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Archive for the ‘Motivational’ Category


Often we will be told to find “awareness,” but what does this mean? Yoga teaches that we can separate the parts of the mind. When we meditate, we find ways to observe our own reactions, subconscious impressions and emotions.

Some translations of the Yoga Sutras call the part of our mind that is able to observe itself, “the perceiver.” To me, the perceiver is the part of us that has common sense, a knowledge and acceptance of how things truly are. When we meditate, the perceiver is the accepting friend and counselor in our head. Someone once told me that common sense is not so common, but I think we call it “common” because deep down inside, we know the truth. The hard part is accepting it. Only when we are in touch with the perceiver, or our illuminated mind, will we react with common sense. If we are confused or overwhelmed with “afflictive emotions,” we will react in a destructive manner.

In this post, I will attempt to describe the difference between the perceiver and the afflictive mind in a way that we can relate to in our modern lives. I will also offer suggestions on how to tap into the perceiver while meditating or dealing with life’s problems.

The difference between the perceiver and the afflictive mind:

The perceiver is our true self. It is our higher state of awareness. The perceiver is enlightened and when we tap into it, we are in touch with what religious people call God. Non-religious people call it a higher power that can see and accept the way of nature.

The afflictive mind is not our true selves. It is simply the toxins that confuse us into being someone that we are not. The Dali Lama described it in a wonderful way. He said that our true selves are like pure water. The negative emotions such as pride, anger, hatred, jealousy etc. are toxins that cloud the water. However, pure water is still there. We simply need to rid ourselves of toxic emotions and we will find peace and knowledge.

If you are having difficulty tapping into the perceiver during meditation, simply tell yourself that you are not your anger and you are not your jealousy, etc. If you were not emotional, how would you act and how would you feel?

Pretend that you are talking to an objective friend, mentor, adviser, family member, or spiritual leader. What would that person say if you came to them for advice? If you were God or an omniscient being, how would you look at the situation?

The perceiver is detached from prejudice emotions such as greed, lust or hatred. Yet, detachment doesn’t mean that the perceiver is a sociopath or doesn’t care. It is the perceiver’s supreme love and compassion that makes it understand that all life is important and that we are all interconnected. Knowing this makes it want to help all living things and refrain from harming ourselves or others.

The afflictive mind identifies and clings to its emotions. When it is enraged, jealous, confused, or violent, it may say “this is who I am.” It may hang on to hatred for another country or person. It will unfairly side only with people who are like him/her. It cannot see how we are all connected. It grasps on to identities such as race, religion, politics and pride.

During meditation, focus on how we are all alike. We all live. We all suffer. We all feel pleasure. We all have bad days. We all get angry or frustrated. If you are having a hard time understanding someone who is being ignorant or rude, think of a time that you made a mistake and acted ignorant or rude and try to see yourself in that person.

The perceiver seeks peace.

The afflictive mind seeks trouble and drama.

When meditating, ask yourself if your thoughts and actions are bringing you to a state of peace, or if your actions and thoughts are creating more drama, confusion or trouble.

The perceiver spreads good karma. The definition of “karma” is actions and the result of what we do. Always seeking to do kindness and to spread peace, the perceiver creates success for him/herself. On a small scale, the ability to stay calm and make wise decisions brings the perceiver success in business and relationships. On a higher scale, people may gravitate to the perceiver and his/her wisdom helps people beyond him/herself. These actions also help future generations

The afflictive mind spreads bad karma. The confused mind attaches itself to emotions and reacts with violence, or trouble. This creates drama that could lead to altercations with friends, relatives, co-workers and the law. This bad karma will lead to lack of success and a sad life. On a grand scale, this suffering can spread to others, perpetuating the cycle of war and violence. These actions can be passed on to children and future generations.

Meditating on karma is a very serious matter. Look at how the actions of others have affected you. For example, someone might have insulted you and this has made you angry. In turn, you insult another. If this cycle goes on, it could escalate to more people. Make a choice to become aware and end this cycle.

Choose to smile instead. Say something kind to another. This kindness will spread and will lead to a better environment for you and everyone else.

The perceiver takes responsibility for his/her actions and seeks to find solutions to life’s problems.

The afflictive mind blames everyone and everything else for his/her problems. Passing blame onto others, he/she  relinquishes self responsibility and free will, never finding solutions.

When faced with a problem, take the blame off of others. Instead, take full responsibility. Start brain storming solutions. Ask yourself what you can do and search your mind for solutions. Maybe even research the internet. Write down as many solutions you can.

If we focus on the solution, the universe will reward us with solutions. If we focus on the problem, the universe will react by bringing more problems.

The perceiver is accepting and forgiving of the self and of others. The perceiver knows that the self and others have afflictive emotions. It knows that problems are temporary. It knows that these emotions do not represent who we truly are and it forgives itself and others, choosing unconditional love over judgment and self loathing. By not holding grudges and hanging on to afflictive emotions, peace is easier to find.

The afflictive mind gets angry and frustrated at itself. This makes failures and life’s problems bigger than they really are. It is also hard on others and gets easily insulted when other people have afflictive emotions. The afflictive mind just can’t let go and find peace.

When faced with the ups and downs of life, feeling guilty and beating yourself up will only worsen the problem.

Also, passing judgment on others only feeds the afflictive mind which is obsessed with anger.

Forgive yourself and others.  When you forgive another person, you do it for yourself, so that anger and loathing does not ruin our own life. You’ll be amazed at how much ending a grudge will allow you to focus on bigger and better things.

Ask yourself how the person who has wronged you has made you stronger and thank them for the lesson.

The perceiver understands when there is too much or too little of a good thing. It practices discipline and moderation. It treats the body and mind with compassion.

The afflictive mind may over indulge in pleasurable activities until they become destructive. It might seek to escape in drugs, eating disorders, alcoholism, gambling and other vices out of frustration and self loathing.

Practice awareness in everything you do. Pay attention to how you feel. Take a moment to breathe while you are eating. When exercising, take a moment to see how you feel in order to avoid injuries.

