Sunday Night Check-In: Chillin’

It was a long week last week. Everyday started at 6:30 AM ended around 7:30 PM with a meeting. Luckily, there were slow times in between where I could run home and walk my dog, but I had some very long days even for somebody who usually gets up early. I’m waking up now at 4:15 AM in order to squeeze some yoga in, cook breakfast, take care of the animals and get out the door on time. I appreciated being able to sleep in this weekend even though “sleeping in” is about 6 for me.

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I started a 31 day yoga practice with a YouTube yoga teacher named Adriene. The practices are about 25-35 minutes, and she varies them from day to day. Her practices are moderate in pace, and she has a great knowledge of meditation and pranayama, too. So, when I saw she started a “Revolution 31-Day Practice” January 1 I decided to give it a try. I’m a little late starting but it doesn’t matter. The sessions are recorded. But I think they will be a better wake-up call for me than hitting a cup of coffee or tea first thing. I did Day 1 today, and I felt so much better after doing it.

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I’m also in a Virtual Boot Camp. It’s led by my friend and coach Jessica, and it’s a sane but effective strength-training and cardio series. We do three “circuit” trainings per  week which last 30 minutes each. I usually have no issues squeezing them in, but last week’s time suck really knocked me off the program. I only got one circuit done. I’m committing to doing tomorrow’s circuit no matter what, so I just cooked up a bunch of veggies and fruit for tomorrow’s dinner. I can just saute’ a fish filet, and I’ll be eating.

 

Yesterday I met up with another Michigan blogger here in St. Joe. Stacy has been following my blog since I moved up here, and we’ve been chatting off and on about meeting each other. We finally did it yesterday, and it was really fun to talk with another blogger and writer. During our conversation, I found out her boss was one of my best friends! She told me about ice fishing which is a big hobby of hers, and she shared many stories about snowmobiling in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Apparently, the groomed trails up there are very popular, and she said people snowmobile at about 80-100 mph. I’d love to go up there and experience that. But she prefers the slower pace of ice fishing. She explained to me that the huts that I see on the lake are more for parties. Most people just go out on the ice, cut a hole and fish. She brings a Coleman lantern to warm up her fingers when they get cold, and she gave me a tip to wear a mitten over my gloves to keep my hands warm.

I also met up with my friend Karen yesterday and then went ice skating at the local rink. I’m getting better. I’m able to glide a little, but I did fall twice in rapid succession last night. I lived to tell about it, and when I left the rink at the end of the evening, this woman stopped to tell me how good I was. I laughed because I thought she was being sarcastic, but she said she was serious. I don’t know that I’m good, but I am not as scared as I once was, and I am feeling like I’m actually skating now. My friends John and Marge run the concession stand, so I get to visit with them while I’m there. It’s great fun and exercise for only $5 a pop.

I had great intentions to go to the gym this morning, but my garage door opener didn’t work. My car was stuck inside the garage, and I don’t have a door on it. I had to call my neighbor, and her boyfriend came over and helped me. We finally managed to pull the cord to release the door without breaking a window, but it was very cold standing out there trying to do that. It’s an old garage door opener, so I don’t think I can program a new remote for it. I think I’m going to have to get a new one or just do without.

The rest of the day I just cleaned the house, deep-conditioned my hair and got food ready for the week ahead. I took Ashok for a walk at about 5, and it was so beautiful out. The sun was shining, and Lake Michigan was frozen over almost to the end of the pier. Silver Beach was deserted except for a few people taking photographs. I wish that a photograph could show you what it looks like, but there’s just no way to capture the icy magnificence unless you are immersed in it.

Ashok is getting used to her new booties!

I’m seriously considering getting in shape to run again. I don’t know that I want to do long-distance running anymore, but I’d like to be able to run a few miles to get my heart rate up a little higher than when I’m walking. I have something going on with my piriformis right now, so I’m really on the fence of whether I should try to run or not. But it’s just hard to get motivated to go to the gym, and I feel like I need something that’s also good for my soul. Running really fits the bill, and it can be done in 30 minutes. We’ll see where I land on that.

I hope you are noodling some healthy behaviors right now. I’m not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions, but I am a big fan of fresh starts. I’ve learned over the years that exercise of any kind gets boring to me after awhile, and I’m always having to change it up. It’s so important for my well-being.

Have a great week, y’all. Get out and move. Your body will thank you.

 

What I Learned in Yoga This Morning….

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I’ve rearranged my mornings a bit since I’ve started back to work. I was doing yoga first thing after feeding the pets, but it just didn’t flow. After I got all loosey goosey and reveling in the “sauce” of my practice, I had to walk the dog and get ready for the day. Ashok got short-changed more than I would like, and I spoiled my yummy yoga afterglow. I decided to start walking Ashok first thing and then come back and do my yoga practice. For the past two days it’s worked like a charm.

