B Well, B Fit, B Happy

The 3 B's – by Sheri Myers

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The 3 B’s…

We all have our must-haves in life; what we feel we need to feel comfortable and safe.  We look to tangible items quite often to find that security.  Favorite foods or sweaters, pillows, teddy bears and the likes can invoke pleasant feelings.  Some of us rely on conditions, situations or other people. But regardless of what each person’s must-haves are, what we’re all really seeking is happiness and contentment in some form or another.

Wikipedia defines happiness as “a fuzzy concept and can mean many different things to many people. Part of the challenge of a science of happiness is to identify different concepts of happiness, and where applicable, split them into their components.”

Personally, I think it becomes a counter-productive process to over analyze what can be specifically considered happiness as it really is a subjective term.  So for myself, I created the 3 B’s.  Be well, be fit, be happy.  You can look at this as an equation or as 3 complimentary states of being.  But for me the 3 B’s travel as a pack.

First off, I should explain who I am and why I even feel I get an opinion on such an important topic.  My name is Sheri Myers. For the past 10 years, I have been the owner and master trainer of Fōkus Pilates Studio and Boutique in Laguna Beach, CA as well as a designer of women’s activewear and a line of hand made jewelry and accessories.  At Fōkus, I have not only taught hundreds of Pilates enthusiasts but have also had the honor of certifying a good number of men and women to teach Pilates to others.  In addition, I have created a retail and organic skin care boutique and organic airbrush tanning studio. Over the years I have hosted various professional advisors such as Physical Therapists, Structural Integration Specialists, Nutritionists, Holistic Healers  and Chiropractors.  These professionals have either been in as clients, co-workers or as guests providing services to myself or my clients.  Regardless of their roll, I have taken the opportunity to learn from each and every one of them so that I can enrich not only the experience my clients have at my studio but also so that I may enrich my own life and journey.

My clientele over the past decade has included professional athletes, moms, teens, post injury and surgery rehab cases and beings of all types with one common goal: to feel well… Alongside the obvious physical results of Pilates come the emotional and physiological results. Pilates empowers and shapes the core, lengthens and strengthens all muscles in the body and can improve posture and the execution of movement.  The longer, stronger body leads to an improved physical appearance which can lead to a more confident emotional state. All of this helps to increase body awareness and balance which can lead to the desire for a healthier lifestyle in general. All of these self-caused improvements create a sense of control over one’s general health which then can lead to mental strength and a sense of calm. Quite a chain of reaction!

In my experience working with the fabulously vast array of people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, I found that while each person may have different specific goals, they all want to feel good.  To feel good we must be well from the inside so that our body operates optimally.  To feel good we must be fit to some degree so that the outside of our body operates optimally.  To feel good, we must feel happiness.  I take a significant interest in acquiring all of the above, not just for myself but also for my clients and other people in my life.

This blog site is a step in furthering this endeavor.  I hope to share with my readers all the interesting, wonderful, helpful and sometimes disturbing facts about wellness, fitness and happiness that I learn from my research.  You, the reader, may benefit from the information or maybe able to teach me something I can benefit from.  Either way, my plan with this site is to reach the global community that shares my same goals: to Be Well, Be Fit, Be Happy…

Enjoy…

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15 Minutes a Day to a Better You!

We all have busy schedules. Kids, jobs, travel are a few reasons we give ourselves for why we don’t have time to take care of ourselves. Basic wellness can come from simply taking time each day to sit and pay attention to our bodies and minds. We need to take care of ourselves! It’s our most obvious and basic responsibility and it’s a daily job.

You’ve heard the references to treating your body as a temple. And, in a perfect world all of our temples would be shiny and grand but it is not a perfect world! So instead of envisioning the Taj Mahal, let’s start with a small steeple or a small boat. They’ll hold up fine for the most part when left at status quo but the elements and wear and tear will eventually take its toll. A little maintenance will go a long way to preserve and increase longevity in these small but effective structures. Taking 15 minutes a day to focus on 3 basic activities – breathing, movement, stretching – can do wonders.

Choose a time in the day, preferably the same time daily, where you can be alone in a quiet space for 15 minutes. Dress in comfortable clothing that allows you to move freely and create a small place on the floor that is padded enough to lie down on (use a yoga mat or the likes).

