Beginner Yoga Series with Rachel Knight

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I’m so excited to be leading a beginners yoga series at Niche! It’s such a fun opportunity to learn about the benefits of yoga, understand how postures feel in your body, and get comfortable on your mat. Since it’s a new offering at the studio, I thought I’d dive into a few questions we’ve gotten about the series. Check out my answers below for more information on what the benefits of a beginners series are, what to expect, and the basics of the series.

What is the benefit of a beginners series?

From a purely physical perspective, it’s important to know proper alignment and modifications for your body to prevent injury. What’s great about a beginners series is that students are given a space to learn the language and postures of a yoga class before jumping into a regularly scheduled class. It’s an opportunity to explore what a yoga class is all about, break down postures and have an open space for questions.

Who is this series good for?

Anyone! This series is open to all, but particularly geared to those interested in learning more about the fundamentals of yoga poses, class structure, and practice foundations. If you’ve been curious about coming to yoga, but feel intimidated because you don’t know the poses or what to expect, or feel that you’re not flexible or strong enough, this series is for you!

What can I expect each class?

The classes will be 75 minutes giving us enough time for a short practice, time to break down a series of postures to review alignment and modifications (and to play around so you can feel what works best for your body), and time for all the questions you have. We’ll start class with a short practice to warm up the body and get the mind settled into the space and we’ll end with a meditation and savasana so we can reflect on our time and wind down.

When does the series start?

Monday, September 17 at 6pm. We’ll meet every Monday from 6-7:15pm until October 15.

Do I have to attend the whole series?

Because we are not covering all the postures and alignment in one session, it is beneficial to come to the series as a whole.

How much is it?

$80 for 5, 75-minute sessions.

What’s my next step?

You can sign up through the Events page on our site or through MindBody. If you have additional questions, reach out to the front desk team the next time you’re at the studio or email us at hello@nichefitstudio.com.

See you on your mat!

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Recipe - ChocoMaca Mix

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An exciting part of my job as a nutritionist is creating and adapting recipes to incorporate into clients’ meal plans, such as this ChocoMaca recipe featured here.  I often work with people who are tackling skin, hormonal, or digestive issues, so developing recipes like this that are soothing to the gut, low in sugar, and full of high-powered nutrients is very important.  

I also love recipes that can be adapted in multiple ways.  Even better when they’re made with nutrient-dense ingredients, and I feel like I’m getting a big bang for my food bucks!  This ChocoMaca recipe can be used to make a delicious drink or smoothie, healthy popsicles, a powdered mocha mix to add to coffee, or a base for chia pudding.  However you decide to enjoy it, you will be getting some serious health benefits from these star ingredients…

Collagen Peptides—This sister to gelatin has been all the rage for the last couple years--and for good reason!  First, they’re flavorless, odorless, and don’t gel, making it easy to incorporate them into foods and beverages.  Second, they pack a good dose of protein. Third, and what I think is most important, the amino acids in collagen peptides can provide some amazing benefits.  These include improved sleep, stronger hair and nails, reduced appearance of stretch marks and cellulite, healthier bones and joints, and repair to the lining of the gut.  

Maca Powder—This plant originated in South America, and is known to increase vitality and endurance, improve hormonal imbalances, and decrease anxiety and depression.  

Cacao Powder—Different than traditional cocoa powder, cacao powder is less processed and retains its nutritive qualities.  Cacao powder is extremely high in flavonoids, a particular class of antioxidants, that have been shown to benefit cognition and heart health.  It is also high in magnesium, which is an important mineral in which many people are deficient.

Turmeric—This bright yellow spice is known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.  It has been shown to improve cognition, decrease cancer risks, improve heart health, and decrease the pain and inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis.  One of its other major benefits is its ability to improve mood, as it was found to be similarly effective to Prozac in depression patients. When using turmeric, always include a bit of black pepper to increase the assimilation of its major healing ingredient, curcumin.  

Sara’s ChocoMaca Beverage, Mocha Mix, or Chia Pudding Base

  • 1 tablespoon cacao powder
  • 20 g collagen peptides, Vital Proteins
  • 1 teaspoon maca powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • pinch of sea salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Swerve sweetener or other natural, low-glycemic sweetener
  • 2 tablespoons nut butter, (tahini sunflower or almond)
  • 1 1/2 cups macadamia milk
  • 1/2 cup ice cubes

Add all ingredients to a blender or blender cup, and blend until smooth.

For a mocha mix: you can combine the first seven (dry ingredients), and triple the quantities. Store it in a mason jar, and add a tablespoon or two to your coffee.  

For popsicles: simply blend all ingredients, minus ice, and freeze in popsicle molds.  

For chia pudding: blend all ingredients except the ice and then add chia seeds. Add 3 tablespoons of seeds per cup of liquid. Stir the mixture well to make sure there's no clumping. Refrigerate for at least two hours for the pudding to set up.

Sara Fields is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. For more information about Sara and her services, visit www.wellnessintentioned.com.  You can also email her at sara@wellnessintentioned.com. As a special bonus, Sara is offering 10% off her services for Niche clients through the end of September!

Recipe - Kale & Lentil Salad

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We love this recipe because it’s easy (we always have cans of legumes on hand just in case we don’t have time to prepare them ahead of time), packed with nutrients from fresh produce, filling from the lentils, and so versatile depending on what is in season or on hand. You can also add some protein or grains for a more substantial meal. 

