The Uncomfortable Truth About Yoga- 5 Scary Facts

The Uncomfortable Truth About Yoga

What is the uncomfortable truth about yoga? Yoga is a world wide discipline that combines physical and mental aspects of health and wellbeing. Some may say that it is trendy, but Yoga is over 7,000 years old. If you are contemplating starting a yoga practice, there are some things you might want to consider. Here are five things that you may not be aware of when you start a yoga practice. But don’t worry, there are solutions that will keep you going and keep you practicing yoga.

Uncomfortable Truth About Yoga- with Solutions for Success!

#1- Yoga is hard. What? Of course yoga will be hard! Nothing worth doing is truly easy. When you start yoga, you may be physically strong but not flexible enough to do the poses. You may be flexible but not strong. You may have aches and pains in places that you did not expect.

Uncomfortable Truth About Yoga

Solution? Use blocks and straps (paid link) to build up your flexibility over time. Keep doing yoga to build up your strength and don’t be afraid to modify the poses, again using blocks and straps. Modifying poses will help you to honor your body as you practice and work through those aches and pains. Props are your best friend to combat an uncomfortable truth about yoga!

#2- Yoga may not help you lose weight– Sometimes we start an exercise routine with the goals of weight loss. Yoga is a low impact discipline that you can physically do for a whole life. Remember that yoga is one piece of a healthy lifestyle and if it is not combined other aspects of health (proper sleep and diet) you may not lose weight.

Yoga for Weight Loss https://www.yogatraveler.online/weightloss

Solution- Learn the Yamas and Niyamas as you start to practice yoga. They are a value system which can help you examine your lifestyle choices and be more in tune with what your body really needs. Create a daily routine that includes the physical aspects of yoga and the meditation for the mental aspects of yoga. Over time, the change of lifestyle may result in weight loss and help you avoid an uncomfortable truth about yoga.

#3- Yoga will make you poop. This is uncomfortable because no one wants to talk about poop. Yoga poses will get your digestive system working and you may start to fart- in class! This is definitely an uncomfortable truth about yoga.

Uncomfortable Truth About Yoga

Solution- Know that everyone farts from time to time and just keep going. Know that every time you do a forward bend or twist you are activating your digestive system to release gas and toxins from your body. Know that this will result in better poop and a lighter feeling in your body.

#4- Yoga may result in injury- When we start a new exercise or practice, we run the risk of being injured. Sometimes we push too far too fast and we get injured.

Uncomfortable Truth about yoga

Solution- When in a yoga class, listen to your body. Do not try to “show off” with poses. Tell your yoga teacher if you already have an injury so that you can get suggestions for modifications in poses. Use blocks and straps to modify poses as you learn. Understand the value of rest as you are learning. Your body will thank you if you can avoid this uncomfortable truth about yoga.

#5- Yoga class is too crowded- The fact is Americans practicing yoga has grown by over 50% in the last four years. This may result in overcrowded classes.

Yoga for Me

Solution- Go early to class to get a spot. The days of showing up last minute are over. Enjoy the energy of a room of people breathing all together. If crowds are not your style, consider practicing yoga at home with an online yoga studio. May I suggest Yoga Traveler Online!

Those are the five uncomfortable truths about yoga with solutions of how to overcome them all. Enjoy your yoga practice and don’t let anything hold you back!

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How to Build a Morning Yoga Routine- 3 Ways to Energize

How to Build a Morning Yoga Routine

How to build a morning yoga routine? Popular yoga culture wants you to believe that yoga is a physical practice only. But the practice of yoga is so much more. It is a mindset, a lifestyle, a set of values. It is helpful to embrace a yoga lifestyle by setting up a morning yoga routine that feels natural and energizing at the beginning of a day. We will do this by using the eight limbs of yoga.

8 Limbs of yoga Journey

Build a Morning Yoga Routine with the 8 Limbs of Yoga

Lets use three of the 8 limbs of yoga to build a morning yoga routine. We will start with Pranayama, mindful breathing, move into Asana, the yoga postures, and finish off with Meditation, observation and reflection.

Pranayama

Alternate Nostril Breathing- Pranayama

Pranayama is the practice of controlling your breath, the timing, the duration, the frequency of every breath. The goal is to connect with the mind and body. It is important to have this connection first thing in the day as it will center and focus your thoughts. It also supplies your body with oxygen which will help to wake you up and give you energy. The benefits of Pranayama, mindful breathing are many:

  • Decreases stress
  • Increases mindfulness
  • Reduces high blood pressure
  • Improves lung functioning
  • Enhances cognitive performance

Follow along with me- Alternate Nostril Breathing, and begin to build a morning yoga routine.

Asana

Asana is the physical movement that will start your day off right. You will combine the breathwork (pranayama) with movement to build energy and work out the kinks from your night of lying still. My favorite things to do in a morning yoga practice are surya namaskara (sun salutations), forward bends, and twists. I like to feel my entire spine wake up!

Build a Morning Yoga Routine

Join me for Morning Yoga Stretch to build a morning yoga routine. Monday, Wednesday, Friday on Zoom 7:30am Central Time. Register Here!

Meditation

Finishing off your morning yoga routine with meditation will get you focused for your day. Meditation is the practice of focusing your mind but not engaging actively in your thoughts. The benefits of meditation are:

  • Strengthening memory
  • Increasing the areas of the brain that focus on learning
  • Increases attention
  • Improves self awareness
  • Calms the parasympathetic nervous system

Follow along with this guided mediation which will help you to become aware of your body and the stresses that may be there. Learn to let go and find calm as you build a morning yoga routine.

Give it a try and start you day with these three things: pranayama, asana, and meditation. You will be well on your way to build a morning yoga routine!

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30 Days of Calm- Peace in a Stressful World

30 Days of Calm

Welcome to 30 Days of Calm.  This is your 30 days guide to promote calm in your day; a yoga stretch, a guided meditation, or a breathing exercise.  Please enjoy and I hope that if you follow this guide every day, you will be uplifted, find meaningful moments, and be calm.

30 Days of Calm- Breathwork, Guided Meditation, and Gentle Yoga

Day 1- Breath Retention Practice for Stress

This video is a Yoga breathing practice designed to regain a sense of control by controlling one thing- the breath.

