Dear Yogis…

Dear Yogis,

Tomorrow is Empower Yoga’s one year anniversary and I wanted to take an opportunity to reflect and share some of the thoughts I have going into year two.  I opened Empower Yoga a year ago for a few reasons. First, to have a heated power studio in Central Jersey because there wasn’t one before now, but more importantly to create a safe place that people could come to learn and grow- physically, emotionally, & spiritually. I named this space Empower Yoga because I want you to feel empowered every time you walk out the door. I want you to know that you are so much more than what you sometimes believe and I hope through our classes at the studio, you truly start to see that and you begin to discover your most powerful self.

I started teaching yoga as a way to give back to a community that gave me so much. I believe that we all have the capacity to feel healthy and strong, and I want to help you feel that too. When we allow our bodies and minds to move freely, when we let go of our ego, when we quiet the chatter in our heads, and join together in community and breath, we begin to experience a profound sense of being truly awake and alive.

We live in a crazy world and sometimes all of life’s circumstances can weigh us down and hold us back. We are constantly bombarded with information about how we should live or what we should do. It can be intimidating and very overwhelming, but I hope that through your yoga practice, you can get a glimpse into the space beyond your busy mind; where you’re already calm, clear and where all your answers lie. A place where you can let go of some of the emotional baggage and just be.

Now being a yoga teacher does not make me an expert on life and all things spiritual. I can only authentically share what I have learned from my own experience. It’s your job to put your yoga into practice in a way that fits with your daily life. I can instruct and inspire, but you must do the work.

Just remember, the days you feel like skipping your practice are the days you need it the most. Keeping yoga a consistent part of your day and/or weekly routine will help you to thrive both on and off your mat. Yoga will help you in those challenging moments you face. Once you’ve been practicing a while, you’ll notice a calmer, happier, and less anxious version of you. I can promise that I will always be here to support you in anyway I can. Come sweat, move, and breathe with me! Come discover what you’re truly capable of.

Thank you for being a part of this amazing Empower Yoga community and allowing me to guide and instruct you.

Much love,

Keri

 

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5 Reasons To Check Out Empower Yoga

If you’re new to yoga or you’ve been practicing for many years, welcome home.

Our studio provides a space where students can connect, learn, support, hold one another accountable, and celebrate each other. It’s a place you can call home.

Here are just a few of the things that make Empower Yoga so special!

Community vibe-

I think that one of the most important things Empower Yoga has to offer is it’s community. Community defined simply is a place for gathering. But Empower Yoga is more than that. It’s a place where hearts can connect, where people can come share their passion for yoga, where positive interactions can take place and where relationships can develop.

At Empower Yoga everyone works together to support, encourage, and nurture one another. From sharing the big moments, falling out of poses, laughing, joking, etc. we all know that “we’re in this together.”

A place to learn-

Empower Yoga is a great place to grow your practice. Each student has an opportunity to move deeper into their practice both mentally and physically.  Through our focus on alignment, adjustments, and meaningful meditations, students can can gain great insight from our experienced teachers.

While each teacher comes from a different background or experience, we all share our love of teaching. With each teacher’s special talents, gifts, & unique teaching style, tremendous growth and development can take place.

Accountability-

Empower Yoga offers accountability and camaraderie in sticking with goals. For example, our January Challenge- 21 yoga classes in 31 days!

Where transformation occurs-

A community of yogis creates a powerful energy in the room.  When the lights are dim, and the music is playing, a transition to an intimate encounter within yourself takes place.  It’s easy to turn off the noise in your head, responsibilities, and instead focusing on your breath and well being while experiencing an elated state of gratitude.

We learn, we grow, we breathe, & we become!

The little things make Empower Yoga-

The staff takes the time to learn people’s names, the teachers “mix it up” in their routines so no two classes or playlists are exactly alike, and the studio is always nice and clean. Plus we give out cool eucalyptus towels at the end of class!

We hope you’ll come visit us soon. We know you won’t be disappointed.

To learn more about the studio, please visit: empoweryoganj.com 

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The Best of The World Marathon Majors!

Thinking of running a World Marathon Major (WMM)? Have you ever wondered which of the Abbott World Marathon Majors (Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago & NYC) has the best crowds, best finisher medal, crowd support, food, or the best course?

As someone who has completed all 6 of the World Marathon Majors, I’ve been asked questions like: “Which course was your favorite?” or “Which marathon was the hardest?” Well I have answered some of the popular questions below. This is strictly my opinion. When deciding on what Major you want to tackle, there is no right or wrong answer, but here some info. that may help you to decide!!

Enjoy!

Which WMM was the easiest to get into?

