A poem for the New Year. Surrender.


“A Necessary Autumn Inside Each”

You and I have spoken all these words, but as for the way
we have to go, words are no preparation.  
There is no getting ready, other than grace. 
My faults have stayed hidden.  One might call that a preparation!
I have one small drop of knowing in my soul.  Let it dissolve in your ocean.
There are so many threats to it. Inside each of us, there’s continual autumn.  
Our leaves fall and are blown out over the water. 
A crow sits in the blackened limbs and talks about what’s gone.  
Then your generosity returns: spring, moisture, intelligence, 
the scent of hyacinth and rose and cypress.  
Joseph is back!  And if you don’t feel in yourself the freshness of Joseph, be Jacob!  
Weep and then smile.  Don’t pretend to know something you haven’t experienced.
There’s a necessary dying, and then Jesus is breathing again.
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.  

(Rumi, Mathnawi I: 1878-1912)

Veterans helping Veterans find solid ground and acceptance: Mindful Warrior Retreats recap

On Saturdays January 6th and 13th, Emanuel (“Manny”) Salazar and I led our second and third Mindful Warrior Retreats for over 25 Veterans. The experience was incredible; the open-mindedness, whole heartedness, and dedication of the Vets was astounding; and the ripple effects of this program? Unknown.

On both days, Veterans came in unsure of what they had gotten themselves into. We began with breakfast, conversation, and a whole lot of laughs. Turns out a lot of Veterans have quite the trucker mouth! I was smiling from ear to ear almost the entire time.

After breakfast, I led a Nutrition Lecture. In both cases, it was supposed to last an hour but stretch for nearly 2 1/2! There we so many good questions, SO much misinformation to clear up, and such a hunger (pun intended) for healthy change. Ama girl, if you’re reading this, you were such an inspiration to me with all of your vulnerability and readiness girl. I need you to know that!

Following the lecture and lunch, we got down to the real business. Informed by Suzanne Manafort’s empirically-proven Mindful Yoga Therapy Program, I led participants in a trauma-informed yoga class featuring meditation, pranayama, movement, and relaxation. As you can see, by the end these Vets were all in on the savasana!

Toward the end of the day, Manny led everyone in the most insanely calming Yoga Nidra I have ever taken. I was deep into my semi-conscious state, straight chilling, in 90 seconds flat. Many of our Vets were snoring – getting some much needed sleep given that insomnia is a very common side effect of PTSD.

After Nidra, it was time for our Peace Circle and ritual closing ceremony. The stories our Veterans shared, the wounds they offered up to be let go…well it broke your heart and made it soar all at the same time. Everyone seemed palpably lighter as they got up to go.

Every day more than 22 veterans take their own lives in large part because they are not receiving the support they need to heal the scars from their service to our country. Take that in for a moment. Twenty-two human beings – mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents, cousins, community leaders, and more. The Mindful Warrior Retreat Program was founded, by veterans for veterans, in order to fill this support void through trauma-informed retreats. Utilizing a variety of holistic wellness modalities, the MWR program aims to bring hope and health back to thousands of veterans, their caregivers, and Gold Star Families with regular retreats that address mind, body, and spirit. We’ve got a strong start. Now we just need to keep going.


To learn more about what you can do to participate and/or help please email me at amy@movewelldc.com.

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 www.YogaHeightsDC.com.


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 www.YogaHeightsDC.com. Visit www.YogaHeightsDC.com to sign up and save today!


For questions or comments please contact:
Amy Rizzotto, Yoga Heights
write: Amy@YogaHeightsDC.com


5 Poses in 5 Minutes: How to Fit Yoga into Your Hectic Schedule

Let’s be honest, there is never enough time in our schedules for something extra when the groceries need to be bought, our kid has a surprise sports practice, or the laundry has been neglected for another week. Again.

However, despite our crazy and ever-moving lives – five minutes, or an individual minute – is all we need to recollect and calm down to take on the next task. Here are five yoga poses you can do anywhere during the busiest times of your day.


  1. After you turn off your jarring (or peaceful) alarm: Reclining Spinal Twist

Goodness, does that back crack a cacophony in the morning! Wipe the tiredness from your eyes and don’t hit snooze. First, stretch your arms straight out to the sides – palms face down – and breathe out slowly. Next, bring one knee into the chest and straighten the other. Then, draw the bent knee across your body over the lengthened leg and breathe out. Place the opposite hand from the bent leg on top of the knee. Repeat on the other side.


