Posts by Yogi Natalia Wieczorek

My Daily Yoga Inspiration

Posted on: March 7th, 2016 By:
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I’ve been struggling a bit recently with getting to yoga class. When I do, I immediately feel a million times better, and I always wonder why I’m not at the studio every day. Since I am human, and this blog is an opportunity for us to be wholly honest about our relationship with the practice, I wanted to share my daily yoga inspiration – a few items that I am pinning onto my corkboard at home, to remind me that no matter my schedule, no matter my excuses, it is ALWAYS worthwhile to step out the door and get to class.

  • My buzzing mind
    • I’ve written before about stress, stress-reduction, meditation, and the pursuit of happiness through yoga. The reason this is a constant theme in my writing is because it is the top reason I go to class. We have so much going on in our lives – especially in a city as buzzing and beautifully vibrant as Austin – and it can be hard to switch off. Yoga plays an enormous role in allowing me to escape the pressures and expectations of daily life.
  • My granddad
    • My grandfather was one of the most brilliant men I have ever known. He was kind, generous, a good father, and an inspiration to every person he met. Unfortunately, as he aged, he started to lose his memory, certain skills, his personality. I know that yoga is not a miracle drug, and it won’t protect me from old age, but I need it to become a big enough part of my life that when I’m older, I don’t have to worry about whether or not I fought hard enough to keep my mind and body sharp.
  • My waistline
    • If we’re getting really personal here, I’m not too happy with the way my body’s been feeling recently. When I’m stressed, I stay home and drink wine and munch on snacks, and certainly do not get out to exercise, even though being active is the one thing that makes me feel better. It’s time to get out of my head, and push myself past the “easy fix” of Malbec and kettle corn (yes, I’m a walking cliché), and truly dedicate myself to taking care of my body.

How about you, dear readers? What is your daily yoga inspiration? Share your thoughts, and let me know — I’ll add it to my corkboard!

 

 

Why I Chose Sanctuary Yoga – The Best Yoga Studio in Austin

Posted on: February 29th, 2016 By:
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Whether you’re a recent transplant to ATX (welcome!), or you’ve just discovered a burning desire to find nirvana, you may very well be researching the best yoga studio in Austin. As a moderate practitioner, I have spent much of the last year floating around the free or donation-based yoga classes throughout the city whenever I needed a fix.

I’d done yoga on a lawn, yoga on a rooftop, yoga in a packed class full of obscenely beautiful 20-somethings that were thirty times more flexible than I’ll ever be. I’d tried yoga at home, with friends on a paddleboard, and in a hot yoga studio with my dad. But it wasn’t until we were given a short class pass to Sanctuary Yoga at work that I found something worth investing in.

best yoga studio

Since my very first class back in September, Sanctuary has lived up to its name. Maybe it’s the trees, maybe it’s the soft garden lights, but something about this beautiful little studio in the middle of a very bustling South Lamar neighborhood just makes me feel at peace. The classes are never too big, the yogis are respectful, and there is always a wonderfully wide range of skill in each lesson. I have never been made to feel inadequate for not knowing something in a class at Sanctuary. Instead, our instructors have always invited everyone in the room to be open to asking questions, and leaving their egos at the door (something I usually have a bit of trouble with).

But I have to say that one of my favorite things about Sanctuary Yoga is the fact that you can never feel like an outsider. Some studios lay down expectations for the sort of person you have to be to practice yoga. At Sanctuary, they are truly open to embracing each and every student that walks through the door. I’ve had the pleasure of trying classes with almost every teacher on the roster, and not a single one makes me feel uncomfortable or “other”.

I don’t usually get passionate about things related to fitness. The sorts of things I usually can’t stop talking about are food, music and travel. So believe me when I say you need to give Sanctuary Yoga a try. I sincerely believe that it is the best yoga studio in Austin.

 

Removing Toxic Relationships

Posted on: February 22nd, 2016 By:
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There are many ways in which practicing yoga can influence our daily life: hopefully, we begin to make healthier choices for our body, our brain, and our soul. In my case, yoga has recently helped me realize that it is high time to remove myself from some extremely toxic relationships.

I moved to Austin in October 2014, and I didn’t know anyone. I joined a few clubs, and through one in particular that combined exercise and drinking beer, I met a large group of people that I became fast friends with. Previously, I had been working so hard in the last place I’d lived that I had no time to meet new people, so any free evenings I had were usually just spent alone, going for a walk or to the cinema.

