fitness · yoga

A week of more yin, less yang

This week I’ve been in Tucson, Arizona on a work trip.  Two colleagues and I are developing a paper on discriminatory speech and weight concern trolling– e.g. when health care folks urge weight loss, saying “I only care about your health”.  And so on.  This is a prime entry point for fat shaming, and we’ve blogged a lot about it.

But that’s not what I’m here to tell you about today.  I’m here to spread the word on the joys of yin. Yin yoga, to be exact.  Or maybe yin in general.  I’m not sure, but hoping it becomes clear by the end of this post.

Starting at the beginning (of the week): I flew into Tucson from Boston on Monday night late, and woke up early Tuesday, jet lagged and not well slept. I had arranged for delivery of a rental road bike by 7:30am, so I could ride before it got beastly hot. However, the delivery folks had a problem, and I was wide awake and without bike.

Looking around online, I found a cute downtown Tucson storefront studio called Tucson Yoga.  They had a gentle Yin yoga class for 9am.  Perfect!  Even though I don’t really know what yin yoga is, it sounded relaxing and soothing for my jet-lagged self.

What is yin yoga? Here’s what one yoga website has to say about it:

Yin yoga is based on the Taoist concept of yin and yang, opposite and complementary principles in nature. Yin is the stable, unmoving, hidden aspect of things; yang is the changing, moving, revealing aspect. In the body, the relatively stiff connective tissues(tendons, ligaments, fascia) are yin, while the more mobile and pliable muscles and blood are yang.

A Yin yoga class usually consists of a series of long-held, passive floor poses that mainly work the lower part of the body – the hips, pelvis, inner thighs, lower spine. These areas are especially rich in connective tissues. The poses are held for up to five minutes, sometimes longer.

You might think, hmmm– I wonder if this is for me.  Well, here’s your answer:

Yin yoga is for you if you are tired and craving energy or you’re over-stimulated and have too much energy; if your mind is overactive or your energy levels erratic.

Right.  This means yin yoga is for everyone.  I was certainly in a slow-down mood that morning.  So I headed over to this lovely little studio, and walked in.

The storefront of Tucson Yoga, complete with serene sun and mountain mural.
The storefront of Tucson Yoga, complete with serene sun and mountain mural.

The place consisted of one long room, with a registration desk and IKEA cubbies for storing stuff at one end. We all got our mats, blocks, bolsters and blankets, and set up. I didn’t even realize it until my second yin yoga class this week, but this studio doesn’t have air conditioning!  They left the front and back doors open, and there was a very nice summer breeze.  That, along with ceiling fans, made the temperature perfect, even in July in Arizona.  Amazing.

Back to class: we started with a guided centering meditation, and then moved to various seated or lying-down poses.  We did some twists, some forward folds, some chest opening poses, and other non-demanding moves.  The difference was that we stayed in those positions for several minutes at a time. This deepened the feelings of stretching, and for me, allowed me to sink into the pose and really relax.  This pose below is my new favorite relaxing yoga position:

A person lying down on a mat with a block under their chest, and another under their head.
A person lying down on a mat with a block under their chest, and another under their head.

 

I could lie like that all day. But the class ended at 10:15, so I left, but not before buying a 5-class card. Which cost $28.  That’s less than $6 a class!  Did I step back into 1996 or something?  I had discovered not just yin, but heavily discounted yin. Woo hoo!

My main activity plans for this week were to cycle on the bike loop around Tucson, a more than 120-mile network of protected paths and roads with bike lanes. I did this in March with friends and really enjoyed it. However, there were more logistical snags with getting the bike, so I didn’t actually get around to balancing my yin with some yang-like cycling until Thursday.  And man, was it not fun!  I was miserable in the heat and humidity (the monsoons are here, so it’s in the upper 90s with high humidity and intermittent heavy rainstorms.).  I managed a bit more than an hour and called it quits.

Friday marked my full return to yin. The day started with a visit to a fancy Tucson resort where other friends were staying, so we could all float together down the lazy river pool.

