fitness classes · yoga

Live music vs. live goats in yoga class: which is better?

Catherine on 6 ways live music is better than live goats in yoga class:

  1. Goats don’t have fingers, so they’re not adept at playing either keyboards or cello.
  2. Musicians don’t stand on your back during crocodile and plank pose.
  3. Musicians (for the most part) poop in private.
  4. Reproducing music for at-home yoga requires only a CD or mp3; reproducing goats for at-home yoga is a much bigger commitment.
  5. The kind of chanting goats do doesn’t conform to any Sanskrit texts I know of.
  6. Musicians might be bad but goats can be really baaaaaaaad…
The actual bass player who played for my yoga class (although this isn't my yoga class).
The actual bass player who played for my yoga class (although this isn’t my yoga class).

Sam on 6 ways live goats are better than live music in yoga class:

  1. Goats make me smile, especially when they stand on your back during child’s pose. Musicians don’t do that.
  2. Goat yoga feels less serious and more playful. Yoga with music might, for me, feel more like a performance.
  3. Baby goats are clumsy (like me!) and live music is usually rhythmic and orderly.
  4. You don’t get to feed the musicians bottles and tuck them into bed after yoga and the farm I do goat yoga at lets you do that with the goats.
  5. Goats provide excellent distractions when the poses are too hard.
  6. Goats sometimes nibble on your yoga clothes so everyone wears scruffy old clothes not pricey Lululemon matching outfits.
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#goatyoga

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Bottle feeding a baby goat

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So many goats

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health · injury · running · yoga

Yoga for what ails you

The idea of yoga as a strategy for managing what ails you is far from new. Before yoga was the trendy lifestyle package it has become today, I had B.K.S. Iyengar’s book, Yoga: the path to holistic health. It was an illustrated book that laid out sequences of asanas (poses) recommended for different health conditions. It addressed physical and mental health, with an entire section devoted to stress. Back then, there was no YouTube. As a student of Iyengar yoga, I attended one class a week with the goal (as was the goal for most followers of Iyengar) of developing a strong home practice.

On occasion, if I was experiencing particular issues, I might flip to the section of the book that recommended a practice for those issues. But mostly I didn’t really take seriously the idea of yoga as a go-to for dealing with specific mental or physical health issues.

Fast forward 20 years. On Sunday, when my outer knee started to bother me at about the 7K mark of my 12K run, I knew my IT band was the culprit. I hate icing, but I know ice is recommended for the first 24 hours of any injury or flare-up. Besides that, though, it seemed obvious to me that there must be a sequence of yoga postures that would stretch that tight IT band and provide me with relief.

And I was right. I did an internet search for “yoga for IT band” and up came articles and videos for preventive and therapeutic yoga for runners with IT band issues. I zeroed in on one from Do Yoga with Me, specifically titled as a stretch class for runners for the IT band. I set up my mat and hit play.

Though I wouldn’t call the instructor the most engaging yogi I’ve ever taken a class with, I did get a lot out of the sequence. It was a half an hour of basic yet effective yoga postures with holdings that took some effort yet weren’t too terribly long.

I’ve also had some great luck lately with a neck and shoulder sequence from Yoga with Adriene (whom I just love doing yoga with because she is good and yet not overly earnest). I happened upon it by chance sort of because Christine sent me the link by mistake, thinking it was a link to a much shorter session. I did it anyway (it’s only 18 minutes long) and of all the things I’ve done for my neck since I injured it in a car accident nine winters ago, it’s offered me the most release and relief. It’s also great for general neck and shoulder tension, the kind that kicks in when we spend too long at our desk working at the computer. Check it out:

With all of the online content available these days, it’s easy to find what you need if you need a yogic solution. I know that at some level, all yoga is therapeutic and that regular practice can keep the body in tune.

I also know it’s not a cure-all, but it sure does provide tried and true relief from mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual and has been known to do so for ages (literally for millenia).

Do you ever use yoga therapeutically to help you work through minor injuries, health issues, or other ailments? Do you have any particular internet sources that you’d like to recommend? If so, please chime in in the comments.

