Tag Archives: Wellness

Creating a Yoga Playlist

In the modern, western yoga world, music has become as much a focal point of the classes we take as the sequences and messages being taught within them. Music is a powerful art form that has the ability to create an environment and a vibration within a yoga class that can elevate our experience of it to the next level. Music is a big part of my teaching and the craft of creating yoga playlists is something I am very passionate about and enjoy greatly. Humbly, I receive a lot of positive feedback on my playlists and am often asked for advice, tips, and tricks on how to create a phenomenal yoga playlist. So today, I am sharing my process and perspective for creating a yoga playlist!

1. Music is personal

The first thing to keep in mind when creating a yoga playlist is to remember this: like any art, music is personal. While there are some standard dos and don’ts, at the end of the day there is no completely solid right or wrong way to create a yoga playlist. Teach to music that is true to you and moves you physically and emotionally. Dis-concern yourself with whether or not your students will like the songs and artists you play.  As long as the playlist is authentic to you and your style, it will land properly and students will appreciate it. You do you!

2. Music supports, not competes

While music has become a big focal point in yoga classes, do remember that THE YOGA is still the leading star. Your music should support the yoga you are teaching, it should not distract you or your students away from it. Think about a film soundtrack: it helps to add emotion and energy to the scenes in the film but the actors delivering their lines are still at the heart and center telling the story. If you feel that your music is overpowering you, speeding you up, or slowing you down, then you may consider revising. You should feel like your music is scoring your class in sync with your own rhythm, words, and energy. When it clicks, you will know.

3. Genre

Again, music is subjective and personal. When you set out to build a playlist, you can really dabble into any genre that resonates with you. In general, the genres that we are currently hearing the most in yoga classes are alternative and alternative electronic pop, chill wave, synth wave, and folk. Within these genres you may commonly hear some of the following artists: Odesza, Sol Rising, East Forest, MC Yogi, Flume, and Trevor Hall, just to name a few.   

I think that these genres and these artists are a great place to start when diving into building a yoga playlist for the first time, but you are free to explore all possibilities. I have been to classes where all the music is late 60’s/early 70’s rock n’ roll or 90’s R&B or completely Bollywood. As long as the genres feel right for you and the environment you are striving to create, then you are good to go!

4. Style & Feel

When I build a playlist, I strive to create a playlist that sounds and feels like a cohesive body of work. I like all the songs to have uniting elements to them. This often means using songs from the same or similar genres or else looking for other qualities that connect the feel of the music. 

For example, in my playlists:

  • Yoga 22 – Edgy- the majority of the songs include deep, heavy beats, guitar riffs, and metallic effects.
  • Yoga 18- Tropical – the majority of the songs have qualities indicative of summertime in the tropics, in this case, the use of steel drums is prominent throughout.
  • Yoga 7-Celtic – the majority of the songs include a lot of violin and harp strings playing rifts we often associate with Celtic culture from what we see in television and in film.

While there are various artists throughout the playlists, the songs fit together, flowing into each other with an organic feel. I tend to avoid jumping from one extreme genre to another without a natural progression in between. Imagine that you are a music artist creating a new album and you have a certain feel you want for the album – that’s the mindset I put myself in when creating a playlist.

5. Temp & Energy

Obviously, we want the tempo, energy, and feel of the music to match what we are doing in the yoga practice at any given point. When we are warming up and cooling down, we want slower, calmer music. When we are flowing a Sun Salutation or building into a challenging strength series, we want more upbeat, powerful music. You want your music to build and dip in all the right places. Think about how you sequence a yoga class:

  • what parts are slower and steadier?
  • what parts are faster and more challenging?
  • what parts are meditative?

Try to align the rhythm of your music with the rhythm of your class.

See the chart below. On left you will see the various sections of a standard vinyasa yoga class. On the right are adjectives that should match up with your music in these sections.

For example: “soft” means more gentle, calm music, “strong & bright” means more upbeat and fast paced, “steady” means there is a strong beat to the music without being too fast or slow.

How to Build a Yoga Playist - for yoga teachers and practitioners

6. Buffer & Layer

The hard truth is that you are rarely going to create a playlist where the exact song you want for a certain section of class starts and ends at exactly the right time. For example, you might only envision a specific song for Sun B, but there is a high possibility that song is not going to start right as you begin Sun B, and it may not last the entire Sun B either. The solution here is to layer songs that work in this section of class.

For example, in my playlists, I have 1 or 2 songs I intend to be played during Sun B. However, there is an additional song before and after the intended song(s) which give me some space if it takes us longer to start and end Sun B.  Additionally, buffering and layering in this way gives you some more versatility in your playlist! Perhaps you play one of the Sun B songs one week and the other the next to keep the same playlist feeling fresh and new for your students.

