1. Create a playlist on your ipod with 3 all-time favorite tracks. Find the ones that REALLY speak to you. (Hint: songs from your youth usually speed up the soul-connecting process.)
2. Go outside and start jogging. After you’ve hit your stride open your arms out to the side as if you’re flying. (FYI: This is also used as the celebration dance when an athlete scores.)
3. Transition your flying (or scoring) self to a skip. Let your arms go free. Sing along with the music.
4. Break out into spontaneous dance. (Yes, you’re still outside!)
5. At the end of the 3 songs come to sit, wherever you can. Set your timer to 5 or 10 mins. Place your hands on your thighs. Feel your increased heart beat. And tune into your breath.
Stay with it until the timer goes off. Then continue on with your day.
PS: If you smile or wave to a stranger, it’ll help hold the connection.
(One of my all-time faves from high school!)
While I am definitely all for a DIY dance party in your living room, there’s something so exciting about joining the collective energy of a group fitness class. Last Saturday I attended the SELF magazine Workout In The Park with hundreds of women (and a couple guys). Who knew that this would be an awesome way to spend the day?
Usually I abhor huge crowds, especially while I’m exercising. Things like lack of circulation in a stuffy room, or a nearby yogi dripping sweat on my mat make me completely uncomfortable. Let’s just say I like my space!
As a NYC girl, my idea of the outdoors may not exactly be up to par. (My city born and bred kids are beyond petrified of bugs, and sadly consider the dirt patch on a construction site to be nature.) I do try to get my fix from running by the East River. And obviously I walk allover town. (Does the shrubbery sprouting from the sidewalk cracks count as nature?) But to spend the day (cardio) dancing under a sea of trees was so much more than my city-girl-self was used to. Despite the ongoing exertion of high-impact moves, my energy felt replenished. Even invigorated!
And it wasn’t just me! To my right was Latina Lady throwing down her moves. (I totally copied her during the Zumba portion of the day.) On my other side was Brooklyn Hipster Chick dressed in not-your-ordinary-sweats (which I so want!) and adorned in allover tattoos. She was having a blast in the LaBlast cardio class! We were all shaking our asses in celebration, and flaunting our attitudes of expression. It didn’t matter how we looked. (90% humidity = frizz for most!) We were in it to win it — to workout and have fun!
SELF is hosting this event in Chicago next month. But if you aren’t near there, you can still get your workout in the park on. Grab your group of friends and get outside to exercise! It’s truly a treat for the mind, body and soul.
Where do you live and are you able to bring your movement practice outdoors easily?
I’ve always been a fitness girl. It used to be solely for surface reasons, like staying skinny. Then later developed into a necessity for staying sane. (My husband and kids can concur that after two days of no physical activity I totally turn into Mean-Mom!) Eventually, the urge to workout ingrained itself into my on-the-go lifestyle. But it turned out — toned legs and a firm butt weren’t the end-all in exercise for me. While I was well on my way to excellent shape, I felt there was more to make with my fitness routine. The machines at the gym got boring. And the same old set of classes didn’t really excite. I was looking to add meaning to my movement.
I first found yoga in my twenties. With a freelance styling schedule that placed extra emphasis on the free, I was enabled to commit pretty heartily to the practice. It began with gym yoga. The Tuesday/ Thursday 12:15pm vinyasa class at Crunch pact ‘em in like sardines, and gave me the satisfactory sweat session of my regular workout. But there was something else going on in that class. The teacher would make subtle suggestions on how to move (and feel!) the body. He’d remind us to stand on all four corners of the feet. Or he would say grow your side body while twisting from the bottom of the naval. He spoke a lot about the heart center. And the breath. These micro-movements really opened me up to my coming-of-age-practice. As my attention settled deep into my body, I’d zone in on the essence of the movement. This crystal-clear focus encouraged clarity. Which led to something completely new to my twenty-something brain. I stopped thinking! No more worrying about the lentil soup ingredients that needed to be purchased before dinner. Or the pink polish chipping off my toes. It was just me in the moment with my senses fully alive.
So there I’d be — dancing gracefully through the series of sun salutations that poured seamlessly into an assortment of bendy to balance poses. The movements were always accented with an inhale or an exhale. My body would heat up, and my mind turned off. It was definitely a vigorous class filled with jump-backs, jump-throughs, and a constant flow of motion. But I must confess that it was the action-packed sequencing that kept my interest piqued. I’m a high-energy girl — a restorative class would not have had the same lure! (Though probably was what I needed most!) I had discovered the perfect yoga class to transition from my monotonous-I’m-just-going-through-the-motions gym routine to a practice that engaged my mind body and soul.
A couple years later I got into Ashtanga, which is what I always considered the ballet of yoga. It’s a great way to learn the fundamentals while building incredible strength. Like any hardcore Ashtangi I’d pedal my bike fast and furious across East Houston street at 6:30am each day to make the Mysore practice. I was hooked on the discipline. The primary series became a foundation for my self-practice. (And still is!) Once you’ve got that sequence down, you can take your practice anywhere – across the world, or straight to your living room! Oh, and the core strength that evolves from Ashtanga easily exceeds the mind numbing exercises in an abs class!
