How To Heal: Yin Yoga with Pamela Newman

An interview with Yin & Resorative yoga teacherPamela Newman.png

A few years ago, I found myself with a friend in New Hampshire at a Yin Yoga class. I’d been doing yoga at home for quite some time, but I’d never actually been to a class. I wasn’t sure what to expect and I felt nervous, but as the class flowed, I realized how beneficial this type of yoga could be. By the time it was over, my life was changed forever. I was head over heels for Yin.

According to Yogapedia, “Yin Yoga is a slower-paced, more meditative version of the popular physical and spiritual discipline of yoga. In Yin yoga, the poses are held for a long period of time (typically three to five minutes or longer) to target the connective tissues (such as the ligaments) rather than focusing on the muscles. As a result, the asanas are more passive holds, with little muscular engagement.”

After that first class in New Hampshire, I came back to Boston and immediately searched on google for a nearby class. As if divine intervention was guiding me, I discovered a class at the perfect time above my favorite restaurant in Cambridge (just an aside, it's called Life Alive Cafe and you should DEFINITELY go if you're ever in Boston!). Yin yoga with Pamela became a staple in my weekly routine and I loved how much mental strength I developed by focusing on my breathing during those long holds.  

Through that practice, I’ve learned to better manage stress, to carve time out of my schedule for self care practices, and that healing the body doesn’t have to be aggressive or quick… it can be simple and flow smoothly.

That’s why I wanted to interview my bright light of a yoga teacher and now my great friend, Pamela Newman, to share a little more insight with you into the world of Yin.

Carolyn: Hi Pam! Thank you for interviewing with me! You know how much I love your class and I’d love for others to become aware of the power of Yin, so this is great! Let’s just jump right in… Tell me, what makes yin yoga different than a standard yoga class?  

Pamela: Hey, Carolyn, thanks for having me! Yin targets your connective tissues as opposed to your muscles, like regular yoga classes do, so we do all of our poses on the mat for anywhere from 2-6 minutes.  Each pose is supported with props so you can relax the muscles to stress the connective tissues.

Carolyn: Right. So it’s less about getting a workout and more about relaxing the muscles, which is huge when it comes to reducing stress! What are some other benefits of taking yin/restorative yoga?

Pamela: The benefits are endless!! But to name a few, it helps with stress management, improved joint mobility, increased circulation, lower blood pressure, anxiety reduction, increased flexibility, and it calms and balances mind and body.

Carolyn: No wonder I love this class, I need all of these things… It’s amazing how one class can have such dramatic benefits! Can you break down how a class with you would go?  

Pam: Sure! We open in a relaxing pose to get centered in the present by either lying down or sitting upright. Then, we go through a handful of poses that we hold for 2-6 minutes. It can take up to a minute to set up each pose but, once you are comfortable in the pose, you resolve to be still for the remained of the time and attempt to keep your mind present throughout. At the end of each pose, we come out slowly and do a minute of rebound in a more relaxed posture. Every class ends with an extended Savasana (final relaxation pose).

Carolyn: Ah, Savasana, my favorite part! Despite all the benefits, Yin hasn’t picked up in popularity in the Western world yet. What prompted you to start teaching Yin and Restorative yoga?

Pam: After 10 years of regular vinyasa, ashtanga and Iyengar classes, which are all considered yang or active styles, I took my first ever yin class in Portland Maine with Sagel Ulacher and fell in love. I couldn't believe how challenging it was for me to be still for so long.  As a self proclaimed type A personality, I realized immediately the benefits that slowing down would bring me.  When I started my 200 teacher training I knew right away that I wanted to offer my students Yin and restorative because the benefits of slowing down were endless for me.

Carolyn: Wow, so you fell into it just like I did… except you’ve had a lot more practice with other styles! Ten years is a long time, what got you involved in yoga in the first place?

Pam: My older sister dragged me, kicking and screaming, to a hot yoga class in 2007 when I was staying with her in Princeton, NJ. I had been running for years and never felt so open as during class. I just felt the immediate benefits of better posture and increased confidence. After that, I was hooked.