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This is Alana… for such a young teacher, she is amazing!

Ashok is happy because she is anxious for her walk and doesn’t keep nudging me to come take care of her. She’s happily relaxed and content in her kennel while I’m practicing. I signed up for yogaanytime.com awhile back, and found a teacher that I love. Her name is Alana Mitnick, and she leads this lovely slow, strong practice with long holdings that resonates with my energy in the morning. I hate that fast-paced yoga that is so popular today. Yoga, for me, is a practice in settling in and experiencing what is under the layers of my Type A “get ‘er done” personality. That fast stuff just keeps me in that groove, and I never catch a glimpse of what’s underneath.

This morning in Janu Sirsasana (JAH-new shear-SHAHS-anna), Head – to – Knee Forward Bend – I found myself beating myself up because I couldn’t get to my toes. “Damn…. I used to be able to do this,” I thought. “I just have to keep working with it. I’ll get there.” But then Alana mentioned that I need to “find an edge and feel what’s happening right there.” Ahhhh …. I found a little edge in my hamstring and stayed there for a breath or two. A beautiful release happened naturally, and I moved a full inch more into the pose before I found another edge. When I was reaching for my toes, I could feel it in my upper back as I was crunching my spine and creating a c-shape with my vertebrae. As I straightened my spine and allowed my body to naturally fall into the shape of the pose – my version of the pose at this moment – my back released, and I found my strength.

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It’s that letting go of what should be that I struggle with in this life. I should be a better partner. I should be a homeowner. I should have more savings for retirement. I should be thinner. I should have softer, straighter hair. I should be more patient. I should be … I should be … I should be …… able to reach my toes. If I’m ever going to improve in anything, I have to take a lesson from my yoga and accept where I am. It is only from that place that I can improve incrementally.

A friend of mine asked me the other day how I learned to speak up for myself at work. She struggles with speaking her mind and asking for what she wants. Instead she cries and clams up. She’s only known me since I’ve been able to speak up for myself, and she was stunned to hear that I was not always like that. I, too, would clam up and freeze when confronted with a situation where I had to stand up for myself – especially with authority figures. I had to learn to sit in that space of feeling frozen and accept where I was in order to change. I had to feel those feelings that were trapped in that frozen stance, understand where they came from and allow myself to move into a different “me” inch by inch. I couldn’t force myself to change. It had to come from a release inside. It took feeling my feelings and loving myself through it. And it was not nearly as easy as this morning’s yoga pose.

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I love yoga because of what it teaches me about myself. Almost everything in life is about releasing or standing in my power or being patient in pain or another lesson that I learn on my yoga mat. My mat is a microcosm of the world and the actions I need to take to be whole. Being a physical person, I first learn things by feeling them in my body. My body is so wise, and it teaches me in a way that no external teacher ever can. This morning I’ll let go a little bit and see where I end up. The journey ahead just might be delicious.

 

Another Voice: Freedom by Sallie Watson Williams

Note from Me: I love it when people want to guest blog. For one thing, it gives my readers a break from my listening to me… variety is good, right? But what I truly get excited about is the risk they are taking. I know that they are putting themselves out there in a way that I have found life-changing.

The other day my friend Sallie sent me an email with the below blog asking if she could guest blog on my account! “Are you kidding?,” I replied. “I’d be honored.” I recently met Sallie, and we are beginning a new friendship. We have lots in common. She actually worked with Daddy at the newspaper for many years, so we have many common friends. They were actually Daddy’s friends at one time, but I’m meeting them now in social situations, and they are becoming my friends. We also do the Jeff Galloway run/walk method and have been running together – although the heat is starting to give me pause a bit. We’ll have to work that out. And we both love yoga and hiking!

So, now you get to meet Sallie, too. Please give her a warm welcome to the blogging world by leaving her a comment! I’ll be sure to pass it on. 🙂

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Freedom

by Sallie Watson Williams

The past two years have brought unprecedented change in my life to include deaths of both parents, divorce from my spouse of 38 years, a new romance and remarriage, moving from Georgia to Louisiana, and leaving the company where I had worked for 28 years.   

I discovered yoga last summer during a transitional time living in Athens, GA with my 24-year-old daughter.  She had bought herself a condo to live in while she goes to law school at the University of Georgia and, in a role reversal, she became my landlady and I her tenant.  The yoga studio I joined was a 5-minute walk from the condo and going to classes became a highlight of my day.  On moving to Baton Rouge earlier this year, I became a student at Yoga Bliss on Highland Road and have continued my journey of yoga practice and healing. 