This group in Austin was something completely different. Everyone was young, made decent money, and was always, always up for going out (and drinking!). Because it was so easy, I quickly fell into a routine of hanging out with this specific little sub-group, and we did most of our socializing together.

Recently, I moved into a new apartment, and this has acted like an amazing catalyst and forced me to really think about my life. So I finally began to take a step back from work and my other engagements to re-evaluate my priorities. And when I was able to take a few clear, deep breaths, I realized that the people that were taking up the most time in my life were people who were not improving it in any way.

There were girls who made comments about cozying up to my boyfriend. There were guys that thought it was hilarious to put women down and would get insulted when I didn’t laugh. There were some lovely people too, and I am keeping them around, but I finally realized that people who make you feel bad, people who criticize you for fun, and people who don’t respect your boundaries and beliefs are not people you should allow into your life, no matter how lonely you are.

Staying home alone on a Saturday night with nothing to do is so much better than forcing yourself to be involved in toxic relationships. I learned a long time ago to not burn bridges, so I have only been slowly removing myself from the social group. And I catch myself checking my phone for updates all the time, but I know that choosing mental happiness will only improve my life in the end. There will be some very lonely weekend evenings ahead before I hunt down my true tribe (any book-and-film-and-hiking-and-traveling-lovers out there?), but I think I know exactly what to fill my new schedule with… Vinyasa at 6, anyone?

Trying Candlelit Restorative Yoga

Posted on: February 8th, 2016 By:
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This past Wednesday, I was feeling particularly stressed, so I decided to try my first Candlelit Restorative yoga class at Sanctuary Yoga. I am so glad I did.

I first started with an hour-long Vinyasa class with Chelsea, and then decided I would stay along for the following lesson. Our Vinyasa class had about ten people, and we did some new, interesting poses – and spent some time learning the difference between Cobra and Upward-Facing Dog (see more about those here), which proved to be extremely useful.

I think I’ve just had very lucky timing, but I had never before been to a class at Sanctuary Yoga that had more than a dozen students. So I was incredibly surprised when, about 10 minutes after the Vinyasa class had finished, we were very quickly running out of room.

restorative yoga

Every single inch of the floor in the building was taken up by a yoga mat. Immediately, I was concerned that we wouldn’t have the space needed to stretch appropriately, and I felt my stress level start to rise again. But I needn’t have been worried – Chelsea had everything under control.

“Candlelit Restorative” is defined on Sanctuary’s website as: “a gentle form of yoga that slowly eases the body into relaxation. We use props to hold postures for extended periods of time, deepening into relaxation and allowing the physical and energetic bodies to heal and open, reducing stress; physically, mentally, and emotionally.”

Even with all of these bodies in the room, as soon as Chelsea turned down the lights and guided us into the first pose, I felt immediately at ease. We took an entire hour to very slowly go through about five or six poses, and by 10:15, I felt like I was on a cloud. One pose in particular, where we were lying in a lightly twisted fetal position with our legs to the side and the front of our bodies supported by a bolster, felt so incredibly comfortable and soothing that I felt I could float away.

I’m not one to rave about things until I truly believe in them, so believe me when I say you have to try Candlelit Restorative Yoga at Sanctuary. The ambience, the instructors, the fellow yogis… everything together creates the perfect, safe bubble in which you can turn off the world outside and treat yourself to some precious rest.

My Upbeat Yoga Playlist

Posted on: February 1st, 2016 By:
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A couple of months ago, I wrote a short blog about the playlist I prefer to listen to when practicing yoga on my own time. The songs were all quite slow and sad, which usually seems to fit with my flow. It’s important for me to feel emotionally connected and be very self-aware in my practice, and the slow playlist provided that for me.

Recently, however, I made a running playlist in an attempt to inspire my legs to improve my 5K time. After a couple of tests on the road, I thought, “Why not try an upbeat YOGA playlist?”. And guess what – it works! Depending on my mood, whether I’m feeling contemplative or fidgety and perky, I now have at least two wonderful, very different song lists to choose from.

upbeat yoga playlist

Without further ado, here is my upbeat yoga playlist. Here is a link to the playlist on Spotify, so make sure you check it out and let me know what you think! Fair warning – this yoga playlist is very pop-heavy, but give it a try. I assure you, you will start tapping your toes, and those corners of your mouth will stretch up and out on their own.

Start wherever you’d like, but make sure to finish with “What Ever Happened?”. I swear, that song will change your life.

