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More To Love teaches plus size women how to learn body-acceptance and end dieting for good. 

How to be Fearless and Sleeveless this Summer!

Rachel Estapa

Show off your guns!


It’s weird how we associate certain body parts with fear and loathing. I don’t know of too many people, no matter their size, who get terrified of showing their EARS in photos. 

But arms? The horror! How scandalous! We turn into a Victorian woman, covered up for modesty-sake...but maybe your idea of what's allowed to be shown in public is a little outdated. 

When I still hated my body, I used to wear long sleeves all summer. 

Dark.Heavy.Cotten.All.Summer.Loooong.

People would ask me “What’s with the sleeves?” I’d reply “I get cold easily…” If you know me, that could not be furthest from the truth! I’m a hot mess all the time. Give me winter, give me fall - in summer, lord…I used to dread it. 

Age 16-ish on a hot and humid day...wearing my typical "summer" outfit. 

Age 16-ish on a hot and humid day...wearing my typical "summer" outfit. 

I wore long sleeves because to me, it was “slimming.” I felt uncomfortable showing my arms because they felt huge and embarrassing. Did I trick the world? Nah, I looked like a sweaty, unhappy girl. 

Baring your arms feels like being naked. People can see them and that’s intimidating. People will witness the wiggle and jiggle. They'll notice the marks, the bumps the chub. For me, showing my arms was a confession to being fat and knowing it. 

If I could hide my arms, I could hide that fact, right?

I remember the day when I decided I was going to walk down to my town square sans-sleeves. It took me 2 hours to find the RIGHT top, the RIGHT skirt to pair with it, the RIGHT hairstyle with said top. I was working myself into a ball of nerves…over what exactly? But I really wanted to knock this nonsense off because honestly, ARMS? Who cares!

As I walked down into the square, I was tense but kept repeating to myself “I’m allowed to show my arms! This is me!” but honestly, there was a part of me which kept looking out for other people’s reactions.

And those horrible reactions I thought were guaranteed? Nah. Nothing. People walked on by just like they always do. 

I kept testing my sleeveless pride and the more I did it, the less worked up I became. Showing my arms (or not) wasn't going to hide the fact that I had big arms. And so what? People judge, you and I do, so I figure better to live how I want and not be so tethered to what people think of me. 

The best tip to getting the courage to bare your arms is answering this question honestly: Who says you need to hide your body from the world?

If it's a real person in your life, read my article on how to deal with people who make negative comments about your body. 

If it's an idea you've had for a while, it's time you start working on letting go of unhelpful ideas about your body and maybe consider taking my More to Love eCourse.

Body acceptance is not about waking up one day without a shred of insecurity. You’ve got to be willing to be brave in the sake of putting yourself out there if only to say to “you did it, girl!” You’ve got to learn first hand the world will not crumble if you do something you’ve always wanted to do. Show people your right to bare arms, to be seen! Body acceptance is a daily practice of being honest with yourself, and believing that your body doesn’t have to inhibit you from living fully.

This is how I personally teach confidence building: step by step and appreciating the little victories...like wearing a tank-top to the grocery store. 

Sleeveless and happy!

Sleeveless and happy!

I was really proud of myself the day I went sleeveless and let go of lots of summer fears around it. And my summer wardrobe now is much more fun. 


more to love course

Learn the art of incredible and life-changing body love.

3 Ways to Move Beyond Past Body Shame

Rachel Estapa

When I was eight, my ballet teacher told me I didn’t have any grace.

What was a casual, off-handed statement for her became a filter through which I viewed so much of myself worth.

The stories of our past can impact us today in ways we wish they wouldn’t, especially for those of us who are trying to love our imperfect bodies.

As I have personally worked on shedding years of body shame as well as helping others do the same, I have learned that it’s impossible to move forward without dipping into the past.

This can feel scary - who wants to revisit unpleasant stories and memories? But it’s also essential when you’re creating a new life founded in love and body acceptance.

So I want to offer three tips on how to put the past in its place and start to move forward.

Face your past

Weight and body image touch at the core of who we are and even into adulthood, this spot can feel tender. It's why we hide, diminish, and try to make ourselves small. 

Self-worth and identity are wrapped up in our experiences, so in order to unpeel layers, we must examine how they came to be.

Either with trust friends or professional help, it’s sometimes necessary to face what happened in the past as a step towards resolving it. This process, while scary, can also be very therapeutic, when you give yourself space and time to confront parts of your history that are holding you back today.

Release and share your story

More to Love would not exist today if I didn’t spend time re-telling my painful history with self-esteem and poor body image.

Through the act of writing and eventually sharing it with others, I felt freedom from the grasp of the past. Of course, there is risk, so you choose who to share it with wisely because it's the most fragile piece of you at first. 

But trust me, it gets much easier over time. There is power when we tell our story. and I believe we also spark that confident in others.

We may not be able to change our past, but we can change our relationship TO the past.

Appreciate what you learned

When I teach body acceptance and yoga, I try to impart the lesson that we learn best not from what was easy, but from what was tough.

Because I struggled for so many years trying to like my body, I appreciate where I am right now even more. This applies to everyone - there is something in your life that at once was a burden, but through it, became a source of wisdom. Every More to Lovely I’ve spoken to also shares a similar sentiment - they believe loving what felt unlovable is a path to peace.

