• How to Celebrate the Holidays Like a Yogi

    The holiday season is a great time to reflect on the year that has passed and set intentions for the coming one. It’s also the perfect opportunity to practice yoga off the mat by applying its principles to everyday life. Here are some tips on how to do just that.

    The holiday season is a time for giving, so give generously of your time, energy, and love.

    Be generous and give from your heart. Imagine how many people you could transform with your energy, love, and kindness. When we think of giving during the holidays, many think of material things, but giving doesn’t have to involve a gift wrapped up in pretty paper. From sharing an hour of conversation over coffee with an old friend to donating some time to help out at a foodbank or homeless shelter in your neighborhood, these small gifts can potentially create life-changing ripple effects for those around you. 

    Be patient with yourself and others – things will happen as they are meant to happen.

    We must patiently navigate life, recognizing that much of what happens is beyond our control and things will occur when they’re meant to. This does not mean we should become passive or stoic in our attitudes; instead, we can use this mindset to take appropriate steps in our pursuits proactively. We should also have patience with ourselves and those around us. By allowing time for growth, we can be more understanding of the various steps needed to reach the desired result. Patience is an anchor of progress and allows us to remain open to life’s diverse possibilities.

    Don’t get caught up in the materialism of the season – focus on what truly matters.

    As we approach the holiday season, it’s time to remember what this season is all about. Don’t get swooped up in the materialism and consumerism of the season – put aside those things and take a step back to remember what truly matters. In essence: look beyond surface-level materialism and instead foster relationships with those around us, prioritize our mental and physical health, or even use this time as an opportunity to give back to our community in some way. Let’s embrace spending quality time with family, friends, or even strangers. Set out to be more conscious about our actions and strive for balance in everything we do. 

    Take some time for yourself to relax and rejuvenate – you deserve it!

    With all the hustle and bustle of life, it’s important to remember that you need to take some time for yourself! Stress can take a toll on both your mind and body. Taking the time to relax and rejuvenate is essential in living a balanced lifestyle. Make sure to put yourself first sometimes and treat yourself! Investing in activities that bring joy is always well worth it—maybe it’s taking a yoga class, visiting a meditation studio, or just curling up with a good book. Regardless of how you choose to spend your time, make sure it’s something that rejuvenates your soul and brings peace into your life. You deserve every bit of it!

    Enjoy the company of those you love, and make new memories together.

    Now more than ever, it is important to take the time to enjoy the company of those you love and make new memories together. Every moment together will hold its unique power, from a simple walk in nature to a hearty conversation over dinner. Making such an effort has an immensely positive impact on each person; it gives us something to look forward to and cultivates a sense of appreciation and connection. When we engage in a meaningful moment with somebody close to us, we create a deeper bond that will last long beyond the memory itself. Taking time out of our busy lives and investing it in relationships that matter most is one of life’s greatest joys – so make sure you don’t miss out while you have the chance!

    The holiday season is a wonderful time of year but it can also be stressful. Remember to give generously of your time, energy, and love – both to yourself and others. Be patient with the process and trust that things will happen as they are meant to happen. Enjoy the company of those you love and make new memories together. Most importantly, don’t get caught up in the materialism of the season – focus on what truly matters. From all of us here at Omstars, we wish you a happy and healthy holiday season!

    Image by Theo Crazzolara from Pixabay

  • The Yamas as a Holistic Model for the Workplace

    The eight limbs of yoga provide us with a holistic and integral road map toward peace. The nature of these limbs seems simple and accessible in theory, but in practical application, it can be the endeavour of a lifetime.

    How many times a day do our notions of truth, moderation, contentment, and non-grasping get put under the microscope in our reactions and judgments, all with the intention to not judge and accept all that is? And where more than anywhere else do we have the potential for our buttons to be pressed and our personal preferences to be denied or ignored? That would be the workplace.

    Whether it be juggling chores and children as you navigate the first Zoom meeting of the day or in conventional times, dealing with office politics as you try doggedly to navigate your tasks for the day, the world of work offers us a field of awareness where we can take the opportunity to put our training into action or at least bring a quiet acknowledgment of our behaviours.

    As yoga teachers and practitioners, many of us have jobs outside of yoga and our mat practice fits around it. I would suggest that the yoga should not cease the minute we leave the mat. In fact, the lessons we learn on the mat should be practiced everywhere, including in the world of business and the workplace. Otherwise, the on the mat training becomes insular and not about bringing our own drop of unique brilliance into the yogic goal of making the world a better place.

    There is little point in being peaceful and benevolent on the mat then firing off terse emails or making demands in your next interaction at work. Where is the self-awareness? As yoga people, we should strive to find union and connection and not increase the suffering of others.

    The first yama of Ahimsa is well-known and often mentioned. The principle of non-violence or, conversely kindness to self and others would seem obvious to most but when we are under pressure with deadlines and tasks mounting, in practical application it could be easy to lose sight of. We never can know exactly what is happening in another person’s life so our default should be kindness, particularly when we witness reactions and behaviour, we perceive to be troublesome. Instead, maybe we should look beyond the reaction and annoying behaviour and feel compassion for the pain or unhappiness which may underpin the reaction. We can reach out, even if it is the offer of a coffee or a chat in a break time, it is easy to build connection and lessen suffering if we can look past our own concerns to do so. The prana we generate on the mat gives us the energy for this and cultivates our compassion and the impetus to act.

    The second yama of Satya is about owning your truth so in the workplace this would mean staying true to your own integrity and to an extent the integrity of the business or organisation. Most businesses now have a mission statement. It may be useful to see how far this statement aligns with your own values and the role you take in the organisation. Can you bring your passion and energy to work in an optimum way which reflects your own expertise and professionalism? At the same time, owning your truth means treating yourself with kindness and respect as per Ahimsa so acknowledging your needs such as a reasonable structure to work from with regular breaks. If you are not able to respect your own truth in the workplace then we have to take responsibility for this and communicate our feeling to the relevant personnel in an appropriate setting, honestly and respectfully.

    The third yama of Asteya refers to not stealing. Most of us would agree that stealing is not a good idea and more importantly it is illegal! In the spirit of Satya though I’m sure I’m not on my own in having liberated the odd stapler or batch of paper from my various workplaces down the years. I’m not proud, but there it is. More seriously though, there are different ways we can steal-ideas, images, words and the big one in these adrenally charged times- time itself.

