220 in 2020 · fitness · habits · health · motivation · rest · running · schedule · strength training · training · walking · yoga

220 in 2020: goal achieved, now what? Hint: keep going

image description: Tracy selfie. She’s smiling, wearing a Buff on her head and a workout tank, upper left arm tattoo of flower visible, home workout equipment (e.g. running shoes, cans of beans, chairs, blanket, bin with resistance bands, yoga mat on floor) in background.

A few of us have blogged about participating in “220 in 2020,” which is basically a group where you keep track of your workouts, with a goal of working out at least 220 times in 2020. Cate and Sam started talking about it back in 2017, when they did “217 in 2017.” It got Sam to think more explicitly and more expansively about what counts. And Cate has talked about the motivating power of this type of group and how it’s altered her relationship to working out. I jumped on board last year, with the 219 in 2019 group that spun off of the Fit Is a Feminist Issue Challenge group that Cate, Christine and I hosted for a few months in the fall of 2018.

Reflecting on “what counts” is not a new thing for me. Way back when Sam and I started the blog in 2012, I was already wondering what a workout actually is for me. I revisited that question when I joined the 219 in 2019 group. Then I concluded that “if these challenges are meant to get us moving, then whatever gets us moving counts.”

I just hit the goal of 220 workouts in 2020 on the weekend. It sort of snuck up on me. In fact, I didn’t even notice when I first posted it. It’s not something I “had my eye on” the way I did last year. I’ve even wondered whether it seems like a bit of an impossibility or something people view with skepticism.

Last year, using as my basic criterion “if it gets me moving then it counts,” I managed to get in the 219, with a few extra but not many. The vast majority of sessions I counted were either yoga classes, runs, or resistance training sessions. I had a sort of minimum time limit of about 20 minutes before I would count something as a workout. Yoga and personal training were always an hour. And most of my runs are at least 20 minutes and sometimes considerably longer.

By the time 2020, going on the momentum of 2019, I had successfully incorporated conscious movement into my routine every day. Sometimes, especially but not only while I was in Mexico in January and February, I would do something twice a day, like yoga and running, or yoga and a 10K walk. Starting with Adriene’s “Home” yoga challenge in January, I have actually done yoga almost every day since the beginning of the year. When I started to notice the numbers really racking up on my “count” in the 220 in 2020 group, I began to count two things in a day as one workout (like run+yoga OR walk+yoga) unless one of those things was super exerting or considerably longer than an hour). It’s almost as if I felt bad!

But the fact is, the goal of being able to record a new workout often did motivate me to get moving. And once I had yoga as part of my daily routine, I didn’t want to break that streak of daily yoga. But for me yoga alone is not enough — it counts, but I need to either run, walk, or do some resistance training as well.

Another woman in the 220 in 2020 group also hit her 220 on the weekend. And she asked me, “what now?” My first answer was “keep going.” Which is sort of obvious. I went on to wonder whether there is any reason to keep recording and reporting my workouts, though. The group has achieved its purpose for me — over the past 18 months of being part of a group like this I have integrated physical activity into my daily life in a way I hadn’t quite before. This is made easier this year by my sabbatical, so I am much freer than I usually am. For at least a few more months I get to set my own hours. That allowed me to kick into high gear in the fall, with hot yoga every day (oh, how I miss hot yoga! The pandemic has effectively taken that out of my life for the indefinite future). I made a smooth transition to Yoga with Adriene when I went to Mexico for the winter. That gave me a headstart on the transition to online everything that the pandemic has foisted upon us.

The running/walking + yoga combo was just starting to feel old when I discovered, through Cate, the online Superhero workouts with Alex in late April. That was just the thing I needed to add a new dimension of challenge to my fitness life. I had set resistance training and even running aside for awhile, having injured myself last spring and endured a very slow recovery. For me the perfect balance is a routine that includes yoga, resistance training, and running/walking. I don’t tend to take a day off, opting instead for active rest, combining a more restorative yoga practice with a walk.

