Yoga: The ultimate in ATTAINABLE amazingness.

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embracethewobble:

A fun re-read of a post from three years ago….funny how when you put something out there and profess your passion for it, it can’t help but come to pass!

Originally posted on Embrace The Wobble:

What is up with the great yoga mystique, anyway?

I’ve never had a desire to study with the masters in India. Living in an ashram and dedicating myself to things like poverty, meditation, separation of the senses, completely different eating patterns, and eventually, hopefully, after much work, study, and dedication–Nirvana—that’s for those wacky but lovable yoga zealots. More power to them, and I’m glad someonewants to work that hard.

Me, I’ll take my yoga with laughter, friends, lots of falling down, and little tastes of ecstasy here and there. Take my class yesterday. 5 people, 6 if you include me as the coach. Picture a small studio with 3 guys–generally pretty fit in different ways, 2 gals–one of whom was very sore from a boot camp workout earlier in the week, and one very pregnant teacher. None of the students had much yoga experience, but all were game for…

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I didn’t find Yoga. Yoga Found Me.

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If I had to write a headline to describe how Embrace The Wobble Yoga came to be, I would say: “Former high-school jock opens yoga studio on her own terms.”

I’ve been in exercise for a Very. Long. Time. And yet, I’m not 85. I’m a little reluctant to tell prospective clients how much experience I’ve had in the biz, lest they think there are cobwebs on my dumbbells. I started out as a fitness instructor at the tender age of 17. I did it because I desperately needed a place to fit.

I played basketball, volleyball, and I skied in high school. I quit sports my senior year because I got so tired of the coaching and the run-harder-till-you-get-it-right mentality prevalent in most school athletic programs. I was also a band geek in the top 5% of my high school class and SUCH an in-betweener. Our graduating class had seven—SEVEN—valedictorians. Our boys’ basketball team went to state two years in a row, and our music program was selected to perform for the big Minnesota teacher convention. I was a mediocre fish in an ocean full of huge, flashy dolphins.

My story is not unique. I just did NOT blend well, despite my constant effort to find a tribe. Sure, I sat with people at lunch and went to the prom. I dated a bit and knew a lot of people to say “hi” to in the halls. I also spent many weekends alone, on the fringes of the groups that did cool things, regardless of how popular they were. I’ve always felt a little socially awkward and out of place—too much or not enough, and always, always at the wrong time.

So, when I found the microphone on MY head in front of a step aerobics class at the local YMCA, no one was more surprised than me. However, I discovered something there. People were looking to me for leadership, sweat, and excitement— they trusted me (ME!) to provide them with a fun end to, or an energizing beginning to yet another day of life. Wow. Mediocrity evaporated as I threw my heart and soul into music selection and movement programming!

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was about to create a career out of something many folks view as a source of pizza money. I spent the rest of high school, college, and beyond churning out endless cycling, step, strength, circuit, interval, and dance classes. I studied anatomy and physiology. I got lots of fitness certifications. I worked with private clients, I lead instructor teams, and I became an educator for other instructors, all before the age of 25, when injury stopped me in my tracks.

What happened is, I sprained my butt. Well, sort of. My one and only foray into snowboarding was the final straw on the overloaded camel. All of a sudden, I couldn’t do anything without a lot of pain—walking, lifting, pedaling—they all became just impossible. I tried everything—medication, chiropractic, massage, body-scans—no one could really give me a definitive diagnosis or effective treatment. What I found out after some rest and a lot of frustration was that my body needed something really different. Enter Yoga.

A benevolent instructor at my gym showed me 3 poses that quite literally saved my ass. They were Half-Pigeon, Down Dog, and Pyramid Pose. (Forgive me, yoga instructors. I’ve never been too great with all the Sanskrit. I just remember the ones that are fun to say.)

Still reluctant and scared to make a true change, I continued to teach like a maniac, now with a yoga “Band-Aid” for my boo-boo. I still viewed yoga as a pretend workout and completely without purpose except as a therapeutic (said with a down-the-nose look of disdain) tool and only to be used when absolutely necessary.

It would take a couple more years for me to see the light–the small blue light of meditation and stillness and wonderfulness and inclusivity that is yoga.

My first full yoga class was eye-opening to say the least. At the time, I was managing a team of instructors at a large gym, and felt like I should have a working knowledge of the class just in case I was ever asked to sub. I have always been pretty flexible, so the stretching part wasn’t a stretch, so to speak. However, I was so surprised to find myself so sore (in a good way) the morning after class, that I gave new respect to the practice. (Thank you Michael, my first teacher—a reformed Wall Street investment banker.) Yoga was speaking to me in the only way I could listen at the time. “When the student is ready……” and all that jazz, I guess, right? This was a workout! Hooray!

