7 Effective Ways to Restore Emotional Balance

7 Effective Ways to Restore Emotional Balance

To be human means to be emotional. We’re wired to seek what gives us positive emotions and avoid anything that triggers negative emotions.

The reality is that no human can avoid negative emotion indefinitely. All humans will experience negative emotions throughout their lives, no matter how lucky, privileged, or successful a person might seem.

While you can’t necessarily eliminate all past, current, and future experiences of negative emotion from your life, you can at least learn to free yourself from it by using healthy techniques to bring balance back to your emotional state. So next time life throws you a curve ball, try these tips.

1. Take a Step Back Before You React

When something goes wrong, most people react to it immediately. Reacting, however, enables your negative emotions and thoughts to feed off of each other, essentially driving you to make poorly decided actions that could potentially make things worse. It takes a lot of practice to mindfully take a step back in the eye of a storm, but it’s the only way to avoid getting sucked deeper into negativity. Having a daily mindfulness practice can help.

2. Breathe Through the Discomfort

When negative emotions sweep you up into the vortex of thought, you can ground yourself simply by paying attention to your breath. In fact, this is a great thing to do instead of reacting immediately to a negative event or experience. Take a moment—even if it’s just a few seconds—to tune into your breath before deciding what to do next.

3. Allow Yourself to Observe and Feel

Reality doesn't exactly make it convenient at any given time for you to tune into your emotions for as long as you need to, but you can always make time later to reflect on what happened and let yourself feel everything you need to feel. Unfortunately for most people, they often choose to simply suppress it and avoid acknowledging it again. But what you resist will continue to persist, so make time to meditate on what you’re feeling and release that negative energy.

4. Ask Yourself What You Can Learn

There is at least one lesson (but possibly several) to be learnt in every negative experience. Your emotions often pull you away from seeing the lesson, which is often what most people fall victim to when their emotions are fresh. Over time, however, awareness sets in and a lesson is learned. You can speed up this process by consciously deciding to look for the lesson sooner rather than later, which will naturally help you see the positive side of things even when the darkness is still very thick.

5. Find Something to Be Grateful For

Gratitude is the most basic and most universal way to instantly generate positive feelings. Whatever you can be grateful for—your family, your health, or the lesson itself—make yourself as aware of it as you possibly can. A great way to do this is by journaling in a gratitude journal.

6. Remember That You Are Not Alone

Other than the friends and relatives you have to help you through your negative emotions, remember that you are not the only person in the world to be going through whatever you might be going through right now. Countless others have before you, and the majority of them get through it. If you can connect with someone else who has gone through what you’re going through, you may be able to get more specialized empathy, support, and perhaps advice too.

7. Remind Yourself You Won't Feel This Way Forever

Weeks, months, and years from now, you’ll look back on where you are now and you’ll be grateful for what you learned about life and about yourself. It always feels the worst in the moment, but trust that these negative feelings are only temporary. No matter how bad things seem, you will experience joy, love, and peace once again—this time as a stronger and more whole version of yourself.

3 Easy Ways to Extend the Life of Your Yoga Mat

Yogis with a regular practice know just how funky a yoga mat can get without routine cleanings. Dirt and grime don’t just wear your mat out faster—they’re a huge a health hazard too.

Besides giving your mat a quick spritz and wipe down with an all natural, antibacterial solution after every use, there are other ways to help keep your mat in great shape. And the best part about them is that they take very little time and energy.

Here are three extra tips to consider doing both before and after every yoga session to help keep your mat built to last as long as possible.

Wash up before you practice.

While it may be impractical and unnecessary to take a shower before your practice, it’s easy enough to wash your hands and feet before you step onto your mat. These are two major parts of your body that have the potential to transfer a lot of germs from skin to rubber as they touch down on the surface of your mat.

If you can take a trip to the bathroom to wash your hands in the sink and possibly your feet in the tub, then great. But if you’re running late for your studio class or don’t have the convenience of a sink or tub, bringing along a small bottle of natural sanitizer or antibacterial wipes can go a long way.

