Category Archives: Yoga

Do Hard Things

You have to do hard things to be happy in life. And doing the hard things is a skill to be honed.  At the basic level, it’s the ability to overcome distractions and get the right things done, even if you don’t want to in that moment.  Doing hard things is a sacrifice and one that may not offer immediate satisfaction. However, you need to trust that those hard things are going to help get you where you want to be.  And in order to excel, live your dreams and be your best, you need to do the things no one else is willing to do. The things others can’t do for you. The things that make you question how much longer you can hold on and push forward. That’s when you know you’re on the right path. If your dreams don’t frighten, they arent big enough.  

When I wanted to open a yoga studio, everyone thought I was crazy. They asked, how are you going to pull that off? Do you have enough money? Why leave a good and stable job in education, a pension? But I didn’t care what other people said, I new what was right for me and trusted that the Universe had my back.  

Was opening a business easy? Absolutely not. Was it scary at times? Definitely. It’s hard to quit a job and move forward into the unknown. I spent 2 years in limbo wondering what the hell had I done. However, I was able to figure it out, because if there is a will there’s a way. Things weren’t and still aren’t perfect, I have challenges like anyone else, but I embrace each challenge in stride and continue on my path, unwilling to give up or back down. The hard things are what lead you to where you are meant to be, you just have to be willing to take the risk, have patience, and faith that it will all work out.

Those hard things in life are what define us.  Taking the risk and doing hard things is the difference between existing and living… between knowing our path and walking our path. It’s the difference between an average life and the living the life of our dreams, filled with success and happiness.

Most people avoid the hard things, they procrastinate, make excuses or pretend like they somehow don’t apply to their life or situation. However, the truth is that ordinary people can achieve immense success and happiness if they are willing to step out of their comfort zones and do the hard things that others don’t have the courage, drive or determination to do.

I dare you to stop sitting back and watching your life happen and take control.  Start doing those hard things TODAY. I guarantee, you will be amazed at how strong and remarkable you really are and just how amazing your life can be.

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Happy Planksgiving!

For the month of November, Empower Yoga students and friends have been participating in a Planksgiving Challenge. It is 30 days of giving thanks and planks.  No prizes are awarded, it’s more about having fun, creating community, challenging ourselves and of course giving thanks! Each day our plank holds get a little bit longer. We started with a 20 second plank and are working our way to a 3 minute hold on November 30th.

Planksgiving is one of my favorite holidays! Planking is not only a really great way to activate and strengthen your core, but a great way to work your whole body!

Are you ready to jump into our #Planksgiving Challenge? Don’t worry if you find it too difficult to hold, you can plank as long as you can and break it up into smaller parts. Try to hold a few more seconds each day! Remember to stay aware of your form- it’s quality, not quantity that counts. Challenge yourself, but not to the point of injury.

Why you should be thankful for the plank:

  • No equipment needed
  • Improves your posture
  • Promotes a flat belly
  • Works more than just your core
  • Reduces back pain
  • Burns calories
  • Builds strength
  • You can do them anywhere

How to safely do a plank:

  • Start out lying on your stomach with your hands flat on the floor, directly below your shoulders
  • Have your legs out straight and toes curled under
  • Press your hands into the floor, squeeze your core, and come up into a straight arm plank position
  • Don’t allow your hips to sag or your butt to come up
  • Think about squeezing your core and drawing your belly button in towards your spine, and pressing your hands into the floor the entire time
  • Try to keep your head and neck in line with the rest of your spine
  • You can do most of these on your forearms, too, just place your elbows directly underneath your shoulders!

Click for 35 fun plank variations!

Happy Planking 😉

 

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5 REASONS TO GO ON A YOGA RETREAT!

Ever wondered whether a yoga retreat is for you? Often thought about it, but never found the time/money?

Here are 5 reasons I think you should make sure that this year is finally the year you go on that long dreamed about retreat.

1. TIME OUT FOR YOURSELF:

There is a huge difference between going on a vacation and going on retreat.

Going on a retreat allows you to take a step back, focus inward, and give yourself a time out so you can rest and rejuvenate.

Vacations are often centered around families and can be busy, with little time to relax and rejuvenate. Often times vacations aren’t centered around what YOU may want to because you have to make compromises to ensure everyone is happy.

Retreats can help encourage you to leave the outside world behind, step away from all the stressors in your life and leave behind drains on your time and energy, so you can focus on yourself and what you need. The nice thing is that on a retreat, you can always participate in as much or as little as you want. You make the rules.
At the very least, a retreat will give you a break from your day-to-day life and will hopefully leave you refreshed, renewed, empowered, and inspired.

2. DEEPEN YOUR PRACTICE:

A retreat can help take your yoga practice to the next level. Maybe you’ve been practicing yoga for a while now, experienced its amazing benefits first hand, and are looking for more. Or maybe you’re new and wanted to better understand what it’s all about and experience its positive effect on your mind and body first hand.

