get on your mat

10 Tips For Anyone New To Yoga!

“Yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory.”

The best advice I could give anyone new to yoga is to just show up. Don't overthink it, just do it. Check your ego at the door and get ready to have fun. Allow your mind and body to be open to new experiences both physically and mentally. Yoga studios are not spaces for competition; they're a starting point for an inward journey. So get ready to start yours!!

Your first few classes might be a little confusing until you become familiar with the poses and breath. Know that it’s ok, we all have to start somewhere. Do the best you can to follow along and remember to avoid placing any type of judgement on yourself.

Here are 10 tips to keep in mind for your next yoga class:

Arrive early to your first class.

That way you can register, get set up, acclimate to the space, and introduce yourself to the teacher.

Don't eat right before class and remember to drink plenty of water.

Refrain from eating at least two hours prior your practice. Eating before can cause you to become nauseous during your practice and cause painful digestive problems.  Also, drink plenty of water before, during, and after class (especially after a hot yoga class). Replenishing after class is important to help avoid soreness, cramping and dehydration.

Bring a friend or family member along with you.

Spread the joy and love of yoga... it might even help ease your nerves the first time around.

Wear comfortable clothes.

Try to avoid clothing that is too baggy or loose fitting. It’s best to wear clothing that is fitted, moisture wicking, and breathable. And remember to take off your socks!

Put your mat in the back of the room.

When I was new to yoga, I liked having a view of all the other yogis in the room. That way, if I needed a little guidance during a pose, or wanted someone to model the pose for me, I could look around at what my neighbors were doing.

Bring a towel.

Bring either a small hand towel with you or a larger towel to place over your mat, especially during a hot class. This will help you from slipping and sliding during class and allow you to wipe the sweat from your eyes.

Invest in a good yoga mat:

Many studios allow you to rent or borrow public mats. However, it’s nicer, cleaner, and more sanitary to have your own. A good yoga mat is essential to helping with your grip and can provide a little extra cushion for your hips and knees during floor poses. My favorite mat is the 5mm Reversible Mat from lululemon.

Accept your feelings.

If you become emotional during or after a yoga session, it’s normal. Sometimes releasing tension in the body (especially in the hips) or when opening our heart (during backbends) you begin to release a ton of emotions too. It’s important to remember that anytime you work with the body, you are also working with the mind and the energy system, which is the bridge between body and mind. Therefore, emotional breakthroughs can be seen as markers of progress on the road to personal and spiritual growth.

Remember, it's your practice!

As you move, breathe and flow, remember to listen to your body. If something hurts, don’t do it, if you need a break, take a child’s pose. Remember, don’t take yourself so seriously, be sure to smile and have fun!

Try several teachers and classes.

Don’t be afraid to test out a variety of different teachers and classes until you find what’s right for you! You will figure out exactly where you need to be and what works for you!

NAMASTE!

 

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Life Lessons I've Learned From Practicing Yoga!

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I have been practicing yoga for over 10 years. One thing I know for sure, it’s one of the most consistent and transformative things I’ve ever done. Over the last 10 years, yoga has been a constant presence in my life. I love yoga and continue to enjoy my practice and my ability to explore my body, mind, and soul. I believe that yoga is a gift for everyone to enjoy.

Through the years, I’ve learned that the physical health benefits of yoga are numerous, but yoga also has the ability to boost your emotional health as well. I’d like to share some of the things I’ve learned from yoga in this week’s blog.

I hope this article inspires you to give yoga a try and if you already have, I am sure you may agree with the things I have listed below!

Here are some of the life lessons that yoga has taught me.

Follow your heart:

Once opened, the possibilities for love and joy are endless! Once in a job I hated and living life in a perpetual pattern of negative thought, I discovered yoga and it helped open my mind to endless possibilities. Yoga gave me the strength and wisdom to get rid of my doubts, fears and worries.  Instead, I am able to listen to my inner self and follow my heart. Without yoga I wouldn't be where I am today- an entrepreneur, who opened her own yoga studio in an effort to give back to a community that gave her so much. I want to help others find their true path and empower them through their own yoga journey of healing and self discovery.

