Friday, December 31, 2010

Gratitude & Goodbye: 2010 The Year in Review

Wow! 2010 has come and is on it's way out. Thank God!!

I know that I am not alone in thinking that 2010 has been an extremely challenging and difficult year. My motto for 2010 has many times been "That which doesn't kill you, only makes you stronger".  Let me say I am ALIVE and STRONG! I like to think that we are only presented with what we can handle and that there are lessons to be learned from extreme difficulties. That said....I am ready to close out 2010 and welcome a fresh start to 2011 with hope, optimism, and positivity.  

I wish all of you a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year! May it be filled with joy, love, laughter, friends, fortune, knowledge, growth, and complete fulfillment of your dreams and desires.

Watch out 2011, here we come!!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Checking in on Resolutions Made...

Every year I wrtie a list of things that I would like to work on throughout the year. Checking in on what I wrote last year, I was surprised to find how successful I was. For me, writing something down puts it out there and holds me a little bit more accountable.

Here was my 2010 Resolution List:

  1. Build my business and network with social media. Research, dream, and aspire towards my 5 year plan and business dream.
  2. Move towards a Vegan diet at 3-4 days/week
  3. Healthy workout plan: 2-3 day yoga, 3-4 days cardio, 1-2 days weight training, 3-4 days Pilates
  4. Financial Health
  5. Love myself enough to find a partner to share my life, hopes, and dreams with
  6. Start planning trip to Greece
  7. Plan a Pilates retreat for winter 2011.
Definitely did #1, #2, #3 (so-so numbers were a little lower) and #7 (happening Feb 19-26, 2011). YEAH!!

#4 Financial health a little harder to attain this year, but I am still working on it and looking into options to move forward in that direction for 2011. #5 suffered. Hard to put myself out there to find a partner when I was so focused on business, finances, and trying to stay afloat myself. A sinking boat needs a life raft, not another person hanging onto them. #6 Got the books. Started reading and dreaming. Alas, no finances and wasn't emotionally in a place of travel as I was struggling with my last moments with my 13 year old Golden Madison. :(

All in all I did accomplish quite a lot of what I put out to do in this challenging year. I am looking forward to the closing of this year. I am optimistic about 2011 and what it may hold. Starting to put together my resolution list for this year. The ones I didn't accomplish will make a repeat as well as a few new ones. 

What did you accomplish this year that you are proud of? What did you miss this year that you would like to retry? What are some of your resolutions or goals for the upcoming year of 2011?

*Not sure what this means but I just referred to next year as "2012" throughout the entire post and had to go back and edit it read "2011". LOL! Hopefully not a forecast as to what is to come.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Winter Escape

A place affording peace, quiet, privacy, or security.
This February, find tranquility, peace, and warmth, while enjoying your physical surroundings and pampering your body and soul. I have always found Retreats to be most beneficial to my body and mind. When I allow myself the well deserved time and utmost priority I can come back to my business, clients and family a better me. Well rested, reflective, meditated, nurtured, inspired, invigorated, and fed both spiritually and physically.

There are many places that offer Yoga and spiritual retreats, however I had a hard time finding a space that inhabited a full Pilates studio as well as a beautiful retreat space. I wanted to be able to offer Pilates Mat Classes, as well as Group Reformer and Private Sessions. And in this economic time, make it as affordable as possible without spending a ton on travel to a foreign country. Rancho La Puerta is just that place. Located in Tecate, Mexico. Rancho La Puerta is the perfect retreat spot, even voted by Travel & Leisure's 2010 voters as a Best Destination Spa. With it being located about an hour outside of San Diego, California residents would even be able to drive to the resort without any air fare.

Currently living in Chicago, winter and cold last a good portion of the year. By the February month I am ready for an escape and rejuvenation to get me through until May, when Chicago finally starts to warm up.

This February join me at Rancho La Puerta for either a 4-day or 7-day retreat. Visit for more info. Hope to see you there!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Modern "Pilates Studio"

As Pilates is becoming more and more mainstream and Pilates studio owners are looking to monopolize their space other modalities are being added. I wonder what modalities studio owners find that draw in more business while still adhering to their mission statement? And what clients would like to see offered within their studio?

It used to be that when you walked into a Pilates Studio you could expect to see the traditional Pilates apparatus; Reformers, Cadillacs, Wunda Chairs, Ped-a-Pulls, Circles, etc. Now you may be suprised by what you see in addition to the Classical Pilates equipment.

