Childhood Favorite Brings You Fitness Fast FXP Hula Hoop

261888_10151278243135962_103699219_nI recently received a FXP Hula Hoop Fitness Set for review, I was not compensated in any way and my opinions are freely expressed.

That’s me top left in the fuchsia shirt with hoodie, right after completing my second hooping certification.  I am an average hooper – I can keep my hoop up for a prolonged time, can do fitness moves, travel, etc. I am far from hoop dancing on a stage, but I enjoy the workout and that was why I jumped at the chance to review a new fitness system that involved hooping.

Niece’s video has a high production quality and the travel hoop is the best I have experienced.  My former travel hoop has tiny screws that were constantly coming loose after use making assembly and disassembly a nightmare without a screwdriver.  The FXP hoop pieces are solid molded plastic and have no hitches. The weight of the hoop is nice too, better than my former travel hoop. Its only downfall is the very bland appearance which honestly travels through to the workout video as well.

To be fair, the workout itself is fast paced, but it really misses the fun and whimsy that drew me to hooping.  I know hooping can be over the top, hoopers are up there with bellydancers for pageantry, costumes, etc.  I wasn’t expecting that but it would have been nice to have some more uplifting music or a more interesting set.  The feel was middle aged pilates class.  Before you say “hey now!”, that is my personal demographic too, but I don’t want to feel like I’ve come to a geriatric fitness class – I want a bit of fun. With hooping I want a little over the top, it doesn’t have to be over the edge, just make me feel alive and relevant.

Personal feel aside, the only other problem I had with the video is that there was never reverse hooping, and important skill and necessity to keep the body in balance.  The legs were switched periodically but in my training there were horror stories of hoopers who never switched directions and caused them selves some pelvic and muscular issues.

My kit came with a hoop, carry bag, DVD, and quick exercise poster.  It also included a small piece of matting that was labeled “non slip hoop surface” but beats me how it would help, being approximately a 4 x 4 inch square – literally my toes fit on it. FXP offers an array of Hula Hoop Kits – These specially designed kits come equipped with everything needed to help women reach their specific goals.  Choose from five kits including: FXP Starter Kit, FXP Cardio Sculpt, Total Body Makeover, Total Body Makeover Plus, and Create Your Own. Each kit comes with retractable hoop, carry bag, DVDs, guides and more! Kits start at an affordable $49.94.

Other ways to connect to fitness through FXP include:

Hula Hoop Level 1 Teacher Training – Designed for trainers by trainers, it’s the first step in teaching FXP Fitness classes. Trainers receive the highest level of individual support in the industry, from business tools and webinars to lesson plans and troubleshooting support. Training is $250 with discounts for groups and military.. More Info here.

Hula Hoop Life Diet Nutrition Program – Provides access to expert nutritionists, meal planning guides, recipes, support, and more.

Mobile App – The perfect way to access FXP programs while away from home. Provides free workout guides and optional premium content. Available on iOS and Android devices.

FXP Fitness was programmed by internationally respected fitness leader, Niece Pecenka, to help users shed pounds, lose inches from their waistlines, and sculpt their bodies all while having fun!

For more information, please visit

I leave you with an explantation of the fitness system’s development “FXP Fitness was born from the idea that fitness should be an enjoyable, accessible experience that yields great results. It is a low to no impact program inspired by proven methods such as pilates, barre, and yoga, and combines them into a high intensity interval training system…all while using the specially designed fitness hula hoop. Perfect for toning arms, strengthening legs, and slimming middles, FXP is designed for ”all ages and all stages” and is backed by a recent metabolic study on the effectiveness of the FXP hula hoop and workout DCDs. Plus, its curriculum is easily modifiable to fit tight schedules, tight spaces, and lifestyles continuously on-the-go.”

Remember, any fitness program can work if you stick with it!

Packing a Protein Punch Premier Protein Shakes and Bars

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I recently received a box containing Premier Protein shakes and bars to review.  Unfortunately they contain dairy so I was unable to review them personally. I did hand them out to an office full of IT workers, and they were a hit as a quick grab and eat during busy work sessions.

