Category Archives: Wellness

Yoga 101: Exercise Perfected

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When it comes to the gym, there are usually two goals in mind.

1. Lift something heavy

2. Run on a treadmill to get the heart rate up.

Often times, we skip (or skimp) on another important aspect of fitness….stretching our muscles after we work-out.

If you are looking for a well-rounded work-out and want to get the most bang for your buck, then on option worth exploring is yoga. Depending on the type of class you choose, you may be able to combine weight training (using your own body weight), cardio (flow) and stretching in a single class.

There are many types of yoga to fit the need of every budding yogini. If you believe adding yoga to your work-out regimen would benefit your body, here are descriptions of some of the more popular types of yoga, so that you can find the right one for you. Keep in mind that every posture can be modified, so with a few exceptions, no matter your level of fitness, you can experience great results in most classes.

ASTANGA

Ashtanga is a vinyasa flow class (“vinyasa,” among other things, generally means the sequence of poses you hold). You often move fairly quickly through the poses, which helps work up a sweat. The breath should be linked with the movement. Years ago, there was a belief that Americans didn’t understand Ashtanga yoga, so “Power Yoga” was created. It operates under the same theory, however.

IYENGAR

Iyengar yoga, named for its creator, encourages reaching a deeper level of flexibility by holding poses longer and using props. Alignment is extremely important and adjustments are encouraged due to the extended length of time the poses are held.

VIN

Vin yoga or viniyoga is gentle and restorative. Sometimes used post-injury, this type of yoga still syncs the breath with the movement but will rarely cause you to work up a sweat. 

BIKRAM

Bikram yoga is performed in a room heated to over 100 degrees. It is designed to be a 90-minute class performing 26 specific poses. The theory is that the heat helps your body rid itself of toxins. Some believe the heat also allows the body to reach a deeper stretch. Some critics claim working out in high temperatures can be dangerous and sometimes the body may over-stretch due to the heat.

HATHA

Hatha yoga is generally a mix of various types of yoga. You often may not be able to tell how vigorous the class is just by looking at the schedule, so you may want to inquire as to the instructor’s chosen yoga techniques.

YOGA POSES 101

One pose common to every yoga practice is downward-facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana). Downward dog is such a great pose all by itself (provided your wrists are not giving you trouble). The weight placed on the arms and shoulders helps build upper body strength, it can help ease back pain and loosen stiff hamstrings. Gentler options include dolphin pose or child’s pose. For most vigorous yoga classes, this is your resting pose. Keep in mind if you have high blood pressure, going upside down may not be appropriate for your yoga practice. 

A lot of people complain of hip and back pain. That can sometimes mean that you are plagued by a tight psoas muscle. One-Legged King Pigeon pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana), even modified, is the perfect pose to stretch that muscle. Want to build strong legs? The Warrior pose series (Virabhadrasana I, II, and III) is where you want to head. Need to loosen your hips? Happy baby pose (Ananda Balasana) is a good starting place. Tight lower back? Cobra pose (Bhujangasana) can help you there.

You may be tempted to miss the final few minutes of class, usually reserved for savasana (corpse pose). We often rush through our days, taking little time for ourselves. As challenging as it can be to quiet our mind, savasana helps you reach complete relaxation and is a very important part of yoga practice. It allows our mind, body and spirit to realign. If you are new to yoga, you may not succeed in completely clearing your mind the first few times. However, with practice, this pose may become one of your favorites.

As class carefully rolls out of savasana, many yoga instructors end with chanting or thoughts-of-the-day. Typically, the final word spoken is “Namaste” as hands are brought to heart center and instructor and class bow to each other as a sign of respect. Namaste does literally mean “I bow to you,” however, many instructors explain that it also means that the light in her or him is recognizing the light in each of their students.

Yoga could possibly be the perfect exercise. Most cities and towns have multiple yoga studios with classes for every level. Certainly, you could do any of these poses on your own, but joining a yoga class with an excellent instructor could mean the difference between getting a good work-out and just doing a few stretches. Challenge yourself: take yoga classes three times a week for a month and see if and how it changes your life.

Is yoga part of your exercise regimen? If not, take a class and come back to tell us about it. Please feel free to comment below with your yoga stories!

