Why I yoga

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Photo credit: Rachel Garrison Photography 

I have now had a few full meetings with my yoga club students at the high school. I decided last year I wanted to start this club at school so students could experience something they may otherwise not have the chance to. So, without really knowing what direction I wanted to take, I went all in and took the first step.

The students were, of course, a little bit awkward, a little unsure, and a little bit silly – only 3 or 4 of the almost 30 girls that showed up have ever even taken a yoga class before. It’s understandable! But watching the students as I was giving them the background of yoga, the principles and the ideas behind why people practice yoga, and directing them through our first (very brief) practice together, I started to realize something. We had pushed desks to the sides of a classroom, the floors were dirty, their mats were awkwardly sprawled everywhere, and it was this really neat moment of realization. It reminded me why, after those first few yoga classes I took a couple of years ago, I couldn’t wait to come back to the next one.

People always ask me what got me interested in yoga – the truth is, I needed some serious stress relief because I was going through a terrible time in my life. I went with my friend Abbie who made me try a class even though I told her I hated hot yoga the one time I had tried it before. But the reasons I kept coming back, the reasons I decided to do teacher training and become a yoga instructor as well as a student, those are the reasons I love to share.

Yoga, at the very minimum, increases strength, flexibility, breathing, balance, and coordination. It is an ancient practice that has been proven to reduce stress, increase health, and improve quality of life. Yoga heals. It forces you to quiet your mind and shut everything else out as your ears eagerly await the next cue in class, or as you struggle with how the heck your right foot can go any farther back as you keep your body standing tall and your arms twisted up like a pretzel (elbows above your heart and shoulder blades expanding to either side, please). Yoga is a place where a community is formed the minute you step inside the studio, because no matter what your story is or why you’re there, you’re there. There is no “good” or “bad” in yoga. It’s about how you feel and your own relationship with your own practice. You can be successful every single day on your mat if you just show up and let go of whatever it is you’re holding onto for a little while.

I love yoga because it gives me a chance to see a different part of people than I would out in the real world. I get to catch glimpses of their vulnerability, see if they are competitive with others or with themselves, know if they like to dance to the beat a little in their downward dog, or if they have the type of practice where they seem to float on top of their mats (as I seem to clumsily flop around on mine). We say things like “Namaste,” or call out the fancy Sanskrit names of poses as we teach or discuss yoga practice, but sometimes we forget why we’re really there. Yes, for strength and flexibility…but also for sanity, self-love, quieting the mind, and a support system.

Yoga is for every body type, every age, every race, every ability. It’s for every person. I believe fitness and health in this country are way too expensive in general, and unfortunately, the same is true for yoga. But there are many community yoga classes that are donation-based, free yoga classes for special occasions, and many studios do a first class free setup where you can come check out the studio without any charge. YouTube has several, several yoga channels and there are many apps that can bring free yoga to you. The internet has free sequences and poses already. So even if you just practice 3 poses every day for a few minutes, you’re practicing yoga.

A wise person and one of my favorite teachers reminded me in class last night:  The pose is what you’re doing. Yoga is how you are being. Whether you’re a seasoned yogi or a brand new practitioner, the idea that you have to do yoga ‘right’ or be a certain way to come to your mat is the opposite of what yoga is all about. If you’re considering trying a class for the first time, my best advice is just to take that leap and try. Bring a friend, go by yourself, put your mat in the back if it’s more comfortable at first, and let yourself laugh when you lose balance and almost fall over. Even the most experienced yogis fall on their faces. It’s a humbling experience to practice yoga, so try it with an open mind and a willingness to fail…and you’ll succeed 🙂

FriYAY feels!

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Hydration, goals, monograms, and daily reminders

It has been a while since I’ve written a Friday update! I have been covered up, but here I am. Things are getting a little more balanced around here.

-This week has been focused on prioritizing. I am teaching a unit on time management in one of my classes, and it always makes me take a look at my own life. I’ve been making plans (as you can see, I am no longer using my Passion Planner because it ran out – but I am trying this floral, $9.99 Target planner for this school year.) I’m trying to be better about looking at my weeks and being very deliberate about my priorities and when I can fit things in…as well as when I need to say no to things to take care of my own values.

