Demonstrate don’t demand

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I wish people would stop telling me to be grateful. I wish they would all just cut it the hell out. Sorry, darlings, but I find it offensive and a bit naif at best.
 

I am grateful for many things. But I don’t need or want someone else to demand I feel grateful, forgiving, loving, or any other emotion. I was taught the way to show gratitude was through kindness and sharing, not through platitudes. 

If this sounds harsh, that is exactly how it sounds to me when people try to order up my emotions. I wish wanna-be gurus would consider that it be would be more effective, as well as authentic, to demonstrate these qualities rather than demand them. The teachers I admire most do just that and it is a pleasure to hear all that they share.

Make time for the things you enjoy and the people you love because, my darlings that is truly where the sweet life lies.

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Going through the motions

Amy J C Cuddy PhDThe expression “going through the motions” connotes doing something without enthusiasm or sincerity, but that might be okay. Sometimes just going through the motions can get you where you need to go.
 
For his project, “Touching Strangers”, photographer Richard Renaldi has been creating intimate portraits of strangers for the last six years. I saw his fascinating story on the CBS News show 60 Minutes.
 
Renaldi poses two or more strangers in settings and postures usually reserved for lovers, close friends, or family. That alone is interesting, but it is not what got my attention.  What makes Renaldi’s work fascinating is the emotional component. In the CBS story, Renaldi explained that while he is responsible for positioning his subjects, the emotion generated in the portraits comes from the people in them, and, furthermore, appears to be genuine.
 
According to 60 Minutes’ Steve Hartman, “At first, Brian Sneeden, a poetry teacher, saw no rhyme or reason for posing with  95-year-old retried fashion designer Reiko Ehrman, but eventually he, too, felt a change.”  The teacher told Hartman, "I felt like I cared for her.” He added, "I felt like it (embracing each other in the photo) brought down a lot of barriers."
 
After looking at some of Renaldi’s portraits and watching a few of his photo sessions on TV, I will say that the emotion of some subjects does seem to be genuine.  And yet the portraits capture the awkwardness of two strangers embracing, which makes them no less fascinating or compelling. Nor does it negate Renaldi’s work. It stands to reason that different people from different backgrounds will not all react in the same way. It would be odd if they did. What is both fascinating and surprising is that simply embracing another person can, for some, be the beginning of a bond.
 
But that would not surprise Dr. Amy Cuddy, Associate Professor of Psychology  at Harvard.  At a TED talk she explained how “power posing,” or standing in a posture of confidence even when we don’t feel confident, can actually change our body and perhaps our chance for success.
 
Cuddy’s research focuses on the judgments of the individual and group.  She also studies power and dominance. She contends that the body influences not only how other people see us, but how we see ourselves.
After a series of experiments using power poses – poses that mimic the body language of powerful, confident people — she and her colleague concluded that adopting the body language of more powerful and confident people could help less confident people perform better in high-stress situations, such as exams or job interviews.
What struck me watching Cuddy’s “power poses” is how similar many of them are to the Warrior Sequence in yoga. The Warrior pose is not about aggression but strength, balance, and confidence.
Numerous studies show that the regular practice of yoga can improve balance, mood, and confidence.  The best yoga teachers constantly remind their students that yoga is not about getting a posture perfect or worrying about how it looks. Yoga, for a large part, is about getting on your mat, setting an intention, and going through the motions.
Maybe there is more to be gained than one might think from just through the motions.
* From the TED website: “TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, and Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading.”  It holds two annual conferences, where there are many “TED” talks.
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Who wants a $100 dollar “lemon” Lulu?

Usually a lemon refers to a car not pricy yoga pants!If you do yoga or take a barre class, you must have heard about Lululemon’s recall of 17 percent of their black yoga pants. It seems the pants were so thin that women who bent over in them ended up over-exposed. Not great for pants sold primarily for yoga and other bendy workouts.
 
The recall led to a blitz of stories. Some were about the pressure some women feel to conform to a “Lululemon” dress code at their gyms and yoga studios.
 
