Friday, July 31, 2009

Dear (Food) Diary,

When I was a kid, I kept a diary. A series of them, actually. There was always a diary beside my bed, and each night I would look forward to writing in it. I coveted the blank pages upon which I would write my dreams, and my experiences. As adults, we still keep diaries, but we refer to them as journals. The only time I hear an adult referring to their "diary," it's their food diary.

If you want to know what you're eating, to either lose or gain weight, or to eat
healthier, keep a food diary. I know that you've probably heard this before, but really, it works. A food diary doesn't judge what you're eating as good or bad, it just makes a nice list of all the foods (and beverages) that you are putting into your body.

I've done them before. More than a couple of times. I never liked them because, first, it's a pain to write down every little bite you eat. "One of my son's fries? I have to write that down?," I would question my nutritionist. The answer, of course, was yes. It's not the big, noticeable meals that catch you by surprise, it's the little things. A fry here, a chicken nugget there. Before you know it, you've unknowingly eaten a couple hundred unwanted calories. Writing everything down is a gentle way to get real with what you eat. You can even approximate the calories at days end by plugging in the foods at

When I used to keep a food diary, I would always be sure to write down any information I had.  I like eating Amy's Organics frozen foods. My favorites are the Black Bean Vegetable Enchilada, and the Spinach Feta in a Pocket. While they were cooking in the oven, I'd write down the calories, fat, sodium, protein, and fiber content from the back of the package. One less thing to look up on the calorie counter later on.

I had one other problem with keeping my food diary. I could never find that silly little piece of paper that I'd written my breakfast foods on. Monitoring the paper that was logging the food, in addition to monitoring the food itself, was just too much work. I finally figured out a plan to make my food diary work, and it's very easy. Just follow these simple guidelines:
  • Buy a really pretty, pocket size book. This can be lined or not, and can range from a a $0.79 one from the stationary store to a higher end journal. Try the blank journal by Nomad ( If you are like me and enjoy writing on quality paper, spend the extra few bucks. Whatever you pick should support the type of person you are. The point is to get a book that you are going to want to handle often. Make it as pleasurable as possible.
  • Write down everything you eat, but if your eating pattern changes in the process, let it. Often times, people become more aware of what they are putting into their mouths the minute they start writing things down. Sometimes, this makes them feel that they are being dishonest because they are not charting their normal eating pattern. This is okay. It just means that the journal is already working. Thinking about your food is helping you to sort through what you really want to eat, and hopefully helping you make solid choices.
  • Include all beverages, and whatever you put in them. For example: iced tea with three packs of stevia, or 12 oz. coffee with a splash of skim milk. Every calorie (and water) should be charted for best results. (If you drink water throughout the day, chart each time you open a bottle and the amount.)
  • Keep your diary for a minimum of five days to see a pattern. Once you know what you are eating, you will know what to add, and what to take away. You will see if you're eating enough fruits, veggies, and getting enough protein and fiber. You may see that you have a slump at a certain time of the day, which will allow you to plan a healthy snack for that time instead of hitting the vending machine or the drive-thru.
  • Write your feelings next to your food with every entry. If you dined with friends, had good conversation, and laughed a lot, write that down. If you ate some nuts because you were bored, write that down too. Your motivation to eat and the food choices you make during certain moods are very important. Also, if you have a strong feeling after eating something, be sure to note that. If you smoke, quit!, or at least write down every cigarette as if it were a food entry. 
  • Lastly, be sure and write the times that you eat. Not just "breakfast," but "7:30 a.m." This will help you see when you eat for energy, hunger, and patterned eating.

Tiffany Palisi is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, Lifestyle Fitness Coach, and Group Fitness Instructor. She has extensive training in Pre- and Post-Natal Fitness, and is a Johnny G certified Spinning Instructor. She trains women in their home, and will be doing Lifestyle Fitness Coaching in her home office (and by telephone) beginning in September. She is currently working toward her Holistic Fitness Specialty certification.  Palisi works exclusively with women.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

One Size (Bikini) Fits All

I am spending this entire week in my bikini. This is not such a shocker, since I've been wearing my bikini(s) all summer long. But since this week will be spent seaside, it got me thinking about body image.

