Tag Archives: group exercise class

Aqua Yoga: Finding the Goddess

This is the fourth post in a weekly series about Aqua Kriya Yoga.  You can read about aqua yoga and how it’s great for buoyancy and balance work.  When you change the planes of your yoga practice, good things happen.


Amy Cuddy, Harvard Business School professor, has research that demonstrates a fascinating link between holding the body in a “power position” and building confidence.  Cuddy’s research is often cited as a way to pump yourself up before a big presentation or job interview, but the same ideas can be applied to running the gauntlet of everyday life.





One of my favorite yoga asanas is Goddess Pose, as it requires concentration on many of the physical elements of my every day life: strong legs, a long, tall spine. and an open chest.  With a lifted heart and ready hands, I can get through even the toughest day, knowing that I have the strength within myself to do so.

The challenge of Goddess Pose is that it can be hard to sustain.  Even in the above photo, I could be lower into the squat to feel more of a release in the tailbone and lengthen the spine.  Let’s try again:


Better here, especially with the consciously-raised chin, but I can see my legs are working so hard here that I’m collapsing the tiniest bit forward into my chest.

Yoga can be simple; yoga can also be hard.

There are a lot of moving parts–so to speak– even in these static poses.  Taking them into the pool can help get all the parts into the right place.  Remember how I talked about the great benefits of buoyancy and balance with regard to aqua yoga?  Goddess Pose is one of the asana that, when done in the pool, can be held for longer (thanks to the water bearing some of the bodyweight).  It can, therefore, give you time to better organize your body and appreciate the full expression of the posture.

Even more, the water can help you push the asana into deeper bodywork.  For example, because it’s easier on the big muscles in the low body to do the work of Goddess Pose in the pool, it can be held long enough to transition into a side body stretch.


The knees are still bent, the glutes are still working hard, the feet are still bearing equal weight, the chest is still open and lifted– but now the side body receives a lengthening, too.  Breathing deeply in this posture, one can feel both strengthening (in the legs) and relaxation (in the chest and side body) at the same time.

I particularly like taking Goddess Pose into the pool because of the benefits women tell me they feel when working in water.  The freedom of movement we feel in the water allows one to feel confident in her body in a way that we usually do not on land.  This confidence creates a deeper breathing pattern, re-energizing the body on a cellular level.

Also, our bodies are primarily made of water.  By holding Goddess Pose in the water, we are connecting our outer and inner strength in a physical way.  For perimenopausal women, expressing the Goddess in the pool builds muscular strength and internal heat without the annoying side-effect of sweating.

What can be greater than feeling confident and strong?

I dare you to try Goddess Pose aqua yoga style and NOT feel like you can take on the world afterwards.  Check out the nationwide aqua kriya yoga class listings, or if you’re in Austin, leave a comment to join in my Wednesday evening class.

Note that the deep squat of Goddess Pose is contraindicated for women in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy unless the baby is known to be vertex.


Family Fitness Bootcamp


I’ve known for a long time that I live in a fantastic neighborhood.  There are so many reasons I love living where I do, but one thing I’d like to be better at is meeting more of my neighbors.

When my neighborhood association asked if I would lead a FREE Family Fitness Bootcamp at our local park, I said “yes” enthusiastically.  I thought it would be a great way to meet more local folks, teach parents how they can get in a good workout and spend time with their kids, and spread the joy of functional fitness.

We met for an hour on six recent Saturdays, and I had a different workout planned for each day.  Some weeks we used resistance tubes, some weeks we focused on cardio, and some weeks we did our workout using fitness equipment recently installed in the park by the neighborhood association and Parks & Rec Department.

Mostly, I tried to design workouts that would give adults a good workout while still holding the kids’ attention.  Also, the kids who participated ranged in age from 3-11, so I was dealing with a wide range of abilities.  I really enjoyed the challenge.

In the final class, I used an outdoor learning area in the park (in the shade!) for a circuit-style workout.  It combined both strength and cardio exercises.

