Feminist reflections on fitness, sport, and health
Author: Christine Hennebury
I'm a writer/storyteller/director/creativity & lifestory coach with a black belt in ITF Taekwon-do. I read voraciously and I write like my fingers are on fire.
I'm the founder and Chair of the Association for the Arts in Mount Pearl and I'm a former president of the St. John's Storytelling Festival.
I bake a mean chocolate chip cookie.
I’m a creative life coach so I spend a lot of time encouraging people to write and create on a regular basis so when they NEED to write or create, their skills are right there waiting for them.
And I spend a lot of time reminding people that they can ‘cross-pollinate’ – use skills from one area of their life to serve them in another. My most used example is about how learning Taekwondo made me a better writer.
Yet, somehow, it has escaped me until now that having a regular yoga practice would yoga more available to me when I needed it. And, it never occurred to me to bring my ‘keep up a writing habit’ approach over into exercise.
I’m not referring to the fact that the more often I do yoga, the “better” I get.
I mean that the more often I do yoga, the more likely I am to be able to call on it when I need it. AND the more likely I am to *think* of doing it.
Not just because it has become a habit, but because I have it in my mental toolkit. It now occurs to me to try yoga when I feel a certain way, and it occurs to me to pay more attention to how I am breathing.
So, even after only 17 days, I feel especially good about where yoga has taken me. Not just because my body feels good but because my brain likes this practice.
Even on my busiest day so far this month, the first time that I couldn’t fit yoga in the first little while after I woke up, my brain kept bumping it up to the top of my list.
And, I swear, this practice is helping my September slow down a bit.
The regulars in my Facebook yoga group have been doing marvellously all throughout the month, and I am really happy with the habit I am building.
I am so glad I decided to add yoga to my September. My days have actually felt LESS busy because I am starting off by doing something kind for myself.
I suspect that feeling stems from two things:
I like having a specific thing to do first thing in the morning, it gives my day immediate structure.
I have been maintaining that structure in two ways:
My mat has been a fixture in my living room since September 1 (a fact that Khalee fully approves of) so I have a visual reminder.
And, I ended up setting up a Facebook check-in group and we decided that I would put up a post every day to remind people to check-in.
My mat helps me to remember my plan and the need to do the check-in post helps me to stick to the plan. It’s the perfect combination!
I have, of course, selected a little weirdness for my check-in posts, an index card drawing of a monster with the day number next to them. So, I have the added bonus of doing something a little creative first thing, too.
But because it is a side-effect of the group post, it’s not ‘make art first thing,’ it’s ‘make a quick drawing for the post’ and it feels like a smaller task.
I can focus my yoga to address something I need in that moment – relaxed shoulders, some relaxation, some ease in my hips.
One day, I knew I had a lot of driving ahead of me so I did some hip work to prepare myself for the day ahead.
That just feels really great – addressing a concern right away. And I don’t have to carry that issue all through the day until I can get around to it.
Instead, I get to have a feeling of physical ease throughout the day. And there is no arguing with the benefit of that!
Shout-out to the September is for Yoga Group
As I mentioned above, I created a Facebook group to keep myself and Team Yoga on track for this month and we’re having a great time.
Lots of people have mentioned how the accountability is helping them remember to make a little time for themselves in the day. AND, we are all finding that even the tiniest bit of yoga is helping us to feel better already.
I know that I am feeling more relaxed over all and my hips feel mobile instead of tense.
That’s pretty much as close to an instant result as anyone could hope for.
The upheaval of September always makes it hard to take good care of myself.
This year it’s going to be especially tricky.
Not only am I getting back into my usual routine but I have one son starting high school and another starting university (so many new things to figure out!) I am in charge of an annual arts festival, I have a couple of writing contracts and I am preparing to teach an online course.
All of those things are marvellous but I know there is a great risk of me losing myself in the shuffle. So, I have been brainstorming ways to ensure that I can find time for my own well-being in the middle of the muddle.
Luckily, my dear friend Tracy came to the rescue this week – and she did it by accident!
In her good-bye post this week, amidst her lovely comments about me (<3 Tracy) she noted that I love a short-term challenge and that set me on the right path for a September plan!
It’s true, I do love a short term challenge – a set of activities and plans already in place for a week, ten days, a month, gives me a real feeling of contentment. Whether it is a fitness challenge, a writing challenge, or an art challenge, (hell, I have even done a house-organizing challenge) I find a real sense of purpose and satisfaction.
I don’t complete every single short-term challenge that I take on but I ALWAYS make progress (on my own terms) and that feels great.
I think that my enjoyment stems from the fact that the nature of a short-term challenge is really satisfying for my ADHD brain because:
I can see the end right from the starting line so it doesn’t bring up that feeling of ‘Ugh, I have to do this forever and I don’t even want to start.’
For a WHOLE MONTH, I am free from the agony of prioritizing in that one area of my life. Having my priorities clear in one area frees up some energy for prioritizing in others.
I have a pre-generated plan so I don’t have to make a daily decision about what activities to do to match the priorities in that area.
If I’m following someone else’s challenge, I usually have company (at least online) and some accountability.
So, oddly enough, with the impending chaos of September, I feel really happy and excited about adding one more thing to the maelstrom.
