By: Lisa Venancio, FreshJax Yoga Teacher + Blogger
In Kripalu yoga, class begins with a centering meditation and pranayama (breath), followed by a mindful series of warm-ups and asanas (postures), and ending with a relaxed shavasana and closing centering. As a yoga teacher who mainly practiced Ashtanga, Vinyasa, and Hot Yoga prior to becoming a certified in the Kripalu tradition, it took time for me to understand the importance and benefits of incorporating all of these components into my practice. This is not to say that these other styles of yoga did not value or incorporate relaxation and warming up, but it was not until I found the Kripalu tradition that I become comfortable with the stillness and progression.
Admittedly, before I became a yoga teacher, shavasana was my most challenging posture. This may sound silly to some people. We’ve all seen the yoga t-shirts and memes that say, “I’m here for the shavasana.” However, I was always half present during centering and shavasana. These practices meant quieting the mind chatter, becoming still, and receiving the benefits in full. I knew it was important, yet my mind often wandered to my to-do list, or replayed a recent conversation, or overanalyzed something for the twelfth time. This was the place where the anxiety, insecurity, fear, sadness, anger, or self-criticism found a way to creep in. This momentary relaxation was my biggest challenge. I fought it. Why? Because I was not okay with being still. I was not being present. Momentum was where I thrived, which is not a bad place to be, but we can miss the benefits of warming up and slowing down the mind and body if we stay here.
By performing warm-ups prior to the formal yoga postures, we release tension while improving muscle and joint flexibility. We also generate heat in the body from the inside out. Early in my yoga practice, I was always itching to get through centering and warm-ups quickly and jump right into the postures. Then once I was in the postures, I wanted to flow from one to the other without staying anywhere too long. I was always one step ahead of myself, and sometimes even the teacher. Who knew yoga would challenge me in patience, humility, and mindfulness. After all, I was just there to burn calories and stretch, right? Wrong. I’ve realized that if we cannot be mindful while standing, walking, and sleeping, we certainly cannot be mindful through sun salutations and asanas. Centering warms up the mind, next we warm up the body, and then we explore the asanas.
Mindful yoga even approaches asana as meditation. When we practice mindfulness through triangle, for example, we ask ourselves what is happening to our bodies when we progress into triangle. This builds on feelings and sensations, rather than emotions. What does it feel like to hold a posture like warrior one or pigeon? When a posture feels pleasant, we enjoy holding the pose, but if it feels unpleasant, we desire to come out of it. I always tell my students, “It is when we want to come out of the posture that the posture truly begins.” If we experience sensations as our limbs start to ache, the yoga mat becomes a safe space to understand the difference between discomfort and pain.
When we learn to spend time with unpleasant feelings as they come up on the mat, we are able to build coping skills in facing challenging situations off of the mat. This self awareness is where growth begins, and as we carry positive energy, mindfulness, and peaceful intentions into our world and relationships, change happens. I have learned to love centering, meditation, warm-ups, and shavasana just as much as I love the asanas. I have also learned to truly experience each asana. It is here that I have found healing, both physically and mentally. At FreshJax, we find joy in facilitating healing and growth in your yoga practice and encourage you to discover a positive relationship with mindful yoga.
Super foods! We love to cook, bake and blend with them here at FreshJax, but what are they? What makes them SUPER for our bodies? A super food is a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being. Let’s break down the top three super foods we offer here at FreshJax.
Chia Seeds: Everyone is talking about chia seeds, but do they really live up to the hype? The benefits are astounding, which is why we use them in so many of our recipes here at FreshJax. The seeds come from a flowering plant in the mint family. They’re loaded with calcium, omega 3 fatty acid, fiber and protein. In addition, they absorb up to twelve times their weight in water, which improves hydration throughout your day. You can sprinkle them on salads, fruit, yogurt or cereals, bake with them, can with them as a substitute for pectin, mix them into pancakes, soups, stir-fries or casseroles, use them in breading, and blend them into smoothies. Our cooks at FreshJax ensure the benefits of these gems by soaking them into our overnight oats, which are raw oats that sit overnight in liquid, specifically almond milk in our recipe. This creates oatmeal without ever cooking the oats, which enhances the benefits of the raw oats and chia seeds, aiding in digestion and receiving the nutrients in their truest form. We also offer chia seeds as a topping on smoothies and acai bowls, and we sell a variety of delicious handcrafted chia puddings.
