What is Nerdmaste?

During yoga teacher training this weekend, the conversation turned towards language (as it often does). I was asking the trainees if they would feel comfortable closing their classes by saying namaste. They unanimously agreed that they would not.

When I asked what they might use instead, they said that they thought the word I use -nerdmaste - was cute, but didn't really understand what it meant. If you've ever wondered about the traditional namaste or our non-traditional nerdmaste, this is for you.

Let's start with the meaning of namaste. In India, the word namaste is a greeting that conveys respect. When saying the word, it is traditionally paired with hands pressed and a small bow. The word literally translate to "I bow to you."

In the western yogic context, the word has taken on a more spiritual aspect, considered to mean "the divine in me honors the divine in you" (or similar). It is this definition that I think of when I say nerdmaste. Sure it is a silly play on words, but that doesn't mean it can't be resonant and meaningful as well.


To me, I am recognizing that we are all nerds in some way - our own way - sometimes similar or different from each other. But we are all deserving of respect and equity.

The nerd in me honors the nerd in you, friends.


 Justine Mastin (aka JustiniYogini) is proud to be the creator and fearless Leader of YogaQuest. Justine is also a psychotherapist in private practice.

Justine Mastin (aka JustiniYogini) is proud to be the creator and fearless Leader of YogaQuest. Justine is also a psychotherapist in private practice.

Mindfulness with Kat

Whew!  I’m not going to lie – this last month of working on not using my phone was really, really hard.  I did not fully succeed, which is OK!  

I was aware of most of the ways I use my phone, but the areas that stood out to me over this month were:

  • Using my phone to pass time.  I struggled with this in small moments – waiting in lines, a couple minutes before a meeting starts, etc.  I’m not able to pull out a book, or my knitting in some of these moments, so a phone is an easy way to amuse my brain.

  • Using my phone to give myself breaks.  I take time to play a quick game, look at social media, etc. as a way to disconnect from what I’m doing for a few moments.

  • Using my phone as a way to stay connected to my community.  I don’t have a lot of time to hang out with friends, or go to events, so I use my phone as a way to stay in touch, to do community organizing, and to coordinate meetings and meet ups.

  • Using my phone as a way to disconnect from everything around me when my anxiety gets really bad.

I also noticed that I was present more.  I had more conversations with my partner, interacted with my teenager more, and (tbh) got a lot more done at work.  I found that although I use my phone as a way to disconnect when I’m anxious, it often leaves me feeling more anxious, as I don’t have my normal ability to let social media bs roll off my back, and so I disconnect more, and it becomes circular.  The times I really realized what was happening and put the phone down, my anxiety settled down faster, however, it lingered at a lower level longer then when I use my phone.

As a result of this experiment, I feel like I have more direction in where I want to go with mindfulness.

I want to learn to sit in small moments of quiet.  During the days when I was not on my phone, I noticed, I often don’t know what to do with my body when I’m waiting.  Like, I don’t know how to hold my body, and I start getting self-conscious about what my arms are doing, or if I’m standing up straight, or whatever.  This is, clearly, tied into my anxiety, and I’m going to explore this more.

And, I want to explore how to sit with my anxiety more.  To not just disconnect completely, but rather allow it to exist without destroying me.

I am going to continue to work on lowering the amount of time I am spending on my phone.  I am also going to work on mindfulness in relation to my anxiety.  

 Kat is a yoga teacher (RYT200), student, partner, mother, and all- around badass woman. She is honored to share her thoughts with her YogaQuest Community. 

Kat is a yoga teacher (RYT200), student, partner, mother, and all- around badass woman. She is honored to share her thoughts with her YogaQuest Community. 

Monday Musings? But it's Tuesday!

I received a note this morning asking me to write a blog post for an upcoming event. And I suddenly had the shocking realization that I hadn’t done my Monday Musings blog post. My very first thought was “ugh, how could I have done this...again?!” And then I took a deep breath and remembered to have compassion for myself. I reminded myself that I am a small business owner, with not one but two businesses, and that I’m working on umpteen projects. Even with the immense amount of help I receive from other folks, things are going to be forgotten or missed. With these reassurances I started to feel better.

