on my eating disorders.

(trigger warning: this post may make you uncomfortable. i make no apologies.)

i’ve had it all: bulimia, anorexia, orthorexia.

my eating disorders have not been linear. they have not been cyclical. they have not made sense. many times, they haven’t “looked” like what an eating disorder is “supposed” to look like.

when I was the most bulimic of my life - throwing up 2-3 times a day - I was the heaviest I’ve ever been. It was an intense, tumultuous period of my life that shaped me into who I am today…but for a long time, it’s also what kept me from sharing my story: I was afraid people wouldn’t believe me, because I wasn’t “thin enough” during those highest periods of intensity.

*let me say that again: I was afraid people wouldn’t believe that I was bulimic, because I still didn’t think that I was thin enough. you see the problem here, right?*

when I was “healed” from my bulimia and "suddenly" realized I had dabbled into anorexia (avoiding food, and eventually using prescription drugs like Adderall to numb my hunger and any emotions I was actively trying to avoid...like the pain from a breakup, or the boredom from a job) I became more concerned. to me, anorexia always seemed like the scarier disorder. I’m not sure why, because from direct experience they are both equally painful.

I oscillated between both disorders for years.

years.

when I was sad, when I was stressed, when I wanted to control, because my life felt out of control.

sure, my eating disorders were about my body…but they also weren’t about my body. at all.

not liking how i looked physically was just the tip of a very large iceberg of self-neglect. a lack of self-love. a decision to ignore what my insides wanted to say. at the end of the day, my disorders were a loud, screaming signal that I had work to do.

i wasn't happy in my job. my city. many of my friendships. my relationships. i put so much pressure on myself - and what other people thought about me - that i didn't dare to turn inward. i knew that if i did, recognizing the disconnect would be too much to bear.

at one point (and i'll get into the specifics of that one particular point another day)...I had enough. ENOUGH. enough, enough, enough. i hired a mentor, i committed to myself, and i worked hard as FUCK on myself to go in DEEP into the unrest. i worked to actually understand the root causes of my anxieties about my appearance, about my people-pleasing tendencies, about my willingness to numb pain instead of lean into it. i committed to moving forward, because i didn't want to live like that anymore.

was it hard? fuck yes. nobody knew.  it was a hard, solo voyage for sure...but looking back, i wouldn't have it any other way. those experiences are exactly what taught me how to stand tall in my own power now. to love myself - my WHOLE self, not just my physical body - through and through. it's those experiences that have given me the power to teach other people how to move past their own struggles - whether it's eating disorders, depression, a toxic relationship, or something else.

i say it all the time: inner work is work...but it works.

the more willing you are to explore those gross, scary, ugly parts of yourself, the more beautiful fucking gems you're bound to uncover. and guess what comes along with those little gems of self-knowledge? happiness. steadfast happiness.

it's there. i promise.

if you take anything away from this post, please let it be this: you CAN heal... and I’m not just talking about your physical body. I’m talking about the most important parts: your mind, and your soul. 

 

Teaching a Private Yoga Lesson: The Essentials

I adore teaching private yoga lessons: there's something really special about being able to work with a student 1:1, and completely customize a class based on their body and mindset. I've learned that an effective private lesson has a lot to do with proper set-up, so I wanted to share what's worked for me.

What should you do before your first private yoga session with a client?

  • Confirm your rate: rates will vary by city, your level of experience, travel time, and more. Make sure payment has been confirmed before you show up to avoid any awkward post-yoga money discussions - not fun for anyone! I typically work with Venmo, Square, or plain ol' cash.

  • Confirm location: If you're driving to their home or workplace, budget in an extra 15 minutes or so. Being late causes unnecessary stress on both ends!

  • Plan your class: I typically talk to my clients before my first visit about where they see their strengths and areas for opportunity. I'll build a class around our discussion, but always, always stay present - work with what's going on in the moment!

What should you bring to your first private yoga session with a client?

This is the fun part! Since I do a few privates in the early morning before I head to work, I want to spend as little time as possible getting ready in the mornings. I've built up a Mary Poppins bag of goodies that I can grab and go! 

 THIS is how you prep for a private client.

THIS is how you prep for a private client.

