Book Reviews · Sat with Nat

Nat reads “Every Body Yoga” by Jessamyn Stanley

The cover of Every Body Yoga featuring the author in one of her trademark pretzel poses that are the envy of many.

I have been following Jessamyn Stanley on Facebook and Instagram for a while. I enjoy her candid posts about how she is feeling, pictures of her in yoga postures and other great photos.

My fangirl status definitely leveled up when I got to enjoy this great video 30 Minute Yoga Sequence for Total Beginners. Jessamyn starts off matter of factly talking about props and maybe you can’t afford blocks. It was the first yoga video that addressed material and financial issues that can affect many folks at different times. Plus, she has this kind, matter of fact delivery that really works for me. Regular readers of this blog know many contributors are fans of other youtube yoga instructors. I’ve tried them and really gave other folks a go but I never really felt that those videos & instructors were for me so I kept coming back to what I could find by Jessamyn.

I was checking out her website http://jessamynstanley.com/ when I realized she had published a book. Friends, I am late to the game as it was first published in 2017. I knew I wanted to financially support an athlete & instructor that brings a lot of joy and wisdom into my life. I highly recommend if you are benefiting from anyone’s content that has products or services to invest in them too 🙂

So the book arrived. It’s a softcover of 222 pages filled with beautiful photography, personal stories and Jessamyn’s take on the Eight-limbed path of yoga. Each chapter ends with a section called “Questions Asked by (Literally) Every Beginner Yoga Student” that resonated with me.

From an exercise/posture/asana perspective there are detailed instructions on 41 poses with accompanying photos of 4 models in addition to the author. Jessamyn reminds us that yoga instructors and practitioners are more diverse than the pop culture image of a thin, white, young woman. She focuses on our inner journey that postures help us get at.

Jessamyn also includes several flows based on what the reader might need and then recipes for combining flows for a longer practice. These are prefaced by personal stories that are both uniquely hers while tapping into those universal experiences of the full range of human emotion. It’s a powerful combination.

I appreciate her joyfulness in the pictures and her writing. Jessamyn addresses the tough stuff about modern yoga and calls us in to try.

She is also an impressive athlete that has achieved a mastery of many postures. The books tag line is “let go of fear, get on the mat, love your body”. That’s a pretty inviting and encouraging call to action.

This book was what I needed to re-energize my at home practice. I last blogged about my practice back in June and it went off the rails in August. I refocused on walking but I needed something to help get me back into a daily yoga practice. This book was just what I needed.

For details on how you can purchase a copy for yourself or someone you adore check out the details here.

I’m not gaining any compensation or benefit from this book review other than sharing my appreciation for a great instructor.

Have you read a book that helped you re-engage with your yoga practice or workout routine? Let me know!

Sat with Nat · walking

Walking Whatever the Weather

Recommended soundtracks:

Walk like an Egyptian by the Bangles

Walk like Thunder by Kimya Dawson

Walking on Sunshine by Katrina & The Waves

Walking on the Moon by The Police

It’s birthday-aversary-giving weekend at The Hobbit House. I’m off for a great haircut this morning to kick off my 46th year right. Last night my beloved and I got photos taken in celebration of 25 years of togetherness. The rest of the weekend will be a mix of food, fun, rest and enjoying the beautiful weather.

But friends, the weather is not always beautiful. In our part of Canada we are well into autumn with cooler temperatures and rain. Like. Way more rain than the summer.

It was an arid summer so in some ways I got lax about my outdoor clothing as it didn’t really matter but now it does.

I’ve got amazing cold weather gear that is functional, fits and I like the look of. I know I’ll put it to good use when the snow hits. But, thankfully, it’s not snowing yet.

It is cooler so I picked up a pair of Keen clogs as I stopped wearing my sandals. I love the arch support and fuzzy interior. They are like cute little sleeping bags for my toes.

Army green clogs with the Keen brand signature over the toe sole. My son’s fiancé said they look like her Oma’s gardening clogs. I took it as a compliment!

