Author Archives: michellekeefe

Props, Props, Props…I love Props. Props can enhance our practice on many levels, but the use of props can leave many of us feeling confused. Possibly asking one of the following questions:

  • “If I grab a block have I outed myself as a newbie?”
  • “Why does everyone else seem to know what to grab?”
  • “What the hell is all that stuff and why do I need it?”


That’s what I am here to clarify.

In many yoga classes, teachers may leave it up to the student to decide which, if any props to use. Other teachers may list 4 or 5 things to bring to your mat and in some classes (especially at gyms) there may be limited prop options.  It may be up to you to determine what you want to use and when you want to use it.

Push the ego aside because even the most advanced yogis use props. Props help to maintain alignment, enhance restorative experiences, make challenging poses more accessible, and draw attention to specific body regions. The various shapes that our bodies have also affect alignment in pose.  We must adjust the pose to conform to the body, rather than conform the body to fit the pose.  Whether we need to loosen tight muscles, require a more restorative asana, or are practicing arm balances, props will safely get us to where we want to go.

The 3 B’s:  Blocks ◊ Blankets ◊ Bolsters  ◊ (oh and) Straps


  • For standing poses, keep your hand relaxed (no white knuckles), fingers spread and press the block away lifting the weight out of your wrists by engaging your arm muscles.
  • Blocks are great reminders for bringing awareness to certain areas.  A block between the thighs in bridge prevent the legs from splaying out and prompt us to engage the adductors.
  • We don’t all have a specific leg/arm/torso ratio. Those with longs legs with respect to the rest of their body may find it challenging to reach the hand to the floor and maintain the length in the spine while in Trikonasana (triangle pose).  A block beneath the bottom hand raises the “ground” creating more freedom to breath.
  • Place a block under the sacrum in supported bridge or under the head in a forward fold to enjoy a more restorative pose.

(Pardon my self-timer pics)


  • If your lower back rounds in seated poses, lift your seat up with a folded blanket under your sits bones.
  • Keep the body warm during savasana by covering the body with a blanket
  • Support the shoulders in sarvangasana and keep the neck safe.
  • Place a blanket under your knee in anjanayesana.



  • Optimize comfort and enhance restoration effects with a supportive bolster.
  • A magical component for prenatal yoga, bolsters support the back and pelvis in savasana whether between the thighs or propped under the back.


  • Straps act as extensions for limbs when muscles are tight.
  • For taut hamstrings, a strap around the foot allows for a more expansive utthita hasta padangustasana (extended hand-to-big toe pose) and janu sirsasana.
  • A strap bridges the gap between hands when shoulders are tight in Gomukhasana and Salabhasana.



Here are a few of my favorite Memorial Day things…Let the Summer Commence!!! 


  1. This seems like an adorable spot to spend Memorial Day weekend – maybe bike up the road to meet some friends for lobster rolls.
  2. Fouta: Beach towel, picnic blanket, and firepit shawl: a fouta may be your most versatile memorial day item.  Here’s a lovely shop on etsy , Loveee, for all of your fouta needs.
  3. Baja Fish Tacos:  Nothing puts me in a beachy mood like fish tacos especially when served with a mai tai.  Here’s a list of safe, sustainable fish.  I find this a helpful resource since it’s hard for my brain to keep track.
  4. Chambray Toms: I still have the first pair of toms that I purchased in 2007.  These are the perfect shoe to slip on this summer kickoff weekend.  As a bonus, toms just donated nearly 300,000 shoes to children all over the world and will continue to donate shoes for each one purchased; an inspiring company founded by a very cool guy, blake mycoskie.
  5. Mindy Kaley & B.J. Novak’s book:  It’s not out yet so I won’t actually be reading it this weekend, but I  happened to just read about it.. According to the NY Daily News, of which I am in avid reader 😉 , these 2 are receiving a hefty amount for a book about their complicated relationship.


