The power of having a choice

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My life lately has really been upside down. So many things have changed, so many things happened. And it shook me up. Big time.

When life takes turns you did not expect, we can become overwhelmed not being able to see clear. And especially when we are overwhelmed with the circumstances we often ‘forget’ that we have choices. Because it seems like this circumstance has taken over our life and there is only one way to deal with it: your default way.

One of the most powerful things in the past few months to me was the reminder that we do have choices. Often we cannot change the circumstances. If we are in traffic to our work everyday, we cannot change the traffic. If the train runs late, we cannot make it arrive earlier. If your friend cancels for dinner, you cannot make him un-cancel. But we do have a choice in how we deal with things.

You can choose how much it will affect your life.

You can choose to give up or you can choose to keep on going.

You can choose to focus on being the victim or you can try to see what you can learn from this circumstance you are in.

You can choose to deal with it alone or you can choose to get help from friends/family/therapist

There are so many choices you can make, but still we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed. We allow ourselves to dwell in what is in front of us. We choose to not have a choice. We choose to not deal with the circumstances but complain instead. We choose to not accept. We choose to take medications. ALL choices we make, without us even realizing we do so.

I am most definitely to blame in this too. I noticed I did it quite often. But once I rediscovered the power of choice, that’s when I was able to turn my life back around. I was able to flip the switch, feel powerful, strong, knowing that I was in charge. And even though I did not have control over what was happening in the external side of my life, I did have control over the internal side of my life.

So this blog is just a simple reminder to all of you out there. YOU are in charge of your INTERNAL world. You have CHOICES. You can choose to be STRONG, you can choose to be POSITIVE. You can choose to LOVE. You can choose to LEARN.

Is yoga for everybody?

 

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Back in the day, way way back in the day, yoga was only for a few, and only for men. It was a sacred practice and mostly practiced in complete solitude & isolation.

Times have changed. Yoga is now a common good and belongs to everyone and anyone. Yoga nowadays comes in so many forms and styles that almost everyone will be able to find a style that suits their personal needs.

And even though not every yogi will agree with me that it’s OK to adapt this ‘sacred practice’, I believe that it is amazing that we can bring yoga to everyone. We are in it together! In one way or another.

One of the main reasons why I love to teach BoxingYoga is because I am able to bring yoga into a group for whom stretching is far from the list of priorities, even though all fighters know they have to. Coming to a yoga school is intimidating, because they feel they are too bulky, not flexible enough or are turned off by the ‘wishy washy’ music / talk.

The great thing with all these different styles is that eventually we all work towards the same goals. Ultimate bliss, a connection with the Self and less suffering in our lives. So does it really matter how you get there? Does it matter if you are able to connect with the Self via a sweaty class or one where you are chanting? Does it matter if you start with philosophy or if that might become part of your practice later? As long as we are able to create a steady and stable breath, a calm heartbeat and a quiet mind, we are working towards our own liberation.

Some days I love a strong intense work-out, other days my body is craving something slower, something to restore. Some days I want a straightforward physical class, on other days I’m looking for deeper meaning and philosophy. Our bodies and needs are not the same, every day is different, every time when we step onto the mat is different. As long as we can understand that, all that we need to do, and all that is asked, is to show up, do the work and be honest to yourself about what you can and cannot do.

Enjoy your practice! Because YES, yoga is for you and for everyone!

6 reasons to do early morning yoga

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When I started my journey in yoga, I was not an early bird at all, and definitely wouldn’t go to a gym or yoga class before the work day started. No, I was a night owl, going to parties and sleeping in.

Oh how my life has changed, through yoga! My alarm now goes every day somewhere between 4.45am and 5.45am, so I can teach yoga early in the morning. And while doing that, I noticed how I started loving the morning and how I appreciate this early practice more and more.

So let me share with you why I think an early morning yoga routine is awesome!

  1. Sets the tone for the day

Starting the day off with meditation, stretches, movement and focus on the breath. What do you think will happen? Exactly! It will create a calm and stable state of mind. One that will help you through all that will be thrown in your direction, at work, in your family, in traffic, etc.

Also, starting the day with taking care of yourself will make you more aware of staying healthy. People tend to eat healthier and allow themselves a necessary break.

All of this leads to less stress, a healthier body and a happier live.