I’ve got a number of light jackets & sweaters that keep me comfy on my walks. But. Like. Rain gear. I need it if I’m going to keep my step count up in the coming months.

My average monthly step count for the past 12 months.

The bar graph shows me a few things. Winter has always reduced my step count. Mostly because I slow down in icy conditions and the time I have for walking is usually fixed. It’s also the weather, hours of daylight and motivation.

The thing I find the most interesting is that my average this year is 7,200. Last year it was around 9,000 steps. Partly this happened because I lost my walking commute but also our puppy, Lucy, could not go for longer walks and we couldn’t leave her alone for long.

That all changed in August as my partner and I re-evaluated our fitness/movement goals. He wanted to increase our daily step count and I was happy to oblige. It started small, adding 1 block to both our 15 minute and 30 minute routes. We then aimed for longer morning walks of 45 minutes to a hour. Our short walks became 20-30 minute walks and before we knew it we regularly got 14,000 steps in a day. It was easy when it’s daylight before and after work, dry and warm.

I’ve been good and soaked a couple times this month and I’m SO OVER IT. So for my birthday I’m picking up some rubber boots with neoprene uppers. No more wet feet!! The trick will be finding ones with good foot support.

I’ve noticed that thanks to the dog needing the walk it’s become non-negotiable. At a minimum we are out twice a day and it has been so helpful. Walking has grounded me in the here & now when my whole self wants to be anywhere but here. I’m grateful for that.

I’ve walked sad, tired, happy, lonely, angry and silly with Lucy & my beloved. It’s helped our bonds, our partnerships and my mental health. So I really need this to keep going, whatever the weather, so I can navigate those life things that I don’t have control over.

Do the changing seasons impact your movement/fitness goals? Does environmental stuff (weather, temperature, air quality) influence the activities you do? I’d love to hear your perspective. Maybe you want to blog about it!

dogs · Sat with Nat · walking

Nat on outsourcing motivation

Recommended Soundtrack: I wanna be your dog by The Stooges

I’m not great on making a training plan and sticking with it. When it comes to activity I’m more a go-along with whatever folks are up for. Yoga? Sure! Cycling? Yup! Walk? Uh-huh!

So when my beloved decided he wanted to up our step count when walking our dog, Lucy, I agreed. I offered that we could add 1 block to all our walks, short coffee break and our typical 30 minute morning, lunch & evening walks.

It totally worked. In August my average step count jumped from under 7,200 to 11,500. Partly this is because as Lucy gets older she can go on longer walks. The other part is my beloved’s joy in counting and metrics. He really loves hitting goals.

One night, after dinner and a glass of wine, he asked if we could go for another walk. He hadn’t hit 10,000 steps. I pointed out that 10,000 was an arbitrary goal. He laughed and shouted “Join me in meetng this arbitrary goal! Achievement is as meaningless as the goal BUT IT IS ALL WE HAVE!”

Of course he was being overly dramatic. Many times our common goals are based on best guesses and gut feels. I’m not much for tracking metrics or goals so I’ve happily handed over all of that to my partner. He’s a greyhound who needs a rabbit to chase.

The other being I’ve outsourced my motivation to is our resident gremlin, Lucy. She, like Gollum, both loves and hates our walks. She needs the movement but would rather do high intensity frisbee intervals than walk. But she’d rather walk than lay about.

Lucy, the wonder dog, sits attentively watching the photographer who may gift her with walksies or treats.

I find I don’t have the cognitive or emotional depth for self discipline but I can say “yes” to the asks for walks. Like the dog, I’m just along for the ride these days and I am 100% ok with surrendering to the process.

What do you do to stay motivated to keep moving?

fitness

Nat is loving living the leggings life!

Friends, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to work from home since late March. I’ve written about doing more yoga and walking my dog. One thing that working from home allows me is dressing for comfort. I love wearing leggings as they allow me to go from walking the dog to yoga to working seamlessly. I’m always dressed for the occasion!

