How Yoga Helped One Yogi Overcome Asthma and How it Can Work for You Too

Gratitude to Doron Hanoch, author of The Yoga Lifestyle for sharing his story and tips for how to practice pranayama for asthma.

The Yoga Lifestyle cover

by Doron Hanoch

It was nighttime. A two-year-old baby could not breathe. He was wheezing and also had a fever. Mom took him to the hospital where he stayed for two months, going through a variety of practices to try and release his air passages.

I was this baby. I remember ice cold baths (probably trying to reduce the inflammation) and a nice robot toy my uncle gave me as a gift. Eventually I returned home to begin years of struggling with breathing. As a kid, I was not strong enough to use inhalers, so other modifications were provided. I slept in front of steaming vapors flying toward me from a round, green plastic container filled with water, and I ate aloe vera candies. Later in life I was told that humidity was bad for me, and I need the driest places on earth. These contradictory recommendations followed me throughout my life.

When I was five, the doctors said, “Don’t worry, this disappears for most kids by age seven.” I had my hopes high. The same happened later. “By age thirteen most children grow past this.” Then, “by age eighteen it will surely go away.”

It never did.

I spent most springs and falls in the hospital at least two nights a week. At night, my mom would walk into my bedroom to see me sitting in bed, breathing heavily. I could not lie down, as it was much harder for me to breathe when horizontal. When the inhaler did not help, it was time for the emergency room.

“Hello Mrs. Hanoch,” they would say. We were there so frequently they knew my mom by name.

In the summers, I would participate in experiments—riding a stationary bike while breathing cold air or sitting in a very cool room or trying other conditions to see how my asthma would react.

Many school trips were problematic, as crossing a field of wheat or other trees would trigger allergic reactions. Cats, dust, and an entire variety of items were on my allergic list. Actually pretty much everything was there. It was just a matter of how strong of an allergic reaction I had. It seemed hopeless.

In my twenties, I finally saw hospitals less, and things were slightly better, until one day about a month after September 11, 2001. We were having a little party at my photography studio in New York City. We danced and had a good time. Then, I felt a restriction in my chest. I went to my room to get an inhaler, but something felt wrong, and I knew the inhaler would not be enough.

I told my roommate to take me to the hospital. He knew I am not the type to go to the hospital if it is not a real emergency. We walked into the elevator. I saw a neighbor from upstairs, then collapsed and fell down. I was told they dragged me out to the sidewalk and did CPR on me. They saved my life. Another friend passed by and called an ambulance. Some electric shocks and my heart was beating again, but no breath. I was on a breathing machine for a few days.

My mom arrived from Israel after been told that her son was a vegetable and would not wake up again. My brother hopped on a flight from San Francisco. The doctor said if I did wake up, I would not be normal again, as my brain had gone too long with no oxygen.

Well, I did wake up after a few days, and once the breathing tubes were out, I was ready to go home. The doctor looked at me as if I had returned from the dead.

I went to see the most famous lung specialist in New York. Here it was again: medication, allergy tests, and removing all possible allergy-causing fabrics and other items from home.

I had been through this too often. It did not work.

It was time to make some bigger changes—a change from the inside. I was already practicing Asthanga yoga, pranayama and meditation, but now I decided to focus more on these tools to really get better.

It has been 15 years since I last visited a hospital.

What practices helped?

Ashtanga yoga emphasizes breath with movement. I practiced Mysore style so I could go at my own pace. I practiced breathing deeply and slowly with lots of focus on the breath. I learned that I needed to relax as I was breathing, especially as I was reaching the end of my exhalations. I learned to exhale more fully, and not rush the inhalation. There is enough air for everyone!

As I practiced sun salutations, I moved slower, allowing enough time to complete the breath with every movement. My breathing was growing deeper. What also helped a lot was learning to relax my mind. Allowing the mind to simply be with no worry or anxiety helped improve my breathing.

