Finding the Right Yoga for You

by Caitlin Boyle for Discover and Play

Yoga isn’t just a good stretch – it’s a workout focused on the mind-body relationship. In fact, the word ‘yoga’ means ‘to unite.’ The practice of yoga creates strength, flexibility, and balance in the physical body and mind.

Practiced for thousands of years by billions of people, yoga is an umbrella term for many styles that suit different needs and appeal to different people. Here’s a breakdown of the five most common types of yoga practiced in America:

Yoga Poses

Hatha:  Hatha yoga is the perfect style for a beginner or a former yogi looking to return to the practice after a long break. These classes are slow, relaxing, and offer more instructor feedback. You won’t flow quickly from down dog to up dog – you’ll take your time, focusing more on gentle stretching, correct positioning, and deep breathing.

Ashtanga:  A fast-paced class that follows a standardized pattern of six series of pose sequences.  Ashtanga classes are very challenging and best-suited for experienced yogis with a firm understanding of a wide range of poses. At a Mysore Ashtanga class, students practice at their own pace in silence, without the instructor calling out poses. Ashtanga classes are regimented and fast-paced. These classes are more cardio than relaxation.

Bikram: Much like Ashtanga, Bikram is an intense, advanced yoga style. Bikram also follows a standard pattern of pose (two cycles of 26 poses in a specific order).  Unlike Ashtanga, however, Bikram is practiced in a hot, humid room – over often 100 degrees, which fans of the practice say encourages deep breathing and muscle relaxation.  Bikram is a cardio workout that’ll blast away calories – upwards of 600 calories an hour.

Power:  Power yoga, also known as vinyasa or flow yoga, describes a very Westernized approach to yoga. Focused less on inner calm and more on aerobics, power yoga transitions quickly from one pose to the next in a ‘flowing’ motion. Your instructor will often remind you to breathe with movement. Power classes vary greatly from studio to studio; an introductory class would work for beginners, but regular classes are more advanced (and yet still more attainable than Ashtanga or Bikram). Power classes are great for athletes like runners or Crossfitters who are looking for deep stretches but get antsy in slower classes.

Prenatal:  Designed especially for pregnant women, prenatal yoga classes are slow, gentle, and include many pose modifications to accommodate the mommas’ growing baby bumps. Prenatal classes often include a focus on meditation and group discussions.

Caitlin Boyle  is a blogger, motivational speaker and author of the book Healthy Tipping Point: A Powerful Program for a Stronger, Happier You. She helps her husband run a holistic health clinic in Charlotte, N.C. She is a frequent contributor to Life and Beauty Weekly .

Surprising Sleep Stealers

by Jennifer Kelly Geddes for Discover and Play

The AC hums, your husband snores and garbage trucks clank outside the window. Add in kids, work, housekeeping – even a dog – and it’s no wonder you’re unable to properly rest. If you’re faced with an uphill battle at bedtime, it’s time to take a closer look at your environment. How you set the stage for slumber is as critical as powering down your laptop and nixing caffeine late in the day. Read on for 5 important considerations when trying to get the best sleep.

Sleeping Couple

The windows: Contrary to what you might think, complete darkness isn’t the right choice for everyone. For some people, the tiniest glimmer of light from the window can be a disruption, while others sleep well (and wake up refreshed) with opaque coverings – or even with the blinds wide open. Experiment to see which choice works best for you.

The clock: Are you staring at it all night long? If you’ve set it—just forget it. But if you can’t keep from checking the time, put the clock in the bedside table drawer or place it under the bed (though still within arm’s reach). Or have your partner take charge of the alarm and keep the clock across the room on the other side of the bed.

The sound: All kinds of things go bump in the night, something you already know if you’re a light sleeper. But even if you’re not, trying out a pair of earplugs might make a big difference in the amount of sleep you get. You’ll block the radiator’s hiss, the dog’s jingling tags and car alarms that invariably go off in the middle of the night.

The dog: And speaking of dog tags, if Fido is a regular member of your nighttime nest, consider making a change. Putting aside issues of hygiene, dogs (and cats) tend to groom, scratch, turn in circles, jump around, cry to be fed, walked or put outside—all at 2 AM. Of course it’s cozy to snuggle up to a pet, but if yours is preventing you from catching zzz’s, put your pooch in another room.

The stress: If you’ve addressed all of the above and still can’t seem to drop off to sleep, count the number of the balls you’re juggling and find a way to reduce the load. Taking on too much (school committees, volunteer work, pet duties) can weigh on the psyche and interfere with much-needed rest.

Jennifer Kelly Geddes is a New York-based writer and editor who has written for Parenting, iVillage.com and Time Out New York Kids. She frequently contributes to Go Vibrant.