We all have moments when we forget to do something, or when we’ve said something that we feel was “wrong” or embarrassing; we have all had the experience of making a mistake. Self-compassion is a different way to approach those mistakes. Take a moment and consider what your first thought would be if you feel you’d just made a mistake. Was that first thought something unkind to yourself? That’s okay. Recognizing our patterns is the first step in changing them. We are accustomed to using these mistakes as a stick with which to beat ourselves, rather than what they are, an opportunity to better understand ourselves and an invitation to create new patterns.

Here are three steps towards increased self-compassion that you can start using right now!

  1. Notice that you’re being unkind to yourself (this is really the hardest one!)

  2. Pause and take a few deep breaths.

  3. Speak to yourself the way that you speak to a dear friend who just told you they’d made a similar mistake. Without even knowing you, I can guarantee that you’d be nicer to your friend then you are being to yourself.

In the beginning this might feel clunky and awkward, but the more you practice, the more this becomes second nature. You’ll be able to ask yourself, am I being as kind to myself as I would be to another person? And if not, start to make adjustments. As I did this morning. And I even got a blog post idea out of it!

Nerdmaste friends and be kind to yourselves.

 Justine Mastin (aka JustiniYogini) is proud to be the creator and fearless Leader of YogaQuest. Justine is also a psychotherapist in private practice.

Justine Mastin (aka JustiniYogini) is proud to be the creator and fearless Leader of YogaQuest. Justine is also a psychotherapist in private practice.

Monday Musings: A Guide to Joyful Movement, Part 2

Perhaps you have been left hanging since part 1 of the Joyful Movement series was released, wondering, ‘Well, Ani, you’ve told me all these ways exercise and movement are NOT joyful… what’s a person to do?!” Breaking down the complex messages we receive about what movement should and shouldn’t be is so important to truly finding joyful movement. Truly, you’ve already taken the most important (and scariest) step to finding joyful movement. Now let’s figure out how to bring joyful movement into our lives!

 A cosplayer enjoying a YogaQuest. Photo by A2Z photography

A cosplayer enjoying a YogaQuest. Photo by A2Z photography

The benefits of physical activity have long been established on physical and mental health. While it is far from a definitive cure or prevention for disease, it enhances our wellbeing. When we find the movement that is truly joyful to us, we establish the groundwork for long term relationship with physical activity.

One of the most important insights I’ve gained since starting this journey is that incorporating physical activity can impact other areas of wellness (e.g. emotional, financial). At its worst, physical activity can negatively impact another area (or several areas) so much that any benefits from physical activity are outweighed by the drawbacks to another area. For example, joining a gym whose fee is so high, paying for essentials becomes difficult. Another, increasingly prevalent, example is when movement takes an emotional toll due to fear of not being physically active (e.g. fear of weight gain). However, physical activity can intersect with other areas of wellbeing in positive ways. Some people join gyms with a great and supportive community, which increases social wellbeing at the same time as physical wellbeing.

Due to the current climate in the health and wellness industries, stumbling into the physical activity that will enhance your overall wellness rather than detract from it is pretty unlikely. However, taking time to reflect on what is important to you and being prepared for trying things that don’t lead to joyful movement will set you up for a successful search. Check out page two of of our Joyful Movement worksheet to begin this reflection!


 Ani is a yoga teacher trainee with YogaQuest and has a degree in dietetics. She is passionate about Health at Every Size (HAES) and body positivity. Yoga has played a key role in her personal wellbeing and body image and she is excited to begin offering body positive classes!

Ani is a yoga teacher trainee with YogaQuest and has a degree in dietetics. She is passionate about Health at Every Size (HAES) and body positivity. Yoga has played a key role in her personal wellbeing and body image and she is excited to begin offering body positive classes!

Monday Musings: Self Care Toolkits with Kris Anne

We talk a lot about self care on the blog and in our community. We’ve had Friday Night Specials dedicated to convention self-care, we’ve learned how to do bullet journals to help keep our lives organized, and we’ve even had Adulting 101 skillshare classes. Maybe you’ve walked away from those classes with notes or a mental list of ideas to carry you forward, but how often do we put those ideas into practice? When a bad day hits, it can be hard to recall past conversations about coping strategies or to figure out what we need to feel better. Enter the Self-Care Toolkit. I’m talking literally here: a bag, basket, or box filled with things to help you feel better when you need it. Maybe it’s something smallish that you can carry with you everywhere, maybe it’s something you keep at home, or maybe both!

