Tag Archives: coaching

Aqua Yoga: Buoyancy and Balance

This is the first in a four-part series, posting weekly on Thursdays, to introduce concepts of Aqua Yoga.

I love the water– I love the feeling of floating and being free and light.  Being in the water allows me to both escape my body and come in very fine balance with it at the same time.  For that reason, aqua yoga provides me a way to play with buoyancy and balance in a way that a land-based mat yoga class does not.

Let’s dive right in and think about it.

When on land, balancing postures are some of the most physically challenging parts of yoga.  We must feel confident that we aren’t going to fall.

Scary!  I am so worried about falling that I can't keep my hips stacked or raise my leg to full extension.

Scary! I am so worried about falling that I can’t keep my hips stacked or raise my leg to full extension.

We must trust that we have the strength in our legs to hold our weight.  If we’re really good, we even try to concentrate of getting the alignment of the body correct so we can breathe deeply and experience the full expression of the asana.  But let’s be honest– most of us are working so hard just to hold the pose in whatever way we can that we are cutting short the experience we’re trying to achieve.

This Dancer looks pretty graceful, but I cannot hold this alignment for very long...and I'm certainly concentrating more on the physical work of the pose than the breath moving through me.

This Dancer looks pretty graceful, but I cannot hold this alignment for very long…and I’m certainly concentrating more on the physical work of the pose than the breath moving through me.

Enter buoyancy.

The water helps to alleviate much of the risk  of balancing postures.  First of all, who cares if you fall?  Rather than risking an injury, you just get wet.

With a little support from a noodle, I can feel confident in this more complete expression of Half Moon.

With a little support from a noodle, I can feel confident in this more complete expression of Half Moon.

Next, the water carries about 75% of your bodyweight when you are standing in chest-deep water.  That means less weight on your joints, and that can help you focus on the correct alignment of each body part.  It also translates into the ability to hold postures for much longer than on land.

All of this together means that you can hold a well-aligned pose long enough that you can breathe deeply and enjoy the full expression of the posture.  Without all of the gripping in the muscles due to lack of confidence and/or physical stamina, the ease of breath while in water flows freely.

Experimenting with balancing postures in the water is available to a wide population, especially to those people who lack confidence to try them on land. Whether you are obese or pregnant, practicing aqua yoga balancing postures is fantastic for their strength-building potential.

An aqua yogi at eIght-months pregnant, able to find Full Moon with the support of the water.

An aqua yogi at eIght-months pregnant, able to find Full Moon with the support of the water.

Now, don’t go thinking this means that balancing postures in the pool easy.  Because you are buoyant and gravity isn’t doing it’s thing to keep you on the floor of the pool, you are forced to concentrate on the rooting down in the base leg of the posture.  By bringing your focus to your foot, you can begin to think of how the posture is stabilized, then trace the alignment of the body up from that base.  Again, because you are not working so hard just. to.get.in.the.pose. you can turn your attention to alignment and breath.  This deeper level of inner focus that can be achieved in the pool will translate to a mat practice, too.

Three first-time aqua yogis playing with buoyancy and balance in Graceful Dancer.

Three first-time aqua yogis playing with breath, buoyancy and balance in Graceful Dancer.

Grab some noodles and get in to the pool.  Aqua Yoga can help you find your balance, both mentally and physically.

Good health and great happiness to you!

I teach Aqua Kriya Yoga classes and host private events in Austin.  Here’s a complete list of certified Aqua Kriya Yoga teachers.


Coach is in the House

The Monkey (now age NINE!) has gone to British Soccer Camp for the past four summers.  He enjoys the drills, the skill-building games, and the team-based “World Cup” competition that goes on throughout the week.  As a parent, I have been pleased with the balance of learning and fun.

For the second year in a row, we offered to host a Challenger Sports coach for a week.  Last year, we hosted Thiago from Brazil, who was in Austin coaching the older kids’ Tetra Brazil camp.  This year, we hosted Shannon from Portsmouth, England, who was a coach at the British Soccer Camp my boys attended.

When I told the boys we would be hosting Shannon, they were immediately excited to meet her and hear about her soccer experience (she plays for Portsmouth Ladies FC) and her “regular life” (she’s a university student studying sports coaching and management) and things she likes (films, especially musicals, and most certainly “Frozen”…much to a certain four year old’s delight.)

