yoga diet is there one|yogi surprise

Is There a Specific Yoga Diet? Yes but Mostly No

Timing is everything, they say.

And I absolutely believe that cliché. It was when I was in the process of moving back to Atlanta from Columbus, Ohio that I met my life partner. And when I first moved to Columbus, I walked into a yoga studio to apply to teach there. The owner was reading Yoga Journal and was on the page of my DVD review. Timing, y'all. It really does matter so very much.

Let's talk about the yoga diet

We all know the stereotype of the vegan yogi who basically lives on what they can pick from their garden. They can essentially subsist on greens, good vibes, and downward facing dog pose. This is bullshit, for the most part. There are a whole lotta yogis who eat everything and anything. I even know an avid hunter who practices five days a week and just completed his 200-hour yoga teacher training.

Many people who have tried to become either vegetarians or vegans report that they became sick as a result. There are also loads of happy, healthy folks who do not eat any animal products. And there's a ton of people, like me, who are pescatarians (they only consume fish). Everyone has to make their own personal choices about what they consume and why. When trying to define a yoga diet, it's the timing, quantity, quality, and specific foods consumed before a practice that really matter.

The yoga diet breakdown

These are the important things to keep in mind when developing your own yoga diet:

  • Self-care is your primary focus. Taking the very best care of your body by nourishing it with the foods you need, crave, and that help you feel your best. If there's truly a yoga diet, this is it. Eating with thoughtfulness and gratitude for having sustenance plus choosing wisely are the pillars of a so-called yoga diet.
  • Practice on a relatively empty stomach. Make sure you haven't eaten anything of real substance for about two hours before you enjoy an asana practice. Twists do not feel good on a full stomach. All movement goes better if you're not in need of loosening your pants. If you're uncomfortable, it will be pretty tough to enjoy your practice.
  • Certain foods digest easier than others. I ate a bean burrito one time, ONE, a couple of hours before going to a ninety-minute vinyasa yoga class. It was a very bad call. Salads are good. Even sandwiches are fine as long as they include a lot of healthy ingredients and nothing heavy that will weigh you down.
  • Skip the sugar. Sugar. Do you just live for it? That might be an issue during practice. Sugar crashes are real and not at all fun while you're in the middle of a practice.
  • Pacing. If you're anything like me, you typically eat as though you've been held hostage and this is probably your very last meal, slow your roll. Chew your food thoughtfully and deliberately to enjoy it to the fullest extent and digest it more efficiently.
  • Portions. You can eat two eggs and a tomato, or you can eat five with two thick slices of bread. Smaller portions also digest faster and easier. Save the big meal for after your practice. Often, even most of the time, less is more.
  • Quality. Fresh food will always win out over processed. Whenever possible, go for fresh produce, protein, and grains.

Use this guide to help you make the best food decisions you can today. Observe how you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally. Once you reflect on your chosen yoga diet, keep these choices in mind every day that guided you so well today.

 


giving and receiving importance|yogi surprise

Is The Equation of Giving and Receiving In Balance?

I bet you're a giver.

Most yoga lovers I know really excel at the giving part. They use almost every ounce of energy they have in that direction.

Why is it so much easier to give than to let ourselves to receive?

Energy is currency. Giving and receiving need to balance one another out

Part of self-care is knowing when we have depleted our energy. We have to replenish the well constantly. Making thoughtful choices about how much of ourselves we give to others is a crucial part of making sure we protect and nurture our ability to be of service. If we think of energy as currency, noting when our bank account is insufficient of funds is an important thing to understand. And when it's in abundance, that's when we can indulge being the most generous version of ourselves.

How and when to set boundaries

Giving and receiving will probably never be quite in perfect balance. But getting as close to an evenness as we can needs to be a priority. When your yoga teacher is quiet after teaching a class, it's likely because s/he has extended themselves as much as they could and it's time to conserve energy. When you spend the day listening to a friend in need or helping someone with a project, it's important to take the time to receive yourself. That might be spending time in meditation. Taking a bath, getting a massage, or practicing restorative yoga are all helpful ways to reset the balance within.

Knowing when you're feeling depleted is a practice all unto itself. When we're drained, we don't have anything left to give. Conversely, when you're on the opposite side of the equation and receiving more than your share, knowing when it's your turn to give makes it so that balance is prioritized.