    How many of us have been in yoga classes where the time has run over or classes where students have arrived 30 minutes too early meaning transport has been missed, childcare has been stretched or preparation has not been possible? It could be argued again that this is a matter of respect; a consideration for other peoples’ commitments and an acknowledgement of their right to a work-life balance. This can also be applied to the workplace. It is important to establish a working structure which benefits all to avoid resentment and in the worse- case scenario-burnout of staff members. If time is constantly stolen, boundaries are eroded, and it becomes difficult to manage workload and out of hours commitments

    The fourth yama of Brahmacharya refers to the optimum direction of energy. Originally, it referred to celibacy and sexual energy, as an aside with the topic of office parties and trysts, maybe it is still relevant but in its application to the workplace it can mean using the energy of yourself or other staff wisely. In the current situation, many people are working flexible hours. It may be useful to ascertain if you or your staff are a lark or a night owl? There have been many studies into the optimum time to work based on the individual’s circadian rhythm. Having an awareness of this can surely influence productivity and the work-life balance of all involved. In terms of personal responsibility, directing energy into completing tasks rather than getting distracted by social media optimises working hours and frees up more time afterwards for personal pursuits. Social media can cause a fragmenting of focus and attention which can affect productivity. Similarly, if this is the means of communication between staff it can lead to a blurring of professional boundaries and can seep into out- of- hours immoderate communication which leads into the final yama.

    The fifth and final Yama of Aparigraha means not grasping or trying to hold on to things in the interests of balance and moderation. In the world of work, we are encouraged to be competitive, to set targets, to achieve sometimes at the expense of our own values and at the expense of others. This striving and grasping, admired in the high achieving multi-tasker in the office is not revered in yoga terms where surrender and going with the flow are the order of the day. To surrender ambition in the workplace is to surrender power and status. Maybe holding on to status and power or trying to live up to an impossible ideal or workload leads to personal suffering. Yoga teaches us that everything changes, and this too will pass. Focusing on our inner qualities of compassion, patience and a self-worth honed through time on the mat allows us to ungrip, to relinquish the ragic desire to control and allows us to feel that we are enough just as we are, whether on the mat or in the workplace.

    As yoga people, it is our duty to be the change and be a force for change and liberation so that others may benefit from our learning.

    By Emma Conally-Barklem

    Emma Conally-Barklem is a yoga teacher, writer and poet. After completing her Level 4 500+ hours Teaching Diploma with the British Wheel of Yoga in 2014, Emma has gone on to pursue Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Training with her teacher David Swenson and Primary Series Teacher Training with Manju Jois via the European Academy of Ashtanga Yoga. She also teaches Yin and Restorative forms and has completed Advanced Yin Yoga Teacher training with Norman Blair. Emma has also completed PCI -Accredited Yoga 4 Health Professional training with Yoga in Healthcare Alliance. Emma teaches yoga retreats in Europe with the theme of accessible Ashtanga and Vinyasa. Yoga became an anchor for Emma after the loss of her mother in 2018 as she navigated grief through her own breath and movement practice. She found that grief is the flipside to love and finds ways to honor the spectrum of emotional states through her yoga practice. She is passionate about normalizing the grieving process for the many forms of loss we encounter through life via both her work as a yoga teacher and as a writer. Emma’s yoga and grief memoir, ‘You Can’t Hug a Butterfly: Love, Loss & Yoga’ will be traditionally published in 2024. Emma’s work can be found at www.emmaliveyoga.com and you can follow her on social media @emmaliveyoga.

    By Emma Conally-Barklem, January 2021, All rights reserved. Photo of Emma by Zuzana Bajuszova

    Blog featured photo by Diva Plavalaguna

  • 23 Yoga Gift Ideas

    “When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” – Maya Angelou

    The time for gift giving is here. Sometimes it can be a struggle to find the perfect presents for the people who are special to you. Whether you want to give a gift to the yogi in your life or you are a yogi yourself looking to give presents this holiday season we’ve got you covered. We’ve compiled a list of yogi approved presents you can buy for your loved-ones this season.

    Gift Ideas (Click the item name to go to the website)

    1. Omstars Gift Card

    Share the gift of yoga with someone special. Buy Omstars gift cards for your friends and family this year.

    2. Cotton Yoga Blanket from Halfmoon Yoga

    These beautiful hand-loomed yoga blankets serve multiple functions making them a must-have for any yogi.

    3. CBD Ointments from Mandara

    Soothe aching muscles with CBD Topicals.

    4. Gift Basket of Delicious Teas from Vahdam Teas

    Get something for the tea lover in your life.

    5. Artisan Soap Gift Basket from Luxe & Lather

    Buy a few luxurious handmade soaps.

    6. A Yoga Mat from Wiworldi

    These sustainably sourced yoga mats are made from all plant-based materials.

    7. A Mala from Open Heart Warrior Mala

    These gorgeous malas are made with real gemstones.

    8. Wooden Sunglasses by Vida Sol Eyewear

    Stylish, biodegradable wooden sunglasses for people who care about the planet.

    9. Handstand Props from Personal Pours

    Help your loved ones perfect their handstands with these handstand props.

    10. Bamboo activewear from Sustainably Sonder

    Get some soft and stylish activewear.

    11. Comfy loungewear from Electric Rose

    These clothes combine beachy and urban aesthetics.

    12. All-natural bath sets from Corpus Naturals

    Everyone loves these amazing smelling natural bath products.

    13. CBD Oil from Vermont Hemp Health

    The perfect gift for someone who needs help relaxing.

    14. A Yoga Mat Bundle from Liforme

    These matching yoga accessories make great gifts.

    15. A High-Quality Juicer from Nama

    These juicers make delicious healthy juices.

    16. Gift card from Wolven

    Let them pick out their own sustainable activewear from Wolven.

    17. Skincare sets from Fre Skincare

    Give the gift of soft, clear skin.

    18. Aromatic soy candles from Smithmade Essentials

    These luxurious candles smell divine.

    Books

    19. Get Your Yoga On by Kino MacGregor
    20. Yoga Rising: 30 Empowering Stories from Yoga Renegades for Every Body by Melanie C. Klein
    21. Yoga for Everyone: 50 Poses for Every Tip of Body by Dianne Bondy
    22. Meditation with Intention: Quick & Easy Ways to Create Lasting Peace by Anusha Wijeyakumar
    23. Embrace Yoga’s Roots: Courageous Ways to Deepen Your Yoga Practice by Susanna Barkataki

    By Omstars

    Image by Yvette Fang from Pixabay

  • Yoga IS Worth It

    Here’s one thing that every student of yoga knows—yoga is hard but it’s worth it. Sometimes yoga is even painful but that’s part of the practice. It’s a good pain that eventually makes the body, mind, and spirit feel better.

    No effort is ever lost. This is true in yoga and also in life. Yoga is after all a practice that aims to improve the quality of life.

    People come to the yoga practice for all sorts of reasons. Some start yoga looking for physical benefits that range from flexibility to strength to pain relief to a better night’s sleep. Others come looking for emotional benefits like inner peace, reduced anxiety, balm for depression, and anger management. All these physical, emotional, and mental benefits sit within the larger context of yoga as a spiritual practice. It doesn’t matter if a student realizes the mind-body-spirit connection when they unroll their mat. Sooner or later the yoga practice works to build an inner bridge between these more subtle realms.