Before long, I got on the road to becoming a full-fledged yoga teacher– took FOREVER, but I got there. 11 years, hundreds of students, and over 1000 teaching hours later, here’s what I’ve learned about yoga:

Yoga is my tribe. Yoga is where I fit. Yoga doesn’t care if I’m pregnant, fat, thin, or depressed, or male, or female, or a little green alien. It doesn’t care if I’m stressed or tired or introverted or extroverted. Yoga doesn’t care if I had 12 candy bars to eat today or 5 gallons of green juice to drink.

Yoga offers me acceptance. Yoga buoys me up when I just want to die or cry or give up. Yoga chills me out. Yoga works me out when I want it to and it calms me when I need it and yoga asks me to connect—with myself and others. Yoga is there when all I want to do is be alone.

Yoga forces me to observe and be in my own process. Yoga transforms me. Yoga asks me to breathe. Yoga is the Wobble between the extremes—the sublime meeting place where all the chaos can become centered for a beautiful moment. Yoga reminds us of who we truly are.

The people who do yoga all know this, on one level or the other, and because we all know this, yoga class is never awkward. Even when someone farts. I finally feel anything BUT in between. I am totally at home with yoga.

I don’t do yoga anymore to lose weight or gain strength or look better in my clothes. Those are just fringe benefits now. I do yoga because we are friends. Yoga and I have finally created the home I have always wanted. I opened a studio because I want to share my home with all who wish to be invited in.

Come and let me show you how awesome mindful movement, fantastic music, and passionate teaching feel. Come and let yourself know the thrill of being part of the Wobble community—we laugh a lot. We cheer a lot. We fall down sometimes when we Wobble—the best yoga reflects life, after all.

So. Come with me. Join our party. Allow yourself to feel amazing. Accept that you deserve this kind of bliss. I’m here to tell you that you DO deserve it. Choose now to come Embrace The Wobble with me. Our class schedule is a click away at http://www.embracethewobble.com  and there is a mat here with your name on it.

You are truly welcome.

_MG_6209Leah

An Open Letter to 5:30am

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Dear 5:30am:

Thank you for this quiet house when I first wake up.  For the inclination to tip-toe through my wake up ritual (scoop my pile of clothes off the dresser in the dark—laid out with care the night before so I don’t need the light), float up the stairs and walk like a sleepy ninja through the house, preserving the peace and my own solitude.

Thank you for a bowl of cereal to get the juices flowing, and thanks even for the stiffness in my spine—this discomfort makes me present in my own skin and reminds me to take care of myself—-that I am not superwoman and my body is a treasure to be cared for and nurtured—that I only have this one body and I better make sure the warranty never expires–even with weight that fluctuates and places that are beginning to show the effects of gravity after nearly 40 years.

Thank you for the chill of fall that greets me only a few minutes after waking.  Time to go to work.

Thank you, 5:30am, for the others that know you intimately and who trudge into the studio to do something healthy.  I love the community you create before sunrise.  The sleepy smiles, (or sometimes the zombie stares) the quiet routine of assembling mats and equipment—everyone still peaceful and also resigned to the tasks at hand.  Thanks for the trust these folks place in me to rev them up and into their day safely, with challenge and encouragement and camaraderie.

Thank you, 5:30am for the movement of our bodies.  You remind us to be extra gentle and that we all need a little extra time to get moving during this hour.  You let us know that if we ask instead of forcing—if we listen instead of order, our bodies will thank us and we will have an amazing experience with this movement.  We will sweat, we will lift, we will work, and finally, we will relax, now ready to move ahead into the rest of a busy day.  We’ve created anew this inner relationship and affirmed the same in a few others who think alike.

Thank you 5:30am, as your hour begins to wane, for the reward of the taste of sunrise, coloring the sky in hints of purple, orange, and red—belying the potential of the daylight, underlining the possibilities of this day.  Now our foundation is built…..what will we construct on top?  Which layers will be laid next?  The house?  The Spouse?  The Children?  They will all benefit from the relationship that you and I have, 5:30am.

Thank you, 5:30am, for the ticking clock breaking the silence as I tap out these words—-just a few more precious moments to fill my cup.  I know you will always be here for me, waiting and available, accepting me unconditionally and ready to walk with me unfailingly.  You are perhaps the only thing that is constant and completely abiding.  I thought I would hate you when  we first met.  I never imagined this relationship could be a gift, after all.

