As a yogi embracing the middle years there are many yoga trends I’m happy to let pass me by. Here are 7 of them…
Any yoga class that has been heated to a temperature worthy of an industrial laundry. My own body creates that heat spontaneously so why would I consider turning up the temperature…..on purpose?
Any yoga class that has the word ‘burn’, ‘boot’, ‘butt’ or ‘bust’ in the description. Need I say more?
Any type of yoga clothing design that incorporates large cut out panels or swathes of mesh. Worse still, not enough fabric to make a handkerchief from.
Any yoga class that has the word ‘burn’, ‘boot’, ‘butt’ or ‘bust’ in the title. Need I say more?
Any pose that involves contorting myself into the shape of a badly twisted pretzel. I know Madonna managed to get both feet around her neck and good on her, but me? With these hips?
Any yoga cleansing programs that involve a diet of foods I can’t pronounce and the need to perform four hours of acrobatic poses every day. Just the thought of it makes me pine for a lie down…..when’s savasana?
Achieving a one armed handstand in the middle of the room/beach/park/any other random open space. Didn’t happen for me at the peak of my yoga fitness so I’m happy to practice acceptance in the knowledge that it won’t happen now.
The trend for posting multiple yoga pose photographs to social media on a daily basis. Can I go get a coffee instead?
We’ve all done it. Made those excuses about attending class or doing our home practice – weather’s too hot/wet/cold (delete as appropriate), the to do list is too long to spare any time, the kids lego collection needs organizing or whatever other random reason you can come up with to avoid practice.
We all have busy lives and countless pulls on our time and energy but practicing yoga, for whatever amount of time you can, has sooo many benefits. If you’re really not feeling it, focus on breathing for just a moment. A single breath might become one minute which might become five which might turn into ten.
Here are seven short and sweet tips for keeping your yoga going on those days when you’re really can’t be asana’d
1. Set up your mat in your home somewhere that you can’t avoid seeing or stepping on it. Beside the bed is a good place because you can transition from sleep, to wake up, to practice with barely a footstep! Then spend a few minutes doing a couple of simple seated poses or quietly meditate.
2. Get out of bed or go to bed ten minutes earlier and bookend your daywith yoga. Ten minutes is enough time for ten poses held for 60 seconds each.
3. Spend half a day logging all of the time you spend doing something digitally. Just note down all those odd moments of checking phones, laptops and tablets. Browsing on Amazon, randomly scrolling through Instagram or getting sidetracked to other sites from the news page are real time sucks of modern life. Note down how much time you are spending on digital stuff and it might surprise you just how much extra time your really have in your day. Excessive email checking could easily be traded in for balancing in garudasana or twisting into marichyasana.
If you’re really not feeling it, focus on breathing for just a moment. A single breath might become a minute which might become five or ten minutes.
4. Wherever you are, practice. Standing in the grocery store line check your alignment and practice tadasana. Clean your teeth in vrksasana. Gently twist left and right as you sit at your desk. Be mindful of making every moment of every day count.
5. Yoga isn’t just physical. Take a few brief moments to practice mindfulness while you wait for the coffee to brew. Go for a quick neighborhood walk observing your surroundings and focusing on your breath. Spend a few minutes reading from a classic yoga text or spiritual book before you turn to your cellphone or TV remote.
7. And if you really can’t function without picking up a gadget, try out one of the many apps available for meditation and mindfulness. Instead of aimlessly checking Facebook listen to a mindfulness app in bite size pieces for a couple of minutes and see where it takes you.
What do you do to change your mind and inspire yourself to practice when you’re really not feeling it?
Remember when you were in 4th grade and you kept a diary full of your deepest, darkest secrets? A detailed description of what you ate for dinner mostly, before tucking the book away from prying eyes, but keeping a diary is also a way of noting down and addressing our own innermost thoughts and feelings.
As an adult there are many great benefits to journaling as part of a self care routine. In the ancient yogic textbook, Patanjali’s – The Yoga Sutras, the term ‘svadhyaya’ is described as self study – the idea of studying ourselves as a means of self discovery. By journaling and documenting our thoughts we are participating in a process of deeper personal understanding which can have a very positive impact on our own health.
Writing by hand forces us to focus on what is important at that moment, pulling to attention our wandering mind which is, in essence, mindfulness.
Here are some of the reasons why it is well worth considering making journaling part of your routine.
Manage Stress. Writing down your thoughts, concerns and worries is a great way of gaining a fresh perspective on a situation. In this way we gain mental flexibility to examine the issue from a different viewpoint and feel we can process a problem with a little more control of the outcome.
Encourage Mindfulness. Taking the time out of your day to sit and write is good for winding down and paying attention to one activity. Writing by hand forces us to focus on what is important at that moment, pulling to attention our wandering mind which is, in essence, mindfulness.