Okay, okay. Those who know me already know that body image is a big thing for me. A great deal of my work is helping people to have a better body image, and really get comfortable with it. It's taken me years to feel good about my own body, but the comfort I have now is freeing.

It wasn't always easy. As recently as a few years ago, I was obsessed with every inch of my body. I would grab parts of myself and blow raspberries into the air signifying my unhappiness with it. Real adult-like, I know. When I first did it in front of my boyfriend -- who I'd tell (about 30 times a day) 'I just want to lose ten pounds. Just this!' and grab at my waist or my thighs blowing raspberries  -- he laughed it off. But months later, he started to get sick of it. He loved me just as I was, and it irritated him that I was so rough with myself.

Recently, I was discussing body image with a colleague, and she made the greatest point I've ever heard. She said, "We are all just a bad accident away from being 'not beautiful.' Isn't it better to accept your body for what it is, and your appearance for what it is, and love yourself for who you are inside? Isn't that what really matters?" She's right. You don't love someone for their beauty, or lack thereof, you love someone for who they are inside, and how they make you feel when you are with them.

Still, tackling the external is important. If you aren't at ease with the outside, you focus on it. Let me challenge you to release yourself from being bound to any standard. It's so easy, too. Beauty is subjective. Though our society tends to have a certain type of cover girl (which, by the way, changes periodically - think Marilyn Monroe, followed by Twiggy; Cindy Crawford followed by Kate Moss), we personally tend to have our own preferences. To some, being curvaceous is a compliment, whereas others beam when being told that they are shrinking away to nothing. Some women want curves like Kim Kardashian, while others want a lithe body like Kate Hudson. 

The problem comes, I believe, when we think that we aren't meeting our own standards. While we can change our bodies to some degree though diet and exercise, we cannot turn a pear into an apple. What we can change is the way we view ourselves.

I think I look best in summer. I like being outside, getting my vitamin D. The sun completely transforms my hair to a near platinum color. My feet are always in open-toed shoes, and I am most often wearing clothing that is not restrictive. I live in my beach cover-ups and bikinis. They don't cut into my body, creating unattractive bulges. And when I wear a bikini, though I may not be perfectly flat-abbed, I feel sexy. 

Kenny Zimlinghaus, radio personality on Cosmo Radio and stand-up comedian, has a bit airing on the radio. He talks about the ridiculous idea of a one piece. In his spiel, he informs that instead of hiding what a woman may want to hide, the one-piece actually accentuates it. I agree. I think that most women, regardless of what size they are, look better in a (well-fitting) bikini than they do a one-piece.

Starting today, decide to love yourself for all that you are. Love your extra few pounds, or your twig skinny legs. You don't have to be perfect (because, really, who is?), you just have to be good enough.

Tiffany Palisi is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, Lifestyle Fitness Coach, and Group Fitness Instructor. She has extensive training in Pre- and Post-Natal Fitness, and is a Johnny G certified Spinning Instructor. She trains women in their home, and will be doing Lifestyle Fitness Coaching in her home office (and by telephone) beginning in September. Palisi works exclusively with women.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Everything You Need to Know About Spinning - An Interview with Cindy Bell of Pedal Spin Studio

I remember my first spin class like it was yesterday. I was newly engaged and wanted to lose 20 lbs. before my wedding. My friend, Andy, suggested I join her at a spin class, and though I hadn't done a lick of cardio in years, I thought it would be easy. I mean, really, anyone can ride a bike.  Right? We went to her all-girl gym, grabbed our water bottles, and entered the spinning room. The bikes were assembled in a U shape; the instructor at the front, commanding our attention. She was a lawyer from New York, with bleach blonde hair and an accent that made you immediately think... Brooklyn

As soon as I sat on the bike, I wanted to stand. The seat felt really uncomfortable. I was in and out of the seat, but always in the pedals, before the class even started. My feet were strapped in so I had nowhere to go. My friend reminded me to tuck my laces in so that they wouldn't get caught, and as I did it, I remember thinking, '45 more minutes, just get it done.' When the instructor asked if it was anyone's first time, I pretended not to hear. Big mistake.