A lazy river pool at a desert hotel, with trees and desert mountains in the background.
A lazy river pool at a desert hotel, with trees and desert mountains in the background.

Okay, maybe that’s technically not a yin activity, but it certainly felt yin-ish. And deliciously relaxing.

After lunch my friend Alice and I went to a restorative yin yoga class at Tucson Yoga.  It was very hot outside, but again breezy and refreshing in the studio.  This class was more intense, as we held poses for up to 5 minutes.  That doesn’t sound like long, but is when you are holding this pose:

A person seated with soles of the feet together, knees out, leaning forward, head on a yoga block, arms forward resting on the mat.
A person seated with soles of the feet together, knees out, leaning forward, head on a yoga block, arms forward resting on the mat.

We were encouraged to play with finding our edge– seeing what level of stress or discomfort we were experiencing, and decide before adjusting to create less or more stress.  I enjoyed having the time to experience changes in physical stress or tension in various parts of my body. I could then back off and create a sense of relaxation. Or, I could stay with a pose and the feeling would morph from tension to release and then relaxation.  Cool, huh?  I thought so.

I gave up on cycling in Tucson this week.  It was too darn hot, I couldn’t seem to get up early enough to manage it, and I was finding myself desiring more yin. So I’ve done some gentle swimming, easy walking, and am going to a yin restorative class Sunday afternoon following my morning hike in Sabino Canyon with Kay.  Even the hiking has felt more yinny, as Kay doesn’t mind going at my pace.

Monday I fly back to Boston to my yangy life of work, responsibilities, and cycling (which I adore). But it’s been nice to slow down the pace and focus inward for a bit. And I am going to incorporate more yin into my yoga and life schedule.  Maybe I can even take some yin bike rides.

What about you, dear readers?  What do you do when you want to slow down the pace of activity, life, self?  I’d love to hear some tips.

 

 

 

aging · fitness

Adventures in buying compression socks and confronting my own ageism

This summer finds me taking a few longer-haul flights, to and from the western part of the US.  Yes, this is not bad compared to European flights, or even longer, to Australia or Asia (where, for one trip, I logged 38 straight hours of travel door to door).

But these days, just getting on a plane and sitting in that cramped space for a couple of hours or longer is not just unpleasant, but also bad for my body.  My ankles get really swollen on flights of more than a few hours, and this week I’m nursing a vaguely injured foot/calf muscle that I pulled incidentally while moving through life.  Sigh.

I remembered that Sam had posted about wearing compression socks on a plane, and I thought– yes, that’s the solution!  And I hear that athletes wear them now, which means it’s okay for me to wear them, too… 🙂

A female relay runner with baton, wearing blue compression socks that match her shorts and top.
A female relay runner with baton, wearing blue compression socks that match her shorts and top.

Yeah, this is totally the vibe I’m going for (in my head).

Enter reality. I was pressed for time to buy the compression socks, so I didn’t go to a cool sporting goods store or order some really interesting colored or patterned socks for my upcoming flight. Instead I went to my local medical supply store, which is a 3-minute walk from my house.

When I walked in, I was confronted by, well, medical supplies. Adjustable hospital beds, portable toilets, canes, walkers, gadgets and devices of all sorts, and also a bevy of older customers, some of whom were there to try on and buy compression socks.

There are a lot of very good reasons to wear compression socks.  An upcoming long flight is just one of them.  There I was, in the presence of people with compelling medical reasons to buy the same thing I was buying. All I could think was:

Words saying Yeah that's not me

A salesperson approached me as soon as I walked in, and when I asked about compression socks, he pointed to a rack with beige and black color choices.  He said, “the ladies prefer beige ones because they look like knee highs”. My first thought was:

A woman with long brown hair, running in a field, with the words "just run away".
A woman with long brown hair, running in a field, with the words “just run away”.

