Sunday, November 29, 2015

10 Ways to Make More Time for Yoga

I get it. You're busy. Between work, family, the kids, social obligations, the dishes piled up in the sink... after you do whatever it is you spend your time doing, there's not much left over for your yoga practice. And even when there's time left over there may not much energy. I've been there. Heck, I'm there with you right now.

I struggle daily to make time for even just a few poses each day—and, to be sure, there are stretches (pun intended!) of time when I don't unroll my mat much at all—but I've gotten into a rhythm over the past few years where I practice more days than I don't. It's not easy, but it's always worth it. I never regret making my yoga practice a priority. I never wish I'd spent a few more minutes scrolling through my Facebook feed instead. I almost always feel better, not just for the few minutes after I took time to practice, but for practically a whole day after. So, how do I make it happen?

10 Ways to Make More Time for Yoga |
Clock photo by Fabiola Medeiros

10 Ways to Make More Time for Your Yoga Practice

Here are a few easy things that help me make the most of the time I have so I can get on my mat more often:

1. Identify your WHY. Write down why you want to make time for your yoga practice and put it on a post it note where you'll see it every day. Take a few minutes to really reflect on why you've decided to make your yoga practice a priority in your life. Stumped? I like the idea of writing it as an affirmation. Try one of these: I practice yoga daily because it makes me feel _________ . I practice yoga daily because it gives me __________. I practice yoga daily because it makes me a better ________. 

2. Take an inventory of what you spend most of your time on. BE HONEST, when you finally get the kids down for bed at night do you sit and stare at you computer for 2 hours before you hit the hay yourself? (I am totally guilty of this!) Would it really make a huge difference if you limited your nightly screen time to 30 minutes instead?

See also 5 Reasons to Practice Yoga in Your Living Room

3. Make a promise to yourself. Once you've identified a chunk of time that you can turn into Me Time consistently, it's time to commit! Get out your calendar, and decide on a time frame that's doable for you (A week? Two weeks? A month? The amount of time doesn't really matter as long as you follow through!). You might want to make a mental note of your finish date (I recently wrapped up a personal meditation challenge that wrapped up on Thanksgiving, for example), if it's a date you might forget write it down on your calendar (or maybe on that Post It note where you wrote your why in #1?).

4. Set an alarm. Most people have the best luck with establishing a home practice if they practice the same time every day, so set an alarm on your phone or computer to remind yourself to get up and move at the same time every day.

5. Stick to the same sequence. Don't give yourself the extra job of coming up what to practice after you actually get to your mat—it can waste precious time and could be the reason you decide to surf the web or veg out in front of the TV instead of doing your practice. Decide now what you'll focus on, write down a few poses you'll practice daily, or find a video online that you'll practice along with, and stick with it! If you get bored with the sequence, you can always change it up as you go or plan ahead and choose a different focus or video BEFORE it's time to unroll your mat.

Try this Short and Sweet Side Bend Practice or A Yoga Practice for Confidence + Acceptance.

7. Leave your yoga mat and yoga props out. Make it really, stupid easy to just jump in and get going. That way if you only have a few minutes to practice, you can use every second breathing and moving because you won't have to set up your space.

8. Organize the rest of your life so you aren't using excess time or energy making tasks harder than they have to be. Remember when you did an inventory of what you spend the most time doing? Was there anything on that list that could be streamlined with a little more careful planning and organization? Do you spend hours folding laundry when you could cut that down to a few minutes by putting everything on a hanger? Are you wading through hundreds of garments you never wear to get dressed in the morning? Organization can be a struggle for me, but when I really took time to organize my closet, organize Annabelle's toys, plan my meals every week, etc., I found I had so much more time and energy at the end of the day that I could use for my own self-care and my yoga practice!

If this seems daunting to you, tackle one small space at a time and go from there. Organizing can take a lot of time in the beginning, but I promise you, it's worth the effort in the long run!

See also Book Review: It's Hard to Make a Difference When You Can't Find Your Keys

9. Just say NO to anything that doesn't serve you. For me, sometimes that means opting out of a girls night out to catch a yoga class instead or turning away work assignments that won't lead me to my end goals. Learning to say no to things that get in the way of my yoga practice (or other self-care practices) has saved me.

