Gut Check: Benefits of Using Yoga Tools in Your Practice

Photo by Unsplash

I “met” Jennifer McGregor, a pre-med student, when she reached out to me via email in July and asked if she could be a guest writer for Gal on the Go! As part of her pitch, she explained that she and a friend co-created PublicHealthLibrary.org as a way to share reputable material on health topics and bring them to the forefront, making the information easier and quicker to find. I said YES, your project aligns with Gal on the Go’s mission! Her article below focuses on gut health and references a variety of resources. Enjoy!

Exploring New Options Can Maximize the Benefits of Yoga

All it takes is a single yoga practice to start experiencing the benefits, but we all want to get the best possible results from our efforts like anything in life. Trying new tools and ideas for deepening your practice can help you get even more out of yoga and benefit your health.

The Link Between Yoga and IBD

Yoga is one of the best exercises for someone with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) because it addresses many of your body’s needs. Yoga focuses on breathing and meditation, which lowers stress and anxiety. Researchers found a link between stress and IBD symptoms. Practicing yoga consistently gives you an ongoing mental health benefit that may also help manage IBD symptoms. The physical effects of yoga are pretty powerful, too. Yoga is a gentle way to increase your strength and energy, plus the movements can ease your symptoms by helping release trapped gas and bloating.

Give Your Practice a Tech Upgrade

One of the best ways to maximize these positive effects is to use yoga apps on your phone. Yoga apps are especially beneficial for your home practice because they can guide and help you focus on your specific needs. For example, the iGeeksBlog highlights the app Universal Breathing that’s all about breathing techniques, and the app Yogatailor offers the ultimate in customization.

Expand Your Use of Props

Some people mistakenly view using props as a shortcut, but this couldn’t be further from the truth! Using props is really about support, which can allow you to work into more advanced poses gradually. 

Yoga Block

Your yoga block supports you, helping make any asana you’re practicing work for your body. Examples include using a block in a pose like pigeon to get a deeper stretch or using it in seated poses to ease your joints’ pressure. 

Yoga Strap

Using a yoga strap is a way of lengthening your body to work into more challenging poses and get a deeper stretch from the poses you’ve been practicing. In addition to helping you achieve more advanced poses, using a strap can also help you achieve correct alignment. This is especially important when you’re practicing at home and don’t have a mirror or instructor to rely on for guidance.

Yoga Bolster

Some of the most popular uses of a yoga bolster are getting into a really good restorative stretch. Along with these common uses, your bolster can also be a highly effective way to expand your practice in other ways. For example, the Yoga Journal guides us through multiple ways to use a bolster to access a gentle backbend.

Beyond the Basics

Besides props, you know the basics that every yogi needs, like a good mat and comfortable clothes. But another way to reach the next level in your practice is to give your basics an upgrade. An example of one we love is yoga pants that have a built-in pocket for your phone. Or if you travel frequently, a travel yoga mat simplifies keeping your practice mobile.

Set Up a Home Practice

You can still make yoga a part of your everyday routine with at-home practice. Find a quiet space in your home away from high-traffic areas. Create a positive vibe by removing clutter, letting in natural light, and lighting some sage. 

When you think of these tools in terms of support, you can see how taking advantage of that support can transform your practice. And really, doesn’t that get to the heart of yoga, and the spirit of namaste? Your practice is personal, but you’ll get more out of it with other people’s support and the right tools!

NOTE: If you would like to be a guest writer for Gal on the Go, submit your story pitch to galotgo@gmail.com.

Going With the Flow

Mask I custom made with logo permission from Roswell so I can continue to promote ESR.

Life is a series of changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. – Lao Tzu

I am bummed to share the news that the Empire State Ride (ESR) is called off this year.

I support ESR creator, Terry Bourgeois’, decision to cancel the cross-state ride in July. It was the responsible choice given the New York locations, the number of riders involved, and the proximity we would all be during meals, tent lodging at night, etc. However, I cannot deny the fact that I am very disheartened by the news.

I enthusiastically signed up for ESR20 on November 13, 2019, and my devotion has never wavered! I passionately pursued my vowed fundraising minimum of $3,500, which has been a huge challenge under COVID-19 circumstances, and I will continue my efforts. Raising funds for cancer research is something I believe in deeply. If you follow my blog, you know that losing my friend Beth to cancer in March kicked my spirit and booty into high gear, both literally and figuratively.