Day 2- Forward Bends

Forward bends calm the mind, reduce stress, and reduce blood pressure.  They also stimulate the live and kidneys while enhancing digestion.

Try paschimottonasana pose.

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs extended, knees straight, and a tall back.
  2. Take a deep inhale, reach for your toes.
  3. If you cannot grab your toes, place a yoga strap or hand towel around your feet.
  4. Fold forward and exhale.
  5. Stay in the pose for 10 slow inhales and exhales
  6. Notice if you are able to deepen after the 10 breaths
  7. Inhale and sit up, exhale release
30 Days of Calm- Paschimottanasana

Day 3- Meditation: Finding the Breath

For Day 3, please enjoy a meditation, Finding the Breath.  This guided meditation will help you find the breath that will lead you through a calm experience.

Day 4- Janu Sirsasana

An area that holds stress is the hips- emotional and physical stress can be trapped there.  This is why Janu Sirsasana is such a powerful stretch, targeting the hips, hamstrings, and low back. 

1. Bring your right foot along the left leg with the knee open to the side.
2. Inhale to sit tall
3. Exhale to reach forward for the extended left leg
4. Keep you left leg straight to feel the hamstring stretch
5. If you cannot reach your toe, use a yoga strap (paid link) around your foot.
6. Hold for ten slow breaths
7. Repeat on the left side

30 Days of Calm- Janu Sirsasana

Day 5- Meditation for Releasing Grief

Today we have a deep yogic practice.  This is a Yoga Nidra guided practice, a form of yogic sleep or meditation. It will help you release grief as you connect with the ground for grounding.

Day 6- Legs up the Wall

Try this very deep and relaxing pose- Legs up the Wall!  You will gain deep relaxation, stress relief, and knee pain reduction.

This pose also:

  • Alleviates tired legs.
  • Calms your mind.
  • Relieves leg and feet cramps.
  • Helps with backaches.
  • Softly opens the backs of your legs.
Yoga Poses to Ease Back Pain

1. Scoot your hips against the wall and extend your legs
2. If your hamstrings are very tight, place a yoga block (paid link) under your hips to elevate and release strain.

Day 7- Meditation for a Powerful Mind

Today, enjoy a meditation to get in sync with your mind. This guided meditation will help you to harness the power of your mind.

Day 8- Yoga Breath Tutorial

When we practice yoga, we have a very specific way of breathing.  This tutorial will help you Learn how to feel the powerful yoga breath, ujjayi breath.

Day 9- Pigeon Pose

Remember we talked about our hips a few days ago and how they hold emotions?  The second chakra is the sacral chakra and we learn that if we do not release emotions, those feelings get stored in tight hips.  Pigeon Pose can help stretch the over emotional hips!

Tips for Pigeon Pose:

  • Bring your bent leg to a right angle with the top of your mat
  • If you cannot sit flat across your hips, place a block under the hip of the bent leg.
  • Extend the opposite leg straight back from the hip.  
  • Place hands on the floor, elbows, or lay over bent leg.
  • Hold and breathe for 10 breaths
  • Don’t forget to do the other side!
Svadhishthana Chakra and yoga

Day 10- Meditation for Kind Thoughts

Want kinder thoughts?  Kinder to others and kinder to ourselves?  Replace negative self talk with this guided meditation.  Learn to control your negative thoughts and change them for kind ones.

Day 11- Supine Twist with a Bolster

Time to enjoy a supine twist.  Twists are so relaxing to the low back and hips which can be areas of strain and stress on our bodies.  And when we add a bolster (paid link), we can truly let tension go.  

  • Lay on the floor with a bolster by the left hip.
  • Shift on the left hip as you pull the right leg over to rest on the bolster.
  • Extend the arms and turn the head to the right side for a neck twist.
  • Let your body fully relax as you hold the pose for 10 breaths.
  • Repeat on the other side

Yoga with a Bolster

Day 12- Meditation to Calm the Body

Combat stress today with this meditation: Calm the Body.  Calm the body and the mind with this guided meditation.

Day 13- Child’s Pose

Another hip opening pose today- sensing a pattern?  Let’s try Child’s Pose.  In this pose you will: 

  • Releases tension in the back, shoulders and chest.
  • Alleviate stress and anxiety.
  • Flex the body’s internal organs and keeps them supple.
  • Lengthen and stretch the spine.

Sit on your knees and shift back into your hips.  Don’t worry if you can’t release the hips all the way to the heels.  Try spreading your knees wide to release low back pressure at the sacrum.  Enjoy!

Muladhara Chakra and Yoga

Day 14: Meditation Body Awareness

This Body Awareness meditation will help you to become aware of your body and the stresses that may be there. Learn to let go and find calm!

Day 15- Counted Breathing Exercise

Today, try a Counted Breathing Exercise.  This is one of my favorite ways to feel a sense of control over a quickly spinning world.  As you count and hold your breaths, you will feel your power returning.  This counted breathing exercise combines Yoga breathing to help increase the length of the breath and release stress and anxiety.

Day 16- Down Dog

Today, let’s spend a little time in Adho Muhka Svanasana, down dog.  There is a reason that down dog is one of the key yoga poses and the pose that is most often pictured when thinking of yoga.  The benefits of down dog are impressive:

  • The stabilizing position of downward dog strengthens muscles in the arms, upper back and shoulders
  • Elongates the spine
  • Improves circulation
  • Relieves tension and stress

If you have a lot of hamstring tension, try this pose with bent knees.  Bending the knees will also take tension off the wrists and shoulders.  It is worthwhile practicing this pose a few times a day to build up physical strength and feel the benefits.

Surya Namaskara Mastery

Day 17- Count Your Breaths

Today’s meditation will help you learn how to count your breaths in order to calm down the parasympathetic nervous system.  This is an automatic stress release!

Day 18- Ardha Matsyendrasana

Why are yoga twists so beneficial?  Physically they relieve low back and hip pain by manipulating the spine.  Energetically they squeeze vital organs in the twist to detoxify the body.  Both of these benefits working together are stimulating and relaxing.

