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Fitness, Health

Walking meditation for folks who can’t sit still

Who needs meditation the most? Busy people. Those of us who are not naturally calm. People who have a lot on their mind.

We know that we can benefit from time to quiet our mind, but finding the space for quiet can be hard.

I’ve had both family and friends tell me that they can’t find time to meditate. They don’t feel that they have enough hours in the day or they aren’t the type of people who can sit still easily. So they ask how they can incorporate meditation into their lives if they can’t sit still.

No judgment if people aren’t ready or don’t want to sit in a traditional meditation posture. There are other ways to get the benefits of a meditative mindset even if you don’t want to sit in one spot.

Through my yoga studies and personal experience, I have learned that we can calm our mind even when we are moving. Whether we are flowing through yoga postures, hiking in the mountains or strolling our neighborhood, we can move mindfully and create head space.

The goal of meditation is not to clear your mind completely or to think about nothing, rather meditation is designed to help you become aware of your thoughts as they appear so you don’t become consumed by them. If your mind jumps all over the place from thought to unrelated thought, you are experiencing a phenomenon known as “monkey mind.” And you are not alone.

Many of us wrestle with thoughts that jump all over the place. Thoughts like, “I’m hungry. How far is it from San Francisco to Tokyo? I should Google that. I can’t forget to pick up the dry cleaning. I wonder what they are thinking about me. Do I have lettuce stuck in my teeth?” Our minds bounce all over the place, even when we are trying to focus on a project, a task or the present moment.

Meditation is an avenue that allows you to acknowledge your random thoughts and let them go.

We all can begin to tame our monkey mind simply by acknowledging our thoughts and emotions without letting them consume us. This consciousness can be attained through a walking meditation if you don’t have the time or inclination to literally sit with your thoughts.

How to Engage in a Walking Meditation

This is not your typical city walk. You want to reduce outside distractions as much as possible, including traffic, pot holes and other dangers. You will be turning your focus inward, so find a space with even trails or sidewalks that will allow you to do so. Also, leave the technology behind. A walking meditation is a time to be alone with your thoughts.

As you begin your walk, be mindful of the world around you. Notice the noises nearby. Are birds singing? Do you hear traffic?

Then, as you walk, tune in to sounds farther away. Can you make out specific sounds from the overall din of the soundscape?

Then turn the focus inward. Keeping your eyes gazed on the path ahead, become mindful of your breathing. What is the quality of your breath? Is it shallow? Are you breathing into your back? Just notice.

Then see if you can maintain a rhythm with the breath. Most of us will need to slow down our breathing. Focus on making the inhalation and exhalation approximately the same length. Keep this focus for a minute or two.

And all this time, you are still moving. You may notice that your walking pace has slowed. That is ok.

Breathe.

Now it is time to turn your focus to your thoughts.

Notice what thought bubbles up in your mind, acknowledge it, thank the thought, and let it go. Bring your awareness back to the breath.

Don’t become discouraged if your mind drifts away to another time and place. Find the breath and begin again.

Each time a random thought pops into your mind, notice it, thank it and let it go. Bring your focus back to the breath. See if you can stay in the present a little bit longer this time.

Keep walking, breathing, and noticing.

It’s a journey. Noticing our thought patterns and quieting our minds isn’t easy. But it’s worth it every step of the way.

Family, Fitness

What to Expect at a Babywearing Dance Class

If you have been watching YouTube over the last year, you might have seen viral videos of new parents dancing around wearing their babies like this one. The parents were taking a group exercise class called Groovearoo in San Diego, and they are having a blast. When I saw it, I was 7 months pregnant and excited to try a class in our city. But when baby came, I quickly learned that  we didn’t have any local babywearing classes.

I wish I could say that I decided right then and there to start teaching a babywearing dance class. I used to teach Zumba. I had a baby. Heck, I had four baby carriers. But the thought never crossed my mind. I was a new mom trying to make it through each day.

Then when I was taking a baby and me yoga class last summer, we all started chatting about the YouTube videos of babywearing dancers and lamenting the fact that we didn’t have a local class.

