Wednesday, June 30, 2010

5 Ways Yoga Gives You MORE Time


Lately, I've been really busy so I've been practicing yoga less... Bad idea! I need to constantly remind myself that making time for my yoga practice actually gives me MORE time to do the other things I need and want to do in life. How?

Here are 5 ways:

1. Yoga gives you more energy! On days I opt to sit on the couch and watch TV after work, my energy is zapped and I am so lazy I can barely bring myself to lift the remote. But when I do even a short 20-minute yoga session, I actually get a second wind. I can manage to do things like dishes, chase the dog, edit a story, or write a blog.

2. It raises your mental capacity. Now, I don't know if this has been scientifically proven, but I've definitely noticed after a little yoga session in an otherwise incredibly busy day I am just more mentally competent and able to produce more work. When I have writer's block I try hip openers (because someone tole me this releases creative energy, and, trust me, I need all the creative energy I can get). Maybe it works, maybe it doesn't. But getting away from my screen when your brain is drained definitely seems to make it function better upon my return.

3. It lowers stress levels. Running around like a stressed out chicken with its head cut off is NOT the best way to get things done. Yoga can help you remember to breathe, slow down, and do one thing at a time.

4. It helps you sleep. Last night, after I went to bed I tossed, I turned. I was hot. I was cranky. I kept thinking about things beyond my control. I kept sitting up to look at my dog thinking, "How on EARTH are you sleeping when I'm making such a ruckus?" The night before, I fell right to sleep. The difference? When I do yoga during the day, I fall right to sleep at night... And everyone knows you get more accomplished the following day when you sleep well at night.

5. It keeps you from going insane. Well, OK. I'm a little insane whether I do yoga or not. But I imagine I would be a lot less sane if I never did yoga. Insane people just aren't good at managing their time—so it seems like they have a lot less.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Do You Take Your Yoga Too Seriously?

1. The person on the mat next to you groans a lot, chants too loudly, and smells kind of funny. He looks toward you eagerly when your teacher suggests you find a friend for a partner stretch. What do you do?

A. Refuse. If he can't even remember to wear deodorant there's NO WAY he'll be capable of doing the partner pose correctly.

B. Act quickly! If you act like you don't see him and snag another partner quickly, maybe you can get out of it without hurting his feelings.

C. Smile at him and go along with it. It might be a little awkward, but it will probably only be for a few minutes, right?

2.  You get stuck in traffic and you have to to miss your regularly scheduled weekly class. While you're sitting in the traffic jam you can feel yourself becoming tense, stressed out, and angry.. you realize you're going to miss your class when you need it more than ever. How do you react?

A. Get mad. Drive home fuming. Then, take it out on your spouse when you get home. Your week has officially been ruined! RUINED!

B. You call the studio and tell them you'll be late, but you're going! If you don't get your weekly class in, you will feel off for the rest of the week.

C. Chuckle a little to yourself--you see the humor in the irony. Assume it wasn't meant to be, then go home to do your own practice.


3. Your substitute teacher teaches the class to do something you've heard your teacher say is dangerous a thousand times. What do you do?

A. Correct her in front of the whole class. These students need to know about her incompetence so they won't be duped into taking another class with her!

B. Do nothing during the class, but make a mental note to ask her about it after class. She may know something you don't, and you want to pick her brain.

C. Try it and see what happens. Who are you to question your teacher?

4. You've been trying to talk your friend into going to yoga with you for years. She finally says she's ready to try it, so she brings over a DVD for you to do together. It turns out your friend doesn't know the difference between yoga and Yoga Booty Ballet. What do you do?

A. You take the DVD out of her hands and fling it across the room proclaiming "THAT.. is NOT.. yoga!"

B. Tell her you'll do her DVD with her, if she promises to go with a class with you later so she can see what your yoga class is all about, too.

C. You can't wait to try it with her! This should be fun!

5. When you tell your sister, who has never set foot in a yoga studio, your plans to become independently wealthy so you won't have to work anymore she says you're not being very "yogic." Do you:

A. Vow never to discuss yoga with her again. Who is SHE to tell YOU what "yogic" is.. You've been practicing for years, and you can even touch the back of your head with your foot. She probably can't even touch her toes.

B. Laugh it off because you realize everyone has a different opinion about what "yogic" means.

C. Consider it, then shrug your shoulders and move on. You aren't really striving to be "yogic" anyway.

Mostly A's
Chill Out, Dude!
No, seriously. Chill out. Life is too short.

Mostly B's
Happy Medium
You're serious about your yoga, but you're not extreme about it. When things don't go according to plan you might get a little disappointed, but you look at it as a learning opportunity instead of a catastrophe. You know what you know, but are curious and open to exploring different ideas and ways of doing things.