Is it a wonder with delicious protein bar packed flavors such as:


and smooth shakes in a variety of flavors:

  • CHOCOLATE – 11 oz.
  • VANILLA – 11 oz.
  • CHOCOLATE, SINGLE – 14 oz.
  • VANILLA, SINGLE – 14 oz.

Premier Protein has teamed up with to offer a 100% guarantee on their products, “If you are not absolutely satisfied with your purchase, for any reason, let us know. We will promptly replace the item or give you a refund of its purchase price. It’s that simple.” With over 400K followers on FB they must be doing something right.

If you have problems getting protein powder down due to its chalkiness, look no further than their Recipes page which has some great ideas on how to integrate the powder into delicious smoothies. They also own another label, Joint Juice.

Yoga Class Pet Peeves and Why They Should Matter to Teachers

Having been a practitioner for many years now, and a studio owner/teacher for 10 years, I find I can rarely go to class without assessing the quality of the instruction.  Recently I attended a class at my new gym, which I love.  The instructor seemed like a really nice woman too, but probably not the most professional and that really did affect my external experience. Here are some of my pet peeves (from this class and others) and why they should matter as a teacher, or a student.

1. Entering class noisily and without decorum. When you enter your class it should be peaceful, not in a loud boisterous way, talking with one of your “friends”/students about how wasted everyone was, how you washed his pajama bottoms for him, how stoned you were, etc. just isn’t serene, doesn’t set a nice mood and honestly is too personal to be professional.

2. Hollering – and I mean loudly – at everyone who enters the class (especially when late) to “check” they are actually there (eg: “OMG – is that YOU Holly?!?!”).   Everyone likes to be acknowledged in class, quietly walking up to students to greet them is great for building rapport – ignoring new students – not so much.  My all time pet peeve? Accusingly asking students, “Did you pay for class and sign in up front? I checked the list before I got here and I didn’t SEE any new names,” without introducing yourself, yeah – you probably won’t see too many more new names.

3. Starting class with some long winded discussion about the new moon, how you’re a hippy, and other things that have nothing to do with yoga and are more about yourself and your own life.  Especially annoying when you start forcing your feelings on everyone else by making broad sweeping generalizations and statements.  Not everyone feels the same way you do, get over it, yoga isn’t about proselytizing and you need to meet your students where they are at, not where you think everyone should be.

4. Never looking up from your mat, or even better, never opening your eyes during class.  Personally I’m at the point in my practice where I don’t need someone to correct me, my proprioceptors work pretty well, however; when half your class has a quizzical look on their faces and you haven’t noticed it or more than half have their elbows way too wide for headstand – you may want to get off your own head and check around, do your job, teach a class – try NOT to need your insurance.  Again, professionalism and safety of others – I don’t care if you can do a handstand in the middle of the floor, I’d prefer not to hear people breaking their toes as they kick themselves wildly into the wall to try it too.

5. Mentioning how hung over you are in class.  Do I need to discuss this one? I am quite forgiving of teachers who haven’t mastered all of the poses – I surely haven’t – but I never fall over in a pose or have poor balance because I am hung over and I don’t think I should win a prize for that – its just professionalism rearing its head again.

6. CHakra. Pronounce it correctly. Especially when you seem to be able to use other Sanskrit words like CHaturanga and ardha CHandrasana. In fact, take a class on Sanskrit or pick up a book, it’s an important part of yoga…don’t know why? You should get your money back from your teacher training.

7. Have some idea of how your class is going to go. I never taught from a lesson plan but always knew what I planned on doing and had some contingencies – or at least props near by.  You lose credibility as a teacher and trust when you start to get into a pose and then blurt out “maybe I should have thought this out, we may need props, oh well we are all at different levels – just try it and see.” In the same vain you have to be flexible enough to know when a class isn’t ready for what you thought you would offer and be able to change it up.

