5 Favorite Things About Yoga

When you think about yoga, you probably think of super skinny flexible women who can do all of the expert poses. While I’ve been practicing yoga for a couple years now (mostly three times a week), I’m still working towards that point. It’s nice to have goals though, right?¬†Sometimes it’s difficult to feel motivated to get on the mat to practice yoga, so I’ve come up with my five¬†favorite things about yoga.

Yoga pose

Reach towards the goodness of yoga.

1. Cool-sounding poses

Sanskrit, a classical Indian language that goes back thousands of years, is the language of yoga. Within this language is a philosophy that breathes deep into our minds and bodies when we practice. When you hear certain words, it taps into your consciousness and can help you get the most out of class. My favorite ones are tadasana (mountain pose), supta baddha konasana (reclining bound angle pose), and savasana (corpse pose). The words might sound a bit scary at first, and it helps if you learn some of the syllables and how to pronounce the words.

2. Different levels

Almost everyone (and any gender) can practice a variety of yoga poses. Everyone has to start somewhere, and you can focus on different parts of your body you want to improve from core to arms to back to legs. Most of the poses aren’t that difficult, but if you do them repeatedly, that’s when it can get a bit tough, so stamina is the key here.¬†Thousands of YouTube videos will help you get started, and¬†most gyms offer yoga group fitness classes, or you can go to a local yoga studio. Beginner, immediate, and advanced are the main levels, so more practice equates to leveling up.

3. Mental health benefits

Practicing yoga consistently helps improve and elevates your mood, reduces anxiety, and eases the symptoms of depression. Yoga also decreases inflammation in your brain, increases positive emotions and lowers negative ones, boosts your brain power, improves memory and concentration, protects your brain from aging, and helps you feel more mentally alert and energetic.

4. Physical health benefits

Yoga has a plethora of health benefits, and I can’t even list them all here because it would be too long. The main ones: improves flexibility, posture, and balance; decreases headaches; improves bone health; boosts immunity; drops your blood pressure; improves digestive health and lowers blood sugar.

5. Affecting your life off the mat

Not only are you reaping the benefits of yoga from practicing on the mat, yoga is also affecting your life off the mat in positive ways. Yoga helps you learn how to listen to your mind and body and better, especially your breathing. When you’re flustered from waiting in lines or in traffic, you’re upset about something, or you’re having trouble falling asleep, you learned from yoga how to listen to your breath to help calm you down. Yoga also helps you improve your attitude toward life and the importance of being in the present moment.

After practicing yoga consistently, you’ll start to notice subtle changes in how you feel overall. The benefits of yoga are not instant, but if you stick with it, you’ll improve your quality of life and your relationship with yourself and others. Hopefully these five things listed will motivate you to get started, to keep going, and to never give up! The yoga pains you’ll feel from practicing are just making way for strength and resilience down the road.

What are your favorite things about yoga?

Thanks for reading!

Recognizing Your Inner Voice

As we get older, we realize that nothing worth having in life is easy. If we want to get our graduate degree, we have to work for it. If we want to get six-pack abs, we have to work for it. We face several disappointments along the way, and it starts to make us question, “Am I good enough? What am I doing wrong? Is this goal even attainable?” That’s our inner voice trying to keep us in our comfort zones ‚ÄĒ safe and sound.

Stairs leading up to a mountain.

Just one step at a time.

Our parents probably told us when we were kids, “You can be anything you want when you grow up,” but they didn’t tell us it wasn’t going to be easy.

The first step in attaining anything you want in life is to realize how much you really want it. I’ve wanted A’s so badly in classes, I’ve wanted certain jobs badly, I wanted to have a long-term relationship, etc. I would tell myself, “You know what? I want to prove it to myself that I want this and I’m going to work for it.”

The next step is to write down the goal, what obstacles you would face, what your motivations are, and try to think of ways how you’re going to get there. My inner voice would be full of “yeahbut…” or “well, what if…” When you have bad nerves like I do, and worrying is in your genes, it’s really hard to want to listen to that voice. But don’t let giving up or giving in be an option. Just thank your inner voice for its concerns, and tell yourself the opposite, “I am good enough. I will find a way. I will make this happen.”

Meditation and yoga are excellent ways to start recognizing that voice. You just nod your head, let the thought go, and refocus to being in the present moment. They’re powerful practices for building new neuron pathways in our way to become more resilient and optimistic. Unfortunately, most things in life are not going to be instant like social media, and it’s really hard to practice mediation to become patient and live in the here and now.

But if you value your life, your relationships, and your goals, then you’ll work hard to achieve what you want. Listen, you only get one shot at this life, and trying to get it is better than nothing. Every small step is a victory and a building block for preparing you for what’s next.

