Life Update

Hey all, I can’t believe it’s already been a couple months since I last wrote a blog! I meant to write a few a week, but I got a second part-time job, and I’ve been so busy lately. This time last year I was getting ready to defend my thesis for my master’s thesis! Oh, how things change. Anyway, I’ve been planning a lot for my wedding in June. Just a few details left…picking out the songs has been one of the hardest parts!

I updated our website¬†with our engagement photos, story of how we met, details of the event, and of course, our registry. We’re doing a nontraditional registry called a honeyfund because we would both like to go to the east coast. My fianc√© is originally from there, and I’ve always wanted to go there. We’re flying into NYC, driving up through Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, and driving down through New Hampshire and Vermont back to Boston to fly back to Denver.

 

Right now I’m working part-time as a junior content manager at GoAbroad.com, and the contract ends the end of this month. It’s been great practicing my writing and editing muscles and learning about SEO. Here’s my lovely profile. I also started working as a caregiver for HomeInstead a couple months ago, and it’s taught me a lot about patience and compassion.

Other than that, I’ve been riding my bike and doing yoga as much as I can every week. My fianc√© and I are still keeping up with our plant-based diet. Lately, we’ve been trying out quinoa apple salads, beet burgers, and veggie soups. Some days are harder than others to keep up with it, and we splurge every now and then on junk food. We’ve heard the first year to transitioning to it is the hardest, but we’re keeping on! I notice I feel a lot better and don’t get as many headaches from it as well.

I still definitely need to cut out more sugar!

My neighbor also let me borrow a book called The Name of the Wind¬†and its sequel¬†Wise Man’s Fear¬†by Patrick Rothfuss. I read both of them. They’re about an orphan boy who learns how to be an arcanist (a wizard) in a supernatural world. If you like¬†Harry Potter, I’m pretty sure you would like these books, too. The third one should come out soon, and I’m excited to read it!

I probably won’t have much time to read in the next few months with planning a wedding, honeymoon, and working. This month is also filled with family birthdays including mine (yay #26). Well, I suppose aging is a privilege as my grandpa liked to say.

Thank you for reading!

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!

9 Yoga Poses for Traveling in Cars, Airports, and Planes

While traveling to new places can be exciting and adventurous, it¬†takes a toll on your body and mind. From the stress of making your flight on time to the frustration of¬†being cramped in a small seat, ¬†you’ll feel the aches and pains from your head down to your toes. The good news is, however, that you can still practice yoga poses on the way to your destination.

Colorful person doing a tree pose.

You can do yoga just about anywhere.

Mats and candles? Not needed. As you’re going, get the blood flowing with these yoga stretches:

Cars/Buses: You might need to sit down for these poses. Well, actually, you probably don’t have much of a choice (haha). Sitting down for long periods of time tightens your entire body and slows down your body’s circulation. While in your seat, repeat some of these poses ‚ÄĒ

  • Seated cat/cow: With your hands on your knees, breathe in as you look up and then breathe out as you arch your back and look down between your legs. It’s all about using your core here. You might hear your back crack a couple of times, which feels oh so good.
  • Lotus pose: Not recommended if you have knee issues, but highly recommended to stretch your hips and inner thighs. You can do half-lotus, where you’ll place your right foot onto your left thigh, take about 10 breaths, and repeat. You could also do full lotus, where you’ll sit with¬†your right foot onto your left thigh and your left foot onto your right thigh at the same time. Let your hands rest on your knees as you straighten your back for 10 breaths.
  • Eagle pose: To circulate the blood more¬†and to stretch your shoulders and back muscles, try this pose. Bend your arms to a 90 degree angle. Place your right elbow under your left elbow, interlock them, and try to press your palms together. Make sure your shoulders are reaching away from your ears and your elbows are parallel to the floor.¬†Place your right leg over your left leg, hook your right foot on your left leg’s calf, and squeeze. Inhale, take a few breaths, and switch.

Airports: Even though airports are crawling with crowds, you still have the freedom to practice yoga poses by your gate¬†in an open area. Bonus: You can practice standing poses. No need to be embarrassed, as you’ll never see most of these people again.

  • Halfway lift: A great pose to stretch your hamstrings and to alleviate anxiety/depression and digestion. As¬†you’re standing with both feet on the floor, reach to touch your toes. Then inhale as you rest your hands onto your calves or thighs in a halfway position, straighten your back, and exhale as you reach to your toes again.
  • Mountain pose:¬†Stand with your arms at your sides, palms facing outward. With your feet flat on the floor, slightly apart, press your weight evenly on the balls and arches of your feet. Use your thigh muscles to engage your knees slightly upward, lengthen your tailbone with a neutral pelvis, and move your shoulders away from your ears to broaden your collarbones. Get tall from your feet to the crown of your head. Soften your face muscles and stay here for several breaths.
  • Seated forward bend:¬†Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Make sure your hips and buttocks both even on the floor. Inhale and lean forward using the hip joints, and reach to grab your feet with your head raised. Inhale to lengthen the torso more and exhale to reach forward more.

Airplanes: Similar to cars and buses, you don’t have much room to stretch, but you can still lean your seat back¬†and practice a couple of poses.

  • Neck, ankle, wrist/hand rolls: Sit straight up with your shoulders down and back, and roll your neck side to side a couple of times then roll your neck to the right side with your right arm over your head reaching for the left ear and your left hand on your shoulder for about 10 breaths. Repeat on the other side. For the ankles, roll your ankles clockwise and counterclockwise several times. Point your toes outward and then flexing inward for a couple of breaths. Repeat this with your wrists and hands.
  • Twisted chair pose: This is a great pose for lubricating the spine, and twists are always great for digestion. While sitting, inhale your hands into a prayer position. Keep your knees side by side and twist from the spine as you exhale your right elbow onto your left knee. Now exhale your left elbow onto your right knee.
  • Anterior/posterior shoulder stretch: With both feet on the floor, lean forward as you grab the chair behind you. Keep extending as you move forward and hold for about 10 breaths. With your feet on the floor, reach your arms outward and interlace your fingers with your palm inward. Round your back as you drop your head to look down and hold for about 10 breaths.

Lather, rinse, repeat. When you arrive at your accommodation, you can do a couple of child poses and bridge poses in your hotel room to loosen you up even more. Throw in a few planks and other balancing poses if you’re up for it. If you have the time and there’s an exercise room nearby, you’re in luck to do a lengthier yoga routine!

What are your favorite poses to do while you’re on the move?

Thank you 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?

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?