People often ask me what Alkalign is and how it is different from other exercise offerings. As much as I have tried to consolidate my response into the typical 30-second “elevator pitch,” I have a hard time keeping it concise. Part of that is attributed to my passion for what we do coupled with my talkative nature. The bigger challenge is that it’s truly hard to narrow it down. Alkalign is far more than a barre fitness studio. It is a lifestyle. It extends beyond the hours you spend in class and permeates into your being. It is more of a “who” than a “what”.
At the risk of sounding like Dr. Seuss, it’s really all the “whos” in the community that make Alkalign unique. We have clients of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds. We all connect with Alkalign in different ways and we embrace the diversity as it keeps things interesting. The sum is greater than the parts.
What is the difference between a fast food burger and an organic grass fed hamburger? How do you feel while eating one vs the other? How do you feel after? How will your body feel after months or years of one vs the other?
Not all food is created equally, and neither is all movement. Ann Wigmore, founder of The Natural Health Institute states, “The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison”. The same is true of movement. According to biomechanist Katy Bowman, “junk movement is defined as a way of moving that provides short-term fitness benefits at the expense of long-term health.” (1)
At Alkalign, we are committed to serving nutritious movement in the form of nutritious exercise. We do a tremendous amount of research on how the body is designed to move and how the evolution of everything from shoes to computers and smartphones is causing the de-evolution of our physical being, leading to pain, injuries and mobility challenges. Our Innovation team works closely with a variety of specialists to evaluate what we do, how each exercise and class format benefits the body and how we can best pair exercises to provide a well balanced movement practice that will allow you to function optimally throughout life.
With the launch of Alkalign, we made a conscious decision to go beyond the barre and focus on holistic health. Strength, balance and mobility to nourish the mind, body and soul. We have evolved our classes to include movement, stretching and balance exercises in all anatomical planes, preparing our bodies to move best in the asymmetrical world we live in. The development of Recharge has allowed us to introduce a new level of mobility into the Alkalign practice in a relaxing environment that eases the body and quiets the mind. More evolution is on the horizon as we continually seek new opportunities to learn and to share those learnings with our clients.
We challenge you to reflect on your movement practices. Which category does your physical activity fit into? Is it working for you today? Is it going to help you live in a healthier body tomorrow? Have you evaluated the risks vs the rewards?
At Alkalign we believe balance is dynamic and does not mean walking the tightrope of nutritious food and movement all of the time. In fact, we encourage you to step outside your comfort zone and try new things. Eat the fries. Live a little! Know that Alkalign is a solid foundation you can return to and a platform to leap from. We are not chasing trends or trying to be the quicker, cheaper option. We are mindfully working to guide our clients where they need to go before they realize they need to be there. Alkalign is a practice you can trust to nourish you today while preserving your body for tomorrow.
2015 was a big year. The prior year I had done some major soul searching related to my career. On the surface everything was great. I owned two successful studios where I got to positively impact lives every day. However, deep down I wanted to offer my clients, employees and community something more.
Alkalign was born in April 2015. Our mission is to educate, empower and inspire people to be the best version of themselves that they want to be. “The best” is relative and is different for everyone. It is different depending on the day. The moment. It’s not about walking a tightrope to perfection. It’s about living in those moments. Learning a little bit each day. Stumbling. Getting back up. Acknowledging. Appreciating. Accepting. Life is a journey, not a destination. We want to help make your journey as enjoyable as possible.
This year it’s not about resolutions. Resolutions feel absolute. The only thing in life I know for sure is that nothing is absolute. Set an intention. Set a goal. Start small. Write it down. Share it with someone else who can support you in your goals.
I have a lot of goals this year. To open five studios. To sleep seven hours a night. To complete my health coaching certification. To continue to evolve Alkalign into something that will enhance as many lives as possible. Big stuff. Yet, it’s the leaping that comes easier for me. It’s the ability to live present that is the challenge. To spend quality time with my kids. To put down the phone or shut the laptop so I can chase them around the house or play hide and seek. To skip a morning workout so I can lay in bed and snuggle with my family. To find a moment to tell my husband how much I appreciate him. It’s finding that dynamic balance between today and tomorrow that challenges me. I’m setting the goal to get better at it. To find a balance that works for me and for my family and to forgive myself when one side of the see-saw is a little heavier than the other.
I hope you also find ways to Live Present and Leap Forward this year. We’d love for you to share them with us in the studio or on social media and we will commit to supporting you in your goals. #Alkalign366 #AlkalignLeap
Help us spread our mission and support Alkalign’s movement of progress, not perfection. Know someone who wants to LEAP with us and open a studio? Send them our way.