Whatever the reasons, retreats can help you to further increase your strength, flexibility, and your awareness of your own practice.

The main gift a retreat gives is that it takes you out of your comfort zone. Most of us are creatures of habit.  We like routine. We like our regular teachers, we like to practice with certain friends, and we have our certain spots. Well on a retreat, it’s completely new.  You get to meet new people, maybe try a new teacher or type of yoga, and get to explore and appreciate new surroundings. It’s the perfect time to explore your boundaries, change things up, and step outside your comfort zone.

3. MEET LIKE MINDED PEOPLE:

You get to hang out with like minded people who enjoy the same things as you.  Most people are often nervous to travel alone or even with people they don’t know, but on a retreat you don’t have to be.  The nice thing is, is that you already share a common interest. You spend time together, bond over the yoga, other activities, & shared meals, and by the end of the week, inhibitions fall away and strangers become lifelong friends.

4. LEARN SOMETHING NEW:

Take your yoga off the mat and into the world.  Try new things (activities or food), learn a new skill.  Learn how to swim, surf, dive, paddle, whatever it may be…  Expand your mind. Step outside your comfort zone and begin to discover how strong you truly are and what you are capable of. Take your new interests and carry them back home with you.

5. DETOX YOUR LIFE:

Looking to cleanse your mind, body and soul? Retreats are designed to help you feel good.

MIND:

Clear your mind- turn off your electronics and unplug.

Take in the beautiful scenery and be present.

Practice yoga

Meditate

BODY:

Workout and sweat. Get rid of all the toxins.

Enjoy the delicious food- fuel your body with foods that will help nourish and cleanse you from the inside out.

Get a massage and pamper yourself.

SOUL:

Meditate

Practice yoga.

Sit in silence.

Reconnect with your inner self. Speak to your soul and allow it to help find the answer you seek.

READY TO SIGN UP?

Rather than make excuses as to why you shouldn’t go, spend the money, take time off, etc…. Decide that you are worth it. YOU, more than anyone else deserves to be taken care of. Remember that we need to continue to fill our own cups.  If you aren’t happy, healthy, and inspired, you can’t help others, because you can’t fill from an empty cup. By doing this for yourself, you actually get to give back to all those around you too.

YOU deserve to invest in yourself.

BONUS:

My Mexico Retreat is coming up this June!!

That’s right. I’d love for you to join me for my 5 night Yoga & Fitness Retreat in Tulum, Mexico.

This retreat is all about moving and manifesting. With daily workouts & yoga for all levels, sound meditation, clay ceremony, goal-setting, cultural excursions, delicious meals and plenty of time to relax, this retreat will be a dream come true.

To learn more and to apply, visit our website. We’d love to have you!

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Get On Your Mat This Fall!

Fall is officially upon us. The trees are starting to change colors, the days are getting shorter, and the weather is cooler. Bring on the sweaters, boots, and hot soups.

Often the body takes a minute to catch up with what our environment has to offer us. A balanced yoga practice can help our bodies transition from one season to the next with ease. Incorporating yoga into your day and week can help keep you heated, energized, detoxified, and restored.

HEAT:  As our climate cools off, our joints often stiffen due to lack of circulation to the extremities. So getting on your mat and practicing is a great way to keep the body warm and circulation flowing from the inside out.

ENERGIZE. Our natural inclination as we transition into darker days is to hibernate and to stay indoors. And while that is ok sometimes, we still need to find balance. Yoga is a great way for you to stay uplifted and energized so you combat fatigue and sluggishness.

DETOX: Throughout our heated flow, you will be sure to detox and flush out all of the toxins and stuck energy you may have been holding onto.  A steady practice with twists and inversions is a great way to help you boost your immune system and provide your organs with fresh, oxygenated blood.

RESTORE: The Yin portion of a yoga class is a great way to help your body recharge.  Restorative poses that are held a little longer (i.e.Supta Baddakonasana, Legs up the Wall, & Savasana) allow the body to clear out and for the nervous system to completely relax, making room for all that the new season has to bring.

As we balance out our bodies, we balance out our minds. Embrace this transition & join us on the mat!

Namaste!

 

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This is ME!

My name is Keri Mandell. I am a yogi, crossfit coach, marathoner and Ironman, but I wasn’t always these things. It wasn’t until much later in my life that I discovered my passion for physical fitness and health.

The Keri in my past is way different than the Keri most of you know today. She wasn’t always the driven enthusiastic girl she is now.

Here’s my story…

I was born in January, 1982, 2 months premature and only weighing a few pounds. I spent the first part of my life in an incubator until it was safe for my parents to bring me home. I grew up in Clifton, New Jersey.  As a kid, I was much more quiet, reserved, and introverted (if you can imagine that). At that time the only form of physical activity I really enjoyed was playing softball. I played softball from the time I was in elementary school until I graduated high school. I was in a travel softball league and we played all year long and throughout the state. Once I went away to college, physical activity was not really my thing.  I spent the majority of my time studying, working, and socializing with friends. It wasn’t until my late 20s that I truly found an appreciation and love for physical fitness, health, and nutrition.