Later I added pranayama practices. It was not easy, but with practice it got better. Practicing kumbhakas (breath retention) was the hardest, especially during exhales, when I often felt that I had to take air again. But the calmer I remained, the easier it got.

I was practicing retention of breath mostly during the inhalations, as it was easier and what my teacher recommended. Pranayama, I thought, must be the best thing for me. It took some time to research and realize that the longer exhalations were very good. Together with calming the mind, longer exhalations activate the parasympathetic system—the relaxation response of the body—so my lungs and breath did not go into fight or flight mode, which can cause or exacerbate asthma symptoms.

However, I learned that when doing the inhale retentions or fast breathing techniques such as kapalabhati and bhastrika, I was creating heat, adding to the inflammation, and shortening the breath instead of deepening and calming it.

My new mantra became, “Don’t try too hard.” Practice is important, but surrendering, allowing the breath to deepen without forcing it, helped.

Practices that can help everyone, whether you suffer from asthma or not

Asthma can be triggered for different reasons, and different things will help different people, but some basic practices will help everyone, even those of us without asthma.

The practices and recommendations below are not a substitute for conventional medicine or a doctor, but they may help reduce the need for allopathic treatment. Please use wisdom and caution, and mostly, be patient.

Relaxing the Breath: One-to-Two breathing

Scientists as well as yogis have studied this breathing technique of one-to-two breathing. They found that when the exhalations are longer than the inhalations, the parasympathetic system is activated, which activates the immune system and calms the nervous system. Taking longer exhales also helps muscles relax, making it effective in stress management as well as in reducing asthma symptoms.

Method of Practice: This can be done sitting or lying down on your back. If you are on your back, you can place a rolled blanket or bolster under your knees for comfort. Breathe in through both nostrils at the same time for a count of four and then out for a count of eight. Note that any length of breath is fine as long as you keep the one-to-two ratio. Sometimes it is hard to elongate the exhalation; if this is the case, start with shorter inhalations. Over time, you will find you can lengthen both inhalations and exhalations while maintain the one-to-two ratio. (Exhales that are twice as long as inhales.)

Calming Meditation

Any time we can focus our awareness on a calming object of meditation, it helps us reduce stress, and allows the airway passages to relax and open. The one-to-two breathing technique will help with this. In addition, learning to keep the mind steady or softly focused on an object of meditation helps us gain better control of our mind. It is helpful to practice meditation in a calm environment so if you are later in a less desired situation, you can tap into that ease and calmness and return to a balanced state.

Method of Practice: Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. I recommend sitting, as there is a tendency to fall asleep when lying down. Choose an object of meditation. Classic Zen practice is to focus on your breath. This is helpful as it teaches us to slow the breath. Maybe even begin to notice the short pauses that occur at the end of the exhalations. Simply by having our awareness on the breath and allowing ourselves to just be, we become calm. If the mind is racing, notice it, and return to the breath. Over time, you will manage to stay with the breath for longer periods.

You may prefer looking at a candle or a flower. You may even listen to a mantra or some relaxing music. However be sure you are not getting distracted by your object of meditation. It should be neutral enough that you can stay focused on it.

These are just a few examples of techniques that work great for most people. Other breathing techniques, such as viloma, sitali or nadi shodhana may help, as well as other meditation practices.  I expand on these techniques and many other beneficial lifestyle practices in my book.

Reducing Inflammation

Another lifestyle tip for better breathing is to eat an anti-inflammatory diet. For example, add turmeric to dishes whenever possible and eat daikon and radishes. Reduce or eliminate dairy, sugar, and gluten as these foods promote inflammation.

Asthma tends to be defined by its symptoms, and most medicine is designed to alleviate the symptoms. However when we look at the entire mind, body, and spirit and learn to live a balanced, healthy lifestyle, many symptoms will disappear or at least be reduced. A yoga lifestyle is ideal for doing just that. Just make sure to take yoga as a holistic practice; remain soft and have patience. You may need to keep using allopathic medicine, but hopefully, like me, you will find you can use it less. As I mentioned, I have not been in the hospital since 2001. After being in the hospital numerous times yearly, 15 years and counting is a big improvement!

