Yoga Pose Breakdown: Lotus

Lotus (Padmasana)
It’s the pose many people associate with yoga – a calm, wise-looking yogi, meditating with crossed ankles. It seems painful and impossible to get into – and while it can be if flexibility is missing in certain areas of your body – it doesn’t have to be. With consistent stretching of the correct muscles, Lotus is within reach more than you might think!

So let’s break the pose down a little bit:

What muscles need to be stretched?

TFL Outer hipsTensor Fascia Latae:
This muscle connects to your IT band and the top/front of your pelvis. It helps internally rotate the femur at the hip – when tight, it limits external rotation.

Gluteus Medius:
Internally rotates the femur bone in the hip socket – when tight, it limits external rotation.

 

 

adductor muscles


Adductor Muscles:

Since these muscles cross the hip joint + connect to your femur bone, the flexibility of these muscles are necessary for lotus. Tightness can prevent your knees from reaching the floor and creating deeper external rotation in the hip.

 

 

 

 

hamstringsHamstrings:
The hamstrings don’t contribute to the rotation of the hip, but they do affect the tilt of the pelvis. If your hamstrings are tight, you are more likely to have a posterior tilt (pelvis tucked under), as your hamstrings attach to the bottom of your pelvis. This affects posture while in lotus (or any sitting position) – having a slight anterior tilt releases tension in the lower back and improves posture.

 

While stretching the above muscles will help create more space in externally rotating your hip, the hip must be doing the rotation (it is a ball and socket joint!). More rotation in the hip (versus treating your hip socket, pelvis, and surrounding muscles as 1 unit) = less tension/stress on your knee joint.

So what poses can be done to prepare for Lotus?

Low squat (Malasana)
Externally rotates the femur bone, opens up the hip joint, stretches adductor muscles.

Malasana  Modified Malasana

Butterfly (Baddha Konasana)
Externally rotates the femur bone, opens up the hip joint, stretches adductor muscles
*Do not put a lot of pressure on knees to get them closer to the ground. Instead, perform a PNF stretch, which will bypass your stretch reflex & help release the adductors. Push hands & knees against each other, at 20% effort for 8 seconds. Relax for one breath, then gently press your knees down a little further than before.  **Only perform PNF stretching 1-2 times every few days on a single muscle group.

Baddha Konasana

Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
Stretches the outer hips/glutes. Add a twist to stretch adductors & external rotators. Place block under glute for modification.

Pigeon Pose

Pigeon Pose Modification

Reclined Figure 4
Modification for pigeon pose – stretches the outer hips/glutes & inner thigh muscles.

Figure 4

Figure 4 Yoga

Figure 4 Yoga

Forward Fold
Stretches hamstrings, lower back. Place block between legs & rest head on block as a modification.

Forward Fold Yoga

Forward Fold Modification

Seated Cat’s cradle stretch
Stretches tensor fascia latae & glute medius – make sure to pull knee into chest before externally rotating your leg (creates more space in your hip joint) to cradle it + also flex your foot. Gently rock leg from side to side.

Revolved Triangle
Stretches the hamstrings and the muscles attached to the IT band – Tensor Fascia Latae & Glutes. Use a block for modification.

Paravrtta Trikonasana

Revolved Triangle Modification

Hero’s Pose (Virasana)
Opens up the hip joint (internal rotation), stretches quads & hip flexors. Place a block between legs as a modification. For a more intense stretch, lean back on elbows or lay on back. **I was able to do this around 6-8 months post-knee surgery, so patience is key with this pose 🙂

Heros Pose

Heros Pose Yoga

Heros Pose

Heros Pose Modification

Once you’ve done a few of the above stretches, you can now try to enter lotus. **If you don’t feel comfortable attempting lotus just yet, do the stretches above 2-4 times a week (or more if you are looking to increase your flexibility faster!), holding for 30-60 seconds.

Begin in a seated position, both legs straight in front of you. Hug your right (or left) knee to your chest, and allow the knee to fall out to the side, relaxing the muscles around your hip in order for the external rotation to happen. If your knee is not close to the ground, stay here, and repeat the above step with the other leg, staying in butterfly pose.