I first learned about this idea from YQmunity member and yoga teacher trainee Rose Nelson. “I started keeping items in a small bag, that I knew would help me in the event of a panic attack: aromatherapy, medication, fidgets, headphones,” she explains. “But over time I realized I needed different things at home. I got excited about the self-care box idea, and brainstormed with my friend Mandikat about what we would each want in our own box.”

Identifying what helps and having all of those things in one place has given Rose an actionable step to take when things feel impossible. For Mandikat, the self-care toolkit has proven to be an invaluable tool for her support system, too. “I tend to have unprovoked panic attacks, and now my husband knows that when he can sense one coming on, he can run upstairs to our room, grab near-anything from that kit, and give it to me, knowing that it'll help, if even a little. It gives us both a little more sense of control over what used to be a stressful and unpredictable condition.”

Convinced you need a self-care kit of your own? Great--here’s how to get started!

 Kris Anne's brainstorming list

Kris Anne's brainstorming list

1. Brainstorm. Start by reflecting on previous experiences. When you’re struggling with anxiety, what helps you feel more centered? What aspects of your self-care routine get neglected in times of high stress? Make a list!! A few suggestions:

  • Headphones

  • Aromatherapy

  • Candles

  • Tissues

  • Backup meds: Rx, ibuprofen, etc

  • Tea

  • Chocolate or other snack

  • Glitter Jar

  • Fidgets

2. Find your container. Once you’ve got your list, it’s time to find a suitable container. If you’re going to carry your kit with you, make sure you find something durable that can withstand being knocked around in your purse or messenger bag daily. If you’re assembling a home toolkit, make sure that it’s aesthetically pleasing--you’ll want to keep it out in plain sight and within arms reach.                                                                        

 Mandikat’s toolkit: "My self-care kit is very senses-oriented. It's full of things that I like to smell, taste, feel, and it's got lots of bright colours."

Mandikat’s toolkit: "My self-care kit is very senses-oriented. It's full of things that I like to smell, taste, feel, and it's got lots of bright colours."

3. Assemble your toolkit--and keep it stocked. All that’s left is to fill your containers with the things you’ve brainstormed. Ta-da! You now have your very own Self-Care Toolkit! Remember to replace items as you use them--refill those tissues and restock those chocolate snacks so you’re prepared for next time!

So, what’s going in your Self-Care Toolkit? Let us know in the comments, or join the conversation on our Facebook page!


 Kris Anne Kallies is a Certified Yoga Instructor, HAES advocate, & proud Hufflepuff who believes that all are worthy of self-care

Kris Anne Kallies is a Certified Yoga Instructor, HAES advocate, & proud Hufflepuff who believes that all are worthy of self-care

Tuesday Thoughts: Mindfulness with Kat

My school has ended for the summer, Convergence has come and gone, the teenager is out of school for the summer, and now I finally have a moment to breathe. While I haven’t been writing as much, I have still been focusing on mindfulness and how to incorporate it into my life outside of my yoga practice. Last week, a friend of mine posted a phone challenge. He challenged folks who chose to participate to not bring their phones with them during the week – rather, to leave them at home. I had all kinds of reasons about why that wouldn’t work for me or my lifestyle:

1. My cell phone is my work phone and my personal phone.

2. I have kids. I need to be gotten ahold of if there’s an issue.

3. What if something happened and someone needed to reach me? But I didn’t have my phone?

What then?

But, it’s been sitting in my brain and my thoughts keep coming back to it. One of my goals in looking at mindfulness, I have realized over the last few months, is that I want to be able to just exist with my feelings – even the really hard ones like anxiety, depression, boredom, etc. -without the easy out of a phone game, or Facebook, to zone out to. Facebook is increasingly adding to my anxiety anyway, and I’m wanting to do more with my time – it’s super easy for me to get sucked into games or Tumblr or whatever. So, I’m going to experiment this month and I’ll report back next month. Feel free to experiment along with me and let me know what happens!


1. On Phone Only Days – only using phone for email, texting, messaging. No games, Facebook,

Twitter, Tumblr, etc.

2. I will have my phone WITH me because work and kids, but won’t check it beyond to answer

phone calls and emails.

3. Exceptions can be made to check events, etc. on fb but no reading fb.

Week 1 (07/16 – 07/22): Two Days – Monday, Friday

Week 2 (07/23 – 07/29): Three Days – Monday, Wednesday, Friday

Week 3 (07/30 – 08/05): Four Days – Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday

Week 4 (08/06 – 08/12) : Five Days – Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday

I hope you join me in this experiment! Let’s talk more in a few weeks!

