Category Archives: Yoga

8 Ways to Start a Yoga Practice

Want to start a yoga practice but don't know where to start? Check out this beginner's guide on how and where to start your yoga practice.  happyfitmama.com

I’d love to be a yogi, but I don’t have time.

I’d love to be a yogi, but it’s boring.

I’d love to be a yogi, but I can’t sit still.

I’d love to be a yogi, but I’m not flexible enough.

I posted about how to bring yoga to running a couple of weeks ago and got quite a few emails wanting tips on how to get started in yoga.

I stared practicing yoga at home about 8 years ago. At first, I followed along with DVD’s. It helped me learn the lingo before I eventually went to my gym’s classes (I had a gym membership back then). I loved the classes there. I got the physical benefits of yoga. That’s about it. There was no mind/body connection. But I really fell hard for yoga when I went to an actual yoga studio. The classes were way different. We chanted. The teacher came around and did adjustments throughout class. We did breathing exercises. I learned the ‘why’ rather than just doing a pose. There was a the constant reminder to link breath to movement. Rather than just a physical practice, I felt like I was getting the whole yoga package. From then on, I was hooked!

If you are looking for a way to love yoga, here are 8 tips on how to start a yoga practice. And hopefully, loving it.

1. Take a class in a studio.

If you are just starting out, I highly recommend going to a class at a studio if you can. There’s nothing like being in class and being able to see real people perform the different poses. Also, a good yoga teacher will ensure that you have proper alignment and help you understand where to focus on in each pose so you can fully reap the benefits.

Some instructors will ask at the beginning of class if you are new to his or her class and if you are new to yoga. If you do not want to announce this to the whole class, you can also introduce yourself to the instructor before class starts. That way, they can help you modify poses as needed.

#7daystretch prAna #sweatpink | happyfitmama.com

2. Practice at home

If you’ve never done yoga before and want to get the lingo down before you head to a studio, start your practice at home. Or even if your schedule doesn’t allow for you to go to class in-person or you don’t have a lot of time to practice, there are tons of online or DVD resources. Great sources for online yoga videos include Yogaglo, Gaia and YogaDownload.com. Rodney Yee DVDs are fantastic for beginner yoga.

3. Start slow.

Don’t think you need to do a full 60-90 minute practice every single day. Just like any new exercise addition, start once a week and see how it goes. I’d love to do a full practice every day but what works with my schedule right now is 2-3 days in the studio and 10-15 minutes on the other days at home.

Reverse Warrior | happyfitmama.com

3. Try different styles.

There are countless styles of yoga and variations. Bikram, Ashtanga, Hatha, Kundalini, Power Yoga, Chair yoga, Yoga for Women with Curves, Yoga for Runners, Aerial Yoga. The list goes on and on. If one style doesn’t suit you, try another. I can almost guarantee there is one out there for you!

4. Don’t compare yourself to others.

As with life in general, be you. Just because the person next to you is in headstand, don’t think you need to be. Know your limits. Also, don’t think everyone is watching you. Trust me, most people are concentrating on themselves. I rarely even notice the person on the mat next to me until after Savasana. It’s taken some time for me to get to that point, but you will with time.

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5.Props are your friend!

Since I’m hypermobile, I can put my palms flat on the floor with no problem. I never thought I needed a prop. But one of my teachers loves to use blocks and showed me that props are for everyone no matter how flexible you are. Yoga props, such as blocks or straps, can help you safely execute a pose that you otherwise might not be able to. Props can also help you learn to engage the correct muscles and learn the appropriate alignment.

6. Enjoy the silence.

You go to yoga and the silence is so deafening you can’t help but start to fidget. Your mind is racing thinking of everything and anything all at the same time. Your internal voice is screaming – “I didn’t pay good money to sit here. I want to sweat!” I felt the exact same way when I started yoga. And I still prefer the quicker paced Vinyasa style yoga. But even a few minutes at the beginning and end of class of disconnect from all the chatter of daily life, will become a welcomed time to just have your world revolve around your inhales and exhales. Trust me, you need it.

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7. Breathe.

Yoga isn’t just about the physical poses. Ultimately, it’s about connecting your mind, body and breath. How often do you take deep breathes throughout your day? This is your time to do that. And then it will become a part of your daily living off the mat.

8. Don’t take it too seriously.

Yoga isn’t all straight faces and no emotions. If you fall over in a balancing posture, no big deal! Relax, smile, laugh.

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What is standing in your way if you don’t do yoga?

If you do yoga, how did you get started?

How to Bring Yoga to Running

Bring the focus from your yoga mat over to your running to become a stronger runner.  happyfitmama.com

I’ve been a runner longer than I’ve been on yogi. Running has always been my first love. But when I started incorporating more yoga into my life, I noticed a difference in my running. There are TONS of benefits of doing yoga if you are a runner – read all about it HERE.

If you aren’t doing yoga, you should. But no pressure because there’s no pressure in yoga.

At first glance, you may think that running and yoga have absolutely nothing in common. The two are complete opposites. Or are they? Some think running is all about pushing yourself, testing your cardiovascular fitness. Some think yoga is all about relaxation.

However, how many times have you gone out for a run to relax?

How many times have you gone out for a run to clear your mind and find focus?

I know I have done all the above. And I’ve done the very same thing while practicing yoga.

Runners can learn a lot about running from yoga. The two have much more in common than meets the eye. And when you combine the two? It’s a powerhouse.

