New Years Intentions |Brussels Yoga

Yoga and Mindfulness Reflections on the Election

By now we all know the results of Tuesday’s election in the US.   This isn’t meant to be a political post, though it is about politics.   But I know many people, including myself are grieving and/or feeling numerous intense emotions right now and at such times people often turn to their yoga and meditation practices and teachers for comfort. I have some thoughts I wanted to share that have been evolving over the past few days.

Feel your Feelings: This has been an important part of healing for me ever since I discovered mindfulness in 2008. Being able to check in with what you are experiencing, positive or negative, notice where you feel it in your body and acknowledge it is a main tenant of mindfulness. Too often we feel we have to push down our emotions and “put on a happy face”. For slices of the yogic community the idea of a positive mindset is the ultimate goal.   Do yoga, become happy. Don’t get me wrong, positivity is great and I don’t have a problem with being happy, but no one can be happy all the time. And on Wednesday there was no way I could be positive.   I was (and am) grieving and I knew the smartest and healthiest thing I could do for myself, and for my students, was acknowledge that reality and ask for help. I knew people would be coming to yoga looking for solace from a stressful day, there was no day I could help them find that. While I was met with mostly sympathy and support I was also shamed for not just “relaxing” and “spreading the love”.   Yet at the moment, trying to do that would be inauthentic, it would be pushing away my true self, working against one of the goals of yoga. It was tempting to take on that shame, and ignore my feelings. But the more I thought about it I wondered where those feelings would go, I knew they wouldn’t disappear, if I pushed them away where and when would they show back up? I was feeling real grief, it wasn’t just going to go away because I got up and showered and taught a yoga class.   My practice and teaching has always been seeded in mindfulness. One of the best articles I’ve come across in the past few days is this piece from Lions Roar (http://www.lionsroar.com/buddhist-teachers-respond-to-news-of-trumps-presidential-win/) The first take away I got from it was this quote from Ethan Nichtern of the Shambhala Meditation Center of New York

“Tomorrow I will try to follow the lead of those whose vision I trust to see how I can help move our world forward with compassion. But today, it is OK to grieve the fact that we have taken a massive emotional and spiritual step backwards. Please remember, the point of meditation is not to suppress your feelings. It is to make friends with yourself. On days like this, meditation is simply a way to remember a glimmer of your own basic goodness. Please remember it is OK to feel exactly what you feel.”

Thankfully another blessed yoga teacher offered to sub my classes for me. I was able to take the steps I needed to start making friends with myself again.  All of this is to say; if you are feeling positive or feel that you can put on a big smile and help yourself and others feel better that is amazing and I honor that in you.   But you should never have to fake it.   Many people are grieving right now, and it’s ok to be one of those people.   Your grief is real, and if you are feeling it please don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I had been saying this since early Wednesday morning but this Huffington Post piece summed it up perfectly.   http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/election-pain-grief_us_58234497e4b0d9ce6fc03fd8

If you are in despair ask for help.   Talk to your partner or a friend. Find a helpline. You don’t need to put on a smiley face or “fake it till you make it” when dealing with grief. And when you are ready….

 

Practice self-care: I know “self care” has been a catch all in the wellness industry but I think at times like this it is so important to remember you can’t help others until you are ready to help yourself. And there are going to be a great deal of people who need help.   So find something that you know makes you feel better and do it. Yoga works for me, when I finally found myself ready to get back on the mat I found great relief in grounding poses and some cleansing Lion’s Breath. I also know for some people when grieving or in anger the idea of yoga sounds like torture. Go for a walk in nature, go kickboxing, cuddle a dog, and bake a cake. Do something to connect with yourself. Don’t forget yoga is about compassion, not just for others but for yourself as well.   And when you’ve surrounded yourself in love…

Share some Love: I’ve seen lots of posts and articles about spreading love and compassion to the “the other side”, reaching across the aisle to Trump supporters. If you are ready for that, bless you. Personally for me I am too angry at the people, all of the people, who voted for Trump.   Yes I know people are hurting and that inspired many people to make the choices they did, but they put their own hurt above the safety and protection of their fellow Americans, and I am not ready to love them.

