I began yoga as a dancer looking for fitness and over the years, I have begun to appreciate all that it does for me physically, mentally and spiritually. There was one aspect I still didn’t enjoy – chanting or even an om at the beginning or end of class. It somehow made me feel as if I were a yogi impostor. Simply, I didn’t get it. As I continued to practice and share my practice with others, I avoided the chanting. I would go along with it in class, but it never had any meaning for me.
The opportunity presented itself to attend a day-long intensive with Shiva Rea and I jumped at it! I traveled to New York City with my husband and children and set off on an adventure. I chose the one day intensive so that I could have a great yoga experience, but not miss out on enjoying the city with my family. This was one of my better ideas. I woke up early on Friday and made sure the kids and my husband were ready for the day and I walked uptown to the Yoga Journal Conference. I had no idea what to expect and began to feel a little nervous and anxious on my walk. I didn’t know a single person going and I had no idea what to expect. I knew they were adding vegan options to restaurant menus at the conference and I had enjoyed a large cheeseburger the night before. Was I going to be alone in my love of meat? Was I going to be the only person who didn’t know the meanings of all the chants?
Turns out it didn’t matter. No one knew that I had a cheeseburger the night before, it simply didn’t come up. Luckily for me, Shiva Rea went over all the meanings of our chants at the beginning of our time together and they are beautiful. After registration, I went and found coffee and met a few people who had traveled in for the day. They were extremely nice and some were also moms. We talked until it was time to find our teachers and prepare for the day ahead.
We began our time with Shiva Rea chanting “Om” as one. It was one of the most amazing experiences! To feel the large group come together collectively took away any fear or discomfort that I had been feeling. It was a moment of harmony that stayed with us through the whole day. Our day included some power point and wonderful explanation from Shiva and we moved collectively through Namaskars. For the second half of the day, we set up our mats in a mandala (life is wholeness, be and see 360 degrees). It was extremely powerful to share the practice in this way. As you were in yourself, you could see the movement and energy ripple across the group.
Moving forward, I hope to practice in this way as often as possible. Moving as a group with intention and sharing the overall experience is something I will never forget! It has come with me when I teach classes myself and I am looking forward to sharing a collective experience, beginning with an “Om”!
Are there ever enough hours in the day? Probably not. It seems as moms we become masters of time management and multitasking. When do we fit in time for ourselves? Some moms are great at recognizing their own needs in addition to those of their children and husbands. Others, feel guilty in taking that half-hour or hour at the gym. Some just don’t like the gym. There are a few factors at work.
Once the kids are in school, we feel that we will have free time. Then it seems that we should be doing something to benefit the household with this new free time. Some go back to work and some have worked all along. Where does the time come from? Perhaps, taking the hour and placing the kids in a child watch or with a babysitter actually benefits mom AND everyone else. It gives you a chance to burn off some stress from the day and reflect upon the days events. It allows the kids a chance to decompress after being held accountable to teachers all day. Once everyone has had this half-hour or hour, they are ready for a conversation. It may help to alleviate the “nothing” response at dinner. Of course, it is important to spend quality family time together, but it is often at this point that everyone is feeling a little stressed and it gets chaotic.
Maybe you stay home and feel the house should be perfect and the cupboards stocked. I find squeezing that hour in for yoga or at the gym actually makes me more efficient in my errand running and household cleaning. Not to mention, it makes me a much nicer mom and wife. I can always notice when I haven’t made time for exercise.
There are days it doesn’t go to plan. Yesterday, for example, I went to take a yoga class. The usual teacher wasn’t feeling well and we had a sub. I wasn’t feeling her class. Truthfully, I am lucky I didn’t get hurt. I had completely checked out and my mind was thinking about my chore list and not what the teacher was saying. It completely threw my day off. If I had listened to my initial reaction and left when I saw the sub, I may have had a more organized day. Perhaps it would have been a good day to hit the treadmill with some hip hop that I don’t listen to with the kids. As a yoga and pilates instructor myself, I always like to give a new teacher a chance but sometimes you aren’t feeling it. Finding the balance of listening to your gut and making sure you get fitness in can be like walking on a tightrope. The first step is to find a class or gym that you like and making a plan to get there. After a few weeks it becomes routine and you won’t think anything of squeezing in the time for your health (physical and mental).