This commitment to a routine that includes daily physical activity has also been amazing for my mental health. I have had a tough couple of years that culminated in the finalization of my divorce in early January. Sometimes it felt as if regular physical activity was the only thing I could commit to as part of a daily schedule.

When I stepped away from being a regular on the blog at the end of last summer, it was partly because I had very little left to say publicly about fitness. That still holds true, with the occasional blog post (I think I’ve blogged about 5 times since I “left”) and my daily progress tracking in the 220 in 2020 group being the extent of it. Once in awhile I feel compelled to make some social commentary (like my commentary on “the covid-19” weight-gain jokes, which aren’t funny).

As I hit my 220 target early, with almost half a year stretching out before me, I feel that it’s cemented what started when Sam and I embarked on our Fittest by 50 Challenge and started the blog in 2012. The big shift for me during our challenge was to a more internal and personal relationship with fitness. I realize full well, for example, that no one else really cares, nor should they, what I do. This isn’t to say I haven’t felt supported, encouraged, and motivated by the group. It isn’t to say either that I haven’t enjoyed watching the fitness lives of other members — their accomplishments, their routines, the adventurous and exciting things they do. It is to say that, in the end, I do this for myself. And I’ve experienced the benefits in my life.

So the answer to the question, “what now?” actually is, “keep going.” Not to accumulate a higher number (though I will, if I keep reporting in the group), but because it’s now a thing I do that is a positive part of my life. And recognizing that, it makes no sense to stop. I also think it’s pretty awesome, and I’m not going to worry if that makes me sound boasty or whatever, because sometimes I think we are not boasty enough. We minimize things we do that are actually awesome. And since (as noted above) no one else really cares, and since I definitely do care, well…it makes sense for me to regard reaching this fitness milestone about 5 1/2 months early as an actual achievement. [high-fiving myself now despite slight discomfort at what I just said, which discomfort highlights that I’ve internalized the message about how women shouldn’t be self-congratulatory about what they do even though I actually think we should]

So that’s my “challenge group” story for 2020. Do you have one? If so, let us know in the comments how that helps you (or, if you fly solo, why that works best for you).

dogs · yoga

#YogaWithCheddar

Yoga with Cheddar

I’m doing Yoga With Adriene’s June series, COURAGE.

Tonight we did her Power Yoga Break.

Apparently Cheddar is too.

I love how he follows along even doing Savasana with me at the end. Here’s Adriene by the way on Savasana or corpse pose.

With me working at home all the time Cheddar now accompanies me around the house. He’s in the background of all my Zoom calls. We go for walks when I get a break. But I think his favourite thing is yoga.

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.”

yoga

Join Sam for June? June is for COURAGE with Adriene

I enjoy yoga when I do it. I rarely regret it. But these days, like Cate, I’m finding it harder than usual to unroll my mat. I started out this strange time of staying at home with Yoga for Adriene. I think for June I’ll try it again.

Cheddar likes it too.

Join me.

June 2020 Yoga Calendar – COURAGE. Yoga With Adriene Free monthly Yoga calendar! If this is your first time joining us for a community theme, welcome! Each month, we come together as a community around a theme that inspires questions and guides intention for a regular and sustainable at home yoga practice.”

June 2020 Yoga Calendar – COURAGE | Yoga With Adriene

covid19 · fitness · yoga

My empty yoga mat

On January 1, I greeted this shiny new year with 108 sun salutations on the rooftop of a hotel in Singapore (remember hotels??). Then throughout January, along with half the people I know, I did the Yoga with Adriene (YWA) “Home” sequence, doing yoga almost every day for four weeks. And in the bigger picture, I’ve been doing yoga pretty regularly for 25 years. But since the start of the lockdown, I’ve only found my way to the mat about four times.

What gives? Why have I neglected something I know grounds me in every possible way, makes me feel more human, gives some ease to the physical and emotional knots I’ve found myself in?

