Stand Up Straight! by Tiffany Coombs

What does your posture look like when you stand in line at the grocery store?

What does your posture look like when you stand on your mat in Tadasana or Mountain pose?

If you are like me, the two are probably very different. 

I'm a sloucher. My natural habitat is in a curled up position. Since you can't curl up while standing, I guess slouching is the next "best" option!

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You Are Your Best Teacher by Tiffany Coombs

5 1/2 years ago, my husband and I got married and moved to Denmark. He was already living there to complete his Masters Degree, and of course I wanted to join in the fun for the last three months of study! I had just completed a 200 hour teacher training and was ripe with knowledge and ready to dive into the world of sequencing, practicing, and teaching. 

There was one yoga studio in the town, and it was actually more like a Pilates studio with a couple of yoga classes. And since it was Denmark, those classes were way out of my price range. What was a girl to do? 

My apartment may as well have been a yoga studio. We didn't really have much furniture, the floors were wood, walls were white, and windows were floor to ceiling. I had several hours in the day to myself, and so it was then and there that I decided I would commit to getting comfortable practicing on my own. 

First attempt: The ambiance was beautiful and quiet. I rolled out my mat. I lasted 15 minutes. Despite the near to perfect conditions (we didn't even have internet!), I was so distracted by the bazillions of thoughts floating through my head that I could not go on! This carried on for a couple of weeks. I was unable to focus or go beyond a few sun salutations, but I persevered. There is nothing wrong with doing 15 minutes of Sun Salutations every day!

After a couple of weeks: Suddenly I found myself practicing for an hour! My mind settled every time I stepped onto my mat, and practice began. The bazillions of thoughts were still there, but somehow unimportant and in the far distance. Asana practice became meditation.

What was I practicing? The sequences I was playing with. I had a notebook overflowing with sequences by the time we moved back to the States. Some worked, some were terrible. Good thing I found out before using them on other people!

After a month: Practice moved from one hour to two hours and sometimes even three! Time stopped existing (what a luxury!!) and my practice became something like two hours of asana and an hour of pranayama, mantra, and silent meditation.

My practice has changed over the years. When I started about 12 years ago, I followed DVDs in my basement. Then I practiced at studios. Then I practiced sequences that were given to me. Finally I practiced sequences that came from my own head. For a long time I practiced as the sun rose. Then I could barely get off the couch from a crippling bout of Lyme Disease, and my practice became meditation and pranayama based with some gentle movement on the side. Now it is whatever I can fit it, and whatever I am up for. Sometimes it is very basic, other times I feel strong and adventurous. Sometimes I get an hour, sometimes only 15 minutes, but I am thankful for all of it. I know that as the years go on, it will continue to change. How beautiful!

What a home practice has and is teaching me:

1. I can trust myself. And the trust in myself is more like a trust in the Buddha Nature which dwells in each and every one of us. And when I trust myself, I trust others.

2. I can heal myself. 

3. I can ask my body what it needs, and If I listen, it will tell me.

4. I can let go of what my mind wants me to do and do what my body wants me to do instead. Sometimes my body wants basic. Sometimes my body wants challenge. Sometimes it wants a little bit of both. The more I listen, the less injuries I have.

5. I can be with my stuff, process my stuff, and move on.

6. I can adapt.

7. I can come closer to teaching from a very personal and intimate experience of asana.

8. If I can do it, so can you! 

Sometimes I fall out of my home practice routine. I get lazy, uninspired, lonely, etc. That's when hitting the studio is most beneficial for me. The connection to the community brings me back to myself and what I love. 

My purpose for this post is not to discourage you from practicing at the studio. Please go! Be with your community and allow yourself to be led! There is so much value in both! For those of you who do not have financial access, do not live near a studio, or are simply curious about starting a home practice, know that you can still do yoga! Do it at home! It is challenging and often scary, but ultimately worth it! 

Don't know how to sequence a home practice? I am happy to work with you and come up with a sequence that suits your needs. Email me at i.am.buddhacat@gmail.com for more information on practicing at home!

Happy New Posture! by Tiffany Coombs

It's the New Year. While I don't usually get into resolutions, I thought I'd try to get into the spirit this year and resolve to do two things: 

1. Be a more consistent blogger.

2. Sit up straight.

Then I thought, why not focus on posture for the entire month of January? This is the time when we reflect so much on how we interact with the world, how we WANT to interact with the world, and a simple change in posture has so much influence on... everything!

Keep a lookout for an asana of the week. Each asana will have an emphasis on optimizing posture. The body remembers patterns. If we can learn new patterns on the yoga mat, maybe we can translate them off of the mat and onto our desk chair or car seat... maybe even the couch!  

