Meet Your Kula: Nina Monobe

Meet Your Kula: Nina Monobe

Part of what makes us so unique are the amazing members of our Yogi community, our kula. Each month, we’ll feature one member of our yogi community, chat with them about their practice, learn more about what draws them to yoga, and get to know each other a little more.

Meet our Maitrī Yogi, Nina Monobe.

Hi Nina! Tell us about yourself!

Hi! I’m Nina (Marina) Monobe and I love to help others through my veterinary and yoga practice. I’m a Veterinary Doctor who moved to USA to work as a PhD researcher and teacher assistant. During my cultural transition time, I found myself practicing yoga as a therapeutic exercise to fight anxiety and depression. Nowadays, I’m an Alliance Certified Yoga Instructor and AFAA Fitness Instructor. I consider myself living between two different worlds, veterinary & fitness, which I love equally.

How did you begin your yoga journey?

As an immigrant in USA, who left family & friends back in Brazil, I had a difficult time trying to adapt to the new American culture. I always felt overwhelmed trying to prove my skills as good as or better than my co-workers. Subsequently diagnosed with anxiety and depression, I considered a variety of therapies that could potentially help me, including yoga. Soon enough I realized yoga as a life changing experience and I can definitively say it saved my life.

When did you decide to become a yoga instructor?

In 2018, I decided to take my practice to the next level. I wanted to deeply understand the alignment, benefits and history behind it. Since then, I found myself always enrolled in a different training. At this moment, I’m working on finishing a 500-Hour Orthopedic Yoga Therapy Training Course.

What type of yoga do you teach? What lead you to this particular style?

I teach a wide variety of yoga styles, from traditional Vinyasa Ashtanga and Restorative Yin Yoga with mediation music, to Power Yoga and yoga with weights, with pop music. My mission is to bring awareness to people that yoga can be fun and make you flexible, balanced and strong from the inside out and there is always a style out there waiting for you to fall in love!

How has the practice of yoga affected your life? Spiritually? Mentally?

Yoga is body-mind work. It makes me more flexible and stronger from the inside out. Physically I now have better flexibility, range of motion, endurance and muscle strength. I’m more aware of my body limitations and how to mindfully progress my practice. From practicing Pranayama, I’m more centered and present. I’m more grateful and appreciative towards everything in my life. I feel more complete and accomplished. I’m more understanding about situations and patient with people and myself. All of those feelings developed through yoga decreased my anxiety and stress levels.

How do you find compassion for yourself in your journey?

Yoga is a constant learning process. It was through injuring myself (on and off the mat) and not being patient with my body that I learned how to better listen to it. At some point you not only become aware of your limitations but you start loving yourself. As you recognize yourself as a human with ups and downs but in constant progress, you find compassion.

How do you incorporate what you've learned from your practice both on and off the mat?

By becoming more aware and learning how to love myself, I learned to always make adjustments to improve my physical and mental experience on the mat. Sometimes taking easy modifications or taking a slow and gentle flow. This allowed me to see that those small adjustments could always be applied off the mat. Situations I cannot control or plans gone wrong, I always find a way to adjust. Not blaming myself and likewise, taking it easy. Treatment myself with love, sometimes a relaxing bath or playing my favorite playlist to boost my mood. Also, yoga taught me to always take a minute for gratitude, during Shavasana or Pranayama. This is a practice I take everyday even when I don’t step on my mat. Allows me to find peace even on a chaotic day. Finally, by exploring the eight limbs of yoga on the mat, practicing it daily off the mat improved my relationships with family, friends and strangers. Being more patient and compassionate to others and not only with myself.

What would you share with a beginner?

First of all, I always had this misconception that yoga would be a stretching routine, mostly performed by seniors, or people with injuries. I remember being afraid of trying a class and it being super boring, with long meditations. I was totally wrong and I immediately discovered Yoga has many different styles and most of them aim to improve strength, flexibility and endurance. My first yoga class was Power Yoga. I remember taking breaks and feeling ashamed for not being able to touch my toes in a “simple” fold, while people twice my age were so much more flexible and stronger. The shame, combined with the physical challenge made me a regular in Power Yoga. However, I know many people never come back for the same reason. My greatest tip would be to never compare yourself with another person. Yoga is a journey and we all start somewhere. Our bodies are different, therefore, they perform differently and progress happens with practice. Knowing that, let go from frustrations. Focus on where you are and what you want to achieve. Sometimes, record your movements or poses and later on your path come back to see how far you’ve come!

