A Local’s Guide on Where to Dance

“Dancing? Um, no thanks.” I reply as my out-of-town friends suggest a night out club-hopping. The idea of scantily clad twerking tourists spilling drinks all over my conservative white cotton button down and reasonably long shorts gives me immediate chills. “Oh come on, it will be fun! We need to move,” they beg. After a few minutes of convincing with a side of wine, I agree to a night on the town with the stipulation that we would not visit any mega-clubs. The girls agreed, opting anyway for less dramatic venues where we could really let loose like nobody was watching.

Some may say that this cannot be done in a town of Ferrari-driving hoteliers and their plastic, long-legged girlfriends 20 years their junior. That’s because they’re not locals. Not only are there plenty of low-key, down to earth dancing options around the city, there are also real reasons why we should be doing it.

Let’s start with the why. Dancing, freestyle dancing to be specific, has multiple benefits for both the mind and the body. As we all know, movement is key to a healthy heart and body. It’s a much better option for your Saturday night plans than sitting at the local watering hole with your friends, chatting for hours about the highs and lows of the latest political drama. While yes, these topics are certainly discussion-worthy, save it for brunch.  Aside from getting the blood pumping and increasing your heart rate, freestyle dancing can tone your muscles and burn fat. It improves balance and coordination, and in some cases, can improve self-esteem. (Probably the less booze the better if you’re seeking that latter benefit)

Dancing is also extremely good for the mind. When a DJ leads the party, we don’t know what beats to expect next, so we are forced to make an almost-unconscious rapid decision of what to do with our bodies. This highly strengthens the mind-body connection. With the mind stimulated and the body following suit, stress and tension release, for at least a few hours.

Last but certainly not least, according to a study at the well-known Stanford University, freestyle dancing can lower one’s risk of dementia by a whopping 76 percent. Dancing can  strengthen your brain better than crossword puzzles, reading, or golf. Every night out you bust a move is a little more brainpower in the bank for after your knees give out.

Read more at The New Tropic

Sustainable Living in Miami’s Urban Paradise

While it can feel like we’re bombarded with news of our crippled environment, we’re in a great place to make small changes that will permanently change our future.

Permaculture is more than just eating organic or conserving water, it’s a design system that combines architecture, engineering and social sciences to create a living or working space that functions solely off the earth’s natural processes. It involves using alternate energy systems like solar, perfect for sunny South Florida, and designing sustainable systems that use or reuse rainwater. Indoor plants and gardens carefully designed to grow food for you and the community are also an important part of any permaculture system. And while it may not be feasible for most of us to live completely off the grid in Miami, there are plenty of smaller steps we can take to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Read more at The New Tropic

Grow A Garden Anywhere

It’s fun, it’s healthy, and, let’s face it, it’s just cooler to walk onto your balcony and grab an extra handful of cilantro for your homemade guac.

Growing your own fruits and vegetables in a tiny outdoor space or balcony might initially seem impossible, but it’s totally doable. According to Déva Presence of Permaculture Miami, as long as you have access to sunlight (and really, here in Miami we have more than our fair share), a watering system, potting soil, and good fertilizer, you can grow your own dinner. All it takes is a little TLC for that green thumb to appear. And even with a small space, there’s plenty of options. But first, “Know your plants!” says Presence.

Read more at The New Tropic

Grilling up that Miami Flavor

The mouthwatering smell of smoke mixed with charcoal lingering in the humid air could only signify one thing — a barbecue. And with Independence Day approaching, it reminds the rest of the country of what it’s like to be an American.

We Miami locals, however, know grilling is more of an international affair.

It’s true, barbecues serve as a representation of American culture, but here in Miami, they also represent Brazilian, Argentine, Haitian, Uruguayan, Cuban, Korean, Jamaican… Well, you get the picture.

With all these nationalities boasting their own grilling styles, it’s easy to get confused. What’s the difference? How can grilling a steak in Little Argentina differ so greatly from roasting a pig in Little Havana? It can, and we set out to find out the complexities between cultures of the much-beloved barbecue.

Before anything, it’s imperative to know and understand where the tradition actually came from. While difficult to prove, it’s thought that the term originated from the Spanish word “barbacoa,” which was used by Spanish settlers upon landing in the Caribbean to describe the natives’ style of cooking meat slowly over a slab of wood. That’s not to say the style itself was born in the Caribbean. However it’s likely the term “barbecue” did. South American “asado” can be traced back to the mid-1500’s, and Korean barbecue dates all the way back to 37 BC. It’s safe to say barbecue tradition has been around for thousands of years, giving each culture plenty of time to perfect it and make it its own. Here’s a little around the world tour of just a few of our favorite Miami barbecue styles, and where to find them.

Read More at The New Tropic

Miami Yoga Guide

Breaking into the yoga world can be intimidating and confusing. Thoughts of “I’m not flexible, patient, zen enough” might come to mind. Or maybe you’re thinking “Nah, I need to sweat to feel like I worked out.” Ignore those voices in your head. There are so many different styles of yoga, that with a little research and practice, you likely will find exactly what you are looking to gain. From Ashtanga to Vinyasa, there is a style for everyone, right here in Miami.

Miami loves yoga, and there are so many good studios that giving due credit to all is tough. To start, we’ll help you narrow your options to the styles that sound most appealing, and check out a few studios that offer it. Finding your yogic path can take time, but remember that life and yoga are all about the journey.

