A blue cat – art is therapeutic.

On my 100 goals list for 2017, there was ‘get back to painting for pleasure’. And so I began to draw for myself only, again. Not for commissions, not for design projects, but for my own pleasure alone.

cat artIt took me a while, to be honest…

First, I had to free myself from the sense of guilt that doing something not work-related – of wasting time –  gave me. The false myth of productivity is still running after me, but I ran faster, ha ha!

Second I had to put some tape on my inner critic’s mouth. A lot of tape. A LOT. To regain the sense of playfulness that making art once gave me, I took a few drawing courses on Creative Bug and that did the trick! I know I just mentioned this, but it worked so well for me that I will never say it enough. Sometimes all you need is a little push! I took beginners classes on purpose because when you are a beginner you are not supposed to be perfect, you can just experiment and have fun. The permission slip on perfection that feeling like a beginner gave me worked. I began literally playing and have fun with colors and brushes once again! And perfection seemed like a boring thing to aim at. It is! Perfection is boring!cat art

Getting that feeling back is priceless. I honestly thought I had lost it forever. I thought it belonged to childhood, that it was never going to come back. I wondered how could artists live in their seemingly dreamy world made of imagination and colors when I couldn’t anymore. I was so envious.

But it’s all back, and it’s even stronger than what it was when I was a child! I fell like I’m high all the time. Not that I know what being high is like, believe me. But I’m pretty sure it resembles what I’m feeling these days.

I go to bed thinking about drawing, I wake up thinking about drawing. I spend all free moments reading about art, looking at art blogs, or artist’s accounts on Instagram. My wish list on Amazon is no longer full of self-help books but of art supplies. It’s such a great feeling!

Naturally, I make mainly cat art, my furry babies are my muses. I know this isn’t a surprise.

Painting following your own inspiration is pure magic. It is therapeutic. Things click inside of you, things start to unfold. You gain clearness.

I forgot what it was like, I forgot why I loved so much to draw and paint as a kid. Drawing is a lot like doing yoga, especially when you start adding the colors to the drawing. There is a sense of unity, of mind-body connection, of presence, even if you are in another world with your imagination. As I said, it’s magic.

cat artcat artcat art

I’m spreading cat art in every corner I can! The blue cat is on Etsy as digital downloads, the cushions and the posters are on Zazzle and Redbubble, as are the t-shirts. And I can’t wait to make even more cat art or any other art…just leave me with my pencils and brushes and some good music playing in the background and I am happy!

 

How to do yoga on a budget.

Yoga changed my life. I’ve always been into sports, I always loved to sweat and use my body, but yoga is more than just movement. I got into it because I wanted to become more flexible and was searching for something that could get along with my meditation practice. But I had no idea how much yoga goes deeper than just flexibility and breathing. You discover muscles you didn’t know existed and you become friends with your body. Whatever the reason you will begin to do yoga is, it will get deeper than just exercise.

yoga on a budget

I began practicing by myself, following instructions from a book, way before the Internet was born. The last sentence makes me feel old…Okay, let’s move on.

One of the reasons I began doing yoga with a book is because practicing at a proper studio was quite expensive. There are different ways of practicing yoga. Some are very focused on the athletic performance: it’s like a training session but with new age music. Others are more about the spiritual connection between body and mind and the philosophy that there is within yoga.

The last approach is the real thing and the one I was interested in. The first way of practicing was and still is very popular in gyms, therefore available at decent prices. The last one was in yoga studios only, for a small niche of people and more expensive, and it’s still like this these days.

I have tried to take yoga lessons at the gym, but the teacher was confused and confusing. He was a fitness instructor turn yoga teacher who lit incense and played new age music…but couldn’t let go of his habit of screaming ‘motivationally’ at people. He would yell things like ‘Come on! Squeeze that butt! Push, push!’ while we were in warrior pose with Enya whispering from the stereo and Sandalwood incense was filling the room. They guy just didn’t get what yoga is.

Later on, I joined a real studio and have followed lessons given by a great teacher. But yoga has exploded in popularity in the last years and now there are more and more options to practice. While nothing beats a great studio and teacher, there are many things available if you still want to do it but you are on a budget or can’t reach a studio. You can be experienced or a beginner, there is something for everybody. The web, of course, is of great help.

The first thing you need to do yoga is a mat. No, a towel won’t work. Carpets are usually scratchy. Tiles can be cold and slippery. Believe me, you need a proper mat. I’ve had many, always quite cheap. I would like to try the difference between a really expensive mat and a cheap one, but for now, I’ll stick with the cheaps. Right now I have two.