 

  • Blocks - A yogi's BFF (4L). Bring at least one block, two if you can swing it. You want your student to be as comfortable as possible, and blocks are one of my favorite ways to deepen a client's experience. For newer students, I usually go with a foam block.
  • Strap - Just like blocks, straps allow students to access shapes that might not happen otherwise.  I always bring my 8 foot yoga strap; if you have taller clients, bigger is definitely better!
    • Pro Tip: If your client has open hips, bound supta baddhakonasana is an awesome, awesome release right before (or during) savasana. Throw two blocks under each knee so that it's nice and comfy for them.
  • Water - Just like when you're teaching a public class, you need to stay hydrated while you're yapping your face off about those eight limbs and all those poses. I'm currently obsessed with Gaiam's insulated water bottle - great for ice-cold water, or super-hot lemon tea.
  • Comfy Clothes - get your clothing ready before you head out, so you're not scrambling around for something clean. I'm all for a good leggings/sports bra combo with a loose tee thrown on top.

Then, of course, the extras: any oils you like, incense, crystals - whatever you use to make your practice special, that you think your client would also appreciate. 

PS - if you're looking to stock up on any yoga goodies, head on over to Gaiam. My code will get ya 20% off all orders over $50: AMANDA30 :)

What else do YOU bring to your client sessions? Let me know in the comments!

How Do I Stretch My Wrists?

Earlier this week, I mentioned in one of my Instagram posts that I've been working through a (totally self-induced) wrist injury from kicking up into handstand & practicing arm balances that I wasn't warm enough for (hi, #yogaego). 

Here's a quick video showing a few of my favorite wrist exercises that I've been doing to help build flexibility & strength:

 

As always, hit me up if you have questions, suggestions, or just want to say hi. :)

-A

The Busy Girl's Guide to Meditation

Isn't it funny how the times when it's hardest to meditate are the times you probably need it the most?

I've worked in the startup/tech industry for the past 6+ years, and to say it's a little crazy would be an understatement. If I'm being honest with myself, a big part of me feeds off of the excitement: a burst of insanity, a ton of brainstorming, a crazy project with a nearly-impossible deadline...there's something about the energy rush that can become addictive.

But you know what also comes with that adrenaline rush? Stress, vritti energy, and in many cases...little to no time to focus in on yourself.

When your career and social life are swirling around you a la Pig-Pen's cloud of dirt, adding on a meditation practice can seem pretty damn daunting. But here's the thing: meditation doesn't have to take up a huge chunk of your day. Creating a daily ritual of setting aside a few quiet moments each night can actually enhance all of the other things you have going on: by dedicating a little time to slow down, collect yourself, and  b r e a t h e, you'll be in a better mental state to handle whatever life throws at you tomorrow.

I've created a super-simple, mantra-based meditation practice that I do for about 10 minutes every night when I come home from work. I'd invite you to try it out for yourself - you might like it, too!

Create your environment

  • Shut off the lights.

  • Light a few candles, and burn some sage or Palo Santo, both of which are meant to clear negative energy and re-set your space.

  • Turn on meditative music. I have a dog and a roommate, so as much as I love music as a way to creatively guide my practice, it's also to drown out any external distractions. You can always steal some of my meditation music from Spotify.

  • Set an alarm for 12 minutes.  I typically give myself a 2 minute buffer to get settled and comfortable before I drop all the way in to meditation.

Get Comfortable

You don't need a huge space to meditate. I just throw my Gaiam cushion on the floor and sit right down in my bedroom.

  • Set yourself up comfortably. I use the Gaiam Rectangle Meditation Bolster  and sit in either lotus or sukhasana with a long spine.
  • Begin to breathe deeply and close your eyes. Forget about ujjayi breath. Forget about whatever you learned in that meditation class. Forget about what you think you should be doing, and just. breathe. In and out through the nose. Calmly begin to observe your breath: can you deepen your inhalations and exhalations? Can you smooth your breathing out at all? Relax the expectations around it, and just go with what you're feeling.

Mantra-based Breathing

  • As your breath regulates (inhales and exhales equally long, about 5-6 seconds each), begin to pair the in- and out-breaths with the phrase, "So Hum". As you breathe in, repeat in your mind "So"...As you breathe out, repeat in your mind, "Hum". 

