bland compared to the others. As for the Grape, well, I am just not a grape-flavored-stuff kind of person.

The individual packets are great. I keep one in my yoga bag for after class. I have also been using these drinks after I go for a run (a new adventure for me!). I notice when I do, I don't have a dip in my energy level later that day. In short, I am loving it – such a simple way to take care of my self and continue to live my active yogi life!

 

Not Just for Hot Yogis

Any althete (or anyone really) looking for an all natural, sugar free electrolyte drink will love Ultima Replenisher. Heck, my kids really enjoy it so that speaks to the tastiness, right?

 

Still Have Questions?

You can read Ultima's FAQ. Also, feel free to post questions for me about my experience with Ultima Replenisher in the comments below.

 

Buy It

You can buy directly from Ultima on their website or find out where there's a store near you carrying Ultima products. You can also connect with Ultima Replenisher on Facebook.

By the way, through September 2010 Ultima is offering a coupon for yogis! Get $7 off an order made on their website by using code yogayoga. Thanks Ultima!


Bloggy Love

Please stop by Callah's blog My Yoga Life and say hi! She is super sweet and share lots of useful yoga and running info over there. You might like this related post on The Importance of Hydration.

As always, thanks for reading! Please check back in as I have some pretty cool stuff (hint: giveaways!) planned for the not so distant future.

Lots of Love,

 

Lindsay

 

camel pose youtube

Strike a Pose Saturday: A Camel Pose for Everyone [VIDEO]

Thought I would do something a little different this week.

People learn in many different ways. Simple pictures and reading works great for a lot of people but for those of us who are  more "visual" learners a video is very helpful. So, here it is: Tips and modifications for Ustrasana, Camel Pose … in a VIDEO!

It is very important that you warm-up before you practice this pose. 3-5 rounds of sun salutes should do the trick. Also, a counter pose after you practice Ustrasana is important to balance the stretch and stabilize your core and your spine. A great complimentary pose for Camel is Sasangasana, Rabbit Pose. Also, Balasana, Child's Pose or simply hugging the knees into the chest will serve this purpose.

In this video I offer modifications for every level and alignment tips to get the most out of your Camel efforts. Remember, yoga is not about achieving an idealized or "final" pose (that's just a myth anyway) but more about what you learn along the way. In other words it is not the pose but how you approach the pose that matters. Patience, acceptance and an open mind are helpful. Compassion and honesty and a sense of playful curiosity are good things to bring to your practice, too.

 

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So, there you have it. Please post your questions and/or comments below. Also, if you ever have a request for a video or tips for a specific pose, just let me know!

Lots of Love,

Lindsay

By the way, please practice safely. These articles express my opinion and while I have over a decade’s experience with hatha yoga practice, intensive teacher trainings and hundreds of hours of teaching, always consult your physician before beginning any exercise regimen and to find out what activities suit your uniqueness. Because you are special and doggonit … I like you.

YogaVibes.com Review and Giveaway CLOSED

I would like to introduce (or perhaps reacquaint) you with a really great website, YogaVibes.com.

I have a confession to make. I do not make it to yoga class every week. I’m not counting the classes that I teach. I am talking about a yoga class for me, where I get to be the student, where someone tells me what to do for an hour and a half!

I do practice at home, though, and I really do love my home practice. I find the intuitive nature of guiding myself through an asana sequence that my body asks of me to be so much fun and creative and quite special. But honestly, it isn’t always enough. It is sometimes difficult for me to stay motivated and I tend to fall into the trap of complacency in my practice. In other words, I don’t challenge myself and I get bored.

There’s just something about the energy of going to a yoga class

But how am I to get to class with 2 young children,  a teaching schedule, a working/schooling husband and one car between us? It’s not easy that’s for sure (YogaVibes to the rescue!).

yogavibes.comWhat I love most about YogaVibes.com is that they offer online yoga classes with amazing and accomplished teachers in a real class environment. They also have streaming DVD’s and shorter (free) intructional “vignettes” but it is being able to experience teachers whom I’ve admired from afar, like Sadie Nardini and Kathryn Budig (and Kino MacGregor, Ricky Tran, Rolf Gates – the list goes on and on), in a real yoga studio teaching a real class to a group of real people that I truly appreciate. It’s like, the real thing, y’all!

They have something for EVERYONE

YogaVibes.com acknowledges that people come to yoga practice for a variety of reasons and that these reasons are as unique as the individuals. There is a whole section for people brand new to yoga (Beginner Vibe). They have Kundalini Yoga classes, Vinyasa, Gentle, Yoga for Athletes and even Kids Yoga classes available on the site. YogaVibes.com offers support through videos and their blog, Community Vibe, as well as Daily Vibe emails. There is also a section on the YogaVibes site called Recovery Vibe, for those recovering from addiction, injury or illness and yoga classes for cancer survivors.

