Sunday, March 27, 2011

So Hum: Self Expression through Yoga

Cityscape



Photography by Faern, Faernworks.com

Writing by Erica Rodefer

Model: Regina Franco

“Yoga reminds me that we, as humanity, are ONE—that our fears, desires and dreams are all actually the same. So when I see the world, I see a reflection of myself and yoga reminds me to approach all of my human interactions and relationships whether it’s romantic, friendship, familial, professional or casual from a place of loving compassion. We need one another. We need to lift each other up as we truly are better together than we are apart.” – Regina Franco

It’s funny that in a place like San Francisco, you could walk through the streets naked, singing at the top of your lungs, and people will barely even look up at you as you walk past. The city mentality is that the actions of others are none of your business… but yoga teaches us that the truth is, our combined actions impact each other and the world as a whole in a profound way.

A thriving cityscape is the perfect illustration of how we’re all inter-connected. I love this shot of Regina in San Francisco’s Union Square because it’s a beautiful reminder of just how connected we are.

It takes all kinds of people, with various passions, to make a city work. The CEO in a fancy business suit depends on the MUNI bus driver to get to his appointments on time. The San Francisco storeowner depends on the tourists from Nebraska to make a living. The pigeons, walking all bobble-headed on the sidewalk, depend on the crumbs left for them by the people. We might think we’re someone’s complete opposite, but if you look closely, we’re all just looking for love and acceptance… doing the best we can with what we’ve got.

In a city, a smile from a stranger on the sidewalk can brighten your mood and put a smile on your face. If one happy, smiling person passes 100 people on the way to work, just imagine the impact it can have! It’s a comfort to know that when you’re kind to yourself, you’re kind to others and when you’re kind to others you’re kind to yourself. That’s what the practice of yoga is really all about.

Faern is a yoga practitioner and photographer in San Francisco. Visit her website, follow her on Twitter, or like her on Facebook.

Erica Rodefer is a writer and yoga enthusiast in Charleston, SC. Visit her blog, Spoiledyogi.com, follow her on Twitter, or like her on Facebook.

Would you like to take part in this project as a model? Please be in touch by emailing this address sohum.selfexpression@gmail.com and we’ll send more information. If you are not in the Bay Area or planning a visit, do not worry, there are travel plans afoot, subscribe to the blogs  http://www.faern-in-the-works.com  and http://spoiledyogi.blogspot.com/  to keep in touch and get updates on travel plans”

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Obsessed

wholeliving.com
I have a new yoga obsession. Handstand. I can't stop it. I just kick and kick and kick up every chance I get. I'm not even sure why.

Handstand is not a new pose for me. I've been able to kick up at the wall for years. After the first time I tried a Handstand in a yoga class, I didn't have too much trouble because I remembered doing it when I'm little. I've been obsessed with arm balances for ages, but Handstand was kind of ho-hum.. until recently, that is...

What's different now? I stepped away from the wall and something magical happened... I balanced!

I'm not ready for the middle of the room stuff yet, but I can hop up and stay there for a few seconds before I either fall out of it or end up with my heels against the wall. If this isn't something you've experienced before believe me when I say it's an AMAZING feeling! The weightlessness! The freedom! The power!

I'm addicted. Seriously, I think I've tried (to varying degrees of success) 500 times just today. It's so exciting because I think once I've mastered balancing in Handstand a whole world of new and exciting poses will open up to me.. I'm stoked!

What pose are you obsessed with right now?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

5 Tips to Avoid Muffin Top

Since I started this blog about a year ago, I've gotten a few fun questions from readers. Sometimes people ask me where to find inexpensive yoga gear or what classes I recommend for beginners. But the one question I've received more than any other really doesn't have much to do with yoga at all: How do I avoid the dreaded muffin top!? Yoga pants are fitted and sometimes even the thinnest among us sometimes notice a little flesh spilling out over our waistbands. Let's get one thing straight. I think women should embrace their bodies, feel confident, and love every little curve, bump, and lovely lady lump (to quote the Black Eyed Peas). Frankly, that's one of the most valuable lessons I've learned from my yoga practice.

That said, I've learned a few tricks to minimize this problem. So I thought I'd share them with all of you!

1. Avoid Elastic Waistbands at ALL Costs. If you're worried about muffin top, opt for a drawstring or foldover top yoga pant.

2. Check Your Undies. Panties are a BIG issue for me. If you wear underwear to yoga class, make sure they fit correctly. If you're underwear is giving you muffin top it doesn't matter what pair of yoga pants you put on over it.

3. Buy a Bigger Size. Sometimes all you need to do to banish muffin top is buy a bigger size! I will admit to having a problem with this some of the time. It's silly, but it's pretty important to me to buy the size that I think I should wear (even though I know sizes vary drastically between brands and styles). So.. I simply won't buy a pair of pants if there's not plenty of room for movement (and bloating after a big meal) in the size I think I should wear. It's dumb, though, so don't be like me. Just buy a bigger size... and cut out the tag if it makes you feel better.

4.  Try a Higher Rise. Most muffin tops are the result of low rise pants that sit on the fleshiest part of the body (between the natural waist and the hip). Avoiding it could be as simple as finding a style with a slightly higher rise. Also, make sure your top is long enough to give you full coverage--especially when you bend over for Uttanasana!

