Yoga Thinking – It’s Not Easy

There’s a sign that someone gave President Barack Obama to put on the Resolute desk which says “Hard Things are Hard”.  I think of this sometimes when any of my yoga instructors make the suggestion to put aside any stressful or negative thoughts that might be on the minds of anyone in the room.  It’s a great concept but one that’s harder to practice in real life.  The whole idea is to focus on the challenge of the yoga practice before you.  Also, within that practice, one is also instructed to “leave” any mistakes, stumbles, imbalances and failed attempts at poses where they are and move to the next moment of the practice.

It all seems to be about acceptance of yourself and even forgiveness.  It puts us in a place where we can be our real selves and strive to be our best with the idea that we do fall, we do make some mistakes and sometimes we excel and triumph!

But doing it, requires a certain confidence in acting completely natural – I suppose that’s what they mean when they talk about leaving your Ego at the door.  Experiencing the hard things is as important as experiencing the triumphs.  I think that what builds us.

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The Best New Year Resolution?

It’s the first morning of the New Year and here we are!  Fresh from the previous year and ready to take on the 12 months to come.  It’s a time when the traditional practice is to make the so called “resolutions” toward the New Year.  Usually folks will focus on self improvement ideas such as quitting smoking, losing weight or eating a more healthy diet.  These are endeavors that are certainly worthwhile and what I would call “commitment worthy”.  However, I often here that people have a varying degree of success with some of these resolutions.  I attended a workshop once where I heard that something in the order of 80% of “diets” meet with either noncompliance or plain old failure.  It could be that some of the programs that people try are not sustainable in real life, are not realistic or the individual sets standards that are not realistic.

No matter what the resolution is, I think that it is important to commit  to positive change and goals that truly fit into our lives and personal styles.  The belief in ourselves as we are and the faith in our resolve to be our best in everyday (I know it sounds like an army recruitment ad)  is a goal in itself.  If we can get to this – I think all of the rest will follow.

If we also take the focus away from exclusively ourselves, it allows us to look around at the world and the people in our lives.  A positive focus on the people around us, even strangers, gives a better chance of paying it forward, spreading the positive vibes and being happy.  This all comes back to building and improving ourselves.  I wish you all a Happy New Year!

 

Men in Yoga Tights – 5 Things to Know

I generally wear running tights to yoga class. There are some wide ranging opinions on men and women parts about men and yoga apparel. Here are some points to ponder about men and tights.

  1. Mens tights are certainly not an “unmanly” or nonmasculine piece of apparel.  The standard in many sports, either under shorts or stand alone has become some form of compression wear.

  2. Athletic tights are a healthy and practical garment in a yoga studio.  Compression on muscles (as well as warmth) allows for easier movement and flexibility.  Some would suggest that they also reduce injury risk.  Similar to why NBA players wear tights under their shorts.

  3. The right yoga pant or tight is stylish and attractive.  Why not look the best you can be and feel good about it.

  4. Worn with the proper under support and appropriate size, most men and women are not “grossed out” by a male with tights.  Think ballet, or those NBA players again.  They look fine and are able to perform in an optimal manner.

  5. Yoga apparel for men, loose or tight, is generally designed to allow for flexibility and function.  Basically the pant has to allow you to carry out a pose in a comfortable and safe way.

    There is a good variety of mens yoga apparel on the market.  Manduka for one has a nice selection of good quality clothes.  The athletic companies like Under Armour and Nike also produce yoga worthy apparel.  Check it out and leave a comment.

The Best Yoga Mat Review – Manduka Mat Review

I’ve recently become an affiliate of  MANDUKA products mainly because of the company’s great overall philosophy but also the products they sell.  Their mats are exceptionally great and Manduka has a fairly wide range to suit any Yogi’s needs.  The mats come in a variety of lengths and thicknesses.  They have a travel “eKO lite” mats that folds instead of the traditional rolling as well as mats that are more suitable for environments like a hot yoga class.

