Find out what a daily yoga practice brought to this Bristol Yogi!

I have struggled with stress, addiction, and depression during my life. Exercise is a form of therapy for me. I love to lift weights and walk my dog, but I have to say yoga calms me more than any other physical training. That's probably due to its focus on mindfulness and conscious breathing, which can reduce the symptoms of stress significantly over time.

 

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Yoga Everyday: With Practice we find Patience & Perseverance on the Mat.

We are almost at the end of our January Challenge and Bristol Yogi, Daniel Wallen continues to give us insights into his growing yoga practice. What his practice means to him, how he is evolving in his practice and what he finds interesting or challenging. Check out last weeks insights, maybe you can relate to his growing awareness that this "yoga thing" runs deeper than just practicing poses. 

01/19 Sunrise w/ Marcy 

It is best not to get hung up on the fact that your performance will vary on a day-to-day basis. Since this class occurs at the crack of dawn, it should come as no surprise that the top culprit of such fluctuations is quality of sleep. 

Studies show a poor night of sleep can affect your performance so much that you might as well be drunk. This fact becomes apparent when I find myself getting so dizzy that I almost fall on my butt during a balance pose. 

All of that said, it's also best not to get hung up on the fact that you will naturally sleep better some nights than others. For some reason, I have a much harder time on Sunday and Monday than other days. I started to follow a bed-time ritual a few weeks ago, which has made a big difference, but I still have a difficult night sometimes (and that's okay – the important thing is to improve your average). 

01/20 Sunrise w/ Victoria 

It's good to aim high in your ambitions; but at the same time, I think it's best to turn big goals into small steps so you can build confidence along the way (trust me: this is a lot more encouraging than expecting yourself to be “perfect” on your first try). 

Victoria is showing us some neat ways to woke up to hand-stands in baby steps. She had us set-up with our shoulders against a door frame and palms planted on the floor. Then you slowly walk your feet up the other side of the door frame as far as you can go. I only got halfway up today, but that's okay. All I have to do is take a few more steps every time we practice and I'll get there. 

A fellow class-member named Tang nailed her first assisted hand-stand today. She was very excited, because going upside down is a big fear for her (I know that feeling). This is one of the neatest aspects about group classes. It's motivating to witness other people's progress. There's also an accountability factor since everybody would wonder where I was if I just randomly decided to stay in bed one day. 

01/21 Sunrise w/ Shelly 

It's humbling how you can start to think you have a good handle on this yoga thing, but then an instructor decides to throw a bunch of unusual poses at you to keep you on your toes. 

Part of me hates change. The other part of me knows comfort is the enemy of growth. That doesn't mean you can't relax, have fun, and enjoy yourself. However, true transformation (physical or mental) can't occur if you don't challenge yourself to grow. Remember that the next time you're tempted to glare at your yoga teacher. 

01/22 Sunrise w/ Victoria 

Remember how I mentioned setting the simple goal of taking baby steps forward is a good way to stay motivated? I made that point when I was talking about hand-stands on 01/20. 

That's relevant, because we practiced assisted hand-stands again today, and I walked my legs a lot farther (over my head versus halfway up the door frame this time). My mind didn't resist nearly as much, either. 

If I thought “I'm going to stand on my hands without assistance,” then I would have failed and felt bad about myself (even if I did a little better than last time). This phenomenon is common in people who are trying to lose weight. They get mad at themselves for “only” losing a pound, which is silly, because they would look like a completely different person if they did that consistently for a long time. 

The point? Celebrate every tiny victory, no matter how insignificant it might seem. Baby steps taken over and over again will take you farther than you can imagine. Fussing at yourself won't help you achieve your goals any faster, so you might as well stop being in such a hurry. Any time you get frustrated, take a few deep breathes. You need to be patient and self-compassionate to with yourself.

01/23 Sunrise w/ Marcy

I appreciate the healthy balance of class styles at Bristol Yoga. Marcy's classes always fall on Mondays and Fridays, which is neat, because they are a great way to book-end the week. 

Her focus on the mindful aspects of yoga help you start the week with heightened awareness. And her tendency to focus on gentle hip opening stretches helps you ease into the weekend feeling relaxed. 

Meanwhile, Victoria's classes are more physically demanding. It works out well that her classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That gives Marcy the chance to warm us up before Victoria kicks our butts on Tuesday. Then Marcy provides us with a well-deserved cool-down on Friday. 

I'm not sure Shelly and her instructors intentionally planned their class schedule with these thoughts on their minds, but regardless, the structure makes sense strategically. I enjoy this set-up, because the variety of styles and intensities make the whole experience more fun and interesting. 

01/24 Yoga for Every Body w/ Heather 

Heather is who got me interested in teaching yoga to begin with, so it was nice to see her in class today (she got sick and hadn't been able to teach because of that). 

I started going to Heather's yoga classes at the YMCA during a stressful time and they were very soothing for me. I always left feeling a lot lighter than I did when I walked in. 

It's neat how exercise – especially yoga, in my experience – can serve as an emotional outlet or mental vacation away from the things that are bothering you. It is essential to have a healthy outlet, because poor habits are born when you're struggling with something and don't have a way to cope with it. 

