Saturday, January 16, 2010

90 Day Fitness Challenge is ON, are you COMING?

Well the 90 Day Fitness Challenge is officially on since I posted my first video on Facebook  and Youtube  sharing my desire to get fit and lose the 25lbs I've been saying I've wanted to lose, for as long as I can remember. My wife who owns the studio, was manning the camera and my good friend Keith Deninno, a personal trainer in Montgomery county Md, weighed me(264lbs) and took a body fat percentage measurement(21.8%). I started my week of workouts with a great power flow class at Yin Yang Yoga Center, which is my exercise of choice for my challenge. I love the way yoga makes my body feel and I always get a great sweat. I have been practicing now 3 times a week for almost 4 months, and the difference in how I move is truly amazing. It's funny most of my friends who had never tried a power flow class or yoga at all, thought yoga was mainly, none challenging poses. But as they have come to practice at my wife's studio, they love the feeling as well, and the group of fans is growing.

I will be updating the videos weekly on Youtube and the Yin Yang Yoga Center, Facebook page. My goal after doing some basic calculation is to lose about 20lbs of fat. Keith shared that 14-16% body fat is a good goal, with over 55lbs of fat total, a third of that is around 20lbs. At the end of 90 days, around 4/12/10, I will have my body fat measured and weighed again to see how I did. You know it's funny, now that I have committed via video to this challenge, I find not eating that bowl of ice cream at 9pm while channel surfing isn't very tough. What I'm looking to do is make a lifestyle change and eliminate the wasted calories, the chips, the second bowl of ice cream, etc. Something I can live with long term, while being more committed to exercise and yoga. If the last 4 months is any indication of the benefits of yoga for my core strength, flexibility and overall well being, than I'm excited to see how I'll feel with 3 months more under my belt.

Maybe it's time ot do something totally different to help keep us all committed to achieving what we really want!


Friday, January 15, 2010

Restful Nights Sleep

By Alicia Cuervo

Have you ever laid in bed and had the "Monkey Mind" keep you awake or sometimes even worse, have one of those nights where you never really go to sleep because your mind is thinking about what you need to do tomorrow, what you didn't get done today, or just a general, random rambling of thoughts, one to the other? One of those nights where you feel like you were awake the entire night because you jumped from one thought to the next, and never really went to that deep REM sleep. It happens to me all the time, but I have a solution to nip it in the bud and get that beautiful nights sleep we all love and need to have a productive day.

 In our yoga practice we focus on our breathing, not trying to control it but just being aware of it. We become aware of our stomach expanding, our chest moving in and out, the sound it makes as it goes through our nose, by doing this our thoughts "Monkey Mind" begin to dissipate and we get a clear head absent of the rambling thoughts racing through our brain. The next time your laying in bed racing around your minds race track, focus on your breathing just as you would in your practice. Listen to your breath, feel your stomach go in and out, your chest expand, the breath going through your nose and watch your mind go clear of thought. Soon you will be in a deep sleep and wake up refreshed and ready to take on the day. You will awake well rested and ready to get the things done that the night before unsuccessfully tried to keep us awake.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

90 Day Yoga, Fitness Challenge

Well here I go, I have started as of the 12th of Jan, on a new challenge which will be really interesting and a completely new experience for me. I am now 51, in pretty good shape, but really need to lose some weight, probably 25llb's to be in the kind of shape I would really like to be in. Like a lot of people I work out, have a fairly clean diet, but with nothing providing pressure to change some lazy habits, I either skip a workout or two a week, eat the extra bowl of low fat ice cream, thinking, it's OK it's low fat and basically make excuses why I don't just lose the extra 25llb's. Now you may think the reason is vanity based which it not. I'm taking on this challenge for health reasons, and to spread the word about yoga as a hard core training practice that will increase strength, flexibility and help lose weight. As I have written, I am 6'3" 260 lbs or so and take the standard Lipitor and I know that taking 25lbs off would dramitically imrpove my overall health and fitness. It's going to be interesting when I actually get on the scale see the real number and get the body fat %.

