Demystifying Yoga and Why You Need to Try it.

I remember the first moment I walked into a class known as “hot yoga”.  Yes, it was hotter than hell or so I imagined.  The class was heated to around 102 degrees with about 40% humidity.  I managed to last, but honestly wondered how many people passed out, threw up or went to the bathroom and never came back.

I pondered all of those things in the space of 5 minutes.  The people were all slim, seriously.  There was a mirror on the wall in front of me and I wondered why, whyyyy, would they do that to people wearing next to nothing.  And to top it off, a man walked in wearing what seriously was the smallest erm covering ever and put his mat in front of me (More on that later if you want to click the link).

Here’s the thing.  I was brand new and it wasn’t about any of these things, but if this was my first experience, I had nothing else to compare it to.  So, for those of you who are either nodding your heads, or wondering what happened next, I will help clear some things up.

This particular studio caters to the college students.  I didn’t realize that when I signed up as it was close to me and I wanted to see what all the “fuss” was about.  The people were very serious in this class and very much unforgiving that particular day.  It is not like this everywhere and just to be clear, it is not like this in every class there.  The phrase that I later discovered “your vibe attracts your tribe” is also true for yoga studios. 

Since I was a beginner, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.  I tried it again years later at this studio and found that it still seemed not quite the right fit for me personally.  I wanted to connect with my body and my breath and I personally couldn’t do that while staring at a mirror.  It was way too distracting in this class.

I didn’t want the mirror to be my focus and I found the students body language as well as the instructors seemed to imply that if I didn’t do the pose a certain way, that I was less than somehow and the mirror was just confirmation.

The next place I tried offered Restorative Yoga Well, the few times I went I really enjoyed it…until I took a friend who couldn’t sit still at all, but that’s another story that I linked here.  You have to understand that I was mentally and physically in pain at the time, but I had come to the conclusion that it absolutely couldn’t get any worse (which was actually half right) and that to do nothing was insane (which was 100% correct).  So, the art of restoring my body back to the original factory settings appealed to me highly. 

We got to use bolsters, which are like pillows, blankets, blocks, straps and pretty much anything we had available to us at the time.  I felt very good about the process.  After a while of finding my place in this class, I finally decided to take what would become my greatest passion.

The Vinyasa “flow” Class.  What fresh hell was this my body whispered?  Why are we doing this?  My wrists said to me.  My brain said “Aww F-this.  No.  Noooo.”  But I sat on the mat with no mirror in front of me and listened as the teacher centered us.  I began to move and thought that if I needed a rest surely yoga was the place to find it, right?  Well, again.  Not all classes are created the same and they shouldn’t be.  So, in this flow, it was exactly that.  We literally flowed from pose to pose to pose, and I felt like we never stopped.

Again, my body was in the greatest pain it had ever been in at this time anyway, so I felt as if I had nothing to lose and everything to gain…if I could last.  It was literally like being on Survivor I thought.  I had to pace my thoughts so that I could make it 60 minutes.  Could I do this?

The first few weeks, were hard.  Down Dog was not my favorite.  I actually secretly despised it.  Planking.  WHY was that ever created in the first place when you could plop down on the damn mat.  Why did I want to actually hold myself up?  Why?  Anyway, all this moaning was only in my head.  At least for the most part.  I might have told my husband I wasn’t cut out for it.

Then the day happened when my wrists didn’t hurt quite as much, and in a moment of weakness I said yes to signing up for Yoga Teacher Training.  So, the truth is, I get it.  I really do.

I am not slim…I am curvy, but prefer not to put that label on my style of teaching as that’s just ridiculous.  I want to teach yoga that is truly available to every body.  Every size, shape, color or anything else you think is holding you back.  Are you in pain?  I understand.  Do you think you are too big busted?  I got you covered with modifications and ways to move those girls out-of-the-way.  Don’t want to wear yoga pants?  Fine, then wear what makes you happy…and ermm covered.

After 200 hours, and days I almost cried from the pain, I graduated from my yoga teacher training.  I couldn’t hold myself up at first.  Seriously, and had to modify by coming to my knees in down dog, one of the most used poses there seemed to be ever.  I had such poor wrists that I couldn’t side plank.  And I tried for a year to hold myself up in a pose called crow.  I want you to believe me when I say “trust the process”.  I additionally became certified in teaching yoga for arthritis and pain.  I am now a mindful coach who specializes in getting through this minute to the next, and the next and the next and learning to let go of the things that are holding you back.

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I would love to be able to help you with getting control of your thoughts, practicing visualization techniques, and creating affirmations that can help you move ahead with your life.

Available to you here >> Head|Heart|Health Club <<

Body Image and Yoga…3 Reasons to Ignore the Mirror!

