11 things to remember when going to your first yoga class

October 8, 2018By Allison CelenzaThe practice of Yoga

11 things to remember when going to your first yoga class

This fall marks my 10th year doing yoga. It is with sweetness I look back on the last 10 years and see how much I’ve grown as a human and a yogi since those first days walking into a local gym’s yoga class with trepidation and insecurity. I remember being scared that everyone was going to look at me weird because I couldn’t touch my toes, or that I was going to do something stupid or annoying to my other classmates without even knowing. It is always intimidating trying something new, which is why I have collected a list of things to remember when you go to your first yoga class.

1. Wear flexible clothes.

Whether form or loose fitting, it is important that you can spread your legs and arms wide. If you do opt for loose fitting be mindful that you will have your head below your waist in downward dog and similar poses throughout your practice and it would be more comfortable that you tuck in your shirt at the beginning of practice. Also, keep any dangly jewelry at home so it doesn’t distract you as well.

2. Bring a hand towel.

If it is a slower, restorative yoga practice you may not need the towel, but it is always good to have one folded at the top or side of your mat in case you need to wipe your forehead or if your hands get sweaty. If your hands get sweaty you can lay it outstretched on the front of your mat so your hands don’t slip in downward dog. Hand towels can also be used as straps to help you touch your hands in binds or your toes in seated forward folds.

3. Bring a couple of spare dollars to rent a mat if you don’t have one.

If this is your first yoga class you don’t need to invest in a yoga mat yet. The majority of studios offer yoga mat rentals for a couple of spare dollars. Once you are hooked to your yoga practice invest in a mat. Mats cost anywhere between $15-$100 so ask around (your teachers, your classmates) to see if they have any recommendations on brands and materials. Personally, I like Jade yoga mats featuring organic rubber, because my hands and feet don’t slip on them—they run about $80, so like I said, this is an investment that can be made after you have committed to your practice.

4. You’ll be taking your shoes off at the door.

Be aware that you will be leaving your shoes by the door or outside the classroom. If you feel uncomfortable without your shoes bring socks for your walk into class, but you will want to be barefoot during class for grip and balance on the yoga mat. Also, you will likely be leaving all of your belongings like your wallet, keys and jacket outside the room as well, so leave your valuables at home.

5. Grab two yoga blocks as a beginner.

Most yoga studios have yoga blocks (shape of a brick in wood, cork or foam) somewhere in the room you will be practicing in. Grab two as you are setting up your mat in the room. One can be used to sit on in crossed leg positions so that your knees can point downwards. Both can be used with each hand at the top of your mat during standing forward fold (they basically bring the ground closer to you). Set them up at the top of your mat on either side for easy access.

6. Repeat “Namaste” when it is said by the teacher.

Namaste means “The goodness in me salutes the goodness in you”. It is a call and response so it is custom for students to repeat it when a teacher says it at the close of the class. This is a custom that isn’t used in every class but is a head scratcher for those new to class. Now that you know what it means, you are on the inside!

7. Don’t step on people’s mats.

Yogis can get a little territorial about their mats. Avoid stepping on anyone’s mats at the beginning and end of class as a sign of respect and cleanliness.

8. Ask questions afterwards.

You are new, and no question is a dumb one. Yoga can intimidate because there is a different language that is used (Sanskrit) for some of the pose names as well as movements not made in any aerobic or traditional gym class. It will soon become second nature to you, but please, if you have a question, ask the teacher. The teacher will have had a minimum of 200 hours of teaching certification and is there to support you—ask them. It is also a smart idea to mention to the teacher when you are signing in that you are new to class so he/she can keep an eye on you and give you the support you need as a beginner.

9. Child’s pose is the default if you find yourself winded or overwhelmed.

I have been practicing yoga for 10 years now, and I still take child’s pose out of sequence when I need to catch my breath, or just take a moment. There is no shame in it. Everyone does it. It is your first class so become familiar with this pose if you get confused or overwhelmed. It will help center you.