Doron Hanoch is a master yoga teacher and yoga lifestyle coach, a trained chef and certified nutritionist, and a longtime student of Zen. He is author of The Yoga Lifestyle: Using the Flexitarian Method to Ease Stress, Find Balance and Create a Healthy Life. Doron is currently building a yoga and Zen center in Guatemala.

 

 

 

Would You Like to Join a Circle of Yoga Friends?

yoga friends

As many of my yogi friends know, I’m working on a project called Yoga Circles, a guide for small groups of yogis who want to meet, talk about yoga philosophy, share the joys and frustrations of the practice, try new things, socialize, and have some fun!

To give you a better idea of what the project is all about, there’s a link here to an excerpt of the book.

If you’re interested in receiving a free preview of the entire manuscript, please contact me. I’m looking for beta readers. All I ask is that you read it and let me know your thoughts. All suggestions are welcome!

Has yoga changed your life? Would you like to write about it? I’m also looking for people who would like to contribute stories of transformation through yoga to be included in the book. If you’re interested, you can download more information below, contact me via Facebook, or email me: maria@wellbeingwriter.net.

CONTRIBUTE A STORY

Thank you! Om shanti.

Questions? Ask a Tree!

tree

Trees are awesome. I know this is true, but I was happy to be reminded of the many ways in which it’s true when yoga teachers Jan Jeremias and Dee Andalkar chose trees as the theme for a recent yoga and aromatherapy workshop. On this March afternoon, we talked about the gift of trees and considered ways we can be more like them.

Why would a person want to be like a tree? Well, the words we associated with trees at the beginning of the workshop might give you a few reasons:

  • Grounded
  • Strong
  • Branches
  • Flexibility
  • Roots

Trees Offer Many Gifts

Do you remember the book, The Giving Tree? Indeed trees have a lot to offer, most notable the oxygen that keeps us alive, of course. Trees also give us the gift of aromatherapy. There are many tree essential oils, including the one Jan and Dee diffused for the group: Douglas fir. The oil has a light, citrus-like quality. It’s a clean, purifying scent that’s good for the respiratory system. It’s also uplifting and can help with focus.

Another essential oil we sampled was cardamom. While not a tree oil, cardamom does have the grounding quality associated with trees. A combination of white fir and grapefruit was another treat that enhanced our yoga practice.

Get Grounded, Branch Out, Ask a Tree

One of the great things about trees is that they are strongly and firmly connected to the earth—to their source—yet they are flexible and able to sway in the wind. This gives trees a foundation from which to weather the storms that come their way. And that’s one thing I’d like to have in common with these beautiful beings.

I was especially struck by Dee’s description of the conversations she has with trees. Now before you start thinking she’s perhaps a bit crazy, let me explain. Better yet, try it! I’ve had a few chats with trees myself. If you’re stressed, confused, overwhelmed, sad, or feeling any other emotion that you’d like some help with, go outside and sit with a tree. Watch its branches sway. Watch its leaves rustle in the wind. Notice the beauty and strength of its trunk, the color of its leaves, and the uniqueness of its branches. I promise if you do this long enough (and without thinking about it too much), answers will come.

Whether the answers actually come from the trees or from somewhere within us is another issue. Trees, after all, don’t look to others to solve their problems. Perhaps they serve as reminders that when we need answers, we can find them within if get grounded, strong, and quiet. When we align with our higher selves, we can navigate what comes our way.

How to Be More Like a Tree

If you’re a yogi, you can be more treelike with a grounding yoga practice. Jan led us through a series of poses that were both grounding and expansive. Tree pose, of course, was one of them. In fact, we did some variations of tree pose that built upon the basic pose.

