The Key to Yoga Bliss? A Regular Home Practice

The benefits to practicing yoga are becoming more well known.  The list of yoga goodness ranges from the physical benefits of increased flexibility, coordination, and strength.  As well as mental/emotional  benefits including reduction of stress,  improvements of resilience, mood, and even relief from depression.  Some practitioners also report  a deepening in a spiritual connection.

Until recently, there has not been any hard scientific data to support these claims.  The journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine reports on the efficacy of all of the beneficial claims of practicing yoga.  The most amazing report I came across was entitled Frequency of Yoga Practice Predicts Health.  The conclusions drawn from this report are that “home practice of yoga predicted health better than years of practice or class frequency. Frequency of home practice appears to be very important—more important than how long an individual has been practicing or how many classes one takes.”

I’ve been a yoga teacher for over ten years now.  I’ve taught weekly classes, weekend workshops, as well as private one on one sessions.  Although I enjoy the energy and community of the weekly classes and workshops,  I have witnessed the greatest  transformations when I’ve worked with private clients to guide them through the process of creating a lifelong home practice.   By working one on one with clients, I am able to design home practices that addresses each client’s specific needs.  By addressing their specific needs and through establishing a daily practice, my private clients experience all the juicy, yoga goodness.  Once you begin to see the transformative effects of yoga, you are hooked! Yoga becomes a part of you and your practice becomes a daily habit.

If you’ve been going to regular yoga classes and are waiting to feel that yoga bliss, your key may be adding a daily home practice, one that resonates with you and addresses your own personal intentions.

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Breaking Through the Terror Barrier

When we come face to face with stepping out of our comfort zone, we have two choices.  We can either retreat back to safety or we can plow through and break through our terror barrier.  At the beginning of this month,  I was invited to teach a yoga class to a  group of women entrepreneurs. When I was first invited the month prior, I quickly said yes.  I had set the intention January 1st of this year that I would grow my yoga business to reach more women and help them achieve more peace and purpose in their lives.  I was in absolute awe when the universe conspired so quickly to help me achieve my goal.

As the event drew closer, however, my terror barrier began to build.  My ego or  “X” factor kicked in.  I started to get  sick with a sore throat and cold.  I began having a panic attack.  We even experienced our first big snow storm of the year the night before I was to drive to the retreat.  In the past, any one of those things would have prevented me from going. But my “Why” for going was bigger than being sick, feeling the panic, or even being nervous about driving in the snow storm.  The answer to my “Why” was that I set my intention at the beginning of this year to grow my yoga business so that I can help more women like me experience the healing effects from the teachings of yoga.  My “Why” was bigger than any obstacle. So I busted through my Terror Barrier and I went for it.

I’d like to tell you that everything’s been comin’ up roses since then, but real life isn’t really like that,  is it?  Since the retreat, I have been plowing forward with building my business.  I’ve met with a business coach, signed up for a brand-building workshop, joined a Women Entrepreneur networking group,  and joined a group coaching for mompreneurs.   I’ve even used some of the knowledge shared at the retreat to build a Facebook ad to increase the number of participants at my next yoga workshop.

I should be over the moon with my efforts and where my business is headed, right?  Well, I was.  Until I saw that one person had taken her name off of my list of attendees for my next workshop.  She could be not coming for a number of reasons, but my ego or “X” is trying to convince me it’s because I’m not a good teacher, that this whole idea for building my dream yoga business is foolish, and who was I to ever think this could work out….yada yada yada.   You may have experienced this brain chatter before.  It’s insidious and destructive.  I know this.   I knew that I needed to pull out my strategies on how to bust through my terror barrier again.   Using a variety of strategies,  I was able to acknowledge my fear, but then move past it.

That’s the funny thing about Terror Barriers.  They can appear out of the blue when you think you’ve got everything under control, when things are swimming along beautifully.  And they can happen again and again, each and every time you leave your comfort zone.   That’s why it is so incredibly important to have some tools available to help you move through them, so that you don’t give the terror barrier the power to stop you in your tracks.

God’s blessings to you on your own journey.  I am grateful to have you by my side as I travel on mine.

Peace, Love, and Gratitude,

Lisa

“The Yogini Next Door”

A Charmed Yogi

heart hand gesture

Why do we come to the yoga mat?  Initially for me, it was to reduce stress; increase my lung capacity; and improve my flexibility.  But then it morphed.  I was looking for something more, a spirituality or openness. I wanted to cultivate acceptance inwardly and outwardly, in other words, I wanted to cultivate love.   As I practiced, I realized, I wanted to continue to ‘spread that love’ by becoming a teacher.  But, what kind of teacher would I be?

