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!
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
Stretches: Shins, arches of feet
Misc: Modify if the first option is too intense
Time: Hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat 2 times each side
Option 2 (Modification):
Stretches: Ankles, achilles heels, groin, back, and opens up the hips
Misc: Use elbows to push knees out for a more intense stretch on the inner thighs
Time: Hold for 1 minute
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.
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
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
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
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!
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!
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.
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:
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.
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!
Have you ever experienced days, weeks, or even MONTHS where you just.aren’t.motivated?? Yep, we’ve all been there. Procrastination sets in, the internet/social media/netflix distractions become the norm, and we seem to lose sight of where we want to be in life.
So WHY do we let this happen?? Because it’s comfortable. Because it’s safe, and change can be scary. The biggest issue of not moving forward in our lives is FEAR. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of change… These fears control our lives, whether it is conscious or not. So if you find yourself saying things like “I can’t find the motivation”, or “I’m not motivated”, this is the perfect time to figure out WHY. Why are you not motivated? Why does it seem like others are go-getters & more successful than you?? Guess what.
Motivation isn’t something that some people are just blessed with – it’s a mindset. It’s a state of being.
And at any time, we have a choice to change our mental state. Some days and moments might seem more difficult to get out of our heads & pump ourselves up, but once we begin to practice being aware of our moods/state of being, it gets easier. By working our mental muscles & pushing ourselves to a new mindset, eventually there is less resistance. Whenever you tell yourself you are tired, or you don’t want to do something – take a step back. Evaluate the thoughts that have been running through your mind, and find a different perspective. Just get out of your head.
It can seem like a never-ending cycle of feeling great, then feeling low… However, if you find something that works for you and stick with it, you will notice an immediate change in your life. I’ve been through this never-ending cycle, and I get it. However, once I began to implement daily changes, my life began to take a turn for the better. Motivation was not something I waited for – it was a state of being that I could talk myself into, no matter how I was feeling.
Below are a few tips that I’ve put together from my own experience to help YOU or anyone else struggling to get motivated. It’s something I’ve struggled with off & on for most of my adult life, and I know I am not the only one. It might seem a little overwhelming at first, so just read through & take a little time to let it digest. Then… take action 🙂
The number one thing that has changed my life is repetition. You know that great feeling of reading a good book, or being inspired by something, then nothing coming from it? It’s because you aren’t constantly focused on it. What I mean is this: we all have a certain mindset or base thoughts that we revert back to at any time. For most people, it’s not consciously known because it is the norm. So, when you have moments of motivation, it tends to be short-lived, because it is not your base mindset. Lucky for you, and for anyone, this can be changed.
By constantly barraging your mind with positive, motivating content, you are essentially replacing your own thoughts or your base mindset with NEW thoughts – all different than what is normally going through your mind on a daily basis.
You can change your base mindset by finding every moment you have free time, and then filling it with new content. Over time, your base mind set will eventually change to a new state – or whatever you have been filling your mind with. Below are a few ways you can accomplish this:
- Books (on audio, kindle, or a regular old paperback)
- Internet/Social Media
- Sometimes I like to read success stories on MDA (who doesn’t like a good story where people end up happier/healthier in the end??) or articles on Elephant Journal. If you are on social media, make sure you are following people/accounts that bring you up/are in line with your goals. Meaning, when you read something, do you feel good or bad? Make your decisions based on what makes YOU feel good – you know what’s best.
- Every time I enter my car, I either pop in a Tony Robbins CD or my spanish practice CDs. I RARELY listen to music anymore, unless I am in a really great mood or I feel like my mind needs a quick break (or someone else is in the car!).
- Be Social
- Hang out with mentors/people that you look up to/inspire you to be a better person. By communicating & interacting with others that have a mindset you strive to achieve, it automatically lifts you up & puts you in a different mindset.
Find your free time
So you might be telling me, NINA. I HAVE NO FREE TIME. And you know what, I used to say the exact. same. thing. Because honestly, I didn’t think I did either. I had to take a big step back and be honest with myself. Our minds like to trick us – it wants to stay comfortable, so it will come up with any excuse to prevent change.
