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.

half moon

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?

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

Ego: How to Locate, Stimulate, and Eradicate.

There is a lot of talk in yoga and spirituality about the ego, or ego-based thinking, and it can be confusing what it actually means. To me the ego is a lot like yoga, it has different meanings for everyone but there are some general characteristics. You can usually identify ego by the following assumptions:

Ego is based on superficial existence, tangible stuff, and the absence of connection. Ego demands immediate satisfaction and will go to any means to get it.

Ego insists on being right, being in control, and making fast decisions. Ego tells you to do a backbend in yoga class even though you’re tired and your shoulders hurt. Ego whispers to you to buy the car you can’t really afford because it will make you appear richer. Ego loves when you push yourself too far physically, emotionally, or mentally.

Ego will always suggest that you do things for the approval of others, not for yourself. Ego loves competition and will always insist on winning. Ego thrives on drama and will encourage it often.

Ego despises when we surrender to a higher power or the universe to take care of things.

beach sunset

Ego cannot co-exist with: self-confidence, faith, healthy self-esteem, contentment, peace, willingness, and trust. The ego will retreat to a dark corner when faced with any of the above.

Ego says “I am what I buy, what I do, what I wear, what I make, what I look like, and who I am with”

Ego doesn’t like to hang around: humility, generosity, care, concern, surrender, grace, or acceptance.

Ego lives and feeds on: approval, attention, gossip, worry, division, hierarchy, status, labels, titles, adoration, action, noise, distraction, over-consumption, and denial.

Ego loves being underlined and made to feel important.

How to tell you when you are living from your ego: you are always tired, stressed, feel pulled in a million directions, resentful, worried, angry, fearful, jealous, manipulative, scattered, unfocused, cranky, pissed, lonely, disconnected, anxious, tight, tense, miserable, and competitive.

Being authentic and true to yourself means making decisions based on things other than the Ego. Like…your heart….and not worrying what others might think. Loving your life the way it is without trying to change it everyday. Being happy with who you are and not trying to change it everyday.

buddha

Without Ego, life might start to be……. simple, pleasurable, easy, fun, open, exciting, enjoyable, quiet, still, flowing, magical, sweet, delicious, abundant, real, full, surprising, rich, fulfilling, meaningful, deep, quenching, satisfying, graceful, light, airy, and fluffy.

Weights or Cardio for Best Results?

A common mistake when working out to lose weight or lower body-fat is overdoing cardio and not adding in enough weight-resistant training. I see people on the treadmill day after day, week after week, trying to change their body composition without ever picking up a weight.  I think women especially are afraid to lift weights in fear of “bulking up” or putting on too much muscle. The truth is it’s very difficult for most women to build a significant amount of muscle or to become too bulky without using drugs.

Strong muscle tissue supports the joints and ligaments and helps to prevent injury. As we age our muscle mass decreases by 4% each year; a good reason to invest early in building stores of muscle. And a strong, sculpted body looks as healthy as it is. Muscles support sagging skin that often accompanies weight-loss and helps to create a toned, taught appearance.

I’m a big believer in combining strength training, cardio, and flexibility for the best results. Cardio exercise is a great way to burn calories and strengthen our heart, but building muscle with weight training benefits you in different ways that contribute to weight loss and fat loss. Muscle continues to burn calories even at rest so all your workouts are more efficient.

I’ve lifted weights since I was 20 years old and it’s definitely my favorite thing to do in the gym.
Lunges

I feel powerful and confident when I lift and I find the results are faster than anything else combined with proper nutrition. I also practice and teach yoga and love the flexibility and length my muscles achieve in yoga. It’s the perfect compliment to weight training.

Cardio is my least favorite thing to do- I only do 2 or 3x’s a week and because I’m building muscle I don’t need as much. I’ve been using the Jacob’s Ladder which is a hellish device that burns about 500 calories in a 30 minute session. It’s the hardest cardio workout I’ve ever done. We have a love/hate relationship!