Humans are amazing because we learn best through first being lost. Struggles are moments to learn about who you are, what your defaults and assumptions are.

With every stumble, of course, there is a sting, but there is also an opportunity to ask “what did I learn here?”

In the comments below, what strengths have you discovered through struggle?

You Are Allowed To Enjoy Your Body, Too

Rachel Estapa

A turning point in my body love came when I dared to believe that I was capable of enjoying life more in a large body.

For years, I poured my energy into weight-loss with one goal in mind: to be a better version of myself. Only then, would the world open up to me.

Misguided, because even when I lost a ton of weight, I still felt ashamed in my skin.

There is a difference between happiness, enjoyment, love, appreciation, compassion - and all of these depend upon a mindset, not a waist size.

How we’ve been taught to connect with our bodies is so far removed from the truth of this beautiful experience. Our bodies are intimately connected to our deepest thoughts about our worth, our value, our right to be here.

So it makes sense that so many of us - especially women - feel like strangers in our own bodies. We’re taught that enjoyment comes after sacrifice. To experience pleasure only as a reward for being good. That happiness is the currency of worth.

So when I chose to try to send love to my body, any size, I didn’t realize just how revolutionary an act it was going to be. Or how hard it would be to shake the web of lies about what my body was allowed to experience.

But for you, the More to Lovely reading this, I have one simple hope for you: in the moment of frustration with your body, take a purposeful breath. Not because breathing is some magical trick, not because you don’t know how to breathe, but because it’s the simplest way to remember that you are a whole system, alive, fragile, wading through the world with freshness moving in and out of your body.

That a body at 600 pounds or 60 is still worthy of that air. That skin crinkled with age, stretched with marks of expanse, freckled with dots of pigment - the casing of your whole does not define the wholeness of who you are.

The body’s beauty is that it can response, sense, feel, react, adjust, move. Size maybe alters how one body moves compared to another, but in the grand arc of life, this comparison is meaningless.

You are allowed to move. You are allowed to sense, and feel, and cherish the softness of a beloved pet, the freedom of relaxed muscles, the ease of a slowed down breath.

You are allowed to enjoy your body and it starts now. And now. And all the nows we are so lucky to experience.

Scared to Try Yoga? Do This.

Rachel Estapa

My first yoga class was terrible.

Right off the bat, one thing was obvious: I was the biggest person there and felt intimidated.

Around me, everyone seemed so confident in their thin, flexible bodies, ready to go and very focused.

It was hard not to feel clueless. I didn’t know how to sit on my borrowed mat, what props to take, nor what to expect at all. And lord help me when I realized the heat was cranking.

I was a sweaty, awkward, stumbling mess. I even left the class part-way to breathe in some fresh air, in which the teacher (while sweet) came after me to urge me to come back into the room to “acclimatize to the heat.”

If this was yoga, then I guess yoga wasn’t for me.

It took me another few months to get the courage to try a class (and new studio) again. I’m so glad I did because my next experience was much kinder. Nearly a decade later, yoga is a centerpiece in my life and body acceptance.

But I know there are some big hurdles to overcome, so I want to share with you two things I’ve learned along the way to help you join a class (hopefully mine!) and to feel confident in your body and yoga opportunity.

The trap of “what if?” thinking

The most common reason plus size women are scared to try yoga is “what if I’m just too big for it?”

This is valid, real, I understand totally - but it’s also not true. All bodies, yes even yours, is capable of enjoying yoga.

But let’s look a bit deeper into what’s really going on here...

Anytime you venture out to try something new, fear pops up. It’s a radar that signals “hey now, what if...?” and that trips us up big time. The “what if” is the scary part, unknown, and it’s always connected to a core vulnerability we have.

Whether it’s body size, physical limitations, personal insecurities, the fear around “what if?” stops us from experiencing life beyond our comfort zone.

So what to do?

Stickynote this to your mirror: I am allowed to be scared AND try something new at the same time.

By validating your very real concerns as you evolve yourself, you get into the habit of seeing fear not as a stumbling block, but as an essential piece of your own growth.

Which leads to my next tip...

Fear is a tool - master it

In my More to Love workshops, I teach that fear is important because it means something valuable is at stake for you. Fear is felt as an imbalance between what you want to do and what you currently think you can do.

Going back to my first yoga class, I was scared because I was ashamed of my body size and lack of yoga knowledge. I wanted to feel welcome and sure of myself, and when I wasn’t, that’s the fear.

Fear can be a guide to help hone in to what matters most and that’s important information because it helps direct your actions. The scarier the step, the more value overcoming it is for you.

But looking back, if I didn’t have fear I wouldn’t have found such importance in focusing on body acceptance. The fear helped me understand the pathway to freedom from body shame.

In the comments below, share your wisdom on ways you try to overcome fear in your life.

 

Post Inauguration-Stress? 3 Ways to Get Back to “Normal” in Under 5 Minutes

Rachel Estapa

Since last Friday, a lot of change has occurred with eyes watching along all sides of the spectrum.

For me, I’ve been feeling the pulse of strong emotions and charged energy surging through my body. Magnify that with news, social media, conversations with friends and family – it’s a lot for our minds and bodies to manage.

Yesterday, I finally recognized “Ok, I’ve gotta regroup or else I'll burn out!” Which to be honest, isn’t something new for me. Or for any of us really. When our immediate attention shifts from our established priories, it’s natural and common to feel “off” – in body, mind, spirit.

