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Different Days

By | Yoga Inspiration | No Comments

This side-by-side picture shows real life. Real life on my yoga mat. I have been doing yoga for over 10 years, and the picture on the left is a current picture of my forward fold. What does this mean? This means that every day is different on your mat. Each pose can be different. Each side of your body can be different. And that is ALL OKAY.

Let me explain the difference in the two pictures of what was happening in my life:

Left Picture:

Thursday Morning. I had just spent the last 3 days traveling from Iowa to New Mexico, in a car. That’s right – in a car. I was feeling super rough from traveling and sitting in the car for so long, plus not having my normal yoga practice or teaching schedule. Meaning, not a lot of movement that I am used to. I also was not feeling like being on my mat, but I know I needed some movement, and I really needed to see where I was at that day.

Right Picture:

Saturday Morning. 2 days after the left picture was taken. I had flown home, had some issues with flights, but made it into Chicago, and had a car ride home to the Quad Cities. I had just taught a hot class with my regular Saturday morning crew, who are all AWESOME. They lift me up each Saturday morning. Plus, I was home and felt back to a normal schedule at the studio.

Now. Let’s look at the difference. Can you see it? Take another look and really think about the pose. Look how much deeper the pose on the right is, how close my torso is to my legs. See where the crown of my head is pointing? And how high my hips are?

This just shows that each day is different. Our practice will continue to change based on our dedication and our normal life routines. Things happen. Life happens. And that is ALL OKAY.

I’ll see you on your mat.

Namaste,

Kela Marie

Always Learning…

By | Life Inspiration from a Yogi | No Comments

I’ve found one of the challenges of being a yoga teacher is making sure I still have a consistent practice that is constantly learning/growing outside of what I’m instructing.  My favorite weekly treat to myself happens every Monday night from 6:30-7:30pm with Kela when I practice with my fellow yogis during our Mid-level class!  I can’t say enough good things about how amazing it is to work with people who you can learn from & grow with- and that’s what happens at the studio!

Its not uncommon to see our Backwards teachers geeking out over yoga poses between classes- which is something I didn’t think a lot of until I captured these moments on video.  The Mid-level class on this particular Monday was working on Eight-Angle pose (one of my favorites) and I was videoing after class to try and capture a good screenshot for a social media challenge.  This arm balance is challenging for me & making progress isn’t always possible without other eyes helping you from other angles.  While watching the video back I so naturally could see my dear friends/fellow teachers chiming in to answer all my questions & help me problem-solve what I had been feeling within the pose that was holding me back.  The teamwork of teachers we have is incredible, and I truly believe it provides the best possible learning experience for our students!

Whenever life gets busy & I know my practice hasn’t been as frequent, I can see that directly reflected in my teaching.  That’s around the time I hop on MindBody to get my next class scheduled & see what workshops are coming up on the website.  We’re all still learning & there’s ALWAYS more to know- that’s the beauty (and challenge) of yoga!

Namaste,

Angela

Vinyasa Variations for Back Pain

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One of those more frequent struggles I hear from yogis is how uncomfortable Up-dog pose can be for those of us with back pain.  I wanted to chat today about some different variations that can keep you comfortable during your vinyasa flow.  When it comes to back bending, we want to warm up well & never ask more than your body is willing to give.  Most of us spend the majority of the day over a desk, seated, driving, etc. and don’t always have the best posture.  During class we take ourselves out of that pattern of movement & bend the spine beyond our “normal” range, which can become limited if we don’t have a regular practice.  Up-dog pose is something we do in most every class, but today we’re going to talk about 3 tips that might make the pose more comfortable & assessable for everyone!