When escaping into drugs or overindulging in any act, ask yourself if this is helping your situation.

If you still can’t stop overindulging, seek outside help.

Because the perceiver has a higher view of the universe, it is stronger in character and principle. It is less easily swayed by suggestion, peer pressure or manipulation.

The afflictive mind is easily swayed by commercials, subliminal messages, insults and psychological conditioning. Some people seek therapy and yoga to find their perceiver because their lives have been controlled by negative conditioning in the past.  The perceiver can stand outside of the mind and see when it has been manipulated.

When you feel strong feelings arise in you, think before you react. Look at your past and ask yourself how your past experiences could have positively or negatively lead to how you react to events today.

When you find yourself wanting to own something just because of commercial advertising, ask yourself you truly need that item and if it is worth the cost.

Turn off the TV and computer now and then to clear your mind of clutter. With the rise of social networking, websites such a facebook can lead to addiction.

The perceiver is the angel on your shoulder. The perceiver is the sensible part of yourself that tells you when you are getting into trouble. It is your higher intuition.

The afflictive mind is the devil on your shoulder. The afflictive mind doesn’t listen to its higher intuition and chooses the lower path which often leads to trouble and regret.

There is an old Native American parable that goes: There is a fight going on inside me between two wolves. One is angry, and full of destructive emotions. The other is happy, calm and full of love.

Which one wins?

The one we feed.

When you feel afflictive emotions rising in you, try not to feed them by seeking council with people who patronize them by perpetuating malicious gossip and hate. Tell yourself that you don’t want these emotions inside of you. Find friends that are objective. Surround yourself with positive influences. Keep practicing awareness. It will come in handy during challenging times. Keep books, poems, essays, mantras, letters or songs of wisdom handy and turn to them when you find yourself feeling negative. Over time, the positive and more intelligent and intuitive part of your mind will win over the negative and destructive part of your mind because you choose to feed it more.

For more insight on how I asked a family member to be “the angel on my shoulder,” check out this link:

For more insight on  meditation, check out this link:

For more information of the wisdom of the yoga sutras, check out this link:

For more insight on the act of compassion, check out this link:

PostHeaderIcon Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall

Introducing my guest blogger Alyssa Curran! Alyssa has done something to hold herself accountable. She started a blog that logs all of her fitness progress. Reading her blog is a fun way to connect with other people who are going through the highly experimental journey of weight loss. Alyssa has made a commitment to health and she holds herself accountable by writing about it publicly. Having a public persona puts more pressure on her to keep her promises as she doesn’t want to let her readers down. What a great way of holding yourself accountable and having other people hold you accountable.

For more creative tips on how to hold yourself accountable, click here:
I’d like to share this very entertaining post about Alyssa’s first fitness injury:

Hello all! This morning started out like any other; my alarm clock blared at 6:45, I hit snooze, rolled up in my blanket, nuzzled my pillow and refused to accept the fact that I had to get out of my warm bed and go get sweaty. Then, I heard the “buzz buzz” of my phone, letting me know I had a text. My workout buddy was sick and wouldn’t be going to bootcamp. Instantly, I thought “I shouldn’t go either, especially if she’s not going.” Then, the skinny girl in my brain said “Get yo’ ass out of bed. You have no excuse not to go. HOW BAD DO YOU WANT THIS?!” and with that, I got out of bed, got dressed, and drove to the park. So that was victory number one of the day. Victory #2 is odd because nobody should be happy they got hurt working out, but it’s kind of like this weird badge of honor like, oh, I didn’t get hurt because I tripped on my wedges, I got hurt because I was doing something AWESOME. Tara from Worth Every Ounce ironically posted about this today, too – how getting hurt when you’re doing something cool has way more “cred”. For people working hard to get in shape it’s kind of like, wow, I guess I really am workin’ it! Anyways, how did I get hurt doing something awesome?
Our awesome bootcamp teacher Gordon uses all kinds of creative methods to make sure we get a maximum calorie burn. Today, we all pushed and pulled an orange sled filled with free weights and barbels. I was shocked how hard it was, because the sled was HEAVY and the dirt patch didn’t give it any traction at all.Plus, you have to be way low on your knees and push fast – NOT an easy workout.

As I pushed it, my momentum got the best of me and I lurched forward, having that “Oh sh*$. I’m going to fall” reaction. I quickly thought “not on my wrists”, because as a writer and computer nerd, god forbid my wrists get jacked up, but instead I had my knees pointed out…

On my way to a wipe out
Going, gone, gone. I was down, landing on my right knee with all my weight. I cried in pain and the teacher called for an ambulance as I read my last will and testament… JUST KIDDING. Just wanted to see if you were paying attention. Here’s another reenactment, because I’m all about the dramatic:

Ow, ow!
I laughed it off and got up, a little muddy and a little embarrassed, but it didn’t feel like anything more than a scuffed knee until we started running sprints. I had to jog in place because my little scuffed knee had started to throb in an unpleasant way – and tonight, I have a battle scar of a purple bruise and a swollen knee.
So yeah! Weird, right? Sucks to get hurt, but thankfully it’s mild, and if anything, I feel all hard-core being like “Yeah. I fell. Pushing a sled filled with 70 pounds of weight. What did YOU do today?” Have you ever had a fitness related injury? What was it? How’d you overcome it? I know my poor dad tore his ACL when skiing and his knee has never been the same…

If you’d like to follow Alyssa’s blog and support her in her journey, check out

PostHeaderIcon But Will You? (Accountability)

Over the years of being fitness professional, I have focused my attention more and more on the psychological aspects of achieving success in health and fitness. I realized that it doesn’t matter how knowledgeable a person is if he/she doesn’t put that knowledge into practice. I think back on all the people I have known who clearly understood that eating that second serving of ice cream and falling out of their fitness regimen was not good for them, yet they still did it.

So, the question remains, how do we hold ourselves accountable for our actions? How do we ensure that we will do what we set out to do? Just like anyone else, I find it difficult to balance healthy eating with my professional goals and raising a family so I have learned many creative ways to hold myself accountable. I’d like to share some of these findings with you. If these methods worked for me, they might just work for you.

