Over the past 15 months, I have dealt with such a wide variety of emotions, all due to some pretty big life changes.
While the start of 2017 was phenomenal, it quickly turned into a downward spiral around the time I no longer had a full-time job and could not find a replacement for the next 11 months. Interview after interview, no matter how well I thought it went, I never received an offer. For jobs I did take part-time, it wasn’t sustainable (too long of a drive, pay too low, etc). I allowed this to affect me, falling into a victim mindset of not being good enough, or there was something wrong with me. Along the way, a series of unfortunate hair color jobs happened, and my hair began falling out in clumps, and nothing I did could make it stop (that is for another blog post). On top of that, I felt like an outsider anywhere I went to practice yoga, and I couldn’t find a good community of people to be around.
I don’t say all of this for anyone to feel sorry for me – I say this to show you how easily one can fall into a depressed state when you allow outside circumstances to control your life, and all you want to do is sit around and cry because you feel powerless.
Basically how I felt every day in 2017
You would think – after all of the self-help seminars and books I’ve read, this would be impossible to happen. Except – I’m human. And while I a let 2017 get to me, I made a decision at the end of the year – no more.
I am writing this because 1) I am afraid of what people will think of me if they knew I was depressed (so I am making myself write this because that fear is dumb), and 2) I hope that what has helped pull me out of a dark hole can maybe help someone else dealing with some darkness in their life.
So here I am, 4 months after I made the declaration that I was no longer going to be a victim, feeling like a completely different person, crying tears of joy some days because I am just so damn happy.
So how did this happen?
Gratitude. Commitment. Friendship.
It began with a decision to change my mind. And while I had tried to change my thoughts many times last year, nothing ever stuck, and I kept ending back in a downward spiral. Insert:
Friendship + Gratitude + Commitment. I texted my 2 best friends in a group text and said, “Let’s start each day with a text to each other about what we are grateful for, and what our goal for the day is. That way, we can start each day off on the right foot and keep each other accountable.” Over time, we all started doing the Tony Robbins 15 minute gratitude priming practice, which forced us to focus on and really feel gratitude. It also had us visualize what we want in the future, which allowed us to look forward to something in the future + change our beliefs about what we think is possible. (There are days we struggle, so a small text or snap to each other saying what we are struggling about brings advice and positivity from each other). Sometimes I switch up and do 20 minutes of Transcendental meditation, but I always, always, end with gratitude and visualization.
At first, I felt really dumb. I didn’t want my boyfriend to see me doing the Tony Robbins priming exercise, because you have to pump your arms up and down and breathe really loudly. Eventually, he started to join me, and it made the meditation that much more powerful!
How I feel I look Like When Priming
It was really difficult to do at first, and I didn’t really start seeing a change in my mindset the first 3-5 times I did it. Then, I started to allow myself to feel things, like love and gratitude for people and situations. And the visualization at the end was the best part, because I could dream about anything I wanted (like a new job!) and really feel like I already had it!
On top of this, I committed to finding a job, even if it meant working as a personal trainer at a gym full time getting paid pennies. I needed something different than what I was currently doing to force me to learn and grow, and I had to set my ego aside and just. do it.
Once I stopped trying to control everything, everything started to fall into place. I met new people that led to new experiences that will forever have an impact on my life/spirituality/consciousness, I started a business with a new friend, my boyfriend and I’s business started taking off, I started taking on new clients for private yoga/personal training sessions, and I had 3 job offers. To say the least, I was dumbfounded.
Did all of these wonderful things happen just from starting a daily gratitude practice?
I say yes. I spent all of last year resisting uncertainty, trying to hold onto things that I no longer had any place for in my life. I needed to grow, but I wasn’t allowing it to happen. I tried to force my life to be and look a certain way, and when it didn’t happen, I was absolutely miserable. It wasn’t until I gave into uncertainty, agreed to say yes to things I felt uncomfortable doing, and became open to a host of experiences that I initially rejected, that life started to turn around.
