Wanderlust Yoga Festival Essentials (Updated)

We attended the Wanderlust Yoga Festival in Squaw Valley last year and it exceeded our expectations! To say we loved it would be an understatement, but we definitely learned some lessons and will be bringing a few different items this year than last. You can check out our original post on Wanderlust essentials here . Below are our Wanderlust Yoga Fest essentials:

  1. Yoga Mat. This is kind of a no brainer, but you need a yoga mat at a yoga festival. Something we found was that it was quite windy in the Squaw Valley mountains, and those who had brought lightweight travel mats really had a hard time as their mats literally got blown around during practice. I know it's a pain to lug around a heavier yoga mat but bring your normal practice mat and you won't regret it. There are also sure to be plenty of yoga mats for sale at the festival, so if you don't have a decent mat, it may be fun to plan on picking one up at the event. My personal favorite yoga mat of all time is this mat. It has a lifetime guarantee and is quite substantial but not too heavy to carry around. This is also a great option and super affordable.
  2. Yoga Mat Carrier. I simply use this strap because Matt is in charge of the backpack for the both of us. Bonus: the mat strap doubles as a yoga strap in classes. A yoga backpack makes so much sense for this purpose as well and this backpack is my favorite. This is an affordable option. The nice thing about investing in a yoga backpack is you can use it for so many trips in the future. 
  3. Shoes. If you are planning on hiking, proper shoes are a must! We focused on yoga, workshops and meditation last year so I wore these flip flops around the entire time. They were perfect, low maintenance, and are super affordable. I'm also obsessing over these birkenstocks for my new yoga sandal. Because they are fully rubber, they can easily be washed off, taken to the pool or beach, and I've heard they're even more comfy than the originals.
  4.  Water Bottle. Hydration is so important for your body. It's sure to be hot, and there are sure to be plenty of sweaty yoga classes at the festival. Do mother earth a favor and ditch those plastic disposable bottles. With so many cute reusable water bottles, there's no excuse not to bring one. Also, no need to bring a massive bottle since Wanderlust has hydration stations set up for refills. I'm loving this water bottle, this one, and this bottle.
  5. Yoga Clothes. I love planning my fun yoga outfits for the festival. These are some of my favorites for printed leggings. I just purchased this particular pair and can't wait to try them out. I can vouch for the materials from both these options. They are super breathable, and dry ultra fast after a sweaty workout. Also, just wanted to mention these are my favorite leggings of all time. They have been the most flattering, most comfortable and the material is buttery soft amazingness. 
  6. Yoga Mat Cleaner. You will be throwing your yoga mat down in all sorts of places. Our mats were pretty dirty at the end of each festival day last year. I just make my own mat cleaner with essential oils and put it in a travel spray bottle. Check out my yoga mat cleaner recipe here
  7. Sunblock. This was on my list last year and it will be on my list forever. If the sun is out, you should be protecting your skin. The sun will be out. Bring sunblock. It's so hard to find a good all natural sunblock that's affordable. We have been using and loving this block from Juice Beauty (one of my favorite all natural skincare brands). Every product they make rates very clean on EWG and the Think Dirty app.
  8. Journal/Notebook. I'm always looking to learn, grow and evolve. Bringing a journal or notebook along ensures you can record all the new ideas you will be exposed to, and/or journal your own experience at the end of the day. These are so lovely and these too. 
  9. Sunglasses. As I said, the sun will be out. It's summertime. Big, fun sunglasses are a must. Le Spec is a new brand I've been loving because they are on the more affordable side. These are the sunnies pictured above and these are also cute. For affordable pair I'd choose these from Free People.
  10. Meditation Accessories. You are going to be feeling pretty zen at the end of each day. We like to start our mornings with a meditation, and any type of accessory to support my meditation practice is welcomed. We may bring a stick of palo santo just to set the mood for our meditation or to help us wind down at the end of each day. I will definitely be bringing my mala. This is my favorite place to find affordable high quality mala necklaces. 

