Turn Your Practice Upside Down

By Oui We contributor Sam Spahr

The proverbial “they” say that mom knows best. Well, the older I become, the more I recognize my own momma proving this adage to be true. 

mommas hands by Sam Spahr

One day she came home in a cloud of bliss and sore muscles courtesy of the new yoga class she’d been frequenting. I’d listen to her tell me about it before: It’s different. It’s challenging. The instructor is wonderful. We hang in hammocks . . . And as we daughters tend to do, I snapped on my younger-than-thou attitude with a quick “sounds cool, mom,” a gentle decline to her subtle invites. 

I mean, I’m a fit (aspiring) twenty-something who could tackle circuit training sessions and some serious cycle classes. I looked to yoga for the stretch, the release, and spiritual discipline, but I was certain that any class my mom found to be “challenging” would not be enough for me.

Until I saw a photo of my mom in the class.

There she was, hanging up side down in her own cocoon. She was twisted up in silks suspended beautifully from the ceiling of the studio. Whatever this was, I knew I needed in on it.

grouphang by Sam Spahr

My first aerial yoga class was exciting, difficult, and completely rewarding. Here's what goes down

  • There's a hammock (think one long scarf made of completely durable, sturdy, and safe material) that hangs in a “U” shape from the ceiling. It’s attached with a series of carabiners and web straps so that it can be adjusted to hang according to your height.
  • Imagine doing familiar yoga poses (and some new moves) only now you incorporate you body through the hammock

Does the hammock make it easier? Heck. No. It does allow you to execute poses in a new way. The material can offer stabilization giving you the confidence to stretch deeper and open further. It can challenge you to push your entire self in new ways. Our instructor is fond of planking whilst your feet are in the hammock, almost as much as she enjoys a version of a full body pull up via the hammock. What can I say, she knows how to break us into a sweat as well!

The most rewarding part of the whole experience though is 100% the inversions.

hang by sam spahr

You will learn how to safely and strategically wind yourself through the fabrics which alone will test your core and arm strength. Once properly prepped, it’s time to either fold forward, roll down, or arch backwards - depending on your intended inversion pose.

Your instructor should never let you hang longer than is necessary or healthy, but once you feel comfortable and can get your mind to stop thinking about smacking the ground (because you won’t!) you’ll find your spine release with each deep breath. Sometimes I close my eyes, focus on my breathing, and I honestly can't remember which way is up. And for me, that’s kind of the point. I'm learning that I am capable of more than I thought, and I'm definitely stronger - mentally and physically - than I give myself credit for.

upside down by Sam Spahr

There’s something about disorienting not only your body, but your mind and spirit too. Inverting wakes up your body, blood flow, and energy. Feel your senses gently reorganize and recharge.

Take it from a once stale cookie, it only takes a shift of perspective (and a loving apology to your momma!) to reinvigorate your practice and the way you see yourself. 

A quick google search for aerial yoga near you should have you flipping around in no time!

Best to you,

Sam

Just Booked: Reflective Reads for a Trip Within

By Oui We contributor Sam Spahr

For as much time as I spend looking at the world around me, trekking across its landscapes and meeting its people, I surely do not spend enough time with myself. Do any of us?

Self-Reflection by Sam Spahr

The term self-care is thrown around like confetti lately, but what does it really mean? I’m not providing an answer here, just genuinely asking. Is it a cute excuse to buy some thing I’ve been pining after? Is it a reason to stay home on a Saturday night glued to my latest Netflix binge? Is it motivation to take up a new hobby or practice that is truly just for me? 

Probably all of the above. For me, I’ve been thinking about what’s ahead of me: career, family, personal goals. So naturally, this involves much self-reflection, you know, some good ol’ conversations with me - mind, body, and spirit.

self-reflection by Sam Spahr

I know for many self-reflection is often an unattractive activity, but I’ve grown to enjoy it quite a bit. I guess it helps if you tend to be a tad introverted and someone who likes thinking . . . and thinking about thinking. (Surprise, it’s me.) However, I could never have learned to take a good look at myself (and like it) without the help of some truly fantastic authors who also happen be novelists, doctors, musicians, etc…

Self-Reflection by Sam Spahr

Even if you don’t see yourself as “that type” of person, I promise it’s less scary - and not as weird as it seems - to really get down and get to know yourself. I think you’ll find it may have been a while since you really checked in.

Allow me to introduce you to two of my favorite books (and a bonus podcast). Each has served me a different purpose, all equally necessary and completely refreshing.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

While reading, I’ve learned that I’m an idea person. I have lots of them, or as Gilbert would say, many of them find me. They choose me to bring them to life, but I’m not very good at seeing that through. Thankfully Gilbert talks extensively about the follow through and what happens to those home-seeking idea fairies when we don’t appease them. Spoiler alert: someone else will.

If you have an ounce of creativity within you or even just a desire to complete something you’ve been working on - anything - then you need to read this book. Gilbert uses her own lived trials in writing to lay out an rather interpretive map of advice. Even if some of her wisdom seems obvious or common, it’s not . . . because you aren’t doing it! This book is like a kick in the pants from your loving (and funny) older sister.

 

The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer

The very first chapter smacked right between the eyes, and I haven’t looked back since. Singer immediately addresses the “voice in your head.” Yeah the one that is reading this to you right now. You hear her. My voice keeps me up at night often sending me into an anxious spiral that has no business existing. Talk about useless and unproductive . . . 

