The pleasant surprises of yoga

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My yoga practice surprises me daily. It’s one of the reasons I love yoga so much.

Whether it’s suddenly finding myself in a pose/asana I was unable to do last week or finding my mind free of a long-held, unwanted belief, I’m repeatedly and joyfully surprised.

Does yoga surprise you, too?


Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate who has lived in numerous watersheds throughout the United States, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Mexico. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Paula is passionate about her family, friends and the motivational and brave people she meets daily through her online writing and social media exchanges. To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitter and check out her other blog.

Playlist for Beginner Yoga Practitioners

I love yoga and am always encouraging my friends and family to try yoga. Unfortunately, not everyone has access to a studio or a gym or a teacher.

Since I stopped practicing Bikram Yoga, I started exploring a home practice using videos I find on YouTube that fit my level and interest. I’ve discovered hundreds of yoga videos on YouTube; the selection is rather overwhelming! Some are good, some are not-so-good.

So to help my friends who have no idea where to begin with yoga, I started putting together a playlist of well-reviewed videos that serve as a solid introduction to yoga basics. Of course, there are limitations to learning and practicing yoga using just videos. Therefore, in addition to these videos, I also have a recommended reading list I’ll share soon.

If you are a yoga student or teacher and have videos, books or other resources you either created or enjoy using, please share with us.

Namaste!
~Paula

© 2013 Paula Carrasquillo and A Yogini Transformed.


Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate who has lived in numerous watersheds throughout the United States, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Mexico. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Paula is passionate about her family, friends and the motivational and brave people she meets daily through her online writing and social media exchanges. To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitter and check out her other blog.

Yoga is not for you if…

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If you are uninterested in a collective, Universal morality, then yoga is not for you.

Universal morality, also known as Yama and the first of the eight limbs of yoga Patanjali describes, has five underlining characteristics.

1. (Ahimsa) – Compassion for ALL living things.

2. (Satya) – Commitment to truthfulness.

3. (Asteya) – Non-stealing.

4. (Brahmacharya) – Sense control.

5. (Aparigraha) – Neutralizing the desire to acquire and hoard wealth.

Namaste!
~Paula

(Reference: http://www.expressionofspirit.com)

Is yoga okay for kids?

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This story was originally published on June 24, 2013, to the author’s The Washington Times Communities column with the original title, Teaching Yoga to Children: Harmful or Beneficial?


Like anything new and foreign introduced into a community or society, offering and teaching yoga to our children is accompanied with skepticism and controversy.

The popularity of yoga in the United States has increased dramatically in the last five years. In December 2012, Yoga Journal revealed that 20.4 million Americans practice yoga, compared to 15.8 million from the previous Yoga in America 2008 study, an increase of 29 percent.

From celebrities and corporate executives to housewives and the elderly, yoga is attracting and maintaining a strong following, for good reason. Regular yoga practice can help reduce stress, increase overall fitness, and provide relief and management of chronic conditions and diseases.

In addition, recent studies have suggested that teaching yoga to school-aged children increases their patience, attention span, competitive spirit and cognitive abilities, leading to increased learning and ease of new-skills comprehension, according to T.S. Ganpat and H.R. Nagendra.

So it’s no surprise that yoga programs for children are popping up across the country.

Unfortunately, bringing this awareness and understanding to all parents, not just those parents who already practice yoga themselves, is proving difficult.

“Although my adult classes are full and growing, the kid’s program is not,” explains Marta Fiscus, certified yoga instructor and K-12 arts teacher.

“I think there are two reasons for this. First, children already have their schedules full with soccer, ballet, music lessons, etc. These are activities that parents automatically enroll their kids in. It’s common ground. The new offering of yoga in this community has never been routine. Also, I think this community still has a preconceived idea that yoga is something foreign.”

This community Fiscus refers to is the small, Appalachian town of Cumberland, Md.

Fiscus has been teaching children in many capacities for almost 25 years, beginning in New York City where she worked as a toddler specialist teaching gymnastics, movement, art and music. After moving back to her native Western Maryland, she became a certified K-12 visual arts teacher and worked in both the public and private schools.

In 2007, shortly after she gave birth to her second son, Fiscus began teaching yoga to adults.

