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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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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

Do You Have a Dumb Ass?


There are major incentives to using your buttocks properly....not just to look good in your favorite jeans. If your glutes are firing properly they can improve posture, increase pelvic floor strength, and protect your joints. We live in a very "seated" society which tends to create "dumb" asses. They just don’t know how to engage because we have not taught them to do so. Sitting for long periods of time can re-position the natural tilt of the pelvis and stretch out already weak gluteus muscles. Compare the tribal poteriors below to a typical western booty. It is easy to tell which one is going unused. I am just being cheeky and overgeneralizing a bit, but keep reading to find out if you have a dumb ass...
















Test Your Ass

While walking normally, place your right hand on your right butt cheek. Ideally your gluteal muscles will be working while you are walking. If you do not feel the muscle engaging as you walk, then your buttocks is probably not firing properly. Most likely you are pulling yourself along with the front leg and putting most of the work in the quadriceps (front of the thigh). Repeat on the other side. You also may notice that one side is much better at engaging than the other.  You can use the same touch test when doing a lunge.The gluteus muscle of the back leg should feel firm and engaged to the touch.

Another thing to note is the position of your pelvis. In our seated society we are often tilting the pelvic bowl backwards and losing the neutral tilt of the pelvic bowl. This not only takes the work out if our glutes, but puts strain on the pelvic floor, the lower back, and the hip joint. The illustrations below show the correct, "neutral" position of the pelvis. If the pelvis is positioned correctly, then your glutes will be properly firing.


Cultivating a Smart Ass

If you feel your ass needs some educating (many people’s do), then you can start by consciously engaging your glutes on a regular basis. When walking or running think about pushing off the back leg instead of pulling yourself along with the front leg.  If you work out or practice yoga, engage the glutes of the back leg whenever you are in any lunging pose (Front/back lunge, warriors, high lunge, low lunge). When doing squats (or simply standing up from a chair) put your weight way back in your heels, don’t over tuck the tail, and imagine your sits bones are pulling away from one another.  You should feel your buttocks engage!

You can also work on finding the neutral curve of your lower back. Make sure you are not super tucking your pelvis on a regular basis.  If you have to sit for long periods of time at work, take breaks to stand and walk around.  Try some cow/cat tilts by extending and flexing your spine.  You can do this movement seated, standing, or on all fours.  If you stand sideways in front of a full length mirror you will be able to observe the tilt of your own pelvis. The goal is to have a slight curve of the lower back. Try not to over tuck or over arch.

With time and patience a dumb ass can be taught! And a smart ass looks good in jeans too… so fire up that booty. 

"Acting" like a Business Owner

Once upon a time I was an actor. I worked hard, networked, created, studied, and struggled along with all the other actors in the industry... But gradually, like the slow tearing off of a band aid, I gave up performing. I found that my work as a personal trainer and yoga instructor was not only paying my bills, but it was a more rewarding path for me personally. Part of me thought that I was about to let all those years of dedication to the performing arts go to waste. But as I built a business, I realized that the skills I used as an actor were helping me succeed. I attribute my business’ success on the principles I learned as an actor (and hiring others who share the same principles). What is it that translates from the performing arts to the fitness industry so well?

Professionalism
As an actor I was taught that if you are not 5 minutes early, then you are late. I had 50 other talented and qualified actors waiting in the wings to take my job, so I was sure to professionalism a priority. Performers are, in fact, running a small business. They carry marketing materials such as head shots and business cards everywhere they go. Their style, attitude, and commitment to the profession is key. They have to be on time, organized, and ready to execute on the task at hand. Either that or they are replaced.
This way of thinking has benefited me as I have grown Mind Body Fitness from the ground up, and this level of professionalism is what I look for in the people I hire. That's why I can proudly say that we have grown from a one woman show to a 11 person cast in a few years. We could not have done that without being hyper-professional.

Body Awareness
For any performer, the body is your instrument. It needs to be fine-tuned. Health, self-care, fitness, and nutrition are priorities to the intelligent performers. If the body is not functioning correctly, then the performer is out of work.  Not only do they know how to care for themselves, but they also know how to carry themselves, move through space, and use correct alignment. When I am teaching a yoga class I can always spot an actor or dancer before they even mention it to me. They have true body awareness. This is an essential trait for anyone working in the health and fitness industry. Our clients look to us for guidance and inspiration.  The ability to demonstrate and lead by example is a must. 

Ability to connect
The beautiful thing about actors, dancers, and singers is that they often have the ability to genuinely connect to those around them.  They make friends with others. They make people feel comfortable, and they create an atmosphere of acceptance, collaboration, and encouragement.  I truly believe that’s why a majority of our clients stick with their program. They enjoy the time spent with their trainer.  It is not a chore. It is not torture. Instead, it is an enjoyable part of their weekly routine.  They are working together with their trainer to create a work of art… Themselves!

 
I am so grateful for all my life experiences, and how they help me to grow. There are some things I miss about my previous career.  One day I may revisit the stage, but for now the work I am doing is fun, rewarding, and a continuous learning process, much like life as an actor.  

 
 
 
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