Mostly C's
Just Going with the Flow
You like yoga, but you aren't really attached to any one teacher or technique. You might look at your yoga practice as more of a hobby than a way of life, and that's great! Keep testing the waters and trying new things, but don't be afraid to ask questions either. Teachers are there to guide you and offer support, but this is your practice so make sure you're getting what you need out of it!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Missing My Mat

A few weeks ago, I packed up all my belongings (except one suitcase) and moved across the country. As I was packing, I did a lot of groaning and grumbling. "Why on earth do I have so much stuff!? I don't even use most of this stuff!" Well, now that I'm back in California and living out of that one suitcase I left behind, I am beginning to understand why I own so much stuff.

I miss my things. I miss my husband and my cat (not my "things," but still). I miss my dishes and my sheets, my desk. And, yes, the couch I was so willing to abandon just to lighten our load. But one of the things things I miss most is my Jade Harmony yoga mat.

I have a mat here, but I'll be honest—it sucks. I was my first yoga mat, and I bought it in my college's book store when I was 18 years old because it was on the required list for my first yoga class. Sure, I get a little nostalgic when I unroll it for a quick practice, but it's thin and slippery and it just won't do.

In my years practicing yoga, I've had a lot of yoga mats. I think it's the same for most yoga students. You start with a crappy mat because you don't know anything about what you want. Then, you start to understand the poses and the kind of practice you like so you upgrade and get something a little better. And you'll keep doing it until you find the one that's best for you. You fall in love, and go steady, then it just doesn't feel right to use any other mat.

Well, if you're not in a committed relationship with a mat, let me save you some trouble. In my mind, there are only two kinds of yoga mats that are worthy of a commitment: Jade and Manduka. Don't bother with the rest. They'll just clutter your closet, deplete your bank account, and be something else to move someday.

What mat do you use? How did you know it was your match?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Stuff Yoga People Like

Image from StuffWhitePeopleLike.com.


1. Dogs. What is with yoga people and their dogs? We tend to become obsessed with their wisdom, loyalty, and general warm fuzziness.

2. Tofu, Goji Berries, Kombucha, and lots of other weird miracle foods and drinks that sound so exotic grandmothers everywhere are bewildered by their very mention.

3. Hiking (and so-ugly-they're-cute "outdoors" shoes).. like these! I have two pair.

4. The beach and sometimes surfing.

5. Showing off their bods in expensive, stretchy clothes. I know it's a little shocking, but I really do love yoga clothes..

6. Incense and Essential Oils (Lavender or Eucalyptus..MmmmHmmmm!)

7. Protests and Boycotts. We yogis like to vote with our dollars—and boy do we hold a grudge! BP? Never again!

8. Making sure everyone knows what chemicals could cause cancer. You aren't going to eat that are you!? Don't you know that burnt marshmallow could give you cancer?

9. Michael Franti, Krishna Das, Jai Uttal, MC Yogi, and Snatam Kaur.

10. Babies. There's a reason every yoga studio offers prenatal yoga... Yoga people LOVE babies.

11. Indian Culture. Hindu goddess statues, Om T-shirts, Henna tattoos... When I spot any of these things, I know I've probably met another member of the club. (Actually, it's not much different from gang colors, come to think of it.)

12. Naps. If we didn't like resting, most of us probably would've signed up for Zumba instead of our first yoga class. (What is Zumba, anyway?)

13. Running. Bicycling. Swimming. Rock Climbing. Dancing. Hula Hooping. Yoga people like other kinds of movement, too.

14. Giving to charity.

15. Sharing yoga with anyone who will listen. It's no coincidence that yoga has grown so rapidly in the last decade. Everyone who gets really into yoga eventually enrolls in a teacher training—and then, we pass it on.

It won't be long before we take over the world.

Monday, June 21, 2010

5 Reasons to Do Yoga on Monday

1. Yoga will give you a reason to get out of bed and get moving in the morning or something to look forward to in the afternoon. (I don't know about you, but I need the extra motivation on Mondays.)

2. You might be too busy to practice on Tuesday, and you'll wish you had.

3. Mondays are the most stressful and busy day of the week for many office workers. Yoga can help you stay grounded in the present and manage the stress of the long work week to come.