I began my fitness journey when I got engaged to my husband Dan. I decided I wanted to lose weight for our wedding. At that time I was a size 12/14 and weighed over 175 lbs. I joined Weight Watchers and started attending bridal Boot Camp classes at the local YMCA where we lived in Boston.  At that time, I also dabbled a little bit in running. I never thought I was much of a runner nor did I think I had a runner’s body. I started to slowly run, going one block at a time, alternating between running and walking, building up until I was able to run for longer/extended periods of time. I wasn’t the biggest fan, but looked at it as a way to help myself lose weight.

After I got married in July of 2009, I still tried to remain physically active. I joined a new gym, started taking spin classes, trx classes, and hired a personal trainer.

During the fall of 2009, I found out that I had cancerous cells on my cervix that needed to be surgically removed. I became ill,  suffering from a serious infection after the procedure. I had to take a leave of absence from work and could no longer workout. On top of that, the doctor told me that I would probably never have kids.

Could you imagine being told something like that? As a woman I had always dreamt of having a family, but here I am as a newlywed and all of our plans for the future were crushed and washed away. I was angry and devastated. I told my husband we could get a divorce so he could remarry and find someone else to have his children. I became severely depressed and suicidal. What I had imagined my future to be had changed in an instant. I wallowed in self pity for a while until one of my friends got me out of the house and made me go with her to take a yoga class… that class literally saved my life. Now I’d practiced yoga a few times, but it wasn’t until that moment that yoga became such a huge and integral part of my life. I often tell people that it was yoga that saved my life. It taught me to live in the moment, to find peace, to love myself, and it showed me that body was capable of so much more than I thought.

I started to come out of my depression and stared to re-evaluate what my life was going to be. So my body may not be able to bare children, but it sure as hell could do other things… and there it began. I wasn’t going to let my body or anything else for that matter get in my way of living my life. I immediately started to look for ways to challenge myself and challenge my body. I wasn’t going to allow it to hold me back. My goal was to try to see how fit I could be.

In 2011 we moved to NJ. My dad and stepmom owned and operated a business, Monmouth Mobile Home Park. They both became ill- she had lung cancer and breast cancer and he had bone marrow cancer. They needed someone to help run the business so my husband and I moved to Princeton, NJ to help. A few years after we moved down here, they both passed away within a few months of each other.

During our time in NJ, I continued on my fitness journey. I joined Can Do Fitness where a I met my good friend Hilary. I would attend spin and bootcamp classes in the mornings before work. Each day when I arrived, Hillary would be on the treadmill running with a sweatshirt and/or weighted vest. Having seen her numerous times, I decided to go over and approach her. I asked her what she was training for and she stated the Boston Marathon. I started to arrive to the gym early and walk on the treadmill next to her. She intrigued and inspired me. Her drive and dedication to her sport was like nothing I’ve ever seen. So each morning, I’d arrive at the gym early in hopes to see and talk to her. In time, I would slowly start to jog next to her. We would talk about running and the running group she was a part of called Run Around Princeton or RAP as it’s often referred to. Hilary convinced me to join her one Saturday morning at their weekly long runs and also sign up for the Broad Street 10 miler in Philadelphia.  

When I started running with the group, they would give you a slip of paper that had the route with turn by turn directions. I was always last. At that time, I think I ran a 12.5 or 13 minute mile. By the time I got back to the lot everyone had already left. I would cry. I hated being last and I hated running, but I committed to doing a 10 miler so I stuck with it. Eventually I got a little bit faster and was no longer the last one in the group. I ran the 10 miler on May 5, 2013. After that, I decided to keep running. I signed up for countless half marathons and even started training for a full. I completed my first full marathon that November, the Philadelphia Marathon.

I caught the running bug. From there, I started to run several marathons a year and eventually decided that I was going to complete all of the World Major Marathons. I just completed my final World Major Marathon this February, the Tokyo Marathon. Since 2013, I have run over 30 half marathons, 10 Marathons, 2 ultra marathons (50k) and an Ironman!

For a few of the races, I joined a charity team. I decided to run and raise money to support charities such as the Special Olympics and Autism Speaks.  As a Special Education teacher, these charity’s where near to my heart. Running and raising money for charity was a great way to bring awareness to the charity but also to travel and see how far my body could go. During a marathon, you often feel like you are going to die, but you don’t and when you cross that finish line there is no better feeling. I started to crave the high that running gave me.

In addition to running, I knew I had to incorporate strength training into my routine. In 2013,  was also the time I discovered Crossfit. I loved it so much that I went to get my level one Crossfit certification so I could coach. In 2014, I started an internship at Crossfit Nassau and started coaching part time at the gym in 2015.

