My Mat Is…

When I read my friend Laura’s candid post about her yoga mat, it moved me. I asked her if I could share her story, and she said, “yes”. Gratitude for #Manduka and our mats, a valued tool of the trade!

Laura Hitchman practicing self-care on her Manduka mat.

#mymatis my home. I feel safe, secure, and able to be myself when I’m on my mat. It’s not the integral yet supportive nature of the quarter-inch rubber mandukayoga under my body, but rather what it has come to represent over the past eight years. A gift from an ex, I could’ve allowed my mat to represent that relationship. I chose to let go instead. While I rid my life of a lot of physical things that reminded me of that time, I knew in my heart that my mat wasn’t one of those things I needed to purge to cleanse. I’ve taken time to build a strong practice, and my mat has seen a lot of sweat. I’d venture to say pounds upon pounds of toxins have been absorbed into that rubber along with many tears and lots of laughter. It’s been through endless hours of training. It’s traveled with me. It’s provided me with a place to take a nap. It’s witnessed countless yoga injuries because if you aren’t falling, you aren’t trying. It’s gone camping (never again). It’s seen the likes of lovemaking (maybe more than once and yes, you should give it a try; I know you’re thinking about it now). I’ve shared it with friends. It now holds their sweat. Maybe some of their tears, and I know it holds their love. It’s provided me with a safe space to feel love, to allow my heart to be open. I’ve danced on it. Farted on it. Taken my time to heal on it from chronic illness and heartache. It even melted once in my trunk, into a shoebox. Somehow it got its shape back. No harm, no foul. It’s hosted the likes of small children doing Down Dog. It’s held up to my drool. It’s carried me through to the present moment. It’s been to the beach. I’ve squatted on it with friends to watch the full moon and listen to drums beat in my chest. I’ve eaten on it (bad yogi, I know, pizza and subway (Ewww). I’ve shared wine on it with friends. It’s witnessed so much of who I am. I’ve gotten funky on it, created flow upon flow on it. Gotten naked by myself on it. Flowed in that way on it. A judgment-free zone, a cathartic warm hug from my main squeeze. So there you have it, #mymatis home!

If you would like to share your personal story about your mat on Laura’s Insta page, go to: https://www.instagram.com/ovpoweryoga/ 

Instructions for posting under her #mymatis Insta story:
1. Post a photo of yourself in your natural habitat! Something that depicts who you are!
2. Share what your mat means to you.
3. Use the hashtag #mymatis with your post.
4. Tag and mention the studio @ovpoweryoga in your post. (they can’t track it if you don’t do it)
5. Tag a friend or 2 to play along. *Post deadline is November 30. They will select a post to win an unlimited annual membership; all are eligible!

You may recognize Laura from my Yogi Insight section. She is the owner of OVPY in Wheeling, WV. I encourage you to get your flow on there if you are in the area!

Fitness Is in My Genes

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I was reflecting on the origins of Gal on the Go. Who inspired me to change and live a more active and healthful existence? I was fixated on coming up with a woman in my life; then it dawned on me; it’s my Uncle Joe!!!!

Ever since I was a little girl, I was aware of my Uncle Joe’s commanding presence and dedication to fitness. However, I didn’t realize the impact his healthy lifestyle had on my mindset. In my teens and college years, I was preoccupied with navigating my life. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized the power of his influence by way of example through his fitness work ethic.

Today, at age 75, my uncle could put many 20 somethings to shame! I was curious about how 61 years of daily fitness became a part of his life. So, I picked up the phone, called him, and had a lengthy heartfelt discussion with him.

The following is part of our conversation. I hope you find it insightful and inspirational…

Q: How old were you when you first started working out?
A: 14; I was a freshman in high school.

Q: Who or what influenced you to start exercising?
A: You know, we come from a big family. I didn’t have much growing up, and I didn’t know anything about exercise. One day, Uncle Phil and his son came to our house. They lived four doors down on the same side of the street. Phil was my favorite uncle. Phil told my father that he joined this health club and was working out, and my cousin made a muscle, a bicep. I looked at it like wow! Uncle Phil talked my father into allowing me to join the gym with my cousin, who was already a member.

I believe Uncle Phil paid for my first year — it was around $50 for a one-year membership back then. At that time in the 1950s, I didn’t even know what weight training was. I never heard of it. I didn’t know anybody who was lifting weights. I just knew my cousin’s muscles looked huge. I didn’t know how he got them.

As I got older, I added cardio to my weight lifting regiment because heart problems run in my father’s side of the family. There were five boys, and all of them died of heart issues. I felt doing cardiovascular exercises on a regular basis would help to minimize my chance of having a heart attack or something.

Q: What was the first gym you ever belonged to?
A: American Health Studio. It was a bodybuilding place — strictly weight training. Back in the 1950s, they didn’t have an indoor track, and all the other stuff gyms have today. It was just bodybuilding. There were two sides to the gym; one for competitive members, and another for beginners. We lifted on the non-competitive side, and I was grateful because when you start as a kid, you’re benching like 75 pounds. If I had watched the guys on the competitive side, I would have been intimidated by how much they lifted.

