Checking In: Yoga Challenge

It has been about 10 days since I completed my 30 Day Yoga Challenge. I’ve had a few people ask me how is my yoga going now? Have I kept it up?

The simple answer is, um, not so much. I did practice yesterday for 30 minutes (with a YogaDownload.com audio). Before that it had been a week. Now before you go thinking it was all for nothing, please hear my excuses reasons.

We went out of town last weekend, so I missed my regular classes at Yoga Central. Yes, I know they have yoga in Ventura and Santa Barbara, and yes, I’m always talking about my love of YogaDownload.com. Well, yes, but, we stayed at a Motel 6 for God’s sake (race announcer accommodations). No floor space, then we were on the go, then we were at our friends’ home, 30 miles east of Santa Barbara, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. At least I got some running in.

Then, last week, for basically two days in a row I was plagued with a migraine. The first day was the bad one, but the next day was no treat either, I felt dehydrated, tired, and out of sorts.

Wow, it’s raining excuses in here.

The main reason though, that I have given yoga a bit of a rest is that I needed to give my body a bit of a rest. I haven’t written about this yet, but it’s an injury that I now have to face up to and deal with. About three weeks ago I tweaked something in my shoulder (I think doing a shoulder press). While I have little or no pain, my arm has been going numb and tingly when I reach in certain positions. I have assumed that I have a pinched nerve.

Yoga Challenge

While yoga is good for my body in so many ways, and I haven’t had any additional problems either during or after class, I felt that the extra stress of certain yoga positions might be contraindicated. I thought that taking some time off might help my recovery.

Well, not much has changed in my week off. I’ve tried rest, ice, heat, massage, trigger point (self administered), all with no improvement. I’m going to have to bite the bullet and make a doctor’s appointment. In the meantime, since it bothers my arm much more to use my mouse than to practice yoga, I’ll probably add yoga back in on a limited basis, with special care paid to positioning and shoulder stress.

So, all the things I said in my wrap up post are still true. I just need to get through my injury to hold myself to it.

Have you dealt with a pinched nerve before? Any suggestions (besides that I should really see a doctor)?

Yoga Challenge: Complete!

Today was the 30th and final day of my Yoga Challenge. I managed to practice yoga for a minimum of 15 minutes every day during the challenge. Today I celebrated the last day by taking a 90 minute vinyasa class at Yoga Central, with Lisa, a new instructor who just completed her 200 hour teacher training. If today was any indication, she’s going to do just fine. Her class was tough, her instruction clear for the most part, and I loved her flow. She’s a great addition to the Yo C.

Yoga Central

Here are some random thoughts that I have about completing my yoga challenge:

Some days I didn’t want to practice, but I made myself, knowing that I only had to do 10 minutes. I always did more than that, and I was always so happy that I’d pushed myself to do it.

Sometimes yoga is hard. So is life.

Doing the best you can at something is all you can expect from yourself (or anybody else). You don’t have to be perfect to be successful, and it doesn’t matter what the person on the next mat is doing.

I got a hug from April when I told her it was day 30. It made my day.

Perhaps the biggest benefit has been learning to breathe. I use yoga breathing in stressful situations and it calms and centers me.

I love my yoga studio.

I also love the audio classes from YogaDownload.com. There are a huge variety of class styles, the instruction is clear and concise, and you also receive a pose guide. They have videos too, but I prefer listening to my class so I can focus on the movement without having to look at a screen.

Yoga at the gym varies wildly, depending on the instructor. Some stay on their mat, doing their own practice, while others actually teach.

In class today, I realized how strong I am getting. While I am limited by a bad knee, I can do most strength poses (I can even hover in chaturanga for a few breaths!)

yoga challenge

I wrote this haiku for a blogging assignment a few months back. I like it, so I’m re-posting it here:
I flow with Yoga
Muscles long, core strong, soul calm
Thanks, Chaturanga

I also realized that the flexibility poses are still challenging, although I have improved immensely. My back and hamstrings are tight, but my heels are getting closer to the ground in Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog).

Yoga Challenge

I love Bakasana (crow pose)! Today I held the pose for about 20 seconds (at least it seemed that long), my best ever. Yesterday was my first attempt at Parsva Bakasana (side crow pose). While I didn’t get my feet off the ground, I finally have an understanding of how to even get in the correct position for the pose. And that is huge!

My balance was already pretty good because I practice it frequently, but it has improved in the last month. At home I lay my yoga mat on top of the carpet, which adds an extra challenge to balance poses.

I was able to to a tripod headstand the other day without toppling over. I tried it again today in class and held it a little longer (I still need something behind me for security).

I don’t think I could ever do Bikram. I get too hot in a warm-ish room. I try to get to class early so I can grab a spot under the fans.

Savasana is the most important pose. I could qualify that, but I won’t. You can discuss below if you’d like.

I don’t use the Sanskrit names to show off, I just want to learn the correct terms. I’m a teacher and a student at heart and this is important to me.

