The Irony & Bliss of Instagram Yoga

Lifestyle, Yoga

Life is balance guys. Every single thing can be detrimental to you if you indulge too much, right down to fruits and veggies. The reality is that we are always walking a sharp sword between two lakes, enjoying their beauty and indulging in their fragrances as immensely as possible with out falling in. With this key balance in mind, I’d like to talk about Instagram Yoga. You see, there is an entire world on Instagram of amazing people practicing yoga, taking snapshots and sharing them with each other. This has developed into challenges where a couple of people will give a key pose and then thousands will throw the pose back through a photo, the winner receives fun yoga clothes, bracelets, aromatherapy sprays and even privately roasted coffee beans. I got involved about 2 years ago on and off, after getting on my mat daily it felt natural to jump back into @carajuanabends and start making shapes.

Hanumasana

Many yogis look down on this practice, afterall yoga isn’t about getting likes and approval from others. It’s about calming your mind and bringing gratefulness into your life, but #igyoga can do that too… if you maintain a balance. I don’t make a lot of female friends, recently I’ve been working really hard at it because powerful women are just that, and I want that power in my life. But on InstaYoga I found beautiful wonderful women who support me and that is pretty magical. Aside from that I’ve also learned new poses and learned more trust in myself from the wonderful yogis in my InstaFeed. But I have seen some things that worry me for other people’s health and I am using this little soap box to cite these warnings.

  • Try not to compare. I’ve been there, 2 hours deep in Insta stalking and you’re wondering why you don’t have a six pack and then eat a ball of cookie dough. I’ve been there. But try your hardest to change the behavior, if you are going to compare in that realm of your life you’re going to do it elsewhere. Use Instagram as an opportunity to change your thought process when it begins to compare and instead learn to love yourself and others.
  • Don’t do poses that are too advanced, ever. If you’re thinking of attempting a new pose don’t do it with out physical help from an advanced instructor or yogi. You will hurt yourself eventually if you’re dangerous with yoga practice, it is imperative that your posture is correct or your skeletal structure will become irregular and eventually painful.
  • My most hopeful request, please also go to yoga class and get professional instruction. Don’t only practice at home because it is possible to learn something wrong and repeat it enough to cause pain. Get a gym pass or some classes at a local yoga studio to supplement your home practice, this will ensure that you’re safe in your endeavors. Making the pose look good is fun but doing it RIGHT is imperative.

Last but not least, YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL, YEAH, I’M TALKING TO YOU, and so are all these wonderful yogis on Instagram. Try not to get down on yourself or others, if you think it’s lame or defies “What Yoga Is” then just look the other way because it is a community full of love and harmony that nestles comfortably into precisely what yoga is, simply designed for a modern age.

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All the Yoga Everywhere, Always

Existentialism, Religion, Yoga

Yoga has been intertwined with my life for the last 10 years but it wasn’t until February  of Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 7.38.56 AMthis year that I started intently practicing every single day. Before then I would take time in my life to fly off of the rails and have existential crises where yoga was no longer something I made time for. Practice every day makes me stronger and allows me to achieve more advanced levels of posture. But what it also does is give me the ability to maintain joy, gratitude and balance in my mind & life even in the toughest moments.

As a former athlete, my practice was a way to stay in shape when I couldn’t run, lift or cross train because of my injury. After a couple of years I got more interested in the spiritual and scientific aspects of yoga in my life. From meditation & breathing to Ayurvedic eating to our fabulously interesting chakra system; it was all absolutely fascinating to me. There are so many intertwined aspects of yoga that I could confuse you and myself with, but instead there is one simple idea that I’d like you to take away from this post. Yoga practice teaches us how to find balance in breath, how to find stillness in motion and how to create a fantastic realm of calm despite the storm.

I’ve been wanting to explore this idea on the blog for awhile but I wasn’t able to get the words out, until this week that is. For some reason this week has been the worst, but it’s only Tuesday. Yesterday, for no reason, I was completely and horribly angry right at the getScreen Shot 2016-06-14 at 7.38.40 AM.png go of waking up. Sometimes there is something that sets me off, like an excessively dirty kitchen or some animal vomit to clean up that really grinds my gears when I stumble out of bed to make my coffee. That wasn’t the case yesterday, it was just one of those days that my intense empathic soul needed to flush out anger it had accrued over time as I sponge emotions off of passersby. I was angry ALL DAY except while I was in a gentle yoga class and while I was helping out with kids yoga camp. These hours spent were full of gratitude, excitement and wonder; but this bliss isn’t only accessible while you’re in a studio or on your mat. The moments we spend in the studio or on the mat are points of training for all of the times that we need to access pure unadulterated bliss in our daily waking lives.