4. Maybe you indulged a little too much over the weekend. A nice, long yoga practice will help you get back on track.

5. Yoga is more appealing than doing paperwork on your lunch break, isn't it? At the very least get away from your desk for a few minutes, close your eyes, and breathe.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Work Less, Do More

My motto in yoga is the same as my motto in life: Work less, do more. OK, I actually stole that motto from of one of my favorite audio podcasters, The Get-It-Done Guy. But it's a philosophy I've adopted. Why on earth anyone would work more than they have to has always been beyond me. I mean, if you can accomplish the same task with minimal effort, that's the way to go. Plus, everybody knows that working sucks. The Get-It-Done Guy talks about how to get more organized and get things done faster so you have more time to play. I definitely need more play time.

In yoga, it's not about accomplishing something because there really isn't an end goal. But I almost always need to remember to work less... and let the pose do me. When you relax, soften, and go with the flow the body is more malleable and benefits more from the postures. (Trust me, I have learned this the hard way.)

I'm curious, though, which pose do you approach by trying WAY TOO HARD? For me, I think it's probably Utthita Hasta Padangustasana (Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Panty Problem: There HAS to Be a Better Way!

Image Source: Flickr

 

Until recently, I'd never really given much thought to the undergarments I wear with my yoga clothes. Sure, you need a supportive bra and a top that won't cause you to flash your goodies every time you go into Downward Facing Dog, but what it boils down to is comfort. You have to be comfortable when you practice so your mind isn't cluttered with unnecessary worries about wardrobe malfunctions.

Let me be clear about something. As far as I'm concerned, a thong is by design the epitome of the words "wardrobe malfunction." (And don't even get me started on muffin tops.) As unsightly as VPLs are, I had just accepted them as a necessary evil—a sacrifice I would make in the name of my yoga practice.

But recently I've questioned this position. There HAS to be a better way!

Yoga clothing manufacturers are masters of innovative design. If they can make yoga pants that can make everyone's derriere look amazing, then why, oh why, can't they come up with comfortable, full-coverage panties that aren't visible underneath those pants? My suspicion is that this fabled practical, comfortable, and attractive pair of panties exists somewhere out there—and if it does, I'm going to find it!

I've already gathered some helpful suggestions from my friends on Twitter, but I'd love to collect more here. I intend to try them all and put an end to this problem once and for all! Mwahahahahaha!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

5 Things Every Beginning Yoga Student Should Know

I'm always amazed at the rampant misconceptions about yoga. Even here in the San Francisco Bay Area, where yoga studios are as common as Starbucks, people think yoga is all about stretching and being healthy. I guess it can be that, but it can also be much more. Here are the things I wish everyone understood about yoga.

1. It doesn't matter how flexible or inflexible you are. Really. Being flexible won't make you happier. There's no prize.  Stop suffering and learn to love the body you have!

2. Don't get hung up on how you look in a pose. Everyone else in class is focusing on their own pose. They don't care how you look (unless you're wearing a thong). Let this be your first lesson in ego management.

3. It's OK if you don't know what the Sanskrit words mean. The only people in the room who do are teachers or big yoga dorks.

4. It's not religious—unless you want it to be. Your practice should be unique to you. You're allowed to make it as spiritual, religious, fitness oriented (or not) as you want. (If someone tells you otherwise, please have them call me.)

5. Yoga is an art form, a science, a lifestyle, and a philosophy. But more than anything, it's a way to get to know yourself better. And that's something that benefits us all.

P.S. Thanks to the multi-talented artist/singer/songwriter extraordinairre Cate Kanell for giving Spoiled Yogi a new look! Check out her amazing music at catekanell.com!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Go Ahead - Judge Me!

For most of my life, I've let the judgments of others determine my fate. In school, I looked to my teachers to tell but a B in Math. If I worked REALLY hard, I could be an A in Math, too, but that meant I probably shouldn't try to make a career out of it.) As much as the As lifted me up, the Bs broke me. When it was time to get a job—it's exactly the same thing. When I decided to be a writer, I had to send editors my ideas and examples of your work. They'd decide if I was worthy or not. It was the fear of rejection kept me from writing for a long, long time.

But one magical day (about the time I started this blog) something happened. It's like I woke up one morning and realized I've been wasting precious time waiting for approval to do what I love. I don't need someone else to give me permission to do what I want. If I want to write about yoga (or purple unicorns for that matter) I'm going to do it, by God, and I don't care what anyone else thinks! So there!

I was tired of having great ideas, but never doing anything about them. I was tired of seeing those ideas in the pages of my favorite magazines, written by someone else because I was too scared to pitch them. It is possible to respect the knowledge and experience of others without letting those opinions stop you in your tracks. I'd rather write a thousand mediocre blog posts than nothing at all. Life is too short.