The posture of the week is Sukhasana, or Easy Sitting Pose. Instructions are easy: Sit down with you legs crossed. Remain seated and breathe deeply for at least one minute. Notice your posture. Both hips should be evenly connected to the floor. Spine long. Shoulders relaxed. Ears over the shoulders. 

Common posture: 

Note the rounded lower back, slumped shoulders, and forward head position. This is a result of our slumpy lifestyle and weakened back muscles. 

Note the rounded lower back, slumped shoulders, and forward head position. This is a result of our slumpy lifestyle and weakened back muscles. 

If this happens to you... use props! I have blocks at home, but you can also fold some towels to find the support you need. If sitting on the floor is not possible or is painful, practice your posture by sitting at the edge of a stable chair. 

I've placed a block under my hips to bring them higher than my knees. This takes the pressure out of my knees and gives me the support I need to lengthen my spine. 

I've placed a block under my hips to bring them higher than my knees. This takes the pressure out of my knees and gives me the support I need to lengthen my spine. 

Here, I've placed a block under my knee, and under both thighs in order to support my knees and lower back. If you have any knee pain or your knees are far away from the floor, you might try this variation. Remember that you can also use folded towels!

Here, I've placed a block under my knee, and under both thighs in order to support my knees and lower back. If you have any knee pain or your knees are far away from the floor, you might try this variation. Remember that you can also use folded towels!

Buddha Cat wants to see your posture! Join me on Instagram: @ommeow and share your photo with other Buddha Cats by using #situpstraight You have all week to get your posture posted! I'll be choosing and sharing my favorites along the way!

Happy Sitting!


Whats in it for Me? by Tiffany Coombs

Yoga is not a practice to get what you want in life. It's not even a practice to get happier, healthier, stronger, or more flexible. Yoga is simply a practice to remember who you are behind the layers of what you've been told and what you've told yourself.

 

Anything beyond that is a delightful side effect. 

Practicing Meditation = Cleaning Your House by Tiffany Coombs

Every so often I embark on a massive cleanup in my home. When I finish, I am filled with this feeling like I'll never have to clean again. 

The next day, since I am a slob by nature, and I have a 7 month old daughter, the house returns to its messy self.

Someday I will learn from this that tidying up a little bit each day is much more valuable and effective than one major cleanup per month. 

Meditation is the same way, no?

Need Guidance? by Tiffany Coombs

When I first started teaching, I was constantly second guessing myself as to whether my classes were halfway decent, if my students were getting anything out of my sequencing, and if my pacing was effective. Students usually made remarks like, "great class" or "I feel great" after the class was over, but these comments didn't answer my questions or help me grow! As a new teacher, I wasn't as easily able to use my own observations in class to get the feedback I was looking for. Lastly, as a new teacher, I felt intimidated by more seasoned teachers and did not feel comfortable asking for help.

Why I love receiving  detailed feedback for my classes:

  • I learn how to best serve my students
  • I learn what to continue teaching and what is not working for my students
  • I learn how I am coming across in front of the students so that I can either keep my body language and tone of voice the same, or if I need to make some adjustments

We all know that we can't please every single person who walks in the studio door, but can we, in the very least, create an experience that teaches everyone something? Can we offer SAFE cues and sequences that will prevent injury? Can we hold the space for our students and get out of our own way? Can we be open and available for our students? With practice, and a little help, I think we can. 

This is why I am so excited to offer my unique mentorship program. I am so excited to help others to build confidence and to offer supportive and gentle guidance to teachers looking for a little nudge forward.

Who is this program for?

  • Brand new teachers
  • The teacher longing for a nudge out of a long time rut
  • The teacher looking for feedback beyond "Great Class"
  • The teacher in need of a fresh perspective

Follow the link below for details! 


Lemme Take a Selfie... by Tiffany Coombs

So I've been participating in Instagram yoga challenges for the past month and a half or so. Part of the idea was to experiment and to find out what the deal with these controversial challenges actually was, and part was to inspire me to get back on my mat after giving birth. I woke up this morning feeling hypocritical, addicted to my phone, and curious of what viewers actually get out of these selfies. 

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What is Buddha Cat Yoga? by Tiffany Coombs

Buddha Cat Yoga, my friends, is a hot new style of yoga. We will provide one (or more!) cat per mat, providing the bonus challenge of concentration that was lacking in all other form of yoga until now! The cats will weave around your legs, give you kisses on your nose, and even try to climb you. This is IT, my friends. Look no further. This is REAL yoga.

