My Favorite Yoga Resources

I am no yoga master, but I have really enjoyed growing my practice in my post-college life. After years of competitive sports, it’s been fun to exercise just for me! When I was in grad school, I probably spent a little too much money on group exercise classes for my budget. You live and you learn. So now, after doing a little financial homework, I’ve been trying to work on my home practice of yoga to save money all while reaping the positive benefits of the exercise.

Doing yoga at home can feel kind of awkward at first. If you are lucky, you might have a spare bedroom or office to use. If you’re like me, you’re sliding your coffee table out of the way and Swiffering up the dog hair to make room. There are a few important things I’ve found when it comes to home practice.

  • You need a plan. This could mean doing a flow from YouTube or it could mean reading a book about asanas and creating your own routine. Whatever you choose, don’t go aimlessly to your mat. If you want, write down (or print off Pinterest) a sequence and then get moving. One of my favorite yoga books is Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness.

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  • You need the right tools. Invest in a decent yoga mat. This pays off in the long-run, big time. If you’ve practiced at a studio before, you probably know how you feel about the mats that are provided. Are they too slick? Do you like that they have less traction because it gives your muscles a run for their money? Go to a store or yoga studio where you can get your hands on a couple of options. Manduka and Lululemon are industry favorites, but I love my Jade Harmony Mat. It has more grip which I found helpful as a beginner. On my wish list are some sturdy yoga blocks to help push myself in poses. I like these Nu-Source yoga blocks.

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  • Don’t expect perfection. Don’t start stretching and bending with the expectation that you are going to hit crow pose on your first day, or full wheel. Those people on Instagram (love them) doing handstands, they fell over A LOT before they made it there. Two of my favorite gals to get inspired by are @jessicaolie and @the_southern_yogi. I can’t wait to get my hands on each of their ebooks. Jessica wrote #letsstartyoga and #letsstartyoga2.0 and Morgan has an ebook focused on abs called Ab Asanas.

Do you have any favorite yoga gear or resources? I’d love to know.

 

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In the Studio: Claire Asbury Lennox

I’ve been working on a freelance blog header design for a little bit. Ok, scratch that! A long bit. My dear friend Claire contacted me last fall about doing a header redesign for her website and finally, this spring, we made it happen. She is a multi-talented writer based in the Atlanta area. Claire and I met in a campus religious fellowship group and maybe, simultaneously, through a mutual love of basketball. We roadtripped to see our college team play in their conference tournament in 2008 which would be the start to the craziest spring my small hometown ever saw.

Claire recently graduated with an MFA in Writing and is constantly adding great essays and entries to her blog. Together, we came up with a blog header design that captures her spirit and gives her a visual change to match her new degree and her ever-growing teaching and editing experience. Take a look at the design below. These were the three final color choices. Wonder which one she picked? Check out Claire’s website here.

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Getting Started with the 21 Day Fix

Meal planning and prepping may seem like a big mystery to some, and it did to me too for some time. I’d swap packing a lunch for watching that last show the night before and falling in bed exhausted. Still tired in the morning, the last thing I could manage to do (and still get out the door on time) was bring a healthy lunch and snacks for my day at work. The 21 Day Fix demystified this process for me and I wanted to give you guys a review of my experience.

When the 21 Day Fix comes to you in the mail, all the plastic portion control containers are stuffed inside of each other like Matryoshka dolls. My first thought was oh my God, I’m going to starve. The containers are tiny!

The containers are color-coded by food type:

Red = Protein
Orange = Seeds & Dressings
Yellow = Carbohydrates
Green = Vegetables
Blue = Healthy Fats
Purple = Fruits
Tablespoon or “TSP” = Oils and Nut Butters

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For each day you are allotted a certain number of servings of each container. The guide book that comes with the 21 Day Fix helps you determine your calorie bracket based on your weight, height, and weight loss goals. This is the LAST and only time you have to think about calories!

Once you know what bracket you’ll be in, it’s all about planning and prepping. Also in the guide is a list of appropriate foods for each color container. Don’t think a yellow container means you can stuff as much macaroni and cheese as you want in it : ) Healthy yellows include things like sweet potatoes, quinoa and brown rice. Having a balanced diet across different food groups also means choosing the right food in that category.