Use a yoga towel.

Putting a barrier between you and your mat can help keep sweat and grime from falling to your mat and working its way deep into the rubber as you press your hands, feet, and other body parts onto the surface as you practice. Yoga mat towels are perfect for this and are especially helpful during Bikram yoga sessions when the sweating is intense and the potential for slippage gets real.

Yoga towels cover the full length of a typical yoga mat and are designed to be super absorbent while protecting your mat’s rubber from grip friction. At the end of your yoga session, they’re easy enough to peel off and throw in the washing machine to be ready for the next time you decide to step on your mat.

Hang your mat up when it’s not in use.

You might already know that it’s best to allow your mat to dry after spritzing and wiping it with an antibacterial solution by leaving it out to lie flat—even if that means rolling it back out again after returning from a class. But before you think about rolling it back up once it’s dried, consider looking for a well ventilated area of your home that’s not in direct sunlight to hang it for storage.

In addition to preventing mould and odors from developing, hanging your mat rather than rolling it up helps to maintain the integrity of the rubber. You could always improvise by making your own hanger, but if you're short on time and resources, you could just buy one. The Namaste Yoga Mat Hanger is a popular choice among yogis that will help keep your mat fresh and flat when you hang it up after ever use.

Image (edited) via thedabblist

Why Use a Yoga Strap Even If You Think You Don't Need It

Why Use a Yoga Strap Even If You Think You Don't Need It

Yoga can do wonders for your flexibility. You probably already know that.

But do you know just how much a yoga strap can help? Even if you can do extended hand-to-big-toe pose or dancer’s pose without the help of a strap, trying poses like these with a strap can open you up to new possibilities.

Not convinced yet? Here’s why you’ll want to make good use of your yoga strap.

Improve Your Alignment

It’s relatively easy to fall victim to a bad habit of poor alignment—particularly in poses you consider to be “easy,” such as forward folds. In poses like standing forward bend and seated forward bend, it’s tempting to round the back if it means you’ll be able to get your torso closer to your legs and your hands closer to your feet.

By using a strap, however, you get to switch your focus away from trying with all your might to touch your toes so that you can instead focus on lengthening your spine. Try using a strap with your forward bends next time you practice and notice the difference you feel when you consciously prevent yourself from rounding out your back.

Extend Your Legs Further

Yoga straps can do wonders for tight hamstrings and hips in poses that involve extending the leg straight out. For example, in extended hand-to-big-toe pose, you can make a loop in your strap and place it around the ball of your foot to help you extend the length of your arm without having to lift your leg so high up.

This all ties in with the previous point about alignment. By using a strap in a pose like extended hand-to-big-toe pose, you’ll also ensure that both legs stay straight and that your torso remains lifted. It may not feel like it, but you’ll be improving your flexibility in the process.

Open Up Your Shoulders

You might think that the key to poses like dancer’s pose and one-legged king pigeon lies in the backbend, but without open shoulders, they’ll be a big struggle to get right. This why you’ll often see yogis make a loop in their strap and place their foot in it during these two poses as they aim to point their elbows toward the sky.

You can also do a few shoulder opening exercises with your strap at the beginning of your practice to prep them for more demanding poses. Simply hold your strap with both hands at a length that's a bit wider than your shoulders, and then move your arms back and forth in front of your chest and behind—making sure not to go further than what’s comfortable.

Prevent Pain and Injury

Let’s face it—we all have those days when we feel like like we’re actually moving backwards in our practice rather than forwards. Whether you’re fatigued, tense, stiff, or just not feeling it for whatever reason, using a strap can help deal with it so that you avoid overextending your body or pulling a muscle when you really should be taking it easy.

It doesn’t matter if you thought you mastered a particular pose. Your body is constantly changing, and what worked yesterday may not necessarily work today. Instead of pushing through it, check your ego by listening to your body and using a strap to gently ease into your poses.