A little background, my wife Alicia opened a yoga studio 4 months ago (Yin Yang Yoga Center and of course is super buff, maybe vanity plays a small part) and I began practicing 2-3 times a week with her, and have been for the entire 4 months she's been open. It has noticeably improved my core strength and flexibility. I have no back pain anymore and feel great. But now I look at it and say to myself, let's turn it up get serious and see what I can still do, if not now when? This video taking, is my semi twisted way of keeping ME accountable.

So here's the deal, I'm going to have an expert, weigh me, measure my body fat, and take measurements with my shirt off this weekend, I will update weekly, my progress via video, share my workout schedule etc. I will be practicing yoga 3-4 days a week and incorporate a 25lb. kettlebell workout 2 times a week for 90days. There will be guest spots, video's of some workouts, and yoga classes at the studio,and we'll see if I don't drag some others along for the ride.

Tune in and look for the upcoming video chronicling the beginning of this 90 day journey.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Kids on the Mat!

 “When Alayna Kurek panicked one day about forgotten homework, the 9-year-old stunned her school counselor by using a yoga breathing technique to calm down.” This lead sentence from an article in the Detroit Free Press totally grabbed our attention. It reminded us that kids often get stressed out by life, but unlike this 9-year-old, most don't know how to deal with stress.

So we could not be happier that there is a growing interest in yoga for kids. Programs are springing up in yoga studios and schools all over the U.S. -- aimed at youth virtually from birth through teens -- because people are seeing amazing things happen when children learn yoga. Attention spans increase, mental clarity and creativity increase, self-esteem increases, grades go up and anxiety goes down. As the news article indicates, fitness levels increase as well. 