The first thing you can do is track your time. I spent an entire week tracking my days in 15 minute increments to figure out exactly what I was doing with my time. There are different apps that you can plug your information into, but I created my own spreadsheet and customized it based on my lifestyle. You can access the spreadsheet here if you want to customize/edit to your own schedule. Also – different things are important to different people – personal time to create my yoga classes, study, or read is very important to me – same with meditating 2x a day. So, customize to what is important to you & relevant in your life right now. (Please note that you WILL need to be a little savvy in excel to edit the formulas if you change categories. If you need help, shoot me a note/leave a comment and I can help you out 🙂
The spreadsheet is filled in with exactly how I spent an entire week this summer – and as you can see above, there were several areas where I could have spent less time on my phone & been more productive during my drive time. By doing a self evaluation of your own time, you will find that there are times throughout your day that you really DO have time – While driving, getting ready, doing housework, etc. Yes, you can pop your headphones in while sweeping the floor or putting on your makeup every morning and listen to a motivating podcast. It’s really that simple.
One last side note – not every week will be the same – however, by tracking your time, you become more aware of where you spend your time, and it helps you become a little more creative with how you can spend your time.
What are your Goals
Unless you have a WHY in your life, there will be no growth or change. And if there are no goals to work towards, then what is the point of even being motivated? Insert your WHY. Below are the areas in your life that you MUST take the time to sit down & create goals for. Whether it be as simple as saving for a weekend trip, or as big as getting yourself out of debt, you need to write down a vision to have something to work towards. It’s a LOT easier to get motivated if there is something you REALLY want – so take a look at the areas below, and take a few moments to get clear on your WHY. Once you have a goal, you have something to work towards!
- Career – what is your ideal career/what is important to you in a job?
- Mentally – what is your ideal mood/attitude/mindset?
- Physical/Health – what is your ideal feeling of overall health/physique?
- Relationship(s) – what is your ideal partner/marriage/friendships?
- Finances – what is your ideal financial situation?
- Personal – something specific you are working towards (college, a race, etc)
- Overall – ideally, how do you want to feel every day of your life?
Anytime you aren’t feeling motivated to do something, get it in your mind that the task is NOT optional. Sometimes, when I don’t want to work out, or I reallllly don’t want to meditate, I buckle down and don’t take no for an answer. There are literally no other options except to do this one task. To me, I view these things as something that will benefit me. I know I will feel great or accomplished afterwards, so I look at these tasks like brushing my teeth or taking a shower. It’s something I just have to do.
Although I mainly only listen to music while in the shower/creating playlists for my yoga classes now, there are times that I will put on some music to get me going. For example: waking up at 4:30 am every Wednesday to teach yoga = loud music is needed to wake my ass up & puts me in a good mood for class! So for some, music is a way to inspire, get your day started, and get you in a better mood. Find what works for you!
Make a list
The next time you are feeling really motivated, take a look at what you have been doing in your life for the past few days or week. You will begin to correlate certain habits or routines with how you feel. And when you begin to identify the specifics, make a list. For example: When I feel my best, I am working out everyday, giving others compliments, meditating daily, and taking cold showers (seriously, science!). Find the things you do when you feel your best – and if you NEVER feel your best – observe other people and find out what they are doing. It can be something as small as meditating or setting aside 20 minutes of “Me” time a day to decompress. Don’t be afraid to try new things, toss what doesn’t work, and keep what does. Literally no one else knows you as well as you – so have fun & take the time to figure out what gets you going 🙂
Move your body
This is probably the quickest way to get motivated, and there are a few ways to do this:
- Can’t get out of bed? Literally jump out of bed like someone threw a bucket of ice cold water on you. Jump around a little bit, do a few stretches… You’ll be awake and motivated to keep moving
- Go workout – if you are having trouble getting motivated to workout, the best thing you can do is get moving. As soon as your body begins to warm up, endorphins will be released, blood flow will increase, and you’ll begin to feel better within the first 5-10 minutes of your workout.
- If you are feeling sluggish at any point in your day, get up and move. Jump up and down a few times, do a few push ups, or maybe a few jumping jacks. Physical movement releases endorphins, and it reduces stress hormones in your body. It literally changes your brain! If you don’t want people seeing you do push ups at your desk, go in a conference room – no one will ever know 🙂
- Moving Meditation – this is actually one of my favorite things to do! While out on a run, I’ll create a mantra or a saying and repeat it non-stop:
- “I have unlimited energy”
- “Every breath & every step, I have more & more energy”
- “My body is in perfect alignment”
- “My body is a fucking machine!”
