5 Days to More Calm: Yoga

Black Mom's Guide to Calm

Today’s topic for 5 Days to More Calm is yoga!

Yoga literally means “union” and can be defined as a “physical, mental and spiritual practice.” (Yogapedia). Although some say it originated in ancient India, some of yoga’s earliest manifestations were found in ancient Egypt (aka Kemet).

I first heard about yoga back in 2007 during an internship, but I didn’t start practicing consistently until 2014. I initially began as a way to snap back after having Nailah, but it eventually became so much more. I started feeling more grounded and centered; I noticed I was in the present moment more often, and I had a sense of inner peace, all of which made me fall in love with it. Yoga is now a tool I use almost daily for my inner peace and to also connect with myself and Spirit.

Some other benefits of yoga:

  • Improves flexibility and strength.
  • Can decrease stress levels and anxiety.
  • Helps you become more mindful (i.e., more present).
  • Increases your energy levels.
  • Improves heart health.

A few types of yoga you can try are:

  • Hatha (more gentle and good for beginners)
  • Vinyasa (generally faster than hatha with more movement)
  • Hot yoga (practiced in a heated room; encourages detoxification and enhances flexibility)
  • Restorative (holding supported poses for 5+ minutes for deep relaxation)
  • Kemetic (the ancient Egyptian system of yoga enlightenment)

Of course, you can find a local studio or gym that offers yoga classes, but if you feel more comfortable practicing at home (due to COVID-19 or just because that’s your preference), here are some tips to get started (you can read the entire blog post here):

  1. Set an intention. Why do you want to start your yoga practice?
  2. Create space. You don’t need a room of your own or a she-shed (but if you have one, use it!), just enough space for a yoga mat and maybe some calming tools like incense, candles or crystals.
  3. Make time for it. If you need to, put a reminder in your phone, put it in your planner or on your schedule. Consistency (however that looks for you) is key.
  4. Find an online teacher or YouTube videos. Yoga Greenbook provides information on Black yoga instructors.
  5. Remember it’s a practice. Be gentle with yourself. Do the best you can. Also remember: Yoga is for every body!

Want to get monthly Yoga PDFs and discounts on upcoming classes? Learn more about how you can join the subscription service on Patreon!

 

10 Blog Posts for Finding Calm Through COVID-19

Black Mom's Guide to Calm

If the Rona and all that’s come with it (like staying home, worrying about loved ones, trying to be a teacher, etc.) has you feeling stressed and overwhelmed, I get it! So I’m sharing some of my blog posts (older and newer) that will help you overcome your overwhelm and find calm in the chaos:

  1. Guided Meditation for Anxiety and Overwhelm
  2. 4 Breathing Techniques for Calm
  3. Everything Is Working Out! A Guided Meditation
  4. 4 Ways to Clear Energy That’s Not Serving You
  5. How to Start A Home Yoga Practice: 5 Things to Do
  6. Finding Your Calm During Life’s Challenges
  7. 10 Affirmations for Your Root Chakra
  8. 8 Spiritual Practices That Keep Me Grounded
  9. 3 Types of Yoga to Try
  10. This, Too, Shall Pass: 18 Quotes and Affirmations for the Rough Times

 

If you find this useful, please share the link to this blog post with your people!

Do you have questions related to finding your calm? Reach out to me here; I’m here for you, sis. 💙

 

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? My book, The Black Girl’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

8 Spiritual Practices That Keep Me Grounded & Centered

 

Black Mom's Guide to Calm

About a month ago, I posted a photo on Instagram with my spiritual practices. I’d been feeling off mentally and emotionally, and I realized it was because I’d been neglecting to do those things. I wanted to share what I did to counter that off-feeling in case someone else could use the info. So, I decided to write a post about it; here goes — these are the eight spiritual practices I do daily and/or on a regular basis to stay grounded and centered:

1. Meditation & Yoga

Most mornings, I go to my meditation/yoga space and do a 10 minute meditation, and I try to at least quiet my mind and take a few deep breaths before going to bed. Many times, I use crystals while meditating. Sometimes, I’ll visualize and/or recite some affirmations as well. Also, I usually listen to meditation music or binaural beats from YouTube while meditating. (Here’s my current playlist).