It’s not that I haven’t been working out — I’ve done Alex’ virtual superhero workouts at four or five mornings a week, run 3 or 4 times a week, gone for long walks, jumped rope between meetings, perfected handstand shoulder taps and holding crow pose. But that moment where I get on the mat with just me and my body and my full, vulnerable self? I avoid, I distract myself, I wander away.

Last week, someone else posted in our 220 in 2020 community that yoga was making her sad, and every time she started doing a YWA, it made her cry. Others joined in, with their own stories of struggling with introspection and restlessness, especially during yoga. The overall portrait was that even among this community of people — even a yoga teacher! – – among people who value movement, self-knowledge, being in their bodies — right now, even as we are functioning reasonably well, more or less, in the bigger world or in our goals, those moments of truthful quiet, face to face with what’s really present? This can feel like too much.

What is it that’s too much? What am I avoiding?

(Pressing pause on writing this post to go do some yoga and see what I can find)

Okay, I’m back. I did a 20 minute YWA full body flow, the one that came into my inbox with Adriene’s weekly Sunday newsletter today. It was the perfect little flow — a few vinyasas, some lunge stretches, a little tree. I added a few twists, turned the side planks into full side plank with one leg lifted. Did my current party trick, crow. Added some pigeon at the end. What did I experience?

First, I found crinkly noises — in my neck and shoulders, in my knees — like the elastic giving out on a cheap, old pair of pyjamas. Tight shoulders, immobile hips, tight calves. And bruises — mostly on my elbow from where my new hammock hurled me out yesterday, but a few random ones on my legs. Stiff arthritic big toe, and raw skin on the bottom of that same toe, a silly little wound I acquired during that sun salutation fiesta in January and which has never really healed, since I’ve been in my house, barefoot, for the better part of two months. (There were actually spots of blood on my mat after my morning workout two weeks ago from my toe).

But more than bruises… I’m sore. I’m tight. I’m untended. I have all this big muscle strength — I’ve been doing pushups, handstands, wall walks, arm balances, loaded squats, I’ve been running up hills — but I haven’t been caring for my small muscles, the connections, the fascia. I can do crow — hard and focused — but I can’t get my foot all the way up my thigh in tree, because my hips are so tight.

What I have been doing

It’s barely a metaphor.

I think I’ve been avoiding yoga because it slows me down, and slowing down, I feel the wash of the all encompassing experience right now, and it’s … hard. It’s not impossible, but it’s hard. I’m grateful I have work, but doing group work online is a lot of slog without the reward of shared energy and excitement. I’m worried that cases of covid19 continue to spike in my province and our parks were too full of people yesterday (understandable, but worrying). I’m worried that the political system south of the border is so unstable. I’m sad about the suffering in so many parts of the world, including in Uganda where there are so many people I love. I’m fretful about uncertainty. I’m also moved and grateful and inspired and loved and caring, and all of those emotions take up just as much energy as the worrying.

What I should be doing

I have a lot of strength, and I’ve been leaning into it. Challenging myself with handstands and crow, to make sure I can keep the hard balance. But without looking too closely at the impact on my fascia, on my cells, on what’s underneath. I need to surrender, just a little.

Time to peek underneath and give those cells some breathing room. Time to slow down. Thanks again, yoga.

What about you? How are you doing with quiet, introspective practice?

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who is trying to notice what she needs.

fitness · yoga

Doing things during zoom yoga class that aren’t yoga

One of my favorite things about face-to-face yoga at my local studio is the feeling that I have arrived at my destination. Putting away my bag and phone in the locker, hanging up my jacket, and taking my mat into the room mark a transition from regular multitasking life to a single activity. Everything– from the calm spareness of the yoga studio to the quiet shufflings of my fellow practitioners, setting up their mats and props– all of this gives me permission to turn my full attention to being present on my mat, in my body, with my current thoughts and feelings and sensations.

But with Zoom yoga, there are no such cues. My destination is the living room, a place where I spend a lot of time doing a lot of different things. My mat is almost always set up (to make it easier for me to just do some yoga at any time), so I enter the zoom-yoga-space without any preamble, with no preparation. In general, I don’t even have to change my clothes, as just about everything I wear these days is yoga-compatible.