The lights went out, the music blared, and off we went. It was exhilarating. We did hills, jumps, and sprints. I felt like Lance Armstrong, and (almost) completely forget my discomfort. What a ride.

I woke up the next day, on Christmas Eve, so incredibly sore that getting out of bed was painful. My quads were sore to the touch. Walking down the stairs was torture. But the excitement of the class drew me back, again and again, until finally I became a Certified Spinning Instructor through Johnny G (Mad Dogg). I know now that if I'd just taken it easy and stayed in the saddle, I wouldn't have been so ridiculously sore that next day. As a trainer and instructor, I always tell people to check out a spinning class, but I also tell them to start slowly.

There is a studio devoted exclusively to spin classes, called Pedal Spin Studio, with two locations Montrose and Rancho, California. (Ugh! Dream come true!) I immediately contacted Cindy Bell, co-owner of Pedal Spin Studio, to get the details on her studio, spin, and all the things you need to know to get started!

BF: I've been spinning since 1998. I think it's the greatest form of cardiovascular exercise a person can do. It builds muscle, burns fat, and gets your heart and lungs working. For people who have never taken (or seen) a spinning class, explain what it is and how it works. What should they wear, how much water should they bring, and what do they absolutely need to know before going?
CB: The most important thing you should bring is an open mind and a good attitude.  Wear comfortable, breathable workout attire with hard soled athletic shoes or cycling shoes.  Bring plenty of water - you will need it and a towel if you club or studio does not provide one.  (We do at Pedal).  Expect to sweat, a lot, but leave invigorated.

BF: My heart belongs to spinning. Truly, it does. I began spinning with a friend who begged me to go. Instead of taking it easy and staying in the saddle for the first class, I did what the instructor said. Jumps, hills, the whole shebang. The next day, I couldn't sit down without first bracing myself. My quads were on fire. What advise and direction do you give to new riders?
CB: I can't agree with you more!  I was introduced to spin by my partner and sister-in-law, Michelle.  I couldn't believe people voluntarily did this to their bodies on a regular basis.  I couldn't stand stay out of the saddle at all and limped away from class... but.. Michelle convinced me to keep going, and now it I'm hopelessly devoted.  The best advise I can give to all first time students is take it at your own pace.  Know your body's limitations and respect them.  We were all beginners at one time and there is no shame in backing off the resistance and staying in the saddle.  The key is hanging in there.  That's the beauty of SPIN.  You will be surprised at how quickly your body adapts and improves.

BF: I know people who are not certified yet they teach indoor cycling at gyms. Why is it important to have an instructor who is certified?
CB: I think the most important aspect to certification is safety.  The SPIN certification means you have been trained in all aspects of indoor cycling, from proper bike set-up, form, and safely to heart rate energy zones.  Certified instructors can not only lead a challenging class, but are educated in why certain moves are beneficial and why contradictory moves are harmful.
BF: What is a typical class like at your studio? (We will get to your specialty classes in a minute.)
CB: A typical class at our studio is a truly unique experience.  Coming in, you are greeted with a smiling face and a fresh towel.  If it's your first time in the studio, you are introduced to your instructor and asked if you have any questions, concerns or physical issues you may have and the bike property adjusted.  Once you are set up and comfortable, that's when the magic happens.  The lights are dimmed, the black lights turned on, the music starts and the show begins.  The music and teaching style varies with each instructor, but the basic format is standard. We start with a 5 minute warm up to get the blood flowing, release any tension and get you body prepared.  Once warmed up, plan on working hard and sweating for 45 minutes, followed by a 5 - 10 minute cool down and stretch.

BF: I love that you offer specialty classes like Pedal Yoga and Pedal Tone. A lot of studios try and incorporate bands and weights while on the bike, which is a no-no in cycling, but you do it off the bike, as part of the class. What motivated you to start these classes?  (And I wish I lived in California...)
CB: We wanted to be able to offer our clients a nice balance in their workouts. SPIN is such a fantastic cardio/strength workout, but the body cannot thrive on cardio alone.  The pilates inspired movements of our tone class and the muscle lengthening of Yoga complement the SPIN workout and give you an overall mind/body connection.  Some of clients have actually given their gym memberships because they feel they get everything they need from our specialty classes.