Make a commitment or promise: This is a very simple shift in mindset that has changed my life. I stopped being wishy washy about the things I set out to accomplish. I started making strong promises and commitments. There is a world of difference between saying that you “might” work out or show up to a fitness class if you feel up to it, and promising to be there. When you make a commitment ahead of time, you will set your alarm, wake up, get ready and be there whether you feel like it or not. We can’t let our every day moods dictate what we do in our lives. We need to be in charge of our own destiny. If we don’t commit, we won’t get there. That’s the bottom line, so make a commitment to being the person you want to be.

If you can’t hold yourself accountable, find someone who will: This is where I started getting creative, for it is one thing to let myself down but letting someone else down is something else altogether. Oprah lost weight by hiring a personal trainer who went with her everywhere she went and told her what she should and shouldn’t eat. I did the same thing but for a much cheaper price. I hired my son who is now eleven. I was getting chubby as my busy life was causing me to eat out too much and indulge on deserts that I mistakenly thought I “deserved” due to all my hard work. I knew I needed to stop this. I told my son that I would pay him five dollars for every pound I lost. Of course, if I gained and lost a pound, it didn’t count.

My son latched on to this idea like a pit bull. Nothing makes children happier than the opportunity to turn the tables on their parents and to make money on top of it. My son was relentless. He never let me eat junk food and he forbade me from ordering desert. If I ate too much, he made sure I worked it off. The waitresses thought he was so mean for stopping me when I tried to order a brownie a la mode at Denny’s but he didn’t care. He loved telling me what to do. I lost seven pounds since we started this. The best news is, my husband joined the program and lost seventeen pounds so far. Now my whole family is eating healthy which has changed the whole culture of our household. There is less junk food around and we are all dedicated to eating healthy. My son has gained a new awareness for health as well. It was a win win situation all around.

My son isn’t the only one who holds me accountable. You do too. Yes, you, my readers hold me accountable. My students and clients hold me accountable. My job is to motivate others and if I can’t do what I expect you to do, then I am one big hypocrite. So thank you, for being one of the main motivators for me to be super fit and healthy. I have benefited so much from your support.

This is very important as our friends and family members can sometimes pressure us to eat unhealthy and skip our workouts so we can spend more time with them or so they have someone to drink and eat chocolate with. If this is the case, it is very important to find people who support you in your goals. I tell my son that he is my “angel” because he is the angel on my shoulder telling me to eat right. Of course, I consider him my angel for many other reasons.

Here are some other things you can do to get others to hold you accountable:

Write blogs, form groups, find a workout buddy, hire a coach or make a strong promise to someone else. Sometimes I give people deadlines and if I don’t get something done by then, I ask them to contact me and get on my case. If this happens, I feel bad and make sure I get it done.

For a great example of how to use social networking support to hold yourself accountable, check out my guest blogger:

Write it down: Not long ago, I was reading a fitness journal. In it, a study was conducted that showed that if you write down what you eat, you are 50% more likely to lose weight. This method worked for me. As a matter of fact, I had been trying to lose weight after having a baby for four months and I didn’t start seeing results on the scale until I finally wrote down what I ate. I have my clients do this. Most of them don’t realize how they eat until they do this. Writing it down makes a record of your progress and it holds you accountable. You may not realize that you eat more calories than you should or that you starve yourself for hours, lowering your metabolism until you write it down.

Write your goals down as well. There is something profound about a written contract. It sets everything in stone and shows that you are not just thinking about it. Write down your actions in your diary or date book. Write down your workouts and rest days. Set your weekly and monthly goals, Make notes, have a check list. Update it on your blog or social networking site so your friends can hold you accountable. It makes a huge difference.

Ask “how can I” questions: This is something I learned from Anthony Robbins that I find to be so life changing. I learned that the mind is capable of amazing things but if we focus on the wrong things, we waste a lot of time and energy. So, when you want to improve your life, ask questions that are proactive. Instead of asking yourself why the government sucks, or why you weren’t born with a slim waste, or why can’t ice cream be good for you, or why we can’t be more beautiful as we grow older, ask yourself questions that directly relate to what you can do to change your situation. I notice that people waste a lot of time on what they can’t change.

I call these “how can I” questions. How can I write to my leaders so I can improve the current laws? How can I slim my waist now? How can I find a level of health that will make me feel younger? Once we stop blaming the world and start taking responsibility for our actions, change becomes easy but we have to know that it is us that makes the difference, not our friends, our government, our employers or our families. What can I do? I will do this. I have found that when I do something proactive to make a change in my life and in the world, the world follows suit but we can’t expect it to work the other way around.

Meditate on your character: Here is something I did which really turned my life around. I asked myself what character traits I needed to change in order to see a positive change in every aspect of my life. In the beginning of the year I made a list of these character goals:

Slow to anger

Better discipline and attitude towards work


Reliability, keep my word

Honesty and tact

Practice selflessness

Practice humility and support for others

I meditated on these character goals, realizing that if I can improve these aspects in myself, my fitness, relationships and career will all get better. I realized that life isn’t handed to you with a magic pill. Without perseverance, for example, we can’t succeed in anything. After four months of making these character traits my new years resolution, I have seen positive improvements in every aspect of my life.

So ask yourself what beliefs and character traits you need to change in order to help you get to your goals. Ask yourself how you can get there. Make a promise and commitment to get to those goals and find creative ways to get others to hold you accountable.

