My Favorite Quotes + Books to Read in February

I recently wrote about my belief that “Your vibe attracts your tribe” and how those vibrations brought me two new opportunities this month. By the way, there is still time to register for Saturday’s event, Athleta Namaste After the 5K, where I’ll be leading a half hour of post-run yoga.

The great response I got to the post got me thinking about other useful quotes for life and business, so here are the phrases I keep in mind is trying and triumphant times.

Despite what the media likes to spout about Millennials wanting to lead before they can walk, I’ve found many young professionals do a great job of asking questions and sitting back to allow experts to share. I’ve worked against the socially ingrained need to fill the silence in networking and business settings by considering it an opportunity to learn from others. Most of the time, when I tap into the topic that makes the other person tick, they’re wound up and won’t stop for a while. It also helps me understand how my skills, connections or expertise can help them without directly asking them.

This phrase comes in handy when life gets nutty and you feel yourself being pulled into someone else’s vortex. One of the greatest things that yoga teacher training introduced me to was the “TED Drama Triangle” in which people cast themselves as the Victim, Persecutor or the Rescuer. The “not my monkey, not my circus” quote comes in handy when you find yourself wanting to be the Rescuer to someone’s Victim. Once we accept that we don’t have to be drawn into everyone’s issues, we walk away from draining situations and people and find our own happiness.

My last quote comes from one of my favorite #girlboss innovators Myleik Teele. I like this principle because it applies to both your personal and professional life. How many times have we stayed in relationships and jobs that didn’t benefit us, accepting less than what we should, because the unknown was scarier than what we are experiencing?

*raises hand*

Two things helped me change my path. One was Nicki Minaj and her famous “Pickle Juice” video (seriously, if you’ve never watched this, do it now).

The second was a dose of loving kindness from a friend saying “You already know what you’re going through, so what could be worse than inaction and remaining unhappy? Take the risk, try something new. If it doesn’t work out, at least you tried it and can learn. If you end up going back to a corporate career, at least you won’t be where you are.”

Basically, you gotta make a move because inaction will paralyze you.

Hopefully, the above quotes spoke to someone. Be sure to share the phrase that you’ve applied or will apply in your life.

Books to read in February

Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves

My mom has been telling me to read this book for over a year. She gave me the book during an especially trying time in my career when I was working on balancing my soft and hard skills. Basically, learning not to deliver my personality like a jerk. Levo is doing a series about Millennials and emotional intelligence that reminded me to pick up this book and get into it.

The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene

I’ve heard this book recommended over the years, and though I don’t agree with the level of manipulation it encourages in some places, I have to read the whole thing before I pass judgment.

Talk back to me: What useful quotes or books are on your radar this month?

Congrats to the Leap of Faith 5K + Namaste After the 5K Winners!

Thank you to everyone who entered the contest for a ticket to the Leap of Faith 5K and the post-run Namaste After the 5K yoga session.

I’m happy to announce that Ginger Marie of The Ginger Marie Blog and Stephanie Suire will both be making an investment in themselves on February 25, 2017 at the Leap of Faith 5K! I can’t wait to run alongside both of you and then get in a deep stretch.

leap of faith 5K giveaway winners

If you didn’t win, don’t worry. Tickets for the 5K and yoga event, which will also feature a rousing speaker to inspire you, are still available. Sign up for Leap of Faith 5K today!

Gearing Up for Spin: GRIT Fitness REVOLUTION Cycle Spotlight Party

I have a confession.

I don’t like cardio. Like, at all.

Running: no thanks. Elliptical: puts me to sleep. Stairmaster: torture.

Group fitness is probably the only time that I can get down with cardio. I told you all about the fun I had recently at Jam Box fitness.

One of the best places in DFW to have the group fitness experience is GRIT Fitness. I’ve gotten down to yoga, HIIT and other classes with the ladies of GRIT and it’s always a blast. Plus, the owner, Brittani Rettig, is a total #GirlBoss.

But one group fitness class has always given me angst: SPIN. Remember what I said about running, elliptical and Stairmaster? There is something about the same motion on a stationary machine that elicits dread. But when I heard GRIT Fitness owner Brittani Rettig and her rockstar team of cycling instructors are hosting the REVOLUTION Cycle Spotlight Party on Friday, September 30, I knew I had to be there. GRIT always has the best music and the most pumped-up instructors for the other classes, and I’d expect no less for their Cycle party.

