The Life-Changing Power of Printer Cords

Plugging in a printer made me better at yoga, and a better person.

Yep, you read that right.

There aren’t a lot of transformations in my life I can pinpoint to the second, but this is one of them.

About eight years ago, I was fresh out of college and working an office job. After a few years of dappling in yoga, I had started a regular practice of 1-2 classes a week.

It was when I bent down one day to adjust a printer cord that I first consciously took yoga off of my mat. I accidentally maintained awareness – in real time- as I transitioned from standing to kneeling – recognizing how my hips, knees, and feet were aligned.

This was the first time I acknowledged that the physical asanas (poses) we practice on our mats translate to “real life.” It took another year or two until I had embraced my practice enough to implement the benefits of meditation and mindfulness off of my mat.

Everybody is different, and every body is different. Some people have their “a-ha” yoga moments way before I did, and for other people it takes longer.

I have a-ha yoga moments to this day – literally as of tonight, when I stretched toward my toes while taking a bath, and realized (literally laughing at myself) that I was approaching this subconscious stretch with paschimottanasana mindfulness.

At the risk of sounding overly academic and pedantic, yoga is totally super cool. As you develop body awareness on your mat, you discover body awareness off of your mat. This awareness helps us navigate our lives with balance, grace, and health – whether these benefits are manifested through our personal relationships, our physical endurance, or our ability to plug printers into the wall.

And at the end of the day, that awareness is worth more than any down dog, chaturanga,  or handstand.

As always, thanks for reading.

xx,

JW

 

DIY Succulent Frame

Inspiration.

As only the best cat ladies, chronic crafters, and aspiring introverts can, I recently found myself catapulting down the quicksand-lined rabbit hole Pinterest becomes when paired with a Saturday night and wine.

My newest aspiration was to tackle the enviable framed succulent wall art with which any desert-chic enthusiast worth her salt drought-parched sand should be acquainted by now.

There are lots of other posts (like this one) circulating the web with great step-by-step process photos.   I drew inspiration by looking at several different approaches, which I recommend if you plan to engage in your own succulent project.

In addition to outlining the process, one of my goals in this post is to provide money-saving ideas and general tips born from my struggles in the trenches to help others proceed more smoothly :).


Materials.

Essential:

  • Photo frame (just the front) or materials to make your own
  • Shadow box/open-faced box that fits behind the photo frame
  • Chicken wire/mesh/hardware cloth: I’d recommend ___ size
  • Shears/wire cutters
  • Photo hanging supplies
  • Craft glue
  • Staple gun (+staples)
  • Selection of succulent cuttings, moss, and any other fillers you choose

Optional:

  • Paint
  • Ribbon
  • Glue gun

Penny-pinching tips:

  • Instead of investing in a shadow box, consider getting a cheaper, unfinished version at a craft/hobby store. I actually found the most cost-effective option to be a craft chest.  Unscrewing the hinges and clasps is quick and easy, then voila – you have two shadow boxes for the price of one. I purchased mine at Michael’s, but there are similar ones at Joann’s and any other craft store. 

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  • Rather than discarding chicken wire scraps, you can use them for other crafts like these mason jar flower lids.
  • If you live in an arid climate, you can forage for succulents rather than spend money buying them at a store.  If you need to purchase them, avoid buying ones that are pre-arranged in decorative containers, as those tend to be pricier

Process.

Step 1: Using shears, cut the wire mesh slightly wider than the opening of your photo frame.

  • If you don’t have a pair of heavy-duty shears, it is definitely worth it to invest in one for this project (especially if you plan to use chicken wire for other crafts). I started off using a pair of industrial scissors, and ended up only dulling the blades, hurting my hand, and wasting a lot of time. 
  • Consider wearing heavy gloves when handling the mesh, or at least operating with caution as your cuttings will have very sharp edges.  This is probably a good time to mention that this project (at least the first part) is not a good one for kids – though they might enjoy helping to fill the frame at the end!

Step 2: Use a staple gun to attach the mesh cutting to the side of the frame that will not be exposed.

