11 Creative Ways to Improve Your Home Yoga Practice

Doing yoga asanas at home is enjoyable and convenient. Numerous benefits include freedom from traffic, ability to schedule on your own time, and no studio costs to name a few. Although home yoga lacks social interaction, are you really going to yoga for community? In this post I explore how to get the most out of your home-based yoga practice through discipline and creativity.

1. Make a Sacred Space

This sounds obvious, but it’s easy to compromise on the psychological, spiritual and physical benefits of creating a unique area at home to fully let go. Part of yoga is about celebrating your body, mind and spirit as you work to improve. If you don’t like the environment you’re in, making regular progress will be hard.

Yoga is multidimensional and multi-beneficial because it promotes physical strength, flexibility, stress release, mood enhancement, and spiritual awareness. If yoga is merely another form of exercise done in a place that doesn’t cultivate peace and joy—you’re missing the whole point.

Maybe you don’t always have the ideal living conditions to practice yoga the way you want. Maybe you don’t have a wooden floor, but only rugs. Perhaps you have roommates, small rooms with not enough space, noise distractions, etc. In that case, you must improvise. Do your best to facilitate oneness and inner focus of your whole being in a meaningful, cultivated space.

I have had my share of not-so-great living conditions. I started doing yoga in 2010 while on active duty in the US Marine Corps. I was living at my birth home for a while which worked out great. I often attended classes in Cambridge and Newton, MA. Then, I moved to Quantico, VA, and had to really adapt in my ‘barracks room.’

At the time I had roommates, which really changed the dynamic. Before resigning my commission in 2012 I did yoga in my barracks room when my roommates weren’t there.

Actually, that’s when I started doing naked yoga. Whenever my roommates weren’t around I’d lock the door, strip naked and get on the mat. What an experience this was. I felt like a total rebel. In fact, I was.

When I moved home to Massachusetts after getting an honorable discharge, I had a great spare room with a hardwood floor that was not cluttered with furniture. The advantage of having a sacred space dedicated for yoga and meditation practice was truly enjoyable.

Furthermore, making a space specifically for yoga has psychological benefits on the mind and spirit. Not only do you use it without interference from others, but it becomes a habitat to feel grounded and centered. You can relax and let loose in your sacred space. It’s familiarity might make you feel erotic, beautiful, accomplished, or at home with yourself.

You should decorate it with candles, incense, pillows and tapestry, or anything that invokes the moods and feelings you want to have. A sacred space free of noise and clutter is an essential part of having a successful home yoga practice in the longterm. Otherwise, you are likely to give up due to the subconscious notion that it’s not where your heart is, and not where you can work on yourself.

2. Place Your Mat on a Wood Floor

Yoga works better if you have a wooden floor below your mat. At the least, a hard rug will do, but it gets quite annoying to place your mat on a thick, soft carpet. I have had to deal with the latter at times while in transitional living conditions at law school.

The importance of a wood floor, which I thankfully have now, is vital if you want to reap the most from your yoga practice. When you place your mat on a soft surface it causes ‘sinking’ while in poses. Whether in down-dog, up-dog, warrior poses, inversions, etc., you are force to put extra effort into your position.

I have first-hand knowledge of this. I distinctly remember doing yoga in the room I had to live in for a few months when I first moved to California. It had a soft rug which caused all my poses to be compromised. I had previously come from Massachusetts where I enjoyed wood floor under my mat for years. The constant sinking into the mat while in handstand, headstand, and standing poses caused my grip to be compromised. My balance suffered as a result.

Then, I remember moving to where I live now: what a difference. As soon as I got back on a spacious hardwood floor my long-yearned satisfaction returned. It had been a year, and I nearly forgot how good it felt to rest my crown in headstand against a hardwood floor. It just felt so much better under my Lululemon mat.

My stability improved in every pose and I could flow easier between them. Remaining in asanas for extended periods was almost effortless—without the shakiness or uneven footing.

No matter how advanced you are at yoga, doing asanas on sand or other soft surfaces is not only difficult but unenjoyable. One may assume that it works your body more, but in my own experience it just makes unneeded stress.

3. Rearrange Furniture for a Spacious Area

When doing yoga, nothing gets more frustrating than having your legs or arms touch against couches or other furniture when trying to ‘stretch.’ Yoga is about letting go and relieving stress as you go within and focus on your inner self. Moreover, if you’re in a cramped location without the ability to harness the fullest extent of your practice, why are you doing it?

