What is Success?

SUCCESS.  I feel like it’s such a loaded word.  For some, “success” can mean accomplishing a measurable goal such as having a career that puts you in the Top One Percent Earners in the country or winning the Nobel Prize.  For others, it can mean crossing everything off on their Bucket List.  Whatever you consider to be “success,” we generally want it right away and without any setbacks.

“Success is going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm.”
– Winston Churchill

I experienced many setbacks, and I decided way too often that the setbacks were failures.  I hated failing.  I used to hate failing because of my performance-oriented nature.  I hated not achieving certain goals right away.  I was also a people-pleaser, so I would hate feeling like other people saw me as a failure.  In my early 20’s, I went from job to job while many of my friends were already set in their careers or pursuing their Masters Degrees.  Career wise, I felt directionless when I quit dancing professionally.  I think my 23rd year was probably the toughest year for me in regards to feeling successful because I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to pursue, and I really felt that I couldn’t be considered successful unless I was making a lot of money and in a “career,” as opposed to living paycheck to paycheck working a “job.”  And through all this, I lost a lot of enthusiasm.

After struggling financially for a couple more years, I got a job at Washington Mutual (which was later bought by JPMorgan Chase) in California as a Foreclosure Specialist (I basically acted as a liaison between the mortgagors and the attorney’s offices).  My favorite part of the job was when I was able to forward mortgagors’ files to the department that handled repayment plan set-ups because that meant the customer would not lose their house.  I made a decision to work hard and have integrity in what I did, which led to opportunities for promotions.  I was promoted to a Business Analyst role and then eventually to a Project Coordinator.  To make the long story short, by the time I left the mortgage industry, I was a (very high-paid) Senior Technical Writer.  I left my career to homeschool my daughter who was about to go into the second grade at the time.  I went from making the most I had ever made to making nothing. 

In my blog last week, I said,

“If you don’t succeed in your definition of success, know that IT IS OKAY.”

It took me many years to get to that point.  By the time I left my career as a Senior Technical Writer, my definition of success had changed.  When I was in the corporate world, my definition of success was making a lot of money and having a very important role where I was highly valued.  But as my desire to homeschool my daughter grew, that was no longer my definition of success.

In my former definition of success, I would consider myself unsuccessful; but in my current definition of success, I AM THERE!!!  I currently make way less than 25% of my former salary (much less right now because of the current Coronavirus Pandemic), but I love that I get to determine my work schedule (as a Wellness Entrepreneur, it is so important to stay disciplined with my schedule – more on this topic next week), homeschooling my daughter and having fun together (she is now finishing up her sophomore year in high school)… and I get to spend some quality time with my husband when he isn’t working from home or studying for his MBA.  I also get to help people for a living.  I get to help people slow down and be present through Yoga and Meditation. 

Does your definition of success include intangible things, such as your level of gratitude, compassion, joy, or ability to love deeply?  During this time of self-isolation, my hope for you is for you to do (or continue to do) some inner work in order to achieve success that is great and long-lasting.

Have a great week!

 

With Gratitude,
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Get Out of The Way!

Since the onset of COVID-19 Pandemic and all the restrictions that have come with it, I was among the thousands of people who have lost their income due to business closures.  I was also among the numerous yoga teachers/fitness instructors that transitioned to teaching live-stream classes through Zoom.  Even though teaching through an online platform was something I had wanted to do for a while, I was “forced” into this situation sooner than I was anticipating.  I say “forced” because my other option was to not teach at all.  There are several reasons why I was delaying online teaching:

    1. I don’t like hearing my recorded voice (I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels like this).  When I hear my unrecorded-self talk, I like the tonality and the intonation in my speaking voice… which is not the case when I hear my recorded voice.
    2. I don’t like seeing myself talking in a video.  I start looking at how I move my mouth when I speak, my non-conscious movements, my lack of smile (making me look like I’m mad), my non-white teeth (from many years of tea and coffee drinking)… the list goes on and on.
    3. I wondered if people would actually switch from in-person classes with me to on-line/live-streaming classes.  Being that I specialize in teaching gentler forms of yoga (not necessarily easier, but I focus more on proper alignment and injury prevention), my morning classes consist of mostly women in their late 30’s to 50’s.  Half of these wonderful women are not big fans of technology, so I knew I would lose the number of people I can help by transitioning my classes online.
    4. I questioned my discipline.  Would I be able to consistently teach online every week, or would I start to lose motivation and quit?

It is interesting that it took a global crisis for me to take the leap into teaching classes online.  But before I decided to offer live-stream classes, I had to search in my heart and make sure I wasn’t doing it out of fear (check out my previous blog on overcoming fear).  Once I prayed, meditated and talked it over with my husband (who is often the voice of reason), I realized that this would be a great time for me to take a leap and see what God does with it.

Today is my second week of online teaching, and it’s going great so far.  Last week, I taught three All-Levels Yoga classes, two Yoga Nidra classes (if you don’t know what this is, sign up for my class here), and a Biblical Meditation Workshop (click here for future workshops)… and I’m happy to report that I did not feel self-conscious, and I was able to stay disciplined and organized with my schedule!  The greatest lesson I learned in this whole process is that I get in my own way (and in God’s way) which prevents me from doing and experiencing greater things.

How often do you convince yourself not to pursue a dream or an idea because you think it is:

  1. Too much work?
  2. Too much effort?
  3. Too scary?
  4. Too intimidating?
  5. Too out of your comfort zone?

Next time you feel any of the feelings above, remind yourself to get out of your way so that you can go after accomplishing and experiencing things that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.  And if you don’t succeed in your definition of success (more on this topic next week), know that IT IS OKAY.  You are still wonderful.  You are still loved.  You are still uniquely YOU!

Female Friends That All Women Need

 

With yesterday being International Women’s Day, it seemed fitting that I write a blog about women.  I’m blessed to constantly be surrounded by amazing women who cheer me on, encourage me, support me, dream with me, trust me and love me.  I’m equally blessed to cheer them on, encourage them, support them, dream with them, trust them and love them.  There are many lessons God has taught me in life, but one of the most valuable lessons I learned was the need for good female friendships.

“Friendships between women, as any woman will tell you, are built of a thousand small kindnesses… swapped back and forth and all over again.”
– Michelle Obama

Here are the type of female friends to surround yourself with:

 

The Cheerleader

These are the girl friends that celebrate with you when great things happen, and encourage you when things are not so great.  You don’t have to wonder about any hidden motives, back-stabbing, or jealousy from these women.  They love you and are not threatened by your successes.  They don’t gloat when you experience set-backs.  They don’t feel the need to rain on your parade because they have a parade of their own that you’ll be showing up to cheer for as well.  Some of the common things you’ll hear from them are, “I’m so happy for you,” “I’m so proud of you,” “You got this,” “You are amazing,” “I know you can do it,” “I believe in you,” and other words of affirmation.  Majority of your friends should be in this category.

 

The Adventure-Seeker

The Adventure Seeker Friends are not just the ones that will go skydiving with you or go backpacking across Europe with you; these friends will do random things like go to brunch with you wearing pajamas or take fun pictures with you like this one on the left (I’m the second one on the right… it took us several tries to sync up our jumps! 😂).  These women bring spontaneity and extra zest to your life.  Having spontaneous, adventure-seeking girl friends keep away monotony from a daily routine, help you to be more flexible to change, increase your creativity by breaking down mental blocks, help reduce stress by helping you take a mental break, and increase the fun factor in your life.  Since adventure-seekers may not all be available at the same time, it’s best to have more than a few of these fun and spontaneous women in our Contacts List.

 

The Confidant 

These are the friends that you can trust with the most vulnerable parts of yourself.  There are less of these women in your life because of confidential things you share with them (and vice versa).  In fact, I can count on one hand how many of this type I have in my life.  It’s not that I don’t trust other people, but when it comes to the deepest parts of my soul, there are only a handful of women that I can confidently say I feel safe to lay my entire heart and guts out on the table with.  You never have to worry about whether or not they will judge you or use any information against you.  If you tell them any highly-sensitive information, you can trust that they will keep it confidential without you even telling them not to say anything.