***Also, if you feel any tension in your knee, that is a signal to STOP. When the external rotation of your hip stops (a ball and socket joint), the rotation is then transferred to your knee (a hinge joint, NOT a joint that can move freely like the hip!). This puts pressure on your cartilage and meniscus, which can cause serious injury to your knee(s).

If you feel no pressure on your knees, begin to move your (flexed) foot up and across your thigh so that it rests on the inner crease of your hip. If you feel pressure at your knee at any point during the movement of your foot, do not continue with the stretch.

If you are able to get into half lotus, repeat with the other leg. Sometimes, we are more open on one side of our bodies, so switching the order of the left/right leg on top might help you get into this pose easier on the other side.

And that’s it! By understanding the muscles involved with getting into lotus pose, you now have an awareness of what to work towards. Give yourself a few weeks or 1-2 months of consistent stretching, and you’ll begin to notice an opening of your outer hips & inner thighs, making lotus a little more accessible.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

Yoga for Athletes

Growing up an athlete, I always struggled with flexibility. Basketball, Soccer, Track, and even Gymnastics – my body always felt stiff and limited. For anyone who has ever played sports or exercised, lack of flexibility seems to be a pretty common theme. And while you don’t need to be bendy like a gymnast, there are many, many benefits to stretching, which I have personally found through yoga.

While there are many other ways to stretch on your own, Yoga has been a go-to not just for improving flexibility, but also for core strength, balance, increasing strength, alignment, body awareness, and focus!

Yoga for Athletes

It’s easy to write off stretching before or after a workout, but I am here to tell you… don’t! Before I began consistently stretching, I was always stiff, prone to injuries, and struggled to progress in my workouts. Below are just a few reasons that I became a huge advocate for stretching/yoga:

  • Compliments strength by creating more space and movement surrounding your joints
  • Improvement of endurance by holding yoga poses and using all muscles in your body to move through yoga sequences
  • Improves body awareness by focusing on alignment, muscles, and joints
  • Certain types of yoga (Yin, Deep Stretch) can be relaxing and meditative, and it releases stress
  • Everyone deals with stress differently by holding it in different areas of the body – yoga helps release tension & built up stress through the combination of movement and stretching
  • During the Industrial revolution, there were many more jobs that involved moving and standing, and there were no lower back issues. Now, many of us have lower back issues due to tight hips, psoas, quad muscles, all from sitting at a desk all day. The unique movements of yoga help increasea mobility in the body, leading to less pain & more freedom of movement
  • Stretching the muscles surrounding your joints gives them more flexibility and mobility

So when is the best time to stretch?

Sometimes muscles are so tight that just stretching won’t work. Like a Chinese finger trap – the muscles must be shortened, then stretched to release. So working out the muscle first, then stretching right after is key to releasing tight muscles.

My favorite time to stretch is through Vinyasa yoga, where the technique of Dynamic Stretching is used, or immediately after a long run or workout when my muscles are warmed up and have a lot of blood flowing to them. As long as you are getting  stretch in, it doesn’t matter when – just find what works best for YOU!

So if you are completely new to stretching/yoga, where the heck do you begin?

 

Just 5 minutes a day, 3-5 days a week. I swear by this – I committed to 5 minutes of stretching a day, and noticed results within just 1 month of being consistent. I picked a few poses, then held them while watching TV or reading. Super easy, and it wasn’t something that added much time to my already-busy days. The more you stretch, the more your body gets used to it, and it starts to feel GOOD (I promise!). Trust me, forward folds used to be my least favorite thing to do in the world!

After a month of consistent stretching/yoga, I noticed my workouts were changing – I was running faster, had less pain/tightness in my hips, and my legs didn’t feel like bricks when I went on runs! My body started to feel like it moved with more ease, and my lower back pain started to decrease.

**Please note that consistency is key. When you stretch, you are creating a new set-length for your muscles. If you only stretch once a week, your muscles will not stay at that new length. Think of it like working out – if you don’t work out, you’ll lose muscle, endurance, etc. Same with stretching – keep up with it, and you’ll notice results over time. 

So what poses can be done if you just stretch for 5 minutes a day?

