What to do When You Feel “Unsafe” in a Yoga Class

What to do When You Feel “Unsafe” in a Yoga Class

We come to a yoga class or any fitness class and expect our bodies to feel better and our issues to be resolved. And we expect for the impossible to happen.  But the only problem is no one is teaching us “how” to do what we are doing.  When I first started yoga I knew “Mountain Pose.” But I never “knew” how to truly practice it.  And if Mountain pose is the blueprint of other postures, what does that say about the rest of our practice? To be able to show up safely as a yoga teacher for our students, we must understand their limitations. We need to know if they have injuries & we need to walk them through the foundations of each pose. Not knowing this information is how your practice can hurt you.

I remember my first Pilates training – and I would not have called that a training. When we were “taught” the exercises, it was more a display of her “expertise” than actual teaching.  I look back, and all I remember is peoples’ bodies flying every which way all over the room, people huffing and puffing trying to “keep up”.

Practice Safe, Effective, Mindful Movement

Whether you are a teacher, trainer, therapist, or just an avid yoga or fitness student, we need to start to take better care of our bodies and how they move. Having love and kindness to share is great and I teach that way as well, but that is not enough. We are “playing” with people’s sacred bodies and we need to be reminded of that. What we are having people do could be causing their poor posture, their shoulder problem, their SI joint discomfort. Because you teach yoga they assume “no it can’t be from that, they are a trained professional”.  IT SURE CAN! And it very well could be.

When I teach, you will constantly hear heart-felt creative cues and deep spirituality spoken intentions set throughout class. But woven through that is safety, anatomy, what you should or shouldn’t be doing if you have certain limitations. I’m always sharing tips, ideas, and suggestions for how to make your practice safe, effective, and right for your body today. Mindfulness in movement is our responsibility as “fitness” (and yes, yoga falls under this umbrella) professionals to know this stuff.

What can we do?

If you are a student, ask questions.

Ask if your teacher is certified. If so, it better be in what they are teaching. Are they familiar with the body, with your injuries or limitations? If not, are they willing to find out more about them? In the class, are they showing variations? (what to do if X-Y-Z?) To stop if this if that happens? And most importantly, you should know why you are doing what you are doing. If it ever hurts, stop & clarify with the instructor what type of sensation you should have, and in what part of your body.

If you are a teacher or someone who is going to be a teacher, look at the value the training puts on anatomy and the body on how it is applied to the practice you are choosing. Finally, current teachers, if you have had a bad training experience, you have to say something. Otherwise, how will it change? The studio relies on your feedback to improve. Look for mentors that mirror your values and can teach more about the bodies you are playing with on the mat or in the classroom.

Good luck!

Why Crying On Your Yoga Mat is Okay

Why Crying On Your Yoga Mat is Okay

When I was in teacher training and a woman burst into tears during bridge pose and couldn’t stop flowing. I watched from the back of the room as the instructor calmly came over to soothe her. The instructor let her know that this happens and some poses that open the heart can do that. At that moment, I felt relief. Crying was okay in yoga.

Yoga works on a multitude of levels: physical, emotional, energetic.

One of yoga’s secrets, documented in research from the Swami Vivekananda Yoga Research Foundation near Bangalore, is that more active practices followed by relaxing ones lead to deeper relaxation than relaxing practices alone. – Yoga Journal

For many of us, stress has become as common as drinking coffee. I know I have been in a position where I didn’t know what it was like to live in an environment that wasn’t anything but stress. We think we are “relaxing”  with things like constant screen time, loud music, and high-intensity exercise. It all needs to be balanced with restorative or relaxing practices or we leave ourselves out of balance.

If coming to your yoga mat, you find yourself dripping a few tears, please know it’s OK.

If you are ever in my yoga room, it’s encouraged! Even when I’m teaching, I will get a wave of emotion and find myself dripping a few tears.

Yoga is about seeking an internal state of homeostasis, and that may mean that you are asked to breathe for five minutes on your mat. It may even require you to stay in a pose that makes your skin crawl.

Yoga really, truly is about balance. If you continue to seek it, it will help you create the balance you have been searching for. A few tears along the way doesn’t hurt.

References:

The Benefits of Yoga on the Parasympathetic Nervous System

The Scientific Basis of Yoga Therapy 

Your Yoga Practice is a Lot Like Compost

Your Yoga Practice is a Lot Like Compost

Yoga is an opportunity for self-reflection. Self-reflection means purposefully paying attention to your thoughts, emotions, decisions, and behaviors. It enables us to make meaning of all of the great and not so great experiences we’ve had in our lives. 