But love someone. Show a bit of extra love to your partner.   Not ready for that yet? Find a dog to play with, animals are often easier to deal with than humans. Puddles is blissfully ignorant and getting on the ground and playing with her has put a smile on my face. Buy a homeless person something to eat. Call a friend you haven’t spoken to and ask them how they are and really mean it. Donate to a cause that matters to you, especially if you are worried it may be affected come January, and do it in the name of someone you know could use some encouragement.

None of these things is going to change reality or build that time machine I keep dreaming about. But if you can find some relief for yourself and others you’ll be ready for the work we have ahead of us. And it’s a lot.

Finally, a few “yogic resources”

Lion’s Roar: http://www.lionsroar.com/buddhist-teachers-respond-to-news-of-trumps-presidential-win/   Even if you aren’t a Buddhist, if you have any interest in spirituality this is a very comforting read.

http://marc.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=22 The Meditation for Working with Difficulties has been helpful for me before but provided some of the best feeling I’ve felt all week.   And it is only 7 minutes.

 

 

 

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Nutrition, Yoga and Your Relationship with Food: Guest Post by Bettina

Have you ever wondered how yoga is so powerful when it comes to improving your relationship with food and as such why I love to use yogic tools in my health coaching? Well, here is why:

  • Yoga brings awareness to the table: it helps you to connect to your body so that you can assess when you are full or not, when a meal is satisfying or lacking.
  • Yoga brings mindfulness to meals: it engages all your sense in the meal so nourishing you more than just on a physical level if you take your time, chew slowly and avoid distractions.
  • Yoga brings relaxation to mealtimes: it activates the parasympathetic nervous system so ensuring optimal digestion and better nutrient intake.
  • Yoga brings attention to your thoughts and emotions around food: it allows you to be more compassionate, loving and curious towards what you eat, how you eat it and the judgements you have towards yourself around food and your body.
  • Yoga brings peace of mind to the plate: it allows you to pause and listen to your mind and body.
  • Yoga brings focus to the process of eating: it can help you detect when limiting beliefs are raising that may be triggered by mealtimes.
  • Yoga brings conscious breath to meals: it delivers smell and the oxygen taken up by your body contributes towards burning calories.

Sounds like magic, right? Trust me, it isn’t. It’s more a re-connecting with your body, nourishing your whole mindbody, loving yourself deeply rather than pushing and punishing yourself with the newest diet fad, the perfect exercise regime or a rigid mindset. So, how about you take a deep breath, right about now, followed by a long exhale… and start listening inwards. What can you do today to really nourish yourself as a whole, even if it goes against all the rules you are currently imposing on yourself when it comes to food and exercise?

I would love to hear what you think, so leave a comment below.

Bettina is a Health Coach and Yoga Teacher and the author behind the A Vibrant Life Blog. She empowers busy women to live their life from a place of truth and authenticity by helping them find a balanced nutrition and exercise regime that leaves them energized and nourished and by guiding them to overcome negative mindsets and limiting beliefs about themselves and their bodies.

Bettina’s ‘anti-diet’ approach, her in depth knowledge on the research behind common nutrition advice, her incorporation of yogic techniques into her coaching and her balanced approach to a healthy lifestyle that leaves restrictive eating and punishing exercise regimes behind helps people to incorporate small, healthy habits into their daily life effortlessly, connect them with their own bodies so that they can find out what food and movement habits work best for them and leaves them energized, nourished and happy.

Bettina has received her Health Coaching credentials by the Institute of Integrate Nutrition (USA) and her 500 h Yoga Teacher Training qualification by the Devon School of Yoga (UK). She also holds a PhD in Biology and brings in her research knowledge to break down confusing nutrition advice and research for her clients, so that they can live life vibrantly.  You can learn more about Bettina  and contact her at her website A Vibrant Life. 

