Our SUP field trip FINALLY happened in early May after a year fraught with crazy weather including hurricanes, intense heat, and flooding. Ten of my 21 students in my SUP Fitness courses at Duke took a break from studying to join me on Falls Lake for a gorgeous afternoon of paddling, yoga and exploring. Mother Nature was so kind and gave us a spectacular blue sky, warm sun and cool water. Thank you to all of my students for making this a fantastic year and thank you to those who were able to come out and paddle for a few hours. It really is a highlight of the school year and the course! Happy summer and paddling friends.
My SUP Fitness course at Duke University is wrapping up in one week. Twelve awesome students have worked with me all semester-long on all aspects of SUP from paddling, turning, and water safety, to SUP yoga and SUP workouts. We meet twice a week in the pool at Brodie Rec center which is a fantastic way to learn and build skills, strength, balance and confidence. There is nothing like being outside on open water on a SUP though and this past weekend we got to take all of our skills, knowledge and practice to the great outdoors and Jordan Lake. Despite the warm 80 degree air temps, the water was still a bit cool and very choppy. My group of SUPerstars was not deterred by the rough chop or the cold water. They came to SUP and so we did. It was a fabulous afternoon and I am so grateful for the chance to share this sport with such enthusiastic, interested and energetic students. Thank you all.
I've been thinking about body-image and self-image recently...sparked by some conversations with friends and students. Found this quote and picture which sums up the attitude I try to have about myself and others. And what I teach my students/clients in the gym and on the yoga mat. Letting go of judgement. Letting go of competition. Letting go of negative self-talk. Celebrating and focusing on all that we can do...all that we are...instead of focusing on what we cannot do...and what or who we are not.
There is a lesson in yoga, Aparigraha, about which I've written and spoken several times. I come back to it A LOT. It means "non-greed", "non-attachment." On the mat it can help us to recognize the individuality and uniqueness of our personal yoga practice. It can teach us that it's possible to admire other students' postures without feeling jealous or envious. It teaches us to meet our body and mind where they are today. Just for today focusing on what we can do and how we feel. Off the mat, the same ideas can hold true. With a gentle awareness, it is possible to let go of jealousy or greed and "admire" strengths, abilities and beauty we each uniquely possess.
It has taken a longggggg while (years) and a lot of personal work to get to a point of unconditional self-love and comfort in my own skin. There are definitely days when that positive self-image might waver. But I'm thankful that there are more days and moments than not when I can be happy for others and their beauty, accomplishments, successes, their whatevers...AND be happy, proud, feel beautiful about myself too.
This quote I'm sharing here reminds me of the laundry room post from a week or so ago. We all have strengths. We all have flaws. We have weaknesses. We have "stuff." We can look at others and wish to be skinnier, prettier, stronger, richer, smarter....like they are. But to what end? If you were suddenly "prettier", then what would happen? You would have no worries? Everything would go your way? I think we know that is not true. If we walk around all day comparing ourselves to others, we lose sight of the amazing and incredible person inside of us. Right now. YOU.
No matter what you might be working on friends, please remember that we are each a work in progress. None of us has it all figured out. We can pick out a goal, set an intention, make a plan....BUT....let's also not lose sight of what we already have done, can do, have accomplished, have achieved.
If you have attended any of my in-person classes, you know that at the end of class, I often ask a question for each person to answer. One of my favorite questions is: "What is one thing that you are proud of that you CAN do...or that you have accomplished...or that you are good at?" We go around the room and it's a lovely way to learn a little more about one another and to highlight something we are proud of. It gives us a chance to "admire" what others can do or who they are without questioning our own abilities. Today friends...I would love for you to pause for a few moments and answer this question for yourself. Think about. Write it down at home or maybe share it here.
Thanks for reading and listening and being a part of this group friends. I admire all of you. :-)
This is our Week 1 of workouts. Follow along with all my videos at BurnAlong.
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When Tim and I were newly married, we moved to Richmond, and were lucky to live about 8 minutes away from one of my uncles and his wonderful family. My Aunt Mary, Uncle Martin and my 4 cousins were generous and consistently thoughtful of us, including us in family dinners, birthday parties, even Christmas morning pictures on their stairs.