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Shannon, one of my teachers at Yoga Bliss has a custom of asking each student to choose a small rock from a bowl at the beginning of class.  Each rock has a word written on it that may be taken as an intention for the day’s yoga practice, and I’ve marveled at how the rock I choose so often has a message that represents what I need to focus on in a given moment.  In a class a few weeks ago, I chose a rock that said ‘forgiveness’ when that was a message I needed, another time, my rock said nourishment when I needed to work on replenishing my body with good food and rest, and on the day after running a half-marathon, followed by a drive home of several hundred miles, my rock suggested ‘gentleness’ which I interpreted as a nudge to go easy on myself in that day’s practice.

Today at yoga, the rock I chose said ‘freedom.’  I was tempted to put it back and draw another.  What could the word “freedom” mean to me?  Of all of the thoughts I’d been thinking and emotions I’d been feeling, freedom or a lack of it had not figured into the scheme of things.

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But I kept the rock and during class reflected on what this message might mean.  I am now free from a marriage that hadn’t worked for many years, but I’m not free from the lack of closure with my ex husband —  someone with whom I shared a life for more than 38 years and with whom I have three grown children, nor am I free from feeling defensive around those who don’t understand why I left or those who judge me for leaving, or from judging myself.

I am free from a job that was difficult and often required long hours of work and travel, even though I sometimes miss it.  I am not free from an inner voice that asks me what I am going to do with my life now that am no longer defined by my job.  What is my next path?  Working in the same field?  Or in a new area?  Volunteering?  Becoming an entrepreneur? 

And what about money, another important resource in life.  I am fortunate to be free from pressing financial needs, having saved regularly over the course of my working life, and yet, without a regular paycheck arriving every two weeks, it’s now up to me to try to figure out how I to manage what I have to provide for my own future.

Several years ago I read a book called “The Paradox of Choice.”  The main message of the book is that we live in a world in which overabundance of choice creates paralysis and, ultimately, can lead to inaction or a shutting down.  Our brains are simply not wired to evaluate too many choices at once.  Here is one of the most famous examples from the book:

When researchers set up [in a gourmet food store] a display featuring a line of exotic, high-quality jams, customers who came by could taste samples, and they were given a coupon for a dollar off if they bought a jar. In one condition of the study, 6 varieties of the jam were available for tasting. In another, 24 varieties were available. In either case, the entire set of 24 varieties was available for purchase. The large array of jams attracted more people to the table than the small array, though in both cases people tasted about the same number of jams on average. When it came to buying, however, a huge difference became evident. Thirty percent of the people exposed to the small array of jams actually bought a jar; only 3 percent of those exposed to the large array of jams did so.

I can’t say that there is a solution to my dilemma right now —  freedom creating too many choices on so many fronts.  I have a few short term goals and activities – a friend from my old neighborhood coming to visit in a couple of weeks, plans to go on a bike ride across Georgia with my youngest son and a cousin, and some travel plans with my husband.  I understand that my challenge now is to remain open to seeking a new path while being discerning and thoughtful about moving into the next phase and resisting the temptation to commit to something new before I’m ready.  Maybe the rock I draw next time in Shannon’s yoga class will have the word “patience” written on it.

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Sunday Night Check-In: Long, Lazy Weekend

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Since the monsoon forced the evacuation of our building last Thursday at 1 PM, I had a really long, unexpected weekend. It would have been nice to have some great weather, but I guess I wouldn’t have the days off if the weather was good. I’m very grateful that I didn’t get flooded, but I know that many, many people all over this state are digging themselves out of mud and, in some cases, are still socked in by muddy water. Prayers and dry thoughts are going out to all struggling with this disaster.

I mostly hung around the house and worked, explored hiking club information, googled potential future backpacking locations, and read Undaunted Courage. With all the rain and mud, Ashok didn’t even get to walk much. At one point, she sat down and stared at me with that “Can we PLEASE go walk?” look in her eyes. I felt so bad that she couldn’t get out and burn off some energy. I also felt bad that I couldn’t burn off any energy, too. In fact, the longer I was lazy, the less energy I had. It was a problem before the weekend was over.

IMG_5547I had breakfast with my backpacking teacher Katherine at Frank’s on Saturday before it started raining again. Frank’s has amazing alligator sausage, and I ordered their world-famous biscuits, grits, eggs and the gator sausage. Then I drove out to my parents’ place in Pierre Part and watched it rain all afternoon. At least Ashok got to chew on their dog’s deer antlers, so she was a pretty happy camper. I need to get her some of those. She absolutely loved them. Momma made an awesome dinner of a creative yummy coleslaw, baked beans and pork chops. It was delicious. And I certainly enjoyed hanging out with them better than spending another day going stir-crazy in my house.