Poses like crescent lunge and warrior, which we also practiced, are treelike as well. We even did a wonderful flow in which we more or less became trees, moving from an “acorn” to a full-grown tree with “branches.”

My Chat with Trees

spring tree.jpgAsking for answers, as Jan noted well, is part of the human condition. We all want answers; we all wanted to be guided, and we hope that we’re able to be guides for ourselves. But all of us also need help. With this in mind, I spoke to the trees in my own yard the next morning. I had to listen intently to hear their reply since for the most part, the branches are still bare. But on that morning, the first of spring, as I watched the swaying seed pods (you know, those prickly balls that appear before the leaves return), the trees whispered these words: patience, hope, and renewal. Great answers to my questions for sure!

I urge you to speak with trees as often as possible.

 

The Yoga of Transition: Reflections on Thursdays with Marla

om chakraLast week, I took a Thursday morning yoga class for the last time—not the last time I’ll ever attend yoga on a Thursday morning, but the last time I’ll likely take this particular class with this particular teacher. A week ago, Marla (the teacher) announced that her schedule will be changing after the holidays, and she’ll be teaching on a different day—a day on which I already attend another yoga class at another studio.

This “shift,” as Marla called it, is part of the unfolding of her path as a healer, and she’ll soon be branching out with new offerings for the community. This is good news for the community.

Of course I was sad about the class, but it’s not the first time my yoga life has shifted. Years ago, I was told (also around the holidays) that the entire studio I’d been practicing at would be closing, and between then and now, several other classes with inspirational teachers have been dropped from schedules or switched to days and times when I can’t attend.

But part of being a yogi is learning to accept change. When one yogic door closes, another opens.

And there is always more! (That line is borrowed from another teacher whose class I miss.)

As often happens when things change, I’ve been thinking about how I’ve grown as a yogini and as a person over the years since I became serious about my practice and especially about what I’ve learned from practicing with Marla that will remain with me. Marla is unique. She is so filled with inspiration that you almost have to “hear” her without attachment to words. This, I believe, is because she transmits wisdom that is bigger than any words she can use to describe it. If that doesn’t make sense, don’t worry. The teaching is bigger than any words I can use as well.

Here are five awesome things that I will stick with me as a result of Thursdays with Marla.

1. Letting go is doable. Recently, Marla shared a teaching from Kundalini Yoga that suggests we can have negative thoughts and emotions, but we must let them go after nine seconds! I think about this often. Of course it sounds like a ridiculously short amount of time, but it’s the intention to let go as quickly as possible that matters. To me, the “nine second rule” is an acknowledgement that we don’t practice yoga to become empty and emotionless. We practice so that we can be fully human and at the same time connect with our divine nature. Part of that practice is learning to feel something and then (when necessary) let go as quickly as possible. When you aim for a seemingly impossible nine seconds, chances are good you’ll get the job done more quickly than you would have otherwise!

2. Twists are awesome. When I think of Marla’s classes, I think of twists, in particular prayer twists, but also “twists” on typical poses. Have you ever twisted in downward dog? If not, you need to take a class with Marla! The cool thing about all the twisting (other than how great it feels) is that you learn how versatile and powerful twisting can be. You can “twist out” negative frustration and you can gracefully navigate your way through the twists and turns of life.

3. “Yay!” is a spiritual word. Marla’s classes can be intense (in a great way), but then all of a sudden, while she’s guiding you into a somewhat complicated pose and you get there, instead of saying “beautiful!” or “good!” or something more typical like that, she says “Yay!” It makes me smile every time because it reflects the fact that Marla’s very approach to the practice is a celebration of life.

4. We can often do more than we expect to do. I can’t tell you how many times I was surprised to find myself in a challenging pose (or two or three) in one of Marla’s classes. It’s not that being challenged is surprising, it’s just that Marla’s class is billed as “gentle,” which often suggests “easy.” But the trick is that through her gentle guidance, Marla can slyly lead you to do something like crow or side plank on one leg. And you do it. Because you can. (Okay, I still can’t do crow, but I’m getting there.)

