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Wellness

4 Ways To Practice Self-Care As A Yoga Teacher

By Wellness, Yoga TeachersNo Comments


As a yoga teacher, you can be many different roles to those that come to your yoga classes. Some come to class for a full body workout, which is our job to deliver for both body and mind. Some will share personal struggles, like the passing of a parent or recent job loss. Some will be healing from an injury or surgery, and will share because they will need pose modification instructions. Some have been practicing yoga for 50 years and ask ways to make the practice more geared to gentle yoga. Some tell you of their current divorce or financial worries, and they still find the money to take your yoga class. Most times you find all of this information out 10 minutes before the yoga class begins.

Our jobs as yoga teachers is to listen, offer compassion, and use the asana to facilitate openness, even if momentarily. In the high powered, maximum intensity life can sometimes feel like, yoga provides relief.

With all that we do for students, it is vital that we remember self-care. Let’s review four self-care experiences you can do as often as possible.

1. Go for a walk outside

Research has proven the scientific benefits of getting out in nature and enjoying a walk. Links to stress relief within minutes of being outdoors has been associated with reduced muscle strain, blood pressure, and brain flurry. Some days a yoga teacher can be inside a yoga studio for hours, and it’s that breath of fresh air needed after teaching that restores and rebalances. Current studies have pointed to people who walk leisurely as happier than runners, recreation tennis players, even those that practice yoga because it is about taking it one step at a time. Putting one foot in front of the other, even if for only 15 minutes, can create such joy that lifts away any depletion of energy. During the walk, our “chitta vritti”, Sanskrit for “mind chatter”, is calmed and able to process more evenly, every step of the way. Try it after teaching your next yoga class or private yoga session, and go outside for walk.

2. Practice yoga

The ultimate “practice what you teach” principle is a true self-care act. Yoga promotes better health. One hour to 90 minutes deliveries the physical and mental strength needed to perform at your highest level. Different than any other workout, yoga uses your body weight to tone and define your muscular system. In addition, yoga activates the parasympathetic system that releases tension and restores equilibrium. Full body toning, working with an injury, prescribed by your physician for aid in disease treatment, or as a way to heal and maintain your overall health, the investment in self-care will produce an invaluable return for your quality of life. Remember to keep practicing yoga when teaching yoga.

3. Meditate

Meditation benefits are abundant. Studies indicate that meditation can lower blood pressure and stress levels. Meditation allows you to tune in to, to listen internally. Noticing the fluctuations and natural course of your thinking, helps the mind find stillness. By observing, you’re able to let go of attachment to outcomes and results. Find 10 minutes a day to sit down and go inward. Begin by finding a comfortable seat. Propping your sit bones up on a blanket, cushion, etc. will make it easier to sit for an extended period of time. A mantra to begin with can be as simple as “let go”. On the inhale, silently repeat to yourself “let” and on the exhale, silently repeat to yourself “go”. Meditating is a great practice to do daily for self-care.

4. Get bodywork

All a personal preference that is healthy to explore and know, massages can be a tremendous help. Teaching yoga can take a toll on your physical body. Having regular bodywork keeps your muscles and tendons loose. Also a detoxification method by the stimulation of your soft tissues, massage frees toxins by way of blood and through your lymphatic systems. It can make all the difference for your state of mind, working with a massage therapist as often as you can is the paramount self-care for yoga teachers.

After you teach a yoga class and hear the student with the sore hamstring from a recent marathon say, “I feel so much better, that was an amazing class. Thank you. I don’t feel so tight anymore and can walk a little easier now,” you remember why you teach yoga. By caring for others, we teach an asana sequence that even if beneficial to one individual only, is the reason we teach yoga. Yet we must remember to take care of ourselves equally to remain the consistent, steady teachers we have studied very long to be. Happy self-caring!

 

 

Desirée McKenzie is a yoga teacher and writer. She trained 500+ hours as a Vinyasa Yoga Teacher in 2007, and is a certified Thai Yoga Bodywork Specialist since 2014. Her blended training in the wellness realm create classes that soothe, nourish and strengthen the body. Desirée continues to deepen her yoga studies, focusing on anatomy. She is grateful to have learned the ancient healing practices that maintain equanimity and grace.