Yoga and Nutrition |Emily Gold Yoga Brussels

Yoga and Nutrition

Yoga and Nutrition. These things are assumed to go together,but why? I started looking into this and it turns out there isn’t one simple answer.

One of the things I am asked about all the time is vegetarian diets. Many people assume that I am veggie because I am a yoga teacher, but the truth is I am not. I was vegetarian for about a decade but started eating meat again before moving to Ethiopia and I’ve never gone back to the vegetarian lifestyle. It turns out I personally feel better as an omnivore! Now that doesn’t mean I am scarfing down Big Macs or eating a steak a day. Mainly I’ve become more aware of where ALL my food comes from. I only eat meat when I know where it came from, and when that place passes the ethical standards of a happy healthy life for the animals AND the workers. I also, as much as possible, want my food to be locally sourced. I care about the environment and eating strawberries flown in from California in January goes against my values. These values actually contributed to why I STOPPED be a vegetarian even when I returned to a place where it was easy enough to keep being one. Reading numerous books on the global food system (The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: Our Year of Seasonal Eating
are two of my favorites) I began to realize that I had no idea where my vegetarian food was coming from, who produced it, or in many cases, how it was produced. Who was growing the soybeans going into my tofu? How were they paid? What did it cost to ship the wintertime kale to my local whole foods? Whose land was it grown on? I started becoming a more informed shopper and eater, informed in part by the yogic teachings of Ahisma, compassion for all living things. Some people see this to mean eating vegetarian and vegan, and I applaud them for that. Yet to me compassion isn’t about sparing an animals life. It is also ensuring human workers have rights. It is ensuring that we aren’t harming the earth as it grows the food we consume. Instead of taking myself out of the meat food chain it is supporting local farmers who treat animals humanely, ensuring they have healthy lives, peaceful deaths and all of their body is used to nourish other bodies and the earth.

Mindfulness also plays a role in my integration of yoga and nutrition. Mindfulness is a key component of yoga and mindful eating is one of the many ways we can incorporate more mindfulness into our lives. Mindful eating doesn’t have to mean spending hours silently chewing swallowing and digesting your food. It can just mean carving out some time (often as little as 15 minutes) to be present with what you are doing, in this case eating. Noticing the taste and textures of the food. Noticing what it feels like to be full. Noticing what it feels like to enjoy a meal without distraction. This can start as a random practice but you may soon discover you incorporate it into most of your meals. I lived with an eater disorder in my teens and I know how easy it is to allow stress and unhappiness to affect the way I feel about my body and what I put it in. Mindfulness has helped me become more aware of how I am feeling throughout my day AND at the table and more aware of how my mood effects what I eat and how what I eat effects my mood.

You can bring yoga to your table both with what you eat and how you eat it. If you want to learn more about this particular topic I have good news. I am teaming up with Nutritionist/Metabolance Owner Claudia Kaiser for 2 back-to-back Yoga and Nutrition Workshops on 11 June at Radiant Light Yoga. You can get more information and sign up here.

Private Yoga|Emily Gold Yoga Brussels

Enhancing Your Practice: Private Yoga

For all of April I’ve been exploring ways to enhance your yoga practice outside of yoga classes. This week’s topic, Private Yoga!

One of the greatest ways to enhance your yoga practice is to invest in a private yoga lessons.   Unlike yoga classes private yoga gives you the opportunity to move deeper into your practice in the way that is best for YOU.

Private yoga is the opportunity to work one on one with your yoga teacher on a practice that was designed for your own needs. This can mean a variety of things. It may be to develop a practice to manage the effects of an injury or recent surgery. For some people who have specific goals or objectives (add flexibility, reduce tightness in lower back, manage weight, reduce stress) private yoga means that their yoga practice is not dictated by the whims of their yoga teacher.   We probably all know that feeling. All day you’ve been looking to stretching out our hips in yoga class only to discover that your teacher planned a class focused on arm balancing or back bends.   This isn’t a bad thing, you may get something you didn’t even realize you needed, but you didn’t get the hip opening you were looking for.   With private yoga class you have the opportunity to discuss your changing wants and needs with your teacher at every class.   Ever get a GREAT adjustment from a teacher, allowing you to feel GREAT in a pose, only to realize you don’t remember what she showed you or how she adjusted your body?   With private yoga sessions you can go through poses in a step-by-step way that allows you to practice a pose in a way that you can retain and continue to practice on your own.

