Beat Holiday Stress

Holidays are fun, but they can also be stressful. You may be dealing with visiting relatives, end-of-year work deadlines, meal planning, shopping, crowded malls, endless cleaning, needy family members, awful traffic, etc.

The good news is that some stress is good for you, because it gives you purpose, challenge, and a sense of achievement. For example, while it’s stressful to host a meal for your family, it’s nice to do something for the people you love and share a delicious meal you prepared on your own and made with love.

On the other hand, lots of stress is not so great for us. When we are stressed, our cortisol levels increase. A sudden increase in cortisol levels causes a long list of problems. For example, you are at a greater risk for having a heart attack or stroke, as well as elevated blood sugar, increased belly fat, and memory loss.

So if you know the holidays really stress you out, your goal is to find things that will help balance you and help you feel good.  

Here are some stress reducing activities to help you get through the holidays:

Exercise:

The first step towards managing your stress is to get a decent workout in every day. A good workout rejuvenates you and helps to produce endorphins, which make you calm.

For example:

  • Take a hot yoga class- get out of your head and into your body. Visit Empower Yoga!
  • Go for a run

Get a good night’s sleep:

People need a fresh start each day, but for many, a good night’s sleep is hard to come by.

  • Stick to your schedule and try not to deviates by no more than 1 hour daily (2 hours max), even over the holidays.
  • Use your bed for sleep and not work, tv, ipads, cell phones, etc.
  • When you turn out the lights to sleep, be sure to keep the bedroom dark and quiet.
  • Avoid bringing pets or children into your bed at night as they will wake you up.

Be mindful of your alcohol and caffeine intake:

If you have trouble sleeping, don’t consume more than 2 servings of caffeine during the day, and not more than 2 servings of alcohol in the evening. Extra caffeine and alcohol disrupts a good night’s sleep.

Get off your feet:

If you’ve been on your feet all day working, shopping, or socializing, quickly relieve stress by giving your feet a break. Simply elevating or lifting your feet above your heart, can help you relax and recenter.

Breathe:

If traffic is backed up, or your in laws are testing your patience, go ahead and sigh. Take a minute to breathe. This is the body’s natural response to stress.

Relax your shoulders, neck, and upper back. Then, inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, letting go of any stress and/or tension you may be feeling.

Schedule some peace and calm every day:

Many people eat well and exercise, yet they don’t schedule any time in their day for peace and calm. If you don’t have a daily relaxation routine, 10 to 20 minutes of soul calming activity, in place to manage the stress in your life, it probably won’t happen on its own.

  • Make an appointment for a massage.
  • Sign up for a yoga class. If hot or athletic yoga classes are too strenuous for you, opt for a relaxation yoga class- Empower Yoga offers a Yin Yoga class as well as a Recharge class.
  • Meditate- give yourself 10 minutes to tune in and transform your negative thoughts.

Get outside and have fun!! Do something you love and enjoy a few times each week for your own health and sanity. Plan some activities that are fun for you, your family, and your close friends. When you are stressed, it’s nice to spend time with people who make you happy and who bring cheer.

As you reduce your stress, you’ll sleep better, eat more wisely, work out more, and feel better all around.

Happy Holidays!

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Why Hot Yoga is Great for Athletes…

Athletes play hard– running, climbing, jumping, biking, lifting, golfing, etc. When muscles work hard and become more fibrous and strong, they also become very tight. Tight muscle can lead to the loss of mobility, making it difficult to move around.  For example, if you’re a runner like me, we have strong quadriceps but our hamstrings shorten, making it difficult for us to bend over and touch our toes. Another example, weightlifters will get super toned in the shoulders and arms, but they often have difficulty raising their arms high overhead. As an athlete’s range of motion decreases, the ability to stay on top of his or her game becomes harder. This is preventable! Hot yoga loosens the muscles naturally and safely, allowing all athletes to find more freedom, flexibility and ease in tight areas.

Practicing yoga a few times a week, helps the tight muscles stay strong, but also become more pliable and flexible. The benefit- lengthen and strengthen the body so you have the ability to move safely for the rest of your life.

At our power yoga studio, we strive to provide a well-rounded workout (cardio, weight bearing, stretching and more) that makes you feel good from head to toe. If you can commit and incorporate yoga regularly (2 to 3 times a week), you’ll see results within a month.