Q: How many gyms have you belonged to in 61 years?
A: At least 13. The average life span of a gym is usually seven to eight years. There’s so much competition. I belong to two gyms at a time for a challenge and change of pace, you know, different scenery. I was given the keys to several gyms over the years because the owners respected me. So I was able to work out any time I wanted, even on days when the gym was closed, like on Christmas. I prefer family-owned gyms because I feel that when you go to a smaller gym, you’re never among strangers. When you walk into a large commercial gym where there are 500+ members, it’s not the same. At smaller gyms, you get to know everybody, and it’s more personal.

Back in the day, there were very few gyms; now there is one every two blocks. Also, years ago, you would never see a woman in the gym. In the 1960s, I saw some women at the gym, but they were using vibration machines. I never saw them lifting weights. In the 1980s, I saw a few women weight training. Now I go to the Lockport YMCA, and there are an equal number of women, if not more women than men strength training.

Q: How many times a week did you go to the gym when you started in your teens?
A: About three times a week at the most. It was hard when I was younger because I didn’t have a car. I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 26, so for years, I had to take a bus to the gym. In the beginning, there were periods when I would take a few weeks off from working out, but then I always returned. I think the periods of rest were good for me. When you go back, even though it’s challenging to start up again, you get stronger and stronger, because your body is rested.

One time, for some reason I hadn’t worked out for a long time because I was very sick. When I returned to lifting, it was tough for me to get back into shape. I swore that I was going to make sure I was disciplined. I had gained some weight, and I didn’t like it. It took a lot of effort for me to get down to the weight that was best for me. I vowed that I was never going to put myself through that again, and I never did. For more than 40 years, I’ve been very consistent.

I felt so good lifting. As I became stronger, I gained confidence. I had a newfound realization. When you are a freshman in high school, guys pick on you, but as I grew stronger and stronger, no one would bother me. I went to school at Canisius where kids had cars at age 16 and came from families with lots of money. I didn’t have any money, you know, I was the second eldest of eight kids from a family on the west side. The only thing I had to give my friends was protection from other kids. They counted on me if they were having trouble to solve their problems.

I’m not proud of this, but one day I went to school on a Saturday and hit a kid because he was picking on a friend of mine. A friend drove me. I went to school, knocked on the door, and told the kid to come out. He was a year ahead of me. He wouldn’t come out, but I kept knocking. Finally, he came out, and I said something like I heard you’re picking on my buddy Tom. I hit the kid and the next thing you know, we were in a priest’s office. The priest punched me with his knuckle right in my chest cavity. I couldn’t breathe. He told me to get out of school. I figured I deserved it. I never got into further trouble.

Q: How many times a week do you work out now?
A: Seven days a week. Every other day I go to a gym. I belong to two gyms and alternate between them. On my “off days,” I work out at home briefly in the morning and then at night. When I work out at home, I use light weights and walk on the treadmill. Every day, in the early morning I warm up at home for about 20 minutes with light weights, then I go to the gym for two and a half hours and do a mix of cardio, free weights and some of the weight machines, and then at night I do another 20-minute light workout at home. I like exercising in the morning because it sets the tone for the day. I can commit to other projects the rest of the day and not feel resentful if I didn’t get my workout in.

Q: What are some changes you have experienced since you started weight lifting in your teens?
A: When I was younger, I thought a true man doesn’t work out on machines. He uses free weights, but as I have gotten older, I see things differently. If they didn’t have machines at gyms now, I probably wouldn’t be able to get much of a workout. Years ago I wouldn’t join a gym unless they had over 100-pound dumbbells because I had already mastered the hundreds and I could do many reps with a 100. Now, I go to a gym, and the first thing I ask is, do you have anything lighter? I’m at the other end of the rack now.

When I was in my 20s until about age 48, I used to lift weights, run five miles a day in Delaware Park, and play basketball. I liked to mix things up. I didn’t listen to my body. I had the “no pain, no gain” mentality. It was the philosophy at that time. I learned that there’s a difference between pain and discomfort. If your body is in pain that’s a problem, but sometimes your ego gets in the way, and you continue to bench press and exercise too intensely; that’s not good.

Over the years, I heard about a lot of the bodybuilders I knew who were not doing so well. Some of them were taking things over a period of time and paid the price. I never took anything but Creatine and Protein. Unfortunately, I knew people who took things and committed suicide — they would go into rages. At one point, there was a cleaning chemical called Dimethyl Sulfoxide (DMSO) that some guys used to put on their skin to absorb because they thought it helped with the pain.

Q: What is your favorite weight exercise?
A: French curls, also known as tricep extensions. I think because people always made positive comments about my arms. I used to curl 175 pounds.

Q: What impact has exercise had in your life and in what way?
A: It has kept me healthy. I have only taken off from work a few days ever my whole life. Also, I was very shy and lacked confidence. It took a while, but weight training made me feel like I was on equal footing with others.

When I became a school teacher, I ran a weight training program for elementary and high school kids. I would show up early, around 7 a.m., and we would work out for an hour or so a couple of times a week. An assistant principal asked me to do it; the board of education didn’t want it for insurance reasons, but the assistant principal still gave me the OK to do it. One of my students, Mike Pariso, became a competitive bodybuilder on a national level and is known as the “Man of Steel.”

