Take a Child’s Pose

Better Yoga Practice – Start with Child’s Pose

The heated power yoga class that you’re taking is about to start. It’s time to get present. Much like an adult birthday party invitation your “presence is present enough.”

The intention of a yoga mind/body practice is to shift into the present time, and out of the past and future. In order for me to acheive this personally, I come down onto my mat and consciously shift my thoughts to the present time –  and away from a rushed morning.  The reality of the yoga practice, as in life, is the fact that you can’t go around it, under it or over it- we must go through it!   In today’s world we are all guilty of being disconnected from ourselves and swept up in this emotional disconnection, by constantly doing and being distracted.  Yoga brings us back to the here and now. As my teacher Baron Baptiste says “you are either now here or nowhere- the difference is a presence”.

Just as when learning to read “… you begin with ABC”.  In Yoga you start with child’s pose, (which is also sometimes called Balasana).  This is a very basic pose & great place to start your Yoga practice.

The heated yoga practice starts in child’s pose and ends in Savasana (or corpse pose) a full circle of life in one practice. Child’s pose is technically an inversion (one of the few safe inversions in pregnancy).

Child’s pose offers the following benefits:

  • calms the body, mind and spirit
  • stimulates the third eye point
  • gently stretches the low back
  • tones the abdominal organs stimulating digestion & elimination

If you have any physical restrictions, including knee injuries, there is a variation of child’s pose where you start on your back with your feet together and your knees out wide to the sides of the room. Another variation uses a blanket under your hips, knees and/or placed under your head; spread your knees wide apart.

Child’s pose can always be used as a resting pose and is especially enjoyable after and challenging pose!

Feel free to ask me more about child’s pose or any other poses before or after class! Remember, you can always sign up for private yoga lessons at Universal Athletic Club to further explore this pose and many others!



Hit The Ground Running: Beginner’s Guide

Getting Started:

There are many reasons people get involved with running. Whatever your reason – identify it. Is it stress relief? To feel better? To lose weight? Figure out why it’s important to you before you make a change with exercise. For me, running has always been my exercise of choice; my mode of stress relief. It’s how I decompress, distract myself, and how I feel good inside and out. Find your “why” first, then move forward.

I don’t suggest starting with a 5-mile trail run if you’ve never been into running. Start slow (literally). Begin by walking 15 minutes every other day. Once you feel comfortable with that, amp up your pace. Consciously move your legs faster. If you’re on a treadmill raise the incline. When you walk at 3 or 4 mph at level 15 on the incline, you will be cruising and fighting to keep your feet moving forward. This is a great way to build up strength, endurance and burn even more calories.

Another idea to ease into running is with something I like to call a “Couch to 5k” program. There are many safe and effective programs and apps out there to help you get started. Making a commitment to 2-3 days of fast walking or running is the best way to build up safely. As you increase frequency or intensity, I suggest focusing on the amount of time you are running, not necessarily the mileage. The mileage will start to take care of itself as you continue running consistently.

“Remember, the feeling you get from a good run is far better than the feeling you get from sitting around wishing you were running.” -Sarah Condor

Running Gear:

You don’t need specific clothing to run. Comfortable is the only prerequisite. Putting something on your body that you feel good in will set the tone for your run. As for sneakers, there are some guidelines you should follow and some recommendations I will make. I strongly suggest that you get your running shoes fitted by someone at a shoe store that can analyze the way you walk. This will determine the best shoes for fit, comfort, support, and exercise level. Some great brands for running shoes that will take care of your feet and reduce the risk of pain/injury: ASICS, Brooks, Mizuno, and New Balance. Running shoes are not cheap, but they’re a necessary investment to make your running endeavors more comfortable and effective.

One other item I recommend is an arm band for a phone or iPod so you can listen to music while you run. The band takes the hassle out of carrying something in your hands, making for a more comfortable and smoother run.  I suggest getting a waterproof band, that way any rain or sweat won’t affect your ability to enjoy music.

“If you want to become the best runner you can be, start now. Don’t spend the rest of your life wondering if you can do it.” -Priscilla Welch


I believe that music can make a big difference in enjoying your runs. Everyone has different tastes and some people prefer no music at all. I have to listen to something upbeat and fun. I take my running playlists very seriously! I would caution you not to play the music too loudly, so you can hear traffic;  Safety First!

