1910 Minutes

This month, I spent 1910 minutes on my mat in a 30-day yoga challenge. It was….not as big a deal as I had built it up to be in my mind.

I’ve been practicing yoga for three years now and I’ve always wanted to do a 30-day yoga challenge, but just like when you’re told to hold a bound side angle pose indefinitely, suddenly your brain starts telling your body you probably can’t do it. Spoiler alert – I totally can.

BSA

I hadn’t been to yoga in a while and I hadn’t been consistent with yoga in even longer. All my fun summer trips and activities were in May and June, so July looked a little sad. Until I decided to change that thinking to “July is an empty book, an opportunity.” It also worked out that doing the challenge in July meant finishing three days before my 30th birthday – and yes, the challenge was on my 30 before 30 list.

The first day, I was nervous but I was ready to rock and roll. Getting to my mat the first week was easy, but the second week started to take its toll and I didn’t feel mentally ready for the challenge (the whole brain v. body thing) and felt like I was more going through the motions of getting to class than actually choosing it.

My home away from home.

My home away from home.

As I sat there waiting for a class one day, I considered that I should probably make a yoga-loving friend. I needed a friendly face greeting me and I need an active friend in general so I can be surrounded by good influences, do the things I love and not get the are you crazy look from EVERYONE when I suggest yoga at my bachelorette and/or wedding. On day 10, in walked Emily. She joined the same gym/yoga studio about a week in and we hit a lot of the classes together. Sweating awkwardly next to her helped a lot!

By day 21, I started to think I’d just keep this going, oh I don’t know, like forever? That line about it taking 21 days to form a habit is no joke! The last week was pure enjoyment and getting there was a necessity – it was part of my routine and WTF am I going to do now that it’s over?

On day 28, my instructor shared some words of wisdom she heard from a Tibetan monk she met in Hawaii (btw, can I have her life, please?):” People make a lot of excuses for why they can’t to they things they want to do. The excuses will always be there, just ignore them. Don’t let anything stop you from doing what you want to do.”

I realized how I had gotten so far where previously I stopped short. I’m stubborn. I absolutely wanted it. I usually do make excuses to skip evening workouts and except for one pre-work class and weekend morning classes, all the classes were after work, but for once, I had no (good) reasons to skip them.

I did hot Vinyasa, slow flow, slow burn, Ashtanga, Yin and Hatha and even worked in a crossfit/yoga hybrid class. I made it to the studio 28 of the days and did an at home flow twice, including one day on my hot patio as a storm rolled in. I loved the variety (okay, I didn’t love Yin…lying on my back for an hour felt like cheating).

I went in with no expectations, so I think the biggest surprise was that I really improved my handstand, as in, I got a handstand! Really on the first day, and it just kept getting better. I did notice my arm strength improved and they are feeling pretty firm. My core strength came back and my legs are showing a little more definition.

The only potentially negative physical effect is my neck pain starting flaring up again. I really hope the two are not connected, but I started to adjust some postures to avoid putting pressure on that side. I put it off as long as I could, but I started going to a new chiro to try to figure it out and make it feel better.

So, I guess that’s it. 30 days done and done – a great, big deal and not all at the same time. I did take today off, but I’m excited to get back to some of the classes I discovered are my favorites and spend some more me time on my mat. 

Advertisements

Yoga. Again.

Sitting waiting for my hot vinyasa class to begin last night, I was a little nervous. I had been to the studio and taken many classes from the instructor (it was this one), but I couldn’t remember the last time. I finally figured out the last time I did yoga was a Tone It Up video sharing my mat with my puppies and before that was a free lululemon community class at the W. Not that those don’t count, but they don’t count the same way. Plus those were in May.

I’ve had all intentions of getting to numerous classes since then, but have failed, but last night was the night. I’m sad all my travels are over, but now I can focus on creating my Arizona summer. And getting my summer body back…better late than never, right?

