What do I love about yoga?

Calm & focus

This might sound a bit typical, but yoga really does calm me. It’s got a reputation for a reason. Certain poses you can relax into, like child’s pose, or puppy pose (that I’ve shown above.) However, also when I’m flowing from one pose to another, I don’t concentrate on anything else. Any other thoughts or feelings that I had before practice kind of just melt away because I’m not giving them any thought. And to be honest, I can’t give them any thought because I’m focusing on my breathing, my form and really trying to get the most out of my practice. So, there’s another thing I love- it makes me focus, and “be in the now.”

Why is “being in the now good?”

Well, if you’ve had a stressful day at work/ uni/ life then just being in the moment can be so good. Say, for example, you come home and you can fit in a 20-minute yoga sesh. That’s 20 minutes of not stressing about what has happened to you today. 20 minutes of not worrying about tomorrow or things you have to do later or maybe, things you haven’t done at all. That’s 1200 seconds of you time. Breathing, moving, giving your body a good stretch and a good release of tension that you may have been holding within it.

Progress

I love the progress that I’m making in my yoga practice. Progress with my mind and self in that, I’m actively trying to get less stressed and trying to let more of the ‘little things’ go. It is hard, I’m not going to sugar coat it. Sometimes it is easy to just worry about you and get annoyed about everything that happens, traffic, deadlines, people. But I’m trying, and that’s a start. My body is also making progress physically. My balance is increasing, I’m getting stronger, more flexible and more poses are becoming more achievable. Being able to feel and see the progress I’ve made so far really motivates me to keep going and see what else I can do and develop myself more, and stress out less. I really feel like this journey is slowly allowing me to open up to myself and become my best self, and I’m excited for what there is to come.

Yoga community

I LOVE the yoga community. I’ve been on Instagram posting yoga pictures for only a few months, my asanas and my photography really aren’t as good as other, more experienced yogi’s. I don’t have any picturesque backgrounds and I don’t travel often enough to get lots of variation in my pictures. But that’s okay for me because that is their journey and this is mine. Yet the support and love I get from other yogi’s all over the world are amazing! People that I don’t know are commenting on my pictures, encouraging me to keep going and it’s just such a nice feeling. There’s so much love in these people, being able to connect through yoga is something really special and the yoga community is one of my favourite things about yoga.

I’ve mentioned a few of my favourite things about yoga, these aren’t the only things that make yoga enjoyable for me, but it’s just a few of the things I think are worth mentioning. But each person may have their own different reasons for practicing/ liking/ loving yoga. Feel free to comment saying what you love about yoga, or if you’ve never given it a try and want to, please do! Here’s a link to one of my older posts “Which kind of yoga is for you?” to help you decide what you’d like to try.

Practice yoga, spread the word and spread the love. When writing one of my previous posts, “Yoga quote- being loyal to your practice”, I found a quote that inspired me:

“Submit to a daily practice. Your loyalty to that is a ring at the door. Keep knocking, and eventually the joy inside will look out to see who is there.” – Rumi

So let’s keep knocking because I think the world needs more love and joy, and who is to say I, you or we can’t make a difference?

Thanks for reading,

Maria

❤️

Yoga quote: being loyal to your practice

“Submit to a daily practice. Your loyalty to that is a ring at the door. Keep knocking, and eventually the joy inside will look out to see who is there.” – Rumi

I really like this quote. It personalises a benefit of yoga and I think the style of it makes it more encouraging and might make you more inspired to keep up with your practice. Who doesn’t want to walk through a door of joy?

Like anything in fitness, it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to see results after one day. So, they say, stick to it, you’ll see results and then that may work as motivation for you to continue. This quote looks at that in a different way, and I love this about yoga. Because it’s not just about results, it’s kind of like unlocking a part of yourself the deeper you go into your practice and I’ve never found anything else that focuses on the inner and outer you like that. Now you may sit there and think, “you’re exercising, how are you unlocking a part of yourself? It sounds silly”. It may sound a bit strange, and I’m not super far into this yoga journey of mine but, I believe this. If you ‘keep knocking’, if you open your mind to what the yoga life and practice can do for you and allow yourself to flow with it, the joy really will open the door to you.