CHICAGO

For ways to gain entry into the Chicago Marathon you can either qualify, enter the lottery, or run for charity. I got in through the lottery, along with many others. There are lots of spots available.

Which WMM had the best Expo?

NEW YORK CITY &  BOSTON

These expos have the best set up, are well staffed and well organized, offer great presenters, lots of great vendors, knowledgeable and supportive staff, and limited wait time.

Which Marathon Major had the BEST race shirt?

BOSTON

Definitely Boston. The shirt is a long sleeved, v-neck and has the awesome logo on the entire back.  Plus at the expo you can also purchase the cool, one of a kind iconic jacket. Great for bragging rights.

It definitely couldn’t be Berlin- they don’t even give you a shirt.

Which WMM was the most organized?

TOKYO

Japan is known for its technology, organization and efficiency. The Japanese take promptness very seriously, which was nice because it meant everything started right on time. Their time management also meant that they strictly enforce a time cap that has checkpoints every 5 kilometers, the time cap is around 7 hours, so the average marathoners doesn’t need to be too concerned about this.

Which WMM had the best crowds?

BOSTON

All of the majors have great crowds, but to me, Boston just stands out. For me it was the Wellesley girls that I loved hearing the most. On Marathon Monday, it’s tradition for students to cheer on Boston Marathoners who race past campus near mile 13. Thousands of women line about a quarter mile of the course, motivating runners with hoots, hollers, high-fives … even kisses. This is referred to as the Wellesley Scream Tunnel because it is so loud, you can hear it from a mile away.

Which WMM had the best course (considering sights and scenery)?

NEW YORK CITY

This was tough- I have enjoyed every course. I loved running across the Tower Bridge during the London Marathon, near Wrigley Field in Chicago, and down Beacon Street in Boston. However, starting on the Verrazano Bridge in NYC and running through all the boroughs was pretty awesome, each is very unique and has its own charm.

Which WMM had the best finisher medal?

BOSTON and TOKYO

Boston because anything with a unicorn is super special, it’s also what it represent- being Boston Strong.

I really like Tokyo too, I love the GOLD!!

Which WMM had the best after party?

CHICAGO

The Chicago Marathon 27th Mile Post Race Party is a blast! This event takes place at the famous Grant Park and offers live entertainment, free massages, and free beer.

Which WMM had the best race swag?

NEW YORK CITY

In the pre-race packet I received lots of goodies in addition to my cool long sleeve race shirt. The finisher poncho is probably my favorite though. This fleece lined poncho keeps you super warm post race, way warmer than the metal heat blankets most races provide.


Which WMM had the best race beer?

BERLIN

Runners love their post race beer and Germans know beer!! Germany offers the widest selections. And since the marathon takes place during Oktoberfest, it just adds to the party.

Which WMM had the best travel experience?

BOSTON and LONDON

Boston just holds a special place in my heart. I love this city- I lived there and fell in love with my husband there, so going back is always a lot of fun. I love the food- visiting the North End and Beacon Hill, shopping down Newbury Street,  and walking along the Charles River. Boston is an awesome city and a place I call home.

London was a lot of fun to visit too- getting to see Buckingham Palace, the changing of the guard,  visiting Kensington Palace, this list goes on and on… plus my mom and sister joined me for this trip which made it extra special. I truly appreciated their support!

Which WMM had the best pre/post race food?

CHICAGO

Chicago has deep dish pizza, Tokyo has sushi and ramen, NYC has NY style thin crust pizza, Berlin has bratwurst and pretzels.

I think my husband and my food tour around Chicago topped the charts.

Which WMM was the most emotional?

BOSTON & TOKYO

It’s incredibly emotional to cross the finish line at Boston. Boston was like a dream come true and having my dad right there at the finish line, cheering me on was very special. This was the last race he saw of mine. Tokyo was also emotional because it was when I received my 6th star and ended my 4 year pursuit to finish the world’s majors!

Which WMM would I recommend for first timers?

CHICAGO

The Chicago Marathon is the easiest of the Majors to get into. Plus this course is easy to navigate, it’s flat & fast, offers great crowd support and manageable logistics. The start and finish are close to each other and the race is well organized. It would be an ideal race for someone wanting to run their first marathon.

Which WMM would I recommend to someone who only wants to run 1?

NEW YORK CITY

New York City has it all. It’s also the largest marathon in the world. Running through all 5 boroughs is exciting. It’s fun to see how different each borough is and how the entertainment varies. Starting on the Verrazano Bridge is pretty awesome.

If I could do 1 WMM over what would it be?

BOSTON

Boston is the oldest, most historic and most popular marathon in the world. Plus, it’s so near and dear to my heart. If I could run it every year, I would.