At my workout studio/spa Lululemon is the preferred attire for teachers and students alike. Lululemon has always been smart about courting instructors as Lulu “ambassadors.” It is no accident that most good looking, fit, yoga and Pilate’s teachers wear a lot of Lululemon, although other brands have caught on. Now you will see a little more variety in most studios, but workout wear on instructors and devotees is definitely high end. A few other brands have made inroads but they are also pricy and sleek
 
I understand why teachers and yoga students love Lululemon. It fits and wears well – or it did. I have worn it for years. I bought my first pair of “still crops” in Toronto when the company first opened. At almost $100, they were very expensive for yoga pants. They fit and felt fabulous. I wasn’t concerned with how they made my derrière look. Even though Lulu’s ability to flatter a woman's backside is part of their famed cult appeal, I worked out at an all-women’s gym and never wore them anyplace else. What hooked me is that they felt amazing and had a nice loose feel. And they kept their shape and colour, even after repeated washings.
 
So, I decided they were worth the $100. And after all, a pair would last a long time, at least until a couple of years ago. The last pair of pants I bought looked almost identical to the old ones. But a trained dressmaker and fashion editor eye detected some troubling differences.
 
The front pockets are slightly skimpier, so they don’t fit as well. The top stitching is not as fine or as flat on the new pair. The back seam – the one that makes you butt look so good – is not as deep or well-shaped, and the stitching is narrower. The waist cord has been replaced by elastic which looks and feels tacky. And the fabric is different; it pills.
 
Yet according to Businessweek.com “in the past five the company (Lululemon) has tripled its annual revenue, expanding from 70 stores…” This proves that their marketing works. And Lululemon markets heavily, by reaching out to instructors, with free yoga lessons and other image-building stunts. I and other members at my private spa/workout club were disturbed to find out that our favourite yoga class was one of Lulu’s free community classes. I found this out accidentally when I was looking for new pants. (I still haven’t bought any as I hope to find some I really like.)
 
Carolyn Beauchesne, who runs the popular blog Lululemon Addict, has also noticed the decline in the quality of some Lulu items. She said in a www.businessweek.com interview, “that about two years ago she noticed the company’s clothing felt thinner and pilled more quickly.” That is about the same time I noticed issues, give or take a year.
 
When I checked Beauchesne’s most recent blog, she said “I've been talking about bad quality for at least two years, and now, when Lululemon has fixed their luon (luon is the stretch fabric they use) recipe so the quality is actually improving with that fabric, they get hit with a charge of bad quality.”  I hope she is right. I am willing to bet she is, as this woman lives for Lululemon. I hope they will address some of their other  construction issues.
 
I understand Beauchesne’s Lulu loyalty and that of women who love the brand. Feeling good in your workout clothes helps you to feel good about your body and being fit. But when you spend $100 for a pair of yoga pants, you don’t want a $100 lemon. You want pants that make you look and feel fabulous.
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Burn off holiday calories!

You may have seen the pert and perky Dr. Lisa on the popular show The Doctors. Now she brings her own accessible, but effective blend of yoga, cardio, and strength-building stretches to Dr. Lisa Yoga Blast.
 
Dr. Lisa is a TV personality, gynecologist, and mother. She is a busy woman and she has created this DVD to be a quick fitness fix for the woman who may be having trouble getting to the gym.
 
On the DVD she works out with trainer Elise Joan.
 
There are three separate workouts. The DVD offers adjustments for different fitness levels and is very accessible and friendly in its tone.
 
This is not a traditional yoga DVD, but rather a hybrid of dance cardio and yoga that will appeal to women looking to get a time effective fat-burning and stretching work out with a cheerful, familiar personality.
 
This is the perfect gift for any friend or family member who has vowed to get in shape in the New Year.



 
www.acacialifestyle.com has a fabulous selection of fitness and yoga DVDs available.
 
 
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Get the mind -body connection!

Students flock to yoga classes, but many teachers are concerned they may be missing the important mind-body benefits of the age-old practice.
 
“There are several disciplines of yoga, and with its rich history, the beginner can easily get lost – or worse – injured,” says Mary Jo Ricketson, an experienced yoga practitioner, health care specialist, and author of Moving Meditation: Experience the Good Within (www.thegoodwithin.com). A registered nurse, Mary Jo also holds a Master’s degree in Education from Northwestern University.
 
