Harmony Yoga Retreat | Yelapa, Mexico

This was my first time out of the country and my first yoga retreat, so it was an amazing adventure, to say the least.

Yoga Journal Conference Midwest

Dharma Mittra, Seane Corn, Aadil Pakhilivala, Maty Ezraty, Jim Bennitt... Need I say more?

Sunday, September 25

Yoga at Lincoln Park Zoo | Chicago, IL

LOCATION: Who knew finding a zoo in the middle of a city would be so difficult. I mean, it's an ENTIRE zoo... but I couldn't find a single sign on where it was, let alone parking for it. So... I left it to the directional gods, so to speak. I went off course of the written directions (seriously, I need a new GPS), and what do you know? I found Lincoln Park Zoo, but then I had nowhere to park. Ugh! I left at 6am to give myself plenty of time to get to this class at 9am (two hour drive), and all I could think was, "I just drove two hours to turn around and go home, didn't I." OK, fine, parking gods, have at it! And wouldn't you know it, I found a spot where I could see the entrance to Lincoln Park Zoo from my car (which was free, by the way). It's amazing how things work out if you just... let... go... 
COST: $20 for the drop-in fee in cash, but you can pre-pay online.   
STUDIO:  A summer series outside in Lincoln Park Zoo with the view of the city skyline behind the instructor, covered by a cocoon/sci-fi like piece of artwork, surrounded by nature and water and sounds of wildlife. While we had class it went from sunshine to downpour to sunshine all over the course of an hour. Challenging to focus? Yes. But what a wonderful way to challenge yourself. 
CLASS DESCRIPTION: Adult Yoga Breath in... Breath out... OMMMMMMMM. Take in the views of the city skyline as you connect with nature at Lincoln Park Zoo. Learn or perfect the basics of yoga in this class targeted to beginner and intermediate yoga practitioners. Participants are encouraged to bring their own yoga mat and bottled water. 
INSTRUCTOR: Julie Snyder completed teacher training in 2008, and hopes to pass on her love of yoga to others while teaching outdoors at Lincoln Park Zoo. Her classes are taught to inspire self-awareness, relaxation, and an appreciation for the body. 

After the debacle of finding the zoo and parking... I then had to navigate my way (by foot, very adventurous) through the park to find the class. Once I arrived, I was happy to see people still setting up and that I wasn't late. Woo hoo! We started out in seated position, rolling the head to stretch the neck and start out slowly. The class was very basic, which was great for the variety of students in the class. It offered just the right amount of challenge to warm up the body on this cool morning. I would say it's a slowed down flow. Actually, thinking back, there wasn't much discussion of alignment and positioning. Julie didn't adjust anyone. It really was a basic class to wake up the body on this Saturday morning. Which I find is a nice introduction to yoga. 

I do have to say, I was completely distracted by being able to walk through the zoo and check out some of the animals after class. It's a nice added perk to a yoga class. As I walked through the empty zoo, there were a few performers playing guitar and singing or playing violin. The violinist was playing Amazing Grace, which was my dad's favorite song. And this is the zoo he took me to have some daddy/daughter moments after my parents got divorced. I'm finding, on these excursions to discover yoga classes, something else serendipitous happens. A moment of kindness and love. Whether it's a couple of puppies or beautiful memory of my father heightened by music. These gentle reminders are welcomed as they encourage me to keep doing what I'm doing. I hope you're enjoying the journey with me! 


Friday, September 23

Zion Health | Double Review

COMPANY: Zion Health
PRODUCT LINK: Ancient Clay Body Wash
COST: $14.99 online, I originally found the face wash at Common Ground Food Co-op, if you live in the Champaign-Urbana area. Although I haven't it seen it recently (nor at Strawberry Fields).  
DESCRIPTION: Kanwa clay combined with jojoba plant beads stimulates skin cells. A botanical infusion of sage, yarrow, balm mint, althea, while thyme, and chamomile rosemary releases a powerful therapeutic aroma to calm the mind and soothe the skin.

