#CalmTip: Practice Camel Pose

 

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

Heeey! It’s a new month, and that means it’s time for a new yoga pose. This one is a favorite of mine: camel. According to YogaOutlet.com, camel pose (ustrasana) can be emotionally moving and energizing.

Benefits of this pose:

  • Stretches your neck, chest, abdomen, thighs, hip flexors, groin, and ankles
  • Strengthens your back, gluteal muscles, and triceps
  • Massages and stimulates your organs and chakras of the abdomen

Here’s how to do it:

  • Start by kneeling upright with your knees hip-distance apart. Press your shins and the tops of your feet into the floor.
  • Rest your hands on the lower part of your back, letting your head come back if it feels okay for your neck.
  • You can stay there, or you can take the full expression of the pose by reaching back and grabbing a hold of your ankles or feet (you also have the option of doing one side at a time). Your palms should rest on your heels with your fingers pointing toward your toes and your thumbs holding the outside of each foot.
  • Keep your thighs in line with the floor with your hips directly over your knees. Hold for 30-60 seconds.
  • After releasing, immediately come into child’s pose so you don’t get lightheaded or dizzy.

Tips

  • Don’t force yourself into the pose; practice a modified version until you can get into the pose safely. If it’s difficult for your hands to reach your feet, tuck your toes to elevate your heels.
  • If it’s still difficult to reach your feet or ankles, place yoga blocks on the outside of each foot and put your hands on them.
  • Create length in your vertebra; don’t collapse or crunch into the pose.
  • Move into it slowly and move within a pain-free range.
  • Don’t bring your head so far back that you strain your neck. Keep it extended and comfortable throughout the pose.

“If you don’t bend, you’ll break.” – Unknown

#CalmTip: Communicate

Black Girl's Guide to Calmm

The other day, I was feeling frustrated with my husband (hey, it happens), so I wrote about it in my journal to get my feelings out and to explore solutions. I discovered that the source of my stress with him is that I often fail to communicate how I feel and what I need. Here’s a little of what I wrote:

I can’t keep keeping stuff inside. I have to say how I feel and tell him what I need from him. Period. For a while now (or a lot of the time), I’ve just let stuff slide without saying anything, just to keep the peace…

Here’s the epiphany I had as I kept writing (bolded for emphasis): But I’m not keeping peace with myself, which is the most important thing. 

Growing up, I used to ask my mama why she never, or rarely, said anything to my daddy about his lack of help around the house (by the way, I love my parents, think they’re amazing, and have been married almost 32 years ; I’m telling this story to make a point). She said that most of the time she didn’t (because trust me, there are plenty of times when she does speak her mind) because she wants to keep the peace. When she would say that, I’d always think to myself, I’m never  gonna be like that. (HA!)

I now recognize that I probably do the same because of what she told me and because of who society tells women they’re supposed to be. However, here’s what I’ve come to realize: Not saying what’s on your mind (and I’m talking about the big stuff, the stuff that actually causes you to “feel some type of way” and that creates issues within your relationship) is not actually keeping the peace. It’s only giving you the illusion of peace. How can you have peace in your relationship and in your home if you don’t have it within? Yeah, you might appear or pretend to be at peace, happy, going with the flow, but is that the reality? More than likely, no. So my #calmtip is to communicate. Say how you feel. Own how you feel. Start your statements with “I feel…”

If you’re a woman who’s not used to really speaking up and likes to be “non-confrontational” *raises hand* this will probably be a bit challenging for you. My suggestions are:

  1. Work on your throat chakra. A few affirmations:
    – I speak my truth. I have the right to.
    – My voice is strong and clear.
    – I communicate my feelings with ease.
    – I am open, clear, and honest in my communication.
  2. Do it afraid. Because that’s the only way to keep your inner peace and to actually enjoy your relationship. If you don’t, you’re going to be resentful and disappointed and frustrated, and one day, it’s going to come to ahead. And you don’t want that. Let it out now in a rational, calm, direct manner.

“Speak your mind even if your voice shakes.” – Maggie Kuhn

#CalmTip: Fill Your Cup First

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

I’m sure you’ve seen or heard some variation of the saying, “You have to fill your cup before you fill anyone else’s.” Or the oxygen mask instructions on an airplane: In an emergency, you put your oxygen mask on before you help anyone else. Because — duh — if you can’t breathe, how can you help anyone?

The same thing applies in life. As women, most of us tend to be nurturers and want to make sure everyone around us is good, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, you can’t take care of your loved ones until you take care of yourself first. What does this mean?

To me, it simply means practicing self-care every. single. day. It means making sure you’re as well-rested as possible, that you’re eating well and staying hydrated; you’re moving your body at least three days a week; you’re doing what you need to to remain centered and maintain inner peace. It means doing things that inspire you and bring you joy, and taking time to relax and just be.