General Tips: Don't worry too much about food. There's plenty to purchase at the event and tons of vendors are giving it away for free (e.g. entire veggie burger patties, protein bars, sustainable jerky, kombucha, etc.). Also, balance out your schedule. Take a variety of classes so you don't burn out the second day and make sure to schedule in breaks where you can peruse the vendors, lounge in the sun, and enjoy the entire experience. We decided to sign up for easier classes the last day (think yin yoga, meditation, speakeasy) because last year our bodies were sore and spent from the two full days of yoga and walking around prior. Most importantly, relax, have fun, and try not to sweat the small stuff : )

10 ways to Reset your energy

We are human, and being human includes shifts in energy, changes in mood, and changes in thoughts (e.g positive to negative). First step is always awareness. Try to notice when the energy shifts inside you whether it comes in the form of a bad mood, negative thoughts, low energy or no motivation. Next step is you have to put energy towards shifting your energy. Even if you are in the deepest depths of depression and you have no energy to get out of bed, maybe you can practice deep breathing. Point is, find something, that involves energy, and feels doable, then do it. Some days, I come home from work exhausted and all I want to do is plop down in front of the television and not move for the next 5 years. What I've found, is if I don't do something to change my energy, I typically feel that way until I go to bed. If I can muster the motivation to practice an energy reset activity, at the very least, I have the opportunity to feel better. It may not happen, but majority of the time, when I put energy towards changing my energy, it works. Below are 10 energy shifting activities I've found to be helpful in reseting your energy. 

  1. Music - Music taps into our emotions like nothing else. Use it to your advantage. You can use music to help you emote your energy (e.g. putting a sad song to help you cry it out when you are feeling down), or to change your mood all together (e.g. putting on happy music to help get you out of a mood funk). You can also use music to enhance any of the below activities. 
  2. Breathwork - I truly believe in the power of your breath. The breath is the only control we have over our autonomic nervous system. Deep breathing lowers heart rate, lowers blood pressure and turns on our parasympathetic nervous system the part of our body responsible for calming us down. Check out my post on 4 breaching techniques to lower anxiety in under a minute here
  3. Get Silly - Making funny faces into the mirror, doing a silly dance, getting inverted by hanging over the side of the bed or doing a handstand against the wall are all ways to completely shift the situation. Never underestimate the power of play. 
  4. Meditation - Sometimes getting quiet is what you need. Light some incense (my personal fav is palo santo) get comfortable, close your eyes, relax your body, and either practice a self-guided meditation or put on one of the many free guided meditations available on calm.com, insight timer, or youtube. I have had complete shifts in mood from beginning of meditation to end. It really is a powerful tool. 
  5. Walk - Yes, walking is awesome for moving energy, and decreasing stress in the body. Next time you are stressed go for a walk, preferably somewhere nice, possibly with headphones in, or simply listening to the nature around you. 
  6. Nature - Nature does great things to the brain and spirit. Whenever I watch a sunset or sunrise, I instantly feel calmer, more connected, and at peace. The sound, sight and smell of the ocean also works to reset my energy, and the smell of pine trees on a warm day. Get out in nature next time you need an energy reset. 
  7. Gratitude - Sometimes remembering the things that are right in your life, help to put the things that are wrong into perspective. I fully believe gratitude is a necessity happiness. Read a past post about specific gratitude practices here and here.  
  8. Yoga - I believe I can honestly declare that I've never gone to a yoga class and not had my energy shift from it. Yoga never fails me. Even if my practice is simply sun salutations and breathing, yoga always works. Going to a studio is awesome, but even practicing some Youtube yoga in your living room is sure to help. 
  9. Talk about your feelings - I mean what kind of therapist would I be if I didn't include this one? 'Better out than in' I always say when it comes to negative emotions. Talking about your feelings with the right people definitely helps to decrease the power those negative feelings have on us and diffuses some of the negative energy holding in feelings has caused. Key tip is to talk about feelings with someone who you know can be supportive because not everyone is. 
  10. Dance - This involves music and moving your body. Getting your body moving to a song you are loving at the moment is an awesome way to shift energy. You can even do a silly dance to include strategy number #3 for added intensity. Again, the combo of great music and that body movement is what makes dance a great energy reset activity. 

Again, emphasis is placed on putting energy, in whatever way possible, towards shifting your energy when you are feeling in a funk emotionally, energy-wise, physically, spiritually, or mentally. The point is not picking the perfect activity, but rather finding what feels doable and trying it. Your mood is less likely to change, your energy is less likely to shift if you aren't putting energy towards that intention so give one of the above activities a try next time you want out of a funk. 

