The Lotus of Yoga

To say this past weekend’s yoga teacher training changed my life is an exaggeration and yet it’s true.  Just as moving a table in the living room can change the whole decor, I experienced small changes in my body, emotions and thought that are rippling through my whole self.

The way I approach my yoga mat is new.  The way I dance is new.  The way I walk is new.  The way I practice Combattitude is new.

Even deeper than that, I feel different in the world.  I feel grounded and strong; at peace and brave; alert and relaxed; and connected and independent.

So what magic occurred that brought on such change?

Diving deep and surrendering into my yoga practice from the foundation of my yoga and dance practices.

Just like a deep massage is painful, our practice went deep into painful area of my body but relieved the tension and stagnation that had been chronic.  Our first practice opened and released the ribs, diaphragm and chest.  These areas are associated with the 3rd chakra (will) and 4th chakra (heart).

Through my dance work, I know how to use images to affect the body.  Gopi suggested to the class that we imagine a lotus blossoming behind the heart as we were in an intense backbend.  She assisted me in getting deeper into the backbend.  As I placed the lotus image behind my heart and she moved me deeper,  I felt an electric charge right in that spot behind my heart that dispersed through the rest of my body like a firework blossoming.  It’s a feeling I have felt before in acupuncture so I knew that an energetic channel had been opened.

Our second practice dove into opening the hips in all directions to prepare for lotus.  Resistance was strong in me during that practice.  I had trouble finding the breath.  The sensations in my hips were powerful.  As we held pigeon, a pose I usually enjoy, my mind taunted me with reasons I felt pain and why I should get out of the pose.  After a while, my whole body started to quake.  Tears came.  I did not give into Resistance’s badgering.

As it turns out, everyone had a similar experience.  Later, you could see that it had moved something in each of us.  Some felt impatient and a bit angry.  Others felt exhausted.  I felt incredibly calm and unperturbed.  I realized that I became a little more tolerate of discomfort and uncertainty that day.

I still feel this after two days.  Creativity has been flowing.  I suddenly feel ready to get back to performing.  That is pleasant surprise.

To be less than half way through this yoga teacher training and experience this kind of change excites the imagination of what’s to come.

Have you had a similar experience with yoga?  Or anything?  Please share in the comments below.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Mentors, Teachers and Crushes, Part II

The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind. ~Kahlil Gibran

Where did you get that exercise from, Jen?  Did you make it up?

How do you know all this?

I get these question from my clients quite a bit.  Sometimes, I do make movements up, though I’m sure someone else thought of it long before I did.  Other times, I can point to where the exercise came from.  Usually, it came from or was inspired by one of mentors or someone whose work I admire.  Who are these people?

I’ll tell you a bit about the people who have profoundly influenced me in creating Spitfire Fitness Arts in this series of posts called Mentors, Teachers and Crushes.

  • Mentors– People that I trained under for many years and shaped who I am.
  • Teachers– I have taken courses from, learned from their work on me.
  • Crushes– I never met them, but their work heavily influenced or inspired my own work.

Part II-Teachers

Colette Yglesias Silver: Through theatrical movement classes at Studio Theatre, Collette taught me about posture and alignment in movement, not just sitting or standing upright. She also taught me about the qualities of movement.

Dr. Sean Woods: My chiropractor for 8 years, Dr. Sean helped me get to know each vertebra of my spine and how to perceive when they are out of alignment. This helps me understand clients’ injuries and health issues caused by spinal problems.

Paul Chek: When I first started as a trainer, I struggled with training program design. I took Paul Chek’s course on the subject and it was never a question again. I first came across the idea of primal movement patterns from Paul Chek. Probably, the most significant, albeit gross, understanding I gained from him is the relationship of intestine health to core engagement and development.  If you’re full of crap, your core muscles cannot move.

Polina Gregory: Co-Founder of Elements of Motion Resistance Training Studio, Polina Gregory is a Muscle Activation Technique Master Specialist and personal trainer. Polina taught me that muscle imbalances aren’t always about tightness or strength. Often it is about the communication between the muscle and the nervous system.  Polina’s passion to help her clients feel better reminds me of the importance of what fitness professionals have to give.

Chuck Wolf: The gold nugget that I got from Chuck Wolf is that the feet are important.  The feet are important but we take them for granted.  Through a series of exercises during a seminar, Mr. Wolf demonstrated that you can change what is going on in the knee, hip or anywhere else in the body by changing how we stand on our feet.  In essence, he reminded us that every part of the body is in relationship to every other part of the body.  With this knowledge, I could help a client figure out that her knee pain was actually a symptom of hip problems.

