Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Play it up

I know it's been awhile since my last posting, but that is because I have been living the topic of this post. I've been out enjoying the summer and playing as much as possible. Riding my bike, camping out in nature, hiking, swimming in the lake, rowing a boat, jumping in mud, and basically acting like a kid.

Working out can be serious business, but I think we can all get so much more out of our movement if we release the idea of "working out" and take on the inspiration of playing within our bodies. Sometimes we work so hard that we actually have the opposite effect of the movement we are looking for in our bodies. When I was first learning Pilates I would try so hard to "lift up out of the crown of my head" that my eyebrows would constantly lift, causing me to wrinkle my forehead, which may cause me to invest in botox. I was working so hard to do the correct movement that I actually created more tension in my body through not only my face, but my shoulders and neck. What I really need to do was release and play within the movement to achieve a much more authentic movement.

In Pilates no other exercise describes this better than "Rolling Like a Ball". The movement must be playful, fluid, elegant and soft while maintaining a rounded, stable shape. If you work too hard, the ball with flop and bounce. It needs to move playfully on the breath like an evenly balanced scale or a beach ball blowing in the wind effortlessly. While Pilates is about elements like Precision and Control, more and more in our society we need to encourage exploration, release, and childlike curiosity to truly find the depth and beauty of the movement. So stop being so serious and get out there and play a little, you may discover your inner child still lies within just waiting to come out and play.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Posture of a Princess

We all tuned in to watch the pomp and circumstance of the royal fairy tale wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William last Friday. Waiting on baited breath to see what dress the new Princess would wear as like a butterfly she went in as a commoner an emerged as the Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge.

I thought the dress was exquisite but more so was amazed at Kate's elegant, statuesque posture. She was so regal and dainty as she placed her slender hand on top of her fathers and eventually her princes. Her shoulders were gently broad across her chest and softly back exposing a beautiful, yet graceful openness. Her carriage was like that of a lithe dancers as she elegantly maneuvered from father to husband, commoner to princess. From my view she was already regal entering the chapel. She carried herself with such grace, command, elegance, femininity and beauty.

Her posture and elegance to me is what made the dress such a beauty. We may not all get to be princesses but we can command the attention of one. The gentle elegance of an open lifted chest with the shoulders gently gliding down one's back will give you the elegance and grace of royalty.

  • Tune into your posture next time before a hot date or big meeting. 
  • Take a moment to breath fully into your lungs and open your heart, chest, and collarbones outwards and upwards. 
  • Roll your shoulders back and down in circular motions a few times. 
Allow this opening and lightness carry you with confidence, grace and elegance as your subjects bow down to your every will.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Here comes the sun.

Living in Chicago the gray, cold weather can definitely get the best of you. Seasonal depression seems to inhabit most Midwesterners mind frame. The appearance of the sun immediately changes my outlook on my day and life in general, especially in the spring. Throw a sunny, 55 degree or above day at us and people are out strolling the streets in abundance, playing at the park, sitting outside to eat, and generally smiley, happy people.

Nature goes through rebirth with the spring rain allowing fresh flowers to bloom and grow, why shouldn't we do the same?

Spring is the perfect time to clean up our health and give ourselves a much needed rebirth and reemergence. As new fruits and vegetables come into season its time to take stock of our pantries and add some fresh seasonal favorites. Find a new recipe that bursts with spring flavors. Add some citrus, berries, or grapes to your favorite salad.

As the days start to get longer our circadian rhythms begin to change as well. Making it easier to get up earlier in the morning and enjoy the afternoon and early evening a little more. Make the best of the additional daylight. Find an early morning yoga class or outdoor boot camp class. Invigorate your day by starting with movement. Get up a little earlier than your normal routine and find a nice meditation spot to sit and breathe.

Like the spring blossoms give yourself the much needed fertilizer to energize your mind, body, and spirit into rebirth.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Matthew Sanford's Waking: A Memoir of Trauma & Transcendence

Would you know from looking at this picture of Matthew Sanford practicing yoga that he is disabled?

Matthew is paralized from T4 downward due to a tragic car accident that occurred when he was just 13 years old. Yet not only does he go on to practice yoga but actually is a yoga teacher. 

In his book Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence, Matthew Sanford describes the tragic event that changed the course of his life forever. He speaks of the numerous and painful surgeries that he endured and how his mind-body connection not only helped him through but opened him up to his new physical body.
"The splendor and subtlety of living is most apparent in the conscious prescence of the silence"
He describes his journey through yoga as "backwards". Most westerners move through the asanas or poses to get to silence, Matthew's silence allowed his mind to guide him into the poses which his body could not feel.
" alignment and precision increase mind-body integration regardless of paralysis. The mind is not strictly confined to a neurophysiological connection with the body. If I listen inwardly to my whole experience (both my mind's and my body's), my mind can feel into my legs".
Even though Matthew may not be able to physically do every pose it does not hinder him from teaching to students of all levels.
"I can "feel" the pose, feel how the physical instructions are intended to amplify, guide, and direct the flow of energy. When I teach, I give instructions and then I observe not just whether the physical actions are occuring, but also whether the intended energetic release is happening through the student's mind-body relationship. If the energy of the pose is not flowing correctly, I can often adjust the student and enhance his or her experience."
"...follow the energetic flow of a pose which allows me to see and feel the corresponding physical movements. This helps me to feel the heart of yoga despite my limited access to its physical movements. I can feel the pose's inner workings, its focus."
These two quotes above to me are the mark of an amazing teacher. I find that I utilize the mind-body connection of assuming my student's action in my own body to visualize and sense what is going on in their body and then make changes accordingly. It really matters very little when teaching what or how a pose or exercise looks or occurs in my own body.

I truly found his book and story inspirational. It is a story not only about movement, but about your outlook on life, the stories we tell ourselves to get through trauma, the amazing power of our minds and thoughts, and moving through life without limits.

To quote Matthew W. Sanford:
"Is yoga going to make all of my hardship go away? Of course not- my life is going to be hard. But without these difficulties, I would not be who I am."

Monday, March 28, 2011

Give 'em a second chance.

I've been seeing Brussels Sprouts all over menus recently. I am surprised and elated that they seem to be making a comeback. As a child, like most people, I thought I disliked brussels sprouts. Now I realize that they were probably just overcooked or not cooked properly. I adore brussels sprouts now and am so happy to see these tiny buds frequenting menus.

Brussels sprouts fall into the cruciferous category of vegetables. They are known to be cancer fighters, extremely high in Vitamins C and K, and an excellent source of fiber for the digestive system.

According to Whole Foods:
"It is very important not to overcook Brussels sprouts. Not only do they lose their nutritional value and taste but they will begin to emit the unpleasant sulfur smell associated with overcooked cruciferous vegetables. To help Brussels sprouts cook more quickly and evenly cut each sprout into quarters. Let them sit for at least 5 minutes to bring out the health-promoting qualities and then steam them for 5 minutes."
So next time your out eating or cooking give the brussels sprouts another chance. You may be pleasantly surprised to discover that you too like brussel sprouts.