Yoga Flow Playlist 2017

Matt and I have recently begun our own home yoga practice. It's really nice for those weekends I work at the hospital and can't make it to an actual studio. If you want to know more about the sequences we've been putting together let me know and I can do a separate post on that, but for now I'm sharing the current soundtrack to our practice. Isn't everything better with music? These songs are great for yoga, meditation, or just chilling out. Hope you all discover at least one new song here that you love. Let me know in the comments below which song is your favorite : )

YOGA FLOW PLAYLIST 2017

Letting Go - Sol Rising

To Build A Home - The Cinematic Orchestra

Porcelain - Moby

Open - Rhye

Re: Stacks - Bon Iver

Magic - Coldplay

May I Have This Dance - Francis and the Lights

Sun Models (feat. Madelyn Grant) - ODESZA

The Sun HDCD - B-Tribe

Misty Morning - Sol Rising

Homeward Angel (Long) - Moby

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4 Breathing Techniques to Lower Anxiety in Under a Minute

Okay, disclaimer: I can't guarantee these techniques will lower your anxiety in under a minute but I'm fairly certain you will feel calmer and more grounded after trying these in 1 minute or less.

Our breath is our only way to control our autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system has two parts: 1. the sympathetic nervous system (fight flight or freeze) 2. the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). When we are stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed the sympathetic nervous system turns on and gets us ready for danger. This is the part of the nervous system that releases adrenaline, cortisol, and all the bad stuff associated with stress. Breathing techniques turn on the parasympathetic nervous system which is the part of our nervous system responsible for calming us down, bringing our body back to homeostasis, and turns off the fight flight or freeze mode. Deep breathing lowers heart rate, decreases blood pressure, and lowers cortisol levels (the stress hormone). Breath is powerful guys!! Below I've compiled 4 breathing techniques you can try to decrease anxiety/stress in under a minute: 

  1. Deep Diaphragm Breathing: This is just a fancy word for deep breathing, but trust me it works. When we are stressed we often take shallow, rapid breaths from our chest which perpetuates the stress cycle in our body, keeping the sympathetic nervous system turned on (our body's fight flight or feeze response). The diaphragm muscle is a dome-shaped muscle right under our rib cage. You can usually find it by placing your hand right above your belly button so that your pinky finger just grazes the top of the belly button. Take a slow deep breath in and feel your hand raise as your diaphram muscle expands. Exhale a long slow deep breath and feel your diaphram contract. Repeat until you feel better.
  2. Ujjayi Breath: Pronounced (oo-jai). This is a form of breath often practiced in hatha and vinyasa yoga. It's said to support the mind body connection within the yoga practice by linking the breath to your movement in asanas. Ujjayi breath can also be helpful during times of stress as it connects you to your autonomic nervous system, more specifically the part of the nervous system responsible for regulating and calming the mind/body. Ujjayi is practiced by breathing in and out through the nose, but constricting the back of the throat to make your breath audible. This constriction is the same you use when fogging up a mirror with the "ha" sound. The only difference is with ujjayi, your mouth is closed instead of open. I've heard it called ocean breathing, or Darth Vader breathing because it sounds like both. Still confused? Check out this short ujjayi video tutorial here.
  3. Alternate Nostril Breathing: This is one of my personal favorites. I've mentioned it here in a blog post on managing anxiety. In this method you take a finger and place it on the side of your nose, pushing against your nose until you plug the nostril. Breathe in so that you are only breathing in through the unplugged nostril. Once your lungs are full, remove your finger and switch to plug the other nostril. Breathe out so that you are only breathing out through one nostril. Continue this way, alternating breathing in through one nostril, then out through the other until you feel calm and grounded. Still confused? Read further instructions here
  4. Square Breathing: This is called square breathing because you breathe in for 4 counts, hold the breath for 4 counts, breathe out for 4 counts, and then hold for 4 counts. If you were to draw a picture with this breathing, it would look like a square. Repeat this square breath until you feel calm and grounded. My suggestion would be to set a timer for 1 minute and practice it until the timer dings. 

