When Janie Helt shows up with her yellow yoga mat, she doesn’t just work on flexibility and balance. She spends the hourlong sessions working on self-care.
With about 17 years of yoga practice under her belt, the Omaha woman has learned to take what she experiences in the studio and apply it to her daily life.
Helt, 43, also takes the practice to work. She teaches calming poses to her fourth-grade class at Castelar Elementary School, especially before tests.
Q: When did you start working out and why?
A: I started practicing yoga before my children were born, at least 16 or 17 years ago. I think of yoga more as working in than working out. Yoga calls to me more than the gym. It doesn’t just teach you how to have a strong body — it teaches you how to be strong internally.
Q: Describe your workouts. How many days per week do you exercise?
A: I do vinyasa, restorative and slow flow classes. Usually we start in a centering-type pose or posture. If it’s a more difficult pose, the instructor leads you through it. I come two to four times a week.
Q: What has been your biggest accomplishment?
A: Being able to weave everything I learn in yoga into everyday life. Being more earth-friendly, and being mindful about what I eat, say and do.
Q: What has been the toughest hurdle and how did you overcome it?
A: I think when you start any type of practice, you can be self-conscious about your body. Yoga helped me. I’ve been able to do a lot more than I thought I could.
Q: What helps you stay on track?
A: The community. Sometimes you might feel alone, but we all have this in common. It’s broadened my network in Omaha. Even if you don’t feel good, you walk into yoga, and you feel better.
Q: What do you do when you aren’t in the gym?
A: I have my own landscaping business, and I’ve hired my kids. We do that in the summer. I hike a lot and go biking. I’m an artist. I paint and make jewelry.
Q: What is the piece of equipment, supplement, clothing, etc. that you can’t live without?
A: You don’t need anything in yoga. The best sports are the ones you can do barefoot.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who is just starting their fitness journey?
A: Just stay strong. You can do more than you ever thought you could if you’re willing to be open.
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Float spas, where users are suspended in a salty bath, started popping up in Omaha in 2016. Spa-goers enter a private float tank nearly double the size of a bathtub. Hundreds of pounds of Epsom salt have been dissolved in the shallow pool of water so people float on top. Proponents say floating reduces muscle and joint pain, shortens recovery time from athletic training or injuries, relieves stress and increases creativity. Click here to read a World-Herald story on float spas.
If you've been dreaming of dribbling a soccer ball while encased in a plastic bubble, you're in luck. That trend made its way to Omaha in 2015. The game can be tough — experienced players tumble right alongside first-timers. Click here to read a World-Herald story on bubble soccer.
Local yogis can find their flow among a tribe of baby goats. Two dairies in Honey Creek, Iowa, started offering the classes in 2018. The goat yoga trend started in Oregon in 2016 and has since swept most of the country. The wandering goats add some levity to yoga, known for improving flexibility and decreasing stress. Click here to read a previous World-Herald story on goat yoga.
Kickball isn't just for kids. Adult kickball leagues have joined the mix of recreational sports in Omaha, much like sand volleyball and softball. The sport gets players moving, but it doesn't feel like a grueling workout. Some kickballers called it "exercise in disguise." Click here to read a World-Herald story on kickball.
Ballet-inspired workouts made their way to the Omaha area back in 2014. The city is home to handful of studios purely devoted to the workouts, which combine yoga, Pilates and ballet movements performed on a dance barre. Some local gyms and fitness studios offer the classes, too. Instructors said the classes are fun and motivating. Click here to read a World-Herald story on barre.
Rowing isn't new, but it's made a splash on the local fitness scene. The exercise machines had fallen out of favor thanks to treadmills, weight rooms and group exercise classes. But they've been reintroduced through fitness trends like CrossFit and Orangetheory. At least two local studios have debuted classes built around the machines. Click here to read a World-Herald story on rowing.
Participants — wearing minimal clothing — stand in a chamber that looks like an aluminum can and grows colder over two to three minutes using liquid nitrogen. The temperature drops to between negative 200 and 240 degrees. Proponents say the high-tech ice baths reduce inflammation, relieve pain, prevent injury, increase energy and speed healing. The practice also has been credited for cosmetic benefits. But some medical professionals are skeptical. Click here to read a World-Herald story on cryotherapy.
Exercisers bask in glowing orange lights and blaring upbeat music at Orangetheory Fitness. The metro area now is home to a handful of the studios, which got their start in Florida in 2009. During the classes, a trainer leads people through a circuit-style workout that rotates between treadmills, rowing machines and a strength area with free weights. Members wear heart rate monitors to track their efforts during a workout. Click here to read a World-Herald story on Orangetheory Fitness.
Pound classes debuted in Omaha in 2015. The classes are a full-body strength and cardio workout that simulates drumming. Exercisers pound the drumsticks in the air, against each other and on the ground while performing strength exercises like squats and lunges. Click here to read a World-Herald story on Pound.
Aerial yoga blends yoga poses with acrobatics. Yogis practice in hammocks, flipping upside-down. It incorporates stretching and strength exercises, cardio and meditation. Instructors say the class is good for the spine, alleviating pressure — although there are some risks, and the class isn't for everyone. Click here to read a World-Herald story on aerial yoga.
Heart rate monitors are a standard part of curriculum for some metro high school students. They've also made an appearance in several boutique gyms. Teachers at Mercy High School said wearing the monitors prep students for a lifetime of fitness. Click here to read a World-Herald story on the monitors.