Ingredients
2 cups Tuscan kale (chopped into bite-sized pieces)
1 15 oz can lentils (drained and rinsed – we used Westbrae Natural Low Sodium Organic Black Lentils)
1 cup cherry tomatoes (sliced in half)
1 cup cucumber (diced)
¼ cup olives
2 tbsp parsley
1-2 lemons
1-2 tbsp olive oil
Salt + Pepper to taste

Directions
•    Place kale into a large mixing bowl, drizzle with about 1 tbsp of olive oil, massage kale with hands and let sit a few minutes to soften. 
•    Add lentils, tomatoes, cucumber, olives and parsley to bowl and toss gently. Dress with juice from 1-2 lemons (about 2 tbsp – to taste), and another drizzle of olive oil. 
•    Salt and pepper to taste.

Recipe by Amanda Prince

Electrolytes & the Importance of Hydration

The rules and tips for maintaining proper hydration tend to vary, but we are here to simplify it for you.

There are three primary compartments when it comes to hydration- blood, fluid within the cells and fluid around the cells. Proper hydration requires that fluid remain in all of these compartments and that all of these compartments remain balanced. This balance is maintained by electrolytes: minerals that carry an electric charge when they dissolve in a solution such as water or blood. Sodium, potassium, chloride and bicarbonate are electrolytes which dissolve in blood and are critical for muscle and nerve functionality.

More than water

Water does not come charged with the electrolytes I mentioned above. Electrolyte-rich hydration might sound familiar to you… and it often comes to us in neon colors and exotic flavors. It’s true that Gatorade, Powerade, and Propel are enhanced with electrolytes, but what else are they “enhanced” with? I told you I would keep it simple, so let’s focus on the best way to increase your electrolyte intake, and overall enhance the functionality of your brain, heart, and muscles without sacrificing the authenticity of ingredients in what we consume. 

Recipe - Energy Balls

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We love this recipe because it will make you feel full and provide lasting energy with healthy fats, fiber and protein. It’s also very low in sugar (which is not the case for most commercial balls or bars) but has a sweetness from the coconut, cinnamon and vanilla. 

Ingredients
½ cup pumpkin seeds
3 tbsp hemp seeds
2 tbsp coconut flour
2 tbsp protein powder of choice (optional)
3 tbsp coconut manna (butter)
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp cinnamon
dash of salt

Directions
Pulse pumpkin seeds to small pieces/flour in a food processor.
Add all other ingredients and blend until well combined as a dough. (Dough may be slightly crumbly, but should have enough moisture to hold. Balls will firm up once chilled in refrigerator.)
Measure out about 1 tbsp portions and roll into balls. Makes ~10 balls. 
Place in sealed container in refrigerator or freezer.

Recipe by Amanda Prince

Recipe - Everyday Smoothie

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We love a smoothie to start the day. This recipe is a mix of veggies and fruit and we promise it tastes delicious! Another versatile recipe – feel free to switch out the nut butter, milk, greens and protein powder. 

Ingredients
1 banana
1 cup frozen cauliflower rice
1 cup frozen blueberries
3-4 large handfuls of spinach
2 tbsp cashew butter (or nut/seed butter of choice)
2 cups unsweetened almond milk (or milk of choice)
dash of cinnamon
Optional – Protein Powder

Directions
•    Place all ingredients in a blender. 
•    Blend until smooth and enjoy! Serves two.

Recipe by Amanda Prince
 

Meet Cameron Hackett

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Cameron Hackett is curating a special collection exclusively for Niche and we are so excited to debut her work at our First Friday event on August 3! Get to know more about her and hear about her inspiration for the collection below.

"It is no secret that I love color, texture, and design. You can easily see that love expressed through my art and home. I am a very ‘care-free’ painter using big brush strokes and pallet knives to create texture and depth in my art. I am drawn to bright, saturated colors that make a big impression. I have attempted to go neutral several times and it just doesn’t work for me. Color makes me happy and I believe that every home could use some. I was very excited when Niche reached out to me about putting my art in their studio. 

I first heard about Niche from Courtney Moran, a friend and co-worker of mine who is also an instructor at Niche. When Jaclyn presented this great opportunity my first thought was movement and the desire to incorporate movement into my pieces just like the movements made while practicing Pilates. I enjoyed the opportunity to visit the studio and love that the studio is an old row house with great walls, floors, ceilings, etc. I left feeling inspired to create something that would speak to someone who was trying to challenge their body and mind while feeling relaxed, calm, inspired, and happy. Most of the time I begin with my favorite colors and continue layering and tweaking over the course of time. For this specific collection, I began with three light and airy pieces and moved on to create two bold and geometric coordinating pieces. I have a hard time sticking to one style of painting and like to try different things and simply get lost in the process. 

I know art has to speak to you on a personal level and I hope that you may feel inspired by these pieces. If anything else, I hope that the colors bring some sort happiness to someone’s home and encourage them in some way. I am truly humbled to display my art up in Niche’s Studio and I can’t wait to see what First Friday is all about."

Importance of Alignment-Focused Workouts

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As a child growing up, your parents or grandparents may have commented on your posture telling you to “stand up straight,” “don’t slouch,” or “shoulders back!”

Well, that’s half right...neutral body alignment is more than just having good posture.