No matter how busy you think you are or how many roles you play, make sure you take time to fill your cup first, and practice self-care and self-love daily. You deserve it! 

“Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” – Eleanor Brownn


Starting a yoga and meditation practice is a great way to fill your cup and begin practicing self-care. If you’re interested in beginning a home practice, learn more about and register for my Mind, Body, and Soul Yoga Program. It includes yoga for all levels, inspiring guided meditation, plus more self-care tips. I’d love to have you! : )

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

#CalmTip: Do a Shower Meditation

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

Of course, showering is how most of us stay clean, but did you know they can also reduce anxiety, lower the tension in your body, and free up your mind (cold shower)? I saw the idea of a shower meditation on Pinterest and loved it! Here’s how to do it (it’s really easy):

“Every time you take a shower, visualize washing away your stress and anxiety. Concentrate on the feel of the water upon your skin. Envision the power of the shower washing away your negative thoughts! Woosh! Envision fear, regret, and anger soaping off you and swirling down the drain.” – Karen Salmansohn

#CalmTip: Start Your Home Yoga Practice

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

Because it’s International Yoga Day, today’s calm tip is to start your home yoga practice. Practicing in a studio is amazing, but doing yoga at home has its benefits as well (and is what I’ve been doing for the past two years). According to researchers at the University of Maryland and the National Institutes of Health, students who practiced at home reported more positive mindfulness, subjective well-being, and better sleep. Here are a few more reasons to consider a home practice:

It’s super convenient. You can fit it into your schedule more easily because you can practice whenever is best for you: morning, afternoon, or night. This is especially helpful if you have children or a tight schedule.

You can more easily focus on certain areas. For instance, if your shoulders and neck are tight, you can focus more on asanas (positions) that concentrate on those body parts.

You can practice for as little or as long as you need to. Most yoga classes in a studio last an hour, which is great if you want to/can dedicate 60 minutes of your time. When doing it at home, you can practice for as little as 5 or 10 minutes.

It’s only about you. If you’re in class, it’s easy to compare yourself to how the next person is doing and be in your head about if you’re doing a pose perfectly. At home, it’s just you, so it’s easier to focus on yourself and doing your best.


Start your home yoga practice with my free yoga workshop! It’s happening Friday at 7PM Eastern; sign up here.

#CalmTip: Use Affirmations

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

A great way to create calm and even change your mindset so you’re more calm and peaceful more often is to use affirmations.

Using them not only has created a positive change in my life, I’ve also realized that it’s a powerful way to relieve stress, too. According to success coach and co-author of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series Jack Canfield, an affirmation is a statement of your goal or desire now realized in the present time. They’re statements you can write down or record then repeat/listen to regularly so you bombard your subconscious mind with the thoughts, images, and feelings you’d be experiencing if your goal was complete already.

You can either use ones you’ve found or read, or you can create your own. If you choose the latter, here are a few tips:

  1. Begin with the words “I am,” and/or use present tense. You want to speak your affirmation like it’s happening now. (Because your subconscious doesn’t know the difference between reality and your imagination).
  2. Make it positive. Instead of saying, ” I don’t let negative people disturb my peace,” say, “I surround myself with positive people, and that brings me peace.”
  3. Keep it short.
  4. Be as specific as possible.

Some of my favorite affirmations for creating calm are:

  • I am calm and centered.
  • Breathe in peace, exhale overwhelm.
  • Just breathe.
  • Life supports me in every way.

And if you like guided meditations, here’s a sample meditation for creating calm from my ‘Meditation Audios for Calm, Happiness, and Success’ (which you can download here):

 

#CalmTip: Make Your Health a Priority

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

Because this week, May 8th -14th is National Women’s Health Week, this week’s calm tip is to make your health a priority. By doing this, you will not only feel better physically, you’ll also feel better mentally and emotionally since you’ll be reducing stress and becoming happier. So, if you’re ready to do better when it comes to your health, here are five ways to begin:

1. Determine your “why” (and it needs to be a good one). Before I had Nailah, I ate really horribly and didn’t exercise consistently. I’ve always been small, so while I knew working out and eating well was still important for me, it wasn’t much of a priority. But when I was pregnant and was thinking about how I wanted raise my child, I realized that I didn’t want her to grow up eating a lot of frozen, processed, and fast food. I also knew that if I wanted her to eat well and be as healthy as possible, had to change because she would learn from me. My main “why” for making my health a priority was my daughter and being a good example to her. Yours might be the same, or it might be that you want to be around for your family as long as possible, or you want to look/feel as good as possible. Having a compelling why will help you stay focused and motivated on your goal of better health.