10. Forgive yourself. No matter how disciplined you are, there will be times that it doesn't happen. During those times, it won't help you to beat yourself up (after all, isn't the whole goal of this to help yourself feel GOOD!?). When you miss a day, just make a mental note of where things went off track, and pick up where you left off tomorrow.

Now it's your turn! In the comments section below, tell me what tips or tricks you've discovered that help you make time for your yoga practice.

Read more ...

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Friday, November 27, 2015

Review: Meet Asana, the World's First Yoga Doll

If there's one thing I've learned in my 3 years as a parent, it's that there are many MANY things are not in my control. At best, I'm my daughter's guide and role model, but there are plenty of times when my girl just does her own thing, even if it makes me cringe.

Here are just a few examples:

Despite following all the rules about introducing food to her as a baby, now the only green thing she'll touch to her lips are freaking dill pickles. (Thank God for green smoothies.)

She would watch YouTube videos all day long if I'd let her—and I'm not talking about educational ones either. She begs to watch grown-ass adults open plastic Easter eggs covered in Play Doh, then pretending to be surprised about the contents. (Oh my goodness! It's the toy I put in there 5 minutes go! I'm SO surprised!)

Sometimes her taste in toys is a little questionable, too. You'll never guess what tops her list for Santa this year: Pop the Pig, a game that she discovered on YouTube (where else!?) where you feed a pig hamburgers to make him fatter and fatter. If you're the one who makes the pig's belly grow so big he "pops" out of his clothing, you win! What. The. Hell? Who came up with that?

See also The Reality of Morning Exercise with a Toddler

I'm limiting her access to YouTube, and keep hoping she'll forget about it by Christmas because I don't want it in my house. While I know I can't control EVERYTHING my daughter is exposed to, I will do everything I can to guide her to be a healthy, well-rounded, confident girl. I'm sorry, but Pop the Pig just doesn't fit the bill.

For me, it was yoga that taught me so much about physical, mental, and emotional health, and I'd love to share that with my daughter. But (because she's a total threenager) I also know I'll have to introduce it in a way that's fun, age-appropriate, and maybe seems like it was her own idea.

Enter: Asana Yoga Girl

Meet Asana the Yoga Girl | AZIAM Girlz Yoga Doll Review |

I couldn't have been more thrilled when I learned that the Alanna Zabel, the woman behind AZIAM yoga clothing and a yoga teacher to celebrities like Adam Levine, is now making dolls that can move and stretch right along with your child. Zabel, who also founded weeklong summer camps for girls called AZIAM Girlz Yoga Camps, first created characters corresponding with the 8 limbs of yoga (named Yama, Niyama, Asana, etc.) to illustrate the 8 Limbed Path (Ashtanga) of yoga to the girls in a way that they could understand. "My intent has always been to instill a positive and healthy lifestyle in children at an early age," says Zabel, who also holds a degree in child development.

The first doll, which is available now, is fittingly named Asana because that girl is a very talented yogi—I had so much fun trying to contort her into various poses, and she could do almost all of them! (I think she's still learning Eagle Pose... but maybe she'll get it one day if she keeps practicing.) She comes with a yoga mat, which doubles as a slap bracelet, making it my daughter's favorite thing EVER! The doll also has an adorable yoga ball, hand weights, and flip flops (because what else would she wear to and from the yoga studio?). She's also outfitted in cute, stretchy AZIAM yoga clothes (obviously). She's totally adorable, and both my daughter and I have had so much fun playing with her. I would feel really good about buying every one of these dolls for my daughter because it's such a fun way to get her more interested in yoga. As she grows older, I can't wait to share with her the 8-Limbed Path, and these dolls would be an awesome way to start that conversation!

See also Find Your Mama Mantra

My only concern about the doll is that she's SO flexible, I could see some girls feeling a bit bad if they can't do all of the moves that the doll can. (Though, I do think most girls today understand that dolls don't always look or move like real people—I'm looking at you, Barbie!). The AZIAM doll is still light years better than most toys available today, and I feel good about letting my little one play with her.

Meet Asana the Yoga Girl | AZIAM Girlz Yoga Doll Review |

Asana Yoga Girl is available for pre-order now through the AZIAM Girlz website, and there are 7 more dolls, which will be released in the coming months. (If you're still on the fence, know that 10 percent of the sales goes toward The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, an organization dedicated to reduce childhood obesity and help kids create healthy habits.)

How do you pass on yoga to the little ones in your life?

