I’ve seen it so often. Women find out their pregnant, start feeling the effects of it, and quit coming to the gym or their classes. When I see them again postpartum, they feel huge and out of shape.

 

Now, let me preface this by saying that I’m not throwing rocks. I know how debilitating some of pregnancy’s “side effects” are. As one who has experienced hyperemesis through two pregnancies myself, it can be extremely difficult to lift your head to do a daily task (other than hang out with the toilet) let alone get yourself dressed for a workout.

 

I’m also going to say that working out is the only thing that saved me from 1) losing my lunch (and my mind) completely and 2) turning into a couch potato. Even though by eight weeks I could no longer do my usual workouts due to the severity of my nausea, practicing and teaching Yoga and Pilates really, really helped me maintain a healthy weight, keep down the nausea, maintain strength and flexibility and a strong core (essential for delivering babies), and mental clarity.

 

serveimage-16

 

Pregnancy is a wonderful new adventure, and the perfect time to clean up your routine. This doesn’t necessarily mean starting something new or increasing your goals. It means making small, healthy changes that benefit you and the baby and your household. Gentle, consistent exercise is the main way to keep pregnancy side effects at bay. It helps maintain muscle tone and bone strength, increases adherence to healthy behaviors and therefore a healthy weight, increases circulation and oxygen to the body (and baby), increases positive mindset and mood while decreasing anxiety and depression, and also reduces all the side effects of pregnancy such as swelling, excessive weight gain, gestational diabetes, insomnia and exhaustion.

 

serveimage6

 

This sounds wonderful (and is!) but I always provide a word of caution. Whenever pregnant, make sure you consult your physician and/or OB about your routine. Each pregnancy is unique and needs to be well attended by both you and your doctor. Complications and contraindications can occur at any time, in which case you must curtail or change your regimen to meet doctor’s orders. Never go against them (seek a second opinion if you don’t agree with the decision) for your own sake and that of the baby.

 

Most of all, enjoy the journey. Be gentle with yourself. You are venturing down a new path–yes, even those of us who have multiple children, it’s still new because there’s another one coming 😉 Take care of the important things, learn to let the little things go, and laugh a lot. Children are precious and fun…and I bet you’ll feel better when you do!

Fitness & Body Image

June 16, 2016

I know I’ve talked about this before, but I’ve seen a surge in referencing the body (particularly, a female body) and being happy with it on social media recently, so I thought I’d touch on the subject again by busting a common fitness myth that is perpetuated in virtually every magazine, fitness or otherwise, in existence today. Whether we know it or not, we believe this myth. We believe that “being skinny” equates to health and happiness.

 

***Insert explosion sound here.***

 

Thinness in the media is not healthy. It is not even real most of the time! If you don’t believe me, just watch this video.

 

 

Don’t misunderstand me here. A thinner body can mean that someone is healthy, but not always. Skinny people are as likely to suffer from heart disease, chronic illness, and other maladies as readily as those considered overweight and obese. Just because someone has a specific body type does not mean they are healthy. Health-related habits play a large role in how healthy someone really is.

 

Yet there is a correlation between waist circumference and health. Those who have extra padding around the belly are more likely to suffer from heart disease than those who carry it on their hips; and both groups are at higher risk for obesity-related illness and disease than those who exercise on a regular basis.

 

Two other things that I want you to consider. First, even if you are someone who goes to the gym for half an hour each day, you may not be doing yourself any good. Too much sitting, whether it be at home or at a job, can actually hinder any healthy changes that any gym activity may give you.

 

On the other hand, increased daily activity in any form can actually improve your overall health. This happens due to the fact that while activity increases, the caloric intake stays the same (so long as one’s diet doesn’t change or increase). I think this, in part, is why so many people are loving the FitBit and other activity-logging devices and apps.

 

Here’s another myth I want to end with regards to fitness, and in particular mind-body fitness. Pilates and yoga are not just for skinny people. These practices are meant for every body and everybody! If you don’t believe me, just watch this video!

 

 

The point then: move, and enjoy moving because you’re doing something for yourself. In the end, being compassionate and grateful for yourself, body, heart and mind, is the only way that you will feel happy…and happiness, in my opinion, leads to a desire to be healthy and enjoy healthy lifestyle behaviors!