Breathe

Let’s start with the most basic of the 3 activities, breathing. We do it all day long but we don’t always take advantage of the healing effects of the breath. Lie flat on your back with your head slightly raised on a towel or pad so that your head is in-line with your spine or slightly higher. Bend the knees so that the feet are flat and the back is in a relaxed neutral position. Place your fingertips gently on the ribs and close your eyes. Try and take your self out of any stressful situations or chaos that maybe occurring in your life. Use visualization if need be and mentally transport yourself somewhere where you feel at peace. When ready, take several long breaths inhaling through the nose and gently exhaling through the mouth as if blowing out of a wide straw. As you inhale, concentrate on not only filling the lungs but also the entire torso and into the back. Oxygen is as important to survival as is water. Replenish the tissue and organs of the body with the air you take in and purge the toxins and unwelcome energy out of the body as you exhale. Spend about 5 minutes doing this. You’ll be amazed at the energy and clarity that come to the mind in this mere 5 minutes.

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Move

Open your eyes and keep yourself in this peaceful alignment. Keeping your knees bent and feet planted on the floor, place your arms along your sides and rest them at a 45 degree angle. Take a big inhale and turn your head to the right slowly as you fully exhale. Repeat on the left side and do this a few times. Next, shrug ur shoulders up toward your ears and then back down a few times allowing the shoulder blades to raise and lower. Next visualize a clock in your torso with the belly button being the center, the pubic bone 6:00 and the rib cage 12:00. With the knees bent and feet flat, tilt the pelvis towards 12:00 flattening the back. Then gently tilt the pelvis back towards 6:00 creating an arch in the spine. Repeat both positions gently quite a few times holding each one longer then the last and inhaling and exhaling throughout the movement. Finally, keep your left foot on the floor and raise your right foot off the floor. With the knee still bent, hold on gently to the right kneecap with the right hand and move the leg in a circular motion. 5 to 10 times each direction trying to keep the rest of the body perfectly still. Repeat on the other side. As you draw the circles, realize that the top of the leg connects to the hip in a “ball in socket” fashion and should move gently and smoothly. These simple moments should also only take a mere 5 minutes but will effectively improve mobility in your neck, shoulders and hips.

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Stretch

Stretching increases flexibility and range of motion in the joints and ligaments which can enhance regular movements, athletic performance and prevent injuries. It also increases blood flow to the muscles. Even a little can go a long way. Start by remaining on your back with the knees bent.  Place your right foot on top of your left thigh, just above the knee keeping the left foot on the floor. Gently apply pressure to the inside of the right knee opening up the hips. Release and repeat a few times, inhaling and exhaling throughout the movement. Then, keeping the light pressure on the right knee, use the left hand to pull the back of the left thigh and move both hips closer to navel. Increase the stretch gradually as you continue to breathe. Repeat on the other side. Next, stand up tall keeping the shoulders nice and low away from the ears. Slowly drop the right ear towards the right shoulder lengthening the left side of the neck. Repeat on the other side. Center the head again and raise the arms at chest level keeping them long and straight. Push the finger tips forward allowing the shoulder blades to widen and the pull the arms back bring the blades back together. Repeat a few times keeping the neck muscles relaxed. Finally, drop your arms back down to your sides and complete the 15 minutes with roll-downs. Standing with feet hip width apart, drop the chin and begin rolling the upper body down toward the toes rounding the back as if you have a beach ball pressing against your stomach. Careful not to lock the knees.  Once you reach your lowest point, begin to roll back up keeping the back rounded and the head and arms heavy the entire way up until you are standing completely upright. Repeat one more time being sure to take long breaths throughout the movement.

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Notice how you feel after taking 15 minutes to breath, move and stretch. Look in the mirror, most likely you’ll see a healthy flush in your cheeks, a longer better posture and an overall refreshed look. Take one more long cleansing breath and charge forward through your busy day knowing that no matter what comes your way, you contributed 15 minutes to your own wellness… Peace out…

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The Curse of the New Year’s Resolution

Most of us have made them and with the best intentions, so why are New Year’s resolutions so disappointing? Hmmm.  Let me think on that for a moment… Oh yeah!  Because we’re making a promise to ourselves to accomplish a goal that we have been unable to accomplish for the entire year prior!  What makes us believe that if we haven’t been able to follow our own lead for so long that one magical day, albeit the first day of a shiny new year, we will find enough dedication and discipline  to make things happen?  Maybe it’s optimism, maybe it’s guilt, but whatever the cause, it just isn’t working for us folks…

According to Forbes.com, over 40% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions and of that 40%, only 8% actually accomplish them.  Of course these resolutions come in many shapes and sizes ranging from resolving to finish a book that’s been half read all year to losing 20 pounds.  No matter what the magnitude of the resolution, they tend to fail.