Over the years, people nicknamed me Jack LaLanne. They still call me that to this day. I consider it a compliment. Jack did a lot for fitness — he brought it into our homes in the 1950s. He did nothing but good for healthy living and bodybuilding.

Q: Who is your idol?
A: My son Joey. I say that because of all he went through. He never once lamented or felt pity for himself. He was determined to fight. I admire that kid; he’s something. (Quick Background: Joey is my cousin, who is my age and the son of my Uncle Joe. A few years ago, with no warning, he was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer, underwent drastic surgery, fought for his life, and is doing great today.)

Q: What advice would you give others?
A: The biggest thing I tell people is to listen to their body. You can remain uninjured by listening to the little signals your body sends you — this is too much; you don’t need to do this; rest, etc. There’s a difference between being sore the next day, and hearing tears as you do exercises. If you listen to your body, you can continue for many many years.

I don’t see why you can’t keep exercising, even in modified form for decades. My buddy Herbie, a retired police officer, is in his early 80s. We used to work out together back in the day at Turner’s gymnasium, a gymnastics place that had weights. Herbie still tries to exercise and seems to enjoy it. His body is broken down, but his will is strong! I have always looked forward to working out. As long as I can retain that enthusiasm, I’ll continue to work out. I don’t see it waning. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I didn’t get into fitness and develop confidence. I credit weight lifting with a lot. I enjoy it immensely and hope that I can continue to do it for years and years.

___________

[The end of our conversation… Listen, Kimmy, you made my day. I love ya. Bye, dear.]
My uncle rocks!!!! ❤️

A main goal of Gal on the Go is to motivate people to lead active fearless lives. I hope that you have an Uncle Joe in your life who positively influenced you or that you are an inspiration to someone else!

A Sure Sign: Creative Branding

at GALOTGO

hashtag GALOTGO

Four and a half years ago, I was brainstorming creative ways to market my Gal on the Go brand when I had an actual aha moment. It was right in front of my face!!!! I thought, why not take my personalized license plate, GALOTGO, and place a hashtag in front of it?! A unique way of marketing to a captive audience of fellow drivers. During my initial search for the symbol, I couldn’t find a hashtag sticker anywhere, so I bought four number 1 stickers from a Home Depot store and made a hashtag. About a year later, I sold my Prius and had to remove my homemade hashtag. I researched the symbol again online, and this time found a 4″ vinyl version on Amazon. Score! The reaction to the sticker has been a lot of fun over the years… people tell me frequently how creative it is, they take photos of the back of my car, and ask me if I mind if they copy my idea. If you follow my blog, you know that I recently did an overhaul on the look of my brand, which got me thinking… how can I update the use of my hashtag? I know, replace the # with an @ sign!!!! All of my marketing materials — business cards, flyers, etc. use @gal0tgo and @rocknflowyoga, so it made sense. I’m happy to share that the at sign has received a lot of positive feedback. If you see my car on the road, give me a honk or a shout!

Gal on the Go Gets a Makeover

Gal on the Go

I launched my Gal on the Go blog 14 years ago as part of a grad school project. I cannot believe how fast time has passed!!!! My writer’s voice has evolved and it was time for my look to progress too with some fresh branding. I hope that you enjoy the blog and continue to follow along. Like a fine wine, my goal is for it to keep getting better.

This year I created a sub brand of Gal on the Go called Rock N Flow Yoga, combining my past experience as a DJ with my passion for yoga, by offering private yoga instruction to musicians and bands and leading fun power flows at public festivals and events.

It takes a village of amazing friends and strangers with heart to help make your dreams a reality. You can try to do it alone, but it is much more achievable (especially on rough days) when you have people who are behind you rooting for you!

That said, I would like to give a shout-out to the following people for their unwavering support with this venture…

  • Angela Tarantula, my friend who is a talented graphics designer created the new Gal on the Go logo down to the detail of the arrows giving a sense of action and looking like a pair of legs running. (She also created my Rock N Flow Yoga logo.) Insta: @angtarantula
  • Lauren, my friend who is a skilled photographer and owner of Elle Three Photography took the photo used as the base of the new Gal on the Go logo.
  • Danielle Daily, my friend, and business mentor who is a TED Talk savvy businesswoman and host of the Suddenly Single Show podcast who came up with the concept of rebranding Gal on the Go.
  • Yorke B., a new friend and my Custom Ink rep who has been beyond helpful with all my merch needs for Rock N Flow Yoga.
  • Christina, my friend who placed the first order for some Rock N Flow Yoga merch and gifted it to me as a gesture of her belief in me and my dream.
  • Amanda, my original omie who attended my first studio yoga class ever and every one of my public yoga events.
  • YOU (my blog readers) and the people who grant me interviews — all of whom are a constant inspiration.

Sit back and enjoy this wild ride as we keep it moving onward and upward together!!!!

