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Find Your Balance
Music To Move You
Find YOUR Summer Body
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Taking Yoga off the Mat


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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

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

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

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. 

Running for the Non-Runner: Here's how you start!

It is finally warming up outside (it’s about time!), so why not ditch the gym and get some fresh air?  Have you ever looked at a runner and thought “Oh man I wish I could do that,” OR “Oh man, I could never do that?”  If so, I have some simple tips that can get you started ASAP. I know from experience that it is possible! In high school I could not even run the mile in gym class. No presidential fitness for me… but today (33 years young) I run regularly, have participated in multiple races, and can still run a couple of miles even in my 3rd trimester of pregnancy.  (Thank you, Alice Cummings, for getting me started!)

Running is a great way to increase cardio fitness, manage weight, tone the core, and relieve stress.  Try it this spring, and by summer you will be beach ready!

Start Slow
Most people think that once they put on their running shoes they are ready to hit the road and run a 5K (or even just a mile).  That is usually not the case.  Starting with a walk/run is easier and safer for beginners.  Try jogging for 2 minutes and walking for 2 minutes.  You will decrease your chance of injury and increase your chance of sticking to it!

Find a buddy
Find a friend who is close to your fitness level.  Set a weekly date to go for a run together.  The conversation and support will make the time fly.  There are also free running groups that you can join, and some of them come with a run coach to help guide you.  If you are in the New York City area check out this list of free running meet ups - http://www.thefitgourmand.com/2011/03/free-running-groups-newyorkcity.html

Cross Train
It is important to devote a couple of workouts each week to a non-running activity, otherwise you could end up with an injury. Choose a low impact cardio activity such as swimming or cycling to give the joints a rest, or try strength training to work the muscles that you have been neglecting during your run. Yoga is also a great addition to a runner’s routine. The asanas can cut down on muscle tightness and increase your flexibility. 

Sign up for a Race
There is no better motivation than training for a race.  Keep it simple and choose a 5K walk/run if you feel uneasy about an all-out run.  Having a specific and time sensitive goal will keep you on track with your weekly routine. And the high you feel on race day is a fabulous reward! Sometimes they even give you a metal…:)

Ladies, meet your Pelvic Floor

Let me just preface this by saying this is for ALL the ladies out there! Young, old, single, married, mamas, and grandmamas…

In the past, I hated using the words “Kegel” and “pelvic floor.”  When I was teaching classes I would get a little embarrassed when I had to talk about the pelvic floor and I could feel my students tense up because they were feeding off my energy.  The only thing I hated more than talking about Kegels was doing them! I could feel my pelvic floor contract, but I didn’t know if it was actually helping in any way. I am the type of person who wants to see results.  I need to see my arms become more defined or my tummy shrink.  With pelvic floor exercises there is nothing to see.  It is all about feeling. 

When did my perspective on pelvic floor exercise change? After I had a baby… sometime between the treadmill and the bathroom...I noticed my pelvic floor was not holding up the way it was supposed to, and I realized I should have been doing these funny little contractions more often.  My midwife was SO right when she told me I should be doing 150 a day.  So I started doing them, and now at 9 months postpartum, exercises like running, jumping jacks, and burpees are no longer a problem.

Don’t stop reading if you are not on the baby making journey! Performing Kegels (named after Dr. Arnold Kegel who was a pioneer in pelvic floor work) has helped women, with or without children, improve incontinence at various stages of life… as well as improving the frequency and intensity of orgasms. Score

The pelvic floor muscle is like a hammock that holds your organs in place.  Running, jumping, and giving birth can cause these muscles to weaken, allowing your organs to shift around. This puts undue pressure on your bladder. No one wants shifting organs or pee-pee pants, right?  Below are a few exercises you can do anywhere to help keep everything “down there” in great shape.

Before you begin, let’s find the pelvic floor.  Imagine you are stopping the flow of urine mid-pee (Don’t try to do this when you are actually going to the bathroom. It can cause urinary tract infections!). That pulling up sensation is what you are looking for.  Another helpful way to think of it would be to imagine an elevator rising up from the space between your urethra and your anus.  The elevator is lifting. Not lowering! You should not feel your thighs or abdomen working while you perform these exercises.

The Hold
Sit in a comfortable position. Take a big breath in.  On your exhale pull up and in on your pelvic floor muscles.  Your hold may only last for 3 seconds when you are starting out, but with time you should be able to hold the contraction for a 10 count. Repeat 5 to 10 rounds.

The Sprint
Sit in a comfortable position. Take a deep breath in.  On your exhale contract your pelvic floor in short pulses 10 times.  Repeat 5 to 10 rounds. 