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Lori is a plus-sized pole dance instructor, #PDBloggers Board Member and writes her own blog called Confessions of a Twirly Girl.

Diet Tips for Performance Days

Diet Tips for Performance Days

I love food. And I don’t discriminate; I love my healthy spinach smoothies and indulgent chocolate ice-cream equally. But before I started pole dancing, I never really paid attention to how certain foods made me feel. The day of my first solo performance I was so nervous that I couldn’t eat all day, then crashed and wolfed down a McDonalds cheeseburger half an hour before going on stage. Bad idea. Two years and many shows later, I have my performance-day diet down to a tee, and today I want to share some of the tips and tricks I have learned with you. 

Drink tons of water


This should be a no-brainer, even on days when you’re not performing, but it still needs to be said. Carry a water bottle everywhere you go, and set a reminder on your phone to go off every hour so that you don’t forget to drink. If you’re dehydrated by as little as 2.5%, your ability to perform high-intensity exercise like pole is reduced by up to 45%. If you are 130lbs, that means that a 3.25lbs drop in body weight from not drinking enough water can make or break that deadlift!

Take your time


While performance days can be stressful, between getting hair and makeup done, making sure that your costume is ready to go, and quietly freaking out about dancing in front of an audience, it is important to slow down when eating. Allow yourself 30 minutes for each meal, and avoid eating on the go. Taking the time to enjoy each meal not only reduces bloating, it also forces you to stop stressing about remembering your choreography!

No carbonated drinks or caffeine


I’m sure there are coffee-lovers who are shaking their head right about now, but hear me out. Carbonated drinks, including diet soda and sparkling water, can cause gas, which means you end up looking and feeling bloated. In addition, soda, coffee, tea, and even most energy drinks, work as diuretics in the body. A diuretic is basically any substance that promotes the production of urine, which means you will have a higher risk of dehydration, so stay away from these on performance days! If you can’t make yourself drink plain water, add slices of lemon, strawberries, or cucumber to your water for a bit of flavor.

Avoid sodium and starches


The worst foods I can eat before a performance is anything high in carbs and sodium, which is why that cheeseburger was such a bad idea. Sodium retains body fluids, leading to a bloated stomach, while starches like bread, potatoes, and pasta are hard to digest. Still your body needs carbohydrates as it’s the biggest energy source for your muscles, so try to include complex carbs in the form of whole wheat toast, bagel, or cereal with your breakfast.

My go-to performance day meals:

Diet Tips for Performance Days

I like starting with the biggest meal of my day, and usually eat a homemade breakfast of scrambled eggs with spinach, chorizo, onions and peppers. It’s a simple recipe where I throw frozen spinach in a pan with some coconut oil and fry over medium high heat, add chorizo, onions, and peppers, and when everything is almost done, crack two eggs in the pan and stir it all together. If you don’t mind the extra fat, throw some shredded cheddar on top! Eat it with a slice of whole wheat toast, and the combination of carbs and protein will keep your energy levels high without giving you a spike in blood sugar.

For lunch I love a giant smoothie, where I throw in a handful of spinach, a whole banana, pineapple, cucumber, frozen raspberries, a cup of water, and shred some ginger on top. If you want something even more filling, make the smoothie with milk or greek yoghurt instead of the water, or add a scoop of protein powder.

Throughout the day I like snacking on fruits, especially melon and bananas, unsalted nuts, or my go-to snack of single packets of almond butter. Make sure you keep that water bottle close by as well! I only eat a dinner before performing if I am going on stage after 10pm, so most of the time I will just skip it. If you do need dinner, eat something light and filling like baked salmon with a salad; again avoiding prepackaged meals or fast food.

The best part of my performance day diet is my post-performance indulgence. The venue I usually perform at serves a 4-cheese pasta dish with bacon and chicken that completely blows my mind. The high carb to protein ratio (you’re going for 4:1!) is optimal for recovery, especially when eaten within 40 minutes of getting off stage. And after seeing months of training and choreographing culminate in your performance, you deserve a big meal!

What do you eat on performance days? And more importantly, what’s your favorite post-show indulgence?

Nina is a pole dance instructor at Vertical Fusion, a #PDBloggers board member, and works as a photographer for all things aerial and/or sensual. Nina also writes at ninareed.com.

