Tag Archives: fitness

Finding Gratitude in the Dark Spots

“When you stop moving, you die.”

It looked like we were ballroom dancing, our arms meeting to form a circle. It was his job to push me out, it was my job to hold my own. He was stronger. He won. My shoulder lost.

November started with a lot of pain. As a Waldorf games teacher, I was sent to a training to learn how to teach Greek wrestling, javelin, discus and long jump to fifth graders. As with any good teaching, we learned by doing. However, I only made it partially through Greek wrestling before I sprained my shoulder. A small little muscle underneath my blade wasn’t as strong as my will. It tore in my stubborn resistance and released a flood of emotions. I cried. I was embarrassed. I sat out and watched with jealousy as the other teachers got to throw the javelin and leap through the air.

Still, even through all the pain, I was determined there had to be some silver lining to my temporary disability. The impetus, perhaps, to finally coax my determined toddler to sleep through the night without my constant soothing. A deeper empathy for how my students feel when they get hurt and can’t participate. An appreciation for being able bodied. Something. There had to be something good, to make sense of that much discomfort, that much challenge in doing the simplest tasks. Apparently you need your shoulders for just about everything. Even laughing.

Thanks to three weeks of physical therapy, my shoulder now only hurts in attempting to do things like push-ups or down dogs. The doctor was right. I was still young enough to heal quickly. But, she also changed my perspective with one simple sentence.

When I asked about keeping my shoulder immobilized, she told me, “When you stop moving, you die.” Of course, there was nothing imminently deadly about my injury, but her point hit home. It’s so easy for injuries to become our excuses to no longer move, which in turn feeds more dire health consequences. I get it. The healthiest old people  are those who haven’t stopped moving.

So, on this weekend full of gratitude, I’m choosing to be thankful for what’s hard. Hurting my shoulder was hard. Encouraging my daughter to sleep without as much comforting was really hard. A lot of this month sucked. But all these challenges made me determined to never stop moving. It was my weakness, my lack of upper body strength, that failed to protect a tiny little muscle that was the key to so much pain. I’ve avoided lifting weights pretty much my entire life, but now thanks to my shoulder and that doctor, I’ve learned an invaluable lesson. Move, even when it’s not comfortable.
Tagged , ,

Anyone up for a summer health challenge?

As I lay on my yoga mat this morning, I remembered the way my body felt at the end of my pregnancy. Compared to my non-pregnant self, I was disabled. Each movement required effort, changing positions in bed was a conscious act, a walk around the block left my hips and lower back aching. I wanted so badly to run at full speed down the street when we walked the dogs. I swore I was going to make the most of being able to move when I was no longer pregnant.

Three months postpartum I have not made good on this promise. While I am slowly getting stronger, I have been generally too tired or too preoccupied with baby tasks to exercise beyond our evening dog walk, (which took about a month to do comfortably). The first time I tried downward dog a few weeks ago, I practically fell on my face, my arms weak, my wrists throbbing. At the two yoga classes I have attended, my hips, back, wrists, legs have all creaked and ached in ways I never expected.

Put simply, I did not realize postpartum recovery would be such a slow process. I assumed the six week doctor’s visit would coincide with my miraculous return to postpartum health. After all, I eat well, take care of myself, had a natural childbirth… Ha. Apparently sleep deprivation and the act of carrying and then pushing out a baby take different tolls on different people, naturally-oriented or otherwise.

In talking with friends, I have realized postpartum recovery differs for everyone and it really can take anywhere from a month to a year to feel normal. Three months in and I am ready to take matters into my own hands. I want to move better than before and be stronger than I have ever been. When you have known what it feels like to be unable to move, moving suddenly takes on a much greater value.

Which brings me to this post. A year ago, I had just finished a 30-day yoga challenge and felt the strongest and healthiest I had felt in a long time, (also when I got pregnant, hmm…). I want to come up with a new health challenge to get back to (or better than) that point. While I am in no way ready for our next kid, I know I am going to have to be strong and healthy to go through that all again, (I really think if I had been in better shape, my delivery would not have been as taxing and I may have had the energy to actually use a pushing position other than the classic inclined hospital bed).

Using year-ago post-yoga-challenge me as my inspiration... I don't expect (or even want) to ever look exactly the same as pre-baby, I just want to FEEL the same if not better. This picture is probably the healthiest I have ever felt.

Using year-ago post-yoga-challenge me as my inspiration… I don’t expect (or even want) to look exactly the same as pre-baby, I just want to FEEL the same if not better. This picture is probably the healthiest I have ever felt.