This was very apparent at The Pilates Method Alliance Conference. Within the convention hall Gyrontonics, ActivCore, and Xtend Barre all had very popular booths. Some studios do a very coherent job of adding other modalities while still maintaining Pilates Principles. It is a tricky line to walk. Here in Chicago, Harmony, owned by Laura Dixon, does a fabulous job of offering Pilates, Gyrotonics, Xtend Barre, Cardiolates, and TRX all while maintaining a strong Pilates foundation. I believe her model is why her studio has been so successful over the years and why her clients keep coming back for more. Body Endeavors has added ActivCore, a strong massage network, and has cardio equipment available for use by their participants. Other studios have remained constant by teaching strictly Pilates and are known for that.

Does opening up your studio to other related modalities help the business and clientele? What are the parameters that you set when considering adding another modality? What do your clients want to see in the studio?

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Internal Shower

In Return to Life, Joseph Pilates describes the "Internal Shower":

"The exercises (Pilates) have stirred your sluggish circulation into action have begun to discharge through the bloodstream the accumulation of fatigue-products created by muscular and mental activities. Your brain clears and your will power functions."
"These exercises induce the heart to pump strong and steadily. As a result, the bloodstream carries and discharges from your system more of the accumulated debris caused by fatigue. Contrology exercises (now called Pilates) drive pure, fresh blood to every muscle fiber of our bodies, particularly to the very important capillaries which ordinarily are rarely ever fully stimulated once we reach adulthood....The result result is that the organs of the body, including important sweat glands, receive the benefit of clean fresh blood carried to them by this rejuvenated bloodstream." 
The "internal shower" warms you from the inside out. It makes the need for external heat, such as a sweatshirt or heated room unnecessary. Probably why I despise Bikram and overly heated studios. My body and breath take care of this function on their own. I always love the feeling and sight of my rosy cheeks after completing the Hundreds at the beginning of my workout and carrying it through. It also happens from the breathing of a Yoga class for me. Not an exhausted redness but a rosy glow that heats me internally, and makes me feel beautiful inside and out. I always feel most healthy and connected after experiencing this cleansing.

Look for this glow in your clients it's a great sign of knowing that they are connecting properly to their breath and movement.

Be sure to "internal shower" your body daily.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tis better to Give than Receive

An old saying that has never been more relevant. In these hard economic times (for some) it is important to remember to support, share, and aid those less fortunate. Try making giving a new tradition for your family. Teach your children and loved ones how important it is to help those less fortunate, to appreciate what they have, and start a new holiday tradition. The joy of helping someone can be so fulfilling and better than any box found under your menorah or holiday tree. Here are a few ways of giving available in most communities.

"Toys for Tots is a program run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve, which donates toys to children whose parents cannot afford to buy them gifts for the Holiday season. Founded in 1947."
Have your children help shop for and go with you to the donation site to get involved and see what the organization is all about. 

"PAWS Chicago is the city's largest NO KILL humane organization, focused on implementing solutions to end the killing of homeless pets. Founded in 1997, the number of homeless dogs and cats killed annually has dropped more than 50 percent. PAWS Chicago will find new homes for more than 4,000 homeless pets in 2010 through their state-of-the-art Adoption and Humane Center. This cageless Adoption Center provides homeless pets with the care and dignity they deserve."
There are many ways to give to PAWS either through donations or volunteering your time. I highly encourage you to visit their site. If choosing to donate funds, I encourage you to take a trip with your family or friends to the Adoption center to see where your funds are going and experience this amazing organization.

I have donated money on several occasions to PAWS and volunteered walking and playing with dogs and the facility. It is a truly rewarding experience and brought me my Logan who I adopted on Mothers Day 2009. 

If you're not in Chicago find an animal shelter in your area or donate nationally at ASPCA.

"The Food Depository distributes 66 million pounds of food, including more than 12.8 million pounds of produce, to 650 pantries, soup kitchens and shelters in Cook County. Nearly 142,000 men, women and children turn to the Food Depository's network each week, and nearly 678,000 people turn to the network annually."
You can choose to volunteer and/or donate. This holiday season this is the charity of my choice. Over Thanksgiving I participated in a Food Drive with a FREE Mat class on Thanksgiving day and I have extended my work with them through the holiday with a virtual food drive. Click here to donate online through my virtual food drive.

Hope this gives you some great ideas of how to give more this holiday season. The reward of knowing that you helped a child, family, or animal is the best gift you and your family can receive. If you have a favorite charity or organization that you like to support during the holiday season, please feel free to list it below in the comment section. Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Healthy Holiday Gift Ideas

The holiday season is abounding. This year why not give the gift of health. Here are a few healthy gift giving ideas in a variety of price ranges.

