Why We Crave a Good Sweat…

The trickle on your upper lip or down your back, the half moon shadow building on the underarm seams of your tank top, and oh boy, maybe you never knew the back of your knees could pool-up…  well, it’s sweat, and our bodies actually crave it. 

What’s actually going on that makes a sweaty flow feel good? Why does finishing a challenging yoga flow put us on a high?

Maybe you’re one to shy away from challenge. Maybe you’re a sweat junkie.  The truth is our physical bodies demand challenge, and thrive on sweat-inducing movement.  That satisfying feeling of a job well done shows up on our clothes, but it’s the chemical cocktail in our brains, and the surprising link to our ancestors, that discloses the true magic.

Let’s start with the stinkin’ truth.

Sweat. It’s function is to cool us down. It’s a salty mixture that’s mostly water, and when it evaporates off our skin we feel cooler. What a good thing; our bodies are smart and self-regulate temperature!

The stink of sweat comes from one of the two sweat glands.  Our eccrine and apocrine glands both produce sweat, but it is the apocrine glands that create odor. It’s a result of sweat from apocrine glands, found in areas of the body such as armpits and groin, which secrete a type of  sweat that bacteria prefers to break down creating an odor. Eccrine glands on the otherhand are all over the body, open directly to the surface of the skin, and aren’t associated with an odor.

Ok back to the benefits. 

Sure, some sweat doesn’t smell pleasant, but the benefits far outweigh the stink. And while excreting (sometimes stinky) liquid does cool us down and that’s a pleasant feeling, it doesn’t really explain where that ultra sweaty high comes from. 

Beyond the strictly liquid-on-skin cooling function is there something else going on?

Sweat Away Germs?!

In digging deeper on sweat and why it feels so darn good, it might be surprising to find out that we can sweat our immune systems stronger! Knowing this, it’s not surprising then that our brain rewards us with good-feels. 

Sweat contains antimicrobial peptides that fight germs we might catch on our skin. One peptide, demicidin, has been shown in a study to be incredibly effective as fighting off harmful bacteria on our skin, and another medical journal suggests that sweat is actually pivotal in limiting infection for up to a few hours after contact.

Strengthening our immune system is certainly a biological win, and our noggin loves to incentivize good behavior.  

No wonder we’re programmed to love it!

An Ancestral Happiness Cocktail

Got it. Our brain gets a little excited about fighting germs. But, what about the sweaty high?  Sweating is often associated in our brains with with working hard. It’s the hard work, not necessarily the sweat, the holds the answers.

Why do we crave demanding, physical activity sometimes before we start doing it? Doesn’t challenging physical labor hurt? 

At the very least demanding physical labor is certainly uncomfortable. Why would our brain want to reward us for that?

Evolution offers a hint.

When we’re working hard our brain rewards us with happy chemicals, and those chemicals are straight up addicting. We crave these chemicals, and our brain knows it. Rewarding uncomfortable behavior that needs to be repeated makes sense otherwise we wouldn’t do it. 

Challenging behavior for our ancestors included the nearly constant search for food. Studies in anthropology, neuroscience, and human evolution suggest that exercise is not just good for our body but also our brain which THRIVES on challenge physical work.  Research from the University of Arizona suggests that our ancestors evolution to hunter-gatherer may have caused an adaptation in the brain. 

Hunting and foraging for food is no small task, and requires a tremendous amount of physical stamina and mental multi-tasking. For our ancestors it was an absolute necessity, because the alternative was starvation. Adapting to actually reward ourselves with pleasure chemicals for getting off our butts in the name of sustaining our lives seems like a pretty ingenious piece of evolution.

What may have evolved as a mechanism of simple necessity (move or starve), still offers benefits today… move and stay smart! The adaptive capacity model noted in the study also shares that the brains of people who engage in challenging physical activity actually have more connected brains than people who avoid challenging physical activity.  This may also lend an explanation as to why cognitive function also begins to lessen as activity lessens with age. 

Ok working hard is still uncomfortable, so what’s the good news? We can keep our brains awake and happy with a boost of hard work. When we are active and pushing ourselves our brains reward us with happy chemicals. 

Unroll your mat in an Honest, a Transform, or Strong and get moving!

Move Before We Feel Like It

We know that physical activity releases endorphins – like a straight-shot of happy.

What can we do about it when we just don’t feel like moving, and our mood is low?  

When we’re feeling the blues mustering up the motivation to get sweating can be tough. Good news if you’re not feeling up for a high intensity class that’s ok and may not even be necessary. Low-impact exercise sustained over a long period of time is more effect than one, short big push.

An article published by Harvard Health Publishing shared that for movement to offer optimized, long-term support for the symptoms of mild and moderate depression, it is the sustained work over a period of time, rather than the intensity of work, that makes the most difference.  In fact sustained work over a longer period results in new neural pathways and brain development that fights against the symptoms of depression. 

Key takeaway here? What we’ve all heard our instructors say is true.  Don’t stop moving, just moderate when needed!

Getting a Good Diet of Movement

Committing to a moderate and sustained practice 3 times per week is going to yield more sustainable brain happiness than one intense class. But, that doesn’t mean those high boosts have no value. They absolutely do! 

Because of the principle of adaptation our bodies cannot get stronger if we don’t consistently challenge ourselves just beyond our current capabilities (or current adaptations). This is also known as the principle of overload. 

So, what works? 

Think of it like a diet with simple steps

 1) Work up a moderate sweat two-three times per week,

2) spice it up with challenge once a week, 

3) incorporate variety, and 

4) leave one or two days every week for rest and recovery — maybe that’s a nidra class or going for an easygoing walk around the block.

 One great thing about yoga flow at Honest Soul Yoga is that intensity changes, variety, challenge and rest are easy things to find. Simply try different formats, different teachers, and different modifications!

Sweaty Self-Study

Bottom line. Not only is a good diet of movement good practice for keeping the joints healthy — it yields tremendous results for the brain and our self-esteem! 

When we move our bodies we increase our ability to move through and release the negative  narratives in our brains that don’t serve a health self image. Coupled with the principles of Yoga our movement practice becomes a tool for self-study and meditation.  We are able to take the seat of the witness to our thoughts, separating ego-charged judgements – about ourselves, outcomes, likes/dislikes, and our perceived performance –  from the real truth of a yoga class, we did movements in a room with other people for an hour. Simply put, we were having an experience. 

When we sweat there is no way to measure an objective outcome, because our sweat is personal to our own experience, our own exertion, our own work. There’s no other way to approach sweat than to observe that it is personally attached to the process we experienced, and cannot directly correlate to a specific outcome. We cannot precisely measure the distance someone ran, or number of chaturangas they completed simply by taking a look at their sweat. Sweat tells us there was a challenge – heat, exercise, stress – and the body responded. Sweat tells us that our body participated in a process that it is designed to do. That’s it. 

The simple, wise process is so much more important than any targeted outcome because at the end of the day we are souls having a human experience and the discomfort, sweat, joy, exhaustion, exhilaration, and rest are all a part of the ride.


