Sunday, November 16, 2014

Hometown Yoga Heroes: Q&A with YogaPop Founder Becca Finley

I hate to admit it, but I'm kind of a yoga loner. When I make it to group classes, I often sit quietly on my mat and stare at my toes until class begins. When it's over, I say "Namaste," silently wish those around my well, roll up my mat, and dart out the door as quickly as possible so I can get back to my little family. I know there's nothing wrong with this—yoga is, after all, an individual practice. But I also know there's a whole world of amazing yoga friends throughout this city that I'll never get to know if I don't take the time to say hello. Even if you're really outgoing, it can be difficult to make friends in most yoga classes—most teachers do not exactly welcome chit chatting between postures. 

This is one of the many reasons I'm so excited about YOGAPOP, Charleston's very own event combining yoga with live music, live entertainment (think dance performances, fashion shows, etc.), and plenty of opportunities to make small talk with people who practice yoga all over Charleston. There are so many amazing ways to practice yoga in this city (See Why Charleston, SC is One of the BEST Cities for Yoga)! YOGAPOP celebrates them all, helps to bring us all together in one place, and even gives us a chance to get to know each other better.

I love that this event is totally local, too—there are amazing local teachers, like my girl Elli Boland, and local partners like GatherYoga (who happens to be streaming the event for those of you who aren't local). YOGAPOP was the brainchild of Becca Finley, also the "chief creator" behind The Music Initiative and This Is Noteworthy and founder of Music Uncovered Magazine, and her partner Hilary Johnson, founder of the local event production company Gusto Group

We're just a few days away from YOGAPOP: Gratitude, and I couldn't be more excited! I chatted with Becca Finley to learn more about what to expect, the story behind the event, and what we can expect to see from YOGAPOP next year. 

It's happening Friday at 6:30pm at Memminger Auditorium, downtown. Tickets are $25 in advance/$32 at the door. Oh, and if you're coming—find me! I'd love to expand my own little yoga community. I'll be the girl sitting alone, quietly staring at my toes.

Tell me how YOGAPOP started. Where did the idea come from? 
My partner, Hilary Johnson, and I wanted to combine two things we love: yoga and live music into one whimsical night of fun that we could give to our local yoga community. Our intention was to unify amazing people, and create a unique, healthy, lighthearted evening for everyone to enjoy. 

Are you surprised by how successful these events have been?
Surprised, no. Delighted, yes. Grateful, absolutely! We had a feeling that our local yoga community would relish in an evening that would highlight what they are passionate about. And on top of it they get to hang, have a cocktail, eat some amazing food, and shop. What is not to love about that!

What are some of the ways you want YOGAPOP to be different from the yoga and music experiences one might find in some of the yoga studios in the Charleston area?

We love the creativity of all the studios, and the experiences that come forth are all so special in their own ways. We want YOGAPOP to be a massive celebration. Lots of people, lots of fun, lots of excitement, and the ability to share with yogis of all differing levels and philosophies.

How will the November YOGAPOP be different from the previous two?

November's YOGAPOP will be a bit more intimate than the previous two. We have chosen to host the event at Memminger Auditorium, so we can only have about 350 yogis this time.  Things to get excited about: the stage configuration, the amazing vendors, an inspired chat with Ashley Cebulka, a kickass class with Elli Boland, a 45-minute concert with Brendan James, Acroyoga, new vendors, gifts, and a few other surprises.

Music is a big part of YOGAPOP, and it's obviously a big part of your life, too, since you are also the founder of The Music Initiative/This Is Noteworthy. How has music impacted your life? And why is it so important to you to share that with others?

Music consumes my life, and has since I was a kid. My grandmother was an accomplished and well-traveled music professional in the 1930's and 1940's when women didn't really venture outside of the box of "wife/mother". She was an amazing role model.