Namaste.

aging · fashion · self care · yoga

Mina’s Naked Yoga Toes

I’m in yoga looking at my naked toes. It’s not a pretty sight and distracts me from my breath, flow and alignment. Running has thickened several of the toenails, so wearing nail polish feels like a favour to anyone who has to look at my toes. The long-term, non-stop polish practice has yellowed the nails and left white deposits of I-don’t-know-what and, yes, aging is having its way. 

It’s the new year and for the second year in a row I’ve decided to give my toenails a breather, literally. I’ll leave the polish off my toes until it’s sandals season again. The first days of my naked toes depress me unreasonably. Last year was more traumatic than this year. I hadn’t bared my toenails for well over five years. Their gnarly nudity makes me feel like I’m accelerating down the cliché slope of letting myself go

Fortunately, after a few days of toe blues, I remember several important things. First, the whole concept of a woman letting herself go is sexist and obnoxious ageism, as this article in Flaunt points out (As I Am Now, So You Will Be: Your Ageism is Hypocrisy). Why would I turn that flawed idea against myself (or anyone else!)? Second, the reason I have so long to study my naked toes is because I’m in aerial yoga class. Instead of having a toe-vanity crisis, I should be high-fiving myself for getting to class. 

Closeup of legs and beautifully polished toes of woman on hammock doing aerial yoga

By the third yoga class of the year, my head clears and I’m able to notice that in fact my toes are happy and enjoying their toe-pranayama (that’s the cleansing yogic breathing). How do I know? Because they start to look better. And this year, being the second year, they are perking up faster. They will never be ready for their close-up and I don’t have a future as a foot model; still, their evident improvement makes me feel kind to my body and is a comforting reminder of my body’s capacity to repair itself.  

I’m not giving up polish on my toes. The sight of my toes’ shiny candy-tips jazzes me. They add zing to all my sandals and inspired me to breakdown and buy open toe ankle boots, which seemed like a ridiculous and impractical fashion, until I bought a pair and realized I could wear them long past sandals season and continue to enjoy the polished insouciance of my toes.  My favourite colour is a dark night sky blue with a tiny bit of twinkle. But that’s just my default, I enjoy the ritual of choosing a hue that suits my vision of the weeks I’ll be wearing the colour. I have a bit of a colour obsession—I choose yoga mats, blankets and aerial hammocks depending on my mood. The woman’s dark red yoga pants and polished toes in the picture above, paired with the dark grey yoga hammock, satisfy my appetite for colour harmony.

I also love a pedicure. My hardworking feet earn the pleasures of a pedicure with all the miles they run and hike and walk and bike and cross-country ski and get wrapped up in yoga hammocks. 

After all, if we are going to ask our bodies to work hard for us, they deserve a reward, don’t they?

yoga

Sorry Dr. Seuss…

I will not will not with a snake, not with a joint, I won’t get baked.

I cannot cannot with a beer, just get that bottle out of here, not with a snake, not with goat, I can’t in the car but could on a boat.

It’s Yoga, you, I thank the sun. It’s Yoga, that’s it I’m done.

No, not even with you, cutie-pie

Inspired, in part, bythis story about snake yoga.

family · fat · feminism · Sat with Nat · yoga

Nat ponders being the crying woman in pigeon pose

I’m laying face down on my mat in Sleeping Pigeon with tears streaming down my face. I’ve been there for 3 minutes or so as the tendons unfurl in the heated yoga studio and I cry.

I’ve learned I carry tension about work in my neck and shoulders but worries and stress about my family are in my hips. I joke sometimes that my family is literally the pain in my ass.

I’m in a yin yoga class thanks to my friend & neighbour Kim. We visit on the walk to and from class. The Sunday afternoon routine has become our touch point and my moment to reflect on my wellbeing.

The slow pace of the 90 minute class promotes patience and acceptance. Pigeon is a challenge for my round body, it takes a couple minutes to find the right configuration of meaty thigh, Buddha belly and boobs and then the real work starts.

