Yoga 101: How to be confident in any class

Did you know that there are 16 magic cues (8 pairs of cues) that will ensure you’re doing every yoga pose correctly?

I definitely didn’t, until my first day of yoga teacher training. Our teacher got us to all stand up and took us and our bodies through each one. The 16 cues are divided up into 8 pairs, with the idea that each pair contains complementary cues that need to be done together to create stability in the body.

Take a moment, stand up and try it for yourself with the aim of holding all 16 cues together at the same time.

Tadasana cues (in pairs)
  1. Ground all four corners of your feet into the earth
  2. Pull up through the inner arches of your feet
  3. Draw the shins towards each other
  4. Broaden the back of your knees (push your knees back)
  5. Roll your inner thighs back (or up, pending the pose)
  6. Pull up through the pelvic floor (as if your perineum area was being pulled upwards)
  7. Cinch in your waist
  8. Lengthen your side bodies (from your hips to your armpits)
  9. Inner & outer shoulders back
  10. Roll the bottom of your shoulder blades down
  11. Tuck your front ribs in
  12. Broaden through the collarbone (as if they were moving back and out simultaneously)
  13. Take the edges of your neck back and up
  14. Reach through the crown of your head
  15. Energise your fingertips
  16. Smile

It’s not easy, is it? When you’re standing up straight and holding these cues you can feel the effort. These are called Tadasana cues. When you’re in a yoga class and the teacher gives you alignment advice for each pose, they’re not just making it up and pulling them out of thin air (well they shouldn’t be at least), they’re drawing from these cues.

They generally apply to every pose and if you memorise them you will always have something to draw on whether no matter how you’re feeling about the class, teacher, etc. And you will end up working hard as they make even the simplest of poses (like standing) intricate balances of effort.

Learning these cues changed my whole physical practice. Not using them is the equivalent of going to a gym and squatting weights without proper form, vs squatting with proper form. Be in the know, keep your body safe and remember that it’s all about connecting within…not how high your leg kicks or how arched your back is. Find that sweet spot between strength and ease. And never forget to meditate!


The mystery of diet pt1: aka what the f*$k am I supposed to eat?

I haven’t written my health story on here yet, but suffice to say the last three years have been a bit of a witch hunt on my body. I read everything about everything in an attempt to find the magic diet that would cure my hypothyroid condition and Hashimotos (an autoimmune disorder). Spoiler: I never found it.

I tried many a diet: pescatarian, vegan, keto, gluten-free, sugar-free (including fruits and starchy veg), paleo, and an assortment of hacks I read for dealing with thyroid issues (i.e. no eggs, celery juice in the morning, no pork, etc.). All the diets sounded good when examined in isolation. They were clear, concise and promised a body that would feel the same. The problem was that I like to comparison shop…so I tried them all! I would research one heavily, try it, not see improvements, then go back to see what I had missed and go down the rabbit hole once again. I’d find another diet that would suggest the exact opposite and I kept hoping that one of them held the magic key that would make me feel like a healthy person again. 

When you’re ill, all you want is for someone to tell you “Do this and you will be better”.

The food witch hunt was not a success. I didn’t find my way out of my thyroid problems with any of these diets, but I did find myself with a real eating disorder. Almost every food can be ‘bad’ if you read the right article – I was paranoid of spinach at one point, then broccoli…seriously! I felt paralysed when choosing what to eat. I also felt intensely deprived. The stress and isolation of feeling like I wasn’t allowed to be free with my eating took a huge toll on me and added to the stress of my existing health conditions.

So here’s my hit list of foods that I’ve been told at one point or another not to eat:

Alcohol
  • Too much sugar
  • The mental effect: I always get a slight depressive, end-of-the-world feeling the day after that can linger for a few days. I have to constantly remind myself that I’ve had alcohol and that it’s not reflective of my true reality
  • Wine is so inflammatory for me and it makes me so sad! The social ritual of having a glass of red with friends was one of my favourite things, but I get hives and horrible hangovers. I didn’t have wine for almost a year and then tried ONE GLASS of biodynamic, organic Merlot and still had that tightness in my head feeling the next day (like an oncoming headache) accompanied with mild depression and anxiety. Just not worth it.
Corn
Cruciferous vegetables
Dairy
  • Full of hormones, allergens, and generally not good quality.
  • I recently had a convo with a girl who did her farm work  at a dairy farm that was an expensive, well known brand. She explained how everything was super clean and regulated, but the lives these cows live…it’s like watching a movie set in the future where humans are grown as body parts for other humans. No way for any living being to exist…even if its a ‘good’ farm. How can the milk they produce be of good quality to consume when they aren’t really living? The equivalent to eating vegetables grown in a garbage dump.
  • Even when I wasn’t a healthy, conscious eater (one of my favourite things to eat way back when was chicken fingers!) I knew I couldn’t have milk. The day after having it I would immediately breakout and have that onset allergy feeling.
Dried Fruit 
  • Aside from the fact that this is basically an addictive candy for me (another issue altogether), most dried fruit is made with canola or some other not-good-for-you vegetable oil and preservatives. Even the organic ones – they’re sneaky like that.
Eggs
  • Eggs also cause inflammation and allergies; feed viruses, bacteria, yeast, mold, Candida and other fungus; and trigger edema in the lymphatic system.(page 281)This book  lists eggs as a thyroid stressor (explanation of why is in the book), saying they feed viral infections and that viral infections are the underlying cause of autoimmune diseases. They were my main source of protein before (at least two a day), but after reading this I stopped eating them for months. I’ve since reintroduced them back into my diet, but always, ALWAYS organic…
  • I once went on a date with a guy from the RSPCA (animal welfare organisation in Australia) and he said he would never, ever eat chicken or eggs because they are treated horrendously, even when the label says otherwise. I think unless you can find the chicken that laid those eggs and see for yourself that it’s happy, the chances are probably pretty low that what you’re eating is nutritious.
  • Like corn, soy, and wheat, eggs are one of those things that are in a lot of processed foods. So you may be consuming more than you think – and they most definitely wouldn’t be organic.
Fish
Fruit
  • Supposedly not good for insulin resistance because they have too much sugar (I am NOT ok with this, hah). The problem is that they’ve been bred over time to be sweeter and this has had some huge effects, like with these poor monkeys.
  • Some are worse offenders than others. I’ll never forget watching an episode of Dr. Oz and hearing him say grapes are just little packages of sugar – that statement has haunted me for years…the things the mind holds onto. Berries are generally less sugary and more fibre, whereas melons, bananas, pears, and grapes (!) are sugar-ific.
Gluten
  • Creates an inflammatory response, even if you’re not coeliac. This is also like corn, soy, wheat, etc. where gluten is found in so many things that you are much more exposed to it than you probably know. The overexposure is what causes the sensitivity. 
  • If I ever eat bread ‘too much’ (like more than once in a day or multiple days in a row) I feel a distinct hungover effect, even with artisanal, organic breads. I can’t handle plain white sliced bread or french bread (sob) AT ALL and have immediate allergy flare ups.
Grains
  • These can also be like corn, soy, wheat, gluten, etc. where the general overexposure when it’s used as filler leads to sensitivity issues. There’s also this
Legumes (peanuts, beans, etc.)
  • I definitely have a reaction to too much peanut butter (but how do you stop at one spoonful???), my skin breaks out and I feel sluggish the next day.
  • Lectins and phytates are the big no-no associated with legumes, said to cause inflammation.
Nightshades (tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, etc.)
Nuts
Pork
  • Called a virus aggregator by Medical Medium.
  • My whole body has a weird reaction every time I eat pork products. I knew this, but I didn’t actually piece it together till I read the Medical Medium thyroid book…probably because I loved bacon so much. RIP pork.
  • Bacon was just listed as a known carcinogenic by the WHO…eek. 
Refined sugar and other sweeteners
  • Duh, right? This includes honey, coconut sugar, brown rice syrup, stevia…I do believe that the less we use to make things sweeter and the more we get accustomed to the natural sweetness of things as they are the better off we’ll be. The sweet high is the sneakiest addiction!
Soy
Vegetable oil, canola oil, palm oil, etc.
  • I haven’t used these to cook in probably a decade, but they’re probably what’s used every time you eat out, buy a snack (hi dried fruit), etc. 

It’s almost everything, right? At some point or another I have not eaten each of these things. It messed with my head, which in turn messed up my body even further. The result was that I became even more disconnected with myself. I didn’t know up from down, everything seemed like the enemy and I developed a lot of food related anxiety. It’s still there, but I’m very slowly trying to find my way back to myself and strengthen my intuition around eating.

So what do I eat now? How do I navigate this minefield? Well that’s for part 2…


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