 

Below are a handful of yoga stretches that can be done every day, or every other day. I’ve included poses for every area of the body, depending on what you are looking to focus on. Pick a few for each day, and watch the magic of your body opening up after just 1 month!

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana: Down Dog
Stretches:
Hamstrings, Calves, Upper back, Shoulders, Pecs
Strengthens: Shoulders, arms, and engages the core while pushing the hips up
Misc:
Lengthens the spine, releasing compression from poor posture or running
Time: Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Repeat 2-3 times

Paschimottanasana: Standing Forward Fold
Stretches: Hamstrings, Calves, Lower back
Strengthens: Mental strengthener 😉
Misc:
Contract your quads in order to relax your hamstrings
Time: Hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times

Toes Pose
Stretches: Shins, arches of feet
Strengthens: N/A
Misc:
Modify if the first option is too intense
Time: Hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat 2 times each side

Option 1:

Option 2 (Modification):

Malasana/Garland Pose
Stretches: Ankles, achilles heels, groin, back, and opens up the hips
Strengthens: N/A
Misc:
Use elbows to push knees out for a more intense stretch on the inner thighs
Time: Hold for 1 minute

Option 1:

Option 2 (Modification):

Supta Gomukhasana/ Reclined Cow-Face Pose
Stretches:
Glutes/Outer hips, Piriformis
Strengthens: arms, if you are pulling legs towards you
Misc:
Pull feet towards you for a more intense stretch
Time: Hold for 1 minute. Repeat on other side

To enter: lay on back – cross one leg over the other, bending both. Reach hands to grab outer edges of feet, ankles, shins, or knees. 

Anjaneyasana/Low Lunge
Stretches:
Psoas, Quads/Hip flexors, Groin, Hip joint
Strengthens: Quads and glutes
Misc:
Roll to outer edge of front foot to stretch inner thigh & open hip joint. Slightly squeeze glute to allow your quad muscle to relax.
Time: Hold for 1 minute. Repeat on other side

Low Lunge w/Quad Stretch
Stretches:
Psoas, Quads/Hip flexors, Groin, Hip joint
Strengthens: Quads and glutes
Misc:
Modify – place towel under knee if experiencing pressure/pain
Time: Hold for 1 minute. Repeat on other side

Parsva Balasana/Thread the Needle
Stretches:
Shoulders, Chest, Arms, Upper back, Neck
Strengthens: N/A
Misc:
Modify – place towel under knees if experiencing pressure/pain
Time: Hold for 30 seconds – 1 minute. Repeat on other side

Janu Sirsasana/Head-to-knee Forward Bend
Stretches: Shoulders, Spine, Upper back, Hamstrings, Groin
Strengthens: Back
Misc:
Modify – wrap a towel or strap around your foot if you cannot reach
Time: Hold for 1 minute. Repeat on other side

Reclined Twisted Figure-4
Stretches: Glutes/Outer hips, Piriformis, IT band, TFL, Spine
Strengthens: N/A
Misc:
Pull knee closer towards you for a deeper stretch
Time: Hold for 1 minute. Repeat on other side

To enter: lay on back withbent knees. Place your nakle on the opposite knee, creating a “4” with your legs. Drop your legs to the side so that your foot is flat on the ground.

And that’s it! No need to do every single stretch in one sitting – just choose a few and call it a night 🙂 If you are new to yoga and are interested in taking a class, I recommend going to a yin or deep stretch yoga class – both are slower-paced, perfect for beginners, and offer many variations + props. **If you are in the South Florida area, pop-in to my Deep Stretch class on Wednesday’s at 6:30 pm!

Any other good stretches that you have done to compliment your workout as an athlete? Leave a comment below!

6 Types of Stretching

stretchHave you ever looked at gymnasts, dancers, or people who practice yoga and think… how the heck are they so flexible?? Yah, me too! Obviously there are hours, days, and years of stretching and practice that go into creating a body that moves like gumby, but did you know there are different ways to stretch in order to reduce the amount of time needed to reach higher levels of flexibility?

It wasn’t until after I became a certified yoga teacher and personal trainer that I really began to connect the dots – with a combination of different types of stretching + knowledge of anatomy, it became easier to deepen my stretches. This exploration and knowledge has spilled over into my yoga classes and personal training clients, and can be done before, during, or after any workout – yoga, gym, workout class, etc!

