The Six Commandments for Yoga Beginners

First, I want to say congratulations! If you completed the 30 Day Yoga Challenge, awesome. If you did not, that is okay! I started this challenge because I wanted to improve my posture and flexibility. Now that I have completed it, I have learned so much more. That being said, I feel it is important to share with you what I have gained, and I also want to thank those of you who have reached out to me with such kind words and inspiration.

The Six Commandments for Yoga Beginners

  • Yoga is not a race: When I first started the 30 Day Yoga Challenge, I had this idea in my mind that after one month, suddenly I would be able to bend like a pretzel and stand on my head. I don’t know if it was my Type A perfectionist personality or being slightly delusional, but I soon discovered that becoming an expert in yoga after 30 days is just not possible (and slightly insane). In fact, if you enter your own yoga practice with this idea in your mind, you are setting yourself up for disappointment and probably missing out on the actual benefits yoga provides.

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  • Be mindful: As a therapist, I often incorporate core mindfulness based skills into therapy sessions. These skills are derived from Buddhist traditions, but do not inherently contain religious practices. In short, it is a way of being in the present moment. It is a state of mind that allows you to be in the here and now, to fully participate and observe your own state of being, and to allow judgmental thoughts to float away so that you can be effective in getting what you want in your life. This, in my opinion, is the hardest part of yoga. Often times our thoughts, whether it be thinking about what we are having for dinner or the fight we just had with a loved one, distract us from the present. In order to fully practice yoga, mindfulness is key.  Savasana, also known as corpse pose, can be considered the most difficult pose in yoga, as it requires you to be completely mindful. Although, my cats beg to differ. Yes, there are three of them and yes, I am obsessed.

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  • Practice: Practice, practice, practice. Yoga is hard as all hell. I know that yoga instructors appear to be some mythical creatures that can balance on their head and knit a sweater at the same time. How do you think they got there? If you want to really expand your practice, and eventually learn more intricate and difficult postures, you must practice. At this time, I am committing to practicing yoga 6 days a week, with 3 of those days involving a full hour.
  • Get your friends involved: Friends that play together stay together? Or something like that…I found that the more I surround myself with individuals who want to stay fit, the easier it is to actually stick with it. I have nothing against eating pizza and drinking a beer (or five), and I certainly am not going to preach about organic this and all-natural that, but I do believe in a balance. If you want to eat that pizza pie, you better be willing to work off those calories the next day or buhbye. I have found that those individuals who refuse to try and have a balanced life, also tend to make attempts to sabotage your healthy habits. It is absolutely unbelievable how often some people comment about what I am eating in a negative way. I am often accused of eating like a “rabbit” because I choose a salad with grilled chicken over a large pizza and fries. Food is fuel people, and if I wanted to function like a McDonald’s, I would eat there regularly.  The next time someone negatively comments on your healthy habits, take a good look at their habits. I guarantee they are unhappy with their life.
  • Get Medical Clearance: This is a big one. I have suffered from numerous injuries and I am currently dealing with some sacroiliac joint dysfunction. Have I stopped doing yoga? No. Do I have an appointment with a doctor to get clearance to continue my practice? Absolutely. Although yoga provides numerous health benefits, it is still hard on the body. If we are being mindful, we must also be aware of any discomfort we have during our practice, and be sure to modify the postures to our own ability. Play it safe kiddies.

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  • Attend a Yoga Class: When I am at home, I am the yoga master. The reality? I have absolutely no idea if my form is correct (and half the time, no idea what the hell I am doing). The only way to know for sure is to have a qualified instructor assist you when developing your yoga foundation. Many studios offer introduction courses that you can register for. Do you need to attend yoga classes forever? No. Yoga classes can be insanely expensive, but you should at least build your initial foundation with the help of a professional. Check out videos on youtube and this awesome website for some free yoga!

I will be starting a New Yoga Challenge in May and I hope you will join me.

Namaste.

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8 Yoga Tips For Beginners

It has been one week since I started the 30 Day Yoga Challenge.

For those of you who are joining me in this challenge, congrats! I have to say I was pretty surprised when friends, family, and acquaintances showed interest in doing this with me, committing to an entire month of yoga practice, but it has been a pleasant surprise, filled with positivity, inspiration, and motivation.

