Monthly Archives: January 2013

Looking Inward

I read this article the other day on Yoga Journal’s website and it really stuck with me. The author talks about how previously in her mind, a “workout” required your heart racing to it’s maximum and falling over with exhaustion at the end of it all. I’ve talked about how I’ve often felt the same way. However, just like her, my mind has shifted since I started focusing on yoga as my main medium for activity.

Yoga may not be as intense of a “workout” in the typical sense as, say, running at your peak speed or doing boot camp-style drills with your maximum effort. And, yes, there are days when I feel like I need something with that kind of intensity to get rid of any stress or anxious energy I may be holding on to, but I feel like those days have become fewer. Not that that’s bad or good, it’s just how I feel.

My workout regimen used to consist of 3-4 days a week of lifting weights and doing some kind of cardio, which I could spend 1.5-2 hours a day doing. I still do those things, but the major change here, for me, is that I have decreased the time I spend actively trying to exercise… and I feel fine about it. I used to beat myself up if I missed too many days in a row, or if I did 3 days at the gym when I had planned on 4. Sometimes I would force myself to wake up earlier than I wanted to to go to the gym or make cutbacks in my personal time to go to the gym in the evening just so I could avoid that feeling of worthlessness I would experience. I wasn’t doing it because I wanted to, I was doing it because I didn’t want to feel bad about myself. And that’s not good.

When I really think about it, it was that pounding in my chest and sweat dripping from my face that triggered the feeling of accomplishment in me. Because of this, if I didn’t achieve those results, I felt like any work I had just done was basically useless–and therefore, I would feel somewhat useless as well. That’s where the shift in my thinking is. I look inward to see the challenge I’m giving myself and my body and I listen to my entire body for feedback on the results of that. I feel that because I am challenging my body in a new way, I am still getting my workout in. And the feeling of accomplishment I get is so much more than when I was heavily exerting myself. Being able to hold Bakasana gave me a sense of accomplishment I hadn’t felt in any other kind of exercise training I had been doing. That’s why I’m keeping my focus on yoga–because I get a greater sense of self satisfaction out of it than anything else I’ve tried. And that feeling is so good 🙂

Cardio is important for overall health and lifting weights is something I feel enhances certain areas of my body yoga can’t get to as well (hello, sculpted shoulders!). But at the end of the day, I don’t feel bad if I miss a day of working out at all anymore. I know that there is always a reason for my “absence” that day, and that I will do better the next. I’m beginning to find a balance in my life that works best for me. And above all else, I feel great 🙂 And I hope you do something that makes you feel good about yourself as well.

Namaste.

puppy

(via)

Advertisements

My Meatless Monday [recipe]

I am not a vegetarian, but I do enjoy vegetarian meals. At least once or twice a week, I’ll go through my entire day and then think to myself, “Huh. I didn’t eat any meat today.” While this is all well and good, I don’t really consciously try to eat vegetarian for an entire day. So, I decided to commit to the Meatless Monday ideal that has caught on as of late.

Meatless Monday is a campaign that encourages people to live a meat-free lifestyle for one day a week. While meat can be very healthy for us and our bodies, at times, we can consume too much. By participating in Meatless Monday, we can cut down on the impact consuming meat has on our bodies and the rest of the planet. (Check out their website for more of the health and eco-friendly benefits and for vegetarian recipes to try.)

So, for my first My Meatless Monday post, I am going to share with you a breakfast recipe that I have been obsessed with for weeks now. It’s called Breakfast Cookie Dough Cereal and it is so so so good! And the best part is, you can make it quickly and easily and transport it just as well, too.

Breakfast Cookie Dough Cereal (adapted slightly from The Fitnessista)

You’ll need:

IMG_1275

  • 1/3 Cup old-fashioned oats
  • 2 Tbsp nut butter (I love almond butter, and as The Fitnessista says, the drippy kind works best for this)
  • 1/2 scoop protein powder (I used chocolate)
  • A few drops of vanilla
  • Milk (I like vanilla unsweetened almond milk)
  • Any other toppings you want to use

Combine oats, protein powder, nut butter, and vanilla into a bowl.