Plus, how COOL is this cycle studio?!
Plus, how COOL is this cycle studio?!

Join me as I work through my “fear” of spin class and sweat out the work week with two free cycling classes, drinks, treats, raffles, a photobooth and a special gift for the first 100 guests.

WHAT: GRIT Fitness REVOLUTION Cycle Spotlight Party

WHEN: Friday, September 30, 5-8PM

Complimentary classes at 5:30 and 6:30PM; Studio tours, shopping and entertainment throughout the evening

WHERE: GRIT Fitness – Design District, 1729 Irving Blvd., #101, Dallas, TX 75207

SIGN UP: Guests can reserve their spot to ride at dallasgritfitness.com/schedule beginning Friday, September 16.

Check out the Facebook event page and share with a friend who will need the stress-busting fun of SPIN class this Friday.

Can’t wait to see you there! I’ll be at 6:30 class but catch me milling around before then. 

Staying Strong in Your (Dis)Comfort Zone

Have you ever found yourself in a situation so new, unusual or outside of your comfort zone that you immediately wanted to retreat?

The feeling that you just associated with the above situation – chest tightening, hand sweating, fight or flight – has been on my mind recently. In the past few months, I have found myself in a position, time and time again, where I’ve been challenged with a new task or emotion that makes me want to turn tail or make an excuse for not trying.

I went to my best advisor, my mom, and told her about my fear of the unknown. Most of my slight distress comes from not wanting to be told “no” about something I really want. I think we’ve all been there. Whether it’s a new responsibility at work, requesting 15 minutes of a potential mentor’s time or even telling your partner what you really want, it can be daunting to put yourself out there, only to hear “no.”

She gave me the sage advice of learning to “stand in my discomfort.” That’s right: stand in it. Not run through it, like you’d do over hot coals. Stay on top of it, make friends with it. Explore it and ask questions. Make friends with your discomfort.

I told her I’d consider it and hung up. Maybe she had lost her mojo or was pulling my leg. Who actually wants to stay uncomfortable? Isn’t that why specialty stores sold so many $50 pillows? We love comfort, pay top money for it, seek out specialists to build ergonomic playpens for the purpose of achieving a zen-like state. So why should I befriend discomfort and ask it to sit down for a cuppa?

Then I thought about what would happen if I ran away. I’d never know what was not only on the other side of the coal bed. Nor would I learn something new about myself on the way there, walking leisurely and embracing all the lessons. I’d forever be on the other side, safe and S.A.F.E. (a bit NSFW but look up what that acronym means and you’ll get it).

Inspired by this way of thinking, I have since adopted 2016 as my year of “Shoot the shot.” This was a brief trending topic on social media around New Year’s, in which folks decided they didn’t want to end 2015 without telling someone they liked them (or some other hidden revelation). For some it worked and they were able to make a love connection. Others got curved. But at least they knew where they stood.

Since I’m married now, my shot shooting is professional only. In my year of “Shoot the shot,” I’ve expressed more openly my professional goals to my boss and sought out mentors and peers for help in what I am trying to achieve. I have made requests of brands, even though I immediately tried to talk myself out of it. I had to tell myself “Worst thing they can say is ‘No, thank you.’ And then you’re right back where you started, but at least you asked.”

I will say, most of my shots right now are from the free throw line. They’re not super challenging or greatly out of my range. They only send a slight tremor down my spine. As the year progresses, I’ll be taking steps back to get to the three-point line. That’s stretch goals, bigger asks and greater challenges of myself if the answer is “Yes.”

Before the year is over, I want to do a half-court, all-or-nothing kind of shot.

Because, yes, I hate feeling awkward and vulnerable just as much as the next person. I don’t want to feel my heart in my chest as I watch the three dots bubble, awaiting a reply, or check my email nearly obsessively.

But the feeling you get when you hear or read “Yes” sure beats standing on the other side of the coals, doesn’t it? Get comfy in that discomfort zone. You may be there for a while.

How are you shooting your shot this year? What’s your free throw, three-point and half-court ask?

(photo courtesy of Mark Moss, flickr)

Level Up: How to Stay On Top of Your Own Fitness as an Instructor/Trainer

Recently, I had a thought: if I took an informal poll of my fellow fitness teachers or the trainer members of the Dallas Fitness Ambassadors, probably 99 percent would say that as their teaching and training increased, their focus on their own growth went down. An inverse and perverse relationship, if you will. Speaking for myself, as I’ve invested time in reading, learning and teaching others, my training schedule has suffered. I almost have to force myself to dedicate an hour to getting on the mat, not to creating a new flow or reading the latest yoga news.