About the Author

Julia Lopez – ERYT500, YACEP, CPT

is the Co-founder of Honest Soul Yoga and Founded of Practice Everywhere, HSY’s exclusive yoga education and adventure partner.She is a nationally recognized teacher trainer who offers yoga teacher training in locations across the country and offers yoga online reaching hundreds of thousands of viewers with featured courses on AmazonPrime and YouTube. Julia considers herself a ‘yoga lifer’ coming to the practice in her teen years, and practicing and teaching ever since. She considers it a true honor to share the healing power of Yoga that, for so many, starts with cultivating a deep respect for the miracle of the physical body through the poses, and then permeates into the deep layers of energy, emotion, and soul through it’s timeless philosophy, cultivation of daily habits, and the ritual of meditation.

When We Can’t Vanquish Sensation …

Is there a movie more quotable than the Princess Bride?

Personally, I don’t think so.

And this quote from the doggedly determined Inigo Montoya always itches my brain when find myself thinking about the somewhat misunderstood (maybe just conveniently overlooked) limb of Yoga: Pratyahara.

It’s commonly tossed around as “sensory withdrawal”. And taking it at surface level we often expect yoga class to magically buffer and comfort our bodies, balm our sense experience, and eliminate the things that agitate us. Then when that doesn’t happen, we assume something about the class failed us.

And while there is nothing inherently wrong with comfort,  interpreting the limb this way might lack the richness of what the word can offer.  Given our very human obsession with making everything all better – should we be surprised?

It’s so damn hard to just let things be.

The word itself is loaded. Pratyahara’s as Patanjali uses it in the Sutras has a meaning closer to something like ‘mastery over the influence of that which is external from Self’.

Pantanjali is not advocating for numbness. Pratyahara – like many Sanskrit words – has parts put together, a whole idea in one word how we might have an entire thought in one sentence.  There is an action, and an object of the action. In this case we can gain control over the stimulation of our external senses and human instincts. It’s important to consider that when we are practicing Yoga even the senses inside our physical body are also considered periphery to our true Self.

Our willingness or unwillingness to loosen our grip on the labels we attach to sensation offers a clear threshold between being on the side of meditation or the side of mere relaxation.

A lot of us are coming to Yoga for ‘relief’ – specifically physical and mental relief.
We want a certain prop, a certain lighting, a certain mood, a certain song (or no song).
Not too hard.
Not too hot.
Not too fast.
Not too slow.
Not too long.

In essence we are looking for yoga to balm our sensations, especially when those sensations are hot, and painful.

We get so scared of tipping over the edge that we build a fence for ourself that’s actually miles and miles shorter than our true potential. In this way, negative sensations and the fear they evoke keeps us safe, well guarded, and playing in a very small sandbox of experience.

Supressing, balming, numbing, and pacifying pain becomes a sideways effort to gain control, a habit that we think will offer relief. But the relief is temporary, and our fence keeps getting smaller.

Yoga seems to have little to say about getting rid of pain (in fact discomfort seems to be a certain, guarantee). But, it has a lot to say about gaining positive control over our obsession with it, and how to prevent inevitable pain from becoming our suffering in our essence.

Yoga Sutra 2.54-55 

When the  sensations and instincts cease to be defined by their object/source, then they can go back to the mental realm, from where they came. This is pratyahara. Through turning inward from the senses, instincts, and reflexes then we become sovereign over our human inclination to remain with those objects.

In other words when we allow sensation to just be sensation without attaching it too firmly to the source of the sensation we can begin to let the sensation live without allowing it to wage war on our inner world.

So, feeling better isn’t the point?

Maybe not.  Relief might actually be simply a beautiful side effect of getting stronger and more resilient.

Our recoiling from the sensation is exactly the opposite of what Pratyhara actually means. Rather our willingness to let go of attachment to the physical sensation, believe in our snap judgements, and loosening the grip on our preferences creates a threshold between meditation and mere relaxation.

Amplifying Our Inner Resource

Life hurts. Discomfort and pain seem to be the agreement we enter in exchange for this beautiful opportunity to be alive. But all of our energy and time and attention doesn’t have to be fixated on the hurt – like a magnifying glass that lights an ant on fire. Nor, does ignoring the hurt or straight up avoiding anything that might antagonize quite hit the mark as truly practicing pratyahara.

Rather let’s let the hurt be with us, something that might be a part of us, but not ALL of us.  Practicing a control over the external sensation allows us to stop waging war with agitation, it takes away the megaphone of hurt which lessens its power, and in the process we amplify our own inner resource.

So it doesn’t matter whether it is a hot sweaty flow, or a slow guided meditation, our obsession with how our physical body feels is the perfect gateway into practicing a mastery over our senses.

Become a Witness of Your Sensation

Does this mean we need to go stand in the middle of a noisy room and ‘meditate perfectly’ – otherwise we’ve failed?

No, that would be setting ourselves up to fail.  It is helpful to start where we are. So if today it is a physical agitation – like you slept funky – start there.  Maybe it is an emotional annoyance – start there.  Don’t leave it outside of the practice room. Bring it in, and work with it.

Notice what you feel during seated or moving meditation. Label it simply ‘sensation’.

Then begin to focus your breath towards the sensation, rather than away from it.

Imagine the breath getting bigger around the source of the ache or pain.

Keep a light attention on the source of the sensation, without putting a label on it as ‘bad’ or trying to fix it.

Just be with it. Breathe with it as long as you can withstand.

If there comes a time when the sensation is too great to breath through, pause, reset and begin again. If the breath gets ragged, pause, reset and begin again. If the mind wanders, pause, reset and begin again.

This practice can help us discern not only true essence from sensation, but also have a keener understanding of the true communication of the sensation – allowing for more discernment over the next course of action or whether or not any additional action to resolve an issue is actually necessary at all.

Maybe this practice happens just for a couple minutes during a class. Then maybe it lengthens to 5, 10, 20 or even 60 minutes of attention simply on sensation and breath – all the while you might be moving or not moving at all. You may notice when you cross the threshold from experiencing sensation to Witnessing it. Then from witnessing it to witnessing that you are simply present. Then from bring present autonomously to realizing that you are not your body or base instincts but rather you are connected to everything and everyone within the moment. That connectedness becomes bigger and more real than the sensation you started with.

When those flickers are of awareness happen breath them in, and let them go.

There’s no winning.

There’s no failure.

There’s only practice.


About the author:

Julia Lopez – ERYT500, YACEP, CPT, Certified Life Coach

Julia is a teacher that believes principles and practice of Yoga are transformative tools way to experience vibrant living that is rooted in true confidence and contribution!  Through the offering of asana and meditation, coupled with a deep respect for exercise science and the magic of the human body, Julia weaves classes that use the body as a metaphor to speak to the Spirit.

A lifelong student of yoga, first coming to the practice at the age of 16, Yoga expanded from personal practice to lifelong calling when she began teaching in her early twenties. Now, Julia’s extensive study of Yoga philosophy and the human body has led her to her most meaningful role yet, as the developer of Honest Soul Yoga’s formats and yoga programming. She is excited to see yoga-based formats founded on personalized intensity and pacing (not levels, or pose-chasing) shake up an industry in deep need of a reboot, and humbled to watch the HSY community embrace Yoga that challenged and uplifts mind, body, and soul.



 

Glutes or no glutes? What’s Up With Your Butt in Wheel?