You are capable of more than you give yourself credit for:

I believe that whatever my goals are, I can accomplish them with determination, hard work, and persistence. For example, just a few years ago, I never thought I could do a handstand. But I can do them now (at least for few seconds lol) because I just kept practicing, gaining strength, and learning the technique little by little. Sometimes we put limits on ourselves, but we can do more than what we give ourselves credit for. I know things can seem scary sometimes, but it's in those moments, we know that we are alive. Plus, once we’ve achieved our goals, we are rewarded with a feeling of self accomplishment and satisfaction.  

Live in the present:

This can still be a challenge for me, but I work hard at it each day. When we step back and take a moment to consider how much of our day we spend worrying about what is going to happen next, or what has happened, it can become very detrimental to your mental, emotional and physical health. When we constantly worry about things we can’t control or change, we begin to feel anxious, stressed and even depressed. To avoid this, take each day, hour and even minute at a time to experience the present moment fully and let go of any other stressers you do not need. Yoga is a great way to help get you there. In yoga, we observe our thoughts, get down past the surface of everything and go deep into our core of existence. Here is where we find the answers to what we need to let go of and start living.

Just breathe:

This may sound simple, but trust me, it’s one of the best lessons I’ve learned.  When faced with a difficult situation or when experiencing unsettling emotions, the first thing that comes to my mind is “just breathe”. Slowly, in through the nose and out through the nose (eyes open or closed), I just breathe. Sure enough, I feel calmer, stronger and more able to deal with whatever is going on around me and within me.

Don't create unnecessary tension:

Sometimes in yoga when we get into a pose that challenges us, we clench our teeth and/or tense our shoulders or face. In those moments, it’s important to remember to relax and just breathe. Similarly in life, as things get hard, try not to overreact, panic, become defensive, or place blame, just relax and breathe. Unnecessary tension causes stress and stress is bad for our overall health.

Don’t take anything for granted:

Nothing in life is guaranteed. What is here today may be gone tomorrow, so appreciate and value what you have while you have it. You never know what may happen next. Remember, it’s about the journey, not the destination. With yoga, and with life, the beauty of the practice is not about the “results,” but about the journey. Enjoy every moment and don’t take anything for granted.

It's ok to fall:

You know that pose that looks and seems totally impossible? You'll never gain the strength and flexibility you need to do it if you don’t try. Same applies in life; stop worrying about if you fall down and just give it a try and keep trying until one day it sticks!

Be patient:

You can’t force your body to open into a pose before it's ready, otherwise you could get hurt.  To get into more challenging poses, you need to warm up and work up to them; some poses take a lifetime. Life is the same way, forcing things to happen when they aren’t ready, almost never gets us closer to our goals.

Alignment is key:

In yoga poses, it's important to align your body properly to avoid risk of injuries. Same with life. If you do things that don’t align with your core values, you put yourself at risk and prevent yourself from achieving your goals.

Only you know your body:

In a yoga class, your teacher is there to guide you and offer suggestions. No matter how many teacher trainings they’ve completed, he/she doesn't live in your body and he/she doesn't feel what you feel. For this reason, you are the only one who can really make sound decisions for yourself. Trust your judgment, do what feels right, and you can never go wrong.

We never stop learning:

As soon as you think you've mastered a pose, making a slight adjustment can change everything. Every pose has multiple variations that can make it more supportive or challenging. This is the nature of yoga poses, and also the nature of life. There's always another lesson to learn, new places to explore, and new challenges to meet.

Never give up:

Whether it's mastering a new yoga pose or attaining your life’s goal or dreams, never give up. Yoga has helped teach me to find the resilience, courage and inner strength to believe in myself and to never give up. So for those of you currently facing challenging times and searching for strength, know that’s it's already within you, all you need is the courage to pull it out; never give up.

 

Every time you get on your mat you bring with you different challenges; with different mental, physical and emotional challenges, the experience differs accordingly. Sometimes you feel physically strong, while other times your balance may be off and that’s ok.  Take a few moments to observe and accept what is going on and then learn from it. Enjoy the journey of life, continue to grow and challenge yourself, and never give up!


