yoga

Embracing the Dark

The Dark. The Unknown.  It can be a scary place. 

Although, I am literally still afraid of the dark at 24 years old (no shame), this phrase is often meant in a more figurative way. Today, figurative met literal on my mat. I wasn’t at a studio. I didn’t have a special routine planned. I simply stepped foot on Split Pea, closed my eyes and kept them shut for (approximately) 30 minutes  as I allowed my body to flow.  It was the most beautiful practice.

While I was literally in the dark, my mind was able to get focused and lost all at the same time.  As I sat in child pose to begin my practice, I became so aware of my breath.  I found that I was surrounded by so much calm and peace that I simply wanted to stay in this safe haven I created.  So, I decided to stay in the dark.

As I continued to flow, I felt self judgement be released with each breath.  Although I practice yoga daily, I know my form has a long way to go.  When my eyes are open during a practice, it’s so easy to look around and try to get into the pose perfectly.  As my eyes stayed shut during todays practice, it just didn’t matter.  Because it felt so, so good.  The deep stretch, the calming of my breath, the lack of judgement.  I was in my safe.  I was at peace. I was embracing a dark space. A space I had created with my self, for my self.

So, although the dark can be both literally and figuratively frightening, it can also bring you to such a beautiful place. A place that may never be found if you don’t take that leap of faith in yourself.

Maybe closed-eyed yoga isn’t quite for you.  But, however you approach the darkness, approach it with trust in your self, in your breath, in your body — your temple.

Namaste. The light in me, honored the light in myself today. It also honors the light in you.

On My Mat, 365

Today, I set an intention of being present.  While I strive to find presence in each day, I was extra aware of it today.  Simply for the fact that this is my last week with my students.

As a teacher, I have many first days, first weeks, last days and last weeks in my future.  It was this time last year I had my very first last week of teaching, last day of teaching.  This year, though, is different.  This year has been special.

I swore off teaching at my first year.  After living 10 months of constant stress, an overly ambitious and eager attitude, I knew I couldn’t live the next 10, 20, 30+ years like this.  If this was teaching, I thought, I did not want to be a teacher. So, I took a leap, changed paths, and created my own happiness.

Little did I know that my journey would lead me right back into the classroom.

My second year of teaching has been completely different.  What changed exactly?  Me. I changed my attitude.  I created new habits.  I shifted my perspective.  Teaching was no longer this exhausting career because I made choices that kept me balanced.

And it all started on my mat. Yoga became my escape during my first year of teaching.  The heat, the mantras, chanting ohm. I loved it all.  What started as my escape soon became my home.  When I step foot on my mat, I become grounded.  I become reminded of the power within myself.  The power I have to create a greater balance, a greater good.

I look back and am amazed at the mental and physical transformation I’ve had on my mat.  The struggle was real when I would attempt downward dog.  My tight muscles matched perfectly with my tight mind.  But, overtime, it all lightened and loosened up.

As I reflect on my journey over the past two years, I am surrounded with gratitude for the growth and the experiences.  However, everyday is a new day.  We will always be newbies, beginners in this life of ours.  I want a part of each day, of each journey to be spent on my mat; to be grounded by Split Pea.

There’s no time like the present to practice presence.  So, join in me #onmymat365.  Get on your mat once a day, every day to find the bliss, the gratitude, the happiness in your journey.

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Shout out to my forever friend Erin who helped get me started on my yoga, soul searching journey.

Sweating Right: My Must Haves

I’m a firm believer in quality over quantity.  Okay, maybe I do both quality and quantity.  But, hey, how can you not justify multiple quality purchases?

Whether it’s fuel for my body or my mind, I’m going to make sure it’s a good investment.  And, that includes my sweaty gear.  When you lead an active life style, you want comfortable, functional, cute gear that’ll last through your many sweaty adventures.

Here’s a list of my “Must Haves” when it comes to sweating right: 

1: lululemon’s What the Sport Shorts

Runners…you MUST check these shorts out.  There are MULTIPLE reasons I’m in love with these shorts.

  • side pockets for my phone, keys and mini water bottle (they stay in place!)
  • they are the perfect length…not too short, not too long
  • internal drawstring incase you’re like me and your booty is a bit bigger than your waist so sizing can get complicated
  • waistband pockets for running goos, your key, chapstick etc;

I literally do ALL my long runs in these shorts.  They’re perfect for race day, too! Gone are the days of carrying your belongings in your hand…or bra.