Here are just some of the benefits of hot yoga for athletes:

Full range of motion
More flexibility
Improved balance
Focus
Mind Control
Breathwork
Increased core strength
Injury prevention

Why does the heat work so well?

The heat makes your muscles more elastic and pliable allowing for deeper and safer stretching. The heat also allows blood and oxygen to be delivered to the muscles helping them to build, lengthen and repair more easily. This increased blood and oxygen also speeds up the body’s ability to breakdown glucose and fatty acids that help shed fat tissue and weight. In addition, hot yoga gives the body the rest it needs from repetitive motions of one sport while still offering a solid workout. Another great benefit is the breath control you learn in yoga will help keep your mind and body calm in stressful conditions on and off your mat.

Top professional and recreational athletes are big on yoga! Famous football and baseball teams embrace yoga. So do ice skaters, swimmers, golfers, triathletes, gymnasts, dancers and many more.
Are you ready to start adding yoga into your weekly fitness regimen? I hope so!

Our classes at Empower Yoga include:
  • HOT or Warm Power Flow/Vinyasa classes
  • Power Plus
  • Yin Yoga
  • Restorative Yoga

Get started today! Join us at Empower Yoga!!  Get strong and bendy for lifelong athletic health.

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The days that break us, are the days that make us!

This week blog is meant to open myself and let you all in on some of the pain and struggles I have faced recently. By doing so I hope to heal a little more and maybe offer anyone having similar difficulty, the opportunity to know that they aren’t alone and that we will get through this rough spot together!

I try to take things one day at a time and it can be hard. I often think of the positive and try to find the bright side, and some days I don’t. I allow myself to feel how I feel without judgement or trying to change it.

The last several months have not been easy for me. I have had a lot of stressors that have caused sleepless nights, bouts of crying uncontrollably, as well as physical and emotional pain.

Over the last 8 months, I opened a business, trained for Ironman 70.3, took care of my dad and stepmom who were both dying of cancer, lost my stepmom last November & then my dad in July, lost my voice for several months late summer/early fall making it difficult for me to do my job (in fact I will most likely need surgery on my vocal chords), got a very bad eye infection which I can’t seem to shake, asthma attacks, heel spurs and plantar fascitis preventing me from being able to run (I had to miss out on the Marine Corp Marathon last weekend) … the list goes on and on. I have been feeling sad and depressed. I have had difficulty getting up, and wondered why things were feeling so bad.

As a result, I started questioning God, asking-  Why me? When will this get better? When will I start to heal?  When can I start to move on, get stronger, talk and teach more, go back to running, and overall when will I start to feel more like myself again?  When will all this pain go away? Because what is happening to me right now is not me. I am not this sad, depressed, whoa is me kind of person, and all I want is to feel more like myself again.

As I continued to think more about my misfortunes over the last several months, it hit me that I have dealt with difficult situations before and made it through.  The truth is, pain is a part of life. If you do not feel pain, you are not truly living. The feeling of pain is complex and confusing and can make living day to day life hard. It can consume your thoughts, and takes away the joy that you want to feel and replaces it with feelings like anger, sadness, and regret. But I believe that pain is something to help make you stronger. In order to do that, you have to accept it as being part of your journey, and use it to your advantage.

At every stage in life, just before something big and good comes, I have faced challenges that one would think there is no way out, feeling as if it’s the end of the world. Those things in my past that seemed impossible, I’ve gotten through and as a result am where I am today.

These moments, these struggles, are all phases in life, as we climb up the ladder, the weight seems to be pressing down upon us, every step takes a harder toll, but it will all pass because we grow through struggle. I try to remind myself how boring success would be if you knew you were going to succeed automatically or if it was just handed to you. The days that break us, are the days that make us. Life is about balance, you have to take the good with the bad. Even when we don’t understand the bad, we need to trust that the Universe has a plan for each and every one of us and we will eventually begin to see & understand that plan as it unfolds.  

I truly believe that the Universe will guide you to exactly where you are meant to be. Without my faith and trust in this idea, I would have never moved back to NJ and opened up my yoga studio.  

So when you feel down, and when it feels like you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, just take a deep breath and know, its just a phase and it will pass.

Remember to keep trying, giving your best, persevere, and take it one day at a time…  nothing good comes easy.

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Fitness Retreat

As most of you already know, I am a fitness enthusiast.  I love to work hard, challenge myself and certainly step outside my comfort zone.  So as a yoga teacher/studio owner and a CrossFit coach, I decided to combine my two passions and take them to San Pedro, Belize for my first ever Fitness Retreat!!!

