I’m such a tease: a massive post coming very soon!

That’s right folks, I’ve been working on a really cool, super awesome, fantabulous post for you all this past week.

I’ve been waiting to write a post on the 8 Limbs of Yoga for a while now while I dove into research about yoga, its roots and experiencing the 8 limbs for myself. I have you a post that I will warn you about right now: get a cup of coffee or tea and sit on down, because you will be reading for a while! But honestly, who doesn’t love reading something adequately researched and written in (slightly) witty 21-year-old language? Like the photo above, the post will have shots from a beautiful photo shoot I did last week with the yoga instructor you’ve all heard about this whole semester, Rachael. I’ll also be bestowing some more data visualizations on you, maybe another timeline and some much needed found photographic excellence. Who knows, maybe I’ll even put up another playlist! We’ll see how ambitious I get here (finals are tough).

So if you’re ready, like this post! And send some good vibes my way in the next few days as I finish up my undergrad degree!

Namaste, y’all.

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Review: My Newest Practice Playlist

We all have our favorite playlists for our practice. The songs may have lyrics, they may be contemporary songs, traditional songs, or if you’re like me, they’re instrumental, meditative songs that reach out  into the realms of the new age genre. For some time I’ve been looking for the perfect playlist to practice to when I’m at home, and this playlist, entitled Blissful Moments, has an hour of perfection for me whether I’m practicing, meditating or even studying in my room.

Here’s a quick link for you:
http://8tracks.com/acoustic-ecology/blissful-moments

blissful moments

A screenshot of Blissful Moments

If you’ve never heard of 8tracks, you should go there right now and start exploring. The gist of 8tracks is sharing personal playlists: create a username, create playlist, appropriately describe and tag playlist, and let others “like” it to have it in their own personal dashboard of their own customized music playlists. It’s kind of like Pandora.

But I digress, back to the playlist.
The user who created this describes Blissful Moments as “one hour of music therapy, as a platform to enhance concentration and memory. Ideally as a companion for meditation, healing sessions and inner peace. Including works by Nat Grant, Byron Metcalf and Daniel Waples with Flavio Lopez” (source: blissful moments playlist description). Now, many playlists I’ve found have a few gems in them for me to really get in the zone for my practice, but Blissful Moments has really been a game-changer for me, where all ten tracks really stand out as stellar pieces of music. 

Here’s a piece from the playlist, slightly remixed (in a very good way):

If you’re looking for a practice playlist to vinyasa flow to or free flow whatever is in your heart at the time, then this playlist is for you. You’ve got everything from ocean and water sounds to chimes to flutes and marimbas, and it’s all designed to guide your mind to that beautiful, calm state of connection. Blissful Moments is also perfect for studying, meditation and even falling asleep if you really need it. All ten pieces are soothing and definitely designed for a flow, so it’s not something to listen to if you’re looking for a power practice.

Beware: one thing about Blissful Moments (and this is an 8track thing) is that each time you play the playlist, it’s on shuffle. So if you’re used to a set playlist and like to know what song is coming, you may not like this. But I will say that the pieces flow together very nicely, no matter what order they play in.

These ten songs make up an hour of music, which is also perfect for a not-too-short, but not-too-long practice. Bottom line: I’m really diggin’ this playlist right now, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a great practice playlist without going through too much effort to find one (oh look, I’ve found one for you!).

If you end up being as into this playlist as I am, check out the user who created it, Acoustic Ecology, who has some other really great mixes for your meditative pleasure.

Have a yoga playlist or song you really love? Comment with it, I’m always looking for more music to practice and meditate to! 

Namaste, all. Have a great week.

 

 

Awakened: How Yoga Gave Me My Peace Back

[The practice these audio clips are taken from is THIS practice (spoiler: the link takes you to a previous post).]

Two Tuesdays ago we ended our hour-long practice as usual. As I reluctantly opened my eyes after our “namaste” and got up to roll up my mat, I looked over and noticed a friend still sitting in a cross-legged position with her hands resting on her knees, her eyes closed. She had perfect posture and a slight smile on her face.

Peace.

When I graduated high school, I decided that I was done playing sports. As a double athlete (soccer and softball) for over 10 years of my life, my body was wrecked. By my senior year of high school I had suffered four concussions, damaged vertebrate in my neck and had two cases of heat stroke. My last soccer season I hyper-extended my left knee and worn out the cartilage in both knees. With the hyper-extension, I was glad to be done, but it meant that the outlet I had had to find my peace was gone as well.

Yoga gave me back my peace, in even greater ways than sports had.

It took me a year to do any kind of decent forward fold. My long, goalkeeping arms gave me impressive binding abilities, but my weak joints and aching muscles left some desire when it came to balancing. I was never good a making friends or delving into my inner self to start figuring out who I was.

Yoga has gracefully, forcefully opened me up. And I am grateful for every tear, every muscle ache (of the best kind) and every day that it has provided me to have an awakened spirit. 

Thank you, yoga.

Namaste.