Use those Glutes? Yes? No? Maybe?
“Release your glutes.”
You’ve probably heard this cue in a yoga practice, especially in a backbend like bridge or wheel.So, let’s put that cue to the test with a perspective on where that cue may have grown in popularity, and why it may not be offering a true picture of how to use our bum in backbends.To start, where did ‘release the glutes’ come from? Often when you hear the cue it’s given as a precautionary measure to avoid compression in the lower back.But in other fitness classes we actually use bridge lifts as an exercise to strengthen the glutes and hamstrings. So – what gives?It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: different people benefit from slightly different cues and form in every pose. Backbends are no exception.But given what the function of the glutes are for the body, I believe most students will BENEFIT from using their glutes in backbends.

BUTT (see what I did there) that’s just part of the story, and here’s why.

Let’s start with looking out our big butt muscles,  their function, and some of the other key players in wheel.

They are big for a reason.The big glutes – gluteus maximus – is what most teachers are referring to when you here the word ‘glutes’. They’re your cheeks, my friend, and when you squeeze ‘em you know.The glutes arise from the inner, upper ilium (where the backside pelvis bone meets your sacrum), and insert on the gluteal tuberosity of the femur (bottom of your butt, top of the backside of your thigh bone) AND the IT tract (side of your thigh). The gluteus maximus muscle lies directly behind the hip and acts primarily as an extensor of the hip joint.  Based on it attachments, it can also laterally rotate the thigh and tighten the iliotibial band. Unfortunately, it is not very active in walking since little active extension of the hip is involved, and most of us are sitting on it all day. But it comes into play in activities such as climbing stairs, rising from a squatting and lunging positions, running. However, if you aren’t doing much of those activities – you may have a lazy bum and the lack of butt strength is actually the source of some issues (a topic for another day.)Back to function, when a muscle contracts it pulls the insertion towards the origin. So in this case, when the glutes squeeze they pull the back of the thigh towards the back of the pelvis. And we call this hip extension. They also pull the side of the thigh around the back and up (which results in external rotation – which we will talk about later). They are big and powerful for a reason because their primary job is to stabilize and move the heaviest bones in our body.To feel this, stand up, squeeze your cheeks hard. Where the muscle arises on either side of your – well your butt crack – is where the glute max starts on either side and then they go down and out to sync up with the myofascia and muscle on the back and side of the thigh.Think about something such as the basic squat.  Gravity aids in the lowering, and flexing at the hip. The powerful glutes then have to not only reverse the direction of those big bones, they have resist gravity while doing it.

Some degree of hip extension is desired in backbends. In demanding backbends like bridge and wheel where we are lifting those bones and resisting gravity we need to recruit our big muscles to do big work. Extending the hips while also extending the spine to the degree wheel demands creates a little bit of tension in opposition so the lumbar maintains some space ( = no pinch!).

Don’t let the word ‘tension’ scare you; it’s a word that’s gotten a bad rap. The truth is that a complex system of tension is the only reason we’re upright!

Activation, not isolation. 

It’s important to remember that in yoga poses, nothing is happening in isolation. Wheel being perhaps the most obvious example of this. Every major joint is involved, an the action of getting up at all requires team work!

The glutes in hip extension are also assisted by the hamstrings, and can be moderated by the inner thighs. But coming up into wheel by simply relying on the press of your arms and the bendiness of your back, you likely will feel a little pinch – because you are pressing in one direction, and your pelvis is heavy allowing gravity to pull it in the opposite direction. This is why we need the glutes to help us out. The big bones of your bum need to be stabilized so that your body doesn’t simply take the path of least resistance and overuse your flexible lumbar.

Prioritize pressing with your feet as the mechanism that lifts you up (down through your heels AND the ball mounds of your feet and toes to be more specific because we have toes for a reason – we will tackle the ‘lift your toes’ cue in another post) you’ll get super duper stable, and that level of leg engagement will assist in lifting the pelvis and sacrum with less stress on the lumbar.

Total load matters.

When we are doing postures when it comes to recruitment of muscles one of the biggest variables is LOAD.  So the orientation of our body and gravity will determine the load of the posture.

If you are pressing yourself up from the ground into wheel, your bum needs to do some work to lift the bulky bones of the pelvis and thighs off the earth.  However, if you’re on the ground in cobra, the pelvis is staying ground and the glutes role is this might be lesser because the legs and the pelvis are pretty much staying put in comparison to wheel.

So, why even cue ‘release the glutes’?

Remember how squeezing our big glutes also has an additional affect of externally rotating the hip? The cue to not squeeze may be an attempt to avoid compression by avoiding the widening of knees in Wheel. However, it’s a cue that might be attempting to resolve something that isn’t too big of an issue, and also is very easily fixed.

To counteract widening knees simply engaging the inner thighs will immediately offer some counter-tension and rectify any wayward knees. This will actually create a much more stable wheel.

Engaging your inner thighs while also engaging your glutes will keep your legs in a great relationship with your hip socket.

Speaking of knees, let’s go down the chain to the feet.

Some people  find a more spacious and healthful wheel with feet slightly wider than hips-width, and others with feet straight forward. This could be for many reasons: stability from the surface area, the degree of bend in their knees when they begin, the natural set and depth of their hip socket etc.  For those that have a naturally wider stance it may be easy to confuse a naturally wider stance with knees that are splaying out from a lack of control.  Look for a comfortable relationship between feet – knees – hips. If you were to draw a line from feet to hips, and the knees are navigating farther in or out from those two points, a simple cue to engage the inner thighs to hug splay knees back in, or engage the glutes and outer hips to pull the knees back out, can help.

So rather than forcing someone to narrow their stance, I often ask a question, which is, “How does this feel for your back and knees?” If they say, “Fine.” believe them.

Don’t hate. Collaborate!

When we stop thinking about what to avoid, and start thinking about what to activate, the beautiful interconnected landscape of our bodies come alive! Often our own culture is to blame for our binary mindset.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of ‘this or that’ ‘right or wrong’ ‘on or off’.  And while the glutes and the adductors may someone oppose each other in their function, they are not at war with each other.

They do their individual jobs in order to WORK TOGETHER! The tension created by either action is the exact thing that creates stability, rather than eliminate it.

Great. Now what? How in the heck do I get up there?

Ready to put it in action in a bridge pose? Let’s put it all together.

Lift from a stable base!  Lay on your back with your with knees bent and your feet hips-width(ish) distance. Remember we’re talking about YOUR hips so there’s not definitive distance; its an approximation based on your bod. Better landmarks to feel include starting with the ability to put even pressure on all sides of your feet (pinky toe mound, big toe mound, and heel), and you can sense that your knees are tracking over your ankles.

Press down through your feet to lift your hips up in line with your knees (legs and butt, my friends.)
Once you’re up, steer your tailbone towards the back of your knees (glutes & hamstrings.)

Wrap your inner thighs down (adductors!)

Draw in and up with the low belly. (abdominals!)

If you’re feeling stable here, flip your fingers towards the heads of your shoulders. If the heels of your hands and all of your fingers can easily press into the floor, press down to lift off.

The same skill and personalization you used for foot placement applies to your hands. Some folks may be wider with their elbows slightly out. Some may not straighten their elbows all the way.