IMG_1287

Then, give it a nice stir until it starts to clump up, like this:

IMG_1292

Add your milk and other toppings and enjoy!

If you’re like me and always find yourself with less time than you planned in the morning, you can take it to go and add your milk later! I have a half-gallon of almond milk in the fridge at my work that I save for these occasions 🙂 (That’s my snack and lunch included in the picture below. I love hearty soups in the winter, and this lentil and vegetable soup is great! So tasty, warming, and satisfying!)

IMG_1295

It’s a big joke at my office that I always have a snack stash hidden in my drawers somewhere. I always have a bag of nuts, dried fruit, granola bars, graham crackers, candy… any kind of snack you can imagine! So, today for my cereal I added dried bing cherries that I had on hand.

IMG_1297

So yummy and very filling! You can add anything in here you’d like. I often eat it with no toppings at all, it’s still just as good! Although, my favorite topping is fresh blueberries, but I gobbled those up before I even thought about the fact that they’d be absent from this post 😦 WOMP womp! I highly suggest it.

IMG_1298

 

With some green tea, this was an awesome breakfast to cap off a productive early morning. I started this morning bright and early with Elise Lorimer’s Fun Flow routine I did during Day 13 of my 21-Day Yoga Challenge. I know I said I can’t wait to try new routines after the challenge, but I just love that video! And it was exactly what I needed on this dreary Monday morning–very energizing! Speaking of, what is with this Midwest weather?! Single digits and even negatives last week and 40-50 and rainy this week?! Guh! I am counting the days till spring and summer…

Enjoy your Monday!

Namaste.

Day 21! & Reflection on the Challenge

Wa-hoo! 21 days of yoga! This has been a really great three weeks and I am so glad I did this. (Shout out to my wonderful mother who suggested I kick off my blog with this challenge!) I feel really bad tacking Day 21 on here for a few reasons: 1.) Because Day 21 was the same side bends routine from Day 5, I feel like I don’t have too much to add to the previous post and 2.) It’s doesn’t have another “Day” post accompanying it, which brings me to 3.) I am really excited to reflect on the whole experience altogether!

But patience is a virtue I must learn, and Day 21 deserves it’s time in the spotlight 🙂 As I said, the challenge wrapped up with Jason Crandell’s 35-minute side bends routine. I really enjoy side bends. The stretch you get is fantastic and I feel like in many poses your entire body gets a nice stretch (I love when teachers call it a “yawn” for your body–so visual!). After being a certified-wannabe-yogi for three weeks, I have seen a definite improvement in my practice. On Day 5, I found that I had to correct often to ensure I was executing the poses correctly (not that that’s a bad thing), but today, I am able to just know when something is not how it should be and correct it quickly and on my own. It’s a great feeling of accomplishment 🙂

In my past updates, I haven’t really discussed the Daily Newsletter that accompanies each video. I read everyday’s myself, but never really felt the need to comment on them too much, as they kind of just give you a preview of what to expect and helps to get you into the right mindset for your practice. But Day 21 was a bit different.

It was congratulatory, of course, but it also presented you with a few questions about where you will go from here. “We hope that…yoga has become a daily habit,” it says in the beginning. I have to say that I really think it has. I  know I will try to do a solid 30, 45, 60, or more minutes 3 times a week, but even still, I’m positive that I will wake up every morning and do at least 10-15 minutes of easy yoga to wake up and get ready for my day. I even find myself doing some stretches before bed to ease tension wherever I need it most. This challenge was helped me see the benefits in any kind of activity every single day, and those receiving those benefits are habit forming on their own!

Finally, they ask a few questions:

“Now that you’re done with the challenge, what will you do? Will you continue your daily home practice? Are you inspired to check out new kinds of yoga? Are you inspired to dedicate even 10 minutes a day to tune into your breath and quiet your mind?”