PostHeaderIcon How To Prevent Injuries and Maintain Longevity

Now that the New Year has started, some of you will be coming out of a hiatus due to holiday stress or illness. Others will be setting New Years goals by starting up a new fitness routine or athletic endeavor for the first time in a while. This puts you at high risk of getting injured. During my career as a fitness professional, I have many students and clients tell me about their injuries. Most of these injuries could have been avoided. A few years ago, I wrote an article about what to do in case of an injury. If you already have an injury, see a doctor and read this article by clicking the link below:


Today I am writing an article about how to prevent getting injured in the first place. If we can prevent injuries, we will achieve our fitness goals faster because injuries often cause us to stop our routines or exercise with less intensity. While planning out your fitness goals, keep these injury prevention tips in mind:

Leave your ego at the door:

Before you start your work out, resolve to leave your ego at the door. I’ve seen the ego monster trick many people into getting injured. Humbly ask for help if you don’t know how to use a piece of fitness equipment. Do the safer modification in a group fitness class if your gut tells you that the other move is too advanced, even if it hurts your ego. Don’t pile on more weights than you can lift just because you want to impress a sexy woman who is in the same room. Trust me, she’s not looking at how much weight your lifting. Don’t compromise form in order to get the fastest time in the crossfit class. All of these things can get you hurt. The truth is, people don’t care what you are doing. They are worried about their own workout, so put your ego in her place and use common sense.

Always use proper form, especially when dealing with weights:

I have a rule that keeps me safe: If I can’t lift a weight with proper form, I don’t. Bad form puts your spine and joints in a weak position and adding weights to bad form will exasperate muscle imbalances, causing chronic stress and injuries. If you can’t squat with proper form, work on your muscle imbalances first, before you add weights. Find out why you can’t do it with good form. Maybe you have to achieve more flexibility in your shoulders. Maybe you can do a squat with good form, but once you add 100 pounds, your knees start to go way over your toes. That’s when you know that you’ve reached your limit. Give yourself time to get stronger before you add more weight. Maybe you can do 10 squats with good form, but after 11, you start to slouch. Then you know that it is time to take a break at 10. As soon as you lose your form, your muscles have given up and your joints will start experiencing wear and tear.

Achieve mastery one step at a time:

We learn to walk before we can run. When implementing fitness into your life, don’t attempt to run five miles on your first day, if you’ve never walked a mile in your life. Take into account what you are capable of doing and gradually add to that. If you are smart, your goal is to get fit for life. Set long term goals and take it one step at a time. This will prevent injuries and burn out. It will also make you more likely to stick to a fitness lifestyle permanently. After all, if you do it for only three months, you will go back to being unhealthy as soon as you stop. Add a bit more every two weeks to one month at a time.

Always warm up and cool down:

Years ago I got injured because I was a receptionist at a small yoga studio. I was allowed to check everyone in and take the last yoga class, but I had to walk in a few minutes late. I got an adjustment to my down dog before I had even warmed up. I got hurt. It may not seem like a big deal, but jumping into heavy weights or high intensity moves before your body is ready can get you hurt. If you don’t understand the science of warming up, please read my post on proper warm ups here:


Balance–Always work the opposing muscles:

Our muscles tense up and get shorter in order to move our bones. For example, our biceps will shorten in order to flex our elbows in a bicep curl. When this happens, our triceps will lengthen and relax because it is on the other side. If we keep doing bicep curls without doing triceps extensions, we will have short and tight biceps and weak and long triceps. This is why we should work both muscles. If you do bench presses without doing rows, you will have short and tight pectorals which will cause your shoulders to turn in and may lead to a hunch back. Therefore, always do rows in order to strengthen your upper back and provide flexibility to your pectorals. If you always do abdominal crunches without working out your lower back, you will have tight abdominals which can cause your lower back to round excessively due to having a long and weak lower back. These imbalances can cause chronic pain and injuries, so always strengthen and stretch the opposite muscle groups.

Balance your fitness:

Speaking of balance, make sure that you aren’t overdoing it in one area of fitness and completely slacking in another. Our bodies need stability in order to protect our ligaments and joints. Therefore, only stretching without strengthening and stabilizing can cause loose ligaments and weak joints. However, only strength training without stretching can cause muscle stiffness and stress. Cardio and aerobic fitness helps circulate our blood, increasing our ability to recover. It also gives us stamina and strengthens our heart. In order to stay balanced and healthy, we need to balance out our fitness.

Learn to differentiate muscle pain from joint pain:

A gold medalist once said that our muscles protect our joints. Once you feel that your joints are in pain, stop. This means that your muscles have given up and you are just putting stress on your joints. If you run without overdoing it, the cartilage in your knees will actually get stronger. However, if you push through joint pain, you will hurt yourself and wear out the cartilage in your knees and hips. I have been applying this rule to my life for years. This is also a great tip because most of the complaints I hear from students regarding injuries are joint injuries due to overuse. Overuse injuries can be avoided if we stop when we are supposed to.

Vary your training:

I stated earlier that we achieve mastery one step at a time. Try not to stop at step one or two. If you do the exact same exercise for many years, you could still get hurt. Maybe the first time you did a particular routine, you felt massive changes in your body, so you kept doing it for years. Then one day, there is an emergency that requires you to move in a different way. Since your body has been programmed to move the exact same way for years, you get injured. The brain and the body are connected by a vast system, but habit can cause some connections to disappear completely.

I also suggest you practice functional moves so that you can use them in everyday life, such as learning proper technique for picking things up off the floor so you don’t hurt your back. Learn to use your muscles in different planes of motion because you just might need to move that way during an emergency. I have had students thank me many times because the moves I taught them have helped them in emergency situations. As I get older, I become more reliant on cross training because my body can’t handle doing the same moves everyday. Moving in different directions gives some of my muscles opportunities to rest while I work out others. Remember, the fitter you are, the less likely you will be severely hurt during an accident. So in order to keep from getting hurt, stay fit.

Weigh the risk of competition:

Many people get hurt during competition but some will say that it was worth it. Before you are about to break your ankle while crossing the finish line in tenth place, weigh the risk of competition and know how far you are willing to go to win. A professional athlete makes millions of dollars putting his body on the line and has the best orthopedic surgeons at his disposal. You have to ask yourself if finishing that marathon or getting beaten up in an amateur cage match is worth the risk of injuring yourself and being out of commission . Ask yourself why you are competing. If you join a marathon to lose weight but break a leg and gain all the weight back, is it worth it? Maybe winning a competition is a life long dream that you are willing to sacrifice everything for. Only you can decide what is best, but definitely premeditate on the risks before you go in the field. Then you will know if it is okay to risk it all and when to ease off and let someone else take the spotlight. Of course, if you want to reduce your chance of getting injured during competition, train smart. Strengthen your muscles so they are ready for the abuse they are about to take. Don’t compete without practicing and training like an athlete. I’ve seen many weekend warriors break bones or wreck their bodies because they competed without training for the event.

