2nd Annual Yoga & Dinner Celebration on Dec. 14th.

Join me and my fellow yogis for a special evening yoga class on December 14 at 6:30 at Sweet Home Spun, 6805 Castle Hwy in Pleasureville, followed by dinner at 8:00 at La Cocina de Mama in Shelbyville. Everyone from the Pleasureville yoga community and the Louisville YMCA yogis had a great time last year. We hope you’ll be able to join us again!

You can purchase a discounted single class for $8 at any time before class, or in person. Class cards are also fine to use here.

If this will be your first class at Sweet Home Spun please fill out this form, and bring with you to class.

Feel free to invite your friends! If they aren’t able to make it to yoga, they can meet us at the restaurant at 8pm. It’s located at 535 Main Street, Shelbyville.

To RSVP join the event on Facebook, or send me an email. I’d like to give the restaurant an idea of how many to expect.

Directions from Louisville:
Take I-64 E to exit 32 for KY-55 and turn left at the end of the ramp. (There used to be two exits here, but there is only one now. Careful if your GPS says otherwise) Stay on this road thru several lights, continuing straight onto the bypass at the intersection with Walgreen’s and CVS. At the end of the bypass turn left to continue onto KY-55 N, and follow the road for 9.3 miles. At the Dairy Queen in Eminence turn right onto Elm Street, and continue for 2.2 miles. Turn right onto US-421/Castle Hwy and continue straight through the stoplight in Pleasureville. Sweet Home Spun with be about 1.5 miles past the light on your right. Look for the four lit windows and it will be easy to find in the dark.

Hope you can join us!

60 Minute Yin & Yang Yoga – March 24, 2015 – Audio

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We’re going to start off tonight with a 30 minute flow that will get us warmed up, and then we’ll settle into the last half of class with some juicy deep yin hip-openers.

A block, blanket and bolster will be helpful, but they aren’t necessary.

30 Minute Yoga Energizer – March 17, 2015 – Audio

Please help support my classes on YouTube by visiting theyogamatt.com/donate

We’ll open with five of sun salutation A, and follow that with five of B. Throw in some core work, a short seated series and ending with relaxation to get you energized this morning.

Healing the knees with yoga

I’m in my third phase of P90X2, and the P.A.P. Lower routine has a lot of explosive movements that have been putting a bit of stress on my knees.  So I’ve done what any good yogi would do, and turned to yoga to help the problem before it got out of hand.

I learned how to do this from Brad Waites during my last yoga conference in Toronto in 2012.  The workshop was called healing the hips and knees with purna yoga, or something to that effect.

What you need:

  • 1-1.5″ dowel rod
  • yoga mat
  • blocks (optional)
  • blanket or towel (optional)

Start on your yoga mat, and stand on your knees.  Lean forward slightly, place the dowel rod as much behind your knees as possible, and then sit back toward your heels.  If this puts too much pressure on your feet you place a blanket on the mat for extra cushion.  Using your hands or blocks for support, bear as much weight as you can stand on the dowel rod.  Take nine deep breaths in this pose, and then come up.  Roll the dowel rod about an inch further down, and repeat for another nine breaths.  Repeat that process once more, being sure the dowel rod stays on the calf muscle at all times.

I’ve practiced this myself a couple times this week, and in my Monday and Wednesday classes so far.  It’s amazing how light and airy your knees will feel while walking after this.

For the second asana you’ll need to place the dowel rod at the top of your mat, and roll the mat all the way up.  Then head to the wall, and sit in janu sirsasana a with the mat underneath the knee of the straight leg.  Adjust your distance from the wall so that the ball of the foot is touching the wall, knee bent, and the heel is away from the wall.  Place your hands next to your hips, inhale, and then exhale engaging your quad, straightening your leg as much as possible, and driving the back of the knee into your mat.  Do that nine times total on each side.

You won’t really feel a stretch in either pose, so don’t think you’re doing it wrong if you don’t.

It’s always best to listen to your body to know your limits, but on occasion our ego can get the best of us.  Sometimes we reach a little too far to get into a pose, and we ignore the pain in our knees.  It’s not good, but it happens.  Try adding these couple poses to the beginning of your practice, and let the healing begin.