Which WMM would I not want to run again?

NEW YORK CITY

Race logistics are a nightmare. Getting to start requires a car, train, and ferry! You need to get up super early to ensure you make it to on time. As a result, you end up waiting a long time before your race actually begins.  Each time I ran, I arrived by 8am & started around 11 am. The weather by the start is usually cold, so be prepared and dress warm.

In conclusion:

Each WMM is unique and has its own appeal. I have enjoyed my experience running each of these. I challenge you to consider running one if you haven’t already. Throw your name into the lottery and let fate decide. You never know what could happen.

Happy Running!

 

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Tokyo Marathon Recap

This past weekend I completed my 10 marathon and checked off my 6th and final World Marathon Major (Tokyo) off the list. This perhaps was the most life-changing experience of them all. But through training for and running each marathon, I’ve learned a lot about myself and have discovered what I am truly capable of.

Here’s a look back on the race, my trip and running over the years.

To start, I wanted to explain a little about the significance of the World Marathon Majors. This will help put into perspective why I set this as a goal and why I wanted to complete this series/challenge.

What is the World Marathon Majors (WMM)?

The Abbott World Marathon Majors is a series consisting of six of the largest and most renowned marathons in the world. The races take place in Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York City. The organizers of these events are united in their effort to advance the sport and increase the level of interest in racing among running enthusiasts.

What does it mean to complete the WMM?

Completing all 6 races makes you part of a special group of runners that have actually stepped up to the challenge, it’s a
significant accomplishment. To date, only 3,000 runners have completed all 6- how cool is that? I knew I needed to do this, not only to travel and for the cool medal, but for the bragging rights also.

Why run a marathon major?

The marathon majors are wonderful races and events.  They are a great addition to your race bucket list. Each major offers something unique and a little different. In my opinion, everyone should run at least one of the majors, especially if it’s the only 26.2 you ever run, the crowd support is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced at any other races, and the race swag is usually pretty good.

Traveling with Marathon Tours:

The 6 majors are incredibly hard to get into, particularly the oversees races. I was unable to get in to Tokyo via the race lottery so I signed up with Marathon Tours to gain entry. Marathon Tours and Travel works closely with the Abbott World Marathon Majors team and the individual race teams to enhance a runners experience while pursuing their aspirational running goals. In this case completing the WMM and earning my 6th star. Marathon Tours provides guaranteed entry to each of the races (with the exception of Boston), convenient hotels and activities customized for each location including tours and logistical details surrounding the race.

This trip was my first experience with Marathon Tours and I couldn’t be happier. They helped plan and organize everything, which made travel stress free. Included with the trip was a city tour as well as a pre race dinner and post race celebration. It was a lot of fun. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I signed up, but I am so happy that I did. The cost of travel may have been a little more than what I would have spent on my own, but it was money well spent. My favorite part was meeting new people, hearing their stories, and sharing this unique experience with them. I plan to keep in touch with my new friends and have already started to plan our next trip/race together!

Overall, visiting Japan has been an amazing vacation and tremendous adventure. This was truly the journey of a lifetime. It was fun to try the local cuisine, explore the city, see Mt. Fuji and visit various temples and shrines. Japan is a city filled with lots of culture.   There is lots to do and many places to visit.

The Tokyo Marathon:

Race day was a mix of emotions- both excitement and nerves. Leading up to the race I had gotten sick with bronchitis and then a stomach bug. On top of that, my running had been limited due to an injury- heel spur and plantar fasciitis. I hadn’t run over 18 miles (and it was on the treadmill) and I was only running 2-3 days per weeks, logging no more than 30 miles at the peak of my training. This was nowhere close to where I have been for previous races (running a few 20 milers, running 5-6 days per week, and logging 60+ miles a week- but probably over training- I am currently trying to find a healthy balance) so I was a little nervous to see what the race would bring. This was the first marathon that I have ever run without a goal in mind. I just wanted to finish feeling good and get my 6th star. I had decided right away that I was going to enjoy the race, take in the sites, take it easy & not beat myself up physically by pushing too hard.  

I was staying at the Tokyo Hilton which was just a short walk to the start line. This was very nice because it helped alleviate the stress of getting to the start on time. It also meant I could sleep in a little and hang at the hotel a little longer, not not having to wait outside in the cold for the race to begin. I had originally hoped and planned for the temps to be in the mid 40s to low 50s. However, on race day, the temperature was around 32.