I noodled driving out to Bay St. Louis today as the sun was going to be out, and I wanted to get out of this mud. But, by the time I got up and realized I’d lost an hour of time, I decided to just hang here. I wrote my curls blog and made a video this morning, had some awesome coffee and killed an unbelievable amount of time. I have not been eating well the last two weeks. I’ve been missing the farmer’s market, and I haven’t liked the food I had stocked at home. So, I’ve been eating out too much and in general making bad choices. So, I went to the grocery today and bought some really good veggies for roasting and for making salads. I plan to take charge of my diet this week. I ate well today with lots of fruits and vegetables… and no sugar. I feel pretty good at the moment.

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During my web searches this weekend, I saw an ad for a website called YogaAnytime.com. I checked it out as my Yoga Download membership is expiring in two weeks. I signed up for their free 15-day membership. They are more expensive than Yoga Download. I pay $60 a year for Yoga Download, and Yoga Anytime is $18 per month. But, when you figure it is $17 to drop in to one yoga class, it’s a pretty good price for a month of yoga. I’m just ready for a change, I think.

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Their classes are presented like “shows” with seasons and episodes. The classes aren’t live, but I can choose different ones every day from the archives and have the same teacher. I’ve done two episodes of a show called Good Morning Yoga, and I absolutely loved it. The teacher is very knowledgeable, and the classes are challenging but not as fast and crazy as some of the yoga out there today. I plan to start rolling out of bed and doing 30 minutes of yoga every morning before I do anything else. This will be just what I need. My yoga practice is for my mental well-being and to help me undo the knots in my body and keep my joints and muscles feeling good. As soon as I stop doing yoga regularly, everything starts hurting.

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My yoga class this morning… Mindful Flow

So this week will be a “get back on track” kind of week. I plan to practice yoga every morning, eat better and get to the YMCA for at least two strength-training workouts. I’ve also asked my friend Sallie to start doing some run/walk workouts with me. I HAVE to get in shape for mountain backpacking. The temps are creeping up here, and hiking in Louisiana is quickly becoming less desirable. I need to head north, and there are hills in them thar woods! I’ve got to get these legs in shape for climbing. There is more rain in the forecast this week, so I’ll need to stay flexible. But, I have a plan … and I’m going to stick to it!

Musical Medicine for My Soul

I’m sitting on my little chaise lounge with my kitties and Ashok listening to Kenny G play “Walking in a Winter Wonderland.”

I don’t remember when I got my first Kenny G album, but I know it was the Miracles: The Holiday album that I purchased. I think Momma was playing it at her house, and I had to have it. Since then, Kenny G has been a staple of my holiday season. I love instrumental music. When I’m writing, practicing yoga or reading, words distract me. But instrumental music sets a very relaxing mood and calms me down.

I’ve teed up Kenny G or Enya for the last week when I’ve been practicing yoga. My yoga practice is becoming really regular, and I’m thrilled about that. I’m getting stronger and more flexible each day, but mostly I like the way it makes me feel. I’m sleeping pretty sound, and my anxiety is staying at bay. I discovered Enya when I started practicing yoga, and I was so thrilled when she came out with the “And Winter Came” album. For some reason the music feels like a cozy fireplace to me. It is as comforting as a crackling fire on a winter night.

I’m learning that music is a great way to raise my vibration, and, honestly, I’ve been feeling a little down lately. But the music, meditation, yoga and walking are helping me keep it at bay. It’s not dissipating, but it’s not affecting me too much although last night I went to bed pretty early.

Tonight I came home and did a run/walk for about an hour. It felt really good to get my heart rate up. I’ve been struggling with exercise lately. I feel like I’d like to be a slug other than hiking and yoga, but I know I need a variety of types of exercise to keep my depression at bay. How I wish I could do two months of exercise and then take the rest of the year off with no impact. But it doesn’t work that way. It’s a weekly if not daily grind at times.

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I went to the Farmer’s Market this morning at the library. It’s so convenient. I can go there when they open at 8 AM on Tuesdays and then be at work by 8:30. I get veggies for the week, and they are local and fresh. Today I bought cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, green peppers, savoy cabbage, grapefruit, oranges, field peas and kale. I’m set for the week. Tonight I roasted some butternut squash and sweet potatoes, sautéed some jacinto kale and boiled some buttered peas for dinner. It was very good and very good for me.

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I feel like I’ve taken care of myself today. I did have two eggnog lattes, so I’m not perfect, but, otherwise, I ate healthy, exercised, meditated and enjoyed the sunshine in my office shining on my poinsettia. I was busy in a good way, and it felt like a leisurely, productive day. I need to clean my house, but I think I’m going to pass and just enjoy relaxing here until it’s time to go to bed. It starts all over again tomorrow at 5 AM. Tomorrow is DevaCurl styling day, so that delays my yoga practice until later in the morning while my curls dry on their own. It’s Wednesday and will be a week until I’m off for 11 days. What’s not to love about that?

