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Will Yoga Help You Lose Weight?

Let’s begin with a brief history lesson. There are references of yoga existing as far out as 10,000 years ago—long before anyone was concerned about their weight, muscle mass, appearance, or general body shape. It was a stressful time and their big concern was doing the work to get basic needs met, such as food, water, and shelter. They also spent time resting and connecting to spirit because most of what they needed perceivably depended on mother nature or higher power. So they sat and dedicated their time to purity of thought and reciprocation of the gifts (crops, water) they had received from her/him.

Fast forward to today. Our circumstances have changed and so have our concerns. Now we spend time assessing how to solve all of our problems with one solution. That one solution tends to be sought after in either finances (make more money), acknowledgement (get noticed), or physical appearance (be thin and pretty).  

We have very different problems and we’re constantly seeking answers to these problems, which leads us to the question at hand.

Will yoga help you lose weight?

Naturally, you want a clear cut answer. Don’t we all? But of all places to find a straight answer, you won’t find it in yoga. You will, most likely, find the answer

Our body weight, is simply just that—weight. It doesn’t become anything more until we decide that it means something. Something like we’re ugly, unpretty, unathletic, not enough, or *insert self loathing reason here.* Our weight fluctuates for a number of reasons, all of which are most often not due by the reason you think—your food intake.

We often begin our weight loss journey by focusing solely on what goes in the body.  We cut calories, eliminate certain foods like gluten or dairy, or increase things like protein and fiber. We seek out the solution via the foods we eat. However, here’s the cold, hard truth—NO ONE is successful solely by changing their diet.

NO ONE.

Let’s look back to ancient times for a moment. Think of those yogis, just trying to sow their crops and haul their water. Their fear was not getting to eat. Most of us don’t have that fear nowadays, but we are still inclined to think that way. Their brain is your brain, just a little more evolved. It’s also the same brain that sends energy to your legs for running or freezes your body when you need to hunker down on a tight timeline. So imagine what your brain thinks when you deprive yourself of food or begin to stress about your diet—It thinks it needs to survive, so it holds on.  

Now, you know that you’re life is not at risk from being a little hungry or from changing up your diet. You also know that who you are is not at stake if you don’t lose the weight. But that part is easily forgotten, so I’d like to repeat that one:

Who you are is not at stake if you don’t lose the weight.

This is the biggest misconception about weight loss. That when you lose the weight, your other 100 problems will go away. That is not true.

This is where yoga comes in.

Yoga can be an effective practice for weight loss for a number of reasons, but probably not the reasons you’ve considered. Here’s why it’s effective:

  1. You start to feel your body. When you feel your body moving, you become aware of it in other ways too. You may notice the subtle difference between “no longer hungry” and “full.” Or you may notice how you feel after you eat certain foods. Learning these subtle cues can have a huge impact on your weight loss journey.

  2. You relax. When you are stressed or freaking out, your body holds on. When you learn tools to relax, it lets go. Weight loss happens most effectively when you are in a relaxed state.

  3. You slow down. Many believe slowing down is detrimental to productivity. But on the contrary, slowing down plays a significant role in weight loss. First, digestion begins in your mouth. This is where your food, especially carbohydrates, is broken down. So you need to chew-a lot. Second, it takes 20-minutes for your brain to register that you’ve put food in your stomach. So eating slowly helps to reduce the amount that you actually eat.

  4. You become comfortable with discomfort. We mostly want immediate gratification and as little discomfort as possible. The mental benefits of yoga help you to distinguish when you’re actually hungry vs when you’re trying to soothe discomfort such as boredom, stress, or fatigue. When you can distinguish the difference, you can either strengthen your endurance for discomfort or find other ways to soothe your discomfort that are in line with your goals.

  5. Yes, the movement helps. If you haven’t been moving much, any yoga practice may help you toward your weight loss goals. Any style of yoga that increases your heart rate, stresses your muscles (aka strength), and improves respiration will provide a larger calorie burn than slower styles or no movement at all. So don’t hesitate to step into a more rigorous practice to assist with your weight loss goals!
    PS - try Power or our Awaken class.

Always remember, anything that lasts takes time, consistency, and a willingness to shift from old habits to new ways. You’ve got this.