I've had some time to ponder my great epiphany, and I still have no idea what happened to cause it. Am I just getting older and wiser? (I do have a lot more gray hairs lately.) Has all that business about seeing the value and beauty in even the most flawed of yoga poses finally spilled over into my philosophy on life? Was it something I ate? It doesn't matter.

I'M FREEEEEE!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

5 Things I Learned from Delivering Happiness

The new book, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh is clearly a marketing tool—I mean the book cover has the Zappos logo and URL all over it. But I got a lot out of it even though I found myself rolling my eyes some as I read Tony's stories about taking short-cuts, but still reaping unheard of benefits. The man admitted to getting into Harvard, then sleeping and playing video games instead of going to class. When he graduated he looked for the highest paying job possible that required the least amount of work. Then he showed up late, took a nap during the 2-hour lunch break he'd take every day, did almost nothing, and still managed somehow not get fired. He quit five months into his first job to start a business. Of course, he became a millionaire right away so he devoted his time to more important things—like learning to play poker and buying a ginormous pent house loft apartment in San Francisco, which he turned into his own private rave club for all his friends before he even turned 26.

Whatever. I could've done that, too, if I had his resources, innovative spirit, and irrational fearlessness when it comes to financial ruin. (Have you even noticed that most rich people become rich when they're young and reckless?)

As far as I can tell, Tony and I have one thing in common: We both recorded ourselves practicing the violin as children, and deceived our parents by playing the tape back while we read in our rooms. Of course, I got caught the first time I tried it. He apologized to his mom in the book he published 20 years later.

This was a fun read and it gave a lot of insights into the business world. It turns out business and yoga have more in common than I thought.

This is just a short sampling of some of the things I learned.

1. The most successful people in business, and in life, have just as many failures along the way. They just learn from those failures and never stop trying.

2. You can't build a business (or really much of anything) by yourself. You need a strong support system you can rely on and trust—especially when things look bleak. Be generous. Give without expecting something in return. And if it doesn't work out, at least you'll still got your friends.

3. Even millionaires with access to the finest foods in all of the world still appreciate the simple taste of Taco Bell occasionally.

4. Working hard won't get you anywhere if you're not passionate about what you're doing. When you follow your passions, you become consumed by the task. When this happens you're not working overtime, you're simply using your free time to do what you love, too.

5. When you start hitting the snooze button 10 times in the morning because you just REALLY don't want to get up and go to work anymore. It just might be time for a radical change. Life is too short.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Yogins vs. Yoginis

Today I stumbled upon an interesting article on Forbes.com. In a nutshell, it says that both men and women prefer to be managed by a male in the workplace.

Maybe it's just because most of my bosses over the years have been female, but I just don't get it.

Regardless, it made me start to think about leadership in a yoga setting. It takes many of the same "masculine" leadership characteristics the Forbes article refers to to be a yoga teacher—confidence, assertiveness, decision-making skills. But I have an inkling if we were to conduct a survey, we'd find that people might prefer to be under the leadership of women in the yoga studio.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Do you prefer male or female yoga teachers? Why? Be sure to give a thorough explanation!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Interview: Les Leventhal Shares A Male Perspective on Yoga Fashion


One of my favorite yoga classes in San Francisco is led by the talented and inspiring Les Leventhal. His classes are filled with two of my favorite elements: fun music and sweaty arm balances that often cause me to fall face first into my slip-n-slide of a yoga mat. And when my readers (cough)Bob Weisenberg(cough) called me out for not including men in my posts about yoga fashion, Les was the first person that popped into my mind who I knew could offer a sound male point of view. After all, in this Yoga Journal article he admitted to having a bit of a shoe fetish a while back (a man after my own heart!). Be sure to learn more about Les and his amazing teachings at YogawithLes.com.

Tell me about your favorite yoga outfit. What do you love about it?
My favorite yoga outfit is a threefold answer. If I am teaching a morning class, there’s a 90% chance I am wearing Lululemon pants because they are thick and warm and sometimes the room is not as heated. They are also super comfortable. If I am teaching an afternoon/evening class where I know the room has been heated by classes before mine, then I am wearing Lululemon shorts. For me, they are stylish, comfortable and remind me of being at the beach which means I'm probably going to teach a very playful, ride the waves, class. I was fortunate to be a Lululemon ambassador a few years ago and have lots to choose from. Finally, if I am taking someone's class, I am wearing Prana pants, mostly because for me, they are the best to work with my sweaty self and arm balancing.

What are some of the challenges you face as a male yoga teacher when you go to pick out something to wear to one of your classes?
I don’t want to be a distraction to the students. So I am generally wearing dark blues, greens, browns ,and blacks and nothing too flashy and loud. In addition, this question begs the question of some clothing that might be too revealing. I take care to choose clothing that does not distract students in any way from the journey I want them to go on or invite an energy that might be misleading, unwelcome, or inappropriate in the sacred environment of a class.