7. The Process

Once again, music is subjective and personal, and so is the process of creating with music. You may have a creative process that works for you already, and that is fantastic! Here, I will simply share what works for me and some of my trainees that have resonated with this process.

1. Think of the “vibe” you want for your playlist

  • This can be based off of a song or 2 you have recently discovered or something more abstract you have dreamed up in your head.

2. Identify 1-2 songs to start the build of your new playlist

  • Drop them into a folder or a playlist in whatever system you are using

3. Discover more songs that fit with your original 1-2 songs

  • Find songs in similar genres and by similar artists
  • Find songs with different tempos from slow to fast
  • Drop them all into the folder or playlist at random
  • I recommend 16-20 songs for an hour long yoga class
  • Pro-Tip: Streaming Platforms like Spotify make it easy to discover more artists and songs similar to the one already in your playlist with their Suggested Song feature.

4 – Determine where the songs should be placed

  • This where we get artsy!
  • Listen to your playlist on shuffle, hearing each song intently.
  • Ask yourself: “Where does it go?”
    • Do you envision it playing while flowing Sun B? Or working through a Strength series? Or while Integrating or Restoring? Wherever you imagine it working best, drag the song to the front, middle, or back where it will line up with yoga sequence.
  • Once you have arranged the songs in a general order you think will work, listen to the playlist straight thru from beginning to end. Ask yourself: “Does it work?”
    • Does anything need to be adjusted? What needs to be changed? Do you need to flip a song or two? Adjust as needed.
    • Is anything missing? What needs to be added?
  • “Finalize” your playlist

5 – Use your playlist!

  • Teach class with your playlist and see how it works!
  • You may find that the playlist is perfect!
  • You also may find that a few aspects do not work quite as well as you imagined. Make a mental note of these aspects so you can adjust later.

8. Have Fun!

How lucky are we as yoga instructors that we get to make playlists as part of our jobs? It’s an awesome aspect of our job, so I believe we should enjoy it. Take yourself seriously and put effort into your playlist, yes, but also remember this is meant to be a fun part of our role as instructors, so make sure it is as such.

My fellow yoga instructors, I hope that you have found this article helpful or at least intriguing! Let me know what works for you and what does not as I am always open to hearing different perspectives and learning!

Happy Playlist Making!

Fun Yoga Transitions

One of the reasons I love teaching Power Vinyasa Yoga is the creative process of drawing up the sequences I guide my students through. Sequencing a yoga flow is in many ways like choreographing a dance routine; it is a craft that is both artistic and scientific and can end in a beautiful piece of movement. In the modern yoga world where all mindful movement is yoga, there is now more room than ever to experiment and present unique flows to your classes. I like to consider myself a pretty creative sequencer, I am always playing around with unique chains of postures and different transitions between them.

After humbly receiving positive feedback from my students about these sequences, I wanted to take the time and share some of my current favorite transitions I have been utilizing in my own sequences. All teachers are welcome to take these and try them on in your own classes. All home practitioners are welcome to take these and try them on in your own practice.

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My Health Tips for Flu Season

Fall is here and it’s brought more than just pumpkin spice everything with it. This time of year marks the return of cold and flu season. But before you grab your hand sanitizer and don a face mask, Johnny La Pasta has a few tips to help you stay healthy and fit this sick season!

While I do fall ill sometimes just like everyone else, I have a pretty good track record of staying healthy most years, often completely missing the major flu or cold that everyone around me seems to catch (knock on wood). Even when I do contract an illness, I often bounce back from it rather quickly. This has led many of my friends, family, and students to ask me: How?

Here are my tips for staying healthy and fit during the flu & cold season –

-1- Hydration

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Hydration is always key, including during flu & cold season. Staying hydrated promotes your elimination system which can help to flush build ups of toxins from your body before they can take root and do any harm. So even if it’s cold outside, drink your water like it’s a scorching summer day!

-2- Citrus All Day, Every Day

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 One of the ways I stay healthy all year long is I am almost always consuming some form of citrus. As we all know, citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and limes are rich in vitamin C which is key for immunity. Citrus fruits have been shown to strengthen your white blood cells as well as increase your white blood cell count. White blood cells are the guys that fight off infection, so you want them strong and in abundance! So, how do you get your citrus in?

Put citrus into your water! Cut up citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit into wedges and store in mason jars in your fridge at home and at work. Anytime you refill your water, squeeze any combination of the fruits into the water and drink. This will make your water tastier and be consistently providing you with a powerful source of vitamin C.

