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Many times over the years, I’ve been asked for a variety of recommendations. Things like:

  • What yoga mat should I buy?
  • What are the best yoga pants?
  • What are your favorite books?

You get the idea. Well, here is a start to things I’ve recommended over and over again to my friends and students, and I always get great feedback that I was spot on. So here is the first of hopefully many posts for things I recommend that can help you immensely in your journey to better health and wellness. This particular post is centered around yoga recommendations, so here we go.

a-few-of-my-favorite-things
(Photo courtesy of Guide to Secret and the Law of Attraction)

Yoga Mats

My favorite yoga mat — and I have had MANY of them since I began practicing in 1999 — is the Manduka PRO Yoga and Pilates Mat, Black Magic,71″. This mat is thicker than average, which is great for people like me who have joint issues. Plus, I don’t care how hot of a yoga class I’ve attended, I never slip when I take this mat with me. I sweat — a LOT! And prior to having this mat, I could never go to hot classes because I always felt like I would hurt myself…I would slip as soon as I started to sweat. But once I got this mat, it was smooth sailing! I’ve had my mat since 2009, and it still looks brand-new…and I use it a LOT! It’s expensive but worth the money.

If you travel and can’t take a mat this thick, the Manduka PROLite Yoga and Pilates Mat, Midnight, 71″ travels better and is also a bit cheaper.

Yoga Shoes

Next up…my favorite yoga shoes! These Merrell Women’s Tango Posh Zip Sneakers Shoes [Black] [7.5] shoes are awesome because they are super light and bendy, so I can wear them when I am teaching (my feet get cold when I am not actually doing the practice with my students, and I also don’t like my feet getting dirty by walking around on a floor that might not have been cleaned). Even when I’ve practiced yoga, I’ve worn these shoes because they really do feel like I am wearing nothing. Yet when I need to leave and move on to the next event, these shoes are super comfy so I don’t even have to change into a different pair.

Yoga Pants

Now for yoga pants…there are so many options! But I love the leggings Reebok has, as they are not super expensive, and they last a long time. Plus, when you’re doing yoga poses that require you to “stick”, you don’t want slippery pants, and you want pants that let you breathe so you don’t get too hot. I love these Reebok Women’s Elite Tights from Reebok, because I love the pattern…it’s quirky and funky, like me!

But if you would rather pants with a bit more of a feminine look, then the Reebok Womens Tree Tight might work better. Same material, so you should experience the same benefits as mentioned above.

Yoga Tops

In terms of yoga tops, that is SO hit or miss for me. I tend to get really hot and sweaty if I am practicing a vinyasa style, so I like something that breathes and moves with me…something very light and stretchy, but that doesn’t look skin tight. That is not easy to find! I tend to love tanks by Next Level, and I love this Next Level Women’s Stylish Soft Tri Blend Racerback Tank Top because it’s not too tight and typically runs true to size.

However, when I am in a more gentle or restorative class, I want to be warmer and tend to prefer long sleeves. Again, I love Next Level, as they make a super comfy Ladies’ Burnout Hoody that is the perfect amount of thickness, AND I can wear it to more than just yoga.

 So there you are. A few of my favorite things that always help me have a more amazing yoga practice. Stay tuned for more of these, which will cover books I recommend, as well as various things I use to help me in my journey to health and wellness.

Namaste,

Melanie

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“Start wherever you are and start small.” ~~ Rita Baily

“The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.” ~~ Steve Jobs

“Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect.” ~~ Alan Cohen

Here we are at the beginning of a new year. 2017…wow! Where did 2016 go? It seems like just yesterday was the beginning of 2016, and it feels like this entire past year went by in such a blur for me in so many ways.

So many big things happened for me this past year. I completed several of my Toastmasters goals, I completed my RYT-500 (finally!!!), I started a new job, I became certified as an integrative health and wellness coach. I lost my dog Ripley to cancer and a week later, we rescued a 1-year old lab/pointer mix who we named Panda…Panda has been a constant companion to our other dog, Lexie, and because he is so social, we are now members of an amazing dog park in our town…this has been great for ME, because I’ve made some new friends there, and I am able to get a lot of trail hiking in at this place, which is a form of not only exercise, but meditation for me. I bit the bullet and hired a personal trainer, and with the help of his team and my medical team, I am finally starting to see some changes after so long feeling like a failure.

So what does all this mean for me in this new year? How do I want to approach 2017 and make it a great year for me? Making New Year’s resolutions have not typically gone well for me in the past. When I look back over the years, I haven’t done a very good job about making and sticking to my resolutions. And let’s face it, this happens to most of us, and then what happens? We feel like failures, right?