-I was so excited this week to look at my progress on my six week shred! It really lifted my spirits and I know it’s only three and a half weeks, but it feels good to have stuck to something. My clothes fit better, I feel more energized and excited about picking out what to wear, and it has been a really nice way for my mom and sister and I to stay connected.

-I have picked up a new Monday afternoon class at Hot Asana where I teach yoga, and that has helped get me back in a groove with my own yoga practice. Lately I had felt like I was kind of in a yoga rut…using the same playlists, having trouble making it to take classes, not feeling inspired to write brand new classes. But with my new class time, more consistent practice on my own mat, and holding yoga club meetings for the students at the high school, I feel revamped. My new S’well bottle that is beautiful, bright, and keeps everything freezing cold doesn’t hurt, either!

-After buying a sample of it at Ulta, I finally bit the bullet and purchased the Living Proof dry shampoo (this one comes with a free gift!). It actually makes your hair feel and look clean, not to mention the a  m  a  z  i  n  g smell that stays in your hair all day. I still love my Dove dry shampoo the best all-around, but if I constantly had $22 to blow on dry shampoo, this would be the one.

But…most importantly…back to speaking of planners…I do have my eye on the pre-order 2017 Passion Planner in Blush. I just can’t help myself. I am who I am.

Happy Friday! Enjoy the weekend and stay out of the rain!

 

FriYAY feels!

We made it through another week (praise hands emoji)!

I wanted to start a sort of ‘week in review’ series up here, because I feel like my weeks fly by and sometimes I don’t take the time to really appreciate the small moments in the everyday.  Life is busy – believe me, I know that – but I think it’s important to reflect and touch base with yourself every now and then. And I chose Friday because…well…because FriYAY!!!

So here’s my first FriYAY feels post 🙂

-I started my week spending time with my big sister Emily – she came in for the holiday weekend and I hadn’t seen her in forever.  We had a great time! We checked out Cinebistro at Waverly Place to see The BFG, grilled out by the pool with Andrew, took the dogs for a walk, got our nails done, and she came to my regular Sunday night warm flow yoga class at Hot Asana Studio in Durham.  For the Fourth of July, we went with Lauryn to a Carolina Mudcats baseball game and saw fireworks – I got a foul ball! It was a great holiday weekend.

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I am currently dying for the glasses/braces snapchat filter. I can’t help myself.

-I recently purchased some new makeup items and tried them out this week. I’m going to do a full post soon, but I’m currently L O V I N G these:  Urban Decay afterglow 8 hour highlighter, Essie Spa Many Many Mani intensive hand lotion, tea tree skin clearing mattifying facial toner from The Body Shop, Sephora collection dry clean instant dry brush cleaner spray, and – I finally bit the bullet – The Philosophy brand Purity made simple face wash. I’ve bought travel sizes on and off and recently bought the big 8oz bottle, and I am so pleased.

-I finally had some time this week to get back to cooking! I made skinny buffalo chicken strips with homemade garlic parmesan potato wedges and balsamic brussel sprouts, and Romano chicken with lemon garlic pasta – I love Gina’s recipes from Skinny Taste and have used them for years.  I definitely believe in being healthy, but you have to find a balance – her recipes allow you to live a little without guilt.  The Romano chicken was one Lauryn made and I had to have it again!

-I got better sleep this week than I have been getting, and focusing on that has really helped me be refreshed in the mornings and ready to take on the day. It makes sense, of course, but this week I tried to stick to it. I love listening to the Instrumental Study playlist on Spotify before going to bed to help me wind down, and I don’t care if that makes me a nerd.