 

4 Ways To Overcome Emotional Triggers Though Yoga

By Wellness, Yoga PhilosophyNo Comments

Literally, sometimes it comes on like a wave. Completely unexpected. Uncalled for. And truly throws you into an internal and external fit of not knowing what to do. Have you ever had this feeling come on while watching the news about a particular crime? Or maybe while reading someone’s personal story about a trauma they’ve experienced? Or maybe you’ve had this unexpected feeling come on while in conversation with a colleague who holds limiting perceptions of particular groups of people, or even at lunch with your mother because she thinks you could be doing better.

And just maybe, you’ve had this feeling in a yoga class, right at the end when you’re being asked to close your eyes and take Savasana in a room of strangers.

Do you know what I’m talking about? It’s called being triggered. That wave of unexpected, unsettling, consuming rush of anxiety, panic, fight or flight is called being triggered. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US HAS FELT TRIGGERED! And it’s okay and there is no shame in feeling triggered.

Here’s the thing about being triggered – we have conscious and unconscious understandings of what triggers us. I know from my personal experience, my mother’s way of genuinely expressing interest is to ask me a lot of questions and give me new things to think about in an effort to push me to new heights.

Although I am aware of how my mother expresses interest and support, in my mind, I hear her questioning nudges as, “I am not good enough. She knows I’m not good enough and is telling me so right now. And any successes I’ve had to date are meaningless because I need to be doing more.”

My mother without knowing unearths that wave of triggering emotions and one of two things happens: I shut down and push her away, or, I lash out at her and do my diligence to try to make her upset. Neither of these are good strategies for me or her.

The thing about feeling triggered is someone or something is able to unearth a feeling we haven’t quite dealt with or have made a choice to suppress. In my case, the feeling is insecurity and a sense of low worthiness or low value ascribed to my successes.

Now, I recognize having this conversation with my mother would be beneficial for both of us (and when she reads this, naturally a conversation will ensue). But, I have to stop and take care of myself first, before I can have an effective conversation with my mother or anyone who causes me to feel triggered (or to deal with an event that caused me to feel triggered – like being in a room of strangers with my eyes closed during Savasana).

So how do I that? Yoga! All of the yoga! Sure, going to a power yoga class will make me feel better. But, feelings of being triggered can linger on after I attend a class.

These triggering emotions are necessary, as Thich Nhat Hanh, spiritual leader and Buddhist monk, teaches us. He teaches us that these emotions arise and need to be treated with the same love, care, and affection as you would treat a baby. Once we learn to accept and treat our emotions with loving kindness, their power fades and an emotional healing process can begin. Remember – there is no personal growth without discomfort.

Here are four meditation and pranyama practices I do when I notice my triggers. Next time you feel yourself being triggered emotionally, you can easily do one of these practices in your office, your car, at home, or anywhere else you choose:

 

1. Loving Kindness & Self Love Meditation

Begin in a comfortable seated position (in a chair, on bar stool, on a bolster, wherever), with your eyes preferable open. Fix your gaze on something and place one hand on your heart and the other on your belly. Breathe in deeply through your nose and as you exhale, audibly let the air out of your mouth. Do this about five times. As you engage in this breathing exercise say to yourself the following mantra, “I am light. I am love. I am okay.”


2. Power In The Present Moment Meditation

Begin lying on the floor face down and place a bolster or a thick pillow underneath you – right around your navel (solar plexus chakra). Next stretch your arms out overhead and take a V-position with your legs. You want to resemble a starfish on your stomach. Turn your head to one side (with eyes opened or closed), breathe in through your nose and hold for a slow count of four, and exhale out of your mouth for a slow count of four. While in this pose say to yourself the following mantra, “Today is today. Tomorrow is tomorrow. I am in control of my present.”

3. Acceptance Meditation

Take Supta Baddha Konasana or Reclining Bound Angle pose with a bolster or thick pillow right between your shoulder blades. Place your arms out to the side (If you are at work or somewhere you can take seat, take this pose by placing both hands behind you on your low back, puff your chest out, and lift your head towards the ceiling).