Megan Davis: I have taken a few workshops in yoga therapy from Megan Davis. She has a vast knowledge of anatomy and alignment in posture.  She gave me an even deeper understanding of the importance of healthy, stable feet.  Megan also teaches undergraduate philosophy and religion.

Shiva Rea: Shiva Rea is a rockstar in the yoga community.  I have taken a couple of her workshops and practiced some of her yoga videos.  I think I really like her because she looks like one of my favorite cousins and she surfs, but she certainly deserves her rockstar status. She has a deep understanding of yoga and our relationship to nature and the Universe.  I particularly appreciate the ebb and flow of her practice.

Pete Egoscue: Reading an article by Egoscue gave me a tool to give to clients to discover the source of their pain by tapping into their body’s innate wisdom.

Clifton Harski: I took a one-day MovNat workshop with Clifton in Spring 2011.  He has such a great sense of humor and fluid way of teaching that we were all a little sad that the day was over.  Didn’t matter that we were tired, wet and dirty from 7 hours of playing in woods and on the playground.  From Clifton, I got a good sense of the MovNat principles laid down by Founder, Erwan Le Corre, as well as a slew of fun things to do in the woods.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Mentors, Teachers and Crushes, Part I

om ajnana-timirandhasya jnananjana-salakaya
caksur unmilitam yena tasmai sri-gurave namah

I offer my respects unto my spiritual master, who has opened my eyes, which were blinded by the darkness of ignorance, with the torchlight of knowledge.

Where did you get that exercise from, Jen?  Did you make it up?

How do you know all this?

I get these question from my clients quite a bit.  Sometimes, I do make movements up, though I’m sure someone else thought of it long before I did.  Other times, I can point to where the exercise came from.  Usually, it came from or was inspired by one of mentors or someone whose work I admire.  Who are these people?

I’ll tell you a bit about the people who have profoundly influenced me in creating Spitfire Fitness Arts in this series of posts called Mentors, Teachers and Crushes.

  • Mentors– People that I trained under for many years and shaped who I am.
  • Teachers– Those I have studied, worked and/or shared knowledge with.
  • Crushes– I never met them, but their work heavily influenced or inspired my own work.
Part I- Mentors

Mead Andrews: Through her teachings in Alexander Technique, Mead Andrews gave me a strong foundation for understanding posture and alignment.  She also taught me to stay open, relaxed and observant through improvisational theatre.  The idea of listening to the body initiated with my time with Mead.

Kristin Horton: Along with Mead, Kristin Horton was the fearless leader of the Full Contact Improvisational Company of which I was a member.  She taught me so much about emotion and how it lives in the body.  She inspired me to take risks and embrace intensity.

Naoko Maeshiba: I worked with Naoko Maeshiba for 7 years.  Her influence on me is deep, which makes it nearly impossible to express in words.  To express what she has given me, I will use Naoko’s words from her website, “…a new form of perception.”  I perceive the Human Being, its relationship to Nature and its Self differently.  I know that compartmentalizing the Human Being into “mind,” “body,” and “spirit” is not helpful. Neither is the believe that humans are separate from Nature.  This is the greatest influence on the movement teacher I am, but it is the least tangible.

Dale Buchanan: Dale Buchanan was Head Trainer when I was a Personal Trainer at Results the Gym.  He helped me realize that I actually knew a lot about the human body, how it moves and how to help it function better.  That gave me confidence.  He also taught me a basic foundation for building fitness programs for anyone.  That structure continues to guide me today.

Chuck and Suzie Jeffreys: Chuck and Suzie are family to me.  The first time I met them at the Combattitude Fighting Fitness Academy I felt like I had come home.  They have taught me that the keys to human potential are observation, freedom of choice, adaptation and, of course, training.  I have also learned from them that sometimes we learn something quickly but our need to understand something intellectually hinders us for seeing that we already do understand.

Gopi Kinnicutt– I have studied yoga off-and-on since I was 17, but I never got serious about it until I decided to participate in a 30-day yoga challenge fundraiser in 2010.  The biggest reason I didn’t dive into yoga was that I never really felt like I found my teacher.  During that 30-day challenge, I took a class from Gopi.  I knew I had found my yoga teacher.  I feel my studies with Gopi will tie together what I have learned from the theatre, dance, personal training and martials arts.  I am currently taking her yoga teacher training.

Q&A: Thoughts on Crossfit

Today’s question comes from Michael on Facebook.