 

So what’s the secret?

 

While you can’t become gumby overnight, there are many ways to work with your body and go deeper in every stretch you do. I’ve compiled a list of different tricks, tips, and techniques used by athletes, performers in Cirque de Soleil, and yoga superstars below – take a look, try a few of them, and watch how quickly your body changes with consistent stretching!

Pre-Stretching:

Take a tennis ball, foam roller, or stick, and roll out your muscles! By doing this, you activate trigger points in your muscles, increase blood flow & allow them to release before you begin stretching.

Foam rolling: https://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/foam-roller-exercises

Tennis Ball: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/jenn-zerling/tennis-ball-therapy_b_9369586.html

Stick: https://www.thestick.com/instructions
 

The 6 different types of Stretching:

 

After rolling out your muscles, they are ready to be stretched! Below are 6 different ways to stretch – all work efficiently, and all can be done before, during, and/or after workouts.

 

1. Passive Static Stretching

Static stretching is probably everyone’s least favorite way to stretch – it is basically just holding a stretch, no movement. Either you are stretching as far as you can go, or there is an outside force (like someone else) pushing you deeper into a stretch. Passive stretching is the most common way to stretch – holding for 15-30 seconds, 1-2 times, will be the most effective.

 

2. Active Static Stretching

Active static stretching is *almost* the same as passive, except it requires a little more knowledge on the anatomy of the body. The *Active* in static stretching refers to contracting an agonist muscle, which in turn allows your antagonist muscles to relax. So what the heck does this mean? Agonist? Antagonist? It’s pretty simple – for every muscle you engage, there is a corresponding muscle (or muscles) that automatically relax, and vice versa. For example:

 

 

Agonist muscle: Quad muscle (rectus femoris) (contract)

Antagonist muscle: Hamstring muscles (relax)

Example Pose: Forward fold. Contract quadriceps, and your hamstrings relax

If you aren’t a doctor or know the entire anatomy of the body and want to know how to relax & stretch a muscle deeper, just google like I do – “Antagonist muscle to_________” – and the resulting answer will show at the top of your search results!

 

3. Isometric Stretching

This type of stretching is a little more demanding on the joints & muscle tendons, so if using this method of stretching, limit it to once every day or 2. However, it provides a deep stretch & is not as uncomfortable as static stretching 🙂

To do an isometric stretch:

First, contract the muscle you want to stretch for 10-15 seconds. By doing this, it produces tension in your muscle and activates your golgi tendon (a nerve sensor). When your golgi tendon is activated, it sends a message to the brain. The brain then taps the nervous system, who is the mediator, which sends a relaxation response back to the contracted muscle. Release the contraction, then relax the muscle for 20 seconds. Repeat one more time.

In doing this, you stretch the muscle and create a new “set length”.

**When creating a new set length, you are actually creating muscle memory – which means it is easier to regain flexibility if you’ve taken time off from stretching!

Example: in Heros pose, contract your quads. Then, relax into the stretch. Repeat. That’s it!

 

 

4. Facilitated/PNF Stretching

stretch

PC credit: StretchCoach.com

PNF stretching – proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation – is a combination of Isometric and Passive Active Stretching (as explained in 1& 3). It is thought to be the most advanced and effective way to stretch, as it was originally developed as a form of rehabilitation.

First, passively stretch the muscle – stretch as far as you can, or have an outside force stretch you as much as possible for 3-8 seconds.

Second, contract the muscle you want to stretch, and push into the stretch a little deeper (without moving) for about 6-10 seconds.

Third, Relax for one breath, then push into the stretch a little deeper for 20-30 seconds.

Relax, then repeat 2-4 times

**Be sure to warm up the body & muscles before performing this type of stretch – there is an increased risk for injuring soft tissue due to the contract/relax technique.

Check out this article for a little more detail on PNF stretching.

 

 5. Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretching is controlled, repetitive movements that increase flexibility. Meaning, Stretching with controlled movement. Example: Vinyasa Yoga!

It is best to do in the morning, as this type of movement resets your resting muscle length for the day.