  • Why "So Hum"?
    • So Hum is a verbal representation of the breath; it sort of sounds like your inhalations and exhalations. But more importantly, So Hum translates to "I am". 
  • Use this as an opportunity to remind you of what you are. Here are a few examples that I use, from time to time:
    • Enough. As simple as that. You are enough, exactly as you are.
    • Calm. Even if "calm" is the last thing you feel, give yourself the opportunity to explore it: what does "I am calm" feel like. Can you train yourself to become calm, even in difficult moments?
    • Capable. Capable of dealing with the pressures of work, family, friendships, relationships.
      • Smart. You are mentally equipped with the skills to tackle what is in front of you.
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat. Your mind will wander, and that's OKAY! You're human, and this is only 10 minutes of your day. Do your best to draw your consciousness back to just the breath, and just your mantra.

When your alarm goes off, gently blink your eyes, wiggle your fingers and toes, and slowly pick yourself back up.

I'll be honest: some days, I'd rather flop on my bed and stare blankly at the ceiling for two hours...but there hasn't been one time yet where I've regretted my meditation session once I get down to it. Especially during busy or difficult weeks, it's such an awesome opportunity to practice some self-care and re-set mentally.

Ten minutes a day is all you need, my loves. You can do it - I know it!

 

PS - If you want to purchase the bolster I mentioned above, use AMANDA20 at checkout for 20% off your purchases of $50 or more. xo

 

 

microfears.

I’m ON one lately about microfears.

Is “microfear[s]” — or as i lovingly call them,“MF-ers” — a real word? definitely not. but is it a real thing? definitely yes.⠀These little MFers aren’t the big, huge fears that we love to glorify. Nothing like “I’m afraid of death. I’m afraid of bankruptcy. What if I’m not worthy of love? What if i don’t become successful?”

MFers are those tiny, naggy thoughts that pop up in your head at least a hundred steps BEFORE that big “Oh shit, this is something I need to address” realization happens.

They’re the dull, repetitive thoughts that quietly thump in the back of your mind while you’re off doing other things on autopilot. And it’s easy to keep those thoughts waaaay back there — they’re probably rooted in avoidance, or guilt, or shame, or confusion…and dealing with that definitely doesn’t sound like fun.

“I keep avoiding finishing my reports for work,”
says the marketing assistant who’d rather be outdoors, making art. but her job’s not *that* bad.
“I‘m just not good with, like, feelings,”
says the one who actually has a LOT of feelings. but whatever, they’ll deal with them. later.
“I can’t talk to her after our last fight,”
says the girl who proooobably shouldn’t have gone off at her friend the other night, 3 bottles of wine deep. but whatever, it’s fine.

In the scheme of things, none of these are big problems, right? They’re just little annoyances, and we’ve gotten really good at creating excuses disguised as answers in an effort to make ourselves feel better for a little while. But what about long-term?

“Well, at least I have a job! Could be worse.”
until, 10 years later, you’ve reached peak “success” as CMO and have never been more miserable.
“It’s for the best — I’m too fucked up, I’d probably just disappoint someone anyway. ”
congrats! you actually *have* made a commitment. to deprive yourself of the main thing were created for: human connection.
“She probably doesn’t want to talk to me either. I was such a bitch to her. It’s for the best.”
until 3 months later, you just really miss your friend…and 3 months of #girlsilence seems really, really hard to come back from.

Listen. Paying attention to these little MFers is actually a good thing.

Once you become more aware of those seemingly innocuous, repetitive, only-slightly-annoying thoughts…you open yourself up to the ability to self-police. You can begin to pay more attention to how often you think something, how actively you’re avoiding something…and if you sit with it for long enough (uncomfortable as it’s gonna be), you can start to work through any of that negative — or hell, even crazy — self talk in super-small doses.

Change at a micro level like that is WAY easier than avoiding something for weeks, months, years.

Nobody wants to wake up 5 years from now, only just realizing the need to unpack a LOT of emotional shit…or worse, wishing they did something differently.