Don’t forget recovery:

Make sure you are getting enough nutrients for growing muscles and for recovery. Make sure you are giving your muscles adequate rest and time to adapt, and that you are getting enough sleep in order to avoid overuse injuries or fainting episodes caused by fatigue or low blood sugar.

For a short post on recovery, consistency and why some people practically kill themselves but still don’t improve check out this link:


PostHeaderIcon Be Kind, For Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle.

Today, I took a yoga class with Chaz Russ and burst into tears in happy frog pose… again. The first time this happened, I was taking a hip opening class with Vinnie Marino at the Wanderlust Yoga and Music Festival.

The trauma I hold in my hips, thighs and lower back stem from abuse, fear, poverty, anger and athletic injuries in the past. Some of these issues go back years and are invisible to me until I focus all my attention on those areas. When I indulge in my own practice, and experience my own pain, I become more compassionate towards everyone else living in this world who ever had to suffer. I become so grateful that I found the yoga path and that I share the same room with people who are going through the same thing. Years ago, I thought I was alone.

There is a famous quote that has been attributed to Plato and John Watson (aka, Ian MacLaren) that goes: Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

This quote is my mantra of teaching. It is also the hardest part of teaching. I know that people come to class expecting to suffer. I know how hard it is to have a body that might have been neglected or traumatized by injuries, aging or disease. The courage that it takes to focus on something that most people choose to ignore is immense. When we challenge ourselves with any fitness regimen, we have to face our greatest weaknesses. We have to fight the demons and the shadows that put us down because we aren’t as energetic as athletes, or strong as superheroes or beautiful as supermodels.

When I say, “isn’t this fun?” while teaching a class. It’s a bit of a Zen koan. I am poking light at our suffering. After all, I wouldn’t want to make things worse. Also, I’m sending you a subliminal message that will hopefully make you want to come back. Yes, I know it’s not always fun but if I can shift your awareness for a moment by saying this, sometimes your grimace turns into a smile and when this happens, it makes my day. I think there is a reason why the pose that makes me cry is called “happy” frog. These funny names are chosen to make light of our struggles. Even though we have to face ourselves and our suffering, we don’t necessarily have to dwell on them.

A woman once told me that she was cycling up a mountain and really struggling to get to the top. She said that when she reached the peak, she heard my voice in her head saying “wasn’t that fun?” I was so pleasantly amused by this story. I am happy that she heard me say this over anything negative.

That being said, I still understand that we are all fighting our own battles, whether mental or physical, outward or inward, in public or in private. When you come to me with your questions and ask me about the trauma you experience in your body, I am grateful because it makes me realize that I am not alone in dealing with my own trauma.

Ian MacLaran expressed this state of compassion well when he said:

This man beside us also has a hard fight with an unfavouring world, with strong temptations, with doubts and fears, with wounds of the past which have skinned over, but which smart when they are touched. It is a fact, however surprising. And when this occurs to us we are moved to deal kindly with him, to bid him be of good cheer, to let him understand that we are also fighting a battle; we are bound not to irritate him, nor press hardly upon him nor help his lower self.

I shall put my heart on my sleave share an excerpt from my diary. This was written a couple of years ago, after experiencing a huge crying fit during Vinnie Marino’s hip opening class:

He had us sit with one leg bent back and the other straight to the side and we had to fold into the center.  I don’t know why it hurt so much.  Probably ’cause I actually hurt myself a while ago, long story.  I found myself adjusting myself a lot and then it happened.  This uncontrollable sobbing just spewed from me.  It wasn’t sorrowful.  I hadn’t just dealt with loss.  I honestly can’t say what it was that made me cry but I cried and cried and continued with the class.  I’ve cried before in yoga. I cried once during shavassana after doing a heart opening workshop.  But this was half way through an hour and a half class, and the funny thing was, I couldn’t stop crying.  I was in a class of a hundred, in a huge tent overlooking the mountains.  Everyone was in their own world on their mat.  I didn’t stop crying until the end of class.

The teacher just gave us the poses and let us experience them.  He played very specific folky music with very significant lyrics.  Almost as if the songs were guiding us through.  I remember lyrics that dealt with letting go, with being okay with who we are.  One song said, “I know you’re in love.  I can see it in you.”  He didn’t have to explain anything.  The crying didn’t stop and I was okay with it.  I was breathing deeper than I ever did in my life as I struggled through the poses, yet I wasn’t struggling.  I was letting go of something that had wanted to be released for a long time. I once wrote in a blog that we are in love with everyone we have ever been and change is hard even if we are changing for the better, but its okay.  We’ll change when we’re ready.  I would deepen my poses, then ease off, then deepen them.  I kept breathing and experiencing everything and I felt that nothing else mattered than that moment and the crying was ecstatic almost.  I couldn’t be happier.

At some point, the teacher made us do happy frog and Danny started sobbing too.  I don’t know if it was because I was.  At the end of the class, I learned that other people had cried and Danny also didn’t know why he cried.  It just happened.  This was one of the most profound yoga experiences I ever had because it was completely out of my intellect.  It was pure acceptance and experiencing.  The only thoughts that went through my head was that I’m okay and that everyone is okay.  It was complete non-judgment and I loved everyone in that moment and it was okay if they were ready or not ready and it was good enough if they tried and I thought of my friends who were struggling with one issue or another and I thought, “they’re okay.”  No one was at fault for anything.  I also thought that we could all put our energy towards self destruction or doing things that would lead to growth, like yoga.  I felt cleansed after that.  That was the true beginning of my vacation, a real shift from my everyday tasks.