Private yoga sessions also work to balance your mood and well-being. As a private yoga teacher I also know one of my jobs is to help my clients find balance. If clients to an evening class come in “buzzing” I might suggest we focus on relaxing while in the early morning we may harness that energy towards a strong physical practice. If a client tells me they’ve had a stressful day at work I am able to use that information to teach them Breathwork to reduce some stress, as well as a physical practice that can enhance the relaxation response.

Private yoga can be scary. Unlike a public class where you can “hide’ in the back or let go of your focus in a private class the teacher is always looking at YOU.   Your teacher notices all the ways you can enhance your pose, notices when your eyes look distracted and notices when you are fidgeting during savasanah. Don’t worry, you won’t get in trouble! What you will get is personalized instruction to improve these aspects of your pose.

Private yoga is, of course, more expensive than public offerings.  There are numerous reasons for this.   As noted above, you are getting the teacher’s undivided attention.   Every posture will be explained and instructed to best fit your body on that particular day. Sequences will be designed for your own level of experience and your goals. When I work with clients I also design sessions around the time of day and even their menstrual cycle if women’s health is a focus of our work.

With private yoga sessions you also have more accountability, from both your teacher and yourself.   My private yoga students all go home with homework to practice throughout the week. Homework is typically taken from what we worked on that day, perhaps a few poses I determined could use more work, or a meditation that really resonated with the student.   My students can contact me throughout the week to update me and check in about any challenges they are experiencing. In this way we are also cultivating their home practice, giving them the tools to be able to practice their yoga whenever is best for them.   For certain private packages I also include recordings of meditations, another tool to foster home yoga practice.

Private yoga isn’t right for everyone.   It may seem like a way to ensure you do yoga, but if you aren’t willing to put in the work you won’t get much out of it.   Private yoga is an investment, of time, money and energy to your own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. It is an amazing way to practice self-care and learn to better know and understand your own body and mind.

If you are interested in learning more about private yoga you can read about my private yoga packages  and contact me to chat today.

Women’s Circle Podcast Episode 1

Introduction

Welcome to the Women’s Circle. Monthly discussions by women, for women, on topics related to nutrition, wellness and health.
These talks are hosted by Emily Gold and Claudia Kaiser.

Yoga Teacher and Birth Doula in Brussels. Prenatal Postnatal Yin Hatha and Vinyasa Yoga
Photo by Martin McMahon

Emily Gold holds a Masters in Public Health and is a registered yoga teacher as well as a certified doula. Her yoga work focuses on women’s health and wellness including pregnancy, fertility, reproductive health and mental health as well as Hatha, Yin and Restorative Yoga. Originally from New York, when Emily isn’t on her mat she can be found with a book or knitting needles in her hand or exploring Brussels with her husband and Dog, Puddles. To learn more about Emily and discover opportunities to enhance your own wellness through yoga visit her website today: www.emilygoldyoga.com

13072134_10156817811315103_268409700_oClaudia Kaiser is a certified Nutrition Counselor & Metabolic Typing Advisor and currently studies for an Eating Psychology Coach certification. She offers customized & holistic mind-body nutrition coaching for individuals, workshops for groups, and nutrition consulting services for companies. She also runs a shop for nourishing & sustainable Real Food in Brussels & online. Claudia particularly enjoys working around preconception and hormonal balance, but you are also welcome for concerns around energy, fertility, weight, body image, general well-being… She can attend you in EN, FR, NL, DE and ES. Originally from Germany, Claudia is passionate about good food and cooking and loves spending quality time with her partner and cat. To learn more, visit: www.metabolance.com.

