Category Archives: Yoga

Get back to it!

Oh it is sooo hard to go back to something after leaving it for a while.  Today I am going to go to yoga for the first time in over a month, uggh.  Well, of course I had good reasons why I haven’t been going….

1) The time change got me all off kilter.  I had been going to the early morning class, but once we changed the clocks, waking up early went right out the window,

2) Shortly thereafter I got a nasty cold with a cough that lingered long after the cold was gone.  I really couldn’t see me coughing my way through class and disturbing everyone there; and then

3) I was training for a half marathon and so all my exercise time was spent on running.  (I know, yoga is a wonderful complement to running, but there are only so many hours in a day!)

But today, I am going to yoga.  I write this to force myself to get up, change and go to class!!

Yoga for a Cause

Yesterday I participated in the annual Seacoast Yoga Mala.  It was my second time participating, and again I found the experience very rewarding — physically and emotionally.

Yoga mala 2

Yoga instructors from different studios all over the area led the 170 participants in 108 sun salutations.  Each instructor led 9 salutations in their particular style.  It was interesting to experience other styles of yoga.  Some were slow and repetitive while others were more athletic and offered more diversity.  (Personally I liked these better). But all the styles were focused on breathing, listening to our bodies, and going at our own pace.  We were encouraged to modify the poses and/or rest as we needed to.

The Yoga Mala was more than a 3 hour yoga practice.  It was primarily a fund-raiser.  We raised over $18,000 for two local charities, (H)EAT and Seacoast Eat Local’s SNAP program.  

(H)EAT is a local charity that provides food and money for heat to local residents in need.  Sadly, many of our poorer neighbors have to choose between keeping fed and keeping warm in the winter.

Seacoast Eat Local’s SNAP program is dedicated to enabling needy families to have access to locally grown food.  SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) is what we refer to as food stamps.   This aid is now distributed entirely through electronic debit cards, rather than paper vouchers.   Unforgettably the local vendors at area farmer’s markets haven’t had the ability to accept this electronic form of payment.  Seacoast Eat Local’s program provides farmers the ability to accept these SNAP debit card payments, and therefore allowing needy families to buy farm fresh food.  As you know I am all for local, organic food and so I find this a very worthy cause.

Participating in the Yoga Mala enhanced my sense of belonging to the local yoga community as well as the Seacoast community at large.

All photos courtesy of 3 Bridges Yoga

Yoga mala

Balance

Today in yoga class, the teacher emphasized Balance.  Not just on balancing on balance one foot, but balance in all aspects of our lives.  That got me thinking – (not during class, but afterwards), about the importance of keeping my life in balance.

Balance:   A state of equilibrium; equal distribution of weight, amount, etc.; Mental steadiness or emotional stability; habit of calm behavior, judgment, etc.; A state of bodily equilibrium.

I try very hard to live my life in balance.   As a matter of fact this blog is all about physical, mental and emotional balance.  Living a balanced life helps me keep my stress level down, and also allows me to do all the things I want to do.  Of course not all days (or weeks) are balanced.  Sometime work takes precedent, or a family issue overshadows everything else, but generally speaking it is important to keep all aspects of life my balance.  It really isn’t easy.  This year I made a real effort to live in harmony, and as the end of the year is approaching, I thought a look back over the past year, to see how I’ve done was in order.  I welcome your comments and suggestions!

Mind

Work—I work from a home office, and so it is vital to have a defined work day.  While I am available any time, (thanks to cell phones and e-mail), I make it a point to shut my computer down around 5:30 get up from my desk and end my work day.  At the other end of the day, I try to get up, have breakfast, get dressed and be at my desk by 8:30.  The getting dressed part is the hardest!  I have to make a better effort not to stay in sweats until 5pm!

Besides work, I keep my mind sharp by doing crossword and Sudoku puzzles.  I’ve gotten good at Sudoku and can usually finish all but the hardest puzzles!  I’ve also put an emphasis on reading and listening to audio books this year.  I’ve finished quite a lot (more on that in a future post).  I also find that limiting TV time to just a few programs I enjoy and those that teach me something new, and not getting too worked up about the news help keep my mind in balance too.

Body

Exercise—As you know from reading my blog, exercise is very important to me.  But many days it is tough to fit it in!  In the summer, I could run in the morning before work or after work, but now it is very dark and very cold in the morning and evening.   I’m just not going to do that!

I have found that exercising during the lunch hour works great.  It is a good time to run (on nice days), my yoga studio has classes at noon, plus I can always go to the gym for 45 minutes or so in the middle of the day.  If I wait and go to the gym in the evening, it is packed!  Of course actually doing this is a different matter!  But then again, balance between exercise and rest is important too!

Nutrition—This year has been one of total transformation in my diet.  I have gone from just “eating healthy” to Eating to Live! (Thank you Dr. Fuhrman).  I have eliminated almost all meat from my diet (occasionally I’ll have a small amount of organic chicken, and I do eat fish about 1-2 times a week), and I have totally cut out dairy products—milk, cream, ice cream, yogurt  butter, cheese, you name it!  Truly I have never felt healthier.

Spirit

I’m including family and friends in this category as I believe they are important for spiritual and emotional health!

Family– None of my family lives close, and this is difficult on many levels, but I strive to visit family each month. I visit both my Dad and relatives (in New Jersey) every other month or so, and my adult children (in Virginia) the other months.  Often they will meet me at my Dad’s and so I get to see them even more often.   These monthly trips not only allow me to see my family, but also give me 12 mini vacations throughout the year.