Image (edited) via Crystal

4 Changes to Make to Your Yoga Practice to Transition from Summer to Autumn

4 Changes to Make to Your Yoga Practice to Transition from Summer to Autumn

These last few weeks of summer tend to conjure up unique sensations both in the mind and body. Depending on how in touch you are with your own body and with nature itself during this time of year, you may feel just a very small hint of change coming or something very strong that marks the transition toward the next season.

What each yogi feels during this seasonal transition is personal, but you can take advantage of it by using it as a signal to switch up your yoga practice. After all, you’ll get the most from your practice when it’s in alignment with the current season. If you’re unsure of how to go about doing this as you say goodbye to summer and hello to autumn, use the following suggestions.

Incorporate Twists to Balance Your Body

Autumn is the season where we let go of what’s no longer needed, and twisting poses are perfect for aiding the body’s natural detoxification processes by driving more oxygen and blood to the organs. You may also improve your digestion, get an immunity boost, and relieve back pain by practicing more twists.

Look toward twists that target the upper, middle, and lower areas of the torso. Try half lord of the fishes pose, Bharadvaja’s twist, revolved triangle pose, and revolved side angle pose in your practice.

Look Toward Backbends for Energy

It’s common to feel sluggish and more tired than usual during the colder seasons, but you can look toward energizing backbends to lift your spirit and give you the boost you need to stay alert. Backbends are also great for reducing anxiety as they open up the heart and allow you to release stress.

A daily backbend may be all that you need to balance out your energies. Go for poses like cobra pose, upward facing dog, bow pose, bridge or wheel pose, and camel pose.

Rest Longer in Grounding Poses

In autumn, Mother Nature encourages us to turn inward and work on restoring ourselves after a long, busy summer. Grounding poses will help connect you with the Earth and your body as it is in the moment, resulting in a much calmer and more present state of mind.

Warrior I and warrior II are wonderful grounding poses, as is triangle pose. Others includes tree pose, mountain pose, and of course easy pose. Try to save some time at the end of your practice for a long, grounding savasana as well.

Keep Doing Your Sun Salutations

Even though the sun is shining less brightly and the days are getting much colder, sun salutations are ideal for helping you build heat when you need it most. This unique series of poses helps get the blood flowing and warm the muscles to ward off stiffness and aches.

Sun salutation A and B repeated 2 to 6 times will do wonders for you if you’re struggling to stay warm among autumn’s chill. And on those days where you need a gentler practice, you could opt for half sun saltuations to still get the warming benefits.

5 Tips for Energetic Cleansing by Burning Incense

Burning Incense: 5 Tips for Energetic Cleansing

In autumn, it’s a common spiritual practice to reflect upon on the past year and decide what needs to be let go in order to begin the rest and rejuvenation period that takes place throughout the colder months. Now is the time to release and purify your spirit. If you get the sense that a room in your home or any particular space you spend time in is giving off negative vibes from leftover events and experiences, cleansing the space by burning incense could really help. Here’s how.

1. Select incense sticks that are as natural as possible.

Not all incense sticks are made equal. The ones you’re most likely to come across in any old store are typically long, thin, and relatively inexpensive. These incense burning sticks really only exist to make your space smell nice, but unfortunately aren't appropriate to use for energy cleansing.

Look for non-toxic, all-natural sticks that are hand-rolled and are thick rather than thin. The thicker they are, the greater the chance that they’re made with high-quality, all-natural materials.

2. Choose aromas that align with your intentions.

Sage and sandalwood are a couple of the most common aromas used for energetic cleansing, but that doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to them. While they may be most effective specifically for cleansing any space, you can certainly choose aromas that resonate with a particular desire or intention of yours.

For example, lavender, jasmine, and frankincense can help open your chakras while cleansing your aura. On the other hand, Pine, chamomile, and lemongrass are ideal for promoting relaxation.

3. Get a good incense burning stand.

You certainly don’t want to place your burning incense stick just anywhere, which is why you’ll want to get a stand that’s specifically designed to hold incense sticks safely and securely as they burn. You can find all sorts of different kinds—big and small, expensive or inexpensive—in different styles both online and in New Age stores.

