Category Archives: Yoga

Weekly Musings

(Charlotte and I hiked the Railroad Tunnels trail this week. Actually, I would hardly call it a hike; it’s more of a walk. But it got us outside in nature, enjoying views of Lake Mead. Charlotte loved all the new smells, especially the bat and rodent smells in the tunnels!)

As part of my 2016 review, I wrote several of the good things that happened through the year. And it got me thinking…I want to do more of that! I want to take more time on a regular basis to notice the awesome stuff that’s happening in my life. Because I have this freaking awesome life. And sometimes I forget. Sometimes I forget how happy I am with so much of what I’ve created in this little corner of the world.

And so, Weekly Musings is born — a space in which I talk about good things that happened, things I’m grateful for, and anything that makes me smile.

Last week I worked through a big review of 2016 and (what felt like) an even bigger planning session for 2017. I mapped out a long list of goals and got myself really organized for the coming year. I’m excited, and I’m feeling pretty fortunate. I’m currently a high school teacher, and we’ve been on winter break. Oh how I love a good break. Time to unwind, relax, and do whatever the hell I please is paramount.

Much of this break was time spent on my own. I feel rejuvenated. I needed that. I needed time to reflect and think about what I want, from all parts of my life — business, professional, personal, everything.

Then I did something I haven’t told anyone about. I applied for yoga teacher training. This one’s local. The previous training I had planned was in another country. The instructor seemed wonderful, but I found myself going back and forth about whether or not I should. With all the changes I have coming this year, I questioned if the added expense of travel would be realistic. And then it hit me…why put the extra stress on myself? This training isn’t and never has been about visiting another country. It has never been about travel or vacation. It has always been about developing a deeper yoga practice and the skills to share that practice with others (especially through art retreats and workshops). The day I made this realization, I did a quick search online for Vegas yoga teacher trainings. At the top of the list was a training I have been curious about for some time. I clicked on the link and realized the early bird application pricing was ending in just two days. And I thought to myself…maybe this is a sign. And if it’s not a sign, maybe I should take it as one anyway. So I applied. I haven’t heard back, but when I do, if they accept me, I think this will be my training. I have a feeling this training is precisely what I need at precisely the right time, and that’s a beautiful thing. I will be sure to update you in my next weekly gratitude post (or whenever it is that I hear back).

Thanks for joining my journey this week.

xo,

Heather

Also posted in Weekly Musings Tagged , , |

Yoga | Join My Yoga Practice and Follow My Journey to Strength

Heather-Rae-Murphy-Yoga-1

I’ve been thinking a lot about reasons for sharing my yoga journey with you. I mean, it’s not as if there’s a lack of yogis on social media. There are so many amazing people, sharing their journeys and asana awesomeness. In so many ways, I can’t even compare. But I started sharing in the first place because of my yoga community on Instagram. I was learning new poses and feeling motivated by so many awesome people, and I wanted to share all the progress I was making!

Now, as my journey continues, it’s become about more than sharing my own practice. It’s become about inspiring others to start a practice of their own. It’s about showing others that you don’t have to be the strongest or in the most spectacular shape of your life. You don’t have to practice two hours a day. Actually, you can come from any background, any level of interest, any level of strength. You simply have to be interested in starting.

In support of transparency and complete authenticity, here’s a little of my own background. Although I can bust out a pretty cool looking pose on occasion, I assure you, I am not the strongest, I don’t do really long yoga practices, and I have SO, SO much to learn. I’m 37 years old. I’ll be 38 in March. I started doing yoga consistently about two years ago. Before yoga, I was pretty active. Like most people, my level of activity has ebbed and flowed throughout my life, but I’ve been pretty consistent since my mid-twenties. I used to move from activity to activity every few months because I would get bored. I was totally okay with this (and I still don’t think there’s anything wrong with it). I would do traditional strength training for a few months, get bored, and move on to calisthenics. Sometimes I would run. Sometimes I would walk long distances. I ran a marathon once, and that training took over my life for about a year. I’ve tried a little bit of everything, and I always thought I would continue that way…moving from activity to activity, depending on my mood during that time in my life.

