Downward Facing Ow

My wrists have been really bugging me lately, and in looking for a yoga practice that takes weight off my hands/wrists, I found this article about why downward facing dog is bad.

Disclaimer: I am not a yoga teacher, nor do I think that my yoga teachers are wrong.  I’m not critiquing them (or any of my past instructors) in any way, and I’m certainly not trying to tell them what to do.  I’m just saying that downward facing dog is my least favorite pose, and the one that I’ve never felt comfortable in. It ALWAYS makes me feel like my wrists are about to break and that circulation is getting cut off in my hands.  My increased upper body strength has helped me shift my weight during this pose, but some days DFD just doesn’t happen for me.  This article about why my wrists hurt during DFD helped me focus on a few things to begin correcting it, but spending more than a few moments each day in this pose is not something I look forward to.  (Which is funny, considering that pigeon pose is one of my favorite ways to open up.)

In a recent class focusing on healthy backs, I learned about the joy of getting hauled up by your hips using two straps, and the immediate relief of stress in my hands, wrists, and lower back was epic.  For a brief moment it reminded me of how someday I will do aerial yoga, but then I sunk back into the relaxation of my hands not hurting.
 
The thing with downward facing dog (DFD), sometimes called Adho Mukha Svanasana, sometimes called down dog, sometimes called ugh, is that there are many tiny adjustments you can make to build strength and gain comfort, but also to learn the pose better.  I can’t find the reference right now, but I once read that when you feel totally comfortable in DFD, you’re able to begin practicing it.

I want to have a better time in DFD – it’s a major part of a sequence for so many other enjoyable poses, and it makes me feel strong.  But man, it is ROUGH.  (I almost said ‘ruff’. You’re welcome.)

There’s an interesting comment on the article I mentioned earlier that has a type of checklist to prepare you for downward facing dog.  To summarize in what appears to be order of difficulty:
– Can you hold a forearm plank for 50 seconds?
– In pushup position, can you lift a hand from the floor without twisting or flexing your trunk?
– Can you do 3 pushups with your feet on a higher surface than your hands?
– While standing, can you lift a knee toward your belly without flexing your lower back?

 

So many poses, so little time.  I’m curious as to how others feel about this pose, and how they’ve adjusted their practice to accommodate or remove it.

Meanwhile, the animal kingdom continues to kick our butts.

Photo Credit: Ben Grantham/Thinkstock

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Counting to 5

Today I had to go to the dentist. It was less than pleasant, but much needed.

You know how the chairs kick back and you’re fairly comfortable, except for the part where they dig around in your mouth with sharp objects? Let’s just say that for about an hour and a half, it was me, reclining bound angle pose, and counting. If you temple your fingers and carefully touch the tips together, mentally counting each one in one long exhale – 1/2/3/4/5 complete exhale ~ inhale, hold ~ 1/2/3/4/5 complete exhale, the time passes very quickly.

Excluding a small panic attack and some uh, more than mild discomfort, yoga helped. An instructor once mentioned during savasana that if you are keeping the soles of your feet together (like in the bound angle pose above), the energy recirculates in your body. I don’t know how true that is, but it works for me, and that’s what counts.

Anyway.

My mouth hurts, but feels much cleaner. That has to count for something. This week’s goal: find a new dentist, get off the medication. I’m drained from all of the antibiotics and whatnot I’ve been taking for the past two weeks (but at least the general feeling of sickness and nausea is gone). My clarity …isn’t. I’m not drowsy, I’m exhausted.

Tomorrow’s goal is to either go to yoga class or walk on the beach in the morning. Most likely opting for a walk, as the Tuesday night class is a little more strenuous than I’m quite ready for.

Slowly but surely, I will be back. There are miles to go before I sleep.

Feeling a smidgen better today. Have spent the majority of the day only mildly nauseous, though if I move too quickly things start to spin. That’s also probably due to not eating very much. Usually evenings are tougher

The only yoga that happened yesterday was a few moments of reclined bound angle pose, mostly to try and help me relax. Also lots of breathing while trying to be less sick. It was terrible, but hey.

Yesterday’s lesson? Take it easy, take care of myself.

Today my goal – since I took a sick day from work – has been to figure out what foods are going to be okay. It’s one thing to say, “Oh, you can’t have X / Y / Z”, but …what *can* you have? Turns out there are many foods I can have, the toughest part is going to be A) taking more time to prep food and B) remembering to have approved food on hand so I don’t screw up and go to McDonald’s or something. Luckily there is a market close to my house where most of the produce can be purchased cheaply. Also: I really want ceviche. The citrus juices in it are not going to be great for me but I can have it minimally.