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Yoga Practice for Mommy Brain

Do you ever feel like you’re forgetting more things than you remember? Are you so bleary eyed and exhausted that you feel more like a zombie moving through the motions instead of the bright, vibrant mother you want to be to your kids? Have you ever accidentally put diaper rash cream on your toothbrush? (What? Just me? Well, it was time for a new toothbrush anyway!)

If this sounds at all familiar, you might be suffering from a common ailment I lovingly call Mommy Brain. It usually starts when you’re pregnant as Pregnancy Brain, but then you have your baby and a few months (or in my case years) passes and you start wondering how many of your brain cells died during your delivery…. There’s no quick fix for Mommy Brain—except maybe a few really good nights of sleep (I know what you're thinking: Bahahahahahaha!)

See also Why Every Yoga Mama Needs a Secret Savasana

Seriously, though, first things first. Have you been neglecting your own self-care? Are you dehydrated? Have you eaten today (and I mean something healthy that makes you feel alive—not peanut butter and jelly!)? Did you take a shower and put on clean clothes? First, take care of all of those necessities we mamas sometimes put aside while we're caring for our littles, then fit in a yoga practice the first chance you get (naptime is a great choice or even after you get the kiddos to sleep at night).

See also 5 Yoga Tips to Help Get Your Toddler to Sleep

This short yoga practice is great for increasing focus and clarity in all areas of your life. It can help to make us sharper, more present, and increase our ability to focus on one thing at a time. These poses will help you feel grounded, centered, and connected, then we’ll focus on doing some poses that require complete concentration. When you’re done, you can take that focus over into other areas in our lives. Give it a try!

A Yoga Practice for Mommy Brain | Increase Mental Focus and Clarity with Yoga | Yoga balance poses sequence |

Downward Facing Dog with a block under the forehead. Inversions like Downward Facing Dog send blood (and oxygen) to your brain. That’s why if I only have a few minutes to practice, my go-to is almost always Down Dog. Putting a block under my forehead makes the pose more soothing and grounding—two things I definitely need when I’m feeling frazzled and unfocused.

See also Find Your Mama Mantra

Downward Facing Dog - Adho Mukha Svanasana | Yoga for Mommy Brain |

Mountain Pose (AKA Strong Mama Pose). Stand tall with your feet planted firmly on the ground. Bring your big toes to touch, press your feet down, and lift the crown of your head up toward the sky so you’re as tall as possible. Really pay attention to your foundation. Can you root your feet any more? Can you feel gravity pulling you down, connecting you to the earth?

Mountain Pose, Tadasana | Yoga for Mommy Brain |

Tree Pose. Keep standing tall, spread your toes, and feel your strong foundation underneath you. Bend your right knee and turn it out to the right. You can keep your toes to the floor for balance and bring your right foot to the inside of your left ankle. Or, bring your right foot up to the side of the left shin, or to the left inner thigh. (Just don’t bring that foot to the inside of the knee—be above or below the knee!) Once you have your balance, bring your hands together in front of your chest and take 5 full, deep breaths through the nostrils.

Tree Pose, Vrksasana | Yoga for Mommy Brain |

Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose. Keep the right lifted and bring your hands to your hips. Then, either grab onto your right big toe with your right index and middle finger and straighten the right leg all the way out to the right. Or, keep the right knee bent and hold onto the front of the knee as you open the leg out to the right. Stay for 3-5 full, deep breaths. When you’re done, come back to Tree Pose for just one breath. Then, come back to Mountain Pose before you switch sides.

See also My Almost 2-year-old Taught Me Pranayama

Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose, Utthita Hasta Padangustasana | Yoga for Mommy Brain |

Chair Pose. From Mountain Pose, bend your knees, and drop your bottom down toward the floor—pretend you’re sitting in a tall chair. Bring your weight into your heels. Reach your arms up by your ears. Spread your fingers. Breathe.

Chair Pose, Utkatasana | Yoga for Mommy Brain |

Eagle Pose. From Chair Pose, lift your right leg and stack your right knee on top of your left. Bring your left toes to touch the floor for balance or wrap it around your other leg. Sit down until your thighs are almost parallel to the floor. Then, give yourself a hug with the left elbow on top of the right. Lift your elbows so they’re the same height as your shoulders. Stay here or lift your forearms up and cross your wrists.