 

  1.  Start out with a modification:  No matter how long you’ve been practicing, try beginning each practice with Sphinx or Cobra pose rather than Up-Dog pose.  This will take some of the body weight off of the lower back, making it more comfortable to extend the upper spine.  Cobra & Sphinx poses also allow us varying degrees & smoother transitions than finding only the full extension of the arms pressing into the mat for our Up-dog.
    1. How to achieve Sphinx pose: lay on your belly with elbows on the mat directly under your shoulders.  Forearms & palms will extend out from you and help to support the weight of your body while breathing into the spine for more extension.  Imagine your hips pressing into the mat while your shoulders roll down your back- widening your collar bones & taking your gaze to the sky.
    2. How to achieve Cobra pose: start by laying on your belly & place hands on either side of your chest.  Look up to the sky & peel your upper body off the mat finding a slight backbend.  *only go as far as you’re comfortable & move slowly*
  2. Visualize your Up-dog pose differently: Ready to amplify your modifications into an Up-dog pose?  From your cobra, press into the tops of your feet, activate your legs until your knees are lifted all the way off the mat.  Visualize a string from your heart up to the sky pulling your chest through your shoulders & up towards the sky- try to pull all of your body weight upwards & take any pressure out of your lower back.  Play around with how wide your feet are as well to see if that makes a difference in how your spine feels.  Imagine the collar bones pressing away from each other & activate your whole core.
  3. BREATHE: I feel like we always say this in yoga- but its true!  During your vinyasa flow is a great time to experience the full range of your Up-dog pose as part of a bigger picture.  Follow your breath as you inhale in high plank to press forward on your toes, exhale into your Chaturanga, deeply INHALE to pull your chest up & through to Up-dog, and “ride the wave” of energy as your exhale hips up & back into your Down Dog.

 

Namaste!

Credit: www.backwardsyogaiowa.com

Yoga for Airplane Travel

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Yoga for Airplane Travel

Part 1 (Take-off):  While still on the runway or as the plane takes off can sometimes be the most stressful part of getting on a plane.  You feel trapped, confined, anxious, and maybe even irritated! All of these factors make it a great time to implement mudras (body expressions through the hands), practice our breathing, and maybe even focus on a mantra or affirmation.    

 

 

 

Mudra option 1: Dvimukham Mudra- (facilitates deep relaxation & can lower blood pressure)

How to→ 1. Hold the hands facing upward below the naval.  2. Touch the tips of the little & ring fingers to the same fingers on the opposite hand.  

  1. Rest the hands below the navel, with the forearms resting against the abdomen or onto the lap.
  2. Relax the shoulders back & down, with the spine naturally aligned.

 

 

 

 

Mudra option 2: Pala Mudra- (anxiety relief, releasing stress & muscular tension)

How to→ 1. Cup the hands & place the left hand with the palm upward four finger-widths below the naval. 2. Place the right hand with the palm downward at the level of the naval, just above the left hand, with the hands gently touching the abdomen. 3. Relax the shoulders back & down, with the elbows held slightly away from the body & the spine naturally aligned.

 

Affirmations for take-off: “Breathe.” “I am safe.” “I enjoy the freedom of traveling great distances quickly.” “I release all fear of flying & embrace the freedom of travel.”

Part 2 (In-flight): This is a great time to pull out a yoga sequence that you can do right from your seat!  The purpose of these moves is to help release any tension that has built up in your muscles, keep the mind calm, and increase circulation throughout your body.

 

In-Flight Yoga Flow

  1. Starting by closing the eyes, noticing the breath, and take 5 deep breaths
  2. Tilt the right ear towards the right shoulder & hold for three breaths (repeat on the other side)
  3. Using the breath, on your inhales lift your chin to the sky & on your exhales pull the chin all the way into the chest for 5 deep breaths
  4. Roll the shoulders up to the ears & down the spine, roll shoulders back to start & then switch to rolling them forward
  5. Bend the right arm at a 90 degree angle, pull the arm across the body & pull closer to the chest using the left arm (repeat on both sides)
  6. Work into the triceps reach fingertips on right hand up & back between the shoulder blades (can use your other hand to push it further back, repeat on both sides)
  7. Being mindful of your neighbor, find a couple gentle twists by crossing the arms (giving yourself a hug) and then rocking from side to side looking over one shoulder & then the other.  (Alternate to your other arm on top as well)
  8. Rolling through the ankles, wiggling the toes, and using tennis balls to roll the feet are a great way to keep legs awake & happy during your flight (just don’t let your tennis ball roll away!)
  9. Tennis balls can also be used under your legs, glutes, and behind shoulders/ribs to apply direct pressure & alleviate sore muscles
  10. Cat/cows while seated are another great tool to move through your whole spine
  11. Core work (if you have room!)→ From your seat, take your arms out in front of you, sit up tall, and alternate taking your knee up to touch the bottom of your arm.  Keep the posture upright- it’s easy to sink the chest forward to make contact easier! Remember- a strong core is KEY to supporting a pain-free spine!
  12. Get creative with your leg movements- Try to bring one knee at a time into the chest to get a stretch along the back side of the leg.  If you have room, bring your ankle onto your opposite leg to find a stretch through the hip- you can even lean into it!

