Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Thank You! Thank You!

I just wanted to say a BIG thank you to everyone who has ever read my blog. Even though I am a little intimidated every time I sit down to write, I do love sharing my thoughts and experiences with you and I hope you walk away with something good as well! I am still blown away by the fact that anyone would be interested enough to read my little ramblings and I can't tell you how much I appreciate your time and feedback. I love feeling connected to this little community, but it is time for me to shift gears.

From now on, all new blog posts will be on my new website www.empoweredbalanceyoga.com! It's been an exciting experience (and a huge learning curve!) to put this website together, and luckily, I had some amazing help! I hope you'll continue to read and share with me on the new site!

Once again, thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Balancing My Many Love Affairs

I have a confession...(unless you know me, then this is more of a known fact), I am not a morning person. Not even a little bit. I relish sleeping in and count down the week days until I get to drift off into the sweet slumber of someone with no alarm in the morning. I have been known to rush through a shower, leave the house with wet hair and skip breakfast just to hit the snooze one more time. It's been a life long love affair between morning sleep and I. Morning sleep is just so much better than evening sleep, where you just go to bed two hours earlier to avoid wanting to sleep two hours more in the morning. This hadn't really been an issue until I began a new love affair. One with a juicer.

Big glasses full of vibrant green juice. Mason jars filled with bright orange juice. The dulcet hum of the motor as entire vegetables are broken down into liquid form. I got a juicer for Christmas, and I admit it, I'm hooked. I had avoided the whole juicing fad all last year, mostly because I saw it as a fad. (I'm also the kind of person who avoided reading "The Da Vinci Code" for over a year just because everyone else loved it.) I read article after article in magazines and online about the benefits of juicing. The joys of juicing. And I thought...."Pssshh. Juicers are expensive. That seems like a lot of work. Why not just eat all those fruits and vegetables instead?" The answer was: because I DON'T eat all those fruits and vegetables. I, like a lot of adults I know, do not get as many fruits and vegetables in my diet as I know I should and juicing is the perfect solution to this problem! I can get multiple servings of the good stuff in one tall, cold glass. As so, a love affair began. But like so many relationships, this one soon began to have problems.

The biggest one being: if I wanted to have my juice first thing in the morning (on an empty stomach so all those amazing vitamins and nutrients can get straight to work), it meant I had to wake up earlier. EARLY. What a terrible word. Juicing requires prep time. Peeling and washing and sometimes even chopping. It requires clean up after. All these things added up to an earlier morning for me, and so, I found my love affair with juicing waning. But then, after a busy few weeks of traveling, a death in the family and the over all stress of a busy life, I found myself missing my juice. I came down with a cold. I felt tired. Now honestly, I don't know if the juice has anything to do with it. But even if it is a placebo effect, I do know I'm getting lots of good things from my juice. So, I started a new routine. To save time in the morning (so I can still get the maximum amount of sleep) I have started prepping my produce the night before. Peeling and washing and chopping, then putting everything in a container in the fridge the night before. I set up my juicer. I put a bag in the pulp container to make clean up in the morning easier. I put my glass under the juice spout so it's one less thing to think about. I've found that just a little time in the evening, makes for a much easier morning! Who would have thought that I, the Queen of Procrastination, would discover the joys and prepping ahead of time?? I love that I can make juicing a little bit quicker and easier. And let's be honest, who doesn't love easier?

Now, I know there are a billion and one juice recipes out there, but I wanted to share two of my favorites that are always in rotation at my house. They both feature vegetables with some sweetness added with fruit, so you don't end up feeling like you're drinking the lawn.

Gorgeous Green Juice:
4 leaves of Kale
1/2 handfull of Parsley
1 Granny Smith Apple
1/2 Cucumber
1 Lemon (peeled)

Orange Sunrise:
3 large Carrots
1 Naval Orange (peeled)
1 Lemon (peeled)
1/2 inch Ginger (Play with the amount of ginger to see what you like. It can be a strong taste.)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

New Year, New You?

It's that time of year again, when everyone and their uncle is touting diets ("Eat and still shrink!") and exercise ("Just 10 minutes a day for 5 weeks for a bikini body!"). Am I the only one who feels WAY to pressured by all these so called "resolutions"?

My husband jokes all the time that I suffer from O.D.D. (Oppositional Defiance Disorder, it's a real thing!) and when I find my e-mail, magazines and facebook account bombarded with all these "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts" I think to myself, "Don't tell me what to do!".

