Thursday, July 29, 2010

10 Signs Your Yoga Teacher Might be a Skeez

There are two kinds of yoga teachers in the world--those who are beautiful, airy, bright, and want to make the world a better place, and those who can only be described as creepy, icky, skeez balls.

Ogden: The Inappropriate Yoga Guy

This is my definition of teachers who fits into the second category:

 1. She lingers a little too long after she gives you an adjustment.

2. He puts down other teachers or schools of yoga, insisting that his is the only right method.
 
 3. She never says "I don't know" or "That's something you'll have to decide for yourself."

 4. He doesn't wash his hair or wear deodorant, and you think you might pass out from the stench every time he comes close to give you an adjustment.

 5. She has obvious favorites and doesn't try to distribute her attention evenly amongst all her students.

 6. He doesn't respect your body's limitations.

 7. She doesn't respect your religion, culture, or ethnic background.

 8. He is more interested in your money than your well-being.

 9. Her top shows too much cleavage or his yoga shorts are too tight.

10. She screams out verbal cues directed at you loudly so the whole class knows when you're out of alignment.

I know this is just the tip of an iceberg. Please add to the list of skeezy yoga teacher behavior by commenting below!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

5 Ways to Get More Hands-On Adjustments

Image from FunAndHealthyLifestyles.com
Imagine this scenario. I'm happily practicing Downward-Facing Dog. My teacher starts giving adjustments a couple of people away (you know the one where they lean in and press your hips back and up?). I get excited as the person on the mat next to mine gets a long adjustment because I think I'm next. YAAAY! It's my turn! And then I hear, "OK, come into Plank, Chaturanga, and Up Dog with your own breath." My teacher tip-toes to the front of the room. No adjustment for me. Disappointment, sadness, jealousy, and regret wash over me. I am devastated!

In order to keep this from happening to more innocent yoga victims out there, I've devised a five-step plan to getting more adjustments in yoga class. Try it out and let me know how it goes.

5 Ways to Get More Hands-On Adjustments

1. Fidget. A lot! Especially in Savasana (Corpse Pose). Move your head from side to side if you want a gentle, loving neck massage. Wiggle your arms for a shoulder adjustment. And so on.

2. Mess up. Remember when you were a beginner and knew nothing about alignment? Round your lower back in Down Dog. Let your knee slide past your ankle a little. Be sloppy! Teachers LOVE to fix sloppy poses. If you look like you know what you're doing they'll pass you right on by!

3. Ask for Guidance. Are you a teacher? Are you considering teacher training? Come to class early and ask your teacher if he/she would mind teaching you how to do that AMAZING adjustment you like so much. I'm sure she'd be happy to show you!

4. Try WAY too hard. Practice your straining, struggling face at home in front of a mirror. It should look hard and scrunched up (maybe a little constipated). For best results, try making this face during a seated forward bend as you tug mercilessly at your foot, determined to get your forehead to your knee. Then watch how quickly your teacher comes by to try to get you to relax.

5. Be exhausted. Let your teacher know before class that you've had a really hard day and might have to take things a little easier today. Then, when everyone else is flowing through a vinyasa take Child's Pose and don't move. I bet your teacher will come by and give you a little extra traction..

Better yet, maybe you should just pay for a massage...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

5 Ways New Media Enhances My Yoga Practice

I love my computer! And, yes, there are certainly times when my yoga practice suffers because I spend too much time reading blogs, chatting with friends, or looking at random pictures on Facebook of children born to people I knew in high school. But I think the majority of the time I spend click-click-clicking away on social networking websites ultimately helps more than hinders my practice.

Here's how:

Blogging Yoga During my yoga teacher training, my teachers encouraged us to keep a journal of our practice. We were supposed to write down what poses we were working on, any questions that came to mind, any emotions that bubbled up. I didn't do it. And it wasn't until I started this blog that I realized the value in that. Just as Savasana (Corpse Pose) helps my body absorb all the energy of my physical yoga practice, blogging is what helps my mind absorb it ... and I can't believe the creativity that sometimes flows from it. It's liberating, and I'm so glad I have this outlet--a forum to share.