2: A Good Pair of Shoes 

…and more than one pair.  Your feet do A LOT for you.  Treat them right.  Whether you’re a runner, weight lifter, CrossFitter…whatever…pay the money for good pairs of shoes.  Also, do your research on shoes.  And I don’t just mean read other people’s reviews.  While this is helpful, everyone’s body is different and has different needs.  Just because a shoe did/did not work for them doesn’t mean it won’t work for you.  Test the shoes out, and see how your body reacts to them.

For me, I LOVE my Brooks adrenalines.  I’ve started running longer distances on the weekends, so I needed to find a shoe that was going to support my body along the way.  I also just invested in a pair of Mizuno Wave Paradox…stay tuned for a review of those 😉

3. lululemon’s The Mat

My mat is my everything.  Split Pea has taken me adventures my runs couldn’t even dream of.  The Mat absorbs sweat and stays in place.  I can’t imagine perfecting my downward dog on any other type of mat!

My Towel Mat is also fabulous.  A holiday gift from my boo, it has been the perfect accessory for hot yoga, tanning pool side and relaxing on a sandy beach. It’s easy to wash…and it’s the perfect length!

4. Tracking

I by no means look at myself as a “serious” athlete.  Well, actually I am.  “Serious” in the sense that I’m serious about taking care of my body.   I work out to honor my body, to free my mind.  However, part of honoring my body is understanding what my body is doing.  So, I invested in a Polar watch and Heart Rate Monitor.  These two purchases have been my most expensive investments, but the most worth it.  My watch helps me monitor my milage, pace, sleep etc;  My heart rate monitor allows me to track how many calories I burn during my yoga, pilates & weight lifting sessions.  It was important for me to know this so that I could properly refuel my body before and after each workout. (See below)

5. Fuel

As I’ve added long runs back into my weekly routine, staying proper fueled is SO important.  I made sure to invest in a mini water bottle from Bull City Running Company (also where I purchased my adrenalines!) I just squeeze and the water pours perfectly into my mouth.  Plus, it fits perfectly into the pockets of my What the Sport Shorts I bragged about earlier.

I’ve also started consuming carbs while running.  My body burns through food quickly, so it’s vital I keep it energized.  I’m loving Clif Shot Bloks.  They give me the burst of energy I need as the miles add up on my runs.

Your body needs fuel all day every day…not just when you’re working out.  My nutrition is without a doubt what keeps me sweating right.  If you’re just fueling up the day before/day of…you’re doing it wrong.  How can you expect your body to do all that it does (like live…) without the proper nutrition?  Just like my gear, I invest in my food.

Sure, sweating right can get pricey.  But, when you’re treating your body to quality products…you can’t go wrong!

Here’s a picture that includes almost all of the above:

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Happy Sweating!

Baby It’s Cold Outside

Cold weather makes it extra hard to get out of a cozy bed and get your sweat on.  That and puppies with fractured toes that make you feel guilty anytime you leave them home alone.

So, why leave your house when you don’t have to?  Here’s a list three types of equipment that can give you a decent workout without ever leaving your home.

1. Jump Ropes

I remember being able to jump rope like it was my job when I was young.  Which is baffling because that shit is hard.  I get more winded doing jump rope than I do from running.  Jumping rope is not only great cardio, but you’ll feel it in your arms, legs and core.  Already a master at single jumps?  Try conquering double unders.  This is where the rope goes under your feet twice while you’re in the air.  Warning: this exercise will most likely result in multiple whip marks that hurt like hell.

I got mine from here.

2. Kettle Bell

I love love love kettle bells.  They are great for adding weight to different movements.  Squatting, pressing, crunching etc; add a kettle bell!  They’re easy to grip and move. Hello sculpted muscles!

3. Yoga Mat

Split Pea is (obviously) my favorite piece of at home equipment.  Not only are mats great for yoga, but it gives you a good service to practice other movements on (sit ups, squats, push ups, handstands etc;)  They especially come in handy for core movements…you know you want to avoid rug burn on your lower back/ass.  Invest in a good yoga mat.  My favorite is The Mat from lululemon.  The material absorbs sweat and gives me a firm surface to balance on.

So there you have it…another excuse to not leave your home this winter.

