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Archive for the ‘Exercise’ Category

parents & kids having fun together – love this!

love the guy with the baby bjorn!

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I’m sure you’ve heard me talking about Wanderlust, a Yoga and Music Festival that takes place in Whistler every Summer. I’ve been a couple of times and I have to say that I really love it.
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It’s a truly a magical experience!
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Over four days there are so many interesting classes, talks and workshops with world renowned teachers and then in the evening there’s a concert. The whole village comes alive!
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Some of the highlights for me are doing a Yoga class with hundreds of people – the energy is amazing, the silent disco, the Speakeasy talks – always enlightening and just the general buzz.
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At night there’s a Silent Disco; everyone wears headphones so when you walk in the room it’s silent but everyone is dancing. There are three DJ’s each one with a different colour, the headphones have three settings/colours, so you can choose which DJ to listen to. Sometimes the whole room turns to one colour, it’s so cool! And there’s no alcohol, no pick-up scene, it’s just people having fun – I just love it!
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You can attend one or multiple days. I literally go all day from 8am to 1am because I don’t want to miss a thing. You do as much or as little as you want, there are meditation workshops, stretching, all kinds of Yoga, etc. It’s so fun, enlightening and soul nourishing. I highly recommend it!
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Hope to see you there!

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Did you know that you have a natural girdle around your waist?!

It’s true! It’s called the Tranversus Abdominal muscle and it’s one of the four muscles that make up your “core”.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the “core” since core work has been very much in vogue for some time now.

The core is important because it is the foundation of the body.

Think of it like this, when they build a high-rise tower, first they build a foundation deep into the ground to keep the building stable. A strong core is your foundation.

The problem is that for most people the core muscles are weak and undeveloped. This can cause many problems from lower back pain to sciatica.

I do not recommend these belts. They will make your core weaker.

You’ve probably seen furniture movers wearing those belts to support their backs. That is the support a strong core would give you. The belt does the work that the core should be doing. I do not recommend these belts, as they will make your core weaker.

Why is it important to strengthen your core?

(1) CORE STABILITY

Having a strong core means you have a good foundation for everything you do. Your balance come from your core and centers you. Whatever activity you may be doing your core is there to support you. From walking to running to snowboarding you will feel stronger and more stable. Having this strong foundation helps prevent all sorts of injuries from falling to lower back pain.

(2) HEALTHY SPINE

Think of the discs in your spine as little gel filled pillows between each vertebra. With every step you take the discs absorb the pull of gravity. Over decades these discs start to wear out, they’re not as plump anymore and the spine starts to compress, that’s why we get shorter as we get older! In addition, if your spine is slightly off centre the edge of a disc can get pinched or tear.

Having a strong core keeps your spine aligned and supports the discs which slows their deterioration.

Recently I had an MRI of my spine, the doctor studied my spine and looked at me in awe and said, “What have you been doing? You have one of the healthiest spines I have ever seen, your discs are 20 years younger than you are!”, “I’m a Pilates Instructor”, I told him. “Wow”, he said, “I can see it in your spine!”. It was such a wonderful confirmation of what I have instinctively felt in my body.

(3) PREVENT LOWER BACK PAIN

One of the most frequent complaints I hear is lower back pain.

Over my 34 years of teaching I’ve come to the conclusion that the main cause of lower back pain is weak core muscles (like anything it’s not a one size fits all diagnosis, I also believe in stretching and weight-training).

When the core is weak, the stronger more superficial muscles step in to do the work of the core, namely the glutes (we tend to engage the butt muscles when we’re looking for stability) and the spinal erectors (the band on each side of the spine).

When the gluteal muscles (butt) tighten, they pull the hips forwards, engage the hip flexors and pull the tailbone down, putting us into a pelvic tilt and taking the lower back out of it’s natural curve, the “neutral spine”. This leaves all the pressure sitting in the lower back and comprises the discs in this area. Most people are stronger on one side than the other, so if they contract one glute tighter than the other it can cause the hips to go out of alignment which can then cause a further problem: sciatica.

The deep core muscles do not engage unless we consciously tell them to, that’s why we have to strengthen the core and train the subconscious to engage the core muscles instead of the stronger more superficial muscles when stability is needed. It takes time and patience to build new neural pathways in the brain so the body goes to the core muscles instead.

A strong core will keep the spine in proper alignment, “neutral spine”,  keep your hips aligned and your discs healthy.

(4) YOU WILL LOOK GOOD!

Having a strong core is like wearing a girdle, you will have tighter waist line and better posture.

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HOW TO BUILD A STRONG CORE:

Do focused exercises for the deep core muscles:

(1) Kegels

Imagine you are going to the bathroom and you stop mid-stream, that’s a kegel. So just do that over and over, squeeze, release, squeeze release. Do them as often as you can, whenever you think of it. You can do them anywhere, no one will know. (Do them right now!)

I like to say pick something that will remind you to do them, like every time you see a Starbucks logo. Focus the squeeze more in the front (#1) and less in the back (#2) and make sure you are not squeezing your butt (the gluteal muscles). I also recommend doing kegels for a focused 2 minute block at least once a day.

Not only will kegels build your core strength, they will also keep you from getting up at night to go to the bathroom!