I have had this one pair of capris length leggings for ages. I love working out in them as the waistband is comfy yet stays in place. And the print. Well. It’s a marvelous teal and black paisley.

These leggings are known as “Renegade” leggings. That’s the store where I bought them.

The fabric is tough and people often remark how beautiful and well made they are. I decided I needed more awesome leggings in my life so I found the business online https://pointsevenfive.ca

The business is owned & operated by an awesome roller derby player Sewciopath #0.75 She recently rebranded her business to her jersey number from her derby name. You can read more about that decision on her website.

I used to play roller derby, my moniker was Switch Hit Her. Fifteen years ago it seemed a witty play on words of my role as a blocker and being bisexual. My number was 3+ (threesome, ya. A little on the nose) It didn’t age very well. Were I to resume playing I’d need to change it. I love that Amanda chose to go in a new direction with her brand. The timing worked out great as I had been planning on telling folks how happy I am with 3 sets of leggings I purchased from her this year.

I’m not receiving any compensation or benefit for writing this review except to show appreciation for a great business that is size inclusive.

So here are the reasons I’m loving my 3 pairs of leggings.

1) Awesome prints. Check out this motherboard print!

Lucy the wonder dog power pumps my belly to get me to play.

2) Custom waist, inseam and size! I’m short and round so I like a longer waist to ensure my underwear don’t poke out the back of my pants and that the waistband doesn’t cut in. It also gives smoother lines. And the custom inseam/length allows me to pick a cut that ends at a flattering spot that is also super comfy. I need a 3X legging. That can be hard to find with other retailers but are simply part of the size range Point Seven Five offers.

3) cell phone pockets!

Black compression tights with a bisexual pride racing stripe with wonderfully deep cell phone pockets on both sides!

4) Choice of fabrics. I got terry leggings for yoga and compression tights for soccer and running. The cozy terry ones are also great in cooler weather. The compression fabrics help my stomach from hitting against my legs and supports the skin on my inner thighs and knees. No chaffing! And I feel fast. Zoom zoom!

5) Supporting a women owned business that makes durable, beautiful things that help folks in their fitness journey. I think that is pretty awesome.

I have to admit, I’m wearing my leggings all the time. Functional and the designs & colours make me so happy. If you think you’d like to order a pair be sure to visit https://pointsevenfive.ca and use promotion code FitFeminist. You will get 10% off and she knows you found out about her through our blog!

Have you found fitness wear you love lately? Tell me about it!

Sat with Nat · walking

Nat’s wrangling working, dog walking and not very many workouts.

Recommended Soundtrack: Handshakes by Metric

I’m in the very privileged position of being able to work from home. I do knowledge work in the financial sector and we were deemed essential during the confinement in response to COVID 19. My beloved is also able to work from home.

Our other family members studied from home in the spring but now have jobs outside the house. But. Like. Folks. 5 people at home working, studying and eating 24/7 has really ramped up the housework.

We’ve felt it in the frequency of dishes needing to be done, bathrooms that need a scrub down (those at work toilet breaks really decrease the usage of the home crapper) and general need to tidy & clean taking more and more time. Plus there’s something about just sitting around that lowers my tolerance for home chaos. So the need for housework to increase is, in part, due to a higher standard and also to everyone being home. It’s exhausting.

As a feminist household we strive for an equal distribution of chores. It falls short a lot with the emerging adults, so my partner and I are really feeling the stress. It’s a very busy time of year for his sales job and my leadership role. There just seems to be no time for much else.

Enter Lucy, our seven month old puppy. She’s a Texas Heeler. For those unfamiliar with this compact, energetic mix she’s a cross between 2 herding dogs: Australian Shepherd and Australian Cattle Dog. She’s 100% ball of energy.

Before confinement we had our kids helping a lot with her care but now they are working outside the home and we are home all the dang time.