Trying not to lose my cool, I asked about other colors. He looked puzzled, and then I said I was getting on a plane and wanted them for that.  Then he went, “oh”, and pointed toward the cash register. There, in 4 colors (blue, brown, charcoal and black– nothing cool, but I’ll take it), were the socks I was looking for.  They looked like this:

A package of compression socks, called "Flight socks".
A package of compression socks, called “Flight socks”.

Okay, maybe I won’t be able to imagine myself as a cool athlete, but at least this package tells me that these socks are for a practical purpose:  airline travel.  Buying them doesn’t challenge my views of myself as 1) not old (whatever that means to me); and 2) able-bodied (again, addressing my inchoate notion here). More on this in a sec.

I bought them (selecting the charcoal ones), put them on, and headed for the airport.  I was wearing long pants for flying to Tucson, AZ, so I could wear them in stealth mode.  You can see them here:

I can report that the compression socks helped.  My left ankle and calf are still a bit swollen, but it didn’t get much worse, and my other ankle didn’t swell.  Success!

What else I learned: I’ve got an ageism problem. In that store, I was seeing older people, in particular older people in search of devices to address medical and functional conditions, as something to be feared.  Also, I was seeing them as different from me.  I am not old (well, not very– 56 is the new… what? isn’t that silly?).  I am also able-bodied (although I mentioned my recent injury and worries about swelling joints and limbs while flying.  Hmmm– should I rethink all this?)

This whole experience has given me pause.  I see that fearing and distancing myself from aging and the needs/conditions/accoutrements that come with it is probably not the way to go. I don’t know if I’ll take to wearing my airline compression socks with a skirt, but maybe it’s ok.  I mean, they’re socks. Still, I would like some in pretty colors.

 

Pretty patterned compression socks (these are marketed to nurses, fyi).
Pretty patterned compression socks (these are marketed to nurses, fyi).

 

 

body image · fitness

Bathing beauty in form and function: an ocean of possibilities

Last week, Tracy posted here about her recent experience camping and swimming in hot weather. She saw kids splashing about, often just in bathing suit bottoms.  Many men were shirtless in the campground. However, some of the women there expressed embarrassment and shame about showing their bodies, so they wrapped up in towels as much as possible, often avoiding wearing a swimsuit at all.

We’ve written a lot about bathing suits, swimwear and the politics/psychology/marketing and general swarm of discordant messaging around them. See a couple of them below:

Bathing suit anxiety and why it’s so bad

Boobs and bathing suit shopping: my response to the whole “bikini body” thing

Tracy’s post provoked some really interesting conversation (check out the comments here) about the reasons and motivations behind why we choose the swim duds we choose. The issue of body shame and how it affects our clothing choices is a sensitive and personal one, and it touched a few nerves. What I realized from reading and participating in the discussion was this:

We all have complex and tender relationships with our bodies. And swimwear presents a double challenge for many of us:

  1. We have to choose swimwear that accommodates that tender relationship and lets us feel comfortable enough to present our bodies in public and participate in watery activity;
  2. We have to develop emotional tolerance for the ways our swimwear sends signals to others about us (sometimes with misleading information).

We post a lot about body positivity, body neutrality, body image, body shaming, etc. For me, the result of this continuing conversation is that one view certainly doesn’t fit all here.  We have the bodies we have, we have the emotional issues we have, and we have the preferences and motivations and interests we have. They’re all different.

However, I hope that, despite all these issues, it’s still possible for us to enjoy cannonballing into the pool, bodysurfing the waves, paddleboarding in that lake, or hanging out on the beach, enjoying sun and shade and breeze and sky.

Here are some of our thoughts about what we want to wear in water and why.  I also wanted to share some of our non-traditional options or preferences.

Cate/fieldpoppy:

The first thing to note is that I’m not really A Swimmer, so I tend not to have technical swim gear. At the same time, I have a very functional relationship with my swimgear — I pretty much swim to cool off in the summer or make sure I have a bathing suit when I’m traveling in case I want to take a dip in a pool. I prefer a sporty two piece that feels more like a sports bra and a bottom that covers my butt and has a draw string so that when I jump in, it doesn’t come off.

