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. What is my Ip? 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. whois 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 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. And some studios allow members to bring guests with them for free, letting you piggyback on a friend’s membership.

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. 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. local pages 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 Wood


Our Wood Series 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 Wood 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.


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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

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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 Wood series is coming to Sunstone

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on September 7th. Try it out and let us know what you think!

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Skin Care In The Heat

In Texas we are aware that there is just no real way around the heat or exposure to the sun during the summer months. Without even enjoying a day of swimming, hiking, biking, or sun bathing, we are exposed to the elements just walking to and from our car, driving, and running errands.

As Sunstone devotees, our bodies have become used to warmth during our practice, but the added element of heat in our everyday environment creates additional stress on our skin and compromises our hydration levels. What can be done to keep our skin looking good? Our friend and expert, Dr. Chritsine Stiles has a few suggestions on taking care of ourselves in the heat…

Skin Care In The Heat

As the temperatures rise, many people experience an increase in problems with their skin. Heat and sweat dry out the skin, open pores and can bring bacteria to the skin’s surface. Here are some ways to enjoy the heat and keep your skin healthy!
Keep the skin hydrated from the inside out by drinking at least 8-10 glasses of water a day (Even more if you are practicing yoga!). This helps keep the skin supple, elastic, and will work to maintain a youthful glow!

While sweating is a great way to cleanse the body and open pores, this often leads to opening a pathway for bacteria to come to the skin surface, leading to pimples and acne flares. Cleaning the skin with a salicylic acid wash daily and after exercise helps prevent these breakouts and keep a clear complexion. (SkinMedica Purifying Foam Wash (4% salicylic acid) $40 or Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne wash (2% Salicylic acid) $9) Regular

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exfoliation of the skin prevents dirt and dead skin cells from building up in the pores. A facial scrub with a small particle size, roughly the size of table sugar, should be used 2-3 times per week (Skinmedica Skin Polisher $40 or Olay Regenerist Detoxifying Face Scrub $15). Large particle scrubs may irritate the skin and lead to redness. The Clarisonic cleansing system can be used daily to remove the superficial skin cells. Exfoliation with a Dermasweep and chemical peels (Vitalize Peel $125) remove deeper layers of the skin that lead to a dull appearance and reveal a younger healthier skin surface.

Heat can make the skin more sensitive to the sun. Using a daily sunblock is important to avoid redness, hyperpigmentation, and early aging of the skin. The following are key components to look for in a sun block. First, the sun block needs to

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give both UVA and UVB protection. Second, it should be “non-comedogenic” to avoid acne flare ups. Third, facial sun blocks should have an SPF of at least 30.(SkinMedica Physical Defense SPF 30 or 50 $45 or Neutrogena Helioplex SPF 45 $14)

Click here for additional ideas on ways to care for skin and hair before, during, and after practice.

About our Author:

DrStilesDr Christine A. Stiles, owner of The Center for Breast and Body Contouring, has enjoyed the benefits of practicing at Sunstone Yoga for the past 9 years. As a surgeon, neck and back injuries are common maladies. Her yoga practice has kept chronic neck and back pain at bay, improved her overall health, and helps her to find balance in life despite a hectic career and busy family life.

She enjoys her career in helping her patients improve their self-image and enhance their self-esteem. Nutritional supplementation and exercise are integral parts of the recovery process and ensure an improved quality of life post-surgery and beyond. She recommends that patients begin a yoga practice post-operatively to help decrease swelling, accelerate healing, and create an overall sense of well-being.

Office Location:

The Center for Breast and Body Contouring
5575 Warren Parkway, Suite 304
Frisco, TX 75034

Certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgeons
Member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons
Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics

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Sharing Sunstone

This year we are focusing on connecting within our community. What does this look like? Getting closer as studio teams; getting to know our students and understanding their personal fitness goals; and expanding our community by bringing in new faces.