“You know, you really should teach that,” one mom said to me.

Wow. Me? Yeah. Hmmm…Could I? I guess I had the qualifications. I had a baby to dance with, and I started to realize that it really was something I could do. It would just take research and some practice.

And that is how I began teaching a babywearing dance class last fall.

If you are new to babywearing dance, below are some tips based on my experience to help you and your baby have a positive dance experience and actually want to come back again and again.

So what is babywearing dance class all about? 

Parents come to class with their babies, diaper bag (super important) and a baby carrier that provides proper support for baby as well as comfort for Mom or Dad (you are dancing after all).

Although I wore my little one last fall when I taught, most instructors are not wearing babies. The job of the instructor is to keep you both safe while leading you through a low impact workout that allows you to have fun. Please check in with your instructor if you are new to their babywearing dance class. They can check the fit of your carrier and provide you with any information you need to have a fun and safe experience in their class.

 

What kind of carrier should I use? 

Seriously, do not scrimp on a carrier with solid support. And quadruple check that your baby fits properly inside. You don’t want your baby falling out or chaffing against you during class. And absolutely no slings.

Ergo carriers are great. The BabyBjorn One Air is another model that provides back support and is breathable. I have seen multiple brands and styles that have worked very well. It really is all about making sure that the carrier is safe for the baby and is comfortable for you as you dance.

How long are classes?

Classes are usually 30 minutes to an hour and allow you multiple breaks to cool off, check on baby, change diapers, feed, etc. And if you decide you have had enough, there is no shame in leaving early. We have all been there. Sometimes you need to call it a day to ensure you want to come back for the next class.

What else should I do to ensure I’m dancing safely? 

Dancing by yourself is going to make you sweat. Now strap on a 10-15 lb. heater to the front of your body. Sweat will be poring into your eyes, and quickly. And imagine how baby feels as sweat rains down upon them. You need to take many more breaks than you would if you were working out solo to check on baby’s temperature and make sure you don’t overheat.

Also, this is not the time for high impact jumps or complicated moves. You can’t swing your arms like you normally can. If you do, then you risk smacking your baby in the face. It’s best to just not.

A beautiful visual of parent-tot bonding, right? 

It really is the most beautiful visual at the beginning of class before you begin to sweat. Remember, your baby is a little heater. And if you take breaks and keep it low impact, then you both should feel great by the end.

I am an instructor. How do I learn to teach a babywearing class? And should I teach while wearing my baby?

Currently the only babywearing certification I know of is through Groovearoo. Depending on your exercise background, you may be able to design a class on your own. Be very careful if you choose the DIY option. Do your research, err on the side of caution and ask your participants to sign waivers (which is a good practice in general).

I taught while wearing my 6-month-old daughter. I knew going into it that it would be challenging, but I wanted the experience. After a couple of classes, I realized if my baby wasn’t happy, the tone of the class would dissolve quickly. So I had someone standing by to take her in case there were problems. The extra logistics made wearing my baby while teaching unsustainable. Although we had fun, I wouldn’t recommend wearing your own baby while teaching on a regular basis. Dance with your baby at home or as a participant in another instructor’s class. When you are teaching you need to focus on your participants. In fact, you could wear a baby doll in a carrier if you want to model the movements and carrier fit without the risk of a baby meltdown. 🙂

I hope these tips are helpful. Please Contact Me if you have individual questions or feel free to leave a comment below.

Fitness

Daylight savings, meet early morning yoga

I have this dream that I wake up at 5am every morning and run down to the local yoga studio to take a 5:45am yoga class. In my dream I return home feeling awake, open and energetic, all before the rest of the family wakes up. We then gets ready for the day together, and I make it to work on time. I am an early riser, and I feel good.

Alas, it’s only a dream. The truth is that I’m not a morning person. I wake up most mornings between 6-7am because my 6-month-old is an early riser. Yet rising at 5am on a regular basis seems impossible. It’s a ridiculous mental block.