Here are my answers:

  1. Now that I am finished, I will continue my yoga practice. I will dedicate at least 10-15 minutes of my day to yoga and engage in a solid session at least 3 times per week.
  2. Yes, I will continue my daily home practice. Practicing at home was a huge mental block that I had for no reason at all. I was spoiled by hot yoga and the amazing work out you get from that–what’s the point of yoga if I’m in a room-temperature area of my own house? My muscles will be too cold to stretch properly! There’s no teacher to make sure I’m not messing up! Where will I do it?! Turns out, all of these “problems” had easy solutions. Yoga can be a workout! If you do a flow class and engage with each pose, you will feel it! Even if you’re not sweating out of every pore 😉 I was very worried about not having a teacher to spot or guide me, but I realized I was much more capable than I thought I was. When listening to the instructors on video, they tell you how you should be feeling. You can watch how they do the poses and self correct. I realized I need to give myself more credit–that I am just as capable without a safety net. Finally, the great thing about yoga is you don’t need a lot of space. You can do it anywhere and everywhere!
  3. Yes, I am inspired to do more kinds of yoga. As I’ve said before, I prefer Vinyasa, but I also found that Hatha yoga can be just as beneficial and enjoyable for me. Admittedly, I need to work on finding the joy in more meditative or healing forms of yoga–my mind wanders and I get bored. But I know this is so beneficial. It’s kind of like how I feel about spinach, oddly enough–I hate the taste of spinach on it’s own. But I know that it is soooo good for you, so I try to get it in whenever I can and just mask it with other more dominating flavors, like in salads or smoothies. So, until  I learn to like that kind of yoga on it’s own, I’m going to try to incorporate it in with the yoga I really enjoy, until I learn to love it on it’s own.
  4. Yes, I am inspired to dedicate at least 10 minutes a day to yoga.

I have seen many changes in my body, mind, and spirit. I feel that my body looks better. I think my legs are more toned and a bit leaner as well as my arms. My core is definitely stronger. I feel more confident in myself and in my body. My diet has even been better–I ate well before this challenge, but I would sometimes have a couple days in a row of just crappy eating where I would forget my daily end goal. Now, I feel that it’s easier for me to stick to eating well and doing the right things for my body because I want to treat it well. At the same time, I haven’t experienced that huge guilt I sometimes feel when I veer off course. I just make sure I get back on track and don’t continue to snow ball. I guess what it comes down to is that I just feel really great all around 🙂

yogaquote

(via)

“The important thing is to do yoga, every day.” -Yoga Journal

I am looking forward to continuing my journey. And I want to thank you for reading my blog and for all the comments and follows I’ve been getting! It’s so awesome to see that so many people are also coming with me on this adventure! In the future, I will post recipes, new and interesting workouts I find and do, as well as exploring other types and mediums of yoga, and much more. Thanks again, friends!

Namaste.

Day 20 + Trampoline Workout!

Yesterday was Day 20 and it was the same Bakasana routine from Day 12. Bakasana (crow/crane pose) is something that I’ve been trying to achieve for years and I had a lot of trouble figuring it out. I am happy to say that I finally got it! I can’t hold it for super long and I can’t just glide into it gracefully at the drop of a hat like those pro-yogis can, but I’m getting there. For me, my problem was all about putting emphasis on the wrong areas. I was thinking too much about bringing my legs up and onto my arms, and not enough about bringing my entire body forward. I’ve also mentioned that balance is not my forté, so it took me a little while to find that delicate place between falling back on my feet and falling on my face. I think the key is to take it slow and pay attention to how everything’s feeling. If you’re like me, it will take time.

I felt very proud of myself afterwards. Yoga is this great activity I’ve found that I enjoy, but I get very intimidated by the advanced poses, like headstands and intricate arm balances, at times. And I know I’m not alone in this thinking. Being in the intermediate level of practice can be a very odd place: one the one hand, you’ve learned a lot and can do so much already but on the other, you’re standing on the cusp of doing these amazing poses that will take you a lot of time and practice to work up to. You can choose to stick to what you know and still have an effective practice, or you can keep going and see what your body is really capable of. There’s nothing wrong or right with either option, but sometimes we choose to just stay when we really want to go. And that’s where I am right now. It would be easy for me to just keep doing what I know I’m good at and be safe and secure in that thought. But that’s not what I want. I want to be able to do those crazy tricks and be in awe of myself. And I know it’s going to be really hard, but I love a good challenge 🙂

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I love trying new exercise-type experiences. And yesterday was definitely an experience! My mom, sister, and my mom’s friend from work all went to a trampoline workout! It was really neat. The whole thing was set up like a big grid of trampolines and every one gets their own little square.