Twitter Tips. Almost all of my friends on Twitter are yogis. Whenever I feel like procrastinating, day or night, I can log onto Twitter and read tweets from yogis from all over the world reminding me to breathe, slow down, reconnect, and recommit to my practice. If I have a question about a pose, yoga philosophy, yoga product--whatever--I just ask and I get tons of responses almost instantly!

Facebook Frenzy. The way Facebook helps my yoga is similar to Twitter. Sometimes I see interesting yoga articles (and I always find out when one of my favoring yoga clothing companies is having a sale or giveaway). But the big difference for me on FB is that most of my friends are actually people I know personally. And sometimes the yoga is in finding compassion for all the people on my friend list that "like" Sarah Palin or have nothing better to do with their time than play Farmville.

Youtube Teachings. Sometimes the only way to learn a yoga pose is to see it. No magazine article will do when you want to learn the technique for dropping back into Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward-Facing Bow) and a myriad other complicated yoga postures. When I want to see something, I look it up on Youtube and usually find a teacher I trust has it covered.

Podcast Pearls. I love audio podcasts! And while I haven't gotten tino them much for yoga instruction, I have found a wealth of information that helps me juggle my yoga practice with my other responsibilities and just ways to enrich my life altogether. I used to listen to podcasts every day during my commute, and I also used guided meditation podcasts to jumpstart my meditation practice. But now that I work from home I take little breaks here and there to listen for 5 minutes to inspire me to keep going. If that's not yoga, I don't know what is!

How does new media to enhance your yoga practice?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

4 Things My Nieces Taught Me about Yoga

My sister, her husband, and their two little girls (ages 4 and 15 months) visited this week so I've been pre-occupied with dress-up, bedtime stories, and princesses. Children are natural yogis, so of course I also learned a thing or two about yoga.

Here's a sampling:

1.  "We are all princesses!" The ultimate compliment coming from a 4-year-old girl. I think there's a lot of truth in it, too. We can be princesses if we make the choice to see the good in ourselves. In yoga terms, it's like saying we're all a spark of the Divine. We're all perfect just the way we are. 

2. "This is my special talent--a gift from God!," announced Rosemary when she discovered that she could actually stand up in three feet of water, and thus could "swim" on her own after keeping a death grip on Aunt Erica for at least an hour. Sometimes we take for granted that simple pleasures (like the ability to swim in a pool) are pretty amazing gifts. "They should make this a part of yoga."

3. What was your favorite animal at the aquarium? "All of them!" That's right. It's impossible to choose one fish, reptile, or amphibian over another when they're all new and exciting. This is what we call "beginner's mind" in yoga. The first time you experience something, you're totally present and open to learning. You giggle with delight the first time you touch a slimy sting ray and are exhilarated when find yourself in a new backbend you've never tried. Same thing.

4. While beginner's mind brings a sense of awe and wander to things, it also introduces an element of surprise--and sometimes fear. When my nieces were scared of something--the ocean, the pool, a snake at the aquarium--they were also curious. I watched as they touched a scaly animal with the tip of one finger (testing the waters, so to speak). Then, when nothing bad happened, they would try again with a little more confidence (two fingers), and so on until their fear vanished. This is how we approach new yoga poses, and it's a smart way to approach life, too. Always testing our boundaries and limitations, but with caution and respect for the unknown.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Interview with Sadie Nardini

Tell us about your favorite yoga outfit. What do you love about it?

I admit that these days (blissfully filled with workworkwork), my usual focus on style takes a backseat to just barely getting some actual yoga clothes on and remembering to bring my mat and housekeys to class.

When I do take the time to rock it, however, I'm wearing the Obi One by Sarah Reilly from her new line, Play. This dress-thing, that seriously sticks like glue during Down Dog, is also the softest thing I've worn in a long time. Olive green is my pick, paired with some Dude Girl Hollyhock Leggings I found at Whole Foods in Austin. I wear them every day. Different pairs, of course...

Why do you wear so much black?

You know, red hair isn't as easy to match as it might seem. I keep trying to bust out the new, lighter, brighter Sadie, with the occasional pastel hues, but my students can't handle it, and black really just looks the best on me.

That, and I could wear the same outfit every day for a week and no one would know (see "workworkwork", above). Not that I do.

I love your yoga blog where you talk about yoga in everyday life. What's the most challenging part for you about applying yoga to life?