A month's worth of classes at their favorite yoga, pilates, or dance studio. In Chicago, studios like Yogaview and Bar Method offer Gift Certificates in any amount. Nature Yoga offers packages like an Intro Pack for only $79 or a monthly unlimited for $150. Ask your favorite yoga or pilates instructor if they are offering gift certificates this holiday, piLALAtes is. What better way to help your loved one reach their New Year's Resolution than with the gift of Physical and in some cases Spiritual health.

A gift certificate for a relaxing massage with your favorite therapist. Either in home or at their location. This is a great way to treat your loved one to some holiday de-stressing and also to compliment your therapist with a referral that may potentially become a new client. Note: I think it is proper when giving a gift of this nature to include tip, so the recipient is not reliable for this.

This is one of my favorites, a homemade spa package. Put together some of your favorite products. I like to bag up some of my favorite bath salts or scrub, a relaxing scented candle, a face mask, homemade body oil with essential oil added to it (can be used for bath, moisturizing, or massage), a few tea bags, and some chocolate. A decadent gift of relaxation and time. Maybe try adding an Itunes playlist of some relaxing tunes. This gift can be as simple or extravagant as you choose.

Or try a spiritual or healthy living book. There are so many great ones to choose from. I suggest The China Study, The Omnivore's Dilemma, The Tipping Point, The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, or Light on Yoga to name a few. Give a book in Kindle or Nook to be even more environmentally friendly and save the paper of an actual book.

Do you have a favorite gift of health that you have given or received?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Give a little love

On November 19th I attended a Dharma and Meditation workshop hosted by Wade Gotwals at Nature Yoga Sanctuary.  The evening was led by Buddhist monk Kelsang Dorje. "His humorous approach to challenging life subjects will truly give you the tools to change your perception and change your life".

The evening started with some light pranayama (breathing) and yoga to prepare our bodies to sit, led by Wade and then Kelsang Dorje spoke on life. Our life is based on our perceptions, we all are intertwined, and how to live in love. Our worlds are based on our own experiences and perceptions. If you see the world through rose colored glasses it will be a rose colored world. Knowing this it is easy to change the way you choose to see and experience the world. Kelsang Dorje compares it to a hot coal. If someone were to throw a hot coal to you and you catch it, you would choose to drop it immediately because it burns. And the next time someone threw a hot coal at you, you wouldn't even reach to grab it. However, so many times in life we choose to carry or hold onto this hot coal as we move through life. He relates this to carrying negative thoughts, images, experience and perceptions. We need to learn the lesson and make the choice to drop the coal and not pick it up again.

He spoke on "love". That to love someone basically means to wish them happiness and an end to suffering. That there is no limit to the amount of love we have to give or receive. Therefore why not give love to everyone. Wouldn't the world be a much nicer place to move about if while passing people in the world they were sending love to you and you to them. Yes, there are different types of love and different karmic connections which allow us to relate deeper to one another but the basic feeling of love is the same. When you look at it from this point to love someone doesn't mean you have to agree with them, approve of their actions, or want them to become your best friend or lover. It just means that you wish them happiness. Seems easy enough, right? Easy to do when you are in the community that is supporting that common good, much harder to do in the busy city when someone has just cut you off. There is the challenge. When that person cuts you off, can you take a deep breath and wish them happiness and an end to their suffering. Choosing to see that maybe they really do need to get somewhere before you. Or at least not let it be the hot coal that you carry around for the rest of your day passing along to others. Instead of tossing or carrying the coal, the challenge is to carry or pass the love.

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Kelsang Dorje and hearing his teachings. I am trying to meditate more throughout my week and move through the world with love in my heart. 

If you would like to experience Kelsang Dorje and his teachings. Here are a few of his upcoming workshops and website. For more info and upcoming events visit

Believing Karma: The Power to Change our life
Oak Park
Vajrayana Kadampa Buddhist Center
13 Harison St, Oak Park 60304
Mondays, 7-8:30pm
November 1 - December 13

Center on Halsted
3656 N. Halsted St Room #202
Chicago, IL 60313
Tuesdays, 7-8:30pm
November 2 - December 14

Feel free to drop into any class. Everyone is welcome. $10/class

The Blessing Empowerment of Enlightened Mother Arya Tara
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Cost: $65 (includes light vegetarian lunch)
Vajrayana Kadampa Buddhist Center
13 Harrision Street
Oak Park, IL 60304
To register for this special event email or call 708.763.0132

Monday, November 22, 2010

Vegetarian Thanksgiving Menu

Thanksgiving and all the holidays can be challenging for a Vegetarian. I thought I would take the opportunity to share some great recipes that I have found and am planning to use this Thanksgiving.