  1. Sets a healthy routine

Creating a routine in life is always difficult. Yes, we all have routines that are forced upon us, like going to work everyday. But setting up a routine for yourself and keeping it, is something a lot of people struggle with.

An early morning routine is easier to keep to. You are less likely to be distracted by last-minute diner parties, needs of kids, partners, work and friends. It is an easier time of day to set aside some time for yourself.

And on top of that, it will help you create a steadier sleeping routine. The better you get at waking up around the same time every day, the more energy you will have throughout the day. So building a steady sleeping routine is a great added bonus!

  1. Who needs coffee?

Starting your day with movement, meditation and breathing will create a lot of energy and get your mind and body started in a way that makes coffee not (as) necessary anymore. For lots of people coffee is part of the routine, and if you are looking into breaking that habit or drinking less coffee, yoga might help you on that quest. The energy created in your body through the movement, and the clarity in the mind through breathing can create a similar effect as coffee. So give it a try and see for yourself!

  1. Eat more, less guilt

Who doesn’t want to eat more and not feel guilty about it? I know I do!! Doing sports and yoga in the morning will increase your metabolism and burn away what you eat afterwards. The effects of an early morning yoga practice are working all day.

It is obviously not an excuse to over-eat and indulge in salty, sugary and fatty products. But we can allow ourselves to eat a little more and have that sinful piece of cake without feeling guilty.

  1. You just feel amazing, the whole damn day

When I start my day with yoga, all that happens in that day, my reaction often is: wow, and I already did yoga today.

Some days good things happen and the joy of that practice in the morning is carried out through the entire day. We feel amazing, strong, open and energized. People see, people compliment you, just because you shine.

And then other days, they are shitty or even beyond that. You have to deal with hard, difficult and challenging things. The peace and quiet we have created in our mind in the morning, will give us a buffer to think clearer. It will helps us to create perspective on what is happening. And on top of that you can tell yourself: at least I took care of me this morning, I felt great when I came off my mat, and nobody is able to take that away from me.

  1. Body is less stiff, the mind is more calm

This last one is not necessarily a benefit, it is more a given. What I LOVE about morning practice are a couple of things:

  1. I always struggle to get up for it and I ALWAYS feel better and happy that I did.
  2. The mind is calmer in the morning, it is not up to speed yet, so we can find a deeper connection inside, with the Self.
  3. While the mind is more still, the body isn’t as open and flexible as at night. You can frustrate yourself over the fact that the poses your body is creating aren’t as ‘advanced’ or deep as they normally are. You can also see it as a great way to find these deeper layers in the body – the layers that you have to wake up in order to find a deeper stretch or the necessary strength. It becomes a game of the ego vs being humble, giving in and allowing yourself to be where you are.

So yes, I am a true advocate for early morning yoga. Does that mean that I never practice at night? Of course not! I love to practice any time of day. But the routine a morning practice gives me, the feeling it creates and the effect it has on my entire day are 100% worth the early rise.

Yoga for lower back pain

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Back pain, and in particular lower back pain, is something I come across a lot as a yoga teacher. Lower back pain starts below the ribcage, in the lumbar section of our spine. The great thing about lower back pain is that it often gets better on its own. But it is proven that yoga can help and speed up this process.

Lower back pain can have several causes:

  • Heavy lifting, pulling or doing something that twists your spine.
  • Doing a work-out that was too intense (especially at the gym or playing golf).
  • Sitting at a desk all day (especially when your chair is uncomfortable and doesn’t support your back).
  • A heavy tote bag, briefcase, backpack.
  • A slouching posture, when the shoulders slouch forward the lumbar spine starts rounding and loses its natural curve.

All these lower back issues can be around the muscles, but can also cause sciatica and herniated discs. Both are extremely painful and have to be worked with a lot of caution; careful movements and consciousness of what is going on in the body are key.

People who are at risk are generally over 30 and either have a job where they have to lift a lot, or sit behind a computer for extended periods, they have an inactive lifestyle or are overweight.

The 5 lumbar vertebrae’s are able to do 4 different movements:

  • Flexion (60%) – forward fold
  • Extension (35%) – backward bend
  • Lateral (20%) – sideward bend
  • Axial (5%) – twist

No other part of the spine is able to do a larger forward fold than this low part of the spine. That’s why we so easily can hurt the lower back when we are carrying heavy stuff. It is also the part where our secondary curve, named lordosis, is. When we sit all day, we decrease the curve by bringing our tailbone in and under the body. This causes tension and pain over time.

