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Let’s be honest, this weather is killing us. The cold and the snow seem to be never-ending and that’s why a good friend of mine and I decided to get away from the city for the afternoon/evening for some relaxation.

We went to Raffa Yoga in Cranston, Rhode Island, and wow did we both need it! We spent the late afternoon and evening laying around their various relaxation rooms, what they call their “urban sweat experience”, eating delicious raw food, meditating and getting a massage. 

This is the second trip I have taken to Raffa Yoga in the past two months and each and every time I’m yearning to go back again. Here’s a quick snapshot of what we did during our Friday relaxation getaway:

Urban Sweat: Main Relaxation Room
Heated water beds, bean bag chairs and hammocks, this room is perfect for taking a break between the heated rooms, taking a nap, journaling and also grabbing some dinner and raw healthy snacks. 

Urban Sweat: Charcoal Room 
This room is one of my favorites. This room is heated to 180 degrees but all dry heat and is great for achy muscles, inflammation and increasing energy levels. 

Urban Sweat: Turmeric Room
This room is 160 degrees and aids in liver detoxification and speeds up metabolism. What I loved about this room besides the heat and it’s benefits, was that the room scent reminded me of banana bread :)

Urban Sweat: Eucalyptus Steam Room
I LOVE steam rooms and this by far is my favorite! This room gets up to 140 degrees and is 100% humidity. I went in this room right before my massage and is a perfect way of opening up the pores in the skin.

Deep Tissue Massage w/Luis
This was one of the best massages I have ever gotten! I felt like I was floating when I was walking out of the massage room. He did a great job of applying the right pressure, attending to areas of my body that needed a little bit more work yet, also getting my entire body which is tough to cover in just 60 minutes. Luis, I will be back! 

Antigravity Yoga!
For this trip we were not able to fit the anti-gravity class into our agenda, but I have done the class in my prior trip and it was so fun. The class was relaxing yet playful. You do yoga on these silk hammocks. It’s very circus soleill like and a fun experience, especially one to do with a friend or partner.

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Meditation is the hardest self care tool for me. Just like any difficult run, work-out or class, right before I do it I feel anticipation and even a slight fear that I will not do it “right” or “long enough”.

When I was mediating recently I felt like the experience was very similar to when I have to run on the treadmill because of bad weather and have set miles that I need to complete for race training.  

For these particular runs, I get my water positioned into the water cubby. I have a shirt or towel covering the screen. I put on the best playlist I have on my iPod and off I go for as many miles as I have on my race calendar that day.

As the first initial minutes of the run go by, I feel this yearning to move the towel aside to see my time and my pace. Not knowing how far I have run drives me crazy, yet again knowing how much farther I have to go is a much worse feeling. This mind game continues for the first two miles of my run and then suddenly everything comes into place. I catch my rhythm. I find my breathe. My strike becomes more fluid. Everything comes together. I’m in zone! I’m running and having fun.

Meditating the other day felt like the same experience. I set my IPhone timer and placed it next to me. I was seated comfortably and I closed my eyes. I could feel this yearning to keep opening my eyes and check my phone to see how much time had pasted. My body was incredibly tense not knowing how much time had gone by. I kept focusing on my breath but my thoughts were running rapid. I then began to take deep breaths and sighs and then began to count my breath—allowing my inhales to equal the length of my exhales. After ten rounds of this breath my thoughts faded, my shoulders dropped down to the ground and I was in the zone. I was meditating. It was on and I felt at ease.

Whether it’s running on the treadmill or meditating it takes patience and time. There needs to be space to “warm-up” and to let go of not knowing how many miles have completed or how much time as gone by. The key is to find your rythmn by letting go of the need to control. Let things be. Let them evolve. It will allow your mind to be more free.

What is your experience with meditation? What do you struggle with?

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MONDAY

YOGA CLASS 
7 to 8 a.m. 
Back Bay Yoga, 364 Boylston Street, 2nd Floor, Boston, MA

YOGA CLASS (subbing BreathCoreFlow)
11 to 12 p.m.
Back Bay Yoga, 364 Boylston Street, 2nd Floor, Boston, MA
*$10 drop-in

REV & OM (spin and yoga)
4:30 to 6 p.m.
Sports Club LA, Chestnut Hill

TUESDAY

YOGA CLASS
Noon to 1:15 p.m.
JP Centre Yoga, 670 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain, MA

YOGA CLASS
4 to 5:15 p.m.
JP Centre Yoga, 670 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain, MA

WEDNESDAY

YOGA CLASS 
7 to 8 a.m.
Back Bay Yoga, 364 Boylston Street, 2nd Floor, Boston, MA
*$10 drop-in

YOGA CLASS (subbing BreathCoreFlow)
11 to 12 p.m.
Back Bay Yoga, 364 Boylston Street, 2nd Floor, Boston, MA
*$10 drop-in

YOGA CLASS: Hip Hop Yoga
2 to 3:30 p.m. 
Back Bay Yoga, 364 Boylston Street, 2nd Floor, Boston, MA
*$5 community class