Additionally, I was still taking yoga classes.  Yoga was a great tool that helped me with running- it helped increase strength, mobility, flexibility, allowed me to work on my breathing as well as my mindfulness.  In 2014, I decided to become certified to teach yoga. Yoga had given me so much over the years that I knew wanted to give back. Fast forward to 2016, I quit my job and opened my very own yoga studio, Empower Yoga. I decided that health and fitness was going to be my full time gig.

In 2014, my husband suggested that we try to complete a triathlon.  We signed up for the New Jersey State triathlon. He thought it could be something fun for us to do together. Now, I didn’t know how to swim (I hated swimming and was terrified of putting my face in the water)  so I was a little afraid prepping for this race. However I figured it was a great way to force myself to learn. I took swimming lessons and practiced swimming regularly at the pool in the clubhouse where we lived. I was nervous for the race, but excited to give it a try. During the race I panicked in the swim. A woman in my group panicked too and got on top of me, pushing me under the water. All I could think about was that I was going to drown and regretted not telling my parents I loved them that morning. I eventually broke away. It took me over 30 minutes to swim 500m because I doggie paddled. I was never so happy to be on land. At least when you’re running and you need to stop you can walk, but if you’re swimming and you need to stop, you drown. It was scary. Unfortunately, the bike wasn’t much better. I started to ride my bike but when I went to take sip of my Gatorade I didn’t put the bottle back in the cage correctly and I dropped it. I proceeded to roll over my bottle and fall off my bike. Unable to clip out in time, I fell off my bike and cut open my knee. It was gushing blood. From there, I went on the run. It was incredibly hot that day and the sun was beating overhead, there is no shade. When I crossed the finish line and my friends were there cheering for me they asked, “how do you feel?“ I said “I fucking hated that. I will never do that again.” The following year my husband completed a few more triathlons while I watched on the side lines. In 2017,  I decided to give triathlons another try. I decided that I wasn’t going to let triathlons get the best of me and I wanted to work hard to be and do my best. I decided to sign up for a half Ironman, I figured go big or go home. I reached out to several friends and asked about training plans. I piecemailed a plan together and started training. I joined a Master swim program near where we lived and bought a road bike. That summer leading up to my 70.3, I knew that the swim was going to be challenging for me. So I decide to sign up for several smaller races in order to prepare. I basically raced every weekend that summer forcing myself into those uncomfortable positions at the swim start- adrenaline pumping, heart racing, large crowds, flaring arms, people kicking you, and swimming over you- I needed to get my nerves under control. Towards the end of the summer I start to get stronger, faster, and better… Even placing in my age group in a few races.

Prior to even competing in AC 70.3, I had decided to sign up for a full Ironman. Always down for a challenge and a way to get better and stronger, I knew I just had to do it. I wanted to see what my body was capable of. In such a short time, if I could go from being afraid to put my face in the water to swimming over a mile, I knew I could do anything. Less than 1% of the population complete an Ironman and I wanted to be one of those people.  My husband (and prob the rest of the world) thought I was nuts. I hadn’t even completed a 70.3 race yet, what if I hated it. Why sign up for a full? I said that even if I hated it (which I doubt I would) I would do it anyway because completing an Ironman quickly catapulted to the top of my bucket list.

When I have an idea or want something, there is nothing getting in my way, and I wanted to be an Ironman!  After AC 70.3 I was hooked on triathlon racing. I was anxiously waiting to start training for my next goal, completing Ironman Lake Placid.  I knew I needed some help and expertise to really go the distance and get the most out of my race, rather than piecing a plan together like I did for AC. This was something I didn’t want to wing and I knew it would require hours of work each week for my body to get there. So I hired a coach, Chris Draper ( who was referred to me by my good friend Hilary, who has stuck with me over the years)

Training for an Ironman takes lots of time, sacrifice, and dedication.  Training wasn’t always roses and butterflies. It was hard, grewling, time consuming and left you at times beaten up and bruised. Even though it was challenging, I have to say that I loved every minute of it. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger and more badass.  There is nothing in this world that compares to 15 hours of non stop physical activity and finally running down the shoot to the finish; where you here your name- Keri Mandell, you are an Ironman!!

Since my Ironman, people of been asking me what’s next? Well how about The World Marathon Challenge?!  A few years back, I heard about the World Marathon Challenge- An event where competitors must run the standard 42.2 km marathon distance in Antarctica, Africa, Australia, Asia, Europe, South America and North America within 168 hours (seven days). The clock starts when the first marathon begins in Antarctica. This event started in 2015 and since then, 103 have people have finished the challenge. When I first heard about it, it sounded incredibly scary and exciting at the same time. Now, the more I think about it and read about it and hear the inspiring stories like Becca Pizzi from Boston, I know that I need to do this too.