2. Start small with exercise. When I began working out consistently in 2014, I started at home with Blogilates. The creator, Cassey Ho, offers a calendar for beginners, which is what I did. Then I moved on to her more advanced videos and calendars and added in yoga and some other YouTube Channels. Now, I do yoga almost daily and go to the gym twice a week. If you’re not used to working out, you can begin at home with YouTube, walk around your neighborhood two to three days a week, or try different classes at a local YMCA, gym, or recreation center to see what you like (side note: To stick with your exercise routine, you have to enjoy what you’re doing). For home workouts, check out Blogilates, FitnessBlender, and HangTightWMarC.

3. Start small with eating better. Like I mentioned earlier, I used to eat really horribly. Yes, even though I was married (my husband, Chris, knew I didn’t like cooking). In the beginning, we ate out a lot and basically like we were still in college (don’t judge me). But, as I said, I realized I didn’t want Nailah to grow up eating those kinds of foods (plus, I was also trying to get back into shape), so I knew I had to make a change. I started small by replacing ground beef with ground turkey, grilling chicken instead of frying out, cutting out soda, and eating more veggies. And those are some ways you can start small, too.

4. Know it’s a lifestyle change. If you look on social media, especially around this time of year, you’ll see a lot of memes about getting that “summer body.” Yeah, you can choose to diet and exercise for some amount of time to reach a goal (which is totally fine),but if you want to be healthy for a lifetime, your changes have to become a part of your daily life.

5. Define what healthy means for you. Again, on social media, you’ll see people telling you should eat this, do that workout, try this tea or waist trainer to look like this, “body goals,” etc. But as my friend Ivy Felicia says,”healthy is an outfit that looks different on everybody.” In other words, figure out what healthy looks like for YOU, then do what you need to do.

“It’s never too early or too late to work towards being the healthiest you.” – Her Campus

How will you start to make your health a priority? Let me know by leaving a comment! 

 

#CalmTip: Do a Brain Dump

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

I got the idea for this tip from a couple of my social media friends: Tara and Vernetta . If you’re like me (someone who’s pretty much always thinking), you probably have a lot going on in your brain all the time. And not only is that overwhelming in general, it can also keep you distracted from what you really need to be doing. Essentially, a brain dump is when you get everything out of your head and on to paper, leaving you more focused and calm with more clarity.

All you need is a  journal or notebook (sidenote: TJ Maxx and Ross have the cutest journals — and they’re cheap!), and the easiest way to do it is just write down everything in your head without stopping for grammar or spelling. Just let everything out until you feel like you’re more clear and/or you feel you have a direction in which to move. This is also good if you’re an entrepreneur who has lots of ideas swimming around in your head, and you need to get things down on paper so you can create a timeline. (Additionally, here’s another method to try).

Clarity creates simplicity.” – Danielle LaPorte


Black Girl's Guide to Calm

#CalmTip: Take a Mental Health Day

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

This one is for my solopreneurs/entrepreneurs in particular (including those who are also working a 9-5). As an entrepreneur, I know what it’s like to be working on something seven days a week; in the words of my friend, Akilah, entrepreneurs “are never not working.”

Of course, this can have a negative effect and can cause us to experience mental exhaustion and burn out. Prevent or counter this with a mental health day (or half a day). Do your best to leave work alone (you can keep a notebook close by for ideas), and do nothing, or do something you enjoy that you’ve been putting off like reading that new book or heading to the park.

“Taking care of your mental and physical health is just as important as any career move or responsibility.” – Mirelle Guiliano

#CalmTip: Work on Time Management

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

One of my biggest stressors is time — or the lack thereof. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say the lack of it because the reality is, everybody only gets 24 hours, so it’s really about using the time you have more efficiently as opposed to having more of it. I’m currently working on time management in my own life, and I wanted to share a few tips with you:

  1. Create a to-do list (or as I like to call it, an intentions list). Every Sunday night (or sometimes Monday morning), I write down everything I need to get done for the week. And each night before I go to bed, I write what I need to do the next day. Doing this gives you a good overview of how your day will pan out, and you’re less likely to get caught off guard. And while you might not get everything done, the idea is for you to stick to your list as best you can. (Side note: Even if you don’t complete everything, don’t beat yourself up about it. Try to remember that tomorrow is another day).
  2. Use a calendar and organizer. You can use a good old fashioned calendar paper and pen, or you can use apps. I use Google calendar for things that are on a specific date and time (and it’s synced with my phone), and I use Evernote to record what I need to do weekly and daily.
  3. Focus. Trust me, I know that multi-tasking is sometimes inevitable, but try to single-task as much as possible. It helps to close any applications and browser tabs so your attention isn’t being pulling in too many directions, which brings me to my next tip…
  4. Cut distractions. For example, many of us get distracted by social media notifications, text messages, or phone calls when we’re trying to focus on something important. If you’re trying to get work done and need to have laser focus, consider putting your phone on silent or turning it off. You might also want to consider decreasing the amount of notifications you get from social media on your phone.

“Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed.” – Peter Drucker