7 Tips to Make Meditation a Regular Practice

Meditation is something that has shed true light on my life and yoga practice. I am not being dramatic when I say it has completely changed the way I sit, sleep, drink, eat, read, speak, listen, move, breathe, teach, and live. I now view meditation as an essential part of any meaningful yoga practice. But I won’t lie, it can be a pretty hard practice to break in to. There are still times it feels impossible to me, but hey, that’s the practice!

I’m going to share a few beginner meditation tips that helped me kick start my practice, which now feels completely natural (like 85% of the time 😉 ).

  1. Work your way up. Meditation is the 7th limb on the 8 limb path of yoga and while the limbs don’t have to be practiced in order, it took me years of work on the others before I found meditation. Especially helpful in my case were Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses) and Dharana (concentration). A common practice to find a meditative state is the candle meditation or candle gazing. Light a candle, stare into the flame, engage fully on just the flame, eventually the flame becomes all you see and feels a part of you and you a part of it. This will help with concentration as well as sense withdrawal as concentrating on just one thing blurs out the rest.
  2. Sit in a way that WORKS. We all know the beautiful pictures of awesome, strong yogis sitting in meditation with upright spines, perfect lotus legs, usually shiny heads and light colored robes. Oh to be them. But we’re not. Be realistic with your seat. What is actually functional, comfortable, and maintainable? Seats look different in different bodies but the actual seat hardly matters compared to the spine. Shoulders over the hips, shoulders melting away from the ears, ribs lifted, tailbone rooting down, crown of head rising up. The upright spine is a must – so if sitting criss-cross-applesauce on the ground makes it extremely difficult to keep your spine upright, you need a new seat. Try elevating the hips on a bolster, blanket, or cushion. You can even sit in a chair or support your spine with the wall. You can strengthen the spine and work up to the unsupported meditation but start with your tall and beautiful spine, pulling in opposing directions. Don’t let discomfort be your distraction.
  3. Guide yourself away from the guided stuff….touchy topic alert. Guided meditations are great and very popular these days. Which is great. But for myself, I found that after a while, the guided meditations hurt my meditation practice. I was uncomfortable sitting in silence and missed the leader. When I started to shy away from the guided meditations, got comfortable with the quiet and trusted myself, I found things the guided meditation couldn’t show me. Just a thought. I still treat myself to guided meditations – especially at night
  4. Try Mantra & Mala. When I began walking away from guided meditation, I still felt a little lost when thinking about just sitting in silence. I used mantra and a Mala to meditate, a really special practice! A mantra is a word or phrase – it can be anything you want, traditional or completely your own! A good practice that incorporates breath is using inhales and exhales to repeat your mantra. Example for the mantra So Hum (loosely translates to I am): As you inhale, think/say So. As you exhale, think/say Hum. You can also use a Mala with your mantra. A Mala is a necklace with 108 beads. You work your way around the Mala, breathing or repeating the mantra to yourself or out loud. Here’s a link to read more and see how to use your Mala.
  5. Take your time increasing the time. So you read somewhere you’re supposed to meditate 20 minutes…you try…you fail…you decide you cannot meditate. It’s ok! Yes, longer meditations are nice and they feel more beneficial to me. That’s just something to look forward to. But on my journey, it took a lot of time to extend my meditative state. I began with 5 minute increments. In my experience it started to get easier slowly. 5 minutes here, 7 minutes here, 15 minutes here, back down to 10 minutes here, and so on. Don’t let time be a major constraint or goal in your practice but do increase the time as you go. If you use a timer, set it one or two minutes longer than you have in the past and see what happens.
  6. Let go of guilt. If you are like me, you can be a little hard on yourself sometimes. I am very self-disciplined…which is me romanticizing my perfectionist habits. When I first decided I wanted to meditate every day, I would be devastated if I missed a day. Big mistake. Do not be hard on yourself if the time gets away from you or if the situation changed. Meditation is not a chore. You’re not ‘cheating’ yourself or anyone else by missing a session. It’s about being in the moment – not worrying! Be adaptable and let the time come and go. Otherwise, you might miss the whole point!
  7. Make it your own. No description needed for this one – meditation looks different for every human being. Do what feels right and leave the rest.

