Category Archives: Yoga Journal

Week 16: Baby’s First Race

The Winterman was this weekend!

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After last Sunday’s 2 mile walk, I woke up Monday morning with tight shins. That’s a bad sign – I’ve been doing far too much sitting and running and not enough walking. My “rest” days henceforth need to become walk/yoga days – the fresh air and just moving about is what I need. The best way for that to happen is at lunch during work. No gear change required, it’s warm enough around the lunch hour, and it breaks up the day without taking out time to “rest” at night.

Monday – 4 miles with my new preggo run bud! We are going to make it a weekly event. Our pace was slower, which was planned. We had so much to talk about anyway! Running solo, I never get to make sure I’m running at a “pace where I can hold a conversation” (that would look pretty sketchy…). I do have to watch my form though, I tend to get lazy when there’s good conversation!

Tuesday – A kundalini class for the books! It has been a long time since I have left a yoga class with an involuntary smile beaming from my face. I was on cloud 9! So grateful for the opportunity, and for the 11 minute prosperity meditation. Sat nam!

Wednesday – I had an hour downtown before hubby was finished work, so I headed around the canal for a nice change. (Oh, how I wished I had brought money for the beaver tails stand at the halfway point!) No mileage plan, just an approximate time of 45 minutes. I even tried to run on the canal – that was a bust, too slippery. On a regular day I would still go for it, but not with baby in tow!

Thursday – Another yoga class, was hoping for Kundalini but it was subbed out for “regular” prenatal. Even when kundalini is not kundalini it’s what I need! Great work on my arms and hips, that’s for sure.

Friday – Snow day! 5cm messed up the roads and cancelled my plans to run after work. If the plows had been by, I would have gone out, but I’m not risking a twisted ankle (or worse) right before a race.

Saturday – 2 easy miles in the morning followed by a 1 mile walk. I didn’t want to overdo it, plus I am trying to add more walking to my week. I figure tossing a mile or two at the end of a run is a great way to do it.

Sunday – RACE DAY! Weather was perfectly cold and sunny! Baby and I had a great race, even without my Garmin…forgot it at home! That’s ok though – I couldn’t check my pace at all so I really had to go by feel, and it left time for me to focus on having fun. And fun it was! The wind was pretty strong but so was the sun, and I probably should have worn my sunglasses. I forget how many hills are around the War Museum, it was hard to stay around an effort of 16. I love running fast downhill – I’m that annoying runner passing you on the way down and clogging up the uphills! I’m not happy with my time even though I said I wouldn’t care…but I’ll get used to it. I guarantee I’ll get back where I was and crush a few crazy time goals after baby!

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Ahhh-ctive Release!

I am sure that my chronic low back pain can and will be eliminated, and after Wednesday night I’m further convinced. I had my first appointment for Active Release Technique. Dr. Cristoveneau got in really deep with my psoas and low back. After treatment, he summed up my pain to be not so much from bone structure damage, but from little cumulative strains and sprains which created lack of mobility…so we are going to work on removing scar tissues and strengthening so that the correct mobility is regained. So it’s NOT cancer after all!!!

I was prescribed a 30 minute walk after I got home…enlightening. Did a 3k loop after a glass of wine. No pressure for pacing, just a gentle stroll around the block. I realized I hardly ever walk – I sit, and I run. I also realized that when my back was feeling its best during my yoga stint in 2008 I was also walking 45 minutes to and from the studio…

Two days later I am feeling GREAT. I still have a bit of stiffness bending over but it doesn’t feel like my muscles want to seize up. Places he worked on feel a little tender, but that’s nothing a little arnica won’t fix. I was told to keep my regular routine so that next week could be an accurate assessment of what is working, or not working, in my exercise routine. I did a great tempo run last night at goal pace, and kept up my yoga at work. I have noticed the “mini-adjustment” doesn’t need to happen in floor bow for me to find flexibility in the pose.

Only thing I don’t recommend is doing a 2.5km walk in winter boots during your lunch. I’ve got some serious shin splints! That or I REALLY don’t walk enough…!

Follow Up: After 40 Days

Just over two weeks ago I completed 40 days of the same yoga set. The strength and flexibility that I have regained in my back is highly motivating. Committing to a consistent yoga schedule was really helping my back, along with a diet that eliminated common inflammation-causing foods (dairy, wheat, and white sugar). What I have ultimately learned, however, is that this particular yoga set is my “reset button”. Every time I come back to it, I feel like my back has been adjusted and my mentality is reset.