I was thrilled to have a female role model for my boys, who learned quickly that they could learn a lot from Shannon, on and off the pitch.


In addition to backyard games of footy, we took Shannon out and about.  We had to contend with our very rainy Austin summer, but at least we were able to sneak in a round of mini golf.  The Stowaway  remembered we had done this with Thiago last year, and she was insistent on taking Coach Shannon as well.


It turned out there was a bit of a housing shortage in Austin, so we volunteered to host Shannon a second week.  That meant we had a full weekend in between work weeks to go to the movies, do some shopping, eat Tex-Mex, and play in the pool.


We even found time to go for a run over to and up Mt. Bonnell.  (Race final: England 1 – USA 0)


During Shannon’s second week, she coached camps in the morning and in the evening, so we didn’t see her as much.  She was a considerate houseguest, and it was really no trouble at all to have her in our home.

Before she left, the kids wanted to take Coach Shannon bowling.  (And knowing that she likes films, I had to let her know our local bowling alley was the one used in the Oscar-winning “Boyhood.”)  After much protestation about not being good at bowling, Shannon managed to get four (or was it five?) strikes in the game.  But thankfully my husband came through in the end to give the win to the USA.


One of the most fun things about hosting a coach is letting the kids come up with ideas for what to do to show the coach around town.  It’s fun to see what your kids think is a big part of your city or your family’s culture.  The boys taught her how to play Ticket to Ride and other favorite board games.  The Stowaway loved having a “big sister” around.  For our family, a trip to Kerbey Lane Cafe on our final morning together was a must-do, as it is our weekend breakfast spot.


If you’re looking for a low-commit way to introduce your child(ren) to another culture, I highly recommend hosting a Challenger coach.  We’ll certainly be doing it again next year.  Three times makes it a family tradition, right?!

I did not receive any special compensation for this post.  The opinions expressed here are mine. 

Review: Garmin Vivofit







One of the biggest changes in the fitness industry in the last five years has been the explosion of options in wearable fitness tracking technology.  The number of companies in the market– and all of the options each of those companies offers– is really quite mind-boggling.

More than a decade ago, I was an early adopter of a wearable heart-rate monitor for running.  I used it on and off for several years, but I never felt like it was truly reliable. But now that more options have come on the market recently, I thought I might start trying some of them out so I can give better advice to my personal training clients.

Many of my clients need basic feedback, so I thought I’d start with a Garmin Vivofit.  Garmin is well-known in the fitness technology industry for making reliable, easy-to-use products.   My experience has shown this to be true.  While the Vivofit may not be super fancy, it does everything an entry-level device should do:

  • tracks steps, calories burned, and total distance travelled
  • adjusts daily goal based on previous days’ activity
  • water resistant
  • 1-year battery life
  • transfers data wirelessly to Garmin Connect
  • can pair with a heart rate monitor (sold separately) for even more feedback

The set-up for the Vivofit is simple.  (And if I’m saying that, it’s really super easy!)  Just enter your sex, age, weight, and height, and you’re ready to go.  Synching data to the Garmin Connect site (or to the app on your mobile phone) is as easy as pushing a button.  You can customize what you do with that data to your liking, using it to set goals or plan new fitness milestones.  I admit that I don’t use all the features of the Garmin Connect site.  Personally, I don’t find the social share site approach motivating, but I know millions of people do— and the software itself has useful, user-friendly features.


I do, however, find the “move bar” quite motivating– it’s a little red bar that appears after a period of inactivity, and this visual cue is surprisingly effective at getting me up and moving again.  It has been a really useful tool in illuminating patterns of inactivity that creep up over the course of my day.  Regardless of the personalized goal number of steps, moving more throughout the day is good for anyone.

Some of the shortfalls of the Vivofit are: 1) it doesn’t always track steps if my arms aren’t moving (think of pushing a shopping cart through the grocery store), 2) it tracks distance based on step count, so when I run and have a longer stride, the distance covered reading is inaccurate, 3) it has no backlight so is impossible to read the time when I wake up in the middle of the night, 4) it has no seconds indicator or stopwatch feature, so I still need another watch or timing device when I run or am training clients.  None of these issues is a deal breaker, especially for the entry-level market, but it does mean that the Vivofit isn’t a great fit for all of my needs.

