5 Yoga Common Yoga Myths And Why You Shouldn’t Believe Them

Black Mom's Guide to Calm

If you’re here, you probably already know how much I love yoga. In the time that I’ve been practicing (four years), it seems that more and more people are getting into and trying yoga, which I think is awesome, especially when I see women who look like me. However, although there are many, many Black women doing yoga, there are that many more who won’t even try it for a number of reasons.

Below, I’m sharing some of the most common myths about yoga and why you should stop believing them so you can start experiencing the amazingness of yoga:

1. Myth: You have to be flexible.

Truth: This is probably the top excuse I hear from people about why they can’t do yoga. Although you may need some flexibility to execute certain poses, it’s definitely not a requirement — especially when you’re just getting started. And the more you practice yoga, the more flexible you become. So, you have to first get started!

2. Myth: Yoga is about fitness.

Truth: Yes, there are many physical health benefits of doing yoga including weight loss and toning, but those are not the only — or main — benefits of having a practice. Yoga brings you peace of mind, can make you happier, and increases your self-awareness.

3. Myth: Yoga is a religion.

Truth: Although yoga has spiritual roots, it has evolved a lot since then. However, yoga can be a spiritual practice because in my experience, it allows me to feel more aligned and one with Spirit. And it can do the same for you, no matter what religious or spiritual practices you have.

4. Myth: Yoga is too hard.

Truth: Okay, so yoga can be a bit challenging, especially in the beginning and/or if you don’t exercise regularly. But, in my opinion, the challenge is worth all the amazing benefits; and besides, when you create a consistent practice, it becomes easier.

5. Myth: Black people don’t do yoga.

Truth: Only seeing thin, athletic-looking White women doing yoga on Pinterest, Facebook or Instagram may lead you to believe that yoga just isn’t for us. Fortunately, I’m seeing more and more Black women — and men — practicing yoga. And because of all we deal with as Black women (in our personal lives and on a systemic level with sexism, racism, and misogynoir), I think we, as a community, are the ones who can use it the most, which is why I do what I do.

Ready to begin or become consistent with your practice? Download my free yoga guide here and/or sign up for my 14 day yoga challenge below!

Black Mom's Guide to Calm

Join My Yoga Challenge: #30DaysofYoga

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

September is right around the corner…and that means it’s almost time for National Yoga Month, a great time for you to get started — or get back on track — with your practice.

And I have the perfect way for you to do so: #30DaysofYoga, an Instagram yoga challenge! Just in case you’re like, ‘Ehh, I don’t know if this is for me,’ here are a few reasons to start your practice. Yoga:

  • brings you peace of mind
  • can make you happier
  • gives you inner strength
  • can encourage self-acceptance
  • can improve your confidence

Now that that’s out of the way, here’s how the challenge works:

  1. Every day, starting September 1st, I’ll post a pose on Instagram (and/or send it to your inbox).
  2. You practice the pose, and post your photo on Instagram, using the hashtags #30DaysofYoga and #Blackgirlcalm.
  3. Participants will be entered into a giveaway for my forthcoming affirmation cards.

To keep up with the pose of the day, follow Black Girl’s Guide to Calm on IG and/or sign up here to get it sent to your inbox.

“The body benefits from movement, and the benefits from stillness.” – Sakyong Mipham

7 Reasons You Should Start Doing Yoga

Black Mom's Guide to Calm

I’m sure by now y’all know how much I love yoga. I’m always encouraging people to give it a try because it’s been a life-changing practice for me. Here a few reasons I think you should start doing yoga — like right now (after you finish reading this, of course):

Reason #1: Yoga improves your flexibility

This is probably the most obvious benefit of doing yoga. You might not be able to reach your toes in your first class or feel very flexible, but as you practice more often, you’ll see that you’re able to do poses you never thought you could. And with your increased flexibility, you’ll likely notice your aches and pains disappearing, too.

Reason #2: It perfects your posture.

Not only can poor posture make your tired, it can also cause back, neck, and other muscle and joint problems. When your head is balanced directly over an erect spine, your neck and back muscles don’t have to do as much work to support it.

Reason #3: Yoga makes you happier.

According to one study, a consistent yoga practice improved depression and led to a significant increase in serotonin levels (which is believed to affect your mood) and a decrease in levels of monoamine oxidase (an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters, which communicate information throughout the brain and body) and cortisol (the stress hormone).

Reason #4: Yoga brings you peace of mind.

Practicing regularly slows the mental loops of things like fear, disappointment, desire, and frustration, which can cause stress. And if you learn how to quiet your mind, you’ll likely live longer, too, since stress is connected to several health problems like migraines, high blood pressure, lupus, and heart attacks.

Reason #5: Yoga can ease physical pain.

Several studies have shown that asana (yoga poses) and meditation, or a combo of the two, reduced pain in individuals with back pain, arthritis, and other chronic conditions. Plus, when your pain is relieved, your mood improves, you’re more likely to be active, and you don’t need as much medicine.