10. Find a spot in the middle of the room so you can see the people around you as you practice for guidance.

Making sure you see the teacher if he/she has a mat set out is important too. Some teachers will show the postures prior to your flow so it is vital to view the instructions. There is going to be a lot of unfamiliar things happening in your first class and you will need the visual cue of what to do next from your neighbors, and that is okay and necessary until you understand what pose names mean what poses.

11. No one is judging or looking at you as much as you think.

Practiced yogis come to the yoga studio in a practice of devotion. The practice of yoga is about self-awareness so while it might be easy to compare yourself to the yogis around you, in time you will learn that they are focused on themselves, and you will soon be focused on yourself too, once the practice becomes more routine and intuitive.

Bonus Tip: In yoga you are always a beginner.

Something you learn in yoga over time is that you are always a beginner. There is always a way to progress or fine-tune a posture. It’s all about the journey when it comes to your yoga practice. As you first start out, it might be wise to try out a few different teachers to see what style of yoga or teacher’s style resonates with you. Every yoga teacher teaches a little different so changing up your teachers is a journey in and of itself. Enjoy your first yoga class. Namaste!

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Meaning and Passion: How “Fixer Upper” inspired my relationship with honor

July 30, 2018By Allison CelenzaConnection

Honor is not a word I usually hear throughout the yoga world and in spiritual conversations. It is a word often heard in relationship to the armed services or someone who has won an award. I’m hoping this blog post will shed a light on how honor can shift your perspective and open your heart, as it did mine.

The definition of honor is…

noun
  1. high respect; esteem.
    “his portrait hangs in the place of honor”
  2. a privilege.
    “the great poet of whom it is my honor to speak tonight”

I have been using this word a lot more in communication with my wedding clients over on my sister business, Hand-Painted Weddings. To be honest, I picked it up from watching way too many episodes of “Fixer Upper”. At the end of each episode when the clients are over-the-moon with how happy they are at the work Joanna and Chip did, Chip always says, “it’s been a real honor to make this house a home for you”, or something along those lines…always with the word “honor”.

A few months ago I read “The Magnolia Story” on audio (highly recommend!) and in Joanna and Chip’s words, it went through the audio biography of their lives, how they became a couple and all the trials and tribulations they went through as entrepreneurs. It was not only inspiring to see what a power couple they are together and the love they share for the process and each other, but what I found the most awe-inspiring was how humbled they were. They truly saw God in it all and gave gratitude to him for all the lessons and blessings.

Through their humbleness and connection to spirit, I now see the word “honor” less as a word for high respect or esteem but as a privilege as it relates to gratitude. When I tell my clients it is an honor to create something for them, I’m sure it feels good to them, but it feels even better to me. It makes me want to put my hand on my heart when I say it. This is because of the feeling of love that radiates from my heart when I recognize the gratitude and privilege it is to serve others and create something that they can use to open their own hearts.

As we start this week off, I want to start it with deep and divine gratitude to be able to create for you, and maybe even inspire you. I am honored to write this message for you today. If this resonates with you, I’d encourage you to try using honor in a sentence to a client or someone you work for, and please let me know if your heart beams a little brighter too.

Guts over fear: Effects of trauma on the body

July 6, 2018By Allison CelenzaSurrender

Trauma in Motion

Life is a series of challenges. Life changes you. I suppose that is the point. You come into this world with a certain disposition and your environment caters to your every need and helps mold who you are going to be from a foundational end. But then as you enter the world where you are responsible for your needs, you inevitably come in contact with tragedy. It’s like a concoction. Everyone has their own recipe of challenges that they are dealing with, or have dealt with so far in this lifetime. Without going into the specifics of the particular trauma effecting me today, I have decided to share with you my pondering of how the traumas of our lives change us, and as yogis, how we can build awareness around those changes.

Something people rarely talk about (because we are resistant to acknowledging their existence) are the walls we put up to protect ourselves. I truly believe some of these walls are put up out of fear of traumas, and some are put up because of a past trauma. The problem with barriers is that they block the light as well as the dark.

