As the call of the crickets chirp away in the dewiness of the morning, I make my way into my yoga studio. The sun isn’t up, no sparkle on the horizon, only a fresh, crisp, cool breeze that hugs and stimulates my body. It makes me feel alive even though my mind and body aren’t totally awake yet.
Why do I wake up at 4:44 in the morning, to do this practice while the world sleeps?
Do I do it because I want to look good? Often people think that I do this to stay in shape, or keep my svelte appearance.
But the reality is I don’t do it for this at all. At the end of the day, that won’t give me the motivation to wake up when I do, or to feel the way I do. I need stronger, deeper, more authentic motivation.
Read on to find out why a yoga practice will be one of those health practices that will change your life forever. Just ask those that live and breath by it, like some of my favorite inspirations @findingmorgantyler and @gypsyon__.
My First Yoga Experience
I remember the first time I did a yoga class. It was amazing. But I did it once and didn’t do it again. Why? Mainly because at this time in my life I was only interested in what would keep the weight off. I wanted my body to be toned, ripped and looking good in a bathing suit. And I thought that meant torturing my body with hours of working out and doing things that didn’t feel great, but made a quick gain.
What I didn’t understand was that looking good means nothing and feeling good is EV-ERY-THING. When you feel good, you look good.
But what happens when the things you do to look good stress you out? Over-exercising, cardio out the kazoo, hyper-focus on calorie counting, categorizing good food vs. bad food, feeling guilty for f*cking up…
It can feel like life is not really worth living. You get discouraged and give it all up, then get ‘back on your grind’ a couple weeks later. Your body falls in and out of this yo-yo pattern and your spirit is left with disillusionment and loss of hope.
But don’t worry – there is a light at the end of the tunnel! You see, when you get into what really makes you happy, you realize that it’s not the size of clothing you wear or what you look like on the outside. The only thing that matters is that you love yourself and understand that all the love you need lives inside of you.
Not understanding this was like being asleep in my life. I was Sleeping Beauty Aurora, and the Prince Charming that finally woke me up was actually ME, connecting with myself.
Why Should You Do Yoga?
The reason yoga is my predominant form of exercise is because I do it to feed my soul, rest my mind, connect with my physicality and the inner and outer movements of my temple.
In yoga, I find my daily balance.
In yoga, I find my daily peace.
In yoga, I find the value in persistence and progress.
Day by day, practice by practice, yoga has added enormous wealth and richness to my life.
What I practice each day is an alchemy of the most important aspects of healing.
It’s my morning yoga wake up call, Grateful Dung™ practices before I eat, and peeking after I poo with Eau de Throne™. These practices consistently keep me conscious, present in the here and now, and tuned in during the day. My castor oil pack and Beauty Sleep Eye Kit are the tools I use in my nightly wind-down. These practices are the foundation of what keeps me vibrant, alive, balanced, and shining with my own light.
Why Hot Yoga?
I always do hot yoga in the mornings, and the heated room really cranks up the benefits for the body. Here are a few reasons why I simply can’t live without it now:
1. Induces sweating (like a sauna)
Sweating helps to cleanse your body. My practice often leaves my yoga outfit smelling funky, like a vat of chemicals have been dumped on it (chemicals that were stored in my body!).
2. Calms the mind
I practice a type of yoga which is the same sequence of movements every time. They become automatic. I always know what’s coming next, so my mind can relax completely. You don’t have to do this type of yoga in order to get this benefit, it’s just my personal preference. The more you practice yoga, the more you’ll notice how refreshing it is for your mind.
3. Moves internal organs
Yoga brings movement and flow to the digestive tract so we can digest, absorb and eliminate well. It massages hormonal organs like the thyroid, liver and adrenal glands.
4. Teaches valuable lessons to live by
Perseverance, commitment, kindness, understanding… yoga has taught me to be gentle with myself and where my body is at. It keeps the body limber, lean and with very few “physical ailments”.
5. Deep breathing
Yoga involves consciously focusing on inhaling all the good, and exhaling/letting go of that which does not serve us. It helps to get oxygen flowing to all the nooks and crannies of your beautiful temple.
There are so many benefits that you don’t get with other types of exercise. Now I know you’re wondering, what does it feel like?
Let me tell you, you do not need to be Gumby to excel in yoga. You begin, just begin, exactly where you are at.
What To Expect From A Yoga Class
Let me walk you through a typical yoga class for me.
We begin by sitting cross legged; breathing, realigning, and setting an intention.
This simple act reinforces the value of setting a goal. “Begin with the end in mind,” as Stephen Covey says in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. A dream without a map is just a dream, but with a map it can become reality.
