Brunswick Center Focus

Power-House Pilates: Changing Minds and Bodies

-Jennifer Belcher

Pilates helps to strengthen your core, flexibility and balance.

“The studio down the hallway.”  For me that is what Power-House Pilates was for the two years I’ve been coming to the Brunswick Center.  I have always wanted to try Pilates…always.  More often than not when interviewed for fitness magazines, ballerinas, models, and long-limbed actresses will tout the impact Pilates has had on their overall health and fitness journey.  Forever I have associated Pilates with women (and men) who had long lean bodies and flexibility to die for.  While I had always pined away for that type of body, I never quite felt good enough, lean enough, or flexible enough (I can’t even touch my toes) to engage in that specific workout regime.  

A week ago, however, I decided to put my reservations and fears aside and take my chances at the “studio down the hallway” in the Brunswick Center.  The benefits of Pilates (strength, flexibility, enhanced core, balance, etc.) had to outweigh any risks of me looking like a complete fool in front of the instructor, right?

As I entered the brightly lit and meticulously clean studio, I was in awe at the various pieces of equipment around the space. Lining the room in perfect symmetry were mats, wooden reformers, and other pieces of equipment you don’t see in your typical workout studio.  Standing in silhouette against the sun-filled windows was what I would learn is the Cadillac reformer, or trapeze table, with bars, straps, and coils.  In my mind I had always envisioned Pilates being various exercises on floor mats.  However, I was immediately intrigued and excited as my eyes took in the retro style machines.  “We get to play!” I thought.

Morwen practicing a pose on the Cadillac Reformer

Having now had two private Pilates sessions with Morwen, owner and instructor at the studio, I can tell you that Pilates is unlike any workout I have ever experienced.  Over the course of 55 minutes, Morwen took me through a series of exercises on the reformer and tower Cadillac that challenged me, relaxed me, and filled me with curiosity.

Being brand new to anything Pilates, I found that many of the moves required coordination and body positions that I have never been asked to do in any other form of exercise. Morwen informed me that the creator of Pilates specifically designed the exercises in a way that challenged your brain as well as your body in an attempt to keep you mindful at all times.  Because of this mind-body connection, I felt certain that tiny muscle groups that I’ve never worked out before were definitely getting used (something I have often heard about Pilates). 

Through a combination of stretches, unique breathing patterns, quick and slow movements, and held positions, my body engaged in a unique workout that I cannot compare to any other form of exercise. There were times I felt like I was going to die as I performed a series of slightly different movements that targeted the same muscles groups until my body felt like jelly.  In sharp juxtaposition, these exercises would be followed by several stretches that Morwen led me through that resulted in that same Zen-like feeling you get during yoga.  Additionally, sliding, standing, and swinging from the equipment were just downright fun and really spoke to my inner child.

Pilates allows one to work on strength and flexibility simultaneously.

I’ve now completed two private sessions with Morwen and I have to tell you…I’m hooked.  As someone who has struggled with balance and flexibility my whole life, I’m rather upset with myself for being too intimidated for so many years by what I deemed to be the elusive and elite Pilates workout.  After each session, I have felt equally invigorated by a workout that has truly pushed my physical limits and relaxed by the stretching and breathing work also involved.  It is a post-workout sensation unlike any other.  Additionally, when I feel the small random muscles that are sore for a few days after my session, I know that it is the missing component of a truly full-body workout in my regular routine.

Morwen Banq, owner and instructor, began studying for her Pilates certification in 2002.

Although Pilates is often associated with dancers, models, and actresses, I was able to learn more about the history of Pilates and how it started during my sessions. Joseph H. Pilates, founder, developed the exercise program to actually help bedridden hospital patients exercise and work on their mobility. It wasn’t until later that it would become a craze for dancers around the world. To learn more about the history of Pilates click here:

Morwen’s beautiful studio is located on the third floor of the Brunswick Center in Jersey City.  In addition to offering 30 min and 55 min private sessions, she provides duet sessions and small group classes. If you have ever wanted to try Pilates but have been intimidated, you can sample it through her $99.00 new student package which offers three privates lessons.  As someone who avoided Pilates for years out of fear of “not being good enough,” I promise you won’t regret it.  For more information, visit

Power House Pilates is located on the third floor of the Brunswick Center.