I had tried yoga off an on throughout the years. I liked it, but it never really satisfied me. I’ve always preferred doing my workouts at home (rather than a gym), and at the time, exercise DVDs were my go-to. With yoga DVDs, they either seemed very relaxing (great for a calm practice but not great if I wanted to sweat), or they were far too difficult and far too long for me to commit to. So I always, inevitably, gave it up.

Here’s my motto when it comes to exercise: I can commit to 20 minutes a day, five days a week.

I’m not saying I’ll never do more. I often do. Right now, I do 30 minutes or more each day, five days a week. But let’s be honest, there are days when I’m rushed and short on time. If I can’t get in a good workout in 20 minutes, I have a problem.

So about two years ago, I started following the yoga community on Instagram. I started trying to do all the cool poses I was seeing (particularly arm balances). And I discovered CodyApp. Cody is an online platform that streams fitness videos. You purchase the series you’re interested in, and you can access it anywhere there’s internet, for life. And the cool thing? Cody had teachers I followed on Instagram (so I was motivated to learn from them), and the plans were often focused on 20-30 minute practices. I was in heaven!

And so, the yoga journey began.

I had no idea yoga would affect my life and well-being the way it did. I had no idea I would feel more calm, more present, and more grateful. I simply had no idea. I just wanted to arm balance and be a strong bad-ass. But all of those things came anyway. I’ve honestly never felt such a strong sense of well-being. And I credit so much of this feeling to my yoga practice (don’t get me wrong, I do realize other parts of my life have influenced this also). But when you know something is right for you, you just know. And I know yoga is right for me.

As a matter of fact, I’ve registered to complete yoga teacher training in Spain this July. I am SO excited! I can’t wait to bring even more of my practice to others that need it. I love the idea of teaching yoga. I love the idea of inspiring others to start a yoga practice.

So let’s come back to my original thoughts — why is it that I want to share my yoga practice with this community? It’s simple. I’m a woman in my late 30’s, I haven’t been practicing all that long, I don’t practice for unreasonable amounts of time, yet I’m still making big strides. I sometimes see my Instagram Yogis doing AMAZING things, and I feel intimidated or weak — I feel like maybe I’ll never be that flexible or that strong. I’m pretty normal, just like you. So I want to inspire you to start anyway. I want you to know that we don’t all have to handstand while balancing on one arm, simultaneously eating a plate of spaghetti.

I want to invite you on my journey to strength, and I want to be real. I want to allow you to see me struggle. I want you to see that, sometimes, I want to give up too. I want you to know you’re not alone when you feel hopeless and you wonder what’s wrong with your body. I wonder too. All the time. And I think there’s a place in the social media yoga community for people that are like you and me. I think there’s a BIG place.

So I invite you to join me, and to you, I say, let’s do this thing together!

xo

Tagged |

Yoga | How To Start A Home Yoga Practice

Heather-Rae-Murphy-Photography-Yoga-Nicaragau-1People see me standing on my head all the time and hear me touting the benefits of yoga. It’s only natural I get these questions a lot: “What do you do to practice yoga at home? What should I do to start a yoga practice?”

In case you don’t know, I am almost 100% home-based in my yoga practice. Occasionally I will go to a yoga studio or join a group yoga session, but 99% of the time, I do my yoga at home, first thing in the morning.

Starting yoga is easy. You need some comfortable clothes and an exercise mat. The clothes do not have to be fancy yoga clothes. I’ve done yoga in my PJs. Sometimes this just makes me happy — so I do it. I’ve got suggestions for some of the fancy yoga mats and my personal favorite mat, but chances are, if you’re just starting out, you don’t want to invest $150 in a yoga mat. Don’t. Go to Target or TJ Maxx or Ross or whatever store happens to be close to you, and pick up a cheap mat. If you find it getting slippery in the midst of your practice, throw a towel under your hands. It’ll stop the slipping. I’ll share in another post my thoughts and suggestions for awesome yoga mats. But right now, I just want to encourage you to start. I want you to take all those barriers that may be stopping you and toss them to the side. So if getting a good yoga mat is stopping you, don’t get a good one. They’re all good enough. For reals. The TJ Maxx near my house sells them for $9.