The thing is, yeah, some things are totally not going to happen. If you’re too tall, maybe you can’t be astronaut, but you could probably work for NASA if you really wanted. Sometimes physical limitations, citizenship, and age might mean that it’s just not in the cards for you. Maybe the universe has other plans for you.¬†However, if¬†you keep asking the universe, have faith in yourself, believe in yourself, and you start opening your mind to opportunities that come along the way, you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish with dedication, effort, and perseverance.

“There’s no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.”

What have you achieved from never giving up?

7 Unique Ways to Practice Mindful Meditation

When you think of mindful meditation, you might think of having to take time out of your day to sit cross-legged with your hands on your knees saying, “ohm.” You don’t have to practice meditation just this way though. Mindful meditation can be incorporated into activities and practiced in many different ways.

Women meditating with hearts in front of her

Love the present moment.

The main thing to know about mindful meditation is that it’s all about awareness in the present moment without judgment. It sounds so simple, yet so difficult, especially when we feel we don’t have enough time, but you just have to make it a priority. I’ve offered a few unique ways to practice mindful meditation:

1.Walking meditation
If you ever walk your dog, walk during your lunch break, or walk to/from your car in the parking lot, you can practice walking meditation. To practice, choose a path where you want to practice walking meditation.

Let your arms hang, look straight ahead, and notice your breathing. As you walk, say “in” as you breathe in and say “out” as you breathe out. Sync the “in” with your left foot and your “out” with your right foot. When your mind wanders, come back to your breathing and¬†become more aware of your senses and body motions. Try for 10-15 minutes.

2. Body Scan
You can practice this sitting or lying down in your bed with your eyes open or closed. Starting from the top of your head, imagine that your body is breathing in and out of this area and that every breath releases stress and tension. Continue down your body with your face, neck, shoulders, chest, abdomen, back, arms, hands, mid-area, upper legs, lower legs, feet, and toes. Go as slowly as you can, focusing back to your body when your mind wanders.

3. Practicing yoga
As soon as you roll out the mat, commit your mind fully for the entire length of time you’re practicing yoga. This is SO difficult for me, but I continue to work on it! Every move you make, notice how your body feels, challenge yourself to push further, and notice your breathing. The breath is everything in yoga, so if you ever feel your mind wander, come back to your breath.

4. Driving
When you’re in the car, maybe turn off the radio to spend that time by yourself. Notice how you’re feeling. Are you rushing? Are you angry? You have complete control to decide to enjoy the scenery, observe your surroundings, and staying calm. Notice your breath. Just breathe out the stress of the day and decide to shift your attitude toward being awesome and having a good day.

5. Eating
This is my favorite way to practice mindful meditation! Decide to turn off the TV or music and to make it just you and the meal. With every bite you take, notice how it feels and tastes on your tongue. As you chew, savor the flavors of your meal. As you sip your tea or coffee, enjoy the warmth of the liquid and how it feels running down your throat. Make every moment count.

6. Bathing
When you’re in the shower, notice your thoughts. Are they wandering towards your worries? Planning out what you need to do for the day or what you have left to do? Instead, shift your awareness to the warmth of the water on your body, the touch of the loofah, the smell of the soap as you lather. Enjoy this time for yourself.

7. Reciting gathas 
Last but not least, you can practice reciting gathas as you do trivial activities, like folding the laundry or washing dishes. These short poems can shift you back to the present moment when you wake up or fall asleep. You can learn more here.

The present is all we have. We can’t change the past, we can’t predict the future, so you might as well enjoy the little moments throughout the day to make the most of it. Be grateful for these moments. Focusing on the present with mindful meditation will help ease your anxiety, regulate your moods, and make your brain overall more resilient.

What suggestions do you have to practice mindful meditation?

5 Favorite Yoga YouTube Channels

After practicing yoga several times a week¬†at home for a year, I keep coming back to these 5 Yoga YouTube Channels. Practicing yoga weekly was a New Year’s goal last year, and I wanted to do it in the comfort of my home. With the following experienced yoga instructors, I was able to do just that. If practicing yoga (more often) is your goal, you can easily get started and get going with these 5 Yoga YouTube channels!

A silhouette of a person doing a tree pose.

Find the peace and serenity within with yoga.

Do you want to work on core? Get your heart rate up? Need a quick morning sess before heading out? You can bet your namaste there’s a YouTube instructor that can help you out.

  1. Get started with SaraBeth’s 7-day challenge of 15-minute morning videos. When you’re ready, you can move on to her 30-day challenge!