Carolyn: Oh, that’s so funny that you went kicking and screaming! Funny how we always need what we’re resisting most. So, you teach yin all over Boston now… Who should come to your classes?

Pam: Everyone! Although I believe “should” is a judgment word, so I would say that physically yin yoga is accessible to most people. We use plenty of props to support each individual's postural needs and in our overly busy “on the go” culture, most people would benefit from slowing down and spending some time in their parasympathetic nervous system.

Carolyn: Ah! You caught me using the should word! Louise Hay would be questioning me up and down for using that. And yes, I completely agree… we spend so much time in our Sympathetic Nervous System (fight or flight) that it’s an absolute gift to have Yin to bring us back to our Parasympathetic (rest and digest). After decades of practice, do you have a favorite yoga pose?

Pam: Definitely Deer pose - I have been known to drool over the bolster in this pose :)

Carolyn: Haha, just the imagery makes me laugh. Let’s get back to your class. What’s the main way you hope your class attendees feel after class?

Pam: At ease, centered and grounded in themselves.

Carolyn: That’s beautiful. And what is the main message you hope people will take away from your class?

Pam: You are perfect just the way you are, let's love ourselves a little more and judge a little less.

Carolyn: Amen, girl! What are your top three tips for people who’ve never tried it or are new to yoga?

Pam: Come with an open mind and know you don't have to do any of the poses, breath work or meditation techniques that don't resonate with you.  Everyone's experience will be a little different and you can't do it wrong!

Carolyn: I love that. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions about yourself, Yin, and your class. It was such a pleasure, as always, to connect with you and I can’t wait for my next yin class! Just tell me now, how can people find you?

Pam: I currently teach around Boston at Yoga Works in Back Bay, The Corner Studio in Medford, and Coolidge Yoga in South End. To keep up to date on my classes or any pop ups, follow me on instagram at instagram.com/yinspiritwarrior!

Interviews by Carolyn from Without The Weight, Inc. are meant to share all the different options available to heal your mind, body, and spirit from a holistic lens. Any advice or recommendations are meant to work as complementary therapies alongside any treatment provided by your medical practitioner and are not suggested as a replacement for medical care.

Are You A Stress Eater?

Do you eat when you’re stressed?

Recently I was reading Deepak Chopra’s "What Are You Hungry For?” (which I TOTALLY recommend, by the way!) and it really made me reconsider the way I think about eating.

Actually, it made me think about what I was thinking about when I eat.

Turns out, I overeat when I feel tense. And I’m not talking mentally tense, which is what I work so hard to combat. I realized I was actually physically tense and that had a connection to the amount I ate. Weird, right?

Turns out, it’s actually pretty normal.

I started focusing my attention on releasing tension in my body through the day and I’ve been REALLY surprised. I had no idea that every little stressor was adding tension to my body and by the time I sat down to eat, my brain was desperate for any kind of release.

When we eat, we naturally release dopamine (AKA the happy chemical) and that release gave me the release I was looking for. The dopamine allowed me to feel happiness, which also meant my muscles could relax, and I’m hooked to that feeling.

Probably because my body knows that, as soon as I’m done, that tension will come right back!

I decided to follow the instructions in the book to make sure I’m getting the right foods and meditation, but I also tried one more thing. I decided to take a minute or two to take a deep breath and give gratitude for my food, where it came from, and how it heals me.

The effects were immediate. I’ve started eating less at each meal (and even feeling full!) and I haven’t been getting cravings to snack in between meals. By continuously bringing myself to a place of awareness, I’ve been able to reduce my food intake significantly!

The shift was so surprising, I knew I had to bring this awareness to my blog and share it with you! In the book, Chopra provides a quiz to help you discover if you’re a stress eater and if you think this might be an issue for you, I highly suggest taking the quiz!

Are You A Stress Eater?

Deepak Chopra’s: What Are You Hungry For?

“Check the items that apply to your eating and general situation.