One mom and her two daughters did triceps dips:



Another mom and her two sons did mountain climbers:


And another mom and her daughter did rotational squats:


It was so much fun to see these families working out together.  Kudos to all the moms and dads who came with their little ones, setting a great example of fitting exercise into a busy weekend.  I hope everyone learned that a workout can be a fun way to spend time together.

Good health and great happiness to you!


The Search for Something New


I wrote last week about some challenges I’ve faced this winter keeping my training on track.  I’ve really been missing my regular runs.  Because I’ve been limited to working out indoors (which is NOT my preference!), I’ve been doing the Balance Virtual Bootcamp workouts.  They have reminded me that having more structured strength-training in my overall workout plan is a good thing.  But even though I design the workouts myself and know that they are both efficient and effective, I can also admit that this isn’t my favorite format for exercise for me.  Sure, it gets the job done, but it doesn’t give me the same mental boost that I get from running or working out with a group.

A few years ago, I went to some pilates classes at a local gym, and I really liked them.  This is unusual for me, as I normally find myself staring at the clock every two minutes or so.  Remembering that I thought the instructors were quite good (also unusual, in my experience), I decided to go back.  I’ve been going to pilates two times a week for the last few weeks, and I’m really enjoying it.  I think it dovetails nicely with the more regular yoga practice I’ve cultivated since starting the Prenatal Kriya Yoga teacher training course last fall—I’m really feeling a shift in my focus that allows me to tune in to my alignment, breath, and whole body.

I’ve been through enough phases of my life and worked with enough people who struggle to find exercise they enjoy to know two things:

1)      There IS something out there for you.  Keep looking for it!  If you hate to run, DON’T RUN!  If you don’t want to spend much time exercising, BE READY TO SWEAT AND WORK HARD.  If you think you’ve tried everything and still don’t love anything, ask your friends (or crowdsource your Facebook friends) what their favorite type of exercise is.  Certainly you’ll learn something new.

2)      Don’t feel like you have to do the same thing forever.  It’s perfectly okay to have exercise ADD.  Want to train and run a 5K in a few months and then not run at all during the summer?  Fine!  Want to take an 8-week intensive flying trapeze course, but that’s all you can afford?  No problem!  So long as you do something consistently, it doesn’t really matter what it is.  Just keep moving!

And always keep in mind that this whole process is more about the journey than the destination.  Enjoy what you’re doing while you’re doing it, and when you’re ready to make a change, embrace the opportunity to try something new.  It’s such a gift.

Good health and great happiness to you!

PS- What’s the weirdest type of exercise you’ve tried and loved?  It just may be what someone else is looking for!

Labor Day

I know most of you Americans are off of work today, but I wanted to remind you of a fabulous Austin tradition (now in other cities, too!  look for yours!) taking place today:


FREE DAY OF YOGA  means there are yoga classes going on all over town, all day long, all for FREE!  If you’ve always thought about trying yoga but weren’t sure it’s for you, now is your chance to give a few different classes a try.

And, because I’m punny, I have to use LABOR Day to remind you about my Pre/Postnatal Group Exercise classes, now running on Sunday mornings.

Have a great holiday.

Full Moon, Full Heart

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I blogged a few weeks ago about how fortunate I feel that my personal training business has made it to its fifth birthday.  Not only am I still here, but my business is expanding.  The people that I meet through this work of are what really keep me looking for new and interesting ways to teach the importance of wellness for everyone.   Sharing my education and experiences in a way that helps others is gratifying beyond measure.

Last week I told you about my participation on the Boston Children’s Hospital Miles for Miracles team at the upcoming Falmouth Road Race.   While beating the drum for your hard-earned funds isn’t the point of my business or my blog, I do know that finding a good cause to support is an important component of one’s overall wellness.  If you feel moved to read more about why I have chosen to become involved with this charity, please visit my personal fundraising page.

I wanted to offer one of my new Aqua Kriya Yoga classes as a fundraiser, and I felt that coming together on the eve of the full moon would provide the perfect setting for our heartfelt class.  We were a small group– just four women in the water and me on deck– but each person brought a desire to breathe deeply, move intentionally, and enjoy the gorgeous summer night.  Watching the women move through modified sun salutations in the water was like watching ballet, the poses strong yet graceful.