5. Eat Fewer Muffins. I'm kidding! If you take nothing else away from this blog, understand that the muffin top phenomenon is NOT YOUR FAULT! It doesn't mean you're fat. You certainly don't need to go on a diet or do more crunches. I blame poorly constructed pants and clothing designers that don't understand real our bodies!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

To Cleanse or Not to Cleanse

In yoga we talk a lot about detoxing. I guess the theory is that we collect harmful things in our bodies, and we want to move them out as soon as possible. We often think of these toxins as physical things we've either put into our bodies (pesticides lingering on conventionally-grown produce, hormones from meat or dairy, caffeine, processed foods) and from the environment we live in (pollution, radiation, etc.). Of course, we also tend to hold negative emotions--stress, fear, anxiety--in our bodies. So to rid ourselves of these toxins we build heat hoping to sweat them out. We twist and churn our bellies, trying to kick our digestive systems into gear so toxins exit through, well, our digestive track.

Image: Yoga-Abode.com
If you think that sounds gross, just wait until you hear some of the things ancient yogis did to cleanse themselves! They'd drink saline water to get things "moving" if you know what I mean. They'd put a string up their noses and pull it out their mouths to "floss" their sinuses (if you use a neti pot--it's the same idea!). My favorite one is a kind of dhauti, where the practitioner swallows a long strip of cloth (all except the end), then pulls it back out taking impurities from the stomach out with it. All I can say is that I hope they threw that cloth away when they were done. Yuck-O!

When you hear about that type of cleansing, today's popular dietary cleanses seem kind of mild. Today, when you hear a yoga student say he's cleansing, it probably means he's restricting the foods he takes into his body and takes in only cleansing foods and beverages instead. There are kinds of cleanses--juice cleanses, fruit cleanses, and the Master Cleanse (nothing but lemon water, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup).

I'm telling you all of this because I'm contemplating a cleanse of my own. I did a cleanse a couple of years ago where I gradually worked my way to eating only fruits and veggies for a few days. I had heard that cleansing would make me feel energetic, clear up my skin, and help me get on the right track to healthy eating. When it was all said and done, I'm not sure if I felt "cleaner" or not.. I almost want to do it again because knowing what to expect, I might be able to understand it all a little better.

I like the idea of getting rid of toxins, but at the same time... a cleanse sounds a lot like a crash diet. And the whole idea that there's something wrong with our bodies--that they're unclean--is kind of contradictory to the philosophy that we're all perfect just as we are. And that's my favorite yogic philosophy! Plus, it seems pretty silly to go all out with a cleanse for a couple of weeks if I have no intention of giving up cupcakes in this lifetime...

So, I need some feedback.. Should I try it again? Have you ever done a cleanse?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Time Management

In case you haven't noticed.. I haven't had much free time lately. It feels like I don't have time to do anything--not enough time to blog or practice or read or tweet... It's left me scratching my head, wondering what happens to the 24 hours I have every day.

I recently started a new job that requires me to commute 30 minutes each way, which means I'm away for 10 hours every day. It takes me an hour to get ready for work in the morning. I walk the dog for at least 30 minutes. It takes another hour or so to make and eat dinner. I sleep for 8 hours. That leaves me about 4 hours of free time at the end of the day. That should be enough time to practice, chat with my husband about his day, and watch an hour of some silly reality television show. So why does it feel like I can't even catch my breath at the end of the day?

I don't know!

But something's got to give so I can get back on track and start to feel normal again!

How do you get back into the swing of things when it feels like time is working against you?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

10 Things You Shouldn't Think About During Savasana

I have all sorts of inappropriate thoughts during Savasana that never pop into my head any other time. Here just a sampling of what I thought about during my Savasana today.

1. What I should have said to that lady who over-charged you for grapes at the market.
2. Taxes. I hope that accountant has all the info he needs.
3. Laundry. I wish my mom still did mine so I could just hang out in Savasana
4. Song lyrics -- Baby, I was born this way!
5. Commercial Jingles -- Sa-ki House. For today and tonight.. The most original, traditional, Japanese delight.
6. I wonder what the other people in class are thinking about...
7. Cupcakes. I love cupcakes!
8. I really wish I had a cupcake right now..
9. It's weird that one of the top search terms for my blog is "cupcake".. Do I really write about them that often?
10. I should definitely write a blog when I get home!

Speaking of Savasana thoughts, this is my favorite yoga video on Youtube:



Oh, and in case you're curious about the commercial... Here it is! Now you can have it in YOUR head during Savasana, too!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Review: Manduka eQua Plus Towel

There are few things in life that give me more pride that the giant hole I have worn in my yoga mat. Every time I look at it I beam thinking about the hours of yoga practice it took to cause such a gaping hole in my high-end yoga mat. It's been by my side through many break-throughs and break downs. So, obviously, I am not interested in throwing it out or replacing it with another one.

But, lately, I've been feeling just a little bit self conscious about my old, stinky, worn out mat when I go to studio classes. I try not to worry about what other people think of me, but nobody wants to be perceived as the smelly person in class (or, in this case, the person with the smelly mat). Of course, my mat doesn't stink, but I think it looks like it might. You know what I mean?
So when Manduka offered to let me try one of their eQua Plus Towels, I thought it might be the perfect solution for me. The towel is big enough to cover my hole!! Plus, it turns out it's pretty useful, too. In a hot and sweaty class, it kept my hands and feet from slipping. I also love the girly color--I chose pink, obviously!--and the soft, velvety feel (which was really surprising to me because it's made out of recycled coconut shells). And Manduka promises their coconut fabric is a technology that eliminates bacteria and will never stink! I also love that this is a product with tons of uses. I plan to take mine with me to the pool, gym, and wrap up in it when I'm chilly for my morning meditation session.