So can anyone blame me if I get distracted during Zoom yoga class and wander into something else? Let she who is without distraction cast the first stone…

Here’s a brief list of some things I’ve done during Zoom yoga classes that weren’t yoga:

6) Checked email– this is inexcusable, but also the problem with trying to squeeze in a noontime yoga class when I don’t really have the time or commitment;

5) Gave in and answered my mother’s 5th text with “Mom, I’m in Zoom yoga!”

4) Went into my bedroom and changed my shirt to one that wouldn’t fall over my head in downward facing dog (I hurried back, okay?);

3) Refreshed my beverage with more ice from the fridge;

2) Rebelled against Zoom-class mandated yoga poses in favor of ones more to my liking at the time;

and, number one:

1) Ordered pizza! (Honestly, it didn’t take me long, and it got delivered 5 minutes after yoga class– brilliant idea)

So readers, what are some of the things you’ve done during Zoom activity classes that aren’t that activity? Care to share? I’d love to hear about it.

covid19 · fitness · habits · yoga

Towards a new “routine”?

I don’t know about you, but two months into lockdown I feel like I’m starting to settle into the “new normal”. Getting up in the morning and “going to work” across the hallway doesn’t seem outlandishly strange anymore. People at my workplace are settling into automatically logging their intermittent visits to the office on our online building log without me chasing them, which pleases me no end (I’m responsible for coordinating our Corona measures at work). Even as we ease lockdown measures where I live, at least partially remote work will stay with us for another while, so it’s just as well.

Bettina’s current universe: a red yoga mat and her home office workstation

I’ve also started noticing a few things that are missing and rather than it feeling too much, I’m doing something about it. (I realise that I’m incredibly privileged to be in that headspace right now.) One of these things is a way to work out my arm muscles. In the before time – which to me right now means both before Corona and before pregnancy – I bouldered (stopped first because pregnant) and swam (stopped later because Corona) regularly. Now that I’m not doing either of those things, my poor arms are definitely noticing the lack of a challenge. That’s why I’ve started doing a bit of arms exercise with dumbbells almost daily. It’s not much, just some sets of biceps curls and some shoulder and triceps exercises, but it’s something. I won’t lie, I don’t enjoy it. I find it a bit boring. But I keep telling myself that I’ll have to carry a baby around soon and I’m reliably informed they are heavy, so I’d better prepare!

Last week, I’ve also started doing prenatal yoga every morning, except on the days I have my online Iyenga yoga class. This is more enjoyable than the dumbbells! I like getting into the movements as my body wakes up, and it’s very peaceful and quiet around me. I’m still trying to understand why it’s taken me this long to get into that routine, and my conclusion is it’s a mix of things both pandemic and pregnancy-related that has messed up my day-to-day.

Let’s see how long it lasts. The one thing both the Corona crisis and pregnancy have in common is that they evolve daily. Soon I’ll be too big to cycle, at some point I’ll have to stop running. But for now, I’m pleased I’ve found a groove.

How about you? Have you found a way of settling into things?

covid19 · fitness · online exercise · running · swimming · yoga

Exercising while pregnant: the second trimester (so far)

CW: discusses pregnancy

As I type this, I’m almost 21 weeks along, so this week the little bean and I successfully passed the halfway point of this pregnancy. The second trimester so far has been a steady improvement from the first in terms of how I’m feeling. The extreme tiredness and the not-too-bad-but-niggling nausea have gone away and I actually feel like doing things now. At the moment, I’m really enjoying my pregnancy. The little one is quite active and I get a lot of kicks, which is very cute. And I’m not so big yet that it’s becoming an issue.