We welcome any feedback and would love suggestions for future topics.
Episode #1: Stress:


This month’s talk is all about STRESS. A common complaint for most of us in the western world Claudia and Emily talk about what stress is and how you can manage it with yoga, meditation and nutrition! Listen to the end for a special Relaxation Response meditation to reduce stress today!

Yoga Book Club|Brussels Emily Gold Yoga

Enhancing your Practice: Yoga Books

I’ve been writing about various ways to bring your yoga off the mat. Today I am writing about Yoga Books, which combines two of my favorite things, yoga and reading! Here are some insights for taking yoga off your mat and onto your bookshelf! I’m an avid reader. My husband and I gave out our favorite books as wedding gifts. Not being in the middle of at least one book is a real fear for me, I can’t think of the last time I wasn’t reading at least one novel and one non-fiction book. And of course this includes books about yoga, spirituality, meditation, Ayurveda and more. Many Many books. But not all books are created equal and not everyone wants to invest half their incomes in books like me. So I’ve narrowed down my top 5 favorite yoga books to share with you. Would love to hear your thoughts. And read on to the bottom to find out about my new yoga book club!

Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times., Judith Hanson Lasater, PhD, P.T. If you’ve done restorative yoga before you know the magic created from strategically placed blankets, pillows and blocks. If you haven’t I highly recommend spending some time on restoring yourself. And if you don’t have time for a class this book is a great way to learn how you can place yourself in some delicious restorative yoga poses. Complete with pictures and inspiring quotes on every page this book is essential for those times when you wish you had a magic tool to help you relax! I had the great pleasure of getting to take a training with Judith last month and I’ve regularly returned to this book to create ideal restorative yoga sequences for myself and my yoga students.

Science of Yoga: The Risks and Rewards, William J. Broad. This book caused quite a controversy when it was first published, accompanied by an article in the New York Times detailing some of the negative sides of yoga including physical injuries and false health claims. Since along with being a yoga teacher I am a Public Health Scientist I LOVED this book! I love data and when it doesn’t show what I want it to show that is all the more reason to encourage dialogue and continued research. The book isn’t all negative, in fact it details the very many amazing benefits of yoga and have they have been proven effective. If you are a yoga nerd (like me) you’ll love this book!

Cool Yoga Tricks, Miriam Austin. I am going to right away say that I HATE the title of this book. Its content, however, is amazing! A compilation of tools and yes, tricks to modify yoga poses to better fit your body. As a private yoga teacher I use this book all the time to help my clients come into a pose in a way that best suits their bodies. And as a practitioner I am constantly consulting this book to enhance my own practice and work into more advance poses. With just a few props and perhaps a helpful friend you can enhance your hope yoga practice.

The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga: The Philosophy and Practice of Yin Yoga, Bernie Clark. This is my favorite Yin Yoga book. And I have a great deal of Yin Books! Bernie Clark has been studying with the founders of Yin Yoga for years and has created a book that combines the philosophy, anatomy and science behind Yin Yoga. The book includes a breakdown of all the Yin poses with modifications, appropriate counter poses, and reference to the comparable Yang pose. It also includes an accessible breakdown of the meridian lines and how you can use Yin Yoga to work with the meridian lines. If you are interested in deepening your Yin practice this is the book to get

Bringing Yoga to Life , Donna Farhi. Donna Farhi’s book provides advice for how you can take your yoga practice into “real life”. She writes for each reader to become their own teacher, in order to utilize yoga to create new patterns in their mind, ultimately evolving how they live their life. A teacher read from this in class one day, after class when I asked her about it she gave me the book! A heartfelt gift is always the best and I’ve cherished this book ever since. That is why I’ve made it the first reading for my Yoga Book Club.