Neutral body alignment is the natural position of the spine when all 3 curves of the spine—cervical (neck), thoracic (middle) and lumbar (lower)—are present and in good alignment. Intentionally and mindfully holding your body in this way allows you to move safer and smarter; it promotes ease and may reduce pain, tightness and tension in the larger muscle groups while also decreasing your chance of injury during sitting, standing, working and exercising.

Everyday practice of keeping neutral body alignment (or in your pilates practice you may often hear the term “Neutral Spine”) not only promotes good body mechanics and reduces our chance of injury, however. It also encourages optimal functioning of your body’s major systems, helps with digestion and recent studies have shown that moving with neutral spine has positive effects on the immune system and how you fight disease.

Over time, this practice of checking and being in tune with our natural alignment transcends solely physical health and engages us in a truly holistic experience of health by deepening the connection between the body, the mind and the spirit.

Anita Morgan Rigo                                                                                                           Therapeutic Massage Therapist at Boketto Wellness

Featured Artists

We are so excited to be partnering with Huntley Belle Designs to provide our studio art! Huntley Belle Designs is a unique online boutique for the feminine and stylish southern belle. Created from the hearts of two best friends, Lauren and Liza, and named after their sweet dogs, Huntley and Sadie Belle, HBD is a timeless woman’s guild. We bring together curated and colorful designs in art, jewelry and accessories—because we believe a pretty life is a happy life.

Featured Artists at Niche

  Taelor Fisher  Dallas born and bred Taelor Fisher has always been an artist. As a small child, she spent all her free time creating. Though it wasn’t until she was pursuing her degree in Studio Art and Art History that she picked up a paintbrush and things instantly clicked. Taelor finds great inspiration in the natural world, and considers flowers especially stirring. Taelor unexpectedly marries the shapes, colors, and scents of her favorite blooms with expression, and the results are gloriously lush, colorful, and sometimes even charmingly chaotic.  Taelor's pieces at Niche: Tropical 4 and Tropical 6  

Taelor Fisher
Dallas born and bred Taelor Fisher has always been an artist. As a small child, she spent all her free time creating. Though it wasn’t until she was pursuing her degree in Studio Art and Art History that she picked up a paintbrush and things instantly clicked. Taelor finds great inspiration in the natural world, and considers flowers especially stirring. Taelor unexpectedly marries the shapes, colors, and scents of her favorite blooms with expression, and the results are gloriously lush, colorful, and sometimes even charmingly chaotic.

Taelor's pieces at Niche: Tropical 4 and Tropical 6  

  Allyson Lemay   Allyson's piece at Niche: Three Tulips

Allyson Lemay

Allyson's piece at Niche: Three Tulips

  Anna Vaughn  Anna Vaughn's aesthetic is inspired  by adventure and travel to foreign coastlines as much as it is influenced by art history. A free spirit  at heart, Anna Vaughn has spent time living by the Pacific Ocean in Australia — two years full of camping on  beaches and absorbing Aussie surf culture — before migrating back to her home state of North Carolina to relive her childhood memories of swimming, fishing and boating  in  the Atlantic Ocean.  Anna's pieces at Niche: Days Of Cotton, Orange Blossom, Lemonade, and Vermillion

Anna Vaughn
Anna Vaughn's aesthetic is inspired  by adventure and travel to foreign coastlines as much as it is influenced by art history. A free spirit  at heart, Anna Vaughn has spent time living by the Pacific Ocean in Australia — two years full of camping on  beaches and absorbing Aussie surf culture — before migrating back to her home state of North Carolina to relive her childhood memories of swimming, fishing and boating  in  the Atlantic Ocean.

Anna's pieces at Niche: Days Of Cotton, Orange Blossom, Lemonade, and Vermillion

Inside Look: Bethany Frazier, owner of Maven Made

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On May 4th from 5:30-7 pm we are excited to host a Create a Custom Scent Workshop with Maven Made (sign up here)! In this workshop, Bethany, creator of skincare and wellness line Maven Made, will be providing information, tips and aromatic hands-on experience with herbal, fatty and essential oils. You'll have the chance to create your own custom roll-on blend using her collection of ethically-sourced and organic oils. Used correctly, botanical-based oils make wonderful allies for healing, balancing and nourishing. Your blend can be used to balance the mind, increase energy, aid menstrual cramps or ease hot flashes, promote better sleep, reduce stress or as an aromatic fragrance - the list is limitless. Herbal infused champagne cocktails will be provided.

In addition to hosting Maven Made on May 4th, we were excited to host a Q+A session with Bethany of Maven Made.

What first sparked your interest in developing your own wellness and skincare products?

When I was a child and teens I was always obsessed with beauty products and experimented with the few makeup and beauty products I had. However, it was my long struggle with acne that was the catalyst to open the doors to creating products to nourish my skin and body from botanical ingredients.

When and how did you decide to sell your products?

I realized I had created something pretty amazing when the Facial Serum helped clear my cystic acne. I started selling a small collection of oil serums under the name of Comfort + Joy in early 2014 but that December the line was rebranded with a clearer vision and Maven Made was launched just before the holidays.

What made you decide to go full-time with your business?

There is never a “perfect” time for any life moment, so with that in mind, I decided the new year would be my closest version to the right time so I left my full-time job in January to pursue and grow Maven Made. My wife and I plan to start a family in the next few years so nurturing Maven Made into an abundant business before we dive into mamahood is important.

