Yoga vs. Fitness

Get out of the box: Yoga vs. fitness – Are you achieving your absolute best?

WendyBy Wendy Boyce; SunstoneFIT instructor, Class Series Developer and Music Coordinator

If you would have asked me ten years ago – “Do you prefer yoga or fitness?” I would have said, without hesitation, “yoga”. That’s it, end of story. Fitness wasn’t even on my radar (Ok, maybe for a little while in college I got into circuit training, but it never got very serious.)

I hear similar conversations frequently in the studio and outside the studio, with responses such as – “I’m a yoga person” or “I’m a fitness person” or “I only do yoga” or “I only do crossfit” or “I only do spinning classes”. This makes me cringe (because I used to say this), and in my experience, this phrase made me sound a bit fanatical (which is somewhat true) and put me in a very tiny box –  for a 6 ft. tall socially energetic individual, the space was very cramped.

Something happened about four years ago, a studio where I taught yoga also offered high energy weight lifting classes, and barre classes. I made the decision to get out of the confines of my box and I try those classes. To my surprise, I ended up loving them! About the same time, I began to hike and run trails. Me – run? Two words I never thought would be in the same sentence! I felt myself getting stronger, and my body was certainly changing – more muscle tone (in the places I was needing it the most), greater cardiovascular strength, and overall more energy. I had fewer to no injuries. I felt empowered.

What had taken me so long? It was that phrase I kept telling myself and others – “I’m a yoga person”. Now that I’ve taken that phrase out of my vocabulary, I am liberated. An abundance of health and fitness modalities are now at my disposal!

I feel more balanced in my body than ever. I have reached fitness goals I never knew I had, and happily I no longer have injuries (my knees – from continuously stretching my joints and ligaments without strengthening them properly, and my wrists especially – now that I’ve rescued them from the constant stress and strain of vinyasa).

Along with the yoga classes (Hot Yoga, Flow Yoga, and Power Flow) at SunstoneFIT I now I teach and take Barre, CoreFIT and CardioFIT, and regularly take HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training).

The students at Sunstone have noticed the changes in class repertoire the last year or so. At first students were skeptical of these changes and many openly complained. I have seen and heard a shift in this behavior. Those students that only used to do Fire90 (You know who you are – I used to be one of them) are now trying the other classes or have been doing them for a while. These students are now raving about the changes that are occurring in their bodies.

Are there goals you may not know you have the power to achieve? This is the main focus at SunstoneFIT. We want to provide a safe environment for you to get outside of your box, your comfort zone, and achieve your absolute best body, mind, and attitude. What is holding you back?

Now when people ask what I prefer, I reply, “Everything, I am a whole body person. I seek to challenge myself mentally and physically and , above all, have the best life experience possible. I still love practicing yoga and gratefully do so whenever possible. But I am no longer afraid to get outside of that stuffy old box and try something new. I urge you to do the same, who knows, you may even like it and the potential it will bring!

 

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Personal Transformation Through Yoga

Written by Santos Casiano
I lived with depression, anxiety and poor health throughout my teenage and most of my adult life.  Even through all of that I knew that I needed to make positive changes in my life but I did not know what, where or how to begin to make those changes.  Yet this unexplainable feeling deep within me knew that I needed to start this journey as soon as possible.

CC8_4988I was guided to a lady who practiced yoga and meditation and she shared with me the benefits that she had gained from years of practice. So I began to research both subjects.  During the time of my research I “accidentally” took a wrong turn as I drove through Uptown on my way home from work.  That wrong turn led me right in front of the Uptown studio.  I circled three times before deciding to stop and walk in to learn more about yoga but the doors were locked and I thought “whew, that wasn’t meant to be.”  I went on home but Sunstone kept crossing my mind from that point forward.

About two months or so later, the feeling that I needed to learn more about yoga overwhelmed me and I decided to look up Sunstone Yoga on the web.  I was surprised to learn that there was a studio in Plano, not far from where I had just recently relocated.  And then I made the choice  to call.  And then I made the choice to go and take my first practice.  I was terrified!