BF: Most people don't know much about heart rate training. Is it important to stay in a certain range?
CB: Heart rate training is the key to reaching your fitness goals and maximizing your calorie burn.  Each zone has it's own benefits and monitoring your heart and targeting these zones will insure that your workout is both efficient and safe.  A common misconception with any sort of excersize is that as long as your heart is pounding and your are breathing heavy, you are getting a good workout.  In actuality, the real calorie burn happens when your heart rate is elevated to between 65% and 75% of your max.  Heart rate training will increase your overall efficiency while spinning.
BF: So now everybody reading this wants to start spinning. For the beginner, how many times per week do you recommend taking spin?
CB: We recommend 3-4 times a week to build a good aerobic base and then 2 - 3 classes a week to maintain cardiovascular health.

BF: I know people have told me that they think they can't spin because they have bad knees, or a bad back, or they are pregnant. But they can spin, right?
CB: Absolutely!  Michelle is 5 months pregnant and still teaches 6-10 classes a week.  You should always consult a physician before beginning any exercise program is you are pregnant or have any sort of injury or medical condition.  As with any exercise, it's always important to know your limits and monitor your heart rate throughout the workout.  SPINNING is the best cardio workout because as long as you are properly set up, there is no stress at all on your back and joints.
BF: Lastly, please debunk any myths about spinning for our readers (like it makes legs big).
CB: I think the biggest myth about spinning is that you have to be super fit to take a class or that it is just too difficult for the average person to take.  SPINNING is challenging, but you take it at your own pace, and you choose your intensity.  You are part of a group, but it is truly your own ride.
Another myth is that spinning will bulk up your legs. Spinning is all about increasing and decreasing resistance while increasing and decreasing speed - there is no component of it that is geared at bulking up your legs. In fact it's quite the contrary, since the quick rotations will leave your thighs and calves lean and sculpted. Pedal Spin Studios are boutique studios and each are one of the few licensed SPIN studios in their area. For more information, visit them at    

In the words of Cindy Bell: We began as a conversation over margaritas with my sister-in-law, Michell Bell, who owns our Rancho Cucamonga location and we kicked around how we would envision the perfect studio.  We are both Johnny G certified instructors and teach every nearly every day.  I have spent the past 15 years in advertising and Michelle has been in cosmetics retail/sales for 13 years in addition to her background in music.  Both of us are Los Angles transplants and midwest natives.  We longed for something that was welcoming and unpretentious, yet had a sort of boutique-"make you feel special" kind of feel.  Out of this idea, Pedal was born.  We opened Montrose in September of last year and Rancho in November.  Our goal was to open the type of studio that not only had top of the line equipment and the best, most motivating instructors, but to have an atmosphere where everyone felt comfortable, confident and strong.  We also want to be a major contributor the community overall.  We jump at the chance to donate our time/space/equipment to help out as much as possible.  We were a community sponsor for the Aids Lifecycle Ride in June and were team captains supporting the Livestrong Foundation for SPINNING NATION.  We are huge supporters of our local businesses and plug them at every opportunity. At Pedal, we offer classes to suit everyone's schedule, from 5:30 am to 8:30 pm.  Our schedule is all online and with the ability to book classes and reserse your bike directly from our website.  Towel service is availiable and water, juice and sports drinks are available for purchace in the studio.  We want all of our guests to know that this is their studio, and we are constantly striving make your time here the best part of your day.

BF NOTE: If you want to try spinning but you don't live in the California area, you can check out your local gym. I firmly believe that you should only take class with a certified instructor. For more on the Spinning program (the word Spinning signifies the program started by Johnny G, who founded indoor cycling (which is why SPINNING is capitalized in Cindy's interview)), you can go to

Monday, July 27, 2009

Meditation, Yoga, and A Germ You'll Love

When I was first born, in the very last year of the 1960s, both my parents were vegetarian. They practiced Transcendental Meditation (they even had their own secret mantras) on a daily basis, in the middle of the apartment. In my earliest memories, my mother is wearing an orange dress, sitting on the floor in the lotus position, her waist length hair draped around her like a shawl. I think my first word was "Ohm."