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I’ll leave you with another one of my favorite Enya songs to close out the blog. This one is called “Stars and Midnight Blue”. It has lyrics, and they are beautiful. I hope you enjoy, and I really hope you’ll sit down and just relax tonight. You deserve a rest and some nice music.

Memories we share together
Moments no one else can know
I will keep them close to me
Never let them go
Once you filled my hands with roses
Then you gave your heart to me
When a kiss had followed this
Love was meant to be
Time goes by
And the snow is drifting
Slowly in the sky
Cold, cold night
As you lie beside me
I can hear your heartbeat
You have lost yourself in dreaming
I have lost myself in you
Now we lie beneath the sky
Stars and midnight blue

Awakenings … Yoga … Ice Cream … Gear

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I’m so bummed. About 3 years ago, I bought this amazing Now and Zen alarm clock that gives me the most beautiful and peaceful awakening every morning. It chimes once … then chimes again 3 1/2 minutes later. The interval between the chimes decreases until I am definitely up no matter what time it is. I LOVE that alarm clock! And it stopped working last week.

I paid over $100 for this bamboo alarm clock. So, I assumed that there would be information on how to repair it. Obviously this is a fine product, and I’m sure with a name like Zen, the customer service will be very helpful. I found their website, and there was nothing about repairing it. So, I googled “zen alarm clock stopped”. My, oh my. Scores of horrible reviews about this clock popped up. I’m lucky I got 3 years out of mine. Other folks only got a few months or nothing at all. There’s a warranty for a year, so some got replacements, but the replacements broke, too. After the warranty expired, the company does nothing except offer a new clock for $79. Their facebook page is filled with complaints, and they don’t even bother to answer them. I posted my two cents and decided to move on to another solution.

Peaceful Progression Alarm Clock

Peaceful Progression Alarm Clock

One of the theories about why we don’t remember our dreams is that our loud alarms clocks jolt us into reality so fast that our dreams scatter from our subconscious. I really want a gentle awakening. The last few days I’ve been using my phone, and I hate that I have to get up and shut it off as soon as it goes off, or it annoys the hell out of me. I want to lay around for a few minutes and slowly wake up. So, I looked at an article with suggestions for gentle alarm clocks. I found a Peaceful Progression Alarm Clock that looks nice, but it’s a little out of my budget right now.  LLBean had a Moon Beam Clock that offers a “light” wake-up in combination with a soft or loud bell (my choice). It’ was half the price with free shipping with the discount code, so I ordered it. I wish the internet was magic so I could have it tonight, but I’ll have to wait a week. It’s really cute and retro. I’ll let you know how it goes.

My new alarm clock!

My new alarm clock!

A friend of mind from high school texted me yesterday and said he’s started a yoga practice to help him heal his “old athlete” body. I was so thrilled to hear about it! I have another girlfriend that just started yoga, too. They are both seeing remarkable improvements. It is such a healing practice. I’ve been back to a daily practice now for about 3 weeks, and I’m seeing so much improvement in my mood and my physical body. Bill said he was only doing 25-40 minutes a day, but I assured him I only do about 20 minutes a day, and that was far superior to doing one or two long classes a week. Consistency is what really makes a difference in yoga.

I invested in a yoga teacher training class about 10 years ago, and it has proved to be such a great investment. I haven’t taught much yoga, but it taught me so much about yoga that I can lead my own practices. It saves me money because I can practice on my own, and yoga can be expensive. More importantly, it is a tool that I can access anytime I feel like I need to make a change in my life. If I’m feeling stressed, all I have to do is start practicing yoga for a week or two, and I totally settle down. If my body gets tense or hurt, I know what poses work to heal it. I go back to it over and over again.

This morning my body was craving twists, so I did a 20-minute practice full of spinal twists of all variations. We often think of yoga as being about stretching, but one of the best benefits of yoga is the compression of the body. For instance, when you take child’s pose, your knees and legs are bent and the underside of your knee is compressed. This stops or significantly slows the blood flow to that area. When you release the pose, the blood flows quickly back into the joint flooding it with nutrient-rich blood and other fluids which help heal any types of issues you have. In twists, the spine is twisted, and the compression of the muscles around the spine experience the same rush of blood and fluid after release. So, this morning, I was getting all of this great blood flow and lubrication for my spine. It felt really good and energizing.

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Last night was the first backpacking class. When we parked at LSU, I noticed that the LSU dairy store was right next door. I have never been – that I can remember – and I’ve been dying to get over there and try their homemade ice cream from their dairy farms. The young lady said they had sold out of most flavors since it was so late in the day but recommended the chocolates. I chose the chocolate almond, and it was absolutely divine. For some reason, it tasted better than even those premium ice creams I buy in the stores. From now on, I know where my ice cream splurges are happening.

