From even before I had kids I knew several key points that would become the cornerstones of my parental approach. I feel very passionate about my kids seeing themselves as unique (like most parents) but in that uniqueness I wanted them to understand what it was like to develop individual skills and interests before engaging in the big wide world of pee-wee sports. We chose to skip the pee-wee games and guide our kids towards self-confidence using self-discovery and independent activity development. That meant family fitness activities. I know this is not for everyone, but for us-our kids getting down and dirty means playing in the mud, dancing in the rain, and walking in our woods searching for deer tracks and turkey feathers. I believe whole heartily that this is the foundation of childhood and developing into an independent-thinking adult. Yes, that’s right, family fitness is a foundation for our kids.
And within those independent activities, I wanted to be able to spend as much time with them as possible because there will come a day that they don’t think I’m top dog and will want to join the other team. But from the start, the team we wanted them to know they are on first is team “Krebs”.
Fitness is essential to me, and family fitness is even more important. The idea of keeping my kids active might not be what you are thinking because my suggestions won’t reference tee-ball, soccer, or dance. My suggestions are practical. They are beneficial, hopefully, to celebrate the little things because the little things are the foundation for your child’s future and who they will become as an adult and maybe one day as a parent.
Every movement matters.
In our house movement is super important. Now that my kids are school-aged, I recognize the extended periods of sitting and studying mean we need to prioritize movement once school activities are complete! I try to have them soak up every hour of daylight outside possible: jumping on the trampoline, climbing on the playset, chasing chickens, riding bikes, and making up games. And as easy as it is to send the kids outside, when you make an effort to go out with them they are not only more likely to explore, but it will make an impression that parents play too. I want to encourage you that if you tend to be a “go play outside parent” to set a timer for 20 minutes and go play with them, and then see what happens. I bet you that 20 minutes will quickly turn into an hour, because in the grand scheme of things- dinner can wait.
Family fitness walks.
Those in town who know me will vouch to say that they have seen me with my red stroller, two dogs, and two kids on bikes all over town. I need my movement, and because I work from home means I’m with my kids almost 24/7, so where I go, they go. And this has its perks. I used to fight for my personal time (I still get it but in other ways), but then I realized that the message I would be sending to my kids was exercise and fitness for adults is always separate. And after ten years of following this philosophy, I can honestly say it has paid off. I have gotten so much out of our walks together and I know I am planting the seed for years to come; plus, my kids love coming, they love my presence and I theirs. I use this time to talk to them about health, staying active as well as singing and playing eye spy. This is one of my most cherished non-winter experiences.
Family chores can be fun.
We have a very large backyard and woods and with all the tree cover a light breeze will drop tree limbs and black walnuts in an instant. My husband and I are not able to pick up this all ourselves and if we did we’d have no time for anything else. Staying active is super important to me and my family, but learning life skills is too. I know that when my kids become adults the impressions I set on them as kids will heavily impact the choices and decisions they make in their adult years. Picking up sticks is always a family affair, and I have to be honest they don’t always love it, but the older they get they realize: it’s not going to change anytime soon. Being outside in the warm sun and fresh air we race to fill our buckets first, who can pull the most roots, who gets the most walnuts and we often celebrate with lemonade and lunch outside afterward! We can easily spend two to three hours together (and don’t get me wrong there can be a fair share of complaining, but that is also part of the process) and after my husband always thanks them and asks them to look out and see what a great job they did. Seeing my kids notice their hard work and efforts and see them as they receive positive praise for helping in the household is a huge bonus too.
Encourage your kids to get dirty.
As parents we often let the end result cloud our willingness to let our kids run free. Stains on their pants, the time needed to then bathe, the worry of if they will get hurt, and the age-old excuse of not enough time. But I have to be honest, there is nothing more liberating than getting dirty with your kids. Sliding down the dirt mound outback with them. running barefoot in the rain, building sandcastles and mud pies at their side. When my husband and I get down and dirty with them, I get to see their eyes light up, not because of the dirt (although that is a big factor) but because we are dirty with them. I can feel the connection between us and our kids grow stronger and for me, it’s liberating as an adult to give myself permission to be a kid again and not try to be perfect all the time. When we get dirty we are reminded that life is messy. The mess is part of the experience.