5. When we have something to offer, we must not be afraid to put it out there. Marla’s tirelessness about offering so much in her teaching has made me more confident about doing the same with what I feel called to share. In fact, Marla was one of the first people to read a draft of my Yoga Circles And while it’s still a leap of faith for me every time I hand (or email) the manuscript to someone else, Marla has been an example to me that putting it out there is usually the right thing to do.

So I look forward to whatever unfolds as a result of this latest shift in my yoga schedule. I know it’s a shift that is happening with intention and the universe has good things in store for all of us. Thank you, Marla, for sharing your gifts.

What Should I Wear To Yoga Class?

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????If you’re new to yoga, you may wonder what to expect when you take your first class. One of the things you may ponder is what to wear to yoga class. The answer, for the most part, is whatever you’re comfortable wearing! That said, there are a few things you might want to consider when choosing yoga attire.

Wear yoga clothing that works when you’re upside down.

While you probably won’t be doing handstands or headstands in your first class, there’s a good change your head will be below your waist at times in forward bends or downward-facing dog pose, for example. For that reason, make sure your top is snug. There’s nothing more annoying than having your face inside your tee shirt—or worse, having it fall over your head, revealing parts of your anatomy that you’d rather keep covered. Also consider that very wide pants will tend to slide down your legs when your legs are above your head. While that’s not a problem for everyone, others may find it less than comfortable.

Wear yoga clothing you can move in.

This probably goes without saying. You will be moving in yoga class, so while you want something snug, don’t wear clothing so skin-tight that you can’t move freely from pose to pose. Also watch the length of yoga pants. If they’re too long, you may find yourself tripping over them while attempt to flow from one pose to the next.

Don’t let your yoga clothing distract your neighbor. 

There are a few ways that your clothing choice can be distracting. If you’re practicing with members of the opposite sex (or perhaps the same sex)—well, you can probably figure this out for yourself. And while loud neon colors work well for nighttime bike rides, you may want to choose something mellower for a practice that’s intended to calm the mind and take one within.

Don’t let your neighbor influence your yoga clothing choice.

Yoga is big business these days, and that means there is lots of designer yoga clothing out there. If it’s within your budget and you like the fashions, there’s nothing wrong with splurging on some great yoga clothing that you feel great wearing. But there’s also nothing wrong with wearing a basic tee shirt and a pair of sweatpants to class. There’s no need to keep up with the Yogi Joneses. Wear what you want to wear.

Keep your feet bare.

The etiquette in almost all yoga studios is to remove your shoes before you roll out your mat. The same is true, for the most part, with socks. Yoga is best practiced with bare feet for a few reasons. First, you’ll want to be connected with the earth, and socks will only get in the way. It’s also a bit dangerous to practice with your socks on since you’re much more likely to slip, and it will be difficult to move well when you’re worried about losing your balance.

After a few classes, you’ll be able to choose your wardrobe easily. After many classes, you’ll probably notice that you have some cool new clothing that you didn’t have before you started your yoga practice. As with any wardrobe, your yoga wardrobe should be a reflection of you and you should feel comfortable wearing it.

Wake Up!

stress reliefThis morning, my sweet yoga teacher encouraged me to wake up. Not directly, as in, “Wake up and pay attention, Maria. You look a little sleepy today!” It was a general teaching for the class. But it caught my attention for more reasons than one. For one, I was a little sleepy. I’d noticed I was a bit slow in getting going and getting to class today – not completely unusual for me, but a little more noticeable on a gray winter morning. Another reason the topic caught my attention is that just an hour or so earlier over morning coffee, my husband and I were kicking around the concept of “waking up” in the sense of clearing cobwebs from our brains and becoming more focused and productive.

