Yoga: Religion or Exercise?

It’s a touchy subject isn’t it? Maybe it’s because I live in the South, but the question “Is yoga a religion?” does come up and I want to share my view on how I handle it. Since yoga has become more mainstream and has found it’s way into gyms, schools, and even churches, there is a lot of room for different opinions on the spiritual aspect of yoga and how it fits into western religious beliefs.

There are purists on both sides who would argue strongly that without the spiritual aspect, yoga is simply stretching. There are also christians who believe that yoga is going against their own beliefs and they are skeptical of trying it for this reason.

I say this: Let Yoga be whatever it is YOU are seeking, not what someone tells you it must be. Let it be there for you in any way you need. And let others enjoy it how they need to without judgement.

My friend Heather helping me lead this class

My friend Heather helping me lead this class

If it’s the strong physical practice you desire then so be it. That’s OK. There is no better way to move your body than through the asanas and breath work of yoga. I am so happy more people are trying it and feeling the physical benefits.

If you seek spiritual guidance and direction from Yoga then great- Go deep, study, and absorb everything you can from this ancient practice. Read, learn, and embrace it.  Find a teacher who is knowledgeable about this side of yoga and practice with them.

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But please don’t tell either side who is right and who is wrong. I know students who cannot stand incense, chanting, or meditation. I don’t judge that because I know they need something else from Yoga and who am I to stop them?

I also know teachers who get irritated and defensive if gyms or fitness centers teach yoga without using sanskrit or bringing the spiritual side into the practice. In the big picture, who cares? Let people enjoy what they can from a beautiful and complex form of exercise and practice how you want.

Nice big turn-out for Yoga at their church!

Nice big turn-out for Yoga at their church!

I recently had the opportunity with some friends to teach yoga at a very large Baptist church group fitness symposium. It was amazing to witness all of the congregation in prayer pose and moving in unison. There was no barrier or judgement to what anyone believed or who they worshipped- we were just all there together breathing and moving and being present. They were connected to themselves and we were connected to each other for that brief period of time.

Me and Emily leading the class through vinyasa

Me and Emily leading the class through vinyasa

Isn’t that what Yoga is all about; Connection?

Don’t Stop Believin’ (or Eating)

We set goals. We meet goals. We mess up. We start over. We get inspired. We get lost.

It’s all good. It’s OK. Trust the Process.

Progress takes time and can be very frustrating. It often seems so easy to give up. Sometimes just when we are ready to give up, a new ray of light shines down and we see something we hadn’t seen before. Or someone calls, or we read something inspiring, or synchronicity steps in some other way.

Whether your goals are centered around physical fitness, your career, personal life, or financial- you will hit walls. You will get so sick of doing what you think is the “right” thing over and over and not seeing the results that you want fast enough.

If you are starting a new way of eating or working-out this probably sounds very familiar. When things get tough we want to return to our old patterns that feel comfortable or to that “tried and true” diet that allowed you to lose 20 lbs five years ago. It doesn’t matter that you gained it all back, you liked the diet because it seemed to work. Fast.

But there’s another choice now; Trust the Process.

Don’t give up. Don’t give in to those thoughts that tell you it’s foolish to keep going. It might take weeks for you to see any differences, or it might takes months. In fact, if you’re doing it correctly by eating enough calories of real, whole foods then the results will most likely take much longer than you expect. Trust the Process.

Your friends and co-workers may be limiting their food intake and showing excitement over changes on the scale but what happens when their diet is done? How does someone re-learn to eat without sabotaging themselves?

Answer: Don’t stop eating. Don’t stop believing that you are an incredible machine that needs clean fuel. You are a work of art that deserves the Best, not the quickest. Don’t fall for the marketing this time of year for the many products that claim miracles. Just eat. And believe. And Trust the Process.

Here is my 3 month progress selfie after starting my clean eating meal plan. Although it’s no longer a plan, it’s a way of life.  After lowering my body-fat by 10% I am now starting to fill out and see some much anticipated muscle growth. Weight is still the same but my clothes are fitting much differently.

clean eating month 3

For more information check out www.createwholehealth.com

~Much Love~

5 Healthy Things I Did Last Year

Last year I explored and discovered a lot of new things. As I was building my practice and yoga teaching, I experimented with many different ways of eating and moving to see what felt best to me and what I most wanted to share with people. I realize that everyone is different, and what works for one, may not work for another. As I tried different things I found the ones that worked for me and I found amazing things that can help others too. Some of these I keep in my life, others I recommend to those in need. Here are some things you can try:

1. I varied my work-outs. I tried new things like High Intensity Interval Training, running, bootcamps, restorative yoga. All kinds of things I thought I would never do. It’s good to switch things up so your body doesn’t get accustomed to the same thing.