Seriously, try all of these while you read this post so that you'll know how to do them in the future. Practice these breathing techniques on a regular basis to prevent anxiety and to decrease anxiety when it rears its head. The more you practice when you feel good, the more likely you are to be able to recall them when in crisis. Happy breathing : )

How yoga taught me to deal with discomfort

As many of you know, I've been a regular practitioner of hot yoga or Bikram yoga (yoga done in a room heated above 100F). This is a yoga that truly tests your mental and physical strength. At times, it's uncomfortable as your muscles shake in a posture, or the temperature rises in the room. At times, I've found myself agitated, looking for the cause of my discomfort, blaming everything in the room. I've witnessed my mind looking for something to lock onto, a source for the blame "It's too hot in the room". "The teacher's timing is off". "The person next to me is breathing too loud". "It smells bad in here". It's comical really. I think it was the Buddha who said "the root of all suffering is attachment". I realize now, I've been attached to how I want things to go. I've been attached to how I want to feel in yoga class, attached to what I think the temperature should be at, the teacher's timing as she moves us through postures. I've been attached to wanting yoga to feel relaxing, or healing, or easy. None of these factors are factors I can control. The only thing I can control is my own awareness, my breathing, using the breath to calm my body down, and assessing what's needed based on the current situation. I can't even control what my yoga will look like that day, because it will change based on the environmental factors, my energy level, whether I ate well the days leading up to class, and where I'm at mentally/emotionally. Such is life. Some days everything will be going wrong at work, or in life and it's easy to blame those external factors for discomfort or a bad mood. It's true, we are affected by energy from people, places, circumstances, and experiences, but if we can let go of placing blame and focus on what we can do to change our energy, or rebalance, it may be a more effective focus of energy. Some days all the factors are just right, and you feel like you're coasting. Some days it's the opposite and you may need to metaphorically sit out some postures, or focus on maintaining control of your breath. Next time you're in a place of discomfort, agitation, frustration do these following two steps:

  1. Stop, close your eyes and take a few long slow deep breaths. Make sure you're in control of your breathing before moving onto step 2.
  2. Ask yourself "what am I attached to". Am I attached to wanting someone to respond/act a specific way, attached to an old identity, attached to a dream, attached to wanting to feel a certain way, how I think this situation should go, etc. 

First step is always awareness. When we become aware of something, we decrease the power it has over us (even if just a little). I thank my yoga practice for the discomfort it brought me so I could learn this powerful lesson. It took me years to detach from my blame, and I'm still working on it, but now I can recognize the discomfort as the attachment that's causing my suffering. Attachment is part of the human experience so guaranteed we all have it. Attachment is necessary for connection to life, but in many instances it stops serving us and causes suffering. This is when you can analyze and use awareness to decrease its power. Hope my musings on the subject were of service to you and your life. Namaste.

5 Major Life Lessons I learned in the Yoga Studio

Lessons that help me grow in yoga, often help me grow in life. That's one reason I'm totally in love with the yoga practice. The yoga process is often one big metaphor for life, and thus an opportunity to grow and evolve mind body and spirit. Below are 5 major life lessons I've learned in the yoga studio:

  1. You can't give 100% for 100% of the time. Yoga is a practice which means it's meant to be a part of your life forever. If you give 100% all the time, you're likely to burn out. Pacing yourself to make yoga a lifelong practice means putting forth a sustainable amount of energy. Same thing in life. You need rest, time to recharge. You can't give 100% of your energy all the time or you'll burn out. Make sure your pace is something you can maintain for the long haul in life and in the yoga studio.

  2. Discomfort is evidence you're changing your body. One class, a few years ago, a teacher announced this lesson mid posture. It's true. Discomfort in a posture is physical evidence you're changing your body. In life, discomfort is evidence you've been pushed out of your comfort zone, and thus, changing yourself. If you can look at discomfort in this way, your relationship to it might change. I now seek discomfort in life, because I know it's the path to personal growth. 
  3. Slow, deep breaths make everything better. Maintaining control of your breath is crucial in yoga. Deep breathing helps you go deeper, to tolerate the discomfort when you are in a strenuous posture, and supports the union between mind, body and spirit. Deep breathing helps in the same ways in life. Deep breathing is my secret weapon. I use it for grounding, calming, and when I need help getting through discomfort.

  4. Some of the most important things in life are practices not destinations. Yoga is a practice not a goal you get to. Many of the important things in life are also practices: health, love, connection, happiness. These are all things that are meant to be practiced everyday, for the rest of our lives. Health is not a place you get to, but rather made up of everyday choices and behaviors. Love is not something you find and have forever, but rather something to be practiced everyday. Devote and dedicate yourself to these practices, as they are the keys to true happiness and fulfillment. 