    Take a student who wants to practice three times a week to increase flexibility for other sports and activities. This student will often find yoga to be uniquely challenging with some classes providing nearly daunting sequences. Arm balances, backbends, deep twists, inversions, and forward folds ask a lot of the body. Teachers who have been practicing for many years often demonstrate these asanas with deceptive ease and flow. The new student often leaves with mixed feelings about yoga. They aren’t sure whether the practice is for them or not.

    Some dig in deeply and search for the perfect class for them. But, testing each class and each teacher is time-consuming. Some classes marked for beginners are way too easy and others are way too hard. Students increasingly practice online as an entry to the yoga tradition. But figuring out how to navigate the Netflix of yoga can be overwhelming. Not everyone is tech-savvy, after all. Class lengths for online streaming classes are variable. Some are one hour long and replicate the feeling of a sweaty in-person class. Others are a short 10 or 20 minutes designed to fit into a busy day. The longer class may seem like it’s a better value but it may then be harder to carve out the full hour. The shorter classes are often easy to procrastinate because the mind seems to always think those 10 to 20 minutes will be available at some mythic time “later”.

    Finding a yoga teacher isn’t always easy. It can be a little bit like finding a romantic partner. There has to be chemistry, accessibility, trust and respect. Without that, it’s hard for a student to keep coming back to class. There are many yoga teachers and places to practice yoga these days. Speaking from my place within this world of yoga, I recommend to all students searching for a teacher to seek a teacher who has the best training available. A great teacher is someone who has immersed themselves in the traditional yoga teaching from India and who understands not only the yoga poses but the deep, rich philosophical and spiritual practices of yoga. And of course, let it be someone who carries enough of that magic of inspiration to be a magnetic pull back to the mat, especially on days when doubt, indecision and quitting arise.

    Here’s one thing that every student of yoga knows—yoga is hard but it’s worth it. Sometimes yoga is even painful but that’s part of the practice. It’s a good pain that eventually makes the body, mind, and spirit feel better. There is a good deal of yoga philosophy that talks about tapas, the Sanskrit word that indicates a need to go through certain pains that purify along the path of yoga. This lesson is perhaps the key tenet of much yoga philosophy, that is, that some amount of suffering can be expected but that suffering is not in vain. Instead, whatever effort is put into the practice is never lost, but always accumulated along the long road towards peace and happiness.

    By Kino MacGregor

    International yoga teacher, Kino MacGregor has over 20 years of experience in Ashtanga yoga and 18 years of experience in Vipassana Meditation. She is one of a select group of people to receive the certification to teach Ashtanga Yoga and practice into the Fifth Series of Ashtanga Yoga. With over 1 million followers on Instagram and over 700,000 subscribers on YouTube and Facebook, she spreads the message of yoga around the world.

    To Kino, yoga is more than making shapes. It is a daily ritual where people tune deeply into their spiritual center and experience the peace of the Eternal Divine. Her goal is to make the tools of traditional yoga accessible for all different sizes, shapes, ethnicities, and ages. She believes yoga is truly for everyone.

    Find on on Instagram here.

    Sign up for an Omstars membership to take your yoga practice to the next level.

    Click here to start your 14-day free trial today!

     

  • The Connection Between Handstand and Forgiveness

    When I began practicing Yoga, the absence of a left hand compounded the weakness in my left arm during asana practice and I couldn’t complete a handstand or any other arm balance exercises for that matter. That’s when it struck me – I need a tool.

    Looking retrospectively at my life’s journey over the last 46 years, I see more and more the connection between forgiveness and living the ‘beautiful life’. We all have our moments where we ‘fly off the handle’ so to speak and react impulsively, and then sometimes devolve into anger or hate. We may even allow negative emotions to fester and then we unconsciously develop a negative personality. We don’t notice it because we don’t realize how much we distract our attention with adverse situations.

    A unified spiritual field, if we could call it that, reflects our inner being. Why is this so? If one follows the progressive scientific realizations of quantum mechanics, it shows up more and more that space and time don’t apparently exist. This leads to the realization that everything happens simultaneously and not spatially separated, which in turn only allows the conclusion that we are all connected and can’t actually live as entirely separate entities in a ‘vacuum’.

    Almost simultaneously, on the path I began with Ashtanga Yoga in 2013, I started to intensively study the teachings of Jesus, who channeled his wisdom in a masterpiece called A Course In Miracles. This book was published the year I was born, and I take this to be a wonderful synchronicity.

    Many miracles, which I actually wondered about without understanding them at first, happened. As I continued to study the wisdom of Yoga, which can be beautifully harmonized with the teachings of Jesus, as Paramahamsa Yogananda impressively demonstrates, I realized more and more why the situations, circumstances, events, and people that crossed my path were analogous to my own emotions, beliefs, and self-image in the context of existence.

    Nothing happens by chance. We often just can’t make the connection and don’t recognize the connection or the lesson. And the central lesson of life is actually quite straightforward: recognize yourself. Realize that you are a reciprocal image of God and that He does not dwell outside of you. When we cultivate anger, bitterness or discontent, the universe shows us as a 3D canvas of what we have become mentally and how far we have moved away from the awareness of what we actually are. At the moment of forgiveness, we give up judging and open ourselves to the truth. Judging is the basis for suffering of any form.

    Suffering arises from the mental separation from God. Yoga is one of the ways to remove this misinterpretation of oneself, but it is not the only one. Everyone has their own approach to this subject. For me, as a pragmatist, reduction to the essentials and a close observation of effects that must be reproducible is the guide through the labyrinth.

    Also, even more important than the monotonous parroting of mantras, whose content I may not even understand, or the pure practice of asana, is the internalization of the pure and simple truth through extended walks in the forest in which I reflect intensely and re-evaluate the things that have happened in the hours, days or even years past through the filter of the great insights espoused by great masters in harmony with my own spiritual insights and views. Through this approach, I have successively established a completely new self-image and understanding of my role in the context of the wider world over the last few years.

    What was amazing to me was the analogous change of my body. At the same time that I developed my new insights, inflammations, colds, herpes, and also disharmonious people disappeared from my life. In moments of emotional relapses into negative areas, they appeared again. More and more I controlled the impact of these outside influences on myself, as an active observer. More and more gifts came into my life and nurtured me.

    One event that I believe best sums up the consequences of ignoring the truth as a co-creator in God, was when I ignored my intuition, which is a divine guide to me and all people, and had a terrifying accident that cost me my left hand. Everything was suddenly different. However, today I forgive myself. I do not regret anything, because I continue to learn and marvel. We all have the ability to do the same; it’s in our hands.

