Summer Solstice 2017

What is the Summer Solstice?

Wednesday, June 21 2017 marks the longest day and the shortest night of the earth’s solar year, otherwise known as the Summer Solstice. During this time, we celebrate the completion of the cycle that began during the Winter Solstice. As we celebrate the longest day of the year, we also begin to prepare ourselves for the return of shorter and darker days.

Solstice literally means “standing of the sun” and we can connect to this great turning point in the earth’s yearly cycle by taking a moment to stop, find stillness, and reflect on our journey these last few months. From now until the Winter Solstice, what can we do to better nurture and develop ourselves? The Summer Solstice is a doorway into the second half of the year. Stand on the threshold and ask yourself what you wish to accomplish and achieve over the coming months.

The Summer Solstice is a perfect opportunity to bring these same principles to your yoga practice.  At Empower Yoga we will be holding a Summer Solstice celebration on Friday, June 23 starting at 5:30pm. We will begin our celebration with a series of 108 Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskara), which is a “mandala” or circle of poses celebrating the sun.  Afterwards, we will have a potluck party. Join us, let’s celebrate the Sun and each other!

What does 108 mean?

The number 108 is a sacred number and has many interpretations:

  • 108 is twelve times the number 9, which is the number of vinyasas (movements linked to breath) in a Sun Salutation.
  • 108 is the number of names for Shiva (a Hindu god).
  • 108 is the number of names for Buddha.
  • 108 is the Chinese number representing man.
  • 108 is the number of beads on a Catholic rosary.
  • 108 is the number of beads on a Tibetan “mala” (prayer beads, analogous to a rosary).
  • 108 is twice the number 54, which is the number of letters in the Sanskrit alphabet, one set of masculine (shiva) and one set of feminine (shakti).
  • 108 is the number of Sutras in the Yoga Sutras
  • 108 connects the sun, moon and earth as the average distance  of the sun and moon to earth is 108 times their respective diameters
  • 108 forms of dance in the Indian traditions.

Why do we complete Sun Salutations?

When completing Sun Salutations, we begin to move into a state of meditation. As we move and breathe, we begin to create tapas or inner heat that cleanses the body. With this inner heat we create combined with our meditative state, we can begin to release toxins in our bodies or things that no longer serve us. As we let go of these stuck energies, we become less in our head and more in our heart. On each exhale, we let go and on each inhale we create opportunities for new beginning and ways to better love and nurture our bodies so we can continue to grow.

Join the fun!

I would like to invite you to join us on June 23rd. If you are unable to attend, perhaps find a place to hold your own celebration.  Come into your body, find your breath and move through your favorite variation of Sun Salutations. Take time for you, to honor your own experiences, and begin to reflect on ways to take care of yourself over the next several months.

After you finish your practice, draw your hands together in Anjali Mudra. Feel the inner glow of your own heart. Then radiate that warmth outward with gentle words and gestures of love. Let the solar energies of the summer solstice nourish and support you.

Namaste!

Want to learn Sun A? Visit Empower Yoga’s Instgram page to see the video! (IG- empoweryoganj)

 

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Product Review: lululemon Reversible 5mm mat

Are you in the market for a new yoga mat??

As most of you know, I opened Empower Yoga in Ewing, NJ two months ago. Owning a yoga studio, I needed to decide what types of mats I wanted to offer for my clients to use.  For me, it was a no brainer, the lululemon Reversible 5mm mat was an obvious choice.  Since I am a lululemon ambassador, some may think I am biased, but I have been using a lulu mat for over 12 years and could not be happier!

When I started taking yoga classes, I was given one of those inexpensive foam mats. The kind you could get at Target or Walmart for about $10. I thought it would do the trick. Well it certainly had cushioning which was great for kneeling, but what it didn’t do was prevent me from slipping and sliding all over the place. Plus those little pieces of foam kept falling off, causing a mess all over the floor. I knew it was time to make an investment in something better. That was when I got my first lulu mat and haven’t used a different mat since.

The Reversible 5mm is the perfect mat for me and here’s why…

  • It’s super durable. With a lulu mat you don’t have to worry about rips, holes, or little bits of yoga mat peeling off.
  • It provides good cushioning. I have no problem kneeling, jumping, or lying on the floor.
  • It’s firm. Even though it has good cushioning, it’s still firm, making it easy to balance.
  • It’s very grippy. No big towels needed.
  • It doesn’t puddle. When I workout, I sweat a TON. I’ve always found yoga towels to be a pain to use so I wanted a mat that would absorb the moisture, and this one does. You are able to sweat safely!
  • It stays in one place and does not slide around the floor.
  • Even though it traps moisture, it doesn’t smell. The mat is very breathable.
  • It’s perfect for regular or hot yoga as well as any other fitness class.
  • The mat costs $68 which is less than the Manduka ($82) and Jade (Fusion- $149) mats.