When I opened my studio in April, my goals for the year  were to build community and plan a retreat. So I did it and could not be more thrilled. I have always wanted to visit Belize and thought, well there is no time like the present. This trip is going to be epic and one you won’t want to miss.

Who’s ready for a little fun, fitness, and of course some R&R?!?!

Check out all the details below. You can also find this information on my studios website: http://empoweryoganj.com/retreatwithus/

YOGA & CROSSFIT RETREAT – BELIZE

MAY 15-20, 2018

beachfrontWe are excited to visit Belize in May 2018 for our 1st Yoga & CrossFit Retreat! You can expect this to be a very active retreat where you can get sweaty, leap out of your comfort zone, and still have time to relax! You will enjoy personalized yoga and CrossFit classes each day. Every detail will be considered so you can focus on your workouts, relaxation, and endless adventure opportunities.

This really is a trip you do not want to miss! Due to the customization of this retreat limited spaces are available for booking. Don’t wait to reserve your spot! There is no better time than now!

YOGA

unnamed-3Yoga will be offered to the entire group each day to allow for recovery from the day’s activity. Each yoga class will be customized for active recovery. Classes will be taught for all levels. Instructors will provide modifications for beginning yogis and also opportunities for advanced practitioners to grow their practice. Even if you have never practiced yoga, you will find these sessions energizing and empowering!

If you have a yoga mat, please bring it!!

CROSSFIT

unnamed-1Empower Yoga has partnered with CrossFit Wolf for daily CrossFit training, and beach workouts/WODs! During the classes, the coaches at CrossFit Wolf will be their to guide and support you, offering modifications as need to allow all levels to be successful. No CrossFit experience is required. Get ready to sweat and have fun!

ACCOMODATIONS

pool 3We are excited to offer 5 nights accommodations in the SunBreeze Hotel. The SunBreeze Hotel is situated in the laid back beach town of San Pedro, on the popular Ambergris Caye. Out the front door, the festive streets of town welcome you to join in the fun, and out our back door, you are just a few steps from the Caribbean Sea and the largest Barrier Reef in the Western Hemisphere. During your stay you will enjoy access to the beach, the use of the beautiful lounging pool, spacious sofa lounge, hammock gazebo, beach front dining, relaxing and rejuvenating spa, and free wifi in common areas.

Room accommodations are booked on a first come, first serve basis. The bedroom configurations include a premium room with a King bed, a premium room with a queen and double bed, standard room with two double beds, or a standard room with Queen bed.

*Please provide your preferred room type(s) at the time of booking, as well as preferred roommate if applicable.

ADVENTURE TOURS

In addition to daily yoga & CrossFit, we are excited to offer optional adventure tours each day. These adventures include but aren’t limited to kayaking, snorkeling, fishing, stand-up paddleboard, biking, and scuba diving.

TRAVEL

Once you have secured your spot at the retreat, we can help answer any questions you have regarding airfare.

Please note- guests should book flights to and from Belize City, Belize. Flights should arrive on May 15th before 4pm and depart on May 20th no earlier than 10:30am. Air transportation from Belize City to San Pedro will be included for all retreat guests. Upon arrival to Belize City guests will go through customs, claim baggage and proceed to connecting flights. Guests will then fly from Belize City to San Pedro. Upon arrival to San Pedro it is a very short, less than 5 min. walk to the Sunbreeze Hotel.

Price Includes:

Lodging, transportation from Belize City to San Pedro, daily yoga, daily CrossFit, welcome dinner, closing dinner, daily breakfast, daily maid service, transportation to and from CrossFit Wolf.

Price Does Not Include:

Airfare, alcoholic or specialty beverages, off site meals, additional activities/tours, and spa treatments.

Plan Ahead Pricing – October 13,  2017 – December 31, 2017

*Retreat rates are per person.

Standard Room Double- $2000/person

Standard Room Single- $2350/person

Premier Room Double- $2150/person

Premier Room Single- $2575/person

Have 3 people? Get a Premium Double room for $1900/person or a Standard Double room for $1800/person.

Standard Retreat Pricing – January 1, 2018

*Retreat rates are per person.

Standard Room Double- $2100/person

Standard Room Single- $2450/person

Premier Room Double- $2250/person

Premier Room Single- $2675/person

Have 3 people? Get a Premium Double room for $2000/person or a Standard Double room for $1900/person.

