What I learned at a yoga conference + workouts

Happy Monday! For some of you, it’s a holiday off of work today, but for others, it’s probably business as usual. No matter what your day has in store, I hope you’re starting off refreshed from a nice weekend.

My weekend was just fabulous. On Friday night, Dave and I went to dinner with some friends at Bartlett Hall, which was a lot of fun, and on Saturday, we spent the day wine-tasting in Napa. I’m definitely going to share more details from that trip, but I won’t get into it all right now. Suffice it to say, good times were had.

Because it’s Monday morning, we’ve got to talk fitness. I attended an event yesterday and picked up a few things worth sharing with you all about yoga.

Checking out Yoga Journal LIVE! San Francisco

I saw a lot of yogis yesterday.

That’s right, there were hundreds of yoga lovers armed with yoga mats convened at a hotel in downtown San Francisco for Yoga Journal LIVE! San Francisco. Yoga Journal LIVE! holds five events across the nation each year bringing together people who practice yoga from all different levels, along with inspiring speakers, workshops, community programs and more. Although I was invited to check out the full four-day conference, I was only able to make it to the conference on Sunday afternoon. I wanted to go check it out, because even though I’m still an intermediate yogi at best, I’m really trying to get more into it.

Yoga Journal LIVE! San FranciscoShown above from top left to right: Me posing with a cool namaste statue, a cute sweatshirt available for sale by a vendor, a look at all the loot in the Yoga Journal LIVE! swag bag, and the one picture I took within the yoga practice ballroom before my session.

During my short visit to the conference, I went to a workshop and yoga class and traversed the exhibit floor. While all of the colorful clothing, in-shape yogis and health-conscious products were fun to see, the biggest thing I came away with is what I learned in the workshop.

Learning to “bandha” and brace the core

The class I chose to attend was “Core Strengthening and Core Integration” led by Deborah Burkman. This class was designed for mixed levels and included some lecture and practice. At the beginning of the session, Deborah asked the attendees how many were yoga instructors and about 80 percent of the class raised their hands. I wasn’t quite sure what I was in for, especially because almost everyone really looked the part, but I held my own and made it through just fine.

Sadly, we were not allowed to take photos in the sessions, so I don’t have a lot to show from there visually. But the learnings? There were a lot. And some of it went over my head. While the main topic of conversation was a term called “bandha,” which I’ll describe later, here are some other high points:

  • The primary purpose of yoga is for your mind — to help you be attentive and less agitated in life. The second purpose of yoga is for your body — to help you be strong and healthy.
  • Everyone who practices yoga is a student. You will always continue to improve your practice. And you’ll continue to pick up new things along the way, so keep at it.
  • Because so many yoga flow classes out there move quickly, you should always spend time doing your own yoga moves at home. You should slowly take your time and work on the things you’re really trying to get better at in your own practice. You can’t get better if you’re always rushing through.
  • Your core is a three-dimensional area, and the transverse abdominus (TVA) muscles in the middle are like a girdle to your body. In a Vinyasa yoga class, the TVA are your seatbelt, helping your body to get through the practice safely. You must engage and properly active your TVA and core, unless you’re in a relaxed meditation pose.

Other than this, most of the talk was about “bandha” — something I’d never heard of until yesterday.

What is bandha? 

Bandha is a term in yoga meaning “to lock off.” You have to learn to breathe properly in order to perform bandha, which is sort of like pulling your belly in to brace your core during practice and keeping it tight. You can practice bandha in different parts of your body, including your pelvic floor, mid-abdomen and throat. We focused on the mid-abdomen bandha, although advanced yogis focus on all three.

During the two-hour session, Deborah not only spoke a lot about how “bandha” helps you perform better, but she also showed the class examples of what it looks like and feels like to have bandha or not, while going through yoga flows and poses. She and her assistant walked around touching our midsections to see if we were in bandha or not. And I’ll tell you what, it wasn’t as easy as you would think to get into the right position all the time. I realized that although I know to brace my core, I may not be doing it as much in yoga as I should.

We started out practicing breathing and went through some yoga flows, trying to properly stay in bandha with our cores locked in. We also practiced Chatarunga, which is the yoga push-up to low plank move, quite a few times. True story: Deborah gave us some pointers that helped me to fix my Chatarunga and feel totally different.

Here’s what she told us to do: When you set up, hands under shoulders in plank position, squeeze your armpits in, push your hands into the ground to activate your shoulders and lean a bit forward, eyes up as you lower your body down slowly. Of course, all of this is done while in bandha, with your core locked in. Yes, this seems like a lot of weird information, so maybe you had to be there to get it. But I definitely feel like my entire yoga practice will be improved by this one fix, due to the fact that most of the classes I attend include a ton of Chatarungas. So thanks to Deborah for that!