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Advice Detox

It was New Year’s Day. January 1, 2019. A new year lies before me which means contemplation on the prior year. Keep what worked, drop what didn’t and create space for a fresh perspective and new intentions. I had a life-map to organize and a whole year to navigate the journey. I talked with my husband about what I wanted in 2019. Goals. Intentions. Workshops. Travel. I was seeking his advice and opinions on what sounded best for me. Should I do this? How about that? Is this really making me happy? As always, he was willing to listen, and even more eager to help find the “right” solutions. I felt supported and validated. I had a vision for 2019 that was all mine. Or was it?

After sitting with my shiny, new vision, this life-map as I call it. I realized I wasn’t so sure his advice totally resonated with me. Did it serve my higher purpose? Did he really know or have the answers to what I want? Well, the answer is both “yes” and “no.” “Yes,” because he knows me better than anyone and I totally respect him and value his opinions. But, at the same time, “no,” because there is one person who knows me the absolute best. ME! I began to realize I was allowing him, and quite honestly, everyone else, to map out my life for me. I really relied heavily on the advice of others to the detriment of listening to my inner wisdom.

Why was I constantly looking outside of myself for the answers that reside within? I was habitually reaching out to other people for advice and answers on how I should proceed in my life. Why was it so difficult to trust myself when deep in my bones, I believe, we have all the answers we seek. I realized, it felt safer to put the decision on someone else. That way, if anything were to go awry, there is no way in hell I could be at fault. I wouldn’t be wrong. I could point a finger “out there” and not take responsibility for any missteps in my own life. This my friends, is a sad revelation. A sad, and life-changing revelation.

And there it was. My true mission for the new year. Advice detox. I want to stop the incessant advice seeking and break the habit of looking outward for the answers. I want to rely on my own intuition and feelings to guide me to that which aligns with who I am, who I want to be and how I live my life. I want to create the life I desire and take ownership for all of it. The good and the bad.

Anybody with me? How many of us have learned, over time, not to trust ourselves with decisions? We’ve forgotten, out of habit or comfort or mistrust, to turn inward. We have lost faith in our own judgment-not just with the seemingly small decisions like where to eat or which movie to watch, but with the BIG questions of life-OUR life. Who am I? What do I want? Why am I here? What are MY goals for the next 5 years? Does this make ME happy? Does that align with who I am?

Now that advice detox is my mission,I have a new approach to life. I have revised my 2019 life-map to reflect what I really want and how I want to feel. I have asked, and will continue to ask, the questions to myself. Every intention and goal will be inspected by my heart. I have quieted, turned inward, become still, and listened. I have learned to be patient and to allow answers to unfold in their time, in their way. I have returned to trust my intuition and know that the answers will come. I know my life will be messy with twists and turns and unexpected detours. I take complete ownership of the journey, MY journey. And to me, that is a  powerful and beautiful thing.

-Joane

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Quiz: What type of yoga is right for me?

So you want to start practicing yoga. Or have at least considered it. You’re curious about mindfulness. You’ve seen some yoga poses. You know of the vast benefits. You realize that there are several different types, each delivering a different experience. But where in the world do you begin?

First, here are some types you may have heard of (click on each one to learn more):

Ashtanga

Yin

Restorative Yoga

Hatha

Bikram

Hot yoga

Vinyasa

Power

With each one, you’re going to get something different. So, which one is right for you? What type is the best fit for you and your lifestyle? If you practice already, what other styles are worth exploring?

Take this quick 5 min quiz to find out:

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Nothing changes unless you do

WARNING: We're going to get a little deep here.

Let's talk about love. I know, you're thinking we already did that...but not really. We just scratched the surface.

Consider "How you experience and express love is a result of how you've experienced and have been expressed love." Read it a couple of times. Let it sink in.

Take yourself out of the equation for a moment.

Let's consider Julia—a character I made up.
Julia was raised in a home that carried the motto "tough love." Her parents always wanted the best for her and so they continuously raised the bar. As a result, Julia excelled in school but always felt that in order to earn her parents love, she had to do well. She became very successful and has enjoyed many fruits of life that money can bring. Because of her success, she carried this motto into her child-raising and placed high demands on her children.