At first I feel a burning in my hip, a band of lava wraps around my socket then radiates out over my whole body. It’s very uncomfortable but rarely drifts into pain.

I breathe.

My mind wanders as the hip fibers unfurl and I come back, breathing, and watching my body react to the pose. The burning passes, like so many annoyances in my life, and the pleasant settling against the mat begins.

I breathe.

I start to get bored, more waves of heat and pressure move around my hips, glutes, hip flexors and thighs. Each release triggers thoughts and feelings about how I’m challenged in my roles as parent and partner. It has been a very rough go and each band of fibers releasing brings those tensions top of mind.

I breathe.

The tears well up as I imagine enduring through these tough times. Resilience hardens to resolve. Not the flippant, tied to a time of year resolution, but the grim determination of leaning in to my problems.

I breathe.

The time comes to leave the posture and I hesitate. Here, on the mat, in this vulnerability, no one is asking more, there are no other needs to fill, just me, my body, and my heartache.

I’m that fat middle aged woman who cries in Sleeping Pigeon now and I don’t see that stopping any time soon.

My partner recently went on a Vipasana meditation retreat and has shared many great tips on living in the moment and not avoiding the negative sensations in my body. I’m someone who has a complicated relationship with my physicality and my mental health. I often work out to care for both.

My feminism has grown to be a place where I honour my body and don’t worry about my appearance. I work out in resistance to a world that tells me women my age should be invisible, wear loose clothes and not bother anyone.

In a small way, splayed out on a floor, in Lycra, taking up public space and crying are about being visible and existing for my own sake. I like to think other women are encouraged by my messy self and do things that work for them too.

My fitness activities aren’t a punishment or about achieving a specific appearance, they are for me and my well being alone.

I hope you are discovering and doing those activities that meet your needs this year too. It’s a selfie of Nat’s face with a wry smile and slightly messy, short brown hair. She happens to be at her desk at work and trying not to let that bum her out too much.

Sure, we can do this!
fitness · yoga

In Praise of Home Yoga Vids, pt. 2: Yoga with Kassandra and Bad Yogi

Today, blog readers, you’re getting not just one, but two posts on our favorite yoga YouTubers. Susan wrote this morning about Yoga with Adriene, and I’m here to promote a couple of other favorites of mine: Yoga with Kassandra and Bad Yogi. I’ve written about Bad Yogi (aka Erin Motz) in the past, and I admit that I made some critical comments. But no one’s perfect, and I’ve kept going back to Bad Yogi’s videos– several times a week, in fact. I’m here to give you my take on both of their yoga YouTube channels, and of course to solicit your feedback on your favorites– it’s a big YouTube Yoga world out there, so I’m sure there are lots of unearthed jewels to be found.

First, let’s meet Bad Yogi.

Erin Motz, aka Bad Yogi.
Erin Motz, aka Bad Yogi.

She is a very well established online presence, with both a website and a YouTube channel. This means there are loads of free videos to choose from– everything from beginner morning no-sweat yoga (one of my favs) to specific body part focused workouts, to how tos (how to do headstands, for instance). Bad Yogi also labels her workouts as beginner, intermediate, advanced.

What I really love about her approach to online yoga is that she’s lighthearted, with a gentle sense of humor. She conveys her love for yoga at the same time that she’s acknowledging how difficult/silly-looking/awkward some of the processes to get to the poses can be. She also laughs at herself when she misdirects us or says something that she later finds funny; this makes me feel like I’m in a real yoga class with a real person.

In her yoga for better sleep video, Bad Yogi directs us to put a yoga block underneath our sacrums to put legs up in the air. She says something like “put the block so it’s just above the butt crack… Uh, let’s just call it what it is… Put it above the butt so that” and then continues. This always makes me smile as I’m preparing for this relaxing inversion.

Another thing I love about Bad Yogi is that most of her free videos are short- they are generally 12–20 minutes long. I can do just one if I don’t have or want to spend much time, or I can string several of them together for a longer but targeted workout. I’ve done a yoga series of morning flow plus balance plus core plus forward bend, for instance, which was fun and exactly what I wanted. Being able to select from her very organized categories of videos really appeals to me.