The 9 poses in the pictures will help you relief tension in the lower back. You can weave them into a sequence or use them as separate poses. If you are suffering from lower back pain, check to see which ones work best for you. Try it out, maybe you can even create variations of the pose, in order to get a bigger relief.

Some basis rules when you perform the poses:

  • Make long, deep and controlled breathes through your nose. Focus on your breath going in and out while being in a posture. Try to make your exhale slightly longer then your inhale.  Stay in a pose for at least 3 cycles of inhales and exhales.
  • Let your breath initiate a movement. Inhale is a movement upwards, exhale is a movement downwards or a twist.
  • Work both sides of your body. Do every posture on the right side and then switch to the left.
  • While you’re in a standing pose always check your front knee. When it is bent, it makes a 90-degree angle with your ankle; however, it should never go over your ankle.
  • There is NO pose in yoga where we have our shoulders close to our ears. So when you are settled in a pose, always pay attention to your shoulders. Roll them backwards and down.

For further instructions of the poses, see below:

Picture 1: Marjaryasana / Bitilasana
Cat/cow pose. Come to your hands and knees. Knees in a 90 degrees angle with your hips, shoulders with the wrists. Inhale, look up and arch your spine. Exhale, look down and round your spine. Do this with a minimum of 5 times.

Picture 2: Malasana
Squat pose. Step your feet wider apart, at maximum as wide apart as the mat. Turn your feet out slightly. Separate your thighs wider than the torso and bring the hips down. Hugs yourself in between the legs. Keep your heels on the floor, or if necessary, roll up the mat under your feet. Press your elbows against your inner knees and bring the palms together in front of your chest. Hold it for a minimum of 5 cycles of breath.

Picture 3: Purvottanasana
Straight bridge. Sit down on the floor. Legs are fully on the mat and feet are hips distance apart. Place your hands on the mat, fingers pointing towards your feet. Your hands are straight under your shoulders (so next to your body). The hands are placed just behind the hips and thus behind your body. Inhale, push your hips up keep the legs straight. Feet stay fully on the mat, while you push your hips up as high as possible. It helps to squeeze your gluteus together. Stay for 5 cycles of breath.

Picture 4: Salabhasana
Locust pose. Start by having your whole body on the mat. Bring your arms back. On the inhale take both your arms and legs up. If this is too much to begin with, then start with only taking your chest off the mat. Second time only the legs. And third time both the chest (arms) and the legs.

Picture 5: Adho Mukha Svanasana
Downward facing dog: Come onto the mat on your hands and knees. Knees are 90 degrees with your hips, hands straight under your shoulders. Tuck your toes under and on an exhale lift your knees away from the floor. Keep them slightly bent. Stretch one knee, bend the other. Switch several times. Bend both needs slightly and push your sitbones up in the air, while you push yourself away from your hands. On an exhale push your heels towards the mat. Stay for a minimum of three breaths.

Picture 6: Adho Mukha Svanasana
Downward facing dog: Come onto the mat on your hands and knees. Knees are 90 degrees with your hips, hands straight under your shoulders. Tuck your toes under and on an exhale lift your knees away from the floor. Keep them slightly bent. Stretch one knee, bend the other. Switch several times. Bend both needs slightly and push your sitbones up in the air, while you push yourself away from your hands. On an exhale push your heels towards the mat. Stay for a minimum of three breaths.

Picture 7: Utthita Trikonasana
Extended triangle pose. Straighten your front leg, so both legs are straight. Have your torso similar to the Warrior 2 pose. Bring your body weight forward. Bring your arm down towards your leg. Either grab your thigh, lower part of the leg or ankle. Make sure your torso is parallel with your front leg. Stay for at least 3 cycles of breath.

Picture 8: Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
One-legged king pigeon pose. Come to a downward facing dog pose (picture 7). Bring your right leg up and bring it forward. Right knee goes to your right wrist. Your foot goes as close to your left wrist as possible. Your hips need to be open to do this, so you might want to walk your foot closer to your body. Place your hands next to your hips. Breathe into your chest and stay up straight. A possible next step is to bring your body forward on an exhale. Make a diamond of your hands (hands are on the mat) and place your forehead in the diamond space of your hands. Stay for 5 cycles of breath.