Lucy wakes up most days at 5:30 am. Regular readers of this blog know I’m not a morning person. Lucy doesn’t seem to care. She gets a 30 minute walk before we sit down to work, a quick coffee break walk around 10 am. A lunchtime 20-30 minute walk. A pre-dinner and post dinner walk. Yup. That’s. Uh. 5. Five dog walks, mostly done with my partner. The kids help with some mornings. We appreciate it but can’t count on it.

All thirty pounds of Lucy posed in her best “we are going walking” face as she sits on the sidewalk.

Between longer working hours, more housework and dog walking there’s not a lot else happening for workouts. Sometimes I get a 20-40 minute yoga routine in. But that’s it.

I’m tired friends so I’ve decided to be gentle with myself. There’s a lot going on so when there are moments that I can get a nap or a visit in with a friend I’m taking it.

Lucy is very good at pacing herself. She rests, plays and stretches all the time. She doesn’t worry about having goals or living up to expectations. She’s enthusiastic about eating and being comfortable.

Lucy lies on her back flirting with a tiny treat before she devours it. Her pink belly with dark freckles is begging to be scratched.

Has your work/life balance shifted recently? How has that impacted your workouts?

Sat with Nat · yoga

It’s happening in increments: 12 weeks of at home yoga practice.

Recommended listening: The Nature of the Experiment by Tokyo Police Club

I’ve been keeping to an at home daily practice since mid-March. It’s likely that I’ve done more yoga in three months than I’ve done in my lifetime. I’ve put it squarely in my day where my morning commute was.

Just for Today

I hadn’t planned on a daily practice. I just started one morning to see if it would help ease some back and shoulder pain.

It’s ok to not be present

It’s not glamorous, just 20 – 30 minutes in the morning and sometimes again at night. I’ve learned that on days I’m just going through the motions it’s ok to be bored, distracted or mechanical because my body gets the benefits of movement regardless.

My block is my dear friend

I’ve learned how to make more use of my yoga block to support my body in different postures as well as an assist standing up or getting onto the ground. I also move it from one side to the other to keep track of repetitions of my warm up and Sun Salutations.

A yoga mat, a book and a block.

Everyday has its own speed

I’ve learned I like to set my own pace. Some days I’m slow and achy while other days the flow is fast and aerobic. By respecting how I’m feeling and what time I have available my practice can be squeezed into 10 minutes or expand over hours.

My practice space needs are modest & flexible

I’ve learned I need just 2” at the top and bottom of my mat and about 18” on either side.

I no longer need a quiet or isolated space. Noise from my family, neighbours doesn’t bother me. Rather it’s nice to hear everyone going about their day. I can practice anywhere I can throw my mat down. No fuss. No muss. No coconuts.

Incremental changes in my strength and flexibility

The shape of my postures is changing. I first noticed in Child’s pose my head began to touch the ground. Similarly sitting in a kneeling posture has become more comfortable as my shins and tops of my feet stretch out. I can keep my feet together in mountain pose.

My feet, pressed together on a yoga mat. My toes all nested in against each other as I try to balance.

I’m able to hold balance postures longer and with less prop assistance. The most surprising posture was toes and arms extended plank becoming available to me again after many years on needing my knees and elbows in plank.

Using tools

I like practicing at home as I can modify or use props to assist me that aren’t available at a studio. I find it freeing to be on my own, doing my own thing to the point of listening to guided practice feels intrusive and annoying.

Finding Control

I found that my daily practice has given me an inner locus of control. I used to rely on others to get me to the gym. I relied on massage and chiropractor to manage my aches & pains. Now it’s on me, my choice to do the exercises and benefit or not. My choice what I do and how I do it.

At a time when I feel so powerless this seems doable. I didn’t set out to craft a daily yoga practice or a 90 day run. I thought I’d just try to feel better.

“It’s the nature of my experiment that it’s happening in increments.”

