The Yoga Episode: Answering All Your Yoga Questions! favorite_border

Conversations from the Heart - October 23rd 2020

Author: Rachel Brathen

Topics: Yoga, Lifestyle

Links: Apple Podcasts / Spotify

About the Episode

Welcome to the much-anticipated YOGA episode of the Yoga Girl Podcast!

Tune in today as Rachel takes questions from the Yoga Girl Community about the practice of yoga, how to start your practice, finding a teacher that resonates, honoring the roots of yoga, common misalignments and more!

Wherever you are at with your practice, if you’ve never stepped onto a yoga mat or if you are an advanced practitioner, this heartfelt episode from Rachel is a step-by-step guide not only into the practice of yoga, but what it means personally for you as well.

Hint – it’s not really about the asana, it’s adapting the practice to fit your needs while simultaneously creating a routine that works for you.

The Yoga Girl community wrote in some amazing questions for Rachel, and these are some of the golden truths that we need to hear right now.

Yoga is so sacred and personal, and this episode will guide you through the ways to choose a practice, teacher, habit, lifestyle and resonance that works for you.

Life is cyclical, and we all go through ups and downs - it’s the same with our practices! But if we keep our hearts aligned with the true roots of yoga, then we are able to make a shift in our internal lives and open to the abundance of the true roots of the practice.

Tune in to continue on the journey.

Key Takeaways

  • Yoga is a beautiful tool for healing, but its not a one-stop fix for everything. Let it complement your other healing practices; don’t replace them.
  • Try to find a studio, practice, or teacher that celebrates the roots of yoga. Study the philosophy of yoga and see how you can integrate more than asana into your life.
  • Practice anytime! It’s more important that you practice than when you practice. Try rolling out your mat at some point every day (even if it’s just for five minutes!).
  • Yoga really is for everyone. Regardless of what social media makes the yoga world look like, every single size, shape, age, and cultural background belongs here.
  • Explore different teachers and styles of classes until you find what feels like home. There are so many options out there - yogagirl.com is a great place to start!

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Transcript

[0:03] Welcome back to the Yoga Girl podcast, Conversations From the Heart. I hope you are doing well today, I hope you’ve had a good week so far. I am sitting here, I was just sitting here laughing at myself. Today I had, I have had the strangest morning, the strangest day. If I make some, like inappropriate jokes or something on this show, I, I apologize in advance, I’m just in a really strange mood. Last week I shared the episode around my morning routine, which was a really, really popular, highly, like really well-received episode, I’m so glad you, you, you really enjoyed that, and I was laughing at myself today because when I was recording last week, I had this, what I felt like was a realization.

[0:48] Which was that there’s no such thing as waking up on the wrong side of the bed. And I was, I wasn’t really talking about this so much, but I was just thinking about it a lot myself that, you know, if you have a really beautiful routine for your morning, even if you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, or this feeling like, “ugh, something just isn’t right,” right? Like maybe you had a bad night’s sleep, or you feel sluggish, you feel low, you’re irritated, something’s going on, we have so much control in terms of what we choose to do during our first hour of the day; what kind of practices we do, how we choose to nourish ourselves or not nourish ourselves, right? That we actually have a lot of options, so instead of waking up and just deciding that “ugh, I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, this day is a bust,” right, that you actually can make some different choices in the morning that might help you out of that place, right?

[1:37] So my realization was there’s no such thing as the wrong side of the bed, we just gotta like rally in the morning, and it’ll be a great day. And today, of course, I woke up on the wrongest side of the…like I woke up…no, here’s what’s funny: I woke up in the wrong bed [laughs] and that, that actually happens [laughs]. So, last night, we had this crazy thunderstorm come through, and I don’t know what happened, but there was like a vortex of fuckery that just came through my house; all four dogs lost their minds. And I don’t know, this is not normal for, for thunderstorms, like it doesn’t normally…we have one dog, Quila, who doesn’t do well with thunder, but all dogs just lost their minds.

[2:22] And [laughing] at some point, Dennis lost his mind, and Lea kept waking up, and then I was up, up and down, and it was just, it was a shitshow in this house, right? And then the dogs peed, and then I found one tiny little pebble of poop, which is so bizarre to me. It was almost like [laughs] it was just, it was almost like a pissed off little poop. I think it was Ringo who was just upset that he was having a bad night, and he left me like a tiny little gift in the kitchen, you know?

[2:49] And then at two in the morning, I was like, “okay, this is not going to work, Lea’s going to be up all night, like fork this forking shit.” I took the dogs, and I went to the guest room, stepped in the pee on the way there, it was just like everything went from bad to worse. And then, you know, didn’t sleep all night. At five a.m., my beautiful little sunrise alarm that I sometimes have with like bird sounds, it’s like the most peaceful alarm, I spoke about it [laughs] on last week’s show, goes off, and I am so pissed off that my alarm went off because I just fell asleep, right? I was up the whole night. That I didn’t even wake up on the wrong side of the bed, I literally woke up in the wrong bed. I woke up in the guest bed, in the guest room, just, aw, in the worst mood.

[3:34] Turned my alarm clock off, and went back to bed and was able to sleep, sleep in until, until almost seven o’clock. And then, you know, I had that morning of just like everything went from bad to, to crap. Like I didn’t have any time to do anything for me, I had to rush Lea to school, accidentally bumped her head, like she had a, she bumped her head this weekend and actually had like a, like a cut on her forehead, she was really upset about it, of course. And then I re-bumped her bump, because we were rushing to get in the car, and I re-bumped her head on the car, and it was just like, you know, the, the, the a terrible morning. And why? Why was the morning terrible? Well, because I woke up on the wrong side of the bed [laughs].

[4:14] So I was sitting here right now, just laughing at myself and all my good intentions, and feeling pretty good that I’m recording this podcast right now so I can share that with you. Because a bunch of you guys asked me that last week, like what do I do if I have a bad night? Or if I’m nursing my baby, or yeah, my kid didn’t sleep, or I was out up really late the night before, or I was out partying, or you know, you have like, all of your days are going to be different. Well of course we gotta adapt, right? Any of these practices that we’re using for our well-being, to take care of ourselves, they have to come with a little bit of leeway. We can’t be so disciplined about our stuff that we start beating ourselves up, right?

[4:55] The whole point of these positive practices for our well-being is for us to feel better, right? And if it becomes, if it becomes this heavy thing that’s like a must-do, that comes with judgment and all this stuff, then we’re not going to feel better, so then the practice isn’t working in the first place, right? So if you have a shitshow of a night, you, you, you turn that alarm off and you sleep another two hours, right? If your kid is waking up all night, you modify, maybe instead of, you know, instead of getting up at five you get up at six, it’s okay, or scrap it all together, but try to find some shape of something nourishing that you can do for yourself in the morning.

[5:32] I didn’t get a chance to do that today, my day went, like, totally bananas. So instead, I had a lot of coffee [laughs] and that’s okay, too. It was pretty nice just to have that little moment of validation, actually, in terms of how important my mornings are, that morning ritual is for me, so when I miss it, you know, it really impacts my whole day. It really, really does. It becomes much harder for me to turn a hard day around when I didn’t have that time for myself. So, I’m sitting here right now, it’s like noon, and I’m like excited to go to bed at eight o’clock, so I can have my morning tomorrow morning of like, “I need my reset,” you know? What a life, what a year, what a, what a time to be alive.

[6:16] So today for this episode of the show, I’m really happy to share that we are going to have an episode today centered around the yoga practice. This is the Yoga Girl podcast, you guys know Yoga Girl is my, my, my platform, our community, my Instagram name, you know, yogagirl.com, we have all the classes online and we even have — can I tell you? Okay, I’m going to tell you — we have an online retreat coming super soon that I am, like, losing my mind a little bit with excitement about. You know, my, my whole life is, is, is Yoga Girl, this podcast is called the Yoga Girl podcast.