We’ll leave shoulder mechanics for another day 😉


About the Author:

Julia Lopez (Co-Owner & CSO, Honest Soul Yoga) is a teacher that believes principles and practice of Yoga are transformative tools way to experience vibrant living that is rooted in true confidence and contribution!  Through the offering of asana and meditation, coupled with a deep respect for exercise science and the magic of the human body, Julia weaves classes that use the body as a metaphor to speak to the Spirit. A lifelong student of yoga, first coming to the practice at the age of 16, Yoga expanded from personal practice to lifelong calling when she began teaching in her early twenties. Now, Julia’s extensive study of Yoga philosophy and the human body has led her to her most meaningful role yet, as the developer of Honest Soul Yoga’s formats and yoga programming. She is excited to see yoga-based formats founded on personalized intensity and pacing (not levels, or pose-chasing) shake up an industry in deep need of a reboot, and humbled to watch the HSY community embrace Yoga that challenged and uplifts mind, body, and soul.



 

Your orders come in. Now what?

3/18/19

So, here we are, barely passing our 2 year mark here in NOVA and along come new military orders. “Texas” my husband reads the orders to me, “in a little over a month”.

Let the research begin!

Input google search for housing, schools, nearest grocery stores (is there a Wegmans?!), doctors office and the search for a new yoga studio, of course!

As a yogi and a military spouse I know how helpful and important it is for me to find my new yoga home in Texas, here’s why…

Finding Ground During A Time of Change.

As a military family in a new state where we don’t know anyone, finding community and connection is a must.

I know what it’s like to be the new kid, starting over with a new job and all the new mom dating I will have to do to find my San Antonio pack! Luckily the military community is very welcoming but it can be challenging to find like-minded friends quickly. Finding a new home yoga studio that is welcoming and warm to build my new community is one of my first tasks when arriving a new duty station. I have found that when I find my home studio, like I have here at Honest Soul Yoga, I immediately feel like part of the community. There is a familiarity and routine that comes with being part of a yoga studio that immediately makes me feel safe, grounded, and at home, wherever home may be.

Staying in Practice During Preparation.

The move process is stressful, especially when you have a very short time to prepare (less than 2 months!). During this time I am so grateful for my yoga practice. There is so much to think about, where are we going to live, how are we going to get there, do we want to move ourselves or do we have the military do it, do we use a moving truck or a shipping service, we have to sell a car, how do we sell it, ect. I have been taking a lot of yoga classes these last few weeks. The 60 minutes that I spend in class is the only time right now that I have to slow down and stop thinking about the impending move. The time I have in class is my chance to focus on me and replenish my cup.

Presence in the face of uncertainty.

Yoga is about being present in the moment. Such a necessary skill to have as a military family. I never know what is coming down the pipe line, so staying in the present moment is a necessary survival tool.

I personally love change. But it is difficult not being able to decide what change is coming next. My yoga practice helps me to not only stay present but to be comfortable staying in (not bailing out), and being grateful for every moment.

Gratitude, always.

When I think about our military life I am  grateful for every moment, even all the ups and downs. I am thankful that I have yoga to help me through the lowest moments, and I am elated to share my passion of yoga with my daughter as she grows up.

While I may not be present at our NOVA Honest Soul Yoga studios soon, I believe this isn’t “Goodbye” but rather a “See you later”.

Namaste,

Lisa

____________________

Lisa Mayfield (RYT200)  is a Long Island, NY native who first found yoga in 2007 (fuhgeddaboudit). She is a jack of all trades having been an ABA therapist, pastry chef, seamstress and a haunted house actress. Lisa decided to become a yoga instructor when she saw the benefits of yoga for PTSD patients and within her own body after sustaining car accident injuries. She completed her teacher training in Fort Bragg, NC and is very excited to share yoga wherever her family’s military lifestyle leads her.



 

The Power of Imperfection

Imperfection, my flaws, my health, everything that I used to consider “bad” about myself is what brought me to yoga.

Autoimmune issues and an enthusiastic doctor who said “you should try yoga” landed me in my first yoga class.   My first class was with the owner Honest Soul Yoga, and it was a hot vinyasa flow. It was hard, and I was in pain for a month after that damn class.

I swore I wasn’t coming back. But, a month later, I returned. I did it.

I came back.

I was processing a separation from my ex husband and desperate for healing time. I knew I needed the time on the mat, and despite it being painful I needed to work my body physically.

Fast forward about a year, and I was shocked by my sister’s an ovarian cancer diagnosis. At the time I was in yoga teacher  training. I had followed my intuition, and I felt I NEEDED to be in this training. I felt insecure, like everyone around me was in amazing physical shape, and I was just an average girl went through the entire first teacher training class unsure if I would continue. Despite battling feelings of my own worthiness to be in the class, I came back. I allowed my intuition win over my insecurity, and I was hooked.

Training took a lot out of me physically, mentally, and emotionally. I juggled a a full time job, training, and care for my sister who at that time moved in with me. To add to matters, training  reminded me of everything I thought was WRONG with me.  What if I have to handstand? Yeah right.  How could I possibly teach? My chaturanga was crap.

As I continued on my yoga journey I got curious, and brave, and experimented with my practice.  I used props, and figured out how to make the pose work for me, not the other way around.  I learned to focused on breath, and gave myself permission to close my eyes and move. I still felt self conscious. Certainly my knee pained from arthritis didn’t bend as deeply as it ‘should’ in a Warrior, and of course I needed that damn bolster under my hip in resting half pigeon.

And all the other stuff, the non-physical stuff, crept in.

Doubt about whether or not I was spiritual enough to practice yoga.
Frustration with not being able to do this pose or that pose.
Feeling anxious.
I was motionally messy.
I felt frustrated with my inability to pick a path for my yoga business.
I was grieving.
You name it, I felt it.
I judged myself and had a constant feeling of I AM NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

But I learned to let go slowly.

And now, I am still here, with Yoga. I keep coming back.

Yoga has been a companion during the most trying moments of my life: the death of my sister, my divorce, a job change. Yoga helped me explore all forms of grief that I didn’t process right away.

My physical practice improves every single time I hit the mat, but I could care less now. It’s still not “perfect.”  I use props and sometimes I don’t. My own struggle and process is how I formed my message and evolved my teaching. I want my students to be curious and intrigued by their practice. I want them to embrace the challenge without constantly criticizing themselves. It’s not all about bringing ease, sometimes it’s that extra effort you take towards deepening a pose. Maybe forearm stand will never happen for a lot of yogis, but there are amazing steps in between.

None of us will ever be perfect.

Guess what? All those imperfections, they are what has made me the student and teacher I am today. I am still emotionally messy, but I’ve learned to handle anxiety and autoimmune issues like a champ. I can deal with loss. I have bad days and good days.  I’ve learned to honor and celebrate the good, and remember that ‘bad’ is temporary.   I have learned to live in the moment, celebrate my life, and my accomplishments.

All of my challenges molded me on and off the mat. I’m so grateful for these trials now, for they were really gifts.  My imperfection is my strength, and my resilience is a super power.

I get it now. Ultimately we are our own worst critics.  That’s human nature. We want to change everything we don’t like about ourselves, right away and if we can’t we judge ourselves harshly.

But, I encourage you to stick with it, and sit with it. Embrace your mess. Embrace whatever is “wrong with you,” because I promise you that you’ll find the power of your imperfection will lead you to your super power, too.