 

My Upbeat Yoga Playlist

“UGH!” – The 1975

“Love on Top” – Beyonce

“Candyman” – Christina Aguilera

“Here (In Your Arms)” – Hellogoodbye

“Oh My God” – Ida Maria

“You and I” – Ingrid Michaelson

“Canned Heat” – Jamiroquai

“Death On the Stairs” – The Libertines

“#Beautiful” – Mariah Carey, Miguel

“Primadonna” – Marina and The Diamonds

“Ain’t It Fun” – Paramore

“Just One Kiss” – Raphael Saadiq, Joss Stone

“Dancing On My Own” – Robyn

“My Body” – Young the Giant

“What Ever Happened?” – The Strokes

The Difference Between Cobra Pose and Upward-Facing Dog

Posted on: January 25th, 2016 By:
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If you have been attending regular yoga classes, you will notice that many teachers give you the option of choose between Cobra Pose and Upward-Facing Dog when flowing through Sun Salutations. Since form is everything in yoga, I wanted to explain the difference between these two poses – how to flow through them, and which parts of the body they most affect.
cobra pose

 

Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)

In Upward-Facing Dog, begin flowing through chaturanga, with the tops of your feet on the floor, arms bent. Inhale and push up, making sure your hands are directly below your shoulders, in line with your waist and hips, and your arms are straight. Make sure you are pressing the tops of your feet into the mat and lifting your thighs and pelvis off the ground.

The pose requires strong wrist and arms to keep your shoulders up and chest engaged. Don’t forget to pull your shoulders down to keep a long, straight neck.

Remember: if your knees drop to the floor, and you lift your chest to a backbend, you are performing Cobra Pose, and not Upward-Facing Dog.

This pose is said to open your chest, stimulate your central nervous system, and align your spine — great for students with a strong upper body.

 

Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

For Cobra Pose, you will also begin by flowing through chaturanga, but here, position your hands under your shoulders, slightly in front of you, and drop down fully to the ground. Keeping your elbows close to your body, and your arms bent, push your chest away from the floor, engaging your legs and feet.

In Cobra, it’s important to pull your shoulder blades down and back to really get the most benefits from the pose. Please do not try to overstretch here! Once you start to feel compression in your spine, you’ve gone a bit too far. This pose should allow you to stretch and feel open – not tight in your back; this is why it’s a great pose for anyone who has lower back pain and is trying to avoid putting pressure there.

Cobra mostly incorporates your core, relying on your pelvis for strength and balance, and both poses target your chest, shoulders, and abs, but they also utilize your glutes and help to strengthen your spine.

 


This video by Justin Michael Williams showcases each pose, as well as common mistakes and how to avoid them:

http://www.yogajournal.com/video/video/cobra-pose-vs-upward-facing-dog-vinyasa-yoga/

However, the best way to learn the difference between these poses is to simply ask an instructor at your next yoga class. Remember – it’s better to ask lots of questions and have the correct form than to sit quietly wondering if you’re doing it right!

Our Favorite MLK Quotes

Posted on: January 18th, 2016 By:
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On the third Monday of January of each year, around January 15th, we celebrate the birthday, life, and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. He was an activist, a minister, a leader of the Civil Rights Movement, and a humanitarian. He helped organize the Selma marches, he received the Nobel Peace Prize for “combating racial inequality through nonviolence”, and he spoke out constantly about social injustices, the pains of war, and his proposed solution: expanding human kindness.

mlk quotes 1

King stood out from his contemporaries with his eloquence, and his nonviolent activism. We have been nationally celebrating his birthday as a national holiday since it was signed into law by President Reagan in 1983, but we don’t always take the time to truly stop and think about King and his message on this important day every year. Listen to his speeches, watch the wonderful documentaries written about him, and try to be extra kind today.

mlk quotes 2

In honor of this day, we want to share some of our favorite MLK quotes on kindness, love, and forgiveness. We are still battling some of the same issues today that King was fighting against in the 60s. It’s time to take moment and revisit his powerful messages.

mlk quotes

In yoga, we often take the time in class to practice being kind to ourselves. The important thing to remember, when creating your own little circle of love, is how easy it can be to extend this circle to surround those next to you.

mlk quotes

Love you all.

Trying Out Meditation

Posted on: January 10th, 2016 By:
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Meditation is defined on Wikipedia thusly:

“[It] is a practice where an individual trains the mind or induces a mode of consciousness, either to realize some benefit, or for the mind to simply acknowledge its content without becoming identified with that content, or as an end in itself.”