I have a few theories on the reasons for the many misfires.  First off, a lot of resolutions are out of one’s reach and therefore unobtainable.  The resolver is setting themselves up for certain failure.  Another reason is the resolution is without merit.  It’s a shallow goal and gets lost in the shuffle due to it’s lack of importance. Finally, some of these well intended resolutions are made without consideration to the resolver’s reality.  Their schedules, commitments or basic habits do not allow for them to accomplish the goal they have set out for.

Across the board and throughout many studies involving behaviors pertaining to the New Year’s resolution, fitness and weight loss seem to consistently show up on the top 3 most resolved goals. Not coincidentally, these are 2 common goals that human beings have trouble accomplishing all year round!  So in the spirit of the season, I’m going to address my 3 theories for why New Year’s resolutions don’t stick apply them to fitness and weight loss specifically.  I’m hoping that these revelations will carry over to goals set all year round.

Setting Unobtainable Resolutions

When setting a goal that involves your health and fitness, it seems inspiring to shoot for the moon.  Why not strive for the body of the super model or to give up your very favorite high calorie vice?  I mean that means results, right?  Well, it can but in most cases it leads to disappointment.  Setting potentially unobtainable goals is setting yourself up for failure.  Instead, start smaller and work up to the biggies.  Start by setting tangible goals in which noticeable results are achieved quicker.  Seeing positive changes in your body that result from your own work and dedication is an awesome feeling and completely addictive!  Instead of striving for the magazine icon, choose a pair of jeans that just don’t fit anymore, close but not quite.The fact that they fit before means they can fit again. Once you’re rocking those again, take it a little further if you choose to and pull out the swimsuit that you weren’t quite comfortable donning and make that your next goal.  With regard to giving up that treat that you can’t imagine living without, be careful not to deprive yourself entirely of something that you love.  You’ll only end up cranky or overdoing it when you finally do get ahold of it again!  I tell my clients this all the time when they say they want to lose weight.  I ask them what they eat that they believe is truly counterproductive to losing weight.  I recommend that they have it in doses initially.  If it’s chocolate, have a square of organic dark chocolate when the craving hits instead of the giant slice of chocolate cake.  If it’s wine they feel they can’t live without, nurse a half of glass with dinner and finish the night with tea. You shouldn’t have to suffer and avoid all the simple pleasures to get fit, you just have to learn how to moderate.

Setting Meritless Resolutions

 I know we all know what these are and have made them regardless of the time of year.  For example, being nice to that obnoxious girl at the office, taking our trash out on time, etc…  How do these apply to fitness?  Well maybe bench pressing more even though you know you’re at your max.  Taking that Zumba class regularly even though you’ve absolutely hated it every time you’ve taken it just because the instructor has a perfect body that you want to have as well.  Going vegan for a year, not because you have an issue with harming animals or have digestion issues but just to see if you can do it.  Those are examples of meritless goals in my opinion.  They’re not goals that you are making to obtain any long term results really, just to see if you can do it.  Time is precious, spend it working toward wellness and goals that mean something to you.

Setting Unrealistic Resolutions

Different than unobtainable goals, unrealistic goals are set without consideration to your own daily reality and existence.  When you make a fitness plan for yourself, all things should be considered.  Your work schedule, home life and responsibilities, sleep patterns, relationships, geographical location, all of it. The bartender that works until 3:30 am 4 nights a week would not be wise to commit to the 8:30 am local boot camp.  The stock broker that works market hours shouldn’t buy a package of the 7:00 pm kick boxing class at their gym. The mom of 3 that only has between 8:00 am and 1:30 pm 3 days a week to do absolutely everything she needs to get done probably shouldn’t commit to a 2 hour tennis match 3 days a week.  We have to be realistic about what our lives will allow time for so that fitness does not become a burden or inconvenience.  We have jobs and domestic responsibilities.  Bartender should try and find a gym or class in the afternoon before the bar shift starts.  The endorphins produced during the workout will give an extra boost of energy to get through the long tough shift.  Stock broker should find a lunch time or late afternoon work out that allows for an early bedtime.  And mom of 3 could drop the kiddos at school and head straight to a 1 hour morning Pilates or Yoga class that finishes with enough time to get the rest of it done and still pick up the kiddos at the bus.

Circling back to the topic of New Year’s resolutions and why they don’t work, it’s all about being realistic and honest with ourselves.  Fitness and wellness should be priorities in our lives but also an obtainable and tangible part of our regular routines.  We should be challenged but also a willing participant.  The goals we set should be long term and with the understanding that longevity of life is mostly attributed to taking care of ourselves.  When we can’t make time for it or force unpleasant routines upon ourselves, we’re setting ourselves up for failure.  Just as making a once a year promise to ourselves to do something we should have done all year long.  This New Year’s Eve, toast your friends, family and a world of endless opportunities then spend the entire next 12 months getting it done, just like you did the last 12 months…

2076BF~1
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What is Pilates and Why Would We Do Such a Thing?

