Relish the Festivities This Year by Adding a Little Yoga to Your Holiday Rituals

Can you smell it?

Scent shapes our experiences in countless ways. Well, okay. maybe you can count them. But the impact is obvious. And old holiday traditions no one looks forward to have a smell. It's stale and faint, in case you were wondering. It rebukes. We want to be enticed and seduced into the holidays, don't we?

Let the excitement begin this year with brand spanking new yoga holiday rituals

So what the hell are yoga holiday rituals anyway? I'm gonna go ahead and make up a definition here. We are yoga folk. Our practice is how we go about our lives. So, how does it make any sense that our holidays don't contain rituals and traditions that include yoga? I'll answer that. It really doesn't. So as we gather with our friends, families, and communities, let's involve and revolve the festivities around our beloved practices and share them as the gifts they are with those around us. If you've got a few naysayers or resistant people in your inner circle, this is the ideal opportunity to show them the various and vast sides of the yoga spectrum. Surely some components of yoga will speak to them. Maybe even ALL of the yoga will ring their bells. Don't be afraid to add a little humor. In fact, be a little frightened not to.

It doesn't have to be all serious, yo

Let's not underestimate how unbelievably good a belly laugh feels. Plus, adding humor may help others delete the stereotype of yoga people and their habits from their brains. We don't want those. They suck and we can help those around us understand that everyone is a yoga person and everyone has a yoga body. It's all about the approach. Try one or all of these ideas. Hopefully, they'll stir your own creative juices and you'll come up with something that feels original and very unique to you. The idea is to celebrate, enjoy, and look forward to the holidays. If I'm wrong about that, someone please tell me what they're all about.

Yoga holiday traditions to make your own

  • Decorations should be many things. Meaningful, adorable, and specific to your life. Invite your yoga buddies over and make your best ornament, incense holder, door bling, or table setting. The only rule is that yoga needs to be represented in your craft. You could turn it into a competition. (because that's what the holidays are all about, right?) Or you could pick numbers so that you get to choose the decoration you want to call your own. If yours gets chosen last, who cares! They have no taste. Get silly and creative. Enjoying each other is the best gift of all.
  • Have a chakra soup potluck. I'm doing this on December 16th if anyone wants to come. Yoga Journal published an article last month with recipes that stimulate and correspond with each chakra. Invite at least 6 friends and divvy up the soups. Invite a few others and task them with bringing the yummiest soup-friendly bread as a contribution. Before soup, enjoy a chakra-inspired home practice together. This will be a yoga holiday tradition you'll want to continue forever. And encourage everyone to bring containers to take leftover soup home. I really can't wait for this.

Got any yoga holiday rituals of your own to share?

We would LOVE to hear from you. Please share in the comments so we can gift each other with ideas and possibilities to continue these community building yoga holiday rituals together.


yoga poses for stiff joints relief| yogi surprise

If You're Totally Over the Stiff Joints Thing and Want to Feel Better

Practicing yoga poses for stiff joints is one of the wisest choices we can make. It's right up there with wearing a hat in cold weather and washing our hands before touching food. Pain most definitely decreases anyone's desire to move, but it's actually likely the best thing you can do. Even though it's tempting to take a more sedentary approach when you're feeling joint stiffness, resist the urge. A gentle approach is the key. And, not expecting your body to perform as it once did will greatly enhance the benefits of moving your body with the goal of kindness and increased comfort.

Yoga poses for stiff joints will minimize discomfort

I know, we yoga lovers claim it cures everything. While yoga won't magically give you the ability to read minds or understand calculus, it does have a touch of magic in healing lots of causes of pain and limited mobility. When we strengthen our muscles, they have an improved ability to work as shock absorbers. This enhanced strength and flexibility assist our joints in working more comfortably. It takes time and you may have to change your practice to a more restorative one. But if you're game and willing, there are most likely positive results to look forward to.