Every time I would go to their home, I admired how tidy everything looked. The kitchen was warm and cozy...the family room was all picked up... there were no bills, papers, messes anywhere. It was perfect. One night I finally asked my aunt, "How do you keep everything so neat?" And she laughed and said "Oh Maria...thats what the laundry room is for. Have you looked in there?" I laughed and admittedly took a peak and did in fact confirm that there was quite a bit of stuff in there...outta sight, hidden behind the door.
Fifteen years later, this memory has stuck with me for three reasons. First, it was very sound and helpful advice that I definitely tried soon after. Gather up all your things, toss them in the other room, shut the door. Outta sight, outta mind. Voila. Clean house. Second, beyond the superficial housekeeping benefits, I appreciated even more that my aunt was honest about her mess. She had the same piles and clutter that I had...she just moved them out of sight when guests were arriving. She didn't pretend. She was real. She told me her mess was just behind the laundry room door.
The third reason I won't forget is that during that time of living in Richmond, I experienced the scariest, life-changing health scare of my life to that point. My challenges with Crohn's are well-documented elsewhere but one of the biggest learning lessons of my battles with this disease has been the discovery that "everyone has something." No matter what we look like, how old we are, how many times we go to the gym, how much money we have, how much school we have attended. We all have a battle, a challenge, a backstory, a "something." We all have stuff. It’s our stuff.
And most of us have our own internal "laundry room." The place we put our stuff, our stories, our secrets. A place where we tuck it all away. Some of us might feel comfortable opening that door to others; some of us keep it closed from public eye.
I share this today because that laundry room conversation taught me that we cannot judge others by the way they look or appear. And we cannot judge ourselves against how others look or appear. Everyone has something. Until my aunt told me that she sticks all her piles into the laundry room, I compared myself to her every time I sat in the kitchen. “Why can’t I seem to get organized?” “Why does my life look like such a mess?” Fifteen years ago there was no social media but I liken this situation to how we can flip through pictures on facebook, instagram, snapchat and think “Why don’t I look like that?” “He sure does have his act together.” “Oh gosh..another perfect family picture.” “Wow her house is always neat.”
I ran into someone a few weeks ago and after exchanging pleasantries she said, “Gosh you are really doing well. I love all your pictures and posts. Looks like you’ve really got it all figure out.” I burst out laughing. I don’t think I or anyone will ever have it all figured out. We can present an image, a persona, a snapshot in time but that in no way defines or represents the whole picture. And that’s okay. It’s our choice what clutter and messes we share and don’t share. BUT....we gotta remember the laundry room lesson when we start the judging and making comparisons. It does us little good to compare how we feel, look, act based on our perception of someone else’s image. That perfect person you see? She has a laundry room. That rich celebrity? He has a laundry room. That perfect house. There’s a laundry room in there.
The laundry room lesson is one of understanding, honesty and compassion. Understand that we are all working on something. Life is messy. We clean up as best we can and sometimes we do a great job and other times not so much. When possible, be honest with ourselves and others...even if it’s just one or two trusted friends. My aunt had no idea how grateful I was for her honesty that day long ago but clearly it made an impact. Have compassion for ourselves and others. I often think of that phrase “everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. be kind. always.” Before we judge others, remember that we all have challenges. Before we compare ourselves to others, remember we all have a laundry room.
For those of you who made it this far in my blog post, thank you. This was a long one. I wrote this as a reminder to all of us that we are each working on something. Do your best to let go of judgement and comparisons..of yourself and others. You are each YOU and that is fabulous.
Finally....thank you to my aunt Mary for teaching me about the laundry room. xoxo I have shared this story and metaphor with several yoga classes and students over the years and I wanted you to finally know. :-)
Back on New Year's Eve, I shared this quote/picture on instagram and my fitness FB page. The quote was taped to the mirror where I get my hair done and was something that I needed to see and read in that moment. At the time I was feeling pretty negative and unproductive with some career goals and It was like the universe knew I needed a swift kick in the butt. A reset of my mindset. It worked. The next weekend I started shooting video for my online workouts and putting some other plans in motion.