I use the word “normal” loosely – nothing about all this is normal which is why so many of us are feeling it – no matter where your affinities lie. But a sense of “normal” puts your priorities, abilities, and capabilities back into balance and that helps you make wiser decisions going forward. A stressed out mind makes lousy choices.

So what can you do to help pull the threads back to the center? Try these 3 simple, but powerful, activities that take under 5 minutes to do.

Set a timer for 2 minutes and just breathe

This is the quickest, easiest, and most effective way to calm yourself down. Not only is breathing a nice break from the world, it helps send a dose of soothing signals through your body. Why 2 minutes? Because that’s all it takes for the relaxing effects to kick in. Repeat as needed. I personally do this 3-5 times a day (usually when I’m riding the train) or when I find myself getting sucked into the black hole of link-clicking.

Make a list of personal activities you enjoy and pick 1 to do in the next 48 hours

This one will be fun. Whenever we think about enjoyable activities, our mindset shifts towards the positive, and this has what’s called an “upward spiral” effect, meaning – enjoyment inspires uplifting behaviors. It re-establishes a sense of “normalcy” for you personally. I’m a trained life coach and I’m all about pairing ideas to action because movement forward helps us get out of our own way.  

To focus, set a timer for 5 minutes. Get really specific – the more detailed, the better. For example, I really enjoy cleaning my make-up brushes; making music playlists for both yoga classes and personal workouts; I love walking around the health/beauty section at Whole Foods, smelling EVERYTHING; I love getting new colorful pens and decorative journals. You see? Even me writing this, I just got a jolt of excitement!  

It may seem small, but little doses of empowerment add up.

Turn the volume down

When things get too loud, turn it down. This can mean a lot of different things – literally or metaphorically.

I know social media is a major one, so take some steps to adjust or reframe your use. If keeping up with news is very important to you, but all means keep doing that, but give some structure to what that means. Unfollow people, pages, groups that are not aligning with what you need right now. You can always adjust settings in the future – and no, turning off is not the same thing as avoiding. This is a version of self-care.

Most things in life are negotiable if you’re clear on your reasons and boundaries. For example, my husband loves to talk about the daily news right when we come home from work, but sometimes I am just not able to give the mental or emotional attention to it and I often say “I know this is really important to you, but right now I’m not able to participate because I just need to recharge myself first. Can we maybe pick it up later?” Yes I do this – a lot – and it works and we call it “decompress time” and it’s the best.

I hope some – maybe all – of these ideas work for you, let me know and please share, take care of each other and when in doubt, JUST BREATHE. 


Join More to Love Yoga, offered weekly in the Boston metro area. Learn more.

Looking Back: More to Love in 2016!

Rachel Estapa

2016 was quite the year…a lot of ups and downs for sure, we lost music icons who made our lives vibrant, rode the waves of an unprecedented U.S. election, and even got a taste of arctic air much sooner than we were ready for.

But let’s not forget: we did A LOT of More to Love Yoga - in person with me in Boston and from afar (via #MoretoLoveYoga). Together, us More to Lovelies did a combined 1,110 hours of yoga during 120 classes full of students of all shapes and sizes. You rocked your yogi-self in awesome photos. You shared your yoga practice with others which sparked even more people saying “Hey, I’m a yogi too!”

So I want to share with you some of the peaks of what has been a truly More to Lovin' year.

We started off 2016 with a bang as More to Love’s class was featured in the Somerville Scout, complete with a full two pages in their magazine of More to Lovelies doing their thing. After that, it was on to Boston Magazine.

In March, we kicked-off a 12 week MTLYoga series over at Harvard. One of my personal goals came true as WCVB's local signature TV show Chronicle visited our class – and maybe you discovered MTL because of this. It was so special and I was happy to share it with so many of you!

In the warmer months, we danced our curvy booties off with the incredible Regan Chastain of Dances With Fat, partook in a photoshoot out at More to Love’s yoga-home Kripalu (I’m an ad now!), and had the honor of being keynote speaker at Boston Curvy Fashion Week. Bonus, More to Love’s Eyewear Collection was onsite to help ladies look outstanding in our frames.

In the fall, we started the More to Love Yoga Essentials Series, went on the road to speak and teach at a Women’s Empowerment Retreat, and celebrated More to Love Yoga’s first birthday.

Looking forward to 2017, some pretty exciting things are coming your way – a special New Year’s Day class, new workshops with Boston-area partners, and I’m very excited to announce More to Love will be the featured class at March’s Namaste Saturday at the Museum of Fine Arts.


#Moretoloveyoga on Instagram


WHEW. WOW. So yeah, we did some big things! Without your support and belief in your own right to enjoy yoga and your body, none of this would be possible.

So I thank you! More to Love thanks you!

 

More to Love Holiday Survival Guide!

Rachel Estapa

Holidays are here which means plenty of time to circle around your respective family and friend's tables and all sing happily together, without any issues at all, glowing with the joy of the season and hope for the New Year.

Rrrriiiiight.

As wonderful as this time of year can be, it’s also packed full of occasions which can really trigger some body-image related stress and heartache. The fact is, holidays are both amazing and exhausting and I thought it would be great to help you prep ahead of time for at least ONE issue to go a bit smoother this season – how you feel about your body during the holidays.

