Tips for Girls Getting into Lifting

Hello internet friends. Today’s post is for my gals trying to get into lifting. These tips apply to anyone (boys, girls, anyone in between) but I’m referencing some things I usually see girls struggle with.

As a reminder for lifting newbs or pros, I post my weekly workout splits on the site for you all to pick my workout brain. These aren’t guides or anything of the sort, just genuine workouts I have done and feel work for me and my goals. If you are looking for exercises, routines, splits, or ways to shake things up, please check out my 100% free, downloadable, easily screenshotted, 6-day workout plans here.

  1. Be OK with wanting something new. First things first, we have to be OK with wanting a change in order to make one. A lot of girls are embarrassed to admit a goal, even to themselves. Newsflash, you’re not going to reach that goal if you can’t talk about it even in your own head. Complicated topic, but we are surrounded by SO much body-sh**. Pressure to look different than how we look, pressure to be OK with how we look, etc. Like, pick a side society – am I supposed to want abs or am I supposed to be OK with how I look and change is something that I should be ashamed to want? Here is some random girl on the internet telling you IT IS OK TO WANT TO LOOK DIFFERENT. OR FEEL DIFFERENT. IT DOESN’T MEAN YOU HAVE TO HATE YOURSELF OR HOW YOU LOOK/FEEL NOW. Same with non-aesthetic goals. It’s OK to want to be stronger. Wanting change is not admitting defeat to the social construct. You don’t have to feel guilt when you decide you want to look thinner, thicker, stronger, or healthier then decide to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
  2. Get real about your goals. And what they mean. OK so you’ve “admitted” your goal. Now what does that actually mean? This is the number one thing I see girls struggle with. You have to know what you want and what that actually means/looks like/feels like. Maybe you see some girl with a large backside on Instagram and you decide you want that. OK, cool. This means you’re going to gain weight. Maybe you decide you want to be stronger, lift heavier things. OK, cool. You’re going to need to practice that….as in trying to pick things up that are heavier than anything you’ve ever picked up. Maybe you just want to feel more athletic in day-to-day life. Great, this means you’re going to have to truly challenge your body, hit limits, and be OK with failing. My bottom line is you’re probably not going to reach your goals if you are not OK with change. & change can be uncomfortable. It’s not all fun.
    (Personal thing relating to my own change, I am still often insecure about my weight. I know, I know. I’m “so tiny” and blah blah. There’s no denying the numbers, I am overweight for my height (hello muscles). I am not skinny. I’ve had to go up in sizes. Like every few months for the last 3 years. It’s frustrating. I’ve cried in dressing rooms when I can’t get a pair of jeans over my thighs. Or when my back doesn’t fit into a shirt I used to love. Some parts of me look more masculine. Very rarely, but sometimes, I look in the mirror and wish I had long, skinny legs. Thighs that don’t rub. A flat belly. Or breasts that look more like breasts than pecks. There’s nothing wrong with having or wanting those things either. And I could set goals to attain those things and go after them. No thanks. I’d rather have my muscles. Point is, there is a cost to getting stronger and building muscle. You’re building muscle…muscles are big. They take up space. They weigh a lot. They look different than fat.)
  3. Have a plan. I mean this long-term and short-term. Long term, make a goal and then a plan to get there. Set up timelines, etc. E.g. In 8 weeks, I’ll be able to do a set of 5 pull-ups with no assistance. Here’s what I’m going to do each week to work towards that. Short-term, plan your workouts. Go into the gym knowing what equipment you’re going to use, where you’re going to be, and what you’re going to do. I hate to see girls just wandering around because I know they must feel so out of place and weird, maybe even embarrassed, etc. It’s so much better to go in knowing what’s about to happen, smashing it, emptying your tank, and leaving knowing you did what exactly you set out to do.
  4. YOU WILL NOT BULK UP. ALSO, Stop using the word “tone”. It’s really hard for me to phrase this nicely…..there is nothing more annoying than a woman who doesn’t want to lift heavy because she is afraid of getting bulky……..girl you ain’t getting bulky. (Open your eyes to the men around you. Even they can’t get bulky that easily.) Bulking up and getting big is hard. It requires a lot of testosterone which we have a lot less of compared to the men of the world. If you’re not supplementing testosterone, eating huge amounts of food and ‘roiding you can rest assured you won’t be bulking up and looking like John Cena 2.0 any time soon. (Now maybe you avoid shrugs and other trap work, I’m in support of this. lol) Saying you’re going to go to the gym to get toned and use 5lb dumbbells for every exercise isn’t cute, feminine, smart, or educated in any way. Now if you