Tuesday, July 17, 2018

How Yoga Can Help You Overcome Body Issues

How Yoga Can Help You Overcome Body Issues

Goddess Pose
As human beings we like attention.  Some more than others.  And body image is one of the first things people recognize, so we tend to care about it a lot more.  It is part of the first impression.  People strive to feel or present themselves in a certain way to get the best response for different occasions. Some people just don't care. But women, on the other hand, seem to have a significant amount of pressure to look a certain way.  From the top of our heads down to our pedicures.  Yeah, some women do it for themselves or even to impress other women, but more or less to win the attention of men.  To beat out the competition.  Men have different taste across the board.  Some like women with a large breast, a “donkey,” long hair, tall, skinny, thick, etc.  And women, either consciously or subconsciously, tend to adjust their appearance to appeal to them.  Then become so critical of ourselves or each other, that it can take a significant toll on our self-esteem.

As a woman, you can look back and recall situation your outer appearance was criticized or made you feel less than a woman.  Maybe it was in a relationship, parents, religion, or even a job.  Growing up Pentecostal, I was taught women should cover up and wear long skirts, no jewelry, no makeup because it was pleasing to the lord of almighty!  Thankfully, I do not ascribe to such beliefs anymore, but I felt it was the right thing to do.  There was a relationship where I downgraded my outward appearance to make him feel less insecure around other people.  Then there was another when he wanted me to look sexier.  Then I went natural and wore my curly for years and remember being told by a supervisor at my job my hair was unprofessional.  Then I began to straighten my hair and was told by a few zealots as a black queen I should wear my hair in its natural state as if I didn’t know already I was a queen,  I can keep going on and on.  But this type of criticism can take a toll on your self-esteem either you realize it or not, and we began to make decisions that are unhealthy for our souls.

Let's be honest with ourselves and how we strive to appeal to the masses.  How much are we doing it for ourselves?  How much are we doing it for attention?  And why?  We can change anything about ourselves and still be criticized or feel that we aren't enough.  That is why we must get in touch with the SELF.  Nurture our souls. Calm our minds. Love ourselves, so that when we look in the mirror every morning makeup or no makeup, think or skinny, A cup to DD, short or long hair—you see nothing but divine royalty.  This is where yoga comes into play!

Warrior II
Yoga is a meditative practice through asanas (poses) that helps you develop a more serene life.  Yoga also offers physical, psychological, and spiritual benefits.  Yoga means different things to a lot of people.  I believe anyone can choose what aspect to focus on depending on their personal lives, vices, or attitude.  There is now Trap Yoga, Kemetic Yoga, and Goat Yoga (that I will never do).  Or if you just want to have fun, go for it!  At some point I realized how much I’ve allowed other people influence my life either it was the way I dress, speak, act, etc.  As I continued to do yoga (six years), I began to realize how much it has changed my life including improving self-esteem issues.  How is that?

Naked Yoga

It was an awkward experience when I began to do yoga naked—feeling air in unfamiliar places during downward facing dog or even a headstand was very different haha.  But I started to feel more and more liberated, not associating any negative experience with perceived flaws.  So peel off them yoga clothes, get down to who you were before you entered this world; before you were told or felt like you were inadequate.  This can be done alone from the comfort of your home; when your kids are asleep or gone to school, or in the bathroom after or before you shower (if it's big enough).  Better if there is a mirror around to look at all your "flaws" and declare them beautiful; cellulite, stretch marks, freckles, etc.  That's right, even if you don't feel it, say it anyway.  Because your body is divine and made precisely the way it should.  Now when I find myself being self-critical, I strip off my yoga close and move around the mat naked.

Empowering Poses

There are a series of poses I do more than others that I feel aid in loving myself more.  If you aren’t comfortable with doing yoga naked or don't have the quality of space to do it, try out these poses.

 1. Goddess pose.  This pose is perfect!  You turn to the side of your mat with your legs apart, knees bent, chest to the sun, and arms spread like an Egyptian goddess.  I suggest staying in the pose for at least three breaths or more.  When done, heel-toe your feet back up to a standing position.

