Stay in the Groove: 8 Tips to Keep Motivated and Be Healthy

The holiday season tends to be a hectic time for most people as each weekend is full of parties, outings, dinners, and other plans. Usually a lot of traveling, cooking, baking, drinking, eating, and hanging around talking are involved. It’s a really great time of year to connect with friends and family and to express your love for them. Amidst all of the craziness, you might find it hard to express this love for yourself, as there’s just too much to get done, it seems. Similarly, if you live in area that gets very cold during the winter months, it can be tempting to snuggle up with hot chocolate and watch movies all day, versus sticking to your usual routines. Here are some tips to help keep you motivated to stay happy, healthy, and fit during the holiday season and cold, winter months.

1. Set Goals for Yourself

Setting realistic exercise goals can go a long way in keeping you on track. The workout goal may vary from your typical routine, but simply committing to a certain number of minutes a day or week of exercise will help you stay focused. Even 15 minutes of yoga poses in the morning can aid in getting you centered and present, circulating breath and fresh blood throughout your heart, lungs and veins, detoxifying your body, loosening up your muscles, and giving you a boost for the day. Maybe the goal is setting the alarm 15 – 30 minutes early and getting a practice in before the rush of the day starts, especially if you know you won’t have time for a full practice later in the day. Putting it on the calendar is a sure way to keep you honest. [wp_ad_camp_1]

2. Short Practices Throughout the Day

Though it’s not ideal, you can do yoga almost anywhere. Standing in line at the grocery store is a great time to explore some shoulder stretches. There are 1000s of way to incorporate yoga and mindfulness into your everyday life: forward folds in the shower, sitting mindfully in a hip opener (sukhasana, for example) and remembering to switch sides every few minutes, circulating energy with a few half or full sun salutations when waiting for food to finish cooking, or wrist, finger, and ankle stretches while watching a movie with the family are all ways to stay present, to keep fresh breath circulating, and to keep the energy flowing through the body while getting to tasks of the day done. Feel free to get creative but always be safe and mindful of what your body is telling you and of how open you are at any given time. Without proper warm-ups, your muscles won’t be as warm and you won’t be able to access poses as deeply as when in a full practice, so be aware of not pushing yourself too far here. The purpose is more of a mindfulness activity to stay aware of the body and stay present in the moment.

 3. Invite Family Members to Practice with You

Chances are you have family members that know nothing about yoga. They may not pursue it on their own but they might be interested in connecting with you in a different way than usual and on having you show them the benefits of yoga. Having a family yoga session can be incredibly fulfilling, as you’re sure to laugh together and share energy in new ways. Make an official or unofficial invitation, depending on the structure of your family, to join together for a group yoga session. You will be sharing a very valuable gift with your loved ones that they could take into their own lives moving forward. If you’re not a yoga teacher, there are many on-line yoga classes that are superb (like that you can use for the class. There are free sites as well. Throw some of your old mats into the car, round up the family, plug the computer into the television and broadcast the session for the whole family to enjoy.

4. Enlist a Workout Buddy

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Having a friend on the journey with you of staying healthy during the cold, holiday months is a great idea because, in addition to keeping one another honest, you will also enrich your relationship. It’s so much more fun to run on the treadmill alongside a friend or to accompany each other to a yoga class followed by a lunch date. You will be more likely to show up to the gym or studio if someone is meeting you there at a set time. Plus, it’s a great way to stay connected to your community, which will keep your mental and emotional health in tiptop shape.

5. Consider Booking a Yoga Retreat

If you live somewhere extremely cold and tend to get depressed from the lack of sunshine and outside time, consider booking a yoga retreat abroad in a tropical climate. You will be amazed at how good you will feel after a week in the sun, full of yoga and fun. You will go home recharged, ready to take on any challenges that come your way, and armed with new skills and techniques to staying healthy.

 6. Control Your Food and Alcohol Intake

This might seem obvious, but it takes a lot of effort for most of us to not binge eat during the holidays. It tends to be societally accepted and perhaps even expected that everyone stuff themselves during the holidays. Our families work hard to prepare lots of good food but the fact is it tends to be on the unhealthy side for most families during this time of year (not in all cases, of course!). Avoiding all the delectable treats of this season can seem like torture, especially if you have cravings for such foods. A great way to help you avoid things you don’t want to eat is by committing to it before you leave the house. As a vegan, it’s easy for me to avoid most unhealthy holiday foods and baked goods as I can’t eat them anyway, but before I was vegan, I had an extremely difficult time saying no to certain sweets, even if I wasn’t hungry. If you’re not vegan, pretend that you are and that you simply cannot eat most of the unhealthy crap, and it gets a lot easier to avoid. Eat a nutritious breakfast, drink a fresh juice or smoothie early in the morning to fill you up, and supplement with nuts and fresh fruits and veggies throughout the day so you’re not starving during the ominous mealtimes. Then look in the mirror and practice telling your mother, “No thanks Mom, none for me this year.”

7. Supplement with Vitamins, if Necessary

Let me preface this by saying loudly: I AM NOT A DOCTOR. Not even close, however, as a therapist, I know that lack of sunshine can cause deficiencies in vitamins, namely Vitamin D. These deficiencies not only impact our physical health but can leave us feeling depressed or melancholy as well. If you notice that you’re not getting enough sun and that it’s starting to affect your wellbeing, consider talking to your doctor about supplementing with vitamins during this time, and see what she or he recommends for you. You might even consider having a blood panel drawn up to see exactly what you need.