What has been a rewarding part of owning your own business? What has been a challenge?

Connecting with other artisans, makers and business owners at a local level has been one of the greatest joys of owning a small and woman-owned business. I have developed a heightened respect for goods, art, and services that are formed from independent creators versus the capitalist, chain and big box realm.

A challenge that I have encountered is not getting caught up in the things that don’t serve myself or the business. Whether its my own expectations and being hard on myself (I am a Virgo, this is a theme!) or getting wrapped up in people pleasing others. Over the past year, I’ve really embraced saying no or observing when something doesn’t sit right. Whether turning down a wholesale opportunity with a store that doesn’t align with Maven Made/personal values or just declining from the exhausting cascade of social circles, networking and events. I’m learning that being different and allowing Maven Made to carve its own unique path is its greatest superpower.  

How much of what you create takes “test runs?” In other words, how many mixtures does it take before you make one that you feel is “perfect”?

I make, test and remake a product until it feels right, I listen to my intuition for that answer. If I’m formulating a new product, I’ll sample it to others to get feedback, but everything I make has to come from an authentic place where I feel excited about it. If I don’t, the energy behind that product isn’t vibrating at the same frequency as a product I was thrilled to make. Logistically, formulas take a few times to get to a point where I feel confident for others to use it, however the Facial Serum is the bestseller and it took one formulation and that was it!

Where do you find inspiration behind a new product, a new scent, etc.?

Products are really manifested from discoveries of what interests me. Not what other companies or doing or what is popular. For example, Matcha has been popular for the past few years but I’ve finally discovered the beauty and powers of it. This discover was the basis to launch the newest Matcha Sugar Scrub.

What is an interesting fact about yourself (I know – lame question, but we are interested in knowing more about you!)

I used to be highly addicted to tanning beds, to the point where my skin looked rather leathery! My life was very different than it looks now, many people think I’ve always been this natural wellness advocate or that’s what I’ve been raised around and that just isn’t so. I wore fake nails, caked on MAC makeup and smoked cigarettes. I’m from Texas! I wouldn’t trade any of my past in, it’s provided a beautiful contrast in my life and also allows me to relate to others beyond the wellness realm.

Would you consider yourself a traveler or a homebody?

It truly depends on the season. In the winter, I hibernate but when the weather warms, I’m on the go. I love travel and it has increased over the years. The older I get the more I realize how important travel is to me and also to my business.


If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

Okinawa Japan. When I came across this place I had no idea it existed so I was immediately interested. It is a tropical island in Japan - clear waters, traditional Japanese architecture and it is also home to a handful of animals that are found on this island.

This also ties with visiting Dolly Parton at her dinner table. I adore that woman.

Photo cred: @juliet.bryant

New Beginnings- Spring is a time to start anew

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New Year’s Day isn’t the only time of the year for setting goals, refocusing, restarting. A change of seasons, especially Spring, is tangible evidence of new beginnings, of roots that were planted months ago, coming into the full shape of their beauty. Daffodils, forsythia, camellias - they are all throwing off their winter protection and sending out a commanding, “look at me!”- a reminder that we too, can shed our winter coats, and start anew.

While the new season provides the perfect backdrop for a mindset of starting anew, we would be sluggish, disappointed, and drained human beings, if we only allowed ourselves intentional time to refocus during the milestone moments throughout a year. Instead, let’s seek the in-between moments for a chance to reset and start anew.

This month at Niche, that is our focus – to seek the in-between opportunities, to feel refreshed with every class, to see each round of movement as a new opportunity to be better, stronger, kinder. Each warm up is a chance to set an intention; each cool down is a chance to reflect on the new version of yourself that goes out the door and into the rest of your day.

We tend to see the beginning and the end as the least important parts of our work out, deciding that the “harder” portion is where the real growth and strengthening takes place, but the warm up and the cool down are just as essential, not only for your body, but for our minds to acknowledge the act of doing something kind to your body, and to anticipate a revitalized spirit. Even during the hardest part of your workout, each inhale is a chance to prepare, and each exhale is a chance to let go.

If you find yourself feeling the desire to shake off the winter cold and start anew this Spring, join us at Niche for a full array of class offerings – we promise you will leave feeling refreshed and refocused!

Bathing Suit: first time of the year

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The first week of March was a week that I'd been looking forward to since Christmas, vacation week! My hubby and I headed to the beautiful destination of Harbour Island in the Bahamas. We love island vacations, and this place had a lot to live up to. Many friends and co-workers had bragged about all the island has to offer. I have to say, it lived up to the expectations. The island is small, full of friendly locals, everyone gets around on a golf cart, the food is exceptional (which is not usually the case on the islands) and the beach is unlike any we've seen. 

With such a beautiful beach awaiting us, we couldn't wait to toss on our bathing suits and head out for the sun and the sand. As I sat down in the lounge chair and began to cover myself in sunscreen I felt like my thighs were suddenly spreading across the chair. My core, that I work constantly and feel pretty good about, suddenly felt like it had some extra love on each side/ back- ya'll know what I'm talking about. 

In winter clothes and in active wear, which is what I live in, you don't notice these things. Active wear is awesome, it holds you in all the right places, comes in high waist, doesn't pinch any unattractive areas- you forget that summertime attire can be quite a bit more vulnerable.  