I studied music and theatre in school, and then had a bad case of stage fright, and became scared of the thought of pursuing a career that "was too hard to make a living." So, I made it my mission to help other musicians be able to prepare themselves better to be able to pursue a career, and not feel that same fear whether it be through performance, business, or health issues. 

On a selfish note, music is my gateway to my higher power. Most of my messages come through lyrics of music. And this happens all the time. I get chills just thinking about it. So, if I want my messages, I have to protect the people who are making them.

Are you a yoga student, too? Tell me about your practice. 

I am a yoga student as well, albeit a new one. My practice is all about restorative and Yin. I am fast, fast, fast all the time. So, I need to commit to being on that mat, slowing down, and digging deep. Whatever it may be that day. I spend a bunch of time at Gaea being all the way in it.

You wear so many hats! How do you stay grounded?

I am so grateful I have amazing friends, coaches, teachers, partners, and collaborators that give me support. Also, it doesn't hurt to have an awesome dog, and an amazing boyfriend who keep the love flowing unconditionally.

Do you have any advice for other local entrepreneurs who are pursuing big ideas? 

Believe and listen to your gut, above everything else. I also really like this quote by Goethe, it always helps me.
"Whatever you think or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness  has genius, magic, and power in it."

What's next for you?

A whole 2015 of amazing YOGAPOPs, more music concerts to help raise money for musician's healthcare, a book, a children's music cd, a clothing line, Cooper River Bridge Run, a new series of the television show, and who knows what else? The sky is the limit, right?

Learn more about YOGAPOP.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

3 Steps to Combat Holiday Stress

With Halloween coming up tomorrow, there’s no denying it: The holiday season is upon us. And if you’re like most of us that means a rush of activities. Parties, happy hours, and shopping all become the norm. There will soon be glittery, flashing lights everywhere. Holiday music will blare from every retail store speaker. Even if you’re doing your shopping from the comfort of your own home online, there will be a million things competing for your attention while you shop for Grandma’s perfect gift.

Ooh! Look! Someone just liked my Facebook photo!

What was I talking about, again?

Oh, yes. The holidays. And how there’s so much happening during the season, it can be overwhelming and difficult to focus…

I’m a yoga teacher, so it’s my professional obligation to recommend a yoga class as an anecdote to just about everything that ails you (I think it’s in the Yoga Alliance’s code of ethics or something). But, I’m not going to do that because I think adding something else to your already busy schedule might not be the best way to combat overstimulation. In fact, I’ve noticed that many yoga classes (with their blaring pop playlists, neon-clad students, and complicated pose sequences) actually ADD to the sense overload many of us experience during our busiest times.

Here’s what I suggest instead: A simple, 2-minute practice you can do at your desk (when you take a break from work or shopping for Grandma), before bed, or any time you just. want. to. make. the. noise. STOP. (As a bonus, it's also a great way to soothe tired, dry, computer eyes.)

Try this:

1. Take a deep breath as you rub your hands together, creating some warmth.

2. Bring palms to your eyes, and let your fingers will rest lightly on your forehead. This will give a very light pressure and block out all stimulating light.

3. Breathe. Focus on the air entering your lungs. Feel the warmth on your eyes. Enjoy the dark. Stay here for about a minute or longer if you can.

Friday, August 1, 2014

15 Things You're Doing RIGHT in Yoga

Image via Flickr user Stephanie Young Merzel

Yoga teachers devote a lot of class time to sharing how NOT to do a particular pose for good reasons: Sloppy alignment, over effort, and big ambitions can create unwelcome tension and even injuries over time.

That said, if I read one more article about how almost everyone does  _______ Pose incorrectly, I might scream. Can it be helpful to pick apart all the ways we do yoga wrong? Sure. Let's take a break from that and focus on all the things yoga students actually do RIGHT for a change, OK?

This post is for every student who's ever been discouraged when, no matter how closely you listen to your teachers' instructions, you just can't figure out why she runs over to you and pokes your ribs EVERY effing time you attempt Downward-Facing Dog. I've been there. Please know that one day it will all click and you will totally understand what your teacher means when she tells you to "knit your ribs" in.