enjoy that, do you. But the word “tone” really strikes a chord in me. That word has absolutely no substance and is used to target women in a backwards way. UGHHHHHH tone. The fact is, you’re either building muscle or losing fat. If you don’t have a fat to lose, you’ll lose muscle instead. So what a lot of girls are actually doing when they are “toning” with those 5lb dumbbells is a whole lot of nothing. (OK, maybe an argument for like muscle endurance but let’s keep it simple here) Doing reps with 5lbs at a faster pace while incorporating cardio and probably eating in a deficit will get you “toned” if that word means skinnier. Because you just lost weight. Yay for you. This has a place in the world. But it’s not called toning, it’s called losing weight. Losing weight can sometimes bring out muscles that were once hiding under body fat. I think this is what tone is referring to.
  5. Go heavy. Going on with what I said above. Ditch those stupid 10lb dumbbells you use for every exercise. Lift heavy weights! This is not for everyone. But damn, do you see results when you start upping the weight. Get real, your legs are stronger than your arms. You should be using different weights for different body parts. I know some of the equipment can be intimidating. But start slow, use heavier and heavier dumbbells. Then work your way to a bar and let the magic happen. A good rule of thumb for how heavy: those last 2 reps should feel impossible (but not be). Breath heavy, make mean faces, some noises should leave your mouth involuntarily. It’s nice to have a partner or someone to spot you so that you can challenge yourself with weight without fear. BUT ALSO, use those little self-spotter things in squat racks. Don’t be afraid of failure. Bailing out of your squat is not a fail. It is a win because you went heavy and reached your limit. That was the goal. “Failing” at the gym is not failing. It is 100% succeeding.
  6. Eat. A lot. & enough protein. Here’s another big one for us ladies. We under-eat. Like crazy. EAT, GIRL. Your body needs calories to function. In the context of lifting, you need calories to build muscle. After a couple months of lifting, when you’ve got some muscles, guess what? Muscles are hungrier than fat. (Muscles literally burn calories. All by themselves. Just by existing.) Now you need even more calories to function. Want more muscle? More food. Got more muscle? More food. FOOD FOOD FOOD. Food is intimidating. And just like our bodies, there is a ton of food sh** in the world that makes us feel inferior and wonder what to do. Should I be low-carb? Keto? High-starch vegan? Just eat chicken and rice for every meal? Just drink juice? (definitely not this one) I’m not here to claim I know what you need to eat. Different food makes different people feel differently. Do some experimenting without going  crazy and just see what makes you feel best. BUT EAT ENOUGH. I’m also not going to sit here and be like hey, we should all count calories/macros so we’re eating enough. Some people don’t enjoy that or get an unhealthy obsession, etc. But it may be a good idea to do the math just for a day or week or month and see what’s going on. Calculate your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure), there are a ton of pretty accurate online calculators. If you want to gain muscle, eat that amount of calories + 500. What about protein? (Don’t get me started on the commercialization of protein. You don’t need that sh**. If you like it, eat it. No one cares. But it’s not healthy just because it was injected with some weirdly processed protein concentrate.) If you’re trying to build muscle aim for a gram of protein per lb of lean body mass (your weight – body fat). Again, don’t bother yourself tracking every day (unless you like it) but see how much protein is in your normal food routines and maybe up it if you need to. I could do a whole post all about diets, my experiences, etc but I’ll spare you.
  7. Do compound lifts. Correctly. Back squats, deadlifts, bench press, standing overhead press. There’s more. A compound lift is just a lift that works multiple parts of your body together. (Imagine that, muscles working together. Almost like they do every single day in your day-to-day life.) Learn how to do them correctly, ask friends, watch videos, whatever you need. Have someone watch you/spot you your first few times as you get used to the movement and figure out which weight is best for you to start. THEN, do them! Try to have at least one compound lift in each workout you do. (My workouts include compound lifts & are public to you, here they are) Not only are compound lifts a great way to test yourself and watch your own progress, they are very efficient ways to work out and build muscle. They are also movements that are not just for fun (cough bicep curl cough), but mimic the movements of everyday life, making you stronger and more prepared for living!