Yogi योगी Insight (part 14 in a series)

If you are coming here for the first time, you have entered part 14 in an interview series with aspiring and experienced yogis called Yogi Insight. I hope that you enjoy each person’s shared journey. Namaste!

I first learned about OV Power Yoga when my boyfriend mentioned that he saw a sign for the studio during a visit to see his family in Wheeling, WV. I was in town for a few days and needed re-grounding, so I borrowed his bike and peddled off to a 60-minute power flow class led by Lauren Newton. I instantly felt a connection to the OVPY community and a sense of peace in the space. So strongly, that I returned every day for two more days during my stay.

While I was there I had an opportunity to meet Laura Hitchman, the owner. I found her lively personality invigorating as you will learn from her interview below. She has a playful attitude, but make no mistake, she respects the practice of yoga. Her power flows are on-point and challenging, and her business plans are ambitious.

Laura and I vibed so well, that she extended an invitation for me to return as a guest instructor whenever I’m in town and teach sculpt! I cannot wait to reunite with the OVPY community in July (dates TBD)!

Yogi: Laura Hitchman, founder and teacher
Studio: OV Power Yoga (OVPY)

Laura Hitchman

Q: Who or what influenced you to start practicing yoga?
A: Actually, it was my Dad — he doesn’t even do yoga! In 2011, (time in my life when I was very unhealthy and living the party girl life), he offered to hire a personal trainer to help me lose weight and create wellness goals. I didn’t take it lightly. I got mad at him. It wasn’t exactly the type of thing you want to hear from your father, but part of it rang true and deep down I knew there was a need for change.

Q: How long have you been practicing yoga?
A: I attended my first yoga class in 2007 at WVU. I took a class for a semester but didn’t practice regularly until 2012. That’s when yoga started to make an impact on me. It’s been seven years. I practice roughly three to five times per week. I’d love to tell you that I practice every day, but it just isn’t true. Sometimes I want to go for a walk or watch Netflix for six hours instead. 😉

Q: What do you like the most about practicing yoga?
A: There are so many things I love about it, but if I had to pick one I’d say laughter. Yoga, especially teaching yoga taught me to laugh at myself, to be myself regardless of the opinions of others. I crack jokes in class; some of them are a hit and the rest well… Yoga is continually teaching me to grow through the uncomfortable times, you know, that awkward silence when no one “gets” your joke? I’ve learned to love that awkward time; I no longer want to hide when I find my edge. I say, “OK, Laura here is an area where you can do a little work and grow; not get better, but grow and develop.”

One Saturday evening at the end of a very long day during my yoga teacher training, my friend, yoga teacher and life coach stopped me in my tracks and made me tell a joke. I got so nervous and embarrassed that I froze. All of a sudden these friends of mine became (in my mind) a sea of judgmental people. But, that wasn’t the case at all! I don’t quit easily, so I stood there shaking, beat red and I told a joke. Everyone laughed, and I returned to my mat. Life went on. I’m likely the only person that remembers that experience out of the 17 people in my YTT class. I work hard to teach people to show up as they are and to not worry that others are paying much attention to them — they’re busy thinking about their own lives.

Q: What is your favorite pose and why?
A: It changes all the time… it used to be half moon, then garudasana (Eagle), wheel. Right now it’s plank. You know this if you attend my class. I love plank because for years I would opt out of doing it because my internal dialogue was you’re not strong enough, you’re too tall to do a pushup, etc. so I would never try. Then, one day I decided to do all the planks offered in the sequence of a 60-minute class. I built the strength (mostly mentally) to plank and now I want to do them all of the time!

Q: Who or what influenced you to open up a hot yoga studio? Is there any significance of why you chose that location?
A: I moved back home to Wheeling, WV, after living in Charleston, SC, for 10 years. I wanted to be closer to my family, get a handle on my health (I have autoimmune diseases.) and casually teach yoga a few times a week. I didn’t have a lot of time to teach yoga in South Carolina due to illness and working a full-time job. Also, I didn’t have the energy to teach night classes like the rest of my friends.

Much to my surprise, upon moving home, I found a budding yoga community in Wheeling that was craving the practice as much as me! Not to mention it’s a town that’s currently ripe for new business and fun, healthy things to do. I worked hard in 2018 to bring the community together even more — hosting local events and supporting other businesses. I was inspired by the people who live in the Valley and their desire/dedication to shift the perspective for the whole, to bring healthy options to our town and support one another. I’ve worked in business and hospitality my entire career. The combination of majoring in those fields in college, my YTT 200, Life Coach certification and community support, made starting a business in Wheeling make sense. It finally felt like all of my skills, passions and education were pulling me in the same direction and I could no longer ignore it. I’ve had a lot of mentors over the years — yoga teachers, coaches, business owners who have influenced me, but also crappy jobs, relationships that didn’t end well and chronic illness all that have shaped me. I grew into who I am today from walking my ass through the fire and choosing to shift my perspective and change accordingly.

Q: Your talented sister, Hannah Wagner, painted the chakras mural on the wall, how did that come about?
A: How much time to do you have? Just kidding. We sat down and talked through the concepts behind the chakras, the elements that each encompasses and how we could interpret the chakras through art. It’s personal. We worked to portray the meanings through the imagery of relatively ethereal concepts. It was challenging and got us thinking about how art is left to interpretation and so is yoga; they flowed together!

Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of owning/running a yoga studio?
A: There are so many, but I love hearing stories from my clients when they start a practice, develop a passion for it and return to tell me how yoga is starting to impact all the areas of their lives in ways that feel light and lifted. One client recently told me that her co-workers mentioned to her that she spends a fair amount of time at work these days taking deep breaths and letting the air out through her mouth. We teach breathing techniques at OV Power Yoga because they’re a tool you can use everywhere you go at any time.

Q: What is your mission as a yoga owner?
A: To get more people on mats!!! At home, in nature or in the studio. It doesn’t matter where you start; just start. The rest will unfold the way it’s meant to be. Yoga makes us friendlier, happier and more accepting of ourselves. It’s an introspective practice at best and through breath, movement and sweat we release endorphins and build serotonin and calm our nervous system. For me, it’s about COMMUNITY. We need it for our health; it’s a major part of sustaining us well into our 90s. My mission for the Valley is to bring The Blue Zone Project to town. Check it out! (Blogger’s Note: I looked into The Blue Zone Project, and it’s intriguing!)

Q: What is the biggest challenge for you as a studio owner?
A: Patience. As I said earlier, I don’t quit easily. I’m learning that it takes time for people to realize you even exist as a business. It’s slow, but picking up every day. I’m very pleased with our success so far. On average we have nine people per class and 14 classes per week. To me, that’s impressive for only having been open for five months so far.

Q: What is your short- and long-term plan for your studio?
A: We will be doing it ALL! My vision for the studio is grand! YTT is coming this year. I’m getting ready to submit materials to the Yoga Alliance for curriculum approval. We will host an assistant training (my first love), and next winter we will go on our first retreat. It’s all in the works! I spend a lot of time developing the business when I’m not at the studio. In June we will hold a co-lead workshop with myself and Jim Weekly called My Husband Does Down Dog. It’s designed to get more men on the mat with their wives to enjoy the practice together. We will also be around town doing events at places like Nikki’s Garden Center (Yoga in the Hot House) and Generations Pub (Hot Yoga on the Deck). Keep checking the OVPY website and our Instagram (@ovpoweryoga) account for updates.

Q: How long have you been teaching yoga?
A: Actively, for three years. I say yes before I say no. Humans tend to back out of things that they overthink. I’m no different, so I say yes and there is less anxiety. I find a new edge!

Q: What do you like most about teaching yoga?
A: That light-bulb moment in class when I notice the look of excitement on a student’s face when the person lands a pose for the first time. It’s not about doing the pose flawlessly, but rather falling so many times that when you finally achieve what you have been working on, it feels good.

Q: How do you come up with your sequences?
A: I wing it. I don’t plan; I don’t write them out. That gives me anxiety. I prefer to look at the bodies in the room and to teach to who is there. I’ve found that if I write out my sequences, I back myself into a corner and get attached to what I planned and then I’m not as present to the needs of the people in the room. I’ve taught my instructors to do the same. We know what we need to do; we have the knowledge, we need to have faith in ourselves. If we screw up, well, the next time will be different. It’s forgiveness, courage, trust and a smile.

Q: What is one piece of advice that you would give to a new yoga teacher?
A: Put your notes away, trust yourself and say YES before you can say no. Also, if something feels off, talk with your studio owner — voice how you feel. Don’t be afraid to ask for guidance. Value yourself and everyone else will.

Yogi योगी Insight (part 13 in a series)

If you are coming here for the first time, you have entered part 13 in an interview series with aspiring and experienced yogis called Yogi Insight. I hope that you enjoy each person’s shared journey. Namaste!

I first learned about Homegrown Power Yoga when I was visiting a mom-and-pop coffee shop next door and noticed the studio. Curious, I checked out Homegrown’s website and classes online and about a week later wondered in with my friend Christina to try a class. It was an amazing hot yoga flow led by Alison, the owner. The experience made such a positive impact on me, that I became a member.

Alison has a unique way of leading a challenging sequence with true deep mindful reflection throughout the class. She is authentic to her belief that “yoga is for every single body. Whatever apprehension you may have, show up — show up and do what you can, and let the rest be gone.”

Yogi: Alison Adams, founder and teacher
Studio: Homegrown Power Yoga

Alison Adams

Q: How long have you been practicing yoga?
A: It’s very seldom that I count the years. On and off since my early 20s and then more continuously in the last 15 years as a regular practice.

Who or what influenced you to take up yoga?
A: Initially I had a dance teacher that incorporated yoga as part of our warm up, and I didn’t even know we were practicing yoga. I thought it was really cool — that’s why when I started I was in my 20s and didn’t know it was yoga. Later, when I went to a yoga class, I was like I’ve done this before!!!! I recognize all of these movements! I was doing yoga and didn’t know it! That was the start; it wasn’t super direct. I bounced around in different yoga classes, going wherever I could find a class because it wasn’t popular back then. It became a daily practice when I lived in Rochester, and I started practicing at Breathe Yoga with Cyndi Weis, an owner of the studio. That’s where I did my first 40 days and got involved with the Baptiste practice and started a daily practice. That was probably the biggest influence on me making it a constant practice.