Then I got to class, where our teacher shared some wisdom that she’d learned at a workshop she’d recently attended. The workshop leader was Guru Singh, whose book, “Buried Treasures,” I recently read with my yoga book club. Coincidence? I’d say probably not. When I walked into class and saw another one of Guru Singh’s books at the front of the room, I knew the universe was trying to get my attention. As is often the case, yoga seems to get at the heart of whatever is happening in my life.

Awakening

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I’m not sure when exactly how the idea of waking up came into play (since I was still asleep until it was mentioned), but when it did come up, I certainly took note since the topic had been so persistent this day.

So what does it mean to wake up in the yogic sense of the phrase?

We talk about awakening a lot in yoga. As our teacher (via Guru Singh) explained, it’s something that is always available. In my own practice, I’ve found that when we learn to pay attention, we open our eyes, hearts and minds to what is – what has always been. Of course, I can’t tell you exactly what all that is yet – because I’m still not fully awake – but I can attest to the fact that the more you pay attention, the more you will realize that you’ve really spent a lot of time napping.

Are you ready?

Another thing discussed today was the idea of waking up quickly. This came up not only in yoga class, but in the morning coffee talk in which my husband mentioned how he wished he could get going more easily in the morning. Our yoga teacher suggested that it’s not easier to go slowly, waiting until we’re “ready,” but instead, we should just jump in because we’ve either always been ready or we will never be! That didn’t sit well with me at first, but when I thought about it more, it did. But you see, I was even going slowly into the idea of awakening quickly. (The good news is I’m apparently not alone in this habit.)

There are things I’ve always been ready for (like starting a yoga practice), and it wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to jump into a practice but that I wasn’t aware that it was something I was meant to do until, one day, there it was. So I think the idea of dabbling and going slowly happens naturally when we’re not yet sure if the thing we’re exploring is meant for us. We’re not all meant for the same things, after all. On the other hand, there is probably at least one thing (and probably many more) that keeps coming up for you in such a way that you know it is meant for you. You just don’t know how to do it or where to begin.

Your teacher is already here

They say that when the student is ready the teacher will appear. But if resonate with Guru Singh’s position and you believe that you have always been ready for the thing (or things) you’re meant for, then maybe the real issue is that you’re not awake to the fact that your teacher is already here.

All I can say about that is wake up and pay attention!

Simple Ways to Reduce Stress Naturally

stress reliefThere are times when I feel really stressed. I know; it happens to everyone, even those of us with a generally calm demeanor. Life has a way of throwing a lot of tiny little challenges at us – and, unfortunately, sometimes some bigger ones. Stress can add up, so managing it in small doses before the symptoms spiral out of control is a smart thing to do.

With the holidays approaching, stress is an especially timely topic. People seem to get crazy around this time, but I don’t think it has to be this way. Some simple strategies can help you cope.

You do have time to manage stress

Maybe you’re thinking that adding a stress-management strategy to your routine is just one more thing to do –and your to-do list is what’s causing the stress to begin with, right? Remember this: A step in the right direction is better than taking no action at all. And once you take one step, you’re likely to take another – and another. You don’t have to have the perfect plan that guarantees you will never feel stressed, but the more tools you have in place the better, even if you don’t use all of them all of the time.

So what are some simple ways to manage stress effectively (without a trip to your doctor for a prescription)?

Choose stress-relieving nutrients

Different kinds of foods affect your body – and your stress response – in different ways. The trick to managing stress with nutrition is to choose foods that are calming, nourishing and soothing over those that will give you a jolt or make your blood sugar sour. Three simple nutrients to start with are vitamin B6, potassium and magnesium.

Vitamin B6 helps create serotonin, the “feel good” chemical that quickly gets depleted when you’re stressed. You can increase the amount of B6 in your diet by eating leafy greens, seeds, beans, egg yolks and fish. Potassium and magnesium help relax muscles that tend to get tense when you feel frazzled. You can get potassium from whole grains, potatoes and bananas, while spinach, nuts, beans and chocolate are good sources of magnesium. (If you opt for chocolate, don’t overdo it; sugar will quickly counteract the relaxing qualities of magnesium.)

