Tag: yoga

The Yogi Gift Guide – 20 gift ideas for your yogi friend

20 gift ideas that any yogi would appreciate! From yoga inspired reading lists to DIY gifts, you’ll find a range of ideas to celebrate your BYF (best yogi friend).

Props that feel oh-so-good

Some of my favorite props that I like using for my own practice.
  1. Yoga therapy balls– These work perfectly for those hard to reach muscle knots in the back.
  2. Bolster– Essential for any restorative pose or meditation cushion. Recline onto your bolster to open your chest after a day at the office or elevate your hips to relieve low back pain.
  3. Tibetan Singing Bowl – The sound vibrations trigger meditative states comparable to a hard brain reset. Not to mention, they are a beautiful addition to your yoga space!

DIY your gift

A handmade present always adds an extra touch of love.
  1. Mat spray – 1/4 witch hazel, 3/4 water, 10-15 drops of your favorite essential oils. I like to combine lavender oil and eucalyptus oil. Super simple!
  2. Mala Jewlery – Not only are malas fun to wear, they serve as a great meditation tool.
  3. Eye Pillows – Choose a silky fabric and find some dried lavender to fill your eye pillows for added luxe. Minimal sewing abilities required.

Little Gifts of Joy

Small, but thoughtful gifts.
  1. Meditation Journal – Perfect for writing reflections after your meditation practice or turn it into a gratitude journal.
  2. Selection of Teas – Who doesn’t love warm beverage on a cold day?
  3. Earrings – I love these woodcut earrings! They are simple, eye catching, and aren’t distracting during your yoga class. Comes in a variety of colors.
  4. Essential Oils – Put them on your body as perfume, use them in a diffuser for your home, or put them in cleaning products. One of my personal favorites I use in class is “Calm“, a blend of Lavender, Bergamot, Palmarosa, Patchouli, Lemon.
  5.  Succulents or Indoor Plants – Your Instagram-ready yoga space isn’t complete without indoor plants 😉 Improves air quality for your breath conscious yogi. Just make sure they have a green thumb!
  6. Candle – Another way to add ambiance to your yoga space. I like to use them for candle-gazing meditation. And if your yogi is a St. Louis Craft Beer drinker… try out Twinkle Brews, they’ll make your favorite beer into a candle!

Bookish Yogis

Reads that every yoga nerd should have.
  1. You are Here  by Thich Naht Hanh – I like to read a couple of pages from this book when I get into a funk. Thich Naht Hanh has a poetic way of lightening the mood 🙂
  2. The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk – Essential for anyone interested in understanding how trauma effects the body and brain. Explains how somatic practices like yoga can be used alongside traditional therapy to treat trauma.
  3. The Wise Heart by Jack Kornfield – This book is filled with great insights into the human condition and how to improve your happiness in practical ways using compassion-based practices.
  4. Eastern Body, Western Mind by Anodea Judith – A great introduction to the chakra system and its applications to Western psychology.

STL Locals!

Shop local this season for your yogi friend.
  1. Dimvaloo Gift Card – With over 10 different brands of activewear, your yogi friend can definitely find something she loves. Plus, she can shop online with free shipping anywhere in Missouri. Win.
  2. Sol Sweat Gift Card– Infared saunas are among the top wellness trends of 2018 according to many health bloggers. Did you know a sauna session can have the similar effects to cardiovascular exercise? I’d give up my running shoes for this…
  3. Confluence Kombucha Gift Card – Ever had a Kombucha flight? Choose between 8 unique rotating taps like asian pear or cranberry. Don’t forget to bring your growler to fill up with ‘booch afterwards. Bonus, the food is amazing. Vegan-friendly dishes that will make you rethink your opinions on tempeh.
  4. Private Yoga Session – Just a wee plug! We offer private yoga classes for your loved ones. Classes take place in the student’s home or other comfortable setting. Convenient and customized for any student, without the intimidation of going to a yoga studio.

 

Ask a Yogi: What poses can I do to ease low back pain?

Whenever I teach yoga at workplaces, low back pain seems to be a common problem area.

In fact, back pain is the second most common reason for visiting MDs, the top for chiropractors, and leading cause of disability of people under forty five. Doctors used to recommend bed rest to treat low back pain--ironically, not moving to prevent further strain is actually counterproductive. The longer you stay sedentary, the more muscle mass you lose. The best treatment uses gentle movement and strengthening.

Yoga examines posture, strength, mobility, and emotional states to treat back pain with a holistic approach.

The low back supports the weight of the upper body and provides mobility for everyday motions such as bending and twisting. Our lower back is the area with the most nerve endings in the back. It also produces the largest range of motion in the spine, so when we back bend our lower back does the majority of the bending as it compresses. To maintain good posture, we must encourage a healthy curve of the low spine. Our backs require certain amounts of compression, strengthening, and stretching. Yoga does all three to maintain the physical health of your back. It also helps develop the mind-body connection that brings awareness to the subtle signals in the body. For instance, we might catch ourselves slouching at our desks or notice how mental stress translates into physical stress in our backs.

WHAT CAUSES LOW BACK PAIN?

Everyone's back pain stems from unique causes. There are 4 main causes (and perhaps more!) of low back pain.