Baseball-Inspired Workouts for Your Best Beach Body

by Caitlin Boyle for Discover and Play

 

Batter up! Take your body to the ballgame with these killer baseball-inspired moves that work your legs, rear, abdominals and arms. You’ll hit it out of the ballpark and get in shape for the beach with these challenging body weight workouts that require absolutely no equipment. Hall of Fame, here you come!

Girl Stretching

Forward and Side Lunges

Step up to the pitcher’s mound and work your legs, hips and rear by completing forward and side lunges. To do a forward lunge, step forward with your right leg, bending your right knee until your right thigh is parallel to the floor and your left knee nearly touches the ground. Keep your hands on your hips for balance. To avoid unnecessary stress on your knee joint, don’t let your right knee extend past your right ankle. After sinking into lunge position, step back to standing and repeat the process with your left leg.

To do a side lunge, step to the side with your right foot and bend your right knee so your bottom sinks to the ground. Focus on bending at the waist and keeping your back straight as you lower your rear. Push up with the right leg and return to standing. Repeat with the left leg. This exercise targets your glutes and hamstrings, as well as other muscles in your legs.

Suggested Workout: Complete two to three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions of both the forward lunge and side lunge.

Sprints With Push-Ups

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) builds speed and endurance while blasting calories. Baseball plates are about 88 feet apart, so prepare to steal bases by completing short sprints. Throw in a few push-ups for good measure.

Suggested Workout: Sprint for 15 seconds, complete three push-ups, and rest for 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times.

Squat Jumps

Practice leaping into the air to catch that fly ball with squat jumps. Stand with your legs slightly apart and squat down, lowering your rear down and back up as you keep your back straight. Once your thighs are parallel to the ground, immediately jump upwards while reaching your hands above your head. Land in squat position and repeat.

Suggested Workout: Complete two to three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.

Bicycle Crunches and Leg Lifts

Power hitting comes from a solid twisting motion that draws strength from your lower back and abdominal muscles. To complete a bicycle crunch, lie on the floor, place your hands behind your head and bend your knees so your thighs are perpendicular to the floor. Lift your head off the ground and twist your upper body to the left while drawing in your left knee. Instead of collapsing your arms inwards so your right shoulder touches your left knee, try to draw your right armpit towards your knee. Repeat on the other side.

To do a leg lift, lay flat on your back with your hands under your rear. Engage your core muscles by drawing your belly button down to the floor. Keeping your legs straight and pressed together, lift them above your hips. Hold this position for several seconds, and then slowly lower to starting position.

Suggested Workout: Complete two to three sets of 20 to 60 repetitions of bicycle crunches (each side counts as one rep). Complete two to three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions of the leg lift.

Caitlin Boyle  is a blogger, motivational speaker and author of the book Healthy Tipping Point: A Powerful Program for a Stronger, Happier You. She helps her husband run a holistic health clinic in Charlotte, N.C. She is a frequent contributor to Life and Beauty Weekly.



Why J. Crew’s New XXX-Small Size Is a Dangerous Blow to Your Body Image

Just when you thought clothes shopping couldn’t get any more frustrating, clothing retailer J. Crew takes its vanity sizes to a new low with the introduction of its XXX-small size in the US market.

Shirts

In a recent press release issued by the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), President and CEO Lynn Grefe, stated “we are disappointed that J. Crew is competing in the race to achieve a new low in marketing which promotes poor self-esteem and dangerous weight-loss behaviors. The company’s new 000 sizing will only triple the practice of unhealthy dieting in a society obsessed with skinny. Sadly, some of those vulnerable to eating disorders will compete to fit in this new ‘size.’ And, others will be subjected to even worse self-image challenges, because they can never achieve such an unrealistic goal naturally.”

Related: My Story of Hope: How NEDAwareness Week Saved My Life 10 Years Ago

If you aren’t familiar with vanity sizing, it is essentially the practice of assigning smaller sizes to articles of clothing in order to encourage sales. It preys on the notion that we tend to believe thinner is better and that’s where the danger of this sort of marketing lies. After all, healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes and no one size should have more merit than the other.

Related: Go Boldly Campaign Continues to Spread Positive Body Image Message

“The National Eating Disorders Association would welcome the opportunity,” Grefe continues, “to meet with J. Crew’s senior management to educate them on the damaging effect this type of marketing has on consumers, particularly our youth.” 

It will be interesting to see if J. Crew will take up Grefe and the National Eating Disorder Association on this offer. In the meantime, don’t let numbers rule your life! Shop for clothes and choose those that make you feel amazing, no matter what the label says.

For our American readers, luckily, you probably won’t see this new size all that often unless you shop J. Crew online or visit their retail store in Hong Kong.

Bonus: Podcast: How to Promote a Healthy Body Image with Bri Luginbill from Go Boldly

How to Host a Fabulous Fitness Party

Fitness Partyby Kim Anthony for Discover and Play

Fitness parties are the new craze! Unlike many other trends that have come and gone, fitness parties are seemingly here to stay. What an amazing concept — fun, fitness, healthy food and good times with friends all at once — definitely the fixins’ for any great party. OK, so you’re considering the idea of throwing a fitness party, but have no idea where to start with planning one. First things first, let’s find out what a fitness party is and why it’s become amazingly popular.