Stiffness is no fun. Let's help ourselves out

If you suffer from, "I used to be able to..." knock it off. I'm telling you, me too. But it does us no good to lament for the body we once had or longing for abilities that we used to take for granted. Self-care is demanded here and loving acceptance of what is will minimize the mental anguish that comes with anger towards a body that isn't performing as optimally as you believe it should. It's really sorta cool when you land in the realm of doing what you need and prioritizing it over doing what you want.

Just because you can doesn't make it a good idea

Oh my stars, I need a tattoo of this sentiment. I see it every day in yoga classes. Students who push their bodies past a healthy range of motion only to injure themselves and not be able to practice. It's a sick cycle, but it's one we can stop if we adopt new thinking. Here's a little advice on how to use yoga poses for stiff joints and embrace all truth as good news:

  • If you have pain, don't ignore it. Being kind, patient, and practicing a bit differently will help you feel better physically. Just as importantly, you'll feel a surge of gratitude towards yourself. Maybe this means bending your knee less in Warrior 2. Perhaps it would be best to sit on a block in Malasana. Or, maybe you don't bend your knees so deeply and instead strengthen your quads.
  • Practice non-attachment. This will save you from so much torture both physically and emotionally. I once loved Compass Pose as much as I loved my dog. (kidding!) But my shoulder started to get squeamish. So I don't do it anymore. There are quite a few yoga poses I simply skip now and perhaps, so should you. When we insist on taking our bodies on the trip of shapes that look cool but don't serve, we're in for it. And sure, I can make that shape, but it doesn't feel good. Pain demands our attention. If you want to push yourself, focus on muscle building. It's uncomfortable and challenging, but it will bring you many gifts.

Try these yoga poses for stiff joints immediately

Legs up against the wall pose: It's definitely one of the most restorative poses in the yoga asana arsenal. It relieves congestions from the feet, ankles, knees, and hips. Daily, y'all. Do this as much as possible.

Puppy pose with a bolster: Gently opens the shoulders and provides support for your head and chest.

Figure four hip-opener: Execute it reclining on the floor or transition into it from legs up against the wall.

This is ahimsa in action. Enjoy and have a day full of ease and little distraction.

 


Thanksgiving yoga sequence

Thanksgiving Yoga Sequence to Help You Digest and Detox

There may be some overeating.

Scratch that, it's a certainty.

Use this Thanksgiving yoga sequence to prepare and repair

There's always the possibility you won't eat too much. You may decide to fill up on water before embarking on the tradition of expandable pants and indigestion. But in case you decide to indulge, both preparing your body beforehand and fixing what's just a little bit broken after your meal will have you feeling totally normal (almost) by Friday.

Critical information about why we practice a specific Thanksgiving yoga sequence both before and after a feast:

  • Twists are amazing for purging and aiding in digestion. When we twist, we massage our abdominal organs and deliver a fresh supply of blood to that area of our bodies. Twists also create internal fire, Agni. This also contributes to our ability to move food throughout bodies and eliminate effectively.
  • Forward folds are downright fabulous in our pursuit of digestion and for decreasing bloating. Bloating sucks, right? Let's eliminate that with some gentle compression to the organs that live in our abdominal cavities.
  • Backbends stretch our abdominal organs really well. Space is good. The action of expanding and contracting gets things moving. We're gonna do a bunch of this.
  • Releasing excess gas is a must after a big meal. There are a few poses that really help with this.

Practicing a special Thanksgiving yoga sequence so you can thoroughly enjoy your meal and time with family is, most importantly, a loving way to be present. Because it will ensure you're not distracted and irritated by what's going on in your belly, it's a damn good idea. Comfort is a priority. Share this with those you've included in your celebration. It's a simple sequence that's designed as beginner-friendly. Perhaps practicing together will become a sweet and integral tradition starting with this holiday season.