[6:51] Yet, it’s been a really long time since I had an entire episode dedicated to yoga. I think I had that intention when I started this show, so the first ever episode I recorded was Lea was one week old, I shared the birth story of how she was born, and I wanted this ep, this show, this podcast to really be about, of course about yoga because it’s a huge part of my life, but not only, you know, it wasn’t a yoga podcast, it’s Yoga Girl podcast. So we talk about overcoming adversity, about healing, storytelling, day-to-day stuff, you know, life basically. Basically what unfolds in my life is what determines what these podcast episodes end up being about.

[7:29] Which I love, right? I super, super love. But I’ve also kind of missed really getting into the, the depths and the heart of the yoga practice, it’s been awhile since we’ve done that on the show. So I went to Instagram this morning, and took a bunch of questions, I just like, you know, “what do you want to know about yoga? What questions should I answer? What’s on your mind and in your heart about yoga, specifically?”

[7:54] And the amount of questions that came pouring in, it’s, it’s crazy, I can’t keep up, it’s like, it’s thousands of questions, just pouring in. So it means we are really overdue for an episode about this. So, yay! Welcome to the yoga show [laughs] to the Yoga Girl podcast, and the yoga episode. I think if you are thinking about beginning a yoga practice, this is going to be a good episode for you. If you are totally immersed in the practice, but you have some specific questions, are wondering how to advance your practice, this is going to be a good episode, too. And most importantly — and I think this applies to all of us, depending on, you know, regardless of if you are a beginner, or you’ve been practicing for a long time — how to get motivated, and find motivation on those days when it’s just hard to get to the mat, because that was a big question that we got.

[8:43] So, before we dive in, how about, you know, in the spirit of yoga, we just close our eyes for a moment. And if you want to place your hands to your heart, maybe a hand to the belly, or somewhere else, and just take a moment to, to tune in. We’re not going to be here with eyes closed for too long, so just right away, centering yourself into the breath. Let’s take a cleansing breathe, so inhaling in through the nose [inhales], and out through the mouth [exhales]. And then bring the breath back in through the nose, and out through the nose. And just give yourself a few moments to check in with you.

[9:27] How are you doing right now? How’s the quality of your life today? What’s the quality of your breath like, the inhale, the exhale? What is the quality of the well-being, or the feeling that you have in your physical body right now? Just noticing what it’s like to be here, in this exact moment.

[9:57] And you can let your next couple of breaths just grow a little bit deeper, so without forcing the breath, you’re just inviting a bit more space; so deepening the inhale, and the exhale. Hmm. [Inhales] And let’s take another moment, just like that, just the way you are. Hmm. [Inhales] And another breath in [pause], and out. And you can blink your eyes open. It’s funny, you know, just a minute to tune in and we can literally change our whole, our whole energy field, you know? How we feel about this moment. It’s complex, and sometimes it’s really hard to remind ourselves to do that, to come back to the practice, but once we do, it changes everything, right?

[10:57] I love, my favorite parts about, about the yoga practice is our ability to take it off the mat and practice it in our day-to-day, whether it’s in the middle of a podcast, just like now, or if it’s when you’re out and about in the world, or just, we all have so many different benefits to this practice, and different reasons as to why we found our way here in the first place.

[11:18] So I want to start off just with one of the questions that I got, that this was one of the most asked questions by far, and it’s from people who are really interested in the idea of the yoga practice, who maybe are wondering where to begin, or is this practice even for me, right? And I, I, I love getting, getting this question, because it’s such a beautiful answer for me. I think there’s a lot of misconceptions about, first of all, what yoga really is out there, and also in the, in the Western world and what we see through the lens of social media, and the media overall.

[11:50] So, beginning by just, you know, a little reminder for everybody that the yoga we have adapted in this part of the world, or in the west, the things that you, the type of practice that you see in studios, the movements that we do on the mat, right? So the vinyasa classes and all those things that we see all around, that’s just a very, very small part of the practice, the life science, philosophy, and, you know, absolute lifestyle that yoga is. So asana, or the postures, the, the physical movements that we do on the mat is just one of the eight limbs of yoga.

[12:26] But in, you know, modern day, this part of the world, we’ve kind of made that all of it, right? We think about yoga, and we think about the poses, and we think about the classes that you can take going to a studio in this part of the world. So, just little reminder that yoga is so much more than that, and that asana literally just is the tip of the iceberg. But if you’re thinking about beginning a practice, usually how we begin is stepping onto a mat, or going into a yoga studio, or looking to find a class online, right? And before we even can get to that place, I think, changing, or at least getting rid of any misconceptions that we have around why this practice maybe isn’t for us.

[13:05] If we look at how yoga has been portrayed, you know, for the past decades, for, for a really long time, it sort of looks as if to practice yoga, you have to be really flexible, I think that’s the first thing people think about. I think people think that, that yoga is mainly something that’s for women, right? We see a lot of women, it’s very disproportionate, the, the, the women to men, and, you know, getting into non-binary and trans, you know, it’s very skewed towards a female-looking practice. We think that to practice yoga, we have to be thin, if we can’t be bigger body, then it’s not for us. There’s a lot of white people practicing yoga, you know? So am I welcome in the studio if I’m not white? I should be young, right? I should be very able-bodied and able to do all of these challenging types of postures that I see. So maybe I have to be really fit, you know?

[13:57] Young, thin, white, fit, flexible, woman. [Laughs] This for me, is one of the most heart-breaking parts of how yoga has been portrayed in the world. And I’m saying this as a white, you know, fairly, fairly flexible, absolutely able-bodied woman; I know I’ve played a role in, in giving this view to the world, and one of my big aims in life is to really help change this perception. So it is absolutely not true. Absolutely not true. Absolutely not true.

[14:29] And if you’ve had this idea, or, you know are wondering, “am I going to fit in? Is this for me?” Let me just calm your mind right now by saying a hundred percent, yes. And that the images that we’ve seen, you know, on the covers of Yoga Journal, and on social media, it’s also just a very, very, very small part of who actually practices yoga. It’s super sad that those are the people and the images that we get fed the most, but, you know, yoga is practiced all across the world, in every part of the world, and from every type of person, right?

[15:03] Right now, there are stay at home dads rolling out their mats next to their kids. There’s, there’s people on their way to their truck driving jobs, taking a class in the morning, or practicing meditation at home, you know, there’s people of every kind of body part, every kind of ethnicity, every cultural background, every age. People with injuries, people who are pregnant, people who are feeling totally depressed and sad, you know, every single kind of person you could possibly ever imagine practiced yoga in some form today.

[15:36] And I love to approach this, just this frame of mind, or this, this kind of process in this way, not just thinking about, you know, that you’re welcome to the practice if you don’t look like, you know, the way that the covers of all the Yoga Journal people look, but that actually, regular, everyday people, just like you and me, everyday people are practicing right now, right? It’s not that just we are inviting people that look like the norm, but everyone is already practicing, it’s just we don’t get fed those images enough.

[16:05] So, resting in that, that there are people who look exactly like you, who have as little or as much experience as you, who have challenges like you, pain like you, who felt, at some point, like they didn’t fit in, or wondered at some point if this practice was, was or wasn’t for them, that are practicing right now. So, yoga absolutely is for everybody. And if you come across a teacher, or a person, or a studio that doesn’t practice or, or, or show that image, or they’re portraying something different, then that’s probably a sign to move into another direction, right?

[16:41] I have stepped into many a studio where I have felt totally out of place as a white, flexible woman, just because I felt like, “man, I’m not, I’m not skinny enough for this, I’m not advanced enough for this; I’m wearing the wrong yoga pants, like whoo.” I think especially in big cities across the U.S., there’s a lot of trend around yoga, and, you know, just a studio that’s for you is a studio where you feel welcome, right? Where you don’t feel judged, where you feel like absolutely, it’s okay for me to be here, where I can see other people that look like me in this place, right? Where it’s not just one type of person and just a bunch, a bunch of lookalikes in the studio is, is probably not a really great sign, right?