Make it priority to rearrange furniture. You’ll want the maximum space available to place your mat. Even if you cannot touch a chair, desk or couch when extending your arm—frustration amounts if you can ‘almost’ touch it.

When I’ve moved to various living spaces I would take the bed (unless I brought my own) and move it to the farthest corner against the wall. I would also do this with chairs, a desks and other furniture. That way my yoga space was maximized with a greater ability to stretch and relax.

4. Have Proper Temperature and Ventilation

Air flow is vitally important for a successful and enjoyable yoga practice. There is nothing more frustrating than staying in a room with no fresh air coming in from the outside. Never mind trying to exercise, do yoga or meditate—just being in a room without good ventilation is bad for your health.

So many toxins exist within the fabrics of furniture, carpets, and other substances like paint and varnish. If you live in a moist environment you might have mold spores floating around in the air. Though you don’t see them, those microscopic particles wreak havoc on your health via their entrance through the airway—and into the bloodstream.

If it’s too hot, you might want to still have a window open even with an air conditioner on. The constant recycling of air becomes stale, which of course you rebreathe. I personally like a fan during hot days along with maximum ventilation, unless the heat is just unbearable.

During a hot day, if you can tolerate the room without the AC on, the extra sweating helps release toxins as well as allow for better flexibility. Higher temperatures really help muscles to stretch.

5. Be Creative and Take Your Time

When you do yoga at your own home you aren’t paying by the hour. This means you have all the time that your schedule allows. Your home yoga routine can be rewarding and satisfying, beyond going out to a studio, because you can take your time for free. Your focus gets stronger and you can go deeper in your asanas. Rather than changing poses by the leading of a teacher, your inherent intuition tells you when it’s time to switch.

While doing yoga with a group, the teacher might give you 5 minutes in headstand. However, some people may want to stay there longer. We are all at unique phases in our body and mind. Some may find that a particular pose is just what their body needs. Thus in a home yoga practice that is self directed, you drive the ship of your session.

Creativity gets broader with a home yoga practice because there are no limits to what you might want to try. You may like naked yoga, or doing yoga with limited clothing. In contrast to a studio, you can practice however you want in the privacy of your own room.

Not that doing yoga in community at a studio is bad; it has its own benefits. However, when it comes to personal healing and ambition to reach your highest goals, there’s nothing like being alone.

6. Develop a Meditation Time

Many of us like to meditate first thing in the morning, while others fit it in during afternoon or evening. Whatever works for you is what you should honor. Your sacred space for yoga is also your meditation or contemplation place.

There are times when you may not feel like doing yoga, but instead just want to sit in silence. This is normal. It’s good to have a balance between keeping a strict schedule and allowing yourself to flow. Life has its challenges and unexpected circumstances. In my post on the evolution of my yoga practice over the years, I shared how my schedule often varies depending on how I feel, even though I do keep a steady routine as a rule of thumb.

Meditation is so helpful though beyond calming down. The biological effects are outstanding. Studies have been done on the lengthening of telomeres via the increase in the enzyme telomerase from regular meditation. The parasympathetic nervous system is key for all forms of healing—you can’t restore in a stressed, sympathetic state.

The beauty of cultivating a home meditation routine allows you to explore yourself in a deeper way, by listening to yourself. There’s no external teacher guiding you—you ‘are’ the teacher. You can go beyond the boundaries of whatever a studio can provide because only YOU know what’s best for your body, mind and spirit at a given time. Therefore, craft your practice based on what you ‘need’ individually, rather than conforming to the norms of a group.

7. Use the Internet: Share Your Home Practice with the Outside World

Just because you are doing yoga alone at home doesn’t mean you cannot reveal it to anyone else. The advantage of our interconnected world via the Internet makes sharing your personal home practice with others a virtue. You can contribute tips, knowledge, encouragement, or simply express your unique and authentic self.

I never ascribed to the notion that yoga had to be separate or nullified from ‘ego.’ In fact, the term originated from Sigmund Freud, and there is really no part of the brain labeled as such. There is a difference between being haughty and being expressive of your individual, authentic self. There’s nothing wrong with taking selfies and sharing your poses with the world. Whether you choose to blog about your practice and post photo galleries on your own website, or just share on social media, a home yoga practice can be very ‘public.’

8. Make Music Playlists to Drive Your Efforts

There is something powerful about music that moves you to go beyond your preconditioned state. Lyrics and beats enliven the heart. They infuse passion and motivation to thrust you out of your comfort zone toward your goals.