 

The Straight Shooter

This is not the same thing as women who are brutally honest and don’t care about your feelings.  These women are the ones who will speak the truth in love and you have no doubt in your mind that they have your best interest in mind.  I have several straight-shooter girl friends that I can go to for objective feedback and advice, and I’m glad I can be the same to them while feeling loved, safe, and not judged.  Even though this can be painful and awkward at times, these female relationships are necessary in helping us become better versions of ourselves.

 

The Mother-Figure

These are women that are older and wiser than you.  These women have a wealth of knowledge and experiences that you don’t have because you haven’t gone through their season yet.  It’s so easy to neglect these mentor friendships because Ageism is so prevalent in our society.  But having one or two of these wonderful women in your life will help you to grow in your appreciation for the older generation as well as keep you humble.  She’s nurturing, loving, patient, and she will be able to share stories that might leave you wondering why her life hasn’t been made into a movie yet.  If your mother is one of your best friends, consider yourself blessed.

 

A lot of times, you will have friends who are more than one of the types listed above which is great!  Having these five types of women in your life will enrich it in a way that no money, romance, or fame ever can!

 

With Gratitude,
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Self-Love vs. Selfish-Love

I love February.  I love how he is different from the rest of his family, and he flaunts his uniqueness by being the shortest month in the year.  And every four years, he decides to be one day longer (I’m using “he” because months are masculine in Spanish and French).  I think I identify with February because I’m also the oddball in my family in so many ways which I will go into in next week’s blog.

Whether February is also your favorite month or not, I’m sure you are influenced by him in one way, shape or form.  You can’t go into a retail store without seeing Valentine’s Day and anything relating to love being advertised and sold.  There are plenty of reminders to love your family, friends, significant other… but how often do you remind yourself to love yourself?

I’m not sure when the whole “Self-Love Movement” started, but it seems like every other posts I see (especially in February) are about self-love.  Loving yourself is absolutely necessary to live a happy life, but the reason for self-love — in my opinion — can sometimes get misinterpreted.  There is a difference in self-love and selfish-love.  Self-love is accepting who you are at the core and knowing your worth, and doing the necessary work to be the best version of yourself that you can be; and through this process, you’re able to love others greater than you’ve ever loved before.  Selfish-love — which is the complete opposite of self-love — is indulging in pleasure to fulfill your current (and temporary) desires with the end goal being all self-serving.

I’m not saying taking a day to get pampered or having “Me Time” is the bad thing; we all need a break to retreat and rejuvenate.  What I’m talking about is when taking care of yourself becomes a self-absorbed ritual where that becomes the end-goal instead of it being a tool to improve your mind/body/spirit for others.

I have experienced both self-love and selfish-love.  Last summer, I took a week-long sabbatical to work on writing my book.  I checked in to an AirBnB for that week and slept in every morning (being that I was in a city one hour behind, I was waking up in between 6am and 7am without an alarm), meditated, prayed, read my Bible, went out for meals by myself and spent majority of each day at a desk, writing my book.  It felt great to take a pause from my day-to-day duties to have some solitude, but I did not take the sabbatical to indulge in my desire to be lazy and be entertained.  As much as I wanted to binge-watch shows on Netflix, I took time to carry on my goal of finishing my book so that I can share my experiences and practicals of biblical meditation with the rest of the world.  This was a time of self-love for me because I took time to rest, enjoy slowing down, but it was with the intent of becoming a better version of myself for others and for me to accomplish my goal.

On the other hand, I remember when I was overwhelmed with stress from work and indulged in selfish-love (this was when I had a fast-paced, high-stress position in a Fortune 100 Company): I would come home, make dinner and spend a few hours with my family, and then I would lock myself in my home music studio for many hours to compose, record and edit songs.  I thought this “Me Time” would allow my stress level to go down and feel better, but my stress level and outlook did not change; if anything, it contributed to me becoming more self-absorbed.  Because I used creating music as an escape from reality, it neither improved my well-being nor get me closer to my authenticity.  I do, however, believe that this  was a necessary step in my journey to becoming more self-aware.