[17:26] What I love about Island Yoga, and of course we’re in Aruba, so we have a super diverse population here, there’s 83 nationalities on the island, but when you enter into any single, any, any kind of class at any point of the day, you’re going to see a potpourri of every kind of person, every kind of, every kind of person in the studio, and that’s what it’s supposed to be like, I think. And also, in terms of how people are moving on the mat, for me, the most beautiful kind of class is when everyone is doing something slightly different. Or a lot different, right?

[17:56] So if you ever find yourself in a class where you feel like you have to do things a certain way, where there isn’t space to, to modify to fit how you’re feeling, right? Or to modify your body, or to modify you as a human being, then that might also be a sign, you know, to, to try to find another space.

[18:14] So, yoga absolutely is for you, it absolutely is for everyone. And because we have so many kinds of teachers out there, so many lineages, so many styles of yoga, it’s a pretty good thing, I think, to shop around a little bit. If you’re wondering, you know, “where should I go for my first ever yoga class?” In corona times, practicing in a studio might be more challenging, but if you have the ability to be in a studio, if it’s a safe area for you to go, and looking around to see if there is a local studio in your area that you can support.

[18:46] Local studios right now, brick and mortar studios right now, need support more than ever. And if you have a couple of different studios in your area, maybe trying them all out. A lot of studios offer a first class, like first time at the studio very discounted. You can also probably do like a little beginner, some studios do, you know a three, or a five, or a ten class card where you just try, try different teachers out before you commit to something like a yearly or a monthly, which you really don’t have to do. You can drop in, try a studio here, and then drop in and try a studio somewhere else.

[19:19] If you can’t go to a physical studio right now, the options for you to practice online are limitless. Literally limitless, there’s so much to choose from. Of course, I’m going to go ahead and say that the best platform in the world, online, is yogagirl.com. Our focus really is accessible classes for everyone, with a really diverse group of teachers, and people that are just in a very, very heartfelt way guiding the practice in a way that allows everyone to feel welcomed onto the mat.

[19:50] But if yogagirl.com isn’t where you’re at right now, you know you can find free classes on YouTube, you can Google your way to different kinds of classes, there are so much, there’s so, so, so much. And to take your first class, you don’t really need anything. You don’t need fancy yoga pants, you need even a yoga mat. But to take your first ever classes before you go and invest in equipment and things like that that you think you need, finding a teacher that you resonate with, you know? That really is, eventually, the most important thing. Finding a teacher that you can listen to with ease, that helps you calm your mind, that makes you feel invited, and allows you to modify poses in a way that really fits you, your body, that day. Like that, for me, is a great teacher.

[20:35] Teachers I have loved the most in my own life have always been people that I, that I can sort of envision going for a cup of tea with, you know? Someone that I could actually have a conversation with, that I resonate on a level that’s, that’s not just teacher-student, not just in the studio, telling me what to do on the mat, but someone whose values align with my own, right? Because that’s when I’m going to be really open to their teaching, I’m going to be able to really relax into myself in that class, right?

[21:02] So, we are all uniquely different, so finding that teacher that really resonates with you. And then just knowing that of course, there’s people teaching out there of every kind of heritage, of every kind of lineage, from different cultures, different ethnicities, so if you have the option right now to practice right now with someone who is non-white, then take that option, right? Just so that we can start to really shift that view of, “oh, everyone who teaches is, is a white, skinny woman.”

[21:31] And at yogagirl.com, we are really, and we’re, we’re, we’re becoming more and more diverse every single day as we invite new teachers onto the platform. But that’s where our focus has been over the past two years, is to have the most diverse group of teachers that we could possibly create. So if you don’t know where to begin, that’s a good place to start, or just finding that local place in your area where you feel at home, where you feel welcome, right?

[21:55] And then in terms of what actually unfolds when you’re on the mat — and this is the beautiful thing about this practice is that we are never finished, right? That’s why it’s called a practice, it’s something we’re going to return to again and again and again. And there is no such thing as perfecting a pose. No such thing as a perfect pose, no such thing, at least for me, in my book, as “here is what a shape has to be.” I have been in classes with teachers who have, you know, manipulated my body to try to force me into a shape that they deem is the right shape.

[22:30] Where actually, I think that approach is absolutely ridiculous, right? We all have completely different bodies with completely different histories and backgrounds in terms of injury, and pain, and movement patterns, and there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all when it comes to the yoga postures. So, every single pose has room to adapt. Every single shape should have room for modifications and variations so that you should be able to find your way into every single pose, a variation of every single pose that makes sense for you on your journey.

[23:05] And this, of course, applies not only to people who are beginning in this practice, but to us all, forever, right? Even if you call yourself an advanced yoga practitioner — which I think the idea of advanced is also a little arbitrary and, and not, not a hundred percent what we think it is. If you think that, you know, “I’m very advanced in my practice, I’ve practiced for a long time, there’s so much like this that I can do,” right? The idea of “doing” yoga, or “being good at yoga” I think is, is very contrasting. You’re still going to have days when you don’t feel great, right? You’re still going to have days where maybe you have pain somewhere, where maybe you injure yourself, or you don’t feel the same way you did yesterday.

[23:42] So every single shape that you find your way to on the mat should have space for you to interpret, “how do I adapt this pose to fit my body right now?” And that’s for me a sign that maybe a teacher, I’m not going to return to, is someone who tells me, “here’s what it is,” right? “It has to be this way.” I just, I just approach this practice in a totally different way. And that’s also how we allowed everyone to feel welcomed in the room, right? Is to make sure that everyone feels like, “I can keep up in this class, I can do these poses, but I also have space to do them my way,” right? So, feel free to adapt as much as you need to, and make sure you find your way to a teacher that actually teaches in that way that feels accessible to you, too.

[24:27 — Commercial Break]

[25:54] Someone is asking, “when in the day should I be practicing yoga? Is there a day, you know, or time of the day that’s, that’s better than others?” So traditionally, yoga is practiced first thing in the morning, Traditionally, it’s supposed to happen before breakfast, and I say traditionally with little air quotes, after you’ve peed, and emptied your bowels, you’re beginning in a, in a, in a pure, clean, [laughs] you know, ready to go place. That’s not how, how, how most of our days sort of play out, right? So I think the best time of day is when you can make space for your practice. That’s it.

[26:28] Now if you have to complete freedom and option to choose, I think in the morning is a really good time, because, you know, we spoke about this on last week’s show, how you start your day sets the tone for the rest of it, right? So there’s something being said about rising with the sun, and practicing first thing in the morning because it feels really good, but it’s not an accessible thing for everyone, and if you want to do an hour practice, maybe you don’t have that kind of time in the morning, so whenever you have space for your practice, that’s when you should practice.

[26:57] I think for me, if I, if I want to do a very vigorous practice, I would rather do it in the morning. In terms of the rhythm of the day, you know, the more dynamic kind of vinyasa style practices, where we are activating the body, and sweating, and, you know, getting energized waking up, should happen a little earlier in the day. If I would practice a really intense vinyasa class, you know, at eight p.m. or something like that, I would have a hard time winding down and falling asleep, which is why traditionally, we would practice more yin-based practices, or more restorative, calmer types of prac…of, of yoga at the end of the day to get ourselves ready for sleep.

[27:34] But everyone’s a little bit different there, like my husband, for instance, he’s one of those people who will, if he does any kind of exercise after five or six p.m., after six p.m., he won’t sleep at all. And I have certain things I can do, you know, if I do something around six o’clock, I can still go to bed and have a good night’s sleep, but everyone is a little bit different there. Some people get totally ready for bed after having moved their body, so whenever it works for you, you know? And you’re a busy person, you have a job, maybe you have kids, you have stuff to do in your day, so making space for your practice at some point in the day when it works out for you.

[28:09] And something that I always recommend is getting onto your mat every single day, even if it’s just for five minutes. There’s something to be said about routine, and about ritual. Also something we talked about last week that, you know, doing something at the same time of the day, and in the same place of your house every single day, creates a sense of ritual and habit that makes it so much easier to do the thing that you know makes you feel good. So if you’re kind of all over the place with your practice, and some days it’s a Monday, and other days it’s a Wednesday, and the some days it’s morning, some days it’s night time, for some people maybe that works, but I really believe in routine.

