When you think of yoga, a few words probably come to mind – flexibility, stretching, and breath. For those who perceive themselves as not flexible and unable to touch your toes, this can be very discouraging. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard: “I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible”. This seems so silly to me. That’s like saying that your teeth are too dirty to brush. Flexibility is a product of yoga, not a prerequisite. I think people’s perception of what they think yoga is and what yoga actually is may be skewed, so I hope to change that. Continue reading You Don’t Need To Be Flexible To Do Yoga
Practicing yoga is the perfect way to stretch and tone your muscles while clearing your mind and relieving stress. In order to get the most out of your practice, nutrition is key. Eating before class is not ideal, but eating and replenishing your body after is necessary! Continue reading Refueling Post Yoga
Whether you’re new to yoga or have been wondering the same thing for years, I’ve got some answers to some of yoga’s most frequently asked questions.
What Is Yoga?
When you think of yoga, do you think of people hopping up into handstand, doing seemingly impossible balances, and weirdly twisted poses? I bet some of you do… well yoga is much more than that. Yoga is a 5000 year old Indian body of knowledge and was derived from the Sankrit word “yuj” which means “to unite or integrate”. Yoga is all about harmonizing the body with the mind and breath through the means of various breathing techniques, yoga postures (asanas) and meditation.
What Does Namaste Mean?
Nama means bow, as means I, and te means you. Therefore, namaste literally means “bow me you” or “I bow to you.”
Namaste is a gesture/greeting that represents the belief that there is a Divine spark within each of us that is located in the heart chakra. The gesture is an acknowledgment and universal recognition of spiritual energy. By stating namaste, your souls is recognizing and honoring the light in someone else’s.
What Does Om Mean?
Om is a mantra, or vibration, that is traditionally chanted at the beginning and end of a yoga class. It is said to be the sound of the universe. The entire universe is moving nothing is ever solid or still. There exists a pulsating, rhythmic vibration that the ancient yogis acknowledged with the sound of Om. We may not always be aware of the sound, but it’s there. You can hear it in the blowing of the leaves, the waves crashing on the shore, or inside a seashell.
Chanting Om allows us to recognize the universal movement through our breath, our awareness, and our physical energy. We begin to sense a bigger connection that is both uplifting and soothing.
Do I Have to Be Vegan or Vegetarian to Practice Yoga?
The first principle of yoga philosophy is ahimsa, which means non harming to self and others. Some people interpret this to include not eating animal products. There is a debate about this in the yoga community. I believe that it is a personal decision that everyone should make for themselves. If you are considering becoming a vegan or vegetarian, be sure to take into account your personal health and perhaps consult your doctor. You do not have to be either to practice yoga.
How Many Times Per Week Should I Practice?
Yoga is strengthening, cleansing, and detoxifying. Whether you practice once a week or everyday you will still see and feel the benefits of yoga. However, when you go more frequently you will experience the shift in your body sooner. I suggest starting with two or three times a week. Go when you can. After a while, I am sure your desire to practice will increase and you will find yourself doing more and more.
How Is Yoga Different From Stretching or Other Kinds of Fitness?
Unlike stretching or fitness, yoga is more than just physical postures. Yes you’re body will become stronger and more flexible as it would if you just stretched, but so will your mind. Through yoga we are able to connect the movement in our bodies with our mind and to the rhythm of our breath. When we do this, we begin to direct our attention inward, allowing ourselves to become more present and aware of our experiences. Yoga is about building awareness in our bodies without judgement.
Is Yoga a Religion?
Yoga is not a religion. It is a philosophy that began in India an estimated 5,000 years ago. The father of classical ashtanga yoga (the eight-limbed path) is said to be Patanjali, who wrote the Yoga Sutra. These scriptures provide a framework for spiritual growth and mastery over the physical and mental body. Yoga sometimes interweaves other philosophies such as Hinduism or Buddhism, but it is not necessary to study those in order to practice yoga.
I’m Not Flexible. Can I Do Yoga?
Yes! You are a perfect candidate for yoga. Many people think that they need to be flexible to begin yoga, but that’s not true. Come as you are and you will find that your yoga practice will help you become more flexible as well as balanced, stronger, and more coordinated.
What Do I Need to Begin?