Practicing gratitude has taught me that consistently focusing your attention on thoughts that serve you and bring you AND others up, there is no way that you can be down. And when I say practice gratitude – I mean really feeling it. If you have a hard time doing it, just start with one thing. There were days when I repeated the same gratitude thought(s) because I couldn’t think of anything or create that internal feeling of gratitude. Now, I have a gratitude journal that I write in every night, thanking the universe for everything I have right now.
So there it is – nothing too fancy, nothing too hard – just a small shift in mindset to commit to practicing gratitude with my friends everyday.
With everything I’ve struggled with and been through, I hope what has helped me can somehow help others. And for anyone out there who has been through this and made it out alive – what are your tips for getting to a happier place? Leave a comment below, you never know how much 5 minutes of your time could positively impact another person’s life 🙂
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?
Tensor 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.
Internally rotates the femur bone in the hip socket – when tight, it limits external rotation.
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.
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. Use a block to sit on if you are unable to sit your hips low comfortably.
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.
Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
Stretches the outer hips/glutes. Add a twist to stretch adductors & external rotators. Place a block under your glute for modification.
Reclined Figure 4
Modification for pigeon pose – stretches the outer hips/glutes & inner thigh muscles.
Stretches hamstrings, lower back. Place a block between legs & rest head on block as a 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.
Stretches the hamstrings and the muscles attached to the IT band – Tensor Fascia Latae & Glutes. Use a block under the bottom hand for an extra lift.
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 🙂
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!
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!
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.
First stop: La Boqueria, because FOOD! La Boqueria is a huge open market in Barcelona, and it is easily my favorite place ever.
Just look at how amazing and delicious everything looks!
Fresh fruit, fresh baked bread, meats, cheeses, chocolate… I wish I could take this market back to the US!
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.
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??
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!)
We grabbed a bottle of wine & some snacks, and watched the sun set over Barcelona.
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 was all about getting lost, trying to find the best views of the city, castles, gardens, yoga, and dancing!
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.
The Fountain is HUGE in person!
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!
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!).
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
The next morning, I decided to stop by La Boqueria again, because I wanted some chocolate/candy before grabbing a cab to the airport…
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!)
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??
Sometimes the world has a funny way of making your dreams come true. For the past 5+ years, I have been dreaming of traveling to Thailand. I didn’t know how or when it would happen, but I hung pictures on my wall & wrote down Thailand on my bucket list. Then, I forgot about it.
In my Elephant Trek post, I wrote about how it all came to pass:
Less than 1 year ago, I traveled to NYC for a Yoga workshop & met my now very good friend Heather, and we connected through instagram. We met up in March for my half marathon in NYC, and she invited me to Thailand for a yoga retreat in September.
I’m normally a solo traveler, planning my trips, staying in hostels, and being super adventurous… I would have never gone to a yoga retreat for pampering, relaxing, and laying by the pool. If I did go on a yoga retreat, it would most likely have been a training course to add on to my yoga training. With that being said, I DID learn from the instructors, and I was able to bring a lot back to teach in my own classes! The week ended up being so amazing – including an elephant trek, snorkeling, muy thai classes, 2 yoga classes a day, awesome instructors, thai massage, and becoming friends with so many amazing women from around the world!
Flexi Lexi Thailand Yoga Retreat
The yoga retreat was hosted by Flexi Lexi Fitness, a yoga clothing store in Thailand. The retreat was 1 week long in Koh Lanta, Thailand, and cost $2100 for the week (with a roommate). This sounds extremely expensive, BUT —- there was a LOT included:
- 1 Week stay in a 5-star resort
- Buffet brunch & Dinner included (I think I only ordered food 1-2 times at lunch the entire week… the brunch filled me up!)
- 2 yoga classes/day
- Photographer (you could take pictures with him whenever & wherever… and we all got a USB drive with ALL pictures on it from the entire week!)
- $100 of Flexi-Lexi Clothing
- 1 all-day island excursion
- 1.5 hour Thai massage
- 1 free cooking class
- Free workout classes & excursions (I took a 1-hour muy-thai class + a guided bike ride to a temple!)