[28:52] So rolling out your mat at the same time every single day, and maybe deciding, you know, “I’m going to do 15 minutes of yoga every day, rather than taking that one hour class once a week.” I think the benefits are greater having a shorter practice every single day, because you are going to arrive at that sense of routine. And all of a sudden, you might find yourself in a day where your 15 minutes are up, but you still feel like “man, I, I, I want to keep going a little bit.” Or, “actually, I feel so good, maybe I’ll do 30 minutes today.” And then maybe next week, you’re doing 45, and then before you know it, you have more of a juicier kind of practice, but it’s actually happening every single day.

[29:32] So, if you can choose a little bit every day versus a lot once a day, once a week or once every two weeks or something like that, just to get into the routine of it. And then, what should our practice look like? That was a, I got a few questions like that, like “what really constitutes like a good, perfect yoga practice?” So, no such thing as what is a, what is a perfect practice for everybody. I think a great way to start your practice every single day is just rolling out your mat, if you’re using props, gathering your props, I’ll get into props in a, in a moment, and then first thing, just closing your eyes, placing your hands to your body, and checking in with how you are doing, right?

[30:13] So that every day, you actually give yourself this opportunity to gently adapt and modify either what you’re doing that day, or maybe you’re doing the same things every day, because a lot of people do that, that you find certain poses or certain sequences that you love, and you do that same thing every day, that’s totally cool, but that you adapt how you approach your practice every day, depending on what you need, right? So certain days, say me yesterday, waking up at five, had a great night’s sleep, felt super energized, ready to go, you know, an hour spent on my mat with tons of Sun Salutations, and intense sequences, and maybe I’m upside down at some point, you know, I’m activating my body, because I really feel like that’s beneficial for me right now.

[30:58] Whereas today, where I slept probably an hour, 45 minutes total the whole night, that kind of practice first thing in the morning is just not what I need today, right? But what I need is something really slow, something nourishing, something soft, you know, a way for me to just catch my breath for a moment, and dive into my body, and into feeling. So not necessarily that kind of dynamic, active practice. So if you can approach your practice every day, or however many times, you know, however many times a week you’re coming to your practice, just to fit you so that the habit that you form is not necessarily just the habit of asana, or the habit of yoga, but the habit that you form is the habit of meeting your own needs, using yoga as a tool to do that.

[31:46] Now, a, a beautiful area of our practice that I always like to, like to, that I love taking about is, of course, our home practice. And it’s funny now, in COVID times, I think most of our practice has become a home practice. But traditionally, when we talk about our home practice, that’s the self-led practice that we do on our own. So without being guided by a teacher, without a teacher telling us, “here’s what to do, and how, and when,” right? So our home practice is the self-led practice where we roll out our mat, and we step onto our mat, and we move on our own.

[32:16] Of course, a home practice, these days, feels more like the practice that you’re doing at home, but now you also have the option of practicing at home with teachers online, right? Maybe you’re practicing on Zoom, or, you know, all those options that you have right now. So just know that there’s a difference between your home practice and your practice at home, right? So if you feel right now that ooo, you’re kind of new to this practice, you feel a little all over the place, maybe you’re stepping on your mat and you don’t really know what to do, or you feel overwhelmed, “there are so many options, how would I choose where to go?” Then a guided practice, I think, is a really, really great choice, just where you have someone guiding you along the way, right?

[32:57] So, there’s no such thing as a, as a home practice that’s self-led better than a guided one, they’re just totally different experiences, right? And I think we need a bit more experience before we’re able to take what we have learned in the guided practice so that we can apply it in our home practice, self-led just by us, right? It takes, it take awhile, I think. For me, probably, I don’t know, probably a good one or two years of being guided in my practice before I felt really comfortable that I could roll out my mat and have a whole, you know, what essentially felt like a complete practice on my own, right?

[33:35] So, don’t worry about, you know, this idea that, that you have be all alone and you have to know what to do, no, find a teacher that you really resonate with, and then enjoy being guided into different directions every time you come to the mat. If you want to cultivate that self-led practice, a really good place to start, and this is how I approach my, my own practice, and also how I, how I approach teaching yoga, is to progressively work your way through the different stages of your practice, right?

[34:04] So let me give a really clear example of this: I’ll come to my mat in the morning, traditionally in our practice, we don’t have huge progressions, or leap between stages of our practice, right? But we have consecutive orders to things to prepare the body in the right way. So we’re rarely lying on our backs and then we jump up to stand, you know, how you might in like a, I don’t know, in some exercise or fitness class, right? But so traditionally, I would come from lying down, I like to do something on my back, right? Maybe beginning my practice there.

[34:35] You can also begin seated, or beginning in a, in a way that, that intuitively feels good to you, but I like to begin on my back, do something reclined, because I’m there already, right? I do my breathing in the, in the beginning, and then some shapes on my back, and then from there, I’ll transition into the next level or stage of my practice, which will be something seated, right? And then I’ll do something in a seated position, maybe a few poses that come intuitively to me there. And then the next progression would be coming to Quadruped, or Tabletop position, and I’ll do a few shapes there that make sense.

[35:08] From there, transitioning into a Downward Dog, and then from my Downward Dog, maybe finding some standing postures, or lunges, or something that makes sense to me in that place. And eventually, I progress to a standing position, right? I’m not lying on my back and then jumping up to stand, but I get there one step at a time. And once I’m standing, you know, I’ll, I’ll find my Sun Salutation, which is a great, great sequence to learn if you want to have a self-led practice. Just so that you know them well, that you feel well-aligned in those poses, because the surya namaskar A and B both are just really well-rounded sequences that heat the body in a really great way, and you can modify each pose to really fit where you are that day, or decide on a modification that feels good for you, you know, this year, like “here is what this practice is for me right now.”

[35:57] And then from there, you know, there will usually be a peak, depending on how long you’re practicing, where you have built the maximum heat that you’re building in your practice that day, and then you start to work your way back down, right? So maybe you’re in standing, and you find your way through some standing postures, and then eventually down to a Downward Facing Dog again. And then from there, into your Tabletop again, and then from there, maybe to a seat, and then from there eventually reclining, right? And then ending in shavasana in a reclined space at the very end of your practice.

[36:28] So, if you can cover each of those stages, even if it’s just one or two poses that you do in each one, I think that’s a really good way to begin a self-led practice. It doesn’t have to be a whole hour, because that’s really overwhelming in the beginning when we want to guide ourselves, right? But just so that you have that idea of a progression of a class.

[36:49] I really, really love coming to my mat, and just intuitively feeling into the body, and asking myself, “what do I need today?” And that can be a daunting thing if we don't know what we need, right? But it's a really good practice, because we start entering communication with ourselves. Oftentimes, we're looking outside of ourselves, and we're looking to the teacher, you know, “what are you going to give me today?” We’re looking to all of life, like “what are you going to provide me, me with today? What's happening, you know, and how do I adapt to that?” Versus looking within and asking ourselves, like, “what do I actually need?”

[37:27] And if when you do that as a practice, you don’t know, the answer is, “I have no clue, how would I know what my needs are?” That means that you need it, right? You need to come back to that practice of being in communication with yourself so that you get to know yourself enough so you're able to meet those needs, all throughout the day. It’s really hard for other people to meet our needs if we don’t know what our needs actually are. And they’re going to shift all the time.

[37:53] So starting a self-led practice is a great way to begin that communication with yourself, and to get to know yourself on a really intimate level. Physically, in your body, you know what feels good, what doesn't feel good? Where do I feel strong? Where do I feel weak? Where do I carry tension? Where do I have space? It's such a beautiful way to get to know your body, and also getting to know your heart, you know? Every day that you come to the mat, you're going to have a different emotional experience, and these different kinds of poses that you're practicing are going to trigger different emotional responses inside of you as well.

