Yoga’s Lessons on Loving Your Body

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There are a million ways to see your body when you look in the mirror.  For me, most of my life, the train of thought has always been how can I lose weight?  Being surrounded by a culture of celebrities at size 4 doesn’t help when you’re a size 14. Being single and on the dating circuit can add to the pressures of having the perfect physique.

The journey to loving my body began a few months ago in the most unexpected way. Even more of a surprise was the way in which it deepened my connection to the oneness lying beneath the years of negative thinking.

A few months ago, while on a meditation retreat, I took my first yoga class ever. Two months later, I took my third yoga class while on vacation on a farm in the Berkshires. The yoga class combined meditation with yoga all while in a yurt surrounded by goats, a shimmering lake and the aroma of ubiquitous greenery.

Coming back home into the everyday routine, I decided that I would explore yoga further. One week later, I found a local yoga studio and signed up for a package of 24 classes. Thus, began my love affair with yoga.

After a grand total of six yoga classes, I have learned incredible life lessons about cherishing your body at every stage of its development.

1.  Align your life with who you are

Stop with the “shoulds.” I should be a lawyer, doctor or an accountant.  I should be the perfect homemaker with a spotless house at all times and well-behaved perfect children.  I should have no stretch marks, certainly no love handles. I should have more curves. I should have less curves. I should have calves as thick as an oak tree.

In case you need the reminder, you are a unique soul and personality.  For some people, running marathons, spinning classes or the treadmill works.  But, for the longest time, while trying to live up to those “shoulds” I kept paying for gym memberships that went unused.  I paid hundreds of dollars for kickboxing and never went. I signed up for activities that were a means to an end: the perfect body.

Through yoga, I learned to find activities that speak to the deepest part of who YOU are.  While that doesn’t have to be yoga, for me it was the final piece in a jigsaw puzzle.  The deep breathing, the poses that open and cajole your body while becoming present both in body and mind, spoke to me.

What speaks to you?  Is it the way time flies while you’re on a basketball court?  Are you ready to play softball at a moment’s notice?  Do you dream of Sundays for your weekly soccer game?  Stop living your life as a means to an end and instead live the life that’s meant for you.  Listen to your intuition, your calling and you will flourish.  You will run toward a healthy body and get up off your couch because you will authentically love the vehicle that suits you best.  Rather than, doing what you “should,” you will be who you are.

2. Connecting to your body enables connection to the divine

There is this incredible, intricate, miraculous piece of machinery that Godthe universe or whatever words you choose to use gifted to you: your body. While we may have different limitations, nonetheless it’s ours. We may need a wheel chair.  We may use crutches.  We may be obese. We may have diabetes. We may have a mental illness. Just like our lives and our personalities, we all have limitations to varying degrees.

However, if you can fight to find the activities that allow you to honor whatever stage your body is at then you are connecting to this gift that encapsulates your being. Rather than, comparing yourself to your Facebook friend who just completed a triathlon, yoga teaches you to be with your body in the here and now. Yoga teaches you to release any notions of comparison and follow the rhythm and language spoken by your body.

3. Embrace “I can’t”

When I began yoga, I had no clue what my body was capable of becoming. There’s the flexibility, the mind boggling poses and the sweat.  Lots and lots of sweat. I may be a size 14 but when I’m in a yoga studio, I belong there.  My body belongs there.

For the first time in my life, I literally want to take on every challenge.  One week, I was in the “total beginner” class. The following week, I was in the most challenging and rigorous yoga class that the studio had to offer.  The instructor was stern, serious and definitely not there to play games. I was scared.

But, he taught me one of the single most powerful life lessons. While in the midst of an extremely difficult pose, he came over to offer me guidance.  As he instructed me how to position my body, I blurted out “I can’t!”  He calmly responded, “You’re going to give up that easy? You’re going to let that pinky toe tell you what you can’t do?  This applies to what you do outside of here too.”

The lightbulb moment occurred.  I finished the pose and completed the class excited to take on the most challenging poses that my body would allow. I knew that I gave that class my all.  I turned every “I can’t” into “I’ll sure as heck try.  Let’s do this!”

When you hit your head on the pillow at night, it doesn’t matter whether you’re advanced or a beginner, but that you know that you pushed through that day with blood, sweat and tears.  You know that you gave it your all.  Maybe you failed.  Maybe you had successes. Either way, every fiber of your being was all in.  You’ve earned your self-respect.  Hold your head high. Look every “I can’t” in the eye and blaze right through them.