8. Bring Dishes that are Healthy and Filling

Take matters into your own hands and set examples for your friends and family by recreating traditional recipes in healthy and delicious ways and bringing them to the party. I never feel deprived as a vegan during Thanksgiving or Christmas if I ensure I bring some dishes I love, as literally every recipe can be made vegan (and usually tastes better, in my opinion). You can eat more because it’s not bogged down with filing animal fats and you won’t feel gross afterwards. Your family will try it and surely love it and you might have an impact on moving your whole family in a healthier direction. Just make sure to bring plenty so you’re not upset when they gobble up all your vegan green bean casserole!


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5 Mistakes Everyone Makes Their First Week of Yoga


The beginning is the most important part of the work. - Plato

Oscar Wilde said “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance”. Wherever you are on the journey of loving yourself, starting the practice of yoga has the great potential of turning into a passionate love story of self-discovery and healing.[wp_ad_camp_1]

If you have taken the first step in this path, or have been pursuing it in different forms for quite some time, congratulations! Learning to love yourself is always worth your time and effort, and beginning to do yoga is likely going to become one of the best choices you have ever made.

Approaching yoga for the first time can be both scary and exciting; maybe you’ve wanted to try it for years, or maybe you got dragged to your first class by your yogi friend that is just so excited to show you something they love, or maybe you are looking for an alternative form of exercise that gets you off that treadmill. You might be nervous, scared you will make mistakes, not know what to do, and make a fool of yourself. Anyone doing yoga for quite some time still feels this way sometimes. It’s ok to be nervous. Take a deep breath, and let go of the fear. Remember, you are doing this for you, and nobody else.


If you are a newbie to yoga, check out these 5 mistakes in order to avoid frustration, anger, and self-bashing. Start your practice with love, gratitude, and determination. If you have been practicing yoga for quite some time, you will likely relate to the most common mistakes most people make their first week of yoga. I know I do!


1) Picking the wrong level class

Throw caution to the wind and just do it. - Carrie Underwood 

When approaching a yoga studio or a yoga class at the gym, or a class online, it is likely that you will feel overwhelmed by the choices. First of all, there are so many different kinds of yoga and so many places offering all kinds of different practices. My advice is to just pick one. If it’s not for you, you will figure it out later, but pick a yoga studio or gym that has the most convenient location and time for you. You are much more likely to go if it is close to home or work, and don’t have to drive across town to get there. Or if you are motivated by going to the same place as your friend or a place that was recommended to you, do that. Just pick one that you are inspires you to get up and moving, even if it is at 6 a.m. or after a hard day’s work.

Secondly, if you are new to yoga, pick a BEGINNER or ALL LEVELS yoga class. Even if you are fit and practice other sports and climb mountains and run mud triathlons, do the beginning course. Yoga has its own language and series of unique movement that you will learn with time. If you pick a class that is intermediate or advanced, you will likely feel lost and want to give up. If the class feels too easy, then move on to an intermediate level, but give it at least a week of committed practice to learn the language of yoga first.


2) Coming in with expectations

Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won't come in. ― Isaac Asimov

It is likely that you will, consciously or subconsciously, go to your first class with a lot of expectations and beliefs about yoga you have gathered over the years. With the popularity of yoga exploding in the last couple decades, it is no surprise that people have so many different opinions about it. You have probably internalized those beliefs as well, and if they won’t lead to a positive and nurturing practice, let them go.


3) Being Too Hard on Yourself

The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself. - Anna Quindlen

Yoga is a personal practice that we most often practice with a bunch of other people. You might find yourself looking around the room and thinking “Whoa, I can’t do that!” and feeling discouraged and frustrated that you can’t get your heels on the ground in downward dog, or your hands to touch the floor in forward fold. The key is to think “Whoa, I can’t do that!...YET!” and keep practicing. Judging yourself against other yogis is a losing game. There will always be someone who has practiced longer than you, can bend more than you, or eventually hold a crow longer than you can. Be kind with yourself and focus only on YOU. I know that it can be hard to focus completely on ourselves when we feel like everyone else can see our every move! The fact is, people are paying way less attention to you than you think they are. They are probably not looking at what you can or cannot do (or can and cannot do yet!), and if they are…who cares! You are in it for yourself. So be your own best friend and challenge yourself and also be gentle.


 4) Giving up

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time. - Thomas A. Edison

There have been many times during a yoga class where I just wanted to leave. “Why am I even doing this?” my mind says, “this it hard”.

Keep going. You probably took the yoga class in the first place because you’ve heard from others how great it can make you feel and how good it is for your mind, body, and spirit. Remember this when you want to give up. And then keep going. Just try one more time. And then one more.


 5) Deciding what you feel about yoga after one, two, or even seven classes

I do the very best I know how - the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing so until the end. - Abraham Lincoln

You did it! You went to your first class, maybe even two or three and you decided that you…hate it! You struggled through class, or felt silly, or just didn’t feel the awe-inspiring-soul-uplifting-energy-boosting-peace-giving feeling that your friends have been talking about. It’s just not happening for you. And that’s ok. It’s ok to not like something. But that also doesn’t mean that you should give up on it yet. Yoga is a practice, and like every practice, it takes time. Some people like it right from their first cat and cow, others never want to go to a class again, and some keep going at it even if they don’t always love it 100% of the time. It is all part of the experience. It has been proven that yoga improves health, self-esteem, flexibility, and joy in one’s life. If you need that mental knowledge to keep practicing, fine. Bet I bet you that after a while, you will stop practicing for the rational health and fitness reason that yoga can bring, and start practicing simply because your body craves it, and you always feel better when you do yoga than when you don’t. Just give it more time.


Best of luck!


If it’s your first time, also check out this article How To Start Doing Yoga If You’re A Newbie by Yoga Travel Tree founder, Brooke Roberts.

Image via: flickr