While in this position, choose a fixed point on the ceiling and see who or what it is that has triggered you. Next, speak into the silence, “I feel triggered because…Although, I feel triggered, my heart is open to my discomfort and I am okay.”

4. Inner Strength Meditation

The last and final pose, I find to be helpful when I’m feeling triggered is taking a power stance. The pose is similar to Extended Mountain pose or Upward Salute pose, but instead you look like a vertical starfish. To do this, take your arms overhead, spread wide, and stand firmly grounded with your legs hip width apart. Take a slight backbend and allow your heart to shine towards the ceiling. Bring to mind what has just triggered you – take a deep inhale and audibly exhale. Say to yourself, “I felt triggered because…but, I am taking my power back. I am love. I am power.”

 

Treat what triggers you with love, patience, and understanding because you are okay and you are powerful!

 

 

Valin S. Jordan Ed.D. is an Assistant Professor of Diversity Education at University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Dr. Jordan’s work focuses on teacher identity and narrative as having particular implication for classroom practice. Dr. Jordan engages in contemplative pedagogy through the practice of yoga, she has founded an organization called, Yoga4SocialJustice. The organization is committed to mind and body connection through engagements of social justice and equity principles. More information can be found on Instagram @yoga4socialjustice or on the website https://www.yoga4socialjustice.org/.

 

5 Ways To Cultivate Self Love Through Yoga

By Wellness, Yoga PracticeNo Comments


“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection” – Buddha

With the celebration of Valentine’s Day this week, we often correlate Valentine’s Day with love for others. While our relationships with others is an important aspect of love – the most essential type of love is often overlooked — self love. I’ve created this guide to help you get in touch with and cultivate the most important relationship you will ever have – with yourself.

Yoga practice is an excellent way to reconnect with ourselves and boost our self worth. Yoga allows us the time to just be ourselves and be fully present in our bodies with no judgments. It gives us the time to be still and care for ourselves deeply – in mind, body, and soul.

Self love is about taking the time to celebrate and love yourself fully. It’s about removing negative self talk and reminding yourself just how truly awesome you are. Self love is about taking time to care for yourself and recharging when you need it. It’s also about reminding yourself that when you do love you more fully – you not only fill yourself up with more love — but that love begins to spill over and radiate out into the world.

Here are 5 simple ways that you can start cultivating self love today.

1. Take Time To Celebrate Yourself

Cultivating self love allows us to let go of our negative self talk. It gives us the opportunity to reframe and see ourselves in a more positive light. We tend to focus on the things we do wrong or our regrets instead of focusing on our accomplishments and successes.

Practice acknowledging all the amazing things you do or wonderful things that you love about yourself. You could do this by writing down a list of things you love about you in a journal. These things could be physical things, accomplishments, or traits you love about yourself. Look at your list often and take time to meditate on it frequently.

Here’s a great ‘celebrating you’ meditation you can do easily anywhere:

Celebrate Yourself Meditation: Begin lying down or sitting in a comfortable position. Bring your attention to your natural breathing cycle for about a minute; just simply observing it – not trying to change it in any way. Next, bring to mind 15-20 things you love about yourself. As you bring these things to mind, imagine feeling that love and appreciation in your heart for yourself radiating outwards into the world. Stay in this meditation for as long as you’d like.

2. Give Yourself ‘Me Time’

Many of us live busy lives in which we have numerous responsibilities to others; this includes our relationships to our loved ones, children, or our jobs. We sometimes focus so much on giving to others that we forget to give to ourselves – making us feel drained. Remind yourself the more you fill up your own cup with self love, the more love you’ll have to give to others.