I have personally found music to play an integral role in the productivity. Yoga is about letting go, but it still takes discipline. There is a work-rest process in asana flow. You are disciplining yourself to hold in a pose or thrust yourself up to a new one; however you then rest and relax in between. Yogic sequencing offers so much benefits because the nervous system is toned through breath-work and fluctuations in muscle intensity. This has immense benefits on both the endocrine and musculoskeletal systems.

Thus making yourself do this—day in and day out—you are promoting your wellness profoundly. Music will make this easier, even if you are all alone.

9. Find Your Favorite Guided Yoga Classes on DVD and the Internet

Perhaps you like to be guided by a teacher. This is common. In addition to disciplining yourself to move through poses, you can have a virtual coach—and there are PLENTY to choose from.

Some people like naked yoga. I personally love it. My favorite guided yoga session on DVD is available on Amazon:

Yoga Undressed: The Goddess Series Collection (Naked Yoga for the Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced)

9. Drink Organic Tea or Coffee with Nothing Added

Moderate amounts of caffeine will actually help you focus. In addition, drinking coffee or tea with no added sugar (to not raise blood sugar) will give you polyphenols while you workout. Some form of stimulant such as coffee or tea can actually help you concentrate on yourself while alone at your practice.

I have found organic yerba maté to be an excellent drink to accompany my home yoga practice. I also drink matcha or coffee sometimes, but always organic. I neither want nor need the pesticides.

10. Use Props and Equipment to Aid Your Practice

Quality yoga mats and other accessories cause less stress and more enjoyment while doing your asanas. When you don’t have partners or a teacher to assist you with body alignment or helping you get into challenging poses, straps, blocks and thick mats help a lot!

I have come a long way in my home practice ever since I stopped going to studious so much. The combination of having a sacred space in a welcoming environment, with proper equipment—made my practice a lot easier and more fun. I really have come a long way in my skill level on my own, and I attribute this to having used quality equipment.

Gaiam Yoga Props & Accessories Banner

11. Start Early in the Morning

Completing a home yoga session everyday first thing in the morning is very satisfying and rewarding. I have found 4:45 am to be an ideal time to wake up. This will not work for everyone. Perhaps you like doing yoga in the afternoon or when its more convenient, depending on your schedule. Find what works for you.

We all have unique circumstances and living conditions. That said, the less distractions, the better. There is something mystical about getting up early in the morning before most people are awake. This is YOUR time, to do whatever you want. Early in the morning you can plan your day and accomplish tasks with less stress. This is because it’s quite and your mood is fresh from having just woken up.

Thus, doing yoga early in the morning before everything else kickstarts your day. You get a boost of healthy hormones and endorphins that charge your body and lift your mood. The habits that you cultivate each morning having powerful benefits in the long run.

Navigating the Arguments on Gluten, Vegan Oil Use and Fat

I feel the need to voice frustrations on my research of grains, gluten, the use of oil in cooking, and the effects of various fats. You and I both know there is terrible confusion out there when conducting a Google search on any of these topics. Popular YouTube videos and articles by medical doctors, chiropractors, PhD researchers, and other health enthusiasts make polar opposite claims. They are at war with each other over acclaimed facts and substantial research in health and nutrition.

It irritates me to see smart people who understand biology and nutrition, adamantly say why their own philosophy is real science compared to others who allegedly miss the point. What is going on here? Our health is at stake. Time is precious, and people want to know what they should and should not eat.

Say ‘bye’ to the good-old days of eating anywhere you like

Just about every restaurant and eatery out there uses cheap, rancid cooking oils loaded with too much omega-6, hormone-laden meats that were fed grain, and other harmful ingredients. Just about anything that is not organic will have glyphosate residue. This Monsanto pesticide destroys the gut lining among other negative effects.

For a while, Indian restaurants were one of my favorite cuisines until I gave them up. I love using spices such as turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, cardamon, etc., due to their numerous health benefits. I learned quite a bit about Ayurveda in 2011 when I got into yoga and meditation. Though I enjoyed stopping at Indian restaurants to eat, I soon realized that I had to cease going in order to maintain my health standards.