The World Marathon Challenge is next on my bucket list. In order to do the challenge I need to raise $52,000. I’m currently seeking sponsors to help make this dream a reality. I want to continue to surpass my mental and physical limits and see how far I can truly go. I want to help encourage and inspire people to live their best lives and know continue that anything is truly possible. Will you help me?

When you are ready to contribute, please visit my Go Fund Me page to donate!

Donating through this site is simple, fast and totally secure. It is also the most efficient way to make a contribution!! NO donation is too small and every little bit helps.  Thank you for your donation and for taking the time to read my story.  I appreciate the support!

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What to expect from your first hot yoga class…

NEW TO HOT YOGA?

Hot yoga can be incredibly beneficial, whether you’re looking to improve your strength and flexibility or an opportunity to quiet your mind.

To some, hot yoga can be intimidating. The following points will help clarify some of your questions and help you work up the confidence you need to give it a shot.

YOUR BODY WILL ADJUST

The heat of the studio might feel intense at first, but I promise, your body will adjust to it. Know that it can take up to 3 classes for your body to become acclimated. Especially for the first few classes, be sure to be hydrated, breathe, and take breaks as needed. Do your best to stay in the room and allow your body to acclimate to the space appropriately. Though it might be tempting to run out of the heated room, don’t! The sudden change in temperature might be too much. Just know that soon your mind will be so engaged with what’s going on with your body—balance, placement, alignment, etc… that it will forget about the heat.

STAY HYDRATED

Be sure to drink plenty of water prior to class and take water with you into class. Also,  avoid eating an hour before class starts. If you’re hungry ahead of time, have a light snack, like fruit or nuts. You’ll regret indulging in sweets or rich foods prior to class.

DON’T LET SWEAT BRING YOU DOWN

Embrace the sweat and expect a lot of it. Sweat is very cleansing and detoxifying so enjoy it. To help with the sweat, you may want to bring a towel or two with you to class-  one small hand towel to wipe off sweat and a larger towel to lay over your mat. Otherwise, you may find yourself slipping and sliding between poses. Certain mats, such as the lululemon 5mm reversibleare great for hot yoga. They are slip resistant and also have an antimicrobial additive that helps prevent mold and mildew from growing.

BREATHE

If you’ve taken yoga before, you know that your breath should guide your practice. This is especially true for hot yoga. Let your body take the deep inhales and exhales that it needs, especially during the more challenging poses, this will help cool you down and keep you calm and relaxed.  Avoid holding your breath or taking short, shallow breaths which will escalate your heart rate or make you feel dizzy or lightheaded.

STAY INWARD

Hot yoga is incredible. Go in with an open mind and get ready to have fun. Know that as in all yoga classes, everyone is at a different level so don’t compare yourself to the person next to you. Check your ego at the door and don’t become discouraged if you can’t take the same variation of a pose as your neighbor, find what feels right for you. Your first few hot yoga classes are about getting used to the temperature, the poses, and the environment. If things become too intense it’s ok to take a child’s pose. Listen to your body.

DON’T OVERTHINK, JUST DO

Things may feel hard, challenging, or just downright impossible, but know that you are capable of more than you think. Attempting challenging poses can be fun and with time, patience, and practice can be very attainable.  Change the script in your mind from one of “I can’t” to “I can”. Just allow the teacher to guide you and move through each pose with confidence and strength!

KEEP PRACTICING

You did it! You might feel a little shaky after your first class, but you’ll also feel cleansed, empowered, and strong. It’s a feeling like no other. After class, remember that hydration is essential, to replace the fluids you lost through sweating in class. Get ready for your next class- sign up online and perhaps even consider trying another instructor. Practicing yoga 2-3 times week can be essential in helping your overall physical and mental health.  The more frequently you practice the sooner you’ll see results-  such as better range of motion and flexibility, strength, reduction in stress, and better posture to name a few.

NAMASTE!

 

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10 Things to Consider When Joining a Yoga Studio

If you’re looking to increase your physical fitness and overall health, then yoga is right for you. Yoga is a great way to help with stress relief, increases flexibility, balance, and build both physical and mental strength.

In a culture where we rush from one day to the next, constantly trying to change our health, our body, or our emotions, or to plan our future, yoga opens up the possibility of connecting to what we already have and to who we already are. So why not give it a try?

No time like the present to add yoga into your workout regimen.

When choosing a yoga studio that is right for you, here are some things that you should consider.

1. Where is the studio located?  Choose a studio that is convenient to where you live. If it’s too far, the likelihood of you committing to a regular practice is decreased.

2. What type of yoga is it? There are many different types of yoga, so you may have to try a few types before deciding what feels right to you.  If you are looking for a more athletic based practice, going to a studio that offers power or vinyasa flow classes is great. Looking for something more restorative, consider a yin class.

3. What are the class offerings & times? Does the studio offer a variety of classes to try- i.e. Power, Restorative, Heated. What are the lengths of the classes? 60 min., 75 min., or 90 min.? Are the classes held at times that can accommodate your needs? Are there early am classes? Mid day? Night classes? Do they offer classes for beginners?

