Tuesday, May 20, 2014

[Most Disliked] Yoga Poses

I started this post awhile ago after one particularly challenging yoga practice. I tried to use Siri to transcribe my wandering thoughts. As you may have guessed, she wasn't much help.

So let's semi-restart this post with some overlaying thoughts I was able to get from Siri -

Some days you're on. And others you aren't.

Most days I can stay optimistic. The glass is half full. Life is good. But yesterday wasn't one of them - at least, not at the yoga studio. Nothing seemed to be going right last night.

To go along with last night's frustration, I was reminded of a post idea I'd thought of last week: My top disliked yoga poses.

I strongly dislike his side plank. I suppose it really isn't that hard, but it's something about the hip positioning drives me mad. Photo from yogaoutlet.com

FLYING PIGEON (i.e. The close nose break position)
Then there is more challenging poses like flying pigeon. I'm starting to get the hang of making the connection between the folded "shelf" leg and the triceps, but flying the opposite leg is going to take some time. Oh, and there's the underlying fear of face planting...again. Photo from artistathlete.com

Vertical splits but will probably never be my friend. It seems to irritate my hips more than any other position, even though we do it every class. Photo from mindbodygreen.com

Crouching Tiger looks simple enough. That is, until your hamstrings and calves tell you differently. One side is reasonably easier to balance than the other. Why is that? Can't find a photo. Need to take one I guess..

Dragonfly. Here's an arm balance I've been drying to get since starting at The Lab. I can manage to balance with my left foot hugged on the back of my left tricep, but no luck what so ever on the right. Again, it's amazing the stark differences. Photo from yogaposeweekly.com

Over time, I'm making some progress, but still a long way to go. I want to say this pose is to a tall person's disadvantage, but then again, my arms are longer too, right? Photo from yogajournal.com

Um yeah, splits... Photo from yogaglo.com

Finally starting to get this, but there's a lot of mental prep work involved in order to keep the balance - reminding myself to tighten my core, slow down my breath, focus on something on the wall/ceiling. Photo from forrestyoga.com

There's no way around it, I have so much work to do before this one's going to be halfway good. It's one thing to get into a headstand, but another to have good headstand form. Proper form is to have barely any weight in the head. Photo from blog.lululemon.com

An entry or exit method where the feet start or end in a wider-than-hips stance to get into forearm balance or handstand. I think this one can go into flying pigeon's "please don't let me break my nose" category. Need a photo here too. Don't think I'll be posting one any time soon of me doing it though...

Friday, May 16, 2014

A Good Run

Chicago's had a long, brutal winter. Some may argue we're still in winter as snowflakes flew in some suburbs earlier today.

Normally, spring is an open invitation to hit the pavement quite often - at lunch, before work or in the evening as the days get longer. But this year is different. Between the cooler than average temperatures and my new found joy of inversions and arm balances at The Lab, it's been easy to stay out of my running shoes.

I'd be lying to say it hasn't been a struggle some days to get out there. When you run less, your body is less conditioned for the activity, which in my case has lead to a load of crappy runs. Slow, labored runs. I find myself thinking:

Is this how it feels to start over? It must be. Feels like I never ran. Ever. And that person that ran two marathons last year...If you see her, can you remind her she needs to get my body back into shape? And by the way, where's this "muscle memory" I hear so much about? I used to enjoy doing this, right?

Yesterday I went on a late lunch hour run. I stood outside my office building waiting for my Garmin to locate satellites.  I'll admit, I can be an inpatient person, and the Garmin does test that. As it cycled through it's 4th attempt to find satellites, I'd come to realize how cool it was outside and regretted my outfit choice of a long sleeved shirt and shorts. Maybe I should just go back inside, I thought. This just wasn't meant to be.

But dammit, I was already outside. I'd worked past 95% of the obstacles that keep me from getting out on a run. Now I just had to move - literally.

I started pretty slow as in recent weeks I've found myself talking a few walk breaks mid run. As I warmed up, I felt pretty good. But I didn't want to get too excited too early. I did want to run for four miles. I headed south down to the Shedd Aquarium where I filled up my water bottle and adjusted my playlist.

On the way back, things started to connect. I felt good. Nothing was aching. I wasn't out of breath. I wasn't too hot. I had great music and plenty of water.