*Please provide your preferred bed type and roommate (if applicable) at the time of booking. Each room will be booked on a first come first serve basis.

Terms and Conditions:

To sign up for this retreat, a non-refundable and non-transferable US $500 deposit is required. Your deposit is applied toward your retreat rate. Full payment is due no later than March 1, 2018.

Plan Ahead Prices apply when your deposit is received between October 13, 2017 – December 31, 2017. Standard Retreat Prices apply when your deposit is received after January 1, 2018.

Should you need to cancel your reservation prior to March 1, 2018, you will receive a refund for payment made, minus the $500 deposit. Should you need to cancel after March 1, 2018, for whatever reason, we will not be able to provide you a refund or credit. Sign ups with full payment are welcome after March 1, 2018 as space allows.

You can purchase trip insurance for yourself through Allianz.

QUESTIONS?

Please contact Keri at the studio or email her at keri@empoweryoganj.com.

I hope you’ll join us!!

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Life Lessons I’ve Learned From Practicing Yoga

I have been practicing yoga for over 10 years. One thing I know for sure, it’s one of the most consistent and transformative things I’ve ever done. Over the last 10 years, yoga has been a constant presence in my life. I love yoga and continue to enjoy my practice and my ability to explore my body, mind, and soul. I believe that yoga is a gift for everyone to enjoy.

Through the years, I’ve learned that the physical health benefits of yoga are numerous, but yoga also has the ability to boost your emotional health as well. I’d like to share some of the things I’ve learned from yoga in this week’s blog.

I hope this article inspires you to give yoga a try and if you already have, I am sure you may agree with the things I have listed below!

Here are some of the life lessons that yoga has taught me.

Follow your heart:

Once opened, the possibilities for love and joy are endless! Once in a job I hated and living life in a perpetual pattern of negative thought, I discovered yoga and it helped open my mind to endless possibilities. Yoga gave me the strength and wisdom to get rid of my doubts, fears and worries.  Instead, I am able to listen to my inner self and follow my heart. Without yoga I wouldn’t be where I am today- an entrepreneur, who opened her own yoga studio in an effort to give back to a community that gave her so much. I want to help others find their true path and empower them through their own yoga journey of healing and self discovery.

You are capable of more than you give yourself credit for:

I believe that whatever my goals are, I can accomplish them with determination, hard work, and persistence. For example, just a few years ago, I never thought I could do a handstand. But I can do them now (at least for few seconds lol) because I just kept practicing, gaining strength, and learning the technique little by little. Sometimes we put limits on ourselves, but we can do more than what we give ourselves credit for. I know things can seem scary sometimes, but it’s in those moments, we know that we are alive. Plus, once we’ve achieved our goals, we are rewarded with a feeling of self accomplishment and satisfaction.  

Live in the present:

This can still be a challenge for me, but I work hard at it each day. When we step back and take a moment to consider how much of our day we spend worrying about what is going to happen next, or what has happened, it can become very detrimental to your mental, emotional and physical health. When we constantly worry about things we can’t control or change, we begin to feel anxious, stressed and even depressed. To avoid this, take each day, hour and even minute at a time to experience the present moment fully and let go of any other stressers you do not need. Yoga is a great way to help get you there. In yoga, we observe our thoughts, get down past the surface of everything and go deep into our core of existence. Here is where we find the answers to what we need to let go of and start living.

Just breathe:

This may sound simple, but trust me, it’s one of the best lessons I’ve learned.  When faced with a difficult situation or when experiencing unsettling emotions, the first thing that comes to my mind is “just breathe”. Slowly, in through the nose and out through the nose (eyes open or closed), I just breathe. Sure enough, I feel calmer, stronger and more able to deal with whatever is going on around me and within me.

Don’t create unnecessary tension:

Sometimes in yoga when we get into a pose that challenges us, we clench our teeth and/or tense our shoulders or face. In those moments, it’s important to remember to relax and just breathe. Similarly in life, as things get hard, try not to overreact, panic, become defensive, or place blame, just relax and breathe. Unnecessary tension causes stress and stress is bad for our overall health.

Don’t take anything for granted:

Nothing in life is guaranteed. What is here today may be gone tomorrow, so appreciate and value what you have while you have it. You never know what may happen next. Remember, it’s about the journey, not the destination. With yoga, and with life, the beauty of the practice is not about the “results,” but about the journey. Enjoy every moment and don’t take anything for granted.