PostHeaderIcon If You Don’t Stand for Something, You’ll Fall For Anything

Last year 17.5 million people died of lifestyle related diseases that could have been prevented with a change of diet or exercise.  More than 75% of people who start a fitness program give up within three months.   Exercise is prescribed by doctors. It is a must for staying healthy, yet only 10% of the population exercises regularly. The rest are leaving it up to their doctors to keep them alive, relying on prescription drugs to solve problems they would not have if they only got off the couch. Yet, while the average American spends seven hours a day entertaining themselves in front of a screen, most people will say they do not have the time to exercise.

I look at statistics such as these and realize that no matter how much information I offer people regarding fitness, none of it matters if they don’t apply it.

I ask myself why people act so powerless when we have so many choices. One could take a walk, or sit for another hour watching TV; Grab a smoothie instead of a beer; Eat some fruits instead of potato chips for a snack; Order a salad, soup, or lean sandwich instead of a hamburger and fries; Have some water or tea instead of soda. Why do people often take the choice that will destroy their health over the one that will give them vitality?

After much musing over the subject, I have found the answer. People do not take power over their health because it just isn’t important enough to them. They are being led by the commercial media to believe that junk food and material possessions are more important. This will make them weaker and easier to control. We can’t empower ourselves with strong choices if we have no purpose. There is a great quote from the movie, “Sucker Punch” that goes:  If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.

So my advice to anyone who is on the fence about taking responsibility for their health is to ask yourself what you really want out of life. What do you truly care about? Some people think about their children or family. If you are diseased or dead, how can you be there for the people you love? Having a healthy lifestyle will bring you energy and a clear mindset. This will help you inspire your loved ones and your community. Are you passionate about your career? How successful can you be once your body gives out on you and you can no longer work with the energy you need to be successful? The money you save by eating nothing but potato chips for lunch won’t make up for the doctors bills and sick days you take, not to mention the loss of productivity that comes from being sluggish due to lack of nutrition and proper movement.

Before I became a trainer, I had injured my back several times. I felt so helpless. I couldn’t carry my son. I could barely walk. When this happened, I made it a point to never be that helpless again. I realized that when I was strong, I didn’t get injured as easily. I realized that if I didn’t keep my muscles strong, my joints would have less support and I would be even more helpless. I realized that if I didn’t lose weight, I would be putting more stress on my injuries. I realized that if I didn’t move, I would not understand my body at all and would be prone to more injuries. I made fitness a top priority, not as an off and on thing, but for life.

Being healthy is at the root of making all our dreams come true and we really have to ask ourselves what we want out of life. If we do not ask ourselves these questions, we are just drifting along.

Write down your vision of what life should be. Be clear about your dreams and aspirations. Whenever you are pressured to do something that does not vibe with this vision, read it again. Let your dreams be the motivator that encourages you to stay healthy. Ask yourself what is important to you, so when someone tries to pressure you to do something that goes against your values, you will have the strength to stand your ground.

Find people who will support your healthy choices. If you don’t know anyone in your immediate circle, there are many support groups online. Also, read materials such as this blog and other healthy periodicals. This way, you will have influences that will pressure you to make choices that vibe with your vision. The best day to start is today. Stop dying and start living.

Check out this inspiring video of a man who went from being obese and disabled for fifteen years before he finally found the strength to lose the weight and learn to walk again.

By Rhea Morales

PostHeaderIcon Why Am I Not Improving?

During my transition from being a personal trainer to becoming a group fitness instructor, I observed that there were a handful of students who weren’t getting better.  Some wanted to lose weight but couldn’t.  Others just weren’t getting stronger or more energetic.  They came to class looking exhausted and it was difficult for them to do movements they had been learning for weeks.

Although most of my students were seeing results, I always felt bad that I couldn’t spend one on one time with those who weren’t.  Throughout my years of teaching, I have spoken to many students of group fitness.  Unfortunately, many people who can’t afford personal training are held back by a lack of proper knowledge of how to eat and how to plan out their routines.

I started this website as a means to educate all of my group fitness students on lifestyle choices that will help them get results outside of the aerobic room.

In today’s post, I would like to address important lifestyle components that could make the difference between making our goals, and never getting there.  These components are: Diet, recovery and consistency.

On Diet:  I don’t see people overlook their diet so much as I see a lack proper nutritional education.  Most people have the mentality that they have to deprive or starve themselves in order to get results.  However, depriving the body can lead to health deprivation.  This mentality contradicts one of health gain results.  Calories are not bad.  Eating more calories than you burn is bad.  Food is crucial to a successful fitness regimen.  Only eating only an apple to fuel a boot camp class that requires well fueled muscles, and that burns up to a thousand calories an hour will only leave you depleted and weakened.

Remember that your muscles need slow burning carbs that come from whole grains and root vegetables such as sweet potatoes in order to fuel an intense workout.  Your body also needs protein from lean meats or nuts, seeds or beans eaten in the right proportions in order to keep your muscles strong.  The  food pyramid and food groups were created because each food group provides some vitamins, minerals or nutrients that other food groups do not.  Cutting out an entire group will lead to vitamin and energy deficiencies.

On Recovery: Muscles and bones get stronger by adding stress to them. However, if we do not take time to recover or rest them, they will not  heal and grow stronger.  The strengthening process works by combining a cycle of stress and rest.  While training, our muscles break down. During the recovery period, they heal and get stronger.  Many people skip the recovery period.  I chalk this up to another dangerous mentality; the belief that if we torture ourselves without resting, we will get results faster.  This approach can lead to injuries and a depletion of bone and muscle.  If you do not give your muscles a chance to rest, they will break down and you will burn out.  This will lead to health problems or injuries that can put an end to your workout routine.

Remember to always take a day of rest.  When you train a muscle to failure, do not train the sore and broken down muscle the next day.  Give your muscles their recovery time.  Remember that your heart is also a muscle and that too much cardiovascular training with no rest can lead to heart damage or a lack of cardiovascular fitness gains.  Listen to your body and the pain signals it gives you.  If your joints are in acute pain, do not continue to damage them with over-training.  Rest them so they can heal.