My goal in doing this challenge was to bring yoga back into my life and to make it a regular part of my fitness program. I have done that over the last 30 days and I will continue to make yoga practice a priority. I have achieved so many benefits from this challenge and I don’t want to let that go. While I probably won’t continue to practice daily, I plan to do some yoga on most days of the week, even if it is just a few rounds of Surya Namaskar (sun salutations), or a relaxing restorative class. It is all good.

Namaste.

It’s Like Riding a Bike

Actually, it is riding a bike. I’m happy to say that I took a bike ride today, for the first time in a long time. When I wrote about my recent dedication to running last week, I stated that it had been at least two months. I was shocked when I checked my garmin today after my ride:

riding a bikeI hadn’t really planned to take a ride this morning (left up to me, my non-riding streak would probably be six months), but Alan wanted to ride and at the last minute I decided to join him. It had been so long that I felt like I’d forgotten my pre-ride routine, but I managed not to take too long to get dressed, prepare my fluids, eat a little breakfast, and air up my tires (they were flat from disuse!). I also put a little bit of charge on my garmin, which was totally dead.

proof

Proof!

After so long, I was a little afraid that I would feel awkward on my bike, reverting to beginner mode all over again, but I needn’t have worried. It was like, well, it was like riding a bike. It came right back, although I felt a little sore in the saddle after a relatively short ride.

proofIt was a beautiful day for a ride and I was so happy to be back out there. We got out early, so the weather was not too hot, and the sky was blue and cloudless. Gorgeous.

My goal was to ride for an hour, or about 15 miles. I ended up with 17.7 miles and an hour 20 minutes. That works for me. Now the goal is to stick with it.

proofEdit: It is now the following day, and I am very discouraged to say that after a couple months of relief it took just one ride on the bike and my back pain has returned with a vengeance. I don’t think I’ve blogged about my back spasms before (if I wrote about all my aches and pains this would be one whiny blog!), but my back has been giving me problems for over a year. We bought a new mattress about six months ago and I had high hopes, but the problems continued. The relief I’ve had recently I have kind of attributed to the yoga, but obviously the cycling is the problem. While that doesn’t mean I’m giving it up, I do need to think about what I’m going to do, maybe get refitted on my bike and see if that helps. For right now, it’s back to running, not a punishment by any means, although my short run this morning was punishing. I muddled through a short run with bike legs and a sore back, and now I sit with an ice pack looking at doing some restorative yoga instead of heading off to class.

Yoga Challenge Update

I have completed three weeks of my 30 day Yoga Challenge. Because of our early start, I was able to make the 9:00 all level Vinyasa class at Yoga Central. Studio owner April Jones teaches the Saturday morning class and it is my favorite. Her class is challenging, interesting fun, and did I say challenging? I sweat so much in class that my hair gets curly! Day 22 is complete, with a tough 90 minute Vinyasa flow.

Lily up dogLily, on the mat, showing the correct for form upward facing dog.

We went to dinner tonight with my son Nathan and his wife Sarah, who is expecting my grandchild in November. We went to PF Chang’s, which has vegan options for Alan and me. They brought their Pomeranian, Teddy, who got to spend the evening with his new cousins, Penny, Goldie, Sydney, Lily, and Olivia. They apparently had a great time and appeared to have bonded forever by the time we got home from dinner.

sarahIt’s a great weekend so far! How is your weekend going?

Tempeh Tacos. Vegan and Gluten Free

After writing up my recipe for Tempeh Burgers the other day, and talking about my new found love for tempeh, I decided to take it a step further and try something beyond “just a burger.” I decided to give tempeh tacos a try because I’ve never made them before and they just sounded good. As good a reason as any, I guess.

This recipe is so easy that it I can’t believe I never tried it before. Seriously, a half hour from start to finish, including prep time. I served my tacos with some refried black beans.

Tempeh-Tacos

Ingredients

1 package tempeh, crumbled. Note: For gluten free, check ingredients. Some tempeh is not gluten free.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped and divided
2 tablespoon tamari
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 cup water
corn tortillas
Taco Filling: lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, salsa, jalapenos, avocado, lime juice…

Preparation

Remove the tempeh from the package and crumble into small pieces.

Combine the cumin, coriander, chili powder, garlic powder, and onion powder.

Heat the oil over medium heat. Add half the onion (reserve the other half for taco filling), and cook until soft (about 5 minutes). Add the tempeh and cook for about two more minutes. Stir in the tamari and the spice mixture. Add about 1/4 cup of water. Cook until heated through, the water has evaporated, and the tempeh is slightly browned.

Heat your tortillas. Place a couple spoonfuls of tempeh on each tortilla. Top with the fillings of your choice.

Yoga Challenge Update

Day 11 is complete (my, this month is going quickly!). I did a half hour Yogadownload.com audio this morning. It was called Lunchtime Flow, but it was the only 30 minute audio that I had already downloaded. I skipped the run, because, what with all the time off over the weekend, I’ve run three out of the last four days. So, I gave my feet and knees a break and enjoyed a moderate 30 minutes of yoga.

Long Weekends, Running, Wind, Broken Fences,Cats & My Yoga Challenge

You may wonder what the six title items have to do with each other. Especially since the weekend is not yet half over. Read on.