I have a Black Pro mat that is the extra long length, 85 inches x 26 inches, to accommodate my height.  It’s certainly not “lite” and weighs in at 9.5 lbs.  The standard version of this mat is the same width but 71 inches long (7.5 lbs.).  Once set up, this mat offers a space that has great foot grip, even in hot yoga.  I’ve even used it as a make shift mattress on an unexpected night of sleep in the back of my SUV.  I have a nice Manduka can to carry it in and I might consider getting one of the lighter mats when I’m travelling or wanting a lighter load.

One advantage of this mat is the thickness.  At 5mm, it is easy on the knees.  I seem to want to step off the mat when in a balancing pose.  The floor seems to give a little more stability than standing on a thicker mat – at least for me.  The verdict on this Manduka Pro is definitely a thumbs up.

4 Ways to Leave a Yoga Class

working-cobra-yoga-pose-cute-hispanic-women-practicing-their-class-gym-35911698I wrote about the preparation for your Yoga Class last post.  It’s one of those things where there’s truly a “before, during and after”.  The “after” of a Yoga practice is important.  You’ve recovered from lying on the floor in savasana and here you go back out into the world. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind as you do this.

1. Be happy and thankful to yourself for making the effort to be there and challenge yourself.  This extends to everyone around you.  It’s always nice to bid others good bye or even a nod of acknowledgement since they were part of the experience.  I remember being taken completely by surprise after a class when young female friend of my gave me a huge embrace after the class.  She wanted to just share the moment.  Sure – not everyone wants a hug – especially strangers – but a little kind acknowledgement goes a long way.

2.  If you made an intent or goal at the beginning of the class, give some consideration to how you might take it away and continue to use or consider it.  If the goal is living your intentions and growing, well why not take it with you.  There is a philosophy about “leaving your yoga practice on your mat” but I think that the strength and insight that we sometimes achieve are worth taking with us.

3. Thank the teacher and be sure to let him or her know how much you appreciated and particular parts of the class.  It’s always a good opportunity to ask a question.

4. Nurture your body with water.  Many classes are dehydrating if you worked hard and sweated.

These are some of my suggestions and I’d be open to your comments.

 

Namaste

5 Essentials to Get Ready for Your Yoga Practice

pexels-photo-374694If you’re like me, getting to your yoga practice is often a rushed affair that ends in finding a place in the studio and landing on the mat just in time for the instructor to begin.  But if possible, there are some essential things that should be considered before one depends to the mat to begin the practice.

  1. Be mentally ready to begin approximately an hour of letting go of your daily demands and focusing on yourself through your yoga.  This is a time for you and it’s important to allow this space to be as much as it can be, especially if you are putting the effort into doing it.
  2. Make sure you have all of the equipment needed – primarily your mat and water.  Most studios have block and straps as well as other props.  It’s like having your gym stuff in your bag ready to go.
  3. Try to avoid heavy meals or simply eating close to practice time.  Most yoga experts recommend an “empty” stomach.  Hydration before during and after is always recommended.  So bringing water is good.
  4. Wear your best and most comfortable yoga apparel that will bring out the best in you.  Try to keep them ready and fresh.  Having the appropriate yoga apparel that is fresh and comfortable works for you, your fellow yogis and teachers who get close-up doing adjustments.
  5. Be on time and ready to go.  Adjusting your schedule so that you can be a few minutes before class time allows everyone to grab a spot in the studio that is best suited to them.  Teachers appreciate this too!

Feel free to add to this list with your own experience.

Namaste

YOGA as part of LIFE

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Yoga has become an integral part of my life.  It is a practice that is a lifestyle for many, at the most, and a means of exercise and stress management, at the least, for some.  Regardless of how much or little that the practice of yoga occupies one’s life – it’ all good.  Yoga is about balance.  Yoga is about strength and calmness.  It’s about developing and nurturing yourself.  While you are on your mat, you focus on all of these aspects and for once it’s ok for it to be “all about me”.

If you are new to yoga, it would be great if you tried any intro or beginner class.  You will find – I can guarantee- an atmosphere of  TOTAL acceptance of simply who you are and where you are at.  This is what is to be asked of you.