Enjoy your meditation journey – take it one step at a time! Namaste!

DIY Coconut Almond Chia Bars

As promised, here is my favorite way to make my own granola bars at home! Making your own will save a lot of money, packaging, and it’s fun! You also get the benefit of knowing exactly what you’re putting into your body – real food, no additives necessary! Feel free to add your own spin on this recipe – it’s fun to change it up and try different add-ins. This recipe is derived from the Master Granola Bar Recipe from Gluten Free on a Shoestring but vegan-ized and flavored by me.

What you need:
* 9-inch baking pan
* Parchment paper (optional, but will make your life so much easier)
* Large mixing bowl
* Large measuring cup
* 1 3/4 cups quick oats
* 1 cup creamy almond butter
* 1/2 cup maple syrup (the real stuff y’all, no Hungry Jack sh**)
* Sprinkle of salt
* 1 cup chopped raw almonds
* 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (the bigger the better in my opinion!)
* 2 tablespoons chia seeds
* Sprinkle of cinnamon (optional)
* 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla (optional)

Directions:
1. (Optional) In a skillet over medium heat, toast the almonds until they are golden and fragrant (about 5 min)
2. Add oats, almonds, coconut flakes, chia seeds, cinnamon, & salt to large mixing bowl. Gently stir until combined.
3. Microwave almond butter to soften, mix in syrup, and vanilla. Whisk until combined.
4. Add liquid mixture to oat mixture and stir (I use my hands, just to get dirty and fun) until there are no longer dry oats. The drier the mix, the firmer the bar so adjust as needed, adding more oats or more syrup.
5. Line pan with parchment paper (criss-cross will be the easiest to remove bars)
6. Refrigerate for a few hours – enough time to allow the oats to soak in the moisture. Preferably overnight.
7. Remove from baking pan
8. Slice into bars & enjoy
9. Store in fridge or freezer

Hope you enjoy this recipe and have fun making it your own! You can add chocolate chips (Almond Joy situation?), protein powder, dried fruits, different nut butters, etc. Have fun!

 

My Mindful Morning Ritual

Hello & happy Monday! To start off the week, we’re talking about my daily morning routine or ritual! Things tend to start early – I like getting up early so I have time for myself before I report to work. It just so happens that my morning routine is also my daily spiritual practice or sādhanā. I’ve linked the wiki entry of sādhanā but it’s completely open for interpretation and is beautifully unique in each person’s mind. In my eyes, my sādhanā is the part of my day that I turn into myself. It’s the time of the day that I plug in, recharge, and prepare myself for for the new day. That’s why I enjoy doing this in the morning. Sometimes this practice is goes on all day and sometimes it’s half an hour. Either way, it sets me up to be happy and feel close to who I really am.

Little disclaimer – you may notice a lot of my routine aligns with Ayurveda…this is not an accident but I am in no ways an expert on this and I’m only sharing – not recommending. Also, my ritual does change with time and circumstance, but it has been consistent for a few months – so I figured this was the perfect time to share.