Most restaurants out there, unless they’re high-end (expensive) and consciously managed, save money by using conventional grains, meat, dairy, eggs, flour, vegetables, fruits, and cooking oils. A couple restaurants I know of in the San Diego area are Café Gratitude and Haggo’s Organic Taco. These restaurants use only high quality ingredients devoid of GMOs, to the best of my knowledge.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is ‘healthy’ to eat lots of their meals. Consuming too much organic GMO-free canola oil for example, will increase your inflammatory markers. If you are sensitive to certain lectins (like most people are whether they know it), and you have a weak intestinal tract from previous damage, your menu options are limited.

That said, I can’t just eat anywhere I please. It’s not easy—unlike the good old days when virtually everything was naturally organic. Back in the 50s and 60s you could stop to eat at just about any restaurant of your choice without worry. Now unfortunately, we live in a toxic world where almost every eatery is chalk-full of borderline poison. If you want to reach your optimum wellness and fitness potential, stay out of 99% of restaurants regularly.

Most cooking oils from restaurants are genetically modified and rancid

It didn’t take long for me to stop going to restaurants, unless they were the limited organic, conscious ones. Most eateries and takeout places serve junk oil that has been genetically modified. Why? Because it’s CHEAP. Obviously it’s more expensive to supply organic cold-pressed oils at your restaurant.

Thus many restaurants, in an effort to save more money, will often use the same oils over again in deep frying. Even if they claim that they change their oil frequently, it might not be after every heating cycle. Once oils are heated to smoke point they become dangerous to health due to their volatile nature at the molecular level.

Moreover, it is wise NOT to cook with oil in most cases due to the danger of rancidity. Also, added omega-6 vegetable fats may overburden your fat limits if you already have plant sources of fat in your food, creating more inflammation and free radical damage.

The omega-6 to omega-3 ratio should be 4:1, researchers say. However, the Standard American Diet (SAD) often results in a ratio of 40:1!

My experience with gluten

Growing up, I never had problems with gluten-containing grains such as wheat, barley and rye, until around 2012 when I left the Marine Corps. I became vegetarian for the most part, and was eating wheat in the form of pasta and other whole grain that I usually bought at Whole Foods Market. These products were almost always organic, or GMO-free at the least.

Here’s the problem. Around late 2012 I noticed an eczema rash on my right ankle. It got worse the following year even though I ate clean in all regards. The rest of my body was fine, but this annoying skin inflammation would not go away. I knew something about my diet had to change.

Recently I’ve seen great improvements after employing a strict regimen of removing ALL gluten, eating plenty of greens, and breaking my vegan diet by taking pharmaceutical-grade cod liver oil high in retinol (vitamin A). I also started taking supplemental vitamin D along with zinc, for tissue repair. After about 6 years of dealing with this awfully embarrassing, flaky and itchy rash, I’ve recently seen it start to diminish.

It’s almost gone. The eczema only comes back when I eat gluten for a week. Yes, I have experimented extensively with my diet to pinpoint the problem—sort of like a ‘biohacker.’ I guess you could call me one. It’s not just gluten though, which is a minor ‘lectin.’ There are numerous lectins in the seeds and skins of most plants, some of which can be removed by pressure cooking. Others however, like gluten, can be boiled or even pressure cooked for long periods of time—but the lectins will not be destroyed.

I have said, “Maybe it’s not the gluten, but the glyphosate, since it’s sprayed on crops and causes leaky gut.” I decide to consume only 100% organic wheat products like Ezekiel Bread, which is also sprouted. I bought my old 365 (Whole Foods brand) organic whole wheat pasta again. I honestly miss the taste. Nevertheless my health comes first.

I tried this last week—for the last time—because after noticing my old symptoms come back, I said “Enough.” The rash on my ankle started returning with annoying itchiness and red swelling (inflammation). Acne and skin pimples also returned on my neck along as well as on my left thigh, for whatever reason.

Moreover, I am absolutely sure I do not have celiac disease because I have eaten wheat and other gluten-containing grains my whole life, and never had symptoms. These skin problems developed in 2012 when I got out of the Marine Corps.

Come to think of it, I did have mandatory vaccinations during my 6 years. That’s another beast to investigate, and also reverse at all costs.

Today’s wheat is not the same

Since the 1970s, wheat has been hybridized. A laboratory process involved changing the genetic structure of wheat grass, making it grow short and stocky. Dr. William Davis has a lot of information on this because he researched it for his groundbreaking book, Wheat Belly.