Try some calming herbs

Herbs that can help you stay calm include chamomile, valerian, passionflower and lemon balm. There are capsules and tinctures that can you can take as supplements or you can brew a nice cup of herbal tea. You’ll want to be sure to choose a high quality product so that you can truly experience the herb’s anti-stress properties.

Stay active

If you don’t exercise regularly, ask yourself why not? You will never regret finding time to get up and move your body. You don’t need to work out for an hour or spend a lot of money to do this. Ten minutes three times a day will do if that’s all the time you have. If you have time for a coffee or internet break, you have time for a quick, brisk walk, some light weight lifting or simple stretching. And if you do have more time, do more. Join a gym or sign up for tennis lessons. Or turn on some music and dance! Do whatever works for you – as long as you’re moving.

Practice yoga and meditation

While yoga can come under the heading of exercise, it is really so much more. Combined with meditation, it’s the ultimate antidote to stress. The physical yoga postures help tone and strengthen the body and get the blood flowing throughout your body – even to your brain, where you’ll need it to deal with all the things that life throws your way. You can do all kinds of yoga, from the most passive, restorative poses, to all-out power yoga. Again, do whatever works for you.

No matter what kind of physical yoga practice you choose, keep in mind that one of the most important goals of yoga is to prepare your body for meditation. If you can cultivate a regular meditation practice, whether for 5 minutes, 30 minutes or even an hour or more each day – you will be amazed at what a powerful stress-management tool this is. And it doesn’t have to be a formal practice. Even paying attention to how you’re breathing while you scurry about doing all of those tasks can count as part of your meditation practice

Surround yourself with relaxing aromas

Did you know that your brain processes emotions and scents in the same area? That’s why aromatherapy is so effective, so if you want to feel calm, fill the air with relaxing aromas from high quality essential oils. Some pacifying scents include sandalwood, lavender, geranium, cedar, jasmine and lemongrass. Use a diffuser, or add essential oils to bath water or unscented body lotion.

Stress does not have to get the best of you

Chances are at least one of the tools on this list that will work for you, so why not start there? If you need more, try another. As you get more skilled at stress management and develop your own set of strategies, you’ll uncover an amazing truth: Calm is a powerful thing.

DownDog Boutique: More than a Great Place to Buy Yoga Clothing

DownDog logo

I’m not usually a big shopper, and I don’t typically get excited about buying things, but once in a while, I have a shopping experience worth talking (or writing) about. Recently, I had this kind of experience while shopping for yoga clothing on a site called DownDog Boutique. When I found the site, it didn’t take long before I “liked” it on Facebook, followed it on Twitter and signed up for its newsletter (another thing I rarely do). Why? Two simple reasons: customer service and genuinely enjoyable social media interaction. I even entered… and won… an email contest sponsored by DownDog Boutique! My prize was a beautiful white wrap from BelaBela that I’m sure I’ll be wearing often.

So here’s the story. I became a fan of DownDog Boutique months before I made my first purchase. I was searching for yoga tops and came across the site online. Since there was a Facebook promo (10% off for Facebook fans), I “liked” their page even though I didn’t find what I was looking for that day.

Like many people, I tend to scroll past a lot of posts from sites I’ve liked or followed on Twitter, but that hasn’t been the case here. I’ve noticed and read most of DownDog Boutique’s posts because… well, they’re interesting! And they do what social media should do, engage like-minded people (in this case people who love and practice yoga) and encourage interaction.

A few months after I first discovered DownDog Boutique, I was once again looking for a specific item – lightweight drawstring cotton yoga pants in a color other than black or gray! Oh yeah- and in a long length, since at 5’ 8”, I have a hard time finding pants that are not too short. Needless to say, I didn’t find this item with a simple search. So I emailed DownDog Boutique, and asked for some help to find what I was looking for. I got an almost instant response from Terri, the site’s owner, with suggested brands that I could look at.