Head to Knee Pose
 2. Knee to chest pose.  This pose is a great way to love yourself literally.  You lye on your back and bring both knees to your chest.  Then you embrace your arms around your legs to give yourself a big hug.  I stay here for at least five breaths—when do you get the chance to hug yourself?

3.  Head to knee pose.  This pose you bring your foot to your opposite leg's inner thigh keeping the other leg straight, lowering your head to your knee.  From here, go ahead and kiss yourself on your leg.  It is a beautiful gesture, and you may feel weird, but you love yourself remember?  I stay here for at least five breaths.

4.  Rag-doll.  This pose you literally fold over with knees slightly bent and grab opposite elbows having your torso resting on your thighs and dropping your head.  This pose gives yourself a little hug that I usually stay for at least three breaths. 

 5.  Warrior II.  This pose is electrifying, channeling your inner warrior to help you feel confident about yourself.  From here you can move into Exhaulted/Peaceful Warrior dropping your back arm down your hind leg, front arm extended up to the sky.  Stay for at least three breaths.

You can stay at each pose for as long as your body will comfortably allow, making sure you are focusing on your breath.

Stimulating Music

Not just any plain out yoga music station or CD, but music that is both mentally and emotionally stimulating to help shift your Self back to the center.  For instance, if you just broke up with someone, play Beyoncé if she does it for you (to the left, to the left!).  Or if you have been self-critical on your body lately, play a romantic artist like Ed Sheeran.  Or even Tank and Usher.  That's right "When We" and "Can You Handle It" type songs.  I find this helps to rebuild my self-confidence and makes me feel good about myself again.  Sometimes I have a song or album on repeat.  You can play whatever you like however long to help you feel better about yourself.

As women, we must realize how much we can allow others to influence our self-appearance and shift that concern to ourselves.  We must truly love ourselves to a point where if someone makes you feel inadequate, you can laugh and “twirl” on your haters knowing that you are beautiful and divinely made.  This is something that must be worked on throughout our lives throughout changes in our physical physique such as pregnancy.  And yoga is a beautiful tool to have when you find yourself being self-critical, insecure, or just plain unloved.  So go ahead and create a playlist of sensual or empowering songs, and start doing yoga naked.  If being naked is too much, start off playing the music when you are cleaning or before you start your day.  Hang affirmations on your mirror such as "you are beautiful," “you are enough," "you are perfect just the way you are," or whatever you may be feeling insecure about, write the opposite of how you want to feel.  Repeat the affirmations every day!  Then maybe move along to the poses, then perhaps get naked!  Whatever way you go, stick to it, don’t give up on yourself.  You deserve to be loved!

Hope these tips can help you along your journey to self-love and freedom as it has mine.  Namaste.

JoAnnah (Jo Jo) Thompson has been doing yoga since 2012.  After falling into a depression, she turned to yoga and never looked back.  She's found yoga to help overcome anxiety, depression, and even self-esteem issues.   Jo Jo began to post her progress, and inspiring messages on Instagram and surprisingly gained a big following.  After realizing the positive effect, Jo Jo decided to learn more about the practice and became certified to spread her light further.  She's recently opened a studio in Niagara Falls, NY called Self Love Yoga, focused on transforming the mind and self-esteem through asanas and affirmations.  Jo Jo looks forward to transforming lives through her experiences and practice.  Namaste.

Instagram: jojotheyogi
Facebook: jojotheyogi

The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of BlackGirlYoga.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Inversions & Periods, Let's Talk About It

I’d like for us to all begin on the same page. In my perspective, not all people who menstruate are women and not all women
menstruate. Therefore, I will refer to folks who have a periods as… people who menstruate. I’ll be referencing that a lot, so let’s shorten it to PWM. Deal? For more info on what I’m talking about, click HERE.

Have you ever been in yoga class enjoying your teacher’s flow and then suddenly cued to avoid an inversion if you are currently on YOUR flow?

A few weeks ago, I asked for opinions about inverting while on your period via my IG. There were mixed feelings. Some of my followers said that they actively engage in inverted postures (such as headstand, handstand, shoulder stand, etc.) to help relieve pelvic pain or lighten their flow. Others said it depends on how their body is feeling- sometimes restorative practice feels best and sometimes the uterus just needs to be turned upside down for a while, you know? Finally, others recommend PWM completely avoid inversions while menstruating.