Wow, great question. I'm trying to think hard about a part of life, at least mine, that ISN'T challenging to apply yoga to. That leads me to ponder why I don't just zone out instead of Zen out and lead a life of leisure, never thinking about yoga, and getting my exercise from normal things like hiking or step class.

But alas, I'm committed to the challenge of living at Center, which ultimately is much more powerful and free. But I have to work for that freedom. And that's not an issue for me. I find that all goes pretty well when I'm on the mat and can control my environment, more or less but when I step off of it, I'm completely irritated to find that no one else seems overly interested in helping me practice maintaining my peace. Even my teachers are done with me after an hour and a half.

Dissolving that expectation, that just because I'm trying to live from Center that everyone around me should be serving my goal as a first priority, and never getting in my way, is tough. I'm not sure why I even think it any more.

I used to tell cabbies in NYC who were getting frustrated at the crawl of traffic "Hey—why don't you assume that you're NEVER going to move, and then when you do, it will feel like a blessing and you'll be happy, or at least neutral, most of the time, instead of expecting this to be the Autobahn and being consistently enraged?"

Practicing that, assuming that I'm in my own process and that people outside of me have their own agendas for living (which they do), helps me to make the challenge of navigating externals a little easier. Then, I know I'm responsible for my own inner experience, and whenever someone else harmonizes with that, it's a pleasant surprise. And when someone flips me the bird because they don't like how I drive, it doesn't ruin my day, either.

Is there a yama or niyama you struggle with more than the others?

My lifelong nemesis is Brahmacharya, at least the aspect of it I understand to be retaining our life force, and then focusing it only on those things that truly help manifest our ultimate goals.

Hugging in is something I have to remember to do on a daily basis. I'm a healer and a giver and an intuitive gal, and I think that everything matters. It's always been hard for me to say no, to skip returning emails when I know people are out there waiting or hoping for a response, or to disappoint people by not being able to be there for them as much as they would like.

However, I need to sleep. Taking care of myself so I'm full enough to give fully when I choose to give is a great feeling. Plus it makes me a better teacher, woman, and friend. So now I practice my conscious "no" right alongside my enthusiastic "yeses", and life has gotten a lot more enjoyable for me, and all the people that have to be around me a lot.

What's your secret to keeping calm amidst all the chaos of city living, busy schedules, and never-ending to-do lists?

Well, I'm completely enlightened, so that helps.

Kidding.

No, actually, it's a lot more concrete than that. I remember to look at the big picture whenever the tunnel vision of stress, fear, doubt and Gmail threatens to engulf me. I remember that, in the end, my main goal is not to answer everyone by 5 pm and make sure my blogs are done before the deadline. My big vision for my life is to enjoy it, to revel in each day; to be passionate and creative and in love with every moment that I can.

I don't wait to do this until the Outbox is full and the Inbox is empty. (Ain't never gonna happen.) I do it now, with bills left to pay and people getting on my nerves and a whole stack of responsibilities sitting in my lap. Sometimes, I just walk away from it all, and go play, because I'll be damned if I die tomorrow, and the day before I didn't laugh out loud once...but I got a whole lot of emails returned.

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

What inspires me is finally owning the things that light my fire, geeky things, like Ninja movies and sappy, maudlin movies that I know are designed to make me cry, and so I do. Yes, I believe in soul mates and I like speaking my truth to whomever shows up at my workshops to listen. I swoon over ridiculous Vampire love stories and you'll often catch me driving while belting out terrible versions of classic rock tunes, and balancing my healthy diet with hot chocolates from Starbucks.

What's super exciting is that I don't care any longer what people think of my inspirations, or my truths: They're mine, and once I stepped into my own skin around what makes me feel alive and happy, honest and real, I was more able to encourage others to seek and find their own core voices, too. And they do. That's inspiring.

Fun Facts
Favorite Pose?
Ninjasana a core pose created by Leslie Kaminoff and named by me, then taken and run with, also by me, into every Hatha pose. You'll have to come to a workshop and see it sometime! Second fave: Handstand. Ever since I stopped going to the restroom every time the teacher called it out, and learned the thing, I can't get enough.

Favorite Color? See question #2 above

Favorite Book? The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield. Tiny book...big message.