All that discipline and strengthening got me thinking I was ready to take it up a notch. I enrolled in the working girls edition of a yoga teacher training. The instruction was 3 hours each evening for six months. Here I studied the intricacies of yoga from the Sutras to alignment points to anatomy. As luck had it– I landed a teaching gig right after my 200 hour certification. I stuck with teaching until I got pregnant. It was then I put my yoga practice on pause. Taking care of Baby M literally sucked all the energy from me. There was nothing left to give — not to a class of curious yogis, or even to myself. It took years to replenish. Once G had surpassed the need-my-mama-for-absolutely-everything-phase, I came back to yoga. (Though still not teaching.)
As someone who’s been known to dabble in and out of her interests, yoga has been the one constant that keeps calling my name. Yes, it comfortable because I know the poses (even in Sanskrit!) But it’s not easy. Sometimes in class I feel frustrated, angry, or sad. I’ve definitely shed some tears in asana. Many times I’m tired. But I’m never bored. And I almost always leave the class feeling calm, clear and connected.
I don’t go on yoga retreats (though it does have its appeal!), and I don’t practice daily (right now I subscribe more to the weekly program.) I don’t have a guru teacher that I follow. And I prefer to stay somewhat anonymous in the community. But I do have my place (Kula rocks!) and I will always have MY practice.
I go to yoga because it gives me exactly what I need, right when I need it. A warm welcome back to my body. A clear opening for my mind. And a true connection to my soul.
Why do you go to yoga (or whatever your preferred movement practice is)?
So beautifully composed. So thoughtfully restrained.
What does this video say to you? (Best view in full screen!)
If you’re new to the whole mind, body and soul workout, then you should probably consider a Nia class for an intro. With an all inclusive, throw-your-hands-up-in-the-air kind of vibe, Nia encourages anyone (even the wheel chair bound) to get in on the action. A full fledged movement meditation, it doesn’t get much more mindful than being asked to smell the moment that brings you towards a mind, body and soul connection.
What to know about Nia:
It’s a barefoot, low impact aerobics class with a mix of free-your-body-release-your-soul type of moves. There’s the traditional cha-cha-cha and figure eight choreography strut alongside the more interpretational Kundalini dance.
What the scene looks like:
Honestly, you could run into ANYONE at a Nia class. Your fruit composting neighbor, or the type A Class Mom from preschool. A definite gathering of the tribes — these ladies come together to DANCE. It doesn’t matter how they look (seriously, every single size, ethnicity and age is represented), or what they wear (though you may want to experiment with a bell sleeve and wide-legged pant.) The common thread — they join together with the giddiness of a 5 year old getting ready for her big birthday party.
It’s built into the Nia program. The music is used to escort the mind, body and soul connection with a playlist that blends feel good melodies and easy to digest beats. There’s an underlying funkiness to lull the especially enthused bodies well into the groove. Humming right with the music is a whirlwind of Woo-Hoos, and other guttural sound effects emanating from deep within the group. Class anthem — I Wanna Dance With Somebody
The Rhythm of the room:
It’s a free-for-all. Yes, there are (super simple) choreographed steps to follow, but they don’t dictate the rhythm of the room. Nia is about the individual –there’s no one-size-fits-all rhythm to follow. You may be fully involved in a kick-ball-change while the woman next to you is fire-shimmying her heart out. Everyone is there to celebrate the dance of life. How does this happen? By channeling the music into self expression.
Sweat Inducing or Keepin’ it clean:
It really comes down to karmic distribution — what you give is what you get. And you decide how much to give. The well regarded woman in the wheel chair may have been confined to her seat, but she certainly didn’t hold back from exhibiting a dancers grace with her moves. Is the Nia class going to be your only workout for the week? Then I suggest you get down real low when you’re instructed to have your eyelashes kiss the earth. Do the worm dance, if you must. If you prefer to stay mellow — then by all means, stand tall during the eyelash to earth kiss! I gave it a solid dancers effort — I rolled on the floor like a worm, heartily punched out my YES and NO clamp-downs, and levitated high, like a helium balloon filled with joy. I most definitely needed a shower after class.
Mostly mind, body or soul workout?
You’ll get the full workout of mind, body and soul if you give 100% of yourself to the dance. This means letting go of inhibitions, releasing judgement and trusting completely in the power of the practice.
Have you tried Nia yet? And if so what was your experience?
I get it — you’re busy.
I’m busy too.
We’re all so effin’ busy these days with our jam packed schedules trying to fit everything in that we forget to have some fun. I’m guilty – I completely give in to all my responsibilities, letting them weigh me way too far down.
Well at least there’s one thing, I know, will always snap me back to the moment to enjoy for just a bit.
And give it up for a bumpin’ good time.