If you’d like to see the yin yoga variation, check out this article from Bernie Clark.

As always, consult your doctor if you’ve got some serious knee issues going on before starting this.

Yoga Fusion

I’ve been thinking lately about how I teach, and what I want to teach.  I hope that my practice is ever evolving.  I don’t want to become stagnant in what I offer to my students, or to myself.  That’s why lately, if you’ve been coming to class, you’ve noticed a larger focus on the core.  Core strength, as I’ve been reminded through my own practice, is such an integral part of a complete yoga practice, and one that we shouldn’t ignore.

I’ve had many teachers that I draw experiences from.  Beth and Dyna were my first teachers when I was just starting yoga at the FAC in Shelbyville.  Beth was trained in Ashtanga at Yoga East and Dyna received her certification from YogaFit.  As I looked at the opportunities for learning in the area there just wasn’t much choice there.  It seemed like everyone either went to Yoga East or Eternal Health Yoga in Louisville.  I wanted something different, so that’s why I did mine at Yoga Ah in Cincinnati.

So much of my voice when I started out was a combination of Beth, Dyna, and Amber from Yoga Ah.  I can easily pick cues that I still use today, or things I may say, from each of them.  How I bring people out of savasana is heavily influenced by Beth.  Specific flowing poses I’ve learned only from Dyna.  Alignment cues, the rocket series, and so much more came from Amber.

As I gained more experienced teaching I started taking workshops from some of the best in the country.  I’ve learned Ashtanga from David and Doug Swenson, Iyengar from Rodney Yee and Coleen Saidman, Yin from Sarah Powers, Vinyasa from Sadie Nardini and Kathryn Budig, Baptiste Power Yoga from Lisa Black, and not the least of which is Holly Holland, one of my absolute favorite local teachers.

Whenever I returned from a workshop I’d try to bring back what I learned, and use that to further shape my voice.  I will never forget the first time I took an intensive with Yee in Toronto his insistence that my arms be straight in Warrior A for example.  I thought they were already straight, but I guess not enough.  I hear myself using that cue a lot, and that’s where it came from.

Paul Grilley was my introduction to yin on dvd, but Sarah Powers was my first live training with it.  Bernie Clark continues to be where I draw influence from in his books.  Side note, I love a good yin practice to create balance.

More recently when I had YogaGlo I fell in love with Jason Crandall’s teachings.  So many times I’ve taken classes where we can spend minutes in mountain pose working on the nuances of alignment, and it bores me to no end.  Crandall is very much alignment based, but he doesn’t let that lose the flow.  Half-salutations to get a rhythm going with the breath, lunge salutations, and different variations of half-pigeon are just a fraction of what I’ve learned from him.

All of those experiences I’m drawing on to meld them into my own voice.

If you were at my yoga class a few weeks ago at Norton Commons we practiced with the big stability balls.  I got a lot of good feedback right after class, but I’m mindful that it might not be what some people consider “traditional yoga”.  Much of that class was a combination of what I learned from taking yoga ball with Dyna, P90X2, which I’m working through now, and poses that I made up on my own.

That’s what I’m talking about with yoga fusion.  I’ll take some of what I learned here, a little there, add in some non-traditional moves, and hopefully it stills sounds like me.

P90X2, which I’m loving right now, has such an incredible focus on the core that it’s in just about everything.  You want to do bicep curls?  Lift one foot off the ground.  Working on tricep kickbacks?  Do them in a lunge.  Now does that mean we’re going to start adding dumbbell presses in a lunge flow sequence, or pushups with med balls?  Not at all. But I am going to take Warrior C, combine it with an oblique crunch, and it’s going to flow.

I’ve been adding these core moves in for about the last month, and I’ve already noticed progress on some inversions.  I just watched one of them lift in to tripod headstand last night with nary a shaky leg or wobbly arm in sight.  That takes focus, and core strength to do safely.

I like the direction this is heading, how I feel about it, the progress I’m seeing, so I’m going to keep working on this approach.  Maybe someday it’ll formally be listed on the calendar as yoga fusion.  For now, let’s see where this takes us.

