Yoga Practice

Yoga Jams

First off, thanks so much for all the support, comments, shares, and feedback on my previous post: Lessons Learned from NEDA Awareness Week. It has been one of my most popular posts of the year(along with my Whole 30 post)! After my last post I kept thinking about what to write. I have so many ideas but none of them seem right to write at this very moment or they need more time to hash out in my journal. There has been so much going on in the Insta IG World and in my own personal life that I’ve been overwhelmed on where to go. I have had a rough week, and I almost decided not to write a post. But then I remembered my intention to blog every other week–so here I am.

If you know me or come to my classes you know that music plays a huge role in my approach. I love creating playlists or let my students choose the music in case I don’t have a playlist curated. I firmly believe that music can enhance a yoga class and can make people feel comfortable in a setting that can be intimidated. If I can do anything to make a yoga class less intimidating and more relaxing I’ll do it! Music can also  make one work harder, focus better, or turn a bad mood into a good one. So here are some of my top playlists:

 

 

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Body Positivity/Feel Good Playlist

*songs guaranteed to turn your frown upside and make you feel good about your body*

Feeling Good, Nina Simone
Video, India.Arie
Backwoods Barbie, Dolly Parton
Hey Girl, Lady Gaga & Florence Welch
Proud Mary, Tina Turner
Straight Up, Paula Abdul
I Got You (I Feel Good), James Brown
I’m Every Woman, Chaka Khan
The Glory of Love, Nina Simone
Brave, Sara Bareilles
These Boots Are Made For Walking, Loretta Lynn
Beautiful, Christina Aguilera
(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, Carole King
Lady, Stevie Nicks
Greatest Love of All, Whitney Houston

I Believe in Love and Jam Bands

*songs by your favorite jam bands that will open that heart chakra and let love flow*

Appalachia Waltz, Yo-Yo Ma/Mark O’Connor/Edgar Meyer
Tennessee Waltz, Appalachian Pickers
Soulshine,Gov’t Mule
Prickly Pear, Bela Fleck
Last Chance to Dance Trance, Medeski, Martin, & Wood
Jessica, Allman Brothers
Free, Phish
Everyday, Dave Matthews Band
Don’t Stop Believing, Vitamin String Quartet
I Believe In A Thing Called Love, Vitamin String Quartet
Simple Gifts, Yo-Yo Ma & Alison Krauss
Spiegel im Spiegel, Angele Dubeau
Breath, Helen Jane Long

Electric Flow

*for all my electronica yogis out there, get your flow on with these electronic tracks*

Moonbeams, MC Yogi & East Forest
Awake, Tycho
Ghost, Kiln
Dictaphone’s Lament, Tycho
Yellow Bird (Michal Menert Remix), Pretty Lights
White Lies, Odesza & Jenni Potts
Finally Moving, Pretty Lights
Innocence, Madeon
Bass Head, Bassnectar
You, Gold Panda
Love & Feeling, Chet Faker
Gooey, Glass Animals
Drift Away, Pretty Lights
Part Two-In My Own Way, Ray LaMontagne

Dedicated to Tom Petty

*I made this playlist after Tom Petty died, 45 minutes of some Tom Petty classics and deep cuts*

Dreamville
You Don’t Know How It Feels
You Wreck Me
Don’t Do Me Like That
American Girl
Free Fallin’
I Won’t Back Down
Turn This Car Around
Here Comes My Girl
Insider
Wildflowers

I Love the 70s

*quintessential classics that will make you take out your lighter while holding Chair Pose*

Junk, Paul McCartney
Baby, I Love Your Way, Peter Frampton
More Than A Woman, Bee Gees
I’ve Got A Feeling, The Beatles
Sugar Magnolia, The Grateful Dead
Learning to Fly, Pink Floyd
Spirit In The Sky, Norman Greenbaum
Dreams, Fleetwood Mac
Heart of Gold, Neil Young
Romeo and Juliet, Dire Straits
Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters, Elton John
Into the Mystic, Van Morrison
My Melancholy Blues, Queen

The Go-To

*this playlist is good for any yoga class and suits all musical tastes, my go-to when I or my students can’t decide on what to play*