How has your understanding of Maitrī grown and changed over the years, both in your practice and in your everyday life?

At first, most of the meditative practice was extremely difficult for me. Dealing with my mind wanders was always challenging. Maitrī meditation through Chanting helped me to channel my energy, center my mind and body and find peace. Over time, I found self-love and gratitude and consequently, I learned to be less judgmental and goal oriented as I used to be. As I became a yoga instructor, I nurtured my mind to become a beacon of light for others to feed off of, in a way that now what was a way I would use to find peace and happiness helps others to find them as well.

You can connect with Nina and follow along with her yoga journey at @ninayoganow.

You can also practice alongside Nina this with with our Maitrī Grounding Flow and our mantra:

May all beings be well, may all beings be happy. May I treat all beings with love and kindness.


Meet Your Kula: Mel Douglas


Meet Your Kula: Mel Douglas

Part of what makes us so unique are the amazing members of our Yogi community, our kula. Each month, we’ll feature one member of our yogi community, chat with them about their practice, learn more about what draws them to yoga, and get to know each other a little more.

This month, meet Mel Douglas, our Karuna Yogi.

Tell us about yourself!

My name is Mel Douglas and I’m a Brooklyn, NY native currently living in Los Angeles with my pup Kenji. I’m a plant mom, black coffee lover, and outdoor adventurer. I spend much of my time advocating for wellness in my community by sharing my journey with mental health, wellness, and yoga. In 2018 I founded the Black Women's Yoga Collective (BWYC), a community organization focused on increasing accessibility to wellness and generating true safe spaces that offer intersectional wellness practices.

What started your yoga journey?

I like to say that yoga found me because it turned out to be such a huge part of my life pretty unexpectedly. I was bored of going to the gym, so I started trying out the different classes offered there instead. I ended up in a power vinyasa class, got my butt kicked by a deceptively gentle voiced lady, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

When did you decide to become a yoga instructor?

I decided to become an instructor about 6 months into developing my personal practice. Something clicked for me right away and I knew I wanted to teach, to share what I was learning with my community. I recognized the impact that having teachers who looked like me had on how I was able to connect in class and felt that I could foster that sort of connection for others through teaching.

What type of yoga do you teach? What drew you to this particular form of yoga?

I mostly teach different styles of vinyasa yoga because I love the way flowing leaves me feeling grounded and connected. The styles range from gentle restorative vinyasa to hot power vinyasa, and everything in between. I believe that we can practice flowing through life much the way we do a vinyasa class.

How has the practice of yoga affected your life? Spiritually? Mentally?

Practicing yoga has changed my life completely. As a person with a mood and anxiety disorder, the practices I’ve learned on this journey have allowed me to begin to navigate life in much healthier ways. Yoga has helped me better my relationships, feel empowered in my abilities, and deepen my capacity for joy.

Tell us more about BWYC! What led you to create this space?

I created BWYC because I noticed a lack of resources and representation as a Black woman starting my own journey with yoga. When I stopped attending yoga classes at my gym in Crenshaw and branched out to actual yoga studios, I was disappointed to often find myself the only Black student in class. It also became apparent that finding other Black instructors was going to be a challenge.

I knew that a part of what helped me connect with yoga when I did was the comfort I felt being surrounded by my community. I had practiced before a few times throughout my life but had never felt like it was truly for me, until I experienced yoga in an environment that was for me. So I decided to create a space for more of that and it’s bloomed beautifully over the last few years.

How do you incorporate what you've learned from your practice both on and off the mat?

I do my best to flow through life with ease and intention, much the way we’re taught to flow through a yoga class. A lot of the Baptiste methodology particularly is around staying in alignment with your true purpose, facing tough times with ease, doing what you can and knowing it’s enough. In a class I use those things to remind myself to be kind to my body, in life I use those things as a reminder to be kind to my whole self.

What would you share with a beginner?

I would say don’t be afraid to explore all of the different styles of yoga to find the style that fits you best. A lot of people think “yoga” is just one thing but there are so many different ways to practice.

How has your understanding of Karuna grown and changed over the years?

