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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The meaning of life!

I managed to make it to yoga again last night, this time for an all-levels hatha class.  (Two days in a row? Holla!) I had no idea what to expect, so I went into it ready to just dive into whatever we were doing, despite still being super sore from Sunday.

It was a great class that was slow moving with more focus on finding your breathing rhythm.  The instructor, David, had an approach that I thought was really interesting - he wanted us to ask questions.  Not just metaphysical "what's the meaning of life" type stuff (although he did answer that, spoiler alert, its sustained joy!) but also things like "why does my back hurt?" and "is it normal that my knee makes that weird popping sound?"  The girl on the mat next to me mentioned she was having some neck pain from acupuncture, and the other two classmates echoed similar pains in the neck and shoulders, so he adjusted the class to really work on those places and alleviate whatever pains we were having, which was great.

The one thing he said that I really thought about for quite some time after was in regards to headstands.  I have very little upper body strength.  I can do one push up, maybe two if you forced me.  Because of this, I actually struggle with downward facing dog, which is used in every yoga class I do and always becomes a frustration.  One person in class echoed a similar sentiment when discussing headstands, saying that her neck always bothered her afterwards, and he very genuinely responded with "don't do them, then."

Say what?!

In my experience, whenever someone complains or struggles with a certain pose, the instructor teaches them variations to build up to that pose.  Yet, in this case, David very much supported the idea of not doing headstands.  His explanation was pretty simple - yoga is supposed to lengthen, stretch and strengthen.  If you're doing something that is doing the opposite of those things, and/or is causing you pain, and repeatedly, then you probably aren't meant to do that thing.  He mentioned that although he could do a headstand over and over again, it really bothered his back, and the whole point of yoga is to find a path to joy, not pain. 

The philosophy made perfect sense, but it was something I had never really thought about logically.  But it makes sense - why force yourself to do something that continually causes you pain?  I suppose that sort of mentality could be used in so many ways in our lives.  Definitely something to think about.

I'm taking a break tonight and possibly doing something I've never done before (more on that later) but am planning on getting back into the swing of things tomorrow night with some restorative.  Which is all just in preparation for the 4 hours of binge eating I'll be partaking in at the LA Street Food Fest on Saturday.  Hell, yes.

Monday, June 24, 2013

WTFasana Update: opening chakra's can really screw with you.

Part of the reason why I was so eager to give this challenge a shot was knowing that I could try different kinds of yoga.  I will admit that I am pretty much the lamest half-yogi ever - I stick with basics or beginners classes because I feel that my breathing needs serious work and I know very few poses.  Because of this, the classes are never challenging necessarily, and I never break a sweat.  Ever.

Since I had been putting off starting this darn challenge for so long, a 10 am vinyasa and meditation class on Sunday morning was the first class I could take.  C joined me, wanting to check out the studio, and we were greeted with a wonderfully warm welcome.  It also doesn't hurt that it is bright and airy, has changing rooms, and a shower.  Plus plus plus!

We were in this class with 2 others, and the instructor, Rebecca, spent the beginning discussing how she focuses on the Tibetan teachings (and how thrilled she is for the Dalai Lama to visit LA next summer!) and drew a super simple diagram that explained what yoga practice is supposed to do.  She was also very grounded and not precious at all, which was fantastic.

She began to lead us through a few different flows, and I immediately started sweating.  Over the course of the next hour and a half, I could not believe how sweaty I was.  At one point, she brought over a strap to my mat and laid it where my hands would go, letting me know that her hands get super sweaty during yoga and this helps keep them stable.  She also assisted me through half moon (I couldn't get my legs straight, so she helped guide and stabilize me) AND my first shoulder stand.  I know that when practicing yoga you should check your ego at the door, but I couldn't help but beam (at least, internally) when she congratulated me on being able to extend my feet up during my shoulder stand.

Afterwards, we headed home, both eagerly anticipating an afternoon nap, and I got hit with this crazy, gut-wrenching emotional feeling.  I couldn't shake it.  I tried taking a shower, taking deep breaths, whatever, but it was just awful.  It was tear inducing.  C had to calm me down and remind me that the flows we were doing were geared towards opening chakras, and sometimes, when you bottle up certain emotions, they come raging back in this fashion.  I remembered the instruction explaining how each of our flows was focusing on certain chakras, but I didn't think I'd have this kind of reaction!

I've always been a little skeptical of anyone who says they have some sort of crazy release like this post-yoga, but I realize that's because my yoga practice has been so minute and conservative.  Clearly I needed this release, and felt much, MUCH better after my nap and a glass of wine with some good friends, and I'm definitely going to be going back to this class this coming weekend, with hopefully a more positive reaction to the chakra opening.  Maybe this time I'll leave class skipping with joy...?


For a very easy and brief explanation on chakras, look here.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

WTFasana Challenge Update: I haven't gone to yoga.

Since Jillian checked in and expressed how her challenge was going 3,000 miles away, I thought that it was only fair I did the same.  However, for every class Jillian has taken, I have taken... zero.  That's right.  Look at me, I come up with this whole challenge and make a big deal out of it and still have yet to take a yoga class.  I could sit here and list all the excuses (most valid, a few questionable) but at the end of the day, that's what they are - excuses.  I can acknowledge them, and move onwards, and that is what I'm going to do.  (In case anyone was curious, some of the excuses are, but not limited to, being at my boss' house all day while construction is happening, having a weekend chock full of plans with no wiggle room, etc.)

I will say that even though I have yet to make it to a class (I have one on the books for tonight, one on Saturday and TWO on Sunday, I hope) I have still maintained a level of consistent exercise.  C and I have tried each night to walk a brisk 2 miles, and have done so for about a little over a month now, and let me tell you - I can feel a difference in my energy level, even if it's a slight one.  Even on Saturday at Disneyland, we lasted way longer on our feet before needing a break than ever before, and I chalk all of that up to the consistent walking we're doing.  If my energy is improving just for walking 2 miles a night, I can only imagine how much it'll improve after doing yoga 5 times a week!  (I may also alternatively find myself crazy tired and in bed at 9 pm.  Which oddly sounds really nice right now.)

*Side note: Jillian is currently spending 3 days at the rockin' Wanderlust festival in Vermont.  Jealous?  Yes.  Go cheer her on!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Mary Poppins is NOT practically perfect in every way... fact, she was a bit of a disappointment.  But Disneyland, overall, was not.

Last week, one of C's friends asked him why I loved Disneyland so much, and his half joking response was "the magic."  I say half joking because, although it sounds cliche and funny, it is actually true.

There are, I think, three types of people in this world: those who love Disney and allow it's magic to take over while they're there, those who can appreciate it for the most part but are also acutely aware of reality, and then those who vehemently keep a strong distance from getting wrapped up in it.  I am of the first type, and have been asked why I would want to keep going back to do the same thing often.  The best way I can answer that is by saying that each time is a different experience, and that is what I love most about visiting the Disney parks.

This time around was no exception to that rule.  We compromised on an arrival time of 9 am - C normally likes to arrive around 10ish, and I really wanted to get there at 8 (I now worry that the park will hit capacity before we get there - hasn't happened yet but I still freak out about it) so 9 am was a fair compromise.  Since we got up earlier than expected, made it through breakfast quickly, and hit zero traffic on the way there, we actually got to the park around 8:15.  C really didn't understand the appeal to arriving so early, and as we walked to Main Street, I tried pointing out how quiet it was.  We began walking towards the restroom around the same time that the Mad Hatter and Alice were heading backstage, and the Mad Hatter asked where we were going.  I quietly mentioned the restroom, and he grabbed my hand and began to rush me down the path, telling me I wasn't moving fast enough.  It was nothing I could have planned and therefore that much more of a "moment," and something we laughed about throughout the day.

My other favorite moment was our trip on the Mark Twain Riverboat.  In all the times I've been, and the times we've been together, we've never had an interest in taking a ride on the riverboat, but the lack of crowds on Saturday (seriously, the park was pretty quiet for a Saturday in June!) got us in the mindset of trying things we hadn't done before.  We walked right on to the boat, and I really wanted to grab a seat and relax, but C wanted to sit on the top deck, so up we went.  As we approached the top deck, I passed two cast members, both in captains gear, and one pointed at me and said "maybe she'll want to help you."  Knowing from experience that a cast member asking you to do something always leads to something awesome, I volunteered, even though I hadn't a clue what I was volunteering for.  The captain then asked if we wanted to help him "drive" the boat.  Uh, yes!