ESR registration for all road warriors was deferred to 2021, so my goals to ride 500-miles across the state of NY and raise funds for cancer are not over, but merely postponed! I am beyond grateful to all of you who made donations and to those of you who I hope will make donations as I continue my cancer research fundraising quest into 2021. When I commit to a cause, I DO NOT QUIT! In the words of ESR… Cancer isn’t stopping. So we can’t either.

___________

Organizers of the Empire State Ride sent us the following announcement… [I am sharing it with you, my amazing donors and supporters so that you know your money is still going to cancer research as initially intended, just without the ride event this year.]

When you’re riding a bike and approach a hill, what do you do? You shift gears to accommodate the terrain, which allows you to continue to the next leg of your journey. You adapt to conquer your challenge.

Well, this year, COVID-19 is our challenge. And to overcome it, we have to shift gears on the Empire State Ride.

Unfortunately, our week-long adventure cannot take place as it usually does. But our road warriors can still make an impact on the future of cancer research.

As a safer alternative, from July 1 until August 1, we are asking our road warriors to cycle 500+ miles any way they’d like.

The funds you have raised so far are critical to advancing cancer research and are already hard at work. We know you worked hard to fundraise this year and want you to continue your #ESR20 efforts. That’s why whatever fundraising amount you achieve by August 31, will boost your #ESR21 fundraising efforts.

The donations you raise for the Empire State Ride this year will support the most promising, cutting-edge research globally, and at Roswell Park — immunotherapy. It’s the future of cancer treatment, and Roswell Park researchers are leading the way in developing these new therapies that help our immune systems fight and kill cancer. They’re our best hope for saving more lives.

The 500+ Mile Challenge

Even though we can’t gather, we are still determined to make this summer impactful and fun for all our registered road warriors. We can ride 500+ miles throughout July outdoors or indoors on your bike trainer. We will track everyone’s mileage via our Strava Club.

RIDE ON!

Too Much of a Good Thing

I contemplated sharing this incident publicly and decided that if it helps anyone, then it was worth being vulnerable.

Inundated with COVID-19 talk in every direction, I became very stressed. Toward the end of April, I got sick and thought if I increased my Zinc intake, it would help. I couldn’t afford to miss training days for the Empire State Ride. The more vitamins and minerals I took, the better, right? WRONG!

I took one Zinc/Copper pill and 10 – 15 drops of pure concentrated liquid Zinc in my green tea every day, totaling more than 30 mg, a sharp contrast to the recommended daily dose of Zinc for women, which is 8 mg. My goal was to blast my infection away, but I ended up blasting my body.

I felt falsely better the first day and then started getting sicker—scary sicker. I was severely nauseous, fatigued, had bowel issues, chills, massive headaches, an intense metallic taste in my mouth, and became very weak.

During that time, I had a video appointment with my doctor. He asked what I was taking. My brain was thinking in terms of prescription-type medicine, so I replied nothing except my Synthroid. I never thought to tell him about the daily vitamins, minerals, and supplements I was taking—another mistake on my part. Days later, when I told him what was going on, I learned that I had Zinc toxicity and was poisoning myself but didn’t know it!

I’m still fighting to be out of the woods as my body continues to detox. I lost two key weeks of training for the cancer ride. Why? Because I falsely believed that more would be better to boost my health.

I understand with all of the overwhelming news about COVID-19, you want to protect yourself and ward off the virus as best you can by doing whatever possible. But I urge you to talk with your doctor first before you take anything, even if it’s something familiar and seemingly harmless, like vitamins, minerals, and supplements.

Stay well!

The Time the World Stayed Home

Photo from my trip home September 2019.

I never thought I would experience a life in which hundreds of thousands of people worldwide are dying, we are mandated to stay at home for our good, and our environment transforms into a VR-like world!

This past summer, I went on a guided tour of the 9/11 Memorial in NYC. It brought up emotions I kept suppressed for years and was heartbreaking in ways that I cannot describe. I left the tour thinking alright, that was the worst. We will continue to rebuild our structures and strengthen our battered souls. Things can only go up. But a mere three months later, after that tour, something even more horrific came along… the coronavirus.

Two terms quickly immersed themselves in our daily vocabulary — SARS-CoV-2, the virus, and COVID-19, the disease. Depending on where you live in the world, CoV-2 is effecting you at different levels. In the U.S., my beloved NYC (New York is my home state) is pummeled, while my equally revered West Virginia is plugging along steady under the radar.