New store launched at Square includes public and private classes

My new storefront at Square has just gone live!  Here you’ll be able to purchase single and class packs for yoga at Sweet Home Spun, and my newly introduced private and small group options.

Private and small group (up to 4 people) classes will be offered on Tuesdays at 6:30, and again on Saturday at 1:00 and 3:00.  If you have a specific date you’re interested in please fill out the form before purchasing the class to be sure it’s available, and I’ll get back with you.  Chances are if there is no class booked during that time on my schedule I’ll be available.

Private and small group classes are a great way for the beginner to get introduced to yoga, for the seasoned yogi to advance their practice, or for someone that may not be comfortable being  in a group setting.  If you’d like to share the instruction with friends you can do so with three others, and that will drop the price per person to less than that of the typical drop-in rate other studios charge.  If four people split the cost of the 5 class card that’s $12.50 or $15.00 per class per person depending on your location.

To keep the classes accessible to more people there are two price levels depending on the amount of travel involved.  The first group includes travel from Shelbyville to Frankfort, Taylorsville, LaGrange, and Eastern Jefferson County up to Middletown.  The expanded travel option includes Versailles, Midway and Jefferson County east of I-65, including Downtown Louisville.  When you provide your address on the date request form I’ll confirm which one you need before purchase.

I hope to see you in class soon my fellow yogis!

P90X2 = Yoga + Weights?

I’m halfway through week one on P90X2, and so far I love it.  Tony has managed to combine yoga poses, cardio and weight training into a program that’s very different from the first P90X.

On Saturday the first workout was X2 Core, and I was literally smiling as I went through it.  So many of the balance moves are traditional yoga poses with a little something added, and they really wouldn’t be out of place in a vinyasa type practice.  For example on one set you begin in Warrior C, and as you come back up that back knee gets pulled into the chest with the opposite elbow twisted to the outside of the knee.  Then it’s back down to Warrior C to begin again.  It takes focus, and core engagement to not fall out of that.

Sunday was plyocide, and I liked this one more than plyometrics from the first P90X. Yes, its still jump training, but it felt like it wasn’t as in your face.  Not sure how to describe it.  I’ll have to revisit this one.

Monday was either a rest day, or X2 Mobility and Stretch.  I decided to take the rest.  The little bit of foam rolling I had done on my triceps the day before during warmup had done a number on me, and so had plyocide for that matter.

Yesterday was X2 Total Body and X2 Ab Ripper.  Again we’re back to adding weight lifting in yoga poses, so I was pretty happy.  Preacher curls in Warrior C, shoulder presses in alternating leg lunges, and swimmer’s curl presses in a one-legged chair pose are just a fraction that combine yoga with weights to increase the difficulty with core engagement.

One movement that is going to take a lot of practice to be more comfortable in is pushup to side plank on medicine balls.  The pushup part on the balls is actually not that difficult, but adding that extra layer of balance to side plank is just killer.  I had to modify that one quite a bit yesterday by dropping a knee to the floor when going to the side.

X2 Ab Ripper follows the last workout, so you’re looking at 80 minutes for the day.  Again the theme here is it’s effective, but very different from P90X.  You’ll hold moves longer, and won’t do as many crunches.  So for the yoga audience you’ll know how to get in boat pose.  Start there, hug your side ribs, lower down your legs and back to where you can hold, and twist your torso enough that maybe that elbow touches the floor.  Hold for a couple breaths, then repeat on the other side.  It’s a slow burn that doesn’t happen right away, but it’s extremely effective. Get ready to see that one in an upcoming class soon.

As yogis we know the benefits of a focused practice where you need to engage the core to safely move through class.  This is absolutely not a replacement for a regular yoga practice, but it does make for an interesting program to see these poses incorporated with weight training the way that they’ve been.  I’ll update again once I’ve completed more of the workouts.

New website

I’ve moved to a new host in WordPress land, and brought most of my content over from my old website with Squarespace.  My schedule, pricing and forms are now under the new classes heading, which is where you’ll now find the class descriptions.

I’ve also added some new features such as a video gallery, and an archive of all my yoga music playlists.  I usually get asked for these after class, and until now they had to find me on Facebook.  I’m happy to say they’ll be here on my website from now on for the people who aren’t on FB.