[38:30] So, it’s like every time you roll out the mat can be this amazing opportunity to come back home to yourself. And that’s when the practice starts to get really interesting, you know? When it's not just about the body anymore, it’s not just about becoming flexible, or learning how to do a handstand, or nailing a pose, or whatever ideas the mind might have about why we're on the mat, but when we actually start to get to know ourselves and become really present and aware of our responses as we move.

[39:03 — Commercial Break]

[40:36] Someone asked a, a question that I really want to tap into, so this is a, the question was, “does the breathing actually help with the stretching, or does it just make you more calm?” So, couple of, couple of things I wanna, I wanna address right there. So, yoga is not stretching, right? So there are shapes that we find on the mat that absolutely stretch the body, that can increase and enhance our flexibility, and you know, that will feel like a stretch, but yoga is about union, you know? It’s really about cultivating awareness in the present moment, and increasing our sensitivity to everything that comes our way.

[41:15] So it’s arriving at that place of, of awareness on the mat, and the way of awareness is through the breath. So if we didn’t have our breath as a central anchor in our practice, we wouldn’t really be practicing yoga. Now I’m not saying, you know, you have to have some sort of advanced ability to practice pranayama, or the breath work that we do in class to, to say that you’re practicing yoga, you know, everything you’re doing on the mat, for sure, with intention, it’s yoga, but the breath should always be our central component of the practice. The breath is our life force, it’s really the beginning and end of this practice, when we’re on the mat moving our bodies.

[41:55] Without the breath, we can’t access that deeper place inside of ourselves, that whole thing I just shared about getting to know ourselves, it happens through the doorway of the breath. So, breathing and anchoring into the breath, and finding awareness through the breath, absolutely helps to calm the mind. But it’s also what keeps our presence throughout the practice.

[42:18] I love to, to share, when, when I’m teaching that sometimes, you know, if we get really caught up in the poses, we find ourselves modifying or compromising the breath on behalf of trying to get, you know, deeper into a pose, or maybe we picked up pace so much that we have a hard time catching or breath all of a sudden. And that’s a cue to shift something, so that actually, we adapt the poses to the breath, instead of adapting the breath to the pose. Does that make sense? So the breath can be that guiding light all throughout the practice.

[42:52] And a really good sign that we have gone too deeply into a pose, or that we’ve become totally lost in the thought, or maybe, you know, we’re there on the mat moving, but actually, in our minds, we’ve left the room, we’ve checked out, is that we lose focus on the breath, right? Or we lose the depth and the presence around the breath. So it’s that little, that little signal, that little nudge of, you know, “am I really here, now?” And, so the breath kind of works both ways in terms of we can anchor into the breath, and it helps keep us, keep our presence in the here and now, and then we can also notice that when we lose the awareness of the breath, it’s like that little loving reminder to bring the awareness back, right?

[43:35] The breath is a really amazing tool when it comes to practicing present-moment awareness, which is essentially what we’re, what we’re looking for in this practice all the time. So if you’ve been practicing yoga for awhile, or with a teacher that doesn’t guide breath, then definitely start looking for someone who does, and who makes the breath a central part of the practice.

[43:57] Now it’s doesn’t matter, doesn’t mean that every moment of the practice, you’re going to be immersed in some complicated type of breathing, right? But in a vinyasa-style practice, the breath leads the way, right? So with every inhale, usually we use postures to mimic or allow, allow the space and the movement of that inhale. So an inhale is usually reflected by an elongation of something in the body, maybe a rising up, or our arms lifting up to the sky, you know, which also physically increases the space that we have within the lungs, so that we can breathe deeper, right? It mimics that expansion, that opening, that rising.

[44:36] And the when we exhale, the postures are the opposite, right? So it’s usually a folding forward, a contraction, maybe a stepping back, something that actually allows us to press and release that breath out of the lungs. So, if you ever get lost in your practice, or wondering which breath is for which shape, that’s a really good place to begin, just to remember that inhales are reflected by expansion and an opening, and exhales, not always, but usually, are reflected by a contraction or a closing in of some, of some kind.

[45:07] Now, as we start off with this practice, is that what our practice is going to be? No, you know. Oftentimes, if we can just keep our awareness on the breath, and try to keep the breath steady and slow and connected, you know, that’s it, that’s great, that’s wonderful. Because it’s really, really, really a challenging thing in the beginning of our practice to even keep the awareness on the breath, we’ll realize how busy our minds are. And there’s lots to think about, I think, in the beginning of our practice as well.

[45:35] We’re trying to figure out, you know, what are these poses? What are these words? Where am I supposed to put my hand and, and when? There’s a lot of logistical stuff that happens in the body, and of course, coordination, and listening, and, you know, we’re, we’re picking up so many new things that we’re learning in the practice in the very beginning. So it’s absolutely okay if the breath piece falls into place a little bit later. But for me, a sign of a, of an experienced teacher, or a good class is that it has a central focus on the breath.

[46:07 — Commercial Break]

[47:24] Some beautiful questions that came in that I, that I love to, to, to, to dive a little bit deeper into, I wish we had a, wish we had a little more time for this show, but of course, so like I said in the beginning of this, of this episode, you know, what we know as yoga in this part of the world, what’s been really popularized as yoga prac…the yoga practice is really just one of the eight limbs. So if you’re starting to feel — and this will inevitably happen, you know, the longer you practice, especially if you have a teacher that guides you in that direction, that you start to get interested in, you know, “what is the, the roots of this practice? What is the philosophy behind this practice? What are the other limbs about? How does this connect,” you know? That, that little nudge of just wanting to explore and go deeper than just the body.

[48:11] So, if you’ve been practicing for many, many, many years, and you’re in that place of, “it’s body, it’s my physical practice and that’s it,” you know, however you’re practicing, that’s wonderful, but maybe this show right now could be a little nudge to start opening up to the deeper points and parts of the practice. We are in a place right now where I’m going to go ahead and say that the most important part of our practice right now should be honoring the roots of yoga. We’ve seen such a saturated world right now; the yoga industry is so, so, so full of people who don’t actually adhere to the original South Asian culture of yoga.

[48:56] I just recently learned that actually, it’s, it’s more inclusive to say that yoga is a South Asian practice; of course we know it’s an Indian practice, but many people actually have the practice of yoga as part of the roots and heritage that don’t identify necessarily as Indian. So, it’s very much a South Asian practice, and so many of us learned these practices, or are learning right now from teachers that aren’t from the South Asian culture, that actually don’t have yoga as part of their heritage, as part of their ancestry, as part of their cultural roots.

[49:30] So it’s crucial right now that we learn from people who actually come from that place, who actually sit with a heart of this knowing. I have, in my life, so many times, especially as I’ve done this work around diversity, around, around learning about what this practice actually has become, and how whitewashed it’s become in the Western world, not as a, you know, like a terrible thing we should all feel ashamed of all the time, because that’s not helpful, but in, in a sense of how much power we have as practitioners right now in terms of what this is going to look like in the future.

[50:07] So when I’m looking for teachers, if I look for Indian, or South Asian teachers, I’m going to be, I’m going to be a part of the solution versus a continued part of the problem, right? And there are fantastic, amazing teachers out there to go and learn from. So if you feel right now that you have that longing to understand more about the roots of this practice, about how to honor the practice as a student, and as a teacher if you’re teaching, to begin learning this from a non-white teacher. I mean, that’s really the best way to start.

[50:41] And when I started doing this work, I got to a place where I actually felt really cheated, a little bit, in my practice because I learned for so many years, for so, so, so long from white teachers who taught me what they had learned from other white teachers, who taught me what they had learned from other white teachers. So no wonder that along the way, there was a lot of things inside of me that actually didn’t make sense. And I found myself in many, in many ways, in my own teaching, actually teaching in a way that didn’t fully honor the roots of yoga.

[51:12] So, I, just giving this as a little nudge right now, I’m going to have a podcast in a couple of weeks with Susanna Barkataki, I’m so excited for this, I had her on the show awhile ago, where we’re going to dive really deeply in this. We’re going to talk more about cultural appropriation, we’re going to talk about how to carry this practice into the future in a really responsible way, and I’m going to give you guys, of course, a big opportunity to ask deep questions around this, around heritage, and culture, and really the deep ethics of the practice.