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Buddha Cat's Latest Project: Buddha Kitten by Tiffany Coombs

Buddha Kitten is here! Happy Harper is beautifully modeling the two current designs. "Ommeow" and "Buddha Kitten" are available individually at $15 and at $28 if purchased together! Custom colors and various sizes are available. As always, Buddha Cat products are hand-painted with care. Email or message me on Facebook to order!

Am I Good Enough At Yoga...? by Tiffany Coombs

We all have challenges we face when we get on the mat. Tight hamstrings, tight shoulders, loose shoulders that are too weak to practice arm balances, fears, egos, the list can go on and on. These challenges serve as jumping off points for you as a teacher. The challenges you work with daily on the mat can become your specialty. They can help you to become more relatable to your students. 

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Buddha Kittens by Tiffany Coombs

What is a Buddha Kitten? A precious glimpse at our younger, wide eyed selves. We usually call them babies, toddlers, and children, but they are so much more than that. We can remember our own natural needs and wants by observing and learning from these special Buddha Kittens. We all wish to feel safe and secure, comfortable and content. We all wish to be heard, respected, and loved. 

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Modern Yoga by Tiffany Coombs

I want to make it clear that what a yogi looks like, what the diet looks like, even whether the yogi is happy or sad, is not the point. The point is that we practice. We breathe. We pay attention and learn. We get to know ourselves. We BECOME ourselves. 

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I Used to Like Tofu. by Tiffany Coombs

One of the greatest lessons I have learned over the years of practicing yoga is that it is not what you change about yourself on the outside- the clothes you wear, the malas you sport, the food you eat- that matters, it is what you EMBRACE about yourself and are able to express without fear to the outside world that matters the most.

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You Can't Be Better Than Who You Are. by Tiffany Coombs

It's National Eating Disorder Week. Here are some interesting facts about this misunderstood disease:

1. 30 Million Americans will struggle with an eating disorder at some point in their lives.

2. Anorexia is the most fatal mental health issue.

3. Disordered eating is on the rise in YOUNG Americans.

This is not a unique story. It is just an untold one. Or a misunderstood one. Or something. This topic is difficult for me to write about as I feel that it is something I more deeply struggle with than anything else

I am anorexic because... I am. I cannot blame magazines filled with beautiful, airbrushed models, because I never really read them and don't read them now. I don't feel societal pressures to be someone else (as you all very well know!) I can't blame my parents, my siblings, my peers. I can't even blame the pressures of being a young and impressionable dancer. Who do I blame? No one. Not even myself. Blame feeds anger. Anger makes it worse. Love and acceptance make it better. Blame is futile.

The first time I can remember despising my body was in the third grade. For some reason I just started to hate my arms. Then I started to hate my legs. Then it gradually crept over my whole body. I used to write in journals late at night because of some serious insomnia and every day there would be another entry written about how disgusting my body was or how stupid I was, or both. Writing helped me fall asleep, but it also fed these hateful fires towards myself. 

Stereotypically, I was a dancer. I spent 6 nights a week for at least two hours per day examining myself in mirrors. Not good enough. Not good enough. Not good enough. It should be noted that I rarely compared myself to the other dancers at the studio. I compared myself to a version of myself I thought I should have been. Taller, thinner, no freckles, longer neck, more flexible (I was most flexible in my class), stronger, more dedicated... the list could go on and on.  Ironically, the art made me feel both disgusted with myself AND more beautiful than I felt if I were at school or at home. The mind reels. 

While I was dancing, I ate. Enough. I never was a big eater and often left quite a bit of food left on my plate. I felt (and often still do feel) like finishing my plate was some kind of failure. Like I would magically become a fat cow if I ONCE finished a plate of food, no matter how much or little was in front of me. 

Then I  stopped dancing. Too many serious injuries, a bout of mono that left me homebound for over three months, and a dance studio I didn't much care for anymore led me to quit. Panic rushed over me. How will I stay thin and beautiful and graceful if I stop doing the one thing that makes me feel these things? 

I gradually stopped eating full meals. A bite here, a bite there. Anxiety left me feeling nauseous most of the time and so my excuse of feeling sick was truthful, and it got me out of eating my dinners. In times of desperate hunger I would angrily binge on crackers, feel disappointed that I gave into the crackers, and stop eating for some more days. I chewed gum CONSTANTLY to make my body think it was being fueled. By the time I graduated high school, I think I was barely 100 pounds. I'd look in the mirror at night and continue to hate my body. Again, never in comparison to the other girls I knew, but in comparison to someone I thought I should be. Not thin enough. Not good enough. Not smart enough. Not in control. 