All you need to begin is an open mind and a desire to learn. When you begin, look around and find a studio and style that’s right for you. Consider investing in a nice pair of leggings or shorts and a t-shirt or tank. Make sure they are not too baggy and maybe get some things that are sweat wicking. We practice barefoot, so there is no need for shoes and socks, leave them at the door! Bring a water bottle and towel, as well as a yoga mat to class if you have one. No mat? That’s ok, most studios have mats you can borrow.
Why Are You Supposed to Refrain From Eating 2–3 Hours Before Class?
In class we will twist, turn, and bend. So if you have not fully digested your last meal, it may make you feel uncomfortable. If you’re afraid that you might get hungry or feel weak during yoga class, experiment with a light snack such as yogurt, a few nuts, or juice about 30 minutes to an hour before class.
For me, yoga and running have always gone hand in hand. Yoga has many benefits on both a runner’s body (improved flexibility, range of motion, muscular strength, prevent injuries) and mind (more focus, less stress). Yoga is a great way to help runners improve performance and prevent injury. Yoga also helps to relieve soreness and tension in your muscles and restores range of motion so you can run better the next time you’re out on the road.
Many people often ask how I can run so much, while minimizing injuries. For me, the number one reason why, has been yoga. Yoga has helped me in countless ways over the years, both physically and mentally. No one wants to get hurt; injuries are not only painful, but can sideline you for months. I couldn’t even imagine what I would do with myself if I couldn’t run. Therefore, it’s important we remember to be smart and train smart. Smart training can help make sure that injuries don’t stand in the way of your training. Therefore, spending some time on your yoga mat might be your best bet and just what the doctor ordered, it certainly has been for me. Practicing yoga asanas (poses) can help keep muscles limber, and yoga’s emphasis on mindfulness can bring about increased focus and awareness. So why not practice? Today is a great time to start- no time like the present as I like to say!
So why strike a pose? Studies have shown that yoga decreases stress, helps with weight loss, eases pain, helps people stick to an exercise routine, and even improves running times.
Here are some other reason runners should try yoga….
Yoga is a great partner. Training for the NJ marathon? Yoga can help you stay injury free by cultivating a balance between strength and flexibility in the body.
Yoga helps you become more present and aware of what your body needs. One key way yoga can help prevent running injuries is by cultivating mindfulness. The more aware you are of how your body feels from day to day or from pose to pose, the more likely you are to notice tight or injury prone areas that need attention.
Competitive and endurance sports like running encourage us to override the internal voice that wants us to stop, especially when we hit the wall in a marathon. However, sometimes when we ignore this voice, we can get injured. However, when we start to listen, as we do in a yoga class we can align and support ourselves in a more kind and mindful way.
Build mind-body awareness. Runners can use yoga practice to balance strength, increase range of motion, and train the body and mind. Asanas move your body through poses while teaching you how to coordinate your breath with each movement. Eventually your body, mind, and breath will be integrated in all actions.
Yoga helps you stretch smarter. Yoga’s combination of active and passive stretching is one way to help keep injuries at bay.
- Active stretching—moving and stretching the body dynamically creates warmth and mobility to the tissues.
- Passive stretching—holding a posture for a minute or more in a way that’s relaxed, allows muscles to lengthen even more.
Yoga allows you to stretch your feet. Flex, point, or fl-ointing your feet, allow them to feel good! Hitting the pavement again and again can take its toll on your feet, so it’s essential for runners to make time to care for them. A typical yoga practice stretches, strengthens and brings increased awareness to the feet.
Yoga helps build strength in the body and allows you to conquer chronic injuries. Yoga helps you find a state of equilibrium in your body that helps prevent chronic injuries and illnesses. In yoga, you’ll work your core, quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, & IT band (amongst other things, but these areas are extra important to runners). Working, stretching, and strengthening these areas will help you to run more efficiently and stay injury free.
Your hips will be happy. If your hips are tight, your mobility becomes limited, which can cause IT band pain, knee pain, as well as extra and unwanted stress to the back of your legs and feet. Yoga will open your hips, keep your muscle in peak condition, and allow you to run pain free.
Yoga can help bring your body into balance. The pain most runners feel is not from running alone, but from imbalances that running causes and aggravates. Yoga can help you balance them out, so you can keep running long and hard for many years to come.