THURSDAY

YOGA CLASS at THE WINSOR SCHOOL
3:30 to 4:30 p.m.
*just for Winsor School students

CYCLE CLASS
6 to 6:45 p.m.
Sweat and Soul Yoga, 1032 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA
*sign-up online

YOGA CLASS: Hip Hop Yoga
7:30 to 9 p.m. 
Sweat and Soul Yoga, 1032 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, M 
*$10 drop-in

FRIDAY

YOGA CLASS 
7 to 8 a.m.
Back Bay Yoga, 364 Boylston Street, 2nd Floor, Boston, MA
*$10 drop-in

YOGA CLASS (Hip Hop N’ Pop Vinyasa)
11 to 12:15 p.m. 
Sports Club LA, Chestnut Hill

SUNDAY

REV & OM (spin and yoga)
7:45 to 9:10 a.m.
Sports Club LA, Chestnut Hill

YOGA CLASS
10 to 11:30 a.m.
Sweat and Soul Yoga, 1032 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, M 
*$10 drop-in

YOGA FOR RUNNERS
12:45 to 1:45 p.m.
JP Centre Yoga, 670 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain, MA 
*$10 drop-in or pre-register

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The wall is great for restoring and lengthening those tight hamstrings, quads and hips. In my Yoga for Runners class at JP Centre Yoga last Sunday, we ended at the wall to do just that. 

Here are the poses we did in class. These would be an excellent addition to your resting and restoring routine in between workouts.

Which pose is your favorite? 

Low lunge Against the Wall

Watch Video! http://runneromie.tumblr.com/post/77182579466/low-lunge-against-the-wall-great-pose-to-open-the

Broken Toe

Watch Video! http://runneromie.tumblr.com/post/77182753719/broken-toe-pose-stretch-and-lengthen-those-achy

Reclining Big Toe Pose/Hip Opener

WatchVideo! http://runneromie.tumblr.com/post/77182887280/restorative-strap-work-at-the-wall-lengthen-those

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Restorative strap work at the wall. Lengthen those hamstrings, hips and ITs bands. 

Video

Broken toe pose. Stretch and lengthen those achy feet! When first trying this pose, hold for five rounds of breath and then gradually work up to ten to fifteen breaths. 

Video

Low lunge against the wall. Great pose to open the quads, especially after a hard workout. Make sure you have two blocks handy.

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MONDAY

YOGA CLASS 
7 to 8 a.m. 
Back Bay Yoga, 364 Boylston Street, 2nd Floor, Boston, MA

REV & OM (spin and yoga)
4:30 to 6 p.m.
Sports Club LA, Chestnut Hill

TUESDAY

YOGA CLASS
Noon to 1:15 p.m.
JP Centre Yoga, 670 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain, MA

YOGA CLASS
4 to 5:15 p.m.
JP Centre Yoga, 670 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain, MA

WEDNESDAY

YOGA CLASS 
7 to 8 a.m.
Back Bay Yoga, 364 Boylston Street, 2nd Floor, Boston, MA
*$10 drop-in

YOGA CLASS: Hip Hop Yoga
2 to 3:30 p.m. 
Back Bay Yoga, 364 Boylston Street, 2nd Floor, Boston, MA
*$5 community class

THURSDAY

YOGA CLASS at THE WINSOR SCHOOL
3:30 to 4:30 p.m.
*just for Winsor School students

CYCLE CLASS
6 to 6:45 p.m.
Sweat and Soul Yoga, 1032 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA
*sign-up online

YOGA CLASS: Hip Hop Yoga
7:30 to 9 p.m. 
Sweat and Soul Yoga, 1032 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, M 
*$10 drop-in

FRIDAY

YOGA CLASS 
7 to 8 a.m.
Back Bay Yoga, 364 Boylston Street, 2nd Floor, Boston, MA
*$10 drop-in

YOGA CLASS (Hip Hop N’ Pop Vinyasa)
11 to 12:15 p.m. 
Sports Club LA, Chestnut Hill

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Self care is so important, especially for us athletes. In order for our bodies to endure the miles on the roads, the weight training and our taxing endurance work-outs, we need to make sure we’re taking proper care of ourselves.

In my Yoga for Runners class on Sunday, I mixed in self care techniques throughout the flow of the practice—trigger point massage, deep stretching and a restorative inversion—to get blood flowing into all areas of the body and release built up tension in the muscles.

The sequence is outlined below and I have provided some pictures for some of the key poses. 

