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5 Reasons To Say “Om” Before You Say “I Do”

bride in the grass

Looking for a way to feel your absolute best on your wedding day? Before saying, “I do,” say “Om!” Whether you prefer a solo session, or want to plan a group class for your entire bridal party, a yoga session before you walk down the aisle can be one of the best gifts you can offer yourself on your wedding day.

1. It will calm your mind.

Something is bound to go “wrong” your wedding day —it always does. Keep the stress at bay with the reminder to breathe, go with the flow, and intention set from your morning yoga session. You’ll move more freely with all of the ebbs and flows that your glorious day brings, creating greater joy for you, your wedding party, and your guests in attendance.

2. It will help you stay present.

You spend months, maybe years, planning for your big day, and then, it flies by in the blink of an eye! Stay present for the smaller moments—a laugh you share with an elder relative, the sweetness and flavor of your wedding cake, the feeling of your wedding band being placed on your hand—these are the experiences we tend to remember and cherish more than the “big” plans we had in mind.

3. Breathing will energize you.

If all the spiritual reasons of a yoga practice don’t interest you, make it physical! You’re starting your day out with some movement and (maybe) a workout, which gets the endorphins and blood moving at the start of your day. The benefits? You will increase your energy, get recharged with some powerful breathing techniques, and get some natural color in your face and cheeks: This will leave you feeling awakened and invigorate you for the long, exciting day ahead.

4. You’ll take better wedding photos. 

Aside from a photo bomb, nothing ruins a gorgeous dress, hair, makeup, and smile than bad posture. Yoga in the morning can be a reminder (for anyone, not just brides!) to stand up a little taller, stay active in the core, and keep the rounding out of the lower back. Plus, depending on the shoes you’re planning to wear (most likely heels), your calves and soles of your feet will thank you for the morning stretch after all that dancing!

5. It will help you connect. 

Weddings are about connection—connecting on a deeper level with your fiancé as you start a new journey in life together, and connecting with those present to witness your wedding day. This simple, core intention of marriage can easily be overshadowed by the details of the planning, arrangements, and schedules set for the day. So, why not take an hour to center, ground, and count to self first before trying to create that same energy for others.

This is one of our favorite articles. It was originally published on May 14, 2016.

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9 Ways To Make Sitting At Your Desk Healthier

Some of us are in an office between eight and 10 hours per day – sitting! When you sitting for an extended period of time, with poor postural habits, your hip flexors get tight, your low back starts to compress, and your chin may start to protrude and put pressure on your cervical spine in the neck and make your traps tight and shoulders roll forward. Years of bad habits may result in back and neck issues and stress on the vertebrae.

The spinal column is made up of 33 vertebrae: seven cervical in the neck, 12 thoracic in the upper back and mid back, five in the lumbar, five sacrum that are fused and then four fused in the tailbone. Between your vertebrae, are invertebral discs. These invertebral discs are a jelly like substance that acts as a cushion for your spine, when walking, running, moving or sitting. A balanced fitness program, including practicing good posture, doing muscle strengthening exercises, stretching the body, and a balanced diet, are all part of keeping the spine healthy and functioning properly.
kara desk 2The Foundation:  When sitting, have an ergonomically sound chair, set properly for your height. Your feet should be hip width apart. Your back should fit comfortably to the back of your chair. If your chair seat is too long, or if you have postural challenges with your back, use a lumbar curve pillow. This pillow will help maintain the natural curve in your spine, and help prevent slouching. You can purchase these online, or through a physical therapy/sports medicine center. Your computer monitor should be at arm’s length away. Your chin should be parallel to the floor in a neutral position, by pulling your head back slightly. Every 20- 30 minutes, you should get out of your chair, away from your computer, rest your eyes and stretch. Plus, below is a series of great stretches to help improve circulation, release muscle tension, improve posture and de-stress your neck and spine.

shoulder neck stretch b

  1. 1. Shoulder And Neck Stretch: Releases tension in the shoulders, cervical spine, upper thoracic spine, pectorals. Improves posture. Sitting with great posture, feet flat on the floor, place your hands behind your head. Inhale and open your elbows wide, look up and exhale. You will feel your upper back strengthen and the front of your chest and pecs stretch and open up. Inhale again and close your elbows gently toward your chin. While lowering your chin, exhale. Inhale and open elbows wide, look up, exhale. Inhale, close the elbows, lowering your chin, exhale. Repeat five times slowly.

 

 

spine extension and hamstring/low back stretch a2. Spine Extension: Stretches upper back, subscapularis, lower lumbar, hamstrings, lower back, shoulder girdle. Stand with feet hip width apart. Place your palms on your lower back. Inhale and pull elbows back. Look up and extend your upper back slightly, exhale. Inhale, release the head and elbows, and exhale. Pull elbow back again and look up. Repeat three times slowly.

 

 

 

spine extension and hamstring/low back stretch b

3. Hamstring And Low Back Stretch: Place your hands on the back of your chair. Walk your legs back and fold over to extend your back flat, like a table. Inhale and lower your head between your arms and exhale. Inhale and exhale slowly three more times, allowing the muscles to relax and stretch.

 

 

 

hamstring, calf and hip stretch b

4. Hamstring Stretch: Stretches bicep femoris (back of the leg), calves, hip flexors, glutes, posts. From the forward fold table stretch, lift your head up slightly, step forward with your left foot and turn the right foot out slightly. Softly bend your right knee. Inhale and lengthen your right hand toward your left foot. Flex your toes and lift the arch of your left foot, with heel planted down. This will activate the stretch in the back of the leg for a deeper stretch. Inhale, release your body and arm a few inches and then exhale. Lower your hand down toward your foot again. Repeat three times and then switch legs and stretch your right leg forward.

 

hamstring, calf and hip stretch a5. Calf Stretch: Holding onto the back of your chair, step forward with your left leg and step your right leg back to a lunge position. Lift your back heel up, the ball of your foot is down. Keep your upper body straight, shoulders stabilized. Inhale and press your pelvis forward, while bending your back knee slightly, exhale. You will feel a stretch in the hip flexor and psoas. Inhale and release the stretch exhale, press the pelvis forward again. Repeat three times and then repeat on the other side.

 

 

hamstring, calf and hip stretch a

6. Hip Stretch: Holding onto the back of your chair, step forward with your left leg and step your right leg back to a lunge position. Lift your back heel up, the ball of your foot is down. Keep your upper body straight, shoulders stabilized. Inhale and press your pelvis forward, while bending your back knee slightly, exhale. You will feel a stretch in the hip flexor and psoas. Inhale and release the stretch exhale, press the pelvis forward again. Repeat three times and then repeat on the other side.

 

 

spine rotation and roll down 17. Spine Rotation: Stretches rotators and spine erectors, entire spinal column and levators in the neck. Sitting in your chair, with knees hip-width apart and feet flat on the floor, inhale and twist to the right. Place your right arm behind your body, holding onto the bottom of your chair, and bring your left hand across the front of your body, outside your right quad, holding onto the bottom of your chair, exhale. Take your gaze past the right shoulder to stretch the left side of your neck. Hold this position for three counts. Inhale and twist to the other side to repeat the stretch on your left. Hold for three counts. Repeat the stretch on each side three times.

 

spine rotation and roll down 28. Roll Down: From the spine rotation, bring your body back to the starting position and your gaze to the front. Open your legs slightly wider than your hips. Inhale and bring your chin to your chest and begin to roll forward, slowly rolling down bone by bone, exhaling slowly and allowing your arms to hang in front of the body, hands to the floor. Relax your head and neck completely. Inhale and exhale fully, two more times, into the lower lobes of your lungs, completely releasing your lower back. Inhale and slowly roll back up, bone by bone, to a seated position. Inhale and tuck your chin to your chest slowly rolling down again. Repeat this roll down three times.

 

 

tgif stretch9. TGIF The Thank God It’s Friday Stretch: Stretches the intercostal muscles of the rib cage, shoulders and neck, and opens up the upper thoracic spine. Sitting with your feet firmly planted on the floor, inhale fully and raise arms above your head to the sky. Extend your head up and let out a big exhale!

 

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Vixen Workout: Fierce, Sexy Janet Jones Shows Us How To Own It

Janet Jones has made the art of booty shaking a national fitness phenomenon. Jones’ Vixen Workout is a high-energy experience that builds on the latest dance trends, encouraging women to sweat into their sexy and embrace their sassiness within a safe space. At Vixen, the fantasy of working it like Beyoncé becomes a reality, all while burning hundreds of calories fueled further by female camaraderie (a.k.a #VIXENARMY). The classes have sprouted loyal legions in Miami and New York and have sprouted branded collaborations with Urban Decay and Covergirl. Hip popping popularity aside, the former Miami Heat dancer credits her creation to helping her rediscover her womanhood, and her dedicated followers have echoed similar spikes in confidence and self-love. Jones is tossing out taboos—a theme we also highlighted in our 2016 Trends Report, Sexual Wellbeing: Taboo No More—and embracing her fierce feminity. Here’s how she owns it—and how you can, too.