I’ve found several pages for people that are eating low-carb / Atkins style / diabetic-friendly / raw / vegan / veg-friendly, so at the moment my Google Docs has at least a page of stuff I can eat. Which is good. Just reminding myself to focus on what I can have, rather than what I can’t. One of the hardest things will be – when it gets colder – warm flavored coffee drinks. Like soy white mochas or soy chai lattes. The ritual of getting those from Starbucks, while good neither for my waistline or my wallet, is one very deeply ingrained. So I’ll need to research if they can do sugar-free or what. They seem to be very open about their ingredients, so it doesn’t hurt. More importantly: if I go out for coffee with friends, one of my most favorite things, that usually involves a sweet drink and maybe a piece of cake. So…..yeah. It will be tough, but I will do it, and it’s for the best.

//begin rant about crash diets and how much people who always turn to them irritate me\\
rant rant rant rant erased rant rant rant rant
//end rant\\

Ergh. So….. somebody right now is saying “but you’re going on a crash diet” or “all you talk about is food”. This is different. While I’ve been slowly cutting out the garbage (do I need to eat artificial sweetener? No.), having a dentist say “Hey, no sugar for you, four months, or else the hundreds of dollars you’re going to be paying will just go to waste” is a whole different thing. It will screw up all the treatments and I’ll be back to square one: crappy teeth and feeling like the best thing to do would be curl up and die.

Additionally, yes, I talk about food all the time. I’m obsessed with it, with the art of preparation, with the beauty of the final product. Awhile back, one of my posts was on how it’s probably Bourdain’s fault that I’m a foodie. Or want to be a foodie, whatever. But I’ve never been a crash dieter and that’s what counts here.

Sorry for the crankiness, here’s hoping your day is better than mine.

Fresh Start Phase 2

Yesterday was the first day of my personal yoga challenge, and I managed to get in 20 minutes of relaxing poses. Nothing too strenuous as the house was super muggy, but it was nice to stretch out on the cool floor.

Tonight is a session over at Ginseng Yoga, my first class with Laura Dasi, who has an AMAZING FLAWLESS GRACEFUL video on her own site that I can’t stop watching. Very nice. Reports on the class forthcoming. 🙂

—–Later That Evening—–

Home now. Fed. Showered. It was an eye-opening class. The instructor moves like music. Fluid, graceful, everything I want to be. There’s not a real way to explain it, other than… when I dance, the way it feels is the same as the way she moves. Just awesome. It was liquid art.

Spent more than a few moments being hard on myself for being overweight and out of shape (compared to everyone else in the relatively small class). There were hurdles to get over. But I’m going to reflect on it – and all my upcoming sessions – to remind myself that it’s okay to fall. And I’m going to try not to become some …overzealous hippie. 😉 It’s all just intriguing, exciting. I think I’m finding myself.

Anyway! Class review:

+ Showed up.
+ The studio was too warm for me at first.
– Had a hard time resisting the need to rush out into fresh air.
+ Sat quietly and focused, felt better.
+/- All the classes I’ve taken so far (at gyms) have only prepared me for what I consider my first “real” class.
+ Sweat a lot.
+/- Was shaking a lot.
+ Wanted to sit and just watch the instructor, it was like a dance. Fantastic to watch.
– The size of my …chestal region is not really suited for things like yoga, even with a sports bra.
– Hurt my thumb.
– Was the only member of class to take a break in Child’s Pose.
+ Remembered it’s okay to take a break in Child’s Pose.
+ Was able to do a Plow Pose!
++ Was almost able to do a shoulderstand!! [That’s right, I gave myself two bonus points. 🙂 ]
+ Instructor gave me minimal adjustment
– Spent a lot of time wanting to be better and not feel like the out of shape, overweight beginner.
+ Remembered a few extra poses for practice outside of class.

– 7 + 13

Every day for the next month, I’m going to try and figure out which lesson my practice held for me. For today… I am not a fan of that whole feeling of paranoia, where it seems like the whole class (including the instructor) is staring at me, pitying me for being so terrible, but I am trying really hard to push it down and focus. In short, today’s lesson: showing up is the most important step. Go, focus. Breathe. Repeat.

The Door Has Opened

It’s been a weird summer for me.

I got sick often. Sometimes from the heat, sometimes from the humidity, mostly from the evil that is my periodontal issues. Summers are tough for me, and I tend to forget to hydrate when I’m at home. So on a day like today, all the windows are open, fans are going, and my slow moving-ness is topped off by iced tea*, more tea, and water. I’m sweating, and while that’s kind of funky, it’s also a good thing because at one point it just wasn’t happening. There was no sweat. That is BAD.

