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.

fitness

2019: Bring it on

Image description: head shot of Tracy, blue running cap covered with a paisley Buff, smiling, wearing earbuds, road and trees and overcast sky in background.

It’s a little bit late for a happy new year post but: Happy New Year. I am not one for resolutions, but I do absolutely love the exhilarating feeling of a fresh page. And that’s what the first week of a new year always feels like to me.

Even more than the first week after a birthday, there is a special sense of hope and optimism that I only experience once a year at the very beginning. So I’m kind of in that state of receptivity at the moment, excited to discover what the year may bring.

I ushered in the new year on a peaceful note, on my mat in a dimly lit yin yoga class that started at 11 p.m. and ended shortly after midnight when the thunderous sounds of “happy new year” fire works filtered into the silence of the studio to mark the end of class, the end of 2018, and the beginning of our new blank page. My good friend, Tara, was on the mat beside me, and we tilted our gazes towards each other and mouthed the words “happy new year.” Other friends–Jan, Jenn, and Kyle–had chosen a similarly quiet transition into 2019. It felt perfect.

By the time Tara, Jan and I ventured out into the night, the rain, which had been coming down with fury when we got to the studio just after ten, had stalled to a very light drizzle. It was an unseasonably mild evening and we walked back to Tara’s feeling light and happy, passing a few revelers on the way.

The next morning I lay in my bed deliberating whether to turn back over and go to sleep again, or to get out the door for a training run. Thinking on my fresh page, I reasoned that it would be better to start it with follow-through than with skipping. I’m a big believer in establishing good habits, and even though technically there is nothing dramatically different about January 1st, symbolically it sets a tone.

I reviewed my scheduled workout from the plan Linda sent me (I’m working with her again for my Around the Bay 30K training), checked the weather (a temperate 1 degree C), and got myself organized for an 8K run with hill repeats.

About ten steps into my run I knew for absolute certain that I’d made the right choice. I felt light, strong, and relaxed. I told myself I could shorten the distance if I wanted, but the 8K rolled out with ease. Even the hill repeats, which are never simple and which I’ve not done in ages, felt good. With just over a kilometre to go, my friend Pete, whom I’ve never run with, caught up to me at the tail end of his run. We ran alongside each other for about a kilometre and caught up about our respective new year’s eves. It felt like a nice bonus to have some unexpected, easy companionship for that last bit.

It was, all in all, the perfect start to my new year. I’m doing the 219 workouts in 2019 thing this year, focusing on running, yoga, and weight training. So far, I ran on the 1st, went to yoga on the 2nd, and have a weight training session later today. I’m feeling good about Around the Bay.

Life is not all workouts, of course. But if the workouts are any indication of how 2019 is going to feel, then “bring it on,” I say, because so far I’ve felt strong, relaxed, energized, and self-nurturing.

May 2019 be a year of amazing discovery and adventure for all of us!

How are you feeling about the fresh page that has presented itself this week?

aging · fitness

Listen to your body … when it whispers

Why does it all feel so HARD right now?  

I texted that to my business partner earlier this week, and from what I can see of the world around me right now, I’m not the only one feeling this way.

Last month I wrote about yin yoga, and how when I laid down in silence, I suddenly felt my body ache and tug at me. How had I not noticed that I was powering through my workouts and workdays so hard that I was actually physically hurting? At the end of that post, I wrote something about needing to slow down and listen to my body. A friend read the post and texted me “I think it’s unfinished — I think you are saying listen to your body when it whispers.”

She was right, and for the past month, I’ve been trying to really listen.  The yin class reminded me of how important it is to do the basic guided meditation thing of body scanning — what does your big toe feel like?  the front of your shin? — and even more, to scan what’s happening all over for me.

Physically, the scan turns up a lot of reasons for my bone weariness. I had a flu-cold thing, and am traveling for work a lot, and had a stretch of time where I didn’t have a day off from work for 22 days. And like Susan and Sam and pretty much everyone else in the known universe (except Tracy,!) I find the darkening days mean I just want to hole up in the blankies. In fact, I did just that last Sunday — tucked the kitten under my knees, made a bowl of popcorn and binged several episodes of Outlander without moving.

As I keep scanning, there’s another layer.  The work stuff that feels hard feels like one of those watershed moments — where I’ve reached a threshold of what I can do, and there are opportunities for deep learning. If I fight it, everything gets scratchy — and if I listen hard to what it’s teaching me, my work moves to the next level.