 

 

Making Friends in Yoga

Over the years, I have discovered that yogis make some of the best friends. From my studio in Boston, to my own studio now, and the ones I’ve worked in and visited along the way; I have met so many incredible people & have built many lasting friendships. Yoga is a truly great place to meet and connect with people. 

Yogis of all ages and backgrounds are often united in their love of yoga and a common desire to be friendly both on and off the mat. I’ve been able to deepen friendships through the transformative experience that was my teacher training, numerous classes I’ve taught and attended, workshops, as well as community gatherings and potlucks. 

With yoga as the glue, I have found that that the things we have in common are far greater than those things that set us apart. So yoga studios are a great place for meeting people and building friendships.

Yoga for the individual:

Yoga is about self discovery. It’s a wonderful way to become more in tune with your mind and body so you can find your true self.  Yoga helps eliminate suffering, stress, and negativity in our lives. During a yoga class, you’re challenged to bring your attention inward and connect with yourself on a deeper level. 

With an open mind and willingness that's cultivated in class, we can work on ourselves and begin to strip away the negativity. When we let our guard down like this, we not only begin to explore a deeper connection to ourselves, but also a deeper connection to others.

Yoga for the group:

While yoga is very individual, it is also very collaborative. Yoga helps create union with one another and a sense of togetherness. Through collective breath and movement in class, yoga helps create bonds with the people around you like none other. 

Once class is over, there’s this overall feeling of oneness, connection, and collaborative energy.  There’s this beautiful window of opportunity to make introductions, mingle, and foster a deeper connection and potential friendships to those around you.

Next time you're in class:

Spark up a conversation with your yogi neighbors in class, introduce yourself to the teacher, talk to people after class, whatever it may be, break out of your shell, be brave, allow yourself to be vulnerable and open. We are all connected and if nothing else, one thing we know we have in common, is our love for yoga and our dedication to our practice. There is always space in our lives for new positive people. Take a chance, say hi.

 

Product Review: lululemon Reversible 5mm mat

Are you in the market for a new yoga mat??

As most of you know, I opened Empower Yoga in Ewing, NJ two months ago. Owning a yoga studio, I needed to decide what types of mats I wanted to offer for my clients to use.  For me, it was a no brainer, the lululemon Reversible 5mm mat was an obvious choice.  Since I am a lululemon ambassador, some may think I am biased, but sI have been using a lulu mat for over 12 years and could not be happier!

When I started taking yoga classes, I was given one of those inexpensive foam mats. The kind you could get at Target or Walmart for about $10. I thought it would do the trick. Well it certainly had cushioning which was great for kneeling, but what it didn't do was prevent me from slipping and sliding all over the place. Plus those little pieces of foam kept falling off, causing a mess all over the floor. I knew it was time to make an investment in something better. That was when I got my first lulu mat and haven't used a different mat since.

The Reversible 5mm is the perfect mat for me and here’s why...

  • It’s super durable. With a lulu mat you don’t have to worry about rips, holes, or little bits of yoga mat peeling off.

  • It provides good cushioning. I have no problem kneeling, jumping, or lying on the floor.

  • It’s firm. Even though it has good cushioning, it’s still firm, making it easy to balance.

  • It’s very grippy. No big towels needed.

  • It doesn’t puddle. When I workout, I sweat a TON. I’ve always found yoga towels to be a pain to use so I wanted a mat that would absorb the moisture, and this one does. You are able to sweat safely!

  • It stays in one place and does not slide around the floor.

  • Even though it traps moisture, it doesn’t smell. The mat is very breathable.

  • It’s perfect for regular or hot yoga as well as any other fitness class.

  • The mat costs $68 which is less than the Manduka ($82) and Jade (Fusion- $149) mats.

The only cons I have found are:

  • It can get scratched up rather easily, but I think the marks add charm and show what a strong bad ass yogi you are.

  • It's heavy (5lbs), so it is not great to travel with. I wouldn't want to pack it in my suitcase.

In all, if you are looking for a quality mat that will likely last you a lifetime regardless of what punishment you put it through, then this is the mat for you. I’ll happily stick with mine!

