How to Begin a Yoga Practice At Home

We are only a couple of weeks away from a brand new year! For many of us, 2017 has been incredibly challenging year. So this is a perfect time to reflect and create new, sustainable habits to enrich your body, mind, and soul. A great example of this, and one that I would personally recommend, is to begin a yoga practice.

Contrary to popular belief, yoga is much more about focus and well-being than strength and flexibility. But with a consistent practice, you will begin to see evidence of all of these benefits and more. Here’s my advice for beginning your yoga journey in 2018.

Make a Commitment to Your Yoga Practice

The biggest downfall of New Year’s Resolutions is a lack of accountability. You can tell yourself you’ll eat healthy, save money, spend more time with family, floss every day… But if you’re the only one that will ever know if you succeed, then you don’t have much motivation one way or the other. Get clear on your intentions for beginning a yoga practice, and then commit — and do it publicly. This will depend on your personality, but share your goal with a person or group of people that will motivate you to succeed.

I made a commitment to join a 30-Day Yoga Challenge (more on that below) last year, and shared the journey on Instagram. Having thousands of others practicing (virtually) alongside me every day was great for motivation and accountability. Or better yet, find a friend or family member to begin a yoga practice with you. Whether or not you physically practice together, hold each other accountable and support each other through the process.

If your motivations are more intrinsic, commit to your goals on paper. Write them down, create trackers, record your successes and failures. If you’re a planner junkie, consider using a planner intended specifically for supporting your yoga journey:

Create Space

The more time you spend learning about yoga, the more you’ll learn than “create space” has many important meanings. As you begin your practice, I suggest you focus on these three:

  • Create space in your home: Decide where you would like to practice. You may need to move furniture around a bit. If you want your space to be more immersive, set up some scented candles or other mood lighting. I found this especially important when I practiced in the early morning: my overhead lights were too bright! The best setups for a home yoga practice are ones that don’t require much effort on a daily basis. The fewer barriers you have to beginning your practice each day, the more likely you are to stick with it!
  • Create space in your schedule: The best way to build a yoga practice is to create consistency in your schedule. For you, this may mean practicing first thing in the morning, over your lunch break, before bed, or whenever you have time. In my personal experience, morning yoga is the most effective — your brain hasn’t yet had time to stress about everything coming up throughout the day.
  • Create space in your heart: Okay, that sounds a bit woo-woo. (And that’s SO not my style!) What I mean is that you should prepare to be vulnerable and let go of your expectations. Create space for the personal discovery aspect of yoga. Take the time to teach yourself that a yoga practice isn’t just a workout regimen. Don’t obsess over nailing postures or perfecting technique. Try to focus more on the mind-body connection and on letting go of your thoughts and distractions. I have a long way to go on this, too, but we can work on creating this space together!

Find Your Tools

Walking into a Lululemon to buy yoga gear for the first time can be super intimidating. But when you’re just starting out, you only need two things: a mat, and some comfy clothes that allow you to move. (Got leggings and a t-shirt? You’re good to go.) You can do a bit of googling to choose a mat that fits your lifestyle and pricepoint. Or you can check out this post on the Best Yoga Mats from Reviews.com, which does all the research work for you! They explored 30 leading mats to determine quality choices for yogis who are eco-conscious, on a budget, or simply don’t like the cleaning process. I personally use a yoga mat from Lole, which is a great mid-range option:

If you have a few extra dollars to invest in your yoga practice, I would recommend picking up a couple of yoga blocks. They are great for beginners because they help support you in poses that would otherwise be too difficult until you improved your strength or flexibility. For example, I sometimes prop my hands up on yoga blocks in High Lunge to relieve some tension when my hips are tight. Pick up a pair here:

Begin Your Yoga Practice

Experienced yogis can practice yoga sequences on the fly. But if you’re new to yoga and beginning a home yoga practice, YouTube is about to become your best friend. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m a huge fan of the Yoga With Adriene YouTube Channel. She offers a variety of video practices for all levels that are perfect for home use. Plus, she’s about to kick off her annual 30-Day Yoga Journey — this year’s is titled “True”, and it kicks off January 1st! Sign up today right here! And feel free to join me on my True journey on my fitness Instagram account.

 TRUE Yoga with Adriene - Yoga Practice At Home 

Are you committing to a yoga practice for the upcoming new year? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you!

