Monday, October 28, 2013

Insanity kicked my asana

Four weeks ago I started the Insanity workouts. During those four weeks I never missed a workout, and followed the six-day-a-week workout calendar exactly. I'll be taking my measurements next week, at the end of "recovery week" (also known as "the week in which the daily workout makes my thighs long for the good old cardio recovery days"), but I am starting to notice the changes in my body.

I have to confess that I haven't kept up my yoga practice during the last month. With a 30-40 minute workout to squeeze in, my mornings are pretty tight. I take a class when I can, but my meditative morning practice has been replaced with lots of jumping around. I was feeling a bit guilty about that, until I made an interesting discovery:

Insanity pushed my asana practice up a notch.

Shaun T is pretty serious about stretching, so I'm not surprised that, after four weeks of daily hamstring stretches, I'm more open than I was. The Insanity workouts are also very core-focused, so, despite the lack of an obvious six-pack, I might be stronger after the first month. It turns out the two ganged up on me.

Navasana is an excellent core-strengthening pose, and I can hold it comfortably as long as I keep my knees bent. My hamstrings are too tight to achieve the straight-legged version, and I never even imagined experiencing the beautiful variation where you draw your legs and upper body closer together. It turns out I might have been a bit hasty in accepting my limitations.

Last Saturday I spent a couple of hours bellydancing with some ladies from the yoga studio. Later that evening I unrolled my mat to stretch a bit. I don't know why I thought to try it, but I ended up here:

This picture was taken today, which means I can still do it, two days later. It wasn't just one of those freak yoga things.

Thank you, Shaun T, for the yoga breakthrough. I'll forgive you for all those mornings when your workouts kicked my asana.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What does Insanity look like?

Insanity looks like this...

It's day 24 and I haven't missed a workout. Yesterday I made it all the way through the Cardio Power and Resistance workout. Well, there was that brief rest when my butt hit the floor during triceps dips and stayed there for 20 seconds. But I got going again. And my push-ups are slower than Shaun T's. I'd play the girl card, but Tanya is on the video putting the rest of my gender to shame.

Next week is "recovery week." I'm kind of excited to hit that milestone, but, if the workouts are anything like like the current Cardio Recovery workout, I'm not sure I'm going to have a fun week. My thighs are getting very worried.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Making my Niyama Case for Virgosity

English: Illustration of shallow focus, showin...
Don't  move my salt shaker. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Don't bother googling "virgosity." It's a word my husband made up to describe my extreme Virgo-ness. I don't know what it is about being born during late August or most of September, but everyone I know who was born under the astrological sign of Virgo has the same catch-phrase. It is "Don't move my stuff."

My husband coined the term "virgosity" to explain behaviors that to his Leo brain seem completely irrational, like sliding the salt shaker a half-inch to the right so it will be exactly where it belongs, or arranging candle holders so they will be in a perfect non-linear scatter. After I've had some alone time at the yoga studio, the classes arrive to find all the blankets folded identically and stacked with all the fringe facing the same way, a specific number in each stack.

Lucky for me and all my fellow Virgo yogis and yoginis, Patanjali justified our virgosity in the Yoga Sutras, right there in the list of Niyamas. Number one on the list is Shaucha, which is purity or cleanliness. Shaucha refers to both your external environment and, being yoga, what's going on in that mind of yours.

We know that a cluttered mind creates obstacles to the practice of yoga, whether it's asana, meditation, self-study or one of the other branches. What makes this Virgo heart sing is the acknowledgement that a cluttered or dirty environment also creates those obstacles. Maybe it's just me, but I have a hard time focusing on work when my desk hasn't been cleared off, as I learned the hard way when I allowed it to get out of control. I have never been satisfied with an asana practice surrounded by piles of laundry.

You can do lots of things to purify the body and clear the mind, but your breakthrough might be stalled under a stack of dirty dishes. The simplicity of life when everything is in its place can free up energy for the internal work.

And if you don't know the exact place for your salt shaker, it's time to make friends with a Virgo.
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Friday, October 18, 2013

A shower, my thighs and Ahimsa #365Yoga

Levi rockin' the Scorpion Pose
A guy rocking Scorpion Pose (Photo credit: FabulousTerrah)
Yesterday, after I finished Insanity Cardio Recovery (a.k.a. the "slow, painful death of my thighs" workout), I was thinking about whether or not a painful workout went against the "nonharming" principle of yoga. I was standing in the shower at the time, and I was also wondering how a non-cardio workout could have made me sweat so much, so don't expect anything too deep and philosophical here.

Ahimsa, usually translated as nonharming or nonviolence, is the first of the Yamas in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. The Yamas teach us how to control our personal conduct when dealing with others. In its simplest terms, the principle of Ahimsa asks us to not hurt anyone. But, if it's part of the code of ethics for dealing with others, does it allow us to hurt ourselves?

I've heard yoga teachers point out Ahimsa as the reason we shouldn't push too hard during an asana practice. "Show compassion for yourself!" "There's no pain in yoga!" "Stay within your edge!" I've said these things myself. They are yoga teacher language for "Please don't get hurt in my class." I have to wonder, however, how the guy rocking Vrischikasana never pushed past his edge while learning how to get there. And if he was sore for awhile, like I was when I was regularly working on scorpion pose, did he feel un-yogi-like because he wasn't gentle with his body?

My thighs disagree, but I think using Ahimsa as an excuse not to take reasonable risks with my body takes something away from the Yamas, which are supposed to remind me that it's not, in fact, all about me. The violence we're supposed to be avoiding isn't muscle aches from a good workout, it's the harm we do when we think we're separate from everyone else. It's the pain that we cause whenever we allow differences in race, gender, nationality, religion, living conditions, etc., to create an "otherness" in our thinking. It's the rips in the web of existence that we create every time we come from a place of fear rather than openness.

I'm not advocating recklessness in yoga classes or home practices. We should always practice safely and with intention and awareness, to avoid injuries. I just think we do a disservice to Patanjali when we claim Ahimsa while we're dropping into child's pose but forget to talk about the much deeper commitment nonviolence requires when we step off our mats. After all, Patanjali probably never saw a forearm balance. I know he never checked out Insanity.

Yes, there are awesome yoga teachers out there digging into the Yamas in their classes, but they weren't in the shower with me. It was just me and my thighs, and, Ahimsa or not, we've got another workout tomorrow.

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

I'm not dead (I don't want to go in the cart)

Sometimes I think that Shaun T, creator of the Insanity workout from Beachbody, is trying to put me in the cart. I'm not dead, though. Not yet, anyway. While the workouts are hard, I'm hanging in there. I haven't missed a day and, I have to say, I think I'm getting better.

What I appreciate the most about the workouts is the stretching that is included every time. I haven't even had to yell at the television because Shaun does a good job with the alignment of the yoga stretches. He's even given me some ideas for Body Shop, a vinyasa-based yoga class I created to include hand weights, resistance bands and some Pilates-inspired core exercises. I enjoy planning and teaching the fusion class and it gives me the opportunity to put my personal trainer credentials to use.

All I have to do is survive the next workout. I think I'll go for a walk.

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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Don't do this, do this #365Yoga

There is a saying that if you really want to integrate something, you should teach it to someone else. I've found that to be true, especially with yoga. Then creating and teaching a yoga teacher training program really drove home pieces of yoga philosophy that I had been just flirting with for years.

For the session that just started, I decided to narrow the study of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras into an in-depth look at the Yamas and the Niyamas. As a result, I've been researching how different people interpret and apply yoga's ethical guidelines. Like all of the Sutras, I wonder how best to apply the Yamas and Niyamas in the time we live in.

The five Yamas are yoga's "don't do this" list - "don't harm," "don't lie," "don't steal," etc. The Niyamas lay out five better choices to make, including staying clean, cultivating contentment and exploring your inner self. All ten are at once simple and extremely complex.

While what North America has truly embraced is Hatha Yoga, it is interesting to note that, when Patanjali laid out the eight limbs of yoga, he put the Yamas and the Niyamas first and second. Did he believe that the rules for living needed to be embraced before one was ready to tackle the other limbs? Well, that's a question for a group of yoga teacher trainees in a couple of weeks.