[51:43] So stay tuned for that episode, but already right now, you know, reading is a really good way to start. So before we dive deeper into the, the, the big sensitive and super, of course, painful and harmful parts of, of these subjects like cultural appropriation, to learn more about the eight limbs. To pick up a book and learn more about the yamas, about the niyamas, you know, about the ethical parts of the practice, the personal observations that we adhere to in this practice, and just beginning to realize already that for sure, you already resonate with so much of this. It’s already a big part of your life, even if you haven’t gone deeper into the other limbs of the practice.

[52:24] And then noticing where your curiosity is piqued, you know? Where do you feel interested in diving deeper into right now? And of course, continuing to seek out teachers that teach more than asana, if you’re in that place where you feel really ready to learn and dive in. And I think so many of us are, you know? I think we are in a beautiful place in yoga, in the world right now, where we kind of feel like, “hey, it’s outdated, thinking of this practice as a purely physical practice, that’s it,” and we’re also missing out on the most valuable gems of the practice if it begins and ends with the body.

[52:58] And this is a good segue into, into this question that I wanted to cover as well, someone asks, “how do you separate the commercial parts of this practice with the sacred parts of the practice?” So, how I like to, this is a complicated question, I think, but it’s really important that we, that we tap into. So, for me, there’s no part of my actual practice that can become commercialized. If that makes sense. So, my practice that happens alone, you know, in my little, my little house, or wherever I am, all the internal workings that are unfolding inside of me when I’m immersed in practice, or the effects I see from that practice off the mat, is deeply personal, deeply, deeply, deeply sacred. And of course, relates back to, to heritage and culture that’s thousands of years old, right? It’s really something deeply beautiful.

[53:50] However, for a lot of us to get to that place, right? The, the avenue that brings us to the practice often has many touch points of the commercialized industry of yoga along the way. Meaning that, you know, I’m going to a studio and I’m paying money to take a class there, or I’m buying a pair of yoga pants to, to, to feel good in my class, or, you know, finding a yoga mat or, or whatever it is. or as a teacher, of course, charging for yoga. So it’s, it’s, it’s two separate things that are very woven together.

[54:21] And I think the best way to honor the sacredness of this practice is to make sure that when we have those touch points of interacting or engaging with the industry, that we do that in alignment with the ethics of yoga as much as we possibly can, right? Meaning that we’re actually being conscious around how we’re spending our money, that we have some sort of awareness and intent around how we navigate the industry that’s become this, I don’t want to call it an evil, but in many ways it has become, right?

[54:56] It’s, it’s diluting the practice over time, and there’s a lot of harm that comes along with the massive over-commercialization of yoga that I play a part in, you know, I’m sitting here as a yoga teacher, charging for my classes, all of us are involved in that in some, in some shape or form. But I can make sure that as a student, and as a teacher, that the points I have of interacting in the yoga industry, that I do that with as much loving kindness and as much awareness as I possibly can.

[55:26] And this also weaves into another question that I got, which was someone asked, “is yoga political?” And my answer to that is absolutely yes, you know. So that when I’m out there in the yoga industry, or the yoga world, right? Which might mean that I am on social media, or I am out there with my little megaphone talking about the world, or, you know, or teaching a class interacting with students, that I keep the heart of yoga in mind throughout everything I do. So making sure that we live in an equitable, just world absolutely reflects and is in alignment with the heart of the yoga practice.

[56:03] So it’s not just that I’m going to my mat, doing my Down Dog, feeling good, drinking a green juice and then going home, right? But actually, that yoga makes me more sensitive to the injustices of the world, that it opens my heart and actually allows me to see that there is changes that need to happen, and that I have a part in that, that I actually have the power to make an impact in someone’s life, you know? Selfless service, save that that, that that’s a really intricate part of, of, of, for me, one of the most beautiful aspects of, of yoga is knowing that I can actually enhance my experience in this world through this practice, and the experience of other people, that with time, the more Downward Facing Dogs I do, that I don’t become a more egotistical, or more conceited or more arrogant person, but that the more Downward Facing Dogs I practice, I become a kinder version of myself, right?

[57:00] I become more loving, I can see yoga having effects off the mat as well that makes me want to feel like an intricate part of this world, right? That reminds me that I’m not here and separate, it reminds me of the union of the practice, that we are all in this together. And meaning that there’s people over there suffering, right? I can’t close my eyes to that, and then go back to my mat and, and think that that’s not my problem, right? If we are all one, if I’m really anchored into that place where I can sense the oneness of this world, that means that I have a responsibility to use whatever privilege I have to be of service to other people, right? So of course, yoga is political, it has to be. It absolutely has to be.

[57:45] And the good thing about being in this tough, tough spot that we all are in the world right now, with so much happening, you know, politically, and so much happening across the world, you know, we look at the environmental crisis, we look at the immigration crisis, we look at so much racism, and so, so, I mean it’s, it’s too much to even [sighs] sometimes it feels like it’s, it’s too much to even just count on a podcast, like we all know. If, if I feel like the more time I spend practicing yoga, the easier it is for me to not be bothered, then probably what I’m practicing isn’t really yoga, you know? If you’re totally present, and aware, and active and present in your practice, you’re going to feel a softening if your heart, and you’re going to feel a fire in wanting to make a change so that other people have the same privileges as you, right?

[58:37] So this is a, yeah, a, a topic I’m, I’m super fired up about, that yes, yoga is political, and yes, we have an impact that we can make, you know? There’s, there’s power in you right now, listening to these words as well, in being able to take your yoga off the mat. And of course in terms of how, how you interact and engage in this industry, the choices you make along the way: who are you practicing with, who are you learning from, what are you sharing online? So reminding ourselves of the fact that we actually have a lot of power in terms of shaping what the future of the industry looks like. The practice is always going to be the practice, and the more we can really tap into the true roots of the practice, the more beautiful of an experience we are going to have.

[59:25] And that’s something really beautiful to remind ourselves of when we get caught in those big conversations around cultural appropriation, around, you know, anything around racism or injustice, that it’s actually of benefit to everyone, right? It’s not, there’s no losing out, there’s no missing out of any kind, even though these conversations might make, might be making you uncomfortable. It’s going to, it’s going to enhance all of our experience, taking part and borrowing this practice at the end of the day. So hopefully we can all play a small or a big role in, in making this world more, more diverse, more equitable and more just at the end of the day.

[60:07] Okay, I’m going to go into a question that’s a little more specific around asana, because I got a lot about that, but I know I don’t have infinite time, so someone asked, “what’s the most common pose you see people do incorrectly, and how can you remedy that?” So first of all, I don’t think there is such a thing as, as, as incorrect poses. I don’t like the terminology of doing something wrong, or “that is incorrect,” right? Chances are that something that feels amazing to me might not necessarily feel amazing to the other person, and me telling someone else what their experience of a pose should be in their bodies is just flat out wrong.

[60:45] So instead of approaching it as, you know, “oh, I’m doing this the wrong way, or this is not correct,” looking at it from a lens of, “how can I bring myself closer to alignment that is sustainable for me long term?” So, meaning that, that you’re practicing poses that not only feel amazing right now, but that are going to feel amazing 10, 20, 30, 50 years from now as well, right?

[61:14] One of the poses that I think there are a lot of misconceptions around is Downward Facing Dog. I mean, Downward Facing Dog is one of those poses we return to again, and again, and again in this practice, and for many of us, we’ve been told that, “yeah, this is a resting pose.” Have you ever been to a class, and then you do a bunch of hard stuff, and then they say, “okay, we’ll go to Down Dog and rest,” and you’re like, “I’m not resting!” Like, “this is not a resting pose, my shoulders are killing me, back of my legs are burning, wrists, oh, my God.”