Today I was back in the same chair at the salon, looking at the same quote and thinking, this is perfect for our Spring Training Challenge. Whatever your reason for jumping in with us, it's time for you to take care of you! No more judging, comparing, complaining. Work with what you got! Like we said on Day Two, let go of the past, be present today, and create space for your intention/plans to manifest.
We are four days into this challenge and we are getting ready to ramp things up. Fitness and wellness are always my focus with these challenges. What I've learned over many years in this career though is that fitness and wellness come in many forms beyond just the physical. Just as I do with my clients and students, I like to start off with mindset preparation, refection and goal-setting discussion before jumping into workouts or more intense tasks.
Intentional Task for tonight/tomorrow:
As we wind down the week here on Friday and enter the weekend, please think about one or two goals you are going to work on over the next 4 weeks. They could be big giant huge goals...or maybe something smaller. Your intentional task for today or tomorrow is just to write these down. Big or small, we will work on them together.
On Sunday evening, I will post a week of workout ideas and nutrition suggestions, as well as a week's worth of recommended videos from my BurnAlong site for your first full week of fitness and movement. If you want to join BurnAlong to be able to view all of my videos, you can check it out at www.burnalong.com. There is an option to do a free trial. You can also get a year's membership for 49.00 using my discount code MFF49. You do not have to join BurnAlong to be a part of this challenge! You will have to join if you want full access to all the workouts. Let me know if you have questions about any of that.
Have a great evening friends.
Just for today.....
I don't know where and when I started using this phrase in my teaching. One day these words were just there. Three little words...."just for today." Examples....”Just for today...we can drop the knee into low lunge if that feels better.” “Choosing child’s pose instead of down dog...just for today.” “Just for today, taking our intention from our mat into the rest of our evening.”
Yesterday I watched/listened to one of my own yoga workouts at the gym. This is not only for quality-control :-), but also a chance for me to “take a class” and not have to think...just follow. I heard myself say "Just for today" several times and it was a unique position to be in; hearing my own words in my headphones while I moved through my yoga flow. Even though I preach it and teach it, yesterday was one of the first times I actually got to experience and feel the meaning of those three little words in a class and it was pretty powerful. “Just for today” gives us permission to take things at our own perfect pace. I didn’t have the energy to hold my high lunge posture so I had the freedom to drop to a knee “just for today.”
Taking this idea off the mat and into life, “just for today” allows us to take something that might seem difficult, overwhelming, or challenging and make it a little less intense or stressful. Sometimes we can get so caught up in what we ought to do, perceive we should do, are supposed to do....that we neglect to listen to our bodies and our intuition. “Just for today” takes the pressure off the “should’ve/would’ve/gotta” mentality and let’s us determine what actually feels right at that moment. “Just for today I am going to spend 30 minutes reading a book.” “Just for today I’m hitting snooze twice.” “Just for today, I’m going to accomplish 2 things on my to-do list instead of all 15!”
This spring training challenge is all about YOU and working on some of your own goals whether they are physical, work-related, emotional, etc. On Day one we reflected on aspects of our lives where we might feel imbalance. On Day two we wrote down some intentions. At this point, it all might seem overwhelming already and we haven’t even gotten through day three!
That’s where “Just for today” comes into play.
Today’s intentional task:
1. Think about some of your goals you are starting to set. Think about some of the reasons why you are participating in this challenge.
2. Though you might have big, broad, ambitious goals, let’s see if we can take any one of these ideas and create a smaller, attainable part of it using a “just for today” sentence.
Example: I need more sleep. “Just for today, I’m going to stop whatever I’m going at 10pm and get myself into bed by 10:15pm.”
Write your “Just for today” sentence somewhere you can see it.
Have a lovely evening friends. Thank you for being a part of this challenge. I can feel the buzz of energy from all of you and I'm so excited to be in this together with you.
I am hoping that Mother Nature read my post yesterday and realizes that after all this snow and cold and rain, we need some balance with sun, blue skies and warm temps. Soon!
Hope you are all doing well and for those of you on the east coast, you are staying warm, cozy, and safe today in this winter/spring weather.
Yesterday I taught a "Mini-Yoga Mala" to my college students. On the equinox and solstice, it is common tradition to practice a Mala which is 108 sun salutations. Since I only have 75 minutes with my students, I offered them an abbreviated version of 27 sun salutations. Three rounds of 9 salutations each. We used "balance" as our overarching theme for class and then had a separate dedication for each of the three rounds.