In the words of Oprah, so what is the truth?
My question came from my own mixed messages on inverting during “that time of the month.” I recall being told during my yoga teacher training to avoid certain asana (yoga postures) if I was on my period and to encourage future students to do the same. Full disclosure, I’m a cis-woman with endometriosis. For the first few days especially, you won’t get much more than sukhasana and savasana (+ a heating pad on level high) out of me anyways. But is avoiding a headstand necessary for everyone who’s visited by Auntie Flow?

I did some digging. Sounds like the internet is confused too.

Let’s start with the naysayers. It can be hard to present a differing opinion, but I am so glad folks from every point of view felt safe enough to chime in. Most of those who voted “nah” aligned with traditional yoga philosophy. B.K.S. Iyengar was frequently mentioned while I searched for answers. According to “The Bible of Modern Yoga,” Light on Yoga, PWM are forbidden to engage in postures in which the uterus is inverted. This is because of an understanding of prana, our energy, and its natural descent during this time. During menstruation, the body’s energy is apana, or flowing downward. Pranic energy is connected to our bowels, urination, and menses. You know, processes which move things down and out. Asana, which are as much spiritual as they are physical, that turn the uterus upside down therefore disrupt the body’s energetic flow.

Iyengar isn’t the only teacher who felt this way. Advisory warnings also come from Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, a central figure to the expansion of ashtanga yoga. The guru suggests a “ladies’ holiday” for practitioners. For the first 3 days of a menstruating person’s period it is recommended that asana as a whole be avoided! This is echoed in traditional hatha yoga (my training!), which warns against engaging in mula bandha so as not to “lock in” the body’s energy.

I know, I know, Team NO is getting a lot of playtime here, but stick with me. The medical industry has chimed in on this too! It has been rumored that inverting while on your period could result in a heavier flow or even retrograde menstruation. Retrograde menstruation sounds just about as bad as Mercury in retrograde, amiright? This is the term for when the menses flows back into the abdomen. To be fair, it is reported 90% of PWM experience retrograde menstruation. Surprise! You have probably experienced this yourself (if you get a period) a time or two and didn’t even know! So what’s the big deal? Endometriosis would be that big deal.

As someone who has had endometriosis since I began menstruating (age 12) and long before I began a yoga practice, I found this horrifying. Do you mean to tell me the practice I love so deeply could also be a pathway to one of my most painful lifelong disorders? Let me end the suspense for you, research has shown that this isn’t the case for a whole host of reasons. Welcome to Team IT DEPENDS (ON YOU).

The school of  “Do You Boo” can be summarized as: “your body, your choice.” Again, full disclosure, as a die hard Black queer feminist this was familiar (and comfortable) music to my anti-patriarchal ears. The voices which have traditionally discouraged inverting are… well… men. Cis-men to be exact (or leave a comment below if anyone has different information!) who have never experienced a period in their life. Is this reason enough to question their wisdom?

Many sources encouraged PWM to adjust their practice based on their symptoms. If your period is heavy, makes you lethargic (#TamasVibes), or lightheaded, a headstand may not be the safest choice energetically or physically. For other menstruators out there, a shoulderstand may be the perfect way to balance out your energetic funk. An important question you may want to ask yourself is,
“How do I feel when I am on my period?”

This question places the wisdom back into your hands and allows PWM to discern for themselves what feels best for their bodies. Everybody and every body is unique- is a blanket “avoid at all costs”
protective or oppressive? And why are technical inversions like downward dog and forward fold (both invert the uterus) less discussed than shoulderstand?

Also, consider if you ARE that student in class on your period. The teacher cues an alternative option for those on the rag- and now everyone in class knows who and who is not on their period! This can be an incredibly shameful experience. It strips agency from the student. It can make genderqueer bodies vulnerable to scrutiny (because if a “man” goes into child’s pose instead of headstand, it’s inevitable a person or two may question why). The point here to consider safety (body, mind, and spirit) as well as choice for PWM.

