5 Products That Have Changed My Hot Yoga Practice

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How ironic is it that the style of yoga that I once claimed to hate is the style of yoga that ultimately led me to practice multiple times a week? Hot yoga is now my most treasured workout, and I look forward to stepping onto my mat prior to each and every class. Now that it’s a constant in my life, I can’t imagine my wellbeing without it.

Now, let me give you a little background as to why I came to the conclusion that I “hated” hot yoga. Once upon a time, I decided to check out a new yoga studio without taking the time to read the class description, and low and behold, I arrived at a hot yoga studio. I went into that class with the mindset that the heat would make me feel claustrophobic, and what do you know? It did. This was when I was practicing yoga sporadically, averaging about one class per month, so this experience did little to encourage me to practice more regularly.

Then, one random day, I had the overwhelming desire to attend another hot yoga class, and the rest is history. To this day, I can’t explain what came over me, but I’m so incredibly grateful that I listened to my heart. I went into that class with the mindset that it would make me feel grounded in a way that I never had before, and what do you know? It did. You see, mindset is everything.

Spirituality aside, there are several other reasons why my love for hot yoga runs deep. I am not an innately flexible person, so the heat is a game changer for my flexibility. I can touch my toes, for crying out loud! While that may seem like a small feat for some, it’s a huge accomplishment for someone who hasn’t been able to do so since elementary school. Secondly, the heat makes me sweat like a maniac, allowing for an intense detox that makes me feel completely refreshed. Last, but certainly not least, the heat allows for some intense breath work. Yep, you read correctly! The reason that I once “hated” hot yoga is now one of the reasons that I love it. It is undoubtedly more challenging to breathe amidst the heat, which forces me to be more mindful about my breathing. In turn, I feel more meditative and connected.

As with all hobbies, investing in high-quality products can make the world of a difference. See below for some products that have rocked my yogi world!

eKO Mat by Manduka

I did a ton of research before I took the chance on a yoga mat, and this was the lucky winner. It has yet to disappoint! There are a few reasons why I’m obsessed with it. Its density is not too thin or too thick; instead, it’s juuust riiight. It’s also got excellent grip to it, which is particularly important for hot yoga. I’m sweaty and clumsy AF, so I need all the help I can get in that department. Perhaps the reason why I love it the most is that it’s made from non-Amazon natural tree rubber. This means that it is made from both sustainable and non-toxic material, and you know I’m all about that life.

The (Small) Towel by lululemon

Have I mentioned that I’m a sweater? These incredibly absorbent towels allow me to look somewhat presentable after class. However, they serve a purpose during class as well! Made of microfiber, they allow for additional grip. Because my hands tend to slip the most, I keep one of these towels at the top of my mat. For being as absorbent as they are, I was pleasantly surprised by how little room they take up in my bag.

Insulated Water Bottle by Hydro Flask

While drinking water during yoga practice is generally discouraged due to its interference with the ushna (heat) that the body has worked to generate, there are times in which pausing to drink water feels necessary. In these instances, I want my water to be cool and refreshing. That’s why I’m obsessed with my Hydro Flask. It keeps my water chilled for an absurd number of hours, so the higher temperatures of hot yoga studios have nothing on this bad boy. I have the 32 oz wide mouth bottle, but the world is your oyster!

Sacred Frankincense Essential Oil by Young Living

Although similar, traditional Frankincense (Boswellia carteri) and Sacred Frankincense (Boswellia sacra) are two distinct plant species. Traditional Frankincense is indigenous to Somalia and is considered the “workhorse” of the two because it’s so versatile. Sacred Frankincense, on the other hand, is indigenous to Oman and is thought to be the variety that is referred to in the Bible. Outside of Oman citizens and Saudi royalty, Gary Young (the founder of Young Living) is the only individual with access to this sacred crop. How freaking cool! As it has a higher vibrational frequency than traditional Frankincense, it is most commonly used for spiritual and meditation purposes. This is precisely why I use it just prior to engaging in yoga practice. First, I add a couple drops to the palms of my hands and rub it onto the back of my neck. Then, I cup my hands around my nose and mouth, taking several deep inhalations. It is incredibly grounding, and it shifts my state of mind from overdrive to calm within minutes.

Breathe Again Roll-On by Young Living

This powerhouse essential oil blend is comprised of Peppermint, Myrtle, Copaiba, Blue Cypress, and four varieties of Eucalyptus. In combination, these oils are known to open up respiratory channels and aid in effective breathing. Because breath work is a foundational component of yoga practice, I’m sure it’s a no brainer as to why I incorporate this essential oil blend into mine. I especially love that it comes in a roller bottle so that I can quickly roll it onto my chest just prior to class.

