Monthly Archives: January 2013

Yoga Challenge Day 11

Thankfully, yesterday’s scare left me with nothing more serious than DOMS, though oddly enough it wasn’t my hamstring that was sore but my hip. Go figure… Even so, I took it relatively easy today.

Does housework count as a workout? Let me see, I broke a sweat, was a little out of breath, and my muscles complained afterwards. Yeah, I think it’ll do 🙂

An afternoon Yin Yoga practice was in order after that. Needing to focus on the hips, I decided to adapt a sequence I was led through during the Yin Yoga class I took the other day on YogaVibes:

  • Baby Dragon for 2′
  • Winged Dragon for 2′
  • Sleeping Swan for 2′
  • Square for 4′

I did this sequence first on the right side, then the left. It was pretty intense as with each pose I was working deeper into the hip. By the time I came out of Square on each side, I could barely move my limbs! Afterwards, I stayed in the low position of Windshield Wipers (internal hip rotation) for a couple of minutes as a counterpose to the sequence above and to stretch the psoas all the way round the lower back. Shavasana closed the practice.

Music and Yoga

For some schools, such as Iyengar, silence is the only acceptable backdrop during a Yoga practice, while for others, such as Jivamukti, music forms an essential part of the Yogic experience. One of the best things about practicing at home is that we can go either way depending on our mood. Moreover, if we choose to use music, we can pick tracks that are suitable for us and do not distract us from the meditative aspect of the practice – in a class setting, a teacher’s choice of music may not always be to the student’s taste. I’ve practiced Yoga in complete silence, and I’ve also used music. Both provide an interesting experience, each unique in its own way.

I feel silence is great for a static practice, allowing me to go deep into the pose – “deep” as in aligning the mind with the body, not just stretching more. Silence is also good during a flow practice, when I specifically want to focus on the breath and need to listen to the sound of Ujjayi.

On the other hand, music also lends itself well to a flowing practice. If you use tracks with a rhythm you can follow, you can add an element of discipline to the sequence, transforming it into dance. Despite being overweight from early childhood, and even obese later on, moving the body has always been an essential way of expression for me. I come from a background of classical, modern, Latin, and even free-form/trance dance, so I didn’t need much prodding to transfer those experiences to my Yoga practice.

The other use of music is as a means to cover up background noise and provide a bulwark between yourself and distractions. I dunno, maybe when I’m advanced enough, I may be able to shut out that kind of stimuli at will, but at the moment, I need outside help to do so.

One of my favorite artists is Gabrielle Roth. Her music has a tribal, sometimes even jazzy, feel. I used to listen to it during my ecstatic dance phase, (I was following her Wave method at the time), and I find her pieces are just as well suited to my Yoga practice. She plays around with 5 specific types of rhythmic patterns, so I can pick tracks with a slower beat for a more static or meditative practice, or tracks with a faster beat for flows.

Another artist I simply love is Stellamara. Their album The Seven Valleys is one I often use in its entirety in my Yoga practice. I’ll often use it as a guide, adapting movement to each piece, going back and forth between dynamic and static sequences, allowing the music to set the rhythm and my body to fall into poses. It’s an almost trance-like practice where I simply let my intuition lead the way.

These are but some of the ways I use music (and silence) in Yoga. I’d love to hear how you use sounds in your practice.

Yoga Challenge Day 10

I’ve been feeling decidedly cranky today. It’s been really cold, and when the temperature drops, I get ravenously hungry – hence the crankiness. So, when I sat down for some Yoga today, I couldn’t even decide on a style of practice for today’s class (YogaVibes again).

I finally settled on a restorative practice, but my mind was too agitated and my ego took over during a strap-assisted hamstring stretch. I felt only the slightest pinch, but it was enough to know that I’d stretched the muscle beyond its limits.

I took the rest of the day off, not even foam-rolling the area for fear of aggravating a possible injury. I’ll see how I feel tomorrow and proceed accordingly; worst case scenario, I’ll just have to stay away from any posterior chain exercises and hamstring stretches.

It was quite a wake up call. One of the things I’m trying to explore during this challenge is listening to my body. I may have to deal with an injury – it remains to be seen how serious it is – because I dived mindlessly into a practice that requires above all mental focus. However, as much as I may want to castigate myself over it, the fact is that I pulled back as soon as I felt the muscle give that characteristic twinge (I’ve experienced it enough times to recognize it). I doubt I’d have done that much in the past. Instead, I’d have pushed through the discomfort, making matters even worse in the process.