Maybe I just don’t shop online enough, but I’ve not had this kind of “virtual personal shopping” experience before. Sure, I’ve asked for help with purchases, but the kind of friendly and helpful responses that I got from Terri are rare. She eventually helped me find two pairs of pants – one that I absolutely love (from Green Apple) and one that just didn’t look great on me – so I sent it back; no problem.

If you like all things yoga, you’ll love being a friend, follower or newsletter recipient of DownDog Boutique. You won’t feel like you’re being pressured to buy, but you’ll probably have a nice wish list very quickly! The site offers clothing, accessories, jewelry, books, and DVDs. While you’re deciding what you like and what you want to buy, you’ll enjoy reading about yoga and seeing pictures and other posts that help you stay in touch with fellow practitioners as well as your own inner yogi. And if you’re looking for something specific and need some help, email Terri. She’s awesome!

Before I wrap up this post, let me just say in the interest of full disclosure that I was not asked to write it. I’m just sharing something that I think other yogis will enjoy! So check it out…and let me know what you think!

Yoga and New Beginnings

bloomsI’ve been to several yoga classes lately in studios that are new to me. Today I attended a class in a studio that is new to everyone. The class was taught by my friend Dee, who is one of my favorite yoga teachers, and the studio, Ma Yoga and Meditation, is headed by a yogini with a truly spiritual presence that is reflected in the beauty and energy of the space. I knew right away that I was going to feel wonderful after this class!

Dee began by connecting the idea of spring and new beginnings to the beginning of this new yoga studio. I love to be part of something new! There are so many possibilities that can unfold when something new begins to happen. Sometimes you know right away that this thing is not for you. Other times, like today, you know that something has come into your life that will help bring about a shift in your being that is ready to happen. I’m not saying I know exactly what that is for me yet, but I know that doing more yoga is part of the direction I’m ready to take. Of course doing more yoga may mean that I have to do less of something else.

A few times during the class, we were encouraged to consider whether there was something we needed to leave behind. I couldn’t help smiling as I thought, “Maybe I need to leave part of my work behind.” You see, this particular class takes place during a time of day when I really “need” to be at work. I knew I’d come home to an inbox full of emails from colleagues who had no idea that I was not at my desk but was, instead, at a new yoga class. Or perhaps I needed to leave behind the thoughts about my schedule being disrupted if I make this new class part of my routine.

Sure enough I got back to my office much later than I should have and struggled to keep my mind on the editing work that I do to pays a few bill while what I really want to do – experience and write about wellbeing, yoga, nutrition and spirit – waits. When I was finally satisfied that I’d gotten enough done for now, I put it aside to write this about new beginnings. When you’re ready for a new beginning, it does not necessarily happen in a dramatic way. As tempting as it may be to quit your day job and run off to an ashram, it’s just not going to happen for most of us. I’m sure I’m not ready to give up the part of my work that doesn’t necessarily feed my spirit but does satisfy my need to have something that resembles a “real job.” But I am ready to spend more time doing yoga and writing about yoga, spirituality and wellbeing. And that’s exactly what I intend to do!

Another amazing thing happened on this day of new beginnings. It’s the kind of thing that happens when you pay attention to a theme like this. When I walked into my kitchen after the yoga class, the first thing I noticed was the beautiful flower bouquet that I bought a few days ago to brighten the space in my home. When I bought it, there were two yellow lilies in the arrangement, but one was closed. I expected that it would open the next day, but it did not. I thought perhaps it would open the day after that. It did not. So I decided it was probably one of those flowers that would never open. But today, when I came home from yoga, this spectacular yellow lily was in full bloom. Not only was it open, but it was bigger and taller than all of the other flowers in the vase. Now, that, I thought, was a beginning worth waiting for!

%d bloggers like this: