*This blog post was submitted by our 2015 spokeswoman Chrissie!
Let them eat cake.
A few weeks back I hit a wall. A wall that was made (literally) of cake that I sat next to eating as much buttercream frosting that I could before anyone noticed. I felt this wall being built right as the last 6Fit was starting. I powered through b/c my teammates deserved, at the very least, that I showed up daily. Once 6Fit was over I allowed myself some downtime while still working out a few times a week. That downtime consisted mainly of eating EL Fudge cookies. One night as I was telling DTMS that my two spokeswomen counterparts were doing so well and moving into teaching the classes they love I felt him looking at me. There I was sitting on the couch with cookie in hand and popcorn waiting to be attended too. He offered a suggestion of putting the cookies away to which I made very clear that his suggestion was the worst I had ever heard and completely unrealistic. I mean do you blame me? When I woke up the next morning with a sugar hangover I realized that cake wall tumbled down on me and I needed to take a break from the glorious buttercream I was using to get through some stressful times.
Now if this was a year ago I would have just continued down this path of unhealthiness and completely derailed all of my hard work but when I woke up that morning I decided to try another route. I wanted to challenge myself to some new activities and zone in on some of the classes I have been taking that I really love to make sure I didn’t let this little sugar blip define my summer.
To start off this new chapter I decided to reach out to Emily McLaughlin who is the creator of Stay Healthy Stay Happy and also one of the Virtual DanceFIT Studio instructors. I have had a connection with yoga since starting her Virtual Yoga and Dance Flow class back in December. I will be honest though yoga is a challenge for me. So I wanted to pick her brain a bit about yoga, challenges for yogis, favorite healthy recipes, and some go to tips about embracing the world of yoga (and a little about Zumba, I couldn’t help myself).
This is what she had to say:
Tell us a little bit about why you started practicing yoga and what about it led you to want to teach it? Do you also practice Zumba to balance it all out?
Currently, I am a licensed Zumba Fitness instructor and 200-hour registered vinyasa yoga teacher. My love for each of these forms of exercise was born out of my passion for dance and movement. Growing up, I attended dance classes a few times a week. In junior high school, I started competing with my studio… and then college happened. At UMass Amherst, I found myself bored, sleeping poorly and developing anxiety. It was clear something was missing, but there weren’t many fitness options to fill the void. My sophomore year, I auditioned to teach Zumba at the brand new recreation center. During my summer off, I fell in love with Zumba at the gym in my hometown. For me, it’s all about getting lost in the music and movement.
Teaching came naturally. I love creating a space where students can get lost in their movements -- and have fun with it. As I continued to teach and participate in fitness classes at UMass, I found myself gravitating towards yoga classes for the fluidity. The flow of a vinyasa yoga class is much a dance. After graduating, I nailed down a full-time job and signed up for a 200-hour vinyasa yoga teacher training (which occupied my weekends for 5+ months).
For me, Zumba and yoga are quite similar. You can hop on the dance floor and get lost in the music, or step onto your yoga mat and get lost in the rhythm of your own breath. The energy level is certainly different (for the most part), but the end goal is the same: leave class feeling lighter with the corners of your mouth turned up. More here.
What brought you to the Virtual world and DanceFIT Studio?
When I moved to Boston and started looking for places to teach, I gravitated towards DanceFIT Studio because of the heavy dance influence. At UMass, I taught a class called Yoga Ballet and Gina’s studio seemed like the perfect fit that class. At first, I was hesitant about teaching virtual classes because I really like face time with students. Now, Monday nights are some of my favorites. The DanceFIT community is incredible. I’m so motivated by the moms, busy-bodies and other folks who find their way to the virtual studio. Plus, not leaving the house to teach is pretty nice.
What advice would you give to a person just starting yoga, especially starting with Virtual Classes?
There is no right or wrong when it comes to yoga. There is no perfect pose. There is no ideal pace. Every person is different and every practice is different. My biggest piece of advice for a person just starting yoga is to come to your mat with zero expectations. Also, come to your mat often. At first, you might try yoga for the physical benefits or for some quiet time. But as you continue to practice, you’ll realize you start coming to your mat for bigger reasons. Those reasons are unique to you.
One challenge with virtual yoga is that your instructor isn’t in the room to give you any personal attention. Listen carefully as the instructor explains each pose and try to feel it in your own body.
I seem to be so shaky through my yoga classes, even losing balance most classes.
What advice to you have to focus move past the challenges of starting to practice yoga?
Step one: Breathe.
Step two: Focus your gaze.
Even veteran yogis have off-balance days, and they are usually attributed to something outside of the physical yoga practice. Where was you mind? Did you have a stressful day? Is your head filled with negative thoughts as you enter the balance? (Ex. “Ugh, not a balance.” “I wonder if so-and-so will ever call me back.” “That work issue earlier is really bothering me.”) Next time you find yourself falling off balance, take a breath and focus on one point in space. Depression lives in the past, anxiety lives in the future and true bliss is in the present moment.
Remember that we practice for progress, not perfection. As you work to move past some the challenges that come with starting to practice yoga, be patient with yourself and don’t set benchmarks for progress. Note: I worked on headstand away from the wall for… years.
What pose do you think is a good challenge for beginners?
Hold warrior II for 1-2 minutes. Notice the physical and mental challenges. Your arms can take it, your legs can take it — it’s the mind that gives you trouble when holding poses for extended periods of time. If you’re flowing through a solo practice, hold poses for 10 breaths to challenge yourself both physically and mentally.
What pose do you love the most? Challenges you the most? That you hope to conquer soon?
Pose I love the most: Supta baddha konasana (in here). But also loving supported bridge pose lately.
Pose that challenges me the most: Chair. Such a love-hate relationship with holding chair.
Pose I hope to conquer soon: Hand-standing away from a wall!
Why did you Start Stay Healthy Say Happy?
This fun video I did with a friend is the perfect explanation.
Favorite on the go recipes?
My go-to breakfast, especially when on-the-go, is overnight oats. The base is 1/2 cup gluten-free oats, 1 Tbsp chia seeds and 1 cup almond milk. To that I’ll usually at 1 Tbsp of nut butter (or a palm-full of almonds), cinnamon and a fruit or berry. I made 3-4 of these at the beginning of the week. Another good breakfast option is homemade granola.
One of my other favorite on-the-go snacks is sliced veggies. I portion veggies at the beginning of the week, and then make a batch of homemade hummus to pair with them.
Finally, you won’t catch me anywhere without dried fruit (raisins, mango, etc.). I even bring them to the bar. Having them on hand keeps me from crashing and snacking on unhealthy treats.
What is the most important thing you have learned and would like to share about practicing yoga?
Yoga has taught me patience. Yoga has taught me to breathe. I’m able to apply these two lessons both on the mat and off the mat — and I am so grateful.
And we are grateful for you Emily! I am looking forward to challenging myself this summer with yoga and training to run a 5K in the fall. Don’t worry, I also have a weekly date with some Kick and Tone and Zumba.
Wishing you all just a little buttercream frosting and no orange fingers!
Mom of 3, wife, business owner, ballet teacher and fitness instructor. Trying hard to raise healthy, happy and grateful children while running the studio of my dreams. Trying to stay FIT, flexible, stylish and take care of myself in the process!