Now, let's consider Julio—another character I made up.
Julio is Julia's child. With the ever raising bar, Julio feels like he just can't keep up. He feels that he is never good enough for his mother and as a result, begins to rebel against the success mindset. Julio disregards "the norm" of climbing the achievement ladder, and instead chooses a life of wanderlust. His bank account is low but his experience of life is high. He eventually has children of his own and vows to show them overwhelming and unconditional love.

Similar childhood. Different result. Neither is right or wrong. We all just work with what we know.

But, what's important to note here is, you can choose. You do not have to be a default of your own experience.

If you want to be a full-hearted, loving person begin to step out and give compliments and show admiration to those you care for. If you want to hug people, start hugging even though it may feel uncomfortable and awkward. If you want more connection, make eye contact even though you squirm in your skin.

What does love mean to you? Name it. Define it. Whatever it is, it is completely accessible and available to you, but you must start stepping out of the norm. Nothing changes unless you do. And this is an emotion worth changing for :-)

Namaste,
Justina and The Ignite Team

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All you need is love

What a beautiful day to be reminded of love.

As with all things, your opinion of Valentine's Day may have its ebbs and flows. Perhaps one year, when you're head-over-heels in love, you find it the best holiday ever. Perhaps another year, freshly divorced, trying to find your two feet again, you find it appalling and too close for comfort.

One disappointing view of this holiday is that it's solely for significant others and kids. There's a big gap for adults that have many loves in their life. We all have those gal pals (hence Galentine's Day), besties for the resties, your parents, siblings, and the person we tend to think about last—yourself. With the rise of busyness, let's be glad that Valentine's Day has been dedicated to remind us to LOVE. Period.

Love is all you need.

Love, along with many other human emotions, is becoming an emotion that we aren't sure how to express. We tend to get wrapped up in our own world and only expect it from others. But as the age old saying goes, "you can only get what you're willing to give."

Love is a vulnerable thing. I get that. But when you're willing to give and receive it, you become whole. You're reminded that you're enough, because someone (kids, parents, etc) accepts you as you are. You remind others that they are enough, because you accept them as they are. You feel appreciated for the work you do rather than continuously trying to reach an imagined expectation. Others feel appreciated because you said, "It's okay, I'm just happy that you're here." You give without an expectation to receive. You receive and let go of trying to balance the scale.

This, in my opinion, is love. It's not flowers, valentines, and chocolate. It's quality time, words of acceptance, and doing for others (with no expectation of something in return).

So today, take a chance and move into the abundance of love. Let today be the start of getting back to the one thing that will make you whole.

"Love is the ability and willingness to let those you care for to be what they choose for themselves without any insistence that they satisfy you."

Justina and The Ignite Team

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Follow your passion. Or not.

Have you seen the movie "Crazy Rich Asians?"

I know, stay with me though.

There's a moment in the movie when the young Chinese-American love-stricken girl is trying to win over the approval of her crazy rich boyfriend's mother. The mother, who has dedicated her life to family, makes a jab at the girl about "following her passion," judging it as selfish and non-family oriented.

So let's talk about following your passion. It's big talk these days and is often proclaimed as the way to experience happiness. I'd say it's gone as far as creating stress in the lives of those that don't know what they are passionate about, let alone, following it as a path to happiness. So let's pause and breathe for a moment. (inhale, exhale).

You already know, just listen.

Passion is something you have, not something you do. To feed the homeless is not your passion. But to believe that everyone on the planet deserves food and a warm meal is something you're passionate about. Feeding the homeless is the best and perhaps most rewarding route you have found to fulfill it. Passion is to have a powerful emotion about something. You can have passion and not do anything with it, but it's when you are simultaneously compelled that you take action.

You can be passionate about anything, just find a way to express it.

Many dive into the career world thinking they need to love what they do. For instance, if you love travel, you may think a road warrior job would be "following your passion." Or living out of an RV and blogging as you travel across the country. Both are viable ways to to fulfill what you're passionate about. OR, you may find a job that compensates well and provides ample time off for leisurely travel, without the stress of finances or working on the road. Again, another viable way to fulfill your passion.

All of us are passionate about multiple things. It can range from connecting with people, playing an instrument, or sharing a message we believe into the world. Often our passions conflict, so we each have to do the best we can to fill ourselves up in a way that makes sense. Let go of the noise of what you need or "should" do. Listen to what you love and then find the most rewarding (and perhaps reasonable) way FOR YOU to fulfill it.