Back pain is a common aliment during pregnancy.  However not all back pain is muscular.  If you are feeling some aches in your lower back in addition to a sharp, shooting pain from the buttocks down the back of your leg, you are experiencing sciatica.  The sciatic nerve spans that same area.  When extra weight, whether from the baby shifting her position or from an expanding uterus, resides on that nerve this compression results in that sharp pain down your leg.


image courtesy of

Not everyone experiences sciatica, but for those that do it can be supremely uncomfortable. Thankfully it does not typically occur until the third trimester when the pressure is at its most intense.  But heck…we shouldn’t have to suffer through it so here’s what to do to find some relief:

  1. Hot & Cold Compresses.  Alternate using a heating pad to increase blood flow and an ice pack to reduce inflammation whenever you are sitting for longer periods.
  2. Acupuncture will improve circulation, relax muscles, and enhance the flow of energy.
  3. Prenatal Massage: If you can squeeze in a massage every once in awhile this will loosen up the muscles in the lower back and alleviate the tension surrounding the nerve.
  4. Swimming: If you haven’t tried swimming during your pregnancy start now!  A low-impact exercise that feels so great on a pregnant body making you feel almost weightless.
  5. Change up position: Lie on your side with a pillow between knees – better pelvic alignment and relieve pressure off nerve.
  6. Yoga:  Try the following poses to take the pressure off the nerve.

Navigating core work during pregnancy is as confusing as determining which seafood is safe to eat.  There are so many rules and restrictions that on the one hand it’s tempting to toss your arms up and forgeyoga 076t the whole thing. On the other hand, it may be tempting to continue with your standard core strengthening routine without properly modifying. Do neither of these things.

I’m all for pregnant women staying fit and strong and being their badass selves, but no one wins if you don’t modify your ab exercises. Don’t get me wrong. A strong core benefits a woman from the 1st trimester into her postnatal body.  With those muscles in working shape you can avoid many of the pains of pregnancy especially in the back which becomes more vulnerable as your belly gets progressively bigger. You will also bounce back to your pre-pregnancy shape faster.  Yes, I know we need to be content with our new bodies but honestly wouldn’t we prefer to have some elements of the former one.  Therefore, it’s important to understand which muscles we can continue to strengthen and which ones need a break.

A strong girdle around the baby provides support to hold the extra weight.  The transversus abdominis (the deep abdominals) and the back muscles make up this support system for the belly.  Developing these muscles before and during pregnancy reduce back pain and ease labor. The rectus abdominis (the muscles that create 6-pack abs) are the ones we want to leave alone. When we focus on these surface muscles we risk causing diastasis recti, which is harder to solve than to prevent.  Diastasis recti occurs when the abdominal muscles spread apart resulting in a saggy tummy.  Ironically, overworking the rectus abdominis leads to this unintended effect because when these muscles are overly taut the belly forces its way through them making a wider separation.  It can be fixed, but if it can be avoided…

The illustration below depicts the shifting muscles in the changing body, as well as emphasizes (irrelevantly I might add) the changing breasts.  Way to rub it in…  It does offer a nice visualization of how the muscles rearrange pre, during, and post pregnancy.



image courtesy of

What else are we worried about:

1. Breathing:  I want you to breath.  It’s critical.  Many abdominal exercises involve lying on your back, which puts pressure on the vena cava and thus slows blood flow to the baby and to your heart.

2. Diastasis Recti.  I already mentioned this above – stay away from traditional sit-ups and crunches.

3. Body image.  We have to let go a little bit of maintaining our previous figure.  Staying fit, healthy, and strong is important.  Putting pressure on ourselves to maintain 6 pack abs is an added, unnecessary burden when you already have some big life changes.

So what can you do?

In the 1st trimester, you are (with the okay of your doctor) safe to continue with standard abdominal work.

Once you are in the 2nd trimester, modifications become necessary.  The following poses offer safe, challenging exercises to strengthen the core.