 “Out on the roads there is fitness and self-discovery and the persons we were destined to be.” -Dr. George Sheehan

General Recommendations:

It may seem obvious, but stretching before and after running is key to an effective run. Working out your stiffness and tightness will help a lot in your running mechanics, as well. I suggest investing in a foam roller to work out the kinks. They are inexpensive, and an excellent tool for prepping the body for exercise!

Another recommendation is hydration. Being properly hydrated will make a big difference in performance, and how you feel during & after your run. Drinking water will go a long way toward improving your abilities. Aim for a minimum of 64 ounces of water every day. Challenge yourself to get 72 or even 80 ounces of water a day; and not just on days you run – everyday. Your body needs that constant nourishment to function at it’s best.

Lastly, realize that running isn’t for everyone. You may find that you’re not enjoying it as much as you thought.  That being said, don’t give up after 2 or 3 runs.  You may feel discomfort since you’ll be using a very different set of muscles than you are used to, recognize what is uncomfortable and learn to listen to your body.  Be careful to recognize that pain and soreness are different things, I wouldn’t want you to ignore a legitimate injury. Learning a new skill doesn’t come that easily. Give yourself a little grace and some time to, bit by bit, to let the sport grow on you naturally. The physical health and mental health benefits are incredible, and worth striving for.

To help you get inspired and motivated to do a race with friends & relatives here is a link to upcoming summer races in Lancaster. Get out there, get surrounded by like-minded people.  This will take some of the pressure off when running seems like a chore. Races are meant to be enjoyed and all accomplishments are to be celebrated!

To get more information on local area planned runs, click here

4 Easy Ways to Eat Healthier!

4 Simple Food Substitutes to Help You Eat Healthier … from Morning to Night

So you want to eat healthier, but you find it difficult and time-consuming with your busy lifestyle to prepare healthy foods…. and the thought of a “diet” is overwhelming?  Great news! There are several easy, great-tasting food substitutions that you can make to help live a healthier lifestyle. (Notice the word here is lifestyle, not “diet”). Changing even a few of your habits can save calories and provide better nutritional ingredients… while also saving you time!

Here are a just a few of my favorite food substitutions to cover you from morning to night:

 1.  Make Your Own Flavored Oatmeal

Do you often opt for pre-packaged flavored oatmeal as a quick breakfast for you or the kids?

Healthier Eating Infographic

Even though these are simple and convenient, they are usually loaded with added sugar and sodium. Instead, try making your own “overnight oats”. This offers a fantastic, healthier way to have breakfast all ready for those busy mornings.

How to: Purchase steel cut or whole oats. Then, I recommend putting together: ¼ cup of steel cut oats, ¼ cup of almond milk, ¼ cup of unsweetened applesauce, ¼ cup of Greek yogurt or Siggi’s vanilla yogurt, and a teaspoon of cinnamon.

Shake altogether, then refrigerate overnight. All the ingredients soak and absorb together, and can be eaten as is from the refrigerator. Or, it can be warmed up in the microwave for 30 seconds/1 minute. It’s an amazing combo of flavor and satisfies other nutritional needs, too.

Click Here for other healthy overnight oats options as well.

2. Substitute Rice Cakes for Bread

Always pack a sandwich for lunch? There’s an easy way to lighten that carb load. Try rice cakes instead of bread! Unsalted cakes are your best option. Not only is a sandwich made with rice cakes less calories and carbs, but it won’t bog you down or limit your options.

Peanut butter sandwich? Put that PB on rice cakes. Craving an Italian sub? Put some (nitrate-free) lunch meat and avocado spread on rice cakes.

In the mood for pizza? Lay on some marinara and mozzarella. Click here to learn more about the rice cakes trend.

3. Switch to Natural Peanut Butter or PB2

Love peanut butter? That’s fantastic news because it’s delicious, versatile, and can be a considerable source of protein. However, most peanut butter sold in grocery stores is laden with trans fats and excess sugar.

Make the easy switch to peanut butter labeled as “natural” or to the product PB2, which is a powdered peanut butter that can also be found in most grocery stores right in the peanut butter section.

PB2 has less sugar and fat and is even more versatile than regular peanut butter (think cooking, smoothies, etc.). Measure out and mix with water, and you’ve cut the calories of peanut butter in half.

Click here to understand the health benefits of powdered peanut butter.

4. Eat Yogurt for Your Evening “Dessert”

Need a sweet fix at night? Our registered dietitian recommends eating dairy at night as a snack. So, choose yogurt instead of cookies or ice cream. Keep in mind that “fruit on the bottom” yogurt is laden with sugar, so better choices would be Dannon Light & Fit vanilla, or Click here for ideas and brands to look out for to nail down this substitute, guilt-free.