I don’t think I can say I’m ‘through the door’ into joy yet. But I have been doing daily practices for a while now, and with every little achievement, with the progress, I can see and feel in my practice, I feel so much joy. I’m trying to open my life to yoga and I am really trying to incorporate more of the yoga way of thinking into my daily thoughts and feelings. I’m trying to live more in the moment, I’m trying to be less stressed about things and not let small things bother me as much. Little things, but I think, although it will take time until this becomes easier and more like second nature, it is making me happier and a bit lighter, in a way. Because I’m letting things go.

I recently completed a couple of yoga challenges on Instagram focused around hip openers and the splits, and on the last day, I tried to slide all the way down into splits. I didn’t think I would get there, I kept sliding slowly downwards waiting for the tightness in my legs to come. But it didn’t. And I went all the way down to the floor. And I was so happy I waved my arms around saying, “I did it!” Now, it’s not all about achieving poses, I know that. But it’s such a sense of achievement and it proved to me that, if I can focus, keep up with my practice and achieve splits, what else can I do if I just put my mind to it? Obviously, there’s plenty of other things that are a lot more difficult to achieve than splits, but, I’m inspired. I believed I could do it and worked for it, and it came to me! On that logic, anything is possible if you put your mind to it!

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I think yoga is challenging me not only physically but mentally to really test what I can do. What can I do with my yoga practice? What can I do with my life? It’s not just about moving your body in cool ways or being strong enough to lift from crow into a handstand, it’s about this journey. It’s about practising yoga, challenging yourself, realising the spark and specialness that you have inside of you and using that to change your life.

I’m not saying you have to make time every day like the quote says, once I’m back at uni as well as working I know I may struggle some days to fit a good yoga sesh in. But, just try and give time to yourself as much as you can. Believe in yourself, put trust into the practice and you will be well on your way to changing your life, being your best self and having joy embrace you.

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Thanks for reading,

Maria

❤️

Yoga props! What they are and how they can help

Today I’d like to give some insight into the makings of a yoga pose. It’s not always possible to do certain poses straight away, some require a lot of flexibility and openness in different places that not everyone has. But don’t worry! Flexibility comes with practice, not just naturally. Yoga props will help you work on your flexibility and form while helping you modify poses you’re not able to do alone yet.

Yoga Mat
Naturally, a yoga mat is a massive prop for yoga. For me, I love my yoga mat. I’ve had it for years and have used it for other fitness things besides yoga (I actually need to get a new one soon, my current one is showing its age) but it is very useful. I don’t know about you, but in my house, pretty much all the floor is wood/ hard floor. So, with things like downward dog or plank etc, I can be on my bare hands and feet and I’m okay. However, I’ve tried doing a supported headstand on my hard floor and, it’s possible, but it’s kinda uncomfortable for my forearms. So, a mat is definitely a good idea for a little cushion for your forearms, knees, back or any other areas you may experience pain/ discomfort. Also, it’s possible, in having a busy life and possibly busy home, having a mat can be ‘your’ space. Roll it out, sit on it, get in the zone. Your mat is your space. Having this sanctuary on the mat really can help you meditate, concentrate, and get the most out of your practice.

Yoga strap
For poses like bow, dancer’s, sugarcane and more, openness in the shoulders, chest, and hips is ideal and necessary to be able to grab your feet. However, if you are unable to do that, with a yoga strap these poses are still achievable. You can use the strap to make a connection between your foot and your hand.  You’ll make a loop with the strap and get your foot in the loop and that way you can hold onto the end of the strap or move your hands closer to your foot depending on your flexibility. If you don’t have a yoga strap, again, that’s fine! You can use a towel, a belt, a scarf, I’ve even used a pair of leggings to loop around my foot and hold up! It’s all good, just use what you have, there’s no judgment here.

Yoga wheel
This prop isn’t a necessity, and may not help in a large variety of poses. HOWEVER, it is really good to incorporate into your workouts. You can get a good core workout from being in plank with your legs on top of it and rolling your feet over it in and out like a crunch. It can also help you achieve deep backbends for poses like king pigeon pose (Kapotasana.) It will help support your back and take the stress allowing you to relax into the pose building strength and flexibility in it. This is what I’ve done in the picture below, my back is supported, my shoulders and chest are being opened but I don’t have the weight of my body making the pose more difficult because the wheel is taking my weight. I was able to relax into this pose and breathe into the stretch.