I was so moved by Saturday night’s class that I have decided to host three more by-donation Aqua Yoga classes this summer.  Each of these classes will be held on the night of the full moon, and all donations will go to charity.  The July & August dates will benefit my Miles for Miracles team.  The September charity is TBD.  As always, I just ask that you email me (karen at balancepft.com) to reserve your place.

Monday, July 22nd– location TBD (either Plymouth, MA or Cape Cod, MA), 7.45pm

Tuesday, August 20th– Central Austin, 7.45 pm

Wednesday, September 18th– Central Austin, 7.30pm

If you can’t make the full moon donation classes, check out my regular Aqua Kriya Yoga teaching schedule to see if another class will work with your schedule.

Good health and great happiness to you.

My Goals, Your Goals

Goal setting is a key to success for pretty much everything I’m involved in.  Fitness goals keep me motivated and prevent me from slacking off even when one of my three darlings has kept me up much of the night.  Business goals keep me focused even when it feels like all I have time for is keeping all the plates spinning.


When I first meet with a new personal training client, we spend some time thinking about goals.  Big, long-term goals are often what people think of first, but the smaller, incremental, short-term goals are what create consistency with exercise.  Knowing that we can achieve little bits at a time is extremely motivating.

My big, long-term goal for my business is to reach even more people so I can spread the word about how efficient exercise can be effective, and functional fitness is a reality that even the busiest people can achieve.  To that end, I have started offering virtual personal training.  By utilizing skype or google hangouts, I can reach clients who are far away; even more exciting to me, though, is being able to reach people who aren’t able to access traditional fitness programs due to social anxiety, postpartum depression, or morbid obesity.  I have felt honored to work with people for whom exercise has been a challenge.  Helping them learn to set small goals and work to achieve them has positive ramifications in all parts of their lives.

In the short term, Balance Virtual Bootcamp kicks off on MONDAY!  I’ve been really pleased with the response I’ve received.  Having met my first registration goal, I’m going to set a new one: if TEN MORE people register before Sunday at 11:59pm, I’m going to raise the CASH participation prize from $100 to $250.

If TWENTY more people register, I’ll offer one $250 prize and one $100 prize.

Pass the word!

Once you register, you’ll receive an invitation to join our private FB page.  We’re having a discussion there now about the goals everyone is setting for participating in the bootcamp.  Come join us!

What is circuit training anyway?

I got a great question a few days ago from someone inquiring about Balance Virtual Bootcamp: What is circuit training anyway?

Circuit training  describes a workout that is made up of a group of exercises, and each exercise is done for either a certain amount of time or a certain number of repetitions.  There is little to no rest between exercises.  After all the exercises are completed– the end of one circuit– there is usually a short rest period and then the circuit is repeated.

Sometimes circuits are made up of strength-training (or resistance) exercises.  Sometimes they are a variety of cardio exercises performed one right after the other.  Sometimes circuits have a few resistance exercises punctuated by a cardio interval.   The flow of exercises one to the next is what determines the focus and challenge of each workout.  When a circuit has been thoughtfully designed, it is an effective and and time-efficient workout.

Circuit training is the basis for Balance Virtual Bootcamp because the goal of the program is to offer workouts that:

  • use a small list of equipment while delivering an effective physical challenge.
  • can be completed in under 40 minutes, maximum.  Most will be around 30 minutes including warm up and cool down.
  • are designed to focus on full body strengthening and functional fitness.
  • require a small amount of physical space, so they can easily be done in-home.

I hope that’s helpful to you.  If you have other questions, feel free to leave a comment here or ask them on my Facebook page.

Here’s a little CHALLENGE for you today: Pick two days this week, and wake up 20 minutes earlier than normal.  Use that time to breathe deeply, stretch, or go for a walk.  You just might be surprised by how waking up just a bit earlier than normal to make time for intentional movement sets the tone for an awesome day.