Tools and tips to practice Yoga at home or My humble guide for you to avoid losing hours, days, months and the will to practice by yourself

A friend openly asked on social network tools and advices to start practicing yoga at home. The thought of her typing “yoga videos” honestly scared me. My aim was to prevent her from losing time and eventually the will to get going with this great habit. 

As I’ve stated many times, I have my own morning routine including my Physical Poetry technique body preparation but sometimes I just need to be told what to do, and a guided yoga practice is the perfect tool to get going for me too.

Here is a humble guide for you to avoid losing hours, days, months and the will to practice by yourself while surfing the pool of offers. 

My favorite platform for yoga practice is Gaia. Think of it as the Netflix of Yoga.

It offers a very wide variety of practices and their search engine is divided in the following categories:

  1. Style: Beginners, Hatha, Ashtanga, Fusion...
  2. Teacher: I include my favorite teachers later in this post
  3. Level: from Beginner-1 to Advance-3
  4. Duration: 15 to 90 minutes
  5. Focus: Backbends, Hip openers, Lower back, Balance, Digestion, Core....

There are so many other sites but nothing I found comes near to competing with the quality of Gaia at the moment.

 *A small disclaimer: I pay for my membership, I am not affiliated to them in any way.

Here are are a few of my personal favorite teachers or some I would advise :

  • Kreg Weiss  is also a kinesiologist and has the most functional classes I know. 
  • Nico Luce does it his way which makes very repetitive yoga classes more interesting to me.
  • Kevan Gale or Clara Roberts-Oss for the hypermobile ones.
  • Rodney Yee for those who want to go with the mainstream legend and get familiar with the basics.

You can start by picking beginner classes which are very well instructed and safe. There are also series to pick from if you don't feel like exploring.

Price

It’s around 7.95$ to 9.95$ per month and you’ve got a 0.99$ first month to test it. I think they also offer 15 days free once in a while.  I personally use their app on my iPad which is big enough for me to see but I can move it around me if needed and do not feel like I am going to the office with a computer. 

Audio Yoga

Alternatively I like the podcast 20 Minutes Yoga sessions for a screen-free experience. They also offer video classes if you prefer.  You can download the PDF of the poses to go with the audio you choose and have a look at them before your session or refer to the pdf as needed. Eventually you will get used to the sequence and won't need this visual anymore.

I prefer their older classes without video 2007-2008-2009 still available on their iTunes channel. It’s quite easy to follow but you need to be familiar with the basics of yoga vocabulary.

Here is one I like: Hip opening flow 1

 

A few tricks to make your home practice successful:

  • Consistency: Make it a habit in your daily routine, keep it short at first
  • Prepare your gear in advance: mat, water, clothes
  • Choose your guided class the day before so you are ready to start when it’s time. 
  • Practice in front of a mirror for the right form. It’s much more motivating to not only feel but see your improvements.

I also advise to attend a group yoga class once in a while so a teacher can correct possible errors you may have develop on your own. If you prefer, you can have a private session at home.

 

Why Self-Practice

Apart from helping you to develop discipline in your days, it's a big time saver. Between packing your stuff, commuting, checking-in the studio, time in the locker room to change,  be there early to pick your spot at the mirror, shower, dress, commuting again, you may have to block 3 hours of your day for a 60 minutes practice.

Motivation

A group class provides you with the right motivation to go through the whole class once you are there and started, and perhaps encourage you to push yourself a bit more due to peers pressure. 

A home practice does not have this peer pressure factor however, it’s easier to just get started on a dime instead of thinking it over and having to schedule it. You could simply make it a habit to start a day with 20 minutes practice every single morning.

