The Power of Yoga: 6 Lessons that Led Me to Love

yoga

For years I’ve had a love – hate relationship with yoga.

It’s such a beautiful practice and I love the expression of it that I see from others. Yet, I hate the struggle it presents for me because of my limited flexibility.

I realize yoga is about so much more than stretching and flexibility. It is truly a spiritual practice.

This has been one of the most challenging years for me. Every area of my life has shifted and I’ve been forced completely outside of my comfort zone.

Recently, I finally decided to stop resisting the changes and began to embrace them.

That mindset has followed me to the mat.  I’ve been incorporating yoga into my lifestyle for the past few weeks.

I started out practicing once or twice a week because my body was so tense and I felt like I needed it.

Now, my yoga practice is aligning with my life. I’m experiencing a tremendous transformation in my life, and the same thing is happening on the mat.

I increased my practice to daily sessions and I’m amazed by my progress.

Obviously, my flexibility has improved. But here are some of the lessons I’m learning on the mat and in life.

  1. Be present and enjoy the moment. When I take the time to be fully present in the poses I’m not focused on the time. I bask in every sensation my body experiences. It reminds me that I’m alive.
  2. Be grateful. My body is functioning and moving and serving me in ways that I don’t take notice of often enough. I no longer take that for granted.
  3. Don’t be judgmental. I have spent most of my life being critical of myself and my body, especially this past year as I’ve gained some weight. But as I feel the changes happening in my body, and I become more flexible with every practice, I feel so grateful.  How dare I judge something that is working so hard for me. My body is a temple. It should be cherished. No amount of weight gain or weight loss will ever change that. My body is uniquely mine. Therefore, it is perfect!
  4. I’m enough. Whatever I bring to the mat on any given day is enough. Sometimes I can do more. Some days I’m capable of less. But whatever I have in me on any given day is enough.
  5. Know your limitations. My yoga practice – as is my life – is uniquely my own. I’m not competing with the person next to me or the instructor on the video. I have limitations. I can take a break if I need to or modify my poses. That’s perfectly ok.
  6. Be consistent. You get out of it what you put into it. Everyday that I practice I get a little stronger, and little more flexible. It doesn’t even matter how much time I put in each day, I just have to show up and do the work.

It amazes me how the challenges I’m working through in my personal life mirror those I’m working through on the mat. That revelation has been a tremendous aha moment for me.

These new insights are my inspiration to get to the mat everyday. I don’t have to fear or dread my practice anymore because I’m not going to get there and feel like I’m inadequate. I’m more than enough and I have just as much a right to be there as anybody else.

Now I get it. That’s why I didn’t want to practice yoga. I believed that because I couldn’t execute the poses perfectly I shouldn’t be there. I felt insecure.

It’s heartbreaking to realize that’s how I’ve felt in my life for so long.

But now I know better. And it’s empowering!  Neither life or yoga is about perfection.

As is the case in my life, I have learned in yoga that all I need to do is just show up! The rest will work itself out.

From here on out, I no longer have a love – hate relationship with yoga. It’s ALL LOVE!

Love for the practice and love for myself because now I can clearly see that my struggle was never about yoga anyway, it was all about me.

Namaste!

Summer Lovin’ … How It Restored My Health!

summer lovin

We’re about two weeks into the summer season and I’m starting to feel the benefits. The primary reason for that is I can still vividly recall the end of last summer.

I was so disappointed to see it end. I had gotten into such a groove. I was working out consistently and I was eating the right kinds of foods; foods that were conducive to summer – salads, juices, smoothies. I was practically overdosing on watermelon! (It’s my FAV!)

Not to mention I was getting into great physical shape. When the weather is good I spend more time exercising outside and I’m naturally more active.

So, when the fall season began, I rebelled…BIG TIME! I did not want to switch to heavy foods again. My body wasn’t even craving that stuff. I knew it was going to impact me. But after a point, I was forced to drop my resistance. My training at IIN taught me about Ayurveda, so I knew I needed to surrender to the season if I had any shot at achieving balance.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Ayurveda is a 5,000 year-old system of natural healing that has its origins in the Vedic culture of India. It’s defined as a “Science of Life.” It offers a body of wisdom designed to help people stay vital while realizing their full human potential. It provides guidelines on ideal daily and seasonal routines, diet, behavior, and the proper use of our senses.

