Tag Archives: pilates

Celebrate the Magic of Nature


Point to Ponder:
How often do you spend time alone outdoors and in nature?

iGnite Neissa

by Neissa Brown Springmann

Despite being raised in a rural community in Texas and surrounded by fields of grass, corn, cotton, wheat and maize, it wasn’t until I attended the University of Texas that I realized my love and deep need for nature. As almost anyone who lives or has lived in Austin experiences, at some point or another, Town Lake (a.k.a. Lade Bird Lake) becomes the treasured best friend who hears our prayers, absorbs our tears, and celebrates our accomplishments. While on my runs, she was always part of the cleansing, healing and restorative process that my body, mind and spirit needed. Not only did my time with her boost my confidence, but spending time in and around always enhanced the clarity of my thoughts and vision. In fact, I never left her without a problem solved and/or solution in hand. And, while I knew how much I loved and needed her, it was until I moved to New York City and didn’t have her at my fingertips that I longed for her.

As the quote in the pictures says, Mother Nature has the power to please, calm, comfort and nurture, and in my opinion, she has infinite healing powers too. I believe we have an intrinsic need for her in our daily lives, which is why when I founded iGnite ten years ago, one of our core principles was outdoor group fitness. Over time, and as a result of wanting to grow with our members and provide optimal class experiences, our outdoor-only model shifted to offering indoor classes as well. This is not to say that we didn’t try offering every possible class outdoors, because we did. This included year round outdoor yoga, Pilates and even dance. For example, through trial and error, we quickly found out that yoga at 6:00 a.m. and in 35 degree temperatures was counterproductive. I should’ve known that the body would have a difficult time loosening up while shivering, and despite wearing layers of clothes, gloves and shoes, not being able to feel your fingers or toes makes balancing and downward dog extremely difficult. Thinking back, it seems completely absurd that I ever thought that yoga under such conditions would work, but we were committed to all that Mother Nature had to offer us. And, while offering year round yoga and some of the other classes in nature isn’t ideal (at least in Austin), Mother Nature never disappointed. She was and is consistently consistent with showing off her magic!

As we continue to celebrate iGnite’s tenth birthday, this week I invite you to celebrate the magic of nature and enjoy her life-giving gifts by spending a minimum of five minutes outdoors everyday, alone, and without any device or technology. Just like taking a screaming baby outside immediately soothes he or she, we are no different. Our time in nature is equivalent to pushing the reset button for our mind and spirit, and whether your time is experiencing a sunrise, sunset, the fall foliage, walking barefoot in grass, sitting near a body of water, hiking in the mountains, listening to the birds or going for a walk or jog, it is all grounding and the perfect solution to a busy mind and unsettled spirit. All in all, it’s a very cheap and simple solution that we all need to include in our daily routines.

Finally, in the event you need more evidence why time in nature is essential, check out scientific proven benefits from an article in Business Insider. I don’t know about you, but I could use some serious short-term memory help!!!

  • Improved short-term memory
  • Restored mental energy
  • Stress relief
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Better vision
  • Improved concentration
  • Sharper thinking and creativity
  • Possible anti-cancer effects
  • Immune system boost
  • Improved mental health
  • Reduced risk of early death

Action Item:
Each day this week, spend at least five minutes in nature alone and without technology.

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Finding Mindfulness…on the Mat

Finding Mindfulness…on the Mat

iGnite leader Amy Younkman

by Amy Younkman

In the day and age of quick fixes, constant fads and “7 minute workouts,” it can be hard to slow down and ask ourselves, Is this really what’s best for my body?   In our American culture, there seems to be an ongoing obsession with ‘new forms’ of exercise; for example, the latest, greatest form of functional fitness, performed in an efficient, short period of time, giving you the most “bang for your buck,” and relying on external sources to guide and motivate you.

While these forms of exercise are effective and do lead to a fit, strong body, they are only part of the picture if we are truly seeking a healthy lifestyle.  By relying solely on these forms of fitness, we risk creating a vicious cycle of continually striving to be faster, stronger, look younger, be more ripped, track more daily steps…etc.  We never actually “arrive”, because there’s always that next level to strive for.  And that can get exhausting!

iGnite Yogalates on Lady Bird Lake

Yogalates on Lady Bird Lake

It’s important to balance these forms of exercise with what I like to call “mindfulness on the mat” so that we can continue to enjoy a variety of activities and pursuits, and most importantly, so we can prevent injuries and be more mindful of our existing ones.  When we step onto our yoga or Pilates mat, our first priority is tuning into our body and tuning out our goals, expectations, what we did yesterday, and what we need to do tomorrow.  If we pay attention, our body will tell us what it needs.  The ego is not invited onto our mat.  With time, practice, and patience we begin to notice imbalances and places we hold tension and resistance.  We learn to practice compassionate observation and tolerance for ourself so we are in a better place to extend it to others once off the mat.

Yoga and Pilates are two wonderful practices that teach mindfulness on the mat so that we can be more self-aware in our over-stimulated, consumer-driven world.  Yoga is over 5000 years old.  Pilates is nearly 100 years old.  These time-honored practices have much to teach us!

Pilates is a form of strength training with little to no impact.  It emphasizes alignment, core strength, muscular rebalancing and joint strength.  It is a very safe way to stay fit, prevent injury, and rehabilitate from injury, while increasing balance, body awareness, confidence and better posture.  While we use props during class to keep it interesting and fun, the classical Mat Pilates series is a total body workout using your own body as your guide.