Boost Memory. Yes we’re all getting older and are aware of the affect age has on our minds. Writing things down not only reinforces our understanding of a topic it also helps us to retain that information. Journaling encourages us to process our thoughts in alternative ways.
Mental Wellbeing.Scientific research has demonstrated that our actions and thoughts, through repetition, create specific brain patterns personal to each of us. Writing down our thoughts gives us an opportunity to redirect and influence our thinking habits.
If it’s difficult to start writing try working in bullet point form or create lists until you build the confidence to write more freely.
Now to the nitty gritty. Getting journaling.
Materials – pen & paper. Couldn’t be easier. Try a blank notebook or use printable pages like these. Find yourself the perfect pen that you love to write with whether it be pencil, fountain pen or your kids colors.
Start simply. If it’s difficult to start writing try working in bullet point form or create lists until you build the confidence to write more freely. Try a list of your favorite places or inspiring books you’ve read as a starting point if you feel stuck. The important thing is to put pen to paper without overthinking it.
Practice. Maintain your journaling habit in the same way you maintain your yoga practice or other daily activities. As the more you practice…the more you practice.
We already know that as we age we will be exposed to, and may experience, many diseases which impact us physically such as arthritis and cancer. But just as importantly we need to consider our brain health. With dementia in its many forms making that list of age related diseases, our mental health will also affect our wellbeing as each new Birthday comes by.
In recent years various neuroscientists have studied the benefits of yoga and meditation on the brain and the positive affects of the practice. Through recent research, I discovered that some studies have shown that yoga and meditation is thought to have an effect on the physical make up of the brain.
take advantage of the short and sweet daily meditations which are available online for free
It is worth finding a dedicated meditation class to attend or, alternatively, use one of the online meditation apps that are readily available. Take a look at Headspace. It is a great resource that you can pay to subscribe to or simply take advantage of the short and sweet meditations available for free. You can start by committing to just 5 minutes a day and build up from there.
find a yoga teacher who incorporates a meditation portion to their classes
Another option would be to find a yoga teacher who incorporates a meditation portion to their classes. Give your local studio a call to find the best class to suit you and go meditate. Your brain will thank you 🙂
In recent years yoga has been described more and more frequently as an ‘industry’. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that as it does a great job of extending the appeal of yoga and interest in the practice but at what point is all the yoga ‘stuff’ just too much?
There is so much yoga stuff out there. Whether it be the clothing and books or the props and accessories, the choice available to us is vast. It’s nice that everything is so readily available but there comes a point when you have to stand back and ask ‘is the $90 yoga mat is really worth it?’ What part of yoga couldn’t you do without it?
When I first started practicing yoga in drafty community centers and schools you were required to bring along a large bath towel or floor mat to practice on. It worked. The towels did the job of providing a clean dry surface to stand on and I’m pretty sure it did a great job of cleaning the floor too! Then, along came the eighties, when yoga became the in thing, growing more popular by the day and, Ta-da!, out of the yoga ether appears the ‘sticky mat’ and the birth of the yoga mat industry.
“there comes a point when you have to stand back and ask is the $90 yoga mat is really worth it?”
I recently celebrated completion of a training by treating myself to a new mat even though I already own two. One is my very, very first mat – several years old and well used – and the second one was bought for less than ten dollars from a local consignment store. I still use them regularly as they both do the job but, for some reason, I felt compelled to buy a new one.
The justification for this investment was that I had worked hard during the training which had taken all my free time and I’d had plenty of opportunity to peruse the retail delights of the studio I was spending so much time in. I deserved a treat for my new, inspired yoga practice but how was a mat really going to change anything?
“no amount of ‘the right gear’ is going to change my practice. I’m either practicing yoga or I’m not, right?”
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a really nice one. Cost $50, even with the discount, and the manufacturer has a nice commitment to planting a tree for each mat purchased which appeals to my sense of environmental responsibility. It’s a great color too – a calming lilac blue with good texture for grip and a comfortable thickness. However, I never use it! I still go to class using my consignment store mat which continues to serve me well. It is a practical weight, super sticky and a dark turquoise color that disguises the feet markings from many a downward facing dog.
What made me spend so much on a new yoga mat when I already had two? I tried to analyze my logic and over time concluded that the marketing had worked. I’d been seduced by the yoga ‘industry’ to buy into the yoga lifestyle and, even though the brand is well known and respected, no amount of ‘the right gear’ is going to change my practice. I’m either practicing yoga or I’m not, right? The sporting of trendy leggings or a pair of designer yoga blocks are not going to change that.
So, with this tale in mind, think twice before being swayed by the label on the mat under your arm or the logo printed on the back of your t-shirt. Ultimately, yoga is in the practice not in the product.