Monday, July 25, 2011

RECREATE YOUR BODY (re-creation)

This month holds the energy of creativity. Children are masters of creativity and recreation. I remember being a little kid, and that feeling of exhaustion I would have at the end of the day because I had played so hard - it felt so good. Everything from the Kid Olympics that my dad created for us, to reenacting scenes from Young Frankenstein with my mom. The art projects were endless and we would dance for hours at a time, just because.
When I look at this picture of myself, I remember the self confidence of exploration. The sprit of play and joy is a great way to make yoga and cardio fun. When I was a child, I would try things simply for the sake of play. For inspiration, I might think of my favorite child, or I might call into mind that little 3 year old Mandy that hasn't changed one bit since then. That child is completely untouched and ready to play. Thinking we know it all doesn't leave much room for new experiences and discovery, and I want to leave myself open for that.
Exercise is fun. I sometimes say: "If you are a dog, this is your walk". Notice how excited your dog gets to for a walk. That's how excited your body is to move! One of my old teachers works with animals and autistic children, and he says the universal language is PLAY! When we play, we don't have to worry about looking silly... that's the POINT! Trying something like 
crow pose or one-arm balance can be daunting when we think that there is a right way to do it, but there is a sense of play in just giving it a shot. So play around this month. If you fall... so what. Tap into that spirit of joy and try not to take yourself so seriously.

In the spirit of that creativity and recreation, I also remind myself that my body is a work in progress. There is no final product. When I was a little girl, I thought that when I grew up I would be a certain weight. Now, after becoming a woman and seeing that my body fluctuates, it reminds me that I am changing all the time. Usually, what I do today has a great effect on what happens tomorrow, so I try to remember that the activities I do today feed the creation of the person I am becoming. Play this month and be creative!

Here are some ways to embody the art of recreation:

PLAY: Instead of making fitness a chore, play a game. Try tennis, a game of Capture the Flag or touch football. Rollerblade or ride your bike.

FLIRT: Creative energy and sexual energy originate from the same place. After all, what is more creative than making a person? Use sexual energy to reshape your body by thinking of someone you have a crush on while your work out. Or make a sexy playlist to practice to.

ACT AS IF: Imagine that you are your favorite athlete, your favorite Charlie's Angel, or any other character that inspires you to kick butt. Notice how motivating that is.

CELEBRATE: Your body is a gift and the way we practice gratitude is by using our gifts. Every day we can move and breathe freely is cause for celebration. Use my Dance Party playlist or make your own. Invite friends over for a dance party and prepare a healthy treat.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Yoga Pose of the Month: SUN SALUTE


As we wrap up the month of feeling, emotion and nurture, I wanted to leave you with the series of postures that represents flow like no other. The Sun Salute. The Sun Salute reminds us to breathe. Expanding the breath on the inhale and contracting on the exhale.

The Sun Salute asks us to feel our way through. Modifying and adding postures as needed. Going at our unique pace on any given day. I almost always begin my practice with Sun Salutes.

Here is a basic breakdown and a video at the end.

FLOW. In this month, we want to GO WITH THE FLOW. And FEEL OUR WAY THROUGH. The word “vinyasa” is “flow”. So one of the most popular forms of hatha yoga is FLOW yoga. Any pose you do can have a vinyasa or flow between sides. See below for instructions on how to use the vinyasa to string together your poses.

Mountain Pose is a foundational pose which is essentially “home base” in your yoga practice. You will come back to it again and again. It can be found within all hatha yoga poses and can be used as a guide to asses alignments and lines of energy. 