Today I woke up after about 10 days trying to get my bills across different states and credit unions all settled up for the month to find that I incurred an unnecessary overdraft fee. You know what I did you guys? I cried. I cried so hard, with open mouth breathing and everything. I cried like this right on the phone with the sweet, gentle Southern woman who works for PayPal. Starting off the first moments of your day with a rollercoaster of disappointment, regret and open mouthed sobbing doesn’t generally prove a recipe for success. But I am confident that if I’m kind to myself, if I show gratitude in the right places and if I get on my mat for at least 20 minutes; I’ll be able to find my balance again amidst the sea of bleh my emotions have me sailing on this week. Because yoga can be my constant, my mat can be my reset button. Every moment can be yoga. Only then can we learn to understand the deep facets of our mind and step away from these days of rage or sorrow to look at the feelings themselves from an objective perspective. We can access our witness body to observe our emotional body and engage with the triggers instead of the effects. This is necessary in order to grow and shape ourselves into better humans through our practice.

This is how we heal. This is how yoga heals. This is how we heal ourselves with yoga.

 

4 Tips for a Yoga Beginner

how to, Yoga

People are kind of sick of me sometimes because I am always preaching things to them that have changed my life. I just get so passionate when I find something new that makes me feel good inside and out, when these rituals and practices find me I want to shout out about them on the rooftops. Yoga is most definitely one of those things. But after my 9 years of trying to get people to try out a class I’ve learned that not everyone thrives within the same experience. It kills me that sometimes people are completely turned off by yoga because they didn’t find themselves in the right capacity for their first yoga class ever. I compiled these tips in hopes that a beginner yogi will find their way into their practice with joy and ease.

  • Never, Ever Push Yourself Too Hard

After being a competitive athlete it was really difficult for me to understand that you can’t just push yourself into a final pose in yoga. My sheer willpower isn’t enough to make me Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 7.50.23 PMan advanced yogi, the only way to achieve that is with consistent practice. Being athletic can help but a lot of times in yoga being an athlete can work against you. Mostly because in American athletics we are focused on pushing ourselves all the way to the limits of our comfort levels. Yoga is quite the opposite, you can really hurt yourself if you use this mentality when approaching your practice. Your mind can be pretty loudly telling you to force yourself into a posture as you look around to these strong, bendy yogis around your class, ignore it. Keep working, slow and steady like a turtle. Eventually it will come, but it will take way longer if you pop your MCL or pull your abdominals. Take your time, listen to your body. Confront your instructor with any new sensations during the class to confirm if it is something to be worried about.

  • Go to Many Different Studios

I’ve had countless experiences at different yoga studios, often times 2 studios right down the street from each other are completely different. Don’t go to a studio and buy a month or tons of sessions; try out just one class before committing yourself to a huge payment. It is possible that you might not like the first studio that you try. Before even going in for a class its smart to check out the schedule with a couple of things in mind. First off assess your own level; for the purpose of this article I’m pretty sure that you’re a beginner. So only choose classes that are Level 1 or marked for beginners; this will ensure that you’re not terrified by a class way past your beginner skill level. Next decide the type of class that you’re looking for. Here are a couple of classes that are common in the yoga world, there will also be classes that are simply labelled Beginner Yoga; that is always a good option.

Hatha: This style of yoga focuses on holding poses for around 5 breathes, it combines some movement with focus on deepening into poses.

Ashtanga: Enjoy a fast connection of movements that really ramp up your cardiovascular system, this is a great class for upper body strength.  My arms have never been as in shape as they were when I practiced Ashtanga 4 times per week. Beginners who are quite strong or athletes that needs more movement to stay focused should try this mode of yoga first. Beginner yogis that aren’t naturally athletic might want to steer clear of Ashtanga first thing.

Yin: Oh man, I tell everyone that will listen about Yin yoga classes. My first yin class I was Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 2.00.43 PM.pnga little bit out of my element but it started a journey that led to soaking up as much yin as possible. Yin is the opposite side (Yang) of the yoga styles that are fast paced and build muscles. Yin helps to repair connective tissue through laying in supported poses (using pillows and blocks) for 3-5 minutes. The muscle can repair itself and the mind can actually take time to purely STOP. This is one of my favorite modes of yoga because those who say they’re too hurt to develop a practice can’t be, they just need to use props and eventually they will find the ability to heal themselves. 