    Let’s talk about Karma. The law of ‘you reap what you sow’. Divine punishment is a myth believed by the fearful. The God-fearing who do not know that they themselves are God. Forgiveness and karma are closely connected. Through forgiveness and the realignment of thoughts and feelings, all karmic entanglements can be resolved. Because only the belief in a karmic “punishment” allows such a punishment. For the principle of fear has taken hold and this is the opposite of the Greek term agape – unconditional love.

    ‘According to your faith be it done unto you’, is a statement from the Bible. We have the power within ourselves. If we believe in a punishing God, a punishing environment will envelop us. No asana, pranayama, or mantra chanting will alleviate this negativity. Belief, emotion, one’s paradigm, and self-image can either punish or reward.

    Too many people seek salvation on the mat or by performing Pranayama. They feel comfortable and secure in a class. Inside, however, conflicting thoughts distract and their path remains sorrowful. Forgiveness and self-image adjustment – result of the true Yoga path are the tools that lead to final realization and eventually redemption.

    Powerful guides help us. Synchronicities, miracles, and things literally laid at our feet are clues that show us where we stand. This is how I was guided in November 2019 when having a conversation with a dear friend with whom there was a temporary disharmony. I decided to forgive the matter and just see things relaxed without resentment and acknowledge him as part of myself. In your own environment, you must live the word, not just read it. There are too many theorists who never implement because of this-or-that legitimizes their anger.

    A Course In Miracles asks the question: ‘Do you prefer that you be right or happy?’ This is an incredibly simple yet profound question. Personally, I chose happiness. Not only in difficult situations but also in general.

    God wants to rejoice in each of us. He helps us to make this possible and only we can retain the ignorance that blocks the flow of happiness through our lives. I for one have experienced the strange serendipity of Karma as well; a small idea, followed by an act of forgiveness that ultimately led to life-changing ‘vision’.

    When I began practicing Yoga, the absence of a left hand compounded the weakness in my left arm during asana practice and I couldn’t complete a handstand or any other arm balance exercises for that matter. That’s when it struck me – I need a tool. And so I had an idea for a new yoga block. I had this idea for several weeks before I talked to my friend. A yoga block that supported my left forearm so that I could lean against it. I designed and built the block and could finally achieve poses that weren’t accessible to me for years. Soon after, my friend and I had an argument. I chose to let it go and forgive for the sake of our friendship. Not long after that, I had a ‘vision’.

    I now believe that this vision was in fact divine ‘karmic’ intervention as it led to the development of something I called ProHandstand. The device proved essential to practicing handstands or other exercises. I truly believe that an act of forgiveness between true friends led to a karmic reward that evolved into the development of a groundbreaking invention which I am presenting to the world this year. Just as my yoga block helped me to master the most challenging forms of asanas, so too does this invention now help every yogi do the same.

    I have actually managed, as a yogi with one hand, to achieve what I never thought possible: The handstand. Receiving and giving are the same as we are all the one son of God and not separate beings. This invention is my gift to all yogis. Namasté

    By Heddies Andresen

    Heddies is a natural creative. He was 22 years old when he made his first invention and he loves to expresses himself through design. Heddies is a human movement specialist and contracts to private clients for custom body movement plans that improve both Asana routines and everyday life movement patterns. Heddies found Ashtanga Yoga in 2013 and has practised on a daily basis since. Yoga not only improved his flexibility and balance, but also taught him techniques that allowed him to centre his thoughts and effectively manage the stresses of daily life. Since early childhood Heddies has maintained an inquisitive attitude that allows him to explore life with an open mind. To this end, he is a keen student of Ashtanga Yoga and A Course In Miracles. Heddies founded a healing circle in 2018 following the principles of healing he has been studying over the years. By nurturing his boundless curiosity Heddies gained a deep understanding of how to convey helpful insights to those in need of spiritual guidance. Follow Heddies on Instagram @heddiesyoga and see his handstand-invention on his website, Prohandstand.com.

  • Don’t Be So Hormonal: Cycle Syncing 101

    Do you suffer from the symptoms of excess estrogen: Acne, bloating, irritability, fatigue, insomnia, low libido, infertility, period problems?  Well, you aren’t alone! Upwards of 80% of women report having severe symptoms of PMS each month.

    As women we are often not told much about our cycles from the git-go. If you are like me, my mother handed me a box of tampons and we never spoke about periods again. With so many women in the dark, this matter builds in importance. We live in a patriarchal society, where business, decisions and daily habits are formed based on the male hormonal cycle. Male hormones produce and leave the body on a 24 hour cycle, whereas female hormones take 28-30 days to rise to their peak concentrations and then drop, ultimately leaving the body during menstruation ( I know, this fact blew my mind too).

    In a single month, your body undergoes some pretty serious changes. Your hormones fluctuate which stimulates not only blood loss, but mood shifts, energy changes and the grim reaper of your social life: ACNE! As if that wasn’t enough to have you running to your bed for the entire week…There’s more!

    Your monthly cycle has four unique phases, each phase bringing different physical and emotional strengths [or weaknesses] to the surface. The rise and fall of hormones promotes vastly different dietary needs from week to week, so to think that we can continue to work, eat and live the same, daily, is to say that a computer should function the same everyday regardless of how much rubbish you’ve downloaded over the years. Our bodies are one giant bio-computer, constantly working to regulate our systems and bring us back to homeostasis. If we continue to “download” [re: eat, live & work] the same old rubbish, our systems will start to crash. Thus promoting, those pesky PMS symptoms along with a slew of other health issues. As your cortisol (stress hormone) levels rise while reading this, know that you are in control and this information will only help to revolutionize the way that you live, work and prioritize your daily habits. NOW ONTO TO THE GOOD STUFF! Get out your notepad, you’re about to get learnt!

    The Follicular Phase: 7-10 days

    Hormonal Focus:

    Estrogen and Testosterone are at low levels and slowly begin to increase in concentration. This hormonal shift in the body, tells the brain to be open to new things, to be creative and to set your intentions. Focus on trying something new in the bedroom, in the gym and at work for a healthy head-space.

    Food Focus:

    Fresh, vibrant, light foods will make you feel more energized during this phase. You will have just finished menstruation and will need to recharge the body for the next cycle. Plenty of veggies, lean proteins, sprouted beans and seeds and nutrient dense, energy-sustaining grains like buckwheat.

    Exercise Focus:

    • Workout: Try something new to mix up your routine: dance, cardio, zumba, pilates, or a rigorous yoga practice!

    • When: Mid-day – your estrogen will be low and your cortisol levels will be just right for a challenging cardio burst.

    The Ovulatory Phase: 3-5 days

    Hormone Focus:

    Testosterone begins to surge, which drives desire, and then drops. The verbal and social centers in the brain are stimulated by these shifts, so if you have been holding out on asking for that raise or having an important conversation with your loved one, wait no more, ovulation in here!