Thanksgiving yoga sequence for digestion and comfort

  • Begin in Balasana (Child's Pose). Breath deeply. Keep your knees together so they help with compressing your belly. Stretch your arms forward, keeping your forearms off the ground.
  • Slither through into Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose). Move back to Child's Pose and repeat the sequence 3 times.
  • From Cobra, move into tabletop position. Thread your left arm under your right and lay your head and shoulder to the ground. Enjoy the twist and shoulder release. Make some noise. Move on to the other side.
  • Move through Cat/Cow pose. It's one of the very best actions to stretch and compress the organs of the belly. It's also good for anxiety. If your holiday celebration offers none of that, super news. But just in case...
  • From tabletop, move into Downward Facing Dog Pose. Stretch everything. Think of your body like a wishbone (see what I did there?) and apply equal amounts of pressure in your hands and feet. Hold for several breaths and step forward to the top of your mat.
  • Remain in Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend). Enjoy the massage action applied to your abdominal muscles and organs and reset your central nervous system. Walk your feet hips distance apart.
  • Squat down in Malasana. Sit on a block or other prop if that feels better on your hips and knees. Move your left arm in front of your left shin and raise your right arm high in a twist. Hold for a few breaths and do the other side.
  • Sit down and come laying on your back. Bring your left knee into your chest and lay your right leg straight on the ground in Wind Relieving Pose. It does exactly what it says. Repeat the action on the other side.
  • Conclude your practice in Supta Badda Konasana (Reclining Cobbler's Pose). You could also place a block under your sacrum for a slight backbend if you feel inclined.

Enjoy the pleasures of food, loved ones, and downtime. I hope this Thanksgiving yoga sequence aids and abets you in this pursuit. Happy holidays!


yoga gift box holidays|yogi surprise

The Unacknowledged Presence in a Yoga Gift Box

Have you heard the joke about the only thing the yoga teacher wanted for their birthday? "Just your presence."

Both presents and presence exist in each adoringly cultivated yoga gift box. There's a whole lot more than the contents inside.

A yoga gift box means all of your shopping is done

I mean, if you dig shopping more than breathing, that might not be great news. But if you're a pretty typical holiday shopper who feels a bit overwhelmed by the whole process, then we've got you. The lucky yoga lover in your life knows when they open your gift that you know them well and you want to remind them every month that they are loved.

Sharing a yoga gift box with others is a delightful part of the joy

Last month, when I opened my gift box and saw the cute purple yoga sox with tread on the bottoms, I knew exactly who would be getting them. Amy, I know you'll be wearing them every practice and it makes me smile to think about how much you appreciate them. There's something for everyone in each yoga gift box. We all know a crystals lover. And each of us has that friend who lives for mala beads.

Give a yoga gift box to a couple of friends to enjoy together

If you have two friends whom you know would love a monthly yoga gift box, you could even purchase one for them to share. It would give them the perfect reason to connect each month and explore the contents of the box together, discussing how best to enjoy them in their practice. They will also undoubtedly find items they can collectively gift to other friends, increasing the web of sharing.

We all love receiving gifts in the mail

Each time the Yogi Surprise yoga gift boxes show up at my door, that dopamine hit never fails. It's exciting to know that you don't know exactly what new interests and passions the contents will provoke. Ever since the boxes started to arrive, our home is never without burning incense. Meditation has become part of our daily life. And self-care is now a clutch component for a day well-spent.

Receiving a monthly yoga gift box encourages positive feelings with far-reaching effects

While you're in the process of exploring your yoga gift box or witnessing a loved one enjoy theirs, excitement, generosity, thoughtfulness, and curiosity come alive. These feelings are so contagious. The first time I opened a box, I immediately made a list of others whom I knew would really appreciate it. It feels thrilling to give loved ones something we know will bring them joy and elicit the above-listed feelings in them too.

I was discussing The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman with a student yesterday. These love languages include (in no particular order): time spent, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, and physical affection. The student remarked that gifts are her number one love language. She said when she receives a gift and it's clear someone really thought about her interests and passions, it fills her cup to an overflowing level. It's a lovely way to feel and observe in others.

You have many gift box options

Yogi Surprise offers 3, 6, and 12-month subscription options to meet your budget and gifting desires. Or consider our self-love box as a one-time gift if a subscription isn't what you're looking for.