1– The first one is from Decathlon and it’s really super cheap. I bought it for 7,99 € at the shop. It grips and it’s thick enough. It tends to be a little elastic when you push back your feet on certain asanas, but not so much to really disturb you. Mine came with a smell of PVC that I easily washed off with a neutral detergent. Oh, and mine is pink, but I bought years ago, I have no idea if it’s still available. It does begin to be a little too loose after a long use, but it’s perfectly acceptable. I currently use this mat when I practice in my garden because I don’t want to ruin the newest one.

2- The other mat I bought on Amazon and it’s from Gaiam. I had it for less than 30€ and it’s a great mat for the price. I like that it’s free of toxins, but it did have a bit of smell when I opened the package. Nothing really disturbing, and it went away pretty quickly. I didn’t even wash it, I’ve just hung it in open air for a day. 

3/4- I don’t use props that much, I really never did. Props used in yoga are usually blocks and straps. At the beginning of my practice, when I was experimenting and penniless, I used a Bible and a vocabulary instead of bricks and the belt of my bathrobe as a strap. To be honest, they worked pretty well! But yes, proper props are fancier and more comfortable. With the years I bought a set of bricks and a strap, both with no brand at a local sports store. This set of bricks and this strap looks fine and they are just about the price I’ve paid for mines, so they are probably similar. I guess if you are going to use the bricks a lot you’ll need good ones as they are meant to support the weight and be sturdy. But at the beginning, I’m sure you can go with first-price ones. First, try with books though. And your bathrobe’s belt.

Now, once you have a mat, to begin a practice all you need is a teacher. There are a TONS of yoga websites for all levels. I personally have two favorites. One is Doyouyoga and the other one is Gaia.

Doyouyoga is fun and funky, there are a lot of free classes and if you decide to become a premium member the price is good. It’s fun because you have your own page, you can become friends with other yogis, you get badges and awards, and the amount of activity you do gets tracked. It’s motivating. Gaia is like Netflix for yoga and spiritual seekers. There are a ton of videos, movies and there are also fitness videos. Again, if you decide to become a premium member, the price is really good.

Many teachers are on Youtube too, especially the younger ones, and I do follow a few. They’re good, fun to watch and to practice with. I like Yoga with Adriene a lot, for example.yoga on a budget

But my favorite way to do yoga at home is with DVDS. I like to see the asanas on the big screen, I like to be able to control the whole thing with a remote. There are a million of yoga courses available on DVD but my favorites are Shiva Rea’s. She is one of my favorite teachers, if not my absolute favorite. Her videos are always stunning, so inspiring! She’s always at the beach, or in a forest and she always has great music in the background. She is a real teacher, she knows all about yoga. Her DVDs often come with a matrix, so that you can mix and match the practices to make up your own, depending on the time you have or how you need to move.

1- if you are a beginner Flow Yoga for Beginners is the one you should start with. Shiva teaches Vinyasa yoga, which is made of a series of movements in sequence. It’s not a static practice and it can be tricky at the beginning. Take your time, don’t worry. I get back to this video often because sometimes I need to get back to the basics.

2-  have a round belly? Hate crunches? Creative Core is the video! It is truly a creative way to exercise your abs and, most of all, it works! I had abs! (note that I used past tense. Don’t ask why.)

3- Yoga Shakti is a little bit more for intermediate level, but beginners can do it as the matrix allow to choose the poses. you can build up your level as yo practice, but I recommend to watch the video first, and then exercise. There are breathing exercises and meditations and all poses are called with their Sanskrit name, which is fantastic.

4- the last one I suggest is Daily Energy Collection. I have ‘Am energy’ and ‘Daily energy’ and I bought them separately years ago, but It looks like now they have put all energy series into one collection, and the price is a steal! These sequences are incredible mood boosters for me. Highly recommended if you have mood swings, or if you are irritable. Like me.

Summing up you can start a Yoga practice with less than 30$ or even Euros like I did. The tricky part of practicing at home is keeping the motivation up…when you pay for classes you often force yourself to go not to waste money. When you transform your living room in your yoga studio, avoiding procrastination is hard. There are ways to trick yourself into practicing often! My trick includes chocolate. And sometimes Pizza! I’m not much for sacrifices, you guys. Life is short.

See you on the mat!