[61:41] So Downward Facing Dog, for a lot of people, is not a resting pose. It can become a place of more ease with time, right? With practice. Just as any pose will start to shift and change with time and with practice. So first of all, you know, changing that perception a little bit, that Downward Facing Dog is supposed to be a place of rest, it’s not for so many of us. And, and that, you know, as a teacher is kind of stating, putting an expectation on a pose that might not resonate with the whole class, which actually might feel, make some people feel a little bad about themselves, like, “oh, this is supposed to be a resting pose, it’s not. What does that say about me? Am I doing it wrong? I’m not as good as everybody else,” you know.

[62:24] So, Downward Facing Dog, that’s a big one that I would always love to correct, it doesn’t have to feel easy, or like a place to rest, at all, and then number two, this, this idea of like, “bring your heels to the floor, Down Dog is supposed to look like an upside down V,” not at all. So there’s no “supposed to” in that, in that shape at all. And I actually find that a really easy modification that many of us can make that’s going to make our experience in that pose so much more enjoyable long term, is to get away from the idea that our heels have to touch the floor in the first place; they don’t.

[62:59] Maybe your heels touch the ground; great. Maybe they don’t touch the ground; great. Equally great. It’s still Downward Facing Dog, it’s not a less advanced version of the pose, it’s the same shape. And actually, bending our knees in the pose is such a beautiful modification to make. This is probably the, the modification that I guide people into the most, that I actually see make a really big, lasting, longterm effect in their own physical practice, is to move away from the idea that Downward Facing Dog is a great place to stretch, or create flexibility in the hamstrings and the back of the legs, and actually start to, to approach it in a different way, where we bend our knees a little or a lot, lift your heels off the floor, and then see if you can try to press the belly towards the tops of the thighs, so you really focus on elongating the spine as much as you can, even creating just a tiny bit of a lift around your center, so around your core.

[64:00] So instead of pressing into the armpits, or hanging into the shoulders, which causes a lot of people a lot of pain, especially if you’re hyper-mobile, or really, really flexible, that kind of Down Dog where you press into the shoulders, it’s not really a happy, sustainable place for your shoulders to be. But so softening there a little bit, getting away from that pressing or pushing action in Downward Facing Dog, softening or bending the knees, and instead, focussing on, “how can I create more space and ease in this shape,” right?

[64:31] So, bend the knees, you know? Bend your knees, please. It’s a really, really good place, especially if the back of your legs are super, super tight, if you have tight hamstrings and you try to press your heels down to the floor in your Down Dog just to get more, more, more sensation in the back of the legs, what you actually start to stretch isn’t the back of the legs and the hamstrings, but actually your lower back. And it can really implicate the SI joint, you can actually get a lot of pain that way, so instead of focussing on hamstring flexibility in Down Dog, bend the knees, focus on lengthening the spine, and then come to Reclined Big Toe pose, supta padangusthasana, lying on the floor with a strap around your foot, you know, stretching just one leg at a time, that’s a really good place to do that instead.

[65:20] I, I love talking about this stuff, this could be a three hour podcast, as you guys know, it’s not, not by chance that I’m [laughs] that I do this for a living, but with any pose, especially if it’s a pose you struggle with, or a pose that you do repeatedly and it never feels like it makes sense, or it never feels good, or you feel like you can never settle in the pose. Not every pose is going to feel good all the time, I mean we know that; sort of the point of yoga is to seek out the parts in the body where we feel discomfort, where there is tightness, where there’s tension, where there’s pain, right? Noticing that, “where am I really, really tense? Where am I holding a lot of stagnation, or a lot of tightness and energy?” And then allowing yourself to linger there anyway, you know?

[66:09] That’s really the practice, to allow for that discomfort, to feel the experience of that moment, even when it’s challenging, even when it’s not all rainbows and butterflies, and, you know, that’s what the practice is about. So of course, when you encounter challenging and uncomfortable places in your day-to-day life, off the mat, you know what it’s like to hang out there. You don’t have to run away, or escape, you know, or retract, or react, but you can take a breath, you know? And having those moments where you realize like, “oh, something I learned on the mat, I’m applying now in this challenging situation in my life,” like that’s a beautiful “aha” moment to have.

[66:50] Okay, I’m going to take a couple more questions. Someone asks, “when will yoga help me feel less anxious? I’ve been practicing for years.” Oh, honey. So this is a really important thing, and something really important that I think there should be like a blanket statement, you know, yoga is not a fix for all of your problems. Yoga is not a substitute for medication. Yoga is not going to save your entire life. It might, you know, and it has for a lot of people, it’s been an amazing tool, it is a beautiful healing tool that can help you along with the other practices that you’re doing for your mental health and your well-being.

[67:34] But if you ever encounter a yoga teacher that tells you to trade your anti-depressants for Downward Facing Dog, you run as fast as you can the other direction, okay? You don’t take medical advice [laughs] from a yoga teacher, yoga teachers are not doctors or psychologists, they’re just yoga teachers, right? So, yoga can be such a beautiful addition, and a complement to everything else that you’re doing for your healing, right? To help with your anxiety, to help with your depression, to help with all the challenging things that we are feeling in this world. But, it’s not a substitution, or a quick fix for all of those things, it’s not.

[68:11] And that’s also a misconception, I think, that we see a lot around, you know, especially around social media, you know, “I practice yoga, so I don’t need anything else,” like, “yoga saved my life, yoga fixed my life.” It’s not going to be true for most people. I’m sure it is for some; I’ve had those years of my life where I really felt like, “man, yoga saved my life.” But when I look at that, it’s like, “yeah, yoga, yoga helped save my life, but actually it was my husband, you know, my friends, my family, therapy, all the other things and resources that I’m privileged to have in my life along with yoga, yeah, helped, helped me get through that time, right?

[68:51] But its not just yoga, for me, it’s never been just yoga. So it is okay [laughs] to invite all the practices that help you and do them all at the same time, right? Who says that you can’t be on medication if that’s helpful for you at this point in your life and also meditate? And also roll out your mat when you feel like that. And also have nights on the couch where you’re watching Netflix, doing everything but yoga, you know? It’s like you’re doing the best you can, and it’s okay to be more things than one.

[69:22] To be a, quote, unquote, you know, yogi, or yogini, or yoga practitioner, you don’t have to live in a certain way, right, to fit into this, to this kind of, to fit into this kind of practice. You don’t have to be a specific kind of person, you don’t have to be zen; actually, you know, I found my way to this practice because I am everything but zen. If you’ve, if you listen to this podcast, you know that I am fairly high strung, controlling, anxious, really pretty traumatized human being, right? Doesn’t know how to stop, just, you know, burns out, crazy intense person. Yoga helped me counter all of those things, right? If I didn’t have yoga and meditation, who knows where I would be right now? And I’d probably wouldn’t have found my way to the yoga practice if it wasn’t for all of those things, right? So it’s also like, how cool that I had such a hard time growing up, and that I, that I felt so terrible about my whole life, because it led me to all of these resources that now, together, make a beautiful life.

[70:30] So if you’ve been practicing yoga for years, and you’re wondering, “why am I still anxious,” well it’s probably because yoga isn’t a one-all, fix-all type of thing. So expand into other areas, right? And sometimes we need to ask for a little more help than the kind of help we’re receiving right now. In terms of anxiety, for me the number one thing that has helped has been to talk about it with someone who knows what they’re doing. So not a yoga teacher, but a therapist, a psychologist, psychiatrist, whatever you have around, a counsellor, you know? And if you don’t have the, the means or the ability to do that, to talk to a friend, you know, that we actually share what’s happening inside of us so that we’re not in the experience feeling all alone.

[71:15] Okay, we got a lot of questions about how to get back into your practice when you’re feeling really unmotivated. And this is a great, great, great thing, so the first thing that I want to remind you of is that life is cyclical, right? This is really important to remember, because I think as human beings, we want things to stay the same, right? And we’ve also been told that we’re supposed to feel great all the time, we’re supposed to feel fine all the time, be happy all the time, and then when we don’t, suddenly we feel like something’s wrong, right?