  1. Making that morning cup of whatever gets you ready: Tree

What do you look forward to in the morning? Rise like a lovely little plant with Tree Pose to bring strength and balance to the start of your day. Draw energy from your core to place one foot on the inside of your thigh, calf or ankle and shift your weight into the standing leg. Slowly bring your hands to your heart in prayer, raise your prayer overhead, exhale navel to spine to find your center, and greet that morning sun rooting as you rise!


  1. Those long hours sitting in the office: Crescent Moon

While hustling is never-ending, a yoga break always does more good than harm. To reset during the work day, stand up with your feet hips width apart with your tailbone tucked toward the heels, bring both arms up into a prayer hand position overhead, then arch your body to the side. Repeat this movement on the opposite side of your body.


  1. While dinner is cooking: Warrior 2

Whether it’s microwavable Pad Thai or a pot of steaming vegetables, the minute waiting for the heat to start can be spent channeling your inner warrior. Celebrate your strength for you’ve once again tackled the day! Take a step back from the stove top and spread your legs three to four feet apart, with your right toes pointing straight forward and your back foot perpendicular to your front foot. Now, raise both arms out to the sides so that your arms are parallel to your right thigh. Gaze forward over your right fingertips. Repeat on the left side.


  1. Before beauty sleep: Child’s Pose

It’s a requirement to be comfortable in your favorite pajamas for this pose. Since you’re laying comfortably in bed, roll over to rest on your stomach. Keep your knees in place while you slide your hands under your shoulders and press back to rest your butt on the heels. With extended arms or with them tucked by your sides – you might find yourself wanting to sleep in this wonderful and relaxing position to put an end to the day. Stay as long as you like and unfurl into your favorite sleeping position when you’re ready.


Written by Rachel O’Conner. Rachel is an experienced content writer who has written for a variety of different industries, including fitness, business, travel, education, fashion and lifestyle. She enjoys practicing yoga, training for half marathons, and cooking in her free time. Learn more about her through her website and LindkedIn.

The Practice and Benefits of Belly Breath (Diaphragmatic Breathing)

On a scale of 1-10 how would you rate your stress level? Chances are it’s higher than you’d like. The body’s response to stressful situations – “fight, flight or freeze” – is an important part of our ability to cope with dangerous and sometimes life-threatening situations. Unfortunately, the way we live our lives these days – constantly on the go, striving to do and accomplish so much, not wanting to disappoint people and thus saying yes when maybe we ought to say no – is peaking our stress levels way more than is healthy.

Chronic stress is no joke. It can lead to high blood pressure (a major risk factor for heart disease), anxiety and depression, immune system suppression (aka more colds and flus), skin conditions, GERD (acid reflux), and countless other health issues.

I am no stranger to stress. Why do you think I became a yoga teacher? Prior to my yoga practice – both taking and teaching – my anxiety was consuming at times. I still have to work to stay on top of it and, for me, the most tried and true way to combat the physical manifestations of my anxiety is through pranayama, or breathing techniques. My favorite form of pranayamadeep belly breathing – is straightforward and discreet. You can do it anywhere, at any time, and all you need is one minute.

We all have one minute to take care of ourselves. No excuses.


According to a recent publication from Harvard Medical School, “deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange — that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide.” As a result, deep belly breathing has been proven to  slow one’s heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure. Plus, it just makes you feel most at ease.



The Practice



  1. Come to a comfortable position either lying down or sitting upright on a pillow block of blanket. If you choose to sit, make sure you are comfortable and that it feels somewhat effortless.
  2. Bring your right hand on top of your heart and your left hand on top of your belly.
  3. Close the enjoys and start to pay attention to your natural breath, without trying to change anything at all at first.
  4. Begin to deepen your breath, inhaling through the nose to fill your belly. You will feel your in-breath pass beneath your right hand first, then the diaphragm will press down and your abdominal wall will swell outward beneath your left hand. Pause.
  5. Exhale just as slowly as you inhaled, first emptying the belly and feeling your left hand draw back toward your spine; then, feeling the out-breath rise up beneath your right hand, clearing the chest cavity and exiting through the nasal passages. Pause.
  6. Repeat for nine more cycles, or a total of 10 belly breaths.


This simple practice will take anywhere from 45-90 seconds to complete. Pepper this practice through your day five to 10 times by setting reminders on your phone or work calendar to keep you honest. You will be amazed how quickly your stress levels drop and a sense of ease washes over you.


Make this practice a ritual before any predictably stressful situation – a presentation at work, tough conversation with a partner, or big competition, to name a few. Not only will you feel better going in, but you’ll be less likely to react negatively throughout.

mindful ptsd

How to pick the best yoga mat for you.