When it comes to yoga, some days, I practice in the morning, and others, I practice in the afternoon or at night. Nowadays I mostly do my own flow, and occasionally, I do a video from Yoga By Candace.

How often I do this: Meditation — daily; yoga — 5-6 days a week

2. Gratitude

In the morning, I write five things I’m grateful for that happened the day before in my gratitude journal, or I make a list of things I’ve taken for granted that I’m thankful for.

How often I do this: Daily

3. Visualization

This is my daily visualizing practice: After writing what I’m thankful for in the morning, I basically write down how my day went as if it was the end of that day. For example, I wrote today’s (Sunday’s) vision — what happened during the day —  from Sunday night’s perspective (hopefully, this makes sense). Basically, I write how I want to feel and what I want to do and accomplish that day. And although everything doesn’t happen the way I write it, doing this leaves me feeling optimistic and I feel it helps set the tone for creating an amazing day.

How often I do this: daily

4. Affirmations/Prayer

Usually, after I do the above items, I read my affirmations. I created a folder in my phone’s image gallery, and I either go through and read all of them or a few of them. I might also recite some of my favorite ones in the morning and throughout the day like “I am calm and centered,” or “I let go and allow the universe to do her thing.” One of my favorite places to find affirmations is Pinterest (and here’s my board with some).

When it comes to prayer, I say what comes to mind/how I feel, and I use an e-book I bought from Ra Sehki Store called Speaking with Spirit that includes prayers from the Diaspora.

How often I do this: Almost daily

5. EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) Tapping

According to the Energy Therapy Centre, “the technique works by releasing blockages within the energy system which are the source of emotional intensity and discomfort.” The blocks in our energy system can challenge us emotionally and lead to limiting beliefs and not being able to live harmoniously. I especially like to use EFT when I’m feeling super stressed or worried, or if I want to release blocks around money or abundance. I primarily use Brad Yates’s YouTube channel, and I love this video from Abiola Abrams.

How often I do this: 1-2 times a week

6. Smudging

Smudging is burning herbs, like sage, to clear negative energy from yourself and/or your space. You can find sticks at new age stores or even make your own. Here’s how to use it:

Light the stick, and let it catch fire.

Let the fire out, letting the smoke billow from the stick.

If you’re smudging your home, walk around along each wall (or close to each wall), allowing the smoke to go everywhere. If you’re smudging yourself, wave the smoke, starting from your feet and moving up, over you body in front of and behind you. While smudging, you can verbalize what you’re releasing; For example, “I release doubt. I release fear. I release anything that no longer serves me.”

When you’re done, open a door or window to allow the old energy to leave.

How often I do this: to my apartment — once a week; to myself — probably 3-4 times a week

7. Journaling

I generally do this when I’m feeling stressed, frustrated, or disappointed, but I’m trying to get in the habit of doing it at least once a week to process things and to make sure my mind is calm and clear.

How often I do this: once a week

8. Mindfulness

“Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment. We also gain immediate access to our own powerful inner resources for insight, transformation, and healing,” says Jon Kabat-Zinn, Professor Emeritus and creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health, Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

When practicing mindfulness, not only are you aware of the present moment, you’re also in a state of emotional non-reactivity: No matter how good or bad the experience, you don’t judge it. Or if you do judge it, you simply observe your thoughts with a friendly interest, then release them. Ways to practice mindfulness include:

  • Doing one thing at a time.
  • Doing less.
  • Staying in the present moment.
  • Making cooking and cleaning meditation.

How often I do this: Always/Daily is the goal

“Your calm mind is the ultimate weapon against your challenges. So relax.” – Bryant McGill

What spiritual practices do you use to stay centered and grounded? Let me know by leaving a comment. : )

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

 

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.”

