I am a mover. I love tough workouts and sweating and pushing myself so that at the end of the activity I feel “spent.” However, through reading countless articles on fitness, recovery and health, as well as my work on mindfulness and breathing, I have seen how useful less intense, calming exercises can be for body recovery, in addition to exercising the other major component of the body, specifically the mind.

I was introduced to Yin Yoga by a friend and mentor of mine named Magen Banwart. Magen is a health counselor and weight-loss specialist for women and men in New York City. She claims that Yin Yoga is “the key to staying youthful and vibrant.” She was also a coveted teacher of the bar method at Physique 57 and Exhale Spa and now teaches her own method around the City and the Hamptons. People are just attracted to her. She has this captivating aura about her and she just draws you in.

When you take her classes, you are put into somewhat of a trance; she makes you work hard but for some reason you laugh the whole way through. She is a seasoned and transformative teacher.

She introduced me to Yin Yoga and through countless classes I have been sold on the practice and have learned to find benefits in the stillness; it has become a great supplement to my boxing, running, pilates, golf and tennis.

Yin Yoga can be defined as the ‘Yin’ to your ‘Yang’ yoga practice or workout. Others categorize it as yoga for the joints rather than the muscles, focusing on the hips, pelvis, lower spine and connective tissues. Many crave the stillness of the postures and the meditative aspect of holding the poses for extended periods of time. The impact can be felt not only in the body but also the mind.

I now crave yin yoga class. My favorite poses are Open Lizard (great for tight hips) and Snail (my brothers used to hold my legs over my head to torture me so while in this pose I am always drawn back to my childhood memories and I can’t help but smile). I also love the Kidney Meridian Line series that is a great hip, hamstring and spinal sequence. This detoxifies the area (without doing a cleanse) that is located along the kidney meridian lines and opens up (and clear out) the back. Blockages anywhere in the body can create anxiety, depression, stress and more specific body issues such as bloating, digestive issues and pain. Key to all of these poses is deep belly breathing and not taking them so seriously. Just let go and enjoy.

I bring friends who are not used to this type of exercise and they always leave not only feeling limber and rejuvenated but also with a whole new assortment of ‘wellness’ knowledge. During some poses we simply listen to our breathing, but during others, the teacher (or Magen if you are lucky) will discuss goals, resolutions, and many connections between mindfulness and yin yoga. Even during this practice, mindfulness is important. Listening to your body in a non-judgmental way; staying on your mat, or blanket and not judging where your body is, not comparing yourself to your neighbor’s body and being proud of your accomplishments in class can create an inner happiness and contentment that can carry into the rest of your day. If you can practice deep breathing and letting go for the class hour, those lessons transcend into the next activity for the day. Sometimes the hardest part is just being and letting go of the stigma that to workout you need to be huffing and puffing. That is when you see the biggest transformations.

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Many parents question why their sons or daughters appear to be lacking coordination, “…my son cannot skip! He should be able to do that by now.” I respond by saying we can usually fix that by increasing balance/coordination and suggesting that parents not fret! Fretting only exacerbates the problems! I also usually mention that children develop at different times (just like reading; it takes some children more time) but everyone usually catch up! An additional response involves a series of questions about their children’s background. I have found that just as soon as children begin to crawl or walk, their coordination and balance needs to be developed. This can be done with physical activity at home. Playgroups and activities outside of the home are also a great way to start to develop these skills. Living in New York City, I have had the opportunity to witness a variety of classes that are amazing for building these coordination skills, especially for parents who might have less experience with developing these skills themselves and for parents who might have forgotten how they first learned to skip, catch a ball or sink a basket. One class I want to spotlight is Kids in Sports. Kids in Sports is an amazing way to get kids moving and working as a TEAM, starting as early as 12 months. There are many amazing aspects of this program. Besides the dedicated and educated staff and founders, one of the best parts of this program is that parents and caregivers can participate in the early years. I like this program because it gives parents the opportunity to begin to understand how their kids work, what can make them frustrated, what they celebrate, how they concentrate, how important parental approval is to them, how they work with other children and also how to be proud of their children’s accomplishments and progress. Although the class is called, “Kids in Sports,” it’s not just for the “athletic” child. It is for all children, creating confidence, problem solving and building self-awareness at an early age. The equipment used and the colorful contraptions built are astonishing and can lure even the most timid children. From multi-sport to specific sport classes (most of these specialized classes start after the children turn four) the kids learn not only how to work as individuals, but also together. From team warm-ups and stretching to team cheers and end of the year trophies (for everyone!) there are many benefits. The kids range from Tiny Athletes, to Little Athletes all the way up to Minors and Major Athletes, and their T-shirt colors change just as quickly as their ability to move from crawling, to walking, galloping, hopping, skipping and THEN dribbling and skipping at the same time. Starting young in a setting like this is bound to not only improve your little ones’ balance, coordination and flexibility but ALSO confidence, sportsmanship and self-awareness.

ThinkstockPhotos-119995402A healthy Outside starts from the Inside –Robert Urich

Oil Pulling: Kate is a close friend with whom I love to share, compare and research new health and holistic treatments.  Kate introduced me to to something called, “Oil Pulling.” This technique basically consists of taking about a tablespoon of coconut oil, sesame oil (which is the oil that was traditionally used) or the oil of your choice and swishing it around in your mouth for 15-20 minutes. This should be done every morning prior to brushing your teeth, drinking water, or doing anything else. I have found many mind, body benefits in this ayurvedic mouth and body treatment. Some of the benefits I have found include whiter teeth, breaking up the phlegm in the throat, aiding digestion and in addition to making me more confident with my “morning breath.” Inadvertently, I have found that the small amount of eczema that I had on my legs has disappeared. I wondered if there was a connection to this, and through research, I have found that this is also a side effect of practicing the technique. Also, if you happen to enjoy a glass or two of wine, oil pulling does a stellar job of helping revive you for the day ahead. I also have found this is a great way to take some time for myself in the morning. I enjoy getting up, putting the oil in my mouth and swishing it around while reading the newspaper, catching up on emails, researching the benefits on oil pulling or even looking out the window, making my intentions for the day.

Directions and Tips:

1. Wake up

2. Place a tablespoon of oil in your mouth

3. Swish the oil in your mouth make sure not to gargle or let the oil seep back
into your throat as you will be swallowing toxins

4. Continue to do this for 15-20 minutes

5. Spit out the oil into the toilet, not the sink as the oil will clog the sink

6. Clean your mouth out with water

7. Brush your teeth

8. Start your day!

What other benefits have you noticed? Let me know!