Yes that is right! I am starting a Yoga Book Club right here in Brussels. If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about how to enhance your yoga practice but not sure where to start, or you want a group to discuss yogic texts, this is the place for you. The first club meeting will be 23 May. Join the Facebook Event to stay up to date on location and additional details. Hope to see you there!

Yoga Retreat|Emily Gold Yoga Brussels

Enhancing Your Practice: Yoga Retreat

Hi Yogis. You may have noticed I took a break from blogging for a while. I have been working on moving into some other media, likely podcasting, but as I continue to work on that side of information sharing I’ve missed connecting with all of you. SO I am hoping to return to regular blogging while I pursue the podcasts. For the next few weeks I will be covering various ways you can enhance your yoga practice. This week is about what, in my opinion, is one of the most fun ways to delve deeper into your practice, a yoga retreat. Below I’ve noted some common questions/misconceptions about yoga retreats and tried to clear them up. And read on to the end for a very exciting announcement!

Commonly Asked Questions:

What if I am not good enough at yoga to attend a retreat?

First of all let me just say, there is no way to be “good” at yoga. Yoga is a continual way of being that involves a physical practice of Asana as well as many other limbs of mental and spiritual practice. Often people feel they are not strong or flexible “enough” to attend yoga class, let alone attend a retreat. There are two things I have to say to this:
1) You don’t reach enlightenment by touching your toes! Those of you who have taken a yoga class with me know that when my hamstrings are angry I can barely touch my toes! Yet I and others still seem to think I am a good yoga teacher. The physical practice of yoga often gets overemphasized by people trying to sell you pants or get you to follow them on Instagram. But in reality yoga should be about how you feel, act and perceive the world. Touching my toes or falling into a backbend isn’t the parts of yoga I use every day, when I am stuck on a crowded bus or frustrated with my husband. I call on a deeper mindfulness practice for that!

2) I went on my first yoga retreat when I had only had a regular practice for about a year, and it was one of the best things I could have done for my practice! I got to spend a whole week with 2 teachers and only 7 other students, I got tons of one on one assistance and expertise and got to learn a great deal more than I would have learned in another year of group classes. Was I the least experienced and least flexible person in the group? Probably, but I was feeling so good I didn’t even care.

I want to rest when I take time off. Isn’t a yoga retreat too much work?

The level of strenuous activity you do on a yoga retreat is a bit influenced on what kind of retreat you go on and a bit on what you make of it. If you are looking to completely chill out I wouldn’t suggest a “Yoga and Bootcamp” Retreat! That said one of the great things about a retreat is that it is ALL ABOUT YOU! So you get to decide if that sunrise meditation will be healing or really if what you need is another three hours of sleep.

Isn’t a retreat a fancy luxury experience?

Much like the last question, this is all about what retreat you choose. Some people love to lounge in luxury while others feel more centered with minimum provisions. This will of course effect the budget of the retreat but the good news is there is something for almost everyone.

Can I afford a retreat?

Well I don’t know what your budget it! But retreats are often more affordable than people think. While 5 star luxury centers are often out of reach, many retreats often opportunities to share a room with another participant and cut down on costs by making cooking a shared activity that people can bond over. Taking some time for self-care is always important and doesn’t have to break the bank!!

Can I attend a retreat if I don’t know anyone going?

Yes! A retreat is a great place to meet people from your neighborhood and around the world. After a few days of grounding and growing together you may even make friends for life.

Exciting News: I am co-hosting a Yoga and Wellness Retreat with Yoga Teacher and Medi-Spa Practitioner Obe Jones-Darell of Sound Body Health! We will be spending a long weekend in Poro de Mos, Portugal where we will be offering two yoga classes a day, a daily guided meditation, medi spa services, Bliss Yoga (an amazing combination of restorative yoga, acupuncture and massage) home cooked meals and more. The retreat will be June 3- June 6th. For more information please contact me and get more information and sign up here.We are offering some limited time early bird deals so if you are on the fence get some more information today.