As I got older, they took me to an ashram in Connecticut where I met Swami Satchidananda, the founder of Intergral Yoga. He lifted me high into the sky, broke into a huge smile, and bestowed upon me the name Shakti Prema. Needless to say, I was born into a very crunchy family. They lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Rockville Centre, NY, and though money was tight, they shopped almost exclusively at our local health food store, Jandi's Nature Way

I remember going there weekly for groceries, and getting to sample whatever was out on the counter. Usually, it was natural peanut butter, which at the time was only available at health food stores. The peanut butter always separated from the oil, so I'd have to stir it before spreading it on a cracker. Heavenly.

Sometimes they'd have those sesame seed sticks out. You know, the ones that are held together with honey and wrapped like small candies in clear wrappers. Delicious. My mom would do the shopping, but she'd always let me pick out a snack for the road. Without fail, I'd choose a Tiger's Milk bar. Each time I'd get to choose between the original and peanut butter version. I loved the contrast between the outer carob coating and the salty yumminess inside the bar. This is well before people started eating bars as nutrition supplements. Tiger's Milk bars were pure fun. Mmmm... 

On the occasion that we'd have ice cream at home, it was always topped off with a heaping 1/4 cup of wheat germ, or so it seemed. The wheat germ covered the top of the ice cream, and then quickly wound it's way into every nook between the scoops. It was our version of sprinkles. To this day, if I ever have ice cream at home (a rarity), I top it with wheat germ. My son's been eating it, too. When we have yogurt, I always ask, "Wheat germ or no?" and most often his answer is "yes." It's not looked at as a way to make things healthier, but more of like a topping, like honeyed walnuts (which we have, too, but that's another story).

Are you a wheat germ aficionado like I am? If you haven't taken the opportunity to enjoy it yet, here's a couple of reasons why you should. Wheat germ is packed with over 23 nutrients, including potassium, iron, calcium, and vitamins A, B1, B3, and E. 

Oh, and it's is packed with protein. 

Wheat germ is not only available in health food stores, you can get it anywhere. My recommendation for wheat germ is Kretschmer Original (with the red label), not because it's better than any other, but because it's what I was raised on. I keep mine refrigerated so that it stays fresher longer, but it is shelf-stable.

Here's a great zucchini bread recipe, using (drum roll please!) wheat germ. I found it on, however, I made some modifications. You will need two greased and floured 5 x 9 inch loaf pans, but you can also make these into muffins, just watch them when you bake, and remove when an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Zucchini Bread
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c organic canola oil
  • 1 c granulated sugar
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 3 T maple flavoring
  • 2 c shredded zucchini
  • 1/2 c wheat germ
  • 2 1/2 c flour
  • 2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t non-aluminum baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 c chopped walnuts
Beat the eggs. Add oil, sugars and maple flavoring. Beat until thick and foamy. Add zucchini and wheat germ. Stir in sifted dry ingredients and walnuts. Pour into two greased and floured 5 x 9 inch loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Cool in pans for 10 minutes before turning out on rack to cool completely.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sculpt Your Body with The Bar Method - An Interview with Jennifer Curtis

I love to test out all modes of exercise. As a trainer, I believe it is important to know the benefits of every type of exercise, so that I can help my clients find a practice that they will enjoy. On a personal level, I like cross-training so I am always adding something new to my exercise routine. 

This spring, I got the opportunity to try out something new (to me, at least), called The Bar Method. The studio opened just minutes from my house, in my very own town! I gave myself a six-week challenge, doing The Bar Method exclusively for toning, and nothing else (other than cardio). 

The results were wonderful. My body become much more shapely, and people commented on how great I looked. I am pleased to have had the opportunity to interview Jennifer Curtis, owner of The Bar Method in my area. I hope that you get the opportunity to personally try out a Bar Method class sometime soon. It's wonderful.