So, I need a little inspiration. My time is limited and it is also 100+ degrees outside (yuck!). The more I can do with baby indoors the better. I need goals/ideas for:

1. Healthy eating: I’m already on a restricted diet to help with her colic, (no dairy/wheat/processed sugar), but other processed foods are still a major weakness, (hello Mojo Bars, Late July tortilla chips, turkey jerky, etc). I need easy but filling inspiration, (and when I say easy, I mean no more than 20 minutes to prepare, since baby girl will only sit and watch me for about half that time before she starts fussing). Oh yeah, and I need to drink more water, duh.

2. Exercise: This makes me giggle. I have never been a runner (despite my pregnant fantasy of running at full speed). It’s hot outside. My baby doesn’t wake up until 9AM. I hate exercise videos. I’m full of excuses. I pretty much only like yoga and walking, but I’m going to need some serious encouragement to do enough of either to make a difference. Really, I need a buddy to force me.

3. Mental health: Hanging out with other moms has helped and will definitely be an important ingredient going forward. Writing is also key, but comes at the expense of household chores, exercise, food preparation, etc. Obviously exercise helps, but it already has its own category. Limiting technology makes this list, I find myself sucked into internet on my phone while I nurse, which doesn’t seem good for anyone involved and takes me out of being present with my daughter, (must break addiction)… I digress.

Whether you’re recovering from baby or not, I figure pretty much everyone could benefit from some new health goals or focus. Excited to hear your thoughts/secrets/tips as I develop a new plan for myself. I also encourage you to come up with your own summer health challenge. Life is too short to waste time unhealthy.

{And, side note, I managed to bang out this post in one sitting without baby girl waking up. We’re making real nap progress! Going on two hours! Woohoo! Now to see if there is time to actually proofread, might be pushing my luck…)

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Good Day for Yoga

Not sure if it has made national news, but if you live in California you’ve likely heard on the radio that yoga was ruled as a form of exercise, not religion in Southern California schools. This is exciting news for me as I figure out how to integrate yoga into my classroom. I still plan to call it something else, but at least there is some backing for the idea that it can be taught in a secular fashion.

And, in less-exciting-to-you yoga news, my husband gave me a new yoga book today and promised he would start participating in home yoga with me. I’m thrilled! If you’re new to my blog thanks to Kozo’s kind repost, welcome. I’m a little obsessed with yoga and what it can do for peace, both mental and physical.

Very excited for my new book and expanding awareness of yoga.

Very excited for my new book and the potential to use more yoga in my classroom.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Judge Ruling If Yoga Is Tied To Religious Practice, Allowed In Public Schools

Remember my mention of conflict over secular yoga in the classroom? While I can’t speak to whether or not the yoga used with these students has religious roots, I can identify with the observation by teachers that students were calmer and using breathing exercises on their own during tests. Regardless of whether people support the use of yoga when identified as yoga, there is a clear need for quiet reflection, stillness, stretching, and breathing in the classroom. Kindergarteners should not report feeling stressed. Neither should the fourth and fifth graders in my room. Obviously this points to even larger systematic concerns in how we’re teaching our kids in high-pressure environments, but at least the non-religious elements of yoga help to alleviate some of the stress.

Tagged , , , , ,

What I learned on the 26th day of my yoga challenge…

I set out this month eager to become the most physically active I have ever been in my life. While I have gone through stints of running a few times a week or doing yoga daily for a couple weeks straight, I have never been someone who exercises every day. Then, my work started this challenge where we had to log our exercise for 2013 and I found myself exercising almost daily, including the two mile walk we take with our dogs.

Suddenly, I felt ready to tackle daily exercise and yoga seemed like the best option. I imagined myself ready to embrace summer vacation with an exercise routine in the books, no longer waiting for summer to get fit but already fit when summer started. Not only that, but I imagined the relaxing high of post-yoga meditation bliss as the trials of teaching faded from my brain each evening. While these expectations were definitely met, I also discovered something I never expected.

Daily yoga is too much for me, even when I listen to my body with seemingly gentle days of slow movement and meditation mixed in. By days 24 and 25, my body had gradually become a mess. I had a low-level migraine, my neck ached, the top of my right thigh muscle felt like it was going to abandon me. Disappointed, I shared the wall I hit with an instructor whose class I love and her advice helped to shift my perspective. She reminded me that yoga is not a competition or about ego. It’s alright to listen to your body instead of listening to your goals. She also made me realize that sometimes even meditation is an exertion of energy that may be too much.

