How Flexibility Changed my Yoga Practice

People thing being flexible in yoga is not only a pre-requisite, but an end goal… but let’s backtrack a bit.

When I was younger I was a dancer, gymnast and figure skater over a span of 10 years. I always thought I was flexible, but when I was a figure skater (around age 12) I found some trouble when I was trying to do a spin with my foot behind my head (my 25 year old brain cannot remember the formal name of this ūüėú). I found I was able to grab my foot with ease, and in turn was actually over extending my back. I became sore so quickly and when we went to the doctor it wasn’t long before he told me I had hyper flexibility in my lower spine. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this was my first run in with hyper-flexibility.

Fast forward more than 10 years, and since I didn’t do much physical activity or stretching throughout high school and college (unless it was walking to/from the bar), I was a little out of touch with my body.

When I started my yoga practice I wasn’t really sure what my body could or couldn’t do. Could I touch my toes? Could I bend back that far? Could I twist all the way to the right, what about to the left?

The first injury I got that affected my yoga practice I actually did not get from doing yoga.. I was riding a dirtbike with Chris in Vermont, fell and ended up fracturing my tibia and over-twisting my knee pretty deeply. Although this injury wasn’t directly FROM yoga, it affected my practice. It kept me off the mat for about 2 months, and once I was back on it – I had to be extremely careful of my knee. It took about a full year for me to fully recover.

A few months later I was in a seated twist towards the end of class, and remember pushing myself just a little further than I normally would. I went to un-twist, and could feel that I went too far. I laid down for savasana and when I got up, I knew I messed up.I’m lucky it was just an over twist on my muscle, but it was still painful and took again about 4 months for it to fully heal.

About two months ago, I was in class and it was a GREAT flow class. I was sweating, moving and breathing.. and really felt I was kicking ass. I had been in a deep low lunge hip opener and remember thinking “I’m kind of sinking here” but I kept going with it, kind of because I didn’t really know how to NOT sink into it. At the end of the day I got home and my hips we’re so sore, they were even tender to the touch. I knew I went too far.

This injury was scary because hips are so fragile and take a long time to heal. Anything muscular in general.. you’re basically at the mercy of your body. It’s not like a bone where you get a cast, but it’s self control to NOT re-injure the muscle.

The point of me delving into all of this is that I have found a silver lining in all these minor injuries. We push ourselves and get so caught up in our ego, mindset, what we think something “should be”… that we aren’t taking care of ourselves.

These injuries have also caused me to totally change my teaching style. I can’t tell you how many times in a deep lunge/hip opener that I’m telling people to activate their glute and their legs. Or in a lunge – press through the feet and stay active in the thighs to protect the hip and the knee.

We’re always SO focused on where we think we need to be (ie: deep bending into a lunge, twisting around 180 degrees in a twist) that we don’t realize we aren’t putting our bodies first. The beauty of yoga, is that even if you can bend deep into that lunge and rotate 180 degrees in a twist – there’s ALWAYS another step. There’s always an Iyengar or someone else who has done something deeper, harder, longer… and getting there is NOT the purpose of yoga.

Teaching yourself patience, self care and love however.. is the purpose of yoga.

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31 Day Meditation Challenge

med·i·ta·tion

/med…ôňątńĀSH(…ô)n/
noun
1. the action or practice of meditating.
2. a written or spoken discourse expressing considered thoughts on a subject.

What does meditation mean to you? Have you ever meditated? Would you ever try meditation?

Meditation means lots of different things to different people. The definition above (if you ask me) is quite vague – but is also left open to interpretation. From my experience with meditation, it is designed to give your mind and body a break from the stressors of everyday life, and from the constant, non-stop influx of thoughts into the brain.

How many seconds a day (right now) do you honestly just sit and BREATHE? Not thinking about what you’re having for dinner, or how your friend’s day was, or when you’re going to actually go to the gym – but actually NOTICE the rising and falling of your chest when you breathe…

Chances are slim to none.

The benefits of meditation have been dominating the media for the past couple years, and to be honest РI think experiencing something is the best way to really understand it.

I’ve dabbled in meditation here and there – but can say out of the 10-15 times I’ve meditated, I’ve probably only had success with it 2-3 times. My mind wanders, I get frustrated, I can’t sit still.. .the list goes on.

Recently I was getting ready to go on a trip for work to Thailand – I knew the flight was going to be long, so was mentally preparing¬†myself. I have used apps like Headspace before – but wasn’t too crazy about it. I heard of an app called SimpleHabit – their tagline is “A Daily Vacation For Your Mind,” and the meditations are often designed to be shorter (about 5 mins), which is also appealing to me.