Feet should be touching, side by side. Lift your kneecaps and engage your thigh muscles. Tuck your tailbone just slightly, and draw your belly in and up, while lifting up out of your waist. Draw your shoulders back and down. Lengthen through the crown of your head.Mountain

Make sure your hands are below your shoulders. Step your feet together. Keep your body in a strong, straight line by engaging your core muscles. Plank

Exhale breathing, slowly lower down, keeping your elbows close to the sides of your body. Stop when your shoulders and your elbows are aligned. We build strong arms, so that we can love and nurture our families. Lower Down

Turn the tops of your feet on the floor. Inhale, look up and press your palms into the ground to lift your upper body until your arms are straight, allowing your upper thighs and knees to come up as well. Lifting the heart and opening the chest to allow more love out (and in). Lower down to transition into Downward Facing Dog. Upward Facing Dog

Turn the balls of your feet under, and on an exhale breath, press into the floor with your hands and feet and lift your hips up. Press firmly into the heels and the palms of your hands. Relax your head and neck and make sure your spine is straight. It is okay to bend your knees if your hamstrings are tight. Down Dog

BREATH is also a part of flow. When I breathe, I feel my emotions more. The emotions are the bridge from the mind to the body, and the breath is the vehicle. For me, just being aware of the inhale and exhale, particularly the spaces between, help me to become present to what I am feeling. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

My Body is My Home.

Home. The word itself elicits a visceral response. That yearning for a foundation and a nurturing, consistent place that supplies us with the nourishment required to accomplish goals and feel safe out in the world. It seems like it should be a given that we have all had this, yet that is not always true. I myself have always yearned for that place.

My parents split up and we sold our childhood home when I was 17, so there is no family home base to return to. However, my sense of feeling homesick was there even as a child. I would tell my mother I had that "homesick feeling" again. At age 15, I set out to New York, and lived away from home for a period of time. My only photograph was a framed photo of E.T. that I had torn out of a magazine. As a youth, I tended to feel alien in my own skin. Somehow the entrapment of a physical body created a longing within me for something more. I spent many years, denying my body it's very basic needs. Sleep, hunger and thirst often felt like an inconvenience that was limiting me from doing the things that were really important like accomplishing my goals or living my dreams. I would exercise for hours on end to push the limits of my body. Rather than escape, exercise is now a way to breathe and ground into my true home: my body. It's taken me years to realize that my body is the very foundation of all that I long to create, and that when I get more connected to my physical body, I get grounded and have a real place to come from. Ironically, in this month that represents home, I am currently away from home, and in one location for no more than 4 days at a time. 

So how to come to a true understanding of "home"? To feel at home, I try to settle into my own skin and become grounded through the use of my body: my breath, physical activity, and the foods that I eat, as well as general self care. Healthy and regular physical habits are my very foundation and I can return to home no matter where I am. That means on a daily basis: 

  • Meditation before I begin my day
  • Sweat
  • Yoga
  • Warm water or tea first thing
  • Brushing, flossing, and tongue scraping
  • Journaling 
Other ways to connect with home energy:

  •  THE EARTH is also our home, and just as we are made up primarily of water, so is our lush earth. It is suggested you drink 1/2 an ounce of water per pound of body weight. Try drinking water to regulate the mind, body and spirit, as water is an energy conductor.
  • HONORING THE FAMILY we came from as our roots. It’s always a complex cocktail of exactly what we needed in order to grow into who we are. I honor this month as my mother's month, as she is my original home and a Cancer.
  • OUR LIVING SPACE. The place where we live represents ourselves. As I recreate my foundation I call upon  power of Feng Shui for an easy flow of manifestation in my life. Click here for some free tips that can increase the abundance and energy flow of your very foundation.
  • ONLINE YOGA ROUTINES. Practice yoga without leaving home, please check out my new downloadable audio and video routines.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Music as a Motivator: America/The Homeland

Happy July 4th! I wanted to give you an Independence Day gift: my yearly "AMERICA" playlist.

I have always been moved by music. Throughout my life, I have connected music to what was going on for me at the time. Music has often been a driving force in my exercise. It always motivates me because it gives expression to my emotions, and connects me with the collective. 