Sharing is a continuing theme both in our locations and outreach–whether it’s sharing our ideals and principles with students, sharing our yoga and Hot Pilates knowledge, sharing our time and space with those who practice beside us, or just sharing our love of Sunstone. We hope that you will get in on spreading the love! Here are some EASY ways to share your fitness passion with your friends and family:

  • Buddy up. Building connections within the Sunstone community can be as easy as coordinating class times with a fellow practitioner, perhaps through Twitter or Facebook. Try paying attention to the students who attend your preferred class hours and see if another “regular” is interested in a partner.
  • Talk about what your practice has done for you! If you are noticing changes in your body, your sleep or eating habits, or your mind, don’t keep it to yourself. Many people simply don’t know the profound effect that a regular practice can have on them, or they would have tried it a long time ago.
  • Sign up for a workshop at Sunstone Yoga Academy, and ask about our Buy One Get One postcards. New workshops are offered all the time, some focusing on a particular class series, others related to concepts like nutrition or mental stillness. You take your practice to the next level with an affordable and convenient immersion into the world of fitness!
  • Talk to your teacher after class. They’re people, too, and we love getting to know students! Whether it’s your health, the trip you took recently, or a posture you want a little extra help with, we are all ears. And of course, your teachers are a great resource for advice on taking your practice to the next level.

See you in the studio!


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Clear Your Mind

Are you stressed? It’s no secret, of course, that modern lifestyles often go hand-in-hand with cluttered, unsettled minds. Chances are, if you are not experiencing stress right at this moment, you have recently or will soon. Eager to find a “fix,” well-intentioned folks advise slowing down and taking time for what’s important–while simultaneously giving constant tips for fitting more into already packed schedules. But HOW?

Our society is almost universally plagued with a perceived abundance

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of problems, and a shortage of time to deal with them. Even now, you probably have a running to-do list in the back of your mind and a mental list of ongoing areas of concern in your life.

Trying to juggle the countless responsibilities that come with each of the many roles we play (such as employee, parent, or student) is enough to drive anyone crazy, and that’s just ONE possible source of stress. Add on top of that finances, relationships, health concerns, and so on, and it’s no wonder the American Psychological Association revealed that more than half of all Americans are concerned about the amount of stress in their everyday lives.

Can a solution to internal chaos really be as simple as “slowing down”? Life has become busy and fast-paced, of course, and physical rest can be beneficial. But a still body does not guarantee a still mind. Even during sleep, a state of almost total physical relaxation, the mind tends to remain active. And even sedentary people can be addicted

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to distraction, needing media like television or music to keep their mind off the present.

So what IS the solution? The answer lies not in a big, one-size-fits-all overhaul, but in small, personal, everyday life choices. Tiny steps can be made towards awareness, which lead to relief from the mental rat race, and finally to being fully present in life. The act of accomplishing mental presence is hard, but not impossible. With practice, it is a discipline that anyone can access.

Many tools can help on the quest for a clear mind and stress relief. Unsurprisingly, yoga is pretty high on the list! Countless studies testify to the positive effects of yoga on mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and of course, regular stress. Different aspects of class–such as the commitment to showing up, the singular focus required to hold difficult postures, and the discipline required to remain still in savasana–can all serve as “stepping stones” toward inner stillness.

While these examples are specific to the yoga room, what is mastered on the mat will carry over into the rest of life. You CAN create change within yourself. Become aware of and limit things that take you out of the present. This might mean shutting off your smartphone when you’re not using it, avoiding excessive alcohol intake if you find yourself using it as a way to avoid being in the present, or even choosing a simple phrase to repeat and focus on if your own mind is the culprit. Even more importantly than just limiting things that take you out of the moment, is learning how to love the moment while you are in it!

Your still and present mind will not come overnight, but it is worth the effort. Enjoy filling your life with moments that you can fully appreciate. Though you cannot add hours to your life, you can add a lot of quality life to your hours.

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