Similar to other elements of our life, we are called to take it to the optimum level.  From creating amazing relationships, giving to our community and cultivating the incredible vessel that is our body. We can grow and reach higher levels than we ever thought possible. Yoga gave birth to my body anew; a body that I now accept with all its limitations.  This body allows me to push further than I ever thought I could, express the deepest parts of myself and connect to the oneness within.

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FB_IMG_1432670028056Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Alyssa Gross. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Alyssa is a thirsty soul looking to connect to spirituality and community. She invites you to come along. Follow her on Twitter at @AlyssaRGross

Yoga for Seniors

Whether you’ve been having trouble sleeping, your range of motion simply isn’t what it used to be, or you’re interested in deepening your spirituality and inner strength, it’s never too late to better your life. Become a happier, healthier version of yourself today by taking up a new pastime: yoga! First off, don’t get worried about the hype. Yoga is a discipline that anyone can get into—your age doesn’t matter and you will not be judged for how close you can come to touching your toes. With the right yoga teacher and a set of techniques that are built for individuals just like you, you can accomplish anything. Start the new chapter of your life today and you’ll be on the road to feeling even better tomorrow.

Yoga for Seniors: Build Your Outer and Inner Strength

yoga-for-seniors1Have you ever heard the saying that if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it? It may sound cliche, but those words ring very true—and in more areas of your life than one. From physical strength to mental sharpness, seniors who take part in yoga classes have proven to have the upper hand. Not only will they likely maintain their physical strength, mobility, and flexibility for much longer, but they can increase it as well.

If your body is feeling stiff and restrictive, yoga is the key to revitalization. The same goes with your brain. By meditating, practicing relaxation skills, and shielding your mind from the chatter and buzz of the chaotic world around you, you’ll be able to turn your thoughts inward, reflect, and become more attuned to your own body.

Keep Your Body Healthy and Disease at Bay

Yoga is a full mind and body practice, and while it will help to give you a peace of mind and even help you keep control of your weight, it can also keep a variety of chronic diseases at bay. If you are plagued with stress and hypertension, practicing yoga on a daily basis can decrease your nervous system’s activity, ease high blood pressure, and reduce the amount of medicine that you have to take. For those with a history of heart disease in their family, yoga can also help you reduce your risk factor. For those who are in the beginning stages of osteoporosis, yoga can also help to slow the thinning of your bones.

Practicing yoga as a senior can strengthen your body in countless ways, from alleviating depression and pain, to even depleting your bouts of insomnia. See how yoga can help you keep your own body healthy today!

Not All Classes are the Same. Find the Perfect One for Your Needs!

yoga-for-seniors2Beginning a new chapter in your life may seem a little bit daunting, but finding your bliss is most definitely worth it. To find the right class for you, there are two separate paths you can take. For the adventurous souls out there, you can begin by asking around about senior-focused yoga classes at your local community center, health club, or yoga studio. If you are more timid or you’re having a tough time finding the right class for your needs, you can bring your new pastime to the comfort of your own home by investing in a yoga DVD or two.

For example, one of the best yoga DVDs that I’ve come across for seniors who are just starting out is Pranamaya’s Relax Into Yoga for Seniors. yoga-for-seniors3Built on a foundation of ancient yoga practices and infused with the best of today’s modern, evidence-based medicine, Pranamaya’s yoga DVD for seniors features an array of gentle, effective practices that are easy for anyone to get immersed in, including sequences that are done from a standing position, seated position, and postures that are done when laying down.

Embrace the New You

No matter which path sounds right for you, we all have to start somewhere. It may be a big change when you’re first starting out, but when you start to see the benefits, you’ll wonder why you waited so long. Get out there today and start your own journey!

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Louise Clarke, a freelance writer from Los Angeles, California. When not chasing after her two small dogs, she spends her free time participating in outdoor yoga retreats in Venice Beach.

Meditate to Reset and Relax

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There is a growing meditation movement happening around the world. Meditation is mainstream and no longer on the fringe. Hip-hop moguls are writing books about it, movie stars blog about it, the yoga studios are packing in stretched bodies with quiet minds. There is a long list of Western spiritual gurus spreading the word too. Balance is the word and meditation is the way to get it.

As stress builds up in our body, we begin to experience sickness, tension, and fatigue. Our emotions become strained and our mind fills with fear and negative thoughts. The convincing link between the mind and body is well established and health and wellness advocates in the medical profession promote reducing stress as a way to avoid disease.