Included in this article is a special gift to help you keep your body-acceptance intact so you can enjoy the spirit of the season. Inspired by an activity in my More to Love Course, I'm providing you with a simple yet powerful exercise which I'd love for you to share to the More To Love Facebook page. The exercise is towards the end, so keep reading! 

I’ve broken down three common topics which come up around the holidays:

  • How to handle weight-related conversations
  • How to enjoy food rather than fear it
  • How to keep stress down and self-care up during this time of year

Read them all or jump to the one which speaks to you. And this is not meant to be the definitive answer but more so to serve as a touch-point for your own reflection on how these common body-image issues may show up in your life.

How to handle weight-related conversations

I know many of MTL’s readers deal with direct or not-so-direct comments and opinions about weight, health, and exercise. It’s unfortunate that it’s socially acceptable to discuss something as personal as someone’s own body in a public setting. So what can you do about it? A lot. 

A while ago, I wrote a piece about how to handle unwanted comments about your body. It’s never comfortable or easy to prepare yourself for a potential “battle” so to speak, but that’s honestly what I suggest doing. Usually, you know who is going to be around you ahead of time so use it to your advantage. 

Perhaps there is a relative or family friend who makes it their mission to pry and poke at your weight or lifestyle. For these types of people, I advise limiting as much interaction with them as possible. Don't be rude, just don't go too deep. You're not obligated to interact with people you don't want to. 

Bear this in mind: you can be the owner of your conversations meaning – be in charge of what you want to talk about. Come prepared with one or two topics and stick to them. If things start to turn, excuse yourself – you’re an adult and you don’t have to participate in conversations that are not right or OK for you.

MDS_BW-1473.jpg

Another option is counting on your allies – aka, those relatives and friends around who you can call upon to support and diffuse if need be. It might also be a good idea to talk with them before hand to make a plan of action should some comments and topics start to venture into unwanted areas.  It’s really nice to have the support of your loved ones in these tougher situations.

BUT OK, worst case scenario – someone makes a direct jab about your weight. What do you do? You take a deep breath, conjure up ALL the love and strength inside your heart and say calmly to them “That is a hurtful comment and it’s not ok to talk to me like that.” The ground you stand on is your own self-respect and naturally, someone might try to back-peddle or spin it, or play the "But I'm just concerned for you!" card.  Calmly remind them again...

That is a hurtful comment and it’s NOT ok to talk to me like that.

You do not have to be held to talk about something you don’t want to with someone you don't want to. And while it’ll be uncomfortable, the person is breaking your boundary when they are not entitled to. End of story. 

How to enjoy food without fear

I am Irish-Italian, my dad is directly from Ireland and my mother is second generation Italian and her siblings all live within 2 miles of each other just north of Boston. My Italian side are fantastic cooks and the hosts of all occasions, and that being so, our holidays are abundant with food. How much food? So much that every single year since as long as I can remember each holiday meal has ended with “Ok, next year we’re going to scale it waaaaay back.” In my 30 years of celebrating, it's never happened!

So with all this food around (especially when I was in my diet days) I get these thoughts: Should I really eat that? Will I eat myself into a frenzy? Will I deprive myself of all the glory? Will I turn every day this month into a holiday feeding fest which will NEVER end??

Food is meant to be enjoyed and so is your experience around food. If you’re nervous about food triggering issues for you, you have the benefit of time now to plan for it. Perhaps re-read some articles or books that really helped you find a good balance with food. Talk with friends and family. Visit forums online. Get the gist of an intuitive eating approach and maybe it’ll lessen the fear around what you’ll do with food.

But I've found (same for the women I've coached) relief in giving myself permission to enjoy food. When you put trust back onto yourself, something amazing happens – you don't feel the need to control and you're actually more at ease because you've established faith in your ability to listen to your body. 

Every bite is an opportunity to learn something about yourself

My attitude towards food ebbs and flows; somedays I want to eat more than others, and I recognize that’ll be the case around the holidays too. My relationship to food these days is much more balanced and mindful, but it's still a practice and one I accept will change as I do. 

Every bite is an opportunity to learn something about yourself. Am I eating out of boredom? Sad? STRESS? Just 'cuz it's there? Craving protein? Fats? What does full feel like? When I get hungry, how does it affect me? 

Treat it like a science experiment and give yourself the space to be mindful and present with what you eat. Doing it this way, judgment around what you eat lessens over time. 

I also put my attention to more than just food…I try to take in the whole experience of the holidays, the sounds, scents, cold temps, decorations, family, warmth. When it becomes less about food and more about an overall experience, I find myself moving into situations with more ease.

Basically, a holiday can exaggerate underlying food issues but they shouldn't rob you of the experience of enjoying yourself. So plan now, be mindful and give yourself room to experience deliciousness. 

How to keep stress down and self-care up

Holidays also mean dealing with OTHER people and obligations. Between gifts, parties, traveling, and meeting expectations, it’s really easy to take for granted your own well-being. The more energy we place onto other people’s happiness, we deplete our own. And this is a very common issue for caregiving, heart-centered folks like yourself.

You give, give, give..but feel exhausted. Why? Maybe it’s for approval or to be loved. Maybe you feel guilty for taking time for yourself, or that your energy and investment should always be towards others. I totally understand that thinking but it’s also stressing you out. And everyone else!

So let me ask: what is your giving actually costing you?

It’s not selfish to want to be at your best – you’re allowed to find time for yourself and recharge.