Luckily, I’ve learned about SMART goal setting recently. Well, to be fair, I learned about SMART goal setting a long time ago, but I just didn’t pay attention…I guess I just wasn’t quite ready to get serious before, if I’m being completely honest. But now…well, let’s just say I am ready. I feel like I’ve finally found my groove, and I’ve got some amazing people who are willing to help hold me accountable, so I am much more confident about finding success this time around.

2017 provides me with the invitation for fresh thinking. It’s my time to ignite, and I want to invite you to join me. Let’s consider this a time of new beginnings.

Yoga can offer a compassionate approach to making changes. If you’re a yogi like me, one thing you can do to help you along the way is to use your body in tandem with your breath so that you can mindfully mark the transitions you’re making.

Once you’ve set your goals, actively work toward each one without judging yourself when the process takes longer or is less flawless than you’d like. If you do slip into an old habit, don’t beat yourself up…simply decide to start again. As a matter of fact, with SMART goal setting, it’s imperative that you check in with your goals regularly and reevaluate them, making adjustments as needed. It takes strength and trust in oneself to be willing to begin again; starting new is no easy task, especially if you feel like you’ve failed over and over again. If you have any self-awareness at all, then you probably know which behaviors are no longer serving you, and you sincerely want to overcome them. Be brave and let those old stories melt away. Use the breath to move into a conscious state of presence. Each exhale is a letting go. Each inhale is an opening. Breathe with intent when approaching your goals.

One of my overarching goals in yoga is to improve my shoulder mobility. Just four years ago, I could interlace my fingers behind my back with my arms straight, I could do Gomukhasana arms with no props, I could take a bind in Extended Side Angle, and I could do several advanced poses like Handstand and Bird of Paradise. But treatment for Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease has increased the inflammation in my body to a point that my entire body has paid the price, and my shoulders and legs seem to have it the worst. I would love to be able to get my body back to a point where I can do the arm binds I once used to, but I don’t want to frustrate myself, so I am setting a SMART goal of the following:

I will perform shoulder mobility exercises daily for at least 5 minutes and will reevaluate after three weeks. I’m starting small, because I think that starting big might overwhelm me; some of the exercises I will be using during this time are:

  • Gomukhasana arms with a strap…I’ll monitor my ability to get closer to not needing that strap.
  • Use a strap to interlace my fingers behind my back with straight arms and then folding into a Wide Legged Forward Fold. My goal will be to get my fingers closer together while keeping my arms straight.
  • Shoulder warm-up movements that take my shoulders through all the ranges of motion.
  • Neck warm-ups that help relieve neck tension, as that is contributing to my shoulder tightness.

After the three weeks are up, I’ll see where I’m at. If I am seeing improvements, I will add on some more challenging movements so that I can keep improving. If I’m not seeing improvements, I will work on finding the movements that will help me reach my goal. But the one thing I will NOT do is give up. Achieving this goal is important to me, not because I want to be able to do the crazy binds like I used to, but because this inflammation in my shoulders is negatively affecting my life in so many ways. Everyday functional movements, like putting things away in the top shelf of my closet, are no longer easy for me and they SHOULD be. So I am not looking for the vanity aspect…I just want to be able to do the things I need to do with ease and comfort. If I should eventually get back the ability to bind, then that is something I’ll consider an added bonus, but it’s not my goal.

And to make this easier for me to achieve, my wonderful husband has built me a yoga room of my very own! My 45th birthday is this week (on January 5th), and my husband knows how difficult it is for me to find yoga classes at studios to attend. The ones offered at times I can make it are not the style I’m looking for…my body just can’t do hot yoga or power yoga right now, and that seems to be the majority of what my area offers during times I could go. So for my birthday, my husband turned our youngest daughter’s old room into my very own space where I can practice whatever style I want, whenever I want.

me_yogaroom(Here I am, setting up for my first meditation time)

It’s also serving as my office, so that I have a more comfortable place than my dining room to work when I work from home. And a more comfortable place to compose my blogs!

me_yogaoffice(My husband captured me as I was setting up to write this post!)

So what are your goals? Are they actionable? Have you broken them down into achievable chunks? If you need some guidance, reach out to me and I’m glad to offer any advice I can. More than anything, hold yourself accountable and enlist others to help hold you accountable. If your goals truly mean that much to you, then plan out the RIGHT way to achieve them. Set those SMART goals for yourself. And let yoga help you with achieving the mindset to make them happen.

Namaste,

Melanie

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