Music is the universal language of emotion. When I look around and see an entire class filled with people who are literally moved by a song, I realize we are drawn together by common emotions and rhythms. When I returned from New York, post witnessing 9-11, all I could play was U2 and Peter Gabriel. When I was grieving my father’s death, the song “Sometimes You Can’t Make it on Your Own” by Bono helped me to understand that I wasn’t the only one reckoning with the loss of a complicated paternal relationship. I remember the first time I made out with somebody, Bob Marley’s “Waiting in Vain” was playing in the background. 
This America playlist gets me really inspired, because it allows me to comment and inject my opinions about our homeland, plus it connects me with the energy that is sitting within my DNA. Literally living in my bones, is the tenacity, bravery and struggle that it took my relatives to get to America.

America - by Neil Diamond
American Woman - by Lenny Kravitz
American Baby - by Dave Matthews Band
American Girl - by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Young Americans - by David Bowie
White America - by Eminem
America - by Simon & Garfunkel
America, Fuck Yeah - by Team America
American Pie - by Don McLean
American Idiot - by Green Day

America, Fuck Yeah (reprise)

This playlist is one I have used for a 45-minute high-intensity spin, but can be used for any workout. I usually hit my breaking point at song number 7, the amazingly emotional and subtle "America", by Simon and Garfunkle. It is at this moment, when I find myself in a difficult posture, or at the end of a 3-song climb, and am feeling so weak, or in a moment that feels like I may not be able to breakthrough during a high-intensity workout, that I try to remember my grandfather and his America story. His very blood is running through my veins, and I think about what it took for him to get me here. 

Sasha Lipszyc grew up in Poland. At age 17 he escaped death during World War II where his mother , four brothers and sister were killed. The story is that after standing in a line he dove into a potato field and crawled to a narrow escape. He and his half-brother went on the run to Russia, where he worked on a rescue team in the mines, and there he met my grandmother (who was also working in the mines. She claims that he literally rode up on a white horse. A blonde, blue eyed Jew on a white horse....). My uncle was born in a cabin in Siberia that my grandfather built himself, and after World War II, they landed in a displaced person's camp in Germany, where my mother was born. Our relatives in America called for my grandparents, uncle, mother and great grandmother, who ended up in Los Angeles via Chicago where my mother taught her own parents to speak english. As my grandfather made a life for his family by building parts for airplanes and rocket ships, he opened up opportunities for his children who respectively ended up at Harvard and UCLA. All of this so that I could have problems like gaining five pounds, or not being invited to a party...

Each of us has a history and a way that we landed in America. The effort it took to get to exactly where I am today, so that I could flourish and have opportunities like I do is amazing. That effort, energy and drive is 100% in my DNA. And in yours too. It is in your bones, and when you feel like you cannot go on, all you have to do is tap into that resource which is your birthright. The body is an archive, not only of every experience that you have ever had, but it also carries patterning from generations past, and the blood of the ancients. You have much more energy available to you than just yours. You can truly draw unlimited energy from the Universe. And it begins with this remembering.

When I was a little girl, my grandfather and I would take walks around the neighborhood. He would point out the birds on the telephone wire, and the magic of a maple tree. His favorite thing to do would be to go to Venice beach, Muscle beach, as he would call it. We would pack up our bathing suits, beach towels and little else, traveling West to visit the ocean and hit the bodybuilding gym. My grandfather was always a big fan of exercise, and he, along with my dad were major influences in my desire to work out! Exercise has a built-in obstacle. All athletes have that moment, a turning point when you make that choice to breakthrough or breakdown. Sometimes, all you need to do is get inspired by what is already built in. The desire to push through.

Music is this universal binder, and a language that can jog our memories and tap into our bloodline, returning us to our very source, deep within. These stories that live in us need not hold us prisoner but, when channeled, are here to source and use to our benefit.

Moving through obstacles and difficulties is the single most powerful way to gain strength and self-confidence, but we need help remembering our special power! I would love to hear your inspiring America stories. How did you get here? What was the journey that your ancestors took?
Please enjoy some of my motivational playlists that I have created, which have bonded my students to one another. Think about songs that you associate with certain emotions and share your story with us on here.

Happy Interdependence Day.