______________________________
Jennifer Downing is a “type A” personality in recovery. Yoga found her when she needed to make major life changes mentally, spiritually, and physically. She believes YOU can shift your perspective NOW and that your life’s journey is an amazing work in progress on and off the mat. Using yoga, meditation, and mindfulness Jennifer will help you find your practice that will leave you feeling balanced and optimistic. Jennifer completed her 200 hour training through HSY and also trained through ChildLight Yoga and Yoga for Cancer.

Healing Through Yoga

 

Yoga gets tossed around a lot as the answer.

Yoga for: pregnancy, stress, post-workout recovery time, flexibility, empowerment, anxiety … The list goes on.  Yes. Yoga helps with all those things. 

But yoga isn’t an answer.

It’s an opening.

An opening to self-discovery, to freedom. Something subtle happens when you keep going, you keep practicing. Maybe it’s linking your breath with movement, or that beautiful half moon pose might make you feel super confident, but what I’ve noticed is that there’s this place between breaths where my soul shines and I get to reconnect with it each time I hop on my mat. What’s more, is each time I practice those lines of communication to my soul, my center, become more and more clear- where I don’t need to be in the middle of a tree pose to connect in with that space. I’ve discovered that over time, while I’m in traffic, or part of a challenging interaction … I’m breathing, I’m balanced, I’m aware, and I’m ok. Sounds great right? Well, it didn’t start that way.

The first yoga class I took I didn’t enjoy, to say the least.

I suffered through it and felt so uncomfortable bringing awareness to my breath. Something I’d been ignoring for 25 years. It felt foreign and wrong. So I decided it wasn’t for me.

Cut to 2 years later, my daughter was born, I was experiencing intense postpartum anxiety. I was nursing and didn’t want to medicate so I started exploring other options and of course yoga crept back in on the radar. I rolled my eyes, and went along with it. Since I was at home with my daughter and struggling to even leave the house, I decided to try yoga online. My daughter motivated me, I wanted to get back on track for her, for us, for me. So I stuck with it. It took some time before physical shifts started happening, like, ‘oh, look, I can touch my toes!’ Or, ‘hey, I’m really twisted here.’  It felt good to see progress. Then I noticed how I felt like I was more alive. Less scattered. Connected. I started to understand and committed to continue caring for myself.

After a while, I started opening up places inside of me that I didn’t know needed opening.

Through each physical practice more awareness was invited in and more space for opening occurred.I became more available to being quiet with myself. I allowed my heart to talk to my mind and for my soul to have the opportunity to merge with my human self. While I may have not realized it was occurring then it’s clear to me now – I was opening.

I was allowing myself the opportunity to heal, to recalibrate, to accept, to work through hard things I’d been avoiding.

I found this place inside where I was able to get really honest with myself, and uncomfortably acknowledge all bullshit I’d been feeding myself. It bubbled up to the surface, and finally, I could get rid of it.

Living through my truth became a must.  Being genuine. Clear. Unapologetically me.

Is this not how your yoga feels? Cool. It shouldn’t. But maybe aspects of it do.

Yoga is incredibly personal, but what I love is that we all come together under the same umbrella of growth. While we aren’t experiencing it identically, we’re doing our own work, and we can understand how that feels. Our own work makes empathy possible. Being a part of a community that supported my growth became crucial. Yoga… Union… at first it was a private thing but when I started to join public classes, share energy and feel another person’s growth next to me the volume turned up. Community amplified everything.  

The place inside where I found my Truth, I realized we all have that placeBeing human means we get easily distracted by the external world. We search for ease and security through experiences, through others, anything to numb-out. But really we carry the place of Truth within us.

Everything we’re searching for is available right there inside of us.

Yoga, helped me understand that I’m capable, I’m enough, I’m strong.

It took me from searching for fulfillment through others – feeling desperate for validity, competition, misunderstanding, confusion, denial, identification with my external world, being asleep at the wheel – to this place of, ohhhhh…. Yeah… this is it. Here I am. I’m ok.

Yoga provided the pause I needed to be truthful about what I was avoiding, and the courage to ask myself why, the strength to press through the hard work of facing it all and softness to experience this work through the lens of acceptance and trust. Peeling back decades of layers and the intimacy of feeling exposed around others didn’t scare me. But experiencing that level of intimacy and exposure with myself –  THAT was scary.   After many classes I was crying in those hip openers, or felt my anger pulse in a high crescent lunge. And then, there was the Yoga, reminding me to I shift into allowance.

Yoga introduced me to a beautiful space inside where I can let myself be human.

I allow this awareness to live with the bigger picture, the connection to Self, to others, the universe, god. But at the very same time, I can mess up. Big. I can make mistakes and that’s ok. I learned to give myself grace. Because just like your physical yoga asana practice, Yoga in life is also a practice. There isn’t a destination; just a dance.  The flow is like a vinyasa practice; momentary pauses but really it’s just a bunch of transitions. It’s cool. Feel it, flow with it, be frustrated, thrilled, pissed, stale- be whatever you are and trust it’s where you’re supposed to be.

So today, at this point in my practice of life, I use the pause to allow myself to be whatever emotion or mood I feel with curiosity and no judgement. I’m willing to peel back those layers asking why. I set the stage with my physical body to receive answers. Move it, shake it up, settle it down, recalibrate, let the dust settle and listen. Feel.

I’m not scared of that place where I feel my breath and my blood, my heartbeat, my thoughts and emotions all collide together after 3 wheel poses.  

Do you know that place? Where you feel that sense of aliveness in your whole body and you feel physically present, accepting of your emotions, clear in your mind, and connected to your spirit? That place is where your yoga actually begins – right at the moment when you want to escape or avoid or tune-out – that’s where it begins. 

We never know what life will bring and for that, I’m secure in the knowing that I’ve got yoga in my back pocket as a tool for navigating turbulent waters.

Through adversity I know there’s growth; I know because I’ve lived it. 

This journey, it’s not linear, it’s abstract.

It’s messy and beautiful.

Yoga for me is an opening to all that I am, to all that life is. It’s an understanding and realization that who I’m becoming is who I’ve always been. Now, I just have the lens to see her.


About Bailey Dawn:

After giving birth in 2013, Bailey turned to her yoga practice to help her manage postpartum anxiety. Seeing dramatic impacts with her emotional and mental health as well as physical body, she knew she had to share this with others. Bailey is a teacher who will always ensure that you feel welcome, grounded and safe to meet yourself, expand your practice. and challenge your boundaries. Bailey is a passionate, fun-loving outdoorsy nature lover who likes to let loose and remind others not to take life too seriously. She loves connecting with others and bringing people together, especially through yoga.

Check out the video below to get a peek into Bailey’s yoga adventures with her young daughter …

Tessa’s Tips for Postpartum Yogis!

When I became a new mom, all I wanted to do was return immediately to my “old self.” I wanted the old me back while rocking this new role of “Mom.” Heck, even everyone at the hospital seemed to bypass using my real name and just call me “Mom.” I still had a name right?! Hello?!

Let’s face it, the ‘old self’ is something you need to move forward from. Hanging on to your pre-baby image, schedule and life just puts you in a funk. It is in the past and is keeping you from enjoying all the amazing moments RIGHT NOW. Your pre-baby memories are a beautiful time, full late nights with friends, tight jeans, and a bit less baggage under your eyes. But it isn’t who you are today, and that’s OK! Change is good, it is how you grow. Our world is fast and it seems to get harder to maintain all the roles in your life. You must constantly shift around work, family, and if you can find time for it – self-care. But, sometimes self-care even feels like a chore.


