There was an interesting editorial piece in the Seattle Times today, by Vicky Hailett, about the difference between men and women when it comes to exercise. The article claims that men exercise for the sake of exercising; “for guys to sweat is a badge of honor,” writes Hailett. Women, on the other hand “[look] at being active as a means to have wine with dinner.” EXCUSE ME???

As you can probably tell already, I don’t agree with this. I have never worked out in order to eat more. I have never worked out to be social. I have never been afraid of sweat; and I have never been unwilling to “hoist a dumbbell.”

As you probably have gathered from reading this blog, I actually love to sweat. I love to work out not because it allows me to indulge in sweets and wine, but because it makes me feel good, inherently.

What this article seems to profile is in fact two types of people who work out in unproductive ways. First there are the people (the women, according to Hailett) who don’t like exercising; who exercise as a means of achieving better health, and so they can eat a little more without gaining weight, but who have not found the joy in exercising. Second are the people who over extend themselves because they are image conscious: these people want to be seen going to the gym, lifting the heaviest weights, and running the furthest, but they do it without regard for their health or capability. These are the people who end up injured.

Another aspect of the article that I take offense to is Hailett’s reasoning. She argues that women tend to not be able to find the joy in exercise, because most of them have been brought up to be inactive, and not to value fitness. The unfortunate thing is, that according to the Women’s Sports Foundation, 62% of all children ages 9-12 report that they engage in no physical activity after the school day ends. That’s not very many boys or girls who are regularly participating in physical activity as children. Girls who take part regularly in sports make up 32.4% whereas boys make up 49%, so yes, there are more boys participating in sports, but the girl’s reasons to participate include “having fun […], improving skills, and doing something they are good at (22).” Since only 10% of girls who are not active in this age group will become active by the age of 25, I would argue that most women who are active, have not been brought up devaluing sports and physical fitness. I would say they definitely have found joy in being active.

I know I am generalizing a lot here, but I really find it hard to believe that I am in the minority when it comes to women valuing exercise outside of its ability to give them a slimmer physique. I love to move my body, and sweat, and run, and cook healthy food, and eat a cookie sometimes, and brush my teeth and give myself downtime to decompress. These are all equally important ways I take care of myself, and I assure you that when I do eat that cookie, I’m not calculating how many miles I will have to run to work it off.

Am I alone here? How do you fit in to this? How do you view exercise in your life?

Contemplatively yours,

-C

All statistics taken from: http://www.womenssportsfoundation.org/binary-data/WSF_ARTICLE/pdf_file/191.pdf

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So the title of this blog is “30 days of yoga…1 day at a time.” What you may not have noticed, is the subtitle, “Addicted to self improvement.”

Some of you may read this blog because you love yoga, more of you probably read this blog because you love (or at least tolerate) me. My goal in writing what I do is three fold:

1. Help people become inspired to challenge themselves in their own lives,

2. Help people feel like they are not alone in their struggles, whatever those struggles may be, and,

3. encourage people to find healthy and productive ways of working through the aforementioned struggles.

Since these things are not yoga-specific topics, this blog is about to seriously evolve.

I have recently begun to deal with a struggle of my own in my life, and that is Type 1 Diabetes. For those of you who are unfamiliar, type one diabetes is a genetically based, incurable, auto-immune disease. In brief, when a person has diabetes, the body is unable to produce insulin, and the cells of the body are unable to use food for energy, resulting in starvation. In order to counteract that, people with Type 1 Diabetes take insulin injections.

I hate these videos, but if you want a little illustration, here you go:

So in dealing with the fact that I have Type 1 Diabetes, I have begun to get involved in some of the Juveneille Diabetes Research Foundation’s (JDRF) events, and one of them is Beat the Bridge, an 8K race to raise money for JDRF.

So here it is, my new goal for self improvement: I’m going to run the 8K Beat the Bridge race to beat Diabetes.

