What is Pilates?

 

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When I tell people that I’m a Pilates teacher I often get a quizzical look. Followed with questions like “That’s like yoga right?”or “That’s like stretching for ballerinas right?”

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History of Pilates

Pilates is a method of exercise that was created by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th Century. Originally called Contrology by Pilates, it has become one of the fastest growing methods of exercise. Joseph Pilates was a German who was interned in a prison camp in England during World War 1. Some say that Pilates created the exercises that we now know to help keep his fellow detainees fit and healthy during the war; it was also rumored that he created resistance equipment by using bed frames and bed springs, as well as metal bands from beer kegs. These were the first Pilates equipment that we now know as the Reformer and the Magic Circle.

After the war Pilates moved to New York City where he opened his first studio and worked mostly with boxers. Because his studio was also in close proximity to many dance studios, eventually many dancers came to him looking for rehabilitation for different injuries. Joseph Pilates continued to teach out of his studio for many years, and wrote two books on his method, “Return to Life Through Contrology” and “Your Health: A Corrective System of Exercising That Revolutionizes the Entire Field of Physical Education”.

What is Pilates

Pilates is at it’s heart a physical fitness routine that builds on core strength and flexibility. Focus is put on spinal and pelvic alignment, breath, concentration and control of the core muscle group through body based movements. There are six principles of Pilates that are now known to be a major part of the method. These are concentration, control, center, flow, precision, and breathing.

There are mat exercises that can be done anywhere on a padded mat, and focus more on using one’s own body weight and movement to engage and strengthen the “powerhouse” and other parts of the body. There is also the apparatus that was created by Joseph Pilates and still used today. These include the reformer, Cadillac, barrels and more. These use spring loaded resistance to offer a more challenging strength and endurance workout.

When most people think about the benefits of Pilates, they think “strong core” But my friends, it is OH SO more than that. Everything that we do radiates from our center, or from our core, which in Pilates we call the “Powerhouse”.  Pilates not only strengthens the core but also improves flexibility. Pilates improves muscle tone, balances musculature, supports correct posture, and teaches you to move with ease and grace, while building flexibility and long, lean muscles, strength and endurance in the legs, abs, arms, hips, and back.

As you can see the benefits of Pilates are many. However, my favorite benefit of Pilates is the one that isn’t even visible to the eye; a calming sense of peace of mind. There is a wonderful mind-body connection in Pilates similar to when practicing Yoga. Pilates is like a moving meditation to me. The precision of movement that flows with both grace and strength whether on a mat or a piece of the Pilates equipment can not be beat.

As you move through the exercises with the Pilates principles in mind, you become more in tune and aware of your body. You have very little time to focus on life outside of the studio, as you become one with your body. The stress and tension of work, family life, etc. just melt away as you move through the exercises. It is indeed a very mindful practice.

Of course there are many physical benefits to practicing Pilates, as I mentioned above. Many of my students come to Pilates because of low back pain, or wanting to work on developing lean musculature and strengthening their core. Pilates can help you to look and feel your best, as well as teaching body awareness and good posture. Recent studies even show that Pilates can help alleviate low back pain more than other therapies.

In fact a recent Italian study “found an important improvement of pain, disability and physical and psychological perception of health in individuals who did the daily sessions of pilates”.*  The results of the study showed that Pilates was better at reducing pain in individuals with low back pain more than the standard treatment methods for chronic low back pain. That’s pretty powerful! Pilates heals!!

In my teaching I have many special conditions that I work with and all of these clients have seen amazing benefits from a regular and consistent Pilates practice. Whatever your goal is, Pilates can help you achieve your fitness and wellness goals.

Benefits of Pilates:

  • Increased Core Strength
  • Better Spinal Health
  • Improved Balance and Posture
  • Leaner Musculature
  • Increased Flexibility
  • Increased Energy
  • Improved Joint Health
  • Corrects Imbalances in the Body
  • Establishes Mind-Body Connection
  • Greater Body Awareness

It’s very easy to see how a regular and consistent Pilates practice can benefit you in so many ways, both physical and mental. Pilates is not only great for building core strength, or helping athletes to improve their games, but it can help the every day person (like you and me) to alleviate pain, build strength and flexibility and heal from the inside out. Give it a go and see for yourself.

The beauty of the Pilates method is that is accessible to everyone, and most of the exercises can be modified to suit different populations. If you are interested in further exploring the Pilates method look for a certified instructor in your area and try a class.

*Notarnicola A., Fischetti F., Maccagnano G., Comes R., Tafuri S., Moretti B. “Daily pilates exercise or inactivity for patients with low back pain: a clinical prospective observational study”  European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine. February 2014

The Importance of a Skin Care Routine

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I’ve always been a member of the “less is more” school of thought. I much prefer to focus on the benefits of a great skincare routine. Using good skincare also means using less makeup. I’m not dissing makeup either,  but think of your skin like a canvas. Having a perfectly primed canvas, meaning great skin, assures that your makeup will go on better and you’ll probably use less product as well.