“I never had any intention of teaching yoga, but a job became available and my fellow yogis suggested I would be good at it. Once I became more confident as a yoga teacher, I was able to expand my vision to bringing yoga to children.”

With her extensive childhood teaching experiences, along with a desire to deepen her own yoga practice, Fiscus felt it was time for the children of her community to experience the joys and benefits that come with yoga.

Fiscus researched children’s yoga programs and discovered Radiant Child Yoga founded by Shakta Kaur Khalsa. She enrolled and became certified. Fiscus now teaches the first yoga program ever offered in Allegany County Maryland through a partnership between Tri-State Community School for the Arts and Beginnings Montessori School as an after-school activity requiring fees and signup.

Fiscus has great expectations for the program’s future sprinkled with some reservations and concerns considering Cumberland has an unemployment rate of more than eight percent and was recently listed among the top ten poorest cities in the country.

“At this point, the only way I foresee the program being successful in this area is to make it part of the school curriculum,” Fiscus states with hope.

Unfortunately, the ‘foreign’ fear and misconception of yoga may be what keeps yoga from becoming a part of public school curriculum, regardless of the demographics and economics of the community.

Encinitas Union School District (EUSD) in California is learning this lesson the hard way.

EUSD implemented its yoga curriculum last year as part of a larger health and wellness initiative, funding the program with a $533,000 grant awarded to EUSD by the K.P. Jois Foundation.

In April 2013, a lawsuit was filed by concerned parents of EUSD on behalf of attorney Dean Broyles from the National Center for Law and Policy. The suit alleges that EUSD incorporated Ashtanga yoga into the school’s curriculum, which “unlawfully promotes religious beliefs” and violates the U.S. Constitution.

The trial began May 20 with testimony given by many experts for both the defense and plaintiff.

Witness testimony for the plaintiff began with Dr. Candy Brown, professor at Indiana University. Brown presented arguments that yoga is “inherently religious.”

“Ashtanga yoga, as endorsed by the EUSD yoga curriculum, in my expert opinion, promotes and advances religion, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Western metaphysics,” testifies Brown.

As one of three witness for the defense, Chris Chapple, Ph.D., professor of Indic and comparative religion at Loyola Marymount University, asserted that “yoga may be practiced free from religious ideology,” and concurred with parts of Brown’s testimony related to who practices yoga but added that Brown neglected “to note that yoga is also practiced by Sikhs, Muslims, and Christians in India and elsewhere.”

Adding further testimony for the defense was Mark Singleton, Ph.D. and professor at St. John’s College. The website for Yoga Alliance, quotes Singleton as stating, “In my opinion, to claim that the practice of yoga techniques in secular, ecumenical, or religiously plural settings in the United States today is inherently religious is akin to claiming that college basketball is inherently religious because of its missionary Christian origins.”

There is no denying that yoga is a Sanskrit word and that Sanskrit is the language of the Vedas, India’s ancient religious texts. But the common practice of yoga in the West has been stripped of these religious and ancient roots and is considered by many to be a secular practice beneficial to anyone regardless of their spiritual path or preference.

And who has more to benefit from a healthy mind/body practice than our children?

“I am really hoping the word about kid’s yoga will get out there,” Fiscus adds. “Yoga poses come naturally to children, whether they are athletic or not. So when a child realizes, ‘Hey, I can do this,’ it sparks excitement and confidence. No doubt parents will see that children’s yoga is not only fun, but helps their kids develop confidence, self-awareness, and the ability to calm themselves, which is only the beginning of the lifelong gifts yoga gives to the young.”

The judge in the EUSD lawsuit ruled this morning that the yoga program was not religious and could continue being taught as part of the District’s wellness program.

Namaste!
~Paula

© 2013 Paula Carrasquillo and A Yogini Transformed.


Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate who has lived in numerous watersheds throughout the United States, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Mexico. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Paula is passionate about her family, friends and the motivational and brave people she meets daily through her online writing and social media exchanges. To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitter and check out her other blog.

The Results of My 30-day Bikram Yoga Challenge

At the Sackler Museum Yoga exhibit, October 2013.

My son’s shadow at the Smithsonian’s Sackler Museum exhibit: Yoga~The Art of Transformation, October 2013.