Basically, wheat was hybridized by an interbreeding process through the work of Norman Borlaug. This is not the same as Einkorn wheat that was an earlier hybrid of the grasses’ interbreeding. In fact, the wheat mentioned in the Bible was the Emmer variety. Unlike humans who pass on a fixed number or chromosomes to their offspring, grasses such as wheat can crossbreed by contributing chromosomes in otherwise complex ways.

Dr. Davis also clams that since about ten-thousand years ago when humans stopped grazing as nomads and introduced grains, we stunted our growth and caused all kinds of inflammatory responses in our biology. This includes tooth decay.

Nonetheless, many people whether vegan or not don’t buy into the claims that gluten should be avoided. They feel it doesn’t seem to bother them. The question I have concerning this whether they ever eliminated gluten for a time period as an experiment to see if they felt better.

I know that when I first tried this experiment by removing gluten, I felt ‘lighter.’ Of course I had physical manifestations in the form of skin issues, but I noticed my mood changed as well.

I began to notice that the brain fog went away. Fogy thinking is sort of hard to describe, especially if you’ve never had it. It feels as though your cognitive functions still work, but with the added sensation of heaviness. In other words, it’s hard to know whether you have a clear mind, until you actually remove what is causing it.

Whole Grains are nutritious and excellent for the gut

I have heard Dr. Davis and others say that humans shouldn’t be eating grains at all. They argue that our ideal diet should be animals, vegetables, tubers and other starches in moderation, and fruit when in season. This sounds too much like typical Paleo doctrine though, and the only health leaders advocating this are not vegan—but omnivores. It seems to support the notion that they are too comfortable with their way of eating, regardless of the emerging science about grains for a healthy microbiome.

When I say “plant based diet” I don’t necessarily mean vegan. It simply implies getting most of your foods from plants—as a base. If you include small amounts of animal products, that’s your choice. As vegan doctor Michael Greger, MD, once said, it’s not “black and white” when referring to the benefits of moving toward plant-based eating.

That said, I personally have chosen to be vegan. I like what the science says on anti-aging and disease prevention concerning plant-only eating, and the way I feel overall.

Nonetheless, plant-based doctors and plant-based advocates generally agree that humans benefit most from a diet of whole grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, fruits and vegetables. There is substantial protein in grains, which combines with the amino acid profiles of other plant proteins, making them complete (all eight essential amino acids—like steak). In addition, grains are loaded with high quality fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Whole grains such as oats, millet, and buckwheat are loaded with soluble and insoluble fiber. This not only cleans the colon and arteries but gives the good bugs in the GI tract what they need to thrive.

Another criticism among omnivorous eaters is that too much phytates exist in grains, which blunt mineral absorption like zinc and iron. This is far fetched through. Not only does phytic acid protect against cancer, but it can be diminished through soaking or sprouting. Grains, legumes, lentils, and peas can also be combined with illiums like garlic or onions to help absorb minerals that might be otherwise get blocked by phytic acid. This method has been tested with success; thus some feel sulfur content to be responsible for this.

Absurd claims by vegan advocates to avoid all oil without exception

Even though I am no fan of cooking oil, it doesn’t mean that oil is inherently bad per se. There are health experts and doctors in the vegan community who vehemently criticize the notion of cooking using oils on your foods, even if it’s GMO-free and organic.

A little fat is needed in order to absorb plant polyphenols. If you are eating a big salad, without any avocado, nuts (or perhaps a little virgin olive oil), you are likely losing out on mega benefits of all those colorful antioxidant compounds in the plants. They are probably passing right through your digestive tract and out the other end.

Therefore, let’s keep a little common sense and perspective with regards to oils and fat. Yes, olive oil is processed, but if it’s unfiltered, cold-pressed and organic—it’s packed with valuable polyphenols from the olives.

The anti-oil advocates argue that you’re missing out on the lost fiber and other nutrients that have been discarded during the oil-making process. However, this is silly. As mentioned above, if your’e consuming a quality grade coconut or olive oil, for example, you’re still conveniently getting much of the ‘good stuff.’

Using small amounts of clean oil is not unhealthy

If you only use a little clean oil with your meal, assuming your plate is not overloaded with nuts or avocados, you are not overburdening your plate with calories. The fact that lots of plant product is discarded to make a small amount of oil—does not mean that MATH doesn’t apply.

In other words, using a reasonable amount of oil on a healthy starch, legume or grain meal that does not have nuts, avocados, or other whole plant source of fat, is not an issue. In fact, in that case you will get the small amount of necessary lipids needed to help absorb the fat-soluble antioxidants in the food.