So, last night, I took the night off. Unlike the Friday before where I shunned social interaction to practice yoga and keep with my routine, I came home, did nothing, then went to dinner with friends. Oh. How. Glorious. Today I woke up ready to go to one of my favorite yin classes. My body no longer feels like it’s falling apart. I’m excited to practice again. The 26th day of yoga taught me that yoga isn’t about every day, it’s about listening to your body and accepting the days where practice means doing something else.

I'm grateful for the reminder that the purpose of life is to live, not to keep up with our arbitrary must-do list in our brain. Everyday Guru put the same idea nicely in his post today too.

I’m grateful for the reminder that the purpose of life is to live, not to keep up with our arbitrary must-do lists. Everyday Gurus put the same idea nicely in his post today too.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

19 Days of Yoga Rambling

I know today is the 17th, but I gave myself two days of a head start in April. I have practiced yoga daily for the last 19 days, which is probably my longest stretch ever. Here are a few of my latest take aways:

1. Some days lying on the floor counts as yoga, (especially if you focus on breath and meditation and throw in a few lazy poses…). I am grateful to a lovely yoga teacher who told me this would be true. Without her permission, I might have pushed my body harder than would be beneficial.

2. Surfing the internet and reading can be happily accomplished in many yoga poses with a mat on the floor, resulting in far less neck and back tension than the couch or a computer chair. Bonus, the dogs think it’s fun to join me.

3. Yoga makes you look healthier. I have never been told so frequently that I look really healthy. That’s not a statement of vanity but instead of true gratitude. Health is a mission. True health radiates. I’ve eaten really well for years, but adding consistent yoga to the mix makes a real difference.

4. I’m less tired. Earlier in the month I was in this weird pattern of needing a nap every day after work. Now I do yoga instead and it achieves pretty much the same goal of relaxation with the added benefit of endorphins.

5. Yoga is kind of a religion. The more I practice, the more I’m interested in the spiritual aspects, and the more I feel like the mind, body, and spirit are all really connected when it comes to the health of each. I feel more emotionally constant with yoga as part of my daily routine, which spills over to the classroom and all aspects of my life.

6. Real physical strength can be built through yoga. Upper body strength has never been easy for me and I hate push-ups/weights. However, the balancing challenges of poses like crow make building upper body strength fun– I can now hold crow about three seconds, which is pretty amazing considering I was down to zero on April 29. Three seconds may not sound like much, but it feels like an accomplishment when you’re balancing all of your body weight on your spread hands and elbows. Just don’t try crow next to my brother. He doesn’t frequently practice but he’s strong enough to extend his legs to the side in advanced variations. Show off.

7. Yoga brings amazing people into your life. Yesterday an instructor I love shared the idea that when you’re brave enough to be your authentic self, you attract people with similar levels of authenticity. What started as a whim to do yoga every day in May has brought people in my distant sphere closer– so much gratitude for this. More friends with shared interests and values is a good thing indeed.

8. I’m now obsessed with Wanderlust. The posters are at all three of the studios I’ve visited this month, calling to me, “YOGA! YOGA! YOGA!” However, I don’t camp and the idea of camping alone at a festival is intimidating. I need to recruit someone to go with me. I also need to learn how to camp. It is a life skill I really should acquire… Maybe Wanderlust will convince me to give it a go.

If you’ve made it this far, bravo. I leave you with my favorite cover of “Forever Young”– discovered during a yin yoga class yesterday, (motorcycles be darned).

Tagged , , , ,

Did someone say yoga?

I’m sitting on the couch, watching the rain. Spring rain, brief and warm, my favorite. The windows are open and the smell of wet earth and concrete makes me happy. I just finished home yoga and a meditation. I feel relaxed. It has been one week of yoga every day. The evenings last longer. I am more patient, at home and at work. Everything is less urgent. So far, so good.

A few quick thoughts:

1. Kundalini yoga is weird. Please feel free to correct me on that statement. I did a program on Hulu that involved lifting and dropping my body on the ground. Oh yes, and lots of chanting and breath of fire. Not my thing, but I’d try it again to be proven wrong. Still not going to buy an all-white outfit, however.

2. Yoga with a View is a better Hulu alternative. Gets straight to the point and pairs nicely with other workouts, (like walking the dogs to the park).

3. Yoga instructors make all the difference. Over the last couple weeks, I’ve discovered some really wonderful yoga instructors who actually make me want to go to class. I had been going to a yoga class that was convenient for my schedule, but with an instructor I dreaded. Now I’ve befriended a couple instructors (one who is moving to Germany, boo!) and feel much more encouraged/likely to maintain a regular studio routine.

4. Yoga buddies also make a difference. Knowing that others have joined me for daily yoga in May is keeping me true, (ahem, Friday night was definitely a challenge, but I did it!). Likewise, having people who expect you to show up to class also helps to stop the urge to just stay home and practice from the comfort of my living room.