A week ago, I completed a 30-day Bikram yoga challenge. The challenge began October 21 and ran until November 19. I actually started on October 23 because I hadn’t been to the studio in a while and didn’t know a challenge was happening. Needless to say, I was at a disadvantage from the beginning in more ways that one.

At the beginning of October, my day job responsibilities were taken away from me, which is a nice way of saying I was out of a job. Unfortunately for me, this coincided with the government shutdown.

Living in the DC metro area, even if you don’t work as a government employee, your life is directly affected by the government’s business. So for the first two weeks of my job search in October, I didn’t hear a word or a sound from any potential employers. Heck, I didn’t even hear crickets!

But I persisted. I was determined to stay positive, but it wasn’t easy. I was struggling. In all honesty, when I walked into Bikram Yoga Rockville’s studio two days into their first Turkey Trot Challenge, I was in a deep slump emotionally, mentally and physically.

However, instead of saying, “Damn! Another opportunity lost because I wasn’t paying attention,” I took it as a sign. I saw it as an alternate chance to move myself in a better direction. So I asked the owner of the studio if it was okay to sign up late. She said, “No problem!” and had me sign my name to the top of the challenge board where she drew in more grid lines to accommodate my late participation.

(I’m happy to also report that a few others joined me as late comers, so to say. I wasn’t alone. Hehe!)

But enough about why I started, most of you are probably more interested in what I learned as a result of doing the challenge, right. Well, here goes:

1. I don’t mind ending up in a hot spot.

Bikram Yoga is hot and sweaty. REALLY hot (105 degrees Fahrenheit) and sweaty. Many teachers of Bikram Yoga refer to their studios as “The Hot Room” and/or “The Torture Chamber.” Personally, I don’t find it torturous, but I have, in the past, found myself consciously avoiding the hottest parts of the room.

You see, not every spot is the same. Some spots are hotter and some spots are much “cooler” (if that’s even possible to say). I discovered that the hotter and more uncomfortable I was, the more focused and determined I was. My mind wondered to places outside the room far less when I was in a hot spot and when sweat was running down my face, than if I were in a “cooler” spot in the room.

The hotter my spot, the better my practice. Who knew!!

2. I learned that I can trust my body when it tells me when to eat and when not to eat.

During the challenge, I ate what I wanted when I wanted it. I don’t eat a lot, but I did during the challenge. My body just needed it. I even ate Halloween candy, including chocolate, which I try to avoid because it has been known to cause me headaches in the past.

According to the calorie calculator over at everydayhealth.com, it’s estimated that I burn between 850 calories during a 90-minutes Bikram Yoga practice. Before the challenge, I wasn’t so sure that was true. But now I am convinced it must be true considering all of the food I ate without gaining or losing weight.

I am the type of person who eats to live, rather than lives to eat. (I haven’t always been that way.) So my body was telling me it needed food, so I helped myself!

3. I realized that what I learn about myself while on the mat translates into how I should be off the mat.

I like to be challenged. But whereas in the past I would become frustrated and upset if I didn’t meet my standards, I’m more inclined now to brush myself off and try again.

One of the yoga teachers at the studio mentioned in the early part of the challenge that if we can remain patient and non-judgmental in a 105 degree room as we try to balance on one leg while trying to touch our head to the knee of our other leg, we can remain patient and non-judgmental anywhere.

In the yoga room, when I fall out of a posture, I just try again. Not because I am competing with anyone else in the room or even because I’m competing with myself. But because I have a desire to honor my practice. Not giving up is honoring the time I invest in my yoga practice. I am patient with my physical limitations and know it takes time to build muscle strength and balance.

Why not translate that kind of thinking off the mat and apply it to my emotional and mental needs for strength and balance? So I did. After about day 15 or so, I repeatedly reminded myself of my yoga teacher’s message.

Today, I actively practice mental patience off the mat more than I had been doing before the challenge. When I start to feel myself becoming agitated with myself or with someone or some situation, I stop myself from diving into negative thought patterns. I step back and say, “Hey! This kind of thinking isn’t going to make the situation better. It’s only going to make it more difficult. Stop. Rewind. Start over.”

There is no shame in admitting defeat and trying again.