Justina and The Ignite Team

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Head and the heart

Let's talk about the head and the heart.

It's a great band. But furthermore, these are two guiding sources that we all have.

Most think it's "woo-woo" to talk about the heart. So let's start with the head, that being your mind.

Your mind is what takes in and holds information. Everything in your mind is conceptual, having been formed of notions and ideas. It reasons, thinks, feels, wills, perceives, and judges. It decides what you're going to believe to be true and it sets them into place. Your mind decides how you're going to experience the world and how you're going to act in it.

Now, the heart. Your heart is an organ—that's fact. Everything else about the "heart" is conceptual, but you can't deny it's truth. The heart is the innermost essential part of everything. It's spirit, courage, intuition, emotion, and enthusiasm. It's what you feel on a cellular level. Your heart also can decide how you're going to experience the world and how you're going to act in it.

99% of what you hold in your mind has come from outside sources. That being: the conditioning from parents, teachers, and loved ones about what's right or wrong, the amazing commercials that tell you of your need for the perfect coverage make-up, the clearest sound speakers, or the snazzy car that makes you think windy road scenic adventures are in your future, or the every day conversations you have with your family where you hear how you messed up a school project or how great your cooking is. This is everyday life, and it's all information. It's all information that stimulates your mind and produces another thought, and another thought, and another thought until you eventually start seeing the flaws on your skin you didn't see before or how terrible your vehicle is because it's not taking your on scenic windy road adventures, etc. What's amazing about all of this is, your mind can be controlled. Sounds exhausting, which is why most don't take the time to do it. But it definitely also sounds exhausting to not do it—amen?

But do you know what can't be controlled?

Your heart.

Your heart always knows and it always has. It naturally lead you to pick up that instrument you have never put down, it guided you to ask the girl out, and it said "leap!" I've got you." The noise and loudness of everyone and everything else has drowned out the soft voice of your heart, but it hasn't gone away—and it never will. It will never steer you wrong. And the more you resist it, the more it will tap at you.

So get a little quiet, and begin to listen to what it has to say. It'll take some time at first to swim through your thoughts, but eventually you'll hear it, and it will guide you to EXACTLY where you need to be.

Justina and the Ignite Yoga Team

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It is Finished.

It's funny how you can read the same book, watch the same movie, or seemingly live the same moment in life and walk away with a fresh take. A new perspective. Your mental state at the time has a lot to do with the message you hear amidst all of the clatter, and it is typically a big old flashing neon arrow pointing to where you need to concentrate.

We recently recognized the Good Friday holiday, a day dedicated to remembering Jesus's final hours. Don't go running for the hills just yet. This isn't a preach of religion, but rather the use of a well-known story to reflect on the Power of Completion and the healing that accompanies it. Throughout the years, I have been hit by different angles of this story, and been filled with a wide spectrum of emotion- great sadness, anger, confusion. The characters in this plot and the many events leading up to his death have typically overshadowed the rest of the story. But this year, I became fixated on what he spoke before his death. "Tetelestai." Translated, this means, "It is finished."

How many times in our lives have we yearned for completion? True, final closure. When you walk away from an appointment with no follow-up to make. When you click your laptop closed after receiving the confirmation email from a submitted assignment. When you end a conversation with a conviction and no lingering questions. There is something about the feeling of completion- of checking off those to-dos-- that leaves you empowered. Unchained. At-peace. But just as with the Power of Completion can come the Drain of the Unsettled. When we feel unsettled we search for the quickest route to pleasure. We rush what needs unrushed and try to polish what needs left smudgy. Say you went through a truly gut-wrenching experience, one that needs deep healing and time. But, instead of giving it just that, you try to expedite your emotions--- panick to find the next pick-me-up--- and never allow yourself to mend. Superficially, you are all glossy, but the bandages underneath tell the true story. You are left with lingering uncertainties- the quiet ache in your subconscious, the salt in the wound, that little bit of dirt in your eye.  A lot of linger, and no completion.

Closing out phases of life, relationships, careers, and habits often necessitates uncomfortable finalities. Sometimes, a serious sit-down is needed to address those vulnerabilities you feel, or the forgiveness you are hanging onto, or the peace you haven't found. And sometimes this results in hard facts. Emotional good-byes. Awkward hugs. Snotty tears. But in the end, you walk away with a completed picture--no missing puzzle piece, no wondering "what if," no blame, no misunderstanding. You can finally be complete with the situation. Free of that linger and unsettled emotion. Accomplished in being done. And peace.

