Archives for September 2012

Tips and tricks to control the after-work munchies

Perhaps the hardest time of day to avoid mindless snacking is the hour or so between arriving home from work (or school) and putting dinner on the table. The ‘witching hour’, as it were.

control the after-work munchies

If I’ve been asked for suggestions once as to how to control the after-work munchies, I’ve been asked a thousand times.

My usual response? Grab an apple and some nuts. Nibble on some carrots and peppers. Sip a protein shake.

While these solutions work for me, many of my clients need alternatives that will work for them. So I asked some of my fellow FitFluential Ambassadors to share their tips and tricks to control the after-work munchies. (Thanks so much guys for your help; I’ll definitely be putting some of these suggestions to work myself!)

Here’s what they had to say!

  • …eat three snacks instead of a lunch and a snack. I eat a larger snack at 12,2, and 4. Breaking it up and eating every 2 hours really helps ~ Sara from The Paper Jellyfish
  • get up and walk around the office, house, block etc for five mins or do 5 mins of squats/crunches/pushups etc. Often times once they finish that they aren’t so “hungry’ for junk food. also, plan ahead w healthy snacks like almonds, fruit, etc. And big one: are you really hungry, or thirsty? Hydrate all day, often! ~ Shannon from badassfitness (love her blog name!)
  • …have some kind of tea or a handful of nuts to hold you over ~ Christy from ChocolateCoveredDiamonds (what’s not to like about that?)
  • …use a crock pot/slow cooker as much as possible. Have dinner ready. If you’re hungry, eat ~ Kerri from FitViews
  • …have an apple or carrots in the car on the way home so that when you get home you’re not starving ~ Jen from suchafunnyfat
  • I work til 530 and usually have a greek yogurt around 5pm and. That keeps me from eating my arm before dinner at 730 ~ Liana from RunToMunch
  • I always have a baggie of almonds with me to snack on to ward off binging on junk. Mini protein bars are another staple, especially on long days ~ Angela from solesisterontherun
  • …More times than not I’m not really hungry after I get home from work and before dinner but I almost always [think] I need to eat. It’s more like a want!  The only thing that has worked for me is to have a physical activity on my workout schedule for that time of day. My kids are usually doing homework and it’s too early to start dinner so I’m not taking away from family time. The key is to schedule something that is simple and not too time consuming. Maybe my 15 minute stretch routine or 25 minutes of yoga. And of course, there is always my beloved plank-a-day. 95% of the time it works like a charm. I can’t think of a single time my snack cravings continued afterward ~ Jill from jillconyers.com
  • …have a small snack of fresh fruit – like a small apple and then to drink a large glass of water.  That usually keeps me going during that time of day.  I’d suggest going for a walk, but I’m thinking that people arriving home from work don’t then have time to head out for a walk.  I also chew gum, sometimes that gets the juices flowing and also makes me think twice before grabbing a mindless snack ~ Carrie from familyfitnessfood 
  • This worked well!  Basically I packed myself a snack and then stayed AWAY from the kitchen!  There were a few times where I would head to the cabinet and I stopped myself and asked if I was really hungry.  More times than not I wasn’t! ~ Nancy from littlefancynancy
  • I am a mini meal eater so I am eating every 2-3 hours anyway. 🙂 I think a portion control of nuts – eat one at a time & chew all the way & that will take time. OR I sometimes have low sodium, no nitrate turkey slices & you can add a little salsa or homemade guac to them…. ~ Jody from Truth2BeingFit
  • This is always my challenging part of the day, for sure! I try to grab some almonds or some dates. Both are pretty filling and
    offer good nutrition and help me stay on track! ~ Amanda from MissZippy

Nancy also sent me the link to a post she wrote recently about the very same topic! Finding Food Habits. Go and have a look at how she’s been dealing with mindless eating and the after-work munchies!

Did you find something on this list that might help YOU?

Or other ideas that you’d like to share with ME?

Your comments make my day!

P.S. Two weeks ago I did an interview with a newspaper reporter. The topic was ‘pre- and post-workout nutrition’. One of the other trainers interviewed talked about mindless eating and late afternoon snacking. ‘Solving the exercise and food riddle’.

A CrossFit style workout you can do at home

Yesterday, I was excited to see a free 90-minute window on my calendar. So excited, that I immediately Tweeted about it, asking my followers what type of workout they would fill it with. Running? Strength? A CrossFit style workout?