4. I love yoga!

After completing the challenge, I realize now more than ever how much I love yoga. I love the smell of the mat and sweaty room; I love the collective sound of the pranas (breathing exercises); I love how the mat feels between my toes; I love the taste of my ice cold water after eagle pose; I love the feeling I get coming out of camel pose (sometimes it’s relief, other times it’s nausea); I love meeting fellow yogis and learning more about why and how they got started on their yoga journey.

On the final day of the challenge just before my 30th consecutive practice began, one of my fellow yogis approached me and handed me a small, rolled up piece of yellow cloth. She stepped back to her mat, and I opened it.

30-day challenge banner

Vera’s gift to me

I immediately got emotional and walked over to her mat and hugged and thanked her. She just said, “You inspire me, Paula.” I cried some more, returned to my mat and finished out my challenge with my last moving meditation.

Her generous and thoughtful act truly humbled me. I couldn’t believe she had taken the time to create something so special just for me. As I walked to my car after practice, I thought about where to hang it in my home to honor her and to honor my challenge. I couldn’t wait to show my husband and my son, who were my biggest supporters and cheerleaders, not to mention they put up with my stinky yoga laundry every single day for 30 days!

Once inside my car, I reached for my phone to call my husband. But before I could call him, I noticed I had missed several messages from a staffing agency I had been working with over the previous three weeks. It seems I had gotten a job offer while I was in yoga!

5. I owe a lot to my yoga practice.

Without it, I wouldn’t be who I am today. Most of all, I appreciate all of my family and friends who don’t tell me to shut up when I start talking about yoga. It’s been too much of a good thing to keep to myself. I can’t stop myself from sharing.

Namaste!
~Paula

© 2013 Paula Carrasquillo and A Yogini Transformed.


Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate who has lived in numerous watersheds throughout the United States, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Mexico. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Paula is passionate about her family, friends and the motivational and brave people she meets daily through her online writing and social media exchanges. To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitter and check out her other blog.

Why I’m Doing Another 30-day Bikram Yoga Challenge and How I Prepare and Remain Motivated

I am embarking on my second Bikram Yoga challenge. The first challenge was almost two years ago in February 2012, just a few months after I started my yoga practice.

Me in Bikram Triangle

Me in Bikram Triangle

To be honest, I never imagined I would be motivated to do another challenge. The first challenge was very beneficial but also tough on my body, mind, spirit and family life. Although I felt accomplished in a mindful and self-aware sort of way upon completing the first challenge, my ego also said, “Well, you did it. You proved you could do it. No need to do that again.”

So I held fast to that egocentric attitude until recently when I started feeling defeated by life and overwhelmed by my responsibilities.

You see, in addition to having a regular 9 to 5 job, I have been writing non-stop on my other blog for 21 months. Over 320 blog posts in 90 weeks. That’s almost an average of 4 blog posts per week.

What I write on my other blog does not result in any sort of financial compensation. None. My compensation comes from the comments and messages I receive from readers who have been positively affected by the message I attempt to share and disseminate, a message related to an understanding of what domestic violence and intimate partner abuse looks like when perpetrated by emotional abusers. Sociopaths and narcissists.

Yeah, it may sound dramatic if you aren’t already familiar with my other blog. And you would be correct. Abuse and control is all about drama. My postings and writings are filled with reactions to that drama, and composing those reactions have been 100% draining. So when October began, I wasn’t surprised when I found myself in need of a break from my other blog and the emotions and feelings it stirred in me.

But a funny thing happened after I made the conscious decision to take a break from writing: I started to feel guilty!

I felt guilty for leaving people hanging. I felt guilty for not being as active as I once was. I have made some incredible friendships through my other blog and value all of the feedback I receive. Actively responding to comments and e-mails was never something I had to struggle with doing. But I found myself struggling, and that made me feel guilty.

Fortunately, I had enough humility (Thank you, yoga!) to reach out to my friends for support. Repeatedly, I received the same message: “Paula, take care of yourself. Put yourself first.”

It took a while for that message to sink in, but once it did, I immediately thought another Bikram Yoga challenge would be just the thing to get me out of my self-imposed slump. I was thinking about doing a challenge on my own but was thrilled to discover the studio where I practice is facilitating a challenge between now and Thanksgiving! (There are no coincidences, I’ve learned.)