  1. Weak core and leg muscles - muscles in our abs, back, and legs play a critical role in supporting your lower spine.  And 100 crunches is not a cure-all. Your core will not be worked by doing crunches alone, there are a lot of muscles there that support the spine. Obliques and low back extensor muscles are especially helpful for holding an upright posture.
  2. Stress (in every context of the word) - When we are mentally or emotionally charged, the body responds with tension. Prolonged physical stress on the back also leads to chronic tension and pain. Back pain is connected to psychological stress. Breathing and relaxation techniques help calm stress related responses.
  3. Tightness in legs - The health of your lumbar spine is directly affected by the action of the hip flexors (aka psoas) and hamstrings. Everything is connected!
  4. Misalignment - Hunching shoulders and forward neck position can lead to back problems. When we sitting for prolonged periods, the natural tendency for most people is to slouch over and sit with the pelvis tilted forward. This posture can overstretch the spinal ligaments and cause the low back to round. That's why some compression and strengthening is necessary to maintain the curve of the lower back. I've also heard so many stories about people with complications in their knees and hips that end up with back pain while trying to favor one side of the body. If you do encounter an injury in your body, be aware of movement patterns that could lead to injuries elsewhere in the body.

POSES/STRETCHES THAT WORK

Strengthen

Locust pose

Baby Cobra

Warrior 3

Bridge pose

Triangle

Compress

Sphinx pose

Dancer pose

Reclined hero pose - not for acute pain

Stretch

Lying hamstring stretch

Spinal twist

Forward fold

Low lunge

Reclined pigeon pose

Cat/cow

Thread needle with arm reach

Restorative Poses to Ease Back Pain

Child's pose

Supported shoulder stand

Restorative savasana with cushion under knees

Resources 

McCall, T. (2007). Yoga as Medicine. New York, NY: Random House Publishing.

Peloza, J. (2017). Low Back Pain Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment. https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/lower-back-pain/lower-back-pain-symptoms-diagnosis-and-treatment

Ask a Yogi – How do I set an intention for my yoga practice?

A goal is different from an intention. A goal focuses on a future outcome, an intention focuses on what is of most value to you in the present.


When I first started my practice, my teacher would often instruct us to “set an intention for the yoga practice”. Not understanding quite what that meant, I usually ignored her and wrote it off as just another “woo woo” aspect of yoga.

As I grew more interested in the philosophical aspects of the practice, I realized intention setting is a way to tune into my physical and mental wellbeing. Between teaching classes and working on my business, I sometimes forget to stop and check in with myself. Setting an intention each morning encourages me to self-reflect. How do I feel physically? What’s lingering on my mind? Is there a strong emotion present? Introspection helps me set an intention that will guide me toward action that’s directed and purposeful.

Steps to Creating an Intention:

  1. Relax into a calm state. Notice how you feel physically and emotionally. Identify what you’re feeling: Exhausted? Anxious? Lonely? Peaceful? etc.
  2. Focus on a word that resonates with you. It can be as simple as 1 word. Find a positive word that supports your current emotional or physical state. The word can be a specific action like energize or relax. It can also be a more abstract feeling like love or gratitude. A few other options are listed below.
  3. Repeat the word to yourself. Use every exhale to repeat the intention out loud or internally. Whenever you negative feelings arise, come back to your intention. Recalling the word throughout the day breaks the stream of unconscious thought and mental stimulation. It reminds us to live intentionally— providing a framework for decision-making and action.

FEELING –> INTENTION

Fear –> Comfort

Weakness –> Strength

Sadness –> Joy

Doubt –> Peace

Insecurity –> Confidence

Instability –> Balance

Betrayal –> Truth

Indifference –> Compassion

Constraint –> Freedom

Emptiness –> Fulfillment

Loneliness –> Community

Asana of the Day: Locust Pose

Locust  (Salabhasana) is a back strengthening pose that will invigorate your practice and activate key muscles for more challenging poses like inversions.

Before you try Locust, practice Balancing Table Top to get an idea of the appropriate back activation without compressing the low back too much.

The goal is not bend your back in half!
Rather, this pose should feel supportive for your back.

Locust is an isometric hold that should strengthen the entire back of the body.

Continue reading “Asana of the Day: Locust Pose”

Asana of the Day: Tabletop

While not truly a “pose” in a traditional yoga practice, tabletop is a staple for transitioning to many other poses like cat, cow, child’s pose, and downward dog.

Mastering tabletop can help make more difficult poses more accessible for beginner yogis.

On it’s own, tabletop position is hardly a rest pose. To hold tabletop, you must stay engaged in your shoulders and core.

Continue reading “Asana of the Day: Tabletop”

Ask a Yogi: What does ‘yoga’ mean?

When you hear the word “yoga” does your stomach shudder with discomfort? 
Do you imagine a dim room of candles with everyone dressed like hippies promoting the healing powers of crystals?
Does a chakra meditation sound a little too woo woo for you?

Yoga has been translated from the sanskrit root word yuj which means to contemplate. Yuj has also been translated to the English root word yoke, which means to join or unite.

Continue reading “Ask a Yogi: What does ‘yoga’ mean?”

Yoga Has My Back

I have scoliosis, a common spinal abnormality that causes your spine to grow off-center. In x-rays, my spine looks like an S.

Many people have mild scoliosis at some degree. However, mine was moderate to severe, a 38 degree curve I would have to get measured every 3 months.

I don’t think about the shape of my spine anymore, but when I was a teenager I did.

I got a back brace when I was 12.

Continue reading “Yoga Has My Back”