Vegan Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip
This is one of my favorite appetizer recipes. I translated the original recipe to Vegan last year and couldn't even taste the difference. Have had lots of compliments on this at parties by both Vegan, Vegetarian, and meat eating friends and family.

  • 16oz canned Artichoke hearts in water, drained
  • 1 cup frozen spinach
  • 1 cup Vegenaise
  • 1/2 cup grated soy Parmesan
  • 1/2 cup of Tofutti "Better than sour cream"
  • 1/2 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 tblsp lemon juice
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper
  • 8oz Tofutti "better than cream cheese", softened
  • paprika

  • Preheat Oven to 350°
  • Combine all ingredients in blender or food processor until well mixed.
  • Pour into larger baking/casserole dish. 
  • Bake until heated through. About 30-60 mins depending on oven and depth of casserole dish.
  • Serve with pita chips, crackers, baguette slices, or vegetables.



Thanksgiving Seasonal Salad
A fresh, crisp and tangy salad. The combo of dried cranberries,goat cheese, and nuts is decadent tasting. It encompasses all the tastes of the holiday season.

  • Fresh Baby Spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup of dried Cranberries
  • 1 pear julienned with skin
  • 4oz goat cheese
  • Balsamic Vinaigrette of choice
  • 1/2 cup candied or plain pecans or walnut diced
  • Toss clean spinach in bowl with desired amount of balsamic dressing (*Can skip this step and leave dressing on the side if you prefer)
  • Layer the rest of ingredients into bowl and toss until mixed well.
  • Serve cold.


Gardein Pot Pie
Ellen's chef Roberto Martin's Vegan Pot Pie looks absolutely fabulous. This is what I am bringing as my main course this year.

  • Gardein Scallopini cut into 1/4inch pieces
  • 6 cups vegan chicken stock
  • 1 cup yellow onion diced
  • 1 cup carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup peas
  • 3/4tsp Thyme, minced
  • 3/4tsp Sage, minced
  • 3/4tsp Sea Salt
  • 3/4tsp Fresh ground pepper
  • 1tblsp Nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1tblsp Tamari Soy sauce
  • 3-4tblsp Scanola oil
  • Puff Pastry sheet rolled out to 12x10
Roux Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup Earth balance butter

  • Pre-heat oven to 375°
  • Brown Gardein Scallopini in a sauté pan with 1tblsp scanola oil. Season with salt and pepper, remove from pan and set aside.
  • In separate pan melt Earth balance. Add flour and whisk constantly until light brown color. Cool and set aside.
  • In 5.5 qt Stock pot cook onions in scanola oil for 3 mins. Add carrots, sage, thyme, salt and pepper. Continue to cook for 5 mins. Add already boiling stock and simmer for 5 mins. Whisk in yeast flakes.
  • Add the roux mixture a bit at a time and continue to cook as sauce begins to thicken. Stir in Gardein Scallopini, tamari and peas. Pour mixture into a large shallow pan to cool.
  • Once mixture is cool, pour into individual ramekins, glass pie pan, or small casserole dish. Cover mixture with puff pastry and seal edges. Cut small slits. Bake for 35 mins or until internal temperature reaches 165°
Makes 6 servings. 15 mins of prep time and 50 mins of cook time.

Hope your friends and family enjoy these recipes. A happy, healthy and environmentally friendly Thanksgiving to you and yours. BTW no animals were harmed in the making of these products. ☺

If you have a great Vegan or Vegetarian recipe for the holidays, please share it in the comment section below. Thanks!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I got a new attitude

Attitude (noun): manner, disposition, feeling, position, etc., with regard to person or thing; tendency or orientation, esp. of the mind: anegative attitude; group attitudes.

We all have those days when our attitude can get in our way of our experience. As a teacher I have experienced the attitude of disappointment, resistance, fear, and uncomfortableness from participants when I am subbing a class. I have also been the participant of walking into a class to find that my normal instructor is not there and feeling those same attitudes in myself. When these feelings arise from either end I try to take a deep, cleansing breath and change the direction of my disposition.

After taking a deep breath, if I am the instructor I try to break the ice a bit and acknowledge that I understand how difficult it is to have a different instructor but hope that they will remain open and exploratory through the process. If I am the student I instruct myself to stay open and remember that even if I take away one new idea, movement, or connection from this instructor that the class was a success and worth it. Changing this attitude allows the experience to change. One of my instructors stated awhile back "that if you are going to a led class, then you should allow the instructor to lead and teach you and leave your preconceptions behind". You may be surprised at your experience and what you learn if you can change your disposition and remain open to what is being presented. You might even find a new teacher that you never would have taken class from and now adore.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Barefoot and Loving it

My barefoot running adventure continues. 