As I got back to work, I breathed a sigh of relief.

Ok, I can still run. Let's chalk today's effort up as a success and keep building on it.

After all, Ragnar Relay is just a few weeks away and I have three legs to run, not to mention many other races this summer and fall.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

26 Letters of Gratitude

A year and a half ago, I found myself counting down the weeks until Chicago Marathon 2012.

As the race quickly approached, I had an odd, empty feeling I was trying to figure out. Why did I feel so different this time around from other races? I realized I wasn't focused on a purpose for the race. A purpose outside myself.

For years, I have fundraised for Salute, Inc. Salute is an Illinois based non-for-profit founded by an Arlington Heights Naval Reservist and his wife. The company was founded after their family experienced some hardships after being called to duty following 9/11. Salute's goal is to raise funds to support military members and families in need. This is a cause that hits close to home and one that I think about often in training and race day.

With just a few weeks to go to race day, I decided to embark on a new project. One in which I'd thought about at a distance for some time.

Back in 2000, I interned over the summer for an integrated communications company. Our media buyer ran her first marathon a few months after I returned to school. When I talked to her post race, she explained her experience. She mentioned an idea that stuck with me; she wrote down a list of 26 people and thought about one of them each mile of the race.

It was from that idea that I started in on a "26 Letters of Gratitude" project. I made a list of 26 people from all facets of my life; my parents, my brother, my uncles, cousins and friends, a former personal trainer and a coworker. I left the list on my desk and gathered up stationary and stamps from home.

Writing letters is something I've always done. My Dad's Mother wrote a lot of letters. I can picture her handwriting now. To this day, any time I catch a glimpse of it, I hear her British accent. I started writing letters back to her when I was young and continued it to other family members. My parents encouraged me to create cards and art projects to send for holidays instead of purchasing them from the store.

So, I kicked off the 26 Letters Gratitude project. When the mood struck me to write something to one of the people, I'd do it. Some letters were longer than others. Some happened quickly and others took time. I created an insert to put in with each letter explaining the project.

I'd drop a letter off in the mailbox as I left work each night. I remember smiling as I dropped the envelope in the box. I hoped the person receiving the letter enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it.

Here's a video a friend recently shared with me. I think it ties with today's post and my former Being Grateful post as well:

Friday, May 09, 2014

Handstand-ing [and other small victories]

About a year and a half ago, I did my first adult handstand. It was the first handstand I'd done in 20 or so years. I talked about that experience here.

Nearly a year and a half has gone by since then. In that time, I've had some successes and failures with learning the correct way to get into handstand in yoga practice. Whereas my previous handstand attempts stemmed from my young gymnastics experiences involving a body in motion, a yoga handstand is a still body using strength.

I've spent a good amount of time staring at the wall or floor, trying to reason with myself for handstand. I've done this before. What is there to be scared of? Even still, my mind races and I psych myself out in the kick up process. A few minutes later, a teacher would come by and say some encouraging things. Then suddenly I could muster the strength and courage to kick up. There's one teacher at The Lab who has given a lot of pointers in the last few months. She seems focused on my handstand success. I knew I needed to be too. So I set a goal and told her about it - I would kick up into a handstand by June 1st. Last night, the cards came together and I did it.

 photo borrowed from leanncareyyoga.com

On Wednesday night, the class focused on splits with titibasina being one of the peak poses. Though I've had some success getting into the pose from standing, a teacher who was set up next to me encouraged me to try it from the floor. She was compassionate and reasoned with me that I had the strength to do it. After a few tries with shaky arms, I was able to get up.

photo borrowed from elementsyoga.ie

I love the small victories in yoga practice. First time figuring out a pose. Learning how to hold a pose. Refining the pose as you become stronger. It's really a testament that progress comes with time and patience.

But I'm not the only victorious yoga practitioner at The Lab. Each week, I watch my fellow yogis grow stronger, working themselves towards new challenges.

Two of them I know quite well. Last week was a great week for them both.

Sara managed her first unassisted scissors pose in class. She told me the story the next morning at work. She explained that the other members of the class watched as she held the pose. Great job, Sara. I knew you could do scissors!

Carmen stared her inversion fear down two Saturdays ago at The Lab. With help from The Lab's owner, she kicked up into her first ever handstand. Congrats, Carmen. It's #handstandparty time.