Iyengar: I won’t go too much into the story of Iyengar after my spirited Yin rant but basically BKS Iyengar’s story is amazing and every yogi should know it. This yoga class will feature a vinyasa (faster) movement style using props to assist your body in feeling the pose with out the full expression being unlocked in your body. Use a combination of straps and blocks to truly feel with your body may not allow you to do alone just yet.

  • Develop a Home Practice

I don’t think I went to a real yoga class until after I’d been practicing for more than 6 months. My first yoga experiences were with my living room and Namaste Yoga for FitTV by Kate Potter. Having an understanding of rudimentary poses before going to a class that I paid for made me kind of feel like I was getting the most for my money. Over the years my home practice has developed, I generally don’t use videos anymore. Now with my knowledge from regular classes I just get on my mat and create an entire flow from the feelings and movements that pour from my body. Developing a home practice helps a new yogi to understand the meditation and relaxation within the movements of yoga because there aren’t any distractions around. Check out The Bad Yogi for really great videos to help structure a positive home practice. I’m also a big fan of Kino’s youtube channel for Ashtanga heavy theory and practice.

  • Don’t Give Up, Yoga is a Daily Practice

I’ve been practicing for almost 10 years on and off, there were full years where I wouldn’t get on my mat. I’m sure that it goes with out saying that those yoga-less years were often the ones where I was going through painful, existential crises where I just wasn’t myself. I joined Instagram’s thriving yoga community and started to notice that yogis that had practiced only 2 years were able to accomplish poses that were just so beyond me. I started to get down on myself, to feel less than while I lurked around different photos comparing myself. It’s often these times where I quit things, where I give up because it’s easier than putting in the actual work to step up my game and rise above self pity. This time I decided that I wasn’t going to sabotage myself like that, that instead I would be inspired by these Insta-Yogis to dedicate my knowledge to the mat. Now I practice every day for AT LEAST 20 minutes and I’m unlocking arm balances and binds that were just impossible to me before. I share this portion of my egotistical comparing competitive mind because yoga isn’t something that people are just good at.

Yoga is a journey where you slowly release the light in your spirit through mastery of poses, calmness of the mind and growth in the soul. Everyone starts somewhere, don’t get discouraged just be inspired to continue.

RESOURCES These are a few of my favorite studios in the couple of places that I’ve visited.

Flagstaff, Arizona: Northern Arizona Yoga Center

Dana Point, CA: I Heart Yoga in the Park

San Francisco, CA: Yoga to the People

Cannabis & Yoga: A Match Made in Heaven

Lifestyle

There is a longstanding tradition of assuming that stoners are lazy, fat, and have a bag of Cheetos permanently attached to their hand. But this isn’t the case… all the time. There was actually a study done at the University of Nebraska that showed pot smokers to have a smaller waist circumference than those who have never smoked marijuana. With this in mind and due to the fact that I always rip a huge bowl before I go outside to practice yoga I thought that the world should know, cannabis paired with yoga practice can heal ailments.

When I was about 19 I had first started binge drinking and fell into a serious depression. I cried all the time and drank a fifth of vodka every 2 days. My skin was sallow and broken out in acne and most of all my heart was absolutely empty. I had always smoked cannabis but mostly as a party tool, something used to have fun or make me want to eat a ton of pizza. At this age I went to the doctor and got my first cannabis card, a piece of paper with a little metal seal that granted me access to all of the medical cannabis dispensaries in California, which was like Disneyland for a 19 year old in San Francisco.

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@carajuanabends

Going into dispensaries, seeing & smelling different strains, actually knowing what I was smoking; these things all helped me to realize that cannabis is a powerful medicine for the body and mind. Amidst this period in time I also started practicing yoga from Kate Potter’s Namaste series for FitTV as a mode of exercise since I had just quit the college soccer team and was starting to flab up. I noticed that together, yoga and cannabis were helping to brighten my life and dissipate my chronic depression. When all the psychologist wanted to do was prescribe me a pill that would strip the vivacious spirit within me along with my sadness, I could use this plant that grew from Earth and a sequential movement of my body instead. My practice slowly became less about being fit and more about finding a space of nothingness in my mind with which to heal it. Combining these two metaphysical tools built a foundation of health in my mind, body and spirit that was unmatchable at the time in my life to any personal realization.