5. Restorative yoga is amazing. I attended a free class for teacher appreciation week on Saturday that not only left me feeling deeply relaxed but also prompted me to take the most restful nap of my life. Thanks Tami! (You can check out Tami’s awesome blog here…)

6. Daily yoga is life-changing. Okay, I know I’m only a week in, but I dabbled with it in December, and I’m getting back into that groove. Not only does a daily practice inspire me to eat cleaner, but it also leaves me feeling much more centered, especially while I teach. And, speaking of teaching, I think I might want to take classes to become a yoga instructor. Not right this moment, but if I can sustain a regular practice, I would love to be able to integrate it into my work with kids (and maybe eventually adults too).

Alright, I think that’s enough thoughts on yoga for tonight, but I promise there are more to come. Perhaps you’ll join me for a daily practice and share your thoughts too?

My current obsession-- whether or not to volunteer to work at Wanderlust this summer for a free pass... Any yoga besties want in?

My current obsession– whether or not to volunteer to work at Wanderlust this summer for a free pass… Any yoga besties want in?

Tagged , , , ,

Yoga Challenge Prep: Focus Poses

Nicole over at My Yoga Discoveries inspired me to pick a few poses to really focus on for improvement this month. Here are three I love because they offer a great challenge:

1. Crow: Upper body strength does not come easily for me. However, it is an amazing feeling to hold this pose. I have never been able to do it for more than a few seconds, which I hope to change in May.

2. Standing Bow: This pose is my nemesis. Sometimes I can do it, sometimes I can’t balance worth a darn. However, it feel amazing because it stretches so much of the body at once.

3. Garland: Most of the world squats all the time for daily activities, which contributes to fewer back problems. I want to improve my balance and ability to hold this pose longer to help relieve the tension I carry in my lower back.

What are your favorites? Any focus poses to share?

I’m excited for a month of daily yoga practice. Hope you’ll join me!

Tagged , , , ,

May Challenge: Yoga Every Day.

Some Saturdays I go to a magic yoga class. It is yin yoga in a warm room. The first time I went was right after the national tragedy in December. The instructor had us sit in a circle and concentrate on the flame of a candle. By the ending Savasana, I felt like I was floating through the universe, connected to all the bright stars in a sea of darkness.

If you have never experienced anything like this, I know it probably sounds out there. However, over the course of the last year, I have had a lot of out-there experiences. I now believe in the power of our bodies and minds. My visits to an incredible woman who does body work have cemented this belief. Magic is real, or if nothing else, we are powerful beyond comprehension.

Today as I lay in the dark, warm room, I was overwhelmed by gratitude for the woman who teaches the class. Each time I attend, she offers a little piece of herself, words of wisdom set to music I love. Half her playlist is on my computer. I don’t know her and she knows even less of me, but her words always seem to fit whatever my week has brought me.

This week, she talked about the healing power of yoga and how a regular practice makes this power available to us when we really need it. She talked about her own journey with MS and how yoga has been there for her– she is young and my heart goes out to her. A wonderful woman I used to work with, who also faithfully reads my blog, has battled MS for years. It is some serious stuff, but so is yoga.

As I held poses this afternoon, I let her words sink in. Lately, I have done yoga only once a week. I am good at doing yoga regularly when I have breaks from school, but I lose my momentum when life gets stressful, which is exactly when I need it most. Today my body felt weak as I moved through the poses. I hate feeling weak.

The resounding message that kept moving through my thoughts– I need to do yoga every day.

So, for the month of May, I have a goal. At least 30 minutes of yoga daily. I will go to studios, practice at home, stream classes, use books, practice in silence and with music. I will mix it up and be consistent because I realize I have no choice. I want to feel strong and healthy. Yoga is my secret. Will you join me?

If you do yoga, I really encourage you to try a daily practice with me in May. I did not think it would make a huge difference until I actually made it a whole month in December.

We may not have the beach behind us, but at least a bit of team encouragement might help!

Tagged , , , ,

Five Reasons that Hip, Happy and Healthy People Do Yoga!

In the spirit of unwired Wednesdays and stepping away from my computer to promote better mental and physical health, I bring you my first guest blogger. Be sure to show Carolyn Fallon some love and check out her blog too!:

Despite that fact that yoga is incredibly hip in modern culture, the ancient practice has many benefits for health and happiness. Although it is promoted as a panacea for optimal well-being, yoga is still a mystery to many people. For those who have never stepped onto a mat or into a classroom, a brief background is in order.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) in Bethesda, Maryland, yoga is a mind-body discipline that originated in ancient India. Comprised of gentle meditative movements, yoga is basically safe and effective for everyone. There are yoga classes for seniors, children, athletes and even pregnant women.

