Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Find Your Version of Happy and Fit #happyfit

We are inundated with messages about body image, and unfortunately most of them are not very positive. This time of year, magazine covers tell us to “get ready for bikini season” with images of bodies that have been airbrushed, cut, cropped, and distorted - images that are not real. And images that usually don’t make us feel very good about ourselves. These are intentionally focused on flaw-finding (hoping we’ll buy something to make us feel better) vs. truth-telling. TRUTH: the only way to feel happy is to practice inside-out.

So we were thrilled to hear that a survey, commissioned by The Dailey Method, revealed that 60 percent of women say improved mental well-being and stress reduction is a key fitness motivator compared to 20 percent who pursue a bikini-ready body. Additional key motivators for women include the need for increased energy (38 percent) and improved self-confidence (38 percent).

I could not be happier to hear that a large majority care more about how they feel on the inside than how they look on the outside… and I am grateful to have a community of women (and men) who are practicing together - developing and celebrating authentic understanding of what being healthy, happy and fit actually is. Notice I said "practicing" because developing healthy esteem and body image is not easy. It really all boils down to working on finding that inner happiness, no matter how you look in a bikini, or a speedo!

As a parent, it’s important for me to remember that my children are watching me and learning from me. They will notice what I eat and if I have a healthy enjoyment of food; they will notice how I talk about myself and my body; they will notice how I use practices like The Dailey Method to move, breathe and feel good; and they will learn from me that any activity can be a "moving meditation" - as long as you are focusing on what you are doing as you are doing it! They will notice how I take care of myself, my energy and how it feels to be around when I am calm, centered and content. This is what I want for my own kids, so I KNOW I have to practice it first.  

My "call to action" for all of us this spring is this: may we use our fitness routine as a way to find self-love and radiance within! Choose thoughts that build you up. Look in the mirror every day and notice something beautiful. Feel gratitude for your body and the ways it supports you in this life. Feel grateful for each breath. Give yourself more grace - nobody is perfect and perfect is BORING. Expand your comfort zone. Embrace what makes you different because that is what makes you beautiful. Be you! And most of all - be happy :).
This month please post pictures of YOU feeling healthy, happy and fit! Don't forget to use the hashtag #happyfit! Let's put some positive messages out there and share the love.  

In gratitude,

-- Jill

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Fit Tip: Why we Work in Neutral Spine

Neutral is the most optimal position for our spine. In neutral spine alignment we maintain all 4 natural curvatures of the spine and allow for the greatest range of motion and capacity to absorb impact. Neutral spine creates balanced space between each vertebra so that discs are in their most stable position.

Years of bad posture and learned habits have taken most people out of their ideal alignment. I believe NS is an incredibly important part of our health; therefore, there is a strong emphasis throughout all Dailey Method classes to help people find and maintain their own optimal expression of a neutral spine.   

My teacher Maritza calls the spine 'your queen'. I love that! If you truly take care of your spine and it’s alignment, oftentimes everything else falls into line on it’s own accord. It takes much more muscular energy to hold your body out of alignment.

People often think about “neutral” pertaining mostly to the lumbar spine curves but it’s really important for shoulder and neck health that we maintain and stabilize the curves in our thoracic and cervical spines too. 

Here are two great ways to work on optimizing your own NS positioning. It’s great to do them in profile in a mirror so that you can see the 4 distinct curves (sacrum, lumber, thoracic and cervical).  Plumb line is what you’re striving for - ears, shoulders, rib cage and hips all in the same plane.

Seated Neutral Spine: Sit on the ground with your legs in front of you and knees bent slightly.  If you have tight hamstrings you may need to sit up on a blanket or folded mat.

Widen your sitz bones (or internally rotate your thigh bones in the socket) to help give you the greatest base of support and enable you to find curvature in your lumbar spine. With your hands behind your hamstrings lift up out of your hips and try to reach the crown of your head to the ceiling. Draw your shoulder blades wide on your back and ears drawn back over your shoulders. We call this position a “meditation on alignment”. 

Close your eyes and with each inhalation try to foundation sitz bones into the earth and in opposition try to touch the crown of your head to the ceiling. Envision space being created between each vertebra. With each exhalation hug muscle to bone inward and upward to support your new lengthened alignment. Hold this for 8 breaths.