When I scan again, I also realize the obvious:  I’m having what is something like my 490th period of all time.  I started in October when I was 12. I’m 52 and have never had a baby.  At roughly 12+ periods a year for more than 40 years I have menstruated… well, probably more than 99.9% of the women in all of history.

I keep trying to act like this cycle of night sweats and frequent periods and surging PMS doesn’t phase me.  But it does.  I’m almost 53.  I’m tired.  It’s wearing.  And when I listen, I know that’s it’s part of why I feel so slow, so heavy, so constrained.  (And cranky.  Don’t forget cranky).

Right now, my body is just not supplying the boundless energy that makes my neighbour — a yoga teacher — shake her head and say “you work out more than anyone else I know.” I really don’t — but I’m usually pretty consistent. But in the past few weeks, I haven’t had a single vigour-ish workout that felt good — the few short runs I’ve managed to force myself into are plods, and I find myself slowing down in the middle of the weekly spin classes I’ve made it to. I renewed my membership at the Y in September and I’ve been exactly twice. Last week, I signed up — and paid for — two classes that I didn’t even go to. My body is telling me SOMETHING.

What am I hearing when I listen to the whispers? Slow down, move differently, listen to the invitation to learn something, make something new.

Slowly, I’ve started to accept that there is something about the current hormonal and cyclic flux of my body that craves vitamin B and sleep and rest and fresh air more than sweat and deep exertion. I heard a CBC podcast a couple of weeks ago about a Chinese tradition of “sitting the month” after giving birth — basically, giving yourself the space for your body to truly recover from birth, to transition to the next phase of your life.  I took that as another invitation to recognize that there is some kind of transition happening that I need to listen to.

Right now, I’m giving myself permission to do things that aren’t running and pushing myself hard, finding different ways to move, being open to things that feel like mystery. A few weeks ago, I spent 2 hours “ecstatic dancing,” moving my body in yoga clothes and my bare feet to an eclectic blend of music, ranging from bhangra to thrash to classical orchestral to tinkly sitar music. A week later, I went to a yin workshop for a friend’s birthday that included live music whose vibrations were intended to attune us to the vibrations in our bodies as we held deep connective poses.  Both of these things sound “flaky,” but they connected me to my body again.

Ten days ago, I embarked on a 21 day challenge with another friend, to each change one habit.  He’s limiting his sugar intake to one thing a day, and I am trying to shift my habit of mindlessly snacking after 8 pm.   Unless I’m eating out with people and we’re eating late, I ingest nothing but water or mint tea after 8 pm.  It seems simple, but the number of times I’ve almost put leftover dinner in my mouth when I’m cleaning up the kitchen, or felt the impulse to make popcorn or eat crackers and butter after 930 is… well, every day.  But I have adhered to it, and I feel better every morning.

Scanning and listening.

Last Saturday, I went to an all day meditation workshop with my cousin.  She lost her young son a year and a half ago and has been on her own transition journey of living with grief, creating her next self.  We spent a long time talking about what happens when you start to listen to what’s aching under the surface — in your soul and in your body. Most meditation practice teaches you how to be both present to and not pushed around by pain — sitting with it, it flows through you. When you don’t acknowledge pain — physical, fatigue, emotional — it persists until it breaks you.

I’m letting myself acknowledge fatigue, and the effects of darkness and hormones, and letting myself dwell in it.  Not to hide under the blankies, but to listen for what it’s offering, what the transitions are leading to.  And it feels right to nest in it.

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Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who lives and works in Toronto.  Cate blogs here the second Friday of every month.  And other times when she has something to say. 

 

fitness

Attempting Bathroom Yoga (Guest Post)

I just returned from a fantastic yoga retreat weekend at Camp Queen Elizabeth up in Ontario’s Georgian Bay. I have some lower back/hip flexor muscle tightness (as does virtually everyone who works in an office job), and the time that I spent for a full hour each morning stretching and sending out blessings to the universe gave me a happier body and mind for the rest of the day.

But Monday I awoke NOT meditating at dawn near still waters as I felt the sun rise, but with an alarm buzzing about the day’s meetings, a partner already halfway out the door, and two cats meowing in my face for breakfast.