  8. Train your upper body. I see girls in the gym constantly training their lower body. Now, I understand that the female physique tends to focus on the lower body – having lean legs, a nice booty, abs, what have you. HOWEVER, training your upper body is equally important and not to mention, fun. Let me give you a few reasons a) the most obvious, you will get a stronger upper body. A sexy, sculpted back, capped shoulders, cleavage, defined arms. Stronger compound lifts (even for your lower body!). A well rounded physique. b) The muscles of your chest & back are some of the larger in your body. What does this mean? Well, building those muscles will be very helpful in losing body fat, attaining muscle mass, and as stated earlier, allow your body to burn more calories. c) Building your lats (upper back) and shoulders will actually help build that feminine hourglass shape by building the top of that figure, making your waist appear smaller. d) I will get more into this in a second but upper body training allows your lower body to REST & RECOVER which is essential if you want to build muscle efficiently, pain, and injury free. It’s not useful to train your butt 6 days a week. It’s just not. e) Most injuries that occur from over training or straining during exercise could have been prevented by having a stronger more stable upper body. f) Training upper body is fun and bad ass.
  9. Rest. YES. Rest. It is not useful to train every single day, especially when training means lifting. That may sound counter-intuitive but your body truly needs time. Time for what? Well, a key aspect of lifting and building muscle is damaging your muscles. Yes, we are literally tearing them apart. On purpose. The healing process is what brings the growth woohoo. Jury’s out on how much time is enough time to recover, I always say, if it feels OK (not sore anymore), I can train that muscle group. But I usually don’t get sore (don’t get me started. SORE IS NOT THE NAME OF THE GAME.) anymore so I give about 3 days rest to each major muscle group. I organize my split so that each muscle groups has about 3 days to recover, usually training 2 other muscle groups, then resting. So beyond just allowing each muscle group to rest, you need to rest. Your body as a whole. How much rest is enough depends on your body and how much activity you’re used to. I try to take about 2 days off from lifting per week.
  10. Skip some cardio. No more of this show up, get on an elliptical (or cardio machine of choice) for an hour then leave. NO MORE. WE ARE DONE. LET US EVOLVE. I’m not saying leave out cardio for good. Cardio is good for you. But be smart, be efficient, and don’t wear yourself out. Now in regards to lifting, maybe a short warm-up on a cardio machine is OK……….but the main event is still to come so save 100% of your energy for your lift. If you are incorporating cardio for weight loss, do it after the lift. Personally, I try to steer clear of cardio when I can because my day-to-day life is very cardio-filled. I walk everywhere I go (& now I bike next to real cars!! 2 miles 2x/week. Living in a city is fun. Pedestrians rule. Dreams of never having to drive really do come true 🙂 ) and teach yoga & fitness classes a few times/day. So I’m good on the cardio. BUT, I do like cardio so I incorporate in very small doses to my workouts here and there. Usually a “functional” (what does this word even mean cmon) burnout at the end of my lift where I up the speed and down/ditch weight to get my heart rate up and feel toasted after my workout. For gals not interested in losing weight but rather building muscle, stick to short HIIT bursts only once or twice per week AFTER a lifting session.
  11. Don’t obsess over numbers. Kinda said this earlier but let me restate. MUSCLE WEIGHS MORE THAN FAT. IF YOU GAIN MUSCLE, YOU WILL GAIN WEIGHT. Also, if you want to gain muscle quickly, this usually is accompanied by an increase in body fat. Do not fret, girl. Let it be, let it be. Don’t obsess over some number on a scale. Just go by how you feel. Feeling strong? More capable? Curvy? Sexy? Muscular? Totally bad-ass and amazing? Then who cares if you put on weight?! You are rocking it! It’s not about minimizing that number and we really need to get over that idea. Ugh.
  12. Support your fellow gals. (Don’t come at me for being sexist or something because of these generalization. The internet is a generalization.) Here it is. It’s time to take all of the girl power, women empowerment sh** OFF OF THE INSTAGRAM FEED and into real life. There is no denying the gym is a masculine environment; there is testosterone bouncing off the walls. Which is great, we’re going to need that for our gains. But I know some women can feel out of place at the gym, especially when they venture away from the cardio corner and into those heavy weights. A really sad vibe I often feel at the gym in is a competitive one. Girls side-eyeing each other. Sizing each other up. Girls allowing other girls to bring out their insecurities. There’s no room for that. Remember, another girl’s beauty doesn’t take away yours. Another girl’s gains don’t take away yours! What can we do for each other? Smile. Compliment. Spot. Make other women feel confident. DON’T JUDGE. Like post-workout selfies instead of hating in your own head. Allow girls to be different from you, different bodies, different goals, likes, dislikes, comfort zones. All we have to do is give love. ❤