I remember reading that you used to be addicted to shopping—particularly Kenneth Cole shoes. How did yoga help you overcome this?

Yoga continues to slow me down and requires me to take a look at what I am doing and why I am doing it, and I like to ask a few questions before I buy something. Is it useful? Is it necessary? And if I don't know its source in preparation or manufacturing, can I imagine how it got to the store and how much energy it took to get there. Most of the time, these days, I recognize that I have more than I need. Since I come from a banking background and was on the road in suits a lot, I prefer jeans and T-shirts and the shoeless lifestyle as much as possible. I realized while shopping back in the day, that I was just bored and filling time. Today I realize there are so many other ways I can pass time and help others, either through meditation, yoga practice, direct service or even taking my dogs for a run. I never go out to just shop anymore unless I need something.

How do you find the balance between healthy and unhealthy desire?

The only way to find balance in anything is to overstep those boundaries, whether I have placed those limitations on myself or have bought into something that society has told me that I should observe or ethically uphold. I have and continue to spend time in my own spiritual practice, unearthing my attachment to the teacher of desire. This can come in the form of clothing, food, and how I live in and around my relationships to other people. I at least feel good that I maintain my practice in this area when things go a little off the beam. When things are going well, I continue to practice letting go and share the abundance of good emotions or whatever the universe has sent my way.

Tell us what inspires you, so we can be inspired, too!

Bonfires on the beach at sunset with friends, yoga retreats, running with my dogs, sharing a home cooked meal with old friends and new ones when I'm on the road teaching. My relationship to my husband; after 10 years together he continues to teach and inspire me a lot. Watching people have one of those totally blissed out aha moments in yoga sends me over the edge of inspiration, which is what keeps me going back for more as a student and a teacher. And for this yogi, a source of inspiration is a deep, dark, rich and bold cup of coffee with half & half and honey (right now a strong flat white with honey in Melbourne is winning that race for me). Oh, and Chocolate Caramel Crackle ice cream from Mitchell's.

Fun facts: 

Favorite pose? Anything arm balancing, really — floating to Crow, floating to Astavakrasana, Tripod Headstand to Astavakrasana, and Tripod Headstand to Koundinyasana A. Favorite color? Blue. Favorite Book? Anything Caroline Myss. Most influential yoga teacher? There are three—Ana Forrest, Tias Little, and everyone that has ever been a part of my life in any way, even the guy at the train station begging for money or food.

Monday, June 7, 2010

5 Poses You Can Do While You Drive


I'm not a huge fan of driving (see Namaste Jackass, 5 Steps to a Calmer Commute). I am both anxious and overly cautious nearly every time I get behind the wheel. I see my life flash before my eyes when cars pull out in front of me. I slam on the brakes way too much. I am meticulous to following traffic rules—I use my turn signal when there's no one around for miles. Traffic is my enemy. My body stiffens and my shoulders tense and elevate toward my ears.

Last week, I drove 8-10 hours a day for 6 days. But my move from California to South Carolina was somewhat pleasant despite my anxiety about traffic because in my hours on the road I discovered a few new ways to apply my yoga to my driving... I guess you could say I faced my fear, breathed through it, and found new ways to cope with the physical and mental effects of my irrational fears. Score!

Here are a few helpful yoga stretches I discovered that you can do safely while driving (when there's not a lot of heavy traffic and you are not exceeding the speed limit, of course).

1. Threading the Needle. Keep your left hand on the steering wheel at 10 o'clock. Bring your right arm underneath the left and walk your hand as far toward the back of the car as you can. Use the driver's side door as a prop to give you leverage and spread your right shoulder blade away from your spine. Repeat on the other side using your passenger seat as your prop.

2. Car Cow Face Pose. Bring one arm up overhead and bend it at the elbow so your hand comes toward the same-side shoulder blade. (Keep the other hand on the steering wheel). Use the back of your seat as a prop to get a deeper stretch. Breathe a lot. Then, do the other side.

3. Shoulder rolls. Roll your shoulders.

4. Check Your Blind Spot. Whenever you need to check your blind spot, turn your head a little more slowly than you normally would and take a deep breath. You'll get a little neck stretch AND you'll remember to breathe more often.

5. Half Lotus and Upright Hip Opener. I didn't find a good way to stretch my right leg while I drove. Even with cruise control on, it just doesn't seem safe to take your right leg into Lotus while driving (you never know when you might need to slam on your brakes), so I recommend these poses only for your left leg. Do the right when you stop for gas.