More YogaVibes.com features

Pricing for classes is extremely affordable and you have a few options. You can pay just $10 for a single class with access to that class for 14 days. Or you can pay $20 per month for up to 5 classes with unlimited use of those classes. Or for $25 per month you have unlimited access.

And …

Not only can you browse the site by Paid Videos, Free Vignettes, Streaming DVD’s, or New To Yoga but you can also search based on Style, Instructor, Location, Class Length, and Difficulty. It’s pretty darn cool and super easy to use.

I love YogaVibes and the service they are providing – yoga classes with amazing teachers that are economical and fit your schedule. I am sure you will love YogaVibes, too.

Woohoo! YogaVibes.com is offering my readers a 20% discount on YogaVibes classes. Use code lindsayvibes20 to receive the discount.

And because I just love a good blog giveaway (and free stuff!) …

3 Lindsay’s HOT SPOT readers will be able to try a YogaVibes class for FREE!

Here’s how to enter …

Mandatory:

  • -Visit YogaVibes.com and then leave a comment here sharing something that you liked about the site.

Additional entries (optional, but you must leave a separate comment for each additional entry in order for it to be counted):

Contest ends September 6, 2010 at 11:59PM EST. Winners will be randomly selected on September 7, 2010 and announced here on my blog.

I am happy to answer any questions you may have. So, please …. post away!!

Lots of Love,

Lindsay

 

 

Cool It, Man! Try Some Minty Water [RECIPE] – Hot Yoga Hydration Tips

When it is hot outside, staying hydrated is essential and requires a little mindfulness.

True, it might seem obvious (drink water or die?) and also true, we tend to be thirstier during the warmer months. Still, we can forget to drink enough water. Go figure.

Then again, even if we are paying attention to our water consumption we can become downright BORED with drinking so much water.

Here’s a healthy alternative. It is refreshing and tasty and has the added bonus of making good use of that extra mint growing (like mad) in your herb garden.

 

Mint-Infused Water

Instructions:

  • -Take a handful of freshly picked mint leaves, any variety, and wash well.
  • -Place the leaves in room temperature water, about 1 large liter-sized bottle, and allow to infuse for several hours or overnight (can also be stored in the fridge for longer).
  • -Remove or strain mint leaves from water.
  • -Add ice if desired and enjoy a refreshing, soothing summer beverage!

Feel free to experiment with the ratios of mint and water. Also, bruising or chopping the mint leaves first will make for a stronger minty flavor.

Another way to infuse your water with natural mint is to make a “sun tea.” Simply fill a bottle or jar with drinking water and fresh mint and place in a warm, sunny location. Your mint tea will be ready in about 20-40 minutes depending on the degree and intensity of the sunny spot.

Mint is so easy to grow and especially manageable if grown in a container. However, if you don’t want to make this yourself, the Metromint water sold in health food stores is an adequate substitute. It just seems a little excessive when it is so easy (and cheap!) to make your own. Another bonus: Mint has many health benefits!

Try it in Hot Yoga Class

Now, this is not for everyone, not all of the time. Sometimes it seems that anything but plain water is icky (for lack of a better adjective) when you’re intensely focused on your sweaty practice, but it is worth a try now and again. Mint is cooling in nature and is also quite soothing if you’re feeling nauseous. I like it, not all of the time, but sometimes it is simply AWESOME.

When Water Isn’t Enough

Maintaining proper hydration is important for overall health and well-being. If you happen to love Hot Yoga as much as I do, it is especially important. You lose trace minerals and overall balance when you sweat a lot and in Hot Yoga class, you sweat even MORE THAN A LOT! Here are some more ways to replenish and maintain proper hydration and mineral balance:

  • -Electrolyte supplements such as Ultima Replenisher (my fav) and sports drinks such as Gatorade.
  • -All-natural coconut water.
  • -Or you can make your own all-natural electrolyte drink (info below).

I like this recipe from Aviva Jill Romm’s “Naturally Healthy Babies and Children”:

 

Electrolyte Replacement Drink

Combine:

  • -8 ounces water (preferably warm or room temperature)
  • -1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • -A pinch of salt
  • -2 tablespoons or more of honey, sugar, or maple syrup

I recommend at least 1 serving (the above 8 oz) on days you sweat a great deal.

 

Please share your tips below!

Lots of Love,

Lindsay

 

More Resources:

You’re all dried up (yoga and water)

Yoga Students – Drink Tap Water (not bottled)

 

Strike a Pose Saturday: Dancing with Your Inner Warrior

I am feeling all nostalgic for South Florida, the ocean and Hot Yoga Teacher Training.

