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Find Your Balance
Music To Move You
Find YOUR Summer Body
Mindful Cooking: Enjoy Your Time in the Kitchen
Taking Yoga off the Mat

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mindfulness

Find Your Balance

Summer is coming to a close. Kids are headed back to school. Vacation vibes are finished for now.  While the change of seasons always brings excitement, if also brings a bit of frantic energy to the air.  We are often running around, filling the schedule to the brim, and feeling drained a few weeks in.  It’s hard to strike a balance. How can we find peace when life gets hectic? Maybe it’s not about changing up the schedule to find moments to relax, but about finding ways to relax in each moment along the way.

The Yoga Sutras suggest that we should have an “alertness without tension and a relaxation without heaviness.”  Easier said than done! We are constantly walking a fine line between overworking and under-working, active energy and passive energy, alertness and relaxation.  BUT it is possible to find a balance. Here are some things you can do anywhere, anytime to stay centered.

Breathe
When a challenging moment arises we go into fight or flight mode. The sympathetic nervous system kicks in. Our heart rate increases. Our blood pressure goes up. We experience stress in our body and mind.  Deep abdominal breathing helps up tap in to the parasympathetic nervous system., allowing the body to go into a “rest and digest” state of being.  The good news is that your breath is easily accessible! It is flowing all day, every day. So next time you feel yourself fly into a state of tension try closing your eyes and taking 3 to 5 full, deep breaths. Feel the change.

Try a Mantra
Whether you are feeling sluggish or tense a mantra can be a useful tool in shaping your outlook on the day.  It can be one word or one sentence.  When you feel yourself teetering off your center, try repeating your manta a few times, either in your head of out loud.  They work great for kids too. I recently used this one for my 3 year old and myself: “I accept my feelings today, good or bad, just as they are.  They are perfect.” A few others that I find helpful are:
“I am strong, stable, and at peace”
“I am thankful.”
“My words are seeds.”
"Breathe in peace. Breathe out tension."

Practice Non-Attachment
When your to-do list is long and you feel your mind racing to keep up, try practicing non-attachment to guide you back to a place of peace.  Allow thoughts to flow without latching on to them or judging them. Positive thoughts AND negative thoughts can make us feel overwhelmed. Realizing that our thoughts do not make us who we are is liberating.  We have the power to let go. Try to detach by staying connected to the present moment. Look around you. Notice your physical surroundings.  Concentrate on your breath. Say your mantra.  Do some yoga! Non-attachment does not come easily, so practicing it just as you would with any other skill, sport, or artistic pursuit is necessary. With time it will come easy.

Happy fall! And happy balancing! :)

Music To Move You

Music and movement are undoubtedly intertwined. Studies have shown songs choices can make us move faster, work harder, and distract us from discomfort while exercising. One study even revealed that music can activate parts of the brain related to movement even in persons who are completely still. So why not use music as a tool, not to distract or push beyond natural limits, but to support your yoga practice moment by moment?  When choosing music for my personal yoga practice and classes I let the asana guide the soundtrack, not the other way around.

I want to provide music that will move yogis on a physical and emotional level, not distract them from what is happening on the mat. I try to choose songs that are ambient and soothing and suit each moment of class...Slow indulgent tunes for the warm up. Peppy, rhythmic songs for the work phase, and rich, cathartic sounds for the deeper more restorative poses. I want the music to support the asana from moment to moment. When you need a burst of energy the music is there to fill your body. When you are ready to open the emotional flood gates the music will give you permission to do so.

All this being said, taste in music is obviously a very personal choice. I can't please everyone all the time...But mixing the soundtrack with different sounds, genres, styles makes for an eclectic flow that is sure to please someone at some point (I hope). Opening with a more traditional Sanskrit chant and then sneaking in some Adele later on is not uncommon practice for me.

