What does your yoga practice have to do with self-love? Stephanie Birch talks about the process of showing up on the mat for herself, how it gave her purpose, turned pain into passion, and love into life.Read more
There is something about this time of year that gets me in the mood to begin again. I think, for many of us, the past year has left us feeling a little weighted. With the rushing of my December move, the heaviness of the election year, holiday plans and gatherings, and constant filling of schedules, I vowed to ring in the new year slow. We spent some time in the woods with close friends and our kids, and let the new year linger in the most gentle way - by not doing a whole lot. We welcomed 2017 in cozy sweats and toasted champagne, while greeted with snowflakes, and it was one of my most favorite fresh-starts. There is something beautiful about allowing yourself a slow start with some of your favorite people.
I am not one for resolutions or holding strict to routines. After spending some good, old fashioned quality time with friends, I reflected on what I would like to practice more of or change this year. Things like quality time with friends, playing board games, or learning a new hobby are things I always have on the back of my mind and sometimes even poke at. This year I decided I wanted to incorporate simple practices that would add value to my time and energy. I thought, "what do I want more of, what do I want less of - and let's do that."
Here are some of my mindful practices I am focusing on this year:
- Getting more sleep, especially in the winter months when our natural rhythm invites such hibernation. That means going to bed early to let my body get a minimum of 8 hours rest.
- Reading more books. Specifically, books that I can hold, not from a screen. I spent a lot of time on my phone last year, and I love that easy-access to life and business. However, I started to spend more time on social media, browsing the net, or watching or reading things that don't add much value. Every urge I have to reach for my phone out of boredom or to zone-out, I have opted to reach for a book instead.
- Spending more time with the people that I call "chosen family." Going out of our way to make time if we must. Life with kids, especially ones in school, constantly feels like a new ballgame. Sometimes we are sucked into routine. I am ready to shake up routines, have dinner dates on school nights, and take the weekend away with our close friends/family to stay connected with loved ones that inspire big ideas, lounge days, and adventure outside strict routine.
- Taking more baths. I have pretty much started this one since we moved into a place that now has a bathtub. I have found that taking Epsom salt soaks have made me more patient, kind, and calm. I was joking with a dear friend about this whole bath-taking experience. We both concluded that maybe everyone should have a grand soak to relax before they start their day or hop on the internet.
- Finally, continue being my best student of the yoga practice. One of my great joys as a teacher is infusing traditional asana with modern movement. This year, I hope to practice and teach more playfulness. I love learning new methods or dance grooves into the yoga practice. I aim to play, create, and guide others to play along.
Here are 4 ways to play in these core busters:
Seated cat/cow warmup:
- Sitting tall on your shins, bum down onto your heals (or propped on a block).
- On an inhale, slowly take your palms back behind you opening up the chest and widening your collarbones.
- As you exhale, curl your chest forward, dropping your head, and hug-in your belly. The back rounds as the palms come forward.
I start with these, taking about 5-10 slow rounds with breath.
Short down-dog, press-ups:
- Take your palms down to the earth, facing a wall (it's a short downward dog stance, so you can reach one foot on the wall).
- Start with your heals pressed onto the wall and the balls of your feet on the floor.
- Walk one foot up the wall about 5-10 inches (it depends on the length of your limbs).
- On a breath-in, press into the wall, lifting your opposite foot off the ground.
- Hug your belly in, sending your hips up and slightly forward.
- Take 5-10 reps on each side.
This is a great prep drill for working on handstands.
Chair pose at the wall with side crunches -
- Take a seat with your back against the wall, feet about hip-width distance, and take your palms to the back of your head.
- Slowly, take your upper body left, back to center, and tick-tock to the right.
- Go slow and move with your breath. Inhale to center, exhale to one side, and inhale back to center.
I like to practices these for 1 minute reps.
Crunches with yoga blocks:
- Take your feet up a wall with your knees bent (so that they're in-line with your hips).
- Place a block between your thighs so a great portion of it sticks out so you may reach to grab.
- Lay flat with each palm by your ears.
- Slowly, crunch in, lifting your shoulders and squeeze your elbows together to wrap the block.
- Come down to neutralize your spine and lift up again, releasing the block back between your thighs.
This is meant to be taken slow. 10-15 reps surely got me right into my breath and left me feeling the burn.
If you're starting something new this year or have a resolution, start with a small, reachable goal. Every day is new, let yourself be new. Meaning, don't guilt yourself if you forget, fall off track, or have a change of heart. Research says it takes 21 days to start a new habit. When you set a new habit, you essentially set a value to what it is you're doing and hoping to accomplish. Value is everything. Every day is a choice to bring value into your life. Every day is a chance to begin again.