As a student, you have seemingly unlimited time to learn, explore and jump around to different classes and studios. Now that I teach, I have a home studio and getting to other locations to experience other instructors often takes a back seat to meeting and greeting with the teachers and students at my own location.

It’s easy for me to recognize when I need to switch it up and revert back to being a student. Not only do I physically feel the need for a return to a challenge, but my mind clues me in that I’m not growing. My fitness routine, whether it’s yoga or weight training or my “unbridal bridal” regimen of sprint work on the track, connects me to an inner energy source and allows me to be a better teacher. I sleep better, digest my food easier and generally am a happier person when I’m challenging my body and mind through fitness.

Me, as a student, working on my handstand.
Me, as a student last year, working on my handstand.

http://www.dallasfitnessambassadors.com/

Returning to the act of being a student is a humbling experience, and often, as teachers, we need a reminder that there is no end to the practice of learning. We can all be taught something new, whether we are a beginning instructor or a seasoned veteran trainer. When we don’t expand our minds through continued education, what we put out to our students can become stagnant or boring. And really, who wants to be a boring fitness leader?

I vow anew to give time back to myself, to explore not only different instructors at my own studio but with other yoga studios. After getting my butt kicked at Surf City Fitness last month, I’m excited to try new experiences and see how it shapes my teaching principles. I’m a big proponent of lifting, and lifting heavy, and I’ve seen the improvements to my time on the mat due to pumping iron. Thankfully, my fiance and I belong to the same gym, and he loves kicking my tail in the weight room, telling me to lift heavier, move faster and challenge myself. I’m excited about my renewed focus; maybe you’ll join me?

If you’re an instructor, have you found that your own fitness journey has stalled as you’ve taken on clients/started teaching?

If so, how do you plan on jump-starting it again to ensure that not only are you satisfied with your progress but you’re giving your students the best knowledge and experience based on what you learn?

Shout out in the comments, or message me on Twitter (@VeleisaP) or Instagram (@LeisaWithAnE). Looking forward to hearing from you!

Surprise: Your Yoga Teacher Might Be Just As Nervous As You Are

Recently, I taught what I think is my best yoga class to date. Which is surprising, because it was the 5:45 a.m. class and I am far from a morning person. I also created the flow at 11:30 the night before.

Using the feedback I got from my studio manager in a recent evaluation, it felt like the light switched on. I was able to get off my mat, make adjustments, speak to purpose both of posture and practice, and truly engage with the students on a different level.

It was like magic.

I write all this to state that usually, I’m a mess (inside my head) during class.

nail biting
Flickr image via Freddie Peña

Much is made about how uncomfortable the student experience can be, as a newbie, or a plus-size yogi, or as the only black person in class. I get it, because I’ve been there. Judgment, whether from an internal voice or those around you, can cause discomfort and mess up an otherwise powerful yoga class.

As I’ve moved from student to teacher (though, aren’t we always students?), the voice inside my head still occasionally pipes up with doubts about my abilities. As a teacher, it’s not about how best to keep my balance in Half Moon. Now I wonder if I’m clearly explaining how to move into postures, properly motivating the students and being a proper example of a “yogi.”

Before my first flow class, I was a ball of nerves. Did the flow, you know, flow? Was I going to remember to discuss intention, or would I enter the room and immediately blank out? The thought of making hands-on adjustments terrified me. What if someone pulled something or passed out: could I handle in-studio injuries?

Though I’d love to believe that in due time, I will no longer get nervous before my classes but I doubt it. There is an energy unlike any other that comes from leading a yoga class. The senses are heightened as you become attuned to the energy of those around you. You can feel the room’s expectations of a transformative experience, and you want to deliver. I harness all of this and, instead of allowing it to overwhelm me, I turn it into my motivation.

So the next time you head into your studio, sign in and grab a mat and towel to set up for your hour of power, you should know that the slight tension in the air isn’t just coming from you. The same way you expect so much of yourself, your teacher is expecting even more of themselves as the leader of the class.

We want to give you a 10 experience, and we can be hard on ourselves if we flub or seem skittish. Be kind, not only to yourself, but to your teacher. We could use the love.

Does Your Keeping It Real Go Wrong?