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More to add???

Please leave comments below what helped you as a lady (or whatever you are) in the gym!


Want more from me??

Check out my own workouts I post weekly here on the site. I also publish new weekly Spotify playlists for the gym (or just jamming in general).

Want personal attention? Contact me about personal training sessions to see if I can help you identify your goals, create a logical plan of attack to achieve them, and keep you motivated throughout your own process! 🙂

Whole Wheat (& lower calorie) Chocolate Chip Muffins!

Muffin lover?

Same. Especially chocolate chip muffins. Here is my very simple recipe for a lower calorie, healthier, whole wheat chocolate chip muffin.

Makes 12 muffins.
Nutrition Info at bottom of page.
Dairy free & Vegan options provided.

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What you need:

  • muffin tray (silicon if you have, otherwise, greased muffin tin)
  • mixing bowl
  • a mixing device (eg a spoon)
  • an oven preheated to 350 F

Ingredients:

  • 8 tablespoons softened butter. I used Kerrigold. (Can sub coconut oil)
  • 1/2 cup spoonable stevia (can sub for 1 full cup of white/brown/coconut sugar BUT this is what keeps the recipe so low carb & calorie)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs (can sub flax eggs – just add an extra 1/2 tbsp coconut oil & 1 tbsp flour)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (any low fat milk will work)
  • 1 1/2 cup – 2 cup White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips. I used EnjoyLife semi sweet (a dairy free option).

Method:

  • Microwave or melt butter over hot water until soft
  • Add stevia and mix well
  • Add baking powder, salt, eggs and mix well
  • Add half the almond milk, mix well, add the other half, then mix again
  • Add flour in 1/2 cup intervals, folding in until batter consistency is formed
  • Fold in chocolate chips
  • Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups
  • Bake at 350F for 30 min

Nutrition Values:

values may vary slightly with your choices of sweetener, chocolate chips, milk, etc.

Per 1 muffin:
195 calories
11g Fat
6.5g Saturated Fat
25g Carb
1.1g Fiber
7.5g Sugar
3.5g Protein

SERIOUSLY TASTY & EASY VEGAN Mug Cake

Now I am no chef…but I can do some things with a microwave. Mug cakes are the best because sometimes…when I make a batch of baked goods…I eat a dozen cookies. So if you’re also a bit of a loner who loves to bake, single serving is the way to go! This is a seriously delicious mug cake that can be ready in a minute…not an exaggeration. It’s vegan & made with real food only, no weird commercialized healthy protein cake BS.

There’s peanut butter and there’s chocolate so what else do you need? Honestly I find this better than an actual piece of cake it is SO GOOD. YOU MUST TRY.

What you need:

  • a shallow mug or small bowl
  • 2 tbsp whole wheat flour
  • 1 tbsp coconut sugar (you can use any sugar/sweetener here, but careful with liquid sweeteners like syrups, make sure they’re completely combined)
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1-2 tbsp peanut butter (any natural nut butter works, sticky stuff from Skippy doesn’t)
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or whatever non dairy milk floats your boat)
  • (Optional) 1 tsp mini choc chips (dairy free to keep it vegan or just whatever you want. Yum white chocolate is probably good here. Or be that person who prefers fruit over chocolate. I used mini chips from Enjoy Life.)