The only cons I have found are:

  • It can get scratched up rather easily, but I think the marks add charm and show what a strong bad ass yogi you are.
  • It’s heavy (5lbs), so it is not great to travel with. I wouldn’t want to pack it in my suitcase.

In all, if you are looking for a quality mat that will likely last you a lifetime regardless of what punishment you put it through, then this is the mat for you. I’ll happily stick with mine!

Namaste!

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Getting Ready For Summer Vacation

Last weekend was Memorial Day, or the unofficial start to summer.  This marks the opening of pools, school years winding down, barbeques, and beach parties.  As we prepare for summer and get ready for summer vacations, here are some tips to staying healthy during your summer travels.

Like most of us, I always look forward to summer vacation. It’s a chance to sit back, relax, go to the beach, spend time with family and friends, read a book and do the things we don’t get to do during the rest of the year.  When done right, traveling is the perfect way to detach and de-stress from our busy lives.

However, when we go on vacation, it’s important to remember not to over-indulge too much and throw away all of the good and healthy habits we’ve created throughout the year. So be sure to enjoy your vacation responsibly. It’s about finding that balance and not feeling guilty when you need hit the reset button when you get back.   

Here are a few tips to ensure you return from your trip happier and healthier than in years past:

Get up and move:

“Sitting is the new smoking” is one of the most popular catchphrases these days regarding one’s health. In fact, many offices are now offering standing desks and waking meetings to their employees.  Studies show that any extended sitting (i.e. plane, desk, car, etc…) can greatly increase one’s risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.

So when you head out on vacation this year, be mindful of how much you’re moving. If you’re taking a flight, get up every hour or so and walk around, long car ride- stop at a rest station, get your muscles moving.  Maybe even do some of your favorite yoga poses! Maybe you’ll meet some cool people and discover some interesting places!

Once at your destination, plan activities throughout your trip that will force you to get up and move- take a hike, snorkel, kayak, bike ride, walking tour, plan some activities that will force you to get up and move.

Stay hydrated:

Dehydration can cause headaches, fatigue, nausea, and anxiety, which can put a damper on your vacation. Dry, recycled air in airplanes and consuming alcohol while flying can lead to dehydration. To prevent this, drink plenty of fluids before your flight and be sure to have at least one cup of water per hour on the plane.

At your destination, be aware of climate changes. Altitude, humidity and high temperatures can all cause you to dehydrate very quickly. To prevent this and the effects that come along with it, be sure to drink lot’s of water. It’s also a good idea to carry water with you at all times. Be sure to drink often to keep up with your needs. When you become thirsty, you are most likely already dehydrated.

Watch what you eat:

Eating on vacation can be a challenge for a lot of us. We have a tendency to overindulge and eat items we may not eat when we are home. To help you stay on track with your healthy eating habits even when you are away, plan ahead. Know where to find healthy options, bring your own healthy snacks (i.e. fruit, nuts, etc…), and avoid restaurants that offer fried or overly saucy food.  If you do want to indulge, think about what else you ate that day and how it fits in with your calorie and fat consumption. It’s easier to eat dessert if you’ve been active and eating healthy. Think moderation and you should be fine!  

Unplug:

Remember, this is your vacation and your time to relax. It’s hard to relax when we are constantly being overstimulated by our cellphones, ipads, etc.  These technologies can often cause us stress, anxiety, and poor mood. So unplugging for a while and be present where you are, it can be a nice change of events. Emails, FB. and IG, will all be there when you get back.  Now is your chance to rest and unwind. Remember your mind needs this just as much as your body does.

If you can’t go a week without checking in, perhaps allot yourself a specific amount of time each day to check your phone and email.  Spend the 20 minutes you need and then put it away and get back to your vacation.  If faced with a position where you need your phone on, maybe modify your notification settings so you can experience some moments of relaxation, without frequent interruptions.

And remember, don’t over schedule yourself. Give yourself ample time to sleep. It’s your body’s chance to recharge from all you’ve put it through over the course of the year.

The benefits of taking a vacation include, improved physical & mental health, and overall functioning. If you follow the steps above, you’ll come back from vacation feeling  refreshed and renewed.

Happy Travels! 

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Break Up With Your Poor Body Image!

Most of us are not very kind to ourselves, myself included. When we look into the mirror we hate what we see. We think things like – I am fat, I’ve got a big head, big butt, small breasts, big breasts, too many curves, not enough curves etc… whatever it may be, we always find something wrong.  However, coming face-to-face with ourselves and confronting these negative beliefs can be one of the most difficult things, yet one of the most critical steps in our journey to true self-awareness and self-love. Continue reading Break Up With Your Poor Body Image!