Jacobs ladder

2. I added more meat into my diet. I started the year basically a vegetarian, eating meat only occasionally. I was eating mostly plants and a lot of fiber but I wasn’t feeling lean or fitting into my clothes like I wanted. I began eating more meat on a daily basis and upping my protein intake. My energy levels went through the roof and I reduced my body fat by 10%

I paid homage to my midwestern roots with a squirt of ketchup on top

I paid homage to my midwestern roots with a squirt of ketchup on top

3. I got more sleep. I stopped falling asleep on the couch and instead I took myself to bed early. Sometimes so early I felt ridiculous if anyone found out I was in my pajamas at 7:30pm. But my body responded amazingly and I began waking naturally with the sun and not needing caffeine. I enjoyed my nightly ritual of reading and meditating in bed, falling naturally into a restful 8 hour sleep. I’m not going to lie, sometimes I do pinterest in bed and it totally relaxes me. It’s my digital vision board–  Don’t hate. sleep well

4. I gave up mindless snacking. Just because I cook and bake healthy things with healthy ingredients doesn’t give me a green light to nosh all day. I stopped keeping sweets around my house because I found myself grazing all day and not being hungry enough for real food. This changed the way I fed my body and in turn changed the way my body feels and looks. I have more muscle mass, more energy, and less fat.  Now I enjoy sweets as an occasional treat, not a daily staple.

oatmeal cookies

5. I surrendered to what is. This is a big one and didn’t really happen til the end of the year. I am an ambitious capricorn who loves to push and pursue my goals. I found myself getting very frustrated when things didn’t move as quickly as I’d like them to, or when things just didn’t go the way I thought they should. I finally resolved to let go of control and let things unfold. I became very grateful for what I have, not what I want. I became engrossed in the present circumstances and gave them my full attention. I LET GO when things felt wrong. It feels so much better than holding on.

love stones

What are you going to try this year to get healthier? For more info please visit me at www.CreateWholeHealth.com

Holiday Love

Sharing the spirit of Love with all of you this Holiday Season!

Christmas Love

Christmas is over and for me it came and went without a lot of fanfare. It was a quiet day spent with those I love and we enjoyed some delicious home-cooked food and presents, of course. I got a beautiful bell to use for yoga. I am starting a little collection of chimes and bells it seems. I think the Universe is sending me these things as a sign.

chimes and bellls

I met some new friends, saw some old friends and listened to a TON of Christmas music.

I baked and baked and baked and shared the goodies with friends, family, and neighbors.

I bought a tiny tree that I plan on keeping as a houseplant. I know Norfolk pines are fussy and can get dry, but I am hopeful. I would like to keep this guy for awhile.

norfolk pine

And now it’s back to teaching, yoga, writing, coaching, and working to take CreateWholeHealth to the next level. But I never really stop doing any of those things, even when on holiday. To me, it’s a lifestyle, it’s a love, it’s who I am; I’ve never thought of it as a job. I keep thinking “I should get a real job” but then nothing sounds as fun and exciting as what I’m doing right now- so here I go!

It’s ok to not always try so hard to be somewhere that we aren’t. Sometimes where we are is exactly where we are supposed to be……

Happy Holidays to you and your family!

Love

~Carole-Ann~

10 Ways to Get Uncomfortable

I  love being comfortable. I like my yoga pants, thick socks, blankets, and heated seats in my car. I like comfort food: sweet creamy gelato, warm baked sweet potatoes with cinnamon, hot chicken soup, and my beloved overnight oats. I like my gym that feels like my 2nd home. I like going to a yoga studio and teacher that feels familiar and I don’t have to figure out where to put my jacket or what her teaching style will be.

I liked my comfortable job that I no longer have. I liked knowing that I was really good at it and didn’t have to prove myself anymore. I liked the paycheck and the predictability of my lifestyle. It was all very comfortable.

At some point, either willingly, or kicking and screaming, we will all be faced with stepping outside of our comfort zones. When this happens we can react  2 ways:

1. Freak out and panic

2. Embrace the change and grow.

There is a saying that goes like this:

comfort-zone

The magic sets in after #2 and it takes awhile, but it happens. This past year I’ve done things that have made me very uncomfortable and with each experience I am growing and learning what I’m capable of.

We  might find we actually can run more than 1 mile on the treadmill. We can make new friends in unexpected places, we can find new work that fulfills us in new ways, and we can learn to feel at home in a new gym or without a gym at all.

This week  try practicing deliberately  stepping outside of your comfort zone and see what magic you might find. Here are some easy ways to start:

-Take a new route on your way to or from work, be aware of your surroundings.

-Talk to someone new that you’ve never talked to before. Be the first to start the conversation.

-Sign-up for a 5k or a fitness event in a different neighborhood or community center.

-Attempt a new recipe from Pinterest you think looks exciting but wouldn’t normally try.

– Take a class in something you’ve never done that has no purpose other than pure joy. Mine would be ballet.

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-Wear something that makes you feel beautiful, even if you aren’t leaving the house.