The next questions are usually, “But how do you know what to do? Do you watch videos? Do you make your own practice? Do you just KNOW?” No. I don’t just know. I’m at a point in my practice that, yes, if I didn’t want to watch a video, I could make up my own flow, and it would be pretty solid. But honestly, I don’t do that. I watch videos.

I do yoga at 5:00am most mornings. I don’t want to think. I just want to be. I want to show up and allow someone to tell me what to do. There are some amazing yoga instructors with some amazing yoga videos available. Take advantage of all that is out there!

I have some great suggestions for yoga videos that can get you started with an at-home practice.

If you’re not ready to commit, and you just want to see if you even like yoga, YouTube is the best resource. There are some amazing teachers giving away all kinds of free yoga content on YouTube. There are some that are not so good too, but if you’re willing to look, I promise, you’ll find something awesome.

One of my absolute favorite yoga instructors on YouTube is Yoga With Adriene. Adriene has a whole series of yoga videos. She’s great at explaining poses, and I really do love her approach to yoga, which is basically that it’s your practice and you know what is best for your body, so do it your way. Her videos are of great quality also. She has an entire fundamentals series to walk you through all the fundamental poses in yoga, and she has great introductory videos all the way up to more advanced. She has a 30 Days of Yoga series that is awesome, which gives you 30 complete yoga practices. Adrienne talks about 30 Days of Yoga in the video below.

If you’re ready to take your practice to the next level, and you don’t mind paying for some videos, there are amazing instructors on a resource that I use called CodyApp. You can find CodyApp at codyapp.com, and you can download the app to your phone and/or iPad. I LOVE this service. It’s what I use almost every day. They have me hooked!

One of the awesome things about CodyApp is that they have several sample videos available on their app and YouTube, so you can get an idea of what the series is before you buy it. The instructors on CodyApp are phenomenal. I discovered many of the instructors through Instagram and later found out they have videos on CodyApp. They are some of the best of the best. I can’t say enough good things.

Here is a list of some of my favorite CodyApp instructors: Meghan Currie, Keno MacGregor, Kerri Verna, MacKenzie Miller, Briohny Smyth, and Dylan Werner. And there are many others. I highly recommend you visit their website and click through the various options to explore what they offer.

Below is a sample class from a Meghan Currie series that works you up to dancer’s pose:

I hope these videos and suggestions help you get started on your yoga journey! If there’s anything else you would like to know, I welcome questions. Yoga is truly a practice that has transformed my life, and I love to share about it!

xo

Tagged , , |

Yoga | Pose Of The Week | Cat-Cow Pose

When I’m first starting to move on my mat, one of my favorite moves is cat/cow pose. It feels SO yummy! It’s one of those poses that was never difficult and always came naturally to me (many people feel that way). It’s always felt good in my body, and helps to stretch out those kinks first thing in the morning.

The cat/cow movements have many benefits. First and foremost, they are awesome for preventing back pain and keeping your spine healthy (that said, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor if you have back issues, just to be sure it’s safe for you to move this way). The moves also require you to engage your abs, which can be a gentle way to improve abdominal strength. And let’s not forget the focused breathing benefits. I find this pose one of the absolute easiest for me to move my body with my breath. You know how you’ll be in the middle of a pose that’s really difficult and your instructor says something like, “Don’t forget to breathe! Keep your breath attuned to the movement,” and all you can think is, “Are you effing kidding me? I can’t even expand my rib cage enough to get a good breath!” Yeah. I know that feeling too. But this pose? I find it to be the best pose for really listening to my breath and flowing with it. Maybe you’ll experience that too!