After the session, I walked around the expo a bit more before calling it a day. While I would have liked to tried some more classes and workshops, I think I learned enough in just that singular session. I mean, I didn’t want to bite off more than I can chew, or bandha. 

Funny thing, as I was walking down the empty streets of the Financial District heading home from the event, I ran into the fabulous Caity and Kat, who were taking a stroll with Kat’s dog. As usual, I was frazzled, slightly sweaty and carrying a lot of bags – a complete mess. As usual, they were both impeccably put together. Oh fashion bloggers, how do you do it?

Staying on top of my 2015 goals with yoga

Nonetheless, my relationship with yoga is ever-changing, and it’s heading in the right direction. As I set out to do in my goals, I’m practicing at least once a week, getting a little more flexible and really trying to keep it up. Oh, and I now have my own yoga mat and some cute yoga clothes, so that helps too. Namaste! (If you’re into yoga, head over to my fitness page to see my reviews of local yoga classes.)

Alright, if I lost you there with all that yoga talk, here’s a look at all of the ways I worked out during last week.

Weekly Workouts from A Lady Goes West

Weekly Workouts

  • Monday – Attended 30-minute GRIT Cardio class
  • Tuesday – Attended one-hour bootcamp class
  • Wednesday – Taught one-hour BODYATTACK and BODYPUMP classes, foam rolling
  • Thursday – Taught one-hour BODYPUMP class, foam rolling
  • Friday –  Attended one-hour Pilates and stretching class
  • Saturday –  Completed 20-minute dumbbell workout
  • Sunday – Practiced about one hour of yoga at Yoga Journal LIVE! conference

What was good about my week of workouts?

This past week, I had a great selection of workouts. I hadn’t taken a Les Mills GRIT class in more than a year, so was glad to be back in the group fitness room for that session, which was super intense. I also did some yoga, Pilates, a bootcamp utilizing ropes, kettlebells and medicine balls, a weights session, two BODYPUMP classes and a BODYATTACK class. No two days were the same, and I used a ton of different tools. Even though I did something every single day, the volume of workouts this past week was much less. Only 30 minutes on Monday, 2o minutes on Saturday and very light exercising on both Friday and Sunday with Pilates and yoga. Neither was strenuous, nor lengthy, which means it was like built-in recovery. I felt good!

What could have been better about my week of workouts?

I only got in two straight cardio sessions this week, which is more than the one cardio session I got in the week before, but I probably should have done a third. However, everything else was pretty balanced. I’ll call this week a strong one.

Oh by the way, thank you for everyone who entered my giveaway to win the RumbleRoller. Congratulations to fellow blogger, Becky, who was the winner!

That’s that, friends! It’s a holiday for both Dave and I today, so I’m not quite sure what we have on tap. I hope you enjoy your day and come back soon to check out my recap of our trip to Napa. 

Questions of the day

Do you ever practice yoga? What’s one workout you did recently? How was your weekend?

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  1. We have the same 2015 goal in terms of yoga! I have been going every sunday to the free class at my Lululemon. I love when I am able to go because I take the time as an hour to just stretch. I don’t notice a huge difference yet but I know over time I will. It is a great way to get me to stretch too, because a lot of times after workouts I feel like I don’t have time. This at least makes me for an hour 🙂 Happy Monday!

    1. Hi Sara! That’s awesome you’re taking advantage of the free community class there. I’ve never done that at any of our Lululemons but should try one day. Yes, stretching is quite important and so easy to skip. Keep at it and I’m sure you’re making flexibility gains. 🙂

  2. Happy Monday! Business as usual here… the yoga event sounded like a lot of fun. For the life of me, I can’t get into yoga. I’ve taken classes here and there over the years but I just feel like my time is better spent doing an activity I actually enjoy — I’m terrible at yoga! I could never nail the positions and I felt silly just sitting there in silence. Maybe I’ll try again, I know a lot depends on the instructor and the particular type of class. Out of all the ones I’ve tried, vinyasa flow was the one I liked the best.