Image-Join-5I walked into the studio with my head filled with so many negative thoughts about myself, what I was about to do and about yoga practice its self.  But I bit the bullet and walked right into that 90 degree yoga studio.  The negative thoughts continued as I laid down on the mat waiting for practice to begin.  I remember thinking to myself, “God, please let the teacher be a female and let her be kind, patient and nonjudgmental.”  In my mind, after several tries of working with trainers at a gym, I thought, “if it’s a guy and he’s built like a muscle head trainer from the gym, I swear I’m walking out of here.” And then Andy, my very first yoga teacher, walked in.  At first I thought, “great, it’s a dude.”  And again, negative thoughts filled my head.  But instead of hearing “don’t be a sissy, just do it!”  I heard phrases like “honor your body where it is, take a deep breath, this is your practice,” and so on.  And something inside of me clicked.

Yes, it was very difficult and there were many moments when I just wanted to walk out in the middle of class.  But I kept coming.  Inconsistently, but I kept coming.  And at one point, after many practices, I began to notice how my mind would find quiet times when it wasn’t overwhelmed with racing thoughts.  My friends and coworker’s started to comment on how I was starting to “glow” and how my body was changing.  One evening during practice about a year or so into my yoga journey, after a very difficult and emotionally charged day, the most amazing thing happened.  I will never forget it.

I was having trouble with all of my postures and nothing seem to be going right at all.  I kept falling out of every single pose.  I literally came so close to walking out and I was so angry with myself.  Then came triangle pose (at the time, my most challenging pose).  I moved into triangle pose, left arm down, right arm up.  As i painfully held it there and looked up, something came over me and I just whispered, “God, please take my hand.”  And all of a sudden I felt something that started at the tip of my middle finger as it reached for the ceiling and traveled down my arm and into my heart center in what felt like a millisecond.  The moment I felt it in my heart center I began crying like a baby.  But I held my pose even though tears were streaming down my face. Thankfully it was hot yoga and I was sweating bullets so the tears mixed in well with my sweat.

I finished the 90 minutes and finally stopped crying when I came down into Savasana.  I tried to figure out what had just happened and why I broke down the way I did.  Finally a feeling came over me and I said to my to just let it be.  It was finished.  That night was the first night that I can remember ever sleeping so sound and deeply.  I slept the entire night without waking up and the next morning I felt so incredibly light and at peace.  It felt as if some sort of heavy weight had been removed from my inside of me.  It was the most amazing thing that I had ever experienced before.  My love and appreciation for yoga deepened that day.  And that very same day I decided that one day I would learn to teach yoga. So, last summer I completed a 200 hour yoga teacher training course and now I sometimes find myself teaching folks who are interested and unable to pay.

Please understand.  I am no where near as flexible as many of my fellow yogis, teachers and students alike, that I have had the honor of meeting throughout my journey.  In fact, if you were to watch me practice it may even seem that it is my very first time in a yoga studio.  But I have come a long way and I will continue to move forward in my yoga journey.  Making the decision to walk into the Sunstone Yoga studio all those years ago was the best decision that I have ever made thus far in my life.  I found myself on my yoga mat. Forever a yogi.
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Student to Student: Just Keep Coming Back to the Mat!

Written by Sunstone student John Beatty

seated spine twistStreams of sweat run off my nose as I move into a Balancing Stick yoga pose, my body looking vaguely like a capital “T” from the side.  When I tip forward standing on one leg with my arms above me and the other leg tipping up behind, it’s as if I’m a tea kettle and I am pouring a cup of hot water off my nose.   You see, I am exercising in a 98.6oF room with 60% humidity, and I can produce copious amounts of sweat.  It is January and new faces crowd the room, ready with their New Year’s resolutions to get healthy, and it is clear that the newbies are struggling in the heat.  How can I tell them that I was one of them some years ago, overweight, out-of-shape, and unable to make it through a class?

My wife and I joined yoga almost 5 years ago to do something together as a couple.  Believe me when I say that I had no idea what yoga was.  No idea.  I thought that we were about to sit in a room, cross our legs, and chant.  I was so wrong about so many things.  Didn’t know that it would be hot and humid in the room.  Didn’t know that my heart rate would skyrocket.  Didn’t know how to breathe… and so on.    The lithe young female instructor looked me up and down, and said, “Your goal for the class is to just stay in the room.”  No kidding, just stay in the room.  Then she looked at me again and followed up with, “When you don’t feel well, lay down on the mat.”  I do not recall her looking at my wife at all when she issued these suggestions.  And words of wisdom these turned out to be, as I felt dizzy and nauseous not halfway through class and had to lie down on the mat.  How do I tell the New-Year’s-resolution-in-hand new yogis in the class that it took dozens of classes before I did not feel nauseous, and dozens more to feel like I knew what I was doing?

