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 

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  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

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  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

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  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

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  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

Confession: I Still Struggle With Mommy Guilt

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

This week has been a little…hectic. For the past few days, I’ve been attempting to upload, edit, and put together yoga videos recorded on my phone. I didn’t have enough space on my phone, so one wouldn’t upload. Then, my phone started acting crazy (the home button wouldn’t work and I didn’t get notifications. And Chrome kept crashing on my computer. Long story short, I needed my parents to watch Nailah, my daughter, an extra night so I could finally finish the video. (Side note: I’ve mentioned it before, but if you didn’t know, my parents watch Nailah for me a few days a week so I can get things done since I work from home).

Even though I didn’t really want her to go back, I knew I needed her to so I could finish. While I was going back and forth in my head about whether I should just let her stay home, I started feeling really guilty and like a shitty mama. This week, she was with her grandparents Monday evening and Tuesday, came home Wednesday, and went back Thursday evening. On one hand, I felt bad that she’d only been home one night; on the other hand, it’s kind of a nightmare trying to accomplish work-related items when she’s here. She’s two-years-old (hopefully, this needs no further explanation); and while I do get a lot done when she goes to sleep, it’s often an ordeal to actually get to that point. It can take up to an hour (’cause she’s fighting it and wants to play), and that leaves me irritated and frustrated.

Anyway, I’m in my head all afternoon, going back and forth, like, What kind of mother are you to send her to her grandparents? By now, you should know how to get stuff done while she’s here. Other mothers successfully work from home with their kids every day with (seemingly) no help, so why can’t you? Then I’m like, Well, you can’t really compare your situation to theirs because you don’t know what they’re doing, or what they have going on. Maybe  they do have help, or maybe their kids just play quietly or whatever while mommy is working. I don’t know. But I do know that that’s not how Nailah operates. And that’s okay. And it’s okay that I need help. Besides, it’s not like you’re sending her away every day or every weekend so you can go party or something. You’re being productive and doing it to help create a better life and future for her — and your family — and so she can see you being happy and fulfilled and living your dreams. 

If you’re a mamapreneur, I’m sure you get it: feeling guilty about the time you have to take a way from your kid(s), feeling like you’re either not doing enough or doing too much when it comes to work, and feeling stressed and drained from the internal conflict.

When I’m feeling this way, here are some things I do and try to remember:

It’s okay to need help. Unless you’re one of those superwomen who can do everything herself (ha!), we all need help sometimes. And that’s okay. That’s why we have family and why all these people are here on Earth. As the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Stop comparing myself to people I see online. As I’ve heard and said before, we only see a highlight of people’s lives online. We don’t know what they’re dealing with or what goes on behind the scenes; we all share what we choose to share (and there’s nothing wrong with that). That’s why it’s important to focus on our lives and do our bests, which brings me to my next point…

I focus on doing my best. Because at the end of the day, that’s what’s most important. Period.

Know that life is about harmony, not balance. This is life-changing advice from my sis, Akilah Richards, when she spoke at The Black Women’s Life Balance and Wellness Conference in 2013. Basically, there will be days when your kids (or partner or relative) will have most of your attention, and there’ll be days when work has most of your attention. So stop trying to make every day perfectly balanced — it’s just not possible. Instead, focus on being in harmony with what comes up and go with the flow. You’ll be a lot less stressed and overwhelmed.

“There is no perfect way to be a good mother. Each situation is unique. Each mother has different challenges, different skills and abilities, and certainly different children…What matters is that a mother loves her children deeply.” – Elder M. Russel Ballard

 

#HappyTip: Love and Embrace Who You Are

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

Not embracing who you truly are can be a source of unhappiness and stress (trust me, I know). I recently (like within the last few months) realized that I wasn’t allowing myself to be who I really am because I was too worried about what other people thought of me.

Part of it had to do with how I raised, but I’ve always been a bit different from the people around me, so to kind of fit in more, I downplayed certain parts of myself. But, I recently decided to say, “Fvck it!” and do me. My word for this year is unapologetic; however, someone brought to my attention that I wasn’t truly being that way, and I realized she was telling the truth: I wasn’t actually living and being who I am unapologetically. So I’ve committed to expressing myself and my beliefs/thoughts and just being me. The quirky, slightly eccentric, spiritual, introverted, empathetic, sensitive, laid-back, etc. me.