 

Why You Don’t “Have To” Work Out

 

Disclaimer: I am in no shape or form saying that you should not work out.  I (obviously) am passionate about leading a healthy lifestyle and understand the full benefits of getting your sweat on.

That being said, you don’t have to work out.

I have always loved to sweat.  From softball to basketball to volleyball to track, being an athlete is a part of who I am. I’ll be the first to admit that I can get carried away and obsessive about sweating.  I’m a passionate person and when I dedicate myself to something, I give it my all.  This isn’t exactly healthy, though.

My biggest lesson in the past year is if your place/form of sweat is causing you stress, you’re doing it wrong.  Your workouts should be stress relievers, not stress endusers.

Like I said earlier, I’m a passionate person.  My sweat life has a history of getting the best of me and taking over.  First it was running, and then it was CrossFit.  You refuse to miss workouts.  You assume you’ll be weaker by taking another rest day.  You must push through the pain. It’s easy to think you’re being healthy, because, hello, you’re working out.  Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

I’ve been there.  You give your workouts your all because they make you feel good.  They help you escape.  They help you feel good.  But how good do you really feel if your workouts are controlling you and not the other way around?

I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to work out.  Still sore even after a day of rest? Focus on stretching. (Yoga is just as important as lifting!)  You didn’t PR today?  That does not mean you’re weak.  Not every day is going to be PR day.  In my post Why You Should Step Outside Your Fitness Zone, I talked about the value of switching up your sweat routine.  Well, I’ve taken my advice and have been spreading the love.  And you know what?  I feel healthier than ever.  I may not be making the same gains I was in CrossFit, but I’m not beating myself up over it.

If you ask me, that’s what working out is all about.  Getting your sweat on. Having fun. Feeling good.

Why The Best Yogis Don’t Have To Be Flexible

Hi, my name is Devin Gaynor and I’m an inflexible yogi.

I’ve pretty much always struggled with my flexibility.  I remember being in elementary school asking my gym teacher to teach me how to touch my toes.  And I’ve always epically failed the test where you sit down with your legs straight and reach for a line.  I’m pretty sure I always barely reached the box…

Well I’m proud to say that a recent accomplishment of mine was being able to touch my toes (woohoo!) A goal of mine is to take a yoga teacher training and one day own a studio.  My lack of flexibility had me wondering if I’d get baffled looks from people thinking “She’s going to teach yoga?!”

That is until I was in class the other morning and my instructor announced “I’m probably the most inflexible yoga teacher you’ll ever meet.”  I was ecstatically thinking oh my lanta I’m not alone!

You see, with yoga, it’s all about your state of mind.  Sure, you’re challenging your body in multiple physical ways, but, at the end of your practice, it’s all about having mental freedom.

Here’s how you can be a fabulous yogi without being flexible:

1. Modify: Your body is different from my body.  There are some things that come easy to me, there are some things that are crazy hard for me.  When you modify in any workout, your body is still doing work.  The difference is, when you modify, your body is doing work the right way.  Form is the foundation of building strength or conquering a skill.  I happily sit on my mat with two blocks by my side. If I’m going to treat my body to yoga, I’m going to treat it right by modifying when needed.

2. Film Poses: I’m a very visual learner.  I need to see something in order to understand  it.  When I’m in yoga, I can see how the instructor and other people are doing the poses, but I have no idea how I’m doing them.  So, I go home and film myself doing those poses.  It’s the best way to see if I need to raise my hips, lower my shoulders, or push down my heels.  Once I know what the correct way feels like, I’m able to repeat the movement on my own.

3. Just Breathe: A woman named Kylie came into lululemon yesterday.  We got to talking and I learned she was a yoga instructor in Brevard.  I was telling her all about my goals in wanting to teach yoga one day and that I’m working on being more into my own practice and working on my flexibility first.  Then she shared literally one of the best ideas ever: If you can breathe, you can do yoga.  Yes, yoga has helped me become stronger physically, but at the end of a practice, I feel best because yoga has strengthened me mentally.  And it did that by teaching me how to breathe.  At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about: breathing.

So, if you’re going into a yoga class with the mentality of getting a kick ass workout, being the strongest and most flexible…you’re doing it wrong.

You want to be a better yogi?

Just breathe.

Sweat Schedule

SWEAT SCHEDULE

Happy Sunday!