___ Are you a woman? (Women are more likely to be stress eaters)

___ Are you sedentary?

___ Are you lonely or isolated socially?

___ Do you snack when you’re feeling nervous or restless?

___ Do you cope with stress entirely on your own?

___ Does daily stress and strain make it hard for you to fall asleep and keep sleeping for at least 7 to 8 hours?

___ Do you find yourself grabbing food between meals to relieve boredom or pressure at work?

___ If you feel stressed, do you immediately reach for sugary, fatty snack foods?

Score: ___

Rating yourself:

If you checked 1-2 items, you are likely not a stress eater. You haven’t set up a feedback look between daily stress and food. A score of 5-8 items (AHEM, ME) puts you firmly in the category of stress eating. You are coping with life using food, and a feedback loop has been set up so that the more you use food for comfort, the less effective it is, leading to even more eating.”

If you are a stress eater, don’t fret! Being aware of it can only help you improve. Start noticing how tense you feel, physically, emotionally, and mentally, and give yourself a few minutes to release that tension around food.

Did you take the quiz? Were you surprised by your results? Let’s start a conversation about it! Comment below and let me know your results!

How To Lose Weight Through Stress Management

Is the secret to weight loss something that can be done without ever getting up from your chair?

I know it sounds weird. Let me explain.

You’re most likely reading this post because you’re tired of always trying to lose weight. You’ve got the gym membership. you know the diet, heck, you may even have all the foods stocked up in your fridge. Yet, something always gets in the way

Cravings, invitations to events where you don’t want to seem difficult, or even just boredom or a bad mood can come into play and mess up all your weight loss plans. Before you know it, those margaritas from happy hour on Thursday extended to a weekend bender that leaves you bloated and disappointed all over again.

You get mad at yourself for being “weak” and then resolve to start all over again…. on Monday.

Sound familiar?

I’ve been there and through my journey of talking about it, I’ve found that it’s extremely common for other people to go through it too.

But why?!?!

I genuinely thought it was about the food. I thought that there was just something about me that was hyper programmed to want to eat massive amounts of salty, sweet, and delicious (but ohhhhh so bad for you!) treats, but when I look back at what gets in the way… those cravings, invitations, or emotions…. it made me realize that I was wrong. DEAD wrong.

It doesn’t actually have much to do with the food itself and everything to do with what’s going on in your mind.

I know, I thought it was crazy too, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made!

Weight loss comes from diet and exercise, but if you can’t get yourself to do it, how can you ever be successful? Every action comes from a thought first. Your thoughts talk to the cells in your body and tell it what to do and it doesn’t matter if you’re going vegan or paleo, taking dance classes or doing cross fit, if your thoughts don’t match your goals, your body won’t know how to get you there!

That’s why I focus with all my clients on stress management over weight loss.

We look at slowing down our thoughts, becoming aware of the story line that goes on in our mind, and then using specifically targeted mindset exercises to help shift that thinking from negative to positive.

The truth is, in order to be successful, you have to think successfully. It starts in your head and once you learn how to manage your thoughts, your health, happiness, and healing will naturally follow.

What do you think? How has your mindset impacted your journey? Comment below and share what you’re struggling with and what tools you’ve used to overcome it!

How To Maintain Motivation

It’s Monday.

You’re pumped with energy and ready for the week. You got everything together this weekend, making sure you had healthy food in the house, meals all prepped, and that the gym membership that you’ve been paying for (and not going to) for months was still active.

Motivation is just flowing through your veins as you go through the day, excited that surely, this will be the last time you ever have to start over.

Monday through Wednesday are great! You snuck a few m&m’s on Wednesday but that’s nothing compared to the king size bag you used to scarf down every day. That’s all in your past now.

But then, on Thursday, that cute coworker tells you that they’re all going out for happy hour after work and you should come.

Anxiety hits.

You brought your meal prep, but you’ve been working so hard all week and you really want to be social. In fact, it would be bad business not to go and one night out with coworkers couldn’t be that bad. You’ll just have one drink and jump right back to your diet tomorrow.

You go out and somehow, one margarita turns to three. Soon you’re splitting nachos and wondering if anyone is down to order another plate for the table.