Just because you take a few days here and there for yourself doesn't negate all the incredible roles you play in other people’s lives. In fact, they will respect your efforts even MORE when they see you are prioritizing your own well-being.

self care

So go ahead and carve out two hours each week this month which are JUST FOR YOU. Put them on your calendar – hell, lie and say “Oh, I’m off shopping….” but instead, go to a movie. Get a mani-pedi. Sip tea alone in a coffee shop. Draw a hot bath at home while listening to relaxing music. Do yoga. Work on a special art project or crack open that journal. Do something special which reconnects you to yourself.

Making self-care a priority allows you to show up to all the amazing events this season brings. Stress robs you of the ability to do that. It’s not selfish to want to be at your best – you’re allowed to find time for yourself and recharge. In fact, you must.

More to Love Activity: Give yourself the gift of body-love this holiday season

Now that you've read through each of these common issues you might face, you've probably said "Oh, that's SO ME!" So how do you stop feeling/acting a certain way?

Provide yourself the space, permission and expectation to behave another way. 

For this exercise, make a pledge to yourself on how you'll approach the season to ensure body-love is kept at the forefront. Journal, reflect and get quiet with yourself. Answer honestly "What is it I NEED to make this holiday body-positive time for me?"

To help you make it even more special, I've designed a template you can download and edit directly using PicMonkey.com. Once you create it, I'd love to see it! So email or post it and share with me how it's going. 

It’s really easy to let the holiday’s become a black-hole, an exception to the rest of the year’s rules, but it’s still a time in our lives that requires focus and full-hearted presence.

Because let’s be honest…this really is a wonderful time of year and you deserve to feel it.

What to remember when it hurts [post-election check up]

Rachel Estapa

As a More to Lovely, you may be having a lot of strong feels right now. And without dipping into the political landscape of our nation, I do want to offer you a little yogi-lesson in the hope it helps. 

Like so many, words are tough for me to come by so I'm just feeling and paying close attention to all the sensations in my body.

For right now, that is enough for me. It is enough for you, too. Hold space for yourself and others. 

This is very hard, I know...

But consider this: in the ancient text that is a cornerstone of yoga teaching, the very first line reads "Now, the practice of yoga begins."

And this line is meant to be repeated over and over, breath by breath, for all of one's life. That in every moment, the painful or joyous, there is an opportunity to return back to oneself.

This is helping me now.

It's helping me feel the confusing array of thoughts and emotions without needed to resolve. It's serving as a gentle reminder to return to what is essential, what is my foundation - a commitment to being more to love, in all the ways it can unfold.

And the path back home simply asks us to breathe, to calm the body, to still the mind. And in time, act. In time...to act. 

This may sound like the "yogi" or "life coach" thing to say, but what is the point of all this learning and teaching if when needed most, I cannot turn to it? 

This is yoga, too. This is your acceptance too - not requiring to change a thing - only to witness.

And here at More to Love, I really strive to make it a positive and welcoming space for you to do just that. 

Now, the practice of yoga begins. And continues. 

Election Worries? My 1-Minute Stress-Busting Activiy

Rachel Estapa

OK, OK, I really didn't want to bring politics into More to Love Yoga, but I know this momentous campaign has many of us experiencing higher levels of stress.

I believe that yoga and life in 2016 can complement each other and that what happens on your yoga mat is really just a short practice for what you can do off your mat - where the real living happens.

I'm sharing with you my stress-busting personal breathing practice that I do daily ... and sometimes multiple times a day! It works for me and I hope it works for you.

Read through the activity first, then take just a minute - set your timer -  to do it, OK? Here we go!

Step 1: Mentally give yourself permission to pause for 1 minute
Step 2: Breathe, notice, repeat!

  • Take a deep breath in - as much air as you can fill and then slowly exhale it out - repeat twice more in this deep way, until you get a rhythm.
  • Now that you have your breaths pace steady, close your eyes
  • And bring your attention right to your chest, shoulders, and the area around your heart
  •  And just focus here - breathe in and out, chest rising falling - heart gently pulsing

Step 3: When you're done, slowly open your eyes and think of a word that comes to mind to express how you now feel - just one word. Say this word again to yourself, feel it in your body.

That's it!

Why is this type of activity important?

Whether you're anxious over the election or about something else in your life, when you take a minute to breathe and focus on your body, your stress level decreases. It's like an automatic switch that helps to lower mental and physical agitation, and that helps you focus more on what's important. 
 
The next More to Love Yoga Essentials workshop, Your Sensational Body, is on Saturday, November 12 and explores how best to listen to what’s really going inside, allowing you to feel more in command of yourself, not just reacting to whatever is happening.
 
I'll teach you simple techniques to dip below the "chatter" and through yoga, help you tune-in to what your body is asking for so that you can respond with compassion and care.

Limited spots are available and you can register for this workshop - or the rest of the series - right here.

A Beginner's Guide to Starting Body-Positive Yoga

Rachel Estapa

Deciding to join a yoga class, especially for the first time, is a big deal! Maybe you’ve been eyeing a local studio, or see people posting yoga-things online and think “if I was only…” but never end up taking the first step - well, don’t feel bad about that, honestly. 

Yoga can seem intimidating, unwelcoming and overwhelming - but I want to tell you that you are quite able to do yoga, and yes, one that respects YOUR body too.