(That is, in places where it shouldn’t come off — when camping or in private, I prefer to swim naked). …. At the same time, I’m simultaneously Determined to Feel Comfortable being semi-clad in public, not always in the mood to keep the hair under control in the “bikini” area, and have had an experience with basal cell skin cancer on my face. So I tend to have layers that start with the sporty two piece and include a pair of shortish board shorts if I’m going to be hanging around for a long time, and maybe a white cotton long sleeved shirt that covers my shoulders and chest. I kind of look back longingly on the times when I felt comfortable on the beach in a real bikini (when I was in my 30s), but that’s more about my relationship with the sun than my relationship with my body.

I am also sort of Ostentatiously Comfortable running around in shorts and a sports bra. When running I often end up taking off my shirt and winding up in a sports bra, and the other day after a long hot ride, I whipped off my jersey and ran through a splashpad in my bike shorts and sports bra in full view of a number of adults who were totally covered up and constantly telling their kids not to splash them. I made the kids squirt me with their water cannons. I think I’m a different kind of adult.

Catherine:

I was thinking about the ways I like to feel in swimwear, namely skin covered but body shape exposed. I love tight speedo one pieces and I also liked the stinger suits (adult swimming onesies) for snorkeling in Australia. In fact, I’d wear one for ocean swimming, as I wouldn’t have to worry about sunscreen (just my face). I’ve always hated tankinis, as they ride up, which makes me feel frumpy and uncomfortable. Yes, I know—it’s also about my negative feelings about showing my belly.  Well, there it is…

Why do I like one-piece suits?   I think I feel sort of professional– like I’m a swimmer/athlete, even though I don’t swim a lot these days. It feels like it identifies me as an athlete in the way that wearing cycling kit does. I feel great in cycling kit, too, for the same reason.

Writing this post is making me rethink my position about two-piece suits; I feel self-conscious about showing a lot of skin and prominently displaying my breasts (albeit covered by a cute top).  But I can now imagine circumstances where it might be fun and freeing, so it’s worth exploring. I’m now on the hunt for a bikini that says me.

These are two of my favorite swimwear pics (from about 5 years ago, so I need to get going with more recent bathing suit shots!), in my blue reversible speedo one-piece.

 

Martha:

I have always found bathing suits really problematic. Mostly because they don’t fit properly. There’s also a lot of fuss and bother because there are expectations on how women should look in bathing suits. But five years ago I was interviewing a woman who runs a lingerie store and discovered that there are lots of new styles in bathing suits. She encouraged me to try on this one suit and I absolutely loved it. Since last summer I have been averaging at least one swim a week if not two when my schedule allows it. My thought now is that once you get past the assumptions that people will make about differently sized and different looking bodies that are female in a suit you can find something that will work for you in the way that you need it to.

Here’s a selfie that Martha took of her in her favorite swimsuit:

Selfie of Martha's greenish skirted v-neck swimsuit with a waistband; her foot is wearing a pink flip-flop.
Selfie of Martha’s greenish skirted v-neck swimsuit with a waistband; her foot is wearing a pink flip-flop.

Samantha:

It took me awhile to find the right sort of bathing suit, one that matches who I am. The bikinis I wear and prefer are athletic bikinis. And I think with my shoulders and leg muscles, the message they send is ‘I’m here to swim.’ Think athletic over aesthetic values, something I’ve blogged about here. Opting out of the bathing suit aesthetics has served me well but that’s not such an easy choice if you’re not someone who thinks of herself as an athlete.

These days I also wear skimpy hot tub bikinis. Think minimal coverage. But they’re for backyard use only. Just friends and family. I wouldn’t wear them to the beach though I’d comfortably go nude at a nude beach. But these days I’m also frantic and anxious about sun and skin damage. I had a friend of 15 years die in her early 40s with two kids under 5, from skin cancer. Lots of friends have had less serious skin cancer lesions removed. And a few years in Australia cemented the sun and skin cancer worry. Sunscreen is a back up thing. It’s not as effective as we think. The best plan is covering up and staying out of the sun.