TLDR: those little, annoying thoughts you keep having, and keep ignoring? they’re not little, and they’re not going to go away in 5 years. raise ya damn vibration and deal with it. 

"Why would you ever teach DONATION yoga?!"

My practice “grew up” in crunchy, donation-based studios, and it only made sense for me to start teaching at the place that’s grown to be my home base for years, now: Bryan Kest Power Yoga.

Donation-based classes are amazing, and I still swear that there’s nothing like the group energy of a donation-based class. There’s little show, little ego, just a straight-up “My body and mind need this today” vibe. From everyone.

In many studios, teaching donation-based yoga means that you pay rent on your class times at the beginning of the month, and the price point for your class depends on how popular your slot is. For example, rent on a 5AM Tuesday class might be less expensive than an 11AM Sunday class, but 11AM Sunday will likely pull more students.

To put it in perspective, let’s use clean, fake numbers: pretend a 5AM class rent is 20 bucks, and an 11AM class is 60 bucks. Three 5AM classes a week = $240/month, Three 11AM classes a week = $720/month.

So, you can see there’s a risk/reward ratio that needs to be gently calculated when picking up classes, and I was cautioned by a friend or two that most teachers will lose money in their first year — the build can be slow for a newbie in town. And by “town”, I mean West LA — which is the most insanely competitive market for yoga teachers in the country. *insert eye roll here…but we’ll talk about that another day.*

I was lucky — I’ve had great weeks in my first year. Even when classes have been smaller, students are sweet, warm, caring…all of the stuff you hope for in a student base. But I’ve also had a few really, really shitty weeks — weeks where i’ve hemorrhaged rent money, or scraped by so closely that I’ve made juuuust enough to cover my class time.

Those weeks were tough. I was never in it for the money, but seeing your checking account dwindle by the hundreds is far from encouraging, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t wonder if I should drop it altogether. I’d get frustrated, stressed, sad — hell, even angry — that it all felt so hard.

But during one of those really tough weeks, something kind of amazing happened.

I was reminded why donation yoga is so cool. One morning last fall, a girl, probably my age, definitely homeless, was sitting outside the studio by herself at around 530AM.⠀

I was just like …what’s up? you wanna come to class?

Her immediate reaction was “I would, but I don’t have any money. I don’t even have a place to live right now, really.”

Very rarely are you able to answer a statement like that with “It’s fine, dude! It’s free.” I grabbed her a mat, she hung out in the corner and flowed along with us for a little while. She wasn’t going to steal, she wasn’t going to cause a problem…she just needed a safe space for a couple of hours to clear her mind.

She didn’t stay for the whole class, but what really rocked me was what I realized after: she had left two dollars as a donation.

I wish I could have caught her and made her take her money back. There’s that old saying — those who have the least give the most — or something to that effect…and man, in that moment I understood it more than ever. It was just a pure, totally humbling act of gratitude. Forget about whatever we did on the mat that day (I sure as hell can’t remember)…her attitude was yoga, through and through.

TLDR? Teaching donation yoga can be really hard sometimes, but it can also be really cool. That moment was a much-needed reminder of why it’s so damn important.

If you’re squeezing your butt in bridge pose, you’re doing it wrong.

Okay guys. Bridge pose.

I’ve heard a lot of teachers say “squeeze your butt a LOT” as you press up. That’s cool, but I don’t necessarily agree with the phrasing — it takes the focus away from strengthening other parts of the body…and if you just think about squeezing/going UP, you’re priming yourself for low back/tailbone pain later.

Instead of thinking about squeezing the butt, do this.

  • Drive deep into your heels.
  • Draw the tailbone towards the heels so that belly can hug the spine.
  • FIRM THE QUADS. Roll the inner thighs down, and use THAT strength to lift your hips higher. Tailbone reaches towards the knees.

    Yeah, sure, the butt may squeeze a little, but think more low glutes (if anything) and make the effort to avoid crunching your low back. Chest broad, deep breaths…you know the drill from there.

If you want a visual, check it out:

 

Too scared to go to a public yoga class? Read this.

I’m the first to admit that public yoga classes can be crazy-intimidating. Walking into a new space, probably alone, surrounded by people you can only assume have been practicing for years longer than you have…it’s scary. As a new student, it’s easy to assume everyone around you is more strong, more flexible, a better meditator (..or whatever it is).