I’m so glad to know you, 5:30am.  See you again very soon.

Leah

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Keep your friends close and your trainer closer…..

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IMG_20140730_135309So, I had a brilliant plan. Work first-and-foremost on building my class numbers and student base, THEN focus in on personal training. Linear, clean, purposeful, focused, right? It’s the way I always think I work the best. Why, then, does it work out that all my plans pile up on each other and everything happens at once? I’m sure I engineer it that way, just like we all do with our lives. One of my favorite quotes is “We plan, God laughs.”

I find myself currently working with 3 private clients all at once. One of which has me scheduled every morning at 5:30am. (Thank God I liked her immediately and she’s very dedicated—-plus she does everything I tell her to do—the two very best qualities in a student.)

Ergo, this post is about How To Choose A (Great) Trainer. This is everything you need to know before committing your body, your time, and your money to someone who is in charge of your wellness and/or torture for the next however long. Having worked 20+ years as a hiring manager for fitness teams both large and small, these are the criteria I used to make hiring decisions and these are the standards I use on myself to stay qualified and current with my skills and practices.

1. Find someone who is certified. Like, really certified. From somewhere other than the internet. Some of the best orgs out there are the following: NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association) NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine), ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine), Cooper Institute, ACE(American Council on Exercise). These companies require rigorous study and extensive examinations in order to hold a cert. They also require lots (at least 15 hours per year) of continuing education in order to remain certified. Which brings us to……

2. Ask your potential trainer what was the last continuing ed course or event he/she attended. This will give you some insight into the interest and passion of your trainer and help you decide if her interests are going to mesh with your goals.

3. Ask about procedure and paperwork. If the trainer is willing to throw down a workout for you on the spot without asking a ton of questions about your history, injuries, illnesses, meds, etc, you are dealing with an amateur. Professional trainers should give you a medical history questionnaire, a release/waiver of liability, and have some kind of session tracking form with which to catalog the exercises he/she chooses for you. It’s okay if it’s all online, but you should see what everything looks like. Attention to this kind of detail means the trainer will also likely be attentive to YOU and care that you are getting great service.  A non-exercise consult is where most of this info should be covered.  And, generally most trainers should offer a consult with little to no fee.  (If you got a great consult and want to compensate an independent trainer for their time, it is certainly appreciated, though.)

4.  Experience is key!  New trainers need clients, of course, in order to gain experience.  But, do you YOU want to be the guinea pig for a first-time trainer?  If you are considering hiring someone new to the biz, find out if they have at least done some shadowing/apprenticing under an experienced trainer.  Even an internship can provide valuable OTJ training for the burgeoning young (or old!) trainer.  Check out your trainer’s background before you let him tell you what to do.  If you are heading to a big gym with a large trainer team and you are hiring an inexperienced trainer, ask if another trainer can participate in the first couple sessions and provide feedback or double-check the workout plan that the newbie has created for safety and efficacy.

5. Personality, personality, personality.  Are you quiet?  Outgoing?  Shy? Self-conscious?  Energized?  Introspective?  Crazy?  Interview enough trainers to find the one or few with whom you click.  There must be some chemistry and FUN going on in order for you to get the best result and for your trainer to really look forward to working with and FOR you.  If you’re going to work hard and make tough lifestyle changes, don’t you at least want to look forward to the couple of hours per week you spend with your coach?  Your PT appointments, though challenging, should be a bright spot in your week because of the relationship you create together.  (Which, it goes without saying, should NOT cross professional boundaries or feel yucky, creepy, too flirtatious,  or unsafe.)  Of course, we hear about trainers dating clients, etc.  Hard to regulate, and you can’t dictate love, certainly.  You CAN, however, choose the timing of your actions.  Any flirting or dating should only take place after the professional relationship has ended, if at all.

Alrighty!  You are now equipped to go out there and start interviewing the trainer who will truly help you change your life.  The highest compliment I have ever received as a trainer is this:  “Leah, you have become the voice in my head exactly when I need it.”  Good trainers stay with you long after you have stopped paying them for their services.  Find someone who will educate, inspire, and support you as you learn good tools to manage ON YOUR OWN, eventually.  Keep that person in your life for as long as you can.  You will not regret it.

Take care, and Wobble On!

Leah:)

 

Wobbling with your community

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Evenin’ folks. I’m sitting here enjoying the sunshine-after-rain smell tonight. I love how summer days in Minnesota last until around 10pm.