- Grab Your Zen (navigatingvita.com)
- The art of balance (seubank.wordpress.com)
- Don’t Allow Time to Manage You! (flowersandallthingsnice.wordpress.com)
Finding a gym or fitness center can be a daunting task. Everyone is looking for something different. Personally, I enjoy a clean, bright space with nice people. I enjoy chatting before and after class or as I walk through the machines. My family found this at our local YMCA. My husband and I both use the fitness center and our children take swimming lessons. Through our many years of membership we have made new friends and strengthened existing friendships.
Frankly, my husband goes in, uses the equipment and heads home with maybe a few hello’s to the staff. I have made friends with the people I take class with, discovered a group of preschool moms who go over after drop-off and overall had a welcoming experience. It is because I enjoy seeing people I like and feel accountable that I continue to go.
Now, I am a pilates and yoga instructor at the Y and have made new relationships with my students. I love watching people meet and create friendships. There are older women who now get together for lunch or dinner. They are very warm and positive to everyone in class, including their instructor. One woman always has something nice to say. It doesn’t matter who you are, she can come up with a positive statement. It is this positive attitude that has helped her grow new friendships and a sense of belonging in a new town.
It got me thinking. It isn’t hard to have a positive affect on someone. We could all find something nice to say to someone we know or even the person bagging our groceries. Everyone can use a cheerleader. Moving forward, I am going to do my best and be a cheerleader for those around me!
Much like the 100′s in Pilates, the plié is a cornerstone to any dance class. It is found in all styles of dance and works the inner thighs and glutes like few exercises. The plié can be done standing or while lying flat on the floor (or a mat).
Begin standing with the heels together. Allowing the hips to turn-out creating a turn-out of the knees and feet. Gently, lowering the tailbone to the floor while bending the knees towards the toes. Making sure that you can see your big toe inside the knee. Bend until just before the heels want to raise off the floor. Sending energy into the heels, slowly extend the knees, drawing the inner thighs together until you are back in the beginning position.
Through the entire exercise, it is essential to engage the lower abdominal, as if zipping up from the pubic bone to the belly button. From here, supporting the rib cage with your upper abdominal. Continuing to feel the “zipping” up to the sternum. Keeping the shoulders down and relaxed and lengthening through the neck.
You can use the back of a chair to gently rest your hands for better balance. Once you understand the gentle bend of the knees and lengthening of the legs, you can lie down on a towel or mat. Bringing your legs to a 90 degree angle, finding you turn-out with heels together. Keeping the heels together let the feet come towards the tailbone and then extend long towards the ceiling. Keeping the feet flexed as if they are pushing against the floor.
As with any exercise, the more you control your movement the more you will get from the exercise. The more you practice the better it will feel. Once you are comfortable, you can play with rising onto the balls of your feet through the exercise or you can move the feet to just beyond hip-width apart or maybe both.
Enjoy the slimming of the thighs and raising of the glutes with an exercise that can be done anywhere!
I am nowhere near perfect. I have been known to lose it with my kids (definitely more than once). We have tried a variety of positive reinforcement ideas, reward charts, even a little change to put in their piggy banks, etc. Each worked for a short period of time and then the kids got tired of it and I began to get frustrated again.
Eventually, we tried an idea from my son’s teacher. She has a marble jar in the classroom and the kids get rewarded for general good behavior and when the jar is filled they get a collective prize. We decided to give it a try. The boys get a marble for getting dressed without being asked, clearing the table, playing nicely, etc. It’s not a miracle, but it has really helped.
Perhaps, the biggest change is for me. There are days it’s really tempting to take a marble for poor behavior, but that would defeat the positive aspect of the jar. It has forced me to be present in each interaction with the kids. It is about the current behavior and not previous or future behavior. I find that I am more accountable for my behavior. If I mistakenly reprimand one for doing something that he didn’t do – I make sure to make eye contact and apologize for thinking he did something wrong. I also make sure to make eye contact and tell them what about their positive behavior made me proud of them.
The more yoga classes I attend, the better I am getting at staying in the present. As I previously wrote, my mind used to wander all through yoga class and frankly, everywhere else. By working to stay in the present, I am becoming much more positive. Again, it’s not a miracle, just a work in progress. I find all of my interactions are becoming more positive and that I have the strength to walk away from the negative ones. The best part about working to be present is that it is one step at a time – otherwise, it wouldn’t be the present. Working to put things together now that are good for myself and my family and not straying from that goal. As I read in Fitness magazine, “my goal is progress, not perfection” and I am trying to stay true to that mantra.
