Starting a Home Yoga Practice

If you’re looking to get into yoga but can’t afford a gym membership (or there isn’t a good quality studio around you) or you want to expand your yoga practice, doing so at home is a really great thing. For years I only did yoga at home from instructions I found in books or online, plus the small amounts my ballet teachers had us do to increase core strength and flexibility.
Of course, you have to learn to be aware of your body, so that you aren’t hurting yourself, and you might train your muscles wrong, but that’s what you can go to class for, even if it’s a drop-in once a month.

Start with a yoga mat!
It’s very easy to get your hands on a yoga mat these days. You can buy them for about $20 at stores like Winners or Marshalls, try out the Gaiam brand which is sold at Chapters, or you can go the more expensive route and get one from a store like Lululemon. I would suggest starting with a cheaper mat, since there isn’t too big a difference in quality. However, the benefit of a store like Lululemon is that you can actually feel the mat better before you buy it, so you know how slippery it is.
On that note, the mat will be a little slippery or sticky at the start.
This is my current mat from Gaiam, bought at Chapters. It’s 4 mm.
My previous yoga mat (from 3 or 4 years ago) is a 3 mm Gaiam mat,
I can’t say that the extra 1mm of mat is that beneficial, or that I’ve noticed it, so don’t worry about that unless you have very bad knees.

Find some space:

Our living room is large enough that if I push the cofee table out of the way, I have lots of space to move my whole body around. You want to be able to reach all around your mat without hitting things, especially if you end up trying balances.

My Yoga Goals
If you follow @MrYoga on Instagram, they re-post pictures of people trying out the asanas!

Find some resources:

  • YogaWithAdriene – What I’ve always loved about Adriene is her mantra, “find what feels good.” She encourages you to stay on your own mat, and make any modifications necessary to feel good for you.
  • Yoga by Candace – Candace is very young and fresh, happens to like powerlifting, and a really encouraging teacher. If you check out her instagram, she has the most beautiful videos of herself playing around with yoga, and it’s super inspiring.
  • The Journey JunkieThe Journey Junkie – Allie has lots of helpful articles that explain how to get into certain asanas, how to do cool transitions, and answers to any questions you might have.
  • The Athlete’s Guide to Yoga: An Integrated Approach to Strength, Flexibility, and Focus” by Sage Rountree – great ideas for starting your practice, and talks about how beneficial certain poses are for your cross-training purposes
  • 2,100 Asanas” by Daniel Lacerda – for intermediate or advanced yogis, there are tons of modifications on every pose!

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Get some props:
Obviously not all of these are necessary, so find what you think will help your body the most.
A blanket – great for extra support in poses, folding under your knees during low lunges, or keeping your warm in savasana!
A pillow– some restorative yoga practices will suggest using a bolster pillow to rest yourself on. Any pillow that can be somewhat stiff will be good for this. I have a throw pillow on my armchair which has the right amount of support for me. If you’re practicing inversions, or don’t want to break your face in crow pose,  it’s handy to have a pillow nearby.
Yoga strap- these are very helpful for getting your body into a deeper stretch. If you already have a blanket or towel on hand, you can use one of those instead. Here’s how to use a yoga strap. My yoga strap is actually an old lifejacket strap and I added a d-ring on one side.

Check out this blog post with 9 different infographics on yoga, including this one, to help you find which type of yoga might be awesome for you.

8-limbs-of-yoga-infographic1

DIY Yoga Mat Spray with Essential Oils!

DIY Yoga Mat Spray with Essential Oils - TheCraftyMann.Blogspot.Ca

Ever hated how your yoga mat smells after a nice long hot yoga session? Now you can solve that!

DIY Yoga Mat Spray with Essential Oils - TheCraftyMann.Blogspot.Ca

All you need is a little spray bottle (mine’s from a travel toiletry kit from Dollarama), tea tree oil to clean, an essential oil of your choice, and water.

Put water in the spray bottle, and then about 20 drops of each oil, depending on the size of the bottle. The tea tree oil will kill bacteria, and the essential oil will scent it nicely. I have lavender for my air diffuser, so I used that.

DIY Yoga Mat Spray with Essential Oils - TheCraftyMann.Blogspot.Ca

My Goals for 2016!

I haven’t made new year’s resolutions for a few years, I like to do goals. Goals are usually way more achievable, since they’re usually pretty specific. I don’t get upset when I don’t achieve them (like stopping to crack my knuckles), but I do usually try pretty hard.

My Nova Scotia honeymoon mug and my KOBO Aura

Reading:

  • Re-read old favourites: The Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, and Island of the Blue Dolphins
  • Read all 5 Canada Reads 2016 Finalist books. 
    • The short list will be announced January 20th, but for now I can start to think about the 15 that are currently listed. 

Canada Reads 2016 is all about “starting over.” The show will feature books about transformation and second chances, stories of migrants, immigrants and others who are choosing – or forced – to make major changes in their lives.