This post has evolved, I had meant to make a case for medicating before practicing yoga. But instead I have remembered a goal that I set for myself back at 20 when I grew and started on my path to spiritual awakening. People need to know that combining yoga and cannabis can quiet, calm and relax the depression, anxiety, anger ridden mind when used correctly. I call out to everyone who has trouble being happy or who suffers from irrational mood swings. Talk to your doctor about cannabis, go take a yin yoga class. These things will help, you don’t have to be alone. You’re not weird. Brains are intense and it’s often those who think and feel deeper than the average bear that end up battling mental disease. I love you, if you read all the way down thanks. Apparently I needed to let that one out. ❤

 

Bohemian Island: The Pants that Give Back

Yoga

I recently received my first pair of Bohemian Island harem pants and I’m truly in love. They are lightweight and a really beautiful Uthitta Hasta Pandanghasanapattern which makes them day or night time pants. My favorite part about them is that they aren’t skin tight but I can still practice all of my yoga wearing them! Seriously, go from Utthita Hasta Padanghasana to Narajanasana without even a rip of the crotch. 

These fabulous yoga pants are 100% cotton, you can barely feel that you’re wearing them. They are simply but efficiently designed with a pocket on the right side perfect for your cell phone or car keys. There are countless adorable patterns, I went with the psychedelic paisley … obviously :D. Enjoy anything from lazy days around the house to ashtanga at the studio in the Bohemian Island anytime Thai harem pants.

Lastly, and probably one of my most favorite reasons to purchase these amazing pants: they donate to the Soi Dog Foundation of Thailand. That’s correct my friends, 10% of all proceeds from sales at Bohemian Island go directly to the foundation to help vaccinate and care for over 30,000 stray dogs of Thailand. Yep, you heard me right, they not only manufacture fantastically comfortable harem pants but they help our little puppy friends who have fallen on unfortunate times. I am a huge fan of their products and a very satisfied customer. Check out their site to scan through the beautiful prints from the new season.

Balancing The Heart Chakra: My First Experience in Self-Healing

Existentialism, Religion, Yoga

As mentioned in my previous post I found Yin Yoga, and my life is forever changed. My first Yin class was a little rough, a friend invited me and it was after a really horrible day at work. I decided I could really use a relaxing yoga class, but I really didn’t know what I had in store. You stay in poses for 3-5 minutes, and for a Type A Aries woman this was a very hard thing for me to practice. That first class was a serious lesson in trust. I had to trust that I needed to stop thinking, that I was even capable. I had to trust that the instructor was able to take me to this place of pure bliss and then bring me back to a livable space again once the lights turned on and the class was over.

The Beginning: A Yin Yoga Experience

I’ve been on a journey since that first class, a journey to self-healing. It was much needed and this breakthrough in my spiritual path is so needed. I have long been studying chakras, herbal medicine, yoga and meditation. With these tools I made vast strides in the beginning of my lessons, but those monumental ‘Ah Ha!’ moments that are true gifts from the goddess have since faltered in consistency.

I moved to an entirely new state, completed a full circle of the hero’s journey in my life path and had come out of what I think might be my third existential crisis; it felt time for some monumental divine thought. After my experience in Yin I had another felt another door of my transcendental experiences opening. Before a Yin class with a heart chakraspontaneous healer, she told us to set an intention on our practice. I decided to really clear my heart chakra, just balance and clear every thing that may be holding on from past pains.

That class went as normal, until Shavasana. Once again Jan, the healer/yoga teacher/goddess, told us to call upon something to heal us. I called upon Archangel Rafael who I know is associated with a crystal that I recently acquired to heal the healer, it is also a green crystal so I figured it went right in line with Heart Chakra clearing. I set my intention, I called upon my angels, and what happened truly shocked me.

First my entire forehead began to burn, like my skin was on fire but I knew it wasn’t burning my flesh because I wasn’t panicked. Slowly the burning sensation travelled toward my third eye, right in the middle of my forehead, and just prickled and prickled away. I used my mental power and moved the feeling toward my heart, I simply envisioned the power or prana shooting into my forehead, moving to my heart chakra and clearing that deep pool of space. I went in and out of consciousness during that surrender; I saw demon faces and then black, I saw past experiences I’ve had and then black. I believe that I truly had an out of body experience.