Know what I also love? Doing things that make a difference. This post has only one point: to get you to take a yoga class tomorrow and support your community.

Why not be honest right from the get-go?  I want people in my studio on mats tomorrow, and I want you to pay to come.  We have a cool project going on.  Each month at Embrace The Wobble Yoga from here until forever, we are selecting a local non-profit to highlight and assist.  Half of the per-head profits made from all Tuesday classes for July will be split with……drumroll please……

Dinner at Your Door of Robbinsdale, MN!

Here’s some of the low-down from Julie, a woman who serves on their board: 

Northwest Dinner At Your Door, a non-profit affiliate of Meals on Wheels, delivers nutritious, hot midday meals Monday through Friday to the elderly, shut-ins, and infirm in Robbinsdale, Crystal, New Hope, Golden Valley, and eastern Plymouth.  Our mission is to allow those who cannot cook for themselves to remain independent and healthy as long as they can. Dinner At Your Door  was awarded the Robbinsdale Chamber of Commerce’s Community Service Award in 2012.  All our drivers are volunteers.  For more information about Dinner At Your Door or to become a volunteer driver, please call 763-531-1183.

Why are we partnering with Dinner At Your Door?  Because the foundation of this yoga studio is community.  Community with yourself, community with your class, and community in your community.  (How ’bout I use the word “community” about 700 more times?)

Being part of something larger than yourself is very “yoga”.   There’s a whole limb of the practice dedicated to service.  Mostly, we don’t care about the yoga-ness of this collaboration–we love the fact that it just feels good to do it. 

I would like nothing better than to hand these great, selfless, dedicated folks a nice big check at the end of the month, but I need your help to do it.  Please share this post with your network and on your facebook page.  All Tuesday profits for July get split with this org.  You have FOUR chances to make it happen!

Class registrations can be made at http://www.embracethewobble.com.  Walk-ins are welcome, and you can pay in cash at the door or in advance online. 

Who knows?  Perhaps next month I will be writing this post about a charity near and dear to your heart.  We are still taking suggestions/requests for orgs for the remainder of the year. 

Here is another reason we are doing this.  Meet Bailey—one of our young Wobblers.  She likes to have her birthday parties at places where she can volunteer her time.  She is a terrific example of what big things we can accomplish together when we all sign up for a small part. 

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Thanks, everyone.  See you tomorrow.

 

A Wobble Tribute…..for Luella.

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Tonight  I am honoring my grandmother who passed away this weekend,  at the very tender old age of 93.  Keep reading, because this post is not about her dying process (though that was an honor to be part of), or tearfully recounting all the special memories I had with her (though there are more than I could ever list.)

This post is to serve as a how-to method for living your life the way you want to until the very, very end.

Grandma exercised. 

I grew up doing tons of active things with my active grandma.  She watched me a lot while my folks were working, and she took me along to everything that she was part of.  I was her sidekick for all of the following at some point in my young life: 

  • bowling league
  • cross-country skiing
  • walks to get ice cream
  • 1980’s-living-room-exercise-sessions-performed-to-a-record-on-the-turn-table-complete-with-leotards-and-pantyhose-with-all-the-neighbor-ladies
  • endless rounds being her golf caddy, (she had this little stool-thingy that folded down on her golf bag for me to sit on during the putting, and we NEVER rode in a cart) 

and of course, let’s not forget the–

  • weekends of dancing to Bobby Arrow and his polka band at the Elbow Room Lounge—starting when I was 5. 

Are you starting to get the picture?  Grandma Luella liked moving. A lot.  Her weight-lifting regime included a 900-pound Electrolux upright vacuum that she sometimes asked me to push around as well.  We baked.  We cleaned.  We played cards.  We went to church.  We hiked and picnicked.  We tooled up and down the California coast on foot and in the car for one special trip.

She even trekked around Nepal earlier in her life…..I mean, what DIDN”T this woman do? 

Anyway, because of her active approach to life, my grandma lived independently up until the end.  Sure, she had a few setbacks here and there—her vision started to go in her last few years, and she had to stop golfing around age 85 or so.  She used a cane, and later a walker to help her get around these last several years.  However, she still went to the fitness center in her apartment building at LEAST 3 times per week unless she was ill or injured.  (She tended to fall and bump her head a bunch, but she was so short that she bounced fairly well–ask me sometime for more stories…….) 