Picture 9: Reclining twist
Reclining twist pose. Lay on your back. Arms are out in a cross. Bring your knees towards your chest. Make a 90-degree angle with your hips and your knees and knees and ankle. Move your legs to the right, look to the left; keep both shoulders on the mat. If you want you can place your right hand on your knees, to add extra pressure.

Why should you be in the now?

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There is so much talk about being in the present moment that it can make you feel that you are doing something wrong when you are not in the now. At least, that is how it makes me feel. Because, let’s be honest, how often are you really fully engaged in the present moment? How often can we say that our minds were not off to some other place?

This week I was in a class of one of my favorite teachers in San Francisco and he changed my perspective by simply saying that you shouldn’t search for constantly being in the now, but focus on realizing when you are not. When you become aware of when you are not in the now, it gives you an opportunity to return, be aware of where you are, how you feel and connect to what is.

I remember when I started meditating and doing yoga, that all that talk about being in the present moment seemed so exaggerated. Why can you not be day dreaming? What is wrong with reliving parts of your past through memory? And what is wrong with envisioning the future? All of that helps you to grow, right? It helps you to have a purpose. It helps you to learn from mistakes.

How I look at it now, is that there is nothing wrong with envisioning your future or learning from the past. What I do believe is that hanging around constantly in either one of those planes will keep you from enjoying the moment you are in.

When I was younger my mum and dad would take me to this place called ‘de Zaanse Schans’, a very typical Dutch village with windmills, a place where they made cheese and mustard. I remember going there and it was always packed with tourists. One time I was there with my other (blonde) friends and a group of Chinese people wanted to take a picture with us. It went on for 15 minutes, one picture after the other. They did not communicate with us, in any kind of way, they just stood there. And I remember me stepping away from the picture and saying to my mum: why are they doing this? Why do they want to be in the picture with us while they don’t know who we are? Why are they not looking around and enjoying this place?

Now I get that we were very typical Dutch blonde girls in a very typical Dutch setting. But I do believe my questions were very valid. They only saw De Zaanse Schans and my friends through the lens. They did not pay attention to their surroundings, almost as if they weren’t really there and would look at what they had seen in the pictures at home.

This is something we constantly do in our own lives. While we are living through a moment, we are showing pictures from the past, we are talking about what we will do next, we do all these things except for really enjoying the moment itself. And that’s where it is important to realize when you are not really in the moment. That is what my teacher meant with becoming aware of when you are drifting off, when you are physically there, but mentally not engaged.

The best practice, (which is hard; let’s be honest), is to not look at your phone for 1 hour, 2 hours, a full day (depending on how much you normally look at it). Be fully connected to the person that is in front of you, being engaged in the conversation and reading their signs – are they enjoying the conversation, do they understand what you say, are they genuinely interested in what you are telling them.

Another fun practice is to look at something you see everyday, a picture, a plant, a house on your way to work, a little table in the corner, and so on. Look at it for a couple of minutes and really see it. You most likely will notice something new, or you realize you never really actually looked at it before.

And obviously, meditate, at least a few minutes per day. Become aware of how often the mind drifts off to the past or the future, and practice to simply become the best at tracking when you are there or not.

So why should you be in the now? My simple answer would be:
It allows you to be there, be aware and let life surprise you as it unfolds every minute of every day.

All you need is inside

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Lately I have been sharing a stream of quotes and thoughts with my students and I started to recognize a pattern. They were almost all about the appreciation of good, bad, big and little things in life.

“ All the things that truly matter, beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace – arise from beyond the mind” – Eckhart Tolle

We live in a world dominated by the mind, as most of us are well aware. But being aware is sometimes not enough to tap into the things that truly matter to you. It does not help you to connect inside with what brings you joy, love, creativity. It doesn’t help you to recognize beauty or find your inner peace. We have to take an extra step; we have to put in the work.