According to mental health research, intense feelings of anxiety and stress can cause a nervous breakdown. The nerves don’t actually break, of course but it’s a signal to shut down and reset. We have become out of balance.

How to Reset:

Closing the eyes and limiting the sensory input will immediately start to slow things down. Deep breaths combined with a meditation exercise will lower the brain wave frequency to a synchronized, more focused level of mind.

Simply put, the brain is like a broadcasting and receiving transmitter running on electricity. Like a radio station it operates on different channels where one predominates at a time. Alpha waves were the first to be discovered by scientists due to its slower, more powerful signal. If hooked up to an EEG machine while meditating, it would register an alpha/theta reading depending on the depth of our meditation practice.

Meditation, due to its positive stress relieving side effects, is being considered as part of a prescription for a growing number of ailments that are physical, mental, emotional, or spiritually based.

The reset button isn’t just needed for excess. Balance needs to be reset due to a lack of something in our lives too. Meditation can fill a spiritual void where there is a lack of purpose, meaning, peace and love. When we move our awareness from the physical body, calm our emotions and still our thoughts, what remains? The answer to that question has ancient philosophers and New Age gurus searching through words to label something there are no words for. We just have to try it for ourselves.

There are many types of meditation to choose from. All paths lead to the same place of inner peace. Finding the one that fits our lifestyle is as important to our health as daily physical exercise. The mind and body are interconnected, so remember to apply the reset button to balance our inner work with our physical work out.

Sitting in silence can become a battle with what the Buddhists call, the ‘monkey mind’ as our thoughts jump from one branch to another, interrupting the flow of peace. A great way to start meditating is with a guided meditation. The benefits are many and even the most experienced meditator will always benefit from a little guidance that can lead us gently to that peaceful place in an efficient manner.

Focusing on a mental picture is similar to focusing on a mantra or on the breath. We do as we are told by the voice and before you know it, no more body, no more thoughts…just peace.

Peeling away the layers until there is nothing but the inner self, doesn’t have to be a struggle or a chore. Just like exercising our bodies in a fun way with a sport we love, meditating can be fun too. We can look forward to putting on the headphones to tune out the stress and tune in to our happy place anytime. There are longer guided meditations with full body scanning relaxation that is an indulgent treat, as well as shorter pick-me-up versions. It doesn’t matter if we are sleep deprived and happen to drift off during the session because the subconscious mind never sleeps so we can still benefit from the affirmations on a deep level. The positive words in a good, guided meditation will feed our soul in a way we couldn’t do by ourselves without monkey mind waking up.

Try a few to find a voice to live with happily ever after, while discovering that peace is within. It is the easiest way to reset and balance our body and mind for a long and happy life.

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Kathryn Remati, a Boston based meditation facilitator, creator of the Tranquil Spectrum App for Apple devices. Kathryn completed graduate and post-graduate studies in Humanistic Psychology (BA) and Organizational Behavior (MA) in Australia where she taught Alpha brainwave training techniques. For more info go to: http://tranquilspectrum.com or follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.

Bliss is Not an Attitude

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For me the reality of bliss within is not just a nice, fanciful New Age idea. It is not a mood, or an attitude of happiness. Bliss is a way of being in the world, and can be established as an achievement from meditation and one’s own personal development. Inversely, trying to create happiness on a surface level is not sustainable and can even create strain, especially if one actually feels bad, but is pretending to be happy.

Trying to be happy or positive can foster an insincere and disingenuous state of mind, or mood making. Mood making is not healthy for our emotional state and can tend to put others off.

I am certainly not speaking badly of someone who is trying to change his or her mood and be positive, but if it is forced it will not have a lasting effect.

Bliss: A Bi-product of Diving Within

It is astonishing to think that within every one of the 8 billion people on this planet exists an ocean of calm. In each one of us there is a field of bliss, whereby we can access true peace.

According to the Vedas, all of creation is ultimately made of bliss.

All Creation is Made of Bliss

The Vedas, the ancient literature from India, express that all creation is essentially made of bliss.

Out of bliss, all beings are born,
In bliss they are sustained,
And to bliss they go and merge again.

Anandaddheyva khalvimani bhutani jayante
Anandena jatani jivanti
Anandam prayantyabhisamvishanti
-Taittiriya Upanishad (3.6.1)

Bliss: Our Essential Nature

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi brought Transcendental Meditation out of the Himalayas and introduced this concrete experience of bliss to the world. He described bliss as our own essential nature and often quoted a Sanskrit expression that explains consciousness as sat, chit, ananda.