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Monday, October 7, 2013

And, Rest... #365Yoga

yoga (Photo credit: GO INTERACTIVE WELLNESS)
After six days of Insanity workouts, there is a rest day, if we can call a day that starts with teaching a 7:00 am yoga class followed by eight hours of teacher training and ends with a 7:00 pm meeting with my Bona Fide Butterflies partner Annie to work on our January women's retreat a rest day.

My body was awake and ready to go ridiculously early. It apparently doesn't see the point of rest days. I was very surprised at how good I felt. There was some minor muscle soreness, noticeable only when I moved in certain ways. My yoga practice felt strong and I was pretty together most of the day.

Of course, it was very uplifting to spend the weekend with the group of incredible people who started their teacher training journey. They are all very different, and collectively different from the last group; each one is unique expression of the divine oneness. Seeing that inner light makes me want to work very hard on their behalf, yet I know the real work is theirs. My work, really, is to show up and unlock the studio door.

And to tackle another Insanity workout. The rest day is over.
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Friday, October 4, 2013

Insanity before teacher training #365Yoga

Yesterday's Insanity workout was called "Cardio Recovery." I have renamed it "kill your quads." While it didn't have much cardio, there was a great deal of lower body strengthening. My muscles were burning! Surprisingly, I'm not very sore. A great yoga class on Wednesday along with post-workout Isagenix shakes helped reduce the aches. My energy level is way up. I don't think I've ever been this productive, which is good, because I have a very busy weekend ahead.

My favorite part of last winter was leading a 200-hour yoga teacher training for the first time. Tomorrow I begin again with a new group of trainees. I have heard from some that they are excited about starting the program. I wonder if they are as excited as I am.

Some of the graduates of that first program are teaching at the True North Yoga studio, so I have been able to enjoy their classes and watch them progress as teachers. It is very humbling to notice that their classes contain so much more than the basics I offered them. It reaffirms my belief that good yoga teachers are made on the inside, inspired by and integrated with the great Guru, or whatever you choose to name god/dess, and I am just providing a space for that integration to start.

Even without the extra energy provided by the Insanity workouts, I'd be headed into the weekend filled with excitement, and humility, open to the flow of grace which will guide my teaching. This is for the new teacher trainees. This mind of mine, this body of mine, my every atom is dedicated to you, for the next six months and forever.

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Waiting for the end (of Daylight Savings Time)

English: Radio Alarm Clock 日本語: アナログチューニングラジオ付...
Situating a house in a dip between two mountains makes listening to the radio almost impossible. Our alarm clock gets two stations - one is NPR (Vermont's version, not the local station that transmits from two towns away) and the music on the other one instantly starts my head pounding. While I like NPR, I don't like to start my day with bad news, so I use the "nature sounds" option on the clock for my alarm. 

At this time of year, when the simulated birds start chirping and I open my eyes to the pitch blackness outside my window, I curse the extension of daylight savings time. Any real birds out there would still be curled up in a tree, heads tucked under their wings. Already an early riser, this week I've been up extra  early to allow time for the Insanity workouts in addition to my normal morning routine. I want some light.

I'm only on Day 3 of the program, but I've already noticed increased energy during the day. I've also been enjoying uninterrupted sleep until about 4:30 am, when I find myself wide awake and ready to get up - if I could see anything.

There are no streetlights here to light up the wee hours. There is very little traffic. When I lay awake in the middle of the night, as happens often, it is my mind's fault. It seems that the time between midnight and dawn is self-examination time, time to review failures, things I let slide, bank balances and all the other things that trigger stress. 

Now it seems that the cure for my nightly contemplations is Insanity. I've always suspected as much.

I'd still like my hour back.

* * * * * *

I almost made it through day 2's workout, leaving out only the last set. There's quite a bit of jumping and my calves are very sore, which I discovered in downward facing dog when I tried to reach my heels down. Since it's my day off from teaching we could put our workout off until 7:00 am, after I post this. Wish me luck.
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