You need to be willing to perceive things in a different way, to see things in a different way, coming from the heart, from the connection you make inside. Not coming from the mind. Many times we are stuck in our day-to-day habits. We take the same way to work, we have our breakfast routine, we sit in the same spot for lunch, etc. There is nothing wrong with having a routine, the only danger is that you get stuck in your way, stuck in your mind, stuck inside. When we are stuck in our ways, it becomes more difficult to see the little things that can give us joy. Often we only give credit to the big things that happen in life and we dwell in the time between. But what about all these little things that bring you joy? Things like waking up to your baby’s smile, or the cuddle of your dog, getting a message from your family or friends, seeing the flowers grow, feeling a stray of sunlight on your face, the smile of the stranger on the street, laughing with your friends or colleagues, finding a space to sit down and take a deep breath, and so forth. The things that can bring us instant joy and happiness happen constantly. The question is: are you open to it or not? Are you grateful for what presents itself to you? Brother David Steindl-Rast said a beautiful thing about this: “In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.”

But what if life presents itself in the most shitty way you can think of? I recently lost people who were dear to me, to old age and to cancer. These moments are hard, and all I wrote above seems to become irrelevant. But is it really? When life shows itself to you in its most ugly way, it becomes increasingly important to appreciate all these small things. They can give you a small spark of happiness, they give you direction to find your way out. It helps us to understand that you can choose to be loving to yourself, or you can choose to judge. You are in charge of setting your direction, you are in charge of when happiness is allowed back in. This choice is crucial, some people mistake this difference by thinking that loving means there is no room to push yourself, no room for improvement. None of that is true! You can support yourself and lovingly speak with words of encouragement.

Because “every thought you produce, any action you do, it bears your signature” Thich Nhat Hahn. You put your signature on what your world looks like on the outside, how people respond to you and what you bring forward. But more importantly, you put your signature on what goes on inside.

Practice this every day, in good times especially, find happiness, joy, inner peace, love, beauty, creativity in the simple things in life. Change your routines, try to see something new everyday, change where you sit down, take a different route home, switch around your fork and knive. Break out and break through. So that when difficult times arise, you know that there is something on the other side. Because ”the best things in life are free. Sleeps, hugs, kisses, love, friends, family, memories, smiles, laughter & fun” Author uknown.

Am I good enough?

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Am I good enough? A fascinating question if you ask me. Many people ask themselves this question, a lot! Sometimes we feel secure enough to share it out loud, but often we are afraid of what the response will be, so we leave it unspoken.

We ask ourselves this question in many situations. Am I good enough at my job? Am I good enough as a lover? Am I good enough as a parent? Am I good enough as a family member? Am I good enough at cooking? Am I good enough to take care of myself? Am I good enough at yoga?

I ask myself this question very often. Am I good enough? But what does that really mean? What is good enough? And who decides what is good and what is not? Is good enough based on your own expectations? On the expectations of others around you? Or on the expectations you think others have of you?

My latest stream of thoughts on this subject made me realize that I choose a profession where this question comes up on a daily basis. Do people want to come back to my classes? And if so, why? Does it have something to do with my personality? Was my sequence not challenging enough? Or was I too tough on them? How does my class stand out from others? In other words, it is a profession where failure becomes super personal. You are the only one who is to blame for low turn-up and return rates.

Which leads me to another subject: FEAR. The fear to fail, the fear to not be good enough. Fear has proven me over and over again that it is not helping me, and still, I sometimes can’t help that fear takes over. I have to confess, every time before I start a class, I am frightened, can I bring these people what they want? Every time I do a headstand I feel the fear coming up: will I fall over? What will others think of me? Will I hurt myself? And let’s not even start about handstands! When I am in class I never do a handstand in the middle of the room, not because I cannot do it, because I am afraid to fail. I am afraid others will see me fall, I am afraid I will hurt someone else around me, I am afraid I will disappoint myself.

And even though I seriously struggle with these fears and questions of being good enough, I still teach yoga daily, I still stand on my head daily. Why? Because you can only truly grow and be in your zone, when you are triggered, when you feel there is more to reach. That is the only way to become the best you are, to live to your fullest potential. And I have yoga tools to help me through, over and over again:

  • Take a deep breath
  • Have patience
  • Plan one step at the time
  • Meditate
  • Love yourself
  • Come to the mat, every single day

So when you also feel like this sometimes or often, make sure you take things one step at a time. Show yourself some self-love, faith and allow yourself time. Whatever situation you are in to ask yourself this question, all of them are opportunities to reflect on yourself. They are chances to create the changes you need, to establish your current strengths, to plan your next step.

Because I believe that when you do what you really want, you are already good enough. Maybe just for yourself, or for hundreds of people. Make sure you share what you love; that way you are able to stay close to yourself and the universe will bring you what you need.

Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in…

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Breathing is a thing in yoga, almost every yoga teacher will point out its importance. The breath initiates the movement, follow the breath, and generally speaking breathe in when you make upward movements and breathe out when you go down, backwards or twist.

The focus on breath stems from the ancient yogis who believed we were only given a certain amount of breaths in our life. So the longer you made them, the longer you would live. There is no evidence in favour or against this idea, but what we do know nowadays is that a steady & long breath and the awareness it creates in our mind and body can help us to improve our health. And therefore, maybe even prolong our lives.

Breath is ’smart’, as the quality of our breath tells us how we are doing during our practice. When you lose your steady and stable breath, then it is time to reflect within: why is this happening? Am I pushing myself too hard? Am I distracted? Is my mind wandering? It is a good point of reference, because often it is hard for people to really feel what is going on in the body and mind.

In yoga we breathe through the nose. One reason is because the nose helps you keep the dirt from the air out of your respiratory system. It also helps you to not directly breath in cold air into our lungs. It is this cold air, that increases our chances of getting a cold or cools down the body quicker that necessary, causing problem in the muscles.

There is also a wide variety of breathing exercises yogi’s practice, which I consider a very interesting subject to deepen your practice with. According to Krischnamacharya, the father of modern yoga, the breath was the key element to a healthy and long life. One of his long-time students A.G. Mohan wrote in his book about Krishnamacharya that his guru would say “ that the breath was controlling the inner functions of the body. (…) If you practice asanas with control over the breath and long pranayama (means: lengthen the breath or control the breath), your pulse rate should come down over time”. Which indicates a healthy heart and potentially a longer life.

But most important to Krishnamacharya was the fact that it helps you to control the mind. A.G. Mohan one of his favorite quotes from the master: “To cure the ills of the body, use the body. To cure the wandering of the mind, use pranayama”.

In other words, doing the asanas, the physical part of yoga, supports you in keeping a healthy, strong body, so we do not disturb our mind with illness. But when the mind is disturbed, the most powerful tool to use is the breath.
“There is no greater austerity than pranayama to remove impurities”. So breath is the key to a healthy body, a calm mind and potentially a longer life.

So when you go to a yoga class try to be aware of your breath, give it more attention then the physical outcome of the pose. Read your breath, learn what it tells you. But most importantly, learn your own rhythm. In many classes a teacher will tell you to inhale with a certain pose and exhale with another. This is based on the ‘fact’ that for most people this will support the outcome of the pose better. However, when it feels uncomfortable for you, don’t force yourself to breathe along. Find your own practice, your own rhythm. Follow the teacher when his/her speed and rhythm connects with yours, but don’t be shy to have your own.

Because in the end, yoga is about discovering yourself; Your own body, your own mind and your own powerful tool: the breath.

Spring cleaning

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Spring has started on the northern part of our planet, which for a lot of people means time to clean! It is time to create space in your life: have a clean house, clean computer, clean body and clean habits.

And even though we all think about it, we often find it too hard to start. In the beginning of 2015 I was forced to do one of the biggest cleanings I have ever done: two moves (São Paulo to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to San Francisco) which meant getting rid of stuff in my house, my mind and life.

As I sat down in the middle of all the things that had created my life in São Paulo and all the things that defined my life in Amsterdam, I felt like I was being thrown back and forth between relief and despair. It was amazing to not have the responsibility over so much stuff anymore, but at the same time I emotionally had to let go of things I had been guarding.

While cleaning for days in a row, I realised there are a few basic rules when it comes to cleaning your life:

  • A clean environment equals a clean mind. So do a detox for your body to get rid of unnecessary toxins in your body, clean your house, your desk, your social life, your social networks, your computer, your phone, etc. Simplify your life, it creates space in your mind and life.
  • Focus on one thing at the time. Either a box, a pile of papers, an emotion, one folder on your computer: one thing each time. NO multi-tasking, because you never know what comes up when the next box opens.
  • Only keep things of value, either because you use it or it has emotional value to you. Stuff that is worth something but you don’t use: sell!
  • Everything should have it’s own place; you need to be able to find your belongings in a fixed place in your house or on your computer. When it comes to emotional things, when it did not find a place yet, you haven’t dealt with it properly.

But how to get yourself started when there is no deadline or real pressure?