To practice Ardha Matsyendrasana

  • Cross the right leg over the left and tuck the left leg under
  • Extend the left arm on an inhale and tuck the elbow on the right knee on the exhale
  • Hold the twist by lifting the center of the body and slowly breathing
  • Switch legs and arms to do the other side
Tips for Yoga Twists

Day 19- Every Breath Counts

Every breath counts when you are trying to calm down.  Try this calming guided meditation today and learn how to make every breath count.

Day 20- Savasana

How long has it been since you have given yourself a good dedicated rest?  Are you the kind of person that has a hard time settling into relaxation?  Well, today that will change.

Set a timer for 10 min if you feel you will run the risk of not waking up.  Grab a pillow or bolster (paid link) to elevate your knees for back relaxation.  

Lay on your back, place your palms to the sky to roll your shoulders back, and take deep grateful breaths until you feel your body relax.  This is Savasana.  Ahhhhh…….

Yoga with a Bolster

Day 21- Finger Breathing Meditation

Breathe through your fingers? Amazingly, this helps with stress and anxiety. Learn the technique in this meditation!

Day 22- Supta Baddha Konasana

Let’s use a bolster (paid link) again to find some relaxation for the body and the mind! Today try Supta Baddha Konasana.  This pose will support your lower back, open your hips, and expand your chest.  Three areas that can get tight from physical stress and manifest in the body.

  • Place the bolster a the small of your back and hips
  • Bring your feet together, knees open to the side
  • Lay back on the bolster and let your arms drop of the sides
  • Take slow deep breaths and stay here as long as you wish!
Yoga with a Bolster

Day 23- Resting the Mind

It is time today to rest the mind.  This guided meditation will help you rest the mind so that you can release stress and anxiety. Find calm in the rest.

Day 24- Surya Namaskara

Positive movement, stretching, bending, strengthening, and joint loosing, can feel so good on a stressed body and mind.  Movement is a way to calm the body’s stress. Try this sequence, Surya Namaskara A.  It will teach you how to link your breath with each movement and will help you to feel alive in your own body.  

This video will show you how to modify the sequence in three different ways so that you can find a comfortable flow for your body’s needs.

Day 25- Breathing to Relieve Headaches

Today we try Alternate Nostril Breathing which can help to relieve headaches, open the hemispheres of the brain, clear your mind, and give you a burst of energy in the middle of the day.

Day 26- Observe Your Inhalations and Exhalations

How we breathe can say a lot about how we are feeling and dealing with stress and anxiety. With this guided meditation, you will observe your inhales and exhales for stress relief and calm.

Day 27- Virabhadrasana B

Today let’s build strength and open the chest space with our movement.  Virabhadrasana B builds strength in the hips and internal rotators.  If we take a variation of a bind, we can also open the chest space and relieve shoulder aches.

  • Set wide and line the heel to arch
  • Bend your right knee and place your forearm on the thigh
  • Reach the right arm under the right leg and pull the left arm behind the back
  • Grasp fingertips if possible
  • Hold and breathe.  Feel the strength in your body!
  • Reverse on the other side.
30 Day of Calm- Virabhadrasana B

Day 28- Scanning the Body

Use this meditation to scan the body. Scanning the body can be a way that we recognize stressed areas and this meditation will help you learn how to release that stress.   Feel calm and work toward release!

Day 29- Vrkasana

Today let’s try a balancing pose.  You might say, “balancing is difficult!”  Yes, it can be. But balancing on one leg can do some powerful things for our body and mind.

Balancing on one foot strengthens the core, ankles, and calves.  

Balancing focuses our mind on one point. In yoga, we call this Drishti.  Drishti can relieve an anxious mind by focusing it to one point. It can help them mind to become calm.

Try Vrkasana

  • Shift your weight to the right leg and draw your left foot up the leg to whatever height you can handle physically.
  • Feel rooted to the floor and lifted through the rest of your body
  • Settle your gaze on one point to focus the mind
  • Breathe deeply and extend the arms overhead if you feel stable
  • After 10 breaths, shift to the other side
Yoga Can Improve Mental Health

Day 30- What is This Emotion?

Today, on our final day of 30 Days of Calm, we will practice a meditation to help us understand our complicated emotions.

Thank you for following this guide, 30 Days of Calm. To continue the calm and healing in your life, check out Yoga for Trauma Relief.

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My Biggest Pet Peeve About Yoga Class- 5 Mistakes to Avoid

My Biggest Pet Peeve About Yoga Class

What is my biggest pet peeve about yoga class? Before I was a yoga teacher, I was a yoga class participant. And I still love to attend a yoga class! However, there are some pet peeves that yoga teachers and yoga participants can agree with. So, if you are doing these things, take a moment to evaluate your behavior. You will have a better experience in yoga class and your classmates will thank you!

Biggest Pet Peeve About Yoga Class- Yoga Traveler

Biggest Pet Peeve About Yoga Class- 5 Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Coming in late to class- We have all been there, we are doing our best, rushing around, trying to make it to yoga class. As a teacher, I try to give my students some grace. We all have days that just don’t go well. But if you are habitually late to class, you will disturb the other students, the teacher, and you will potential create an unsafe condition for yourself as you may not be sufficiently warm for the practice.
  2. Leaving your cell phone on your mat- In this day of constantly being plugged in, don’t you want to unplug for a moment? This is a biggest pet peeve about yoga class that many of us can agree with. I suggest NEVER having your phone on your mat. Nothing is worse than when you are lying in savasana listening to unwind and you hear a phone vibrate, or RING. I cannot think of anything more disrespectful than disrupting other students by having your phone go off during class. There are exceptions like if you have a job where you are on call. If you do get this important class that you cannot miss, politely step out to disrupt as little as possible.
Biggest Pet Peeve of Yoga Class- Yoga Traveler
Biggest Pet Peeve About Yoga Class- the cell phone!

3. Refusing to use props– This is mostly a suggestion for you as a student. Take advantage of the yoga props in class, especially if a teacher suggests it. There is nothing worst than feeling uncomfortable in a yoga pose that can be assisted with a yoga prop modification. Embrace the props!