Really, I shouldn't complain and shouldn't be so hard on myself. I workout most days of the week. I'm perfectly healthy. I'm highly focused on doing strong workouts with purpose, always using proper alignment and form. So what is it? Should I recognize this and work harder?

I spent some time reflecting on this while I was gone. I can tell you one thing, it didn't keep me from eating and enjoying rum cocktails. But it did encourage me to get home and step up my workouts. Yes, I do workout most days, but sometimes it's a 30 minute spin ride. I practice yoga with one of our veteran instructors twice a week, but I do need more strength, resistance and pilates training.

As a business owner, people always tell you to put yourself first and pay yourself first. Two things I've placed on the back burner. I've opened up availability on my calendar when I knew I was overwhelmed, I've added clients over top of my own workouts. Hopefully this vacation, which just so happened to be close to the Niche first year anniversary, was just the catalyst I needed. For the second year in, I plan is to grow as a business owner and to become stronger- inside and out!

 

 

Instructor Highlight: Karen Hansen

 

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What's your movement specialty? (yoga, pilates, TRX, etc)

I’ve been studying various styles of yoga for almost 20 years. Time and hyper-mobility eventually took its toll on my shoulders, so I sought out Pilates as a way to gain balance between strength and flexibility. I think they’re a magical duo.

 

 

Within your specialty, what drives your passion and creativity?

Watching the moments of clarity wash over a student’s face. We are all creatures of habit and how we move on the mat is generally how we move in our lives. When we slow down and focus, we get stronger and we become more aware of our own motivations, strengths, weaknesses, and intentions. It’s juicy stuff.

 

Tell us about a client experience that stands out to you.

There are so many! We all experience life transitions, injuries, emotional and physical ups and downs. Your practice can become a refuge in the midst of chaos. A dedicated time to create space and reconnect. I’ve had clients going through the most extraordinary circumstances whose practice gave them the tools to navigate each moment. On a lighter note, I also love breaking down elusive and complex postures. Most can be accomplished if you’re willing to slow down, listen, and do the work. I’m consistency inspired by clients who are willing to do so. It’s not always unicorns and rainbows, but it’s worth it.

 

What do you love most about the Niche family?

There’s a lot to love. The instructors are experienced, grounded, and supportive of the clients and each other. This genuine kindness and lack of pretension lends to a delightful, “just show up and do the work” attitude. And we laugh. A lot.

 

Outside of your instructor life, what are your passions and how do they keep you balanced and inspired?

I’m fortunate that my days are filled with inspiration! I have two beautiful and interesting children and a partner that elevates me. My involvement with local non-profit, Milk River Arts, and the Richmond arts community keeps me consistently in awe of those who are brave and vulnerable to create for a living. I also love a good punk show.

The Importance of Yin (In Your Life, And In Your Practice)

Written by Allison Walton

In Taoist and Chinese tradition, Yin and Yang is the concept of duality forming a whole, to create balance. They are very opposite, yet complementary energies. For example: day and night, sun and moon, light and dark. Both create totality and are unable to exist without the other. The general characteristics of Yang reflect that of the sun's energy: bright, fiery, masculine, and more extroverted in nature, whereas characteristics of Yin energy encompass the moon's energy: dark, feminine, cold, and more introverted.

The traditional Yin Yang symbol that most of us are familiar with is the ideal depiction of what a true state of balance looks like (visually), where the small dots within each of the two energies symbolize that there is always some Yin within Yang, and vice versa. However, in today's society, that depiction is likely be highly distorted and skewed more towards Yang energy. We tend to do a pretty great job of keeping ourselves busy and our schedules full, often to the point of feeling burnt out, overworked, overstressed and restless. Little do we allow ourselves to nurture the yin aspects of living that allow us to find balance and restore on a physical, mental and emotional level. We tend to feel guilty when we take time off, cancel plans or clear our calendars to simply let ourselves rest, but it's the intentional rest that is absolutely fundamental to our wellbeing and our ability to thrive in a demanding world that seems to require much from us, energetically speaking.  

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With a new year fresh on the horizon, there is an obvious change of pace that is happening. Gym facilities are packed, workout class sizes substantially increase and diets tend to change in an effort to push ourselves towards lofty resolutions and goals. Having personal goals for ourselves and maintaining accountability to reach them is extremely important, however we must take caution not to push ourselves beyond our limits to a state of exhaustion and dis-ease. That's where balance comes in, and why our studio challenge to kick off 2018 revolves around the concept of Effort + Ease. Yes, working towards finding our edge while building heat through a challenging physical practice, but equally as important, taking an extended restorative savasana to cool the nervous system back down. We advocate for the importance of both in maintaining balance while achieving your personal goals on a much deeper, more intentional level (even off the reformer/mat). 

Many will say that they find the yin-focused restorative practices to be much harder than routine physical practices, because the poses are held for extended periods of time (where we don't have the distraction of our phone, TV or computer to reach for). It can be mentally and emotionally challenging, as it's the mind that becomes the most active part of our bodies. Naturally, it will feel difficult to remain in an active state of rest when we are conditioned to always be in this state of "business," but that is why these practices are fundamental, as they force us to slow down, be still, and breathe. They're like a supportive little nudge to the nervous system, helping to reduce the stress hormones in our bodies that we've accumulated from yang-heavy days. 