Side note: 99 Ranch, my local (and favorite) Asian Market has canned green & black tea. Not always, but sometimes… and it is YUM. Is it healthy? Well, it’s not soda, but I can’t recall the brand to look up ingredients. 99 Ranch is also a bit out of my way, which meant that I needed to find a way to recreate the flavor. Short version – Microwave a cup of water for a minute. Get a teabag (Yamamoto jasmine or Lipton’s black are my standbys), put it in the cup, put the cup in the freezer for 20 minutes. Go get your cup, drink. Awesome, cheap, delicious, and free of any monosodiumpotasichlorate flavoring #5.

I digress. I get sick when my body overheats, and it overheats often because I’m about 30 pounds overweight. 150+ does not suit a 5’0″ frame well, even if it’s all spread out proportionately. The majority of that weight is in my …chestal region, but a good portion is in the lower area between knees and belly button. You know what’s the last thing I want to do? Cardio. You know what needs to happen for me to lose the weight? Cardio. So I’ve been trying really hard to A) get up early and B) exercise. We’re talking going to the beach at 630AM for a walk or a yoga session, hitting the gym at 6AM for a twenty minute walk on the treadmill. All the things.

Coast Boulevard – the only beach I really, truly love. Is it Windansea? La Jolla? Scripps? Who knows. I only know that when I go there, I can do yoga or sit or meditate or draw and it’s all okay. So that’s been my morning spot for a few days.

Beyond that – Ginseng Yoga is my newest thing. It was a yoga studio (my very first Actual Yoga Studio) that presented itself as an opportunity, and so far it’s seemed pretty good. Here’s my Yelp review. I’ve been meaning to make a post about my yoga in detail, but I’ve been too busy with actually doing the yoga and also working like a fiend on launching the newest version of my work’s website. Which has turned out nicely, FYI. But between work and working on work outside of work, the last thing on my mind was sitting down in front of the computer even more.

Today however I had a bit of a respite and wanted to tell you guys about it, how I really do feel like yoga is doing something for me. No physical changes yet on the outside, but there are some inside ones and also some lovely periods of mental clarity and general relaxation. Step one.

As I sat down today to blog about all this and share photos, Freshly Pressed caught my eye – there was someone’s 31-day challenge about yoga. I was just starting to think that a month-long challenge would be just what I needed: whether it’s an hour of sun salutations, ten minutes of inversion practice, or merely standing meditation when the checkout line is taking WAY. TOO. EFFING. LONG. for no real reason at all. With today being the 1st, there is no better time.

Oh! And in other news: Harold is growing roots. 😀

Overall, life is really really good (except I can’t figure out why the pictures are auto-rotating to the side, and will work on that). Honestly, life right now is probably the best it’s ever been for me. Which gives me a little sour taste along with the sweet, because some of my friends don’t have it so well right now, but that’s the thing about being happy. You won’t be, always, you can only try.

And that’s what I’m doing.

To infinity and beyond!

Today’s link (YogaFuzion) is brought to you by a drive-by flyering this morning. On this morning’s walk to my car before work, I noticed that someone had taken the liberty of dropping a few flyers under the windshield wipers. Normally they get dumped in the nearest trash bin (or stored with my flyer collection if they’re cool). One was for some new club downtown, and the other was for a yoga studio very near Bird Rock.

Karma has a nice way of showing up at random opportune moments. I’ve been casually reading about yoga, studying up and trying to use my training DVDs, but the lingering thought in the back of my mind does involve yoga at Bird Rock. It is indeed my very favorite place in the world, as you can see via an old photo shoot.

The pricing appears to be only slightly more expensive than the bellydance classes. As much as I love Jim and all the people I’ve met through him, my current schedule is making it just too difficult to attend. At the moment, the only class it would be possible for me to attend is his Wednesday night Advanced/Level 4. It’s a fun class but my skills are very rusty – resulting in my feeling uncomfortable both physically and mentally. “Left out” may be a better phrase. Therefore, my bellydance adventures are going to be on a very sporadic basis until further notice – unless I’m able to shell out the cash for bi-weekly private sessions.

The good thing is that going to the gym is cheap, and available 24 hour a day, seven days per week – which includes a pool, as well as quite a few other amenities.

Looking back at my budget, two other things that come to mind are ballet classes, and Sabrina’s classes. Sabrina is a member of Atash Maya, and I greatly admire her style and physique. Both the pricing and the schedule of her classes would work on a semi-regular basis, not to mention it would still allow me to learn new forms of dance for fun and fitness.

The dilemma, oh the dilemma.

In any case, I plan on researching more and seeing how things pan out. The yoga classes would put me on a strict schedule (you’ll notice they start at 630 A.M.), but would most likely do me a world of good. In the meantime, I’m having some Sweet Dreams tea and trying to relax for sleep. Six or seven hours of undisturbed sleep would be very nice indeed. I read this article last night and am clearly not checking my email. I suppose this is my way of getting all those strange thoughts out of my head so sleep can arrive unfettered.

Have a good night, everyone.