Q: What aspect of practicing yoga do you like the most and why?
A: The practice has radically transformed who I am — it’s really hard for me to see the practice as something other than a lifestyle. For me, it’s not I do these things, and this is why I practice. It’s a way of being. It has become a system for my life to operate. It has given me the ability and ease to be in my life 100% — the ability for me to self-reflect, self-aware, take accountability and responsibility for how I show up in the world.

Q: What is your favorite style of yoga class to take and why?
A: I have taught Baptiste yoga for the past 10 years. Baron and the Baptiste yoga practice have clearly had a huge influence on who I am, and will always be my practice.

Q: Why did you open a yoga studio?
A: I genuinely love teaching. There was a natural progression for me to want to cultivate and build an environment that was closer to a community that was relatable to the experiences that I wanted to put in. The studio is named Homegrown because I wanted to teach in the place where I live, the community where I am — the influence of yoga impacting every part of my life. I have people like my neighbors, people from the ballet studio where my kids go, people from the grocery store I shop at — it’s a hub and that impacts and spreads out to the community. It’s a lot of the reason why I opened up the studio here. When I was teaching I was doing it in DC and Bethesda — more outside of my community which was fine, but I wanted to be more localized and have a more saturated impact.

Q: What excites you the most about owning the studio?
A: It’s interesting and surprising — some things have caught me from left field where people are bringing people in, practicing regularly and then emerging as teachers. And I’m like whoa, that happened, I didn’t foresee it coming! Andy just came back from Level 1 training. He had been practicing with me for a year. He was like, “I’m going to do it! I’m going to Level 1. I’m going to be a teacher!” I was like what!?! That’s the stuff that you have no idea when you start teaching a class to one person who walks in the door how the seeds are going to land. What is going to grow from the seeds — that’s the piece that I wake up every morning and feel the work I do really matters, and it makes me show up and contribute in that way.

Q: What has been a challenge for you as a studio owner?
A: Maintaining the integrity of the practice of yoga and the integrity of the practice of business and merging the two so that they can co-exist. They are two very exclusive worlds unless you bring them both mindfully and consciously into the world of the teachers. It’s not a hardship, but marrying the two with intent to be the integrity of both of the worlds.

Q: Some studios use music in class and some do not. You do you not. Why?
A: I don’t want to make a comparison; I can only speak to how I created this space at Homegrown. It’s very intentional so that when you’re in your practice space, the only thing you are actually in fact sharing is your own experience. It gives you the opportunity to be 100% in your body, in your mind, without the pull of external information. We live in a world that bombards us with information, and we’re at a time of crisis where we need to learn to pull ourselves out, we need to know how to unplug, turn things off — this becomes sacred.

Q: What advice would you give to a new yoga teacher?
A: Be respectful to where your teachings are from. Stay close to the source, and present your teachings with a clear understanding and intention. Basically, don’t go making stuff up, focus and get really good!

Don’t Stop Believing: The Debut of rockNflow Yoga

rockNflow logo

rockNflow yoga design by: Angela Tarantula

I heard the song Don’t Stop Believing by Journey at an impressionable age. Jonathan Cain’s first stroke of the piano key immediately hooked me and then the distinct vocals of Steve Perry. The lyrics of that song have resonated with me in different ways over the years in my love life and personal life, but the one constant takeaway has always been not giving up on a dream.

Parallel to that time, I watched a lot of PBS programming, drawn to a yoga show called Lilias, Yoga and You. I didn’t understand the depth of yoga back then; I just knew that I enjoyed watching Lilias Folan and mimicking what she did.

Yoga faded out of my life for a while, but music from all genres remained an integral aspect — entertaining me and teaching me life lessons through the lyrics. In college, my music spark thrived as I worked as a DJ at an alt-rock radio station.

Over 10 years ago, I started a blog called Gal on the Go and regularly hear from readers and followers how my actions have positively influenced them to get healthier, change their eating habits, and be more adventurous. I always wanted to start a business that was an offshoot of Gal on the Go, but I was unclear about my destiny and what direction to go. One day, I had an aha moment leading to a surge of business ideas for the merging of my passions of music and yoga organically to form Rock N Flow Yoga (Insta: rocknflowyoga)!

Through rockNflow I offer private yoga sessions to bands, artists, and their crews on tour. I also teach at outdoor festivals and lead workshops on protein nutrition and positive mindfulness in your life. Stay tuned because I have some exciting projects in the works that I cannot wait to share with you in the next month or so!!!! Also, I will be opening up a merch shop soon via Threadless.

The reactions from my friends have been overwhelming, rallying in support of me and my new venture. They have lent their unique skills to see my business succeed, which fills me with gratitude. I hope I can help their pursuits thrive along the way as we uplift each other. My creative friend Angela designed the custom font and logo for rockNflow (credit: Insta @angtarantula), my talented friend Lauren took photos of me (credit: Elle Three Photography), my omie Amanda has shown up to every one of my events, and others have generously given me their feedback and shared wisdom.