Highlight of the week: Having a 30 minute tree pose staring contest with my boyfriend, Rand, following a few glasses of wine. Yeah, that happened. 

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That being said, I learned a thing or two during this first week. Let’s start with a disclaimer: I am very beginner when it comes to yoga. I can’t stand on my head or bend like a pretzel yet, but I am truly committed to learning and working from the ground up.

Here are my top 8 yoga tips for beginners.

Yoga Mat: I have no idea at this point how many yoga mats I have purchased in the past four years. Some people enjoy mats with a little more cushion (got to keep that tushy cushy), while others enjoy mats that feel practically like a hardwood floor (just thinking about those types of mats sincerely hurts my tailbone). Either way, purchase a really good mat that works for you. You can find yoga mats at most stores, usually for an affordable price (anywhere between $15-50). For my eco-friendly friends, they even sell environmental friendly mats, but those tend to be a tad bit more expensive. Remember, this is the mat your body will be utilizing every day during your yoga practice, so make sure you purchase what works for you.

Yoga Block: My sister purchased me a yoga block about 4 years ago for Christmas, and I just used it for the first time this week. Despite the fact that the yoga block could have been extremely useful the past four years, something blocked my prefrontal cortex from making rational decisions (I blame graduate school). Not only does it help provide stability for difficult postures, but it also prevents you from over-stretching, helping to avoid unnecessary injuries. Again, yoga blocks are pretty cheap ($10-20) and can be found at most stores.

Trial and Error: Finding the right yoga class or yoga video is like finding the right gynecologist/proctologist (oh yeah, I went there). Some instructors can be ostentatious and downright creepy. Try out a few different classes to see what it is you like/dislike. The yoga instructor is the one guiding you through each posture, so you want to make sure you feel both comfortable and connected to the practice.

Clothing: My favorite topic. Whatever you choose to wear during yoga, make sure it is practical. Baggy pants and tops usually get in the way when you are trying to transition from one posture to the next (Seriously, try doing yoga in sweatpants and let me know how quickly they slide off your booty). I am obsessed with yoga pants. Whether or not you actually practice yoga, I am pretty confident almost all females are equally obsessed with this fashion trend. Not only are they extremely comfortable, but they are super cute and sexy. Check out Victoria’s Secret yoga line. It is a little pricey, but totally worth it. Take away message: I am giving you an excuse to go shopping.

Learn the Language: To prevent sounding pedantic, hear me out for a moment. I previously did not believe it was important to learn the language. I’m not a yoga instructor and I do not want to sound like a pretentious hippie (Quite the oxymoron and yes, I am a bit judgy this morning). Learning the language will help you deepen your practice and make it a hell of a lot easier to follow each sequence. When learning the postures, we have to watch the instructor closely, but once learned, it is much easier to just listen and focus on the movement. For those who want to learn more, check out your bookstore and read a little. I just purchased The Complete Yoga Book, by James Hewitt. Unfortunately, Yoga for Dummies was not in-stock.

Invite your friends: As Chalene Johnson once said, “If your friends don’t like to workout, get new friends!” Okay, so that is a bit dramatic, but if your friends exercise with you, it makes hitting that yoga mat after a long day much easier. Rand, who would rather lift heavy weights than even look at a yoga mat, decided to join me a few times this week, supporting me in this challenge. If you haven’t tried yoga with your partner, do it. Not only can they help correct your form, but you will have a guaranteed laugh when you land on your ass. Half moon pose anyone?

half moon pose

Be Mindful: Previously when I practiced yoga, I had this neurotic urge to always be perfect with each posture. Well, if I were “perfect,” I would most likely be an instructor, so I needed a little reality check. Yoga is not about perfection, nor is it about pushing your body past your limit. If you are constantly comparing your posture to others in a judgmental way, then you are not being fully present with your mind and body. Focus less on being advanced, and focus more on your journey of getting there. I am fully aware I sound like a walking cliché right now, but it is true. I realized that by focusing on my breath and the movement, my postures improved and the more relaxed I felt following the sequence.

Laugh a little: Every person will fall, stumble, and roll off of their mat at some point. Yoga is hard. It requires concentration, balance, and flexibility. I know some yoga classes require silence, and you certainly don’t want to be a distraction in class, but every once and awhile, just laugh at yourself. Yoga does not need to be so serious all of the time. Remember, you won’t be perfect, you will fall, and mistakes happen. Get over it.