(via)

We started warming up by doing simple jumps up and down and to the side and added some arm and leg movements in here and there. Then, utilizing the pads in between, we did a sort of boot camp circuit with burpees, joggers, mountain climbers, squats, planks, and the like. If you put everything you’ve got into it, you’ll definitely get an amazing work out. And best of all, it was so much fun! You can’t help but smile and laugh while you’re on a trampoline! It was one of those workouts where the time didn’t drag at all, I felt.

I’d definitely do it again, but I probably wouldn’t make it a routine for myself–maybe a couple times a month or so. After a while I started to get some soreness in my knees. And it wasn’t just me, someone had pain in their back after a while and another person said their ankles were a little sore. I guess I just wasn’t really expecting it. I thought it was going to be pretty low-impact, but I suppose that if you land a certain way in an area you’re already fragile in, you may walk away with some soreness or pain–so be warned. As with an exercise, listen to your body and don’t push yourself too hard if something doesn’t feel right.

After I got home last night from that class, I was tired as all get-out! I decided to skip my yoga this morning and save it for tonight instead. And it’s my last day of the challenge! The time has flown and I think I have improved so much in many different areas. I’ll have a post for my last day and my over all feelings with the challenge in the next day or two. Until then…

Namaste.

Day 17 & 18 & 19

Hello! I hope your weekend treated you well. Mine was very stop and go, but it was relaxing and really wonderful all together. My Saturdays are usually completely booked because I’m a coach on a high school speech team and their tournaments are all day long on Saturday, but I had this weekend off! While I did miss the kiddos, it was great to be able to get so much done over a whole weekend instead of squeezing everything in on a Sunday–which is the one day I just want to sit and do nothing haha! The Boy and I got to enjoy time with lots of family and friends, which is always a nice and welcome way to spend the weekend for me.

I know, I know. I had all this time to write and here I am now on Monday writing another jam-packed weekend post, but sometimes you just gotta enjoy what’s in front of you and be in the moment 🙂 Without further ado, the next few days of my challenge:

Day 17 featured the same back bends routine from Day 6. I’ll keep this short and sweet so I don’t sound too repetitive: I love this routine! It has a great flow to it and I love how Elise Lorimer teaches. This time around I felt that I was a little more in control because I could sometimes remember what was coming next. There’s always a little bit of uncertainty when you’re doing a routine for the first time–that unknown I always talk about that stays in the back of my mind just the faintest bit. Sometimes it’s exciting, but sometimes I over-think it and lose my focus momentarily. It’s also great because I don’t find myself checking my computer screen too often and I can focus on how the poses feel to me and adjust based on my own personal needs.

I am loving these special videos that feature a routine crafted around preparing you for one final ultra-pose! Day 18 was all about the Wheel pose. (If you did gymnastics when you were a kid, this is also known as a bridge, but don’t confuse it with the yoga version of bridge pose.) This routine was very similar to Elise’s video from the previous day–it focuses on warming, strengthening, and preparing your back with lots of back bends. But it also features a lot of lunges and sun salutations as well. I think Jason Crandell even acknowledges that fact in the video if I remember correctly! I can do this pose pretty well, but I do have some trouble evenly distributing my weight all over. I put too much pressure and weight on my wrists, so I’m going to have to practice moving that energy and weight more towards my torso and thighs and ground more through the feet.

Day 19 was the same shoulder opener routine from Day 8. Blerg. I wish I had something new to add to my findings with this routine. I really need to get better about really engaging in slower, more meditative sessions. Perhaps that will be a future “Challenge” I embark on–21 days of stillness! …I’m scared just thinking about it :-/ Ooph.

Two more days left! Where has the time gone?! This has been a really great experience and it’s definitely an awesome way to jump-start a routine or get committed to the practice. I do have to admit that I am excited to choose whatever I want to do everyday instead of having a set routine planned for me. Most of the time it’s totally fine and great, but there are some days where I’d rather have done one video than another. I will definitely be referring back to a lot of the routines in this challenge, though. So many of them focus on a specific area, but still manage to give your entire body some lovin’ in the process.

