BIG Announcement: Coming Fall of 2017 to Takoma….Yoga Heights #2!

Yoga Heights Hero
As Co-Owner of Yoga Heights, I just had to share!! We are so excited for this next big step and can’t wait to bring our community-oriented yoga and fitness classes to a new neighborhood in the District. Stay tuned for photos of the build-out and details on our grand opening slated for this fall.

Yoga Heights Takom

April 27, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yoga Heights, a yoga studio at 3506 Georgia Ave. NW., announced today that they are opening their second location this fall in the Takoma Central Apartment building at 235 Carroll Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.  Yoga Heights is a community oriented studio that offers classes for every body, at every level and every budget.


“The love and support of the Yoga Heights community has been overwhelming for the past three years,” said Jess Pierno, owner. “Our students’ enthusiasm for the studio, our teachers, events and community, has made Yoga Heights an incredibly special yoga studio. It was never in the plans to open additional locations, but due to repeated requests to offer more classes, community events and YHDC good vibes, we were inspired to expand our studio!”


Yoga Heights will continue to offer all levels vinyasa and power yoga, beginners classes, Rocket yoga, restorative and Yin yoga, prenatal yoga, bootcamps, Pilates, yoga teacher training and community events at both locations.  


Yoga Heights Takoma is just steps from the Takoma metro station on the red line and is on bus lines 52, 53, 54, 62, 63, F1, F2 and K2.

Yoga Heights Half Moon

To ensure that their classes work with all budgets, Yoga Heights offers half price “happy hour” classes five days per week, work-study in trade for classes, as well as “Karma Passes” which allows students to pay just $8 per class up to four times per month.Through these programs, Yoga Heights has helped more than 4,000 people afford yoga classes in the three years they have been open.  


“We look forward to continuing to be an affordable and community oriented yoga studio for people who are brand new to yoga, as well as regularly practicing yogis,” Pierno continued.


More information on class offerings, pricing and events is available at


Studio owners Jess Pierno and Amy Rizzotto, and their talented team of instructors remain steadfastly committed to working with Yoga Heights’ students to ensure that health and wellness are accessible to all.


Yoga Heights is currently offering pre-opening sales on unlimited memberships through its website at Visit to sign up and save today!


For questions or comments please contact:
Amy Rizzotto, Yoga Heights


Beauty Blooms from Muddy Waters: A Guide to Getting Unstuck

There is an ancient Buddhist value which espouses that the most beautiful things bloom from the muddiest of waters.

“Like a lotus flower that grows out of the mud and blossoms above the muddy water surface, we can rise above our defilements and sufferings of life.” {here is an associated meditation you can try}

Sometimes it takes a while to believe that and you often have to go through heartbreak, illness, or some kind of soul-shaking duress to realize it’s true. For me, the process of getting unstuck from that mucky bottom to the freedom of a sun-kissed surface goes a little something like this…

You lift one foot and it feels as heavy as a Clydesdale. You set it down only to feel it sink into the mud. You’re stuck, like your feet are frozen in a ice tray. You muster all your strength to free it from the tundra only to find that familiar weight again. And so it goes. A slow, slog through muddy waters until you get close enough to the shore that the ground beneath your feet is more compact, less exhausting and more forgiving. Pretty soon the water clears and you’re hitting your stride. One foot in front of the other. You’ll likely be tired, in need of some time to make the conscious and challenging choice to shake it off, but you’re reassured of your strength and perseverance all the same. After all, you didn’t sink; you didn’t drown; you made it. It’s not easy. In fact your journey, whatever adversity it stems from, kind of stings. You will survive. Yes you will be changed from it, but you will be okay because really you always were.


My advice for how to make it through this process, whatever the source of defilement or suffering?


Step 1: Stay busy. Schedule yourself silly. I don’t always recommend this given how little down time most of us allow ourselves but when you’re going through muddy waters you’ve got to create accountability that keeps you going. This should work great for all my fellow type-A, DC go-getters out there. Do. Many. Things. Distraction can be such a blessing in the initial fallout from getting rocked.