Under physical distancing restrictions, the new normal is gathering via Zoom or similar communication formats. It’s great living during a time when technology can keep us connected audio and visually, and many jobs can continue through telecommuting. I cannot imagine this pandemic scenario without the aid of technology.

The premise of Gal on the Go is to inspire good mental and physical health, so I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize the massive surge in creativity and kindness. Also, overdue respect for occupations like healthcare workers, first responders, grocery store and pharmaceutical clerks, cleaners, and more. They are what and who that gives me hope in this grave situation.

At the end of March, I heard that someone in my apartment building had COVID-19. I knew that it spreads at a rapid rate, and having to take my dog Bella out to potty and walk five or more times a day put her and me at high risk every day, even under Stay at Home circumstances. The constant trips up and down the building stairwell or elevator, dousing myself in rubbing alcohol, changing and washing clothes, afraid to cuddle with my dog was stressing me out.

Both our jobs switched to teleworking, so my boyfriend and I got out of Dodge and headed with Bella to a cabin we have visited for years in West Virginia. We made the decision fast and packed up equally quickly. We trust the owners of the property who, over time, became like an uncle and aunt to us. Immediately upon arrival at the cabin, I felt a sense of peace. A handful of people in a country area is a typical sight, but in the suburbs or city, that same view is unsettling. There is no mailing address for the cabin, so any packages we order are sent to “Uncle Dave and Aunt Karen’s” home. Uncle Dave comes by to deliver our supplies, leaves them on the porch, knocks on the door, and proclaims, “Santa is here!” He’s not a jokester, so his delivery method is very endearing.

I miss physical contact with my friends a great deal. Especially as an Italian, because I am a big hugger! It’s funny; I hear many people who are self-proclaimed introverts say this way of living is not much different for them. However, I lean more on the extrovert side, and this living to me is tormenting. A friend posted on FB that when we all get through this, he will never RSVP “no” to anything he is invited. I don’t think I can say never, BUT this pandemic makes you reassess a lot of your decisions, past, and future.

I love being able to check in on friends through social media to see that they are alright. That is a privilege. If I lose any friends, I hope that it’s because you unfriended me. I want to have all of my current friends when we make it through the pandemic and figure out our new normal of living.

I look forward to seeing you again in person and meeting people who have become new friends online during this distancing time. Stay well.

I❤️NY and all of my friends around the world!

Dan Oshier Productions used a drone to capture beautiful footage of my hometown of Buffalo, NY, under lockdown. The people are the heart of the city, and I hope that one day Dan’s company reshoots the area with the people out and about.

Gearing Up for ESR20

Sooo I signed up for an event, the Empire State Ride (#ESR20), without doing much research, after becoming increasingly frustrated by many people close to me battling or losing the battle to forms of cancer. The final push to register for the ESR came from a rousing speech made by Katie Couric about cancer research during an event I attended at the Smithsonian.

Mind you; this is not just any event, ESR is a 500-mile cycling expedition across the state of New York, starting in NYC and ending in my hometown area of Niagara Falls (Buffalo). Only 250 people dare to participate. Each come with different levels of riding experience and a shared goal to conquer cancer!!!! It will take seven days to complete the route, logging an average of up to 100 miles per day. To say I feel overwhelmed by it is an understatement, BUT ambition is a driving force behind tackling my goals. I have trained for and competed in Spartan Trifectas, Ragnar Relays, Seawheeze half marathons, and more! However, this will be the toughest physical challenge I have ever undertaken. I will share my journey with you along the way through my blog, Gal on the Go, my Instagram account @gal0tgo, and video clips.

What is the starting point for any goal? A plan of action to train properly! That said, I finally finished taking Coach Charlie’s awesome 22-week training program and entering all of the details on my Google Calendar. I have been training indoors unofficially at New Trail Cycling Studio in Reston, Va., since Thanksgiving. However, as of Monday, February 24, things are about to ramp up. Any big commitment takes sacrifice(s), so to my friends and family, I say please note the training schedule above, and I’ll see you again in August. THANK YOU FOR YOUR UNDERSTANDING.

All ESR20 participants have access to an experienced coach named Charlie Livermore and a physical therapist named Easton Osborn. Both of who will be doing the ride with us. I share some of their key advice on training, bike gear, apparel, and more along the road to ESR20!