I have gotten over the initial hump of really sore calf muscles and feet. Now I find the foot strike pattern right away and feel great. As I am running barefoot I am becoming more aware of how great running can feel. Before when I ran in typical running shoes, my left knee would always have soreness, my outer hips and low back were tight, and my hamstrings were overworking. Running barefoot has released my low back and outer hip soreness, now I feel activation of my inner thighs (adductors) and my transverse abdominals working to support my stride. I also feel my pelvic halves moving independently, like a locomotion arm, versus as one large, clunky unit. I do not feel any soreness in left knee at all and my hamstrings are working more efficiently with the strike at the midpoint of my foot rather than the heel. I am addicted to barefoot running!

One little glitch is the blister that I have accumulated on the bottom of my second toe on each foot (more on the left than the right). From everything that I have read this is perfectly normal and it's not preventing me from continuing to run. Let me also clarify, that I am not running perfectly barefoot, but in Vibram's Five Fingers (which is a barefoot glove-like shoe). There probably is a little friction of my toes inside the shoe as I strike the surface that is causing the blistering. I find it interesting that it is more on my left foot than right as the left is where my knee and hip pain used to be. Which proves to me that the change of foot contact is a new pattern for me (more so on the left than the right) that I was not making contact with in the past.

If you have or ever want to enjoy running again, I highly recommend trying the barefoot style. The positive patterns and efficient movement definitely outweigh the initial soreness and minor blisters.

This is Part II of my Barefoot Running journey. Click here to see Part I.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Rockin' Reformer

At the 2010 PMA Conference in Long Beach, Balanced Body unveiled their prototype for a Rockin' Reformer (official name unknown). It is an accessory type piece that can be added onto the bottom of any Balanced Body Reformer that alters the stability of the entire piece of equipment and allows movement in more planes. One rocker goes on front and one on back and there are blocks that can slide under to stop the rock and bring the equipment back to stability without removing the rockers.

This piece of equipment drew a lot of attention at the booth. I had the privilege of receiving a mini-lesson on this Rockin' Reformer from Balanced Body's Elizabeth Larkham. She challenged me with exercises like Bridge and Semi-Circle adding in rotation of the reformer and spine. A cat like/knee stretch combo with rotation, a Control Front variation, and Snake.

Single Leg Circles
on Rockin' Reformer
At first mounting the equipment itself feels awkward and insecure as it is not stable. But the body becomes accustomed quickly. I was concerned, as I suffer from extreme motion sickness, that I would feel like I was on a boat in the ocean waves. However, the movement of the rocker was much more subtle and thankfully I felt no motion sickness. Instead I felt a huge amount of freedom of my spine and hips, more stabilization of my shoulders, and a smile on my face as I explored these Classical Pilates exercises with a twist (literally). It was a ton of fun, challenging, and an exploration of where Pilates can go. I truly enjoyed this new prototype and look forward to seeing it in studios in the near future. 

Note: The name of the piece, cost, and availability date are unknown as of now. I have contacted Balanced Body and as soon as I hear back with this info I will post it for you. It is not in their existing catalog or website as of yet.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pilates Method Alliance Conference 2010

I just returned from the 10th Annual Pilates Method Alliance Conference in Long Beach, CA. I am exhausted, motivated, inspired and overwhelmed. It was 3 days of great networking, friendship building, learning, shopping, and trying out new up and coming things in the Pilates industry.

Some of my highlights were Julian Littleford's The Magic of the Mat to the Chair, Rachel Taylor Segel's Joe's "Extra Muscles" Accessing the Internal Shower Through the Equipment, and Jillian Hessel's Mat Class.

I also thoroughly enjoyed meeting up with Twitter friends for a Tweet & Meet at District Wine Bar in Long Beach. Such a fabulous community of instructors  that are knowledgeable, supportive, and have become wonderful friends.

Balanced Body's Orbit
In addition to the workshops and classes I was able to try out some really cool equipment. Balanced Body has been working hard and has some great new additions coming out. (Stay tuned for a future blog on a really cool piece of equipment from them that I just adored). Their Orbits, Core Align, and Arcs were a big hit. Their new Rocker drew quite the crowd as well (more to come on that). Balanced Body has also teamed up with The Pilates Center of Boulder (TPC) to make a specific line for them and their classical style. Their prototype is 99% done. I had the chance to view and explore a little and was not disappointed. A lot of great changes were made to suit TPC and I am sure that it is going to be a win/win relationship for both parties. ActivCore's booth was rocking demonstrating the Red Cords equipment and workouts. I bought a RedCord Mini Plus and am so excited for it to arrive so I can start playing. The ToeSox booth was jamming. Attendees couldn't get enough of these wonderful sticky, toe separating socks in colorful patterns. These were spotted all over the Convention center. Green Apple Clothing was another big hit. With their eco friendly, cute, and affordable clothing line. I would be surprised if they had any stock left at the end of the Conference.