See also 4 Surprising Things That Help Me Manage Anxiety

Eagle Pose, Garudasana | Yoga for Mommy Brain |

Warrior III Pose. Unwind your arms and legs, but don’t let your right foot touch the floor. Instead extend it out behind you, so the leg is parallel to the floor. Bring your hands to your hips or reach them next to your sides, fingertips reaching toward the wall behind you. Spread your fingers. Keep both hip points pointing down toward the floor. Stay for 3 breaths.

Warrior 3 Pose, Virabhadrasana III | Yoga for Mommy Brain |

Eagle Pose (Yes, again!). Don’t let your right foot touch the floor as you shift back into Eagle Pose with the right knee on top of the left. Breathe. Make your way back to Mountain Pose, shake out your legs (do a happy dance!) then switch sides.

See also 10 Ways You're Stressing Yourself Out

Eagle Pose, Garudasana | Yoga for Mommy Brain |

Pigeon Pose with head resting on something (more grounding). When you're done standing, come down to hands and knees. Bring your right knee to the inside of your right wrist. Take a big breath in and lengthen your spine. Exhale as you fold forward. Stay for 10 breaths or more, then switch sides.

Pigeon Pose, Eka Pada Rajakapotasana | Yoga for Mommy Brain |

Seated meditation. Come back to a seated position on the floor. Close your eyes. Bring your attention to your breath, in and out through the nostrils, slow, steady, even, and full. Stay here for at least 10 breaths (longer if you can).

Seated Meditation| A Yoga Practice for Mommy Brain | Increase Mental Focus and Clarity with Yoga |

5 Things I Learned Practicing Yoga for Two
10 Things I Love about Restorative Yoga

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Monday, November 23, 2015

5 Easy Ways to Improve (Almost) Any Yoga Pose

3 Easy Ways to Improve Almost Any Yoga Pose Instantly |
Photo by Yogendra Joshi

We all have different body types and different challenges when it comes to asanas, or the physical yoga poses. In my own practice, I’ve found there are five little adjustments I can make that improves my form and alignment in almost any yoga pose.

Here are my top five tips for improving almost any pose. I hope they’ll help you, too!

1. Find your roots. In standing poses that means pressing your feet into the floor for stability. In seated poses, it’s your sitting bones that will ground. In Downward Dog, your hands and your feet become your roots. A strong foundation almost always makes for a stronger and safer pose.

2. Elongate your spine. This is the one instruction I hear more than any other in my yoga classes—and with good reason! When I learned to find as much length as possible in my spine my poses felt light, more buoyant, and a lot safer, too.

3. Pull the ribcage back in line and lengthen (but don't tuck!) the tailbone. My tendency in most poses is to stick my butt out and my ribcage forward, creating a super-arch in my low back. It also creates a pesky dull ache. This is not the kind of backbend that will help you gain strength OR stability. So, I’m always checking in to make sure my tailbone is lengthening (i.e. my butt is not sticking out) and my rib cage is in line.

See also 10 Ways Your Stressing Yourself Out

4. Firm your thigh muscles. I’m a hyper-extender. This means my joints are a little TOO flexible–particularly my knees. When I baring weight on my legs, as in standing poses like Trikonasana (Triangle Pose), I have to be careful not to put my knees in a compromising position. So, I have to be sure that my thigh muscles are firm and working to protect my knees.

5. Relax. No matter what pose I’m practicing, I try to find my edge. Then I take a deep breath and back off just a little. This way I’m working … but I'm not struggling. I can hold poses for longer this way, and I’m less prone to injury.

 What little tricks do you use to improve your poses?

Read more ...
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Want more Spoiled Yogi? (Of course you do! It's good for you!) Enter your email address to receive monthly emails and special offers. Don't be shy, treat yourself! You deserve it!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Pregnancy Yoga: How to Use Yoga Props to Get Comfy for Restorative Yoga Poses

How to use yoga props for restorative yoga poses in prenatal yoga or pregnancy yoga |

There are a few things to take into consideration if you're going to practice yoga while you're pregnant. Most of the modifications you need to make are quite obvious. I always tell my prenatal yoga students that Rule Number 1 is simply, Don't squish the baby. That means things you'll need to find an alternative to poses where you'd put all of your weight on your belly (duh!) And for poses where you'd normally twist so that your belly presses into a bent knee aren't a great ides (twist away from the knee instead!) Common sense!