  1. Morning Prayer – this is nothing fancy, I’m usually still in my bed or on my way to the bathroom. But right when I wake up, I just take a moment for gratitude for the day and the gifts it can bring.
  2. Tongue Scrape – yep, ew. It is really gross I won’t lie. I use a silver tongue scraper to pull toxins off my tongue and massage my inner organs through my tongue. Oh yeahhh. Google it.
  3. Copper Water – Every night, with good intentions, I fill a pure copper cup with water. Overnight, copper ions dissolve in that water in small amounts. It is said this water now has the potency to destroy harmful microbes, fungi, bacteria, etc. (Vasanti Health) In the morning, I use this water to swish and rinse my mouth. I drink the remaining. Beyond the health benefits of the water, I enjoy preparing my water the night before – it feels special as I drink it the next day, like an offering I’ve made to myself.
  4. Oil Pull – I throw a tablespoon of coconut oil in my mouth, melt it, then swish it around for about 10-15 minutes (I do the rest of my routine at this time!), pulling toxins out of my mouth. This also has dental benefits. Once again, I’m not expert, Google it! Or just try it and see how you feel.
  5. …Use the bathroom… – not going to give you Internet creeps any info on this…but I’ve included because it’s an important part of the morning routine!
  6. Lemon & ACV Water – I add the juice from a lemon, 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, and ice to a glass. I boil water and pour it over the mixture. This makes an awesome, warm drink that wakes up my digestive system and since I’ve been drinking it for months, I don’t feel awake until I’ve had it!
  7. Movement – as I sip on my morning cocktail, I move. This is different every day. Sometimes it’s 5 minutes of stretching, sometimes it’s an hour and a half yoga practice, sometimes it’s a walk, sometimes it’s just walking around my apartment. This is just to get the blood flowing and it makes me happy.
  8. Meditation – I sit in meditation for about 20 minutes. I begin with a couple minutes of breath work – to quiet myself down and tune in, then I let the universe come in & take over 🙂
  9. Journaling/Intention Setting – I don’t journal every day, but some days I like to draw a picture, write down an intention, something that came to me in meditation, etc. Either way, it’s nice to take some time (literally 2 minutes some days) to consider my day and outwardly express.

At this point, I’m ready to get the day started! Maybe some coffee, sometimes a workout comes next, sometimes it’s breakfast, whatever the day brings! As a friend, I highly recommend having a steady morning routine – it allows the day to unfold slower and softer. My morning sādhanā leads me to take advantage of my entire day and keeps me energized and grateful. Thanks for reading! I hope this post gave you some insight and maybe some ideas for your own ritual. Enjoy your day & week 🙂

 

Sharing my Struggle: Proper Alignment vs. What Feels Right

I’m back with another struggle of mine. Like I said in the former Sharing My Struggle post, these posts aren’t really meant to be full of answers or advice (quite the opposite actually) but rather me sharing my thoughts and maybe sparking yours! There’s something freeing about allowing myself to be open and authentic about how I experience the human condition. Highly recommend 🙂

As I’ve said before, when I came across yoga, it was completely informal and self-taught. While I still find this a beautiful aspect of my practice, it led to a lot of “bad” habits. By bad, I really mean not properly aligned. Many of my versions of postures are technically “incorrect”. I use all these quotations because I honestly don’t think the words incorrect & bad have a place in yoga. Since the start of my journey, I’ve learned an overwhelming amount of information about anatomy, injuries, and alignment in yoga, stirring questions in my mind. Am I taking care of my body? Or could I actually be harming myself? Am I even on my mat to take care of my body? Is my practice safe and sustainable? Do I want it to be? Should I listen to anatomy books or my own body and sensations? Why does improper alignment feel so good in my body? How can I teach others yoga safely if I practice unsafely?

Yoga came so seamlessly and naturally – it felt like home, the original state of my body. For the first year of my journey, I would practice with loud music, no mat, no props, no cute yoga clothes, no rules, just allowing. Then I started going to yoga classes and reading yoga books. After being exposed to proper alignment, I became aware of my flaws. I became obsessive and restrictive with myself. The practice changed. I couldn’t move in a carefree way and I was constantly checking off alignment boxes in my head. I practiced in front of a mirror, critiquing myself for doing things “wrong” and praising myself for doing things “right”. In this way, I thought “proper alignment” stole my practice (spoiler altert, it was me). I tried to get it back. I tried to ignore alignment but every time I stepped on to the mat, it was like a dam burst in my brain and I was flooded with anatomical information. My practice became a routine of checking off alignment boxes. I tried to block out new information, but the lack of learning made my practice stagnate and boring. Yoga didn’t feel like a part of me anymore.