When I recently had two people tell me that I was “blunt” and “told it straight,” I had to make sure that they meant it in a good way. As a terribly blunt person during my late teens and early 20s, I used to wield the “truth” like a bludgeon. It was a defense mechanism left over from middle and high school, when I relied on an oversized personality to help me stand out. As I grew older, I started to recognize that what I might see as keeping it real and hard-core honesty, others just see as an attitude problem. (But also, totally agree with Amandla Stenberg’s assertion that I’m not an “angry black woman” – sometimes you’re just annoying and you should know that.)

keep it real

With age comes wisdom (or so they say), causing me to reevaluate how I approached situations that needed a healthy dose of criticism with a side of sensitivity.

One of the best stances I’ve learned to take started as a pact between me and my sister. With the distance of the Atlantic Ocean between us, she became my ear when I needed to talk things through, be it work or personal. Wonderfully, she always understood that not all people need your opinion. Sometimes, just hush up and listen.

Novel concept, right? Let someone talk, get the words out…and you just nod. That terrible boyfriend your cousin keeps going back to? She knows, somewhere inside, that it’s a bad decision. You don’t have to be the truth-teller and drop the Flex bomb of knowledge; she gets it. Let her talk it through. Your coworker who insists on taking two-hour lunches and then mysteriously needs to leave early? Other people see it; no need to be the office bullhorn and prognosticate about what he or she does on their super-sized break.

And for goodness sake, do not take it upon yourself to comment on people’s weight gain or loss. Seriously, don’t.

The second way I learned to navigate away blunt and rude to pragmatic: ask yourself “will this comment add to the conversation/situation?” 

To me, the true measure of a good conversation is succinctness and lack of filler. If you have to resort to being mean-spirited to contribute to a discussion, you should take a deeper look at what motivates you.

If you embrace being straightforward to the point of being blunt, don’t pussyfoot around it. Beat around the bush and you run the risk of just appearing passive-aggressive. You think your opinions must be stated? Then be bold, speak loudly and say it with your chest (Thanks, Kevin Hart). Just don’t be surprised if you get swatted down.

Don’t get me wrong now. I encounter at least one-two situations per week in which my internal reaction is clapback, pure and simple. The impulse to jump quick is brief, and likely shows itself as a slight squinting of the eyes, or a tilt of the head similar to the confused RCA dog, as I try to make sense of what just happened. However, my self-control instinct and a desire to put out and/or receives the least amount of negative energy usually is enough to help me keep my lips sealed, pressed together in a semblance of a smile, as I give a noncommittal “Mm hmm.”

Are you considered a blunt person, and if so, has it impacted your personal or professional relationships? Are you a reformed “tell it like it is” kind of friend?

Presenting: Yoga Photos + 10-Minute Yoga Flow

My good friend, writer extraordinaire CJ Johnson, approached me about a photography project, I couldn’t say no. CJ and I originally “met” on Twitter. Upon discovering that we live in the same part of Dallas, we’ve managed to keep in contact and establish an in-real-life friendship, discussing creativity and life.

After explaining to me her vision, we met up in the visually-rich Dallas arts district, beginning in Klyde Warren Park. Since it was a (very) warm night, we chose to start at the quieter west end of the park. CJ’s approach was very conversational, allowing me to immediately feel at ease as I moved through Sun Salutations to warm up.

Over the next couple of hours, the photo shoot moved from Klyde Warren Park to the Meyerson Symphony Center and the Dallas Museum of Art, ending with a catch up session and ice cream.

I’ll be sad when CJ moves to LA soon, but that just means I have someone to kick it with on the west coast.

And here are the best of the best photos:

Smiling Upward Dog Dancer at the DMA Close Up Tree at DMA Side Crow Revolving Chair Handstand Triangle Chatarunga

 

Bonus

Here is the first part of a recent flow I put together for my APY Flow class. I want to share this so readers get an idea of my style of flow.

Before beginning, warm up with 2-3 Sun Salutations. Find a library of postures, including the below, over at Yoga Journal.