Basically, using Ayurvedic principles we are able to create harmony between what our bodies need and the cycle of nature. That’s why in the spring and summer we crave light foods, and in the fall and winter we tend to crave heavy, comfort foods like soups and chili.

Well, I’ve been excited to embrace summer, especially now that I’ve relocated to Florida. Living near the ocean is conducive to a more easy-going, healthy lifestyle. Prior to relocating, I was under tremendous stress over my move, and my body was reacting to it. I was a slave to my flesh. I pretty much fed it whatever it wanted: candy, cookies, bread, chips, etc. These were my comfort foods and they got me through my transition.

Now that I’ve been in place for a month, I’m settling into a sense of normalcy. I’m no longer living out of boxes, and most importantly, my kitchen is unpacked. I know where my pots and pans are, and I can eat at home more often.

Thankfully, I’m getting into a groove again. I’m doing yoga, running, eating more salads, and replacing my morning oatmeal with fresh juices or smoothies. I’m basically giving my body whatever it needs. It’s craving a lot of yoga now because of all the tension I’ve been carrying around. I’ve never really enjoyed yoga because I’ve found it hard. I only did it because of the health benefits. But I can honestly say, I’m enjoying it so much! It feels so luxurious to spend an hour or more doing gentle yoga. It’s the same feeling as when you spend an hour getting a massage. This is a new experience for me and I hope it becomes addictive.

So, if I can offer you any tips from all of this, I’d say the following:

  1. Listen to your body – it knows what it needs. So many of us have grown accustomed to ignoring the signs we get from our bodies. But once you learn to listen to its promptings, you get better at it and it becomes more difficult to go back to ignoring its signs.
  2. Respond to your body – when it tells you what it needs, be responsive. I went for weeks ignoring how my body was screaming for yoga. My bones were cracking when I got up in the morning. My back was tight and stiff. But as soon as I succumbed to what it needed, I felt 100 times better and looked much more relaxed.
  3. Create a life of harmony and balance. It’s the only way to live. Avoid extremes. Don’t deny yourself either. Some days you may feel like eating veggies, salads, and smoothies. Go with that. But other days you may want ice cream or bread. Give yourself what you need, but don’t overindulge.

I hope you find my experience and these tips helpful. Summer will be over before you know it, so my prayer for you is that you enjoy it while it lasts.

Until next time…

Love, Peace, & Fitness!

New Season – New Direction

new direction

In a few weeks I’ll hit a milestone –the two year anniversary of launching Plant Food ROCKS. It’s hard to believe it has been that long. My intention with the blog has always been to promote the benefits of following a plant based diet.

From that perspective, I’ve shared everything from healing foods to super foods. I’ve shared my fitness journey from hiking, to my 21-day yoga challenge, and my greatest feat of participating in a sprint triathlon.

I’ve also incorporated spiritual lessons I’ve learned about faith, prayer, and meditation. My favorite blogs have been those that have evoked the most response from you. Most of you tend to respond favorably when I’m transparent on matters that you can relate to.

As you know, I approach health and wellness from a holistic perspective: mind, body, and soul. Every area of our lives impact our health. If our lives are out of balance in any area, it’s going to impact our ability to obtain optimal health.

The last few months I have been reconsidering my objective with the blog. Some days there were things I wanted to share that fit my objective, but didn’t feel authentic. I can honestly say my desire has shifted a little bit. So, I’ve been working through that. I made the conscious decision to pull back on blogging until I was clear about the direction I wanted to take. I’ve asked myself: what’s next for the blog? More importantly, what’s next for me?

I’ve spent time getting to the bare bones of what I believe, what I’m passionate about, who I want to impact, and what I have to teach. At heart I’ve always been a teacher. Whenever I learn something, I feel compelled to share it with others. That typically comes through in the form of a workshop, blog, or sometimes while just having dinner with a friend.