Speaking of the nervous system, the breath is one of our most powerful tools for restoring the mental and physical body and bringing some coolness to that fiery energy. During any given day, our breath tends to solely fill up in our chest, however practicing mindful, intentional breathing is what signals the parasympathetic nervous system (our "brake pedal") to kick in. To do so, we must be sure to breathe deeply into the belly. A simple way to do so is to lie down on your back and place both hands across your lower belly, breathing in so that your hands expand away from your belly, and breathing out to soften and release the breath. The nervous system also responds well to extended exhales, so breathing in to the count of three and breathing out to the count of five is a wonderful way to experiment with this exercise, especially during the evening yin hours just before bed. 

Another simple ritual to foster evening yin energy is to practice a restorative posture known as legs up the wall. We often guide several variations of this posture at the studio during our restorative-style classes, but essentially, it's a placement of the legs slightly angled or flush against any wall in your home (preferably in a quiet, calm space) with a pillow underneath the head and a blanket draped over your lower body, especially the legs and feet. Similar benefits are achieved as if you were practicing a headstand (as the feet are still above the heart), however this pose encourages an active state of rest where focused breathing and introspection can take place. Acknowledging the inhale as we breathe in, and acknowledging the exhale as we breathe out. Repeating that, again and again. 

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Implementing a consistent daily routine that harnesses these yin characteristics in a way that works best for you is highly encouraged, so you can expect to be hearing us talk about them even more throughout this month. If you find that your challenge is attending the ease-style classes, then it's likely because there is something in them that your body needs and will benefit from. For those of you looking to learn more about creating space for more yin in your everyday lives, Allison will be hosting a workshop specifically around it this Saturday, January 13th. You may reserve your spot here, and otherwise, we'll see you in the studio!

A Holistic Approach To Finding Balance in Nutrition

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Written by Allison Walton

In Maslow's hierarchy of needs, food is a basic physiological need -- along with water, warmth and rest. Every organ in our body requires sustenance and proper nourishment to keep things running smoothly and performing their jobs efficiently; including digestion, hormone regulation, blood sugar balance, energy, mood, sleep and so forth. If we're doing things right, then our blood sugar levels will be balanced, which therefore will support hormonal balance, increased energy, improved mood, cognitive support…and hopefully less cravings for sugar-laden things at the end of the day. That said, we're also human and sometimes breakfast gets skipped altogether, lunch is consumed in a hurry, and dessert becomes dinner. And so we try again tomorrow, but tomorrow doesn't seem as easy. Usually (and mostly because dessert was dinner), we're overcome with symptoms of lethargy, brain fog, more intensified sugar cravings and less than ideal sleep. Such a vicious cycle. But if we pay attention to and listen to those nudges, as uncomfortable as they might be, then that will help us to get back on track as we continue to refine our approach in a more mindful way -- without tipping the iceberg and going overboard, but also being sure to not restrict or deprive.

That said, we are a society with a voracious appetite for the latest wellness fads and trends, climbing on to the bandwagon of shiny new objects that claim to make us feel our best. And by that, I don't mean you specifically, but as a society at large, mostly due to what we're fed across social media, TV, magazines and the like. It's very easy to get lost in the shuffle and attach ourselves to the next best thing, losing sight of our unique and individual needs. We've allowed for dietary labels to define and pigeonhole us, fearing what might happen if we tell our loved ones that we've given up cheese. Often, today's concept of wellbeing can feel extremely complex and unattainable. Finding balance can feel like a whirlwind of highs and lows, woes and a lot of "try, try agains," leaving us to wonder if feeling good and well in our own bodies is actually possible (it is). Mostly, it's the mind that gets in the way, but that's a topic for another time and place. All this to say that with proper attention, commitment and some good old fashioned tender loving care (and yes, patience), balance is indeed possible.  

Just like any physical practice, it's important to notice what works for our bodies and what doesn't. Handstands and long distance running may be ideal for some, while legs against the wall and brisk walks outside suit others just fine. In taking that same approach towards diet, some thrive on animal-based proteins and carbohydrates while others function best on a plant-heavy diet and healthy fats. While optimal health looks and feels different for all, one of the most important ways that we can find balance and become more in tune with our individual needs is by paying attention to the foods and ingredients that we choose to put into our bodies. The practice itself simply begins by noticing what's on our plate., and why. Are the choices attributed to a long, stressful day and quick solve comfort, or are the choices based on what our body needs to maintain balance and feel well? Over time, if we continue to consume foods that don't provide us with the nourishment that we need to thrive (or alternatively, if we completely deprive), then eventually we will create an imbalance in the body that may lead to short or long-term illness or dis-ease. We must find that sweet spot in our routine and remove the labels of what is "good" or "bad" or fed to us as what is "healthy" and instead find what works best for our own bodies. 

Interested in diving in further? Allison will be hosting a special two-hour workshop at the studio on Saturday, January 6th. This workshop won't be about convincing you to follow a specific cookie-cutter diet or asking you to cut out specific things because they "aren't good for you." In this workshop, we will respect your individual dietary preferences and needs, providing you with greater knowledge and information on various nutrition topics so that you can being to experiment with and implement them into your current lifestyle to achieve balance and wellbeing. Be sure to reserve your spot here.