As long as your oil is GMO-free, and preferably organic, a little won’t put your omega-6s out of balance so long as you’re getting enough omega-3. I personally follow Dr. Michael Greger’s advice and consume about 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed everyday, usually on my oatmeal in the morning.

I’m just using my intuition and acquired knowledge. I still avoid snacks like chips, and entrees at vegan restaurants that contain oil even if they’re one-hundred percent organic, because I don’t want to overburden my body with omega-6 fats. That said, sometimes I prefer a small amount of good olive oil on my salad instead of whole olives or nuts. What’s the big deal?

Why are the anti-oil advocates so extreme in this regard? It’s because they blanket all Americans as lacking self-control or moderation. Instead of being logically accurate with common sense, they dumb it down for the average person.

However, my readers on this blog are conscientious and above average. I deliberately geared this site for people like you. So, to you high caliber health advocates—this cookie cutter advice is NOT for you.

Put good saturated fat on a ‘budget’ and use monounsaturated options

I have had an interesting relationship with saturated fat since my plant-based journey began. Though high levels of saturated fat may increase LDL cholesterol and clog arteries, this an indirect response due to inflammation and oxidation at the arterial lining. Take away the substances that cause inflammation and oxidation, like sugar and excessive carbs, and you have less of a threat.

Hence, polyphenols in foods such as olive oil, tea, cocoa, and other plants are shown to have been shown to profoundly enhance arterial health by lessening stiffness and reducing inflammation. These phenolic compounds act as water on a fire by preventing free radical damage (aka. oxidation) that causes inflammation and plague to form. A diet devoid of these phytochemicals is a prescription for heart disease.

Nevertheless, vegetable and fruit oils have been shown to inhibit cardiovascular function after a heavy meal. The vegans love to rant on this and say that even olive oil has been shown to do this in some studies. Therefore, eliminate organic olive or avocado oil? This is absurd! Yes, avoid processed polyunsaturated vegetable oils like the plague (corn, canola, soy, safflower, peanut, etc.), but don’t skimp out on the beneficial

However, the bottom line is: (1) keep inflammation under control by consuming polyphenols and other anti-inflammatory foods that contribute to heart health, such as omega-3 fatty acids; (2) stop consuming processed pro-inflammatory vegetable oils high in omega-6 (which imbalance your vital EFA ratio); and (3) stop consuming sugar, whether from excessive fruit, fruit juices (i.e. carrot juice), excessive grains, and refined flour.

It seems that both benefits and drawbacks exist with consuming saturated fat. As one who avoids animal products altogether, that would be coconut and palm oil for me. Still, a little saturated fat doesn’t seem dangerous considering it is a type of fat that cannot oxidize, unlike polyunsaturated fats.

I have heard chiropractic doctors and other natural health researchers say that the body uses saturated fat for cell membranes and hormone production. My argument again points to common sense and self-regulating of one’s consumption. If a little saturated is actually beneficial, then have self-control rather than going cold-turkey on avoidance. It’s about being mature and responsible.

Dr. Andrew Weil, MD, has modified his stance on saturated fat over the years. He says we should have a “budget” on its consumption. Emerging studies conclude that saturated fat and cholesterol ALONE do NOT cause heart disease (atherosclerosis: hardening of arteries). Rather, the plague is formed by oxidation due to inflammation, which elevated blood sugar levels have a lot to do with.

Conclusion

We are living in an age of information overload. This is not necessarily a bad thing considering that all the information is at our fingertips. The only requirements are self-control, focus, and determination to discover the truth for yourself concerning health. These hot topics (gluten, oil use, and fat) take work to uncover the truth.

There’s so many opposing views among otherwise intelligent and reputable people out there. A major reason for this is the agenda of such people and the groups they associate with. If a corporation or food industrial entity (i.e. American Egg Board, National Dairy Council) wants to sell a product or promote a diet, they will often fund studies that are biased toward their prerogative. They often pay doctors and lab researchers for studies that favor their ultimate motive.

Thus you can use the same bias as a vegan and say that all animal products have absolutely no good use. This is just nonsense. Look at the way our ancestors have been eating for thousands of years—most of the time WITHOUT heart attacks.

I see doctors, many of whom I still listen to and respect, say opposing claims about gluten, oil and saturated fat—largely because they are defending their own dietary lifestyles. That is, the carnivores don’t want to give up meat, and the vegans don’t want to recognize facts that may conflict with their own opinions.