How to Prep for Your Workday Workou

Most of us are super busy these days, and it can be hard to fit exercise into that jam-packed schedule. I’ve posted before on the benefits of morning workouts, which have helped me establish a regular fitness routine. Mornings don’t work for everyone, though, so lunch breaks are the next best opportunity to get in some exercise. Plus, if your office has a gym inside or nearby, you can take advantage of those amenities with a workday workout.

But squeezing in a workout over lunch can be challenging. And I hate to say it, but the transition is even more difficult for ladies. Unlike most guys I know, I can’t have a full shower and be ready to get back to work in ten minutes flat! So when it comes to mid-day exercise, I can’t afford to waste time or effort in getting it done. Preparation is key to making your workday workout work for you. Here are some of my tips for doing just that!

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Staying Cool Outside Your Comfort Zone

The first time I went to a hot yoga class, I was sweating buckets… And that’s before the class even began! I’d just signed up for an intro class pass at my local studio, and decided to make the most of it. I didn’t have someone to come along with me to the class, let alone someone with hot yoga experience that could show me the ropes. In fact, I’d never even been to a new type of class without a friend there as a safety net. I read as much as I could about hot yoga online before the class, and it still sounded super intimidating. “Feeling like you might pass out is normal” isn’t the most reassuring thing to find out. Talk about stepping out of my comfort zone!

Whether it’s in the realm of fitness, school, work, or even hobbies, I’ve always struggled with going beyond my comfort zone. I somehow developed the mentality that if I wasn’t good at something, there was no point in doing it. If I’d never done it before, of course I wasn’t good at it! This became a vicious cycle. It definitely made it easier to have friends or family lead the way. So for many years, I only tried new things if someone else was doing it too. This strategy worked pretty well… Until I graduated.

If you’re a student, I’ll let you in on a little secret: real life doesn’t have extracurricular fairs. And there’s no curriculum forcing you to try new things. If you let the pressure get to you — like I did for a while there — you will just stick with whatever routines you formed in school. Maybe that means you’ll party every weekend, or maybe you’ll just stay home and watch Netflix. (I’ll let you guess which one describes me!) But as that super-popular Pinterest quote says:

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone - Flinntrospection

Ah, the eternal wisdom of Pinterest quotes.

If you want to grow, you have to go beyond that comfort zone! 

That said, how do you stay cool once you step into the unknown and the heat is on? Thinking back to that first class last winter, the strategies I used in hot yoga are applicable to pretty much any uncomfortable situation.

  • Take deep breaths. Listen to the gentle music playing (or the ambient sounds around you), and focus on those simple sensations. It helps you tune out the endless chatter of self-doubt, and to calm the physical and emotional impacts of new and uncomfortable situations. Make yourself comfortable in the physical sense, whether that means rolling your shoulders, finding some comfy furniture, or choosing products that promote comfort and support from brands like Tommy John (check them out here). No matter what you’re tackling, give yourself permission to find your zen.
  • View others’ success as inspiration, not competition. I definitely struggle with comparison and the impostor syndrome that follows. But lately I’ve tried to be mindful of the times when I notice others that are better at something than I am, and to use the opportunity to set goals rather than to foster jealousy and embarrassment. A yoga example: crow pose isn’t in my practice at this point, but many other people in my classes seem to have it down pat. It’s been a conscious process to focus on my own journey and keep a level head (so to speak) when the pose comes up in yoga class.
  • Track and embrace your progress — then keep going. As you continue to work through a new challenge, you will grow… And so will your comfort zone. At that point it can become easy, once again, to stay in that space. But the more you try new things, the more you will be able to handle — and even avoid — the discomfort that comes with it. Feel free to think beyond the typical linear trajectory of growth, too. When it comes to yoga, it’s easy to think of the practice as a checklist of poses to master. But I know that my biggest hurdle is a mental one. It’s all about quieting the mind, focusing on the breath, going with the flow. Look for new ways to challenge yourself, and you’ll learn how to stay calm, cool, and collected in the process.

How do you stay cool when the pressure’s on?

How I Became a Morning Workout Person

You know those people you see out jogging every morning? Or those people who finish exercising at the gym before you’re even out of bed? Or worse, your friends that post gym selfies or yoga poses with the sunrise as their backdrop? They are what we call “morning workout people”. Maybe they drive you nuts, but you’re probably a little bit jealous of them too. Where the heck do they get the energy and motivation to be a morning workout person?