I loved everything I had heard so far. So, I downloaded it. I fiddled with it a bit before I left, but once I was on the plane getting ready to be in the same seat for 19 hours, was when I really needed the app. I did a 10 minute meditation for deep sleep – and to my surprise, it worked. I didn’t knock out for 19 hours, but I fell asleep for a good amount of time.

I thought that if this app couple help me sleep (which no other meditation apps were ever able to do), it could certainly help other people with endless things. They have apps for stress relief, anxiety, focus, calmness.. the list goes on.

I’ve participated in fitness challenges before, and one night before I went to bed – I thought, what if I hosted a meditation challenge. People coming together to test out and see the long term benefits of meditation – supporting each other along the way.

That was it – the next day I was promoting it and one week later it was starting. The free group focuses on supporting each other in trying to meditate for just 5 minutes per day. We follow SimpleHabit’s 31 Day Meditation Challenge program, and it focuses on different topics each day (ie: creating calm, overcoming fears, letting go of regrets etc).

Anyone who meditates each day for 31 days (the app tracks this) receives a FREE Premium 2 month subscription to SimpleHabit, and also gets entered into a giveaway to win a free year.

The first challenge is already underway, but if you’re interested in joining the next one – either shoot me a note at coachdanielleradulski@gmail.com or direct message me on Instagram @danielle_radulski.

Healthi-ER Corn Chowder

The weather is getting nicer, and I’m sure soon we will throw recipes like this to the back of the box until next year. So, I wanted to share it in hopes that there’s one more chilly Sunday that would make a perfect time to make this corn chowder. Don’t be deterred by the “chowder” word… I promise it isn’t as heavy as it sounds.
The original recipe is from SkinnyChef (http://skinnychef.com/recipes/corn-chowder), but I added/took out some things of my own! See below:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small white onion, chopped
  • 6 slices turkey bacon, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon flour (skip this if you want a lighter soup, or add a little more if you want it extra thick)
  • 1 chopped/cubed zucchini
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or paprika
  • 2 large baking potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds, peeled and cubed
  • 2 cups fresh corn kernels or frozen kernels defrosted under hot running water for 30 seconds
  • 32 ounces¬†chicken broth
  • 1 cup non-fat, skim milk (I used about 3/4C skim milk, and add in a little more chicken broth to make it a little less heavy)
  • 4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped chives
  • Heat a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions and bacon. Cook 5 to 6 minutes until the onions begin to soften but do not brown. Add the flour and cayenne or paprika if using. Cook an additional 2 to 3 minutes stirring continuously until the flour coats the onion and starts to stick to the bottom of the pan without browning. Decrease heat if necessary.
  • Add the potatoes, half the corn, the zucchini, and the stock. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 15 to 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Add the cream cheese and skim milk. Blend until smooth with a stick blender or blend in a food processor. Stir in remaining corn and season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with chives and serve immediately.
My boyfriend ate almost an entire pot of this in one sitting, and I had to make another the next day. It’s delicious.. and he didn’t even know it was turkey bacon =)
Me: 1 Fatty Bacon Loving Boyfriend: 0

 

6 Yoga Poses to Help Relieve Stress

Long day? Long week? Long minute? Whichever it may be, yoga can help you center yourself, take a step back from the chaos… and focus on your breath, and the moment that you’re in.