 

6. Ballistic Stretching

Ballistic Stretching is the most dangerous out of all 6 stretches – since you are stretching while actively moving, it is not a controlled movement – it is the use of momentum of a body part to force the muscle to stretch beyond its normal range. So swinging your arms and legs forwards or backwards, or any type of bouncing movement. Think old-school workout videos 😉

 

ballistic stretch

 

Example: Swinging leg forwards and backwards with force

 

And that’s it! If you are starting from scratch and looking for ways to increase flexibility (like I was 3 years ago post-knee surgery!), this is a great place to start. Try out the different ways to stretch, and find one that is the most effective for you. I started out 3 years ago and committed to 5 minutes of passive static stretching a day. Consistency is key here, so make sure you are stretching at least 3-4 times a week in order to notice a difference in your flexibility. Practice patience, and before you know it, you will be well on your way to touch your toes… and possibly even a close cousin to gumby 😉 

Thoughts? Comments? Did I miss any good ways to stretch? Comment below!

Sources:

https://people.bath.ac.uk/masrjb/Stretch/stretching_4.html

http://www.dailybandha.com/2015/03/

http://stretchcoach.com/articles/pnf-stretching/

Take a Yoga & Cultural Trip to Cuba with Me!

Hi Everyone! I’m so excited to announce a partnership with Cuban Cultural Trips – for 6 days in January, I’ll be teaching yoga in Cuba on a cultural trip!

The trip includes daily yoga classes (taught by me!), lodging, transportation, meals… and amazing trips to historical landmarks in Cuba, Salsa lessons, and a visit to a tobacco plantation!

Those are just a few of the amazing things included with the trip. For more details, you can check out the website where you can read more about experiencing Cuba, as well as register for the trip! It is an amazing deal for everything that is included – and for those of you in the US, the trip falls on a holiday weekend, meaning you can experience Cuba without having to take more than a few days off of work!

When: January 10-15, 2018
Where: Cuba
Why: To experience the Cuban culture and take yoga classes!

 

Metabolic, V02 & Nutritional Testing

How I figured out my food intolerances

For my entire 20’s, I’ve struggled with food allergies, digestive issues, sinus issues, and brain fog. After trying different supplements, getting allergy tests at an ENT office, and trying different diets (paleo, vegan, vegetarian, etc), nothing was helping.

After a little more research, I stumbled upon a business that had just opened in Columbus, Ohio – Rock N Shock Fitness. Rock N Shock is an all-female community focused on getting you in the best shape of your life. The owner, Danielle Miranda, spent years developing a system that encompasses the entire body, internally and externally, to get you to your healthiest self. This is done with initial testing to find out what is really going on with your body – food & non-food intolerance tests, nutritional deficiencies, metal toxicity, V02, and RMR testing. There are other tests that can be done, like DNA testing, and oxygen therapy + infrared saunas for detoxification. After getting your results, you can choose to work with someone on your diet + begin a workout plan based on your fitness level.
**The intolerance testing (without metal toxicity) was $250, and the V02/RMR test (membership pricing included) was another $125.

To get started, I made an initial appointment with Rock N Shock to discuss my fitness/nutrition goals, and what I was looking to get out of working with them. After speaking with the owner, she gave me a tour of the facilities and explained my options based on what we talked about.

I chose the below services:

V02 testing – to measure my physical fitness level
RMR – to find my resting metabolic rate (how many calories am I burning just sitting here?)
Intolerance testing – what foods am I eating that are causing issues?
Nutritional deficiencies – what does my body need more of?
**I fully intended to begin the workout program after receiving my results, but ended up moving to Florida.

I booked a second appointment to get all of the testing done, and it took less than an hour – a few strands of hair were taken for the intolerance testing & nutritional deficiencies, and the RMR & V02 test took about 30 minutes. I also couldn’t eat 2 hours before the test, and minimal to no exercise is recommended the day before so your body is fully rested & ready for the test. (I went on a 16 mile hike the day before, so don’t be like me!)

To begin, I had to breathe into a tube hooked to a computer for 10-15 minutes for my RMR test.