    Food Focus:

    In order to make sure that your body is metabolizing and eliminating any excess estrogen, raw veggies (a.k.a fiber) are a must during this phase. Fruit is another key component of the ovulation phase for their high levels of glutathione, which promote vascular and antioxidative well-being for your ovaries. Think lighter grains like quinoa and corn for added sustenance.

    Exercise Focus:

    • Workout: High impact workouts are best during this time… think: interval training, soul cycle, group workouts, etc.

    • When: Early morning – you’ll have tons of energy during this time of the month, so take advantage of that natural high! Your testosterone is higher during this phase, so whatever you do, feel free to go all out!

    The Luetal Phase: 10-14 days

    Hormone Focus:

    In the first portion of this phase you might find yourself needing more comfort. This is because your body begins to produce progesterone, which is your bodies anti-anxiety hormone, think natural valium! You will likely have energy to burn in the first few days of this phase as you shift from ovulation into menstruation. Take time to be light-hearted and meet-up with friends.   In the second half of this phase, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone reach their peak concentrations and begin to fall to their lowest levels just before menstruation begins. This rise and fall often promotes PMS-like symptoms and although these symptoms are common, they are not necessary. Practice self-care + nesting in the back-end of this phase to avoid irritation.

    Food Focus:

    Emphasize foods rich in B-Vitamins to resolve sugar cravings. Eat plenty of leafy greens to boost your calcium and magnesium while reducing fluid retention + aiding in the elimination process to come. Adding roasted or baked root vegetables allows for the liver and large intestine to flush out estrogen more effectively.

    Exercise Focus:

    • Workout: Pilates, yoga

    • When: Keep it early during the first half, and then transition into the early evening. You might still feel full of energy during the first days of your luteal phase, so feel free to keep kicking butt in more intense workouts early in the day. But if you start to experience PMS symptoms in the days before your period, it’s time to tone it down and switch to Pilates or strength training in the early evening. Restorative (yin) yoga before bed can also be hugely helpful in combatting issues like moodiness and bloat.

    Menstrual Phase: 3-7 days

    Hormone Focus:

    Progesterone plunges, which causes the uterine lining to shed ( a.k.a your period).  Hormone levels then quickly decline to their lowest concentrations. This drop creates super-communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Because of this communication you are able to create a better understanding of how you feel about situations and the best course of action moving forward. Schedule time this week for reflection + review and allow yourself to turn inward to think about what you want for the future.

    Food Focus:

    Since your body is working hard in the elimination process, focus your diet on foods that add nutrients. Proteins, fats and low glycemic index veggies and fruits such as leafy greens, nuts + seeds and beans + legumes keep your blood sugar steady while adding in fiber and antioxidants. Seafood, kelp and nori help to remineralize your body with iron and zinc, which you lose during menstruation.

    Exercise Focus:

    • Workout: Walk OR yin/ restorative yoga – keep your workouts mild, even if you’re not feeling major discomfort.

    • When: In the evening when you are winding down from your day

    If you are a woman on the go OR loathe cooking, check out my easy-peasy hormonal smoothie recipes! They will get you everything you need without the hassle!

    Bottom Line:

    While this all may seem overwhelming at first, it is in our nature to ebb and flow with the cyclical pattern of the environment. The more you begin to learn and understand your hormones, the more you will be able to honor your own internal cyclicality. This is the key to maximizing your success, balancing your moods and living a PMS free lifestyle, all while frolicking through the forest harvesting berries (okay, you don’t have to do that last part, but just know that you can, because that’s how good you could feel!) With this newfound knowledge, it is my hope that you feel empowered to educate yourself in order to be and do everything you were already doing, but BETTER! Share this information with the women that you love to help lay the foundation for a rising epidemic of educated and empowered females.

    Key Take-Aways:

    1. You aren’t supposed to have PMS!

    2. You are supposed to feel fabulous every single day ( yes, even if you are on your period)

    3. Be patient, as you move into a deeper state of knowing + internal bliss!

    By Emily Cox

    Emily is a yoga teacher turned holistic healer. She has a passion for getting upside down and being involved in her community. She is a licensed Holistic Nutritionist and Ashtanga Yoga Instructor with more than 10 years of personal practice and 6 years of teaching experience. She started her own wellness business in 2017 where she preaches the power of personalized nutrition to all of her clients! She specializes in gut health and hormone harmony and believes that with the right guidance, tools and motivation we can all take back the reigns of our health through sustainable yet systematic practices!

    Start your 14-day Free Trial with Omstars Today!

  • Cruelty-Free Winter Coat Guide

    “To live the yogi life means that you take responsibility for all of your actions, and the repercussions, really, of all of your choices.  Whether that’s food, diet, or lifestyle.  Remember that as you’re going through your day.  Don’t be too hard on yourself. . .bring that little bit more consciousness into every decision of your life, and you’ll be living the yogi life.”
    –Kino MacGregor

    We can help conserve the Earth’s beauty through the choices made in our closet. There are many conscious, eco-friendly options being released by both new and familiar brands, every day. It is easy to become overwhelmed when searching for the perfect coat that matches with your desired comfort and environmental awareness. In this blog, brands are broken down into all-vegan companies, and companies that offer vegan options. At the bottom, you will find a few tips on garment labeling to help guide your search.

    100% Vegan and Cruelty-Free Brands

    These all-vegan, cruelty-free companies are passionate about protecting nature and actively research sustainable resources.

    Save the Duck

    Save the Duck’s simplistic, clean designs give the wearer the chance to accessorize up. Pair with many other items in your closet for a constantly changing look. Save the Duck offers both waterproof and water resistant coats with their signature down alternative, PLUMTECH to keep you cozy.

    Watch Kino’s Closet featuring Save the Duck

    Didriksons
    Swedish company, Didriksons, offers a wide range of fully waterproof coats with loose fiber padding polyester insulation. These designs work for everyday practical comfort, outdoor activities, hiking, and pretty much any occasion where you want to keep perfectly warm and dry.

    Noize
    Noize creates unique designs with bold colors that add a blast of flare to any collection. Their water-resistant coats keep you warm with fillers made from recycled plastic bottles.

    Vaute
    With their sleek lines and designer styles, Vaute Couture coats are both warm and stylish. They offer waterproof and water-resistant models lined with Primaloft ECO, which is made with 100% recycled fibers.

    Brands with Vegan Options

    Just like many of us, brands are starting to become more aware of the needs of our environment. By purchasing a company’s cruelty-free options, it heightens their awareness, and encourages them to create more.

    Fjallraven 

    Fjallraven offers a few vegan coats that are durable, and come with high-quality waterproofing and warmth, in timeless Swedish styles. Their lifetime guarantees are a true step in the right direction toward sustainability.