Sat means the absolute, non-changing reality of life.
Chit means consciousness, or wakefulness.
Ananda means bliss.

Bliss: The Message of all Great Teachers

Maharishi often said that “the purpose of life is the expansion of happiness” and that “life is here to enjoy.” When we experience our essential nature through meditation, this reality of bliss grows more and more as a state of Being. This inner experience of Being is not dependant on anything from the outside for its fulfillment.

All the great teachers throughout time have expounded this reality. Christ said, “the kingdom of heaven is within” and Buddha talked about nirvana.

We do want to follow our bliss in the outside world, as recommended by the great mythologist and writer Joseph Campbell. However, if we really want the deeper values of bliss in our lives we need to dive within and experience transcendence.

The outside world is always changing and moments of happiness will always go as quickly as they come. The bliss I am speaking of here is more than just a momentary experience of happiness in the outer world. It is a transcendental experience of wholeness, complete happiness, contentment, and heavenly joy. In its most stabilized form the continuum of bliss is a hallmark of the state of enlightenment.

Traveling to experience this bliss within is the first step on the journey toward enlightenment. The most beautiful aspect of this journey is that you don’t have to go anywhere. The Self unfolds itself, to itself, by itself, within itself, for itself. By enjoying the bliss within I very naturally and spontaneously live bliss more and more in my everyday life. It is this feeling, and this message I most want to share with the world.

Wishing you all peace of the truest kind,
Ann Purcell

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Ann Purcell. Ann is an author and has been teaching meditation around the world since 1973. In addition, she has worked on curricula and course development for universities and continuing education programs. Her latest book, The Transcendental Meditation Technique and the Journey of Enlightenment, was released on March 13, 2015. 41Zk+UVxcPL

6 Tips for Teaching Your First Yoga Class

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Not Baron’s First Yoga Class…

Teaching your first yoga class can be intimidating. The prospect of it might cause you to totally stress out, pile on the pressure, and arrive to teach a nervous wreck. While those feelings are completely understandable, follow these six tips to relax and enjoy preparing for and teaching your very first yoga class.

1. Know Your Audience

Every yoga instructor’s first time teaching is different. You may have scored your first gig at a gym, studio, community center, workplace, or school. How you approach the class depends on who is taking it. Are your students required to be there (read: workplace or school environments), or do they want to be there (studios and gyms)? Are they stressed-out business-types coming to a studio for much needed relaxation? Or are they athletes looking for a good stretch while strengthening at a fitness center? Maybe your first class is a studio audition, with yoga teachers and studio managers in attendance.

Ask questions to understand what is expected of you. Some studios or classes have a specific class sequence they require you to teach, while others want you to get creative. Orient your sequencing and tone toward the needs of your audience. As their teacher, they trust you to fuse what they want with what they need. Put in the time to understand them, and you’ll be one step closer in knowing exactly what to deliver.

2. Write a Class Outline

Based on your students’ needs, create a class sequence and write it down. The act of writing down what you intend to teach will help commit it to memory. Even if you are not allowed to bring your outline into class, have an outline handy to reference right up until show time.

Recruit your friends, your dog, or even a mirror and practice teaching your first class sequence to help build your confidence. Not only will practicing with your outline help you hone your cuing skills, it will also give you an idea of whether your sequence is realistic for the amount of time you’ve been given to teach.

3. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…

The main objective in guiding your first yoga class is to teach a solid, safe practice to your students. Start with basics: focus on cuing, timing, breathing, and alignment. Have a theme ready, but ditch it if you find it’s tripping you up. If music is required or recommended, choose appropriate songs that you enjoy practicing to, but don’t stress about making the perfect playlist. It’s your first class; no one expects everything to be exactly perfect. Keep your eye on the prize of serving your students, and table peripherals until you get more teaching time under your belt.

4. … Or the Big Stuff Either.

Employ a sense of humor and lightness to give an air of approachability to your new role as a yoga teacher. The energy and intention you bring to class affects each and every student, so why not have some fun? Use your own enjoyment in preparing for and teaching your first class as a barometer: if you’re enjoying yourself, there is a good chance your students will and are enjoying it, too. You smiling gives your students permission to smile. Commit to making your first class lighthearted and fun. Not only will an intention to enjoy take the pressure off, having fun will ensure your students leave your first class with good vibes.