Simple Tips for Getting Through a Sh*&ty Day

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

A little background: We have some bills but weren’t/aren’t sure how we’re going to pay them. So, I’d been reading about the Law of Attraction (LOA) (books and blog posts). I set the intention; I let go of how I thought it should happen; I focused on feeling good and just went about my daily life.

Fast forward to today and nothing had happened. Well, the intention I set didn’t manifest when I wanted it to. Of course, I was starting to feel anxious, I was panicking, freaking out, and trying to figure out what the hell we’re going to do. I Googled what to do when it feels like your life is falling apart law of attraction,” and I found this article, Manifesting When The Shit Is Really Hitting the Fan, which I highly recommend.

Here’s what I’ve done to help myself feel at least a little better and process things:

1. Cry

I let myself be sad, frustrated, sad, scared. All of the things I’ve read about the LOA says you should always feel good. Well, I don’t believe that’s possible because 1) Shit happens; and 2) You’re human. When yucky things happen, you’re going to feel, well, yucky. Here’s what Kelli says:

“Right now, you are being invited to release a shitload of energy that is holding you back, and the more you release, the more room you make for that better energy to flow in. The more you release, the more room you make for all sorts of things to show up for you…”

2. Yoga and meditation

It might not make you feel better immediately, but in the time you’re practicing, you’ll be able to clear your head and gain a little peace. 10 or 20 minutes will help.

3. Smudge.

This is burning herbs, mainly sage, to clear negative energy from yourself or your space. You can find sticks at new age stores or even make your own. To use it, light the stick and let it catch fire. Let the fire out, letting the smoke billow from the stick. If you’re smudging your home, walk around along each wall (or close to each wall), allowing the smoke to go everywhere. If you’re smudging yourself, wave the smoke, starting from your feet and moving up, over your body in front of you and behind it. While smudging, you can also verbalize what you’re releasing: For example, “I release doubt. I release fear. I release anything that no longer serves me.” When you’re done, open a door or window to allow the old energy to leave.

4. Mirror work

In a nutshell, this is when you look in the mirror and affirm yourself/give yourself a pep talk. I went into the bathroom and just told myself what I needed to hear; it wasn’t planned or written down. I just said whatever came to me for a minute or two.

5. Affirm how you want to feel

Determine how you want to feel: happy, content, peaceful, secure, etc. Then repeat affirmations related to that feeling; look some up, or write/say your own.

6. EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique or Tapping)

According to Brad Yates, author and energy worker, “EFT is a wonderful tool for removing the uncomfortable emotions that limit our success.” I love using this when I’m feeling anxious or worried about a situation. I primarily use Brad’s YouTube channel, and I also love this video from Abiola Abrams.

7. Laugh

It’s been said that laughter is the best medicine, and it really does boost your mood when you’re feeling down. I usually listen to the 2 Dope Queens Podcast for a laugh.

8. Listen to music

I think we all know music is therapeutic. Turn on your favorite tunes and chill, cry, or dance. Whatever feels best.

9. Vent

A few ways to do this: Let it all out in your journal, tell a trusted friend what’s going on, or talk to your Higher Power. Or do all three. You’ll probably feel a lot better, and you might even come up with solutions.

10. Practice self-care

When you’re in a slump, it’s easy to just wallow and forget to do basic things like eat or drink something. Make sure you’re taking care of you.

11. Forgive yourself

If things seem to be going awry in your life, you might be running down a list of all the things you think you did wrong to make it happen. While it’s important to acknowledge and learn from mistakes you may have made, there’s no point in continuing to dwell on it. Recognize your role — if any — then forgive yourself, and let it go.

12. Know it’s going to get better

When you’re in a fvcked up time in your life, it’s hard to see how you’ll get out of it. It feels like it’s going to last forever. Logically, you probably know this isn’t true. But you just can’t see a way out at the moment. What to do: Try to recall all the other sh*&ty times in your life and how they all turned around at some point. It. Will. Get. Better.

“This, too, shall pass.”

How do you get through a sh*&ty day or period in your life? Let us know by leaving a comment! 

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

 

Black Mom'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