Attitude Equals Latitude When It Comes to Your Workout

I will readily admit to not being a touchy-feely yoga instructor. I come from a rational family, my husband is a pragmatist and I find it hard to believe in auras and the like. I practice because it makes me feel amazing, and I teach because I want others to have the same feeling.

With this in mind, it was hard to find my zen as I prepared to teach my first yoga class of 2016. We just finished a headache-inducing move, complete with mismanagement at both the old and new apartment communities, and weren’t feeling completely settled. I found out that one of my favorite people at my job was leaving for a new opportunity. Suffice it to say, with a disorganized house and impending goodbye at work, I wasn’t in the right frame of mind – or so I thought – to lead a class.

We all experience days like that – your workout is the last thing you want to do, as opposed to getting a glass of wine with a friend and ranting until the cows come home. Not every day will be ideal when we have partners, kids, jobs and sometimes just general low-grade Seasonal Affective Disorder to compete with for our time and energy.

In those moments of “might don’t make it,” we have to rally around the right attitude. When life becomes stressful, even a brief workout can improve your mood by releasing endorphins. For me, my attitude changed once I hit the front door of the studio, which is not surprising since a recent study showed that the smell of happy sweat can improve your mood. I allowed myself to take the challenges of what was happening personally and apply that as a lesson for my students. By the end of class, as I sat on my mat facing the supine bodies and hearing their slowly regulating breaths, it hit me that I had turned my attitude around completely. By focusing on what I could contribute to the practice of those in the room, I’d unknowingly calmed the anxiety inside me. For the first time as a teacher, I was moved to (almost) tears by the power of wellness, even more so when I saw the glow on their faces as they exited the room.

Flickr user Fizzr
Flickr user Fizzr

My reminders to you:

  • You’ll never regret a workout once it’s done.
  • Get up and get moving, even if it’s only a 10 minute walk. 
  • Make your workout social – meet with a friend for a HIIT class, yoga session or walk in the park.

How do you motivate yourself when you’re just not feeling the workout?


Why Being Truly Present Is The Best Gift

Right before the recent Thanksgiving holiday, I posted a status that resonated with people who were due to see relatives and family friends that they only connect with once a year.

The best gift you can give family and friends today: be present. Turn your phone off, join in storytelling, ask questions & LISTEN.

We often talk about “being present” in yoga as a way for students to slow down their thinking, connect to their practice and connect their breathing to their body’s movements. Even as a teacher, being present means I’m not thinking about what happened before I got there (traffic, deadlines at work, disagreements with family) or what I have to do later (cook dinner, write a blog post, return a phone call or email). In the moments, in the room, I’m fully committed to leading, demonstrating, making adjustments and connecting with the students.

One of the common ways we disconnect is by burying our faces in a smart phone or tablet. This is not a trait strictly reserved for my generation. Take a look up and down a city block during the morning commute, and you’re more likely to see the tops of people’s heads than you are their eyes, as we click, read and type on the go. I won’t make a judgment call either way on this behavior, since I am guilty of it myself. Where I want to make a call-out is in breaking these habits when surrounded by loved ones, especially those whom we only see for a long weekend one or two times a year.

I get it: listening to Aunt Cathy and her endless stories about the infallibility of her children and cousin Charles and his get-rich-quick schemes can get old really quick. We all need a mental break sometimes, and it’s easy to fall back on technology to provide entertainment. I want to challenge you to recognize that, though you may not be trying to, you’re signaling to those around you a level of indifference to their presence, which can be hurtful. Instead of taking a backseat to the nattering, try the following tips to be truly present during the holiday season.