We all recharge in different ways. Making a mental list of how you can ensure the giving and receiving equation is as harmonized as you can make it is self-care at it's best.

In what ways do you give? It might take you the entire day to contemplate that. But it's really in your best interest to know yourself this way. If being on the receptive end is difficult for you, take some time today to explore why that is. In what ways are you comfortable with receiving? Just as we feel the need to give, so do others. Providing that opportunity is a gift.

You deserve love. You deserve abundance. And you absolutely are worthy of it all.

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yoga nidra meditation|yogi surprise

Self-Care Via the Practice of Yoga Nidra

Yoga nidra may feel strange the first time you try it, but the echoes continue long after the physical practice ceases.

If you've never practiced yoga nidra, you're in for a real treat. It's believed that practicing this form of meditation for 45 minutes is equitable to 3 hours of sleep. The benefits will reverberate throughout the rest of your waking hours making stress more manageable and focus more obtainable.

Once you invite yoga nidra into your life, you'll probably wonder how you ever functioned without it.

An explanation of yoga nidra and how to practice it

Yoga nidra translates to "yogic sleep". It very well may replace that nap craving you typically find yourself having. It's a guided meditation that relaxes your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems and allows your brain to go from the active beta state and transverse over to the more restful alpha sleep state. If you can relax enough, your brain may be capable of going to an even further state of restoration. And when things are really working, your brain is able to move all the way to the delta state of deep, restorative relaxation where the benefits of truly restful sleep start to kick in. Sounds awesome, yes? So how do you actually get there?

Begin your yoga nidra practice laying down

That's no surprise, right? There are various ways of enjoying yoga nidra. But first and foremost, you must place your body in the most comfortable relaxation-inducing state. Use bolsters, blankets, eye pillows, and anything else to help you get cozy.

Your job is to receive and allow yourself to be cared for and guided. Yoga nidra is growing in popularity. So finding a class near you may not be too difficult. But if it is, try the app Insight Timer for hundreds of thousands of meditations, including guided yoga nidra.

Your guide's job is to help you find the most restful state available to you with calming words offering you visuals and taking you on a journey deep within. The guide may also have you do some minor calming techniques such as briefly clenching the muscles of the face, arms, hands, legs, and feet. This allows your body to sense where it's holding stress and choosing to let go.

How long is long enough?

If 45 minutes feels a little overwhelming, begin with a 30-minute meditation and work your way up to 45. Thirty minutes is the minimum length of time to allow the body to surrender to a parasympathetic state.

The intent of yoga nidra intent is to help you inquire within and work through the subtle body to gain both awareness and a release of stress and anxiety. The intention you set for yourself is key and keeping it in mind as you travel through the guided meditation will allow you to gain access to benefits you may not have experienced in previous meditation endeavors.

Of all the various tools and techniques available to help us find relief from stress and feel more peaceful, meditation continues to rise to the very top in the benefits it offers. So if you are still finding it difficult to embrace the practice, maybe the specific practice of yoga nidra is the one you have yet to try, but can fully embrace. Let us know how it goes. We're all in this together.


Jnana yoga practice|yogi surprise

Why The Practice of Jnana Yoga Is a Necessity for A Happy Life

Have you ever heard of Jnana Yoga?

Me either. Or at least I hadn't until recently. A student asked about how to best practice Jnana yoga, and I had to admit I didn't know what it was. Once I did a little research, I got excited about exploring this practice. The yoga world is vast, and just when you think you've tapped into every piece of yoga philosophy there is, a whole different zip code shows up on the map.

Jnana translates to 'wisdom' or 'knowledge'. It's one of the four main paths of yoga and highly regarded as the most challenging to practice. Why is self-inquiry so tough? Why are we afraid of the truth and the pursuit of liberation from our untrue thoughts?

Jnana yoga throws down the gauntlet of Svadhyaya

To get on the other side of our egos, we have to be willing to invest fully in Svadhyaya, or "self-study". While it's true that most people like to talk about themselves, it is decidedly untrue that we like to explore our inner workings and implore honesty to rise to the surface and show us who we really are.

How can we embark on this daunting path? Questions. Lots and lots of questions. And meditating about our goals, passions, and reasons we are on this earth is no small thing. But without first taking the time to ask the questions, the hard ones, we can't arrive at the answers. We keep bumping up against that stubborn ego who wants to convince us that what we wish to believe is real.