All The Wild Horses, Ray LaMontagne
Heart Is A Drum, Beck
Queen of California, John Mayer
Girl, Beck
All I Ever Wonder, St.Paul & the Broken Bones
Funkier Than a Mosquito’s Tweeter, Nina Simone
Sugar Never Tasted So Good (Acoustic), Jack White
Hit ‘Em Up Style, Carolina Chocolate Drops
Take a Walk, Passion Pit
Lovely Day, Bill Withers
What is Life, George Harrison
Can’t You See, Marshall Tucker Band
Souls Like the Wheels, Avett Brothers
Let’s Be Still, The Head and the Heart

My Favorite Pre-Made Playlists (Apple Music): Classic Acoustic, Relaxed/Remixed, Pure Yoga, Essential 70s Soft Rock, 80s Smash Hits, Today’s Chill, Rock Hits: 1973, The Beatles: Best Pop Songs

My Favorite Pre-Made Playlists (Amazon): Chill Indie for Yoga, Coffee Shop Electric, Mellow 70s Gold, 50 Great Beatles Songs, Classical for Yoga, Alt Pop for Yoga

Blog Posts about Music: That’s My Jam!, O, listen to the music, Say it in Song   

 

What are some of your favorite yoga jams? What artists help you get your flow on? What has been the most bizarre song you’ve heard or put on a playlist?

 

 

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Lessons From NEDA Awareness Week 2018

Each year I participate in the National Eating Disorder Association’s (NEDA) Awareness Week. I have done something for it every year since I began recovery, roughly six years ago-I honestly can’t remember. Is that bad? Each year I have done more and more to raise awareness and try to make each year bigger, better, and more impactful. I am passionate about NEDA Awareness Week because to me it reminds me so much of the 12th Step, “having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we carry this message to other(s) {insert addiction} and practice these principles in all our affairs”.  I use this to educate others, draw awareness to this deadly disease, and also use this week to focus on full support for others who have been through this. Even providing them a platform to share their stories and perspectives. This year I took the last step and took twelve ginormous steps and went all out for this week.

 

 

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What did I do? One of the many things I did was host an Instagram challenge. I partnered with my recovery and yoga soul sister in Tulsa, Cassandra McCoy, to start a challenge. Then Cassandra and I got a sponsor (who turned out to be a new friend!), Jamie at Evolve Fitness OKC. We wanted a challenge that was accessible to everyone and be more than crazy yoga poses. Our challenge was, Spread ED Awareness. Each day we would provide either a statistic or blurb about eating disorders. Then we had a word that was inspired by the post with a corresponding challenge. Challenges were:

  1. A yoga pose that makes you feel confident
  2. What activity did you do that you “failed ” at? Did you try it again?
  3. How have you been resourceful in your workout(s)/Got creative with them
  4. What activity or life event has made you feel strong?
  5. What is something that you have done that made you feel uneasy and vulnerable?
  6. Who supported you during recovery? Maybe you supported someone, who were they?
  7. Last but not least, share your story!

 

 

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I’m not going to lie, I thought this would be “successful” (you’ll see why I use quotes around that). I thought people would be down to participate, especially since we had some cool prizes lined up and it was for a cause. However, I came to realize this wasn’t the case. People “liked” the idea but only a handful of people participated. I was hurt. I was sad. I was disappointed. Cassandra, Jamie, and myself had put so much time into these posts, deciding what to present, etc…and the turn out was low. Somedays I didn’t want to participate in my own challenge. I thought to myself, “if this was a handstand IG challenge or an inversion challenge more people would do this“.

 

Then I saw a post from someone I follow on IG (Justin Wolfer) talking about how it doesn’t matter the size of your following or audience, it’s what you do with it. Talk about a perspective change! I realized my ego was in the way and it was hidden by good intentions. I lost sight of the twelfth step. I told myself, ” It’s not about participants its about spreading awareness and educating”. I then began to focus on all the engagements my posts were getting, the people who were commenting on them, or reaching out to me. That right there is what #NEDAAwarenessWeek is all about.