What to put in a yoga bag for beginners
Enter to win Free Yoga Props!

4. Show Offs– Showing off in yoga class is inappropriate and unsafe and is a biggest pet peeve about yoga class. Yoga teaches to let go of the ego. We are not on the mat to show the rest of the students that we can do. We are there to be introspect and to take an individual journey. Showing off by doing a completely different pose than the rest of the class can be dangerous. The teacher has sequenced the class poses for a reason to prepare your body for the next pose. So just follow along and enjoy the journey!

5. Leaving during savasana– You have taken the time to do 60+ min of yoga class. Can you not spare a few more minutes for the cool down? Not only does your body crave the release and rest, the students in the class deserve a quiet space as well. Don’t clean up your mat, walk by all the others, and slam the door on your way out. Just lay there for a few more minutes in gratitude of the experience.

Meditation Techniques for Beginners

Now it’s your turn! What is your biggest pet peeve about yoga class? Let me know by leaving a comment below!

Never worry about how to create a yoga lifestyle again with Yoga Traveler’s Beginners Guide to Yoga at Home- 30 days of essential tips to form a yoga habit! Get healthy recipes, learn basic and quick routines, and follow guided meditations. Click the link below:

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Check out other blogs from Yoga Traveler:

Should Christians do Yoga?

Should Christians do Yoga? Bridging the Religious Gap

Should Christians do Yoga? I teach yoga in a conservative Christian town and I often get asked, “Should Christians do yoga?” My answer is “Yes!” I am Christian myself and I have never felt that the values of yoga conflict with my Christian beliefs. Let’s bridge the gap between Christianity and yoga using the twoContinue reading “Should Christians do Yoga? Bridging the Religious Gap”

Hands on Adjustments

Hands on Adjustments- 5 Tips for Effective Teaching

Hands on Adjustments- 5 Tips for Effective Teaching Here are five tips for hands on adjustments for yoga teachers. Hands on adjustments is one component of yoga instruction along with effective cues and demonstrations. Use clear instruction while demonstrating and giving dramatic emphasis to what you want to make most clear. Emphasize what to doContinue reading “Hands on Adjustments- 5 Tips for Effective Teaching”

10 Most Common Yoga Mistakes Beginners Make

10 Most Common Yoga Mistakes Beginners Make

What are the 10 most common yoga mistakes that beginners make? One upon a time, I was that yoga beginner that made mistakes. But time went on and I learned the error of my ways so I thought I would share some of my experience with you!

Want actionable yoga tips from me? Ways you can ease pain and modify yoga poses to fit your needs? Then hop on the newsletter! Read more of this content when you subscribe today.

Common Yoga Mistakes

Mistake 1- Not investing in a yoga mat

My very first yoga class was in a gym that was used for martial arts. I thought, I can just do yoga on the bare floor right? I did not want to invest any money in yoga because I was not convinced that I would love it. Spoiler, I do! I quickly learned that my ability to do yoga was being compromised by my lack of mat.

Not all yoga mats are the same. I have my favs (Manduka, Hugger Mugger paid links). I suggest looking for a sticky mat with some thickness. You want the mat to lay flat every time and to support your joints; wrists, knees, back. You should note the type of the floor that you will be practicing on. If you practice at home on carpet, you will want a mat to support that. Mostly, you will want to feel like you will stay in place in poses like down dog. Don’t make one of the common yoga mistakes of practicing without a mat!

Common Yoga Mistakes
Pick a yoga mat to support your practice!

Mistake 2- Don’t skip the modifications

We don’t need to feel like a pro when we start yoga. As we learn, our bodies may need to adjust to new sensations. We will be stretching our bodies in ways that might initially be uncomfortable. So, we utilize yoga props. My favorite props are yoga blocks, yoga straps, bolsters, and blankets.

Here are a few ways that you could use the props. Yoga blocks (paid link) are used as we reach to the floor to bring the ground closer. Straps (paid link) are used to help build flexibility in hips, hamstrings, and shoulders. Bolsters (paid link) are used to prop the hips for comfort in sitting on the floor. Blankets (paid link) are used to add comfort in resting poses. Don’t make one of the common yoga mistakes of skipping the modifications and props.

What to put in a yoga bag for beginners

Mistake 3- Don’t forget to have fun

One of the common yoga mistakes for beginners is forgetting to have fun. We can get so serious with yoga, we want to be perfect in every pose. But yoga is a time for discovery and sometimes we need to laugh a little at our attempts. If you stumble into Warrior I or nose plant in crow pose, just laugh a little. It is all part of the discovery!

I was having a little fun on the road- standing chaturanga or pushing the sign over?

Mistake 4- Skipping the breath

Yoga breathing called ujjayi breath, is essential to understanding the flow of the poses in a vinyasa class. It is essential to relaxing the body in a yin class. You will have a wonderful experience if you can master this breathing technique. Here is a tutorial to get you started:

Mistake 5- Going to the wrong kind of yoga class

One of the reasons I was skeptical about yoga before I began practicing, was that I had a preconceived notion of what yoga was. I thought is was sitting on the floor and stretching. I was so wrong of course! But maybe if I had started with a Yin class (which I now love) I might not have returned. My personality at the time craved movement so ending up in a vinyasa flow class was the right place for me. Take this quiz to find your yoga personality so that you can avoid one of the common yoga mistakes. Ultimate Yoga Style Guide.

Mistake 6- Too much focus on the shape of the pose

When you are learning yoga poses, your body needs a moment to adapt to them. Sometimes they will feel strange and if you put too much focus on the shape and not enough focus on the breath for example, you may get frustrated. Give yourself a break and go just with it for a bit until you are more used to the pose. No need to wedge yourself into a pose your body is not ready for!

Common Yoga Mistakes- “wedging” yourself into a pose!

Mistake 7- Pushing yourself too far too quickly

One thing that I love about yoga is that it can be a lifelong pursuit. Yoga is called practice for a reason- we are constantly practicing and honing our body and lifestyle because we strive to understand yoga. One of the common yoga mistakes is pushing your body too far too quickly. In yoga, we strive to let go of ego. We strive to listen to our breath and move in ways that do not harm. Have patience and see where the yoga journey will take you.