Reason #6: It helps you release tension in your limbs.

Stop, and notice your body now. Is your face scrunched? Are your shoulders up by your ears? (Confession: Mine were). Is your jaw clenched? These habits, that we’re basically unconscious of, can lead to chronic tension, muscle fatigue, and soreness in your shoulders, neck, arms, wrists, and face. And this can make you more stressed and make your mood worse. By practicing yoga, you’ll notice where you hold tension (for me, it’s mainly my shoulder area) and ultimately learn how to relax those areas.

Reason #7: It gives you inner strength.

A regular yoga practice can help you make positive changes in your life. Personally, it’s made me more self-aware, which has made me more kind, less judgmental, more optimistic, and just an overall better version of me. And I’m continuing to evolve.

“True yoga is not about the shape of your body, but the shape of your life. Yoga is not to be performed; yoga is to be lived. Yoga doesn’t care about what you have been; yoga cares about the person you are becoming. Yoga is designed for a vast and profound purpose, and for it to be truly called yoga, its essence must be embodied.”

 

#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: Yoga Pose of the Month – Child’s Pose

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

This week’s #calmtip and this month’s yoga pose is child’s pose. According to YogaOutlet.com, this is a restful pose that brings serenity and peace to your yoga practice.

Child’s pose:

  • Gently stretches your lower back, hips, thighs, knees, and ankles
  • Relaxes your spine, shoulders, and neck
  • Increases the blood circulation to your head, which reduces headaches
  • Massages your internal organs
  • Calms your mind, helping relieve tension and stress

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Start on all fours, your hands and knees.
  2. Keep your knees hip-distance apart and your big toes touching. Another option is to spread your knees a little wider for wide-legged child’s pose variation.
  3. Inhale and bring your hips back toward your heels (your butt may or may not reach your heels). Your heart and chest should rest on top of or between your thighs; rest your forehead on the mat or floor.
  4. You can keep your arms long and extended with your palms down on the ground, or place them down by your sides.
  5. On your exhales, allow any tension in your neck, shoulders, and arms to melt away.
  6. Stay here at least five to 10 breaths.

“When you own breath, nobody can steal your peace.”

How to Start a Home Yoga Practice: 5 Things to Do

 

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

As I shared on my Facebook page last week, one of the best time investments I make weekly is practicing yoga, and yoga at home in particular. The main reason I love practicing at home is I can do it when it’s most convenient for me, and I still get to reap the benefits like less stress, and feeling more centered and connected to myself and Spirit.

If you’ve been wanting to start a home yoga practice, here’s how to get started:

1. Set an intention.

Why do you want to start doing yoga? What do you hope to gain from it? Whether it’s because you want to get physically stronger, lessen your stress, or learn how to be more mindful, write it down on a piece of paper of note card, and put it near your practice space so you’ll remember your intention.

2. Create a space.

It doesn’t have to be an entire room (it can be in your bedroom or living room), and it doesn’t need to be fancy or elaborate. You just need enough to space to lie down, reach your arms out and up, and it should be (relatively) distraction-free.

3. Set a schedule.

Plan your home practice just like you would for a class at the studio or  gym; whatever you use to plan your days (a planner, calendar or an app like Evernote), write “yoga” down; that way, you’ll be more consistent with your practice.

4. Choose a teacher for guidance.

You can practice on your own, by free-styling or finding sequences on sites like Pinterest, or have an instructor/coach guide you through (like *ahem* yours truly) a session.

5 Hold yourself accountable, and reward yourself.

If you reward yourself for being consistent with your practice, you’re more likely to make yoga a habit. According to research, habits are formed “through a cyclical process that, when repeated overtime, becomes automatic. Psychologically, you’re creating new pathways in the brain when you introduce a new activity into your life.”

The cycle’s elements are: trigger, action, and reward. Your space is the trigger; the action is the practice; and the reward (which might be the most important aspect) can be something as simple as placing a star or smiley face on your calendar or checking off “do yoga” on your t0-do list. Having an accountability partner helps you stay accountable, too.

(By the way, with my 1-on-1 coaching sessions, you’ll have me to help you stay on track with your yoga practice).

“Yoga is about clearing away whatever is in us that prevents our living in the most full and whole way.” – Cybele Tomlinson


 

Yoga Pose of the Month: Warrior 2

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

It’s a new month, and that means it’s time for a new pose/asana. July’s yoga pose of the month is Warrior 2.

Warrior 2 (virabhadrasana II) is a powerful stretch for the chest, groin, and legs. It also increases stamina, helps to relieve backaches, and stimulates healthy digestion. It also:

  • Strengthens the muscles in your thighs and butts.
  • Tones the abdomen, ankles, and arches of feet.
  • Opens the chest and shoulders.
  • Increases your ability to focus; distractions go away, and your energy becomes more powerful and concentrated.