This year, instead of making resolutions to lose weight or exercise more, I'm committing myself to living passionately and fully! This might mean going to CrossFit with my husband more than my usual once a month workout. Is it just me or does it take anyone else a month to recover from those WODs?? But it also means trying new things (painting class anyone?) and doing more of the things I love (cooking and yoga please!).

It's so easy to say, "There's not enough time. I have work to do. I should be doing laundry or bills" (there's that "should" again!). One of the messages I love to bring up in my classes is that yoga practice is a gift to yourself. You are worth the time! It is an hour and a half out of your day when you can fully commit to yourself. You owe it to yourself, really! And it doesn't just have to be yoga. Listen to yourself and follow your passions!

One of our personal "resolutions" for this year is focusing on eating more organic and sustainable food. We've gone back and forth in the past, telling ourselves organic just isn't in the budget this month, but this year we re-assed our priorities. Would we rather cut back on eating out and use those savings towards good, whole foods or save a few pennies by buying foods full of preservatives and ingredients we can't pronounce? When we thought about it this way, the choice was clear. The food we ingest literally becomes the proteins that make our bodies. It's pretty incredible to think about it that way! It may make for a more expensive grocery list, but we are passionate about being healthy, so it makes our resolution list!

I would love to hear how you're planning to live passionately this year!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Finding My Fierce Warrior

This past weekend I attended a workshop with Sadie Nardini at Asheville Yoga Center. Sadie is a big name in the yoga world and calls her perspective on yoga: Core Strength Vinyasa. She explains:

"Together, my Principles and Poses simplify how to access, comprehend and use the “core” most efficiently to gain the maximum yoga benefits (calorie burn, strength, flexibility, focus, self-awareness, confidence...) in the least amount of time.
Because of its multi-level actions, and focus on constant core connection, Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga is one of the most effective yoga practices for sparking major changes both inside and out. "

Sadie has multiple free yoga videos on youtube with titles like, "20 Minute Super Weight Loss/Core Strength Flow"and "Root Power Flow". These titles scared the crap out of me. I'm a gentle flow, yummy stretching kind of gal. Give me a pigeon or low lunge over a hand stand or plank any day! This is exactly why I signed up for this workshop. I had gotten comfortable in my practice, and although being comfortable is great, I had lost sight of my "edge".  

In yoga, you often hear the phrase of finding or playing with your edge. It's that space where you start to feel challenged, but are not pushing yourself into a painful or dangerous position. I was gravitating towards a gentle, stretchy style of yoga because, one: it feels so darn good, and two: it's mostly what I've been teaching these days. My personal practice had begun to mirror my classes. In yoga we use our edge to grow, and I wasn't growing. Not only that, but in yoga we also try to work towards balance. Yin (poses held for longer periods of time) and Yang (dynamic practices like vinyasa). We get benefits from either practice, but we get the most benefit when we practice both. Lately, I've been a little lopsided in my practice.

I came into the weekend pretty sore from a CrossFit workout I had participated in earlier that week (this is a whole other story, but as a helpful hint: don't wreck your quads days before you plan on participating in a vinyasa weekend). I was stiff, but ready to be challenged. We met Sadie, who is down to earth, funny and lovely, then got down to learning about what core strength really is and how to incorporate it into our practice. I won't try to explain all of Sadie's principals, but I highly recommend checking out her website and videos. Two hours later, I drove home feeling energetic, still sore, but excited about everything we had learned. 

Saturday was two more sessions. One entitled: Flying from the Foundation and Core and one called: Transform Your Transitions. This is where things started to deteriorate for me. Let's just say, I wasn't doing a lot of flying. At this point, my body was getting tired and my mind was getting frustrated that I wasn't able to do some of the asanas. During our last savasana, I found myself falling into some negative thoughts. 

"I can't do these poses. If I was a real teacher, I'd be able to do all of these poses. How embarrassing, one of my students is in this workshop! If we're doing a whole session on flying it seems like I should have been able to do something! I thought I was going to walk away from this weekend able to crow and hand stand like nobody's business." 