I have been in the fitness industry for over eight years now and one of the things that never ceases to amaze me is how unwilling people are to pay for instructor services. I’ve talked to so many instructors over the years who tell me their client base finds it difficult to pay $25, $15, or even $5 for a class, let alone private lesson fees. We commiserate over the injustice of it all, but in reality it all simply comes down to a lack of customer knowledge about how the fitness industry works. So, I thought I’d break it down for you.

serveimage

First off, let me just take a moment to point out that in most cases, we as customers do not go to the cheapest places when we’re looking for a haircut, to get our nails done, have our cars worked on, and so forth. We want to pay for good quality services that we trust and that are backed by service guarantees. I mean, who wants to go to a hair stylist who won’t fix a goof-up? Or a mechanic who won’t at least let you know that your car is leaking when you take it in for a checkup so that you can decide whether or not it’s a necessary fix right now?

 

The fitness industry is the same. Most often, it pays to pay for the services of a good certified instructor and/or personal trainer. There are a lot of reasons for this, starting with the fact that most instructors do not decide they want to instruct as their first job. It is an extension of who they are and what they care about, and this can happen at any point in their life.

serveimage (1)

Secondly, instructors spend months–yes, years!–training in order to be competent and qualified to meet your fitness needs. They also spend a lot of money to get that training. In the mind-body industry, yoga and Pilates certifications cost on average between $2,500 and $5,000 before travel expenses. In my own experience, I was fortunate to have the MyCAA military spouse scholarship to help me earn my 200-RYT, but I still shelled out about $3000 for hotel and flights because I was trying to get my certification finished before I had my first daughter. (I ended up having to postpone the last two classes I needed till after her birth because the conference I was trying to attend had sold out.)

 

Then there are the hours they spend creating your fitness regimens each week. You might only see them a hour a week but often they spend several more developing your next workout(s), researching and practicing each movement so that you are being trained with the utmost competence. Let’s look at a quick example. Let’s say you pay $30/session for a personal trainer. You see them once a week for an hour, but they spend an additional two hours creating your workout. That averages out to $10/hour, which is not even minimum wage in some areas. And this is before you average all the money they spend to earn their certifications, maintain them each year with continuing education, keep liability insurance and any other insurance they need for their business, equipment, travel and food expenses, clothing, and other professional fees and services they may implement to help promote their business.

 

It sounds like a lot, and it can be, but fitness professionals like getting the best up-to-date education possible so that you, the customer, is taken care of to the best of our abilities. It is always worth having an initial interview with your future trainer or instructor in order to make sure you both jive and understand what each is bringing to the table. Because, when it comes down to it, as an instructor I want to know what you want and need so that I can best serve you!

serveimage (2)

If something feels off to either party, it may be best to keep searching until you find the person that is right for you. Because, first and foremost, fitness is a preventative measure against chronic disease, and then a remedy to help you improve and even heal from it. It takes a team to help you achieve your fitness goals: your doctors and therapists (or any professional you may be working with), your fitness instructor, and–most importantly–you.

 

Yes, without your commitment to yourself, we don’t have a client and, therefore, a job, and that is why your input is so valuable to us as instructors. You are the reason why we spend so much on training and other professional fees. You are that important!

I’m finally getting back into the swing of things. It’s slow and sometimes I’m not going to get to blogging, but I’m trying to get back to this as often as I possibly can! I really love writing and sharing all the wonderful information I learn each month along the way!

A few small tips to take your fitness routines to the next level:

  • If you’ve not checked out Yoga International’s website, you should. They do free week-long mini-immersions that might pique your interest.
  • Recent studies state that cross-training is vital to overall health and the prevention of muscular imbalances in the body. Whether you’re a mind-body enthusiast or CrossFit pro, consider doing something completely different from your norm.
  • I’m a huge proponent for barefoot running (I love my Vibrams!) but I also know that barefoot shoes are not for everyone. Consider researching forward- and mid-foot strikes to minimize the extreme forces placed upon your joints and lower back from heel-strike running patterns.

I’m chuckling to myself because apparently I forgot to keep recipes this month! There are two tasty breakfasts for you to try, but most of this edition of articles and recipes is dedicated to strength training!

Articles

8 Ways Strength Training Creates Change

Train This, Not That: Legs

Complex Training: Strength and Conditioning

Strength Training for a Cardio Fan

9 Exercises You Didn’t Know You Could Do with a Barbell

Plank Variations for Core Strength

Resistance Training for Endurance Athletes

Outdoor Functional Training Exercises

Total Body Battle Ropes Workout

Which Comes First: Strength or Cardio?