Heather-Rae-Murphy-Photography-Yoga-Cat-Cow-Pose

Steps to Master Cat/Cow Pose:

  1. Start on your hands and knees in table top position. Ensure your wrists are under your shoulders and your knees are under your hips.
  2. Check to ensure your spine is in a neutral position, and keep your neck long (if you simply stare straight down, your neck should be long).
  3. On an inhale, reach your tailbone up toward the ceiling. Allow your spine to arch and your belly to drop down.
  4. Look up toward the ceiling.
  5. Ensure your shoulders are engaged and away from your ears (we have a tendency to let our shoulders creep up).
  6. On an exhale, begin to tilt your pelvis under, and allow your spine to round.
  7. Drop your head, and take your gaze to your belly button.
  8. Press your hands firmly into your mat while keeping your shoulders engaged.
  9. On each inhale, move back into cow pose.
  10. On each exhale, move back into cat pose.
  11. Repeat for 5-10 breaths, following the natural rhythm of your own breathing.
  12. After your final exhale, return to a neutral spine.
Tagged , , , , |

Yoga | Pose Of The Week | Chaturanga Dandasana

For years, I thought I was doing chaturanga the right way (often thought of as the yoga push-up or the tricep push-up). I thought my form was awesome! I also thought it didn’t really matter how good my form was in this particular pose. I had no idea that it was the foundation for so many arm balances!

Then I started practicing yoga every day, and I started studying chaturanga in detail. And I realized, all those years I had been doing it wrong! Thus, over the past several months, I have worked toward perfecting my chaturanga.

There are lots of benefits linked to perfecting your yoga push-up. For starters, it’s a great strengthener, strengthening your core, arms, back, and wrists (strong wrists are super important for those arm balances). And, as I mentioned earlier, all of this strengthening is supa good for developing the strength required to eventually get into those infamous arm balances in the first place.

Heather-Rae-Murphy-Photography-Yoga-9

Steps to Mastering Your Chaturanga Dandasana:

  1. Start in plank pose. Your shoulders should be above your wrists.
  2. On an inhale, roll forward on your toes, bringing your shoulders forward of your wrists and your heels above the balls of your feet. (This, for me, has been the key to correcting my form in this pose. I wasn’t rolling forward enough, and the next step ended up out of alignment.)
  3. On an exhale, begin to lower down, keeping your elbows drawn in to your sides. Your elbows should be at a 90 degree angle, with your elbows directly above your wrists. If you didn’t roll forward on those toes enough in the last step, this is where you’ll see some misalignment.
  4. Your goal is to keep your body as straight as possible. Don’t sag your center or stick your butt in the air (as you can see, I’m still struggling with this a bit, as I tend to pop my butt up just a little).
  5. Hold the pose for as long as possible. Start with 5 seconds, and build your way up to 10, 15, or even 30 seconds.
  6. To come out of the pose, you have two choices. Either lower down all the way to the floor (nice release!) or challenge yourself even more and see if you can push back up into plank pose (wow — that’s a challenge!).

 

 

Tagged , , , , |

Yoga | Pose Of The Week | Downward Facing Dog

When I first started yoga, I strongly disliked downward facing dog pose. I mean, like, for reals! I found it difficult to sustain for long periods (which equated to a few breaths), and I certainly did not find it restful. A coworker once told me that she used to feel the same way, but over the years, she grew to love it and found it relaxing.

I swore I would never love downward facing dog!

But I’ve gotta tell ya. She was right. All these years later, I do love downward facing dog. I find it simultaneously invigorating and relaxing. And I think it’s one of the best poses to build and sustain shoulder strength (because you’ve gotta have some shoulder strength to maintain this pose for any length of time). It’s also one of the best poses to return to when you’re needing a moment to breathe.

Aside from the awesome upper body strengthening, downward dog has lots of stretching benefits. These include stretching the back, the chest, the shoulders, the hamstrings, the calves, and the Achilles tendons!

Heather-Rae-Murphy-Photography-Yoga-5

Steps to Master Downward Facing Dog Pose:

  1. Get on your hands and knees on the floor. Check to see that your hips are directly over your knees and your knees are hip width apart. Your palms should be slightly forward of your shoulders, shoulders width apart.
  2. Tuck your toes under.
  3. Spread your fingers wide.
  4. On an exhale, push into your hands and feet. Lift your knees away from the floor, and lift your sitting bones toward the ceiling. At first, keep your knees bent and the heels of your feet away from the floor.
  5. Continue pushing into your hands to maintain the evenness of the pose.
  6. After a few breathes, slowly start to straighten your knees (careful not to lock them) and lower your heels toward the floor. Your knees may not straighten completely, and your heels may not reach the floor. This is all okay! Don’t push yourself too hard. With practice, you’ll get there one day.
  7. Hold this pose for a minimum of 30 seconds.
Tagged , , , , |

Yoga | Pose Of The Week | Standing Forward Bend

I’ve been working a lot lately on increasing flexibility in my hamstrings. There are lots of reasons for this, but I’ll be honest — the biggest reason is because I want to be able to press up into handstand one day!