I diligently attended yoga class after yoga class, looking to enhance my dance technique. I was a good student and did everything the teacher asked, but as I took each pose I kept wondering, “what is this doing?”. With each class, I didn’t feel that I was close to standing on my head. I was already standing on my shoulder in dance class, what was yoga going to teach me? It wasn’t until I attended class just to go that I got it. Once, I completely let my mind go and moved through each asana (pose) as the teacher instructed, my love for yoga began. Now, I practice almost daily and feel off when I haven’t. It creates balance within my body and allows me to shut out any worries for an hour or even ten minutes when I don’t have the full hour.
Another class that I hated – cardio. It didn’t matter if it was kickboxing or a basic aerobic workout. I couldn’t stand it. Then I was asked to teach a kickboxing class and I began taking class every day. It wasn’t long before the endorphins were pumping and the sweat was clearing out all the toxins. I was in the best mood after teaching these classes and realized that I do like cardio classes.
I recently read that when trying a new form of exercise, you should give it 30 days. The thought is that it gives you time to learn the routine, your body will adjust and not be as sore and then you can make a decision as to whether or not you like the class. I thought this was great advice as it has taken me time to discover what classes I enjoy taking. It is also said that it takes 40 days to form a new habit. Perhaps, you can extend the 30 day trial ten more days and you will find a new exercise habit
I found this saying on my tea tag. I absolutely love Yogi teas (http://www.yogiproducts.com/) not only do they taste great, but each tea bag has a meaningful saying. This particular saying really struck me. It is universal. You can use great or you can replace it with a variety of words such as, happy, successful, thoughtful, present, etc.
My favorite variation is, to be happy, think happy, act happy. It is amazing how far a smile can go in any situation. By simply smiling, you are telling your brain you are happy and it will emit endorphins. If you work out frequently, a smile will help you get through the hardest part of your routine. If you are stuck in line at the store and are in a rush, a smile will help you relax and receive great service. Remembering to smile randomly with your children or spouse will encourage them to be friendly back. I recently stumbled across this article and felt that it is fitting. Here is “Top 10 reasons to smile” from Mark Stibich, Ph.D. http://longevity.about.com/od/lifelongbeauty/tp/smiling.htm
Happiness is a key component in any healthy, balanced life. Some could argue it is more important than the extra rep at the gym or skipping the french fries. Instead of keeping a food or fitness diary, try to keep track of how often you smile in a day and even better how often you laugh. Let the smile enhance your day-to-day life and perhaps your approach to fitness and healthy eating.
Having little ones at home can make finding time for yourself difficult, let alone time to work out or even just move a little bit. In the beginning it seems like you are always moving. Checking on the baby, moving mountains of laundry and carrying the heavy car seat. Then they start moving and you are constantly running after them. At this point, mommy time is key. Whether you work or at home it seems impossible to find those ten minutes for yourself. There are a few options out there.
If you work and are bombarded by craziness when you walk in the door a ten minute yoga video might be what the doctor ordered. It will help you stretch those tired muscles and hopefully find you a little alone time. If the little one is moving there are fun kids yoga videos (even onDemand) that are quick and will help you both move and relax. If you are lucky enough to be home and want both time with other adults and to get out of the house there many stroller clubs popping up all over. Here on Cape Cod, there are groups who walk the track at the community center (you could even do this with a friend or non-parent at your convenience) there is even a group who takes the strollers on the skating rink and they skate while they push the stroller. Some cities and towns have organized groups that walk near beaches, in parks or at malls during inclement weather. These are great ways to get a few minutes of adult time and also some fitness.
Today, I was looking forward to my first yoga workshop with Zack Dixon at the Dharma Connection yoga studio in Sandwich, MA. Unfortunately, we had our first snow of the season. No plows have ventured down our street to let me out for the afternoon. Fortunately, the studio cancelled the workshop taking the decision making out of my hands. Instead, I had the joy of playing in the snow with my two boys and my husband. We ran around with sleds (no real hills in the yard, but they are still fun to slide on), made snow angels and of course had a snowball fight. What an easy way to get some exercise and fresh air! After the fun in the snow we had hot chocolate and tea and built a fire in the fireplace.
Earlier today, I was faced with the choice of being disappointed in missing a workshop I looked forward to for many weeks or embracing the change with quality family time. I chose to embrace the opportunity to act like a kid and play in the snow. It is always surprising how many choices we face in a day and how easy it can be to have fun and get some exercise. We often think of needing a long period of time for fitness, when we can find it around every corner. Each 5, 10 or 15 minutes of movement is a step in the right direction.