The class was hot and challenging, but familiar. It was definitely easier to get back to than running after a string of weeks off. I got into a good extended side crow and held my longest free handstand ever, which is not very long, but it was more than a bounce up and back down so I was pleasantly surprised! That savasana was well-earned. And so was the 14-lb. watermelon I picked up on the way home – HYDRATE!

Today? I’m a little sore, but in a good way and I’m ready for class #2 tonight!

There’s Just Something About Yoga Teachers

After proclaiming high and low that I’m just so dang healthy and I never get sick…I got sick twice in a month!

The first one knocked me out, but after a few days, I was recommitting to a healthy 2013 and getting back to running post-injury and I was doing okay with it until I got all sniffly again, then the throat, then the exhaustion, then the sinuses, oh the sinuses. And that crap hung around like a bad ex-boyfriend! Boo.

Finally, I decided the sick was not going to win and I was going to do what I could, so yesterday I ran and took one of my favorite yoga classes I hadn’t seen in far too long. It wasn’t completely awful and the warmth of the room helped me sweat out what seemed to be left. I woke up feeling better today, so back to the gym I went to run and – yay! – do yoga.

The thorn in my side about my perfect gym has always been the lack of yoga classes that fit my schedule on M/W/F. Yesterday I checked the schedule and saw a HOT yoga class added on Mondays and Wednesdays at 4:30 with a teacher with a great local reputation. Mind blown. My whole training plan just opened up!

I took the class today and I’m so happy! It’s a great addition and the instructor deserves his great reputation. And some of the cougars in the class agreed and I might have had a little giggle to myself about it. And then he told me my bridge pose (an ankle grab variation) was “beautiful” and I may or may not have blushed a little. There’s just something about those instructors, you know? Pop culture is on to something.

couples_retreat-450x253

Party on a Mat with my Homies?!

The Madison Improvement Club popped up on my radar maybe a few months ago. It’s a trendy little yoga and spin studio with a healthy cafe in Arcadia. I have a crush on Arcadia. If not for my full-blown love affair with North Scottsdale, I would totally move to Arcadia. For yesterday, though, I just went there for a yoga class at Madison.

They’ve been open for a while and seem to have grown a decent little following, but did a grand opening party yesterday with $5 classes all day and fun events, all to benefit families of fallen officers. I would have liked to do a spin and then yoga, but the spin classes were already on waitlist when I tried to get a spot on Thursday.

The grand opening party was a fantastic idea from a marketing perspective. I don’t know what their normal Saturdays have been looking like, but the little club was swarming. In fact, I pulled up to see they were valeting cars. Valet for yoga? Am I in LA?!

The building is nice, a repurposed club with great outdoor and indoor space that also used to be called the Madison Improvement Club, only the original was a meeting place for a women’s society, and has a lot of the “old is new and now modernly green” Arcadia charm. It was crowded with everyone rushing around, but had a great vibe among the staff and students.

I found a spot in the large yoga studio – I overheard that about 50 people had signed up, and it was pretty tight, but the room was somehow designed to fit something like 75 – the 90ish degrees a welcome change from the cold spell that had hit overnight leaving Phoenix in the 30s outside. The class was clichely full of mostly young women and middle-aged men who needed attention. I ended up next to a woman about my age who asked if I was spinning too and said she had been to the club before and that it’s “addicting.”

That's me! Front row behind the instructor in the teal getting my Warrior A on.

That’s me! Front row behind the instructor in the teal getting my Warrior A on.

The flow itself was good – traditional Vinyasa, somewhat basic and I worked up a good sweat in the heat – but it was definitely more of a dictation vs. instruction and the dictator (haha) walked around reading her phone?! It was like those restaurants where the waiter explains that he’s not being a douche on his phone, but it’s how they enter the orders because it’s cool. In the yoga setting, it felt like she didn’t know what she was doing and was reading a flow cheat sheet! I’m always super impressed with teachers who can give the class a great, intricate flow and then not miss a beat when repeating it on the left side. Then again, maybe she was bored and checking out Twitter!