Here are some ideas for your next ‘me time’:

• Meditate daily
• Practice pranayama or deep breathing exercises
• Cook and eat a lovely meal for yourself
• Take yourself out on a date
• Go for a relaxing walk
• Listen to soothing music
• Exercise
• Buy yourself flowers
• Book a massage or spa appointment
• Enjoy a nice warm cup of tea or coffee
• Read a book
• Write in a journal
• Take a long relaxing bath
• Enjoy a glass of nice wine

3. Practice Self Love Affirmations

Practice saying positive things about yourself through daily affirmations. Affirmations are a powerful practice that can change your belief systems on a deep subconscious level. Write down a few of your favorite affirmations on a sticky note and put them in places where you’ll be reminded daily. You can even make a reminder on your phone and affirm these to yourself several times a day. You could also set aside 5-15 minutes to sit in stillness and repeat the affirmations in meditation.

Here are some affirmations you can use to boost your self love:

• “I am more than enough”
• “I love myself fully and completely”
• “I accept myself as I am”
• “I love myself unconditionally”
• “I love my body and all that it does for me”
• “I am worthy of all the love, joy, and abundance in the world”
• “The only approval I need for myself is my own”
• “I release any negative judgments I have about myself”
• “I love the woman or man that I am”
• “I am strong, powerful, and full of radiant energy”

4. Set Healthy Boundaries For Yourself

Self love means setting healthy boundaries for your and knowing what your core values are. Remind yourself that you don’t need anyone else’s approval but your own to live your best true life.

Setting boundaries sometimes means letting go of negative situations or people in our lives. Meditation helps us to be more aware of our emotions and things in our lives. Take time to sit in stillness and allow your inner wisdom to guide you. If something is draining you or taking away your joy, have the courage to remove it from your life.

5. Yoga Sequence For Self Love

Practicing self love is a very soothing practice that requires surrender and peace. It’s also an empowering act that gives us strength and courage. To sequence yoga poses for self love, consider calming yoga poses combined with power poses.

Here we’ve created a mini self love sequence you can do at home easily:

Child

Delve into self acceptance and self love through the surrender of Child pose. As you hold this pose for up to a minute or longer, repeat the following mantra to yourself; “I am enough.”

To do this pose, begin on your hands and knees. Sink your hips back towards your heels and reach your arms forward. Relax your belly onto your thighs and rest your head towards the mat. Keep length in your spine and relax your neck. Hold and breathe, feeling yourself sink deeper towards the earth with every exhale.

Goddess

Get in touch with your inner Goddess or God with Goddess Pose. This power pose helps to elicits a feeling of strength and confidence. As you hold this pose using your breath, repeat the following mantra’ “I am strong and worthy”.

To come into Goddess, from Mountain pose, step your feet wide a few feet apart, turning the toes out slightly towards the outer edges of the mat to about 45 degrees. Bend your knees and come into a wide squat, working to get the your thighs parallel to the mat. Keep your knees pointed in the same direction as your toes. Hold for several breaths.

Warrior 2

Discover strength and inner peace with Warrior 2. As you hold this pose, repeat the following mantra to yourself; “I am worthy of all the love and joy in the world”.

To come into Warrior 2 from Mountain pose, step your feet apart 3 and a half to 5 feet apart. Point your front toes 90-degrees toward the front short edge of your mat and your back foot slightly in about 45-degrees. Lift your arms up bringing them parallel to your mat and bend your front knee stacking it over your ankle or slightly behind it. Hold for several breaths and switch sides.

Pigeon


Pigeon pose is a deep hip opener that creates a deep sense of surrender in the body. It also helps calm the mind and soothe the soul. As you hold this pose for up to a minute or longer on each side, say to yourself with every exhale, “I accept myself fully as I am”.

To do Pigeon pose, from a tabletop position, bring your right foot in and place it down on your mat behind your right wrist. Adjust your shin so that it’s comfortable for you. Extend your left leg back on the mat. Come up onto your fingertips and walk your torso slightly up with the chest lifting and broadening. Stay here or to deepen the pose, begin to fold towards the mat keeping your spine lengthened. You can choose to come onto your forearms or rest your head on top of a block. To further deepen, you can bring your forehead down towards the mat and extend your arms out in front of you – with your palms facing down.

Savasana

Savasana is the ultimate relaxation pose in yoga. Use this time to cultivate self care and love for yourself; staying here for up to 20 minutes or longer. You could enhance your Savasana practice by dimming the lights, lighting candles, and playing soft ambient music. You can even use aromatherapy to further induce inner peace; Rose, Jasmine, Bergamot, and Sandalwood are great essential oils to use for self love care.