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  • Make sure your frame is a material you are able to staple-gun. I loved this silver frame – even more so since I purchased it on sale – but realized once I was home that it was entirely made of metal.  If this happens to you, the situation isn’t hopeless – I simply glued it on top of a wooden frame I could staple the mesh on, but that adds an extra step.
***If you want to paint any part of your frame or shadow box, do so now or before you begin Step 1***

Step 3: Attach your picture hangers to the back of the shadow box.  I used these metal “teeth,” but you can also use wire or hooks.

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  • Make sure your method of hanging is appropriate for the final weight of your project.  When you pack the shadow box with dirt and add your succulents, you’ll add at least a pound or two depending on the size of your frame. 
  • If you don’t want to hang your frame, you can also place it on a shelf to lean against the wall

Step 4: Tightly pack your shadow box with slightly damp dirt.

Step 5: Glue the mesh-filled frame on top of your shadow box.

  • I originally planned to use a glue gun to attach the frame to the shadow box, but I discovered I wasn’t able glue fast enough before some of it started drying. I ended up using craft glue, which worked fine.  
  • After gluing the frame on top of the shadow box, I noticed several areas of space (Depending how you staple it, the chicken wire might prevent the frame and box from sealing perfectly). I added more glue around the edges of the “seam” to make sure there weren’t any cracks where dirt could fall out once I hung the frame on the wall.

Step 6: After glue dries, arrange the succulent cuttings, moss, and other fillings inside the wire mesh.  These were my results with 4×6 and 8×10 frames:

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  • After filling my frame with succulents, I realized the edges were pretty messy with a variety of dried glues.  I created a more polished look by gluing ribbon around the edges.  Even if your process reveals a cleaner final product than mine, you might want to dress the sides of your new-and-improved succulent frame with decorative fabric, ribbons, additional paint, or other decorations of your choice.

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Ideas.

The primary “work” in this process resides in the first few steps.  If you prepare a series of frames up to Step 6, selecting succulents and filling the frames makes a really fun activity for a wine night, birthday party – really any gathering!  The best part – you have a group activity and party favor all in one.

These also make great gifts – they’re personal, creative, and very easy to care for.  Depending on your climate, you’ll simply spray the succulents with water every few days (drier climates will need more spritzing, humid climates can handle less).


Do you have experience making succulent frames? What other suggestions would you add?

As always, thanks for reading.

-JW

Propogating Legacies

The 7.5 billion people who comprise today’s global population communicate in over 6500 languages. Amazingly, these thousands of dialects can all be traced back to one of only three root languages: Indo-European, Sino-Tibetan, or Afro-Asiatic.

FullSizeRender-3.jpgThe languages that stemmed from these roots germinated with the influence of environment, politics, religion, culture – nourished and cultivated by the countless nuances of social interaction. To this day, changes continue to occur as societies grow in an increasingly dynamic global environment, but enough remnants of original roots prevail for linguists to trace a dialect’s specific lineage.

FullSizeRender-1.jpgMuch like language, nature has amazing capabilities of adaptability. As the daughter of a horticulturalist/botanist, I grew up surrounded by plants. When I left for college in 2006, my mother lovingly transplanted a cutting from a houseplant to send a little piece of home with me to the dorms. Some years later, the tradition continued as I moved across the country for graduate school.

I dressed my West Coast apartment with one solidary plant – a pothos, which is very similar to the philodendrons I had long since grown to love for their durability and resilience in the face of what I term my “yellow thumb.”

As the vines of a pothos grow, one can cut the stem below a joint (where a leaf or additional stem branches off), and place the cutting in water. The cutting will adapt to this new environment, and once it grows roots, can be transplanted back into soil.

Five years later, my apartment is wreathed with “floating” cuttings, fully transplanted reproductions, and the same original pothos that birthed them all.

FullSizeRender-2.jpgNestled in my indoor jungle, I am reminded daily of the myriad of ways we can adapt to both sudden and steady change, regrow even after being cut down, and thrive in new environments. One plant can produce twenty, three languages can yield thousands, and one life can impact countless others.

What legacy will you propogate?

 

3 Ways to Make Your New Habit Stick

 

By the time May rolls around, we’re well past the point of New Years resolutions, and on the cusp of summer. With thoughts of sundresses, shorts, and bikinis, many people embrace a second wave of health and fitness motivation. But after the “want,” there’s the “do.”

