Thursday, November 24, 2011

When NOT To Practice Yoga

As much as I am a strong advocate for yoga and firmly believe that every person can benefit from practicing it, there are times when yoga is not your best option.

1. When you are super sick. When you are ill, what your body needs most is rest. If your sickness is fairly minor, like a mild cold, then yoga may be a great way to help you feel a bit better. But even then, you should be practicing restorative poses. If you have a long-term illness, like Crohn’s disease or cancer, meditation can be a wonderful way to help you work through all the shit running through your mind.

2. During menstruation. Okay, not really. There is a lot of controversy surrounding this issue however. Some believe you shouldn’t practice the asanas at all during your menses; some say it’s cool after the first three days; some say do what feels right in your body. I’m gonna go with the latter. Many women (like me) really feel like shit when they are menstruating; hard-core cramps, headaches, nausea, severe moodiness, the list goes on (right honey?!). For me, a gentle Yin or Restorative practice is what I need to help ground me and remind me how much I love my family and do not want to kill them J So, I naturally choose not to do inversions during my cycle, because they are intense and I do agree with the idea that it can mess with your flow, physically and emotionally.

3. If you are injured. Yoga can truly work miracles to help prevent injuries and to help you recover after an injury has occurred. But, if you just bent over to pick up one of your husband’s dirty socks (again) and put your back out, don’t be rushing to the mat to fix it. What you need is rest, and maybe medical advice. Give the injury time to heal on it’s own before slowly working your way back into your routine. has some great practices designed specifically for back injuries to help you ease back into it. *Be sure to speak to your doctor before starting any exercise regimen after an injury*

4. If you are loaded. So you totally just nailed that pose you’ve been working on for months. You’re sitting around havin’ some drinks with friends and you are eager to show off what you can do. Before you try to swing up into a handstand, DON’T DO IT YOU DUMBASS! Yoga is all about balance and having a clear mind, of which you have neither when you’ve swizzled back a couple of beers. Wait until you’re at your next yoga practice and show your instructor what you have accomplished (she’ll be super stoked for you, I’m sure).

What it really comes down to is listening to your body. Our culture has taught us we need to push ourselves to the limits. That’s bogus. If you are tired, rest. If it hurts, don’t do it. Your practice will not suffer because of it, but only grow stronger. Your body will tell you what it needs, if you can clear your mind long enough to hear it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

En Bonne Santé

I’m sick. Again. Since sending my youngest to Playschool for the first time in September, where she seems to pick up a new bug every week, the whole family has been sick off and on for two months. Happy times! No, not really.

It’s that time of year. Cold and flu season. The weather has changed and we commence the stretch of being cooped up inside, openly sharing our nasty germs with whomever comes our way.

While washing your hands has got to be the single most sure-fire way to avoid getting sick (my hands are raw from cleansing them a hundred times a day), there is another trick available to you to help boost your immune system and stave off those malicious viruses. YOGA!

Everyone knows that leading a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise and eating well is going to help keep you from getting sick in the first place, and minimize your down-time when you do succumb to a virus. Yoga can help with this ten-fold. Unlike most other forms of exercise, yoga includes something more to help you - Savasana. It forces you to lay the fuck down and relax. As long as you do it. I know some of you yogis skip it sometimes (insert stern look here)! Pranayama, or yoga breathing, also helps you to relax your entire being.

Being tired and run-down is one of the top reasons people get sick or are sick for a longer period of time. You just HAVE to get that report done; you can’t take a sick day, you have a meeting; heaven forbid little Johnny miss a hockey practice so you can sleep in and get some rest! My youngest daughter has been teething/sick/having a growth spurt/having separation anxiety/being a terrible two-year old for the last month. Needless to say, I was worn right out. I got sick. Such is life. But, after allowing myself a solid 10 hours of sleep (thanks honey!) and a few restorative yoga practices, my cold was fairly mild and is almost out the door.

Yoga also helps to get those healing juices in your body flowing. Practicing poses that include twists mushes up your insides, activating your lymphatic system. Inversions also help to get those liquids moving to parts of your body it sometimes has a hard time reaching.

Practicing yoga brings you back to that place of tranquillity where you are reminded that you and your health are important. It allows you to calm your mind and relax your body, even if just for a short while, so your body can find the rest it needs to mend.

So, the next time you feel that all too familiar tickle in your throat (or before it gets to that point) lay down in Supta Baddha Konasana and give yourself permission to heal.

Or you could eat some Chicken Noodle Soup-ta Baddha Konasana J

Thursday, November 10, 2011


To forgive is one of the most powerful expressions of love there is. In order for forgiveness to occur, there first had to have been an incident that either caused yourself or another pain; sometimes physical, oftentimes emotional. That’s why forgiveness is so difficult. You are telling either yourself or someone else that it is okay that you were hurt, even if the hurt was on a very deep level.