Sat with Nat

Gardening, Dead Lifts & Squats

Recommended soundtrack: Love Grows (Where my Rosemary Goes)

Recommended equipment: Floppy/big brimmed hat, hardy gloves, sunscreen and knee pads.

While the weather is unseasonable cold & snowy (ew!) in London, Ontario today I’m still all about my garden. Lately I’ve been missing the gym so have been looking for ways to get more intense activity into my day.

I love gardening in our city lot, growing food & beauty.

A very close head shot of half my face, my new green & yellow earrings from Ms. Antone’s Beadwork that match the daffodils in bloom.

Since my yard is mostly perennials the arrival of Spring means a lot of tidying up of edges and removal of detritus. This year, instead of going about things willie-nillie I thought I’d try being more deliberate with the postures I assume as I work.

Turns out you can dead lift branches, a full wheelbarrow or a puppy!

I’m also doing deep squats while I weed. Standing forward bends, lunges, seated forward bends and more can be ways I do work in my garden.

I choose to use hand tools instead of power tools. It’s a small garden and it’s ok if it takes a bit longer to use a buck saw or hand clippers. Plus the upper body & grip strength help counteract all the poor ergonomics of computer work.

I’m thankful I’m able to spend more time in my garden and be deliberate about it. What is something you are choosing to do more of lately?

fun · play · Sat with Nat · yoga

What I’m learning from “preparing for” poses

Recommended soundtrack for this post: Where is my mind? by the Pixies

Recommended outfit: comfy yet clingy with a high Lycra content

Something I’ve committed to while I’m participating in physical distancing in response to the current pandemic is a daily yoga practice.

I dusted off my copy of Om Yoga by Cyndi Lee, an oldie but a goodie book published in 2002. The style of yoga is Hatha and there is a daily warm up flow as well as different sequences for each day of the week. The time it takes for each day’s practice, including warm up and relaxation/meditation is as short as 20 minutes and as long as half an hour.

My partner and I have laughed a bit as, over the years, postures that used to be easily accessible to us are now a stretch, a challenge and sometimes beyond reach. We both felt that acutely the first Saturday (which is a series of inversions).

***Side note, many studios and practitioners have stopped doing inversions as they can be difficult in a group setting. There is an increased risk of head & neck injury. So. You know, do the things you need to do to determine if inversions are for you!***

We were reviewing the sequence before our practice and noting what we needed to support our attempts at various inversions. We laughed as we muddled through the first Saturday flow. The next day I really felt the strength building in my neck, shoulders and particularly my triceps with only moderate success in even doing the “preparing for” postures.

If you haven’t heard that term, preparing postures are any posture you take in a flow that gets you from one recognized/named posture/asana to the next one. It can also be used to describe modified postures that help support your body and strengthen you as you work towards being ready for a posture you don’t currently find accessible.

Part of what struck me was how much fun we were having try to do headstands, shoulder stands, elbow stands and other stuff with your “feet in the air and your head on the ground.” (See soundtrack recommendation)

I remembered when I was a kid the thrill of that first summersault taken at a run. That first successful cartwheel where I learned to trust my body and the joy of handstand competitions at recess. We were playing then and now, enjoying the thrill of what our bodies can do.

But. I have to say it. My attempts at inversions is not graceful or photogenic but I think that is why they are fun. You can’t take life seriously when you are trying to cajole yourself into being upside down.

My elbows on the ground, rear in the air and my head is not touching the floor. Being near the wall gives me comfort as I prepare for forearm stand. Spoiler, I never get my feet off the ground but work on shifting my weight onto my forearms and walking my feet & back closer to the wall.
Preparing for headstand. Most of my weight is on my elbows. I really feel it in my triceps. About 10% of my weight is on my head. I slowly walk my feet towards my head.
Preparing for handstand. My shoulders are pressed against the wall as I shift my weight onto my hands. One leg kind of up in the air. Where is my mind?

So, as you can see, my preparing for poses are not the same thing as the actual pose. I may not ever be able to do a headstand. That’s not the point. The preparing for pose is the workout. It is what my body can do. It’s fun! It’s silly! It is also a great upper body and core strengthening set of exercises.