 

My top 6 yoga styles

Floreana Island yoga

Portrait doing yoga on Floreana Island (Galapagos Islands, Ecuador)
Photo credit: Rachael Kinley

There are so many styles of yoga to try, so how do you decide which one is for you? In the three years I’ve been practicing I’ve tried some variety in my yoga life to find the perfect fit for me, but the truth is, that really depends on my mood and what my life is like at that moment. Many styles are similar, but they all have differences that make them unique experiences when practicing. So here’s a list of 5 styles I’ve tried and how they rank:

hatha yoga

6. Hatha Yoga: When you say “hatha yoga,” you’re actually describing any practice of yoga. As the most classic style of yoga, and a style that is the basis for many other yoga forms (iyengar and astanga, for starters), hatha yoga nowadays is great for beginners. Many people go to hatha classes to get a feel for yoga, learn beginners’ poses, relaxation techniques and get comfortable with yoga in general. In most cases, hatha classes have a gentle, relaxing feel revolving around poses without flows between them. But you’re past beginning stages, yogi, so you need more challenge.

bikram yoga poses

5. Bikram Yoga: Typically practiced in a room with a temperature around 105 degrees, bikram yoga centers around a 26-pose asana that yogis go through twice in a single 90-minute practice. But don’t get this confused with hot yoga, which will come later. In a nutshell, bikram yoga is hot, but hot yoga isn’t always bikram. If you’re into routine, bikram may be for you. But be warned, doing yoga in 105 degrees is something you have to get used to.

Sun Salutation

4. Vinyasa Yoga: One of the yogas derived from hatha yoga, vinyasa syncronizes postures and the breath as a flow-oriented style of practice. Vinyasa is one of the most popular styles of yoga and is a great practice. One of my favorite things about vinyasa is that it doesn’t have a set rulebook, so personalities can come out through each practice. I really like vinyasa yoga, especially when I’m at home. There are a variety of sequences that are “typical” in this style of yoga, including variations of sun salutations. I love flowing through sequences after practicing a pose, and vinyasa can be practiced at the individual’s pace.

Iyengar yoga standing poses3. Iyengar Yoga: There is a saying: “the pose begins when you want to leave it.” If you’re a perfectionist looking for something challenging, then iyengar yoga is for you. Iyengar is a deep study of postures and the breath. A big emphasis of iyengar is correct body alignment, students of iyengar often hold poses for minutes (yes, minutes) at a time, wherein lies the challenge. Iyengar yoga is about precision, discipline, correct body alignment and breath control. Iyengar utilizes the use of a lot of props (blocks, straps, blankets, etc) to help yogis with their poses. The great part of this style: it helps not only with aches and pains, but the style has been proven to help with medical conditions as well.

power yoga2. Ashtanga/Power Yoga: If you’re fit and athletic, ashtanga yoga could be for you. In my experience, ashtanga is very similar to vinyasa, but with more rigor (for lack of a better term). With Ashtanga, the pace is faster and more agility is used. It’s more physical, designed to maintain stamina and strength, and high-energy (unlike vinyasa flow). I put this as runner up in the list because I’m busy, as I know much of you are. Ashtanga yoga is a full-body workout that encompasses the calming, intellectual benefits of yoga as well as toning and strengthening the body. I leave exhausted physically and recharged mentally. It’s a beautiful feeling.

hot vinyasa yoga1. Hot yoga: I know I know, this isn’t a textbook, formal “style,” but let’s face it (and pardon my french), hot yoga is the shit. While Bikram yoga is set at about 105 degrees, hot yoga is set at 85-95. The benefits of the heat are incomparable once you get used to it. Heat loosens up your muscles quicker and warms up your body. It makes it easier to stretch out and the sweat just feels good. Hot yoga makes the body flow better, but it’s not too hot. Hot vinyasa flow yoga is my absolute favorite because it combines heat and vinyasa, and my body feels incredible both while I’m practicing and when I leave. If you’re looking for a better explanation about this, check out this article: Hot Yoga Changed My Life, Body, and Spirit Animal.

So there you have it: my 6 favorite styles. If you’ve got a favorite, feel free to share!

Namaste, all. And have a great week.

My first experience with watching yoga instead of practicing

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I think we can all agree that yoga is something truly beautiful. But have you ever sat and watched a practice in person, and not just in a video?

This past Tuesday, instead of practicing in the class I take at school I decided instead to watch the practice instead. I decided to watch the practice both with my eyes and through my camera lens, and I must say, I’m still in awe at how amazing a practice is in person.

Seldom times we think about the other people in the room when we practice, but that’s the whole point of yoga: we work on ourselves for that amount of time. Nothing else (and no one else, really) matters. So I was struck when I was watching this practice at how beautifully everyone moved, together but ever-so-slightly separate with each person’s individual pace. As I took in the whole room, I noticed some things: the variety of dress, from dance clothes to athletic shorts to leggings and spaghetti straps. I noticed the variety of skill level: from guys with too much muscle to bind their arms to dancers that can twist and bend like it’s nothing, and everything in-between. But what I found most beautiful while watching was the variety of people that came together to practice. Like all universities, some groups don’t mix. The jocks don’t particularly mix with the dancers, the dancers don’t mix with the psychology majors, the business majors don’t mix with the photographers, and so on. All of that is forgotten, though, when each person steps into the room with their mat.

The best thing about yoga, in my opinion, is the fact that it does not discriminate. Anyone can practice. Young, old, flexible, barely able to touch your toes, seasoned yogis or amateurs, yoga has something for everyone. In the threshold of the doorway, we leave everything behind. No one is better than anyone else in the room. I had known this before, of course, but I had not fully understood it until I watched a group of individuals, who are all so different, both move and breathe together.

Now that, my friends, is truly beautiful.

Namaste.