10 things you may not know about Alkalign Instructor Lizzie Hammerman
+ Lizzie played horse polo in college. She can wrap a horse’s legs ninja-fast. That is how she met her (now) husband.
+ She is an avid outdoor cyclist. She has completed numerous metric and standard centuries. She is also our team captain for Cycle for Survival!
+ She has an extensive collection of exotic stuffed animals that includes an okapi, a wombat, a ring-tailed lemur, a giant anteater and a tapir.
+ She spent a summer in college as an intern for Gallo winery in their research winemaking group.
+ She also spent a summer in college as a horseback riding instructor. She drove a little yellow bus full of children from San Francisco to Danville every day. She got a commercial driver’s license to do this.
+ She is a San Francisco native. Her parents still live in the same house that she grew up in.
+ She took her first group exercise class (it was step aerobics) at the age of 10. She has been hooked on the power of group exercise ever since. She can still do a mean “Around the World” into a “Combo Repeater”.
+ She has a weak spot for teen dramas. Dawson’s Creek, Buffy, One Tree Hill… you name it. In case you were wondering, she’s on Team Jacob.
+ She has never lived outside of Northern California.
+ She is a self-proclaimed foodie and loves to talk about restaurants.
This being my first attempt to write a blog, I realized (with help of course from the blog gurus) that I had written more of a research paper. I had researched a topic that had impacted me over the past few months. RUMINATION. I had no idea what rumination was nor its impacts. As a fitness instructor, I am constantly putting myself out there to receive feedback from clients, peers and bosses. Feedback is delivered in many forms such as; non-verbal, body language, facial expression and verbal. After I delivered a class that I felt was less than stellar, I received feedback loud and clear in all the ways I listed above and it was spot on.
We are also our own worst critics and I was in this case. I wasn’t sure how to implement the feedback I had received nor how to deal with my inner critic that was beating me down. I began to dwell on all the things I could’ve, would’ve and should’ve done, which is when I believe “negative thinking became a hazard to my health”.
While researching ways to digest and integrate feedback, I found out that I was ruminating. This is when we stew about a negative experience. This tends to send us into a spiral of negativity, and reaffirming thoughts of things we think we could’ve done to change the outcome. I was struggling to find the “notice, learn and move on” skillset that I normally use. The same area of the brain that controls our emotions can’t discern reality versus the hypothetical experiences taking us back to the negative thought over and over again.
Our brains react to negative stimuli much faster than positive. An example of this is that people can identify an angry face faster than happy one. This is due to the fight or flight response mechanism within each of us.
There is also a chemical released in the brain that contributed to the negativity I was feeling. While we go through the process of digesting these negative thoughts, our brain releases a stress hormone called cortisol. The more cortisol that is released to deal with our stress and negative thoughts, the harder it is to rebuild new positive memories. After all the research and reading, I realized I didn’t want to live in the past trying to figure out how to undo what happened. Instead, I decided to “notice, learn and move on” or better yet, “live present, be forward”.
The good news is, you can control your tendency to get stuck in the negativity junk or spin your wheels in the mud. I used a number of the following tools to assist with changing my attitude and turning negative thinking to positive.
Ways to Deal with Negative Thinking:
+ Notice if you’re stuck in the mud.
+ Set aside time to ruminate. Don’t allow rumination to take over your time. Allot time to ruminate and decide if the situation deserves any more of your time.
+ Ask yourself is there a problem to solve. If yes, set a goal to fix it, if not, move on, it’s not worth any more of your time.
+ Ensure you set goals you can achieve. If your rumination is built on something that has happened in the past, change your thoughts to something that is positive in the moment. Redirect your attention. Setgoals you can achieve.
+ You may not always agree or have to accept the current reality. However, you can accept the experience, learn from it, and move on.
+ Work out on a regular basis to send happy endorphins through your body to counteract negativity.
+ Recharge class or a massage will allow you to control your breath and tap into your parasympathetic nervous system allowing you to reduce stress.
+ Meditation is useful for taking control of your breath, awareness and subsequent redirect.
+ Sleep! Get your 7-8 hours every night.
+ Redirect your attention. Crossword puzzles, sudoku, and adult coloring books can quiet your mind.
Take the time to notice how the experience/issue is affecting you, be aware if you are ruminating, then take steps to ensure you don’t get stuck. If you’d like to know more about rumination and/or it’s relationship to cortisol there are numerous studies to be Googled! “Don’t bring negative to my door”— Maya Angelou
In last week’s Recharge class, I taught a simple breathing technique and exploration to help prioritize and recognize what’s important in your own life. It came from a discussion that I had with my meditation teacher, Harshada Wagner, a few years ago and feels even more relevant than usual around the holidays.