And if you’re interested, here are some ways I finally began loving and embracing who I am:

I got clear about who I am. You can only embrace who you are if you actually know who you are. One thing that really helped me with this is meditation; getting quiet and still helps you become more self-aware and you start to notice things about yourself, your likes and dislikes, your personality.

I use affirmations. Some of my favorites for this particular area are:

  • I am enough. I do enough. I have enough.
  • I express myself unapologetically.
  • I love myself just as I am.
  • I confidently stand in my truth.
  • I am unapologetic in my evolution.
  • It’s okay to live a life others don’t understand.

I found my tribe and people who embrace who I am, too. This one was a little more difficult, but to find them, I first asked/affirmed that I would find like-minded people to Source. Then I became open to receiving what I asked for and started paying attention to things/people that had the same interests as I did and began connecting with them (especially on Facebook, using groups). While my tribe is mainly online, it still helps to know I have people in my life who get me, and I can reach out to them whenever I need to.

“Life is too short to spend it at war with yourself.” – Unknown

Releasing That Which No Longer Serves (Blog Version)

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

In my latest Inspiring Note, I wrote about how I’m releasing/have released things that no longer serve me because it’s something that’s been heavy on my mind and heart. (Side note: My apologies if you’ve already read this in my latest email; you can skip to the part about some of the other methods I used below if you want).

I’ve been feeling like there’s something (or some things) holding me back from fully being who I am and reaching my highest potential. So, I decided to get a tarot card reading with Cheyanne, who I met at the #betweenwordsandwater retreat a couple of weeks ago. The reading served as confirmation that it was time to let some shvt go. In a nutshell, the cards said that to go to my next level, to get to a new beginning and be who I truly am, I had to close some doors and release the old me/who I think I am.

I’d already instinctively known this, but I still didn’t really know what was holding me back. So, I got still and quiet (i.e., meditated), did some reflecting, and asked myself these questions to determine what those things were:

  1. What do I need to let go of?
  2. What doors need to close?
  3. Who, if anyone, do I need to let go of?
  4. What parts of myself do I need to leave behind?

Here’s some of what came up for me:

  • Worrying about what others think of me
  • Clutter (physical and mental)
  • Self-doubt
  • Fear (of failure, success, being “too much,” outside judgment, being who I know I am)
  • Being closed off (not vulnerable)
  • Time wasters (e.g., social media)
  • Negative social media

And when it came to the old me that I needed to shed, what came up was:

  • Timidness
  • Self-judgement and self-criticism
  • Scarcity mindset
  • Overthinking and overanalyzing
  • Not standing in my truth
  • Being in denial about who I am and what I’m here to do
  • Not expressing myself fully

If you feel stuck or like you need to let some things go but you’re not sure what those things are, I recommend taking some time to meditate (10 or 15 minutes will do), listen to Spirit, then answer the above questions for more clarity.

And if you want to take it a step further, you can smudge yourself and work on balancing your root chakra, which I recently learned about.

Smudging

This is something you can do to yourself or any physical space if you feel there’s negative energy or feel like you’re stuck, or depressed. Smudging can help get rid of that not-so-great energy and allow you to start fresh; it’s an ancient ceremony in which you burn sacred plants, like sage, and let the smoke clear and bless the space. You can read this to learn about smudging your home and this about smudging yourself.

What I did, in a nutshell, was movethe sage and smoke over the front and back of my body and affirmed that I was releasing any negativity, anything holding me back, and anything that no longer serves me.