If you are not able to move into a challenging back bend at first, than don’t do it!

Mistake 8- Skipping the warm up

How many times do we need to do surya namaskara? Ashtanga practices will tell you to do a minimum of five surya namaskara A and B each. The warm up in yoga is so important. It is where you will connect with the breath and warm your muscles so that they will respond to the deeper stretches and standing poses. You will avoid injury and may be less sore the next day if you have a good warm up. Don’t make the one of the common yoga mistakes by skipping the warm up. You can follow along with surya namaskara A and B here:

Mistake 9- Don’t skip the cool down

This goes along with mistake 8, don’t make one of the common yoga mistakes of skipping the cool down. Many people want to skip savasana. They want to move on with their day and feel that laying on the floor is a waste of time. I encourage you to think of savasana as a reward for a job well done in class. It is the time that you can let your body absorb the work that you have done. Your breath will relax along with all the muscles in your body.

Yoga with a Bolster
Try savasana with a bolster under your knees to ease low back strain.

Mistake 10- Bring your cell phone with you

This might be my personal pet peeve in this list of common yoga mistakes. Our smartphones can be a huge source of distraction in our lives, which is the complete opposite goal of yoga. Do yourself and your fellow yogis a huge favor and leave your phone in your car, or even consider leaving it at home. If you must bring it into the studio, be sure to turn the ringer off, and definitely don’t bring it into the classroom unless you are a medical professional on call. Let yoga be a gift to yourself- unplug and unwind!

I hope that these 10 common yoga mistakes will help you go from a beginner to a pro! Happy yoga practice to you!

How Yoga Can Improve Mental Health- 12 Ways to Change

How Yoga Can Improve Mental Health

Let’s learn how yoga can improve mental health. There is a growing body of research that supports the benefits of yoga for mental health. According to Yoga Journal, over 15 million people are practicing yoga, pushing the practice to mainstream. Yoga combines physical movement, stretching, meditation, and breath work. This improves overall fitness, health, strength, flexibility, and lung capacity. Yoga also has benefits like reducing back pain, blood pressure, and heart rate.

Lesser known is the benefits that yoga has on psychological issues. The American Psychological Association states, “Several recent studies suggest that yoga may help strengthen social attachments, reduce stress and relieve anxiety, depression and insomnia. Researchers are also starting to claim some success in using yoga and yoga-based treatments to help active-duty military and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.” Below are 12 ways that that practice of yoga can improve mental health.

How Yoga Can Improve Mental Health

“Never give up on someone with a mental illness. When ‘I’ is replaced by ‘we,’ Illness becomes Wellness.”

Shannon L. Alder

Want actionable yoga tips from me? Ways you can ease pain and modify yoga poses to fit your needs? Then hop on the newsletter! Read more of this content when you subscribe today.

Yoga Can Improve Mental Health

This blog will show you how yoga can improve mental health though 12 different aspects. Yoga has so many benefits and can be used as a tool to improve health and wellbeing. Let’s outline these 12 beneficial aspects.

1. Yoga Increases Flexibility

Yoga asana builds flexibility through stretches connected to breath. When we get anxious or depressed, lactic acid builds up in our muscles causing discomfort. Yoga stretches help us to release this lactic acid which relieves pain and increases blood flow to muscles which can improve circulation. Increasing flexibility improves quality of life. Everyone wants to be able to bend down and tie their shoes. Yoga can improve mental health by helping us to feel good in our skin.

Utthita Hasta Padangustasana B can build flexibility in the hip flexors, groin, and hamstrings

2. Yoga Improves Balance

Yoga improves balance by strengthening the muscles and tendons in the ankles. Balancing also forces us to use our core. But how does this improve mental health? Balancing focuses the mind. We have to focus on a pin point to find stability. This single minded focus can still the mind that is spinning with anxious thoughts or fears. It can tune your focus into your strength, your calm, and your breath. Yoga can improve mental health and physical balance.

Vrkasana is a balancing pose that activates the ankles and core.

3. Yoga Poses help us learn to let it be ok

Yoga can improve mental health by teaching giving us the space to let it be ok. We start to learn that some poses can be challenging and we may master them over time. Take twists for example. When we get stressed, our digestive system can be effected. Twists work directly on our digestive system by squeezing the digestive organs. This is one reason why twists can be difficult. It also makes them very rewarding when we understand how to release tension and stress through twisting. It all takes time and patience and we have to let it be ok to take that time.

Parvitta Parsvakonasana to release stress and digestive issues

4. Yoga Teaches You That You May Not Master It

Yoga can improve mental health by teaching you that you may not master it. There are poses that we do on the yoga mat which our bodies may never master. That does not mean that we should stop doing yoga, coming to the mat. We just learn to live with our bodies limitations and grow from them. This is similar to mental health. We will inevitably have bad days, we are not meant to be perfect. In yoga we learn to release the judgement and we can take this knowledge off the mat as we think about our mental health.

“Anxiety was born in the very same moment as mankind. And since we will never be able to master it, we will have to learn to live with it—just as we have learned to live with storms.”

Paulo Coelho
Ashta Chandrasana is a difficult pose that we never master

5. Yoga Teaches Us to Take It Breath by Breath

In the suyra namaskara sequence, each pose is connected to a breath, an inhale or an exhale. We do not move on to the next pose until we take that next breath. When we are living under the threat of anxiety, we forget to breathe. We don’t remember that it is ok to take one breath at a time, one thought at a time. Yoga can improve mental health by reminding us that we can take it one breath at a time.

“Anxiety happens when you think you have to figure out everything all at once. Breathe. You’re strong. You got this. Take it day by day.”

Karen Salmansohn
Urdhva Muhka is in the Suyra Namaskara sequence and always happens on an inhale

6. Yoga Teaches Breath Control

Breath work is one of the most important things we do in yoga practice. We primarily use ujjayi breath, deep breathing in and out of the nose, but there are many effecting breath techniques utilized in mediation and yoga practice. Yoga breathing has been found to lower stress and improve cardio vascular functioning.  It improves lung function and respiratory endurance. It lowers the heart rate and promotes well-being. Focusing on breath can help the mind clear and take the focus off anxieties and stressors. Breathwork is a powerful way yoga can improve mental health.