These past traumas also manifest themselves in our bodies as well. Our bodies are literally roadmaps for the traumas that manifest in our bodies; the hunched shoulders, tight hips, etc. are products of our environment but also common places we hold stress. This morning in yoga I was in a simple supported bridge pose and I could feel a subtle energy moving through my core into my chest. It was almost like the stress from my most recent trauma is trying to find a home in my body, and I don’t want it to. I’m so grateful to yoga for finetuning my perception to these energies.

Outside the physical, things are shifting as well. Concerns and fears of my safety are creeping up to a point where I am concerned it will live in my body forever creating anxiety over time. But we can’t control the things that happen around us. It sucks seriously—we want to. We try to. But we can’t. And if we try, if we grip life a little too tight, then we close ourselves off to opportunities and build walls that block the lights in this world like love and joy.

I know I don’t have the full clarity of a person who has worked through this trauma and is sharing from the other side—I’m still very much in it. Because I’m still in it, I am able to pause and observe what is going on, and make a mindful decision as the energies transfer through my body. In truth, I know traumas change a person, but instead of ignoring it, and allowing the change to manifest on its own—usually with fear, anxiety or depression being the result—I have decided to shine a light on it and choose not to store fear in my body, that I’ll be breaking through the rest of my life.

Pause and connect in order to protect and serve. That is my journey on this day.

SaveSave

Shaking up your stubborn ways

June 19, 2018By Allison CelenzaSurrender

 

Shaking up your stubborn ways

One of my most recent metaphysical hobbies/studies has been astrology—western astrology to be specific (not Vedic—though I did have a Vedic reading last month, but that is a story for another day). Anyways, there is a big thing happening in astrology today that astrologers have been hypothesizing about since the new year. The planet Uranus is transiting into Taurus.

Now before I get ahead of myself I want to chat a tiny bit about astrology and one of the big misconceptions I had about it until I dove in deeper. Most of us know our “sign” (mine is Gemini) but this is specifically your “sun sign” which is based on your month and day of birth (where the sun was on your birthday). But actually there were a lot of other planets transiting through the universe (12 total) on the moment you were born, and the study of astrology is the effects of these planets on you as a person, which can be read in your birth chart, as well as the planetary transits that occur through your life and how they interact with the planetary placements of your birth. It really is a complicated yet fascinatingly accurate study that an astrologer would be able to expand on a lot more than I just quickly did. If this is something you are interested in, I’d recommend reaching out to an astrologer for a reading and/or you can look up your birth chart for free online and google and read books associated with the study.

Back to Uranus entering Taurus. The reason it is a big deal is because Uranus is slow moving (from earth’s standpoint) and it takes about 7 years to transit through an astrological sign. So for the last 7 years it’s been transiting through Aries, which is a fierce, feminine, fire sign. So what effect does Uranus have? It shakes things up. So in the last 7 years you have seen some pretty fierce changes in the feminist movements as well some severe shake-ups in politics in general. Aries is also very entrepreneurial (let’s be honest you can’t not be a little fierce and be an entrepreneur), and I really think the rise in entrepreneurs and freedom-focused lifestyles is due to the last Uranus transit. In comparison, Taurus is earthy, bull-headed, with a true love for beauty and the outdoors. It is no coincidence that at the start of this transit there is literally a shake-up over in Hawaii of the earth as the volcano is. In the next 7 years I believe you will see more of a focus on the earth and how we as mankind are treating it—I hope.

Uranus can be really uncomfortable because it “shakes things up”—something you may have not been paying attention too will have some unforeseen surprises that you will need to adjust to. And now, particularly in the most grounded parts of your being.

One of the tips astrologers have been giving around this transit is to go with the flow and not be the bull (that Taurus is known as) and try to fight off these unforeseen shake-ups. Flow with it—evolve from it—and see how this part of your life changes and grows throughout the next 7 years. Be well!

SaveSave

SaveSave

Recent news of Kate Spade’s suicide and our responsibility to one another

June 6, 2018By Allison CelenzaConnection

Recent news of Kate Spade’s suicide and our responsibility to one another

I’m struggling with the recent news of talented accessories designer, Kate Spade’s suicide. I’m definitely not a fashionista, but in college my first brand name bag was a little red Kate Spade handbag, and I’ve always admired the watercolor artwork she uses in her branding.