All in all it was a great conference and I look forward to sharing with you my insights and thoughts over the next few blogs. If you attended the conference, please comment below on what some of your favorite things were.

Monday, November 1, 2010

My favorite Vegan Chili Recipe

This Vegan chili recipe came from Chef Roberto Martin and was featured on the Ellen Show. Ellen and her wife Portia decided to go Vegan a little over a year ago and were looking for Vegan recipes for a Superbowl Party.  This was intended for Nachos with a vegan cheese recipe as well. I eat it as a chili. It is super easy to make once you have all the ingredients on hand.


  • 1 Large Onion chopped (white or red onion)
  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Cumin
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Coriander
  • 1 Teaspoon Dry Oregano
  • 1 Teaspoon Chili Powder
  • 3 Minced Garlic Cloves
  • 2 Large Diced Tomatoes
  • 8 oz Sliced Mushrooms
  • 2 (4oz) canned green chilies
  • 1 bag smart ground (Mexican seasoned)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 can black or pinto beans (rinsed)
  • Salt as needed
*I omit green chilies and add corn kernels for a more southwest style chili.
  • Chopped Green Onion (on side)
  • Tofutti sour cream to top 
  • Daiya or Follow Your Heart Vegan Cheese.

Mushrooms should be rough chopped. Sauté onions until light brown. Add mushrooms and cook 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and all seasonings and sauté 4 minutes more. Add remaining ingredients and stir until hot and the right consistency. Season with s and p as needed. Top with a dollop of Tofutti, chopped green onions, and a sprinkle of Daiya Cheddar cheese.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Trick or Treat? Franklin Method

Props Gini uses to teach FM.
"To change your body, one must change their mind"

I had the privilege of participating in two Franklin Method workshops lead by the fabulous Gini Martinez of Pilate Your Body. Gini is intelligent, witty, passionate, and creative about movement and her teaching. I highly recommend that anyone who teaches any sort of movement treat yourself to some Franklin Method. You won't regret it. I learned a lot about how my body actually works, how much my thoughts can affect and change my movements, and how to better cue movement for myself and my clients. I came out of the weekend very inspired and also very overwhelmed. How do I take all of this new insight into my Pilates teachings?

Franklin Method is based on four steps:

  1. Feedback - Check in on how and where you are now. What do you like? What do you not like? (Try to focus on the positive, as it really does change the outcome. For instance: If you notice your shoulders are tense, instead of focusing on the tension think about the openness and lightness you would like to feel in them.)
  2. Make a plan - What are you going to work on changing and how are you going to go about it? (I am going to send breath into my shoulders and imagine my shoulder blades sliding downward like a chocolate fondue fountain)
  3. Feed Forward - Put the plan into action.
  4. Compare New Status Quo to the Old - Was there a positive change? Even if it is the littlest bit.
It is a cycle. So repeat until the desired affect occurs. Maybe a new plan is necessary.

What I realized during this weekend was how important it is to really know what is happening in the body during movement. I know my anatomy and the cuing of movement within Pilates. However, many times the cuing contradicted what was actually happening with the bone rhythms. Once I could imagine the movement of the bones in certain actions I could facilitate movement in a much more organic way. 
"Embodying function, Improves function".
I realized that I had been tricking my body into performing certain movements with contraction instead of treating my body to efficient movement with ease. As Gini says:
"If your muscles are tense, they are contracted. If your muscles are contracted, they aren't available for movement."
Give your body a treat and incorporate some Franklin Method into your body and teaching.

Here is a link to a video of Eric Franklin releasing Shoulder Tension.
And just added here is a podcast of Gini discussing Franklin Method on air with Karena Lineback. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

No Shoes....BETTER Service

The other day I spontaneously decided to take off my shoes on the Elliptical. I had my running shoes on and was feeling uncomfortable through the arches of my feet and my left knee. I decided to pause the elliptical and continue in my socks. I immediately felt better through my feet. There was a little bit of friction with my socks and the machine, but it still felt better than what I was experiencing with my running shoes on. Taking my shoes off gave me more efficient movement.