The class didn’t start on time and didn’t end on time, which I chalked up to the rush of the party day, but don’t worry, plenty of yogis decided to leave whenever they found it appropriate for them! I hate that! I also noticed before class started, people were stepping on others’ mats and some wore their shoes into the space (though, thankfully not the same ones stepping on mats). I know a lot of newbies commit these faux pas just because they don’t know, but they need to figure it out! Yoga snob rant over.

So, a good workout, a little trendy for my tastes (try not to laugh if you check out the website), but I do like variety every now and then. The Madison offers first yoga class and first spin sesh free for locals so I’ll probably go back and try out the spin “party on a bike” or another yoga class with one of the big names in valley yoga circles – they have quite a few teaching for them!

Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)

My body has been craving yoga, so on Tuesday I went to a class fully intending to kick off a seven-day binge, but then on Wednesday I woke up with the worst back pain ever.

I know, I know, “Waa, my back hurts” sounds totally wussy, but I think I have a pretty high tolerance for pain and it was BAD, I couldn’t move – like a stiff neck, but focused right under my shoulder-blade. Other parts of my body were a bit sore or tight from yoga, but not anything I’m not used to, this was something totally new.

And to clarify, I don’t correlate the pain with the yoga class, it’s just one of those things.  I blame most of my back pain on sleeping the wrong way and/or stress and/or the ergonomics of my job but my company is in a bit of a budget crunch right now so I don’t think it’s the time to ask for them to pay for an ergonomist to come in and figure out my desk arrangement for me.

Anyway, yeah, back pain = bad. I’d call it a 9.5. I might have cried a little and walked around all day with my shoulder tweaked up and head tilted to the side.

It was on my right side as always and I was concerned it was my disc issue flaring up again (my eating hasn’t been great and I’m REALLY going to focus on that in September). I got the earliest chiro appointment I could and he (Dr. Jeff Robinson at AZMulticare in McDowell Mountain area, he’s fantastic) put me at ease that it was likely a muscular issue (the meanest, nastiest knot ever in the whole world) because of the way my skin reacted to my beloved gua sha very heavily on the right side versus the left’s reaction to the same treatment…

Day of treatment in the white tank and today, two days later, in purple…see? It’s not so bad!

Thursday, I walked around looking like I got beat AND wearing an Icy Hot patch, but my head was slightly less tilted, we’ll call it an 8. I was also using the tennis ball in the picture above for a little myofascial release (where one person doing this looks normal, the collection on Google Images makes people look so weird). 

I’m usually a big advocate of moving to kind of heal myself, but I’m also trying to be better at listening to my body, so I took one more day off and this morning I felt soooo much better, like a 6. As you can see, I’m dressed and ready to head out to stretch those poor muscles in a hot yoga studio and give my body a little delayed gratification to its earlier request!

Happy Yogiversary!

Happy yogiversary to me! For those who don’t understand made up words, that means I have been practicing yoga for one year as of today! I even got an anniversary email from the studio I started with!

Since then, I’ve tried a handful of studios, I’ve attempted to flow at home, I’ve practiced outside. I’ve tried, learned and enjoyed different styles.

There’s NEVER been a day when I’ve been disappointed I went to a yoga class. I’ve received something from every hour I’ve spent on my mat.

Yoga has been the most transformative thing I’ve done for my body. Within just the first month, I saw definition and muscles I didn’t know I had and my “happy weight” has dropped about five pounds…and now I ACTUALLY weigh what my driver’s license says!

I’ve also finished six races (and the training that went with them) in the last year and not had any injuries to speak of!

I read recently that most classes and practices are for “beginners” aka those practicing for one year or less, so that means two things. One – I’m not a beginner anymore and two – the person who wrote that really wants to sell teacher training. Teacher training is maybe in my 10-year plan, but for now, I’m happy to just maintain the commitment to myself to practice consistently, whatever that might mean for wherever I am in my life (aka, not so much lately, but I’ve been missing it and am excited to get back to it soon)!