Sealing My Heart Chakra: Restoration

I ran out of class that day with out saying thank you or good bye, which is out of character for me when it comes to Jan. I was a soft, mushy human life mass that was simply

@carajuanabends

@carajuanabends

confused about my experience. The next day was quite hard, at work I was hard to deal with and found speaking to others sharp and uncomfortable. I went to Yin again that night with the intention of sealing my heart. The instructor rubbed our shoulders with an essential oil during Shavasana, I had set my intention and was almost hoping for some grandiose experience after the night before. Suddenly I felt my third eye again and saw all green, then from the outer spectrum of my blackened (my eyes were closed) vision spectrum moved a darkness, then another set of green. It rotated with color like that moving inwards right toward my third eye.

This experience was extremely monumental for me. I consider myself an empathic healer, but I read years and years ago that you cannot be a true healer until you have first healed yourself. This was my first step, and the most glorious part of the journey for me is that EVERY SINGLE one of us is able to accomplish what I accomplished last week. We all have so much power sitting in our mind’s eye, just waiting to be released.

Four Simple Steps to Just Being Happy

Yoga

It seems so simple, just be happy. But it is such a conscious decision moment by moment. I sure do have my dark times, and when those clouds roll over my demeanor EVERYTHING seems more difficult. I used to just crumple up and stay inside when those times hit me, but now I have weapons to fight the doldrums.

My boyfriend is an eternally happy individual, almost to a fault sometimes. He laughs big guttural laughs and smiles an enormous all teeth included smile almost all day iuevery single day. People actually ask me why he is so happy and I have raised the same question to him. His answer was simple, it was hard at first but he just kept trying. So lately, I have been working to live in that mantra: Try to be happy, just keep trying. That mantra has helped me to really make the best of my life and see the small beautiful things fluttering all about the universe that I had missed before by being too busy and angsty.

Very recently in my joy journey I have been practicing yoga daily and threw a Yin practice into my regimen to see what it was about. Yin was an extremely heart opening mind, body and spirit healing practice. I felt soft and mushy in my soul when I walked out of that class studio and when I went to work the next day my open heart was trampled over by daily rituals of angsty business from others.

The next day I was struck with the realization that I was using up all of my happiness on the people that don’t matter and coming home to my eternally happy boyfriend a puddle of smushed human emotional matter. To this thought my friend Sam informed me, ‘There is always more happy.’ His simple statement really got me thinking about the eternal pool of happiness.

This is when I decided to divide and conquer my daily rituals to pin point the things that help me dive in whenever I want.

STEP 1: As we previously mentioned, just try.

When someone really grinds your gears or disrespects you and you feel those charges of bliss depleting just try to rise above it, your happiness is most important. You can’t have the most worthwhile interactions with others unless you are putting your best self forward. Care about you, your best friend, before you worry about those around you. As Ram Dass so gloriously put, don’t prune the gardens of others just cultivate the land around unnamedyourself and let them come over for tips on how your flowers bloom. PS. just smile. it does wonders.

STEP 2: Be active. Seriously, just do anything

This one is just simple science. Get your body in motion and feel some endorphins course through your veins. Even if you just take time to stretch before you go to bed or do 20 sit ups when you wake up in the morning, it will help stimulate your body, mind and spirit. Nourishing that trifecta will always help you the naturally feel like a giggly individual. Personally, I use yoga and a connection to my physical body.

STEP 3: Eat something green.

When we cook food we put energy into it, buying fast food or even certain restaurant food can put energy of rushed, unhappy people into your being. Furthermore, all food puts different energy into our physical being (more simple science :D). If we just throw one vegetable into our daily diet, heck even venture outside of the green color family for it, it can greatly increase your mood. Not to mention increasing your digestive health and all around well being. Seriously look into organic produce, the small price difference is pennies compared to health factors of GMO and non organic farming.

STEP 4: Medicate with cannabis.

Surely this is a more controversial step in the process for some but cannabis is a real medicine. Even if you opt for CBD only, which is an isolated cannabinoid that has no psychoactive (‘high’) effect, you will find relief from anxiety, crankiness and overall doldrums.

If you battle with depression and live in a state with a medical cannabis program go inquire with a dispensary or naturopath about your options. You do not have to smoke cannabis to medicate; there are vaporizers, edibles, tinctures, rub on balms and even suppositories. Knowledge is power, do some research and speak to a professional about your best plan.

With a very real focus on any one of these four steps, it is quite possible to change the general well being of your mood to one which is positive. Focus on yourself and find the ability to rise above the doldrums at even the most draining of times.