Yogi Diaries: Inversions for Beginners & My Favorite Resource

As I’ve mentioned before, balance is not something that comes naturally to me. That being said, the extra effort it takes for me to master balances and inversions in no way deters me from working hard and achieving those goals! In my opinion, the hard work and perseverance it takes to get into these poses makes them all the more rewarding.

For me, achieving and maintaining inversions requires a lot of extra practice outside of the studio. If I’m super short on time and just want to maintain my progress, I’ll usually just do a warm up before going into the inversions I have mastered and holding them for 10 yogi breaths each.

If I do have time, however, I love to use resources like Yoga Journal to expand my practice through their expansive archive of free yoga videos. When I was first mastering inversions, I got into the habit of watching the same video almost daily to practice safely and correctly going into my inversions, and it worked wonders for my practice!

This video starts by warming you up for your inversions by taking you through some balancing poses and practice kicks, which I find to be extremely helpful (especially if I haven’t practiced yet that day). If you are already warmed up, however, you can skip to 9 minutes and 55 seconds which is where the yogi brings you to the wall to get right into the inversions. She focuses on traditional head stand, tripod headstand, and handstand.

The best part is that this awesome video caters specifically to beginners, so no matter how little experience you have with inversions you will reap the benefits after watching it even once! Click here to watch the video and start mastering inversions now (side note: don’t worry if you don’t have a yoga strap or a block).

 

Yogi Diaries: A Crash Course on Chakras

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Now that the yogi lifestyle and zen vibes are having a moment in pop culture, the 7 chakras are everywhere – and for a good reason! Balancing and awakening your chakras can have so many benefits that most of us are largely unaware of. Because the concept of energy centers in the body can be somewhat foreign to most of us Americans, the chakra system has the potential to be hard to “buy into” or understand. Well never fear, my soon-to-be energetically balanced friends, I’m here to boil it all down to the simplest of terms and help you understand the basics of the 7 chakras.

The chakra system dates back to over 3,000  years ago in India where they were first recorded in The Vedas, or the oldest collection of writings in India. Since then many variations of the chakra system have become extremely important in many Eastern spiritual traditions, including Hinduism and Yoga.

The basic and most widely accepted chakra system is made up of seven unique energy centers – or chakras – spread between the base of the spine and the space directly above the crown of the head. This system is based on the Hindu chakra system, where each chakra is regarded as a perpetually evolving energy hub and is associated with certain emotions, issues, and other aspects of human life.

Having “balanced chakras” basically means that each chakra is adequately functioning and governing its characteristic emotions, issues, etc, and that no one chakra is over or under active. It could almost be compared to a seven sided seesaw. An over active or under active chakra can be associated with emotional, mental, spiritual, even physical issues, which is why it’s important to be in touch with your own chakras on a regular basis.  If one chakra isn’t functioning properly, there are countless different ways to get in touch with it and to foster a more balanced relationship between that chakra, the other chakras, and you (including meditation, chanting, vibrational healing, yoga, the list goes on..).

Like I said, each of the seven chakras is tied to certain aspects of human life, including emotions and issues. Beyond this, however, each chakra is also associated with its own color and personal strengths or weaknesses (among many other things that I won’t delve into here) and is located in a specific area along the spinal cord. Without further ado, may I introduce to you the seven chakras, starting from the first, bottom-most chakra and moving upward:

  1. The Root Chakra:
    • Location: Base of spine at tailbone/coccyx
    • Color: Red
    • Sanskrit Name: Muladhara
    • The Root Chakra is associated with ones basic needs (home, health, safety and security) being met. It regulates our sense of groundedness and stability, especially in our home lives. This can be literal, such as our basic human needs for food and shelter, or it can be more metaphorical and tied to things like financial security and familial relationships.
  2. The Sacral Chakra: 
    • Location: Lower abdomen, about 2 inches below the navel
    • Color: Orange
    • Sanskrit Name: Swadhisthana
    • The Sacral Chakra is associated with feelings and sensations, sexuality, creativity, and emotions. It encourages us to feel the world around us and take pleasure in it and it governs our sense of well-being, sensuality, and happiness.
  3. The Solar Plexus Chakra:
    • Location: Stomach or upper abdomen
    • Color: Yellow or golden-yellow
    • Sanskrit Name: Manipura
    • The Solar Plexus Chakra is related to ones sense of self-worth and self-esteem, as well as ones personal identity and independence. It governs ones ability to find direction in life and make choices, it is strongly tied to ones inner power and self-image.
  4. The Heart Chakra:
    • Location: Mid chest, above the heart
    • Color: Green
    • Sanskrit Name: Anahata
    • The Heart Chakra governs ones relationships and feelings (especially those of love, empathy, and forgiveness) as well as ones connectedness to his or her world. It is tied to ones sense of inner peace, as well as ones ability to give and receive emotionally.
  5. The Throat Chakra:
    • Location: Throat
    • Color: Blue
    • Sanskrit Name: Vishuddha
    • The Throat Chakra is related to ones ability to communicate and truly express themselves. It’s said to help one find his or her vocation or purpose in life as well as ones personal truths.
  6. The Third Eye Chakra:
    • Location: Space between the eyebrows
    • Color: Purple, or bluish purple
    • Sanskrit Name: Ajna
    • The Third Eye Chakra is known as ones center of intuition, insight, and wisdom. It regulates ones connection to the less physical aspects of life, as well as ones creativity and ability to make decisions. The third eye is associated with one’s ability to access intangible realms and spirituality.
  7. The Crown Chakra:
    • Location: Top of head or slightly above
    • Color: White, although also associated with a deep purple
    • Sanskrit Name: Sahasrara
    • The Crown Chakra is said to regulate ones connection to the universe or higher power, open-mindedness, spirituality and wisdom, and sense of inner and outer beauty. It is associated with the ultimate form of bliss or enlightenment, as well as connection with the divine form of ones selfChakrasWomanDescription

