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.

 


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!


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.


yoga class themes ideas|yogi surprise

Yoga Class Themes That Land Without Beating People Over The Head

I've been quite guilty of this.

A themed yoga class turns a practice into a deeply personal experience. You'll carry it with you and continue to revisit the offering long after you've left the studio and gone about your day. If the message is one we're receptive to hearing, that's usually enough to hit us hard and insist on further contemplation.

Themed yoga classes offer us a wonderful way to continue our practice long after we've rolled up our mats

This one time, in yoga class, the teacher came in and asked each of us to reach into a basket with our eyes closed and take an item from within. I was so excited until I retrieved my item and saw it was a plastic car. One of those old matchbox racer types. It didn't land right away, but once the instructor gave his dharma talk, it hit me like a wheel barrel full of bricks.

I had somewhere I needed to go and something very specific to do.

The whole class was about looking for signs. And they're everywhere if we're receptive. The woman on my right had a knitting needle placed at the top of her mat. The dude to my left was holding his item, a stress ball, and squeezing the living shit out of it. The instructor suggested we contemplate our chosen item and wait. He gave us time in quiet meditation to let the object speak to us. There was no music and no talking. I ran the little race car with the red stripes against a black background over my hand and up my arm, silently laughing about how silly I was being. Yet it felt so natural and ignited a spark.

The power of suggestion is often all we need to take action

Once we began to move, he'd bring us back to looking for signs from time to time. He didn't mention it every single pose, nor every other. He'd wait until we landed in a posture he intended to help us stay in and investigate. He'd ask one question, and then quietly allow time for us to internally answer.

"How can you make this posture feel brand new to you?"

"Do you think you should change anything or just be inside the pose experience?"

"Are you missing something important here?"

"Should you possibly change your approach here?"

The instructor understood he'd planted a seed but didn't need to over water it. He said just enough to help us find our own way to explore and interpret.

Yoga class themes help us pay attention to what's important

That was my big take away. If we keep falling out of a balancing pose but continue to utilize the same approach and wind up with the same result, we're ignoring something that needs to be acknowledged. When we stop for a second and give the information that's right in front of our faces a chance to sink in, we can adjust and benefit from the newly absorbed data.

After this practice, I felt extra-observant. A private client canceled. Time opened up and allowed me to take a short trip to see an ailing friend. Later that same day, I received an email from another friend who lives in Atlanta. She decided to throw a silent auction and party to raise money and awareness for the same illness my friend is suffering from. I booked a flight within minutes.

Even if we try to ignore our needs and desires, they will eventually insist on our attention

If I had done a home practice that day, I wouldn't have heard what I really needed to sit with. Making the excuse of being too busy to travel and attend to the people and things I love was now no longer possible.

The instructor understood that universal yoga class themes will hit everyone in different ways. I'm so curious about the knitting needle lady and the stress ball guy. How did they continue to practice after class?

 

 

 


how often should you do yoga questions|yogi surprise

How Often Should You Do Yoga? The Most Common Questions Asked and Answered

How often should you do yoga? Which yoga mat should I buy? How long will it take for my hamstrings to become more open? Should I do handstands if I've had a rotator cuff injury?

The inquiry never stops, nor should it. Ask and question everything. There's only circumstantial evidence that curiosity killed the cat. Curiosity is what it's all about.

If you have a question about yoga, chances are that many others have the same inquiry

I've been teaching yoga for coming up on 13 years now. Primarily, I teach Vinyasa Yoga. But I've also spent time teaching Hatha, Yin, and Restorative. Below are the most common questions I've received over the years. The answers are based in both fact and opinion, so take it all with a big bag of salt. And keep that curiosity muscle flexed.

How often should you do yoga?

Daily. Keep in mind that your practice should reflect your goals, health, injury accommodation, and any other needs. Many swear by daily meditation. This can certainly be viewed as a yoga practice. If you believe the concept that your practice is your life, then practicing with every action you take, every word you speak and choice you make is how often you should do yoga. But if we're zeroing in on asana, I'm still going with daily. The practice can be restorative with lots of support from props and deep stretches. If muscle building and a lovely combo of strength and flexibility is what you're after, then get on your mat each day, even if it's just for a few minutes. If that's overwhelming or doesn't feel possible, aim for at least three times a week to really begin to see benefits and progress.

What yoga mat should I buy?

The style of practice you love will help dictate which mat you decide to invest in. If you're brand new to yoga, get a simple, inexpensive yoga mat. Mats can run anywhere from $10.00 to $160.00, so be sure you're going to commit to a practice before buying a high-quality mat. There are lots of good options out there. Manduka offers a lifetime guarantee, and the price tag reflects it. I've had mine since about a year before going through yoga teacher training, so that makes it more than 14 years-old. And there's not one molecule of damage. Certain mats are better for doing hot yoga because they really do offer better support in the effort to not slide off your damn mat. So, depending on your needs, there's a mat that's perfect for you.