Training Tips From Coach Charlie:

I asked Coach Charlie advice about prepping my bike and he replied with words that really impacted me… “More important than the vehicle (bike) is the engine, and that’s you. The better prepared you are physically, the more you’ll enjoy the ride.” 

  • Consistency is the most important component of preparing to ride more than 500 miles.
  • Training begins with three rides per week and progresses to five rides per week.
  • Consistency and frequency are more important than any of the specific workouts in the program.
  • It is a progressive program beginning with steady-pace rides, followed by a block of tempo work, intervals, and then focus on climbing with repeats.
  • If you have to shorten workouts or intervals, it’s alright; it’s better than skipping them altogether.
  • If you have to miss a workout here or there, proceed forward and get back on track!

Every dollar counts! To make a DONATION, please go to… http://give.roswellpark.org/site/TR/SpecialEvents/General?px=1413083&pg=personal&fr_id=1550

Funds raised through the Empire State Ride are managed by the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, the 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that manages all donations made to Roswell Park. The Foundation earned the highest possible rating on Charity Navigator for the fourth consecutive year.

Check out the fun Empire State Ride feature story on newbie rider, Gal on the Go!
THANK YOU! YOU ROCK!

2019 Retrospective and Glimpse Ahead

What a year 2019 has been! It felt like a bad one, BUT when I reflected with a more positive mindset, I realized that it was actually a year filled with many wonderful life moments!

The pinnacle of fun was hosting my friend Hona, aka my sister from another mister, on her first-ever trip to the US. [Quick background story: Hona is from Poland, now living in England, and we first met in 2014 during the Winter Olympics when we were randomly placed together as roommates. She was there working as an Olympic News Service reporter for ski jumping and I was an Olympic News Service reporter for hockey. We hit it off instantly, which is super unusual, especially under those conditions!]

Hona’s trip in September was 10 years in the making! On a limited budget and with only so many days, we hit up the major east coast cities of DC – PHILLY – NYC. Hona created a documentary about our whirlwind adventures and presented it to me via IM the other day as a post-Christmas present. She worked very hard on editing the weeks of video footage that she shot during her visit and it’s KICK A**!!!! I will cherish it for the rest of my life.

Check out Hona’s video on YouTube…

USA 2019 – Kimberly and Hona Conquer the East Coast

Some other highlights of 2019 were…
  • launching my company Rock n Flow Yoga and starting my own LLC (a scary, yet rewarding learning experience)
  • becoming the only yoga permitee by the National Park Service to host private sessions at the Lincoln Memorial and being picked up by Airbnb as an Experience: Yoga Flow With President Lincoln
  • leading a yoga power flow class at the Kennedy Center to a sold-out crowd of more than 100
  • running in my absolute fav race Seawheeze, in my favorite city, Vancouver, BC
  • participating in Ragnar Sunset DC, meeting my teammates from all over the US for the first time on the day of the race, and forming an instant bond
  • meeting and talking one-on-one with Katie Couric, one of my broadcast journalism idols, at her Smithsonian award honor NOTE: It was Katie who inspired me to sign up for the Empire State Ride.
  • rocking out with my buds at awesome concerts like the X Ambassadors
  • meeting DJ Felix Cartel and sharing my gratitude for his music
  • making new friends with smart and fun women like Laura Hitchman
  • meeting and interviewing fascinating people for my blog Gal on the Go, the most special being my Uncle Joe who I idolize
  • leading yoga at the Music Is Art Festival in my hometown of Buffalo, NY, BUT even better, the support of my loyal friend Julie Wisner and new friend Samantha Wulff who attended the event and were my rocks
  • teaching puppy yoga classes to help raise funds for Doggy Noses and Yoga Poses
  • starting a mentorship under Alison, owner of Homegrown Yoga

A Glimpse Into 2020

My race and adventure plans for 2020 are still a work in progress, except for the Empire State Ride to End Cancer. That fundraising event has a permanent block of seven days reserved on my calendar; July 26 through August 1.

The Empire State Ride entails me cycling with other cancer eradicating enthusiasts for 500+ miles (no, that’s not a typo) across the state of NY. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience that starts in New York City and ends at one of the natural wonders of the world, Niagara Falls. Each rider must raise a minimum of $3,500 for the Roswell Park Foundation. However, I hope to exceed that goal!

In the past decade, way too many of my friends/family members have been battling or lost their battle to cancer… brain (2), breast (1), colon (1), lung (1), pancreatic (2), and skin (3). Even though I’m super intimidated to ride almost 100 miles a day for seven days, it’s nothing compared to the battles they are and have faced. One thing that greatly appeals to me about this ride is that the money raised goes toward cancer research in all areas, not just one.