I used to totally envy those people. The thought of waking up and working out seemed totally out of reach. But now, a year later, I’m one of them. I wake up at 5:45 (and some days at 5:20) to start my day and sweat it out. If you’re familiar with Tone It Up, my favourite online fitness community, the morning workout is so important that it has a name: the “Bootycall”. And it’s a daily occurrence, not just a few times a week or only weekdays! So how did I go from never exercising in the morning (or at all, for that matter) to putting in a morning workout every damn day?Continue reading

Four Things I Wish I Learned in High School

School is back in session! Are you lamenting the end of summer vacation (or maybe celebrating it)? I’ve been out of school for a few years now, and it still feels strange not heading back to class after Labour Day. Looking back on high school, I definitely learned a lot, both inside the classroom and out. But there are a number of life lessons I wish we’d all learned in high school. If you’re a student, know a student, are a teacher, or know a teacher, let me know if you agree! Continue reading

Tone It Up Bikini Series Non-Scale Victories

This is it: the last day of the Tone It Up Bikini Series!

For those of you who haven’t been following my TIU journey, the Bikini Series is an 8-week nutrition and fitness challenge leading up to summer. Daily workouts are a combination of cardio and light strength training. There are free and paid exercise videos, plus self-led session suggestions. Nutrition is guided by the mantra, “Lean, Clean ‘n Green”. Following the final week, there’s a more intense challenge called the 7 Day Slim Down. And you share the whole thing on Instagram to join in on the beachy fun with thousands of other #TIUgirls. Yes, it’s a bit ridiculous. But with all of the hardcore alternatives out there for women looking to get in shape, this is my favourite option. Continue reading

Hiking the Nassagaweya Canyon Trail

This weekend, Joe and I took on our greatest hiking challenge yet: the Nassagaweya Canyon Trail. The trail connects Rattlesnake Point and Crawford Lake parks by leading you across the valley between them. The Conservation Halton website lists the trail as 7.2km one way — except you have to go back, too! It’s also the only trail on Halton’s roster with a “Difficult” rating. After all the hiking we’ve done over the past couple of years, and with a beautiful weekend ahead of us, it was time to take the plunge. Continue reading

Why I'm Not Coaching for Beachbody

In the past few months, I’ve done a complete 180 when it comes to healthy living. I started exercising and eating right (for the most part…), and I shared the process on a fitness-focused Instagram account. I noticed it almost right away: these mysterious “virtual fitness coaches” saturating my feed with sweaty selfies and motivational quotes. And it didn’t take long, once my account started to gather a following, for these ladies to start reaching out to me with offers to become a coach myself. They didn’t always mention their employer outright, but I only needed a quick Google search to tell me that these women work for a multi-level marketing company called Beachbody. That’s right, the dreaded “MLM” — what some people refer to as a “pyramid scheme”. Yikes.

But the peppy posts and the promise of a rewarding, engaging, self-propelled career were getting to me. So I did a bit of research. Continue reading

Tone It Up Bikini Series

Hello, dear readers! I’ve been AWOL again for a while, but between work and the Tone It Up Bikini Series beginning last week, I simply haven’t had the energy for my poor little blog. I have mentioned Tone It Up on this page before (check that out here). But you might be wondering, “What the heck is the Bikini Series?” Friends, six months ago, I would have been asking the exact same question.

Here it is in a nutshell. The Tone It Up Bikini Series is an eight week fitness challenge with an optional nutrition component, leading up to the first day of summer. Every day you have an assigned daily workout, some or all of which you complete first thing in the morning for your “Bootycall”. (Cheesy, I know — but hey, I didn’t come up with the lingo.) Then, if you’re a nutrition plan member, you also follow along with the meal plan. That means planning out and prepping “Lean Clean’N Green” meals every Sunday for eight weeks straight. And also trying not to eat Timbits. Which is basically impossibleContinue reading

Eating Out FOMO

Imagine this: you’re at one of your go-to restaurants. You take a look at the menu and skim past your usual favourites because tonight, you want to try something new. You order something you’ve never tried before. And as you’re waiting for your food to arrive, someone at the table next to you receives something that looks (and smells) fantastic. Immediately, you’re thinking that you wish you’d ordered what they did. Finally, when your meal arrives, you take a bite – and it’s simply not as delicious as what you imagine your neighbour’s meal tastes like. Now you’re regretting your dining decision entirely. This phenomenon is what I like to call Eating Out FOMOContinue reading