Don’t worry, yogi’s, I will still blog about yoga too, but I am comfortable doing yoga. Yoga is part of my life, it is part of who I am, and this blog is supposed to be about stretching my boundaries, and expanding my capabilities, and that is what I’m going to start doing. Right now.

-C

I am blind as a bat.

Ok so maybe that is an exaggeration, but I am certainly blind enough that I cannot see people more than 6-8 feet away from me. I can recognize them, I know they aren’t a statue, but really see them? Not a chance. To be honest, this usually doesn’t bother me. I go through life waving at strangers like it’s my job.

In the yoga studio, the teacher often tells us to make eye contact with our reflections in the mirror, or focus deeply on a certain area of our bodies and, without my glasses on, I can’t do that. So today I decided to wear my glasses to class. I know this doesn’t seem like some monumental thing to those of you who haven’t experienced Bikram’s, but there are a few things which have stopped me from doing this in the past.

1. My glasses fog up: This both obscures my vision and makes me feel like a huge nerd. The nerdiness I can handle, but constantly having to take off and wipe down my frames… so inconvenient. Not to mention distracting.

2. Sweaty noses = glasses slippage: This is once again just inconvenient. I don’t want to come out of standing separate leg stretching pose or balancing stick only have to put my glasses back on.

3. Discomfort: The bottom line is, my glasses are incredibly distracting. One of the most annoying things in yoga is having to make adjustments physically, whether that is pulling my shirt up or down, fixing my hair, or adjusting my glasses so they aren’t hanging from one ear.

I will do a lot to avoid having to make adjustments in class, because it distracts me from the meditation of my practice. Unfortunately, without my glasses, I am left out of another aspect of class, and one that could potentially help me with my balance, form, and focus (ironically).

So wearing my glasses in class did everything I expected it to do for me.

Pros: It helped my balance and my form. In standing head to knee pose, I could actually see the dimples that formed above my standing leg, assuring me that my knee was locked. It gave me the confidence and ability to start really kicking out my other leg in the posture. In some other postures, eagle pose, tree pose, and standing bow (to name a few), being able to make eye contact with my reflection in the mirror really improved my focus and balance.

Cons: My glasses did slip down my nose a lot, but guess what? They didn’t fog up once, and they never ended up hanging from one ear. I guess I would put them in the same category of inconvenience as I do my bangs. My bangs get sweaty and I have to brush them out of my eyes occasionally, but am I growing them out? No. (well actually I am… but not because of yoga).

So in conclusion: Why in the world was I so opposed to even trying to wear my glasses in class? It was a better experience for me with them on. I guess I’ll be a glasses wearing yogini from now on.

Coming soon: Guest post from Travis, who was tough enough to brave the heat and come to his first Bikram’s Yoga class ever!!

-C

sleepy-7999971So I’m sitting at my desk at my (relatively) new job.  Did you look at what time this was posted?  Does it seem early to be working?  It is.  I’m on the graveyard shift.  This whole nocturnal existence I’m trying to live is challenging.  I forget which day it is, and what morning went with what afternoon, and what meal I ate last.  Then of course there’s the challenge of actually achieving sleep whilst the kids upstairs run around and cry, and *some people* try to clean the apartment for mom and dad’s visit, and the phone’s ringing and… oh I could go on and on.

Of course anyone who has read this blog (or, say, the title of this blog) knows what the prescription for this problem is:  yoga.  I need some center and balance in my life!  I need help regulating my sleep cycles!  I neeeeed my yoga.  Not to mention, it also helps me keep some kind of schedule.

My life is in a flux of change at the moment, and I can’t tell you enough how I rely on the Bikram’s series to keep me physically, mentally, and emotionally grounded.  I don’t usually go into personal details on this blog, but I will say this:  I will not be sharing my toothpaste with anyone for the foreseeable future… and that is absolutely amazing.