The most impressive recent (and relevant) memory I have of her is from Easter Sunday this year.   We had to park on the lower entrance of our church because were a little late getting to the service.  I was preparing to have to piggy-back her (or something) up a short flight of stairs to get to the elevator to the sanctuary.  I had taken her walker up and shouted back to her to wait for me to give her a hand.  When I turned back around, she had climbed almost all the way up the stairs under her own steam.  If there were ever a time I saw the benefit of consistent exercise, that memory holds the number-one spot. 

At 93,  Luella’s heart was getting a little tired (you think?) and she was starting to lose more of her balance and not be able to get up if she fell.  Not to mention her deteriorating eyesight.  Even so, she continued to attend symphony concerts, movies, and dinner outings with friends and family, charging around and knocking aside anyone in her way with her dexterous use of the walker.

I had asked her, several months ago how her health was.  She replied “They tell me I may live another 10 years.  I don’t know that I want to stick around that long.”  I totally get it.  She had done pretty much everything.  She raised 4 amazing kids (love you Dad and Uncles and Auntie!) she cavorted with 8 amazing grandkids and 11 great grandkids.  She made countless Christmas cookies and sank hundreds, if not thousands of puts (“keep your darn head DOWN” was her favorite mantra on the links.)

My Grandma has been one of my mort important role models for my personal health and wellness, my career, and how I want to live out the rest of my life.  That is perhaps the greatest gift of all.  I hope that I am her when I grow up. 

 The moral of the story is this:  Grandma MOVED it, and so therefore she didn’t ever LOSE it.

Cheers to you, Grandma Luella.   Perhaps the best Wobbler I’ve ever met.

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The 5 yoga poses you should absolutely do.

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Morning Wobblers!

I’ve been advised by my marketing team to showcase my “skills” and become a “thought leader” with my blog.  I guess I DO have a fair bit of experience (21 years!) of training folks and teaching classes that get results.  So, I thought I give you all the skinny on what I tell every student as they are getting started on their journey—I even have how-to photos!  So read, do, and enjoy!

(Oh, and also check with your Doctor before starting this or any exercise program, as well as walk around or dance or walk your dog or ferret or something for 5-10 minutes before diving right into these moves. If something hurts, STOP doing it!)

1.  Plank.  Here’s what it looks like:

This pose is amazing for several reasons.  Doing it properly means that you strengthen practically the entire front of your body, with special emphasis on the abdominals, quadriceps (front of your thighs), chest, and shoulders.  Notice how our model’s back is so flat you could balance a glass of water up there?  Yeah, so pull your belly button in and up a little more!  Hold for as long as you can and remember to breathe! 

2.  Bridge

This move is a great strengthener for the REAR of the body.  Most people can do it comfortably.  When your tail is up in the air, try squeezing those cheek muscles together.  Be sure to keep a comfortable range of motion for the lower spine.  You should feel a muscle squeeze in the back—NOT pain or strain.  Hold as long as you can, or lower and lift a few times like the picture.  Breathe. (notice a common theme here?  Breathing is important!)

3. Warrior II  (yeah, even pregnant mamas can do this one!) (And, no, that’s not a current photo.)

This exercise is great for leg strength.  Notice how the knee is lined up right over the foot?  Right, make sure to do that.  Bend your front knee a lot for intensity/strength, or a little for a gentle experience and a little inner thigh stretch.  The back leg remains straight and supportive.  Also, pull your tushy in and under as much as you can.  (Harder to do if carrying a bowling ball in your tummy, but still worth the effort.)  And now class, everyone say it together:  “breathe!”

4.  Twists.

Don’t worry about pronouncing the name.  Just do the pose.  Why?  Because generally your spine and your abdominals like this one, as well as your internal organs.  Twists “wring” everything out, promote regularity and core muscle (abs and back) flexibility.  Yes, you still have to breathe in this pose.  Notice how your breathing changes though…..your lungs are getting squeezed a bit here.  Hold for as long as your care to.

5.  Balance

Here’s pregnant me again doing tree pose.

Balance is, of course, the essence of The Wobble.  We fire all those little supporting muscles in our pelvic joints when standing on one leg.  We also force ourselves to focus on the task at hand which improves our mental acuity and our brain-body connection.  Our belly muscles tighten (even pregnant ones) and get stronger from the inside out.  (Did you know that you have 4 layers of abdominal muscles?)  Arms can do lots of variations.  If it hurts to have them reaching overhead, try holding them at your sides or parked on your hips.

So, there you go, Wobblers.  A basic practice you can do everyday and strengthen just about every muscle, as well as improve your balance, stress level and mental clarity.  What more could you ask for in one blog post? 

Take care!

Leah:)