8. Music, no music, doesn’t bother me either way.  My teacher trainers never used music and they had solid reasons – but my students always like music so I used it.  Either way I shouldn’t have to strain to hear your instructions, AFAA and ACE both have guidelines for safe listening volumes – yeah that’s right you may want to check out a group fitness training certificate if you plan on teaching in a gym – it makes you more marketable and knowledgeable.

9. Pushing any student to go farther.  Yes, we are here to instruct, to correct, to modify and create healthy poses –  but challenging a student is really their own deal.  I’m not omnipotent so I am guessing neither are other teachers – and I’m not in my students’ bodies so how could I ever dare to verbally assault or physically assault a student into going past their comfort zone? Professional liability wise it should never be done (that’s a talk with your insurance provider), but yogic wise – as in ethically – it definitely isn’t anyone’s place to push a student past their point – the whole ahimsa thing on so many levels comes up – not to mention Patanjali’s thing about “removing the root cause of suffering a pain”… yoga is to REMOVE pain people – not create it.  Any class or teacher that says otherwise…RUN! If you are that teacher and 1).you didn’t know or weren’t told then now you know and yoga is about growth 2). if you believe otherwise do us all a favor and quit teaching.

10. No savasana.  I just hate dislike you now. If you are the student who never stays for this challenging last pose I am sorry that its importance was never truly expressed to you, but if you are the teacher withholding this from class you need to take a hard look in the mirror and ask yourself why you teach at all. I love me some savasana – it’s the whole reason I deal with all of the aforementioned crap and don’t walk out the moment you try to recollect some book you read this weekend and how you think the metaphor applies to your life (I was a literature major and an English teacher so this one is a big pet peeve, see #3) please don’t snatch the last bit of redemption away from these 90 minutes.


Well, that is my Top 10 List of Yoga Class Pet Peeves.  I hope you found it both humorous and informative as I find most of my opinions to be – since they’re mine.

For all of the sour right before the New Year, here’s a little sweetness from the last kids’ yoga class I taught before I moved from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest.


Increasing the Production of hGH with Amino Acids

I was recently contacted to review SeroVital-hGH, I did not receive any compensation and the opinions expressed are given freely. Human growth hormone has been lauded as a way to decrease wrinkles and body fat while increasing your energy and fitness to help give you that rockin’ swimsuit bod and youthful glow! SeroVital-hGH consists of a blend of amino acids to naturally increase your body’s own production of growth hormones.  Higher HGH levels are associated with youthful skin integrity, lean musculature, an increased sex drive and elevated energy production.

While HGH production supposedly can be boosted by foods such as yams, SeroVital-hGH should keep you from having to stock up on pounds of potatoes. At $99 a bottle it isn’t a small investment.  I would have loved to try this myself but I am still breastfeeding and didn’t want to potentially have any side effects for my little ones, not to mention my husband jumped at the chance to be my tester.  He is always looking for a way to trim fat, gain muscle and of course have more energy.

He took the pills every day with breakfast and did seem to be a little trimmer at the end of the supply.  We just moved to Portland OR from Chicago IL area and sadly our routine of working out has hit a wall with three kids and no caregivers.  I wish we could have seen the effects if we were working out daily. As for wrinkles, who knows, we aren’t really worried about wrinkles because we take care of ourselves – no smoking, no drinking, eating well and hydrating.  My husband does suffer from rosacea though and during the time of his trial with SeroVital-hGH his face was noticeably less inflamed.

I’m not quite sold on the product myself, I think some trials that included blood draws that monitored hGH elevation levels would definitely put me in the believer camp. The website does list a study


The use of amino acid supplements to provoke growth hormone (GH) secretion in athletes and entertainers now extends to the general public. Not only do they have a goal of building lean tissue and reducing fat, but also in improving skin quality and other rejuvenating qualities that they believe GH can provide. Despite increasing mainstream use, evidence for whether oral amino acids stimulate GH is not clear.