If you have any advice for yoga beginners that I did not include, please feel free to share.

Only 22 more days to go! Keep pushing. Remember: If you skip a day, try not to beat yourself up about it! Life Happens.

Namaste.

30 Day Yoga Challenge

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After two weeks of being plagued by illness (or as my boyfriend so eloquently stated, I was a succubus), and another week of being unnecessarily lazy, I decided I need a serious challenge to get this badonkadonk back in shape. I literally feel like my muscles have atrophied into oblivion.

Side note: I have an insanely busy schedule.

I work full-time in the mental health field and commute 2 hours each day. This means that 10-12 hours of my day are spent either at work or traveling to and from work. When I am at home, I have to cook, clean, and care for my three adorable kitty cats, all of which are on special diets, making even their feeding schedules time-consuming. Most of my phone calls to friends and family are conducted during my long drives, and whatever extra hours I have in my day goes towards exercising, watching reality television, and spending time with my extremely attractive boyfriend (boyfriend has a name, it’s Rand, and he is pretty awesome).

That being said, obviously I am considering adding more to this list…because I am insane.

After reading this blog entry, I was inspired. I always preach to my clients that they need to practice self-care, yet I certainly do not take my own advice. Rand always tells me I am a machine (I know, he really does have adorable, romantic nicknames for me, doesn’t he?). In fact, I have no idea how to relax. If I have absolutely nothing scheduled, nothing to do, clean, or organize, I am unable to just sit down and chill out. I always have to be moving around or doing something. At this very moment, instead of sipping my coffee and vegging out in front of the television, I am writing this blog entry…get the picture?

After all of this rambling, I guess I should talk about the challenge.

30 Day Yoga Challenge

  1. I will complete 30 consecutive days of yoga, which is pretty self-explanatory.
  2. I must complete a minimum of 5 minutes of yoga per day, including one day of yoga over 20 minutes.
  3. Yoga does not have to be completed in a class format, and can be conducted at home.
  4. I can try any level of yoga, but I must complete more than 3 poses in a sequence.
  5. Yoga can be completed at any time of day.

So there it is. You may be reading this and thinking, challenge? seriously? five minutes a day does not seem like a challenge, you’re a drama queen. Okay, so I am a drama queen, but this brings me to the second part of my challenge.

90 Day Exercise Challenge

  1. I will complete all 3 phases of the ChaLean Extreme program in 3 months (Burn, Push, Lean Phase).
  2. I will follow the class schedule as much as possible, and complete 5 workouts a week.
  3. I will continue to do 15-30 minutes of physical therapy for my lower back and hip, approximately 3-5 days a week.

A disclaimer for this challenge. I will not be angry or hate myself if I need to skip a day, life happens, and I will try my best. 

Before I got sick, I was following the ChaLean Extreme program religiously, and I lost approximately 8 lbs in a month and a half, with inches melting away like butta. I had only 2 weeks of the program left to complete before I got sick. Due to the succubus sabbatical I took, I felt I needed to start the program from the beginning, as I am pretty sure I pulled a muscle from lifting a 5 lb weight yesterday.

In my previous entry on Herbal Remedies, I mentioned my long history with knee problems. Well, due to these injuries and my awesome luck, I also developed a strange lower back and hip problem, causing my hip to just dislocate whenever it feels like it. This is where the physical therapy part of the challenge comes in.

So overall, I may be pretty insane, but this is my slightly neurotic way of practicing self-care and wellness. If I have problems just relaxing, well then, maybe that is exactly what I have to practice, and I feel yoga will be my path to understanding how to slow down and be mindful of my health. I am no yogi, and I am certainly very (I mean very) beginner, but we all have to start somewhere, right?

Resources for the challenge

Yoga Journal Okay, so this website is amazing. Not only do they have actual yoga videos that you can follow, free of charge, but they also allow you to customize and build your own sequence. Did I mention that it is free?

If you love beachbody workouts as much as I do, check out ChaLean Extreme (unfortunately, I am unable to provide a direct link to the website…darn internet rules). If you would like a link to the customized workout sheets for the program, contact me. I may also provide information regarding the program in future posts.

So get off your couch, put down the cheez-its (why are they so amazing…why?) grab your yoga mat, and join me, April 1st, in this challenge.

Namaste.