Organize your days so you get enough sleep.  Remember that your body heals and regenerates while you sleep and this is a crucial component of recovery.

Proper diet is a part of recovery.  Remember to eat right after an intense workout to provide nutrients to your muscles and cells for regeneration.

While this sounds like common sense,  it is easier said than done.  We are so emotional about our routines and we fear failure so much that the thought of rest seems counterproductive somehow.  When your emotions get the better of you, remember how much you will fall back in your training if your injuries put you completely out of commission.

On Consistency:  Consistency is the key to all successful programs.  If we do not give up on ourselves, we will succeed.  However, we need to educate ourselves on what will help us maintain our fitness regimens.  Obviously, if we take a week off every other week, we will not see results. We need to exercise and eat right on a regular basis. Remember that if you stop working out for a long period, your muscles will atrophy. While recovery is important, you don’t want to take so much time off that you regress in your practice.

We have to plan our training days, our recovery days and how we feed ourselves. Once we make an effort to plan out the changes that will lead to a healthier and fitter body, they will become our new habits and we can stay fit for life.

When planning for consistency, take your nutrition intake and recovery into account.  If you like to exercise every day, plan to cross train so you are training a different muscle in a different way each day and you are not causing overuse injuries in your joints.  Plan to take that one day off a week.

Remember to fuel your workouts with proper meals.  A restorative yoga class may  not require you to eat much but a class that involves weight lifting or intense cardio bursts will require extra nutrition in order to make it through.

Stop filling your shelves and refrigerator with junk food.  Don’t go grocery shopping when you are hungry.  Make a list of healthy foods from all food groups.  Tell yourself that water is the elixir of heaven and that fresh foods rich in nutrients are the greatest treat you can give yourself because they will bring you clear skin, a balanced mental state and real energy.  Start looking at junk food for what it is, junk, a waste of calories and a waste of money.  It takes some time to shift our mentality and our habits from one of an unhealthy lifestyle to one of a healthy lifestyle but when we succeed in doing this, the rewards are endless.

“The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work, second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.” –Thomas Edison

By Rhea Morales

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PostHeaderIcon How to Make Your New Year’s Resolution

It’s that time again when we make our New Years resolutions to shed off those extra pounds we gained from the holiday festivities. This is also the time that we decide to take better care of ourselves this year. But losing weight is not easily done on a whim. Every year, many people make the choice to lose weight in January. By March, a very small percentage stick to their resolution. It is one thing to make the choice to lose the weight, but doing it is another matter. This requires proper goal setting and planning. After all, twenty pounds of fat is not gained over night. It slowly creeps on due to lifestyle changes that continue over time. Here are a few tips on how to plan a proper weight loss program:

Set Your Goals: You can’t get what you want unless you know exactly what you want. So take a good look inside. What do you want to improve? Is it your cholesterol or stress level? Do you want to lose fat? If so, what is a realistic weight loss goal for you? Do you want to get back to the athletic level you were in while in High School or College? Find out exactly what you want and need. Then set realistic goals. If you want to lose weight, how fast do you want to get there? How much weight do you want to have shed six months from now? Once you know exactly what you want and when you want to get there, then you can do what it takes to make these goals a reality.

Plan Out Your Future: Now that you know what you want, you have to ask yourself how much time you want to put into getting there. So plan out your week. Set aside time in your calendar to exercise. Perhaps the first two weeks, you only want to train two days a week for half an hour. Then the next week you want to add on to that. Know exactly when and where you want to do this. Keep in mind your level of fitness and your history of injuries. If you injure yourself by going to hard right away, you won’t be able to continue your training. It is best to plan out how you will get strong over time than it is to burn yourself out and injure yourself before you ever have a chance to achieve your goals. Also, plan out what you eat. Make a shopping list according to your new diet and only buy what is on the list. Plan out the times you need to eat with your work outs. You don’t want to starve yourself or you will burn yourself out while you exercise. Eat a proper meal after workouts in order to repair your muscles and take advantage of the metabolism boost. Don’t wait till you are starving. This will cause you to eat the first thing you see. If you wait until you are hungry to eat, you will be more likely to overeat or eat the wrong things.
Be aware of the fact that most people who return to the gym give up after the first one to three months. Mark your calendar for those months. The number one cause of failure is burn out and lack of results. Remember that most people do not see results until after three months so if you give up during this time, you will be cutting yourself short. After all, there are more advantages over looks to staying fit such as lower cholesterol and blood pressure, increased vitality and less muscle pain. Avoid burn out by starting gradually. Injury, inability to sleep and irritability are all signs of burnout to look out for. If this happens, take a break but COME BACK. If there are set backs or illnesses in your family, take care of them but COME BACK. The key is to come back and remember to keep your health a priority.

Plan Out Your Training: How will you train? Are you going to jog every other day morning and do calisthenics twice a week? Are you working out all major muscle groups? Are you incorporating a cardiovascular, strengthening and flexibility program in your training? Perhaps you can get all your fitness needs taken care of by taking one fusion class at the gym. Make sure you are doing something you enjoy and that suits your personality. This is when hiring a certified trainer can be invaluable as he/she can assess your goals and needs and plan out a program for you.

Set Lifestyle Goals: So, what else can you do? Plan not to gain the weight back. What did you do the past that caused you to gain that weight? What can you do this year to prevent this? Perhaps you took on a few unhealthy eating habits that you need to replace with healthy ones. Can you take the stairs instead of the elevator? Do you drive across the street when you know you can walk? Lifestyle and habits can greatly affect our health in positive or negative ways. Sometimes we think we cannot change but we need to remember that our behaviors can be re-programmed. After a month of taking the stairs, you’ll forget that the elevator ever existed. Once you quit smoking, you won’t be able to stand being around cigarettes. Once you cut down on eating your favorite desert, after a while, you won’t believe how much you used to indulge. The key is making that choice and sticking to it long enough to re-establish new habits.  Talk to others who have made successful changes in their lives and they will tell you that once you trade in a lifestyle of increased energy and wellness for those bad habits you feel you need to keep, you will find you never missed them.

