Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe + February Events

“Your vibe attracts your tribe.”
“What you seek is seeking you.” – Rumi
“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

The end of 2016 was a rocky time for me. Changes, necessary changes, were happening. While I recognized the utility of these developments, they still didn’t feel good. I have been working on feeling comfortable with discomfort, as that is usually a sign that circumstances are changing, but it’s a challenge. In 2016, part of my self-development also included shooting my shot: inviting people to coffee, lunch or drinks and saying “I need your help.” Vulnerability can be scary, but I found that once people know they can help you, they’re more than willing to do so.

As such, I started to notice my network expanding as friends made introductions, acquaintances became advisors and I became comfortable in making requests and subsequently helping to connect others as friends reciprocated with their own needs.

In January of the new year, I am now starting to see the benefits from the connections I made in 2016. The statement that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with is true. As you become the least smart person in the room, you grow and expand your knowledge. Thankfully, this notion applies to both my professional life and my fitness life, as I connect with yoga friends for two events this month!

Feb. 18 – Soul Sistas Yoga Kickoff

Last year, a friend said she looked around and realized she knew several black female yoga teachers and enthusiast, so she brought us together and Soul Sistas Yoga was formed. J, Kawanah, Tam and I are all dedicated to creating sacred spaces for women of color to practice yoga and connect breath, movement and energy.

I’ll be leading two yoga sessions at our debut event on Feb. 18, 12:30 – 3:30 p.m. at the SunstoneFIT Mockingbird Plaza (5400 E. Mockingbird Lane).

Session A – Beginners’ Yoga: 12:30 PM – 1:30 PM

Mental Health and Meditation Workshop: 1:45 PM – 2:15 PM

Session B – All Levels Yoga: 2:30 PM – 3:30 PM

Tickets range from $15 for one class to $40 for the entire day of learning. Get your ticket and then get one for a friend who keeps promising to come to yoga with you but never has made a class.

Feb. 25 – Athleta Namaste After the 5K (Leap of Faith Motivational Run and Yoga)

I’m all about this event because it reminds me of Wanderlust 108, which I’ve been to twice and will be attending this year again on April 15.

I can manage 3.2 miles of jogging and who doesn’t deserve some good stretching and breathing after accomplishing that, right? When Kory, the event organizer who I met at Wanderlust last year, asked me to teach the Namaste After the 5K yoga session, I freaked a bit. I had to remind myself that my vibe, what I’d been cultivating, was bringing me new opportunities. If I run from them, I’m not being true to myself.

namaste after the 5K image

As the yoga teacher for Namaste After the 5K, that means I have to invite, you, your mom and your partner to come out to Ronald Kirk Bridge and Felix Lozada Gateway (Continental Avenue Bridge) on Feb. 25. The warm-up starts at 7:30 with Orangetheory Fitness and the 5K kicks off at 8:45 for runners and 9 a.m. for walkers. If you’re coming for the yoga, that starts at 10:45 a.m. Get your ticket today!


These two events in February came because of the tribe I attracted, as well as saying yes, even to actions that were outside my comfort zone at the time. I’d love to know what you gained when what you were seeking found you because of your energy.

 

Continuing Education: My First Yoga Workshop

I’ve talked about how hard it is to stay on top of my own fitness. This weekend, I challenged myself to keep learning by attending one of Sunstone Academy’s yoga workshops. (Full disclosure: I work for Sunstone part time as a teacher and I attended Sunstone Academy for my 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training.)

In the past few months, Sunstone has offered workshops on diet and nutrition with Dr. Sommer White. This weekend, the workshops focused on advancing one’s yoga practice. Of the four available courses, I went to “The Art of Arm Balancing” on Saturday afternoon.

If she can do this, I totally can as well, right?
If she can do this, I totally can as well, right?

Y’all. I don’t think I’ve challenged my body this much since…ever. The warm-up alone, as we found and engaged the entire core, had me sweating bullets. By the time the teacher, Lady Yoga, got us into our first arm balance (the ever-approachable Crow), I knew I was in for a major workout. As Lady Yoga explained, arm balancing is not just arm strength; you have to engage mula and uddiyana bandhas. These bandhas help us lift and stay into balances and inversions.

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Over the course of the workshop, Lady Yoga led the group of about 20-25 people, half of whom were also teachers like me, through Crow, Side Crow, Baby Crow, Running Man, Flying Pigeon, Eight Angle (which I could not get to save my life) and the most challenging for me, Visvamtrasana.

Nailed it!
Nailed it!

Not since training have I been so challenged in my practice, and I loved every moment. I will be attending more yoga workshops, focusing on both the asana (physical practice) and philosophy. Keep up with what workshops I’ll be attending in my quest for knowledge by following me on Twitter: @veleisap.