Then, it hit me like a bolt of lightning. Duh, of course I can't do these poses, I don't practice them! How unfair of me to expect a teacher to teach me, in six hours, to effortlessly do poses I rarely ever practice. These are asanas that require that you practice, challenge yourself and build strength. I hadn't been doing any of those things. Sadie gave us plenty of examples of poses and exercises to help us start to "chip away" at the final big pose. She provided tools for us to use to play with our edge, but I had gotten so focused on what I thought I "should" be able to do that I glazed over that part. It was the perfect reminder that in order to get where you want to be, it takes time, it takes patience and it takes work. 

That night, as I got ready for bed, I caught my reflection in the mirror and thought "What is that?". I had bruises under my arms, both right and left. I'm not someone who bruises easily, and although I am clumsy at times, I couldn't remember hitting my arm or running into anything that would have left a bruise. Suddenly, I realized why I had bruises. They were from trying my arm balances (although obviously with poor alignment if my knees were on my arms). They were my proof that even though I hadn't achieved the beautiful balance I dreamed of, I had at least tried. And that's better than most days! I proudly showed my husband and told him that I was bruised because I was a fierce warrior. He congratulated me and took my picture the next day. My husband is awesome. Sadie is awesome. I am awesome. I am so thankful that I was able to re-connect with that part of myself and I'm working on not losing my edge any time soon!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

"A Yoga Poem" by Danna Faulds

I'm back, fresh from another yoga teacher training weekend! These weekends are such a blessing, and I come away from them with my spirit refreshed and my mind and body challenged (just ask my poor hamstrings!).

This is a poem that Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy instructor, Ruth Jacobson, shared with us on our last day of training. I love how it describes how yoga speaks to us on a deeper level than just asanas and couldn't wait to share it with you all! I hope you enjoy this poem and can take a few minutes to reflect on your yoga practice and what it means to you!


Yoga is not about the pose
It’s not the alignment of
toes or hips or shoulders.
It’s not about the form.

Yoga is an invitation to
explore, not a command
performance.  It speaks
the language of the soul. 

In the flow of breath and
motion, yoga coaxes us
from the confines of the
known, across the silent
threshold into vastness. 

Yoga is the union of prayer
and movement, guided from
inside.  It is healing and the
joy of saying yes to life. 

Breathe, relax and feel the
body receive its own truth.
The seed of freedom flowers
within each of us whenever
we are open to what’s real.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Yoga is Like a Bowl of Mango Salsa...

So, I think I have yoga on the brain! It seems like everywhere I look lately, I see a lesson in yoga. Some back story:

My husband and I just spent an amazing week with our dear friends, Natasha and Peter, and her welcoming and wonderful family! We spent a few days at the beach, relaxed around the pool and took a much needed break from our hectic summer lives. At our last dinner, Natasha whipped together a delicious mango salsa. Now, I have never had mango salsa (mostly because I firmly believe that fruits and vegetables should not mix), but since she made it and is a great cook, I tried it. And loved it!

When we returned home, I threw a surprise party for my husband's birthday and I wanted to re-create Natasha's mango salsa. I looked and looked online for a recipe that matched my friend's, but wasn't able to find an exact match. I found myself starting to get frustrated because I wouldn't be able to create an exact replica of the salsa. I knew how great it had tasted, and I felt like mine should be the same. I finally resolved to try to remember the main ingredients and then add whatever I liked to the mix. And as it turns out...my salsa was great! It was not the same exact taste, but it had the same core flavors plus some of my other favorites mixed it. I had been fixated on recreating the same thing, and I had to check in with myself on why it was so important to make THAT salsa.

I find this check in to be important for me in yoga as well. I've learned the fundamentals and the basics of what goes into a pose or a practice, but I also am learning to trust myself. I have to allow my body to tell me what's right feels right. It does not matter if I can create the exact same pose as the teacher or a person on the mat next to me. I have the basic recipe, but it is up to me to add my own flavor. And sometimes my poses can be spicier than others! I love finding these connections between every day life and yoga. It reminds me that my practice is constantly evolving and I'm learning more every day!

Here's a quick recipe for MY mango salsa, but I hope you'll add your own spice!

  • 2- Heirloom tomatoes 
  • 1/3- Vidalia onion 
  • 1- Ripe mango
  • 2- Tomatillos
  • 1- Jalapeno (most seeds removed)
  • Cilantro to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Squeeze of fresh lime juice 
Chop ingredients, add lime juice, salt and pepper and mix! Then grab a big bag of tortilla chips and some friends to enjoy what you've made!