One way to make sure you fit (see what I did there?) sweat time into your schedule is by planning for it.  As you read in my Motivation Monday: Get Organized post, I write down where I’m sweating for the week in the planner.  And now, I’ll be dedicated to sharing my upcoming sweat schedule with you every week.
Sunday: 3 mile run with Pood
Monday: SuMMit CrossFit at 3 PM
Tuesday: 2 mile run
Wednesday: Warm Vinyasa Flow at Asheville Community Yoga 6:30 to 7:45 
Thursday: Spin Class at Asheville Racquet Club 9 AM, Bikram Yoga with Lex at Bikram Yoga Asheville 6:30 to 8:00 pm
Friday: Tower 1 at Pure Pilates with Meagan 8 to 8:50 followed by Gentle Flow with Michael at Asheville Community Yoga 9:30 to 11.
Saturday: Rest Day
 
Happy Sweating!

How To Be Free

Alright, guys, I have a confession.  It might be hard to believe, but even I have days where I don’t feel like being a ray of sunshine. I know, I know.  It seems like I literally spew rainbows everywhere I go. And as much as I love being positive, sometimes it takes work.

Positivity for me is a way of expressing my freedom.  A lot of people tell me that I have a great smile.  I don’t think it has anything to do with my teeth. (Let’s be real, they’re a little crooked.)  I like to think it has to do with the fact that it’s a positive, authentic smile showing I’m free. 

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But, like I said, sometimes that positivity takes work.  There are days when I wake up and I feel off.  Friday was one of those days.  My mind was clouded by questions.  I was unsure of myself and second guessing my decisions. I didn’t feel like me.

I decided that my heart (and my hamstrings) could use some love. So I went to Asheville Community Yoga and took a class led by my absolute favorite instructor in the world, Michael.  I typically attend one of Michael’s Warm Vinyasa Flows.  This time, though, I attended his Gentle Flow class.  It was exactly what my body and mind needed.

Incase you aren’t aware, I’m obsessed with Michael’s classes.  And I know, I know, I’ve said multiple times in my posts before that obsessions in any shape or form are not good.  But literally anytime I have something on my mind, I swear Michael knows it.  Whatever he’s preaching in class that day directly relates to the thoughts clouding my head.  And this class was no different.

First, the topic of relationships came up.  Relationships are life.  Any and everything we do has to do with relationships, whether it’s with other people or with ourselves. When we are in relationship with others, we are so eager to give them what they want. Instead, we need to think about how we can serve that person.  Instantly, I realized that in order to serve others, I need to first serve myself. Because, if I’m not in relationship with myself, I cannot provide an authentic relationship to others.

As I stood on one foot in tree pose, I thought to myself, well how do I serve myself? And then just like that Michael said “Let it be.” I cannot control the past nor the future.  I can only be present.  I must let everything else be.  Then, I will be free. And just like that, I was.

Freedom doesn’t always come that easy.  And I won’t always be able to go to a yoga class to clear my mind.  The ability is within myself, and it’s within you, too.

Here’s five things you can do to free yourself on those off days:

1. Set An Intention: at the beginning of the yoga class, Michael told us to set an intention.  Mine was to commit to being in relationship with myself, since at the moment, this relationship seemed fuzzy.  Throughout the class, he reminded us to revisit our intention and focus on it.  Set an intention for yourself every day.  Put post it notes up to remind yourself of it, or put a reminder in your phone.  Whatever you have to do to keep that intention on your mind.  It’ll give a purpose to your day.  If you need help in setting intentions, you can check out Positive Life Tips. You can sign up to receive an email daily.  It’s definitely not a bad way to start your day.

2. Clear Your Mind: what I love about yoga and meditation is it provides you with a space to clear your mind.  In this class, Michael told us to let it be.  Release that emotion from your heart and your head.  If it’s not serving you, its distracting you.  It’s taking up space that could (and should) be filled with love.

3. Replace Negative Feelings: after you clear your heart and mind of your distraction, you must replace that emotion.  For me, I cleared confusion and self doubt during class, and replaced it with trust and self love. I released the feelings of confusion and self doubt.  Trust and self love took their place.

4. Commit To It: once you clear and replace those feelings, you must commit to allowing their presence.  This may not always come easy, but setting an intention around these emotions can help.  Let their presence guide you through your day.

5. Serve Yourself: if you want to serve those around you, you have to first serve yourself.  Provide yourself the means to a happy, loving heart and mind. How you serve yourself is up to you.  Do what clears your mind, what provides you the space to create that freedom. 