So, there is a process to forgiveness. To start with, you have to admit you were hurt in the first place, which is a daunting task for many. Especially in situations where people feel they need to ‘save face’. It’s hard to admit to someone that they have the capacity of hurting you, and even harder to admit you’ve been hurting yourself. The action immediately throws down any walls you’ve built around yourself and opens your heart. Doesn’t that sound good though? So liberating. To throw down walls and open your heart.

Forgiveness can be such a basic act. I watch my eldest daughter forgive my younger one time and again for hitting her (we’re working on that). The love I see between them is amazing. I am humbled by the amount of times my husband has forgiven me for being snappy and moody with him (I’m working on that too). The love I feel between us incredible.

In yoga class a few weeks ago, my instructor gave us all a small piece of paper and a pen and asked us to write on it “I forgive ________”, then fill in the blank. She explained it could be forgiving someone else, or forgiving ourselves. I sat for a while then began to write, “I forgive Clayton for dieing.” My brother died 12 years ago in a car accident. It wasn’t his fault, it wasn’t anybody’s fault. But I was still hurting so badly and so fucking mad at him. As I was writing it, I realized I had forgiven him a long time ago, but it was so healing to write it down on paper and see it.

I hadn’t realized you could forgive for something that really wasn’t caused by anyone. But, if you were hurt, then there is a place there for forgiveness. It is the process of letting go. Someday I will forgive myself for letting my baby die. Someday I will forgive him for leaving me. I think the act of self-forgiveness may be the most powerful expression of love there is.

Sometimes forgiveness is not meant for the person you are forgiving. When you hold a grudge or a deep wound from something that happened to you because of the actions of another person, you are only hurting yourself. All the pain and resentment and sometimes hatred you feel towards that person is actually inside of you, eating away at your light. That person may not even know, or care, that you have been feeling this way. To forgive someone for their hurtful actions liberates you, not them. It allows you to say, “I’m not going to let myself feel this way, because of something you did”. Forgive so that you can move on and move back into the light, and leave them behind with the darkness. Easier said than done. But so worth it.

Forgive yourself. Forgive someone else. Do it now, and love your life.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

“Oh, I’m not __________ enough to do yoga.”

I hear it all the time. “I’m not flexible enough to do yoga. I’m not strong enough to do yoga. I’m too old to do yoga. Not enough time, not enough money … “. You know what? I call BULLSHIT! These could be excuses for any form of exercise people are trying to avoid, but I want to focus on yoga. You know why? Because yoga truly is for every body.

Okay, I admit it. If you’ve never practiced yoga and you pick up the latest issue of Yoga Journal with the cover featuring some skinny bitch twisted up like a pretzel, it can be a bit intimidating. But that is so not yoga! Well, it is. But if you consider it for a minute, do you really think that skinny bitch just decided to twist herself into that position one day, and did it no problem? Of course not! The poses featured on the cover of those magazines are the result of those yogis having practiced for years.

So, yes. Every body is different. And that is exactly why yoga is perfect for everybody. You can modify the poses and the entire practice to fit your specific needs and abilities. Yoga makes you more flexible. Yoga makes you stronger. Dare I say, yoga makes you younger?

I went to the studio last Friday night to watch the documentary Yogawoman with my instructor and some fellow yogis. What really stood out for me was how many different bodies I saw practicing yoga in the film. There was a woman who was 39 weeks pregnant; a woman who would be classified as about 200 pounds overweight; there was an 8 year old girl and a 95 year old woman - all practicing yoga. Let me say that again. Ninety-five years old, practicing yoga. No, she wasn’t hanging out in plow pose. She was seated on a chair doing arm raises and lying in her bed doing some simple twists. But, she was doing yoga and looked damn good doing it. I would have given her 80 years, tops.

I understand that some of you just aren’t interested in yoga. If you have your own thing going on (maybe a Zumba class?) then that’s awesome. But, lemme say this. Just try it. No, not one class. Try it for a month of classes. You can’t know if you truly like (or don’t like) something if you only try it a handful of times. Maybe the one class you went to was not the style of yoga you would prefer to practice. There are so many different types of yoga. Maybe the instructor that lead the class you went to just wasn’t your kind o’ people - try a new studio/instructor.

When it comes to not having enough time, there is time. You have to make time. For you. It may take some figuring, but you should always find time for you.

Some yoga classes can be expensive, especially for those on a tight budget. You could subscribe to for $18/month and get unlimited classes. You could subscribe to Yoga Journal for less than $20/year and practice the sequences featured in the mag. Or you could purchase a yoga DVD and follow that for your practice.

I guess what I’m saying is, don’t tell me you can’t do yoga, because you can. What’s your excuse? I dare you to give it a go. It’ll rock your world. And if it doesn’t, at least you can honestly say you’ve tried.