It’s never too late


Last year I started a journey of getting myself in better shape.  It started last February when I had a physical, and let’s just say I was not in the greatest of shape.  I had high blood pressure,  high cholesterol, and my doctor said I was obese.  Curse you BMI chart!

I knew before I made the appointment that my cholesterol was probably bad, and that I would be ok this time if they put me on medication.  That is of course what happened.  20 mg of pravastatin was my new nightly routine.

Three months later I went back for a checkup, and the medicine was working.  My cholesterol was headed in the right direction, but that’s all that had changed.  Even though I had lost two pounds in these three months (I wasn’t really trying) she again said that I needed to get my weight under control.  And for whatever reason, I was ready to listen this time.  She gave me good suggestions on what to eat.  I told her I was running a 5K a few times a week.  She said try working yourself up to a 6K, and see what happens.  That little bit of prodding, with a lot of encouraging words from my family, and I was ready to make a difference.

I had heard one of my co-workers talk about My Fitness Pal weeks prior, so I downloaded it on my iPhone.  I really had no idea how much I needed to lose weight, and this really made it easy.  The first meal I ate normally, just to see how I was doing.  Well, let me tell you that if you have two donuts and a ginger ale for breakfast that your day is shot!

Seeing that I had already gone over my sugar for the day was the first key that I had to change how I was eating.  You’d think being vegetarian would automatically make you a healthy eater, but you know what?  Junk food and snacking is vegetarian.  So, there’s that.

I started in May at 239 lbs., and had lost nine pounds in the first week.  That was a HUGE motivation to continue.  I think the app was letting me eat close to 2200 calories a day at this point, and that’s actually quite a bit of food.  It’s amazing what you can eat if you stop the endless snacking.

I set my first goal at 200, and met that on August 25th.  I thought that wasn’t too bad, and set my second goal at 185.  Two months later I was there.  I just wanted to feel what I was like to be in the 170s, so I set a third goal at 179.  Another two months later, and I had hit that.

Created by MyFitnessPal – Free Calorie Counter

I’m still tracking my food, weighing myself daily, and exercising six days a week.  My calorie goal is on maintain now, and I’m in a healthy place.  For once my biometric results aren’t in the high risk category!

Screen shot 2014-01-24 at 10.32.11 AM

So, it IS possible.  Set yourself a goal, stick to it, and reward yourself.  Feel GOOD about yourself.  Heck, order a Birchbox subscription if it helps.

My tools for success

  • MyFitnessPal – Super easy calorie tracking for iOS, Android and the web.  Friend me, stivems.
  • Runkeeper – Smartphone app that tracks walking, running, and other types of exercise.  Integrates with the app above to sync your workouts.
  • Fitbit Zip – If you walk a lot you’ll be surprised at how many calories you burn during the day.  Also integrates with MyFitnessPal to deduct calories when you aren’t tracking exercise.
  • Fitbit Aria – Yes, it’s a scale, and yes, it’s expensive.  Look past that for a second.  You need to get in the habit of weighing everyday.  YOU are in control of your weight.  NOT some machine that you step on for 10 seconds.  Weighing every day lets you see the little successes as they happen.  If you only weigh once a week you may have picked the day that your body weight fluctuated a pound or two up, and then you could get discouraged.  Plus, this is a wifi scale, and will sync your weight to the Fitbit app, which will sync back to MyFitnessPal.  See, it’s only happy ecosystem =)
  • Exercise – Get in the habit of doing something.  If you use MFP to track you’ll see it can be hard to stay under goal without exercise.  Yoga should be a part of your regimen, but that doesn’t mean it’s all you have to do.  If doing yoga six days a week works, that’s fantastic.  For me, I used a combination of running, lifting weights via P90X and yoga.
  • Go prepared – If you’re going to eat out, then look up the nutritional info before you go.  I’ll even lookup restaurants in the parking lot on my phone before I go inside if I haven’t been there.  It’s not hard to eat out if you’re prepared.
  • Cheat meal – Don’t go hog wild, but going over on occasion isn’t going to kill you.  You deserve to treat yourself.  In fact, make yourself some croissants, and enjoy!  Just be sure to track it 😉