BF: All the buzz is about The Bar Method. Studios are quickly popping up all over the country. Just the other day, I heard someone at the nail salon refer to The Bar Method as a "ballet Pilates sort of class." Let's clear this up. What exactly is The Bar Method?

JC: The Bar Method is a one hour, total body sculpting workout that is unlike any other exercise practice. It integrates the fat burning format of interval training, the muscle shaping techniques of isometrics, the elongating principles of dance conditioning, and the science of physical therapy to create a revolutionary new workout that quickly and safely reshapes your entire body.

BF: What is the basis for The Bar Method?

JC: The Bar Method is based on the technique of Lotte Berk, a dancer who combined her ballet bar routines with her rehabilitative therapy to form an exercise system. Burr Leonard was a Master Student, Teacher, and Lotte Berk studio owner. Burr continually improved the method, with the help of physical therapists, while led her to founding The Bar Method.

BF: Do you have to be a fit person to start The Bar Method?

JC: No! We welcome all different fitness levels, shapes and sizes. The Bar Method is safe and effective for all. (For before and after stories, go to

BF: I've seen advertisements for classes that are, well, imitating The Bar Method. The studios don't have bars, and the instructors aren't Bar Method trainer. Is this safe? Is there specific training to be a Bar Method instructor?

JC: Well, they say imitation is the highest form of flattery so.. Thank you! However, a knock-off Bar class will never yield the same results as our Bar Method clients see. Our founder, Burr Leonard, has been working on the Method for 25+ years, all Bar Method teachers must first be Master Students, then pass extensive training and co-teaching programs prior to leading a class. (This is not something that can be self-taught from taking a few classes or watching the DVDs!)

BF: What kind of benefits can students expect to see once they've started The Bar Method?

JC: The Bar Method quickly reshapes your entire body, reduces inches, increases strength and flexibility, and improves posture. The result is a clearly visible change in body shape. Muscles look longer an more defined, the body becomes leaner and more slender. Simply put, our clients enjoy long, lean legs, flat abs, and sculpted arms and seats.

BF: How can someone find a Bar Method class in their area? If there are no classes available, can they get a DVD to use at home?

JC: They can visit our website at and click, "Find A Studio." DVDs are available at both our studio and online.

Jennifer Curtis on opening The Bar Method studio:  I recently took a big leap of faith, left my corporate career to follow my dream of owning my own fitness studio, bringing The Bar Method to friends and neighbors in the Mountain Lakes, NJ area. It's been nothing but fitness and fun ever since! I hope readers will visit our studio, take a butt-kicking class with one of our talented, certified Bar Method Instructors and treat themselves to an amazing total body workout! 

The Bar Method of Mountain Lakes is located at 135 Hawkins Place in Del's Village. You can reach the studio at (973) 263-BAR9 (2279). You can buy and reserve classes, for the Mountain Lakes studio or any studio countrywide, at

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Summer Living and the Gym

My Bella Fitness slogan is "Your body is your life" but the fact of the matter is, it's only kind of true. When I say, "Your body is your life," I mean that without your body, you don't actually exist. You need to take good care of your body, eat healthy foods, and exercise to live. But life is more than just that.

This summer has been a challenge for me. For starters, my son chose not to go to camp this year (with the exception of an upcoming, weeklong Vacation Bible School), so getting in any form of exercise is tough. When I can, I go to the boulevard in my town and take a nice walk. If more time allows, I go to the gym for some quality time in the weight room, and on the nights I am really full of time (2+ hours), I get to do some body sculpting and cardio (my favorite machine, currently, is the AMT (Adaptive Motion Trainer)). 

I've given up on getting to an actual, scheduled class. My hopes for attending a 9:30 a.m. Bar Method or 6:15 p.m. spin class are dashed. Instead, I catch-as-catch-can.

I continue to eat well, working towards a more solid nutrition plan than the one I had allowed myself to lapse into. My boyfriend and I have committed to eating better, and doing this with him makes me more focused and keeps it fresh. I feel more in control when I'm eating better, so the scattered exercise schedule doesn't seem so bad. And really, it's not permanent. Just a quarter off.

