(Re) Introducing Yoga Empower
By Grace Tourtelotte
For as long as Alaina Montuori Cartin can remember, sports and movement have been a part of her life. Alaina is a trained Prana Vayu yoga instructor, NASM Certified Personal Trainer, STOTT PILATES Reformer I and II certified and wellness coach trained by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. This background shaped a teaching style and a conditioning practice that helps students be more grounded and connected to their strength. Alaina wanted to create something that she hadn’t seen in classes before: a bridge between a HIIT (High-intensity interval training) class and a yoga class which is equal parts mental and physical strengthening experience, grounded in the power of breath and presence. She created Yoga Empower, her signature class*, to bridge this gap and offer students the chance to trust the wisdom of their bodies. A mother of three young children and a lifelong athlete, Alaina believes that the body and mind connection found in movement has the power to heal. She has always seen movement as a way to process emotions and build both mental and physical strength. Alaina truly finds it a pleasure to work with students and help them experience their own fulfilling balance. Alaina teaches her signature class, Yoga Empower, twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 8:30am to 9:30am, at Artemis Yoga.
*This signature class was formerly known as The Practice with Alaina or Strength & Condition at Artemis Yoga and this new class name encompasses more aptly the benefits you will see from Yoga Empower!
Yoga Empower is a come as you are practice that offers students the freedom to be themselves and an opportunity to witness their strength, both mental and physical. Music driven, thoughtfully curated, and strength focused, the class is an opportunity to put whatever else in your life is going on away and connect yourself to your body. Rooted in foundational movement patterns for optimal strength building, Alaina’s philosophy is that you don’t know what your comfort zone is until you’ve met it. This class helps students to meet their own personal “edge.”
Yoga Empower takes place in our downstairs studio with an aesthetic unlike most other classes at Artemis, designed to keep you in touch with your body. Alaina keeps the light low and the music high with soft glow from candles lighting the otherwise dark room.
This intentional removal of other sensory distractions allows you to ground your body in the music and your breath through even the hardest moments. Students come out of class feeling accomplished and centered. At its core, Yoga Empower is the cultivation of ease and strength through sweat, movement, and connection to the breath.
Alaina’s class moves to the beat of the music but modifications are always available. If you want more intensity or a modification, or simply to take a break, you are free to do so. This experience meets you where you are.
Yoga Empower begins with breath work and a 15 minute warm-up that emulates prana vayu yoga. We use sun salutations and a traditional 6 ranges of motion practice to warm up the body and prepare it for practice.
The music then becomes more upbeat and the class moves on to 35-40 minutes of strengthening repetitive movements using body weight, beginning with squats, and continuing on to movements such as plank holds with modified or advanced options, and bridges. Every other song represents a switch in energy. There is one strength movement sequence, then one stabilizing movement, and the pattern continues onward. Many of the movements may remind you of a physical therapist’s script – clam shells, bridges, plank holds, side lying leg lifts etc. Every class offers at least 1 but often 2 dynamic movements to challenge and explore your own physical boundaries. The class ends with some yin yoga, meditation, and a resting and restorative stretch which is very similar to the “savasana” pose used at the end of typical yoga classes.
The movements in Yoga Empower are similar to yoga and Pilates movements – low impact while targeting muscles and building strength and tone through added small movements.
For example, Alaina may instruct students in movements such as Warrior 1, but with a deeper lunge and an added pulse to target the thigh muscles. Or students may get into a typical yoga twist and then Alaina incorporates a side crunch. Most of the movements in class are using body weight, but there is also opportunity to incorporate free weights, resistance bands, and ankle weights whenever students would like. The movements build great posterior chain strength. The posterior chain is the hamstrings, back, glutes, and the upper body and core.
Alaina uses many of the same movements in each class as a way of building up a roster of choreography for the class. Alaina believes choreography is very helpful for any movement practice as it strengthens the brain. When one repeats the same movement, it helps to exercise not just the body but also the mind, aiding memory function, and the body and mind connection. Everything that we repeat gets stronger, both on and off the mat.