Crossfit style workout

Crossfit style workout

I had just psyched myself up for an upper body pyramid session at the gym when my 10-year old daughter got up and told me she wasn’t feeling well. She looked flushed and was running a bit of a temperature. I decided to keep her home from school (the parents of her friends can thank me later…). I cancelled my clients, drove the boys to school and made a backup plan.

Crossfit style workout

Although I own lots of workout equipment, I don’t have a bench or an Olympic bar or heavy enough dumbbells or a place to do chin ups. None of the equipment that I needed to do the workout I’d planned. It would have been easy to let myself have a ‘rest day’. But I was still feeling the residual energy of the workouts I’d recently done at FitBloggin. In particular, the CrossFit style workout led by Reebok.

Why not create my own CrossFit style workout? And just because I know that many of you will also be faced with aborted workout plans due to sick children, pets or spouses, I decided to shoot a video and share it with you!

The entire workout is 12 minutes long. I did it in it’s entirety, but edited because not everyone has 12 minutes to watch someone else workout! Grab some weights, a skipping rope, a mat and a kettle bell (or use a dumbbell if you don’t happen to have a kettle bell lying around) and get moving!

P.S. If you like this workout, please SHARE it with your friends, LIKE it on YouTube and SUBSCRIBE to my channel!

 

 

Healthy eating on the road: food at FitBloggin

FitBloggin Recap Part III (Did you miss Part I and Part II?)

While I love to travel, the prospect of healthy eating on the road causes me considerable anxiety. I am a creature of habit. My breakfast, lunch and dinner menus are fairly set. 

I snack on the same things every day. I eat a lot of protein.

I like to know what’s in the food I’m eating and how it’s been prepared.

What better place for healthy eating on the road than a fitness and health bloggers conference? Breakfasts, lunches and snacks were included with the costs of registration to FitBloggin and were almost identical to the meals I would have prepared for myself had I stayed home (so glad I didn’t!)

Fruit, grains and protein for breakfast? Check

healthy eating on the road

Quinoa oats, vegetable frittata and fresh blueberries

Dried fruit, nuts, energy bars and hard boiled eggs for snacks? Check

healthy eating on the road

Fresh greens, lean protein and varied grains at lunchtime? Check, check and check!

healthy eating on the road

Of course, a few indulgences crept into the weekend. I’m a firm believer in the 80/20 rule (eat healthily 80 percent of the time, enjoy less healthy options no more than 20% of the time). I enjoyed a wonderful pasta dish at a local, Baltimore Italian eatery, complete with fresh baked bread and butter.

healthy eating on the road

And a decadent piece of Caramel Pecan Turtle Cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory had my name written all over it (can you believe that I’ve never visited the Cheesecake Factory before?). Note that I had eaten half of it before I thought to snap a pic. You’ll have to conjure up an image for yourself!

Do you have any tips for healthy eating on the road?

What’s your favourite flavour of cheesecake? (I LOVE pumpkin and chocolate!)

Both my trip to FitBloggin and my recap posts were generously sponsored by Gaiam. I thank them for giving me the opportunity to meet so many other healthy living bloggers and giving me the chance to cross ‘eat at the Cheesecake Factory’ off my foodie bucket list!

Trampoline fitness: 5 benefits of adding some spring to your workouts

FitBloggin Recap Part II (Did you miss Part I?)

My children love to jump on their beds. Most of the time I discourage it. It messes up the covers. The mattress springs wear out more quickly. Somebody always ends up getting hurt.

After participating in my first trampoline fitness class, I’m ready to reconsider.

trampoline fitness

Yesterday’s, FitBloggin workout was a group trampoline fitness class. JumpSport, a conference sponsor, arrived with 60 individual-sized trampolines, a rockin’ play list and an extremely high energy instructor. Participants were asked to pair up; one on the trampoline, one on the floor.

trampoline fitness

After a quick warm up, a techniques lesson (core engaged, knees bent, stay low) and some safety pointers (stay in the middle, avoid the bumpers, don’t jump too high!) we were led through a high intensity Tabata intervals class. Each round, a floor move (burpees, pushups, side crunches, pivot lunge kids) was paired with a trampoline move (jumping jacks, squat jumps, sprinting, walking planks, sit-to-stand crunches). Partners alternated between floor and trampoline exercises for 20 s at a time (with 10 s blessed rest between!).

trampoline fitness

Not only does jumping on a bouncy surface make you feel energized and uplifted, it elevates your heart rate, fatigues the large muscles in your lower body and leaves you bathed in a sweat!