It’s ok to fall:

You know that pose that looks and seems totally impossible? You’ll never gain the strength and flexibility you need to do it if you don’t try. Same applies in life; stop worrying about if you fall down and just give it a try and keep trying until one day it sticks!

Be patient:

You can’t force your body to open into a pose before it’s ready, otherwise you could get hurt.  To get into more challenging poses, you need to warm up and work up to them; some poses take a lifetime. Life is the same way, forcing things to happen when they aren’t ready, almost never gets us closer to our goals.

Alignment is key:

In yoga poses, it’s important to align your body properly to avoid risk of injuries. Same with life. If you do things that don’t align with your core values, you put yourself at risk and prevent yourself from achieving your goals.

Only you know your body:

In a yoga class, your teacher is there to guide you and offer suggestions. No matter how many teacher trainings they’ve completed, he/she doesn’t live in your body and he/she doesn’t feel what you feel. For this reason, you are the only one who can really make sound decisions for yourself. Trust your judgment, do what feels right, and you can never go wrong.

We never stop learning:

As soon as you think you’ve mastered a pose, making a slight adjustment can change everything. Every pose has multiple variations that can make it more supportive or challenging. This is the nature of yoga poses, and also the nature of life. There’s always another lesson to learn, new places to explore, and new challenges to meet.

Never give up:

Whether it’s mastering a new yoga pose or attaining your life’s goal or dreams, never give up. Yoga has helped teach me to find the resilience, courage and inner strength to believe in myself and to never give up. So for those of you currently facing challenging times and searching for strength, know that’s it’s already within you, all you need is the courage to pull it out; never give up.

Every time you get on your mat you bring with you different challenges; with different mental, physical and emotional challenges, the experience differs accordingly. Sometimes you feel physically strong, while other times your balance may be off and that’s ok.  Take a few moments to observe and accept what is going on and then learn from it. Enjoy the journey of life, continue to grow and challenge yourself, and never give up!

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IMAC RECAP

A few weekends ago, I ticked my first IRONMAN 70.3 race off the list. Crossing the finish line in Atlantic City, New Jersey was amazing. I am incredibly proud of myself and pleased as to how I performed during the race.

Nestled between the fast, dynamic Olympic-distance races and the revered IRONMAN, the 70.3 occupies a unique place on the distance spectrum. It’s definitely a race worthy of respect and a feet to tackle, but it’s certainly doable.  

RACE RECAP:

The Ironman Village was great. They offered fun entertainment, lots of cool swag to purchase, and great vendors. Packet pickup was easy, and the volunteers were incredible. Race day was the same. Things appeared to be well organized and all the details taken care off. We were slow to start the swim, but the 6 person every 10 seconds into the water seemed to really pace us out well and prevented people from swimming over one another, which I really appreciated, because that scares the sh*t out of me.

I was terrified at first about getting in the water, but one of the volunteers looked at me & said- do it for someone who’s not here today and can’t do it. Well I immediately started to cry because it made me think of my dad- I decided to do it for him. Thank god my husband was standing by the start too as this happened because he gave me one final kiss and hug and reassured me I’d be great. When I got into the water I knew dad was there. It was a great swim. There wasn’t any real current, things were clearly marked, and there was a lot of support in the water if needed. I felt good and truly enjoyed the swim. I got out in 42.33 (2:12 min/100m)

Coming out of the water was easy, the wetsuit peelers were fast and efficient. They certainly helped lessen transition times.

As I got on the bike, we headed out toward the AC Expressway. They closed off one lane. They informed us it was a closed course, so I expected the entire Expressway to be closed. But one lane seemed sufficient enough. It did become a little scarey when large trucks and buses came zooming by and your bike would shake.  Part of the course was also on some back roads. These roads were not well paved and very bumpy. They also had large potholes and broken glass you needed to maneuver around to avoid, so not so easy at times.  The course was 2.5 loops and at least after the first loop, you remembered where the rough parts of the road were. Unfortunately, lots of people got flats and were pulled over along the side of the road. I was very happy that wasn’t me. The highlight was riding towards AC and seeing the skyline. I completed the bike course in 3:13 with an average of about 18 mph.