And I totally get it. Just like any new, intimidating situation, it’s easy to think yourself down the “i’m not good enough” rabbit hole and psych yourself out of ever going to class in the first place.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: a few of the students seated around you are probably just as intimidated as you. And if they’re not…I guarantee they were, at one point.

I certainly was. My first few months practicing, I would walk into the studio almost shaking because I was so nervous. But eventually, something clicked. I realized most of my fears were self-imposed, and I started learning how to drop my ego at the door and just let the practice start to happen naturally.

Take my friend Molly, for example. Last week, she left this on my Facebook wall…

But up until 2 or 3 months ago, I couldn’t get her to a public class if I was on my deathbead. She had the same anxieties that I had when I first started out, and I knew if I could get her comfortable with the fundamentals — but more importantly, comfortable with her beginner’s practice — I could get her in the door at one of my studios.

I worked with her during private lessons for a few weeks, and slowly began to introduce the concept that we’re ALL just practicing — nobody is perfect, and if you’re in the right kind of yoga space, nobody is going to judge you for giving it a try.

Once I finally got her into class, she was hooked! The pieces are slowly beginning to fall into place. Once you start getting in the groove with yoga, it all becomes a little less scary.

Just keep showing up, yeah? 

Hashtags Are Not Spiritual Currency & Inspirational Quotes Are Not Reality

We’ve all seen it: a perfectly-filtered photo of a perfectly-highlighted, skinny blonde in an arm balance on a beach in Malibu….with an inspirational quote in the caption to boot. Hashtag #soblessed on this #beautiful #day.

It’s happening. We’re starting to sacrifice our reality for a homogenous highlight reel. I know we can’t ALL be having the #bestdayever with the #besttribeever, all the time. (Also, are we ready to retire the word “tribe”? The whole subtle cultural appropriation thing is super lame.)

As I scroll through my feed, I can’t help but wonder: is our yoga community becoming too Stepfordian? When did we decide to start hiding our flaws behind filters? Are we replacing storytelling and connection for likes and video views?

I’ll be the first to admit that I fit into a decent amount of the stereotypes out there. I’m a female yoga teacher (in the most oversaturated yoga market in the country), I’m blonde, and yes — I’ve definitely taken a photo or two at El Matador and posted them to my account. I’m rolling my eyes at myself too, don’t worry.

Is there anything inherently wrong with taking yoga photos? Is there anything wrong with being proud of your body, or sharing a story that inspires you? Absolutely not! (I have a lot more feelings on this one, by the way — but we’ll get to that another day.)

As I see it, the real problem lies within what our community’s newfound Instagram addiction represents on a larger scale: the disconnect between social media’s portrayal of yoga, and what yoga inherently is.

Inspirational quotes are social’s “autopilot mode”

You know when someone asks you how you’re doing, and your immediate response is “I’m good. Busy!”

Posting a quote on Instagram is the digital equivalent of that kind of conversation. It’s autopilot. It’s a way for us to do the least amount of communication possible, while still showing face and not ruffling anyone’s feathers too drastically.

Listen, I get it. I do it myself. I see a quote that I love, and I immediately want to share it with my followers because it in some way rang true for me. But the questions we should be asking ourselves before we post — why do I care about this? Why do I connect with this?

That’s the story to share. That’s a way to build connection.

Without words, a story — your “why” — behind it, spewing pseudo-spiritual quotes day after day just feels disingenuous. It creates a faux veil of perfection — a world where yoga people are these eternally happy, green-juice drinking, constantly-inspired, wholly self-realized beings.

Allow me to gently remind you of two things: perfection doesn’t exist, and yoga people are crazy. It’s why we do yoga to begin with.

We need to be better storytellers.

We need to be more comfortable showing, embracing, admitting our flaws. Instead of sharing a generic quote, tell me how you got your scars. Tell me why you’re mad today. Tell me how you’re working through it…or why you’re not. That’s interesting, and it gives something for people to actually connect with — it’s real, it’s honest, it’s human. And it’s not an effing Rumi quote.