I had taken up yoga as a means to maintain flexibility and grace. I did it in my basement before school. In an angry and competitive fashion. Because I wanted it to replace ballet in all ways possible. I wanted to practice hard, be better, be thinner, be more beautiful, not to mention the promise of happiness yoga seemed to offer. The woman on the DVDs drove me absolutely crazy- smiles seemed fake, tone of voice seemed fake, but if that was what happiness was, perhaps I could do the same thing. So I walked around with a smile on my face and "happiness" in my voice. No one suspected a thing. In fact everyone constantly labeled me as "happy." Which then became something I felt I needed to live up to. And because I knew that I wasn't happy, but instead a suicidal, hateful little girl, it made me feel all the worse. 

I saw a psychologist from time to time in order to get my cocktail of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pills. Every time I saw him, his favorite comment would be something like "I don't understand why you think you are fat." To this day that comment is amazing to me. This doctor of the mind does not understand that this is a mental disease. It is an inability to see things as they are. A desperate need for control that cannot be met. I'm sure other psychologists have more tact. This one just seemed to lack ability to understand his patients. 

James caught on quickly. When we were in school together, I would go to his house and he and his roommates would kindly force me to eat a full meal with them. His roommates never said anything, but I think they all knew. The rest of the time I lived on Venti coffees, pastries, and Chick-Fil-A binges. 

Fast forward about six years. I do not own a full length mirror. I avoid rooms with surround mirrors and abhor trying on clothes at the store- especially when there are mirrors that kindly reveal the dreaded backside. I feel anxious at meal time. I feel anxious when I have to eat with others, but if I am eating alone I am less likely to nourish myself properly. Sometimes I can conquer my mind and make myself something good and nourishing, at which point I realize how good it feels to care for myself. But on many other days I cannot win and struggle to get something, anything at all down. 

Pregnancy has been the number one, greatest therapy as someone with Anorexia. Learning to let go of control has never been so necessary. The extreme nausea that comes from not eating enough forces you to actually eat three full meals a day. If I'm being honest, before I was pregnant I was averaging around 1.5 full meals a day still. Nibbles for the rest of the meals. Now, if I skip breakfast, lunch, or dinner, I get a quick and painful reminder and I EAT. I am not able to do as much rigorous yoga as I could before, and so my arms, back, and legs are less toned. My belly gets bigger and bigger. I have no control over how my body responds to this baby. And I have to let it be. I don't look at the scale at the doctors office, I don't want to know how big my belly is all the way around, but I can find peace with myself knowing that there is a beautiful little girl growing in there. I work daily to keep the peace because I have to bring a healthy, nurtured baby into the world. And I have to be of sound mind and body in order to give her the best life she can have. And that makes me feel happier and more willing to nourish myself.

Before the pregnancy, TEACHING yoga has been a great therapy as someone with Anorexia. If you know me, you think that I am laid back. This is true toward other people. I don't care what other people do.  I am a closet control freak, with the need to control and compete with myself. To be a good teacher, however, guards must be removed, fear of embarrassment or making mistakes must be abandoned, neurosis must be set aside. If you are caught up in your own junk, you cannot provide a safe, mindful environment for your students to let go of their own junk. We all just have to let it all go together. We have to be willing to be completely ourselves. What is "good" and "bad" about ourselves simply become what is. Who we are. Full, rich, vibrant human beings with complexities that make us beautiful and unique.

As you can see, this is something I still struggle with, and will continue to struggle with forever. I know that I will continue to get better, but the inner nagging never stops. If this is YOU, find something that will help you learn to speak more kindly and gently with yourself. Find activities that make you feel nourished and healthy instead of activities done with the sole intention to lose weight or be "better" in some way. Practice yoga with the intention to give and to heal, practice meditation in order to get to know yourself and to recognize that your thoughts are not who you are, and practice caring for others. 

Have your husband take pregnancy photos in bare minimum clothing and post them on Facebook. Have no fear.

Be empowered by your beautiful body as it is. 

http://www.monogramartsphoto.com/blog/2014/2/14/this-is-our-house-her-pregnancy-my-camera

http://www.monogramartsphoto.com/blog/2014/2/14/this-is-our-house-her-pregnancy-my-camera

Check out the rest of these outrageously fun photos here: http://www.monogramartsphoto.com/blog/2014/2/14/this-is-our-house-her-pregnancy-my-camera

Not sure I ever would have done this if I wasn't pregnant, but what a RUSH to feel confident in my own skin... in the snow!!!!!!!!!!!