When anyone passes away in the limelight it sets a ripple effect to an entire population reminding us of how fragile life is and how there are people around us that are truly suffering. I believe it is not in our place to judge the struggles each one of us is going through. Everyone has struggles. It’s how we take them on—it’s how we let them flow through our being—it’s how we relate to them…that makes us the people we are.

We live such busy lives with so many distractions it is sometimes easy to lose sight of the empathy we hold for other people’s struggles. On the other side it is hard to share our own struggles with people and let people in. We all walk around with these invisible barriers. Yoga is a practice that tries to build the body, mind and heart stronger while opening the heart to empathize and connect with others.

Two years ago, I was going through one of those big struggles in my life, and I told as little people as possible. I didn’t even tell my parents for a month until it escalated. My struggles were in my relationship as I found out I was pregnant. That relationship is now over…the struggle was real. I didn’t want to burden people with my issues. My practice of yoga helped me to remain strong inside—where it counted—with my baby, but I still struggled to let people really see me. I had the best distraction in the world. When people would ask me how I was doing, I would talk about the pregnancy. We do that I believe—distract others from the truth. How many people respond with how busy they are at work when asked how they are these days? Yes, but what is happening one layer down. How does that busyness feel?

Hope

My hope is while we let the news of Kate Spade’s suicide flow through our consciousness we take this moment to open our eyes. To ask the follow up question to that “busy” answer and ask how that busyness really feels, and take this opportunity to truly connect with one another. We are not here to help people with their struggles, but we are here together to support one another.

Open your eyes. Open your heart.

 

This blog post was originally posted on the Heart Center Collective.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

One Moment at a Time

May 21, 2018By Allison CelenzaGrounded

How to Balance Courage and Comfort

The yoga mat is the ultimate playground to experiment with the balance between strength and flexibility. In order to get to a class you waver with this balance. It takes willpower to just show up. Then you are there and you look around the classroom, and you need to practice flexibility in choosing where you will lay out your mat. You may need to set up closer to your neighbor then you’d like or you may not have that spot by the wall that you love—practice of flexibility. And then in every posture, it takes strength and will to get into your most beautiful version of the pose. You aren’t working to get it to a perfect pose because the longer you practice yoga the more you learn that there is always room for improvement. So as you are practicing that balance between moving into the edges of your pose while very intuitively listening to your body to avoid injury, you get to your place of strength—and then I would encourage you to release and ease into the pose, and you might be surprised by how much your body gets closer to its most beautiful version when you do so.

This is the same in life. It takes strength and willpower to walk out that door every day. Take a moment to acknowledge that. But you can’t be all strength and no flexibility. We live in this great big beautiful world alongside a bunch of other humans with their own strengths shining brightly. In order to not have a bumper car style life, bumping and bombarding into every person we come in contact with, we need to learn flexibility. Flexibility also comes in the form of compromise, teamwork, and overall kindness and consideration. This is the yin and yang of life.

So as you approach your mat today, take a moment to reflect on this philosophy and try this out. Take one posture—maybe warrior 2, and as you lead your body into the alignment of the pose, listen and see where you can push more (strength), say into the bend in your legs or the energy flowing from your hands, and then take the opposite energy (flexibility), and see if you can release your thoughts, any tension in your jaw, and your shoulders down your back.

As you approach your life today, take a moment to reflect on this philosophy and try this out. Go through your to-do list and pick one thing, perhaps picking your child up from school and think about how you can do it with more purpose. Perhaps you show up 5 minutes early (strength) and put your phone away and give your child the most heart warming smile and listen to what your child is telling you (from his/her body language to their words) and connect (flexibility), and see how that moment became more than a chore. Our lives can be full of chores or it can be full of these purposeful moments—balancing will and flexibility—courage and comfort.

The smaller you tune in, the easier this experiment is to see. So try small—one moment at a time.

This blog post was originally posted on the Heart Center Collective, which is a business I am a co-founder on with Jhoanna Rae of YINtuitive Yoga.