Yoga can be the ultimate cross-training for runners. Poses that mimic the running stride, for example, lunges, can help you stay flexible through the range of motion you use to run.
Yoga helps you to be humble. It can take years to learn and truly master yoga poses, so don’t go to your first several classes and expect to learn everything immediately. And certainly don’t go and worry about what the person next to you is doing. So what if you can’t do what they can, just focus on you. Yes, you may be a great runner, have had tons of PRs, have won races, whatever… but on your mat, none of that matters. Yoga is not about winning or being better than someone else, it’s about being the best YOU in that moment. Accept and appreciate your body and mind for where it’s at and don’t’ be so hard on yourself. Allow the movement and stretching to feel good.
When you’re ready and the time is right for you to start, be sure to shop around and find a class that is right for you. There’s no single style of yoga that’s best for every runner, but it’s important to find one you enjoy. Find a studio (i.e. Empower Yoga) or class that makes you feel good, has a good vibe, good instructor, etc.. and just keep going and doing it. Practicing yoga consistently is more important than what type of yoga you practice.
Yoga is for everyone!
In my opinion, every person, including athletes have the ability to enhance their lives as well as their sport or discipline by adopting a consistent yoga practice. I have experienced yoga’s healing power in a very real way.
For me, yoga is not only about working out, it’s also about a healthy lifestyle. For starters, the practice of yoga allows us all to find stillness in a world consumed with chaos. I love the feeling and effects of yoga. When stepping on your mat you begin to feel immediate changes to your physical body as well as your mental capacity. These changes in turn will lead to long term health and transformation.
Incorporating yoga into your daily routine can be beneficial and healing. Check out some of the awesome benefits of yoga.
Some physical as well as mental benefits of yoga include:
- Increased flexibility
- Increased muscle strength and tone
- Increased energy
- Better breathing
- Maintaining a balanced metabolism
- Boosts immunity
- Weight reduction
- Cardiovascular and circulatory health
- Improved athletic performance
- Injury prevention
- Develop more awareness
- Decreasing stress by creating mental clarity and calmness
- Promotes positive body image and self esteem
My yoga journey started about 10 years ago. I have to admit, I was kind of in a dark place at the time and a friend of mine dragged me to my first class. I wasn’t sure what to expect or if it would even help me feel better. While I liked the class, I was still a little skeptical about yoga, but I decided to give it another try. After a handful of times, I started to see and feel the benefits of yoga. I began to recognize ways that yoga was beginning to change my life. It helped me feel better in my body, feel better about myself, be in the moment more, see the world in a brighter light, and appreciate the people and things around me more. Yoga has opened my eyes to so much and ever since then, yoga has been a huge part of my life and a huge part of my daily routine. I am not sure where I would be without it.
I knew I always wanted to teach. I always played school when I was a kid, which eventually led me to going to college and grad school for education. I received my degree in Elementary and Special Education, a masters in Special Education, and a CAGS in Administration. Becoming a yoga teacher seemed like a natural progression. First, I started to incorporate it into my classroom and was amazed by the results. I saw first hand the benefits it not only had on me, but on my students as well. I knew yoga was pretty special. So when I moved to NJ with my husband almost 5 years ago, I finally decided to get my yoga certification so I could share the joys of yoga with others. I wanted to give back to a community that had given me so much. I fell in love with teaching yoga and decided that I’d one day have a studio of my own.
While most people talk about their dreams, I try to go out and grab mine. I have always been a goal setter and a slight over achiever. I sometimes don’t know when to stop. Once I achieve a goal, I quickly move on to the next one. I try to enjoy every second of this amazing life and never want to miss an opportunity to truly live. I am always trying to push the boundaries and see what I am truly capable of. I’m not afraid of a little hard work and when people tell me I can’t do something, I will work even harder to prove them wrong. Now I know that there are cards stacked against me in regards to opening my own business, but I firmly believe that I can and will be successful. At the end of the day, if I can help people and help better their lives in even the smallest of ways, than I have already succeeded. I look to the future filled with excitement and optimisms for being able to help people and allow them to learn and grow so they too can be and do their best. I can’t wait for the studio to open come January!