Neutral Spine Plank: Start in a position on your hands and knees with hands and arms in a plank position and your knees bent directly underneath your hips. Roll through cat and cow a couple times and then let you body settle in the middle. It should be a position of ease. Curl your toes under, engage your abdominals upward and inward to support your spine positioning and lift your knees up off the ground bringing hips up to shoulder height. The back of your head should be energized towards the ceiling and your shoulder blades wide on your back. 

Focus on breathing in length from your tailbone to the crown of your head and then hug your abdominal wall up to stabilize the length. Hold this for 30 seconds, reset and then hold again for 30 seconds.

Best wishes in finding neutral for 'your queen'!

-- Jill 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What I learned in Mexico…

I’ve just returned from what I hope will continue to be an annual Dailey Method health and happiness retreat in Sayulita, Mexico, produced by my Pediatrician Lindy Woodard, and her knowledgeable, generous team. The four days incorporate a variety of Dailey Method classes and workshops in addition to different discussions on subjects pertaining to how to deepen our happiness and health as we navigate forward in our lives. We are given guidance in introspection and then have conversations with wise women to help learn from their experiences. It’s incredibly helpful in furthering my insight into where I would like to expand or shift in my life - (which is exciting!) but notably the hardest part is taking the information back home and letting it integrate into everyday life. 

Here are three things that were strong takeaways for me from this years retreat:

Selfishness, there tends to be a negative connotation around this word but when you take time for yourself, be it four days in Mexico or even an afternoon reading and writing in bed, it’s really about self care. I actually (lovingly) got called out for using that word because I do have some fear about being selfish, especially when it comes to my family or my business. I am going to try and reframe that word when it pops into mind because there is no doubt that when I take care of myself I am better able to serve and care for others. It’s also important to remember to do it on a regular basis - we shouldn’t wait until we’re completely depleted to carve out the time for self! A little here and there strategically can go a long way.

Acknowledgement was a big theme over the week. I know how important it is to acknowledge the people in my life on a regular basis. Showing someone that you’ve truly seen what they do, that you appreciate it and are grateful, can go a long way in creating stronger relationships or just to make someone else a little happier, more confident or feel needed. I know that I am pretty good about sincerely acknowledging most people in my life but there are a few that I either assume know how much I love and need them or that for whatever reason it’s harder to express it to them. One of my intentions for practicing this skill is acknowledging my kids and thanking them when they do their chores instead of only scolding them when they don’t. I’m sure the latter will kick in regularly (daily) but I’m confident if the acknowledgement can stay consistent it will trend to create change in both my own frustration level and their willingness to be more proactive.

Expanding my own and my family’s diet is something I continually strive for and both retreat years I’ve gotten a wealth of ideas, insight and knowledge about food choices and preparations that have me highly inspired to cook! Lindy and Genie (our food team) do not believe that one diet is right for everyone but that we need to listen to our own bodies to learn what is right for us as individuals. They prescribe the food we eat be (when ever possible) organic, non-gmo, fresh, heavy in plants, lots of variety and colors and sustainable. They look at food as medicine but without sacrificing flavor. A theory I love to prescribe to: eat what best serves your health but still thoroughly enjoy the process.

I came back this year with the goal of stocking condiments and toppings and using them liberally for more flavorful, satisfying and nutrient rich meals. I am going to experiment with creating more bowls as meals and layering on different levels of flavors or textures. It’s easy to start with a base (rice, beans, veggies, fruit) and let your family tailor it to their specific tastes. Offering multiple toppings so that hopefully they will have variety and also learn to experiment with foods and flavors.

Besides just offering fresh cut vegetables or herbs as additions, Lindy and Genie defined 5 layers of flavor to consider.  Below I gave you an example of two or three of my favorites of each category.

Crunchy- chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and walnuts
Creamy- coconut oil, aioli and greek yoghurt
Spicy- red pepper flakes and any hot sauce.  This is a big one for me- I pretty much love it if it’s spicy!
Salty- olives and gomasio - Lindy and Genie use this a lot and I think my kids will love it.  It’s a nutritious salt alternative!
Sour- lemon, pickles and sauerkraut

Adios mis amigos,

-- Jill