Nicola Yvette

Let Go, Let God

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Have you heard the old adage of “sitting on your hands”? Well over the past few weeks I have been literally sleeping on my hands. During my deepest slumber, I would awaken to painful tingling up and down my arms – my limbs were falling asleep. One night it was so bad I thought I dislocated my shoulder. My body was talking to me, it was telling me something that I was pushing out of my thoughts during the day; I was not just sitting on my hands, I was sleeping on them!

I couldn’t meditate or concentrate without this one particular thought crawling around the back of my mind – ‘I worked in a toxic environment’. I was putting off quitting out of fear: fear of not being able to get more clients, not being able to pay bills, or perhaps ruining my reputation. There is no postponing the inevitable yet for some reason I was stalling.

I only worked at this place for 5 hours a week but it felt like 50. It was consuming my energy for my personal business. My clients were leaving their jobs to find greener pastures, I praised them for their bravery while I remained a coward. Interesting how I can take care of myself physically just fine but mentally I was being irresponsible. Since I listen to my body, obviously more than my psyche, it screamed at me to stop being complacent.

When we ignore problems they might manifest into other areas, then we internalize and have no choice but to eventually deal with it down the road. Sleeping on my hands was one loud cry to deal with the current situation. Tight hips/tight shoulders don’t just arise out of nowhere. We are carrying ourselves inside ourselves: we are carrying negative emotions, the past, behavioral patterns, relationships, fear and holding onto it. In order to change the holding patterns of our body we need to change the patterns in which we live our lives. This is part of letting go.

To live in fear, causes you and those around you to suffer. Fear-based decision making is holding you back from living. Get yourself on track-by addressing what you need to do to live a healthy life both mentally and physically:

1. Know the root of your unhappiness: can you pinpoint what is causing you displeasure? If so give it a name and evaluate why you are letting this happen.

2. How are you addressing this problem: are you dealing with this problem by voicing it externally or internally? Externally can mean you are discussing it in a healthy way with the people who can help bring about positive change (i.e. if someone at your work is causing you discomfort maybe you should discuss it directly with them). On the flip side, avoid wasting excessive breath on negative energy. Its healthy to vent but when radiating steam turns into a part-time job you are giving it too much power. Don’t let anything take your happiness away from you. My husband and I have a rule that we complain about work outside the walls of our home so our house can be a place of joy.

Internalizing issues, sweeping things under a rug, can often become more dangerous in the future. This is where we begin to hold onto things but deny the power of the issue. We deny that both the mind and body suffers. We think we can lock things away but instead our joints lock up or worse (note that stress is a killer).

3. Does this problem motivate you physically: wherever you go there you are. Movement, yoga, exercise or any physical practice will help manage the stressors of life. However, management does not necessarily mean elimination. I believe physical movement has the power to heal, otherwise I wouldn’t teach it, it absolutely works wonders. However, when we run away from things they do catch-up to us. Maybe your situation can be dealt with through physical movement alone, but if not read on.

4. If you conclude that the problem won’t change, then you need to. You are solely responsible for your life and the sole instrument of change. When you have exhausted your resources looking for a solution, finding none, realize that the best solution is usually your initial instinct and move forward. Put your actions into motion and let go of what is holding you back.

Yesterday, I received an email from my employer telling me that I was no longer needed at work. I had a sound sleep because my hands weren’t pinned underneath me. I had made the decision to leave before receiving the email but fate sometimes trumps the plan. Things have a way of working themselves out and it is those honest moments of ‘I am sitting on my hands’ that gives you the power to admit what works for you and what does not.

3 Minute Pain-Free Workout

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Sometimes our backs hurts due to weakness in our abdominal wall or tightness in our legs. This quick workout is designed to bring specific attention into those areas. I suggest training with me to know how I teach the alignment of these exercises before attempting it yourself:

10-20x Lunges (each side) – walk your feet about three feet apart and line your front and back leg into perfect 90 degree angles. The back knee never drops below the line of the heel and the front leg stays atop the ankle but never boils over the toes. *Think about lifting your spine up to the ceiling, as opposed to sending the torso forward over the front thigh, as you lunge down and up. Keep a slow rhythm; 4 counts down and 4 counts up.

3x Wall Press – lean against a flat wall, walk your feet 2.5 feet forward and begin to slide your back down. Your hips will drop barely above the knee (never below), you are creating a table top with your thighs. Press your back firmly into the wall by reaching your abdominals to your spine. Push the hands back into the wall and hold, working your way up to 30 seconds.

Tabletop Breathing – lower yourself onto a mat on your back. Lift your legs, one at a time, up so that the shins parallel the sky (tabletop legs). Let the lower back spread into the mat and feel your abdominals pull deep into your spine. Practice contracting your abdominals in this position. Inhale to relax the abs and exhale to contract them deeply. 10 breaths. Lower the legs back to the mat.

4 Square Stretch – Place the right ankle above the left knee and let the right knee open the hip. Hold for 5 breaths and switch legs. If you need more stretch grab the thigh of the supporting leg towards the chest but keep your hips heavy on the mat.

Cat/Cow – on all 4s, inhale to lift your head and lower the stomach towards the mat, exhale to lower the head and lift your stomach towards the sky. Keep the abdominals engaged throughout and use them to support the spine.

Have a great pain-free day!