    Watch Kino’s Closet featuring Fjallraven

    66°North

    Once an Icelandic Fisherman apparel company, 66°North offers a waterproof vegan parka designed to keep you warm and dry with taped seams, and polyester insulation.

    Watch Kino’s Closet featuring 66 North

    Columbia

    While it might be a little more difficult to sort out the synthetics from the non-synthetics, Columbia does have quite a few options using all man-made materials. Using 100% polyester, Columbia provides several well-made synthetic options, such as their Suttle Mountain™ Long Insulated Jacket that will certainly keep you warm and is available in many local shops.

    Marmot

    The clever title, Featherless, helps individuals find vegan options more easily with this brand. Check out Marmot’s Featherless synthetic insulation line. These coats are lined with cruelty-free, 3M Thinsulate and recycled synthetic materials which promotes sustainability while protecting you from the cold.

    when in doubt, Check the materials

    While out shopping with friends, one may come across an unfamiliar brand. There are a few simple ways to find out what materials were used to make it.

    Read the labels.

    Material labels are typically located on the inside of the jacket, or even hidden in a pocket. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires garments to be labeled with fiber contents that make up the garment if the material used is above 5 percent. That 5 percent portion typically includes trims and decorations. Synthetic, Faux Fur, Nylon, and Polyester are keywords to look for. The phrase, “exclusive of trims” can mean that decorative pieces such as logo patches or zipper pulls could potentially be made out of non-synthetic materials that are not listed on the label.

    Ask the Shopkeeper.

    Your detective work could be easily cut short by asking for advice from the employees who know their inventory well. They might even have local recommendations to offer.

    Do a Quick Online Search.

    If you’re equipped with a smart device, and in a place with a good signal or connectivity, you can always do a quick internet search to get more information about the brand.

    A Sense of Peace and Well-Being

    Regardless of which style you choose–whether it is vegan, almost vegan, or second-hand–the conscious effort to preserve the Earth and its animals will bring a sense of peace and well-being. Please remember not to stress out too much about finding all-vegan options.  It will be challenging at times, though eventually this whole process will become second-nature. Simply feel confident that you are doing what you can.

    To stay inspired, check out Kino MacGregor’s vegan fashion talk show, Kino’s Closet, on Omstars.com! We would love to hear about all of your favorite cruelty-free brands, too!

    By Jodi Lane

    Omstars marketing manager, Jodi Lane, discovered Ashtanga yoga in 2017 from Kino MacGregor. You may see her on Instagram as @kittytreets chatting with fellow yogis, trading vegan recipes, and sharing art techniques with other artists. She loves cats, creating meaningful stories, and illustrating sincere pieces of art that reflect her passions.

  • Omstars Yoga Challenges of 2019

    When you practice yoga, you can literally help change the world. Part of being a yogi means giving back to the community, and here at Omstars, our favorite way to give back is through hosting challenges that allow us to collect and donate money to carefully selected causes that we believe are helping to make the world a better place.

    The 30-Day Yoga Journey with Kino MacGregor

    “Change only happens in the present moment. The past is already done. The future is just energy and intention.”  –Kino MacGregor

    The path to yoga begins one day, one pose, and one breath at a time. The beginning of 2019 brought yogis all over the world together to experience different styles of yoga such as Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Yin, and more. Omstars and Liforme donated $1 to Yoga Gives Back for every person who joined the challenge in the New Year. This important charity is dedicated to raising awareness and funds to help impoverished children and mothers in India–the birthplace of yoga.

    Ashtanga Basics Challenge with Kino MacGregor

    Experiences in yoga can change your life. In March of 2019, Omstars members joined Kino MacGregor for a 10-day yoga challenge. This 22-Class, Ashtanga adventure included live practices and on-demand classes that focused on foundational postures and movements found in the Ashtanga Primary Series. A few lucky winners of the challenge were treated to prizes such as an Ashtanga Yoga Card deck by Kino MacGregor and Shambhala Productions or a delicious tea set from Fifth Limb Wellness.

    Everyday Joy of Yoga Challenge with Kaitlyn Kreitzman

    May of 2019 gave Omstars members The Everyday Joy of Yoga Challenge. Challenge host, Kaitlyn Kreiztman, included invigorating flows and restorative yoga into this 9-day yoga journey. To kick off this challenge, Kaitlyn provided a gentle yoga blog sequence to supplement this course.  This challenge supported the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), a foundation that supports families and individuals affected by mental health trauma. Omstars donated $1 for every signup to AFSP. A few prize winners were treated to subscriptions to In The Moment Magazine. The Omstars community came together to raise awareness for this outstanding foundation through the healing practice of yoga. Kaitlyn led members through a variety of yoga methods that focused on alignment, breath work, meditation, and yoga philosophy.

    Practice of Peace Challenge with Kino MacGregor

    “This challenge will guide you through contemplative and movement practices to calm the mind, open the heart and begin your journey into the inner world.” – Kino MacGregor

    International yoga teacher, Kino MacGregor, brought the Practice of Peace to everyone in this 20-day yoga challenge. Featuring one yoga practice and one meditation each day, challenge participants were given the tools to cultivate a peaceful mentality in June of 2019. This challenge supported Yoga Gives Back. For every participant, Omstars and Liforme donated $1 to this charity which helps give young women and children in India the power to build sustainable livelihoods. Together the community helped to share peace throughout the globe.

    Ashtanga Home Practice Challenge with Kino MacGregor

    Kino MacGregor reinspired the home practice with the Ashtanga Home Practice Challenge in September of 2019. For 16 days, challenge participants were guided through courses that help develop and structure a safe home practice in the Ashtanga Yoga method. Challenge participants learned to honor their personal limitations by exploring physical, mental, and emotional capacities. As an insightful bonus, Shanna Small joined the challenge to teach five live classes that examined a variety of poses and movements, sharing variations to suit all shapes and sizes. Challenge prize winners were treated to prizes such as titles from Kino MacGregor’s book and DVD collection, Omstars by Liquido clothing, and vegan, hand-crafted soaps by Smithmade Essentials. Yogis all over the world shared the inspiration to keep coming back to the mat, everyday.

    Be Strong Challenge with Kino MacGregor

    “Learning how to be happy with failure is one of the lessons of strength.” –Kino MacGregor

    Kino MacGregor gave participants the tools to safely progress in developing strength. Sharing personal experience from years of practice and exploration, Kino designed this 13-Day challenge in November of 2019 to integrate the mind, body, and soul. These 13 classes build you up from the basics and take you all the way to the peaks of the strength. Yogis all over the world were guided through strength-building drills that develop foundational strength while reinforcing the connection to one’s inner being.