Now, I might be a little bias in that I think my own More to Love Yoga Class is a fabulously body-positive one, but I know not everyone reading this might be able to attend mine in Boston – so this guide is for anyone wanting to begin a yoga practice that respects what you’re workin’ with.

To keep it simple, I’ve divided it up into three parts: Your mindset, your body, your gear.

That said, yoga is SUCH a vast field and it’s impossible to capture it all in a single post – but this is what I’ve learned, being a larger yogi myself for nearly a decade and running a yoga community. If I missed something, email me or pop your addition down in the comments.

OK, let’s go!

Your Mindset

“Most yoga happens off your mat.” – Rachel Estapa

Yes, I just quoted myself but for good reason – yoga is more than moving your body. Before you ever step foot into a studio, you're likely faced with a LOT of questions…

“Can I even DO yoga?”

“What if I look like an idiot?”

“What if I’m the biggest/smallest/weakest/clumsiest/clueless person there?!”

"What IS yoga even??"

Rachel Estapa Yoga Boston

Let me start with the essentials: yoga is based on an ancient discipline inspired and connected with Hinduism, emerging thousands of years ago from what is now modern day India. Back then, wise people wanted a way to cultivate and prepare their bodies and minds to devote themselves to the spiritual callings in life. There are primary texts and passages taught through the ages that have shaped and informed the lineage of yoga and its philosophies which are built upon a code of morals, ethics, and behaviors about how to lead a good life.

The yoga WE think of here in the West is actually just a sliver of the full spectrum and practice of yoga. Yoga poses - called asana in the original Sanskrit language - is the various positions the human body can take, each one believing to develop the body, mind, and breath to prepare someone for deeper meditation. In the Western modern practice of yoga, there is more focus on the physical aspects of yoga which have many benefits, including stress reduction, increase mobility and flexibility, better concentration, just to name a few.

WHEW ok, the history of yoga is DEEP, FASCINATING and I believe anyone who is curious about yoga must respectfully learn where it originates.

But let me help you with one really big question: "Can my body even DO yoga?" Here's something that should come as a relief: anytime your mind ventures into “WHAT IF” land, you’re in a perfect spot to start yoga. Why? Because yoga is about checking in with yourself – your mind, body, thoughts – and through being more self-aware and catching these concerns, you build self-confidence.

I give the analogy that yoga is like learning a new language and it’s impossible to jump right on in, knowing everything. That’s why so many yoga teachers say that the BEST mind for yoga is “beginner's mind” because you’ll always be humbled by the experience. I’ve been practicing yoga for nearly a decade and I still feel like a beginner.

YES your body, just as it is right this very moment, can do yoga. *nod* You are allowed to take the pace and postures that feel good to you. And no matter your age, size, flexibility level, health-matters – there is SOME type of yoga that you can enjoy.

Intimidation is very real, especially when people on the outside look at yoga and think “I look nothing like that!” but this perception is changing as more and more people of all shapes, sizes, colors, backgrounds, and ability are doing yoga. 

More to Love Yoga Rachel Estapa

Truth-time: EVERYONE who does yoga today started out feeling like an outsider – even me - and I think it’s a normal step for anyone trying something new to feel scared. So don’t let the temporary feeling of the odd-person out stop you from a very rewarding experience.

Your Body

Awesome, so you’re moving forward with trying out yoga – yay! So now comes some other important question, like….what KIND of yoga to start with? Where do I go? What about very real issues I have in my body? Again, everything you ask is valuable to help you find a space that is most appropriate for you.

Yoga is a wide range of style now – and when you look at it, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the varieties. Most yoga studios do a good job at describing their classes, but sometimes, it can still feel confusing.

Here’s a simple and loose terminology guide – by no means comprehensive or final, but gives you a good starting point:

  • Gentle = Level I = Hatha = Great for beginners and/or those looking for a slower yoga class that focuses on the foundations and essentials. This is also More to Love Yoga Level I.

  • Flow = Level II (usually) = Vinyasa = you’re going to sweat a bit because the poses all link together and often, include more advanced poses and a quicker pace. This is More to Love Yoga Level I/II.

  • Power = Level II/III = Bikram/Ashtanga/Iyengar/Bapsite = Vinyasa-style and more advanced where lineages of yoga-styles become more focused. Sometimes the rooms are heated (85 - 100 degrees) and typically, people in these classes have been practicing for a while. I don’t recommend this for beginners. 

Another [shameless] pitch! More to Love Yoga is devoted to making yoga feel comfortable for you, whatever size. In my class, I have people of all shapes and ages, health and limitation concerns – and every student that walks into my class for the first time talks with me about what’s going on for them. Some people sit in a chair, some take breaks when needs, other modify to what feels good - and often, people challenge themselves to move in a way they didn’t’ think was possible. During my class, I make sure to offer plenty of variations on poses so that everyone feels comfortable and confident in what they're working with today.

Gentle Yoga in Boston

The best way to find a studio and teacher that is right for you is to ask your friends and do a little search online. Get a feel for teachers by their profiles and what slant they approach life with. And never EVER be afraid to email/call the studio in advance and talk with someone – this will give a good vibe as to what the place is all about. Talk to your teacher before class, let them know you’re new and what you’re interested in working on. If they are worth their certification, that’ll gladly offer support and help to make you feel comfortable and safe in their class.