If I’m in full on Fix mode this is what I might cook on a Sunday night:

  • 1 pkg. Quinoa
  • Chicken breast tenders
  • One pan of roasted broccoli/asparagus/whatever is in my fridge

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So really, the only thing I cook is quinoa, chicken breast and broccoli. The rest is just slicing and portioning. Some of my favorite things that fit within the 21 Day Fix that require no prep include:

  • Morningstar Farms Chik Patties (Meat substitute, just pop in the microwave)
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Shakeology
  • Lara Bars
  • Bananas
  • Salad Mix, Tomatoes and Baby Carrots for a simple salad, add one serving dressing
  • Almonds
  • Hummus
  • Two sliced green peppers for snacks throughout the week
  • Portioned servings of peanut butter to go with apples
  • Carton of blueberries divided into portions
  • The list goes on!

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Portioning does take time, but for someone who is not a natural chef, minimal prep time is very important to me.

I don’t say it lightly when I say this program has changed the way I think about food. There was a time in college where I relentlessly counted calories and would sacrifice lunch to have a Frap    pucino. And that my friends, is no way to live.

The 21 Day Fix is the foundation of the challenge groups I offer, beginning every 1st Monday of the month. If you want to break up with calories for good, I’d be happy to answer any questions you have about the program. I promise you I was just as skeptical in the beginning when my coach approached me. But, I also promise you that I am so thankful that I wrote her that first email saying what is the deal with this tiny Tupperware? When you’re ready, I can’t wait for that same email from you. Use my contact form to get the conversation started.

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Is Anxiety Good or Bad?

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Lately, I’ve been feeling anxious. Not about anything in particular, just a nagging, underlying worry. Most of us feel anxiety on a daily or weekly basis. We want to please our boss or we worry that our spouse is upset with us. This current of anxiety is completely normal. Sometimes, anxiety even behooves us to study harder or push ourselves to accomplish a big goal. Other times, the current is too strong and can pull us under instead of pushing us to shore.

So when is anxiety good and when is it too much? Ultimately, we all have our own personal method of measurement. We can best determine how we’re feeling by comparing our feelings to other experiences we’ve endured. Do we feel anxious once a week? Every day? Do we always feel anxious when we have to give a presentation or meet new people?

Situational anxiety is normal. It is a response to stressors in our lives. When we say we’re “stressed out”, there is usually a particular thing we can trace it to. When we can trace our stress and anxiety to a pending assignment or money troubles, it’s situational. If we retrace our steps and aren’t seeing that stressor at the end of the line, our anxiety might be a bonafide anxiety disorder. And, if you are super keen on how your brain works, you might be aware of what I’ve dubbed your “feelings baseline”. You know what your normal is and this [level of anxiety] is simply not it!

Of course, I’m not a doctor, and this article is not a substitute for the care and evaluation of a physician. However, as someone with diagnosed anxiety, I am always looking for ways to implement self-care and treat my anxiety without medication. And, when I find something that works, I love to share it with others.

JOURNALING

Journaling or just scratching down some thoughts before bed is always helpful to me. Journaling is a scary word to some people. It sounds foolish and conjures images of a sparkly pink spiral bound notebook and fluffy pen. (Elle Woods on the first day of law school anyone?) However, there are many forms journaling can take. At the end of the day you could simply write what’s hot and what’s not. Or, you could write down three things you are grateful for. Or, you could go on for pages and pages.

Others find it helpful to journal in the morning. If you are someone that has a hard time getting going pre-coffee, morning journal time can give you an opportunity to release all that’s holding you back from your day. I learned the term “brain dump” from a friend, and this has become my favorite type of journaling. The best part is there are no rules except for dedicating a period of time to writing everything that’s on your mind. For me, this happens over peanut butter toast and coffee.

YOGA

Everyone and their mother that has looked into treating mood disorders naturally knows that exercise is the key to a healthy mind and body. However, when you have anxiety or depression, exercise is not often the most attractive option. The couch looks pretty good when you have anxiety. It’s hard to get out of a rut. Enter yoga.

If you are out of shape or new to exercise, yoga is a great way to ease into a routine. Yoga is a practice that builds upon itself. Slow, careful stretching leads to more complex poses. You never jump into bow pose or even downward dog without warming up first.

