My blog on the side…

I confess to being unfaithful… I have been working on another blog. A mistress, if you please. But it had to be done. This blog is tangentially-related to this blog in that it’s solely about food… Healthy food. Technically it’s my husband’s blog and it is all about the meals he is creating at home with the vegetables that I have a love-hate relationship with. But being that I am more technologically savvy – he cooks, I take pictures and slap it on the internet. He gets all the glory while I stuff my face with mushrooms and cheese. A win-win.

Without further ado, here it is:

Yogitastic on Food

It is a work in progress. The plan is to include recipes and cooking tips. But for now it’s a little bit of food porn. Enjoy!

On getting a fire lit under your butt (A note about motivation)

What is the difference between a couch potato and a runner? (Besides several pounds?) It is MOTIVATION.

Most people are active  for health reasons. For others it’s vanity. Some are adrenaline junkies and a small percentage go for the gym eye candy (you know who you are!). But the real question is: what is your motivation?

I don’t know about you but “it’s good for me” very rarely gets me going. When I have had a long day or a late night and the bed is super comfortable or it is bitterly cold outside, the only thing that would get me going is a plate of crispy bacon.

Getting yourself moving is a matter of digging deep and figuring out what really matters to you. What are you hoping to accomplish? How do you want to feel? Are the results worth it for you? What sacrifices are you willing to make?

These motivating factors are something  you need to keep in mind constantly. Decide what these factors are and then develop goals that are going to get you there. Get into a routine and firmly integrate it into your life. Remember: being active is a way of life not just something you do occasionally.

For some feeling good and looking good is its own reward but that might not exactly get a fire going under your butt. Especially when getting there requires a tremendous amount of determination, discipline and just plain grit.

Yes, even for a yoga teacher like me! I teach so I am at the gym anyway but do I go an hour early so I can take a class before mine or do I let another episode of “What Not To Wear” hold me back? Despite my already active lifestyle some days are harder than others. It’s a struggle to get up when my husband is still warmly snuggled in bed but I drag myself out knowing it’s going to feel really good when I get back (especially when I take a running head start and belly flop on to my still sleeping husband). ::evil laugh:: Anyway…

There is the additional difficulty of getting distracted and even well-meaning people can pull you away from your goals. When I first started going to the gym, it was hard to choose working out over spending time with friends. Just about anything is better than running on a treadmill, including eating bad chinese food and drinking cheap wine with a friend. But I wanted to change my body. I wanted it to be strong and healthy so I created a gym schedule that I could stick to and told my friends that those days were off-limits for gatherings. Occasionally they would try to tempt me from the gym but I was already too far committed to cave in. Besides, I didn’t want to miss Mr. Eye Candy kickboxing instructor (sorry, friends!).

Once you have found your motivation and outlined your goals it is incredibly important to make them known to the people who surround you and ask for their support. Maybe you can even get them to join in! After all, nothing is more inspiring than outrunning a friend or significant other.

So whether your motivation is looking good in that bikini or improving your cholesterol level or finally hiking the Appalachian trail make sure you keep it in the forefront of your mind as you make your day-to-day activity decisions. Take it one day at a time but keep at it and I promise it will get easier.

So tell me… What motivates you?

Image via Flickr (creative commons) by wolfsavard.

Balance: It’s more than standing on one leg

Balance is an important aspect of a yoga practice. In the physical sense, your ability to balance signifies a strong core. In the mental sense, it shows focus and concentration. These are the two aspects of balance and just like the song “Love and Marriage,” you can’t have one without the other.

But why IS it so important?

Because we need balance in our lives.

Every day we juggle work responsibilities, a home, relationships and just about everything else – sometimes with disastrous results! We strive to keep everything on an even keel because it’s the only way we can thrive. Sure, we fall off kilter every now and then but we regain equanimity… eventually.

In class, when you are holding the standing tree pose, you are forced to clear your mind, focus on the task at hand and calm your breathing. Sound like something that could help you during stressful situations? Of course.