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I came away from the class feeling a little shell-shocked. The instructor did a brief overview of all the gear we would cover during the course, and I spent my time on my phone seeing how much all of this crap cost. For a minute, I was thinking that this hobby is out of my reach financially. I calmed down a bit later in the evening and reminded myself that I actually already have some things like tents and sleeping bags and hiking clothes, so I just need to chill to find out how much else I really need to buy. If I go with somebody, maybe they’ll have some of the stuff I don’t have, and we can share. Next week we get to go to the Backpacker and play with the gear. I’ve heard that backpackers talk incessantly about “gear”. I’m starting to see that’s not far from the truth.

Tomorrow is Friday, and I’m ready for the weekend! Woohoo!!! Y’all have a good one.

Yoga Challenge Day 30: I Made It!

Me and my fave yoga teacher, Teresa, on the first day of my Challenge!

Me and my fave yoga teacher, Teresa, on the first day of my Challenge!

Today was the 30th day of my Yoga Challenge. I did yoga every day for 30 days. Some days it was a vigorous practice. On others, I did a long yoga nidra. But, I did something every day. I listened to my body and did challenging practices when I needed the energy, and I did relaxing practices when I needed to relax. Tonight I did a more relaxing practice since I didn’t started until 8:30. I needed to wind down for bed. But I wanted to check-in and celebrate the end of my challenge.

I am going to keep doing the yoga. I like the way it makes me feel, and it’s rather easy to do. I have decided that I don’t like the really fast-paced yoga that is so popular these days. I like the slower, strength-building yoga. When I started the yoga challenge on April 13, I said I would measure 5 things:

  • Strength
  • Flexibility
  • Sleep
  • Emotional Stability
  • Energy

So, here goes:

Strength – I feel much stronger. I especially feel stronger in my core, and my joints feel much more stable. I don’t know if joints strengthen, but I can stretch and open without so much wobbling and shaking going on. I also am moving very smoothly through transitions where I used to be more wobbly and unsure of myself. My arms can now do many chaturangas. In the beginning, I had to rest through the last few in a class.

Chaturanga

Chaturanga

Flexibility – I am more flexible in my hamstrings. I think I would be even more flexible if I hadn’t overdone it that first week with Monkey Pose. I ended up overstretching, and they’ve been tender ever since. It causes me to back off, but I’m going to just take the time I need. My spine is definitely more flexible. Last night, I popped up into 3 consecutive wheel poses, and I felt free and light between my vertebrae. When I first started, my back was pretty tight. And, my hips are way looser than when I started.

My favorite yoga pose!

Sleep – I’m sleeping really well. I wasn’t sleeping well when I started. My sleep started improving, and, even when I didn’t sleep as much as I like, I did my yoga nidras, and they reset me. They say the yoga nidra replaces a couple of hours of sleep, and I believe it. When I have insomnia, I get up and practice, and I don’t really feel like I’ve lost that much sleep. That being said, lately I’ve been getting great sleep. I can also thank my sugar cutbacks of the last week, but I was starting to sleep better as soon as I started the yoga.

Links to my Favorite Yoga Nidra Practices

Beach and Stars – 42 Minutes

Blossom Garden – 25 Minutes

Emotional Stability – I haven’t been writing a lot about it, but I have had a LOT of big things going on in my life lately. Plus I had a rather exhausting trip to Michigan last week. In the past, these kinds of stressors would send my anxiety over the edge. My anxiety has been extremely low given the circumstances of the last month. If nothing else, that improvement should tell me that I really need to do yoga regularly.

Energy – My energy has not increased as much as I thought it would. I guess I’ve had energy to practice, but I haven’t felt super energetic. I do get up and walk my dog every morning now at 5 AM for an hour, so I’m doing better with that. That’s partly because of the good sleep I’m getting, too. But, I would like to see my energy improve.

I would say the challenge was a success. I learned a few things and got back on track in several areas. I know that I want to continue the yoga, but I’m also getting anxious to do a little extra strength-training for my arms and a little running. It’s heating up down here, so I won’t be running a lot, but I’d like to pick up the pace over walking. Hopefully the yoga has stretched out the kinks and provided enough of a different kind of movement to heal my injuries totally. I look forward to easing back into it in whatever way suits me.

Most importantly, the challenge game me a change of pace. My exercise became much more inner-focused rather than focused on my body. Although yoga is a very physical practice, for me it really is an inner practice. I get less worried about how much I’m doing and more concerned about how I feel. I push through less and honor where I am. I think that may have bled over into my life a bit, too.

