Today is the beginning of a new month and already this month is starting out pretty good. Interestingly my week looks very similar to last week. Maybe this means my body is on the up side of strength and when I feel good I take full advantage of it.
Total steps – 117,385
Average daily – 16,769
Miles – 45.00
Floors – 170
New month, new goals, and adding weight training back into the mix. I met with trainer and although it had been a while my form and alignment are still very good, the weight amount has dropped some but I believe I will have it back up to normal in no time. However, I forget that with regular weight training you have that perpetual body soreness and just when soreness starts to subside it is time to train again. After training I make sure to have yoga lined up so help stretch out the shoulders, triceps, chest, and hamstrings. Between spinning, walking and now weight training my hamstrings are as tight as they have ever been so doing simple folds or other postures that lengthen the hamstrings it is difficult but I really need the yoga to keep that all loose. I need yoga for so many things but especially to counter the activity I put my body through.
On Saturday I stepped in the Bikram studio where I haven’t been in a while and instantly felt the warmth and the humidity and really enjoyed being there. Bikram is a good practice for me to loosen my tight areas and although I get the same relief from my vinyassa classes, my body and mind and lungs really enjoy that incredibly hot room. When I walk in and instantly start sweating I just know that I’m about to work and as much as I “work” with other activity there is just something really special about the way I feel in that room.
I realize it is not for everyone and that’s why there are so many forms of yoga out there because there is a form to fit any personality, I just happen to have a personality that likes them all except maybe the chanting yoga but that is just my brain getting in the way. I’m not writing off just saying I don’t seek it out.
I am five weeks into my yoga teacher training and learning so much not only about my own practice but how the body works and how the yoga postures work. The more time I spend on my own mat the more I’m building my sequences and working through what works for me and what doesn’t. Not that everything that works for me will work for others but it gives me a good sense of what someone might be feeling. I also really use the experiences of the other women in my training. For instance we were talking about Warrior I and how when she does this pose and adds a slight back bend in it, her back really doesn’t feel very well. I don’t have back pain, have never struggled with back pain, and unless I’m in flare I really don’t give much notice to my back so I had to get on my mat and try to imagine at what point one of my students might notice some discomfort in their back. It is so amazing to really start analyzing the body, the moves, the postures, the good and the bad and come up with something that might work for most people.
I spend a lot of time noticing people modifying in weight training, Insanity classes, and yoga classes. I do modifications in my classes as well so it is important to show different modifications as well as what the final posture should look like and let others use their bodies the best way they can to do the postures without compromise. With each posture there are several ways to modify and some might feel really easy, some might need to start in modification postures and move slowly into full postures, some may never reach the final posture and that is ok too. I think of Insanity and doing high knees for me. That high intensity trying to get my knee hip level doesn’t work for me and so I modify that move by bringing one knee up and then the other but not in a fast, intense movement but a controlled movement. My range of motion is much better, my posture is much better, and my body isn’t exerting unnecessary energy doing something that could potential hurt me if done wrong. Same can be said about yoga postures.
There seems to be more focus on people getting hurt during yoga classes and if we think about what is happening we can see how this could be true. We are trying to combine kickboxing with yoga, or we are trying to power through our yoga flows and classes to the deepest, intensity we can muster. As I spend time on my mat I am really starting to see the benefit in slow moving through my postures and really feeling what my body is doing. Sometimes I think I can go farther and in yoga millimeters can be enough progression. I will move slowly into deeper postures and then back out to a more comfortable posture. My body is working hard, my mind is working hard, and my breath is the power to help me reach deeper. Yoga is about reaching new places on the mat and seeing where your body is tight, where it can relax, where does it need to push a little, where do you need to pull back, where are you holding tension, where can you let go, what feels good, what is discomfort and making adjustments.
Take this philosophy off the mat and we constantly need to evaluate where we are in life, where we are in this moment and do we need to adjust. Many times throughout my day I need to step back, adjust, start again and even try a new focus. In life I need millimeters of change not grand changes to make really changes.
My life is on a new path and I am very excited about it. We have moved into a new month and October is one of my favorite months. Even though it isn’t summer hot in October, I still love the beauty of this month and as the trees change and get ready for winter so do I. Not only am I enjoying this month to prepare for winter but I am also using this month to prepare for new journeys in life.
Last night I started yoga teacher training and feel so blessed to be given this opportunity. This will not be easy and the commitment is big but the life changing experience is worth all of it. I will write about it as much as I can find the time to because I believe this experience is probably going to be one of my most challenging, rewarding, and beneficial of my life.
I will give a little back ground but not too much as many of you have been reading and know my story pretty well. The brief version is that a couple of years after being diagnosed with MCTD I made major life style changes with regard to nutrition, exercise, stress, sleep, and anything else that my doctor and physical therapist asked me to do at the time. I was feeling really desperate and wanted to feel some relief from pain, stiffness, soreness as well as feel some hope that I could manage a life with MCTD. I turned to Bikram yoga. I walked into a Bikram studio, felt that 105 degree, 70% humidity room and realized there was hope. My body instantly felt looser with the heat and the stretches made me realize with a regular practice I could do this. I committed to the Bikram practice and went 5 days a week for a little over 9 years. I had made other changes in my life but at that point I knew yoga was for me. I went into all different kinds of studios, hot vinyassa, regular vinyassa, spent time at Kripalu, tried YIN, restorative, and many other types of yoga.