Home Yoga Practice|Brussels Yoga

Home Yoga Practice Part 2: Creating your Practice

Last week I wrote about setting up a space for a home yoga practice. This week I’ll provide some tips on how to create your home practice. The below rules apply to someone who is also practicing in a yoga class setting or with a private teacher. If you’ve never practiced yoga before or if you have bene off your mat for awhile I recommend checking out some classes or private sessions before you start your personal home practice.

1) Choose a time. In last weeks post I wrote about the importance of practicing in the same space, as much as possible. Today I add to that, as much as possible try to set a time for your practice. Whether it is first thing in the morning, when you get home from work, setting a time will help you keep your practice regular and also help you figure out what kind of practice to have. It also helps you establish yoga as a ritual, which can help ensure your practice becomes regular.

2) What to practice- This is one of the tricky things of starting a home practice, deciding what to practice.  Here are a few rules of thumb:
a) The first rule of thumb would be to work on what you like. If you groan every time a teacher puts you into pigeon pose practicing it on your own may not be the best move, because without the teacher there you are less likely to hold the pose at all. You may also be holding the pose improperly for your body, which is why you don’t like it in the first place. Stick with poses and sequences you know you enjoy, they are most likely to keep you on the mat.

b) Target areas that could use a bit of extra love. This may sound a bit contradictory to the above point, but try to spend a bit of time on the areas of your body that could use a bit of extra stretch or strength. This doesn’t mean going into the full extension of a pose you hate, but if you know your hamstrings are tight do a few forward folds. This is a great chance to work on these areas in-between classes where, depending on the class, you may not get to target them completely.  If you aren’t sure what areas need a bit of extra loving consult a knowledgable teacher.

c) Do what you know. A home practice is not the time to try new poses. If you’ve been working into a “peak pose” (like a handstand or camel pose) your home yoga practice is probably not the time to practice it. Instead continue working on what you can to prepare for this pose, going as far as you’ve gone in class, as long as you feel comfortable. This will prepare you to practice again in class and continue working into more advance postures.

3) Listen to your body! This is a big one, and really it applies in a class or private setting as well. If something doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t! Monitor your energy level as well. If you are feeling exhausted perhaps you should practice a more gentle practice. This can relate to the time of day as well. If you go to a studio in the mornings but have an evening home practice you may want to practice slower than you do in class.

4) Expect a shorter practice. For most people, myself included, it is much more challenging to stay focused on a home practice, as opposed to when a teacher is holding space in a class or private session. Set a timer for about half the time of your usual class practice, and take it from there. And if you get distracted by a text, a pet or the front door return to your mat.

5) Don’t skip Shavasanah! It is easy to think of a Shavasanah as an extra luxury that can be skipped if you are short on time but really it is one of the most important asanas (poses) of any yoga practice. It is a time to relax and an opportunity to notice where your body or mind can’t or won’t relax or let go of tension. To encourage your home practice I’ve created a free short guided Shavasanah that you can feel free to use at the end of your home yoga practice.

6) Take advantage of the internet, but do so responsibly. There are countless yoga videos online, both for free and charge. From a safety point of view I don’t recommend yoga videos to those that don’t have a strong yoga practice, or if you’ve never heard of the teacher and their aren’t any reviews. If you do, my favorite site it Gaia.com where, for 10$ a month you can get access to thousands of yoga videos, guided meditations and more.

7) Remember, no one is perfect and practicing at home is difficult. My home yoga practice is constantly interrupted by my dog or my growling stomach. This humorous video is a great reminder to not take yourself to seriously.

8) Talk to a teacher. If you are struggling with your home yoga practice, or still not sure where to start, speak with your regular teacher, who may have some great tips.He or she may suggest a few private sessions, which are a great way to have a personalized practice designed just for you that you can build on and practice on your own. I offer a “Home Body” Private Yoga Practice where I work with clients to design and create a personalized practice that they can feel confident working with and building on on their own.