(2) Pull in your belly

Simply pull your belly in towards your spine. It is important to integrate your breath so you exhale through your mouth as you pull your belly in. You can also do these anytime anywhere: when you’re in a line-up, going up the elevator or walking around. I also recommend doing them for a focused 2 minute block at least once a day.

These are the absolute basics.

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If you want to take it further then I recommend  Pilates or a “core” focused class, just make sure your instructor teaches in a way that actually focuses on the deep core muscles and constantly reminds you to engage them.

Be patient and persistent, with regular practice you will start to see and feel a difference. But remember, it’s like showering, it doesn’t last, you have to do it regularly.

If you are suffering from lower back pain or sciatica, know that it will take time and patience to redirect the body. Consistency is key.

You can find my Pilates class schedule HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What if there was something you could right now that would have an immediate and long lasting positive benefit for your brain including mood and focus and it would also protect your brain from depression, Alzheimers and dementia, would you do it?

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Recently I listened to a podcast by Joe Rogan and Dr. Rhonda Patrick.

He beautifully expressed many of my feelings regarding exercise and it made me want to share it with you (warning: swearing):

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or you can read my summary below
I hope it motivates you!

Some people don’t want to exercise; they’d rather go to a doctor and get a pill. There’s a fear of discomfort, they don’t want to sweat and strain. It’s an extreme feeling in the mind.

What it really is however is the discomfort of the beginnings of getting in shape. Because once you’re fit, exercise is something you look forward to. It alleviates stress and makes you feel good: relaxed, carefree, more appreciative of things and less reactive.

Neuro-imaging studies show that exercise improves executive function and calms the amygdala – the brains emotional centre. Exercise helps you think logically and be less reactive from the gut. Meditation has similar effect.

So how to get started? Create momentum. Resist the resistance. Realize that discomfort is your friend. The choice to resist creates momentum, just as the choice to avoid creates momentum. The more you resist the more you can resist. The more you avoid, the more you continue to avoid. When we consistently resist the avoidance it creates a force that propels us forward.

Often when we are not happy and content with life it’s because we have given into the avoidance. We have stayed in our comfort zone. The need to act is so strong yet we avoid it. We feel that resistance all the time and we have to fight it in order to get past it so we can progress and succeed.

When we choose to avoid working out, it’s not only bad for us physically but also mentally. When we decide to stay on the couch we tell ourselves that it’s an option, that avoiding is an option that is at our disposal and that creates momentum to continue avoiding. Our choices create neuro-pathways in the brain: to avoid or to resist. Once the neuro-pathway is created we tend to stay on that path. If we choose to avoid, we may then find ourselves avoiding other things in life too: conflict, uncomfortable decisions and making changes.

When we get off the couch and go workout we feel successful and a sense of accomplishment. A year from now you could have a completely different body working out just 2 -3 times a week. It’s not a huge commitment and the outcome is incredible. You could add ten years to your life! It’s not about vanity; it’s about the quality of your life, not only as you age but also right now, how it affects you today. And it not only affects you but everyone that comes into contact with you.

When we live a sedentary lifestyle and eat badly we accelerate aging; we become broken and start to fall apart. We can delay the aging process and improve the quality of our life simply by being active and eating well. What could me more important?!

If you could take a pill to prevent your body and mind from a decaying from old age would you take it? Everyone would say yes, but there is no such pill. The pill is exercise and healthy eating. Actual pills don’t always work and they have side effects. And a pill is not going to make you feel better in a true sense. A pill is not going to clear your mind, change the shape of your body and give you confidence and ease. Yes pills are sometimes necessary for a medical condition but often the medical condition is caused by unhealthy habits to begin with.

Our consciousness is in charge of making the choice. What will you choose?

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Gord, who attends my Stretch Class, shared this beautiful short film with me and I want to share it with you.  It’s a beautiful story, a beautiful film and a beautiful project. I hope you will take the time to watch it.

I think any exercise program, not just yoga, can have a significant impact on your life.

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runnersonbrooklynbridgeRecently I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts: The Tim Ferriss Show, he referenced a short essay called “It’s Always Your Fault” written by his guest David Heinemeier Hansson.  The essay refers to business systems and the question it asks is “How are you complicit in creating the conditions you say you don’t want?”. It talks about being accountable, about situations being a feedback loop and that you can take action and have the control to change.

As a fitness instructor, I immediately thought of how this relates to health and fitness. Our daily actions have consequences that affect our physical and emotional well-being and can lead us to a condition we don’t want. Inactivity and unhealthy eating habits can lead us to being out of shape, overweight, lethargic and unmotivated – or to more serious health issues.

There are many reasons we may not take care of ourselves; life gets busy, we don’t know where to start, it’s overwhelming, we never got into the habit in the first place, ignorance, etc. Most people are disconnected from the their bodies and don’t stop to realize how they feel.

Unhealthy habits become a feedback loop; lack of sleep can increase sugar or caffeine consumption to gain energy, lack of exercise causes fatigue so we’re too tired to workout, and so on. And then we tend to shirk responsibility for our actions and blame external factors.

The fact is we have the control to change and take action. So ask yourself: Are you in a condition you don’t want to be in? If the answer is yes, then consider:

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“How am I complicit in creating the condition I say I don’t want?”
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 Realize that you have the control to change and take action!

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