We all have these uncomfortable finalities awaiting. We all avoid them. We know the avoidance exacerbates the uneasiness. So let's just get to it. Why wait? Get going to face those unresolved grains of salt in your life. To drink the unsweetened truth that life is messy. To close out a semi-open suitcase of emotions. You will find a genuine comfort, a true sweetness, and less baggage in your hands than you ever knew existed. 

Namaste,
Justina

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Lighten Up: 3 Tips to "Float" in Your Practice

Spring is here with it's warm weather, fresh scents, and bright sunshine. It's a season of growth, exploration, and even transformation. You may feel lighter both attitudinally and physically, which can lend well to experiencing a shift in your yoga practice. Especially when it comes to transitions such as "floating" forward from the back of your mat to the front.

You hear the word "float" and it's likely you think of lightness and freedom. Perhaps you hold an image of yourself floating on water and the peace the rhythmic waves bring to your well being. In yoga, instructors intentionally use words like this to encourage you to first think of how a physical sensation may feel, long before it may actually occur. That is the case when it comes to the ever- challenging "float forward."

The transition from feeling like a boulder crashing down a mountain to feeling like a dandelion seed wafting in the wind is not a sensation that happens over night. It may take months to years of practice depending on how often you practice, the style of yoga you practice, and any fears you hold around the idea that momentarily... you're only on your hands (yipes!).

"Practice and all is coming." - Guruji

It doesn't matter how long it takes. It's what you learn about yourself along the way. However, if you feel that your body and mind are in alignment to start lightly landing at the top of your mat, like a butterfly on a flower, then give these 3 tips a try.

  1. Literally lighten up.
    No this isn't the latest diet fad. Instead, try to have a large gap of time between your last meal and your yoga practice. When your body is free of the digestive process everything is more available to engage your center, aka your bandhas. The minimum suggested time between eating and your practice is 2-hours. However, the longer you can wait the lighter you'll feel when moving.
     
  2. Start with some active pranayama.
    The primary style of breath practice in vinyasa yoga is Ujayii breath. This is a powerful breath that creates heat in the body, but not necessarily the most optimal for activating the Mula and Uddiyana bandhas (these are what lift you high!). Instead, try Kapalabhati (breath of fire) or Uddiyana bandha breath. These styles of breath are deeper and more active, creating a stronger connection between mind and the center of your body.
     
  3. Keep your hips high. 
    I watch students time and time again sink their hips way back to their heals right before springing to the top of their mat. They are searching for the momentum to get them there. However, momentum adds in many other factors that contribute to the fear of floating forward, such as, speed, weight distribution, and the general challenge of proprioception. Your center of gravity is at the base of your spine, so save yourself some work and think of keeping it lifted, even if you're bending your knees to get some spring.

HAPPY FLOATING YOGIS!

Justina & Ignite Yoga

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You're Lowering Your IQ

In an era of supreme stimulation, there is virtually nothing we cannot experience at the drop of the hat. Miss your mom? FaceTime her. Want to check out that new construction house at the end of the street? Take a virtual tour.  Behind on your shows? Get them On Demand and binge watch the last month. And let's be honest here-- if you are doing one of these, you are usually doing two....at the same time.

We live in a world of constant, non-stop activity. I am convinced that we are training our minds to crave more, more, more. Drivers with one hand on the wheel, the other texting or clutching a phone. Has driving a car going 80 mph not enough to keep us entertained anymore? We now need SiriusXM, blue tooth and a center panel of options to get us to work in the morning

I am the first to admit (as I already have) that I thoroughly enjoy the convenience that these advancements have brought to my life. I love that I can grocery shop from my kitchen without stepping a foot in Kroger, all while cooking the pasta I need for dinner that night. I love folding laundry while I succumb to the latest episode of Law & Order: SVU.  But here's the thing:  I typically overcook those noodles because I get too engrossed in my online order, and it takes me over an hour to fold socks because I am too caught up in the latest episode. The TRUE reality is that we aren't doing ourselves any favors, and we aren't saving any amount of time.