Instructions:

  • Whisk flour, sugar, & baking soda with a fork
  • Add milk then stir in nut butter (fork will combine best)
  • Microwave for 40s-1min (depending on your microwave, better to under cook than over)
  • Top with choc chips
  • ATTEMPT to wait for the chocolate to get a little melty & then enjoy 🙂

Yep, that’s it. It’s that easy.

 

Calories & Macros:

(may vary depending on your choice of sweetener, nut butter, milk, & topping)

326 cal: 18g F 29g C 9g P

not too shabby😉

Softening into Splits: A Tutorial

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The journey with hanumanasana (aka splits pose) has been a long and bumpy one. In the beginning, a split was the cool girl at school that I hated because she was so pretty and never talked to me. Then my split was the boyfriend my parents couldn’t stand but I insisted I loved. Now hanuman is the sweet old friend I’ve made peace with. Sometimes we bicker. But every time we get lunch, we say we’ll stay in better touch.

 


So you want the SPLITS?

Full splits or hanumanasana – a beautiful, opening posture. Splits are possible in every body, but this pose takes time, consistency, and softness – it cannot be forced! I have injured myself many times forcing splits before my hamstrings were open and warm so stretch with caution and use common sense – your body has loud stopping points – respect them.

Of course splits require very open hamstrings but don’t mistake, there is a lot more going on here! Commonly overlooked in a splits practice, the HIP FLEXORS and psoas muscle  must be open here as well in order to keep the hips closed and squared forward. For many of us, this opening is more challenging as many of us sit all day, keeping the hip flexors tight. So, even if you have a lot of space in the hamstrings, you may need a lot of hip flexor work before your body is ready for a split.


Here are my favorite stretches to get into splits.

Back: clasp your fingers behind your thigh and with your breath, bend and extend your leg. Inhale to extend, flex your foot. Exhale to re-bend your leg. Continue this movement, warming up the hamstring. Don’t force the leg straight. Just slowly flow between the two.

Low Lunge: maybe place blocks under your hands to lengthen your spine. Your weight is in your front heel. DO NOT allow your heel to lift off the mat throughout this movement. Inhale to pull your heart forward, exhale as you extend your leg, shift your weight back pull the toes towards your face. Keep the hips over your back knee at that 90 degree angle – don’t sit on the back heel. Continue at your breath.

Forward Fold: hang here, opening the backs of the legs. Maybe place a block behind your heels and pull your chest towards your legs. LET THE HEAD GO – like the crown of your head will touch the mat. Place the block under your hand, bend one knee so you can get the opposite leg stick straight. Extend your arm (same side as the straight leg) up and open, stacking the shoulders to open the IT band, down the side of your leg. Repeat on opposite side.

Pyramid: Keep the spine long, maybe place blocks under your hands. Keep your front leg straight, bend into the back knee and shift your weight back just slightly. Bounce between the two.

Hero-Pigeon: Set your front leg up for hero’s pose and your back leg up for pigeon pose. Your front seat should come to the mat with your heel out to the side, don’t sit on the heel. Have your back leg straight behind you. Bring blocks underneath your hands at a high level, trying to stack your shoulders over your hips. Stay for a few breaths. This will open the opposite hip flexor. If this is uncomfortable or feeling crunchy on your low back, walk the blocks forward more and lean forward at an angle instead of directly upright. Gradually work your way back as you practice.

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Flying Split: Come to a half split shape. With blocks beneath your hands, walk the front leg forward and back knee back until you find a challenging place. Then, tuck your back toes and lift the back knee off of the mat. Try to keep your back leg straight. Isometrically try to pull your front heel to your back toes and your back toes to your front heel, scissoring the inner thighs together. Keep the core tight. Stay for a few breaths, continuing to walk to blocks back, trying to stack your shoulders over your hips.