Everyone in these opposing camps say that what they claim is the ‘true science.’ Sure. Truth is, one of them is right, and the other is wrong. If 2 + 2 equals 4 to one person and 3 to another, both cannot be right.

That is why I do my own research and really hone in on what these people are saying. After all, it’s my body and future health that’s at stake—not theirs.

The Evolution of My Yoga Practice (2010 – 2018)

My yoga practice has evolved immensely from basic asanas to advanced and challenging poses with restorative breath-work. I love how yoga has transformed my mind, body and spirit for the better. Here’s my journey. Enjoy!

My early beginnings with yoga and meditation starting in 2010

When I took my first yoga class in 2010 at an upstairs studio in Harvard Square of Cambridge, Massachusetts, the basic poses of that intermediate level class seemed hard to me that day, but I soon adapted. I was already in good physical shape as both a fitness enthusiast and active duty Marine, but the ancient combination of breath-work and deep stretching propelled my fitness to new heights. There was something new and exciting about yoga, meditation, and the hip trend that was starting to boom in society.

I say this because it opened my creativity to working out. Yoga is a different kind of exercise. In fact it’s much more than just exercise. Although it targets muscle groups like other types of workouts, the practice directs you to focus more on yourself in the present moment, as well as cultivating appreciation for simple observations such as inner feels, moods, sensations, posture, and physical surroundings.

Before I started doing yoga I would always stretched after workouts, but yoga took my physical fitness to a new level. It also changed me spiritually in more ways than one—making me look at life a little different. My awareness was introduced to a totally new universe—and I truly mean that. I say “awareness” in both a practical and mystical sense.

There is so much about life that we cannot explain. This vast mystery seems to call out to us, causing us to explore and go deeper. Yoga made me yearn to go deeper in my soul toward experiencing the fullness of life, while not taking anything for granted.

When you start practicing yoga and meditation, you begin focusing on yourself in a deeper way: recognizing how you feel, memories come up, suppressed emotions emerge, etc. This is because yoga and meditation trigger the autonomic nervous system by taking you out of fight-or-flight and toward inner peace via the parasympathetic response.

The hormones and chemicals that change in the body from yoga and meditation are immense. Numerous studies have been done on how yoga and meditation practice changes your biology for the better. Truly a remarkable ancient discipline!

Here’s the abstract of one study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI):

Meditation and Yoga techniques are receiving increased attention throughout the world, due to the accumulation of evidence based research that proves the direct and indirect benefits of such practices. Based on studies conducted so far, it has been found that the practice of meditation triggers neurotransmitters that modulate psychological disorders such as anxiety. This paper will review the psychological effects of the practice of meditation, the role of neurotransmitters, and studies using EEG and fMRI.

The psychological and spiritual effects of yoga

Yoga really does bring you toward new insights in the mystery of life itself. When I first started meditating, I remember one session at home in my room while listening to a Deva Premal album. While sitting in a lotus-style posture, I had an emotional release that resulted in memorable tears of joy. This experience was unique from other previous ‘spiritual’ occurrences.

I began exploring the power of mantras and third-eye meditation. It resulted in more levelheadedness and inner peace—mainly because I could control my mind much better. Deva Premal is a German-born female artist who made a career singing ancient Hindu mantras from the Sanskrit tradition. She has a beautiful voice and her music is captivating. For some reason, I felt drawn to her CDs in the bookstore.

Check out Amazon’s Deva Premal music.

I think yoga and meditation changes the mind because techniques such as focusing on your breath, whether through sitting in lotus or doing asanas, creates new neural pathways in the brain. This phenomena leads to a popular field of science called neuroplasticity (see Amazon books).

Researchers in biology and the mind-body connection have written extensively on this phenomenon. It flies in the face of old, outdated science which states that cognitive neuro-circuitry is fixed throughout life. This is not true. You can change!

Finding resilience through yoga and meditation

We all know that life throws curveballs at us. This is expected. However, a major part of yogic philosophy is likened to surfing—we must move through the ocean of challenges and ride the waves of the storm. This can be fun. It all depends on how you look at life. If you see yourself as a victim of circumstance, then any disappointment becomes a weight that brings your spirit low.

However, if you see life as a learning experience in which you exist for a purpose, then you will take on setbacks in order to grow and evolve. This outlook pertains to the notion that you are here for a purpose—to reach your fullest potential in body, mind and spirit—and whatever happens is for a reason in order to reach that ideal.