I say all this to encourage you to take time out for yourself in a way to use Self-Love as a tool and not as a goal toward your authenticity.

 

With Gratitude,
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Misunderstood? Me too!

As a kid in the 80’s, one of my favorite T.V. shows was reruns of Threes Company.  Being that I was a preteen and my English was my second language, a lot of the “adult humor” went over my head.  What I found so hilarious about the show was the physical comedy of Jack Tripper (played by John Ritter) as well as all the misunderstandings that caused 99% of the comedic drama among the main characters.  Of course by the end of the epidsodes, all misunderstandings were cleared up, everyone hugged it out and all was good in the world again.  In a perfect world, all misunderstandings would be cleared up in 30 minutes (minus commercial breaks), this unfortunately, this is not the case.

Last year, I wrote and published a book called, Be Still: The Power of Biblical Meditation.  It’s full of true stories from my own life as well as other people’s lives on how biblical meditation played a huge role in helping us heal from daily stressors, people-pleasing, childhood trauma, divorce, domestic violence, and death of loved ones.  The book also contains many techniques to help create stillness through scriptural yoga, pranayama (breath control techniques), and scriptural meditation.  I even recorded all of the techniques and provided links to each of them.  It took me six months to write/edit/design/publish my book (which you can read about in my previous blog, Indie-Author Do’s and Don’ts), and I was so excited to share it with the world!

The first month, I taught scriptural yoga and biblical meditation classes at a big women’s retreat in Asheville, NC where approximately 900 women from the southeast states attended.  I received many words of encouragement, gratitude and confirmation that I was doing exactly what God wanted me to do.  The second and third months were the same, where I was humbled at how powerfully God was using the book He commanded me to write.  But then January came, and I saw a one-star rating review on my book (you can read them on Lulu.com and Amazon.com).  I felt discouraged at first, not because I doubted the purpose of this book (which all glory was to God) but because I felt misunderstood.  There was a part of me that wanted to somehow contact the reviewer and say, “Wait a minute, let me explain and address all your concerns.  Let me explain to you all of my training and research on this subject.”  But then I took a step back to re-evaluate my heart.  I fully respect the reviewer’s opinions and therefore, I am completely okay with being misunderstood.

Everyone is allowed to have their own opinions whether they believe they are right and others are wrong.  It’s completely okay.  It’s okay that one person is a republican while their friend is a democrat.  It is okay.  It’s even okay that I use Yoga to get closer to God while a friend of mine believes that it is not of God.  IT IS OKAY.  It’s not my job to try to convince someone that what helps me will help them.  They have every right to their own opinions.  We waste so much time and energy on getting worked up about disagreements and misunderstandings.  There was a time when I would lose sleep over such things.  But at the end of the day, none of that matters.  Unless someone is asking me questions with the intention of wanting clarity, it is not my job to debate or provide proof of why I think “I am right and they’re not.”

There’s something freeing about living this way.  There’s such a feeling of lightness within the spirit when you’re not living to prove yourself to others but rather living to move closer to your authenticity.  So this week, I encourage you to practice being okay of feeling misunderstood.  Let other’s have their opinions about you because this does not change who you are.  Continue to shine bright for those who wish to be in your light.

 

With Gratitude,
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Happy Holistic New Year – Pt. 4

For the final part of my series on holistic wellness, I wanted to share about my passion: Using Yoga for therapeutic purposes.  I have taught over 2,500 hours of various styles of yoga, and about 12-15 minutes before the end of all of those classes/workshops, I instruct my students to get set up for Savasana.  No matter how many times I repeat the necessity of Savasana, I have had a student or two sneak out of class quietly from time to time.  Perhaps they had an emergency that they needed to tend to; but usually, people skip Savasana because they think it’s an optional 7-10 minute pose that they could be doing “something else that’s more productive.”  I confess, I used to be that student when I first started going to yoga classes over 20 years ago.