Here are some pics of Samantha in swimwear:

Tracy:

What I look for in a swimsuit depends on what I’m looking for it for. I spend a lot of time on a sailboat and these days my swimsuit purchasing is mostly about what I can wear aboard. So I’ll get to that.

For lap swimming though, I like a simple one piece sport style suit with a racer back. My three most recent are plain suits that fit snugly and cost very little when I bought them at cost from my triathlon coach back when I did regular swim training. At that time (three years ago) I also really liked swimming in a wetsuit with my triathlon suit underneath. Wearing a wetsuit makes me move through the water in a way that feels sleek and fast. Mine is a full suit designed for swimming not diving. If you plan to get a wetsuit for swimming you absolutely need to get that kind. A diving wetsuit for scuba lacks the arm mobility for the kind of stroke you’ll do while swimming. Besides keeping me sleek in the water, the wetsuit is also great protection for lake swimming where there are weeds and fish and other things that freak me out. I’m not sure if they protect against jelly fish but they’re great for non-stinging creatures and plants.

Okay, for the boat. I’ve got at least ten bottoms and a bunch of bikini tops, two tankini tops and a one piece I never wear because it’s usually too hot. My favourite go-to bottoms right now are boy-shorts. I have two pairs — one black with white polka dots and the other plain blue. I wear them almost all the time on the boat. But I also have a few “Brazilian” bikinis. That’s the kind that are so skimpy they don’t even try covering your butt. They’re a bit too skimpy for some occasions (parents, for example) but good for a quick dive in and out, then off they come and the boy short comes back on. It’s functional and great for active living. I never have to pull at them or adjust them. My idea of successful clothing choice is something I can put on and stop thinking about. That extends to swimsuits.

I confess to feeling a bit self-conscious in a bikini top at the beginning of any time I spend on the boat. If there is one part of my body that I feel shame about (I’m doing my best not to write an angst-filled paragraph here) it’s my belly. Everything I actually believe rails against that and knows that it’s simply the old oppressive ideas of normative femininity combined with lingering body dysmorphia from my days of disordered eating and body obsession. So at the beginning I need to force myself. But I have tops that I really like and that fit well, and lots of them. And in a pinch, if I’m having a tough day where body acceptance eludes me, I go for the tankini top. On a positive note, I haven’t done that for some time AND I like my butt!

Final point: I am not opposed to tankini, one pieces, swim skirts, or anything that gives more coverage. Women can wear what they like. But if we wear these things out of body shame then there is work to do. That’s the main point I was making in my post the other day about body acceptance and camping.

Here are some swimwear pics of Tracy:

Natalie:

I’m posting here for her because she is, of course, way ahead of all of us, having already written two summers ago about her bikini body.  Read all about it here. And you can see more photos of Natalie in her newly purchased bikini below.

Christine:

My swimsuits tend to be largely functional. I have two suits, both are over 5 years old, one of them is a one piece and the other is a two piece but it essentially fits together like a one piece.

I don’t think I have owned a bikini since I was a little kid. It’s not a matter of self-consciousness, they just never had much appeal for me.

I did try to buy one a few years ago – just out of sheer stubbornness after I saw an article that explained why women my age *shouldn’t* wear them – but I didn’t like the lack of support. I hated the idea of spending my swimming time wondering if my top was slipping!

When I go swimming at ponds (if you are not in NL, you would probably call them lakes), I often keep a cotton skirt on when I go swimming – but that’s about not wanting to put on even more sunscreen rather than being concerned about how I look in my suit. (I view sunscreen as a necessary evil and I dress in layers to minimize having to apply more).

Readers:  what are your favorite swim wear ensembles? What do you love?  What do you hate?  Who knows, maybe someone is listening to us– you never know…

fitness · swimming

Beyond the one-piece/two-piece dilemma: swimsuit options we’re loving

Hi everyone– in the Northern Hemisphere it’s high summer, which means (among other things), fun in and around water. Swimming, sailing, paddleboarding, kayaking, body surfing, picnicking, splashing and frolicking– for me summer is all about the water.