The run course took place on the boardwalk. It is pretty tough to run on a boardwalk. There were lots of loose boards and nails that stuck up. However, the crowds were fun, there were aid stations every two miles, and the music throughout helped you to keep moving.  I felt ok on the run minus the large blisters that developed on the pads of my feet. The first few miles were fast and great (averaging about 8:30) but then my feet started to hurt so bad that I basically ran with my toes curled to protect the blisters from hitting the ground each time. I stopped and walked through every aid station to give my toes a break and to refuel. Overall, it was uncomfortable and made the run seem longer than it would have been, but I got through it. This has never happened to before, so I’ll have to do some research as how to avoid it for the next one. I completed the run in 2:16. Which is about 10:30 per mile.

Best part of the race was running down the shoot and crossing the finish line. It was pretty exciting and emotional. What a huge accomplishment. I have a lot to be proud of and a lot to be grateful for. For starters, this body who works so hard and does so much for me, my husband who appreciates and encourages my crazy side, my family, and of course my friends who are always there to listen or run/swim/bike countless miles with me… for all that I am extremely grateful.

Total finish time: 6:19:47

WHY RACE IM 70.3?

  • The IRONMAN 70.3 is a challenging step up from shorter-distance races (sprints and Olympic/international) to “test” yourself at a longer, more endurance-focused event. Once you complete one, you’ll know whether you’re hooked like I am or whether you prefer shorter events.    
  • In about 10 hours a week, you can become fit enough to complete a 70.3.
  • Many people’s first IRONMAN goal is simply to finish. For more seasoned triathletes, the IRONMAN 70.3 distance offers the chance to focus more on performance (qualifying, setting PR’s, etc) than just getting across the finish line.
  • IRONMAN 70.3 events are spectator-friendly and offer lots of pre race & race-day fun.
  • Great volunteers and spectators!! The volunteers help ensure a smooth race and keep you hydrated while spectators cheer you on and offer words of support and encouragement along the way to help keep you motivated and moving forward.
  • The race is often completed in about 5-7 hours, leaving the afternoon and evening open for celebration and unwinding.
  • As a destination race, it’s a great way to sightsee and explore new cities!
  • There are a huge variety of races to choose from and most are easily accessible.

YOU CAN DO ANYTHING, YOU NEED TO JUST BELIEVE:

I had a great race and a lot of fun. I even exceeded my own expectations of myself. Being new at this and not sure how I was going to feel, my goal was to finish around 6:30 and I finished in 6:19. I’m super happy about that. It was great and I got to learn a lot about myself. I had a lot of thinking to do over the course of 6 hours with no music and no one to talk to- Probably the quietest I have ever been lol (well actually 2nd to the time I had laryngitis for weeks). I learned that I really don’t need music to swim/bike/run and I was happy with my own thoughts and really got to live in the moment. I also learned that we should never doubt ourselves because we can truly do anything we put our minds to, I’m proof of that. Imagine, I started training for triathlons a few years ago as a way to force myself to learn how to swim and now almost 3 years later, I not only can swim, but I can swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles and run 13.1 miles after. I can’t wait to do it again. Most people think I’m crazy, but I’m a dreamer and a doer and I refuse to let anything get in my way. Never stop goal setting & goal crushing!

Now onto my next 70.3, Eagleman in June and 140.6 Lake Placid in July! Let the training begin 🙂

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Fall Equinox

Even though we know the seasons change, autumn still has a way of surprising us. It seems like one day it’s hot and humid, summers in full swing, and the next there’s a shift- the airs cooler and it feels crisp.

Then before you know it, it’s pumpkin-spice-everything, everywhere and we are wearing boots, long sleeves and sweaters.

The fall equinox is what is responsible for this shift and the seasons changing from summer to fall.

This year, the fall equinox arrives on Friday, September 22. The fall equinox happens the moment the sun crosses the celestial equator, which is an imaginary line in the sky that corresponds to Earth’s equator. Every year this occurs on September 22, 23, or 24 in the northern hemisphere.

From here, the days start to get shorter until the winter solstice in December, then they’ll begin their slow climb back to the long summer days.

The word “Equinox” comes from the Latin words “equi” meaning “equal” and “nox” meaning “night.” So during the fall equinox, there are equal amounts of daylight and darkness. The equinox is a point of union and balance between the light and the dark, between fire and water, & between the yin & yang.  

This time is a great reminder for us to turn inward and check in with ourselves, slow down, and become more grounded.