-I FINALLY broke down and started using the Starbucks app.  I have created a monster! But this week I ordered a new drink for in-store pick-up (YES THAT IS ACTUALLY A THING) and it was so delicious. It is a double shot on ice, a grande iced espresso drink with just espresso, nonfat milk, and classic syrup. Only 100 calories, velvety smooth and just sweet enough to curb the bitterness of the espresso. I don’t want to call it my new drink yet, but it’s a hard possible. Forgive me if I’m super late to this game, but I was excited about it!

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-I wrote a lot of new yoga classes and workouts to do at the gym.  One yoga class I wrote this week was on balance, and I thought it was an interesting juxtaposition of balancing with your body on your mat and trying to find balance in your life – we are all struggling to do that in some way, whether it is with fitness, food, finances, family, friends…man, that’s a lot of words starting with F.  It was a good week to think about balance for me.  I’m also excited about my gym workouts.  I used to be pretty fit and spent a large portion of my time in the gym, planning meals, counting calories, measuring and weighing, etc. and then there came a time in my life when that was the last thing I cared about, and it started to show! Now I’m really working on finding a balance because I like love to eat and have a good time, but I also love the way it feels to be working toward a goal and working toward a long and healthy life. So I’ll be working out hard at the gym between going to yoga classes, and it feels really good to be planning for that.

That’s it for me this week!  A lot of great things in addition to these, but these are my highlights.  I hope everyone had a wonderful week.  Enjoy your weekend!

Leap, and the net will appear.

Happy New Year!  I love this time of year – Thanksgiving, Christmas, the new year…so many opportunities to spend time with loved ones, get a little time off, eat delicious food, and enjoy festive decorations (most importantly, there are endless opportunities for soft clothes).  I’ll be honest…my Christmas decorations are still up.  I’ll get around to that this weekend if I HAVE to.

We went back to school yesterday, so I’m slowly trying to get back in the swing of things.  With the new year, I can’t help but think about 2015.  As cheesy as it sounds, 2015 wasn’t so bad, in the end.  I had stumbles, challenges, and despair, but I also found strength I didn’t know I possessed, hope in impossible situations, and light where there had been darkness.  With the start of 2016, I feel like where I’m standing is a wonderful place to be, and I can’t complain.  How much do we complain, when we have air in our lungs and shoes on our feet and roofs over our heads?  We have so few things to complain about when it really comes down to it.  Jobs, money, weight, wardrobe, friend drama…it all comes and goes.  We should be making New Year’s resolutions to be thankful for today, every day.  I have no idea what’s coming in 2016, and I really, really don’t mind.  The best part about life is that you  have the power to decide on good days and bad days, happy and hopeful or sad and regretful.  It’s okay to experience sadness, it’s okay to experience anger or stress or strife…but what makes a difference is the way we handle it and the way we let it grip us…or the way we let go.

Last week, I had my yoga teacher audition for the studio I’ve been taking my yoga training from.  I signed up at the end of the summer – a HUGE leap of faith for me, considering I could count on my hands the number of yoga classes I had taken up to that point.  My theme for my audition was about letting go and embracing the unknown.  Leaping into the unknown with grace and strength, and letting go of what we can’t control…something I still need to be reminded of all the time.

There is a quote we discussed in class one yoga teacher training weekend:  “Leap, and the net will appear.”  So often, we wait to ‘be ready’ for something.  One of the best lessons my mother ever taught me is that if you wait to ‘be ready’ for something, you will never be ready.  You just have to jump.  Leap…and if it’s right, the net will somehow, every time, magically appear.  I liked the quote so much, I ordered some beautiful hand-lettered and painted wood slices for some of my dearest friends and some of my yoga people (please check out @between_lines_by_b on Instagram!  She is one of my friends from Meredith College and graduate school at NC State, and she’s wildly talented!).  Here is her Etsy shop.
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Today’s post is about the leap I took when I decided to sign up for yoga teacher training.  Some of you have asked for this, so it is informative, but also includes some of the ‘juicy’ details of training that you might want to know about.