 

Flight tips for Mindfulness:  

  • Read a book on a topic that will help you grow as a person or think in a new way!
  • Bring a serape blanket that can double as an in-flight pillow AND a “yoga mat” if you are at an airport that has a Yoga Room!  If you are so lucky, run through some Sun Salutations to increase blood flow, raise energy, relieve stress, and feel great!
  • Use this time to journal, write in a planner, make a to-do list, and enjoy being “unplugged”
  • Utilize essential oils based on your needs.  I would suggest a lavender oil or blend to find a calm strength

Part 3: Landing: You’re almost to your destination!  Take this time to visualize a smooth landing, the new places you get to explore, the progress you will make by getting work done, etc.  Come back to your breathing & utilize essential oils for emotional support. Maybe even go back to our take-off mantras! Keep your body calm by using movement (think of our cat/cows) and finding the hands into one of our mudras.

Sunday Rainy Vibes

By | Life Inspiration from a Yogi | No Comments

It’s been a rainy week here in the Quad Cities, and it looks like we are in for even more rain for the week. Which can lead to less motivation and a funky mood. We might be able to power through it, but who really wants to go outside when it’s pouring? In this morning’s 8AM class, I asked how everyone was doing before class started. Each of them mentioned the whether and how it was affecting their mood, daily plans, and motivation. Instead of my normal routine of flowing through the sun salutations, working breath to movement through our sequence, I decided to change the class up.

We started with a few sun salutations to increase heart rate and warm our bodies up. Then we went into some hip openers (Thanks Deb for the request)! After that, I took them to the wall. Which is one of my favorite ways to help student’s get deeper within their poses by using the wall for support. I tell my students they can easily maneuver through these poses while they are at home, or even at work! They absolutely loved it! Plus, we had fun with it which was great to boost their mood for their Sunday.

One of the best ways to move through a funky mood is to make some time for your yoga practice. Whether that is at the studio or at home, you will be able to boost your mood through yoga.

Here are a few poses to try to boost your mood:

Child’s Pose

Cat/Cow Poses using Inhale/Exhale

Tree Pose

Downward Facing Dog (better yet, a headstand for an inversion!)

Upward Facing Dog

Seated Meditation

Here is a picture of me adjusting student (and yoga teacher) Deb against the wall. It may look a little different, but she LOVED it! It definitely helped open her hips a little more with the help of the wall and the weight from me.

Namaste!

Kela

Manifestation: how I became a yoga teacher

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I was never trying to be a yoga teacher.  I was the girl who came to class and didn’t want to make eye contact with herself in the mirror.  I was the awkward one who’s hands were closer to touching her knees than her toes.  I was the one who “had no upper body strength”& “had no balance”.

 

But I was also the one who kept coming back.  I threw all of my self-doubt out the door and decided I didn’t care.  I knew I felt good after practice and that’s the feeling I was chasing.  Not some far off dream of being able to do the splits, or crow, or anything else crazy.  It didn’t take long and people started noticing my improvements.  Then it got to the point that no one knew where I had started- they just said I was “good” at yoga.  What did that even mean?