Just like a yoga pose, self-reflection is challenging and requires us to be open and honest with ourselves.

When we, as yogis, are unwilling to self-reflect, we project. We project those things that we are reluctant to turn inward, sit with, and change. 

Change Is Hard

Change is hard but change is a necessary and pivotal part of life. When I think about all the different ways to discuss or even label change, several ideas come to mind: growth, transformation, letting go, and acceptance. All of these things require us to go within ourselves and do some sort of work–some kind of self-reflection. You can’t grow from your experiences if you don’t understand them. Once you understand the why behind your decision-making, you can make changes based on what you’ve learned.

I spent a big part of my life projecting so that I wouldn’t have to deal with my core issues. Everything was everyone else’s fault. Everything that was happening to me, around me, and within me, was always the result of someone else–at least in my mind. It was a defense mechanism to protect and preserve the only thing I knew and the only thought process and outlook that I was comfortable with accepting.

How Yoga Forced Me to Dig Deep

When yoga came into my life, it was both liberating and frustrating. Yoga gave me the freedom to feel but it also forced me to see myself for who I was. I had to look at what I was doing instead of pushing the blame onto others. I had to take a real look at myself and the real reasons behind my actions. 

I say to my students each day that yoga is a mirror reflection for our everyday life and that reflection is available for us to see when we finally decide to see it. I will be the first to attest that the reflection will not always be quaint and pretty. It will most likely be uncomfortable and even sad at times. However, that is how growth happens.

Growth happens when we let go of our expectations on people, situations, and life. Letting go of our expectations does not mean that we no longer hope or desire anything from life anymore. Rather, it means that we come at our life (our mat) in a way that opens the doors rather than lingering in the doorway, just waiting for it to close or prove others are wrong.

Compost It

Merriam-Webster defines compost as “a mixture that consists largely of decayed organic matter.” Compost is used for fertilizing and conditioning land. Your compost is a mixture of your stuff, your baggage, your mindsets, your hang-ups, your habits, and your ego. When you practice self-reflection, you take your compost and use it to fertilize your life and the conditions of others. You take the mixture of your life, your actions, and your situation, and you compost it. 

My yoga practice has taught me a lot about my compost and digging dip into my own “mixture.” It has allowed me to get real with myself. Moreover, once you are genuinely able to see the mess you are in, only then can you begin to transform.

When things don’t go my way or are not to my liking, I first ask–Why? I then take a step back to reflect so that I can see how much of my compost is altering my experience. Coming from a place where I took everything personal in my life, once I realized how my compost was affecting what I was doing, I was better equipped to let others off the hook for my shortcomings. Seldom is it ever really about others but rather how we received those experiences and how they reflect upon us.

Don’t Give Up

I urge you to keep coming to your mat, keep getting uncomfortable, and keep taking classes and stepping into poses that ruffle your feathers. Resist the urge to roll up your mat those five minutes early in the hopes of avoiding discomfort. Instead, sit in those poses as your mind stews–allowing your mind to sift through your thoughts, emotions, and reactions to truly get to the bottom of why you feel the way you do.

From my heart to yours, from my soul to yours, from my compost to yours, and from my mat to yours, Namaste.

4 Ways to Connect with Mother Nature

4 Ways to Connect with Mother Nature

It shouldn’t be just once a year that we consider our planet and how we can serve Mother Nature in her quest to support life. I am always amazed when people throw trash onto the ground or out of their car window. It is just plain disrespect toward the very planet that is allowing us to have an existence here.

From day one I have taught my kids about the importance of respecting Mother Nature and this planet we live on. When we go for walks, we pick up cans and collect an extra bag of trash. It’s become a regular affair for our family.

Taking care of our planet is more than just picking up trash. It’s about creating consciousness around how we live here on this planet we call Earth.

There are dozens of ways we all could do more, but if you are anything like me, when someone gives you dozens of ideas it becomes overwhelming. Then I end up not even doing one.

So in an effort to give a little bit more love to Mother Nature and to show our amazing planet bit more respect, here are four ways to connect with Mother Nature:

 

1. Get your shoes off and get the ground of the Earth between your toes.

Connecting to Mother Nature with no barriers is essential to our own energetic balance and unifying harmony. So much of the world today tells us to never leave the house without shoes on. When we get outside and connect with nature and become nature, all that is unnecessary falls away. Take those shoes off and don’t be afraid to get the bottoms of your feet dirty. Massage those sore feet with uneven surfaces, even rocks. Enjoy feeling the soft grass between your toes. Your entire being will thank you.