Research has shown that a staggering 92% of people do NOT achieve their goals. This blog will offer strategies for making the transition from goal to action. While I focus on the fitness/wellness industries, you can apply these principles to any field, any time!


1- Pair with an Existing Habit

It’s a LOT easier to link a new behavior with one you’ve already established than to start with a blank slate.

Here’s an example: Let’s say your goal is to do 10 push-ups each morning. If you already make coffee each morning, you can set your coffee maker and spend the brewing time doing your push-ups.  In this way, you’re not creating something from scratch, but drawing on your existing routine.

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2- Set Reasonable, Evolving Goals

There are two major points to consider here:

a- If you aim too high too fast, you’ll discourage yourself

b- if you aim too low, you’ll end up getting bored or making excuses (e.g. since I can do __ easily now, i can afford to skip a morning) 

I recommend setting goals in stages. Let’s say your goal is to run a certain distance. Maybe you start by planning to run 10 minutes each morning for one week. Week 2, you add 5 more minutes; Week 3, you add 10 more minutes- and so on. This way you start small so you don’t get discouraged, but iteratively add more layers of challenge to stay motivated – and avoid a plateau.

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3- Create Your Own Carrot and Stick

For those unfamiliar with this terminology, it draws from the psychology of operant conditioning. Basically we reward behavior we want to continue (carrot), and “punish” behavior we want to stop (stick).

How does this apply to new exercise regimens?  This is kind of a choose-your-own-adventure area- which is why it works!

Think of a way to treat yourself before or after (I’d recommend after) your desired behavior. Let’s say your goal is to go for a 10-minute run each morning. Each day you accomplish that goal, maybe you treat yourself to something special. It can be a particularly delicious breakfast, Starbucks, Happy Hour – your choice!  In contrast, when you do not meet your goal, find something you can reasonably withhold from your routine (maybe the flipside of your “reward”).

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In sum, if you have the goal, you’ve completed the hardest part.  The next step – taking the plunge – but strategically.  Follow my 3 steps, and you’ll find yourself soaring to success in no time!

-JW

 

Author Bio:
I am an eRYT-200 yoga teacher and NASM-CPT personal trainer with a Masters of Arts in Social Ecology.  My goal is to educate busy individuals on ways to comfortably fit health & wellness into their schedules.  Contact me by email at jennyswanyoga@gmail.com or through any of my social media channels (@jennyswanyoga).

 

Turn Your Walk into a Workout

The most commonly cited obstacle to regular exercise is lack of time. Factoring in preparation, travel, and shower time, even a 45-minute or 1 hour class can easily take a couple hours out of your day. Not to mention the financial and logistical issues of paying for the class, covering travel expenses, and figuring out childcare.

But most people would agree they have time for a 20-30 minute walk – whether around your neighborhood or a nearby park.

And if you’re already going for a walk, why not take the opportunity to get a full-body workout in?

Below I’ve outlined a four-circuit program that can be completed anywhere, with no equipment needed. Each exercise group has a corresponding video (linked to Youtube). The videos have been sped up for faster viewing, but the more slowly you can do each exercise, the better!

Each individual exercise should be repeated about 8-10 times, and try to complete at least two rounds of the entire circuit.  I like to walk for a few minutes in between workouts to get some cardio in and allow for muscle recovery.


Workout 1 (focused on legs and core): Planks around the world

Starting in standard plank position with hands stacked below shoulders (option to come onto knees), raise one leg at a time, trying to keep hips level.

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Rotate to one side, coming into side plank. Raise one leg at a time, or draw circles with your raised leg for an added challenge.

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Rotate onto your back, into a reverse plank position. This can also be done with bent knees in a reverse tabletop position if straightening the legs is uncomfortable or inaccessible. Lift one leg at a time, engaging the core to keep your hips as level as possible.

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Rotate onto the other side to finish with a final round of side plank leg lifts. Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 11.01.18

 


Workout 2 (focused on chest, shoulders, and arms): Pushup Variations

Starting with tricep/chaturanga pushups, bring hands shoulder-width apart and lower down tracking elbows along your sides. Instead of lowering all the way down, try to only lower halfway. Press up keeping your back in a straight line, avoiding collapsing in the upper back. Also try to keep your neck straight (which I did a poor job of 🙂 ).