And if the workshop wasn’t enough, I decided to hop on the Grit Fitness X Luke’s Locker kickoff challenge. Whew, y’all, lemme tell you: the ladies of Grit Fitness are amazing. In an hour, we went through a dance cardio, kickboxing and glute workout and I felt (and still feel) all of it. Check out their latest fun challenge: #LUKESGRIT, plus my sweaty selfie with Annabelle, who kept me moving throughout class!

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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?

 

Festival Review: 5K & Yoga at Wanderlust 108 in Houston

I mentioned earlier this year that one of my 2016 goals will be attending a yoga retreat, so when my mom said we should attend Wanderlust 108 in Houston, I was all over it. Wanderlust was on my radar but I thought they only went to the standard festival locations: Colorado, NY, beautiful islands with amazing views. Imagine my surprise and delight that they came to my hometown of Houston, Texas.

Wanderlust - me and mom

The experience was fantastic, and Wanderlust is now high up on the list of events I would attend again. Here a few of the fun-learned lessons from the event:

  • Plan to fail and have a sense of humor about it – My mom and I got all the way (30 minute drive) to event location and then realized we’d left our yoga mats at the apartment. At that point, all we could do was laugh at ourselves. Thankfully, Pravacana Mats was one of the vendors and we ended up with both a mat for the day and for the memories.
  • Accept what you can control and embrace what you can’t – Wanderlust billed the event as a “mindful triathlon,” starting with a 5K, followed by an hour and a half of yoga and ending with meditation. The forecast stated heavy rain all morning, but the event was going on rain or shine. Rather than drop out of the event, my mom and I went full force into the 5K. It started out cool and dry and halfway through the rain was coming in sideways. What can you do at that point but enjoy the natural cool down of the rain? Thankfully, it all cleared up for a lovely 90 minutes of yoga with Faith Hunter (a hilarious teacher who kept the energy high) and Brook Cheatem (who I need to go find, since she teaches in Dallas).
  • Recovery is as important as preparation – confession time: I am not a runner. In fact, I low-key dislike running long distances. Give me sprints and I’m a happy camper. So five kilometers of running had my hip flexors, glutes and thighs upset with me. The post-run rolling with TriggerPoint helped me focus on those trouble spots in a new way, and I plan to incorporate the lessons into my regular stretching routine.
  • Enjoy the moment – though I may be of the “look at me” generation, I have never understood the compulsive need to document every moment of my life on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Though it wasn’t very “yogi” of me, I wanted to smack the camera out of everyone’s hand during asana and tell them to focus not how cute they think they look but instead center in on the energy of 200+ people who want to enjoy the moment.
  • Say yes to new experiences – one of the sponsors, #ActuallySheCan, set up a trampoline and a photographer, which means of course I couldn’t say no. You can’t avoid new experiences for being afraid of how you’ll look to others!

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How to Do Yoga & Surf In the City

One of my 2016 goals is to attend a yoga retreat. There’s something about the thought of waking up on the beach, stepping out to truly salute the sun and then taking a dip in the ocean that puts me in the permanent “vacation” frame of mind. Plus, I want to learn how to surf! Until then, I’m stuck in the concrete jungle of Dallas.

Apparently, being in the relatively land-locked city doesn’t mean I can’t figure out how to find my center while challenging my balance. Last week, I found myself at City Surf Fitness down in Deep Ellum with a group of fellow fitness folks (gosh, I love alliteration), hanging 10 and trying not to tip myself like a little teapot right off the board.

Finding Balance at City Surf Fitness
Don’t I look really calm, as I try to work my guns? Alex of Just Alex (on my right) was a champ and kept me laughing the entire time. (Photo courtesy of Dallas Fitness Ambassadors Facebook page)

The very laid-back instructor, who looked and sounded exactly what you would think of a surfing coach, took us through several incarnations of the City Surf Fitness workouts: Big Kahuna, Beach Body Bootcamp, City Surf Circuits and Buddha Board. While I had a love/hate relationship with City Surf Circuits because of the way it worked my body from head to toe, as a yoga instructor, the Buddha Board held a special place in my heart. I could imagine myself out on the waves, finding my balance, as we moved through Warrior 2, Reverse Warriors and Child’s Pose. Sweat poured from my face and once I stopped rocking, I could sense an inner calm that belied my intense effort to find stillness.    After working up quite the sweat, we were treated to delicious juices and smoothies from Simply Fit Meals. The Almond Mylk was sweet without being overwhelming, thanks to the dates. I have a bag of dates in my fridge, waiting to be used in a homemade snack bar recipe. The Sweet Beet could have used a touch more sweetness, but when I added it to a smoothie, it was the ideal amount of flavor. Simply Fit Meals Juices - Dallas Fitness Ambassador I definitely need to try my hand (and foot) again at working the board. Check my Instagram to see if I make it! Thank you to the Dallas Fitness Ambassadors group for coordinating the workout, I’m hooked and I can’t wait for the next event.