This was a cross-over, placebo-controlled randomized study. 16 (12 males; 32±14 years; 26.4±5.0 kg/m2) healthy subjects had serum GH measured at baseline and 15, 30, 60, 90 and 120 minutes after taking a single low dose proprietary amino acid supplement blend (SeroVital™) or placebo.

After 120 minutes, GH levels had increased 8-fold from baseline (0.17 to 1.33ng/ml) and were significantly higher than placebo (P=0.01). In addition, a significantly higher mean AUC was observed after taking the supplement [20.4 (95% CI: 19.9-21.0ng/ml) vs. 19.7 (95% CI: 18.7-20.6ng/ml); P=0.04].

Our results show that a single oral dose of these amino acids can significantly increase GH Levels after 120 minutes in healthy men and women. Whether these GH changes persist over a longer duration or have other positive effects is being further examined.

But again, they are basing this on the ingestion of amino acid supplements and amino acids are found in the foods we eat, they have just been concentrated down into pill form – which has its pros and cons. The study does suggest that levels of hGH are raised but whether or not that will have the intended effect of reducing wrinkles I think would take a longer study period and measurement of wrinkle depth.

If you have the money to spend, it can’t hurt to attempt to reduce your wrinkles and melt fat.

#KindAwesome Win a Trip to #Wanderlust California Sweepstakes

This is a sweepstakes offered by Kind bars.  I am in no way involved in Wanderlust or prize fulfillment, in consideration for this post I did receive samples of Kind bars. 

Brush up on your sun salutation because your downward dog could win you a trip to the world’s leading yoga festival.  Want in? Snap a pic you’re your most #kindawesome yoga pose and upload it to the Facebook app for a chance to win a trip for 2 to Wanderlust California at Squaw Valley (7/18 – 7/21) including roundtrip airfare, 4 nights of lodging and 4-day Wanderlust Sage festival passes.

The contest will run from May 29 to June 16th.


Bliss Blew Into My Being Riding On a Blanket Stack

While I have been a yoga teacher for over 1o years I have not always taken the best care of my personal yoga practice.  Running a fitness studio, being a doula and parenting three children did not leave me enough time for my own personal effective yoga practice.  Well, that is a little bit of an untruth.  The real reason I am in pain is because I had not yet let go of ego.

Yes, I said it.  I have in the past had a larger ego than I currently do. Not the healthy type of ego either that keeps us alive and choosing the path of self preservation.  I indulged in the type of unhealthy ego that many individuals with body image disorders do – that ego that compares you and your self worth with everyone else around you.  My ego in particular liked to prey on my feelings of insecurity around my weight and being in an industry fraught with lean, toned, almost impossible to attain bodies bending into ridiculously compressed positions.  So for me, the more I pushed myself into poses, the harder I worked my muscles, the more I ached after a class, or the further I went into a pose the less I worried about people perceiving me as “less than” because of my fuller figure.

I also ran my own business which required me to teach until 40 weeks pregnant, and go back to work less than 2 weeks postpartum in order to pay rent, instructor’s salaries and for groceries.  I wasn’t the type of newly liberated woman who could make the statement  “I’m skipping maternity leave because my job is important” – I would have loved to stay home and relax with my newborns for even a full six weeks, I can’t imagine saying no to a paid maternity leave of any type.

The stage was set for pain.  Ten pound babies, 40 classes a week teaching aerobics and power yoga with hundreds of planks takes a toll on the pregnant and postpartum body.  Sixteen months after my daughter was born I was still experiencing searing pain in my SI Joint (posterior near the hip) and buttocks, my inner groin (I suffered through diastasis symphysis pubis, something I wouldn’t wish on anyone) and my lower back.  I made old man sounds every time I got off the couch, so many that my little sponge of a daughter started to grunt when she would stand up in solidarity with me.