Yoga combines various physical poses and breathing exercises with meditation and a distinct Eastern philosophy. Many Americans who use it for health reasons practice Hatha yoga, which includes many different styles. With guidance from a trained yoga instructor, the exercise offers huge benefits with very few side effects.

Why should Americans include yoga as part of their regular workouts? Even in this new century, the ancient practice offers many desirable benefits. Here are five reasons that hip, happy and healthy people practice yoga.

1. Inner Peace

Yoga promotes contentment and inner peace. While athletes, overachievers and Type A personalities may not immediately grasp this significance, peace and contentment are fundamental to their tasks. All yoga, no matter the intensity, promotes relaxation and calmness. People who are at peace with themselves are happier, healthier individuals.

2. Flexibility and Strength

People who practice yoga for many weeks or months enjoy stronger, more flexible bodies from morning to night. Through gentle stretches and focused poses, yoga works the muscles, tissues and bones. It improves core body strength and enables flexible movements. Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Glen Axelrod states, “Yoga is excellent for strengthening both flexibility and balance.”

3. Healthy Appearance

Men and women who practice yoga are healthier, more attractive people. Their healthy, fit appearance is the result of yoga’s physical and psychological benefits. People who practice yoga on a regular basis cannot help but look toned and sculpted, and this helps them feel better about themselves too.

4. Body Awareness

People who practice yoga have a keen sense of their bodies and how the body works. Yoga increases the respect they have for their bodies. As a result, they are less likely to overeat and more likely to get adequate rest. Additionally, yoga heightens sexual pleasure.

5. More Compassion

Yoga promotes compassion for others by encouraging people to look at the big picture. In fact, the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine trains yoga instructors in many healing areas, including compassion. When people learn to take care of themselves, they have more energy to give to others. Hip, happy and healthy people are usually more compassionate, kind and generous.

Carolyn Fallon is a 20-something year old with a passion for life, fitness and overall well being. She is an avid spinner, healthy cooking enthusiast and lover of life. Check out Carolyn’s blog at http://fullonfit.blogspot.com

Tagged , , ,

Hot Yoga Saved the Day

Here’s the funny thing about teaching, or at least about teaching for me.  It’s incredibly inconsistent.  Last week rocked, today sucked.  I don’t know if it is the million degree heat, (my car said 107 degrees when I left work), or that the kids are tired, but today was rough.  I had to contact six families after school because of behavior challenges.  It felt impossible to stay positive when all I wanted to do was pull my hair out.  I felt like I tried everything and nothing worked.  Relax.  Relax, damn it!

Enter hot yoga.  60 minutes of pure, power hour bliss.  It’s so funny that the very activity that scared me so much a couple months ago is now the secret to my after work sanity.  I walk in stressed, I walk out calm, happy, a million miles removed from the rest of my day.  I even like it so much that I’m recruiting teachers at work to join me.  If you have hot yoga near you– you should try it too!

One of my favorite hot yoga rituals is to pick something to concentrate on for the length of the class.  Sometimes it’s my strained neck or my weak knee, other times its a little mantra.  Today was stay positive.  After what felt like such a negative day, I needed this.  Hopefully, it will transfer over to a more positive tomorrow as well!  Let’s hope so…




Tagged , , , ,

Wanderlust vs. Sleep

It’s my little tradition to wake up early in Hawaii and run on the beach.  Our resort is perched up on a bluff, so I had to get creative.  The people at the front desk warned us not to take the public access trail to the beach at the entrance of our resort.  I figured they just wanted it for themselves, so of course, that is where I had to run.

At 5AM, like clockwork, my eyes opened, not accustomed to the time change.  Fighting the urge to just lie there, I pushed myself out the door, reaching the dirt trail by 6AM.  At first, I was a little nervous, reading all the signs warning me of danger, suddenly alone in a canopy of trees. Determined to keep going, I carefully maneuvered down the steep, muddy slope, and discovered a glorious little beach.

So glorious, in fact, a few smart campers have their tents protected beneath the thick tree branches, waking up to this amazing view.  I startled a bohemian sort of man, meditating alone at the base of the trail, his canoe and tent behind him.  Or, maybe he startled me. Either way, he has the best front yard on earth.

Jogging on the beach, I let a passing rain storm drench me, smiling with my face pointed to the sky.  My wanderlust restored, I reveled in life.  Sleep is tempting, yes, but nothing beats an early morning outing, alone, on the beach.

Tagged , , , ,