I found my voice early as a teacher without any instruction, but there was still ego.  Yes, yoga teachers still struggle with ego.  While I’ve never been one to strive for striking a pose for the cover of Yoga Journal, I’ve found myself asking the questions, ” Am I a ‘good’ teacher?” ” Do I challenge my students?”  “Am I boring my students?” “Do I talk too much?”  “Do I talk…

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A New Journey

If you haven’t noticed,  I have not posted in quite some time.  I have many blogs started, but not finished.  I love to write, but when I’ve attempted to write lately, I’ve felt very stuck.  Nothing would flow.  I could not get the thoughts and feelings from my head and heart to translate properly onto paper.  So I’ve done a whole lot of starting and stopping over the past several months.  I didn’t want to share anything that wasn’t authentic.

In the quiet moments of my yoga practice, the answer to why I couldn’t write was answered.  I couldn’t write because I haven’t been being honest about who I am and where I want to be.  It’s just not enough anymore to teach the occasional yoga workshop, or blog intermittently about the life-changing effects yoga has had on my life and the life of those around me.  It’s not enough to be a part-part time yoga teacher. I want more.  I want WAY more!  I feel it deep down in my depths of my soul.

During my family’s annual New Year’s Eve puja and intention setting ceremony this year, the quality that I wanted to get rid of that was not serving me was procrastination.  I realized that I could continue to come up with every excuse to avoid creating my own yoga business, but that would be ignoring the voice inside me begging me to more forward.  As I let go of procrastination, I set my intention for the year 2013.  On my intention card, I wrote the following words:

“I am happy and grateful now that I have developed a yoga home study program and am able to help  everyday women live more peaceful, more purpose-filled lives through the practice of yoga, meditation, and mindful living.  I am happy and grateful that I am being compensated for my yoga teaching and writing.”

Amazingly, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”  Opportunities began showing up that  will allow me to network with amazingly strong, women entrepreneurs to help guide me along this journey of making my yoga dream business a reality.  Words are not big enough to describe my excitement and fear as I move into this very uncomfortable space.  But I know enough to know that in that space of discomfort lies our biggest opportunities for growth.

I hope you will join me on this new journey as I begin to build my dream business.  I look forward to sharing my inner thoughts and feelings along the way  in hopes that it connects with you in some small (or big!) way.

Namaste,

Lisa “The Yogini Next Door”

Great guide to using yoga props! My teacher trainer always used to say, if you can’t reach the floor, bring the floor to you! Enjoy the post!

A Charmed Yogi

yoga props

Using props in your yoga practice is not a necessity, but there are ways to incorporate accessories like blocks, straps, bolsters and wedges to help support your practice.

Myth: Props are for wimps.

Fact: Props can often prevent injury by providing stability throughout the evolution of our yoga practice. Plus, many props can actually help us get deeper into postures, and alleviate unnecessary stress on joints.

This awesome chart from Fit Blogger shows a variety of ways to work props into your regular practice.  I’m a bit of a prop-a-holic myself.  They came in particularly handy after an injury, and allowed me to re-learn my practice using better body mechanics.

prop usage guide

Don’t worry if you don’t have all of the props picture here.  If you don’t have a strap, you can improvise using the belt of your robe.  And if you don’t have a ‘yoga bolster’ you can stack up a…

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Alternate Nostril Breathing

A couple of weeks ago I woke up with a killer headache.  I think it was sinus mixed with a little hormonal fun.  The older I get, the more sensitive I have become to changes in weather, especially changes in atmospheric pressure.  When I turned 40, I also started to get monthly migraine level headaches.    Those of you who suffer from chronic headaches can relate to the debilitating effects that headaches have on your daily life.  However, through my daily yoga practice including the practice of Alternate Nostril Breathing,  I am able to control and alleviate my headache pain.

I don’t know why I continue to be amazed at the healing effects of yoga.  By practicing sun salutations, forward bends, and alternate nostril breathing, my headache lifted.

We do not breathe out of our nostrils equally.  In fact, we automatically alternate every 3 hours or so.  Scientists have discovered that when our right nostril is dominate,  the electrical activity is greater on the left side of the brain.  Alternately, when our left nostril is dominate, the electrical activity is greater on the right side of the brain.  By practicing Alternate Nostril Breathing,  you can balance the breathe so that both sides of the brain are working equally.  This allows you to activate and access your whole brain.

12 benefits of alternate nostril breathing:

1: Revitalizes you:

A few rounds of alternate nostril breathing is a quick pick me up if you are feeling flat, tired or even stressed. It provides your body with a much needed dose of extra energy.

2: Improves brain function:

When you mind is dull – concentration and clarity is poor.  Alternate nostril breathing brings equal amounts of oxygen to both sides of the brain for improved brain function.  Five minutes of alternate nostril breathing before an exam or interview is a great way to access your whole brain for improved performance.

3: Cleanses your lungs:

A daily five minute practice morning and night of alternate nostril breathing is great way to remove stale air and impurities from the bottom of your lungs.  Did you know that 70% of our body’s waste products are eliminated through our lungs?!