Granted, there are many things that need to happen in addition to flexible hammies before I’ll be able to press up to a handstand. I am SO not there yet! But once I develop the strength I need, I don’t want inflexible hamstrings to stop me. So I work on hamstring flexibility daily.

Standing forward bend seems so simple. But I really do find it to be the best stretch for a little relaxing and a lot of lengthening.

Heather-Rae-Murphy-Photography-Yoga-6

Steps to Master Your Standing Forward Bend:

  1. Stand up straight, feet together, arms at your side.
  2. Inhale, and bring your arms above your head.
  3. Exhale, bend your knees slightly, and bend at your hips, reaching your torso toward your legs. If your torso doesn’t reach your legs like mine does, don’t worry! Go as far as your body can comfortably go – you don’t want to push yourself too hard and cause an injury. (I’ve got to tell you, the injuries I’ve sustained have usually been from pushing my stretches too far when my body wasn’t ready. Learn from my mistakes, and don’t go there!)
  4. Place your hands on your shins or perhaps place them on the ground in front of you. I personally enjoy wrapping my arms around my legs like the picture above. (It’s kind of like giving yourself a big hug. And I dig that.)
  5. Use your inhales to lengthen.
  6. Use your exhales to fold a little deeper and work toward straightening your legs (but be careful not to hyperextend your knees).
  7. Hold this pose for at least 30 seconds. If you do this every day, you’ll start to notice improved flexibility in no time!

If you choose to place your hands on the floor in this pose, the photos below should help with your form. Notice that in the first photo, my back is straight and my gaze is forward (corresponding with an inhale). In the second photo, I am exhaling and folding deeper.

Heather-Rae-Murphy-Photography-Yoga-7

Heather-Rae-Murphy-Photography-Yoga-8

Tagged , , , , |

Yoga | How My Yoga Journey And My Creative Journey Intersect

Heather-Rae-Murphy-Photography-Yoga-Journey-2

The other day I was thinking about my yoga practice. And I was thinking about how it often feels like a struggle. I don’t mean it’s a struggle to get myself to do it. I show up on my mat every morning, almost without exception (I mean, life happens; I do get sick and such). And when I get on that mat, I’m usually pretty excited. I’m ready for that flow!

And then I start.

And the internal battle commences. “Why can’t I do this?” “Why is my body being so stubborn?” “Why aren’t I strong enough?” “Why am I not flexible enough?” “Why am I so fucking scared!”

Alas, the internal comments aren’t all negative, or it wouldn’t be a battle at all. My yogi self soon speaks up. “Wow!” “Look what your body can do!” “No way you’re 37! You’re freaking strong!”

Ultimately, the comments end something like this. “Be proud of where you are.” “Be happy with what you’re capable of.” “Stop thinking, just do.”

And I end my practice feeling strong, competent, and exactly where I should be.

This is my yoga journey.

It’s been my journey for probably the last six months. It’s been a real battle some days. I think this is due to me being on the cusp of moving from one level of strength to another. Yet not quite there yet. The thing is — in the end, even after the moments in which I kinda want to cry on my mat, I always feel good. Refreshed. Impressed with myself for sticking it out. Impressed that this journey hasn’t beat me. Rather, this journey has taught me that sometimes life is a struggle. And that’s okay. Let it be a struggle. Let it be what it is. It’s not always supposed to be easy.

If it were always easy, I wouldn’t be nearly as excited to post those pictures on social media with tag lines that say things like, “I did it!!!” or “Look what I can do!” Because it would simply be easy. And I wouldn’t be so damn proud of myself.