With the help of daylight savings, I am about to make my dream of early morning yoga a reality.  Here is the plan–starting on Monday, I’ll wake up at the same time, or what feels like 6am. Since our clocks move back one hour, it will actually be 5am. This extra hour will give me the kick in the pants I need to fit in a yoga practice at the beginning of the day.

I’m happy to use Daylight Savings as a convenient mind trick to add yoga back into my routine.

What are you doing with your extra hour of sleep this weekend?

Family, Fitness

Getting Back In Shape After Baby

It’s exciting to be able to move again. After being restricted from cardio since last October, I was released to workout 6 weeks after having baby #2 in April.

I’ve been exercising again for a solid 2 months, and I feel a lot stronger and almost ready to start teaching fitness classes again. Easing back into fitness with postpartum workouts has been very helpful.

So what have I been doing to get in shape? I’ve been taking postpartum sculpt classes, doing yoga, enjoying dance-based classes, and hitting the weights.

Muscles atrophy fast and weight workouts have really helped me handle the day to day, especially a little one that never wants to be put down. I let my personal weight workouts slide over the last couple of years, and I don’t want it to happen again.

And on the fitness horizon…I’m looking forward to teaching a new baby-wearing dance class starting in September. Luckily I’ve got my own little one to help me practice. 😉  Right now I’m picking out music and practicing the moves while trying to stay out of this summer heatwave. Taking it day by day…

 

 

Fitness

What to wear to a SUP Yoga Class

On our family vacation last week my hubby and I took our first Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) yoga class while visiting Lake Tahoe. Neither of us had paddle boarded before, so we were a little nervous to try it out because we didn’t know what to expect. It was hard to decide what to wear that would be comfortable and warm enough for an early morning class in the mountains.

I did a web search before we went and didn’t find much guidance on what to wear from any websites. I couldn’t find even find information from the SUP yoga providers themselves.

However, through my searches I did learn that most people said not to worry about falling off the paddle board. Of course, that’s easy to say after you have successfully navigated through your first class…

Still I wondered about the possibility of entering the c-o-l-d waters of Lake Tahoe. I wanted to make sure that whatever I wore would easily dry off if I did fall in between poses. I definitely didn’t want to feel like a drowned rat while sitting in savasana at the end of class.

In warmer waters simply wearing a swim suit would be very appropriate. This was obvious as I did my quick Google search before our class. Most online tips cautioned floating yogis to examine the level of coverage your suit provides in various yoga postures ahead of time to make sure you feel comfortable. And you never know, a wardrobe malfunction on the board could just throw you off balance so its best to check ahead. 🙂

But what about in colder waters like Tahoe and the San Francisco Bay?

As I tend to run cold to begin with, I definitely would not wear a bikini in Tahoe. Based on our weather conditions, I decided to wear a one piece swim suit and some capri pants in technical fabric. My hubby wore running shorts and a t-shirt. We each wore light windbreakers to the beach.

It was a very windy day so our instructor told us to wear our windbreakers on the water. Lucky for us, the wind died down when we began to walk down to the lake, and we were able to leave our jackets on the beach. After wading into ankle deep water we were tethered to our boards, so wearing capri pants worked well <phew!>. And we went barefoot, which I would definitely recommend. I was able to dangle my hands and feet in the water during the final relaxation and feel the warmth of the summer sunshine on my body contrasted against the cold water on my feet and hands. Perfection.Stand up paddleboard yoga

What should I wear to SUP yoga?

Based on my first SUP yoga experience (yep, I’m hardly an expert), here are my tips on what to wear:

Definitely wear sunscreen.

Avoid wearing cotton or other natural fibers that will weigh you down if you happen to fall in.

In warm waters:

  • swim suit with enough coverage based on your modesty levels

In cold waters:

  • technical fabrics dry quickly
  • swim suits
  •  shorts, capris (if you have to wear long pants, roll ’em up)
  • tank tops, t-shirts
  • windbreakers

Optional items that may be helpful:

  • Sports sandals depending on where you are paddling and your level of comfort with bare feet
  • Sunglasses
  • hair ties to wear your hair back if needed to keep it out of your face

And most importantly, have fun!

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