The music and environment are essential and that is where the class diverges from the typical yoga/Pilates class. The pace and beat of the music align with each movement. For strength sequences, Alaina will play up-tempo songs like Sia’s “Bird Set Free” or the Weekend’s “Blinding Lights”, and for moments of restoration and stabilization Alaina will play slower, more mellow songs like Ed Sheeran’s “Afterglow” or Taylor Swift and Bon Iver’s “Exile”. Every other song marks a change in energy, an up-tempo song to accompany strength movement, and a slower song to accompany stabilizing movement.
The role of the teacher in this movement practice is to be there to guide and hold space for you to experience yourself. Throughout even the hardest of moments in class, Alaina’s voice is a constant keeping students in touch with their body and motivating them.
Alaina reminds students that it is in hard things that we find our power and most serene connection to our bodies. She does not want to be the sole source of motivation, but rather she wants to create a space and atmosphere where students can find motivation in themselves. This practice can be difficult but the underlying message throughout the class is that you are your own healer, in and out of the room. Gratitude for the ability to move and challenge your body is an essential part of Yoga Empower.
Some key phrases that Alaina will speak out loud during the class are:
There is a strong emphasis on breath and presence in Yoga Empower. Students are connected to their bodies and allow that connection to motivate them. This motivation and mind/body synergy helps students to stay in planks for longer, to keep their breath aligned with each movement, and to maintain poses until the end of the sequence.
Alaina curates her playlists for class weekly and incorporates songs that make her feel something into the class. Alaina listens to music constantly and she believes that music has the power to take people out of their heads and into their bodies.
When we listen to our favorite songs while driving in our cars alone, or are dancing at a concert, we move in a way that is very embodied and present. Alaina posts the links to the playlists on her Instagram page most days before class. Follow her @practicewithalaina on Instagram! She chooses songs to match the intensity and mood of the various movements in class, using the music as another motivator for students. Music of all genres is used, and students can expect to find many new favorite songs to add to their own playlists!
Get to Know Alaina Montuori Cartin
- What was the inspiration for creating your signature class?
“I wanted to create something that I hadn’t seen in classes before: a bridge between a HIIT class and a yoga class – is equal parts mental and physical strengthening experience and at the same time grounded in the power of breath and presence.”
- Why did you bring this class to Artemis Yoga?
“I was so excited to work for a small, female owned business”.
- How has yoga and fitness in general impacted your life?
“I’ve been teaching fitness since I was 22 and I feel grateful to be able to do this as a job. (Fitness) is my medicine and I know when I’m not taking my medicine.”
Alaina has never exercised for her weight. She exercises to be in touch with her body and process emotions, seeing exercise as her way to get in touch with emotions that might be overwhelming to face. Exercise is her own personal medicine.
- What are your passions outside of fitness?
- Family and her three children
- Learning and reading
- Learning about the body
- Understanding how the way we live impacts our lives
- Do you have any mottos or mantras in your life? If so, could you share one?
“I believe in the simple business, movement, drinking water, calling yourself out on your s**t.”
“Show up and move your body. The body knows the truth every time.”
“Trust the wisdom of the body.”
“Trust yourself and your deepest knowing.”
Alaina created Yoga Empower in a time of personal grief. The class was an outlet for her emotions and she healed herself while creating the class. It helped her so much that she knew she wanted to be able to offer it to other people. She has always thought of movement as the way she processes emotions. She grew up playing every sport she could try, from lacrosse, to tennis, to field hockey, to skiing, or to running. She says “your body is your vessel to process emotions.” Whatever you bring into the room, all the emotions before, the room is the time to sift through your feelings. Anything you don’t allow yourself to feel is something you are stuck with. Come as you are to Yoga Empower. Whatever you bring in, class is your time to move it through.