8 Little Ways to Show Your Body Love

'Day 28 50mm/50 Days B&W' photo (c) 2008, Dylan Luder - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Photo Credit: Dylan Luder

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We punish, criticize, deny and take them for granted. I’m talking about our bodies. If we were dating our bodies, they would have broken up with us long ago and moved on to partners who appreciated them for the wonders that they are. Today, I want to encourage a loving relationship with our bodies. Take a moment to think about how truly amazing your body is. Really think about all it is capable of. It’s pretty awe-inspiring, right? If you need some suggestions on showing your body how much you care, take a step in a more gracious direction with these gestures of love.

1. Write Down Your Love

Everyday write down something you love about yourself. Really challenge yourself! You can go old school and write your daily notes on pieces of paper and keep it in a jar or, like me, keep a running list on your phone. Push yourself to focus on more than your appearance. Include all the amazing things your body does for you. On days where you are doubting your awesomeness read through your list and remember how incredible you and your body really are!

2. Snuggle Up in Lux Fabrics

Grab your favorite cashmere sweater or cocoon yourself in satin sheets. We are tactile creatures, but we often forget to slow down and really experience our surroundings. Take the time to fully enjoy the sumptuous feeling of soft fabrics on your skin and the natural sensuality it brings out. Make a conscious effort to bring materials into your life that allows you to enjoy your silky soft skin. Avoid fabrics that irritate your skin.

3. Unplug 

Turn Off Your TV/Cellphone/Computer for 30 min a day. I know, I know this is a tough one, but all those “oh so helpful” electronics in our lives are also major contributors of stress. Stress wreaks havoc on the body. It keeps you up at night, drains your energy, and it shows on your face. Treat your body and your mind to 30 minutes a day of quiet stillness. Take 30 minutes a day to remove the strain on your eyes, the hunching of your shoulders over a desk, and feeling the need to be at the immediate beck and call of others. Taking a hiatus will give your mind an opportunity to stop multitasking and rest, leaving you refreshed and ready to take on each new day.

4. Dance Like No One is Watching

Turn off the lights, kick out the cat, and get down with your bad self. Don’t judge, don’t second guess, don’t think! Allow yourself a song (or two) to let your body move to its’ natural flow. If you are a pole dancer you may be tempted to cling to the pole, but do yourself a favor and let go of the security blanket as you let go of your inhibitions. When you move your body, not only will you feel more in tune with yourself, but a burst of exercise will leave you feeling rejuvenated.

5. Sniff Your Body Good

Smell is our strongest sense and is one of the quickest ways to improve your mood and relax your body. When you need a boost, incorporate essential oils into your self care routine with a diffuser, candle, or for bonus “body loving” points, add to a relaxing bath. Use rosemary to fight aches, cramps, and exhaustion. It can also be used topically to relieve muscle aches and pains. Both jasmine and lavender have calming properties and relieve nervous tension. My personal favorite, cinnamon, is a great mood booster and helps relieve fatigue.

6. Stand Tall

Bad posture is one of my biggest pet peeves. Why? Because it is one of the simplest and most effective ways to show pride in your body and many people fail to do so. To start, stand up straight, rolling your shoulders back and squaring them off – your ears, shoulders, and hips should be inline. Your chest will be pushed forward and your stomach pulled in. Make sure your weight is centered on the balls of your feet, not your heels. Good posture not only prevents backaches and pains, but it shows your body off to its’ best advantage.

7. Breathe

This is a simple one so no excuses. Take 5 – 10 deep breathes. That’s it. Allow yourself to focus on each inhale and exhale, relaxing your muscles and centering yourself as you breathe. You will instantly feel calmer and more focused.

8. Say No

How many of us pack our days and nights full of commitments only to get to the end of the week dead tired? Show your body and mind some love by giving it a break. Say no to something … big, small, anything… and experience the glorious feeling of weight being lifted off your shoulders. I promise the world will not collapse if you actually leave work on time or if you don’t make it out to your coworker’s sister’s husband’s birthday party. Make your mental and physical wellness a priority and your body will return the favor.

 What do you love about your body? Share the body love and let us know in the comments.

Jillian is an avid pole dance student, accessories and costume designer, rhinestone aficionado, and a PDBloggers Executive Commitee Member. She also writes at PoleGeek.blogspot.com.