Read More at The New Tropic

We Are Yogis. How I Learned to Go Beyond My Comfort Zone and Speak the Language of Union

I’m late and I’m lost. Not completely, but its 9:53 and I can’t find the correct street. I ask a man for directions, which is so not like me. As an avid traveler, my rule of thumb is to find anything and everything on my own, no matter how long it takes, but under the current circumstance, I succumb to breaking it. With French instructions and a hand gesture, he directs me left. Gauche. I make a mental note to remember this for class, if I find the studio in time.

I rush to the corner and turn left. One more turn and I’m home free! My mind is jumbled and I’m too disoriented to decide if my next turn is right or left, so I go with my gut. I should know by now that 98% of the time going the opposite way of my directional gut is the better move. And sure enough, half a block down, it’s clear I am going the wrong way. It’s 9:57. I spin around and run to the other side of the street. People around me are walking with purpose, probably to work, but I’m too late to observe anything more than their clothing. It’s August in Paris and everyone is donning jackets and scarves. It is a chilly 65ish degrees and flat-out cold for a Miamian like myself. Despite the temperature, I am sweating and nervous.

Read More at Yoga International

3 Common Misconceptions About Yoga

“I’m not flexible enough to do yoga.”
“I need to lift weights to feel like I worked out.”
“So, do you just ‘OM’ all day?”
“Yoga is boring.”

Oh, the many misconceptions about yoga! As a yoga instructor, I hear them almost daily. Though yoga has become much more well known over the past few decades, the idea that we yogis and yoginis spend our days standing on our heads, chanting, and eating lettuce surprisingly still runs rampant. Every discipline is subject to fallacies and criticisms, of course, and yoga is no exception. Among the plethora of wild assumptions out there, here are three of the most common misunderstandings that I’ve come across.

Read More at Yoga International

Travel Temptations? Keep Fit on the Road

Fresh Italian pasta? Baguettes et chocolat? Barbeque wars here in the USA? Culinary adventures are a major (if not the) highlight of the best destinations. When you’re out on the road, is it possible to eat what you want and still button your pants?

While I am a full advocate of letting go of your restrictions and immersing yourself completely into the country and culture in which you are traveling, it can be hard on your health and your waistline. You can take care of yourself while still indulging in the local cuisine with a few mindful choices.

Go for active intensity.

Tours are often categorized according to level of physical activity. If you want to maintain your usual active lifestyle, or you want to balance your (over)eating with activity, choose a fast-paced tour. Look for itineraries that include a lot of walking, hiking, and extra options, such as biking excursions. Operators like Overseas Adventure Travel, AmaWaterways (partnering with Backroads), and Go Ahead Tours design their tours with a moderate amount of daily activity, with options to always do more.

Location can play a big factor as well. Local tours of ancient, Mediterranean cities are guaranteed to include a lot of walking, as buses cannot get to the center of these cities anyway. South American nature treks are sure to include a high level of physical activity. You might find that tours of modern cities, like many here in the USA, are bus-based. Insight Vacations’ or Road Scholar’s slower-paced programs, or Collette’s National Park’s tour, are a few examples.

Take the stairs.

In hotels, airports, even tourist attractions, if you have the option to take the stairs, do it. Avoid skytrains and motorized walking paths in airports if you have time before your connecting flight. Use these ride-along options only when you are dragging heavy luggage—or when you’ve got the 30th floor master suite penthouse!

Make it a point to stretch.

Bus tours involve a lot of sitting. It can be easy to settle in next to the window with your book and camera for hours without movement. Set your watch to beep every hour, or better yet every half hour, and remind yourself to move. Neck rolls, ankle rolls, a quick stretch of your arms and legs, and an easy torso twist will help keep your blood moving and your joints free.

And take every opportunity to get off the bus. Even if you have absolutely no interest in the photo stop, even if you have no desire to use the restrooms, just get up and off the bus. Walk in circles around the parking lot if you have to. Your body and your mind need it.

Drink water.

It’s hard to drink enough water on tour when you spend hours on the bus and even more hours meandering through foreign lands. Toilets may not be very accessible or comfortable. However, I can’t stress enough how important it is to stay hydrated. New food and spices, an excess of alcohol, air pollution, extremes in climate, and traveling on planes are all dehydrating. Drinking 2-3 liters of water a day will help keep your system clear. Find out if your driver sells it on the bus, ask about the safety of the tap water where you are staying, and stock up on bottles of water when in doubt.

Choose your vice.

Food and wine cruises, like Tauck’s A Taste of France, mean that on tour you are going to eat. A lot. You are going to try foods your body isn’t used to eating every day. If you really want to keep control of your diet, choose one thing to indulge in and cut another. For example, if you’re going to have dessert, pass on the bread. If you want wine, opt out of the cheese plate. Making the choice to indulge in one thing will ease the pain of foregoing another.

Follow the Leader!

As a yoga instructor, I bring my mat everywhere I go and practice for at least 10 minutes each morning to stay energized and feel fit. I encourage my guests to incorporate movement into their mornings, whether it be a quick run, walk, or simple stretch, before starting their touring day.

After long transfers on the bus, I also remind travelers to take a walk around the city or a nearby park to loosen the joints. If you work with a trainer or take classes at home, ask for some on-the-road exercises that you can do in your hotel room or the fitness center. Most hotels also have walking or running routes that they recommend for guests.

In short: Finding the balance between indulgence and activity will help you enjoy your tour more. It will make your adjustment to “the real world” easier when you get back home, too!

Read more at TourMatters

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