As I was feeling better, yoga was becoming medicine for me and I was talking to everyone who would listen about my positive experience with yoga. I realized after a while that I wanted to actually teach others the principals of yoga and all the benefits of a regular practice. However, I did not want to train with Bikram or teach Bikram yoga full time so I spent some time figuring out what kind of yoga I wanted to teach. I committed to the studio near my home for easy access and have a regular practice there and at home now. The owner of the studio and my yoga instructor offered a teaching training course that started last night. I was thrilled, and thought the universe was trying to tell me something so I signed up.
We are working professionals who have commitments, responsibilities, and families that also require our time so we are doing this slowly, regularly, and weekly. Instead of me getting my training done in 8 weekends it will take me nearly a year but the way I see it I have spent all these years working towards this moment so no need to rush the moment I am in. After last night’s training I feel so incredible great about the decision I have made and can’t wait to share my new journey with you my readers as well as the individuals in my life. Through this experience I may find another person who is desperate for hope and balance and I can help them too. This is going to be life changing in so many ways and I’m ready to embrace them all.
I’m still flare-up free and loving life. I know the heat can be a trigger for some people with MCTD but for me I feel energized in the heat, my body feels great, and my mind feels opened to trying new things. Summer and heat bring new beginnings for me where as in the winter and cold months I feel more shut in and ready to hibernate. This summer has been full of trying new things and really incorporating yoga in to my daily life. There are evenings when I choose golf instead of yoga but for the most part I am trying to make sure I get some sort of yoga in at night which helps me relax, sleep better, and just feel better in general.
The vinyassa yoga flow has really benefited my upper body strength which Bikram did not do. I’m sure some people did get an increase in Bikram just because I would hear people say it was a full body program but for me my legs were strong but my upper body wasn’t as strong and didn’t get stronger during my Bikram practice. My weight training and now vinyassa flow as really increased my strength. I’m able to stay in downward facing dog and really believe it is my resting posture. I would hear people say that in the past and think there was no resting for me in that position but now I’m learning to enjoy being there and relaxing there as well.
The meditation part of yoga has been more difficult so when I’m at my yoga classes and in practices I use that time for meditation since I have been unable to dedicate any time at home to this practice. When I’m home, sitting quietly is very difficult unless I’m reading and then that is not meditating. It is a good practice to start but not one I have actually committed to. My commitment is to my vinyassa yoga practice which I believe is going very well. If only I looked graceful flowing into my chaturanga.
Ever notice how this time of year a lot of people are starting to cleanse, diet, detox, start over and ramp up their routines? The gyms are full of new faces, the classes are a little larger, the wait time for certain weight equipment is stretched and the locker rooms have an overused smelled to them. Year after year this is the routine as people get bathing suit ready bodies and tighten everything up a little more so that spontaneous BBQ parties don’t come with an overwhelming amount of guilt. I don’t ebb and flow through yearly routines like other’s because mine routine is more constant but even I need to cleanse, re-focus, re-balance and re-evaluate my routine from time to time. Now is that time for me.
I have been committed to Bikram yoga for nine years and when I say committed I was truly committed to a 5 day a week routine but I found myself thinking of Bikram more as a chore than a yoga practice. I was getting to the point that when I was headed into the studio I couldn’t wait to get back out. This has never happened to me before so I clearly needed a break. I agonized over giving up the heat, my yogie ladies, and the routine of getting hot and sweaty but the time had come for me to let go and re-focus.
I need a yoga practice and I am also one that commits whole heartedly when I want to do something so I found a yoga studio near my home that has vinyassa flow, Thai Chi and Qi Gong as well Yin, Pilates, and restorative yoga. I made a yearlong commitment to this studio, found the classes I was interested in and set up my calendar with my appointment times. Exercise for me are like doctor appointments because they are all part of my management program. I treat each class I take the same way I treat a personal training session and it goes in my calendar and I only cancel if there is no way around it. Sure there are days I don’t want to do something but I don’t have the luxury of deciding not to. If I really feel like I cannot do my exercise then I adjust and walk but I take my medications everyday as prescribed and do my work out routine everyday as prescribed. The difference is my medications are prescribed by my doctors and my exercise is prescribed by me. This way I also have the luxury of changing my prescription when needed and this was needed.
So, what have I done so far? I signed up for my yearlong commitment on Memorial Day, May 26th. In the 3 weeks I have been going I have indulged in Qi Gong/Thai Chi and enjoyed this practice so much that I bought a DVD recommended by the instructor to have at home on the few nights a week that I cannot get to the yoga studio. I have enjoyed Pilates and find that even with my core strength she still gets me in places that I forget I have muscles until they are sore. The Yin is so hard but so rewarding as it goes deep into my connective tissues and just when I think I can’t take it one more minute we do 2 more minutes and I come out of the pose thinking what a relief. My vinyassa flow is getting much better and the most amazing benefit of this yoga practice is that I am sleeping so well each and every night. There are 3 nights a week I don’t have the studio available to me so on Sat, Sun and Wed night I have my own Qi Gong practice that I do right before bed to ensure a wonderful rested night’s sleep. As each day goes by and learn something new about the studio I have joined or the people I am meeting or the practice I’m doing I realize this was a good move for me. I am not saying I won’t ever go back to Bikram but I have a new commitment this year and I am throwing myself into my new yoga practice 100%.