Most importantly, I have spent several jam-packed weekends with a close group of women (and one man!) who have taught me so much.  I can’t express in words the gratitude, respect, and love I have for these wonderful human beings.  I have formed wonderful friendships and connections from this experience that I truly hope will last.  Each person in the group brings something different to the table, as we all do.  Probably my favorite thing about yoga is that it really is for everyone.  It’s one of those things, like music, food, or rooting for the underdog, that brings people together who would never have crossed paths otherwise.  I love that. 

Our weekends of training are intense:  8 weekends over six months of Friday 5-9pm, Saturday 8am-8pm, and Sunday 8am-6pm.  We get lunch breaks on Saturday and Sunday, but it is a big commitment.  Any place that you get training from will be different – some do the weekend format, others do weekdays, others go straight through day after day and knock it all out at once.  You just have to find the one that works for you and read reviews to see if it will be a good fit.  There are also many different lineages of yoga, so you will want to read up and see what type of yoga teacher training you want to take.  I was completely  new to yoga when I decided to join, and I honestly didn’t do any research on other trainings.  My friend nudged me to do the training with her, and I loved my studio so much I just trusted my gut and jumped in – I got really lucky because I can’t imagine taking training from anywhere else.  Still, it’s a personal preference and you should find what fits you best.

My yoga teacher training is through Hot Asana University (reviews on Yoga Alliance here).  The owner of the studio I practice at, Virginia Gallagher, created Hot Asana studio in Southern Pines and since then has opened studios in several other cities and states, including Hot Asana Durham, where I practice.   Virginia and Angela Hsu have led our training; they are two women that I have big love and respect for.  They are both so knowledgeable, kind, patient, and make you feel completely at ease.  My training was a 200 hour yoga teacher training focused on hot vinyasa flow classes.  I am trained to teach multi-level drop-in classes.  When I graduate January 10 (this Sunday!), I will be able to register with the Yoga Alliance to be a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT 200).  Just like with teaching public education, the Yoga Alliance has requirements for continuing education and keeping your certification current.

Our weekends consist of so much information – we have covered yoga alignment basics, we have done clinics of every pose, learned some basic anatomy information, and discussed the principles of sequencing a class.  We have learned a 60 minute sequence that we can use and adapt, we have created our own classes, taught our training group our own sequences in the studio, and practiced yoga together each day we have met.  Other training information has included books we have read, meditation techniques and practice to learn to sit still with yourself, and a lot of deep conversations about life and how it connects to the eight limb path of yoga and just being a better person.  We have had spiritual and religion talks, energy talks, learned about our chakras, and have shared parts of ourselves with each other that are dear to me and close to my heart.  So much of what happens in yoga teacher training stays in yoga teacher training, but I feel like I have a seriously solid foundation in the principles of yoga, not just physically.

Through the 200 hour training, practicing yoga has become so much more for me than just going to take a class in a hot room and breaking a good sweat.  It has been a mind, body, soul transformation and it has forced even a lovey dovey, touchy feely person like me out of my comfort zone.  My spiritual journey has also gotten so much more complex since starting yoga teacher training.  It has made me really take a good look at myself, question some things, and stand fast by others.  Yoga is for the weak, the strong, the inflexible, the tired, the hopeful, the hopeless, and the faithful.  It is what brings us all to our mats together, no matter how high or low on our horses we are in the day to day.  Yoga reminds us that we are all connected, and that we need to respect ourselves and each other.  I think that anyone with an open mind and caring heart can grow immensely through yoga teacher training, even if there is no intent to teach yoga classes.  The personal growth and strength I have gained through these last few months is priceless.

I got the word on New Year’s Day that I will start teaching classes at Hot Asana studio in Durham in just a couple of weeks.  I was so delighted…not a bad way to start out a new year!  I feel really blessed (too blessed to be stressed, even), and I’m really looking forward to what the next little bit of my life will bring.  I took a few big leaps in 2016, making a huge relationship change, moving, going back to teaching, starting yoga training…and it has ended up to be such a blessing.  We should all take leaps of faith, even if we’re not sure we’re ‘ready’ yet.  Leap, and the net will appear.  If that isn’t enough to convince you…2016 just so happens to be a leap year.