“Being present to our anxiety is an act of self-love.”

Manoj Dias.
Try breathwork in sukhasana pose.

7. Yoga Teaches Us to Modify

Many times we encounter a yoga pose that is difficult for our bodies. What do we do? We modify the pose. This does not mean that take away all the good, strong qualities of the pose, we just change the focus of the pose. In times of stress or anxiety, sometimes we need to modify. We need to learn to look at things another way so that we can carry on in a healthy way. Yoga can improve mental health by teaching us that we need to modify our outlook.

This is how I modify King Dancer pose!

8. Yoga builds strength

One way that yoga can improve mental health is by building strength. Depression and anxiety can make us feel weak. Since depression and anxiety can make us act lethargic, we may loose some of our strength. Yoga activates the muscles as it is a weight bearing exercise. Poses like Goddess Pose (shown below) place pressure on the hips and we have to use the strength of our muscles to hold us up.

“It does not make you weak if you need a little extra encouragement in this season of your life.”

Morgan Harper Nichols.
Goddess pose can help us feel strong!

9. Yoga Makes You Feel Courageous

The Warrior Poses- I, II, III, humble warrior, reverse warrior (Warrior II shown below), they all have a way to make you feel strong and courageous. Move into a Warrior Pose and realize that each time you come to your mat, it is a chance to try again. Over time, yoga can improve mental health. Think of this quote as you work to face your fears about mental illness,

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.”

Mary Anne Radmacher.
Warrior II with a strong shadow warrior going before you

10. Yoga Can Teach You That You’re Strong

Every time you overcome anxiety, depression, eating disorders, or even a bad day, you grow stronger. Every time you come to the yoga mat you grow stronger. You gain confidence when you can look back and say, “wow, I pulled through! I’m amazing!”

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.”

Eleanor Roosevelt.
Yoga can improve mental health by giving you the courage to look your illness in the face.

11. Yoga Will Give You Endorphins

Every time we move in a positive, physical way, we get endorphins to the brain. Every time we exert energy, breathe a little deeper, work up a threat, we get endorphins. Endorphins are feel good chemicals that can counter the feelings of stress. Yoga can improve mental health by filling us with feel good endorphins.

Time to have fun on the mat!

12. Yoga Teaches You to Be Yourself

I often tell my yoga students that they are the only one on the mat and they get to decide what happens there. You are in control on your mat. You can do as little or as much as you want. You can take liberties with yoga poses or you can honor tradition. You have the right to be yourself in the safe yoga space.

“If you trade your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief.”

Brené Brown
You are safe to be yourself on the yoga mat.

Yoga can improve mental health. Come on to the mat and see where it will take you. For a comprehensive healing product, check out Journey to Healing Through Chakras.

The Biggest Misconceptions About Yoga- 8 Myths Debunked

The 8 Biggest Misconceptions About Yoga

What are the biggest misconceptions about yoga? Yoga is a very popular discipline which originated in India over 5,000 years ago. Yoga asanas were brought to the United States in 1919 by Yogendra, sometimes called “the Father of the Modern Yoga Renaissance.” Since then, yoga has gained popularity in the mainstream fitness world as well as guide to mindfulness and a lifestyle value system.

10 Biggest Misconceptions About Yoga

  1. Yoga Belongs to One Religion

Yoga is a body, mind, and soul discipline and these three things are available to all humans and exist regardless of religion. Yoga requires dedication to the principles listed in the eight limbs of yoga. The Yamas and Niyamas specifically can act as a value system and a way to live in harmony with the earth and our fellow travelers.

8 Limbs of yoga Journey

2. Yoga is only poses

The Yoga poses are called Asanas (see the image above) and this is only one piece of what yoga is. Without tribute to the other seven limbs, we cannot truly call ourselves a yogi. The eight limbs are meant to develop a personality, finding your true self and connecting with it. The practice starts with the body but should go further into the discovery of the true self.

Biggest Misconceptions about Yoga

3. Yoga styles are a “one size fits all

One of the biggest misconceptions about yoga is there is a “one size fits all.” There are so many different forms of physical yoga when speaking primarily of the asanas. The original yoga, as stated above, is not physical, but the popularity of yoga in the US is largely due to it’s physical aspects. I tend to describe yoga as a spectrum and anyone can find a style that works for them physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Take this Ultimate Yoga Style Guide to direct you to your fit!

Yoga for Me

4. You should be flexible

Many people stay away from yoga because they are not “flexible”. We all have some level of flexibility and we can start yoga at anytime. Sometimes we see images online so all the flexible poses that could be accomplished with yoga asana. But this is a small portion of the yogi’s out there. We can adapt yoga poses with blocks and straps to help gain flexibility over time and with practice. This is one of the biggest misconceptions about yoga. Enter here to win a free yoga block and strap set!

5. Yoga is only for young people

One of the biggest misconceptions about yoga is that it is only for young people. Yoga, again, is not simply a physical exercise. If the asanas are what you want though, you can always modify poses to adapt to age and physical differences. Practice is what matters and if you practice something enough, it will become comfortable in the body.

Essential Guide to Ashtanga Yoga for Beginners

6. Yoga is time consuming

Yoga classes can sometimes be an hour to an hour and a half and when you factor in driving time to class, this can take a chunk of time. However, a yoga practice does not have to be that long. A pranayama (breathing) focused session could just be 10 min. Maybe you complete 10 sun salutations to start your day. If you only did a yoga practice once a week for an hour, your body would essentially have to start over each time. It could be better to complete 15 min daily which will give you a daily stress release. Don’t let this biggest misconceptions about yoga stop you from starting.

The Biggest Misconceptions About Yoga
Daily yoga practice can build strength and flexibility. You can do yoga anywhere!

7. Yoga means a total lifestyle change

One of the biggest misconceptions about yoga is that you need to change your lifestyle to practice yoga. Any physical or mindfulness practice does require attention to be worthwhile but it does not mean you have to change completely. There should be moderation in all things and if you are not prepared to practice a vegan lifestyle or sell all your things, you do not have to. A lifestyle change requires more than just dietary adjustments; it also involves change in thinking ­ there should be service to others, ethical behavior, respect for all religions and people and regular meditation practice.