Jacobs ladder

Recently I’ve started incorporating HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) into my cardio days to mix things up. Short bursts of intense movement done back to back to keep the heart rate elevated. Hard but effective!

A typical HIIT workout I would do might be:
2 minutes on high incline treadmill
25 jump squats
25 jump splits
2 minutes on elliptical
1 minute rest
Repeat the whole cycle 3 or 4 times

Finding the right work-out with the right meal plan is key to reaching your goals. I’ve changed my work-out while I’m on my 6 week meal plan to heavier weights and more intense cardio sessions, but not necessarily more often. My goal is to build muscle and lower my body-fat. I don’t really care what the scale says because muscle weighs more than fat. I’m more concerned with my muscle mass index climbing.

Here is a half-way progress shot- 3 weeks into my 6 week workout and meal plan. Feeling very strong and excited about seeing results!!

6 week ,eal plan

How to Have a Great Morning

Are you a night owl or a morning person? Chances are you one or the other at least most of the time. But due to the way our modern schedules are designed, we seldom have the luxury to sleep in or stay up as late as we’d like. There are ways, however, to begin to work with your body, rather than against it when it comes to waking up. Sleep seems to be the last thing on most peoples’ lists of healthy habits yet it’s one of the most important. Proper sleep can prevent obesity, weight gain, illness, premature aging of the skin, and even mood disorders. That’s why it’s #1 on my list for a great morning! There are other things you can incorporate into your daily routine and see what works best for you. Remember, a habit takes 16 days to become a behavior so start now and have better mornings every day!

1) Sleep Enough

Sleep enough for your body to be fully rested. Seems obvious but not so easy to do. We all have different requirements for the amount of sleep we need in order to feel refreshed and rested. The first step is figuring out your natural body clock. Try going to bed when you are tired (for real, not just going through the motions) and allow yourself to sleep until you wake naturally. This might take a few nights or even weeks to notice a pattern, but eventually you will be in synch with your body’s own natural sleep patterns. Don’t worry if it’s 6, 7, 8, or 9 hours; we are all different, and age, stress, and hormones can create changes in this as well.

sleep well

2) Don’t Jump Out Of Bed

Remain still upon first waking rather than jumping out of bed and tripping over the cat on your way to the bathroom with the radio blaring. Try lying in bed for a moment to reflect on your dreams and the day ahead of you. Saying some positive affirmations while connecting with your breath in this half-conscious state is a very powerful tool for setting a positive tone to your whole day.

crescent pose

3) Stretch Luxuriously

Gently and slowly awaken each body part with gratitude and intention by stretching luxuriously. Take some time to reach your arms overhead, standing on tip toes and lean from side to side. Open the sides of the body, the neck, and the core while inhaling and exhaling with the movements. Take cat and cow for several rounds on all fours, tilting the pelvis and awakening the spine. Hug your knees into your heart and rock and back and forth, massaging the back of the body eventually standing up for deep a forward fold, arms heavy and knees slightly bent. Let the blood travel uo your head, stimulating the brain. If you already have a morning workout routine start with this before hand and notice the difference.

warm lemon water

4) Drink Lemon Water

Drink a cup of warm lemon water before drinking coffee, tea, or anything else. This is a natural detox that cleanses the lymphatic system and stimulates the digestive tract. It is cleansing, comforting, and allows your body to start the day clean and full of vitamin C! It also helps equalize the alkaline levels in the body and flush out toxins.

overnight oats

5) Eat Right

Have a healthy breakfast. Have food prepared and ready the night before so you don’t have to rush out the door with a pop tart in your mouth. Breakfast kick-starts your metabolism after a long night of no food and can prevent bingeing later in the day due to lack of nutrients and hunger. Try a smoothie for a fast, nourishing way to get protein, complex carbs, and fiber. Throw in some greens for extra credit! Or prepare overnight oats the night before with oats, nuts, fruit, cinnamon, and almond milk for a delicious, hearty meal that requires no cooking.

www.createwholehealth.com

*This article was originally published on doyouyoga.com an awesome blog that has great info on so much more than just yoga! 