And the most tired muscles of all come the end of class? Your smile muscles! : )

Given that I’m already a big fan of both balance training and jump training (plyometrics), I knew that I would LOVE this class!

5 benefits of trampoline fitness?
  • challenges your balance (similar to using a BOSU, but with more surface area to land on)
  • strengthens your core (sticking the landing on your jumps requires engagement of the entire abdominal complex)
  • reduces stress on the ankle and knee joints while performing plyometric movements (the surface is soft and absorbs much of the impact)
  • improves coordination (having a moving, responding surface below your feet completely changes your ability to do even simple tasks like walking or running)
  • trains the body for multi-planar movement (trampoline fitness requires not just forward and back movements, but side-to-side and rotational movements too)

Thinking of trying a trampoline fitness class? Some tips and suggestions:

  • wear shoes with good ankle support; the potential for rolling an ankle is much higher than when performing exercises on the floor
  • take regular breaks and hydrate often; your heart rate will stay elevated for much of the class and you may sweat more than usual
  • avoid the temptation to jump as high as your neighbour; staying lower will not only give you a better strength workout, it will also reduce the chance of you landing on the non-springy edges of the trampoline
  • know where your feet are at all times; trampoline moves are best performed in front of a mirror so that you can see where your feet are landing while keeping your head up and eyes forward
  • have fun!

Thanks so much to my fabulous sponsor Gaiam for supporting my trip to FitBloggin and my quest to learn new things about fitness and healthy living.

Crossfit at Fitbloggin

When was the last time you used a trampoline?

Have you ever tried trampoline fitness? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the unconventional way of getting your workout in!

 

The hardest workout ever OR how Crossfit almost made me vomit

FitBloggin Recap Part I

There’s nothing I love more than a kick butt workout.

  • Sixty minutes on a spinning bike? Bring it on!
  • Pumping iron in the weight room? Hear me roar!
  • Boot camp, sir? I’ll happily drop and give you 20!

Crossfit? Never tried it before, but how hard can it be? (I swear that I can hear the chuckles of veteran Cross fitters as I type these words…)

Famous. Last. Words.

This morning, I was treated to my first Crossfit workout ever, courtesy of Reebok (one of the many proud sponsors of FitBloggin). After way too little sleep and a lukewarm cup of ineffectual hotel room coffee, I joined a hundred of my closest fitness blogger friends in a WOD (that’s Crossfit-speak for Workout of the Day).

Led by a team of Crossfit trainers, bloggers of all shapes, sizes and fitness levels lined up in the hotel conference room to learn how to properly execute air squats, pushups, sit ups and burpees.

Apparently I squat all wrong (!). My coach, Brad had to repeatedly correct my form, encouraging me to keep my chest up and “please, open those knees up just a little more to make room for your butt to descend just a bit closer to the floor”.

Crossfit at Fitbloggin

I’m only smiling at Brad because the WOD’s all finished!

After working on our technique, we were asked to pair up. Today’s WOD was to be a partner drill. Partner would alternate resting and working, one minute of each. Doesn’t sound that bad, does it?

The WOD?

  • Air squats, 1 minute, maximum reps
  • Sit ups (chest to thighs, please), 1 minute, maximum reps
  • Burpees (chest to the floor, please), 1 minute, maximum reps
  • Repeat again for a total of 6 minutes of work and 6 minutes of rest

My partner? None other than the sweet (and buff!) Brendon from Sequel Life Fitness. We rock-paper-scissored to decide who was going first (in effect, who would be setting the performance standard; a little competitive maybe…)

Crossfit at FitBloggin

We started out strong; 35 air squats, 25 sit-ups and 20+ burpees each during the first round. Second round was tougher; a lot tougher. Legs a-shaking, lungs a-burning tougher. I stopped counting reps because breathing seemed more important. This clip of Brendon rocking his sit ups is shaky because I was a bit shaky.

I can totally understand why CrossFitters love their workouts! There’s nothing like the feeling that you’ve physically exhausted yourself to put you in the mood for breakfast.

After you stop feeling like you’re going to vomit, that is.

Crossfit at FitBloggin

Crossfit at FitblogginThanks so much to my fabulous sponsor Gaiam for supporting my trip to FitBloggin and my quest to learn new things about fitness and healthy living.