Which gives rise to the eternal question:  what to wear?

These days, there’s a dizzying array of interesting types of swimwear.  We have soooo moved beyond the tank suit/bikini dichotomy, along with market restrictions on sizes and varieties. Some of our bloggers posted sites with really diverse options, so we thought we’d share them with y’all.

There are some fantastic options for those who want gender-neutral swimwear here.  A couple of my favs are below:

 

 

If you’re interested in bikini looks for all size women, check out this site; it features looks and links to sites selling glamorous and sexy and fun fatkini looks for larger sized women. Here are a few sneak peeks:

 

 

And then there’s the buttkini.  It’s exactly what you think– a two-piece that shows off the derriere in all its glory.  Check them out here (I don’t think Facebook lets us show these in a post, which is of course silly…)

Let me put in a plug for Beefcake swimwear, which has THE SUIT I want– the one on the left, called the ordinary. The one on the right is the dreamboat.  They’re current out of stock but may have more in July.

 

 

If you are looking for more coverage, there are suits out there for you.  Burkinis provide full head-to-toe coverage, and were invented by Aheda Zanetti, a Muslim Australian who wanted to design sports and swimwear for Muslim girls and women that were functional and also comported with their religious practices. You can read more about Aheda Zanetti here.  Now lots of companies make burkinis– here are a few pictures:

 

When I was in Australia a few years ago, I went snorkeling and diving off the Great Barrier Reef.  We were required to wear stinger suits, which are adult-sized onesies that look a bit like burkinis.  Some have a hood, and they even have hand coverings so to avoid being stung by the tiny but potentially deadly box jellyfish (also called stingers).

In addition to protecting you from death, the stinger suit has another advantage, which is that you don’t need to apply sunscreen (except a bit to your face).  Sunscreen has been shown to be destructive to coral reefs, so wearing a stinger suit is a twofer– good for you, and good for the ocean environment. I like the idea of wearing one for ocean swimming, as I get sunburned very easily and would feel more relaxed if I didn’t have to worry about reapplying sunscreen (except for my face, which is fine). Here’s a pic of me before diving in one:

Me in a blue stinger suit with a blue and yellow hood, before scuba diving.
Me in a blue stinger suit with a blue and yellow hood, before scuba diving.

I’ve since learned that there are many prettier ones than this one– the operator joked that we all looked like Teletubbies, which was pretty much correct. Here is a great example of stinger suits gone wild, as made by an Australian company:

A quartet of brightly patterned full body stinger suits with hoods: black and red animal print, pastel circular print, blue reptilian print, and purply geometric pattern.
A quartet of brightly patterned full body stinger suits with hoods: black and red animal print, pastel circular print, blue reptilian print, and purply geometric pattern.

No doubt I’ve missed some new styles of cool, beautiful, functional, funky or otherwise excellent swimwear.  So tell us, readers:  what do you like or not like in swimsuits?  Do any of these options look appealing to you? Tell us what you think.

 

fit at mid-life · fitness

40 years later, fat still is a feminist issue

40 years ago, way back in 1978, author and therapist Susie Orbach wrote the book “Fat is a Feminist Issue”. In it she derides a culture that promotes beauty as the primary contribution of women and imposes terrible burdens on them to achieve and maintain it. In a recent news essay about the book, Orbach says,

Fat Is A Feminist Issue talked about our lived experience: how preoccupied we could become with eating, not eating and avoiding fat. Emotionally schooled to see our value as both sexual beings for others and midwives to their desires, we found ourselves often depleted and empty, and caught up in a kind of compulsive giving. Eating became our source of soothing. We stopped our mouths with food, and I proposed we could learn to exchange food – when we weren’t hungry – for words.