What do you think about Crossfit?


Crossfit can be very valuable, as long as function and safety are the main objectives of the Crossfit organization you train with. It is fun and challenging.  It’s popularity continues to grow as both a fitness program and a sport. ESPN 2 just broadcast the Crossfit Games in September.

According to Crossfit Founder, Greg Glassman’s “Foundations” in the Crossfit Journal:

“CrossFit is a core strength and conditioning program. We have designed our program to elicit as broad an adaptational response as possible. CrossFit is not a specialized fitness program but a deliberate attempt to optimize physical competence in each of ten recognized fitness domains. They are Cardiovascular and Respiratory endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility, Power, Speed, Coordination, Agility, Balance, and Accuracy.”

The signature of Crossfit is the WOD (Workout of the Day).  A Crossfit WOD incorporates a few or many of what Glassman calls “fitness domains.” This challenges the body to adapt, as it shifts from one to the next. You might go from squats to overhead press to sprints to ab work to gymnastics.

Crossfit is designed to be scalable to any fitness level. For anyone, who is curious about it, I would recommend trying it. Just do some research about the organization and the instructors/trainers. There are many exercises in Crossfit that can cause injury, if either the participant or the instructor takes safety for granted.

Know and understand for yourself the function and purpose of each movement and exercise. If you do not understand why you are doing something, ask! Make sure you and your instructor know the body mechanics and intention of what you are doing.

I enjoy jumping into a Crossfit workout from time to time. It challenges my body and shakes the cobwebs out of my brain. I have learned quite a bit about Olympic style lifting from my Crossfit experience.

Crossfit is great for women, especially if your trainer understands how to adapt movements to the female body.  You get strong and lean.  Your confidence grows as you continue to top your own personal record.  There is also a strong sense of community in Crossfit organizations.

For more information, a list of Crossfit affliates and video demos of WOD, visit the Crossfit website.

For folks in DC- I love the good people at Crossfit DC and Crossfit BalancePrimal Fitness also has a great reputation.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Fitness Cleanse Program

As part of Ellen Kittredge’s Fall Forward 21-Day Cleanse Program, Spitfire will offer the Cleansing Through Movement Program.

The movement program is meant to multiply the effects of Ellen’s program with gentle exercises that assist your body’s natural cleansing processes.  As inflammation reduces from the food-based cleanse, it is easier to affect change to the body’s movement patterns and posture.  This makes it a great time to shift to a more active lifestyle by starting with gentle cleansing movements.  Anyone that is already active will enjoy moving in new ways.

This program is complimentary, but only offered to participants of Ellen’s Cleanse, which begins October 3.

Receive daily tips on ways to move your body to get more out of the cleansing process through the groups’ emails.  Each email also include a link to an exercise routine, one for each week of the cleanse.

This program especially benefits participants of Ellen’s 21-Day Cleanse who:

  • Have been sedentary and would like to ease into a fitness program
  • Already works out but is not sure how to slow down during a food-base cleanse
  • Practice yoga and would like to add some movements that enhance cleansing
  • Experience back pain, hip pain or sciatica
  • Wants to strengthen the core and improve posture

Last day to sign up for Ellen’s Fall Forward Program is Tuesday, September 27.

Read more about the Spitfire Cleansing Through Movement Program.

Mindful Eating: A Contributing Factor to Weight Loss

By Ellen Kittredge, CHC (

I’m sure you’ve heard that old saying: “Where attention goes, energy flows.” If you concentrate on your food – what you are eating – you will absorb and assimilate the actual nutrients in it – and thus need to eat less food overall.

The opposite, of course, is also true: the less awareness you bring to the table, the more you’ll need to eat, thus leading to excess weight gain.

How often do you eat your meals in front of the computer, checking emails and shoveling food in at the same time, or mindlessly watching TV, and going back for seconds on that bowl of ice cream before you realize that you didn’t even taste the first bowl?

There are two specific examples I’d like to share that will explain how lack of awareness of what we are eating leads to weight gain. It is my hope that this information will inspire you to have more awareness around the actual consumption of food, thus making it easier to lose any weight you are looking to let go of! Thanks to Marc David, and “The Slow Down Diet” for inspiration for this topic.


#1 is something called the Cephalic Phase Digestive Response (CPDR). CPDR is the pleasure of taste, aroma, satisfaction and visual stimulation of a meal. 30-40 of the total digestive response to any meal is due to CPDR – our full awareness of what we are eating. So, if we are distracted while eating, we are metabolizing our meal at only 60-70% efficiency.