I have only “meditated” a few times, mostly in yoga / meditation mix classes, and always with a physical guide present, but recently, since dealing with some bigger life stresses, I have decided to attempt to make it more of a daily (okay, three times weekly) practice.

meditation

We are very lucky at work to have a weekly guided meditation, but I soon realized that I need a little more. After asking around, a friend mentioned that he had heard of smartphone apps that acted like little, pocket meditation guides. As one of those people that is never more than 30 feet from my phone, this seemed like a great solution.

I did a bit of research, ran a few trials, and have fallen in love with Headspace.

Founded in 2010 in London by Andy Puddicombe and Rich Pierson, Headspace is now being used by over 2 million people across the world. Puddicombe is a Brit who, after quitting his studies at 22, decided to travel across Asia for ten years and was ordained at a Tibetan monastery in the Himalayas (why wasn’t I invited?). Something about the fact that this app was created by a person who grew up with a very similar upbringing to mine (comfortable childhood, good education, Western culture), and who then had this very enlightening, long trip that turned his life upside-down, made Headspace just feel like it would be accessible.

I don’t know about you guys, but if I’m going to buy what you’re telling me, then I need to feel like you believe in it. And Andy, whose voice you hear in each course, obviously believes in it.

The app is free for Android and iOS devices, and there are guided meditations from 2 minutes to 10 minutes to longer, with special personalized courses for subscribers who pay a monthly fee.

I’ve only had the app for 10 days, but I am already seeing a change in the way I look at my life, my work, and my relationships. I highly encourage you all to try this out with me, so we can go on a journey together to practice mindfulness and improve our lives just a little bit!

Learning to Love Myself – New Year’s Resolutions

Posted on: January 3rd, 2016 By:
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Although the timing was certainly not intentional, it was serendipitous. Yesterday, while cleaning out some old boxes in my parents’ house, I found my first journal. And do you know what was on the very first page of my very first diary?

“I love being me.”

In spiky, uneven handwriting, 6-year-old Natalia had put pencil to paper and scrawled down these four very important words. Luckily for Natalia today, it’s the time of New Year’s Resolutions, which means extra incentive to take things seriously.

2015 was a weird year. Lots of big losses, but also a lot of big steps forward: I got an absolutely amazing job, I started dating a wonderful guy (after far too many years of pretending to swear off all men), and – best of all – became a first-time aunt to the most handsome nephew in all of time and space.

But there are still things missing from my life. Most notoriously, I find that when things start to go well, I get increasingly insecure and begin to wonder when things will fall apart. Do I deserve good things? Am I a kind enough person to be allowed this life? Why does this guy still like me, and when will he realize that I’m no good for him?

I’ve known for a long time that living with these sorts of insecurities is toxic, but it wasn’t until I saw that sentence in my old diary that I made the official decision to publicly declare the first of my 2016 New Year’s Resolutions: I’m going to love being me again.

resolutions

I will respect my employer and their decision to keep me in this job I love. I will respect my beau and his intelligence, and understand that he is here because he wants to be. And most of all, I will respect myself, and all my dedication to treating “me” the way any human deserves to be treated – with kindness.

I will love my friends and family, I will get my butt to yoga whenever I can, I will treat myself to nights alone at the cinema, and I will work hard to improve the lives of others from the strong foundation that I am building for myself.

Bring it on, 2016!

Why You Should Do the 20/30 New Year Yoga Challenge

Posted on: December 27th, 2015 By:
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First off, what IS the 20/30 New Year Yoga Challenge? If you follow our Instagram (@sanctuaryyogaaustin – check it out!), you may have noticed the name floating around. Here’s how it works:

  • From January 4th to February 6th (30 days), challenge yourself to commit to 20 days of practice
  • Grab a punch card from a teacher at any class, and keep track of your visits to Sanctuary
  • Complete the yoga challenge, and be entered to win prizes!

It’s that easy!

yoga challenge

But WHY should you do this yoga challenge?

  • Joining a community challenge helps you to hold yourself accountable – you have people around you that are working through the same journey, who can help and offer encouragement
  • It’s easier to keep going with your journey once you master that first goal – it can be much easier to take small steps (and feel the reward of each accomplishment!) towards a big change
  • Yoga has continuously proven to be a great way to de-stress – you can read more about that here
  • You WILL see changes in twenty sessions – whether you’re looking to improve your flexibility, meditation, or something else entirely, things are going to feel different
  • You’ll meet more of the Sanctuary community – there is something special about the people here, and we’d love for you to get to know them even better!

So, on Monday, January 4th, join me at Sanctuary for the start of our 20/30 New Year Yoga Challenge. Let’s see what we can do together!