Do we get a say? Or does tradition know best? There is very little discussion about this topic despite the thousands of PWM who practice. This fuels mysticism and ignorance around the uterus, its wonders, and how to keep it healthy and safe (I’m holding myself back from launching into a rant on reproductive rights and gender-based violence here...). Mixed messages act as a potential barrier for PWM to build an informed relationship with their bodies. Medically, it would appear your reasonable 10-30 second inversion won’t cause any harm. In fact, many menstruators swear on its efficacy in reducing period symptoms. Spiritually, some of the founding OG’s say it’s a no-go, but many other respected teachers say otherwise. What’s a PWM to do?
I’m not here to provide answers.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
What I do know is that yoga has taught me
the power of turning inward and seeking
the answers I need within my higher self.
- - - - - - - - - - - -

The practice encourages me to be present in the experiences of my body, mind, and spirit in the space of “Right Now.” So, what if you feel capable to go for that handstand? Or what if you just don’t want the whole room knowing you're battling period cramps? Or what if you have chosen to follow yogic tradition and don’t mind a break from your practice?

My best answer is... you have the answer.

Ready to experience the BlackGirlYoga community LIVE? Click HERE for tickets to Samadhi & Sisterhood in Atlanta, GA!
Kala Lacy is a community healer, wellness warrior, activist, raging water sign, and teacher of holistic health who works within underserved communities across the nation to provide education of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual wellness.
She is a trained therapist, certified yoga teacher, and Lead Curator and Administrator of BlackGirlYoga. In all spaces she connects her extensive knowledge of body, spirit, and mind with a critical analysis of structural violence, considering them inseparable.

To contact and find out more about Kala, check out thewellhealing.com

Sunday, March 11, 2018

4 Core Habits to Start Living Healthier (+ Printable Tracker Inside!)

4 Core Habits to Start Living Healthier

Sometimes you look around and it seems everyone else is going hard in the gym or eating these amazing healthy meals- and yet you can't seem to get off the couch and are unsure where to start for a healthier lifestyle. Or, maybe you started off great on day 1 of your journey and later failed to keep it up. I know for myself as a mama, after having my baby I most certainly did not have the energy to workout and remember to shower, let alone remember to drink water and eat right. Whether you want to be ripped by summer or just want to improve your health so you can live a little longer:

slow and steady wins the race.

Start with these 4 Core Healthy Habits to jump-start or improve your healthy lifestyle! Below is a FREE printable with a healthy habits tracker to keep you on target.

Drink more water

This is one I used to struggle with myself. Some days I didn't realize I had not had any water until the middle of the afternoon. What works for me is making sure I have a nice 8 ounce glass first thing in the morning. I also carry a water bottle or water jug everywhere with me. When I start to feel empty or hungry, I chug it down and aim to finish the jug by the end of the day. After a while, you start to get used to it. If the taste is the problem, try adding lemon! It's yummy, promotes healthy digestion, and fat loss. You can also add berries, ginger, or any type of fruit that adds flavor.

Benefits of  Drinking Water

1. Increases Energy & Relieves Fatigue

2. Promotes Weight Loss

3. Flushes Out Toxins

4. Improves Skin Complexion

5. Maintains Regularity

6. Boosts Immune System

7. Natural Headache Remedy

8. Prevents Cramps & Sprains

9. Puts You In A Good Mood

Sleep more, stress less.

As a mama, this one eluded me a while. Most of you moms out there know that for the first few months after having a baby, this task is nearly impossible. It gets better. Once the little ones are on a sleep schedule (hallelujah!) aim to get in those 8 hours of well-deserved rest.
Adequate sleep is a key part of a healthy lifestyle and can benefit your heart, weight, mind, and more!

Eat more whole foods

Whole foods are plant-based foods that are unprocessed and unrefined, or processed and refined as little as possible before being consumed. Examples of whole foods include whole grains, tubers, legumes, fruits, vegetables. These are the foods that should be in abundance in your shopping cart when going to the grocery store. I also like to take whole food fruit and vegetable capsules to give me that extra boost of nutrition.