You can only blow through the tube, so you have to wear a clip on your nose – see above :p

You can watch the screen while you are blowing to make sure that everything is being recorded properly – I am not sure exactly how it all works, but after blowing for 10-15 minutes, I was relieved to be done!

RMR testing screen

After the RMR test, I was hooked up to a mask, attached to a hose – think Bane from Batman. The hose was hooked up to a computer, and I had to run with the mask on. It looks a little scary, but you can breathe just fine.

v02 test with mask

The person running the test started the treadmill low, with a little incline. Over time, she did timed intervals for increasing my pace & the incline, then back down again. At any time, when you feel like you cannot go any farther, you can tell them to stop the treadmill. Depending on how in-shape you are, it can be anywhere from 4 minutes to 20 minutes before you throw in the towel. I lasted about 11-12 minutes, which was the point where I felt like my muscles had no juice left in them (I could still breathe ok!). Below was about the halfway point for me – I was up to 6 or 7 on the treadmill, and things were really starting to get tough!

Normally when you throw in the towel, it’s not because you can’t breathe – it’s because your muscles are being deprived of oxygen, and the V02 test basically measures how well your body uses oxygen. The RNS site describes what exactly the test measures:

…how effectively your body consumes and uses oxygen, your breathing patterns, recovery of heart and lungs, calorie expenditure at various heart rates, your aerobic and anaerobic thresholds. We will be able to identify the exact heartbeat your body turns anaerobic and exact heart rate zones for you to train and compete at in order to stop you from “hitting the wall “and then allow you to maximise every minute of every session and race.

After the test was complete, I had to wait a bit for my hair analysis to come back. After about a month, I went back in to take a look at my final results:

intolerance test

nutritional deficiencies

It was honestly a bit of a shock to learn that I had food intolerances to things I ate almost everyday – olives/olive oil, strawberries, sweet potatoes, carrots… basically, all things I thought were healthy, but were really things my body was rejecting! On top of that, I had amino acid and Vitamin B12 deficiencies. After talking over my results, I decided to cut out the foods on the list, as well as begin supplementing with a few vitamins. So, for the past 8 months, I’ve noticed an increase in energy, less brain fog, and less reactions to food after eating (I used to get mini panic attacks after eating sweet potatoes & anything with olive oil in it!).

As for the V02 & RMR test results, they basically just confirmed that I have a high metabolism, and I workout….a lot. If I had stayed in Ohio & started a workout plan with RNS, it would have been to increase strength & speed & make my training more efficient.

v02 test results

RMR test results

Depending on your results & your end goal, everyone will be different! There are no bad results – because once you know where you are physically & nutritionally, you can only improve from there!

If you are in the Columbus, OH area, check out RNS (for women only, sorry guys!)… If not, google intolerance testing/v02 test/RMR test & your city/state… there are places all over the US that can do this type of testing for you. If you are looking to lose weight, get in better shape, get on a food plan, figure out why you are tired, improve your physical performance, or get more energy, I recommend investing in some sort of testing.

Overall, I highly recommend getting some sort of nutritional & physical fitness testing done – it has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for my health! We can do what we think is the best for our bodies, but there might always be something that we are missing.

I hope this helps – if anyone has done anything similar, comment below on your experience & if/how it has helped!

**Please note I did not receive anything in return for this blog post – I am writing this from my own personal experience, and I paid for every service received. I am writing this post in hopes that it helps anyone else interested in finding answers for their health, or for improving their physical fitness!

2.5 Days in Barcelona

Back in October, I flew out to Asia & Europe for 3 weeks. Along the way, I stopped in Barcelona for a few days to tour the city, make new friends, and to do some yoga. With the craziness of non-stop traveling since then + moving to a new state, I finally have some time to sit down and write about my travels!