  • Don’t set your goals too high and don’t spoil a sunny day inside.
  • Start with 1 pile of papers, one box of stuff, one folder on your computer.
  • What you pick up NEEDS to be dealt with: keep it, throw it away, sell it, keep maybe.
  • Start small: do it 15 mins each day. Don’t overdo it.
  • Make it a game, challenge, connect it to something you like, reward yourself properly.

Other fun ways to clean up:

  • Every day give something away. It cleans out your house slowly and it is rewarding to give something away you don’t use anymore.
  • Take part in a Buy Nothing New Month.
  • Do a meditation course to clear your mind
  • Built up a discipline with yoga (or something else you like): 15 mins of cleaning, is followed by 15 mins of yoga
  • Take up the 12-12-12 challenge (or other fun challenge): 12 items to throw away, 12 items to donate, 12 items to return to their own homes.

Once you get in the flow, the fun will start and space is created. Space you can use for new thoughts, fun activities you wanted to pick up for a while, new films and music, or simply just to let the space be… We don’t always need to fill up what we have cleared.

Happy Spring!

Yoga for a good digestion

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We can do yoga for many different reasons. Every sequence I post, you can do just because you want to do a good work-out, you want to calm your mind or because you need inspiration for your practice. However, I do like to focus on certain goals people want to reach. Therefore I always pick a theme for the sequence. This week: yoga for a better digestion.

To improve your digestion via yoga it is important to move the part where your food is being digested: the area of the abdomen. In general twists are good to detox your body and to help your intestines to squeeze, move and therefore digest your food. However, if you really have problems with digestion, only twists can also irritate this area and have a negative effect. So you need to balance your practice, as always, but stay focused on the movement you make and the pressure you put on the abdominal area.

This sequence can vary from 15 minutes up to 30 minutes, it depends on how long you hold the poses and how many repetitions you do. It is advisable to start the practice with 5 minutes of meditation, to calm the mind and be focused during the practice. End the practice with a Savasana pose (corpse pose) for a minimum of 10 breaths. Some basis rules when you perform the poses:

  • Make long, deep and controlled breathes through your nose. Focus on your breath going in and out while being in a posture. Try to make your exhale slightly longer then your inhale.
  • Let your breath initiate a movement. Inhale is a movement upwards, exhale is a movement downwards or a twist.
  • Work both sides of your body. Do every posture on the right side and then switch to the left.
  • While you’re in a standing pose always check your front knee. When it is bent, it makes a 90-degree angle with your ankle; however, it should never go over your ankle.
  • There is NO pose in yoga where we have our shoulders close to our ears. So when you are settled in a pose, always pay attention to your shoulders. Roll them backwards and down.

If you have doubts about the poses, below you can find the basic ideas and adjustments per picture:

  • Photo 1: Padmasana Twist
    Lotus pose twist. Remain seated in lotus pose (or just corssed legged). Inhale take both your arms up. Twist from your belly button towards the right. Left hand goes on your right knee, bring your right hand behind your back. Twist your head as last, to look over your shoulders. Stay for a minimum of three cycles of breath. Change side.
  • Photo 2: Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
    Bridge pose. Lay down on your back, knees are up, feet are hip distance apart. Have your arms by your side, palms are facing down. On an inhale push your hips up as far as you can, on an exhale bring your hips down again. Repeat for at least 3 cycles of breath.
  • Photo 3: Release pose.
    Release pose. Lay down on your back. Bring your knees into your chest. Place your hands over your knees. Make small clockwise circles. Make them bigger as you go. Come back to the middle and change direction. This pose helps you to release tension from your lower back, by massaging it.
  • Photo 4: Reclining twist
    Reclining twist pose. Lay on your back. Arms are out in a cross. Bring your knees towards your chest. Make a 90-degree angle with your hips and your knees and knees and ankle. Move your legs to the right, look to the left; keep both shoulders on the mat. If you want you can place your right hand on your knees, to add extra pressure.
  • Photo 5: Marjaryasana
    Catpose. Come to your hands and knees. Knees in a 90 degrees angle with your hips, shoulders with the wrists. Inhale, look up and arch your spine. Exhale, look down and round your spine. Do this with a minimum of 5 times.
  • Photo 6: Plank pose
    Plank pose with one knee forward. Make it look like you are a straight plank. Have your hips aligned with your body, so not high in the air or close to the ground. Shoulders are 90 degrees over your wrists. Contract your abdominal muscles. Bring your right knee to your right elbow. Try to stay here for 5 cycles of breath.
  • Photo 7: Salabhasana
    Locust pose. Start by having your whole body on the mat. Bring your arms back. On the inhale take both your arms and legs up. If this is too much to begin with, then start with only taking your chest off the mat. Second time only the legs. And third time both the chest (arms) and the legs.
  • Photo 8: Adho Mukha Svanasana
    Downward facing dog: Come onto the mat on your hands and knees. Knees are 90 degrees with your hips, hands straight under your shoulders. Tuck your toes under and on an exhale lift your knees away from the floor. Keep them slightly bent. Stretch one knee, bend the other. Switch several times. Bend both needs slightly and push your sitbones up in the air, while you push yourself away from your hands. On an exhale push your heels towards the mat. Stay for a minimum of three breaths.
  • Photo 9: Virabhadrasana II
    Warrior 2 pose. Turn your back foot to a 45-degree angle. Open your hips towards the side. Roll your shoulders down and back. Look over your front hand. Stay for at least 3 cycles of breath.
  • Photo 10: Utthita Trikonasana
    Extended triangle pose. Straighten your front leg. Have your torso similar to the Warrior 2 pose. Bring your body weight forward. Bring your arm down towards your leg. Either grab your thigh, lower part of the leg or ankle. Make sure your torso is parallel with your front leg. Stay for at least 3 cycles of breath.
  • Photo 11: Parivrtta Trikonasana
    Revolved triangle pose. Straighten your front leg, have your legs similar to the extended triangle pose. Have your arms out wide, bring the back arm forward and place it on the outside of your front foot. Look up to your hand. If necessary use a block to stabilize. Stay for at least 3 cycles of breath.
  • Photo 12: Utthita Parsvakonasana
    Side angle pose. Your front foot is pointing straight forward and your back foot is at a 45 degree angle (pointing slightly inwards). So your legs are as in the warrior 2 pose. On an exhale place your hand on the outside of your front foot and the other arm goes straight up or overhead. Open your hips to the side. If it is possible bind the pose: bring your lower arm, via the inside, underneath your front leg. Your upper arm goes backwards and embraces your back. Grab with the lower hand the hand that wraps around the back. Stay for a minimum of 3 cycles of breath.
  • Photo 13: Parsva Balasana
    Thread and needle pose. With an inhale take one arm up, look towards it and then bring it through the hole of your knee and hand. Shoulder and ear to the ground. Try to keep your hips aligned.
  • Photo 14: Marichyasana 3
    Sage Pose. Sit on the mat, both legs forward and back straight. Bend your right knee and place your heel close to your hips. Have a fist distance between your leg and your heel. Inhale, take both your arms up. Twist from your belly button towards the right. Left hand goes on your right knee, bring your right hand behind your back. Twist your head last, to look over your shoulders. Stay for a minimum of three cycles of breath. Change side.
  • Photo 15: Halasana
    Plow pose. From the previous pose, shoulderstand, bring your feet down over your head. Make sure it is a controlled movement. Keep your arms in your back. Or if you want, interlace your fingers and stretch your arms out on the mat. If your toes can’t touch the mat, you keep your hands in your back – or you place blocks under your feet. Stay here for a minimum of 5 cycles of breath.
  • Photo 16: Salamba Sarvangasana
    Shoulder stand. Lay down on your back. Palms are facing down on the mat. Bring your knees into your chest. With the force of your hands push your hips off the floor. Place your hands in your back. Straighten your legs upright. Walk your hands closer to your shoulders blades. Stay here; wait until you can breath properly. If gravity is pulling you down, walk your hands closer to your shoulder blades and give yourself a lift. Stay for a minimum of 10 cycles of breath.
  • Photo 17: Matsyasana
    Fish pose. Lay down on your back. Place your hands under your hips, palms facing down. Breathe into your chest and bring it up. Place the top of your head on the mat. Make sure the weight is on your hips and not on your head. Stay for a minimum of 5 breath cycles.
  • Photo 18: Reclining twist
    Reclining twist pose. Lay on your back. Arms are out in a cross. Bring your knees towards your chest. Make a 90-degree angle with your hips and your knees and knees and ankle. Move your legs to the right, look to the left; keep both shoulders on the mat. If you want you can place your right hand on your knees, to add extra pressure.