ART & CREATIVITY

Please don’t email me and tell me you aren’t an artist. I just don’t believe it when people tell me this. You might not paint or draw, but I can almost guarantee that you have created something in your life. Do you know how to knit or crochet? Are you a DIY-er? Did you create an organization system for your shoes?

For me, creativity comes in the form of more traditional art-making, but it doesn’t have to for everyone. Think about a task you do that you just get lost in. You’re refinishing an old piece of furniture with a tutorial you found on Pinterest and suddenly it’s dinnertime. Here’s a list of hobbies to try if you are at a loss.

How do you handle anxiety? Are there any tips or tricks you could recommend?

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Resources for Getting Out of A Rut

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After you’ve made your intentions to change your behavior, or get out of your rut, it’s time to make sure your environment and your life align with your goals. This can look different for everyone depending on what you are trying to accomplish, but in general this philosophy applies: “If it doesn’t matter, get rid of it.”

If you are trying to finish a project, clean up and organize your workspace to minimize distractions. If you are trying to lose weight, spend some time cleaning out your fridge and getting rid of those tempting treats. The moral of the story is that you want to make the process as EASY as possible for yourself. If you can eliminate roadblocks before you begin, you’ll be one step ahead.

Today’s Assignment: Brainstorm in your journal ways that you can eliminate roadblocks for yourself. Then, take 30 minutes to prepare your environment. Organize your workspace, clean your fridge, make a workout schedule for the week. It’s important to keep this time limited. It’s easy to spend all day preparing and not actually chipping away at the work that needs to be done. Get prepared and then get going!

Some of my favorite resources for organization and roadblock elimination:

If you have any questions or want more resources for a particular task, send me a message!

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[FREE] 5 Day Rut-Busting Workshop starts Monday, 2/15!

Next week I’m hosting a FREE five day preview group right here on Facebook. My 5 Day Rut-Busting Workshop is for those of you (like me) who may have let their New Year’s resolutions fall to the wayside. Or, maybe, you are just looking to re-energize your current routine.

Regardless of where you are in your journey, I hope you’ll join me for this workshop. We’ll have daily mini-lessons to jump start your day and get you back on track mind, body and soul. Email or message me saying “I’m in!” and tell me your primary goal for the week. [barkleygrace@gmail.com]

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Why Don’t We Keep Our Resolutions?

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I’ve started the 21 Day Fix a few times. But, each time, I didn’t make it all the way through. I came up with reasons and excuses why I couldn’t make a work out or resist a treat. Even when I had successful weight loss in the first week of the program, I fell off the wagon. Today, I’m reflecting on why we stop and why we rob ourselves of success by dropping the ball. Why don’t we keep our resolutions?

One of my fellow coaches threw out this truth bomb that really got me thinking:

“I’m sorry but I’ve PERSONALLY made very single excuse in the book. Too busy, too tired, not enough time, no energy, no place to workout, no money, gotta wake up early …. I HAVE MADE EVERY SINGLE EXCUSE. . . And in the end, it’s just that. An excuse. An out. . . Just fess up … just admit … It’s not your PRIORITY. PERIOD. That easy. It will make you feel better too. Less guilty – because you’re making a choice of priorities instead of an excuse.”

These couple of sentences totally changed my perspective. Instead of thinking of why NOT to do something (an excuse), I started thinking about why I SHOULD do something (a priority). Priorities are non-negotiable. And, if you are bowing out early or not committing, that thing or challenge is just not a priority in your life.

It is Friday after all. 🍷💃🏻 #tgif

A photo posted by Grace Barkley (@gracebarkley_) on

I hear a lot of people talk about their “why” and sometimes the word just drives me crazy. “Know your why” they say. For some, it’s easy to rattle off your “why”. Their children motivate them, or they are driven by a triumph over a long-term illness. For others, including myself, my “why” is not as clear. And that, I’ve decided, is totally O.K.

It’s not that I don’t have a “why” or motivation, I’m just still in the process of forming mine. Sometimes I’ll press play on a workout to relieve stress. I’ll choose to eat a nutrient dense breakfast so I can be more productive at work. But, after bailing on the 21 Day Fix multiple times, I’ve made myself a new promise. I’ll revisit my “why” EVERY DAY. As I tally my containers and check workouts off my list, I’ll write my “why” for that ONE DAY.