Standing Tree Pose

Yoga doesn’t begin and end inside the studio. It infuses our lives. The skills you pick up in class could be very easily translated into your every day. And balance is one of those things. You train  your mind to do something and you can apply it to everything else that you’re doing.

Ultimately, your yoga practice should balance you.

So the next time your yoga teacher asks you to take a deep breath in and find your center, take a mental record of that command and walk out of the room with it.

Good luck and happy yoga!

The best yoga mat on the planet

Doesn’t exist. Okay, actually it does. It’s just not the same one for every person.

Tree of Life Yoga Mat

In all seriousness, I get asked all the time – which yoga mat should I use?

Yoga mats – like your purse – can be an extension of your personality. It can say something about you. You can buy a perfectly good yoga mat on sale for $10 at Marshall’s or you can buy a fancy shmancy organic rubber one for $60. At the end of the day, neither one is going to help you with that headstand or make you practice when you don’t feel like it.

That being said, an issue with cheaper mats is that they wear out more quickly and I have found that they are a little slippery. Traction is incredibly important for a safe yoga practice. Does that mean buy the most expensive one? I don’t know about you but doing that would severely throw off my qi. Like most things, the answer is probably somewhere in the middle.

So when looking for a mat, consider how “sticky” it is, the thickness and its length. For some it’s harder to balance on a thicker mat. For extremely tall people, you might want to buy an extra long mat.

Either way, don’t spend a lot on a mat. It’s not a purchase that requires high-involvement. If you’d prefer a more earth-concious mat, you could purchase one at Go Green Yoga Mats website. Just remember to follow the use and care instructions so that your mat will last as long as possible.

Currently, I am using the Gaiam Tree of Life Yoga Mat. It provides the grip that I need and honestly I love the design.

Happy Yoga!

Yoga studio vs. the gym

Ever wonder if there is a difference between the yoga taught in traditional yoga studios and the yoga taught in sweaty, iron-pumping gyms?

Well, I have an “industry” secret to share with you. The yoga instructors you see teaching at the fancy-schmancy yoga studio? Well, they also teach at your local gym. More often than not yoga teachers teach at more than one studio or gym.

Area gyms like Gold’s Gym© and Washington Sports Club© require their instructors to be certified in their respective fields of expertise just like your traditional yoga studios. In the United States that certifying body is Yoga Alliance®. They are the national education and support organization for yoga. Some instructors have the 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) while others have the 500-hour YTT in a variety of styles be it Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Bikram or Hatha (to name a few!).

If you are like me, yoga is not the only thing you like to do. I prefer a more well rounded workout regimen which includes weightlifting, kickboxing, spinning and Zumba® just for good measure (and a good laugh!). And like most people, I have neither the time nor the financial resources to belong to a yoga studio AND a gym. Fortunately, my gym is filled with fantastic yoga and pilates instructors who teach with the same dedication and caring that they deliver to their yoga studio students.

Admittedly, yoga studios offer a wonderful atmosphere for your practice. When you walk in and smell the incense, your stress and blood pressure level instantaneously drop as you are enveloped in a world of Zen. Better yet you are joined with like-minded folks looking to deepen their practice. You also have access to a lot more instructors and varying types of yoga. You will be sure to find a yoga style of your very own. There is absolutely nothing like a good yoga studio.

BUT if time or money simply does not allow you to be part of a great yoga studio community or if you have never tried yoga before, I urge you to try the yoga class in your gym. Chances are they have more than one style and the class will be as challenging and fulfilling as any yoga studio can offer. If you are lucky enough to be part of a gym that has a dedicated space for yoga, then even better. So don’t let cost deter you from starting your very own yoga practice. NOW is the best time to start!

Include a yoga practice in your new year and jump in. The water is nice and warm.

Photo via Flickr (Creative Commons) by Mimar Sinan.