Acai: First, let’s tackle the pronunciation, because we know that is a struggle. Say it with us: ah-sigh-ee. Acai is a South American palm tree producing small, edible, blackish-purple berries, which is indigenous to the rainforests of the Amazon. The berry is an antioxidant rich, healing, immune-stimulating, energy-boosting fruit. It promotes heart health, fights harmful organisms, aids in weight loss, supports healthy skin, helps digestion, reduces lung irritation, increases the strength of the body’s cellular protective system, boosts energy and the immune system, has anti-aging effects, encourages a healthy libido, and improves mental function. Here at FreshJax, we prepare an acai smoothie bowl and an acai berry blast smoothie, both blended with organic acai berries that are wild-harvested from the heart of the Amazon.
Maca: Maca root is an adaptogen (healing plants that help balance, restore and protect the body) and a member of the cruciferous family, similar to broccoli and cabbage. However, it’s unique properties set it apart to be one of the world’s natural super foods. This root is grown in the mountains of South America, mainly in the high altitude regions of Peru. After being harvested and ground down, it is generally available in powder form. Some benefits are healthy hormone balance, positive energy levels, and boosted immune health. It is very rich in absorbable plant-based nutrients, including protein, calcium, fiber and magnesium. It can help to increase fertility, stamina, libido, memory, focus, and even those “feel good” endorphins. It is a natural antioxidant with a pleasant taste that restores endocrine health (especially adrenal and thyroid hormones), reproductive health, and mental health. Maca root will leave you with an overall sense of well-being and help your body naturally adapt to stressors. We prepare all of our incredible chia puddings using powdered maca root here at FreshJax. By avoiding the heating process, you receive the nutrients without diminishing their nutritional value. You can also blend maca root into smoothies, oatmeal, and cereal, for example. It has a nutty, partially sweet taste, similar to cinnamon or nutmeg, so we started by adding it to breakfast foods and went from there.
Here at FreshJax, all of our prepared and packaged foods are vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO, and when available, organic and local. Food and yoga can be medicine, and super foods help enhance these benefits at FreshJax. Next time you visit us, be sure to try one of these amazing super foods in our chia puddings, smoothies, or overnight oats, and let us know how they make you feel.
At FreshJax, we practice the Kripalu style of yoga. One common question we hear is, “How is Kripalu yoga set apart from other styles of yoga?” We would like to take the time to break this down for you.
Kripalu yoga is a gentle version of Hatha yoga. It blends asana (postures), mudras (hand gestures), breath and body connection, relaxation, and meditation. This blend brings sensations of the body, breath and mind to your consciousness. We bring attention to proper alignment of the body, holding each posture for a period of time. The length of time depends on the specific posture as well as the type of class you’re practicing in. As we hold poses for a longer period of time, awareness to sensations of the body is deepened. We eventually come into a more meditative phase, which is where we are guided by our intuition and self awareness, moving to the flow of prana.
What is prana? Prana is a Sanskrit word that means vital life force. Grasping this idea of prana can improve your health and wellbeing, externally and internally. While the health of our physical body is tangible and important, the energy within and around our physical body is no less important. This is prana, and it sustains life everywhere. Prana flows through the breath, so when we inhale, we take in prana. When we expand our lungs to their maximum capacity, we are improving the flow of prana. Breathing techniques, or pranayama, focus on the progression and quality of prana.
When we disturb or block this flow of energy, we can create imbalance or sometimes disease. Each act of the body is heavily influenced by mental and emotional wellbeing. By understanding and observing your physical, mental and emotional state, energy flows and healing takes place. In practicing Kripalu yoga at FreshJax, we liberate layers of stress and pain and experience a state of complete relaxation and rejuvenation.
Kripalu yoga improves and strengthens the muscular-skeletal systems as well as the circulatory, digestive, respiratory, nervous and immune systems. Consistent yoga practice produces physical benefits, such as easing anxiety and stress levels, and enhancing endurance, strength and energy levels. The practice of Kripalu Yoga positively affects the mind and emotions as well as the physical body.
Kripalu Yoga encourages self awareness and personal growth, creating and cultivating a cherished relationship with your own body, mind, and spirit. We learn to respond to ourselves with compassion and grace, meeting new edges as this practice progresses, while simultaneously listening to our bodies and loving ourselves as we are. We set intentions to be present and quiet the mind chatter, which brings self discovery. By carrying these intentions from your Kripalu yoga practice into your life and relationships, you bring light into the world around you. FreshJax can be your go-to place to reset your mind, body and spirit and nourish your need for relaxation, rejuvenation, and growth.