Some incense stands are designed to actually catch the ash as it burns and falls away. Take this into consideration if you don't want your incense to make a mess and potentially damage your furniture or floors.

4. Put your safety first.

Just like a burning candle, where you place your incense stand matters. Make sure you put it on a flat, heat-resistant surface (such as ceramic tile as opposed to a wooden table).

Take note of the surrounding area and be sure to avoid placing your burning incense anywhere near curtains/drapes, lampshades, upholstered furniture, or other flammable items. And if you have pets or kids, put it somewhere far out of reach.

5. Ensure the area is well ventilated.

No matter how natural your incense may be, breathing in too much smoke isn’t good for anybody—especially those who have asthma and other respiratory conditions. Be sure to open up all the windows you start burning your incense and keep them opened during and after you're finished to allow fresh air to circulate and help the cleansing process.

As you open the windows, take note of how windy it is and avoid placing your incense stand directly near any windows to prevent it from being blown over. And of course, if you just can’t open up the windows due to unfavorable weather conditions, make sure you limit the amount of time that you burn your incense or save it for another day.

Image (edited) via Ze'ev Barkan

5 Small Tweaks You Can Make to Find More Joy in Your Practice

5 Small Tweaks You Can Make to Find More Joy in Your Practice

“You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state. What you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state.” —Sharon Gannon

Yoga is really a way of life rather than a form of physical exercise on a mat. But even the most experienced yogis fall into ruts where they begin to see their practice as something that has to get done sometime over the course the day, something that has to be perfected, and something is merely used as a means to an end (such as toned muscles, lower body weight, greater flexibility, etc.).

If this sounds like you, renewing your love for your practice is as simple as making a few changes.

1. Focus on Exploration Rather Than Perfection

It’s very easy to get lost in the beauty of each pose or sequence when you see them being performed by the pros. The rush of inspiration can be so great that you may find yourself wanting to bypass the slow and patient learning process as fast as possible so you can master your practice just like your teachers and other advanced yogis.

Focusing on trying to perform each pose perfectly, however, can set you back more than move you forward. Not only is it psychologically uncomfortable, but physically uncomfortable too—which could lead to injury.

Slow down. Use props. Listen to your body. Get curious about what your body is able to do in this very moment. You’ll be so much happier when you do.

2. Don’t Take Your Goals Too Seriously

Maybe you have a goal to master supported headstand within a month. Maybe you want to be able to hold crow pose for an entire minute. Or maybe you just want to commit to practicing 4 to 5 days every week.

It’s great to have goals, but it isn’t so great when you let those goals dictate your sole reason for practicing. So what if it takes you eight months or more to master headstand? As long as you practice regularly, you’re basically guaranteed to get there eventually.

And getting on your mat 4 to 5 days a week? If feel like you need a rest, take it. Your body doesn’t know what 4 to 5 times a week even means—it only knows what it feels in this very moment.

3. Change Up Your Yoga Style and Environment Regularly

You may have a favorite yoga DVD, YouTube video, studio class, or place to roll out your mat that you’ve attached yourself to in your practice. And while it’s great to stick to doing what you enjoy, it can easily put you in a state where you never get out of your comfort zone so you can grow.

Learn how to integrate what you already love about yoga with novel experiences. Sign up for a new class, take your mat outdoors, or try a 30-day hatha practice if you’re used to doing a vinyasa flow.

4. Be Mindful of the Subtle Ways Your Ego Sneaks Up on You

Teachers often remind their students to leave their egos behind as soon as they step onto their mats, but this is truly easier said than done. Here are just a few common ways your ego can overtake you in your practice without you even realizing it:

  • Comparing yourself to other yogis
  • Trying to push through pain and discomfort
  • Using your inner voice to criticize yourself for failing to perform the way you wanted
  • Taking photos of your practice just to share on social media

Be mindful of these pitfalls. The more mindful you are, the more likely you’ll be able to start gaining greater control over them.