Macros Shakes for Every Season
I am not a vegan but I consider myself a yogi. I enjoy a healthy shake daily as part of my routine. Get my recipe book here!

8. Yoga can be taught by anybody

One of the biggest misconceptions about yoga is that yoga can be taught by anyone. If you attend an instructor’s course and get certified, if you attend Yoga classes for a period of time, or if you have certain yogic books and start practicing, it does not mean that you are an expert who can start teaching Yoga. Before teaching, you should first implement the same in your daily life: be humble, practice the principles of Ashtanga Yoga and only when you feel you are aware of the body mechanics with regards to safety for the student.

How to Assess Yoga Touch in the Classroom- 4 Steps

How to Assess Yoga Touch in the Classroom

How to assess yoga touch in the classroom? As yoga teachers move closer to giving hands on guidance to students, it is important to approach with communication. Three steps can help you decide how to assess proper touch.

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Assess Yoga Touch in the Classroom in Four Steps

  1. Always ask for consent to touch first. Even if you know the student well, they still may not want to be touched. I love to use consent cards (paid link). One side says yes to touch, one side says no.
  2. Look for beauty first- inside and outside! Don’t be the yoga teacher that rushes to judgement in observation of your students. That may lead you to only see that is wrong rather than looking at the beauty of the student. Find this beauty! It will help to remember that you are working with a real human and not just posing someone for a camera. Work with their strengths.
  3. Address the things in each posture that may be at risk. Many times yoga teachers will address risk issues with verbal cues or demonstration to give form. Sometimes a student will position themselves in a way that is problematic. If students do not respond to verbal cues, you may have to offer hands on support.
  4. Look for steadiness, ease, and presence of mind in the student’s face and breathing. The facial expression of a student can show a teacher how the student is feeling in a pose. The breath also mirrors how a student is doing energetically and can indicate strain. A yoga teacher should encourage modifications to make the asanas accessible.

Assess Yoga Touch in the Classroom- Qualities of Touch

How we touch is just as important as when and where. Yoga touch can be a tool for teaching a student to understand their body. Hands on cues can guide a student to refine their practice.

Assess Yoga Touch in the Classroom

Awakening or Relaxing- Touch can encourage muscular activation in specific areas of the body. More pressure into muscles can allow students to fully feel the engagement or relaxation of muscles.

Emotions with Forward Bends
Pressing into the heel of the foot in Paschimottonasana encourages extension and energetic engagement through the heel.

Clarifying- This quality of touch allows you to determine if a student is activating certain muscles.

Surya Namaskara Mastery
In Adho Mukha Svanasana, we want to encourage students to activate the quadriceps muscles and to realize that the hamstrings should be relaxed.

Stabilizing- Assess yoga touch in the classroom with stabilizing. We want the students to feel independent but sometimes this means we add some active support. In balancing poses, we can use our body to add stability to the pose with light touch that allows the student to accomplish the pose.

Hands On Adjustments
Stabilizing inversions

Emphasizing- Use light surface cues to encourage a specific movement like elongation or rotation. The intention of the touch is to both help the student better understand the dynamics of stability, ease, and movement in the asana and to suggest how to better refine the energetic action.

Hands on Adjustments

Moving- Sometimes we have help a student move their bodies into a modified position. This is a way to assess yoga touch in the classroom. We ask the student to move out of the pose and approach it with a new position. Offer touch to help the student achieve success.

Grounding- With grounding touch, we press part of the body down to enhance the foundation of an asana. This creates safety in the pose. Help the student find the root in each pose.

Yoga Bandha Locks
In Paschimottonasana, use grounding touch to help students root the sitting bones. Press firmly down on the back of the pelvis to suggest rooting and elongation of the spine.

Comforting- Assess yoga touch in the classroom by giving comforting human contact to convey emotional support and compassion.

How to Sequence and Ashtanga Style Class
Resting your hand on a student’s back in Balasana can suggest deeper relaxation and offer a sense of caring.

When you assess yoga touch in the classroom, your students will feel comfortable to explore each asana and improve the quality of their practice!

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Prenatal Yoga Tips for Beginners- 10 Ways to Support Mom and Baby

Prenatal Yoga Tips for Beginners

You have exciting news- you are pregnant! And you want to do everything you can to take care of your baby- that includes yoga. You need prenatal yoga tips for Beginners! Here are 10 Tips to take care of your growing baby and your changing body.

Prenatal Yoga Tips for Beginners

10 Prenatal Yoga Tips for Beginners

  1. Twist Open- As your body changes and the baby grows, you will have less and less room to twist. You never want to restrict air to the baby. This is a simple fix. Take twist from an open position. Instead of twisting toward the leg like in Ardha Matsyendrasana, try open twists like Bharajavasana.
Alignment and Balance with Yoga
This pose will allow your spine to twist and release tension in the hips. It will keep your center open so mom and baby can breathe.

2. Don’t lay flat after the first trimester- The baby will start placing pressure on your spine so laying flat will make your lower extremities fall asleep. Instead, take Savasana propped with bolsters or laying on your side. Supta Baddha Konasana is my favorite for pregnancy as it will release tension in the lower back and hips, an overworked area for pregnant moms.

Prenatal Yoga Routine

3. Embrace Hip rolls! Hip rolls feel good on the floor or on a chair. Try sitting in criss cross and rolling back and forth from side to side. Sitting in a chair, keep both feet on the floor and roll on your hips. Hip rolls will release low back pressure and stimulate your core muscles.

4. Taking time to move makes you feel better, not more tired. This may be the most essential of the prenatal yoga tips for beginners. In the first and third trimester, you may feel so drained of energy so the idea of moving sounds too much. Yoga helps you to focus on deep breathing which can boost your energy levels as you will be taking in more air. Yoga helps to stretch tired, overworked muscles. Gentle movement can work out the kinks in your changing body. Honor your body and your breath by moving to release and relive aches.