2018 Intentions

Goals. Resolutions. Intentions. There’s no denying that these words are thrown around like confetti during the start of a new year. Although they mean roughly the same thing, I find that the word “intention” is the most robust of the three, so that’s what I’m rolling with. Admittedly, I used to think that new year’s resolutions were dumb. “No one ever sticks to them anyway,” I’d mutter to myself. However, gradually, over time, I’ve found that setting realistic goals at the start of a new year can be incredibly powerful. After all, small changes can make a substantial differences in our overall wellbeing.

I’ll be honest: I’ve been kicking myself for not having this post ready to go on New Year’s Day. As I’m sure most of you can relate to, the month of December was a complete blur, and before I knew it, 2018 was here. Although writing this post has been on the forefront of my mind from January 2nd onward, the perfectionist in me fought back. If it wasn’t posted on January 1st, it’s no longer relevant, right? WRONG!

For the first time ever, I’m excited about declaring my intentions publicly. I’ve never been super vulnerable on this platform, and it’s about time I change that. There’s also something incredibly powerful about putting a pen to paper and writing my intentions down. If nothing else, putting my intentions out there for all to see will hold me accountable. With all of that being said, why wait until 2019 – another 358 days – when I’m ready to start crushing my intentions now, in this very moment.

Be okay with silence. Better yet, embrace it! If I’m alone, I find myself latching on to music, podcasts, and social media to fill the silence. Although these things will always have a time and a place in my life, there is something to be said for enjoying time with yourself and yourself only. Life is noisy both literally and figuratively, so I’m choosing to embrace silence for at least 30 minutes a day.

Continue to grow spiritually through yoga and meditation. 2017 was a year of tremendous spiritual growth for me. Although I had no intention of that being the case, I loved every second of it. For several months now, I’ve been going to yoga once a week and will continue to do so. When it comes to meditation, I’ve merely dabbled with it and hope to make it more of a constant in my life in 2018. My intention is to use the Calm app for guided meditation 10 minutes a day, 3 days per week.

Use oils for emotional support on a nightly basis. About a month ago, I started to use a set of essential oils referred to as the Feelings Kit. It contains six magical bottles of oil: Valor, Harmony, Forgiveness, Release, Present Time, and Inner Child. Applying them nightly while speaking affirmations into the universe has benefited my emotional wellbeing in a multitude of ways. However, over the past week or so, I’ve been using these oils less consistently and feel more irritable and less confident in result. Back to my emotional support oils I go! I intend to use them nightly from here onward.

Commit to a half-hour of no technology before bed. Whether it’s the blue light from our screens or the content that we engage in, technology makes it incredibly difficult to unwind, thereby compromising a good night’s sleep. Additionally, limiting screen time before bed allows us to engage in more meaningful activities. Diving into a good book, drawing a hot bath, or meditating (as mentioned above) are all excellent ways to utilize this time.

Allow for 8-10 hours of sleep. Some people can function on six hours of sleep. I am not and never have been one of those people. Instead, I am the best version of myself when I get between eight and ten hours. As problematic as that can be in a world where 24 hours in a day is not enough, I’ve learned that shifting my mindset is key when it comes solving this problem. When I get adequate sleep, I get more done in less time. Why compromise my precious sleep when I’ll spend the day lollygagging around anyway? Further, allowing for more sleep means cutting out the bullsh*t. Did I really need to stay up till midnight, scrolling through Instagram while binge-watching Bravo shows? Absolutely not.

Exercise in a variety of ways 3-5 days per week. Variety is the spice of life! I’ve found that I enjoy exercise the most when I switch things up. Luckily, the ClassPass app makes this super easy to do. After some experimentation over the past year or so, I’ve found that HIIT, yoga, barre, reformer pilates, and cycling are my favorite ways to get my heart pumping. Gone are the days in which I force myself to engage in exercise that I hate. (Ahem – running.)

Eat more plants. Ditch the meat, dairy, and gluten as much as possible. I feel so much better in every which way when I eat a plant-based diet. After all, food is fuel. I know how to eat healthy and I know how to make healthy food taste good. However, when it comes to food, self-control is something that I’ve always struggled with. So, this intention really comes down to being more mindful about what I’m consuming. Instead of mindlessly inhaling a mediocre cheesesteak at 2 am or grabbing a handful of stale cookies from the nurses’ station, I have to ask myself: Is it worth it worth the empty calories? Is it worth the sub-par taste? Is it worth how you’ll feel in several hours?