We also have a specifically curated box for men. The number of men practicing yoga in the United States continues to grow yearly. And we see you men and want to support your specific needs within the wide lens scope of the practice.

We are so looking forward to enjoying the holiday spirit of giving and receiving with you this year.

 


how to practice saucha yoga|yogi surprise

How to Practice Saucha and Why You Absolutely Have to Clean Your Yoga Mat

I've definitely been guilty of letting my yoga mat get a little funky.

You figure, "Hey, it's my stench. What's the big?"

Saucha (cleanliness or purity) is the first niyama (positive and ethical observances). It guides us down the path of being mindful about excess and stabilizing our relationship with what purity means to us. If you're curious about how to practice saucha, let's begin with your yoga mat.

How to practice saucha when it comes to our yoga mats

Why am I making such a big deal over this? It's just a mat. If it's dirty, I'm only rolling around in my own filth. That's totally fine. Except that it isn't. If our yoga mat is a metaphor for our lives, we can't continue to dive head first into negative thoughts, impure intentions, and unclear actions. We must have enough self-worth to provide ourselves a clean yoga mat to practice on so we can establish the importance of pure feelings that translate into how we behave and what we value.

It's important to be considerate of others

If we treat our yoga mat as if it doesn't matter, does that translate into how we treat our bodies? Maybe. Probably. Just as it feels so much better to live inside a clean home, practicing on a pure sweet-smelling surface will only enhance the experience of our practice. And other people really appreciate it when they practice next to someone who took the time to bathe and put on fresh clothing. Have you ever set up your mat next to someone who smells like they have zero relationships with soap or deodorant? I have and it sucked. You try not to let it ruin your practice. But let's be real. It does. It's an easy solution regarding how to practice saucha and it benefits everyone.

How to practice saucha via asanas

It's likely you're already doing these. But in case you're not, or you blow off one or two, use this easy guideline to incorporate how to practice saucha into every practice, even if it's a home practice and there's no one there to offend.

  • Take a bath or shower. It can be quick. Hit all the important parts and literally wash the impurities from your body.
  • Try daily dry brushing and massage sesame oil into your skin. More impurities will vacate your body and self-care will instill the fact into your brain that you are worth it.
  • Set up your space thoughtfully. Lay out your mat. Hopefully, you washed it after your last practice. But washing it again before using it sets the tone for pure thoughts and intentions. Use an incredible mat spray that has essential oils to imbue sweetness and instill specific intentions. Try the Citrus Eucalyptus Yoga Mat Spray from Mystic Ginger Apothecary (included in the this month's Yogi Surprise box). It will compel you to get on your mat and stay there to soak up the goodness.
  • Share. We learned this in kindergarten. It's the perfect way to make new friends and contribute to the happiness and well-being of another in such an easy and instinctual way. Offer the person practicing next to you some of your mat spray or essential oil so they can cleanse their own palate and pursue the important and inspired practice of saucha.

 


pretty yoga poses sequence|yogi surprise

This Sequence Is Brought to You by The Pretty Yoga Poses

Pretty yoga poses look and feel glorious. Sure, some are fancy and extremely difficult. But there are also many lovely and not at all overly complicated postures that allow you to feel your most beautiful self.

Pretty poses help us to find and feel grace

You know that one friend, the one who's never awkward? Even if she falls out of Half Moon Pose, she does it with an elegant flair as if it was on purpose. She never bumps into a wall while looking for a chapstick in her oversized bag. And not once has she ever knocked her water bottle over in yoga class. Ever.

There is undeniable beauty in thoughtful movement and subtle actions. And graceful executions require thoughtfulness, patience, and proprioception (knowing where your body lives in space). The awareness that comes from plotting out how to best go about any posture from High Crescent Lunge to Crow Pose is where the pretty yoga poses show up. Now, no doubt, some shapes are simply more adorable than others. Just take a quick peek at your IG feed. Certain postures such as Natarajasana(Dancer's Pose) and Urdvah Danurasana(Upward-Facing Bow) variations get a little more love than Mountain Pose.