 

 

Have you ever tried CrossFit? Tell me about your WOD?

Have you ever eaten quinoa ‘oatmeal’? (I have a great recipe that I’ll share with you all next week)

 

It’s finally time for FitBloggin 12! Fitness, friends and a flight (without children!)

Finally, after what seems like months of waiting, FitBloggin 12 is only one sleep away!

Tomorrow, thanks to the generous support of Gaiam Life,  I’ll be heading to the airport at the crack of dawn, to board a cross country flight to Baltimore.

FitBloggin'12

I don’t mind the long travel day (7 hours in the air plus getting to and from the airports). Without children in tow, I’m free to enjoy the inflight entertainment, read a book, knit on a sock or maybe even write a blog post or two!

fitbloggin12

What am I most looking forward to?

  • meeting my online friends ‘in the flesh’ (Carla, Lori, Alan, Rebekah, Lindsay, Christine and my roomie Toni, to name but a few)
  • re-uniniting with the friends I made this past June at the Health and Fitness Bloggers Conference in Denver (Shira, Amy and Christie)
  • hanging out with lots of fellow FitFluential peeps (note to self, better pack my FitFluential tank…)
  • experiencing Crossfit for the first time (courtesy of Reebok)
  • participating in a group trampoline fitness class (thanks to Jumpsport)
  • sampling culinary treats from the many healthy living sponsors (The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, Florida Grapefruit, GotChocolateMilk, and PopChips, among others)
  • learning more about the business of blogging and translating blog posts into ebooks (the weekend is full of sessions about social media, writing, marketing, networking and making some cash from your blog)
  • not being the only one photographing my food at mealtimes!

I’ll be sharing my adventures with you guys in real time! Expect some social blog posts about fitness, fun and friends for the next few days!

Are you going to FitBloggin 12?

Make sure to introduce yourself (use your blog name or Twitter handle if that’s how the online world knows you!)

Is the paleo diet right for you? My experience with going grain and dairy-free

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram (you don’t? click on the links to the right to rectify that oversight 😉 ), you may have seen a few recent updates that included the hashtag #paleo or #paleo diet.

paleo diet

Now I’m not usually a ‘follow a diet’ kind of person. I eat healthily (most of the time) and know which foods are best for fuelling MY body. But after hearing all the hype about the paleo diet, I became curious and decided to give it a try.

The basics? Focus on lean protein (grass fed beef, free range poultry, eggs and wild fish are best), lots of vegetables, some fruit, and a moderate amount of healthy fats (including nuts, seeds, avocados and olive oil); all the foods that our paloelithic ancestors would have had at their disposal. Avoid grains, dairy and refined sugars (including alcohol); none of which are thought to have been readily available prior to animal domestication and farming.

Really not a whole lot different from the way I typically eat. The only things I gave up were oatmeal (number one on my ‘desert island foods‘ list), Greek yogurt, ancient grains bread and brown rice.

My reasons for trying the paleo diet?

  • I’d noticed that I’d been eating starchy carbs and sugary treats more often than normal; both of which give me that ‘3 months pregnant’ look (and I’m definitely NOT pregnant…)
  • I was tired of feeling hungry all the time (increasing fat and protein and decreasing grains and sugars is supposed to help keep you feeling full longer)
  • recently read William Davis’ book, Wheat Belly, and am alarmed at how different ‘modern’ wheat is from it’s ancestral form and how negatively it affects many people’s blood sugar levels (I worry about blood sugar regulation; there is a history of diabetes in my family)
  • I kept hearing about all the amazing changes other people experienced after they switched to a paleo diet; who doesn’t want to feel more energetic? have shinier hair and clearer skin? boost their libido?

What did I eat?

Breakfast was usually eggs and veggies. Somedays I had what I refer to as ‘fake cereal’; hemp hearts, fruit, nuts, coconut flakes and almond milk. Almost like granola, but not quite. I also experimented with ‘grain-free’ oatmeal. Cooked quinoa flakes are almost as good as the real thing. And pumpkin pancakes rock (although I think I tend to over-do it with the maple syrup, undermining the even-blood sugar goal of the paleo diet).

paleo diet

Lunch was always fresh veggies, fruit and lean protein. Some days I added leftover sweet potato or quinoa to the mix.