Over the years, I had a handful of certified trainers tell me that I was being overcautious in my workouts, and that I should be more aggressive. And what followed, almost without fail, was injury. Despite being counterproductive, those kind of remarks stayed with me and led to even accumulating injuries.

I’m trying to correct that kind of attitude now, though not always succeeding at it. Still, accepting I know my body better than almost anyone else and learning to listen to its signals is something I’m willing to persevere in. After all, isn’t that what Yoga is about? The attunement, as I like to think of it, of mind and body?

Yoga Challenge Day 9

EDIT: The original title was “Yoga Challenge Day 15”, which was obviously a Freudian slip kind of typo. <sigh> Getting ahead of myself.

Despite the fact that I was quite a bit sore today – yesterday’s yoga practice was pretty basic, but still challenging – I went ahead and did a bodyweight workout. Exercises for the legs, back, and shoulders are progressing nicely, but I think I may be hitting a rut soon with pushups.

I went from hands at chest height against a wall to hands at hip height on a bench, and I barely managed to complete the reps. I noticed that I had little problem with the negative (i.e. downward) portion of the movement – it’s the same as in Chatarunga Dandasana – but pushing back to the starting position was hard.

I guess it is after this kind of workouts that progress really happens. I just need to be sure to give my body enough time to recover and not rush into the next workout, as excited about it as I may be.

Had to skip my yoga practice, but a little extra time in some Yin poses tomorrow will suit me perfectly.

Yoga Challenge: Launching Week 2!

Going strong! I woke up this morning and I was hyped. Considering it had taken me 4 days to recover from my first strength training session, I was surprised that my body felt great so soon (2 days) after the second one. Still, I chose to be cautious and let one more day pass before another bodyweight workout. I wanted to do Yoga, but I wanted to be led for a change. So, I went over to YogaVibes, and picked two 60-minute classes for today.

In the morning, I warmed up with a slow vinyasa for 15′, then did a level 1 Iyengar class. Pretty basic stuff: Chair, Eagle, Tree, Triangle, Pyramid, Side Angle, Half Moon, Warrior II, Bridge, and some very juicy twists among others. Although there are times when I am eager to get out of a pose and move on to the next one, I must admit that I like this static kind of practice best. I guess the main reason why is that I am usually unable to follow a led vinyasa class, losing control of the breath about 10 minutes in, and feeling completely wiped after 20 minutes or so. Slow flows practiced at home are the only way that works for me, which means that if I want to do a recorded vinyasa class I like, I need to study the video/podcast, then do the poses at my own pace. A lot of homework is involved and, honestly, I’m not always up for it; so, I opt for less dynamic classes instead.

I did a Yin Yoga class in the evening. In general, we are taught to balance yin and yang, e.g. do Yin Yoga in the morning, as it’s a yang time of day. However, I’ve been feeling wound up tight late at night, even having trouble sleeping. So, I decided to do some Yin Yoga to balance this yang state of mind. I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the class I picked, but it was more a matter of personal preference rather than any lack of ability in the teacher. All the Yin Yoga classes I’ve come upon in YogaVibes (they’re not that many to be truthful) are taught in a fairly chatty manner, which I dislike – I like to practice Yin with as little said beyond instructions as possible. There was an interesting sequence, though, that I really appreciated: Baby Dragon to Winged Dragon, to Sleeping Swan. I thought I would start weeping at some point, but my hips were definitely looser coming out – afterwards, I managed to do Square pose with the legs stacked instead of crossed for the very first time! In addition, the practice worked its magic and as I write this my body feels utterly relaxed. I think I’ll be falling asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow tonight.

Yoga Challenge Week 1 Complete!!!

Woohoo! I can’t believe I’ve actually made it this far. I honestly doubted I’d be able to go on with this challenge by myself (hence the decision to blog about it) since every time I would schedule something, my well-laid plans tended to come apart at the seams. This hasn’t been the case with Yoga so far because, basically, there is no structure to my practice – I simply listen to what my body needs each day, and pick what’s most appropriate to meet that need.

After yesterday’s bodyweight workout, I expected I’d be floored today, only it wasn’t nearly that bad. Other than my shoulder rehab exercises, which are progressing nicely, I did a Yin/Yang Yoga mash-up in the morning to do away with any remaining kinks. I used the following sequence:

  • Frog – Wide-legged Child’s Pose for 2′, then Full Frog for remaining 2′ – resting in Child’s Pose afterwards (coming out of Frog is one of the few instances when I feel more comfortable staying in this pose with the knees together, rather than spreading them to accommodate my belly)
  • Sphinx for 4′, resting in Child’s Pose afterwards
  • Half Butterfly for 4′ and Sleeping Swan for 4′, right side first, then left (I think I may have mentioned before that Swan is one of my favorite poses, especially since it helps me gauge and tackle hip imbalances), resting in Down Dog between sides
  • Baby Dragon for 2′ and Runner’s Lunge for 2′ (fairly yang poses, hence the shorter hold time), resting in Child’s Pose between sides
  • Reclining Twists for 4′ on each side

The session was quite a bit longer than the half-hour I usually allocate, but it felt so invigorating I didn’t really mind.