-3- Apple Cider Vinegar

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Another way I keep my health going throughout the year and especially during this season is Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV). ACV is rich in minerals, vitamins, and enzymes that help to bind to and then remove toxins from the body, promote better lymph circulation, and act as a natural antibacterial and antiseptic within the body. ACV has been used medicinally since ancient times in many cultures and science shows there is no reason to stop now!

Take a shot of ACV a couple of times a day or add a couple tablespoons to your water at least twice a day. Yeah, the taste is not the best, but the results are worth it! And if you do get sick, drink ACV all damn day to promote that illness getting killed off!

-4- doTerra On Guard® Protective Blend Essential Oil

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I swear on Oprah by this oil. Wild Orange Peel, Clove Bud, Cinnamon Leaf, Cinnamon Bark, Eucalyptus Leaf, and Rosemary Leaf/Flower essential oils come together to create a master oil that supports the immune and respiratory systems, protects against environmental threats, and supports the body’s natural antioxidant defenses.

Throughout last year’s epically bad flu season, I used this oil in a few different ways. The first was that every night, I mixed a few drops of On Guard into a couple tablespoons of coconut oil and rubbed that mixture into my neck, chest, stomach, and the bottoms of feet so that my body could absorb the oil and all its benefits overnight as my body restored. Secondly, I diffused a few drops of this oil in my oil diffuser next to my bed as I slept. Lastly, when I felt like I was rundown or perhaps coming down with an illness, I added a drop of On Guard to my water a few times per day and drank it down. And I will be repeating all of these techniques with On Guard this sick season.

You can learn more about doTerra’s On Guard® Protective Blend and how to safely use it here.

-5- Oil of Oregano

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Oregano Essential Oil has been used by the Chinese, Greeks, and Romans since ancient times as a medicinal substance. Oregano is highly potent with a phenol called carvacrol that possess powerful antioxidant properties. When ingested, oregano oil acts as an antibacterial, antiseptic, and antiviral.

I do not take oregano essential oil on the regular because it’s nasty AF. However, when I feel myself getting sick or am sick, I will use the oil to help fight and kill off whatever is in my system. You can honestly almost feel the oil burning away at the infection inside you. Again, oil of oregano is extremely powerful and so be mindful to use with caution. Best practice is to dilute 1 drop of oregano oil in at least 4 fluid ounces of water and drink, trying to avoid getting the oil on your lips as it can cause a burning sensation.

I use doTerra’s Oregano Essential Oil, which can learn more about here.

-6- Good Nutrition

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This one should go without saying. Making a nutritious diet part of your lifestyle is simply key to overall health and wellness. If you are eating wholesome foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals, then your body and immune system are going to be better supported to resist and fight off infection.

-7- Exercise

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Here again, exercise is just important to living your best life. When it comes to immunity, exercising promotes the elimination of bacteria from your lungs and airways. It also promotes the circulation of your white blood cells; it makes them more active in doing their job of fighting infection. So just move!

-8- Sleep

white bed comforter

Making sure you get your 7-8 hours of sleep per night is essential during flu & cold season. Deep sleep is your body’s time to restore and rejuvenate. If you give it the time it needs to do this, then it is going to be more equipped to ward off sickness. I swear, whenever I find myself in a situation where I am sleep deprived, I end up getting some sort of illness. We really do need our sleep, so be diligent about it.

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These are the practices and techniques I have incorporated into my lifestyle which have served me in keeping my healthy and strong. I invite you to try a few or all of these on and see how you fair this sick season. Good luck!

 

 

Fulfilled

Dear ones,

I recently published an article on Elephant Journal titled, “Fulfilled.” The piece details my experience in my recent career transition and the discoveries that came out of that time. I was lucky enough to work on the article with one of the publishers at Elephant Journal and I am very proud of the final product. Please read the article when you have a moment.

You can find “Fulfilled” here: https://www.elephantjournal.com/now/fulfilled/

Choosing Life Over Loans

I recently read a brilliantly written article by Lee Siegel entitled, “Why I Defaulted On My Student Loans”. In summary, Siegel recounts her choice to not pay her student loans back in order to continue living a full life that was not solely based on making money, paying bills, and dying at the end of it all. She calls out how, unfortunately, our society often looks upon one who is in debt for their education, and not doing all they can to pay their loans back as soon as possible, as someone who is irresponsible and displays a lack of good character. She argues, however, that building good character in the eyes of others requires actually living and enjoying life, seeing and experiencing the world, and nurturing relationships with others. The article is very thought provoking, and I agree with much of what she says. Take a read here: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/06/07/opinion/sunday/why-i-defaulted-on-my-student-loans.html?referrer&_r=0