There is so much to say about each chakra that I would never be able to cover it all in a simple explanation, but I hope these brief excerpts about each one can serve as a basic introduction. I encourage you to continue to research the chakras on your own if they are of interest to you, you can even start by taking this short chakra test to see how balanced your own chakras are.

My relationship with chakras has been one of healing, realization, and gratitude. It’s my hope that more people will be touched by healing through chakras in the same way that I have, and perhaps this post can serve as a starting point for someones journey. If you have any questions or comments about chakras, this post, or my relationship with chakras, please feel free to comment or reach out to me! Otherwise, happy meditating & stay balanced 🙂

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Yogi Diaries: A Brief Introduction

As I told you guys in my recent post Honey, I’m Home, I have recently started training to be a yoga teacher at CorePower Yoga here in San Francisco! I’m so excited to share my experience and my progress through my yogic journey with you all, and I hope that my journey will help to encourage you through yours!

I want to begin my Yogi Diary by telling you about what yoga is to me, explaining my relationship with yoga, and my reasons for doing Power Yoga Teacher-Training at this point in my life!

Ever since I was a little girl, I have enjoyed attending the occasional yoga class here and there. I have always had somewhat of an affinity for it, although as I have gotten older I have become less bendy and my balance still leaves a lot to be desired. One of the things that resonates with me about yoga is the spirituality of it – I am endlessly amazed by yoga’s ability to bring the spirit and the body in sync with one another. I like to think of it as a physical expression of spirituality. I also admire the spirituality of yoga because it is the most accepting spiritual community that I can think of. Unlike any other spiritually based activity, group, or community that I know of, yoga welcomes everyone of all genders, abilities, races, religions, ages, sexuality, socioeconomic groups, you name it and you’re welcome to participate.

Beyond that, and back to the mat, yoga is one of my favorite forms of exercise for so many different reasons. I love that yoga is both an individual experience as well as a shared experience if you’re in a class setting or working with a practitioner. Whether you attend yoga class with someone you know or go alone, you still get to have a totally individual experience while also feeding off of the energy from everyone else in the class. I also love that it is something you can practice on your own, anywhere you go, and with little to no equipment or required materials. Yoga enables you to cultivate your muscles and your bodies versatility and strength in an extremely enjoyable and relaxing way. It’s endless variations, poses, modifications, and challenges offer people at every ability level the opportunity to benefit from yoga. There is nothing like the feeling of laying in a peaceful Shavasana (or corpse pose – just laying flat) at the end of a challenging yoga class; feeling totally loose and relaxed, clear headed, muscles warm, breath full and focused.

As you can probably tell, health and wellness is my passion. This stuff is my JAM, I love it and I can’t get enough. Like I said before, I have always loved yoga and it has always been a daydream of mine to picture myself teaching a yoga class and having extensive knowledge of the practice. When I came back to the Bay Area, I realized that this is my opportunity to really explore my “daydreams” in a real way, and possibly make them a reality! That’s why I jumped at the opportunity to participate in Teacher Training at this crossroads in my life, even though my practice might not be as strong and versatile as I would like it to be.

My schedule right now is very demanding, with 3 hours of teacher training after work on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday as well as trying to fit in at least one class every day, but so far it’s been nothing but rewarding and energizing. I’m proud of myself for perusing my dream and my passion even though it took a considerable amount of planning, time crunching, and saving, and I can’t wait to continue to share with you my journey and my evolving relationship with yoga!

For now, Namaste y’all 🙂 Stay zen!