Yoga vs The Gym

There almost seems to be 2 different types of people: Yoga people and Gym people.
The “gym people” have their world: Strength, sweat, mirrors, kicking ass, and grunting.  They think yoga is all about chanting and laying on the floor. “Yoga people” have one as well: incense, bliss, inner wisdom, vegetarianism, and bending their limbs into pretzels.  I am stereotyping of course but a lot of people really think that!

carole-ann mobley at studio dakini

As usual, I fit into all of the above:  I love both. I used to think I had to choose one or the other to really be focused.  I would flip flop between the two and take time off yoga when I was really into weight lifting and then I’d miss it so I’d go back to the studio and soon enough I would miss that intense burn I got from lifting. I had my “workout” friends who talked about protein shakes, fitness models, deep squats, and lactic acid. And I had my yoga friends who talked about chakras, alignment, breath, and shivasana.

It slowly dawned on me how much ALIKE yoga practice and lifting really are. How the focus, the commitment, the constant study and learning, the respect, the history, the unwavering passion and discipline that play an important role in both.

Why would anyone shun one for the other? Fear of change? Fear of stepping outside of their comfort zone and letting their minds and bodies experience something different? Everyone knows that cross-training produces the best results and mixing up our physical activity is important. Weight bearing exercise, particularly for women, is extremely important in helping to prevent osteoporosis and other bone fractures.  I’m not sure I can get that from yoga alone.

CA Mobley at Studio dakini

If “gym people” are reluctant to try yoga because they think it’s not going to be a good “workout” then they obviously have never tried Ashtanga, or Bikram which completely kicks my ass! I challenge anyone to try either of those styles of yoga and not be humbled by the mere physical strength and stamina they take. If  “yoga people” don’t want to go to a gym, think about this: the stronger your muscles in your chest, shoulders, legs, and back get from weights, the deeper and more fully you can go into the postures while protecting your joints. I was told once by a trainer I was too flexible and that was a dangerous way to be with no protection around my ligaments or joints. At the time I had stopped going to the gym and was doing only yoga.

I have finally found an equal and healthy relationship between weight lifting, cardio, and flexibility through yoga.  I am more balanced and my body feels better than it ever has. Can yoga build muscle? Yes, but not like weight bearing exercise. And stretching after a work-out is great but how many people really take time to do that properly?

Find what works for you and then try something new once in awhile. Our bodies change all the time and what once worked may need to be altered or changed for new results. Change is good!

Vegan Yoga Bowl

Julia Childs once said “You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces, just good food from fresh ingredients” I love that!!! That is my exact philosophy in the kitchen. The ingredients are truly what make the meal special. The fresher, and more REAL the ingredients are, the better the dish will taste and nourish your body.

Tonight after yoga I was craving something super healthy. It’s funny how when we take care of our bodies, our tastes begin to change to crave more nutritious foods and less processed junk. I had been to the grocery earlier and stocked up on lots of good produce, legumes, nuts and greens. I was starving and wanted it ALL!!! Solution: meal in a bowl.

I roasted cauliflower in a 375 oven for 25 minutes after drizzling with olive oil

roasted cauliflower

I simmered red lentils in water for 20 minutes on low heat with garlic, cumin, curry, red pepper flakes and turmeric .

red lentils

Kale was sauteed in coconut oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon as usual

sauteed kale

I cooked quinoa while the lentils simmered and sprinkled it heavily with nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor and creamy texture.

After everything was cooked, I began layering ingredients  into a bowl, starting with small pieces of cauliflower:

1. Cauliflower

1. Roasted Cauliflower

2. Red Lentils

2. Curried Red Lentils

3. "Cheesy" Quinoa

3. “Cheesy” Quinoa

4. Kale and Almonds

4. Kale and Almonds

A lot like the buddha bowl  I made last month but without the tempeh.  Simple and nourishing.

The best part of it was holding it in my lap as I watched an old show on hulu while sitting on my futon. Definitely not typical, but a perfect friday night for me!

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