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On a regular basis, I have people tell me all of the reasons they don’t do yoga: they aren’t flexible enough, they feel awkward compared to others in class, they can’t quiet their mind, they aren’t fit…the list goes on and on, filled with fear and uncertainty. While it makes me sad that so many people are holding themselves back from experiencing the transformative beauty of yoga, I am also happy that so many people are sharing these thoughts with me because in sharing they are looking for answers.
Seven years ago I found a copy of yoga teacher Matthew Sanford’s book Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence, in the local used bookstore. The book lit me on fire: Not only did Sanford’s story of loss and healing profoundly move me, his deep and unique experience with yoga’s ability to transform touched into my own and inspired me to teach to people with disabilities.
Feel like your yoga practice has reached a plateau? We’ve got 12 quick and easy tips to keep your practice evolving.
1. Hydrate all day: Stopping to sip in the middle of your yoga practice can mess with your flow, so it’s vital to arrive to class hydrated. Focus on drinking water all day long — you’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes.
Beginning a yoga practice can feel frustrating, stressful — maybe even boring! But stick with it. Coming back to your mat again and again will improve your body, mind and spirit beyond levels that you even dreamed imaginable.
Find a blissful yoga practice by following these simple steps:
The yoga practice is a glorious dance of the physical possibilities in the human body. An advanced practice can take your breath away as easily as it can expand your ujjayi. It can twist and turn in directions that make an artist quiver with creative jealousy and inspire even the heaviest of sloths to entertain a change of mind.
That being said — it can also be intimidating as hell.
I learned, trained, teach and practice in Santa Monica, California. It is the mecca of yoga these days and the cream of the crop when it comes to beautiful practices. It’s hard to find a level 2-3 class that doesn’t have at least one yogi soaring through the air in-between asanas or adding what appears to be a level-X variation to every pose. It can often be inspiring and mind-blowing but it can also be, in a word, daunting.
I took my first step onto the mat to learn how to let go of tension before it turned into an ulcer, as my lifestyle at that time was very fast-paced and stressful. Little did I know that in taking my first step on the mat, I would not only learn how to tune into my breath and strengthen my body, I would learn that I had the power to transform my life by gaining a clearer understanding of the mind-body connection.
I don’t mean to Bikram-bash, but my first yoga studio experience happened to be in a Bikram studio, and it wasn’t great. What turned me off the most about the experience was the energy in the room. Nobody was smiling. I can’t stand being places where no one’s smiling — my defense mechanisms kick in, among them a very snarky sense of humor. I found myself trying to fight laughter from the jokes I was telling myself internally to qualm the awkwardness, while staying as silent externally as everyone else. It’s difficult to ground yourself and balance on one foot when you’re shaking at your core from fighting hysterical laughter!
This isn’t the way a yoga class should be. Yoga is fun. I enjoy the practice. So why do most yogis seem so serious all the time?
Yoga saved my life.
Pretty grand statement, I know. And perhaps other people say that, too. I guess depending on where you are in life or what you happen to be going through, there are a lot of things that can save your life. A good book could do it, a sign from the universe or maybe even a strong martini. But when I say that yoga saved my life, I mean it truly came into my life during one of the darkest moments I had ever experienced and gave me back my desire to really live — fully and entirely.
A few years back, I found myself completely paralyzed with anxiety. I couldn’t go to work, drive my car or even leave my house without a potential panic attack. This anxiety made me angry. It made me resentful. But most of all, it made me an entirely different person. I became a shell of what I used to be. A lot of people thought I’d stay that way. Full disclosure: I thought I’d stay that way too.