5. Put a Smile on Your Face

Smiling has been proven to boost happiness on its own, so why not do it while you practice? Whether you’re holding Warrior II or flowing through your vinyasa, you can always use your facial muscles to smile.

Your smiling will also help to support your efforts to avoid taking your practice too seriously and to stop focusing so much on being perfect. Try it, and notice how much better you feel!

Image (edited) via Hamza Butt

Self-Massage Tips for Tired Yogi Muscles

Whether you’re sore from an intense yoga session or tense from a stressful day at the office, going for a massage can really help ease that discomfort in your muscles. Unfortunately, however, a massage therapy session isn’t exactly the most convenient or affordable solution.

When you don’t have the time or funds to get an extra pair of hands to work out all the kinks and tension in your body, you can try self-massage techniques to soothe those necessary areas. In fact, self-massage is a great opportunity to not only practice self care, but also self love and body acceptance/positivity.

Not sure where to even start? Here are a few self-massage tips to help your entire body soften into a delicious relaxed state.

Take a Bath or Shower to Relax and Warm Your Muscles

It’s not a requirement, but if you can, a pre-self-massage ritual that helps you unwind a bit and release that surface layer of tension you may be unconsciously holding onto with your muscles. Soaking in the tub or taking a hot shower will help warm up your cold muscles, loosening them up and priming them for deeper relief.

As a bonus, you could try a few simple stretches to help loosen your body up even more. Check out these five reasons to do yoga in the bath for a few easy yoga poses to try in your tub!

Follow Proper Self-Massage Techniques to Avoid Pain or Injury

While gently rubbing your skin probably won’t do much harm, there’s always the chance that applying deeper pressure to areas you’re unfamiliar with could cause more pain than relaxation—especially if that area is injured or has been injured in the past. Do your research first so you know how to properly massage yourself and consult your doctor you have concerns about certain areas.

WebMD has a helpful article detailing simple self-massage steps you can take to relieve tension from your eyes, head, hands, neck, shoulders, lower back, and feet. You could even try looking up self-massage techniques on YouTube to get a more hands-on glimpse of how it’s done.

Use Props for Those Hard-to-Reach Areas

Your hands may not be as effective at massaging specific areas as say, a tennis ball. For areas like the shoulders, back, and even buttocks, there are techniques where you can use a tennis ball on the floor or a wall to slowly lean into it and roll it around your muscles for a deeper massage.

Foam rollers are also popularly used for self-massage before and after physical activity. Props like tennis balls and foam rollers ensure you get deeper into the muscle tissue without having to awkwardly bend and twist your arms around to reach those areas with your hands.

Use Lotion or Massage Oil for Added Stress Relief

For self-massage techniques that involve using your hands, you can enhance the stress relieving effects by using naturally scented body lotions or massage oils to soothe your mind with their aromas as they gently penetrate the skin and muscles to moisturize and relax them.

One of the easiest ways to do this is by making your own with coconut oil and a few drops of your favorite essential oils. Yogi Surprise members will also be receiving a very special type of massage oil from Lotus Flower OM in their October Lifestyle boxes, so keep an eye out for that if you’re a member!

Stretch Your Muscles After Massaging Them

Last but not least, stretch those freshly massaged muscles out when you’re all done with a few simple stretches. They should feel far more loosened, lengthened, and relaxed compared to when you began!

3 Amazing Ways You Can Benefit from Sharing Your Love of Yoga

As a yogi, you can spread the word about how much you love your practice any time you want, to anyone you want. But since September is National Yoga Month, now couldn’t be a more perfect time to inspire others about embarking on their own journeys.

The obvious benefits of helping others to discover yoga include improved health and overall well-being, but what you may not realize is that you get to enjoy a few significant benefits as well. Whether you simply pique someone’s interest in yoga or find a new accountability partner who’s just as serious as you are, any positive reaction you receive can be significant enough to impact you in a meaningful way.