2. Strike a Pose: Tree Pose!

I love yoga in nature, and there is nothing like striking a Tree Pose out among the very trees that balance our abilities to breathe. Whenever I get a chance to teach an outdoor yoga class, I love to get my students hugging a tree and striking Tree Pose right alongside that tree. Remember, trees are just as much alive as you are.

3. Plant a tree, a flower, a vegetable, or two…

Everything is an exchange of energy. For some of us, we may have lived much of our lives out of balance. Taking more than giving, and then wondering why we are lacking when there is nothing left. And although I am just talking about Mother Nature and all her glory, this concept does extend beyond the plants and trees that blanket our Earth. This month I want to encourage you to plant a flower or two. Maybe even plant a tree and nurture this fragile life like you would a newborn baby. If you nurture that plant just right, it will more than likely outlive you.

4. Pick up garbage and let others know it’s not okay to trash the Earth.

My kids and I regularly pick up trash, and it saddens me when I see whole trash bags tossed to the side of the road. I regularly see McDonald’s bags filled with wrappers and wasted food littering the roadsides and the environment our animals are supposed to live and prosper in.

How is it that we as a species have come think we have the right to disrespect other species that roam the same planet as we do?

To be honest, they were here before we were, and if they can respect Mother Nature and this very planet for thousands of years, then we can too. When you see trash on the ground, why don’t you pick it up? When you see another throwing trash on the ground, ask them to consider waiting the few minutes until they get home or see a trash can to dispose of it. I have traveled to many places, most less fortunate than the United States. If they can control their trash and waste with less access to public disposal, then we can too.

3 Easy Poses to Instantly Banish Stress

3 Easy Poses to Instantly Banish Stress

Stress can be overwhelming and even debilitating. It can cause headaches, muscle tension, difficulty sleeping, and irritability. Obviously, we all know that stress isn’t good for us physically or mentally. So, how do we banish stress in our every day lives?

As a yoga teacher, I encourage others to live a life where they can stay grounded, focused, balanced, and content. Yoga has helped me a great deal with handling stress and the side effects of stress. It helps to relieve tension by keeping me focused on my breath rather than all the thoughts racing through my heads.

Whether you are at home, work, or somewhere in between, yoga is a great way to find stress relief. So, to help you on your journey of finding ways to banish stress, here are three of my favorite yoga poses.

3 Poses to Banish Stress Instantly

Devotional Pose 

Devotional Pose

Devotional Pose

This pose is such a surrender for me. When I go here, I instantly let go. As I work to widen my knees slowly, I feel relief to feel such space (even if it doesn’t look like it). The freedom of my body letting go into the safety of the floor for a few minutes is all I need to feel a bit more like myself.

Legs Up With Support Pose

Legs Up With Support Pose

Legs Up With Support Pose

This pose is a go-to to help relieve the physical, emotional, and mental symptoms of stress. The feeling of my sacrum flat to the hard floor and my spine realigning without the burden of gravity is genuinely liberating. This pose allows me to let go. I totally give in to the fact that, at that moment, I am only human and not superwoman. What often starts as just a minute on my mat quickly ends up as ten, and trust me, you won’t be complaining.

Seated Forward Bend Pose

Seated Forward Bend Pose

Seated Forward Bend Pose

This pose is often used in yoga therapy to help manage depression. It is also known to soothe headache and anxiety and reduce fatigue. The feeling of bending forward eases the mind. My warm breath against my thighs brings me full circle to the simplicity that I am okay the way I am.

Be gentle to yourself so that life can be gentle back to you. Never force yourself into a forward bend, especially when sitting on the floor. With each inhalation, lift and lengthen the front torso just slightly, with each exhalation release a little more fully into the forward bend. If you are new to this pose, it helps to hold a strap around the feel. If you are incredibly tight, place a rolled-up blanket under your knees for added support. The more you relax in this pose, the more naturally your body will open up. 

You Are Worth It

Making things drawn out and complicated only stresses us out more. Don’t overthink it. Sometimes you don’t have the time or the mental discipline to hop onto your mat, and that is okay. I get it. However, what I have discovered is that if you do make the time for yourself, you will see how yoga can help you physically, mentally, and emotionally. You are worth it and you owe it to yourself to make time for you.