    1. Hi Diane! I felt like that for a long time, until I discovered faster Vinyasa flow classes. That’s where I felt like I was getting my heartrate up. It sucked me in, and since then, whenever I try new formats of yoga, I always go back to flow as my favorite. The slow ones just don’t do it for me. I especially like heated flow. But don’t be discouraged, it’s all about the right instructor and setting and maybe you haven’t found that yet. Have a great day! 🙂

  3. Seems like you had an awesome weekend! I looooove that yellow yoga top in your picture, amazing!! I went wine tasting on Saturday as well just in a different area! Looking forward to your recap. Happy Monday and hope you’ll get to do some relaxing today 🙂

    1. Hi Tamara! Yes I had a great weekend. And I wish I had bought some clothing at the exhibit like that yellow sweatshirt, but of course, I didn’t. You went wine tasting too? Awesome! Have a great Monday!! 🙂

  4. I saw your photos on Instagram, and I am looking forward to hearing more about Napa! Very cool about the conference. Sounds like it was a great experience. The mat and the clothes do help you want to practice. 🙂 I am trying to find a local studio I really like – for some reason I am just not as good practicing yoga on my own at home. Have a great Monday!

    1. Hi Lauren, It takes a while to find a good yoga studio and instructor, so keep at it! I definitely don’t like doing yoga at home as much as in the class setting, but sometimes it’s a good thing to do to hold you over and keep you stretching. Seems like there would be a lot of yoga in Austin. Not so much??

      1. There are a lot of nice options for yoga, but I was just taking the classes at my gym for awhile. I let my membership go at the end of last month so I’m looking around. I just didn’t want to pay for a gym membership and a yoga package at the same time. So I’m planning to enjoy hunting around and checking out some new places.

    1. Hi Amber! Well too bad for you and good for your hubby!! hhahaah! Yoga is one of those things I could so easily avoid, but make myself do and I’m better for it. Hope you get back on the mat again soon. Have a great day! 🙂 And thanks for stopping by to say hello:)

  5. Sounds like a great weekend…yoga and wine tasting! I’ve been trying to go to the free yoga classes they offer at lululemon, I always enjoy it because it’s different every week!

    1. Hi Marielle! That’s something I’ve never tried. The Lululemons here do the classes all the time, so I really should check it out. Sometimes they even do it in the store, which seems a little funny. Glad you’re enjoying the variety. Hope you have a great Monday! 🙂

  6. Love this post! Good info. I had never heard of bandha until today. As for a recent workout, last night I did a yoga video aimed at preparing you to work up to yoga splits. Let’s just say I have a liiitle work to do lol, but I do get more flexible everyday so hopefully I’ll get there. 🙂

    1. Hi Chrissy! Now you know you need to bandha, even in your yoga splits. That’s something I should work on too … good luck with that!! 🙂

  7. I don’t practice yoga. I’ve tried it on and off throughout the years as a way to relax, but it never stuck. I’ve always wished someone would have a class more for beginners to understand proper form and the moves. It’s too hard when there’s a class with mixed levels.

    1. Hi Megan! I know, beginner’s yoga is definitely necessary to get you started. Hopefully you find a good yoga studio or instructor one day, just when you’re ready to jump in. But if not, there are plenty of other ways to stretch and relax your mind! 🙂

  8. Yoga is such an interesting monster to me — on the one hand, it’s attainable for anyone and everyone. On the other hand, in order to really truly understand it, you have to dedicate so much time and attention to it. I had no idea about some of these tips. It’s definitely worth it to attend workshops like this — I’ll have to do it one day!

    1. Hi Lauren! You are so right. I know I will never spend enough time in yoga to be doing everything right, but I feel like little by little I make gains. And even without knowing the perfect techniques, I genuinely like how it makes my body feel. This conference was a great day of learning, but like I said, I couldn’t learn much more because there is just so much it is overwhelming! But, we do the best we can. 🙂

    1. Hi Rebecca! That’s great you subscribe to Yoga Journal. Yes, I think you would have gotten a ton out of the conference! I’m really glad I got to go. Hope you have a wonderful week:)

  9. OMG how fun!! We have been so bad with doing our yoga regularly. Ever since Lori had Madison we had to push some things aside. But hopefully this new year we will get back into it as we loved it.

    1. Hi ladies! Thanks for stopping by to say hello. I know yoga isn’t always top of mind to fit in, but I’m loving the benefits it seems to be bringing me. Hope you have a wonderful week and are able to fit in some yoga soon!

  10. That sounds like an awesome conference! I’m a super newbie to yoga and so self conscious in classes still, so I really like that you shared that everyone who does yoga is a student. That makes me feel better – like everyone is learning, not just me!

    1. Hi Kristen! I think we ALL feel a little weird in yoga classes. So don’t worry at all. The best thing is, everyone is so worried about themselves, you never notice other people. 🙂

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