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Bringing knees to the ground, do a round of one-legged pushups, raising one leg at a time as you lower toward the ground.

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Finish by pressing back up to plank, spreading the fingers wide, and doing a round of chest push-ups with your elbows tracking away from the body.

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Workout 3 (focused on core, legs, glutes): Balancing Acts and Squats

Begin in mountain pose, standing with feet hips-width apart. Shifting the weight to one leg, raise your other leg off the ground with a bent knee until your thigh is parallel to the ground.

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From this one-legged mountain pose, shift the upper body forward while simultaneously extending your raised leg behind you into warrior 3/balancing stick pose. Slowly return to your one-legged mountain pose.

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After a few rounds, return to one-legged mountain and begin lowering down into a one-legged squat.

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You can keep your raised leg bent as I did, or straighten it for a pistol squat.


Workout 4 (focused on legs and glutes)Crescent Lunge Dips

Begin in a high/crescent lunge position.

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Slowly lower your back knee closer to the ground, then press back up. After completing one side, shift your weight toward your front foot and try to step your back foot forward in one clean step (option to move through one-legged tadasana). Step your other foot back and repeat on the second side.

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This circuit will provide you with a full-body workout at no cost! You might consider bringing gloves for the pushups and planks if you don’t want to place your hands on the ground, but otherwise zero equipment is needed.

So get outside, get moving, and stay healthy this holiday season!

 

As always, thanks for reading,

JF

Why to Enroll in Yoga Teacher Training – Even if You Don’t Want to Teach Yoga

Don’t want to teach yoga? Teacher training might still be for you – yes, really!


Though it may sound contradictory, yoga teacher training isn’t just for future teachers. Some people come to the realization that they do not wish to teach their own yoga students as they are going through a training program. Other people enroll in a teacher training program knowing this the whole time.

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I personally fell into a different camp. I knew I wanted to teach yoga, and enrolled in a yoga teacher training program to obtain the necessary skills and credentials to do so. I’ll admit to being mystified as to why people would allocate time and money to yoga teacher training if they weren’t going to “do” anything with it.

As I came to realize, there are LOTS of reasons – and “doing something with it” takes many forms.  Though yoga schools differ in the weight they place on various sections of curricula, you can expect to walk away from a teacher training with the following new additions to your soul, spirit, and practice:


  1. You will enhance your own practice

This is perhaps the most common reason, outside of plans to teach, that people cite for going through a yoga teacher training program. Though I walked into my training realizing this would likely be an additional benefit, I had no idea how much YTT would help my own practice.8iA6nLk5T

You will both learn and understand the logic behind correct alignment. You will start to recognize strong (and poor) sequencing when you are in yoga classes as a student. You will learn how to listen to your body, and what adjustments you need to make for your own practice without relying on someone else to provide cues.


2. You will learn new skills to incorporate into other parts of your life

Being a yoga instructor is only partially about yoga. It largely involves public speaking (regularly cited as one of people’s most common fears), which you practice by teaching your fellow teacher trainees and sometimes even “real” classes if you shadow a mentor in the community.di8r8drie

Additionally, you will gain training on client relations, marketing, finances, scheduling, and business management skills. Depending on the yoga school, some of these topics are more heavily covered than others, but you can expect to walk away with more confidence and an enhanced “toolkit” of interpersonal and management skills to bring into other areas of your life.


  1. You will broaden your worldview

people-holding-hands-around-the-world-mdYoga teacher training is in many ways a series of lessons on culture and history. You will trace the origins of yoga back to the Vedas, learning Sanskrit terminology for asanas, the Hindu symbolism behind many poses, and the story of yoga’s migration to the West. You will find how your unique practice fits into these broad lineages of yogis and gurus


  1. You will make new friends and connectionsari wow 2

For one, you’ll be connected to some awesome new yoga teachers in your community whose classes you can take in the future! But aside from the practical benefits of connecting with fellow yogis, you will meet people from all walks of life.

These people may become your best friends, your yoga family, future business partners, or just acquaintances passing through your life like ships in the night. Whatever their role is revealed to be, you will learn from them, they will learn from you, and your life will be forever changed.