However…for the past two weeks I have let yoga slide! Once a week is not enough! I have noticed that I am getting a little stiffer in the mornings again, but I need a goal to keep me motivated. So here it is. For the next 11 days I will commit to one hour of yoga in the ambrosial hours of the morning. No night time cop-out yoga this time. No more laziness sleeping in past dawn, time to start getting up at my favourite time of day again – 5am! I would like to do the Woman’s Set three times a week, along with two more meditative and two abdominal and front-body core heavy (Third Chakra).

Anyone feel like joining in?

Archer Pose Learning: Day 36

Archer Pose is an excellent pose to create balance and steadiness in the nervous system. It is very active, building power in the legs and navel, and strength in the deep core. It builds courage, confidence, and self-esteem. For the past 36 days I have done five minutes of Archer Pose on both sides. Five minutes is a long time to contemplate your thumb. I struggled first with arm strength, then leg strength, then found pelvic floor muscles, and deeper breathing. I let go of the tension in my jaw, felt the flow of energy from tail bone to crown, all the while trying to maintain a meditative mind. The chatter that comes up is incessant! I  have had some of my best ideas standing there poised to pull the arrow…of course I can never remember what most of those ideas are after my session is over!

I am incredibly happy with life, work, and myself – but I know I’m destined to give much more to the world than I am right now. Why do I work and play where I do? How did all of the events in my life bring me exactly where I am today, and for what purpose? I meditate, do yoga, and run, and read books to further my personal development, but wonder what my dharma is. I feel prosperous…but I also feel like I’m perched on the edge of my seat…what’s it all about, anyhow?

The archer who aims his arrow must sometimes wait minutes, maybe hours, before the prey can be taken down. Does the hunter even know what will come before his arrow…rabbit? Deer? Boar? The lesson Archer Pose is teaching me is that I must stay focused and alert, aim my arrow, be prepared, for when the opportunity arises I must strike without fear or question. Sharpen my arrow, maintain my focus, strengthen my resolve that my prey – my opportunity – is out there and I must be patient, while honing my skills. This way, the second it is within my grasp I will have the means to snatch it.

Day 23 – The Spinal Adjustment

I’m notorious for being prescribed back strengthening exercise that I neglect about a month later. THIS time I’m following through for a full 40 days under the guise of Sadhana. 🙂 I had two amazing moments of relief yesterday and today that may preclude the end of my back pain. With dedication, it appears I can be my own chiropractor!

Here’s what my morning yoga class looks like:

  • Tune in with Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo
  • Warm up the spine (sufi grind, spinal flexes, rotating the spine w hands on shoulders, shoulder shrugs, neck rolls)
  • 5 min meditation in rock pose
  • 3 min Life Nerve stretch (I do each leg separately)
  • 3 min Camel pose
  • 3 min Shoulder stand
  • 5 min each side Archer pose
  • 3 min Child’s pose
  • 3 min Floor Bow pose
  • 3 min Locust pose (fists in the joint between leg and hip)
  • 3 min each Cow, then Cat pose
  • 3 min Stick pose with breath of fire
  • 10 min relaxation

Yesterday in bow pose I was doing my usual work to keep up, everything was strong and starting to shake, and my mental capacity for endurance had maxed. After what felt like more than the required 3 minutes already, my right forearm decided it had just about had enough and a strange new pain formed. This put my emotions right over the top – but I’ll be damned if I’m letting go before the timer is done! I’ve heard of people having emotional outbursts in camel and other back bending poses, but I’ve never seen anyone really let go. Because I was alone in my safe little room, I just let er rip! Thankfully the timer went off at that precise moment, and I just curled up in a ball and let it all out. After a minute I thanked the guru for whatever bottled up crap I had just cleansed, and moved on with my practice.

Today, something amazing happened in Camel. I realigned my spine. You know – those little adjustment pops, like when you lean back and your sternum cracks? That’s the kind of gentle but inherently good crack I felt, just above my sacroiliac area on the side that always bothers me. It wasn’t one of those temporary feel-good forced cracks, it was more subtle, and in an area that has never popped before. Now, I didn’t stand up and start doing pain-free back flips, but I have a VERY good feeling about this realignment, and I’ll be paying close attention over the next few days to any inflammation (or lack thereof) in the area.