How to start practicing Jnana yoga

First, take the time to journal about what your truths are. Dig in deep and ask the difficult questions. If you need a guide, you can start here:

  • Where does my ego hold me back?
  • What am I most afraid of?
  • What belief do I know isn't true, yet I hold onto for dear life?
  • Who could I become without that thought guiding me?
  • What is missing from my life?
  • Do I know my purpose?
  • Do I diligently speak with integrity? If not, why?

It's not that we want to lie to ourselves. It's a measured, calculated strategy of self-protection. But when we try to shield ourselves from what's really true, we wind up with an overactive ego that gets us in trouble.

Truth breeds humility. Humility is inspiring

Once we are willing to get really honest, we set ourselves free. Seeing the truth as only good news allows us to explore each crevice of our psyche and see ourselves with clear eyes. This will change our decisions, hopes, dreams, and earmark every action with clarity.

Practice yoga with candor and sincerity. If you have a shoulder injury, stay away from handstands and other arm balances. If your back hurts, either minimize the depth of your backbends or skip them altogether.

And if you've never read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, read it as soon as possible. The simple concepts in this text highlight such excellent strategies for getting to the heart of Svadhyaya and the practice of Jnana yoga. They are as follows:

  1. Be impeccable with your word.
  2. Take nothing personally.
  3. Assume nothing.
  4. Always do your best.

Are you excited to practice today? Me too, very much so. We'll do the practice of Jnana yoga collaboratively. We're in this together.

 


yoga symbols meaning|yogi surprise

Yoga Symbols and Why They Compel Us So Very Much

What's the first thing you think when you see someone wearing a t-shirt featuring an OM?

"That human digs yoga."

"They are probably an open-minded sort."

"I'm going to ask her where she practices yoga."

"Am I OMing correctly?"

Essentially, yoga symbols have meaning to us because we feel a deep and profound love for yoga and want to express it

Symbols have always been a potent way to announce devotion, support, and reverence. They tell the world an important piece of our identity and values.

  • Religious people often wear a piece of jewelry announcing their membership, such as a cross or Star of David.
  • The yin/yang symbol holds strong meaning in Taoism and represents the pursuit of balance and wholeness. It also stands for the beginning point for change.
  • In Native American culture, the bull skull is symbolic of offering protection from the natural elements. It also stands for strength, courage, and leadership.

yoga symbols reasons|yogi surprise

Yoga symbols have grown wildly popular. If you actively observe this, you'll find them everywhere from jewelry, clothing, tattoos, pillows, paintings and sculptures, hell, even nail polish decals.

The Om is probably the most recognizable and popular. I decided to count the number of Om yoga symbols I saw on one given day. On that day, I taught 3 yoga classes, visited Whole Foods, pumped gas, walked a friend's dog, and met someone for coffee. With that day in mind, here is a breakdown of the number of Om yoga symbols I observed:

  • 11 Om tattoos (visible) on arms, lower backs, legs, and one on a neck.
  • 2 manicures featuring an Om sign.
  • 19 tanks/tee-shirts/sweat-shirts/leggings with the Om symbol!
  • 28 (!!) items for sale including pillows, clothing, skin-care, sculptures, paintings, and even an oil diffuser in the shape of an Om.

Of all the yoga symbols, Om speaks to people on a different frequency. It says that yoga is a prevailing force and focus in my life and I consider my yoga practice as representing the way I live.

Other beloved yoga symbols include the lotus flower. Its resilience and ability to spread beauty and light even in the most unlikely of places is empowering. The Hamsa symbol is also heavily represented in the yoga world for its protective powers. Mala beads are everywhere. Often referred to as 'yoga bling' mala bead necklaces and bracelets are both gorgeous and useful for meditation and as touchstones for our practice.

Wearable yoga symbols to shout with pride and passion who we are so the whole world will know will always be a powerful way to speak without words. Wear them loudly and spread your positive messages of love, strength, and passion to others.

 


breath practices for stress|yogi surprise

2 Highly Effective Breath Practices to Minimize Stress & Anxiety

It really is all about the breath

Every time I think otherwise, I'm again proven wrong. And I enjoy being wrong about this. It's comforting to be reminded and really accept that the breath is paramount and everything else has the job of supplementing the effectiveness of breath.

Don't believe me?

Think of the hardest pose you can effectively (most of the time) execute. Okay, now go practice it with a determined commitment to your breath. How did it go? Pretty damn well, I'm betting. Sit with that. Breath practices and movement equal excellent outcomes.