Pretty yoga poses require attention to transition and the willingness to force nothing

The travel method we employ moving from one pose into another is considered a posture all unto itself. Since we are each in a constant state of transition, it's about the experience of moving from one thing to the next with as little stress as possible and as much ease and enjoyment as we can find. Our definition of pretty yoga poses changes. Whew, it feels like a lot. When we slow down we often wind up with more. More time, energy, appreciation, and yes, grace.

Yoga sequence to add elegance and beauty to your day

This is an accessible sequence. And if inversions and arm balances are your jam, sprinkle them in as you like. It may take a few rounds of practice to find the smooth and graceful execution that feels so satisfying. So stay with it. Add your own dramatic and subtle flair. Regardless, I hope you feel absolutely beautiful as you flow and move today. Because you are.

  • Begin in Chair Pose. Lift your right knee up toward your chest and place your right fingertips on the kneecap
  • Help your right leg to step back using fingertips. When you lose contact and the leg has landed on the soft pad of the ball of your foot. Extend your right arm forward and reach your left arm back into a twisted lunge.
  • Tilt back, left hand reaching for the back of the right thigh and the right arm reaching up towards the ceiling.
  • From that shape, move into Warrior 2 by parking your right foot all the way down to the ground and sweeping your right arm back as you simultaneously reach your left arm forward. Moving back and forth between these pretty poses becomes a thing of beauty all unto itself.
  • Tilt back towards your right leg, breathing deeply, then lift back through Warrior 2 briefly as you bring your right palm to the ground while lifting your right heel back up and reach your left arm towards the ceiling again.
  • From there, lift back into the twisted lunge, right arm forward, left arm back. Take as many rounds as you like to getter more fluid in your transitions.

It will get easier and feel more natural as you continue to practice

We all know practice is the answer to just about everything. Here's wishing you a beautiful practice and day!


take yourself on vote|yogi surprise

This Election Day Is Also "Take Yourself On" Day

Did you know there is a national fried scallops day? Umhmm, it was October 2nd. Put it on your calendar for next year if you're upset you missed it.

There's also a national hermit day, name your car day, and get funky day. What does that even look like?

I haven't filed the paperwork or anything yet, but if there can be a national fluffernutter day, then there most certainly should be a day for us to unilaterally proclaim our desire to improve how we live, love, think, and behave.

Join me in celebrating "take yourself on" today

Election day seems like a damn good choice to celebrate this both nationally and internationally. We are constantly influencing everyone around us in both tiny and giant ways. When you show up for a packed yoga class at the last minute, and someone is thoughtful enough to move their mat to make room for you, it changes your entire outlook on your practice.

No improvement or effort is too small. Yesterday, a man opened a door for me. He was walking in the same direction and hurried ahead so he could open the next one too. "I guess today is 'I open the door for you' day", he said with a smile. I smiled too. And I relished the opportunity to open a door for someone else a little later on that day.

3 very simple ways to embrace the choice to "take yourself on" every single day

  1. Choose one thing each day to improve on. It's so easy because there are unlimited possibilities. Smile more. Offer each person you encounter a compliment. Put candy in someone's coat pocket and don't take the credit. Call (don't text) 3 friends whom you haven't spoken to in far too long. Put a fresh towel out for your significant other before their shower. Offer to walk a neighbor's dog in the rain. Hug the hell out of a tree. Have fun making this list and let your mind go wild. It's truly a blast.
  2. Take on a task you've been actively ignoring. I don't know about you, but my list is too damn long. And there are additions almost daily. Whether it's a chore, conversation, or obligation, just dig in and do it. Today, I will get the dent in my car fixed. It's a hassle and I don't want to spend my time that way, but I know I'll be relieved to cross it off the ever-growing list.
  3. Self-care is a necessity. Understanding self-care is the only way we can offer anything to anyone else is an imperative component in the pursuit of taking ourselves on. We must have energetic reserves to be there for others physically, emotionally, and to be mentally present. There are innumerable ways to make sure self-care is a daily priority. From getting enough sleep to meditation, yoga practice, and spending time in silent solitude, self-care is a crucial ingredient in the arsenal of tools to help you take yourself on.