- “I can do anything!”
- Sometimes I will repeat a mantra for 20 minutes or more, doing nothing but staring straight in front of me as I run until I start to FEEL whatever statement I am saying is true. When you combine a clear intention with an elevated emotion, it becomes a new belief/memory much quicker. Moving your body elicits an emotional & physical response, so movement works wayyy better than just standing in front of you mirror and saying affirmations over & over again. As silly or crazy or corny as it sounds, just try it. I swear, it is crazy how well this works – I noticed a HUGE increase in energy every day once I started doing this. You can also say statements about other areas about your life, like feeling confident, finances, whatever… It’s all about focusing & repeating until you feel that elevated emotion
I am a firm believer that depression & unhappiness in your life is caused by becoming comfortable. Stagnation happens when we work 9-5, come home, watch tv, and repeat, 5 days a week. Life is easy, but it isn’t challenging. Yet, we aren’t happy, even though we have everything we THINK we want. Insert: Personal development. By continuously learning new things, we are challenging ourselves, stimulating different parts of our brain, and creating new neuro-pathways. By finding ways to push ourselves & get out of our comfort zones, motivation is something that comes very easily – especially when it’s something that is cool or different than what is currently happening in your life. There are a few ways that I pursue personal development:
- Travel solo around the world (Yes, it’s scary. Yes, it opens your mind to new people, ideas, places, etc. Yes, you should do it)
- Take various Yoga workshops to become a better yoga teacher
- Randomly bought a guitar & have been teaching myself to play (literally spend hours banging away on this thing… it is no easy task to learn an instrument!)
- Go to personal development workshops – I’ve been to a Kyle Cease weekend workshop, and am attending a Tony Robbins event in November
- Meditation Workshops
- Cooking classes (Yes, I go alone. No, it’s not awkward)
- Read. Apply what you’ve read to your life. Repeat.
Personal development can mean different things to different people – it can be changing how you think, going to seminars, going back to school, learning a new skill, etc. If you don’t know what you want to work on, try anything. Seriously – you could take a class on how to cook with different cheeses, or even learning how to juggle! As long as you are getting out of your everyday mindset, you are stimulating your brain in new ways.
So that’s it! (for right now!) There are so many more ways to get motivated, but these are the ways that are most influential in my life at the moment. I’ve spent my entire 20’s reading, learning, searching for ways to change my life, get motivated, and better myself. However, it’s been a struggle being able to translate & communicate everything I have learned in a way that makes sense to me and to others. Teaching yoga for the past 1.5 years has helped boost my confidence, and has challenged me to learn how to express myself more openly so others can understand me.
I want to be able share my journey with others, in the hopes that it helps anyone who comes across my blog.
Just like anyone else, I’ve been through a lot of struggles in my life, and I know what that feels like.
So if I can make life a little bit easier for just one person, or my writings can get someone to think a little differently about themselves/their life, then my goal is complete 🙂
As always, thanks for making it all the way to the bottom… If there are any other really great tips for getting motivated that I missed, leave a comment below!
It’s been over a year since I taught my first-ever yoga class, and while I don’t consider myself a tenured teacher by any means, I have learned A LOT in my first year of teaching. When I went into training, I had so many fears and concerns, along with an infinite amount of questions… What do I expect? What do I do if XXX happens? How do I create a sequence? When do the nerves go away? What type of style will I teach? Will people come to my classes?
I was absolutely terrified to teach, and I spent the first few months just getting comfortable leading an hour long class (I only taught 1 class a week, so more time spent teaching = the faster you will become comfortable). With all of this being said, yes, I still get nervous, but my mindset has transformed so much with experience. I now teach 3 classes/week, and my style of teaching has even changed along the way.
For the past year, I have spent hours and hours and days and weeks consuming so much more information, learning, taking workshops, and gaining a lot more experience & confidence teaching. With everything I have learned, I wanted to share with others who may be in the position I was 1-2 years ago: new, scared, and needing advice on being a beginner yoga teacher (or any type of fitness instructor)! So, below is a list of the top things I have learned in the past year!