Even though you aren't actually driving the boat (its on a track under water and is propelled by a cast member who controls its speed in a totally different room) you do get to blow the whistle and ring the bell.  We also got to sign the guest book (awesome!) and learn about old attractions and some park history from the captain, Ryan.  Ryan mentioned he'd been working for Disney for 7 years - say what you will about the House of Mouse being an "evil empire" but its employees truly do love what they do.  Seeing the park from this vantage point was very cool, and although we found out that you can always ask to ride in the wheelhouse, we decided to keep this a "once in a lifetime" sort of thing.

Just to make sure I get in a little fitness mention, C wore his FitBit the whole day to see just how many miles we walked.  Want to guess how many?  We were there for 14 hours and we walked... 12.5 miles.  Almost a half marathon!  I'm also of the mindset that calories you consume at a theme park don't actually count, and the FitBit actually proved us right - C entered in everything he had eaten that day (popcorn, ice cream, meatloaf, ice cream, etc.) and because of the mileage we walked, he had burned 3,000+ calories, so even after entering in all that food, he had tons of calories to spare.

I'm sad that the day is over (and it goes by so quickly) but am glad that we had another great experience.  I think I'm finally turning C into a fan. :)

(To briefly reference my post title, the only disappointing thing during our day was Mary Poppins' lack of personality.  She was too consumed with trying to find Bert (I'm not making this up) and by the time I got to take my picture with her, she only asked where I was from.  Yawn.)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

WTFasana - a yoga-a-day type challenge. Sort of.

There have been two things I've been wanting to do lately - one, try the yoga studio that is 2 blocks from my apartment, and two, a new challenge.  It's kind of ridiculous that I kept looking for an excuse to try the yoga studio, but I find that I am the kind of person who feels amazing after a work out, and then the next day, forgets about how much I loved it.  So, yes, sometimes I need an excuse.

After a good friend of mine had done a 30 day yoga challenge at her local bikram studio (and looked fantastic) I had toyed with the idea of doing my own.  Could I really go to a yoga class every day for 30 days?  Experts say it takes 21 days to start a habit, and getting serious about my yoga practice would be a great habit to have.  Yet, I struggling with commitment.  After musing about this on Monday's post, my friend Jillian responded that she'd happily join me in this challenge, but we just needed a witty name.  We also decided to taper it back a bit to something a little bit more reasonable, but not necessarily easy - 5 classes a week.  Challenge invented!  (I must add that this comes on the heels of the yoga studio releasing a Groupon which had a one-month unlimited option.  When I went to buy it earlier today, I had been the only person thus far to purchase one, which I feel pretty cool about.)

Then I woke up to this post this morning, with Jillian already a class AHEAD of me, and now it. is. ON, my friends.  (I also have to thank Jillian for coming up with the title of our challenge, WTFasana - said like double-you, tee, fasana.  Pretty great, no?)

Now that it is officially started, I'm already preparing to be behind.  Despite Jillian getting in a class ahead of me, I have plans with a girlfriend tonight (which include shopping and wine, aka a different kind of yoga) and plans with a work colleague tomorrow night.  If tomorrow night's plans reschedule, I'll easily squeeze in the 7:15 pm Restorative (and boy, do I need it) but if that isn't possible, I may have to hit up the 7 pm Gentle Stretch and Flow Friday evening.  Which, now that I think of it, would be a really great way to kick off the weekend and get in some calm before we head to DISNEYLAND SATURDAY! (Can you feel my excitement?)

Last night, my friend Kim joined me for another tap-robics class (and probably my last one for a while) and I actually found it getting easier.  I was still crazy-sweaty, but I wasn't as out of breath.  Of course, whenever I start to feel like something is getting easier, a wrench gets thrown in - my left calf totally started to cramp, and I knew the shin splints would be following today.  (The same thing happened during the Lone Gull 10k - I started to really hit my stride, and then a cramp came surging on.)  I actually had to dial it back during one of the combinations last night, which really annoyed me.  When I mentioned it to our instructor, she kindly reminded me that on the plus side, I'm building muscle, and then recommended a masseuse around the corner from my apartment that specializes in this kind of thing.  She's pretty awesome.