Spafinder: How did the creation of the Vixen Workout concept enliven you as a woman?

JANET JONES: Creating the Vixen Workout did more than just enliven me as a woman—it brought me back to life.  The inspiration for the Vixen Workout came from my darkest moments as a woman; for years I stopped listening to the voice inside of me and instead surrendered myself to societal roles of practicality. The life of routine, responsibility, and what everyone called “adulthood” felt like my personal hell. My identity up until to that point [“adulthood”] was who I became when performing; I was strong, powerful, confident, vivacious Janet.  I quickly became depressed, desensitized, and confused as to why everyone else’s “happily-ever-after” was not mine. I discovered that my personal hell came from living as a lesser version of myself by trying to fit myself into boxes that society had chosen for me.  I didn’t have the opportunity to tap into those [lost] layers of myself.

I, however, was the lucky one.  I knew that there was much more to life than my current experience of it and I came to the daunting conclusion that this is the only experience most women know.  This is what all little girls are programmed by society to strive for. “Happily ever after” was a muted existence.

janet jones leads a vixen workout

Janet Jones leads a class at Body & Soul in Coral Gables, Miami, Florida.

Outside of the fitness aspect, what are the mental effects Vixen has had on participants? 

The most important part of the Vixen Experience is to create an environment where women feel safe to let go of any role they carry in the outside world and tap into their inner selves. Our worrying about how we are perceived, creating the wrong impression, or doing something that is deemed inappropriate usually excludes us from enjoyment.

The Vixen environment is meant to remove these outside obstacles in order for women to lose themselves in music and movement. By losing your “self” through movement you create a sensory awareness of your participation in life—a.ka. feeling alive.

Tapping into our physical selves for the first time also improves our own body-image, which is what leads to an almost immediate sense of self-confidence.As we become adults, the amount of time we dedicate to our social lives and relationships changes to focusing on career and family.  Our need for community and belonging, however, does not change. The #VIXENARMY, which is what we call the women who attend our workouts, provides that sense of belonging that we sometimes lose.

Why do you think women suppress their sexuality? How does Vixen allow them to embrace their sexual well-being?

As women, we live with this sense of guilt without even knowing why we feel guilty.  Women are sexual beings—some studies show that women actually have stronger sex drives than men. However, we feel as if we are not permitted to express our sexual feelings or even to enjoy sex in many contexts. “Sexy” is not a bad word, in fact, a woman’s sensuality is a key factor in her confidence and body image.

We are bombarded with messages of being too thin, too thick, too this, too that, and taught that our sexual selves can not live in the same world as our values and virtues. [With this messaging] how are we suppose to not hate our bodies?

Through Vixen, I encourage women to pretend they are J.Lo, Beyoncé, or whoever they admire. By pretending they are someone else, it makes it okay to tap into layers of themselves that they normally wouldn’t—like their sexuality. By making sexuality okay, if only for that one hour a day, it changes their negative perceptions of their own bodies.

janet jones leads a vixen workout

Janet Jones and the #VIXENARMY.

How and why would you encourage women who are shy, or believe they “can’t dance” to try Vixen?

Because I am painfully shy.  In school, teachers would ask my mother if I could speak because I had been in their class for a year and they had never heard me speak.  I was the kid who would burst into tears when the teacher would call my name because I was mortified by having any attention on me.  When you dance you are free to be whatever you want to be.  When I dance, I am everything I don’t have the courage to be in the outside world.  Eventually, if you dance with enough abandonment, you will realize you are no longer pretending.

What do you say to those who insist that the word Vixen has a negative connotation?

Vixen is embracing all of the layers that make up our womanhood and being unapologetic for doing so: A shining light in a society made to dull anything that shines. I encourage anyone who thinks there is anything negative about Vixen to come join the #VIXENARMY.  

Stay hungry. Live fierce.