Tips for New Yoga Teachers
1. Preparing your sequence/classes
At first, this was one of the hardest part of teaching a class (at least for me!). I memorized every single one of my classes every week, and was always worried about making the perfect sequence. I put a lot of pressure on myself, and I was always looking for ways to make my classes creative. As the months went by, if I ever felt uninspired, I would look on instagram, pinterest, take a yoga class, travel to other cities & take classes from new yoga teachers/fitness instructors, take workshops, or go through a yoga pose book (check the end of this post for more yoga book recommendations!) to get the creative juices flowing (and I still do this!).
It also helps to have a format for your class – I normally set 20 minutes for warmup/Sun salutations, 20 minutes for my main sequence, and 20 minutes for core/backbends/stretching. I’m a planner, so structure for me is key. I do go off the cuff almost every class now & am starting to plan my classes a little differently, but starting out, this was so incredibly helpful in remembering my classes.
How I prep for my classes: thoughts on paper, ideas written throughout the day… then written in my yoga class journal book!
Some people can just walk into a class & teach an entire class, with little to no planning. Personally, that is NOT me. I make sure I am prepared, not only because I am still learning & becoming comfortable with teaching, but also because it helps me relay more info to my students.
My main goal is to have every student walk out of class having learned/heard/understood something new – and by doing my own research before class + studying the anatomy & benefits of poses, I can accomplish this.
With that being said, every person is different – I like structure, so that is how I plan my classes! I would say I spend anywhere from 20 minutes to 4 hours planning my classes, depending on what I’m teaching – this includes research (on something new I’m learning), memorizing new sanskrit, putting together a sequence, practicing the class at my house, and creating something for social media to promote my classes.
***One last thing about planning classes – I bought a journal when I first started teaching to write my final sequence/class in for every.single.class. I carry this with me EVERYWHERE. I can reflect back on old classes, and write down ideas when I get them. Make sure to invest in a good one! I bought mine from Target for $6.
2. Teach it how you feel it
A few months ago, someone said to me, “You teach how you feel it in your body” – and ever since then, I’ve spent less time in my head, and more time in my body. I’ll throw on some music, and get on my mat. My most creative sequences have been created after a long day of work, and my body will just move in a way that feels good to me. I take that time to observe myself & write down yoga poses/shapes/connections/sequences, which makes teaching class more authentic to me AND more fun!
Feel it in your body, and teach what feels right to you. It is you and your practice that makes you unique!
If this is all still new to you, perfect. You are a blank slate and can learn & grow the more you progress in your own practice. No one else could ever mirror that, even if they tried. Allow yourself to think outside the box, add in your favorite poses, anything that speaks to you!
This includes mentally, emotionally, spiritually – read a passage from a book that you really like, a quote that you love, your life mantra, a life experience, or even giving adjustments that that you love getting in your own practice. Start realizing there is so much inside of you that needs to be shared – everything you know & have experienced in your life can help someone else!
3. Mood/energy of teacher
Personally, I think this is the most important part of the practice – there is no other option but to be positive & present for your students. They are taking time out of their day to spend it with you, and it is your job to make it the best experience for them! The last thing they want is to take a class from a low-energy, negative person.
I meditate for 20 minutes before every class – and if I don’t have time for 20 minutes, I spend 5 minutes doing some sort of pranayama breath (box breathing is my favorite!). This calms me down & centers me, putting me in a better place to be more receptive & intuitive to my students. If I’m feeling REALLY tired (hello, I teach 5:30 & 8 am classes!), I’ll put on pump-up music during my drive to class in order to get my energy up. Or, just listening to your class playlist will get you in the right mindset/vibe for your class. Regardless of how you do it, find any way to get yourself ready for class!
4. Be personal
Some of my favorite teachers are the ones who are personal. You know, the ones that take the time to chat with you before & after class, seem to genuinely care about you, and remember small details.
Be compassionate & caring towards your students – everyone likes to feel good, and the best way to do that is to make them feel special.
Make an effort to remember all of your students names, their injuries, goals, lives. Learn more about them so you can be accommodating -are they sensitive to scents? do they like to be adjusted? are they nursing an injury? – this will make them more comfortable during class & feel understood! Look for the traits you admire in your favorite yoga teacher, and bring those to your own class.