One thing that doesn’t appeal to me about Bad Yogi is the non-yoga videos– those about life advice, nutrition, etc. But YMMV. I just ignore those.

Now let’s turn to a yogi of a very different stripe– Kassandra, of Yoga with Kassandra.

Kassandra, sitting in a chair, welcoming us to her YouTube channel.
Kassandra, sitting in a chair, welcoming us to her YouTube channel.

I discovered her this summer after discovering yin yoga in Arizona (apparently it’s been going on in other places as well for some time; Who knew?) Kassandra also offers a huge number of free videos with a variety of types of yoga practices. What do I like so much about Kassandra?

First, I like that she emphasizes yin yoga and yin yoga talk in her videos. What does this mean? Uh, I don’t really know, but she emphasizes awareness, calm, letting go of tension, etc. Also, she has a wide variety of yin yoga videos– different time lengths, different areas of the body to focus on, and even different astrological and chakra themes.

Yes, Kassandra is much more woo-woo than Bad Yogi or Yoga with Adriene. I’m not someone who embraces a lot of the spiritual or religious or metaphysical features of some yoga practices, but I enjoy stepping into her world for a bit, experiencing what she offers, and taking away what works for me. Last night I did her 75-minute chakra yin yoga class, and it was just what the doctor ordered after a long day of meetings and then an hour of pushing very hard in physical therapy. I literally laid back (or forward) and let my body go. Here we can see many ways we can use a yoga bolster.

5 ways to use a yoga bolster, by Kassandra.
5 ways to use a yoga bolster, by Kassandra.

You see what I’m getting at.

So, readers, do you have particular online yoga practitioners that you love? Do you have any experience with the ones we’ve talked about? What do you think? Let us know.

fitness · Martha's Musings · planning · swimming · training · weight loss · yoga

Strategic planning for the fit feminist

By MarthaFitat55

I work as a strategic planner as well as a communications strategist and trainer/facilitator. In the last few years, I have jotted down a series of goals as an informal strategic plan for myself. This year I decided to take a couple of days to be more structured about how I plan as I want to achieve some specific things by 2020. (As a side note, there isn’t anything really special about that date for me lifewise, but I like round numbers and that one appeals to me.)

I have five categories in my plan: work, home, family, relationships, and fitness. This isn’t a priority listing. My plan is a series of circles, and these overlap and separate over time.

When I first began working on fitness as a goal to get me to 55, it was pretty simple: I wanted to show up. Five years later, I still show up, but I have refined my approach somewhat. In past years, I have added learning how to do pull ups, how to get up from and get down to the floor, and increasing the weight on the bar for deadlifts, squats and bench. I also wanted to mix things up so I added swimming and yoga to the mix. The past six months have been busier than I expected with work and family commitments, and more times than I liked, fitness fell by the wayside.

Thus the need for a more focused approach, because I know when my life gets busy, the time I set for fitness can get chewed up by other Imporant Things.

I decided to apply the questions I use when I help organizations develop their own strategic plans. I ask three questions to get started: why do you want to do this? what will you achieve? and how will you make it happen? I then ask two supplementary questions: when will this happen and where?

aaron-burden-123584-unsplash
Image shows a spiral-bound, lined notebook with a fountain pen resting on a blank page. Photo credit: Aaron Burden, Unsplash

My why is pretty clear: I want to be healthy and active for a long time. My what is also pretty straightforward: I want to be fit and active. The how is also known: I like weightlifting, I enjoy the flexibility of yoga, and swimming gives me a way to connect with my body differently than the weights or mat can offer. I’ll be identifying some key benchmarks in these objectives, because measurement is a way to keep me focused and accountable.

My biggest challenge is the “when” as there are many demands on my time. The drafting of a strategic life planning document gives me the opportunity to make certain promises to myself and those promises are getting plugged into my calendar so I have away to be accountable.

Over the coming months I’m going to track how my plan is working. What are you thinking about doing in 2019 to keep you on track with your fitness goals?