SavasanaSeeing the room littered with new students lying in the appropriately named “corpse” pose in the middle of class is no surprise to me.  It happens each January, like clockwork.  I imagine that this happens yearly in every type of exercise room.  And I know that if I would show up at a spin class, or at one of the cross-fit sessions that my son has invited me to, that I would be the newbie: struggling to figure out what to do, struggling to keep down lunch, struggling to stay conscious.  It is just the way it is when you begin a training regimen.  And unfortunately it is that way even when you have been training for years, for every now and then the body just doesn’t cooperate.  It happened to me several weeks ago when I started to feel dizzy and nauseous in a class.  Except now I know that it happens from time to time, and I know that I will not feel like that regularly, and most importantly I do not allow it to keep me from showing up again the next day.  How do I tell those new students that the dizziness still sometimes comes over me, even after hundreds of classes?

My wish for those new folks in the room is to stick with it, to keep the room crowded with energy, to make it a regular part of their life.  I empathize with them, I feel for them, I am them.  What has all this hot yoga done for me?  Queue all the cliché’s: lost weight, toned muscles, improved endurance, sleep better, feel better, etc, etc.  It’s all true.  But also for me the incredible amount of core strengthening and balance work has made my lower back problems disappear.  Previous to my yoga practice I had many steroid injections into my back after damaging the discs.  Not anymore.  My strong core has helped my weak back.  And I have been able to exercise with not only my wife, but also my 20-something children, which is super-fun.  How can I tell all this to the new yogis in the room?

child's poseJust stay in the room, and keep coming back. 

(note: It’s great advice. John has taken over 750 classes with us since his first in May of 2011!)

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45 Minute Pilates Makeover

You might be aware, our Pilates class (previously called Metal) got a 45-minute makeover for the New Year! What you might not know is the how, why, and who behind the change.

Lots of things remain the same with this class. It’s still on the mat – no reformer machines makes it an easier point of entry for most students. Unlike at other studios, it’s still in a warm room – 90° with 60% humidity so you’ll get a good sweat in. Lots of great movements are at the core of this class to challenge your “powerhouse” muscles – abs, back and glutes. But we knew it was time to give Pilates a fresh start at Sunstone!

AliciaMeet Alicia Lavender, the Manager and teacher at both our Preston Towne Crossing and Eldorado Crossings locations.

Alicia’s original career as professional dancer, performing in both national and international Broadway tours, was cut short when her dance partner dropped her. The resulting knee injury led her to physical therapy and Pilates.

Inspired by the physical and mental benefits she experienced, she went on receive her 600-hour certified Pilates Mat and Apparatus certification from The Fitness Guru in Brooklyn, NY, and even founded her own studio. She trained with many studios and has helped other studios establish their own Pilates programs. Sunstone was lucky enough to find her last summer when she moved to Texas!

While revising the sequence for the Sunstone Pilates class, Alicia says she “focused on flow, precision, and control,” strategically sequencing it so that students can get the maximum benefit from every posture. Some of these changes include:

  • More movement: As part of her focus on flow, Alicia chose to keep the class moving almost the entire time, eliminating all but one of the breaks.
  • Balancing exercises that heavily work one set of muscles with exercises that work the opposing muscles: After a series of exercises that tighten the hip flexors, for example, she placed exercises that release them.
  • Eliminating kneeling sequence: Many postures performed on hands and knees were cut to make the class more joint-friendly and allow rehabilitating students to focus on their powerhouse muscles and core.
  • Shorter, back-to-back intervals: By the end of the first interval, she found, people’s muscles were shutting down so that they either dropped out or sacrificed their alignment. “The shorter intervals allow you to maintain proper form, but we’ve placed them back-to-back—a one-two punch—so it’s still very intense,” says Alicia.
  • More instruction: The shorter sequence allows instructors more time to convey all the information—very important in such an alignment-based practice! While helping to train Sunstone teachers in the new class sequence, Alicia has emphasized imagery (such as visualizing core engagement as a “corset” of muscles wrapping the mid-section) as a way to help bring abstract concepts to life.