For me, it’s physical activity.  It’s yoga, CrossFit and running.  It’s my way of meditating.  They provide me the space to feel gratitude and self love.  When I am grateful and filled with love, I’m positive.

When I’m positive, I’m free.

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Why You Should Step Outside Your Fitness Zone

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I am having the happiest of Hump Days since I started my morning with a challenge: my first pilates class at Pure Pilates.  I was awful.  It was fabulous.

Being a planner and avid organizer, I am all about routine and structure.  However, it can be easy to get stuck in your comfort zone. I’ll be the first to admit that I hate change.  But, with change comes growth, and let’s admit it: we all have room to grow.

In the past, I’ve been known to get caught up in my fitness routines.  We’ve all been there: obsessing over workouts, knowing your way of sweating is the best way, and pushing yourself to improve in your sport.  Exercise should be used as a means to bring balance to your life.  Unfortunately, obsessions (no matter the shape or form) will do anything but create balance.

Being a passionate person, I tend to become a perfectionist, even in my sport.  Instead of being perfect at the sport, I’d rather use the sport to create the perfect (healthiest) me.   And let’s be real…not every sport offers it all.  That’s why I’ve decided to step outside my fitness zone.

For the past three years, CrossFit has been my love.  It’s allowed me to become physically and mentally stronger.  Unfortunately, I’ve let me flexibility (or lack there of) slip by.  I’ve always just accepted that I was inflexible.  (Side note: that’s totally not okay.)  My most recent achievement was being able to touch my toes. 

This morning, pilates opened my eyes to how unaware I am of my body.  I compensate lack of flexibility by using strength.  My favorite thing about stepping outside my fitness comfort zone is being humbled.  I know by continuing to step outside of it will only allow me to grow, especially in the sport I love.

Here’s three reasons to step outside your fitness zone:

1. Build New Strengths: each sport has something unique to offer. Stepping outside of your fitness zone will help you see where there’s room to grow.

2. New Communities: my favorite thing about trying out new boxes and studios is meeting new people.  Each community has it’s own special-something.  Plus, who doesn’t love making new friends?

3. Being Humbled: being humbled by a new sports allows me to recognize when I’m getting too obsessive with another.  It’s possible to strengthen and grow without being compulsive about it.  It’s okay to not be the best at everything.  

So here’s my advice: switch it up.  I promise your lifts won’t suck if you decide to go to yoga or pilates instead of pumping iron.  And adding a lifting sesh may help you perfect that crow pose you’ve been fighting for.  I’m by no means saying it’s possible to do it all.  But, I am challenging you to add something new to your fitness routine, even if it is just once a week.  Find a happy balance.  You’ll see improvement in both your sport and lifestyle. 

 

Throwback Thursday: Run, Devin, Run

Don’t worry…this post will not be filled with old school pictures of me.

Instead, this #tbt is dedicated to the revival of the runner inside of me.  This morning I registered for my very first half marathon:  The YMCA Mistletoe Run. All the proceeds go to supporting educational programs fighting childhood obesity, making this race the obvious choice for me.

I’ll be honest, running isn’t a struggle for me.  I can run miles upon miles at a steady pace.  Running my first half marathon is going to be more of a mental challenge than a physical one.  I mean, let’s be real…it’s going to be an automatic PR (all first time races are).  I’m more focused on staying positive during my runs and, well, not getting bored.
This time, I’m going to train for races the right way.  When I used to run track and cross country, the only training I had was running.  Yes, we went to the weight room, but all I did was a shit ton of sit ups and other abdominal movements.  Don’t get me wrong, I was a strong runner then.  But, my mind was weak. A big misconception is the only way to get better at running is to just run farther, faster and more.   Another (very unfortunate) misconception is that weight training will make you slower.  I feel beyond confident that strength training will only support my body in this new challenge. I’m ready to tackle my first marathon using CrossFit and yoga along with running.

Here’s a look at what my general training schedule will be. 

half marathon schedule

Of course my training will alter here and there based on my work schedule and, because, let’s face it: life just happens sometimes.

Also, being that my race isn’t until December 6th, I have some time until I start adding on my distance.  This gives me plenty of time to not only get into the groove of my schedule, but allow my body to bounce back after having my wisdom teeth removed (aka worst experience of my life…)

Have you ever ran a half marathon?  What advice do you have to offer?

Ready…set…run!