My soul is filled with optimism with the launch of Rock N Flow Yoga, a business that is truly authentic to me. I hope to use this new platform to bring mindful and physical health into people’s lives in a fun way one musician and festival attendee at a time!!!!

To book a session, DM me through Instagram @rocknflowyoga or email me at rocknflowyoga@gmail.com.

Yogi योगी Insight (part 12 in a series)

If you are coming here for the first time, you have entered part 12 in an interview series with aspiring and experienced yogis called Yogi Insight. I hope that you enjoy each person’s shared journey. Namaste!

I met Dan through an Intro to Arm Balance Workshop he taught at Fierce Om, where I work. During the workshop, he shared great breathing and warm-up exercises along with tips for breaking down the arm balance poses. He kindly agreed to stay after the event for an interview.

Dan Castan

Dan likes to live life on the edge! 😉

Yogi: Dan Castan
Studio: Dan Castan Yoga

Q: How long have you been practicing yoga?
A: Since freshmen year of college. I thought I was going to an easy stretching class to supplement my long-distance running, but it was more than I expected and I developed a love for yoga. I took four years of Vinyasa, Hatha, Ashtanga and Bikram Yoga, then decided to pursue my 200-hour teacher training in Virginia Beach where I was going to college.

Q: What aspect of practicing yoga do you like the most and why?
A: I like being able to physically and mentally challenge myself. Finding the edge where I am at on a given day and then pushing myself physically and mentally. It feels empowering to me!

Q: Which is your favorite yoga style to practice?
A: The first yoga style I practiced was Hatha, but more of an athletic Hatah style because of my instructor’s background at the time. From there, I went on to take Vinyasa classes, which I liked a lot, especially as a long-distance runner, the stretching and strengthening aspects were great. Then I took Ashtanga, which helped me get into a meditative state. It (Ashtanga) is now my favorite style.

Q: What is your favorite posture and why?
A: Bakasana (crane pose) because it was my intro pose to arm balances. Being able to fly, balance on my hands in Bakasana was special to me because I felt empowered the first time I achieved it. I thought this is awesome!

Q: How long have you been teaching yoga?
A: I have been teaching yoga for 10 years. I started in a studio setting teaching group classes. Now, I do private sessions and semi-private sessions with 3-4 people and lead workshops. I help people improve their form by teaching them things like how to shift their weight and gracefully get into/achieve poses.

Q: What aspect of teaching yoga do you like the most and why?
A: I love seeing my students progress, seeing the aha moments on their face when they get postures and reach milestones. I love seeing them grow as students.

Q: As a male instructor, do you feel your teaching style is different?
A: Yes, but only because of my athletic background in running and cross-training. I think my style of teaching incorporates more upper body poses. I focus on those because I have found that the upper body postures are beneficial with the progression of inversions and arm balances.

Q: What advice would you give to a new yoga teacher?
A: Keep it simple. When I first started teaching, I tried to give every single alignment for a posture, and that’s the quickest way you can mentally burn out a student.

Q: What are the different kinds of workshops you teach?
A: Arm balances rate number one for me because, through my personal practice, arm balances opened up a whole different aspect. They help to improve your inversions and transitions — instead of jumping back I started to flow back. The arm balances workshop is my favorite to teach because of that. Second would be the transitions workshop — jump backs, jump throughs. My practice became more playful when I started working hard on the transitions. I may offer a workshop down the road in 2020 on inversions like shoulderstands, headstands. I’m currently working on improving mine.

As I have taught and gotten deeper into the practice of yoga, the biggest thing I have learned is how to slow down and pay attention. Also, I have gained more self-confidence in my body’s ability to do things physically, which in turn has helped mentally.

2019: Year of Transformation

Every December I set core fitness goals for the upcoming year to give me something to focus on and to plan my training. I also try to calculate expected financial costs because as fellow racers know, a year’s worth of race expenses adds up quickly. In addition to my main goals, I sprinkle in smaller events throughout the year as people tell me about them.

This year there’s an additional component to my plans. Yoga. In 2018, I completed a year of dedicated training to become a certified yoga teacher in both sculpt and power styles, and in December I proudly started teaching sculpt and flow at a yoga studio called Fierce Om. Jenny, the owner/manager, has been amazingly supportive as I strive to build up my client base and become the best teacher I can be.

Bev, my life coach, told me that she foresaw 2019 as being a transitive year for me. Typically, change makes me uneasy, but for some reason, I am very excited by this prospect of life transformation, and I’m going to carry it with me and trust in the journey ahead! 

The reason why I started Gal on the Go was to inspire girls and other women through my life examples, to take reasonable risks trying things outside of their comfort zones that would help them to lead healthy lives and discover what they are capable of in areas they never imagined!