Savasana is also known as the “Corpse Pose” which is generally the final pose in a yoga class.  Savasana is considered the ultimate (and the most challenging) pose in yoga because it is a discipline of stillness and relaxation physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  Many people believe that in order to be considered an “advanced yogi,” you must be able to do arm-balancing poses such as Parivrtta Bakasana (“Revolved/Twisted Crane”) or Salamba Shirshasana (“Headstand”).  What’s interesting about this is that I did more of these poses in my earlier days of practicing yoga than my days as a yoga and meditation teacher.  Not that these are easy poses to practice, but

since the main goal of Yoga is to meet your authentic self by using poses (along with ethical living, self-discipline, breath control, sense withdrawal,  concentration, meditation, and enlightenment), each asanas (“physical yoga postures”) become a tool for a greater purpose and not the goal itself.

With that said, the five following asanas are poses that are accessible to most people, no matter what their physical fitness levels are. (Disclaimer: If you have an injury or a pre-existing condition, please do not perform these poses without the approval of your healthcare provider):

Chakravakasana (Ruddy Goose Pose)

Inhale at Table Pose (right photo), and Exhale into Child’s Pose (left photo).  Repeat 5-10 times.  To experience a great (but subtle) low back stretch, stay in Child’s Pose with knees out wide with big toes together.  This allows gravity to gently bring the hips lower to the ground, resulting in a nice low back stretch.
Modifications: If you have wrist pain, come down to your elbows and forearms as you practice this pose.  If you experience knee pain, place a folded towel, blanket or mat under your knees.
Benefits: Warms up the wrists, shoulders, hips and knees.  Also known to relieve low back pain, fatigue and stress.

 

Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose)

Sitting tall with knees bent, cross the right leg over the left, placing your right foot on the floor by your left thigh.  Place your left hand or fingers on the floor while keeping the arm straight (almost like a kickstand).  Inhale as you lengthen the spine upward and place your right elbow on the outside of your left thigh (spread the fingers wide to keep the hand active).  As you exhale, twist to the right.  Stay for 5-10 breaths and repeat on the other side.
Modifications: If you have tight hips, sit cross-legged and twist to the right, placing your right fingertips in the front and left fingertips in the back with both arms straight.  Repeat on the other side.
Benefits: Stretches the neck, shoulders and the hips.  Promotes healthy digestion and reduces fatigue.  It is also known to relieve menstrual cramps.

Ardha Mukha Svanasana (Downward Dog Pose )

Starting from Table Pose, inhale and exhale as you lift the knees off the floor, pushing your hips up and back.  Push your shoulders back into the shoulder socket as you draw your shoulder blades in toward each other.  Keep your fingers spread out and weight distributed evenly in your palms.  Continue to bring the heels down toward the floor with each breath.  Stay for 5-10 breaths.
Modifications: If you have wrist pain, come down to your elbows, forearms and hands on the floor.  If your hamstrings/calves are tight, keep a bend in the knees and heels slightly lifted as you slowly work on straightening the legs.
Benefits: Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, and the arches of the feet.  Energizes the body while calming the brain.  Relieves headache, insomnia, back pain, mild depression, fatigue, and symptoms of menstrual and menopausal discomfort.

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)

Sit with the bottom of the feet touching and knees out wide.  Hold your ankles (not the toes, as we have a tendency to pull up when holding the toes which can result in overstretching the ankle ligaments).  Lengthen the spine upward while releasing the shoulders down the back.  Flex the feet, peeling the right toes away from the left toes (flexing the feet prevents the knee caps from moving/shifting) Stay in this pose for 5-10 breaths.
Modifications: If you have tight hips, move your feet away from the body, making the legs more into a loose diamond shape.  If the knees are high off the ground, place yoga blocks or folded blankets underneath the knees to create more comfort.
Benefits: Stretches the inner thighs and groin. Improves mobility in the knees.  Stimulates the reproductive organs and blood circulation in the body.  Helps relieve mild depression, anxiety and menopausal symptoms.