Monday, January 11, 2010

Shelter From The Storm

By Danya Macy

The current state of the economy has you feeling adrift, you're not alone. Between rising unemployment and the tumbling stock market, nearly everyone is feeling the effects of the downturn. For many, the troubles hit close to home—my own friends, family, and neighbors are feeling the impact in ways ranging from a growing sense of uneasiness and insecurity to job losses and immediate financial concerns.
When times are tough, I look to my yoga practice for help. So, hoping to glean some practical, affirming advice on how to cope with the tightening economy, I sought out six yoga teachers known for their wisdom and pragmatism and asked them how yoga can keep us strong and flexible during these hard times. The good news is that they all agreed on one thing: In addition to calming and supporting you, your yoga practice might even allow you to see a time of difficulty as an opportunity for positive change. Here is their advice on how yoga can help right now.
Make Space, Then Decisions
Tough economic times can bring up turbulent emotions, which are important to acknowledge before you act on them. "You should not make any major financial decisions in the midst of intense emotions," says Brent Kessel, a longtime yogi and financial planner who co-founded Abacus, a sustainable-investment firm. "A better plan is to try to create some space and centeredness before making decisions."
If you're feeling fearful or unsettled about your finances, the first thing you should do is be present with those feelings, says Kessel, a Yoga Journal contributor and the author of It's Not About the Money. "Many people have a worst-case scenario in the back of their minds that they run away from," he says. "It's healthier to acknowledge those feelings and confront your imagined scenario directly." If you do, you'll realize that even if the worst should happen, you will find a way to prevail. "You would cope; you would bring all your resourcefulness to that situation. You'd make a plan and deal with it," he says.
Kessel advises that if you're concerned you could be laid off, try to have six months of living expenses in liquid assets. Cut most, if not all, discretionary spending so that if you are laid off, you have some breathing room to find the job you want, rather than taking the first one that comes along.
Kessel also suggests that a time of economic crisis is exactly the right time to ask yourself if how you've been living is the way you really want to live—if your life, in pursuit of a certain standard of living, is authentic and true. "Don't miss an opportunity to grow. When life presents you with a doorway, open the door and walk through," Kessel says.
Stand Strong
If you're looking to your yoga practice 
to help soothe your nerves, the poses you do are less important than the energy and spirit you bring to them, says Scott Blossom, a yoga teacher and Ayurvedic practitioner in Berkeley, California. "This is a good time to bring a sense of generosity to your practice and do those poses that most nourish you," he says.
For Blossom, this means bringing a grounding energy to your practice, particularly in standing poses. "Feel the four corners of your feet equally connected to the earth, keeping the center of the feet relaxed," he says. The simple act of standing helps you stay still in the face of fear and not run away. Standing poses like Tadasana (Mountain Pose) and the wide-legged posture called Horse Stance encourage a feeling of connection to the deeper support that is all around us, says Blossom. "This reminds us that there is a larger reality to the world than our egos can comprehend. None of us is alone."
Blossom also suggests practicing poses that balance your tendencies in a crisis. If you tend to freeze in the face of conflict, try an energy-building practice or a series of difficult arm balances to create courage and movement. If stressful situations make it hard for you to slow down, a more calming, restorative practice will help you face what is. "If you can create deep peace, pleasure, and beauty in your practice, you don't need the world to provide it," Blossom says. "You are reminded that you already have what you need to get by."
Sit a Bit
"The media is currently bombarding us with messages of fear," says Carlos Pomeda, a meditation and yoga philosophy teacher in Austin, Texas. "Don't base your state on these messages, but on something deeper and more solid within yourself," he says. One of the best ways to access stability is through meditation, which Pomeda says can result in greater perspective and clarity—assets in the best of circumstances, but particularly so in times of crisis. If you are feeling fearful or negative, Pomeda suggests simply sitting with whatever energy arises. "Don't try to escape. Don't seek out distracting pleasures. Sit with what arises, without allowing your mind to be drawn to the object of your fear or worry," he says. When you do this, he explains, an alchemy happens, and the energy is transformed. "It can turn to joy, peace, or simply disappear," he says.
Pomeda also recommends using this classic visualization technique: "Imagine yourself in an ocean. Though there is a storm above the surface of the water, the ocean below is peaceful and clear. As you begin to dive, you go deeper into yourself, and you are surrounded by an infinite sense of peace." This image, says Pomeda, is an apt metaphor for what goes on in life: Regardless of the storms that surround us, we always have access to a place of calm. "Nothing lasts forever," says Pomeda. "Crises have an end. What meditation gives you in times of trouble is agility and the ability to respond to what is with clarity and calm."
Rest Up
"These times demand that we be efficient with our resources," says Ann Dyer, a yoga and chant instructor in Oakland, California, who specializes in yoga for deep, restorative sleep. Dyer points out that sleep is basic to survival and essential for our mental health, particularly in times of distress. Yoga, Dyer says, is extremely effective at calming the nervous system and helping you get a good night's sleep.
"Any forward bend with your head supported on a block is deeply relaxing," she says, adding that if you can't reach a block, use a chair seat. Such poses might include Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend), and a forward-bending Sukhasana (Easy Pose). Dyer also recommends practicing Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose) before turning in. The most important thing, she says, is to let go of any effort. "It's not the time to challenge yourself. It's a time to let go." Dyer has some other practical advice:
  • Make a conscious commitment to let go of the day's activities. Stop checking email and forget about the laundry.
  • Develop a bedtime ritual. People need at least a half hour to wind down before turning the lights out. Consider taking a bath, massaging your body with a relaxing oil, dimming the lights, or listening to some quiet music.
  • If you wake in the night, stay in bed and practice some simple pranayama. Take 10 breaths, extending your exhalation a little more with each breath.
We may not be able to control the stock market, Dyer says, but we can make sure we are well rested so we can respond to what is with clarity and courage.
Get Good at Giving
"Karma yoga is an attempt to align our actions with our spiritual self," says Swami Ramananda, president of the Integral Yoga Institute of New York. He believes that the yoga of service is especially important to practice in difficult times, when our natural inclination might be to protect our own interests and withdraw from others. But by closing our hearts, we deny ourselves our deepest source of strength, he says. "We cut ourselves off from our connection to the universe," he explains, "which is the most primal form of support—the understanding that we are not alone." It is in the act of giving, of connecting with others through a shared sense of need, that we grow. "Karma yoga offers us a kind of spaciousness," Ramananda says. "Through giving, our hearts are more open. We see that the universe will catch us, that we have more options than we thought. And from that, our perceived limitations begin to fall away."
Find the cause that most speaks to you, he advises. "All of us have a natural inclination to serve in some way," he says, whether that is giving to animals, to people, or to the environment. Although opening your heart and being of service doesn't necessarily eradicate fear and anxiety, Ramananda says, "It allows those feelings to move through us rather than stay stuck. And we begin to see that fear is part of the human experience." Giving to others, especially when we're feeling needy ourselves, reconnects us to the true source of our own strength—the unchanging spirit within us. "Reaching out can be the most potent means for healing our own hearts," he says.
Live Creatively
"Now is a good time to ask, 'How much is enough?'" says Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, a Kundalini Yoga teacher and the director of Golden Bridge Yoga in Los Angeles. "For too long, people have reached for happiness through money. And we've learned that the quest for more material goods has not brought happiness. In fact, it's brought conflict, greed, and war."
The antidote to this greed is aparigraha, the fifth of the ethical standards outlined in the Yoga Sutra. Aparigraha is often translated to mean "nonhoarding." At its root, it is the practice of nonattachment, of letting go of the idea that your happiness depends on what you own. "This is a time of transition," Khalsa says, "a time to ask yourself, 'What is really important? What makes me happy?' Not the instant rushes we get from shopping or titillating our taste buds with a fancy meal, but genuine, deep-down happiness." For Khalsa, this includes a return to the hearth and getting back to basics. "I'm spending more time at home and in nature. I cook more often, preparing simple, live, organic food. I focus more on my family and community. This is an opportunity to live more creatively, from the heart, and discover that simple is not only good, it might even be better."
It also means learning how to take pleasure in something without having to own it. "If you can enjoy beauty for its own sake, you change the way you relate to the world." And with that, she says, comes the power to change your destiny.
Dayna Macy is a writer and musician, and the communications director of Yoga Journal.