Tonight’s practice was designed to stretch me out and get me ready for bed. We did a lot of crescent lunges, twists and hip-openers. We carry a lot of tension in our hips, so it feels great to work them and stretch them out before sleep. And twists help me let go and melt into softness. Ashok is already snoring, and I’m getting ready to be. One thing’s for sure – I look forward to going to bed now that I’m not tossing and turning all night. That’s truly a blessing.

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 9.42.23 PMCrescent Lunge Pose Instructions

Yoga Challenge Day #15: Loving Les

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I took some classes with Les Leventhal in Chicago at the Midwest Yoga Conference. It doesn’t look like they are still having it in Chicago unless I just can’t find it on the internet. I loved going to that conference. I got to practice with national teachers like Seane Corn, the Kest brothers (Jonny and Bryan), Paul Grilley and Les. The conference was usually 3 days long, and, if you were a teacher you could attend some pre-conference sessions that were designed to go in-depth into either certain poses, certain styles or with a specific focus. I remember loving Les’s class, so I was stoked when I saw an entire channel of his classes on Yoga Download.

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Tonight I went to acupuncture, and I came home energized. I was able to take a little nap during my session, so I looked for an invigorating practice. I didn’t want to do too much, though. My hamstrings are still smarting a little from that Monkey Pose practice I did last week. My hamstrings are screaming every time I do forward bends or any pose where I have to use my hamstrings’ strength to lift and move. I knew Les was a power yoga teacher, but I hoped his practice was still as moderate as I remembered it being. I don’t think hard is better when it comes to yoga. It’s great for it to be challenging, but a lot of our Western influence is just serving to make the practice harder not more informed.

Extended Side Angle with the bind.

Extended Side Angle with the bind.

Today, I’ll focus a little on a challenging pose but one that I truly love because it’s a twist, a strengthening pose AND a hip opener. It’s called Extended Side Angle Pose or Utthita Parsvakonasana. I like all variations of this pose. When I’ve not been practicing, I can’t move into the twist as well nor are my legs strong enough to hold very long in the full pose, but tonight I was able to comfortably practice the full pose without the bind. I tried the bind for a a few breaths but decided it was more effort than I wanted to give tonight.

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The version I did tonight. Photo Courtesy of Yoga Journal

This one hour practice was delicious and just what I needed. For one thing, it featured more topless men than women yoga models, so I loved the eye candy complete with muscles and ink. Les was very knowledgeable and had great instructions and modifications for all of the poses. I chose to practice at about 75% tonight, so I held myself back from some of the more advanced stuff. It felt good to do just what felt good with a little bit of challenge here and there. At one point, Ashok came in and mirrored me in Downward-Facing Dog. She was so cute. I may make a yogini out of her yet.

This was a yummy hip stretch at the end of class!

This was a yummy hip stretch at the end of class!

So, I feel really good after practicing. I sauteed some fresh kale, red potatoes and leftover chicken in some olive oil for dinner and did a tiny bit of work. I’m about to settle in for some reading. This past week I have been sleeping so good. I’m dreaming, and I’m sleeping through the night. I believe the yoga is helping. We’ll see if it continues. I’m going to have a busy weekend with some travel. I plan to continue my yoga practice. It’s only for 30 days, so I need to stay dedicated. I’m anxious to see what happens.

Yoga Challenge Day #14: Savasana

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Photo Courtesy of Yoga Journal

What a crazy weather day! In New Orleans, a train blew off the Huey P. Long bridge. The news was showing footage of trees all over the streets of Baton Rouge. My Mother had difficulty getting out of Pierre Part because of all of the downed trees and wind and rain blowing sideways. A friend of mine had a job interview in New Orleans today by candlelight. It was like mini-hurricane, and my street looked like a bomb went off by the time I got home. Branches and leaves were all over the place.

I drove to Watson for my facial with Lisa at the Redneck Spa. I wasn’t going to let a mini-hurricane get in the way of my facial. She pampered me amid the thunder and lightning of round 2. I drove home in the rain, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as this morning. I knew I still needed to do my yoga, but I was really feeling relaxed. I sat all day today at a conference, so I knew I’d better move a little. I compromised. I picked a practice that was half yin and half yang. The instructor promised to get me up and moving in the beginning but bring me to a relaxing close. That sounded like the ticket, and it was.

My favorite yoga pose has always been Savasana – Corpse Pose. It is called Corpse Pose because you are supposed to withdraw all of your senses like a corpse. I often imagine myself with a tag on my toe and sliding into one of those lockers. What would I really feel like at that time? That vision really helps me let go of everything. If I was a corpse, I’d have no worries about tomorrow’s workday, retirement or whether I’m going to hell or not. I would be en route to wherever I’m heading, and I could totally be blank.