We hope that you feel the benefits of this new sequence in your practice! Try it out and let us know what you think in our class surveys!

 

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2016 Class Names

When our studio schedules change on Monday, January 4, 2016, so will our class names. After many years with our yoga classes named for different “elements” such as Fire, Earth, Wood, Water and Metal, we are making a change.

Our updated names will reflect the broader range of classes that SunstoneFIT now offers – Yoga, Barre, Pilates and Fitness. We believe these names will be easier to understand and immediately indicate the type of class experience you can expect.

Rest assured, we’re not eliminating our original series, just shifting how we talk about them. Check out our guide to the 2016 names below!

We're updating our class names!

We’re updating our class names!

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Schedule Awesomeness

With the Holiday season nearly upon us it is time for our annual New Year’s schedule updates! Consequently, it’s also when we receive the most questions about how we chose to make those changes. (Trust us, it’s not easy.)

It’s important to us to not only have the best quality classes and excellent customer service, but to also develop an awesome schedule that serves our students’ needs.

So, with a limited number of classes slots to schedule – and a wide range of class types to offer – how exactly do we determine what classes to put on the schedule, how many of each class, and when on the schedule they should appear?

Start with the best objective data possible:

1.      Student attendance patterns over the previous year. Work to not be overly swayed by personal opinion (for example, Ben’s two favorite classes are Fire and HIIT – the perfect schedule for him would only have those two classes on it!).

2.      Overall class popularity. Calculate average attendance by class type across all studios – all times for that year.

3.      Time slot preference. Calculate average attendance by class type across all studios – in seven distinct time slots from early morning to evening – so we know what types of classes are most popular in what time slot.

If you read no farther, please take away that we take schedule changes very seriously. We know how much they impact our students and do our best to be strategic in our choices. Math and stats nerds, read on.

Then we generate a popularity ranking for each time slot – the top four Series by time slot are shown below ranked in order of decreasing popularity

Weekday Early AM HIIT, Fire, APY, Wood
Weekday Morning APY, Sculpt, Fire, HIIT
Weekday Lunch Fire, Sculpt, APY/Earth, Water
Weekday Afternoon Fire, Core, Metal, Sculpt
Weekday Prime Time APY, Sculpt, Fire, HIIT
Weekday Evening Sculpt, APY, Fire, Water/Spark
Weekend Morning APY, Fire, HIIT, Sculpt
Weekend Afternoon Sculpt, Fire, APY, Core

In order to make sure we load the right amount of each class type into each studio schedule we also rank the overall (not time slot dependent) popularity of each Series from 1 (most popular) to 10 (least).

Series Rank Type
Fire 2.4 Yoga
APY Flow 2.8 Yoga
Sculpt 3.3 Barre
Core 5.6 Fitness
Wood 6.5 Fitness
Water 6.7 Yoga
HIIT 6.9 Fitness
Earth 8.6 Yoga
Metal 8.8 Pilates
Spark 8.9 Yoga
Sweat 9.3 Fitness
APY Basic F 9.3 Yoga

 Armed with this data we now apply a set of general principles to each studio schedule.

    • ~40% of classes are Fire
    • 50-55% of classes are Yoga (Fire, Earth, APY, Hot Flow, Wood, Water, Spark)
    • 30% of classes are Fitness (HIIT, CORE, SWEAT)
    • Good single studio mixture of classes
    • Good time slot mixture of classes – taking time slot popularity data into account – Try to represent all of the top 4 ranked classes in each time slot
    • Good multi-studio mix of classes – try not to run the same class at the same time in nearby studios

Then we look at studio specific attendance data to try and satisfy local studio preferences

    • Identify strongly attended class – Make minimal changes to these
    • Identify weakly attended classes – Replace these with strong classes for that time slot where possible
    • Create a good balance between Yoga and Fitness offerings – making sure both Yoga centric and Fitness centric students have good options

Whew! As you can see – the scheduling process is a very complex one that takes time to develop.  Each studio’s manager is consulted to give us another layer of local information.