I started my second challenge at Bikram Yoga Rockville on Wednesday, October 23 which ends the day before Thanksgiving. (The studio’s challenge actually started on Monday, October 21, so I have two doubles to look forward to completely. I’ll save those for the end.)

Like my first challenge, I had to prepare. Currently, my office is in my home with a more open and flexible schedule than I had during my first challenge. This simply means I have more options for which times I can attend class: mornings, afternoons or evenings. But a more flexible schedule doesn’t mean finding and maintaining my motivation is any less challenging.

Below are some ways I prepared and remain motivated.

In preparation:

  1. Setup a calendar reminder for each day, so I remember to eat. (I sometimes get really busy during the day and forget to eat lunch. If I wait too long, I can’t eat until after yoga. (Bikram instructors recommend that you eat a light meal 2-4 hours prior to your daily practice.)
  2. Get a pedicure. (Hey, it’s important to have clean and polished feet to present to your fellow yogis. Plus, it helps to keep your mat fresh.)
  3. Bathe my mat. (It’s kind of like a clean sheet thing–it just feels good and it’s healthy, for you and your mat.)
  4. Buy tea tree oil and a spray bottle. (A tea tree oil and water concoction will be sprayed on my mat after each use; it’s a green and friendly solution to keeping your mat fresh.)
  5. Pack a clean change of yoga clothes and towel in my car for spur-of-the-moment decisions to go to the yoga studio.

To remain motivated:

  1. Let as many people know your intention to complete the challenge.
    The more people who know, the more people will be asking you every day, “So, how many days are left?” You don’t want to answer, “Oh, I quit.” Do you?
  2. Get a challenge buddy (or 2 or 3).
    This can be done directly or indirectly. If you are new or simply don’t have friends at the studio, pick someone’s name off the board and follow/stalk his/her progress. It’s definitely psychological but effective.
  3. Don’t neglect your family.
    If you are married, in a partnership, or have children, they’re probably your biggest supporters. So, even when you are feeling tired or overwhelmed by the yoga, do things with and for your family. They’ll be more inclined to maintain their support throughout the 30 days. And remember to say, “Thank you, Baby, for respecting how much this means to me.”
  4. Keep talking about how the challenge is making you feel.
    Even if you feel like crap some days, share it. You would be surprised by how many people will tell you, “Well, just don’t stop. You’re so close.”
  5. Be lazy, eat right, drink lots of water, and sleep when you can.
    Do I need to explain this one? :)
  6. Encourage other yogis in the challenge.
    Through encouraging others, you encourage yourself and the entire room.
  7. Keep smiling.

Namaste!
~Paula

© 2013 Paula Carrasquillo and A Yogini Transformed.


Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate who has lived in numerous watersheds throughout the United States, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Mexico. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Paula is passionate about her family, friends and the motivational and brave people she meets daily through her online writing and social media exchanges. To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitter and check out her other blog.

Practice Yoga, Gain Confidence in Your Mind and Body, and Eat Whatever You Want

Marilyn Monroe eating a sundae

Marilyn Monroe practiced yoga…and ate dessert!

Don’t you just hate those people who never seem to gain weight and never look out of shape yet claim to eat whatever they want? Well, I’m sad to say that I am one of those people.

Before you start hating me, please know that I haven’t always been one of those people, not by a long shot. It’s taken me over 40 years and a regular yoga practice to transform me into one of those people.

To be completely honest, I have never had a weight problem, but I did have an eating problem: I couldn’t eat everything and everything I wanted to eat, and it pissed me off!

Before practicing yoga, my appetite was huge! But because I feared gaining weight (intricately related to my lack of confidence) and knew myself well enough to know that gaining weight would not make me happy, I pushed away my cravings often. I refused cakes and muffins and pies and donuts. Even though I’d look at these types of foods with eyes and mouth drooling, I rarely, if ever indulged. And when I did indulge, I’d feel guilty afterwards and force myself to run on the treadmill the next day for an extra hour or deprive myself of food even more than usual to make up for “being a pig” for a day.

Most days, I just really felt deprived when it came to food, which made me irritable, which made my body and mind toxic in many ways, which resulted in a perpetual anxiety around food.

Food was not my friend; it seemed to control me. For years, I wished and wished to have a better relationship with food one day. But that day always seemed elusive probably because a better relationship with myself was what I needed to establish first before attempting to improve any other relationships I sought with food, people or otherwise.