I do miss the Bikram ladies very much but that is what lunch is for and although I also miss the heat very much, that is what summer is for. I have some regret not signing back up for Bikram classes but then I remember that I’m only 2 miles from my home when I come out of the studio and my body is thanking me for my new found commitment.
As the weeks go on I continue to cut back on my Bikram practice therefore instead of attending a practice 5 days a week I’m trying 2 or 3 days. I like going on Saturday and Sunday because I have the rest of the day to recover if I need it but I also try to get in one more day during the work week. I am finding that my body is taking longer to recover after a practice and I can feel a high level of fatigue after my practice which makes working a day job more difficult. My last Bikram practice my teeth, hands and arms were tingly and I thought I might actually pass out from exhaustion so that was another indication that maybe I need a break from Bikram. The toughest thing for me though is that Bikram keeps me flexible and keeps my joints loose. In an effort to try and get back some flexibility without the residual effect of fatigue I’m going back to vinyasa flow yoga. This form is gentle on my joints and can be very calming. Also, I do this type of yoga at night so I’m hoping that calm at the end of the day will also assist with my sleeping skills. The part of Bikram that I love the most is the heat and as I sweat I release a lot of fluid off this inflamed body which I don’t get in vinyasa flow yoga. I have tried hot yoga but I don’t sweat enough in hot yoga to release enough fluid so I am still finding ways to sweat more and more.
I have the potential of practicing vinyasa 5 days a week so my hope is that my hips and knees will start feeling better. Especially as the weather changes and we head into autumn here in Maine my joints really start to feel the effects of the change in seasons so as much as I miss Bikram I’m excited to get back into downward facing dog, crow, and wheel pose. The vinyasa flow postures are different than Bikram postures and holding of the postures is different but the whole idea is to open up hips, gently stress knees, lower back and really work balance. In vinyasa there is much more upper body work which in Bikram there is very little upper body work so my shoulders will start to get a work out again in my yoga practice and the strength that is gained in vinyasa is really wonderful.
Last night during our yoga session we concentrated on Triangle. This is considered a gateway posture. Our instructor asked us to think about the gateways that were being opened for us at that moment. Obviously she wasn’t looking for us to answer her but to answer ourselves. Triangle in Bikram and Triangle in vinyasa are very different. In Bikram we have a bent leading knee not trailing over the toes but parallel to the ground with a straight back leg, our leading elbow is on the inside of our knee gently pushing the knee back but keeping the knee in line with the big toe. Shoulders in one line extended in opposite directions. Your gaze is up towards your extended fingers.
Vinyasa Triangle is a straight leading leg, knee in line with the big toe. Hips open and facing wall, hand either on the shin or outer side of the foot. Back leg is straight and strong and shoulders in one line extended in opposite directions. The heart center is leading upward not downward. Your gaze is up or down depending on your neck and how it feels. This is a hard posture to feel comfortable in whether the Bikram style or the vinyasa style. The theory is that once you find your comfortable spot you could stay here for hours. I have yet to find that comfort and for me I’m usually thinking about when I can get out of the posture and move on.
Last night she had us in this posture for what seemed like an eternity but really was rather only minutes. She came around and gently adjusted us to open our heart center, or to adjust our hips and to straighten our extended arm upward. That arm has to be straight and strong. She did allow for breaks when we needed them and everyone needed a break from time to time. When you are in this posture and you are thinking about all steps it takes to get into the posture and stay in the posture it is difficult to really dig deep and figure out what gates you are opening.
Breaking down postures becomes part of the practice. The practice can be and should be different all the time. The next time I’m in Triangle it may be that I get a little more comfortable and can look for those openings. At one time Triangle was one of my favorite postures but I got out of the practice of doing it so I’m starting over again. Also, I’m little bit distracted thinking about my husband and if he is ok and if anything is hurting him in the posture. My practice should be my own but that is easier said than done when your loved one is on the mat next to you. By the end of this session going into the next session I won’t worry about him because I’ll know he found his groove but until part of my thoughts will be on my practice and the other part will be on his practice.
To give you an example when we are headed into a posture that I know is difficult I will go into the modified version first to show him what he can do then once I know he understands what I’m doing then I will go into my version which might not be full expression but closer to full expression than the modified version. Many times people just need to know that there are steps they can take before full expression so they don’t overdo it. Considering he has been using a heating pad since our first session I know he over did it so I’m helping to not overdo it in future classes. As we get more classes under us I will have confidence that he knows what he is doing and let him do his thing. At that time I can get serious about my practice also. Maybe that is my gateway to myself and my own practice that I need to explore while in Triangle for an eternity.