 

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Foam Roller Guide: What It Is & Why You Should Use One

woman using a foam roller

 

I answer your questions on foam rollers: Here’s an explanation of what they are, how they are used, and why they are used.

What is a foam roller?

Foam rollers are long tubular foam props made of different strengths; dense closed cell foams are stronger and ideal for more advanced athletic clients. A lighter, soft material, is best for clients needing more modifications: The softer roller releases lighter pressure and is more gentle on the muscles.

How are they used?

Foam rollers are primarily used to massage and alleviate tight, sore muscles through a method called myofascial stretch release. Rollers can also be used to strengthen the core and back.

What is the physiology behind myofascial stretch release?

Foam rolling techniques massage the muscles and loosen up the fascia (web-like connective tissue that surrounds muscles in the body) by improving circulation and increasing flexibility, as well as by reducing inflammation and joint stress. When muscles get tight through overuse or deep contractions, the fascia binds or tightens. Using foam rollers will release trigger points in the muscles to break up the fascia and improve mobility. Rollers can also be used to strengthen the core and back through a series of exercises that challenge deep intrinsic muscles, as well as improve balance, coordination, and awareness due to its round surface.

Can I use a foam roller on my own?

It’s important first to work with a certified fitness professional to make sure you are setting up and executing the movements properly. Once you learn the basics, you can use a foam roller at home. For ideas, check out my foam roller workout here.

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Workout Series: Stability Ball Combinations, Week 6

Our Stability Ball Workout Series continues this week with side leg lifts and side stretches. Here is a quick refresher on our previous moves and combinations:

Week one: Ball squats and forward extensions.

Week two: Rotations and pectoral and hip flexor stretches.

Week three: Sit-ups and back stretches.

Week four: Ball push-ups and spinal stretching.

Week five: Back extensions and lumbar stretches.

COMBO 6 

stability ball side stability ball side leg lift

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Move One: Side leg lift

What It Does: Strengthens the obliques, extensors, and hips.

How To Do It: Kneeling on your left knee with the ball at your left side, extend your body over the ball with your left palm to the floor for support. Extend the right arm over your head and also extend your leg. When you are ready and stable, inhale and lift your right leg up, attempting to bring your right palm to the knee. Exhale on the touch. Then Inhale and release the leg back over the ball. Repeat 12 times and then switch sides. 

stability ball side stretchstability ball side stretch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Move Two: Side stretch

What It Does: Stretches the hips, back, rib cage intercostals, and trapezius.

How To Do It: After your side leg lift, release to the starting position and then lower your head down, extending the arm away from you for a deeper stretch. Inhale and exhale 3-5 times. Then, to stretch the traps and neck, inhale and lower your right arm down towards your leg; let your head drop. The weight of your head creates a wonderful stretch for the neck. 

 

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Workout Series: Stability Ball Combinations, Week 5

Our Stability Ball Workout Series continues this week with back extensions and lumbar stretches. Here is a quick refresher on our previous moves and combinations:

Week one: Ball squats and forward extensions.

Week two: Rotations and pectoral and hip flexor stretches.

Week three: Sit-ups and back stretches.

Week four: Ball push-ups and spinal stretching.

COMBO 5


stability ball workout 5stability ball workout 5

Movement One: Back extension.

What it does: Strengthens the spinal extensors, rhomboids, and lumbar.

How to do it: Lie on the ball with the ball under your hips, abs, and rib cage and with your legs open slightly wider than your hips. Inhale and lower your head and extend arms in front as if you are diving. Exhale, and open your arms out and around as if you are pushing through water. Extend the arms to the sides and lift the chest, extending your upper thoracic spine and head. Inhale, and release yourself forward. Exhale, and lift back up with the arms around to the side. Repeat eight times.

stability ball workout 5

 

Movement Two: Spinal extension and rotation.

What it does: Strengthens the rotators and lumbar lats.

How to do it: From the spinal extension in Movement One, keep the arms up and wide like the letter “T,” then rotate to the right and exhale. Inhale and rotate to the left; exhale on the return to center. Repeat the side to side rotations slowly, eight times.

 

 

 

stability ball workout 5 stretchMovement Three: Lumbar and spinal stretch.

What it does: Stretches the back extensors and lower lumbar.

How to do it: From the “T” position in Movement Two, lower your arms and wrap them around the ball. Bend the knees carefully to the floor. Inhale and exhale 3-5 times slowly to stretch.

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