2. If you’re looking to improve your flexibility, need something light, or need to relieve pain, YogaTX has a plethora of videos available just for you. By the way, Cole Chance is the best!

3. For all types of yoga and types of levels, YogawithAdriene will lift your spirits with her positive attitude and playfulness.

4. When you’re ready for more challenging yoga videos, you should definitely practice with BrettLarkinYoga:

5. Last but not least, YogaUpload has several videos for strong beginners, intermediate yogis, and advanced yogis.

Bonus: PsycheTruth and YogaWithCandace are also great channels with experienced instructors. You don’t need much to get started: a mat, an Internet connection, and a comfortable workout outfit will do the trick. Yoga is like poppin’ Pringles (but healthier) because once you start, you won’t be able to stop. You’ll feel more relaxed and sleep better in the long run, too. Namaste.

What are you favorite yoga YouTube channels? Do you like practicing at home or prefer a studio?

Stressful Moments: 5 Gathas to Practice Mindful Meditation

Life is full of anxious moments, right?¬†Maybe you feel stressed out about the stuff on your to-do list for school or work or that hot date you have coming up. Your mind is racing about the future, or maybe it’s overanalyzing¬†something that happened in the past. Experiencing the present moment gets forgotten, and becomes dust in the wind. ¬†To refocus your mind to the here and now, you can practice mindful meditation by reciting a gatha poem.

A buddha with a swirly background.

This buddha is encouraging you to practice mindful meditation.

What the heck are gatha poems? They are simple short poems that you can say in any situation to mindfully meditate. You can even make one up if you’d like.

Below are just a few that can help you be more mentally present:

1. My favorite gatha to recite before going in for a job interview, date, or presentation:

I know I am breathing in,
I know I am breathing out.
Breathing in, I calm my body,
breathing out I smile.
I dwell in this present moment.
I know this is a precious moment. (Thich Nhat Hanh)

2. When you’re stuck in traffic and panicking about being late (or want to honk at the slowpokes in front of you):

This car is my legs.
It goes where I choose.
When I drive with awareness,
everyone lives in safety. (Andrew Weiss)

3. Right before you get on the phone (this is one for the millennials ;-):

Before picking up the telephone,
words can travel thousands of miles.
May my words create mutual understanding and love.
May they be as beautiful as gems,
as lovely as flowers. (Thich Nhat Hanh)

4. To help get you out of bed in the morning:

Waking up this morning, I smile.
Twenty four brand new hours are before me.
I vow to live fully in each moment
and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion. (Thich Nhat Hanh)

5. Before you go to bed at night:

Falling asleep at last
I vow with all beings
To enjoy the dark and the silence
And rest in the vast unknown. (Robert Aitkin, Roshi)

You can recite gathas when you’re petting your dog, eating a salad, watching your kids play, folding laundry…just about anything. Mindful meditation calms our nerves and reinvigorates our energy throughout the day. Life is too short not to enjoy the smallest moments.

What are your favorite gatha poems?

Review: Presence by Amy Cuddy

Presence by Amy CuddyImagine that you have just finished a job interview, a debate, a presentation, or a sales pitch and afterwards, you come up with what you could have said or done that would have made it better. Sound familiar? Most of us have experienced those feelings of regret before.

Amy Cuddy, who has a Ph.D. in social psychology from Princeton University, wrote Presence¬†to present her research about how we can manipulate our body to “trick” in order to feel¬†more confident and to bring out the best versions of ourselves. The nonverbal communication tactics include power posing and breathing management.

One of the power poses has affectionally been nicknamed “Wonder Woman” from¬†her TED Talk, “Your body language shapes who you are.” (The TED Talk is at the end of this post.)

Cuddy shares¬†a personal story where she suffered a brain injury from a car accident while she was in college, and the accident lowered her IQ. Because of the injury, it took her another four years to finish college, but she went on to graduate school. She¬†discusses how she felt the dreadful “imposter syndrome” and how she overcame it over time by using¬†nonverbal communication tactics along the way.

I found Presence to be insightful. Cuddy supplies both qualitative and quantitative studies to provide evidence for her argument that your body can communicate to your mind before you communicate to your body. So to all the women out there: no more slouching and hunching over Рsit up straight and expand your body to show confidence!

Cuddy provides a plethora of¬†anecdotes and studies with statistical findings to support her argument that you can “fake it until you become it.” She also discussed a study where veterans slowly overcame powerful symptoms of PTSD with yoga sessions, which is a combination of poses and breathing that help¬†us feel calm and confident.

Although her findings illuminated the theory, some chapters were long and dense, but the read was worth it. If you’ve read Presence¬†or have seen her TED Talk, what do you think? Have you tried power posing before going into high-pressure situations?