Friends –This year I made a point to spend more time with friends by setting up at least 2 lunches or dinners each month with friends.  By scheduling the time, rather than just saying, “Oh, let’s get together sometime” I was able to actually do it!  I’ve been able to re-connect with old friends, deepen some friendships and even begin to nurture some new friendships.

Spirituality—This one is hard, perhaps because it is very personal.  Apart from yoga and self-help books, my spirituality is lacking.  I was raised in a formal religion, and for a few reasons, I have drifted away from that religion, although I still firmly believe in it and its teachings, I just don’t quite live up to them, and so attending church seems hypocritical to me.  I have begun to explore some of the more “new age” teachings, which really aren’t new at all, and I am learning that if you take away the labels, many of the principles are the same.  I also know that this line of thinking is totally contrary to my religion and that gives me a little cognitive dissonance!  Still much more exploring to do here!

To sum up my theory on Balance I would have to say:

Enjoy what you do and do what you enjoy!

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you strive to live a balanced life.

A Bikram Start to the Day

This morning I was both excited and apprehensive about going to a Bikram yoga class.  While I’ve been practicing yoga fairly regularly, I haven’t been to a Bikram class in a long time.  I practiced Bikram yoga for 3 months in early 2011 and I found it very hard; and so needless to say, I was a little nervous!

But, it was great!  I really enjoyed it.  I was able to do, and hold the postures.  My breathing was comfortable and easy, and most importantly, I was able to stay focused.  I’m sure the whole experience was easier for me because I have been doing yoga and I’ve learned to breathe correctly.

I don’t think I’ll practice Bikram yoga on a regular basis, but it was fun and invigorating today and I feel very proud of myself for doing it!

Is Yoga “real exercise”? — You Bet it is!

I had a wonderful yoga class today, and wanted to try to express some feelings, but other than say, wow, yoga feels sooo wonderful, I turned to my daughter who has been practicing longer  and asked her to write a guest post about her experiences with yoga.  Enjoy!

Pulling is the object of stretching

by Kelsey Duke

If you aren’t practicing yoga regularly then you are probably just like I was. Hear me out:

I started running when I was fairly young, about 6 or 7,  which isn’t to say I was health conscious at an early age, just that I was born to health conscious parents who back then were probably considered “exercise freaks.” Running became my favorite and only form of exercise outside of team sports. Running was so ingrained in my routine that I could not fathom burning calories any other way. If I wasn’t running, it wasn’t exercise. Period.

As I got a little older I realized that running, though it was great for my mental health and wellness, wasn’t changing my body the way I wanted it to. At the end of college I found myself about 20 pounds overweight (or more, but I feared the scale that would give me an accurate measurement) and unhappy with my body. Not to mention running had become a chore for me. I wanted to  go running like I wanted to take a 5 hour final exam; I didn’t.

While I was sitting around beating myself up about not wanting to run, something I’d always taken pleasure in, I decided to try hot yoga. Not because I thought it would be a good form of exercise (because as a runner I thought yoga was in the same category as sitting down for an hour)  but because I was bored and it was only $20 for a whole week. What I expected was some relaxing stretching, maybe a nap, what I got was the biggest ass kicking. And the funniest thing was yoga was a totally zen ass kicking. No grunting, no yelling, no loud music. So by the end of it my body was completely exhausted but my mind was calm, awake and alert. This is the real benefit of yoga.

Bikram Yoga is a form of hot yoga that reaches all the major muscles, joints, and organs of the body in a 90 minute class. The heat provides exercise for the largest organ of all, the epidermis (or the skin). While you sweat out toxins you use muscle strength and to go deeper and deeper into each posture, thereby gaining muscle and flexibility while improving balance. The heat also provides a mental challenge similar to that you experience while running. You have to force yourself to focus on the work out, not let your body be talked out of it and attempt to calm your mind.

Yoga not only can improve your body but it can improve your mind-body connection. This is the hardest thing to sell people on because if you’ve never been in tune with your body, it’s hard to imagine what that feels like. But as a reformed runner (I can run for fun again! what a treat!) and still a relatively new yogi, I can tell you the mind-body connection is worth the effort and will improve every aspect of your life.

A Good Week!

I’ve had a good week this week both in terms of my eating and exercising.  I’ve been really concentrating on eliminating dairy products from my diet (you can read this post for the back story on that), and on eating a lot of greens and mushrooms, With the exception of last night, I’ve done well!

Last night I had a wonderful dinner at Grissini Italian Bistro in Kennebunkport, Maine.  It was very rich (butter) and wasn’t within my new diet plan, but it was good, it included mushrooms (in the butter sauce) and I didn’t eat too much nor did I have dessert!

I also managed to get in two runs and two yoga classes this week.  The runs were great.  It is a bit painful to get back into running, but it feels good.  Running makes me feel strong and I feel like I am strengthening my heart and increasing my lung capacity.

Yoga makes me feel powerful.  It strengthens my body and calms my “inner voice” — you know that annoying internal dialogue that holds us back.  Plus the physical stretching of yoga is a great compliment to running.   It stretches out all the things that  running tightens — hamstrings, hip flexors, lower back and glutes!

I’m Grace, and I have an exercise problem…

I have exercise feast or famine syndrome.  I either do nothing, or try to do it all in one day.  For the last 3 days all I managed to do was take a leisurely walk on Tuesday and then walk briskly for a half an hour yesterday.  Today I walked, went to yoga (actually I walked to and from yoga), and later went for a 5 mile run.

I think I am a binge exerciser!  Is there such a thing?  I hope it isn’t bad…..