This Era of Multitask overlooks one critical life component: thought. True, deep thinking. The silence and boredom and lack of activity that spurns profound epiphanies, creative juices and soul-searching stability.

Research has continually shown that multi-tasking does us no good. It lowers our IQ, it damages our brain, it confuses our senses. Science has proven that we truly can only focus on one task at hand. And as much as we'd like to, there is no hacking the ol' noggin. In fact, when we do try to do more at once, studies have shown that our capacity to perform both tasks is lowered to that of a young child. Yikes.

One would think that after practicing yoga and meditation for many years I might have it together in this area, but I don't. I may never. But I am better. And as long as I see that progress, it's worth it to me. So I continue to put more conscious effort into focusing on one thing, one person, one situation. I have promised myself to take the everyday tasks and find a way to think through them. Those whites can be folded in silence, without taking that call from my sister. I can walk my dog and appreciate the frost without Spotify on in my earbuds. And- gasp- I can sit in silence, total, scary silence, in my living room every once inawhile to try to experience the space between my thoughts. The true silence. These are the actions that will make us stronger--mentally, spiritually, maybe even physically.

When we practice yoga, focus is essential. I harp and harp and harp on this, because I truly believe it connects us to ourselves on a greater level.

Focused breathing, focused thought, focused movement.

Practicing these can change your life, and build habits that translate outside of our studio bubble. I challenge you to raise the bar for yourself.  During your next yoga class or when you find yourself amidst 3 different tasks, make the effort to find that inner voice that longs to be heard over the chaos that surrounds. It's subtle and peaceful, but oh so powerful.

I know it can be done-- so let's do it together.

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You've Got This... and So Do I

As 2016 came to an end, I found myself scrolling through Facebook more than usual. Typically I try to limit my screen time because it brings me down. That endless timeline of pictures and posts make me start questioning the quality of my own life. Am I making good life choices? Am I doing enough? Do I have enough? How do my friends measure up? Am I enough? I am no math brain, but the formula is obvious: the more screen time I have, the less adequate my life. But I digress...continuing on...

The holidays, for all their hustle and bustle, often leaves some awkward down time. So, despite knowing that Facebook is the Mother of all Black Holes, I found myself plastered to it for a few days. I had been reflecting on my year anyway, as is typical when a new one is right around the corner, and social media is as good of a place as any for sizing up the year. Used correctly, Facebook- or another social media app- can truly provide inspiration, ideas and new goals. It's uplifting to see what 365 days can do to a person-- whether it be watching a belly grow with child, cheering on a slimming waist line or raising your brows at the newly-dyed blue hair. Time is a variable that intrigues- and boggles- my mind. So I found myself sucked in. Again. Scrolling and scrolling and scrolling. Pictures from distant relatives, updates from old friends, collages created by neighbors, profound thoughts from clients I haven't seen in awhile. There was a lot to celebrate in 2016- twelve months of weddings, births, retirements, beautiful sunsets, gourmet meals, successful race finishes. I saw it all. My heart truly did smile at these captured glimpses of happiness. 

But the overriding theme of the year wasn't one of perfection-- it seemed to be one of challenge.  

Last year seemed to bring a wider range of emotions to my friends: bitterness, fear, devastation, death, confusion. Some were posts that begged for someone to listen. Someone to take action. Many expressed their experiences with depression, loss, anger, and grief. Gut-wrenchingly real "feels". And you know what? I could relate. My heart-ached the majority of 2016. There were a lot of tears shed, and a lot of pain felt. But reading these posts brought me a strange comfort. I never wish ill-will to others (bad karma), but it was refreshing to see some true emotion and honest vulnerabilities. Some #nofilters. Especially across the Mother of all Black Holes that is typically plastered with lives of perfection. This life truly is a journey of highs and lows, and these posts reminded me that for every euphoric up, there was a darker down. And sharing both is okay. Posting both ends of the spectrum is its own kind of therapy, and creates a platform for genuine reflection. There is always an underlying pressure to paint the positive, but a lot of lessons are learned through hardship and heartache. In this regard, 2016 was a masterful gauntlet, a brutal bootcamp. 