5. Widen your legs in forward bends to allow the baby to breathe. This prenatal yoga tips for beginners is much like the twists from tip 1. You should never cut off air flow to the baby. In standing or seated forward bends, make sure your legs are at least shoulder width distance apart. Not only will this allow your baby to get air, you will feel a deeper release in the sacrum. You can still get a great stretch in the hamstrings as well.

6. Invest in a bolster. A bolster is the most helpful tool in the prenatal yoga tips for beginners. The bolster will prop up your body making supine and twisting yoga poses possible in pregnancy. You can support your hips, back, and baby. Enter to win a free yoga bolster!

Yoga with a Bolster
Yoga Poses to Ease Back Pain

9. Always keep breath flow to the baby. If you are struggling to breathe, so is the baby. Pay attention to your breath above all else.

10. Do yoga to feel great, not to loose weight. Pregnancy is not the time to loose weight unless under the care of a doctor. Focus your yoga practice on making your body feel GREAT!

Prenatal yoga tips for beginners will keep mom and baby safe and healthy. Try this great yoga program specifically designed for pregnancy!

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Should Christians do Yoga? Bridging the Religious Gap

Should Christians do Yoga?

I teach yoga in a conservative Christian town and I often get asked, “Should Christians do yoga?” My answer is “Yes!” I am Christian myself and I have never felt that the values of yoga conflict with my Christian beliefs. Let’s bridge the gap between Christianity and yoga using the two of the eight limbs of yoga, the yamas and niyamas, or the value system of yoga.

Bridging the Religious Gap with the Yamas

The Yamas- Should Christians Do Yoga?

I often think of the Yamas and Niyamas (1st and 2nd limbs of yoga) as being a value system. In Christian beliefs, this can be compared to the 10 commandments.

Ahimsa

Instead of harming others, you are serving others. This can be compared to “thou shalt not kill.” Many yogi’s practice non harming by participating in a vegan lifestyle. I choose to practice ahimsa by focusing on how I can physically practice yoga so that I do not harm my body. I do not participate in extreme poses. I also think of others- how my words or actions may harm them. Should Christians do yoga? Yes, Christians should “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Matthew 7:12

Satya

This is the principle of being truthful in all areas of your life. We should avoid little white lies as well as something greater like cheating on our partner. If we are delusional, lying to ourselves, then we cannot be truthful. We can feel Satya in our physical yoga practice by remaining true to the alignment in a balancing pose:

Satya- Should Christians do yoga?
Should Christians do yoga? Yes- follow true to the principle of Satya

Asteya

Asteya is non-stealing- Stealing implies void, seeking for external satisfaction. “Thou shall not steal.” This principle goes deeper than shoplifting. We can steal another’s energy if we are self-centered. We can steal from nature without giving back. If we revere what is given to us, we try to live an non-wasteful life. If we practice asteya, we can be the richest person in the world because we would always feel that we have enough.

Brahmacharya

This is the practice of preserving creative and sexual energy by following the middle path. We do indulge or repress our desires. “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.” Following brahmacharya will give you peace of mind to stay disciplined on the right path.

Aparigraha

Should Christians do yoga? Yes, they should practice aparigraha. This principle means that you should not have possessiveness towards things or people. “Thou shalt not covet your neighbors goods.” In yoga, we reduce desires, especially selfish ones, to live a happier, freer life.

Should Christians do Yoga? Observe the Niyamas

Niyamas- Should Christians do yoga?

Yoga philosophy is not a religion. The niyamas are ethical, inner observances and healthy disciplines that keep you on your journey to enlightenment. In my practice, this brings me closer to my God.

Saucha

Saucha is purity. We cleanse ourselves internally with yoga poses that twist and spine and squeeze the internal organs. We cleanse ourselves inside and outside. We keep our houses clean, our bodies clean, our minds on elevated topics, and our thoughts pure. Perhaps Christians could use the preparation for the sabbath day as a time of cleaning and purifying so that we can, “Remember to keep the sabbath day holy.”

Tips for Yoga Twists
Example of internal cleansing- yoga twist

Santosha

Santosha means contentment. When we are content, we do not desire more or less. We learn to be happy with what we have. Through my 10+ years of practicing yoga, my body has gone through hormonal changes, injuries, weight loss, weight gain. I have to learn to be happy with my body and the pose I am in during the moment. It can be challenging to be happy with the bodies we are given. At the basic level, our bodies are a gift from God. These amazing bodies should not treated with contempt. We love our bodies, we honor our God. This principle alone answers the question, “Should Christians do yoga?”

Tapas

Tapas is self-discipline. We use our intellect to stay on course and check our natural man tendencies. Enough said! To focus our self-discipline, I suggest studying sacred scripture daily for Christians and yoga philosophy for yogis.

Svadhyaya

This is the practice of self study. Should Christians do yoga? Yes, a Christian value system is rooted in self study and reflection. We are taught to daily reflect so that we may correct our mistakes a do better the next day. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Hebrews 8:12

Ishvara Pranidhana

Meaning, surrendering to Ishvara or the Self. Yoga can be found when we have humility and this is essential for spiritual growth. “Blessed are the humble, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5. Why should Christians do yoga? Because we when are humble and surrender to the self, we get a sense of inner peace, sense of service, and contentment. This is in a sense knowing that we have everything we need and we ask for nothing in return. We can see divinity in everything and this fuels the love for everyone and everything. To me, that is profound.

Should Christians Do Yoga? (In my opinion, yes!)

The meaning of the word Yoga is Union. When I practice yoga, I try to align my body, mind, and spirit toward a personal goal. Since my body, mind, and spirit are gifts from God, Yoga is a healthy way to align my God given gifts and pay tribute to them. As in the parable of the talents, we should not keep our gifts hidden under a rock. We are meant to use them.

Practicing yoga for the health of my body, the enlivening of my mind, and the healing of my spirit, are essential to the worship of my God. Greater still is the ability to teach others to revere these gifts as I share yoga in class. Should Christians do yoga? Yes!

This is the beauty of the modern yoga practice – it helps us unite the different parts of ourselves (body, mind, heart, and spirit) and from this place of integrated wholeness, be one with God.

Caroline Williams Yoga
Should Christians do Yoga?

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