You see, I myself have a decent amount of student loans to my name, along with 42% of my generation, and so Siegel’s article speaks to me on many levels. Now, to all my family members and close friends, please do not fret; I have no intention of defaulting on my student loans. Though, I also do not plan to work myself into unhappiness and depression over said loans. Some would argue that the wisest course of action would be to put my head down, work myself to the bone, all the while turning down opportunities for rewarding life experiences, until I have managed to pay back my loans. Maybe then, after I have paid back said loans, can I then decide to begin truly living my life. Personally, I don’t find this a wise course at all. Continue reading

Hydration, Hydration, Hydration

It’s summer and that means the sun stays in the sky longer and the temperature in the air grows warmer. All this extra light and heat gives us more time to spend outside and in the ocean or the pool having fun, but it also means that our bodies will be needing greater amounts of hydration.

Our bodies recognize that we are in summer because of the seasonal shifts that happen around us, and to compensate for the greater exposure to light and heat our bodies release more water in the form of sweat to keep us cool. You might recognize yourself sweating more when you are exercising or merely outside walking; but what you probably don’t notice is that you are also probably subtly sweating more in your sleep and throughout the day in general. This is natural and this is good; your body is doing its job in making sure you do not become over heated. However, it needs your conscious support to keep it hydrated.

Staying hydrated comes with a whole bunch of benefits. Some of those benefits are:

  • Weight Loss & Weight Regulation
  • Higher Amounts of Energy
  • Memory Loss Prevention
  • Fresh & Glowing Skin
  • Stronger Hair & Nails
  • Healthy Digestion
  • Healthy Function of Kidneys
  • Aid of Natural Detoxification Process
  • Good Joint Health

All good things right?! So you see why staying hydrated is so important to your overall health.

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Now, here are some good tips to making sure you stay hydrated throughout your day:

  • Drink a large glass or bottle of water in the morning to replenish your system after the extended period of time in which you aren’t hydrating because of sleep.
  • Drink an 8 ounce or more glass or bottle of water within a 2 hour period, every 2 hours.
  • Drink coconut water when feeling extra dehydrated to also replenish electrolytes. Great for post-workouts!
  • Get hydration from your food!
    • Straight water is not the only way your body can receive the hydration it needs.
    • Your digestive system will extract water from the food you eat, so eat more of the following water rich foods throughout the summer:
      • Watermelon
      • Peaches
      • Grapes
      • Berries
      • Tomatoes
      • Cucumber
      • Carrots
      • Celery
      • Lettuce and Greens
      • Zucchini & Yellow Squash
    • So as you can see, staying hydrated can taste great too!

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Now we all know how important hydration is, how great it can be for us, and how we can all be mindful is staying hydrated.  So drink your water and eat your water rich foods and  go forth, soak up the sun, work up a sweat, and have fun!

Healthy Food Swaps

Another year, another bunch of resolutions to be healthier! At this time of year, I know that many of you are researching ways in which you can make more healthful, fitness forward decisions. I’ve published several posts to help you with this: “Moderation – Balance – Lifestyle”, “Quick Health Tips”, and “8 Things Fit People Do”. Today, I publish another! This post is all about healthy food swaps; foods you can substitute in for other foods that are on the leaner side. So here we go!

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“Conscious Cooking” from Daily Om

I recently read a wonderful thought passage from a book called Daily Om – Inspirational Thoughts for a Happy, Healthy, and Fulfilling Day by Madisyn Taylor. This book is filled with hundreds of 1-2 page messages to inspire to thought, reflection, and ultimately you taking better action to be a happier person. I have made it a practice over the last quarter to read 1 passage in the morning and journal any quotes that I find particularly meaningful, as I suggest to you in my previous post “A Good Morning”. I have definitely found myself reading messages that seemed to be meant for me on that day. Click the link above to purchase of Amazon; I strongly recommend purchasing it and soaking up its inspiration.

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Anyway, the other day I read a passage entitled “Conscious Cooking”. In summary, the message is that it is important to take time with our food. It is primarily about the preparation of food and how we can truly affect our food with energy as we prepare it. It makes sacred the act of cooking a meal and when we can appreciate that every meal becomes nourishment rather than a means to an end, and every meal becomes a bountiful feast. Not enough people, especially in this country, value food for its own brand of magic. Preparing food is a vital part of daily life. We are meant to spend time with our food as it is at once a necessary part of human life AND one of life’s greatest joys. This message capitalizes on that and it speaks to me loud and clear. Take a read!