Jersey City Ballet: Celebrating Five Years of Excellence

-Jennifer Belcher

The Jersey City Ballet Theater Company dancers rehearse their combinations for their May performance.

As I stepped into the Jersey City Ballet studio, the sounds of classical music coupled with the tapping of pointe shoes traversing across the wooden floor flooded my senses.  I was immediately transported back to my childhood where I spent several days a week in my local dance studio.  Lacking flexibility and grace, I stuck to jazz and tap classes.  However, I always found myself pressing my nose against the glass of the other studios, studying the long-limbed and elegant ballerinas.

Watching the Jersey City Ballet Theater company dancers rehearse their combinations for an upcoming performance, I am much like my younger self: in complete awe.  There is something about ballerinas that has not only fascinated me my entire life, but continues to be an obsession for many in our society and a highlight of pop culture.  Ballet is considered the pinnacle of the dance world, with ballerinas being our finest examples of artistry combined with sheer athleticism. 

Judith Elins Palacio, director of Jersey City Ballet and Jersey City Ballet Theater, has over twenty years of experience in our community.  Judith has studied in NYC at The Alvin Ailey School, New Dance Group, City Center, Cecchetti School, New Jersey Ballet and Broadway Dance Center.  With an extensive list of professional performances as a dancer, instructor, and choreographer, Judith brings a high level of expertise to our local Jersey City community.

Judith Elins Palacio, director of Jersey City Ballet and Jersey City Ballet Theater

Judith Elins Palacio and Laurel Zaleski, instructor and company member, invited me to the studio to watch one of the company rehearsals and learn more about what this Jersey City gem has to offer our community. Judith first opened the studio in November 2013 and has seen her company expand and grow ever since.

“We started out in a tiny space on 7th street and now have a larger facility in the Brunswick Center community building. Our professional company now has a core group of members and has collaborated with many other local groups in our shows. Our school continues to grow as our next generation of ballerinas goes on pointe! Additionally our adult program has a robust group of regulars who enjoy learning classical ballet technique,” says director Elins-Palacio.

This year the studio is proudly celebrating its fifth year anniversary by continuing to offer premiere ballet instruction for the community while sharing the experience of ballet with audiences across the area.

Zaleski states, “We are planning a fundraiser in May, a Festival in October and our annual Holiday performance in December. Also, we have a few additional dates for shows that are tentative.”

Additionally, in its fifth year, the studio has been able to witness the evolution of its dancers over time.  

Photo by Jennifer Belcher

“It’s really nice seeing our students continuously improve and go away to prestigious summer training programs and competitive high school programs as well,” explains Zaleski.

One of the most unique things about Jersey City Ballet is the range of classical ballet training offered to community members of all ages and experience levels.  Available opportunities range from the most beginner levels to advanced adult ballet and the professional company.  Additionally, the ages for class offerings span from 4-5 years to adult, meaning Jersey City Ballet really has something to offer everyone in our area. 

What truly sets Jersey City Ballet apart from other studios is the quality of instruction students receive for the value students pay.  

“We offer small class sizes, professional faculty, competitive pricing and performance opportunities in a supportive environment,” Elins Palacio says.

As someone who has personally taken the studio’s adult beginner class, I can attest to this.  I was surprised at the affordability of their drop-in rates compared to other places in the area, especially with the quality of instruction I knew I was receiving.  Even as a true beginner, Judith was able to enhance my dancing with personalized attention as she suggested small changes in my foot and spine placement.  The beginner class not only let me work on the fundamentals of ballet but let me live out my childhood dreams of feeling like a beautiful ballerina.

In addition to offering ballet classes for Jersey City’s youth, Jersey City Ballet offers classes for beginner to professional adults.