Here are few of Mary Jo’s tips for getting more from your workout:
 
1. Cardiovascular (aerobic) training: As with meditation, focused breathing is a cornerstone of mind-body training. Aerobic means “with oxygen” and aerobic movement increases the flow of oxygen-rich blood throughout the body, including the brain. Cardiovascular training is the single most important aspect of the physical training because it keeps the heart open and strong.
2. Core and strength training: This includes the students’ abdomen and buttocks, and the lower back region, which extends to the base of the skull. Here is where strength, stability, and balance originate.
3. Flexibility training (yoga postures): Stretching simply feels good, and it reminds students to become more flexible in one’s body, but also one’s mind. This step allows us to move (and live) with greater ease.
4. Adequate rest: Sleep is a necessary part of life, and sufficient rest is needed for energy and equilibrium.
5. Life-giving nutrition: Making the right choices in food allows yoga students to achieve an optimal, balanced state. This includes nutritional foods consumed in moderation.
6. Family/community/church: From Epicurus to modern science, study and observation show that we find greater happiness with access to friends and family.
7. Written goals and a plan of action: Goals and stated intention act as a road map to achieving balanced well-being.
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The “Skinnygirl” is back!

The Skinnygirl Workout is a follow-up to Bethenny Frankel’s first yoga DVD, Body by Bethenny. This time Bethenny is working out with accomplished yoga and Pilates instructor Mike McArdle.  

Talking about the DVD, Frankel, the star of Bethenny is Getting Married, says “people always ask me how I stay in shape. This is what I do.”
 
The DVD contains three quick, easy-to-follow yoga segments that tone the whole body. There is also a 12-minute bonus stretching segment, as well as recipes from The Skinnygirl Dish.
 
I liked McArdle’s calm and detailed instructions. The DVD provides a thorough, moderate workout. Bethenny is her wise-cracking self, and provides a welcome distraction, especially for reluctant exercisers.
 
This DVD is a good workout for beginners, and a great gift for Bethenny fans. Remember, it is time to start holiday shopping. I have!
 
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Fancy feet

Soft, clean PuretoesWorking out is an essential and enjoyable part of my life. It helps to keep my weight in check, my body flexible, my mind clear, and my blood pressure low. I love vigorous yoga, and lately I spend an hour a day, five days a week at the barre – doing Core Fusion at Exhale.

 
Core Fusion requires sticky socks. It has been hard for me to find a pair that fits my very small feet. Recently, during a recent interview, I heard about Puretoes, a new foot cover that leave your toes free, but protects your feet from the floor. The sole is sticky, so it helps you grip better.
 
They sounded ideal — if they were small enough to fit me. Puretoes’s size small are actually … small! They fit my size 4 1/3 to 5 foot. Tina, a Pilates teacher, created them to be “better than barefoot” — her trademark slogan. She told me she had worked hard to get to the design and sizing right. As a teacher she knows what students need. I think she got it right!
 
The fabric is very soft. That makes getting used to having a strap between your toes easier, if like me you are not used to thongs or socks. The patterns are fun too. I have “cheetah feet” and they are super cute! Even in yoga there are always people who for some reason are not comfortable barefoot, even in the most spotless studios; Puretoes is the perfect solution for them. If you do Pilates, yoga, barre, or any barefoot or sock-foot workout, you may want to try Puretoes!
 
Puretoes are $20 a pair. www.puretoes.com 1.813.310.0996
 
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Get Bethenny’s booty

The original “Skinny Girl”, Bethenny Frankel of The Real Housewives of New York, now has her own workout DVD. And it is not bad at all. Bethenny and her personal trainer, celebrity instructor Kristin McGee, present a relaxed, but effective workout. Bethenny’s workout recipe is combination. There is a 40-minute hatha yoga workout that will tone, sculpt, stretch, and flex. She follows it with a basic stretch workout. Many women do not realize that working out with weights is what will help you lose weight, not cardio! You need both, but the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn!

 
There is even a quickie bonus booty work-out! I loved it. It was deceptively simple, but very effective. This would make great mother’s Day gift, if Mom is a fan of The Real Housewives of NYC or Bethenny. Or, get it for yourself. It is the perfect  get-in-shape for summer DVD.
 
Bethenny Frankel is a New York Times bestselling author of Naturally Thin and The Skinnygirl Dish. See the archives for our reviews.
 
Bethenny and KirstinA certified personal trainer, Pilates master, and yoga instructor, Kristin McGee has worked with numerous celebrity clients including Steve Martin, LeAnn Rimes, and CNN’s Soledad O’Brien.
Available for pre-order now, Body by Bethenny will be sold exclusively at Amazon.com on May 4. http://www.amazon.com/Body-Bethenny-Frankel/dp/B002W6ZXOS
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