Hey pregnant momma. What if I asked you to try prenatal yoga? You might think that sounds exciting, or like many people with apprehension about yoga while pregnant (or even yoga in general), you might be thinking… NOPE. I get it. Touching your toes or balancing on one foot or bending your back in ways it is not used to bending can be intimidating when you do NOT have a growing baby bump in the way, so of course it seems out of reach when you DO. However, what if I left the words “prenatal yoga” out for a minute and I asked you this…
Hey pregnant momma! Would you like to decrease those pregnancy headaches? Reduce that dreaded nausea? Relieve low back pain? How about improve your flexibility, strength, and stamina? Diminish stress? Ease carpal tunnel syndrome? I bet you would like to improve your sleep, or lack of sleep. (Disclaimer: I can’t make any promises about the pre-existing babes already outside of your womb. They may still wake you up, but please refer to our recent Kids Yoga and Baby + Me Yoga blogs if you want to be a real problem solver, super mom.) What if you could lessen your risk of preterm labor? Or even lower your risk of intrauterine growth restriction? That’s the condition that slows down a baby’s growth.
Now I imagine all of that sounds enticing, perhaps even a little too good to be true. Believe it or not, those are just some of the amazing benefits of prenatal yoga. According to the American Pregnancy Association, studies have even discovered a connection between prenatal yoga and the reduction of hypertension-related complications and the improvement of fetal outcome. Prenatal yoga is a form of exercise that speaks specifically to your pregnancy wellness.
Deep breathing and conscious relaxation will support you as you face the physical demands of labor and birth. This body and breath connection will prime you for childbirth. In prenatal yoga, you will learn to breathe fully. When you use the breathing technique practiced in yoga, known as uijayi, you develop the ability to stay calm as labor progresses. When you let fear or pain lead you, your body produces adrenaline and produces less oxytocin, which is the hormone that helps labor to progress. Consistent yoga practice will help you avoid tension and tightening when you feel contractions growing stronger, making it easier to relax through them and progress more efficiently.
By participating in a regular prenatal yoga class, you benefit from a support system including other expecting mothers. You can openly share your concerns and talk through pregnancy with women who can relate and an informed prenatal yoga teacher. We offer prenatal yoga at FreshJax on Mondays at 11:00. We provide all of the props you will need to ensure comfort through each trimester. All we need is you and your precious baby bump.
As a mother, educator and mentor to children, it is no secret to me that it is important to develop the whole child. It is in the best interest of our children to develop their minds, bodies, behavior, emotional health, character, compassion and spirit. We put so much pressure on ourselves to simultaneously mold, stretch, protect and tame them while also allowing them to make their own choices and find freedom and independence from us in this world. Of course we do. It’s our job to raise them into positive contributing members of society. That’s a beautiful thing. However, what if there was a way to take some of the pressure off of ourselves to develop our children? What if some of this development could take place naturally within our children, allowing them to take some ownership of their personal growth? Children crave this. They want to feel ABLE, to prove to themselves and the world that they can do things on their own while also resting in the comfort of our guidance and support along the way.
As I develop as a yoga teacher and my personal practice of yoga grows, I’ve discovered that yoga has played a pivotal role in developing self awareness and personal intuition. As someone who believes in the development of the whole self beginning in our youth, I’ve realized that beginning our yoga journey as a child can and does contribute profoundly to that development. My yoga practice did not begin until I was in college, but I often wonder what it would have been like to grow up with yoga. As a mommy of two and an elementary educator, I have chosen to instill the practice of yoga in the children I personally influence and inspire, and the benefits are truly evident.
Don’t just take my word for it though. If I have learned anything as a mother and teacher, it’s that children are all unique. So let’s look at studies and statistics. The evidence is overwhelming. In one study, 88% of children reported that they have a more positive attitude towards themselves, 96% of children reported that they are kinder toward others, and 76% of children reported that they use breathing techniques to help them focus. Studies demonstrate that the practice of yoga positively impacts academic performance, discipline, attendance, and attitude. It provides physical fitness and emotional sustenance while developing coping skills, calm disposition, resiliency, compassion, and strength. It even significantly impacts education, prevention of violence, and behavior management. Activation of balance and movement aids in attention disorders and reading development. It stimulates the neurological paths of the body allowing the entire body to learn and grow. Frame of mind, vigor, vigilance, stress response, and brain development are positively impacted and children develop an overall sense of well-being.