I told myself that the old way – the way that felt right but apparently was wrong – was bad. And the new way was good. I let go of my old practice and accepted the change. I learned to teach. I learned SO much more about how to keep people and myself safe while practicing yoga. (Just for the record, learning proper alignment wasn’t always negative to me at all. For every time one I was confused by the “right way”, there were more times I was led into the proper alignment and I was like oh wow ok that’s how that’s supposed to feel.)

But there was something missing. Freedom. Spontaneity. Lightheartedness.

For a year, I gave myself cheeky practices here and there like a bodybuilder gives themselves cheat meals. I threw my head back and let my arms hyper-extend in upward facing dog. My knees traveled far past my toes in every lunge. I fought with the stability of my shoulders. I bent my low spine. My forehead kissed the earth in downward facing dog. I danced on my mat, breaking all the “rules”, like an runaway teenager. A smile spread across my face. After the high, I felt guilty and ashamed of what I had done. I considered my yoga practice self-harm.

My mindset changed when I stopped taking myself and my yoga so seriously, realizing that perfect alignment doesn’t exist. Every pose is experienced differently in every body – there is no right or wrong. Alignment is important and helpful, but far from the point. Now I (usually, I still struggle) trust my body to know what to do.

Here’s my thinking now and warning, you might disagree and that is OK. The bottom line is, there is a safe way(s) to practice each yoga pose and this is the only version(s) I will teach. Outside of my teacher scope, life is short. And I don’t practice yoga for the physical benefits (I mean they’re nice, I’ll take them. But that’s not why I’m here). This was a hard realization to come to – yoga is “healthy” right? It’s a way of taking care of my physical body, right? Yes, in a way, but the truth is, yoga teaches me the impermanence of my body. It’s here and gone. I practice to feel my body from the inside out, to be in the moment, to breathe in, to breathe out, to feel the universe flow through me. I’m here for the feelings, not the appearances.

I guess I’m still looking for the perfect balance of the carpe-diem-do-whatever-feels-good-listen-to-my-body mindset and the actual preservation of my body and its strength, mobility, and flexibility. Have you felt this? Do you have a pose that feels so right when your alignment is lacking? It’s good to be bad 😉

 

 

 

20 Easy Ideas to Reduce Waste

We should all be striving to save the planet and adopt the zero-waste lifestyle but it doesn’t have to be that daunting. There are little changes we can make that greatly reduce waste. If you haven’t felt the urge to reduce the amount of trash you produce, challenge yourself by holding on to all of your trash in just one day and evaluate. I guarantee you’ll want to make some of these easy swaps when you see how wasteful you can be! And the best part, over half of these ideas cost absolutely nothing! While making a few investments can be really helpful, don’t let money limit your mission to reduce consumption!