Dinner resembled lunch. Veggies, lean protein, some fat (in the form of avocado, olive oil and nuts) and some evenings, more sweet potato or quinoa.

paleo diet

I snacked on single serving tuna fish, hard boiled eggs, dried or fresh fruit, sliced veggies and my home-made nuts and seeds mix.

After 21 days of relatively strict adherence (I kept the non-fat milk in my morning latte), here’s what I noticed:

  • an almost complete loss of belly bloat within 4 days. I didn’t lose any weight (nor was I trying to), but I no longer looked pregnant. On the two occasions I indulged in wheat (whole grain tortillas on mexican food night and some super fresh, Italian cheese bread with another dinner, mmm…I can still smell it!) I experienced indigestion and bloating within the hour
  • reduced cravings for sugary treats by the end of the first week (I have eaten only 1 handful of chocolate chips in three weeks)
  • no desire at all for alcohol (thank goodness hubby is off wine these days too; alcohol is really a social thing for me)
  • occasional feelings of dizziness or vertigo. This was not at all related to needing to eat, as it was as likely to happen before a meal as after. Nor time-of-the month hormonal changes.
  • increased mid-morning hunger. Regardless of how big my breakfast was, I kept finding myself famished by snack time
  • decreased mid-afternoon hunger, resulting in less snacking before dinner time (hooray!)
  • general crabbiness and irritability for the first week to 10 days. I really wanted to blame it on PMS and my kids’ behaviour, but honestly, neither of those things had anything to do with it.

The verdict?

  • I liked how (almost) following the paleo diet kept me from eating pre-packaged foods. It’s amazing how much of what we eat has wheat or some other grain in it
  • I was thrilled to see my ‘wheat belly’ disappear
  • I loved eating more fat than I usually do!
  • I disliked the dizzy spells and low energy during my morning workouts
  • My family didn’t appreciate ‘grumpy mommy’
  • I loved not feeling like I ‘needed’ something sweet with my coffee

In general, the paleo diet seems to work well for me. It’s certainly sustainable, but with a few minor tweaks. Over the next week or so I’ll be slowly adding oats (and Holy Crap cereal!) back to my morning meal. I’m hoping that the added energy and satiety they give me will not lead to belly bloat and carbohydrate cravings.

I’m also willing to break with the paleo diet to enjoy the occasional piece of chocolate cake and glass of wine; goodness knows I could have used one last week with all the back to school and activities chaos around my house!

P.S. I didn’t notice any change in my hair, skin or libido. I’ll keep you posted!

Have you tried the paleo diet?

I’d love to hear about YOUR experiences with it (and reasons for following it)!

5 tips to up the intensity of your strength workouts

Lifting weights is the best way to sculpt a strong, lean physique.

Want to see results more quickly? Follow these 5 tips to up the intensity of your strength workouts.

  1. Ditch the isolation exercises. Compound, multi-joint movements burn more calories than single-joint exercises. Trade those bicep curls for a lunge and curl combination.
  2. Choose supersets over straight sets. Alternating two different compound exercises not only saves time, it keeps your heart rate elevated, which in turn, burns more calories than traditional straight-set training.
  3. Minimize rest time. Long between-set (or between-superset) breaks result in a lower overall workout intensity than moving quickly from one exercise to another. Keep moving to keep burning calories and reveal those muscles sooner!
  4. Add in cardio intervals or plyometrics between strength supersets.
  5. Finish with a ‘finisher’. After all your reps and sets are done, throw in a single Tabata interval or my favourite leg ‘finisher’; 20 squats, 20 squat jumps, 20 alternating lunges, 20 split lunge jumps. NOW, you’re done!
How do YOU up the intensity of your strength workouts?

What is Yin yoga? An interview with Kushala Yoga Yin instructor, Chris Dunphy

September is National Yoga Month. It’s also the first anniversary of my own, personal yoga journey.

For twelves months now, I’ve been attending Hatha and Hatha flow classes once or twice a week. I’ve found yoga to be a great counterpoint to strength training and teaching group fitness. Not to mention providing me with an escape from the high energy and constant motion of my children!

Several months ago, a friend suggested that I try a Yin yoga class. ‘What is Yin yoga?’, I asked. She described the practice as ‘slow, restful, meditative and painful’. ‘Painful?’ I asked. ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘but in a good way.’

Despite her description, I decided to give it a try (a tad masochistic, perhaps?). Turned out that the pain she was referring to was the challenge of holding the poses for 3 to 5 minutes. Muscular pain? A bit. But more challenging was the mental pain of remaining engaged and aware while holding your body still for such an extended period of time.