Today I share these three dedications with you as a framework for establishing some balance. Remember that the beginning of this challenge is all about creating a healthy mindset and keeping it all simple.
Here are the three dedications:
*Let go of the past.*
*Practice being present.*
*Practice patience and create space for our intentions to manifest."
1. Think about what you wrote or considered yesterday. Where and what are the imbalances that you hope to work on?
2. Set aside 5 minutes today to create three statements using these intentions and the area of imbalance.
My imbalance is sleep. I need more to balance what I do during the day.
Here are my three intentions:
1. I intend to let go of past habits of staying up late to do work, answer emails, read messages on my phone.
2. I intend to listen to my body's cues and go to bed when I'm tired (of course this is after my children are tucked in...which means I gotta get them to bed earlier too!) :-)
3. I intend to make small changes to my schedule and my nightly routine to let my sleep habits improve over time.
1. Maybe you already exercised or worked out today or maybe not. If it's still on your "to-do" list.....get 20 minutes of movement into your day somehow. Use my ideas from yesterday or make time for the gym, a walk, or some snow-shoveling!
Have lovely afternoon.
Here we go friends. First day of Spring and our Spring challenge.
These first few days will be all about mindset and simple acts.
Today is the vernal equinox which means equal night and therefore most of us will have 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night. Balance. In the fall we get another day like this called the autumnal equinox. Balance.
I hear this word "balance" all of the time. It frequently comes up in conversations with friends, family, clients, and students. "It's hard to find work-life balance." "I'm trying to balance my job and school." "Gotta balance my budget." "Can you balance on one foot?" "I lost my balance and fell."
Seems like a lot of people are striving for balance whether it's to feel more stable, calm, steady, less-stressed, etc. It's not an easy task. Between work, family, school, finances, personal health, and more, it can almost seem unattainable to feel "balanced." I mean if we use the earth and sun as our models, it's even challenging for these two celestial bodies. There are only 2 days out of the entire year when they are in "perfect balance."
This week we will take time to consider this idea of balance and what it means to us in our daily lives. The Spring Training challenge is all about YOU and working on something in your life for 30 days....with the support of all the other awesome participants here. I'm going to give you suggestions, ideas, motivation each day and help you with accountability. It's the first day of Spring and a chance for a refreshed mindset, a clean slate and an opportunity to create positive and healthy change. And maybe find some balance. :-)
(there are two...one intention and one physical)....
1. Set aside 5 minutes to reflect on your day, your week, your year so far. Is there anything that feels perhaps out of balance? Is the see-saw tipped in one direction more than the other?
2. Identify one or two aspects that might feel out of balance. 3. Create a statement that can take these areas of imbalance and spin them in a positive and intentional way.
4. Write it down. Somewhere you can see it. Or share it to our group facebook or instagram page.
Let the statement start like this: "I would like more balance...
Example of imbalance: "I am usually exhausted everyday."
Balance Statement: "I would like to have more balance between sleep and awake time so I can feel healthier and more present during the day."
1. Move your body today for at least 20 minutes. Go for a walk, jog, bike ride. Do 20 minutes of yoga. Take the stairs all day at work. Do squats and lunges every 10 minutes at your desk. Move your body on purpose for 20 minutes.
I've got lots of fun planned for you over the next few weeks. Today we keep it super simple.
1-2 statements and 20 minutes of movement.
Have a fantastic day and Happy Spring.
I wrote and posted this several years ago however I recently was speaking about Ahimsa to my yoga students and thought I'd bring it back as a gentle reminder to be kind to ourselves.
Don’t Talk That Way About My Wife.
Two years ago, a friend of ours (let’s call him Matt) came over to borrow our bike pump. He and his wife (let’s call her Jane) were going to start biking as a way to get back into exercise. They dragged their bikes out of the garage and had flats in all the tires. We loaned the bike pump to them and they proceeded to inflate their tires in our driveway. As they talked about biking and going for a ride, Jane made a derogatory comment about her size, her weight gain and riding the bike. Without missing a beat, Matt looked up from the bike pump, stared her straight in the eye and said: “Don’t talk that way about my wife.”