4: Calms an agitated mind:

I’m prone to worrying.  A few minutes of focused alternate nostril breathing is helpful (for me) in calming my  “over thinking” mind.   The ancient yogis believe that if you can regulate your breath, then you can control your mind.

5: Merges the left “thinking” brain and right “feeling brain:

Alternate nostril breathing optimizes both sides of your brain so you can access your whole brain, and all the benefits that go with it.

The flip side of course is, single nostril breathing can be used to activate, just the left”thinking” or just right “feeling” side of your brain for specific situations.

Try it out next time you need to drive your car.  Cover your left nostril with your thumb and breathe only through your right nostril for one minute.  This should keep you more alert when driving.

6: Encourage a calmer emotional state:

In times of emotional distress and upset, a few rounds of mindful nostril breathing will soften the intensity of over reactive emotional states.  The longer you practice, the more stable your thinking, and the calmer your emotions will become.

7: Improves sleep:

If you can’t sleep at night lay on your right hand side, gently close your right nostril with your right thumb and breath through your left nostril.  This will activate your parasympathetic nervous system which will calm you down and slow your heart rate.

8: Great preparation for meditation:

Alternate nostril breathing is a simple little trick that can be practiced for a few minutes before you begin your meditation practice.  It’s a very easy way to help you find your meditation groove.

9: Soothes your nervous system:

By focusing on your breath and deepening it, your brain will register this message and trigger the parasympathetic nervous system.  You have effectively switched your nervous system from a stressed response, into a relaxation response.   Single left nostril breathing (by closing your right nostril) will direct the flow of oxygen and energy to the right hemisphere of your brain, allowing once again, for the parasympathetic nervous system to be switched on.  Gosh, your breath and nose is very clever.

10: Regulates  the cooling and warming cycles of the body:

Left nostril is feminine, nurturing, calm and cooling.  Right nostril is masculine, heat, competitive and force.  Favouring one nostril more than the other can effect the heat or coolness of your body.

11: Clears and boosts your energy channels:

Slightly forced alternate nostril breathing improves and directs the flow of energy throughout your body – preventing sluggishness.  It oxygenates your blood and allows the energy (prana) in your body to be strong and flowing.

12: Enhances rest and relaxation:

A restless mind cannot relax.  Alternate nostril breathing melts away an imbalances between the right and left hemisphere of your brain and calms your thinking.  This is perfect for helping you access rest and relaxation far more efficiently.

An alternate nostril breathing exercise – purifying breath:

Step one: Use right thumb to close off right nostril.

Step two: Inhale slowly through left nostril

Step three: Pause for a second

Step four: Now close left nostril with ring finger and release thumb off right nostril

Step five: Exhale through your right nostril

Step six: Now, inhale through right nostril

Step seven: Pause

Step eight: Use thumb to close of right nostril

Step nine: Breathe out through left nostril

Step ten: This is one round. Start slowly with 1 or 2 rounds and gradually increase.Never force.Sit quietly for a few moments after you have finished.

I continue to be grateful and humbled by the healing power of yoga.  If you suffer from chronic headaches, anxiety, or depression, I encourage you to give yoga and alternate nostril breathing a try.  I will be teaching alternate nostril breathing at my next yoga workshop in the fall.

With love and gratitude,

Lisa

“The Yogini Next Door”

Preparing for the New Year

As another year comes to a close, we  begin to prepare for the New Year.  Many people will make New Year’s Resolutions, only to break them by the end of January.  Here I offer you an alternative way to begin 2013.  A more mindful, purpose-filled new tradition that will have long lasting effects.

On New Year’s Day, my children, my husband, and I practice a burning bowl ceremony and then we set our intentions for the new year.  We begin with our burning bowl ceremony.   First, we each write down thoughts or actions that did not serve us the previous year on mini pieces of paper.  Last year, on my paper, I wrote “Good- bye fear.  Good-bye thoughts of lack and limitation.”  My youngest said good bye to getting angry so quickly.  Then after sharing them aloud, we burn the papers and watch our negative thoughts and behaviors go up in smoke.  The burning bowl ceremony can be very freeing, especially for children, as they experience what it means to say good-bye to thoughts and behaviors that do not serve them.

After this ceremony, we set our intentions for the New Year. We each write down what we’d like to have happen in our lives during the next year.  This time we place our intentions in our New Year’s treasure box to keep until next New Year’s.  We decorated our New Year’s treasure box many years ago as a family. We enjoy emptying the box the following year and reading the intentions that we set the previous year.  This has become a beautiful tradition and one that we all look forward to each year.

A new addition to our tradition that I am implementing this year is to create Intention Cards for us to keep visible (on a bedroom mirror or refrigerator) or to carry with us in our wallets.  This will allow us to revisit our intentions throughout the year and to be more mindful of the changes we wish to make.  I have some blank business cards that we will decorate and write our new intentions for 2013.  I’ll let you  now next year how this addition to our tradition worked!

Wishing you all a peaceful, prosperous, healthy 2013!

Namaste,

Lisa

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