This is something that will come with time. Finding the correct words to move people’s bodies, as well as the actual yoga pose names can’t exactly learned overnight. When I first started teaching, I would practice on my friend beforehand, and she would give me feedback on what cues she liked or didn’t think made sense. I also started paying more attention to the words other teachers used while I took their classes, then practiced speaking them out loud when practicing my sequences so I felt comfortable saying them in class.
When I first got my certification, I knew basic cues & spit them out regardless of what my students looked like. With practice, I now look to my students for cues. After teaching for a while, you learn what to look for, so you don’t need to say every single alignment cue every time. Constant studying & attending workshops to learn more about anatomy, alignment, etc is key in giving you the knowledge & confidence to cue better. As a new teacher, be patient with yourself… this gets A LOT easier over time!
Music is something personal that took me a while to really connect with my classes. Some people don’t like music in their classes, and that is ok! However, I love a good playlist while taking a class and teaching – it adds to the energy & mood of the class, and you can sync up movements to each song. At first, I thought I needed high-energy, popular music in my classes. Over time, I realized that my style of teaching was much, much more chill AND slow – so my music has changed over time to match.
I personally recommend using Spotify – it’s $9.99/month for unlimited songs, and you can create an unlimited amount of playlists. I find playlists from other yoga teachers, or browse through different playlists/radio stations & listen to them all day. When I hear a song that I like, I add it to my playlist for the week.
Once I reach 1 hour on the playlist, I go in and move songs around based on my sequence (slow in the beginning, a little faster in the middle, and slower/chill at the end). Some people just have a bunch of playlists they use over & over, but I prefer to make a brand new one every week. If you are looking for any ideas, you can follow me on Spotify – search for Nina Hunt 🙂
Lighting may or may not be something you can control, but lighting can make a huge difference. It can set the mood, change your focus… I teach in a dark room, which gives the practice a more relaxed feel – it also allows students to move with more confidence, as no one else can see you!
Smells – this might sound a little weird, but the smell of your class can make a class really great or really bad. People tend to associate smells with experiences, so by having a pleasant-smelling place to teach is critical (no one wants to come back to a sweaty, stinky place!). I burn incense during my class (sets the tone, relaxes students), and the studio gives out cold towels with eucalyptus oil on them during savasana (relaxes students, opens up sinuses, smells amazing). Some of my friends actually put essential oils on their students during class, so test out a few ways to incorporate scents into your class and see what works best for you!
Don’t be afraid to try harder/challenging poses in classes! I prep my students for each “difficult” pose & encourage them to try, no matter how much they think they can’t do the pose.
Believe in your students, build them up, and allow them to explore an unfamiliar space.
Just make sure you are able to do the pose to some degree before you teach it – your students will take you more seriously, because you don’t just know the cues – you also know exactly how it feels in the body.
9. Have FUN
Crack a joke. If you don’t know one, then look one up & tell it during class! People respond to humor, and it makes them feel more relaxed. I like to tell a joke every once in a while to break the tension/seriousness of class – best done when brows are furrowed, and breathing gets heavy, which are all cues that students need to get out of their heads!
Also – mess up. I think it took me over a month before I finally messed up – I cued the wrong leg and was mortified – except, guess what – no one cared. Now, I freely mess up, say oops, laugh, and move on. Don’t be afraid to mess up, that is when you learn the most & appear more human to your students 🙂
10. Continuous education
At least once a month, I take a workshop from a traveling yoga teacher, go to a meditation/self improvement seminar, or travel somewhere to add to my yoga brain bank. It can get expensive, but I consider it all an investment not just for my personal development or career, but for my students. I want to continue learning in order to produce new & creative classes for my students! If I don’t learn, how will my students ever improve? Life is about learning, growing, ingenuity, and constantly seeking out ways to get out of your comfort zone. If you won’t do this for yourself, who will?
Be passionate about what you do, it will show up not just in your classes, but in all areas of your life.
Be yourself. This is was hardest for me, as i was so focused on not messing up in the beginning. I’m naturally an introvert AND a perfectionist, which means I am pretty closed off & hate failing… meaning, I’ve had to work HARD to let go & be vulnerable while teaching. All of my teachers/mentors gave me a LOT of tough love – while they meant well, it was something I had to process and develop in my own time, which I’m STILL doing now!