And why would this lead to weight gain? It’s simple. We need to eat more to feel satisfied. To see weight loss, our metabolism needs to be functioning optimally. That means we want to be metabolizing our food at 100%, all the time.

#2. In a test where subjects were given a mineral drink to test for absorption of sodium and chloride, when in a relaxed state, the test subject absorbed 100%. At different session when given the same mineral drink while exposed to dichotomous listening (two people talking to them at the same time) the results showed that participants had a complete shutdown in absorption of chloride and sodium for one full hour afterwards. Basically, they completely lost the ability to absorb these nutrients when they were not focusing on the food and were in a heightened state of stress where they were trying to listen to two stimuli at the same time. Perhaps you could imagine a scenario where you just sat down in front of the TV to eat your dinner, and your child or partner is calling to you from the kitchen…

Consider bringing more awareness to the table for your next meal. Not only will this benefit your health and your waistline, you’ll probably enjoy your food more too!

Continue reading

Go Upside Down for a New Perspective

Inversions, Climbing and Hanging Around

[Keating stands on his desk]
John Keating: Why do I stand up here? Anybody?
Dalton: To feel taller!
John Keating: No!
[Dings a bell with his foot]
John Keating: Thank you for playing Mr. Dalton. I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.

Dead Poet’s Society, 1989

Having trouble thinking of new ideas?  Is there a problem you can’t quite solve?  Are you stuck in a rut?

Maybe you just need to change how you see the world by changing where you see it from.  Give one of these ideas a try:

  • Take a yoga class and practice headstands, handstands and inversions.
  • Try out the climbing gym or an outdoor rock climbing class.
  • Climb a tree.
  • Play on the monkey bars at the playground.
  • Hang from your knees on the Smith Machine at the gym.
  • Do some crunches on the inversion bench.
  • Find an AcroYoga or AntiGravity Yoga class.
  • Get a TRX Suspension Trainer.
  • Talk your honey into testing out those new positions on that app you downloaded on your Android or iPhone.
  • Swing on that pole.
  • Dust off those gravity boots in the attic, closet, under the bed.
  • Fly on a trapeze.

Getting more blood to your brain could help too.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Solar Massage

The Sun, as seen from the surface of Earth thr...

Image via Wikipedia

We receive so many mixed messages when it comes to health and fitness.

Eggs are bad for you.  No, eggs are good for you.  Low fat, high carbs–no, high protein, low carbs are best for you.

I think all this mucking around contributes to cultural neurosis.

We don’t know how to trust the intelligence of our own bodies.  If it feels good, it’s ok.  If it feels like s**t, it probably is.  If we tap into what our bodies are communicating, we can better moderate what we consume or expose ourselves to.

Sun exposure has been relegated to evil status for a couple decades now.  According to popular belief, at best, it wrinkles and dries your skin to leather.  At worst, it causes incurable melanomas.  Hhhm, so how have cultures and tribes that live outdoors in little more than loin coverings managed to survive the onslaught of skin cancer they must be experiencing?

At heart, I am a summer girl.  I love the sun and the water.  From age 4 until a couple years after college, I was outdoors most of the day during the summers.  I spent hours upon hours swimming and sunbathing (Lucky me got paid for it as a lifeguard/swim instructor in college.).  My butt became a blinding moon in comparison to my tanned skin.  My hair bleached to a golden blond.

My face does show some of the damage done by so many years of staying in the sun.  That is because I did not moderate.  Sunscreen was not a priority.  In fact, I preferred to baste in Hawaiian Tropic or Panama Jack tanning oils.

For a while, I fell in line with all the hype and avoided the Sun.  Maybe, it kept me from turning into a prune but I was definitely missing something–that sun-kissed feeling.

The weather is truly incredible here in Southern Miss. right now.  It feels criminal to be indoors.  I decided to lay out for a bit this morning.

Lying on my belly, the Sun’s heat seeped into my shoulders.  I felt the tension there relax and I drifted into that state between waking and sleep.  Lying on my back, the Sun hit my solar plexus and recharged it like a battery.  I was only out there 20 minutes.  My body told me when I had enough.

Even after coming inside for a bit, I feel the Sun’s warmth sink into my bones.  Maybe that’s the Vitamin D soaking in.  Whatever it is, it has changed me a bit.  I vibrate a little more.

Do not fear the Sun.  Celebrate it.  Enjoy it’s life-giving energy.

Just respect its power and your body’s ability to know when enough is enough.

Enhanced by Zemanta