There are SO many other ways that you can make simple substitutions for every snack or meal throughout the day, for you AND your family. If you would like some additional advice on these handy switches or additional healthy recipe ideas, please contact me in UAC Member Services or the Nutrition & Wellness Center.

My email address is [email protected], and I’d be happy to help!

Get Your Leafy Greens On!

Easy Ways to Eat More Greens!

If you are a veggie lover, read on. If vegetables are NOT your favorite, well then you should read on too!

Leafy greens for nutrition, health and weight loss

Whether you love or hate them, greens are a must when it comes to our health. Leafy greens have many benefits to boast, and there are countless numbers of ways they can be eaten. If you struggle to get your greens in, the ideas below might be a game changer for you.  Including more leafy greens in your diet, may even make your brain younger!

Leafy Greens 101

So what constitutes a leafy green anyway? Examples of these green bunches of goodness include:

  • Salad Greens – leaf lettuce, Romaine, spinach, mesclun, arugula, watercress, iceberg
  • Cooking Greens – Swiss chard, kale, collards, mustard greens, turnip greens

Benefits of Leafy Greens

Greens have many health benefits. The darker the green, the richer the nutrient value. Benefits include hearty amount of vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as high doses of antioxidants – touting them as one of the best cancer-preventing foods. According to the USDA, vitamin K in dark leafy greens helps protect bones from osteoporosis and prevent inflammatory diseases in the body. Additionally, adding greens to your diet increases fiber intake, which helps to keep the GI tract healthy. Including more leafy greens in your diet, will benefit you in many ways, but did you know they may even help prevent dementia and cancer!  Salad anyone?

Ways to Eat Leafy Greens

Spring is finally here, and it’s probably safe to say that all of us will be thinking about sunshine and the great outdoors. For some that may mean outdoor farmers’ markets and at-home gardening. What better to plant or buy fresh at market than fresh, crisp greens? Keep reading to find simple ways to add greens to each meal of the day.

Breakfast Ideas

  • Fold greens into your eggs
  • Blend greens into your favorite smoothie

Lunch Ideas

  • Dice greens up and toss into your tacos or burrito
  • Stir greens into the broth of your favorite soup
  • Use greens as a wrap or ‘bread’

Dinner Ideas

  • Sauté greens into your pasta sauce
  • Toss greens into pasta as it finishes cooking

The benefits of leafy greens are numerous, and the ways to incorporate them into your day are endless. So get out there and get your greens on!

Recipes to boost greens!

Apple Kale Smoothie
Yields: 1 smoothie

¾ cup kale, chopped with thick stems removed
1 small celery stalk, chopped
½ banana
1 small green apple, cored
¾ cup milk of choice
½ cup ice

Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth.

Napa Wraps
Yields: 6 servings

¼ cup brown sugar                                 12 Napa cabbage leaves                         3 Tbsp. cilantro, minced
½ cup low-sodium soy sauce                  1 cup red bell pepper, sliced                  3 Tbsp. basil, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced                           1 Tbsp. ginger, minced                           1 ½ Tbsp. lime juice
1 garlic clove, minced                             3 oz. dry cellophane noodles, prepared
1 ½ lb. cleaned and cooked shrimp

  1. In a small dish, mix the 3 sauce ingredients and set aside.
  2. Lay Napa cabbage leaves in a large shallow dish. Add enough boiling water to cover leaves, and allow to soften/steam. Remove and pat dry with clean towel.
  3. In a small skillet, on medium-high heat, sauté peppers, ginger, garlic, cilantro, basil and lime juice. Cook until peppers are soft. Remove from heat.
  4. To assemble wraps, place cabbage leaves on flat surface, top with 1/6 of vegetable mixture, 1/6 of noodles, and 3-4 shrimp. Fold leaves into the center and dip into sauce. Enjoy!


For more recipes like these, visit the Nutrition and Wellness Center at UAC or our Facebook page.

heart healthy bowl of berries to eat for a healthier heart this february

Heart Healthy Eating Tips for American Heart Month

During this cold winter month, red hearts and love are in the air. But more importantly, it is also American Heart Month. This is why our Nutrition & Wellness team here at Universal wanted to take some time to talk about the importance of loving our hearts through heart healthy eating.