Step 1B: Move your body. Part of staying busy is IMHO not only doing but moving. What better time to take a yoga class that’s so challenging it takes you out of your head, or use a run or bike ride as a means to explore a different part of town? With spring fast approaching, outdoor activities are all the more appealing and the added bonus of doing anything on a sunny day is the boost of vitamin D (and mood lifting hormones) you’ll get. Just be sure to wear your sunscreen!

Step 2: Stay connected. Though it can be tempting to check out or turn in, don’t. The more you shut yourself off to the world the harder it becomes to open up again. Make dates to see girlfriends, join a running group, see if you can be helpful to a friend who needs a babysitter, volunteer, foster a dog then take that puppy to a local dog park, visit friends in other cities, go home to see family – the list goes on and on. As my 21-year-old self decided to get tattooed in grand scale across my back years ago, Nit Nitay Garabam, or, “a person is a person’s remedy.” Your friends, family and community will be there for you. Be kind enough to lean on them. [P.S. I still love this tattoo. Thanks Mom and Dad for giving me the coolest 21st birthday present a gal could ask for! And thanks Yasmeen for helping me get the Wolof script Arabic right! ]

Step 3: Create something. Anything. Whether it be doodling in an adult coloring book, journaling, trying to figure out the choreography to Beyoncé’s “Formation” in your bedroom late at night (who would do such a thing…), or any number of other creative outlets, find something that is a form of expression and go express yourself. It’s incredibly cathartic. Try it.

Step 4: Get outside yourself. Give back to your local and/or at-large community. Find a cause that speaks to you and get involved. When you pour yourself into something entirely not for or about you, it gives great perspective on everything that you still have in your life to be grateful for. Need some ideas? Try Volunteer Match or Idealist as a place to get you started.

Step 5: Turn inside. No, this is not me encouraging you to indulge in self-analysis. We all pour over the details of injury, illness, heartache, loss, abuse, and other muddy topics just fine on our own. The kind of internal discovery I’m suggesting is of the more mindful variety: meditation. Meditation helps us walk through our inner landscape and make peace with all the scary monsters and gentle giants that lie within. As one of my favorite yoga teachers once recounted, mindfulness meditation helps us make the neighborhood of our minds a friendlier place. There are countless approaches to meditation, but I recommend starting with loving kindness meditation. Also known as Metta Meditation, the practice of loving kindness is a pathway to forgiveness and moving on. It can be challenging, but with time it helps to evoke an overall sense of warm-heartedness and compassion which can be lost in times of struggle. Mindfulness meditation is another great way to go. Rather than letting yourself become distracted by nagging thoughts and self-judgement, it encourages us to acknowledge whatever it is that’s paining us, feel it, and breath beneath it to the seed of calm that always exists at the core of our being. It may sound far fetched, but at this point it’s scientifically proven.

This “guide to getting unstuck” isn’t something to follow to a T. You don’t have to do all of these things, follow this pathway in order, or do anything that doesn’t feel right or helpful to you. These are merely suggestions. Sometimes all we need is an approachable yet actionable idea to get us up and moving again. I know that all of these steps have at one point or another helped me get back on solid ground again in the aftermath of life’s curveballs. I hope they help you as well.

When you’re stuck, all you need to do is the next right thing. And then the next right thing. And then the next…and so on, until eventually you feel safe and strong in your own skin again. It’s a continuum and it’s hard to say exactly when those small steps amount to an overall shift where you feel whole again. Therein lies the beauty of our struggles. Every moment we have a choice. We can choose to harden or soften; to shutdown or feel; to close our heart or open to vulnerability. If we approach the hard stuff breath by breath, hour by hour, day by day it starts to feel a lot less daunting and we can pick our own path of resilience to climb out of the muck.

Mindful Eating Boosts Productivity

We live in a busy world where everything moves fast and we often barely have time to eat, yet food is one of our most important sources of pleasure.  Unfortunately, as a result of our hectic schedules when it comes to eating food we’re often distracted by something else (cell phones, computer, kids, laundry, getting ready for bed, etc). In a rush, we often chew and swallow fast and end up eating more…and more. Voilà, mindless eating!

According to the CDC more than 34% of all us adults are obese and half as many children are as well (17%).