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Yoga blocks
Yoga blocks are big-ish blocks that can help you achieve certain poses where you’re still developing openness/ flexibility. For half-moon pose, for example, it may be too difficult to reach the floor while keeping good form. Here you can place a block under your hand to allow you to still have that support that you would get from the floor while having good form. If you don’t have the budget for buying some blocks, don’t worry, you can use a big book a footstool or whatever you have to hand.

As I mentioned in my post “Which kind of yoga is for you?”, Restorative yoga uses props in it too. I touched on what bolsters can do to help, click here if you’d like to read “Which kind of yoga is for you?“.

Yoga blankets
You don’t necessarily need to buy a ‘yoga’ blanket. If you have a blanket that you like at home, that will do. You can use it to support your back in savasana, keep warm in savasana or roll it up as a makeshift bolster.

I hope this has helped you learn a bit more about yoga props, and if you’d like to purchase any of them, Amazon does offer a wide range of props to suit different budgets, so you won’t have to spend a lot, but if you can/ want to, the option is also there. And as I said, you don’t always need to buy props if you don’t have the money, or don’t want to commit to buying stuff yet, just be creative with what you’ve got around the house!

If you like my blog so far, please press the follow button to get alerts when I post new stuff!

Thanks for reading,

Maria

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Which kind of yoga is for you?

If you are interested in starting yoga but you’re unsure as to which different kinds of yoga are out there and what they are all about then hopefully this will help you! As there are so many different kinds of yoga, I have given you a little list of a few that are out there.

  1. Vinyasa

Vinyasa in Sanskrit (the original language of yoga) means “flow” and if you’ve already heard about a “yoga flow” or “vinyasa flow”, this is what we’re talking about. We’re talking:
Concentrating on your breathing and moving according to it. So, you’re moving through different asanas during your practice, connecting them with your breathing e.g. you may be in plank pose and exhale into downward dog.
Vinyasa uses different kinds of yoga and is more athletic, so you’ll have a fair bit of variety so you won’t get bored of doing the same poses. And because of this variety, there are some yoga teachers out there that mix up their lessons with matching music to a certain flow- pretty cool!

I love vinyasa yoga, it may sound pretty chill, moving as you breathe, but it really does push you, make you work, sweat, and it challenges your strength and balance. Although you’re not holding poses for too long, it’s still great for building your endurance and as time goes on you’ll see and feel a change in your body where certain poses won’t be as difficult anymore or you’re not desperate to change to the next asana.

  1. Hatha

Traditionally, Hatha is known to be a slow kind of yoga where you hold certain poses for a few breaths before moving on to the next one. If you’re up for taking it slow and stretching out, this is for you.

  1. Bikram

Bikram is sometimes called the ‘original’ hot yoga, and it focuses mainly on 26 different postures and breathing. Typically, this kind of yoga is practiced in a hot room, so naturally, it’s a fairly sweaty form of yoga (even though others make you sweat too!)
It was initially more of a celebrity-branded yoga so you may come across a few celebrities that have documented/ commented on it. But if you wanna build up a good sweat as you yoga it out then this is for you.

  1. Restorative

Very slow kind of yoga that uses a lot of props e.g. bolsters, blankets, straps, chairs, blocks.
Less movement than vinyasa, however, this incorporates more movement than yin ( a little bit of info about it next). This will help build flexibility without pushing your body too hard and to be honest, being in these poses really can give your body the rest it needs. A different kind of rest than sleep- you use the props to relax in comfortable positions, e.g. putting a blanket under your hips/ lower back in savasana (corpse pose/ lying down) to release any tension in your back.

bolster

In the picture above there is an example of what bolsters look like. Now you can use these to lie on or perhaps imagine if you’re building flexibility in your legs. You’re lying down on your back and your legs are separated out to the sides in the air. You cant really relax here because your legs cannot go all the way down to the floor. What you can do is pop a bolster under each leg to support you. This way you are still stretching and increasing flexibility without straining yourself to keep the pose- you can relax and breathe into it. Another example would be, if you suffer from back pain, when lying down in savasana/ corpse pose, you can place a bolster under your knees to relieve and stress on your back.