Happy International Day of Yoga my friends.  After one full year of teaching yoga, wow, I can honestly say that my body image has changed, but I still work on it daily!  In 2010, you are welcome to use the side search on the blog and read all about that year, but that was the year that everything started to attack me.  Autoimmune changed my life…and I don’t know if I will ever really accept it, but I have learned how to control it and that was a huge relief.

That being said, several changes happened to my body during the last 5 years that were not there before.  I found out I had fibrocystic breasts, and while it’s never a fun topic, I am linking it to my blog post on what happened that year and how I found out.  So I am going to be honest, my body image was not good around the time I came back to yoga due to pain, years of invisible diseases playing a game with me, plus more.  In some of my previous posts, I honestly thought I was writing in a positive way as I always laughed at myself; however, going back and reading now, I see that I was not fooling anyone.

I was in severe pain for so long that it was a deep path I had carved into my brain.  It was well-worn, so naturally I didn’t notice when my self-esteem went down the same path.  Why is it that your friends don’t say the things you need to hear?  Don’t be that friend who just lets your friend continue down this path.  Set the path on fire so they have to find a new way.

My new path was yoga.  Yoga became my saving grace.  When my anxiety from the countless doctor’s appointments was high as I waited on new tests, I would go to yoga.  At first, I cared what people thought of me in my yoga clothes.  I was not able to do all the things other people could…but I went to restorative yoga anyway.

What did I learn from this class?  I will tell you lessons that I learned which can’t be taught from a mirror.

3 Reasons to Ignore the Mirror:

  1. The mirror doesn’t tell you how beautiful you are to other people.  This is serious.  It reflects back your insecurities.  When you look in the mirror, you might see tired eyes, lines, and saggy skin.  When your friend sees you do a pose in yoga class for the first time that you have working on for a few months, they see your natural inner beauty.  I am telling you I know this to be true.  I have witnessed it in my friends who were afraid to come to yoga.  You might not even see how you glow, but I do.  As your teacher, I send you so much love and light during class.  Never once thinking of what you can’t do at all.  I have been there my friend.
  2. The mirror is actually supposed to be a tool.  Yup.  Just a thing to use for alignment in postures.  It is not there to judge us as that’s our job.  Do you ever stop in mid-thought and think to yourself “What if my daughter, sister, friend does this to herself?”  Would you allow others to speak so badly about themselves as you do in your head?  No matter the woman, no matter how you talk to yourself in your head, the answer is always I would never want anyone else to talk to themselves like this.  Seriously.  Ask a friend.  My group of sisters, not related, but from all cultures, meet regularly and we have said this many times.
  3. The mirror reflects the light around us, but not inside us.  Remember that the next time you are not going to yoga class because of how you “look” in the mirror or in yoga clothes or in blah, blah or until you lose x number of pounds.  Seriously remember this.  Because through yoga, I have learned to steady my mind, open my heart and come back to the breath.  If I miss yoga for too long, or don’t go for myself as I am the teacher, ha, if I don’t have that time to do the inner reflection, yes, hell yes, the outer reflection can look ugly to me.  I absorb others energy at times and if I don’t get it out through the experience of yoking myself back to the present moment, this breath, this body as Rolf Gates would say, “The real payoff of a yoga practice, I came to see, is not a perfect handstand or a deeper forward bend—it is the newly born self that each day steps off the yoga mat and back into life.”   

Each time I leave practice I am whole again my friends.  I have then collected all the pieces of my soul that seemed scattered and I feel new again.  Come to yoga my friends.  The mirror can’t possibly tell you how it feels.

Rolf GatesWant to learn new yoga poses in 3 different ways?  A break-down of poses for your body?  Check out the Head|Heart|Health Club

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The Formula for Happiness.

fun people

We need to reverse the formula for happiness and success.  Do you follow the formula of if I work harder, I will be more successful and then I will be happier?  Watch this and see what you think.  The Happiness Advantage: Linking Positive Brains to Performance.  Your brain at positive is 31% more productive that at negative, neutral or stressed levels.  Hmm.

Did you realize that being happy has a direct correlation with your performance?  Finding a way to be positive in the present moment is imperative to you performing better.  But…how can we do that when we are under stressed out conditions?  Guess what.  I have some ideas.

Dopamine makes you happier and turns on all the learning centers in your brain.  What are you doing when you are not happy I wonder?  Are you making important decisions in an angry state? 

I’m going to be honest.  I used lots of research to come up with my programs that I just launched here under the work with me tab…but I want to be able to give you some ideas that you can begin to use now.