Come join us for Kids Yoga at FreshJax on Fridays from 3:30 to 4:30. We look forward to igniting passion for the practice of yoga in your little ones. Ages around 4-10 are welcome.
The word mandala is Sanskrit for “circle” or “center.” It’s a simple geometric shape that has no beginning or end. Within its circular shape, the mandala has the power to promote relaxation, balance the body’s energies, enhance your creativity, and support healing. Mandalas are used universally to promote healing and other positive states of being.
The mandala is a circular matrix with a center point—a point from which all things are possible. From this sacred center comes forth infinite possibilities and unlimited potential. The “circle with a center” pattern is the basic structure of creation that is reflected from the micro to the macro in the world as we know it. It is a pattern found in nature and is seen in biology, geology, chemistry, physics and astronomy.
Circles are a powerful symbol found in every culture. We see them in halos, prayer wheels, and other religious symbols, architecture, and nature. To the Tibetan monks, the sand mandala represents multi-dimensional fields of spiritual consciousness and the state of enlightenment. To the Native Americans, the medicine wheel, a form of mandala, symbolizes sacred ceremonial space and the circle of life. Psychoanalyst Carl Jung has called it “a representation of the unconscious self.” The mandala is widely recognized as a meaningful reflection of its creator. In both eastern and western cultures, the mandala has come to symbolize harmony, unity, wholeness, and healing.
Benefits of Meditation Through Mandala Coloring:
People who color mandalas often experience a deep sense of calm and well-being. It's a simple tool that doesn't require any expertise, but it can be remarkably soothing and nourishing. Mandalas not only focus your attention, but allow you to express your creative side, which many of us neglect in our daily lives.
Much like the experience of being in the comfort of their mother’s womb, rocking, swaying, back rubbing and baby massage are all gentle touches that babies enjoy. These interactions help them to feel comforted and trust the arms of their caregiver. Gentle movement and touch after birth helps unite sensory experiences with emotional exchanges.
Baby + Me Yoga, which is offered on Thursdays at 2:00 at FreshJax, helps parents and caregivers learn new ways to handle their babies at each developmental stage. It is a beautiful way for parent and baby to bond while building a foundation of exercise from birth, promoting positive sleep habits, strengthening growing muscles, and stimulating the baby’s bodily systems, especially the nervous and digestive systems.
Baby yoga helps assist babies in their transitions from one stage of development to the next, contributes to the development of the brain, and can even alleviate colic and gas. Early birth distress can be healed through tender interaction. FreshJax believes in providing relaxation and rejuvenation for all seasons of life, including our fragile and delicate babies.
Baby + Me yoga doesn’t only serve Baby’s body, but it strengthens and heals the mother’s body as well. Pelvic floor dysfunction affects fifty percent of women following childbirth. It is important to ease back into your fitness routine by first restoring your core and pelvic floor function. In this class, we focus on carefully rebuilding the pelvic floor and stability muscles of the core, so that Mom can safely return to efficient exercise and movement following birth.
However, this class is not just for mothers and babies. Dad or any caregiver will benefit from Baby + Me yoga. This class offers a great opportunity to get out of the house and interact with other parents and caregivers. We combine yoga and play while strengthening the bond between you and your infant. You will experience postures for both you and baby as well as calming and restorative time for both of you in a safe environment for mobile babies and newborns. Joint relaxation is beneficial for both parties and enhances nonverbal communication between baby and caregiver. You will get to know each other better through active communication, and you can take these practices home with you. New movements will be presented at a pace that is safe for babies to absorb, and assimilating these movements into their home life will help baby to positively manage new situations.
This class helps you to reconnect with your body and breath while bonding with baby and helping him/her to develop body awareness. We encourage you to listen to your baby’s needs and cues throughout class. We want you to feel comfortable stopping to nurse or feed your baby, as well as to change diapers and soothe baby however you see fit. Babies are often unpredictable, so we establish an open environment where you can come back to the practice whenever your baby is ready. These affirmative relations are the foundation for future positive social interactions, and they help your baby to build trust and feel safe in your arms.
FreshJax offers Baby + Me Yoga on Thursdays at 2:00. You and your baby can join us as soon as your doctor or midwife has cleared you for light exercise. Mobile babies are still welcome up to eighteen months of age. Our Baby + Me yoga teacher will modify postures and movements to meet the growing needs and desires of you active infant. We look forward to practicing yoga with you and your littles here at FreshJax.