Right from the start, Singer helps you acknowledge that voice and realize that it is not you. Simple, yet damn effective. I’ve already been falling asleep faster. And that’s only Chapter 1, you guys. Singer and The Untethered Soul take you to confront your consciousness, to understand your emotions and habitual thoughts - good, bad, and neutral. If you ever feel like your energy is being wasted or misdirected, crack open this read for some knowledge and validation.

 

Podcast: Conversations With Alanis, by Alanis Morissette ft. Special Guests

So, I found The Untethered Soul through Alanis and her insanely smart and curious podcast. Full disclosure, I consider her to be my soul mother - is that a thing? So, everything I say oozes of bias, but this podcasts features guests who are experts in fields that range from sociology to neurobiology, and beyond. Each episode is not only interesting but completely thought provoking. You will honestly look at the world, your peers, and your past, present, and future selves in a different light. Go have a listen!

Sam Spahr is an artist-educator who gets her kicks sharing the magic of the arts with kids and adults alike. She has a penchant for ancient artworks and helping others find the connections between now and then. When not inside a studio or bookshop, you can find her paddling out somewhere with her hubs and pup. She loves experimenting in the kitchen, but loves eating even more, especially in new cities and cultures.


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Grab the Gals: It’s Time for a Wellness Weekend, DIY Style

I know we’re dreaming of an exotic weekend in the pristine wilderness when the words “wellness retreat” ring out, but you don’t have to use your vacation days or even book a plane ticket to reset your bliss when you’re in a pinch. After all, your wellness is all about you, and who better to deliver self-care than yourself? A little bit of planning can make for a smooth and magical weekend for you and a few friends.

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First things first, settle on some goals.

What are you looking to get out of the weekend? It’s cool if that answer is multifaceted. (We’re humans, aka complicated.) Talking over these goals with your co-chillers will help design the game plan for your experience. Here’s a few to get your wheels turning:

  • Digital detoxing
  • Relaxation (think homemade spa-like indulgences)
  • Meditation: slow your roll and reconnect with your self
  • Strengthening (or starting) your yoga practice
  • The food makeover: any changes you want to make in your daily diet?

Location scouting

It’s really important to think about the space for your mini getaway. A retreat is about transformations and recharging your perspective. Try re-dressing your backyard. Toss up some lights, pull out (easily washable) blankets, invest in a fire pit and even some gauzy fabrics to drape from some dreamy trees if you’re feeling frisky. Turn your attention inward too. Don’t underestimate the power of candles and a little furniture arrangement. Make this time feel special. Focus on your environment and her natural elements. Coax the sunlight into your spaces and welcome her with some fresh greens. I’m feeling invigorated already, ahhh.

It’s also worth scanning your local campgrounds and Airbnb listings for some serious cabin retreat feels. Get up and get out!

Clean energy is essential for this ~refreshing experience~ and I’d say takeout pizza is not invited.

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You will thank me, I promise. Create a simple meal plan for the weekend with all the things your crew has loaded onto your Pinterest boards (seize the moment girl!)! Two breakfasts, about three lunches and/or dinners, and some healthy snacks should set you up nicely. Choose foods that are going to provide you with good energy and not too heavy, because my next tip will leave you needing it.

You gotta get moving. Whatever y’all style is. Yoga, biking, walking, pilates: carve out time in your retreat to shake up your blood flow and get that fresh feeling.

There are plenty of ways to get your yoga fix for free online, thanks YouTube, but I have found the video archive at The Yoga Collective to be invaluable - and honestly cheap whether you split the fee with your ladies or snag their deal on Groupon. They’re a real studio out of Cali with instructional videos at ANY and every level and style - even sleepy time yoga!

There’s no need to bike ten miles or over exert yourselves. This is about waking your body up, not throwing it off of a cliff. So, keep it simple yet stimulating.

Try to wind down in the evenings (or stir up your morning brain) with some simple meditations. This would be a good excuse to inject some alone time into the weekend (this is about self-care too.) Seek out some help from sites like Headspace if you have trouble finding your zen, or research a couple of quick prompts to gain the most out of your private moment. These can be times for self-reflection too. Maybe you’d like to have a journal nearby or an object that brings you calm and focus. For me it’s my camera, or a sketch book. Try a light book of poems, or pick some flowers you’d like to press and de-stress.

My most steadfast tip here can be an anxiety inducing one, but the cellular devices have to be limited - eek! 

Decide how strict you’d like to be - a phone bucket anyone? You should feel less worried about what your missing out on as the minutes tick by. It’s such an important step toward reorienting your personal space, because much our lived perspective and self-seeing are being filtered through our phones and digital habits. Ladies, there’s no cleaner feeling than washing your hands of your cell.

Sans phone doesn't mean going without some chill tunes however, get back to your adolescent roots and make one of your famous mix-tapes. Someone’s got a boombox out there… Or designated your trusty DJ friend to internet radio duty.

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Last, but oh so major - pamper, soak, treat, and steam, y’all

Gather your collective powers and gadgets and get the spa time in. With so many masks on the market and bath bombs bouncing around, there is ZERO excuse to skip this step. Go as hard (relaxing that is) as you’d like. Just try to skip any spa cocktails -this is still a cleansing experience 😉

And when all is said and done, sleep! Grab the Zs to your heart’s desire and get ready to start your new week with a fresher eye, mind, body, and spirit

Leave us some of your suggestions for your own DIY retreats. What are your favorite tips?

Until next time,

Sam

Sam Spahr is an artist-educator who gets her kicks sharing the magic of the arts with kids and adults alike. She has a penchant for ancient artworks and helping others find the connections between now and then. When not inside a studio or bookshop, you can find her paddling out somewhere with her hubs and pup. She loves experimenting in the kitchen, but loves eating even more, especially in new cities and cultures.