For more information on what Jersey City Ballet has to offer, please check out their website: and follow them on social media @jerseycityballet for the most up to date information and class schedules.

On May 5th Jersey City Ballet will be hosting a fundraiser at Grace Church Van Vorst to support their 2019 Season. For tickets and information visit

You’re Going to Put That Where? Going Deep with Doody Free Girl!

-Jennifer Belcher


Is it going to smell?  What underwear do I wear? Is it going to feel like a torture device? These were just a few of the many questions I had before undergoing a colonics treatment with Doody Free Girl at the Brunswick Center a few weekends ago. Colonics is something that has always equally interested me and scared me. Having a feeling that there were many people out there who, like me, have a lot of questions about what it is and what it isn’t, I decided to take one for the Jersey City team and blog about my experience.  If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to have….well, let’s be real….your poop sucked out of you, here’s my first hand (or should I say first bum) experience.

Before My Appointment:

The minute I scheduled my session with Jen Gonzalez, owner of Doody Free Girl, I knew I was in good hands.  She immediately emailed me a comprehensive informational document with everything I needed to know in order to have the best session possible and to help ease my fears.  In addition to providing information on pre-colonics diet recommendations, she also sent me some great information on probiotics and where to find them.  To help calm my own anxiety and to guarantee the best results possible, I was very careful to do a lot of research and follow Jen’s suggested pre-cleanse guidelines.  Having suffered from chronic IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) since2003, I was eager to spend a week eating the recommended mostly vegan diet.

For the five days prior to my appointment, in addition to cutting out meat and dairy, I also cut out gluten because it has historically been hard on my stomach. By the time Saturday rolled around, I already felt a million times better, having forced myself to eliminate all the foods that irritate my stomach. Each day leading up to my appointment, I engaged in a little bit of research on the pros and cons of colonics treatments. The reviews I read seemed to be split down the line: proponents who receive treatments raved about the benefits and doctors warned against it, citing perforations and future bowel movement issues. Luckily there were so many positive reviews, especially from those with IBS, that I didn’t let it bother me or dissuade me from going to my appointment. Instead, I made note of some of the concerns to ask Jen during my session and continued my preparations.

During My Appointment:

The day of my appointment I had a morning coffee and smoothie, knowing I needed to fast three hours prior to the appointment.  I arrived in some comfy sweats, feeling informed yet very nervous about what was to come. However, Jen’s warm smile and calming disposition immediately put me at ease. She was so chill about everything, which made me realize that it wasn’t that big of a deal since it’s something that she does multiple times a day for many clients.

Jen Gonzalez is a certified Colon Hydrotherapist in Jersey City.

I’ve walked by Doody Free Girl’s space on the third floor of the Brunswick Center multiple times a week for over two years and always assumed that the space where you get it all done was some dark, smelly closet.  When she walked me back into the “cleansing space” I was in awe at how open, bright, and big the area was. Oh, and it also didn’t smell at all, in case you were wondering. To start off my appointment, I went to the bathroom located in the back, took off my bottoms, and draped myself with the cotton smock that you see at many doctors’ offices. As I climbed on the medical table and waited for Jen to emerge, I started to sweat and worry about any potential pain that was about to ensue. Jen talked me through the process and told me what I would expect before beginning the treatment. Using a diagram of the intestines, she walked me through my insides and what exactly was going to happen. It was so evident that she was an expert in her field. Much to my surprise, the initial “starting” of everything didn’t hurt at all.  It was over with one deep breath and we were well on our way to cleaning everything out.

Jen used this poster in her space to explain to me exactly how the process would work.

While it was NOT painful, it wasn’t exactly like getting a massage either. Despite not hurting, there were two things that were slightly uncomfortable: occasional mild cramping (which she told me to expect) and the sensation of pooping everywhere, even though I wasn’t.  During the appointment, Jen and I engaged in casual conversation about work, life, and health.  A process that I thought would be incredibly awkward was actually quite fun and comfortable because of her overall Zen and relaxed vibe. While things were being flushed out, I was also able to ask her for clarification around some of the concerns around colonics that had resulted from my research. Her knowledge and expertise around the subject matter and popular areas of concern helped me to understand that those medical issues were not anything to worry about.