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5 Yoga Poses for Runners

Having tight hips and legs can be very painful for a runner, but yoga can help and be a game-changer. Runners, like myself, often suffer from chronically tight hip flexors, hamstrings and calves. This tightness/immobility can lead to pain up the body and along the spine. So being able to lengthen, open, and stretch these areas is important. Yoga will not only help a runner’s performance, but it will also help them prevent injuries and keep them healthy & safe so they can continue to enjoy being able to run!

I recommend that all runners attend a yoga class a few times a week, but if you can’t, try to carve out 10 minutes out of your day day, and practice a few of the poses below to help your running. Begin today and start to see and feel the effects that yoga has on your body.

Strengthen and lengthen your leg muscles, improve flexibility and prevent injury with these 5 yoga poses for runners.

Downward Dog- (Adho Mukha Svanasana):DD  The most common issues for runners are shin splints, knee and foot problems, hamstring, as well as IT-band discomfort. So completing poses that are going to lengthen, and  strengthen the hips, quads, calves and hamstrings are important. Downward Dog does a lot of that, in addition to opening the arms and upper back, down dog stretches the legs too. Lift your hip bones straight toward the ceiling and push your heels into the ground for the best overall stretch.

Low Lunge- (Anjaneyasana)ll hands:  Running can be tough on the hips. Low lunges can help strengthen the core while also stretching the thighs, groin, and opening tightened hips. Reach your arms to the ceiling and breathe.

Tree- (Vrksasana):  Balancing on one leg is great for athletes. The treemore you can strengthen your legs andimprove your balance, the less likely you are to twist an ankle or fall down when you’re on a trail or any type of uneven surface. Balancing on one leg, bring your other foot into your standing leg, try to be above or below the knee; avoiding pressing into the knee joint. Focus your gaze on an object in the distance and stand tall for 30 seconds to a minute.

bridgeBridge- (Setu Bandhasana):  Backbends help open the shoulders and the front of the body.  They also strengthens the core and activate the glutes. Bridge pose is a good counter pose to running, because the longer we run the more we tend to hunch forward. Lift your hips up toward the sky and try to keep your body in a straight line with your core engaged. To open your chest even further, clasp your hands together underneath your pelvis and try to roll your shoulder blades toward each other. Squeeze your glutes and breathe.

Reclined Pigeon- (Supta Kapotasana)reclined pigeon: Traditional Pigeon can put a lot of pressure on the knees if not done correctly, so reclined pigeon can be a nice alternative.  Lie on your back with your knees bent, and cross your left ankle over your right quad. Gently pull your legs toward you for a stretch in your left hip, glute, and hamstring, then repeat on the other side

Running + Yoga = LOVE

Happy Running!

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Mindfulness

As a yoga instructor, I frequently have students asking about mindfulness and how to live more mindfully.  A good place to start, is defining the term.  The commonly acknowledged definition of mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. Continue reading Mindfulness

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Mastering the Uncomfortable

Yoga is about finding a balance between the comfortable and the uncomfortable.

Do you struggle with a specific pose/posture in your yoga practice? When I first started practicing yoga in 2008, I was terribly afraid of inversions, particularly handstands. Every time I tried to get into a handstand, the fear of falling overwhelmed me so much so that I refused to even try.

That fear of falling made me so uncomfortable that during class, when offered to go into an inversion, I either did shoulder stand or hips on a block.  However, being someone that does in fact love a challenge, I decided that I needed to get over my fear and give it a try. I wanted to do handstands so badly! So I decided to master the uncomfortable. I practiced diligently each time I got onto my mat. After almost 4 years (yes that’s how long it’s taken me and it’s been very humbling) I started to gain the strength and confidence to do it. I’m still working on holding the pose for longer periods of time as well as attempting funky variations (i.e. tree, straddle, eagle legs etc…), but I am just so happy to be able to get off my feet and onto my hands.

For me that’s where the excitement lies. When you are able to come face to face with your fears and then overcome them, you start to feel strong and unstoppable. When we live in a place of fear, we aren’t able to grow. We are limited by the walls we’ve created around us. But, NOW is the time to break down those walls. By learning more about yourself and challenging yourself on the mat, you begin to start to see and notice changes in yourself off the mat too.

Through yoga, I’ve found my strength, my power and learned more about who I am, what I can offer the world, and how I can take action in my life.

I no longer fear handstands. Because when you set your mind to something and challenge the uncomfortable, you will eventually be able to fly. Practicing handstands gave me the courage to master the uncomfortable both on and off my mat.

Do you have the courage to master the uncomfortable in your life?

 

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Returning to Running After An Injury

Over the past month, I was unable to run due to a quad and tendon injury in my left leg.  In January, I had started training for the NJ Marathon which will be held on 4/30/17, in an effort to try to qualify for Boston. I started speed workouts, tempo runs, etc… I hoped to get faster and PR on race day. Unfortunately, the Universe had other plans for me.  I am not sure how I got hurt or why. I was following a plan, running smart, doing warm ups, cool downs, stretching, eating well, but yet I still got injured. When I first got hurt, I tried running through the pain, but that only made it worse. I was forced to stop running. Out the window went my marathon and any hope of a BQ.