Tomorrow is a revisit to my unrequited love, bakasana. That’s the best way I can describe my relationship with crow pose. I want to be able to do it so badly and I try so hard and it never stays with me! I think the worst part for me is I can get it for a little while, but then it’s gone just as soon. 😦 I know I’m just over-thinking it (surprise, surprise!), which is the worst part of it all. Maybe tomorrow will be my day. Until then wish me (more) luck and…

Namaste.

Day 15 & 16

Over the past days in this blog, I’ve talked about the physical effects I’ve undergone, but haven’t really touched on the mental effects my yoga practice has had on me. As a twenty-something lady, I often feel overwhelmed and lost with the direction my life is heading in. I hate not having solid plans and I am very uncomfortable not knowing what lies ahead for my life. I must say that through these past two weeks I have felt more in control of my life and more optimistic about the future–whatever it may be–and I feel more secure and comfortable than I have felt in a long time. It may just be a coincidence, but I must point out that the only major thing I’ve been doing differently over this time is my yoga practice. I’ve felt a sense of stability and I have also gained the confidence to really grab hold of my life, evaluate the things I’d like to change, and see how I can lead the best, happiest life for me.

Maybe it’s another “New Year, New You” concept, maybe I’m just growing up. Maybe I’m just at my complacency limit. Whatever it may be, I know that really focusing and committing to yoga has at least helped me get to a more calm and pleasant mental state. I still stress out about not knowing what tomorrow brings and I still can’t be silent for more than a few minutes. But I do feel brighter and lighter, and if you don’t know what I mean by that, I suggest you jump on the Yoga Train 🙂

Day 15 of my yoga challenge featured another lead up to a fun, crazy-awesome pose: Hanumanasana, or monkey pose (or the splits). Holy moley, was I not ready for this! When I say I have open and flexible hips, I mean hips. My inner thighs and hamstrings are the least flexible parts of my body right now and they were not having it. The video features Elise Lorimer (love her!) and includes a lot of triangles, lunges, and forward bend-type poses to loosen up the legs, hips, and groin area. The routine was very energizing and felt great all over the body. I wish I could say my mind was calm, but I kept thinking ahead to the main event (shocker!)…

When it was finally time to try it, I was nervous to see where I would be. As far as I was concerned as long as one leg was in front and the other was behind me and my back was straight, that was a win. You are encouraged to have two blocks on either side of you for support, which I also highly recommend. (I didn’t have a second block, so I used a box of blank CDs! Gotta make due with what ‘cha got!) I actually did better than I thought I would. I managed to support myself by turning the block on it’s short side, so it was taller, and then bent my arms so I could get a deeper stretch. Nowhere near the ground, but now I have something else on my list to work for!

Day 16 featured the same hip opener routine from Day 4. Just like with the ab routine a few days ago, this time was easier because I knew what was coming. It was really beneficial, especially after a long day of sitting at a desk. After all that, I tried some crow pose… it was unsuccessful. WHY CAN’T I GET THIS??!!???! Oh well. Practice, practice, practice…

A couple more days until my challenge is over 😦 But I do have some fun and wonderful plans for my blog after the the next week, don’t worry 🙂 I started this blog for fun and I have to say, it’s been a great outlet for me in many aspects. I love writing and don’t get the chance to do it as much as I’d like at times, so this has really filled in that hole I sometimes feel. I am also really enjoying my new commitment to yoga and take pride in the progress I have made. I hope your year is going well and that it only gets better!

Namaste.

Day 12 & 13 & (sort of) 14

Why, hello there! I’ve been doing yoga for two weeks now! Save for this last weekend when I had no time to yoga-out on Saturday… I’m still really bummed about that. Even though I doubled up on one day to make up for it, I still know that I didn’t technically make it a full 14 days 😦 I guess it’s the effort and intention that really counts, but it’s still a mental thing for me. But when I think about it, I honestly could not have gotten it in and still survived the day. Luckily I shouldn’t have a day like that for a while… Anyway, on to more exciting topics of conversation!