Favorite Movie? Baraka. This movie has no words, and it doesn't need them to paint an incredible picture of a gorgeous, energetically unified, yet brilliantly diverse world.

Monday, July 19, 2010

5 Most Controversial Topics in Yoga

One of the biggest misconceptions about the yoga community is that we're all lovey-dovey peaceful hippies who hold hands and sing "Kumbaya." It's good that people think we're an agreeable bunch that goes with the flow and accepts everyone no matter their flaws. And it's true ... to an extent. But there are a few hot-button topics that can quickly disrupt the peace in the yoga community. And while we might not exactly go for each other's jugulars, we debate these topics with such passion and conviction it might even sound (to the untrained ear, of course) a lot like petty arguing.

Here are the five most hotly-debated issues I could think of, and why I think we should all just get along.

1. The Great Vegetarian Debate
Some schools of yoga say you absolutely can NOT eat meat and call yourself a yoga student. That's because one of the niyamas of yoga is ahimsa, or non-harming. And, well, you can't eat meat without harming another living being. Of course, you can't eat anything without harming something. Consider the harm you're doing to the environment when you drive to your local grocery store or farmer's market to buy vegetables. I'm not saying it's a good practice to eat animal products, I'm just saying that all of us are responsible for harming in one way or another, why condemn others for choosing to find other ways to harm less?

2. Religion
In ancient times, yoga and Hinduism went hand-in-hand. Even today, yoga philosophy sounds a lot like Buddhism to me. And yet, I still maintain that yoga is NOT a religion, unless you want it to be. Sometimes yoga feels a lot like church to me, and other times it doesn't. As far as I'm concerned you can call it whatever you want. Yoga is about connection and mindfulness. If chanting to Krishna helps you find that connection, great. If banning all Sanskrit and philosophy helps someone else find that same connection, great.

3. The Yoga of Money
Should one person be able to trademark (and make $$$ from) a set of yoga poses, even though those poses were passed down from generation to generation for thousands of years? Is it OK to charge others $18 a pop to lead them through those poses? How about $98 for a pair of oh-so-flattering yoga poses (I love yoga fashion!)? Yoga and money might not always fit together as gracefully as Up Dog and Down Dog, but how can you fault someone for doing what they have to do (charge money) for making the practice of yoga available to others? Capitalism is the name of the game today, and if it weren't for the exchange of money for yoga I'm pretty sure I would never have set foot in a yoga studio. Does it cheapen an ancient practice? Or is it a necessary means to an end? We could debate this one for months and never come to any worthwhile conclusion, so maybe we should just forget it and practice yoga... a highly INDIVIDUAL practice! To each his or her own, I say.

4. All-Girls Club. (No Boys Allowed!)
I'm not going to lie. I love seeing the magazine covers with strong, beautiful, bendy women practicing awe-inspiring poses in front of a girly pastel pink backdrop. I pick it up off the shelf and think, "Finally! A magazine for ME!" It just wouldn't have the same effect for me with a male model. But I also realize that the same pictures that I find so inspiring turn thousands of men away from the practice of yoga--which is a shame because they need it SO badly. But you know what? My yoga history studies have taught me that years ago, before yoga came to America, women weren't even allowed to practice. It was for men only. In a few years when yoga becomes more commonplace for men, maybe we'll be even. As long as you're warm and welcoming to everyone who plops down on a mat next to yours, you've done your part.

5. Gym Yoga
Yoga purists sometimes poo-poo gym yoga classes because the main objective is usually to get a workout, not to eventually reach enlightenment. And, of course, there are gym yoga fanatics who prefer fitness yoga because they don't like the spiritual aspect of the practice or they just don't want to pay yoga studio prices. But how can you make such sweeping generalizations? There's no way you can put all yoga classes that take place in gyms in the same category! Besides, even the most fitness-oriented gym yoga class is often a gateway to a more "spiritual" yoga practicce. Practice wherever you feel at home! And don't judge other people for doing something different... It's not very "yogic."

Did I miss anything?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

What Not To Wear: Yoga Goddesses

A while back I posted "Yoga Men: What NOT to Wear." It was a big success--mostly because my readers perverted and like seeing men in thongs, I think.  But to be fair, I think we ladies make plenty of fashion mistakes in the yoga studio, too. (I've already told you I have panty lines! So don't think I'm judging. Think of this as a helpful guide to get us all back on track.)