We want everyone to feel confident that we use a data driven and objective methodology for updating our schedules – making the best choices we can to bring a great selection of class offerings to our community!

We love our Sunstone family. Thanks for helping us be our very best selves.

Ben Hartsell, Vice President

Brookes Ebetsch, Executive Director 

 

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5 Myths You Probably Believe About High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is huge right now, and it’s easy to see why. It gets results fast, and it’s a lot of fun. We get it, and we love all the buzz–especially since we are now offering HIIT exclusively at our two new studios, Prestonwood Place and Alliance Town Center. But with the hype comes a lot of misunderstanding. Which of these HIIT myths have YOU fallen for?
Battle Ropes
MYTH: HIIT is dangerous.
REALITY: There is no evidence to suggest that HIIT is inherently dangerous, although it does include the risks present in any kind of exercise (even yoga!) if you don’t listen to your body. As long as you practice good form and take breaks or modify as needed, HIIT will only help you!

MYTH: You have to be in great shape to do HIIT.
REALITY: An exercise program that you can only do if you’re already in shape isn’t very useful, is it? Most people will not be able to do everything in a HIIT class when they first begin, but you will benefit from the class even if you take extra breaks and modify to make exercises easier. Set realistic expectations for yourself and have fun.

Kettle Bell Tricep DipMYTH: HIIT will make me look too bulky.
REALITY: While HIIT will definitely strengthen your muscles, the primary visible change is fat-burning. Remember, body-builders put a lot of effort into looking the way they do–you won’t stumble upon that look by accident! Additionally, genetic limits will determine how much muscle you can ultimately build (so if you’re a woman worried about looking like a man, relax–your DNA won’t let you). We promise toned and muscular will look good on you.

MYTH: HIIT is the same thing as CrossFit.
REALITY: While programs like CrossFit and P90X utilize High Intensity Interval Training in their workouts, not all HIIT studios nor sequences are created equal! The possible combinations of exercises in a HIIT sequence is limitless, and the way they are taught (and the way the teachers are trained) matters. As an example, our HIIT sequences are carefully designed to work the entire body equally and avoid overtaxing one set of muscles. There is no “leg day” at Sunstone!

MYTH: HIIT is the only workout I need.
REALITY: Don’t misunderstand–we love HIIT, just like we love yoga, Pilates, and barre. But there are good reasons to change up your workout regularly. You need to allow your body adequate recovery time after a high intensity workout before doing it again, for example, and more complex, multi-movement exercises are safer when performed at a slower pace. The body needs a wide variety of exercise styles. That’s why we offer such a wide variety of classes!

Find a class at Sunstone today!

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How to Sit

Focusing on body alignment in fitness classes is great, but ideally, that awareness would not be confined to just workouts. SunstoneFIT’s vision is to become one of the world’s most influential fitness associations who transforms the very idea of fitness from isolated physical activity into an integrated body, mind and life practice.

Our classes bring awareness to the body and stimulate a mindfulness that is rooted in our yoga foundation, allowing students to take these lessons “off the mat.” Alignment of joints, muscles and bones affects the way you live in and relate to your body every day. An easy example? Learning how to sit.

Many people have bad posture and don’t know, don’t care, or don’t know how to change it. But active sitting is simple to learn, and though it requires a lot of discipline initially, it’s a subtle but effective way to tone your core.

Start by finding your sitz bone (sitting bones, ischial tuberosity, etc.). The sitz bone is the bony protrusions at the very bottom of the pelvis; you have them even if they have padding over them. Take a minute to find them. That is the part that should directly connect to the seat or floor.

Notice that when you relax your core, the angle of your pelvis changes and your sitz bone is no longer directly connected to the seat. This is what happens when you slouch. (The angle of your pelvis also changes when you over-arch your back.)

Re-connect your sitz bone to the chair. When you make that connection, your spine lines up over your pelvis. This “uprightness” requires a bit of core engagement, which is why most people slouch instead.

It’s a subtle core activation that you will barely feel, but if you have very poor posture or a weak core, it can require constant mental and physical effort at first. It will become second nature if you stick with it! Instead of slouching when you get tired, try reclining on your side, ancient Rome style. This allows your core to relax without putting pressure on your lower spine. Then get back to sitting as soon as you can.