What if you put self-care first?

What if you decided today, I am important, and when my tank is full my family benefits, my work is better and damn it, I just feel better!

It is hard being human, and even harder being a new mom….You must take the time to connect back with yourself, your family, other new moms and your community. Without connection we suffer alone. Connection is what we need to be happier, more grounded and frankly…just get through the day sometimes. Read on for 10 must have tips to help get you back on your mat, back into “you,” and finding some happiness!

Ask for help. You are never in this alone. Ask a friend, colleague, or neighbor to stop by and help. Have them hold baby so you can get that much needed and well deserved shower. Ask your spouse or partner to stay with baby while you go to yoga. Hire that postpartum doula to help you survive through the long days and nights. Asking for help is a sign of strength, it shows you that you know what you need. One of the best tips I share with my prenatal yoga students is to make a help bag or basket. Grab a bag or basket and fill it with pieces of paper that have simple ways friends and family can help you once baby arrives. In your sleep deprived state as a new mom it can be exhausting to even tell someone what you may need help with. The help “to-dos” found in your help bag can be as simple as “load dishwasher,” “take out garbage,”  “hold baby while I nap” etc. Keep them basic and easily achievable. When your baby visiting guests arrive and ask what they can do hand them the bag and send them off to help! If you think you or a loved one may be suffering from postpartum depression, immediately seek medical help. You’re not alone, you are enough and you can get help. Speak your truth, you have support and there is a light at the end of the tunnel! Take this quiz to see if you may be suffering from Postpartum depression.   If your answers lead you to think you may be suffering, please seek medical help immediately. For more information on Postpartum Depression.

Put your yoga clothes on and GO! Don’t think, judge or question yourself. Grab your mat, put on clothes (yes, anything) and put one foot in front of the other. Just go. No expectations. You can always ask your spouse, partner or friend to watch the baby while you head out for 60 minutes of much needed self-care. Mom guilt is totally real, but you have to set it aside. If you don’t take care of yourself first you will be depleted and have no energy to share with your family. Even 30 min of yoga can help reset your body and mind and leave you ready for the next few hours in the day.

Feel free to take Savasana (corpse pose/rest) during your entire class. No really, YOU CAN, we will not stop you! At Honest Soul Yoga, we want your practice to be authentically YOU! Yoga is YOUR practice and you do what you know you need most in this moment. Want to attend a class and want to use it as a 60 minute nap time outside of your home? We won’t judge or tell you to do anything else. If you need rest, take it. Do as much or as little as your body and mind can handle in class. Part of self-care is truly listening to what YOU need.

Check out a Mommy+Me class! (BYOB) Bring your own baby. Still not ready to head out of the house solo without baby? Check out a Mommy+Me class! This gets you moving and breathing with baby. No mom guilt there right? Everyone wins! You will connect with other new Moms like yourself going through much of the same new experiences. It will help you deal with baby blues and postpartum depression (yes 2 different things, see tip #2 above!) It will get you out of the house with baby to a safe and welcoming environment. Often Mommy+Me is the first public place Moms and babies go to and the first place they breast or bottle feed in public! ANOTHER WIN! I always encourage my students to change and feed baby in the class and to welcome all the baby sounds. Heck, if you need to scream and cry too go for it! Here are some gentle sequences you can do at home with baby if getting to the studio is not possible.  Get creative, have fun and enjoy some yoga with your little one!

Modify your practice. Even if you are not new to yoga, you may need to modify your practice postpartum. In fact everyone should always modify their practice to fit their personal needs. Move in a way that serves you. Make your practice completely yours. If you’re currently breastfeeding or recovering from a C-section laying on your stomach for locust or bow pose may not feel to good. Try sphinx if breastfeeding instead of locust. Give table top/hands and knees a try for core and back stabilization if recovering from a C-section. Don’t be afraid to make your practice uniquely yours and even take an earlier Savasana if you need the extra rest. Always feel free to take a childs pose and to back off on deep squats and twists if you feel any pulling or pressure anywhere in your body. By modifying your practice you will connect deeper with YOU and encourage others around you to do the same. Be sure to arrive early to class and ask your instructor for modifications before class and let them know what’s going on in your body. Remember you are always your best teacher, always follow your intuition both on and off your mat and most definitely into motherhood!

Postpartum is not just 6-8 weeks after baby arrives. You are ALWAYS postpartum. Acceptance, love and listening to your intuition postpartum will get you through the long days and short years. No matter how old your kiddo is, you are a postpartum Mom. You are a beautiful superwoman with special super hero powers. You grew a life inside of you. You are enough and pretty badass if you ask me. Embrace motherhood, re-learn and love hard on your body, and focus in on YOU. Take the time to check in with yourself daily. Write down your thoughts, no matter how crazy they may seem in a journal or talk to a friend who will listen without judgment. Part of your Postpartum self care is taking the time to process your birth. Many of my postpartum students feel like they “failed” at their birth if it didn’t go as they had planned. A birth plan is super important when preparing for the birth of your baby.  A birth plan is an empowering way to see what is most important to you and how you envision your birth. It is not an exact road map for how your birth will go. Find empowerment in knowing what is most important to you and speaking your voice! This is HUGE. Take the time to go over your birth, feel all that you need to in order to process how it went.

Take the time to connect with your postpartum body. Remember that a newly postpartum Mom still has relaxin in their body. Relaxin is a pregnancy hormone that loosens the cervix and ligaments for birth. It is important that you focus on regaining strength in your muscles to support a more open skeleton in order to bring back stability. Your pelvis is wider now since you had a baby, which is a beautiful thing! That’s how your body prepares for birth. Nature is amazing at helping us prepare for birth, it just sometimes leaves us “hanging” a bit after. So what?! What an awesome opportunity to get that sexy new pair of jeans that actually fit and make you feel fabulous! Donate that old pair and celebrate your new shape. Remember how amazing the process of growing a human truly is. Rock on Mom, you made eyeballs, a heart and a brain, something majorly worth celebrating! Cheers to that.

Seek out a Physical Therapist who specializes in Pelvic Floor health. The pelvic floor is often neglected during pregnancy and postpartum. Even if you had a C-section your pelvic floor played a major role in carrying your baby. The weight of baby on your pelvic floor during pregnancy is substantial regardless of how baby enters the world. You should seek out a PT who specializes in the Pelvic Floor both during pregnancy and postpartum at any point. Don’t wait until baby arrives. This can help you recover from pregnancy and birth easier and lead to a happier more functional pelvic floor for life. If something doesn’t feel right, it isn’t. You do not need to suffer. Leaking, painful sex, shooting pains and such are not normal, and a PT can help you! I often get asked questions from my Prenatal yoga students in class about shooting pains, diastasis recti (abdominal separation), sciatica and leaking. I always encourage them to seek out a PT. They are always so grateful for the help they receive from an experienced Pelvic Floor specialist. Wondering if you have Pelvic Floor dysfunction? Visit https://www.meganandersonpt.com/single-post/2018/12/17/How-do-I-know-if-I-have-pelvic-floor-dysfunction To find out!