  1. Yin

Super slow yoga that uses props and involves remaining in the same poses for up to 5 minutes (maybe longer!). This will help you reduce stress, anxiety and helps you develop flexibility.

If you’re up for trying out a class then here are some tips:
1. Drink mucho (a lot of) water during the day so that you’re super hydrated and ready (especially for a hot yoga class)
2. Try not to eat too close to the lesson time- 2 hours before and just snack on a banana or something (especially for a hot yoga class)
3. Arrive on time- give yourself time to get comfortable in your surroundings, have a chat with new people etc
4. Wear clothes that you feel comfortable and confident in but also careful on the layers- if you’re going for hot yoga/ Vinyasa you will get hot, and you will sweat
5. Keep an open mind! If it’s your first time, try not to come in with too many expectations, let the class take you where it will
6. Listen to your body! If you’re experiencing pain you need to stop/modify the pose. Do not overdo your workout or it could lead to injury

As I have mentioned, yoga is a journey that is also to do with physical fitness. So no matter which kind of yoga you choose, with time you will notice how your body and your mind will develop and change. Not just by being able to do certain poses but you may just be slightly less stressed, or tired or perhaps more happy because you’ve been giving yourself some ‘you’ time every so often.

I hope this helped give you a bit more insight into some different kinds of yoga, if there are any requests for future posts e.g. if there’s anything, in particular, you’d like to learn/ hear about then please, let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading

Maria

❤️

What is yoga?

Yoga is a philosophy that is said to have been around for 5,000 years! I have found two interesting quotes that best describe what yoga is.

  1. The word yoga comes from Sanskrit, the language of ancient India. It means union, integration, or wholeness. It is an approach to health that promotes the harmonious collaboration of the human being’s three components: body, mind, and spirit. -Stella Weller

  2. Yoga, an ancient but perfect science, deals with the evolution of humanity. This evolution includes all aspects of one’s being, from bodily health to self-realization. Yoga means union – the union of body with consciousness and consciousness with the soul. Yoga cultivates the ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day to day life and endows skill in the performance of one’s actions. -B.K.S. Iyengar

Okay, so what have we learned? Yoga means union and is a way of connecting to all aspects of your body while maintaining a kind of balance in your life. Why is this important? Well, with the constant stressors of life it is easy to focus on only a few things that may, for example, have a deadline while ignoring other necessary tasks. I know many parents that don’t exercise or allow any time for themselves because they have other things that take priority. The school run, getting to work, making dinner, getting kids ready for bed etc, and then they pretty much just want to go to sleep after. And to be honest, although I’m not a parent, in the past it has been too easy for me to make excuses to not exercise or take time for myself. I had school/ university as well as a part time job and sometimes I’d have just rather lie in bed and watch tv afterward rather than exercise. I saw exercise as a chore rather than something that is really good for you. Now I’m not saying other necessary tasks in life are excuses because it’s all stuff that must be done. BUT, perhaps little things for yourself can be incorporated in the limited time you may have in your day/ week.

Something that I love about yoga is that it incorporates many great things that help reduce the stress of life. Meditation is one of these ways because it allows you to just chill out for a while. You can set yourself five minutes in a day. Just five minutes, where you just focus on your breathing and let any thoughts about what needs to be done go and it allows you to relax. Just by using five minutes to focus on yourself, it may allow you to feel less stressed and less tired/ worn out. Perhaps, in time, it may even build the mind frame that you may be able to set aside some time for a short yoga sesh and achieve that ‘balance’.

What yoga means for you may be different to what yoga means for someone else, and that’s okay.  If you want to do yoga just for fitness, great. If you take yoga as a lifestyle choice and incorporate it into your actions, thoughts, and your fitness, then great! Everyone is different, has different needs and capabilities. You don’t need to compare yourself to other people to know if you’re succeeding, be yourself and you’re already winning.