I’ve come to a point in my life where I’m thinking about the imprint I want to leave in this life. How I can cause a ripple effect on the world – effect generational change.  It’s easy to convince ourselves that if we don’t have a lot of money or celebrity then we’re not capable of doing anything that really matters. We can’t impact real change.

I choose to believe that I CAN do something. The truth is – we all can. Just start with where you are and do what you can. At the end of the day, that’s all you’re responsible for- doing your part.

Well, I’m excited to say that I have clarity on that. I know what it is I’m supposed to be doing. On the anniversary of Plant Food ROCKS, I’m going to announce that change. I will say that it’s not a drastic change. It’s actually a very appropriate next step. It’s a shift from an individual impact to a more community impact. The next chapter for me involves getting to the heart of the community and impacting change with those who really need it most.

So, I hope that you will stay tuned to find out what I’m doing. I also hope that it will inspire you to step out of your comfort zone and pursue your own dreams. If you don’t have a dream, perhaps it will motivate you to begin to form one. Until next time…

A Different Kind of Triathlon – A “Mindful Triathlon”

If you are a regular follower of my blog then you know I completed my first ever triathlon back in July. It was the most challenging and exciting thing I’ve done so far this year. Well, I’m getting ready to participate in another triathlon. This one is much different – it’s a “Mindful Triathlon”.

Photo by Jake Laub for Wanderlust Festival

Wanderlust Festival

I know that sounds really weird, but that’s what it is. Instead of the swim, bike, run events that are customary for a traditional triathlon, the Mindful Triathlon events include a 5K run, meditation and yoga.

It’s part of the Wanderlust Festival. This one day event has been taking place in urban parks across the country. Upcoming events are scheduled for Brooklyn NY, Austin Texas, Hawaii, and later this month it’s coming to Atlanta.

I had the pleasure of talking to one of the lead yoga instructors for the event. Nora Honarvar from Tough Love Yoga studios shared some insights about this unique event and what we can expect. Please click on the image below to watch the interview.

mindfultriathlon

Wanderlust 108 will be held at Piedmont Park in Atlanta on Sunday, September 28th. Please visit the event website at www.wanderlust.com for registration information.

Now, I have a question for you - What do you think of this concept of a mindful triathlon?

*The photo featured in this blog is by Jake Laub for Wanderlust Festival.

** The photos featured in the video are by Stewart Noack, Daniel Craig, Amy Hart, and Vincent Tran for Wanderlust Festival. 

Namaste Everyday

Whether its in my personal or professional life I’m someone who is very goal oriented. I seem to thrive on having a goal. It’s how I keep myself inspired to keep moving forward. If I don’t have something I’m working towards I tend to feel stagnant.

Typically, my goals are motivated by a desire to improve in a particular facet of my life. More often than not my desire comes from an internal place. That is certainly the case with my latest endeavor.

namaste

For the past two weeks I’ve been doing a yoga challenge. It evolved from a place of feeling disconnected. Ironically, this feeling emerged while I was training for my triathlon. I was getting a lot of physical activity and was motivated by that. But, I’m a firm believer that the mind, body, and spirit must be aligned for me to have a shot at real happiness. I was getting my physical body in shape. Unfortunately, my mind and spirit weren’t invited to the party.

Yoga is something I’m fascinated with because I firmly believe in all of its benefits. My issue is that I’m so inflexible I tend to shy away from it. I don’t like how uncomfortable I tend to feel while doing it, so I avoid it. When in actuality it’s the thing I need to be doing so I can improve my flexibility. It’s like the saying goes, real change happens outside your comfort zone.

As I’ve learned from my friend Ryan – a yoga instructor- yoga is a gentle practice. So, it doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. You should go as far as you can in a yoga pose, as long as it feels good.  Ryan was featured in a past blog. Please check out the Namaste Everyday video to hear more of her views and to preview her class.

Here’s how my challenge works. I committed to do yoga every day for  at least 10 minutes for 21 days. Since I’ve gotten past week one, I’ve increased my duration. I’m also including daily meditation.