Yoga can be spiritual instruction in the subtle way that it teaches you to center yourself through the challenging poses. As you move through various asanas, learning to breath with the changing pressure, you begin developing a sense of self-control no matter what ‘position’ you find yourself in.

Yoga is a form of psychological conditioning because experiences on the mat become fortified in how you relate to and approach life. It may sound cliché, but because there are biological changes in the brain and body from its unique nature, yoga changes the brain’s wiring.

I have personally found yoga to be an escape from all the hustle, bustle and rigors of life. Stress is inevitable, and yoga provides a way to smooth out the wrinkles of life in a tangible way.

An advance yoga practitioner by 2012

Before resigning my commission in the U.S. Marines my last duty station was in Quantico, Virginia, not far from D.C. I belonged to a studio there in the District. There were some great yoga teachers there who taught me more poses that expanded my practice. The majority of my yogic fundamentals though, came from my early roots in Massachusetts. When I first started doing yoga and meditating in Boston, I belonged to a local studio in Newton, MA, called Down Under School of Yoga.

These were the good old days. Between spring of 2010 and spring of 2011 I was stationed on active duty in my home stomping-ground of Eastern Massachusetts. The teachers I had, such as Coeli Marsh and Jojo Flaherty, gave me my foundations. Lots of my personal techniques and unique ways of posturing come from the way these women taught me.

Yoga is definitely a ministry of lineage in which teachers pass on their wisdom and knowledge to subsequent generations. It affects you in a personal way as a student because their memorable imprint lives out in your own journey. Because yoga is deep, pervasive and life-changing, the subjective experiences you have on the mat and with others firmly affect your life trajectory.

By late 2012, I moved back home to Massachusetts upon my honorable discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps. Here, my home yoga practice really took off.

I stopped paying monthly memberships, not because I didn’t like the studios or the social benefits, but because I enjoyed practicing yoga at home in the privacy of my room. To be honest, I actually needed the extra money as well as more time to focus on my life goals. Yoga studios can take a lot from both your wallet and your schedule—because once you pay that monthly fee, you really want to get your money’s worth.

I did my first handstand as well as other advanced poses during this period in 2013. My daily practice got disciplined and involved. I would commit to spending on average an hour or two each day doing yoga.

Alternating between different sequences (standing poses, sitting poses, yin yoga, etc.) every other day was key as to not overwork any one muscle group. Just like with conventional workouts involving weights, calisthenics and machines, yoga is no different because you are still tearing down and building new muscle by using your own weight. Hence stretching can be overdone if adequate rest is not taken.

Then comes naked yoga

Naked yoga was always a part of my home practice since the early days. However, I enjoy both clothed yoga and naked yoga depending on now I feel. It’s all about flowing in the moment. Sometimes yoga is just fun and invigorating—like any other workout. Sometimes its sensual and sexy. Often it’s a combination of these experiences.

I came across Yoga Undressed The Goddess Series by someone posting the trailer on Facebook. I soon bought the four-set DVDs and benefited greatly from this production. The tantric-style yoga practice involving kundalini exercises combined with traditional hatha yoga made for an exceptional yogic practice. I still watch the DVDs through digital download on my computer whenever I feel like letting the video session guide me.

Purchase the full DVD series set on Amazon.

My yoga practice encompasses holistic restoration of body, mind, and spirit

As a biohacker, or one seeking to reach my highest potential in fitness and health, yoga covers everything that improves one’s overall wellness: (1) parasympathetic response through pranayama (breath-work) and meditation, (2) deep stretching to improve flexibility and posture, (3) building defined and toned muscles through weight-bearing exercise, and (4) detoxification via stretching and twisting asanas, which move waste out of the lymphatic system.

Yoga practice varies depending on what I go through

During touch times a yoga session may not be intense with body building exercises. However, it sure helps when you push through the resistance and get your heart pumping. Once endorphins are released in the brain through all that pranayama and flowing asanas, your outlook and mood can radically improve.

There seems to be constant struggles in life no matter how hard you work to make your life ideal. There are unexpected setbacks and challenges that you must overcome, whether you feel like it or not. Knowing yoga greatly improves your focus and mood concerning the tackling of these responsibilities, and knowing that it maintains age-defying health benefits and holistic improvements overall, consciously choosing to commit to a daily yoga routine puts you in the one percent.