Fitness parties are not necessarily your traditional party. Many fitness party-goers and hosts alike report them to be equally or more fun than a traditional party. More than likely, you won’t see that three-layer red velvet cake with creamy frosting and candles, or that cheesy enchilada casserole bake or pepperoni pizza at this type of venue. These popular party treats will typically be replaced with healthier and calorie-conscious food options. Additionally, you might see some exercising and a little to a lot of sweat. One of the best aspects of planning this type of party is the opportunity you’ll have to be as creative, imaginative and flexible as you like.

Let’s get to planning!

Where would you have your party? Your home might be one easily accessible option or you might opt for something a bit more elaborate or fitness appropriate. Gyms and fitness studios are now beginning to entertain the hosts of fitness parties, or you might elect to rent a room at a hotel or spa retreat.

Location ideas:

Your Home
A Friend’s Place
Gym
Fitness Studio
Spa
Skating Rink
Park
Pool (water aerobics class)

What would your theme be? A health- or exercise-related theme would be most ideal for a fitness party. You could go with something calm and relaxed, like a yoga party, or something energy packed and exciting, like a Zumba or Pilates party. Sky’s the limit; it’s your party! You might explore the option of having an instructor or personal trainer from your favorite gym conduct a quick class with music selection of your choice. Remember that the theme should set the tone, scheme and decor for your special occasion. For instance, if you’re going with a yoga theme, you might send out invitations on novelty paper rolled up like a mini yoga mat and decorate with a Feng Shui appeal. Or you can go the paperless route with zazzle.com, punchbowl.com, postmark.com or e-vite (these are only a few of the many online invitation sites) to customize your fitness themed party invite.

Theme ideas:

Mini Boot Camp
Yoga
Step Class
Swimming
Cycling
Roller Skating
Aerobics
Pilates
Personal Training Session

Great, you’ve successfully narrowed down your theme … now to decide what you will serve your guest to eat. The menu selection will inevitably depend on your preferences, as will deciding how you want to present it. The wonderful thing is there are so many options. You might think about having a healthy drink bar that could include a variety of smoothies and yummy juice blends. You could even opt for green tea or cucumber water with a light appetizer. A veggie spring roll or a mixed green salad might be perfect options for yoga themed party. Keep in mind, once you select your theme, a plethora of healthy food options are just a “google” away. You can always search online for great recipes or healthy food options that may be consistent with your selected theme.

Take a peek at some of the fun party serving ideas Fitness Galore discovered. They can be adapted to your favorite healthy beverages and food selections. Additionally, feel free to check out Fitness Galore’s Pinterest boards. Our “Foods We Love“, “Super Salads”, “Healthy Treats” and “Yummy Smoothies and Beverages” might be a great place to start your healthy food search. 

Food Ideas:

Yogurt
Smoothies
Fruit Bar
Nutritious Finger Food Appetizers or Taco Bar
Salad Cups

What about party favors? I absolutely love this part of planning and attending parties. It’s so nice sending goodies home with my guest — a nice gesture to show my appreciation for their time and consideration. There are a plethora of fun fitness options to meet your “fitness” party favor needs. What about a pedometer? You can find these at varied prices from affordable to relatively expensive depending on the features. If you’re crafty, you might opt to make your favors — customized candles, soaps, or homemade granola bars with your own personalized labels. It’s ultimately your choice, whatever you choose; the recommendation is that you make it as simple and uncomplicated as possible. After all, you’re planning a fun fitness party, not a black tie affair.

Party favor ideas:

Water Bottles
Jump Ropes
iTunes Gift Cards
Handmade Healthy Recipe Cards or Healthy Recipe Book
Homemade Parfaits To-Go
Absorbent Hand/Gym Towels tied with a monogrammed bow
Headbands
Goody Bag filled with useful gym essentials (lip balm, water, energy bar, combination lock, weight gloves)

Frozen grapes or fruit of your choice make a yummy party favor-packed in small paper bags with a personal stamp or embossed to add an adorable finishing touch

Hosting your own fitness party can be a great alternative to the ever-so-popular jewelry or purse party. A little imagination, creativity and fitness-savvy can take you a long way when it comes to planning and hosting a fitness party. The goal is to have a great time with friends and get a little fitter and fabulous in the process.

Kim Anthony is a freelance writer and fitness enthusiast. As an adjunct psychology professor with extensive experience in
counseling, she is an avid believer in the mind and body relationship and its connection to overall wellness. She enjoys pouring her passion for fitness and wellness into 
fitnessgalore.net, a website that features fitness and nutrition tips, workouts, recipes and the latest fitness fashion. This article originally appeared in full on her site.