If I had a dollar for every person that has said to me: “So Pilates is pretty much the same thing as Yoga, right”? This statement/question has always given me a grin rather than a snarl. I respect Yoga as well as many other methods of movement and exercise, especially the ones that I find challenging. I grin because it is amazing at this point in time that so many people are still uninformed about the phenomenon that is called Pilates…

Let’s begin where I start with my certification students, at the history. Here, I will give the quick and dirty version. Joseph Pilates was a german man born in the late 1800‘s. As a child, he was very sick. He suffered from asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever, and in an effort to heal himself, he dedicated his entire life to improving his physical strength. As a young man, he had a very diverse athletic palate. According to his accounts, he was a skier, boxer, body-builder and a gymnast and through his research became a healer of sorts. While working in an internment camp in England during WWI, he created exercise routines for the bed-ridden patients using the bed springs as resistance devices. He found that the movements not only helped with the muscle atrophy but also enabled the patients to heal faster from the sicknesses and injuries that ailed them. He took that further and created a method of movements that he called “contrology” and began training fellow inmates. He claimed that the strength and mobility that he and the inmates gained from contrology helped them survive the fast spreading influenza epidemic that was running it’s course through the camp. Shortly after his release, he began training officers and the likes back in Germany and was pressured by the German army to train their troops. His disapproval of the political and social situations motivated him to migrate to the U.S. in the early 1920’s. On the ship that transported him to New York, he met his future wife, Clara. It has been suggested that she brought in the concept of breath, flow and body awareness to his method of contrology and together they created what is now known as Pilates. Once in New York city, they started a studio in a building that they shared with the New York Ballet Company and, as they say, the rest is history…

Like the reference to Pilates and Yoga, I also get a grin when I’m asked the question: “Pilates is just for dancers, right”? Actually, it was not created with dancers in mind and in fact, according to old videos of Joseph, he trained his initial clients far more in the manner of a drill sergeant than a ballet master. I’ve read that it was the influence of Clara as well as the dancers of the New York Ballet that helped Joseph’s method of contrology evolve into the beautiful and articulate method of movement that it is known for now but initially it looked like a rigorous method of athletic training.

OK, so the history lesson is complete. Now let’s talk about why today we would so vigorously do something that originated in the mind of a German man in the early 1900’s. Let’s start by talking about the “Power House”. In layman’s terms that’s your abdominal wrap. The muscles that work together to maintain your posture and execute basic postural movement. In order to maintain a strong, healthy spine, we must strengthen and utilize our core muscles, especially those that wrap around to the spine. Pilates teaches us to not only strengthen those muscles but also to utilize them in regular movement. You’ve heard “use your legs” when picking up a heavy box. Yes, strong quads and gluts will certainly assist you in a big pick up but you still need your core, and your back has enough to do as it is. Once the core muscles are strong, they bring strength to every move you make. Lifting that heavy box, reaching to a high shelf, swinging a golf club or tennis racquet. When you have the strength and focus to let those inherently superior muscles do their job, the rest of the network will fall into place.

Pilates also teaches you to breath into and through a movement. Much like lamaze or Yoga teaches the importance of breath, Pilates teaches you how to connect the oxygen input and release into every movement which makes an exercise more efficient and less taxing on the body. The breath that you are taught in Pilates can also double as method of micro-meditation and an entry into body awareness, pain management and stress relief.

Finally, let’s talk flexibility… When our bits are tight, we are less likely to move freely in space and more likely to cause ourselves physical injury. There are many methods of increasing range and flexibility. Some are safe and effective while others can actually cause more harm than good. One thing that sets Pilates apart from other methods of flexibility training is that it uses concentric, eccentric and isometric stretching together. In a nutshell, we are stretched through shortening a muscle, lengthening a muscle and by creating resistance for that muscle. In most cases, all 3 are accomplished in a single Pilates movement. Pilates enthusiasts claim to feel like their muscles are longer and stronger after consistently practicing. In the long run these physical changes cause overall improvement in the posture and core which leads to more efficient movements and less unnecessary injuries. Not to mention a beautifully toned body.

So while Pilates certainly can have a synergistic relationship with Yoga and various other methods of movement and exercise, it really does stand on it’s own and offers benefits that cannot be achieved elsewhere. Not to mention the endless modifications and variations that can be made to the movements to allow almost anyone to benefit from it. Pilates truly is for everyone… Thanks Joe…

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