Making the choice to be healthy has many advantages. Reduced stress and illness, increased mental sharpness, energy increases, less joint pain and injuries and increased self confidence are just a few of the life changing results starting a fitness program can bring. Making the choice to be fit can lead to the kind of energy and strength that can overflow into every aspect of your life.  Stay educated on what keeps you healthy and that will motivate you to keep it up.  Set long term goals such as taking a pound off a week for one year.  Studies have shown that people who establish the habit of exercise for longer than six months are more likely to stick with it for life. When you feel like doing nothing, tell yourself that the best way to be depressed is to do nothing.  It is difficult to be sad when you are moving.  Burning energy, builds energy.  Go out and dance, run, walk, move and you will be glad you got off the couch.

I hope you can use this information as a tool to help you in your lifestyle choices.   No prescription drug, herb or supplement can out do the power of proper diet and exercise.  It fights stress, prevents disease, increases energy, mental focus, beauty and confidence.  Ask yourself what you can do to improve your lifestyle. Simple changes can make a world of difference.  Good luck to you in this New Year.

By: Rhea Morales

PostHeaderIcon You Inspire Me

This post goes out to every student and client I ever had.  I appreciate your support and I have received much gratitude from you for my teachings.  So I just want to let you know that you absolutely and truly inspire me to be the best that I can be.  You motivate me to come in every day and make something of myself.  Every time I see a mom or dad taking care of their health and being a great role model of health for their child, I am inspired.  Whenever I see people work hard and change their bodies and energy levels before my very eyes, I am inspired.  When I see people twice my age making it to the gym to exercise despite the pains of aging, I am inspired.  You truly motivate me to keep up  my level of health and fitness.  I have looked at the older adults in my classes and have told myself that when I am that age, I will be just as fit as they are.  I have seen moms bounce back from childbirth and find the energy to get strong for their children faster than I ever could.  I see people come in on a regular basis day in and out until they do not even realize how fit they are, challenging me to continually come up with new routines because I know that they have become too strong for the old ones.
You truly inspire me to be the best that I can be because you are doing what you can to be the best that you can be.  I know it is not easy and sometimes life happens but you still come out when you can and take action.
Thank you.

PostHeaderIcon Seven laws of success

I was so inspired by Deepak Chopra’s Seven Law’s of Success that I broke down the laws for my students to read:

Law 1:
The law of Pure Potentiality:
“We are, in our essential state, pure consciousness. Pure consciousness is pure potentiality; it is the field of all possibilities and infinite creativity… When you discover your essential nature and know who you really are, in that knowing itself is the ability to fulfill any dream you have, because you are the eternal possibility, the immeasurable potential of all that was, is, and will be.”

Practice silence: water ripples example. “In silence, even the faintest intention will ripple across the underlying ground of universal consciousness, which connects everything with everything else. If your mind is like a turbulent ocean, you can throw the empire states building in it and you wouldn’t notice a thing”

Practice non-judgment. Judgment is the constant evaluation of things as right or wrong, good or bad. This constant classifying causes turbulence and can interfere with the stillness of pure awareness. Focus on your poses,

Wherever you go in the midst of movement, carry your stillness with you. Best way to do this is to clear out judgment.

Law 2:
The Law of Giving:
“If you want joy, give joy to others if you want love, learn to give love; if you want attention and appreciation, learn to give attention and appreciation; if you want material affluence, help others to become materially affluent.
Give to your yoga practice, what you wish to receive from it.

Law 3:
The Law of Karma or “Cause and Effect”
Karma is both action and the consequence of that action; it is cause and effect simultaneously, because every action creates a force of energy that returns to us in like kind. Be aware of your choices and responsible for them

“There is a very interesting mechanism that the universe has to help you make spontaneously correct choices. The mechanism has to do with sensations in your body. The body experiences two kinds of sensations: one is a sensation of comfort. The other is a sensation of discomfort. At the moment you consciously make a choice, pay attention to your body, and ask your body, ‘if I make this choice, what happens?’ If your body sends a message of comfort, that’s the right choice. If it sends a message of discomfort, then it’s not the appropriate choice.

Learn from your mistakes (from the karmic results of your actions)

Law 4:
The Law of Least Effort:
“When we harness the forces of harmony, joy, and love, we create success and good fortune with effortless ease”
This is the principle of least action and no resistance.

Observe the effortlessness of nature. “Grass doesn’t try to grow. It just grows.”
Do not fight nature. Take responsibility for yourself without becoming defensive or blaming others. Desist from defending your point of view. When you have no point to defend, you do not allow the birth of an argument.
Experience the present completely. “Only then will you be lighthearted, carefree, joyous and free.” Approach your practice from the level of happiness, not from the level of anxiety and fear.

Law 5:
The Law of Intention and Desire:
Refer to the first Law, the law of pure potentiality. Slip into your silent awareness.
While in this state, set your intentions and goals.
Let them go.
“Releasing your intentions and desires in the gap means planting them in the fertile ground of pure potentiality, and expecting them to bloom when the season is right. You do not want to dig up the seeds of your desires to see them growing, or get rigidly attached to the way they will unfold. You simply want to release them.”

Relinquish your attachment to an outcome. This means giving up your rigid attachment to a specific result and living in the wisdom of uncertainty. It means enjoying every moment in the journey of life even if you do not know the outcome.

Let the universe handle the details.

Law 6:
The Law of Detachment:
Relinquish your attachment to the known. Step into the unknown, and you will step into the field of all possibilities. Be alert and open to surprises, to problems and chaos. Understand that these are all opportunities. Good luck is nothing but preparedness and opportunity coming together. When you step into the field of all possibilities, you will experience all the fun, adventure, magic, and mystery of life.

Law 7:
The Law of “Dharma” or Purpose in Life.
Everyone has a purpose in life… a unique gift or talent to give to others.
And when we blend this talent with service to others, we experience the ecstasy and exultation of our own spirit, which is the ultimate goal of goals.

By Rhea Morales