Now these might not be wild and crazy ways to have fun, but they are free, fun and family orientated. When we instill in our kids that fitness, health, and fun cost money and require fancy equipment or continuous social engagements, we are limiting them in their own self-discovery process and creative development. Plus the time we get with our kids when they are young and we are the greatest thing since sliced bread is limited and I refuse to limit that even more.
Now go out and enjoy some family fitness!
Stress can be overwhelming and even debilitating. It can cause headaches, muscle tension, difficulty sleeping, and irritability. Obviously, we all know that stress isn’t good for us physically or mentally. So, how do we banish stress in our every day lives?
As a yoga teacher, I encourage others to live a life where they can stay grounded, focused, balanced, and content. Yoga has helped me a great deal with handling stress and the side effects of stress. It helps to relieve tension by keeping me focused on my breath rather than all the thoughts racing through my heads.
Whether you are at home, work, or somewhere in between, yoga is a great way to find stress relief. So, to help you on your journey of finding ways to banish stress, here are three of my favorite yoga poses.
3 Poses to Banish Stress Instantly
This pose is such a surrender for me. When I go here, I instantly let go. As I work to widen my knees slowly, I feel relief to feel such space (even if it doesn’t look like it). The freedom of my body letting go into the safety of the floor for a few minutes is all I need to feel a bit more like myself.
Legs Up With Support Pose
Legs Up With Support Pose
This pose is a go-to to help relieve the physical, emotional, and mental symptoms of stress. The feeling of my sacrum flat to the hard floor and my spine realigning without the burden of gravity is genuinely liberating. This pose allows me to let go. I totally give in to the fact that, at that moment, I am only human and not superwoman. What often starts as just a minute on my mat quickly ends up as ten, and trust me, you won’t be complaining.
Seated Forward Bend Pose
Seated Forward Bend Pose
This pose is often used in yoga therapy to help manage depression. It is also known to soothe headache and anxiety and reduce fatigue. The feeling of bending forward eases the mind. My warm breath against my thighs brings me full circle to the simplicity that I am okay the way I am.
Be gentle to yourself so that life can be gentle back to you. Never force yourself into a forward bend, especially when sitting on the floor. With each inhalation, lift and lengthen the front torso just slightly, with each exhalation release a little more fully into the forward bend. If you are new to this pose, it helps to hold a strap around the feel. If you are incredibly tight, place a rolled-up blanket under your knees for added support. The more you relax in this pose, the more naturally your body will open up.
You Are Worth It
Making things drawn out and complicated only stresses us out more. Don’t overthink it. Sometimes you don’t have the time or the mental discipline to hop onto your mat, and that is okay. I get it. However, what I have discovered is that if you do make the time for yourself, you will see how yoga can help you physically, mentally, and emotionally. You are worth it and you owe it to yourself to make time for you.
And if you want to get professional, inspiring, functionally-safe classes all in the comfort and privacy of your own home. You must check out my online studio. No travel, no hassle, no sitters, and no fuss. This is not your typical yoga or fitness studio–it’s a fresh approach that I know you will enjoy.
If you are experiencing stress right now, here are some other helpful resources:
Meditations for Stress Relief
Mindful Ways to Reduce Stress
Navigating Stress In Life
It’s almost the New Year! Time to get up off that chair and get your booty moving again. No more excuses – it’s time to build a better booty!
You can feel the difference with just one quick move. Your New Year’s resolution to exercise more does not have to include extreme, super-quick jumpy moves or flailing body parts. The key to effective exercise is awareness. In order to cultivate awareness, one has to start to move and feel at the same time.
Are you an active person who loves to play? This is a great move to help improve activities like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and many other activities that require real lower-body stability and strength. This move is both challenging and mindfully controlled; speed will not win here.
Brush up on your pelvic floor and deep-core awareness (pelvic-core). This zone is the key to all exercise and all movement.