Quantity in followers ≈/≠ Quality of Class

I do want to take the time to recognize that Instagram is a tool. Teachers are small business owners, and there’s an inherent responsibility to market your business and grow your classes classes by connecting with students. In that respect, Instagram is a strong brand awareness play and can certainly help get people in the door…initially.

I say “initially”, because we need to address the elephant in the room: just because someone has a lot of followers and a lot of pretty photos, it does not guarantee that they’re the right teacher for you.

A photo might speak a thousand words, but none of those words include someone’s skills and knowledge as a yoga practitioner. There’s no real way to understand someone else’s understanding of the physical and spiritual body by looking at some beach photos they posted, and there’s certainly no way to understand how they’ll share their knowledge with their students.

The way I like to look at it is this: if Instagram can bring students in the door, great. The real test is retention. How many of those students are they keeping and connecting with?

Authenticity, authenticity, authenticity — the more relatable/honest/real the teacher, the more likely it is that students will want to connect.

So…what do we do?

At a high level, we need to be more conscious of what we’re consuming and what we’re creating.

I don’t think it’s fair to point fingers or make claims about someone else’s practice or spirituality, but I do think it’s important to recognize the difference between someone who is reliant on social validation of their practice, vs. someone who is truly living their practice. There are people who are driven by likes on their photos, and there are people who are driven by an innate desire to help and to connect with students…and it’s usually pretty easy to understand which is which when you start to dive in.

As students of yoga, we need to recognize that difference. As teachers of yoga, we need to own that difference and activate ourselves (and our social presences) in more real, honest ways.

I’ll leave you with this.

Followers don’t always equate with quality & attendance…

The right filter won’t let us see into your soul…

& hashtags are not spiritual currency.

What about you? I’d love to hear what you think, too.

Self-Empowerment: Other People’s Shit is Not Your Shit

In class today we meditated for a little while on the concept of self-empowerment.

When I used to hear “self-empowerment”, my mind would jump to this notion of a big, heroic statement. A big event, action, or moment in time. But the more I’ve started to explore it in my own practice… the more I’ve started to realize that self-empowerment is actually quite simple.

It’s owning your voice with raw honesty.
Understanding — and standing in — your truth.
But always, always coming from a place of love.

So today, we sat in stillness and called to mind a time when we were able to speak from our hearts honestly, truthfully, and peacefully. We remembered how it felt to be expressive, how we (and others) received our words…and used that brief moment as a reminder that that honesty is ALWAYS within us. Always. Sometimes we just need to use a little bit of our own strength to extract it…alongside a healthy dose of understanding that non-owned reactions can’t (or shouldn’t) affect the independent values, beliefs, and opinions we hold true.

Need a tangible example?

I recently experienced a conflict with someone. This person took out their tangential frustrations on me in the form of an extremely angry conversation (read: I got yelled at out of nowhere for something that had very little to do with me).

I was more shaken than I’d been in a while. I had two options:

  1. Respectfully express my concern about the tone of our conversation, or
  2. Stay quiet. Let it fester. I’m a dweller — so, I’d dwell.

I went with the former, and I’ll be honest: I was hoping for a more empathetic, positive reaction from the person — hell, I was hoping for an apology. I didn’t get that…but I was able to calmly, clearly explain my point of view.

I worked hard to remind myself that this person has their own life stressors, their own communication style & values, and is flawed — just like the rest of us. Does it mean that I agree with their actions? Of course not — understanding is not synonymous with agreement, and that’s okay.

See, the thing is…self-empowerment doesn’t mean you’re always going to get what you want, just because you said how you feel. You will never, everbe able to control another person’s reactions — they have their own shit, their own external and internal variables, all vying for a seat at their brain table, just the way you do.

Give yourself an opportunity to see a situation from the other person’s eyes. You might still hold the same opinion as before (I sure did), but allowing yourself a momentary look into someone else’s actions creates space for gentle understanding. That softness allows any withheld bitterness to slowly melt away — so you’re left as you.

Clarified.

With your thoughts, your opinions, your truth, once again.

That’s self-empowerment.

TLDR: Be honest, be nice, stand up for yourself, and breathe. Other people’s shit is not your shit. Know it, understand it, move through it.