Often as the end of the year approaches, we want to work harder to get things done. Instead, take the opportunity to reduce your work and only complete what’s necessary. As you check in with yourself, ask yourself: what do I need/want? Get more rest, eat earlier, develop a fall routine, get into a rhythm and stick with it. To feel more grounded, listen to slow rhythmic music with heavy drum beats and deep melodic chanting, these vibrations will resonate in the lower chakras, drawing energy closer to the earth. To also honor yourself during this time, meditate, take a yoga class, stay warm, and love and honor yourself and your body.

In honor of the fall equinox we will be holding a special grounding yoga class with Sam Benson on Saturday, 9/23 from 9:00-10:15am.  To register, please visit: http://empoweryoganj.com/schedule/

Namaste!

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Exploring Mantras

In this week’s blog, I’ll be exploring mantras and the benefit of mantras both on and off the mat.

With spiritual practices like yoga and meditation becoming more popular, it seems like everyone is talking about mantras. But what’s a mantra??

WHAT ARE MANTRAS?

A mantra is a word, sound, or phrase repeated to aid in your concentration. They are a living force that are believed to have high spiritual and creative power.

Mantras can also be used as an affirmation and to help keep you connected to a particular state of mind. When using a mantra, it’s believed that only the positive intentions and actions will fill your mind and negativity will be eliminated.

WHY ARE MANTRAS IMPORTANT?

Mantras can be a great way to help keep you focused and connected to a particular state of mind. You can choose a mantra based on how you’re feeling or what you are needing in life. Whether you’re looking for positivity, health, happiness, self love, or if you simply want to find balance, finding a mantra and sticking with it can help you cultivate that in your life.

HOW DO THEY HELP?

In a vinyasa flow yoga class, mantras can be used as a silent repetition to help keep the mind focused and present.

Off the mat, when you have difficulty focusing, your mind keeps wandering, or you’re in a stressful or uncomfortable position, a mantra can help you feel grounded and at ease.

Studies have shown that mantras can reduce stress levels and change your brain’s chemistry.  They interrupt your negative thoughts and experiences and give you something more positive to focus on instead.

Mantras help you maintain a connection to the state you wish to cultivate. Choosing a mantra in the morning can help set the tone for the rest of your day.

At the beginning of most yoga classes, the teacher will share a theme or invite you to create an intention or pick a mantra to use and help support you throughout your practice.

SOME POPULAR MANTRAS:

Endurance/Strength- “This too shall pass.”

Love- “I am love.”

Manifesting Love- “I am attracting all the love I dream and desire.”

Calmer mind- “Smile, breathe, and go slowly.”

Being present- “Be here, now.”

Allowing the universe to guide you- “I am open to receiving universal gifts.”

Creating happiness- “Today I choose joy.”

Release- “Close your eyes, clear your heart, let it go.”

Empowerment- “I am capable of wonderful things.”

Building Self-Confidence- “Today you are perfect.”

Strength and Willpower- “Forward progress, just keep moving.”

Enduring Tough Times- “you are the sky, everything else is the weather.”

Neutralizing Body Image- “I am strong. I am beautiful. I am enough.”

Radiating Gratitude- “I am grateful for all the things unfolding in my life & all that is yet to come.”

Starting the Day- “I am fullfilled, I am fearless.”

Ending the Day- “Less is more.”

MY FAVORITE: “It’s a great day to be alive.”

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Finding Peace

At the moment, my life feels turned upside down. A few stressors have been my dad’s death and getting sick. Not only am I suffering from TMJ, but I also have polyps on my vocal cords and am having difficulty speaking.

I miss my dad tremendously and when I want to talk or cry, I can’t because it hurts my throat. Now not talking wouldn’t be so bad if my whole life- my job and identify- didn’t revolve around being able to speak. I can’t coach or teach, and I’m scared to do permanent damage and not get my voice back. So I’ve been feeling a huge range of emotions, from sadness and depression to anger and rage to despondency and helplessness. On top of my personal challenges, I don’t dare turn on on the TV because the chaos, greed, death, and destruction on the news makes me feel worse and more hopeless.

However, I believe (or at least am trying to) that we can transform our challenging situations into one of inner and outer peace. Everyday we wake up, we have a choice. A choice to feel hope, peace, happiness, and look for the good in the world, rather than choosing to feel sad, depressed, etc…

When things happen and issues or challenges become revealed, we have an opportunity to face them and then to choose another path. No more gloom and doom. This could be the sign we’ve been waiting for to make changes in our life for the better. Or in my case maybe a reminder to slow down and allow myself to take a break for a while rather than always going and pushing myself.  We need to begin to understand that the outer chaos we experience merely represents our mental state.  So if we can calm & quiet what’s happening inside, then what’s happening outside will quiet too and hopefully we can find some peace.