4. Do you have to sign up for classes in advance? Each studio can only accommodate a certain number of students. Classes held at prime times  (I.e. evenings and weekend mornings) can become crowded and even sell out, so knowing in advance in important so you can sign up and reserve your spot.

5. What is the studio’s core values? Are the core values listed and followed? Do you have similar values? You want to find an environment that is authentic and truly believes in and lives by their mission and values. Find a place whose values resonates with your own.

6. Are the teachers Yoga Alliance certified? Yoga Alliance provides the minimum standard for which a Yoga Alliance registered yoga teacher training must meet. The Yoga Alliance outlines a minimum number of hours to be spent on each topic: philosophy, anatomy, practicum, methodology, etc. You want an instructor who is Yoga Alliance certified and is well trained and versed in what they are teaching.

7. Where is the teacher in the room? When taking a class, is the teacher in the front doing the class with you or walking around ensuring that everyone is safe and using proper form and alignment?  Remember, the yoga class is about YOU, your experience and your safety. The teacher should be monitoring the class and not teaching from his/her mat.

8. Do the teachers offer variations? You need someone who is going to help you modify a pose (especially if you’re newer or injured) as well as help you enhance a pose (if you are  more of an advanced practitioners or looking to advance your practice). Either way, having options is always a good thing. Everyday is different. How a pose feels may be different so listen to your body and take what you need.

9. Is the studio clean? If they don’t properly care for the facility or aren’t mindfult to what has to be done, than how will they properly care for you?

10. Is the studio fun? Most importantly, if you aren’t enjoying yourself or having fun, why bother. Find a place that you can connect with. People who you enjoy being around and a community that will support you and your practice.

Namaste 

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Yoga For Endurance Athletes

Yoga can be a very effective tool to help endurance athletes make huge performance and recovery gains by adding yoga to their training.

One of the best forms of yoga for athletes is vinyasa yoga. Vinyasa yoga is a type of moving meditation that links movement (asana) and breath (pranayama). Through breathwork alone, taught in a yoga class, athletes can begin to increase their cardiovascular and physical endurance, help them lower their heart rate, decrease anxiety, create more mental alertness, and even better proprioceptive balance.

When most people think about yoga, they think about a bunch of boring stretches. However, yoga is more than that and can be very fun.

Endurance athletes, such as triathletes, should consider adding yoga to their weekly training schedule.  Yoga is a great way to help triathletes prevent injuries to settling pre-race jitters. Yoga can help you achieve a sense of balance, allow you to become more intune with your body, increase flexibility, balance, strength, prevent injuries, as well as help with mental toughness.

HERE’S HOW:

Flexibility:

Flexibility is a big part of yoga because practicing the different postures will help to stretch tight muscles and encourage use of your full range of motion. Tight muscles are more prone to acute injury, (i.e. muscle strains and tears), so loosening up those tight spots will help prevent such injuries.

Beyond physical flexibility, yoga also helps increase flexibility of the mind. The poses, breath exercises, and meditation practices all encourage focus on the present moment which is a great benefit during a race.

Strength:

Yoga helps create whole-body functional strength and encourages greater awareness of the body and the breath.

Yoga helps promote joint stability and trains the muscles and tendons to stabilize the joints, which will help greater power and fluidity in sports.

Yoga also increase core strength, not just in poses that specifically target the core, but also in standing and balancing poses.

Holding challenging poses also teaches mental strength. On the mat, you will observe your mental and emotional reactions to your physical situation and learn ways to manage intensity. When you encounter similarly intense situations on race day or in life, you’ll have experience with using your breath and your form to find strength.

Balance:

Yoga helps with balance of the body and the mind. There are many balancing poses that help strengthen your body, but also make you more aware of your body’s center of gravity and how to move as a unit. Yoga helps you move through different planes and through dimensional balance, rather than just in a linear pattern. Yoga also teaches you to find stillness, quiet your mind, and be more present. This can help build the mental strength athletes need to reach their goals.

Injury Prevention:

A regular and well-rounded yoga practice will help bring the body into symmetrical alignment, correcting flexibility and strength imbalances in the soft tissues. Yoga poses also facilitate a self-awareness that can help you notice your own skeletal misalignments.

Yoga can do wonders in addressing underlying unbalances and instabilities that lead to overuse injuries. When we train a lot, our body become stressed and this can over take the sympathetic nervous system (which prepares you for fight or flight) and the adrenal glands. Instead, yoga can help you engage the parasympathetic nervous system (which allows you to relax and save energy) and restore balance to the body. This in turn will help you to sleep better & recover faster.

Mental Training:

Yoga teaches you to remain calm and breathe in intense situations/poses i.e. heart opening or hip opening poses. It helps you to bring your awareness to your form and your breath to make the situation manageable. This skill is invaluable when you encounter a similar intensity in training. Yoga will help teach you to cope and manage difficult tasks.