Establish a Higher Sense of Purpose

When you seek to inspire others about the practice of yoga for the sake of helping them—with no agenda for yourself—you are doing something from your "highest self," which is essentially free from ego. This is where you feel a heightened sense of purpose and service to others. As long as you’re not boasting about your own knowledge and experience in yoga in an effort to receive a certain reaction from others, you’ll feel the benefits of standing for something that’s bigger than yourself.

Foster Closer Connections

You may already enjoy spending time with your friends, your relatives, your spouse, and other people in your life, but your connection to them can be tightened by finding new common interests to share with each other. If you find that a relationship has become a bit routine or even slightly stale, sharing an interest in yoga could help renew and strengthen your bond.

Inspire Others to Pay It Forward

Research has shown that helping others is contagious. By helping others to discover the benefits of yoga, you could essentially be indirectly helping many others in the process by setting off a domino effect. Anyone you help could one day feel inspired to pass on their love for yoga with their own friends, relatives, acquaintances, and even strangers.

How to Start Inspiring Others

There are all sorts of different ways you can share your love of yoga with others in a positive, helpful, and enlightening manner. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Invite a friend or relative to do yoga with you, attend an event, or go to a retreat
  • Start a mini yoga challenge at work with coworkers
  • Start blogging about your yoga journey
  • Share photos, videos, or words of inspiration related to yoga on social media
  • Wear your Yogi Surprise jewelry proudly when you go out
  • Donate any old yoga DVDs that you no longer use to others who could use them
  • Ask others what they do for physical activity and stress relief out of genuine curiosity
  • Consider doing yoga teacher training if you’re interested in teaching

Essentially, you’ll know you’re doing it right when sharing your love for your practice feels mostly effortless. As long as you are living up to what you’re trying to inspire others to do, your desire to share and educate should come naturally.

Image (edited) via Dave Rosenblum

For the Love of Yoga

For the Love of Yoga

September is National Yoga Month, and what better way to celebrate the end of summer than by acknowledging your love for your yoga practice?

Designated by the US Department of Health and Human Services as a month-long observance and awareness campaign, yogis across the nation (and the world, too) are encouraged to inspire and encourage others about the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits of yoga as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Whether you’re a beginner yogi, and advanced yogi, or even an aspiring yogi, there are lots of things you can do to celebrate National Yoga Month this September.

Take Yoga Classes for Free

Over 1,600 yoga studios across the US are offering one week of free yoga classes to new students during the month of September. Participating yoga studios will be accepting Yoga Month Cards that you can print and redeem for free classes and other special offers, which you can obtain from the Yoga Health Foundation website. If you know of or already attend a studio that isn’t participating, you can also invite them to participate by encouraging them to sign up.

Find a Yoga Event Near You

In addition to classes, over a thousand yoga events are scheduled to take place across the country this September for National Yoga Month. You can use the Yoga Health Foundation’s Yoga Events Search page to enter a street, city, or ZIP code and select a radius to search for events that are happening near you.

Bring a Friend or Relative

Perhaps your friends and relative have already heard you rant and rave about yoga, so why not show them instead? Invite anyone—total beginner or seasoned practitioner—to join you in a class or at an event. Remember to emphasize that yoga classes at participating studios are free for a whole week, so they have nothing to lose!

Become a National Yoga Month Ambassador

The Yoga Health Foundation is happy to take volunteers who are willing to help spread awareness about yoga and National Yoga Month within their own community and throughout their state. As an ambassador, you’ll introduce yoga to fellow community members that are new to practicing and work with experienced instructors and other yogis to hold local events for the community. The Yoga Health Foundation has a PDF or Word doc that you can print and hand out to studio owners and teachers in your local area.

Make a Donation to the Yoga Community

If you can’t find any participating studios or events near you, you can always do your part by helping to bring yoga to other communities in the country and across the globe. The Yoga Health Foundation accepts donations of any amount to help support National Yoga Month and its Yoga-Recess in School awareness campaigns. You can also donate your old yoga mat and other yoga items to causes like Yoga Foster, Project Yogi, and Yoga Activist—all of which will take your gently used items and use them in programs designed to bring yoga to communities and groups that have little to no access to the practice.

Happy National Yoga Month!