Warrior One

(straighten the front leg and shorten the stance by bringing in the back leg)

Pyramid

(rise out of Pyramid, release arms to the sky, bend both legs and lift into the balance)

Warrior Three

(bring hands to the mat, keep hips level)

Standing Split

(bring lifted leg through to hip height, cross over standing leg)

Eagle

 

When Going Vegan, Slow and Steady Wins the Race

I’ve written before about my struggle in going from vegetarian to vegan, and I recently got a reality check in the form of Brown Vegan, aka Monique. In an episode on going from vegetarian to vegan, Monique spoke with her fellow blogger, Naturalee Happee, about the transition. Naturalee shared that her journey from omnivore to vegetarian took three years, as she slowly eliminated meat from her diet (first red meat, then pork and finally chicken). Because she’d set herself up with a “slow and steady” mindset, the elimination of eggs, milk, honey and leather wasn’t a shock to her system. I really needed to hear that go slow mindset.

After struggling the last two weeks to avoid dairy, I realized I was putting far too much emphasis on immediately eliminating dairy and not enough time into preparing my meals to avoid that late-afternoon Starbucks run. Yesterday, when I had my food laid out, packed and planned, I managed to get through the day with a steady blood sugar level, avoiding the afternoon energy dip, and I was able to teach an hour-long Sculpt class without faltering.

Now, don’t go full hog on veganism, just because it’s what Beyonce woke y’all up at 8 a.m. to talk about. Instead, adopt the “slow and steady” approach to achieve long-term success.

  • Start by cutting out specific foods. I started off by doing away with chicken, since red meat and pork were never high on my list of must-eat foods. If you’re already vegetarian and moving toward vegan, that may mean cutting back on your favorite bakeries to avoid the eggs, milk and buttercream that give your beloved baked goods their textures and taste.
  • Proper planning prevents poor performance. I know the band geeks in life know that phrase well, and it’s because it’s true! Meal prep and planning means you are less likely find yourself alone and hungry next to the closest Popeye’s or [insert the name of your favorite fast-food place]. That means making time to find recipes, cook, organize and store staples like rice, quinoa and chopped veggies, and recognizing your eating schedule so you’re prepared with snacks and meals to keep your hunger beast at bay.
via Tracy Benjamin on Flickr
via Tracy Benjamin on Flickr
  • Explore the range of foods, but try to avoid becoming carb-itarian. If you’re like me, some foods you never knew you liked simply because you never tried them. Or you had them boiled to death as a kid, scarring you from trying the same food as an adult. Consider revisiting the least scary of the foods you may have written off as a youth, like Brussel sprouts or eggplant. Avoid loading up on carbs like pastas as a filler for more healthful foods. Pasta has its place in a balanced diet. It just isn’t an every day item.
  • Be forgiving of yourself. Maybe it was a stressful day, and you found comfort in a Snicker’s bar. Or you attended a family cookout and the smell of your aunt’s potato salad took hold of your senses. Resolve at the beginning of your vegetarian or vegan journey that you will not be perfect, and that’s okay. When you do go off track, don’t throw the towel in and return to your old ways. Start the next day like it’s the first and be even better at improving your diet.

Are you in the middle of a transition? If so, what’s helped you? Do you have a specific cookbook, author, recipe or resource that you want to share? Leave a comment!

*featured image via thegrocer*

What It Feels Like to Return to Yoga After a Hiatus

During training, we ate, slept and breathed yoga. Asana was the word of the day, all day long as we strove to understand every posture. Six months after finishing yoga teacher training, I’m immersed in functional fitness classes as I teach Sweat and Core classes at my home studio. Last year, 80 percent of my physical practice was yoga-based with 20 percent going toward weight training. That breakdown is now flipped on its head, and when I’m not in the studio teaching weight class, I’m in the gym with my fiance doing his regimen. Before I knew it, I’d gone nearly a month without taking any kind of yoga, which is a crazy-long time for me.

Last night, it was me and the mat and my Yoga Studio app. As I stepped to the top of my mat to begin an hour of class, my body automatically went to what it knew: shoulders back and down, chest lifted, breathing in and out deeply. Turns out, my time away doing weight work improved my practice. Upper body and core work helped stabilize Chaturangas and those taxing leg presses and weighted walking lunges meant I could get my thigh closer to parallel in Warrior positions.

Best of all, when I went to practice inversions – handstands – after the class ended, I got some hang time! For reference, just six months ago, I was either kicking over into a backbend or flailing. One key piece of handstand prep I found was from Kino McGrego (Kino Yoga); I’ve embedded it below.

Moral of the story: don’t be afraid to change up your fitness. Engaging in a range of exercises means you won’t get bored, cross trains your muscles and improves your performance. What are your two to three must-do exercise programs? How do they intersect? For example, do you find your Pilates classes complement marathon training?