What is Yin yoga? Rather than try and explain it myself, I sat down with Chris Dunphy, owner and yoga instructor at my local studio, Kushala Yoga.

Chris was kind enough to answer my questions about Yin yoga (and provide me with lots of quote-worthy statements!). Below are excerpts from our conversation.

Fitknitchick: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me about Yin, Chris. Why don’t we start with a brief description of Yin yoga. What is Yin yoga and historically, where does it come from?

CD:  Yin yoga is a posture practice, much like Hatha yoga. It’s really a North American invention or manifestation of yoga. Yin was developed in the 1970‘s by a fellow named Paulie Zink, a martial artist, who used to hold poses for up to 20 or 30 minutes. As a result of years of lengthy posture holding, he became incredibly flexible.

A couple who witnessed him demonstrating his practice ‘discovered’ him, coined the name ‘Yin yoga’ and brought it into the yoga mainstream.

FKC: How does Yin yoga differ from the more familiar Hatha and Hatha flow practices?

CD: Hatha and Hatha flow are Yang practices. They engage a lot more of your muscular energy and use alignment principles to get the body in to positions that primarily strengthen the body via their use of muscle. During a Yin practice, you disengage muscle and get more into the bones, joints and connective tissue. Yin yoga really promotes flexibility more than strength.

what is yin yoga

In the Yin practice, you want to release the muscles so that you can feel the compression of joints and bones. That’s the physical, skeletal benefit of Yin. Other benefits from compression of the bones and subsequent release of that compression? Osteopenia, osteoporosis are really prevalent now. Bones grow stronger along the lines of stress. So with that increased compression, bones get healthier, stronger. And similar to the Yang practices, much of the Yin practice is internal. The compression of internal organs is quite beneficial to their health.

I also find, that the Yin practice, because of the longer holds, brings a more conscientious attention to the breath and the sensations in the body. Yin brings me a little bit closer to feeling the benefits of yoga. I feel more energetic, my body opens up more. With the flow practices, you’re moving in and out of the postures a lot more quickly, and the meditative aspect of the practice doesn’t hit me as hard as it does during the Yin practice. You really have to sit there with your own mind and whatever’s going on in it. [When I’m holding pigeon pose for 5 minutes, my brain is usually cursing Chris]

FKC: I find Yin to be less cerebral, if you will, than Hatha. I don’t have to constantly think about where my body is and what position it’s taking like I do when I practice Hatha or Hatha flow.

CD: Yin doesn’t follow the universal alignment principals that other yoga practices do. We focus more on taking the general shape of the pose, rather than worry about the exact placement of the foot, for example.It’s more about what’s happening in your body and letting your body tell you what it needs. And allowing the body to take any shape that it wants to take at that particular time.

FKC: So Yin would actually be a good practice for a beginner, because they wouldn’t have to worry so much about alignment and getting the poses right.

CD: Yes, a beginner would likely feel a lot less stressed in a Yin practice, not asking themselves ‘am I doing this properly’, ‘what am I supposed to be doing’.  For a beginner, it’s a very accessible practice. And very beneficial. Many people think that they’ll get more flexible from the Yang practice, but actually, the range of motion of your joints, which we stress in Yin practice, will ultimately give you greater flexibility than a Yang practice. I didn’t realize that before I started practicing Yin myself, but over time, I noticed myself becoming more open, in places I wasn’t before from just the Yang practice, even though I’d been doing it for many years.

FKC: What types of poses are most typical of a Yin practice? I notice that we don’t typically do inversions; it would be hard to hold headstand for 3 to 5 minutes!

CD: No inversions, although legs up the wall would be considered a very gentle inversion. Inversions, in general, really have to be supported by muscular energy which almost defeats the purpose of Yin yoga. You’re not going to get into the bones and connective tissue as much because the muscles are engaged and contracting to support the pose. Inversions tend to have more muscular energy than your would have in a Yin posture.

what is yin yoga

The large majority of Yin postures are seated or reclined postures. You don’t see a whole lot of standing postures. Perhaps dangling, knees are bent, head hangs in a forward fold. There’s not a lot of muscular energy required to hold that pose. You won’t see any of the Warrior series, as those need to be accompanied by alignment and muscular energy to support the alignment. And downward dog is used primarily as a release posture.