Heather-Rae-Murphy-Photography-Yoga-Journey

My art is similar. Whether I be taking a photograph, editing a photo, or starting a painting, there are moments when I simply want to cry. When I wonder if I’ll ever be good enough. If I’ll ever create the photos I see in my mind. If I’ll ever create work that people consistently want to see.

But I keep working anyway. I keep editing. I create the awful edits and the awful photos, and I then I follow up the awful with the awesome (sometimes). I have moments of — wow, this is so good — followed by moments of — who am I kidding; I’m no artist! And then moments when my yogi self enters my artist self, and I remind myself, “Be proud of where you are. Stop thinking, just do.”

There’s something about yoga that carries into your every day life that is so beautiful. It’s the feeling of knowing you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. The feeling of accepting yourself as-is with no judgement. The understanding that with practice, all will come.

As an artist, that’s a beautiful thing. You have to keep doing the work. You have to keep editing or painting or writing or whatever it is that you do. You have to do it every day, and you have to let go of judgement. Because if you don’t, you’ll never reach your full potential. And the world will miss out on all the beauty you have to offer.

So here’s my suggestion. If you’re a yogi — awesome. Use your yoga experience to push your creativity. Use it to remind you that you are exactly where you are supposed to be. Use it to remind you to keep showing up. If you’re not a yogi, maybe you’d like to give it a try. And if you’re not a yogi because yoga is so not you, find something else in your life that challenges you in a similar way, something that you both struggle with and triumph over, and use that as a your reminder. And remember that sometimes art is a struggle. And that’s okay. Because sometimes you have to struggle through the bad to get to to the great.

Tagged , |

Yoga | Shoulder Opening Stretches

When I was about 19 years old, I pinched a nerve in my right shoulder. It was ridiculously painful and prevented me from turning my head to the right for a good two days. More than anything, it was kind of funny. What 19-year-old pinches a nerve after doing…nothing? Seriously. I woke up one morning, did a big, wide-armed, stretch, and…pop! Before I new it, I was on the floor, squealing. It wasn’t pretty, and I’m glad no one was there to witness the debacle. But that’s a tangent, because the more important part is that since that day, that pinched nerve has recurred over the years.

Since starting yoga, the pinching has subsided. For instance, I’ve never since pinched it so bad as to not be able to turn my head. However, it is something I must constantly be aware of. I now only notice the pinching in my shoulder when my muscles are getting super tight, when I’m lying flat on a hard ground, or when I’ve neglected doing my shoulder opening stretches.

And so…shoulder opening stretches have become a somewhat constant occurrence at my house.

And these stretches aren’t just good for pinched nerves. If you’re a yogi, you know how tight your shoulders can get from all those downward dogs, headstands, arm balances, and the like. If you’re not a yogi, you still likely know how tight your shoulders can get from stooping over a computer all day while editing.

All-in-all, we are a community of shoulder abusers!

Thus, today I’m showing you two of my favorite shoulder stretches.

There are days I do an entire shoulder opening routine. But I don’t always have time. I do, however, always have the extra two minutes required to do these two stretches. I do them every day. You might consider incorporating them into your daily routine also! You’d be surprised how much better your upper back feels in a few short minutes.

This first lovely stretch gets both shoulders at the same time and feels like bliss. You will need 1-2 yoga blocks (and if you don’t have yoga blocks, rest your elbows on the seat of a chair instead).

Heather-Rae-Murphy-Photography-Yoga-Shoulder-Stretch

Directions: (Note: If your shoulders are narrow, you can use one block. If you find your elbows aren’t comfortable on only one block, line two blocks up together so that you are comfortable.) Set your yoga block in front of you while on your hands and knees in table top position. Bring the block close enough to comfortably rest your elbows on the block. Once your elbows are resting on the block, move your knees back a couple of inches, and push your head through your arms. Bring your hands together in prayer position, and touch the center of your back with your thumbs. You will feel an awesome stretch in your upper shoulders. Gently push your heart toward the floor (you may even find you can rest your head on the floor). Adjust the height of the block depending on the openness of your shoulders and what feels best. I like the medium height of the block — it allows me to get a good stretch while still resting my head on the floor, which feels best to me (shown in photo A). I also sometimes use two blocks at the tallest height — I use this height when I want even deeper shoulder opening (shown in photo B). Hold the pose and soak up all the awesomeness for a minimum of 30 seconds. I love to hold this one longer, at least one minute.