A few of Allison's favorite grounding winter recipes, to get you in the mindset:

Roasted Butternut Squash with Sage & Walnuts

Savory Slow Cooker Oatmeal

Creamy Turmeric Oats

Homemade Vanilla Cashew Butter

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January Pose of the Month: Half Moon

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Every month of 2018 Niche will have a pose of the month where instructors and clients will work on the principles and expressions of the pose in each class. Participants can track their progress and tag the studio in on Instagram with #NichePOM. Not only will this help to track personal progress, but each student that posts with this tag will be entered to win a fun prize at the end of the month!

The Pose :

Half Moon

Purpose :

Balance, Control and Concentration, Core Stability, Strong Obliques, Ability to Connect to Lats, Hip Opening, Shoulder Stability

Proper Alignment :

  • Standing foot under hip, elevated leg at top hip height

  • Shoulders stacked with long line from fingertip to fingertip (keeping top hand over shoulder)

  • Core engaged and rib cage knitted in

  • Back of head in line with spine, Foot flexed toes pointing towards side wall - with rotation coming from the hip

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Modifications :

  • Block under bottom hand

  • Stand with back body against wall for support

  • Bottom leg kneeling with bottom hand or elbow down

Amplifications :

  • Eyes gaze up or close

  • Bend elevated knee and flex foot, top hand at ankle

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Instructor Insights :

Props are your friends -  they help you to find proper alignment often to get to full expression of pose - your arm is not as long as your leg so don’t be afraid to use a block!

Play with gaze - down can be less challenging, up is full expression, eyes closed is fun!

 

The Marathon of Childbirth

How pilates can help you train and recover for pregnancy and labor.

Written by Ashley Haley

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Disclaimer: I am not a marathon runner or any kind of runner for that matter (If you see me running, you should probably run as well because there is something terribly awful coming your way). With that being said, this past February my husband and I welcomed our first child, Maddux, into this world so the marathon of pregnancy and childbirth is something I can relate to. 

The process of pregnancy and childbirth is a lot like running a marathon. Both require training and preparation of your body and mind for what lies ahead. The main event is both extremely challenging and physically demanding. Afterwards it is crucial to give the body time to recover and heal.

So, you’ve found out you’re expecting (congrats!!), now it is time to start your training. First, consult with your doctor, become more conscious of what you’re eating, increase water intake and cut out the wine (yeah I know this one can be a bummer), if you do not have a regular exercise or training program, research and find the best program that works for you. If you’re looking for an active program that will keep you safe and challenge you, Pilates may be the perfect solution!

All of our prenatal pilates classes incorporate the pilates reformer machine with the use of many other props in order to ensure correct alignment and safe transitions through movements. The reformer gives you a lot of options when it comes modifications for your changing body and energy levels. In each class, you will learn to access your pelvic floor, strengthen your core (to help reduce the risk of Diastasis Recti), glutes and legs, practice controlled breathing, work to improve balance, and reduce aches associated with pregnancy. 

My goal is to help you feel physically prepared for labor and delivery and to help speed up recovery time postpartum.

Which leads us to race day - THE BIG DAY IS HERE! Remember, you’ve spent months preparing for this day. You know how to use the strength of the pelvic floor but also know when it’s time to release it. You’re legs and glutes are strong and ready for this marathon. You’re breath awareness is there. Even if in this moment you don’t feel prepared, you are!

When you cross that finish line you’re exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally but the feeling of accomplishment you feel in that moment is unreal. You pushed yourself through the pain, tears, and self-doubt and now have an extremely cute and squishy baby to prove that you are, in fact, a rockstar! 

Recovery is a necessity after your body has been through such a physically challenging event. Some marathon runners take up to 26 recovery days after running a marathon (or 1 day for every mile ran). After childbirth, doctors recommend a minimum of 6 weeks for recovery before returning to a regular exercise routine. Once you’ve been cleared to resume exercising, it is vital to remember your body has shifted, stretched, and been pushed to its limits. We will work through safe, functional movements to discover ways to be strong and confident within your “new” normal. 

In postnatal Pilates, we emphasize slow, controlled movements helping to reconnecting with your body. We will gently and mindfully move through exercises with the intention of finding stability and muscle balance. We will also work to strengthen and rebuild the pelvic floor, rehabilitate and heal any core separation, improve posture, reduce anxiety and depression, and connect with other moms who are going through their own postpartum journey. 

Remember that pregnancy isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. It takes time and we need to be mindful of our bodies and minds throughout each stage of the process. I think this proverb associated with with Aesop's fable of "The Tortoise and the Hare" describes this journey perfectly, “if you work slowly but constantly, you will succeed better than if you work fast for a short while and do not continue.” 

Fall Recipe Collection

We officially enter fall this week! Transitioning from summer to fall means a change in schedule, activities, clothing and food. There are so many reasons to eat seasonal, locally grown food, and the Niche gang is so lucky to live in an area with an abundance of fresh produce. For your inspiration, here is a collection of recipes to make at home with your next farmer's market haul.

Breakfast + Snacks

Simple Broccoli and Tofu Quiche by Minimalist Baker

Savory, filling breakfast (or suitable for any time of day!) with a plant-based and protein-packed sub of tofu instead of eggs. You can use a variety of veggies depending on what you find. 