Reviews.com recently conducted over 50 hours of research atop dozens of different yoga mats to determine the best buy for traction, cushioning, budget, environmental conscious and more.

The 9 Overall Best Yoga Mats

  1. Manduka PROlite ($74.18)
  2. Lululemon “The Mat” ($68.00)
  3. Jade Harmony Professional Mat ($59.95 – $217.14)
  4. Manduka Black Mat Pro ($98.00 – $283.36)
  5. Hugger Mugger Para Rubber ($83.52)
  6. PrAna Revolutionary Sticky Mat ($90.00)
  7. Kharma Khare ($70.00)
  8. PrAna E.C.O ($28.80 – $48.00)
  9. Gaiam Print Premium ($29.98)

Having spent thousands of hours atop my yoga mats over the years, I can attest that my top two line up with their #3 and #1 respectively. I’m a Jade girl, through and through, but love the Manduka PROlite as well – so much so that we carry it at my studio, Yoga Heights. Why do I prefer my Jade though? First, the Jade Harmony Professional Mat offers excellent traction and support and it only gets better with time. The best part about this mat however is that it’s made from all-natural rubber, making it environmentally friendly. As a bonus, JadeYoga also plants a tree for every mat that’s purchased – so far that’s a whopping 1,099,000 trees! I love that this mat got Reviews.com’s “Best Eco-Friendly Yoga Mat.” 

Check out the full article to learn about their top picks and discover the best mat for your needs.

{MOARfit Event Spotlight} annual Bends, Brunch and Bubbly: a yoga-meets-brunch charity event

As a health and fitness blogger, I like to show a little love to others doing awesome things in the DC wellness space. Two weeks ago, All In PR hosted its Annual Bends, Brunch and Bubbly in DC. This yoga-meets-brunch charity event, which raised money to benefit Blue Flowers Org, featured an all-star female panel, including:

When asked about finding the balance between life and work panelist Liz Hahn responded, “It’s about finding and creating a support system.” The panel honed in on the importance of women supporting each other, which as a female business owner whose business partner is also a powerful female I fully agree is essential and also uplifting!

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After a relaxing morning asana practice, guests were invited to indulge in a buffet spread provided by Madhatters. The mimosas were bottomless and so was the abundance of love and communal good will.

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Another word on the wonderful organization this event raised funds for,Blue Flowers Org. Blue Flowers Org empowers women and the men in their lives as they fight against prostate cancer holistically. The organization provides resources of leaders providing medical, social and emotional approach for men, their families and caregivers. Through community events, fundraising, social media and its newsletter, Blue Flowers connects men to opportunities for early diagnosis and insight from medical experts to treat the mind, body and spirit.

To see a nice recap on the event, check out this video:


MOARfit 20-Minute Total Body Workout & HIIT It and Quit It Playlist

Step 1: bump this Spotify playlist (and follow me for all my music)


We’re going old school with this playlist. Who doesn’t like Missy Elliot, Mase, Eve and more! I know music is a main motivator for me when I workout. What are your go-t0 sweat session jams?



Step 2: press play, no sound needed


(Please ignore my video editing 🙂 I’m still learning how to use text overlay!)



Step 3: post a picture or video of yourself doing one of these #MOARfitmoves on Instagram and tag me (@MOARfit) so I can check you out and give you some pro coaching tips!


Be Still to Be Strong: Awakening the Body from Within

As I lay there on my back, sweat drying on the back of my neck, gently cradled by the give of my mat, five simple words washed over me, triggering a moment of ineffable release…

“Awaken yourself from within first.”

I’m no stranger to a few tears in savasana. Moving muscles, honing mental focus, and getting lost in the rise and fall of breath have an uncanny ability to remove blockages, both physical and emotional. From time to time this release opens the flood gates, others it simply lets drips seep out one by one. Today was more of the latter for me, but my goodness did it feel good to crack.

No one ever told me I had to be strong while healing from my accident, but I resolved to stay positive, look at the glass half full, and find the proverbial silver lining. I’m not saying it was wrong to push myself in this way, but it was at times exhausting. I knew at some visceral level that if I let myself crumble emotionally while my body was broken against its will, I might slip down a darker path than if I steeled myself in certain ways. Fear of falling kept me from facing the true trauma of my experience. Part of me knew I would have to face the more emotional impact of the accident once my body started to mend, but it still surprised me when it began to surface.