-C

So after completing the challenge I did take some time off.  After a few days I went back and I was hoping I would feel better.  Remember how I was talking about it sometimes being good to take a break and come back to something?  Well when I came back that wasn’t really the case, but that’s ok.  My balance will just have to be something that improves with hard work over time.

In Seattle I ended up trying a Bikram’s class not at The Sweat Box, but at Laurelhurst Hot Yoga.  I’m not sure how I felt about it.  First of all, the class is in a very small room, that is kept quite dark.  It was very warm and dark and cozy feeling, which would be fine – if I wanted to snuggle down and take a nap this would be perfect.  It felt like it was incongruent with the feeling of Bikrams though.  Bikram’s yoga is about bright lights, loud noise, and high energy.  It was hard to keep my energy up when I felt like the room was so quiet and dark.  It just didn’t mesh right.  Second of all the studio had a funny feeling to it.  Like something was just a bit off, but I don’t think it was the studio’s fault, I think it’s just that Bikrams is such a ritual for me that anything different threw me for a loop. It’s like Katie told this story:  she used to teach Ballet and she would sometimes switch it up and start on the left side of the body rather than the right – just for fun.  So she asked Bikram if she could do that when she taught yoga, and he said “does the sun ever rise in the West?”  Point being, it is just a natural order of doing things.  Part of the Bikram’s experience is the tradition and the ritual of it, and I think it really goes beyond just the order of the poses.  In addition to all this though, the room really wasn’t set up well and the heat was dry and inconsistent; higher in the room it was sweltering while lower down it was cold!  I’m sad I didn’t get to try out The Sweat Box, but the snow really kept me stranded for most of the time.  Either way, I’m glad to be home and I am excited to be taking classes in my own studio again.

Since I stopped going every day it has been pretty easy for me to go 3 or 4 times a week, but I still have the same challenges.  Wanting to make excuses to skip doesn’t go away just because I’m not going every day, but I have definitely learned how to overcome that impulse, and that is a valuable skill to have not just in yoga, but in life.

Tonight I am taking a new person with me to yoga (I know I am allllways taking new people), this person is special!  She is our Delta Gamma Collegiate Development Consultant (CDC), Katie.  I love taking new people, and it is fun to get to share a big part of my life with someone who is so important to Delta Gamma.

Om!

-Claire

Today’s class was a good class.  It didn’t look pretty but it was good nonetheless.  I definitely worked really hard.

I went places I hadn’t gone before during half moon pose in the back bend.  I can definitely tell that my middle and upper spine are getting more flexible since I’m not letting myself collapse into my lower back flexibility anymore, and along with that my core is getting stronger, which allows me to support a deeper backward bend.  Also having Katie demonstrate the back band in the last class she taught helped because I could really see just how far you had to push your arms back and your stomach, chest, and hips forward.

I spoke last day of wanting to kick out during standing head to knee pose, and I did a little bit, but it is very hard for me to keep my standing knee locked and kick out simultaneously so I may not be completely ready to kick out yet.  I can kick out a tiny bit but remember:  a millimeter today a millimeter tomorrow.  Eventually I’ll get there.  One of the reasons the one leg balancing postures were so difficult for me today was that my ankles were really hurting.  I was talking to Jessica afterward and she was asking about  soreness and if it gets better.  I feel like the soreness for me has been really odd.  It has kind of moved upwards on my spine and down my legs.  So my lower back used to hurt, then my middle back hurt, now my shoulders, neck, and upper back hurt.  Similarly my knees were hurting, and now my calves and ankles hurt!  I’m hoping the soreness will eventually disappear mostly.  I do think most of the pain is good pain, strengthening pain, but today when I was doing one of the sit ups that we do between postures my back tugged a little bit and now my lower back hurts still.  I think I still can’t quite fully do the sit ups.  It’s just too risky for my back still and I think I need to build up some more core strength before doing the sit ups.