 

I heard of a teacher training program coming up at the studio.  My boyfriend and I had just bought a house a month before and I knew it wasn’t “good timing” for me to join.  And who was I to be a yoga teacher anyway? But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.  I never want to be the teacher who’s students believe that their inner power is coming from an outside person.  I want my students to believe in themselves and build a practice that is meaningful to them.  I knew I was coming from a good place, and I’d getting to know this “universe” and “energy” and “vibes” through yoga.. so I thought “why not try it”.

 

I didn’t sign up for the program that day.  I didn’t have the money for it.  Like I said, we just bought a house and every ounce of money I made went towards my dream of being a musician.  So, I made a deal with this new found “universe”.  If I could make enough money between now and the time my payment was due to cover the program, I would join.  That was EXTREMELY far-fetched at the time.  I barely had any gigs coming up and I knew for a fact the money was just not there.  But I said the words out loud.  I made that solid commitment to the universe, and something amazing manifested.

 

I’d let go of the idea of “trying” to make the money needed to get into my YTT program and just let the universe know that I was ready for it.  Within 24 hours I had a couple brand new gigs lined up from people who had heard about me randomly.  I was not trying for these things, but I had continuously “thrown darts at the dartboard” and once the universe knew my intention- something stuck.  Sure enough, within the time allotted up to the day before… I made the EXACT amount of money needed to enter the teaching program.  It was an incredible fit for me- combining my love of biomechanics & teaching that came from the horse world, my love for connecting with people & making playlists from the music world, and my love of choreography, energy, and spirituality from my childhood spent in between the dance studio & church.

 

I’ll leave you with this… do not think that you are not worthy of what the universe has to offer you.  It is vastly expansive and you should tell it what it is that you want.  Say it out loud, set yourself up for success, and let it work magic within your life.  The yoga practice is a great way to set intention for your life and learn how to breathe through tough moments and enjoy the continuous breath throughout the roller coaster of the time on your mat.  Take it from the girl who stumbled into a yoga class one time, it can change your whole life if you let it.

 

Namaste, Angela

 

 

“Without grace, we are just fighting”

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“Without grace, we are just fighting”

 

I heard this quote while watching the movie “I Can Only Imagine” yesterday.  No matter how you sit on the topic of religion.. I would highly recommend going to see this movie.  It was incredibly inspiring and thought provoking.  The movie tells the story behind the song “I Can Only Imagine” which involved a man losing his dad after many years of suffering abuse within the family.  One of the main themes was forgiveness along with grace.  This quote, “without grace, we are just fighting” stayed with me long after I left the theatre.

These words stayed with me during meditation and made me reflect deeply on the relationships in my life.  We talk about in class “letting go of what no longer serves us” and I think this quote ties right in with grace as well.  If we want something to be just, then maybe it is worth the fight.  But if we are fighting knowing that we do not wish to forgive the person… then it is wasted time.  At that point it is better to let go of the situation or person and free ourselves of that burden.  Not all forgiveness ends in friendship, sometimes its just about keeping a healthy relationship with yourself.  We can’t keep punishing ourselves or another person by bringing up old wounds that will never heal, it is just best to leave them alone.

After the movie we went out to dinner at Outback and the waitress was wearing lotus flower earrings.  I cannot recall another time I’ve ever seen another person wearing lotus flower earrings… yet this powerful symbol walked right up to me as a reminder.  The lotus flower is a powerful symbol in yoga, reminding us that we too can grow out of the mud and bloom into something beautiful.  It also reminds us that muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone.  Taking time today to let it be, give grace, and give forgiveness for myself as well as others.

Namaste, Angela

A Butterfly’s Wing

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“It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world.” -Chaos Theory

 

Do you ever consider just how much impact we have on the world?  Every thought impacts our words and our actions… soon creating a life and making a direct affect onto everyone and everything around us.  We hold so much power & free-will, yet at the same time have an overwhelming sense of being out of control. When we do even one good deed- it can truly impact the entire world.  And one poorly-intended act can do the same as well.