The next morning, you wake up with a hangover and bloat.

You’d be happy to start over today, but you didn’t pack your lunch last night and all you can think about now is how good a cup of coffee and a piece of lemon cake from Starbucks would be. You’ll get a salad for lunch.

But then lunch comes around and the office ordered pizza to celebrate that it’s Friday. You think about your bank account and opt for the free lunch and gossip with your coworkers about last night’s escapades.

By the time you get home, you’re exhausted and opt to order Chinese food. It’s the weekend now and you’re absolutely beat. For sure, on Monday, you’ll start over one more time.

If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. In fact, this is the cycle most of us live in.

We start a new diet or exercise routine with gusto but soon, as external situations pop up, we lose motivation and fall off track.

Really, all we needed was to know was how to stay motivated, but instead, we let our goals fall to the wayside and put it off, just for one more weekend.

Enough is enough.

If you have goals that you want to hit, making the decision to hit them is the first step.

Second step is understanding why that goal is so important to you. What will dieting bring you? Weight loss to fit into your old jeans? Better health so you can heal your chronic illness? A calmer and more focused mind so you can excel at work? Whatever the end goal is, get clear on it and keep that image in your mind.

The third step is to surround yourself with motivation. According to Zig Ziglar “Motivation doesn’t last, but neither does bathing. That’s why we suggest it daily.” Fill up your social media feeds with pages that remind you of your mission, keep notes around your bedroom and office to keep you focused, bring yourself back to the reason for your goal as often as humanly possible.

By doing this every single day (multiple times a day) you are filling your brain with that motivation. Truth is, it’s in the action of constantly bringing it back to your attention that will keep you motivated, not the actual motivation itself.

Motivation is yours in abundance if you keep your mind on the goal. Position yourself for success and it’s yours for the taking!

How To Achieve At Anything

When I was a kid, I used to watch True Life on MTV.

Have you ever seen it? It’s this documentary show where they find 3 people who all share a common obstacle and then record their life as they struggle with it. The intention is to give viewers an insight into other people’s hidden struggles. For me, I just thought it was entertaining.

Some memorable episodes were “True Life: I have Epilepsy” and “True Life: My Parents are in Porn”, I mean honestly, this show had everything! But then one night, as I laid curled up on my couch in PJs, “True Life: I’m Going To Fat Camp” came on the screen.

I immediately turned the volume up. Three people were up to go to fat camp. One that really wanted it, one that was being forced to go by her family, and a third. I don’t remember much about the third, but I’ll never forget how emotional I got over the other two.

The one who wanted it, let’s call her Mary, saw fat camp as an opportunity. She worked her butt off just to get the money to be able to go and, when she got there, she utilized everything they had available to her. She saw fat camp as her path to better health and happiness and she wasn’t going to waste it for anything.

The second girl, again let’s make up a name - Jenna, didn’t want to go. She knew she needed to lose weight, but the idea of going to a fat camp upset her. Jenna wanted to do it on her own, even though she hadn’t been successful on her own, and her parents insisted she go. She was miserable and didn’t want to participate in anything at camp. She saw it as if it were a prison that she couldn’t stand to be in. She ended up sneaking out and getting candy bars with another girl and getting kicked out of camp.

I cheered at the TV when her parents had to come get her.

I tell you this story because these two girls both had the same goal and the same opportunities available to both of them, but only one had success. The only real difference between these two were their mindset, and that was the main driver of success versus failure.

You see, it doesn’t matter what you know or how much opportunity you have, it’s how to choose to use it. Every action comes from a thought first.

When you have a goal in mind, start to notice how you feel about that goal. Do you think you’ll hit it? Why or why not? Once you start to understand your thoughts around your goal, then you can start to shift your actions.

The opportunities, tools, tips and tricks are all available to you in abundance, but if your perspective sees them as negatives, then all you can get from the situation is negative.

If you want to find success in your journey, to achieve at anything, become aware of your mindset and start shifting your thoughts to gratitude and positivity. That energy will always lead you down the right path to health, healing, and happiness.

Because, True Life: Perspective Matters.