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Supported Split: Prepare for splits, place a block to catch your front seat. Stay for a few breaths, staying upright, maybe even extend your arms up and overhead and lift your gaze. Continue squaring your hips to the top of your mat. Keep the core tight, careful not to dump your belly and arch your low back.

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Full Splits! Try these stretches every day for a few days, moving slowly and intentionally. Then, you’re ready to try out your full split, move slowly, listening for your body’s stopping points. 

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Enjoy the hanumanasana journey! 🙂


Overstretched the hamstrings?

If your hamstrings are feeling sore, tight, or even bruised after a splits practice, you may have overstretched your hamstring. To reduce pain and initiate the healing process, move in opposition. If the hamstrings are lengthened too far, it helps to shorten the muscle. We can do this by contracting the hamstring. Do some hamstring shortening exercise and rest the hamstrings for a couple of days before returning to the splits practice. Don’t stretch if you are still feeling pain. Oops, careful next time 🙂


Have an advanced posture you really want to work into?

Let me know what pose(s) you’d like a tutorial for next 🙂


Practice these movements + more!

Practice with me around the Bay Area – find me teaching near you!

Pranayama: breathing in yoga & in life

Yogis, this post is all about prana or “that which is infinitely everywhere” – the universal energy that flows within and around all of us. We’ll talk about some about prana then we’ll talk about pranayama – the 4th limb on the yogic path. Finally, I’ll give you some pranayama to take home and practice. (Including some embarrassing but hopefully helpful selfies)

Keep in mind, while an asana practice is likely to lead to body awareness and a more comfortable seat and is therefore helpful for pranayama, absolutely no physical yoga experience is required to benefit from these breathing techniques. You don’t need to be able to do a handstand, have big muscles, a flat belly, any flexibility, or fancy yoga clothes. All you need is lungs, a nose, a mouth, and one hand. Got it all? Great.

What is prana?

So “that which is infinitely everywhere”…complex topic, yeah? Prana can be translated and interpreted in many beautiful ways (life, breath, flow, universal energy, etc) but we’ve got at least one thing down for sure, without prana, there is no life. Prana is shared and infinite. We are all one, taking part of this flow. If physical or mental issues disrupt this flow, we don’t feel our best and cannot truly connect with our highest self.

To make things more tangible, consider your breath. It flows in and out of your body, filling you, gifting you life. This is prana. It is already in you, flowing continuously from within your own being. As you inhale and exhale, you are experiencing “that which is infinitely everywhere”. You are taking part in the universal flow. So cool.

There are different forms and directions of prana in our body called vayus. I won’t get into these but Google if it sparks interest.

And pranayama?

You may have heard the word yama in other yoga contexts. If not, no worries. The yamas are the first limb in the yogic path. The word yama means “constraint”. So 1 + 1 is 2 and pranayama is breath constraint. The breath is mentioned all over ancient yoga texts. As I mentioned before, disruptions in prana = not well. So the goal in pranayama as a concept is to be able to control and maintain our prana. Formentioned yoga texts depict a well person with prana within them – they have a lot of space for prana. While an unwell person has prana constantly flowing out of them – they are blocked and full of other junk, making less space. This isn’t a new concept to you. Think of how you lose your breath when you are shocked or frightened. Think of how your body relaxes when you take a deep breath in. And a slow breath out.

If you’ve been to a yoga class, you may have experienced pranayama. Maybe slowing down the breath, lengthening your exhale, maybe counting is duration, breathing in a specific way, etc. In Asana practice, we often focus on our breath to stay present and not wander off into discomfort or distractions. Breath also helps us deepen our asana practice. Notice how you feel when you inhale your way into a deep backbend: your front body extends in every direction with breath. So there are benefits of breathing in particular ways for your physical yoga practice as well as in your ordinary life.

All of this being said, pranayama is an advanced practice. It requires body awareness, patience, and consistency to further you towards your goal. If a pranayama practice is uncomfortable, if you ever feel you are gasping for breath, this may be a message from your body to practice breathing normally and focusing on the breath instead.