  • Bird Dog: Come to all fours on mat with shoulders over wrists, knees hip-width apart and spine neutral.  Extend left arm forward and right leg back.  Take 5 breaths and then switch sides.

    Bird Dog

  • Forearm Plank: You can modify by coming to your knees or coming to a high plank.

    Forearm Plank

    Forearm Plank

  • Side Plank: Extend the top leg and bring bottom knee to mat.
  • IMG_9993

    Modified Side Plank

  • Modified Navasana: Keep your forearms on mat behind you. With bent knees lift legs to tabletop so your calves are parallel to mat. alternate lowering one foot and tapping toes to mat and bringing it back up to tabletop and lowering other foot.

    Modified Navasana

I’m dedicating the next few blog posts to prenatal yoga. Spring is a time of rebirth so what better moment to explore this magical experience!  yoga 038

We’re well aware these days of the importance of staying fit while pregnant.  Active pregnancies:

  • minimize pregnancy-related pain
  • reduce fatigue
  • make healthy babies
  • accelerate postpartum healing

This period of excitement, joy, and anticipation may also have consequent effects of physical discomfort and emotional stress.  Wherever you are physically or emotionally, prenatal yoga can alleviate the pains so you can celebrate the bliss.

If you are pregnant consider incorporating prenatal yoga into your regular exercise regime.  If you already have a regular yoga practice, consider weaving in prenatal-specific classes along with your regular ones.  Prenatal yoga targets the specific needs of a pregnant woman by modifying poses and focusing on ones that are the most beneficial to your changing body.   Any exercise that your doctor gives you the green light on is great, but yoga has the following added benefits:

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1. Relieve the aches of pregnancy.  From morning sickness to swollen ankles, pregnancy can generate unfortunate side effects.  Certain poses will alleviate a variety of these discomforts.  For nausea, try hero posefor sciatica try pigeon; and gentle/open twists for back pain (we will get into more specifics in future posts).

2. Embrace the connection to this new life. With our hectic lifestyles, making time to connect with your unborn baby and new role as mother seems impossible and maybe even hokey.  Yoga offers you that time to appreciate this special moment.  It may seem like an eternity while you are pregnant but once it passes you realize it went by in  a flash.  A prenatal yoga practice creates the opportunity to spend a few moments bonding with your baby and being mindful of the magic occurring within that incredible body.  yoga 041

3. Prepare for childbirth.  Even if you are not planning for a natural childbirth the pranayama and asana practiced during prenatal yoga can help during the initial stages of labor.  Prenatal poses focus on building strength in the areas that you need most such as the pelvic floor.  As they say, giving birth is like running a marathon…and I definitely would not want to run 26.2 miles without some prep work.

4. Stay fit. As mentioned above, active pregnancies make for happier ones.  Even in a slower paced prenatal class, you are still burning calories and building strength.  If you are up for a more rigorous routine, continue your regular yoga classes in addition to prenatal ones. For the mom-to-be who can’t workout, breath work and quiet meditation is still a wonderful way to connect with your baby and relax without asanas.

5. Reduce stress.  Allow yourself time to decompress and relax.  Whether you are expecting your first or fifth, any transition can be daunting.  Take the time to quiet your mind and turn your attention inward.  If you are participating in a group prenatal class, you can enjoy a sense of community with like-minded individuals, many of whom will be sharing the same anxiety, pains, and joys that you are experiencing.  This kind of realization that you are not alone can be very reassuring.  Don’t underestimate the power of moral support.


Since there are so many things we can’t easily control in the environment, I try to cease any opportunity to limit exposure to harmful chemicals.  I’ve been purchasing safer cleaning products for a long time and use a variety of DIY options.  This season I am kicking it up a notch and making a collection of my own cleaning products that I will share with you, dear reader.