-Change your sleeping habits. Go to bed earlier, or stay up later. Sleep in later on a weekend, get up earlier on a weekday.

-Take your spouse somewhere unexpected without telling them. Don’t blame me if this backfires, but it’s worth a shot.

– Try a new way of eating to see how your body responds.

-Read a book on an unfamiliar religion or spiritual practice.

The more you practice being uncomfortable, the less it will be.

 

Emotional Eating

What do you think of when you hear the term “emotional eating”? Do you imagine compulsive bingeing on break-up ice cream sundaes? Do you think it only exists for weak people who cannot control themselves around food?  Do you think it is an excuse people use to overeat? I think emotional eating has become a common way of life for most of our modern society. With the amount of marketing money spent by the food industry and the pressure for people to achieve sometimes unrealistic goals, we have all probably experienced emotional eating at some time in our lives. Using food to placate and soothe ourselves is emotional eating. Eating for reasons other than nourishing our bodies is emotional eating. It is not a sign of weakness, it is a coping mechanism.

root vegetables

On my own journey of clean eating, I am discovering that I experience emotional eating on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be a dramatic episode of bingeing and purging, it can be as simple as eating out of boredom, frustration, stress, or any other reason other than physical hunger. My current meal plan has forced me to ask myself several times a day “Am I hungry or just bored?” or “Why exactly do I want to eat that?” It has made me become AWARE of my choices and my actions, and subsequently, the consequences.

When we start to slow down and feel the emotions connected to our eating we take the first step in separating our feelings from our eating habits. When we learn what we are truly hungry for we then can make the choices necessary to feed that hunger rather than habitually reaching for food. This can be a new way of looking at things for people who are changing the way they eat. It might be much harder to deal with emotions rather than eat your favorite, familiar, comfort food.

mexican pastries

I find myself craving sweets directly after a meal. Or sometimes it’s a texture of a food I crave- something smooth and creamy when I’m agitated. Or salty when I’m happy. Cravings can indicate many things- physically or emotionally. Step 1 is to slow down enough to actually feel what you are feeling. Then decide what it is you really are hungry for- a hug? a talk? a nap? validation? approval? rest?

I LOVE this quote from Geneen Roth’s book “Women, Food, and God”, to me it sums up everything-

“We don’t want to EAT hot fudge sundaes as much as we want our lives to BE hot fudge sundaes. We want to come home to ourselves”

We want to be whole. We want to experience our whole range of emotions- both good and bad, and covering them up with food does not allow that to happen. The healthier our diet is and the more nourishment we get from real, whole foods, the less likely our cravings will come from a physical aspect. So we can then deal with our true hunger in a different way and begin to figure out what will feed us on a deeper level.

How to Make a Vision Board

There is a theory that what we focus on is what creates our reality: that we energetically draw to us anything that is in alignment with what we feel and think. There are MANY books to read on The Law of Attraction and I find it fascinating and empowering. People have been studying and living by this law for centuries. But what does it mean in our modern, everyday, busy lives?

It means being positive, optimistic, and reaching for what you want in life. It means setting intentions and keeping your mental focus on those intentions. It means aligning your energy, your mood, your spirit, with that which you seek in every way possible.

One of the best tools for this is visualization. Keeping our dreams and hopes in full view can be a huge help in manifesting our dreams. I’ve been making vision boards for a few years now and I find the process is always uplifting and helps to sharpen my goals and clarify my intentions.

Here is what you’ll need to create your Vision Board:

-Old magazines- all kinds, don’t just go for the ones you always read.

-Scissors

-Removeable Glue Dots (available at Michael’s or craft stores)

-Thick poster board

-Your Imagination!

I start clipping days before I am ready. It takes my mind time to let go of inhibitions, doubts, and other distractions in order to be really freely creative.

vision boards

Clip EVERYTHING that catches your eye, you can go back and sort through them later. Don’t over-think it- if you like it- Clip it!

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Once you’ve gathered a good messy pile of clippings begin placing them on your poster board in any order that is pleasing to you. You can categorize things, or just go by what feels good or looks good. Chances are they will take on some type of order without your help….

vision boards

This is the fun part when your aspirations really begin to come into view and you are able to move things around depending on how it feels. Feeling is a big part of creating a vision board.

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Use pictures as well as words that inspire or motivate you

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The removable glue dots can be placed on the back of the photo and allows you to move them around rather than sticking like glue.

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After I’ve assembled everything I will let it sit for a day or two and go back to look at it. I might shift things here or there or add or remove an image. I always somehow “know” when it’s done!

It’s so interesting to see how my boards have changed over the years. They are like visual journals.

vision board

Once you’re happy with your vision board be sure to put it somewhere you will see it everyday, that’s how the “magic” works! Most importantly, it should make you feel AMAZING and EXCITED when you look at it. That energy is what creates the movement of those things into your life.

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