Spain has been on my Bucket list for a while, and since 2016 was apparently the year to cross off half my bucket list as complete, I thought I’d stop by Barcelona on my way from Thailand to Ibiza. I had 2.5 days before heading to Ibiza for a week of yoga, so I booked my flight, a cheap hostel, and didn’t plan one thing (!). Normally, I plan most of my trips out with a little wiggle room for spontaneity… however, I was way too busy to even think about looking for things to do – I figured once I arrived, the hostel & people staying there would give me some good tips. And guess what – I don’t think I’ll ever plan anything to do on any trip ever again! I had an amazing time exploring the city by myself, getting lost, and meeting some really bad ass people along the way. Below is a recap of my first time in Barcelona – and definitely not my last!

barcelona11

Day 1:

Arrive at Hostel One Ramblas
The hostel was a bit dingy, and it didn’t look like the pictures on their website AT ALL. However, the staff was really helpful and gave me a huge map of the city with recommendations of best places to go. They also do your laundry for a few euros – so I handed the staff a bag full of sweaty yoga clothes and left to explore the city around 10 am.

barcelona1
First stop: La Boqueria, because FOOD! La Boqueria is a huge open market in Barcelona, and it is easily my favorite place ever.

laboqueria1

Just look at how amazing and delicious everything looks!

laboqueria3laboqueria2

laboqueria5laboqueria4

Fresh fruit, fresh baked bread, meats, cheeses, chocolate… I wish I could take this market back to the US!

laboqueria6laboqueria_fish

I grabbed a cup of fresh fruit & walked around, then bought some lunch before I left – baked bread filled with meat, mashed potatoes, and rice. So. So. Good.

barcelona_laboqueria

After leaving the market, I wandered down La Rambla and explored different shops + people watched. It was so busy and so easy to get lost! In fact, I did get lost. However, that is the best way to figure out where you are in a new city, right??

barcelona5

tourist guide groups were everywhere!

I walked through parks, learned that street names were on buildings (seriously, so confusing!), and eventually made it to the Arc De Triomf. There was a lot of construction going on around it, but it was gorgeous!

arc_barcelona

Park de la Ciutadella was nearby, so I headed over there and people watched for a while. There were salsa dancers practicing, people blowing huge bubbles, and couples enjoying romantic boat rides on a pond nearby.

barcelona_park

Blowing bubbles, with the Cascada Fountain in the background

Another reason to visit Barcelona: Architecture. Gaudi is very well-loved in Spain, as his architecture is stunning and so unique. His work is everywhere around the city, and it was amazing to be able to see it all! **In the picture above, you can se the Cascada Fountain, which was built by Josep Fontseré, with Gaudi as his assistant.

After leaving the park, I got lost. Again. BUT – I’m glad I did, because I found something very, very important: The Chocolate Muesum.

chocolate_museum

Made entirely from chocolate!

I learned about the history of chocolate, which is something I should know about since I eat so much of it! There were a lot of displays from movies, like minions, star wars, bambi, etc, all made completely of chocolate (see above)!

Since I had been walking around all afternoon, I decided to stop by a local tapas restaurant to grab another snack on my way back to the hostel. Everything was 1 Euro – a small glass of champagne, cheese, meats, etc. So, cheese & rose it was!

barcelona-cheese

After finally making it back to the hostel, I showered & got ready for the night walk. There is a morning and afternoon activity planned everyday, and that night we walked for about a half hour across the city & up a LOT of steps & hills to get to a look point over the city. (I walked 12+ miles this day!)

barcelona9

We grabbed a bottle of wine & some snacks, and watched the sun set over Barcelona.

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This night was hands down my favorite part of Barcelona – it was relaxing, gorgeous, and the views were unbelievable! If I lived in Barcelona, I would come here almost every night.

Afterwards, we all went back to the hostel to get ready for the night. The hostel I stayed at cooked a “family dinner” every night, and you could eat a plate (or 2) if you donated some money to help pay for the food. Afterwards, we all help clean up, then begin drinking before going out. Unfortunately for me, I forgot that I had been up for almost 24 hours and there was a 6 hour difference between Thailand and Spain… so, I got ready, decided to take a quick nap, then fell asleep until the next morning… Oops! Fortunately, I had another day to explore 🙂

Day 2:

Day 2 was all about getting lost, trying to find the best views of the city, castles, gardens, yoga, and dancing!

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Placa Espanya – picture taken on top of a shopping mall!

I started my day off with with heading west to Plaça Espanya & finding the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya + water fountain that overlooked a part of the city.

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MNAC

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The Fountain is HUGE in person!

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View over the fountain!