Making it through a challenge be it 21 days, 100 days, or a year-long, is all about staying in touch with your motivation in every moment even though it may change. And sometimes, we need help finding our motivation. If you are looking for some pointers on finding your motivation, reach out! I’d love to chat.

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I Signed Up, Now What?: My 5K Training Essentials

I’ve lived in Savannah for four years now and have always been out of town during the weekend of the Bridge Run. When I realized I wouldn’t be traveling this year, I thought it was about time to cross this race off my bucket list.

I haven’t run in a timed race since 2010, so I’m excited to start training and work toward a concrete goal. Though it might sound cheesy, the feeling of crossing the finish line is one of the most satisfying feelings. Growing up, I wasn’t the most natural athlete, so I’m all about getting that participation trophy. Who cares where I place?! It’s all about finishing.

And, in order to cross the finish line, I’m rounding up a haul of my favorite running gear. These are my essentials!

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Supcase Armband for iPhone 6

This armband does not have a plastic covering over the screen so it is easy to operate your phone mid-run if you want to change the song or check Map My Run.

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C25K App

I’ve made it to the finish line using this app before, and I’m going to do it again! If you can devote three days a week for eight weeks (only 30 minutes), you can run a 5k.

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LG Tone Bluetooth Headphones

I love these headphones because I’m not a fan of traditional earbuds while running. No long wires to get tangled! In cold weather I zip them inside my running pullover.

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Brooks Ravenna

I’ve tried other shoes but I always go back to these. They provide just enough support, but are light. I think I’m on pair five!

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Polar FT7 Heart Rate Monitor and Watch

When I’m working out alone (not in a group class) I tend not to push myself. My heart rate monitor helps me get an effective workout.

 

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The Super Secret of Self-Improvement

We live in a society OBSESSED with goals. Let’s talk about it.

There is a wild amount of pressure on us to perform from a young age. We need to make sports teams, get good grades and do enough of extracurricular activities so that when we exit childhood we can land in a “good” school.

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Then, when we graduate, there are certain steps we are expected to take as adults. Gainful employment, relationships, marriage, children. Instead of settling into the sweet and unique moments of life, we sprint to the next step of life, craving the sense of accomplishment.

Whenever I write, I hesitate using any kind of common figure of speech, like steps. Steps make me cringe. Comparing life to stairs or a pathway is a tired analogy. And, treating life this way can make you tired too, operating under the notion that one day you will actually “make it to the top.”

When we place so much stock in what’s next, we develop what psychotherapist, Dr. Ronald Alexander, terms “the wanting mind”.

“In wanting mind, we feel that our current state of unhappiness can only be cured if we have more money, recognition, fame, or power.  Often we cause ourselves needless suffering when we ache for something that lies out of our grasp such as a better job, relationship or recognition or cling in vain to something that has already passed away. Wanting mind can also keep us tenaciously holding on to something negative: an unwholesome belief about how things ought to be or should have been, or an unwholesome emotion such as anger, sadness, or jealousy.”

When I was researching the name of this sensation I’d been feeling, I’d been searching for an official-sounding psychological term like the “wanting mind”. Then, once I’d found it, I realized the masses of social media had already spoken. What I was feeling was #FOMO, the “fear of missing out.” I’m only 25, but I will admit to being an avid user of urbandictionary.com to educate myself on the latest hashtags. And with this admission, and all the times as a kid I said otherwise, I’ve already succumbed to the idea that I’m not going to be a “cool” mom (someday).

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My wanting mind (or #FOMO) told me fantastical things, like a singing siren luring sailors to a certain demise. The siren said: “When you lose 15 pounds unicorns will leap in the grass outside your window and your feelings of self-worth will be complete. “When you finish grad school, employers will line up at your door with job offers and hot lattes and croissants to lure you to their offices.” And, I believed her.

The super secret of self-improvement is that we have to be bold enough to miss out. We have to bump the fear of missing out and accept that there is nothing outside of ourselves in the material world that will give us a sense of completion or fulfillment.