This is your journey, and you are the only one that can control how you present yourself. People can try to help you, give you advice, tell you how to teach, give you tough love.. but ultimately, you are the only one that knows who you are. So take your time, and allow yourself to unfold.
Regardless, you are doing the best you can with what you know.
So just breathe, and know that coming out of your shell will take time. The more you teach, the more your personality will begin to come out. Being authentic means something different to each person, so spend the time making sure the best “you” comes through.
12. the WHY
At the end of the day, when teaching becomes a bore, or training gets hard, or you just feel like you need a break from ALL THINGS YOGA (yes, it happens to me!!), you must always have your “Why” in the back of your pocket to keep you motivated. Why do you teach? Why yoga? The answer to this is what will determine your mindset. It can be a person, it can be a goal, a life purpose.. it doesn’t even have to be something that can be put into words! But before you go any farther in this journey – ask yourself WHY.
Check out the 3rd question on Brian Drury’s Questionnaire here if you need a little help coming up with your Why.
Be patient with yourself! Everyone learns differently, teaches differently, thinks differently.. Some are busy with a family and a have full time job, while others might devote their entire lives to teaching yoga. Go at your own pace, and know that you will progress & grow over time. No one ever became an expert in their field overnight, right? It would be impossible.
When I began teaching, I wrote out every cue, every pose, every transition for every.single.class.
I was so nervous I would forget something and mess up! Now, while I still plan my sequence, it’s more of a general idea, and I deviate from what I write down. It takes time & experience teaching a lot of classes in order to feel more comfortable. So go slow, go fast, go at whatever speed works for you at this point in your life. But most of all, be patient <3
If this all seems overwhelming… welcome to the club! The best thing you can do is focus on one thing at a time, or even just integrating a few things here & there the more you teach. I can’t even tell you how nervous I was when I first began teaching – I had nightmares the first month (no joke – and I only taught 1 class a week!), and it was such a relief when my class was over. Now… I sleep well, and only have a small amount of nerves 😉
We’ve all started from scratch, having to learn & grow. Give yourself time, and enjoy the process. Use this as a time to not only help others, but also to grow & learn more about yourself.
Put yourself out there, and don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable. Because, you will be.
You’ll want to rush through it all, but, I’m here to tell you – don’t. Soak up every single moment and enjoy every bit of the learning process. You’ll look back and be so incredibly proud of your progress, realizing that you needed to go through the scary stuff to get exactly where you needed to be.
I hope this VERY LONG blog post has been very helpful for anyone starting on their yoga teaching journey. If you are just starting out, what are some of your concerns/fears about becoming a yoga teacher? And if you are already a teacher/fitness instructor, what are a few things that you would add to the list? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you!
Below are a few of my favorite books/resources I’ve purchased & used for creating classes & workshops since my Yoga Teacher training:
Check out a list of my favorite books & current reads here – i use a lot of philosophy & concepts from these books & integrate them into my dharma talks at the beginning of my yoga classes.
While I travel to NYC to check out other yoga studios/teachers/workshops, it’s also helpful to try other types of workouts to see the set up of the studio, what is offered, the type of motivation, exercises, etc. Although I generally stick to running, yoga, & BBG, I do love me some intense circuit training. If you’ve ever heard of Orange Theory Fitness…
Barry’s Bootcamp is essentially the same workout. Except, 5 times harder.
The workout is described as “hour-long workouts.. [which] include 25-30 minutes of interval cardiovascular treadmill routines and 25-30 minutes of strength training utilizing free weights, resistance bands, medicine balls and other equipment. Instructors, muscle groups and even workout segments vary throughout the week so that no one class is ever the same.” (website)
Frid-Sun is designated for overall-body conditioning… So, as the 12th and final class of the weekend, I was a little scared if my body could keep up. Luckily, something inside of me kicked in, and I had the energy + much more to push through the class. It ended up being my favorite workout of the weekend! Also bonus: You can burn up to 1,000 calories an hour. Yep.
Following Soul Cycle, we went back to our hotel & showered, then headed to the NOHO location.