I've had acne since puberty through today (age 34). It's annoying. It wasn't til a combination of a few things that I saw a difference. And honestly, if I do only one or two of these things... the acne is back with a vengeance. 
  • I get a facial every six weeks (at Angelica's European Holistic Spa—I consider her my Champaign mom, she's absolutely wonderful).  
  • yoga obviously—stress is the biggest factor in my face exploding. so, you know, yoga calms me.
  • lots and lots of water (rule of thumb, half your body weight in oz. Ex: I'm 170 lbs, I should be drinking 85 oz of water a day). 
  • This face wash (which apparently I can use for my whole body, but I opt for just the face)
The beads add a gentle exfoliation, but I think why I like it most is it's smell. Which is exactly what the lady at the co-op said to me, "I just like the smell of it, you should try it out!" Which makes sense, I never read the website's description before. It's made to "release a powerful therapeutic aroma"—there is an instant release of scrunched shoulders and sleepy face each morning. I use it every morning, and when I'm behaving, at night (I'm a horrible night time face washer).

COMPANY: Zion Health
PRODUCT LINK: Clay Mask Magnetic Clay
COST: $13.99 online  
DESCRIPTION: This natural healing clay is a rare formulation of more than 70 minerals which contain magnetic charge pulling toxins and impurities out of the skin. The unique minerals help firm sagging tissues and restore nutrients to moisture deprived skin. These minerals are derived from bubbling desert mineral pools where nutrients are fully enriched. 

Because I couldn't replace the face wash at our local shops (go local!) when I ran out of it the first time, I went ahead and ordered it online. That is when I found the clay mask. When I go to see Angelica, she often uses a clay mask on my skin, and I just wanted something I could use on occasion at home. Or, honestly, dab onto the big zits to dry it out over night. So I went ahead and tried this stuff. It's not as aromatic as the face wash... it's clay. But it is a thick clay that actually dries up and feels like it's pulling 20 years of gloom and doom out of your pores. Ok, maybe less dramatic. But if you want to give yourself a little home spa treatment, I vote hanging your head over some steam and then putting this on. Then while it's drying, maybe picking out a fun color to paint your toes :) 

Monday, September 19

The Yoga Room | Crown Point, IN

LOCATION: I was GPS-less for this trip, relying on directions I wrote down the night before. So, needless to say, I was a little concerned. Once I got into Crown Point, it was actually an easy find. Although you did need to veer right onto Merryville St, even though the address says it's on Main St. There is a free parking lot just off to the side of the studio. All of this easy to see while still driving. 
COST: $14 for the drop-in fee, I didn't see the option for credit cards.  
STUDIO: As you can see from the picture, you're greeted by sunflowers as you walk up to the building, which I found quite lovely. When you walk in the door, you're immediately in a hallway, where there was a pile of shoes from the class in session still. There is a sign on the door telling you to come in, but knowing there was a class I felt uncomfortable just walking in. Which is good, once another student showed up and I asked her, I learned that there is a space you can wait, but it would likely feel awkward to be waiting for the next class in that area. Inside the entry there is an open area where I believe items where sold (I was distracted when I first entered, which I'll chat about below). There's a  desk there to check in, I had to fill out a card about myself and signing off on the regular injury waiver. The whole space is carpeted, but in a berber type of flooring, so it wasn't cushiony (cushioned floors may be kind on the knees, but difficult to balance on). It did have a slight pattern to it which was distracting when I was face to floor in chaturanga (a low hovering push-up), so I just moved back on my mat so I would be looking at it instead. The lights were low and relaxing. We set up in two rows that faced one another, with the instructor lined up with us. 
CLASS DESCRIPTION: Vinyasa Flow A continuous flow of postures linked together with the breath. Good cardio workout.
INSTRUCTOR: Betty is a certified Samapatti yoga instructor that has been practicing yoga since 1993. Her calmness and outlook on life have been enhanced by doing yoga. Kids yoga and prenatal yoga are a pleasure for her to instruct. 
CONTACT: The Yoga Room

So, the distraction I mentioned above... I was chatting with three students waiting for the next class when we hear the sounds of dog chains jingling. We looked outside, and there were two ADORABLE puppies with no owner in sight. We went outside where they were very excited to see us. Luckily they had tags on with their address (but no phone number... folks, when you tag your pets, put a number on there). We called the vet number that was on the other tag, but they said they couldn't take them. These lil guys were so, very sweet. The fella I was holding, his name was Beefy (I know, adds to the head exploding cuteness) and another student was holding Lucky. They brought us so much joy, and at that point I decided I should just skip class and take these guys home, because surely they were missed. Once I got them in my car, the owner came running around the corner to get them. Before he took them back home, I snapped this shot (Beefy left, Lucky right): 

How could I not mention those two lil faces, OK, back to the focus... 

This class was great. We started in sivasana and slowly warmed up to our flow. Flow class is a great way to work cardio into your yoga, because you never pause in a pose. Betty mentioned something, that should have been more obvious to me. She was talking about how the flow is set by your breath, knew that... but she pointed out that the more you practice the longer your breath becomes, and the longer your breath becomes the slower you transition between poses. I guess I mention this because normally I don't like flow classes. They move too fast for my taste. At the same time, they get my heart rate elevated, which I could use more since I stopped running. I don't think I'd recommend a flow class to someone really new to yoga though; there's not enough time to stop in a pose and talk about alignment and adjustments. Which I think is crucial in understanding how you work with yoga so you don't injure yourself. Ok, I'm all over the place with my opinion on flow, move along Anni! 

Betty had a wonderfully calm demeanor, as she mentioned small adjustments from one pose to the next. We did a few variations of sun salutations to warm up the core. One flow she went into had us starting in virasana (hero pose) and working into thread the needle and ending back in hero. From there we slowed down a bit more, breathing through multiple bridge poses. We ended in sivasana and then a seated meditation. 

I highly recommend checking The Yoga Room out if you're in NW Indiana. The three other students I was able to chat with during puppy time weren't from Crown Point, which means they're traveling a bit to get to this studio, and they had nothing but great things to say about their experiences. 

Thank you for a wonderful class, Betty, namaste!


The winner of last week's Ecofluent give away is Terimccarthy!
Email me (annipoppen [at] gmail [dot] com), so we can get your prize shipped. Congrats!!! 

Sunday, September 11

be ecofluent!

It's been awhile since I did a give away, makes life not as exciting... so let's get this party started (again)!

In celebration of opening night and the end of a guitar festival at work... I'm going to do a give away from an organization founded by my boss and friend, Rebecca McBride. I'm not only a fan of Ecofluent, I'm also on the board... ok, I got a little Hair Club for Men commercial on you, sorry. But, all that to say, I obviously love what this organization stands for, and thought you would too! 
The idea behind Ecofluent is simple, yet powerful. Individual choices can create a sustainable world. We use the power of our actions (what we buy, where we donate, and how we interact with others) to create a better world. Be ecofluent.
Here's how you can win!
1. Visit Ecofluent's site and pick an item you'd like from the "buy" page 
2. 'Like' Ecofluent's facebook page
3. 'Like' No Expectation, Only Intention's facebook page
4. Leave a comment below telling us which item you'd like!

That's it! Then check back next week to see who the winner is!
Giveaway open until Sunday, September 18th at 10pm CDT

Thursday, September 8

The Family Tree | Des Moines, IA

So I've said this in other reviews, but I want to take a moment to apply it to your general yoga studio knowledge. Most yoga studios don't have street signage. So, if you're driving to a studio for the first time, always include an extra 15 minutes to scope out the area (even with GPS), because you will most likely drive past the place three times before you know it's there. This extra time is definitely worth it, because I've always found it silly to stress myself out over going to a yoga class. I know we all do it from time to time, but in my head... I want to relax from the stress I already have, not use my class to overcome the stress of looking for the studio. Ok, on to the review!

LOCATION: In the art museum area of Des Moines, this location is pretty great. Amazing little neighborhoods of different architecture, great local shops, and if I had more time I'm guessing I'd discover fantastic local restaurants too. There is a free parking lot behind the house I didn't know about, so I ended up parking for free on the street a half a block away, no biggie. 
COST: I didn't see a credit card machine, so I'm guessing cash and check. I paid $15 for my drop-in fee. 
STUDIO: 1930s house converted into a yoga/massage studio. You should walk in the back door, off of the parking lot, to sign in and grab a glass of water in the kitchen. You can walk in the front door (like I did), but it will land you right in the middle of the class and feeling somewhat awkward (also, like I did). The first floor has a kitchen, bathroom (I think), living room, and dining room. The living room and dining room is where you set up for class, each section holding no more than 4-5 students, I'm guessing. Which is great, because it guarantees you some one on one time with the instructor. Upstairs houses three bedrooms each set up for massage rooms. The house is a clean, simple, warm (there's a fireplace in the living room I bet they use in the winter months), and welcoming set up. 
CLASS DESCRIPTION: Beginner's Yoga: The perfect place to begin. Discover yoga breath and simple poses to lengthen and strengthen your body while relaxing your mind. For students new to yoga, recovering from illness/injury, or those looking to brush up on the basics.
They offer a lot of family-orientated classes—prenatal, baby & me, and family yoga. I should have grabbed one of my nephews to test this out, but thought of it too late. Anyway, I wanted to share this aspect of the studio with you, since they focus on it more than some. 
INSTRUCTOR: Sarah completed a 200-hour level Hatha yoga certification through Tree House Yoga in Iowa City with James Miller. It was during her training at Tree House Yoga that she developed an interest and passion for Yoga Therapy and working one one one with individuals who are interested in developing a home practice that is designed with their particular needs and goals in mind. She is also currently enrolled at Body Wisdom School of Massage Therapy in Urbandale and looks forward to expanding her career in wellness. 
CONTACT: The Family Tree

What a wonderful way to learn yoga from the very, very beginning. I spoke with Sarah after class, and she said this series is based on teacher training, only instead of spending a whole week on the topic you only spend an hour on the topic... which is stripped down to the very basics to not overwhelm the newcomer.

The first half hour was spent talking about the origins of modern yoga (last week they talked about the origins of yoga in general, and Sarah reviewed it briefly). Topics like Shiva, KrishnamacharyaBKS Iyengar, Indra Devi (the first woman of yoga), and much more were brought up with only a couple sentences, but enough to get you more comfortable with understanding the full picture of yoga.

The second half hour was spent going over two poses. One was to review the pose from last week (downward facing dog modified against a wall), and the second was to introduce trikonasana (triangle pose) also against the wall. I like working with the wall, because it is an easy reminder of your alignment just by having your head, shoulders, back, and feet touching the wall... you know you're going into a pose correctly. And it's tricks like this that you can take home with you to work on more. Sarah talked about the importance of not curving over or collapsing into your pose so you can touch your toes, but to extend out through you head and arm to create a straight line from foot to finger tips. She worked with each student to modify for their past injuries or adjust appropriately for their body. And that was it. No savasana, no meditation, no vinyasas. It was really about starting off slowly and getting to know the poses and the background of yoga before even moving on to the next level. If you live in the Des Moines area, I can't encourage you more, if you're wanting to learn about yoga but honestly are nervous about starting. This class is made for you, and really is well-rounded way to discover yourself and yoga.

After class I had the pleasure of talking with Sarah for another half hour. She really has a genuine excitement over people learning about themselves and their health and wellness. She worked with me on a few issues I've been having, suggesting things I can do to practice through them. We chatted about what inspired this class (her teacher training, as mentioned above), and I apologized for walking into the middle of the class room during the third session. Thank you for sharing your energy and knowledge with me Sarah, namaste!

Oh! Yes! You should also know, it's pretty common for classes categorized as Beginners' Classes that they have a 8-9 week schedule in place. I'm guessing anyone would let you do a drop-in (as Sarah kindly did with me), but you really should get the full benefit of these classes and start when the schedule starts. If I had done more research I probably would have discovered I was crashing a series, but then you wouldn't get to learn all the weird things to avoid when taking your first class. Seriously, this blog has liberated me from fearing awkwardness, thank you for encouraging me to check out studios and fumble through with a sense of humor I eagerly look forward to sharing with you! I'm definitely enjoying my journey with you!