First gather up the following items:

  • spray bottles
  • mason jar with holes in cap
  • water
  • white vinegar
  • baking soda
  • isopropyl alcohol
  • essential oils (lavender, eucalyptus…)
  • citrus fruit
  • castille soap (ex. Dr. Bronner’s)


Bathroom Spray

This works great on tile, showers, and glass. 


All Purpose Spray

This mix is effective but gentle to use on almost any surface – stone, furniture, floors…


All-Purpose Scrub

Mix these 2 into a mason jar shaker as a scrub for bathrooms and sinks. Let sit for 10 minutes and then scrub away.  Also works great as a carpet freshener.  Let sit for an hour and then vacuum. 


Disinfectant Spray (safe for granite)

This mixture is a great follow-up to the All-Purpose Spray.  Spray and let sit for 3 minutes then wipe.  




It’s almost Earth Day!!  Let’s celebrate this weekend with some nature-themed activities.


  1. “The Child is father of the Man.” Introducing the kids to Wordsworth and the other Romantics…no time like spring.  (side note: This pic looks like fall but was actually taken today).
  2. The Audubon Society’s release of free high-resolution images from John James Audubon’s The Birds of America.  Print, frame, admire!
  3. Shiva Rea’s EarthDay Instagram Eco Challenge. “Our aim is to activate our instinctual connection to the earth and awaken a call to positive action to honor, protect, preserve, and conserve our earth body.”
  4. Green juice from Stacy’s Juicebar. I won a giftcard at my son’s school auction, and I kicked off Friday with a green treat for the bambino and me.
  5. Hiking, biking, playing, lounging – as long as it is outside!!!!


The Boston Marathon is approaching and my rock star friends who will be running the course are feeling the excitement along with some pain.  Clicking knees, sore bums, tight hamstrings…running can be hard on the body.  ENTER YOGA!  Running + yoga is a marriage arranged by the heavens.  Running is a such a great ingredient in life but without the balance (yogis are all about balance) of yoga it can lead to some unfortunate side effects.

As a great cardio workout, running improves heart health, tones & strengthens leg muscles, and reduces stress.  It also tightens and shortens muscles and long-term running can result in injuries, like shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and joint pain.  For running devotees, yoga can be the yin to running’s yang.


1.  Lengthens and loosens those muscles reducing the chance of injury and providing an overall healthier body.

2.  Enhances structural alignment to encourage a proper gait.  A strong focus on alignment in asana brings a mindfulness and awareness to one’s body.

3.  Improves endurance.  As we know, yoga is more than just stretching. Pranayama breathing techniques train our respiratory system to work deeper, slower and more effectively,  We take in more oxygen while at the same time calming our nervous system which is especially useful on intense endurance runs.

Whether you are running a marathon or just a few miles a week, incorporate yoga to balance out the effects of running.

Enhance your running, improve your stamina and reduce chance of injury with the following 5 poses:

Include Savasana.  A run fires up our sympathetic nervous system sending adrenaline throughout the body.  Balance out that stimulation with the previous poses and a calming savasana, which engages the parasympathic NS to store that positive energy, reduce blood pressure, and nourish organs.

It’s March and technically spring.  We’ve resurfaced from our hibernation and emerged from the thick layers of snow only to discover that the remaining snow is less a delicate mille feuille and more a mount filth; not exactly a bucolic spring scene.  However, our spirits are high as is the wee ones’ energy. We are eagerly awaiting warmer temperatures and long afternoons on the porch.  Instead of waiting out the snow and rain,  mix-up the weekend activities to get everyone out of the house and end the cabin fever.

1. Indoor Climbing

We recently discovered Rock On Adventure, an indoor rock climbing facility that includes other adventurous activities for kids. My guys loved it and were exhausted by the end of our climbing…as were we.  The best part was how proud they both were of their accomplishment; stepping back and acknowledging their feat of how high they climbed.

IMG_7686   IMG_7702

2. Indoor Jumping

Another easy way to expend that energy is bouncing.  Skyzone is a sea of trampolines and thus an outrageously good time.  That’s probably why Phil Dunphy is such a happy guy.