 

 

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My donation class at Evolve Fitness

 

 

In addition to this challenge I wanted to host a clothing drive. Clothing drives are a great way to practice yoga because it is yoga. Donating clothes is a practice of:

  1. Brahmacharya (non-excess)
  2. Aparigraha (non-greed, non-possessiveness)
  3. Saucha (purity, cleanliness)
  4. Karma (action, generating)

 

I didn’t want just one clothing drive and for me to be the only one participating (which would have a limited reach). I wanted the whole community to get involved. So I decided to reach out to all the fellow yoga teachers and ask if anyone wanted to host a clothing drive for our local YWCA. Much to my surprise I got three other studios involved! Cycle 3Sixty wanted to host a clothing drive/free class AND they did a #WearYourPurple day-every tag/person who wore purple they matched one dollar and donated to NEDA. My pals at Hidden Dragon Yoga in Edmond wanted to have a box for a week. Evolve Fitness, the sponsor for the IG challenge, had a day of free classes for clothes. Then I had my class at Core Nutrition.  When the week had come to a close I counted over 50 bags of clothes!

 

 

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It touched my heart to see so many people come together and do something for other people. To clean out their closets and their hearts, to make space for love. To build community and unite for a cause–being close to Spring and the itch to spring clean doesn’t hurt either….Sometimes it is hard to see the goodness in people, especially in our social media and headline driven world.

 

In addition to having my faith restored in people, seeing the light, and changing my perspective about Instagram (for the one billionth time hah!) this was the biggest thing I learned: Something Small Can Have a Big Impact. I guess I always knew that but it wasn’t till this week and reflecting upon these lessons did I really see it/understand it.  Not only is this shown through the clothing drives–these clothes will go to our local chapter of the YWCA– but I saw it through my friend, recovery warrior,  only participant, and winner: Nikki. Nikki pledged to do this challenge about a month ago then her son died. She almost didn’t participate but decided to anyway. I told her I hoped she found some healing and used this as a way to deal with her grief. Nikki told me that it did help her. That right there is more than enough. That statement is why I did what did and made it all worth it. She got what she needed to go on and live life.

 

What did you do for NEDA Awareness Week? Share below!

 

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Back to the Mat of Things

The beauty of life and yoga is the fluidity of it. Life is always moving, forward, circular, constantly, never stagnant. Yoga is the same way. Yoga follows you wherever the current takes you. It helps you maintain the flow and keeps you from drowning in the waters of life. What else is great about yoga is that there are many limbs and facets to yoga that one can always practice it. If you follow me, take my classes, or know a little about my opinion on yoga; you know I always talk about the non asana limbs of yoga. While asana is great and much needed it shouldn’t be the only thing we focus on. Until recently, I never really understood how much asana is needed, especially in my life.

This past month has been a whirlwind. Talk about the never stagnant waters of life. May was the month of dance, dance, dance, new blog adventure (check out auminthearts.com), writing, yoga, and more dance. All this combined made for one tornadoesque month. There was so much going on that I didn’t get to practice much yoga…asana. I was trying to act mindfully, eat well, breathe, BUT, my asana practice was lacking. Which showed me how much that one limb of yoga influences the other seven limbs.

Without practicing asana it was hard for me to be still. Without practicing asana I couldn’t work out that excess and anxious energy to focus on my many tasks at hand. Without the asana I didn’t fully catch my breath or know where it was. Without asana my eating disorder thoughts began to arise because I wasn’t “working out”, “moving my body” enough to eat (even though I was dancing up a storm). Then there was myyoga-1146277_1920 physical body…it hurt. My hips were always stiff which interfered with my dancing. My knee pain was worse. The un-rounding of the shoulders I’ve been working on and opening the thoracic spine work started to go away.  My back was achy and not mobile, which again impairs dance performance. Everything sucked!

I didn’t want life to suck. I didn’t want my body suck. My dancing sure as hell couldn’t suck and neither could my new blog! So I made sure I put asana back in forefront of my day to day happenings. I woke up earlier. I did small sessions of yoga throughout the day. On the weekends I did restorative yoga. If I had five extra minutes I was in a yoga pose, be it a down dog or splaying on my new yoga wheel. And guess what? This ebbing and flowing river that was May began to be calm, or maybe I was just steadier. All because of my asana practice!