Since 2014, when I entered my first race, the Virginia Spartan Super, I have learned a lot through trial and error and advice given to me by other racers. One thing you should never underestimate is the power of your mindset. Sure, physical training is essential, but your mindset can have a significant influence on your outcomes in life situations. Keeping your mindset in check when moments of uncertainty start to creep in is crucial. IF you find your head leading you down a path of doubt or negativity, I offer you these two things to help you push through …

  • A mantra … Mirror, mirror on the wall, I’ll always get up after I fall. And whether I run, walk, or have to crawl, I’ll set my goals and achieve them all!
  • A song (music is a great mind booster) … download and crank up DREAMER by Black Violin.

I promise that you can truly achieve anything you set your mind to combined with honest prep work. Every time during a race, defeating thoughts enter my mind at a grueling point and I have to focus hard to push them aside. I refuse to let those negative thoughts get the best of me. During those moments I tell myself STOP WITH THE SELF-SABOTAGE! I CANNOT FAIL, I WILL NOT FAIL! I may not finish exactly how I hope, BUT make no mistake, I will finish. I am naming 2019 the #yearofyou; get out there and do things that fulfill both your mind and your body!

So what’s coming up in 2019? Some cool stuff!!! Here’s a sneak peek.

YOGA EVENTS I’M LEADING

(NOTE: If you are seeking an enthusiastic yoga instructor for your event, email me at galotgo@gmail.com.)

DATE EVENT LOCATION
January 27 (Sun.)

 

 

Doggy Noses + Puppy Poses: Yoga Flow Class @10:30 a.m.
NOTE: Tickets SOLD OUT in two days!!! Thank you!
Mustang Sally Brewery, Chantilly, VA

 

February 9 (Sat.)

 

 

Athleta In-Store Sculpt Class @9:00 a.m.
Free and open to the public.
*bring your own weights
ATHLETA, Reston, VA

 

 

February 17 (Sun.)

 

New Year Transformative OmWorkshop: Nutrition + Restorative Yoga; Time: TBD Fierce Om, Chantilly, VA

 

??? ??? ???

RACES I’M PARTICIPATING IN

(NOTE: If you there is a race you think I should do or you are looking for a team member email me at galotgo@gmail.com with the details.)

DATE EVENT LOCATION
May 5 TD Five Boro Bike Tour (40 miles) NYC
August 17 SeaWheeze Half Marathon + Yoga Festival Vancouver, BC
??? ??? ???

I don’t have any financial sponsors yet for 2019, but I hope to have some soon. I was fortunate last year to have the support of Westfields Dental, Bitar Cosmetic Surgery Institute, Essence of Om, and Downs and Associates Insurance. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor of Gal on the Go, please email me at galotgo@gmail.com.

“Here’s to the dreamers! Yes, I’m a dreamer!”

– black violin

Thanks for the Memories 2018

2018 was another wild ride! I logged a total of 45.7 race miles, not as many miles as I hoped due to a year packed with four yoga teacher training sessions, limited funds, and an unexpected foot injury, BUT I am still very proud of what I did accomplish! I have lots of gratitude for the unwavering support from you my loyal followers, friends, community members, and my sponsors Westfields Dental, Bitar Cosmetic Surgery Institute, Essence of Om, and Downs and Associates Insurance!

Highlights of the year included achieving two personal milestones. I participated in my first Ragnar Relay, running the furthest I ever had so far. The day before I flew out for the race in Mt. Zion, Utah, I was in the emergency room until after midnight for minor internal bleeding that I first discovered during the Race for Hope. The ER doctor and nurses respectfully thought I was crazy for going through with my Ragnar plans, but gave me their blessing after I explained my passion for persistence and that it would be my first time as a team leader, and I didn’t want to let my teammates down. I went on to complete the relay faster then I expected!

My second milestone of 2018 was competing in my first half marathon, Seawheeze in Vancouver, BC. Overall, this trip was one of the best experiences of my life, which is why I am doing it again in 2019 (spoiler alert 😉). My Airbnb host was terrific, having two daughters of his own who are marathon racers, he made sure that I had all of the necessities I needed pre and post race. It rained relentlessly the whole time I was in Vancouver, so I joined a local yoga studio called YYOGA to keep up my fitness schedule. I ended up befriending a wonderful local woman named Patricia in one of the classes. She and I instantly hit it off as if we had been friends for years. I had a stellar training schedule to follow, thanks to the valuable booklet Lululemon sent all the racers, but I did not prepare as I should have due to being immersed in yoga teacher training. My body wasn’t accustomed to the impact of street running, and as a result, I ended the half marathon with a stress fracture in my left foot. I am proud of my race completion time despite the circumstances. Lesson learned, NEVER blow off your training schedule that prepares your body for a race or fitness challenge of any kind!

A trusted wise friend told me that she foresaw 2019 as being a transitive year for me. I am intrigued by what lies ahead. I learned some valuable lessons in 2018, but I am ready to move on. I hope that you continue to find inspiration in my life journey, and forge a fearless path of your own in healthy ways that fulfill your spirit and soul!

DATE EVENT LOCATION
May Wonder Woman Run Fairfax, VA
May Race for Hope Washington, DC
May Ragnar Trail Relay Zion, UT
June DC Pride Run Washington, DC
July Ragnar Chase the Moon Fairfax, VA
September SeaWheeze Half Marathon + Yoga Festival Vancouver, BC