So why is skincare so important?

Your skin is your most exposed organ. This leaves your skin susceptible to sun damage, environmental damage, early signs of aging and even certain skin diseases. Now I know what you’re thinking…”What about aging gracefully?” Putting vanity aside, skincare isn’t just about beauty or appearance, it is about protecting your skin.

Utilizing great skincare can also help with problematic skin like clogged pores or acne breakouts. It can even help prevent future problems like sun damage and skin cancers. Prevention is key as our skin is in a constant state of growth and change. As skin cells die off, new ones are formed and brought to the surface. This is also why consistency is important in your skincare routine; to treat and protect the new skin cells.

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The Basics of a Great Skincare Routine

Just as we are all individual and different, so is our skin’s needs. Make sure to pick products based on your skin’s needs. You don’t need a ton of products to take care of your skin either. Below are the basics of a great skincare routine. I recommend some products that I’m currently loving and using. I have combination skin and am more concerned with anti-aging and protecting my skin, so you may have different skin concerns. If you have any questions about product recommendations for your skin, please let me know in the comments and I’ll be glad to help.

Cleanse

Cleanser is important to remove dirt and impurities. Look for a product that is gentle, without harsh cleansers that can dry out the skin and strip skin of it’s natural oils. A lot of cleansers on the market today can pull double duty by having added benefits of anti-oxidants, vitamins, hydration etc.

My favorite cleanser is the Pacifica Beauty Rose and Kombucha Flower Powered Face Wash. I am also a huge fan of the oil cleansing method and typically use plain sweet almond oil or the Pacifica Coconut Dissolve Rehab Cleansing Oil.

Tone

Many people think that toners are an unnecessary step in a skincare routine. However, I think they are a very important step. Toners help to prep the skin for treatments and moisturizers. Most toners on the market are also great at helping to balance the PH levels of the skin. I recommend looking for toners or facial mists that are alcohol free. I personally  love facial mists that are moisturizing and calming to help reduce redness and irritation on the skin. I also love to keep these with me throughout the day for a hydrating pick me up.

My favorite toners right now are the Mario Badescu Facial Spray with Aloe, Chamomile and Lavender or the Pacifica Beauty Rose Flower Hydro Mist

Prevent/Treat

Again, as we have individual skin needs, what you choose to treat your skin will depend on your skin’s needs. Serums are targeting treatments with the most active ingredients to help with correcting, repairing, brightening, etc. Retinoids and Vitamin C are two that I highly recommend. A Retinoid is a great anti-aging treatment that helps refine the look of skin. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps to fight free radicals. Free radicals are usually caused by the sun’s UV light, air pollution, etc that cause damage to the cells.

I also really love using a chemical exfoliant on my skin such as lactic acid. These also help to refine the skin’s texture, leaving skin glowing and radiant.

The treatments I’m currently using include The Ordinary’s Lactic Acid 10% and The Ordinary’s 2% Retinoid in Squalene, as well as the CeraVe Skin Renewing Cream Serum.

Moisturizer

Moisturizers are an important step for flawless skin. Contrary to popular belief, all skin needs hydrating, even an oily skin. Skin can be both oily and dehydrated. The key is finding the right moisturizer for your skin’s needs. If you are more oily, try an oil free, gel moisturizer. If you are more dry, look for a cream moisturizer with a richer texture.

Also, don’t fall victim to the claims that some moisturizers make. This is really just about hydration but with the added benefit of antioxidants and vitamins. No moisturizer is going to fill or repair fine lines and wrinkles.

My favorite is the Embroylisse Creme Concentrate, which I use for day. For night, I prefer a richer, more hydrating cream and I use Guerlain’s Orchidee Imperiale.

Protect

In my opinion, protection is the best anti-aging ingredient you can buy. Skin is very easily damaged by the sun’s harmful rays; causing premature aging, sun spots and even skin cancer.

Look for products that you can use daily with a sun protection range of SPF 15-30. There are individual products you can use over your skincare and makeup, but now a lot of moisturizers and even foundations carry a great sun protection factor (SPF).

For sun protection I love the Coola Classic SPF 30 Makeup Setting Spray and the Guerlain Orchidee Imperiale Brightening and Perfecting UV Protector SPF 50.

I hope this post has given you some tips to take great care of your skin. Remember, you only have one face. Take care of it now! If you have any questions or comments please sound off below. Also, check out the video below for a bit more information on a great skincare routine and a little bit more about the products I use daily.