PHOTOGRAPHY AND CONCEPT: YLVA EREVALL (We can pretend that model’s bum is me during my session).

After the ebbing and flowing of water from my gravity colonics, some off and on cramping, and great conversation, my procedure was over.  I scurried to the bathroom where I was instructed to stay for 15-20 minutes to let everything finish. Overall, the whole session went quickly and seamlessly, and I was surprised when she said it was over.

After my Appointment:

In all my research about colonics treatments, I had read about how light you feel after the session.  I was surprised at just how accurate this was. I felt amazing. The deep down “rock inside my stomach” sensation and IBS symptoms that I pretty much feel 24/7 were completely gone.  I couldn’t even remember the last time my stomach had felt free of gas, bloating, etc. Following Jen’s recommendations, I refrained from eating for a few hours and then had a green smoothie and lots of water.  I knew it was important for me to go easy on my digestive system for the next day or two. Having made no plans, I was able to sit on the couch, stream some movies, and relax.  I did experience mild cramping for the rest of the evening, but Jen had told me that this might happen.

Funny enough, for some reason I was paranoid that I was going to walk around pooping everywhere, and I spent two days walking around squeezing my butt.  FYI- nothing of the sort happened. For the next few days, I continued to feel lighter than ever and had no stomach or bathroom issues. Wanting to get the most out of my appointment, I continued to eat gluten and dairy free and felt amazingly well.  It wasn’t until I started to add certain trigger foods back into my diet that those symptoms began to return. Even though the colonics appointment didn’t cure my stomach woes (which I didn’t expect it to) it did help me develop some mindfulness around how good I could feel with proper nutrition and a cleaned-out system.  Most importantly, the procedure allowed for a great reset with my eating habits and cravings. Bonus: for the last two weeks my skin has been glowing and blemish free!

Would I do it Again?

Definitely!…although only with Jen.  It’s not the most comfortable and relaxing experience and after having such a positive session with her, I can only imagine how bad it could go with someone who wasn’t so pleasant, experienced, and professional.  Two weeks later and my IBS symptoms continue to be mild, only flaring when I eat foods I shouldn’t. Because I think you should plan for a full day off where you can control your food and relax if you have the mild cramping, it’s not something I would do too frequently, but it is something that I will incorporate multiple times a year to help with my tummy turmoil and overall health. 

Key Takeaways:

– Just like with any other procedure, it is important to consult your physician first.

-Colonics isn’t for everyone.  While a fantastic approach to health, I know many of my friends wouldn’t be able to hang with the situation.

-Pre and post diet are essential to successful results.

-The person administering your treatment is a vital part of the experience. Choose wisely.

-Timing is key: you really need to set aside a full day without major plansso you can rest and have full control over what you’re eating.

-The procedure is an overall exercise in mindfulness, allowing you the opportunity to feel how light and balanced your gut can feel.

Photo courtesy of Jen Gonzalez

Doody Free Girl is located on the third floor of the Brunswick Center in JerseyCity.  It is owned and operated by Jen Gonzalez, a certified colon hydrotherapist and a certified nutrition consultant and holistic counselor.  For more information please visit, email, or call 201-565-3447.

4th Annual Great Jersey City Clean Up: April 13th

REPOST via Mira Prinz-Arey

The City of Jersey City will be hosting our 4th Annual Great Jersey City Clean Up on Saturday, April 13th from 10-2pm.

To volunteer please sign up here:

Residents, neighborhood groups and community leaders are encouraged to roll up their sleeves and help clean our city on a single day! There will be a main tent in every location ( see flyer attached) where volunteers will gather before heading to their clean up zones. Light breakfast will be provided and there will be staff from city and county agencies providing informational materials and give-aways.

Read more via the BGT Enterprises Facebook page