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. 

yoga cat tree pose

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.

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30 Day Yoga Challenge

yoga_calm_1

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.

Herbal Remedies

I have always been extremely clumsy, accident prone, with a Ph.D. in the art of bad luck.

Now, before I sound like a complete hypochondriac, let’s briefly review a snippet of my track record, shall we?

In high school, I ended up in the hospital after my “friend” decided he would pick me up in the mall. The result? A dislocated patella. (Crazy girl side note: My kneecap ended up on the side of my leg, and despite the excruciating pain, I refused to let the nurse cut my favorite pair of jeans. I mean, how hard is it to find the perfect pair of jeans? Don’t judge me. It took me a year to heal and my knee was never the same).

In college, I ended up at the health center after an insane rash developed all over my body, only to be told by the doctor (and I use that term loosely) that I had scabies (which turned out to be untrue…how gross). I went to my primary care doctor, who was so shocked by the misdiagnosis that he literally knee-slap laughed in my face, all while bracing himself on the counter. I, in fact, was having my first allergic reaction in my life at age 18. Since that time, allergy medication has been my savior (I’m looking at you Claritin D).

Shortly after, I was attacked by my refrigerator (true story) in my dorm room. I will spare you the details, but that refrigerator was out to get me. After weeks of MRI’s and X-rays, I was eventually told my ACL pretty much no longer existed and I needed surgery. Lucky for me, this was the same leg I messed up previously, so it was proficient at being completely useless.

In short, I have a lot of hands-on experience being a patient. Let’s get to my point, shall we?

How many times have you gone to the doctor, handed over approximately 20-60 dollars for your co-pay (imagine how many cups of coffee you could purchase with that still in your pocket…), only to be told one of the following statements.

Here, take this Z-Pack.

Here, try this (enter any steroid, acne, skin cream here) and see what happens.

Oh, it is probably just stress.

Or my personal favorite…

If you still have pain in a year, come back and see me.

Don’t get me wrong, I know going to the doctor is a necessary part of life. I also know medication and medical research has helped improve the lives of many, heal those that need healing, and save the lives of loved ones. I don’t despise the medical profession, and I am not a liberal hippie cursing the corporate pharmaceutical companies for feeding the capitalist agenda (okay, so they are kind of  like legal drug dealers). In fact, my boyfriend’s mother is a doctor, who is extremely helpful, intelligent, kind, and always looking for an answer to any health woe that comes her way, whether through a natural cure or with the use of an appropriate medication.

But…a big but…

Some physician’s just straight up suck.

We have all been in a situation where a doctor prescribes you a medication because they have no idea what is wrong with you and pretends to care about your overall well-being, all while never making eye contact with you or taking the time to actually understand your symptoms.

In a way, I understand. We live in a culture where if you take a pill, your problem is fixed. Oh you’re depressed? Take a pill. Oh, you have acne? Here, try this prescription face wash. Oh, you need to shed some pounds? Diet pills are the answer! Even schools and some employers require a doctor’s note, forcing you to trek over to your primary care doctor.

In my quest to heal some of my health problems, I realized that not everything requires a pill or a visit to my doctor. For example, recently I learned that many health issues can even be correlated to allergies, forcing you to change your environment and even your diet (hence why I will be going gluten free, future posts shall follow).

Because I know many people in my life suffer from similar health problems, I thought I would share my top three herbal remedies that I use on a regular, and almost daily, basis. Please keep in mind that I am obviously not a doctor and before trying any of these remedies, do your own research. Some people have this misconception that because something is “herbal” “organic” “natural” that it is safe. NOT TRUE. Anything you put in or on your body could potentially have a side effect.

Turmeric

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Scientific name: Curcuma longa, Curcuma domestica

Turmeric is a miraculous spice that is grown in India and some tropical regions of Asia. The active ingredient in Turmeric is called curcumin. Not only is the color and taste of Turmeric used in food coloring and flavoring, but turmeric is also an antioxidant, and continues to undergo research for anti-cancer effects! How cool is that?

Why use it?

Well, besides the amazing superman cancer fighting powers, turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory and can help relieve inflammation caused by arthritis and muscle sprains/aches. Turmeric also protects against liver diseases, reduces cholesterol, and my personal favorite, is a remedy for numerous digestive problems including irritable bowel syndrome, colitis,  and Crohn’s disease.

Ginger Root

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Scientific name: Zingiber officinale

Mmm Ginger…If you are a sushi lover, you have encountered this delicious herb. Originally cultivated in South Asia, the underground stem, also known as the rhizome, is used for both its edible and medicinal properties.  Ginger has similar uses as my previous friend Turmeric. It is primarily used to treat various types of stomach problems, but there is also evidence it provides pain relief for arthritis and muscle soreness, upper respiratory tract infections, and back/chest pain.

Just like Turmeric, ginger is an anti-inflamatory. Just pop a little ginger in your mouth when you’re feeling nauseous, and in about a half hour you will be up and running. Plus, I am giving you an excuse to go out and eat more sushi. Now I want sushi…

Tea Tree Oil

tea_tree_plant

Scientific/medical name(s): Melaleuca alternifolia

The most mysterious of the three, and probably the stinkiest, not many people have heard about the wonders of tea tree oil. It is an exctract from a plant native to Australia. Traditionally, tea tree oil was used as a topical antiseptic and antifungal treatment.

Tea tree oil is an effective treatment for acne, toenail fungus, eczema, and even gum disease (all of those super attractive things).

One of the coolest treatments I have heard of is the use of tea tree oil to combat MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), which is resistant to most, if not all, antibiotic treatment. Research continues in this area.

Word of caution: Although all of the three natural remedies listed can have side effects, tea tree oil can cause severe allergic reactions and should never be ingested. Also, keep out of reach of animals. Not only is it toxic for some animals, but the smell can make them cuckoobananas. My one bengal cat, Nala, goes absolutely insane when she smells it. One whiff of that stuff and she starts drooling, sprinting, and bunny kicking anything she finds.

Sources:
Wedmd.com
Cancer.org
My own miraculous memory storage of wonders