Let’s get into some of my favorite pranayama techniques. For each of these breath exercises, you will find a comfortable seat. This could look anyway you need, but the spine is upright. Lotus, meditation cushion, easy seat, criss cross applesauce, kneeling, hero’s pose, a chair, whatever.

Sitali

Sitali is a favorite pranayama of mine, especially as I am living on the Equator and sweating my a$$ off every day. Because, sitali is a cooling, refreshing breath. Sita means cool. I love sitali on a hot day, during a rest in a hot yoga class or intense yoga practice, sometimes I even practice this breath between sets at the gym…because that is me. It would also be good to cool down from a stressful situation or argument.

Come to your seat. In Sitali breath, we will curl the edges of the tongue to form a tongue tube. Inhale through the tongue tube for as long as you can. Inhaling over your moist tongue will cool your throat. Before you exhale, draw the tongue back against the palate as far as possible to keep it moist. (Do people still have an issue with the word moist? Lmk) then exhale out the mouth or the nose slowly with control (I prefer mouth). See my photo. If you cannot roll your tongue into a tongue tube, don’t fret! You can get the same cooling effect by parting the lips and teeth, placing the tongue between the upper and lower teeth, and inhaling through the mouth, allowing air to flow over the tongue. Yes, this breath should make a little noise.

Kapalabhati

You don’t have to pronounce it correctly to get the benefits. This is a goodie. Kapalabhati is an intense cleansing breath. Kapala means skull. Bhati means bringing light. So this pranayama technique is often referred to as “Skull Shining breath”. If you feel full of mucus, this will clean you right up. It’s good for if you feel ill but it is also preventative and great for your immune system. Beyond the physical, practice this breath when you are looking for intense changes or cleanups of life. This breath makes me feel lighter, stronger, capable and confident.

I find this breathing technique quite difficult so don’t fret about getting it right right away. The breath will be rapid and shallow. We will use our lungs like a pump. Come to a comfortable seat. Close your eyes and turn them upwards, like you’re trying to see your 3rd eye. Focus here. Seal your lips. Inhale through the nose 1/3 of capacity. Exhale forcefully through the nose. In this breath, we exhale with so much force that the inhale comes natural – push so much air out in such little time that you inhale very quickly after. It may be helpful to place a hand on your belly and feel the rapid motion of your breath.

Practice this breath with caution as it could cause you to feel dizzy or lightheaded. You also may want to avoid this pranayama after meals as the sharp exhale may restrict your stomach. Be sure to take breaks and breath normally. I aim to breath rapidly for 40s-1min at a time before breathing normally and repeating but it is important to listen to your body and never constrict prana.

Nadi Sodhana

The best for last – this may be my favorite pranayama. I practice this every day, usually twice a day. Nadi means “passage” of which energy flows and sodhana means “cleansing”. This breathing technique brings a calming, balancing energy. I encourage you to try this one out before bed, before a yin yoga practice, before meditation, when you’re stressed or feeling out of wack, etc.

Find your seat. To practice, we will use our right hand to open and close our nostrils as we inhale and exhale. Find a comfortable seat. Rest your left hand where it is comfortable, you can use a mudra here or not. Bring your right hand towards your face. See photo. Place your index and middle finger on your forehead, between your brows. Slight pressure. With your thumb, block (partially or fully, up to you & your sinuses today) your right nostril. Inhale with your left nostril. Retain the breath at the top for as long as comfortable (maybe not at all). While retaining, use your ring finger to block the left nostril. Unblock the right. Exhale through the right nostril. Keep left blocked and right unblocked. Inhale through the right, retain, switch, exhale through the left. Inhale left, retain, switch, exhale right. Inhale right, retain, switch, exhale left. And so on. We switch nostrils at the top of each inhale. & yes that is some fresh ink on my finger #teamtatted (I’m joking) (but it is ink. My pen leaked into my bag pity me)

If you find the hand position uncomfortable or restrictive, use the surfers hand instead. Thumb blocks right, pinky blocks left. See picture. Hang freaking ten.

Repeat for as long as comfortable. I usually practice nadi sodhana for 2 – 5 min.

Enjoy the prana 😘

If you have favorite pranayama techniques, leave them in the comments!