 Kat is a yoga teacher (RYT200), student, partner, mother, and all- around badass woman. She is honored to share her thoughts with her YogaQuest Community. 

Kat is a yoga teacher (RYT200), student, partner, mother, and all- around badass woman. She is honored to share her thoughts with her YogaQuest Community. 

Monday Musings: Seatbelts, everyone!

 “This exhibition [Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters or #GDTatMia] presents a small fraction of the things that have moved me, inspired me, and consoled me as I transit through life.” -  Guillermo del Toro

You might be asking yourself… what the heck does that quote have to do with yoga OR YogaQuest, and why am I quoting Guillermo del Toro?! Fasten your seatbelts, we’re going on a field trip!

 One of the many Funko Pop! figures you'll find at YogaQuest

One of the many Funko Pop! figures you'll find at YogaQuest

You find yourself in Uptown Minneapolis on a Tuesday night. You have just arrived at the YogaQuest studio, it’s quest night, and you are on time! The door is slightly ajar, and you hear chatter and laughter coming from inside the studio. You slip your shoes off, leaving them with several other pairs of shoes and sandals. You gently push the door open, and step inside the studio. You notice a lovely wood floor, and warm lighting. There are several people settled throughout the room on their mats, and as you turn toward the front of the room, you are warmly greeted by tonight’s teacher. You notice to your left, a shelf with a collection of lego mini figures, action figures, and gosh, too many Funko Pop! figures to count. You recognize most of them, but one in particular catches your eye. You didn’t even know they made a Funko Pop! of that character, but you are so excited to know it is a thing that exists in the world! You don’t know anyone here, but seeing that character represented, gives you a sense of belonging… someone here must love them too!
You head to the tall shelves to your right, grabbing a mat and bolster to borrow. Making your way to an open spot in the back of the room, you notice the far right corner is FULL full of signed photos from conventions. Some are promotional professional photo of and signed by an individual, but many are group photos of YogaQuest community members with some super awesome nerdy famous people... you can just feel the joy radiating out of those images in particular. Your eyes continue along the back wall, there are posters of bad-ass comic heroes, cartoon characters, and nerdy pop culture. Also, a giant stuffed shark wearing a crown?! You unroll your mat, sit on your bolster, and take a deep breath in, while you wait for the class to begin. Looking to your left, you notice your neighbor has a funko pop figure on the floor in front of their mat?! They notice you noticing it, introduce themselves, and explain that they find it helpful for balance (giving them a focal point that doesn’t move), while also helping them feel like a badass. You consider what you might bring next time, because that sounds like an awesome idea.

The teacher draws your attention to the front of the room, and the quest begins! 
(Try one of our online quests, all filmed at the Uptown Minneapolis YogaQuest studio: http://www.yogaquest.org/online-quests)

 Costumes from Crimson Peak on display at Mia

Costumes from Crimson Peak on display at Mia

Guillermo del Toro is a Mexican film director, screenwriter, producer, & novelist, and Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters is an exhibition currently at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, here in Minneapolis Minnesota, through May 28th. Del Toro has collected a wide array of fine art, collectibles, and representation of people and stories which inspire him, keeping this collection in a Los Angeles home he calls "Bleak House”. 

After a stroll through the exhibition, we noticed some similarities between “Bleak House” and the YogaQuest studio. Both spaces are filled with representations of things that inspire us: 
In the #GDTatMia exhibition, actual props from some of his films are on view, along with life size representations of H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe, as well as a replica of his ‘rain room’, where it always sounds like it is raining. At the YQdio, you will find action figures, framed prints, signed portraits, and often a custom soundscape or playlist (I’m looking at you, Vanessa!). 

Both spaces inspire curiosity, and when we engage our curiosity, we can more deeply explore what inspires us.

This Thursday, April 20th, YogaQuest will be appearing at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, taking museum goers through the Guillermo del Toro film Crimson Peak, pose by pose... we hope to see you there!


Rose is a recklessly optimistic Hufflepuff, generally amused by pretty much everything, and a helper at heart. She is navigating a career in information technology, while exploring her creative side through writing. She lives in the south metro, with her husband, dog, and two cats.