Lately I have also come to accept that back pain needs to be managed, and will probably never be magically cured. The past two nights I have taken advil and iced my low back for 20 mins to get through a particularly rough patch of inflammation – maybe that combined with a few weeks of specific, targeted commitment has made it possible for things to realign. I will be conscious of how much water I’m drinking, how I’m sitting (no more crossing my legs!) and what I’m eating which could increase inflammation, and continue to keep up!

Day 22 of 40

At the halfway point in my 40 days to master a yoga set challenge. I somehow made it through the exhausted and angry phase of PMS…which is why I’m back to calling it a challenge! I am cleansing and getting rid of some stuck “stuff” both physically and emotionally but it’s hard to support it with diet when you just need “comfort” food…I’m finding it very easy to give into cravings for wine, coffee with liqueur, and chocolate. Hopefully I can recommit to eating healthy now that I’ve made it past the hardest part of the month!

It is recommended to do Sadhana every morning during the ambrosial hours of the day. I have dedicated 6 days out of the week to 5 or 6 in the morning. Sundays I’m allowing myself to sleep in (if 7am is “sleeping in”) and do yoga when it’s convenient, since I prefer my long runs first thing in the morning anyhow. Doing the set later on Sundays lets me see how far I’ve come in my practice as the body is more flexible later in the day. Plus I can stretch out that long run.

I’ve given precedence to the physical yoga and I’ve let my meditation practice slide. I haven’t spent enough time in prayer and gratitude in the ambrosial hours. For the second half of this yoga challenge I am going to create space in the morning for long “Ek Ong Kar”s and several minutes of meditation at the end. This might mean getting up at 4:45 instead of 5:00 but I think it might just do the trick.

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40-Day Sadhana to Master a Set

“If you are depressed, you’re living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” – Lao Tzu

yogaroom

My sacred little corner

I am on day 8 of my first 40-day Sadhana to master a kundalini yoga set. I was inspired to embark upon this by a friend who had completed a 40-day Abdominal/Third Chakra set. I chose The Women’s Set which is great for keeping your grace, and has poses that are good for the reproductive organs. Having done it once before in a class, I knew it would be great for my lower back too. I often chastise myself about the way I’ve mistreated my back over the years, and worry about what will happen to me as I grow older and stiffer. When I start thinking like that I need to stop myself and find peace again, because we all know stress is not going to help anything.

The first few days I struggled with the back bending in camel and bow pose, especially when the delayed muscle soreness kicked in around day 3. But, even after so few days, I’m finding some small improvements and epiphanies within postures. I set an intention spontaneously as I begin, like “stillness” or “meditative”. Instead of being anxious about how long I’m holding, or what’s coming next, I can bring my mind back to the present moment and I find peace using my one -word intention.

I prefer not to use the word “challenge” anymore. I feel as though I have moved from a place of  “I must compete with myself to accomplish this” to “This is something that I just do every morning”. I get up at 5am, go downstairs, change into my white yoga clothes, and do an hour and a half of yoga and/or meditation. It’s liberating how it’s just become a habit, in just 5 months of dedicated practice! I am so grateful for the willpower and the motivation I’ve had over these past months.

Sadhana Claims Another Soul

Painting By Leonid Afremov

40 days to change a habit
90 days to confirm the habit
120 days the new habit is who you are
1000 days you have mastered the new habit

I accidentally started a 120-day Sadhana practice. For 94 days now, I have made time for at least one 30 minute meditation at some point in the day (morning has been ideal). I have allowed different mantras and meditations to grace me with their presence, knowing that one day I will dedicate a full 120 days to one mantra when the time is right. Beginning with So Purkh, then Sa Ta Na Ma, then gratefully the Spirit Voyage Global Sadhana Hari Nam Sat Nam. I am now pursuing 40 days of the Aquarian Sadhana, which incidentally coincides with the completion of the shift into Aquarius on December 21st, and culminates on December 30th.

I am adjusting to, and finding new comfort in, my new morning routine. Some days I spring awake 10 minutes before my 4:55am alarm, some days I still have to shove myself away from my cozy comforter complete with husband/personal heater. Once I didn’t even get out of bed…hung over and grouchy, I just sat up and forced my way through it. Although lacking in the usual heart-dive, the lesson was confirmation that my morning Sadhana is officially more important to me than “those beers you knew you didn’t need” the night prior. It has gradually become easier to rise without judgement, wrap myself in my housecoat, and greet the kitties while I brush my teeth. However, I haven’t made it as far as the recommended cold shower aprés sitting. That just seems like cruel and unusual punishment at that time in the morning, at this time of the year.