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

Breath Connection

September 14, 2016By Allison CelenzaConnection

Pre-natal connection and faith

As I walk out of yoga today, I take a moment to consider my breathing. Despite nearly 8 years of a dedicated yoga practice, shallow breathing continues to be my go-to rather than yoga breathing or belly breathing. I believe my shallow breathing habit probably stems from poor posture growing up hunching, which may be a physical manifestation to protect my sensitive heart. Through yoga, I have uncovered a belief that our bodies hold clues; I believe the shallow breathing and protected heart posture are my clues that this is an area I will be working to open in my life.

The other part of my story is that I am currently 7 1/2 months pregnant with a sweet baby boy. This is my first pregnancy and I have certainly applied what I have learned from yoga into this process because quite frankly, being pregnant takes a lot of faith. Just yesterday I had an ultrasound and have learned that my sweet baby is underweight and they are concerned he isn’t getting the nutrients he needs. Beyond the numerous doctors visits I will now need to attend, the biggest thing I can do is have faith….and to breathe.

But sometimes fear is interlaced with magic. As I lay at the doctor’s office yesterday with an ultrasound technician monitoring my baby’s lungs to make sure he is “breathing” (note: babies in utero simulate breathing but their first breath actually takes place at birth), panic begins to set in as the minutes tick by. The technician tells me that they allow 30 minutes for this activity in order to pass the test—30 minutes! Every minute that goes by, my breathing becomes shallower and harder to control as my worry rises. At the 25 minute mark I lay back and say aloud, “That’s okay baby. I’m not very good at breathing either.”, and he takes that long-awaited breath and passes the test. It is quite magical really. My connection to him is so strong that I just needed to connect to him and he connected back. The other magical part is what can happen when we surrender to our faith.

My breath connection to my baby reminds me that panic and worry can bring my focus outside myself; while surrender and faith will always bring me back. Breathe in. Breathe out.

Note: I gave birth to my beautiful, healthy son 5 days after this post was published. He was premature 6 weeks and 2 days and thanks to the help of the NICU doctors and nurses prospered and grew strong until he was ready to come home.

Look Within

September 8, 2016By Allison CelenzaConnection

Insight into my Scattered Mind

As my attention goes from purchasing a dress for an upcoming event to addressing the envelopes for a wedding client of mine to making plans to see a comedy show with friends this coming weekend, I can’t help but get a glimpse of a pattern in my day-to-day life. This pattern appears in the form of multitasking, ambition, and sensory overload. None of these things are particularly harmful, and can be great tools to use in order to accomplish change in life. Where I feel it is becoming harmful to me is when it distracts me from the connections I make with myself and my intuition from within.

Intuition

I have studied the Myers-Brigg Personality study as well as Jung’s Typology test, and have found great insight into my own personality type, the INFJ. The INFJ, for those that don’t know, stands for Introverted Intuitive Feeling Judging. I could write a whole blog post on the intricacies of these four characteristics, but for the sake of this post, I want to focus on the Intuitive characteristic. The personality test I took gave percentage degrees related to each of the characteristics, and my Intuition came in at 98%. Clearly, intuition is a big strength of mine. So this brings me back to my point from earlier…why don’t I let it manifest to its fullest potential in my day-to-day life?

What I’m learning is that even though my intuition is a great gift, it doesn’t mean I don’t need to practice it. Same could be said of olympic gymnasts. It is a rarity to have such physical gifts as a gymnast, but that doesn’t mean that they can simply do gymnastics (and not injure themselves) without practice, and even a trainer to guide them along the way. Sometimes I forget the power of practice. It is so easy to see the accomplishments of others and not see the failures, practice, and work that was laid out prior to the visible accomplishments people market to the world.

One of my intuitions is that Hand-Painted Yoga is my opportunity to connect with myself and others, that is why I have decided to start blogging and sharing more—as a practice of looking within. I don’t believe one of my gifts is writing, so I appreciate your kindness as I start this journey and practice the art of connecting with you. Namaste.

Artwork by Hand-Painted Yoga