After that, I did some meditation and yoga. And although I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was doing asanas (poses) for the root chakra, but before I get into that, here’s a brief intro:

Chakras

We have seven chakras that are the centers in our bodies in which energy flows through. They are:

  1. Root chakra (located at base of spine) — represents our foundation and feeling like we’re grounded
  2. Sacral (lower abdomen) — our connection and ability to accept other people and new experiences
  3. Solar plexus (upper abdomen, in the stomach area) — being confident and in control of our lives
  4. Heart (center of chest) — being able to love
  5. Throat (throat) — ability to communicate and express ourselves
  6. Third eye (forehead between the eyes) — being able to focus and see the big picture
  7. Crown (very top of head) — ability to be fully connected spiritually

In addition to helping you feel more grounded, healing the root chakra also helps with releasing fear and anxiety, which is something I needed to do.

The yoga poses related to this (I didn’t realize they were related to this chakra as I was doing them) are tree pose, forward bend, child’s pose, and warrior 1.

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

You can do these whenever you feel you need to or twice a week in the morning. Additionally, you can heal this chakra by spending some time outdoors in nature. Happy releasing!

“Breathing deeply and releasing fear will help you get to where you want to be.” – Iyanla Vanzant

#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):

 

[Video] You CAN Meditate (I Promise!)

In this video, I’m sharing the top two reasons I hear why people don’t think they can meditate — and why those reasons aren’t true! Even you — yes YOU — can meditate…promise. And you totally need to. Watch the video to see why and how to begin.

 

#HappyTip: Start Your Mornings on a Positive Note

This is a new section that will alternate with the #calmtips. Hope you enjoy!

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The way you start your day has a huge affect on how you’ll feel the rest of the day. That’s why it’s important to start your morning on a positive note.

Here are a few quick tips for setting the tone after you wake up so you’ll remain centered and positive throughout your day:

— Prepare for the following day the night before.

— Get up early enough that you don’t have to rush and feel flustered.

— Express gratitude for a new day (You can even write in your gratitude journal).

— Meditate or take a few deep breaths.

— Pray and/or read affirmations.

— Take a moment to visualize your goals (by closing your eyes and imagining it or writing it down).

— Stretch, do a little yoga, or work out.

— Eat something nutritious.

— Do your best to stay positive and keep choosing joy!

Click here to read more tips on creating a morning routine.

“Wake up and greet each day with a vivacious spirit and positive attitude!” – Melanie M. Koulouris

(Photo Credit: Olena Yakobchuk

#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! 

 

16 Inspirational Quotes for More Happiness & Joy

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

I haven’t really told anyone this yet, but I’m doing a little re-branding. I’ll still be teaching you how to create calm, but I’ll also be including the happiness aspect as well. I think happiness and joy are so important in our lives, and I believe if you’re overwhelmed and stressed more often than not, it’ll be pretty difficult for you to be happy (more on this later).

Anyhoo, here are few quotes for when you need a mood boost that will remind you that happiness starts with you and that you create it yourself:

  1. “Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action.” – Benjamin Disraeli
  2. “Are you always trying to get somewhere other than where you are so that you can finally be happy? The truth is that all unhappiness is caused by denial of the present.” – Robert Anthony
  3. “Decide to be happy, knowing it’s an attitude, a habit gained from daily practice, and not a result or payoff.” – Denis Waitley
  4. “Don’t put your happiness on hold by giving it conditions such as: ‘I’ll be happy when…’ Choose to feel positive now, and enjoy the journey.” – Mario Cortes
  5. “Of this to be sure: you do not find the happy life…you make it.” – Thomas S. Monson
  6. “Take time to do what makes your soul happy.” – Unknown
  7. “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.” – Marcus Aurelius
  8. “Don’t let the concept of change scare you as much as the prospect of remaining unhappy.” – Timber Hawkeye
  9. “You are responsible for your own happiness.” – Unknown
  10. “The kindest thing you can do for the people you care about is to become a happy, joyous person,” – Brian Tracy
  11. “Real bliss is to have peace of mind.” – Deepak Chopra
  12. “Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” – Henri Nouwen
  13. “To fall in love with yourself is the first secret to happiness.” – Robert Morely
  14. “Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.” – Marianne Williamson
  15. “Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt
  16. “Your joy is something magnificent. Protect your happiness.” – Unknown

Enjoy these quotes? Click here to download

Do you have a go-to quote when you need to lift your mood? Share below!