Later that evening and the next morning, I was amazed at how sore my inner thighs were and I associated this to taking off my shoes. I feel that my running shoes were artificially pulling my feet into alignment. They weren't actually allowing my feet and muscles to do the job. I had been toying with the idea of going barefoot for awhile. After all in Pilates and Yoga I feel more connected to the earth and my alignment with my bare feet. Why not transfer that over to my Cardio philosophy as well? I personally don't own an Elliptical or Treadmill and the idea of going barefoot in a public gym seemed gross to me. Also living in an Urban area, outside running in bare feet seemed dangerous with rock, glass, and other foreign objects waiting to pierce the soles of my feet. So I ventured out to try on and buy a pair of Vibram Five Fingers or Barefoot shoes. I tried on three different styles of the Vibrams and ended up settling on the Bikila style as they fit my foot the best. This is definitely a shoe that you decide on based on function and fit, versus style or color. No matter what color these shoes are they are going to draw attention to your footsies. They are definitely not stylish or flattering to any foot on the outside. However, knowing the positive changes that are going to happen internally I will put my fashion and vanity aside.

Stay tuned as I take this barefoot journey to more efficient and healthy movement one step at a time.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

TRX vs. ActivCore

First let's discuss how these two very similar systems describe themselves.

TRX is described as:
" Suspension training"
 "a revolutionary method of leveraged body weight system"
"Safely perform hundreds of exercises that build power, strength, flexibility, balance, mobility, and prevent injuries, all at the intensity you choose." 

ActivCore is described as:
"Functional exercise"
"facilitates strength development, balance enhancement and improved coordination all of which improve movements of daily living, injury prevention and performance enhancement."
"Comprehensive knowledge of physical medicine and exercise science underlies the Redcord solution, which utilizes these five principles: controlled instability, functional exercise,  pain free positioning of movements, precise control of exercise intensity, and freedom of movement in all planes."

I took a group class on both the TRX and ActivCore at local studios. Here is what I found. TRX class was very upbeat, energetic, and cardio infused. It included lots of lunges and exercises similar to what gym equipment provides with the added instability of the straps using your own body weight. It allows for movements in all planes and has both handles and straps as one with the unit. Each side of the strap is adjustable with a riser in the center to check for balanced movement. Both straps are attached at one center point that is then anchored. ActivCore was much more of a mind/body class. Functional movement in sets of 4x4 or 6x4 with rests built in to help trigger neurological/muscle activation connection. These movements were more Pilates and Physical Therapy like. Each strap is attached to a separate anchor, which allows for more instability in an asymmetrical way. The straps, handles and slings can be removed and added for different exercises.  Think the difference of doing Hundreds on the Reformer, where the springs are attached to the carriage underneath versus doing Hundreds on the Cadillac with arms in the springs, where each arm is responsible for the movement/stability of each spring. Imbalances are easier to see and work on at the Cadillac, where on the Reformer a stronger side can dominate and cheat for a weaker side.

I thoroughly enjoyed both classes and feel that I was able to make some new connections of movement. Personally, I feel the ActivCore is a better fit for myself and my clients given my focus on Pilates, rehabilitation, and mind/body styles of exercise. TRX I felt is more geared towards a gym clientele mentality as was developed by Navy Seals. Regardless of whether you chose to try ActivCore, TRX, or both I am confident that you will get a great workout. I know I sure did.

If you have used either TRX, ActivCore or both would love your thoughts on the two sytems. Please post your comments below.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Yoga Marathon

The Chicago Marathon took place this year on Sunday, 10.10.10. I saw the winning men place on television before heading off to my normal Sunday Yoga class at Nature Yoga Sanctuary. As we entered class and began to set up our mats the Marathon was on everyone's mind. With the street closures that happen due to the marathon it can make getting around Chicago on that morning a little like a game of Frogger for some. We joked about finishing the marathon in time to get to class.

My teacher Wade usually begins with thoughts before class. Today he spoke about the supportive community of people cheering these marathon runners on their journey. Wouldn't it be nice in Yoga class to have that same positive support. "Come on you can hold that pose one more breath" or applauding the completion of a difficult posture or vinyasa series. 

It got me to thinking about how I approach my Yoga practice. My Sunday class is an hour and forty-five minutes long.  So much like a marathon it is about pacing yourself.  If you start out too strongly at the beginning of class you won't have the strength for the more vigorous series and difficult postures. You have to know yourself and the course so you don't hit the wall before mile 20. Focusing and riding the breath are true for both the Marathon and yoga. When you mentally hit those moments of doubt, fear, pain or fatigue tuning into your breath can get you over the edge and moving forward. It's about visualizing yourself crossing that finish line or getting into that difficult pose that you have been struggling with.

While I didn't complete 26.2 miles of Chicago pavement on Sunday 10.10.10. I did complete 105 minutes of vigorous yoga. I breathed, challenged, and cheered myself through the longer vinyasas and more difficult postures. And by the time I reached the finish line of Savasana I felt completely blissed out and proud of my accomplishment. The Marathon of Yoga complete.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Xtend Barre

Bar classes are all the rage from Bar Method, Dailey Method, Barre Bee Fit, etc. Everyone from Drew Barrymore to Madonna with Barre3 are taking Bar style classes.