So, this week’s Strike a Pose feature includes a picture of me yoga-posing it on Ft. Lauderdale Beach, in the thick of teacher training.

Jimmy Barkan’s Yoga Teacher Training was a life-shifting experience for me, symbolized here by the funny camera angle.

Reverse Warrior

I know this pose by several names: Reverse Warrior, Exalted Warrior and Dancing Warrior. I like all three names and use them interchangeably. Depending on the mood and the moment, each name can be appropriate.

Yes, I could have my right knee a little more bent in the picture above, with my thigh parallel with the sand but 3 weeks into the training, my legs and hips were ridiculously tight from the hours of yoga practice every day. Not to mention the sand and the surf – they made things a little tricky, too (hey, where’d my feet go?).

Tips

  • -The alignment of the bent knee is important to avoid straining the ligaments of the knee joint. Keep the knee centered directly over the ankle.
  • -Keep the straight leg very active and straight with the outer edge of the foot pressing into the mat (or sand … or whatever).
  • -Hips should be in a neutral position which means scoop the tailbone slightly and draw the navel and lower ribs in and up.
  • -Try not to lean into the hand that is on the outer thigh but rather lift up and stretch back.
  • -The tendency will be to straighten the front leg when you go back, so be mindful of the legs, with a little extra attention on that front knee, throughout the pose.

Benefits

  • -Increases the strength and flexibility of the legs, ankles and feet.
  • -Stretches the groin, hip muscles and connective tissue of the hips.
  • -Stretches the side of the torso and the arm.

Read last week’s tips for Wheel Pose.

Thanks for reading and please leave any questions or comments below (I love questions!).

Lots of Love,

Lindsay

By the way, please practice safely. These articles express my opinion and while I have over a decade’s experience with hatha yoga practice, intensive teacher trainings and hundreds of hours of teaching, always consult your physician before beginning any exercise regimen and to find out what activities suit your uniqueness. Because you are special and doggonit … I like you.

Strike a Pose Saturday: Bending Over Backwards Never Felt SO GOOD!

I don’t know about you, but I love backbends.

There is something about the inside-out feeling of bending my body in this way provides such a release (and relief!) for me. It didn’t come naturally, though, and it took some practice and mental focus to overcome the fear I had around opening my back and my body. Then, once I was clear and trusting that backbends were actually GOOD for me, my body had to catch up with my mind. There was years and years of tightness and patterns to work through (still working through, by the way), a journey which is as much emotional as it is physical. This disciplined practice of yoga asana (hatha yoga) is all about FREEDOM and that is what this pose has taught me the most – freedom in my body and in my thoughts and emotions.

Hi, my name is Lindsay and I’m a Hatha Yogi.

yoga wheel pose

Here I am in Chakrasana, Wheel Pose at Weaverville Yoga in Weaverville, NC

Benefits of Wheel Pose:

  • -Strengthens the wrists and arms as well as the legs, glutes (your yoga butt!) and spine.
  • -Stretches the whole front of the body, the front of the hips, the chest and shoulders.
  • -Great for an energy boost (Try Skull Shining Breath while in this pose. It’s like drinking 12 cups of coffee – seriously!).
  • -Counteracts depression (I wrote about this here).

Tips:

I heard someone say once in a yoga class that you know you’re a yogi if you have flexible armpits.

It’s true. For me, when learning this pose, the shoulders (armpits included) were especially tricky. For a long time, my elbows would bend and want to point to the outside (not ideal). I had to do a lot of preparatory opening before I could move safely into my Wheel. For some people tightness in the front of the hip prevents mobility in this pose. Also, flexibility of the spine develops with practice. Try to think of your spine as long and spacious with room to move between each vertebrae. Breathing helps.

Stretches You can do to prepare for Chakrasana, Wheel Pose.

-For the Hips – Low Lunge, Bridge Pose (this one is great for the spine, too), Splits

-For the Shoulders – Downward Facing Dog, Extended Puppy Dog, Shoulder Openers

More helpful tips from my yogi friends …

-Here are some really awesome tips and an incredibly effective shoulder stretch from Lucas Rockwood.

-And here is a video from Sadie Nardini where she demonstrates some more shoulder openers.

Please post any questions below and as always, thanks for reading!

Lots of Love,

Lindsay

P.S. You can read last week’s post for tips on Standing Bow Pose.

By the way, please practice safely. These articles express my opinion and while I have over a decade’s experience with hatha yoga practice, intensive teacher trainings and hundreds of hours of teaching, always consult your physician before beginning any exercise regimen and to find out what activities suit your uniqueness. Because you are special and doggonit … I like you.