Hairy Mary

Being a gym-goer for a few years now has not by any means made me a good gym-goer. Case in point, last night I found myself at the gym for a yoga class with no hair ties. This is actually the item I forget most often (with iPod or cap and goggles tied for second place). Hair tie vending machines in the locker rooms would make a killing, even if I was their only client.

I’m not going to lie, I work out at a fancy gym (and I kind of just realized that they may actually have hair ties in the cafe where they also sell deodorant or other easily forgettable items or I could have stopped by the salon and begged one from a stylist, doh) and I just can’t quit it because it’s awesome. I go there to sweat, but often find myself people-watching the members who go there to see/be seen/hit on/be hit on or any combination.

Many of those women work out with their hair perfectly done, but let’s be honest, they’re not doing much of the working out part. However, doing yoga with no hair tie is a bad idea. It’s just obnoxious.

I found two bobby pins and my iPod headphones in my bag (not the iPod, of course) and you can guess what I attempted. Tying my hair up in an iPod cord didn’t work and all through class I was fixing the bobby pins to bun around the cord to hide that I had earbuds in my hair! Okay, so maybe I do care at least a little how I look when I’m working out.

I realized it was a losing battle and I was so damn distracted and felt like I was distracting everyone else in the class, so finally I skipped a down dog to rip the whole thing out, knowing very well that with my curly hair and the rubberyish cord, it could end up in an even bigger mess (these fears run back to elementary school days…having curly hair gives you a little baggage), but fortunately it came out pretty easily, but I had to do the rest of the class with my  hair all over the place!

I love the teacher who subbed and with t-minus three weeks to my triathlon, yoga classes are pretty scarce these days, but it was probably the worst. class. ever. I was still sweating and my arms felt like they had had a good workout, but zen and centered and calm I was not.

What have we learned from this? The value of hair ties. The need to have bunches in my car, in my gym bag, at the office. Anywhere and everywhere.

So, when I stopped at Wal-Mart this morning (don’t judge, it’s in a swanky part of town and it’s open 24 hours and it’s glorious), guess what I DIDN’T pick up?! I think I’ll have to regress to my junior high style that involved wearing scrunchies as part of my outfit.  Really.  Even if I didn’t put it in my hair all day.  Had to have.  And often I wore it above my elbow.  And if you pretend you didn’t do the same, you’re a liar!

What do you most often forget for your workouts? What is a deal breaker if you forget it?

My Yogi Valentine

Apparently some people had plans yesterday?!

Mine included a 1400 meter swim – no stopping, just using breaststroke as a little recovery: 300 free/100 breast/400 free/100 breast/500 free – and my must-attend Tuesday yoga class.

Since the new year, the yoga classes at my gym have been you-only-have-your-mat-space-forget-about-extending-your-arms packed.  And good for the JJs for keeping up with it, because the instructors didn’t ease up for their sake by any means.

But yesterday, true love and/or unrealistic expectations won out, which meant there was breathing room and it was soooo nice!  There were all of six students so we stretched out and the instructor declared the beginning of class playtime.

We flowed like Tibetan monks!  The movements she taught were linked to breath, like traditional Vinyasa, and are practiced daily by the monks, or, I suppose, Buddhists in general or people who enjoy aligning their chakras? 

We started with prostrations:

Okay, that was the cutest version I found, but ours involved using blankets to slide in front of our mats (thus why it’s not doable in a crowded studio) and doing a Superman-style back strengthener on the floor.  I think she said the monks do 108 a day!  We just did 10, then we moved onto the Tibetan Five, the first of which is spinning, so we skipped and did the Tibetan Four. 

It’s a lot of ab work and we did 10 of each, but the full ritual calls for 21! The instructor said something to the effect of, “when we’re doing them, you’re going to think it’s not much, but in two days, you’ll be cursing my name.” 