I've taken these Bar Style classes at few different locations now. With my background in Pilates and Yoga I find some of the cuing and exercises in most of these Bar style classes to overuse certain muscle groups and place the body is some poor postural patterns of movement.  Also many of these schools of Bar lack the proper training to instructors and teach a choreography that is repetitive with very little anatomical knowledge.

Xtend Barre is not one of these. "The Xtend workout combines the amazing results of dance with the principles of strength and safety in Pilates." In order to take the training course to teach Xtend you must already hold a Pilates Certification and the classes can only be held in a licensed studio or workout facility.

Out of the many styles of Bar classes I found this style to be the most thorough class. The class moved through all parts of the body from light arm weights, plies, Pilates style ab work, thigh work, and stretching. The cuing was precise and form driven. It was a small class (only 6 people at the location I took class) versus the 20-30 people that are usually in a Bar class. This Bar style also seemed to have a little more of the dance class feel to it instead of the aerobic class feel.

I found Xtend Barre at Harmony Mind Body Fitness in Lincoln Park neighborhood. Definitely the best Bar style class I have found yet. Try it for yourself and Xtend your Bar horizons.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

I love Fall. I love all the colors of the leaves and the flavors of the food like butternut squash and pumpkin. Not only is pumpkin low fat naturally, it is full of beta-carotene which the body converts to Vitamin A.  Fall and all the holidays that come with it wouldn't be complete in my mind without some Pumpkin Pie.  Here is a healthy smoothie that tastes just like the pie. The yogurt gives the whip cream like flavor and no crust means less calories. Drink up and give Thanks without the guilt.

*I have listed ingredients for both a Vegetarian and a Vegan version based off of your choice of Yogurt and milk.


  • 1/4 can of Pumpkin Pie filling
  • 3oz of Greek Style Plain yogurt (like Chobani) or Vegan Yogurt (like Nogurt or Silk)
  • 1 tblspoon Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 cup Almond milk or milk of choice 
  • 1/2 cup crushed ice
  • nutmeg and cinnamon

Combine Pumpkin Pie, yogurt, brown sugar, and crushed ice into blender. Begin to blend. Add almond milk (or milk of your choice) slowly until you have the desired consistency. Less milk will make a thicker smoothie and more milk a little creamier. Once completely blended pour into glass and sprinkle with a little nutmeg and cinnamon to garnish and spice up. Stick a straw in it and give thanks.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Equinox Health clubs is known for their innovative Group Exercise classes like Tabata, Intensati, and now Parkour.  I participated in a demo class of Parkour at Equinox Chicago's 900 North Michigan location.

To say this class was out of my element is an understatement.  We were lead through a warm up of conditioning exercises by Group Fitness Managers Tonya Dugger and Jen Hogg. In the 30 minute workout many were already gasping for air and sweating it up.  Then we were lead by Alex through a Parkour workout. We vaulted over highly stacked steps, army crawled through hurdles, precision jumped over steps (and eventually people), and grapevined around hurdles creating a circuit like feel. My heart rate was up and at one point when checking my heart rate monitor was at 92%.  By the end of the hour long class I had burned almost 800 calories and had a ton of fun.  Did I do everything like the instructor? By no means. But I attempted it and laughed at myself in good humor.

According to the website Parkour US
"Parkour or l'art du déplacement is NOT a extreme sport, rather it is a physical discipline that allow one to overcome their obstacles to get from point a to point b in the most efficient using the possibility of human body. Such movement may contain running, jumping, climbing, vaulting and other movements that may help the efficiency. 
One who trains and practice the discipline is called a “traceur” or “traceuses” for women practitioners. The goal of parkour is to allow a traceur adopt to his or her environment by using the surrounding structure. Whether the environment is in the rural or urban area, a traceur is trained to be able to face the obstacles at any given time. 
Movements are often trained by repetitions, building ground up from the basics. Parkour is often confused with freerunning. Freerunning, a distant cousin of parkour, contains movements that are not efficient, such as flips. Parkour originated in France, founded by David Belle and many others. Along with the physical movements, parkour contains philosophy which enhances a traceur’s ability to solve problems and their awareness of surroundings. 
Furthermore, there are NO COMPETITIONS in parkour; the only competition is you, and yourself."

Some Parkour moves that you will see in a class.

Check your local Equinox to see when and where Parkour classes are available.  Definitely a challenge and a lot of fun.