The course takes in many sights including the Tokyo Government building, Tokyo Tower and Imperial Palace. The marathon incorporated some downhills, wide roads and flat surfaces, but also some nasty little inclines and bridges which kept it interesting. Along the course, there was also a few sections of out and backs where you crossover, getting to see many runners ahead of you and behind you. I even got to see the elites run by a few times which was cool to see. These crossovers also allowed for ample opportunities to see my husband cheering along the course, which was nice!

The locals are fantastic, providing many high fives and cheers which sure helped the morale. They also offered everything from menthol ice spray for sore muscles to bananas, tomatoes, oranges, cookies, candy and even chocolate on the course. While I don’t recommend trying new foods on a run it was still amusing to see it all! It was a very enthusiastic crowd that was estimated to be around 1.6 million.

The first half of the race went well and I felt pretty good. It wasn’t as crowded as I expected and the race started on a downhill which was nice. I had my fuel plan in place and was excited to start my 26.2 mile journey through the city and take in the sites that Japan had to offer.  

At around mile 6, I ran into a friend I met who was also a part of the Marathon Tours group, Michael. Michael and I decided to stick together during the race. I  don’t typically like to run with anyone during a race, but if I learned anything from past marathons, having a friend nearby comes in handy (i.e. NYC with Ann and Berlin w/ Calvin). I was very happy to have Michael by my side and really enjoyed his company. We checked in with each other frequently to ensure that we were each doing ok.

After the halfway point, we both started to feel a little tired and fatigued. Michael too had been dealing with injuries and hadn’t trained as he had hoped so we decided to not push the pace and back off a little. At around mile 16 we implemented a run/walk strategy- 8 min. running/2 min. walking. This was the first time I have ever done this in a race. Typically asking a runner to stop running is like asking a shark to stop swimming, it doesn’t happen. However,  as much as I didn’t want to at first, I knew that if I wanted to finish and feel good, it is probably the best thing for me. Run/walking is something I started to train recently as suggested by my Ironman coach to help prepare me for my upcoming Ironman. A lot of the time when a runner walks, they feel defeated and like their race is over, however when this strategy is implemented appropriately; run/walking is a great way to allow yourself to maintain a consistent running pace because you’re allowing short bouts of recovery between running efforts. In other words, it extends your energy stores. I probably should have done this from the very beginning, but was being a little stubborn.

Michael and I ran/walked up until the last mile and a half and then decided to run it in. We both crossed the finish line together with big smiles and a sense of accomplishment! The race took us well over 4 hours, but we didn’t care. We were in Tokyo and were feeling incredibly grateful to just be there. After the race, we made our way to the exit and to collect our medals. The Abbott tent was first. Michael waited while I got my special 6 Star medal and took pics before we carried on to get his medal, pick up his checked bag, and then head to the family meeting area. In all, it was a great race, a huge sense of accomplishment for me, and an overall incredible experience I will not soon forget.

Race Highlights:
  • The race was so clean and organized. For every 1 runner there were 4 volunteers.
  • Race started on time. Japanese are nothing if not punctual.
  • Tons of crowd support.
  • Tons of water and aide available at each water station.
  • Lots of volunteers holding garbage bags to ensure there wasn’t any trash in the streets.
  • Lots of lights, music, views, and entertainment along the way.
  • People were incredibly polite. If you got bumped they apologized several times.
  • The heated foot bath at the end of the race.
  • Cool finisher towel.
Draw backs:
  • Picking up the bib at the expo took a long time- by the time you got scanned, had your pic taken, got your wristband, race shirt etc. it took forever.
  • Everything at the expo was in Japanese. It was tough to figure out what a few items in your bag were. The selection of items for sale at the expo were different than you find at American races, I was disappointed they didn’t have as good a selection of compression socks, designer racing glasses, nutrition etc. The expo felt more like a gameshow then a running event (I did have a lot of fun at some of the booths though).
  • Using the porta pottie was a challenge, no western seats so squatting over a low hole in the ground made for an extra challenge.
  • The electrolyte beverage they had was Pocari Sweat- this is an acquired taste and took some time getting used to. Wouldn’t drink it if there was another option.
  • The race was marked in kilometers and not miles, thank god for my watch. I’m not too great at doing the kilometers to mile conversions while I run.
  • The last 1k was the longest ever. It didn’t help that there were multiple 1k signs so you really didn’t know what to believe. I had no clue as to how far I actually had left  to go. When you thought you were done, it kept going. I kept looking at my watch and Michael like “when will this end”.
  • No blue line to follow on the road to ensure you were running your targets well. I ran 26.78 miles according to my Garmin.
  • The walk after the finish to get your medal and to get the buses back to the start was about 2 miles long. It took over an hour to get out.
  • Took 30 min to even get your heat blankets. It was very windy and cold at the finish so that wasn’t fun.
Running over the years and why I do what I do:

I was someone who went from “I hate running” to “I can’t live without it”. If you asked me 6 years ago if I’d ever run a marathon, I would have thought you were crazy for even asking. I never thought I had a “runner’s body” and therefore could never truly run longer distances. When I first started running, it was miserable! I had blisters on my heels and toes from my shoes, I was tired and sore from run/walking barely 3 miles, I couldn’t run a mile without feeling like my lungs were on fire.  It was terrible. I wanted to give up and put myself out of my own misery, but I stuck with it and honestly, it got better. When my lungs stopped burning, when I became a little faster, and when I could run 3 miles without stopping, I actually started enjoying it. It started to feel good and I became proud of myself for what I was able to accomplish, so I kept going.

In 2012 when I moved to NJ from Boston, I joined a running group, Run Around Princeton. When I first started with the group on Saturday mornings, I couldn’t keep up with the group, felt embarrassed and wanted to quit.  However, I stuck with it & continued to run with the group every Saturday morning, trying my best to keep up. Then one day, I actually did and felt so thankful that I didn’t give up on myself. In 2013 I signed up for my very first marathon- The Philadelphia Marathon. When I crossed that finish line, I cried. I felt invincible and unstoppable and couldn’t believe what I was able to accomplish. I didn’t just want to do it again, I needed to do it again. I knew, in that moment, I would never say that I couldn’t do something. I started to believe that anything is truly possible, it’s just a question of how bad you want it and I wanted it bad. My next marathon was the Chicago Marathon in 2014. From there, I had the running bug and knew I wanted to keep running and made it my goal to complete all of the World’s Major Marathons.

It had become my mission over the last 4 years to finish the majors. Training and preparing for the races wasn’t always easy. Battling several injuries (which left me unable to run for most of 2017) and saving money to be able to travel is a huge commitment that takes dedication, hard work, and lot of sacrifices.  So when I finally completed the Tokyo Marathon, it meant so much. Crossing that finish line and achieving this goal brought tears to my eyes. 

Traveling the world, exploring new cities, and getting to run is  a truly awesome privilege. I feel so blessed.  It’s been an amazing experience and something I couldn’t have done without the love, support, & encouragement from my husband, my family, and my close friends. It’s been a remarkable journey and I can’t wait to see what’s next. I hear there’s something called the Seven Continents Club and I think that’s right up my ally!!

Until next time 😉 Happy Running!

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OPEN YOUR HEART- Heart Chakra Meditation

The Heart Chakra is the 4th Chakra, located at the center of the seven and associated with the color green. The Heart Chakra (or Anahata in Sanskrit) is our energy point for love and compassion, it is where the physical and spiritual come together. It is our link to love and our Higher Self.

By meditating on the Heart Chakra, we are bringing our awareness to not only personal and physical forms of love, but Universal love and the acceptance of the true self. The Heart Chakra embraces all facets of love, and anyone can benefit from exploring this energy center. Opening and balancing your heart chakra allows past grievances to be released and allows you to open yourself up to love, forgiveness, kindness and compassion.

When the Heart Chakra is out of balance, or closed, people tend to feel anger, grief, or hatred. Learning how to open the Heart Chakra can be a beautiful experience and a great way to start on the path to healing and self love.

Being in the month of love, what better way to show yourself some self love than to simply medite to your Heart Chakra.  

Here is a little way to nurture more self-acceptance, love, kindness, and compassion into your everyday life.

Connect to your heart’s energy:

  1. Begin by sitting in a comfortable position. Sit up tall with the spine straight, the shoulders relaxed and the chest open. Inhale the palms together and lightly press the knuckles of the thumbs into the sternum at heart level.
  2. Soften your gaze or lightly close the eyes.
  3. For just this moment, let go of your thoughts and the outside world. Let go of any distractions and let the mind focus on feeling the breath move in and out of your body.  
  4. Now rub your palms together, making them warm and energized. Put one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly.  Close your eyes and feel the center of your chest- warm and radiant, full of energy. Notice how comforting that feels.  
  5. Draw your attention to your spiritual heart center in the middle of your chest. Notice a green light begin to appear. Allow this light to grow brighter with each breath you take.
  6. Resting your attention onto the light, continue to breathe and sense your breath flowing into your heart. Visualize the hearts energy and light you see permeating through the chest. See this energy as it radiates out from the center of your heart into the rest of your body. Feel this energy flowing out into the arms and hands, and flowing back into the heart. Know that you are safe and you are okay.
  7. As you breathe, use the mantra – “I love myself and I forgive myself, I am as I am meant to be.”
  8. Allow your heart to continue to open and radiate love and positive energy. Allow all the Universe has to offer to come in so you can feel all the love that surrounds you.
  9. After you feel completely soaked with heart chakra energy, gently release the palms by your side.
  10. On your next inhale, bring the arms up towards the sky, connecting with the heavens, then exhale and lower the palms lightly to the floor, connecting with the earth. Take a moment or two before opening your eyes & moving on with the rest of your day.