This second yummy stretch works one shoulder at a time and stretches the front of the shoulder beautifully. You don’t need any props for this one — just a wall or a door to lean against.

Heather-Rae-Murphy-Photography-Yoga-Shoulder-Stretch-2

Directions: Stand perpendicular to a wall, feet about shoulder width apart. Straighten out the arm closest to the wall, press your palm against the wall, and press that same shoulder against the wall. Use your free hand to press lightly against the wall and deepen the stretch. I like pressing the foot nearest the wall against the wall and using the outer foot to lean in. You may want to play with the placement of your feet a bit to determine what is most comfortable for you. Do this on both sides, holding for 30 seconds per side.

I hope these stretches help you release some of that tension you hold in your shoulders! If you like them, please feel free to share.

Tagged , |

Yoga |To Quiet Your Mind, Get On Your Mat

Heather-Rae-Murphy-Photography-Yoga-4

If you follow me on Instagram or know me in any capacity in real life, you know this thing about me: I’m a bonafide yoga addict. I love it. And not in a — I don’t really do it that much, I really just talk about it, except on that rare occasion I drag myself off the couch and into the yoga studio for candlelight and relaxation — kind of way. Rather, in the — I practice every morning at home, I’m stronger because of it, and truly, it’s changed my life — kind of way. I practice every. damn. day.

Now, I could tout to you all the physical benefits of yoga, the confidence breeding, the spurring of creativity (and I will in later posts), but for now I’m going to focus on one thing — how yoga calms overactive minds.

I’m the type of person that gets a little anxious on occasion. And probably anxious isn’t the right word. I get scattered. And when I feel scattered, I get stressed. It’s just that I happen to love about a gazillion things, I get swept up in a myriad of projects, and I pretty much want to do EVERYTHING. At any one moment, I could have ten projects running through my mind, each with ten different to-do list items attached. And that’s just for my photography business. I might also want to create that painting for my bedroom, hike to that peak I haven’t bagged yet, decorate the spare bedroom, and write the ten personal emails I’m behind on sending. Oh, and I need to grocery shop. But first I have to make a grocery list. Which means I need to look up new recipes. And the toilet. The damn thing never cleans itself.

So yeah. You could say my mind runs a mile a minute. And I often it find it hard to settle. Be calm. Focus on one piece of one project at one time.

But you know what changes that for me? I get on my mat. When I’m feeling like my mind is going in a million different directions. When I can’t focus on just one thing. When I’m chasing my thoughts from one moment to the next. I stop. I get on my mat. I do yoga. And time stops.

Try kicking up into a handstand ten times. No, really. Try it. After about the second kick up, could you think about anything else? Nope. The only thing you can think of is that moment. The only thing you can think of is the placement of your hands, adjusting your shoulders, kicking with the right momentum, letting go of the fear of falling over. Sure, there are a lot of things that can run through your mind when you’re trying to handstand. But I guarantee you, not one of them is how you’re going to create a masterpiece with your next photography project. Because it’s physically impossible.

So yeah. Yoga quiets the overactive mind. It forces me to stop making to-do lists that are a mile long. The focus is on the breath and aligning breath with movement. If I’m doing that, if I’m truly focusing on my breath, the present moment is all I have.

It’s powerful.

And when I’m done? When I step off my mat? Something truly beautiful happens. I get to work, one item at a time. It’s like this practice teaches my brain to slow down, to recalibrate, to focus.

I do yoga for many reasons. But this one alone is worth it. The impact is profound. The quiet mind changes everything.

If you’re at all like me, if your brain feels scattered and it’s stressing you out, I implore you to try it. You don’t have to handstand (in fact, if you’re not experienced, you shouldn’t). You don’t have to do the most difficult poses. But get a video or stop by a studio. Light a candle, take a moment to breathe, and get on your mat. You won’t regret it.

Tagged , , , |