So in terms of breathing, I kept forgetting to breathe into the postures for the first part of the class!  It was like when I stopped thinking about breathing and started focusing on other things I forgot to breathe.  Then when I noticed myself having to release a gasp of air as I came out of postures, I realized I wasn’t breathing and I was able to correct it for the remainder of the series.

All in all I am feeling a little sore tonight but I think the class went well.  I came out of some postures a little early, and some of them I fell out of accidentally, but the time I did spend in the postures was very intense.  It was the type of intense where your muscles are shaking because you are working so hard, so I felt that even though I didn’t spend the full minute in a posture, the time I did spend in it was very well spent with 100% effort put in and that makes me feel successful.

I feel amazing right now despite the aches.  I have never felt better in my life.

-Claire

- FIVE -

- FIVE -

Yesterday was day 5 of my challenge. I was planning to go to the 9:30 with Kristine, but we ended up going to the 7:45 instead, which was tough because I had eaten around 5:30, but I decided to go anyway.

The class went fairly well. In terms of my own motivation there were some postures that I didn’t push myself as hard in, maybe because I was a little tired, also because I was really focusing on balance today as opposed to strength or flexibility for the most part. One thing I am proud of though was that in tringle pose, I very nearly lied down for the posture because I honestly didn’t feel like I could do it. Then I thought to myself that is such a cop out. I knew I could do it and I was not going to let myself cheat. I decided I would do at least one set. So one side at a time, one set at a time, I completed triangle pose without having to take a break.

I was also pretty excited about standing head to knee pose, which I was able to hold for the entire time in both sets (although I did a l m o s t lose my balance at the end both times on the second set. It was kind of funny I was hopping around thinking I am NOT going to come out of this posture no matter what!!) In the pose after, standing bow, I was really excited to find that I was able to hold it for most of the time, only falling out of it once in the second set.

In Locust pose with both legs, I was able to get all of my legs and my hips off the ground, which was pretty awesome because I didn’t think I would be able to do it a second time.

There were a lot of small moments of success in last night’s class. For example during pranayama breathing, the first breathing exercise, there was one breath – just one – where I’m pretty sure it felt exactly how it was supposed to feel. I felt like I could keep breathing in forever; my chest felt so open and cavernous and my throat felt open too, like I big tunnel full of air. Unfortunately, though I tried, I couldn’t repeat it the same way. Hopefully it will happen again and I can figure out how I did it.

Rabbit pose is also coming along really nicely. After Julia helped me a couple classes ago, and showed me how it was supposed to feel, I have been much more successful in that pose, although it is much harder. Two classes ago, the teacher corrected me on the seated head to knee pose and I was disappointed to find that with correct form I wasn’t able to go as deeply as I thought I could. That’s ok though because I’ve been pushing the posture really really hard and I know I’m improving. Not to mention when I began these yoga classes, I never would have been able to even come close to where I am now in that posture, even with the correct form.

It’s nice to feel like I’m improving, even if it’s only in little ways : )

Last night I did drink some gatorade after class and my head feels better this morning, but it still hurts a little. I think it is part electrolytes (which I hopefully fixed), part dehydration, and part fatigue. Part of the problem is I have been staying up so late lately. This class basically takes up all of my personal time in the day, and so I have been staying up late to read, write in this blog, watch Greys Anatomy, and do other things I would normally due during the class! I need to use a little discipline and make myself go to sleep, because I am getting so tired and I can really feel it. As far as dehydration goes, well I guess I just have to drink even more water, as well as maybe trying to cut salt out of my diet a little more? I’m not sure I guess we’ll see how it goes.

I was planning on going at 9:15 this morning but I was just too tired, so I’m planning to go to the 2:30. That means I can’t tan before semi, but it’ll be ok. I can go home, shower,do my nails/ hair then head to Hil’s for the pre-semi bash! I can’t drink too much tonight because I do not want to experience a hung-over yoga class!

More later if I have time!

-Claire

P.S. Image from http://www.icanhascheezburger.com