Yogi Diaries: Updates and Intentions

As I delve deeper into the world of yoga and as I am suddenly at a point in my life where free time is scarce, I am becoming more and more aware of the importance of going about my life in a more purposeful and mindful way. When there are fewer hours in the day than you might like, it’s important to ration your time and to assign a purpose or reason to each thing you do, which is why I want to start to focus more on setting clear intentions for my life, weeks, days, and even little tasks.

While I have always had goals in life, I’m finding myself now at a time where I am completely in the driver’s seat of my life for the first time. It’s a strange mixture of terrifying and exhilarating, most importantly, however, it’s inspiring. At any transition point in life, it’s important to find the direction that’s right for you and run with it. While I am constantly exhilarated and excited by the possibilities of the future, I’m beginning to learn that the “run with it” part of finding your path can be easier said than done.

For the past week or so, I spent time focusing on the beginning two aspects of the 8 limbed yogic path: the first Yama, Ahisma which represents non-violence or non-harm, and the first Niyama, Saucha which stands for cleanliness and purity in all aspects of life (for more background information, see my earlier post Yogi Diaries: A Spiritual Journey Beginning with Yamas & Niyamas). The outcome of my focus on these aspects of life was somewhat minimal, but meaningful nonetheless.

Since I already have an inherently non-violent vegan diet, I sort of feel like I used it as a cop-out for focusing on Ahisma. I would have liked to spend more time looking inward and focusing on how I treat all of the people I interact with on a daily basis. I would have liked to make more progress towards eliminating any accidental rudeness or unintentionally inconsiderate behavior, but at the very least it’s good that I am thinking about it at all so that I can continue to make an effort going forward. For Saucha, I made an effort to keep my bedroom space more tidy and to clean up after myself more thoroughly, especially in the kitchen. While my room is still far from perfect, I do think that I made some progress or at least taught my self some helpful tidiness tips and tricks that I’ll be able to employ in the future.

For the week or so to come, I’ll be focusing on the next Yama and Niyama. Respectively, Satya which stands for honesty and truthful communication, and Santosha which represents personal contentment and being enough on your own. As someone who has recently been in recovery from an eating disorder, I think that this one could be particularly hard for me. Intrinsic contentment and confidence is something that I deeply struggle with. I am nervous and scared to look that still-open wound directly in the face because I don’t know how it will feel. I’m terrified to be alone with my thoughts and feelings on this matter, but the fact that I have such fear shows me that it needs to be done and that I should give this aspect of my life special attention. I think that Satya and Santosha will compliment each other as my focuses for this time period to come because I will have to focus on communicating honestly with myself, and being truthful about my progress when it comes to self acceptance. Wish me luck and send me good vibes through this microjourney that I’m embarking on!

Now on a very different note…

Since this is my diary as an emerging yogi, I’m going to bring the conversation back to the mat for a hot second. Since day one, my balance has been sub-par to say the least. Nailing crow was much more of struggle for me than I would ever care to admit. Since I mastered it, I have been trying to work on my tripod head stand and my chin stand. I want to emphasize how unbelievably difficult balancing is for me, because these poses seem to be much harder for me than the average person. It is beyond frustrating to advance so slowly in some aspects (balances) as compared to other aspects of my practice.

That being said, last night I finally found myself in a comfortable straight leg supported head stand (or sirshasana if you prefer Sanskrit)!!! This was a seriously big deal for me, like HUGE! I was so excited and proud of myself that I lost my focus and toppled straight to the ground. In the process, one of my knees ended up hitting my right forearm instead of the ground and as a result my arm has been hurting all day since. It actually caused so much pain in my forearm that I decided to skip yoga class completely today in order to avoid putting weight on the arm (since that’s when it hurts the most). This kind of stuff is scary for me as someone who has little to no experience with injury. Luckily, my arm is feeling better already so I think I’ll just be able to chalk it up to a close call and a sign that I shouldn’t get ahead of myself in the future.

At the end of the day, I’m so so so very excited about getting into my head stand and I hope it will open more doors for me! I am attending a balancing workshop this coming Saturday so hopefully I’ll have a few solid days of headstand practice before then. I hope that my struggles and constant sequences of trial and error will inspire y’all to try something new or tackle your goals because even if you (literally, in my case) fall on your face the first time it will always be worth it in the end.

I know that my writing has been lacking lately, but I’m getting back into my groove this week I promise so stay tuned for more recipes and/or bay area eats and whatnot. For now, keep it HONEST and keep it CONTENT in solidarity with me!

 

Yogi Diaries: A Spiritual Journey Beginning with Yamas & Niyamas

At Yoga Teacher Training, we recently spent a few hours learning about the yogic philosophy and specifically the 8 limbed yogic path. The philosophy of yoga is very different from the organized religion and beliefs that I have grown to identify with, and in some ways I find it more applicable to my every day life. Normally, I wouldn’t bring up the topic of religion or share my beliefs on this sort of platform, but I feel that some background information on my spiritual journey is necessary here (don’t worry I’ll be brief!).