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.

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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.

Shopping for Your Workout Without Going Broke

I got a fun package in the mail this week: new exercise tights. Colorful, stretchy, sweat-wicking workout gear. Me, being who I am, I immediately shared it to Instagram.

A photo posted by Leisa (@leisawithane) on

 

Several friends wanted to know about how to shop for their workouts. I’m now working out or teaching upwards of 4-5 times a week, and I’m learning about making a limited supply look good. Plus, according to the sales numbers, activewear represents nearly 16 percent of the total apparel market, which means we’re spending plenty on workout clothes. 

Here are some of the things that I’ve learned about shopping for a workout wardrobe that will keep motivated to move.

Buy on clearance. Who doesn’t love a good sale? Online retailers and brick and mortar shops alike have to clear out merchandise regularly, which means a great deal on clothing. Make friends with the team at your favorite store and sign up for email alerts to be in the know about upcoming sales and specials.

Shop at the end of the season. In addition to sales, shop seasons. Once the temperatures start to change, and when you have drastic temperature changes like we do in Texas, you need to move from sleeveless singlets to layers. Some of the deepest discounts I’ve come across have been during the summer and winter gear swap in merchandise.

Be open to non-name brand clothing. Some yogis, CrossFitters and Zumba-heads are label-conscious and only wear Nike, Adidas and Lululemon. But me, the way my checking and my savings is set up…I can’t afford to drop $75-$100 on tights and $20-30 on tanks and tees. Not only am I sweating pretty heavily every workout, I’m washing items at least weekly. While I am not spending $5 on throwaway t-shirts and cotton tights that go nubby in one wash, I do believe in a bit of frugality. I’ve found that J.C. Penney, Kohl’s and H&M (home of fast fashion) provide a cute and comfortable outfits, usually with wicking material that helps keep you dry while you’re lifting, dancing or stretching.

Choose your prints wisely to mix and match. While we all want to be cute in colorful patterns, a monochromatic color palette means no one knows how often you’ve worn a piece. Maybe your lucky color is black, blue, red or green. Use the solid color as a base and throw in patterns for variety.

Here are a few links around the ‘Net that will help you maintain your wardrobe:

How to avoid pilling in yoga pants: 6 athletic wear questions answered – via Today.com

Toxic chemicals lurking in your yoga pants – via PopSugar

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

 

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?

The Importance of Sensing Where Your Body Is In Yoga

When I began practicing yoga, I threw myself into it with the zeal of a neophyte. Much like other fitness-minded folks, I wanted to be the best: stretch the furthest, hold the pose the longest and generally be awesome. Instead of looking building and using strength in my practice, I relied on flexibility in my joints to get me into postures.

Post-training, after learning about prime movers – muscles that create the movement – and the proper alignment in many common postures – I approached my practice in a new way: using proprioception.

Proprioception is “the sense of the relative position of neighboring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement.” In many yoga postures, you’ll need to be aware of specific body parts, from head to toe. For example, when in Warrior 1, you have to be aware of the following for your back leg:

  • outside edge of the foot pressing down,
  • hip rotating forward as you bring the hips square to the front,
  • and the muscles on the front of the thigh engaged to resist the urge to rely on flexibility to bring the front thigh to parallel.

Keeping awareness of these actions can take the mind away from centering. Through proprioception, you begin to sense that your hips are open to the side, rather than the front, and that your inner thighs aren’t working to keep you lifted.

Awareness of oneself, both physical and mental, takes a yoga practice from level 1 to level 10. Use these three tips the next time you’re on the mat.

  1. Take an assessment of your body. Use a mirror, and if there isn’t one nearby, use your mind to scan your body from head to toe. Has your knee gone over your toe in Bent Knee Triangle? Is one side of your body pulling forward in Twisted Chair pose? Make adjustments as necessary.
  2. Are your muscles engaged or are you relying on the body’s natural flexibility? Sure, you can balance in Half Moon, but it’s more powerful to use your obliques to stay lifted than to collapse and use the floor for stabilization.
  3. Back out of it. Part of honoring your body, day to day, is recognizing that maybe you’re not there yet. I had that experience with Standing Forehead to Knee. I just knew that I could get my head to my knee. I tried it several times, and had to accept that I had a death grip on my foot in an effort to extend the bent leg, compromising the goal of the posture.

Be fully engaged, listening to your body and honoring where it is. Until the next post, Namaste.