Friday, June 3, 2011

10 Things to Know Before Your First Yoga Class

Many new students wonder what to expect in their first yoga class. Will it be obvious that I'm new? Will I be the only one who can't do a head stand? What if I don't have the right equipment? Do I need the cute yoga clothes? This post is what I as a teacher want my students to know!

1. First things first: pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself for coming to class! This is often the hardest step for new students (beginner or just students new to the class) and you've already completed it! The hard part is over!

2. Props are a yogi's best friend! Many students fear looking like "beginners" if they use a block in triangle or a strap to help reach their toes. The reality is that experienced yogis are the ones who know when they need a prop to help create space in their pose, give more stability or allow them to deepen their stretch. Props can make your pose more comfortable and therefore help you receive more benefits from the pose. When a teacher offers a prop, try it out! See what helps you get the most from your practice!

3. Modifications are not for the weak. Just like the prop misconception, modifications are for the yogi who knows what they're doing. A person very dear to me recently was complaining of wrist pain in plank. I suggested doing plank on her knees to relieve some of the pressure in her wrists. She responded, "But I want to do the real pose!". Yoga is about sustainability. We want to be doing yoga for the next 50 or 60 years. If you are creating pain in your poses, that is not sustainable. It is much better for your body to do a modification that allows you to build strength in a pose than force yourself into something uncomfortable or painful. A teacher may offer a modification that makes a pose more gentle or more challenging. See what's right for you!

4. Saying no is always an option. This is YOUR practice! This means that if a teacher is telling you, "Touch your toes in forward fold.", and it is uncomfortable for you, don't do it. Yoga is about being in touch with your body and knowing what's best for you. A teacher may come up and offer a modification or adjustment, but the reality is, you are the one in your body. You know better than anyone else what works for you. Another way to say "no" to a pose, is child's pose. This is a perfect one to come back to when you are getting in touch with your body.

5. Class is not a fashion show. Yoga has become much more marketable in the past few years and the merchandising shows it. Open a fitness or yoga magazine and the models are wearing name brand, perfectly coordinated clothes. This is not what a typical yoga class looks like. There is no top that makes your Warrior II better. Wear what is comfortable and allows good range of motion. If that happens to be a cute "yoga" top, great. If it's a worn in shirt left over from your school days, even better.

6. Bring the focus onto your own mat. I firmly stand by the belief that yoga is for every body. Everyone is different and no one looks the same in every pose. Different bodies experience poses in different ways. Letting your focus drift to others and how they look on their mat takes away from your practice. When you find your mind wandering, just remind yourself that you are exactly where you should be in your practice.

7. Adjustments are gifts from your teacher. Before I began taking yoga workshops, I had never been in a class with a lot of hands on adjustments. I was so worried, thinking that because the teacher was adjusting me because I was doing something wrong, I wasn't able to enjoy my practice. Through trainings and workshops, I realized that adjustments are about making poses safe for students. They are also about creating an experience in a pose that we can't give ourselves. No matter how hard we try, we can't get that length that we receive when a teacher lifts our ribs in low lunge.

8. Yoga is not a religion. Sometimes new students fear that they will be forced to participate in Hindu chants or learn Sanskrit in class. Some classes do focus on Sanskrit, but most classes will allow you to choose to participate or just listen. There is a spirituality in yoga, but in my interpretation it is about connecting to your divine spirit. It can be God or Shiva or Buddha or nature or whatever you find most inspiring. I usually end class with, "Namaste", which means, "I bow to the divine spirit in you". I feel that this is a beautiful way to close a practice and connect with students. It is up to you if you want to answer with "Namaste", "thank you", or silence.

9. Savasana is the most important pose of your practice. Life is busy, we know this. As class winds down, it's easy to look at the clock and think about leaving early to get dinner ready, picking up the kids or running errands, but savasana is the most important part of class. These final minutes in class allow you to settle into your body and feel the benefits of your practice. Your mind calms and a sense of peace comes over you. This is one of the biggest gifts I can give to my students. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and enjoy your savasana.

10. I'm here for YOU! Please feel free to come up to me before or after practice with any questions or feedback. If you have any injuries, let me know. If you have an area you would like to focus on, I want to hear about it. This also applies to class. If you are in pain in a pose or have questions about body placement, raise your hand or your head and I'm more than happy to come over and assist in any way I can.

These are my top ten, but if you have any other questions before your practice, please feel free to ask! You can comment here or e-mail me: caitlin@empoweredbalance.co