I took an extra day off for Memorial weekend, Friday through Monday, four glorious days, something I don’t get to do during my busy season.  We don’t have any travel plans, and four days doesn’t really qualify as a stay-cation, so my plan was rest, relaxation, and fitness.

The rest and relaxation part is pretty obvious, so I’ll explain the fitness part. While it’s not like I don’t make time to workout during the week, it can be a challenge to go much beyond the basics. I can run two or three days a week, hit the gym for a weight workout twice, practice yoga a few times (except this month during my Yoga Challenge, when I am practicing every day). I was planning, with my extra time off, to run a little farther, take a bike ride for the first time in a long time, and go to yoga class all four days.

On Friday, I got up early because I wanted to take a run, then hit the 8:00 yoga class at Worlds. We are experiencing unseasonably cool weather here in the desert (after about two weeks of unseasonably hot weather), but still, it is nice to get the run finished in the cool of the morning. The predicted winds had not started, but the temperatures were in the 60s for my run. I kept it short, only four miles, because I wanted to get home, eat, and freshen up before heading to yoga.

I’ve been practicing yoga consistently since January. I’d had an on and off relationship with yoga before that, but I’ve come to love it. I had the good fortune, in my return, to practice at Yoga Central, with my friend April and her other instructors, all of whom are excellent teachers, and friendly and caring individuals. This, of course, is wonderful, but it has spoiled me. Taking yoga at the gym is not quite the same.

I arrived about 15 minutes early, and the instructor, Art, was already there, talking to some of his regular students. I actually guessed he was the teacher, because he didn’t greet me, but when he took his place at the front of the room, I knew I was right. I don’t know much about forms of yoga, but Art’s class consisted of a lot of work on the floor, no sun salutations, a lot of planks, and way too many hero’s poses. My knees do not like hero’s pose.

While I found Art’s class to be too easy, his instruction was pretty good. He gave breathing and alignment cues, although he remained in his position at the front of the room. His music was okay, traditional yoga music. I’ll go back, in a pinch, but it won’t be the highlight of my day.

When April told me that she would be taking Sunday’s off for now, I decided to go to her Saturday class. As I told her, I needed her to kick my butt. The plan was a morning run, then class at 9:00. Now here is where the wind comes in.

High winds had been predicted for the weekend, and other areas of California were already having problems. With gusts of up to 60 mph forecast, the wind was apparently the price we had to pay for our cool weather. But, through Friday morning, no wind! As the day went on though, they started to increase, and by bedtime, it was roaring outside. As I lay in bed, I could feel the house shake!

When Alan woke up, the first thing he did was look outside to check our fence. It had been a bit wobbly lately, and the gusts through the night were the final straw. This is what we woke up to:

With five dogs used to instant access through their doggie door, this was not good. Plans were changed. Instead of a run with Penny (my Dalmatian running partner), we took a short walk with all the dogs and assessed the situation. A trip to Lowe’s for lumber and concrete, a trip to Ace (later on) for wood screws, and I watched the time tick away as Alan and I first had to wait for the wind to calm down a bit, then set about on fence repair. By the time we set the post and added the concrete, it was too late for Yoga Central.

Instead, I hit World’s Gym again for their 10:30 class. The concrete had to set, didn’t it? Today’s instructor, Janice, arrived right at 10:30. She quickly started her music (again, okay, but traditional), set up her mat at the front of the room and began her class. Believe me when I tell you that there were virtually no breathing cues or alignment instruction or anything actually approaching teaching during this class. Janice did her workout, told us what to do, and that was about it.

Ironically, I enjoyed Janice’s class much more than Art’s. It was a more challenging, vinyasa flow style of yoga that I like. I kept reminding myself of my breathing and my alignment (even though I’m pretty new to yoga, I am an experienced group exercise instructor and personal trainer, remember), plus I had a mirror to check my positioning. I would worry, though, about anyone who was inexperienced or didn’t have the background that I do. As she led us into a plough pose near the end of class, without any cues about spinal alignment, I thought, “this is how people are injured in yoga.” Fortunately, all the students in my class survived.

(I know I’m a little harsh on the instructors, but remember, that while I don’t teach yoga, I am a group exercise instructor. I know what should be done to teach an interesting, varied level, and safe class. Janice’s class was so dangerous, simply because she was so oblivious, that I really feel I need to call her on it.)

By the time I got home, the concrete had set enough so that we could finish the fence. I say we, but my job was holding the slats in place. Alan did all the other work. Credit where it’s due. It took another hour or so, and we need to buy a few more slats, but for now, the fence is up and strong enough to withstand wind and dogs.

So, with the fence repaired, my plan for tomorrow is again, an early run with both Alan and Penny, followed by yoga at Yoga Central. April won’t be there, but I know that Kinsey, the instructor, will be fresh, original, fun, and most of all, safe.

Okay, we’re halfway through the long weekend (and most of the way through this long post). All that’s left from the title tease is Cats.

You may know that Alan, the dog and calf rescuer, is also a feral cat caretaker. He feeds, cares for, and gets medical attention for, including spaying and neutering when he can, the feral cats in our neighborhood. I took a few pictures today. Enjoy.

How’s your Memorial weekend going? Do you have any plans for Memorial Day?