I started practicing yoga in October 2011 just a few months shy of my 40th birthday. My relationships with my family, myself and with food didn’t change immediately, but within 6 months of my first practice, food was becoming less and less of an issue with me. My previous and persistent unsatisfied cravings were fewer and fewer, and I actually started looking forward to meals and snacks.

Why and how did this happen?

Well, I am not a nutritionist nor am I a biologist or a neuroscientist. But based on what I am learning about the benefits of yoga as I go through yoga teacher training (YTT) this fall, yoga really has become the “magic pill” that changed the way my body and mind processes and thinks about food and my entire being.

1. If you don’t love it, it won’t work.

First, it definitely doesn’t hurt that I absolutely love the immediate results I feel physically and emotionally following a 90-minute yoga session. This “high” keeps me going back 3 to 4 times each week. Between now and Thanksgiving, I’m doing a 30-day Bikram yoga challenge, so my motivation and determination is currently elevated.

Yet, even without an official challenge to maintain my interest, just the memory of how I felt the day before or two days before pushes me to pick up my mat and water bottle and head to the studio. It’s important to note that before my car accident in 2002 that left my right knee in bad shape, I was a distance runner. I ran cross-country in college and continued running throughout my 20s. After the accident when I was 30, I tried other forms of exercise like elliptical training and swimming and other low-impact aerobic workouts. Outside of swimming, nothing captured my attention or interest. But finding pool access year-round was a challenge for me and just not convenient.

Exercise needs to be convenient and accessible. Yoga is both.

2. I see food differently.

Like any regular exercise routine provides, yoga has naturally boosted my metabolism and regulated my bowels, digestive system and urinary system. Eating has become an activity I love, because what follows my meals today is a sense of satisfaction and an actual physical release. I feel no guilt around food and sometimes even over indulge. (Like last weekend when I went to a “foodie” wedding and ate four, yes four, pieces of pie!)

I get a sense that I need to eat so the cycle of my life can continue seamlessly from day to day. I ingest one meal and the previous meal’s waste is flushed. (Sounds a little too personal? I have no other way of explaining it. Too bad I can’t attach a camera to the food I ingest and record its journey. That would be interesting but even more personal. Hehe!)

Specifically, the following poses offer the most benefit to my digestion:

>>Garurasana (eagle pose) – increase fresh blood supply to the kidneys.
Our kidneys are responsible for filtering and flushing out toxins and unnecessary waste from food and water. Our kidneys also release three important hormones into our blood stream to keep us healthy: erythropoietin, renin and calcitriol. If not working properly, waste builds up in our blood supply causing damage and disease to our bodies. The most common diseases related to compromised kidney function are high blood pressure and diabetes. (source: NIH NIDDK)

>>Dandyayamana-Bibhaktapada-Paschimotthanasana (standing separate leg stretching pose) – increases the functioning of the large and small intestine.
“The intestine is a winding muscular tube extending from the stomach to the anus. Its main purpose is to digest food. But the intestine is not only there for digestion: it also produces various substances that carry messages to other parts of the body, and plays an important role in fighting germs and regulating the body’s water balance. For some people, the intestine reflects how they are feeling: for instance, they might get a stomach ache, diarrhoea or constipation when they are stressed or upset about something.” (source: PubMed Health)

>>Pavanamuktasana (wind removing pose) – cures and prevents flatulence (which is the source of abdominal discomfort) by massaging the ascending, descending and transverse colons (aka the large intestine).

3. I still crave food but healthier stuff.

No longer do overly processed foods like fatty meats, breads and cakes get me excited. When I get hungry, I think about a big bowl of rice or sautéed veggies and salads. I occasionally indulge in desserts (like at that wedding) but without the guilt associated with eating sweets like before. I have more trust and confidence in my body’s ability to take what it needs and flush the rest out. So when I say I can eat whatever I want, I can because the “whatever I want” list has dramatically changed. I want fruits and vegetables (and have even been contemplating going vegan thanks to a couple bloggers–Ivonne and Susan–whom I respect and are teaching me a lot about how food is processed and manufactured in this country and across the globe).

