Must haves for Bootcamp

Posted by | Blog | No Comments

Next Saturday the adventure begins! We put SCULPT to rest until fall and welcome summer with Pilates Bootcamp. We will be located at the same place as last summer Hudson River Greenway, entrance at W. 10th St.  New York, NY 10014. Here is a checklist of things you should bring for Pilates Bootcamp:

1. a Pilates/yoga mat. I like a little cushion for my spine but I also like the heaviness of a solid yoga mat. Here is one I recommend: Manduka PROlite Yoga Mat

2. you will sweat so I like to use a towel on my mat. You can keep the mat moisture-free therefore cleaner. Plus washing a towel is a lot easier than washing a mat. This towel has grips on the bottom of it so it won’t slip and slide: YogiToes Skidless Mat Towel

3. we will be under the shade but its best to wear sunscreen on the water. I like to add the protection of a long-sleeve t-shirt, hood or hat, and sunglasses are a must. Use natural sunscreen, I keep reading terrifying articles about cancerous chemicals found in sunscreen (natural and unnatural but you might as well cut down the amount you put on your skin): Natural Sunscreen with SPF 20

4. bring your sneakers. I like cross trainers but its all personal preference. Get pair that fits and know that you need support to run and jumprope. If you don’t run, there will be alternatives so don’t worry.

5. water is the name of the game. Drink before and after. I also like to have food to nosh on for afterwards to keep my blood sugar high.

See you there. Please let me know if you have questions. I can’t wait to see you all there. Last summer was such a blast and I know this summer will be too. Before the end of May get your package 20% off with the promotion code SUMRSALE.

Finding the Right Mind/Body Certification

Posted by | Blog | No Comments

Finding a certification program for mind/body exercise is very similar to finding the right instructor. You have to search for what/whom works for you. After I finished my certification in Pilates, I started a ‘fitness crawl’ going from one studio to the next. In retrospect I was searching for a mentor, a teacher for whom I could relate and learn from. In order to save you time and money, I have compiled a checklist for you to invest in the right program for you.

Step 1. Do your own fitness crawl. Research studios and instructors in your field of interest and take a class. Many studios have new student specials so this investment is minor compared to the larger investment of a certification. If you do not have access to studios try some of the subscription online sites like YogoGlo or Pilatesology, or free sites such as YouTube, which showcases tons of teachers.

Try to take class specifically from the studio owner and/or the director of education – these classes set the tone of the programming. If you feel unsafe or dislike the tone, listen to your intuition and move on to another studio. If there is a teacher you really connect with ask where he/she was trained and whether he/she recommends that program.

Step 2. Be prepared for the responsibility of being an instructor. Whether you call it teaching, instructing, guiding, leading it is essentially the same principle – you will be at the front of class telling people how to move their bodies and with that comes responsibility. You are responsible for not only what happens inside that room (a small duration of time) but also what happens outside of it (a larger duration of time).

Obviously, you want to lead a safe class and you learn to do that with proper training. Training won’t prepare you for the change that students find through movement; when people connect to their bodies there is immense personal growth. Are you prepared to be an assistant for personal change – it is a greater responsibility than you initially assume. Movement can be the first step towards personal transformation so be prepared for not only your journey but that of others.

On another note, be prepared to admit you don’t have the answers to everything. Avoid diagnosing problems that are beyond your scope of practice. People will ask you a range of questions from ‘what is this bump on my head’ to ‘do you think I am allergic to milk’ and you have to say, “Please go to a specialist because your question is outside my training.” People take your advice so give sound advice.

Step 3. Time and location restraints. In New York City, we have access to some of the best studios and teachers in the world. We are fortunate that many certification programs have weekday or weekend programs, some even offer intensives. How much time can you afford to put into your training and have an honest moment with yourself about this. Your course can become the equivalent of a part-time job.

Before you start, look at the calendar of the program, reading list, required hours and assess your ability to fit it into your schedule. Ask the director of education the average weekly time the program takes outside the hours of training and start evaluating where you have time to spare. A 200-hour training can mean 300 hours including the homework and reading.

Location in urban areas is much more abundant than those in rural areas. Online training is an option for this. However, I do not endorse online certifications because I feel strongly that mind/body exercises are best learned in person. This is a debate far beyond this article, I will offer that many places will not hire teachers with online certifications in yoga or Pilates so just keep that in mind when you choose a school.

Step 4. Go to an open house. Schools host open houses so you can look at the studio and meet the teacher trainers. These are events where you can ask questions and meet your potential teachers/mentors. Priceless opportunity!

Step 5. Practice what you preach. The gift of teaching is often not monetarily lucrative but it’s lucrative in terms of personal satisfaction. Good teachers love people and their craft. Love what you do and the money will follow. Don’t go into this expecting to become the next Jane Fonda, go into this because you practice what you preach and want to share that with others.

Step 6. This is just the beginning. Certification is just scratching the surface. The real learning happens once you begin to instruct. You become as much a teacher as you are a student. The lessons learned from my students are the most valuable. In yoga we acknowledge that by saying ‘Namaste’ – I bow to you.

I wish you the best of luck on choosing the right program for you. This is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. You don’t want to attend a program that takes your money and then hands you a certificate. Less discerning schools will pass everyone – a studio has a reputation to uphold so you want one that has high standards. You want the responsibility of being a good teacher so learn your craft and avoid shortcuts. I offer you this guideline so that you choose wisely and avoid wasting your time and money on a program that isn’t right for you. My yoga school, in case you are wondering, has been a blessing of an experience and it’s the reason I know what to look for in a program from now on.


Let Go, Let God

Posted by | Blog | 2 Comments

Have you heard the old adage of “sitting on your hands”? Well over the past few weeks I have been literally sleeping on my hands. During my deepest slumber, I would awaken to painful tingling up and down my arms – my limbs were falling asleep. One night it was so bad I thought I dislocated my shoulder. My body was talking to me, it was telling me something that I was pushing out of my thoughts during the day; I was not just sitting on my hands, I was sleeping on them!

I couldn’t meditate or concentrate without this one particular thought crawling around the back of my mind – ‘I worked in a toxic environment’. I was putting off quitting out of fear: fear of not being able to get more clients, not being able to pay bills, or perhaps ruining my reputation. There is no postponing the inevitable yet for some reason I was stalling.

I only worked at this place for 5 hours a week but it felt like 50. It was consuming my energy for my personal business. My clients were leaving their jobs to find greener pastures, I praised them for their bravery while I remained a coward. Interesting how I can take care of myself physically just fine but mentally I was being irresponsible. Since I listen to my body, obviously more than my psyche, it screamed at me to stop being complacent.

When we ignore problems they might manifest into other areas, then we internalize and have no choice but to eventually deal with it down the road. Sleeping on my hands was one loud cry to deal with the current situation. Tight hips/tight shoulders don’t just arise out of nowhere. We are carrying ourselves inside ourselves: we are carrying negative emotions, the past, behavioral patterns, relationships, fear and holding onto it. In order to change the holding patterns of our body we need to change the patterns in which we live our lives. This is part of letting go.

To live in fear, causes you and those around you to suffer. Fear-based decision making is holding you back from living. Get yourself on track-by addressing what you need to do to live a healthy life both mentally and physically:

1. Know the root of your unhappiness: can you pinpoint what is causing you displeasure? If so give it a name and evaluate why you are letting this happen.

2. How are you addressing this problem: are you dealing with this problem by voicing it externally or internally? Externally can mean you are discussing it in a healthy way with the people who can help bring about positive change (i.e. if someone at your work is causing you discomfort maybe you should discuss it directly with them). On the flip side, avoid wasting excessive breath on negative energy. Its healthy to vent but when radiating steam turns into a part-time job you are giving it too much power. Don’t let anything take your happiness away from you. My husband and I have a rule that we complain about work outside the walls of our home so our house can be a place of joy.

Internalizing issues, sweeping things under a rug, can often become more dangerous in the future. This is where we begin to hold onto things but deny the power of the issue. We deny that both the mind and body suffers. We think we can lock things away but instead our joints lock up or worse (note that stress is a killer).

3. Does this problem motivate you physically: wherever you go there you are. Movement, yoga, exercise or any physical practice will help manage the stressors of life. However, management does not necessarily mean elimination. I believe physical movement has the power to heal, otherwise I wouldn’t teach it, it absolutely works wonders. However, when we run away from things they do catch-up to us. Maybe your situation can be dealt with through physical movement alone, but if not read on.

4. If you conclude that the problem won’t change, then you need to. You are solely responsible for your life and the sole instrument of change. When you have exhausted your resources looking for a solution, finding none, realize that the best solution is usually your initial instinct and move forward. Put your actions into motion and let go of what is holding you back.

Yesterday, I received an email from my employer telling me that I was no longer needed at work. I had a sound sleep because my hands weren’t pinned underneath me. I had made the decision to leave before receiving the email but fate sometimes trumps the plan. Things have a way of working themselves out and it is those honest moments of ‘I am sitting on my hands’ that gives you the power to admit what works for you and what does not.

3 Minute Pain-Free Workout

Posted by | Blog | No Comments

Sometimes our backs hurts due to weakness in our abdominal wall or tightness in our legs. This quick workout is designed to bring specific attention into those areas. I suggest training with me to know how I teach the alignment of these exercises before attempting it yourself:

10-20x Lunges (each side) – walk your feet about three feet apart and line your front and back leg into perfect 90 degree angles. The back knee never drops below the line of the heel and the front leg stays atop the ankle but never boils over the toes. *Think about lifting your spine up to the ceiling, as opposed to sending the torso forward over the front thigh, as you lunge down and up. Keep a slow rhythm; 4 counts down and 4 counts up.

3x Wall Press – lean against a flat wall, walk your feet 2.5 feet forward and begin to slide your back down. Your hips will drop barely above the knee (never below), you are creating a table top with your thighs. Press your back firmly into the wall by reaching your abdominals to your spine. Push the hands back into the wall and hold, working your way up to 30 seconds.

Tabletop Breathing – lower yourself onto a mat on your back. Lift your legs, one at a time, up so that the shins parallel the sky (tabletop legs). Let the lower back spread into the mat and feel your abdominals pull deep into your spine. Practice contracting your abdominals in this position. Inhale to relax the abs and exhale to contract them deeply. 10 breaths. Lower the legs back to the mat.

4 Square Stretch – Place the right ankle above the left knee and let the right knee open the hip. Hold for 5 breaths and switch legs. If you need more stretch grab the thigh of the supporting leg towards the chest but keep your hips heavy on the mat.

Cat/Cow – on all 4s, inhale to lift your head and lower the stomach towards the mat, exhale to lower the head and lift your stomach towards the sky. Keep the abdominals engaged throughout and use them to support the spine.

Have a great pain-free day!





Adjust to Daylight Savings

Posted by | Blog | No Comments

Rabbit’s Pose helps adjust your circadian rhythm; incredibly helpful especially once the clock leaps forward. Now if you have never done this pose don’t do it without the guidance of an instructor, people with neck or back injuries need to take extra precautions. Here is a pose I use to help wind my clock back to normal.

Rabbits Pose:

1. An easy way to approach this pose is to begin in child’s pose.

2. Wrap your hands around your feet. Doesn’t matter where you grab but a firm foundation is helpful.

3. Tuck the chin towards the chest but not tight into the chest, roll the crown of the head onto the mat, begin to lift your abdominals into your spine on an exhale.

4. Holding the abdominals into the spine, start to lift your seat away from your child’s pose, and round your back towards the sky.

5. Hold the pose for 5 deep breaths, or 10 to 20 seconds.

Note that no pressure is placed on the neck. Your abs hold you in place. Good luck adjusting to Daylight Savings this week :)

Spring Skin

Posted by | Blog | No Comments

Now that spring is peaking through the clouds, our skins changes with the season. Usually skin is drier in winter but with the stirrings of spring many things will start to awaken, including the sebaceous glands which excrete oils. Sounds nasty but its just your pores delivering all the (good) oils to the face. Often times glands produce more oils than necessary which causes blackheads etc. In order to change with the season, we change our routines, including our winter skin regimen which requires more moisturizing.

The best beauty secret for spring is black soap (aka African Black Soap). Black soap is typically made from dried plantain skins, shea butter, cocoa pods and various other natural ingredients. Its has Vitamin A & E, and iron. The soap is also good for sensitive skin, like mine. I started using early this season because my skin become oiler in February.

I use the Nubian Heritage brand from Wholefoods, costs about $4 (I can’t believe I used to use expensive products that caused harm to my skin and the earth). I have been using the same bar for over a month and its only half way gone. Rinse your face, rub the bar between your palms and create a little lather, wash your face for 15 to 30 seconds with a gentle circular motion up to the hairline, rinse and moisturize. The soap can be trying initially so start with a smaller amount on the face and work up to 30 seconds.

For moisturizer I like Alaffia Rooibos & Shea Butter Antioxidant Face Cream , $16. This is very gentle and my skin looks refreshed. I used pure cold pressed jojoba oil in the winter but this is lighter for spring. Its an earth friendly, free trade line of products. My black soap works really well in conjunction with the moisturizer.

The diet should start to lighten this season as well. Remember it this way: the more light in the sky, the lighter the diet, the lighter the psyche. The skin wears the inside of the body on your face. Drink water, drink or eat your greens (juice), cut back on refined sugars, dairy and greasy meat products. Eat to nourish as opposed to stuff your gut. Your skin radiates from your inside out so take care of all of you, emotionally and physically.

646.369.8391       nicola@nicolayvette.com