Creating Lasting Positive Change:

I referenced Shawn’s video, so watch it!
  • 3 Gratitudes, new things you are grateful for each day!  (remember my previous blog post??  I had not even found his research yet, but look at how forward thinking we are.  It goes together!)
  • Journaling (WAIT!  I didn’t even go to Harvard and I have been writing about this, and counseling my clients for a while.  Research skills work!)
  • Exercise, which yes, includes me continuing to bug you about my yoga research:)  Namaste happy.
  • Meditation…heyyyy.  Here is where I told you about my collaboration with a friend who does guided mediation.  Or you can sign up for free ones online…like Deepak speaking into your ear.
  • Last, but not least, what I wrote about last week.  Random Acts of Kindness.  My friend Shelli did some shout-outs on Facebook one day and let me tell you, it was nice.  It can be that small to you, but to the person you are praising it means you are thinking about them and that kind of recognition whether public or private is a happiness booster for both of you!

The interesting thing about all of this, is that if you use the search feature, you can see some of the things I have written about the above ways to create your lasting positive change.  I have also come up with workbooks and other things to help my clients over the years, but the bottom line is, if you do the work on the inside, you will start to see results on the outside.  ~Aimee

Want even more help?  Check this out.

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Top 10 yoga tips for beginners.

downdog

Starting a yoga practice?  Read on.

If you are reading this because you are about to start a new yoga practice, welcome.  Before you run out and buy a new mat, have a look at a few of my suggestions.  I have been “practicing” yoga for years, but until this year, I was not serious about my practice…if that makes sense.  I am completing my 200 hour Vinyasa yoga teacher training in June, and I wanted to pass on some tips that can really motivate and help you stick to your practice.

  1. Buy a good mat.  If you are looking for a yoga mat, there are literally thousands out there.  Before you buy one, see if you can use the ones at the studio to get comfortable with them, then ask what thickness or brand they use.  I prefer a thicker mat, like this one << unless you like hot yoga, and I have this one.
  2. Find a good studio.  If you are uncomfortable when you go there the first time, give it another chance.  If you are not comfortable again, try another studio.  You want the vibe of the studio to be completely welcoming.  They should show you around, tell you where things are located, and basically be helpful from the moment you walk in.  My studio is awesome about that.  It really is the little things that mean a great deal to me.
  3. Respect your body’s knowledge.  If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.  Don’t be afraid to tell the teacher before class if a particular area is causing you some discomfort.  That way the teacher will know ahead of time and can give you a few modifications.
  4. Don’t compare yourself to others.  This might seem like a no brainer, but sadly, it’s not.  You constantly have to re-align yourself to focus on you and you alone.  What Mr. Yoga Guru at the front of the class can do has no bearing on your life whatsoever.  Great, he can fold in half like a pretzel and then stand up with his hands.  Enjoy the moments that you have with your progress.  Where you are is very important.  It’s the start of a great practice. 
  5. Buy comfortable, not see through, clothes.  Please don’t feel you have to clothe yourself in head to toe designer yoga wear.  But at the same time, do a quick mirror check to make sure it’s not thin as tracing paper when you bend over.  As lovely as your under garments might be, heck as lovely as mine might be, I prefer my underoos to stay hidden.  I don’t spend a lot, but I make sure my tank tops stay in place and my leggings are not sheer. Note: I use the Yoga Club.  Seriously.  You can’t go wrong with how cool the clothes are, and a box comes to you for 60% off retail!!
  6. Don’t take yourself too seriously.  My friends would say this is pretty easy for me, but if you step out of a pose, or erm fall off the surf board during SurfSet, as long as you aren’t hurt, just smile and get back up.  We are lifelong learners and it’s important to find an inner sense of humor with this process.
  7. Breathe.  Sometimes, I feel like I am breathing the loudest in the room.  I take the phrase “ocean breath” seriously when my teachers taught me how to breathe.  It has steadied my entire practice.  Ujjayi breath is a 3 part breath and I find it very calming.  Whatever kind of breathing you use, just remember to listen for your breath as you steady yourself.
  8. Make your practice a habit.  If you make a regular practice of yoga at least three times a week, it will be more beneficial to you in the long run.  You will become more flexible as the weeks progress and you will be able to flow into the poses without thinking about it.  You can even do 15 minutes of Sun Salutations at home in the mornings. 
  9. Communicate with your teacher.  Stay after class for a second if you think you didn’t catch just how to do a pose or if something didn’t feel right.  You can ask them to watch you do downward facing dog for a minute and ask them to go over the most important tips for really getting into that pose.  It seems so simple, but if you don’t press into the knuckle mounds of your hand evenly you might walk away with sore wrists.  Take the time to ask.  It’s really okay.  You can also read my pin about how to avoid wrist pain.
  10. Don’t rush.  Take time to really slow down for yoga.  Be present.  Stay for Savasana…the resting time.  Focus on your breathing.  Check in with your body.  And of course, it’s fine to congratulate yourself for doing the best that you can.  You did it!  Repeat Namaste when your teacher says it at the end as a form of respectful closing to thank your teacher for sharing their energy with you. 

Yoga Sutras

 

 

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