Monday Musings: A Guide to Joyful Movement, Part 1

One of the Health-At-Every-Size principles is “life-enhancing movement,” which is described as, “physical activities that allow people of all sizes, abilities, and interests to engage in enjoyable movement, to the degree that they choose.” Seems like a reasonable approach, yet, if you’ve ever spent any time in mainstream culture (ahem, all of us have!), you’re guaranteed to have some preconceived ideas of what counts as exercise.

Mainstream messages like, “no pain, no gain,” depictions of fit people as almost exclusively thin and white, and hundreds of workout plans promising you everything from health to beauty to happiness set millions of people up with false-expectations and an unrealistic approach to fitness. Most of these plans disregard the science behind moving and even more only address physical health.

These messages are so pervasive in our world, it’s hard to even recognize where our own definition of joyful movement stops and society’s expectations begin. The first part of discovering what joyful movement means to you is untangling some of our preconceived notions of exercise. Being aware of the messages that don’t have your best interests at heart is key to being able to identify what truly brings you joy, not just what society tells you should bring you joy.

Let’s explore some common misconceptions… 

  1. I have to workout for xx minutes/x times per week for it to count: The biggest health gains from physical activity come from doing something instead of nothing. Increases beyond 90-minutes/week results in incremental health improvements in general, however, for any individual those benefits might be outweighed by lower quality of life in other areas. Health is a balance of physical, mental and emotional health.
  2. If some is good, more must be better! In the same vein of misconception #1, constantly pushing yourself to take on more days or longer workouts isn’t necessary to get the health benefits of physical activity and may actually sacrifice other areas of health, like your relationships or work life.
  3. Exercise only happens in certain places or only includes certain activities: Your body reaps the benefits of getting your blood pumping, no matter where or how it gets there!
  4. If you aren’t pushing yourself to the max, it doesn’t count: This misrepresentation of fitness as sweating profusely, huffing and puffing, and ready to collapse is actually a bit dangerous. The best benefits from exercise happen at 50-70% of your max heart rate; this means you should be able to speak in whole sentences, though you may not easily carry out a full conversation.
  5. Exercising will make you look a certain way: The big selling point of most fitness programs! Whether they promise a six-pack in ten weeks, losing inches or bulking up muscles, your genetics actually dictate your looks for the most part.
  6. Exercise is only for people who look a certain way: Unfortunately, all those images of a very specific type of person (thin, white, affluent) lead to a lot of people believing they don’t belong in gyms or other ‘traditional’ exercise venues. I can’t change all those exclusive messages (I wish I could), but perhaps this will allow you to see these messages for what they are: a marketing strategy to sell people on an unattainable illusion.
  7. Exercise will make you a better person: There is a sense that people who work out are inherently better people than those that don’t. They are supposedly hard-working, persistent, care about their health… the list could go on and on. Let’s take a moment to reflect on whether this is really true. Are people who work out regularly actually better than people who don’t? Everyone has demands on their time and they must prioritize, yet if someone choosing time with family over time at the gym, does that really reflect poorly on their moral character? Or someone who is prioritizing mental health at the moment? Additionally, some people have means to outsource daily activities of living (cooking, cleaning), freeing up time to workout, but most of us don’t have those options.
  8. Certain activities are better or healthier than others: For example, people tend to think of running as the epitome of healthy exercise, but this strenuous activity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Runners experience a lot of wear and tear on their joints, shin splints and stress fractures. My point is not to convince people who love running to stop running, but to show why people shouldn’t push themselves to do an activity that isn’t enjoyable just because it has a certain reputation.
  9. I need to eat a certain way to get the most out of exercising: For people who aren’t fitness professionals, there is no way of eating or drinking that will change what you get from working out. Formulas for when to eat protein vs. carbs, or how to replenish electrolytes only pertain to folks who do this for a living, for hours every day, or in extreme heat (I don’t recommend this for 99% of people!)
  10. Eating (insert food item here) negates my whole workout! Even though the health and wellness industry loves to associate diet and exercise, the benefits of physical activity are 100% independent from your diet.

BONUS! I’ve created a worksheet through Body Brave Consulting to guide you through creating joyful movement. Click here to get access to the worksheet.

Tune in next month for part 2!


Ani is a fat activist and Health at Every Size promoter. She is currently pursuing a degree in Dietetics and is working towards the creation of a non-profit to support healthy relationships with food. She is also a geek, yogi, knitter, and lives with her partner and two dogs in Minneapolis.