At the same time, I’m facing new challenges: I’m definitely showing now, so I’ve had to invest in some maternity yoga pants (so comfy!), looser tops and sports bras in a larger size as my breasts have grown. There are definitely some yoga poses that are no longer comfortable. Running is slower and slower. Last Sunday, I went on the first longer bike ride (that wasn’t a commute) of the season and while my bike shorts still fit, I felt a bit like a sausage in my cycling kit. Unfortunately so far, I haven’t been able to find maternity cycling shorts, at least not from a European vendor (if I were to order something from the US now I’d worry about delivery times). I have, however, found a workaround for now: folding the front of the bike shorts down helps accommodate the bump a bit.

Bettina running down a hill in a blue flowy running top and black capris. You can’t really see the baby bump from the front but trust me, it’s there! (In the background, there’s another runner – she was doing hill reps and it was v impressive.)

And then of course, well, there’s the global pandemic that keeps us all from living our normal lives. I’m very privileged, so I won’t complain. But it’s having an impact. I miss swimming so much! Under different circumstances, I would have purchased a wetsuit and taken up open water swimming: in Germany, we are allowed to exercise outside, and that includes swimming in many lakes. But now that I’m pregnant, I’m not throwing my valuable Euros at a wetsuit that would fit me for all of a few weeks, or problably not at all, seeing as they’re not usually constructed to accommodate pregnant bodies. The first maternity clothing item I bought a couple of months ago – before the pools closed – was a swimsuit, and so far I haven’t used it even once. I really, really hope I’ll be able to return to the pool before the end of August, but I’m also trying not to get my hopes up.

I move a lot less than normal as I work from home, and I’m also finding that it’s really easy to become sedentary. Normally, I often go to my workouts directly from the office or as I’m out and about, so I don’t give myself the chance to sit down and get too cozy to work out. I find it harder to motivate myself these days, though when I do get out, I really enjoy it. So here’s what I’ve been doing:

  • Yoga. I have switched from Yoga with Adriene to prenatal yoga videos now. Even better though, I have a colleague who is training to be an Iyengar yoga teacher, and she is giving me and my work mates classes over video conference at lunchtime twice a week. She is very thoughtful and makes modifications for me. The classes are challenging but I really enjoy them. I’ve also started playing with the new Downdog pregnancy yoga app, which is currently free due to the Covid-19 situation, and am enjoying it so far.
  • Running. Slow and steady, I try to get out for my 6k loop a couple of times a week during times when the paths aren’t too busy.
  • Hiking. The weather has been glorious here (though I won’t lie, in my darker moments the fact that it hasn’t rained in three weeks and we are having nearly-25°C temperatures in mid-April gives me major anxiety about bringing a baby into this climate catastrophe). So my husband and I have been doing some hiking, again trying to avoid the crowds. Unfortunately, when there is nothing else to do, the sun is shining, and your government allows you to go outside, everyone else does the same thing. The woods are a busy place these days. Still, most people are responsible, keep their distance, and stick to immediate family as hiking partners.
  • Biking. I feel like this is going to be the next thing to go on account of my growing belly, so I’m trying to get as much as possible out of it while I still can. See the aforementioned sausage moment.
  • Other prenatal workouts. I’ve found some that I like on youtube, particularly this list by BodyFit by Amy. They’re varied (there’s a strength one, cardio, TRX…) and I can pick what I feel like on a given day, and they are also challenging. She gives different options depending on your pre-pregnancy fitness level and how far along you are, which is great.

So by and large, it’s going ok and I keep moving. But, have I mentioned how much I miss swimming?

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.
fitness · yoga

Life after everything is cancelled or online: the yoga continues

As I write this I’m at the end of Day 8 of self-isolation after coming home early from Mexico. I’d been there since January 1st, enjoying a wonderfully laid back routine and working on a new book… until I lost my concentration completely two and a half weeks ago. As with many, the rapid pace of change that the COVID19 pandemic has brought is hard to wrap my head around.

Image description: Casual head shot of Tracy, smiling, wearing a winter hat and black jacket, outside (in quarantine at her parents house) during the day, snowy background, Haliburton, Ontario.

Just three weeks ago I had breakfast with my parents at our favourite cafe, Chasite, in La Penita, a small Mexican town in the state of Nayarit. We had just come from the market (!!), an absolutely unthinkable outing today.