Yoga has become so westernized that it’s hard to define what yoga is today.  In its truest form, yoga teaches us about ourselves and our relationship to the world.  It ignites awareness about how we respond to difficulty and ease, to consistency and change, to the way we face our universal human struggles of avoiding difficult situations (hard yoga postures, tough life issues), or the way we cling to the familiar and comfortable (postures that we can do, habits we grow accustomed to).

iGnite Power Pilates at Rollingwood Park

Power Pilates

Besides reducing stress, yoga also teaches us balance between sthira (effort) and sukha (ease) both in our yoga practice and in life.  It teaches us to balance stability with mobility, and strength with flexibility, so that we can balance setting boundaries in our relationships with creating the space we need.  Yoga teaches us to feel the poses rather than force them.  The postures are questions, not answers.  We ask ourselves, “How can I create more ease in this pose?”  which then translates off the mat to “How can I create more ease in my life?”  Yoga is not about doing the poses; it’s about undoing what gets in the way of the poses.

In a Vinyasa Yoga class, we become aware of our breath, the life force that pulsates through our body.  From there we let the breath guide us and connect us with movement.  While we get stronger and more flexible practicing weight-bearing and balancing exercises, twists, backbends, forward folds and inversions, we also become stronger and more flexible in our mind.  We tune into the subtle energy body and discover what we have always heard to be true: that the body and mind cannot act separately from one another.  Yoga is a practice because, rather that striving to accomplish something, we continually return to the bottomless well of wisdom and guidance from within.  As Judith Lasater, veteran yogi, says: “Slowing down is the same thing as waking up.”

So, as you plan your fitness program, be sure and schedule time to consistently practice “mindfulness on the mat”  through Pilates and yoga.  With regular practice, you will not only become more mindful and body-aware, you will find more ease and inner strength in your body and in your life.  Best of all, you will bring your newfound insights into everything you do, which will add to your enjoyment and keep you safe and injury-free!

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The Pilates “Fab 5” Stomach Series

by Amy Younkman

by Amy Younkman

The Pilates “Fab 5” is a popular sequence of mat exercises that are some of the best ab exercises of all times. They are challenging, especially when you flow from one into the next. You can modify them by not lowering your legs as much and/or keeping your head down if your neck feels strained.

1. Single Leg Stretch

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent in table top position. Let your abdominal muscles drop down toward the mat as you lengthen your spine, curl your chin into your chest and use your abs to curl your upper body off the mat to the base of your shoulder blades (in a “c-curve”). With shoulder blades lifted off the ground, keep your eyes on your belly button — this keeps your neck from becoming fatigued.
  • Inhale and extend your left leg long as you hug your right knee in towards your chest. Exhale and switch legs keeping both legs along the mid-line and your pelvis and hips stable.
  • Complete 5 – 10 reps on each side.

2. Double Leg Stretch

  • Squeeze your bent knees into your chest as you curl up using your abs, not your neck.
  • Inhale and stretch your legs and arms long, keeping your arms alongside your ears. Sweep the arms around and hug your knees on the exhale, making sure the torso remains stable with no movement.
  • Repeat 5 – 10 times.

3. Single Straight Leg Stretch (Scissors)

  • Curl up into your C-Curve and stretch your right extended leg towards your face as you lengthen your left leg, hovering above the mat. Hold the extended right leg either behind the thigh, shin or ankle, but not at the knee. Inhale and pulse the leg towards you two times, then exhale and switch legs. Think precision as you scissor the legs in opposition. Keep your eyes on your belly button to keep the neck from straining.
  • Complete 5 – 10 reps on each side.

4. Double Straight Leg Lower/Lift

  • Extend both legs towards the ceiling, squeezing the heels, sit bones and inner thighs together as you externally rotate the legs in the “Pilates V” stance. With hands behind the head and elbows wide, lengthen the back of your neck and curl up into your C-Curve with shoulder blades cresting the mat.
  • Inhale and lower both legs only as far as you can control the lower back staying on the mat. Exhale as you draw your legs up, keeping the work in the lower abs and not the hip flexors. Soften the knees if you feel your hip flexors firing.
  • Repeat 5 – 10 times.

5. Criss Cross

  • Bring your legs into table top position as your hands come behind the head. Lengthen the back of your neck as you curl up into your C-Curve, elbows wide. Inhale here, then exhale as you extend your left leg long along your mat and curl your ribcage to the right. The elbows stay wide as you bring your left armpit toward your right knee. Inhale, return to center, then exhale and switch sides, keeping hips and pelvis steady and anchored to the mat.
  • Complete 5 – 10 reps on each side.

Join Amy weekly:
Power Pilates | Wednesdays 8:30am
Vinyasa Yoga | Fridays 8:30am


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Getting Flexible

by Neissa Springmann

by Neissa Springmann

This morning while at Power Pilates, Amy reminded us that life is actually very flexible and the rigidness often comes from our mental state. I love this wisdom, as it is the perfect inspiration to let go of any unnecessary restrictions that we may be putting on ourselves this week.

Here’s to a flexible and fall-like week!!

Flexible Mind Body & Spirit!

Flexible Mind Body & Spirit!

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