  • Goodreads 2016 Challenge of 100 books. 
    • I was proud of myself for achieving 200 in 2015, but at the end of the year when I was working full-time, I felt like I was rushing myself, and that I didn’t have time to read more literary novels. 


Fitness:

  • Work up to a forearm stand and then a handstand! I’ve been able to do headstands for a while, but haven’t practiced the functional arm strength to do a handstand instead. Want to do it too? Here are some steps
    • The picture on the left is my second time managing to balance for a few seconds, and now I’m working on transitioning from a headstand directly to the forearm stand!
  • Cardio 2-3 times a week.
    • I’m very good at getting in my daily yoga practice (30-60 minutes, depending on how my body is feeling), and getting weights in (since that’s my favourite part of my fitness routine), but cardio is a fight. 
Before the Christmas Eve service with my wonderful husband

Relationships and Marriage:

  • A date outside our home at least twice a month. 
    • While we love spending quiet evenings at home, (and saving money!) it would be great to explore a little more of our city. I also miss going for long walks like we did for a while. 
    • Next Wednesday we’re going to take advantage of Wednesday night free admission to the AGO for our date!
  • Have one (or more!) friend date a month, to strengthen those relationships and get me out of my head

Personal:
  • Continue my daily gratitude practice in my journal. I write in 3 things I am grateful for that day.
    • It’s a great way to find the positive things in your life if you’re feeling a little down. It really helped me when I was in my latest depression rut. 
  • Take myself on one date a month.
    • I used to do that before, I’d go read in a coffee shop or check out the National Art Gallery, but I haven’t done that since moving to Toronto.
  • Cleanse my closet. 
    • Even though I got rid of a truckload of clothes before moving to Toronto, I still have lots of stuff that I don’t wear and don’t want to get rid of. I need to. Maybe I’ll do a capsule wardrobe!


Blogging:

  • Find ways to engage my readers so that we can get a dialogue going
  • Make blogger friends!
What are your goals for 2016?

What’s in my Gym Bag

I recently got into watching fit womens’ “what’s in my gym bag” videos on YouTube, so I figured I’d make a blog post about it.

Lululemon “Weekend Warrior Bag”

This Christmas my parents got me this beautiful bag! I had a leather yoga bag from Blogilates before, but it was really worn through and since it’s leather, it’s pretty heavy. This bag is a lot lighter, has more pockets, and is easier to clean.

I love how they include such cute labels for pockets, like this “in it to win it”
I keep my toiletries in this zippered pocket so they’re faster to find.
The toiletries I keep in my gym bag

 Now that my closest GoodLife is about 10 minutes away by public transit (in Ottawa it was 2 minutes in the car) I’ve taken to showering there. My body wash is a mix of the Body Shop’s grapefruit shower gel and Neutrogena’s Body Clear Body Wash in Pink Grapefruit.

I keep a mini deoderant in my bag in case I’m going out afterward, this is Dove’s cool cucumber.

Any moisturizing lipbalm, this is Burt’s Bees “lip treatment with kokum butter”. I always keep makeup wipes in case I don’t have time for a shower. I got this sample of Paula’s Choice “Clinical KP Treatment Cloths,” they have salicylic acid so it helps with making sure you don’t get a breakout. My dry shampoo is a sample size of Klorane’s oat milk dryt shampoo.

All the items

Waterbottle/shaker: ProStak from Bed Bath & Beyond, love having water and then the protein powder in the bottom.

My Kobo Aura for reading on cardio machines, otherwise I’m real bored.

My headphones are from Sound Logic, I got them for $15 on a Groupon deal, apparently they’re worth $80? Whatever. Someday I’ll get a new pair, these are too small for my ears, especially if I wear glasses.

Always keep an extra sports bra and pair of underwear in your bag, in case you forget to pack one.

I keep a folder with my workout tracker sheets so I can see when I have back flareups, if I’ve gone up in reps or weight etc.

When I know I’m going to shower at the gym, I bring my bathing suit bag. I bring a washcloth instead of a loofah, and put the body wash in the bag in case of leaks.

Gotta have my douchey bike gloves to stop myself from getting aggressive callouses from weightlifting.

My cross-training shoes are the Nike Trainer Ones. I love them. Also gotta have flip flops for the shower.

July Favourites!

A tray of favourites!

 I love my IKEA Idelisk tray. It currently sits on our coffee table to hold the coasters and stuff. Last year I kept it on my vanity with jewelry.

I saw Kraft’s chocolate-peanut butter spread, and it’s phenomenal. In two weeks the jar is almost gone. Oops.

The jar on the left is “Beeswax Skincream” from Little Rock Honey. My mom found it for me at a Christmas market last year, and it’s been really helpful for eczema. I’ve been getting heat rash in my elbows since there’s been so hot in Toronto.

