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. 


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


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


January Pose of the Month: Half Moon


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


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


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


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.



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.


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.


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

Author: Heather Mazeika


Earth Day

It is clear by the number of recycle bins, green spaces and park goers that giving back to the planet is important to Richmond. Now that spring is here; new beginnings, green plants, and clean spaces are the perfect inspiration to give back to the Earth. We take measures in our routines at Niche to reduce out impact on the environment. In honor of Earth Day, here are a few tips from us about how your routines can be more earth friendly.

Natural Light

A great way to conserve energy is by turning off the overhead lights and using the sun’s rays to illuminate your work space. At Niche, we have many large windows that remind us that the overhead lights are often unnecessary. We love to turn the lights off and allow the sunlight in during our yoga, fitness, and Pilates classes. 

Earth friendly cleaners

Many cleaners are labeled to say if they are earth friendly. Try to look for as few ingredients as possible and names you can pronounce. This typically will limit the number of harmful chemicals included in your choice of cleaner. The recipe we use for our mat cleaner is as follows:

·       In a 12 oz bottle combine

·       4 oz Vinegar

·       8 oz Water

·       drops of Lavender essential oil

The vinegar naturally disinfects while maintaining clean surfaces. Lavender is another natural disinfectant and smells delightful! This can be used as an all-purpose cleaner in the bathroom, kitchen, or home gym!

Green space

Incorporating potted plants in your indoor décor or gardening in your yard helps to create a welcoming space, detoxify the air, and improve mood. Having plants around is beneficial to physical and mental health. We love having succulents in almost every room at the studio.

Conserving water

This can be as simple as shortening showers, using rain water to water plants, and turning the sink off while brushing your teeth. We wait until our laundry is full before washing our towels so that we don’t waste water from that cycle. You can try it with your work out gear or hand washing tends to save more water and it is gentler on elastics.


Saucha is Sanskrit for the practice of cleanliness in yogic philosophy. We love to keep our studio organized and clean by putting away and tending to our equipment properly. This can be applied in nature by making sure we collect trash and limit our impact on the natural environment during outdoor activities.


Try to limit use of plastics but also keep in mind they can often be recycled! Plastic bags can be used as trash bags, in the car, or to pick up pet waste. Unsoiled cardboard as well as rinsed cans and bottles can be recycled at a local recycling center.


Carpooling, riding your bike, or walking can reduce pollution from vehicles. This can increase your interpersonal interactions and steps for the day. Add walking or running to Niche to your fitness routine!

Addressing Wasted Energy

While we want everyone to be comfortable during their workout, we adjust the thermostat when no one will be in the studio. This can be done at home while residents are sleeping, out of town, or for a long work day. It is also helpful to unplug appliances when not in use.


Tupperware, reusable shopping bags, and thrift stores are easy substitutes to reduce waste. Our instructors and students are welcome to refill a water bottle from our filtered water spout. You may also find a need for items you would typically throw in the trash. Pack home cooked meals in jars or containers from purchased food, old t-shirts may become cleaning rags, and bread bags can be reused as produce bags at the grocery store!

Non Electric Exercise Equipment

Yoga, pilates, and functional training conveniently don’t use electricity! Come to our classes to reduce electricity use in your exercise routine. Mat routines in yoga and pilates use body weight and mindful movement while the reformers and TRX™  are great alternatives or compliments to electric exercise machines.

We’d love to see you in the studio and give you a tour! Check out our class schedule to find the class for you.  

Author: Liz Creasman, tries to find any excuse to be outside. She is enthused when she sees people taking measures to reduce the impact they have on the environment in order to enjoy all that the Earth has to offer. Earth day is the inspiration for her blog post this week providing insight to the measures we take a Niche and how you can apply them too!

TRX 101

TRX 101

You’ve seen those black and yellow straps popping up everywhere these days. They’re hanging in your gym, at your physical therapist’s office, and now in your pilates studio. So the question is, what are these straps? How do you use them? And why are they everywhere? I’m here to answer those questions for you!

The TRX consists of two nylon straps fixed to a single anchor point with handles and foot-cradles at the end of each strap.  The straps can be attached to the ceiling, anchored to a wall, or even closed into a door. At less than two pounds, the straps can be carried anywhere for an on-the-go workout!

Now how do you use the TRX straps? Excellent question with SO many answers! There are hundreds of exercises you can perform on the TRX. Most resemble traditional exercises but either the individual’s hands or feet are attached to the TRX while the opposite end of the body is in contact with the ground. Think squats holding on to the TRX straps or push-ups with feet in the straps.

Why are TRX straps everywhere? Because they are an effective way to train the body for functional movement with a focus on the body’s core muscles. Functional movement consists of any movement we do during daily activity: squatting to get something out of a low cabinet, pulling a heavy door open, lifting an object on to a high shelf. Each of those movements requires strength and stability. The TRX uses bodyweight exercises to build strength, and the straps add a level of instability that trains the core to activate and control movement. 

TRX training sounds difficult, right? Yes, and no. The TRX is completely customizable. You can use the straps to make exercises tougher, but you can also use them to make modifications to exercises. For instance, squatting while holding on to the straps takes some pressure off of the legs as it allows the individual to help themselves back up with their arms as well as their legs, making a squat easier. On the other hand, putting feet into the straps and performing a push up increases the instability of the exercise and requires the core to activate more than a traditional push up.

Now that you know all about the TRX, come check out TRX Fusion at Niche Boutique Fitness Studio – Tuesdays at 6pm, Wednesdays at 9:30am, and Saturdays at 10:30am!