I have many excuses that prevent me from practicing my ideal version of slow, quiet, and private morning yoga at home. My place is small, and exercise requires moving furniture around. Getting up an hour earlier means going to bed an hour earlier, thus sacrificing other treasured bedtime rituals. Some days there are youths loudly preparing for school in common living areas. Considering these factors, I’ve convinced myself that I don’t have the space and time for morning practice, leading me to deprioritize stretching and meditation as an “inconvenience” in my typical busy life.

(And of course, I am aware that this “typical busy life” is also one of privilege, in which as a middle-class white cis-woman I can ponder the “inconveniences” of stretching and meditation, and have the means to afford a yoga weekend, in the first place. I also recognize the complex issue of cultural appropriation of Eastern belief systems and practices. Though both worthy of discussion, neither are discussed further here.)

So, as I stood in my bathroom the day after yoga camp, trying to calculate how I could incorporate meditation and stretching into all of my busy-ness, in front of the mirror I started focusing on my breathing and rehearsing a few of qi gong I liked the most from my weekend.

While I certainly didn’t recreate the serenity of a yoga weekend, after a few minutes of intentional stretching and breathing I did feel looser and more energized. Then I thought—hey, the bathroom is the first place I go in the morning, and the bathroom is a quiet, private place where I won’t be bothered (not even by cats if I shut the door quickly).

So, I have posted on my vanity a note with a few simple Qi Gong and yoga-inspired stretches and breathing meditations. I shall attempt to practice some morning “bathroom yoga” to see if this is a small but valued shift that I can make in my life.

We’ve seen some good posts on this blog about family yoga, office yoga, and goat yoga. Where and how else can we practice stretching and meditation to fit it into our busy lives?

fitness · yoga

Family Yoga (Guest Post)

IMG_0787I’ve posted on this blog about discovering cycling after 60, taking up CrossFit, and the pleasure of knowing that I can still run – an activity that was my main exercise in my 50s. As you can probably tell I like to experiment with different types of movement.

Although I have done yoga from time to time throughout my life, it has always been for very brief periods and as something thrown in among other activities when it was convenient, which was hardly ever. In short, I have not been a practitioner of yoga. Still when my daughter, Sascha, finished her yoga teacher training and started teaching classes I wanted to support her and so I have added yoga into my weekly activities – just one class a week at first but now I’m planning to add more.

Why? Well, for one thing there are obvious physical benefits. The first couple of classes that I took were classes that she was teaching in the park in the early evening. I had done a vicious CrossFit workout in the morning of the first class and was dreading the soreness that usually follows such sessions. Although I was tired by late afternoon I managed to drag myself to the park for class motivated primarily by maternal affection. The hour provided a number of challenges – balances and stretches that felt fairly intense and not always comfortable – but at the end of class I felt fantastic, relaxed, and energized. I had forgotten that’s what yoga will do for you. But most surprising was that the next day I had almost no muscle soreness from the CrossFit. That was pretty amazing and it was the main reason I went back the following week.

Bird Park 4Another benefit was the class location. San Diego is a beautiful city and little Bird Park — a corner of Balboa Park — provides glimpses of downtown from an island of serenity. It is a lovely spot to be at the end of the day.

But the real treat for me has been the experience of learning from my daughter. This has been one of the unexpected pleasures of parenthood. We play the role of guide and teacher to our children for so long, it is truly lovely to reverse roles and surrender to being the student. I did not anticipate this part of my relationship with my children – perhaps because it is so hard to project beyond those busy days when they are babies, toddlers, and teenagers to a time when they will be adult selves with so much to offer. This new phase of our relationship feels like a gift.

She is a good teacher and I am getting better. And when you can see you are getting better at something it is encouraging and you want to do more. I anticipate that yoga will now be a regular part of fitness regimen. I doubt that I will be doing this anytime soon, but that’s all right. I am just happy to be able to continue to learn in so many different ways.

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Namaste!

Sharon Crasnow is a retired philosophy professor who writes on feminist philosophy of science and lives in San Diego.

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You can follow Sascha on Instagram at @phdyogi Her webpage is https://www.phdyogi.com/

fitness

Goat yoga! No longer can you go to yoga to escape the kids

What did you do Wednesday night? Whatever it was I bet it wasn’t as much fun as goat yoga.

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Tracy blogged about goat yoga last week but she wasn’t keen to go. Yoga, yes. But goats, no. But one of my sons is home from college and really excited about the idea of yoga with goats. So off we went.