Growing up, organized religion was always an important part of my life and the beliefs that I was raised on are still a primary aspect of my life that I cherish. What might be considered unique about the spiritual aspect of my childhood, however, was that I was taught to always have an open mind and I knew from the start that ultimately my spirituality was my own to cultivate on a path separate even from my immediate family. My journey with the Divine is just that: my journey with the Divine. While some people choose to follow certain philosophies in their entirety, devoting their whole life to that philosophy and following every single rule or pillar, I’m not at a point in my life where I feel ready to pick one spiritual path and accept it as the only truth or way of life. Maybe one day I will be, but for now I am excited to welcome new aspects of different spiritualities into my life by taking what works for me and cultivating my own spirituality, letting it all be mutually inclusive. At this point so early on in my life, I am enjoying learning about new and different ways of thinking, and opening up my mind to many uniquely beautiful spiritual paths and beliefs.

Learning about the 8 Limbed Yogic Path  has been a very spiritual experience for me, and has given me a new lens to view my every day as well as my big picture through. Right now, however, I want to make an effort to start at the beginning of the yogic path and foster my own spirit and soul as well as my outward outlook and behavior. Before I explain how I want to go about focusing on these vital parts of my spirit, I want to briefly go into my (still very elementary and evolving) understanding of the beginning of the 8 Limbed Yogic Path, Yamas and Niyamas:

Yamas and Niyamas are the first two limbs of the 8 limbed yogic path; they form the base of the 8 branches of the yogic tree or the bottom two rungs of the ladder if you choose to view it as such. You must foster your Yamas and Niyamas if you choose to continue along the path or up the ladder.

Yamas make up what could be referred to as your moral compass. They are a set of five broad principles that guide your outward behavior towards your fellow earthlings. Here are the five guidelines, or the five yamas:

  1. Ahisma: Freedom from harming and from violence of any kind. This includes your thoughts, words, actions, and even your diet.
  2. Satya: Truthfulness, but not at the expense of ahisma. Keeping your words, actions, and thoughts consistent with one another.
  3. Asteya: Non-Stealing. This includes material things, but more deeply consider respecting others’ time and energy. Balancing the give and take portion of your life.
  4. Brachmacharya: Moderation. Avoiding obsession and overindulgence of any kind throughout all aspects of life, including sexuality and dominance as well as moderation itself.
  5. Aparigraha: Non-Hoarding: Freedom from over attachment to things that you don’t need, namely possessions and material goods.

Niyamas are what make up a more inward facing set of pillars for how you treat your self and go about your life, they come from a  more personal and individual perspective. Like Yamas, Niyamas are made up of five broad guidelines:

  1. Saucha: Purity and cleanliness. Consider your physical environment, personal hygiene and diet, information and social media input, and the people you surround yourself with. Ridding yourself of all types of toxicity.
  2. Santosha: Innate happiness and contentment in the now. Fill your life with gratitude, and look inward for a source of happiness, appreciating how things are in the present.
  3. Tapas: Self Discipline. Freeing yourself from bad habits and behaviors, and putting effort into cultivating good ones.
  4. Svadhyaya: Self study and self-awareness. Be conscious of your actions in the moment as they are occurring, and take time to reflect on them later. Ideally, incorporate journaling into your every day habits and get to know yourself on a deep and reflective level.
  5. Isvara-Pranidhana: Surrender to a higher power or being. Devotion of actions and of yourself to something outside of yourself, creating a heightened sense of purpose.

So, there you have it. The beginning pillars of a yogic lifestyle and the most basic guidelines for how to conduct yourself, both inwardly and outwardly. No matter which religion you identify with, Yamas and Niyamas are worth opening your mind to and reflecting on. Most of us have room in our lives to benefit from incorporating some of these principles into our day-to-day life, or at least to be aware of these principles as we go about our daily activities and routines.

Moving forward, my goal is to focus weekly on one of the Yamas and one of the Niyamas, working my way down the respective lists. Rather than attempting a complete spiritual cleanse and trying to incorporate focus on all of them into my life at once, I am going to carefully focus on and enrich each one on its own, taking baby steps towards a larger goal of self-improvement.

This means that I will be beginning this week with a special focus on Ahisma (non violence) and Saucha (purity/cleanliness). Working on my Ahisma, I hope to improve my actions towards others and consider ways that I could be harming the people and beings around me without realizing it or meaning to. In terms of Saucha, I have started by putting extra effort into keeping a clean room and a clean self and trying to use fewer curse words. This week, I’ll be reading up more on Ahisma and Saucha and making efforts to incorporate them into my life on even deeper and all-encompassing levels. Stay tuned to hear about my progress and transformations and for my intentions in the weeks to come. For now, keep it compassionate and keep it clean 🙂