Day 12 was the day I was waiting for… BAKA-PALOOZA!! Or, bakasana, as sane people may say 🙂 I was so ready for this. My favey Jason Crandell taught this one. The video was about a half hour and it focused on loosening up the legs and opening the hips in preparation for the pose. First of all, let me say that this video is great even if you have no intention of preparing for bakasana. It’s got great hip openers and really energizes the legs. This video also focuses on engaging the core a lot more than is usually expressed in other routines I’ve done. Teachers always say to “remember” or “check” your core, but this is a clear focus in this instance. It was a real difference-maker, I feel; I definitely learned a lot. All in all, it was very effective and just enough of an effort. I’d do this sequence any time you asked me to. That’s my seal of approval 🙂 After all that opening, energizing awesomeness, it was finally time to get into bakasana/crow/crane. I started out as I’ve started hundreds of times before, but this time I really utilized my core strength to provide additional support–I used to keep most, if not all, of my weight in my legs. For this, you need to focus more on your arms and core strength for support, not so much with the legs.

While it didn’t turn out to be that familiar overcoming-your-greatest-challenge scene from the movies where I get it perfectly on the first try after a new outlook opens my eyes, I did manage some kind of success: I was able to get the pose for about 3 seconds on my 4th try! That may sound like a mediocre attempt, but for me it was a big step. To add to that, I got it a second time for another few seconds! I definitely have to keep trying and practicing, though. My Guru (aka Mom) says it’s all about overcoming the fear of falling on your face because you have to really lean forward into it. I definitely agree with her on that one. On the upside, though, I have already fallen on my face a few times trying to do this, so I guess I’m a few steps closer to overcoming that. See? There’s always an upside!

Day 13 has been my favorite so far. It’s a Vinyasa flow class taught by Elise Lorimer–two of my favorite yoga-y things! This was so interesting because it featured a system of flow I had never even heard of before: Mandala Namaskar. Meaning “circular,” this kind of flow lets you travel all around your mat. It’s like a sun salutation in that you do a routine of moves on each side to complete a full cycle. But with Mandala Namaskar, instead of recognizing one side as the “front of the mat” and returning to down dog before you switch sides, you rotate as you go along and every pose changes your “front.” It’s hard to explain, but easy once you see it done. I found it really fun! The moves all feel new when you face a new angle or get to a position in a different way than usual. Small changes like this keep everything interesting and keep me engaged and focused more. This routine featured amazing total-body stretches and poses that I love getting out of a Vinyasa class. Great way to start the morning. It gets your blood flowing and your heart pumping and you feel really fantastic afterward. This will definitely be done again, especially on rough mornings when I’d rather skip my workout!

As for Day 14, I’m supposed to do the same night sequence from last week. But if you’ll recall, I was not a fan. So, tonight I will be doing a lovely night-time podcast that is still yet-to-be-determined. Phew! 2/3 of the way there and I feel wonderful. My body feels stronger and more resilient. Mentally, I haven’t found my calmness yet, but I do feel more confident in my everyday self and less bad about not hitting the gym as much as I used to before I started this challenge. Until yesterday, I hadn’t been to the gym in about a week. In the past I would feel sluggish and weak, not to mention I would feel really down on myself psychologically. But I found that I still had a great deal of energy and stamina and that I felt just as strong–if not stronger–than I was when I devoted 3-4 days a week to weight training and cardio. I know yoga is still considered a workout, but it’s not as intensive, at least not obviously (ie sweating a lot), as weights or cardio. The health and wellness benefits are absolutely there, though.

I am really enjoying my daily yoga. I’m not sure I’ll do a solid 30 minutes minimum of yoga everyday once this challenge is over, but I’ll definitely do at least 5-10 minutes. There are still some days where I want to just go for a run or do weights and really feel like I’m Ms. Fitness and 30 minutes of yoga isn’t enough to suffice. But I feel like there’s a balance to everything. I’m looking forward to where the next chapter in my healthy-living will take me. At the end of the day, like every yogi says, listen to your body.

Namaste.