  5. The point is not the result. We get so caught up in the results. In yoga, the focus becomes getting our bodies to contort into the perfect looking posture. Postures (asanas) aren't the point of yoga. Yoga is all about the union of mind and body, staying connected to your breath, being fully present, loving your body, breaking down mental and physical barriers. The postures are just one way for us to practice our yoga, they provide the opportunity for this union and transformation to happen. The point of yoga is the process, the how and why we do the postures. Same thing in life. We set goals and want to reach them, but the point is the process, the lessons we learn along the way, the personal growth that happens, the polishing and refining of our mind body and spirit as we live life. 

These lessons have all been truly pivotal in the course of my life. I may not have found my way to them, had it not been for yoga. It is my hope, that they find their way to you and your heart as well. 

Happy Weekend!

This is a great quote by Rachel Brathen to start the weekend off with. The postures are not the point, they are simply one part of yoga, one means of access to the yoga. It's easy to get caught up in focusing on the asanas, and forget the purpose of yoga in the first place. Use your next class to feel. Feel what it is to be connected with your body, feel stress melt away, the emotions you've been holding onto and carrying with you, the energy you didn't realize you absorbed throughout the week. Let go of any expectations, of any desires to "accomplish" or "achieve" in yoga class, and just observe the experience you have. Happy weekend. 

the importance of savasana on and off the mat

Greetings everyone! Below is a submission rejected by elephant journal. While it wasn't right for their site, we still feel passionately about what has been written and wanted to share it with all of you. Hope it's helpful!

I was practicing yoga the other night, tired, struggling to make my muscles do what I wanted, and wishing our savasanas were longer in between each posture. Savasana is a restorative posture, done lying on your back, arms next to the body, palms up, feet gently pointed away from one another, totally relaxed. I began reflecting on the value of savasana, the balance between rest and exertion, and the importance of placing equal emphasis on both the passive and active forms of asana. I realized rest is equally as important as action, just as notes in a song are equally as important as the spaces between to create a melody. Such is life. The importance we place on rest, on creating open space, should be equal to that placed on producing, achieving, doing. Each feeds the other, in yoga, and in life. The amount of rest we provide ourselves in yoga feeds the energy we have for each posture. In turn, without movement or exertion, we cannot fully enjoy the savasana. Just as food tastes better when you are truly hungry, so does rest after intense effort. Each feeds the other in a mutualistic symbiotic relationship, neither more important than the other. The asana is our request to our bodies to give, and savasana is our opportunity to give back to our bodies. Yoga is the union between mind and body, physical and spiritual. Many postures involve countering of opposing forces, stretching and contracting, pushing and pulling, in an effort to create balance, and defy gravity. Yoga is a time for opposing forces to come together and create balance.

The importance of savasana and/or rest is also equally important in our lives. This concept of relationship between opposing forces to create balance can be taken off the mat to enhance our wellbeing. In my experience, western culture does a poor job at balance. In my previous job, I ate at my desk, spent late hours at the office, thought about work on the weekends, and neglected my need for balance. Even if I scheduled in free-time, often I failed to take advantage of this off the mat "savasana". I failed to be fully present in the practice of giving back to myself.  Just as in yoga, the rest is equally important as the work. We ask our minds and our bodies to perform for us, to give so we can be productive, create, get things done, but often fail to recognize we must equally give back to our minds and bodies. Rest feeds the energy we are able to put into our work. Work allows our rest to feel truly deserved. 

Taking full advantage of, and prioritizing savasana on and off the mat is easier said than done especially in this modern society in which multitasking is a norm, and busyness appears to be ever increasing. In my own journey, this process included two major precepts. The first was a shift in perspective towards equality of importance given to my savasanas as my active asanas in yoga on the mat, and work/productivity off the mat. The second was to focus solely on my savasana while I was engaged in it.

On the mat, this looks like focusing solely on savasana when you are in savasana and avoiding the urge to wipe away sweat, fidget, or think about life stressors. On the mat, focusing on savasana with the same intensity you would focus on an active asana by tuning into your body, striving to allow every muscle to relax as you breathe deeply. It may also look like taking an extra savasana when needed, when you notice your body just doesn't have the energy to perform the active asanas. You can use savasana as a tool to give back to your body in your yoga practice. 

Off the mat, this looks like focusing solely on your meals during lunch breaks, scheduling in time every day to give back to yourself (e.g. through reading an inspiring book, dinner with friends, a walk after work, preparing a healthy meal for yourself, taking a vacation), and trying to focus solely on that activity while engaging in it. Savasana in life should be a verb, one that signifies caring for your mind, body, and/or soul in some way. A daily ritual in which you identify how to give back to yourself at the end of work, or first thing in the morning, can support the shift towards savasana off the mat. 