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What did we like? It’s a really pretty setting in a big open barn. There were camping tarps spread over the barn floor and goat food sprinkled around the room. The yoga was easy going and familiar. Baby goats and their moms wandered around the room. It was very introvert friendly. People were more focused on the goats than on talking to strangers. And if you aren’t good at yoga there was no need at all to feel self conscious. There were extra staff wandering around with paper towel to wipe up any goat mishaps.

Here are some of the goats before yoga, just chilling out.

What worked? We’re both casual yoga students and we liked the class a lot. I spent time wondering why goat yoga is a thing, why it works so well. I think it’s because it’s so playful and lighthearted. Adults need that, a chance to play. We were told to take breaks and pet the goats and take pictures with them. So people tended to do yoga for awhile and then stop and have fun with goats. There were people of all ages and fitness levels there and the room had a relaxed vibe.

Here’s my son Gavin and a goat.

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What was tricky? If you are new to yoga, it would have been hard to follow. The instructor worked with the crowd and stuck to familiar yoga poses and flow sequences. If you’ve taken a yoga class at all, this is stuff you would have seen before. The goats really do wander around and nibble on things. I had one nibbling on my sock while I was in child’s pose. Gavin had a goat nibble on his finger. And a goat chewed on a woman’s shoe in the row in front of us.

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Here’s my “I’m not giving this baby goat back” face!

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I'm keeping this goat! #goatyoga

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There was also an alpaca at the farm.

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#goatyoga #alpaca

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On the way out, we stopped to look at the tree chickens.

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Tree chickens?

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Where: Full Circle Ranch,  44632 Mapleton Line, Central Elgin, Ontario

When: Wednesday evenings 7 pm

What: Yoga with goats!

 

fitness · running · yoga

Yoga for Runners?

yoga011 runnersWhen I first took up yoga sixteen years ago running was not a part of my world. In my view then, runners were always nursing injuries. We had a few runners in our yoga class, and I remember clearly when one of them asked a senior Iyengar instructor who had come to do an intensive workshop with us about running. The student was having some hamstring issues and wondered what she could do to address them. The senior teacher said, “Stop running.”

But now I love running, and I’ve reconnected with yoga. So when a promotion from my hot yoga studio showed up in my inbox advertising a “Yoga for Runners” workshop, I was on it faster than you can say, “warrior series, anyone?” I recruited Anita to attend the Saturday afternoon workshop with me.

It was one of those cold days in early spring, so a couple of hours in the hot room felt welcome.  We got there a bit early, with time to do my favourite thing–some minutes of quiet savasana (corpse pose, often spilling over into a nap) on the mat before class.

The session started with the instructor giving us an overview of his running history. For a young guy, he had quite a few marathons behind him already. He told a credible story about how yoga had helped him with his running, much of it having to do with mental focus.

My real curiosity was: what does yoga for runners actually look like? Is it any different from yoga for non-runners? We did some familiar poses: “runner’s lunge,” the warrior series, downward dog, pigeon. But in the end, and I’m not sure why I thought it would be otherwise, I didn’t learn anything new about yoga and its specific application to running.

That’s not to fault the workshop. If a runner who had never done yoga before attended the workshop, then it might have opened them up to a new way of conditioning the body, opening the hips, being present through discomfort, paying attention to your body, and so on.

There are all sorts of good reasons for runners to do yoga. It’s a popular topic on running blogs. For example: “Why Runners Should Do Yoga”; “25 yoga poses that will make you a better runner”; “How yoga can help your running”; and “The benefits and effects of yoga for runners.”

So it’s not as if yoga for runners is a new idea (despite what my senior Iyengar teacher had to say). The articles just cited list all sorts of benefits runners can gain through yoga:

  • reduce stress
  • ease pain
  • build strength and flexibility in the core, quads, and hip flexors
  • build tenacity and learn to manage uncomfortable emotions
  • reducing risk of repetitive strain by lengthening muscles that running tends to shorten over time
  • injury prevention
  • total body conditioning
  • boost mental acuity and body awareness
  • increase range of motion
  • improve balance and stablity
  • learn to practice conscious breathing

I don’t deny those benefits. And I felt great after the workshop.

But the idea of yoga specifically for runners is misleading. Yes, runners can get a lot out of yoga. Just about anyone can gain something from yoga. So if you’re a runner and you haven’t tried yoga, go for it. No need to wait for a special workshop.