Practice yoga at home? Need some musical inspiration? Below is a sample playlist from a recent class. Enjoy with joy. :)

Warm up-
Stoned on Shiva by Steve Gold
A Path with a Heart by TJ Rehmi   
Gooey by Glass Animals

Work-
Soak It Up by Houses
Holiday by The Hip Abduction
Send my Love by Adele
Soul Miner by Tommy Guerrero
Sitar lights by Dj Drez
Sita Ram by Madi Das

Restore-
Let it Go by James Bay
Bell Service by Feist and Grizzly Bear
There is a Light by Steve Gold

Find YOUR Summer Body

Summer is here and the swimsuits are out! Mixed feelings about it?  In a culture that is drilling "bikini body" images into our heads at every opportunity, moms often feel defeated when it comes to their physical self. We are constantly putting our children’s needs before our own.  How can we take care of the kids, clean the home, cook the dinner, maintain a job, AND stay healthy and fit? As a personal trainer, I encourage my mom clients to take a realistic approach. It's not about maintaining your 24-year-old-bikini-wearing body. It's about living in your healthiest, strongest, happiest body RIGHT NOW.

Here are a few realistic ways to find YOUR summer body. I promise it’s not too late!

Workout with Your Kids

No time to workout? Get your kids in on the action. You will be able to exercise more often, and it will help your children build positive associations with exercise early in life. Win/win!

Find ways to build exercises into your daily life. Invest in a jogging stroller (I am in love with my Bob!). Find a mommy/baby yoga or fitness class. Try circuit training on the playground. Don't be afraid to be the parent doing squats and pushups on the side lines! And my favorite... have a dance party in the living room with your kiddos. They love this, and you will be burning tons of calories if you really boogie.

Practice Mindful Eating

Do you catch yourself shoveling food into your face over the kitchen counter with the kids screaming in the background? Or do inhale your meal while binge watching your favorite show at the end of the day? Munching with distraction often causes us to overeat.  In these moments we do not allow our mind to process what the body is consuming.

Practice mindful eating. Put away electronic devices and wait for a quiet moment (without your kids around if possible). Savor each bite of your food. Notice the taste, the smell, and the texture. Remind yourself that each food is nourishing your body. By doing this we are better able to receive the message when we are satiated. We will also enjoy our eating experience on a deeper level.

Find an Exercise Buddy

Do you know a friend who may be ready to make some healthy changes with you? Finding a workout buddy can help you stay on track. Set a weekly workout date, share recipes, or sign up for new group classes together.  Not only will you be more likely to exercise, but you will have more fun doing it.

Another option is finding an experienced and knowledgeable health coach, nutritionist, or personal trainer (like myself) to guide you. It may not be as cost effective as using a friend, but it will ensure that you see results in a timely, safe, and effective way.

Good luck finding your summer body! My team does amazing work with moms throughout NYC and Westchester. We are here to help.  We also offer virtual skype sessions at a fraction of the cost. Visit www.mindbodyfitnessnyc.com for more info.

Want to chat with me in person? Come to the Hastings Flea next Sunday, July 12th for 10am to 4pm. I will be giving away free sessions, doing fitness consultations, and teaching kids yoga! www.hastingsflea.com

Mindful Cooking: Enjoy Your Time in the Kitchen

Sometimes it seems impossible to drum up the time and energy needed to cook a healthy meal. And what happens to dinner when mommy (or daddy) has had a long day?  In our house, we usually end up ordering a less than nourishing take-out dinner. What if there was a way to embrace cooking, even on the challenging days, and actually find contentment in it?  Recently someone at in my mom's group mentioned Mindful Cooking. My ears perked up! I am a big advocate of mindful eating, so why I had I not thought to bring mindfulness to the kitchen as I prepared the food? As I started to read up on it I realized I already was practicing mindful cooking in many ways.

Mindfulness in its self is the state of being aware and present in the given moment. It is in those moments, when we allow ourselves to let go of that constant babble in the mind, we can find true contentment. “Be here now.” I often repeat this mantra to yoga practitioners when I am teaching. It’s easier said than done, but those moments of mental stillness can help us slow down and appreciate what is right before us. 