  1. Barring any situation for which you have to be reachable, put your phone in another room, face-down.
  2. That one relative that annoys you to no end? Ask them to tell you a story about the family history that you haven’t heard. You’ll learn something new about your clan and you get to direct the conversation away from that pyramid scheme they’re always trying to get you to join.
  3. If you’re into wellness, try leading a small group in breathing and gentle stretching while everyone waits on the meal to be done (you know dinner won’t start on time anyway). Not only are you sharing something that’s important to you, it’s a great way to get the kinks and knots from flying out of your shoulders and hips. Here are some great breathing tips from Yoga Journal.
  4. Get away if you need to. Rather than demonstrate your boredom, take a break and get outdoors. This is especially helpful if your family is the passive-aggressive type that takes digs at each other. Remove yourself from the fray, take a treasured cousin or sibling with you if possible, and return ready to deal.

Finally, if your family is truly the worst and you’re able to do so, skip the headache all together. Stay local and organize a holiday meal with friends, or use those long-overlooked vacation days and see what destinations your favorite airline is promoting. While the holidays can be a time of renewal and joy, they are what you make them. If taking time to be alone, hiking and biking the Colorado countryside or walking along the Miami shoreline, makes sense for you, do it.

Flickr user Fizzr
Flickr user Fizzr (license)

What other ways do you show that you’re completely present in interactions with family and friends?


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?

Yoga and Social Media: Doing it for the ‘Gram or For the Growth

While scrolling through my Instagram timeline last week, I came across a post that both raised an eyebrow and a question. The woman, who is about my age and regularly posts inspiring and useful information about her practice, upcoming workshops and beautiful shots of her asanas, shared a straight-up thirst trap photo.

the thirst

I stopped for a second, feeling a combination of disappointment and a lack of surprise. Though I’m far from someone to lament the decline of society due to the amount of time we spend on our smart phones, sharing inane photos of our food, our kids (two and four-legged varieties)  and other details we feel are important, it’s true that some things can be left to the imagination.

I recognize that this feeling comes from the path that I took to yoga: one of physical and mental wellness. My goal was not to demonstrate how awesome yoga has made my body but to share how beneficial it’s been for my mind. Separating the physical from the philosophical reduces yoga to its parts, and significantly decreases the impact that the practice can have on your life.

Interestingly enough, a writer with explored similar thoughts on the increase in “yoga porn” and retaliatory “yoga shaming.” However, her solution was telling readers that, despite the clear prominence of images of thin, cisgender, able-bodied white women in difficult and intricate postures in social and mainstream media, “what you see is what you choose to see.” I find this a convenient position for a woman who self-identifies with many of the characteristics that help the “pornographers” gain prominence.

While I respect and support her decision to embrace rather than castigate the mainstream yogis who enjoy taking photos and videos of their practices in far-flung locations while seeming to not have a care (or bill or responsibility) in the world, I’m perhaps a bit more cynical. With a large audience comes more responsibility to be more than a model for the ‘Gram who happens to practice yoga.

If you insist on posting photos of yourself in boy shorts and crop top that barely contain your goodies, at least make good use the attention you’re garnering. Include a message about the doshas, explain how postures intertwine with chakras or share a quote from a leading philosopher to help spread knowledge, rather than reaching for the likes, exclamations of “#bodygoals” and “OMG, I could never do that,” and googly-eye emojis that the thirsty will leave in your comments.

So tell me: am I doing too much with my slight admonishment of the men and women of Instagram? Is this the new norm as yoga becomes more prominent in mainstream and African-American culture, or should there be an effort to educate as we entertain?

Living as an Act of Necessity or Awareness

This post came to me when I was fighting a cold, wrapped up in two layers of blanket, tissue by my side and ready to share.

I shuffled into a yoga class, hoping the heat and movement would strike the ick from my system. In soothing dulcet tones, the teacher led us through a brief meditation on breathing, how to hone into our breathing.

“Inhale and exhale as an aware act. We breathe to survive, out of necessity. Instead of just taking the breath, make every breath an act of awareness.”

Such a simple idea, with life-changing effects. Today, on a beautiful Sunday, and as spring brings warm temperatures and blooms on the trees, the idea of living as an act of awareness echos in my spirit. Sunday is the day of the week that people begin to post memes about how “scared” they are that Monday is tomorrow, and with it the return to work. They joke that going to work will bring tears, stress, unhappiness, and they’re only living for the weekend. They are living their Monday through Friday as an act of necessity.