The other modification that you'll see often in pregnancy yoga classes is that you'll notice the teacher will never ask you lay flat on your back for an extended period of time. That's because around half way through your pregnancy, there's a possibility that the weight of your growing uterus could compress the vena cava vein, which returns blood from your lower body to your heart. Since it's possible that this could cutting off blood to that sweet baby of yours, we always err on the side of caution here. If you're a back sleeper like I am, that's a big bummer (it's hard enough to get comfortable when you're pregnant as it is!). What if you love love LOVE Savasana (Final Resting Pose) or other supine restorative yoga poses? Well, you've got to modify that a bit, too. And it's SO worth doing it—if there's one thing that's super important for pregnant mamas (and ALL mamas, to be honest) it's giving your body time to rest fully.

So, what's a tired mama-to-be to do?

Pregnancy Yoga: How to Use Yoga Props for Restorative Yoga Poses

For Savasana, you could lay on your left side and surround yourself with bolsters and blankets, which is a great option! But if you love the feeling and support of the floor under your back, you might like the option of propping your torso up at an angle a bit better. It works for Savasana, Supta Baddha Konasana (Goddess Pose, pictured), and Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose. As an added bonus, when your heart is lifted a bit and your arms are out to the side it's also a sweet chest opener, undoing all the hunching many of us do all day long as we sit in front of a computer or driving our cars.

How to use yoga props for restorative yoga poses in prenatal yoga or pregnancy yoga |
My gorgeous, glowing student Jen all propped up for Goddess Pose.

Best of all, you don't have to be in a prenatal yoga class to do it (but if you're in the Charleston, SC area, please come see me!)! You can get tons of benefits from just taking 10-15 minutes at the end of your day to rest. You'll relieve stress. You'll sleep better. You'll have more energy throughout the following day. I could go on... but you're here to get comfy, aren't you?

So, let's do this!

Scenario 1: You're in a yoga studio and you have access to ample yoga props: several bolsters, blankets, blocks, and straps. That's right! This is the holy grail for the prenatal yoga student—you have arrived!

See also 5 Yoga Props Every Beginning Yoga Student Should Have

What to do: When there's no shortage of props, setting yourself up to get comfy for restorative yoga poses is super easy. Here's my preference for most restorative postures. Make a T-shape out of two rectangle bolsters. Sit your sacrum at the bottom of the T and lie back. Stretch your legs out long for a Supported Savasana, scoot the set up close to a wall for Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani), or bring the soles of your feet together in Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Cobbler's Pose—AKA Goddess Pose, for obvious reasons). 

How to use yoga bolsters for restorative yoga poses in prenatal yoga or pregnancy yoga |

How to use yoga bolsters for restorative yoga poses in prenatal yoga or pregnancy yoga |

Scenario 2: You're in a yoga studio with access to a few bolsters, but there just aren't enough for everybody to have two. 

What to do: Use two blocks to support your bolster. Put the blocks into a stair step configuration (see picture), place the bolster on top, and set yourself up just like you would in Scenario 1.

How to use yoga props for restorative yoga poses in prenatal yoga or pregnancy yoga |

How to use yoga props for restorative yoga poses in prenatal yoga or pregnancy yoga |

Scenario 3: You're at home. You don't have lots of props laying around your house. You're going to have to make due with a few household items.

What to do: Get creative! You could use two firm couch cushions one on top of the other to get your torso at a good, comfy, safe angle. In lieu of blocks, you could use a stack of books (maybe phone books actually DO have a use in the age of smartphones, after all!). You've probably got lots of blankets and throw pillows of different sizes in your house that you can use to prop up legs in Supta Baddha Konasana, give you extra support under your bottom, or give you a little extra lift to your head.  In the photos below, I used a stack of books and a large, firm, memory foam pillow (you'll want something that's firm enough that it won't collapse under the weight of your head, especially).

How to use yoga props for restorative yoga poses in prenatal yoga or pregnancy yoga |

How to use yoga props for restorative yoga poses in prenatal yoga or pregnancy yoga |
Because I knew you'd be curious, I used: The Chicago Manual of Style and The Baby Book (and a few more, too!)

Talk to me, mamas! What's your favorite restorative yoga posture and how often do you practice it? Do you prop yourself up at home? If so, what creative props do you use?

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10 Things I Love about Restorative Yoga
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