To give you a very short tutorial: While working on a deep pelvic floor contraction and deep transversus (our deepest torso/core muscle), imagine you have to go to the bathroom and you’re holding it in. At the same time, coughing. Feel your entire core contract as you stay contracted in the pelvic floor.
Build a Better Booty and Backside
Clamp a mini exercise ball or weighted ball tightly between the calf hamstring on one side.
Keeping a neutral pelvis (front hip bones are parallel with the wall you are facing), slowly hinge into yourself.
Bend the knees slightly to sink down into a Chair Pose on one foot. Use a hand against a wall to keep your balance, if needed. Align the knees to meet, and face the hips and torso to square yourself forward. Try using your hands at the top of your pelvis to see if you are level or not.
Inhale in Chair Pose and as you exhale, contract your pelvic-core, raise the ball leg forward while lifting the opposite arm up. Be mindful when you lift the leg forward to go only as high as you can without collapsing your torso or tucking your tailbone forward.
As you exhale, work to feel the base leg’s gluteus maximus contract as well. It’s important that the pelvic floor contract first and then the glutes, or all you are doing is death-squeezing the gluteus maximus.
Focus on lifting directly upward through the crown of the head. With a lack of gluteus stability and pelvic floor and inner core support, you will notice that you want to lean back.
Inhale and return back to a one-legged Chair Pose, working to bring the legs parallel with each other and work to keep the floating foot flexed.
Continue to move mindfully and slowly. There is no need to speed through this movement. When you do, the core muscles can easily be overlooked.
Try using a mini ball to start: focus on stability first and then increase to a weighted ball of 2 to 8 pounds.
Repeat this series up to 10 times on each side and then go back to the weaker side and revisit it for another possible 10 rounds. Working a 2-to-1 ratio allows the weaker tissues and side to catch up to the more dominant side. You can find more exercises to work these areas as a member of my Mindful Movement Online Studio – only $9.99/month.
Looking for More Pose Breakdowns? Check Out These Articles!
How To Get The Most Out Of Plank Pose
Save Savasana: The Final Pose of Yoga is the Most Important
How to do Pigeon the Right Way
When Dancer Pose Doesn’t Dance: Unlocking the Front Body
4 Quick Effective Yoga Poses To Do While Flying
Using a foam roller is an excellent way to help decrease pain, stiffness, and tightness while actually improving the function of muscles, tendons, and fascia
When incorporating something like mayo fascia release
(foam rolling), it’s important to educate yourself on the many types of foam rollers out there. I always suggest to my students to always use a soft foam roller.
You don’t want something that will be too abrasive with your tissues.
Second, more does not always equal better. Rolling for hours a day will not necessarily be more beneficial than rolling out for 10 or 15 minutes every day or just a few days a week.
Roll Your Back
80% of Americans have or have had back problems. Rolling your back top to bottom is an amazing way to decrease pain, aches, and discomfort. Try this:
Place the foam roller behind you on the floor and lean back onto the center of the roller. Lift your bottom off the floor and support your head in your hands. Using your legs, roll yourself along the foam roller in long strokes or sections along your back, being sure to work your entire back body.
Experiment with rounding or arching your back in places, or leaning only to one side and rolling. Also, try raising one arm straight out above your head at a time. If your balance is good, try extending both arms while you roll your upper back.
Spend a few minutes here and notice the improvement in your back’s comfort and your back stretching. You can also try this standing against the wall with the foam roller behind you.
Roll Your Legs and Hips
Many people complain of hip, sacrum and leg pain. Rolling is a very safe and effective way to decrease knee, hip, and even back pain. Try this:
Starting on your right outer leg and hip, place your left foot on the floor. Using your leg and arms, push and pull your right leg along the soft foam roller, being sure to work the entire area from upper hip to the outside of the knee.
After several times over, move to your quadriceps. Using your forearms, push-pull yourself across the foam roller from pelvis to knees. Play with internal and external rotation to hit all areas. Move onto the left hip and repeat the same process.
Finally, sitting onto the foam roller, with the help of your arms and hands, push-pull your hamstrings along the foam roller.