"I am not flexible enough. Fit enough. Strong enough. Zen enough. Granola enough. Thin enough. I am too busy. Too out of shape. Too tight. Too overweight. Too awkward. Too old. Guys don’t do yoga, do they? Is it safe for pregnant women? Do I need to have good balance? Do I need to wear yoga pants? I don’t have a yoga mat. I don’t have time. I will laugh too much. I never have a break from my children. What if I pass gas in a yoga posture? What if I have a health issue? What if I can’t touch my toes? What if I am recovering from an injury?”
It is true, and our goal at FreshJax is to create an all inclusive environment for people to fall in love with yoga and receive the many benefits of this practice. We welcome all women and men, including pregnant women, senior citizens, new mothers and even their babies, kids, athletes, empty nesters, working professionals, runners, teenagers, teachers, college students, and all shapes, sizes, colors, cultures, languages, religions and physical impairments. No matter what your season of life or experience is, yoga is for YOU. Our teachers are expertly trained to assist you in modifying your practice in order to meet the needs of your body and health. Whether that means modifying a posture to make it more comfortable or safe for your body, or advancing the posture to provide more challenge and take you to a new edge.
We will help you develop better body awareness, understand contraindications of each posture in order to keep you safe, and become knowledgeable of the benefits of each posture. You will become more connected with your body and breath, mindful, present, and have a deeper understanding of how to engage in a complete state of relaxation. This practice serves and regulates all of your major body systems and organs. It is a 6,000 year old system of self care with a host of amazing benefits.
FreshJax is centered on relaxation. It is easy to get caught up in the chaos of the world around us. Tension can go unnoticed and affect our overall health if we don’t take the time to rejuvenate. Stress looks different for everyone, yet we all experience stress in some form. The common ground we share is our need for relaxation and stress relief. From restorative and gentle yoga, to health food, to aromatherapy and self-care products, FreshJax makes relaxation possible for everyone.
The truth is, you don’t need to be flexible and strong to do yoga. You can do yoga to become flexible and strong. We are an all encompassing studio. Come just as you are, wear what helps you to feel comfortable, and allow us to provide the rest. We provide yoga mats and a variety of props to enhance your practice, and we encourage you to borrow these items free of charge. We aim to decrease any obstacles stopping you from getting here and experiencing the refreshing benefits of yoga. Come get centered, stretched, relaxed and strengthened with us at FreshJax.
Welcome to our yoga community. Namaste.
Studies have traced a range of impressive benefits to the simple act of writing down the things for which we’re grateful—benefits including better sleep, fewer symptoms of illness, and more happiness among adults and kids alike.
Tips for using your gratitude journal:
Keeping a gratitude journal—or perhaps the entire experience of gratitude—is really about forcing ourselves to pay attention to the good things in life we’d otherwise take for granted. Perhaps that’s why the benefits seem to diminish when you start writing more than once per week, and why surprises induce stronger feelings of gratitude: It’s easy to get numb to the regular sources of goodness in our lives.
How to use your gratitude journal:
Choose a time each week to write in your journal.
Refer to other entries in your book for inspiration or just write from your heart.
Remember, there’s no wrong way to write in your journal and, just like life, it doesn’t have to be perfect to be a wonderful experience.
A vision board is a tool used to help clarify, concentrate and maintain focus on specific life goals. It is a display of words and images that represent whatever you want to be, do or have in your life.
No matter what happens during your day, your vision board is a constant reminder of where you intend to be. Appealing to you on both conscious and subconscious levels, a vision board can work wonders toward keeping your mind focused on your goal, your attention on your intentions, and your life headed in the direction you choose.
Your vision board should focus on how you want to feel and the steps you’ll need to take to get there, not just on things that you want. Creating a sacred space that displays what you want actually does bring it to life. What we focus on expands. When you create a vision board and place it in a space where you see it often, you essentially end up doing short visualization exercises throughout the day, just like professional athletes before a big game. They visualize themselves performing to the best of their abilities before stepping into the spotlight.
The purpose of your vision board is to bring everything on it to life. First, write down your answers to the following questions to help focus your vision.
Next, gather anything that inspires and motivates you. This could be photographs, quotes, images, letters, words, etc.
Then, attach them to your vision board and place it where you will see it every day. Each time you look at it, visualize yourself achieving your goals. When an item on your board no longer matches your goals, replace it with something new!
Explore yoga + healthy living in Jacksonville, FL with FreshJax!