 

I’m a firm believer in karma and what you put out in the universe you’ll always get back.  Maybe you walk around with better energy when you’re at peace with yourself and attract good things.  Whatever it really is, it certainly can’t hurt to be the best version of yourself and accept blessings with a grateful heart.

 

Its easy to get so caught up in working that we forget to consider the repercussions of our work.  I know for myself that I can get really down with my nose to the grindstone never looking at the bigger picture.  I forget to look at how far I’ve come but rather how far I have still to go on my journey.  But I also think that’s the cool thing about knowing that life is a journey.. we enjoy the steps along the way rather than being so worried about the destination.  No one will get out alive and unless we leave behind an amazing legacy, not many will even know we existed in another 100 years.  Taking control of our life by recognizing that this is our time can be so liberating.  When we’re in a period of feeling trapped in darkness, maybe that’s just our cocoon right before we emerge with beautiful new wings.  And that every small movement, like the flutter of a butterfly’s wing will effect the universe.  We are each so important, so loved, and so free to choose.  We are lucky.  We are alive.

 

Namaste, Angela

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Well guys, its Valentine’s Day!  No matter how that makes you feel as far as being single or having a partner goes… I hope you take some time today to self-reflect.  Looking at our relationships and really taking note of how they impact our lives.  If that’s positively- take some time to say or do something special for that person-whether its a romantic relationship or not!!  Its also a great time to think about our relationship with ourselves- do something for yourself today that makes you feel empowered.  Maybe that’s taking a bubble bath with some amazing essential oils, taking a yoga class, making a plan to get some on-sale chocolate tomorrow…. whatever it is- do it for YOU.  If you’re feeling bitter towards the holiday, maybe refocus that energy on bringing positivity into your relationship with yourself.  We can’t pour from an empty cup and we can’t depend on others to get our fill either.  It all starts within us and whatever we take in will pour out to others and come back to us as well!

My favorite Valentine’s surprise wasn’t one that I received, but rather what I was able to pull off for one of my best friends.  My friend Kristen and I rode horses together for a long time and she always wanted one of her own.  She had her mom talked into leasing a horse (keeping the horse just for a little while) for a two-year contract, but she didn’t have a horse in mind or lined up, yet.  I snuck out with our riding instructor at the time over to Milan and tried the horse out to see if she’d like him.  He was HUGE which was a plus since she’s 6 feet tall herself.. and sweet- so I knew she would love him!

We arranged for Cutter (the horse) to come to the barn, her mom had the contract signed & ready.. and I went to grab a few little gifts for him to give to her for Valentine’s Day.  He had a fresh braid in his mane and was freshly bathed to make a good first impression.  I wrapped some ribbon around the stall he was in along with a “Happy Valentine’s Day” sign on the front with some flowers asking Kristen to be his Valentine.  I walked her up to the stall and it took her FOREVER to understand that it was meant for her!  She started freaking out and thanking me (about this time her mom walked in too).  Truly the best gift is giving someone else something special.  I will never forget that moment of giving my friend her first horse and making a very special Valentine’s surprise.

Namaste, Angela

Five. More. Minutes.

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Working on being 1% better every day… today I set my alarm for five minutes earlier.  I figured since I’m always five minutes late to everything I would start from the beginning of my day and give myself a little more time.  Spoiler alert: I still made it to work at the same time- scooting in a few minutes behind schedule as usual.  BUT before I left home I did get my dishes done, all of my stuff packed for the day (I usually forget at least one important item), let my car warm up so I wasn’t totally shivering while peering through one corner of my frozen windshield… and even left a note telling my boyfriend to have a good day.

Maybe it doesn’t seem like much, but I really feel like it started my day off on the right foot.  Its almost 10am and I haven’t yet missed those 5 extra minutes of sleeping, but I do feel more accomplished than most other mornings.  I think part of it is the intention as well.  I recognized that I don’t feel good about being late all the time so I took a small step towards changing that fact.  What is one thing in your life you could improve on by 1%?  What would give you that little taste of accomplishment towards a bigger goal?

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”

Namaste, Angela