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?

Monday, August 11

DoYogaWithMe.com » Starting an At-home Practice

This last week I started my home yoga challenge. If you've followed me on here or facebook or know me personally, you're probably aware that I've been struggling with getting back to my yoga routine for well over a year. Then my friend said something to me the other day that clicked, "I don't know, your body responds to yoga... Maybe that's why you're having such a rough time." Maybe she was right. I've tried the gym, I've tried changing my diet, I've tried a bazillion vitamins a day... but my body is not having it. Stress is at such a constant rate my hormones and immune system are having a full-on battle with me.

On June 10th we added a new member to the family, Gertie. She's now an 8 month old miniature pit bull who recently recovered from her first ACL surgery (it didn't take, she will be getting a second surgery when she is full grown—we're guessing end of October). To take advantage of a mostly-working leg we started going on walks in the morning. My morning routine is to die for:
  • wake up to two kitten faces telling me to feed them 
  • instead of jumping out of bed I read a few pages from a book
  • feed kittens + get ready for a walk
  • let Gertie out her crate (we're still transitioning with the cats + her—Mariah no longer comes downstairs anymore, so I'm feeling guilty about one pet at all times) and we have some morning cuddles. It's the best, Gertie runs to the couch and waits for me to hold her like a baby and rub her belly. She nuzzles into my chest and I melt over her sweetness... Then she starts chewing on whatever is closest... she's still a puppy. 
  • so we deflect and go for our walk 
  • when we get back she plops on the couch for a morning nap + I go do my yoga in the basement (gated off from all pets) 
  • shower
  • I make a french press of decaf coffee and some sort of breakfast to start the work day by going through emails
Pretty great, right? So I brought up Gertie because, as a puppy, she needs routine to feel safe in her environment. Hmm. I seem to like routine too. Sure, take me on an adventure, but some parts of the routine still remain so I feel like I'm home (in myself, not physically in a building). Her need for routine prompted my awareness of needing a routine too. This week we're adding yoga back into that routine!

I've always been challenged by a home practice. Doing the same video over and over immediately turns me off. I like when I go to a studio the class is different every. single. time. I also like the instructor prompting us to do poses in a particular way and correcting us so we don't hurt ourselves. Doing a home practice without a video leaves me to discipline myself... and I suck at that! 15 minutes in I think I've done a full hour. When I look at the clock I'm defeated and give up. Then I discovered DoYogaWithMe.com — to be completely honest, it's been bookmarked on my computer for probably six months now. But I'm glad I held on to it.
DoYogaWithMe.com is a free, constantly expanding resource of online yoga videos created by a passionate group of experienced instructors. Our yoga videos include classes, poses, breathing techniques and anatomy videos. Every one of our hundreds of HD videos can be viewed in its entirety without payment. You don’t even have to sign up. The site is supported by donations, by sales of DVDs, downloads, programs, and advertising.
So here's my first week with DoYogaWithMe.com!
Day One I immediately love that I can narrow the search down by difficulty, class length, style, and/or teacher. I went for 40-60 minutes at an intermediate level. I had a lot of energy on my walk this morning, so I thought I should ride that wave. One of the classes was called In the Moment, and I liked it's description:
As with all of Tracey's yoga classes, this one is full of her playful energy and unique flow sequences. 
What made me think I should attempt a flow class on my first day of home practice is beyond me, but I already started the video and wanted to follow through with the class so I could fully make a decision on it. The reason I don't like flow classes isn't because they're challenging... or I should say isn't because I'm scared to raise my heart rate and sweat out some toxins. I actually love to do that. I don't like flow because I really enjoy sitting in a pose—activating my muscles and finding the calm in all that effort is incredibly rewarding. Also, in flow classes I feel parts of my body respond with pain because I (personally) need the time to find the pose. I don't just naturally fall into them. Clearly, this was not the class for me. Not today, at least.

What I did learn during this class was great though—if I didn't feel safe going from pose to pose, fine. But my ass was staying on that mat and finishing an hour of yoga. So I did my own poses in areas I didn't like. I would NEVER do this in a studio, way too disrespectful to the instructor (short of me going into child's pose because I'm pooped), but I enjoyed my little rebellion in the comfort of my own home.

Day Two Learning from day one, I decided maybe it's best to pick out my class the night before. I know it doesn't allow for the moment to decide what my body needs, but it does give me the time to read more about the class and the instructor. While I was in Tampa visiting my mom this past year, I tried out a Kundalini class—I really enjoyed it and was excited to see there are a few videos on DYWM. I'm trying to do an hour of yoga each morning—so I went for Kundalini Yoga to Recharge and Master Your Domain. Maybe this weekend I'll try one of the longer classes offered. They're all beginner, so that's nice too.

Kundalini challenges me on so many levels, I think that is why I enjoy it so much. Physically it's asking me to work, mentally is asking me to work while doing weirdo breathing exercises, and egotistically it's asking me to stop calling it weirdo breathing exercises. This class also offered up more of what I'm use to—opening breathwork to center the mind and body, some meditation and some Oms... or Kundalini's version of Om-like stuff (think more in singing short mantras). If ever you felt uncomfortable singing in a class, you have no excuses now... belt that mutha' out! 

Why I am so surprised over and over again by Kundalini? Although I feel silly doing fire breath while trying to do leg lifts... The breath work really does warm up the core and loosen up the muscles. I find myself going deeper into poses when I do a Kundalini warm up more than any other class (short of maybe a Yin Yoga class). 
Join Dawn on a serene, west coast beach as she calmly guides you through an invigorating practice that is sure to leave you feeling totally recharged and empowered.
Yesterday I didn't bother setting up an account for myself, but today I did because I learned you can bookmark classes you like. This class is bookmarked!

Day Three Today I'm going to a studio class—Tuesdays from 10:30a-11:30a Hayli teaches yoga at the McKinley Fitness Center. She just got back from India, so I'm excited to be back in a classroom with her (and at a dinner table with my friend and camping with my friend and giggling with her and her family again and... Can you tell I missed her?). 

Outside of seeing my friend though, it will be good to be back in a classroom setting. I don't know what this mental road block is with me and yoga, but I'm open to learning and hopefully staying aware enough without over thinking the whole thing.

CORRECTION: Her class is actually 10-11am... just like it's always been... just like it says in my calendar every week... Sigh. Even further proof that routine is a good thing, it keeps you organized. Oh well, I will report back in an hour with the next video I try.
Gravity and Grace: Ron's unique style and wonderful guidance help you rediscover your body and relate to yoga in a new way. Have fun with this one, as you play with balance, flow and the breath.
Ron introduced himself as, "a yoga instructor, a dance artist, and dance maker." After working in the performing arts, terms like "<insert craft> maker" bother me. It comes off pretentious when actually most of those people using the term really are talented, but lose their credibility with me by the schmooziness they just created. It's not fair. I know that. People can call themselves whatever the hell they want. So I kept with the video.

We jumped right in—there was a warm up, but no mental centering. Breath work through the whole class though. He used a sail as a metaphor throughout, and I really did enjoy it. Acting as a sail in different directions helped open me up in new ways. At the same time, the class was challenging enough to make me sweat while not being so challenging I went off and did my own thing. He offered up variations for those less experienced here and there, but what he really did well was offer up variations for those more advanced (which was cool—I can't do it, but I always find it fun to watch).

I bookmarked it for future practices!

Today I also set up my yoga room—claiming the space officially for me to get on my mat. Gathering all my yoga stuff from around the house, I had no idea what I had from over the years (I still need to put my exercise ball and headstand table in there—if only the ceilings were high enough to get my yoga swing in there too). Now it really is an exciting space for me to go back to over and over again.

Day Four
Today I am SO grateful for my first meeting with Laura, the owner of Studio Helix. They were a sponsor for this year's That's What She Said show, who is one of my clients. Part of the sponsorship was a trade for training, and the girls at TWSS shared that trade with me.

Sitting down and talking with someone who finally takes all the pieces of my puzzle (that I KNEW were connected but no one truly could put together) and makes sense of it is not only a relief but an incredible learning experience. Laura took what I said, agreed, and then explained in detail why—from hormonal imbalance to nutrition to stress levels to bone alignment and back again. Then she laid it out for me on how we were going to fix it. She was honest, straight forward, and oh so knowledgeable. I left feeling heard, validated, and empowered. I can not recommend her enough... and I haven't even had my first active training session with her.

Our next appointment is where she'll do myofascial release which sounds like painful massage, to be quite honest. But it will open up all the spots that have locked down over the years—that she connected back to my foot surgery probably 10 years ago (which caused calf tension to knee pain to bad hip alignment to a sacrum injury a few years ago all the way up to bad shoulder alignment and even how I'm holding my head... I'm a hot mess). For nutritional evaluation I will see someone else on her team where they'll look closer at my blood work and decide if I need thyroid treatment of any kind (when I told Laura I had this done a couple times and they always say I am fine—the look on her face was a priceless, "Do you know how many times women have come in and said that to me?" Yes, I can only assume based on the multiple conversations I've had with my friends). 

Day Five Sooooooo, I'm not sure if I ate something funny (nothing odd in my food the last 24 hrs, that I know of) or if the few sensitive spots Laura tested yesterday sent my body into a frenzy (it does make me a little more aware of what could happen after the fascia massage I have scheduled next week with her). I went to bed in my winter coat last night I was so cold. Woke up sweating out a fever like crazy. No other symptoms and I didn't even feel sick when I got out of bed. Just tired from fighting with a fever all night. Insane. I really do think it was detoxing of some sort. Needless to say, I didn't do my normal morning routine... or afternoon routine... or evening routine. 

Day Six So today I want my yoga to be more restorative. Between my battle with the fever yesterday and knowing how much work I have ahead of me (while Laura validated all my concerns she also validated that my body is not healthy and that's hard to hear, no matter how much you already know it is true), I want to nurture myself with some loving restorative: 
Restoring Equilibrium with
David Procyshyn is perfect for seniors, beginners and tight students, this class moves slowly and deliberately through a gentle, delicious sequence of poses. Beginning and ending with a deep relaxation, David guides you through this flow effortlessly, with attention to the breath and body alignment. You will feel calm, balanced and at ease once you finish this class!
The thing with most restorative classes I've taken is they make great use of pretty much every yoga prop you can imagine. As lovely as this is, you may have to figure out some other options for your home practice. I happen to have a bolster, but rolled up blankets or yoga mats work great too. Don't have a yoga strap? Grab some rope from the garage or see if you have any extra long belts around. Don't have yoga blocks? Get a few heavy books. Don't let props keep you from trying a restorative practice at home, just be sure you prepare for it before going straight to your mat.

David's class was really nice... loooooong, relaxing opening followed by some great hip and shoulder openers. I actually would have preferred to stay in those poses longer. And when I wanted to, I did. David also had nice tips/cues for grounding and stretching. He ended with an equally long savasana.

I would have bookmarked this one, but DYWM wasn't letting me login, no idea why.

Day Seven I was going to try another Kundalini class this weekend, but I wanted a variety of instructors for this week in reviews. So today I'm going with another favorite style (mentioned in my kundalini review above), Yin Yoga

Yin Yoga: Sinking into Stillness » Join Anastasia for this hour-long class that spends five delicious minutes with every pose. Breathe deeply, relax your body and take the time to sink into the opening within each asana. It will calm you down immensely and leave you feeling grounded and centered in your body.
I was really happy with this video, and it was definitely highlight in my week of DYWM. Anastasia was able to guide us through poses that latest 5 minutes long—somehow knowing just when my mind wandered and bringing me back. She offered a lot of options with the props (this is similar to the restorative class above in being prepared to have prop options). I used every tip because I really wanted to be comfortable while stretching long in a pose.

It was one part challenging to stay in the moment, recognizing where I needed to let go of tension and one part indulgence in being able to just stretch in one pose for five minutes. No rushing, just melting. Absolutely glorious. 

What a beautiful start to a week of creating better habits. Walking every morning with Gertie has been a refreshing way to start my day while also allowing us to bond and work on some training along the way. And getting yoga back into my life has been beautiful on so many levels... an hour that is completely devoted to me, an hour to work on my breathing, an hour to destress and slow down, an hour to tune in to my mind and body and see where I need work and celebrate where I've improved. I'm truly grateful.