With Love,

Christopher

Klorane Peony Shampoo & Conditioner

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I don’t know if it is the warmer weather here in Florida or the shampoo and conditioner I’ve been using recently, but my hair and scalp has become very dry and irritated after our move down here.

I decided to go back to using some of my favorite haircare products from Klorane. Klorane has been one of the top haircare companies in France for decades. They use pure botanical ingredients including pure plant and flower extracts; without all the nasties like SLS.

The Peony line is wonderful at soothing irritated scalps. So I’ve gone back to using those products and it has been a huge help.

Here is what Klorane has to say about the products.

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The Shampoo with Peony for Irritated Scalp:

Klorane Shampoo with Peony

A calming and soothing pH balanced Shampoo that provides immediate & 24-hour scalp comfort to dry, irritated and itchy scalp.

Benefits include:

  • Scalp is soothed, comforted and hydrated
  • Cleanses while respecting scalp balance
  • Enriched with detangling agents
  • pH balanced, ultra-gentle formula
  • Hair is soft, shiny and easy to detangle
  • Biodegradable formula. Vegan
  • Hypoallergenic

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Gel Conditioner with Peony:
Klorane Gel Conditioner with Peony

A lightweight, moisturizing pH balanced gel conditioner that provides an immediate & 24-hour soothing sensation directly on the scalp while hair becomes soft and shiny.

Benefits Include:

    • Provides an immediate soothing sensation to scalp
    • Innovative applicator tip to apply directly onto scalp
    • Maintains an optimal scalp balance
    • Anti-irritant efficacy lasts up to 7 days
    • Moisturizing gel texture
    • Hair is soft, shiny and easy to detangle
    • Hypoallergenic. Biodegradable formula. Vegan.

My thoughts:

I definitely find that both of these products have been very soothing for my scalp. I’ve had less dryness and itchiness since returning to using these. I find the scent is very lovely, but it is light and not overpowering at all. Peonies are actually my favorite flowers so I love the light floral scent of this line.

Seeing how the shampoo is formulated without SLS, it does’t foam up a ton. However, it creates a very light sud that does a nice job of cleansing without drying or stripping natural oils from the hair/scalp.

The conditioner is a unique gel texture, unlike most conditioners we are used to. The gel is very light and does not weight hair down but still leaves a very soft feeling to the hair. I also find a get a lot of shine with the gel conditioner.

Overall, I really love both of these products and they have been amazing at soothing my dry and irritated scalp. Check out Klorane for any other hair or scalp concerns that you may have. I highly recommend this line and they usually include free samples with purchases.

Klorane USA

Eating Around the World – Paddlefish at Disney Springs

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Paddlefish, formerly Fulton’s Crab House, is one of the new dining options at Disney Springs. The restaurant is housed in an anchored paddle boat named Empress Lily and has been at this location since the late 70s. We have eaten at Fulton’s Crab House many times, but this was our first time dining at Paddlefish.

The restaurant has been remodeled with a trendier look than Fulton’s, but the upper scale dining elements are still there. Even the menu has been overhauled. You can still expect some great seafood dishes, but now there are some new eclectic additions. We started with the lobster corn dogs, which were amazing!

Check out the video below to see our full review of Paddlefish at Disney Springs. Let me know in the comments if you have dined here and what your thoughts are. Also, if you haven’t dined at Paddlefish, sound off in the comments with your favorite dining option at Disney Springs!

How To Start a Yoga Practice

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Yes, starting a yoga practice can be very intimidating. One of the number one reasons I hear from people for not starting a practice is that they feel they are not flexible enough to do yoga. That is why you start! Yoga helps build flexibility, so you can just meet your body where it is now and get started. As long as you show up on your mat, you can benefit from yoga.

Besides flexibility, yoga is also great for increasing muscle strength, reducing pain, improving mental clarity, it offers a sense of calmness, relaxes the mind and relieves stress.

With so many studios popping up and yoga seemingly everywhere, it has never been more accessible. However, it can also be a bit overwhelming to know where to begin. Here’s some tips and information to get you started and on your mat in no time.

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There are now several styles and schools of Yoga. Here are a few and their different approaches.

  • Hatha – this is a generic term that refers to most forms of yoga. Typically these classes move a bit slower and focus on holding poses (or asanas) for a few breaths.
  • Iyengar – developed by B.K.S. Iyengar, this type of yoga utilizes props such as yoga blocks and straps to make the asanas more accessible. This is a great practice for beginners or someone who maybe has difficulty with balance, alignment or who has certain physical conditions.
  • Vinyasa – Vinyasa is a more fluid and constant moving form of yoga. Asanas are linked with breath and transitioning from one asana to the next is part of the practice. When you see classes labeled as Power Yoga, they are usually a form of Vinyasa.
  • Gentle or Restorative – there are many forms of gentle or restorative yoga, such as Yin Yoga. These classes will also feature props like yoga blocks and bolsters in order to support the body in more passive poses. These classes typically move very slow and are great for relaxation.