Alleviate Muscle and Joint Pain with Self-myofascial Release (Part 1)

Alleviate Muscle and Joint Pain with Stretching Techniques (Part 2)

Uniform Movement is Injurious, Cross-training is Essential

The Easiest Mistake to Make in Backbends

Releasing Tension in the Psoas

Yoga for School Teachers (video)

Yoga for Strengthening Your Back (video)

Progressive Muscle Relaxation for Pregnant Women

Mindfulness Meditation Restructures Brain’s Gray Matter

New Findings On Alzheimer’s Risk

5 Tips to Detox Your Body and Get Back on Track

Eating More Whole Grains/Bran Tied to Lower Mortality

How to Get to Sleep When You Have a Cold (EO’s)

Heliochrysum and Lavender EO’s for Bruises

Essential Oils for Teething?

All About Hydrosols

How to Melt Shea Butter/Natural Oils for Body Care

Recipes

Raspberry Coconut Creme Brulee Oatmeal

Pumpkin Macadamia Nut Pancakes (gluten-free)

Last week, I wrote about finding a yoga class that fits your needs. This week, I thought I’d dig a little deeper, starting with five things to bring to class and ending with how to incorporate it more into your daily life. It’s important to remember that yoga as exercise sells at gyms because it promises flexibility, lean muscles, toned bodies, and so forth; but in reality, yoga embodies more than a fit, beautiful body. It’s embracing love, kindness, and respect toward yourself and others too.

 

Five Things to Bring to Class

Linked to source

Linked to source

1. A mat. Not only is often a requirement to come to class, but it’s more sanitary. It also allows you to create your own space in order to reconnect with yourself.

2.  A block and strap. Although not often required, blocks and straps (and props in general) are excellent tools to help you move into poses more gently, avoiding injury.

3. Plenty of water. Whether or not you drink it while practicing, water is important to rehydrate and cleanse the body of toxins.

4. A towel. When you start yoga, you’ll start sweating, particularly if you are new or unused to this kind of movement. Having a towel not only keeps your eyes from stinging but can reduce slipperiness on  your mat.

5. Open communication. Safety is key. Instructors need to learn about any medical conditions you may have, in order that they can modify or eliminate certain postures from the practice to keep you from injury. Additionally, it’s nice to hear constructive feedback on class so that we can improve it for you.

 

Five Things to Remember While Practicing

1.  It’s not only about the body. Sure, the benefits are innumerable, from losing weight to clear skin to a lean figure. But yoga does not stop there. It digs deeper. It peels away the layers. It’s you greeting yourself, or meeting yourself for the first time in a long time.

2. It’s saying, “Yes I can.” Sadly, I mainly see two kinds of people who come to class: those who wind up staying and those who don’t. Coming with a defeatist mindset (“I cannot do this!”) sets you up for failure before you start. Remembering that achieving the correct posture takes time–even years–and that your body is unique, with results in physicality varying from day to day, sets you up for a great practice regardless of whether or not you achieve the poses.

3. Patience is a virtue. As stated above, learning and moving into postures, developing correct alignment, achieving maximum range of motion (flexibility), utilizing the deep belly muscles (bandhas), flowing easily and comfortably, maintaining focus (drishti), and breathing (pranayama) can take years to master, if not a lifetime. Even then, there will be days when practice just doesn’t go according to the way you’d envisioned it. That’s okay! Have patience. You’ll get there someday.

4. Smiling helps. I often tell this to my students when they’re looking particularly grim or strained. Not only does a smile utilize fewer muscles in the face, it also brings with it a sense of levity and even an laugh. And, let’s face it, laughter is the best medicine!

5. Yoga is what you make it. One of my instructors said that her husband’s yoga was golf. That was very profound for me because I realized that there really are an infinite number of ways to practice yoga. It’s not just a set of poses, or breathing, or reaching out to a stranger in love, meditating, reading scripture, or praying to God. It’s all of the above, and how you choose to do these is entirely up to you.

 

The Yamas and Niyamas

The yamas and niyamas are lesser-known, less talked about limbs of yoga, often because there’s a fear of being perceived as telling others what to do. I like to think of them as guidelines on self-care and communal response (and responsibility). Broken into two groups of five, the yamas, or restraints, and niyamas, or observances, discuss how to treat yourself and others while cutting out excess and excessiveness. (For a more detailed look, read The Yamas and Niyamas, by Deborah Adele.)