Next, try the posture while holding your breath. What's the verdict? Did you kind of want to pass out a little from the awfulness of it? Yeah, been there. Been there too many times. And I know I'll be there again. I can't quite seem to remember to prioritize breath practices each and every single time.

If we know a specific resource makes all the difference, why would we ever decide not to utilize it?

There are quite a few theories on why breath practices are not as much of a priority as they should be:

  • We are habitual folks. All of us. We get used to a habit and it's hard to create a new one, even a habit that only adds to our quality of life. If we are used to breathing shallowly and not really thinking about our breath unless we are told to breathe, well then. It's going to be a challenge to alter that long-held pattern.
  • We're stubborn. Of course, we are. Even those of us who embrace change don't feel completely open to all change. Breath practices seem quite daunting at first. And then there's the belief that we haven't died yet, so we must be breathing at least effectively enough. We realize that when we do sit down and focus on our breath we feel better. Way better. But then we quickly forget and talk ourselves out of prioritizing it, even if we know it will help relieve our stress.
  • It's an effort. Everything is and we have to determine where to spend our energy and what we want to achieve. When we stay on auto-pilot, we grant ourselves permission to focus on other things. Things we convince ourselves are more important.
  • We fear success. I used to think that was a croc, but it's not. If we add in breath practices and feel the positive outcomes, we have to acknowledge that we could have been succeeding all along and refused. Back to stubbornness we go.

Once we embrace breath practices as a vital form of self-care, we start to warm to its importance

Every yoga practitioner has had that moment when they've had no choice but to accept the importance of breath practices. We feel better with more oxygen in our blood. Our central nervous system gets a much-needed break and we build our parasympathetic nervous systems to a healthy and well-functioning place. We aren't quite so stressed. Managing our anxiety and tendencies to ruminate and create stories feels easier. We know breath practices are of the utmost importance.

So let's begin right now.

Introduce these two breath practices daily for just a couple of minutes in the morning and at night. Try it for a week and journal about your daily observations.

  1. Nadi Shodhanam (Alternate Nostril Breathing). This practice offers a credible and immediately noticeable decrease in stress, anxiety, and clearer thinking and sinus passages. Begin by sitting comfortably and using your right hand, gently partially seal your right nostril with your thumb. Tuck your index and middle finger into your palm. Breath in through your left nostril and using your ring finger, tap both nostrils for a moment and let your thumb go, breathing out of your right nostril. Breath back in through the right nostril, seal both nostrils for a moment, and move your ring finger to breath all the way out left. Do this for several rounds, concluding by breathing out left. At night begin with the alternate nostril.
  2. Simple diaphragmatic breathing. The important thing to remember here is to relax the muscles of the belly and to really let the exhale out. I know, it sounds obvious, but because we short-change the exhale on the regular. Use the counting method to try to accomplish an evenness to your inhales and exhales. Don't try too hard to take in the very biggest breath ever. Just take in a comfortable amount and exhale softly but with the intention to clear the lungs.

Please share your experiences and any other breath work you feel is of daily importance to the management of stress and building of our mental commitment to our own health and well-being.

 


Kundalini yoga benefits|yogi surprise

3 Mind Blowing Kundalini Yoga Benefits: Scratching the Surface of this Miraculous Practice

I was a skeptic. I'd heard all about how magical and transformative Kundalini yoga is, but somehow never felt compelled to give it a go.

Since I'm a writer and believe in writing from experience, I decided to finally take a Kundalini class.

It knocked me sideways and shocked my system. I have never left a yoga class or any other experience with such a lightness and giddy sense I'd stumbled into something that would irrevocably change my whole perspective on how I cope with and experience life.

Kundalini yoga really is that deep

And now I get why people often have trouble explaining Kundalini yoga. How do you find the words to label something that touches you on levels you've never quite located before? I'm very new at this, so perhaps the effects don't land quite so intensely after a while. Although, talking to others after class leads me to believe I'm not alone in my excitement. They too are thrilled they've found this practice and want to share it with as many other people as they can compel to try it.