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal by FanneTastic Food

Start the day off right with a delicious taste of fall that can easily carry your hunger over to lunch - and no added sugar. Option to add some additional pumpkin seeds, pecans, walnuts, or your favorite nut butter to add more healthy fats and protein.

Concord Grape Muffins by Thyme and Love

A different use for this flavorful, antioxidant rich fruit (besides jelly, pie or wine :)). The baked grapes turn into little pockets of jam and you can use different flours to suit your preference.

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Meals

Kale and Sweet Potato Brown Rice Bowls by Eating Bird Food

This kind of bowl has become a staple in healthy diets.You can sub quinoa or another type of grain depending on preference and what you have to create this super simple, filling + healthful bowl!

Pumpkin Chili by Thug Kitchen on Thatta Gurl

Ahhh chili, one of the easiest and most delicious fall comfort foods. Try this recipe with a pumpkin twist to add even more fall love, and be sure to make a big batch for reheating!

Butternut Squash Veggie Pizza by Minimalist Baker

A fun, seasonal take on a pizza! Create your own crust, purchase a pre-made crust - maybe even one made from cauliflower - and again you can play around with veggies that you find at the market if you'd like. But this combo looks delicious with broccoli, onion and chickpeas for protein and fiber.

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Guide to Teaser 1

Chances are, if you have ever taken a Pilates class, your instructor has cued you to do some variation of the Teaser. Love it or hate it, it is a versatile, challenging movement/pose that offers many physical benefits and is built upon in intermediate and advanced classes. We choose to love the Teaser because it strengthens the core, hip flexors and knee extensors, and helps to develop balance, coordination and control.  We will walk you through The Teaser 1 step-by-step and offer some helpful tips to common mistakes. If that is too much of a challenge (it’s hard stuff!), below that are modifications to help prepare you and build strength and control.

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Step-by-Step Guide to Teaser 1

  • Lie supine on your mat with legs in table top position (both knees bent at a 90 degree angle), arms reaching over head along the ears
    • Option to start with straight legs, feet pointing straight towards the ceiling for more of a challenge
  • (exhale) Slightly tuck the chin to the chest, simultaneously reach the arms up to the ceiling rolling the torso off the mat then toward and straighten the knees so the legs are straight and at a 45 degree angle. Your upper body and lower body will be in a “V” position
  • (inhale) Slow and controlled, roll the upper body down to the mat with arms reaching over head, keeping the legs straight
  • (exhale) Roll the upper body back up, arms reaching towards feet, legs straight

Complete 5-10 reps

  • (inhale) Roll the upper body down to the mat with arms reaching over head, bend knees back to table top, to starting position

 

Tips to Find Your Form + Address Common Mistakes

 *See rounded shoulders and upper back here.

*See rounded shoulders and upper back here.

  • Keep core engaged drawing belly button towards spine, feeling nearly equal effort in abdominals and back muscles
  • Aim to keep a neutral curve in the low back, may feel slightly flexed when in the “V” position
  • Balance your weight between sit bones and tailbone
  • Be careful not to round the shoulders and upper back. Keep chest open, shoulders away from the ears, shoulder blades in and down back in back pockets, and release neck of tension
  • Move slowly, with control – using momentum to swing up makes it easier and does not target those core muscles the pose is meant to engage!

 

Teaser Preparation

Single Leg (3-6 reps on each side)

  • Lie supine on your mat with both knees bent, feet planted flat on the floor, arms reaching over head along the ears
  • Straighten one leg, lifting to about 45 degrees, keeping thighs parallel, toes pointed
  • (exhale) Slightly tuck the chin to the chest, reach the arms to the ceiling then toward the straight leg, rolling the back off the mat until you are sitting up to a “V” position (or as far up as you can while staying in control), keeping one foot on the mat
  • (inhale) Slow and controlled, roll the upper body down to starting position
  • (exhale) Switch legs and repeat on other side

Bent Knees (5-10 reps)

  • Lie supine on your mat with legs in table top position (both knees bent at a 90 degree angle), arms reaching over head along the ears
  • (exhale) Slightly tuck the chin to the chest, reach the arms up to the ceiling then toward the feet, rolling the back off the mat until you are sitting up to a “V” position (or as far up as you can while staying in control), keeping knees bent
  • (inhale) Slow and controlled, roll the upper body down to starting position

What is AIS?

The Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) technique was developed by Aaron Mattes over the last 4 decades. His technique provides assisted stretching of major muscle groups, this means the practicioner provides gentle pressure to aid in the stretch. It is effective because it is dynamic, not static. Static stretching can trigger the body's natural protective stretch reflex, and fights the stretch. Dynamic stretches provide greater benefit because the body doesn't see the stretch as a traumatic event, so it will relax and allow the muscle to lengthen. This will improve overall elasticity and blood circulation.                                                                                                               
This stretching method is active, meaning the client is working one muscle group to allow it'sopposing muscle group to relax and lengthen. The muscles are stretched in a particular order, as they are layered upon each other within the body. This order allows a deeper release of the next muscle. Each muscle group is worked at multiple angles to obtain maximum flexibility through the all the fibers in the muscle. Sometimes the protocol for a particular body part may need to be done more than once for the fullest benefit, basically, baby steps. Clients come away from a session feeling "worked" yet flexible.

For more information on AIS please see Aaron Mattes' website
http://www.stretchingusa.com/active-isolated-stretching

Author: Heather Mazeika