Breathing exercises begin the class. I breathe through my throat, opening up my fifth chakra. This chakra is one most often blocked in women, the one that aligns with the thyroid. The most common reason this chakra becomes blocked is because we often do not speak our mind.
As I inhale, I fill in my belly as big as Buddha’s.
I raise my arms over my head, and like the diagnostic needle of a Geiger counter, I swing back and forth, realigning my spine, tuning my body in to its natural rhythms. I give in to its natural ebb and flow, like the ocean.
The class is usually 1.5 hours, but I do the express, only one hour. I’m busy, and I practice self care in many ways, so I devote a dedicated amount of time to everything daily. Castor oil packs, a sleep routine with my Beauty Sleep Kit, grateful practices and mindset training, everything is penciled in on my daily schedule. This maintains my foundation, my life and my happiness. I grow and glow because of it!
The first half of the class is standing, helping you ground deeply into Mother Earth. I feel my legs extending down into the ground, like thick deep roots effortlessly making their way through the moist soil. I think of my feet, legs, thighs, and buttocks tightening as I squeeze and push deep into the ground, rooting myself for this practice.
The imagery in the class makes me happy. Instructions to fold into a smiling Japanese ham sandwich, makes me giggle internally, a great feat when your stomach is smooshed up against your thighs, your head buried in between your shins.
There are more poses named after animals in this sequence than there are in the jungle! One of the most powerful poses is the eagle. It stretches and aligns the shoulders and hips, the supportive joints of the body holding strong, like the four corners of the world. The point of the pose is to contract certain areas, restricting blood flow for a time, then as you release the pose, your circulation flushes in, nourishing all of the stabilizing joints. I feel powerful as I stand calmly after this pose, serene and focused like an eagle.
As I move into needle, grounding into the floor, I get distracted. My body is leaning forward, one leg stabilizing me, the other in the air. The skin on my belly hangs down, like a sack of potatoes, or better yet, a deflated, wrinkled, leathery balloon. A delightful sight now, but in my past was an utter nightmare to me. Something that I felt belonged only on Elm Street. Something that had me feeling so bad about who I was, as if I was a monstrous murderer, all because I had a little too much skin.
Yoga taught me acceptance of where I am at right now.
The Fear of Starting Yoga
When I first started yoga I was well covered up, always wearing a baggy shirt and long pants, in a room that is heated to 40 degrees plus. I felt so intimidated to bear all. So uncomfortable in my own skin, almost alien.
I learned in yoga to be vulnerable. I learned to accept where I am at. I also learned this from following incredible women and leaders empowering women to step into their skin, no matter what it looks like or where they are at. @thebirdspapaya, @findingmorgantyler, @gypsyon__, @mikzazon, @kenziebrenna and @iamtulin are all women who have influenced my journey of acceptance.
The bottom line is this. On your yoga mat, you are safe. You are home. This is the place for your private inner practice, shared with a community that holds you and lifts you up. We all need community and connection to be happy. Yoga has given me this too.
It took a long time for me to transition and be able to look at myself exposed in short shorts and sports bra. I just couldn’t in the beginning because I was living in fear of what others would think as I folded over myself and let my skin hang.
Why did I care what others thought? Because that is how we are trained.
When I prescribe yoga, my patients often tell me, “I can’t do it because I can’t stretch, I’m so stiff!” But with yoga, that is exactly the point. The reality is they are not really worried about this, this is simply an excuse for their true feelings. They think that if they can’t do the poses perfectly that they will feel judged, isolated and alone. But it’s the total opposite in a yoga class!
That’s why it is call it a ‘yoga practice’, and not a ‘yoga perfect’!!!
Finishing Your Yoga Practice
Tortoise pose is the most activating and energizing of all the postures. Ironically, it requires the least amount of energy. To build energy, you must get calm and center yourself. The position is on your knees folded over, with hands in prayer position.
This pose is like the castor bean. The protein meal that is left over after oil production can kill you, but the oil can heal you. This is the magic alchemy and natural state of all things created by Mother Nature. She calls it as she sees it, there is always a balance between dark and light, light and dark.
As you end your practice on the floor, lying in dead man’s pose, the effects of what you did start to sink in. An hour of intense focus under harsh circumstances, yet you feel balanced, clean, in tune… you feel BETTER.
I always lie in dead’s man pose for about 10 minutes after my practice to soak in all the final ‘goodness’. It always make me think; you have choice in life. Choose you, choose your health practices. Get yourself to a studio like mine @midtownyogakw or follow someone that inspires you in your yoga practice – @findingmorgantyler is my favorite.
It’s your time to actively own your health practice, so you are one step closer to owning your throne!
All the love and light in the world.