I chose the name emPOWER Yoga because I want people to leave the studio feeling empowered and strong, ready to take on the day with enthusiasm and strength, knowing that they can tackle any obstacle that may get in their way. We are capable of so much more than what we give ourselves credit for. I hope that when my students step on their mat, they begin to see and understand that. I hope they can cultivate strength and awareness on their mat’s that will transcend off their mats and into their daily lives.
The studio will offer a variety of vinyasa based classes that are appropriate for all levels. I am dedicated to spreading the love of yoga to all in a safe, fun, and encouraging way. I will work hard to help my students learn and grow so they can be and do their best. I hope to get them ready for new experiences that will help them push past their boundaries and open them up to new ideas and challenges, both physically and spiritually. I hope to inspire people to be the best version of themselves and live their best life.
Sometimes as teachers, we get hung up on what we do in our own practices, rather than what the students in our classes need. As a teacher, I think it’s important to read the room and assess your students needs so that you can be mindful about what and how you’re teaching, and the impact it may be having on the class.
I recently went to a class where the teacher stopped the class constantly to show a pose or to point out faults. This really interrupted the flow. As a teacher, I know that I can sometimes talk a lot and I’ve stopped the class before, mostly to ensure everyone was moving safely, but I think we need to be aware of what we are doing and why we are doing it. I think it’s important to teach with intention and purpose and allow students the time and opportunity to explore their bodies and breathe in their own way through the practice.
Things to consider when you’re teaching a class:
Don’t forget to look at your students: I hate going to classes where a teacher stays on their mat and practices in the front or when he/she sits in the front and just stares off into space. Be sure you’re walking around and looking at the students during the practice. Make eye contact, smile, check their alignment, or make an adjustment if you need to. Stay in the moment of your teaching. Remember this is about the students, not you.
Find the talking balance: Sometimes students need cues and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes teachers call cues that are unnecessary because they think they need to talk throughout the class. Sometimes the cues can be bad enough that the students have no idea what the teacher is asking you to do. Choose your words wisely, briefly model if you need to, but cue and make adjustments as you go along. This can help enhance a student’s experience in the class.
Don’t force a student into a pose: Not all bodies are created equal. Ask students if they have injuries before class and let them know ways to modify poses ahead of time if needed, based on their injuries. Then, during class, look and see what alignment points need to be addressed. First give verbal cues and then a physical adjustment if needed.
Offer variations to poses: As you cue various poses, offer students options to either modify or enhance the pose. Every time we step on our mat, we have a different experience. Sometimes we need to take it easy and sometimes we need to amp it up. It’s important to remind students to listen to their bodies. I always remind my students that I am just a guide so they should: “do what feels good & don’t do what doesn’t feel good.” This I find allows them some freedom to explore and find what poses feel good for them that day.
Be authentic: Don’t be something you’re not. Do your best to try to connect with your students, but teach from the heart. Your students will look up to you and the words and wisdoms you share, so be authentic, honest, and most importantly…be you.
Life is full of new beginnings. Every day, when the sun rises, we have a new chance, a new opportunity to start over and set our foundation for the day, week, year. When we get up we should ask ourselves: “what is it that we want to do or accomplish?” and then get started on doing it. It doesn’t have to be anything big, earth shattering, or profound, but it should be something that we can do to better ourselves and help us to be the best that we can be. What we do and think each morning will set a foundation for our mood and behaviors throughout the day. Continue reading Setting The Foundation
Before I became a yogi and exercise fanatic, I was many things. It took me many years of exploration and soul searching to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do with my life. While I don’t believe we ever really stop learning, as I’ve gotten older I have become much more in-tune with my feelings, needs, wants and desires. I have learned to love myself and work hard everyday to never doubt, never hate, and never criticize who I am. We all make mistakes and I try to learn from mine with compassion and love. Continue reading Always Growing & Always Changing
This week I took a yoga class with my good friend Ayami. In class she talked about the importance of breath and becoming more aware of our inhales. We spent our practice conscious of our breathing; maintaining slow, long, consistent, and smooth inhales and exhales as we transitioned through the poses and postures.
Afterwards, I began thinking more about the importance of breath and Ujjayi breathing. So this week’s blog is dedicated to Ayami. Thank you for the inspiration. Continue reading The Importance of Breath