Whether it’s a work deadline, family issues, or stress for no real reason,¬†try any¬†( or hopefully all!) of these 10 asanas to help you banish stress, reduce anxiety and leave yourself feeling amazing.
**Start in a child’s pose.
 legs-up-the-wall
1. Legs Up The Wall Pose (Viparita Karani) 
From child’s pose, make your way to all fours and do a couple cat, cows. From here, make you way to sitting on your yoga mat, facing (almost up against) the wall. Slowly recline onto your back and extend your legs up the wall (you may have to inch closer to the wall… see image to the right). Let your ankles slowly fall outward and your feet should settle about hips width apart. Turn your palms face up, with your hands by you side and do some deep breathing. Remain in this pose for at least 5-10 minutes.
2. Reclined Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)
Twist are a great way to decompress and rid your body of anxiety and frustrations after a long day. They are also often taught as fixes for digestion problems, low energy, and muscle aches and pains. It really allows you to feel the power of wringing out the body from your core.
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From lying on your back in Legs Up The Wall Pose, transition into this reclined spinal twist. Bring your legs flat to the floor, and on an exhale draw both knees into your chest and clasp your hands around them. Extend your left leg along the floor, keeping your right knee in to your chest. Extend your right arm out along the floor at shoulder-height with your palm down. Then shift your hips slightly to the right, and place your left hand on the outside of your right knee. Drop your knee over the left side of your body while keeping your left hand resting gently on your knee (**there is no need to heavily press here… let your body provide the natural weight). Turn your head to the right and keep your shoulder blades pressing towards the floor and away from your ears. Hold this pose for 10-25 breaths and then come back through center before completing on the opposite side.
3. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana) 
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From your twist, come up to standing¬†with your feet about hips width distance apart. Sweep both hands up and then dive forward into your forward fold, hinging at your hips. If possible, straighten your knees without locking, or leave a slight bend if that’s more comfortable. Bring your palms or finger tips to the floor slightly in front of your feet, and let your head hang heavy. If this isn’t tangible, cross your forearms and hold your elbows. Press your heels firmly into the floor and lift the sitting bones to the sky. With each inhalation in the pose, lift and lengthen the front torso just slightly; with each exhalation release a little more fully into the forward bend.¬†This pose is great for your legs and mind – you’re essentially reversing the blood flow and just “hanging out.”
4. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
An active, yet relaxing stretch and release will be found in downward facing dog. From your forward fold make your way to your plank pose, from there push up into your downward facing dog. Spread your fingers wide, turn your elbows in, push your hips up towards the ceiling, and allow for a slight bend in the knees to open up some more space in your lower back. Relax your head between your arms and direct your gaze through your legs, or even better, closed. Hold those pose for ten, deep breaths. Downward Facing Dog brings oxygenated blood to your entire body, leaving you feeling revitalized and refreshed.
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5. Child’s Pose (BńĀlńĀsana)
Screen Shot 2016-10-27 at 11.51.03 AM.png
From downward facing dog, slowly come down and sit on your heels. From here extend your arms and torso forward, rest your forehead on the floor and stretch your arms out in front of you. Press your palms to the floor and let you hips and butt sink into your heels. Now is the time for deep, deep breathing.¬†This pose has been known to be a “brain calming” pose and is usually a yogi’s favorite pose after a rigorous sequence. Stay here for 1-5 minutes, focusing on your breath. Do your best to try and not let your mind wander. Simple poses are simple on the surface, but the complexity comes into play with your mind.
6. Corpse Pose (Shavasana) 
From your child’s pose, come into the last pose of the sequence – Shavasana. Lay flat on your back, legs straight on the floor,¬†allowing your feet to fall open, and keep your arms by you sides with your palms up. Let your eyes sink to the back of your head. Deep breathe here for at least 3-5 minutes. Again, the challenge in this pose is not letting your thoughts get the best of you. Thank your body for what you have just accomplished, and relish in the moment.
Screen Shot 2016-10-27 at 11.51.33 AM.png
Namaste! Take with you the good energy you just created during this flow, and pass it on to others!

5 Aerial Yoga Tips for Beginners

Have you ever seen people hanging from the ceiling on what looks like ribbon? It looks pretty cool, right? Well, I was thinking the same thing… so decided to give it a try.

First things first – do NOT be scared, by¬†NO chance do you have to be a yoga expert to take an aerial class – just make sure you’re signing up for a beginner¬†class and not an expert class!

My roommate and I took our first class together at a place in NYC called The Om Factory (http://www.omfactorynyc.com/). It was AMAZING, and something I would do weekly if I had the funds, and time! It was a completely different workout and stretch than I have ever experienced before.

Since most of your weight is being held by the fabric, your muscles and joints get to move freely and without¬†added pressure. I would recommend this class to anyone and everyone – there was a woman next to me that was easily my grandmother’s age… so NO excuses!

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What is Aerial Yoga?

Aerial yoga takes traditional yoga poses and takes them up into the air with the use of a trapeze or “silk,” which is essentially a huge fabric swing hanging from the ceiling. The poses¬†help¬†give¬†you a new perspective and lets gravity help align your body creating a unique stretching and strengthening experience.

Why should I try Aerial yoga? 
1. Inversions are MUCH easier in aerial yoga due to the fabric: it also alleviates stress from your back, neck and joints. Hanging upside down also allows your spine to lengthen and decompress.
2. CORE OVERLOAD! Almost every pose in Aerial will strengthen your core… Get ready to say HELLO to your bikini body!
3. Check out these guns: Your arms are also used in almost every pose and transition. Your hands will also experience a workout unlike any other.
4. Gently strengthen and stretch – since the fabric is taking most of the immediate pressure from your body weight, your able to get a deeper stretch.
5. It’s fun and will push you outside of your comfort zone. Don’t be surprised if you’re talking to the person you’re next to throughout the class, about how cool it is that you’re suspended from the ceiling.
screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-3-42-29-pm