At first, I was devastated. I didn’t want to accept it, didn’t want to rest, and went to three doctors in an effort to find someone who would tell me what I wanted to hear… no such luck. My only option was to rest and give my leg some needed time to repair itself.  This was a wakeup call/reality check reminding me to slow down and not push so hard. I had to listen, whether I liked it or not. I needed to accept the fact that I needed to rest, because the more I tried to push through, the longer it would take my leg to heal. I immediately started various therapies to help get me back to running: stretching, foam rolling, massage, acupuncture, stim, ultrasound therapy, and rest.

During the time, I kept asking myself, what was I going to do if I didn’t run? The answer, swim and some strength training (obviously, I couldn’t use my legs so no squatting, jumping, etc…). I focused on core work and upper body. This made me feel good and somewhat productive, despite not not being able to run much.

After a month, I started to notice a difference. I had more mobility in my leg, I could walk without limping, didn’t have to use the railing going up and down the stairs, and with doctors approval I started to run a few miles. I was super excited, but I needed to still remind myself to take it easy and not push too hard because I certainly didn’t want to hurt myself again. Coming back from a running injury stinks. But, it stinks a lot less than the time spent actually dealing with the injury.

The last thing you want during a comeback is to re-injure yourself, or to get a new injury, so keep the following in mind as you return to running.

TIPS TO COME BACK AFTER AN INJURY:

BE GRATEFUL:

The first and perhaps most important thing to keep in mind when getting back to running after a long hiatus is to be grateful for every mile. Every mile is a gift. It’s more about being out on the road than anything else, the rest will come!

BUILD SLOW:

When you get the green light to begin running, do not jump full-force back into where you left off. It is important NOT to rush things, as patience pays off in the end. Gradually increase the amount of time you spend running and supplement the rest with cross-training.

TAKE BABY STEPS:

If you start to notice some injury symptoms creep up, reassess right away. It may mean you have to take a few steps back and not increase your running that week. This is not a sign of defeat; if you catch it early, you’ll avoid anything more serious. Coming back can take time, be patient.

DON’T EXPECT TO PICK UP WHERE YOU LEFT OFF:

You may have been able to run a sub 8 min. mile, but when you come back from an injury,  it’s not likely you’ll be at your previous fitness level. Don’t be discouraged if you’re running a minute or more slower. The speed/fitness will come back! You’ll need to drop pace and mileage, so try not to get hung up on what once was.

POSITIVITY & PERSPECTIVE:

The biggest deciding factor in how well you can come back from an injury is your perspective. Look forward to the runs and more miles as they come and don’t forget that each mile is NOT a given. Be grateful for them and, as you are able to run more and are back to full training mode, remind yourself not to take them for granted. This will help you remain patient and keep your eyes focused on your long term goals.

Enjoy the act of feeling like you’re a runner again, it’s one heck of a high. So smile and have faith that muscle memory will eventually kick back in!

WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT:

Don’t expect your body to return in same time frame as someone else with the same injury. Just because your friend was running after a certain time period, doesn’t mean you will. Reassess the goals you had before your injury and take it one day at a time.

KEEP CROSSTRAINING AND DOING YOUR THERAPY:

I.e. swimming, lifting, rehab (especially the rehab exercises)- Keep doing it! This is all stuff that’ll make you a better runner, plus you’ve started a new routine, stick to it!

DON’T REPEAT THE SAME MISTAKES:

Assess your training. What were you doing before the injury that could have lead to you becoming injured? Did you over train? Run too many races? Not enough rest?  Not stretching enough? No warmup/cooldown? Whatever the case may be, think about it, analyze it, and make a plan to not have history repeat itself.

Happy Running!
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Male Yoga (BROGA)

Do you consider yoga to be a little too ladylike?

Well fellas, yoga is not a women’s only club. Yoga offers plenty of benefits that appeal to men too. And for this week’s blog, I decided to dedicate it to all the men out there who have been afraid to do yoga because they can’t touch their toes, or are hesitant to walk into a class with all women.   Continue reading Male Yoga (BROGA)

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Thank You To My Family & Friends

I wanted to dedicate this week’s blog to you; my family and friends. If you’re a new reader to my blog, you may not be aware that last weekend, my husband and I opened our very first business, a yoga studio- Empower Yoga.  I have been talking about starting this business for over two years and now my dreams have finally come to fruition.  I have so much to be grateful for in my life, particularly for all of the wonderful people in it; who have been a part of my journey, helping me get to this point. This letter/blog is for you! Continue reading Thank You To My Family & Friends

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