 

Linked to source

Linked to source

The Yamas

1. Ahimsa, “non-violence.” We’ve all heard the saying, “Do unto others as you would want done to you.” This core principle of yoga says that we should never act or react in a harmful manner, no matter what someone does to us. However, this doesn’t mean that we should become carpets to be walked upon. We have a right to stand up for ourselves but we should do so without inflicting harm.

2. Satya, “truthfulness.” This is perhaps the hardest yama to keep. We all want to be accepted but what happens when being accepted means lying? Satya says that we should choose to be real with compassion (as it’s closely linked with ahimsa) rather than being merely nice or self-indulgent. It’s about using discretion when we speak, choosing our words carefully, and yet maintaining our honesty and, therefore, integrity.

3. Asteya, “non-stealing.” Just as satya asks us to speak with integrity, asteya asks us to live with it. Not only should we not steal from others, but also ourselves, our posterity, and the world we inhabit.

4. Brahmacharya, “non-excess.” Many times translated as “celibacy” or “abstinence”, this principle goes further than mere sex. It’s about taming our urges to overindulge in all aspects of life, about discerning our needs versus wants. Along with this is an invitation to live with God rather than excess, thereby turning our attention away from ourselves toward something better, holier.

5. Aparigraha, “non-possessiveness.” More simply stated as “let go”, this yama encourages us to live life to the fullest, with joy yet with the ability to drop everything for God. It’s a reminder that so often, possessions actually possess us, and that we really cannot take anything with us when we depart from this life. Not to be confused with apathy or not caring, aparigraha allows us to enjoy life without clinging to things.

 

The Niyamas

1. Saucha, “purity.” This has a two-fold application. The first is that self-purification, or cleansing, is important for the body, mind, and our mouth. The second can be applied to relationships. In other words, saucha is not about trying to make something or someone else pure but rather being with the moment as it transpires in the best way we can: without ideals, illusions, expectations, judgements, fear, and so on. It’s learning to become “in-touch” with ourselves–our emotions and thoughts–and when we do this, we can start losing the heaviness we carry within our bodies.

2. Santosha, “contentment.” Being truly content means not seeking for something or someone to make us happy, but rather to find joy in what life has brought us thus far. This isn’t just about material possessions or relationships, it’s about plain old gratitude for ourselves exactly as we are right now.

3. Tapas, “self-discipline.” Literally translated as “heat”, the root of this principle is change. It’s asking ourselves the hard questions, why are we doing what we’re doing. It’s developing a daily practice, not only physically, but also mentally. It’s about choosing the better thing, the better way of living.

4. Svadhyaya, “self-study.” It can be very difficult to pull back the layers we so carefully have constructed in order to meet the person we know as us, or the person we think we know. Self-study asks us to look past the ego, to find the roots of our beliefs, and to learn how to witness ourselves as we go through life.

5. Ishvara pranidhana, “surrender.” Perhaps the touchiest of the niyamas as it presupposes Divinity, it invites us to let go of the ego and enjoy the life we are given. It asks us to look for our higher calling. When the ego surrenders, the heart expands.

 

Five Ways to Take Yoga Off the Mat

Linked to source

Linked to source

1. Go for a gratitude walk. Wherever you are, take a (timed) walk and say–and feel–thanks for everything you encounter, be it in the city or in nature.

2. Practice single-pointed mindfulness with a specific task. Don’t let the mind run away with you. Stay focused on one thing. It may be folding laundry or washing dishes. It may be reading. The choice is yours. Just stay focused on it and it alone, regardless of the distractions that arise (and they will).

3. Give back. One of the best ways to get past ourselves is to volunteer. Choose an group that stimulates your interest or works in something you are passionate about, and dedicate a certain number of hours a week/month to giving back.

4. Grow a garden. Part of yoga is taking care of yourself. Statistically, Americans eat fewer servings of fruits and (especially) vegetables than any other food group. Growing a garden not only gets you in touch with nature and the seasons, it teaches self-reliance and self-sufficiency. Bonus perks include better nutrition, potential weight loss, and quiet time to meditate or reconnect with ourselves.

5. Keep and journal or write letters to yourself. This is a simple way of getting things off your chest, gossiping, and reconnecting with your thoughts and emotions with little to no risk of anyone else ever reading it. You can even burn the letters once they’ve been written. The most important aspect of this exercise is to explore why you think, believe or feel this way, and find the root beliefs underlining them. From there, you can decide whether or not they are good to keep.