It’s funny, if you look at the Yin-Yang symbol, there’s that swirl of white and that swirl of black but inside the black there’s a white dot, inside the white there’s a black dot, which says that nothing is absolute. Even in Yin practice you’ll find some Yang qualities. And in a Yang practice you’ll find some Yin qualities. For example, we adopt savasana, corpse pose at the end of a Hatha practice, a pose which is really the quintessential Yin pose! [It’s also the pose I’m the best at!]

In the Yin practice we really focus on the spine and the hips. The spine is the axis of all movement in your body so the health of your spine is really important (I love this quote; “you’re only as young as your spine”). You’ll see a lot of back bends, forward bends for sure, and then the hips, being the hub of the body, are an important focal point. This is particularly important in Western society. Because we sit a lot, out hips tend to be really tight. Range of motion tends to be limited to the forward plane. We walk, run, cycle, all using linear motion, always forward and back. The hips are ball and socket joints so they have a huge amount of movement that’s available to them. But like anything, if you don’t use it, you lose it. So that’s why a lot of the Yin postures have your hips opening up and knees moving laterally, trying to work more planes of motion than we would normally.

FKC: I’ve noticed that you seem to use props more in Yin class than in a Hatha practice.

CD: Yes, because you are relaxing in postures and holding them for 3 to 5 minutes the use of props helps people get more comfortable in the shape that their body is taking. It’s just a way to support the natural form of the body without becoming so uncomfortable that posture becomes unsettling or requires shifting around to hold it. The props really enable muscular release and relaxation. 

what is yin yoga

FKC: In a Hatha or Hatha flow class, instructors typically come around and ‘adjust’ participants, helping them to improve the quality of their pose. You don’t do much of this in the Yin classes you teach. Why?

CD: In the Yang practice, I do a lot of adjustments because alignment principles are needed. In the Yin practice, unless I see somebody who’s face is contorted and there’s clearly something wrong, I’ll only ‘adjust’ by asking ‘how does it feel in your body’. If they say ‘painful’, then I’ll suggest a use of props or offer an alternative pose or a different variation of that pose. But if they feel fine and their breath comfortable then they’re pretty much in the right pose [for them] regardless of where they feel it or what they look like. I wouldn’t put someone in the ‘proper alignment’ because that is so particular to them and what their body needs at that particular time.

FKC: How would you recommend a regular Yang practitioner incorporate Yin into their practice?

CD: I would suggest starting with once a week. It will evolve into what it needs to evolve to. Generally, the older you are the more Yin you want to bring into your body because your bones are starting to become a little bit weaker, a bit more brittle. That’ s just the nature of aging. The Yin practice is focused on joint and bone health, which makes it more appropriate as people get older. When you’re younger, a lot of Yang, a lot of dynamic movements, because your bones are young and healthy and strong. It’s almost like re-balancing your portfolio.Equity investments when you’re in your 20’s, fixed income when you’re 60 and you’ll need the money soon [Chris left a successful career as a financial advisor to pursue his love of yoga!].

Bottom line, do what fits in your schedule. Start with one, but be open to adding more as you find the need and desire. I always like to tell people to look at yoga as an enabler. If you like to run, hike, cycle use yoga to allow you to keep doing those activities.All Yang or all Yin isn’t going to result in the complete wellness that your body needs. There has to be a balance, and everybody needs to decide what that balance is for themselves.

FKC: Why do YOU enjoy Yin?

CD: I love the Yin practice because it’s about developing a relationship with your whole being, not just your physical body, or your emotional or mental or spiritual body, it’s everything. Most people will find yoga for the physical well-being to begin with, but if you’re diligent with your practice, you’ll find other reasons to stay. Come to yoga for a particular reason, but be willing and be open to that reason changing as your practice evolves.

FKC: Thanks so much for sharing your time and knowledge with me and my readers, Chris! I’m looking forward to today’s Yin class!

Chris Dunphy began yoga six years ago when he started to notice his body wasn’t recovering fast enough from some minor injuries, muscle strains, and stiffness he commonly suffered while playing hockey and football. Shortly after joining his first yoga class, Chris was hooked. Not only did his body feel better after the first class, it felt better than it had in years, even though he was an avid weight trainer, hockey and football player in that time.

The opportunity to open Kushala Yoga (originally Newport Yoga) came along in mid-2006 and Chris jumped at the chance. He quit his job after 7 years at the Royal Bank, where he was a financial advisor, took a leap into health and wellness field and hasn’t looked back.