Later in the day, I did some foam rolling to aid recovery, not just for the hamstrings, but the entire leg this time, including quads, IT band, and calves.

Coming up next week, I’m thinking of making a habit out of daily Sun Salutations (at least three cycles per day), maybe after my morning Yin Yoga practice.

Yoga Challenge Day 6!

Wow! Almost one week in and going strong! A quickie update today since it’s already late and I need my beauty sleep ;p

Put in some strength training today (as I’ve mentioned before, I’m following Mark Lauren’s Body By You). The exercises were a tad more challenging than last time, but still doable. Rounded up the session with some Yoga poses for flexibility: Pyramid, Seated Forward Fold, low lunge, runner’s lunge, and I even felt adventurous enough to throw in Hanumanasana (or as close to it as I can get).

Later in the day, I did some foam rolling to help with recovery. Too late, I remembered something coach Greg Everett had said in Robb Wolf’s Paleo Solution podcast: he’d suggested foam rolling before strength training to prepare the muscles and ensure better recovery. I think I’ll try that next time.

Yoga Challenge Day 5!

Had a pretty sweet Yoga practice today. After warming up with some spinal stretches (Cat, etc.), I did a nice balance flow through Eagle, Warrior III, Triangle, and Half-Moon. The latter was particularly challenging – I just couldn’t seem to find my center. I finally decided to use a prop, pushing my foot against the wall for added stability. I followed up with a nice Vinyasa with Lunges flow, targeting both the hip flexors with low lunge and Crescent Moon, and the hamstrings with runner’s lunge. I finished with a few rounds of Moon Salutations; I really love this sequence and am considering writing a post on it.

Unfortunately, I had to forgo my afternoon workout due to a massive migraine that hit me out of nowhere (and I was actually well enough for a strength training session too :(). Although one of my goals for this 30-day challenge was to do 2 daily workouts, I don’t see skipping one of them today as a failure. I did manage to get some activity in, and I count that as a success. Besides, I see no reason to waste energy feeling disappointment or guilt for dropping a workout that I was simply unable to perform. How do you allow yourself to feel when you come up against such roadblocks?

Yoga Challenge Day 4!

I really didn’t feel like working out today. Isn’t the whole point of Yoga is listening to what our bodies are telling us (or occasionally screaming at us)? So, I focused on recovery through self-massage, but couldn’t help throwing in a few poses in the mix as well.

My hamstrings were still sore after Tuesday’s Good Mornings (I really need to work on my posterior chain), so I did some foam rolling that brought tears of relief to my eyes. DOMS in the chest area was all but gone, but I still did some rehab exercises for my shoulder as well as upper body pawanmuktasana.

I didn’t have anything specific planned when I sat down for Yoga this evening after another foam rolling session. I did some Yin Yoga ala Paul Grilley, namely 2 rounds (didn’t feel like going for more) of Caterpillar, Butterfly, and Half-Butterfly, staying 2-3 minutes in each pose (went with my gut rather than a timer).

I thought I’d be able to fit in 3 strength training sessions per week, but apparently my body can’t recover that fast yet. Hoping I’ll feel well enough to squeeze in another bodyweight workout tomorrow.

Yoga Challenge Day 3!

Just a quick update:

I was a bit sore today around the shoulders, and even more so in the hamstrings. So, instead of my usual Yin Yoga routine this morning, I opted for some foam rolling for the legs and some rehab exercises for the shoulders (my right one was injured last spring, but I am finally close to reestablishing painless range of motion).

My afternoon routine was just over half an hour long and was a bit of a mash-up to help release the hamstrings. I started out in Caterpillar, then spent almost ten minutes in Dragonfly (aka Straddle), staying for time in the right, left, and middle positions. After that, I settled in Baby Dragon for a minute, then spent another minute flowing with the breath between low lunge and runner’s lunge, before finally sinking into Dragon Splits (I use blocks under my pelvis, but that’s deep enough for me). I ended the “work” portion of the session with some reclined strap stretches for the outer hamstrings. I didn’t really feel like doing Shavasana and sitting in meditation, but I did it anyway – I’m OCD like that 😉