And if they don’t make you feel welcome, let the studio know – no one should ever leave a yoga class feeling bad, never ever.

Also, sometimes in class the teacher will use the traditional Sanskrit names for yoga poses which might leave you feeling confused even more. Don’t worry - just look around, see what other people are doing – over time, you’ll learn to recognize the names and will even feel proud of it! For prices, studios range depending on where you live, but there is often a class-pass option which makes things most affordable. More to Love Yoga offers a few types of class passes and they never expire.  

Your Gear

Ok, now for the FUN part – all the gear! But let me tell you something important: yoga is NOT a fashion contest, even though there are plenty of companies that try to make it feel that way. Yoga supplies are fairly straightforward: something comfortable to move in + a mat and a block or two.

Let’s talk about clothing first: BE COMFORTABLE. Nothing worse than pulling up or down an item of clothing during a class – it’ll take your mind off your practice and just isn’t necessary. And you don’t have to spend a fortune either – a simple workout shirt and some yoga pants will do you well. Personally, I like the plus size lines from Old Navy, Target, and Kohls for gear. But there is also a whole universe of yoga leggings that are fun and creative and two of my favorites are Lineage and Personal Record – both make More to Love sizes!

plus size yoga.JPG

Now the most important thing: your yoga mat. Prices for a mat can range between $15 - $100 and like anything, you get what you pay for. Try to avoid mats that are too thick – it seems like they’d be good, but it’s actually harder to balance, so stick to a mat that is 3/16' thick and you’ll be golden. My personal favorite is Jade Mats which comes in many styles - including extra wide! - and while it's one of pricier ones, it's still in great condition after many many many classes.

Also, try to touch your mat – not buy online – because mats are a personal item and like the wands in Harry Potter, I believe that the yoga mat…chooses you. The touch, feel, texture of a mat depends upon what you like so explore a few before you seal the deal. And clean your mat once in awhile with a simple damp cloth – remember, your hands and feet are on it!

yoga at home

As far as additional supplies like blocks, blankets, straps – your studio will usually supply these for you. If you’re setting up a home practice, the website Yoga Accessories has great offers on supplies. It’s also nice to have a small hand-towel so that you can wipe hands or use as an eye-mask during relaxation. Oh, and a water-bottle – always hydrate!

Final Thoughts

Yoga is for anyone, anything, that breathes and the way you practice this life-long discipline is truly within your own power to enjoy and develop. Yoga is more than a physical practice, it's a process to be more in-tune with yourself and finding a community and space that lets you feel more connected is vital.

The biggest pearl of wisdom I tell my own yoga students is this: you are allowed to feel good in your body, and yoga, can help you do that - on and off the mat.

Like my post? Comment below & please share it!

MTLYoga by Candlelight

Rachel Estapa

How does this sound ... an hour on Friday night where the ONLY thing you need to do is RELAX and UNWIND from the stress of the week (and state of our U.S. election) amid the flicker of candles and chill out music?

Sounds perfect, right? 
 
Well on Friday, October 14 from 7:00 - 8:15PM, I am holding a special More to Love Yoga Class called Rest & Refresh.


This is a very gentle and soothing class complete with opportunities to use light aromatherapy during an extended relaxation at the end of class.

And yes, I’ve got (electric) candles to help make the space even more calming :) 

There are many benefits of "slow-yoga" ...

It will help calm your stress levels by slowly encouraging your natural relaxation response. For your mind, stillness helps you to think more clearly, be more centered, and feel less scattered.

Did you know that 20 minutes of “yoga napping” is said to be as effective as THREE HOURS of conventional sleep? It's true! And I've been doing this for years. 
 
So I’d love for you to join me next Friday. Roll out your mat, make yourself comfortable and let the stresses of the week melt away.
 

More to Love Yoga Fall Schedule Now Available!

Rachel Estapa

While the sun is blazing now, we all know what comes quickly ... cooler temps, colorful trees, and my personal favorite: apple everything. 

OK, let's enjoy summer now. But because fall isn't far off, I want to share the More to Love Yoga fall schedule and a few very exciting announcements with you today! 

New yoga levels! This fall, there will be two levels of More to Love Yoga classes offered - I'm keeping it simple with "Level I" and "Level I/II" - easy, right? Both levels are true to MTL's core of body-acceptance but offer variations to help you progress forward on your yoga journey. Check out the schedule and freshened up page now!

There are new ways to save your hard-earned money. From now until September 1, you can purchase a MTLYoga UNLIMITED PASS which will save you 25%! Pretty sweet, right? Don't miss out on this special offer - click here for all the details.

Get excited for the upcoming MLTYoga Essentials Workshop Series. Each of these unique classes will dive into an aspect of yoga and body-acceptance in a progressive way. Each workshop will consist of a lecture, personal and group activity, yoga practice to integrate the theme, and much more. Kicking off in September, the MTLYoga Essentials Series will run monthly through the spring of 2017 - stay tuned for dates and more details coming soon.

You might be asking...Why these changes? Based on responses to the More to Love Yoga survey, overwhelmingly people wanted opportunities to deepen their yoga practice - including more advanced classes and workshops. My hope is that by giving you the fall schedule so far in advance, you'll be able to put MTLYoga onto your calendar and make it a regularly scheduled part of your week! 

Thanks for taking the time to read through the MTLYoga announcements coming for the fall of 2016. I'm so excited for you to experience everything I have in store for the new season.