Limit alcohol intake to weekends and special occasions. In the moment, drinking to my heart’s content seems like a great idea. However, the following day – when I sleep the morning away, have a pounding headache, skip the gym, and eat terribly – makes me feel awful both physically and mentally. Loading myself with empty calories isn’t ideal either. Because I’m a social person and because social activities tend to revolve around drinking, limiting instead of abstaining is most realistic for my lifestyle.

Start saving money. For real. There’s no denying it. I’m a huge spender. Because I like nice things and work hard for my money, I’ve embraced the YOLO mentality for far too long. While I’ve “saved” over the past several years, it’s nothing to write home about and certainly hasn’t set me up for the future. Now that I’m rapidly approaching my thirties, it’s time to buckle down. This is scary to write, but here goes nothing: I will increase my retirement contribution to 10% and ensure that 20% of my paychecks end up in my savings account.

There you have it, ladies and gents! My 2018 intentions are officially on blast. If you feel so inclined, I’d love to hear about yours! May your 2018 be full of countless blessings. :)

April ’16 Running Playlist

Happy Weekend, y’all!

Since I’m in the midst of training for the Broad Street Run, I figured that I would share one of my favorite running playlists with you. While nearly everybody requires great music to get them through a workout, I really do when it comes to running. I am not a natural runner by any means, and working my way up to even 10 miles is a challenge. Thus, the better the music, the better I perform. If I have an awesome playlist to look forward to, I’m that much more motivated to get my butt outside and run my little heart out.

If you run roughly a 10-minute mile such as myself, this playlist is perfect for a four-miler. If you’re a Speedy Gonzalez, my apologies. If you give this playlist a try, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! What songs do you recommend that I add to my May running playlist?

Glen Onoko Falls

Today, my staycation with my mama and brother came to a close. I can’t wait to share some of our amazing adventures and delicious eats with you! First up on our list of adventures was this past Thursday, when we headed to Glen Onoko Falls in Jim Thorpe, PA. I can’t believe it took me so long to check this place out! This rather trecherous trail, with an 875 foot elevation gain, is part of Lehigh Gorge State Park. Despite the challenge associated with this trail, the views and the scenery make the trek well worth it, as there are stunning waterfalls everywhere you look. Be sure to wear good hiking shoes and know that you’ll feel like a million bucks once your hike is complete. Check out some of my favorite shots below!

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Full-Body in Forty

For the most part, I have a love-hate relationship with the gym. However, as of late, it’s been more of a hate-hate relationship. I’m a self-proclaimed “class girl,” meaning that A) I hate creating my own workouts, and B) trudging along on the same cardio machine for 45 minutes bores the hell out of me. Whether it’s Pilates, spinning, or the most grueling bootcamp class you can imagine, I’m all in. I love the variety and the fact that my workouts are pre-dertermined by trained professionals. However, being that Studio 1 – the room that houses most classes at my gym – was being renovated over the past week, I had no choice but to do my own thing.

As it turns out, I ended up creating one of the better workouts I’ve had in a while using only cardio equipment and an iPhone app called Sworkit. I absolutely love this app. It allows you to create your own workouts by selecting your target area(s) and how long you’d like your workout to be. A different exercise pops up every 30 seconds, giving you the option to skip over exercises that are, for lack of a better word, lame. (Luckily, these “lame” exercises are few and far between.) I typically use it for core strength and lower body workouts only, as it forces me to switch up my usual routine for my problem areas. Anyway, my beloved new workout went a little something like this:

  • 5 minutes running on the treadmill
  • 5 minutes rowing machine
  • 5 minutes StairMaster
  • 5 minutes core strength training on Sworkit
  • Repeat the above x 1

As the title of this post indicates, following these steps will ensure a full-body workout in just 40 minutes. The best part is that moving from station to station leaves no time for boredom. Also, can we say muscle confusion?

Aside from this workout simply giving me something to do while attending a fitness class was out of the question, it was also an eye-opener on a much grander scale. When I work, it’s for twelve hours, meaning that the earliest class of the day begins when I’m leaving for work and the last class of the day begins before I wrap up my shift. Moral of the story: I can’t attend classes on the days that I work, meaning that I’ve been using my “class girl” excuse to skip the gym all together on work days. While the workout I’ve provided isn’t Earth-shattering by any means, it’s got me excited to go to the gym for a non-class workout, and that says something.