For the past few weeks I’ve been tiptoeing back into my yoga practice: I’ve used more props than ever before (see below); I’ve gotten creative with hand placement and foot positions to allow for better balance; I’ve come to child’s pose when others have come into handstand; and I’ve even worked up the courage to leave my splint at home despite the fear that others won’t know I’m still healing and think I’m just being lazy (hello, ego!).

Every week that goes by I am physically stronger, but at times more mentally and emotionally frustrated. An agitation shakes and stirs inside me fueled by impatience and expectation. Why am I not yet back to where I was before? When will this pose or that pose be within reach? Where did my stamina go? While all the answers to these questions are clear to my most rational self, in the moment these questions gnaw and nag at my inner fabric.

Here’s the thing—that inner struggle is the exact reason why I love yoga so much, so much that I became a teacher. Yoga illuminates the limits, boundaries, and blockages we all wrestle with. It sheds light on them and allows you the time and space to truly see, acknowledge, and slowly and steadily ease through them. It’s not an fast process, and you cannot rush it. The more you force yourself towards resolution or change, the harder it becomes to achieve.

When that single tear found its way through the crack in the walls I’d thrown up, rolled its way down into the well of my ear, and drew a smile across my face I knew my struggle with this trauma had begun in earnest. My gratitude for this beginning is unbounded. I know that as I start to reconnect with my inner self, awakening from within first, I will have the unique and rare opportunity to reignite my spark with yoga. I get to rediscover the magic of connecting breath to movement. I get to realize anew that stillness creates inner and outer strength. And I get to watch as my body invites me back in, little by little as it becomes ready.

As I lay there on my back, in tranquility and stillness, only then could I notice that when you are still there are no boundaries and no limits to what is possible, only potential.

Yin Yoga – Why You Should and What to Do

Let’s start by defining just what this whole “Yin Yoga” thing is. Yin yoga targets the body’s connective tissues—i.e. our ligaments, tendons, fascia, bones, and even the joints—which are typically not the direct focus of more active styles of yoga. It is a slow and steady kind of practice during which fewer poses are held for longer periods of time than a more typical flow or form yoga class.

If fascia is a foreign word and anatomy isn’t your strong suit, you can think of Yin tissues as plastic versus our more elastic Yang tissues (muscles). When bent too rapidly or repetitively, a piece of plastic will snap. For this same reason, it’s important to apply gentle, constant, and patient pressure in Yin yoga poses. Otherwise, ouch.


So why is Yin yoga important?


As we age, our bodies lose mobility and increase in rigidity. It’s the natural curve of things. Yin is intended to help us reverse that bell curve and regain range of motion (ROM) in our connective tissues. Greater ROM in turn creates space for greater flexibility.

In order to get these physical benefits, however, it’s important to isolate the components of the body we want to be working. Yin yoga is most effective when the muscles are cool and therefore can’t take away from the work of our connective tissues. For this reason, it’s best to do Yin early in the morning before you’ve been moving around too much. This is most definitely not the practice to do right after a workout.

Arguably as important as the physical benefits of Yin are its mental and emotional benefits. Yin on its own forces us to be still. This is something take for granted these days. We’re always running around, focused on getting stuff done. When we pause and breath, we begin to notice what’s going on inside of us and discover what it is we truly need. If you can’t find the time to fit your Yin practice in before the school- or work-day starts, you can still reap the psychological benefits of this calming practice with a few poses before bed. It will help steady your mind, decompress your body, and lull you into most restful slumber.


Convinced it’s worth a try? Here is what you do:


Step one:

Find a small open space where you have room to stretch out. You don’t need more than that and you don’t even need a yoga mat. If you’d like, you can lay down a mat, towel, or blanket for comfort.


Step two:

Commit to following the three principles of Yin: (1) come into the pose to your first edge—where you first feel resistance and feedback from your body—without forcing yourself deeper; (2) come to complete stillness in the pose, primarily in the body but ideally in the mind as well; and (3) hold for the intended length of time. If you are just starting out, trying holding for two to three minutes. After a few sessions lengthen your holds to four to five minutes. Over time, in certain poses you can work up to eight, 10, or even 20 minute holds.


Step three:

Select five or six Yin poses to try based on the parts of your body that feel the most stiff, achy, or tight. A full list of Yin poses are available on this website. I also highly recommend Bernie Clark’s book, “The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga.”


Step four:

Close your practice with at least five minutes of savasana (dead man’s pose) or seated meditation. Basically, be still, with little to no physical effort, and breath.



Whether Yin works for you or not, take the time to take care of yourself. It is truly one of the most important and compassionate things you can do for yourself and everyone around you. Stress and tension are contagious. Don’t let yourself be a carrier!