  1. Don’t take more than you need. – This applies to pretty much everything we use – paper towels, napkins, toilet paper, food, drink, etc. Try not to take things just because they are being offered to you.
  2. Opt for dish towels over paper towels. – Instead of buying and throwing away rolls and rolls of paper towels, dry your hands and clean up little kitchen messes with your dish towel!
  3. Use a surface cleaner & a sponge/towel instead of one-time-use wipes. – No need to fill the trash with wipes! Just wipe down the counter or table with a towel and throw it in your next load of laundry.
  4. Skip the coffee collar & lid. – Next time you get coffee ask yourself, do I really need the extras? The answer is no and those things will just end up in the trash.
  5. Pack a mug. – If your office has a shared coffee pot/Kurig and a stack of paper cups, try packing your own mug and just washing it between uses!
  6. BYOU: Bring your own utensils. – Throw a spoon and fork from the kitchen into your bag so you can skip the plastic utensils when you’re out and about. Just bring them home, wash them, and toss them right back in the bag so you’re always prepared!
  7. Opt for Tupperware over plastic bags/plastic wrap – We all probably own a seemingly impossible amount of Tupperware so why waste money on plastic bags and plastic wrap? Just toss leftovers in containers! Or throw your packed sandwich in a container instead. Next time you run out of baggies, try not repurchasing and making do.
  8. Skip the plastic bags for your produce. – Next time you’re at the grocery store consider throwing fruits and veggies that have a peel or that you plan on washing anyway straight into the cart! It won’t make them less healthy J
  9. Ask for no straw in your drink. – We’ve all seen the sad photos of ocean animals choking on our straws so I don’t feel the need to convince you of this one.
  10. Limit one-time use packaging (e.g. store-bought granola bars) – It’s hard to avoid packaging sometimes but start to notice your snack-trash habits. Think about it – if you’re eating packaged protein bars every day, you’re racking up the wrappers! Try making your own and storing them in reusable containers! I may or may not have a recipe coming soon 😉
  11. Wash & reuse Ziploc bags. – No need to throw away that Ziploc after just one use! Rinse it and reuse it.
  12. Wash & reuse plastic utensils. – If you forgot to BYOU and you end up with some plastic utensils, wash them and throw them in your lunch bag or purse for next time!
  13. Buy makeup remover liquid/balm instead of wipes. – While they’re convenient for travel and in your gym bag, there’s no need to fill your trashcan with dirty makeup remover wipes! Next time buy a bottle of liquid makeup remover or makeup remover oil/balm.
  14. Invest in reusable shopping bags. – Everyone owns one these days and if not, basically every store sells them. These obviously reduce plastic use but also greatly reduce the trips to and from your car after a grocery haul! If you have trouble remembering to grab your bag, try keeping it in your trunk so it’s always on hand. Some stores even offer discounts and promos when you bring your bag. And remember, these aren’t just for the grocery store! Bring them on all your shopping sprees.
  15. Invest in a reusable water bottle. – This one goes without saying. Not only do you reduce plastic consumption, you also save tons of money by not having to purchase your water! Every restaurant I’ve been to is happy to fill up my bottle when I request it. Even most airlines will fill your water bottle on request, keeping you much more hydrated than those tiny plastic cups.
  16. Get your own travel coffee cup. – No more paper coffee cups with plastic lids. Just ask your barista to fill your cup instead. Bringing your own container to your favorite coffee shop could even score you a discount!
  17. Get your hands on some metal/acrylic straws. – If you love the straw but hate the plastic, they make reusable straws that are plastic free! I have these stainless steel ones & I like the bigger acrylic ones for smoothies. Keep a couple in your bag so you’re prepared!
  18. Purchase silicone ziploc baggies. – If you’re a die-hard sandwich bag fan but are trying to cut back on plastic, you can get silicone baggies that are easy to wash and reuse! These ones are even dishwasher safe!
  19. Invest in some cloth napkins. – Instead of buying a pack of napkins, try cloth napkins. They make you feel super fancy and you can just throw them in the wash after your awesome dinner party.
  20. Ladies, it’s time for the menstrual cup. Maybe some cloth pads too. – Feminine products are a crazy source of waste. Menstrual cups are super comfy and save you a lot of money. They also make washable pads that I love for bedtime.  Here’s the one I have. And the pads too! No plastic involved! And no more including expensive tampons in your monthly budget!

Thank you for reading and wanting to do your part to reduce waste! 🙂

Yoga Myth Busting

Yoga is a very general term and a very diverse, beautifully complicated concept. There is so much to yoga so a lot gets lost in translation. Today I’m sharing just some of the common misconceptions I hear around yoga and the practice.

You have to be flexible to do yoga.
I hear this ALL the time. “I can’t do yoga I can’t even touch my toes” …Um…have you tried bending your knees? Saying you can’t do yoga because you don’t have certain flexibility is like saying you can’t go to kindergarten because you can’t read. Every yogi on their mat is practicing – but there is no performance or game. There are no physical requirements to show up to the mat and allow yourself to be vulnerable and open to a new experience.