Should I practice with an injury?

Absolutely! But you need to modify, obvi. A little over four years ago I broke my leg in an ATV accident. I know they look fun, but they're really damn dangerous. Figuring out how to do yoga when I couldn't even stand without crutches was definitely a challenge. I made this video of my daily yoga sequence so others suffering from a lower extremity injury had options for practice. Find a way, but please for the love, let your injury heal. So if you just dig handstands in a way you can barely explain, I get it. But stop doing them if you have a shoulder, wrist, hand, or elbow injury. Heal. The pose isn't going anywhere.

How long will it take for my hamstrings to loosen up?

It really, really depends on you. Genetics plays a role. But with diligent and safe attention, the hamstrings can begin to feel more spacious. Stay with it. They need frequent maintenance. But be careful about overdoing it. Hamstring injuries totally suck and trust that you don't want one.

Include any burning yoga practice questions you have in the comments. We'd love to help!


sense of direction location|yogi surprise

Yoga Sequence to Improve Your Sense of Direction

Do you know how to get where you're determined to go?

If you answered, 'sometimes', welcome to the club! Often we are more focused on the arrival to our destination. We can see the finish line so clearly, it's like we're already there. Except we're not. Nope. We need a compass, GPS, an old-fashioned map, something. Yet, those things can be very elusive if we don't have a strong sense of direction. I can visualize a breath-taking island where the locals are lovely and the music, food, yoga, and all-around revelry are abundant. But I haven't the first clue about how to actually locate it. Can you relate?

I envy those who have a strong internal sense of direction

Maybe you're one of the lucky few who always seems to understand the directional pulls and instinctively comprehends not just where to go but also the best pathway and most direct route. But if you're more like the majority of us, you often veer down roads that lead to dead ends, forcing you to double back and try another way. Hey, we're all in this together. And sure, we can see that taking wrong turns or roads that lead nowhere is all apart of the journey. But it sure is nice to feel that sense of direction and inherently know it's leading us directly where we want to land.

Try this yoga sequence to develop your sense of direction and plant yourself firmly on your path to greatness

We all have a dharma and once we've determined what that is, we're in a really big, damn hurry to get going. This yoga sequence will not only help you develop your inner compass, but chances are it will shake loose the information that, up until now, has felt elusive and evasive. Give it a go and let us know any awakenings you have. We'd love to see you execute it on IG. If you decide to go that route, please tag us so we can tag you back. As I said, we're all in this together, yo.

  • Begin in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Get oriented to your crown being north, your feet being south, your left side being west, and your right is east. Visualize a bright compass sitting directly in the center of your chest. Feel its presence guiding you.

  • Reach your arms wide (east and west). Bend your knees and lower your hips (south) into Chair Pose. Wrap your left arm over your right arm, hugging yourself tightly. Position your palms together, then wrap your right leg over your left culminating into Eagle Pose. Pull everything towards the center of your body, stimulating your inner compass. We can always come back here if we get lost.
  • Unwrap everything and find the four corners of your space. Arms are out in a V-shape and step your legs into a V as well landing in Star Pose. Take up space while feeling grounded. Breath deeply, filling yourself with a sense of clarity and strength. Hop back to center, Mountain Pose.
  • Fold forward into Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend). Invert so that everything is moving south. Take advantage of this perspective shift by noticing the change in your breath and reorienting your focus.
  • Step back into Plank Pose. Look forward (north). Feel your heels reach back (south). Come onto your shins into tabletop. Move your hips toward the ceiling or sky and your heart forward into Cow Pose. Dome your upper back and point your hips down pulling your ribcage into your spine, Cat Pose. Take a few rounds to massage your spine and enjoy the directional pulls motivated by your breath.
  • Come back to tabletop and extend your left leg straight back landing on the ball of your foot. Now step your left over to the right side of the room (east). Feel the radiation in your hips and you move along a diagonal plane. Your leg is straight. Now bend it and move your left kneecap behind your right knee crease. Move your shins as far apart as you can and walk your hands further to the left, maintaining a diagonal line (northwest). Sit back if your hips allow for it, possibly all the way to the ground. Breath here for as many moments as you like. return to tabletop and repeat on the other side. Each time you shift directions, enjoy the reorientation process always knowing you control the direction.
  • Once you've completed both sides and returned to tabletop, sit back in Child's Pose (Balasana) and rest, coming back to your center.

Even when we change our direction, we can always find our way back. This eliminates the fear of going the wrong way. We can undo and reverse our direction whenever we feel the need. But even when we do this, we are still moving forward with new knowledge and a better understanding of where we want to be. Being still isn't being stagnant. Enjoy everywhere your mind and body go today. It all serves a purpose.