Respect yourself enough to make the effort! Not only will it strengthen your core over time and help prevent lower back pain, it’s also a sign that you have truly begun to make fitness a way of life beyond the doors of the studio.

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Why You Should Actually Go To Yoga

Almost everything can be done online these days—attending church, dating, and even grocery shopping. But some things are better in person, and despite the popularity of online yoga tutorials like YogaGlo and Gaiam, yoga remains one of them.

Books, blogs, and videos can be great supplements to an existing yoga practice, and they’re better than nothing if you truly don’t have access to a studio, but the best way to begin a yoga practice is by going to a class. At a physical class:

  • Instructors can check your form. Yoga postures have a lot of nuance to them. It can be difficult to understand the correct alignment or the muscles to engage without some prior experience. In your attempt to figure out these details, you might push yourself too far or even injure yourself.
  • Instructors can physically adjust you. The right physical adjustment can make a posture “click” for you in a way that verbal direction might not. Common cues like “roll the hip forward” or “lengthen your spine” can be hard to translate into the body—that’s where teachers come in! Individualized feedback can have a huge impact on the effectiveness of your efforts and how much you enjoy it!
  • There’s accountability. It’s too easy to pause a video or put down an app when you get tired or frustrated. You might have the discipline to hold a sixty-second Triangle when no one is cheering you on and the couch is just a few steps away—but most people don’t! Left alone, it can also be tempting to do only the postures you enjoy, while skipping the less fun ones that might be exactly what you need. When you are alone, you have to muscle your way through an entire session, but in a studio, you only need enough discipline to show up—the communal energy will carry you the rest of the way.
  • You can connect. Although it’s easier than ever to engage with people online, remote connection will never replace a simple handshake or a shared coffee run after class. It goes beyond the actual physical practice and becomes a community. If you never go, you’ll never know what you’re missing.

If cost is keeping you from going to class, do some digging. Many studios, like Sunstone, have great introductory offers or other specials. Some will advertise special donation based (or “pay what you can”) classes. Public parks and stores often host free classes as well.

If fear or intimidation is holding you back, buddy up! Everything is easier when you go with a friend. Many studios offer an orientation or a beginners’ class – we’d suggest Hot Yoga Lite or Calm Flow at our studios. Check the studio’s online reviews (or ask friends for recommendations) so that you know the place is beginner-friendly. Tell the instructor that you’re new and feeling nervous. A good teacher will know how to put you at ease.

You don’t need to give up your home practice, which can be a great way to stay regular and focused. Just balance it out with a communal practice led by certified instructors.

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Say Hello to Yoga Core

strong_dog

Our Yoga Core Series (previously called Wood) is the perfect performance-enhancing complement to your fitness practice. For years, Sunstone has helped its members improve their balance, core strength, and overall fitness with this unique class, and now we’re taking it to the next level! It’s still the great blend of Pain-Free Yoga™, Pilates, and resistance stretching that you know and love–but with a few twists.

So what’s changed?

Updated language. The Yoga Core concepts are important and subtle, and can confuse new students (or even experienced practitioners!). We’ve changed some easily misunderstood phrases and terms to be more accessible. For example, you won’t hear anyone talking about “20% effort” anymore. Don’t worry, your favorite reactivation exercises like Strong Pigeon and Strong Wind Relieving aren’t going anywhere! They’ve just been repackaged. Even someone who has been taking Wood for years can gain new insight from the updated wording.

Strong_wind_relievingNew Sequence The revamped order is designed to energize you right from the start of class, and keep the energy flowing. Periods of high intensity are broken up–sometimes with “reset” postures like a quick Cat or Bridge, and sometimes in sets (we no longer do all 96 crunches at once!)–to keep you from fizzling out. Your mind and body will stay engaged from start to finish.

New postures. Craving variety? Even a classic sequence like Wood can use a little spicing up every now and then! In addition to all your old favorites, look for new additions like Bridge Figure 4, Dynamic Standing Glute Raises, and more. It’s a great chance to put all the strength you’ve built in the rest of class into action.

The updated Yoga Core series is coming to Sunstone studios everywhere on September 7th, 2014. Try it out and let us know what you think!

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