The whole point of being healthy is to enjoy life. I've been shucking exercise for good reasons, my son, and my boyfriend and his kids. Having my son home all-day for just three months out of the year (and soon, I imagine, I will be bumped for his friends or, dare I predict, a girl) is really something to treasure. And eating dinner with my boyfriend and his kids instead of getting in a cardio session is well-worth it. I am building memories and enjoying moments with the people I feel most lucky to know.

When September arrives, and I get back to my exercise schedule, I will welcome it. I will be so very grateful for the relaxing summer that I chose to experience unscheduled, without a hint of guilt.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Practice of Yoga - An Interview with Nancy Moran Mermelstein

I've always been taken with the practice of yoga. I just plain like the idea of it. Born into a vegetarian, meditating family, yoga was part of daily life. It was the class that everyone took. Now, on the occasion that I do yoga, however gracelessly, I feel strong and beautiful. When I was pregnant with my son, I did a yoga for pregnancy DVD that made me feel so relaxed and fit. It's amazing.

I haven't done yoga in a while, though I plan on starting up classes again in the fall. I feel a strong need to nurture my body, and I know that yoga will play a major role in doing so. Everyone that I know who practices yoga looks amazing and seems more centered than the rest of us. 

I am so thrilled to be starting this blog off with a interview with Nancy Moran Mermelstein, the director of the beautiful Prana Yoga Center in Denville, NJ. 

BF: Everybody has heard of yoga. Most people who don't practice yoga know the basic moves like downward dog but may not be familiar with much else. How would you explain yoga to someone who knows nothing about it?

NM: I would tell the students to allow themselves the luxury of being a beginner. Yoga is meant to be practiced over a lifetime. Just when you think you've got a pose down, there's another variation. It is a process that is constantly unfolding, much like the blossoming of a flower. Aside from the physical, yoga cultivates balance and inner well being.

BF: There are many types of yoga. Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Iyengar, Bikram (Hot Yoga). What are the differences between these types, and what type is best for the beginner. 

NM: Ashtanga and Vinyasa are physical forms of yoga that utilize a connective movement to link the poses. Iyengar concentrates on alignment and staying in the pose for longer breath counts. Bikram focuses on heat to detoxify the body. All of the have their own merits and which ever style resonates with the student and motivates them to continue to practice consistently is what's best.

BF: If someone is looking to be more centered, is there a style of yoga that is more meditative than another?  

NM: Some people come to yoga for the physical aspect, others come for the spirituality and still others for the meditative quality.I believe that all styles cultivate inner awareness, it's just that it takes time to get you there. It most likely won't happen after your first class, but you will absolutely discover the "it" factor that yoga brings. With continued practice, yoga becomes a moving meditation. 

BF: I know that when I was pregnant, there were certain positions I had to modify and certain positions that I had to avoid. In addition, when menstruating I've been told to avoid inverted positions. Is this true? Should a woman advise her instructor of any condition she may have? 

NM: Absolutely tell your instructor of any physical ailments/conditions or even if it's their first time taking that instructors class. It allows the instructor and student to be on the same page and also provide for a safe learning environment. Certain conditions do call for modification or elimination of certain asanas (poses). Keeping the line of communication open is key to a healthy practice. Regarding menses, the student should not invert during the fist three days of her cycle.

BF: What is the benefit to doing yoga in terms of flexibility? In terms of strength? 

NM: Clearly flexibility is often associated with yoga, however many asanas due require strength. These poses are a fantastic way to improve bone density. In addition, a regular yoga practice helps realign the body - posture improves, digestion improves and an overall sense of well being is achieved. 

BF: Can anyone do yoga, or are there restrictions?  

NM: Anyone can practice yoga at anytime in their life. Often I hear people say they can't do yoga because they are not flexible, but that is an urban myth! Yoga does not discriminate.


Nancy Moran Mermelstein is the director of Prana Yoga Center, a full service studio located at 78 Broadway Denville NJ. Certified since 2003, Nancy continues to study with many inspiring teachers and shares her passion of yoga with her students. You can find her teaching schedule at or call the studio at 973-627-9642. Prana Yoga Center offers classes for all levels - from True Beginners to Advanced for the seasoned practitioner.