Basically, you can break down categories of questions and things in your life like this:
Emergent+Urgent—These are tasks with deadlines. These are every day fires and robotic chores. Have the bills been paid? Did we send a Christmas card to that person? Go to the grocery store. Pack the kids lunches for school. Your child just threw up on you (ahem, Erin) and you need to clean everyone up. Important—Why do you have a job? Do you enjoy spending the money you earn?
Precious—These are things that if you lost, your life would be diminished.
Sacred—What would you care about if you had an hour to live? A year? What matters?
On bad days when we are embedded in emergent and urgent tasks those things that are precious and sacred have to scream for attention. However, you can learn to recognize when you’re stuck in the first two layers and how to break through them. It’s about perspective when things are on fire. Take about 5-15 minutes and do the following:
+Lay on your back in bridge prep pose. (Knees bent, feet flat on the floor.)
+Place one hand on your belly, one hand on your chest.
+Close your eyes. Find stillness.
+Feel your breath move in the body. Just bring the awareness to the feeling of breathing.
+While you remain focused on the breath, notice any thoughts that bubble up (without judgement, without needing to change them, without needing to hide from them). Just acknowledge those things regardless of how significant or insignificant you think they are. Many of these things likely fall into the emergent and urgent categories—those tasks the brain thinks need doing to protect or provide for what is precious and sacred.
+Visualize something sacred. Notice how that makes you feel. Let it fill you up.
As you come out, and bring movement back into the body just notice any shifts in your awareness or approach to those things you face in your every day life. Sometimes just a few minutes of allowing yourself to bare witness to what’s happening and put that into perspective of what’s truly sacred is enough to greatly shift our overall outlook and well-being. And that’s what Recharging is ultimately all about.
Or getting on the wagon for the first time, whichever situation you find yourself in, can be challenging. Starting a new exercise program, or re-committing yourself after a break, is something that can feel intimidating. I am going to speak from my own personal experience in this blog and assure you, no one has ever felt more intimidated than me, coming back to Alkalign after a hiatus.
I have always been an avid exerciser, a lover of fitness and especially a lover of butter+sugar+flour (hence the exercise). I found our local barre studio after a tough period in my life, punishing myself on the treadmill every single day, checking off my five miles. Walking into the studio five years ago, my eyes opened up to a bright, friendly studio full of happy people and pop music. And the exercises worked! Within weeks I could see the results of the workouts, everything was tighter and smaller. I quietly tiptoed away from the treadmill dungeon in my garage and never looked back. I was a devoted barre student for two years when I went through the training to be an instructor and taught regularly for about six months. I was just starting to hit my stride and get really comfortable with that silly mic, when one of my kids had a little hiccup and needed some extra attention. I resigned as an instructor and with my tail between my legs, commenced taking classes as a regular student. There were awkward moments, when clients would assume I was still an instructor and ask for help and I couldn’t offer any adjustments. I powered through those first couple of months and found a nice regular stride. About a year later, it seemed like every single instructor was pregnant and I decided to come out of retirement, put my grippy socks on and grab a hold of that mic again. Another six good months as an instructor and another kid with another challenge to manage. I couldn’t figure out a way to stay on the schedule as an instructor and still have the flexibility I needed to manage my family and their never-ending stream of problems. So again, for the 2nd time, I had to quit. You don’t think that sucks?
I was beside myself. I felt like I had disappointed people and I couldn’t bring myself to show my face near the studio. I took a year, a whole calendar year, and tried every group exercise on the peninsula, trying to find a replacement for the exercise, the results, but mostly, the community I was missing at Alkalign. And one day I just said to myself, “This is bananas. Get yourself in there and take a class.” I literally sat in the parking lot, hands shaking for five minutes before I walked in. I have never been so intimidated in my life. Here was my place, my people, but I had failed them and was too embarrassed to try again. But damn it, I did. I tried again. And I am so glad I did.
So if you are on a little exercise break, get back on the wagon. I promise you will be happy you did. If you are curious about Alkalign and have been wanting to try it, get on the wagon for the first time. There are friendly people there who want you to succeed. It’s not some secret society of Lululemon wear-ers. Don’t be scared away by the perception that everyone knows what they are doing but you. It takes time to figure out the positions and refine them and get the most out of your workout. And I have news—no one was born doing Low C curve! We all had to learn too.
I’m going to wrap this up with a quotation that’s been rolling around in my head for a while now. I had to look it up to get it right and found that it was spoken by Robin Williams. My training partner in crime, Cathy Purnell, and I saw Robin Williams in Marin at a coffee shop during a break from an instructor training day. When I realized it was his words that continue to inspire me, it all came full circle. “There’s no shame in failing. The only shame is not giving things your best shot.”