5. Get and Be Real

In each and every class, yoga teachers have opportunities to truly shine. Oftentimes, these opportunities happen in the moments directly following a mishap. Did you stuff up your opening line? Totally ace one side of a sequence but space it and not do the other? Forget the next pose in the sequence or what it is called? Blunders happen, and probably more often than you think. Directly following a screw-up, get and be real.

Get real with your expectations of yourself. Mistakes happen, so go easy on yourself. Call in your sense of fun and humor, have a laugh, and move along. No one expects you to come out of teacher training as The Greatest Yoga Teacher That Ever Lived. Be gentle with yourself. Take a deep breath to center, tap into your confidence, and follow your instincts to recover. Be honest and real with your responses to mess-ups in class, and win the hearts of your students every time.

6. Enjoy the Process

Think about engaging with your new life as a yoga teacher like dating: we only get one first date with a new partner, one first kiss. Think of the way your heart thrills when your romantic interest calls or messages. Remember the excitement and butterflies, the nerves and fears. The hopes, curiosity, and genuine heart you bring to getting to know someone new.

Approach your role as yoga teacher as tenderly, accepting, and hopeful as you would a new relationship. Slow down. Enjoy where you are. You only get to teach your first yoga class once. Ever. Savor it. New experiences can be scary, sure, but trust yourself. It’s all part of the process. We have a limited number of “firsts” in this life; once they’re gone, they’re gone. We don’t get do-overs. So enjoy every moment of teaching your first yoga class, good or bad, along the way.

For your first yoga class, set yourself up for success: know your audience, your sequence, and practice teaching it. Get your priorities straight: focus on safety and alignment, breathing and cuing, and commit to having fun along the way. Get real to be real. Breathe. Approach your first class with humor, fun, honesty and a true heart to enjoy every moment, the nerves, the thrills, and the excitement of preparing for and teaching your very first yoga class.

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post written by Rachel Rannow, an intern for Yoga Travel Tree. Yoga Travel Tree (www.yogatraveltree.com) was inspired by the simple idea of creating rich, meaningful yoga adventures around the world. They know from experience that both travel and yoga can be transformative experiences for the mind, body, and soul. Yoga Travel Tree brings the two together to offer travel adventures for the young and the young at heart, for the advanced yogi and those just getting started, for the world traveler and the novice sojourner. All are welcome for a yoga adventure.

Photo credit: @baptisteyoga on Instagram

What’s the best way to break in a new yoga mat?

Practice on it every day…

Practice On...

From left to right, here’s what I’m practicing on lately:
  1. Aurorae Classic Yoga Mat – 6mm, 3lbs, 24″ x 72″
  2. Jade Yoga Harmony Professional Yoga Mat – 5mm, 4.5lbs, 24″ x 68″
  3. Hugger Mugger Tapas Original Yoga Mat – 3mm, 2.5lbs, 24″ x 68″
  4. Magic Carpet Sapphire Deco Yoga Mat – 6mm, 3.5lbs, 24″ x 70″
  5. Manduka Black Mat Pro Standard – 6mm, 7lbs, 26″ x 71″

A photo posted by Brian (@dailycupofyoga) on


It’s a rough life trying to give each of these yoga mats all the time and attention they deserve, but they’re certainly motivating my 30 day yoga practice challenge for May (going strong so far:). I’ve been a longtime fan of pretty much all Manduka yoga mats–definitely my comfort zone–but I’m also usually happily surprised when I step onto different surfaces. These were all different and unique in their own ways.

Of this group, the Jade Harmony definitely has my attention and will spend a lot of time in future mat rotations. I’ve never tried a Jade mat, but I can totally see why so many yogis recommend it. Besides the great traction, it’s heavy enough that it lays out nice and flat on the ground without sliding or moving around. It just feels solid, but as you can see from the picture, it also rolls up pretty tightly and seems like it would be ideal for carrying to class. Since I spend most of my time on the mat at home, I’m less concerned about portability so the wider Harmony XW or the thicker (and heavier) Jade Fusion look really nice for a home practice too. For now, I’m more than happy with the sweet ride of the regular Harmony mat.

Yoga Mats...lots of them...If you’re in the market for a new mat, you can find these, and practically every other piece of yoga gear imaginable (with a low price guarantee), at YogaOutlet.com. Besides finding great yoga deals, you also help support Daily Cup of Yoga–we get a small cut of any purchases you make through our site–many thanks and Namaste!