What are you waiting for?

With a small commitment to yoga, you can increase your flexibility, strength, focus and, most importantly your balance. There are many ways in which creating balance in your every day, as well as in your training, can help you as an athlete.

Ready to take a class?

Visit Empower Yoga!

Empower yoga is hot vinyasa style studio. During our vigorous flow, students will move with breath and begin to build muscle tone, core strength, and increase their endurance. It is very strengthening and detoxifying. Each class is set to inspiring, fun, and upbeat playlist. You’ll leave feeling stronger, empowered, and renewed.  We make all of our classes challenging, fun and accessible!

 

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Transformation

This idea of transformations has been on my mind over the last week.

Each day we make changes and transformations both big and small. We learn, we grow, and we discover more about who we are. We are never still or stagnant. We are always moving, breathing and therefore changing.

In the past year, my life has changed dramatically. Through it all, I have changed. I have transformed. Some of these changes I wanted for myself, but some changes were forced upon me and out of my control. Regardless of the whether the changes are in our control or out, we need to continue to move forward and learn from the experiences that change us.

Probably the biggest change I went through this past year was out of my control, losing my dad. Learning how to live without him was incredibly challenging, but over time, I have adapted to the change. I will always be his daughter, but now I am also a person who lost a parent. I had to learn how to deal with his death, and rather than feel despair, I needed to find hope and strength.

Something that is in my control is that I have started to train for an Ironman which is both mentally and physically challenging. Through the training process I am stronger than before and in the best shape of my life. I have also had to learn how to balance running my yoga studio while being able to complete the high volume training.

“Transformation is a process, and as life happens there are tons of ups and downs. It’s a journey of discovery- there are moments of mountaintops and moments of deep valleys of despair.”- Rick Warren

Even though change can be hard, we need to remember to take the good with the bad because sometimes while transformations aren’t easy, once we complete them we come out stronger on the other side. So don’t be afraid or back down, move forward excited to see the person you are becoming. Open your arms to all that the universe has to offer and trust that’s it’s got your back.

If you’re ever unsure or start to second guess if you’re on the right path, start to look for clues. The universe is always talking to you, but you have to be awake to listen and receive the messages it is sending.

I have been reminded of this over the last few days- there has been a black crow that keeps visiting the studio. I am convinced that it’s my dad coming to deliver me a message, so I started to do a little research about what black crows represent and this is what I found…

Crows are messengers from beyond. They often come to reassure us that we are on the right path.  If you see a crow, it’s because it understands that you’re going through a huge transformation and questions if you are stopping your personal abundance due to fear and anxiety. The crow has magic that can help aide you in your quest. The crows medicine is a reminder that you are on the verge of manifesting whatever it is you have been creating in your mind. Allow your positive thoughts to guide you.

Crows are tenacious and never give up, so transform and shift into your confident self.

Crows are a reminder that magic is all around us and maybe those who have passed are not too far.  

Tap into the magic of the crow today and get ready to transform and to awaken, discovering your most powerful self.  

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Belize in Yourself!

One of my goals for my first year of opening Empower Yoga was to lead a Fitness Retreat. There is nothing that makes me feel more alive than working out & traveling. My husband and I travel often and one of our favorite things to do is to explore different CrossFit boxes and yoga studios while we are away. As a result, we decided to plan a Fitness Retreat and invited some like minded and adventure seeking people along for the ride. We always wanted to go to San Pedro, Belize and we felt this would be a perfect spot to host our first retreat!!

We stayed at Sun Breeze right near the heart of the town. What a perfect spot. It was close to town and all of the restaurants, coffee shops, and bars. However, once inside the walls of the hotel it was like a hidden oasis, it was very peaceful and quiet. It was  the perfect vibe for our trip. I would definitely recommend this hotel if you’re looking to visit San Pedro. We actually learned about this spot from our friend Tauni of Lean Power Yoga. She had visited Belize and was incredibly helpful with the planning and organizing of the trip since she knew about the country and all it’s hot spots!

Being home for almost a week now, I am still on a high. I am still processing the magic of those days and it’s been hard to put it into words. The trip really surpassed my expectations. It was an incredible week filled with lots of fitness, friendships, food and fun!!

The yoga was incredible. I got to teach in a beautiful outdoor setting overlooking the ocean. The ambiance was just perfect. It was so lovely and every class offered something different from the previous one giving the yoga aspect excitement and diversity.

The CrossFit was a challenge. CrossFit Wolf hosted us for the week. It was an awesome facility with expert coaches and workouts that were lots of fun and pushed your limits!

The food was fresh and down-right tasty too. We didn’t have a single bad meal- from salads to fish tacos to the tamali street food. Oh and the coffee… nothing better than early morning coffee talk before we started our day or our after workout iced coffee that was so delicious and refreshing!