When you approach life with a spirit of gratefulness, you no longer see work or other obligations as a downer. I began taking yoga when I realized that this fear of an essential part of my life – my job – was taking over. The sense of dread that loomed over my spirit in the morning as I drove in and the sadness I felt on the way home after a mental beatdown became to much. My life was being lived out of necessity, not awareness.

In yoga teacher training, we started the day by stating our intention for the day. By focusing on how we felt, negative or positive, we named and claimed our disposition for the day. More often than not, we ended the day in a more positive headspace than in which we started.

In addition to setting an intention for the day, I recommend the following to start living your life as an act of awareness:

  • Gratitude jounaling
  • Move – I use the word move over exercise because whether it’s for the purpose of wellness or not, regular movement of your body makes you more creative and can be a building block to being more fit. Stuck in meetings all day? Make it a walking meeting.
  • Find hobbies and interests that give you release.
  • Spend time with friends and loved ones.

Purposeful living is an every day effort, and some days are easier than others. By taking an active role in your own life, you make the difference between deciding whether you dread every day or if you see every sunrise and sunset as an opportunity to feel awesome.

Starting 2015 on The Right Foot: Setting My Goals

Since I managed to make it into 2015 without doing a 2015 recap post – I’ve not completely dismissed the idea – I figured the first post of the new year can talk about how I’m setting myself up for greatness in 2015.

I gave myself a reality check toward the end of the year. In the span of one year, I graduated with an M.A., started a new job and had a knock-out first year AND completed 200-hour yoga teacher training. Suffice it to say, that’s quite a bit! Hours of studying, full weekends of practice and learning in the studio and sacrifice of time for the things that mattered most to me. So, I say “Clap, Clap!” for me. And….that’s enough. I do want you to remember to recognize your own accomplishments; even if you don’t tell anyone about them, acknowledge your awesomeness.

The year was transformative and I’m ready for the challenges to come!

Continue reading “Starting 2015 on The Right Foot: Setting My Goals”

Inspiration for Creating Your Community: From Running to Yoga

The majority of my career has been spent in fields where diversity is lacking: travel/tourism, public relations/marketing and yoga. Despite the limited number of professionals who look like me, I’ve managed to create a network of contacts, associates and friends who understand the unique challenges people of color face in our shared industry.

Yoga, both as a community of practitioners and as a career, is facing a critical review. Many students feel a sense of otherness while in studio. And while you can find many photogenic yogis on Twitter and Instagram, it’s not likely that you will find a brown or black face among the well-known teachers and leaders at yoga conferences and events. Yoga may bring to mind peace, love and good feelings, but it’s also a business and a billion dollar industry. It’s hard to get excited about investing in an fitness environment that prices you out and doesn’t embrace you when you do venture into a class.

Knowing the challenge of representation in the yoga community, the growth of running clubs started and run by African American men and women has given me hope for what could happen to yoga. Groups like Black Girls RUN!, Black Men Run and Run2Live created multi-city communities from people who felt unwelcome in mainstream running clubs but still wanted to participate in the sport. Black Girls RUN! has been on my radar for about a year now. While they’re runs are far too early for my blood (seriously, what does 4:45 a.m. look like?), I have friends who swear by the camaraderie of the group, clocking multiple-mile runs two to three times per week.  The same high they get, heels pounding the pavement and sweat flying while they surpass personal records and create memories, is what I’d like to see created for men and women of color in yoga.

Now that I’ve made the comparison, I will point out that yoga is a different beast. For starters, most people practice yoga in a studio, which can be a restrictive cost. Running starts at walking, which requires minimal equipment (shoes, hat, iPod for music). Issues about costs can be addressed by offering classes at a reasonable rate in the communities that aren’t being exposed to yoga. Additionally, the running groups participate in races, which is another layer of satisfaction – who doesn’t love the thrill of a race and getting a medal? Yoga typically isn’t associated with competition or awards. By setting and achieving individual and group goals, yoga can create that feeling of accomplishment that some derive from running.