Also, let me emphasize that the following is problems with the style or fit of the clothing NOT women's bodies, Mmmmkay?

Here are some of the biggest challenges ladies face in yoga fashion, and my tips on how to handle them with grace.

The Problem: Too Much Skin


Unless you're the lovely and talented Kathryn Budig (and modeling for a ToeSox ad), you should probably not go to a yoga studio in the nude... Unless you're going to a naked yoga class. But even then, you should wait until you get there to strip down. (I'm just saying..)

The solution: Wear clothes.

The problem: Muffin Top
Seriously, yoga clothing companies, women have hips! Stop making pants so tight that it looks like we we're spilling out of them! I love muffins as much as the next person, but a Muffin Top in yoga class? Not cute!
The Solution:
If you see the dreaded Muffin Top when you try on a pair of yoga pants go up a size, or look for a pair with a roll down waist. Also, make sure you buy yoga tops that are long enough to cover you--test it out in Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) and Downward Facing Dog.

The Problem: Visible Panty Lines


The Solution: I'll let you know. In the meantime, read the comments from this blog. 

The Problem: Camel Toe
I actually don't see this very much at the yoga studio. But I'm not really looking for it either.

The Solution:
Again, my advice is to go up a size (or two). Oh, and if you're getting Camel Toe because your pants are too long and you pull them up so you don't step on them, consider getting them hemmed. (Dear yoga clothing companies, PLEASE carry petite sizes because as a hate to get pants hemmed.)

Most of all, let me just say that as much as I love yoga fashion, I whole-heartedly believe that function and comfort should come first (again, see my post about panty lines). And as long as you wear your clothes with confidence and a smile, you should feel beautiful--because you are.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I'm Bringing Spoiled Back (Yeah!)



Last night, I felt like myself for the first time in a long time. I went to my first yoga class in Charleston, and it was like a dream. It had only been about five weeks since I'd practiced in a studio, but it seemed like a lifetime. I can't express how much I needed it. I realized that a yoga studio is one of the few familiar places in my life right now.

The studio was charming and warm (literally and figuratively). The teacher had all the qualities I look for in a teacher--she was kind, funny, and wove just the right amount of philosophy and wisdom into her teaching. (Heck, I even liked her outfit!) Although, after I'd been deprived of yoga classes for so long I think I would've loved a teacher who didn't have all of those great qualities. But it doesn't matter. My drishti is focused, my chakras are aligned, I've got my mat back, my favorite yoga pants are no longer in a suitcase...

Ladies and Gentlemen, Spoiled Yogi is back! (And more stylish than ever!)

---

Random Things I'm Pondering (Thoughts from My Meditation Cushion):

1. What is home, anyway?

2. Are yoga studios the same all over the country or am I just so lucky I happen to f?ind all the good ones?

3. Are my elbows dry because I've been spending so much time typing on my laptop in Sphinx Pose? Or am I just getting old-person skin?

4. What defines us? Is it the company we keep? The work that we do? Or are we really all the same energy? (And if so, shouldn't we all feel good about ourselves knowing we share energy with people like Angelina Jolie, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Oprah.

5. Speaking of Oprah, if I hung out with her everyday for an entire year, do you think some of her confidence and charisma would rub off on me?

6. Why is it that we have such a hard time being present in our bodies, but we almost never gaze out more than a few feet ahead of ourselves in yoga class? (I got this one from my class last night. So true!)

7. Why is it that 5 minutes seems like SUCH a long time when you're sitting to meditate for the first time in a while, but a 5-minute break to take a walk during lunch is like over in a flash!?

Please share your ponderings with me!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Starting Over (Again)

I feel like I've landed on a whole other planet. Everything here in Charleston is different—the weather, the people, the food, the traffic, the grocery stores! Even though I put my dishes away a month ago, I still find myself scrambling to find things. But most of all, my schedule is different. I'm working from home now, so I'm struggling to find a separation between my work life and my home life. The last few days, I've woken up up, started work, and didn't really stop checking my emails until I went to bed. But I've made time for my normal activities like yoga, lunch breaks, and taking Penny for long walks, right? Nope.