What changed? I started teaching a prenatal yoga class at Yoga-Rhythms in Lisle, IL.  Years ago I used to take Svaroopa yoga with the same owner at a different location, many pounds, children and years ago when I was youthfully flexible and in class just to relax after a workout.  Now I attend classes every two days to manage my pain and release anxiety. And it works. Really works. If you let go.

Letting go is supposed to be a big part of yoga – letting go can’t truly occur if you are getting dressed up with $150 yoga pants to go to class for whatever the reason – because you can, because everyone else does, because your butt looks great, because you saw an ad for them – you are possessed by your possession still. You haven’t let go if you intensely stare at yourself in a mirror while instructed to push yourself as far as possible while your body goes through the stages of heat stroke – and shocker – the teacher leading you isn’t teaching yoga. I’m sorry to say this and I know some people will disagree ardently with me on these points but there is nothing to argue about.  If you care how you look in a pose, if you care about being seen in class, if you care about how far you can go or if you are addicted, drawn to a certain name on the marquee, only feel like you get something out of the practice if you look like you escaped from somewhere, are drenched, red faced, sore – you get the picture – you aren’t practicing true yoga. You are stagnant, stuck within the Annamaya kosha. I was once there too so I know it can seem as though you are truly practicing yoga and you may be going through the motions, making a good show, even living a very yogic life – I was but I wasn’t truly practicing.

blnk Yoga is about “removing the root cause of suffering and pain.” The first sign that my yoga practice wasn’t authentic were anxiety and panic attacks.  Then came pain. I could also say then came some medical conditions (tumors, gallstones, questionable skin tags, etc) but that may not be a fair assumption.  To those on the outside I had a steady yoga practice and taught daily but to me I was missing something – missing that feeling of bliss.  Sure, I took classes where I felt good at the end, felt like I stretched or got a workout, learned something new – but the bliss was missing.

Then I started taking Svaroopa classes again and the bliss blew back into my being it rode in on a stack of blankets.  I left the first class a little sore and if you saw the class from the outside looking in you would have a “What the? How could that be?” expression on your face.  The style is beyond gentle, it involves lots of blankets and propping – lots of letting go and even more self awareness.  You can’t get through more than 5 minutes of a class without hearing “Do you notice the difference?” or “Does it feel different?” or “How do you feel now?” you get the idea, teachers want you to contemplate your practice, something that is missing in many of the fly by night certifications out there. Teachers in this lineage receive a great deal of training I can attest as a yoga instructor with a great deal of training behind me that I had to let go of.  It isn’t that Svaroopa Yoga (now in its 21st year) is that far removed from “ normal yoga” – it is truly ingrained in the heart of yoga – it just isn’t as capitalized or commercialized and that may be why you haven’t heard of this amazing answer to pain problems.

For me it has been a journey of letting go not just of pain but of that evil ego.  Every time I mention this in class a teacher will say “Why do you have an ego about this?” or “why wouldn’t you want to use more blankets, don’t you want to feel bliss?” I do, I do! But my ego has a hard time admitting that all of these years I have been over stretching ligaments and tendons, listening to instructors tell me to go “more straight” or “deeper” into a pose and all the time piling on more pain for myself.  Its hard to look around a class and see “normal students”, average sized men and women of all ages not pushing themselves.  There is no-one to be “more flexible than” no-one to compare myself to and that was the hardest part – realizing my self worth isn’t tied to anyone else’s.

This revelation couldn’t have come at a better time – I’m ready to move on from teaching yoga and start a new/old career in academic teaching.  I have been practicing Vipassana meditation more seriously and learning to wish peace and loving kindness to others in situation where I once may have compared/judged myself. I’ve taken it a step further into wishing happiness to others in their situation instead of feeling jealous or dejected and it is very liberating to be detached. 

Four, maybe five weeks have passed and each class I attend I find new areas to release, I come up against new blocks now that I am getting into the muscles instead of stretching superficial tissues and I am pain-free. The potential to be pain free in one class really does exist, but the more you go – the more you let go. 

Manduka’s unBlok A New Yoga Prop Trend

I received an unBlok to review, I was not compensated in anyway and the opinions expressed are my own. Below is a press release followed by my review.