Before I started practicing yoga, I believed that compassion was something I only gave to others. Over the years and through practice, I’ve come to understand that it starts with me. I’ve come to understand that when I am compassionate to myself, it is much easier to be compassionate to others. When I’m kind to myself, it’s much easier to share kindness with others. When I heal myself, I create space for others to heal themselves.

You can follow Mel's journey and connect with her on Instagram at @meldouglasyoga. You can support her work at Black Women's Yoga Collective on Instagram at @blackwomensyogaco. You can also practice alongside Mel this month with our Karuna Heart-Opening Asana with our mantra:

I extend deep and unconditional compassion with each breath. I find presence and happiness through boundless, abundant compassion for all living creature

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.


5 Creative Ways to Use Green Tea in Your Self-Care Regimen

Researchers have dubbed green tea “the healthiest thing you can drink,” thanks to all its rich antioxidants that fight against cell damage—as well as its abilities to improve blood circulation and lower cholesterol.

Drinking a cup or two (or more) of green tea is the most common way to enjoy it, but there are several other ways you can reap the health benefits of this incredible superfood. Best of all, green tea can be used in some your favorite self-care rituals to help strengthen your sense of love and appreciation for yourself!.


1. Pre- or Post-Yoga Green Tea Smoothie

Whether you’re gearing up for a vinyasa flow class at the studio or needing to refuel after your at-home practice, a smoothie is never not a great option! You can use brewed green tea after it’s cooled down in your smoothie or straight matcha green tea powder.

Here are some recipes to try:


2. Green Tea Desserts

Believe it or not, green tea makes a wonderful ingredient in almost any type of dessert. From cookies and fudge, to cupcakes and cheesecakes, you’d be surprised just how versatile green tea can be when it comes to some of the most decadent and indulgent treats!

Just take a look at some of these:


3. Green Tea Facial Cleanser, Skin Toner, or Face Mask

Antioxidants help fight free radicals that contribute to aging skin, and since green tea is known to contain some of the most potent antioxidant components, it’s believed that it can contribute to healthy skin. Many commercially sold products contain green tea these days, but if you’re into DIY, it’s easy enough to make your own all-natural green tea skincare products!

Try these:


4. Green Tea Bath Bomb, Body Exfoliator, or Body Butter

Given the powerful antioxidant properties of green tea, why limit its use to just the skin on your face? Your entire body can benefit when you use green tea in other DIY bath and body products too!

Have a go at some of these creative DIYs:


5. Green Tea Shampoo, Hair Rinse, or Hair Mask

Last but not least, green tea can be used in your own DIY hair treatments as a replacement for chemical-based hair products. Green tea might aid in balancing irritation or skin imbalances of the scalp, essentially helping to open up the hair follicles to promote healthy hair growth.

Here are a few easy DIY hear treatments to try:

5 Essential Tips for Creating a Self-Care Bath Ritual

5 Essential Tips for Creating a Self-Care Bath Ritual

In a world that demands so much of our time and energy to get things done and nurture the relationships we have with people who are so important to us, it can be downright difficult to prioritize our own wellbeing.

Self-care is essential to maintaining our physical, mental, and emotional health—and the way we choose to take good care of ourselves can be as basic as taking a shower in the morning or as elaborate as spending some serious dough to go on a week-long yoga retreat!

The following self-care bath ritual strikes a nice balance between basic and elaborate—offering you the freedom to tailor it your needs in the best way that works for you.


1. Schedule it.

Whether you can carve out 20 minutes or two full hours of your time for a good soak in the tub, make sure you put it in your calendar so you don’t forget. It might sound silly to schedule your self-care rituals, but believe us when we say you’ll probably find some excuse not to do it if you know you have other things to do!


2. Tidy up your bathroom.

If you want to feel calm and relaxed in the bath, you might want to plan on cleaning up clutter on the vanity countertop, scrubbing away any soap scum, washing your bath towels, and doing any other prep work ahead of time to get your bathroom in good shape. By no means do you need to have a bathroom that looks like it’s straight out of luxury hotel—just do your best to clean any areas that could distract you during your time in the bath.


3. Gather bath time essentials that make you feel good.

Some people like scented candles while others don’t. Some like to read in the bath while some would rather close their eyes and listen to soothing music.