    Yoga IS Challenge with Kino MacGregor

    Start the new year with a journey into the heart of yoga. Every day for 30 days, receive a new accessible practice designed to guide you on a process of inner awakening. Each class will be centered around a pose with modifications to make it truly accessible and offer key lessons about the meaning yoga can have in your life. This challenge is appropriate for all levels from beginner to the most advanced. Commit to the Yoga Is Challenge to experience more peace, happiness, and love in your life.

    Sign Up Today!

  • The Difference Between Intent and Impact

    Why Knowing the Difference Between Intent and Impact are Important on the Yogic Path.

    An important part of the yogic principle of Ahimsa, non-violence, is understanding that intent and impact are not the same.  There is a lot of wisdom to unpack in the old Christian saying, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions”. Even if our intentions are good, if our actions result in negative outcomes, we still have to pay the piper.  As the saying suggests, if we don’t atone for our behavior, the results will be the same as someone who had bad intentions; both are going to Hell. For you, this Hell may not be a lake of fire and brimstone, but instead a world full of pain and suffering.  If we are to call ourselves yogis, we must own up to how our actions, even when we didn’t mean anything by them, cause harm.

    There is no way to live on this earth and never harm anyone. Ahimsa is the practice of doing the least amount of harm possible; emphasis on “least”. Ahimsa is a part of the Yamas or Great Vow, that a yogi on the 8 limbed path of Patanjali or Raja yoga, takes.  When a yogi takes this vow, she cannot break it regardless of class, time, place or circumstance.  She is always asking herself, “is this the least amount of harm I can cause in this situation?” Nonviolence is the most talked about Yama in yoga because it is pretty easy to grasp and apply and it is palatable to most humans. Most of us can agree that we don’t want to be hurt.  Ahimsa, when things are going our way, is simple.   However, are we also using it when things become uncomfortable?

    The easiest way to shut down (attempt to anyway) an uncomfortable topic in the yoga world is to belabor positive intent.  The yoga world is seeing the rise of people speaking up against the commercialization and commodification of yoga, the erasure of the culture it came from, the worship of able bodies, inaccessibility, privilege, appropriation, spiritual bypassing and corruption.  If you are being accused of any of these, stop, breathe, then ask yourself, “Does my intent actually match the impact?” Understand that, as a yogi who has taken the great vow of Ahimsa, it is your duty to consider the impact your actions have on the world and to seek to do as little harm as possible. It not only means that you must change your words but you also have to change your actions. At the very least, own up to it and apologize.

    If you look back in your memory, you will probably see that you have been hurt by someone who had good intentions. Someone who had no idea how deeply their actions impacted your life but they did. Is it unreasonable that you may be guilty of the same? Can you give someone else the apology that you yourself have always wanted? Can you exemplify the changed behavior that was not exemplified for you? Can you give the kindness and understanding you craved to someone who is also seeking kindness and understanding? As a yogi, I should hope so. This may be uncomfortable but without examples, it is easy to purport innocence.  It is easy to act the saint of  the yoga world. These examples are meant to get you thinking. They are meant to empower you with higher levels of discernment that increase your capacity to apply Ahimsa and contribute to the reduction of harm.

    Anybody can do yoga

    The intent of is to present an open and welcoming environment for people who are new to Yoga. However, what happens when they actually cannot do your class? Maybe the class is moving so fast that you cannot stop and help them. The class might be so busy that you cannot spend time helping them. Do you truly know options that anyone can do and can you give the student those options as they practice? What is the possible impact to a student who cannot do the practice you just presented? They could leave feeling not only that yoga is not for them but also feel there is something wrong with them because they cannot do a class that, according to you, everyone is supposed to be able to do.

    Classes in exchange for cleaning

    The intent is to provide a means for students who cannot afford yoga, to be able to practice. What are some possible negative impacts? Instead of feeling like they are a part of the community, they feel like “the help.”  Most people have an unconscious bias towards people like waiters, handymen, or house cleaners. They are expected to be in the background.  They move around doing their work and are largely ignored. This student could easily spend their time at your studio on the fringes feeling isolated and alone.

    Not having anyone of color represented on your staff, on your list of presenters, your book or magazine.

    The intention is simply to hire good teachers and present the best information.  In this case, they all just happened to be White. What are some of the possible negative impacts? POC feel excluded, unwanted and that their expertise is subpar. Another negative impact is that you have a staff or panel of people who have an implicit bias toward the experience of being White. This results in a very skewed, and often times unrealistic and untrue view of the information presented.

    Thrust me, being White in the yoga world is a different experience from being Black or Brown in the yoga world.  You may say, “information is information”. Take a breath and really think about it. It is well known that historical information is always skewed towards the people talking about it.  Take this excerpt from History.com on the Civil War, “Northerners have also called the Civil War the War to Preserve the Union, the War of the Rebellion (War of the Southern Rebellion), and the War to Make Men Free.

    Southerners may refer to it as the War Between the States or the War of Northern Aggression. In the decades following the conflict, those who did not wish to upset adherents of either side simply called it The Late Unpleasantness. It is also known as Mr. Lincoln’s War and, less commonly, as Mr. Davis’ War.” This same thing happens with yogic information. Trust me. All good teachers can acknowledge their own implicit bias towards the information they are presenting.

    For instance, I absolutely have an implicit bias towards Ashtanga and I totally view all yogic information through the lens of Ashtanga. I absolutely know and acknowledge that I have a filter that looks for information to support my Ashtanga practice and, that If I am not careful, I will throw out or not acknowledge anything that goes against it.  If I were to put together a panel to talk about Ahimsa in the broader context of yoga, to offset my bias, I would need to invite non-Ashtangis to speak. Does this make sense?

    If you just work hard enough, you can do any yoga pose your heart desires.

    The intent is to uplift and motivate. Some negative impacts are people hurting themselves doing poses that are not meant for their bodies, people quitting yoga because, since they cannot do the poses, it is obviously not for them and a feeling of being a complete failure and worthless.

    We are all one

    This statement is dependent on the situation. The intent is to create unity and inclusiveness however the impact can be the opposite. To someone who is communicating that they don’t feel comfortable and accepted, to say, “we are all one” does not address the reason why they don’t feel comfortable or accepted. In this example, “We are all one” is spiritual bypassing at it’s finest. Dr. Robert Augustus Masters, PhD defines spiritual bypassing as, “the use of spiritual practices/beliefs to avoid dealing with painful feelings, unresolved wounds and developmental needs”.

    Saying “we are all one” when someone is hurting because they feel otherwise, shuts the discussion down and stops all positive possible solutions. For instance, if a South Asian practitioner is saying that they don’t feel represented by a panel of White people, “saying we are all one” does not change the fact the they are not represented. I can go on and on with these examples and I am sure that you have many you can add as well. Were you able to see how impact and intent are not the same? In each of the examples, could you see how more Ahimsa or less harm could be done? As a yogi, who has taken the vow of decreasing suffering in this world, do you understand how the question of impact vs Intent must be a part of your spiritual practice? I hope so.