For the 2017 year, one out of three deaths were caused by heart disease in the United States; that is approximately 800,000 American lives. But fear not, because there are several things you can do to keep your risk low; especially by making healthy food choices.

According to the American Heart Association, there are a variety of nutrient-rich foods from multiple food groups that people can consume to help keep a healthier heart and safe cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

Heart Healthy Foods to Try:

  • Leafy Greens: romaine lettuce, arugula, cabbage, Swiss chard, collard greens
  • Whole-Wheat Foods: whole-wheat bread or pasta, brown rice, oatmeal
  • Lean Protein: fish, poultry
  • Nuts: pecans, almonds, cashews, pistachios
  • Berries: strawberries, raspberries, blue berries, goji berries, acai berries
  • Beans: chickpeas, lentils, peas, kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans
  • Other: extra virgin olive oil, tomatoes, quinoa

Are these options not necessarily your first choice to indulge upon? That’s okay! For seasonality sake, let’s take look at some heart healthy alternatives to some of your go-to Valentine’s Day favorites.

Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries vs. Your Standard Truffles

Is chocolate your guilty pleasure? Chocolate covered strawberries are a great heart healthy treat to consider. Let’s compare these easy-to-make treats to Godiva dark chocolate truffles. One truffle is approximately 105 calories, while one dark chocolate covered strawberry is roughly 130 calories. The numbers line up nicely, but you’re getting more heart health benefit from the strawberry over the truffle ingredients.

Truffles Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries
105 Calories 130 Calories
6.5 g fat 7 g fat
4 g sat fat 4 g sat fat

What Does Your Heart Love More: Dark Chocolate or Milk Chocolate?

What is with all the hype around dark chocolate anyway? Is it the flavor or the fact that is simply just a healthier heart option for you? Statistically speaking, dark chocolate is made with more than 60% cocoa as compared to milk and white chocolates.

Health Benefits of Flavonoids

Cocoa contains flavonoids, which act like antioxidants; which helps with cell protection within your body. According to the National Institute of Health, health benefits of flavonoids include heart disease prevention through lowering of blood pressure and LDL, or unhealthy cholesterol.

One ounce of dark chocolate has 170 calories while milk chocolate has 150 calories in one ounce. Looks like milk chocolate is the better option, right? Maybe, but just remember that milk chocolate does not have the higher heart healthy flavonoids, and if you prefer milk chocolate you just may eat more than what the averaged serving size is.

Dark Chocolate Milk Chocolate
170 Calories 150 Calories
12 g fat 8 g fat
7 g sat fat 4 g sat fat

To Dine Out or Stay in This Valentine’s Day?

Fondue. NY strip steak. Chocolate and champagne. What does your Valentine’s day look like?

Regardless of what’s in store, it is safe to say that you are in the driver’s seat when dining at home. The amount of butter and salt used to sauté and sear is entirely up to you. Be careful when dining out, as calorie-rich meals can pack in not only extra calories but also higher counts of sodium and fat. For example, Swiss cheese fondue for two at The Melting Pot is about 400 calories per person. But if you’re dining in this Valentine’s Day, try Swiss cheese squares with sliced pear or apple. 2 slices of cheese have about 200 calories.

Swiss Cheese Fondue (The Melting Pot) Two Slices of Swiss Cheese
400 Calories 200 Calories
25 g fat 16 g fat
17 g sat fat 10 g sat fat

Our hearts need to be nurtured to stay healthy. There are many ways you can work to keep your heart healthy during this month. Check out what free nutrition seminars are happening, or tie up your sneakers and break a sweat in a group fitness class. Also remember to eat and drink all things heart healthy. What will you do to be good to your heart this month?

Strength Training : The Real Fountain of Youth?

STRENGTH TRAINING:  The Real “Fountain of Youth?

Strength training for longevity

“The Fountain of Youth”… Ponce de Leon searched for it, and people in modern times try to find it in “magic pills” or plastic surgery. In reality, it’s not about drinking water from this “Fountain of Youth,” but about LIFTING the bricks of which the fountain is made!

An amazing discovery was made by researchers at McMaster University Medical Center. The study compared the muscle tissue of a group of 22-year-olds at the cellular level, vs. the muscle tissue of a  group of non-active 65-year-olds at a cellular level.  Then, the 65-year-olds began strength training two days a week. After 6 months of consistent training, the biopsies were repeated. The results were astounding! At the cellular level, the muscle tissue had changed. In nearly a third of 65-year-olds, the tissue had undergone a genetic change that then resembled the tissue of the 22-year-old group. The strength training had actually reversed the effects of aging!