It didn’t even take two days, my abs are feeling it already!

The rest of the class was a typical Vinyasa flow, but pretty fast-paced and even though I haven’t been sweating in yoga much, I was yesterday!  I got some good handstand hangtime in and plow again.

I have to admit, I thought about cutting out of the gym after my swim, but I’m so glad I went to the class…I love trying new things in yoga!

Bad Habits

Last week, I found this What’s Your Yoga? flow chart and found that “my” yoga is vinyasa, which I practice, which led to the question…do I prefer it because it’s available or is that what I practice because it’s what I prefer?

I’ve tried Bikram (dislike) and Ashtanga (like) and would like to try Power, but for the most part hadn’t heard of many of these different practice styles…so wouldn’t you know it, my favorite Saturday instructor was out sick and her sub worked in one of these different styles – Kundalini.

He didn’t go into much about the philosophy, just mentioned that a certain posture was from Kundalini, but from Wikipedia, “Kundalini yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual discipline for developing strength, awareness, character, and consciousness. Considered an advanced form of yoga and meditation, its purpose is to cultivate the creative spiritual potential of a human to uphold values, speak truth, and focus on the compassion and consciousness needed to serve and heal others.”

Just from the few asanas and kriyas we did from Kundalini, the feeling was very meditative – repetitive, quick actions and breath with eyes closed – which is something that scared me off from yoga for a long time, so I’m not sure I would enjoy a whole class of it, but I enjoyed getting a small preview of a different yoga style.

The sub normally teaches restorative, yin and intro classes and pulled in a whole lot of everything to the class, but not in a messy way, I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. My favorite part of it was just moving…you know, like our bodies are supposed to?! Getting back to that and breathing is so important.

A lot of the class was about reversing the bad habits we have developed that wreak havoc on our bodies…sitting at desks and being too sedentary or conversely, going too hard on our bodies. There’s a reason occupational therapy and ergonomics careers are on the rise…our bad habits are hurting us!

So, this week I’ve been better at getting up from my desk to stretch out, particularly my hip flexors, which are terrible from sitting for so long and moving my neck and shoulders from the stare-at-screen position. I know my body will thank me for breaking these bad habits eventually!

You are what you yogi.

I’ve been having an ongoing conversation with a friend about who we are v. who we ARE…or, if you missed my emphasis there, who we think we are (or even worse, who OTHERS think we are) v. who we want to be and can be.

This friend is moving across the country (hey friend, who sometimes reads this blog!) and I’m so happy for him because I think sometimes you need a true fresh start to make those kind of changes because making changes to yourself and your life when everything around you is staying the same is a little scary and sometimes requires you to be stronger than you thought you could be…but that’s all part of being the person you are meant to be, right?

Anyway, that’s like deep-deep and what I’m going to talk about now is not-not, but I saw a connection. How do my philosophies on self-actualization relate to yoga? Please, I’m so in love, I’ll make anything relate to yoga and according to a quote I found this week…

You will never change your life until you change something you do daily.

So I practiced yoga this week.  Daily.

Even though I thought I was someone who blows off yoga when things come up or when I get distracted or just when I feel like I have been working hard and deserve a day off. And my practiced deepened in those seven days even though I thought I didn’t have plow or headstand (got that one too).

Even though I thought I was someone who would phone it in just for the sake of being stubborn and finishing it, I pushed myself at each class. Even though I thought I was a level two or three, I found my level one classes yesterday and today to be just as challenging because they moved a lot slower and holding poses is just as tough, if not more so, than a fast-paced flow.

So, am I continuing on to 30 days and beyond? Nope.  I have fun plans tomorrow that conflict with all the sessions at my gym, so my streak is coming to an end.  I’ll get my 30 days sometime this year but for now I’m turning my focus to my half-marathon…and, you know, self-actualization.