    By Shanna Small

    Shanna Small is the mind behind, The Ashtanga Yoga Project, a website and home for information on how to use the wisdom of Ashtanga Yoga in Modern life. Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC.  She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch.

    Read more articles by Shanna Small
    Photo credit: Wanda Koch Photography. 

  • Body Acceptance: Tools for Cultural Upheaval

    Gordi. Flaca. Chula. Fea. Vieja. Linda. Fatty. Skinny. Sexy. Ugly. Old lady. Cute. Whether positive or negative association, I grew up hearing terms that were quick to remind us that we were defined by our appearance.

    These were terms of endearment. I grew up believing that describing others based on their outer appearances was not only normal, but expected. And though I occasionally encountered someone who interpreted these descriptors as malicious, I usually dismissed those responses as excessive sensitivity, especially since my initial descriptions were most often welcomed. Not until much later did I realize that this was not the way I wanted to relate to others, nor how I wanted others to relate to me.

    Partially, I recognize that this experience as a woman, and woman of color, it is inescapable to be described and critiqued in a physical context. Mexican, native, fiery Latina, curvy, tribal, dark skinned, too sexy, too loud, too weird, too bossy, too opinionated, too intense; these were descriptions I came to know all too well. When I think about the future generations, I never want them to hear or feel that they’re too much of anything. We need all of their intensity and passion and skills. So how do we come to welcome all of their existence in a world that asks us to be small?

    When I think of growth, I am reminded of the old tenant, “the personal is political.”, and remember that we always start with ourselves. We start by exploring our relationship to ourselves; by living in our awareness intentionally. Yoga is filled with beautiful practices to explore mind, body and their intersections. Though in recent history, the term “yoga” has come to be known almost exclusively as the postures, there are other practices, such as meditation and breathwork, that can help us deepen our connection to ourselves.

    Prochaska and DiClemente developed the Stages of Change transtheoretical model in 1983, and it remains a core teaching of psychology and recovery programs. Following Precontemplation, comes Contemplation, which is such a powerful step in exploring our motivation for change. Yoga and other forms of meditation, journaling, dance are all examples of contemplative practices. Within the context of personal development, we can examine if our external judgements of others a representation of the narrative we carry about ourselves. Practicing mindful meditation can help train us to notice our thoughts enough to discover the themes of our internal narrative. Is it critical or encouraging? Is it filled with compassion or condemnation? As with all forms of yoga, remember, this is a practice to give you a sense of agency over your thoughts. Meditation is the work of change, and change is difficult.

    Within the context of exploring our relationship with our bodies, I love using Breathwork, or Pranayama practice. Breathwork and breath retraining has long been used to support mental wellness and has gained popularity for addressing stress, anxiety and depression (1, 2). Although breathing is an involuntary process, struggles with posture and stress can lead to improper breathing and lead to increased cortisol release, the hormone our body produces to cope with stress (4).

    Breathwork practice can be destabilizing, so it’s important to explore these techniques with a trained or experienced practitioner. My experience with breathwork has been one of bringing awareness to my felt experience I have frequently worked to avoid as someone who recovered from an eating disorder and someone living with chronic pain. Practicing breathwork allows me space to embody my experience and encourages me to let go of the idea to simply “tolerate” discomfort. In breathwork practice, it may be helpful to explore our relationships with physical and emotional pain. Where do our thoughts go when we experience discomfort? Is that a time our mind goes to judgement, criticism, or blame? How does our experience of discomfort change when we approach it with compassion?

    Contemplating our inner experience allows space for us to become better allies, better equipped to hold space for the experience of others. Recognizing that we are impacted by situations outside of our control may be easier to do within the context of ourselves than others, according to the Attribution Theory (2). Meditation and practicing awareness of our thoughts allows us the necessary interruption to see that we are all reacting and responding with the skills available to us today.

    Coming to a place of acceptance of our body, all of our body, all of our thoughts, all of our worries, and anxieties and joys and anger and pain, is a tool in taking back our power, our autonomy, our agency. This is not a small endeavor, but it is worth it. Next time your mind wanders down the path of judgement or criticism, take a few diaphragmatic breaths when you notice. This negative or critical voice developed over time, in effort to keep you safe, to help you fit in, to protect you from examining potentially painful or complex issues. Now, as an adult, allow yourself to consider that criticism isn’t typically an effective way to interact with ourselves or the world, even when the effort feels to be coming from a place of concern. Embrace compassion as an experiment and examine how your relationships with yourself and others change.

    By Celisa Flores

    Celisa Flores: Since obtaining a Master’s degree in Counseling in 2007 at CSU Fresno and a PsyD in Clinical Psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology in 2013, Dr. Flores worked as a therapist and program director in a wide variety of mental health treatment setting. This diversity of experience allowed research and training to expand her skills as a Feminist therapist with emphasis on Eating Disorders, Mindfulness and women’s issues. With a history of providing individual, group, family, and couples counseling services, as well as therapeutic yoga services, Dr. Flores has focused on evidence-based practices, providing guidance and support in Mindfulness in Recovery, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), and other self-empowerment strategies. In addition to training as a therapist, she is a Certified Yoga Teacher, also trained in Mindful Stress Reduction, Reiki and as a doula. By integrating a variety of holistic tools into recovery and wellness, she works to create a long-lasting, sustainable wellness plan.  Now proudly with Center for Discovery, providing clinical outreach for Orange County and the Central California region.  This role has included national and international training and speaking engagements on eating disorders, mindfulness, yoga, body acceptance, and professional wellness, as well as facilitating accessible, body-affirming yoga annually at the Los Angeles NEDA walk.  With a passion to support other therapists and community members with understanding eating disorders and treatment as well as self-care and overall wellness, she is always working to share information, research and training. 

    NOTE: This post is part of a collaborative media series organized and curated by Omstars and the Yoga & Body Image Coalition intended as a deep dive into yoga & body image
    (1) Brown, R. P., & Gerbarg, P. L. (2005). Sudarshan kriya yogic breathing in the treatment of stress, anxiety, and depression: Part II – clinical applications and guidelines. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 11(4), 711-717
    (2) O’Donohue, W.T. and Fisher, J.E. (Eds.). (2008). Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Applying Empirically Supported Techniques in your Practice (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ, US: John Wiley & Sons Inc.
    (3) Ross, L. (1977). The Intuitive Psychologist And His Shortcomings: Distortions in the Attribution Process. In Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 10, pp. 173-220). Academic Press.
    (4) Thibodeux, W. (Feb 8, 2018). Science Says You’ve Been Breathing Wrong. Here’s how to do it right. Inc.com.