The folks that joined were so perfect too. Everyone got along well and became fast friends by the time the week was over. The rich conversation, laughter and authenticity made being around each other refreshing and energizing. I’m so honored that my circle of friends grew from this.

Honestly, thinking back, I couldn’t think of a more perfect getaway. I feel so incredibly thankful for all the people who attended. I am confident our experience in Belize just would not have been the same without each of them! Traveling can be hard, but stepping outside your comfort zone and joining other folks you don’t know on an international adventure, even more so. However, this group jumped right in from the moment they arrived and held nothing back. Everyone worked hard, supported each other & challenged their limits. Looking back over the pictures and reliving these moments makes me smile and feel so happy. I cannot wait to do it again!

Check out our itinerary from the trip:
Honestly, there was a great deal of fear involved with planning and hosting my first retreat, because the thought looming in the back of my mind was: What if no one signs up or what if they don’t have a good time?

It’s scary to put yourself out there, but believing in yourself or “Belizing in Yourself”( which was the theme of our trip) is important  we decided to go for it. The Universe definitely had my back because not only did people start signing up, they were a fun, easy going, and incredibly kind group of individuals. I knew that no matter what, we would have a good time, and we did!!

Monday-
My husband, Dan and I flew down a day early to get our bearings and prepare for our guests. To get there we took three planes, I know it sounds like a lot but it really wasn’t bad. We left from Newark, flew to Fort Lauderdale and then Belize City. From Belize City we opted to fly Mayan Air to San Pedro instead of the water taxi. Now, at first I was a little scared about being on the small plane where you actually had to crawl to your seat, but once we were in the air, I really loved it. The views were breathtaking. I was so happy I had the opportunity to see Belize form the air. Once we landed, we headed to the hotel to check-in.  After, we walked around searching for hot spots and sampling some local cuisine, we rented a golf cart so that could be our mode of transportation around the island for the week. We also visited crossfit and our yoga spot. We tried to make sure we were well prepared to show our guests around and answer any questions they had upon their arrival.

Tuesday-
Our guests arrived that afternoon between 1:30-3:30pm. This gave them an opportunity to check-in, recieve their welcome bag, go to their room to unpack and lounge a little before yoga and our welcome dinner that evening. Yoga took place from 4:30-6:00pm , which included a nice 30 min. meditation and our Welcome Dinner was at 7:30pm at the Blue Water Grill!

That first night, we made it clear to everyone that it was their vacation. Yes, we had a schedule, but absolutely everything on that schedule was optional and they were free to do what they wanted.

Wednesday-
We were a group of early risers. Each morning we met outside around 6-6:15am for coffee. We got to chat, see the sun rise, and look out on the beautiful ocean. Around 7am we left for Crossfit. After CrossFit we found a delicious coffee spot (which we visited each day following) called The Baker. It was the best iced coffee I have ever had. The ice cubes were even made of coffee which was an awesome touch. Afterward, we returned to the hotel for breakfast before spending the day relaxing by the pool and walking around the city. We ended the day with a yoga class and meditation before dinner at El Fogon.

Thursday-
Thursday was similar to Wednesday, coffee at 6am, CrossFit at 7:30, coffee from The Baker, and breakfast at the hotel. In the afternoon we visited Science and Soul Wellness Center for SUP yoga. This was a beautiful facility with a beautiful beach. They just opened this past December and I am super excited for them. It is worth checking out!! That night we ate at Romand’s restaurant, Pineapple on the Beach. It was delicious. A must try especially if you love pineapple as much as I do.

Friday-
Friday was a lot of fun. We started the day with yoga on the beach, to stretch out and warm-up before our Crossfit beach workout. It sure was sandy, but a lot of fun. Afterwards we went for coffee of course and had breakfast. If having breakfast in Belize, I highly recommend the fry jacks, they are incredibly tasty!! After breakfast we lounged before heading to the reef and shark alley to snorkel. For dinner that evening we went to Rain and watched the sunset. This by far had the best view and ambience.

Saturday-
Coffee, yoga, and CrossFit to start this day before heading to Secret Beach for the afternoon. Secret Beach was on the other side of San Pedro, so it was a little bit of a hike to get to. The beach was beautiful but the scene was not really for us. There were lots of bars and loud music. We hung out for a little bit and had a taco snack but then left to head back to resort to lounge and relax before our farewell dinner at Blue Water Grill that evening.

Sunday-
On sunday, because everyone was leaving early, we didn’t work out. We gave people the opportunity to sleep in or pack before our coffee talk and breakfast. Then everyone departed. I am glad that everyone arrived back to the states safely and in high spirits, having loved the trip and talking about the next one.

Hosting this retreat was one of the best experiences of my life. I feel full, energized, rested and ready to plan the next one so I can connect with more individuals who are looking for adventure. Thinking about Mexico or Nicaragua for our next trip 😉 Stay tuned!!

For more pics from our retreat, please visit Empower Yoga’s FB page

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