Learning how to engage the abs is truly a process that takes a lifetime.
For most of us, our lifestyles don't support proper functioning of the abdominals. Whether you spend your days playing golf or sitting at a computer, how you spend your time determines how your fascial system organizes itself to best suit your needs.
Yes, you did indeed hear that correctly. Your fascial system is quite literally continually remodeling itself to meet the demands you're placing upon it.
Sit with me now and take a deep breath.
Take a deep breath.
Notice how your body responds. Did you relax or tense up? Or didn't you notice anything at all? Whatever the response is, don't judge it, just be with it.
Imagine that your lungs function similarly to an umbrella. As you inhale sense that your rib cage is rolling out and up. As you exhale, sense that your ribs are rolling down and in.
Notice how your belly naturally responds to your breath.
Usually, the belly will expand out and relax on the inhale and deflate and gently contract on the exhale. This is natural and good unless you're in the middle of doing an abdominal exercise, and thus taking a big, deep belly breath could equate to straining your back.
Next time you exhale, purse your lips and imagine you're blowing out a bunch of candles on a cake. Notice how your abdominals respond. Can you sense how your waistband gently compresses in? Congratulations! Those are your obliques responding to your exhale! And when you purse your lips, the natural action of the obliques is amplified.
Next time you inhale, continue to imagine your ribs are rolling out and up like an umbrella, and simultaneously maintain a sense of compression around your abs, i.e. as if you have a tight pair of pants on.
Not only will this breathing exercise strengthen your abs, it will actually encourage a stretch throughout your rib cage by way of expanding areas of the rib cage and lungs that don't often receive a big influx of air.
You can practice this anywhere you like! Cue yourself to practice this while washing dishes or even while sitting on the couch watching t.v.
As your body becomes more familiar with this practice, it will be easier to apply it when you do abdominal exercises. Over time, you'll notice a significant shift not only in how you engage your abdominals but how you support your skeleton overall.
Since COVID19, most of us have been working out from home. My live, online classes have been very popular (yay!), and I've absolutely LOVED teaching them.
Many, many thanks to those of you have joined class. Connecting with you every day is one of the highlights of my day.
If you want to see my current schedule CLICK HERE.
You may not even realize it, but when you're joining me for an online class, I'm actually teaching from my garage...and I can't believe I'm saying this, but I've totally fallen IN LOVE with my garage. It's my she-cave of wellness goodness.
Joining a live class is a wonderful way to receive cueing for your specific body and in-the-moment answers to your questions. As an extra bonus, these classes have created a wonderful way to connect with others and to be a part of a community. I encourage my students to ask questions throughout class which allows everyone to learn from each other.
Collecting a couple of tools for your home workouts can make a big difference to the effectiveness of your workouts and to your experience in class. However, a pillow, a towel and two cans of food can also do the trick!
If you are curious about what tools to get, here's a list of my favorites:
Soft Foam Roller
There are SO MANY different foam rollers to choose from. However, most foam rollers are too firm and can create a stressful response in the body and damage the fascia. A firm massage is excellent, but a painful massage is not which is why I prefer the soft foam roller.
Manduka PRO yoga mat thick
Manduka PRO yoga mat lite
Manduka Eko yoga mat
Manduka Organic Spray for yoga mats
You can also visit Manduka's website and bundle several items together like a yoga mat, blocks, yoga mat cleaner & yoga strap. Enter ISHBELWELL at checkout.
Gaiam yoga mat
Gaiam Extra Thick yoga mat
Manduka is absolutely the queen bee in the yoga mat world. If you plan to use your yoga mat often, I would highly recommend springing for a Manduka mat.
Deciding between a thick or a thin mat is really up to your personal preference. If you notice that your bones feel achy when you lay on hard surfaces, you might consider buying the heavy mat to provide you a little extra padding. But, the heavy yoga mat is also...heavy! And if you're planning on carting it around to various locations, it might feel like a lot to lug around!