Breathe.  Let your breath guide you both on and off your mat. When your breath stops, something is going on physically or mentally. Pause, listen to it, observe and make a change. If your breath stops while doing core work on your mat, this is your signal to modify. For example, focus on lifting your chest and gaze in crunches to keep the breath flowing. Instead of coming all the way up, elevate the shoulders just off the mat and keep your legs fully extended on the Earth. Try lowering your knees in a plank to ensure a solid breath. You can also use your breath as a tool to keep you present while with baby. Take 3 simple cleansing and clearing breaths before every feeding or diaper change to help you stay grounded and in the moment. Cleansing and clearing breaths are also great during labor. I always encourage my Prenatal students to use this breath during labor to let their partner know that a contraction is starting. Just the simple awareness of one breath can make all the difference during pregnancy, labor, postpartum and beyond.

You got this. You’re not alone, you’re doing great and you are loved. Always remember that being a parent is hard work. Probably one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. You don’t always know if you are doing the right thing but you are trying your best. Some days your best is barely making it and some days you’re on top of the world. Always remember you are most definitely enough and we are all just trying to make it through life. One day at a time, we try and try again. If today was rough, that is OK, there is always tomorrow to get back up and try again.

Keep on trying Momma, don’t give up. Your HSY Mom tribe and community has your back and is here to catch you when you fall. Much love,  XOXO Tessa.


About our blogger …

Tessa Vinson is a playful, down-to-earth SoCal native and classically trained Marine musician. A beach lover and creative spirit, she loves finding new ways to express herself on the mat and in life. She was drawn to yoga in 2003 while attending music conservatory training in NYC. Practicing yoga regularly helped her balance the city’s hectic energy and find a physical outlet for musical creativity in her daily life. Tessa’s specialty at HSY is pre and post-natal yoga, where she creates a safe, healthy, fun-loving and peaceful environment. She helps expecting and new moms strengthen their bodies, connect with each other, and embrace all stages of life with laughter and empowerment.

Home Practice

5 Tips for Beginning a Home Yoga Practice

A teacher’s perspective with Evelyn Mizell

Years ago, at a studio in Montgomery, Alabama, where I had a membership I frequently heard a teacher comment to students, “You have a beautiful practice.”  At this point my asana practice was just a couple of years old.  When I couldn’t get to a studio, I popped in a DVD and set out my mat. Hearing a teacher comment on the beauty of practice I wondered what does a ‘beautiful practice’ – or even a ‘practice’ – really mean?  Did these students just go to a ton of classes? Was I part of the ‘beautiful practice’ club? 

I racked my brain, subscribed to Yoga Journal, and researched the heck out of this ‘practice’ thing to find out that part of a yoga practice can be self-guided and at home.  But where to start, and how would I keep it going without a teacher or a DVD to follow? At first upon embarking on a home practice I felt completely overwhelmed.

I’ve learned a lot through years of sustaining a home practice – some things learned from teachers but a lot from personal trial and error.  My hope with the list of suggestions below is that they spur you to engage in a meaningful practice – a beautiful practice as YOU define it –  in a place you call home.

Create Space

Practicing at home is tricky because there will always be household chores or other needs that require your attention, and there is more temptation to step off your mat and attend to them.  Find spaces that are further away from those chores. Worry about how clean the kitchen is constantly? If your kitchen is on the main floor of your house, practice in the basement or on the second floor. Shuffle around until you’ve found the right space.  When you do, if you are able, make it your own. Like incense or the smell of lavender? Set a stick or candle next to your mat or props and consider this your special place.

Start Simply

An Iyengar teacher once turned her head and told me, “This is a yoga practice.”  She lifted her arm overhead and said, “This is a yoga practice.” While I think yoga can be more nuanced than that the point is that starting simply with only a couple of poses at a time can be profound.  Consider poses you enjoy doing in the studio.  If Cat/Cow speaks to you in a group class because it warms the muscles along the spine and helps you move efficiently – or maybe you just think it feels good – bring that to your mat.  Stumped by a pose that you saw in class? Explore it further in your own body? The ability to mess around on your mat at home will allow new poses to feel more familiar the next time you step in the studio.

Don’t Set Time Limits

One of the easiest ways to kill a home practice is to insist that it be as long as a studio class.  Only have 20 minutes? That’s completely fine. Consider what your body craves that day, and then step on your mat and move your body through those poses.  You can flow, or work on one type of pose, or even work on mobility and ease in a single joint. The more pressure you put on the time and the aesthetics of your home practice the less likely you are to practice.

Anything Can be a Prop

Worried your home practice won’t be as effective because you don’t have fancy props?  Many household items can bridge the gap. Neckties, karate belts, and  hand towels used in the kitchen or bathroom can take the place of a yoga strap so that you can perform those seated forward folds from class.  Thick books serve as great blocks. Use them under the hand to come into Triangle or under the sacrum for Supported Bridge. And you’ve got a wall, right? Use it for Legs Up the Wall or a series of hip openers  like Cobbler’s Pose, Wide Legged Fold, or Supine Pigeon.

Change it Up

When starting a home practice, it makes sense to practice the same pose or sequence of poses over and over.  It’s a good way to see results and progression. But after awhile, it can become a bit of a crutch. Consider shaking things up. If you find that you are constantly doing a “flow” practice whenever you step on your mat give Restorative or Yin a try.  Had an extremely stressful or busy day? Why not work with pranayama or meditation?  Through exploration you might find another type of yoga to love.

BONUS TIP! Ask Questions

A yoga teacher’s relationship with their students does not end the moment the lights come back on after Savasana.  We are here to support you in both your studio and home practices. If you need help picking poses or setting up sequences, don’t hesitate to ask.  We would love to help!


EVELYN MIZELL 

Having completed her 200HR training with 532Yoga in Alexandria, VA, Evelyn provides an engaging and creative flow while setting her students at ease.

She is interested in yoga for mobility and injury prevention and enjoys focusing on the anatomical aspects of a physical practice.

She is currently in her 500HR Advanced Teacher Training.

 

 



 

5 Common Questions About Vinyasa Answered!

5 Common Questions From New Students
(and the answers!)

Ready to off a new year with a positive mindset and feel more connected to your body, mind, and spirit? Then a vinyasa yoga practice is calling your name!

Vinyasa yoga is one of the most popular styles of yoga in the United States, and is sometimes called “Flow Yoga” or “Vinyasa Flow”. The word itself roughly translates as, ‘to place in a special way.’ The movements and the breath and intentional; we move and pay attention to our movement on purpose. This style of yoga emphasizes the synchronization of breath with a series of yoga poses, thus creating a sort of moving meditation that stimulates not only the physical body, but also the subtle body and the mind.

New students (and experienced students alike) bring with them a ton of questions. It’s completely understandable to be hesitant and curious about starting a yoga practice. To help you out, I’ve gathered a few questions that I receive on a daily basis to help demystify what happens on the mat.

#1: Do I Have To Be Fit or Flexible?
Nope. Not at all! Can you breathe? Yes? Great – you can do yoga!

It can definitely be daunting to scroll through Instagram and see countless images of fit and flexy folk bending themselves into pretzels. I assure you, these individuals are the exception (and usually previous dancers and gymnasts to boot). Most yogis I come into contact with are not rubber bands. And while a benefit of yoga is to increase flexibility, this is merely a byproduct of the practice that will come with time and dedication.

To start your practice, all you need is a live body and an open mind.

#2: I Don’t Know the Poses…What If I Look Dumb?