5 Tips for Your First Class

1. Own the Fact that you are a Beginner

One of the first things my roommate and I did, was tell the instructor that we were beginners. She was sweet, and wasn’t really phased by this (especially since it was in fact a beginner class!). However, take¬†the time to tell the instructor so that YOU feel more comfortable. Getting it out of the way will help you ease into the practice.
2.  Listen, Listen, Listen
Something that is foreign sometimes causes us to subconsciously tense up and not listen as well as we normally would. The instructions are specific and are crucial in this practice – so make sure your ears are open and your attention is focused.
3. Don’t be Afraid to ask for Help or ask Questions¬†

When learning, it is SO important to your practice to ask questions. Most of the time, the teachers are pretty hands on in aerial and will assist you throughout class, but if they don’t – make sure to ask! When moving your body upside down a lot of things can seem unsafe, and asking these clarifying questions will help you to feel more at ease.

4. Fabric 101

The fabric looks soft and silky, but is strong and durable. With that being said, most of the time when you’re leaning over the fabric, it should be hitting you right below your hip bones. If you are at ALL uncomfortable with the length of the fabric (which should be adjusted by the instructor first thing), ask them for help! Also utilize the blankets they give you. You can drape the blanket over the fabric to allow for some cushion space between your hip, and the fabric. I found that in the beginning of the class it didn’t bother me, but by the end it was a little sore.

screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-3-42-34-pm

5. Don’t Rush¬†

Trying to get from pose to pose quickly (especially if you’re used to a faster paced vinyasa workout) will only cause you to stumble out of the pose, and the fabric. Make sure to take your time, and use your strength to your advantage.

**BONUS TIP: BREATHE!! Don’t forget the inhales and exhales, and make sure to have fun! Leave your expectations at the door, and enjoy the ride.¬†

Homemade Mango Salsa

Who doesn’t love salsa? Exactly… but stop with the canned, jarred, preservative packed stuff. Immediately. Seriously.. it is SO easy to make.
We made mango salsa a few nights ago, and I just HAD to share the recipe, since it’s so simple!
screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-3-36-01-pm
What you’ll need:
– 2-3 large mangoes or 4 small (peeled and sliced into pieces)
– 2 jalapenos (depending on how hot you like it!)
– juice of 1 lime
– 1 medium red onion
– 1/4 cup diced red bell peppers
– 1/4 cup cilantro
– salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions:
1. In a food processor combine: peeled mangoes, jalapenos, red onion (peeled and diced), bell peppers, and cilantro (you can do this without a food processor, just finely chop the ingredients.. or leave chunky, up to you!) and blend
2. Once mixed, remove from food processor and add in the remaining ingredients
3. Still until well combined
4. Enjoy!
We topped our pan-seared pork chops with this salsa, and had it with a large salad and roasted potatoes… needless to say, there was NO leftovers!
screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-3-36-06-pm

 

Shaved Brusselsprout Salad

Brusselsprouts are literally one of my FAVORITE not only vegetables, but foods (second to avocado). I just got a food processor, and was dying to put it into action…

Voila.. this shaved brusselsprout salad with sautéed shrimp.

What you’ll need for 2 GENEROUS servings:

– 3-4 cups brusselsprouts (depending on how hungry you are, and how many veggies you’re going to add)

– 6 gloves garlic (minced)

– 3-4 tbsp. olive oil

Р2 cups fresh spinach

– 1/2 pound raw shrimp

– Juice of one lemon

– 1/2 cup chopped bell pepper

– 1 avocado

– 1 tomato (whatever kind you prefer)

– 1/2 cup chopped cucumber

– 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

– Red pepper flakes to taste

– Salt and pepper to taste

bowl-brussels

1. Start by shredding the brusselsprouts in the food processor. I used to do this without one, it’s just an exercise in patience.. so work with what you have!

2. Using a large pan/skillet (we use a cast iron for almost everything).. sautee 3 cloves of minced garlic with 2 tbsp olive oil until brown

3. Sautee shaved brusselsprouts with the juice from half of one lemon, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes for 3-4 minutes until they just start to cook

in-pan

4. Remove from heat and set to the side

 5. In the same pan (remove brusselsprouts), add remaining 2 tbsp olive oil and garlic and cook until brown

6. Add raw shrimp and remaining lemon juice, and cook until pink (about 3-5 minutes)

7. Remove shrimp from heat

8. Combine all other vegetables in a large bowl

9. Once brusselsprouts have cooled, add them to the large bowl with reamining vegetables

10. Depending on how you want the dressing, you can add a dash more of olive oil. Add 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar, and top off with salt and pepper to taste and a squeeze of lemon

 11. Toss together and serve in a deep bowl or plate, and top with hot, grilled shrimp!

12. Enjoy!

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