 

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Nurture Yourself

Are you feeling a little tired and rundown? Then it is time to take a day out of your busy schedule to nurture yourself and show yourself a little self love. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul.  So turn off your cell phone, cancel your plans, and make some time for the most important person in your world – YOU.

A day for YOU:

Steps to having a great day!

  1. When you get up, start your day with a big smile and thank the Universe for the gift of another day, another chance and new opportunities. Then start your day with a little mediation or mindful breathing- slowly inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.  Imagine your breath nourishing and renewing your body. Let go of stuck energy and anything that isn’t serving you and then imagine all the toxins leaving your body.
  2. Opt away from coffee and instead squeeze some lemon in a mug of hot water.  This further helps you to eliminate toxins in your body and gives your skin a healthy glow.
  3. Now either roll out your yoga mat (visit Empower Yoga), go for a run (or walk) outdoors, or go for a swim. This is your moment to connect with your breath and your mind. Exercise is a great way to clear the mind and gives you energy.
  4. After your morning exercise enjoy a delicious smoothie. I love going to my favorite juice place (Tico’s Juice Bar) for one or I’ll make one at home. I like to add greens (kale or spinach), banana, pb, chia seeds, hemp seed, and coconut water to my smoothies and then blend it all up!! Yum!
  5. Take a bath, maybe add some bubbles, light some candles, and/or relax with a good book. Enjoy the simple pleasure of just being in the moment.
  6. Dress in comfy clothes and plan a leisurely walk in the park. When there, maybe stop to journal on a bench (start a new gratitude journal)  or just stop to look around and appreciate all the beauty that surrounds you.  
  7. Lunchtime make yourself a nourishing salad that will feed your mind, body and soul. My personal favorite is spinach or baby kale; avocado, baby tomatoes, cucumbers, and some grilled chicken with a little oil and balsamic vinegar.
  8. Spend the afternoon in self love. Burn your favorite essential oils, play some of your favorite tunes, and set your creative inspiration free. Maybe create a vision board, setting some goals for yourself, create a bucket list, or just start to declutter an area of your home you’ve been putting off. Get rid of what you don’t need and make room for good things to come.
  9. In the evening, enjoy a delicious meal- maybe some hearty soup. After, unwind with a cup tea (my favorite is raspberry) and climb into bed.
  10. Before you fall asleep, revisit your new gratitude journal and write down three things that you are grateful for. Close your eyes, take a mindful breath, and get lost in your dreams.
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10 Tips For Anyone New To Yoga!

The best advice I could give anyone new to yoga is to just show up. Don’t overthink it, just do it. Check your ego at the door and get ready to have fun. Allow your mind and body to be open to new experiences both physically and mentally. Yoga studios are not spaces for competition; they’re a starting point for an inward journey. So get ready to start yours!!

Your first few classes might be a little confusing until you become familiar with the poses and breath. Know that it’s ok, we all have to start somewhere. Do the best you can to follow along and remember to avoid placing any type of judgement on yourself.

Here are 10 tips to keep in mind for your next yoga class:

Arrive early to your first class.

That way you can register, get set up, acclimate to the space, and introduce yourself to the teacher.

Don’t eat right before class and remember to drink plenty of water.

Refrain from eating at least two hours prior your practice. Eating before can cause you to become nauseous during your practice and cause painful digestive problems.  Also, drink plenty of water before, during, and after class (especially after a hot yoga class). Replenishing after class is important to help avoid soreness, cramping and dehydration.

Bring a friend or family member along with you.

Spread the joy and love of yoga… it might even help ease your nerves the first time around.

Wear comfortable clothes.

Try to avoid clothing that is too baggy or loose fitting. It’s best to wear clothing that is fitted, moisture wicking, and breathable. And remember to take off your socks!

Put your mat in the back of the room.

When I was new to yoga, I liked having a view of all the other yogis in the room. That way, if I needed a little guidance during a pose, or wanted someone to model the pose for me, I could look around at what my neighbors were doing.

Bring a towel.

Bring either a small hand towel with you or a larger towel to place over your mat, especially during a hot class. This will help you from slipping and sliding during class and allow you to wipe the sweat from your eyes.