In yoga, the point of the practice is to recharge us, not to drain us. If we aren't balanced in yoga class, aren't breathing, utilizing our savasana, if we are giving maximum exertion all the time, the yoga becomes draining rather than restorative. The same is true for life if we aren't resting, if we aren't recharging at a balance rate to the amount worked. If we aren't taking time to be fulfilled by our relationship, seeking out inspiration, caring for our mind and body, the life will drain us, burn us out, tax our bodies, minds, and ultimately our health. Balance is a practice, made up of the choices we make every day, and a constant renegotiation of priorities, as our lives change. Balance is also, often achieved by becoming unbalanced, and finding our way back by discovering what wasn't working. Rarely do I have perfect balance, but by placing intention on taking my savasanas on and off the yoga mat, I have a higher likelihood of creating a sustainable, fulfilling life. 

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diy hair mask for strong, shiny hair

Back in April I had balayage done to my hair. That is when the hairdresser highlights the lower sections of your hair and leaves the roots untreated. I know there is a lot more to it, but I'll leave that to the professionals to explain. I love the effect of this kind of highlight. It brightens my complexion and gives my hair some dimension. I am a low maintence girl and this is just so easy to maintain. The downside is that to get my hair lighter, bleach has to be applied. With that bleach comes some dryness and perhaps a little bit of damage to my ends. Not anything noticeable to anyone but myself, but I love having soft, shiny hair and that is a little more challenging to achieve with the dye put in. So, to counteract those issues I have developed a simple, once per week treatment that I apply before hot yoga. I put this in before class and allow the oils to penetrate the hair shaft in the hot room. The heat helps the oils bond to the cuticles of the hair. Plus, the coconut oil smells so wonderful it becomes a sensory experience. It's a good pick me up. If you don't practice yoga or have a weekly hot class, you can apply this without heat or take a blow dryer to heat it up. I even got my husband to put this in his hair before class. The vitamins and essential fatty acids in the oils helps strengthen hair to promote growth and prevent dandruff by moisturizing the scalp. Plus, this combination really keeps my hair so soft and manageable. 

This recipe works well for my long hair. If your hair is shoulder length or shorter, I would suggest halving this amount for one treatment. 

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  • If the coconut oil is solid, rub around in your hands until it liquefies.
  • Instead of combining each ingredient in a bowl and mixing, I just apply one and then another to my hair and scalp. I want my entire head of hair to feel drenched and look wet by the time it is all applied.
  • If you have long hair, either braid it or wrap it up into a bun. Anyway to get it up and away from your face and clothing.
  • Leave the treatment on for a minimum of 20 minutes. You can even sleep in this by placing a shower cap on over the hair. 
  • Wash out with your regular shampoo and conditioner. For me that's John Master's Bare.
  • I love how the scented coconut oil smell continues to linger after a wash or two. So nice! 

how to prepare and get the most out of a hot yoga or bikram class

I was at Bikram the other day and couldn't help but notice a guy in the back row struggling. He fell out of every posture, lay down on numerous occasions, and left the room twice (to the dismay of the teacher). He kept trying until the very end though, and I gave him huge props for that. It brought me back to my first Bikram class almost six years ago now. Let me tell you about that experience...I had taken a few beginner level yoga classes before that day, but nothing in the heat. I was not prepared to say the least. I was wearing a cotton tank top (talk about uncomfortable sweaty shirt cling!), a cheap, thick mat, and the worst part of all - I went without water. I was a floppy mess. I was in a daze and had no clue what I was doing. I left the room numerous times but thankfully a fellow yogi had an extra water bottle I could use. I kept coming back after that first class not because I wanted to suffer again and again, but because of the incredible high I felt after the class ended. I felt energized, I had mental clarity like I hadn't experienced before, and i'm not going to lie, my stomach was a bit flatter. I had been searching for an exercise routine that I could stick with for the long term. Something that I looked forward to and gave me the health benefits I needed. I decided after that first class that this was it. I do spin, practice ashtanga, and go for long walks when I can fit it in, but Bikram is my main form of exercise.

I decided to write this post for those of you considering either Bikram or a hot yoga class of any kind, hoping that you can be at least a little more prepared than I was. Falling out of postures and feeling like death is inevitable for the first few classes (at least!), but having the right props and preparing correctly for the class will go a long way. 