Here is an example of a list of whole foods:
  •  Dried fruits and nuts:
    • Almonds, pistachios and walnuts, to name just a few
    • Dried cranberries, fruit juice
    • Raisins and other dried fruits such as apricots with no added sugar
  • Whole Grains:
    • 100% Whole wheat flour 
    • 100% Whole-wheat or whole-grain bread
    • 100% Whole-wheat pasta
    • 100% Whole-wheat pitas or tortillas 
    • Amaranth
    • Barley
    • Brown rice
    • Buckwheat – hot cereal or flour
    • Bulgur
    • Quinoa (technically a seed, but treated as a grain)
    • Rye
    • Spelt
    • Steel cut oatmeal
    • Whole-grain breakfast cereal like millet or Whole Grain Buckwheat Cereal
    • Wild rice
  • Vegetables (fresh or frozen):
    • Artichokes
    • Asparagus
    • Avocados (technically a fruit)
    • Beets
    • Bell peppers
    • Broccoli
    • Brussels sprouts
    • Cabbage (all kinds)
    • Carrots
    • Cauliflower
    • Celery
    • Cucumbers
    • Garlic
    • Green beans
    • Greens such as spinach, chard, collard or kale
    • Leeks
    • Mushrooms
    • Onions
    • Parsnips
    • Radishes
    • Rutabagas
    • Shallots
    • Squash of all kinds (we love butternut, spaghetti squash and sugar pie pumpkins)
    • Sweet potatoes
    • Tomatoes
    • Turnips
  • Fruits (fresh or frozen with no added sugar):
    • Apples
    • Apricots
    • Bananas
    • Blackberries
    • Blueberries
    • Cantaloupe
    • Cherries
    • Grapefruits
    • Grapes
    • Kiwi
    • Lemons
    • Mangoes
    • Nectarines
    • Oranges
    • Watermelon
    • Strawberries
    • Starfruit
    • Raspberries
    • Pomegranates
    • Plutos
    • Plums
    • Pineapple
    • Peaches
  • Beans & Legumes (dry or canned):
    • Adzuki beans
    • Black beans
    • Chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
    • Kidney beans
    • Lentils (all types)
    • Navy beans
    • Pinto beans
    • Split peas
    • White beans

    Get more exercise

    And no, you have to tackle the squat rack today. Start with walking, jogging, skipping rope, swimming, or yoga, of course! All of which these are great exercises to get your heart beating and blood flowing. I have a love affair with pumping iron. Lifting weights burns tons of fat and keeps burning long after your workout. Whatever your preference, get it in daily!

    Exercise offers incredible benefits that can improve nearly every aspect of your health. Regular physical activity can increase the production of hormones that make you feel happier and help you sleep better. It can also improve your skin's appearance, help you lose weight (and keep it off), lessen the risk of chronic disease, and improve your sex life.

    Don’t try to tackle everything at once. Incorporate one of the Core 4 Health Habits today. Add another Core Health Habit each month and track your progress weekly. At the end of four months, these simple changes will add up to big lifestyle improvements.

    Get your Tracker here

    Nadine Johnson is an island girl living in sunny Miami, FL with her husband and daughter. She is a lifestyle blogger and owner of BodyUp BossUp, a health and lifestyle business. She started her business after the birth of her daughter to change her health and weight by eating clean whole foods and exercising. Nadine describes herself as a big foodie and free spirit at heart. She will try anything once.  Her mission is to help others find happiness by improving their health, wealth, and discovering new things via her blog. 

    Facebook: /BodyUpBossUp
    Instagram: @bodyup_bossup
    Twitter: @BuBuBlog
    Pinterest: /bodyupbossup

    Thursday, February 8, 2018

    Self-Care Sunday

    Self-Care Sunday

    2017 was a whirlwind of a year for many of us. Along with the typical growth and changes we all go through as days, weeks, and months go by, the world around us has also drastically changed. The political climate alone caused great amounts of distress among many individuals. With so many heart-wrenching events occurring, what seems, consecutively, in addition to the daily struggles we encounter, from finances to family, we must remember to find space where we can take care of ourselves.

    "...we must remember to find space
    where we can take care of ourselves."