Orbach doesn’t believe that the situation has gotten much better in 40 years. She cites the flourishing of cosmetic surgery, online pornography, and big pharma. All of them prey on children, young girls, post-partum women, and others, sending the message that their bodies need to conform to certain beauty standards, and that it is their job to do the beauty labor to achieve and maintain them.

This is all terrible and it’s not really news to our readers. But I think we have learned a thing or two in 40 years.

We’ve learned that eating is not always a woman’s response to inequality and oppression. It’s an activity that is nobody’s business but her own.

We’ve learned that weight stigmatization is a terrible effect of imposing beauty standards on women, and we can respond through acceptance– of our own bodies as they are, and of other people’s bodies.

In this blog, I’ve learned that women’s bodies are made to do just about anything. And that is worth celebrating and exploring.

Speaking of which, I thought I’d share pictures of some of us bloggers, then and now. I’ll go first.

And then there’s fieldpoppy/Cate, in 1978, and now.

And then there’s Christine. That’s her most recent TKD medal. Whoa.

Martha, in 1978 and now.

Natalie and her sister, in 1978 and now.

And then there’s Samantha. She’s with her best friend Leanne back in 1978, and now, in ceremonial work garb. Read more about Leanne and beauty pageants and photo shoots in Sam’s post here.

Here’s Susan from 1987 and now.

Hey readers, what have you learned about your bodies in 40 years (or 30, or 20, or 5?) We’d love to hear from you.

fitness · yoga

Good/bad yogi me? How about just yogi me?

I’ve been doing more yoga lately, which makes me very happy.  I like taking time out for focused and thoughtful movement, some of which is easier and some of which is harder for me.  I’m reminded of limits and also opportunities– there’s a modification of most yoga poses for lots of people, and I’ve gotten comfortable with not trying to kill myself to do something that I simply cannot do that day, these days, or ever.  Like this one– not happening:

A person (I think just one but am not entirely sure) with a head on the floor, leg(s?) behind head, arms behind back.
A person (I think just one but am not entirely sure) with a head on the floor, legs behind head, arms behind back.

One of my favs is this legs up the wall restorative pose, which I could do all day:

A woman in turquoise tights and a purple top lying down with her legs up and against a wall. She looks relaxed (probably because she is).
A woman in turquoise tights and a purple top lying down with her legs up and against a wall. She looks relaxed (probably because she is).

I love my local yoga studio, Artemis Yoga, which is near my house, beautiful inside, and filled with friendly and chill yoga aficionados of all sorts.  I’ve also been supplementing my classes with at-home yoga, using the Bad Yogi youtube videos.  Erin Motz is the Bad Yogi, and she has a veritable cornucopia of yoga video classes for every mood/method/body part that one might want to practice with on the mat. I did her 30-day yoga challenge last year, which included some undoable-by-me workouts; I just ignored them and did some other happier-for-me classes.  The videos are 10–20 minutes long, which is enough to make me feel good and also squeezable into my schedule. If I’m feeling the need for more, I just do another video. Bad Yogi yoga is explicit about welcoming everyone to yoga, demystifying the practice of yoga, and offering a variety of ways to enjoy what yoga has to offer.  This sounds great to me.

Yesterday I decided to check out the Bad Yogi website in more detail. I’m rather sorry I did, because I found that Bad Yogi has branched out into health and wellness and fitness and nutritional advice, replete with lots of messaging about how to be GOOD.

Bad Yogi advertisement for a Cleanse Kit, saying "be good, feel good".
Bad Yogi advertisement for a Cleanse Kit, saying “be good, feel good”.

Apparently, being good may sometimes involve cleansing, whatever that is (although I see an avocado graphic, and I like avocados). Excuse me, but what does cleansing have to do with yoga? What does cleansing have to do with being good? With feeling good?

Tracy wrote a great post on cleansing here (spoiler alert: four days of non-diary coconut ice cream may not be a great idea).