Savasana (Corpse Pose)

Lie down with your palms facing up and allow the feet to flop out.  Inhaling and Exhaling through the nose effortlessly, close your eyes and allow the belly to rise and fall with each breath.  Count from 10 to 0, counting one down at each exhale (Inhale, exhale 10; Inhale, exhale 9; etc.).  With each exhale, notice that your body feels heavier and more relaxed.  Stay in this pose for 7-12 minutes.
Modifications:  Use blankets, bolsters, blocks and even a pillow to get comfortable… but don’t get yourself so comfortable that you fall asleep. 😊
Benefits: Reduces headaches, fatigue and insomnia.  Relaxes the body, calms the brain, lowers blood pressure, and relieves mild depression.

 

I hope these poses help you as you continue to relax and reset for the rest of 2020!

 

With Gratitude,
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Happy Holistic New Year – Pt. 3

From the relaxing music to warm towels, I love everything about spas.  Out of all the spa services I’ve received, my favorite is a deep tissue massage.  If you’ve ever experienced a deep tissue massage, you know that there’s nothing “relaxing” about it.  Unlike a Swedish massage, deep tissue massage is performed with more pressure in order to get deeper into the tissues.  It is known to help relieve chronic pain, sports injuries, and areas of tightness.

The best deep tissue massage I receive is from a good friend of mine who is a Doctor of Physical Therapy.  She has been treating me for my chronic neck pain (from a car accident years ago) and my wrist pain that has been bothering me for over a year.  I know it sounds ironic that I love the relaxing spa atmosphere, yet my favorite massage is a deep tissue massage.  The relaxation I experience from a deep tissue massage comes AFTER the actual massage itself.  After a PT/massage session with my friend, I feel amazing for several days!

We carry muscular imbalances in our bodies from slouching, sitting cross-legged, sleeping habits (sometimes I wake up looking contorted! 😂), etc.  Those imbalances can lead to headaches, neck aches, back pains, sleep disturbances and many other pain-related issues that we sometimes chalk up to aging.  Having regular massages can help relieve some of those “aches and pains” that may not necessarily be related to getting older.

If you have never experienced a professional massage before or tend to be sensitive to touch, I highly recommend that you start with a Swedish massage.  During the session, you can ask your massage therapist to deepen or lighten the pressure to your preference.  If you find that you prefer the deeper pressure, you might enjoy a deep tissue massage.  Most spas offer add-on services such as aromatherapy and hot stone massage for a fee.

Massages range from $45 to over $100 depending the length and the type of massage.  Location also plays a role in how much you’ll be paying (my first massage was at a spa in Beverly Hills, CA which was about $120 with gratuity in 2004; I spent $60 with gratuity for the same type of massage at a spa in Charlotte last week).  Great news is that Groupon is always filled with discounted massage services!  Try out different spas and massage therapists until you find one that you really like.

If massages are out of your budget right now, invest in a pair of myofascial release balls (also known as therapy balls).  I teach a weekly class at the local YMCA where we use therapy balls to roll out the tightness and “knots” in the neck, shoulders and the arches of the feet (we use a foam roller to roll out the rest of the body).  My students have commented on numerous occasions how they feel like they just got a deep tissue massage.  As of today, these therapy balls are on sale for $9.98 on Yogaoutlet.com.  I know some people that use lacrosse or tennis balls, but these therapy balls are specifically designed to be the perfect sizes and firmness for releasing the fascia.  There are several instructional videos on Youtube if you don’t have access to a class that teaches this method.  If you’re a member of the YMCA in Charlotte, NC, come check out my class on Mondays at 9 AM in the University location.  Another class I would recommend is Jenn’s “Roll & Release” class on Tuesdays at 9:30 AM, “Desk Detox-Roller” class on Wednesdays at 6:30 PM, and “IM=X Mat & Rolling” class on Thursdays at 11AM at IM=X Pilates in North Charlotte (where I teach yoga and pilates).

Next week, I will share how you can use simple yoga poses for holistic therapy!

With Gratitude,
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