Invest in a good yoga mat:

Many studios allow you to rent or borrow public mats. However, it’s nicer, cleaner, and more sanitary to have your own. A good yoga mat is essential to helping with your grip and can provide a little extra cushion for your hips and knees during floor poses. My favorite mat is the 5mm Reversible Mat from lululemon.

Accept your feelings.

If you become emotional during or after a yoga session, it’s normal. Sometimes releasing tension in the body (especially in the hips) or when opening our heart (during backbends) you begin to release a ton of emotions too. It’s important to remember that anytime you work with the body, you are also working with the mind and the energy system, which is the bridge between body and mind. Therefore, emotional breakthroughs can be seen as markers of progress on the road to personal and spiritual growth.

Remember, it’s your practice!

As you move, breathe and flow, remember to listen to your body. If something hurts, don’t do it, if you need a break, take a child’s pose. Remember, don’t take yourself so seriously, be sure to smile and have fun!

Try several teachers and classes.

Don’t be afraid to test out a variety of different teachers and classes until you find what’s right for you! You will figure out exactly where you need to be and what works for you!

NAMASTE!
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Keep the Past in the Past!

It’s time to let go of your past.  

I’ve had many sleepless nights. Nights when I was so worried about something that had happened and that I let it dictate my future. We’ve all been there at some point. You’re not alone.

Whether it’s something small (i.e saying something you wish you hadn’t) or something big (i.e a divorce, death, job loss), harping on negative experiences is painful and can cause so much unneeded stress and anxiety.   

We need to not dwell on the past and think about something more positive.  Here are some ways to help:

1. Learn from the past and move on.

Not all experiences we have will be good. However there is something to be learned from them all.  Take time to reflect on your experiences and use them as a tool for self reflection so that you can learn and grow but don’t dwell on them.  dwelling to much on things keeps the negativity around.  

2. Express yourself.

It’s good to talk about your feelings. Don’t keep them bottled up inside.  Whether it’s talking to the individual who has harmed you (or who you harmed), venting to a friend or writing it down, expressing your feelings can assist you in sorting out what, if anything, needs to be done to move on.

3. Accept Responsibility for your actions.

Sometimes when things happen, we don’t always accept responsibility for our actions. We get defensive, and we want to play the victim.  The problem is, blaming others harbors anger and prevents you from moving forward. Accept responsibility for what happened and move on.

4. Focus on the present.

One of the best ways to let go of your past is to embrace the present. Instead of reliving the past, keep yourself active and enjoy the current moment.

Be mindful- enjoy time with people you love and doing the things you love (i.e. going to dinner, running, taking a yoga class, having coffee with friends, etc.).  Accept that negative feelings are a part of life, but you can choose to look at the positive and make your own happiness.

5. Disconnect for a while.

Allow yourself to take some time away so that you can clear your head. Maybe meditate, find a quiet spot to read, head to the beach (my favorite place to disconnect). When you return, you’ll have a better perspective on the past and look more positive towards the future..

6. Let go of negative people in your life.

Are there people in your life who are bringing you down? Are they preventing you from moving forward?  Move away from these people to find more positive people who will empower you. Meet people at your gym, yoga studio, running group, etc.

7. Practice forgiveness of both yourself and others.

We’re all human and we make mistakes. Forgiveness is essential to spiritual growth.  If you’ve been hurt by someone, harboring feelings of anger or animosity just perpetuates the problem and continues to make you angry, forgive and move on.  While you’re at it, forgive yourself too.  Its ok to make mistakes, as long as you’re learning from them, cut yourself some slack.

8. Make new memories.

Start making new, positive memories to replace those negative memories from your past. Spend your time with the people you love, and doing the things that bring you happiness and peace.  

Here’s to living in the NOW!!

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New Year’s Resolutions

Why is it that most people set new year’s resolutions every January, but few stick with them?

While I do believe New Years is a great opportunity to reflect on the past (the good, the bad, & the ugly) and begin to think about ways to make our lives better so that we can be our best and strongest selves, making resolutions because of some calendar obligation is kind of ridiculous. We pick some arbitrary date and then hope all of our problems will disappear.  

From what I found, when creating new years resolutions, many people don’t address the underlying issue to their unhappiness or root of their problem. Therefore, they are setting themselves up for failure. For example, people say they want to lose weight. They’ll start exercising, but they won’t change their diet. As a result, they most likely will not reach their goals; leaving them feeling frustrated and wanting to give up. However, what they fail to realize is that you can’t out exercise a bad diet. So unless you’re willing to look at all aspects of your life and how you live, you most likely will be setting yourself up for failure. It’s also like saying you want to run a marathon; you sign up for the race, you run a few miles, but you never truly train. What happens? Maybe you get injured and can’t finish the race. Unless you’re willing to make changes in all aspects of your life (ie. what you eat, how much you sleep, drink, workout, etc…) and put in the work you won’t achieve what you had hoped to.