  1. You will learn more about yourself

Though teacher training provides a great deal of objyoga_01ective information – facts about anatomy, how the human body processes breath and movement, the history of yoga — the majority of teacher training is about finding your own voice.

And this “voice” doesn’t just mean the words that come out of your mouth. Your voice is your attitude, your pace, your tone, your approach to the world. You look inward to explore who you are at your core, identifying strengths, weaknesses, and goals.


Maybe the title of “yoga teacher” isn’t something you see, or want, for your future.  But as you construct your list of goals for the next year (or 5, or 10), don’t write off “yoga teacher training” on the sole basis of not wanting to teach your own students.  Many people enjoy teacher trainings as a gift to themselves – an opportunity to look within, strengthen their own yoga practices, and form lifelong connections.

Are there other benefits you obtained through your teacher training? Join the conversation below.  As always, thanks for reading.

JW

Dehydration or Electrolyte Depletion?: Staying Healthy in Hot Yoga

Dehydration or Electrolyte Depletion?: Staying Healthy in Hot Yoga


It’s common sense that performance in a hot yoga class is closely linked to hydration.  Try embracing the present when the present includes a splitting headache, a screaming calf, or debilitating fatigue.

Almost anyone who has practiced hot yoga has experienced some adverse symptom at one point or another related to dehydration- fatigue, extreme thirst, or muscle cramping.  And anyone who has experienced these symptoms has probably heard a host of solutions and remedies from people: you need to drink more water, you need to buy x product, you need to eat more of x food … and the list goes on.  But before you know which remedy to employ, you need to trace the problem back to its origins.

What really happens to your body during hot yoga? What is the difference between being dehydrated or experiencing electrolyte depletion? Are there different physical cues for each condition?


Hydration

The importance of hydration is often taken as a given.  But why is water so important for our bodies’ daily functioning and exercise performance?

Losing substantial amounts of water in one’s body is linked to a loss of blood volume.  With lower blood volume, the heart has to work harder to move blood (and subsequently oxygen and all the other “good things” your body needs for exercise) through the bloodstream.  By itself, dehydration can result in*:glass-of-water

  • muscle cramping
  • dizziness
  • weakness/fatigue

*(particularly with very severe dehydration, there will be other symptoms, but I focus on the most likely ones to occur in the context of moderate to extreme exercise here)


Electrolytes

We also regularly hear about the importance of replenishing electrolytes during forms of intense exercise that produce profuse sweating.  But “electrolyte” is another of those terms that we often take for a given, without really exploring its importance.   What even are electrolytes? As their name suggests, electrolytes are electrically charged minerals that assist in energy transfer throughout the body, maintaining cellular electrical charges, and basically helping cells perform necessary work to keep the body going.shutterstock_50344906

Symptoms of electrolyte depletion include:

  • muscle cramping
  • unusually salty sweat
  • excessive thirst
  • weakness/fatigue
  • craving salty foods/drinks
  • bloating
  • double vision
  • heart palpitation

The major electrolytes in our bodies include potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium, phosphate, chloride, and bicarbonate.  Muscle cramping is a symptom of a deficiency of almost all of these, not just potassium (so stocking up on sources of potassium (like bananas) will not necessarily protect against cramping.  Dark leafy greens, most nuts and seeds, greek yogurt, sweet potatoes, and quinoa are all foods that provide levels of (more than one) electrolyte , not to menton other nutritional value.  Of course that is a tiny list, and a simple Google search will provide much more information on foods to help stock up on electrolytes if none of those float your boat.

But even eating a nutrious diet may not be enough to protect against the symptoms of electrolyte depletion, especially if you practice hot yoga regularly.  When I go every day for a while, I notice symptoms like cramping and weakness coming on faster and more intensely than when my practice is spaced out.  Some of the common ways to supplement electrolyte intake include nuun tablets, coconut water, Emergen-C packs (not just for sickness!), and Gatorade.  It is worth noting, however, that many sports drinks like Gatorade are high in sugar, so use those sparingly.  Coconut water is the most natural, and in my opinion, healthiest, of all those options, but some people do not feel it is as effective as manufactured sports drinks.  It really comes down to personal preference.

My number one recommendation is to drink as much plain water as possible, eat lots of plants, and get plenty of sleep (because what doesn’t that help?).


Thanks for reading!

JF