Tag Archives: Yoga

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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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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Meditation

With the hectic pace and demands of life, many people feel stressed out and over-worked. We often feel like there isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done that we need to. Our stress and tiredness not only make us unhappy and frustrated, but also can begin to affect our health. Meditating is a great way to help make you feel calmer, more focused, and more at peace.  In our busy day, we may feel like there is no time to stop and meditate, but a simple 10-15 min. is all you need to help calm your mind and body and allow yourself to feel less stressed.

My dad passed away on July 3rd. During the last few weeks, I’ve felt sad, depressed, and overwhelmed, so I decided to start meditating. Previously, I considered my yoga practice to be a moving meditation, but since I am always moving, I decided to try to sit in stillness for a while and see how sitting and focusing on my breath could help to calm my body and mind.  

In only 10 minutes a day, I was able to help transform my mind from negative to positive, from anxious to calm, and from unhappy to happy. Learning to sit with myself and love myself, helped me to find the inner harmony I was lacking.

Overcoming negative minds and creating constructive thoughts is one of the purposes of meditating. There are many different meditations techniques (i.e. walking, concentration, mindfulness, transcendental) you can choose from.  Meditating doesn’t have to feel hard or cumbersome, so no matter what you choose or how you choose to meditate, it’s up to you. The most important thing you can do is focus on the present, try to clear your mind, and breathe.

Here is a simple meditation exercise to try:

  1. Sit or lie comfortably.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Make no effort to control the breath; simply breathe naturally.
  4. Focus your attention on the breath and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. Notice the movement of your body as you breathe. Observe your chest, shoulders, rib cage, and belly. Simply focus your attention on your breath without controlling its pace or intensity. If your mind wanders, return your focus back to your breath.
  5. Maintain this meditation practice for two to three minutes to start, and then try it for longer periods.

I started with some simple meditations on my own, but then began to explore some guided meditations. Here are a few things I found and enjoyed:

  1. Meditation Studio– I enjoy this when I don’t have much time and am looking for a shorter guided meditation. They offer meditations for stress, relaxation, and sleep, just to name a few.  
  2. For longer meditations, I enjoy listening to Deepak Chopra’s Healing Meditation on youtube. He has quite a number of them and I really haven’t found one I havent liked.

Next time you are having a hard time or are feeling stressed, find a comfortable seat or lying position and begin to meditate. This may not make the negative experience go away, but it can help you tolerate it with kindness and patience.

Namaste!

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An Ayurvedic Approach to Inner Body Balance

As the seasons shift, our bodies cycle through an organic ebb and flow of change that serves to harmonize and create balance within us. These changes are usually influenced by the seasons, i.e. hours of daylight, foods that are plentiful that time of the year, weather, and seasonal activities. Although our bodies adjust to these changes naturally, it doesn’t hurt to adjust our routine to help aid in the transition and find better balance in our bodies.

During this week’s blog, we’ll look at an Ayurvedic approach to inner body balance.

What is Ayurveda?

According to the science of Ayurveda, our universe, which includes our bodies and our thoughts, is composed of the 5 elements: water, fire, earth, air, and space. The 5 elements blend in specific ways to create the 3 doshas: vata, pitta, and kapha. Each of us has a dominant dosha that manifests in both our physical appearance and mental character.

Pitta Dosha:

According to Ayurveda, summer inspires the pitta dosha (which is a combination of fire and water). Pitta is driven by the solar force, so when the natural cycle of the seasons brings us to the sunny summer months, and the sun is closer to the Earth, we need to balance the hot, fiery external climate with our internal energy. Too much of one energetic force can flood our bodies.   When we don’t balance pitta energy, we may begin to feel changes physically and mentally. Physically, we may experience an increase in body temperature, changes in skin, and digestive issues (i.e heartburn and indigestion). Mentally, we may feel more agitated, demanding, or lose our temper more easily.  However, when pitta is in balance physically and mentally we are strong, sharp, and focused.

How do we balance that pitta energy?

During this time of year, a good counter for the sunny weather is focusing on activities and foods that are cooling. This approach will nourish your system and help increase your energy levels.

Yoga:

One of the best ways to encourage equilibrium in your body is through your yoga practice. Here are some yoga poses you can include in your daily routine that will help balance and regulate your body during the summer months:

  • Supported Bridge- place a yoga block beneath the low back.
  • Legs Up the Wall- Keep your tailbone flush against the wall and your legs straight up.
  • Forward Folds- complete these seated or standing.
  • Twists: seated or lying on your back.

Breath:

After you complete your asanas (yoga poses), weave in one or both of the following cooling pranayama (breath work):

  • Shitali Pranayama: This technique is done by curling the sides of your tongue towards one another and sticking your tongue out through your lips. Inhale through your rolled tongue and exhale out through the nose. Repeat 5-20 times.
  • Single-Nostril Breathing: This technique isolates one nostril at a time. Plug your right nostril and breathe in and out through the left nostril for 5-20 breaths, then switch sides.

Food:

Food is a great way to help balance the body. Here’s what you can do to align your eating with the summer season:

  • Eat vegetables and fruits that have a high water content: melons, cucumbers, and leafy greens.
  • Keep things light and cool. Enjoy foods that aren’t dense and heavy.
  • Stay hydrated! Drink lots or water or even try drinking electrolyte-enhanced or coconut water.
  • Incorporate herbs and spices into your cooking that reduce the pitta dosha (i.e. mint, fennel, cilantro, cumin, and coriander).

Although your body will instinctively crave balance as the seasons shift, it’s also beneficial to help aide your body throughout the seasonal shift.

If you want to learn more about Ayurveda, join Sam from Empower Yoga on Saturday, July 29th from 1:00-2:30pm. Sam will guide you through a pitta reducing asana practice followed by a discussion on how yoga, diet, and self-care can help to balance the pitta dosha. You will learn other yoga poses, foods and spices, and self-care rituals to add to your daily routine to help balance the fire in you this summer.

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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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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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