It's really motivating to see an improvement in my endurance, even if its mild at best.  These 2 mile powerwalks we've been going on have helped exponentially, and I already feel my energy level getting better day to day.  I'm really interested to see how adding in a yoga-intensive schedule will affect not only just my body, but also my mind and my mood.  I'm not saying I'm going to get all Eat, Pray, Love on everyone, but I can only see it being something really positive.

But for now, I'm counting down the hours until its time to hit the Semi-annual Sale and grab a glass of Riesling.  Is it 7 pm yet?

Monday, June 10, 2013

I'm in love with my fitness belt.

At least, that's what I'm calling it.  C keeps reminding me, politely, that its really just a fitness-oriented fanny pack.  I don't care.  It is AWESOME.  I'm also in love with my fitness app, but more on that later.

This is how not fitness-oriented I am; when I signed up to run my first (and again, I stress, only) 10k a few years ago, I had to then go out that evening an buy a sports bra because I did not own one that fit me.  I also had to buy shirts made of wicking fabric (since I had long learned the dangers of running in straight up cotton) and shorts of reasonable length.  I mean, my Soffee shorts from high school are comfy and all, but I really don't think they're made for you to ACTUALLY work out in.  Maybe I'm wrong.

Because of this, I don't really own any of the "proper" gear for regular exercise, other than running shoes.  When I signed up for a trial period at a local yoga studio last year, I had to go out and buy a mat.  I had to buy an armband for my iPod, and a water bottle with the type of lid I could pop open easily, for hiking or (maybe) running.  I'm just not naturally inclined to own the things I'd need for these sorts of occasions.  Having unexpected guests over? I have a bottle of red and white ready to go.  Going on a 2 hour hike?  Now I need to go to Marshall's.

Until I bought this sweet, neon orange, elastic-banded wonderful thing, I was hiking with a mini-travel case to hold my phone, key and emergency Benadryl - super annoying.  I very briefly considered shorts with pockets, but didn't trust that my things wouldn't fall out.  I also wasn't in the mood to stick stuff into my sports bra (like so many fellow female hikers I see) and have my phone get all sweaty - no, thank you.  This solves so many problems, I don't even care if it looks stupid!

For his birthday, C got a FitBit, and has been wearing it ever since.  I found myself wanting one, especially to figure out how many steps I'm taking and therefore how many calories I'm burning during the day, but didn't have the money to swing it just yet.  Then I realized that MapMyRun has an entire fitness devoted app called MapMyFitness, which allows you to record and/or log pretty much any workout ever.  I downloaded it immediately and took it on our next hike, and not only did I know how far we went, how many calories I burned, what my pace was, but also how much of a gain we made (we had been wondering just how high up we were at the peak) and it was incredible.

The combination of these two things has seriously changed the way I look at any sort of workout.  Before I never really understood the want or need to keep track of how many calories your burning, or what your splits may be (unless, of course, you're trying to PR a race), but I find myself really taking all of these things into consideration.  We go for a 2 mileish evening constitutional many nights of the week, and I've noticed that each time we go, we shave a bit more time off than the previous walk.  The one night I walked the majority of it alone (as C ran the neighborhood instead) I managed to shave a whole 2 minutes off my previous time (since I wasn't as distracted, I guess) and when I used it at the park, I was a minute faster.  (I think part of what slows us down is the uneven sidewalks that we have to be aware of - at the park, you're just walking/running on flat dirt paths.)  I even use it when we go for our bike rides down the bike path.  We noticed the first time that on the way out, we're definitely heading downhill for part of it, although its just barely noticeable.  On the way back, however, you really feel that tiny, slow incline in your calves.  After using the app on Sunday, I realized that over the span of 2ish miles, the incline is about 30ish feet - pretty steady!

In fact, I'm becoming so enamored with this app, I'm considering signing up for a month unlimited at the local yoga studio... and trying to do a yoga class a day.  A lofty goal?  Maybe.  But it would be cool to track my progress!