Self-Awareness

A lot of people are not comfortable wearing revealing clothes and having to bend ridiculously in front of others. Personally I tend to listen more to my body if I am not surrounded by people. It’s also possible to test new kinds of practice, new movements without ever thinking about the way you look. Although yoga should be a practice of non-judgment, I can assure you it isn’t free of it. I am well aware of people looking at me instead of themselves in the mirror. It doesn’t bother me but I can understand it does if you are not comfortable at the first place. Home practice offers you a careless option... and you do not have to wear Lululemon

 

 

If you are looking for the meditative part of yoga and more into the mindfulness practice than the physical part of yoga, you can find a few tools here: Meditation: Happier, Wiser, Younger and Thinner?

Body Smart - How listening to subtle body cues could help your training routine and improve your performance.

This post was first published in The Outdoor Journal 

outdoor journal.jpg

I believe that body awareness is an athlete’s best friend. Here’s how listening to subtle body cues could help your training routine and improve your performance. 

I was an over motivated 15-year-old, a promising Cirque artist with a strong feeling of invincibility that made me fearless. I remember how brave everyone (including myself) thought I was for performing a highly acrobatic act with a newly subluxated shoulder: two men perched on small platforms, would throw me high in the air above a net. I would execute flips and spins and then they’d catch me. My stubbornness, enhanced by a strong cocktail of painkillers, made it possible for me to perform the act, but at the cost of further damage. Today, I can’t even begin to understand what my immature, younger self was thinking. 

One of the most significant teachers in an athlete’s career is his or her own physiological feedback. Developing an accurate understanding of our body’s way of expression is one of the most important assets we have to improve our performance, general physical condition and wellbeing. 

How much can your body teach you? 

“Body awareness” is a multi-faceted term. It somehow became a taboo expression, especially in cases where we have to push our boundaries daily and often deal with pain in order to reach our peak. However, unless you overcome the belief that listening to your body makes you fragile, you won’t ever be able to use your full range of abilities and become the pro athlete you crave to be.

Body awareness involves sensory awareness—the ability to identify and experience inner sensations of the body (e.g., a tight muscle) and the overall emotional/physiologic state of the body (e.g., relaxed, tense). If you have been working with your body as your main tool for a lifetime as I have (starting as a 4-year-old who took her ballet classes very seriously), you might know the feeling of analysing every single movement, angle, type and intensity of pain. For many years, my very first thought upon awakening in the morning was: “How painful?”
I would proceed, from my bed, to mentally quick-scan my whole body without moving and then, further examine every discomfort, recurrent pain and known injury in order to determine how my day would go and how I could adjust my training in order to get the most out of it. I haven’t always been reasonable, I have greatly abused my own body for years until I slowly learned, oftentimes through bad circumstances, to develop a two-way relationship with my body and get the best out of natural biofeedback.

Overtraining is not a myth

The first big mistake an athlete makes is to not listen to signs of distress. The human body is an amazing creature, it has the capability to communicate down to the smallest detail what’s right or wrong, giving us helpful hints in order to improve wellness. Knowing one’s exact conditions is a very powerful advantage. 

The sooner you identify that you are on the wrong path, the less damage you will do. If you put a lot of consistent effort into your training, yet no longer improve and even sometimes regress, you might want to ask yourself whether you are training the wrong way. Should you reassess your techniques and overall plan, or are you simply training too much? I’m no stranger to both mistakes but I can now recognise when my lack of result or my diminished strength, energy, concentration and motivation is not due to laziness but to a wrong approach or simply my body’s cry for help asking for 48 hours of rest. 

In extreme sports, we tend to not give a lot of value to people being attentive to pain or weaknesses. We should think of body awareness as body intelligence; every input we are given can be used to enhance physical performance, especially the most subtle ones. Managing pain and discomfort doesn’t mean ignoring it. I am not implying either that you should back off at the first sign of muscle soreness; be more open and understanding to your own body and use the weaknesses to eventually become more powerful. 