Image description: left to right, Tracy, her mother, her father, at an outdoor cafe table, all three wearing summer clothing and smiling, breakfast and coffee on the table.

Immediately after that breakfast my father called our travel agent (I will never again doubt the merits of using a travel agent) to ask her to book us an earlier flight home. She changed our April 4 flight out of Puerto Vallarta to March 18. The World Health Organization had declared the COVID19 a global pandemic just the day before we decided we would rather be home. The next day, Friday, March 13, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested that it was time for Canadians to come home. The next five days until we departed on March 18 were agonizingly long and, for me, full of anxiety. I couldn’t enjoy much. The only errands I ran after that were brief outings to get take-out food and some cleaning supplies for the trip home. Though toilet paper was in good supply in all the shops, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes were nowhere to be found.

With my ability to concentrate at nil, I maintained one solid routine that I’d established back in early December: daily yoga. At home, I was going to the yoga studio every day until I left for Mexico. But once I got there, I started January with Yoga with Adriene’s 30-day Home Practice (Cate put together a group post about that here).

I like the community of a yoga studio. And in fact there was an outdoor yoga very popular yoga studio right next door to where my parents were living in Mexico, just five minutes away from my place. But this time I decided that I wanted to keep it simple, reserving the mornings for short runs and, twice a week, for Spanish classes that I attended with my mother (so much fun!). Every day in January I did the Home practice. When that ended, I decided to stick with Adriene for February. And then March. And am I ever glad I did. It prepared me for what I didn’t know was coming. It prepared me for this.

By the time I got back to Canada, international travelers were strongly urged (not yet required but very strongly recommended) to self-quarantine for 14 days–the possible length of the COVID19 incubation period. So I went to my parents’ place with them instead of going home. We figured since we’d been traveling together, we could quarantine together. By then, everything in my life back in London, Ontario had been either cancelled or moved to an online format. Everything.

The only thing that has been seamless in my transition to this strange new world of physical distancing is my daily commitment to Yoga with Adriene. I just show up on the mat and do what she says to do. I started March with her Creativity playlist. But my creative spirit died at some point. So when Adriene announced instead a new playlist more responsive to this moment in human history, Yoga for Uncertain Times, I jumped into it. And it has given me some comfort. It’s got practices like “yoga for loneliness” and “yoga for change and drain” and “anchor in hope yoga practice.” These are mostly gentle practices, but not always. When it feels like not quite enough (because some sessions are short), I add something else (my old stand-by is Yoga for Neck and Shoulder Relief).

Many of my friends are lamenting at their lack of productivity right now. We feel as if, with this sudden freeing of the calendar, where everyone is working at home and all the theatre and dinners and coffee dates and gym classes are cancelled, we should be able to do all those things that we never have time to do. I said to someone the other day, “I feel accomplished if I do my daily yoga.” And I do. I’ve not been good for much else — well, maybe cooking.

And talking to friends whom I had so very eagerly looked forward to hugging and meeting for coffee. That will all have to wait. I read a powerful piece today called “A Letter to the UK from Italy: this is what we know about your future.” I feel as if this applies to all of us, not just the UK. Of course we all hope we will not experience what Italy is going through. Maybe we will take notice and succeed in flattening that curve so that our healthcare system is not crushed under the demand that a surge of COVID19 cases brings. In my view, we are at this stage: “You’ll have an unstoppable online social life – on Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom…”

It’s all feeling like a lot right now (I know I’m not alone).

But whatever happens, there will be daily online yoga.

Youtube link to the first session in the Yoga with Adriene “Yoga for Uncertain Times” Playlist: yoga for loneliness.

I’m open to trying to new online yoga, so if you have someone else to recommend besides Adriene, let me know about that in the comments.

Meanwhile, stay safe everyone. Stay home. Wash your hands. And reach out.

Image description: Beach sunset scene, sand, water, clouds at dusk, with two people walking by the water, and a post in the foreground (Guayabitos, Mexico).