Kundalini yoga basics

First, a brief primer about Kundalini, or 'The Yoga of Awareness'. There are no strict dogmas or philosophies. The goal of the Kundalini yoga practice is to help each individual reach their higher self and to connect on a deeper level. There's lots of room for interpretation and creativity in the delivery of a Kundalini yoga class. There are mantras, chanting, mudras, kriyas (Sanskrit for 'effort' or 'action' kriyas are a meditation technique of energy and breath control), asanas, and meditations to uplift us and encourage self-awareness and a stronger sense of connection to self and the world around us.

Kundalini yoga was brought to the U.S. by Yogi Bhajan in the late 60's. A basic Kundalini yoga class is typically structured by beginning with chanting, breath work, and gentle movement. The middle phase is more dynamic asana and breathing techniques. The last portion of the class is meditation and rest.

Sounds pretty fab, does it not? Attending a Kundalini yoga practice with others heightens the experience, as any class does. But chanting, mantras, mudras, and involved kriyas that aim to harmonize our energy systems have a powerful accumulative effect that's very different from other asana practices. Incorporating Kundalini into your home practice might be the very best way to get yourself to practice even more.

Kundalini is a Sanskrit word that translates into 'coiled snake'. The idea is to wake up dormant energy sources within and get them talking to one another and working together.

Kundalini yoga coiled snake|yogi surprise

There are numerous reasons Kundalini yoga is growing in popularity

Let's focus on just a few of the emotional benefits of this practice. Yes, we all want our central nervous system to function well. Of course, we care deeply about digestion and that everything works well there. This practice is credited with so much good and looking at all the ways it can benefit our health is both amazing and overwhelming.

We've come to grips with the fact that our emotional health is suffering. We know we need more effective ways for feeling as balanced and grateful as we possibly can find. Kundalini is focused on enlightenment and the obtainment of spiritual awakening. Here are just a few ways that plays into your happiness and contentment:

  • Calming energy goes hand in hand with a deeper understanding of ourselves. When we take on our truths and treat them with love and respect versus judgment and criticism, we can relax into who we truly are and connect with our dharma.
  • Effort pays off. When we try something new, we let go of old stories and they diminish in power. But this requires new ideas, practices, and an open mind. Removing obstacles creates new roads and clearer paths towards understanding and wisdom. Kundalini yoga is a very different type of yoga practice. Willingness to make room for a practice that encourages more emotional and spiritual work will bring you different gifts than those you receive from a more rigorous practice, such as Vinyasa yoga.
  • Meditation works. I promise. It works for everyone and you can move and chant while you meditate. It doesn't have to look one way. Many yoga practices don't prioritize meditation and the other practices that connect us to our more subtle bodies the way Kundalini yoga does.

The innumerable new experiences awaiting us beckons. You have everything to gain. Scratch the surface with us and share what you learn!

 


sitting poses yoga|yogi surprise

Sitting Poses Give You A Lotta Bang for Your Buck in a Yoga Practice

Tis true, sitting poses are the most versatile

Nobody needs to get up in arms defending standing poses, arm balances, balance postures, and inversions. I didn't say they were the best. I said they are the most adaptable and accessible. I'm also not arguing about if they should be called seated or sitting poses. They are the same and it's a preference.

When I broke my leg in an ATV accident 4 years ago, sitting poses were my very best friend and savior from insanity. Sounds dramatic, but when you teach yoga for a living and practice daily, having options are vital when you can't walk or stand without crutches. That's when I first discovered

Here's a short list of the many ways sitting poses can offer a well-rounded practice:

  • You can work hard or hardly. I absolutely love that it's a choice in sitting poses. And no one knows except for you how much you are choosing to chill or that you're busting ass. That's pretty delicious.
  • If you have a foot, ankle, tibia, fibula, or knee injury, you can still do sitting poses. You can work your core and allow the injury to heal. You can engage your quadriceps and continue to build those muscle groups isometrically.
  • Sitting poses are fabulous for working into your hamstrings, hips, and core.
  • They are a great place to transition into several arm balances, backbends, and core strengtheners. From the sitting pose of Janu Sirsasana (head to knee forward bend)
  • They stabilize. Sitting poses offer a much stronger sense of security. Distraction goes away and the ability to focus is easier when you're not concerned with falling out of a pose. We get a bigger base to work from and being much closer to the floor helps us shift our goals.
  • Perspective shifts lead us to new ideas. Seeing the world from the ground versus standing helps us consider things in a different way. If we always operate from the same point of view, we'll miss possibilities and cut off our creativity.

Try this seated postures yoga sequence for strength, flexibility, and for the enjoyment and benefits they offer.