My personal experience

My relative wisdom is the result of a long journey influenced by many episodes of injuries, overtraining, total loss of body abilities (dramatically thinking my career was over), desperation and eventually getting some common sense. Personally, I’m still an overachiever, highly motivated to improve my physical art. Nonetheless, what has changed today, is that I retain a completely different mindset to the one I swore by when I was that 15-year-old acrobat. I treat my body kindly, and am very sensitive to all its needs. I now rarely suffer from real injuries, because I am able to prevent them by recognising early signs and acting accordingly. I adjust my nutrition, and my training timings and intensity daily, yet I follow a fixed plan in order to reach new goals. 

A few tricks to start with

Learning to not only hear your body’s needs but to listen to them is the first important step to developing body awareness. This is what I believe marks the difference between a good and great athlete, and improves the duration of one’s career. Start by consciously evaluating and journaling the way you feel physically at the beginning and end of each day, detailing as many aspects as you can notice and remember. 

There are three basic things that you need to personalise and connect to your journaling: training, diet and sleep. Make sure to monitor these along with the way you feel. This simple task should soon become part of your athletic routine.

Secondly, by simply stretching properly, you will improve your brain’s relationship with your muscles and joints and their ability to monitor muscular coordination and function. By improving such connections, the physical screening I’ve described previously will become easier and more accurate.

Additionally, meditation can be a valuable extension to biofeedback. The meditative state requires awareness of internal, physical and psychological cues, and thus, may be useful as a mental skills technique especially during stressful situations such as competitions. 

My message is meant to reach every person, elite athlete or not. Stop listening to what you “should” be doing, and start listening a little bit more to your own body, it is astounding how much it will teach you. 

My arrival in Hong Kong in the Umbrella revolution and the tiny superhero

Hong Kong: This post is not about myself ( oh great finally! ) and I won't start writing about all the amazing people I meet around the world because fortunately they are numerous. This time I was stuck on the street of Central Hong Kong on Sept 30th 2014. It's useless to explain how it felt with my 2 big suitcases as I was coming from the airport and not equipped to protest.

I ended up in this situation after a succession of events and failed attempts to reach my hotel that I will spare you. I was trying to get one of the few taxis passing by but after 10 taxi drivers refusing to take me and my luggages to my hotel, it started raining...I mean a lot. I couldn't move much because my luggages are heavier than me so my speed was about 0.1km/hour. I asked for help here and there because at this point it was my only option and the place was getting more and more crowded...My 2 phones ran out of battery power so I could no longer reach my hotel for support.

 

After 45-50 minutes in this situation, I was soaked but caring more about my computer, passport and other belongings to remain dry as much as they could. At some point, a taxi comes by, I need to find a way to put my suitcases in it so the driver has no choice but take me...But a lady was quicker than me...I offer to pay her if she took me in with her, wherever she was going but in vain...

As my hope was starting to run out of power, a VERY petite lady asks me where I am going, run in front of a taxi making it stop, open the back door, screams at something at the taxi drivers, takes my huge suitcase ( I don't know how she did that part ) while I take the 2 smaller ones, throws it in the taxi as I entered and she jumps on top of everything.

During the next hour in the taxi (barricades everywhere in the business district transformed a short taxi trip into a scenic route to my hotel), I learned her story which brought me to tears, but this maid from the Philippines, about half my size helped me until my check in to make sure I was safe, hardly accepted me to pay for the taxi and left me filled with positive energy after having spent 4 hours trying to reach my hotel in a building protest area while no one ever showed an ounce of compassion or help (and I 100% understand because they had something more important to care for at that moment than the stupid tourist I ended up personifying ).

There are some VERY special souls out there ...
p.s. HK people stay safe and may life rewards Mary Venus aka petite lady superhero what she deserves.

The day I’ve cheated on my first love with...Yoga

The day I’ve cheated on my first love with...Yoga

Having started my artistic life at age four, by the time this day came, I had already been physically involved in classical dance, gymnastics, acrobatics, circus arts and all sorts of “non always healthy to your body” types of exercises for quite many years. My deep love for my art had also become a steady relationship with well established habits. 

 

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