Oh, that pain in my butt! Many of us have been there, and sometimes stretching can actually cause more discomfort. Working with a foam roller can soothe sore muscles and give you the relief you are looking for. Try this:
Sit onto the foam roller and lean onto your left glute. Cross your left ankle over your right knee and begin to roll on your glute tissue (your booty). Be playful with different angles and in rolling high or low on your glute.
If you find a sensitive area, feel free to just hold there for a few deep exhalations and then move on. After a few minutes, switch to the other side, repeating the process.
No More Neck Pain
A stiff neck, a tight jaw, and even shoulder pain can all be soothed with a few strikes of the foam roller. Try this:
Lying on the floor, place the foam roller behind your neck and rest your head on the foam roller. Kindly turn your head side to side, feeling the relieving pressure at the base of the skull and neck against the foam roller.
Second, moving only a few inches, rock your head and neck back and forth to work any other tightness out. Be sweet, as the neck for many is a sensitive area. But, this may be the relief you are looking for.
Foam Rolling does not replace stretching or other maintenance care, but it can assist in a more effective stretching routine or yoga experience, not to mention improved athletic performance. Mayo fascia release can also improve your massage therapy sessions, as the therapist does not have to work so hard at the surface of your tissue. It also can help your adjustments hold longer.
I may be a yoga teacher, but it is my goal to teach my students how to take better care of their bodies — because you only get one, and replacement parts are never as good as the originals.
Want more from your foam roller?
Join me and “Roll This!” Click here to access the most detailed workbook you will ever own with step-by-step details to every move you’ll want to know when it comes to the foam roller and Dr. Cohen’s acuBall.
This post was originally published in the July 2014 Edition of Nature’s Pathways.
As a fitness professional for over a decade, I have pretty much seen it all. Especially when it comes to core-based exercise. When you consider trying to bring some more attention to your midsection (and your obliques), a few things are important to consider:
Core work flat on your back is out!
Think about it, how do you spend your day? Upright! So doesn’t it make more sense to work with gravity in that manner?
Focus on feeling rather than doing.
Find guides that really help you tune into not only what you should be doing, but what you should and shouldn’t be feeling. If you need somewhere to start, consider my Mindful Movement Online Studio (just $9.99/month)
Work from the inside out.
No matter what you do, everything is core work. That being said, it all starts with a conscious pelvic-core (pelvic floor muscles plus deep core muscles) contraction.
We have a deep oblique — called the internal oblique — and an external oblique. These muscles overlap each other.
We need our obliques for many things: They offer support and stability for the back and hips. When developed properly, they improve spinal support, movement and function, as well as the relationship between the rib cage and pelvis. Strength to twist, bend sideways and rotate comes a great deal from our amazing obliques.
Here is one of my favorite tributes to our famous obliques:
- Start in a kneeling position (be sure to pad your knees if necessary), and grab your weight (if using one).
- Find neutral pelvis (your pubis bone and hip bones should run parallel with the wall you are facing).
- Contract your pelvic-core muscles (think bathroom muscles and torso muscles, much like when you cough).
- Steadily extend your right leg out to the side, turning your right foot parallel to your knee. Be sure to anchor your foot into the floor.
- Holding your weight in front of your chest, draw your elbows wide and relax your shoulders.
- Inhale, tip to the left as far as you can control, without folding in your left hip.
- Exhale, feel your waist (obliques) carry you back up with control. You should not feel any downward pressure into your pelvic floor when you lift (remember to keep those muscles strong).
- Repeat this process 10 times on each side. After you have repeated this on both sides, go back to your weaker side and complete the process again for a 2-to-1 ratio (weaker to stronger). If the weight creates too much tension work, do this exercise without added weight in front and instead hold opposite elbows with your forearms at chest height.
Here are some more resources on firing up your obliques!
Fire Up The Obliques With The Ring Of Fire
Get your Arms and Obliques Beach Body Ready — Oblique Lift & Lower
Better Obliques with Stretch and Strengthen
Oblique Jump Start, a Journey into the Real Core!
Arms & Obliques Oh’ My with Side Plank Lift & Lower
Have fun and keep at it!
This post was originally published on Nature’s Pathways, and updated on 10/4/19.