Before class:

  • Drink lots of water, stay hydrated throughout the day - not minutes before class! Chugging water right before may cause nausea during class and you will probably have to use the restroom at an inopportune time.
  • Try not to eat at least two hours before class. Just as with too much water right before, eating right before can cause nausea. If you are hungry and can't wait, eat something small that won't cause flatulence (please!!), like a banana. 
  • Try taking electrolytes about an hour before class. Ash calls this one a "game changer". It helps reduce symptoms of nausea or dizziness during class. It can also help your muscles to perform better. This is really only needed if you are going to classes multiple times per week. 
  • Dress in sweat wicking, tightly fitting clothes. It is uncomfortable to have a wet tank moving around and clinging to your body for 90 minutes. Our favorite brands are Teeki, Lululemon, Beyond Yoga, and Onzie
  • Get a thin, dense mat. The thicker the mat, the harder it will be to balance. A dense mat will keep you comfortable when practicing floor postures. We love Manduka and Yoga Design Lab. I use a Yoga Design Lab mat. They are machine washable, which is fabulous for the clean freaks out there (like me!!). I don't have to worry about cleaning it by hand, I just throw it in the wash after every class. Also, because of the material I don't need a towel to go over the mat during class and I don't have to worry about slipping or sweat getting on something I can't thoroughly clean. Manduka mats last a lot longer though (lifelong warranties for some) and are fabulous for all forms of yoga. That's what Ash uses.
  • If you have a non machine washable mat or you find that yours gets slippery when wet, you are going to want a yoga towel to place on top. Ash uses a Yogitoes towel.
  • Bring a regular, full size towel. This will be to dry off with after class and sit on for that drive back home if you can't shower at the studio. 
  • Bring a hand towel too. Use this to dry hands and feet during class for a good grip during some of the postures. 
  • A large water bottle for class is necessary. If you have an insulated bottle you'll be better off. The water will stay at a nice temperature and it won't "sweat" in the hot room. We use Hydro Flasks.

During class:

  • Don't come in late! In fact, come early. This will help your mind and body acclimate to the heat. Plus, coming in late will disrupt the class. I have actually known teachers who will not allow students to join after the class starts at all. 
  • Find a spot in the back of the room if you are new to the class. Usually the teacher is not demonstrating the postures (for all of Bikram this is the case and for most of hot yoga classes). You will know what to do by the explanation the teacher gives and by seeing what other yogis are doing. Sitting in the back gives you a better view of the more experienced students. 
  • In Bikram, only start drinking water during the designated water break, right after Eagle Pose. After that you can drink water whenever you want, as long as it is not during a pose. The same goes for any yoga class, do not drink water during the pose, this can be distracting.
  • Try not to fidget. This means stay calm and try not to move even in between postures unless you have to. These classes can transform you into a calm, meditative like state. If you start fidgeting you will break concentration and won't get the full benefits. It also takes more energy when moving around, something needed during the postures.
  • Stay silent throughout class. This goes along with that calm, meditation like state of the practice. Talking with your neighbor takes you out of that mindset and distracts everyone else in the class.
  • If you feel dizzy, lay down in Savasana for a posture or two. We all do it here and there, don't feel ashamed for having to sit out. It is part of the practice to become self aware and take care of our bodies and minds, which might mean to lay down when not feeling 100%. This does not mean to stop the posture and go outside. That is a big no-no in Bikram. Stay in the room, on your mat. 
  • Do not wipe off sweat unless you have to. You may need to if the sweat drips into your eyes or makes your feet/hands slippery during a posture, but besides that your body knows what it is doing. The body sweats to cool you down and maintain normal body temperature so let that happen. 
  • Stay in Savasana for a full two minutes minimum at the end. This is a posture just like any other. Allowing yourself this time helps your body digest all that it has accomplished, and gives it time to cool down before standing up and leaving the room. 

After class:

  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Replenish your body with water, add in some electrolytes if you want. 
  • Shower as soon as you can! When sweating as much as you have in class, your body has rid itself of toxins that are now sitting on top of your skin. Your pores become open after a hot class and you want to clean those toxins/impurities away before they re-enter through those pores. 
  • Just sit still for a few moments and notice what that class has done to your emotional state. Do you feel lighter? More energized? Happier? Less stressed?
  • Come to a second class! It only gets easier and more enjoyable from here.