There is a simple solution! If you really want to see significant changes in your life you have to be honest with yourself and also be willing to work hard. You need to step outside your comfort zone, and not only in January, but throughout the year. Take control over your thoughts and actions. Look at how you talk to yourself and how you treat your body. Are you doing things that are nourishing to your body and soul? Get out of your own way. Fear is the number 1 limiting factor in whether or not you succeed. Start forcing yourself to do things that may make you uncomfortable. Outside of your comfort zone, is where the magic happens and where we grow. There is a whole world out there we can explore, but you have to be willing to leave some of your thoughts, beliefs, judgments, fears or whatever it is that’s holding you back. We don’t always like to do things that make ourselves feel uncomfortable.  We want the easy fix or easy pill and aren’t always willing to put in the work. In order to be successful, this needs to change.

To start, analyze your life. Rather than thinking about symptoms of your dissatisfaction, try to find things that make you feel good and happy. Then if there are things you want to change, start to create a plan of action. Goals are your new resolutions. What is it you’re hoping to accomplish and what will it take to get there? Write them down, talk about, and start doing the steps needed to accomplish your goals. Sharing your plans and putting them out into the universe will help them to manifest in your life and come true.

I believe that anything is possible. With a little patience, hard work, and dedication, you have the ability to create positive change in your life, meet your goals/resolutions, and make your dreams come true.

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Good Deeds in December

Make a list, check it twice—there’s still time to be nice!

From an early age, I learned about the importance of helping others. My parents led by example and taught me how to appreciate, to share, and to love.  They have instilled in me the need and desire to help others, to give back, and to support those who are less fortunate than me. As a result, I am always looking for ways to help make this world a better place.

One thing I love about owning Empower Yoga is being able to have a platform for helping make a change in the world and reach people on a larger scale. I think giving back is incredibly important. Volunteering in all shapes and forms strengthens our communities, brings people together and provides us with valuable experience and insight.

While we should always help and support those in need all the time, the holidays are a nice reminder to stop, be present, appreciate what we have and also look for ways to help others.

Sometimes, the best gifts that you can give are free. Making a difference, feels good and it fuels us here at Empower Yoga!

With December 25 quickly upon us, consider these 10 good deeds to support those who need it most!

  1. Take a yoga class! Our studio and many other studios offer weekly donation based classes. Help support a great cause and also de-stress from the holidays. Interested visiting the studio? Each month we offer donation based classes! To learn more, visit our website!
  2. Shop at a locally owned businesses! Online retailers and big box stores get a lot of love over the holidays. This year, give back to your community by keeping your dollars local. Want to give the gift of health and wellness to that special person in your life? Consider purchasing a gift card to our studio.
  3. Donate Shoes for Soles 4 Souls. Cleaning out your closet? Consider donating a pair or two gently used shoes. Soles4Souls creates sustainable jobs and provides relief through the distribution of shoes and clothing around the world. Empower Yoga is hosting a shoe drive this January! Pledge to go barefoot and help those in need during the new year!!
  4. Create holiday cards for nursing home residents. The holidays can be a depressing time of year for nursing home residents. Consider making some homemade holiday cards and distributing them in person at a senior living center in your community.
  5. Write letters of gratitude to our military! Show your appreciation to our troops, first responders, and veterans. Organizations such as Operation Gratitude & Adopt a US Soldier offer a channel by which to communicate encouragement and express gratitude to those brave men and women serving or who have served in our armed forces.
  6. Make a donation to the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army accepts clothing, furniture, appliances, and electronics all that will go to help a family in need.
  7. Donate to Toys for Tots. The objectives of Toys for Tots is to help less fortunate children throughout the US experience the joy of Christmas. Toys for Tots unites all members of local communities in a common cause during their annual toy collection and distribution campaign.
  8. Donate Food to your local food pantry. Hunger can affect people from all walks of life. Many Americans are one job loss or medical crisis away from food insecurity, but some people, including children and seniors, may be at greater risk of hunger than others. Help feed those in need this holiday. Isn’t everyone entitled to a nice warm meal?
  9. Volunteer at or donate items to your local animal shelter. There are so many animals being cared for in shelters and foster homes after they were neglected, abused, forfeited, or lost.  Whether it’s with some love or attention, to food and toys, there are tons of ways to help!
  10. Donate items or volunteer at a local homeless shelter.  In Central NJ, HomeFront is always looking for household goods, food, and clothing.

Wishing everyone a happy & healthy holiday season and a wonderful new year!

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