I look forward to you following me this summer as I document my journey online. Most importantly, I hope that you please make a donation in support of my fundraising efforts to help Roswell Park with its cutting-edge cancer research (you can select “donate to rider” then enter my name Kimberly Evering)… http://give.roswellpark.org/site/TR/SpecialEvents/General?px=1413083&pg=personal&fr_id=1550

Wishing all of you a HAPPY NEW YEAR as we enter another exciting decade of Roaring Twenties!!

Beyond the Physical

Uma Alexandra Beepat

My friend Tim from yoga class who follows my blog said, “I know a person who would be great for you to interview! Her name is Uma Alexandra Beepat. She is a Master Healer, owner of the Lotus Wellness Center, and an author. She’s incredible!” Given Tim’s enthusiasm and recommendation, how could I not reach out to Uma? No matter what your beliefs, I hope you keep an open mind and enjoy her interview.

Q: What is a master healer?
A: A master healer is someone who has completed over 10,000 sessions and is certified in several different methods of healing, thereby increasing their experience and knowledge in healing.

Q: Who or what inspired you to become a master healer?
A: The funny thing is I didn’t set out to become a master healer; it happened by way of me working! Over 10 years of working with clients, I am nearing my 10,000 mark, and that standard is accurate. I am more aware of healing issues and what people sometimes need before they even tell me their issues.

Q: What is your greatest reward being a master healer?
A: My greatest reward is knowing how many people I have helped to heal and move forward to live better lives.

Q: What is your greatest challenge being a master healer?
A: My greatest challenge is seeing people suffer unnecessarily when there are healing choices available to them. While healing is not a cure-all or replacement for traditional medicine, it can be a great addition to the treatment of a person using western medicine.

Q: What is the most common shared area that you feel people need life improvement?
A: The most common shared perception is the lack of money or the scarcity of it and therefore, the mindset that ensues. When we live in lack, we can only see the world from a small lens, so everything seems insufficient. There is a lot of talk about what you can’t do or can’t have. I am working to change this perception because once that happens, your world expands and you can go on to live a healthier and happier life full of abundance.

Q: Why did you open Lotus Wellness Center, and what is your long-term goal for the center?  
A: I opened Lotus Wellness Center to provide a safe place for people who need healing and wanted to further their spiritual and emotional growth. After we complete high school/college, there are little resources or community available to people to bond, connect, or continue life learning. Lotus was and is meant to address that concern. My long-term goal is to expand and have a Lotus Wellness Center in every town and state so that everyone has a place to go when they need it.

Q: You have an impressive list of certifications, having earned more than 40! Is there any certification you want to achieve that you have not already?
A: Thank you! I am a student at heart, and most of my certifications were for my benefit, not necessarily to share professionally. Currently, I am working on becoming a certified medium as my shift in my work has turned to spirituality and spiritual communication. I am in a program that is a lengthy testing process and consists of 30 lessons. It has been an interesting road; the healing that comes from this type of work is indescribable.

Q: What is your favorite area of certification? 
A: My favorite area of certification is Access Consciousness. I currently offer two techniques under this modality. They are very effective in changing people’s mindsets and lives.

Q: What is your most valued tool in your “toolbox”? 
A: Access Bars because it changes your belief systems and limiting thoughts without you having to do anything! It’s automatic, it’s quick, and it’s noticeable! [NOTE: Access Bars are 32 bars of energy that run through and around your head that connect to different aspects of your life. Examples: creativity, control, communication, healing, kindness/gratitude/peace, etc.]

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with my readers?
A: Yes! I am also the proud co-owner of spiritual retreats with my partner Rob Pritchard. We have a spiritual retreat coming up in October that I hope your readers can join us for called The Awakened Life Retreat. We also have an annual New Year, New You workshop in January! I love retreat work because it brings a deeper dive into healing and reflection that regular appointments cannot.

Uma’s Background: owner of Lotus Wellness Center, spiritual teacher, psychic and spiritual medium, master energy healer, consciousness speaker, and author of The Awakened Life (available through Amazon). Uma’s designation of master healer comes from her experience training for over 10 years consistently in metaphysics education and earning 40 certifications (and counting)! Also, she has personally worked on over 10,000 clients.

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!

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!

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.