A bunch of thoughts flew through my head as soon as I overheard Matt’s words.
First thought: “Awwwww….what a sweet, good husband.”
Second thought: “What an amazing way to gently point out to someone how hard they are being on themselves.”
Third thought: “Isn’t it sad how easily and readily we can be hard on ourselves? Putting ourselves down and saying things that we would likely never say to a friend, family member or even a stranger.”
Would Jane ever walk up to her neighbor who was going to ride a bike and say “Your fat butt is not going to fit on that seat” ? My money is on NO. She would never ever say that in a million years to another human. So why could she say it so easily about herself?
Now in Jane’s defense, she was likely nervous and a little uncomfortable. Making fun of herself could’ve been the easier thing to do than to admit that she was anxious. And to her credit, she got on that bike, went for her ride, and that was the start of what eventually became a total body transformation for Jane. But what has always struck me about that encounter were her words and what her husband said to her. “Don’t talk that way about my wife.”
We, all of us, need to stop bullying ourselves. I hear women and men almost daily talk negatively about their bodies and minds. “I’m too fat to work out.” “I’m slower than you.” “I’ll never look like that.” “I’m disgusted by the scale.” I’m gross.” “I’m ugly.” “I’m not smart enough, thin enough, tall enough, fast enough, strong enough, etc." Fill in the blank. Just typing these insults makes me feel like crying. These are hurtful, unkind words, yet why can so many of us go there in our heads so easily? Again. . I would bet my house that none of you would say any of these words about your friends, your kids, your spouses.
As a parent and a former school teacher, I have had a lot of anti-bullying education. We teach our kids about bullying and how to report bullies, how to stick up for the kid who is getting picked on. But what do we do when the bully is us? And we are picking on ourselves?
DON’T TALK THAT WAY ABOUT MY WIFE.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali offers 10 guidelines for living a yogic lifestyle. The Yamas and the Niyamas. If you have been in any of my classes, you have heard me talk A LOT about the first Yama, “Ahimsa.” Ahimsa means non-violence. Non-violence in our thoughts and actions. Another word for non-violence is kindness. Kindness in our thoughts and actions. Initially, many of us might interpret this as being good to others. Treating others with kindness and love. Trying not to hurt others. However. in order for us to love and show kindness to anyone else, doesn’t it make sense that we have to be kind and good to ourselves first?
There was a time in my life, back in my teens and through my 20’s, when I would pinch the skin on my waist and feel disgusted. Others would see it as skin, but I saw it as fat. Even though I have always been athletic and fit, I was able to find things wrong with myself physically. If anyone could’ve eavesdropped on my mental conversations, they would’ve been shocked at how hurtful and cruel I could be to myself. Retrospectively, I chalk a lot of this up to youthful body image issues, low self-esteem, trying to figure out who I was, how I fit in. Without delving too deeply into my psyche, I’m grateful, so very grateful that I have been able to shift my perception of myself over the years. Yoga, having kids, facing down a life-threatening illness have all helped me quiet that negative self-talk and encourage my more complimentary and positive mind-chatter. Getting to this point required me to shift my focus towards all that I COULD do…..all the positive aspects of my life…and softly move away from those negative thoughts. Without knowing it, I have thankfully adapted my friend’s attitude and I try to speak to myself the way I would talk to a friend or loved one.
DON’T TALK THAT WAY ABOUT MY WIFE.
Today I challenge you to shift the way that you think about yourself and the way that you look at yourself. If you feel some negative chatter floating to the surface, see if another thought can intervene. How can you spin that mean thought into a kinder, softer one? Think about what you would tell a friend. Think how nice you would be if you were talking to your child, your neighbor, your grandmother.
Be good to yourselves in your thoughts and actions friends. Try it. You will like it.
Welcome and thank you for visiting this site. I'm happy and grateful to have a place where I can write about fitness and wellness. In addition to blogging about exercise and sharing workouts, I also use this space to tell 200-word stories about the inspiring and amazing people I encounter in this career. I look forward to sharing as many of these journeys as possible, and would love to hear from you if you would like me to tell your story. You can contact me anytime. Thank you so much for your interest and your effort. Think fit...be fit...stay fit! You are stronger than you think. #STYT