We walked in, and were greeted by employees at the smoothie bar – which, btw, you can order a smoothie for post-workout BEFORE class even begins. So, your ice cold smoothie is waiting for you as soon as you are finished with your workout. How awesome is that??
Anyways, we walked to the back of the entryway, checked in, and were told where the locker rooms were & what to expect. After putting our items in the lockers, we headed to the room to find our assigned spots. I was a bit confused when we first walked in, as there are mirrors EVERYWHERE. It was almost like a fun house, and I wasn’t quite sure where the room began and ended.
photo credit: http://www.jeanninemorris.com/the-jm-edit/2015/5/2/barrys-boot-camp
Since the class was so small, we all started on the treadmills. Following 1 yoga class & 2 cycling classes (Cyc Fitness & Soul Cycle), my body was obviously ready for more cardio :p
The class format was:
8 minutes on the treadmill w/sprints
8 minutes strength training w/weights (8-15 lbs for me!)
8 minutes on treadmill (incline sprints)
8 minutes strength training w/weights
8 minutes on the treadmill w/ even faster sprints
8 minutes strength training w/even heavier weights
There was about 30 seconds-2 minutes of recovery in between sets, which didn’t seem nearly enough… however, it didn’t give my mind time to think about stopping, and only pushed me to go harder.By the time I was doing my final 1-minute sprint on the treadmill, I was past the 11 speed, and my body felt amazing (11 speed is about a 5:25/minute mile, to give you an idea of what torture was happening to my legs).
Our instructor, Shannon, was seriously awesome – I loved the circuit she put together, and she pushed me past any limit I thought I had. I mean, 11 on the treadmill at the end of an intense workout?! I need to start giving myself some pep talks, because I can obviously do better than my 30-second 9.5 speed sprints during my own workouts.
Following the workout, we showered at the gym & got ready. The showers were huge, and included shampoo/conditioner/face wash/body wash. Towels were also included, as well as hair dryers & toiletries for women. I could have left half my gym bag at home and been ok!
Summary: Awesome workout that kicks your butt – can I move to NYC just so I can take all these amazing workout classes all the time??
Pros: Free towels. Lockers. Endless supply of toiletries. Huge showers. Burn up to 1,000 calories/class. Workouts are always different, every time. Instructors are well-trained. Staff is welcoming & helpful.
Cons: a little pricey, but worth it for what you get! Water filter is behind the smoothie bar, so every time you need a water refill, you have to have someone get it for you.
Cost: $34 for a 1 hour single-class drop-in
Following a 45 minute class at Cyc Fitness in Chelsea, me and the 3 other women I was traveling with raced to Soul Cycle to get to class on time (30 minutes in between classes in not enough time!). 1 protein bar, a few wrong turns & some serious speed walking later, we arrived at the Union Square Location in time for our 11:45 am class.
While I took my first-ever Soul Cycle class in San Francisco earlier this year, every instructor & location is going to be different. With that being said, Danny was the instructor, and he was a lot of fun! Even though my legs were a little burned out from the 45 minute Cyc Fitness Class, I was able to keep up, and the energy in the room was incredible.
photo cred: https://www.yelp.com/biz/soulcycle-union-square-new-york
Compared to the previous cycle class we had just taken, the room was smaller, and the bikes were very.very.close. You had to weave in and out of the bikes to get out of the room! Insert: Minor claustrophobic panic attack. I had to talk myself down from a ledge, so I focused on the instructor and ended up being fine. Note to self: next time, choose bike near exit.
The workout itself was great – legs were burning, although the arm workout with small weights wasn’t too challenging. Danny’s playlist was awesome, and he even ended up doing done high-kick dancer moves on the stage for the class… definitely kept us entertained the entire class!
Summary: While I don’t normally like cycling, the energy of the class & instructors is what pulls me in. I personally like Cyc Fitness better for various reasons, but Soul Cycle is still a great workout.
Pros: Towel set up on bike when you arrive. Showers at the Union Square location. Toiletries provided in the bathroom. Filtered water station.
Cons: Long line to the bathrooms, showers were dirty & gross at the union square location. Bathrooms/lockers were in the basement, which was super crammed & the air smelled & felt pretty gross. Pricey for a 45 minute workout class
Cost: $34 for a 45 minute single class pass