I was lucky enough to be in a certification course with two other Black women. I’ve kept in touch to learn more about their experiences of being a student and in finding a place to be a leader. The USA Today article and the founders of the running groups have inspired me to create a network of independent and in-studio teachers of color. Though Dallas is not considered a major hub like an Atlanta, NY or DC, the city is fitness-focused and greater visibility of black and brown yogis can bring additional people into the fold.

What is the multicultural yoga community like in your city? Do you see a unity like the running groups, or is it more disjointed? What are you doing to create a more inclusive community?

Inspired Post – Planning for Success in October

Entrepreneur and fellow Dallasite Courtney over at Think & Grow Chick inspired this post outlining September’s results and October’s goal planning and challenges. I appreciate the simple way she outlined her post and we all know that accountability helps move the needle. Here I go!


I didn’t set goals for September the way that Courtney did so this section will be lean. Speaking to accomplishments in September, I did manage to post about my yoga journey not once but twice. At my 9-to-5, I got plenty of face-time with department leadership by proposing new projects outside the scope of my role. Finally, I managed to learn quite a bit by falling on my face – I might write about that experience – and saying “No” to a volunteer opportunity that I knew wouldn’t be fulfilled to the level needed by the organization leader.


This quarter of the year is all about development, from professional learning to expanding knowledge of yoga philosophy.

  1. Attend an industry learning and/or networking event – Like most people, the idea of networking fills me with a certain dread. Knowing that the benefit will be bringing back useful information that I can share with the department makes the idea (slightly) more palatable. I’ve pitched two organizations and will follow up to attend as many as my manager allows me.
  2. Increase my knowledge of yoga philosophy – As I learn about the pedagogy of yoga and develop a greater understanding of the physiology of the practice, I must supplement my understanding with historical texts and the latest research.
  3. Update my personal website, develop marketing materials – ROI is the name of the game. While I’ve enjoyed the yoga teacher training on a personal level, it was also a business decision to earn certification. Now I must press further to define who I am as a yoga teacher, my ideal clientele, pricing and availability, working with a studio or a gym and beyond.


  1. As much as I enjoy talking, I hate talking about myself, marketing myself, all of the above and beyond. Even the thought gives me heebie jeebies. I have to move beyond that.
  2. Recognizing that it’s okay to not have the answers. Often we feel like the best path should be illuminated instantaneously. This sets us up to be disappointed when the path is more winding than straight-and-narrow. Reading “Mastery” by George Leonard puts these concerns in perspective: it’s about the long haul, not instant gratification. Patience, grasshopper.


  1. Saying No from time to time – One of the more difficult things I’ve done this year with fantastic results. I wouldn’t call myself a people pleaser so that’s not the issue. I struggled with thinking that I wasn’t following up on what I signed up for. After evaluating my workload and how much I wanted to add, it was best for me to step away and I managed to do so without damaging the relationship.
  2. Talking to my network – In the past my circle has been so small that everyone in it shared my DNA. I’ve begun to realize that I’m limiting opportunities for feedback and connections by staying so close to home in creating my network of advisers, entrepreneurs and associates. Setting up coffee time and shooting out catch-up emails has netted me useful feedback about upcoming plans.

Next week we graduate from the teacher training – I expect it to emotional and exciting – and the real adventure begins. Eight weeks has flown by quickly.

Check out Think & Grow Chick and join the B-Side Facebook group for inspirational discussions with female entrepreneurs!



Getting Past the Fear of Being “Different”

Photo via HA! Designs on Flickr

This morning, over some amazing Challah French toast from Method: Caffenation & Fare (seriously, go get some), I got into a conversation about the expectations placed on us from others with a Twitter connection turned real friend, CJ. As someone who has rubbed against the grain, if not fully gone against it, at some points in my life (cutting off all my hair at 23 and going natural, transitioning to vegetarian and trying veganism, working for myself for nine months), I know how uncomfortable it can make others when you forge your own path. I’ve had people express concern about my protein levels, as though I’m close to malnutrition from the lack of meat. And it never failed to amaze me that people can congratulate me on the “bravery” of being natural while saying they could never do that themselves. Why do we continue to hold ourselves back from trying something unexpected for fear of judgment from those who are unaffected by our decisions?