4. My entire attitude and trust in myself and others has been transformed.

My attitude toward food and life in general truly parallel and often intersect. Where I once had increased anxieties over being perceived as skilled and able, I have confidence. I attribute this to increased patience with myself and with others. My expectations are more realistic. Today, I understand, through deep reflection on my life experiences, that sometimes expectations can be completely shattered and that not all humans have human/humane interests at heart. I accept that more freely now, and I attribute my ability to maintain this philosophy and outlook to yoga. Again, not something that happened over night. I’d say building this confidence, patience and awareness took a lifetime, but the past two years of a consistent yoga practice definitely nurtured and provided the boost and momentum necessary for my confidence to grow uninterrupted.

Again, I am no medical doctor or counselor. However, as a testament to my own growth and development–mentally, physically and spiritually–in such a relatively short period of time, I invite everyone who hasn’t already tried yoga to please try it. If you don’t like it after a week of consecutive practice, come back and complain to me. However, I am confident (see, I really AM confident) that you will come back and thank me. If you have tried yoga in the past but didn’t feel like it did much for you, try it again. Sometimes it’s our attitudes that get in our way. Sometimes all we need to do is read a few positive testimonials surrounding something in order to release our negative first impressions and try something again.

It took me too long to get beyond my yoga phobia and let go of my preconceived idea of what I thought yoga was and what it wasn’t.

Yoga is what you make of it. Take what you need from it and leave the rest behind.

Don’t take my word for it. Try it yourself!

Namaste!
~Paula

© 2013 Paula Carrasquillo and A Yogini Transformed.


Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate who has lived in numerous watersheds throughout the United States, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Mexico. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Paula is passionate about her family, friends and the motivational and brave people she meets daily through her online writing and social media exchanges. To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitter and check out her other blog.

The Problems with Bikram Yoga from a Lover of Bikram Yoga

Yoga Sparkle from Pinterest

Image: Pinterest

I began my yoga transformation on October 14, 2011. I didn’t know it was going to be a transformation; I was just looking to avoid knee surgery for a right knee injury that had been causing me great pain for nearly 9 years following a nasty car accident in 2002.

My intro to yoga was at a Bikram Yoga studio. (Not a hot yoga class offered at your corner yoga studio, but at an “official” Bikram certified studio with instructors who participated in the grueling 9-week intensive teacher training.)

I hate the heat and the humidity, so the idea of entering a 102-degree temp room with humidity added was not exactly appealing to me. But testimony after testimony that I read online gave me the strength to temporarily suspend that hate.

I won’t bore you with the details of my first experience but will tell you that within 5 consecutive practices, I was hooked and my knee pain had miraculously disappeared!

I could explain it away and say it was due to finally breaking up some scar tissue with a more effective exercise outside of walking, speed walking or elliptical training. I could claim it was just the heat. I could claim I hadn’t worked hard enough up until that point in my physical therapy. Sure. I could take the skeptical stance and say it was something other than the actual sequence, the holistic aspect of everything about Bikram yoga, that “fixed” me.

But I am not a skeptic…at least not any more. I truly believe Bikram yoga healed me, and I will be eternally grateful to my amazing instructors who brought and continue to bring it to me.

With that said, I must admit that Bikram yoga is not the end all and be all of yoga styles…not even close! I have a few complaints, let’s say, about Bikram yoga which explains why I have ventured out of my yoga comfort zone to become a yoga instructor of a yoga style other than Bikram.

1. There is no chance of being lulled into deep meditation in Bikram yoga, because there is no chanting or music in Bikram.

The absence of music might be seen as a good thing to anyone who suspects yoga is a religion or filled with “shining, happy people” oblivious to reality. When you enter a Bikram studio, don’t expect to be bombarded by Zen music in the practice room or by chimes or gongs or bells. Bikram yoga isn’t “pretty” yoga. It’s as serious as yoga can get without being serious yoga, if that makes any kind of sense. Even if you do get hooked on Bikram yoga, there will surely come a time you’ll want to venture out into the world of “pretty” yoga to experience the peace of a low-humming group “OM” to bring stillness. Bikram gives you stillness but not with music, and don’t we all love music on occasion?