If you need another reason to make weight-training part of your workout routine, I have another study to share with you…

Older adults with greater muscle mass have a higher life expectancy

Researchers analyzed data from more than 3,600 older adults who took part in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The participants included men ages 55 and older and women ages 65 and older. As part of the survey, the participants underwent tests to determine their muscle mass index. The investigators used a follow-up survey to determine how many of the participants had died of natural causes and how muscle mass was related to death risk. People with the highest levels of muscle mass were significantly less likely to have died than those with the lowest levels of muscle mass.

“In other words, the greater your muscle mass, the lower your risk of death,” study co-author Dr. Arun Karlamangla, an associate professor in the geriatrics division at University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine, said in a university news release. “Thus, rather than worrying about weight or body mass index, we should be trying to maximize and maintain muscle mass.”

I am hopeful that after reading this you are motivated to incorporate at least two days of strength training in your fitness routine. If you need help getting started, let us connect you with a Fitness Coach, Trainer, or one of our many Strength Training classes or small groups.

Contact us to see how we can help you take the first step, and start lifting those brick of the Fountain of Youth!

6 Ways to Drop 6 Pounds

Making A Few Adjustments to What You Eat
Could be the Key!

If you’re looking to drop some pounds, try focusing on some basic fundamental principles that are long tried-and-true.

It’s not rocket science, but it does require some discipline and consistency. Instead of making it more complex than it needs to be, make it easier by focusing on the following 6 ways to lose those stubborn 6 pounds.

  1. Reduce sugar intake! To list all of the negative effects that sugar has on our body would require a full-blown, dictionary-sized novel.  Above all else, sugar could be the number one biggest culprit holding you back from losing weight.  To sum up sugar in three words, it’s: toxic, addicting, and deadly. It causes leptin resistance (making us unable to feel full) wrecks the metabolism, causes insulin resistance and contains countless hidden calories.  Remember to read labels on EVERYTHING to see the sugar content.  sugar-addiction
  2. Eat (good) carbs. Carbs aren’t the devil if you choose them wisely! The fact of the matter is, your brain and body need at least a small amount of carbohydrates to function. Most of your go-to carb choices should come from fruits and vegetables, but starchy carbs should be added at times from low glycemic sources. Choices could include quinoa, sweet potatoes, and rice.
  3. Don’t neglect protein. You should shoot to include a fair amount of protein in each and every meal or snack. Protein helps to stabilize and moderate swings in your blood sugar, making your energy steadier and your excess weight more simple to drop. In addition, it helps to preserve and maintain lean muscle mass, which consequently improves your resting metabolic rate. Protein also plays a role in increasing the feeling of being ‘full,’ making you less likely to reach for that late-night snack which continues to hold you back from losing those stubborn pounds.
  4. Focus on food quality. Foods that are minimally processed are the best for you. Food quality improves your energy levels, digestion, mood, metabolic rate, eliminates cravings, and so much more. In addition, improving the quality of the food you eat essentially takes the guesswork out of calorie counting. When you eat higher quality, more nutrient-dense foods, your body will better be able to send your brain the signal that you’ve had enough.
  5. Fat does NOT make you fat. This is contrary to what many people think. In fact, studies show that increasing your consumption of the ‘right’ type of fat aids in losing fat.  For one, fat has a beneficial effect on leptin receptors, which means that our signals of satiety will be much improved. This will lead to a reduction in caloric intake and an improved insulin response. In the simplest terms, good fat will rarely ever be stored as fat, provide instant fuel, help you feel full, and contribute to your ability to burn calories.
  6. Use grocery shopping ‘hacks.’ Ever hear that there are scientifically-backed ways to trick yourself into buying healthier foods at the grocery store? Well, there are a few. First, shop with a bottle of water in hand. This will subconsciously affect the foods that you choose since, generally speaking, this increases our sense of overall health. Second, try to shop when you’re full. As you might expect, this will decrease your desire to buy junk foods that would otherwise look incredibly appetizing. Third, create a physical list to take with you to the store. This will enable you to get in and out more quickly and eliminate the desire to make impulse purchases on the unhealthy foods you don’t need.

Follow these steps; learn them, practice them, put them into action, and drop those stubborn pounds for good! If you’re struggling and could use additional help with weight loss or making better food choices, contact Universal’s Nutrition & Wellness Department at 717-569-4754 or here.