To do Savasana, come down onto your back and relax your arms and legs out comfortably. Allow your palms to gently open up towards the sky. Close your eyes and relax the muscles in your face. Let your breath be soft and natural as you just allow yourself to release and enjoy the moment. Remind yourself that by giving yourself this time to reset, you’ll be able to give more of yourself to others. Stay here for as long as you’d like.

 

7 Ways To Find More Joy In Your Life

By Wellness, Yoga LifestyleNo Comments

Finding joy and having a more positive outlook on life is something we all strive towards in our lives. Unfortunately due to life stresses, an ever increasing to do list, and a fast moving society this is difficult to achieve for many. Joy and happiness are traits that are essentially a choice we can make each day. By making the personal choice to choose joy each day, we can take back our own power and ultimately choose the direction of our lives. If we want to have more joy in our lives, we have to be intentional to create this. True lasting joy will never come from outside circumstances or factors but from within.

Here are 7 small steps that you can do to cultivate joy in your daily life starting today.

1. Cultivate Gratitude

Having an attitude of gratitude is the number one thing you can do each day to live a more positive lifestyle. Each day, when you wake up or before you go to bed, make a list of things that you are grateful for and think of why you are grateful for those things. Think about those things as you go about your day. Gratitude allows us to put our life into perspective and create a richer life experience for ourselves.

2. Stop Comparing Yourself To Others

In a world where social media is a big part of our daily lives, it can be easy to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others. By doing so, we take away our personal power and find ourselves wishing we had something that another person has. What we need to keep in mind is that what other people portray to the world, doesn’t include any of the suffering or challenges that person may be facing. Challenges and suffering is universal and a normal part of our human experience – none of us can escape it. Let go of any notions you have of what you think you need to be. Strive to only be the kind of person that you would be proud of, regardless of anyone else’s opinion. By doing so, you will find complete and utter freedom in your life.

3. Surround Yourself With Positive People

The old saying goes that you become the 5 people you surround yourself with most each day. Be mindful of your friends and people you interact with daily. Positive people will uplift you and encourage you to be the best you can be. They will also support you and inspire you. Negative people on the other hand, may encourage you to stray away from your personal joy and create negative energy in your life. Take stock of any negative people like this in our life, and make the choice to surround yourself with positive people instead.

4. Do One Thing You Love Each Day

Everyday we may have a list of things that we need to do to accomplish our goals. Sometimes, when making that list, we can omit doing things that truly give us joy. Make a list of things you love to do – this could be something like practicing yoga, writing in a journal, going for a walk, or spending time with a pet. Each day, include one thing from your list of things that you love to do in your daily to do list.

5. Give Back To Others

Giving back from the heart is the greatest gift we can give to others and to ourselves. When we give, it uplifts us and heals our souls. In turn, it helps the other person receiving whatever we give. Find ways to give back to others, whether its through volunteering or just helping a friend in need. Even if you don’t have money to give, just giving your time to others is enough to make a difference in someone else’s life.

6. Meditate Daily

Meditation is a vital part of living a more joyful and positive life. It allows us to get in touch with our inner selves and remove any noise from our minds. It keeps our heads clear and enables us to gain clarity in our lives. It gives us focus to achieve our goals. Meditation also helps us to be more mindful over our thoughts. By meditating, we can be more aware of negative thoughts that we might have and make the choice to turn those negative thoughts into positive ones. Set aside time each day for yourself to sit in stillness anywhere from 5-15 minutes a day

7. Reframe Challenges & Obstacles

We will never be free of challenges or stress because this is a part of our experience as humans. Challenges and stress help us to grow so that we can become a higher version of ourselves. As the old saying goes: “a ship is safe in the harbor, but that’s not what ships were built for.” Our difficulties help us grow, teach us to strive for more, and help to eliminate the trap of complacency. Learn to reframe your challenges as an opportunity and instead of seeing how awful and hard it is – take time to reflect on how this situation is making you stronger and how you are growing from it.