[71:43] Or when you’re in a really good flow of some kind, you’re doing something, and maybe you’re practicing yoga every day, or working out every day, or eating a certain way every day, and you’re like, “ooh, look at me, how healthy I am,” and all of a sudden, you, quote, unquote, lose it, right? You just, you stop practicing for some reason, or you start eating more unhealthily, or you stop moving your body, and then you beat yourself up, and you go, “oh, my God, I’m the worst person, I should be keeping up with all of these things every day and I can’t, something’s wrong with me.” Life is cyclical, and we are cyclical human beings. So, it’s okay that we move in phases as well.

[72:20] You’re going to have times in your life where it’s super, super easy to get on the mat, where you’re just in that kind of flow, you know? Maybe it’s the moon, it’s astrology, it’s the stars, it’s the general vibration of your community, of your family, you know, there’s so many components. Maybe it’s hormonal, maybe it’s really physical, physiological, what’s happening inside of you, you know, there’s a thousand components that play a part in how you feel at the end of the day. And when all of a sudden, you feel unmotivated, or you start to feel slow, or you start to feel tired and just, “I don’t know,” you know, to first of all, bring some kindness to yourself, into that place.

[73:01] You’re not a terrible person because you’re missing your yoga practice, you’re not the worst human being in the world because suddenly you’re eating more unhealthy that you did last week. You don’t suck because you didn’t move your body as much this week, you know. We add a layer of really harsh judgement and guilt on top of ourselves when we go through cycles that we have deemed, or that society has deemed, “not great,” right, where actually, maybe you’re just in a resting phase. Maybe you’re just in a phase where you’re taking things a little bit easier right now.

[73:34] Perhaps what your body wants out of you isn’t that 90 minute ashtanga or vinyasa practice, but your body wants like 15 minutes of just Pigeon pose, and then Child’s pose, and then shavasana and you’re done. You know, maybe you want to lie with your legs up the wall and just take a breath and cry because your kids were yelling all day and you don’t know what to do with yourself. Maybe right now you want a friend to join you for your practice because you’re not feeling, like it’s not fun anymore, you know, there’s so many different things that play a role.

[74:03] So first of all, remind yourself that everything is cyclical, and just because you were in a good flow and now you’re out of it doesn’t mean that you won’t find your way back; absolutely you will find your way back. And then, the other way to go about it is just to ask yourself, you know, “am I practicing, or was I practicing in a way that really sustains me? Maybe there’s something around, around what I actually need in this cycle that has shifted now.” You know, for the past month, it was like “go, go, go, sweat, sweat, sweat,” this kind of practice felt amazing, and now, it’s harder for you to get to the mat because you need something different, right?

[74:40] Maybe you don’t need that same kind of intensity of practice, that same kind of style of practice, or that continuity of practice, maybe you’re in a cycle now where there’s a different kind of need inside of you, right? And that’s what moved you into a different cycle, so then adapting to that. And then I think reminding ourselves that yoga doesn’t have to be the only thing. I am in a huge dancing phase right now, where I will have two weeks of practicing very little, actually; I’m in meditation every day, and I’m in, I’m in practice in different ways, but when it comes to asana, maybe I’m spending 15, 20 minutes? And sometimes I spend an hour and a half, you know, and then it’s easy for me to judge myself, “oh I only spent 15 minutes, did I really even do my yoga today?” And it’s like, I am in so many different ways. I’m dancing. I’m in my body here, feeling absolute union with myself, with this world, with my breath, through dance, right? So it’s okay if it’s not always the same thing.

[75:41] Now, if you feel like you’re in a slump, and you really want to find your way back to the practice, my number one piece of advice is get a yoga buddy. It’s just the best thing. Even if you’re not with someone right now, physically, but you’re in a different part of the world, or you can’t practice together is that you set dates and times, the way you would going to a studio with a friend, but you do that practice together, online, right? So it’s like, “Tuesdays at ten a.m. or whenever it is, five p.m. I’m practicing with this friend of mine,” you set that time and you do it together so you can motivate each other.

[76:15] That’s, there’s nothing that works as well, I think, as, as motivation from another person. or for me, actually, it’s the commitment, like I will never bail on someone if I say I’m going to be there. So if I make the commitment to them, I am much more likely to uphold it than I am making that same commitment to myself. So get a yoga buddy, decide to like, if you’re practicing on yogagirl.com, say “hey, Monday, Wednesday, Friday this week, we’re going to take this class, with this teacher, at this time.”

[76:41] And you have it in your calendar, you guys have decided you’re going to be there together, maybe you have a group of friends, you guys can practice together online, right? You can FaceTime each other while you do it, I do that with friends all the time, I love it because it makes you feel like you’re there together, but you’re far apart, just so you have someone else to help motivate you when things are a little bit challenging.

[77:02] And then the second thing I would say is to just come back to that idea of routine. Not so much what it has to look like, how long it has to be, but that you step on your mat every single day, and that you’re okay if it’s just one pose, right? You spend a minute on that mat today, it’s okay, you know. It’s okay if it’s super short, it’s okay if it’s barely nothing, but at least you stepped on the mat, so you keep that habit there. Meaning that when you feel a little more energized, or a little more motivated, that you come back and then maybe one minute becomes ten, or five, you know, and then suddenly it becomes 20.

[77:39] I can’t remember which book this is from, it’s, oh, God, I have it on the tip of my tongue, but around motivation, and oftentimes that when we’re feeling unmotivated, we stop doing what we’re doing and we wait for motivation to arrive, right? Where actually, oftentimes, action leads to motivation instead of the other way around. So we’re waiting, sitting on our butts, like, “oh, soon I’ll feel motivated to go back to my yoga practice, soon I’ll feel motivated to roll out my mat, soon it will arrive.”

[78:09] And it doesn’t really happen, and we’re like, “okay, I guess yoga wasn’t for me this year,” you know. Where actually, action will lead to more motivation. So sometimes, even when we feel unmotivated, to just go and do that thing, you know? Just go roll out your mat, just take one class. And then all of a sudden, when you’ve done that couple days in a row, or a couple times that week, you realize, “hey, my motivation came back,” you know. So reminding yourself that action can make you motivated, that you don’t have to always sit around and wait for motivation to just arrive.

[78:39] That’s a good little note about energy, I think, you know. We put ourselves into energy and all of a sudden, energy is there, and it propels us forward, like that, that’s a really beautiful way to get to the practice. Alright, I, I am so excited about this episode, you guys, if you want to join, I know, I, I don’t think I’m supposed to say this week, but we have an online retreat coming to yogagirl.com, it’s an at-home retreat. It’s my first ever at-home retreat, I’m kind of freaking out about it. We have, like upgraded and designed the whole site to, to have these amazing features coming your way; so it’s going to be yoga twice a day, I’m going to do live sessions with intention settings and card readings every single day, and we have a ton of journalling and gratitude practices, and some really cool meditations that I know a lot of you guys have been waiting for, including some, some radical ones.

[79:34] So if you’re feeling unmotivated, or you’ve been in a slump, or like, you know, or you’re just interested and intrigued, like, “I want to get to the practice,” this retreat might just be the thing that gets you there. So, if you’re excited stay tuned on yogagirl.com, it’s going to be yogagirl.com/retreat.

[79:50] Now, if you get to the mat at some point today, I hope you do it with a lot of love, with a lot of kindness toward yourself, and with a feeling of connection with the rest of the world, just reminding yourself that you’re a hugely important part in this world, and the actions that you take every day make an impact on the world around you, the same as the world around you is going to make an impact on how you feel inside of you. So, come back to this practice as much as you can, and do it with a lot of compassion.

[80:24] Thank you so, so much for tuning in today, we will have more episodes around this for sure, I think we’re going to have a few even more niched ones getting in, because there’s, I had so many questions there’s no way I could cover them all, so. What a big surprise that the Yoga Girl community’s super into yoga. [Laughs] I love you so much, thank you so much for tuning in, and I’ll see you next week.

[80:48 — End of Episode]