- Free transport to and from airport (1.5-3 hours from the airport, which included a car + ferry/water taxi)
First view upon arriving at Pimalai!
Every day started out with a 1.5 hour yoga class at 7:30 am. The instructors switched classes the entire week, and it was a mix between yin, heated/vinyasa, acro, and rocket yoga. The instructors – Robin Martin & Irene Pappas – were very different from each other, (a good thing!) and I learned a lot from both of them.
That’s me with the cheetah butt 🙂
Following the morning yoga class, we had brunch from 9-10:30 am overlooking the infinity pool & ocean.
Brunch view every morning!
Then, the afternoon was free until our second class at 5 pm… I laid out by the pool a few days, went for a run one day, and did a few other fun things the other days:
- Went on an all-day snorkeling adventure
- Took a private muy-thai lesson (please note that my ankles/feet/shins were literally black and blue for 2 weeks following this!! Extremely painful, but an amazing workout & experience!)
- Rode a bike past town to a Monestary, where we lit candles & gave our blessings
Heather giving blessings
- 1.5 hour Thai massage – I requested the deep, deep, DEEP tissue massage… please note that this isn’t a massage for the light-hearted. I have a high tolerance for pain and normally receive deep tissue massages, but this was really painful. The massage therapist used her elbows and really got into my back & neck (she climbed onto the table to really get in there!). She also got into my calves/shins and broke up a lot of scar tissue/build up, which felt amazing AFTER the massage. So if you are in Thailand… I would recommend getting a light-medium Thai massage, unless you really like pain 🙂
Post-massage relaxation area with ginger tea
- Went to Old Town Lanta to explore & shop – a few hours in this tiny town is all you need!
Little Girl in a Tuk Tuk
- All-day excursion to a small island (included lunch, snorkeling, Stand up paddle-boarding, kayak, etc)
Boat ride to the island!
The all-day excursion was perfect… we hopped on a boat and relaxed for about 1.5-2 hours until we arrived at the island. I took a kayak in, and we took pictures with the photographer all day!
Me & Serene
On a sinking paddle board!
On the final night, Pimalai put on a GORGEOUS closing ceremony dinner, including a beautiful table set-up that looked like it was for a wedding!
There is a tradition in Thailand to send off Sky lanterns – It is considered good luck to release a sky lantern, and many Thais believe they are symbolic of problems and worries floating away (Wiki). However, we did something a little different – our photographer hand-made floating lanterns out of banana leaves to float on the infinity pool (How beautiful are they?!).
handmade banana leaf lanterns
We all lit our lantern, made a wish/blessed others/asked worries to disappear, and sent our lantern into the pool.
It was the perfect end to the week, and I am so incredibly happy I went! It would have never happened without my friend Heather – she is so amazingly thoughtful and such a ball of energy – I had so much fun with her the entire week!
Me & Heather!
One of the greatest things about Thailand is the friendliness of people. Everywhere we went, everyone was so kind & accommodating. Also, everything is so inexpensive! The exchange rate was about 100 baht to $3.25 US dollars… so, basically everything was under 5-10$.
The time difference from Ohio is 11 hours, so it was a bit of an adjustment getting there… however, if you time your flight/sleep schedule correctly, you shouldn’t have too much of an issue. I also stopped in Spain for 1.5 weeks following Thailand, so I was able to progress slowly back to Ohio time by the time I returned.
Final night, sunset on the ocean in Thailand
The entire week was such a whirlwind and went by so, so fast… I would like to return to explore more of Thailand, including Bangkok & Chiang Mai! Koh Lanta was amazing, but it is such a tiny part of Thailand, and our group didn’t wander too far from the resort the entire week. Also – I loved the retreat, but sometimes, a vacation just needs to be done alone! (or maybe I am just a serial solo traveler?!) While I love meeting people, there is nothing like going off on your own and doing things on your own schedule 🙂 There is so much more to do & explore, so I will definitely be back… just need to add Thailand back to my bucket list 😉
Has anyone else been to Thailand? If so, where have you been? I’d love to hear about your travels!