Being able to keep the peace can be hard.  I have a very hard time when things don’t go according to my plan. If you’re like me, when situations arise, I want to “fix” it immediately. I’ll spend sleepless nights trying to figure out what to do. Now certain things, like my dad dieing is unfixable and will take time for me to heal emotionally. Not being able to speak can’t just be fixed right away either, and will take time to physically heal. These unpredictable circumstances happen on the regular and are beyond our control; so we need to come up with ways to help ourselves when we feel off balance or out of control.

So how can we do this? These ideas may help:

Thoughts have power:

Begin to visualize good things. When you’re feeling chaotic, try to calm the mind, think good thoughts, and envision the outcome you’d like to see. Start imagining yourself happy, healthy, safe, and loved. Hold onto those good vibes.

Words have power:

Train your subconscious brain to have a different belief system. Wishful thinking doesn’t help, but repeated helpful affirmations or mantras do. Mantras when repeated many times throughout the day start to become your inner truth and will help change your subconscious mind.

Some examples of my favorite mantras include: I am enough, It’s a great day to be alive, & you are the sky, everything else is the weather.  Always remember, words have power.

Feelings have power:

In order for us to transcend our situation and create more peace in our lives, we have got to feel it and the best way to do that is have faith. Having faith means that everything will be ok.  

To have faith, we must believe with conviction that everything will be okay, even if we can’t currently see exactly how.

Action is power:

Keep your eyes and heart focused on how you can add value to the world each day.

Think about your life’s purpose, why are you here?  Think about the gift you have to offer the world. In moments of chaos, remember your purpose and stick with it. What you do is part of you, so trust it, it’s who and what you are. When I know I have helped someone for the better and contributed value to the world each day, I feel centered, grounded, and at ease. Action is power.

Meditate for 10 to 20 Minutes per day:

Meditating can be done is so many ways. I highly recommend guided meditations to start. But even sitting in nature or focusing on peace or doing deep breathing helps ground you tremendously so that you feel calmer and less stressed, which in turn has a positive effect on those around you. Meditation can be powerful. Checkout a previous blog of mine to learn more: http://yogaswole.com/meditation/

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Making Friends in Yoga

Over the years, I have discovered that yogis make some of the best friends. From my studio in Boston, to my own studio now, and the ones I’ve worked in and visited along the way; I have met so many incredible people & have built many lasting friendships. Yoga is a truly great place to meet and connect with people.

Yogis of all ages and backgrounds are often united in their love of yoga and a common desire to be friendly both on and off the mat. I’ve been able to deepen friendships through the transformative experience that was my teacher training, numerous classes I’ve taught and attended, workshops, as well as community gatherings and potlucks.

With yoga as the glue, I have found that that the things we have in common are far greater than those things that set us apart. So yoga studios are a great place for meeting people and building friendships.

Yoga for the individual:

Yoga is about self discovery. It’s a wonderful way to become more in tune with your mind and body so you can find your true self.  Yoga helps eliminate suffering, stress, and negativity in our lives. During a yoga class, you’re challenged to bring your attention inward and connect with yourself on a deeper level.

With an open mind and willingness that’s cultivated in class, we can work on ourselves and begin to strip away the negativity. When we let our guard down like this, we not only begin to explore a deeper connection to ourselves, but also a deeper connection to others.

Yoga for the group:

While yoga is very individual, it is also very collaborative. Yoga helps create union with one another and a sense of togetherness. Through collective breath and movement in class, yoga helps create bonds with the people around you like none other.

Once class is over, there’s this overall feeling of oneness, connection, and collaborative energy.  There’s this beautiful window of opportunity to make introductions, mingle, and foster a deeper connection and potential friendships to those around you.

Next time you’re in class:

Spark up a conversation with your yogi neighbors in class, introduce yourself to the teacher, talk to people after class, whatever it may be, break out of your shell, be brave, allow yourself to be vulnerable and open. We are all connected and if nothing else, one thing we know we have in common, is our love for yoga and our dedication to our practice. There is always space in our lives for new positive people. Take a chance, say hi.

 

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