Yoga mats like Gaiam (which sell for around $20-$30) have a tendency to lose their grip and as time goes on, shed tiny bits of yoga mat onto your hands and in between your toes. When you're trying to enjoy your workout, this is not fun and can tremendously distract from your experience.
If buying a Manduka yoga mat isn't in your budget, Gaiam is a reliable company. You will notice that the mat begins to degrade in about 6 months after regular use. Gaiam also makes a very thick mat which is best for Pilates, but is not ideal for yoga.
Also, cheap yoga mats are horrendous on the environment. I love Manduka's Eko yoga mat because it's recyclable and biodegradable...and it's a long-term mat that you won't have to replace for years.
It might seem silly to buy yoga mat cleaning spray, but yoga mats are quite absorbable and need a special cleaning product to keep them fresh and long-lasting. I love Manduka's Organic yoga mat cleaning spray. It smells delicious and is totally natural which makes a big difference when your up-close-and-personal with your mat.
Manduka yoga bolster
Yoga Accessories bolster
There truly are no words for how much I love yoga...and really, for how much I NEED yoga. Over the last 20 years I've practiced and taught every single type of yoga there is: kundalini, vinyasa, iyengar, anusara, yin, hatha, restorative. Some forms of yoga only require a yoga mat. Other forms of yoga are tremendously improved with a few helpful tools.
Of all the forms of yoga I've practiced over the years, yin and restorative yoga are by far my favorite. They involve deeply-held stretches that are not only amazing for remodeling your fascial system but also heal the nervous system.
A yoga bolster is what makes yin and restorative yoga enjoyable...and possible! Both yin and restorative yoga are most effective when a participant can truly relax into the position. Thus, if you're ready to dive into a deep, restful yoga practice like yin or restorative yoga, you'll need a bolster, a yoga strap and yoga blocks.
On Wednesday's @ 12:30 I teach an online Calming Yoga, Meditation and Self-Massage class. You can experience the stress-relieving benefits of yin/restorative yoga in this class. CLICK HERE for more information.
Gaiam yoga block
Manduka Cork yoga block
Manduka Recycled yoga block
As I've previously stated in this blog post, Manduka is absolutely my favorite yoga tool company, but if you're tight on money, Gaiam is a good second-choice. Yoga tools can be incredibly tough on the environment, which is why I love the many recycled options Manduka sells.
If you're debating between the Manduka cork and recycle blocks, there are pro's and con's for both. The cork yoga block is a little bit sturdier than the recycled block and thus will provide a bit more support. Conversely, the recycled yoga block is ideal for restorative and yin yoga as it as a slightly softer feel and "gives" more.
Yoga blocks are used in all forms of yoga to provide extra support in restorative postures as well as in standing postures. You'll be amazed by how many exercises you can incorporate these blocks into.
Want a workout that will leave your inner thighs and your abs screaming? Yoga blocks are your answer.
Want to open your heart and relax your spine? You'll need a yoga block for the full spa-experience.
EKTOS 100% Wool Yoga Blanket
Aside from yoga mats, I'm the most particular about yoga blankets. When it comes to yoga there's absolutely no comparison between a regular blanket and a wool blanket.
Wool blankets are thick and highly malleable which translates really well to restorative/yin yoga. You can adjust the shape of the wool blanket to accommodate your body, and it's incredibly cozy for savasana.
While it's unlikely your blanket will get dirty enough to require cleaning, here's a word on caring for your wool blanket:
1. You shouldn't wash your wool blanket in a top loading machine with an agitator. It can severely damage the blanket. If you don't have a front loading washing machine, take it to dry cleaner. Wash it in cold water, gentle cycle, with a little soap which is gentle or specifically made for wool.
2. Line/air dry as directed, then put it in the dryer with 3 tennis balls on NO HEAT/FLUFF for 10-20 min cycles. It's normal for the blanket to shed a bit and thus you should clean our your lint screen each time.
3. Sometimes people are freaked out by the smell of wool. The smell comes from lanolin which is a naturally occurring substance in wool. The smell will lessen with time.