I’m going to challenge myself to do yoga every single day in September.
My plan is to do yoga for at least 7 minutes* every day as early as I possibly can** in my morning routine
I think this will make a good September challenge because I like getting up early, I like having a specific thing to do right away in the morning (a victory before my day really starts!) and I really love yoga and how yoga makes me feel.
And, I am going to use this challenge to help me work on a challenge I face due to my ADHD.
One of executive function issues is with task initiation. I have trouble getting started, no matter how much I *want* to do the thing I have planned.
Since I love yoga and I love a short-term challenge, I really WANT to do them so it removes some of the issues with task initiation. I’m going to experiment with a variety of factors and see what approach makes it easiest for me to do what I am setting out to do here.
For example: Will setting my yoga mat out in the morning make it easier for me to get started? If I use music during my practice, will starting the music cue me to be in the right mental space for yoga? Do I need to set a reminder on my phone or put a visual reminder downstairs?
I haven’t decided on the parameters of the task initiation experiment aspect of this but I have a whole week to figure that out!
Would you like to join me and challenge yourself to some yoga in September? You don’t have to decide to take it on for a whole month, you can join me for part of it. And your parameters don’t have to be exactly the same as mine. Let me know in the comments and we can figure out how to check in with one another.
Please wish me perseverance and watch for my follow-up posts in September!
I love to dance. I’m not great at choreography (I miss my cues – damn ADHD) but I love flailing about to some music. I’m always listening for the ‘jumpy part’ and I tend to caterwaul along to the music.
And the good thing about dancing by myself is that I don’t have to match anyone else’s movements so I’m not self-conscious – even though I am going to end up sharing the video.
I’m having a great time with this and I am so grateful to Leigh for starting the challenge.
Not only has it got me moving every day – and for me, getting started is always a challenge, once I’m moving I happily keep going, but there have been a lot of other benefits.
I’ve met a great group of fun people all with their own delightful dance styles and we’ve been encouraging each other.
I’ve heard all kinds of new music.
I’ve realized (or perhaps re-realized) that one of my obstacles to dance is that I have a limited dance ‘vocabulary’ – I don’t have a wide range of moves so I end up repeating myself. Repeating myself gets boring, and boring means I’ll stop. Sooooo, I have been inspired to seek out some new movements to learn.
Figuring out which song to dance to has added extra fun to my day (the dancing does that, too.)
I’m paying more attention to every song I hear – on TV, on the radio, or wherever – so I can decide if I want to dance to it. That also adds fun and a kind of presence to my day.
I was chatting with my friend Elaine (the Nia instructor) recently and I realized that I am starting to think of myself as a dancer rather than just someone who dances. I don’t mean that I will add it to my business card and I definitely won’t be hitting the stage but I am finding that dancing feels even more natural now that I am doing it every day.
When I listen to music, I’m thinking about how I could dance to it – what moves to include where, what parts of the song would lead to repeating or varying a movement. And I am seeking songs that let me express the feelings of that day through my movements. That’s pretty dancer-y, hey?
While I have always loved it, dancing has become a much bigger part of my life since June and I just love Leigh** for bringing this challenge into my life right now.
I wouldn’t have thought to do this on my own and I am having a grand time.
If you need a boost today, why not do your own flailing?
Here’s a song to get you started – Bif Naked’s ‘I Love Myself Today’
*Between this, hula hooping, and practicing TKD in my yard my neighbours have long since given up on me. 😉
**You can’t join in Leigh’s FB group at this point (she has deliberately kept the group to her friends only) but you can check out some of her dance videos on Instagram and get inspired by her joyful movement.
This is actually Day 7, of course, but the 7th day of the program is supposed to be a rest day.
I took my rest unexpectedly on Day 4 so I don’t know what to call today. I did the Day 6 exercises so make of that what you will.
I’m still feeling a bit off today, not dizzy per se but feeling like one wrong move could tip me into dizziness.
Luckily, the program for Day 6 is all stretches so I didn’t have to worry about quick movements or leaning too weirdly.*
The stretches were great.
I did a better butterfly stretch than I have ever done before.
There was a significant improvement in my wall splits and I had no issues with holding them for 90 seconds. (Usually the side of my knee starts hurting before a minute is up.)
Frog stretch felt marvellous AND purposeful.
I won’t go through every stretch but suffice it to say that they felt useful, it felt like they were doing their job. My hips and legs feel like I am taking good care of them. They feel pleasantly loose and very mobile.
Even though I faced some unexpected challenges, I give Samery Moras‘ How to Kick Higher program a thumbs up!
I don’t know if my kicks are any higher, I’m not even going to try to determine that until I get this dizziness figured out. I can’t do a really high kick without leaning over and that’s not worth it.
I don’t want to risk feeling as bad as I did on Tuesday for no reason!
But, as I said yesterday, my kicks are BETTER. I can feel that my form is better, that I am using my muscles more effectively, that my kicks are improving, no matter what height they are currently at.
And THAT, my friends, is a victory.
I will be incorporating a lot of the drills and stretches from this program into my regular workouts so I can keep improving.
*Leaning from side to side is the challenge here, leaning over frontwards doesn’t seem to be an issue.