There have been times of great emotional cleansing. Times when visions of a lighthouse swept me away in an overnight storm that concluded with the sun rising over calm waters. Ideas for paintings have emerged, and I will cherish the inner canvases that I have mentally painted. In especially challenging moments I’ve had a visions of Yogi Bhajan staring me down with his soul-piercing eyes and insisting in his gentle wise voice to “keep up” through the knot in my heart.  There have also been “boring” days, when nothing happens; until, without warning, during some tiny moment later in the day my heart expands with a secret humbling joy.

At day 94 I believe that the habit of meditation has been confirmed within me. I now can’t imagine a day without the early hour of my morning dedicated to connecting with my Awareness, with God, with the cosmos as it may be. I am grateful for the people and tools that have brought me to this point, for Kundalini Yoga, for the inner determination to see this commitment through, and for the divine inspiration that keeps me motivated.

Sat Nam!

Believing I Can Choose How I Feel

As I was doing the usual pile of annoying dishes the other day, I noticed that I was heading into an old familiar (although less common lately) space of frustration with everything. The water’s not hot enough coming out of the tap. The TV is too loud. There isn’t enough soft butter in the dish. I started blaming the discontent on my hormones….on the food I’ve been eating….on the weather, whatever I could to put the responsibility on something other than my own brain. I can usually talk myself out of a funk like this but sometimes it’s a challenge to make a negative funk like this into a positive.

Something was different this time though. The way I noticed it was accompanied by a roll of my eyes and a sense of exhaustion from letting it get to me. Why should I be “putting up with” these feelings, and why was I losing control over how I felt? No. It’s not the white flour or too much cheese that’s dragging me down. It’s not the annoying voices on that cartoon I can’t stand, or that the TV is so loud that it’s making me grit my teeth (and I know deep down it’s not really that loud at all). Or the bass beat from the apartment upstairs. It’s my reaction to it. If what yoga has taught me is true – that I deserve to be happy, that joy is my natural state – then choosing to react negatively to stimulus is what’s dragging me down. I won’t allow what I’ve conditioned in my brain as a “negative stimulus” to affect my happiness. I needed to change my inherent belief about reacting altogether, and when I trusted that, my “non-reaction” came from a deeper place. This time I didn’t make a negative into a postive – I made the negative into neutral, which in turn allowed me to access joy in life again.

I don’t think this is going to come so naturally all the time, since it’s taken almost 5 years of yoga and (albeit intermittent) meditation to come to a place where I truly believe I have the ability to choose. This was one moment of freedom. I felt grounded, solid, undisturbed, and tapped into the joy that I deserve to feel all the time, even if the crazy lady next door is yelling again. It was liberating really being in charge of my reaction! The old conditioning will probably come back but my new belief will hopefully help me to adjust my attitude quicker each time.

We only have so many days on this planet…and I choose to enjoy every single one. Now ask me this again when my moon cycle comes around and I may tell you where to go, but for now I like the conclusion I’ve come to.

Conscious Gratitude

Since I’ve started meditating, I’m also making it a habit to spend a few minutes at the end of my meditation thinking about what I’m grateful for, or counting my blessings, as they say. At first it was just during my solace that I would count my blessings and really feel appreciative. In being conciously grateful, my heart was filled with peace, bliss, and in some cases relief! And since I meditate before I go to bed, I always seem to get a good night sleep after, which was initially why I kept it up. 😉

I am starting to understand what it means to “cultivate” gratitude. When you cultivate the land you plant seeds, you nuture them with water and sunlight, and you check on them each day to see how they’ve grown. What I didn’t expect from nuturing my gratitude was how deep the roots go.  The roots of being thankful have woven themselves throughout my day, and sprout in places I don’t expect. Being thankful for missing the downpour by mere seconds, or for the opportunity to fill the coffeepot before the city shuts the water off in our block. Luck…?

Luck is a touchy subject, but if you believe in it, why not try feeling truly grateful for the good luck in your life? Try spending 5 minutes counting your blessings, and feeling something for them too. Even if they’re broad like “I have a bed to sleep in”. Use positive language, like “I have a loved one” instead of “I’m not alone”. 

I have found that in counting my blessings in a safe, calm place, I have started to find the results – peace, bliss, and relief – in “real life” later. I am consciously grateful for that. 🙂

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