I am not really a museum person (unless it is about chocolate!), so I didn’t actually go IN to the museum… but, the outside + views were absolutely amazing!

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Afterwards, I began to wander South to the Olympic museum & stadium(s) as well as through some gardens. Honestly, I was just trying to find my way to Montjuïc Castle Castell de Montjuïc, but I could not for the life of me figure out how the heck to get there. Fortunately, there are signs that point you there, and a LOT of hills that let you know that you are reaching a higher part of the city (where all the views are!).

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You can also take a cable car up to the castle, which will definitely save you some time and miles… However, I recommend walking, as it is great exercise and you can walk through different gardens on your way!

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I had to pay a small amount (I think 10-20 Euro) to get into the castle, which was really cool to explore. And the views were of course, amazing – you can look out over the city & the harbor – well worth it!

On my way back to the hostel, I got lost. Again. However, I did find a yoga studio, which I ended up going to later that night… this is why I love traveling!

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I stopped at a local tapas restaurant called Blai 9 (recommended by the hostel staff) for some food + a beer, because.. Spain! There needs to be more restaurants like this in the US… It’s like a buffet, but for appetizers – 1 Euro each!

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After walking around all day, I stopped by a local nail studio for a pedicure… 20 euro for a gel pedicure = best money spent the entire trip! The salon staff were hilarious, and they helped me learn a few more spanish words in the hour that I was there 🙂

After my pedicure, I finally made it back to the hostel for a quick nap… then, YOGA! The entire point of my international travels 🙂

I went to The Garage, a yoga studio transformed from an old garage from the 1940’s. It was an absolutely beautiful space, and I was lucky enough to take a class from the owner.

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The class was slow, calm, and entirely in spanish & sanskrit – so I knew what was going on half the time! Chanting & breathwork followed by a simple sequence was perfect following a day of walking 10+ miles around the city.


Following yoga, I went back to the hostel for a shower and dinner… then a night full of drinking & dancing! I couldn’t tell you the places we went, as we took a train across the city and went to 2-3 different places. However, it wasn’t the places that we went that were awesome – it was the people. I met some really amazing, beautiful people traveling – for fun, on a search for meaning in their life, coming from a pilgrimage on Camino de Santiago, students, working people in their 20’s and 30’s… It didn’t matter if I’d ever meet these people again – hearing their stories and learning from them are priceless, and it’s one of the main reasons I travel. Hearing about someone else’s experience can literally change the course of your life, your passion, where you live, where you travel… it’s amazing, and I think everyone should experience & meet other travelers at some point in their lives (whether it be in a hostel, across the world, across the US, in a bar, at an airport… location doesn’t matter!).

After leaving the first bar (where an entire bottle of liquor was given to pour as much as we wanted into a glass), we went to a club and danced… until 2:30 am! Hours literally passed by in minutes, I swear. So, I left with a few other people & headed back to the hostel. After we got back, I ended up walking to the pier and talking with another girl from Germany  until 4 or 5 in the morning. It was so quiet & peaceful, and it was the perfect ending to my stay in Barcelona!


Final Day:

The next morning, I decided to stop by La Boqueria again, because I wanted some chocolate/candy before grabbing a cab to the airport…

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and, of course, some gelato and a cappachino for breakfast. Who doesn’t love being an adult?? (I swear, I don’t eat this bad everyday!)

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All sugared up, I headed back to the hostel & said my goodbyes. Then, a quick cab ride to the airport, on schedule to fly out for a week in Ibiza (blog post coming soon)!

**Side note – I flew Ryan Air for the first time and learned the hard way that you need to print your ticket out ahead of time… Otherwise, you will have to wait in line for an hour + pay 20 extra euro just to get the ticket printed out.
Also – Spain & Ibiza is expensive. And the cost to take money out at the airport & ATMs are ridiculous – so try to take as much cash as you can before flying internationally, or you will be paying a lot of fees! I recommend stashing different amounts of cash in different areas of your luggage/carry on/clothes in the case that something gets stolen or lost.

Overall, Barcelona is amazing. I would go back and spend more time there, or even live there for a year or 2. The city is gorgeous, and there are so many things to do and explore!

Has anyone ever been to Barcelona? If so, what were your favorite parts??

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