More to Love is going on vacation through August so I can rest and recharge before we dive back into our practice. I'll see you in September!
 

Announcing: I'm speaking at Boston Curvy Fashion Week!

Rachel Estapa

I am honored to share that I will be the featured keynote speaker at this year’s annual Boston Curvy Fashion Week Expo on July 30th! The theme is Emancipate Your Curves and my talk will focus on my personal journey to body acceptance, including candid struggles and marvelous triumphs I've experienced along the way and infuse into More to Love's work. 

As a cherished member of the More to Love community, I’d love for you to be there! Tickets are now available. 

Boston Curvy Fashion Week (BCFWeek) is a series of fashion, beauty, business and health-related events catering to the curvy community. The mission is to showcase that no size prohibits any women from looking and feeling beautiful. BCFWeek attendees are granted access to the best beauty, fashion, health and business services and products during Boston Curvy Fashion Week. Follow along on social with the tags #2016BCFWeek and #EmancipateYourCurves.

At the Expo, another treat awaits: the More to Love Eye Wear Collection will be there too! You will get to try on these incredible frames designed with our bodies in mind and learn how to get a pair for yourself.

This year's BCFWeek will be an amazing opportunity to listen to incredible speakers, socialize with others, browse size-positive products and a lot more. I attended last year and made so many new friends. Spread the word and get your tickets too! I hope to see you there. 

Feel guilty about making *me* time?

Rachel Estapa


A common problem I hear a lot from many (ok, women mostly) is they find it really hard to justify spending time on themselves. 

I used to feel very guilty if I chose to do something that was totally for my own self-care. I'd get a flood of the usual "but that's money I should spend on X" or "I just don't have the time.." or worse "I'm not allowed to just do nothing, I should be more productive!"

It's a real drain on self-love to think that you're not deserving of personal space. When you don't give yourself the extra TLC, you feel stressed, tired, cranky and resentful of other commitments and obligations. 

Sound like you? Yup, thought so! So what's the solution? Create non-negotiable ME time!

I know, I know, I can hear you now "yeah right, Rachel!" But listen...I do these two things every week and it's been revolutionary - and I'm someone with a pretty hectic schedule! 

  1. Usually Sunday, I block at least two hours during the week that is 100% "me time" and in that free time, I get to do whatever I want, no guilt. Sometimes it's a mani/pedi, private yoga with myself and lately, it's just lying in my bed listening to music. This space helps me unwind and re-connect with myself - it's essential! 
  2. THIS is the most important step! I TELL those around me that I've time held just for ME - including my husband, friends, family, and yes, even my day-job employer! 

And you know what? Not once has anyone said "Ummm no, I don't think so." 

To help you make #2 easier, here is a script I literally used today when someone asked to make plans that conflicted with my already set "me time" 

"Oh, that sounds awesome! I'd totally be down but I already have some personal things planned at that time. But let me get my calendar out now and look at other times, that way, we'll set it and I love looking forward to things!" 

So I still keep my personal commitment to attend a yoga class tomorrow night AND I've now got plans made for next weekend :D

I'd LOVE for you to do #1 (nudge, take an MTLYoga class if you're in the Boston area!) and share in the comments what you're going to do with your special time. 
 

I hated my body today, but soon realized…

Rachel Estapa

I could not get out of bed this morning. Already late for the day, I felt tired from a restless sleep of tossing and turning. Struggling with my body already on a physical level, it was time to ask: OK, what am I wearing today…

Taking into account the summer time weather creeping in, I wanted to be cool because I HATE the heat…and then the ol’ mind kicked in:

Damn it, the shirt I want is in the wash
I wore that skirt yesterday!
BLACK? AGAIN? SERIOUSLY
*puts on a pale blue shirt with a high-waisted skirt*
I look like a soviet-era ballerina…

*Tears it off, heart rate higher now*
OK, these pants..simple, classic…and this longer tanktop!
UGH, I cannot deal, my bra is showing in this shirt.
AND MY ARMS, so not in the mood to wear a cover up.

*I put on the first outfit again – I’m now 30 mins late*
*I walk into the bathroom, catch a glimpse of me from the side*
UGH EW NO WAY! Noooooope.
I run back into my bedroom, put the pants back on and realize:

I’m freaking out, I’m not having a good body image morning. What do I do?And then a little voice inside popped up: “I need to take care of myself.”

So I took the path of self-care, I put on something comfortable realizing all this fuss wasn’t about my attire at all – I felt off with my body, my whole self. The clothing frustration was just amplifying how I felt inside – tired, frazzled, unsettled, worried, incongruent. Human.

I then left the house, now 45 minutes behind but I kept reminding myself “Just take care.”

As I walked through my spring time neighborhood, I soaked in the warm breeze – I felt the sun on my face, the smell of fresh trees in the air. I remembered a funny story my husband told me last night and I started to smile with a laugh. I noticed how calm and peaceful the world was at this hour. I was aware of how my body was moving through space, how the sunlight lit up my brightly colored hair.

My whole mood lifted to appreciate what’s right before me -  all because I took care of myself.

This isn’t some magical remedy, it’s real life from my real experiences trying to work on managing the stir of thoughts that have the power to knock me off course. But without them, I wouldn’t know the value of self-kindness, of enjoying sunlight or the memory of a funny story.

Next time you're hating on your body, just remember to take care however it arrives to you.