Whether you are a seasoned yogi or a newbie, how can you bring yoga to running?

Notice Your Footfalls

Running is a series of repetitive movements. Your footfalls are like a metronome. Listen to it as a nice way to help clear the cobwebs in the mind.

Post run crow pose | happyfitmama.com

Breathe

How’s your breathing? Are you taking meaningful breaths? Are you taking shallow breaths? Even as you run up a hill or pick up the pace in speed work, keep close attention to your breath. Allow deep inhales and exhales to fill your body with the energy it needs to run.

Find Your Focus

In yoga, it’s called drishti. In running, it’s called focus. Rather than looking around, set your eyes straight ahead. Watch where you’re going but resist the urge to get caught up in what’s happening around you. Stay focused and in your own space.

Put the power where you need it but relax the rest. 

In yoga and running, relax what does not serve you. Do a scan of your body – where are you holding tension? Is it in your shoulders as you round the corner of the track during a brutal 800m? Tense shoulders are doing nothing for your speed. Release it and put that force into your legs for more power.

Warrior | happyfitmama.comPhoto from Rise.Run.Retreat.

Run your own race.

Running and yoga are not the place to keep up with the Jones’ or Kardashian’s. But really, you should never try to keep up with either of those families. Particularly the Kardashian’s. Don’t worry about who is passing you in a race. Don’t worry what speed so and so is doing on the treadmill next to you. Don’t worry about how bendy the yogi is on the mat next to you. You are your own person.

Work from the ground up.

You know I’m all about that base, ’bout that base… Cheesy? Yes. But it’s true, your feet are the foundation of running and yoga. A strong base is a must.  As you take each stride, pay attention to your step, your sense of propelling yourself forward. Find awareness of the strength in your feet, legs, your core and then relax the upper body.

Side Angle Pose Post Run in Hawaii | happyfitmama.com

Have a mantra. 

In yoga, we set an intention or mantra for our practice. It’s a way to bring the mind back when you get distracted and disrupts the focus. The same thing does wonders in running. When your brain yells at you that you can’t. run. one. more. step., break out that mantra and put it on repeat. ‘I can do hard shit. I am strong. Believe, endure, achieve.’ are all mantras that are in my head when I’m deep in the pain cave. 

Be grateful.

Find gratitude for the ability to run and all the marvelous running has done for you.

How does yoga enhance your running? 

If you don’t do yoga, why not?

6 Yoga Poses for Happy Hips

6 yoga poses for runners to keep your hips happy and healthy.  happyfitmama.com

As a woman, I hold a lot of tension in my hips. As a runner, I hold a lot of tension in my hips.  As someone who does a lot of work on a computer, I hold a lot of tension in my hips.

That’s a whole lot of tension up in there!

As a runner, I am always training to get stronger or faster. That can lead to tight muscles with a smaller range of motion, limited power, and a tendency to get injured more easily. I’ve learned over the years, that the hips really don’t lie. If you have a knee, foot or ankle injury, it usually stems from tightness and/or weakness in your hips. And we all know I’ve had my fair share of those injuries over the past couple of years.

But did you know that stress and negative emotion such as fear, guilt and sadness are held in your hips too?

Thankfully, I like yoga. It’s the perfect recipe for my tight hips.

It never fails when I attend a yoga class and the teacher asks if there are any areas that someone wants to focus on. Hips and Pigeon pose ALWAYS are mentioned. I fully agree – Pigeon is the best. I could stay in that position all day.  It feels that good. But there are so many other options besides Pigeon to target the hips.

Here is a list of a few of my favorite yoga hip openers that not only will loosen up your tight hips but help ease the emotional baggage hiding in your pelvis too.

Wide Legged Forward Bend – Not only is the posture great for opening the hips but is great for realigning the spine and stretching out hamstrings.  I like to do this posture after running.  It can also provide relief from headaches.

Wide Legged Forward Fold  happyfitmama.com

Revolved Triangle  – Another one that I could stay in for hours.  This feels good throughout the whole body.  You feel an opening not only in the hips but in the whole side body.

Revolved Triangle  happyfitmama.com

Low Lunge – This pose is great for not only stretching the hips and glutes but it strengthens the hamstrings and quads. It also hits the stretches the difficult to reach tensor fasciae latae at the top of the IT band. All of these areas are essentials for running strong. If you want an extra challenge go up on the toes of your back foot to work on balance.

Low Lunge  happyfitmama.com

Lizard Pose – When I first learned this pose, I had no idea why it was called Lizard pose. But look at. I look like a lizard. And lizards must have great hip mobility because this pose stretches your groin and hips like no other. Again, you can have your back knee lifted for a more active pose.

Lizard Pose  happyfitmama.com

Cow Face Pose Variation – I love this pose so much. If I’m sitting on the floor, you most likely will find me in some variation of this posture. It just feels good on my glutes and hips.

Cow Face Pose Variation  happyfitmama.com

Reclining Big Toe Pose – I like to start with my leg/foot straight up and then progress to moving the leg to the side from the hip joint.  A strap isn’t necessary but I find that it can really extend the stretch.

Reclining Big Toe Pose w Strap  happyfitmama.com

FYI – I am not a yoga teacher. These are poses that I like and work for me. Please do what works for your body and seek professional guidance if needed.

What muscles do you hold the most tension in?

Do you have a favorite yoga posture or stretch?