This is certainly not all a result of mindless eating but it is certainly a contributing factor for many people. Mindless eating is a reflection in many ways of just how disconnected we are from our food.

Perhaps a bigger problem than mindless eating itself is than in doing so we’re actually rendering ourselves less productive. I know, I know. Many of us think that by multitasking our meals we’re getting more done in our days, but recent research has really debunked the theory of multitasking being genuinely productive.

In fact, only 2% of us multitask effectively.

On the flip side, mindful eating does make you more productive. Mindful eating, like all mindfulness practices, helps increase our focus and concentration. Also, by eating until we’re satisfied rather than stuffed, we’re less likely to get the lethargy and brain fog associated with over-eating.

So what is mindful eating and how do you start to incorporate in your busy life?

Mindful eating is an application of the Buddhist philosophy of being in the moment, which is thought to be a huge part of the path to contentment and ultimately enlightenment – or as we say in the yoga world, “bliss.” Mindful eating is about making deliberate choices about the food you choose to nourish yourself and those you love with. It is also about slowing down and becoming aware of how we eat. A mindful eater focuses on all the sensory experiences around food: identifying tastes, observing colors, smelling aromas, and noticing textures.

Try this mindful eating exercise to kickstart more awareness and presence around the process of making and eating food. The more we learn to focus on the task at hand, whether than be eating our lunch or knocking out a work email, the more efficient and ultimately content we’ll all be.

5 Rules for MOAR Mindful Eating

qode interactive strata

Did you know that Americans spend $40 million annually on weight loss? What I’m about to tell you might not be the best for my business, but it will likely save you some serious cash on specialty groceries, packaged cleanses, personal trainers and the like–especially at this time of year. With New Years resolutions just around the corner your golden ticket to better health and well-being might be as simple as harnessing tools you already have within you to practice mindfulness while you munch.

Mindfulness is common speak for yogis worldwide. It is a practice derived from Buddhism and seen as a critical part of the tradition’s Noble Eightfold Path to Enlightenment. Mindfulness can be achieved through proper meditation, but can also be cultivated through daily efforts to bring awareness into all different aspects of our lives. It takes work–constant, and concerted effort–but can make a world of difference for your stress levels, concentration, productivity and even your relationships with friends, family and partners. The aspect I’ll focus on here, however, is how it can positively impact your relationship with food and ultimately lead to better nutrition and feeling comfortable with your body in both its internal and external manifestations.

Being more aware of your eating habits and resetting your relationship with food is a challenging process, but one that can be made easier by following my 5 Rules for MOAR Mindful Eating:

Five Fingers GIF
  1. Sit down. Try to take a break from being the efficient machine you are and avoid the urge to multitask while you’re eating. Eating should get the same dedicated attention that composing an email or making a phone call does. By allowing your mind to focus on enjoying your food, you’ll be ready to realize and respond to the signals from your tummy when your hunger is gone.
  2. Screen(s) off. It’s now well-known that there’s a proven connection between screen time and type 2 diabetes in children. Kids aren’t the only casualties. Let’s face it, we’re (almost) all addicted to our cell phones, tablets and computers (a.k.a. screens). Who out there spends at least 6 hours of their day looking at a screen? I’d venture to say at least 75% of my readers do. Now answer me this, who out there looks at a screen while eating at least one meal a day? The vast majority of us–and I’m guilty as charged–check emails, respond to texts and/or watch TV while we munch. Turning your screen off prevents you from getting distracted as to why you’re eating and, as I already mentioned, helps you recognize satiety. A mindful eater eats when they’re hungry rather than when they’re bored, sad, stressed, or celebrating. This is a lot easier said than done so set yourself up for success in cultivating food and full awareness by eliminating distractions.
  3. Slow down. How many times have you waited 45 minutes for a table at a restaurant, 30 minutes for your food to arrive, and devoured your entire meal in under 10? In our culture of go go go, we rarely give the ritual of eating its due attention. Proper digestion begins in the mouth. Slow it down and allow your body to focus its energy on the act of eating and start things off right by chewing your food. I’m not preaching that we need to go so far as to chew each bite 40 times–though there is a fair amount of scientific evidence to suggest the efficacy of this–but at the very least we know that it takes 15-20 minutes for food to register in your brain chemistry (with the help of hormones like ghrelin and leptin) and trigger satiety. TIP: try chopsticks or using your non-dominant hand.
  4. Savor flavor. Slowing down allows you to be aware of what you’re eating. If you focus on your food you’ll begin to notice the color, taste, smell and texture of what you’re consuming, as well as think about the effort you or someone else put into making it. This is an opportunity for gratitude that we all too often miss. It is also a great way to start savoring your food. As you become more mindful of what you’re munching on, your food will taste better and it might just encourage you to cook more which is this nutrition coach’s #1 strategy for long-term success in better eating habits for you and your family.
  5. Finally, Sink in. Stay put after you finish your meal. This will (a) give your body the time it needs to figure out whether or not you’re full; and (b), if you aren’t rushing off to the next thing, you’re far less likely to experience stomach upset which can be triggered by the release of cortisol, a powerful stress hormone. For those of you who suffer from IBS or other tummy disorders, simply building in some down-time after you eat could mean a significant decrease in symptoms.