With the holidays at a close, my heart sits with the realization that the experiences that shape us don't correlate to a set schedule or calendar year. The "Most Wonderful Time of the Year" may not be in December for you. It may be smack dab in the middle of March. Heartache doesn't take time off because it's Christmas Eve. January 1st is an arbitrary "clean slate" if you are still covered in mud from December 31st. Your love day may not align with Valentine's cupids. And again- that's okay. It's more important to accept these times, these aches, these challenges and find a way to climb atop them. To run through that tunnel of pain and emerge on the other side with a stronger heart, a more honest mind and a clearer vision. 

So here's a heartfelt wish for those downward dips to start climbing, those truly dark days to begin brightening, and for seasons of life (in no particular calendar order) filled with authentic experiences from which to grow.

 You've got this.  And so do I. Happy 2017.

Justina and the Ignite Yoga team

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Do you understand the gift?

About a month ago, I dove into a discarding project as suggested by Marie Kondo's book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up." First order of business: clothes. The task: take all of your clothes and put them in one room. The intention: ask yourself as you hold each piece of clothing, "Does this bring me joy?"

I worked tirelessly for four days holding every individual article of clothing from blouses, to dresses, to belts....to my yoga pants (so you can imagine how long it took). With each garment, I implored myself to give a totally honest assessment-- did that particular item bring me a sense of joy? Some pieces I barely had to touch before knowing that they did not bring me joy. They were easy to cast aside, and it left me wondering why I hadn't donated them earlier. Other pieces brought gushes of memories- some from the best days of my life, others from not the greatest phases. Some had simply never been worn. And others- whether heavily weathered or still with tags- were given as the most thoughtful and heartfelt gifts. Those were the trickiest of all.

I have an attachment to things that are given as gifts. As long as they are not forced or obligated, gifts are a sign that someone has taken the time to think of me. Someone spent time, thought and money to bring joy. Whether I like the purchase or not, that in and of itself is enough to make me feel loved and appreciated. So I hold on to them. Holding out for the day that I'm going to fall in love with a particular shirt or use the strange device that solves the problem I'm always complaining about. In some cases, that day never comes, and I find myself with a crazy pile at the back of my closet of rhinestones and tangled cords that I can't seem to discard. First-world dilemma. 

As harped on by the book, everything has a purpose or service. And oftentimes, everything has a cycle. The book suggests that in order to part with these items and sentimental gifts, you hold each item and truly thank them for their service. Then discard them.

As the massive days of gift giving- and more relevant here- gift receiving approaches, I have found myself focused on these philosophies of stuff more and more. I find myself not so much attached to the "things" as I am to the meaning behind the things. For me, the giving/receiving transaction is truly an exchange of energy and I believe that both participants, especially the receiver, should have the energy of giving.

Let me explain...

Let's say you and your best friend go to winner (my new slang for wine + dinner, and I highly recommend you give it a whirl) to exchange your yearly gifts. Every December, your friend knocks it out of the ballpark. One year handmade mala beads with all the exact energy you need, the next a belt that goes perfectly with your new designer boots, another year a hand-letter original that goes perfectly in your office. So this year, you can't wait to tear apart that perfectly-wrapped box like the inner eight-year old you are. After two glasses of wine, the exchange comes. The tissue paper flies and inside you find....a strangely ornate glass ornament that you just can't seem to figure out.  Is it a swan? Or something just really abstract? Obviously, your confusion is apparent on your face, as you quickly try to reposition your eyebrows and cast a wide smile. She senses your dislike and now her continuous time and energy spent on finding and selecting this exact gift for you, is wasted and feels unmatched. Bleck.

How could it have been different if you had understood that it is a gift, just to receive a gift?

During this time of intense materialism, I challenge you to see that gift for what it really is:  the effort it took for your friend with four kids to wrangle her twins out in the cold to your favorite boutique, the thought it took for your spouse to peer into that jewelry case and find a bracelet he/she envisioned on your wrist, the time and energy it required for your great-aunt to knit a magenta scarf because she remembered you loved that color as a child. These are the gifts inside the gifts. THAT is the gift. Not the actual item. So no matter what the object is or it's intended usage, its true purpose is for you to feel loved, appreciated, and thought of. (It's a bonus if it's the best thing ever). These are innate human needs that are gifts in and of themselves, and the best you can immediately give back is the gift of true unadulterated gratitude.
 

Wishing you and your family the best ever,

Justina

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Ignite Yoga- Dayton, Ohio