Launch inspires unBLOK party campaign and contest‹celebrating and giving thanks to community yoga studios nationwide

LOS ANGELES (April 30, 2013) ‹Manduka, purveyor of high performance yoga gear and the #1 choice of yoga teachers worldwide, revealed today the latest addition to its innovative family of yoga mats, props and accessories‹the Recycled Foam unBLOK.  Thoughtfully designed to be the most versatile foam block in the market, the unBLOK¹s functional, sleek design, user-friendly shape and high quality eco-friendly materials will help provide yoga practitioners versatility in traditional poses, offering a deeper, more natural support throughout their practice.

Inspired by the unblocking that naturally occurs when you have a powerful yoga session, Manduka is supporting the launch with a digital campaign celebrating the community spaces that help practitioners achieve breakthroughs: local yoga studios. Kicking off today, the unBLOK party campaign and contest encourages yogis to nominate their local studio via Facebook, sharing how their favorite practice space helps them ³unblock² and return to the world with new clarity.

³Manduka’s mission is to soulfully engineer yoga gear to help people inspire the practice of yoga and find personal breakthroughs,² said Sky Meltzer, CEO Manduka.  ³Many of these breakthroughs happen in a yoga studio environment. We are encouraging our community to give thanks to the people and places who have helped them on their path, acknowledging our local studios for their huge role in our practice and our lives.²

Through the unBLOK party campaign and contest, Manduka is making it easy for practitioners to show their studio some love.  Simply:

Nominate‹Head over to Manduka¹s Facebook page and answer a few questions on your inspirational studio. Manduka will thank you with a special offer.

Select‹Manduka will select five studio nominations to feature on a dedicated landing page:  The selected studios will be outfitted in Manduka yoga gear.  Additionally, five people who nominate will be gifted with an unBLOK kit.

Vote‹The community will be encouraged to visit the unBLOK landing page to vote for their studio of choice.  The winning studio will receive additional Manduka yoga gear and an ŒunBLOK¹ party‹an in-studio experience inclusive of yoga taught by a high-profile teacher followed by a celebration with music, food and product giveaways.

Give‹Manduka will sponsor a teacher or teachers at the winning studio to do their own seva work bringing yoga to an underserved area in their local community.

Nominations are open starting today and will run through May 21.  Voting on will begin May 31.

For more information on Manduka, please visit: join us on Facebook or follow us @MandukaYoga

About Manduka Founded in 1997, Manduka was built on the simple idea that a better yoga mat can make a world of difference. Manduka strives to support and enrich the yoga community by providing premium quality mats and products while respecting employees, customers, materials, and the environment.  Created for and by yoga enthusiasts, Manduka¹s technical and purpose-driven product designs meet and often exceed the distinct needs of all practitioners.  Today Manduka¹s products, which include yoga mats, towels, yoga straps, water bottles, and bags, are sold in more than 35 countries around the world. Not only focusing on superior design, Manduka also promotes their ethos of quality, thoughtfulness and sustainability in all realms of their business.

image I decided to review the block by using it to assist in two different asanas.   For Uttitha Trikonasana I used both an unBlok and a regular block in two block positions – flat and semi upright. Coming into the pose I positioned the block to the outside of my front leg so that my wrist wound up under my shoulder. With the unBlok there were curves to the block and there was a greater amount of pressure through the top of my wrist due to the position from the curve – something I normally advise students against. This was not the case with my regular wood block that also provided a more stable base than foam. With Matsyasana though, the curve to the block provided a more gentle heart opening than the use of my standard wood blocks and of course the foam was less harsh as well.

I think the unBlok would be beneficial in certain poses but provide no added benefit in other poses.  If you are on the market to by just one block, you can pick the unBlok up – but I’m not sure I would buy one just to have one. The unBlok is made from recycled foam so that is a definite plus for those yogis who like to practice real life yoga and be eco-conscious.

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