Interrupted Home Yoga Practice|Brussels

Creating a Home Yoga Practice: Part 1

I recently had several people ask me how to create or improve their home yoga practice. This makes sense. It is cold (and often rainy) here in Brussels out and with short days when you wake up and it is dark, come home and it is dark it is difficult to find the motivation to head to a yoga studio. A home practice is also a great way to keep you keep your practice up when you day is busy and you can’t devote an hour or an hour and a half to class, plus the time it takes to get there and back. You can also use a home practice to establish a yoga or meditation routine, especially a morning or bedtime practice. If you practice firs thing in the morning you can practice in your PJs (I often do) and an evening practice means you can drift right from Savasanh to your bead.

A home yoga practice isn’t without its challenges. One of the major challenges of creating a home practice is space. Ideally, when you walk into a yoga studio you immediately start to relax. The lights are soft, it smells good, and maybe there are candles or essential oils. Even if you practice in a gym or community center, the space is typically quiet and the lights are low. This may not be the case in your home. Unless you are lucky enough to have your own yoga room you are likely practicing in a bedroom, living room, guest room or playroom. Just because you aren’t at the studio doesn’t mean you can’t create a soothing space.

1)The first thing to do is claim your space. In our old home, where I didn’t have a dedicated yoga space, I’d practice either in our living room or our balcony. My husband knew that first thing in the morning that is where I would be, and he would know this space was “mine” for the time.

2) Add a ritual to establish your yoga space. Roll out your yoga mat. Spray some room mist, diffuse essential oils or light some incense or candles. If you like music in your practice set up a special yoga playlist. Even if you don’t typically enjoy practicing to music you may want to set up some sounds (like chiming bells or waves) to establish your place and to cancel out outside noise.

Embrace distraction.

If you don’t have a private space (or even if you do) a home yoga practice means there will likely be distractions during your yoga class. I’ve never had a dog lick me when I practice at a studio but if I am practicing with my door open at home, every time. Puddles hears the sound of “ohm” as “come” and she does every time, and if she sees me on the ground she assumes it is play time. While she has learned I won’ t give her attention and doesn’t stick around, she still tries almost every time. At first I would get annoyed but I’ve learned to embrace it. Try practicing mindfulness while there is a dog wiggling in your lap. And embrace the freedom when there is space, Chatarunga feels easy when I don’t have to balance myself over a dog!

Interrupted Home Yoga Practice|Brussels
Interrupted Home Yoga Practice|Brussels

If you have children and they show interest in your yoga practice you can ask if they want to join you. Depending on their age it may not be the same practice but you have the chance to introduce them to yoga and the practice of mindfulness.

If something that can’t be ignored distracts you off your mat, when you are done, come back. Sit back down and refocus. You don’t need to be exactly where you were, just bring awareness back to your breath. When you are ready continue your physical practice.

One of the perks of practicing at a studio (or at my house) is all the props! The blocks, straps, bolsters etc. If you’ve practiced with me you know I love props! But they can be expensive. Unless you are planning a very regular home practice you don’t have to purchase all these toys. Rather you can use what you have around your house to make your own Prop cabinet!.

Instead of blocks, use a couple big books. We are bookworms so there are always numerous books lying around. One or 2 hardcover books work best.

Instead of a strap, use a scarf the belt from a rope or a regular belt. Just be aware the resistance may be different than what you are used to at a studio.

Instead of a bolster, use a couch pillow or another firm pillow. You want to make sure you use something firm so you are supported.

Instead of a blanket, use a blanket. This one was easy ☺

Instead of sand bags use bags or rice or grain. Just make sure they are sealed properly and aren’t too heavy.

Instead of eye pillows- use a folded scarf. You can even spray it with some infused essential oils.

Setting up a space for yourself is the first step in your home practice. Next week I will cover the “how”, with tips on the best way to design an effective practice you can do on your own.

I am now offering a “Home Body” Package Private Yoga Series, 3 Yoga sessions plus lots of personalized tips and resources to start or upgrade your home practice. Don’t worry, the dog isn’t part of the practice.