Yoga is just for girls.
Fortunately, this myth is busting itself with time but there is definitely a misconception in the west that yoga is for women. But yoga actually started as a tradition only for men. Yep, 5000+ years ago, yoga was for wealthy men – and women were not allowed to practice. Thank God this has changed and now yoga is for everyone, regardless of sex. This “girly” mindset probably came from all the feminine and sexy yoginis on social media platforms debuting their deep splits, extreme backbends, loose hips & shoulders – flexibility that is often more difficult to find in a male body. While this feminine fluidity and bendiness is beautiful and important, we sometimes forget about the more masculine attributes of a yoga practice. A fiery strong core, stability in the shoulders, controlled and strict movements, etc. My point is that yoga balances the masculine and feminine in all of us and definitely does not require we be a certain biological sex.


Yoga is religious.
This can sometimes be a tough topic and unfortunately, I think organized religion causes many to shy away from yoga or just focus on the physical aspects of their practice. The truth is, yoga is not aligned with any single organized religion but rather works in and around any belief in a greater being. I’m from the Bible Belt and grew up going to Christian schools and a Christian church every week. So, I know and understand the fear here – is yoga worshipping another god? The other side of this fear is do I have to be religious to practice yoga? No to both. Yoga is spiritual, bringing you closer to your true nature. In my personal experience, yoga has brought me closer to God only because I believe God is a large part of my true self. At the end of the day, the teachings of yoga align with the general teachings of all religions, uniting them and showing the truth: the universe being in supreme control.


You have to have nice yoga clothes to practice yoga.
Ugh. This is an unfortunately common misconception around yoga. It’s not about the clothes people! It’s not about the logo on your leggings or the strappy-ness of your sports bra. I am guilty of getting wrapped up in this – feeling like I need more and more yoga outfits to prove myself as a proper yogi. And the commercialism around yoga in the west certainly doesn’t help. But come back to this – yoga requires no clothes (but your gym might), only a body, a mind, and some oxygen.


You have to join an expensive studio.
This is another struggle especially for younger yogis likes myself. You can use this lack of resources as an opportunity to search for more within what you already have. Try out youtube yogis, read books, get on the mat and just move. There is endless FREE access to yoga in the world.


Yoga doesn’t require or build strength & muscles.
While the point of yoga is not necessarily to get physically stronger or build big showy muscles, anyone who actually practices yoga or has just been to a yoga class knows the strength of asana. As I mentioned previously, we often associated yoga with flexibility more than strength. It’s not lifting heavy weights but having control of your body and its movements calls for amazing strength. Come to one of my flow classes and you will see 😉


You have to be vegan or vegetarian to practice yoga.
Obviously, yoga does not come with dietary restrictions! However, yoga is concerned with feeling light and nourishing your body, which for some, might mean a cleaner, closer-to-Earth diet (less processed & heavy foods, more plants).

Flow Yoga Playlist: 60 minutes

Sometimes I feel people enjoy my music taste more than my yoga class! I’m joking, but seriously every single class I teach at least one person asks about a song or the playlist. I figured I would share my current go-to playlist for my bi-weekly Yoga Flow class. It’s an active, power-like class. This playlist is upbeat and fun and follows the format of my average flow class – quiet beginning, warm up, active flowing, cool down and relaxation. If you’re a yoga teacher, I highly recommend making timed playlists to help you remember where the class should be at certain times during your class. I use songs to help me know about when to start speeding up class and then cool it down. Enjoy!

If you like this playlist, check out others on my public Spotify! I also have traditional playlists, 30 min flows, 75 min flows, gentle flows, etc.

  1. Horizon. Garth Stevenson.
  2. Flying. Garth Stevenson.
  3. Om. Hippie Sabotage.
  4. Intruxx. Glass Animals.
  5. JDNT. Glass Animals.
  6. Bloom. ODESZA.
  7. Calling. Ukiyo.
  8. Say My Name. ODESZA.
  9. Sun Models. ODESZA.
  10. White Noise. Ella Vos.
  11. Lights. Gvonni.
  12. Rise (Acoustic). Samantha James.
  13. The Last Stage of Consumption. Lowercase Noises.
  14. Boy 1904. Jónsi & Alex.

 

Share your favorite songs to flow to!!