I get it that there’s a whole industry around “cleansing” (as opposed to actual cleansing, which to me means something to do with laundry), and I happily ignore it.  But I’m really disappointed that my online yoga friend Bad Yogi is promoting this.  And with the extra ka-pow message of “be good”. No.  No on so many fronts:

  • No to me being asked to be good– I can be how I choose.
  • No to me being asked to be good– I can be how I am.
  • No to identifying being good with doing some food deprivation regimen.
  • No to linking feeling good with being good (that’s way too much to untangle right now).
  • No to linking feeling good with eating particular food items (or abstaining from them).
  • No to making feeling good a goal (maybe that’s too high a bar sometimes).
  • No to more things I haven’t listed but would agree to if someone else told me.

Here’s where I am on yoga:  I’m there. Just there. I’m not good, I’m not bad, I’m just yoga-ing.

What about you, yogic readers: what’s your yoga about these days?  I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

fitness

What I’ve learned from 200 blog posts for Fit is a Feminist Issue

Hey y’all– it’s my blog post bicentennial! As I was idly poking around the Fit is a Feminist Issue site, I saw that I am reaching 200 posts as of today Woo-hoo!

Fireworks at night, saying 200!
Fireworks at night, saying 200!

I started blogging in August 2014. I wrote here about a long group ride I took in western Massachusetts– my pre-ride fears, my during-ride experiences, and after-ride glow and satisfaction. Since mid-2015, I’ve been blogging every Sunday and occasionally mid-week. Looking back, here are some things I’ve learned:

1. Even though I love physical activity, it provokes a bunch of fears and anxieties in me. I’ve written about them in great detail; here are a few:

2. I’ve learned that I am most definitely not alone in having these feelings. You, dear readers, have responded generously and frankly, sharing your own experiences, reassuring me that it gets better, and encouraging me to keep doing what I love on my own terms because that is just fine. Thank you so much for the solidarity and support.

3. I’ve found through writing and reading this blog that there are a lot of fun ways to move on land, sea, and air. There are a lot of fun ways to develop, maintain, increase and preserve strength, stamina, flexibility, endurance, and grace. Here are some activities I’ve tried and written about in the course of blogging here:

Update: I love ropes yoga and still do it when I can. I’ve downscaled my sea kayaking ambitions to paddling in calmer waters for now, but the ocean horizon still beckons. Scuba is expensive and logistically complicated, so it won’t be a regular part of my life, although I hope to continue it when I’m in parts of the world with turquoise warm water and brightly colored fishes. I’m glad I saw the Great Barrier Reef when I had the chance. Skate skiing is also probably not in the offing– I hope to use my regular xc skis in future (although who knows what weather will be like in the next few years).

Re the sit-rise test: the less said about it, the better. Can’t do it. At all. Hoping it doesn’t mean I’ll die very very soon… 🙂

4. Through reading other bloggers’ stories, writing my own, and hearing from readers, I’ve learned a lot about what my values and priorities are with respect to physical activity. I want to:

  • cycle for the rest of my life (yes, I’ll go recumbent if need be; we’ll see)
  • keep doing yoga, not worrying about taking beginner classes forever
  • find some ways to swim more– I love the water and feel great moving in it
  • accept that I like walking in nature but not up (or down) super-steep slopes
  • dance more (yeah, that pretty much says it)
  • do wacky semi-active things like mini golf and bowling more often (don’t mock– they are fun fun fun in groups)
  • try axe throwing

I’ll be adding to the list as time goes on.

5. Not all my experiences have been sunny and positive. For instance, I still don’t know whether eggs are good for us or bad for us.

Fake egg news? More on the eggs-good/eggs-bad controversy

The new US dietary guidelines, or: just tell me—are eggs good or bad this year?

6. One thing I do know: Food is neither good nor evil– this we’ve got covered at Fit is a Feminist Issue.

7. Another thing I know: I love this group of bloggers, readers, commenters. You are a source of great and deep joy to me. Thank you, and see you next week for blog post 201.

Me on my cross bike, dressed as a banana, before the Orchard cross costume ride.
Me on my cross bike, dressed as a banana, before the Orchard cross costume ride.