Everything is different, so the cues that used to remind me to take care of myself just aren't there any more. And it's SO hot and buggy outside during the time I used to walk two miles every day I just can't bring myself to do it!

I have to build a structure—a routine that will help me get back on track. My first attempt will be a trip to a yoga studio tonight. The mindfulness I cultivate there will (I hope) help me to create more balance. Less worry, less work, less stress, less anxiety, and more calm. I really need more calm right now. I also need to build boundaries, and set aside a time and a place in my home for work so the rest of my apartment will be for living. One little change at a time, and I'm sure I'll be back to myself before I know it.

What do you do to get back on track when you've fallen out of your routine?

Friday, July 9, 2010

5 Healthy Summer Foods

The following is a guest blog post by Lucas Rockwood of YOGABODY Naturals LLC

When it’s hot outside, most yoga students find it easier to eat more healthfully. In sunny weather, it’s natural to find yourself gravitating toward salads and fruits, juices and lighter meals.

Could it be because you can’t hide under that big winter sweater when it’s 85 degrees outside? Sure, that’s probably part of it, but who cares?! Use this summer season to make some lasting changes by adding more nutrient dense, whole foods into your diet.

5 Foods Yoga Students Should Get Excited About:

1. Green Leafy Veggies are loaded in minerals including magnesium, which is a favorite among yoga students since it relieves muscle tension and soreness. Eat kale, spinach, chard, and beet root tops this summer. Juice them, eat them raw, lightly steam them, or even pan fry with garlic.

TIP: Adding lemon to any green juice or leafy green vegetable dish makes it much more appetizing.

2. Young Coconuts. Depending on where you live, young coconuts might be difficult to find. In the tropics, they’re everywhere. In Chicago, not so much (although in most Chinatowns and many health food stores, you can find them).

The power of young coconuts is two-fold. The water is light and loaded with electrolytes for hydration. Plus, the meat is a rich source of healthy plant fats including lauric and caprilic acid with anti-fungal and antibacterial properties.

Because yoga students often avoid animal foods, many lack quality saturated fat sources in their diets (yes, saturated fats are important too), so by eating coconut a few times per week, it’s easy to get your lipid intake
back on track.

TIP: Young coconut meat can be blended into any fruit smoothie to make it rich and creamy—and also to balance out the sugars in the fruit.

3. Cruciferous Veggies including broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage are all loaded with natural sulfur, another favorite mineral of yoga students. Sulfur is the most abundant mineral in the body, and is
dubbed as the “beauty mineral” because of its vital role in the creation and regeneration of skin and tissues.

For sore yoga students, a sulfur-rich diet is essential, and steamed broccoli with a slice of lemon on a summer day is a great meal.

TIP: Strong, zesty sauces make cruciferous veggies more palatable. Try adding lemon juice, non-GMO soy sauce, teriyaki, or even a natural sweet and sour sauce to make your dishes more interesting.

4. Omega-3 Seeds such as flax and chia seeds are excellent sources for essential fats (the ones your body cannot create). In the summertime, many yoga students accidentally eat very low fat and protein diets, so it’s smart to get your essential fats taken care of by simply adding some ground flax to
your salads or making a chia lemonade in the morning.

TIP: Chia seeds are more “ancient” and less commercially tampered with than flax—plus they’re easier to use (no grinding). Both flax and chia should be stored in a refrigerator or freezer.

5. Sea Vegetables contain 2 to 10 times the mineral content of land-based plants. They are high in protein and chlorophyll and are surprisingly filling. Kombu and dulse are very tasty seaweeds that can be added to fresh salads or soups—and you might even eat them by themselves with lemon, sesame oil
and some roasted garlic.

TIP: It takes practice to get good at preparing sea vegetables. Done right, they are a hearty, tasty addition to a meal. Gone wrong, they can be stringy and fishy. Soak your sea veggies before use, rinse well, and steam or boil the stronger, more fibrous varieties before eating.

Just because we normally eat less in the summer, doesn’t mean you should eat less healthfully. In fact, try the opposite! Eat less, but eat more variety. Eat lighter meals, and try to include new whole foods you’ve never tried before. See if you can develop a taste for some of the yoga-friendly foods on the top 5 list above—or better yet, come up with your own list! (Comment below.)