Adjust to Daylight Savings

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Rabbit’s Pose helps adjust your circadian rhythm; incredibly helpful especially once the clock leaps forward. Now if you have never done this pose don’t do it without the guidance of an instructor, people with neck or back injuries need to take extra precautions. Here is a pose I use to help wind my clock back to normal.

Rabbits Pose:

1. An easy way to approach this pose is to begin in child’s pose.

2. Wrap your hands around your feet. Doesn’t matter where you grab but a firm foundation is helpful.

3. Tuck the chin towards the chest but not tight into the chest, roll the crown of the head onto the mat, begin to lift your abdominals into your spine on an exhale.

4. Holding the abdominals into the spine, start to lift your seat away from your child’s pose, and round your back towards the sky.

5. Hold the pose for 5 deep breaths, or 10 to 20 seconds.

Note that no pressure is placed on the neck. Your abs hold you in place. Good luck adjusting to Daylight Savings this week :)

Spring Skin

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Now that spring is peaking through the clouds, our skins changes with the season. Usually skin is drier in winter but with the stirrings of spring many things will start to awaken, including the sebaceous glands which excrete oils. Sounds nasty but its just your pores delivering all the (good) oils to the face. Often times glands produce more oils than necessary which causes blackheads etc. In order to change with the season, we change our routines, including our winter skin regimen which requires more moisturizing.

The best beauty secret for spring is black soap (aka African Black Soap). Black soap is typically made from dried plantain skins, shea butter, cocoa pods and various other natural ingredients. Its has Vitamin A & E, and iron. The soap is also good for sensitive skin, like mine. I started using early this season because my skin become oiler in February.

I use the Nubian Heritage brand from Wholefoods, costs about $4 (I can’t believe I used to use expensive products that caused harm to my skin and the earth). I have been using the same bar for over a month and its only half way gone. Rinse your face, rub the bar between your palms and create a little lather, wash your face for 15 to 30 seconds with a gentle circular motion up to the hairline, rinse and moisturize. The soap can be trying initially so start with a smaller amount on the face and work up to 30 seconds.

For moisturizer I like Alaffia Rooibos & Shea Butter Antioxidant Face Cream , $16. This is very gentle and my skin looks refreshed. I used pure cold pressed jojoba oil in the winter but this is lighter for spring. Its an earth friendly, free trade line of products. My black soap works really well in conjunction with the moisturizer.

The diet should start to lighten this season as well. Remember it this way: the more light in the sky, the lighter the diet, the lighter the psyche. The skin wears the inside of the body on your face. Drink water, drink or eat your greens (juice), cut back on refined sugars, dairy and greasy meat products. Eat to nourish as opposed to stuff your gut. Your skin radiates from your inside out so take care of all of you, emotionally and physically.

Days Off?

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I haven’t had a day off since my birthday, January 6th, but even then I still taught one client that morning. Everyone is telling me to take a day off and I know I should but I love my job. I am humbled and honored to teach some of the most magnificent individuals in this city. I get to show my clients how to unleash their strength and that motivates me day after day. When I am at my most exhausted, I go to my SCULPT class and witness greatness; it wakes me up.

I choreograph every routine and change it depending on my classes needs. It makes me so happy to see people doing things that they never thought their bodies could do. EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE and if it weren’t I wouldn’t keep teaching. I believe in days off and revitalizing but that pleasure is minimal compared to the joy I get from teaching.

My life is also busy behind the scenes of teaching privates and classes. I have been remodeling my apartment (from nuts to bolts), attending yoga love school (yes, we call it that), cooking vegan-style (this really does take lots of time) and trying to spend time with my husband. None of it is easy but all of it is necessary. In order for me to offer the best classes I can taking day off isn’t the answer, having you bring energy into my life is. Whether you are rehabilitating or more advanced in your practice, you have all given me 110% and I couldn’t be more grateful. I give you 110% right back. Thank you for all your energy during this season – its better than a vacation.


Futility Drawer

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I am not waiting for an official Spring roll over time to start cleaning this year. I need to move on with things. This year is moving right along and I am still displaced. I haven’t been living in my own apartment for 6 months because we just went through a gut renovation. The renovation is supposedly ‘finished’ (although I disagree with the contractor’s definition of finished) I have no choice but to move forward. I have to move into my house!

Today, upon entering my house, a huge pile of garbage stared at me in the face: boxes, wood, plaster and tidbits of what remains from the remodel. The garbage was taunting me, “Whatchu gonna do bout it, huh?!”. My garbage has a Brooklyn accent, my candlesticks speak in French, its all really weird. It challenged me so I had to take it on, piece by piece, mano y mano. Each time I came back up the stairs to grab another armful, I looked smugly at the pile dwindling away. Ahhhh, finally its done!

This simple act of completion, of doing something that no one else will help you do, is a life long commitment to yourself. Hey…it is yoga. It is learning how to overcome obstacles and deal with them in a healthy way. I liked something yoga teacher Emily Stone said in class, “A utility drawer should be called the futility drawer.”. It’s a clever way of saying material things that seem trifle can actually make us pause with frustration. This collection of futilities that clutter our drawers, hallways, or where ever cause us to clutter our minds. If we see these obstacles as worth clearing than we move forward, without pause. My house won’t be held hostage by someone else’s mess, now I move forward one step at a time.