Manduka yoga strap 10 feet
5BILLION Yoga Stretching Strap w/ grips
Yoga straps are really helpful for supporting the arms and legs in yoga poses. Sometimes, a yoga strap is the difference between you being able to do a pose with ease and not being able to do it at all.
The 5BILLION Yoga Stretching Strap is a nice option for those of you whose hands get tired holding a traditional yoga strap. I like this option for people who have arthritis in their hands, or who struggle with rotator cuff issues.
STOTT 2lb Toning Balls
When it comes to Pilates-specific equipment, it's hard to beat STOTT Pilates equipment. It's incredibly well-made and designed by Pilates instructors who have decades upon decades of experience.
What's the difference between a toning ball and a hand weight? A lot actually!
There are entire Pilates workouts designed around toning balls. The fact that they roll diversifies the Pilates experience and allows for Pilates exercises normally done on large pieces of Pilates equipment (like the reformer) to be done on the mat.
I promise you - you will be amazed at how much you can do with these little guys!
Thera Band Non-latex medium tension
Thera Band Non-latex heavy tension
The Thera Band company is the gold standard in exercise bands.
I love these bands because they're latex-free, and lot of people have skin reactions to latex.
The medium tension pack is great for beginner to intermediate Pilates students.
The heavy bands are absolutely NOT ideal for most people. I would only recommend these for people who are used to lifting heavy weights. But, if you are a weight-lifter, I can promise you that you will be sweating in no time with these. They can turn a traditional Pilates practice up 10 notches and make your gym workout look like child's play.
7 INCH EXERCISE BALL
J-Fit exercise therapy ball 7inch
This guy may seem small, but it packs a mighty punch.
With the right choreography, your glutes, abs, arms, legs and back will get the workout of their lives.
Jabra Elite 65t Earbuds
Ring Light iPad & iPhone Holder
Logitech C920 Webcam
I am absolutely allergic to technological devices. I see one, and I feel like I break out in hives! Some of my dearest friends have helped me compile this list, and I am forever grateful to them, as understanding how all of these devices work and which one is good, etc. is totally over my head and is of no interest to me!
If you are taking online exercise classes, it can sometimes be hard to hear your instructor when you step far away from your device...which you often need to do so that they can see your form. The Jabra Elite 65t are nice to have in this situation.
The Ring Light iPad & iPhone Holder is a natural light + a device holder in one. This stand makes it super easy to move your ipad/iphone up and down or tilt forward or back to get the perfect angle. One of the biggest challenges doing group classes or private sessions online is figuring out how to get your device in the right position. It can be very frustrating when it's falling off the chair you put it on and falling on its face, etc! In addition, the ring light is adjustable so that you can warm or cool the look of the light to help eliminate shadows and made you easier to see.
Word to the wise: when initially getting your Ring Light set up, do so on a carpeted area. As you figure out how all of the attachments work, it is not uncommon for the frame holding your ipad to bounce around or eject your ipad without warning. This happened to me, and my poor, beautiful ipad was smashed. Miraculously it still works, but nonetheless a whole heck of a lot of stress could have been avoided if I was on carpet.
The Logitech C920 Webcam is a great choice for clarifying your video quality...so I've been told by numerous people, but I haven't tried it myself yet. I'm just ordering mine today, so I will touch back on what I think of it. Right now I'm just nervous about how easy it's going to be to set up, but as with all technological devices, I'm learning it's trial and error.
Remember, you don't need any tools to make your online class experience enjoyable, BUT, if you are able to spend a little on equipping your home studio, you'll find that your workouts can be even more enjoyable and effective than they already are.
The links I've used in this post are called “affiliate links.” Which means, if you click on the link and make a purchase from that vendor, based on my recommendation, I may earn a commission for that sale, future sales or recurring billings.
I only promote things that I truly believe will benefit you. In addition, I only recommend products or services that I’ve personally used and benefitted from myself.