Happy eating! 

Lucas Rockwood is a yoga teacher trainer, an author, and the founder of YOGABODY Naturals, an education and food supplement company that creates powerful yoga tools for real people. Learn more here.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence Day Yoga


Image source YogaJournal.com

Today, Americans celebrate our great country by setting things on fire, eating barbecued processed foods, and drinking copious amounts of beer. It's the American way. Isn't freedom great!?

Don't get me wrong. I like beer and setting things on fire as much as the next guy, but it's not the first thing that comes to mind when I think about independence and/or freedom. For a yoga student, independence is the understanding that you have all the wisdom you need right inside of you if you just look closely enough. Freedom comes when you tap into that inner wisdom and figure out how to liberate it. When you stop looking externally for answers, direction, and approval and learn to trust your own wisdom, that's when you realize you have the power to do anything you want in life!

I've got a long way to go, but I've practiced yoga long enough to experience little glimmers of that freedom. Here are the poses that make me feel the most freedom:

1. Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand)

2. Tittibhasana (Firefly Pose)

3. Eka Pada Galavasana (Flying Pigeon Pose)

4. Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward-Facing Bow Pose)

5. Savasana (Corpse Pose)

What poses make you feel free?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Pose of the Week: Handstand

I thought I'd be practicing up a storm this month. I'm stuck in California without a car, TV, or much furniture.. so what else would there be to do? It turns out, there's a lot of free TV on the Internet, and I've gotten really into a few bad, melodramatic, teen shows. That's right. Instead of practicing yoga for two hours a day, I'm spending my free time watching teen soap operas on my 13-inch laptop screen. I'm not ashamed. But I have decided I need a little extra motivation to get my yoga mojo back. A pose that I will work on for at least a few minutes a day, even if it's just during the annoying commercial breaks that interrupt my shows.

In honor of my new favorite TV show, Make It or Break It, about Olympic gymnastics hopefuls (who are, of course, always caught up in love triangles and other silly teenage drama), I'll work on my Handstand for a few days.

It's sometimes fun to just kick right up into Handstand on an impulse, but I've found it's better to do at least a few poses to work up to it (especially when the pose is just a dangling carrot to get you to get up and get moving.) My goal is to start working toward Handstand in the middle of the room someday. Here's my prep plan:

1. Open the hamstrings so I can comfortably get into position to kick up: Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog), Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)

2. Arms and Core: Plank Pose, Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose), Bakasana (Crow Pose), and one of my favorites--Wild Thing!

3. Backbends. If I'm practicing moving away from the wall, I want my body to be ready for the inevitable: flipping all the way over and ending up in Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward-Facing Bow Pose). So I'll practice a few of those before I kick up, too.

What pose are you working on this week?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Yoga Couture -- It's More Than Fashion

"My office is totally laid back; we even wear our yoga clothes all day long sometimes," I once said to someone in a casual conversation.

His response caught me totally off-guard.

"Wait... They have special clothes for that? You mean, like, athletic clothes?"

I had been surrounded by yoga culture for so long, I thought everyone would know what I meant by "yoga clothes." But if you really think about it, this totally clueless guy had a point.

Most of the clothes one wears for yoga are also appropriate for a lot of other athletic activities. Running, lifting weights, Zumba (whatever that is), dance, martial arts—I'd wear my yoga clothes for any of these activities. So what does make yoga clothing different from any other kind of athletic wear?

It's kind of the same thing that makes yoga different from gymnastics or other kinds of movement. It's the intention, the mindfulness behind the garment that makes a yoga top different from a regular athletic top. Of course, I'm not just talking about where the clothes are manufactured or the impact the materials used to make them has on the environment—though those things can certainly be factors. When I put on my yoga clothes, whether I'm wearing them to the gym or mixing them with a pant suit I wear to the office, I remember the intention I bring with me to the yoga mat. I am reminded to be present and breathe, to be grateful for my place in life, and to be kind to others and to myself.

For me, it's not about the fabulous materials or they way they feel on my skin. It's not about expressing my "yoga lifestyle" to strangers on the street or how amazing those pants makes my ass look (though, it is pretty amazing, even with the panty lines..) No, it's really about what the clothes represent—my commitment to the principles of yoga and how I intend to infuse them into every facet of my life.