Opening: Seated meditation on a block

Integration: Trigger point self massage with ball
- Calves*
- IT band*
- Glutes*

Table top
Downward dog
Plank
Lower with bent elbows, salabasana

Main Body
Downward Dog
Knee to elbow pulses
Low lunge (hands on knee, pulse back/forth)
Runners lunge pulses (hold in pyramid for 8 breaths)
Plank, lower with bent elbows, salabasana
Other side

Runners Lunge
Crescent Pose- Core Twist x 3, hold core twist 3 breaths
Runners lunge twist
Straddle fold (8 breaths)
Warrior 2
Reverse warrior
Triangle 
Hands to hips, stand to top of mat
Connecting vinyasa= Plank, lower to low push-up, baby cobra or upward dog
Other side
*on second side, after triangle come into open twist straddle fold and 1/2 pigeon to back and front of mat and then connect vinyasa*

Tadasana 
Trigger point massage under feet*
Tree pose
Plank, lower to belly
Childs pose

Bridge pose x 2

Cooling down:
Supine twist
Legs up the wall*

Trigger point self massage with ball: Calves

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Trigger point self massage with ball: IT band

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Trigger point self massage with ball: Glutes

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Trigger point self massage with ball: Feet

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1/2 Pigeon Pose

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Supine Twist

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Legs up the wall (restorative inversion)

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**a big thank you to Kate for taking these pictures ;)

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I was recently asked by one of my yoga students to share my insights on meditation for one of her college writing assignments and wanted to share my answers to her questions here on my blog.

Long story short: Meditation is one of the hardest things I do everyday but when I do it, I’m actually getting “sh*&t” done.

What is your personal definition of meditation?

Meditation comes in so many different forms to me but has the same meaning. It’s a time when I’m able to be still with myself and my mind feels free. I bring in many different kinds of meditation into my life each and everyday—“moving meditation”(yoga, running) and seated meditation. In either case, I am one with myself.   

What led you to a life of practicing yoga and meditation on a daily level?

I fell in love with running in college and eventually was crazy enough to run my first marathon my senior year and that’s when I discovered meditation. I didn’t know it at the time, but when I was running those long runs I would get lost in myself. Thoughts would fade in and fade out and I felt an incredible sense of connection within myself. 

Years later, my body was pretty beat up from running and I found yoga. That’s when everything made sense. Just like running, yoga became that same “moving meditation” where my mind became free. I feel in love with the practice and took a teacher training. I was hooked from there. I started teaching and within 9 months I left my corporate job of 6+ years to teach full time. I have never looked back. 

Meditation became a more regular practice once I became a teacher. Running from class to class, my mind and my body needed a break and some time for stillness. That’s where seated meditation became a necessity in my life. 

What about meditation is the most important to you or what part do you enjoy the most/is most beneficial?

We are constantly living and breathing in our minds all day long so when we give them a break to breathe it does amazing things. I find that after I meditate I feel grounded and clear. I have also found that it inspires creativity and new ideas. 

How often do you meditate on a weekly basis both in and outside of work?

I make meditation a daily practice. Even if I only have 5 minutes that particular day, I make a conscious effort to sit down, close my eyes and bring stillness to my life. As a yoga and cycle teacher, my day is filled with being on the go from class to class and without a daily mediation practice I find that I feel very ungrounded. 

For those who have never tried meditation what advice would you give? How easy or difficult is it to get started?

Meditation is not easy. As many would say, I love to get sH*& done! I thrive off of being productive and being “plugged” in. Meditation is the hardest thing for me to do but just like anything, you have to start somewhere and you need to make a conscious effort to make time for it. Just like you would schedule your work meetings or workouts, build in time once a day for mediation. Start off small. Start at 5 minutes and then through time try to increase to maybe 10 minutes to maybe eventually 30 or 45 minutes. 

What tips could you lend for people who have attempted to meditate and are burdened with thoughts or too overwhelmed to feel relaxed?

1) Pick a space where you are not going to be easily distracted. Distraction can not only be caused by thoughts but also by people around you/live with you or the space itself (that bin of dirty laundry sitting next to you on the floor).

2) Get comfortable. Use pillows, blankets and elevate your hips above your knees. This will make for the most comfortable seated position. I would discourage laying down since you will most likely fall asleep.

3) Set a timer. Let the timer tell you when your session is done opposed to you constantly checking your clock. There’s tons of meditation apps that can help you with this as well as your iPhone timer.

4) It’s OK to think. It’s nearly impossible to have a blank mind as you come into mediation, especially as you first begin. Give yourself some forgiveness. Let the thoughts pass in and pass out and then through the passing of time you will feel more relaxed. It’s the resistance to letting yourself “just be” in this state that causes anxiety and the feelings of being overwhelmed. 

5) Meditate with a friend. Just like you would go running or take a yoga class with one of your friends, set a time a couple times a week to meditate with a friend. This will keep you committed to your practice and provide a little bit more motivation for keeping up with it.

6) It’s a practice. Just like yoga, you don’t reach a point in meditation and it’s over. Your meditation practice will grow and evolve but it takes constant effort to make it happen on a regular basis. 

Why would you encourage people to try meditation (maybe for those who may be skeptical) ? 

Meditation is important. We thrive on getting “Sh*&” done. We are constantly keeping ourselves “busy” with our e-mails, Facebook, Twitter and our work and it’s exhausting on our nervous system. Being on the go and moving at a fast pace is not sustainable. We need time to chill out. We need time to step away. Meditation is where the real work takes place. It allows us to look deeper within ourselves.