Alternate your time between climbing and jumping, and you will be ready for summer weather in no time.  Beats the treadmill.

IMG_4008    IMG_4004

3. Museum Visits

A museum may not seem like the venue for the intrepid explorer (or pent-up children) but au contraire, it’s ripe for movement and adventure.  A recent trip to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston proved to be thrilling!  The Art Cart supplied each youngster with a canvas tote of art supplies and gallery scavenger hunts. The walking alone is exhausting for little feet and it offers a more sophisticated alternative for the grown-ups.

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Now these experiences all cost money, but no more than a ticket and snack at the movie theater and with much happier, tired kids and saner parents at the end of the day.


Of course for a free indoor option, there’s always yoga!

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If you have the ceiling height, this would be amazing.


House Decorators Collection


We sang. We danced. We swung from the proverbial chandelier. Now we’re paying for it.  Too much food, too much drink, lots of good times but now left feeling sluggish, grumpy and unmotivated…we’ve all been there.

The morning after an overly-indulgent evening can be frustrating especially with the added guilt.  Stop cursing yourself for last night’s sins. You had fun. Embrace it and move on.  The day may not function as you planned, but if you burden yourself with shame then that negativity will make it all the more unpleasant.  Shake it off and get back on track.

cottage pub in Ireland

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! image courtesy of Aileen Clarke

Here’s the plan for recuperation:


If you don’t have kids stay in bed as long as possible.  If you do have kids, I’m sorry.  Instead turn on the cartoons, rest your head, and start hydrating.  Speaking of…


Flush out the toxins stat.  Hold off on caffeine until you have at least 2 very tall glasses of water.  Then drink more water.  If you normally nurse your hangover with a sports drink, try coconut water (Zico Natural Pure Premium Coconut Water) instead for that same boost of electrolytes without the nasty chemicals.  As a side note, Coke (Powerade) and Pepsi (Gatorade) did remove the flame retardant (yes, you read that correctly), BVO, from their products, but the list of ingredients is still unpleasant to read.


Start off on the right foot with something healthy.  This will help change your mindset. Please do not feed the hangover grease. This will bring your mood down further and mess with an already temperamental stomach.  For the rest of the day stick to comforting, healthy, veggie-rific, high protein meals.  Asparagus, bananas, eggs, quinoa, spinach, avocados, tomato juice (not bloody mary’s) restore depleted minerals and vitamins and propel you further down the road of recovery.

Straighten up

Yourself and your surroundings.  Remove evidence from the previous night, clear out the wine bottles and martini glasses, and hop in the shower. Sneak away from the brood for 30 minutes, indulge in some tv or music, and fold laundry in solitude. All mindless activities that offer a little movement and to-do list checks.

Get outside

Move!  Fresh air, sunshine, and physical activity are your cure-all.   It may be hard to drag yourself off the couch, but sulking inside definitely will not improve your situation.  Not only will you feel better once you are moving but the day also will progress a bit faster.  Hike, walk into town, ice skate, rock climb, take the kids to a playground!  If there is still 4 feet of snow on the ground, go to the gym (especially if there’s daycare), stroll on the treadmill while perusing trashy mags or saunter through the mall or a museum.  2 hours out of the house and you are a new person!


You’ve almost made it through the day!  Possibly you even enjoyed it!  If you got blottoed on a Friday, great news you have the rest of the weekend to recover.  If it’s Saturday (or a weekday…mon dieu!), hmmmm….bummer.  No, no all is not lost. Avoid those Sunday blues by prepping for your week.  Make lunches, lay out clothes, and organize your calendar.


Once you have everyone to bed, make some tea, get cozy then hit the sack nice and early to start the week off on the right foot!

At the end of the day, pat yourself on the back for pulling it together.  If things did not come together as you had hoped remind yourself that tomorrow is another day!