Think back to the first time you played a sport. You had to learn the positions, the mechanics, and the rules. Think of the first time you drove a car. You had to learn the parts of the car, where and when to move your feet, and how to check your mirrors. Life is filled with experiences, and with any new experience comes a learning curve. Yoga, too!

Sure, you may not know the names of the poses or where to put your back foot in Warrior I, but you will never learn until you are taught. I get it, being the new kid in class is scary. But every person who practices yoga is doing so to journey towards a better version of themselves. Yoga studios are a place of community! Teachers and students alike are warm and friendly, and excited to share this path with new students. So, go to class, feel uncertain, and grow from that uncertainty!

#3: Will Yoga Help Me Lose Weight?

The question of weight loss is something I get asked often by new students. My answer is “maybe”.  Calories burned in a yoga class is so personal to the individuals. Per hour burned it’s safe to say that most yoga classes burn fewer calories than those burned in an intense fitness class. However, the practice of Yoga does inspire practitioners to live more mindfully and to adopt a healthier lifestyle, which can bring about weight loss.

Weight, especially for women in our culture, has become much more than a simple metric of health but it is also tied up with feelings of worthiness. For better or for worse the term ‘losing weight’ most considered as a positive movement towards better health – regardless of whether or not losing weight is or is not actually physically and emotionally healthy for that individual. “Oh, you’ve lost weight!” We hear it and might immediately consider it a compliment! But, yoga’s principles ask us to view our attachment to a number on a scale with a much clearer lens. When it comes to weight loss Yoga catalyzes a much deeper dive – and perhaps this is what surprises the weight loss seekers the most! Once a new practitioner gets started with vinyasa yoga they feel stronger, more agile, less reactive to little aches and pains, and often, yes much fitter in their physical body.

What I feel is most important is that adopting a yoga practice is for the long haul. When you become more aware of your physical body and the way you feel emotionally, you are better equipped to make decisions that will benefit your life – such as healthy eating, meditating, and maintaining a regular, daily movement practice.

#4: Do I Have To Chant “Om”?

Nope. In most classes, you will be offered the opportunity to chant the sacred sound of “Om” at least once. It feels good. But the first few times might feel awkward. Many teachers offer options such as, “If you don’t wish to join in, you can simply listen”.

But why do we “Om” in the first place? According to Yogic tradition “Om” is the sacred sound of the Universe; the sound of creation; the sound of oneness. The chant of “om” creates a vibration – the same vibration as everything in nature. When we chant this sound, we enter the same vibrational frequency as everything and everyone around us. Plus it makes you feel good! When we chant “Om” we are one.

Still not comfortable chanting the sound? That’s totally fine! By sitting near those who are chanting, you will receive the vibrations and share this unifying experience with everyone around you.

#5: What Class is Right For Me?

What a question! Just because you’re a beginner, doesn’t mean that you’re required to take a “beginner” class. So many factors go into choosing a yoga class, but the most important is to choose the right energy level for your needs. At Honest Soul Yoga, we have several vinyasa style classes to choose from.

Ask yourself, what kind of energy do you want to expend during your practice? What are you hoping to get out of yoga?

Are you an active person who loves upbeat fitness classes and sweating? Try Transform.
Does the heat get you hot and bothered, and want a low-key, low-impact flow? Give Movement & Meditation or Gentle a try.
Are you ready to dive into a balanced vinyasa practice that both challenges you physically and rejuvenates your soul? Honest is where it’s at.
Want to build endurance and create a deep mind-body-soul connection? Slow Burn is for you.

Skilled yoga teachers can guide you through any class you choose – so don’t worry about seeing the word “beginner” in the title. Instead, decide why you’re trying yoga and pick a class that will help fulfill your intention!   Feeling new, fresh, even awkward in poses the first time through comes with the territory. But, stick with it! Modify and rest as necessary – that doesn’t mean you’re opting out but rather that you’re taking a moment for yourself.  The sign of an advanced practice has little to do with the physical shape, and everything to do with our ability to tune into our deeper Truth amidst stirring thoughts. Sometimes that Truth calls us to pause, take child’s pose, and reconnect with breath – even if the rest of the class is standing on their hands.

Do you still have questions? Great. Pull on those leggings and head to your nearest studio. We’ll be happy to answer all of your questions before your first class 🙂

See you soon, yogi!


Katie Courlander – Regional Manager

A lover of burritos and puppies, Katie radiates positivity and possibility – living yoga, for real, from the inside out.

Katie hails from Alexandria, VA (homegrown, y’all!) and was first introduced to yoga during her college years as a way to cope with anxiety and depression. Now a Yoga Teacher and Teacher Trainer Katie specializes in flow classes, restorative, and prenatal yoga. Don’t expect a “yoga voice” in her class, but do expect at least one bad joke.  She lives in the DC-area with her husband and two silly kids.



 

What it Means to be Female & Veteran Owned

Suzie Mills grandmother served during WWII, and Suzie grew up hearing many stories about how proud her grandmother was to be in the military. Wishing to follow in her footsteps and serve her country, too, Suzie joined the Air Force in 2004.  Suzie’s unit was deployed to Afghanistan in 2007 and the experience took a toll on her nervous system. Upon returning my previous gym workouts just weren’t providing the relief they once did and Suzie finally felt at home in a yoga class. From there she never looked back.

“Veterans and military families deal with host of unique challenges, but one of challenge I can relate to on a deep level is the a need for community. With deployment, or a change of station, it’s hard to find a sense of home. I dealt with profound feelings of loneliness when I deployed. Yoga gave me the tools I needed to process and move through stress in a healthier way. When I completed active duty in 2012, I wanted to share healing through yoga with other women and with the military community,” shared Suzie. After returning from Afghanistan, Suzie opened a yoga studio in her basement for others to find what she was also searching for – a place to call home.

“The classes filled quickly; soon my basement couldn’t handle it! I needed a physical location,” Suzie shares. In 2013 opened up her first brick and mortar location in the Kingstowne, across the street from Fort Belvoir. Over the last 5 years the studio became a beacon of community and connection for military families in the area, and over half of HSY’s staff have a personal military connection. Throughout this time the business itself also grew to gross over a million dollars a year annually.

“Being a female veteran business owner, who grew this thing from my basement to now three locations with more on the horizon, is incredibly gratifying! Also it fills me with a tremendous sense of duty. Since the beginning I wanted my business to be of service to the community but I am continually humbled by just how big of an impact Honest Soul Yoga has made – it’s more than I could have expected,” admits Suzie.  She continued,”Honest Soul Yoga has become a safe space where people are invited to let their guard down, and truly examine how Yoga can help their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. I’m so grateful for it all, and truthfully our expansion is overdue – there are so many people out there who need what we have to offer. Recently I took on a business partner, Julia Lopez, who is also a yoga teacher and has been a long-time collaborator with HSY. Together we have big plans for the future. Even though it’s been 5 years, I feel like we’re just getting started!”

Honest Soul Yoga opened its second location in Fairfax County at 4804 Old Keene Mill Road in West Springfield. A third location located in Falls Church is scheduled to open before the new year. The company has plans to expand to additional locations in 2019. In addition to full weekly schedules at all HSY locations, Honest Soul Yoga also runs weekly yoga classes through the USO on Fort Belvoir, and supports USO-Metro through annual giving events.