Sweaty face makeup (plus my favourite summer lipstick)

I don’t wear makeup every day, since I’m still job-hunting. Yoga and meditation at home doesn’t require makeup. When I do decide I want a little coverage, I always wear my Garnier Ombrelle face sunscreen, which feels mattefying like a primer. Then I use the Body Shop’s Vitamin E Cool BB cream. If I’m not being active, I can use this Clinique Line Smoothing Concealer, which I don’t have specific thoughts about, but the colour only matches me in summer. Eyebrows are Annabelle 020 Blonde. Lashes are Maybelline’s waterproof “Pumped Up Collassal“. The best part? Revlon’s Lasting FInish by Kate Lipstick #110.

This month I decided to try meditation. I figured that since I’m not working yet, and I’ve been lying around doing yoga and reading, I must have time to try meditation. I searched online to find Android apps that are good guides, since previokusly I’ve never liked the apps  found. I found Calm, which has some guided “courses” for learning how to meditate, timers for once you’re comfortable, and sleep guides. The guides I’ve done so far have been very calming and encouraging.  They even have a calendar that tells you if you’re on a streak (I’m 6/6 so far!). I can’t tell if it’s relaxed me that much, since I’m not stressed right now, but I look forward to continue doing it.

Our amazing clock
This tree trunk clock was a wedding gift from my Oma. It was made by a man named Henry Neufeld. He is pretty “famous” in the Mennonite world for his carpentry. So obsessed.
Glass box of honeymoon souveniers

Today I found a beautiful glass box from Urban Outfitters to put the little things we found on our honeymoon. Yeah, maybe they tell you to not take anything “except pictures” but we grabbed some shells, rocks, seaweed, driftwood, and a claw. 

Living with a Back Injury

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A few years ago I “slipped” a disc in my lower back, or lumbar spine. I was lifting canoes at my summer camp, by myself, thinking I was “all that” for being strong enough to solo the canoes. Unfortunately, I bulged the disc between my L4-L5. For weeks I couldn’t move well, and for a couple years I wasn’t allowed to play sports or do much physical activity. I put on some weight, and wasn’t very happy.  I find joy in being physically active and seeing how far I can push my body- I had pushed too hard, and in the wrong way.

I took my physiotherapy more seriously, and this past year went to the gym a lot to ensure that I was building strength in the areas I had been missing before. I’ve been feeling really great, and am so proud to say that I am so much stronger than I was before the injury.

Every once in a while, I get a flare-up, and until you’ve hurt your back, you don’t know how bad it is. In case you have injured your back in some way, I have some tips here on how to calm your back and maintain the health.

1) Gentle stretches and yoga
If I’m in a flare-up, there’s not much I can do with my body. I revert back to the smallest physio exercises I have been given over the years (generally really small cobra push-ups) so that I maintain some movement in my back.
I like to find videos on YouTube geared towards lower back injuries, because the instructors often give you ways to edit your regular practice for those tight spots. I’ve included this awesome video from Yoga By Adriene. I discovered her through this specific video, and have loved taking her wisdom to the rest of my practice: doing flat-back during Sun Salutations? I’m keeping my knees real bent so that I don’t flex my back unnecessarily.
Hopefully you’re seeing a physiotherapist who has been able to discover how your injury is related to your other muscles. Often my butt and the fronts of my hips tighten up, which stresses out my lower back. When I do low lunges, that helps give my back space.

Yoga setup in the living room

 I love how calming our living room is. The apartment is so light and bright, and having that peaceful place to recover and do my physio.

My ASUS laptop and a fresh smoothie for this morning’s practice
YouTube Workout Tip: I like to know how much time is left on the videos, so I always put it on “cinema” mode, that way it’s large, but you still see the time listed at the bottom. Yeah, I got lots of motivation. 
2) Medications
I love Aleve. It really relaxes my back. Obviously I limit how much I take it, but when I’m in pain, that baby fixes it. 

3) Bathtime!
I do like to take baths to relax, and as long as you have a good setup for your injury, they’re great to make your muscles calm down. I also like to use those heated electric pads times when I don’t want to get in the bath.
Bath essentials
My baths aren’t that long, but I do make sure I have epsom salts, as well as a bubble bath (my favourite is Lush’s The Comforter).
bathtub
Our claw-foot tub is phenomenal

4) Relax

Take it easy during your flare-up. Even though I hate sitting still (or lying on the floor while slowly stretching my back) for a while, and taking time away from the gym, it’s important to let yourself rest. Recovering from injuries requires a lot of patience. I don’t have that. 
5) Be self-centered
People who haven’t been injured won’t understand what you’re going through, but don’t let that hold you back from resting and taking care of yourself. Say “no” to activities that you would find super fun, but might hurt yourself doing. It’s not worth it in the long run. My biggest fear is hurting myself so badly I’ll need surgery, or I won’t be able to walk again. What a great downer to end on, right?

Take care of yourself.