What I’m learning from these preparing for poses is that the process matters. What I can do now matters. It’s not a steady state, an end state, or a means to an end.

This resonates so much with my life right now. The physical distancing measures we are all taking in response to the pandemic are like “preparing for” postures. It’s not what life will always be like, it’s what life is like while we get ready for a new normal. We can’t do everything we are used to doing but what we can access right now is good too.

Kneeling at home on my mat after a humbling but fun attempt at inversions. I’m winded and smiling.
Sat with Nat · weight lifting

The Power of Positive Peer Pressure

I’m very lucky to have a workplace gym. I haven’t always made good use of it. Last fall when my regular workout buddy was no longer able to join me I made a new weight lifting routine. It sat on my workstation until a week into January.

That first week of January a laughing group of my colleagues passed by me on the way to the gym late in the afternoon. I smiled and chatted then was delighted when they invited me to join them.

It took a couple tries until I had all my gear at work and my calendar cleared. Six weeks later it’s a habit. Not everyone can make it every day but we block the time in our calendars and check in. It’s very positive.

Our goals are as diverse as our ages. I think we span 4 decades with the youngest in her thirties and at least one of us is 60. We are all women in leadership roles. Our workout styles & preferences are varied. Some of us prefer virtual classes. Others, like me, a weight lifting routine.

I really appreciate being part of the group, the camaraderie, sharing tips & tricks and seeing the skills and competences we have in the gym.

I find going to the gym very challenging. I don’t like the mirrors everywhere. I struggle to be a beginner…AGAIN. What I love is how this opt-in-supportive and positive peer pressure has helped me get to the gym 4-5 times a week. It’s feeling really good.

A picture of a red and white puppy with half dropping ears and her tongue sticking out

This photo is in no way related to the post but my new dogpanion Lucy is just too dang cute not to share.

Black Futures · Black Hustory · Black Present · Sat with Nat

Black History, Black Present and Black Futures

We’ve written about the triumphs and challenges of two prominent Black women athletes, Serena Williams and Caster Semenya, and how they challenge stereotypes, sexism and racism by their achievements.

As a white women who strives to be an ally it feels weird to write a post about Black History Month but I decided it would be worse to trudge on with my monthly post not doing anything at all.

It’s Black History Month, a time for celebration of the contributions Black folks have made, the present Black people create and the Black futures we’ve yet to see. I’ve gathered a few links I hope you will find interesting.

Black History

I’m thankful of K. Tempest Bradford’s fantastic Black History Month Challenge

“For February, I challenge you to read something by a Black person that isn’t *only* about pre-Civil War American slavery, the Civil War, or the Civil Rights Era. Bonus points if you can go the whole month without touching those subjects and still reading a bunch of stuff by Black folk.”

There is A LOT of Black History to cover outside of those periods. Black Women in sport have accomplished and contributed so many things.

30 New Books About Inspiring Women for Black HistoryMonth

https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/black-female-athletes-women-in-sports

Black Women in Sport JSTOR

https://olympic.ca/2019/02/14/black-athletes-who-made-olympic-sport-history-in-canada/

Black Present:

Building on the strong foundation of Black Women Athletes before them you can find out about the present during February as well.

36 Black Women Athletes You Need to Know

https://balletblack.co.uk/

https://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/bs-sp-morgan-state-black-female-athlete-study-20180625-story.html

Black Futures:

Be sure to also include amazing Afrofuturist readings this February, imaging the future and reimagining our history. There are a great number of Black Authors and Artists sharing a vision of what could be.

If you are a Black Woman, thank you for reading my post. If you are a women looking to be a better ally take direct action by:

  • Buying from Black business owners
  • Seeking out & buying Black authored cookbooks to support your nutrition
  • Follow and financially support Black yogis
  • Seek out information on Black women athletes

How are you participating in Black History Month?