Best Foot Forward

By Janice Cox

Whether we're standing tall in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) or flexing our toes in Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend), yoga gives us ample opportunity to focus on feet. Unfortunately, it's often the only time we do. Foot care is not something many of us find time for, and when a yoga instructor directs our attention toward our feet, we're often unpleasantly surprised.
According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, eight out of 10 American adults will suffer from some kind of foot problem in their lives—and yogis are no exception. For the regular practitioner, foot problems often go unnoticed until a callus thwarts our stance in Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) or foot odor becomes a source of embarrassment in class. But here's the good news: Simple home treatments can both treat and prevent common podiatric problems.
If you've ever surveyed the feet that walk through the doors of your local studio, you know that certain problems are common among yogis. Perspiration can be one of them, and it's no wonder. With 250,000 sweat glands, your feet can produce as much as eight ounces of sweat daily.
To avoid slipping around on your mat, brew two black tea bags in one pint of boiled water for 15 minutes. Add two quarts of cool water and soak your feet for 20 to 30 minutes. The tannic acid in the brewed tea will change your skin's pH level and help prevent unwanted odor-causing bacteria.
Athlete's foot presents another big challenge. This itchy condition around the toes ranks as the most common fungal infection in the United States. You can pick up the organism that causes athlete's foot almost anywhere—including shared sticky mats—so consider bringing your own to class.
Geranium oil and tea tree oil both have germ- and bacteria-killing properties, making them excellent treatments. Add these oils to your own creams and powders, or look for products containing them as a key ingredient. Athlete's foot germs thrive in damp environments, so also be sure to keep your feet clean and dry, especially between the toes where moisture can get trapped.
While not contagious, corns and calluses certainly cause discomfort. Your body produces these growths as protection against daily friction and pressure, but if they get too large, it's time to smooth and reduce them. Use a wet pumice stone to slough off extra skin, or purchase foot creams that contain ground pumice for smooth, soft feet.
Also, try adding fresh or canned pineapple juice to your footbath. This tropical fruit contains bromelain, a natural enzyme that will help soften calluses and rough heels.