Don’t get me wrong. I get it. As someone who has a from-a-distance relationship with church after years of attendance, I sometimes feel the societal pressure, especially as an African-American in the South, to belong to a place of worship. The bonds of religion are strong, and to be someone who exists outside the community of fellowship marks me as different. People want to invite me to their churches, sure in their faith that I’ll be changed as soon as I cross the threshold. While I appreciate their invitation, I am secure enough in myself to know it would be an exercise in making someone else comfortable rather than a personal spiritual fulfillment, and that is not how I want to exercise my faith. My spirituality is personal, and I expect the same consideration for this stance that I give to those who wouldn’t be found anywhere else but church on Sunday between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m.

The most freeing thing I’ve learned, what brought me the most peace and what sustained me in difficult decisions: the only person I have to make happy is me. That thought is freeing. It’s also dangerous to some. The thought that a woman is not tied to a god, a family, a man or society’s expectations means she can’t be constrained. You can’t guilt her, goad her, shame her or box her in. I aspire to be that woman every day, because what is one person’s “different” is my reality, and that is okay with me.

Marketers, Don’t Let Your Videos Sell You Short

Recently I’ve noticed that some of my entrepreneur friends are moving into video elements as part of their marketing. Videos as part of a robust content marketing strategy can elevate a small business above competitors, especially when the person behind the brand can shine and bring personality to the forefront. But when visual marketing is bad, it can go really left. I’m talking shaky handling, no focus (both in lens and in purpose), poor audio quality and leaving viewers with a sense of “What did I just watch? And why?” I can’t possibly let this stand because my friends are nothing if not smart. So I’m offering a helping hand and some simple tips to ensure that the next video sent out via social media, email or embedded on a website is the game-changer that brings clients running.

1. If your videos are shot primarily on a mobile phone, please turn your phone.

Seriously. It’s that simple. Shooting horizontally rather than vertically opens up the frame and gets rid of those black stripes on each side. Need a snazzy song to help you remember? Chescaleigh has you covered! Seriously, she explains it very well, while singing. What more do you need?

2. Script your videos.

While I am sure everyone believes they are hilarious and always on-cue (inside their head), there is something about a being in front of a recording device that strikes even the most clever of us dumb. To combat any kind of stage fright or forgetfulness, make a script. This could be as simple as “First scene: in front of store, second scene: at the counter with customer, third scene: in back office.” Knowing ahead of time what you should be doing on screen means no hemming and hawing plus fewer minutes spent on the editing process.

3. Know what you want to achieve with your video.

Call to action, call to action, call to action. I can’t stress enough that you must have a call to action. This applies to all aspects of marketing: email marketing, landing pages, social messages, etc. And it can apply to your video marketing as well. YouTube allows users to include links to external content; Instagram gives you space to include a long-form description and drive people to your site. Videos are fun, sure, but they should also have a secondary action after viewership.

4. Where you can, invest in professional videography.

Depending upon on how much video you plan on doing, consider investing in a good videographer for special events and occasions. Let’s say you’re a wedding photographer. Get a short video detailing how you work with clients to set up the perfect day of shots, how you edit for narrative story and how you present to your clients. Consider having a satisfied customer couple do a short testimonial on-camera about how you captured their day perfectly and were so easy to work with. Now, not only are your photos your content and selling tool, your process and customers are too.

Quick and dirty tips: Buy a tripod (for those shaky hand videos); find a cheap editing tool for transitions and creativity; grab your photogenic clients and friends, and have fun!

Inspiration: Fit Men Cook, Hippie Heathen, Naptural85

Mashable has more tips for video production. If you work regularly with video, what tips would you give to those who are just starting out?