Everyone has different preferences, but here are a few ideas of what you might want to include in your bath ritual:

  • Candles or incense
  • A waterproof bluetooth speaker to listen to music
  • Essential oils (We recommend these scents for their relaxing effects)
  • Unscented salts (such as epsom salts or dead sea salts)
  • Facial mask
  • Exfoliating sponge or brush
  • Soap bar
  • Pumice stone
  • Shower cap
  • Hair mask treatment
  • Cup of herbal tea
  • Bathtub caddy
  • A good book to read
  • Hand towel
  • Massage oil or lotion for afterward


4. Practice yoga in the bath.

If you’re the type of person who has trouble just sitting there in the bath, there are a few bath-friendly restorative yoga poses you can try. Fire log pose (agnistambhasana), bound ankle pose (baddha konasana), half lord the fishes pose (ardha matsyendrasana), seated forward bend (paschimottanasana), and cow face pose (gomukhasana) are just a few that you can do for an enhanced calming effect on the body and mind.


5. Take your time getting out with a mindful self-massage.

Rather than jumping out of the tub to quickly towel off, dress, and get on with your day, try taking at least an extra 5 to 10 minutes at the end of your bath for one last thing—self-massage. Massing your skin with natural oil or lotion can help get you more in touch with your physical body in ways that can help improve body positivity and self-love.

Self-Care Practices to Embrace the Autumn Season

Self-Care Practices to Embrace the Autumn Season

In autumn, many people decide to get serious about their goals and the routine they need to establish to get there, but many also fall victim to overdoing it. They often push themselves against their resistance, unknowingly causing a cascade of adverse effects that push back in ways that either halt their progress altogether or cause them feel like they've moved backwards.

Self-care, when done right, is anything but selfish—and it's key to personal growth. We practice self-care not because we're self-indulgent, but to regain balance in our lives again—on all physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels.

Here are five things you can do this autumn, or any season whatsoever, to take care of yourself and reap the benefits of a well balanced lifestyle.


Get Serious About Downtime

Downtime is the time you take away from the day-to-day responsibilities that use up your energy rather than restore it. To get serious about downtime, you’ll have to put it into your schedule. An hour at the end of every day or a full 24 hours every week are good places to start.


Let Your Inner Child Out

Play is a form of active rest, and you can use the downtime you schedule into your day or week to embrace what your inner child loves to do. During the autumn season, you might want to try:

  • Jumping in piles of leaves with your dog, kids, spouse, etc.
  • Going apple or pumpkin picking
  • Using pencil crayons to color in a coloring book by the warm fire
  • Making autumn-inspired crafts out of leaves, twigs, rocks and other outdoor items
  • Reading mystery, drama, or horror fiction books while sipping on hot cocoa


Create Your Own Personal Spa

Your downtime can also be used to pamper and nurture yourself with warm, soothing spa practices designed to moisturize and relax your entire body. Many of the items included in our Lifestyle box are perfect for creating your own little mini spa in your very own bathroom at home—such as Gypsy Soul Organics' Barefoot Lake Candle that came in our September box and Lotus Flower OM’s Bohemian Funk Massage Oil that’s in our October box. Simply light a candle, draw a warm bath, and sink into relaxing bliss!


Routinely Check in With How You Feel

The great thing about checking in with yourself is that it can be done anytime in as little as a few seconds, and you don’t necessarily need to take a significant amount of downtime to do it. Simply stop what you’re doing to mindfully check in with the physical sensations of your body, the mental thoughts flying through your head, and the emotions that are present. How is your body, mind, and spirit trying to tell you to take care of yourself?


Create the Perfect Sleep Routine and Environment

Lastly, never underestimate the importance of sleep in a good self-care regimen. Sleep is foundational for everything, so making sure get a solid 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night on a regular schedule is vital to feeling at your best and doing your best throughout the day. Consider removing clutter from your bedroom, eliminating all sources of light, and bringing items in that serve to relax you in healthy ways—such as by adding houseplants, using aromatherapy diffusers, or replacing your old pillows with new ones.

Most importantly, remember not to let anyone else make you feel bad for taking care of yourself first before tending to other responsibilities. To give the greatest gifts you’re capable of giving, you must fill yourself up with love first—and only you have the power to do that for yourself.