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How to Not Lose It This Thanksgiving

It’s that time of year again, Thanksgiving is upon us and ready to kick off the holiday season! I love Thanksgiving for all that it is: a time to gather with friends and family, practice gratitude for the big and the small, and of course, a time to feast! Thanksgiving is the tastiest of holidays, and I embrace every part of a traditional Thanksgiving meal; and I am definitely not the only one who loves this feast so much.

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Unfortunately, I have found that many people harbor a great deal of anxiety around this meal because of its nature of being much heavier than we are used to eating on a normal basis. A lot of people feel that the indulgences of a traditional Thanksgiving meal are detrimental to their weight and shape. Furthermore, many people see Thanksgiving as the start of a generally feast and treat heavy season, and that it might be easier to simply give up on trying to maintain healthy weight, shape, and eating practices by indulging from Thanksgiving on through New Year’s, all the while beating up on themselves mentally and emotionally the entire time about any bodily changes that may occur.

I have been someone who has over indulged on Thanksgiving, hated myself for it, then threw in the towel for the rest of the holiday season, continued to over indulge, and treated myself poorly in my mind the entire way. This is not healthy and it truly does not serve anyone. People, we celebrate with food. We should be able to enjoy that food. And there are ways to enjoy that food without undoing our “gains”. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s all about moderation. If you can practice moderation in the treats and feasts that arrive with and after Thanksgiving, you can feel fulfilled in partaking in the tasty joys of the season without undoing your shape and treating yourself unkindly for it.

So, I wanted to give you a few tips for “How to Not Lose It This Thanksgiving”; how to not undo your healthy eating completely, how to not undo your shape, and how to not undo your mind by being mean to yourself for enjoying your life!

Give yourself permission to eat and enjoy –

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It’s Thanksgiving. This is a time to indulge a bit, eat more carbs, eat more butter, and the like. Premise yourself to eat these foods and allow yourself to savor and enjoy them. Give yourself permission to be present when eating the meal without worrying about the consequences, because really there are none.

Exercise –

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Try and get some type of movement and sweat in. This will allow your body to use some of the food that you do eat to replenish excess spent calories and to restore your muscles. Plan on the exercising the following day as well to give yourself a burn after you’ve indulged.

Eat Breakfast and Snacks –

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A lot of people make the mistake of starving themselves before Thanksgiving dinner. This is wrong for a couple of reasons: 1. You are going to feel even hungrier when you sit down to eat the feast, so you are probably going to eat even more and 2. Your body goes into starvation mode after not eating for more than 4 hours, so when you do eat at Thanksgiving dinner, it is going to store the excess calories as fat because it is concerned it isn’t going to be fed again for a long time. It is better to have a healthy breakfast and some snacks leading up to the feast so that your metabolism stays active and working. Try my Frittata for a protein and vegetable packed breakfast and snack on vegetables and hummus leading up to dinner.

Have a bit of everything –

Homemade Turkey Thanksgiving Dinner

Make a plate with all the Thanksgiving foods. Don’t avoid anything, don’t overload on anything. Simply serve yourself a few bites worth of each Thanksgiving dish. Then eat slowly and savor each bite for the different flavors that they offer.

Allow yourself some seconds –

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It’s common place to have seconds at Thanksgiving, right? Of course, this can quickly turn into a whole second heavy meal. Rather than filling up your plate again, simply allow yourself 2-3 more bites of 2-3 of your favorites rather than each dish. For example, my favorites are stuffing, yams, and green bean casserole, so I will allow myself 2-3 more bites worth of each of those dishes, but pass on additional turkey, cranberry sauce, potatoes, etc.

Small Slices of Pie –

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It isn’t Thanksgiving without pie; you just can’t skip it. And typically, there are 3-4 pies at a Thanksgiving feast. Rather than having a slice of each, have small slices of each so that when you put them all together, it really is just like 1 normal serving slice of pie. This way, you get all the flavors of the different pies, but just the calories of a normal slice.

Hydrate –

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Staying hydrated before and after the meal really helps. If you are hydrated before the meal, you are likely to be less hungry and therefore desire to eat less. If you hydrate after the meal, you are helping to combat your body’s reaction to the higher amount of sodium you’ve just in took which will help to minimize bloating.

Give Thanks –

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This is the point of Thanksgiving; we feast and we give thanks. Instead of focusing on the indulgence of the food, focus on why you are sitting down to eat that food and how that food is part of a celebration of recognizing our many blessings. As long as this is the main focus behind your meal, it makes it that much easier to enjoy it and then move on from it peacefully.

So those are my tips for how to not lose it this Thanksgiving! Remember to sip, savor, and enjoy! Happy Thanksgiving my friends!