And if you want to get professional, inspiring, functionally-safe classes all in the comfort and privacy of your own home. You must check out my online studio. No travel, no hassle, no sitters, and no fuss. This is not your typical yoga or fitness studio–it’s a fresh approach that I know you will enjoy. 

Hope Zvara Mindful Movement Online Studio

 

If you are experiencing stress right now, here are some other helpful resources:

Meditations for Stress Relief

Mindful Ways to Reduce Stress

Navigating Stress In Life

 

Navigating Stress In Life

Navigating Stress In Life

Everyday life can be stressful. 

Job demands, relationships, life events, and social media drama are daily occurrences. These things can often have you feeling like you are traveling down a never-ending, bumpy road called LIFE. It’s easy to see how stress can suck you in and not let you go.

While stress can help some people perform under pressure, too much bad stress can negatively impact a person’s mental and physical health. It’s common for most people to focus on the negative side of stress, but sometimes stress can actually be a good thing. Good stress can motivate a person and help them achieve more goals. BUT how can a person tell the difference between good stress and bad stress?

Good Stress vs. Bad Stress

Good Stress

Good stress, often called eustress, is stress that pushes a person to accomplish more. It helps a person achieve those hard-to-reach goals. Good stress also helps a person learn new things, adapt to change and engage in creative thinking. In a situation where a person is experiencing good stress, they always have control over the outcome of the issue.

Bad Stress

Bad stress, often referred to chronic stress, can slow a person down and prevent them from doing the things that they need to do. It can often lead us down a winding road of helplessness and despair. Bad stress can be things like staying in an unhealthy relationship long-term, living with a difficult person, continual high paced (stressful) workplace, taking on too many things and continuously unable to complete them. That continual saying “yes”, when you should be saying “no”. When the body feels like it is under too much bad stress, symptoms such as excessive sweating, anxiety, headaches and rapid breathing begin to appear. 

Managing Stress

As a yoga teacher, I encourage others to live a life where they can stay grounded, focused, balanced and content. However, sometimes I fail to implement these strategies into my own life. I take on too many things, try to please everyone else, and neglect my own personal health and self-care. It’s a downward spiral and before I know it, my daily life is fueled by bad stress. Can you relate? 

Unfortunately, the bad news is that stress is inevitable. It’s just a part of daily life. The good news is that stress IS manageable. In order to manage the stress in your life, you must relax your body and mind. 

Here are 3 ways to manage stress so that you can live a healthier, stress-managed life.

1. Take a Break

When I say take a break, I don’t mean a break where you are scrolling through social media or watching videos on your phone. I’m talking about unplugging and walking away from all the distractions in your life. Do something for five to fifteen minutes that requires very little of you other than for you to just be yourself and to be present. Sit outside, take a quick five or ten-minute walk, play a quick game of “Go Fish” with the kids, or engage in meditation. Counting Breath for Stress Relief & Relaxation is a guided meditation that helps focus the mind and relax the body.

2. Put Away Your Electronic Devices

If you think about it, we live in a world where we have immediate access to almost anything we need. Instant information is available to us with the simple touch of an app on our phones or tablets. But at what expense? Being over connected has created a huge epidemic in our world today. An epidemic that has produced anxious, stressed, and technology-addicted teens and young adults that are not ok with doing nothing or being alone. The only way to break that cycle and bring more Zen into your life is to put the electronic devices down and slowly back away. Have a no-phone rule at the dinner table, limit screen time, keep your device in your pocket or bag when you are out with friends–whatever you need to do to stop looking at your device–do it. You’ll be glad you did.

3. Be Positive

Is your glass half-empty or half-full? If it’s half-empty, it’s time to change your thinking. Keeping a positive attitude, shifting your negative thoughts to positive ones, and keeping your self-talk encouraging are great ways to reduce stress. For example, instead of thinking “I can’t believe I made the same mistake AGAIN” think “Everybody makes mistakes. It’s ok. It is something that I can fix.” Developing an attitude of gratitude toward the people, things, and events in your life is also a good way to reduce stress. Write it down or just take time to tell the people in your life that you appreciate them–trust me, it goes a long way! Finally, smiling and laughing also helps to reduce stress. I guess laughter really is the best medicine. 

AND if you are ready to get crystal clear on your life priorities, health needs, and how to achieve your goals, my Practices for a Positive and Productive Life Masterclass is for you! In this sixteen-week program, we cover three key areas: Breath, Body and Belief. All three of which are necessary for sustainable success!

Hopefully, these three tips will help you begin to walk down the path of life a little less stressed and with a bit more positivity. 

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