2. There is no chance you’ll ever say, “I’ll be right back. I’m going to take a quick Bikram class.”

After spending 90 minutes in a sticky, hot room with a bunch of other sticky, hot AND smelly folks, you’ll definitely need and want to take an immediate shower, wash your hair and dump your clothes into the washing machine. There is nothing worse than tossing your just-used Bikram gear (towels, pants, top, etc.) into the backseat or at the bottom of your landing and tripping over them the next day. Why? Because you’ll pass out from the rancid odor and need smelling salts to be revived! Your olfactory will be screaming “Oh, f#@&!” I guarantee. I don’t even like sitting down on the seats of my car after a class without laying down a dry towel first. The drive to my home is less that 5 minutes, but the dry towel is nearly soaked through by the time I reach my front door.

3. There is no chance of building your upper body from a Bikram yoga practice, but your ass will be fabulous!

Unlike a Vinyasa flow or any class where you are doing up dogs and down dogs and planks, there ain’t nothing like that in Bikram yoga. Bikram yoga tends to focus more on lower body strength and balance and flexibility in your upper and lower back. The anti-arthritic grip used repeatedly throughout the series is great. But none of the postures will build your shoulder or bicep muscles. How can I be certain of that considering I am relatively new to yoga? Well, I had been practicing nothing but Bikram yoga for 12 months straight. Then I accidentally stumbled into an advanced Vinyasa flow class one Saturday morning. After 90 minutes of planks and dogs and crow poses and pigeons, I couldn’t raise my arms for three days. Yes. Three days. Although I had been actively participating in Bikram classes 3-4 times a week, nothing prepared me for the intense workout my arms and shoulders received that fateful Saturday.

Regardless of these few complaints, I recommend that everyone try Bikram yoga at least once. And if you’re a Bikram yoga fanatic like me, consider supplementing your practice with different yoga styles every now and then. Your arms will thank you.

Namaste!
~Paula

© 2013 Paula Carrasquillo and A Yogini Transformed.


Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate who has lived in numerous watersheds throughout the United States, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Mexico. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Paula is passionate about her family, friends and the motivational and brave people she meets daily through her online writing and social media exchanges. To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitterand check out her other blog.

Not just another yoga blog. ~ Paula Carrasquillo

Paula and son

Me and my biggest inspiration

Almost two years ago on October 14, 2011, I took my first yoga class. In a few short days on September 7, 2013, I will embark on my first yoga teacher training class!

Yoga was not a natural choice for me. I actually had an aversion to it after a brief encounter with a few yogis as a freshman in college many, many moons ago. Luckily for me and my body and my family and my friends, I let go of my negative first impressions and finally tried yoga at the ripe, young age of 39.

To say that I am happy with myself for taking that initial leap would be an understatement. I thank myself often for flushing my negativity about yoga down the proverbial toilet. If you’re interested in learning more about how and why I was able to do that, you can read my article online at Places to Yoga:

Overcoming Yoga Phobia by Paula Carrasquillo

In addition to writing in the past for Places to Yoga (above) and elephant journal (here), I currently contribute actively to my other blog and my column Living Inside Out Loud over at The Washington Times Communities.

(Needless to say, I like to write. It’s an outlet, and I’d like to think I’m good at it and won’t bore you.)

I specifically created this blog to chronicle the next chapter in my ever-changing life: my 200-hour, yoga teacher training journey which will hopefully take me deeper into my practice.

With my writing on this blog, I hope to motivate and influence someone (maybe many someones) out there to try yoga, continue practicing and maybe even consider becoming a yoga instructor, too, one day.

I am a very yoga-centric person. If you were to ask my close family and friends and even the followers of my other blog about me and yoga, they might start with something like, “Paula thinks yoga is the cure for everything.”

I can say that they are half right.

Yoga has definitely had a positive impact on my life and my faith and spirituality. By no means do I want to push my practice upon anyone. I must admit, however, that I do have a problem with asking everyone in ear shot Have you ever tried yoga? about as often as some people say hum and um when speaking in public.

(It’s a habit I don’t know if I’m capable of breaking.)

If you found my blog by accident (or if I succeeded in twisting your arm enough for you to follow the link I shoved on your news feed), I hope you consider “following” and contributing to the conversation. I look forward to sharing and learning with you all.

Class begins in three days. See you soon!

Namaste!
~Paula

© 2013 Paula Carrasquillo and A Yogini Transformed.

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