If Yoga is an established part of your life than lucky and wise you.  I hope you find some of my future posts to be interesting.  Feel free to add any comments or suggestions.   Namaste 

How to End Mental Illness Stigma- Awareness and Education

Who would have thought that an actor from the Sopranos TV series, Joey Pantoliano “Joey Pants” would be a leader in the area of mental health education and awareness and one of the most significant figures that I’m aware of in the crusade to de-stigmatize all forms of mental illness. Well through his documentary, “No Kidding, Me Too” he has started the NKM2 movement that has also involved a remarkable group of individuals from all walks of life as well as other celebrities.

 

The NKM2 web site is very impressive as well as the actual documentary.  There are some segments that you can view for free on Youtube.  It’s an entertaining and fascinating look at a range of individuals, some mental health professionals, who have experienced mental health issues of some form.  It’s about hope, confidence and the knowledge that it’s all something that can be dealt with.  Also, the documentary, as well as the whole, NKM2 organization provides information and direction on new research and resources.  And by the way, Joey Pantoliano himself reveals his own struggle with a mood disorder and ADHD.

It’s a great movement and as Joey Pants says “Infotainment!”

Photo credit: No Kidding, Me Too .ORG

The Best Canadian Vacation Destinations to DeStress and Push Some Limits (More to come)

There are so many places in the world that are great destinations for finding space, relaxation and, if you want, excitement and adventure.  When someone takes a journey either near or far and finds a space for themselves and come back with great memories of the experience, it is time very well spent – especially if you were able actively relax, enjoy your time or even feel that you’ve achieved something new and interesting .  Here’s 2 of my initial entries in this category.

  1. Newfoundland – Virtually all of the Province of Newfound, Canada is a place of peace , tranquility and adventure.  The province has a great online site.  There is a city on the East Coast, Corner Brook as well as the Capital on the East Coast of the province.  One of my favourite spots is just outside the City of St. John’s called Cape Spear.  This beautiful Cape is a majestic piece of the land that is actually the most Eastern part of North America.  The amazing experience is going there for a sunrise (I have) so you can be the actual first person in North America to see the sun on that day. 
  2. Osheaga – On literally another note anthem, Osheaga is the annual summer Alternative Music Festival held over three days in Montreal, Canada.  I include this because it’s opportunity to simply get lost and involved in a musical, cultural and social phenomenon.  The catch is that you are doing it with about 100, 000 other people.  Sure, you’re not standing on shore with no one around for miles – just the opposite.  But there is something I it if Alternative Music is your thing – there’s actually a wide range of music in this genre.  The people are nice, there is an air of freedom and fun.  There’s even a kind of “Burning Man (Nevada Desert), feel to the place.  

I’d be interested in hearing about your getaways and experiences.

photo credit: Newfoundland and Labrador Dept. of Tourism

The Best Way to Deal with Stress and Anxiety: Some Important Parts of Your Approach

The important part of the title is “your approach”.  Just like your own finger print, your stress is unique and the approach to deal with stress and anxiety is as individual as you.

  1. Thinking is an important aspect of any approach to daily stress or anxiety.  The style of our thought patterns often plays a role in how we deal with challenges such as stressors or symptoms of anxiety.  One of the Best approaches is seen in the Centre for Positive Psychology that is directed by Dr. Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania.

2. Physical Activity remains an important part of any approach to the management of daily stress and symptoms of anxiety.  There is quite a lot of research to support the benefits of regular exercise for mental and physical health.  Especially exercise that you enjoy.  I previously reviewed an article posted by the American Psychological Association.

 

Your Approach to Taking Care of Yourself is as Unique as your Fingerprint

 

3. Getting Help   . Help can come in the form of a good book that you find to have the information that you need , such as Kabot-Zinn’s Full Catastrophie Living or a therapist who is trained in the area in which you need help.  Psychologists and other mental health professionals, especially in private practices, are able to list the areas of specialty in their public listings.  You can also see what organizations and licensing bodies they are affiliated with.   If you feel that you need the assistance of a professional – it’s important to get someone suitable for you.  Most will even answer questions before you make a commitment to refer yourself.

These are some key features that I recommend considering.. I’m interested in your views.