Now you’re thinking, “if I don’t strive for anything, how will I move forward?” To this Dr. Alexander says:

“Desire is part of being human. It causes us to strive toward bettering our lives and our world, and has led to many of the discoveries and inventions that have provided us with a higher quality of life. The extreme though is despite all that we can achieve and possess, we become convinced that we won’t be happy or contented unless we acquire even more.”

So, don’t become breathless trying to reach the top step. And, since I won’t let you use stairs as your life metaphor, I’m going to try to leave you with a suitable alternative. Have you ever taken a piece of paper and made a Mobius strip?

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“If an ant were to crawl along the length of this strip, it would return to its starting point having traversed the entire length of the strip (on both sides of the original paper) without ever crossing an edge.” -Wikipedia

And now you’re thinking the ant’s journey sounds tiring too. He walks and walks and ends up at the same exact spot. But, I’d like to think that this spot is a little different from the time he left it. When we revisit places on our Mobius strip, we’re forced to take a second look. The only feelings of comparison we have are to ourselves and the desire to improve, to smooth or tend that part of our path.

We’re going to repeatedly encounter our self-interpreted flaws and shortcomings. They aren’t stairs we can triumph over in one swift motion. The best thing we can do is get comfortable with the sight of them, and like the ant leave a granule of dirt from our journey on the pile and build.

 

 

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Book Review: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

No one wants to think of themselves as a “self-help book person”. We want to be on top of our game and able to handle the whirling curve balls that life delivers like a broken pitching machine.

After far too much self-indulgent sulking (a couple of weeks worth), I was looking for some direction. A friend suggested I read The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown. I reluctantly joined the club of self-helpers and downloaded it on my Kindle.

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Brown immediately disarmed me and any preconceived notions I had of this genre. Her voice is raw and real and conversational.

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”

This first sentence is pretty mind-blowing to me. So often we feel that keeping our shit together and creating a clear path for our lives should be easier and we are just behind if we are having trouble juggling it all. The truth is, the juggle is one of the biggest challenges we face.

Being from the south, it’s customary when asked how you are doing to say “I’m fine, thank you! And you?” Even if you feel like crying in a corner or punching the question-asker in the face, your answer doesn’t change. The point that Brown is making with her opening line is that you don’t have to be O.K. all of the time. AND, the stuff that you do every day to create your best life is hard and you are brave for just trying.

This idea that we should be cool, calm and collected 100 percent of the time all ties back to perfectionism. Perfectionism is my personal devil on my shoulder. I think more often about how I could have done better or tried harder instead of just turning to the little booger and saying “I am enough. I did enough.”

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“Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life-paralysis. Life-paralysis refers to all of the opportunities we miss because we’re too afraid to put anything out in the world that could be imperfect.”

With the exception of addiction, Brown laid my biggest life traps out on the table. Anxiety for me comes from performance anxiety or the general belief that I’m not good enough. Compounded, these anxieties create a depression and then a feeling of life-paralysis and the mentality of “How could I possibly do anything worthwhile besides lay on the couch and watch Netflix?”

While this attitude might sound wildly “woe is me”, you’d be surprised where you’d find yourself after weeks, months or years of this type of cyclical thinking. It can be hard to dig yourself out.

That’s what Brown calls us to do at the end of every chapter, to “D.I.G Deep”. “D.I.G.” is an acronym. To extract ourselves from this hole we must “Get deliberate, get inspired and get going.”

Get deliberate by mentally or literally outlining your goals. You can’t get there unless you know what you are striving for. Get inspired. Look to others for courage and inspiration. “You have to be brave with your life so that others can be brave with theirs.” You don’t have to be the first brave person. There are other brave souls you can follow before molding your own bravery.

Last, get going.

“I try to make authenticity my number one goal when I go into a situation where I’m feeling vulnerable. If authenticity is my goal and I keep it real, I never regret it. I might get my feelings hurt, but I rarely feel shame. When acceptance or approval becomes my goal, and it doesn’t work out, that can trigger shame for me: “I’m not good enough.” If the goal is authenticity and they don’t like me, I’m okay. If the goal is being liked and they don’t like me, I’m in trouble. I get going by making authenticity the priority.”

If you are striving for authenticity, it’s hard to fail yourself. And your expectations are truly the only ones you need to worry about.

This little book gives you the all the tools you need to D.I.G. Deep. So the question is: When are you going to get going?

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