    I’m about to begin my second semester of a three-year master’s program in counseling, and the past semester had been overwhelming. I’m taking a full course load, I work two graduate assistantships in order to pay tuition, and I live with my grandparents (after spending five years on my own in college and post-grad) to make commuting easier. A great part of my program is that they focus heavily on self-care, since in the counseling profession we will be taking on clients that will have heavy and even traumatic experiences that we wouldn’t want to detrimentally affect our lives. In my Mental Health/Mental Illness class, we were advised to create a self-care plan to implement in our weekly routine. I found it extremely helpful, and wanted to share a few things I learned while also giving tips on how you too can fully engage in much needed self-care to manage stress and cultivate mental, physical, and emotional well-being.

    1. Set Yourself Up For Success
    Your self-care plan can be as simple or ambitious as you like, but choose something you can realistically commit to AT LEAST once a week. If you want to go hard and rock climb once every weekend because you like the rush then by all means, climb as much as your heart desires. But, if the task you choose is something that’ll feel more like a chore added onto your schedule rather than something you look forward to each week, then think about something else that could be helpful.

    For example, I initially chose to start each week reading an inspirational quote so I can began on a positive note, take a bubble bath every Sunday, and do some restorative yoga every other night. The inspirational quote task quickly became something I’d easily forget, and my laziness on Sundays was so strong I rarely drew a bath for myself despite how relaxing it’d be.

    2. Don’t Get Discouraged
    It’s easy to become frustrated or upset when things don’t go the way we planned, and the same goes for a self-care plan. At first the task(s) you choose could feel easy, but then as work and family and friends and everything else in your life that gives you stress piles on, so does that possible guilt you may feel when you’re not following your plan. Your plan may feel like it’s not working out, or you may feel like you’re not completely dedicated to it since there’s other things you have to worry about. But, I encourage you to do the best you can and remember to be gentle with yourself. The self-care plan isn’t so you can feel overwhelmed with that to, but made so that when life feels heavy you have something to fall back on that gives you joy or relaxes you.

    Halfway during my own self-care plan I became increasingly frustrated with myself. Between the amounts of homework I was being given, family issues I was being thrust into, and missing my friends from college, nothing seemed to be going right. I’ve also been dealing with depression for three years, and although I’ve been in remission for a few months now the added stressors in my life pushed another episode to appear. My plan wasn’t going the way I wanted it to, but I realized that when certain aspects of my plan weren’t working out, I was replacing them with other things that worked better for me.

    3. Be Flexible, Be You.
    Instead of reading a motivational quote every week, I ended up watching poetry slams before bed. When I wasn’t taking a bubble bath, I indulged in what is now a full-blown self-care Sunday. Each week I make sure to finish up my homework and run any errands that need to be done so that Sunday can be my day of rest. I’ll sleep in, drink my favorite tea, get some yoga in, watch A Different World, cook my favorite meal, and maybe (always) indulge in some Oreos. This can vary by week (one week
    I had a Studio Ghibli marathon all Sunday), but the main point is that I dedicated a whole day to taking care of myself to both end my week on a good note and be ready for what the next week holds.
    You don’t have to be like me and clear plans for a whole day, because that doesn’t work for everyone’s lifestyle. But, I encourage you to find that time for yourself and really do the things that allow you to embrace your true self. If your initial plan doesn’t work, there’s nothing wrong with tailoring it to best fit your needs. It’s important to ask yourself, “What do I need?” whether it’s a walk outside or ice cream and Netflix.

    Remember, self-care doesn’t have to strictly be bubble baths, nail painting, and retail therapy (though they are quite enjoyable). Self-care can be taking a shower; reading a book; going for a walk; talking to an old friend; separating yourself from a toxic person; reflection; hot chocolate and Netflix; selfies; being completely and unapologetically you.

    Anjé McLish is a blooming activist, driven graduate student, and typical black girl nerd who embraces all things self-care related. Her counseling studies have inspired her to educate the minority population in mental health issues, and especially help others gain multicultural understanding in a diverse world. When she's not engulfed in her studies she's making self-care plans, reading poetry or works of fiction by authors of color, and working on her next yoga pose goal.