Namaste!

Mindfulness

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As a yoga instructor, I frequently have students asking about mindfulness and how to live more mindfully.  A good place to start, is defining the term.  The commonly acknowledged definition of mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.

Mindfulness is often practiced and cultivated through meditation, but being mindful does not require you to sit and meditate for long periods of time. To me, being mindful is more about just being aware and paying attention to the present without judgement. Recognizing feelings & sensations and noticing them. Mindfulness has been linked to reducing stress, and improving one's physical health, mental health, and well being. Mindfulness has been found to be the key element of happiness. Mindful people are overall healthy and happier. The moments we spend being mindful compound and pay interest in the form of clarity, gratitude, and presence.

When we start paying attention to how much we pay attention, we’ll notice how often our attention dwindles and it’s hard for us to actually pay attention. Sounds confusing, right?! Our minds are constantly moving, thinking, processing, and being over stimulated that it is actually hard for us to become more present.

When we make the decision to stop and focus, to be grateful, to notice our emotions without trying to change them, we not only improve the quality of the present, but invest in our ability to be mindful in the future. The time we spend lost in thought, emotionally scattered, anxious and stressed become compounded and lead to unhappiness, stress and depression.  So adding up mindful moments whenever we can is so valuable and healthier for us.

Carving out time in your day to become more mindful will only help you appreciate the present. Remember, every moment counts!

 

Here are a few things that you can do to become more mindful:

Take a yoga class:

Yoga can help teach you how to become more mindful and aware. In a yoga practice, you focus on movement and breath and everything else seems to fall away. When we become more present and mindful on our mats, we can start to become more mindful in our daily lives.

Go for a walk:

Get outside. Take in the sights and sounds, enjoy nature. Feel the weight of your feet pressing into the earth on each step you take. Notice the sun on your face, wind at your back, and the sound of your breathe. Enjoy it!

And if you can’t make time to “go for a walk.” Do this when you walk to your car in the morning or after work. Do it when you walk towards your bed at night. Walk and be present.

Write down 3 things you’re grateful for every morning:

Maybe start a gratitude journal. Take a few moments every morning and reflect on how wonderful your life is. Stop stressing and thinking about all the negative (what you don’t have, want) in your life and begin to think about the positive. What’s good in your life, what is it that you love, & what you’re grateful for.

Check in when you move:

Moving from one position to another gives us a chance to check-in with ourselves. When you stand up from your chair, getting out of your car, moving from your desk at work, are you in a hurry? Notice how you feel. When you sit back down does your mind begin to rush towards the rest of your day before finishing the task at hand? Gently reel yourself back to the present. Close your eyes, take a breath, release tension in your body &  jaw and focus on what’s happening right now. Allow the rest to fall a way, you’ll get to it with time. Be present.

Enjoy your food:

When you eat, are you always ready to devour your food? Where are you when you’re eating or what are you doing? Are you on the couch, watching TV, checking your phone? If so, you may realize that before you knew it, your food is gone and you have no recollection of chewing. Instead, during your next meal, sit at the table, avoid distractions and focus on those first few bites. Notice the smell, identify the flavors and taste. Tune into your body and mind during the meal.

Turn off your devices:  

Every once in awhile, turn off your electronics (i.e. phone/ipad/ipod) and engage with the natural world around you. Have a proper conversation with someone, rather than like what they did on FB, talk to them and tell them what you liked in person. Enjoy the company of friends and family, make the time to spend with them and enjoy life together.

Listen to soothing music:

Turn on relaxing and soothing melody and really listen to it. Lay down or sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes and feel the music in your soul. Soothing melody will help you clear your mind and thoughts after a busy or stressful day.

Meditate:

Sit quietly and focus on your natural breathing or on a word or “mantra” that you repeat silently. Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment and return to your focus on breath or mantra. Sit in stillness for a few moments or an hour, just relax and listen to the sound of your breath.

 

When we are mindful, we learn, grow, and have an overall better quality of life. Just remember, when you’re practicing mindfulness, there is nowhere to arrive at. If you focus on what is going on right now, the rest take care of itself.