Until then, though, take heart in all the many things you're doing absolutely perfectly!

For example:

You unroll your mat over and over again. Sometimes it's easy. Sometimes it feels like you've run a marathon by the time you've worked hard all day, rushed through traffic, dropped the baby off with the sitter, and finally FINALLY found somewhere to park so you could get a glorious hour on your mat.

You show up with a smile on your face even though someone just flipped you off in the parking lot.

You do your best to listen to both your teacher's convoluted instructions and your body's own wisdom and intuition--which is a lot harder than it sounds.

When you fall out of a pose, you laugh at yourself and try again.

When your neighbor on the mat next to you falls out of a pose, you chuckle to yourself and try not to embarrass her in front of the whole class.

When you're tired, you rest.

When you're energized, you challenge yourself.

When you're injured, you modify.

You focus on your breath moving in and out.

You soften where you're naturally hard. You firm where you're naturally soft. You bring your body and mind closer to balance every time you practice in more ways than you can probably even identify.

You make changes little by little, bit by bit. You know that the the smallest changes are worth so much more than the biggest, grandest ideas that you don't follow through on.

You make yourself, your health, your well-being a priority.

You recognize that your teacher has bad days--you smile at her and you come back the next week anyway.

You let the lessons you learn on your yoga mat spill over into all the other areas of your life: you stand up straighter, breathe deeper, leave a smaller footprint, and treat others with more kindness and compassion.

You are open to the unlimited possibilities this practice has to offer you--both physical, mental, and emotional.

You rock! Never forget that!

Prenatal Yoga in Charleston, SC

Know anyone in the Charleston, SC area who is expecting a baby? Send them my way! New Prenatal Yoga Class series starts next week at Barefoot Yoga Studio in North Charleston's Park Circle.

Friday, July 25, 2014

5 Tips for Yoga on the Beach

The sun. The sand. That healthy sea breeze. The cackle of the sea gulls. The laughter of children.

The beach is one of the most awe inspiring place in the world. Sometimes just a quick walk by the ocean can really put things in perspective: Nature is a large and wonderful place, but we, with our petty problems and worries, are but a small drop in that ocean.

So of course, practicing yoga on the beach would be an awe-inspiring experience.  "When people are outside they feel more free, less stressed," says Melora Morgan, a yoga teacher in the Charleston, SC area who teaches beach yoga classes at Folly Beach. People are more likely to be playful in their practice."Just walking out onto the beach brings an immediate release." Unfortunately, some of the things that make a beach yoga session really amazing, are also the things that make it a challenge. You can't always predict when a beautiful day in SC will turn into an ugly thunderstorm, the wild will blow sand into your eyes, or all of a sudden a hundred tourists will set up camp right in front of the ocean blocking your view and your Zen.

 I asked Melora for a few tips on how to make sure your Namaste on the beach leads to bliss.

1. Avoid slipping on the sand. Leave your fancy $100 yoga mat at home--and don't forget a large towel to put under your old, crusty mat to keep you from sliding around on the sand.

2. Protect your feet. Under no circumstances should you bring a BLACK mat to the beach. The color absorbs heat, and can burn your tootsies.

3. Protect your skin. Of course, wear sunscreen! But beware: When sweat and sunscreen drip into your eyes, it's not a pleasant experience. A headband might help. Or use a waterproof sunscreen that won't run.

4. Don't forget your suit. Wear your swimsuit underneath your yoga clothes. "Nothing feels better after a hot, sweaty yoga class than to jump in the water," Melora says.

5. Go with the flow. Allow the sounds of nature the birds, the ocean, and yes, even the tourists, to be your soundtrack. Don't be flustered by the distractions. Let them bring you into the present moment and more into your experience.

Learn more about Melora and her beach yoga offerings through Serenity Tree Yoga by visiting her website and Facebook page.