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I have loved Savasana from the first time I took a yoga class. Sometimes Corpse Pose is the only pose I practice. It is a complete practice by itself. After a really invigorating practice, Savasana feels amazing. All of my muscles relax after being stretched and contracted. The stress has exited my body so it is pure relaxation. People often leave class before doing Savasana. I can’t fathom why they’d want to skip the most blessedly divine part of practice. Experienced teachers say it is the most important pose of the practice, too. It is in this pose that all of the benefits of the practice are integrated into the body. Yoga is so healthy for the body, but it is the rest afterwards that allows everything to regenerate. It’s as healing as sleep. Most importantly, it is the pose that calms the mind. I usually stay in Savasana a lot longer than the teacher allows because it takes awhile for my mind to calm down. When the body is still, the mind can finally rest. My favorite part of teaching yoga was watching my students arise from Savasana. They were so peaceful and sleepy-eyed. I felt like we were all kids waking up from a nap.

It’s not always that easy to get to that ‘corpse’ state, however. Sometimes my mind wanders. On occasion, I’ve fallen asleep. Tonight, I felt a little edgy still. I got a big fat bolster and put it under my knees and covered up with a blanket. I put a folded blanket under my head for a pillow. I tucked myself in. Bella tried to get under the blanket for a moment and then plopped her fat body onto my abdomen. She felt warm and heavy, and it helped me sink into the floor. I could hear the rain falling outside. I forgot about needing an ark. My breathing slowed. I forgot about July. My thighs let go. I forgot about going to hell. My hips relaxed. My shoulders sunk into the floor. Ahhhhhh …. savasana.

Yoga Challenge Day #12: Opening the Hips

 

So, Wednesday night I decided to do a challenging yoga class since I’d done more restorative classes the previous two days. I searched Yoga Download’s inventory and found one that ended up with Compass Pose. I wasn’t familiar with that pose, and it wasn’t Crow or one of those I can’t stand, so I picked it. The description said it would stretch out my hamstrings and inner thighs, so I thought that might be a good balance to last week’s backbending practices.

The class was definitely as promised. Lots of lunges, forward bends and hamstring stretches got my legs and hips feeling loosey goosey. It was a strong Vinyasa (flow) practice with lots of standing poses interspersed with some chatarangas and sun salutations. I felt really strong … much stronger than last week. But the leg stretches were really burning. I hate stretching my hammies. The running I’ve done for years gets me really tight in that area, and it hurts. But I know it’s important to keep them stretched or tight hammies will start to throw off my pelvis which throws off my lower back. In other words, hamstring stretching will help me avoid lower back pain as well as other stuff. So, I complied. But, I have to admit I snarled at the teacher a little bit.

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About 3/4 of the way through the class, she started adding on to the already painful stretches. She encouraged me to go into full Monkey Pose – otherwise known as a full split. Yeah … I don’t think so. I did the best I could with my hamstrings yanking on me and burning the whole time. I was really beginning to despise that little 20-something teacher. She was going on about how she couldn’t get fully into the pose, but she wasn’t nearly as far away from it as I was. Finally – after an eternity – she let me get up. Searing pain in my hamstrings and numbness in the rest of my leg told me I’d probably gone a little too far. I made a mental note to back off on the other side and not let her encourage me to push beyond my edge.

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After I did more intense hip opening and inner thigh stretches – to the point where I thought my legs would fall out of their sockets, we actually started moving into compass pose. I was thrilled that the preparation stuff was over, and we could finally do the pose and end this torture. We rocked the baby which felt really good. It consists of holding your lower calf in your arms and pretending it’s a baby. It feels really good to my outer hip. Just as I started to think things were turning around, she tells me to put my right knee over my right shoulder. What? I sort of got into that, but then she wanted me to add my arms into the mix, and I totally lost it. I called her a few choice names, and did the best I could. There may be a little too much freedom in doing yoga at home. I think I would have been kinder if I’d been in public. It wasn’t very yogic of me at all.

The full expression of the pose. I didn't get there.

The full expression of the pose. I didn’t get there.

When I went to bed, I was so tired that I fell fast asleep. It felt really good, but I was really sore the next day. Thursday I did Yoga Nidra instead of a movement class and then tonight I did a gentler vinyasa class that was still a bit challenging, but I managed to complete the class with a sense of dignity and with the teacher’s reputation intact.

I am sleeping better. I’m feeling a lot more flexible, and I feel a bit stronger. My arms feel like they are getting stronger faster than my legs, but it may be that the classes I’ve done tend to challenge my legs more. They’ve all had a lot of standing poses. I don’t feel as anxious, but it may be that I’ve not had a lot of anxiety-producing drama going on. Work has been pretty smooth, and I’ve not been traveling like I was. I’ve settled into a routine of walking Ashok in the morning, going to work and doing my yoga in the evening. Even my animals are starting to get the flow of things. They met me at my mat this evening.

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