My intention for this challenge is to get to a place of peace by learning to be in the moment. For weeks I’ve been distracted with life and the things that have not been going the way I want them to go. I need to surrender a few things. I believe this challenge will help me do that. One of the things I have always enjoyed about yoga is it forces me to be in the moment. When you’re focusing on your poses/stretches you can’t think about anything else.

The other thing I want to transpire out of this challenge is to be able to incorporate more yoga into my life and workouts. I figure after 21 days of doing it everyday it will become a habit.

Here are a few benefits I’m already experiencing:

1. My flexibility is improving. Several areas of my body that are really tight are beginning to loosen up, especially my lower back.

2. I’m gaining a tremendous appreciation for my body. We require so much of our bodies every day. Yoga makes me appreciate all that it does and is capable of doing.

3. It’s helping me to stress less and let things go. I’m learning that things will always work out. I don’t have to try to control anything or anybody. In fact, at any given moment of my day I can start it again. If my day starts to go downhill, it doesn’t have to continue to do so. I can stop it and begin again.  I don’t quite get how this awesome practice can do that for me, but somehow it does.

As I’m approaching the final week of my challenge I want to go further spiritually. A friend recently shared a very personal spiritual experience she had while doing yoga. It made me envious. I would love to have a similar encounter. Regardless of whether or not I’m able to have what she had, I want to go deeper. This process has the potential to be life changing, so I don’t want to settle for less.

I’ve been asked by several people what kind of challenge I’m doing. I’ve sort of created my own by researching yoga instructors on YouTube. I choose a different session every day. However, when I initially started researching a 21-day challenge I found one that seems pretty simple. It’s through Yoga Journal. They have a plan for the beginner and intermediate levels. Once you subscribe on their website, they will send you an email every day with a link to a different practice.

I’ve shared with you my experience with yoga. Now, I’d love to hear about yours. Have you tried yoga? If so, how did it benefit you?

Why It’s IMPERATIVE You Operate in Your Gift!

When you let your light shine, and operate your gifts with passion and a spirit of excellence, you give others permission to do the same.

I think I’ve heard Oprah make a similar statement on several occasions. I’ve always believed it to be true, but this past weekend I saw it come to life.  I was on location recording an upcoming episode of my You Tube show – SHE ROCKS. This episode will focus on the benefits of yoga. I was at a yoga class of my friend Ryan, who recently became a certified yoga instructor.

Namaste Everyday

As I was recording her class I was able to see her operate in a capacity in which I’d never seen. Initially, she was a little nervous to teach in front of the camera. That’s normal and I expected that. But when she got over the cameras being present, she really began to operate in her gift. I could see that she is good at what she does and she really enjoys it. Her joy really became apparent as she began to work with each student individually.

Well, after the class I interviewed her. As she answered my questions it was even more evident to me that she is doing what she is supposed to be doing. She exuded a confidence and knowledge about yoga that I found inspiring.

As many of you who follow my blog know, I’m a certified group fitness instructor. However, I haven’t done a lot of teaching this year. I kind of set it aside, and wasn’t sure I’d do it again anytime soon. I mentioned to her that I used to teach group fitness. When she asked me why I wasn’t doing it anymore, I couldn’t really pin point it. All I know is I left her class inspired to teach again. At my core, I’m a teacher anyway, so everything I do is about teaching. But her spirit of excellence made me want to teach fitness classes.

The next day I stumbled upon an upcoming instructor training for a new fitness workout. It’s being offered this weekend. It immediately grabbed my attention and I knew I had to sign up for my certification. I found this class in a magazine I’ve had for weeks. I have browsed through it several times, but I only just saw this ad this week. It felt like divine intervention.

I know without doubt, if I had not recorded this show on yoga, and observed Ryan operate in her gift, I wouldn’t have even considered getting certified in a new fitness trend. At least not right now.

So, I encourage you to always operate in your gift with passion and excellence. If you don’t know what your passion is, you need to find it. There is somebody out there who needs you to, who is depending on it. Remember, operating in your gift gives others permission to do the same.

Question: What would you do differently if you knew someone else’s life depended on you operating in your gift?

By the way, if you want to find out more about Ryan’s class, check out this link to her yoga class. You can also follow her on Instagram at http://instagram.com/namasteveryday.