I’d love to hear your tips for more mindful eating. Please share your ideas in the “Leave a Reply” field below, or shoot me an email at

Sea Change in Spring

The first days of spring are upon us–though you wouldn’t know it living here in fickle weather Washington, DC. Be that as it may, spring conjures up the promise of renewal, growth and optimism. For me, the winter-to-spring transition is almost always accompanied by a perceptible upswing in mood, outlook and, most important of all, energy. 2013 is no different. In fact, I’d venture to say that this spring brings with it more than just a modest internal shift but instead a genuine sea-change in my life and future.

Big statement.

The term sea-change refers to a gradual transformation through which the form is retained but the substance is replaced. For all my Shakespeare nerds out there, the expression is taken from a song in The Tempest: “Nothing of him that doth fade, but doth suffer a sea-change, into something rich and strange.” From the outside I look very similar to how I did 8 months ago, save for the rhomboids I never knew I had and a greater dedication to getting pedicures. However, in the same period of time I have undergone a mighty profound metamorphosis.

In August 2012, I set out on an 8-month path to becoming a certified yoga teacher. This past Sunday, I was handed the most important piece of paper in my life: my RYT-200 hour level Power Vinyasa Yoga teaching certificate. Now there’s a mouthful. I can literally hear my parents wincing all the way from Massachusetts as they read that my yoga certification has surpassed my GWU degree in International Development Studies, Phi Beta Kappa, and a Fulbright in terms of lifetime significance. Mom, Dad: I love you and I’m sorry. Thank goodness they’re genetically programmed to love me unconditionally.

Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand, Split Leg Variation with wall)

I have gotten to do many amazing things in my life. From living in France and Senegal to tackling the icy slopes of Cotopaxi in Ecuador and 14,000+ foot peaks in Colorado, I have ventured far and high in my first 26 years. These experiences were life-changing and pretty darn cool to boot, but they’ve got nothing on this journey I’m on.

All of the support I’ve received throughout the course of this training from my yogi peers, teachers and mentors, as well as my friends and family has been so crucial. I cannot begin to express my gratitude. This path has been one of the most challenging in all my life but it is also this path that has equipped me with the tools needed to ride the waves of life with grace–both the glorious crests and the hidden undertows.

The first steps of this journey (and man oh man is this just the start!) have left me strong, resilient, and more mindful than I was before. I still have my work cut out in terms of navigating the baggage the practice of self-awareness inevitably unearths, but I know that process will only make me a better teacher and healer for my students–and lighter!

What comes next is the unknown. Beautiful opportunity and frightening instability all rolled up in one. Gaze fixed forward, I’m surrendering with enthusiasm, embracing the invisible path ahead.

On the note of surrender, I’ll leave you with an excerpt from one of my all-time favorite Rumi poems. Though intended for the summer-to-fall transition, his final words in “A Necessary Autumn Inside Each” are ones I intend to carry with me into the nascent days of spring as I embark on my untold destiny:

Very little grows on jagged

rock. Be ground. Be crumbled, so wildflowers will come up
where you are. You’ve been

stony for too many years. Try something different. Surrender.