How does your asana practice influence your life? What do you notice if you don’t practice enough of the physical yoga? Can you practice too much physical yoga? Now onto June! Keep swimming in the yoga waters…

 

 

InstaED

I have recently became a part of the Instagram world. At first I joined reluctantly, I am not a big social media fan. I am content with a Facebook (sometimes) and an email. When I made the decision to become a “big girl” and more business oriented I made an Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. I actually enjoy Instagram. Who would have thought? It is nice to just post pictures. No drama, no political opinions, just people posting pictures of their dogs, dancing, yoga, and other oddities of their/your daily life. Fantastic! I got down with that. It then occurred to me that as a yoga professional, while not a rule but it seems to be understated, “yoga selfies” are to be part of your account….really? I thought I was doing good just to post fun yoga philosophy and positivity quotes with my kombucha.

The whole “yoga selfie” movement is one I struggle with daily. I look over my Insta feed and I see all these amazing poses. These thin, toned, beautiful yogini’s-wearing next to nothing- or strong, muscular, yogi’s doing insane arm balances (hello eight-angle pose, and pincha on your elbows, and other poses that make me scratch my head). I begin to feel inadequate. I can’t do some of those poses. I don’t practice certain poses (if it feels bad I don’t do it). I don’t wear the fancy expensive yoga clothes, and I definitely don’t pose half clothed. On the flip side, I also follow lots of bigger yogini’s and I am amazed at what they do too. They can do postures I can’t do. Most of them are so confident with their bodies they don’t wear much clothing either. And again here I am just stuck in the middle like WTF?

I see the thin girls and feel bad about myself. I see the bigger women and feel bad about myself. The thin toned girls make me not want to eat. They make me want to work out more, maybe even push myself into those crazy poses that hurt me. The bigger women make me think “why can’t I feel that good about myself? They wear bathing suits why can’t I?”. Or I am little and I have no place because being naturally petite lumps me into the thin privilege realm. I CAN’T WIN. Can we also talk about how ALL their selfies look amazing. Perfectly timed, gorgeous sunsets and sunrises, hair in all the right places, perfect angles. They even have the perfect yoga space in their house.

Melvin ( my ED for the new readers), speaks to me all the time. Even subconsciously. It all starts with the long gaze and intense study of the pictures. Then the thoughts come. Then comes his greatest tool, self-pity and self-loathing. His words of “you aren’t worthy”, “you are not gonna inspire anyone”, “how can you teach yoga when you don’t look like that?”, “you can’t do that posture or look good on Instagram and that is why no one comes to your studio” etc…I begin to believe. I begin to contemplate not eating. I begin to contemplate over exercising. My depression and anxiety kick in. The out of control feeling begins sets in like when I am doing Pilates Roll-Overs on the Reformer. So what do I do? I continue with my yoga selfies because that is what I am suppose to do as a yoga professional…

My pictures and videos are all wonky. You can definitely tell I can take my own pictures and that I try really hard to get in the frame. Most of the time I make a fun yoga quip about the horrendousness that is my yoga selfie. I have said on more than one occasion, “taking yoga selfies is just like yoga practice, you got to practice it”. I try to present myself as real as possible. My videos always have my dog, I wear gym shorts, I am open about how I practice and what I don’t practice. I am known to use props (which I LOVE them, #propitup), that I don’t do much asana, and I spend more time on the other seven limbs. My flows aren’t perfect. I stumble. I am me. As much as I try to make them perfect, I always present them imperfectly. Why? Because it goes against Melvin. I think about those people who want imperfection, a yoga teacher who is like them. A teacher who doesn’t wear $100 yoga pants and parade around half naked (Even though I am overtly critical about what I look like *cough do I look thin enough cough*). A teacher who openly shares her yoga struggle because yoga reveals her pain and anger. A teacher who isn’t afraid to say “I don’t know” or recommend another teacher.  A teacher who doesn’t do hot yoga (even though all my classes are hot because you are in it), and loves teaching beginners. A teacher who lets you talk in class and makes jokes. A teacher who lets you be you because she is learning how to be herself.

*if you do want to follow me on Instagram and see not only my yoga selfie fails, but my incredibly cute puppy, #dogiwinston, follow me @downtownyogaknox. *