We'd love to hear your suggestions regarding this all too important life strategy. Please comment so we can learn from you.


hot yoga benefits|yogi surprise

The Hot Yoga Debate: Is It Actually Good for You?

Hot Yoga is the practice of yoga in a heated room. It's typically practiced in heat that is 100 degrees or higher. If you just said, "Yikes, no f'ing way could I do that," I'm with you. I've tried many times and finally landed smack dab on not for me. But there are many who absolutely live for it and there are legit reasons why. Let's discuss.

Facts about Hot Yoga

Hot Yoga, aside from happening in an extremely heated room, is often thought of interchangeably with Bikram Yoga. This is a common mistake. The high temperature is the defining component, not the sequence. Many styles of yoga utilize high heat to accompany the style. These include Baptist Yoga, Barkan Method, and Modo Yoga.

Reasons for practicing in a very heated room

Advocates of Hot Yoga feel very strongly about the remarkable benefits they've personally derived from practicing in the extreme heat and sweating profusely while doing yoga. They describe it as life-changing. Here are the main hard-core benefits if this practice is something you're either currently enjoying or interested in trying:

  • It's mentally challenging. If you've never tried it, the only way to find out for sure if it's right for you is to give it a go. But there's no denying that getting through a 60 or 90-minute class is hard as hell. Putting up with the sweat and the difficulty in breathing is a big part of the payoff according to long-time practitioners. Knowing you can persevere has lasting positive effects.
  • It can help with finding calm in the midst of the constant storms that cross our paths. Staci McCool, owner of Bluespot Yoga in Columbus, Ohio offers both Barkan Method and a variation on Bikram Yoga called Hot 26. She is firmly rooted in the Hot Yoga camp and articulately explains why. "It trains your brain to breathe before you react. How? For one, it's uncomfortable. It's hot and you're holding poses. And all you want the instructor to do is crack the damn door. But she won't. And you learn to let the sweat drip, your hair to fall in your face, and you find stillness."

Hot Yoga isn't for everyone

Staci McCool acknowledges this, as do many other hot yoga advocates. How does one figure out if it's not the right fit? First, identify your goals via yoga. Start with these questions:

  1.  Do I practice for strength, discipline, and to challenge myself? If yes, and the heat just feels too oppressive to you, there other styles of yoga that will offer you the above benefits and not require that you practice in a sauna. But if you enjoy sweating, you'll probably dig Hot Yoga once you get used to it and learn to breathe through it.
  2. Do I prefer a comforting, gentle practice that offers me ease, nurture, and a calming environment? If yes, go for a warm room (between 78-85 degrees).
  3. Do I get light-headed and feel dehydrated often? If either or both of these describe you, Hot Yoga is probably not the best practice for you. Those who regularly practice get used to hydrating before class and getting enough water after to replace electrolytes. But if you know you don't handle heat well, try a Vinyasa or Ashtanga class to build heat internally without overdoing it.
  4. Am I highly inflexible? If yes, practicing in a hot room will help with the pliability of your muscles and tendons. However, it's important to make sure you're not going too far. If you have any degree of hypermobility in your joints, be careful. The extremely hot room can make it even easier to go deeper. This is not a great idea for everyone. And yoga, in general, will help with increased flexibility even in a room-temperature space.

Bottom line, yo

Hot Yoga is fine for some and not so much for others. It's a matter of preference, goals, health, and what attracts you. If you love it, then do it. If you can't stand it, there are other ways to satisfy your desire to challenge yourself. I've most definitely given it many chances to seduce me and it only repels me further. And for those who just dig it so very hard, I'm so happy it exists for you. It's good for you if you feel positive effects. If it just pisses you off, no need to force it.