In the end, if you’re interested in purchasing a piece of wearable fitness technology, do your research.  Make sure the item your considering has all of the features you like.  For someone transitioning to a more fit lifestyle who wants basic metrics and an easy-to-use interface, Garmin Vivofit fits the bill.

This post is the first in a summer series in which I will review fitness-related products.  I have not be compensated for this review.  All opinions are my own.  If you have a product you’d like me to review, please contact me: karen@balancepft.com


It’s May again already?

Last Fall, I made the conscious decision to stop posting here at onbalance, in an effort to free up some time for my family and my personal fitness training.  The irony is that I was doing a lot of long distance running, and it is on these runs that I get my best ideas for blog posts and other fitness tidbits to share.  I’ve been keeping a list of these ideas, have repopulated by blog posting calendar, and am going to be here every Monday and Thursday throughout the summer….just in time to keep you from flagging while the weather is hot and the kids are out of school.


As usual, May means I’m  in the midst of my busy season teaching swim lessons.  I love working with children and teaching them water safety and the joy of being in the water.  Seeing the neuromuscular connections take place, the mechanics improve, and the body moving successfully across the water never fails to excite me.  And to see the kids’ confidence explode with this success is the cherry on top.


In an unusual turn, we’re having a way wetter and colder than normal May here in Austin, so my Aqua Kriya Yoga classes are off to s slow start.  We’re meeting this year on WEDNESDAY evenings, 6.30-7.30, in Central Austin.  (NOTE:  This week only, class is on Thursday 5/21 instead.)  Leave me a comment or drop me an email at karen @ balancepft dot com if you’d like more information.  Not in Austin but curious about aqua yoga?  Check out some FAQs I’ve answered.


Business-wise, I’m continuing to add new offerings to better support my clients on their fitness journey.  This year, I’m excited to be able to grow my Personal Training base.   I’m looking ahead to August, when all three of my kids are in school five-days-a-week; this means I’ll be able to see more clients even more regularly.  Walking with people as they develop new healthy behaviors is so rewarding.  Please do let me know if you’d like some support and direction for  your own wellness.  Not in Austin?  I can support you through virtual training, too!


In April I finished my certification to become a Prenatal Kriya Yoga instructor.  I’m spending some time this summer thinking about the best way I can reach out to and serve pregnant women with this soul and body nourishing practice.  Stay tuned!


My upcoming fitness goals are, once again, running focused.  In the short term, I’m looking forward to running Beach to Beacon in Maine this August.  Like two years ago when I ran Falmouth Road Race, toeing the line at B2B allows me to participate in one of the classic American summer road races.  It’s in the hometown of American distance running legend Joan Benoit Samuelson, who sparked my mind as a 10-year-old girl when she won the 1984 Olympic Marathon.  Longer term, my dad and I are cooking up a plan to go to South Africa next May to participate in Comrades Marathon, a 90K ultramarathon that is considered “The Ultimate Human Race.”  Again, stay tuned!  I’m going to need your support!

Good health and great happiness to you!

Crash! (Then burn)

I crashed my bicycle last Thursday.  I wish I could blame it solely on the 30-35mph wind gusts we were experiencing, but unfortunately some bad judgement is also to blame.  Thankfully I am not seriously injured.  I am scraped and bruised and not altogether well, but I am grateful to have walked away as easily as I did.

In continued bad judgement, I went ahead and ran the ZOOMA half marathon yesterday morning.   I held it together quite well until mile 10, where I could no longer ignore the crackly feeling in my ribs.  I guess they were trying to tell me how little they appreciated being slammed into a guardrail less than 48 hours before.  But I refuse to quit (notice a stubborn streak?) and finished the race.

I’m okay today.  Still bruised, still a bit gimpy.  My ego is suffering most right now.  I am going to have to cancel the triathlon training group I just promoted last week, as I feel I need time to focus on my recovery.  I want to give people my best when I coach them, and I don’t feel like I can do that right now.

One of the best things I have learned from being a distance runner is that you have good days and bad days….and you never know what kind of day it will be until you get out there and give it a try.   So I’m going to give my body a little break, and then I’ll keep lacing up my shoes and enjoying the scenery.