How to do it

  1. Start in mountain pose (stand tall; feet hip distance, toes spread; arms by your side, palms facing out to the wall in front of you). Take five deep breaths here.
  2. Exhale, and take a big step forward with your right foot. Your feet should be about four to five feet apart; make sure your heels are aligned.
  3. Turn your right foot out at 90 degrees, toes pointing to the edge of the mat. Your left foot should be parallel with the short edge of the back of your mat.
  4. Lift through the arches of your feet, and root down through your ankles.
  5. Your right knee should be bent right above your ankle (90 degrees) or slightly behind. Make any adjustments to make this possible. Sink your hips, and be sure your thigh is parallel to the ground.
  6. Press down into the outer edge of your left foot, keeping it straight.
  7. Raise your arms so they’re parallel to the floor; fingers spread, palms facing down, arms strong. Look out over your middle right finger.
  8. Hold five to 10 breaths.
  9. To release and take it to the other side, inhale and press down through your left foot, and straighten your right leg. Lower your arms. Turn to your left, reversing the position of your feet, and repeat for as long as you did on the right.

Tips

  • Get the foot and leg placement first.
  • Be sure your front knee is in line with your ankle or slightly behind.
  • Focus on a single, non-moving point.
  • Connect with your warrior strength.

“Warrior II can be an effective way to build a feeling of inner strength and power. As you practice this pose on a regular basis, you will grow in your ability to face daily battles with ease and grace.” – YogaOutlet.com

#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.

6 Yoga Poses to Open Your Hips

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

As I mentioned in last week’s Calm Tip and the yoga pose of the month, the hips are where we often hold pent-up emotions and negative feelings, which is one reason why hip openers should be a part of your yoga practice. Additionally, open hips can lessen back pain; they help your knees; they align your pelvis and sacrum, allowing you to walk, sit, and move more comfortably; and open hips relieve sciatic and arthritic pain. Hip openers can also create space for new ideas and pathways.

Here are six poses to practice to open your hips:

1. Garland Pose 

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

  1. Stand with your feet wider than hip-distance. Turn your feet out away from you.
  2. Squat down, and bring your hands to your heart with your elbows pressed against the inside of your knees. Try to keep your spine straight and long, and look out in front of you.
  3. If it feels okay, gently press your knees open a little more with each exhale.

 

2. Low Lunge

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

  1. Stand on your mat with your feet hip-distance.
  2. Take a big step forward with your right foot. Bend your right knee, making sure it’s right above your ankle or slightly behind. Also, be sure your foot is firmly planted.
  3. Bring your left knee down to the ground. (You can leave your foot flat on the mat or curl your toes).
  4. Place your hands at your heart, and press your hips forward, keeping your gaze eye-level.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

3. Cobbler’s Pose

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

  1. Sit on your yoga mat.
  2. Bring the bottoms of your feet to touch. Peel your feet open like a book; using your elbows, gently push your knees toward the ground.
  3. On each exhale, bring your upper body forward a little, keeping your spine long and your gaze out in front of you on the ground.

4. Happy Baby

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

  1. Lie on your back, and open your knees a little wider than hip-distance.
  2. Bring your knees towards your chest, and grab your ankles or the soles of your feet, whichever feels most comfortable. Keep your feet flexed, and bring your chin towards your chest.
  3. Gently pull your knees towards your armpits with each exhale.

5. Reclined Cow Face

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

  1. Lie on your back, and bend your knees, crossing your right ankle over your left thigh.
  2. Grab either the bottoms of your feet or your ankles (whichever is most comfortable). Make sure your low back is pressed firmly against the mat, and bring your chin towards your chest for a long spine.
  3. Gently pull your legs towards your chest for a deeper stretch.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

6. Reclining Bound Angle Pose

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

  1. Lie on your back
  2. Bring your chin to your chest for a long neck and spine, and press your low back into the mat.
  3. Bring the bottoms of your feet to touch, and relax, allowing gravity to pull your knees down towards the ground.

Hold each pose for five to 10 breaths. 

“Yoga is not just a workout; it’s about working on yourself.” – Unknown


Get more tips and advice for creating calm in my book, The Black Girl’s Guide to Calm! Download the eBook version this weekend for just $1.99 using code ‘two.’

#CalmTip: Practice Standing Pigeon Pose

 

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

It’s a new month, and that means it’s time for a new yoga pose! June’s is standing pigeon pose, which is great hip opener. Additionally, the hips are where we often hold pent-up emotions and negative feelings; hip openers can also create space for new ideas and pathways. So, if you have tight hips and/or sit a lot, this pose is for you.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Stand on your mat or the floor with your feet hip distance.
  2. Make sure your right foot is firmly planted. Bring your hands to your heart, then cross your left ankle over your right thigh.
  3. Exhale, bend your right knee, and bring your torso down towards your legs. On each exhale, come down a little further; the further down you come, the deeper the stretch will be.
  4. Stay for 5-10 breaths, and on an inhale, come to standing.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

“You will find that it is necessary to let things go; simply for the reason that they are heavy.” – Unknown