I I haven’t tried it or used it myself and had a positive experience, I’m not going to suggest it to you. So you can rest assure that anything I recommend is going to be the highest quality.
One other thing worth mentioning is that I am not given free products, services or tools in exchange for a review or promotion on my sites or to my subscribers. The only compensation I receive comes by way of an affiliate commission if you purchase it yourself.
Air Fry Carrot Chips
To slice these carrots into thin strips, I break the carrot in half and then put it in the food processor with the slicer attachment on which creates thinly sliced carrot “chips”...okay, maybe “long chips” is a better way to describe this.
Then, I toss the carrot “long chips” in avocado oil and any spices of your choosing. To keep it simple try for garlic powder, salt and pepper.
Air fry on 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Keep an eye on these as they can burn before you’ve had a chance to say “yummy”!
CLICK HERE for the link to the Breville airfryer. Not only does it air fry, but it also slow cooks, baked and dehydrates too!
My daughter gives these cutie pie muffins a "MORE" which is the best compliment there is. Plus, I don't care if these muffins are all she eats for dinner because they're packed with vitamin C, protein and healthy fats.
12 muffin tins
10 cutie oranges (mandarins)
1/2 cup monk fruit/maple syrup
2 1/2 cups almond flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup blueberries
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place muffin tins in muffin pan.
Place cuties in a saucepan and cover with water. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove from water, drain well and let cool.
Remove skins off half of the cuties. Leave the other half with skins intact. Discard removed skins.
Place cuties with skins in blender. Place cuties without skins in blender. Blend well.
Place eggs and vanilla extract in a bowl and beat until fluffy and doubled in size.
Add almond flour, sweetener, baking soda, and blended oranges. Mix well.
Fold in blueberries.
Spoon batter into muffin tins, filling 2/3 of the way up.
Bake for 15-20 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes.
I recorded a YouTube video today specifically made for a need I've been hearing from my clients and students. If you have a loved one who is elderly and has trouble getting on and off the floor, it can be more challenging to find workout classes online. I filmed this short video for them
The perfect solution for beat-up pears. #GF and sweetened with dates. #gfbaking can be tricky for the digestive system due to all of the gluten free flours used. A lot of people become gluten free, and then continue to struggle with symptoms due to molecular mimicry - a process by which the #immunesystem “brushfire” style reacts to any food that resembles gluten. I struggled with grains for years not knowing that GF actually meant #grainfree for my body. These days I skip the gluten free baking mixes and go right for the almond flour. These muffins are moist and bouncy just like any self-respecting muffin should be. And they pass the best test of all - my picky babe eats them right up! #ishbelwell #noprocessedfoods #nosugar
Your #adrenalglands are arguably one of the most hard-working organs in the body. They not only manage the stress handling system, but they also play a vital role in #sexhormones, #energy and vitality, #blood sugar, #immunity and the ability to have a sense of well-being. They produce #antiaging support and play a part in inflammation and fluid balance. Stress can affect their function in monumental ways. While conventional medicine only recognizes #addisonsdisease and #cushingsdisease as adrenal disorders requiring treatment, the adrenals often struggle unnoticed for years with symptoms ranging from #hormonebalance, to #fatigue, to trouble sleeping, to an inability to handle stress, to a suppressed immune system. People with adrenal struggles are often told they have thyroid issues, only to discover their thyroid is technically within normal range. There are a myriad of ways to support the adrenals. The best place to start is in the gut. Pathogens inhabiting the gut and food sensitivities compromise GI function and cue the immune system and the adrenals to react. One of the best ways to alleviate stress on the adrenals is to identify GI pathogens and food sensitivities, which not only dramatically increases absorption of vital nutrients and improves overall health, but also alleviates the immune system and adrenals from constantly having to exert energy to deal with these GI threats. Often, issues related to the adrenals are quickly improved when gut healing and food sensitivities are identified and resolved. #ishbelwell #adrenalhealth #gastrointestinal #gihealth