This is why I refer to addiction as a “misplaced coping mechanism.” I don't think many addicts actually derive satisfaction from their negative habits (Note: this is coming from a guy who used to be addicted to several things).

Instead, they are trying to escape from a problem, but fail to realize they are creating a bigger problem in the process (Read: the habit gets so entrenched that it becomes an automatic behavior the addict would feel “empty” without).  

You could intentionally replace a poor habit with a healthy one like I did. The first step is to understand your triggers (what provokes the habit?). That's usually stress or upset feelings of some kind. Next, you would rewire your brain by performing the healthy habit every time that trigger occurred. It takes time and effort, but eventually you should find that the urge to smoke (or whatever) gradually diminishes. 

I talked about this in a blog called 7 Things to Remember When You Don't Feel Like Exercising recently. You can read it here if you need more reasons to get off your butt and go to yoga class.  

01/25 Warm Yin-Yasa w/ Shelly 

It might seem like your progress occurs at a steady pace if you're new to yoga, but I can promise it won't always stay that way. As you get better, your rate of progress will become less predictable. 

You might become excellent at some yoga poses in a hurry. Others might be so challenging that you feel stuck for a long time. I'm not a psychic, so I can't claim to know what yoga poses you struggle with, but I bet you know the feeling. 

It might help to understand why some poses take longer to master than others. It could be due to your anatomy. Handstands and balance poses are scarier for tall people (they have a lot farther to fall). Women might have a harder time with planks than men, because they don't have as much upper body strength. Elderly people need to be more cautious in general, because muscles become frail as we age.

Don't compare yourself to other people in class. It will only make you feel bad about yourself. Besides, your rate of progress is influenced by so many variables that comparing yourself would be an exercise in futility. Acknowledge the reality that some poses will always be harder than others and there is nothing you can do about it. That might sound depressing, but it isn't. Maybe you'll feel less pressure now that you know it's just a part of the human experience. -Daniel Wallen 

"You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret to your success is found in your daily routine"~ John C. Maxwell 

Create Your Routine in 2015: Daily Yoga Challenge with Daniel Wallen

The New Year is a wonderful time to pause and reflect. What are your priorities? What needs to change? What do you want to accomplish and how can you make it happen? All of this reflection can be super exciting for self-improvement junkies like me.

I have bad news, though. While an estimated 40% of Americans make New Year's Resolutions, only 8% of them actually succeed. Most people get so intoxicated by the idea of transformation that they forget to make a plan. “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail,” as Benjamin Franklin put it.

Indeed, most people try to force an exercise routine on themselves without stopping to consider how they can make it convenient for their schedule and lifestyle. Or, even worse, they tell themselves they will go to yoga class “whenever they feel like it” (Spoiler Alert: that will probably end up being never).

This would be a good place to introduce myself. Hi, my name is Daniel. I am a yoga enthusiast, personal trainer, freelance writer, and self-published author from Bristol. You can find my writings on popular blogs such as Lifehack, Livestrong, and the Personal Trainer Development Center.

I've been practicing yoga for a few years now, and I still have a lot to learn. I will be getting certified at Bristol Yoga's teacher training program, which is very exciting. I like to be ahead of the curve, so I am beginning my preparation process right now. That means going to a class every morning and writing a short journal entry about what I learned in each one.

Every week, I will compile these journal entries and send them to Shelly of Bristol Yoga. She will pick out the most revealing sections and offer some advice that will help you. In other words, you will get to benefit by having a bird's eye view of my experience. These posts will be published twice a week. If you'd like to be notified when they are available, subscribe to Bristol Yoga blog. Want to join me? Email bristolyogacenter@gmail.com and let them know you are wanting to be on this journey in 2015! You can find details of the challenge in the previous blog post. You have options to make this challenge work for you!

Let's bring this chat back to you and your New Year's Resolution. Most people will inevitably sabotage their success by rushing into 2015 without a plan. I'd like to help you avoid that common mistake by sharing how I am preparing for my daily yoga challenge.

First, I considered my learning style. Some people might like to take lots of different classes to keep things interesting, but I'm not one of them. I thrive with a consistent class schedule. I believe it takes practice and patience to become excellent at anything.

Second, I analyzed my daily schedule. It's impossible to commit to something that isn't convenient for your lifestyle.  Afternoons and evenings tend to be busy, so that eliminated a lot of class offerings. Bristol Yoga offers a sunrise class at 6 a.m. every weekday morning, though, so I signed up for those. 

Third, I solidified my commitment. I did so by sharing my goal in a Facebook status and writing this blog post. Nothing lights a fire under your butt like making your goal public knowledge. You don't have to take it that far if you don't want to. Simply tell a friend about your goal. They will check up on your progress every now and then, which should encourage you to stay accountable.

If you'd like to learn about more ways people sabotage their success, click here to check out my recent Lifehack post on the subject. Don't be afraid to say “hi” if we cross paths in yoga class, okay? It's fun to make new friends. If you found this post helpful, please share it in a thoughtful email or Facebook share.