Good Things Come in Threes...Amy's Success Story

It is always rewarding to see a client integrate exerciseinto their daily life AND change their eating habits (these two things go handin hand when trying to obtain optimum health and well-being), but this clienttook it a step further.  Amy, who wasalready on the road to achieving her weight loss goal, decided participate inthe New York City Triathlon--a HUGE undertaking for anyone, but an especiallyimpressive feat for someone who started off struggling to run one mile at atime!
When Amy started training with me she was just beginning totake control of her diet and exercise choices. Weight Watchers was her go tofor keeping her food choices in check, and choosing to work with a personaltrainer ensured that she would be breaking a sweat at least a few times a week. Her excitement about making thesechanges was not only apparent, it was palpable. She was so excited and willingto try new things.  She stayed positive,and almost never complained.  Plus, shedid the homework I gave her! (Sometimes that is like pulling teeth..;)) Shestarted to see results from her hard work right away.  In the first 6 months she dropped 15lbs.
It was August 2010 when Amy competed in her first sprinttriathlon. This is a shorter version of the Olympic Tri here in New York City.  She looked at the race as insurance.  Training was necessary to avoid injury,discomfort, and even embarrassment on the day of the race.  So the pressure was on.  All of a sudden it was not just about losingweight, it was about reaching a specific goal by a nonadjustable date. This iscalled SMART goal setting (Specific, Measured, Achievable, Realistic, andTimely).  What a fun and effective way tostay motivated!
Needless to say, Amy kicked butt in the sprint tri, andright away decided to go for the real thing-- The NYC Triathlon. This racestarts with a one mile swim (in the Hudson River). Then it moves to a 24 milebike tour of the city, and ends with a 6 mile run in Central park.  She had her work cut out for her and only ayear to train for it.
Amy trained so intensely for this race that the poundsseemed to be melting off of her.  Besidesworking out twice a week with me in the gym, she started running 4 to 6 milesregularly.  Plus, she added in her swimand bike training.  Towards the end shestarted doing bricks, which are bike rides followed by a run. (the term “brick”was given because your legs feel like bricks when you start to run) Keep inmind, Amy had trouble running one  milewhen she started training with me.  Herprogress was astounding.
On August 7th Amy completed her first New YorkCity Triathlon! Her hard work paid off.  Shemade it through in about 3.5 hours, and looked great doing it...;) I was soproud of her.  She not only took controlof her diet and exercise routine, she became a triathlete as well. Good thingsreally do come in threes!  
Take a look at these photos.  BIG difference!
Amy before we started training
August 2010 - down 15 lbs.
August 2011 - down 35lbs.
Amy's awesome progress:
Lost 35pounds
2 inches from arms
6 inches from hips
4.5 inches from bust
8.5 inches from waist (uh..WOW)
3.5 inches from thighs
Dropped 6 dress sizes
Body fat %dropped from 31% (overweight) to 24% (ideal)
See what Amy has to say about her experience…
--What triggered your decision to make this healthylifestyle change?
I was just fed up, literally I guess.  I didn't evenfeel like myself anymore.   I felt gross and depressed.  It was bad.
--What healthy eating tips can you share that you foundparticularly
helpful or effective?
I like the 90/10 rule.  Healthy 90% of the time, treatyourself 10% of the time. I have also really completely changed the way I thinkabout food.  I now eat for nutrient, not just calories.  For example,I use to eat a lot of diet food like 100 calorie packs, but now I eat fruitsand vegetables like it is my job.  It is so much better for you to eatwhole foods, plus you feel more satisfied in the end.   
-- Besides weight loss, what changes in your body/mind haveyou
noticed since you have started exercising regularly?
         Through thejourney of the last year and a half, I have really completely changed the way Ithink about my overall health. I can honestly say that t is not about a numberon a scale or the size of my jeans, it is about leading a balanced healthylifestyle.  The means that I workout because it gives me energy and makesme feel good to push my body.  I eat healthy because that makes me feelgreat too.  But sometimes having a glass of wine and dessert is important,so I do that too.  But the biggest change, is that this time (I have lostweight many times) I am not in a rush to get to my goal.  My goal is notreally a number, but rather maintaining my weight and living a balanced healthylife.  
-- During the triathlon where there any moments you wanted to throw in
the towel? If so how did you push through to the finish?
       Yes, I definitely wanted to stop running in miles 3 and 4 inCentral Park when the hills were really steep.  It felt like one bighill.  I just kept telling myself not to give up.  I knew the"pain" was more mental because I had trained and knew my body couldfinish. So my thoughts included...."slow and steady""strength" "you're a triathlete" "you are totallycapable" "you can do anything for a few more minutes".  Mytrainer taught me the last one :)
--What advice would you give to those who want to make asimilar
change but have not taken the leap yet?
I have to borrow from Nike on this one....Just do it! Don't talk yourself out of it, don't make excuses, or worry that you are goingto fail...just do it.  And then have patience and trust yourself. You can absolutely do anything you want....even a triathlon. 

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