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I highly recommend trying out a few classes and styles to get a feel for what type of practice you may be drawn to. Also, taking a class in a studio means you will have a teacher there to watch your alignment in the poses so as to avoid injury.

A certified yoga teacher will be able to modify the exercises for you and help you to find the proper alignment in each exercise. Make sure that your teacher is there to teach, focus on your alignment, and keep you safe. They should not be practicing alongside you for the whole class. They are there to teach, not get in a workout of their own.

A knowledgeable teacher will focus on alignment, anatomy and offer modifications for special cases or injuries. They should also be able to teach all levels of students at once, teaching the exercises so a beginner can do them, while offering progressions of the exercises for intermediate and advanced students in the class. No yogi left behind!

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If the thought of going to a studio is still a bit intimidating, there are now many options that can help you start a practice at home. This is actually how I got started in my own yoga practice, which led me to practicing at local studios and then eventually getting certified to teach.

All you need is a mat and some floor space to get started. I started off by following along to yoga DVDS. Some of my favorite yoga DVDs are from Gaiam, especially Gaiam Healing Yoga DVD With Rodney Yee. Not to mention that there are so many great instructors who do videos on YouTube (myself included) and there are even some pay per view yoga sites online. These help to make getting started easy and fun. Here are a few that I love:

As far as what to wear, just wear what you are comfortable in. I prefer athletic gear that is lightweight, more form fitting, breathable and moisture wicking. I prefer more form fitting clothes when I work out, because extra fabric can actually be a hindrance and just get in the way. However, wear whatever you feel comfortable in and what’s going to get you on your mat.

Make sure to have a towel nearby for sweat and to wipe sweat off your mat so you don’t slip in certain poses. Also, have a water bottle handy so you can stay hydrated while focusing on your practice. Props are a great way to help make certain asanas more accessible as well as take you even deeper in some poses. I recommend having at least one yoga block and a yoga strap ( or a long towel or belt will do). You can find these anywhere now, even at places like Target, TJ Maxx and sporting goods stores. I’ll leave a few links at the end of this article of my favorite yoga props. I’ve also included one of my YouTube videos that is a short and gentle yoga practice perfect for beginners.

I hope this post as given you some more information on starting a practice and helped to relieve some of the anxiety about getting started. If you have any questions please comment below or reach out to me and I’ll be happy to answer them. Now unroll that mat and get your yoga on. Namaste!

Resources:

Yoga Mats:

Manduka Yoga Mats

Gaiam Moroccan Garden Yoga Mat (3mm)

GoFit Yoga Mats at Dick’s Sporting Goods

Yoga Props:

Gaiam Block & Strap Combo

Gaiam Rectangular Bolster

Yoga Props at REI 

The Happiness Project: Mid Year Check In & June Resolution

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After reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin back in December, I set out to create my own Happiness Project for 2018. I set an area of focus, or resolution, for each month in which I wanted to bring more happiness and joy into.

Now that we are half way through the year, I did a mid year check in on my goals. In the video below, I share how I did on each goal, including some wins and some misses. I also share my resolution for June and some exciting news about my professional career.

I would also love to hear about any goals you set for this year and how you are doing on them, so comment below.

My Men’s Summer Style Essential Must Have

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After living in New England for the past 16 years, I’m slowly getting readjusted to life here in Florida. Of course, the one big difference is the weather here is much warmer. Like MUCH WARMER!

While living in New England I mostly wore long sleeve shirts (button ups, henleys, dress shirts and even long sleeve tees) during the Spring and Summer. Obviously, long sleeves are just too darn hot here in Florida. I mean it’s May and we are already in the 80s and 90s with 150% humidity.

I’ve recently fallen in  love with the short sleeve, collared, button up shirt. They are a stylish way to remain cool in the heat of the Florida Summer. They are light, breezy and super comfortable; making them a Summer Fashion Essential for Men.

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My favorites are the two above from Van Heusen. And I really love the classic fit and styling of the Big & Tall Harbor Bay 174 Microfiber Dash Print Sport Shirt from Destination XL. These are a great casual shirt with a classic cut. The lightweight, woven fabrics make these an excellent choice for warmer days as they keep you pretty cool. And they look great with just about anything!

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I also really love the versatility of these shirts. They are casual enough to wear with jeans which make the perfect summer BBQ outfit. The collared details also make them great to wear with khakis and a light blazer to dress them up for evening or a special summer event.

I’ve fallen so in love with these, that I’ve started quite the collection. These will definitely be a summer wardrobe staple for me.