    IG: @yoga_tapdancer

    Thursday, July 27, 2017

    Guided Relaxation

    A few weeks ago I asked my Instagram followers if they struggle with sleep and what methods they use to combat it (shameless plug: @benditlikelacy). Many people I’ve talked with in my personal and professional life have irregular sleep patterns, insomnia, and a hard time slowing down or shutting off their racing thoughts. On the post, I vaguely described a relaxation technique I use in and outside of my yoga classes that relaxes my students. It is an effective way to turn your awareness inwards, whether you intend to fall asleep or find a calmer state of mind. I promised I would make it available for all and I am keeping my word.

    “Decide to use this time for yourself. And nothing and no one else.”
    Relaxing is difficult for most of us. Even when we think we’re relaxed, we often still unconsciously hold tension in parts of our bodies (toes, jaw, shoulders…). Relaxation requires intention and even practice. There are many paths to cultivating a peaceful body and mind; so long as no harm is done, they are valid and critical to your health! There is no disease that cannot be positively affected by stress reduction. In that case, relaxation is more than a luxury; determining your path of access is crucial!

    The Guided Relaxation is a combination of a systematic muscle awareness process gleaned during my yoga teacher training and deep breathing exercises. It can be used not only for sleep, but to cultivate a calmer state of being, or as a part of your yoga and meditation practice. You could also just pop in your headphones and use it before a stressful situation, or just to show yourself some love. It’s all up to you. The process begins with asking you to choose yourself over your worries, to-do list, and past and future concerns. I invite you to honor your body and explore your inner world, simply because you are worthy of your time.

    Here are some suggestions to help you get started with your relaxation process with intention:

    ·       Designate a time during your day to use the Relaxation 

    ·       Set the mood. Little to no light is useful for increased self-
    awareness or sleep. Light music and scents (like lavender or 
    peppermint) may also be helpful.

    ·       Find a comfortable supine (on your back) position so that 
    your body has less work to do (although, regardless of being 
    seated or standing this is effective!).

    ·       Prepare your body. Take a warm shower. Remove glasses, 
    jewelry, or other accessories that may impede on your comfort.

    “This peace, this relaxation, is yours. It always has been. It always will be…”

    The recording ends with a reminder that your peace is your power. With time and practice, you will find it easier to return to state of calm, relaxation and balance. Use the link below and comment your experience! 
    Happy relaxing, Kala.

    Written by Kala Lacy

    Saturday, July 8, 2017

    Yogis Playlist

    Picture this: mountain pose. Feet planted firmly on the mat feeling, rooted. Gaze either focused or eyes closed. Deep breathing. Arms begin to raise above the head stretching towards the heavens.

    Panda by Desiigner plays in the background.

    Most believe that doing yoga involves a “zen” environment, which includes the type of music that is played. Maybe in the studio the focus is on sounds of nature or melodic instruments, but it’s important to remember each yogi has a different practice, and each practice can come with a different playlist.  Each of us have songs with which our bodies want to move. What I’ve most commonly see is the rise in the number of yogis doing a flow to trap music, indicating that there is no universal sound that yogis move to.

    There are days when I need to quiet my mind; these are days when to focus on my breathing and muscles I switch to my “instrumentals” playlist where no words can distract me. Other days when my emotions feel chaotic and I have no way to express them I use rock music as a filter while in High Lunge and Warrior II. Or maybe, as I have now seen quite often with others on Instagram, while in frog I want to incorporate a little booty poppin and Fi Di Jockey by Aidonia happens to work perfectly for me. Yoga not only involves the body and mind, but can hone in on the mentality of the yogi and music accompanies that mentality.

    “But isn’t any other kind of music distracting?” I believe that when our bodies and minds are connected to the music that we can feel flow through us, it syncs with our being more than distracts us. One yogi loves playing Gangster by Kehlani while practicing her headstands because the song makes her feel empowered and badass and capable of doing many variations of the pose. And of course, with deviation from the “norm” comes controversy. Some people believe that individual having yoga classes with this different music are just trying to “get publicity” or “seek attention.” Others don’t understand how one could feel at ease or concentrate with any other type of music playing. But, the point of these “trap yoga” classes or “BeyonSLAY” workshops are to connect with others who share the same tastes and mindsets and practice. In the end, it builds on a community that you want to feel part of and in turn offers support and comradery for others.

    Written by Anjé McLish