The kitchen is the perfect place to practice mindfulness. There are so many opportunities to keep the mind actively engaged in the here and now. By tuning in to the smell of the food, the heat of the oven, the sounds of chopping, and the sight of our creations we can learn to enjoy the experience of cooking. Instead of feeling burdened by a meal, one can actually find it therapeutic and relaxing!

Try these simple exercises in the kitchen.
*Before you get started on any of the exercises below, put all screens and electronic devices out sight. ;)

Express Gratitude:
This one works well if you have a lot of prep involved in your meal. With each ingredient whether you are chopping, seasoning, mixing, try to visuals and acknowledge the origin of that food. Did it grow from the ground? Or in a tree? Did it walk or swim? Breathe? When we see our food as having an existence other than on our plate we can truly appreciate it. Take a moment to express gratitude for the nourishment that each food will provide.

Use Your Senses:
If you are cooking something on the stove or in the oven take a few minutes to sit quietly nearby. Experience the fragrances, sounds, and sights of your food as it cooks. Notice the subtle changes in the room. Notice how those changes affect your body.
If your mind starts to wander off, gently bring it back to your cooking meal without criticism or stress. Allow yourself to appreciate the sensations that the impending meal drums up in your body and mind.

Infuse With Love:
Have you ever noticed that a home cooked meal prepared by a loved one just tastes better? Your mom’s Thanksgiving stuffing?  Or your grandfather's apple pie? It’s almost as if you can taste the love. Many people believe that food can take on the energy of the person preparing it and then be passed along to those who consume it. Next time you are cooking for your family acknowledge how each food will nourish those you love the most in the world. If you want to take it further, create a mantra to go along with it… “I am cooking with love.”

If you are interested in learning more about Mindful Cooking, read "The Mindful Cook: Finding Awareness, Simplicity, and Freedom in the Kitchen"  by Isaac Cronin.

Partner Up for Family Yoga

Adult participation is always encouraged in my toddler yoga classes. Yes, it helps to make the little ones more comfortable and open to explore, but it also helps the grownups find their own mind body connection. I often hear the parents say things like "I should be doing more yoga." Or "Man, this feels so good!" So I say, DO MORE! If you have no time to devote to yoga without your kiddos, try a family yoga session. Here are some fun ways to create a family practice that will benefit both you and your little one.



Chair pose/Wall sit
This is an awesome way to strengthen the core and lower body, and if you know how to sit on a chair you can do it! Try out a wide legged chair pose side by side with you child. Imagine you can sit way back in a tiny imaginary chair. For a little more support try chair pose using the wall (a wall sit).Take 5 to 10 deep breaths together.







Tree in the wind
For balance, work on your tree pose together. First the child can strike a tree pose as the adult moves all around them like "the wind." The goal is to stay balanced and strong as the wind whooshes all around you. Then switch roles and allow your child to dance like the wind and knock you down.








Upside-down Dog
Everyone enjoys the thrill of going upside-down.
Children and adults can practice this hand stand modification at the wall.
Create a down dog “L” shape with your body by placing hands on the floor and feet on the wall. For extra excitement bark or howl like a dog!










Sunning on a rock
This is a wonderful restorative pose for child and adult. The adult sits on their heels with bent knees as the child stands behind. Your backs should be touching. Nice and slow the child can lay back as the adult takes a child’s pose (rock). Let your child sun on the rock for 5 to 10 breaths.










Foot rubs
You are never too young (or old) to enjoy a foot rub. End your practice by using some scented lotion to massage your child's feet. And then switch and allow them to rub yours. Not only will it be relaxing for both, but it's a wonder sensory exercise for the kiddos. I love the lavender scented lotion from Jivamukti.




The most important thing is to be creative and playful in your practice.  There are hidden games inside the asanas. If you make your practice flexible and inclusive, the whole family can reap the benefits.




 
 
 
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